Thursday, June 30, 2011

Spotted Dick

Let's talk about using terms for the male appendage in a descriptive way. Some of the words used in this blog post might be a little indelicate, so we'll give this post a PG-13 rating.

There's a long history of describing an individual that you find unpleasant by using some variation on the great catalog of terms that are used to denote the male genitalia. As you may have heard, MSNBC commenter, Time Magazine editor and all-around MSM Bigfoot Mark Halperin got himself in some trouble for using one of these terms today in describing the Leader of the Free World. Politico offers a synopsis:

MSNBC senior political analyst Mark Halperin was suspended on Thursday by the cable network after he called President Obama “a dick” on a popular morning show and then quickly apologized.

“I thought he was a kind of a dick yesterday,” Halperin, who also is an editor at large for Time, said on “Morning Joe,” referring to the president’s conduct during his press conference.
While that's a pungent way of describing the matter, it brought on some truly kick-ass Victorian fainting couch posturing and effusive apologetics:

A couple of hours later, MSNBC issued a statement, saying, “Mark Halperin’s comments this morning were completely inappropriate and unacceptable. We apologize to the president, the White House and all of our viewers. We strive for a high level of discourse, and comments like these have no place on our air. Therefore, Mark will be suspended indefinitely from his role as an analyst.”

The cable outlet also put out a statement from Halperin at the same time, saying, “I completely agree with everything in MSNBC’s statement about my remark. I believe that the step they are taking in response is totally appropriate. Again, I want to offer a heartfelt and profound apology to the president, to my MSNBC colleagues and to the viewers. My remark was unacceptable, and I deeply regret it."

Time issued a statement later Thursday, calling Halperin’s comments “inappropriate and in no way reflective of Time’s views.”
Now that's some impressive self-abasement. I don't think Nikolai Bukharin could have done any better, although I give Halperin credit for leaving Hegel out of it.

Now, I'm the first to stipulate that calling someone a dick isn't very nice. As it happens, I used a variation of such language myself this morning, right here on this blog. I wrote:

Man, that Walker is a shmuck.

Shmuck is a Yiddish term that generally means either "a penis" or "an unpleasant person." It's one of several similar words of Germanic origin that work quite well for such descriptions, a list that includes such pungent terms as "putz," "schmeckel" or "schwanz." It's my understanding that it's worse to call someone a "putz" than a "shmuck," while calling someone a "schmeckel" is perhaps somewhere in between. Growing up in Wisconsin, I'd hear the term "schwanz" fairly often, especially among people who were less removed from the old country.

So how should we approach the use of such words? I'll admit that my standard tends to be that I don't use those words, unless I do, and usually I use such words when I'm engaging in mockery. For example, I don't think Scott Walker is a shmuck at all. In fact, I admire much of what he's done, which has taken both courage and resolve, especially in not rising to the baiting of those on the Left who have described him in all manner of terms. I'm guessing this discussion of my, ahem, diction is hardly news to anyone who reads this feature regularly.

Vulgarity is not something we should aspire to, of course, but at the same time words exist and are used for specific reasons. And in the case of Mr. Halperin, I think he chose le mot juste. President Obama's performance at his Wednesday press conference was risible at best and disgraceful most of the time. He engaged in some astonishing demagoguery, especially in the context of his own behavior. Consider this comment:

Look, I think that what we've seen in negotiations here in Washington is a lot of people say a lot of things to satisfy their base or to get on cable news, but that hopefully, leaders at a certain point rise to the occasion and they do the right thing for the American people. And that's what I expect to happen this time. Call me naïve, but my expectation is that leaders are going to lead.
Or this comment:

So the question is, if everybody else is willing to take on their sacred cows and do tough things in order to achieve the goal of real deficit reduction, then I think it would be hard for the Republicans to stand there and say that the tax break for corporate jets is sufficiently important that we're not willing to come to the table and get a deal done. 

Just a guess -- eliminating a tax break on corporate jets wouldn't mean much in terms of eliminating trillion dollar deficits. But that's not the problem. Today Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Republicans in the Senate offered to meet with the President. The response?

White House press secretary Jay Carney, while not directly saying the invitation had been rejected, said Obama did not need to hear Republicans tell him what they would not support.

That, Carney said, was "not a conversation worth having."
I think we can safely assume that Jay Carney, as the president's press secretary, speaks for the president. So, would you describe that response, in the context of Obama's hectoring of Republicans a day previous, as the handiwork of a statesman? Or of a dick putz schwanz shmuck unpleasant person?

Meanwhile, Back Home in the Fox River Valley

The horrible, draconian effects of Scott Walker's nefarious plans are starting to take effect:

As changes to collective bargaining powers for public workers take effect today, the Kaukauna Area School District is poised to swing from a projected $400,000 budget shortfall next year to a $1.5 million surplus due to health care and retirement savings.

The Kaukauna School Board approved changes Monday to its employee handbook that require staff to cover 12.6 percent of their health insurance and to contribute 5.8 percent of their wages to the state’s pension system, in accordance with the new collective bargaining law, commonly known as Act 10.
Man, that Walker is a shmuck. There's more:

The district anticipates that elementary class size projections for next year will shrink from 26 students to 23 students. Class sizes for River View Middle School are expected to fall from 28 students to 26 students.

Kaukauna High School classes could be reduced from 31 students to 25 students.

The new rules and updated operating budget also institute $300,000 in merit pay for staff next year, to be awarded at the school board’s discretion.
Wait, I thought this was supposed to be bad news. It all seems so. . . counterintuitive. But how are such things possible?

In April, the school board rejected a proposal from the Kaukauna Education Association to extend the union’s contract and incorporate pension and healthcare concessions along with a wage freeze, a move the union projected could save the district about $1.8 million next year.

If you read between the lines, you would see that the union proposal came in fairly close to the cost savings Kaukauna will realize. Of course, the key difference is that there will now be more teachers in the Kaukauna district than there would have been had the union's proposal gone through.

One thing must be noted:  it took courage for the Kaukauna school board to reject the union's proposal. One of the primary reasons for the dilatory tactics that the Democrats and their union allies have adopted in Wisconsin is that it caused many other school districts to accept union proposals for work rules and compensation. School districts were uncertain about what would happen, so many felt they had to take the deal in front of them. Kaukauna held firm and its students will benefit as a result.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Worth Every Penny, I'm Sure

Things I learn on Facebook:

One of my Facebook friends, who is in a position to know such things, informs me that Tony Sutton, who is the head of the state GOP, is in line for a substantial raise, somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000.

The questions my friend asks:

Anyone want to weigh in on Sutton's $100,000 salary increase? How about the nominating committees knowledge of the request and their failure to inform state central delegates at the convention?

Just a guess -- if the state central delegates knew this was coming, they'd have raised a squawk about it.

Just a reminder

Regarding the budget showdown in St. Paul, one thing has to be recognized. The Republicans and DFL can negotiate all they want, but nothing can happen until and unless Gov. Dayton calls the legislature back into session. He hasn't done that.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Just sayin'

At this point I doubt I'd support Michele Bachmann for the presidency, but retailing the idea that she doesn't know the difference between John Wayne and John Wayne Gacy is ridiculous.

Just so we're clear on this -- Gacy apparently was from Waterloo, Iowa. John Wayne's parents lived in Waterloo, Iowa prior to Wayne's birth. It's not surprising that someone might have claimed John Wayne as a son of Waterloo at some point.

And just so we're clear on one other thing -- John Wayne became famous elsewhere, just as John Wayne Gacy became infamous elsewhere.

The campaign that is beginning way too soon is designed to determine should be the President of the United States, not who has the best chance of being the next champion on "Jeopardy!"

Game Theory

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has more on the bizarre events at the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The investigations could go on for rather a long time, given the strangeness of the events. Here's the way it boils down, I think.
  • If Justice Ann Bradley's story is true, David Prosser has to resign.
  • If Justice Ann Bradley's story is not true, Ann Bradley has to resign.
  • Either way, Scott Walker gets to pick a jurist for the Supreme Court.
One thing is certain -- the last thing the Democrats in Wisconsin want is to have Scott Walker replace any member of the Supreme Court, especially if it turns out to be Bradley, who with Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson forms the heart of the liberal bloc on the court. If Prosser goes, Walker still wins, since he'd be likely to pick a jurist who is younger, more reliably conservative and less, ahem, excitable.

The only way this turns out well for the Democrats is if a lengthy investigation comes out as "inconclusive." That's your likely endgame.

Meanwhile, in Chicago

Nothing really changes:

Saying he was "stunned," Rod Blagojevich was uncharacteristically tight-lipped today after a jury convicted him on 17 of 20 counts of corruption against him.

Holding his wife’s hand, Blagojevich spoke in a somber tone to a crush of reporters in the federal courthouse. "Patti and I obviously are very disappointed in the outcome. I, frankly, am stunned. There's not much left to say other than we want to get home to our little girls and talk to them and explain things to them and try to sort things out. And I'm sure we'll be seeing you.”
Actually, I'd rather not see any more of Rod Blagojevich.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Keeping it Meme-y, Part 2

We now return to the strange tale of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the dispute between Justices David Prosser and Ann Bradley. The initial allegation is that Prosser, apparently in a fit of rage, choked or attempted to choke Justice Bradley. The source of the allegation is a single-sourced account that made the rounds of the leftosphere, most prominently at ThinkProgress.

As we noted earlier this morning, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had an account that offered a very different version of the same events, in which Justice Bradley was the instigator and that Prosser was defending himself.

Ann Althouse has, not surprisingly, been all over the matter and offers the following observations:

I’m reading the Journal Sentinel’s account as referring to 3 — not 2 — sources, with 2 of the 3 versions portraying Bradley as the aggressor: “the source… another source… [a]nother source….”

I want to know not only what really happened at the time of the physical contact (if any) between the 2 justices, but also who gave the original story to the press. If Prosser really tried to choke a nonviolent Bradley, he should resign. But if the original account is a trumped-up charge intended to destroy Prosser and obstruct the democratic processes of government in Wisconsin, then whoever sent the report out in that form should be held responsible for what should be recognized as a truly evil attack.
I agree that if Prosser attacked Bradley, he must resign. But Althouse also makes an equally important observation:

Everyone who thinks Prosser must to resign if he attacked Bradley ought to say that if Bradley attacked Prosser, she should resign. 
That doesn't seem to be happening, though. And Althouse knows why:

If that happens, then the tactic of leaking the original version of the story to the press will have backfired horrifically for Democrats, as Governor Scott Walker will name the Justice to replace Bradley. If both Justices erred and must resign, that will be 2 appointments for Walker, both of whom, I would imagine, will be stronger, younger, and more conservative than Prosser, and, with Bradley gone, the liberal faction on the court will be reduced to 2, against a conservative majority of 5.

It's enough to leave you feeling lost in the funhouse. But let's think for a moment about a few things.
  • If the Journal Sentinel account is correct, as many as 6 of the 7 justices of the Wisconsin Supreme Court were in the room at the time of the incident. Either Prosser or Bradley is lying about what happened. Such lying might or might not be grounds for impeachment, but given everything else that's happened it would certainly be on the table.
  • If Bradley's version were correct, it boggles the imagination that the other justices would have let Prosser get by with his actions. He'd surely have been arrested, because anything less would involve the majority of the Supreme Court tolerating a physical assault on one of its members.
  • Does it not strike you as more likely that someone associated with Bradley decided to leak the story in the hope that Prosser would fold?
I think we can draw a number of conclusions from this incident.

First, it's evident that the Democrats in Wisconsin view the events of the last several months as being such an existential threat to their continued success that they are willing to do just about anything to stop events from going forward. And, to use the useful British term for crazy behavior, the Democrats have "lost the plot."

Second, I think the Democrats and their allies greatly underestimate David Prosser's will to survive. He's been attacked in just about every way imaginable over the last few months and he's not folded yet.

Third, Bradley is now in a tough spot. If Bradley were to file a police report, her statements would be under oath. If she's telling the truth, she has nothing to fear about making such statements. But if it were determined that she is filing a false report, she'd be breaking the law and putting her career in jeopardy. She might be able to prosecute the case through the media for a while, but eventually she's going to have to provide an answer that squares with the conflicting accounts of her behavior.

Fourth, since the witnesses in the case are the other justices of the Supreme Court, eventually another justice has to corroborate her story. Do you suppose that any other Justice is going to corroborate the Bradley version of events?

There's more still. We'll take that up anon.

Keeping It Meme-y, Part 1

If you're like most people who have a Facebook account, chances are good you have friends on both sides of the political aisle. I noticed something strange yesterday from my portside friends. A friend of mine that I met in Minnesota, along with an old high school friend, both linked to an article from the leftist website ThinkProgress detailing an allegation that our old friend David Prosser, recently re-elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a contentious election, supposedly choked another member of the Supreme Court, Ann Bradley.

There's plenty strange about this, but what was most interesting is the comment from both of my Facebook pals, which referenced "keeping it classy." It struck me as odd because if the allegations concerning Prosser were true, it would be grounds for demanding his resignation.

I'll admit that I'm disinclined to believe anything that ThinkProgess says, so I turned to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which has been the best MSM information source throughout the last several months of the madness in Madison. Their report was a little more, ahem, complete:

At least five justices, including Prosser and Bradley, had gathered in Bradley’s office and were informally discussing the decision. The conversation grew heated, the source said, and Bradley asked Prosser to leave. Bradley was bothered by disparaging remarks Prosser had made about Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.

Bradley felt Prosser “was attacking the chief justice,” the source said. Before leaving, Prosser “put his hands around her neck in what (Bradley) described as a chokehold,” the source said. “He did not exert any pressure, but his hands were around her neck,” the source said. The source said the act “was in no way playful.”

But another source told the Journal Sentinel that Bradley attacked Prosser. “She charged him with fists raised,” the source said. Prosser “put his hands in a defensive posture,” the source said. “He blocked her.” In doing so, the source said, he made contact with Bradley’s neck.

Another source said the justices were arguing… [and] Prosser said he”d lost all confidence in [Abrahamson's] leadership. Bradley then came across the room “with fists up,” the source said. Prosser put up his hands to push her back. Bradley then said she had been choked, according to the source. Another justice – the source wouldn’t say who – responded, “You were not choked.”

Strange, huh? Blogger just ate the second half of this post, so I'll have more later.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Meanwhile, in New York

They're going to have gay marriage:

Celebrating late into the night, thousands of gay marriage supporters poured into the streets after New York became the sixth and largest state in the U.S. to legalize gay marriage.

After days of contentious negotiations and last-minute reversals by two Republican state senators, the bill was passed, breathing life into the national gay rights movement that had stalled over a nearly-identical bill here two years ago.

Pending any court challenges, legal gay marriages can begin in New York by late July after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed his bill into law just before midnight Friday.
A few thoughts:

  • If we're going to have gay marriage, this is how it should come about. The legislature debated the matter, passed the bill and the governor signed it into law. That's a hell of a lot more legitimate than having gay marriage imposed through judicial fiat. And because New York has chosen this path, I would oppose any court challenges to the new law. Opponents of the new law have the job of electing legislators and a governor who will overturn it.
  • We can argue about the meaning of the word marriage forever, but it's clear that the meaning has been changing, and changing rapidly, over the past few years. Our friend Night Writer has proffered the idea that those who still believe in the notion of traditional marriage choose another word, matrimony, to denote what we mean by traditional marriage. That idea seems wiser by the moment.
  • I don't think there are really that many people who are interested in denying gays the opportunity to form whatever unions they would like to form. That's never really been the point of the argument, at least from this corner. The main reason conservatives have opposed gay marriage is that they value the importance of traditional marriage, especially its central role in providing a stable, nurturing evironment for the upbringing of children. That role has been under attack for a lot longer than the notion of gay marriage as been around. We've been undermining traditional marriage for a long time now.
  • Getting married is easy. Marriage isn't. Romantic love will not sustain a marriage. Having the right to marry won't make most gay people any happier.
One last point. Consider the statement of one of the Republican legislators who put the measure over the top:

Republican State Senator Stephen Saland was one of the last to support the same-sex marriage bill. A self-proclaimed traditionalist, he said he agonized over the decision: "I have defined doing the right thing as treating all persons with equality, and that equality includes the definition of marriage, and I fear that to do otherwise would fly in the face of my upbringing."
 This is nonsense, of course. But that's another post.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Meanwhile, in New Jersey

Something familiar seems to be happening:

New Jersey lawmakers on Thursday approved a broad rollback of benefits for 750,000 government workers and retirees, the deepest cut in state and local costs in memory, in a major victory for Gov. Chris Christie and a once-unthinkable setback for the state’s powerful public employee unions.

Huh, wonder where we've seen that before. There's more:

The legislation will sharply increase what state and local workers must contribute for their health insurance and pensions, suspend cost-of-living increases to retirees’ pension checks, raise retirement ages and curb the unions’ contract bargaining rights. It will save local and state governments $132 billion over the next 30 years, by the administration’s estimate, and give the troubled benefit systems a sounder financial footing, mostly by shifting costs onto workers.

I would guess that $132 billion is a conservative estimate, by the way. This change has been a long time coming, much as it was in Wisconsin and elsewhere. To a certain extent, I am sympathetic to the public employees who planned their lives around these benefits, but there's a fundamental question that a commenter at Mitch Berg's blog asked. To wit: is it reasonable to expect private sector workers to have to put off their retirements and keep working until the age of 70 in order to ensure that public sector workers get to retire at the age of 55?
State by state, battle by battle, I think we're getting the answer to that question.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Empire Draws Back

President Obama is pulling troops out of Afghanistan and he said something that was useful and interesting in his remarks last night:

We will not try to make Afghanistan a perfect place. We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely.

That is the responsibility of the Afghan government, which must step up its ability to protect its people; and move from an economy shaped by war to one that can sustain a lasting peace.
It's about time that an American president said such a thing, but it holds true for many places other than Afghanistan. We have troops stationed all over the world and we're long overdue to ask why that is.

We have, for nearly 70 years now, been running an empire. It's been a mostly benevolent empire, but we've had an unmistakable presence in Europe and Asia ever since World War II ended. In many cases, the enemy we saw is no longer a factor -- there is no threat that the Red Army is going to crash through the Fulda Gap any time soon, to use just one example.

The conversation I'm contemplating probably should have happened 20 years ago, but we've always found a reason to maintain what we've been doing. The questions still merit discussion. Why does the military have troops all over the world? And what are those troops doing?

I'm not convinced that deploying the military to be armed social workers is necessarily a wise use of our time, treasure and talent, but that has been the mission, especially in Afghanistan. We can't draw back from the world, because the world will not draw back from us. But we can recalibrate how we respond.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dismal would be an improvement

John Hinderaker at Powerline noticed that outgoing University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks is unhappy about his final operating budget, which he called "dismal." Hinderaker asks a question:

Well, if the budget is "dismal" it must be getting cut, right? How big a decline would it take for you to say that your family's budget is "dismal" and "disappointing?" Ten percent? Twenty?

If I had to take a 20% cut, that would hurt a lot. So what's happening to the budget for the University of Minnesota system? Hinderaker offers some numbers:

Here are the University's budget numbers for the fiscal years starting in 2000, according to the Univeristy's own web sites:

FY 2000: $1,816,000,000

FY 2001: $1,886,000,000

FY 2002: $2,005,000,000

FY 2003: $2,118,000,000

FY 2004: $2,098,000,000

FY 2005: $2,201,000,000

FY 2006: $2,368,000,000

FY 2007: $2,532,000,000

FY 2008: $2,747,000,000

FY 2009: $2,902,000,000

FY 2010: $2,900,000,000

FY 2011: $3,400,000,000

FY 2012: $3,700,000,000

So the University's own numbers indicate that the "dismal" and "disappointing" FY 2012 budget represents a $300 million, 8.8% increase over FY 2011. Will your family's budget rise by 9% next year? Probably not.
Yeah, I'd absolutely take such a dismal result for my family budget. Here's the secret, kids: the only way any governmental organization would consider itself "fully funded" is if it had all your money.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bullets Bounce Off Big Boxes

Walmart and Target are both happier companies now following the resolution of events over the last few days. Over the weekend workers (or in Target parlance, team members) at the store in Valley Stream, NY rejected an labor union certification vote, while yesterday the Supreme Court, in what may turn out to be a landmark ruling, rejected a potentially massive class-action lawsuit aimed at Walmart, ostensibly on behalf of 1.5 million Walmart workers (or associates, in Walmart parlance):

“Because respondents provide no convincing proof of a companywide discriminatory pay and promotion policy, we have concluded that they have not established the existence of any common question” necessary for a class-action suit, Justice Antonin Scalia said in the 5 to 4 opinion.

There is a common thread here, which is that the real losers weren't those who were purported to be the victims of corporate perfidy. The union that sought to organize the Target workers, and the lawyers who tried to cobble together a class larger than the population of Philadelphia, are the losers. Both were, in their own ways, attempting to use the workers of the two companies to gain access to their respective corporate coffers. Had the union been able to organize the Valley Stream location, they would have quickly moved to demand similar representation at other Target locations. This would have been a great deal for the union, which would have had a remarkable income stream from union dues, but likely would not have benefitted the workers that much.

Meanwhile, as is the case in most class actions, the biggest beneficiaries of the class action suit against Walmart would have been the laywers. Chances are very good that you've been declared part of a plaintiff's class action, but that you've received something of only nominal value as a result of the settlement. That's the scam involved here and it's long past time the Supreme Court weighed in on such matters.

The lawyers suing Walmart were considering their options:

Attorneys for the plaintiffs — six company workers who sought to represent the rest of Wal-Mart’s female workforce — acknowledged that the decision effectively ends their suit, although they said individual discrimination suits or smaller class-action litigation might be an option.

That's the proper approach to such matters, but rarely taken. Why? Allow the Washington Post to explain:

Class actions are favored by those alleging discrimination because they can force employers to change their practices. And often individual discrimination suits carry too small a payoff for lawyers to take.
Emphasis mine.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Just a guess

We had dueling activists in town over the weekend. The Netroots folks had their confab and Right Online was going on simultaneously.

The mood at the two places was decidedly different. It turns out that the lefties aren't very happy right now. Why would that be?

Just a guess -- the right-wing bloggers are unhappy that Obama is in power, but they are happier because the results of the Obama administation's ministrations have done rather a lot to confirm their worldview. The lefties are unhappy because the Obama administration's ministrations tend to contradict their worldview.

Home Truth

After their latest defeat at the hands of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the public employee unions are pursuing two agendas: (1) recall elections against a handful of senators; and (2) a federal lawsuit. Ann Althouse muses on what the unions are doing and comes to a conclusion:

The unions suffered a crushing defeat, and the only way back — not mentioned in the article — is to regain the legislature and the governorship in future regular elections. That's a long time line, and it will give the people of the state a chance to see if the Republicans' budget fix worked.

At this point in the protracted budget battle of 2011, the people of Wisconsin deserve that information before we plunge into another big change. If the unions look too desperate grasping at strategic moves like #1 and #2, above, then Wisconsinites ought to suspect that they are afraid to let us see how good the new policy really is.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Vikings to Arden Hills XI -- Still Dead But Too Dumb to Lie Down

I'll give the Star Tribune editorial board credit for one thing -- they are nothing if not persistent. In discussing why the unelected Met Council should have a seat at the negotiating table, they patiently explain why the best solution is the Big Rock Candy Metrodome:

Dayton wants to keep the team in the state and prizes the economic boost from construction jobs a new stadium would create. Why ask questions that could complicate acting on those incentives?

But to fulfill the governor's vision for "a people's stadium," this decision should be driven by a big-picture assessment of what is best for the people of Minnesota. The Met Council may agree that Arden Hills is the best option.

Or it may say that fueling the vibrancy of downtown Minneapolis, the state's economic engine, is a key concern. Perhaps it would conclude the Farmers Market site near Target Field and Target Center creates the kind of synergies that are best for the metropolitan area, and thus the state.

Or, it may agree with this Editorial Board, and say that the best, most cost-effective option is Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak's plan to build on the existing Metrodome site.
Two very quick observations:
  • Since when is Governor Dayton's "vision" something that must be granted?
  • The question here isn't enhancing the property values of the Star Tribune. The question is, and has been for some time now, whether or not the citizens of Minnesota want to keep the Vikings or not. The Vikings have made it quite clear that they want a suburban stadium because of the potential revenue it could generate. That is, for the Vikings, an eminently sensible way of looking at the matter. They have no interest in staying in Minneapolis because they cannot get the revenue they desire there. They don't care about light rail access, or the vibrancy of Minneapolis, or  about anyone's vision other than their own. They don't have to care. So the decision is the same as it has been from the outset -- the Vikings have named their price to stay. Are we willing to pay that price?

Memo to Gretchen Hoffman

State Senator Gretchen Hoffman has been in some trouble for apparently tweeting something about State Senator Barb Goodwin that was misleading. Hoffman was forced to apologize to Goodwin yesterday.

Just a quick suggestion for Senator Hoffman -- the key to dealing with Senator Goodwin's, ahem, unique approach to legislating and warm-hearted worldview is to quote her accurately.

Hope that helps.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Another really good question

This is how the intertubes work. I am recommending you read a post that Gino recommended on his frequent commenter Brian's blog, but that is a guest post from a commenter to Brian's blog named Dave.

The subject is the War Powers Act, a 1973 law passed in the twilight of the war in Vietnam, which places strict limits on a president's ability to make war without Congressional approval.

Allow Dave to introduce himself:

I'm a naval officer. I generally don't like making partisan political arguments and I am essentially prohibited from making such statements in public. Even though I have pretty strong political opinions, I'm okay with that; a staunchly non-partisan military is one of our country's great accomplishments. Unlike everyone else is the country, I have people who have explicitly sworn to obey my orders. So I really need to be careful about what I say … my comments could be construed as undermining the constitutional order. And since these people who swear to obey my orders have access to guns, well, that's a big deal.

There's no doubt about that. Dave is concerned that President Obama is flouting the War Powers Act:

That constitutional order is very important. As a commissioned officer, I have sworn to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. Not to obey orders, but to support the constitution. And while that constitution names the President as the military's commander-in-chief, it also grants a significant war-making role to Congress. And Congress, empowered to both declare war and to regulate the naval and land forces, has exercised that power in the form of the War Powers Act. And my sense is that the administration, by continuing military operations in Libya beyond the 60 day limit without congressional approval, is violating that Act.

He's making the proper distinction. Then he asks the right question for someone in his position:

So what is an officer to do?

I don't think the answer is clear. I might breezily state that a good military officer should refuse any orders dealing with Libya. Legally defensible perhaps, but generally not a good habit to get into. The armed forces should not get into the practice of parsing the constitutionality of orders, especially those from the top.

But, the War Powers Act remains. If the intent was for the armed forces to just obey Presidential orders, congress would have included the part from the enlistment oath about obeying orders in the officer's commissioning oath. They left that out on purpose, creating in the contest of Libya a bit of an ethical quandary.
To me, there are two issues at play here.

1) Should a president's ability to wage war have limits?
2) How do we deal with gaps in the law that leave big questions of this sort out there?

I'm not a constitutional scholar and wouldn't pretend to know whether or not the War Powers Act is actually constitutional. Every administration that has operated under the law has fought it, in one way or another, as an arrogation of executive power. Having said that, every president has had, in the end, to go with hat in hand to Congress. Now it's Obama's turn to deal with the issue.

We owe it to our naval officers, and to all who wear the uniform, to resolve this issue. Dave makes the point quite well:

I do not think that Congress has a responsibility to approve the Libya adventure in order to avoid constitutional ambiguity; to argue so would turn the legislature into a rubber stamp. But I do think that this is the inevitable consequence of a half-century of Congressional dereliction with regard to executive power in general and specifically with presidential war-making.
It has to stop sometime. Meanwhile, as they always say, read the whole thing.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Snark Dayton

In the 5 1/2 years I've been blogging, this blog has been a very polite place. We don't typically do too many cheap shots here and most times we've been respectful of people, even those who don't really deserve a lot of respect. And therein lies a tale.

This morning, as part of my ongoing series on the Vikings stadium debate, I took a bit of a cheap shot at two individuals involved in a meeting yesterday at the State Capitol. Both the owner of the Vikings, Zygmunt Wilf, and the governor of the State of Minnesota, Mark Dayton, are notable for being (a) wealthier than King Canute and (b) notoriously ill at ease when public speaking is required. In fact, both tend to stammer rather a lot in their public pronouncements. And I made a joke about that in the headline of the piece and in the link to the Star Tribune article I quoted.

My pieces are regularly reposted on True North and occasionally reposted on MinnPost. As it happened, MinnPost picked up my piece and ran it in their "Blog Cabin" feature. Most days when an article of mine appears there, it doesn't even register a comment, but today's piece garnered a couple of angry responses from readers there, who thought mentioning Dayton's stammer was a cheap shot. Perhaps it was, but I've always assumed a politician could take a little ankle-biting. The ferocity of the response was striking -- one of the commenters suggested that if the Vikings leave town, I should go with them.

You could chalk the ferocity of the response up to the standard issue dyspepsia of liberal internet commenters, but I think there's something else going on. I've lived in Minnesota for nearly 20 years now and have been able to watch Mark Dayton for nearly all of that time. One thing that's been striking about his career is that a lot of people are extraordinarily protective of him. If you were to watch Dayton's appearances on the local newscasts, you would never know he stammers at all because the sound bites generally last only a few seconds. When you watched Dayton's regular campaign ads in the last cycle, you rarely heard his voice. He had others speak for him, including his sons and various voiceover announcers. His greatest troubles have come when he's been forced to speak for himself. It's an odd problem for a man who has chosen to live his life in the arena, as Teddy Roosevelt described the political scene.

Dayton today asked a Ramsey County court to appoint a mediator to help him negotiate with the Legislature, which is a singularly weird thing for the most powerful man in the state to do. He can end the impasse with the Lege tomorrow if he wants to, but he's calling in a third party. While there might be a tactical advantage in this move in the short term, it's a sign of weakness. Here's a hint to Dayton's defenders -- his speech patterns aren't the primary concern here. I'd worry a lot more about Dayton's thought patterns.

Vikings to Arden Hills? X - Stammering Out a Deal?

Mark Dayton and Zygi Wilf were meeting yesterday. I can only imagine the epic amount of stammering going on:

The governor convened the meeting of Ramsey County officials, team owners Mark and Zygi Wilf, legislative sponsors of a stadium bill and Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission Chair Ted Mondale. After two hours, all emerged from the closed-door meeting preaching optimism, but looking borderline grim.

The hang up continues to be road funding:

The Vikings and Ramsey County offered a plan Monday that would seek state and local grants to cover half the cost. The rest would come in the form of a cash advance either from a Ramsey County bond issue or an interest-free state loan. The bonds or the loan would be paid back through fees and surcharges at the new stadium.

Dayton, however, said state grants for roads would count against the $300 million limit. The governor also said he would prefer something more direct than the "piecemeal financing" road proposal. He insisted that no state general fund money would go to the stadium, but other than that, "I don't rule anything out. ... If we can get a federal grant, great."
A few thoughts. First, Dayton hates "piecemeal" anything. That's been his excuse for holding the state hostage with the government shutdown and why he vetoed virtually every budget bill that the Legislature passed. So it's hardly surprising that he's taken this stance on the witches' brew of funding that the Vikings and their eager rubes partners from Ramsey County have offered.

Second, why would anyone expect a federal grant of anything to help build a football stadium? Dayton seems to be pulling that notion out of the air, or someplace else that we'd rather not contemplate.

Third -- given the amount of fees and surcharges that are contemplated to build this thing, you have to wonder how anyone is going to be able to afford to go to a Vikings game. The face value for the ticket of the last NFL game I attended was $83. One could easily imagine the cost of a ducat at the new place, with all the surcharges included, to be somewhere north of $150. Now add in the $40 parking and you're talking about a pretty expensive afternoon. Perhaps there's a market for this, but I'm wondering where it is. The Star Tribune article mentions a supposed legislative deadline of Friday. That's probably negotiable, but the hour is drawing late. The question remains:  how valuable are the Vikings to Minnesota?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


You rarely see an opinion as thoroughly dismissive as the one that was handed down today by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi got mailed home in a manila envelope. Ann Althouse gets to the money quotes:

In Goodland v. Zimmerman, 243 Wis. 459, 10 N.W.2d 180 (1943), the court... explained that the “judicial department has no jurisdiction or right to interfere with the legislative process. That is something committed by the constitution entirely to the legislature itself.” Id. at 467. The court held that “[b]ecause under our system of constitutional government, no one of the co-ordinate departments can interfere with the discharge of the constitutional duties of one of the other departments, no court has jurisdiction to enjoin the legislative process at any point.” Id. at 468. The court noted that “[i]f a court can intervene and prohibit the publication of an act, the court determines what shall be law and not the legislature. If the court does that, it does not in terms legislate but it invades the constitutional power of the legislature to declare what shall become law. This [a court] may not do.” Id.

Emphasis mine. In other words, Maryann Sumi isn't a divine right monarch after all. But there's more:

... [W]hether a court can enjoin a bill is a matter of great public importance and also because it appears necessary to confirm that Goodland remains the law that all courts must follow.... Accordingly, because the circuit court did not follow the court’s directive in Goodland, it exceeded its jurisdiction, invaded the legislature’s constitutional powers under Article IV, Section 1 and Section 17 of the Wisconsin Constitution, and erred in enjoining the publication and further implementation of the Act.

Again, emphasis mine. Not only is Maryann Sumi not a divine right monarch, she violated the state constitution, and the Wisconsin State Supreme Court called her out on it.

We elect legislatures to craft laws. We elect governors to execute the laws that the legislature creates. That's what happened in Wisconsin with the budget repair bill. And it's a damned good thing that Maryann Sumi didn't get by with what she tried to do.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Just Say No to Kabuki

Nope, I didn't watch the first official Republican debate tonight. As I said earlier today, it's too soon to be thinking about this. I know that Stephen Green at Pajamas Media offered his always-entertaining "drunkblogging" of the debate and that Althouse and HotAir had an eye on it, too.

There are other things to think about. What Mitch Berg wrote about today, for example. And what Gary Gross wrote about, too.

Bottom line is this -- 2012 will come around soon enough. We have to get through 2011 first and that's no sure thing right now, either. Money quote, both figuratively and literally, from William Gross, who manages $1.2 trillion in assets for Pimco:

"We've always wondered who will buy Treasurys" after the Federal Reserve purchases the last of its $600 billion to end the second leg of its quantitative easing program later this month, Gross said. "It's certainly not Pimco and it's probably not the bond funds of the world."

I'd be willing to wager that question didn't come up in tonight's debate.

Lightning Round - 061311

I'm tired of Weiner, there's no real news in St. Paul and it's still too early to talk about the 2012 election, so let's talk sports.
  • The Dallas Mavericks won the NBA championship last night, defeating the Miami Heat in 6 games. Maybe you disagree, but I find the NBA tough to get with these days. It's been a gradual process but the pro game has changed tremendously in the last 20 years and it's not as much fun any more. The difference is that the teams actually play defense these days. It used to be that when an NBA team scored less than 100 points in a game, it was a story. Those days are long gone now. I grew up watching the Milwaukee Bucks, a team that dominated most games during the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar era and could score at will. It's easy to forget how unstoppable Jabbar was in those days. He could do anything and the Bucks surrounded him with some excellent athletes like Bobby Dandridge and Lucious Allen, along with outstanding shooters like Jon McGlocklin. They also had the great Oscar Robertson, who was at the end of his outstanding career but was still capable of greatness when the situation warranted. I watched parts of the Mavs/Heat finals and while it's easy to enjoy the talent and will of Dirk Nowitzki and Dwayne Wade, the game feels more, I dunno, sloppy? It's always a fool's errand to compare teams across eras, but I liked the 70s era NBA better.
  • It might be too late, but suddenly the Twins are playing well despite trotting out the road company of the Rochester Red Wings a lot of nights. Most of the difference has been pitching -- the starting pitching was mostly abysmal during the first part of the year, but lately Francisco Liriano has been outstanding and Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker and Carl Pavano have been more than adequate. There's no reason to assume that the Twins, as currently constituted, could make the playoffs, but I don't see any dominant team in their division right now. Stranger things have happened.
  • There's probably a lot more to be said about Ohio State and Jim Tressel than I have time to say right now, but I do want to acknowledge one thing -- the one guy I know who's had this sniffed out from the start is my son, the Benster. Two years ago he told me he thought Ohio State was dirty and that Tressel was a bum. I never believed it, but it turns out that the Benster was correct. That's worth acknowledging now. Ohio State is the sort of school that shouldn't have to cheat. They have enormous built-in advantages over nearly every other school they compete with. That they did cheat is troubling in ways that extend far beyond Columbus. But that's another post. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Is being a cad against the law?

Let's get this out of the way at the outset -- John Edwards is a pretty despicable dude.

Having said that, should he be prosecuted for violating campaign finance laws? Old Clinton hand Lanny Davis, writing for the Daily Caller, argues that there is a potential case:

It is entirely possible that the judge will rule as a matter of law that Congress never intended “campaign contribution” to be defined as covering such indirect contributions providing benefits to a candidate through hushing up a scandal. If so, then the case will be thrown out and never get to trial or presented to a jury.

However, if you look at the indictment, there are two facts alleged that, if proven to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, could result in Edwards being found guilty — that is, if the judge lets the case get to a jury.

The two allegations in question? Let Davis explain:

First, in paragraph 26, the indictment quotes Edwards telling his senior aide, Andrew Young, that he needed to falsely state that he was the father of Ms. Rielle’s child, because “his efforts to win the presidency — and everything he fought for — depended on it.” Also, in paragraph 33, Edwards allegedly decided not to issue a public statement that he was aware of donor contributions intended “to support and hide” his relationship with Rielle from the media. However, significantly, the indictment then goes on to quote him as explaining the reason why he chose not to do so: for “legal and practical reasons.”

If both of those alleged statements are believed by the jury to have been actually stated by Edwards, then it can reasonably infer that Edwards knew that the donations to Rielle were primarily to prevent damage to his campaign, and thus, under the law, could be deemed illegal campaign contributions.
There's a lot of hedging there, but that's part of the problem. The Edwards case presents a lot of the sins of modern politics in one location. Campaign finance laws are dubious on any number of grounds and the laws are open to widely divergent interpretation because the legislators who drafted the various laws were unable or unwilling to state their precise intentions. I've always viewed these laws as being expressions of good intentions delivered in bad faith.

At bottom, the case boils down to this:  Edwards was moving money around to keep his bad behavior from become public. It wasn't going to work, because the truth about such matters tends to get come out no matter how much money you spend trying to suppress it. As it stands now, the world knows that Edwards is a scoundrel and that his benefactor Bunny Mellon is a fool. That seems like punishment enough. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Everyone's A Weiner, Baby, That's the Truth

Learned something new this week -- apparently everyone is sexting and that monogamy is a myth:

There are now online forums for acting polyamorists, a magazine called Loving More that has 15,000 subscribers, perhaps and somewhat surprisingly, the results of a 14,000-person survey—in which 21 percent of people said they have an open marriage. All of that got Haag thinking: Should we stop calling infidelity a problem, and think of it as the future? "Marital nonmonogamy may be to the 21st century what premarital sex was to the 20th," she writes—"a behavior that shifts gradually from proscribed and limited, to tolerated and increasingly common."

As a local radio guy is fond of saying, "men are only as faithful as their options." Two questions for the audience:

1) Do you believe this to be true?
2) Are you okay with it?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

A happy by-product of success

My friend and blogging colleague Brad Carlson now has a radio gig on AM1280 the Patriot on Saturday afternoons, from 3-4 p.m. Brad is a talented broadcaster and an engaging guy who has filled in for other shows on the Patriot over the years. While I'm very happy that Brad is getting a long-deserved opportunity on the airwaves, there's been an added bonus to this change -- he's blogging more often at his place. He's written two very fine pieces in recent days, concerning Andrew Breitbart and Amy Klobuchar. Hit the links and enjoy some fine writing and clear thinking.

No relief

There are multiple reasons why the economy stinks right now and a key reason is energy prices. No help will be forthcoming from our favorite cartel, either:

At Wednesday’s OPEC meeting in Vienna, Saudi Arabia lobbied for an increase in oil output . Countries including Iran resisted, arguing that oil supplies are adequate to meet demand and prices are appropriate.

“We are unable to reach consensus,” OPEC Secretary General Abdullah Al-Badri said after the meeting in Vienna ended. Saudi oil minister Ali Naimi called the meeting “one of the worst ever.”

Traders were surprised, and oil prices climbed. Benchmark West Texas Intermediate for July delivery gained $1.65 to settle at $100.74 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
We've never been able to control what OPEC does, but we can control what we do. Drill baby, drill.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Disraeli and the Star Tribune Business Section

One of the big headlines in the Star Tribune business section today is that Target is still in trouble over its 2010 contribution to a pro-business group that supported the evil Tom Emmer. And dig this -- it's an institutional investor:

On the eve of Target Corp.'s annual shareholders meeting, a trustee of a pension fund with 1 million shares of company stock called for the retailer to change its policy on political contributions.

Well, boy howdy -- that's an investor with a million shares of stock! Must be hugely influential, right? Let Strib business writer Jim Spencer explain the identity of this key corporate player:

Bill de Blasio, who sits on the board of the New York City Employees Retirement System (NYCERS), also asked that the fund vote against any Target director who refuses to voluntarily stop contributions, such as the $150,000 donation Target made in 2010 to a political action committee supporting Minnesota Republican governor candidate Tom Emmer.
And Mr. de Blasio is very concerned about Target's behavior:

"I write to express deep concern regarding the City's investment in Target Corp.," De Blasio said in a letter to New York City Comptroller John Liu dated Tuesday. "The company's experience in political spending, and the lack of effective reforms taken by the company after the controversy ...make the company a leading candidate to receive a shareholder resolution regard [sic] political spending. ...

"I ask that you consider withholding votes from relevant Target Corp. directors, in the absence of a change in policy on political spending."

Well, that's a call to action. Clearly the gang at 1000 Nicollet Mall must comply with this serious demand -- after all, we're talking about an institutional shareholder with a million shares of stock, right?

Don't get me wrong, I wish I personally owned a million shares of Target stock, but how much of the company's total shares outstanding does that total represent?

Not so much. Turns out that the current number of shares outstanding is 689.14 million. In other words, NYCERS owns approximately 0.14% of Target's stock. If NYCERS divested their entire holdings of Target stock tomorrow, Target wouldn't even notice, nor would the market overall. Nearly five times that many shares of Target stock have already been traded today as of 12:30 p.m. CDT -- the link is live and will change, but 0.68% of outstanding shares have traded today.

So if the NYCERS holdings don't mean much in the greater scheme of things, why are Mr. de Blasio's deep thoughts a headline in the Star Tribune business section? I suppose you could ask Jim Spencer, or his editor. But Benjamin Disraeli supplied the answer a long time ago.

Lightning Round - 060811

Not much time this morning:
  • It reached 103 in Minneapolis yesterday, which is the warmest temperature we've had since 1988. It appears that we may not get warmer than 65 on Friday. This is why Mark Twain said that everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it. What can you do?
  • If you weren't sure before about the new ethical standard I suggested was in play, we have evidence:  according to CNN, Tim Walz has given away the $3000 he got from Anthony Weiner. And if you wonder why Tim Walz would have $3000 from Weiner, you're not the only one.
  • Meanwhile, how do the feminists deal with the meaning of Weiner? Stacy McCain offers an amusing look at the deep thoughts of Andrea Marcotte, one-time shill for John Edwards.
  • By the way, the Twins seem to be playing better lately. Not that it matters that much.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Working Blue -- A New Standard

Bill James is best known as a baseball writer and statistician, but his observations often range beyond the ballparks. In The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, he makes the following observation:

What Watergate was about was not the corruption of government, as most people thought, but rather, the establishment of new and higher standards of ethical conduct. Almost all scandals, I think, result not from the invention of new evils, but from the imposition of new ethical standards.
I think James is on to something here. In the matter of Anthony Weiner, there's nothing really new about what he was doing, except for the technology involved. Coming on to women who are not your wife is just normal, garden variety caddishness. The advantage that Weiner gained from leveraging his Twitter account is that it broadened his potential audience. If Twitter didn't exist, Weiner likely would have found a way to get his jollies in a more low-tech way.

As is the case with Weiner, or John Edwards, or Arnold Schwarzenegger, or any of the other members of the rogue's gallery of cads who have made the papers in recent months, the real issue isn't sexual. The issue is that these men have chosen to abuse their power. There's nothing new in that, either -- hubris is everywhere in the halls of government. It's pretty much a job requirement, really. While there might be a few genuinely humble public servants here and there, anyone who seeks or holds high office has to believe that they are somehow special.

Technology is changing the relationship, however. Social media make it easier to get close to a person without ever meeting him. And because it is spectacularly easy to capture words and images and send them hurtling throughout the world, it means that private knowledge (and private parts) can reach anyone's web browser.

And that is where the new ethical standard comes in. The trend in government, especially in Washington, was to aggregate as much power as possible in a central location, a location that happened to be physically quite far away from where most people live. That physical distance was a distinct advantage for a politician who would prefer to avoid scrutiny, because it is difficult to observe behavior from long distances. Technology has changed that.

It's especially telling that one of the women that Weiner pursued electronically lived in the Seattle area, far from Weiner's home district and place of employment. Weiner may have thought that because this woman was far away physically, she could be a source of amusement without any chance of her going all Alex Forrest on his butt. But the electronic trail Weiner left in pursuing her attentions turned out to be plenty problematic.

We've always been weary of politicians abusing power in all its guises, whether it's via the quid pro quo or the droit de seigneur, but we haven't always known about the abuse because there's always been a bit of a gentlemen's agreement (ahem) about shielding such matters from public view, as long as matters were kept discreet. Wilbur Mills was brought low in the 1970s not because he was cheating with an Argentine stripper, but because he made a spectacle of himself in pursuing his dalliance. It's possible that we're now in the midst of holding politicians to a higher standard, mostly because technology makes discretion well-nigh impossible and it is easier to hold politicians to account. Weiner counted on a system that had protected politicians with the proper worldview before, but in a world of Twitter and Andrew Breitbart, he was already standing naked in the public square long before he thought about dropping trou for coeds on the Left Coast.

The ethical standard involved -- don't abuse power -- isn't new, per se. But the enforcement mechanism is now much stronger. And that makes it a new standard.

Working Blue

I try, I really do, to keep this blog family-friendly, especially since my own children blog here. But now the time has come to discuss Anthony Weiner and John Edwards.

From what I can tell, both of these men seem to think that their private parts are something that deserve a larger audience than the women they promised to love, honor and cherish. And now they have both run their careers into the ground for this reason.

It didn't used to be this way, of course. Time was that it was a 50/50 proposition whether or not a Democratic politician could exercise his droit de seigneur without worrying too much about the implications. While they both had some uncomfortable moments along the way, Ted Kennedy got by with it and so did Bill Clinton. As those of you who are old enough to remember the 1970s might recall, Wilbur Mills and Wayne Hays did not.

The difference, I think, in the disparate treatment is that both Kennedy and Clinton were (a) considered more important and (b) weren't wrinkled old dudes at the time their indiscretions came to light. And that's what makes the recent travails of Weiner and Edwards more interesting. Both were, in their own ways, people who generated a lot of goodwill in liberal circles because both were willing to attack Republicans in moralistic terms. Edwards became famous for his "Two Americas" trope in which he came on like a postmodern William Jennings Bryan, bewailing the greed and hubris of those nasty Republicans who were keeping people down.

Weiner, for his part, has always been a bit of a cult hero on the Left because he has been a go-to guy for all-purpose denunciations of all things Republican, conservative or otherwise. He came across on television as a less-oily version of his patron Charles Schumer, more bombastic and somehow more pure because of the intensity of his denunciations.

There's no need to rehearse what Edwards and Weiner did because, frankly, it's not especially interesting. What is interesting is that they aren't getting by with it. There's a larger story here. Something has changed. More to come.

Monday, June 06, 2011


Fearful that they've lost the argument and ever-desperate for affirmation, the forces of bureaucracy in Wisconsin have now decided that the best new way to demonstrate their plight is to set up a tent village on the Capitol Square in Madison, which they are calling "Walkerville." Ann Althouse has a few shots of the spectacle at her blog:

The idea, if what they are doing can actually be called an idea, is to remind people of the hobo villages that sprung up during the Great Depression, which were popularly known as Hoovervilles. If you weren't around to see them yourself, and most people now drawing breath weren't, they looked like this:

This was the physical manifestation of poverty and desperation, where people who had reason to wonder where their next meal might come from would gather in public places, in a desperate attempt to gain attention for their plight.

Walkerville, by contrast, looks like the picture at the link, a row of $200-300 tents from REI or Gander Mountain, the visible manifestation of a highly comfortable lifestyle.

So what is the plight of the denizens of Walkerville? That if evil Walker's nefarious plans go through, they might have to wait another year to buy a new $200 tent?

There are a lot of people who are hurting right now, people who have been out of work for a very long time. A lot of people I know who are out of work are in danger of losing their homes. The moral beacons of Walkerville are in no such danger, protected by civil service regulations and well compensated for their labors. The poor souls who lived in the Hoovervilles had nowhere else to go. The people of Walkerville live in a world far removed from the plight of those they claim to emulate.

Friday, June 03, 2011


Two individuals of note have passed away.

The first was Jack Kevorkian, the cynical and ghoulish Michigan pathologist who turned his penchant for assisting in suicides into a cause celebre back in the 1990s, died at the age of 83 from natural causes, which is more than his “patients” could say.

The second is, to me, far more notable, even though less well-known. Joel Rosenberg, a noted fiction writer, 2nd Amendment expert, firearms trainer and the dictionary definition of a mensch, passed away yesterday following complications from a heart attack. I got a chance to meet Joel through the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers and was richer for the experience. Joel was a tireless advocate for freedom. He was also the kind of guy who would drop everything to help you out in a pinch.

Joel was fearless in pursuing what he believed, which led him to run afoul of the Minneapolis Police Department when he tested the limits of banning guns on city property. At the time of his death, he was facing criminal charges that were spurious at best, and he had run up some pretty significant legal bills as a result. Joel had a legal defense fund and likely incurred some pretty big medical bills in his last days, so I'd encourage anyone who values liberty and the many contributions Joel made to consider a donation to his legal defense fund. While he is no longer facing legal jeopardy, those he left behind could use your help. You can help through this link.

Mediate This

Mark Dayton wanted to be governor in the worst way. He got his wish.

It's been just 10 days since legislators ended their regular session without a signed budget agreement. After a five-month session, Dayton and the GOP majorities in the House and Senate failed to reach an accord. Dayton vetoed nearly every major budget bill and Republicans rejected his call for higher taxes on the wealthy to the very end.

Since then, the situation has devolved to the point where some lawmakers are treating a July government shutdown as a near-certainty. Without an approved budget, state government's spending authority expires July 1, leaving a $34 billion operation to an uncertain fate.
Although I'm not sure Star Tribune reporter Rachel Stassen-Berger meant to do it, she gave away the game in the last graph. $34 billion is what the State of Minnesota can expect to have in the next two years. Dayton's problem is that he wants to spend more than that.

But can he explain why? If he could, he wouldn't have to resort to no-showing his administrators before a legislative hearing:

The hard feelings deepened further on Thursday when Dayton announced he was instructing his commissioners not to testify before a legislative budget commission Thursday afternoon. The GOP legislative leaders had requested Dayton's finance and revenue commissioners both appear for questioning.

Dayton called the hearing "contrived political theater" and said he would not allow Republicans to publicly berate his agency heads.
Public berating is no big deal, actually, no matter how much Mark Dayton may claim otherwise. The Republicans get publicly berated every day. Dayton's entire career is based on his ability to berate Republicans, or more to the point, his willingness to have supposedly unrelated 3rd parties like Alliance for a Better Minnesota run nasty ads and interference on his behalf. What Dayton can't tolerate is having his minions answer tough questions that are part of the public record.

Dayton now wants a "public mediator" to get involved in the impasse. Mitch Berg makes the salient point about that nonsense:

By the way – ask your lawyer (or any lawyer) about the wisdom of “getting a mediator” when your opponent is dealing in bad faith. There is none.

If Dayton wanted to demonstrate good faith, he'd pull the Alliance for a Better Minnesota ads. But he won't do that. The lege is going to hang tough because, in the end, they will win this one. And they should.

At last, an explanation

If you've ever wondered how the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy actually works, we now have the answer. Iowahawk turns loose the most noted investigator around, who files this report:

"Come on baby, do I really have to spell it out for you?" said Breitbart, lazily shuddering off another tweet rush. "Everyone knows Anthony Weiner is the most popular, telegenic and effective liberal member of Congress - but also the one with the funniest name. So I hired Allahpundit to kept a 24-hour watch on all of his internet activity. That was Phase One. Phase Two? We waited for his wife to be out and for there to be a gap in his internet activity. Phase Three: we simultaneously hacked all of his social media accounts by guessing his password, and carefully not changing it."

"DedicatedPublicServant9375, isn't it Tony?" sneered Dragon Lady.


"Then it was on to Phase 4," continued Brietbart. "While Weiner was engrossed in a TV hockey game, Ace scaled the wall of his apartment and ambushed him with blunt force trauma to a precise point 2 centimeters to the left of the center base of the skull. This rendered Weiner not only unconscious, but induced amnesia. From there, it was a simple matter of uploading the photoshopped picture and sending it to a random large-breasted coed in Seattle that Weiner was accidentally following."

"And when he came to, he was completely unaware that any of it had happened," I said, slowly grasping what should have been obvious all along. "You monsters knew that Weiner was also the most honest member of Congress - and with his amnesia wouldn't be able to say with 100% certitude that the Weiner pictures weren't his. And as the most frugal member of Congress, you knew he would never want to waste a cent of public money on an FBI investigation."

"Phase Fiverino, Danny baby," grinned Breitbart. "You catch on pretty quick. Call me if you ever want a job."
There's a lot more at the link. Oh, my yes, there's a lot more.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Why is America Discussing Anthony Weiner's, Ahem, Wiener?

Perhaps because we (or, rather, our media gatekeepers) would prefer not to talk about this:

The last month has been a horror show for the U.S. economy, with economic data falling off a cliff, according to Mike Riddell, a fund manager at M&G Investments in London.

Wait, I thought we were in the 2nd year of a recovery. The CNBC interview also sez:

"US house prices have fallen by more than 5 percent year on year, pending home sales have collapsed and existing home sales disappointed, the trend of improving jobless claims has arrested, first quarter GDP wasn’t revised upwards by the 0.4 percent forecast, durables goods orders shrank, manufacturing surveys from Philadelphia Fed, Richmond Fed and Chicago Fed were all very disappointing."

"And that’s just in the last week and a bit," said Riddell.
There's more, according to the Washington Post (via the Strib):

May showed the slowest rate of expansion in the nation's factories since September 2009. The Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday that its index of manufacturing activity fell to 53.5 in May from 60.4 in April.

Numbers above 50 indicate expansion, and analysts had expected a more modest pullback to 57.1. New orders and production fell the lowest, likely triggered by disruptions in automobile and other production after the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which has hurt supply chains around the world.

"Earlier in its recovery, manufacturing had the wind at its back from a very pronounced rebuilding of inventories," said Cliff Waldman, economist at the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI, a trade group. "At this point, however, elevated commodity prices, slowing global growth and an increasingly questionable outlook for the U.S. economy are creating head winds for the factory sector, which thus far has been the one strong element in an otherwise sluggish U.S. economic rebound."
In other words, it's easy to surmise the reason why we're talking about Weiner -- it's because we are well and truly screwed.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The In Crowd, or 50 Ways to Leave Scott Pelley

I'm in with the in crowd, I go where the in crowd goes

I'm in with the in crowd and I know what the in crowd knows

One of the things we know is that Sarah Palin is dumb and irrelevant. We know this because we've been told this repeatedly. Which is why the news media are following her every move, as CBS News notes in a report that is simultaneously hilarious and pathetic:

Since Palin and her team won't share where the potential candidate is headed, reporters and producers have little choice but to simply stay close to Palin's bus.

This has resulted in scenes of the Palin bus tooling down the highway followed by a caravan of 10 or 15 vehicles all trying to make sure they don't lose sight of the Palin bus.

It adds up to a dangerous situation, says CBS News Producer Ryan Corsaro. "I just hope to God that one of these young producers with a camera whose bosses are making them follow Sarah Palin as a potential Republican candidate don't get in a car crash, because this is dangerous," he said.
Actually, what the media have lost sight of isn't Palin's bus. There's no reason they have to follow her around at all. Dana Milbank, one of the media bigfoots at the Washington Post, even declared February a "Palin-free month." If Dana Milbank can do it, why can't the rest of our scribes and betters figure it out?

Worse still, CBS News seems to have unearthed a conspiracy:

The confusing nature of the trip - which was planned by two advance aides recently hired by Palin - played out at a coffee shop this morning, where Palin stopped to shake hands with locals in what looked to reporters like the very definition of a campaign-style photo-opportunity. Multiple people showed up at the event saying they were there because they wanted to see history --but they wouldn't say where they had come from or how they had heard about the event.

"I just want to say that I'm witnessing history happening," one woman said - three times. She wouldn't give her name.
I assume the woman was beamed down from Planet Zorf. Wait, you've never heard of Planet Zorf? Well, you must not be getting Palin's secret communications, which apparently are being beamed to the tinfoil hats that all Palin supporters have to wear. It's clear that CBS News hasn't cracked this rube version of the Enigma Code:

Palin has repeatedly cast the press corps as treating her unfairly, and has tried to make her Facebook and Twitter accounts primary sources of information about her - a strategy she is continuing with the bus tour, for which she is directing interested parties to her political action committee website. (Information about a visit only goes up after she has made the stop.)
So how do the Palinistas know where to go? What deep secret do these Palinistas harbor? When will the rhetorical questions end?

Just hop on the bus, Gus. Don't need to discuss much.