Monday, April 30, 2012

Blog comment of the day

So we learn the following from the British press:

A majority of doctors support measures to deny treatment to smokers and the obese, according to a survey that has sparked a row over the NHS's growing use of "lifestyle rationing".

Some 54% of doctors who took part said the NHS should have the right to withhold non-emergency treatment from patients who do not lose weight or stop smoking. Some medics believe unhealthy behaviour can make procedures less likely to work, and that the service is not obliged to devote scarce resources to them.

In response, over at Hot Air, a commenter said this:

Well count me among the anti-fat and anti-smoking bigots. You choose to poison yourself (while also advocating that significantly less harmful stuff like weed should be illegal) then I could really care less about you. Get off the damn couch, turn off the damn TV, put down the greasy pork leg and do some friggin cardio already. And really, I blame the people who let fat men get laid. If women would stop sleeping with fat men, this obesity epidemic would be solved.
libfreeordie on April 29, 2012 at 10:19 PM

Do you agree?

Vikings to Plot of Land East of Metrodome XII - Chicken

Nothing happened yesterday at the Capitol. In nearly every instance, that's a good thing. And considering the mistake that's likely to come out of this session, it's a very good thing:

A chief author of the Minnesota Vikings stadium plan said Sunday it was "very questionable" that the project would win approval unless Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders first reach agreement on other issues.

"Without a global agreement, without an agreement on a bonding bill and a tax bill," said Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, "it's very questionable whether there will be a vote on the stadium."

The tax bill is something the Republicans want.

Republicans want the elimination of the statewide business property tax, a move the governor has resisted because it could require dipping into the state's emergency budget reserves.

Or worse, it could even lead to reductions in the size of government, something Dayton can't abide. Meanwhile, once again John Marty says something that is (a) true and (b) politically inconvenient:

But a plan to instead rely on user fees, placing charges on everything from tickets and stadium signs to the Vikings' share of television revenue, will likely be offered on the Senate floor.

If user fees replaced public subsidies for the stadium, "I would guess 99 percent of the public opposition [to the stadium] would go away," Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, a longtime critic of stadium public subsidies, said Sunday.

However, the one thing that the Vikings and the NFL can't abide is the idea that the people who actually use their palace would pay for it.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Only Money

Two stories, seemingly unrelated.

First, the Wall Street Journal notes that Illinois has a few issues to deal with:

Illinois is an object lesson in why firms are starting to pay more attention to the long-term fiscal prospects of communities. Early last year, the state imposed $7 billion in new taxes on residents and business, pledging to use the money to eliminate its deficit and pay down a backlog of unpaid bills (to Medicaid providers, state vendors and delayed tax refunds to businesses). But more than a year later, the state is in worse fiscal shape, with its total deficit expected to increase to $5 billion from $4.6 billion, according to an estimate by the Civic Federation of Chicago.

Rising pension costs will eat up much of the tax increase. Illinois borrowed money in the last two years to make contributions to its public pension funds. This year, under pressure to stop adding to its debt, the legislature must make its pension contributions out of tax money. That will cost $4.1 billion plus an additional $1.6 billion in interest payments on previous pension borrowings.

Business leaders are now speaking openly about Illinois' fiscal failures. Jim Farrell, the former CEO of Illinois Toolworks who is heading a budget reform effort called Illinois Is Broke, said last year that the state is squandering its inherent advantages as a business location because "all the other good stuff doesn't make up for the [fiscal] calamity that's on the way." Caterpillar, the giant Peoria-based maker of heavy construction machinery, made the same point more vividly when it declined in February to locate a new factory in Illinois, specifically citing concern about the state's "business climate and overall fiscal health."

I have a college friend who is a teacher in Illinois and he seems amazed that the pension he's been promised seems to be swallowing up the state budget. Math is hard.

Next, our old pal John Marty, in William Proxmire mode, has been running the numbers on the Vikings stadium:

If the bill for the Minnesota Vikings new stadium passes the cost to taxpayers will be $77.30 per ticket, per game, for 30 years, according to an analysis by state senator John Marty, who submitted his findings to his colleagues yesterday. . . . If the taxpayers of Minnesota think $77.30 is too much, Marty has even worse news: the real cost is much greater because his calculation does not include the value of the property tax exemption on the stadium and the parking ramps, nor the value of the sales tax exemption on construction materials.
To be fair, there will be many more events than 10 Vikings games a season in the building, so that cost will be less, potentially substantially less, than $77.30 per ticket. At the same time, Marty is correct about the property tax exemption and there's also the likelihood that the project costs we've heard are seriously lowballing what a stadium would actually cost. So, while the $77.30 per ticket subsidy is probably overstated, it may not be overstated by much.

The larger issue is this -- beyond the crushing amount of debt the federal government runs up each year, many states are looking at equally crushing debt loads. More importantly, there seems to be no understanding of how screwed we really are already. The money that so many people have assumed would be forthcoming simply won't be, for a variety of reasons. So when I see Mark Dayton and Paul Thissen braying about Republican obstructionism, I only wish I were more confident that the Republicans would actually do some obstructing.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A MinnPost Reader Sets Me Straight

I've been fortunate that my blog posts regularly appear in other places, especially True North. I also have been a regular participant in the "Minnesota Blog Cabin" section of MinnPost, which picked up a piece I wrote last week concerning the role that Ron Paul acolytes are playing in the Republican Party.

MinnPost tends to attract a very different readership than my other haunts -- it's largely an online competitor to the Star Tribune and employs a lot of ex-Strib and ex-Pioneer Press writers. It's also a place that tends to be, like the Star Tribune, leftish in its orientation and its readership. As a result, the commenters there are often critical of what I write. That's fine, although it sometimes leads to some strange exchanges.

I had the following exchange over there this week with a gentleman named Paul Udstrand, who is also a blogger. I thought it was interesting enough to share here.

Udstrand, whose blog is named "Thoughtful Bastards," asked what might be a rhetorical question:

What is it with you Republicans and music? Why do you keep grabbing music from liberal musicians? (the title of this article is from Bob Dylan's "Tangled Up In Blue"). Aren't there any flag waving country music songs you can use?

Well, I like music and song lyrics often make dandy headlines for blog posts. And while I have no animus against Lee Greenwood, I prefer Bob Dylan. So I responded thus:

Actually, Mr. Udstrand, I prefer Bob Dylan to "flag waving country music songs." By your leave.

Which led to the following response, which is simultaneously condescending and 100% wrong:

Mark, I'm afraid you have seriously misinterpreted Bob Dylan, for one thing, it's not country, it's folk music. At least we share something in common however... we like Bob Dylan.

Whenever I'm instructed by a liberal that I've misinterpreted something, it's likely because I famously lack the nuance for which liberals are justly celebrated. But since I'm not a "Thoughtful Bastard" and am actually an ornery cur, I couldn't let that one go:

Really, Mr. Udstrand? I've "seriously misinterpreted Bob Dylan?" Where did I say Dylan was a country music artist? He certainly dabbled in it, from "John Wesley Harding" in '68 and his subsequent sojourn to Nashville, which was some 4 years after he essentially left folk music behind. Or have you not heard about the breaking news of Dylan's appearance with electric guitars at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival and the subsequent outrage that greeted that performance, some 47 years ago now? Dylan was a crucial figure in folk music, but only for a brief time. The vast majority of his career and his songbook resides elsewhere. Dylan belongs to rock as much or more as he belongs to folk or any other genre.

As I'm guessing you know, "Blood on the Tracks" was released in late 1974, a full decade after Dylan went electric with "Bringing It All Back Home." As such, it's a rock album.

Now, I do like country, but my tastes in that genre run more to Bob Wills and Hank Williams Sr., although I like Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard, too. And I also like Marvin Gaye, the Clash, the Drifters and Django Reinhardt.

In other words, I like a lot of music. I'm not especially fond of condescension, though.

Maybe that was an uncharitable response. I guess I should be grateful that my instructor is a "Thoughtful Bastard" and not a heartless bastard. Because then I'd have really been in trouble....

Bully Pulpit

It would be both churlish and dishonest to deny that bullying exists, as it always has. Human nature being what it is, it's unimaginable that it wouldn't. In the same way, human nature being what it is, most people are willing to accept the idea that the impact of bullies and bullying be limited when possible.

In that spirit, I call your attention to the commentary of one Dan Savage, best known for his exhaustively detailed advice to the lovelorn, which is printed amongst the adverts in the transactional sex sections of City Pages and similar urban publications. He's also a bit of a Biblical scholar, it turns out and offered some deep thoughts on the subject recently at a student journalist convention in Seattle. Stacy McCain shares a report:

“People often point out that… they can’t help with the anti-gay bullying because it says right there in Leviticus, it says right there in Timothy, it says right there in Romans, that being gay is wrong,” Savage tells the crowd in a short video posted on Tumblr by a student attendee.
“We can learn to ignore the [expletive] in the Bible about gay people the same way we have learned to ignore the [expletive] in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation,” Savage said.
At this point, student Jenny Patterson yelled “That’s bull,” and walked out. As other students followed, Savage called them “pansies,” she said.
Pansies? If I didn't know better, one might think that was a little bullying of Mr. Savage, no?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Vikings to Plot of Land East of Metrodome XI -- Subsidized Vaseline

It may not matter much to the stampede wearing the Helga braids, but it's worth thinking about what happens if the legislature does go ahead with building the new Vaseline Dome. Writing for the Star Tribune, Mike Kaszuba notices a little contract language:

The agreement to build a new Minnesota Vikings football stadium in Minneapolis features a key difference from the plan to build the project in Ramsey County and even from the Minnesota Twins' new Target Field.

Once it is built, any Vikings stadium operating cost overruns ultimately will be the public's responsibility.

And not just overruns. The public will be legally obligated to maintain the stadium "in a manner that is first-class and consistent with comparable" National Football League stadiums -- a clause that could translate into substantial future costs.
What does "first-class" mean? In the case of Indianapolis, which built the Colts their Xanadu a few years back, it meant new taxes:

Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis opened in 2008 and when the stadium's operating costs quickly exceeded projections, the pressure fell on the Capital Improvement Board, the public body that operates the stadium.

"The operating expenses increased because the new venue -- I don't want to say quite doubled the size -- but it was a much larger venue" than the Colts' older stadium, said Dan Huge, the board's chief financial officer. "There was definitely a step up."

In response to the financial crisis, he said, state lawmakers in Indiana authorized a hotel and motel tax and created a sports development area -- two moves that now generate $11 million a year extra for the operating costs of both the stadium and a nearby convention center.
Of course, Minneapolis already has an effective sales tax rate of over 10% in the downtown area, which is used for the ongoing cost of the convention center and is now projected to pay for the Minneapolis "share" of the stadium costs, so hiking the local sales tax is likely a non-starter. Adding additional taxes to hotels and motels will make the cost of travel to the Twin Cities more expensive. And would the taxes apply only to downtown hotels, or would it apply to hotels throughout the area? These things matter.

And what happens if the Vikings get their wish?
In the proposed deal for the Vikings stadium, language is more vague. The public authority would be obligated to operate the stadium in a "first-class" manner "consistent with comparable NFL stadiums, such as, but not limited to, Lucas Oil Stadium."
It's not clear if the "public authority" in question would be the existing Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, or if yet another "public authority" would be created to oversee the operations of the new stadium. After all, Target Field has its own public authority, the Minnesota Ballpark Authority. Certainly there needs to be yet another one for this facility -- we need to hire more bureaucrats!

For their part, the Vikings are saying this is what the state officials want:

Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley said it was the state -- not the team -- that wanted the public to have more control of the new stadium in Minneapolis. Mondale agreed and said that in keeping with Dayton's wishes, "the philosophy in 'the People's Stadium' is that the public would run the stadium."
Well, yeah. The public needs more bureaucrats, especially more who are beholden to Mark Dayton and Ted Mondale for their gainful employment.

Meanwhile, consider what happened in Cincinnati:

In Cincinnati, where the NFL's Bengals got a new stadium in 2000, the costs have forced Hamilton County to sell a hospital. Greg Hartmann, the county board president, said the county not only paid for most of the stadium's construction, but also pays for most of its escalating operating costs.

"I'd love to trade with you," he said, in explaining the county's stadium dilemma.

Nah, Mr. Hartmann. We don't trade. We join. And we know we're smarter than everyone else:

"We've done a good job," Mondale told a Senate panel Wednesday. He added later that he is confident state officials have avoided a "long history" of mistakes public officials in other NFL cities have made because they have been distracted by getting a "shiny car."
It's shiny, all right.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Vikings to Plot of Land East of Metrodome X -- Sand in the Vaseline

Apparently some of our friends in the legislature haven't gotten the memo yet regarding the Vikings stadium:

A Senate panel's surprise vote Wednesday to authorize racinos as a way to fund a new Minnesota Vikings stadium left project backers scrambling to erase the proposal before it could scuttle the stadium effort.

The racino addition approved by the Senate Finance Committee was another indicator that many legislators remain doubtful that the state's $398 million share of the $1 billion stadium can be funded solely by allowing electronic bingo and pulltabs in Minnesota bars and restaurants.

Legislators should be doubtful about the pulltabs and electronic bingo, because they won't come close to paying for this thing, especially when the cost overruns start to pile up. Adding a racino does two useful things:

  • It again shows how rotten this whole enterprise is; and
  • It demonstrates conclusively how the modern-day DFL is a nothing but a shell that is wholly owned by its various benefactors. Doubt that? Consider this:
On Wednesday, DFLers said to expect no help from them if the racino provision remained. "You'll have almost no votes from the [DFL] caucus," said Sen. Richard Cohen, DFL-St. Paul.
You don't tug on Superman's cape and you don't mess around with the metro tribes. Meanwhile, various Vikings players were palling around the Capitol yesterday, which got the attention of the television cameras, but Adrian Peterson and Chad Greenway weren't the most important visitors. The NFL's version of Luca Brasi was there, too:

"I feel like we have been watching a very hard fought, great game, with the Vikings marching down to the goal line," said Eric Grubman, a National Football League executive vice president, after watching the stadium debate at the State Capitol. "And I feel like they're very close. And I think when it's very close, it gets really tough."
Grubman is watching, people. Better get your minds right.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Benster and D Mock the Draft -- 2012 Edition

Well, it's just about that time when we need to offer an informed analysis about the NFC North's prospective draft needs. Oh, who am I kidding? We aren't gonna go there, old dude!

So what are we doing, young fella?

We are going to mock the draft. Just like we did last year, because let's face it, you've always tried to bring me up correctly and I believe the song goes, "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Mel Kiper."

Seems like good advice to me.

Well, since we have established our ground rules here, let's get to it. Watch me work!

Minnesota Vikings: Well, the first thing to realize about the Purple is that it's still not clear that whoever they draft will not have to move to Los Angeles next year. So my advice to the first-round pick of the Vikings is simple -- rent. The Vikings are coming off a 3-13 season, so they have many needs, but I think chief among them is the need for a lame sportscaster. I'm pretty tired of watching Vikings games on FOX where they trot out Sam Rosen and some guy who made a NFL roster back in about '82 or so. I mean, I get why they have to find so many of these guys -- would you want to spend a season sitting next to Sam Rosen? I think not! Last year, I recommended high-pitched FSN superstar Robbie Incmikoski, who did solidify their need for lame sideline analysis and also provided all of us with a lot of laughs as he struggled mightily to pronounce the name of Nicola Pecovic. But now we need to get Robbie some help, which is why I recommend that the Vikings return once more to the FSN well and choose Kevin Gorg, who is less high-pitched than our man Robbie, but much more bald and equally incoherent.

Bold choice, but I think the Vikings need to close ranks in other areas. They have assembled quite an impressive roster at the Capitol to help them get their new stadium, but they need help, so I'm going to recommend that they bring on one of the more skeptical members of the legislature, Sen. Dave Thompson of Lakeville. He's even more bald than Gorg but usually is able to string together a sentence or two without resorting to cliches. That's a rare thing at Winter Park, young fella.

Good point, Geritol Fan! But now we need to move on to the up and coming, blue-clad squad from Meeshegan. Yes, I mean the:

Detroit Lions: Detroit is looking really good, although they've had a few issues with the police blotter lately. It seems like Ndamukong Suh gets a traffic ticket every few days or so, and various members of their offense apparently majored in Street Pharmacology Studies in college. To remedy that problem, we need to get someone of sterling character to suit up for Jim Schwartz. Last year, I suggested Eminem, which probably wasn't the wisest choice, the more that I think about it. We need to do better this time. We need a guy who can build something that lasts, which is why I'm going with Henry Ford. Now, I realize that Ford died in 1947, but it's not as if the Lions would be able to tell the difference between a guy who's been dead for 65 years and most of the people who have suited up for them in recent years. I mean, tell me -- would you rather play Henry Ford or Joey Harrington? I think that question answers itself, old dude! Go with Ford, I say!

Now that I think about it, Henry Ford probably had a better season in 2003 than Joey Harrington did, so I take your point. But now we need to be forward thinking. The Lions seem to have anger management issues and that means they need someone who can calm their nerves and get them to be at peace with the world. It's pretty clear that the fellow the Lions need is the Dalai Lama. A big hitter, the Lama.

Okay, that's a little strange, old dude.

Well, at least my draft pick is alive.

Okay, good point. Speaking of dead, it's time to consider the:

Chicago Bears: Chicago had a terrible season last year and Jay Cutler got mailed home in an interoffice envelope once the defensive linemen of the league got past his turnstile O-line. So, you would think that the Bears need an offensive lineman, right? Well, no. The better move is to get someone who is simply offensive. Last year I suggested Muammar Gadhafi, who failed to report to the team because he was killed in a civil war during the summer. Now, you might suppose the Bears would have learned something from that experience, but if you think that, you don't know the Bears. So I'm going to recommend that the Bears double down on corrupt Middle Eastern dictators and draft Bashar al-Assad. He may not have a chin, but he's certainly ruthless enough to line up next to Brian Urlacher and put down the opposition. By any means necessary.

Wow, that's bold. I'm thinking that the Bears need to go another direction this year. Last year I suggested Gilbert Gottfried for the Bears, but he apparently wasn't quite as irritating as Bears announcer Hub Arkush, so this year I'm thinking they need to get someone who is even more irritating than either Gottfried or Arkush. So the key is to pick someone who is (a) irritating and (b) has an irrational hatred toward the Green Bay Packers. That can only mean one person -- Skip Bayless. If Bayless can remove his lips from Tim Tebow's backside, he'll be an excellent pickup for the Bears.

Wow, you're just mean, old dude. I wouldn't sic Skip Bayless on anyone. Meanwhile, let's turn our attention to the glorious:

Green Bay Packers: The Packers are coming off a year that was both successful and yet disappointing. Going 15-1 was pretty impressive, but getting their butts handed to them by the New York Media Giants was even worse. So my beloved Packers have work to do. They need someone who also had a tough year, but who has the resilience to fight back against bitter foes. It's pretty clear that the Packers need to draft Scott Walker. Last year I suggested David Prosser, who was victorious against Geritol Fan's pick, Joanne Kloppenburg. So I think I'm on solid ground with this pick.

No, I think the Packers need to pick someone who is tougher than Walker. They need to pick someone who can dominate the competition and tell people what's what. The obvious pick for the Packers is our very own Fearless Maria. Let's face it, she's been dominating her middle school all year long and she's tough enough to handle most anything. So we'll go that way. Although I'd like the Packers to consider (for real) Beloit College superstar Derek Carrier in the late rounds. 

Okay, now let's face it. These picks are much better than anything that helmet-head Kiper could come up with. Exhaustively researched and brilliantly considered. This has been your NFL Mocked Draft for 2012. Ben out!

Vikings to Plot of Land East of Metrodome IX -- Unicorn Sausage

If you'd ever thought that most of what happens in government is kabuki, you were correct. Consider what's happening now with the Vikings stadium bill, which apparently no longer needs any vetting:

Business and labor leaders put political muscle behind a new Minnesota Vikings stadium Tuesday, their support helping build what one lawmaker described as a growing "air of inevitability" as the project neared a final vote.

In passing through a second Senate panel, the stadium plan continued an extraordinary political march at the Legislature after being left for dead barely a week ago. In both the House and Senate, the stadium's public subsidy package seemed headed for a vote this week, although either a razor-thin victory or a crushing defeat remained possible.

"It feels like a first down, [and] another first down -- got a good drive going here," said Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, who chairs the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Committee, where the proposal passed on a unanimous voice vote Tuesday. "I think, after a while, it starts to take on a little bit of momentum and an air of inevitability," Michel said.

Don't you worry your pretty little heads about how this thing is going to get paid for -- the unicorns are on the march! More important, it's becoming a garbage scow with all manner of other goodies piled on:

There were however other sweeteners added Tuesday for St. Paul, mostly in an effort to entice legislators from St. Paul to back building the stadium in downtown Minneapolis.

The legislation now includes a provision to spend $1.3 million annually for 20 years that can be used for, among other things, a new downtown ballpark for the St. Paul Saints.

Metzen's move created some tension, which could be seen Tuesday as Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak had an animated conversation with St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman in the back of the hearing room.

"We do believe that there absolutely has to be parity," Coleman told the panel.

I suppose if we're going to spend, spend, spend, we might as well throw Coleman a bone and give him "My First Stadium - By Kenner!" too. Metzen, by the way, is James Metzen, a DFLer from South St. Paul, who would also like to add $43 million more to pay for debt relief for the RiverCentre and Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Meanwhile, Michel eloquently sums up the current feeding frenzy and gives an object lesson regarding what happens when you spend too much time in the legislature:

"We don't have an ocean," said Michel, who added that to many outsiders, Minnesota merely represents "flyover" country. "We need some things, [and] this is part of our stuff."
We're getting stuffed, all right. If Michel wants to be honest about things, I would suggest that the lege work with the Vikings to give the corporate naming rights for this new stadium to Vaseline.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dilettante 3000

Welcome the 3000th post on Mr. Dilettante's Neighborhood. We'll start with a little music:

One of my favorite songs of all. This blog began 6+ years ago as a lark, something for a bored guy to do over his lunch hour. It's still a lark for the most part, but it's also given me (and my co-bloggers, family members all) a chance to share a few thoughts on the passing scene. It's also led to some great friendships.

As social media go, blogging may be a little past its sell-by date, but there are many things one cannot communicate on Facebook or Twitter. We've spent more time on political matters here than I ever thought we would, and there does seem to be an audience for that. Here's another song:

The one constant -- as serious as we've been at times, I do hope that we've never lost sight of the need to entertain, too. So here's another song:

Thank you for visiting. I hope that if we post 3000 more times, you'll still find it worth your time.

Vikings to Plot of Land East of Metrodome VIII -- Details, Shmetails

All it took was Roger Goodell to give the marching orders, apparently. Perhaps we're going to get a new Vikings stadium after all:

The Minnesota House revived the plan for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium on Monday, and the project's momentum accelerated throughout the day amid indications the full House and Senate could vote on the proposal by Friday.

Just a week after a House committee dealt a severe blow to the project, the Ways and Means Committee Monday night sent a revised funding plan to the full House without recommendation.

So all those details concerning funding? No reason to worry about that, apparently.

In just the past week, legislators have tentatively altered the plan on two critical fronts: Making it more likely that residents in Minneapolis -- the stadium would be built in downtown Minneapolis -- would have a referendum on the stadium, and also putting in jeopardy financial relief for the city-owned Target Center as part of the plan.

But Monday, the chief House author of the stadium legislation said that, despite lingering criticisms over the stadium's funding and location, it was likely too late to make such major changes to the proposal.

"There's an increasing sense that people want to get it to the floor for a final vote -- even the people who likely are going to vote no," said Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead.

"I think we're beyond that," he said of major changes to the plan. "There just simply isn't time."

Yep, it's time to eat that crap sandwich. A few observations:

  • As we've maintained here from the outset, the funding is chimerical. The state, which means the taxpayers, will be on the hook for this thing. At one point that was an issue, but apparently it isn't any more. Don't expect any explanation of why that changed.
  • If the bill gets through and Gov. Dayton signs it, you can bet that a lawsuit will be filed within minutes. The Vikings and their governmental benefactors had better hope that the judge is the spiritual successor to Harry Crump.
  • The most amusing part of this deal is that Target Center gets bailed out. The politicians in St. Paul who sandbagged the Arden Hills site have to be kicking themselves now, because a revitalized Target Center will likely take business away from Xcel Energy Center. And because the Vikings stadium is essentially taking all the other oxygen out of the Capitol building, the Lowertown ballpark for the St. Paul Saints probably won't happen, either. Well played, Chris Coleman!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Music in the Cafes at Night and Revolution in the Air

There's always been a reason for having the term "dilettante" be part of this blog.

I participate in the Republican Party, but I have always made a conscious decision to maintain a mostly arms-length stance with regard to party politics. I participate in caucuses at the BPOU level, but I've never pursued going any further than that. There are reasons for this, especially since I'd rather not feel like I have to mince words if I feel the need to criticize someone in the party when I write on this blog. And given the current state of the Republican Party in Minnesota, there's plenty to criticize.

Two things are happening right now that aren't especially helpful. First, the state Party has been dealing with a fair amount of negative publicity concerning its finances, including the embarrassing revelation that it is behind on rent for the party headquarters, to the point where the party has received an eviction notice from its landlord. Much of the problem stems from the practices of the previous leadership team of the party, which made some financial decisions that didn't turn out well. The current head of the party is Pat Shortridge, who is a very savvy guy and who will, if given sufficient time and resources, turn things around.

The question is this -- will he have the time? It's been fairly quiet until now, but there has been a bit of a hostile takeover going on within the party. Ron Paul supporters have done a tremendous job of organizing and getting their delegates through the BPOU process and to the Congressional District conventions. Depending on whose numbers you believe, Paul's supporters may end up controlling the vast majority of the Minnesota delegation at the national GOP convention, as well as the leadership in the CD organizations. Mitch Berg has written an excellent synopsis of what went down in the 4th CD, where most of incumbent leadership team was summarily dumped and the Paul supporters have now taken over. Similar things have happened elsewhere in the state as well.

This needs to be said at the outset -- it's not a bad thing per se that the Paulites are taking over. I personally agree with about 80% of what the Paul supporters believe, especially regarding the disastrous financial path the country finds itself on. I'm also quite concerned about the size and scope of government at every level. And I can even be convinced that many of the foreign adventures that our government undertakes are ill-advised. We've been maintaining a diffident empire for the better part of a century now and it's not sustainable. The Paulites are correct about most of these issues.

Having said that, there's more than a whiff of revolution in the air right now, especially within the party. And that's not a good thing. Mitch does a very good job of explaining the issue (emphasis in original):

Now, I know that there are a lot of good, committed people among the Paul crowd who are committed to using their positions in the GOP to work for the party, not just a candidate or two.

But I get a different impression from some of their leadership.  Ronald Reagan once said that if someone agrees with you 70% of the time, it doesn’t make them 30% your enemy.

And from some of the Paul crowd’s leadership, I do get the impression that, whether motivated by single-candidate zeal or roiling anger over 2008 or one of the mind-boggling number of byzantine interpersonal pissing matches that seems to motivate so much of CD4 GOP politics no matter who the nominee or the cause celebre or what the defining issue is, the Paul crowd’s leadership, in the district and beyond, sees “70% friends” as “30% enemies”.
I see that, too, especially in other social media. In one case a week or so back, one triumphal Paul supporter was bragging on Facebook about how the Paul forces had defeated the leadership of the 6th CD, using a term I would prefer not to share here, but that suggested a particularly odious form of criminal sexual conduct. I suspect that, in the moment of triumph, this individual was overstating the case a bit.

But let's set the locker room smack talk aside for the moment. The larger issue is this -- a revolution within a voluntary organization is not the same thing as a revolution in a government. People can, and do, walk away from political parties all the time. And unless the Paulites build coalitions with Republicans of a more, ahem, traditional sort, they will find that they clutch an empty vessel.

I understand the disgust that many people have with establishment Republicans in Minnesota, who have too often been the tax collectors for the DFL. The list of odious establishment GOPers in this state is long. There are individuals I deeply respect who have no use for the GOP as it has operated for the past 20 years or so and are not shy about saying so.

It's also worth mentioning that some of the Paul supporters who came into the party in '08 were responsible for some of the triumphs of '10. Plenty of conservative voices now at the Capitol owe the Paul supporters a debt.

Still. . . still. . . . Perhaps it's just me, but my sense is that while the takeover now underway may be a tactical triumph, it holds the seeds of an epic failure. The GOP of the recent past was not the province of Arne Carlson or David Durenberger; those gentlemen of a different era have long been free to be the operational Democrats they always were. For all the problems of the party organization, it's worth remembering that the GOP of the recent past is as much John Kline and Michele Bachmann as it is Tim Pawlenty and Norm Coleman and Ron Carey. It will be very important that the Paul supporters understand that it will take everyone, even those they might ordinarily disdain, for there to be electoral success in the fall. Right now, there's a lot of anger out there. That needs to change. Leadership of a political party means more than taking control and dictating terms. Leadership means building. And the first step will be to make sure those who were defeated are not disdained.

The Goldstein Brothers

Over at Powerline, John Hinderaker asks a rhetorical question concerning the bizarre assertions that the Koch brothers are paying for George Zimmerman's legal defense in the Trayvon Martin case:

But why does any rumor relating to Koch, no matter how baseless or bizarre, rise to the level where it prompts an inquiry from a major television news network which obviously hopes to include a Koch angle in its story?

So what's that about? Hinderaker:

I wrote here about MSNBC’s campaign to tie the Koch brothers to George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin. That effort was, it is fair to say, insane, but it apparently inspired one or more liberals to take MSNBC’s theories a step farther. Someone wrote–I think it was on Facebook–that Koch Industries had paid for Zimmerman’s legal defense and/or put up his bail money. Other liberals happily repeated the claim, to the point where Snopes deemed it a rumor worth addressing.

There's a hilarious yet dismaying email exchange between Koch and a researcher for CBS News at the link. It's worth your time to read.

Dogs, Squirrels

Again, with emphasis.

  • I don't care that Barack Obama ate dog meat at his stepfather's behest some 40+ years ago.
  • Nor do I care that Mitt Romney put his dog in a travel carrier and strapped said carrier to the roof of his vehicle some 30 years ago.
So why do we talk about these things? Because just as the movie "Up" so cleverly pointed out, dogs can be distracted from their duties at the site of a squirrel. And humans can be distracted by news of dogs.

One of the primary goals of the Obama campaign and it surrogates, up to this point, has been to portray Mitt Romney as a strange man who doesn't understand the real world or its concerns. The dog on the roof story had been part of that narrative and it's not surprising that heard it repeatedly. That's why the "Obama eats dog" story is simultaneously cynical and useful. If mistreating a dog is a bad thing, eating one is worse. And now neither side wants to talk about the issue. Score one for Romney and his surrogates.

At bottom, this election is about the same thing as the elections of 1964, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1992, 1996 and 2004: it's going to be a referendum on the performance of the incumbent. If the incumbent's campaign would rather talk about dogs, it tells you something important about the incumbent.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Vikings to Semi-Nomadic Existence II -- The Offer You Can't Refuse

After many years, clowntime is over. It's time to get down to bidness:

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will meet with state leaders Friday in a high-stakes effort to win a publicly funded stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.

The meeting with Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders from both parties follows a Thursday telephone call in which NFL officials told Dayton it was urgent to resolve the stadium issue this spring. "They didn't issue any threats or anything, but it was more of a warning" that the Vikings might leave Minnesota, Dayton said on Thursday. "It was very clear that they see that the Vikings will be in play [to move] if this is not resolved or unfavorably resolved in this session."
The difference between a warning and a threat is often one of semantics, but I have little doubt that a threat is on the table. Eric Grubman, who is the NFL's designated button man on such issues, had an interview with KFAN's Dan Barreiro yesterday. Grubman said two things that are worth mentioning:

  • The NFL believes that there are now two viable sites in Los Angeles for a stadium; and
  • The NFL will have a team in Los Angeles, but it may not be an expansion team. In fact, there are no plans for expansion in the near term.
Meanwhile, back at the lege, some people still don't understand the state of play:

Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, a vocal opponent of public subsidy packages for stadiums, said she wanted to know whether Goodell was coming as part of an orchestrated stadium lobbying effort or to show how serious the situation really is.

"I honestly want to know that," she said. "Is it real? Is it rhetoric?"
Now, this is some primo silliness. Of course the effort is "orchestrated." Nothing happens in government that isn't orchestrated in one way or another. And orchestration in itself signals a measure of reality. Although it might seem that way at times, random events aren't brought before the legislature.

This moment has been coming for a long time. You don't get the sort of power the NFL has unless you are willing to be ruthless. Minnesotans have been dodging the question for as long as possible, but now it's time to decide. What is having a pro football team worth to this area?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dog Breath

Remember this?

“They talk about me like a dog,” Obama said of his political opponents. “That’s not in my prepared remarks, but it’s true.
Now, in the wake of much snickering about Mitt Romney's, ahem, unorthodox choice of dog transport, we are reminded of the following autobiographical detail:

Can you name the author of this quote?

“With Lolo, I learned how to eat small green chill peppers raw with dinner (plenty of rice), and, away from the dinner table, I was introduced to dog meat (tough), snake meat (tougher), and roasted grasshopper (crunchy). Like many Indonesians, Lolo followed a brand of Islam that could make room for the remnants of more ancient animist and Hindu faiths. He explained that a man took on the powers of whatever he ate: One day soon, he promised, he would bring home a piece of tiger meat for us to share.”

Yep, that’s Barack Obama, writing about his childhood with his stepfather Lolo Soetoro in Indonesia, from Chapter Two of his bestseller Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.

Should we care about any of this? I don't. Although if Lolo Soetero's theory was correct, I have to assume that everyone in Washington is eating weasel meat these days.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Emily Litella Souhan

Rare mid-day post, because I couldn't let this one pass without comment. Jim Souhan, ace Star Tribune columnist, uncorked a real stemwinder aimed at Rep. Dean Urdahl today, filled with righteous rage and ridicule toward a legislator that Souhan obviously considers his intellectual inferior:

Politicians like Urdahl are counting on you being as shallow as they are. Urdahl ignored all of the legitimate concerns about building a stadium for the Vikings, all of the complications that accompany the serpentine negotiations that result in any public-private partnership, and reduced the dialogue to something you might hear from a drunk at closing time.
Souhan was just getting warmed up. Consider this bon mot:
I can respectfully disagree with politicians who take consistent, principled, stands against stadiums. Those like Urdahl who shamelessly pander to the simple-minded people should not be taken seriously. Next time you ask a question about the stadium, Mr. Urdahl, please get help from someone with a better grasp of stadium politics, like, oh, a Kardashian.
Way to confront ignorance! Way to speak truth to power, Mr. Souhan! Stirring!

 One little problem -- Urdahl voted in favor of the stadium. Just thought you should know.

Don't Want a Stadium?

Never fear -- there are plenty of people who have other ideas for how to spend your money. So if you like big spending, but can't stomach a stadium, get a load of what might be coming if the train guys get their way:

Local officials from the southwest, northwest and east could be converging simultaneously at the Capitol seeking $100 million or more in state funding for each of three possible light-rail transit (LRT) lines – in the Southwest, Bottineau and Gateway corridors.

That could be mission impossible if Republicans retain control of the Legislature in this fall’s election. In the current legislative session, both houses have resisted providing even a $25 million down payment on the state’s share of the cost for the proposed $1.25 billion line in the Southwest Corridor between downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie.

And that's not all -- check out what it all might look like. Click on the image if you'd like a closer look:

Just to put this in perspective -- the blue line is the Hiawatha line that Jesse Ventura rammed through. The green line between "The Interchange" and Union Depot represents the Central Corridor project that is currently underway. The other green line down to Eden Prairie is the proposed Southwest Line that supposedly will cost $1.25 billion, but in truth will be a lot more than that. All the pea soup green lines represent the wish lists of the choo-choo enthusiasts.

Steven Dornfeld at MinnPost has been writing about these subjects for many years and also worked for the Met Council, so he understands it all well. There's a lot more at the link and you should familiarize yourself with it. The train people aren't going away any time soon and if all of this were built, we'll be looking at numbers with a vapor trail of zeros. And while the tracks might not lead to your house, they will lead to your wallet.

And, by the by, if you'd prefer that transportation money go to fixing existing roads, well, here's your wakeup call.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Vikings to Semi-Nomadic Existence

Sometimes you can't believe everything they say in the Star Tribune. Consider this howler:

In Monday's vote, only one member of Dayton's DFL party, Rep. Michael Nelson of Brooklyn Park, voted for the bill, joining five Republican members. That angered Zellers, who is not leading the charge on the stadium but who has said the bill must draw bipartisan support to move forward.
Angered? Not on your life. The only way the DFL could have covered Zellers's butt any better is if they bought him a pair of MC Hammer pants. The deal was simple -- if the stadium bill died at any point in the festivities, it was going to be all the fault of Kurt Zellers. Sid Hartman has been telling us that from the beginning. But since 5 of the 6 DFLers on the committee voted against the bill, including House members from Minneapolis itself, the DFL owns the defeat equally.

So what does it mean? Potentially, a couple of things:

  • It's not a given that the team will decamp for Los Angeles, as everyone assumes. There are other markets that would welcome the Vikings. And if you are thinking the options are limited to the United States, think again. Toronto would love to have a team. Most observers have thought that the Buffalo Bills would eventually end up in Toronto when their owner dies, but if Toronto could get a team now, they wouldn't hesitate.  And if you really want a big market, try Mexico City.
  • Arden Hills might be back in the game, especially if it becomes clear that the only way to get the thing built is to involve the White Earth tribe. They could build their casino on part of the TCAAP property and Zygi would still have plenty of room for his pleasure dome. The NFL wouldn't be too keen on gambling money being involved in the stadium, but there probably isn't another way right now. 
The bottom line? There is no bottom line. So the door is open for any wild speculation you might want to offer.

Vikings to Nowhere in Particular

The Vikings lost. Nothing new in that, but the venue was very different:

The proposed public subsidy package for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium was decisively rejected by a House panel late Monday night, leaving the team and stadium supporters visibly stunned.

With the Legislature planning to adjourn in two weeks, the nearly $1 billion stadium plan was left needing an extraordinary injection of support to stay alive at the state Capitol this spring.

The result was not particularly surprising. So how does the blame game work? Maybe not as well as the DFL would like:

Just one of the House panel's six DFLers voted for the project, even though Gov. Mark Dayton -- himself a DFLer -- had made the stadium a legislative priority. But DFLers quickly claimed that outstate Republicans on the panel were more easily able to back the stadium because it would be paid for with gambling revenues and city taxes in Minneapolis.
In other words, the game was to have the nasty Republicans from outstate impose the stadium while the local DFLers could then claim they were protecting the taxpayer. Nothing they could do, you see -- that Morrie from Moorhead was just too powerful for us beleaguered DFLers. Yep, plausible deniability, the kissing cousin of a Profile in Courage. By the way, the vote was 9-6 against, which means that the GOP vote, at least in this committee, was actually 5-4 in favor. No matter what Sid Hartman thinks, it's gonna be tough to pin this one on Kurt Zellers. Both support and opposition to this matter have been bipartisan.

Lester Bagley, the guy who has been on point for the Vikings throughout this debacle, was back in thinly veiled threat mode following the vote:

"It's a mistake to think the Vikings and the [National Football League] will continue with the status quo" of playing in the Metrodome without a new stadium, Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley told a large crowd of reporters after the 9-6 vote. Bagley stopped short of saying that the vote could lead the team to leave Minnesota.
I wrote a long post last night as all of the maneuvering was going on and I'm going to repeat the point I made earlier. The only way to ensure that the Vikings stay in Minnesota is to have a local ownership group buy out Zygi Wilf and his partners. I don't think you would see nearly as much opposition and "no stadium for billionaires" rhetoric if the local politicians were dealing with hometown billionaires. Minnesotans may be ambivalent at best about great wealth, but they do love their benefactors. And that's what they need now.

As for the current Vikings ownership, it's difficult to have much sympathy for them. They could have been playing in a new stadium already, but they chose to jettison the deal they had with Anoka County in 2006. Six years on, they have nothing. Which is what they deserve.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Vikings to Plot of Land East of Metrodome VII -- Charter or Charmin?

UPDATE:  events have overtaken this post. For the latest, click here.

When the Minneapolis City Council in 1997 passed a restriction to the city charter concerning the amount of money the city could spend for a new stadium, did it have any meaning? We may find out soon:

State lawmakers will mull Monday night whether to ax a provision in the Vikings stadium bill that effectively nullifies a key section of the Minneapolis Charter.

That could have major implications over whether the stadium will face a citywide vote, per a 1997 charter amendment. The Minneapolis city attorney argues that a referendum isn't legally necessary, but the bill also assures that by overriding the charter altogether.

It's a crucial question, because if the folks at the Capitol decide to let this slide, R. T. Rybak and the gang will ram things through. If not, there will be a vote and the stadium bill is effectively dead unless Rybak, Zygi Wilf and their allies can come up with an alternative funding source, and fast.

You have to wonder -- if the city charter doesn't mean anything when politicians say it doesn't, what was the 1997 vote all about? Was it merely meant to be symbolic? And if the city charter is a dead letter, why not repeal the whole thing? Just a guess -- if the charter is tossed aside, there is almost certainly going to be a court challenge.

Meanwhile, as I write, the hearing is underway and there's more ominous news for the Vikings, since once again Mike Opat, the majordomo of the Hennco board, isn't going to backstop the deal if the state's shaky financing portion of the bill comes a cropper:

Hennepin County Board Chair Mike Opat renewed his opposition to backing up any state revenue shortfalls for a Vikings stadium by tapping excess county sales tax revenues now funding the Minnesota Twins' Target Field.

In a strongly-worded letter sent Monday to Senate Majority Leader David Senjem and House Speaker Kurt Zellers, Opat said using the county's 0.15 percent sales tax for a Vikings stadium was "effectively hijacking county revenue."

The stadium plan has four funding backstops -- estimated to generate at least $9 million a year -- that might be used if the state's plan to authorize electronic pull tabs and bingo in Minnesota's bars and restaurants failed to generate at least $42 million needed each year to pay the state's $398 million share of a Vikings stadium. A 10 percent tax on stadium luxury suites would be the first backstop, and using Hennepin County's sales tax money would be a third.

Opat, no fool he, takes the Brezhnev Doctrine approach when it comes to money. What we have, we keep.

Meanwhile, you also have other representatives asking questions that stadium supporters would prefer not be asked:

The hearing began with a jolt when Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, asked point blank: "Why should the state of Minnesota contribute to a stadium for a billionaire" owner?" Team officials were almost immediately peppered with questions asking why Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was not contributing more to the stadium, and how much the Vikings' value would grow with a new stadium.

"It's difficult to say," Steve Poppen, the team's chief financial officer, said of the team's future value.

Difficult, I suppose, because the Vikings would rather not say.

So, to sum up -- the city is promising money it may not be able to deliver, and the state is promising money that it may not be able to deliver. Other than that, this stadium deal is doing quite nicely, no?

You can tell that the Vikings are getting nervous, because Sid Hartman is now painting his latest nightmare scenario elsewhere in the Star Tribune:

While Zygi and Mark Wilf are more directly involved in management of the team, the other partners are investors who I'm sure weren't happy when recently there was a call for an additional $20 million investment, with each partner's payment based on his percentage of ownership.

The call was made because the club hasn't shown any type of profit the past couple of years and operating capital was needed.

So believe me when I report that the investors other than Zygi and Mark aren't going to keep coming up with money if the club continues to make those calls. And those calls are going to continue if the Vikings don't get a new stadium, which would generate the money they need to operate and compete and not rank at the bottom of the NFL in revenue.

If this pattern continues, Mr. Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers -- who refuses to get behind the stadium bill in the Legislature -- the Vikings will be sold and the buyer will pay a big price if he can move the team to Los Angeles, which I'm sure will happen if the Wilfs sell the team.

Now, we don't know that if the Vikings are actually losing money, because the Wilfs don't have to open their books. I'm glad Sid has his scapegoat, though. And of course there's no way that a local buyer wouldn't materialize, either, right? It's not possible to come up with a local ownership group. It could never happen, not in a million years, because we've never had local ownership of the Vikings. After all, the reason the Vikings operate out of Winter Park is because winter is the longest season in Minnesota, right? Oh, wait....

So what to make of all this?

  • If this deal were subject to the normal level of scrutiny that a billion dollar transaction faces, it wouldn't get past the laugh test.
  • The bottom line hasn't really changed at all -- dividing the funding among various government entities has always been a fiction. The deal, if it takes place, will be funded through bonding and in truth only the state would be able to float the bonds. And if the state has to pay back the bonds, that means state revenues will pay for the stadium. And the state gets its revenue, in the main, from taxes. No matter how it is disguised, you, as a taxpayer, will be paying for this stadium. If enough taxpayers are willing to do so, then the deal will go through. If not, it's dead.
  • In any event, Sid Hartman is right about one thing -- eventually Zygi Wilf and his partners will tire of the temporizing and they will find a way to cash in. So if you want to save the Vikings, don't look to the lege, or R. T. Rybak, or Mark Dayton, or Mike Opat. Look to the guys who have the money to buy out Zygi Wilf.

Oops, Part Two

Lookee here:

Per a senior Dem: “Serious Dem operatives are aghast at Hilary Rosen’s misguided attack on Ann Romney’s work history. She and others at PR firm SKD Knickerbocker have represented many clients that have raised hackles with senior White House staff. It’s an open secret in the Dem consultant community that SKD has been signing up clients based on ‘perceived White House access’ tied to prior relationships and employment.”

As we’ve reported, SKDKnickerbocker is led by a team of former Democratic operatives and key White House figures. But instead of promoting a progressive agenda, or even an Obama agenda, these consultants score huge contracts by helping corporate interests lobby for policies that are not in line with the public interest. Many SKDKnickerbocker employees, including Anita Dunn, a former White House communications director, are also frequent White House visitors.

And that, n.b., is from The Nation. More at the link.

But that's not all:

Patrick J. Kennedy, the former representative from Rhode Island, who donated $35,800 to an Obama re-election fund last fall while seeking administration support for a nonprofit venture, said contributions were simply a part of “how this business works.”

“If you want to call it ‘quid pro quo,’ fine,” he said. “At the end of the day, I want to make sure I do my part.”

Mr. Kennedy visited the White House several times to win support for One Mind for Research, his initiative to help develop new treatments for brain disorders. While his family name and connections are clearly influential, he said, he knows White House officials are busy. And as a former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, he said he was keenly aware of the political realities they face.

“I know that they look at the reports,” he said, referring to records of campaign donations. “They’re my friends anyway, but it won’t hurt when I ask them for a favor if they don’t see me as a slouch.”

There's a lot more at that second link.

So should we be outrageously outraged about this sort of thing? You can be if you choose to, but for me, the bottom line is this:  the issue isn't that lobbyists get in the door of this White House, or any other White House for that matter. The issue is that too much power is concentrated on the Potomac. And I'd also like it if we'd have a little less sanctimony on the issue generally. It was always ludicrous to assert that a guy who learned politics in Chicago would somehow be a reformer.


Just a guess -- I don't think David Axelrod meant to say this:

It's a lot better if you don't make your 2008 arguments in 2012. Then again, I'm guessing Axelrod enjoyed 2008 a whole lot more than what he's experiencing at the moment.

Then again, I'm gratified to see the choice we have in 2012 expressed in such clear terms. And no, I'm not particularly interested in remaining on the "road we're on."

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Someone got a wakeup call at the New York Times:

But the edgier and more negative tone coming from the president’s re-election is highlighting another issue. Successful campaigns tell positive stories even while they are in knife fights, and even as it steps up an effort to define Mr. Romney on its terms, the White House is working to make a positive case for Mr. Obama, one built around themes of fairness and security.

Judging by the difficulties he has had selling his policies and himself for the last three years, going positive in an effective way could prove to be more challenging for Mr. Obama than going negative.

Ya think?

This campaign isn't going to be scorched earth. It's going to be Peshtigo Fire, especially if Obamacare gets kicked to the curb.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Five years ago -- watching the Twins with Mike

It was Monday, April 9, 2007. I'd been in the hospital for six days and I was getting tired of it. I finally had the packing out of my nose and I'd been able to take a few walks around the surgical ward. If all went well, I might get out of the hospital the next day, although I was still hooked up to multiple machines most of the time.

My brother Mike came over to the hospital to visit. I'm 12 years older than Mike; we are the bookends of Ed and Mary Jane's six surviving children. As Mike grew up, I had been a somewhat distant figure to him. I'd gone off to college the same year he entered kindergarten, so while we'd spend time together, I didn't get to see him grow up.

One of my favorite memories of Mike's childhood was the time he'd set off on the Greyhound bus at the age of 13 to visit his big brother in the big city of Chicago. We had timed his arrival to coincide with the end of my work day. In those days, the bus station was on Randolph Street in Chicago and it was a little seedy. Mike's bus had arrived a little early and I found him wandering around the waiting area, clutching an enormous 3-ring binder full of baseball cards and carrying an overnight bag that looked to have the storage capacity of a carton of Yoplait. You could tell he was a little scared, but he was ready for an adventure.

That would have been 1989. A lot would change quickly after that. The next year we lost our Dad, which left Mike without a father at a crucial time, just as he was entering the miasma of high school. The future Mrs. D and I would marry the following year and we moved to Minnesota the year after that. We'd continue to see Mike here and there, but I was still a distant figure. Mike eventually made his way to Minneapolis in 1995 and earned his degree from the University of Minnesota. He had often thought about returning to Wisconsin, or perhaps seeking out new adventures elsewhere, but he stayed and established himself here.

As the years went on, Mike became a big part of our family. My kids don't get to see their other aunts and uncles that often, but Uncle Mike has been a constant and reassuring presence in their lives. He's the guy who wouldn't hesitate to get on the ride with them at the State Fair, or to take them to a Twins game. In many ways, he is the ideal uncle.

Now, some 18 years after I'd found him wandering around the Greyhound station, we were sitting in a hospital room in St. Paul. And in some respects, the sibling roles were reversed. I faced a long recovery period and an uncertain future. And now, at this moment, he sensed that I was the one who needed reassurance.

We chatted as the Twins took on the hated Yankees in the Metrodome. In what turned out to be a short-lived experiment, the Twins had sent an erratic righthander named Sidney Ponson to the mound, while the Yankees had sent another erratic (and injury-prone) righthander, some guy named Carl Pavano, who had become the subject of great ridicule in the tabloids.

The game was a trainwreck for the the Twins, as it usually is when the Yankees are the opponent. But that didn't really matter very much. What mattered was that my brother was there and he was optimistic.

The conversation was typically male. We might not say anything for a few minutes, but then there'd be a burst.

"My God, this guy is useless. I can't believe the Twins signed Sidney Freaking Ponson," I said.

"It could be worse. At least the Twins didn't blow $40 million on Carl Pavano," Mike replied.

It was hard to argue with that.

"So, do you think the headaches are going to be going away," Mike asked.

"Two doctors say yes, but one says no. I sure the hell hope so."

"I'll bet."

"I've got other headaches, though, Mike."

"I know. Look, I know that you've been having a rough stretch here, but you're going to figure it out, Mark. It's not as if you've become stupid."

"Well, at least no more stupid than I usually am," I replied.

He thought about that for a minute. They he looked at me and lowered his eyes just a little bit.

"You haven't been saying that in the job interviews, have you?"

I laughed, but I recognized that he was making a point. If you don't have faith in yourself, people pick up on that. There's a small margin between self-deprecation and self-doubt. And while self-doubt is understandable at times, you have to manage it. Had I forgotten that?

We watched the game for a while longer. The Yankees were laying waste to Ponson and the Twins weren't getting anywhere. We mostly just shot the breeze for the rest of the evening. But the needle that my brother had applied that evening had significantly more meaning than all the hypodermics that had been stuck into my arms over the past two weeks.

Next -- getting out and facing the world

Pure Gino

Just go read it.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Related thought to the previous post

Ann Althouse asserts, in the context of the Hilary Rosen matter:

As we'd talked about earlier: The Democrats don't really believe anything. They're just working on various voting blocs. They started this "war on women" theme, but it was a means to an end. Women were out there, so numerous, so richly exploitable. The campaign made its move. And then... the slip.

I don't know. I think the Democrats believe they ought to run things. In fact, I'm convinced they believe that.

Moderation in all things

When political labels lose all meaning (H/T Professor Reynolds):

Rep. Chuck Kruger (D-Thomaston), the Democrat chair of the Maine legislature’s Moderate Caucus, used his Twitter account to express his view that former Vice President Dick Cheney should be executed. This comment has led some to question the validity of Kruger’s moderate credentials.

I guess it would. So what did this solon have to say?

Kruger made the statement through his Twitter account this past summer, saying, “Cheney deserves same final end he gave Saddam. Hope there are cell cams,” a reference to technology that would allow Kruger to watch the proposed execution of the former Vice President of the United States.

The thing is, the term "moderate" means something else in Maine:

The ‘moderate’ label in Maine has become fashionable as of late, as several prominent Democrats have shed their party affiliation in order to capitalize on the tradition of successful moderate political figures from Margaret Chase Smith to Olympia Snowe.  In the limelight this year is former Democrat Angus King, who has resurrected his ‘independent’ political identity to fuel his run for U.S. Senate. Though King professes inclinations toward the political center by refusing to indicate which party he would caucus with, most political observers believe he would act as a functional Democrat in the Senate.
Well, yes. Then again, Smith and Snowe often have acted as functional Democrats, too.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

War by other means

I'd like to suggest that an armistice is in order on the "War On. . . ." memes, from both sides.

I have a Twitter account but I don't use it as much as I could, but it appears that I missed some fun yesterday. Apparently someone named Hilary Rosen, who is a Democratic operative of some sort, decided that it would be a good idea to slam Ann Romney, wife of Mitt, by saying that Ann Romney "has never worked a day in her life."

That got a good ol' fashioned flame war going on the Twitter and, from what I can tell, it hasn't been going well for Rosen. There is a new Twitter hashtag called WarOnMoms and it's a pretty active deal and at current glance I'd say the results are about 80/20 against Rosen's apparent worldview.

The problem this poses for Democrats is simple: they have their own "War on Women" meme going, which may or may not be working, depending on which polling data you prefer. This preferred narrative concerns last month's flavor, Sandra Fluke, who you might remember as the aggrieved Georgetown law student who was seemingly unaware of low-cost, free market contraception options, which apparently is the fault of someone, likely either Mitt Romney, George W. Bush or Emmanuel Goldstein. One can never be sure with such things.

The game here is simple -- there are a lot of partisans who want the upcoming election to be about social and emotional issues, rather than about economics. This isn't particularly surprising, since the economic situation hasn't been very good for a long time now.

Still, this "War on" thing is dumb, no matter who is supposedly the target. We've seen enough real war in recent years to know the difference, so the occasional discomforts that we see hyped are nothing compared to the real thing.

I'm confident that, eventually, this election cycle will turn on the pocketbook issues, as these things generally do. But for now, apparently we have to endure the silly season. I guess it's a War on Common Sense.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Zimmerman Note

So George Zimmerman is facing second degree murder charges in the death of Trayvon Martin. I don't have any particular insight into the case, as is the case with about 99% of the people who have been commenting on the matter. I have two observations:

  • I am not surprised that Zimmerman was charged. Given everything that has happened, it would have been well-nigh impossible to let this matter go. And although I suppose it has happened at some point, you don't generally hear much about special prosecutors who choose not to prosecute.
  • I am surprised that the charge is second degree murder. It will be more difficult to prove than manslaughter, especially since Florida law requires proving the following: "Murder with a Depraved Mind occurs when a person is killed, without any premeditated design, by an act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind showing no regard for human life." That's a pretty high bar to cross. My only guess is that the prosecutor is hoping to get Zimmerman to plead down to manslaughter.

Vikings to Plot of Land East of Metrodome VI -- An Interesting Admission

So R. T. Rybak went out and talked to the citizenry last night concerning the Vikings stadium. And as the Star Tribune reports, Rybak made an interesting admission:

Opponents in the crowd shot back that the plan requires a citywide vote -- a referendum that the mayor opposes. One man rose to read Rybak the text of the city's charter amendment requiring a vote when Minneapolis spends more than $10 million on a stadium.

"How can you get around saying the people do not have a right to vote on it?" the man asked, adding that the mayor has "danced around" the issue.

Rybak said the city attorney has told him a referendum isn't legally triggered by his plan, since the taxes are controlled by the state. He later added it was an oral -- not written -- opinion from the city's counsel.

Emphasis mine. So in other words, people just have to take Rybak's word for it.

This is very strange. I lived in Chicago as a young man and worked for a number of years for a large law firm that did a lot of commercial real estate work. As a matter of course, if there was a dispute over the law that affected any project, the lawyers would issue a formal, written opinion based on applicable case law, with specific citations supporting the position. Most of the time the lawyers would have no trouble issuing such an opinion; however, if there was a question of law and the attorneys weren't able to make an affirmative case, a project would not go forward.

So in this case, you have a mayor who is essentially offering hearsay as a basis for going forward. Which city attorney offered this opinion? On what basis and reading of statute does this opinion rest? Or did an attorney in the office say something like, "well, you might be able to get by with this?"

This sort of thing matters, especially when the mayor is committing public money to a project. I would suggest that a formal, written legal opinion from the city attorney's office, signed by an actual attorney, is in order at this point.

Santorum is Gone

Rick Santorum suspended his campaign yesterday, essentially bowing to the inevitable. I was never a supporter of Santorum because Big Government in the service of traditional values is no better than Big Government in the service of whatever it is that our current administration is pushing.

I will say this -- he ran a better campaign than I would have ever guessed. That he would be essentially the last Not Mitt was surprising, to say the least. And even the notion of a Catholic version of Mike Huckabee is a sign of something, even if I'm not sure what it is.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ozzie's Marge Schott Moment

As a Twins fan, I always enjoyed it when Ozzie Guillen and the White Sox were on the schedule. The games were usually a lot of fun and Ozzie was liable to say and do anything. In a world with a lot of vanilla managers -- quick, give me a memorable Trey Hillman quote -- Ozzie was always a hoot. And since the Twins usually beat the Whities like a drum, it was all good.

Over the offseason Ozzie left Chicago for Miami, taking the helm of the new-look Miami Marlins, who have big plans these days. They have left the mausoleum of a football stadium where they had played in their earlier history, moving to a somewhat garish new stadium in downtown Miami. They also now have a Yankees-sized payroll. Ozzie, who won a World Series for the Whities in 2005, would be the ringmaster of this South Florida circus.

And of course, since Ozzie Guillen is Ozzie, he remains liable to say anything. Only this time, he's said something that's far more problematic than criticizing the umpires or calling Nick Punto a [expletive] pirahna:

 "I love Fidel Castro ... I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last sixty years but that [expletive] is still there.''

Now, if you are the manager of the San Francisco Giants, and you say something nice about, say, Che Guevara, you might get by with it. But praising Castro, even in a backhanded way, is about as big a no-no as any public figure can muster, especially in Miami, a city where hundreds of thousands of people whose families have suffered at the hands of Castro reside.

For their part, the Marlins were having none of it:

The Marlins issued this statement: "We are aware of the article. There is nothing to respect about Fidel Castro. He is a brutal dictator who has caused unthinkable pain for more than fifty years. We live in a community filled with victims of this dictatorship and the people in Cuba continue to suffer today."
And you would think that Ozzie would understand all this, even from his own experiences. When he was with the White Sox, he managed a number of Cuban defectors, including Jose Contreras, Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo, just within the last few years. I would imagine these individuals probably had a story or two to share. And given that Ozzie himself is from Venezuela, where one of Castro's acolytes, Hugo Chavez, has been driving his nation to ruin for over a decade, it's really hard to understand.

I'm reminded of what happened to Marge Schott, the crackpot who used to own the Cincinnati Reds, when she told an astonished ESPN reporter the following about Adolf Hitler:

"Everything you read, when he came in [to power] he was good...They built tremendous highways and got all the factories going...Everybody knows he was good at the beginning but he just went too far."
Baseball quickly ran Marge Schott off after that incident, mostly because she was bad for business. Praising Castro is pretty bad for business, too. Ozzie may survive this episode, but if he does, he's going to be on a very short tether for the rest of his career.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Mark Dayton, Solving the World's Problems, Symbolically

The governor is a healer, or something:

There's nothing Gov. Mark Dayton can do to stop a voter ID constitutional amendment from appearing on the November ballot.

But he's issued a symbolic veto of the legislation that created the ballot amendment anyway.
"Although I do not have the power to prevent this unwise and unnecessary constitutional amendment from appearing on the Minnesota ballot...the Legislature has sent it to me in the form of a bill," Dayton told reporters at a Monday press conference. "Thus, I am exercising my legal responsibility to either sign or veto the amendment...I am vetoing."

He's a deeply silly man, our governor, but considering this is the state that elected a professional rassler to be governor not that long ago, it's hardly surprising that we now find a man at the helm who is exercising imaginary power. In fact, in order to add greater fairness, social justice and goodwill to the commonweal, Gov. Dayton has decided to also use his imaginary power to handle a series of other issues that have heretofore proved intractable. In fact, Dayton confidant Denise Cardinal sent over the following list:

Governor Dayton's Dozen Proposals to Repair Our Fraying Social Fabric:

12.  Providing a posthumous pardon to Johnny Cash for "shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die."

11.  Issuing a symbolic executive order changing the name of Dayton, Ohio to Prettner Solon, Ohio, in order to appear self-deprecating. Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon will then appear in the newly renamed Ohio city, marking the first time she has been seen in public since November, 2010.

10.  Hiring all departing cast members of "Celebrity Apprentice" to positions at the Public Utilities Commission, MnDOT and the Met Council.

9.  Demanding that Macalester, St. Olaf, Bethel and Lakeland Dental Academy all offer Tom Emmer a chance to be a visiting professor, but only if they rescind the offer before any money changes hands.

8.  Requiring state Auditor Rebecca Otto conduct a thorough investigation to conclusively determine how many licks it takes to get to the tootsie roll center of a Tootsie Pop.

7.  Solving the Twins current hitting slump by ordering the team to rehire 70s-era slugging sensation "Disco Dan" Ford.

6. Authorizing Secretary of State Mark Ritchie to use whatever methods are required to ensure that Minnesota singing sensation Jordis Unga wins "The Voice" on NBC.

5. Compelling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to award the Minnesota Vikings a "Symbolic Lombardi Trophy" because of those cheatin' Saints.

4.  Filling the Lindstrom "Coffee Pot" water tower to brim with Kombucha.

3.  Appearing in a production of "Cabaret" at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater with ex-wife Alita Messinger, with the highlight being a show-stopping performance of the "Money Song."

2. Directing Zygi Wilf to give naming rights to the new "People's Stadium" to Education Minnesota honcho Tom Dooher.

1.  Demonstrating the importance of bipartisanship by offering to date Michael Brodkorb.

A Well-Deserved Swat

No, Governor, you don't get to force daycare providers to unionize:

A Ramsey County judge ruled Friday that Gov. Mark Dayton exceeded his authority in ordering a union election for certain in-home child-care providers. 
Judge Dale Lindman declared Dayton's order, issued Nov. 15, "null and void because it is an unconstitutional usurpation of the Legislature's constitutional right to create and or amend laws and as such is a violation of the Separation of Powers doctrine."

So what should Dayton have done?

Lindman's order ruled that the elections ordered by Dayton cannot occur.

"The proper method to proceed is for the matter to be brought to the Legislature," Lindman's order reads. He argued that Dayton's order is an attempt "to circumvent the Legislative process and unionize child care providers by executive order, rather than by adhering to a valid Legislative process."

Since the lege would never agree to this, Dayton needed to do something to pay off his union pals. That's politics, but there was a larger implication to what Dayton was attempting, as Ed Morrissey points out:

Dayton attempted to bypass the state legislature in this effort by declaring through executive order that day-care centers that indirectly receive state aid through their clients are in effect public-sector workplaces — a definition not found in law or in legislative intent. 

And what would that mean? Morrissey:

[H]ad Dayton succeeded in his imposition of public-worker status, the precedent established would have been so broad as to threaten the very notion of a private-sector workforce altogether.  Where would the limits have been?  Fast-food restaurants that take food-stamp debit cards?  Medical care facilities that accept Medicaid patients? Just as in ObamaCare at the federal level, it would be difficult if not impossible to find a limitation of power in that kind of precedent.
Which is the idea, of course. We all owe Judge Lindman thanks.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Five years ago -- Easter Sunday

It was Easter Sunday, April 8, 2007. The sun had not yet risen and I was still in a hospital bed. I was now able to attempt to eat a semi-liquid diet, which primarily meant thin broth soup, applesauce and my personal favorite, vanilla pudding with a Percocet mixed in. It's not easy to swallow when you can't breathe through your nose, though, so there was a lot of gagging going on every time I tried to swallow anything.

I had had strange dreams the night before, filled with rural imagery and discussions of harvesting. The only farming I knew was from the occasional visit to my aunt and uncle's dairy farm. I don't know what I expected to see -- it was Easter, after all -- but what I didn't expect to see was part of a very strange old episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus, featuring the ever-popular "Up the Palace" and "Limestone, Dear Limestone" promos, among other things. Not typical Easter fare, but this wasn't a typical Easter.

I had heard that, perhaps, if all went well, the packing would come out of my nose. We had asked about it on Saturday, but the medical team decided to leave it in for another day. It would be one of the better Easter presents I'd ever had if I could actually get rid of the packing. I suspect that the nurses were tired of me asking about it, but a fella needs a little hope.

I knew that Mrs. D and the kids would be coming for a visit, which was nice. I hadn't seen the kids for a while and while I knew that they wouldn't be crazy about seeing their father strapped up to a bunch of tubes and monitors, it was good. Mrs. D arrived with the kids and my brother Mike, who had been very generous with his time throughout the whole ordeal.

Kids can process a lot but it's a difficult thing to see a parent in a hospital. When I was about 7 or 8, my own father had been in a somewhat serious traffic accident and had needed medical attention. He got out of the hospital after a day but he had needed to spend a few days at home to rest. When he came home, he had a number of bandages on and it was very scary indeed. So while I was happy to see the kids, I was worried that they would be sad, scared, or both.

We call my daughter Fearless Maria a reason -- she had already had a few surgeries herself, so she understood what she would see in the hospital. She brought me a little Easter basket with some treats that I could not eat, but it was a real day brightener. My son, although older, struggled with this visit a little. Just a few weeks earlier, he had experienced on of the proudest moments of his life as he received the Cub Scout Arrow of Light and began his career as a Boy Scout. Boy Scouts are called to be prepared, but very few boys are prepared to see their father laid low.

During the visit, a nurse and doctor arrived. The good news had arrived -- the gauze and packing were coming out. The medical staff ushered my family out of the room and then the doctor slowly removed everything. I had my nose back.

The family was due for Easter dinner at my in-laws, so I had to bid them good-bye. The afternoon would be confined to watching the Masters. The temperature at August was still in the 40s and the golfers were struggling mightily. There were no red numbers at all and I don't think I saw anyone make a putt all day. The announcers were trying to put a brave face on things, but it was clear that this would go down as one of the worst Masters in history. In the end, an obscure Iowa native named Zach Johnson ended up winning the tournament when Tiger Woods couldn't mount a charge down the stretch, settling for pars on the last three holes.

It was an unsatisfying tournament and, although I could now breathe, an less-than-satisfying way to spend Easter. But there was hope now. I had been promised that I could leave my hospital bed and go for a walk the next day. And if all went well, I might get to go home, to a future that was uncertain, but one that had to be better than the recent past.

And I tried to remember this:

And on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared. [2] And they found the stone rolled back from the sepulchre. [3] And going in, they found not the body of the Lord Jesus. [4] And it came to pass, as they were astonished in their mind at this, behold, two men stood by them, in shining apparel. [5] And as they were afraid, and bowed down their countenance towards the ground, they said unto them: Why seek you the living with the dead?

[6] He is not here, but is risen. Remember how he spoke unto you, when he was in Galilee, [7] Saying: The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. [8] And they remembered his words. [9] And going back from the sepulchre, they told all these things to the eleven, and to all the rest. [10] And it was Mary Magdalen, and Joanna, and Mary of James, and the other women that were with them, who told these things to the apostles.

[11] And these words seemed to them as idle tales; and they did not believe them. [12] But Peter rising up, ran to the sepulchre, and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths laid by themselves; and went away wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.

In what was once St. Luke's Hospital, it's always worth paying attention to Luke 24.
Next: watching the Twins with Mike