Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Vikings to Arden Hills? XXVI - Talking Loud and Saying Nothing

So they had a public hearing on the Vikings stadium at the Capitol today and the Vikings were told that they need to talk to Minneapolis:

“There is no done deal here as far as I’m aware of,” said Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, who chairs the influential Senate Taxes Committee and presided over Tuesday’s hearing. “There is no fait accompli.” A second hearing will be held Dec. 6.

In one of the hearing’s pivotal moments, Ortman pointedly told Lester Bagley, the team’s vice president for stadium development and public affairs, that it would be “in your best interest” to meet again with Minneapolis officials before partnering with Ramsey County and firmly committing to a site in Arden Hills. While Bagley said the team would oblige, he said that with Ramsey County “we think it’s important that we stick with the local partner that sticks with us.”
I'm not sure what this meeting would accomplish, unless R. T. Rybak and the rest of the gang in the Mill City have a way to replace the $10 million parking revenue stream that the Vikings expect to collect if they get to build their palace in Arden Hills. As we've noted all along, the Vikings don't care about existing infrastructure, unless it delivers automobiles to parking lots they control. Not one of the sites that Rybak is floating will have that. Are they confused?

In addition Rybak said that, without input from the Vikings, city officials and business leaders still did not know which of three downtown sites to officially support.
Here's a hint to the befuddled mayor and his retinue: the site that works best is the one that has 20,000 parking spaces the Vikings would control. If Rybak can deliver that, the Vikings might come downtown. Better get cracking on that land acquisition.

As you would expect, the meeting accomplished nothing, really. The question hasn't really changed since the very beginning: will Minnesota pony up what the Vikings want? If Minnesota will, Wilf will smile, build and count his money. If Minnesota won't, Wilf will likely sell the team. There are potential buyers in Los Angeles. Are there potential buyers in Minnesota? If the lege won't pay the ransom money, Vikings fans had better hope that someone with deep, deep pockets is willing to buy the team.

Vikings to Arden Hills? XXVI - Talking Loud and Saying Nothing

So they had a public hearing on the Vikings stadium at the Capitol today and the Vikings were told that they need to talk to Minneapolis:

“There is no done deal here as far as I’m aware of,” said Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, who chairs the influential Senate Taxes Committee and presided over Tuesday’s hearing. “There is no fait accompli.” A second hearing will be held Dec. 6.

In one of the hearing’s pivotal moments, Ortman pointedly told Lester Bagley, the team’s vice president for stadium development and public affairs, that it would be “in your best interest” to meet again with Minneapolis officials before partnering with Ramsey County and firmly committing to a site in Arden Hills. While Bagley said the team would oblige, he said that with Ramsey County “we think it’s important that we stick with the local partner that sticks with us.”
I'm not sure what this meeting would accomplish, unless R. T. Rybak and the rest of the gang in the Mill City have a way to replace the $10 million parking revenue stream that the Vikings expect to collect if they get to build their palace in Arden Hills. As we've noted all along, the Vikings don't care about existing infrastructure, unless it delivers automobiles to parking lots they control. Not one of the sites that Rybak is floating will have that. Are they confused?

In addition Rybak said that, without input from the Vikings, city officials and business leaders still did not know which of three downtown sites to officially support.
Here's a hint to the befuddled mayor and his retinue: the site that works best is the one that has 20,000 parking spaces the Vikings would control. If Rybak can deliver that, the Vikings might come downtown. Better get cracking on that land acquisition.

As you would expect, the meeting accomplished nothing, really. The question hasn't really changed since the very beginning: will Minnesota pony up what the Vikings want? If Minnesota will, Wilf will smile, build and count his money. If Minnesota won't, Wilf will likely sell the team. There are potential buyers in Los Angeles. Are there potential buyers in Minnesota? If the lege won't pay the ransom money, Vikings fans had better hope that someone with deep, deep pockets is willing to buy the team.

What vs. Why

I got a pack of material in the mail yesterday from the Ron Paul campaign and it makes for an interesting read. Much of what Paul proposes makes sense, but there's almost no way any of it could actually happen, given that it would require cleaning out pretty much everyone who works in the federal government.

One thing that is especially interesting is the oft-proffered notion that it is time for an audit of the Federal Reserve. The Paul supporters I've encountered are especially keen on this idea. According to this website, the GAO has already taken a gander at some Fed activity and has found the following:

The list of institutions that received the most money from the Federal Reserve can be found on page 131 of the GAO Audit and are as follows..

Citigroup: $2.5 trillion ($2,500,000,000,000)
Morgan Stanley: $2.04 trillion ($2,040,000,000,000)
Merrill Lynch: $1.949 trillion ($1,949,000,000,000)
Bank of America: $1.344 trillion ($1,344,000,000,000)
Barclays PLC (United Kingdom): $868 billion ($868,000,000,000)
Bear Sterns: $853 billion ($853,000,000,000)
Goldman Sachs: $814 billion ($814,000,000,000)
Royal Bank of Scotland (UK): $541 billion ($541,000,000,000)
JP Morgan Chase: $391 billion ($391,000,000,000)
Deutsche Bank (Germany): $354 billion ($354,000,000,000)
UBS (Switzerland): $287 billion ($287,000,000,000)
Credit Suisse (Switzerland): $262 billion ($262,000,000,000)
Lehman Brothers: $183 billion ($183,000,000,000)
Bank of Scotland (United Kingdom): $181 billion ($181,000,000,000)
BNP Paribas (France): $175 billion ($175,000,000,000)
and many many more including banks in Belgium of all places
Is this sinister? It's difficult to know, really. What it really shows is the extent of our financial problem. The key thing that's missing from this information is why such loans would be necessary. That's really the important question.

Home Truth

Bret Stephens, in the Wall Street Journal:

The U.S., Russia, Japan, Canada and the EU have all but confirmed they won't be signing on to a new Kyoto. The Chinese and Indians won't make a move unless the West does. The notion that rich (or formerly rich) countries are going to ship $100 billion every year to the Micronesias of the world is risible, especially after they've spent it all on Greece.
We're starting to run out of other people's money.

Monday, November 28, 2011

VDH Explains

The estimable Victor Davis Hanson offers some observations on taxes and taxation, including the following:

At first glance, 33-35% federal top rates do not seem that steep; but income taxes do not fall in isolation. Many of the higher-income payers are small business people and self-employed professionals, who pay 15.3% in FICA and Medicare taxes on a sizable and growing portion of their income. And that portion and the rate itself always go up, never down. In 2013 a surcharge will hit those in the now near “criminal” $200,000 and above brackets. Many of the top incomes (believe Sen. Schumer, not me) fall in high-tax states like New York and California, where state income taxes can hit 10%. Add in property taxes on homes and businesses, and it is not hard to envision a theoretical 50% + rate, or over half one’s income. So, the conservative asks, at what total rate would local, state, and federal governments be happy — 60%-70%-80% of annual income?

And this:

Liberals talk as if we live in the world of coal-dusted Dickensian London and the Cratchits, or perhaps millions are still like the Joads putt-putting in smoky cars from Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl. Yes, there is poverty, but it transcends income, entitlements, and most of the rules of what used to apply in the pre-globalized world. My local Wal-Mart — in the poorest section of one of the poorest counties in a near bankrupt state — does a brisk business in new cell phones, DVDs, big-screen TVs, laptops, and discretionary purchasing. Black Friday was nightmarish when I drove by. When I was ten, few of the middle class had air conditioners; now most of the poor do, whether in their homes or cars. The onset of a billion new global workers, cheap consumer items, technological revolution, and government cash has meant that someone with a “below the poverty line” income can purchase cheap clothing and gadgetry that forty years ago were the mark of an aristocrat. The ability to call a foreign country on a cell phone for 5 cents a minute from the check-out counter never computes in any standard of wealth and poverty. In our world, it is “What THEY have,” not “What I have,” that counts.

There's a lot more at the link.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Football and Wisconsin

We were in Madison over the weekend. A few comments:

  • My brother-in-law took me, my brother and the Benster to Camp Randall Stadium for the Badger-Penn State game on Saturday. Although I've been a lifelong Badger fan, I'd never gone to a game before. It was a wonderful experience, especially since the Badgers had little trouble dispatching the reeling Nittany Lions, 45-7. The game day experience is filled with ritual and a certain measure of silliness, although the crowd was somewhat subdued because of the weather conditions (a light rain) and the admonitions of various UW officials. It was evident that majordomos were concerned that the UW student section might have a few choice chants at the ready for the visitors, especially in the wake of the unfolding scandal involving the football program. For the most part, the crowd did not partake in the joy of cheap shots. Meanwhile, the famous "Jump Around" tradition at the beginning of the 4th quarter is even more amazing in person. The entire crowd seems to get into it.
  • The Badgers have a hell of a football team. Quarterback Russell Wilson is not a large man -- they list him at 5'11", but I doubt he's that tall. He is fearless and composed, though, and he was able to dodge some pretty sizable Penn State defenders with ease. Meanwhile, UW tailback Montee Ball is even more impressive when you see him in person. He has had an astonishing season -- over 1600 yards and 34 total touchdowns, a total that completely smashed the previous Big Ten records. Ball is decisive when he hits the hole and is able to use power or finesse as needed. He has another year of college eligibility, but I sincerely hope he goes to the NFL and gets his paycheck. He has a chance to be a special player in the pros.
  • There was ample evidence of the recall efforts against Scott Walker, but it wasn't clear to me that the petitioners were necessarily getting a lot of takers in the area near the stadium. I suspect that outside of Madison, there's little appetite for a recall and that people would just like the unpleasantness to go away for a while. Unfortunately, there's little chance of that. My sense is that the Left continues to see the current era as existential -- the worldview of so many people is crashing in so many ways around the world right now and the dream won't die easily. Scott Walker is emblematic of the death of the dream -- he never graduated from college, yet has been able to foil many people who cling to their academic credentials. He's not especially articulate, either. Yet he's managed to win election and, thus far, stay in power. If your worldview and livelihood depend on the blandishments of the therapeutic state, Scott Walker must be destroyed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


This is really bad.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Fasten your seatbelts. Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Thanksgiving Day Extravaganza Edition

You know it's that time of year when we bust out this image, Old Dude! That's right, it's Thanksgiving HYYYYYYYYPPPPPPPPPEE! First off, let me thank everyone for wishing me a happy birthday earlier this week. I'm another year older and am still waiting for the Geritol Fan to let me drive his Buick Roadmaster.

You may be waiting a while, young fella.

Yes, I know, I still have to take the driver's ed course and pass the tests, but it's going to happen soon enough. But that's not why you're here. You've come for my mad game picking skillz. Watch me work!

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-6) vs. Detroit Lions. This might be the first time that one of these games has mattered since 1962. Do you want to know how long ago 1962 was? Get this -- Decrepit wasn't even born yet! My goodness, that's a long time ago! The Lions looked like a team that was going to challenge for a playoff spot this year and they still might make it, but lately they've been a little shaky. Matthew Stafford has been erratic and the Lions defense has been giving up touchdown passes lately. That's not a good formula for success against the Packers, who score more points than I do with the ladies. Okay, that's not a fair comparison; maybe I should strike that line from the record. Naah, we'll let it stand. Anyway, back to my expert analysis. We'll be seeing the Lions again on New Years Day at Lambeau, so this one is probably going to decide the division. If the Packers win tomorrow, the Lions are toast. Or stuffing. Or giblets or something. Packers 35, Lions 31.

The funny thing is this -- the Packers actually like this Thanksgiving Day thing. Mike McCarthy said as much this week. I'm not sure the immediate experience is going to be pleasant, though. Josh Sitton has been playing hurt all season and that's not a good thing when you are lined up against Ndamakong Suh. If the Packers keep the Lions out of Aaron Rodgers's face, the Packers will win. But it's gonna be tough. Packers 28, Lions 24.

Minnesota Ponders (+9 1/2) vs. Hotlanta Falcons. Meanwhile, we have the Vikings, who are contemplating a full Les Steckel experience this season. You remember Les Steckel, right? Well, I don't, because he was the coach about 11 years before I was born. But I've heard the stories about his reign of error. This team looks pretty dismal right now, especially if Adrian Peterson can't play. I'd heard that Christian Ponder wanted to be an NFL quarterback in the worst way. He's getting his wish -- bad receivers, bad offensive line, no stud running back and an opponent that really needs to win. Ooh, this won't be good. Dirty Birds 70, Fire Leslie Frazier 0.

Wow, the Leslie Frazier watch is already on? Mrs. D won't be amused by that call, Seabiscuit. I get where you're going, though -- the Vikings are looking worse by the week and there's no evidence that they will be able to right the ship. I'll bet Zygi Wilf really enjoys the excellent PR work his team is doing right now. The question is: would L.A. want this collection? Atlanta 27, Vikings 13.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (+3 1/2) vs. Oakland Raiduhs. Hello, Caleb Hanie. Welcome to Oakland. Watch as the Raider defensive line decides to Occupy Hanie. Do you see what I did there? Fresh as today's headlines. Anyway, things got a lot tougher for those Bears this week as we've learned that Jay Cutler has a broken thumb and won't be able to play for at least a few weeks. I'll give you this -- Cutler got hurt on a play that should put to rest the snickering about his courage once and for all. We've been tough on Cutler here, but he deserves a lot of respect for what he's done this season. The problem is, he might be done doing what he does. And that leaves us with Caleb Hanie, who channels the best attributes of former Bears greats Bobby Douglass and Peter Tom Willis, with maybe a dose of Steve Stenstrom thrown in. The problem is, da Bearz need something better than that. Wouldn't it be wild if we see the return of Brent "Don't Text Me Bro" Perve in a Bearz uniform? He wouldn't do that, now would he? Or would he? In fact, I think he is. Raiduhs 17, da Bearz 10.

Don't even suggest something that terrible, youngblood. Hanie is a good athlete and can run well. He may have to. I think the Bears defense holds up well and keeps them from falling out of the race, but it's going to be tough to keep pace. I expect a lot of Matt Forte for now. Bears 21, Raiders 16.

Illinois Fighting Zooks (-10 1/2) vs. Minnesota Golden Road Kill. If you're a Gopher fan, at least you've got this much going for you -- your coach will be back next year. As for Illinois, maybe not so much. Ron Zook is cooked, I think, and he won't coach at the D-1 level for a while. The Illini started the season well, but they could end up 6-6 after a 6-0 start and get to go to the ever-popular Little Caesar's Bowl, where they will be playing a bucket of chicken wings. The early line on that game is that the bucket of chicken wings is a 3 1/2 point favorite over the Illini. Meanwhile, our Gophers are trying to improve and they've shown a few signs of progress, but Jerry Kill was right -- this is a big rebuilding job. Gophers 50, You're Fired, Ron Zook 0.

Wow. Just wow. I agree, Zook is in a lot of trouble, but I don't see that sort of faceplant happening on Saturday. I also think that the Illini pull one out because they like their embattled coach. Won't save him, though. And Vegas is probably right about the chicken wings beating the Illini, especially on a neutral field. Illinois 24, Gophers 17.

Penn State Media Circus (+16) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. I still don't want to talk about Penn State right now, but professional duties require that I must, so let me tell you this. The Nittany Lions can play some defense, but they are offensively challenged, because they have two quarterbacks. And when you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterbacks. Will Montee Ball get two more touchdowns? Heck, I think he'll set the national record. If he gets 3 touchdowns per game through this one, the Big Ten championship game and the Rose Bowl, he'll do it. Let's call this foreshadowing, but Montee Ball will win the Heisman, because he's had a much better season than anyone in the country. Wisconsin 83, Penn State 0.

I looked this up. The last time the Nittany Lions came to Madison was 2008, they killed the Badgers. The final score was 48-7. I suspect Bucky will turn the tables. No mercy this time. Wisconsin 48, Penn State 7.

Arkansas Razorblades (+14) vs. LSU Bayou Bengals. And now, a rant. Ahem. I watched the Game of the Century a few weeks back and it was the worst game that weekend. LSU/Alabama was BORING! A snoozefest! It was DULLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL! And now comes Arkansas, who is somehow 3rd in the country? No! Enough of this SEC bias, and enough of the BCS! I've always called the BCS a cartel. What's worse is that they combine two things that are really tough to take: corruption and boredom! I still don't forget how the Badgers got screwed in 2006 and how various teams have been getting screwed each year (Houston Cougars, I'm looking at you!) In fact, do you want to know the truth about the SEC? They don't have the courage to play actual teams! I had to listen to to all the sneering from the SEC types about Big Ten non-conference schedules, but I've noticed Georgia Southern, Western Kentucky and Northwestern State on SEC schedules recently. I guess the game with Lakeland Dental Academy must have been postponed. I have to pick a winner and LSU didn't impress me one little bit. Razorbacks 17, LSU 10.

I hope you're right. What I'd like to see is this: Arkansas wins this game, Alabama loses to Auburn and then the Razorbacks lose to Georgia in the SEC championship game. Then let's see how the BCS cabal can wedge two SEC teams into the BCS championship game. It would be amusing. Arkansas 24, LSU 17.

Man, all that ranting tires a guy out! Well, at least we'll get some tasty turkey tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving -- Ben out!

Your Strange Tangential Vikings Stadium Story of the Day

Not really time for a new Vikings stadium post, but this is an odd story:

Anoka County is seeking $2 million in compensation for a package it created to try to land a Vikings stadium in Blaine five years ago — a playbook the County Board’s chairwoman says Ramsey County used to lure the team to Arden Hills.

The proposal by Rhonda Sivarajah drew a response of “huh?” in Ramsey County

"Huh" is a bit more polite than "whiskey tango foxtrot," I guess. There's more:

Sivarajah at first suggested that Ramsey County pay the $2 million — which she called a “conservative estimate” — for using an Anoka County plan the Vikings publicly sacked in 2006. After a vigorous discussion, she said the money should instead come from the state and only if racino proceeds help to fund a stadium in Arden Hills.

“If the state decides their priority is to use proceeds from racino to fund a Vikings stadium in Ramsey County, then Anoka County should be reimbursed $2 million, which was utilized to develop the financial package that Ramsey County is essentially using,” Sivarajah said later.

I'm hesitant to go on, since it's possible that Sivarajah might invoice me for quoting her. But we need to finish the job:

When Anoka County devised its plan five years ago, racino wasn’t part of the picture. It was that plan, again without racino, that Sivarajah said Ramsey County used.

“I know Ramsey County has requested information from us,” she said. “It’s only appropriate that the citizens of Anoka County be reimbursed.

Here's a prediction -- all Sivarajah will get out of this is a headline in today's paper. If you follow her logic, you find there really is no logic. If units of government are due compensation every time they pick up the phone and call another, you'll have no communication at all. At least no one will call Sivarajah.

Just a guess -- what this is really about is getting Anoka County's beak in the tent for any racino proceeds, especially if the Running Aces track gets one. Running Aces is in Anoka County and if it's going to generate any money, Sivarajah and her colleagues would like a taste. That's easy enough to understand. It's even a defensible request, since Anoka County will incur additional expenses for policing the site if a racino is built. It would be better if she'd just admit as much instead of pretending that Ramsey County owes consulting fees.

Another Debate

We've now had 11 debates among the Republicans. So far, the only thing that this seemingly endless cycle has proven is that every candidate on the stage is deeply flawed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Well, yeah

Saw this on Facebook, from an old college friend who is a college professor and reliably leftist:

Apparently we're supposed be outrageously outraged at two things:

1) That some jerk cop was randomly pepper spraying people at UC Davis; and
2) That some people (that the Left feels free to smear with the nasty epithet "teabagger") carry guns.

It's pretty simple, actually. Human nature being human nature, it should be obvious that some cops are going to be nasty people. There are nasty people in all walks of life. Because you encounter nasty people in the world, you need to have the ability to defend yourself. That's the point of the 2nd Amendment.

It's really not that hard to understand. If you can demonstrate that the cost of screwing with you will be high, people won't generally screw with you. And if you depend on the kindness of strangers. . . .

Super Duper

The Super Committee failed. Are we surprised? I'm not.

It was supposed to fail. There is a fundamental disagreement in this nation concerning the proper role and scope of government and there was no way that a group of Congresscritters that included Patty Murray and Jon Kyl would solve it. These folks see the world very differently.

There's a reason why conservatives oppose tax cuts as a matter of course. The idea that any group of legislators that uses the levers of government to curry favor with constituents would raise taxes, then refrain from using the money to pay people off, is ludicrous. It's never happened. Conservatives know this. They've been playing Charlie Brown while the liberal Lucys have been pulling the football away for nearly 80 years now. In many cases, they've been complicit.

We're running out of money now. Europe is running out of money. Everywhere you look, the money isn't there. People don't want to admit it, but that's the reality of the situation. It's going to be an ugly, ugly election cycle.

Monday, November 21, 2011

November 21, 1995

This post first appeared in 2008, but it still works. Happy birthday, Benster -- 16 years old today!

I remember it being a cold but sunny Tuesday morning. As it turned out, two things happened that day that are historic. First, the Dow Jones industrial average climbed over the 5000 mark for the first time. At Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the Dayton Peace Accords were initialed, marking the end of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. And at 1:52 p.m. CST, in a room at United Hospital in St. Paul, our first child was born.

We'd had a bit of a scare a month earlier and Mrs. D had spent about a week in the hospital with pre-term labor. She'd returned home and had been on bed rest. When we woke up that morning, it was clear that something was up. We called the hospital and they told us to come down. We worked our way down from our townhome in Shoreview, stopping once so I could get my cup of morning coffee. Momentous events require coffee.

Once we got to the hospital, we went to our room and Mrs. D went through the experience. Things were progressing along slowly but it seemed possible that this would be the day. The nurses and doctors came and went, none seemingly too worried about things. It was possible that it might be days before the baby would arrive, we were told, or the baby might come today. It seemed like a long morning. We'd been through the Lamaze classes and we were clued into what we might expect. We'd brought music to listen to and Mrs. D's favorite teddy bear, which she'd received as a gift in college. Whatever it took.

As the morning dragged toward noon, she turned to me and said, "look, I don't think anything is going to happen any time soon. Why don't you go and get some lunch. Take your time." Knowing that she was in good hands, I left the hospital and walked down to a Subway shop on West 7th. I got myself a turkey sub and a Pioneer Press and had a good long hour of decompressing. Although we were both excited about the possibilities of the day, it was good to get away and think about things other than the life-changing event that might happen. I strolled back to the hospital, got on the elevator and headed for the maternity ward.

When I got back, it was obvious that Mrs. D had had an eventful hour in my absence. She was rocking uncomfortably back and forth in the bed and she looked at me and said, "you can't leave now." There was a nurse nearby and we were told that the obstetrician would be arriving shortly. "It looks like the baby is going to come today," I was told. The next hour was a blur. I remember trying to hold Mrs. D's hand, and hold the teddy bear to give her a focal point. I remember trying to fish through our bag to change the tape (yep, we still had cassettes). I put on some Miles Davis - Kind of Blue, a favorite and something that would be comforting enough. As the bottom of the hour passed and we headed toward 2, it became pretty clear that this was the time. A close family friend had arrived to offer support and was pretty much horrified to realize that she had walked in at the moment of truth. She quickly beat a hasty retreat the waiting room. I will never forget the look on the friend's face.

Meanwhile, the moment had arrived. Childbirth is simultaneously amazing, frightening and a little bit bizarre. As the song "All Blues" wailed softly in the background, I saw the baby emerge. It was our son. As the nurses quickly took him to the side table to give him his first exam, the Apgar score, he let out a healthy wail. Mrs. D looked at me. I looked at her. It was the beginning.

My son is a 7th grader and is straddling the childhood he is leaving and the exciting world of adulthood that is beckoning. He's turned into a bright, energetic kid with a quick wit and a great enthusiasm for learning more about the world he entered that cold, clear Tuesday. He's been a source of great joy.

At times, it's obvious that 13 years have passed. But it still seems like we just brought him home from the hospital.


Three years on, my son is now a high school sophomore. He's still the same kid but he's changed in a lot of ways, but one thing remains is constant. He's an enthusiastic young man. He's coming of age in a tough world, but his enthusiasm should serve him well. He's beginning to understand the whys of the world even though he questions them, as a teenager will. He's still a source of great joy.

And it still seems like we just brought him home from the hospital.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

One Less Legend

There are ample reasons to cast a cold eye at Newt Gingrich, but one less today:

Yet while the thrust of the story about his first divorce is not in dispute — Gingrich’s first wife, Jackie Battley, has said previously that the couple discussed their divorce while she was in the hospital in 1980 — other aspects of it appear to have been distorted through constant retelling.

Most significantly, Battley wasn’t dying at the time of the hospital visit; she is alive today. Nor was the divorce discussion in the hospital “a surprise” to Battley, as many accounts have contended. Battley, not Gingrich, had requested a divorce months earlier, according to Jackie Gingrich Cushman, the couple’s second daughter. Further, Gingrich did not serve his wife with divorce papers on the day of his visit (unlike a subpoena, divorce papers aren’t typically “served”).
I guess that means Gingrich gets at least one more week to be Not Romney.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- You've Been Zooked Edition

Hey, Decrepit! Wake up! We have work to do!

I guess we do, young fella.

The season is getting on these days. Kinda like you! So we don't have a lot of time to waste. So, watch me work!

Minnesota Golden Road Kill (+ 15 1/2) vs. Northwestern Fighting Fitzgeralds. So, Geritol Fan, did you get a load of that point spread? The pesky Gophers are a 15 1/2 point dog to Northwestern???? Northwestern???? I don't know that Northwestern has been favored by 15 1/2 points in all their games combined this season! Talk about a lack of respect for our friendly rodent pals! Well, let's think about why. Last week the Gophers got their butts kicked by those nasty Badgers. Now, is Northwestern nasty, too? Or has Vegas been busted? Fitzgeralds 21, Gophs 14.

Someone in Vegas must think it's 1995 or something. Northwestern has a talented quarterback in Dan Persa, but they aren't exactly a Big Ten powerhouse these days. I really wonder why the spread is that high, too. I think the Gophers will score, but Persa will score more. 15 1/2 points more? Not so sure about that.... Northwestern 38, Gophers 27.

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-14 1/2) vs. Illinois Fighting Zooks. I don't know if you remember this, old dude, especially given your tendency for memory lapses, but the Illini started out the year at 6-0. Did you notice their record today? They are 6-4. And in true Illini fashion, they are bringing the fail. Epic, epic, fail. So much fail that you might mistake it for HYYYYYYYPPPPPPE! Except it's the opposite of HYYYYYYYPPPPPE! It's FAAAAAAIILLL! I also noticed that Coach Ron Zook walked out of his press conference this week. Is that a sign that he'll be walked out of his office at the end of the season? Meanwhile, the Badgers, as I predicted, now control their own destiny and can get to the Rose Bowl if they win out. Do you think the Illini can beat the Badgers? Maybe. Jared Abbrederis is hurt and Peter Konz is probably out until the bowl game. The Illini have a good defensive line. That could make it interesting. But in the end, I think the Illini are going to get Zooked. Badgers 56, Chief Illiniwek 49.

Have you seen the Illini play offense, Seabiscuit? They've been having difficulty crossing the 50, let alone scoring. The Badgers will miss Konz, but it looks like Abbrederis will play. More importantly, Montee Ball and Russell Wilson will play. And the Illini will have no answer for that. Badgers 42, Illinois 20.

Penn State Fugitives from Justice (+7) vs. Ohio State Tattoo U. Man, is this game corrupt, or what? We have the miscreant Buckeyes hosting the scandal-ridden Nittany Lions, who are carrying the sins of people who are no longer part of the program, but continue to do said misdeeds. I didn't want to pick the Penn State game last week, but now that we have a little distance, we can begin to take stock of things. It's awfully tough to keep your focus when the eyes of the entire world are on your campus, so in some respects it might be a relief for Penn State to get out of the fishbowl and play someone else. Especially when that someone else is corrupt, too. Luke Fickell is learning just how fickle the Ohio State fans are. They are calling for his head after losing to Purdue. I don't know who to root for in this game, but I do know this -- it will be interesting, kinda like a train wreck is interesting. Fugitives from Justice 10, Tattoo U. 7.

I have nothing to say about these teams. Ohio State 23, Penn State 16.

Oakland Raiduhs (-1) vs. Minnesota Ponders. Well, how do the Vikings feel after they picked themselves up off the turf at Lambeau? Not very good. The Vikings made too many mistakes and you can't do that against the World Champions. Now they play the Raiduhs, who are mourning the loss of Al Davis, who successfully showed the NFL that they don't rule the world. Then again, the Raiduhs have pretty much been lousy for the last decade or so. This game features two good running backs -- Adrian Peterson for the Vikings and Darren McFadden of the Raiduhs. That's old school football. Maybe not as old school as the single wing, or whatever Tim Tebow is running out in Denver -- I think Tebow is running the flying wedge. So how do I pick this lousy game? Put it this way, if you love punters, this game is for you. Shane Lechler and Chris Kluwe, anyone? Raiduhs 7, Vikes 3.

No love for Christian Ponder? The ladies of the house will be disappointed, youngblood. I think the Vikings have problems that go well beyond the offense. They looked old and out of gas in Lambeau on Monday night and the Raiders do have some weapons, including their usual assortment of really fast guys with Roberto Duran hands. Will one of those guys catch a pass? Yeah, I think so. And that will be the difference. Raiders 24, Vikings 21.

Tampa Bay Pewter Pirates (+14) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. When last we saw these two teams, it wasn't pretty. The Packers went down to Tampa and lost to the Bucs, who had broken out their gawdawful Creamsicle colored uniforms for the occasion. Old dude, did the Bucs really wear those things all the time back in the day? Because I think they stole their logo from Beloit College! How do you feel about that, Decrepit? Your alma mater features the same logo as the most inept football team around? I have a feeling the Packers remember that horrible day and won't be looking past the Bucs this time. Packers 83, Bucs 0.

Uh, no. Tampa is struggling right now and I expect the Packers to win, but Tampa can play defense. Now if my beloved Beloit Bucs show up instead of the Tampa Bay Bucs, then your score might happen. But I think it will be a little tougher than you envision. Not that much tougher, though. Packers 38, Tampa 17.

San Diego Bolts (+3 1/2) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. The Chargers are in trouble, Geritol Fan! They've lost two in a row and now have the distinct pleasure of playing the Bears on the parking lot known as Soldier Field. I've been in the actual parking lot for Soldier Field and it's tough to tell it apart from the field inside the stadium. Last week da Bearz pretty much took the Lions to school, which was an interesting development, to say the least. Old Lovie Smith, who always wants to beat the Green Bay Packers, has found a way to make his team competitive again, even though they looked awful early in the year. But, this game is a trap game for da Bearz and they will finally be exposed. Bolts 24, da Bearz 16.

Interesting. San Diego can score, but they don't play a lot of defense. I think Jay Cutler is figuring things out now and while he still needs a few more weapons around him, the Bears are a dangerous team. San Diego will need to find a pass rush if they want to win. I think they won't. Bears 28, San Diego 21.

Well, on Monday it will be 16 years of Bensterism! I should probably schedule a parade. I'll talk to Brezhnev about using some of his tanks. Ben out!

Needing a little bridgework

Two cities, two approaches to policing. First, here in Minneapolis:

Eleven people protesting unemployment were arrested Thursday, accused of blocking traffic on the 10th Avenue bridge in Minneapolis, part of a national wave of demonstrations that has gathered momentum from the Occupy Wall Street movement.

About 400 demonstrators chose the old bridge as the destination of their march to call for a national jobs program to repair crumbling infrastructure and highlight rampant unemployment among black Minnesotans.

"How do we fix the deficit? End the war and tax the rich," protesters chanted, as they marched from the University of Minnesota Law School. Once on the bridge, most of the protesters moved to the sidewalk, chanting slogans denouncing Wall Street, but 11 of them sat on the street, their arms interlocked. After 10 minutes, police handcuffed the protesters, helped them to their feet and led them away to be photographed and put in a police wagon.

The arrests were a contrast to the sometimes-violent confrontations in New York, Seattle and other cities

How so? Well, let a collaborator public servant explain:

"It's going quite well," said Minneapolis police Lt. Dean Christiansen, who was supervising officers at the scene. He said a protest organizer spoke with him Wednesday and spelled out the protesters' plans and "it's going as we had agreed."

Sgt. Gerry Nelson said the 11 protesters were being arrested for violating two misdemeanor state statutes, obstructing vehicle traffic and creating a public nuisance. The sit-down occurred during rush hour, and Christiansen said traffic was diverted during the demonstration.

Isn't that nice -- it's all been preplanned and choreographed. Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, a little less love:

Protesters who blocked traffic Thursday and invited arrest declared victory and marched off after Police Chief Edward Flynn said that officers wouldn't help them fulfill their "martyrdom fantasies" and that they could stay "and freeze their butts off."

Hundreds of protesters sat or stood on the North Ave. bridge over Interstate 43 for two hours.

Flynn, speaking to TV cameras as protesters chanted "We are the 99%," said he was withdrawing most of the couple dozen officers who had been watching the protesters "so we can answer 911 calls and protect the community."

Seems reasonable to me. Further, Flynn makes a salient point:

Asked about the economic issues in the protest, Flynn told reporters, "If they're angry about the economy, go to Wall Street. There's 35% unemployment in this neighborhood. Who are they disrupting?"

Referring to below-freezing evening temperatures, Flynn said, "They can sit and freeze their butts off, I don't care."
I'm with Flynn on this one. What do you think?

I sincerely hope. . .

. . . that this is not true:

I have learned over the last week that MF Global is almost certainly the mere tip of the iceberg. There is massive industry-wide exposure to European sovereign junk debt. While other firms may not be as heavily leveraged as Corzine had MFG leveraged, and it is now thought that MFG’s leverage may have been in excess of 100:1, they are still suicidally leveraged and will likely stand massive, unmeetable collateral calls in the coming days and weeks as Europe inevitably collapses. I now suspect that the reason the Chicago Mercantile Exchange did not immediately step in to backstop the MFG implosion was because they knew and know that if they backstopped MFG, they would then be expected to backstop all of the other firms in the system when the failures began to cascade – and there simply isn’t that much money in the entire system. In short, the problem is a SYSTEMIC problem, not merely isolated to one firm.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Vikings to Arden Hills? XXV -- The Crying Game

They say talk is cheap. It's certainly cheaper than building a new stadium:

The Minnesota Senate said Wednesday it would hold two public hearings on the possibility of using tax money to help build a Minnesota Vikings stadium.

The first hearing will be held on Nov. 29, with a second on Dec. 6. News of the hearings came as Gov. Mark Dayton and others looked for ways to resuscitate the long-debated stadium amid mounting evidence that the project would not be seriously considered by legislators until at least next year.

Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, the chief author of Senate stadium legislation, quickly praised the hearings but said there are no plans before the hearings to unveil a formal proposal to select a site for the stadium or specify a source for any public subsidy.
Politicians love to talk and the public hearings should give us some decent kabuki theater, but what we learn won't be much. Instead, we'll get stuff like this:

The announcement also came as a colorful group of stadium supporters, known as the Viking World Order, marched into Dayton's office at the State Capitol to boost the chances for a new stadium in Ramsey County's Arden Hills. The group, which featured members wearing purple camouflage and face paint, included one man who cried as he sat in the office's reception area and wrote a note to Dayton urging him to get the stadium built.

"It's not about the team, trust me," said a tearful David Willard, whose shoulder-length hair partly covered his Vikings leather jacket. "It's a way of life, the way I was brought up."

I suspect that Zygi Wilf finds Mr. Willard's tears delicious. Emotionalism has been key to everything the Vikings are doing.

As for the hearings, the two dates don't mean much, really. Another date matters much more:

In between the two hearings will come the state's latest revenue forecast, on Dec. 1, with projections of how much the state has to spend over the next two years.
It's always good to take revenue projections with a grain of salt -- we really have no idea whether actual revenues will be even close to projections, especially given the parlous condition of the world economy these days. Still, a poor projection could be devastating, which is why crying dudes with Vikings jackets are so essential to the public discourse.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Look for the Union Label

Here it comes:

Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday ordered a vote among thousands of child care workers across Minnesota on whether they want to join a union.

"I'm just giving people who are for and people who are against [it] what I think is the fairest way, the American way, to resolve their differences, which is to hold an election and let the majority decide," said Dayton, a DFLer who has had union backing throughout his political career.

The state Bureau of Mediation Services plans to send out ballots by Dec. 6. Child care providers will have until Dec. 20 to return them. The election will be limited to providers whose customers receive state subsidies for child care.

I can see why the unions want this: more dues. It's also easy to see why Dayton wants this: unions spend their dues money on behalf of the DFL. It's very difficult to see any benefit for child care workers. Maybe someone can tell me what this gives child care workers, other than a paycheck that has less money in it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lightning Round - 111511

You gotta move fast:

  • The Vikings began their rollout of an expensive new ad campaign for a new stadium yesterday. The football team itself didn't exactly support the narrative very much. As much as I enjoyed watching my beloved Packers wipe the Lambeau Field turf with the Vikings, it was almost sad in some ways. The Vikings aren't very convincing on or off the field these days.
  • Life is a lot easier when you don't pay attention to what Herman Cain is saying.
  • It appears that the Supreme Court is going to rule on Obamacare before the election. There's been much speculation about whether or not a ruling will affect the upcoming presidential campaign. I suspect it will, but I don't particularly care whether it does. The more important thing is determining whether or not Obamacare goes forward. If Anthony Kennedy, er, I mean the Court, decides to strike down Obamacare, a lot of things will need to change quickly. If Kennedy decides to uphold Obamacare, we'll continue our headlong slog into Peronism. One way or another, we need to know.
  • I understand that Jerry Sandusky gave an interview yesterday. I have no intention of watching it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

John Lennon's Dictum and OWS - Part 1

John Lennon's song "Beautiful Boy" contained a line that has long resonated with me:

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.

I started thinking about this after reading a comment that my cousin Gerry posted on an earlier post I'd written about the Occupy Wall Street people who are noisily bemoaning their fate in encampments all over the country. Gerry posted the following:

My BS degree is in Computer Science and my job is to help sell companies/government their data center computers -- the big ones, not the ones on your desk. Business has been steady and sometimes great for 20+ years. What is interesting is more than half the people I work with directly who also help sell these large computers were not engineers/programmers in college.

I work with folks who have degrees in English Literature, Philosophy, Theatre Arts, and other non-technical areas of study. There are techincal folks as well.

As working adults I cannot tell the classically trained engineers from those who are not -- they are all good at what they do. Those without technical degrees saw the landscape after college with lower wages and fewer jobs and decided to make a change. They found there way into better paying jobs by taking entry level tech jobs (i.e. computer operators) and working their way into this constantly growing and evolving industry.

My industry cannot find enough workers. There are over 150 open jobs at my company, waiting for candidates to fill them. There are 30+ entry level jobs, with technical training, open for anyone who can speak, write and have a willingness to work hard and learn.

Why can't these positions be filled? Do people feel entitled? Are they lazy? I don't know...
What Gerry is describing rings true. When I left my alma mater some 25 years ago, I was an English major and convinced that with my scintillating writing chops and my keen insights into the human condition, I was ready to answer the world's problems. The world was strangely unimpressed.

Over the course of my career, I found myself doing a lot of jobs that I couldn't have imagined doing when I was an undergraduate. Some of the time I had to swallow my pride and do clerical work as a temporary employee. I spent the better part of a decade working for a major Twin Cities-based retailer, using my writing skills to explain how to suggestive sell soft pretzels, while simultaneously providing instructions concerning the programming of monthly specials on cash registers. Later on, as the housing bubble inflated, I latched on with one of the largest banks in the country as a business analyst and had a ringside seat for the madness. After 20 years of such things, I finally got a chance to be a professional writer, although most of my published work is utterly anonymous.

My cousin points out what should be obvious, but apparently isn't to a lot of young people. The live you envision may not get to be the life you lead, but a good and valuable life is possible if you are willing to pursue it. Gerry lives in a very nice, but non-glamorous place, the Fox River Valley of Wisconsin. I do not know if any of the jobs his company has on offer are in New York, or Los Angeles, or any other urban venue. No one is ever going to confuse the Appleton/Neenah/Oshkosh metropolitan area for Manhattan. But the opportunity is there.

Gerry's questions are the ones we need to ask:  Why can't these positions be filled? Do people feel entitled? Are they lazy? I don't know...

I don't know, either. But we're going to talk about it in the coming days.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Another Life Lesson for OWS

Okay, I'll admit it -- this one makes me laugh:

Jay-Z’s company, Rocawear, is now selling a t-shirt that says “Occupy Wall Street” with graffiti style lettering modifying the message to read “Occupy All Streets.” A mini scandal has brewed over the shirt as it’s become clear that Rocawear, currently, has no plans to give any of the procedes to the occupiers themselves.

In case you don't know who Jay-Z is, he's a rapper/music producer and marketing genius. He's also married to Beyonce. Jay-Z's personal fortune is north of $400M. Doing stuff like this is why, of course.

Cynical exploitation? Well, yeah. Better yet, consider the explanation:

“The ‘Occupy All Streets’ T shirt was created in support of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. Rocawear strongly encourages all forms of constructive expression, whether it be artistic, political or social. ‘Occupy All Streets’ is our way of reminding people that there is change to be made everywhere, not just on Wall Street. At this time we have not made an official commitment to monetarily support the movement.”

You can make a lot of change, all right. Play your cards right and you can make benjamins, too. Jay-Z well understands the eternal P.T. Barnum demographic.

Victor Davis Hanson makes a larger point about the sorts of folks who are part of OWS:

So much of the angst in video clips and op-eds was voiced by a youthful upper middle class who went to the university, majored either in social science or liberal arts, piled up debt, faced almost no employment choices commensurate with their class and their educational brand — and thus were furious at the more profit-minded members of a like class for abandoning them.

Revolutionary movements throughout history are so often sparked by the anger, envy, and disappointments of an upper-middle cohort, highly educated, but ill-suited for material success in the existing traditional landscape.
It's gotta be a kick in the teeth when a guy like Jay-Z, who didn't even get through high school, is able to make money off your plaints, while your bachelor's degree in comparative literature gets you a lice infested tent in Zuccotti Park. The lesson is simple enough -- education and awareness are different things.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Yelling Across the St. Croix Edition

Decrepit, sometimes I wonder if I live on the wrong side of the river.

Why is that?

You know why, Geritol Fan! Somehow I've turned out to be a Packer fan and a Badger fan, too! And yet I live in Minnesota, where such things are frowned upon.

Fearless Maria is over in the corner, saying "Minnesota rules. Just sayin'." So you've chosen a lonely path, grasshopper.

Touche. But I boldly walk across that path. And I dominate. Watch me work!

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-27) vs. Minnesota Golden Home Kill. So, old dude, did you notice the point spread that Vegas laid down for this game? Do you remember last year, when the Badgers were up by 25 and went for 2 because Bret Bielema said his chart told him to do it? I guess he was right! Vegas must have written up his card! Anyway, there's the little matter of the game itself. The Gophers have been playing better lately, including a respectable showing at Michigan State last weekend. They also kept Floyd of Rosedale. Word on the street is that they want the Axe, too. There's apparently a spot in their trophy case that's specifically reserved for the Axe, but it never seems to be there. Why is that? Well, the Badgers are for real and they need to win out to have a chance to get to the Big Ten championship game. Could they lose in Minnesota? Bucky 62, Goldy 35.

This could be interesting, actually. MarQueis Gray seems to have figured things out and the Gophers have weapons. But I have to say that if Iowa could run for 300 yards on the Gophers, the Badgers could really do some damage. The question for me is this -- will Montee Ball personally outscore the Gophers? Survey says. . . Badgers 52, Gophers 24.

Michigan State Sparty the Spartan (-2 1/2) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes. I know you were waiting for us to talk about what's going on in Not-So-Happy Valley, but I wouldn't pick that game if it were the only game on the schedule. Happy Valley is more like Love Canal right now, so instead we'll turn our attention to pristine Iowa City, home of war hero Nile Kinnick and the Iowa Hawkeyes, who have more traditional collegiate issues, like half the team being zonked out on drugs last year. It seems strange, since Iowa hasn't impressed anyone, but they actually control their own destiny and could get to the Big Ten championship game if they win out. As for Sparty, they are looking a little shaky following two lackluster performances against Nebraska and the Gophers. What happened to the team that beat the Badgers, Michigan and Ohio State? You can't trust these guys to give you a consistent performance. So, will they show up in Iowa City? Iowa 17, Sparty 10.

I can see your logic, but Iowa lost to the Gophers. So I don't know what to think. We have to disagree on one game, so I'll pick this one. Michigan State 24, Iowa 17.

Minnesota Ponders (+13 1/2) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. The Packers return to Mr. Rodgers' Neighborhood after nearly a month away. One of the things that's been most impressive about the 8-0 start is that the Packers have been on the road for 5 of their 8 games. That means there's going to be a lot of frozen tundra down the stretch and that is good news. When we last saw these two teams play, the Vikings gave a pretty good accounting of themselves, but the Packers blew them away in the 3rd quarter of the game. I don't think Christian Ponder is going to do as well in Lambeau as he did in the Dome, but he's got a chance to be pretty good down the line. Can the Vikings stop the Packers receiving corps without most of their top guys? Chris Cook got out of jail but he won't be at Lambeau because he's suspended from the team. I've heard that the Vikings are considering bringing back Fred Smoot or Joey Browner. Maybe even Onterrio Smith. World Champs 49, Vikes 35.

Another track meet, huh? I don't see it. The Vikings will give the Packers a battle for a while, but I don't see them keeping up in Lambeau. Think this one will be a bit more comfortable. Packers 38, Vikings 20.

Detroit Motor City Suhs (+3) vs. Bear Down Chicago Da Bearz. Last time these two teams played, it was in the comfortable confines of Ford Field, where the Lions play on a true surface and trap a lot of noise from their eternally patient fan base. This time they are playing at Soldier Field, where the turf resembles the nearby Dan Ryan Expressway. Then again, the Dan Ryan was resurfaced a few years back, so that comparison is really unfair to I-DOT. Anyway, da Bearz were impressive in going into Philly and slapping around the "Dream Team." They gave Michael Vick a good and proper thrashing and put Assante Samuel right on his Assante, so to speak. The Lions need to win to keep pace with the Packers and maybe set up the most interesting Thanksgiving Day in Detroit since, oh, 1962 or so. Even though Gino will probably hate me for this, I'm putting da Bearz on notice. Suhs 10, Pinata 0.

Huh. Really. I don't see it. The last time the Lions were in Chicago, Calvin Johnson had a touchdown pass taken away. This time he may not even get to the end zone. The Lions are very good on defense but the slow turf will hamper their pass rush enough for Cutler to stay upright most of the game. And when Cutler stays upright, the Bears are actually pretty tough to beat. Bears 27, Lions 23.

That's all I want to pick, Decrepit. I know you need your beauty sleep. It's pretty clear you haven't had any beauty sleep since at least 1974. Ben out!

Lightning Round - 111111

This one goes to 11:

  • Haven't written much about the Occupy folks lately, but things aren't going so well for them. John Hinderaker over at Powerline has a handy compendium of the latest goings on, including tuberculosis in Atlanta, human waste cleanup in London's St. Paul Cathedral and a Molotov cocktail in Portland. Meanwhile, there's apparently been a murder in Oakland. William Golding saw this coming, of course. And in a lesson that every generation must relearn, good intentions often don't correlate to good results.
  • It's Veteran's Day and chances are good that someone near and dear to you wore the uniform. Make sure to thank them for their service. This one goes out to my brother and my father-in-law. Paul and Dave, thank you.
  • Not much new to report on the Vikings front -- Mark Dayton was grumping about the process earlier in the week and Ramsey County apparently is buying the Arden Hills site that the Vikings want, but nothing has really changed. We'll continue to watch for actual news.
  • Looks like the "Not Romney" bandwagon is now visiting the Land of Newt. We've been there before and it's not a promising place to be. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Say It Ain't So, Joe

Joe Paterno is gone now, as the Board of Trustees at Penn State sent him packing yesterday, along with the president of the university, Graham Spanier. It had to happen, of course. A lot more needs to happen in the coming days as a great university has to deal with the moral dry rot and human carnage left behind.

In some respects, this situation reminds me of how I felt when we first learned the truth about Tom Petters, the Minnesota businessman whose business empire turned out to be a massive fraud. Because Petters had given large sums to charity and had been a figure of considerable goodwill in the community, it seemed unbelievable that he could have been orchestrating a shell game instead of a legitimate business, but the truth came out. It always does.

Paterno built and maintained a football program that seemed to embody everything that was good about sports. His success was evident on the field and in the larger world -- there are successful, well-spoken Penn State football alumni all over the country and they have, in the main, done remarkable things. None of that has changed. The lesson of this sordid ending is that no matter how successful you've been, no matter how much power and goodwill you've accumulated, there is likely to be a moment of truth, a moment when you have to do something that might cause your institution and your reputation great harm. There is great risk in doing the right thing, but you have to do it, no matter the circumstances. In 2002, it would been a huge shock to learn the truth about Jerry Sandusky, but if Paterno had stood tall at that moment, he'd have been able to make a horrible situation end. Nine years have passed since that moment and things have only become worse now. In attempting to preserve an empire, Paterno now loses everything, as he must.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

il miglior fabbro

I thought about writing yet another Vikings stadium post today, but Mitch Berg has already made the point well. Nothing more to add here.

The Penn State Fiasco

What's happening in Happy Valley is astonishing. I'm not surprised that a sexual predator could thrive in such an environment. I'm amazed that Joe Paterno, who holds the title of coach but is really the emperor of State College, PA, didn't see how much damage Jerry Sandusky had done.

We are now nine years on from when Joe Paterno apparently spoke with his athletic director concerning Sandusky's behavior. Based on what we know now, Paterno never followed up. It has also been reported that Sandusky was still hanging around at Penn State as recently as last week.

Think about the timing. We are talking about 2002. Do you remember what happened in 2002? Among other things, we started to learn the extent of the scandal surrounding the Catholic Church's failings in protecting young people from the sexual predators who were in its midst. Nine years on, the Church is still fumbling through its efforts to make things right. You would have thought that Joe Paterno would have connected the dots and would have taken more decisive action in getting Sandusky away from his beloved university. He didn't and the damage continued. And now the truth will out, as it always does.

We spend a lot of time bemoaning the scandals in collegiate sports, most of which involve greed and the kaleidoscopic standards of the NCAA. What happened at Penn State is worse than anything that happened at Ohio State, Southern Cal or even SMU. There's no gainsaying the good work that Joe Paterno has done in his life. He's always been more than a coach at Penn State -- he's raised millions of dollars for the university and a wide variety of charities. He has been the craggy, lovable face of Happy Valley. He's always been a man of action, a somewhat rumpled icon in black cleats. Yet at the critical moment in his career, he let an injustice continue. He'll never be able to erase the stain.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Congratulations to Mayor Jacobsen

It would appear that Dave Jacobsen has turned back the challenge of former mayor Bob Benke and has been re-elected as mayor of New Brighton. This is excellent news, as Mayor Jacobsen has done an excellent job in his first term and will now have a chance to continue the steady progress he has made in improving the performance and credibility of local government in New Brighton.

It also appears that Benke ally Mary Burg will return to the city council and that Paul Jacobsen (no relation to the mayor) will be a newcomer on the council, as incumbent David Phillips fell short. Phillips had some personal legal issues early in his city council term, but he never let those issues interfere with his performance in office. It's too bad that he won't get another term, but I am hopeful that Paul Jacobsen will use his considerable personal skill set well as he embarks on his service to the city.

Smokin' Joe

Boxing is increasingly a peripheral sport, so it's difficult to explain to younger people why Joe Frazier mattered. Frazier died yesterday at the age of 67, losing a battle against liver cancer. Frazier didn't lose many battles.

I don't really remember the first Frazier-Ali fight from 1971 -- I was in second grade at the time, but I remember it was a major story. It was Joe Frazier's fate to be the foil in his three fights against Muhammad Ali and he was a worthy one. In the 1970s there were four outstanding heavyweight fighters -- Ali, Frazier, George Foreman and Ken Norton. In the end, Ali was the one who won out, but Frazier was always there. He wasn't a quick wit or an inspirational figure like Ali, but no one worked harder.

Of the four big fighters, I always liked Frazier the best. It's difficult to remember this now, but in those days George Foreman was considered a menacing and malevolent figure, not the semi-cuddly pitchman he's been for the last 20 years. Ali was a magnificent fighter but his taunting ways bothered me when I was young. Frazier seemed to be more admirable -- a tough guy from Philadelphia who just did his work and kept coming. And since most of my buddies seemed to like Ali better, I decided to like Frazier instead. I remember some impassioned conversations with my buddies about the relative merits of the fighters, especially as they fought one another over the years. And I remember listening to the broadcasts of various Smokin' Joe fights on my transistor radio -- his shocking loss to Foreman in particular. I don't imagine too many kids do that any more.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Show Bob the Money

Over at Enlighten New Brighton, Steve Taylor reports a question he's encountered:

A common question one hears around New Brighton these days is why is Bob Benke running for public office again? Good question.
Steve discusses a number of reasons why it doesn't make sense:

Bob Benke has no substantive issues to run on. He throws out a few vague and nebulous platitudes about city government needing more "openness" and "vision", yet cannot state any credible specifics as to where the Mayor [Dave] Jacobsen falls short. In the candidate forums Benke begrudgingly admitted that the city is in pretty good financial shape under two years of Jacobsen's leadership, although he did not elaborate on how remarkable a feat this was considering the mess he and his politically allied successor had left after their terms in office.

There's another reason which Steve didn't bring up, although he hints at it:

Benke's implication that Mayor Jacobsen lacks openness is laughable, especially considering that it is coming from a long time professional lobbyist (it’s interesting to note that he euphemistically refers to this activity as "consulting"). The influence of lobbyists on public policy is the antithesis of open government. Deals are cut at private meetings and behind closed doors where political favors and influence are bought, sold, and bartered with little, if any, tangible accountability. Are we to believe that, if elected Mayor, Mr. Benke is just going to abandon his vast store of political capital and connections he has built up over his many years of lobbying and political activism? The huge potential conflicts of interest alone qualify as a major deal breaker as far as I’m concerned.

The conflicts of interest, you ask? Well, what would those be? On his own campaign literature, Benke proudly lists his involvement with the following organizations:

  • North Metro I-35W Corridor Commission;
  • The League of Minnesota Cities; and 
  • the Minnesota Mayors Association.

Benke's happy to tell you that he was past president of all of these organizations. What he doesn't tell you is that he was a paid lobbyist for at least one of the organizations in question. He received a $10,000 contract from the North Metro I-35W Corridor Commission and a $40,000 contract from the North Metro Mayors Assocation. The information is available in the 2005 reporting from the State Auditor on p. 152.

Benke also doesn't tell you that under the watch of his immediate successor, Steve Larson, New Brighton regularly paid membership dues to these organizations. Benke also doesn't tell you that Dave Jacobsen, the incumbent mayor, and the rest of the New Brighton City Council discontinued these payments last year.

A skeptical person might ask -- well, if Benke was paid in 2005, it doesn't mean that he's still getting paid in 2010. Well, according to the current records, Benke is still a registered lobbyist for those organizations.

It's pretty simple, really. Bob Benke had a decade-plus run as mayor of New Brighton, then subsequently hopped on the lobbyist gravy train. Since Benke was drawing pay for lobbying with organizations that the city government of New Brighton supported with membership dues, Benke never stopped drawing money from the city's coffers. That is, until Dave Jacobsen and the current city council cut him off. Which is why, by Benke's lights, Dave Jacobsen must be replaced.

Look, I don't blame a guy for wanting to get paid, but this sort of revolving door system between government and those who lobby government is corrosive to good government. And it takes a particular type of chutzpah for a guy like Bob Benke, who has been on this gravy train for the better part of the last quarter century, to pretend he's a paragon of good government.

The best way to put a stop to this sort of thing is to deny Bob Benke a return to the mayor's office. Dave Jacobsen has done an excellent job over the last two years cleaning up the mess that Bob Benke and his successor Steve Larson left behind. If you are a New Brighton resident, Dave Jacobsen deserves your vote on Tuesday.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Vikings to Arden Hills? XXIV -- The Harry Crump Gambit

The classic example of the term "chutzpah" is the man who kills his parents, then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he's an orphan. I thought of this when I heard what Ted Mondale has up his sleeve:

The Minnesota Vikings' lease at the Metrodome may require them to play one more season there, possibly erasing the team's claim of urgency in assembling a new stadium deal.

"We believe that the use agreement, because of the shortened season, calls for another year at the Dome," Metropolitan Sports Facilities Chairman Ted Mondale said Friday.

Shortened season? What does that mean?

The collapse of the Metrodome roof last winter in a freak blizzard forced the Vikings to play two of their 2010 season home games elsewhere. That, Mondale said, triggered the lease extension clause.
So in essence, because the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission couldn't provide a suitable place for the Vikings to play at the end of last season, the Vikings are required to spend another year in the same place that was unsuitable.

As you'd have guessed, the Vikings are not amused:

The Vikings disagree and say the agreement with the commission, which owns the Metrodome, expires by Feb. 1. If the National Football League team tries to leave, the dispute could land in court, a scenario similar to the commission's successful 2002 legal fight to keep the Minnesota Twins in the Metrodome.

Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said the team's view is based on legal analysis of the lease. "It is not in the state's or anyone's best interest to look for any reason to further delay a stadium solution," he said.
Think about this for a minute -- a freak blizzard is what is known in the legal biz as force majeure, also known as an "Act of God." As mentioned in the link I provide here, the key is that a force majeure provision, which is typically part of most contracts, binds both parties:

Typically, force majeure clauses cover natural disasters or other "Acts of God", war, or the failure of third parties--such as suppliers and subcontractors--to perform their obligations to the contracting party. It is important to remember that force majeure clauses are intended to excuse a party only if the failure to perform could not be avoided by the exercise of due care by that party.
I'm not a lawyer, but in most cases that means the cause that is beyond the control of either party doesn't change the terms of the agreement. What Mondale is arguing is that the Vikings are responsible for non-performance because they couldn't play the agreed number of games at the Dome and that therefore they owe  the MSFC another year. Really? If that were true, the lease is potentially perpetual. Suppose the Vikings were actually forced to play 2012 in the Dome under the terms of the existing lease. Now suppose that, the night before the last game of the 2012 season, there is a massive power outage in downtown Minneapolis and Xcel Energy can't restore power for a week. Would the Vikings then be obliged to play 2013 in the Dome, too? If Mondale's reading is correct, the answer is yes. Then in 2013, we could have a water main issue that would keep them until 2014. And in 2014 maybe another blizzard might do the trick. Heck, why negotiate at all?

I would imagine that the force majeure clause that Mondale believes binds the Vikings is related less to weather than it is to work stoppages -- remember that in 1982, the NFL had a strike that wiped out a big part of the season. A work stoppage is a force majeure event, but weather is a different matter.

The MSFC is probably looking for the equivalent of another Judge Harry Crump to enforce this provision. Crump is the now-retired county judge who stopped the Twins from getting out of their lease in 2002. And I have little doubt the MSFC would have no trouble forum-shopping the issue and finding a modern-day Crump.

So is this a win for those who want to keep the Vikings in Minnesota? Hardly. Do you suppose the Vikings and the NFL would be interested in making an agreement with anyone in Minnesota if they use this approach?  I could easily see enforcement of such a provision leading to a sale of the team, which would pretty much guarantee that the Vikings would be gone in 2013. The NFL may value the eyeballs and greenbacks the Vikings generate in this market, but the NFL's business model is contingent on always winning in the end, so they wouldn't be willing to accept a loss. If Minnesota wants to be the place that stops public subsidies for billionaires, I think that's great. I support the notion wholeheartedly. But we need to understand one thing: if Minnesota stands firm, Minnesota won't be part of the NFL's future until it gets its mind right, at least as far as the NFL sees it.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- This Month's Game of the Century Edition

Old dude, sometimes I feel like a time traveler. Do you know why?

No, but I bet I'm about to find out.

Because it seems like every month has a Game of the Century in college football. We must be in the 29th or 30th Century by now.

I hadn't thought of that, but you know what calling random college football games such things means, right?

Well, yes I do. No one understands the meaning of HYYYYYYYYYPPPPPPPE! more than I do, Geritol Fan. But when every game gets that much HYYYYYYYYYPPPPPPPE! it starts to lose power, I think.

Wow, that's pretty observant of you, Seabiscuit.

My powers of observation are pretty strong, old dude! Which is why I'm about to throw down. Watch me work!

Minnesota Golden Road-Kill (+28) vs. Sparty the Spartan. Well, if you're a Gopher fan, you have to be pleased that the Pig is staying in Minneapolis for another year. That was a nice thing to see and we're happy for Jerry the Cable Guy, er I mean Coach Kill. Well, a win over Iowa doesn't get you much love from the oddsmakers, apparently, because Sparty is favored by four touchdowns and is mad about what went down in Lincoln. What went down in Lincoln, you ask? Well, it was Sparty. After they stole that game from our beloved Badgers, they got reminded that karma can be a, ahem, female dog. I was going to say something else but I wanted to keep this family-friendly. If I were MarQueis Gray and Dajon McKnight, I would watch out for a cheap shot, considering Sparty's defense likes to dish such things out. Sparty 300, Pesky Gophers 0.

Ah, another Thermopylae reference. We'll assume that you really don't expect the Spartans to score on EVERY SINGLE PLAY, but we'll see what happens. I think Michigan State wins, but I'm not sure they'll win by four touchdowns. Michigan State 35, Gophers 17.

Purdon't Boilermakers (+25 1/2) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. My first suggestion to the Badgers is this -- no more Hail Marys, please! Leave that stuff back in church, okay? The good news is that Badgers have returned to Camp Randall Stadium, where they usually crush teams with great regularity. Purdue is an up-and-down team and they are going to be upset-minded, but they are having a difficult time stopping the run. Bad way to go into Camp Randall, especially considering that Montee Ball can score touchdowns about every few minutes. And often does. Angry Badgers 100, Purdon't 0.

You're not giving the Boilers a lot of love, then. Well, they don't really deserve much love, I suppose. Badgers should roll. Wisconsin 38, Purdue 14.

LSU Bayou Bengals (+4 1/2) vs. Alabama Roll Tide. It's the Game of the Century, November 2011 edition. The mighty titans stride upon the plains of Tuscaloosa, ready to show the world that they are the best teams in the country. At least according to the corrupt, rigged, horsehockey cartel known as the BCS. I don't know about you, but I'm really tired of the SEC and their dominance. The winner of this game has an excellent chance of reaching the BCS title game, in which they won't play Boise State. Weasels. So which team is better? I admittedly never watch Southern football, because it's no fun without Keith Jackson doing the game. And I'm really too young for Keith Jackson anyway, so why would I bother? Maybe they can find someone even older to broadcast the game. They'll probably use Verne Lundquist, who is pretty much covered in moss anyway. Roll Tide 49, Bar Fighters 42.

Allegedly these teams are very good at defense, which makes your pick interesting, young fella. From what I can tell, LSU is probably the more talented team, but Alabama is playing at home, so I'll go with them, too. Alabama 24, LSU 19.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-5 1/2) vs. San Diego Bolts. The Packers return from their bye week with an undefeated record. Meanwhile, San Diego played on Monday night and gift-wrapped a game for the Kansas City Chiefs, thereby greatly pleasing crusty Kansas City sports guy Jack Harry. We can't get enough of Jack 'round here. Anyway, the Bolts are very mistake-prone and you can't do that against the Packers. The only question is whether or not Charles Woodson has multiple pick sixes or not. Whatever you do, don't give the Packer offense a short field. Aaron Rodgers is on a mission and he is having what might be the greatest season in NFL history. Do you really think that Quentin Jammer is going to stop him? Did the Poles stop Germany? Packers 42, Bolts 38.

Hmm, so you think it will be high scoring, then. I suppose so. I think the Packers will be able to win this, but it won't be easy. San Diego is a pretty good team and it's tough to go out to the West Coast. But I think the Pack will get it done. Packers 35, San Diego 24.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (+7 1/2) vs. Philadelphia LeBrons. Well, we were told at the outset of this season that the Philadelphia Eagles were clearly the best team in professional football. They were favored to win the Super Bowl, the World Cup, the World Series, Wimbledon and the Westminster Kennel Club Best in Show. Well, maybe not that last one, since I assume the Westminster folks probably have a restraining order against the Eagle quarterback Mike Vick. So maybe they'll win the Kentucky Derby instead. Anyway, they are supposed to win everything. Funny, though -- I checked the standings and the Eagles are below .500. And even if they do make the playoffs, they will probably have to start out on the road, perhaps in New Orleans. Good luck with that. And even if they get past the Saints, they will have a dose of Lambeau or maybe Jim Harbaugh awaiting them with his hand outstretched. I think the Eagles are overrated and even though I hate to say this, I hope da Bearz dagger their season. Da Bearz 17, Dream Team 3.

I'm tired of the Eagles, too, but they are dangerous. They can score and the Bears are still a pretty shaky outfit right now. A team that changes its safeties every week might not like dealing with Jeremy Macklin and Desean Jackson. Eagles 31, Bears 20.

So, old dude, if we're in another century, maybe we should break out a bad old song. I'd listen to this a little longer, but it's making me nod off. Ben out!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Vikings to Arden Hills? XXIII -- Do You Feel Lucky?

Mark Dayton struck a pose yesterday:

A frustrated Dayton emerged from a tense meeting with Republicans and said he was postponing his plan to announce on Monday a stadium-funding proposal. The meeting came after another day of stadium politics that erupted after House Speaker Kurt Zellers messaged lawmakers Tuesday night to say he had "repeatedly" told Dayton he opposed a special session and felt the issue could wait until next year.

While Zellers largely dodged questions on where he stood after the Wednesday meeting with Dayton, the DFL governor pointedly said that he was "very surprised" by Zellers' comments.
I'm not sure what "largely dodged" means, but another Republican was plenty forthright:

Rep. Linda Runbeck, R-Circle Pines, who chairs the House Property and Local Tax Division, said since the summer there has been a sense growing among House members "who do not believe there's an emergency."

She dismissed any threat that the Vikings, who have played in the downtown Minneapolis Metrodome since 1982, would leave Minnesota if a publicly subsidized stadium is not approved soon.

"We've seen the stadium games played out all the previous decades," she said. "There's always a threat."

Then Lester Bagley, who has been riding point on this issue for Vikings, issued a threat:

Lester Bagley, the team's vice president for stadium development and public affairs, said that "it's only going to get more expensive and more difficult to resolve, especially if the state allows the lease to expire with no action. The Vikings' lease expires in 90 days. At that point, we will be the only NFL team without a lease."
So where does that leave us?

  • It would seem that the Republican caucus assumes the Vikings are bluffing. They may be correct in that belief.
  • I've seen it argued elsewhere that the Vikings wouldn't leave the Twin Cities because the NFL values the market too much. That may be, but it's worth remembering that the NFL doesn't have much leverage in controlling franchise movement. The recently deceased Al Davis took the NFL to court on numerous occasions as he moved his team up and down the West Coast in the 1980s and he won every court battle. If a team decides it wants to move, there's really not much the NFL can do to stop it.
  • Because the Vikings can move, they have significant leverage. What we don't know is what owner Zygi Wilf is doing outside of public view. When the Browns left Cleveland in 1995, local officials were completely surprised to learn that owner Art Modell had been negotiating with Baltimore. I would assume that Wilf has a few people in Los Angeles, and elsewhere, on his speed dial. Wilf could easily sell the team to another group, or take up one of the slots in Los Angeles. One thing to watch -- Peter O'Malley is working on assembling an ownership group to buy back the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team from current owner Frank McCourt. O'Malley's group has also indicated that they might pursue an NFL franchise.
  • Remember, the NFL could put two teams in the L.A. market, one in the AFC and one in the NFC.
  • From what I can see, the only other team that would be likely to move to L.A. soon would be the San Diego Chargers. If the NFL had its way, the Jacksonville Jaguars would be the franchise they'd prefer to move into the market, since it has now become evident that Jacksonville isn't able to support a team. The Jaguars have a lease that does not run out until 2030, however. While the team and the league could break the lease, it would be a messy event. The Chargers could opt out of their lease but they have been working year-to-year with the local officials there. That relationship is more stable than what we have here.
Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011


Herman Cain isn't able. Rick Perry is a silly man. They can both go away now.

That is all.

Vikings to Arden Hills? XXII -- No Sales Taxes or No Sale?

If you were concerned about paying an extra half-cent sales tax in Ramsey County, you need not worry any more. That ship has sailed:

Gov. Mark Dayton blew a gaping hole in the financing plan for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium Tuesday, saying plans to put local taxpayers on the hook for a share of stadium costs are not politically feasible.

With just days remaining before the governor presents his own stadium plan, Dayton's decision shifts a sizable share of the cost of the $1.1 billion stadium to the state or the Vikings while also stoking deeper interest in expanded gambling -- including electronic pull-tabs -- as a possible solution.
While I suspect that Dayton didn't "decide" anything other than to face reality, this is a significant change, since it removes the funding mechanism that Ramsey County officials had planned to use to fund their portion of the cost of a new stadium.

A number of people assume that, since this money is no longer available, that the Arden Hills site is now a dead letter. The Vikings aren't among those people, however:

Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley held a rare Capitol news conference afterward to tamp down speculation that the new twist had killed Ramsey County's site. "Arden Hills is [still] the ideal site," Bagley said.

The Vikings have an agreement with Ramsey County officials to build a stadium in Arden Hills. Under that plan, the state would have chipped in $300 million, the team would have paid $420 million and the county would have kicked in $350 million through a half-cent countywide sales tax.

But now that the money is no longer available?

Bagley was vague on what happens next.

"We'll put our heads together with Ramsey County [and] try to sit down and regroup," he said. Bagley deflected questions on whether the Vikings would pay a greater share of the project. He said the team is already providing the third-largest private contribution to a new National Football League stadium.

So what does it mean? A few things:

  • The report from the Star Tribune says that Bagley "deflected questions" about increased funding from the team. In other words, the team isn't going to pay.
  • You'll note that Bagley hasn't offered to put his head together with Minneapolis. I have believed from the outset that the Vikings have no interest in building a new stadium in Minneapolis. They have not changed this stance since the initial site announcement earlier this year. I take the Vikings at their word on this.
  • If you think about the economics involved, it's not surprising that the Vikings reject the Minneapolis proposals. Zygi Wilf and his ownership group want a new stadium, but they aren't willing to give up the revenue streams they would get from building a stadium in a suburban location. There's a reason for this -- Wilf paid top dollar for the Vikings when he bought the team and he has no intention of losing money on this deal. If he accepted a stadium at any of the Minneapolis sites, he'd have to give up a number of revenue streams he can get elsewhere. He won't do it.
  • Since the Vikings have no interest in a Minneapolis stadium, the notion of a casino on Block E is a nonstarter. It was a longshot in any event, because far too many politicians in this state depend on campaign contributions from the tribes who have successful casinos and don't want any more competition. You don't tug on Superman's cape and you don't mess around with the Mdewakanton Sioux.
  • In the end, the most likely source of funding is going to be electronic pulltabs. There's certainly an app for that, as they say. Whether there are votes for it are another matter. 

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Return of the Big Spender

I've been remiss in writing more about the upcoming mayoral election here in New Brighton. The incumbent is Dave Jacobsen, who has spent the two years trying to clean up the messes left behind by the previous two mayors, Steve Larson and Bob Benke.

Benke, who was mayor until 1999, started a number of unsavory practices that have cost New Brighton dearly. He has now decided that he should be mayor again. That would be a terrible idea. If you want to know why, I'd suggest you visit the Enlighten New Brighton site, which is in the midst of chronicling the Benke record. Click on the link and keep scrolling -- you'll learn rather a lot.

Sexy MF

I'm sure there's a perfectly good explanation:

Federal regulators have discovered that hundreds of millions of dollars in customer money has gone missing from MF Global in recent days, prompting an investigation into the company's operations as it filed for bankruptcy on Monday, according to several people briefed on the matter.

The revelation of the missing money scuttled an 11th hour deal for MF Global to sell a major part of itself to a rival brokerage firm. MF Global, the powerhouse commodities brokerage run by Jon S. Corzine, had staked its survival on completing the deal.

Wait, that name is familiar. So who is Jon Corzine?

Now, the investigation threatens to tarnish the reputation of Jon S. Corzine, the former New Jersey Governor and Goldman Sachs chief who oversaw MF Global's demise, making it the first American victim of Europe's debt crisis.

Yeah, it's that Jon Corzine. I'm hesitant to get too schadenfreude-ish about this, because although Corzine has been an especially irritating figure in American politics for some time now, there's real money on the line here and a lot of people trusted him. In addition, MF Global will not be the only brokerage firm that gets tripped up in what's happening in Europe. Having said that, I suspect this story is going to get a lot more interesting in the coming days.