Thursday, February 28, 2013

Laboratories of Democracy

Here in Minnesota, the DFL controls all levers of government. Across the St. Croix, the Republicans are in charge. What does that mean?

What's happening in Minnesota?

State lawmakers are debating whether Minnesota should place tougher regulations on frac sand mining. It's a growing industry that provides a key ingredient -- silica sand -- to oil and gas drillers for a process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The debate at the Capitol pits those seeking the jobs and money that would come with new silica sand mines against the people who would live near those operations.

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin:

The state Senate has approved a Republican bill that would dramatically overhaul Wisconsin's mining regulations.

The measure is designed to ease the regulatory path for Gogebic Taconite's plans for a huge iron mine in the Penokee Hills just south of Lake Superior.

It will be interesting to see which approach yields better results.

Regrets, I've Had a Few

Let's be clear about something at the outset. You don't tug on Superman's cape. You don't spit into the wind. You don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger and you don't mess around with Gene Sperling:
The White House official whom Bob Woodward charged had crosssed a line by saying he would "regret" printing his version of a set of Washington negotiations was Gene Sperling, the director of the White House Economic Council, a source familiar with the exchange told BuzzFeed Wednesday.

The email from Sperling to Woodward, which Woodward read to Politico Wednesday, has transfixed Washington, with Republicans and some in the press charging that it embodies a White House lording it over a cowed press corps.

Woodward, Politico reported, called the top official — identified to BuzzFeed as Sperling — to tell him that he would question Obama's account of negotiations leading to the "sequester" — automatic cuts set to take effect next month.

The aide "yelled at me for about a half hour," Woodward said, and then sent a follow-up email that read, in part: "You're focusing on a few specific trees that give a very wrong impression of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here. … I think you will regret staking out that claim."
And sure enough, the flying monkeys are already out. Check out what's left of Josh Marshall's credibility:

There's a reason it's called Talking Points Memo
Good grief -- how embarrassing. Woodward makes an important point about all this:
"They have to be willing to live in the world where they're challenged," he told Politico. "I've tangled with lots of these people. But suppose there's a young reporter who's only had a couple of years — or 10 years' — experience and the White House is sending him an email saying, 'You're going to regret this.' You know, tremble, tremble. I don't think it's the way to operate."
Well, yeah. Of course if you can count on the Josh Marshalls of the world to have your back, your average garden variety Obama official is going to feel pretty secure that he can get by with issuing threats.

It's tough to see the larger picture when you're in the middle of something and perhaps someday some of Obama's defenders will have a few regrets of their own. But right now, in the moment, we're seeing behavior that is pretty astonishing.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tubby Saves His Job

The buzz has been getting pretty noisy around here lately concerning the relative fortunes of the Minnesota Gophers and their inconsistent men's basketball team. The Gophers have been mostly abysmal in February but they won a big game last night, defeating #1 Indiana 77-73 at the Barn.

It's been strange watching Gopher coach Tubby Smith's deportment in recent weeks. He's thrown his kids under the bus repeatedly in recent weeks and his body language has sometimes suggested that he's becoming indifferent about the team's prospects, which is what made yesterday's performance so surprising. The Gophers came out hot, withstood an Indiana rally and made all the plays they needed to down the stretch. This Gophers team has more talent than any I've seen since Clem Haskins left town, but they have lost some games that have really made you scratch your head and they've been blown out badly in Iowa City and Columbus in recent weeks.

The Big Ten is stronger this season than it has been in a while and there are several very good teams in the league. The Gophers, theoretically at least, should be one of them. Perhaps they still can be.


What is the opposite of Must See TV? This:

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison Tuesday night began an interview on Fox News by telling host Sean Hannity that he was  "the worst excuse for a journalist I've ever seen," who is guilty of "inaccurate," "yellow journalism."

The interview went downhill from there.

They could both go away right now and no one would miss them.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Separated at birth

This is usually Brad Carlson's gig, but here goes:

Italian comedian/politician Beppe Grillo

Jonathan Winters
Neither is known for keeping quiet.

Zero Tolerance and the Harlem Shake

We've seen this sort of thing before -- zero tolerance policies that quickly lead to reductio ad absurdum results. The recent events at Mound Westonka High School underscore the point nicely:

The Mound Westonka Schools superintendent apologized Monday night for the suspensions of six varsity hockey players hours before a playoff game, telling a crowd of angry parents that the school activities director had been put on leave pending an investigation of the incident.

The meeting of some 250 people attending the regular board session cheered loudly at the news.

“This is on me,” said Superintendent Kevin Borg. He said he expected to lay out the plan for the investigation on Tuesday.

What happened? Apparently a group of students, as part of a class assignment, started a "Harlem Shake" dance in the school cafeteria. As a proud member of the out-of-touch parent generation, I'd never heard of the Harlem Shake until very recently. What is it, exactly? Well, here's an example from Knox College, in Illinois:

Near as I can tell, it's a cross between a dance craze and a flash mob, with momentary chaos involved but no real harm done. At least that was the intent at Mound Westonka. But there was harm done in this case. Although it apparently wasn't from the students involved:
The parents and students who spoke Monday said they didn’t blame Borg for the suspensions, instead concentrating their fire on the activities director, Dion Koltes. He had handed out the two-day suspensions after the hockey players, joined by two members of the school swim team, performed their version of the “Harlem Shake,” an Internet sensation popular with kids and college sports teams, in the school’s lunchroom on Friday. The students also were issued $75 citations by Minnetrista police for engaging in “a riot-like behavior.”
And the kicker, the bell that can't be unrung:
The hockey players were stripped of the opportunity to play in a sectional quarterfinal Friday night, which the team lost, ending a promising season.
Woe betide anyone who crosses the parents of a hockey player, especially in Minnesota. Most parents spend mind-boggling amounts of time and money supporting their kids as they move up in the ranks. Do you want to spend a weekend in Bemidji or Grand Forks to watch your kid play? Hockey parents do this sort of thing all the time. Take it away arbitrarily? Watch your back.

And there doesn't seem to be any dispute that what happened at Mound Westonka was arbitrary:

On Monday, parents stepped up to the microphone to complain about a rush to judgment and lack of due process for the students captured in a video taken of the dance performance, which was part of a class project. Students can be seen dancing on tables, but no vandalism was reported. The only damage seemed to be a broken lunch tray.

Many of those who spoke were emotional, including Mike Curti, who appeared on the verge of tears as he spoke of getting a call Friday afternoon from his son, Charlie, one of the suspended players.

“I found him in the school parking lot, kicked out of the building. He couldn’t go back in until I escorted him,” Curti said.

The two walked into the school’s administrative offices where other students waited with their parents. Curti said he kept looking at the clock, hoping the situation could be worked out in time for the game.

We had questions, Curti said, but “we weren’t getting any answers.”

Curti described a scene where parents’ pleas to administrators for mercy and time weren’t heard.

This is pretty typical. And it's multi-factorial, too. Some of what happens is simple petty bureaucratic officiousness, and some of it is the factory approach that we too often take to education in this country.  It's easier to remove discretion from the equation, because if you just say you were following the rulebook, generally you won't be second-guessed.

In this case, though, the officiousness backfired. All it should have taken would be a call to the teacher who authorized the class project to verify that the students were telling the truth. Instead a rush to judgment seems to have resulted.

But the last line of the Star Tribune article is the beauty part:
Parents said they also wanted the incident removed from their children’s records and questioned why they couldn’t see the video at the center of the dispute. The superintendent said it is covered by data privacy laws.
Data privacy laws are a beautiful thing, especially if you are a functionary and want to cover your ass. But in this case the law is an impediment to finding out the truth of the matter. That was not the intent of the law, I'm guessing.

So what could the students learn? Two lessons, both of which seem valuable:

  • When you give a bureaucracy power, it will assert it; and
  • Life isn't fair.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Home Truths

More than one, actually, in an excellent essay by Walter Russell Mead:

This isn’t just a Catholic crisis. The churches of the so-called Magisterial Reformation are also in trouble: Lutheran, Anglican and Reformed denominations are suffering from the same troubles that afflict the Church of Rome. Many of the problems are familiar elements of the western religious and cultural landscape. Textual criticism has challenged traditional views about the antiquity, accuracy and authority of the scriptures. The social consequences of cheap and easy birth control have opened a rift between traditional religious teachings about human sexuality and the ideas and behavior of many people in the West. The consumer society and the mass media associated with it constantly pull people, perhaps especially young people, away from Christian ideas even as an increasingly secular civil society pushes religion off to the side of the public square. The combination of rapid global communications, explosive church growth in the global South and the deep divide between the conservative social attitudes prevalent in Africa and Asia and the libertarian or even libertine norms of the global North makes it hard for universal institutions to develop a workable set of practices and procedures to cover the whole world.

In America the Catholic Church in particular suffers from another acute problem: as the descendants of the 19th and early 20th century mass migrations of Catholics from countries like Ireland, Poland and Italy move farther away from their roots, they are also moving away from an inherited sense of Catholic identity. The ethnic neighborhoods with their parochial schools and civic associations rooted in and centered on parish churches have been fading away since World War Two; increasingly young American Catholics of European origin are emotionally and culturally distant from the Church of their ancestors. If it weren’t for immigration from majority Catholic countries to our south, the American Catholic Church today would be facing many of the issues of dwindling membership that challenge the mainstream liberal Protestant denominations today.
All of this is true and most of it has happened in my lifetime. There are any number of reasons, but for me one of the key reasons is that the Catholicism that I learned growing up in the 1970s wasn't particularly robust. I mostly attended Catholic schools and had religious education throughout my upbringing, but most of what I got was a pretty thin gruel of vague humanism and feelgood bromides. When I entered the secular world of college, I frankly wasn't very well prepared to talk about my faith and wasn't especially interested in doing so, either. I've only started to truly understand Catholic doctrine in the last 10-12 years. And I have a long way to go.

Mead also makes an important point regarding the abuse scandals that have so eroded the Church's moral authority:

Many Catholics object that in some ways the attention paid to the sex scandals in the Church has been unfair. Certainly much of the commentary about these scandals has been. We have been treated to years of unctuous lectures, for example, about the relationship between the Church’s demands for priestly celibacy and the abuse scandals. Yet the wave of scandal has spread well beyond the Church; pedophilia and coverups have been found everywhere from the Boy Scouts to prominent football teams where celibacy was not an issue. If embarrassed commentators have apologized to Catholics for some of the exaggerated and inaccurate attacks, those apologies have not come to Via Meadia‘s attention. Many who follow press coverage in which these scandals are treated as breaking news have missed the point that much of the activity in question took place decades ago, and the pastoral, low key approach of many Catholic bishops to these cases often reflected what many lay psychologists at the time considered best practice. Loyal Catholics who bristle at the unfairness of this coverage have a point.

But with all caveats and reservations duly noted and filed, and with the anti-Catholic bias of some reporters and commentators duly acknowledged and discounted, the scandals are still horrible enough, and the pattern of response so inept and institutionally protective that the damage to American Catholicism — perhaps especially among the Euro-Catholics who in any case were edging towards the door and who find pedophilia scandals the perfect excuse to leave in a huff — will be profound and historic.

Unfortunately, scandals of this kind have emerged in many countries, undermining the Church at a time of religious questioning and social change. It is very hard for an organization widely seen as protecting pedophiles and relegating women to second class citizenship to get a hearing for a moral agenda that in many ways goes against the wishes of human nature and the spirit of the times.

There's more, a lot more, at the link and it's all worth your time. I suspect the next Pope will be transformative, because change is required. As I've argued for some time, the energy of the Church is in what Mead calls the "global south." And I increasingly suspect that is from where the next pontiff will emerge.

Everyone's Gone to the Movies

I followed a time-tested approach (well, I've done this at least twice before) for watching the Academy Awards broadcast, as follows:

  • Ignore it most of the evening
  • Watch the 10 p.m. news on another station
  • Turn on the broadcast after that
And by doing so, I got to see who won Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Picture. And I didn't have to endure any of the rest.

I haven't seen Argo yet, but I intend to. The people I know who have seen it have generally liked it. I didn't see Jennifer Lawrence in "Silver Linings Playbook," but I did see "The Hunger Games" and she was very good in that. And I'll get to "Lincoln" eventually. It was probably embarrassing for Lawrence to trip and fall on her way up to get the awards, but given the bizarre design of most evening gowns, it was almost inevitable it would happen to someone.

I'm guessing the one thing that probably will raise the ire of conservatives was the way the broadcast injected Michelle Obama into the festivities at the end. Of course, people forget the stellar job that Pat Nixon did in announcing that "The French Connection" won the Oscar back in 1972, or the star turn of Mamie Eisenhower in providing the award for Best Supporting Actor to Anthony Quinn in "Lust for Life" in 1957. People, you have to respect precedent.

Mrs. D did watch most of the show at an Oscar party she attended. She didn't like Seth Macfarlane very much. Neither did this dude. I guess my approach was the right one.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


At least one anonymous leader of this blog thinks it poor sport of me to remind readers that the President of the United States is a Chicago politician. I could be a lot meaner than I've been, though -- behold the Onion:
CHICAGO—The city of Chicago is steadily recovering from an overnight snowstorm that delayed hundreds of murders on Friday morning and will likely continue to push numerous homicides across the city drastically behind schedule, public authorities announced. “As we speak, maintenance crews are working diligently to restore public transportation, de-ice roads, and clear back alleyways so that Chicagoans can quickly resume murdering again,” Department of Streets and Sanitation spokesman Dave Michelson said of the heavy blizzard, which caused numerous homicide cancellations this morning at peak murder times. 
It's satire, remember.

Apologies to William Carlos Williams

just sayin'

I got yer
plums right here,

(Poem that I've savaged here)

Friday, February 22, 2013

More Good News from the Windy City

So yesterday we mentioned that Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife are headed for the graybar hotel because of corruption. As it happens, there's a special election coming up to replace Jackson Jr. and the Democratic primary is next Tuesday. One of the leading candidates is Robin Kelly. Thankfully she's not like the man she'd like to succeed, right? Oops:
After Robin Kelly lost a 2010 bid for state treasurer, the office's chief investigator alleged she violated ethics laws by improperly reporting time off from her taxpayer-funded job as chief of staff to then-Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, the Tribune has learned.
Hmmm, that name Alexi Giannoulias is familiar, too. Why would that be?

In recent years, Illinois voters have favored Democratic candidates. But political experts say this race appears tight, particularly because Mr. Kirk is viewed as moderate on social issues and because Democrats have been plagued by scandal (it was this very seat that Rod R. Blagojevich, the former governor, is charged with trying to profit from).

For months, Broadway Bank has tormented Mr. Giannoulias. First came news in January that regulators were requiring the bank to raise $85 million. Then reports emerged of questionable deals, including a story by The Chicago Tribune that said the bank loaned $20 million to two felons when Mr. Giannoulias still worked there.

Mark Kirk, for those of you who don't know, defeated Giannoulias in 2010 to win the Senate seat that once belonged to Barack Obama. So you're probably wondering -- how can a guy whose family owned a failed bank get elected as state treasurer? That's how they roll in Illinois. But not Barack Obama, apparently. It's a miracle, I tells ya.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Another Day in Chicago

The problems for Jesse Jackson, Jr. are now official and we have yet another Chicago politician who is officially a felon:

With moist eyes and soft voices, former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife pleaded guilty to federal charges on Wednesday related to years of using campaign funds for personal expenses that included purchases of Michael Jackson memorabilia and a Rolex watch.

"Guilty, your honor," Jackson responded to U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins while dabbing his eyes with a handkerchief after he looked back at family members in the courtroom, including his father, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson.

The list of Chicago area politicians who were corrupt is long and there's no need to recount it here. I'm never surprised by corruption, because it has been so endemic there that you can almost set your watch by it. It's marginally more newsworthy because of the perp's name, but it's a very, very old story.

And remember, we are not supposed to question the wisdom of putting a Chicago politician in the White House, m'kay?

The End of Chavez?

Hugo Chavez might be nearing the end:

“The President has returned to continue his medical treatment. The President’s time right now is not political,” Rodrigo Cabezas, a senior member of Chavez’s ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela said on state TV.

The fact that few other details have been divulged may be motivated by the Venezuelan constitution, which requires new presidential elections within 30 days if it is determined the president can no longer carry out his functions.

But one clue came via the Spanish paper ABC, which reported that the team of Russian and Cuban doctors treating Chavez has concluded nothing more can be done to stop the cancer and that the President’s treatment should now focus on “palliative care in this final phase”.

People who are getting better don't get palliative care. It's not good to wish suffering on anyone and I won't with Chavez. And for what it's worth, things aren't changing much in Venezuela right away. Consider this bit of droll reportage:
Nevertheless, Chavez’s government has shown itself capable of taking decisions in the President’s absence. Earlier this month it devalued the Bolivar and announced a corruption investigation of leading opposition figures.
Devaluing the currency and going after political opponents? They've learned well.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

In lieu of actual blogging -- 022013

Writer's Block

What you don't write tells
 agendas not pursued and
vendettas not waged



So I reread that squib and the first part turned out to be an unplanned haiku. Dang, I gotta write more poetry. Watch yer back, Picklesworth. Now, some planned haiku.


I have six minutes
To devise something clever
Sorry, it's five now


Mark Dayton likes taxes
He has seen sagging trousers
Hoover that wallet


How do you get to
A Better Minnesota?
Smear folks on teevee

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

For Whom the Bridge Tolls

Of course they want to:

Searching for new funds for roads and transit, DFL leaders are eyeing tolls for the future St. Croix River bridge between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Charging drivers as much as $3 to cross the bridge could raise enough money to pay for roughly half the construction cost.

"It's a potentially important source of revenue," said Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, chairman of the House transportation finance committee.

"I'm very open to it," said Charlie Zelle, Gov. Mark Dayton's transportation commissioner. "I think it needs to be explored."

A few predictions:

  • If the bridge has a $3 toll, a lot less people are going to use it. For Minneapolis politicians, that's not a bug, it's a feature.
  • The revenue that is projected from such a toll will be, like electronic pull tabs, surprisingly disappointing, at least to people like Hornstein, who is to Minneapolis what Michael Paymar is to St. Paul -- a guy who can propose pretty much anything because he doesn't have to worry about reelection.
  • Wisconsin won't cooperate.
No worries -- the DFL has a backup plan:
Raising the gasoline tax -- the traditional source of highway funding -- is another option favored by key lawmakers, including Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, chairman of the Senate transportation and public safety committee.
Dibble was on a governor's task force that recommended raising the gas tax by 40 cents a gallon over 20 years. Dayton declined to embrace the proposal, but he hasn't ruled out supporting some kind of gas-tax increase if the DFL-controlled Legislature passes one.

"He has not said ... 'I won't sign it,'" Zelle said.

Dibble said the Legislature should pass a gas-tax hike this session.

"What's politically possible is something we'll have to figure out," he said.
Gotta find some way to pay for all those choo-choos, people.


If you want to know the power of showing up, consider what happened at the Lege yesterday. The gun grabbers have blinked, at least for the moment:

The Minnesota Senate will not act to ban assault weapons or high-capacity ammunition clips this year, a DFL leader said Monday.

Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, who is chairing the Senate’s gun hearings this week, said he will focus on closing the loopholes in background checks and leave the issue of banning weapons or ammunition to Congress.

“The assault weapons ban and high-capacity magazine ban proposals are highly divisive,” said Latz, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Legions of concerned gun owners turned out for three days of hearings on gun issues last week, and Latz said such bans also do not have strong support from law enforcement.

There's actually a lot to chew on in these brief paragraphs. First of all, the idea of leaving "the issue of banning weapons or ammunition to Congress" is nothing less than an abject surrender, since Latz knows there isn't a chance that any assault weapons ban will make it through Congress this year or next year.

Second, "highly divisive" can be translated from DFL-speak to mean "likely to lose us elections," which is why Latz is backing off. The Michael Paymars and Alice Hausmans of the world, who represent utterly safe districts in St. Paul, don't have to worry about reelection. Many of the DFL newcomers who won in November could easily be washed back out in 2014 if they anger the citizenry. While the DFL may really, really want the controlling "Better Minnesota" that they are trying to ram through, their individual members value careerism more.

Third, the most interesting admission is the last one -- "Latz said such bans also do not have strong support from law enforcement." Did you know that? I'll bet you didn't, since all you typically hear and see on the matter are media appearances from people like former Minneapolis police chief Tim Dolan, or images of Barack Obama standing in front of a wall of police officers. Huh, that is a head-scratcher.

Of course, the largest issue with the bans that Hausman and Paymar have been championing is that the bans are incoherent. Mitch Berg has been blogging about the issue with great regularity and fervor and his two posts from yesterday neatly explain the incoherence of the bans. As Mitch patiently explains, nearly all of the weapons that Hausman would ban are beyond the pale for reasons that have nothing to do with how they function.

So does that mean the gun grabbers are going away? Of course not. They never go away. But it appears that at least for now, your Second Amendment rights remain in effect in Minnesota. But don't worry; the DFL has plenty of other ideas that they'll be trotting out in the coming days that will lighten your wallet for the sake of a  Better Minnesota.

Monday, February 18, 2013

3,500 Posts and Counting

When I first started this blog at the end of 1995 2005, I had no idea that it would go on for as long as it has. I wrote the following that day:
Blogging is like dropping a penny in a well; you listen for a splash and sometimes you don't hear one. But we'll do what we can to give you a worthwhile splash or two.
This is the 3,500th post that has appeared in this space. So far we haven't run out of pennies. And I don't think we will any time soon. Thank you for your support, advice and wisdom.

UPDATE:  Duh, it was 2005. Thanks to Brian for catching that.

Green and Green

You can like green energy all you want, but until and unless it starts to make green on its own, it's not going to work very well. They've noticed in Germany:

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel faces an election in September and hopes to win points with voters by putting a stop to rising electricity bills. The independent steps have been welcomed by German consumer groups, but have been slammed by businesses as German and Spanish politicians move to finance cuts for consumers by passing on the costs to companies.

Germany subsidizes producers of renewable energy such as solar and wind power in part by imposing a surcharge on household electricity bills. As the industry has grown, demand for the subsidy increased, driving the surcharge higher. In January, the surcharge, which amounts to about 14% of electricity prices, nearly doubled to 5.28 euro cents per kilowatt hour. Large energy-intensive industries are exempted.

So while Siemens might get a break, Rolf in Dusseldorf gets to pay full freight. And the same thing is happening in Spain:

The Spanish parliament took a similar step on Thursday, passing a law that aims to curb rising household electricity costs by cutting aid to the renewable-energy industry.

Renewable-energy producers "are going to receive less revenue, but these measures are better for consumers" said Energy Minister José Manuel Soria.

Among the changes in the Spanish system, the new law indexes certain subsidies and compensation to an inflation estimate that strips out the effects of energy, food commodities, and tax changes.

Until now, producers have been compensated using a full inflation estimate. The government said the law will cut the costs of the country's electrical system by €600 million to €800 million a year.
Up to this point, such subsidies have largely escaped notice in most countries, but as energy costs continue to bite hard, people are getting wise to it, as Walter Russell Mead notes:
What both countries are experiencing is the pain of trying to subsidize an industry that’s not ready for prime time. If renewable energy eventually becomes viable, it won’t need subsidies; capital owners who can make money off of it will ensure it’s put to use. But until then, these attempts to prop up struggling industries are foolish and painful to consumers.
And they will continue, of course.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Dilettante on the Air

My friend and ace talk radio host Brad Carlson will have me on his show "The Closer" tomorrow to discuss the resignation of Benedict and other Papal matters. Brad's show runs on Sunday from 1-3 p.m. CST. I'll be on around 2.

If you're inclined to listen, and I hope you are since Brad's show is the closest thing there is to appointment radio in the Twin Cities market these days, here are a few handy ways to do so, direct from Brad's blog:

You can listen live in the Twin Cities at AM 1280 on your radio dial. In and out of the Minneapolis-St Paul area, you can listen to the program on the Internet by clicking this link.
Also, there is a UStream channel where you can watch the broadcast, if you so desire. Check it out here (provided the web cam has been returned to our newly constructed studio).
For mobile phone users, there are apps available for iphone, Blackberry and Android!
Check it out -- it may not change your life, but Brad's show is usually a better way to spend a few hours on a Sunday afternoon than nearly anything else you're likely to come up with, if you're honest about it.

Congrats to the Knights

Congratulations to Benster's Irondale High School Knights, whose girl's hockey team is headed to the state tournament following a 2-1 victory over District 621 rival Mounds View 2-1 last night. Mounds View was the #1 seed in Section 5AA, while the Knights were the #6 seed, so it's a bit of an upset. Having said that, the Knights have a more-than-respectable record of 19-8-1 coming into the tournament.

Irondale gets to find out how good they are right off the bat, as they've drawn the #1 overall seed in the tournament, the Minnetonka Skippers. Game time is 6 p.m. on Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Marty sends his regrets

Even when you walk away, you can't walk away. That seems to be the sensation that Martin Peretz has about the venerable journal he published for nearly 40 years, The New Republic:
Like many readers of the New Republic, I didn't at first recognize the most recent issue of the magazine. The stark white cover was unlike anything the New Republic ran during my 35 years as the owner. Having read the cover story, I still don't recognize the magazine that I sold in 2012 to the Facebook zillionaire Chris Hughes.
So what was that cover story?
"Original Sin," by Sam Tanenhaus, purported to explain "Why the GOP is and will continue to be the party of white people." The provocative theme would not have been unthinkable in the magazine's 99-year history, but the essay's reliance on insinuations of GOP racism ("the inimical 'they' were being targeted by a spurious campaign to pass voter-identification laws, a throwback to Jim Crow") and gross oversimplifications hardly reflected the intellectual traditions of a journal of ideas. What made the "Original Sin" issue unrecognizable to this former owner is that it established as fact what had only been suggested by the magazine in the early days of its new administration: The New Republic has abandoned its liberal but heterodox tradition and embraced a leftist outlook as predictable as that of Mother Jones or the Nation.
There's a lot of truth to that. Back in the '80s, TNR featured a lot of writers who are now considered part of the conservative pantheon, most notably Fred Barnes and Charles Krauthammer. They also were the home publication of the late (and much missed) Michael Kelly and libertarian Charles Paul Freund. And although the magazine's editor was Michael Kinsley, who is a standard issue liberal, they also published contrarians like Mickey Kaus as well. I was a regular reader in those days and enjoyed the publication very much.

Those days have been over for a long time now. TNR has been predictably lefty for a lot longer than Peretz wants to admit, especially under the tenure of Franklin Foer. Peretz eventually got rid of Foer, but he's now returned to the helm under the new administration.

Peretz seems to regret that the publisher's voice he once established has left TNR. Well, if there's a market for the 80s era TNR, Peretz ought to start a new journal.

The economy we emulate

Everything that the modern Democratic Party wants to do points to a future for the United States in which we are more like Europe. I do hope that our European future is better than the European present:

It was only a matter of time. With many of its debt-ridden euro partners in recession, Germany could only swim against the tide for so long.

Figures Thursday showed that output in Germany, Europe's largest economy, contracted by more than anticipated in the last three months of 2012. And it was the German drop that lay behind a deepening of the recession across the economy of the 17 European Union countries that use the euro.

On the bright side, the contraction was "more than anticipated" as opposed to "unexpected." That's something.

The question for Europe is this -- how long will Germany be willing to carry the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain), especially with France likely to join the basket case brigade? And what happens if the Germans say they've had enough? Historically, those sorts of disputes haven't ended particularly well.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day

I initially wrote a version of this post five years ago. It's hard to believe a quarter century has now passed since the events that are detailed below. I'm still the luckiest guy in the world. Happy Valentine's Day.


It was Valentine's Day weekend, 1988, and it didn't mean much to me at the time. I didn't have a girlfriend and the last few relationships I'd pursued really didn't get much past the starting line. I was living in Oak Park, Illinois, and working in Chicago. I loved being there; Chicago is a great place for a young man on the make, but I decided to get out of Dodge for a weekend. It was pretty easy to get back to my alma mater, Beloit College, from there - a 45 minute trip on the El through downtown and back out to O'Hare, then a hop on the Alco Bus Company line that went between O'Hare and Madison. I had finished up at Beloit back in 1985 and then went to work for the college for a couple of years in its public relations office. Although most of my classmates were long gone by 1988, I still knew a lot of people there; former work-study students, some of my former colleagues. It was a relaxing, enjoyable place to return and I could get up there in less than two hours.

There was one person I was hoping to avoid, though - a young lady of my acquaintance named Jill. I'd known Jill for a couple of years at Beloit and always enjoyed her company; she was part of our wider circle of friends, but I hadn't spent a lot of time talking to her or even paying her much mind. I'm pretty certain that Jill felt the same way about me. But there was a problem. Jill and one of my best friends from Beloit had been dating and they had broken up over the holidays. My friend hadn't handled it well - he's the first to admit it, and I knew that Jill was very unhappy about it. I also sensed that she might not be too happy to see me because of it. I was thinking about what might happen as I rode north, assuming there was an excellent chance that I would see Jill at some point over the weekend. Beloit College is a very small school; at the time, less than 1,000 people attended there. You could get to know just about everyone if you made the effort and I knew that Jill tended to frequent the same places I liked to frequent. While I wasn't overly worried about seeing her, I thought that there might be an unpleasant moment or two, so I tried to prepare myself for it.

After I arrived, I met my friend Kevin, threw my bag on the floor of his apartment and we made haste to Goody's Bar, a clean, well-lighted place just off campus. We had just purchased a pitcher of Miller Beer and filled the excellent jukebox with coins when we saw a group of young women at the door. At the head of the group was Sue, a wonderful Southside Chicago gal who was friends with just about everyone at the college. Her best friend was Jill, who was following behind. Sue saw Kevin and me sitting at the table and froze. She told Jill to wait, then approached Kevin and me.

"Mark! What a surprise!" she said. "You didn't bring your friend with you, did you?"

"Nope, he's back in Chicago," I replied.

"That's a really good thing, Mark," she said. Then she turned around and walked back to the group of ladies with her. She quietly informed Jill that the Jerk wasn't in the house and the young ladies joined us at our table.

After a few minutes, Jill turned to me with visible anger and said, "You know, your friend is really a jerk." I thought about that for a moment. I didn't disagree with her, but I wasn't going to rip him when he wasn't there to defend himself, even if his conduct had been indefensible. It seemed that everyone at the table was waiting for my response. I decided I'd see if I could deflect the anger.

"So, how 'bout them Dodgers," I said. Jill glared at me with evident disgust and said something that changed my life.

"They're in spring training!"

She was right, of course. Valentine's Day is the time of year when pitchers and catchers report and certainly at that moment Orel Hershiser and his pals were probably plodding along somewhere in Florida. But that wasn't what caught my attention. In her anger, I saw something in Jill that I hadn't seen before. 25 years on, I'm still not sure if I can really explain it, but suddenly she was no longer this girl who was floating around on the perimeter of my college social circle. At that moment, I thought that this was a pretty sharp lady and this was someone I needed to know a little better.

I was there all that weekend and Jill and I talked a lot. We talked some about my friend, but her anger abated. She knew that I wasn't responsible for what had happened. At one point, somewhat impulsively, I reached for her hand. I looked in her eyes and said, "I'm not like him, Jill." She looked at me intently and said, "I know."

I got back on the bus on Sunday afternoon and thought about her all the way back to Chicago. There was something there -- I knew it. I wasn't sure how I knew, and I sure wasn't sure what I should do next, but I knew that I wanted to hold her hand again. We wrote letters back and forth a few times and eventually we started to date. It was her senior year and by the time she was ready to graduate in May, we were thinking of each other as boyfriend and girlfriend. Our relationship continued to grow and eventually she moved to Chicago to be near me. Jill and I will celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary later this year.

There are moments in every person's life where magic is possible. It's not something you can easily schedule. Hallmark can't put it on your docket. But when the moment arrives, you have to be ready. And even if you aren't ready, if you are fortunate you will recognize the moment when it comes. Through 3 years of dating/courtship/engagement, 21+ years of marriage, the birth of our children and everything else that has happened in our lives since that wintry evening in 1988, I have celebrated that moment. Thank goodness we both saw it.

Home truth

Aaron "Captain Capitalism" Clarey, on the market failure of talk radio:

After 20 years of listening to talk radio, not to mention that minor "economist" thing I do, nothing surprises me anymore, nothing is new, and thus for intellectual pursuit I go elsewhere.

While that may be my particular case, that does not mean it holds for others.  Sure, younger people coming into the world of adulthood tune in.  Young college boys, disillusioned why women hate them, why their professors hate them, and why they can't find jobs, start to find an explanation why the world isn't turning out they way their high school teachers said it would in right wing talk radio.  Young women who can't find a decent date might listen to Dennis Prager.  But after 5 years the "treatment" of talk radio runs its course much like an anti-biotic treatment - it ends.  It does no more good.
This rings true, as does the rest of his analysis. Go check it out.

Watch and see

In Xanadu did Mark Dayton
A stately minimum wage increase:

One day after President Obama called for a $9 an hour federal minimum wage in his State of the Union address, efforts to raise the lowest hourly pay allowed in Minnesota are gathering strength.

Gov. Mark Dayton, House Speaker Paul Thissen and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk all say it is time for Minnesota to lift the minimum wage, which now stands at $6.15 -- one of only four states with a wage less than the federal minimum.

"We want work to pay," Dayton said Wednesday. "It's long overdue."

A vision, in a dream. A fragment.

House Rep. Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, and Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, on Wednesday introduced a bill that would raise the state's minimum wage to $9.50 an hour and index it to inflation. That bill has drawn the support of House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, and a host of other DFL committee chairs, though critics say the bill could threaten a still-fragile economic recovery by making workers unaffordable.

Hortman said the increase is needed. "The more you raise the minimum wage, the more people you raise out of poverty," she said. Supporters say that as many as half a million Minnesota jobs pay less than $9.50 an hour.

It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The best four words in the English Language

They definitely aren't "State of the Union." No, the best four words in the English language are:

Pitchers and catchers report:

At long last
This has felt like a long winter and we really could use some baseball.

You Don't Miss Your Water

till your well runs dry:

The importance of optics
And this is all anyone will remember of the Republican Response to the State of the Union.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Didn't bother

Nope, I didn't watch the State of the Union. But Stephen Green did. And as usual he has the line of the night. Actually, several:

“Do more to encourage fatherhood.”
Maybe we could start by not paying for other people’s condoms.
Just a thought.


OMG. “The greatest nation on earth cannot continue drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next.”
This is like me berating the trash guys for all the empty liquor bottles they haul away from the end of my drive.


“Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.”
WTF? Did she move and forget to re-register?

And, my personal favorite:

“No one should take my word for it.”
I’m laughing like the Joker and crying like Smokey Robinson.

More, much more, at the link. Remember, one way to save the Republic from the depredations of a guy like Obama is through relentless mockery. Presidents should be mocked and I'm hard pressed to think of any president who deserves it more than the gent currently occupying the Oval Office.

You Don't Say

Glenn Greenwald shares a discovery:

That many Democratic partisans and fervent Obama admirers are vapid, unprincipled hacks willing to justify anything and everything when embraced by Obama - including exactly that which they pretended to oppose under George W Bush - has also been clear for many years. Back in February, 2008, Paul Krugman warned that Obama supporters are "dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality." In May, 2009, a once-fervent Obama supporter, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, wrote a column warning that Obama was embracing many of the worst Bush/Cheney abuses and felt compelled - in the very first sentence - to explain what should be self-evident: "Policies that were wrong under George W. Bush are no less wrong because Barack Obama is in the White House." The same month, former Bush DOJ official Jack Goldsmith - who provided the legal authorization for the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program - went to the New Republic to celebrate that Obama was not only continuing the core Bush/Cheney approach to terrorism, but even better (from his perspective), was strengthening those policies far beyond what Bush could achieve by transforming Democrats from opponents of those policies into supporters.

And exactly as Goldsmith happily predicted, polls now show that Democrats and even self-identified progressives support policies that they once pretended to loathe now that it is Obama rather than Bush embracing them. On MSNBC, Obama aides and pundit-supporters now do their best Sarah Palin impression by mocking as weaklings and losers those who think the President should be constrained in his militarism and demonizing as anti-American anyone who questions the military (in between debating whether Obama should be elevated onto Mount Rushmore or given his own monument). A whole slew of policies that would have triggered the shrillest of progressive condemnations under Bush - waging war after Congress votes against authorizing it, the unprecedented persecution and even torturing of whistleblowers, literally re-writing FOIA to conceal evidence of torture, codifying indefinite detention on US soil - are justified or, at best, ignored.

Careful, Greenwald -- talking about that sort of thing will land you in the Crawford ditch with Cindy Sheehan.

Monday, February 11, 2013


I wrote briefly this morning about the news that Pope Benedict is resigning/retiring/abdicating. I made a statement in my initial post that needs a little clarification.

I wrote the following this morning:  “It was time for Benedict to go and, to his credit, he recognizes that.” I want to make it clear that I was not arguing that Benedict had overstayed his welcome or that I wanted him to leave the papacy. 

What I do mean is this — Benedict’s role as a transitional figure had two components, in my mind. First, he needed to consolidate some of the gains the Church made during the crucial and historic papacy of his predecessor, John Paul II. Much of that work involved the internal workings of the Vatican and is necessarily inside baseball. Second, and this is crucial, his steady hand and great faith were crucial for the Church in preparing the way for his successor, who will almost certainly be instrumental in continuing the ministry and initiatives that JPII started. I have a strong sense that what will happen in the coming days and weeks, coinciding with the Lenten season, will be filled with the Holy Spirit. And I sense that the Holy Spirit was instrumental in helping Benedict in his discernment.

The Church needs an energetic Pope, especially now. I suspect we will have one.


Big news out of the Vatican:

Pope Benedict XVI has announced that he will resign Feb. 28, the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. The decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March.

The 85-year-old pope announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals Monday morning.
More than a few thoughts on this as the days go on, but here are my initial ones:

  • It was time for Benedict to go and, to his credit, he recognizes that. I had always assumed that he would be a transitional figure, but he has managed to last nearly 8 years, which is a lot longer than most people would have guessed.
  • There is a lot of speculation that the next pope will come from someplace other than Europe. I think this is quite possible, actually. I've been arguing for a number of years that the energy in the Church lies outside of Europe and that we could very well see a Pope from the Western hemisphere for the first time.
  • Is it possible that there will be a pope from the United States? Maybe, but I'd be surprised. Timothy Dolan, who is the Archbishop of New York, is a possibility because he's still fairly young, but I think there's a better chance that we get a pope from Latin America. A better bet might be Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, currently the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. A few other candidates are listed here; the link suggests that the best bet might be Marc Ouellet, who is at the Vatican now but was previously the Archbishop of Quebec, which meant that he was essentially the head of the church in Canada. I think having a pope who comes from outside of the Vatican hierarchy would be a welcome change and Rodriguez Maradiaga would fit that bill.
  • My hunch is that whoever the new pope turns out to be, he will turn out to be a crucial figure in the history of the Church. It's difficult to hear this message in the United States, but the Church is gathering strength in many parts of the world. There's been a mismatch for at least 30-40 years between where the leadership of Church resides and where the energy of the Church resides. If the next pope comes from someplace other than Europe, it will become clear that the Church has recognized this and taken steps to change things.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

In lieu of actual blogging

Five videos. Supply your own meaning:

Friday, February 08, 2013

Corkins and Dorner

No, it's not a law firm. These guys don't have much use for the law. Frankly, they're both nuts. But they have resources. And inspiration, too

You may recall the case of Floyd Corkins, but there's a better chance you don't, because it hasn't been widely reported. Corkins went to the offices of the Family Research Council with murder on his mind:

Floyd Corkins pleaded guilty to one federal count of crossing state lines with guns and ammunition. He also pleaded guilty to one count of intent to kill while armed and one count of committing an act of terrorism with the intent to kill.

Those last two counts are District charges.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 29.

Corkins was charged in August with opening fire inside the lobby of the Family Research Council building. A security guard was wounded but managed to wrestle away the gun. No one else was hurt.
And for a guy who had murder on his mind, he had a surprisingly personal touch in store for his planned victims:

Prosecutors say Corkins, who had been volunteering at a center for gay, lesbian and transgender people, was carrying ammunition and Chick-fil-A sandwiches in his bag. Chick-fil-A was making headlines at the time because of its president's stated opposition to gay marriage.

Corkins intended to smear the sandwiches in the faces of his victims to make a statement about gay rights opponents, he acknowledged during a hearing Wednesday.

According to the plea agreement, he told FBI agents who interviewed him after the shooting that he wanted to use the sandwiches to "make a statement against the people who work in that building ... and with their stance against gay rights and Chick-fil-A."
Smearing a pickle-laden sandwich on someone's wounds is a particularly nice touch. So, how did Corkins get to the Family Research Council? Well, he had resources:

In a statement released after Corkins' plea, the head of the Family Research Council blamed the shooting in part on the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has labeled his organization a hate group.

In his plea agreement, Corkins acknowledged he identified the Council as "an anti-gay organization" by visiting Southern Poverty's website. The head of the Council, Tony Perkins, called on the group to stop labeling his organization and others hate groups because of their stance on gay issues. A spokeswoman for the Alabama-based Law Center did not immediately return a telephone message.
Conveniently for Corkins, the SPLC provided a map to where he should go:

Haters gonna hate
It's probably impertinent to ask this, but how do we interpret this resource? Is it a list of groups that hate? Or a list of groups we're supposed to hate? Unsurprisingly, the SPLC would rather not say.

Meanwhile, out in L.A., there's a massive manhunt underway for a rampaging ex-cop, Christopher Dorner, who is simultaneously (a) out for revenge and (b) not lacking for inspiration:
 An ex-Los Angeles police officer who authorities say went on a killing spree to punish those he blamed for his firing killed three people, set off a manhunt that stretched across three states and into Mexico, and stirred fear throughout the region.
And he has his reasons, which he laid out in an incoherent manifesto:
I am here to change and make policy. The culture of LAPD versus the community and honest/good officers needs to and will change. I am here to correct and calibrate your morale compasses to true north.
He also gives more shout outs than you get at the end of a John Feinstein book:

Mia Farrow said it best. "Gun control is no longer debatable, it's not a conversation, its a moral mandate." 
Sen. Feinstein, you are doing the right thing in leading the re-institution of a national AWB. Never again should any public official state that their prayers and thoughts are with the family. That has become cliche' and meaningless. Its time for action. Let this be your legacy that you bestow to America. Do not be swayed by obstacles, antagaonist, and naysayers. Remember the innocent children at Austin, Kent, Stockton, Fullerton, San Diego, Iowa City, Jonesboro, Columbine, Nickel Mines, Blacksburg, Springfield, Red Lake, Chardon, Aurora, and Newtown. Make sure this never happens again!!!
That would be Diane Feinstein, not John. But he's just getting started:

Mr. Vice President, do your due diligence when formulating a concise and permanent national AWB plan. Future generations of Americans depend on your plan and advisement to the president. I've always been a fan of yours and consider you one of the few genuine and charismatic politicians. Damn, sounds like an oxymoron calling you an honest politician. It's the truth.

Hillary Clinton. You'll make one hell of a president in 2016. Much like your husband, Bill, you will be one of the greatest. Look at Castro in San Antonio as a running mate or possible secretary of state. He's (good people) and I have faith and confidence in him. Look after Bill. He was always my favorite President. Chelsea grew up to be one hell of an attractive woman. No disrespect to her husband.

Gov. Chris Christie. What can I say? You're the only person I would like to see in the White House in 2016 other than Hillary. You're America's no shit taking uncle. Do one thing for your wife, kids, and supporters. Start walking at night and eat a little less, not a lot less, just a little. We want to see you around for a long time. Your leadership is greatly needed.

And there's more:
Chris Matthews, Joe Scarborough, Pat Harvey, Brian Williams, Soledad Obrien, Wolf Blitzer, Meredith Viera, Tavis Smiley, and Anderson Cooper, keep up the great work and follow Cronkite's lead. I hold many of you in the same regard as Tom Brokaw and the late Peter Jennings. Cooper, stop nagging and berating your guest, they're your (guest). Mr. Scarborough, we met at McGuire's pub in P-cola in 2002 when I was stationed there. It was an honor conversing with you about politics, family, and life.
Feel the love, all of you. Meanwhile, there's this insight:
Wayne LaPierre, President of the NRA, you're a vile and inhumane piece of shit. You never even showed 30 seconds of empathy for the children, teachers, and families of Sandy Hook. You deflected any type of blame/responsibility and directed it toward the influence of movies and the media. You are a failure of a human being. May all of your immediate and distant family die horrific deaths in front of you.
That LaPierre must be a really bad guy.

So, what does all this mean? I'd suggest the following:

  • First of all, none of the recipients of Dorner's admiration are responsible for what he's done. Let's say that from the outset.
  • Also, the SPLC isn't responsible for Floyd Corkins, either.
  • We need to get out of the business of blaming other people for the actions of crazy people. Whatever you think of Wayne LaPierre, he wasn't responsible in any way for what happened in Newtown. Sarah Palin wasn't responsible for inspiring Jared Loughner, the guy who shot up a strip mall in Tucson, hitting former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the process.
There's more to be said about this. Probably tomorrow.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

You make everything, groovy

RIP, Reg Presley of the Troggs. Rock at its most fundamental:

Drone If You Want To

Peter Wehner, writing in Commentary, makes the important point about Obama's drone strikes:

During the 2008 campaign and much of the early part of his presidency, Barack Obama obsessively argued that waterboarding all of three individuals–September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and senior al-Qaeda leaders Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri–was a violation of human rights and a grave moral offense. Here’s the thing, though: unlike Mr. Obama’s drone strikes, no American citizens, no terrorists and no innocent children have died due to waterboarding. Yet the president’s press spokesman is defending Mr. Obama’s policies as “legal,” “ethical,” and “wise.”

Which leads me to two conclusions. The first is that it’s not always easy to navigate the murky waters of law, morality, and war and terrorism, at least when you’re in the White House and have an obligation to protect the country from massive harm. (After they were revealed, I had several long conversations with White House colleagues trying to sort through the morality of waterboarding and indefinite detention.)

The second is that it is true that there is a serious argument to be made that during wartime targeting terrorists, including Americans, with drones is justified. But that justification probably best not come from someone who has spent much of the last half-dozen years or so sermonizing against waterboarding, accusing those who approved such policies of trashing American ideals and shredding our civil liberties, and portraying himself as pure as the new-driven snow. Because any person who did so would be vulnerable to the charge of moral preening and moral hypocrisy.

Why yes, yes that person would be vulnerable to such charges. Or put another way, as seen on Facebook:

You may already be a winner!

Let's boil it down, kids. Either the world is a dangerous place and presidents should have the ability to do nasty things, or they shouldn't. It won't do to pretend that Barack Obama's prosecution of the War on Terror is any more ethical or moral than what George W. Bush did, because in the ways that matter, they are the same.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Someone tell Gubmint Motors

Wait, you mean the Chevy Volt isn't a good idea? Well,

“Because of its shortcomings — driving range, cost and recharging time — the electric vehicle is not a viable replacement for most conventional cars,” said Toyota’s vice chairman, Takeshi Uchiyamada, in a Reuters report. “We need something entirely new.”

Toyota Motor Co. — the world’s largest hybrid manufacturer, Reuters reports — recently announced a plan to drop pure electric-car development, also.

The announcement follows a White House decision last week to reduce its goal of 1 million electric cars on U.S. roads by 2015, Reuters said.
This is the problem when governments start setting technological decrees. It's one thing to put a man on the moon in 10 years -- it's quite another to assume you can somehow circumvent the limitations of chemistry that are involved in battery storage.

So what are the Japanese carmakers working on now? Fuel cell technology that would use hydrogen. Who was touting that technology years ago? Gee, I wonder.

Just so you know

Yes, the gubmint can take you out, because the Justice Department says so:

Specifically, the memo states: “The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” according to UPI. Citizens who present such “imminent threats” were defined as those who participated in violent acts — and maintained the views that led to their violent acts, according to UPI.
Better get your mind right, kid. Maintain the wrong views and it could end very badly for you.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

What's Love Got to Do with It?

Unrequited love is such a drag:

Interviews with dozens of members of Congress and senior aides reveal frustration and in some cases exasperation that a president who came from the Senate has no apparent appetite for cultivating relationships on Capitol Hill.

These Democrats say they almost never hear from Obama personally, haven’t been to the White House since Rahm Emanuel was still chief of staff and are mystified that the president passed over a popular legislative affairs aide for the job as top congressional liaison. One high-profile Democrat who recently spoke to a group of Hill Democrats came away stunned at their anger toward a president they hardly know.
Not even a Jackson on the nightstand. But there's more:

Now, a confluence of events is raising the volume on the congressional complaints about this president. Just as Obama is detailing the considerable legislative lift he expects of Congress — everything from taxes and spending to guns to immigration to climate change — his campaign makes plans to morph into a political pressure group separate from the Democratic National Committee and the president himself takes to the pages of The New Republic to explain that he plans to spend his second term “in a conversation with the American people as opposed to just playing an insider game here in Washington.”
There's a reason for this approach, of course. Obama isn't any damn good at governing in the traditional sense of the term. He's exceptional at campaigning, though. We got a look at that in Minneapolis yesterday, when Brother Obama's Traveling Salvation Show came through town:

President Obama brought his battle against gun violence to Minneapolis on Monday, praising the city for its efforts to reduce youth gunplay to an audience that included survivors of Minnesota gun tragedies.

"You've shown that progress is possible," Obama told an invited, sympathetic crowd at the Minneapolis Police Department's Special Operations Center in north Minneapolis, where he highlighted the city's success in reducing youth gun violence. In his first visit outside Washington, D.C., to promote his own anti-violence and gun-control agenda, Obama said the nation can make similar progress -- if the public demands it.

"The only way we can reduce gun violence in this country is if the American people decide it's important," Obama said. "We're not going to wait until the next Newtown, or the next Aurora," he added, referring to the massacre of schoolchildren in Connecticut and the gunman who shot up a theater full of moviegoers in Colorado.

It was the usual thing -- a backdrop of police officers, with very little opposition. Give the Star Tribune reporters some credit, since they did mention it was an "invited, sympathetic crowd." If you watched the local coverage on the news stations, it was the typical hagiography. Obama understands how to play the game.

The problem is that he's asking a lot of Democrats to cast votes that are going to be dangerous to their political health, especially on guns. And there are practical implications for the party beyond Obama, as Politico reminds us:

With 20 Senate Democrats up for reelection in 2014, seven of them from states the president lost, Obama’s fellow Democrats in the Capitol say they don’t need him and his political aides publicly pushing them as much as they want them to offer private reassurance and campaign help.
Riddle me this -- if you are Mary Landrieu, or Mark Pryor, or Mark Begich, or Kay Hagan, how eager are you to cast a vote for gun control? Even Al Franken seems ambivalent at best about it. And can you blame these folks for feeling that way?

Obama doesn't care about this, of course. Why should he? The notion that he would turn his political campaign into a permanent feature of the political landscape shows that he doesn't much care about collegiality. He's not anything like Bill Clinton, who remains a traditional backslapping politician. We haven't seen a politician like Barack Obama before in my lifetime. And I tend to doubt that anyone else will be able to duplicate Obama's approach.

Gas in 2013, so far

Not a good trend:

Up 24% in a month
About $3.59/gallon around most of the stations in the metro, at least along the routes I travel. What are you seeing where you are?

Monday, February 04, 2013

A modest proposal

Since I wrote about the Boy Scouts last week, I noticed that President Obama, who never lets a moment pass without making sure you know what his opinion is, mostly because his wisdom simply must be shared, has weighed in on the matter. Obama has stated that he wants the Boy Scouts to get with the program and start admitting gays in all areas of the organization, thus expecting this private organization to be more fair to gays than he has been personally.

Since the BSA is a private group, Obama really can’t force his will on this matter without getting the attention of the Supreme Court. But since everything Obama does is hugely popular, he is not without options; for example, he could certainly decimate the ranks of the BSA by creating his own scouting organization that could compete with the BSA. Since he’s already made a move to make his campaign organization a permanent feature in American life, there’s no reason why he couldn’t create a youth scouting division of his organization. He could call it the Organizing for Action Youth (OFAY). And I’m certain that one of Michelle’s fashion designer pals could come up with a totally stylin’ bandana, too.

Super Bowl Sunday

A few quick thoughts:

  • It's increasingly evident that being the best team during the season is a mug's game. The goal is getting to the playoffs, because after that everyone seems to have a puncher's chance to win the thing. I don't think that too many people outside of Baltimore saw the Ravens running the table.
  • A lot of what makes the game so interesting is the spectacle involved, which is also why the power outage in the 3rd quarter was such a departure. You can plan it down to the smallest detail, but something can go wrong no matter what.
  • A lot of the Super Bowl ads were typical fare, cute and/or funny. But the one that I suspect worked the best was the long one for Ram Trucks that featured a Paul Harvey commentary. A lot of farmers and people in the Midwest generally might have been Paul Harvey listeners back in the day, but I'd wager that the majority of people in the audience had never heard one of Harvey's radio essays before. It was a brilliant ad, I thought -- the stark imagery combined beautifully with Harvey's distinctive cadences.
  • The game itself reminded me a lot of Super Bowl XXV. The Ravens got out to a big lead and then had to hang on for dear life. Benster and I disagree on the relative merits of Colin Kaepernick, but I will say this -- if he can stay healthy, he's a dynamic player.
  • Also, I'm happy for Matt Birk, the longtime Viking who got his ring. I'm also not heartbroken that Randy Moss was denied for a second time. And congratulations to Cris Carter for finally getting in the Hall of Fame, and to former Packer great Dave Robinson, who was one of the few Lombardi-era Packers I actually remember. Now we have to get Jerry Kramer into the HOF. Oh, and Jim Marshall, too.

100 Years of Income Tax

I hadn't realized it until I read this piece by John Hayward, but yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the passage of 16th Amendment, which enabled the federal government to set up the income tax system in this country. And Hayward reminds of us of some, ahem, inconvenient truths:
Allowing the government to sink its feeding tubes into the veins of American income has fueled astonishing government growth.  That first itty bitty tax levy brought in a paltry $16.6 billion in revenue, adjusted for the past century of inflation.  Today the income tax brings in $2.7 trillion.  Government inevitably grows to fill, and exceed, the space made available for it.
More, a lot more, at the link.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Benster and D Pick Your Game -- Super Bowl XVII Edition, Baby!

Sorry we're a little late with this, but I really don't think you've been using our picks to place bets in Vegas, because the old dude would have cost you plenty.

Except in 2009. Then you might have done well to listen to my advice.

But what have you done for us lately? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zip. So stop resting on your laurels, Geritol Fan, and watch me work!

Super Bowl XVII -- Baltimore Ravens (+4) vs. San Francisco 49ers, in NOLA. Well, I thought that both of these teams would have been out by now, but here they are, the Harbaugh Brothers, the greatest set of brothers since the Wright Brothers. No, that's not right. Maybe the Smothers Brothers. No, that's not it, either.

Maybe the Hudson Brothers?

Oh my goodness, no! Please people, don't click that link! You'll need a 55-gallon drum of bleach for your eyes and ears! The point about this game is simple -- Jim Harbaugh has unwisely staked his job on the wrong quarterback. Because as much as we want to talk about Colin Kaepernick and his arms with a 5,000 word essay tattooed on them, the point is simple -- when has a mobile quarterback ever won a Super Bowl? I must have missed it when Fran Tarkenton won all those Super Bowls in the 1970s. Oh wait, he didn't. Sorry, Vikings fans. Or who could forget the triumphant Super Bowl performances of Randall Cunningham and Michael Vick? Oh, darn, they never got there.

What about Steve Young?

That's different. Steve Young was a running quarterback when he was with Tampa Bay, mostly because he was running for his life. Remember this? Well, I don't, but it's amusing:

By 1994, Young wasn't a running quarterback any more than say, Aaron Rodgers is now. He'd run when he had to, but not on purpose. Kaepernick still hasn't shown me he can win with his arm. Baltimore is going to make Kaepernick work for everything he gets. Will the pressure of the big game finally end the era of the read-option? Baltimore 34, San Francisco 27.

I agree with you and disagree with you. How's that?

Confusing. But go on.

I think San Francisco is the more dynamic team, but the Ravens are playing very well right now. Joe Flacco has made a real case for himself as a quarterback in this playoff run. Winning in Denver and New England in consecutive weeks is pretty impressive. Still, I wonder about Baltimore's aging defense. Ray Lewis has been getting the Bambi extract and Ed Reed is still out there fighting, but they are some old guys and Kaepernick runs like an antelope. If Baltimore is going to win, they will need Haloti Ngata to have a huge day on defense. I think it's going to be high scoring, but in the end I have to disagree. San Francisco 31, Baltimore 29.

By the way, the reason we didn't have this pick up yesterday is because we were in Prior Lake watching the Border Battle, a seven-game basketball extravaganza between Minnesota high school teams and Wisconsin high school teams. The old dude and I (and Fearless Maria, too!) got a chance to see Reid Travis, the stud player for DeLaSalle, and Tyus Jones, the wunderkind from Apple Valley, along with the monstrous, somewhat frightening looking Henry Ellenson, a sophomore from Rice Lake, Wisconsin, who looks like a villain in a James Bond movie. It was a lot of fun and I was definitely feeling some HYYYYYYYPPPPPPPPE! We also saw Tubby Smith hanging around on the far side of the gym. Tubby would like to have all three of those kids on his team someday. He might get one or two, but Tyus Jones is likely headed to Duke Michigan State Kentucky some glamor program elsewhere. Only I, the Benster, know which one. And sorry Coach K. Tough luck Izzo. No dice, cheatin' weasel Calipari. The answer is simple -- Tyus Jones is coming to Irondale High School! Or at least he should. Ben out!

I need a photo opportunity, I want a shot of redemption

The White House thought it was being very clever again yesterday when it released a shot of the president shooting a shotgun someplace, presumably Camp David:

Bang bang, shoot shoot

Some people have pointed out that if the president was actually shooting skeet, as he'd claimed to do earlier, he wasn't exactly shooting it at the proper angle and that he was likely to rattle a few teeth by placing his cheek next to the barrel. All of which is true.

Of course, in the age of Photoshop you can do all sorts of things with images:

Fwankwy, ignowance is the best policy
And even if Obama's knowledge of firearms is limited, he seems to know a little more about them than Al Gore did in Vietnam:

That'll release a chakra or two

But let's face it, photo opportunities are just that. And anyway, if you want to do it right, you need to learn from the master:

Dick Weber? Hell no. Dick Nixon!