Monday, October 31, 2011

Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead

Narrative fail:

In the most violent Saturday in more than a month of Occupy Denver demonstrations and marches, Denver police fired pepper spray and pepper balls at a crowd of protesters in Civic Center and arrested 20 people.

Two of the protesters were held for felony charges after police said an officer was knocked off his motorcycle and other officers were kicked, as they moved into the park to tear down illegal tents.
Lots more at the link.

Sexual Harassment is Back in Season

After everything that happened with Bill Clinton, one would have thought that the idea of using long-past sexual harassment charges against a presidential candidate would be passe. Guess not:

Politico dropped a sextuple-byline atom bomb on the Cain campaign. According to the paper, "at least two female employees complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior" when Cain ran the National Restaurant Association. The sources and their stories are well-guarded in the story. One woman, received "'an unwanted sexual advance' from Cain at a hotel" hosting an NRA event, and has "indicated to her current employer that she received a compensation package from the association and has warned there that she may be the subject of an embarrassing story involving a presidential candidate." That detail points to a long and ugly news cycle for Cain. What happened in the hotel, and when? One source suggests that the woman was offered a good deal on the way out in order to keep quiet: Is that true?
Uh-oh -- it's an ugly news cycle! A few thoughts:

  • Does it disqualify him? I don't know.
  • What I'd really like to know is who dropped the bomb on Cain. If I had to guess, I'd guess it was another Republican candidate. And if it turns out that it was a Republican campaign, I'm going to guess that the collateral damage could sink both campaigns.
  • I've had a sneaking suspicion for some time now that the eventual Republican nominee may not yet be in the race. This latest revelation makes that suspicion seem even more likely.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Tattoo You Edition

As soon as this post gets done, I'm gonna be watching some baseball!

Yeah, why aren't we watching baseball, again?

Decrepit, please. You know that everyone is looking for a dose of HYYYYYYYYPPPPPPPE!

Okay. I get it. But let's make it snappy.

Oh, I'm always snappy, Geritol Fan. In fact, entire college football programs view my picks and say "Oh, Snap!" But that's why you're here. Watch me work.

Iowa Hawkeyes (-16) vs. Minnesota Golden Road Kill. The good news is that Floyd of Rosedale has been chilling out in the Gopher trophy case for the past year. The bad news is that the Iowegians have returned and are wanting to bring home the bacon for their Homecoming Parade. After all, what do you call a dead pig on a tractor? The Iowa Homecoming Parade, of course! The old dude told me that joke and I think he first heard it back in 1794 or something. Can the Gophers keep the Pig? Um, good luck with that. Iowa 24, Gophs 3.

I'm just hoping that the Iowa fans behave themselves in the restrooms. The Gophers need help and Kirk Ferentz isn't known for his compassion. Iowa 31, Gophers 10.

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-7) vs. Ohio State Tattoo Artists. Well, the good news is that the Badgers can still go to Pasadena. The bad news is that they won't get a chance to get drilled by LSU or Alabama in the BCS Title Game, which isn't really a title game (I'd start ranting but the old dude wants to watch the World Series, so I'm being terse). The Badgers have won in Columbus numerous times in the last 20-30 years and this team is significantly better than the Buckeyes are. However, teams now have a road map for how to beat the Badgers. The key is to get that balance the entire game. I don't know that the Buckeyes can do that. Mad Badgers 63, OH-NO 0.

The Buckeyes are better than that. But they won't be able to outscore Wisconsin. In order to do that, you have to score and the Buckeyes have trouble with that. Wisconsin 34, Ohio State 13.

Minnesota Ponders (+3 1/2) vs. Carolina Fig Newtons. It's the rookie quarterback extravaganza! Christian Ponder vs. Scam Newton! Ponder looked pretty good last week (and that's what the ladies think, too, or so I hear) against the Packers. But there's a reason the Panthers have Scam Newton on their team -- they are only one year removed from being the footwipe of the league. Newton almost knocked the Packers off, but he fell short. And that's been the pattern all season. Newton throws for about 900 yards a game, but the Panthers lose anyway. Will things be different this week? That's why you come here -- the Benster knows. Fig Newtons 20, Vi-Queens 17.

I thought the ladies love Cetera. But I digress. Carolina has a hard time stopping the run. Adrian Peterson is the best running back on the planet. I think we can do the math. Vikings 27, Panthers 20.

Detroit Motor City Kitties (-3) vs. Denver Tebows. It's the clumsiest quarterback in the land vs. the meanest defensive tackle on the planet! Tebow vs. Suh! This is the sort of thing that could set the NFL back years! I don't think Tim Tebow is a competent starter, because he seems to take off with the ball too much instead of hitting open receivers like Eric Decker, former Gopher great and current fantasy football benchwarmer on Team Benster. Tebow is killing me here and I take it personally. The Lions seem to have hit a rough patch the last few weeks. But there's a difference this week -- they aren't playing a competent team. Lions 35, Tebow 21.

I didn't watch Tebow play last week, but he seems to have the same skill set as the old Bear quarterback, Bobby Douglass. And we all remember how wildly successful Bobby Douglass was. The Lions used to beat Bobby Douglass, too, so this will seem like old home week. Maybe the Lions can bring back Lem Barney for the occasion. Lions 31, Denver 16.

Okay, that's enough of that. When the old dude starts making Lem Barney references, that's a sign that his Metamucil is starting to kick in. So I'd better skedaddle. Ben out!

Vikings to Arden Hills? XXI -- Crazy TV Rybak

As I watched coverage of Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak's latest attempt at carnival barking, I was reminded of an old song I like. As for Rybak, it was the same old song:

Making his most intensive attempt yet to keep the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis, Mayor R.T. Rybak went to the State Capitol on Thursday to promote three plans that rely on a combination of new sales taxes or casino gambling revenue to pay for the local share of a downtown football stadium. 
He acknowledged that getting political backing for his plans will be tricky. 
"I'm here today because I'm comfortable standing up, and putting my neck and other parts of my anatomy on the line," he said.

In a testament to how difficult his task may be, Rybak made his Capitol pitch alone -- without no City Council members or downtown leaders by his side.

This is what it looks like when a politician is winging it. Rybak has no chance of getting any of these proposals through, but if nothing else he's been plenty entertaining, and revealing, in his efforts. Think about what he's doing:

  • He's demonstrated a willingness to tax anything that moves in Minneapolis.
  • He's proposing turning Block E into a gaming district.
  • He's offering up land he has no claim to, especially the "Linden Avenue" site.
He'll do anything, anything for a sale. He's Crazy TV Rybak! As he kept talking, I kept thinking of the old Tom Waits song "Step Right Up," as handy a compendium of pitchman sayings as you'll ever find. Tell me if this doesn't sound like Rybak to you:

They come in all colors, one size fits all
No muss, no fuss, no spills, you're tired of kitchen drudgery
Everything must go, going out of business, going out of business
Going out of business sale
Fifty percent off original retail price, skip the middle man
Don't settle for less
How do we do it? how do we do it? volume, volume, turn up the volume
Now you've heard it advertised, don't hesitate
Don't be caught with your drawers down
Don't be caught with your drawers down
Think I'm being mean? Consider some of the claims that Rybak is making for his various plans, as reported by the Star Tribune:

A consultant who appeared with Rybak said the sales tax plan would raise about $21 million a year in new revenue, part of which Rybak said he wants to use to replace city property taxes now paying the Target Center debt. That move, said the mayor, also would add $5 million in revenue annually to Minneapolis' budget, which Rybak wants to use for property tax relief.
It can do everything! Compare Rybak's claims to Waits:

That's right, it fillets, it chops, it dices, slices
Never stops, lasts a lifetime, mows your lawn
And it mows your lawn and it picks up the kids from school
It gets rid of unwanted facial hair
it gets rid of embarrassing age spots
It delivers a pizza, and it lengthens, and it strengthens
And it finds that slipper that's been at large under the chaise lounge for several weeks
And it plays a mean Rhythm Master
It makes excuses for unwanted lipstick on your collar
And it's only a dollar, step right up, it's only a dollar, step right up
Meanwhile, the real news is buried elsewhere in the Star Tribune article:
And just hours before Rybak touted his plans, several legislators from Minneapolis, including DFL Sen. Scott Dibble, appeared at a news conference with a group of Republican colleagues who oppose any expansion of gambling to help build a Vikings stadium. Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said advocates are minimizing that casino gambling "is highly destructive to individuals, to families."
That's a warning shot to Ramsey County, too. We'll be talking about that anon.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Emmanuel Goldstein Line

So what makes someone part of the 1% that we are supposed to excoriate? Based on the pile he's accumulated over the years, there's almost no question that leftist filmmaker Michael Moore is in the top 1%. But he apparently doesn't think he is:

PIERS MORGAN, HOST: I need you to admit the bleeding obvious. I need you to sit here and say, I'm in the 1 percent, because it's important.
MICHAEL MOORE: Well, I can't. Because I'm not.
MORGAN: Because the validity of your argument -- you are, though.
MOORE: No, I'm not. I'm not.
MORGAN: You're not in if 1 percent?
MOORE: Of course I'm not. How can I be in the 1 percent?
MORGAN: Because you're worth millions.
So 1% isn't a metric, as some of us might have supposed. What is it, then? Allahpundit has a good theory:

My sense is that the OWS crowd thinks the top one percent consists of the Forbes 400 plus anyone who works in finance in any capacity above the secretarial level. That is to say, “one percent” isn’t to be taken literally as a metric; it’s just a catch-all term for “rich people we don’t like.”

You could look at it this way. In baseball, the common practice is to say that anyone who is batting .200 or less is flirting with the "Mendoza Line." In the world of OWS, anyone who is perceived to be part of the 1% is flirting with the "Emmanuel Goldstein Line."

Allahpundit makes the larger point in his usually astringent way:

Seriously, though: Which criteria, precisely, does a rich person have to meet to be exempt from the dreaded “one percent” label for class-warfare purposes? Moore has a get-out-of-revolutionary-jail-free card because he’s been a left-wing demagogue par excellence for years. He’s spent his whole career fighting the system. (And the system’s made a nice profit from promoting him, which tells you how much corporate powerbrokers fear agitprop.) Oprah would be excluded because, well, she’s too darned nice. Steve Jobs would be exempt, I suspect, on sheer merit. Granted, he was an Obama-friendly liberal, but that’s not what gets him off the list. The thrust of the anti-one-percent rhetoric is that bankers are bloodsuckers, siphoning off the people’s wealth and contributing nothing of value in return. No one seriously believes that about the guy who came up with the iPod and the iPhone, no matter how many billions he had in the bank. A trickier case would be Warren Buffett, who votes the right way and says all the right things about the rich paying more but who’s so famously, fantastically wealthy that by any definition he simply has to qualify. That’d be a question worth posing to the stalwarts at Zuccotti Park. Are Buffett and, say, George Soros part of “the problem”? If not, why not? They can afford to pay a lot, lot, lot more than the rates they’ll be subject to if the Bush tax cuts lapse. Why don’t they?

Why indeed? Do you suppose the Koch brothers could get better pub if they just started writing checks to different people?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Vikings to Arden Hills? XX -- Showing a Little Legacy

So you remember all the promises that were made concerning the Legacy Amendment back in 2008? You know, about how important it was to have a permanent, dedicated tax that would preserve Minnesota's cultural legacy and all that? And do you remember how opponents of the Legacy Amendment argued that it would inevitably be used as just another honey pot for marauding politicians looking to fund their favorite projects?

As usual, the critics were right:

Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday did not rule out tapping the state's Legacy funds to help pay for a Vikings stadium, raising protests about whether an NFL team should qualify as a piece of the state's cultural heritage.

"All options, as far as I am concerned, should be considered," said Dayton, who was unclear how seriously he was considering tapping the fund for the $1.1 billion stadium.

Since Minnesotans passed the Legacy constitutional amendment three years ago, a state sales tax increase has been bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars for projects involving the outdoors, clean water, parks and trails, and arts and cultural heritage. The governor's comments were enough to prompt one of the fund's largest recipients, the Minnesota Historical Society, to urge people to object to legislators and Dayton.

Not surprisingly, the Historical Society is not happy that it might have to share the lucre:

Using the money for a stadium is "contrary to both the intent of the voters and the language of the constitutional amendment," the society said, adding that the stadium debate "is moving quickly, so please take action as soon as you are able."

That hardly seems charitable. The Historical Society needs to get with the program. I'm thinking we could just do a little repurposing and have the Vikings play at the Minnesota History Center. They have some parking for Zygi Wilf and it's a big building with high ceilings. All you'd have to do is wipe out a little exhibit space, lay down some field turf over the marble and we'd be ready to turn Christian Ponder loose. Win-win!

Seriously, we are supposed to be outrageously outraged about this horrible misuse of sacred funding mechanisms. Why? You give a government a constitutionally mandated pot of money with only the gauziest guidelines for how it should be spent and you are surprised that they might use the haul to subsidize a New Jersey real estate developer? That's a part of our cultural heritage we can all celebrate -- the earnest heartland rube giving over hard-earned money to a sharpie from back East.

It's important if we go down this road that we drive a hard bargain, though. Maybe if we kick in a few extra greenbacks, we'll get title to the Brooklyn Bridge. We can then move it to Stillwater and solve that problem, too.

Lightning Round - 102611

Not much time this morning, but a few thoughts:

  • Writing for Forbes, Richard Miniter has an interesting piece on why Herman Cain has a chance to win the Republican nomination, and maybe more. The key point is this -- Mitt Romney has a lot of money and a lot of big-time supporters, but he really doesn't move the needle for most movement conservatives, especially the Tea Party folks. Cain is a problematic candidate, but he's been the most consistent Not Romney lately in most of the polling that's been taking place. And I think Miniter understands the reason why -- more than any other candidate in the field, Cain has the "happy warrior" mien.
  • First Ringer, my former colleague at Truth vs the Machine and a regular commenter here, has two pieces up at Shot in the Dark. The first details Rick Perry's proposal for a flat tax and the second offers a good slap at the University of Minnesota's strange approach to contract negotiation with its coaches, including the latest choice for public largesse, Jerry Kill. First Ringer doesn't always have the opportunity to write as much as he did back in the TvM days, but he's always worth your time.
  • On the stadium front, M. A. Mortenson, the construction company that the Vikings would use to build a stadium in Arden Hills, says they could get the project done by 2015, despite what the Met Council says. I suspect that is right. Whether  they get the chance is another matter.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Vikings to Arden Hills? XIX -- Still Dead and Still Too Dumb to Lie Down

I'll give R.T. Rybak and the rest of the folks in Minneapolis this much -- they're nothing if not persistent. Once again they trotted out their plans for a stadium the Vikings don't want:

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said Monday that the city is prepared to help finance any one of three downtown sites for a Vikings stadium, each of which would be cheaper than the team's preferred site in Arden Hills.
At the same time, Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson said she thinks the council will support a casino in the city's Block E entertainment district that could provide financing for the stadium and other city priorities.

And, of course, Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley had the same response:

Lester Bagley, the team's vice president of stadium development, said Minneapolis officials should save their breath.
"There's a viable plan on the table, and the Vikings are entirely focused on resolving the issue and building this stadium in Arden Hills," Bagley said.

So why is this news? Well, there's one thing that is different -- Rybak and the city council are apparently willing to tax folks in Minneapolis more:

Rybak said a citywide sales tax would be the main financing component and that there is support on the City Council to approve such a tax. He said he could support a downtown casino as part of a stadium package if some of its proceeds were directed to the city's impoverished Indian community.
Johnson said there are votes on the council to approve a Block E casino and called it an "attractive option" for the city's entertainment district. Council Member Gary Schiff said he thinks there are votes for a casino but that his support may depend on the developer signing "a jobs plan that invests in high-poverty communities."
The citywide sales tax would be an interesting development, because it would really hurt Minneapolis businesses. If you dine out in downtown Minneapolis, you are already on the hook for a sales tax of about 10% because of the taxes added to pay for the Convention Center, Target Field and Rybak's valet service. I'll bet some of the local eateries will be thrilled about the prospect of piling on another 1% or maybe more. Of course, since there's no chance it will happen Rybak might as well propose adding an additional !eleventy!! percent tax. We'll get that new stadium paid for in a matter of months!
We went through all this back in May, of course. We're now 5 months on and the Vikings haven't changed their minds, for all the reasons we've covered here. Minneapolis can offer everything but the one thing the current Vikings ownership wants, which is sufficient real estate to build the giant parking lot that would bring an additional revenue stream to the deal. So why do we continue to talk about Minneapolis? In the end, I think the reason is pretty simple -- everyone knows what the deal really is in Arden Hills. What the Vikings want is outrageous, but they know they can get it from someone.
Here's a little unsolicited advice for the Minneapolis crowd -- if you really want the Vikings to stay in Minneapolis, you should stop pestering Mark Dayton and Zygi Wilf. You need to start calling on the local plutocrats and get them involved in an offer to buy the team from Wilf. It's possible that Wilf would sell the team for the right price, which would likely be a 1 with a vapor trail of zeroes after it. That's the only way your dreams will ever come to fruition. It's also an effort that should have started months ago, but it's the only hope for Minneapolis now.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Just a reminder to my fellow New Brighton residents

You are on the hook for millions of dollars of financial liability because of the disastrous decisions that Bob Benke and his successor Steve Larson made. Returning Benke to the mayor's office would be an excellent way to make things worse.

Dave Jacobsen has been making steady progress in cleaning up the mess that Benke and Larson left behind. Jacobsen richly deserves your vote. More in the coming days.

Dumb Story of the Day

I read a number of breathless dispatches concerning a statement that Hamid Karzai, the current majordomo of Afghanistan, made concerning which side he'd take should the United States and Pakistan go to war. Karzai said he'd pick the Pakistanis and we're apparently supposed to be outrageously outraged about this, since the U.S. has been in Afghanistan for a decade and all that.

Let's look at this rationally. First, while we are in Afghanistan now, we are likely to leave eventually. Pakistan isn't going anywhere and it's usually smart not to antagonize your neighbors. Second, I'm not aware of any circumstance in which the United States and Pakistan would go to war. Other than that, a fine story.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Test post

Switching browsers with the new computer, so this post is more of a test than anything else to see if the functionality is better. But since you don't want to read a test post, a few thoughts:

  • As I suspected, the Vikings had no use for the idea that John Marty and Linda Runbeck floated the other day concerning the Metrodome. Apparently the local politicos still don't get something that should be obvious. The Vikings don't care about your precious infrastructure, people. It isn't a selling point to the Vikings that light rail lines can bring fans to the game. The Vikings want fans to drive to the game, so they can charge fans for parking. That is why downtown Minneapolis is, and will always be, a nonstarter. Zygi Wilf wants land, not infrastructure. The only infrastructure he wants is big honking highways that bring people to his parking lot. Light rail lines are a detriment, guys.
  • Disappointing game in East Lansing last night for the Badgers. There's no use in playing shoulda coulda woulda, I suppose, but because it will get lost otherwise, I do want to call one play to everyone's attention, since I believe it was instrumental in turning the game. During the second quarter, the Badgers were driving and had moved the ball to about the Michigan State 15 yard line. Montee Ball was stopped on a second down play about a yard short of the first down and took a helmet-to-helmet shot in the process. The penalty should have been called, but it wasn't. After the play, Ball momentarily lost his balance and had to leave the game for the rest of the half. At that point in the game, the Badgers were leading 14-9. If the penalty gets called, the Badgers have the ball on about the Michigan State 8 yard line with 3 chances to score a touchdown that would have made the score 21-9. Instead, the Badgers end up getting stopped on 3rd down, line up for a field goal, get the kick blocked and the entire game turns. Ball did come back into the game later on, but I really wonder about that sequence.
And since this is a test post, I'm going to post a video to see if it works:

Friday, October 21, 2011

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Ponderosa Hotspur Edition

Okay, old dude, it's time to get after it again. I'm ready to demonstrate some genius and bring the HYYYYYYYPPPPPPE!

In that order?

Doesn't matter which order, Geritol Fan -- I just bring plenty of both. Overwhelming amounts of genius and generous helpings of HYYYYYYYYYPPPPPPE! It's what I do. And I do it well. So watch me work.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (-25) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers. So how embarrassing is this point spread, old dude? The Gophers are playing at home. It's Homecoming weekend. And they expect to get crushed and have their shiny new stadium overrun with Nebraska fans. See, the deal is this, and listen up, Joel Maturi -- you schedule the weakest team you can find for your Homecoming game. The idea is to make the alumni happy, so they feel good about donating more money. So, genius marketers of Ski-U-Mah, let me ask you a question: why are you playing Nebraska? Why aren't you playing St. Francis High School, like Irondale did? I'm a sophomore in high school and I know these things. Why did you even get a marketing degree if you can't figure out the basics? Oh, and by the way, Nebraska is going to crush the Gophers. Happy Homecoming, alumni! Be sure to try some veal. Blackshirts 100, Red Balance Sheet 0.

I don't think Joel Maturi is going to be taking your calls, Seabiscuit. Hard to argue the larger point, though. The Gophers have a lot of work to do and this isn't a good way to spend a nostalgic weekend back on campus. Nebraska 42, Gophers 17.

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-7 1/2) vs. Michigan State Sparty the Spartan. Last year the Badgers lost up at East Lansing. They didn't look so good that day, but they turned into a juggernaut in the weeks that followed. This season, the Badgers come into East Lansing with their juggernaut credentials already in place. So what's different this time? First of all, Russell Wilson has been earning his scholarship and then some. He's a frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy. Scott Tolzien was a good Big Ten quarterback, but the only way he would have been at the Heisman banquet is if he were serving as a waiter. Harsh? Well, it's a hard world, people. I don't think Sparty will be fazed by the Badger offense, because they are the only team that has slowed down Denard Robinson this season. Of course, Denard Robinson can't throw. Russell Wilson can throw, and very well, thank you. It's imperative that the Badgers get out to a lead quickly and take the Spartan crowd out of the game. If they establish dominance early, it won't be a problem. If they let Sparty hang around, watch out. Sparty also is without William Gholston, a defensive lineman who specializes in cheap shots. That will help Montee Ball and James White get going early. So, who wins? Wisconsin 28, Sparty 24.

Interesting stat of the week -- the Badgers have given up 58 points total this season and have scored 59 points twice in a game. I think this is the best Badger team I've seen and while this will be a tough test, I really don't see anyone having an answer for the varied Badger attack. Until they get to January, that is. Wisconsin 42, Michigan State 24.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-9) vs. Minnesota Ponders. Someone tell Hoss and Little Joe -- the Vikings are in the Ponderosa! Oh, I'm sorry, I got that wrong. They are starting the Christian Ponder era. And even if their dashing young quarterback, who doesn't look at all like any of the cast members of Bonanza, takes the field on a horse, the Packers will be ready to stampede into his grill. But, I have a major concern for the Packers. Marshall Newhouse is making his first start against Mullet Man Jared Allen, who likes to pretend he's a cowboy by doing a lame rodeo move every time he sacks a quarterback. Well, if we remember 2009, T.J. Lang and Allen "The Swinging Gate" Barbre were not even a speed bump for Mr. Allen, who proceeded to sack Aaron Rodgers about 372 times that afternoon. Could we see a repeat of that? No. But it won't be as easy as it sounds. Pack 49, Vi-queens 3.

Not sure I follow that. It won't be easy, but the Packers are going to crush the Vikings anyway? While I ponder that, I'll also ponder Mr. Ponder. I think he'll be okay eventually, but he got into the game last week during garbage time and it's difficult to gauge what he really did. The Packer defense is still, ahem, malleable, but they've managed to make plays when they need them. I think the Packers will score a few times if they get Allen blocked. I'm thinking Allen will know Tom Crabtree pretty well by the end of this one. Packers 35, Vikings 17.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (-1) vs. Tampa Bay Creamsicles, in London, Merry Olde England. Before I pick this game, I bring you a musical interlude:

That's right, Decrepit -- war is declared and battle come down! Now I know there will be a few confused Londoners wandering around outside the stadium, expecting an Aston Villa vs. Tottenham Hotspur game, but we all know that the NFL likes to play a game in England every year and this time they've decided to risk an international incident by sending Jay Cutler over there as a goodwill ambassador. In fact, as part of the event every fan in attendance will get to run through a gap in the Bears offensive line and sack Cutler, without fear of getting a red card. I'm especially hoping that they figure out a way to work Wallace and Gromit into this game somehow. As for the game itself, da Bearz need to be on their toes because the Creamsicles are a very good young team. I think they might make some noise in the NFC South and maybe even win the division. It's their turn, as I recall. Creamsicles 7, da Bearz 3.

So is the game going to be decided on penalty kicks? I think the last thing Jay Cutler would want would be to have an official award extra time. The Bears played very well last week in crushing the Vikings, but I have to imagine they hate having to go all the way to England for a game at this point in the season. It's a close game and I think that they're still a bit better than Tampa, but the young guy is right -- the Bucs are a team to watch as the season goes on. Bears 21, Tampa 17.

Hotlanta Falcons (+3 1/2) vs. Detroit Lions. So Decrepit, did you hear about that animal escape problem in Ohio earlier in the week? They had to shoot a bunch of lions and tigers and other animals. Last week the Lions shot themselves in the foot by losing to the 49ers and then having their coach, Jim Schwartz, go all WWE on Jim Harbaugh over a handshake. I mean, what's up with that? Was this the first sign of the Lions embracing their long history of fail? Or was it merely a hiccup in their renaissance season? I do know one thing -- that renaissance isn't for weird people running around in leotards, munching on turkey legs and singing along with some dude carrying a lute. Dirty Birds 27, Curse of Bobby Layne 20.

I love Renaissance Fair jokes, Benster. Well played. As for the game, it should be a good test for both teams. I think the Lions are a better team, but I also think the 49ers gave the league a template for how to beat the Lions. And if Jahvid Best gets hurt this week, the Lions will have issues. Calvin Johnson might get quadruple teamed the rest of the way. Lions 24, Falcons 19.

As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly. Ben out!

Vikings to Arden Hills? XVIII -- Dollar Dome Dog Proposal

Did you ever get a Dome Dog at the Metrodome for $1? Thought that was a good deal? Try this:

There may be growing legislative support for one more Minnesota Vikings stadium idea: Selling the Metrodome to the team for $1.

Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, and Rep. Linda Runbeck, R-Circle Pines, have scheduled a press conference for Friday to “present an alternative Minnesota Vikings football stadium plan.”

Although details were not known, Marty had recently told a reporter that he and Runbeck were considering a proposal to sell the Metrodome to Vikings owner Zygi Wilf for $1 and simply have Wilf remodel or build a new stadium on the downtown Minneapolis property. The Vikings have played at the Metrodome since 1982.

In a sensible world, this proposal might work. We don't live in a sensible world, however. Why won't it? Oh, let's see....
  • The assumption here is that Wilf would be willing to build his own stadium. As long as he knows someone else will build him a stadium, why would he? It's no coincidence that the NFL played the L.A. card earlier this week. While the league would prefer to move a different team to that market, they'll not hesitate if Wilf doesn't get what he wants.
  • So what does Wilf want? Among other things, Wilf wants the 20,000 or so parking spaces he can get in Arden Hills. Unless the city can sell him all the land around the Metrodome, and then build parking ramps that Wilf would control, he'd lose out on a revenue stream he can get elsewhere. The costs of those acquisitions would be a little more than $1, I'd imagine. The Star Tribune, which has been relentless in shilling for a new stadium at the Metrodome site, expects to get paid for the land they control in the area. I doubt they'll settle for $1.
  • Wilf is a real estate developer. If it wasn't abundantly clear before, it should be evident to everyone that the primary attraction to the Arden Hills property isn't the stadium itself; it's the potential to develop and build all manner of additional amenities nearby. Wilf wouldn't be able to do that at the Metrodome site, which is increasingly hemmed in with other developments. To use just one example, there's a line of townhome developments along Washington Avenue that didn't exist a decade ago. Those aren't going away.
  • If you are looking at matters from a Minneapolis perspective, an empty Dome is a big problem, especially given the huge sums that the city and its other partners have spent to build light rail stations near the site. They need a destination, but they see desolation instead. Worse, they see accountability for what is turning out to be a disastrous choice. The R.T. Rybaks and Met Councils of the world need Wilf to cooperate so they don't look foolish. Wilf couldn't care less about any of it.  

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Guilty Pleasures Part Eighty Three -- Fearless Maria Wakes Up in 1972

Fearless Maria is back with us this evening and she seems a little, well, tired.

Ohhh, what's goin' on, Daaaad? I'm tiiiirred! Can you get me a Blizzard from Dairy Queen to help wake me up?

Hmm, that's an odd idea. Why so tired, Maria?

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, Dad! Doesn't that ever happen to you?

You just described pretty much the entire mid-80s for me, Maria.

Oh, good for you. Now how about that blizzard?  Yaaaawn.

We'll see about that a little later. I thought you were here to offer your usual critique of music and fashion from rock's bygone era.

Oh, the last time we did this, I nearly fell asleep. And so did our audience, Daddy! Oops, I don't call you Daddy anymore. Sorry about that. Can't you see how tired I am? I don't even remember who I am, I'm so tired! Do you have some really weird stuff to wake me up?

Why yes. Yes I do. Let's set the wayback machine to the year 1972. We're going to look at what was appearing on Top of the Pops on the BBC in that year. Consider this, the debut effort from Roxy Music:

So what's the name of that song, Dad?

Virginia Plain, Maria.

Hey Dad, c'mere a second! Take a look at this tablecloth in the living room -- I think Roxy Music recycled their outfits to make this. Ugly plus ugly equals ugly! I did like the singer's choice of eye shadow, though -- psych! The drummer looks like he can't decide if he's Tarzan or if he's Jane! All right, Dad, but I'm not sure this is better than going back to sleep.

Way to sell the premise, Maria.

What am I, a real estate agent? Maybe a really mistaken agent in your view -- huh, Dad?

No, you're going fine, sweetheart. Actually, if you thought those guys were weird, we're just getting started. Consider our old pal David Bowie:

That would be "Starman," Maria.

Well, it looks like someone had a big order mixup at JoAnn Fabrics again! Those were all supposed to be shipped to Dumpsters, Inc., but it appears that the nice tuxedos went to the Dumpsters, instead! It's a wonderful life. And what was the deal with that guy with the guitar who looked like he had a couple of raccoons hanging off his cheeks? They weren't wearing roadkill, were they?

I don't think so, Maria. This was Bowie during his "Ziggy Stardust" period.

You mean he was into space exploration? Or was he just spaced out?

Could be both, Maria.

Every time you show me things like this, Dad, it explains a lot about you. Have you ever considered seeking professional help?

No, but after you see this next one, you'll probably insist on it. It's the Sweet, getting even weirder than usual:

That would be "Wig Wam Bam."

More like wigged out, man! Hey kids, this is a great way to learn about Native American culture! Not! Looks like these guys had a bad blow through in the remnant section at Hancock Fabrics! Especially the guy who was supposed to be Chief Powhatan or something. Maybe Pocahontas thought her father needed professional help, too!

I'll admit, the only psychologist I've ever consulted is the character on the Bob Newhart Show, sweetheart.

Make up your mind, Mr. Carlin!

Yeah, that guy.

Okay, so you've shown me 3 songs. I'm awake but still a bit dozing offfffff..... yawn. Snore. You have anything more perky, Dad?

Oh, you want perky, eh? I got perky right here!

It's the Jackson 5, with Michael giving Tito a shout-out, on "Rockin' Robin."

Bless my soul -- it hurts my eyes it's so bright! I wouldn't be surprised if Ronald McDonald joined them on stage with his red and yellow outfit! Okay, so the outfits are a bit flashy, but they are acceptable. And the song is fun fun fun! I'd vote for this one, people, unless Dad comes up with something better pretty soon.

I don't know if this is better. But it is different:

It's "Hocus Pocus," by the Focus!

What's up with the yodeling, Dad? Are they singing in some sort of witch language? Or is he trying to get some Swiss Miss cocoa? Or maybe he's imitating a dying dodo bird! Actually, that cocoa sounds good about now, since you clearly aren't getting me that blizzard, are you?

I think the yodeling was a good move, because I'm not sure these guys could speak English.

Maybe they were speaking Old English! Have you asked Beowulf?

He won't return my calls, Maria.

Well Dad, they didn't have cell phones in the 11th century, now did they? They didn't even have the tin can telephone yet!

True. Well, are you feeling awake enough to check out one more song from 1972?

Sure, I guess so. But it better be good.

Oh, I think it is. In honor of the MEA conference, we present:

School's Out, for October!

You know what Alice Cooper never says in this song?

A word that rhymes?

Good point. But he never says "no more homework." Because the homework never ends! It's not fair! Well, okay, sometimes it's okay, but other days it's horrid! I'm awake all right, Dad! I awake, aware, alert and ready and rarin' to go on strike! Alice Cooper has inspired me! Just don't make me wear that silly purple outfit the girl on stage is wearing! It looks like a peasant blouse jumper made from a plum colored Goodyear Blimp! I have standards, you know.

True. But what happens at the end of this, Maria?

The apocalypse and we all die? Not that I want that to happen, or really truly believe that, but....

No, I meant it's time to vote.

Oh. Oops. I guess you're right. So just do what Dad says! Sometimes he may need professional help with such simple things, like picking normal videos and buying his precious daughter a well-deserved blizzard (preferably Chocolate Extreme), but he is a lot smarter than I am.

I really doubt that, Maria.

Okay, ask me a question.

What should the audience do now?

Vote, people! That's what they should do!

Harry Reid Explains It All

So unemployment remains high. What's the solution? Hire more government workers, sez Harry Reid:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday indicated Congress needs to worry about government jobs more than private-sector jobs, and that this is why Senate Democrats are pushing a bill aimed at shoring up teachers and first-responders.

"It's very clear that private-sector jobs have been doing just fine; it's the public-sector jobs where we've lost huge numbers, and that's what this legislation is all about," Reid said on the Senate floor.
A man's gotta help his friends, after all.

News You Can Use

Occupy Wall Street probably ought to read this:

Despite frosty relations with the titans of Wall Street, President Obama has still managed to raise far more money this year from the financial and banking sector than Mitt Romney or any other Republican presidential candidate, according to new fundraising data.

Obama’s key advantage over the GOP field is the ability to collect bigger checks because he raises money for both his own campaign committee and for the Democratic National Committee, which will aid in his reelection effort.

As a result, Obama has brought in more money from employees of banks, hedge funds and other financial service companies than all of the GOP candidates combined, according to a Washington Post analysis of contribution data. The numbers show that Obama retains a persistent reservoir of support among Democratic financiers who have backed him since he was an underdog presidential candidate four years ago.
Kabuki street theater. Meanwhile, almost a month has gone by and no one is talking about Solyndra or Fast and Furious. Except the Sipsey Street Irregulars, that is.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Vikings to Arden Hills? XVII -- Enter the Bad Cop

We've reached the point in the Vikings stadium question where the Vikings apparently decided it was time to issue the threat of leaving Minnesota. Since Zygi Wilf understands that people aren't especially fond of blackmail, he outsourced the duty to an NFL guy with the perfect name for the job:

Eric Grubman, the executive vice president of NFL Ventures and business operations, said that the league was worried that if no deal was reached before the Vikings' current lease expires next year, it could create a stalemate leading the team to consider "an alternative plan in another city." Grubman urged Dayton and legislative leaders to build on recent momentum to reach a deal. "If the moment is now," Grubman said, "... then let's take this moment."

Grubman -- gotta love that. Send in the Grubman when it's time to do the money grubbing. Oh, and by the way: nice little team you got there, Minnesota. Shame if anything happened to it. I must admit that I was impressed with the tailoring of Mr. Grubman's suit -- it concealed the rubber hose quite nicely.

In case the message wasn't clear enough, Grubman also added an NFL-style version of a civics lesson by playing the "cold Omaha" card:

While Grubman tacitly acknowledged the sagging national economy, and the state's government shutdown in July, he added that "we know our fans in a lot of markets are struggling. ... [But] great cities are defined by the great institutions that they support." He added: "People are attracted to cities -- not for the traffic jams."
Actually, sitting in the northbound lanes on 35W at Lake Street is a lot like watching the Vikings offense these days. It takes more brass than the USC marching band for Grubman to suggest the Vikings are a great institution, but he knows that the locals buy purple face paint by the 55-gallon drum. The Wilfs and their ahem, partners are counting on that loyalty to carry the day.

And in case you were thinking that the Los Angeles option isn't real, Grubman offered this bon mot:

"To me, if I were a Minnesotan, any alternative other than Minnesota would be equally as bad," he said.

Got the message? That Grubman is crazy, man. You don't know what he'll do. He'll move the team to Wichita if that's what it takes. He's nuts and he's serious. He'll take your team away in the blink of a gimlet eye. You better pony up, rubes valued citizens of Minnesota.

So the question is out there. Do we build Zygi World in Arden Hills on the old ammo dump site? Or does the NFL drop the bomb? As much as we've all tried to pretend otherwise, I suspect we all knew this moment was coming. The NFL and the Wilfs are going to give Minnesota one chance to answer.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

State of the Race

From what I can see:
  1. I'll bet T-Paw wishes he hadn't dropped out so soon.
  2. I also bet he wishes he hadn't endorsed Romney.
  3. We're running out of Not Romneys.
  4. No matter how richly Obama deserves to lose, it's not going to be easy for me to make the case that any of the declared candidates for president on the Republican side deserves to win.

Reality Check in Zuccoti Park

People ask from time to time -- why do you have such a cynical view of human nature? Well, let's just say some things don't surprise me very much: (HT:  Captain Ed)

It’s a den of thieves!

Occupy Wall Street protesters said yesterday that packs of brazen crooks within their ranks have been robbing their fellow demonstrators blind, making off with pricey cameras, phones and laptops -- and even a hefty bundle of donated cash and food.

“Stealing is our biggest problem at the moment,” said Nan Terrie, 18, a kitchen and legal-team volunteer from Fort Lauderdale.

“I had my Mac stolen -- that was like $5,500. Every night, something else is gone. Last night, our entire [kitchen] budget for the day was stolen, so the first thing I had to do was . . . get the message out to our supporters that we needed food!”
Imagine that. Ed makes the salient point:

Who’d have thought that a crowd of people demanding the seizure of wealth from banks, corporations, and the wealthy might also have a few thieves?  I’m shocked, shocked to find theft occurring in a group that has hijacked private property it refuses to leave.  I can’t imagine that a crowd that demands free higher education and the forgiveness of tens of thousands in student debt would also think of someone’s Mac or an iPhone as equally as communal as a college education.
No doubt. If everything is subject to redistribution, there's no surprise here. By the way, I wonder how many people have a $5,500 laptop? I could buy about 10 laptops for that amount of money. One might suspect that Nan Terrie's family just might have a sinecure in the 1%.

Vikings to Arden Hills? XVI -- Dayton Sets a Date

Gov. Mark Dayton wants a special session for the Vikings stadium to happen before Thanksgiving. Of course he does -- when else would you serve a turkey?

Gov. Mark Dayton said he wants a special session of the Legislature just before Thanksgiving to reach a final verdict on whether the Minnesota Vikings get a new, publicly subsidized stadium.

Raising the stakes on a long-running, divisive issue, the DFL governor gave Minnesota's political, civic and business leaders five weeks to determine where the project should be built, whether voters facing a sales tax increase should have a referendum and how the state's $300 million toward the stadium should be financed. Dayton said the stadium deal could still be a work in progress when legislators begin meeting, a move that could make a special session a politically explosive drama.

"Most of what I hear is what everyone's against. ... It has to be what people are for," said Dayton, after meeting with legislative leaders Monday. He again left open the possibility that the $1.1 billion project could be built in Minneapolis, where the team has played since 1982, rather than Ramsey County's Arden Hills, the Vikings' owners' clear choice for the new home.
I can tell you right now what the politicians are for: a way to build the thing without having to suffer any political consequences for their vote. Thus the minuet from Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch:

The day's events provided a study in contrasts. Dayton took an aggressively pro-stadium stance, pledging to "meet with everybody and everyone" to get the deal done, and "take the lead in terms of negotiations" with the National Football League and the Vikings. Koch said she generally supported having the Vikings remain in Minnesota but joined the Dayton meeting Monday just "for the discussion."

The discussion? Natch. Maybe they served coffee, too.

In one sense, I'm glad that Dayton has decided to call the question. There's no question that spending north of a billion dollars to build a playground for New Jersey real estate developers is a stupid idea. And yet everyone knows that the Vikings could leave if they don't get a deal now. The lease in the Metrodome is up and the Vikings have no intention of staying there for even a short-term lease unless they have assurances that they will have their Xanadu later on. And make no mistake about it -- no matter how much Minneapolis tries to pretend otherwise, the stadium will be built in Arden Hills or it won't be built at all. Zygi Wilf doesn't care about your light rail access. He wants the fans arriving in cars and paying $40 to park. He'd also like personal seat licenses. And he'll get those things from someone. Whether he gets those things in Minnesota or elsewhere is up to our solons.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sports News

A few quick thoughts from from the toy department:
  • It didn't end well for my beloved Brewers, but it was still a wonderful season and a lot of fun. Too bad it had to be those damned Cardinals again. Tony LaRussa is the one of the most smug SOBs in sport and the Cardinal fan base is tops in baseball when it comes to self-importance.
  • The Christian Ponder era may have started last night. And here come the Packers.
  • If the Wisconsin Badgers go undefeated and the Stanford Cardinal also go undefeated, and both are shunted off to the Rose Bowl because some combo platter of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, LSU or Alabama gets into the BCS championship game, that will be the end of the BCS. And that would be a good thing.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Guest Post -- Rick Moses, Ramsey County Charter Commission

Note:  Rick Moses is a member of the Ramsey County Charter Commission. Rick wrote to this feature last week about the role the Charter Commission has played in the ongoing debate concerning a potential new stadium for the Vikings in Arden Hills. Rick has more thoughts that he wanted to share about the role of the Commission and the context in which it has acted. I present Rick's views below; I appreciate Rick's service and his candor -- Mr. D

What we heard on Tuesday night and on September 28th was a surprisingly well-informed and articulate citizenry telling us to let the people vote on the stadium. Those in favor of the vote were 13 to 1 on the first evening and 3 to 1 on Tuesday, the difference being union construction workers flooding the chambers the second evening. Those in favor of the amendment to the Charter often came up with suggestions for alternative financing for the Vikings, or voiced relevant figures and statistics. One citizen did the math and figured out that the proposed ½-cent increase amounted to a staggering 7 percent markup over the current sales tax.

On the Pro-Viking build-the-stadium-at-any-cost side, a t-shirt and bead-wearing girl said it was an important lifestyle for her. Construction workers were less articulate, blurting “We need jobs!” without saying why anyone was obligated to provide them in this way. They may as well have said “Ugg!”, caveman style.

So nine of my colleagues on the Charter Commission thought “Ugg” was a solid reason to vote no on the amendment. In so doing they ignored morality, ethics, reason and the testimony of the vast majority of the citizens who told them to vote Yes.

Discussion and debate on the stadium issue began last summer. The county attorney at the time, Mr. Caruthers, said there was no legal barrier to passing such an amendment. So any subsequent challenge by members was for show or delay, not to clear up anything.

That brings me to the operation of the Charter Commission itself. Ordinarily the 17-member body meets every 3 months. Issues can be hotly debated putting great pressure on the Chair. Most members have agendas. The members are appointed by a Ramsey County Judge after there is an opening and after they have applied. Members are not paid, tend to be older, and for some reason nearly all are men. Death is the usual reason for an opening. It is a diverse group with several walks of life represented, from lawyers to professors to retired union electricians. Nine votes are required to pass an amendment, Needless to say, that is difficult if the matter is weighty.

On the stadium issue, I found it ironic to be allied with other members who had previously tripped me up or shouted me down on other matters. Such are the dynamics of the Ramsey County Charter Commission.

Bev Aplikowski is someone I know as an expert parliamentarian. But on Tuesday night she raised a different challenge wondering aloud whether this was our proper role. (The “proper role” is a common issue at meetings.) This struck me as an already settled issue at least from a legal standpoint. But Bev had not previously raised it so I am thinking now she was grandstanding. She is a disappointment to me on this issue.

I will say again that the stadium issue is a clear case of right and wrong. It should rock you like a clap of thunder on a clear day. No clear-thinking person can get it wrong. A half-cent sales tax imposed on the populace for the benefit of a private organization is unconscionable. If it takes a Charter Amendment to undo the bad works of a renegade politician, we must do it.

What was the motivation for those who voted no? Three members were ex-mayors who may have issues with bothersome citizens. Perhaps they have visions of dollars due to an irrational belief in economic development as a result of the stadium. Or a quick fix to the cleanup problem at TCAAP. Whatever the reason, thirty pieces of silver, sparkly objects or illusory visions have all been known to dissuade people from doing the right thing. Perhaps the nine will reconsider.

Let Them Eat Bagels

I guess it's an "Occupy"-ational hazard:

Even as Occupy Wall Street protesters are decrying the grip of big business on America, they are causing angst for some small business that are well within the 99 percent: The New York food carts and tourist stands that surround Zuccotti Park. And while the occupation has been compared to the Arab Spring and Tahrir Square, the mostly Egyptian kebab cookers and breakfast sellers who are losing their livelihoods aren’t too sure.

Zizi Elnagouri, a voluble native of Alexandria, Egypt, has spent five years selling pastries on the corner of Cedar and Broadway. She whirled her hands as she spoke, flapping her apron to make a point. “From the beginning of this, we lost all our business,” she lamented. Elnagouri took matters into her own hands, venturing out into the square to tell the occupiers “we are out of business.” Some were glad and others sympathetic. But Zizi was shocked. “I couldn’t believe they were American. Do you see how they look? What they are wearing? I don’t believe. This must be the Third World!” Zizi is accustomed to well-fed New Yorkers in suits, not people begging for free doughnuts. “Sometimes they buy coffee … it depends on who gives them money. I feel sad for them. It’s hard for Americans to start the day without coffee.” But although she said the destitution in the square reminded her of the Third World, the occupation didn’t strike her as another Tahrir. “We were fighting for a big, big thing: for life, to eat, against a giant snake that would kill us.” Unsurprisingly, she employs a smart breakfast metaphor: “Here, they’re not fighting to eat, say, regular bread, but … special bagels or something.”
If you're going to have a bagel, make sure it's special.

They Killed to Earn Their Living and to Help Out the Congolese

Out of Iraq, into Uganda?

US President Barack Obama said he is sending 100 combat troops to central Africa to help and advise forces battling the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army rebels accused of gross human rights abuses.

"These forces will act as advisers to partner forces that have the goal of removing from the battlefield Joseph Kony and other senior leadership of the LRA," Obama said on Friday, but warned they would not lead the fighting themselves.

The mostly special operations forces could deploy in Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of the Congo, subject to approval of regional governments, Obama said in a message to Congress.

I have no idea why this story makes me think of this song. None at all:

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Two Views

We report, you decide. First, Ace Commenter Rich, from the comments section of yesterday's post:

Granted, the targets of the tea party and OWS are very different. The tea baggers are focused on the folks in Washington, while the OWS crowd is going directly to the real source of power: The people who have the folks in Washington on their payroll. (So you could argue that the OWS is aiming their protests at much better targets).
And quite honestly, I have never understood the tea party's complaints about how a government that is allegedly too big caused all the damage. How have big government and overregulation caused the current misery, since, for the last 13 years, we've been paying some lowest tax rates in decades, we've been on a deregulatory path for 31 years, and this financial crisis came on the watch of a very very business-friendly administration?

In an interview with John Stossel, Peter Schiff begs to differ:

Schiff, who operates a brokerage firm with 150 employees, recently complained to Congress that "regulations are running up the cost of doing business, and a lot of companies never even get started because they can't overcome that regulatory hurdle."

Schiff claims he would have hired a thousand more people but for regulations.

"I had a huge plan to expand. I wanted to open up a lot of offices. I had some capital to do it. I had investors lined up. My business was doing really well. But unfortunately, because of the regulations in the security industry, I was not able to hire."

So if he wants to hire an analyst, he can't just hire him? "I had to get permission to publish their research, which I didn't get for years. And so I can't pay analysts if I can't sell their research.

People don't appreciate the number of regulations entrepreneurs face. Schiff pays 10 people just to try to figure out if his company is obeying the rules.
If you were an entrepreneur, would you rather pay for people to help you implement your business plan, or for compliance officers?

Of course, Rich passes over the reason why larger business concerns don't necessarily mind regulators -- they constitute a barrier to entry for potential competitors. Anything that keeps smaller competitors away from their core business provides an indirect competitive advantage to the larger concern. Back to Schiff:

"You can't just act very quickly, because everything has to be done through this maze of compliance. Even my brokers ... find out that maybe 20 percent, 30 percent of their day is involved in compliance-related activity, activity that is inhibiting their productivity. ... All around the country, people are complying with regulations instead of producing, instead of investing and growing the economy. They're trying to survive the regulations."

You can believe Rich, or you can believe Peter Schiff. At bottom, that's what the debate is about anyway.

Home Truth

A useful reminder:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Brad and Moe Break It Down

Observations on the passing scene -- first, let's turn to my friend Brad Carlson:

Let me boil it down for you in the simplest terms. The OWS crowd acts like a bunch of petulant children because they resent those who were willing to do things (i.e. work hard and take calculated risks) which they aren't. With the Tea Party, you have a bunch of people in essentially the same economic class who want to be free to take risks and are concerned that all for which they have worked will dissipate due to out of control and unsustainable Federal spending.

So, does the assessment of "petulant children" seem a bit harsh to you? Consider the following, courtesy of Moe Lane, who shares the story of a Coast Guard member who gets crosswise with some folks currently "Occupying" Boston:

The article notes that “the Coast Guard is warning all staff working on Atlantic Avenue to avoid those protesters while in uniform.” It’s a hell of a thing when you can’t walk the streets of an American city while wearing an uniform and not get harassed by a bunch of ignorant, low-rent mouth-breathers whose courage is directly proportional to their numbers, but I guess that this is the sort of thing that we have to expect from that sort. Particularly since obviously there’s not a chance at all that the Boston city government will do anything about the situation.

So what happened? Well, one of the protesters saw fit to spit on a Coast Guard member:

BOSTON (FOX 25 / - The Coast Guard in Boston confirmed that a woman in uniform was harassed and spat upon by Occupy Boston protesters.

The woman was walking to the train and said protesters spit on her twice, called her foul names and even threw a water bottle at her.

It's not yet clear if the protesters were chanting anything about LBJ, although I don't doubt someone is investigating the matter.

Okay, using terms like "petulant children" and "low-rent mouth-breathers" may seem a bit harsh, but seriously, what else can you call it? I continue to believe that a lot of the younger people involved in these protests are unhappy and lashing out because they aren't used to having to live with the consequences of their decisions. If you grow up in a world where you get a participation trophy for everything you do and self-esteem trumps most everything else, it's truly gotta be tough to find out that the world won't just give you money. At some point you have to accept it, though. And we have way too many politicians and media figures around these days who are all too happy to keep people safe in their illusions.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

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

Yep. It's that time again. The Indiana Hoosiers are coming back to Madison. Time to bust out the R. Dean Taylor! Here he is on Top of the Pops!

 We're doing our picks a little early because I have things to do this weekend. Well, it's camping, actually. I have to demonstrate my mad Boy Scout skills to the young scouts who might be joining my troop from Cub Scouts later this year. What I don't know is if Lord Baden-Powell ever felt the HYYYYYYYYYPPPPPPE!

The British are somewhat reserved that way, young fella.

Yeah, but R. Dean Taylor made Top of the Pops, as the link proves. So they must be able to recognize crappy music when they hear it! But that's not why you're here, now is it? You are looking for some genius football picks. Well, then, watch me work!

Indiana Hoosiers (+40) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. Now, old dude, I remember last year, when you offered all manner of ridicule at my pick of the Badgers winning by a score of 70-0. Now, as it happened, the final score was, ahem, 83-20. I can check it, but I think you picked the score to be something like 45-17. And even Fearless Maria cast doubt on it. But who was right? Yes, I was right? And so now we are back and this time Vegas seems to understand that butt-kicking is on the agenda yet again. I am reasonably sure that Indiana lost a game this year to North Texas. About the only thing I know about North Texas is that it's in North Texas. But it's not in the Big Ten. And it's hard to argue that Indiana is in the Big Ten, either, even if they have a place at the table. Bucky 100, Lord I Can't Go Back There 0.

I won't say that's impossible this time. But I think that Bret Bielema may let Russell Wilson have the second half off. I would imagine that the Badgers will have scored 35-40 points by then. It's gonna be ugly, I agree. Wisconsin 56, Indiana 10.

Meeshegan Wolverines (+2) vs. Sparty the Spartan. It's the battle of Michigan! I'm interested in this game because the Badgers have to travel to East Lansing soon and this one will be a good way to measure how good the Spartans actually are. They got hosed last year, because they had a good argument for going to a BCS game. Of course, they got drilled in the Capitol One Bowl, but maybe they would have done better in the USA Prime Credit Bowl. No one is confusing Denard Robinson with Peggy, though. Leonidas 35, M Go Blue 31.
Not sure what to make of this one. Both teams have had their moments this year, but both have also looked pretty ordinary at times. I think Denard Robinson has something extra this time. Michigan 35, Michigan St. 27.

Minnesota McNabbs (+3) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. I checked on it, just to be sure. Jay Cutler is still standing this week, even though he was hit approximately 3,741 times against the Lions last weekend. I was watching the game and I swear that random fans were lining up at defensive tackle and beating the Bears offensive line off the ball. At this rate Jay should open a pinata company and he can be the spokesman. Now he gets a dose of Jared Allen, who seems to be overcoming his mullet issue and is leading the NFL in sacks. I think the Bears should go out and get Allen "Swinging Gate" Barbre, who let Allen hit Aaron Rodgers about 40-50 times in 2009. He'd fit right in. Vikes 10, da Bearz 7.

Two words, Seabiscuit. Matt Forte. He will carry the Bears to victory this week. And expect the drumbeat for Christian Ponder to get even louder next week. The one way to keep Jay Cutler upright is to let him hand the ball to a guy who expects to get hit. And even though Mike Martz may be the most stubborn guy in the world, he'll figure this one out. Bears 24, Vikings 16.

St. Louis Mutton (+15) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. I was really impressed with the way the Packers responded in the second half last week against Atlanta. To shut down a good team in their own building and score 25 points while doing it -- that's impressive. But there is one thing that bothers me. Chad Clifton is out for a long time and I have bad memories of the last time that happened. Not that St. Louis can do much about it, of course. Good teams will, though. And there are a few good teams on the schedule in the coming weeks. Packers 40, St. Louis 24.

From what I can tell, St. Louis is a very bad team. The Packers are a very good team. I agree with the young fella that there are games ahead that will be tough. But this won't be one of them. Packers roll. Green Bay 38, St. Louis 13.

San Francisco 49ers (+4 1/2) vs. Detroit Lions. I guess we can't make fun of the Lions any more, Decrepit! They appear to be a pretty good team, even if they still have the wimpiest uniforms in the league. I mean, Honolulu Blue? It's Detroit, man! Shouldn't the color be soot, or rust, or slag heap? It's like putting a ribbon on a cesspool! But enough ranting on uniforms. It's the guys in the uniforms that matter, and Detroit has some good ones. Especially that Megatron guy, Calvin Johnson, who has already caught 294 touchdown passes this season. I think that's a new record. I might be exaggerating the total a bit, but I rely on ESPN for a lot of my numbers and they tend to be a little excitable at times. Lions 27, Niners 24.

I am surprised at how well the 49ers are doing -- they are now 4-1 and they absolutely crushed Tampa Bay last week. Are they good enough to win in Detroit? I don't think so, although as a Packer fan I'd sure appreciate it if they did. It is possible that the Lions and the Packers could meet on Thanksgiving Day with both teams being undefeated, or 9-1. For once the game won't be a turkey. Lions 31, 49ers 21.

A little housekeeping -- if you were expecting a Gophers pick, they cleverly decided a way not to lose this week. They have a bye. Good thinking, Coach Kill! A few more weeks of this stuff and we may have to pull out the Jerry the Cable Guy jokes again. Consider yourself on notice there, Coach. Ben out!

Vikings to Arden Hills? XV -- A Charter Commission Member Speaks

I wrote yesterday about the Ramsey County Charter Commission and I heard from one of the commissioners, Rick Moses. He left a comment on the thread which I think deserves more attention, so I'm reposting it this morning:

As a Charter Commission member, I'd like to offer the following insights:

First, the vote of 10-6 would have been 9-7 if Rod Halverson was able to vote for his own amendment. He had to vote "No" in order to bring it up again later. This issue has not gone away.

Each member of the Charter Commission should have looked upon the issue as a matter of right or wrong. It's just dead wrong to have a half-cent sales tax imposed on the county citizens, fans and non-fans alike, for the benefit of a private and wealthy organization. The vast majority of speakers said so.

The amendment was a safety valve for those citizens who understood that the County Commissioners were out of control and bypassing the will of the people. Such an amendment is perfectly legal and appropriate.

In this case we have a renegade Commissioner who made a deal with the Vikings, and does not care if he's held accountable or not. He is of an age where he has openly boasted how many government pensions pensions he's drawing from. Hence the people need a counterbalance, the Charter Commission is it. We were not appointed to sit on our hands, stand idly by while the Charter and the people are trampled by special interests and a careless elected politician.

Why did more Charter Commission members not vote for the amendment? Special and hidden agendas. But mostly a failure to spot right and wrong. A failure increasingly prevalent in our society and the cause of most our problems.

I know Rick personally and can vouch for his understanding of things. It is difficult to argue with what he's saying, but a couple of things merit additional discussion.

Rick is too much of a gentleman to call out the name of the "renegade Commissioner," but I'm happy to provide his name. The commissioner in question is Tony Bennett, who will tell anyone that he is a Republican but has rarely acted like one. Bennett has been living inside Zygmunt Wilf's coat pocket for many months now. Bennett has been the point guy throughout the process. It's also quite likely that this is Bennett's last term on the Ramco board, so he's looking for something to be his legacy, other than grabbing a pension from every possible governmental entity you could imagine. And Bennett is more than happy to spend everyone else's money to get it.

Bennett's situation is unusual, however. Most politicians eventually face the voters and I still believe it is better if unelected governmental entities leave decisions to the elected politicians. I understand why Rick and some of his colleagues felt the need to use their position to become involved in the debate. I also understand the desire to have referenda on important issues. Still, I am uneasy when every important issue becomes a plebiscite. One of the responsibilities of citizenship in the American model is to be informed and to elect politicians who make wise decisions. Situations of this sort are where things get dicey.

I'm not sure how this will all play out. What I do know is this -- even if we can't stop Tony Bennett, we can and should try to influence his colleagues on the board. If you live in the New Brighton area and oppose this project, you might want to let Jan Parker know how you feel. A polite phone call or email is both appropriate and one of the requirements of good citizenship.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Vikings to Arden Hills? XIV -- The Beauty of Appointed Bodies

So did you want a referendum on a proposed Vikings stadium in Arden Hills? Tough luck, pal:

On Tuesday night, more than 200 people jammed the Charter Commission hearing before it voted 10-6 against putting the issue on the 2012 ballot, deciding that doing so meant the appointed commission would be making policy and usurping the authority of elected county commissioners.

In formalizing the vote, commissioner Rod Halvorson proposed a charter amendment to go on the ballot that would have prohibited the county from using any revenues to help build a professional baseball or football stadium. "I think it's clear from the testimony that people would like to exercise their right to vote," he said during the debate.

He added that the charter amendment he was proposing would help prevent the Legislature from overriding the people's wishes, and arm the county for a possible constitutional challenge.

I'll admit this -- I've lived in Ramsey County since Mrs. D and I moved to Minnesota in 1992. I do pay attention to politics. And until this issue arose, I had never given any thought to the Ramsey County Charter Commission. I was dimly aware it existed, but that's it. It is refreshing to hear any governmental agency decide against taking power unto itself:
Chair Richard Sonterre said that for him, it wasn't a decision about taxes or a public-private partnership. It was a decision on the role of representative democracy. An appointed body like the charter commission, he said, shouldn't be challenging the authority of elected county leaders.
Not all appointed bodies feel that way, however. From the same Star Tribune article:

The proposed Minnesota Vikings stadium tax won't face a public vote in Ramsey County, but a report to be released Wednesday by the Metropolitan Council raised new questions about the viability of the Arden Hills site.

The report says the price tag and time line for clean-up of the site -- a former munitions plant -- will be greater than expected and that a county sales tax plan to help finance it would "compromise the county's and the region's ability to finance other projects."

The nearly 200-page report also identified $39 million in unfunded costs for the proposed $1.1 billion publicly subsidized stadium.

The Met Council, as you may know, is an appointed body. Given the power that the Met Council wields, I'd personally love to have a chance to vote on its membership, but that's not happening. There's one other tidbit in the article that explains why so many Minnesota politicians love it, though:

The report was ordered by Gov. Mark Dayton after the Legislature, having spent five months this year wrestling with a large budget deficit, had little appetite for considering public subsidies for a new stadium. A brief state government shutdown in July further dampened enthusiasm for the project.
Politicians love wielding power, but they hate accountability. Too often the Met Council is a deus ex machina that lets politicians duck tough decisions. It's the equivalent of a permanent "blue ribbon commission."

More soon.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Much better than watching it

Another debate among the Republicans tonight. Had a meeting to go to so I missed it. But I suspect Stephen Green (a/k/a Vodkapundit) has it exactly right. An excerpt:

5:21PM To Huntsman: Who are your econ advisors?
5:22PM Huntsman: My dad. And living people, too.
Actually, Huntsman is pretty darn good. But he has no constituency in this race, and he’s tried to build one by being an ass. That makes me not like him so much.
5:22PM Huntsman wants to get good people into government. How very progressive of him.
5:23PM For the love of God, Huntsman cannot still be talking.

And this:

5:47PM To Bachmann: You’re a tax lawyer, right? And that’s a real thing?
5:47PM Bachmann is echoing my complaints about a national sales tax.
And suddenly she’s sane again!
5:48PM And… Bachmann just turned 999 upside down to get 666.
Back to padded room

And finally, this;

5:32PM To Paul: Would you get the government out of housing, or are you a dirty hypocrite?
5:32PM Paul: I would dig Keynes out of the grave just to hit him with the shovel.
Again, I’m paraphrasing. But not much.

Yes, you do want to read the whole thing.

Breaking News from 1968

History, then farce. A fringe player from 1968 emerges at the Occupy Wall Street extravaganza in New York City:

John Carlos, the Harlem-born sprinter who raised his fist in a Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics, addressed the Occupy Wall Street general assembly Monday night.

"I am here for you," Carlos, 66, told the protesters. "Why? Because I am you.

"We're here 43 years later because there's a fight still to be won," he said, referring to his controversial fist-raising moment on the podium at the Mexico City Games. "We must never stop. This day is not for us but for our children to come."

Carlos finished 3rd in that race. Now, if they had been able to wangle a visit from Peter Norman, the Australian dude who finished 2nd, that would be more impressive.

Meanwhile, we got another star turn:

Day 24 of the chaotic, festive protest in Zuccotti Park saw a demonstration by schoolchildren who sang songs and waved signs saying "Money for Schools Not War," a Native American protest against Columbus Day and a brief frenzy over the arrival of hip-hop icons Kanye West and Russell Simmons.

"I don't pay enough taxes, and I know it," said Simmons, the Def Jam magnate worth $340 million and author of the new book "Super Rich: A Guide to Having It All."

"I'm happy to pay a little more taxes if it means better education for our children," he said.

You know someone is super rich when he can honestly claim he wrote the book about it. As always, as a public service I am happy to remind Mr. Simmons that he can write a check to the U.S. Treasury, or to the State of New York, or any other governmental entity he chooses, at any time.

Alternatively, he might want to buy new sleeping bags for the universal soldiers currently occupying Zuccoti Park. The pictures accompanying the New York Daily News article would indicate that a little, ahem, wear and tear is happening. I find the caption for the second photo especially amusing:

The Occupy Wall Street movement has gathered steam as protesters camp out in Zuccotti Park. (Bebeto Matthews/AP)

Steam? Not so much. Methane? Quite likely.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Yoo Hoo

John Yoo became the bête noire of many on the portside during the Bush years, because he was the attorney who wrote the memoranda that the Bush administration used to justify some of their actions in the War on Terror. Plenty of people wanted Yoo to be prosecuted for war crimes or some other form of malfeasance.

Not surprisingly, Yoo feels the need to weigh in on the Obama adminstration's recent ministrations and he offers the following observation:

Let’s give partial credit where it is due. Apparently the Obama administration argues that al-Awlaki was a legitimate target because he is a member of an enemy engaged in hostile conduct against the United States. At least Obama has figured out that the war on terrorism is in fact a war, and that it is not limited just to Afghanistan. We should be thankful that Obama officials have quietly put aside the arguments they made during the Bush years that any terrorist outside the Afghani battlefield was a criminal suspect who deserved his day in federal court. By my lights, I would rather the Obama folks be hypocrites in favor of protecting the national security than principled fools (which they are free to be in the faculty lounges both before and after their time in government).
There's more at the link.

Lightning Round - 101011

Quick thoughts:
  • In trying to figure out what the "Occupy [This Space for Rent]" movement is really about, I'm increasingly thinking it's about the fury that certain young people are feeling concerning their future prospects. You cannot discharge student loan debt via bankruptcy, so it's a millstone around the necks of many young people, especially if the job market is tight. For now, the young people who are thus are blaming Wall Street or other villains they learned about at university. At some point, they might begin to understand that Wall Street didn't make them take on the debt load they carry. There are a lot of colleges out there and a lot of the degrees they are conferring aren't especially helpful for future job prospects.
  • Herman Cain won a few straw polls over the weekend, including the one that took place at the local confab. Michele Bachmann barely got 10% in her home state. I think it's time for Michele to realize that it's not gonna happen. I remain skeptical about Cain's ability to translate his corporate experience to the public sector, but he's a tough-minded fellow and he might be the guy in the field who is best able to be Not Romney. And that's the job everyone else in the field wants.
  • I also heard that the Brewers and the Packers are doing well. News of their exploits did manage to make it through the wall-to-wall Lynx coverage we've seen lately. Good for the Lynx, but let's be honest here -- this is a team that was ignored for years and if they stop winning will be ignored again. That may not be fair, but if the Gophers or Vikings were any better, the coverage would be minimal. 

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Butt Kicking 101

Last year Bret Bielema, the coach of the Wisconsin Badgers football team, raised a few eyebrows when his team put up 83 points on Indiana and 70 on Northwestern. More than a few people thought that perhaps Bielema was running up the score.

Turns out that Bielema was ahead of the curve. If you looked at the results of the scores for teams rated in the Top 10 in the football polls, there was a lot of that sort of thing going on yesterday:

#1 LSU 41, Florida 11
#2 Alabama 34, Vanderbilt 0
#3 Oklahoma 55, Texas 17
#5 Boise State 57, Fresno State 7
#6 Oklahoma State 70, Kansas 28
#7 Stanford 48, Colorado 7
#8 Clemson 36, Boston College 14
#9 Oregon 43, California 15
#10 Arkansas 38, Auburn 15

The Badgers are the #4 team and they had a bye week. This coming week they will play Indiana, the team they hung 83 on last time. If anything, the Badgers are better this year and Indiana is worse. It could be really ugly in Madison on Saturday.

So what is happening here? Is it that the elite teams have far surpassed their rivals? Or do they have an incentive to run up the score? The answer to these questions is the same thing:  the current college system rewards butt-kicking and running up the score. Much of the input that drives the BCS rankings comes from computers and margin of victory is a huge component. There's no incentive to call off your dogs when that is the case.

Does this sort of thing lead to a better brand of football? I doubt it. It's no fun to be on the business end of these sorts of scores, as the Gophers are finding out regularly this season. And while some of these Top 10 teams will play one another as the season goes on, there's little reason to believe that the overall results will change. Let's just say this -- I don't like it much.