Saturday, March 29, 2014

Get Those Cameras Rolling, Carrie

Since the moral standards and behavioral choices of public officials are of paramount importance, even long before they become public officials, I want to call this revelation to the attention of Alliance for a Better Minnesota, buried over 25 paragraphs deep in a Pioneer Press article in an "oh, by the way" manner:
Also Friday, MNsure spokesman Joe Campbell disclosed that Leitz was arrested in Minneapolis in August on a charge of driving while intoxicated. The incident happened before he took over MNsure.

In a statement, Leitz said: "I consider this one of the biggest mistakes I've ever made. It is humiliating and, as with any mistake, I will learn from it and will not repeat it."

In a separate statement, MNsure board chairman Brian Beutner and vice chairman Peter Benner said "we want to voice our strong support" of Leitz.
As we learned in 2010, traffic arrests for DWI, even those that happened 30 years ago, are an intolerable outrage, I eagerly await a denunciation of Leitz similar to this one:

We'll be sure to watch for it.

And oh by the way, you might have missed this story:
Minnesota state lawmakers would no longer have immunity from drunk-driving arrests under a bill that's passed a House committee.

The Civil Law Committee passed the measure Friday. But its future is in doubt because a Senate panel tabled its version of the bill on Thursday.
A Better Minnesota requires better. Get after 'em, Carrie Lucking!

Friday, March 28, 2014

That's Why They Call Him Dope

I'm not sure if we've elected Cheech or Chong, but it's apparently one of them in the Governor's mansion:
These parents had picketed outside the governor’s residence two weeks ago, and were unexpectedly invited inside. There, they told the governor their stories. They say they were shocked when the governor suggested they can buy pot illegally on the street, or in another state, to treat their children.

“That’s absurd,” said Jessica Hauser of Woodbury, whose her 2-year-old son has intractable epilepsy. “And to have the top official in Minnesota suggest that to my face when I am looking for compassion and a thoughtful solution. It’s just completely offensive.”
There's your Better Minnesota, folks.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Eagle Scout Benster

While most readers of this feature know the Benster best for his always entertaining football picks, he's now accomplished something greater than making fun of Jim Tressel; the Benster is now an Eagle Scout.

The Boy Scouts have been a controversial organization in recent years. Scouting is, among many other things, a repository of some old-fashioned values. It's also weathered some scandals involving scoutmasters and other adult leaders who have preyed on individual scouts, which led to a ban on gays in the Scouts. As mores have changed over the years, this has put the Scouts on the wrong side of the ongoing culture wars, at least for some people, and has caused a lot of problems for the larger Scouting organization.

Still, while the culture wars rage on, individual scout troops do great work, often quietly. The Benster's troop is small, with only 10-15 scouts in the troop during the seven years the Benster was involved. It's been an ongoing struggle to find new scouts, especially in an era where young men spend more time watching video games than going on camping trips. Having said that, the boys in Benster's troop have been able to learn and grow in many ways and have done a lot of quality service within the community.

The biggest challenge for most boys who pursue the rank of Eagle is finding and executing the service project. Benster's project turned out to be a doozy -- he built dugout enclosures for the softball field at a church in Isanti County. The site is about 40 miles north of here; the pastor there was once the assistant scoutmaster of Benster's troop and his sons both are Eagle Scouts. All told, Benster's project involved over 700 hours of work and over 30 volunteers assisted in the construction. The finished product turned out well, as you can see:

If you build it, they will play
He learned many things in executing this project -- how to plan and design, how to manage people, how to adjust to unforeseen circumstances, and most importantly, why you need to persevere. You can learn these lessons in other ways, but Scouting does a great job in providing opportunities for young men to learn and grow. While I am obviously proud of his accomplishments, I'm also grateful that he had the opportunity to participate in Scouting. While some of the values of scouting might seem quaint to the modern mind, the benefits are obvious to anyone who participates. Benster is more prepared for the world he'll encounter because of the experiences he's had. There's no gainsaying the value of that.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Deadlines, schmeadlines:
The Obama administration has decided to give extra time to Americans who say that they are unable to enroll in health plans through the federal insurance marketplace by the March 31 deadline.

Federal officials confirmed Tuesday evening that all consumers who have begun to apply for coverage on, but who do not finish by Monday, will have until about mid-April to ask for an extension.

Under the new rules, people will be able to qualify for an extension by checking a blue box on to indicate that they tried to enroll before the deadline. This method will rely on an honor system; the government will not try to determine whether the person is telling the truth.

Thus is 18 U.S. Code § 1001 rendered a dead letter. Maybe Scooter Libby will get a pardon after all.
The rules, which will apply to the federal exchanges operating in three dozen states, will essentially create a large loophole even as White House officials have repeatedly said that the March 31 deadline was firm. The extra time will not technically alter the deadline but will create a broad new category of people eligible for what’s known as a special enrollment period.
It's somewhat like those "very special" episodes of television shows we used to see back in the day.

Of course, there's no reason to believe that 18 U.S. Code § 1001 is really a dead letter -- lying to a federal official will still be a felony, if the gubmint wants it to be. You'll just have to guess when the law applies. Have fun with that.

Wait Til Next Year

Not ready, yet:
Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday that proposals this year to ban the indoor use of electronic cigarettes may go too far.

In an interview with the Star Tribune, Dayton said that while he would sign a bill to restrict children’s ability to buy e-cigarettes, he is likely to oppose proposed restrictions on their use indoors.

“After we came down pretty hard on smokers last session, that’s probably enough for this biennium,” Dayton said. The state raised taxes on cigarettes last year. “We did enough to smokers last session.”
There's always another session. That's why we talk about eternal vigilance.

Ralph Wilson, RIP

The last of the original AFL owners. He was 95.

Home Truth

Kevin D. Williamson, in National Review:
The Hobby Lobby case is in part about private property and whether we are to have it. If we hold capital only at the sufferance of the politico-sexual whims of those who hold power, then we do not really hold capital at all — we only rent property from our rulers, serfs in the world’s most sophisticated fiefdom. The property right is the fundamental right upon which all other political rights have their foundation. But there is a separate question — the right of conscience, which is, at minimum, the right not to be implicated, to at least stand apart from that which is no longer forbidden but is not yet, as of Tuesday morning, compulsory.
That's his conclusion. How he gets there is just as good. Hit the link.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Getting the vapors

Back in the 19th Century, the term "getting the vapors" meant becoming emotionally overcome by something. Not surprisingly, the legislature is getting the vapors:
The growing popularity of electronic cigarettes could be curbed by state regulations that would treat them the same as tobacco cigarettes, under a proposal headed for a vote by the Senate.

A sweeping set of restrictions would prohibit what users call “vaping” indoors and in public spaces and would ban the sale of e-cigarettes and smokeless devices to those under age 18. Backers of the restrictions, which passed a final Senate committee on Monday, say the concerns over secondhand vapors from the devices are enough to include them in Minnesota’s statewide indoor smoking ban.
Anything that must be growing in popularity has to be regulated of course, and the point man on the effort is a guy who is more often known for gun-grabbing:
“If you work in a hotel, restaurant, bar or VFW, I’m not sure you want to be forced to choose between keeping your job and being exposed to some unknown array of chemicals being released into the atmosphere,” said Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park.
Latz needs to control your life, because, as Mitch Berg reminds us, Latz went to Harvard and most likely you didn't, so Latz's judgment on such matters is probative.

Meanwhile, we're now told that people are apparently cracking open the e-cigs and drinking the liquid nicotine or something, which apparently could cause the demise of toddlers. As always, Jacob Sullum at Reason puts the danger in perspective:
This dangerous new drug, [New York Times reporter Matt Richtel] explains, is the nicotine contained in e-cigarette fluid, which already has killed...well, so far just one guy who committed suicide by injecting the stuff. But "reports of accidental poisonings, notably among children, are soaring." They increased "300 percent" from 2012 to 2013!

Another way of putting that: The number of accidental poisoning reports related to e-cigarette fluid increased from about 338 in 2012 to 1,351 in 2013. None of these poisonings was fatal, and most (73 percent) were not serious enough to require hospital treatment. In 2012, by comparison, 311,347 poisoning reports involved analgesics, 221,314 involved cosmetics, 193,802 involved cleaning substances, 96,997 involved anthistamines, 88,694 involved pesticides, 68,168 involved vitamins, and 49,374 involved plants. So if "e-liquids pose a significant risk to public health," as Richtel says, the risk posed by common products such as aspirin, window cleaner, and bug spray is gargantuan.
You don't need to practice any risk management in your life, because Latz and his friends in the lege will manage and regulate risk out of your life. How do they do that? They know better than you. They just do. So you'd better get with their program. And watch out, Big Windex -- you're next.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Nuanced links and whatnot

Youth culture killed my dog
And I don't think it's fair (I don't think it's fair)
And his suicide can be justified
By the tastemakers, how they cried and cried and so

-- They Might Be Giants

Actually, I don't think youth culture killed anyone's dog. It should be clear now that global warming (apparently the term is back) did it:
If you think of climate change as a hazard for some far-off polar bears years from now, you're mistaken. That's the message from top climate scientists gathering in Japan this week to assess the impact of global warming.

In fact, they will say, the dangers of a warming Earth are immediate and very human.

"The polar bear is us," says Patricia Romero Lankao of the federally financed National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., referring to the first species to be listed as threatened by global warming due to melting sea ice.
When someone's work is federally funded, they are automatically telling the truth, as anyone who has studied the career of Richard Nixon knows. And impressive work it is:
Global food prices will rise between 3 and 84 percent by 2050 because of warmer temperatures and changes in rain patterns. Hotspots of hunger may emerge in cities.
Heck, I'd take a 3 percent rise if it were available. I'd even take 84 percent, considering that the rate of inflation over time is significantly higher than that. 2050 is 36 years away. If we go back 36 years, we would be looking at 1978. Check out the rate of inflation since then:

Only 84% by 2050? Bring on the warming!
Or maybe they mean inflation would be 84% than it would be otherwise? Who knows? You see, it's a nuanced link. Kinda like this one:
VIOLENCE: For the first time, the panel is emphasizing the nuanced link between conflict and warming temperatures. Participating scientists say warming won't cause wars, but it will add a destabilizing factor that will make existing threats worse.
Nuanced, in this instance, means, "something we'd like to assert for a headline, but can't really prove."

The main reason this global warming/climate change train never leaves the station is that it relies on assertions that can't really be proven and on models that predict things that don't come to pass. I don't think anyone disputes that climate changes over time; it should be evident since we are pretty certain that Minnesota was covered by a glacier not that long ago. The climate changes for a lot of reasons, most of which are beyond the control of human beings.

Friday, March 21, 2014

They didn't get the headline they wanted

Hey la, hey la, Mark Dayton's back. To his old tricks again, that is:
Earlier in the week, Dayton chastised Senate DFLers for not passing the measure swiftly enough. On Thursday, Dayton and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, joined together to direct their wrath at Republicans.

“There is no good reason for Senate Republicans to block the bill’s passage,” Dayton said. If Republican legislators force any further delays, “they will be solely responsible for denying income tax cuts to thousands of Minnesotans.”

The measure is nearly certain to pass Friday because Republicans are out of options to block it.
The measure is tax relief, of course, much of it from new taxes that the DFL lege and the governor passed into law last year. Let's be clear on a few things:

  • The legislature has been in session for a month, so if passing this bill was a top priority, it could have been addressed rather a long time ago.
  • The primary reason that the tax bill was held up is because Bakk and the rest of his DFL colleagues in the Senate want a brand new office building with a $90 million price tag.
  • A lot of the taxes that got jammed down last year came about because the lege rushed to finish their work and there wasn't much time for debate.
  • The Republicans aren't looking to block tax relief.
Bakk was pretty amusing yesterday:

Bakk called the Senate’s refusal to speed the process “shenanigans.”

“I think it’s a bit disingenuous for people to say they can’t do it today because they haven’t read it. It’s 62 pages and they had it yesterday,” Bakk said. “I don’t believe that that’s the reason.”
Actually, it is the reason. And delaying things is a tactic that every minority party, everywhere, uses. He knows that. But he and Dayton wanted a headline -- GOP Stops Tax Cut Bill, or somesuch.

Instead, the Star Tribune website shows the following this morning:

C'mon, that was supposed to say "obstructionist"

We'll have to see if the headline changes to suit Dayton's needs later on, but let's give credit where due to the Strib and to reporter Baird Helgeson, especially for these two utterly accurate observations:
Passing a tax relief measure would be a significant political coup for Dayton and House DFLers, who are up for re-election in November. The measure also contains the first significant tax breaks in years, paid for out of the state’s $1.2 billion projected budget surplus.
The measure includes the repeal of several new business sales taxes, including one on warehousing services that takes effect in less than two weeks.

Republicans have ripped Dayton for suggesting he was not fully aware of the new sales taxes when he signed them into law last year, and is now trying to do away with them after enduring blistering criticism.
Emphasis mine. Yes, a number of the taxes being repealed are new. In some respects, the DFL game here is a variation on the "broken window" fallacy, as Frederic Bastiat explained:
Have you ever witnessed the anger of the good shopkeeper, James B., when his careless son happened to break a square of glass? If you have been present at such a scene, you will most assuredly bear witness to the fact, that every one of the spectators, were there even thirty of them, by common consent apparently, offered the unfortunate owner this invariable consolation - "It is an ill wind that blows nobody good. Everybody must live, and what would become of the glaziers if panes of glass were never broken?"

Now, this form of condolence contains an entire theory, which it will be well to show up in this simple case, seeing that it is precisely the same as that which, unhappily, regulates the greater part of our economical institutions.

Suppose it cost six francs to repair the damage, and you say that the accident brings six francs to the glazier's trade - that it encourages that trade to the amount of six francs - I grant it; I have not a word to say against it; you reason justly. The glazier comes, performs his task, receives his six francs, rubs his hands, and, in his heart, blesses the careless child. All this is that which is seen.

But if, on the other hand, you come to the conclusion, as is too often the case, that it is a good thing to break windows, that it causes money to circulate, and that the encouragement of industry in general will be the result of it, you will oblige me to call out, "Stop there! your theory is confined to that which is seen; it takes no account of that which is not seen."
It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one thing, he cannot spend them upon another. It is not seen that if he had not had a window to replace, he would, perhaps, have replaced his old shoes, or added another book to his library. In short, he would have employed his six francs in some way, which this accident has prevented.

Let us take a view of industry in general, as affected by this circumstance. The window being broken, the glazier's trade is encouraged to the amount of six francs; this is that which is seen. If the window had not been broken, the shoemaker's trade (or some other) would have been encouraged to the amount of six francs; this is that which is not seen.

And if that which is not seen is taken into consideration, because it is a negative fact, as well as that which is seen, because it is a positive fact, it will be understood that neither industry in general, nor the sum total of national labour, is affected, whether windows are broken or not.
This legislature and this governor have been breaking a lot of windows. Piggy banks, too.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Happy days are here again

Altogether shout it now 
There's no one who can doubt it now 
So let's tell the world about it now 
Happy days are here again

John Hayward, on the problem that doesn't exist:
The horror stories keep piling up, faster than Democrats can scream they’re all a bunch of liars.  A Nevada man lamed Larry Basich fought his way into the bug storm on ObamaCare launch day, kept plugging away at the garbage ObamaCare computer systems until November, finally managed to buy a plan and pay his first premium, then suffered a heart attack, requiring triple bypass surgery… at which point he discovered the “confused” state ObamaCare exchange never actually assigned him to an insurance provider.

Four months later, Basich is sitting on $407,000 in unpaid hospital bills.  He “blames his back-and-forth with the exchange in December at least in part for the stress that caused his heart attack,” according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.  Everyone involved in the system claims they’re working super-hard to get his bills taken care of, but thus far most of that work has involved the exchange contractor and two different insurance providers pointing fingers of blame at each other.  The contractor actually took a stab at blaming Mr. Basich for the whole mess because, like many other Americans who made honest and persistent efforts to use the disastrous computer systems ObamaCare foisted on us, he ended up generating multiple online applications.

And of course, Basich’s senator is the sinister Harry Reid, famous for loudly declaring that all ObamaCare horror stories are untrue.  Reid hasn’t been much help, although his staff made a big production of calling Basich every day to work on a problem their boss claimed was pure fantasy from the floor of the Senate.  Punchline: Basich’s insurance broker estimates at least 20 other customers have problems of similar magnitude, while only about 5 percent of Nevada Health Link enrollments went through problem-free.
Your cares and troubles are gone 
They're be no more from now on 
Happy days are here again, 
The skies above are clear again

And yes, the storm clouds are gathering:
Perhaps most important, insurers have been disappointed that young people only make up about one-quarter of the enrollees in plans through the insurance exchanges, according to public figures that were released earlier this year. That ratio might change in the weeks ahead because the administration anticipates many more people in their 20s and 30s will sign up close to the March 31 enrollment deadline. Many insurers, however, don’t share that optimism.

These factors will have the unintended consequence of raising rates, sources said.

“We’re exasperated,” said the senior insurance official. “All of these major delays on very significant portions of the law are going to change what it’s going to cost.”

“My gut tells me that, for some people, these increases will be significant,” said Bill Hoagland, a former executive at Cigna and current senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center. 
 How much?
In Iowa, which hosts the first presidential caucus in the nation and has a competitive Senate race this year, rates are expected to rise 100 percent on the exchange and by double digits on the larger, employer-based market, according to a recent article in the Business Record.
Wondering why Tom Harkin is getting out of Dodge? Now you know.

For the record

My Final Four:

Florida, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Louisville

National championship: Florida 78, Louisville 71

Benster says:

Florida, Virginia, Wisconsin, Duke

National championship: Virginia 65, Duke 59

Make your picks in the comments. And yes, we probably are overrating the Badgers.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

One for you, nineteen for me

Mark Dayton's back and there's gonna be trouble/hey la, hey la, Mark Dayton's back
You'd better give the money back or else it's gonna double/hey la, hey la, Mark Dayton's back

The defender of the taxpayer came back to the Capitol, hot to repeal those taxes he raised last year:
Dayton had set a Wednesday deadline to pass more than $500 million in tax relief — a deadline that will not be met. The proposal includes about $57 million in retroactive tax relief for consumers with student loan debt, Minnesotans who adopted children and those who lost their homes to foreclosure. The tax package also wipes out new business sales taxes on telecommunications equipment and a tax on warehousing services, which was due to kick in April 1.
What's the holdup, you ask?
Dayton said senators do need a new office building and parking structure as the State Capitol undergoes a massive, multimillion-dollar renovation, but he thinks the $90 million price tag is high.

He called the glassy design “lavish” and out of sync with the capital campus, where buildings are generally grayish and brownish. “Does there need to be building? Yes,” Dayton said. “We need a functional building.”
Funny thing about that -- there's rather a lot of empty office space available down the hill in downtown St. Paul, complete with parking ramps and whatnot. But no, in Xanadu did Kubla Bakk a stately pleasure dome decree, so the money needs to stay right where it is, there, fella.

Meanwhile, across the St. Croix, it's a different story:
Senate Republicans Tuesday narrowly passed Gov. Scott Walker's $541 million tax cut proposal in a vote that guaranteed the cuts will become law.

The tax decreases — the third round of cuts by Republicans in less than a year — passed 17-15 with GOP Sen. Dale Schultz of Richland Center joining all Democrats in voting against the proposal. The proposal now goes to the Assembly, which passed a different version of the tax cuts last month with two Democrats joining all Republicans in supporting it.

With growing tax collections now expected to give the state a $1 billion budget surplus in June 2015, Walker's bill will cut property and income taxes for families and businesses, and zero out all income taxes for manufacturers in the state.
Okay, so let's review -- manufacturers in Wisconsin will have their income taxes zeroed out. Meanwhile,  in Minnesota a round of new taxes on business take effect this year and there's a pretty good chance they'll stay in effect because the grandees want their new building. Where did you want to do business again?

The always astute Brad Carlson sees some kabuki going on:
There are a couple of ways to look at this. First, lay the responsibility at the feet of the Senate and the haggling over their Taj Mahal new office building (which Dayton appears to have done). The Senate is not up for reelection this year, so make it appear the DFL governor and the Dem controlled House are the ones trying to save the day but are being obstructed by Bakk & Co. Their hope is it'll strengthen their reelection chops. Secondly, the GOP candidates for governor have a ready made sound bite. Did you see the bit where Dayton was essentially asked if he bears any responsibility for this conundrum of trying to cut taxes that he signed into law last session? The first word out of his mouth was "Sure." That's pretty much all you need.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Guess he's gonna find out what God *actually* thinks

Fred Phelps prepares to meet his Maker:
Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps Sr. has been admitted to a hospice facility and is “on the edge of death,” his estranged son revealed.

The 84-year-old preacher established the small Kansas church in 1955 and made it a household name by picketing funerals, public events and businesses with hateful signs attacking gay people, Jews and others.
I don't know the condition of his soul. I do know that God is merciful, certainly more than Phelps was in his time on earth.

Not the desired effect

I'm guessing this reaction isn't what the Leader of the Free World had in mind:
Russia’s deputy prime minister laughed off President Obama’s sanction against him today  asking “Comrade @BarackObama” if “some prankster” came up with the list
The Obama administration hit 11 Russian and Ukrainian officials with sanctions today as punishment for Russia’s support of Crimea’s referendum. Among them: aides to President Vladimir Putin, a top government official, senior lawmakers, Crimean officials, the ousted president of Ukraine, and a Ukrainian politician and businessman allegedly tied to violence against protesters in Kiev.

It remains to be seen whether the sanctions will dissuade Russia from annexing Crimea, but one an early clue that they will not be effective came just hours later when President Putin signed a decree recognizing Crimea as an independent state, perhaps an early step towards annexation.
Actually, it doesn't really remain to be seen. It's gonna happen. Meanwhile, at least one sanction target seems as amused:
Another Russian on the sanctions list, Vladislav Surkov, also seemed unconcerned.

Surkov, a top Putin ideologue often called the Kremlin’s grey cardinal, reportedly told a Russian newspaper, “It’s a big honor for me. I don’t have accounts abroad. The only things that interest me in the U.S. are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock. I don’t need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing.”
I’m with you in Rockland
   where there are twentyfive thousand mad comrades all together singing the final stanzas of the Internationale
I’m with you in Rockland
   where we hug and kiss the United States under our bedsheets the United States that coughs all night and won’t let us sleep

-- Ginsberg, "Howl"

I think I'm a natural-born leader. I know how to bow down to authority if it's authority that I respect.

-- Tupac Shakur

Monday, March 17, 2014

What the kvell?

I like to throw around the occasional Yiddish term because the terms sound more interesting, or are more useful, than their English equivalent. The word "schlep," which means to carry something heavy or awkward, is a good example. But you have to be careful in how you use the words.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd may not be the clearest thinker or the nicest person around, but she's an able stylist and has a good command of the vernacular, so it was surprising to see that she picked out the wrong Yiddish term in her column yesterday. Ann Althouse was one of many who noticed:
Yeah, it's Maureen Dowd, but the NYT has editors. How embarrassing to go cutesy with the Yiddish but use completely the wrong word!
The misused word was "kvell," which is a Yiddish term that means "to burst with pride." See if what Dowd wrote would make sense in that context:
It’s not just congressional Democrats who are kvelling. Mark Zuckerberg called the president to vent about government incursions on privacy. And the New Yorker editor, David Remnick, talked to The New Republic about Obama’s “locutions,” his habit of going, “On the one hand. On the other hand. That is to say.”
You generally don't burst with pride over something that is causing consternation. The word that Dowd wanted was "kvetch," which in its noun form means a person who complains a lot, and in its verb form simply means to complain. One would think that if anyone understands the topic of kvetching, it would be Times.

Mistakes happen, but what's irritating is that the Times hasn't noted that they've corrected the error, even though they have.

What's perhaps more interesting is the conclusion that Dowd draws:
Due to the inability of the president and congressional Democrats to move their agenda through Congress, the president is having to govern through executive order and revising federal regulations.

Republicans have latched on to this to make the case around the country that Obama is a dictator and an imperial president. But governing through executive order isn’t a sign of strength. It’s a sign of weakness.

And it’s that weakness that has Democrats scared to death.
I think it's a safe bet to assume that the Democratic attack machine will be running overtime in this cycle. It will be interesting to see if that's enough. If the Republicans retake the Senate, you might have the all-time lamest duck in the White House. And given the parlous state of things right now, I don't think that's anything to kvell about.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Just a reminder

Ukraine isn't the only place where things are happening:
“The hawks [in Japan] love nuclear weapons, so they like the nuclear power program as the best they can do,” a nonproliferation expert told NBC. “They don’t want to give up the idea they have, to use it as a deterrent.” But beyond deterring China, the stockpile also spurs South Korean interest in developing its own nuclear capabilities. According to a poll last year, 66 percent of South Koreans support the development of a nuclear weapons program. Mostly this is a reaction to North Korean belligerence, but relations with Japan are deteriorating quickly.

This is an area where US leadership and mediation is needed. South Korea and Japan are barely on speaking terms at the moment. That’s a situation that could get worse, especially if the Obama administration fails to work out the kinks in the Pivot.
I've always assumed that Japan could have the Bomb in about 15 minutes if they really needed it. More at the link.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Home Truth

The invaluable John Hayward, on the "Enforce the Law" bill that is currently making its way through Congress:
Politically speaking, Republicans have already accomplished an important objective by getting President Obama to go on the record opposing a law that would require him to obey the law.  But there are serious principles at stake here.  It’s not just a gotcha game to remind everyone that Senator Barack Obama claimed to be an implacable opponent of far less serious abuses of power than President Barack Obama has committed.  The new law would give the House and Senate legal standing to sue the Administration if they believe he is failing to execute a duly ratified law, and pass a resolution to that effect.

As things stand, it is very difficult for Congress to demonstrate the sort of direct “injury” that would give them legal standing to bring a court case.  And as we’ve seen over the past few years, there isn’t much of anything else keeping executive power in check.  Of course, Democrats decry this bill as an insult to their man in the White House, but they really should be thinking ahead to the day it’s not their man in the White House.  Obama’s incredibly dangerous precedent makes the legislative branch largely superfluous.  It’s hard to imagine a worse offense against the Constitutional order than a desperate President rewriting legislation on the fly to save his party’s bacon in the next election.
What Hayward is referring to is the Leader of the Free World's penchant for delaying, changing, or simply ignoring provisions of his signature achievement, the Affordable Healthcare Act, a/k/a Obamacare. The larger point matters a lot -- an unchecked executive branch is a problem no matter which party is in charge; it would be a problem if a libertarian were in charge. If laws can be changed at whim, we no longer are governed by the rule of law. It never ends well.

Now he tells us

So lemme get this straight -- Mark Zuckerberg, the guy who runs freaking Facebook is concerned about gubmint spying and privacy? Well, yeah:
Facebook has said that in response the NSA’s practices it’s expedited plans to better encrypt communications between its data centers and to implement perfect forward secrecy, an cryptographic technique that greatly limits the data an eavesdropper can access even if he or she manages to break a service’s encryption.

“We work together to create this secure environment and make our shared space even better for the world,” Zuckerberg’s statement reads. “This is why I’ve been so confused and frustrated by the repeated reports of the behavior of the US government. When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.”
Two observations:

  • Frog, meet scorpion; and
  • Increasingly, the distinction between criminals and government is a distinction without a difference.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The first rule of holes

The old saying goes -- if you're in a hole, stop digging. Of course, if you're the Met Council, digging is the next option:
Planners of the embattled Southwest Corridor light-rail line unveiled a new strategy Wednesday for digging a tunnel under a water channel to win over Minneapolis critics and end an impasse that threatens to scuttle the largest transit project in the Twin Cities.

The latest option could keep light-rail trains out of sight in the popular Kenilworth recreation corridor but add as much as $85 million to the cost of the project and bring it to over $1.6 billion.

The Metropolitan Council, the agency overseeing the light-rail project, disclosed the new tunnel option Wednesday to a group of metro leaders without endorsing it. Met Council Chairwoman Susan Haigh issued a statement saying her agency considered the option last year but rejected it as “a less desirable alternative” than other plans.
So we're up to $1.6 billion for this thing now. Great. And of course, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges isn't sure she likes it, either:
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, who wasn’t at the meeting, issued a statement calling the latest option “a brand new, and therefore, unstudied idea that is being put on the table three weeks before I’m supposed to vote” on the light-rail project. She questioned whether the tunnel would harm the channel, Lake of the Isles or Cedar Lake.
Or her political prospects. Onward:
Tunneling under the channel was proposed last summer at a rally of about 100 people on the shore of Cedar Lake in Kenilworth corridor, an affluent area that includes influential DFLers. Some of the leaders have back yards facing the Kenilworth corridor bike and pedestrian trails.

At the time homeowners embraced a channel option that would have contributed $330 million to the cost of the project. When metro leaders shot it down as too expensive, some residents asked the Met Council staff to investigate a cheaper way to tunnel under the channel. The agency said at the time that it considered but wasn’t pursuing the idea.
After all, spending $330 million to avoid the ire of "influential DFLers" is money well spent. And of course we'll all benefit when we can take the Southwest Rail line to places like Roseville and Woodbury. Wait, you mean we can't do that?

Time for another poll:

What should the Met Council do about the Southwest LRT Line? (Multiple answers allowed) free polls 

Operators are standing by.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

You know something is happening, but you don't know what it is

Mickey Kaus notices something:
A New York doctor friend of mine says patient visits have fallen dramatically — people stopped coming in after January 1, 2014. He and his colleagues are trying to figure out why. Hard to believe it doesn’t have something to do with Obamacare! … It could be a good thing –higher co-payments cause people to avoid unnecessary visits, the health cost curve starts bending, etc. (assuming the docs don’t just raise their fees to make up the difference). … It could be a bad thing, if the patients guess wrong about which visits are unnecessary. … It’s almost certainly a bad thing if the cause is patients who’ve lost their insurance. … Further journalistic investigation required. …
Those are possible reasons, but certainly those aren't all the reasons. Time for a poll:

Why are patients not coming into see the doctor? (More than one answer allowed) free polls 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

il miglior fabbro

I'll get back to the series on the SD 41 convention and the parade of candidates soon. In the meantime, I commend to your attention another great piece from Bill Glahn, who makes a point that the cheerleaders in the Met Council don't seem to understand:
Assuming the trends do not reverse, as this “baby bust” ripples through the rest of the K-12 system, more difficult choices will have to be made.  Through 13 years of K-12 education, 5,000 fewer students per year (assuming 25 students per teacher) translates into 2,600 fewer teachers, statewide.

The high school graduating class of 2031 is already here and toddling about.  The leading edge of the baby boomer generation turns 68 this year.  The future is no longer theoretical.

With birthrates at low levels not seen for a century, the challenge in Minnesota is less likely to be the massive population increase predicted by the Met Council regional government and more likely to be actual population declines.
Were you aware that live births in Minnesota have declined in recent years? All that and more, a lot more, at the link.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Civil Service

It's exceptionally difficult to get rid of a rogue cop, even when it gets expensive:
A judge’s order in a Minneapolis police brutality suit last week pushed the city’s bill to $410,653.33 for two lawsuits filed against police officer Michael Griffin.

The suits, one stemming from a 2010 incident and the other from 2011, both involve cases in which Griffin was off-duty and at downtown bars when he allegedly punched or kicked people who did not want to fight him. Three people were hospitalized as a result of the incidents, including one man who was unconscious and bleeding for more than five minutes, according to one of the lawsuits.

Griffin remains a patrol officer in the Fourth Precinct on the city’s North Side, according to a department spokesman. The status of an internal affairs review of the incidents was not immediately available Friday.
I don't doubt that we'll hear accolades about Griffin's valor. In fact, the Star Tribune includes one near the top of the story:
Griffin was awarded the department’s medal of valor last year for his response to the 2012 Accent Signage killings, when he was among the first officers to arrive at the scene of the mass workplace shooting.
Thank you, officer. Now, back to the carnage:
The Star Tribune reported last summer that of 95 payouts totaling $14 million for police misconduct since 2006, only eight of the cases led to discipline for police officers.

The city’s latest bill arrived Thursday, when U.S. District Court Judge David Doty ordered the city to pay $145,653.33 in attorney’s fees for the lawsuit brought by Jeremy Axel, an IT salesman from St. Louis Park who was knocked unconscious by Griffin on Nov. 4, 2011. In December, a federal jury awarded Axel $125,000 in his excessive-force claim against the officer.

And last month, the Minneapolis City Council approved a $140,000 settlement with Ibrahim Regai, who alleged that he was threatened, followed, then punched and knocked to the ground by Griffin outside a Minneapolis bar May 29, 2010.

The three payments total $410,653.33 and together amount to one of the larger payouts the city has made for the actions of one officer.
Think about those numbers -- $14 million! Since 2006! That's $1.75 million a year, every year, to deal with police misconduct in Minneapolis. This is a problem that should have been addressed long ago, but it's exceptionally difficult to get rid of cops who misbehave. Everyone stipulates that police work can be stressful and dangerous, but there's no good reason to tolerate off-duty officers picking fights in the bars.

Memo to Pat Garofalo

You're a moron. That is all.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

SD41 Convention -- Some Impressions (Part Two)

Continuing on with our report from SD41, we did get many of the major candidates for governor and senate yesterday. Here's what I saw -- all of the pictures are directly from the candidates's respective websites:
In a hurry

Marty Seifert frustrates the hell out of a lot of people. He's honed his game significantly since he lost the endorsement to Tom Emmer in 2010; you could feel the charge in the air when he entered the room. In addition, the qualities that I admired about him when I wrote about him back in 2010 are intact. He's got an encyclopedic knowledge of the issues and he's exceptionally quick on his feet. He demonstrated all those skills at our convention. I've argued before that he has a lot of bad votes on his record because he was forced to carry water for Tim Pawlenty, so I'm willing to give him some latitude on that. Having said that, Seifert's refusal to abide by the endorsement process makes this campaign a fool's errand. He's not going to prevail at the state convention because he's alienated a lot of people within the party. And if he runs in the primary, all he'll really accomplish is to drain resources away from the party at a time when they will need every penny to keep the focus on Mark Dayton. It's easy to forget because Seifert has been around for a while, but he's only 41 years old. He has plenty of time left in his career. He won't take this advice, but I'll offer it anyway. What Seifert ought to do is run against Collin Peterson in CD-7 in the next cycle, because I'm pretty sure he could beat Peterson. He could then serve in Washington for a few terms and then run for governor or the senate at some point in the future. He won't be 50 until 2022. If he plays his cards correctly, he'll have a chance to be a major political player in Minnesota for the next 20-25 years. But if he becomes persona non grata in his own party, he'll be out of luck.
    A very pleasant fellow
Jeff Johnson, currently a Hennepin County commissioner, comes across on the stump as a very nice man. He's smart and, objectively speaking, the most conventionally handsome of the major candidates. He's been in the state house, ran unsuccessfully for statewide office in a very tough year (2006) and has been waging a lonely battle at HennCo ever since. There's a lot to like about Johnson and his ingratiating personality comes through quite clearly on the stump. What I worry about with Johnson is that he's too nice a guy. It's one thing to call out Governor Dayton's incompetence, which Johnson does effectively. The problem in this campaign isn't the incompetence of the governor; the problem in winning is that the governor is surrounded by a Praetorian Guard of highly competent attack dogs, button men (and women) and an ex-wife who has a bottomless wallet and the will to use it. Johnson's argument for electability comes from his success in the western suburbs of Minneapolis, which will be a key battleground in the election. To his credit, Johnson will abide by the endorsement. I would like to see him get a little tougher on Dayton in the future; it won't do for him to say that Dayton is a nice man, because he isn't. If there's a lesson in the Emmer campaign that must be learned in this cycle, it's that Mark Dayton must be the issue. Yes, he's inept. Yes, he has bad policies. But the only way the GOP will topple Mark Dayton is to make his crappy personality and false piety a campaign issue. Can Jeff Johnson do that?
    The communicator
Dave Thompson was not able to get to the convention, but he sent his running mate, State Sen. Michelle Benson to speak to us. A successful attorney by trade, Thompson was elected to the state senate in 2010. Before Thompson came to the state senate, he had been a talk show host on KSTP for a number of years, and his communication skills are, to my mind, the best in the field. He speaks in complete sentences and has a knack for explaining conservative ideas in a consistent way that makes it difficult for his opponents to misrepresent. I am reasonably certain that the droogs at Alliance for a Better Minnesota have been combing the archives looking for an incendiary statement that Thompson made on KSTP, but my guess is that they won't find much. In his time at the capitol, Thompson has quickly become on of the leaders in the senate and he's been the go-to guy whenever the caucus has needed a spokesperson. He represents the south suburbs, specifically Lakeville, which is also a crucial area for the GOP. He's also the favorite of many of the activists in the party and I suspect he'll have an excellent chance of winning the endorsement. The smartest thing Thompson has done was to bring Benson onto his team. Benson represents an exurban district that includes parts of Anoka, Isanti and Sherburne counties, which is also prime GOP territory. Benson is a formidable talent. The issue Thompson faces is money -- while he's well-regarded, he doesn't have the well-established donor base that Seifert and Johnson both have. Enthusiasm counts for a lot, but it's going to take a lot of money to counteract Alida Messinger, and the state GOP is still hurting for funds right now. And if he has to deal with Seifert in a primary, which seems likely, will he have sufficient resources left to deal with the Dayton attack machine?

Kurt Zellers didn't make it to the convention, unless he showed up while we were electing delegates. My guess is that the didn't bother, though, because he's not really seeking the endorsement and has already stated that he's going to primary the endorsed candidate. Zellers was Speaker of the House in Minnesota but lost that in 2012 cycle. He's a good guy, but his dithering on issues, especially the Vikings stadium, is probably too much to overcome in this cycle. Scott Honour is a deep pocketed candidate who will be vulnerable to getting the Mitt Romney treatment. He's made some noise on the trail, but I don't think it will matter that much.
Do I have a preference among the major candidates? On balance, I prefer Thompson, but I continue to wish that either he, Johnson, or Seifert would have run against Al Franken instead. Instead, we have a different slate of candidates running in that race. That's the next post.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

SD41 Convention -- Some Impressions (Part One)

The Benster and I attended the SD41 Republican convention today at Columbia Heights High School. A few thoughts and observations:

  • For those who aren't familiar with the area, it needs to be said that SD41 is a dog's breakfast of a district (PDF link) and one that's highly unfavorable for Republicans. It contains all of Columbia Heights and Hilltop, which are typically about 70% DFL, all of St. Anthony (purplish, at best) and New Brighton (also purplish), Fridley (majority DFL) and part of Spring Lake Park (purplish). It's tough territory to win and the politicians who dominate the district are from Columbia Heights. It's tough sledding for the GOP and the statewide candidates who came through our convention with the understanding that they wouldn't win SD41. Although it wasn't said explicitly, what the statewide candidates are hoping is that the Republican organization in our district can win enough votes to keep things close and avoid a 70-30 DFL victory margin in the parts of the district that aren't Columbia Heights. 
  • Having said that, we do have candidates who are willing to run for the two house seats, and one of them is potentially very good. The candidate for 41A, the north half of the district, is Jeff Phillips, and he is an impressive guy. He's a law student at the University of Minnesota and has been working as a clerk for the Institute for Justice, who are definitely good guys in the realm of property rights and constitutional jurisprudence. He made a very favorable impression with the delegation and intellectually he'll have no trouble being on stage against the incumbent, Connie Bernardy. We can safely assume that Bernardy, who is essentially a rubber stamp for Education Minnesota, will be doing her level best to avoid any opportunity for a direct comparison.
  • The candidate for 41B is Camden Pike, a young (only 26) man who has been active in party politics in the area. Camden is a bright guy and tends to be a bit of a libertarian. He's not as polished as Phillips, but he's willing to work hard and I think he'll be fairly effective at retail politics. His opponent, Carolyn Laine, is a loyal DFL foot soldier who hasn't done much of anything in the legislature, but because she's from Columbia Heights and has DFL after her name, she's not required to do much other than vote the party line. Camden has a tough row to hoe.
  • What little drama there was at the convention came from the continuing antics of Tim Utz, who ran against Laine under the Republican banner a few cycles back, did poorly, became bitter with the GOP, and has been flying under the Constitution Party banner ever since. He's gained some notice in the area because he's fond of cruising around in a lime sherbet green school bus, Paul Wellstone style. He's disavowed the Republican Party, but continues to show up at GOP events and causes mischief, as he did today, skulking about in the lobby outside the convention itself. He has a fairly small band of acolytes who continue to do the hokey-pokey with the local GOP organization; a few of them came to the BPOU caucus in February and got elected as delegates. After Utz was not allowed to speak today, they tried to derail a formal endorsement of Pike for the 41B seat, explaining how it would be better for Pike if he didn't have the Republican label attached to his campaign; it was a touching gesture, really. Their efforts ultimately went nowhere, of course, but Utz is going to remain an issue because he's fond of playing the "true conservative" music. If he follows his typical pattern, he'll now be going around the district talking about how Republicans are repressing him, or something. He'll then go to the Constitution Party convention, which can typically be held in a booth at the IHOP on Stinson Boulevard. He's certainly going to run again, try to present himself as the true conservative in the race, and will do his best to drain votes away from the Republican candidate. It's too bad, but it's a free country and he's got every right to be a counterproductive gadfly. I'm certain that Carolyn Laine and the rest of the Columbia Heights DFL apparat appreciates Utz's efforts, though.
  • We got a look at least one potential GOP challenger to Betty McCollum for Senate, Sharna Wahlgren, who is a patent lawyer for a large Minneapolis firm. She's much like previous McCollum challengers Theresa Collett and Ed Matthews -- exceptionally smart, very polished and, like Collett and Matthews, clearly superior to McCollum. Assuming Wahlgren gets the nod, she'll be ignored and denied an opportunity to have any visibility, let alone a side-by-side comparison. I hope it's different this time, but I'm not ready to get my hopes up yet. I suspect the only way McCollum will ever be ousted is if some ambitious Ramsey County DFLer gets tired of waiting for Betty to leave and finally decides to primary her. John Choi, pick up the white courtesy phone....
We also got a look at a number of governor and senate candidates. I'll get to that tomorrow.

SD41 Convention this morning

It's at Columbia Heights High School. The Benster and I will be there and we'll have a full report later on.

Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom

Bernie Sanders is tanned, rested, and ready:
Bernie Sanders says he is “prepared to run for president of the United States.” That’s not a formal announcement. A lot can change between now and 2016, and the populist senator from Vermont bristles at the whole notion of a permanent campaign. But Sanders has begun talking with savvy progressive political strategists, traveling to unexpected locations such as Alabama and entertaining the process questions that this most issue-focused member of the Senate has traditionally avoided.

In some senses, Sanders is the unlikeliest of prospects: an independent who caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate but has never joined the party, a democratic socialist in a country where many politicians fear the label “liberal,” an outspoken critic of the economic, environmental and social status quo who rips “the ruling class” and calls out the Koch brothers by name. Yet, he has served as the mayor of his state’s largest city, beaten a Republican incumbent for the US House, won and held a historically Republican Senate seat and served longer as an independent member of Congress than anyone else. And he says his political instincts tell him America is ready for a “political revolution.”
Get in there, Bernie. A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Rice and Rituals

Condoleeza Rice is supposed to give the commencement address at Rutgers University, but it's not going well for the folks at Rutgers who came up with the idea -- the "community" is organizing against her, claiming that Rice lacks "moral authority," or something. Juan Williams points out the obvious, yet again:
I am not a conservative but I have spoken out for years against the staggering amount blind hatred directed at black conservatives by liberals.

Liberals are shockingly quick to demean and dismiss brilliant black people like Rice, Carson, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), Professor Walter E. Williams and economist Thomas Sowell because they don’t fit into the role they have carved out for a black person in America.

Black Americans must be obedient liberals on all things or risk being called a race traitor or an Uncle Tom.
Carson would be Ben Carson, who is becoming persona non grata at Johns Hopkins because he's not so keen on Obamacare, among other things, even though he'd been head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins.

It's not that shocking, actually, and I suspect that Williams knows it. We have our own commissars right here in River City, too. Williams asks a plaintive rhetorical question:
This shunning of Rice is especially troubling coming from a great American university. This is the place where debate and dissenting views are to be valued as sacred.

Rutgers’s own university mission statement says that one of its goals is to produce students who perform “public service in support of the needs of the citizens of the state and its local, county, and state governments.”

How is the public served by muzzling one of the most thoughtful, accomplished and respected political voices of her time just because she happens to be a Republican?
How is the public served? Well, having the reigning orthodoxy enforced is always a public service, because the orthodoxy is never wrong, at least as long as you're in agreement with it. And places like Rutgers and Johns Hopkins perform these rituals for precisely the same reason that the Romans would do crucifixions on the highway or in other public places -- you need to make sure that people see first hand what happens to dissenters.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Gettin' Lackey With It

Things aren't getting any better in Venezuela, but the insults are pretty good:
Venezuela's President severed diplomatic relations with Panama Wednesday, accusing the Central American nation of being a "lackey" for the United States in a conspiracy plot against his government.

"There are maneuvers by the U.S. government plotting with a lackey government that has a right-wing president who is leaving in the next few months, who is not worthy of his people, who has been working actively against Venezuela," President Nicolas Maduro said in televised remarks.

He accused Panama of pushing for regional organizations to intervene in Venezuela. As a result, Maduro said he was cutting off diplomatic and political ties and freezing trade relations with Panama's current government "in defense of the homeland's sovereignty."
Maduro is also concerned about the lickspittle government of Uruguay and the henchman government of Suriname.

I joke a little, but actually it's not a laughing matter in Venezuela. The mess that Hugo Chavez left behind is getting worse under Maduro, who lacks the charisma of Chavez and rarely wears a parrot on his shoulder. If you're going to succeed as a socially acceptable caudillo, you need to have better rhetorical skills and the willingness to put down a whole lot more people. And by "put down," I don't mean calling them lackeys. By whining, Maduro is inviting his eventual fate, which is the full Ceaucescu. Don't click the link if you're squeamish, by the way.

Non-working blue

Oh, those wacky DFLers:
As Democrats, including President Obama and several members of the Minnesota congressional delegation, push for a federal minimum-wage increase, DFLers controlling the Minnesota House and Senate reached what Rep. Ryan Winkler called a “stalemate.”

“It doesn’t look like we’re making a lot of progress,” Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, told his fellow lawmakers as they attempted to negotiate a compromise on Wednesday.

Since Monday, when Senate officials said for the first time they would support a minimum wage of $9.50 an hour, House and Senate officials have been unable to agree whether future minimum-wage increases should be automatic.
Again, we need to think differently on this issue:

Money don't buy everything, it's true. But what it don't buy, I can't use
Maybe a little theme music might help these recalcitrant legislators:

Be sure to throw in a free cell phone, too.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Whatever the Hell It is the Leader of the Free World is Doing

Maybe it just doesn't matter that Vladimir Putin is forcing his will on Crimea. Crimea river, perhaps. Maybe the Leader of the Free World is right and we shouldn't be viewing the world through an 80s prism. Maybe Walter Russell Mead is worrying too much:
Bashar Assad will surely be watching Ukraine closely over the next few days and weeks. Much is at stake for his main patron there. . . .

It’s not just Assad: Ayatollah Khamenei is also carefully watching events in Ukraine. Russia has consistently supported Iran in its conflict with Israel and the West, and Putin’s resolve in the face of widespread international condemnation is surely heartening for Tehran.

Even beyond the Middle East, certain world leaders are paying close attention to how President Obama plays out this crisis. China, as we wrote earlier today, is sure to consider Washington’s response in Ukraine as an indicator of how the United States would react to increased Chinese aggression in East and Southeast Asia. North Korea too. And don’t forget, our allies are also watching: if push comes to shove on Iran, Israel will remember these days.
Maybe it's all good and the strength that our President projects through his very essence is sufficient to make the world a better place:

You're an animal baby, it's in your nature, just let me liberate you
I just need to get over my mossbackitude. Setting red lines that don't mean anything is cool, it's just the Robin Thicke version of foreign policy. Offering imaginary repercussions is how the game should be played -- smart diplomacy, I believe is what it's called. I am trying to get my mind right on this. Really.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

She's dumb, though

Res ipsa loquitur:
In October 2008, after Russia's invasion of neighboring Georgia emerged as a foreign policy flashpoint in the homestretch of a heated campaign, Palin told an audience in Nevada, "After the Russian army invaded the nation of Georgia, Senator Obama's reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence, the kind of response that would only encourage Russia's Putin to invade Ukraine next."

Her prediction was derided by Foreign Policy magazine as "strange" and "extremely far-fetched," but Palin, frequent media antagonist that she is, couldn't resist crowing about how events have played out.

"I'm usually not one to Told-Ya-So, but I did, despite my accurate prediction being derided as 'an extremely far-fetched scenario' by the 'high-brow' Foreign Policy magazine," Palin wrote Friday.
Oh, and also:

Thank goodness these morons aren't in power.

Oh, #@%*!

The Pope is working blue:
With millions of people hanging on your every word, it was a slip-up Pope Francis would really have preferred not to make.

While giving his weekly blessing from the Vatican, the Argentinian mistakenly uttered the word 'f***' in Italian before quickly correcting himself.

But within seconds his mistake was posted on dozens of Italian media websites and YouTube and had gained millions of worldwide hits as it went viral.

The words the Pope stumbled on were 'caso' (example) and 'cazzo' which means 'f***' in Italian and often trips up those not used to speaking the language.
Later on, he was warned in no uncertain terms not to use the name "Chuck" in the "Name Game" song:

One can never be too careful....

Do It. Now!

The lege dithers when the answer is right in front of them:
The move toward a $9.50-an-hour wage floor marks a significant victory for advocates who have been campaigning for months to get the DFL-controlled Legislature to back a major jump in the minimum wage.

On Monday, Senate negotiators said they now support finding a compromise to raise the minimum to $9.50. Last year, the Senate backed only a more modest increase, while the House and Gov. Mark Dayton supported the higher level.

“This is the crux of the bill,” said Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, a veteran legislator and Senate negotiator on the issue.
Alas, there's discord:
Still, the deal is not done. On Monday night, House negotiators rejected the Senate’s proposed hike because it included only the wage for big businesses and not other key parts of the measure.

“I just don’t think we can take it piece by piece,” said Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley. “Usually every concession has a price,” he told his fellow legislators on why he didn’t fall in with the Senate proposal.
Oh, that Winkler; he's so disappointing to his colleagues:
“I don’t understand why you can’t support your own language,” Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, told Winkler.
If you had Winkler's Twitter history, you'd understand why Winkler has trouble supporting his own language, Sen. Eaton.

Still, $9.50? Seriously? What is it that's supposedly magical about that figure? I saw this on the internet the other day and frankly, I think it's the obvious solution:

We'll be rich!
C'mon, DFL -- let's get serious about this. If we're gonna solve poverty, $9.50 isn't nearly enough.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Eat, dammit

"He who complies against his will is of the same opinion still."

-- Samuel Butler

Goes for the lunchrooms, too, as this report from Wisconsin indicates:
Students at Wilson Junior High School had a wide assortment of healthy options as they walked through the lunch line recently. Pizzas made from scratch, cheeseburgers with whole-wheat buns, deli sandwiches, beefy nachos, and unlimited fresh fruit and vegetables were all on the menu.

In the past, students were able to choose any three items out of five in order for their lunch to be counted under the National School Lunch Program, but new regulation, the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, is aimed at helping kids make health decisions and requires that students take a fruit or vegetable on their lunch tray. The legislation also places stricter calorie and saturated fat requirements on foods offered to students and necessitates that any bread product offered must be whole grain.

Lynette Zalec, food service director with Chartwells School Dining Services, the company that provides the meal program for the Manitowoc Public School District, told HTR Media ( ) she has worked with local vendors to find healthy foods that kids enjoy to fit the requirements.

Students who made their way through the lunch line that day took fruit cocktail, broccoli, baby carrots or an apple to fit the requirement. However, while the legislation requires students take a fruit and vegetable, it cannot force them to eat it — and many students choose not to.

"We had very little waste before, now we have a lot of waste," Zalec said.
I get this -- I was a very picky eater when I was a kid and I fought with the nuns and the lunch ladies all the time back then. My kids are much better at eating healthy foods than I ever was, but they don't much like the new rules, either. Kids don't benefit from what they refuse to eat, but never mind that -- they need to get their minds right. And it's not just lunches:
The new standards also apply to food-based fundraising efforts — which could mean the popular heart-shaped suckers sold as a fundraiser around Valentine's Day will be a thing of the past.

Ken Mischler, the MPSD director of business, said the legislation could have unintended consequences if legislators don't tweak requirements.

"We don't know how to address this yet, and other schools don't yet either," Mischler said. "It may sound great, but what's going to happen is it's going to eliminate fundraising at schools is what it boils down to."
And when you start to hit the schools in the wallet, that's when it really gets interesting. There's more at the link; this is a story to watch.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

The World You Refuse to See

It seems that the Russian invasion of the Crimea has caught much of the Washington establishment by surprise:
President Barack Obama’s handling of the Western response to the Ukraine crisis is now arguably the biggest test of his presidency. It is a crisis that no one anticipated and that the West has been frustratingly divided over since the European Union’s original, misguided attempt to force Ukraine to make an either-or choice about going east or west. For too long we have heard U.S. officials says repeatedly, “The Europeans are taking the lead.” That needs to stop. 
Walter Russell Mead, writing about what's happening in Ukraine, gets to something important:
Nobody, including us, is infallible about the future. Giving the public your best thoughts about where things are headed is all a poor pundit (or government analyst) can do. But this massive intellectual breakdown has a lot to do with a common American mindset that is especially built into our intellectual and chattering classes. Well educated, successful and reasonably liberal minded Americans find it very hard to believe that other people actually see the world in different ways. They can see that Vladimir Putin is not a stupid man and that many of his Russian officials are sophisticated and seasoned observers of the world scene. American experts and academics assume that smart people everywhere must want the same things and reach the same conclusions about the way the world works.

How many times did foolishly confident American experts and officials come out with some variant of the phrase “We all share a common interest in a stable and prosperous Ukraine.” We may think that’s true, but Putin doesn’t.

We blame this in part on the absence of true intellectual and ideological diversity in so much of the academy, the policy world and the mainstream media. Most college kids at good schools today know many more people from different races and cultural groups than their grandparents did, but they are much less exposed to people who think outside the left-liberal box. How many faithful New York Times readers have no idea what American conservatives think, much less how Russian oligarchs do? Well bred and well read Americans live in an ideological and cultural cocoon and this makes them fatally slow to understand the very different motivations that animate actors ranging from the Tea Party to the Kremlin to, dare we say it, the Supreme Leader and Guide of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Emphasis mine. I attended a "good school," but I had the good fortune of attending it in the early to mid 1980s, when intellectual conformity wasn't as strong as it is today. Still, I see the results of this conformity and groupthink all the time. All I have to do is look at my Facebook feed and I'll get to see my fellow alumni comparing people who live in southern Indiana with the Taliban, to use just one example. It's a particularly jovial form of misantrophy, but it's there and it's unceasing.

The neoconservatives have come under justifiable criticism for not understanding the world in the previous decade. Whether we'll ever come to a similar understanding about our current leaders is another matter, because what we're dealing with is a willful commitment to ignorance, and it's an ignorance that's celebrated and regularly reinforced.