Monday, September 30, 2013

Shutdown corner

Oh noes! The government might shut down! My goodness, what're we gonna do? Someone warn everyone about it!

Okay, I'm on it. Time for the usual trenchant analysis.

  • I assume, since it always happens, that the Democrats will blame the Republicans, particularly the hated Tea Party, for this outrage, and that the compliant mainstream media will report their comments verbatim without adding any qualifiers or caveats, because that is how it is. Democrats tell the truth and Republicans are nefarious weasels who prefer the 1% get everything because they're Snidely Whiplash and don't care about the concerns of the poor, the downtrodden and all those who add to the sum total of goodness and love in the world by way of assertion. So it will be asserted. So it shall be. Oh, and by the way, John Boehner looks just like an Oompa Loompa. Had you noticed?
  • The particularly evil thing that the Republicans, particularly the odious Tea Party types, did was to specifically call out the medical device tax as a portion of Obamacare that must be repealed. It's especially unfair to brave public servants like Sen. Al Franken, who once wrote a book about "Lying Liars" or something like that (I haven't been to the remainder section of the bookstore lately, so I'm not certain of the title, but I think that's right) to have to vote to save that medical device tax. It's just mean and I'm sure that the people who work for Medtronic, St. Jude Medical, etc. here in the Twin Cities will understand that he really does love them and their industry, but it's just those bastard Teabaggers who are putting him on the spot. Don't worry, Al -- you're good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people still like you.
  • We spent a lot of time on our recent vacation in facilities administered by the National Park Service, including Abraham Lincoln's birthplace in Kentucky and William Howard Taft's home in Cincinnati. They are clean, well-lighted places and the people who work there have really cool uniforms that look like the Benster's Boy Scout uniform, although they have the cool park ranger hats, too. Those places will be shut down right away, of course, and they'll be pulling the big gates shut at Yosemite and Yellowstone, for sure. Further proof that those teabaggin' ne'er-do-wells don't give a flying fig about history -- they even shut down facilities that honor Republicans!
In other words, we're about to enter the Moron Zone. Have fun with it.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

It's better to know where you stand

So what we discovered yesterday is this:  President Barack Obama is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not with House Republicans. Hope and Change!

As seen on Facebook

Gasp! Anything but that!
In truth, you'd find no shortage of people who would volunteer to take up these vital tasks in the absence of the government.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Hassle Matt Cassel Edition

So, old dude, it looks like the Vikings are going to try to recreate the victories of the Nordic hordes who ransacked Jolly Olde England a thousand years ago.

I thought they were there to play football.

That's just the cover story. I think. But we'll get to that eventually. Meanwhile, we have other business to attend to. Watch me work!

Iowa Hawkeyes (-1.5) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers. Wait a minute, Vegas. You're seriously having the Gophers as a home dog? Have you seen Iowa play this year? They suck! They look like they snuck Ricky Stanzi back. Or maybe they're suiting up Zombie Nile Kinnick! Actually, they could use Zombie Nile Kinnick, given the caliber of the players wearing black and gold these days. The Gophers have been playing very well and are 4-0. While they did schedule a certain amount of cupcakes, they weren't all cupcake-like. In fact, San Jose State was more of a bundt cake. Bottom line is, the pig will not leave. Minnesota 24, Iowa 7.

I think Iowa is a little better than terrible, but these two teams are about equal right now. Since the game is in Minneapolis, I tend to agree that the pig is staying put. Minnesota 27, Iowa 21.

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (+7) vs. Hated The Ohio State University Golden Pants Selling Weasels. If you are a regular reader of this feature, you may have noticed that I, the Benster, am not a fan of "The Ohio State University." In fact, I kinda hate 'em. Why is that, you ask? Well, they managed to replace Cheaty McSweater with someone who is even more smug and arrogant, Urban "Blight" Meyer. As always, the Buckeyes feature a boatload of talented athletes who (a) may or may not be running side businesses with ill-gotten merchandise or (b) may or may not be attending classes in animal husbandry and sports facilities management, or something like that. The point is, it's a easy team to hate. Meanwhile, the Badgers recovered nicely from the screw job in the desert and gave Purdue their annual thumping. Melvin Gordon is a beast and he is going to be a legitimate Heisman candidate after he leaves tread marks over various Buckeye defenders. Badgers 31, NCAA Investigation Target 28.

Tough game for the Badgers. As the young fella noted, the Buckeyes are loaded with talent, as usual. And Meyer, while irritating, is a heck of a coach. I think it's close, but I have to sadly disagree with my son's sparkling analysis. Ohio State 31, Badgers 27.

Ole Miss Rebels (+15) vs. Alabama Roll Tide. Speaking of teams that I find annoying, we turn our attention to Nick Saban, who is not shady but is oilier than western North Dakota. He leads his NFL-ready Tide against Ole Miss, which has been impressive this year up to now. They are stepping up in class rather a lot, but they should have hope. Alabama is not invincible at home, as Johnny Football proved last year, and LSU proved two years ago in the latest "Game of the Century." I believe that Alabama is going to get picked off eventually and this game is going to be the one. Ole Miss 35, Alabama 0.

Uh, no. I think Alabama might lose this year, but it won't be to Ole Miss. Alabama 34, Ole Miss 17.

Pittsburgh Stillers (-3) vs. Minnesota Vikings, in London, Baby! Time for a musical interlude. Sing it with me, Geritol Fan!

Come out of your cupboards, you boys and girls! It's time to watch some really mediocre American Football! The Vikings have conveniently noticed that Christian Ponder has sore ribs. I believe the injury diagnosis came from Famous Dave's, but I haven't confirmed that. So naturally, when in England, it makes sense to go with the Cassel. Matt Cassel, that is. Here is a scene of the Vikings at another castle:

Will the Steelers make the Vikings go away, or shall they taunt them a second time? Steelers 17, Vikings 7.

I'm guessing Ben Roethlisberger isn't the one using this outrageous accent, but assuming he doesn't spend a lot of time chatting up the pub girls, he's a tough guy to beat. Both of these teams really need this game, which makes it interesting, but I'm pretty sure the Vikings wish they were in the Metrodome instead of Wembley Stadium. Pittsburgh 27, Vikings 20.

Tottenham Hotspur (NL) vs. Chelsea. Look, this is the football game taking place in London this weekend that people there really care about. We haven't picked too many Premier League fixtures in this space, but as you know I have mad soccer skillz when it comes to the Premier League. Chelsea is a perennial power in the Premier League, but lately Tottenham has risen in the ranks from a mid-table club to a contender for bigger things. As it happens, the old dude is a Tottenham supporter, even though he doesn't really understand the game. Of course, not understanding the game has never stopped the old dude, as his always dubious picks have proven throughout the years. The thing is, this game is taking place at Tottenham's stadium, the venerable White Hart Lane, which sounds like a good name for a trailer park somewhere in Oklahoma. Actually, it's a somewhat fashionable address in North London. And Spurs will do well, considering they have improved despite selling superstar Gareth Bale. Tottenham 2, Chelsea 1.

It's true, I do like Tottenham Hotspur. How can you not like a team named Tottenham Hotspur? And let's face it, how can you not like their new coach, who provides a useful tutorial on the game. Really, check it out -- I'm sure you'll learn something.

Actually, I do know this much -- Gareth Bale is gone and Spurs now have guys named Soldado and Paulinho. So how can you not love that? Tottenham 1, Chelsea 0.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (+3) vs. Detroit Rock City Motor City Kitties. Back to the football that we actually understand. So far, da Bearz are off to a fine start, gladdening the heart of our pal Gino and exciting the citizenry of Chicago. Now they go to Detroit, where Ndamukong Suh awaits with plans to stomp Jay Cutler in the facemask. Here is Suh at a recent Lions practice:

As always, I appreciate Suh's calm approach to the game. Lions 28, da Bearz 7.

The Bears have improved, but this is going to be a tough assignment. Jay Cutler has historically played quite well against the Lions, but Suh, Nick Fairley and company are in a foul mood this week. And while the Bears are in good position right now, they're going to come back to the pack a bit. Lions 31, Bears 27.

Understand this -- we will be picking an Everton game one of these weeks. Everton is my club. Ben out!

How do you solve problem called Obamacare?

Everyone in the punditocracy and the blogosphere seems to be weighing in on the imminent arrival of Obamacare, which starts up for real next week. Funding, or defunding, of Obamacare is the question of the day, the latest of the countless parade of manufactured crises we've seen this year coming out of Washington (show of hands -- anyone even remember the sequester fight?)

So, What Does It All Mean? I've been scratching my chin, ruminating deeply all the while, and here are my deep thoughts on the matter:

  • First, the Ted Cruz kinda sorta filibuster wasn't really about stopping Obamacare. Cruz knows that Barack Obama isn't going to agree to defunding his signature achievement. He also knows that there isn't a chance in hell that Majority Leader Harry Reid would let anything like that happen. What Cruz was trying to do was to set down a marker, to remind everyone that Republicans unanimously opposed Obamacare when it was working through the legislative process, and that the Democratic Party and the politicians that fly under its banner are solely responsible for what is coming.
  • Of course, many of Cruz's colleagues objected to Cruz's approach, which they viewed as grandstanding, and said as much. It is astonishing to imagine a United States senator might be grandstanding, I know, since it never happens. And besides that, Cruz hasn't been in the joint long enough to be allowed to strut like a peacock. It just isn't done. The guy just doesn't have any manners, despite going to Princeton, or something. Cruz's primary critic, Sen. John McCain, gave an apt demonstration of why Republicans so richly deserve the designation "Stupid Party." Anyone who worries about collegiality in a body where Harry Reid is in charge is, well, stupid.
  •  What will ultimately sink Obamacare is that it will make people's lives more miserable, especially in ways that are irritating. The websites for the various healthcare exchanges are already turning out to be a disaster, unable to calculate accurate pricing because of the complexity involved in determining whether a rate should be subsidized or not. And while Obama and his acolytes have been crowing in recent days that rates are "lower than expected," that begs the obvious question that the compliant media rarely ask: whose expectations are we talking about here? And what about this promise?
  • The biggest symbolic thing the Republicans could do is insist that Congress, and everyone else in the federal government, enter the Obamacare system. No waivers, no special treatment. Make everyone in Washington who draws a paycheck from Uncle Sam participate fully in the program. And then, make sure the law is fully enforced. No waivers for Cadillac union plans, or for McDonald's, or for anyone else. No special pleading. Everyone in the pool.
The bottom line is that you can't solve the problem of Obamacare by defunding it, at least when Obama sits at the Resolute Desk and Harry Reid wields the gavel. But if you make the problem universal, you're more likely to gain the political support needed to do something about it later on. Barack Obama is leaving in 2017, one way or another. His signature achievement might be leaving then, too.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Local Scene -- Third Thing to Know

One of the things that you are likely to hear during the campaign for New Brighton municipal offices is that New Brighton ought to do more to partner with other local communities. What that really means is this -- the goal is to get New Brighton to rejoin the various lobbying groups that it abandoned in 2009 when Dave Jacobsen became mayor. I wrote about this back in 2011 and the arguments haven't changed. Nor has the obvious beneficiary of a change, former mayor Bob Benke, who ran unsuccessfully to unseat Jacobsen in 2011. In fact, Benke is still a registered lobbyist for such organizations.

If one of the challengers knocks on your door in the next month, ask him or her whether they support having New Brighton rejoin the North Metro Mayors Association. Then ask them why.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Cruz Control

As I write this morning, the long speech/filibuster that Sen. Ted Cruz began, in opposition to funding Obamacare, is still going on. We're now about 15 hours into this.

There's no doubt that, in the end, the Senate will vote to fund Obamacare. The "filibuster" won't stop this from happening. What it does is put everyone on the record; do they support Obamacare, or don't they? That's the point of the exercise. Sen. Mary Landrieu will need to vote. Sen. David Mark Pryor will have to vote. Even Sen. Al Franken will have to vote. If you want to watch, it's on here.

The Local Scene -- Second Thing to Know

As you consider your vote in the upcoming New Brighton municipal elections, it's important to understand the following:

  • Councilmember Mary Burg is not running for re-election to her own seat on the council. Since her seat is not up this cycle, she'll be part of the council for the next two years, no matter what else happens.
  • Mary Burg is instead running for mayor, attempting to oust Mayor Dave Jacobsen, who has been an effective mayor for the last four years.
  • If Burg is successful, she will get to name her own replacement on the city council, which effectively means that a vote for Burg is the equivalent of voting for her twice, since the mayor's vote on the council has the same weight as the vote of the other members of the council.
  • Mary Burg wanted to keep a significant portion of the Local Government Assistance (LGA) money that got showered down on New Brighton, instead of having it go for property tax relief. Because Gina Bauman outmaneuvered her, the money is going to property tax relief instead of being spent, and included in municipal baseline budgeting going forward.
  • LGA money isn't something you can count on -- in many years, New Brighton hasn't received any.
  • If Mary Burg is elected mayor, she will be able to effectively stop Gina Bauman from guarding your money, whether Bauman is re-elected or not, because she will effectively control two of the five votes on the council, and she will likely have no trouble gaining the support of at least one other member of the council, especially if one of the newcomer candidates (about whom more in a future post) is successful in ousting Bauman.
  • To boil it down: if you vote for Mary Burg, you are voting to raise taxes on yourself. Perhaps that is what you want. Perhaps you are Happy to Pay for a Better New Brighton. Just understand that is what will happen if Burg is successful in ousting Mayor Jacobsen.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Local Scene -- First Thing to Know

We're going to take a much longer look at the upcoming municipal elections in New Brighton over the next month, but it's important for everyone in the city to understand these things:

  • If you vote for anyone other than Gina Bauman for city council, you are voting to raise taxes on yourself
  • If you vote for anyone other than Dave Jacobsen for mayor, you are voting to raise taxes on yourself
It's really that simple. We'll explain more soon.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Career Opportunities, Martyrdom Division

It may be that, from our perspective, the Great War on Terror is ending. It's not ending well, that is. First, we go to Nairobi:
Kenya's Red Cross said the death toll rose to 68 after nine bodies were recovered Sunday. More than 175 people were injured, including many children, Kenyan officials said.

Somalia's al-Qaida-linked rebel group, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the attack that specifically targeted non-Muslims, saying it was in retribution for Kenyan forces' 2011 push into neighboring Somalia.
Meanwhile, in Pakistan, we have this scene:
Choir members and children attending Sunday school were among 81 people killed in a suicide bombing at a Protestant church in northwest Pakistan.

It was one of the deadliest attacks ever on the Christian community in Pakistan.

The attack took place at the All Saints Church of Pakistan, in the violence-plagued city of Peshawar, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the country's capital, Islamabad.

A congregation of about 500 people was attending the church. Two attackers struck right as services concluded.

"Suicide bombers entered the church compound from the main gate and blew themselves up in the midst of the people," a statement posted on the diocese website read.
We aren't going to do anything about either incident, of course. We'll deplore and denounce, because we're tired of war, and rightly so. We've spent a decade, and perhaps a trillion dollars, underscoring the point that we aren't going to be able to change many hearts and minds in the world. That may be something we have to accept. It's going to be difficult, though. Fatalism is fatal. And it won't end well.


Here's an amazing story from 1961. Did you know that we almost nuked North Carolina? The Guardian has the details:
A secret document, published in declassified form for the first time by the Guardian today, reveals that the US Air Force came dramatically close to detonating an atom bomb over North Carolina that would have been 260 times more powerful than the device that devastated Hiroshima.

The document, obtained by the investigative journalist Eric Schlosser under the Freedom of Information Act, gives the first conclusive evidence that the US was narrowly spared a disaster of monumental proportions when two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs were accidentally dropped over Goldsboro, North Carolina on 23 January 1961. The bombs fell to earth after a B-52 bomber broke up in mid-air, and one of the devices behaved precisely as a nuclear weapon was designed to behave in warfare: its parachute opened, its trigger mechanisms engaged, and only one low-voltage switch prevented untold carnage.

Each bomb carried a payload of 4 megatons – the equivalent of 4 million tons of TNT explosive. Had the device detonated, lethal fallout could have been deposited over Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and as far north as New York city – putting millions of lives at risk.
Let's hear it for malfunctioning low-voltage switches! More at the link.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

AlteredScale 4 is up

The online literary journal AlteredScale is now up with its fourth issue. I think it's the best issue yet. Check it out here.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Get That Skyline Chili Hot, Boys! Edition

Yep -- it's Cincinnati week! The Packers are going to play the Bungles. We'll talk about that a little later, though, because we have other things to do, like apply my analytical skills to the college ranks.


Yes, Geritol Fan, skills. I have skills. You have signs of dementia.

I have to go with my strengths.

Fair enough. Watch me work!

San Jose State Spartans (+3.5) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers. So you would think the Gophers would be safe against yet another hopelessly overmatched nonconference foe. You would be wrong. The Spartans are a pretty good outfit. They went to a bowl game last year and finished their season 10-2. Now, I suspect they might have played a few cupcakes, but still, 10 wins is 10 wins. And they have a very good quarterback by the name of David Fales, who rarely fails. He's quite likely to be a serious Heisman contender. Yes, I just said that. Meanwhile, the Gophers are undefeated, untied and a bit unknown. They have played pretty well against a parade of nobodies, but this one is a legitimate test and you would be a fool to expect a blowout. San Jose State 29, Gophers 17.

Interesting. I did check San Jose State's opponents last year and it appears that they played several high schools and a prison team from San Quentin. Actually, I made that up. They're okay. I do think the Gophers are better. The key question is how backup quarterback Mitch Leidner plays, since Phillip Nelson is not going to be available. Gophers 28, SJSU 24.

Purdon't Boilermakers (+24) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. The good news for the Badgers is that there is no evidence that Pac-12 officials are going to be anywhere near Camp Randall. Man, did the Badgers get hosed or what? It doesn't matter now -- they aren't going to change the score. But, the Badgers have come back from tough defeats repeatedly over the last three years. And they've found their way to Pasadena each time. The road back starts now. Purdue? Be afraid. Be very afraid. Bucky 90, Boilermaker Pete 0.

Uh, no. Purdue isn't very good, but if the Badgers haven't scored over 50 points against Tennessee Tech, they aren't going to put up 90 on Purdue. However, I think they will score a lot of points. And Purdue won't. Wisconsin 49, Purdue 14.

Michigan State Spartans (+5.5) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish. I watched a little of the Irish last week and they struggled against Purdue. Granted, the game was in West Lafayette, but let's be truthful here -- the Boilermakers kinda stink. As an alert reader, you'll see that I picked the Badgers to beat Purdue by 90. So while comparing scores is always a dangerous game, I have to think that the Irish aren't really that good this year. As for Sparty, the same could be said. I don't see any evidence that the Spartans have cleaned up their program or that they'll be able to score very much. So the question is -- which team sucks less? Irish 17, Sparty 13.

Remind me why we picked this game? Oh yeah, it was hard to get too enthusiastic over the Alabama/Colorado State game. I guess they can't play to a scoreless tie, so let's give our pal Bubba a little love and say: Michigan State 17, Notre Dame 13.

Cleveland Browns (+6) vs. Minnesota Vikings. So the Browns have already decided to mail it in for the year, having traded away their only good offensive player, Trent Richardson, to the Colts. The Browns have signed 52-year-old Willis McGahee to replace him, presumably because Earnest Byner wouldn't take their phone calls. If I were a Cleveland fan, I'd be pretty angry about all this. How can you support a team that trades away their best players? That's like rooting for the Minnesota Twins! As for the Vikings, they almost pulled it off in Chicago, but Jay Cutler broke their hearts. I'm sad to say that plenty of other quarterbacks are going to break their hearts, too. Fortunately the for the Vikings, the Browns don't have a quarterback, since Chris Chandler wouldn't take their calls, either. Vikings 10, Browns 0.

The Vikings will win this game easily. There's nothing else to say about it. Minnesota 31, Cleveland 10.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-2.5) vs. Cincinnati Bengals. I've been to Cincinnati recently. It's a lot of fun. You get enormous mounds of cheese covered chili and really good ice cream. You also should stay in Florence, y'all. That would be Florence, Kentucky, which has the world's coolest water tower. You doubt me? Check it out:

You only wish you were as cool as that water tower. As for the game, the Bengals are a pretty good team and they have some weapons. Watch out for A. J. Green, who might be the best receiver in the AFC. However, they have only an okay quarterback in Andy Dalton, who just isn't an elite guy. The Packers have an elite guy. You may have heard of him. Packers 40, Bengals 35.

This game makes me nervous, because the Bengals can rush the passer. Aaron Rodgers is playing at a tremendous level right now, however. I think the young fella is right, it's going to be a high scoring affair. Packers 35, Cincinnati 31.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (-2.5) vs. Pittsburgh Stillers. So when was the last time the Steelers were a home underdog? I believe it was about 1971. Da Bearz did a nice job of finishing the deal against the Vikes last week; however, it's time to break out our favorite theory -- watch out for the desperate team at home. Pittsburgh 23, da Bearz 7.

Gino thinks the Bears are for real. It's possible that they are. We'll know a lot more about the Bears if they can go into a hostile environment and win. The Steelers are in trouble this year, so I think they will. Bears 24, Steelers 21.

I would just like to send a request to Rupert Murdoch. Can you send anyone besides Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to cover the Packers. Please? I'm begging you, in the name of all that is good, just and decent, send them off to watch the Giants or something. Ben out!


I'm really not prepared to comment yet on the very long interview that Pope Francis gave in August, which has been much in the news lately. There's a lot to read and I haven't had the time yet to do so. While it is an article of faith in nearly all Christian doctrines that the Holy Spirit is always present in the world, it's not always easy to discern that presence. I do think that something big is happening, however, both within the Church and in the larger world, and that the Holy Spirit is very much at work right now.

It would appear so

John Hayward notices something:
Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor made a point of supporting President Obama’s quest for military strikes on Syria because they thought it would earn them some reciprocal goodwill.  Then they got to watch Obama take the stage, just hours after a shooting rampage at the Washington Naval Yard, and launch slash-and-burn partisan attacks against them.  Perhaps that influenced their decision to go all-in on ObamaCare repeal.  Maybe they got tired of trying to shake hands with someone who keeps hitting them below the belt.
After five years of it, you'd hope they would.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Things to do

The muse is elsewhere this morning, so I've got nothin' much to say. There are some issues that are worth discussing, but the timing isn't quite right yet. So in the meantime, if you'd like to read something worthwhile this morning, I'd suggest you read either:

  • Mitch Berg's wonderful take on his home state of North Dakota; or
  • Brad Carlson's thoughtful analysis of the Jerry Kill Kerfuffle, (which would be a pretty good band name, by the way)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Absolute Zero

Remember the e-pulltabs? The magical funding device that would pay for the Vikings stadium, or so we were told? Bupkis:
Electronic gambling, which hit Minnesota bars with great fanfare last September, did not raise a dime for the glassy new Vikings football stadium this year.

Minnesotans plunked down $15 million over the past year to play the electronic games, but 85 percent bounced back to players as prizes, new state figures show. That left about $2 million to be divided among charity expenses, donations and taxes — nowhere near the original projection of $35 million in taxes for the first year.
Well, how do you like that? Over to you, Governor Dayton:
Gov. Mark Dayton, who made a Vikings stadium a top priority, said the year’s track record confirms that the e-pulltab funding formula was a gamble.

“To take an untried source of revenue for the sole source of funding for a major project is ill-advised,” he said Friday. “That’s my number one take-away from this.”

But, Dayton said, “We made an honest mistake and corrected it.”
Can't sneak much past the Gov, eh? I do have to quibble with one thing. This wasn't an honest mistake. It was crap from the get-go and anyone who was paying attention knew that. Thankfully, the Star Tribune calls one of the four Rotating Sages of Local Academe* to explain the obvious to its thankful readership:
Political analyst David Schultz said e-gambling has served its purpose. It got a Vikings stadium bill through the Legislature. He remains incredulous that nobody in government knew that the sales projections were so off or that they had come from the gambling industry.
When ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise, Professor. They didn't want to think about the truth, because truth doesn't get the Vaseline Dome built. I might add that the time to be incredulous was about 18 months ago, but I suppose that's not nice, either. Better Minnesota, kids. Better Minnesota.

Meanwhile, Dayton continues to fume about something else he supposedly didn't understand:
But in a letter Monday to the Minnesota Sports Facilities chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen, Dayton urged the authority to make sure the owners and team contribute "significant equity" to the project, and not rely heavily on personal seat license fees
"I strongly urge you to negotiate a final financial agreement, which requires the Vikings' owners to provide a significant share of their financial contribution from their own resources, and not from Vikings' fans through the sale of expensive personal seat licenses," Dayton wrote.
In other words, he wants to change the terms of the deal, yet again. Not surprisingly, the Vikings are telling Dayton to piss up a rope.
Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley said the price of seat licenses is among a handful of items still at issue in the team's negotiations with the authority. "These licenses were discussed during the legislative process, they were anticipated and authorized by the legislation," Bagley said.
So the upshot is that you have to pay the Vikings to get into the People's Stadium. It's only fair -- Lester Bagley and Zygi Wilf are people, as far as we can tell.

Remember, Helga Braid Nation: smoke 'em if you got 'em. It's gonna take a whole lotta smokin' to get this thing built.

*The RSLA are Schultz of Hamline Law School, Larry Jacobs of the U, Kathryn Pearson of the U, and Steven Schier of Carleton. No political story in Minnesota can be reported without one of them weighing in.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Oh, that global warming thing again:
A leaked copy of the world’s most authoritative climate study reveals scientific forecasts of imminent doom were drastically wrong.
Really? What else?

The 31-page ‘summary for policymakers’ is based on a more technical 2,000-page analysis which will be issued at the same time. It also surprisingly reveals: IPCC scientists accept their forecast computers may have exaggerated the effect of increased carbon emissions on world temperatures  – and not taken enough notice of natural variability.

--They recognise the global warming ‘pause’ first reported by The Mail on Sunday last year is real – and concede that their computer models did not predict it. But they cannot explain why world average temperatures have not shown any statistically significant increase since 1997.

--They admit large parts of the world were as warm as they are now for decades at a time between 950 and 1250 AD – centuries before the Industrial Revolution, and when the population and CO2 levels were both much lower.

-- The IPCC admits that while computer models forecast a decline in Antarctic sea ice, it has actually grown to a new record high. Again, the IPCC cannot say why.

-- A forecast in the 2007 report that hurricanes would become more intense has simply been dropped, without mention.

This year has been one of the quietest hurricane seasons in history and the US is currently enjoying its longest-ever period – almost eight years – without a single hurricane of Category 3 or above making landfall.
Despite that, the IPCC wants to go full speed ahead anyway. Of course they do. More at the link.

Monday, September 16, 2013

SD41 Picnic

The kids and I stopped by the SD41 picnic yesterday. It was interesting. A few things:

  • At least two gubernatorial candidates showed up. I saw Kurt Zellers, but we had to leave before he spoke, so I can't tell you what he said. I'm not sure that Zellers is going to make much headway anyway. I did see Sen. Dave Thompson, however. I suspect that the battle for the GOP nomination is going to come down to either Thompson or Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson. It's a tough decision, because both Johnson and Thompson are potentially very good candidates. One thing that's evident is that Thompson has better communication skills. As most people who follow Minnesota politics know, before he entered the arena Thompson spent a number of years as a radio show host on KSTP. I enjoyed his show because he did a good job of explaining conservative philosophy well, which I think is going to be important in this cycle. The version of a stump speech that Thompson gave at SD41 shows that he's thought things through quite well and that he'll be able to communicate his message quickly and clearly, which is the key to reaching potential voters, especially outstate. It's a tough call, because Jeff Johnson is a good guy and has done a lot of good work as the voice of sanity on the Hennco board, but at this point I prefer Dave Thompson. I continue to regret that Thompson and Johnson are running for the same office; it's too bad that one of the two candidates isn't running against Al Franken instead, because I'm not particularly impressed with the candidates who are in that race.
  • State GOP Chair Keith Downey also stopped by the picnic to give an update on how things are going at the mothership. It's not news that the MN GOP has been a train wreck for a number of years now, especially under the stewardship of Tony Sutton, who let a lot of things slide, including accounts payable. Downey's immediate predecessor, Pat Shortridge, did what he could to patch things together in the last cycle, but 2012 turned out to be a disaster for the Republican Party in the state. Downey, who was formerly a state legislator himself, is a far better public face for the party than Sutton. Bills are getting paid now and the party is making some headway in fundraising, although it continues to be a tough environment. I was encouraged by several things Downey said, especially concerning the overall messaging strategy the party will take into the next cycle. The DFL is very good at the demonization game and the key thing for GOP candidates in this cycle is to cut through the attacks and stay on the issues, because the DFL has a record it must defend in 2014. The GOP needs to make sure that the DFL is required to make that defense, rather than just chanting mantras and giving GOP candidates the Emanuel Goldstein treatment.
  • As for SD41, it's early yet, but I remain convinced that we can have some success in 2014. The 41A side of the district is not easy territory, but a good candidate should have a chance to give incumbent Connie Bernardy a challenge. 41B, where I live, is a tougher nut to crack, because the district includes DFL redoubt Columbia Heights. We'll be looking at these challenges more after the first of the year. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Advice that won't be taken

Writing about Syria, Adam Garfinkle's sage advice concerning What We Should Do Now:
Above all, the Administration needs to use the coming autumn not just to restore American credibility, but even more fundamentally to rebuild its image as being capable of mature, professional and responsible foreign policy behavior. If it doesn’t do that, there is no hope of its developing an effective policy toward the Syrian mess and, indeed, the region as a whole. In the meantime, my only advice would be to please shut up unless it is absolutely necessary to say something in public. The staccato headlines of late, nearly every one of them sending the gaffe meter through the roof, need to stop. As some used to like to say, the whole world is watching. 
It's the speak softly and carry a big stick thing, yet again. Good advice for well over 100 years now.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Not even a Jackson on the nightstand

Trumka will have to get his own cab fare home:
The Obama administration on Friday told labor union leaders that their health plans would not be eligible for tax subsidies under Obamacare next year.

A White House official said the Treasury Department has concluded that such an exemption is not possible under the Affordable Care Act. The labor unions have been asking that their union plans, known as Taft-Hartley plans, be eligible for premium subsidies the way plans on the new insurance exchange will be.
This was a big deal for the unions, because the health insurance plans they have been offering for years are now going to be a whole lot more expensive.
Labor officials worry that the lack of subsides for those multi-employer Taft-Hartley health care plans could encourage employers to move unionized employees onto the public exchanges created by the new law. They also worry that the law could encourage employers to move some full-time employees to part-time to avoid having to provide health insurance.

As a result of the disagreement over the implementation of the health care law, union officials and their rank-and-file members have been among the most vocal critics of the Affordable Care Act — Obama’s signature domestic achievement — in recent weeks. Before the law’s passage, unions were vocal supporters.

The disagreement has grown increasingly acrid over the summer.
Hope and change! Oh, they're bitter, too:
The nation’s largest labor group — the AFL-CIO — concluded its annual meeting in Los Angeles earlier this week by strongly condemning the law in a statement that said it was “highly disruptive” to union benefits.

“On behalf of the millions of working men and women we represent and the families they support, we can no longer stand silent in the face of elements of the Affordable Care Act that will destroy the very health and well-being of our members, along with millions of other hardworking Americans,” the Teamsters, UFCW and UNITE HERE wrote in a joint letter this summer.
Man, do you believe it? Obamacare is like a giant can of Raid; it will kill them dead! I suppose the unions don't want their members to be part of the clusterfark, but they gotta understand what this has always been about -- Obamacare isn't supposed to work. It's supposed to fail, because its failure is supposed to lead us to the final goal, which is a single payer system. And if that means serving a few AFL-CIO omelettes along the way, well, you knew Obama's nature when you agreed to carry him over the river there, froggy.

If I were the AFL-CIO, I'd see if they could get Putin to help them out.

Home truth/il miglior fabbro

Mark Steyn, writing in National Review, breaks it to us not so gently:
Putin has pulled off something incredible: He’s gotten Washington to anoint him as the international community’s official peacemaker, even as he assists Iran in going nuclear and keeping their blood-soaked Syrian client in his presidential palace. Already, under the “peace process,” Putin and Assad are running rings around the dull-witted Kerry, whose Botoxicated visage embodies all too well the expensively embalmed state of the superpower.

As for Putin’s American-exceptionalism crack, he was attacking less the concept than Obama’s opportunist invocation of it as justification for military action in Syria. Nevertheless, Democrats and Republicans alike took the bait. Eager to mend bridges with the base after his amnesty bill, Marco Rubio insisted at National Review Online that America was still, like, totally exceptional.

Sorry, this doesn’t pass muster even as leaden, staffer-written codswallop. It’s not the time — not when you’re a global joke, not when every American ally is cringing with embarrassment at the amateurishness of the last month. Nobody, friend or foe, wants to hear about American exceptionalism when the issue is American ineffectualism. On CBS, Bashar Assad called the U.S. government “a social-media administration.” He’s got a better writer than Obama, too. America is in danger of being the first great power to be laughed off the world stage. When the president’s an irrelevant narcissist and his secretary of state’s a vainglorious buffoon, Marco Rubio shouldn’t be telling the world don’t worry, the other party’s a joke, too.
Or, as Iowahawk put it:

mmm... donuts

Friday, September 13, 2013

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Mystery Guest Edition

Hello, it's the Benster. Welcome.

As you can tell, I have arranged for a special guest to participate some time in the blog post. And the poor old dude has been trying in vain to guess the identity of the mystery guest.

The suspense is killing me. Well, maybe not killing me. Not really even maiming me, actually. But I am curious, because at dinner the Benster was unleashing a whole lot of...


Yes, that. Could barely finish my meal.

Well, you need to stock up on the Dentu-Grip. Watch me work!

Western Illinois Leathernecks (NL) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers. Vegas did not deem this game worthy of any substantial gambling action, perhaps because Western Illinois is a cupcake worthy of being made at the Hostess factory. The Gophers have had trouble in the past winning games that they should have won easily. Can you say, South Dakota? NDSU? South Dakota State? Thankfully, if you're a Gopher fan, you won't have to sweat this one very much. Gophers 49, Western Illinois 0.

Sounds about right. I believe for their next game, Western Illinois will be an underdog to my alma mater, Beloit College. Gophers 38, Western Illinois 7.

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (+5 1/2) vs. Arizona State Sun Devils. What does it take for the Badgers to get a little love around here? I can understand that Arizona State is a decent outfit, but really? Five and a half points? C'mon, man! The Badgers haven't even allowed any points this year in two games. Mind you, they were games against UMass and Bloomington Kennedy High School, I believe, although I'll have to double check that. The Badgers should be the first Big Ten team to win out in the Arizona desert. Wisconsin 28, Arizona State 17.

Actually, I think the Badgers were playing Bloomington Jefferson, but I'll have to verify that. This will be tough. Arizona State is predicted to be a top division team in the Pac-12 this year and have for the most part been a football powerhouse for much of my lifetime. This will be a tough one for the Badgers to win, but I am going to pick this one with my heart. Let's say Melvin Gordon goes nuts, and. . . Wisconsin 31, Arizona State 28.

Alabama Crimson Tide (-7 1/2) vs. Texas A & M Aggies. Wait a second, old dude. I have to take a phone call. Hello? Hi, Johnny! How are you doing, Johnny?

I'm doing just fine, Benster.

Welcome to our lovely blog post!

Wait, do I get an appearance fee for being on this?

No, Johnny, we agreed that there wouldn't be any appearance fees for your assistance here.

What? Can you get a me a date with one of those Totino-Grace girls?

No, and that wouldn't work anyway. You should know that.

But I could have set up a card table and sold them my autograph! I hear those Totino girls have money!

Could you stop talking about your moneymaking schemes and stick with the blog post, please?

Okay, fine. I'm going to kick some big Alabama butt tomorrow! I don't think they'll stop me, because if the NCAA can't stop me, now how can Nick Saban do it? He couldn't even do it in Tuscaloosa! Now, the Tide shows up at College Station and has to face the 12th Man! Good luck with that, Tide! I have to go, because Coach is monitoring my phone calls and he just gave me a little jolt with the shock collar. See ya, Benster!

Yeah, that was Johnny. I think you've heard of him. And his analysis is spot-on. A & M 9, Bama 6.

Are you sure that wasn't Jonny Quest? Anyway, nice get, Benster. Interesting analysis, actually. I think it will be a low-scoring game, too. I just think the other team will win. Alabama 17, Texas A & M 13.

Minnesota Vikings (+6) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. Well, if you're a Vikings fan, you have to hate these trips to Chicago, because I don't think the Vikings have won in Chicago since Eisenhower was president. Technically, that's not true, because the Vikings didn't begin play until the Kennedy administration, but you get my point. It hasn't gone well for the Purple in Chicago. Will this year be different? Based on what we saw last weekend, it's hard to see how it would be. Christian Ponder is a quarterback who is a game manager at best, and last week he couldn't even manage that. Against da Bearz, it gets even harder. Da Bearz 79, Skol Vikings 3.

Gino will like that pick. I think it will be closer than that, since I don't think that Marc Trestman is the sort of guy who would run up the score, but it's hard to see the Vikings winning this game. Tough way to start the season. Bears 31, Vikings 20.

Washington Politically Incorrect Football Squad (+7 1/2) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. So I guess we're not allowed to use the term "Redskins" again, because Peter King and Bill Simmons say so. Well, I believe that no matter what you call your favorite Washington-based football team, they aren't going to be able to win. RGIII looked like he'd lost a step against the Eagles and it's going to be tough for him to make plays with Clay Matthews draped across his back. Although they lost, I was impressed with the way the Packers played in San Francisco last weekend. This has a chance to be a better team than last year's squad and the Packers start proving it on Sunday. Packers 35, Start Kirk Cousins 28.

The Packers have work to do, but I think they'll be better. I think Jermichael Finley has a big game on Sunday and that's the difference. Packers 31, Redskins 20.

San Francisco 49ers (+3) vs. Seattle Seahawks. Hey, old dude, it's the Annoying Weasel Bowl! The two biggest jerk coaches in the NFL outside of Detroit face off in an epic battle of good football and bad manners. Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll have somehow mastered the art of being a good football coach and a questionable human being. In fact, the only person participating in this game that I like is Russell Wilson, who is a fine quarterback and a fine human being, despite the overall weaselosity of his coach and his preferred wide receiver target, Golden Taint. I expect this game to be very physical and a high scoring matchup. It's in Seattle's best interest to get the crowd in early. I think they will do that, because it's a rivalry game and that most people are sick and tired of the 49ers, who didn't show me much, as the Packers almost stole the game in San Francisco. This isn't San Francisco. Seattle 63, San Francisco 56.

Uh, this isn't the Supersonics vs. the Warriors, dude. These teams play defense and play it well. Having said that, I think there will be some scoring going on. I like Seattle in this one, mostly because it's a home game. The crowd in Seattle is berserk and they'll make a difference. Seattle 27, San Francisco 23.

I would like to thank my special guest, Johnny, for his contributions to this PBS station, along with the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation and viewers like you. Thank you. Ben out!

The Name is MNsure, Not MNsecure

It hasn't really even opened for business yet, but in a hardly shocking turn of events our new overlords at MNSure have already managed to screw the pooch:
A MNsure employee accidentally sent an e-mail file to an Apple Valley insurance broker’s office on Thursday that contained Social Security numbers, names, business addresses and other identifying information on more than 2,400 insurance agents.

An official at MNsure, the state’s new online health insurance exchange, acknowledged it had mishandled private data. A MNsure security manager called the broker, Jim Koester, and walked him and his assistant through a process of deleting the file from their computer hard drives.

Koester said he willingly complied, but was unnerved.

“The more I thought about it, the more troubled I was,” he said. “What if this had fallen into the wrong hands? It’s scary. If this is happening now, how can clients of MNsure be confident their data is safe?”
They can't be confident of it. Fortunately, Koester is an honest man. You can expect to see more of this sort of thing happening, because there's a big rush of data gathering going on to get MNsure and the other health care exchanges up and running in time to comply with the deadlines set out by the Obamacare law, which are approaching quickly:
Users of the exchange will need to provide sensitive information, including Social Security numbers, that will be sent to a federal hub to verify such things as citizenship and household income. This information will determine whether consumers using MNsure qualify for public health programs or tax credits that will lower the cost of premiums.

All states and the federal government, which also is setting up exchanges for some states, are scurrying to get the complex system running in less than three weeks.
How comfortable are you about disclosing all this information? At least one local obsever isn't very confident at all:
“The people who believe in this are so driven that there’s a subcontext of ‘Just let us do our job and get as many people signed up as possible, and we’ll pick up the debris later,’ ” said Steve Parente, a University of Minnesota finance professor who specializes in health IT issues.

Parente testified on Capitol Hill earlier this week, urging caution in pushing the federal hub online before it has been thoroughly tested. 
Working with digital data “is a convenient and simple convention to move things along,” Parente said. “But the downside is that it can have unintended consequences. It takes time to parse and curate and edit. You can’t do that if you’re in a rush.”
For his part, Koester, the agent who received the file, is very troubled by it all:
Koester, the agent, had been working with MNsure staff because he was having trouble registering for classes to get trained as a certified “navigator” to help people sign up for coverage.

Koester said there had been some back-and-forth with a MNsure staffer when he received an e-mail and attachment that took him by surprise: page after page of names, business addresses, license numbers and Social Security numbers.

MNsure was collecting Social Security numbers so that the Department of Commerce could count the navigator’s training as part of the brokers’ state-mandated continuing eduction credits, according to the officials.

As soon as the MNsure staffer realized the mistake, she called Koester to ask him and his assistant to delete the file. MNsure manager Krista Fink followed up with more detailed instructions.

“She didn’t tiptoe through the tulips; she was very serious,” Koester said. “But the gorilla in the room is that they sent me something that’s not even encrypted. It’s unsecured, on an Excel spreadsheet — which is using outdated technology to transfer that information in the first place. They’ve got to realize they have a huge problem.”
Not just "they," Mr. Koester. Get ready, kids. This is gonna be ugly.

Roll With Me, Henry

I'll bet this had to hurt:
Secretary of State John Kerry will host Nixon-era Secretary of State Henry Kissinger for a meeting Wednesday, just one day before he is due to lock horns with the Russian foreign minister over the Syria crisis.
Asking an old Nixon hand for advice? Strange days indeed.

Not surprisingly, Kissinger has an interesting take on Syria and makes an important point about what Syria really is:
'First of all, Syria is not a historic state,' Kissinger recalled during a summer gathering this year at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.

'It was created in its present shape in 1920, and it was given that shape in order to facilitate the control of the country by France.'
Those danged French again.
He described the armed conflict there as 'a civil war between sectarian groups.'

Syria, Kissinger cautioned, is 'divided into many ethnic groups, a multiplicity of ethnic groups, and that means that an election doesn’t give you the same results as in the United States because every ethnic group votes for its own people. ... Moreover, these ethnic groups are very antagonistic to each other. You have Kurds, Druzes, Alawites, Sunnis and 10 to 12 Christian ethnic groups.'

The idea of cooperation in a coalition government, Kissinger said, is 'inconceivable,' a Financial Post columnist wrote in August.
This is an important point. I've heard it said and seen it written dozens of times -- Syrian President Bashar Assad is "killing his own people." Well, not really. Assad is an Alawite, from a sect that is in some ways closer to the Shia branch of Islam. As such, it's not surprising that Hezbollah and Iran operate freely in Syria. And it's also not surprising that the people who died in the gas attack are primarily Sunni. These folks have been at each other's throats for centuries.

Syria is, in its own way, as much of a historical fiction as Yugoslavia was. And the Syrian endgame may well turn out to be similar; you could see this artificial nation become a variety of states.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


A federal judge on Wednesday, September 11th dismissed one of the lawsuits challenging Act 10 — the law included in Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011 budget that effectively stripped most public unions of their collective bargaining power.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge William Conley dismissed the constitutional challenges in Laborers Local 236, et al. v. Walker, et al. This lawsuit was filed by Madison public works employees.

The unions claimed that Act 10’s collective bargaining restrictions are unconstitutional — saying the law violates their constitutional rights to assemble freely, and it violates the equal protection clause, in that it treats public safety employees differently.

Conley ruled that the plaintiffs “failed to state a claim for relief under either the First or Fourteenth Amendments.”
Unless I miss my guess, the unions will try some other amendments. There are 27 amendments, so they have plenty to choose from. And maybe they can use the Boland Amendment, too.

Aw, that's a shame

Anthony Weiner's ill-fated mayoral campaign ended with a string of final embarrassments: He mustered a mere 5 percent at the ballot box. One of his sexting partners tried to crash his primary night rally. And Weiner was caught making an obscene gesture to reporters as he was driven away.

Outside a "victory" party where supporters mourned a disappointing fifth-place finish in the Democratic primary, cameras crowded around Sydney Leathers, the 23-year-old whose sexting with the former congressman brought his once-high-flying campaign to a screeching halt.

"Why not be here?" Leathers asked reporters. "I'm kind of the reason he's losing. So, might as well show up."
For the record, Leathers was at Weiner's political Waterloo. Huma Abedin was not. Draw your own conclusions. Meanwhile, things weren't much better for Client 9:
Another politician with a sex scandal, Eliot Spitzer, lost the Democratic primary contest for city comptroller to Scott Stringer, the Manhattan borough president. Stringer took 52 percent of the vote to Spitzer's 48 percent.

Spitzer resigned as governor in 2008 and admitted he paid for sex with call girls. In exile, he bounced around television as a pundit. Then, just four days before the deadline, he announced he was running for comptroller.
It is my sincere hope that we never see the names of either of these gentlemen again.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A note to the gun grabbers

Two Democratic state lawmakers who backed tighter gun laws in the aftermath of mass shootings have been kicked out of office in a recall election promoted by both grassroots activists and the National Rifle Association.

Senate President John Morse lost by just 343 votes Tuesday in a swing district in the Republican stronghold of Colorado Springs but Sen. Angela Giron lost by a bigger margin in a largely blue-collar district that favors Democrats.

The NRA said the election sent a clear message to lawmakers that they should protect gun rights and be accountable to their constituents, not to "anti-gun billionaires" — a swipe against New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who supported Giron and Morse.

Democrats will still maintain control of the state Legislature and the laws are expected to remain in place.

"The loss of this senate seat is purely symbolic," Morse said.
Symbolic of what's coming for your erstwhile colleagues, Mr. Morse.

The fierce moral urgency of uh, never mind

I had other business to attend to last evening, so I didn't get a chance to see President Obama's speech regarding Syria. I did read the transcript, however, and this has to be one of the stranger speeches that any president has ever given.

Let's consider the evidence that Obama has marshaled:
No one disputes that chemical weapons were used in Syria. The world saw thousands of videos, cellphone pictures and social media accounts from the attack. And humanitarian organizations told stories of hospitals packed with people who had symptoms of poison gas.

Moreover, we know the Assad regime was responsible. In the days leading up to Aug. 21st, we know that Assad's chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area they where they mix sarin gas. They distributed gas masks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighborhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces.

Shortly after those rockets landed, the gas spread, and hospitals filled with the dying and the wounded. We know senior figures in Assad's military machine reviewed the results of the attack. And the regime increased their shelling of the same neighborhoods in the days that followed. We've also studied samples of blood and hair from people at the site that tested positive for sarin.

When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other way until those horrifying pictures fade from memory. But these things happened. The facts cannot be denied.
We'd better do something about all that, right? So the president wants action:
The question now is what the United States of America and the international community is prepared to do about it, because what happened to those people, to those children, is not only a violation of international law, it's also a danger to our security.

Let me explain why. If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons.

As the ban against these weapons erodes, other tyrants will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gas and using them. Over time our troops would again face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield, and it could be easier for terrorist organizations to obtain these weapons and to use them to attack civilians.

If fighting spills beyond Syria's borders, these weapons could threaten allies like Turkey, Jordan and Israel.

And a failure to stand against the use of chemical weapons would weaken prohibitions against other weapons of mass destruction and embolden Assad's ally, Iran, which must decide whether to ignore international law by building a nuclear weapon or to take a more peaceful path.

This is not a world we should accept. This is what's at stake. And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike. The purpose of this strike would be to deter Assad from using chemical weapons, to degrade his regime's ability to use them and to make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use. That's my judgment as commander in chief.
Based on that, you'd assume that hellfire was about rain down on Damascus. You'd be wrong:
Over the last two years my administration has tried diplomacy and sanctions, warnings and negotiations. But chemical weapons were still used by the Assad regime.

However, over the last few days we've seen some encouraging signs in part because of the credible threat of U.S. military action as well as constructive talks that I had with President Putin. The Russian government has indicated a willingness to join with the international community in pushing Assad to give up his chemical weapons. The Assad regime has now admitted that it has these weapons and even said they'd join the chemical weapons convention, which prohibits their use.

It's too early to tell whether this offer will succeed, and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments. But this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force, particularly because Russia is one of Assad's strongest allies.
So, we know that diplomacy, sanctions, warnings and negotiations don't work. But it's all different now, because the Russian government "has indicated a willingness to join with the international community in pushing Assad to give up his chemical weapons." Do you believe this? Why would you believe this?

Obama then asks another question:
Indeed, I'd ask every member of Congress, and those of you watching at home tonight, to view those videos of the attack, and then ask: What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas and we choose to look the other way?
That's an easy one -- we'd be living in precisely the same world we have today, because this sort of thing has happened in Iraq and in Russia, By the way, who's running Russia these days?

So to boil it all down, we're totally serious this time. Even though we aren't.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Mitch hits a milestone

Mitch Berg notes a number in passing that deserves a comment:
I switched to WordPress in November of 2006, right before the mid-term elections.

And in that time, I (and my various co-authors over the years, Johnny Roosh, Bogus and First Ringer) have published 9,999 posts.

And this is number 10,000. 
Ten thousand blog posts is pretty astonishing. Of Mitch's co-bloggers, only our friend First Ringer has been what you might call a regular contributor to Shot in the Dark. In comparison, we've published just over 3,800 blog posts here since this feature began in December, 2005. Of the 10,000 posts that have appeared on SITD, I'd wager that at least 9,500 came from the mind and keyboard of Mitch.

It's difficult to face the blank screen every day. Beyond the great number of posts, Mitch has maintained a level of quality at Shot in the Dark that the rest of us can only hope to emulate.

As regular readers of this feature know, I use the headline "il miglior fabbro" when I share the work of someone who says something better than I could. The term, which means "the better craftsman" in Italian, is something I borrowed from T.S. Eliot, who borrowed it from Dante when he used the phrase to dedicate his epic poem The Waste Land to Ezra Pound. I could give Mitch the "il miglior fabbro" designation on a daily basis. A tip of the hat to you, good sir!

Foggy Bottom Breakdown

You know what's a really bad habit for a Secretary of State to have? Thinking out loud:
"He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over, all of it, without delay and allow a full and total accounting," Kerry told reporters during a press conference in London with his British counterpart.

The State Department later walked Kerry's statement back, calling it an off-hand "rhetorical argument."
The "He" in qustion is Bashar Assad, of course, the chin-challenged hereditary dictator of Syria. And Assad's patrons think that Kerry's rumination is brilliant. Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, jumped on it right away:
"We call on the Syrian leadership not only agree on a statement of storage of chemical weapons under international control, but also its subsequent destruction, as well as about the full accession to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons," Lavrov said in a statement to reporters.

"We will immediately join the work with Damascus if establishing international control over chemical weapons in that country helps prevent attacks," Lavrov continued.
Kerry, for his part, issued this statement:

Of course, the harp seals are now telling us that this was all part of the master plan:
It turns out that all of the people on the left and right who were fooled by the pundits and hosts on cable news into believing that war was just around the corner were absolutely, completely, totally, utterly wrong. War is not around the corner. In fact, President Obama had a strategy to get Syria to the table. That strategy was to get the United States talking about striking Syria by asking Congress for authorization.

If President Obama wanted to strike Syria, he could have done so at any time. He didn’t, because military action in Syria was not what he wanted. The president wanted Syria to surrender their chemical weapons to the international community, and the best way to get Russia to listen was to turn up the heat by letting Congress debate a potential military strike on Syria.
He's a genius! Or is he? A contrary view from Professor Reynolds:
Meanwhile, at home, polls show Americans are against a strike, and Obama is facing double-digit defections among Democrats in the Senate. The outlook for passage in the House, meanwhile, looks so bad that a resolution to authorize war may not even make it to a vote. If it's sure to fail, why force members -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- to go on record? You can bet they don't appreciate Obama putting them in this position. The Pentagon isn't happy, and even The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates, a reliable Obama supporter, calls his policy "dumb."

Some critics are even comparing the collapse of American influence under Obama to the end of the Soviet Union. Well, that may be an exaggeration -- but Obama promised a "fundamental transformation," after all.

At least Hollywood is still behind the president -- or, anyway, is mostly keeping quiet about its opposition because, as old-line Hollywood liberal Ed Asner reports, they "don't want to feel anti-black." So it's come to this -- while George W. Bush was savaged for "bombing brown people," now if you're against bombing brown people you're "anti-black."
You have to ask yourself -- if Obama really thought that getting the "international community" in charge of Syrian chemical weapons was the right approach, why would have done the things that Reynolds catalogs? Playing your friends that way isn't politically smart, especially if you have three years to go in your administration.

Monday, September 09, 2013

The world beyond Syria and Christian Ponder

WaPo had something interesting over the weekend that you might have missed:
The Obama administration secretly won permission from a surveillance court in 2011 to reverse restrictions on the National Security Agency’s use of intercepted phone calls and e-mails, permitting the agency to search deliberately for Americans’ communications in its massive databases, according to interviews with government officials and recently declassified material.

In addition, the court extended the length of time that the NSA is allowed to retain intercepted U.S. communications from five years to six years — and more under special circumstances, according to the documents, which include a recently released 2011 opinion by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, then chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Okay, that's one thing. Here's the interesting part:
What had not been previously acknowledged is that the court in 2008 imposed an explicit ban — at the government’s request — on those kinds of searches, that officials in 2011 got the court to lift the bar and that the search authority has been used.
Someone remind me again -- who was president in 2008?

Now here's another question; how do you square this news with what the President said earlier this year?

"Nobody is listening to your phone calls." Perhaps in between all the sit-downs the president is doing with media outlets today regarding Syria, maybe one of the networks might ask him about this?

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Nancy see, Betty do

The always excellent Brian "St. Paul" Ward, writing at Fraters, notices something about our local congresscritter:
Betty McCollum mongering for war, never thought I’d see it.  I take this as evidence that Congressional Democrat leadership thinks that the vote will be so close they can’t even let bleeding hearts off the hook to vote their conscience or serve their constituents. Instead, they’re forced to expose them in the act of serving their real master, the Party.

To be fair, maybe McCollum is suffering from confusion based on past experience.  Because the last time she hung out with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, he was a great guy!  Flashback to 2007:

Rep. Betty McCollum praised the Syrian government's response to Iraqi refugees in the country following a meeting Wednesday with Syrian President Bashar Assad. "Under his leadership, the Syrian government is allowing Iraqi children to attend school, and they're working through the Red Crescent to provide basic health care," McCollum said in a telephone interview from the Syrian capital, Damascus.

After one meeting, Betty McCollum testified to the world about the Syrian dictator’s great leadership and kindness.  And now he’s gassing his own people.  Any local media types think that might be a story to follow up on?  Get some first person insight from Rep. McCollum about the measure of the man and how she could have been so wrong in her very public assessment of him?
Brian's questions are rhetorical, of course. No one in the local media will ask Betty McCollum any question of that sort. No one in the local media asks Betty about anything, because asking her would risk garnering a response that they'd have to explain away later. Betty McCollum is the congressional equivalent of the tree that falls in the forest that never makes a sound.

But there is an explanation for the second question, concerning Betty McCollum's powers of discernment. It's reasonably simple -- Betty does what Nancy Pelosi does. And we know what Nancy did:

There's more at the link; as always, it's worth your time.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- The Triumphant Return of Benster Edition

So you thought I'd gone away, huh? No chance. The Benster is back. And you already know that I'm going to bring the HYYYYYYPPPPPE!

You have nearly a year's worth of hype stored up now. Will we need a dropcloth?

No, and I'll deal with your smart-aleck comments later, old dude. We have some brilliant analysis to bring to the vast blog audience, so watch me work!

Minnesota Golden Gophers (-15) vs. New Mexico State Aggies. So the Gophers are traveling to scenic Las Cruces, New Mexico, which is very close to both (a) Area 51 and (b) the place where they tested the atomic bomb. If I were Jerry Kill, I'd get a better travel agent, or, I don't know, actually schedule North Carolina. If you remember, this was the week that the Gophers were supposed to play North Carolina, a real team that plays in a real conference. Instead, the Gophers are risking exposure to nuclear fallout or an appearance on "Ancient Aliens." Now if New Mexico State can win this game, I'm not saying it was aliens, but it was aliens. Gophers 17, Aggies 7.

It was nice of the Gopher athletic department to nuke the fridge on this one. I read somewhere that this is the first time a Big Ten school has ever traveled to Las Cruces. There was probably a reason for that. Gophs should win, but this might be an issue. Gophers 31, Aggies 20.

Tennessee Tech Tuxedos (NL) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. Actually, I think the nickname for Tennessee Tech is the Golden Eagles, but let's face it, this is a cartoon team. The Badgers shouldn't be playing teams like this, and to their credit, they are upgrading their schedule to include LSU and Alabama in the future. In the meantime, we have to endure the wrath of all the SEC lovers who are busily mocking the Badgers for this game, while they enjoy tilts against such notable powerhouses as Furman and Elon. Never mind all that -- the Badgers are going to be a tough out in the Big Ten this year. And they'll crush these dudes. UW 99, Tuxedos 0.

Uh, maybe. Tennessee Tech is not very good. I think the Badgers are. It might not be 99-0, but it's going to be a butt-kicking. Badgers 63, Tenn Tech 3.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (+4) vs. Meeshegan Wolverines. The sad thing about this game is that Notre Dame will no longer be playing Michigan after this one. Instead, they'll be playing traditional rivals like Wake Forest and Duke. If this were basketball, that might be interesting. But this is football and ND's alliance with the ACC will hurt them in the long run. I think that ND should have beaten Alabama last year, but you know what? They failed. And the Benster always remembers these things. The old dude's high school guidance counselor, who begged the Geritol Fan to attend ND, will be crying at the end of this one. Michigan 35, Irish 31.

I shouldn't tell you these old stories, grasshopper. As for this game, who knows? I think Michigan is still a year away from completing the rebuilding, but they are getting close. The Irish are talented but thin at some positions. Close game and I'll pick it the other way, just to create some fake controversy. Notre Dame 27, Michigan 20.

Minnesota Vikings (+5) vs. Detroit Motor City Kitties. I've noticed that the Lions have been crushing their opponents in the preseason, although I believe they've played New Mexico State and Tennessee Tech so far. Now comes a real game against a playoff team. The Vikings are going to be good once again, but here's the question I have -- how much does Adrian Peterson have left in the tank? Everyone assumes that since he nearly set the NFL record last year, that he will be even better this year. Historically, that's not been the case. Runners with huge years usually come back to earth the following year. And if that happens, it means that Christian Ponder is going to have to pick up the slack. Do you think he can do it? Of course not. It's going to be interesting to listen to the KFAN Fan Line (a/k/a Whine Line) after this one. Vikings 24, Detroit 9.

Wait, so you bashed the Vikings, but then picked them to win? Hmmm. Tricky. I think the Lions have something to prove in this one. It's tough to see what a team is really like when they don't play their top player all preseason, which is what the Vikings chose to do with Peterson. Do they have it figured out? Who knows? Lions 27, Vikings 24.

Cincinnati Bengals (+3) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. Speaking of mysterious teams, let's consider those Bears. New coach, lots of new players on defense and the same old horrible quarterback. Jay Cutler is in a contract year, so he'll be looking to put up the big numbers. The problem is, da Bears are starting over yet again with their offensive line and it's tough to know whether Cutler can complete dramatic passes to Brandon Marshall if he's got Cincinnati defensive lineman in his face. The Bengals are a good team and might be a contender in the AFC this year, so this one is a tough assignment for Gino's boys. Bengals 19, da Bearz 0.

Oh, I think the Bears will score. But will they score enough? I think this is going to be an interesting year in Chicago. Bears 31, Bengals 27.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (+4 1/2) vs. San Francisco 49ers. I have been waiting for this one ever since the Packers washed off the tread marks from the runaway bus that was Colin Krap-er-nick. Yes, I spelled that correctly. It was intentional. There, I said it. Deal with it. And you know what? Things are going to be different this time around. The Niners offense is very good, especially when they run circus offense. The Packers are not going to be fooled by those tricks this time around. Jim Harbaugh made one mistake during the offseason, and he should know better. When you trade away your best quarterback, so you can pretend that it's Tulane with Shaun King quarterbacking, that's an issue. You might be asking me, why on earth did I bring up Tulane? Well, if you remember, once upon a time Tulane had a very potent offense led by Shaun King. That offense worked very well for one season, but invariably the defense will always find a way to stop high-powered offenses. In fact, the Ravens did it in the Super Bowl. The Ravens also jumped out to a quick lead and forced the 49ers to play catch-up. That's the formula and the Packers will use it. Packers 73, 49ers 67.

Okay, that makes no sense at all. If the Packers tighten up the defense but give up 67 points, that's a little, well, counterintuitive.

My picks aren't always supposed to make sense. Sometimes they're just supposed to be funny. Deal with it, you curmudgeon!

Oh, I see. Well then, I'll carry on. The Packers weren't ready for the read option last year but the larger problem appeared to be that they weren't athletic enough to keep up. Have they closed that gap? That's the question. I'm not sure they have yet. It will be closer this time, but I don't think our pals are ready for this moment. 49ers 34, Packers 31.

Oh, old dude of little faith! C'mon man, swig some of that Metamucil or something and get an attitude adjustment. Meanwhile, let's give a shout-out to the mighty Irondale Knights, who last night dispatched Spring Lake Park by a final score of 20-7. My bud Jared Brenny scored a touchdown and threw for another one. Good job, bro! Ben out!

Friday, September 06, 2013

The bill comes due

When it comes to Syria, how do we boil it down? Walter Russell Mead takes a shot at it:
If Congress declines to support what even proponents of a Syria strike must agree is a massively screwed up policy, then the President will face another choice. He can do a “Clinton” (President Clinton bombed Serbia in the teeth of congressional disapproval), or he can fold like a cheap suit. If he chooses the latter course, Clint Eastwood’s “empty chair” stunt at the 2012 GOP convention will look eerily prophetic. For purposes of foreign policy, the United States will endure something like a presidential vacancy until Mr. Obama is replaced in 2017 or until he finds a way to restore his authority and prestige.

Considered in the abstract, the planned attacks on Syria may or may not be smart. But thanks to this latest round of “smart diplomacy,” if bombs don’t fall on Syria, President Obama will have bombed his own credibility into oblivion.
Essentially, this is the same argument that Hugh Hewitt is making -- you have to support the office of the president, no matter how much you might think the officeholder is a moron, because the world is watching and what would be the equivalent of a no-confidence vote would be disastrous to the country's interests, especially with 3 1/2 years left to go in Obama's term.

Obama didn't help himself much yesterday when he tried to weasel out of the implications of his earlier pronouncements:
“I didn’t set a red line; the world set a red line,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference in Stockholm on the first day of a three-day visit to Sweden and Russia, where he will take part in a summit meeting that is likely to be dominated by the war in Syria.

“My credibility’s not on the line,” he said, appealing to lawmakers and foreign leaders to back his plan to retaliate against President Bashar al-Assad. “The international community’s credibility is on the line. And America and Congress’s credibility is on the line.”
Unfortunately for the president, the internet is forever:

Use of chemical weapons would change his calculus, he told us a year ago. And he doubled down on this threat later on:

You can't just bottle up the bellicosity and pretend it didn't happen. Barack Obama made it clear, twice, that if chemical weapons were used in Syria, there would be consequences. After a while, it starts to play out like this:

The problem for the president, and for all of us, is that the other players on the world stage aren't cartoon characters. The president wrote a check with his mouth that he might not be able to cash. We*cosigned his loan by putting him back in office last November. The bill collectors are at the door now.

*Okay, maybe not you, and certainly not me. But you know what I mean.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Home truth

Brian, at his place:
The unexamined assumption that we can do everything is diminishing our ability to do anything, faster and more thoroughly than any Syrian gas or Iranian nuke ever could. 
2013 is not 1945. And these days, I'm a firm believer in examining all unexamined assumptions. More at the link, including Assad game theory, which is surprisingly not available from EA Sports.