Thursday, October 31, 2013

The prophecy of Liam Lynch

Jay Carney's predecessor

It would be the best case scenario if they come around once a day with the glass of water and the eye dropper.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

'scuse me while I begin transitioning you

Every time the gubmint screws up, it's usually a bonanza for word mavens and collectors of euphemisms. We have a beautiful one here:
Insurance companies aren't sending out cancellation letters, they're helping people "transition" into Obamacare, according to a top Democrat.

"If [the companies] changed [the insurance plans] then they have to notify the people who have to have the opportunity to have another policy," said House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Sander Levin, D-Mich.

In fact, according to Levin, the "so-called cancellation notices" merely "help people transition to a new policy."
We've now transitioned the word transition into a verb. I suspect this will be a very useful euphemism. There are so many ways to transition someone:

Why You Should Be Reading Enlighten New Brighton

Why, you ask? Because the one way to understand who the players are is to have a scorecard. If you are a New Brighton resident, you need to know and understand the types of people who would like to be on the City Council. Click it and bookmark the site. The progress of the last four years hangs in the balance.

Home Truth

Walter Russell Mead on the matter of truth-telling in re Obamacare:
Anyone who’s been involved in drafting or debating this legislation has known for a long time this was coming. Jay Carney put it this way: “What the president said and what everybody said all along is that there is going to be changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act to create minimum standards of coverage, minimum services every insurance provider has to provide.”

The only ones who have been caught off guard by this “revelation” are media outlets and supporters of the law that haven’t been paying close attention. Obama’s “if you like your plan, you can keep it” has always been something “between an oversimplification and a falsehood” (and, really, we can do away with the left-hand portion of that range of possibilities). The general public is at long last realizing that fact.

But does this debate matter? Why is it important what Obama knew and when? It matters, first, because it points to a deep disconnect between the technocratic governing class and the American people. Reassuring the public with something “between an oversimplification and a falsehood” while designing a system that would have such widespread and disruptive effects is typical behavior for those in the grips of the technocratic mindset. We need to recognize and remember this behavior in the future.
Yep. As always, more at the link.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

As you like it

Just click the link.

Dawn Breaks at NBC

You don't say:
President Obama repeatedly assured Americans that after the Affordable Care Act became law, people who liked their health insurance would be able to keep it. But millions of Americans are getting or are about to get cancellation letters for their health insurance under Obamacare, say experts, and the Obama administration has known that for at least three years.

Four sources deeply involved in the Affordable Care Act tell NBC NEWS that 50 to 75 percent of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a “cancellation” letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don’t meet the standards mandated by the new health care law. One expert predicts that number could reach as high as 80 percent. And all say that many of those forced to buy pricier new policies will experience “sticker shock.”  

NBC has discovered even more:
None of this should come as a shock to the Obama administration. The law states that policies in effect as of March 23, 2010 will be “grandfathered,” meaning consumers can keep those policies even though they don’t meet requirements of the new health care law. But the Department of Health and Human Services then wrote regulations that narrowed that provision, by saying that if any part of a policy was significantly changed since that date -- the deductible, co-pay, or benefits, for example -- the policy would not be grandfathered.

Buried in Obamacare regulations from July 2010 is an estimate that because of normal turnover in the individual insurance market, “40 to 67 percent” of customers will not be able to keep their policy. And because many policies will have been changed since the key date, “the percentage of individual market policies losing grandfather status in a given year exceeds the 40 to 67 percent range.”

That means the administration knew that more than 40 to 67 percent of those in the individual market would not be able to keep their plans, even if they liked them.

Yet President Obama, who had promised in 2009, “if you like your health plan, you will be able to keep your health plan,” was still saying in 2012, “If [you] already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance.”
NSFW and significantly more accurate than any Obama claim:

Coming soon to an investigative unit near you: a walkback of this breathless dispatch, in which "PolitiFact" made a bold claim, and potentially this later dispatch from the same objective seekers of truth, which is, to use a term from a previous administration known and loved to millions, "no longer operative." No apology will be forthcoming.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Columbia Heights Candidate for New Brighton

The letter arrived in the mail the other day, not addressed to me, but rather to Mrs. D. The letterhead announces that the missive is "FROM THE DESKS OF YOUR MINNESOTA STATE LEGISLATIVE TEAM, Senator Barb Goodwin & Representative Carolyn Laine."

Goodwin and Laine represent our area (in a manner of speaking) because of the way the legislative districts were drawn in the last cycle. New Brighton politically leans a bit to the left, but has voted for more conservative candidates in the past. New Brighton's neighbor to the west, Columbia Heights, is where Goodwin and Laine call home. Because the Heights regularly vote for DFLers by lopsided margins, Goodwin and Laine have very safe legislative seats. And now they want to install their own candidate into office in New Brighton, one Mary Kunesh-Podein.

Goodwin and Laine sing the praises of their candidate, even though they have trouble with proofreading:
In addition to having served on the [New Brighton Parks, Recreation and Enivornmental] Commission, Mary Kunesh-Podeinis (sic) also a teacher with nearly two decades of experience in the classroom. Just as a teacher comes prepared with a lesson plan, Mary comes to the New Brighton City Council with a strong, common sense plan to move the city forward and grow the local economy.
Emphasis theirs. This is silly, of course. It's not the job of the City Council to grow the local economy; in a city like New Brighton, the job of the municipal government is to provide needed services and keep the roads paved. Under the current leadership of Mayor Dave Jacobsen and council member Gina Bauman, we've had smart, efficient government for the last four years. Meanwhile, in Goodwin and Laine's Columbia Heights, the local government has been a train wreck for decades now.

There's no reason to assume that these DFL grandees know anything about what New Brighton needs. If anything, their recommendation should be a cautionary tale. Dave Jacobsen and Gina Bauman richly deserve your vote.

What Difference Does It Make?

A full year after it would have been helpful to know, we finally get a 60 Minutes report on Benghazi. A taste:
Morgan Jones said he'd never felt so angry in his life. Only hours earlier, Amb. Chris Stevens had sought him out, concerned about the security at the U.S. Special Mission Compound where Morgan was in charge of the Libyan guard force.

Now, the ambassador was dead and the U.S. compound was engulfed in flames and overrun by dozens of heavily armed fighters.

Although the attack began here, the more organized assault unfolded about a mile across the city at a top secret CIA facility known as the Annex. It lasted more than seven hours and took four American lives.

Contrary to the White House's public statements, which were still being made a full week later, it's now well established that the Americans were attacked by al Qaeda in a well-planned assault.
I only wish that we'd been as interested in protecting Stevens as the MSM was in protecting Obama. More at the link; the video is here.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Once More to Isanti Edition

Yes, you read that right. My project is still not done. I'm working like a mad man and I've called in just about every Scout father in the greater New Brighton metropolitan area to help me wrassle this thing to completion. Meanwhile, the old dude is slowly turning into a real old dude. But that's not why you're here, right?

Oh, let's face it -- what could be more entertaining than a blow-by-blow description of an Eagle Scout project?

It beats a blunt stick in the eye, Geritol Fan! But now it's time for me to give you a blunt pick of the games! Watch me work!

Nebraska Cornhuskers (-10) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers. Look out, world, Big Red is in town! The Old Dude saw about 10 Nebraska license plates on his commute home this afternoon. That means that the pesky Gophers are due for a visit from mean ol' Nebraska and Bo Pelini, the pickle-faced coach of the Cornhuskers. I mean, have you seen this guy? He always looks like he just ate about 20 lemons and washed it down with grapefruit juice! The point is, he figures this is going to be an easy win. Well, not quite. Minnesota did a good job against Northwestern last week, taking advantage of the fact that most of the Wildcat offense was apparently lost on a Wendella Cruise boat on Lake Michigan. As it turns out, I doubt Nebraska is planning to take the Jonathan Padelford cruise down the Mississippi this weekend. They've brought Taylor Martinez, who hasn't played much this season because of injury and has a reputation of choking in big games. Now, does Nebraska view this as a big game? Well, no, but maybe they should. Gophers 42, Nebraska 38.

Well, that's bold. I don't think Nebraska is exactly Mike Rozier/Turner Gill good these days, but they still have a lot of weapons. I think Nebraska could easily score 38 points. I doubt the Gophers can, though. Nebraska 38, Minnesota 21.

Penn State Nittany Lions (+15) vs. The Ohio State University. Now, I know that I'm most likely banned from the Columbus metropolitan area, because I trash the Buckeyes more than Waste Management, but here they are against Penn State, now two years removed from the Sandusky scandal and a team that's looking like they might turn the corner. Young Christian Hackenburg has the look of the best quarterback to play for Penn State in many years. Last week the Buckeyes barely survived a visit from the Iowa Hawkeyes, who are a middle-of-the-pack team in the Legends Division. And, if you're figuring where I'm going to head with this, you know that this is one of the two games I've predicted the Buckeyes are going to lose. So Urban Meyer, be prepared to know the number for a U-Haul truck. Penn State 27, Ohio State 13.

Looks like you're in the mood to pick upsets today. I don't see this happening. Penn State is a tough-minded team but they don't have enough talent to hang with the Buckeyes. Not yet, at least. Check back in about two years. Ohio State 34, Penn State 20.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-9) vs. Minnesota Vikings. So, this is the game that Vikings fans have been looking forward to for months. Unfortunately, they have no idea who will play quarterback. Will it be Josh Freeman? Maybe Matt Cassel. Maybe Christian Ponder. Maybe Todd Bouman will come back from wherever he is these days? Maybe Sir Francis Tarkenton, the best quarterback they've ever had. Maybe Spergeon Wynn. It's so hard to tell these days. The Vikings change quarterbacks more often than Gino changes his socks (just kidding, Gino!) Now, if you're a Vikings fan, you have to wonder why the Vikings don't run the ball more. I checked it out and since the bye week, the Vikings have only run the ball 25 times. Now granted, they've been buried a lot in those games, but still, maybe you should look behind the quarterback. Who is usually lined up back there? Why, it's Adrian Peterson, of course, merely the best running back on the planet. It would be like the Packers deciding that the best choice is to hand the ball off to John Kuhn on every play. You could do it, but it doesn't seem wise. The Vikings are going to play hard as they always do, especially in the Metrodome. But, the Packers will get some help on defense and Adrian Peterson will not go for 190 yards this time. Packers 24, Vikings 10.

The Packers are having a hard time finding receivers these days. I heard they might bring back Boyd Dowler or maybe "Admiral" Perry Kemp for this one. Still, the Vikings look pretty dysfunctional right now. You can put some of that on the quarterback carousel, but I think the larger issue is that both the offensive line and the defensive line are both performing at a substandard level this year. And if you can't block or tackle, it's hard to win at football. Packers 31, Vikings 14.

Dallas How Bout Them Cowboahs (+3) vs. Detroit Motor City Kitties. No Bears this week, so we're stuck picking this game. I can't get blamed for that, Gino. Anyway, the Lions seem to have improved somewhat this season after the train wreck that was last year. Reggie Bush is a nice addition to the team and Hong Kong Phooey Suh is still a menacing force in the middle of the line when he's not getting fined or trying to avoid bail bondsmen. Meanwhile, the Cowboahs are their usual schizo selves. Tony Romo continues to alternate between brilliance and stupidity, sometimes on the same play. While the Packers will travel to see both these teams later on in the season, I have to think that Thanksgiving in Detroit will be the tougher game. Detroit 17, Dallas 14.

I'd agree with your pick, but both these teams can score. And will. Bet the over. Lions 31, Cowboys 28.

That's all for tonight. Do you want to see a picture of the project so far? Well, here you go, kiddies!

I got your blocks right here, pal. Ben out!

Inspiration is flagging this morning, so let's take a poll:

You can vote for more than one choice:

The Obamacare rollout is not going very well. Who is responsible for this festival of fail? free polls 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Signs, signs, everywhere signs

The upcoming city council elections in New Brighton have heated up as we approach election day and there are a lot of signs for candidates up and running. Several candidates in the race seem to be pretty well heeled and have signs up all over town, including places where the signs are not supposed to be, which is less than seven feet from the street, per city ordinances.

There are three main north/south thoroughfares in New Brighton; probably the most heavily traveled is Silver Lake Road. When you get to the corner of Silver Lake Road and 5th Street NW, you are greeted with this sign:

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary
Mary Burg, for those of you keeping score at home, is on the City Council now, in the middle of her 4-year term. She's decided that she wants to be mayor instead. She's been on the council for a number of years now, so she and her supporters should be well aware of the rules. Maybe not. Of course, she's not the only long-time council member who seems confused on the matter:

Char Samuelson has been on the council for years and has also served as a state representative. Apparently her supporters are unclear about established rules as well, or perhaps they don't care very much.

Meanwhile, over on busy Long Lake Road, you get a look at a challenger's sign:

Graeme Allen is a young man in a hurry, who ran unsuccessfully for city council in the last election cycle. This time he has more money and more signs. I will give Allen this much credit -- this sign looks to be at least 2 feet away from the street.

Is it a little petty to bring these things up? I don't think so. I think that following city ordinances would be the bare minimum requirement of anyone who wants to be on the city council, let alone the mayor. One of the things that grates most on citizens is when their elected representatives ignore the laws that they expect others to follow. I would suggest that New Brighton voters understand that tolerance of small infractions is usually a sign that a would-be public servant isn't sufficiently attentive to the requirements of the job.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Your Obamacare Updates

First, Kathleen Sebelius reminds us all of why she'd have been a natural for "The Hunger Games":
“I’ve created an account on the site, I have not tried signing up because I have insurance,” she told Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Meanwhile, one of the president's water carriers is getting nervous about the whole thing:
On the other side, Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire sent a letter to Obama asking that the open enrollment period be extended past March 31, 2014, and that he consider delaying assessment of a penalty to individuals who don't sign up for any health insurance before the so-called "individual mandate" kicks in.

"As you continue to fix problems with the website and the enrollment process, it is critical that the administration be open to modifications that provide greater flexibility for the American people seeking to access health insurance," Shaheen wrote.
So when is Shaheen due to face the voters? 2014, you say?

But wait, there's more! From the same CNN interview with Sebelius, we get the following spin:
President Barack Obama didn't know of problems with the Affordable Care Act's website -- despite insurance companies' complaints and the site's crashing during a test run -- until after its now well-documented abysmal launch, the nation's health chief told CNN on Tuesday.

In an exclusive interview with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta asked when the President first learned about the considerable issues with the Obamacare website. Sebelius responded that it was in "the first couple of days" after the site went live October 1.

"But not before that?" Gupta followed up.

To which Sebelius replied, "No, sir."
So we're led to believe that the Leader of the Free World was unaware of the issues? Seriously? Either Sebelius is lying through her teeth or the president has the worst staff in the world and no desire to find out the truth about the initiative that has his name on it.

Oh, and about that site crash:
Days before the launch of President Obama’s online health ­insurance marketplace, government officials and contractors tested a key part of the Web site to see whether it could handle tens of thousands of consumers at the same time. It crashed after a simulation in which just a few hundred people tried to log on simultaneously.

Despite the failed test, federal health officials plowed ahead.
And how:
There were ample warning signs that the system was not working properly, according to people familiar with the project.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency in charge of running the health insurance exchange in 36 states, invited about 10 insurers to give advice and help test the Web site.

About a month before the exchange opened, this testing group urged agency officials not to launch it nationwide because it was still riddled with problems, according to an insurance IT executive who was close to the rollout.

“We discussed . . . is there a way to do a pilot — by state, by geographic region?” the executive said.

It was clear at the time, the executive said, that the CMS was still dealing with the way the exchange handled enrollment, federal subsidies and the security of consumers’ personal information, such as income.

One key problem, according to a person close to the project, was that the agency assumed the role of managing the 55 contractors involved and had not ensured that all the pieces were working together.

Some key testing of the system did not take place until the week before launch, according to this person. As late as Sept. 26, there had been no tests to determine whether a consumer could complete the process from beginning to end: create an account, determine eligibility for federal subsidies and sign up for a health insurance plan, according to two sources familiar with the project.
Today is October 23; for the most part, we know that a consumer still can't complete the process from end to end. Obviously, I blame Ted Cruz.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Speaking of disastrous rollouts

The Josh Freeman era didn't begin that well, now did it?
Leslie Frazier cautioned Vikings fans last week not to view Josh Freeman as a savior in a season that has drifted horribly off course.

“I don’t know if one guy can save your season,” Frazier said.

Anyone need more proof?

If anything, the Vikings looked even more discombobulated and dysfunctional with Freeman running the offense on a miserable Monday night at MetLife Stadium.

Any hope that Freeman’s arrival might spark a season revival quickly vanished as the Vikings bumbled through a 23-7 loss to the previously winless New York Giants in a game that won’t be replayed on those instant classic channels.
Freeman had no shot -- you simply can't expect someone to come in off the street and take over a professional football team in two weeks. It just doesn't happen. I may be a Packers fan, but there's no joy in watching your rival stumble around like that.

Dawn breaks on Obamacare

No excuses, but no accountability. That seems to be the message from the Leader of the Free World about the rolling clusterfark that's known as Obamacare:
President Barack Obama on Monday offered "no excuses" — and little explanation — for the computer bugs still frustrating Americans who are trying to enroll online for insurance plans at the center of his health care law. But software developers tasked with building the site said they saw signs a year ago that the debut could fail.
A year ago? Well, we couldn't have been bothered with that then, because we were too busy laughing at Mitt Romney's binders full o' women that were strapped to the roof of his dog's car, or something like that. I might have that about 47% right. Yeah, it was all pretty funny then.

Meanwhile, even the Associated Press is starting to notice a few things:
The flood of computer problems since the website went online has been deeply embarrassing for the White House. The glitches have called into question whether the administration is capable of implementing the complex policy and why senior White House officials — including the president — appear to have been unaware of the scope of the problems when the health insurance markets, known as exchanges, opened.

Obama stopped short of apologizing for the failures, saying instead that "nobody is more frustrated than me."
I doubt that, but we'll let it pass. Meanwhile, the dispatch offers something that's rarely been seen in the last five years -- skepticism concerning Obama administration assertions:
Officials have instead pointed selectively to figures putting the insurance exchanges in a positive light. They say more than 19 million people have logged on to the federal website and nearly 500,000 have filled out applications for insurance through both the federal and state-run sites. The applications must be completed before people can enroll in insurance policies.
Emphasis mine. Selectively, you say? Huh. Interesting.

A lot of the problems were baked in; last week the New York Times reported this little tidbit:
Deadline after deadline was missed. The biggest contractor, CGI Federal, was awarded its $94 million contract in December 2011. But the government was so slow in issuing specifications that the firm did not start writing software code until this spring, according to people familiar with the process. As late as the last week of September, officials were still changing features of the Web site,, and debating whether consumers should be required to register and create password-protected accounts before they could shop for health plans.
This is project management 101; my son, who is working on his Eagle Scout project right now, understands that you can't let deadlines slip. To let a year go by before issuing specifications is an excellent way to fail.

Don't abandon hope, though: America's Finest News Source has unearthed a solution:
Responding to widespread criticism regarding its health care website, the federal government today unveiled its new, improved Obamacare program, which allows Americans to purchase health insurance after installing a software bundle contained on 35 floppy disks. “I have heard the complaints about the existing website, and I can assure you that with this revised system, finding the right health care option for you and your family is as easy as loading 35 floppy disks sequentially into your disk drive and following the onscreen prompts,” President Obama told reporters this morning, explaining that the nearly three dozen 3.5-inch diskettes contain all the data needed for individuals to enroll in the Health Insurance Marketplace, while noting that the updated Obamacare software is mouse-compatible and requires a 386 Pentium processor with at least 8 MB of system RAM to function properly.
Sounds like the Hillarycare prototype.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The orchestra comes, hat in hand

As usual, they're lining up at the trough:
Legislative and community leaders are considering giving more ­public money to the Minnesota Orchestra as its yearlong labor dispute leaves the future of the state’s largest arts organization — and its stellar reputation — in limbo.

The orchestra seems no closer to settling than when the musicians were locked out on Oct. 1, 2012. Leaders, including former Gov. Arne Carlson, wonder why, if the Vikings stadium is getting $450 million in taxpayer money, the state can’t come up with at least a sizable chunk of the $6 million needed to resolve the orchestra’s deficit.
The obvious answer -- the Vikings shouldn't be getting $450 million in taxpayer money. Of course, most orchestra-goers rarely show up wearing Helga braids, so perhaps visibility is a problem. Maybe the orchestra fans ought to show up at the Lege next session, wearing white tie and tails while attempting to be recreate the Viking horn with an oboe.

But wait. Aren't the sainted Legacy funds supposed to cover this sort of thing? Too late; that money's already gone:
For one thing, the first idea that springs to many minds — using Legacy funds for an emergency fix — is moot. Accessing these sales-tax-generated funds, which have aided arts groups across the state since they were first made available in 2009, would not be possible until 2015, because the $26.7 million allocated for fiscal year 2014 already has been committed. Also, most of the grants have been for comparatively small amounts, distributed among a large number of the more than 1,600 arts groups, and a grant of several million would be an unusual step.
So what to do? Well, as usual Phyllis Kahn has an idea:
Dibble will co-author a bill being introduced next session by Rep. Phyllis Kahn offering another possible resolution of the orchestra’s woes — community ownership, an idea she previously floated concerning the Minnesota Twins. While both orchestra musicians and management are remaining mute on this concept, others don’t count it out. “Just because it’s an old idea doesn’t mean it’s not valid,” Carlson said.
When your only tool is a hammer, everything becomes a nail.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Concrete Block Party Edition

Old dude, are you getting tired yet?

I'm past tired. Is this Eagle Scout project of yours ever going to end?

Either it will or I'll turn 18. One way or another, it will get done. But you know what? Lugging about 300 concrete blocks is good for an old dude like yourself. You need to carry your weight around here, since you never do with the picks.

Excuse me? Are you sure about that?

Well, I haven't kept a tally, but I'm pretty sure I'm on top by sheer force of HYYYYYYYYYYPPPPPE! Now simmer down and watch me work!

Minnesota Golden Gophers (+12.5) vs. Northwestern Wildcats. Did Northwestern get the license plate number of that truck that hit them last week in Madison? I think it said MGIII 25. But we'll get to Melvin Gordon later. Now we must talk about the pesky Gophers, who are coming off a bye week and are still trying to figure out if Jerry Kill can ever coach again. Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys is at the controls and he's sending out Mitch Leidner, one of the 2-3 Gopher quarterbacks who don't quite seem prepared to run a Big Ten team. Meanwhile, Northwestern has two quarterbacks as well; Kain Colter, who's not really a quarterback, and Trevor Simien, who is an actual quarterback. Sometimes they play at the same time. The problem is, you never know which one will be your leader. So are you confused? Well, join the club! Northwestern 24, Minnesota 0.

I don't see another victory for the Gophers this season. It's tough, since they don't get the pleasure of playing Purdue this season. Northwestern's season hangs in the balance following losses to the Badgers and Ohio State. If the Wildcats want to play on New Year's Day, they need to start winning. It starts here. Sorry, Gophs. Northwestern 34, Minnesota 14.

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-14) vs. Illinois Fighting Illini. This game makes me nervous. Illinois has been a little schizo this year -- they drilled a very good Cincinnati team but got drilled by Nebraska and Washington, two schools that are similar in talent to the Badgers. The Badgers always have trouble in Champaign, and had to work pretty hard last year to beat the Illini in Madison. Having said that, the Badgers look like the team that won't go away and Melvin Gordon looks like the next person to get a trip to New York as a Badger Heisman candidate. Considering that Ohio State will slip up eventually, the Badgers are not out of the BCS yet. Wisconsin 17, Illinois 14.

I don't see where OSU is going to slip up, but we'll leave that aside. The problem for Illinois is that they can't stop the run -- Bishop Sankey of Washington and a parade of Nebraska runners turned the Illini defense into a turnstile. How do you think Melvin Gordon will like that? Just fine, I'd imagine. At least 150 for Melvin, another 125 for James White and maybe Corey Clement gets some in garbage time. And there will be garbage time. Badgers 42, Illinois 17.

Everton FC vs. Hull City. That's right, people -- Premier League action! My team is Everton, the Oakland A's of the Premier League, except that they wear blue uniforms with a beer company's logo on the front, so the weasels at my high school won't let me wear their jersey to class! Like anyone knows that Chang is a beer company in the U.S., anyway! I should tell them that Chang sells mutual funds. But that's not why you're here. My Everton squad sits seventh in the Premier League table, which is not bad, but they need to get moving a little bit. Hull City is back in the Premier League after a few years in the lower levels of English soccer. It has nothing to do with former hockey great Bobby Hull, or Brett Hull, or former Beloit College president Roger Hull. But Everton doesn't lose to Beloit College presidents, especially in Fortress Goodison. Everton 3, Hull 0.

Whatever you say, pal. Everton 1, Hull 1.

Minnesota Vikings (+3.5) vs. New York Football Giants. So let me get this straight -- the Giants haven't won a game all season, but they're favored to win? And more importantly, why is this game on national television? I expect it to lose in the ratings to a rerun of "Chopped" or maybe "Keeping Up With the Kardashians." To my knowledge, there's no Kardashian involvement with either of these two teams, but the Vikings are always a bit of a soap opera anyway. Now comes Josh Freeman, savior from the Tampa Bay scrap heap, where he escapes the wrath of Greg Schiano only to find himself in a warm, cuddly clubhouse full of underachieving players. Can he solve this problem? Of course not -- he's only been a Viking a week and he's going up against the always-popular desperate team at home. Frosty Face Coughlin gets off the schneid, but if he loses, he's gone. Popular replacement suggestion? Greg Schiano, of course. Giants 3, Vikings 0.

Uh, no. In ESPN's defense, the game looked pretty good when the schedule came out. No one expected either team to have such a tough year. The Vikings have had a lot of misfortune. I don't know what the problem with the Giants is. Guess we'll find out. Giants 24, Vikings 21.

Cleveland Browns (+10) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. The Packers are winning games even though they barely have enough players to put on the field. They are pretty much out of linebackers and wide receivers, and apparently are going to play about 14 tight ends on offense this week. That's a good trick, since you're only allowed to have 11 players on the field, but it seems that way. Of course, the difference this year is the Packers can finally run the football. Eddie Lacy is coming on and Johnathan Franklin is getting there. Aaron Rodgers might only have one good receiver left, but all those tight ends might be able to do something. Packers 31, Browns 21.

I'd be nervous about this game except that the Browns can't score and Brandon Weeden, their quarterback, is erratic. The Packers will do enough to win this game and even cover the spread. Packers 21, Browns 10.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (Even) vs. Washington Professional Football Team. I know, I know, they're called the Redskins, but I'm really frightened by Bob Costas. Not really, but a little false moral outrage is always called for. Which brings us to da Bearz, who are a perpetual moral outrage. Gino has been telling me that this is da Bearz year. I'm not feeling it. Jay Cutler is playing well enough, but the defense is starting to show its age. I'll be curious to see how young Jonathan Bostic, the rookie middle linebacker, does trying to chase down RGIII. North Dakota 27, da Bearz 14.

Oh, I get it -- North Dakota had to change their nickname. That's a good one! Okay, since I have to disagree with you once during the week, I'll choose this game. I think the Bears aren't great, either, but the Redskins are a mess right now. Bears 28, Redskins 24.

My Eagle Scout project is taking shape now. We're going to be placing about 300 concrete blocks tomorrow and just like the Monday Night game, it's going to be great. No, really. Ben out!

Alpha Testing, Part Two

And if you wonder why the Obamacare exchange websites are struggling, consider the following:
Facing such intense opposition from congressional Republicans, the administration was in a bunker mentality as it built the enrollment system, one former administration official said. Officials feared that if they called on outsiders to help with the technical details of how to run a commerce website, those companies could be subpoenaed by Hill Republicans, the former aide said. So the task fell to trusted campaign tech experts.
Two things:

  • As has been proven repeatedly, no one pays attention to subpoenas that Republicans issue, nor to the investigations that they undertake. Those trees fall in the forest all the time and never make a sound. Darrell Issa might as well be on a milk carton.
  • If you're going to essentially take over 1/6th of the country's GDP, doncha think it's worth trying to get a little expertise? And seriously, what would the government be hiding about the technical details?

It's a little Nixonian, wouldn't you say?

Alpha Testing

Federal officials did not permit testing of the Obamacare website or issue final system requirements until four to six days before its Oct. 1 launch, according to an individual with direct knowledge of the project.

The individual, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described the troubled Obamacare website project as suffering from top-level management disarray, changing systems requirements and recurring delays.
More -- a lot more -- at the link.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

We can only hope

The Star Tribune thinks the unthinkable:
The decision to delay the Twin Cities’ biggest light-rail project drew protests and warnings Wednesday from two policymakers who have been closely involved in planning the line.

They objected to postponing a crucial vote on whether to build two tunnels as part of the Southwest Corridor line that will connect Minneapolis with Eden Prairie and southwestern suburbs. The delay of as much as three months is intended to give planners time to build support for the tunnels in Minneapolis, where some officials and residents fear disruption to a neighborhood and a recreation area.

“This is going to be a huge setback,” said Steve Elkins, a member of the Metropolitan Council, the agency overseeing the project.

“A delay means that the project could be at risk,” said Council Member Jennifer Munt. “Does this derail the project?”

Elkins and Munt fear the delay could cost the $1.55 billion project its best chance to win needed federal funding.
A few thoughts:

  • "Federal funding" means having someone from Fort Wayne, or Topeka, or Bend, or Albuquerque, fund this boondoggle. The feds can spend the money, but they don't really have it. We took a wrong turn at Albuquerque a long time ago.
  • The whole fight is about NIMBYism. Hooray for NIMBYism in this case.
Of course, the real fear is buried further in the article. Allow Met Council member Jennifer Munt to explain:

After the meeting, Munt labeled opposition from some Minneapolis City Council members “inflammatory campaign rhetoric” and predicted it would die down after the Nov. 5 election for mayor and council.

“We did have a path forward and it was a sweet spot after the election and before year’s end, because we’re talking with city councilors who understand the issue,” she said. “I believe we had a shot.”

But the delay in approving a plan could push the process for seeking municipal consent into 2014, putting it in front of new city councils and potentially leading to further delays.
See, you can't let voters have the chance to put potentially less pliable politicians in office. Of course, Munt doesn't have to face any voters, since the Met Council is unelected.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Adverb contest

My son, a/k/a the Benster, is currently working on an Eagle Scout project up at a church in Isanti. We've been up there a fair amount lately working on the project and will be doing so for the next few weeks.

As it happens, Isanti is located in a place that bears deep scrutiny -- that is, the 6th Congressional District. Rachel Stassen-Berger, suitably aghast, notes why in her most recent Star Tribune dispatch:
The quest to take U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s seat when she retires is deeply unsettled in the starkly Republican suburban and outstate Sixth Congressional District.
Emphasis mine. Not to put too fine a point on it, I wonder what that means. "Starkly" is an adverbial form of the word stark, an adjective, which has the following definitions:
stark  [stahrk]  adjective, stark·er, stark·est, adverb
1. sheer, utter, downright, or complete: stark madness.
2. harsh, grim, or desolate, as a view, place, etc.: a stark landscape.
3. extremely simple or severe: a stark interior.
4. bluntly or sternly plain; not softened or glamorized: the stark reality of the schedule's deadline.
5. stiff or rigid in substance, muscles, etc.
In the time we've spent in the area, we haven't found it to be particularly harsh, grim, or desolate, although it is a little windy this time of year. In fact, the countryside near Isanti is actually pretty lush. I don't suspect the first meaning is what Stassen-Berger was after, either, since Bachmann almost lost her last bid for Congress in the district, which would have been impossible if the area were completely, or even sheerly, Republican. From what I can tell, "extremely simple or severe" isn't right, either, although I don't doubt that Stassen-Berger finds certain 6th District Republicans to be simple and severe in their unreasonable demands to participate in the political process. There's probably some glamor in the District, but we've been too busy with the project to seek it out, although we might check out the "Beef-O-Brady's" in St. Francis some time and see if that fits the bill. I'd be willing to support the final definition, since I've personally been feeling plenty stiff in the muscles after helping to dig out about two 35-foot long, two-foot wide, two-foot deep trenches (Benster's project is building dugout enclosures for a church softball field).

So, what I'm suggesting is that Stassen-Berger might have chosen the wrong adverb to describe the area. I live in the 4th Congressional District, which has not sent a Republican to Congress since the Truman administration, but I wouldn't describe it as "starkly" DFL. So, what I'd like to suggest is that we do a little editorial crowd-sourcing and help the intrepid reporter out by giving her a new adverb to describe the 6th. Choose one of the following, or feel free to add your own in the comments section.
What adverb should Rachel Stassen-Berger have used to describe the "starkly Republican" 6th District? free polls 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

We'd like to extend our invitation to you to game the system

Incentives always matter and in Obamacare, they lead to suggestions of this sort:
People whose 2014 income will be a little too high to get subsidized health insurance from Covered California next year should start thinking now about ways to lower it to increase their odds of getting the valuable tax subsidy.

"If they can adjust (their income), they should," says Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow with the Kaiser Family Foundation. "It's not cheating, it's allowed."

Under the Affordable Care Act, if your 2014 income is between 138 and 400 percent of poverty level for your household size, you can purchase health insurance on a state-run exchange (such as Covered California) and receive a federal tax subsidy to offset all or part of your premium.

If your income falls below 138 percent of poverty, you qualify for Medicaid, which provides no-cost health care to low-income people. In California, it's called Medi-Cal.

If your income is higher than 400 percent of poverty, you can purchase a policy on or off the exchange, but in either case, you won't get a subsidy and the policy must provide certain essential benefits that many low-cost individual policies lack today, such as maternity care.
So if you are a family of four, for example, you'd better not earn more than $94,200. If you earn $94,201, you could end up paying full freight on insurance, which would mean the extra dollar you earned could cost you about 10 grand in additional premiums. And if you don't need maternity care, well, tough luck, you gotta buy it, because it's "essential."

The larger issue is that working harder and earning that extra dollar is now a bad decision. Why try to get ahead? Let's all game the system and hope someone else will subsidize us. I don't see how that sort of regime is going to be sustainable in the long term.

Monday, October 14, 2013

I hope not

I really hope this is baseless:
A prominent Catholic priest and professor about to be sued for allegedly sexually abusing a Twin Cities-area girl more than a decade ago has taken a voluntary leave of absence from his priestly and teaching duties.

The Rev. Michael J. Keating, a popular Catholic Studies teacher at the University of St. Thomas, is on a voluntary leave of absence, Jim Accurso, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, said Sunday. Accurso said he couldn’t discuss the reasons for the leave or any of the allegations involving Keating.

Lawyer Jeff Anderson, the woman’s attorney, said that his office notified Keating of the lawsuit on Saturday and plans to file the complaint Monday morning in Ramsey County District Court.
You would be hard pressed to find a priest who has done a better job of explaining Catholicism than Fr. Keating, who served as an assistant pastor at my home parish, St. John the Baptist, about 10 years ago. He is the best homilist I've ever seen in person, by miles.

1000 Words

The veterans who converged on Washington yesterday took down some of the barricades that are surrounding the monuments on the Mall and brought them to the White House. This picture might capture it better than anything else I've seen:

The best use for a Segway yet devised

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Bad Obamacare Theatre

And now, time for an another episode of of "Bad Obamacare Theater." Here is your host, Leonard Pinth-Garnell:

That really wasn't so good, now was it?
Hello, I am Leonard Pinth-Garnell. Welcome to "Bad Obamacare Theatre." Today's work concerns the 2013 production of the libretto "Affordable Health Care Act is Ready for Business." The scene takes place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As we view the action, the accomplished actress Kathleen Sebelius plays the role of Kathleen Sebelius, embattled head of the Department of Health and Human Services, while her counterpart in this production is Dan Rooney, chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team, which is coincidentally winless on the season. Let's take a look:
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had a front-row view of the problems plaguing the website that the government established to allow people to shop for health insurance under Obamacare.

Sebelius and Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney were at an enrollment and education event on Thursday at Heinz Field to promote, but people who showed up encountered problems in signing up for coverage on the website.

Unable to handle heavy online traffic and riddled with technical glitches, the website has been a source of criticism of the Obama administration and the new Affordable Care Act since its start on Oct. 1.

Sebelius, who is making similar trips to cities across the country to spread the word about the website, told the audience of about 100 people that was “open for business.”

“Believe me, we had some early glitches,” said Sebelius, who was introduced by Rooney, a backer of the law. “But it's getting better every day.”
The action then turns to the back of the room, where the production company attempts to enroll curious Pittsburghers into the program:
At the back of the room, it was a different story. About 20 people armed with laptops and certified by the government to sign up people for coverage were meeting with uninsured people, answering questions and fruitlessly trying to access the website.

LaKesha Lowry, 41, came to the event to find out about her health insurance options. But the North Side resident said she was not able to access the site, even with the help of a certified application counselor.

“It said, ‘Try again later,' ” Lowry said.
There... That wasn't so good now, was it? Trite assurances, ineptly rendered, with amateurish technical production values and ultimately failure. Stunningly bad! Astonishingly ill-chosen! Bad, very bad. Really bites the big one!

Join us next time for a production of the comic opera "Solyndra, A Love Story." This is Leonard Pinth-Garnell. Good-bye.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Benster Gets Concrete Edition

Old dude, I'm still working on that Eagle Scout project! How do you feel about going back up to Isanti tomorrow?

I'm sure it will be a great joy for everyone.

Of course, because this is my greatest achievement, other than being the best prognosticator of HYYYYYYPPPE!

We hadn't seen the HYYYYYYYPPPE! in a while.

Well, I'm trying to cut down a little, but sometimes you have to release the Kraken. And this week requires it. Watch me work!

Northwestern Wildcats (+10.5) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. This seems like a pretty high point spread, considering that Northwestern is actually a pretty good team. The last time the Badgers played Northwestern, they edged them 70-23 and earned the right to go to the Rose Bowl. You can quote me on saying this: Ohio State will lose two games before the season is complete. That means, if the Badgers win out, they would be going back to Indianapolis with a chance to play for history. Can the Badgers do their part? It starts Saturday, especially when Joel Stave shows the world that he is the best quarterback in the Big Ten. Wisconsin 70, Northwestern 23.

Two problems with your theory, Seabiscuit. The Badgers aren't as good this year as they were in 2010 and Northwestern is significantly better. I don't think they've completely closed the 47-point gap, but it's going to be a lot closer than you think. I do think the Badgers will score, though, and your guy Stave will throw at least 1-2 touchdown passes. But it's Melvin Gordon that the Wildcats should fear. Wisconsin 38, Northwestern 27.

Oklahoma Boomer Sooner (-13.5) vs. Texas Longhorns, at the Cotton Bowl. It's the Red River rivalry, the traditional game that ends the Texas State Fair and begins the death watch for the regime of Mack Brown. Texas is a mess this year, even though they have roadside signs every 25 feet or so that say "Don't Mess With Texas." The problem is, everyone is messing with Texas these days. Even though Texas barely escaped Iowa State last week after the officials blew a call that makes Tempe look temperate, they have the stench of loserdom written all over themselves. This is not a great Oklahoma team, but it won't take much. Boomer Sooner 21, The Eyes of Texas Are Upon Mack Brown 0.

We really ought to do this in video format sometime, young fella, so the people can hear your really bad Mack Brown imitation. The problem is that Mack Brown is doing a really bad imitation of himself, too. Oklahoma wins. Oklahoma 35, Texas 24.

Carolina Panthers (+2.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings. There's a lot of turmoil at Winter Park this week, between the arrival of Josh Freeman and the horrible story we heard about today. Before anything else, say a prayer for Adrian Peterson and for his son, so cruelly lost. Bad stuff. Anyway, back to the game. We get our first look at Scam Newton, who has been a professional now for three years officially and about nine years unofficially. He's been getting paid longer than the Old Dude, I swear. The bottom line is that the Panthers aren't a very good team, which is helpful for the Vikings. The Vikings are going to start Matt Cassel, which means that Christian Ponder is probably done. On the bright side, he has a pile of money and a really beautiful wife, so that's a good thing. Panthers 31, Vikings 17.

I think the Vikings will win. I feel very bad for Adrian Peterson, too. What an awful story. As for the game, I almost think it would be better for the Vikings if Cassel doesn't play too well; they brought in Freeman to play and if Cassel is too good, they'll have a hard time replacing him in the starting lineup. Vikings 24, Panthers 21.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-2.5) vs. Baltimore Ravens. So let me get this straight. The Baltimore Ravens, defending Super Bowl champions, are a home dog? I get that the Packers are a good team, and I'm grateful that they are, but this is a very surprising point spread. The key question for the Packers is how they will weather the absence of Clay Matthews, who broke his thumb last week and is out for about a month. This is perhaps the toughest game on the road that they'll have before they go to Chicago at the end of the year. The thing about the Ravens is that their fearsome defense isn't really that fearsome any more. No Ray Lewis, no Ed Reed, no Paul Kruger. That's a lot of guys to replace. Can the Packers weather the storm? Of course they can. Packers 42, Ravens 35.

So you're saying bet the over, huh? The over/under on the game is 40.5. I think they'll play some defense on Sunday, but I think the Packers are better than the Ravens. I would not be surprised if this goes the other way, but. . . Packers 27, Baltimore 20.

Unfortunately, we can't pick da Bearz because they've already beaten the Giants. As it happens, everybody beats the Giants this year. Karma is biting the Giants big time. Sorry, Frosty Face Coughlin, but not really. Ben out!

Kabuki and the T-Men

The most interesting thing about the gubmint shutdown is that it appears to have also shut down the interest of the MSM in covering other things that are going on in Washington. Here I'd thought that the IRS scandal had gone away. Maybe not:
Earlier this week, the House Oversight Committee asked Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel some hard questions about the shifty, irresponsible, and possibly illegal transmission of confidential taxpayer data through private email accounts held by such key scandal figures as Werfel’s predecessor, Douglas Shulman, and Tax Exempt Organizations head Lois Lerner.

It turns out these emails were part of a collaboration between IRS officials and the White House, a discovery that would have triggered “Countdown to Impeachment” news specials under a Republican Administration, but barely even rates media attention during the Great Shutdown Drama.  Try to imagine left-wing groups mounting a legal challenge to Bush Administration policies, only to discover IRS officials were sending their confidential tax data to White House advisers, to assist the Bush team in preparing a defense.
The link has a particularly amusing round "I don't recall" theater in an exchange between Cong. Jim Jordan of Ohio and IRS staffer Sarah Hall Ingram, which you need to see to believe.

But here's the punchline: Ingram is now in charge of Obamacare enforcement:
The IRS official in charge of tax-exempt organizations when the unit targeted Tea Party groups now runs the IRS office responsible for enforcing ObamaCare and may have illegally shared confidential tax data.

It's bad enough that no one at the Internal Revenue Service has been meaningfully punished for the targeting of conservative groups before the 2012 election. Now we learn that, for some, the unconstitutional and illegal action was a good career move.

Sarah Hall Ingram, who served as commissioner of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division from 2009 to 2012, was so good at her job of suppressing the political speech of administration opponents by using the tax code as a bludgeon that she was rewarded during her tenure with four bonuses totaling $103,390.

Her salary went from $172,500 to $177,000 during that period, and she would also be rewarded with the post of director of the IRS' Affordable Care Act division.
It's nice to see people get ahead.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Kabuki and the Navigators

The best part about the shutdown kabuki, at least for the current presidential administration and its enablers everywhere, is that it tends to take the joy of Obamacare off the front pages, at least temporarily. It's a lot more fun to bash hapless John Boehner than it is to contemplate some of the unpleasantness that's already underway:
A congressional report titled “Risks of Fraud and Misinformation with ObamaCare Outreach Campaign: How Navigator and Assister Program Mismanagement Endangers Consumers” examines testimony from officials responsible for implementing the program.

Among its conclusions, “the main concern for consumers is the heightened risk of identity theft and financial loss from a poorly managed outreach campaign.”

The state of Illinois has tried to put extra safeguards in place for its navigator program. Illinois requires navigators to pass a background check to get a state navigator license, although this is not in federal requirements. The state also passed laws allowing the Department of Insurance to revoke navigator licenses in cases of misconduct.

However, navigator training lasts only three days, and much of it is spent completing a 20-hour online course. Concern centers on how adequately they are prepared to handle personal information.
Did you catch that? Do you suppose that an identity thief is especially concerned if the Illinois Department of Insurance revokes a "navigator license?" An enterprising identity thief could make off with a lot of money before the bureaucracy catches up.

The idea that hundreds of millions of people would have to go through websites and other means and surrender personal data, and that the process would go smoothly, has always been a fantasy. There is always a bit of larceny in the human heart and the potential honey pot that Obamacare is filling will attract a lot of people who'd like some easy money. And of course, the requirements for becoming a navigator are going to be lax, because the need for navigators is so great:
In August, the attorneys general of 13 states signed a letter listing their concerns about consumer privacy protection in connection with the navigator program. The letter highlights a risk of inadequate training for navigators and fewer consumer protections than is provided in the market—particularly regarding who is liable if information is stolen.

The letter states that the navigator program’s requirements are “less demanding than many federal privacy requirements, such as those applicable to federal census workers … without more protections, this is a privacy disaster waiting to happen.”
Do you expect more protections? Good luck with that. And if you say, well, that's Illinois, nothing like that could happen here in Minnesota, well, that's not exactly true, either.

Meanwhile, just so you know, the information you do provide could be getting shared. Consider this language from the State of Maryland:
We will not sell your information to others.  Any information that you provide to us in your application will be used only to carry out the functions of Maryland Health Connection. The only exception to this policy is that we may share information provided in your application with the appropriate authorities for law enforcement and audit activities.
Emphasis mine. Your information is safe, but if Lois Lerner or Eric Holder needs it, they'll have it.

Remember -- pour your wrath on John Boehner. It'll make you feel a whole lot better.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Well, yeah

D. J. Tice, who really ought to write more often, in the Star Tribune:
Now what exactly is the allegation here? That the Vikings have a secret plan to extract enough money from their willing customers to cover their whole investment in the new facility?

Shocking, I’m sure. But we must face facts. One way or another, this is what every business does with every investment and every venture — at least if it means to stay in business.

You could almost define a “business” as an organization that seeks to induce willing customers to pay for every blessed thing it does — plus a little extra known to experts in the field as “profit.”

It’s true that firms sometimes finance investments, in whole or in part, with “their own money” — that is, with cash rather than debt or revenue from operations. But they do this only when, and only to the extent, that they come out ahead as a result.

Coming out ahead in the end is what makes any choice, in business terms, the right thing to do. Even department store fortunes are built that way.
There was a reason that Mark Dayton never went into the family business, and it wasn't that he was too high-minded to participate in something as grubby and unseemly as commerce.

Still nothing

Shutdown kabuki fun continues and it's boring.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Quarterbacks and Coaches

There's really no point in talking about politics at the moment since nothing is really happening until the game of chicken over the debt ceiling starts in earnest, but that's next week. So let's talk football.

I'll admit that I didn't see this coming:
The Vikings quarterback situation just became a lot more interesting. And crowded.

The team signed free agent Josh Freeman to a one-year deal reportedly worth $3 million late Sunday night, which presumably means Christian Ponder’s tenure is almost over.

Freeman must learn the Vikings offense, but the team’s aggressiveness in pursuing the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback indicates that they want him to replace Ponder as the starter as soon as possible.

A former first-round pick out of Kansas State, Freeman is only 25 but already is in his fifth NFL season. He has passed for 13,534 yards and 80 touchdowns with 66 interceptions.
Then again, I guess I should have seen it coming. Despite the many public pronouncements one heard about how confident the Vikings were with Christian Ponder, the pronouncements have seemed hollow, especially since it has always seemed that Ponder is at best a career backup. Freeman had a messy divorce with Tampa Bay and it's possible that a change of scenery is all he needs to get better, but the circumstances of his departure are a little sketchy. I suspect that this analysis of the deal from ESPN's Ben Goessling:
As much rope as the Vikings have tried to give Ponder, as strongly as they have supported him through his struggles, they've got too much on the line to go on like that without giving themselves options. Coach Leslie Frazier needs to produce enough wins to get a contract extension and keep his job. Running back Adrian Peterson is 28 years old, and might not have more than a couple years left at his peak. And if general manager Rick Spielman missed on Ponder with the 12th pick in the 2011 draft, he needs to act swiftly and limit the damage before deciding how the Vikings will move forward at the position, whether that's with Ponder, Freeman, Cassel or someone else. 
In the 20+ years I've lived in Minnesota, quarterback has been the eternal problem for the Vikings. Going just from memory, they've run out Wade Wilson, Jim McMahon, Warren Moon, Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George, Daunte Culpepper, Gus Frerotte, Brett Favre and Ponder as their primary quarterbacks, with an amusing selection of backups as well -- who could forget the glory of Spergeon Wynn? We've seen similar carousels in Detroit and Chicago over the years as well, although Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler have held their respective positions for a while now. It's just another reminder of how fortunate my beloved Green Bay Packers have been to have just two regular quarterbacks over that time period.

Meanwhile, I'm beginning to wonder whether Jerry Kill is going to make it in Minnesota. While Benster and I have given him some good natured ribbing over the years, he's an admirable guy in many ways. Still, missing a game against Michigan is a pretty big deal and the situation might be untenable now. While he's tried all manner of things to get his seizures under control, it's appearing less likely that a long-term solution is coming. You simply can't miss games unexpectedly when you're the head coach, no matter how good your staff seems to be. Norwood Teague, the Gopher AD, has publicly supported Kill, but he didn't hire Kill, so he doesn't necessarily have to be loyal to him. I'd not be surprised if we see yet another new regime come to the Twin Cities at the end of this season.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- The Eagle Scout Attempts to Land Edition

Old dude, we don't have a lot of time tonight -- we're gonna be busy tomorrow. It's time for that Eagle Scout project!

Can I call in dead?

No -- you have work to do, too. Meanwhile, time's a wastin'. Watch me work!

Minnesota Golden Gophers (+19.5) vs. Meeshegan Wolverines. Last I checked, Michigan was the least impressive 4-0 team in the country, with stirring victories over Akron, UConn and Stevens Point Pacelli High School, I think. Anyway, it should tell you something when the Wolverines are favored by nearly 3 touchdowns against the Gophers, who played well until last week, when they got steamrolled by Iowa. It's possible to beat Michigan in Ann Arbor. But I doubt the Gophers can do that. Meeshegan 59, Gophers 0.

Feel the love, Jerry Kill. Feel the love. Michigan 34, Minnesota 17.

The Ohio State University Buckeyes (-7) vs. Northwestern Wildcats. Okay, so I was wrong about last week. Yes, Ohio State is very, very good, but this time they go on the road into what is the biggest game in the history of Northwestern, or at least in a long, long, long time. The last time the Wildcats were in the Rose Bowl, I had a rattle in my hand. If you're an Ohio State fan, be afraid. Oh, and one other thing -- what the heck is wrong with you, anyway? Northwestern 24, Ohio State 7.

Jared Abbrederis torched the Buckeyes last week. Northwestern has a couple of guys like Abbrederis. This will be a tough one for the Buckeyes. I think they survive, but barely. Ohio State 42, Northwestern 38.

Detroit Lions (+7) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. The Packers had a bye last week. Historically, playing Detroit is like having two byes, but not this year. The Lions looked pretty good in dispatching Gino's beloved Bears last week, but the Lions haven't won in the State of Wisconsin since about 1869 or something. That's a lot of history. And just a reminder: as Aaron Rodgers said last season, "outside the sky is falling; but inside we're just fine." Packers 49, Lions 35.

Actually, that score is plausible. I'd bet the over, too. Packers 38, Lions 31.

New Orleans Saints (pick) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. The Saints look to be back in form this year, scoring points like crazy. Da Bearz got 40 hung on them last week in Detroit. This is the end of the Bears success and be on the lookout for a coaching change. Yes, already. Mark it down, boys. Saints 70, da Bearz 21.

Uh, no. I could see the Saints winning this game -- sure I could. But they won't score 70. New Orleans 35, Chicago 27.

Sorry for the abbreviated version, but I gotta pour me some concrete tomorrow, so I'd better rest up. Ben out!

Shutdown Theater is Shut Down in Wisconsin

Pretty close to speaking for itself:
The state Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday refused a directive from the National Park Service to close a host of popular state properties because of the federal government shutdown.

The park service ordered state officials to close the northern unit of the Kettle Moraine, Devil's Lake, and Interstate state parks and the state-owned portion of the Horicon Marsh, but state authorities rebuffed the request because the lion's share of the funding came from state, not federal coffers.
And there's more:
Even though federal lands such as the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore have been shuttered, the DNR issued a statement saying all state parks, trails and other recreational properties were open and not affected by the federal government's budget problems.

The agency also reopened a boat launch Wednesday at Wyalusing State Park on the Mississippi River. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service closed the launch on Tuesday because it was on federal land.

But in a sign of defiance, the DNR removed the barricades at the landing, saying it had the legal authority to operate the launch under a 1961 agreement with the federal government.

Remember -- it's a conscious decision to shut down parks and other federal facilities. And as much as people want to blame those bastard Tea Party types for this sort of thing, they aren't the ones making the decisions to shut down public facilities. As this drags on, expect to see more people deciding to remove the Barack-cades.

The Rich People's Stadium

I lived in the Chicago area in the early 1990s. From time to time, I'd go up to Milwaukee with one of my college buddies and we'd go to Packers games there, because in those days the Packers played part of their schedule at the old County Stadium. We'd time it so we'd arrive there a few minutes before game time and we'd be able to buy tickets from people looking to get rid of their tickets for a pretty cheap price, usually about $5. The cost for parking at County Stadium was about $3, so we could attend an NFL game, have a hot dog and even a beer for less than $20. And even though the Packers were terrible in those days, it was a lot of fun.

I share that story because those days are definitely not coming back, especially here in Minnesota:
The Minnesota Vikings’ most loyal fans will pay an average of $2,500 above the cost of a season ticket just to secure choice seats in the team’s new stadium, under an agreement approved Thursday by the public board overseeing the project.

Personal seat license fees, which are often used to help build or restore NFL venues, were part of stadium lease and development agreements OK’d by the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, which is supervising construction of the $975 million multipurpose venue.

The team and authority agreed to attach a one-time fee to 75 percent of the seats in the 65,000-seat stadium, charging season-ticket holders anywhere from $500 to $10,000, depending on the seat. The remainder of the seats, including some held by season-ticket holders, would not carry such fees.
It's likely that the "remainder of the seats" might as well be in your basement. I haven't priced Vikings tickets lately, but I'd be quite surprised if you'd be able to get a pair for less than $2,500 when the new stadium opens. If you factor in paying another five large for the provisional right to plunk down that $2,500 for season tix, you're talking about a pretty expensive outlay. And I'm guessing that parking near the stadium isn't going to be $3, either.

Gov. Mark Dayton has spent a lot of time calling the new stadium "the People's Stadium." I don't think too many people are going to be able to swing this kind of money. It won't be the "most loyal fans" who can pay this freight. It will be corporate interests who will use the tickets to entertain clients. Please understand -- as an evil capitalist dupe, I don't have a problem with that, since it's been the case in most NFL markets for decades now. I just wonder if all the money that's envisioned in this deal is actually going to materialize.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

What's going on with the exchanges?

Either they're great or they're a train wreck -- that's what you hear about the Obamacare exchanges. I'm not an expert, but my guess is that they can't handle the traffic load. Meanwhile, Megan McArdle asked an expert and there could be a number of things going on:
The various glitches, he pointed out, “could very easily be because deadline pressure caused them to take some shortcuts that impacted their ability to scale.”

Such as?

“The aforementioned let's-hit-the-database-for-security-questions thing.”

Why would they use such a seemingly obvious poor design?

“It can be easier to make a call to another server to get something when you need it than to implement a cache that you prepopulate either from static files or from the database on startup. Making a call to another server is also something you'd naturally think to do if you hadn't had to focus on scalability before. The security question page is probably not the thing you're most concerned about, so you give it to the new hire to do as their starter project. They don't know what they're doing, so they implement it the straightforward way … and since you're under unbelievable deadline pressure to get something working now nobody reviews it in detail.”
Emphasis mine. Let's remember that Obamacare was signed into law on March 30, 2010. That would be 3 and a half years ago. You have to wonder about what's been going on if they have to take shortcuts because of deadline pressure. You would also think that by asking for a delay in implementation, the Republicans would actually be doing the Democrats a favor. You would be wrong, of course.

res ipsa loquitur

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid explains it to CNN's Dana Bash:

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Keeping Gardy, Losing Vänskä

Some interesting comings and goings in recent days, as the Twins announced that they were going to stay with longtime manager Ron Gardenhire for another two years, even as they acknowledged that the product they put on the field over the past three seasons has been pretty abysmal. Meanwhile, on the other side of Nicollet Mall, the longtime conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra, Osmo Vänskä, has bailed out on the organization after musicians rejected another contract offer that follows a year-long lockout of the orchestra.

I'll admit to being a philistine, since I haven't been a regular orchestra-goer over the years. Having said that, it's always been great to have the option of going to see the Minnesota Orchestra, which has been a world-class organization under Vänskä. The larger issue for the orchestra is that its year-long absence hasn't seemed intolerable to the local citizenry. Life has gone on and those who have been the orchestra's patrons have found other uses for their entertainment dollars.

As for the Twins, they need to do something to change things up. We continue to hear reports of the great deeds of future phenoms, but there's never a guarantee, even with guys who are as talented as Byron Buxton or Miguel Sano. We somehow never made it to Target Field this season and no one in this baseball-crazy household seemed too sad about it. In fact, the only MLB game we saw this year was in Cincinnati, where we saw two playoff teams, the Reds and the Oakland Athletics, play a spirited game. We also left with Joey Votto bobbleheads and certificates from the Reds congratulating us on our first visit to the Great American Ballpark, all for significantly less than it typically costs to get into Target Field to see a listless team get their butts kicked. I'm not sure that firing Gardy would have helped, but the Twins had better put a little more effort into improving the product on the field.


A reminder -- The Affordable Care Act, which passed through Congress without a single Republican vote, is the law of the land and must not be challenged. Act 10, which passed through the Wisconsin legislature without a single Democratic vote, is illegitimate and must be overturned.

I think I have that right.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Narrative established, or Boehnermandias

While I can't be sure that anyone is actually going to be reading these words, since it's possible and even likely that the government shutdown has killed every single one of us in our sleep, future historians who stumble upon the ruins of our civilization will know who was responsible for bringing us to this nefarious moment of unspeakable peril. Allow the Associated Press to explain, via the Strib:
For the first time in nearly two decades, the federal government staggered into a partial shutdown early Tuesday morning after congressional Republicans stubbornly demanded changes in the nation's health care law as the price for essential federal funding and President Barack Obama and Democrats adamantly refused.

As Congress gridlocked, Obama said a "shutdown will have a very real economic impact on real people, right away," with hundreds of thousands of federal workers furloughed and veterans' centers, national parks, most of the space agency and other government operations shuttered.
Emphasis mine. Is it better to be stubborn or adamant? Well, let's see: the online Merriam-Webster dictionary says the following:

Unreasonably and perversely unyielding, doncha know

Meanwhile, adamant is a smidge less pejorative:

Unshakable and determined? That's good, right?

The position that the sainted Democrats take is this: we won, so we get to spend whatever money we want and that's that. It isn't particularly important that the Republican House sent numerous proposals over to the Senate, each a little more conciliatory than the previous one, since the Democrats are sainted, and saints are adamant. It's those stubborn Republican bastards who won't get with the program, since it's unreasonable and perverse to disagree with Democrats. I'm sure that all of this is true, because it's right there in the paper. Some future Shelley will record it thus:

 I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of orange face,
Tell that the AP well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on employer mandates,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Boehnermandias, House Speaker:
Look on my works, ye Harry, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.