Friday, October 31, 2014

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Assuming We Can Find Any Games to Pick Edition

These bye weeks mess me up, old dude. The Packers aren't playing and the Gophers aren't playing, either. How can I unleash the HYYYYYYYPPPPE! when no one is playing?

You know the Bears are on bye, too, right? And even the Lions.

I know, old dude! It's silly, really. But I must give the readers my great wisdom. So watch me work!

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (OFF) vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Vegas refuses to release a line because Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova may not play. The old dude suggested I offer a music video instead:


And now you know why I rarely listen to the Old Dude. Anyway, back to the game. Rutgers was considered a weak sister compared to the Terps. Joel Stave looks like he wants to take control and be the answer until the Golden Boy shows up. Stave does not have to win the game, and I think he will have a good day in Jersey. Wisconsin 31, Rutgers 18.

What, no love for Aldo Nova? Rutgers has shown some signs of being okay, but without their quarterback they are going to have a tough time of it. And the Badgers looked pretty good last week against Maryland. I think they'll have a nice trip to Jersey. Badgers 35, Rutgers 13.

Illinois College Blueboys (NL) vs. Knox College Prairie Fire. Seriously? Blueboys? What the heck is that? I looked it up and apparently a Blueboy is supposed to be a Civil War guy. And as it happens, the Blueboys are pretty good. Knox should give them a good shot and the boys can win this game. Then it is time to play Monmouth, the safe choice for Knox students. Seymour Hall 27, Safety School 18.

The Blueboys are actually very good -- they are near the top of the conference. Your Fire is going to have a rough day. IC 35, KC 14.

Washington Politically Incorrect Football Team (+2.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings. So the Politically Incorrect Football Team is coming back to town and everyone is denouncing them. Have you denounced them yet, Geritol Fan?

It's on my to-do list, I guess.

See to that, willya? Some people get offended over this team because of their name, which is weird. RG3 is going to  probably return, but the question is was the trade the Gridlocks made to get him worse than other bad trades, like the Ricky Williams trade. The Vikes had a good win and Zimmer has to feel better about things. I am starting to believe in the Vikings and maybe in a couple years the past will not hurt the state, and I sincerely hope so, because Vikings fans are loyal and deserve at least one ring. Maybe in their own building they might get a ring. Vikings 23, Skins 13

I'm really not sure what's going to happen in this one. The Redskins played very well last week and so did the Vikings, so perhaps this game will be okay. I think it comes down to whether the Vikings defense plays well. If RGIII plays, it complicates matters for the young guys on defense, because he can make things happen in the open field. I think he plays, but the Vikings pull it off. Vikings 31, Redskins 23.

Denver Broncos (-3) vs New England Belichicks. Wait, did you see this? The Patriots are a home dog? Man, that smells like a sucker bet to me. People buried the Sweaters after the debacle in Kansas City, but now Tom Brady might be back on his way to being the big game quarterback of my younger days. Peyton Manning has struggled against New England and as much fun as he is to watch, I like the past repeating itself. Minutemen 35, Broncos 17.

Belichick will have something special cooked up for Peyton Manning. That much is certain. The bigger question is what the Broncos will have for Tom Brady. I think the Bronco defense, which appears to be improved, will be the key in this game. If they can stop Brady, Denver wins without too much trouble. I think they don't, though. New England 34, Denver 27.

Sorry this was so skimpy, folks! Not much to pick, unless the old dude has another musical idea. No, wait -- you don't want that. Really, you don't. Ben out!

A brief note on the local scene

I've not written anything about the local race for house in 41B; initially I'd hoped to get involved in this race but this year life has been far too complicated to find time for any political activity. My district is heavily DFL, primarily because most of Columbia Heights is in the district, along with St. Anthony and the southern half of New Brighton, which are both purplish at best. As a result, there's been little doubt that the incumbent, Education Minnesota rubber stamp Carolyn Laine, will win easily. She's barely had to campaign.

What makes the race interesting is what is happening in the scrum for the scraps Laine leaves on the table. Tim Utz of the Constitution Party has a chance of getting more votes than the Republican nominee, Camden Pike. Utz ran as a Republican a few cycles back but had a falling out with the party and has spent the last 4-6 years as something of a perpetual candidate, driving around the area in a green and orange vehicle. Over time he's managed to peel off a significant number of erstwhile Republicans and gained their support. For his part, Pike is a young guy (about 25 or 26) who comes from the Ron Paul wing of the party. Since the district is something of a hopeless cause for the Republican party, Pike has gotten essentially zero support and has been running his campaign on a shoestring. Some of the signs he has up are hand painted. Meanwhile, Utz has signs up all over the district and was able to snag an interview with Mitch Berg earlier in the year. Laine is going to get at least 60% of the vote on Tuesday. How that remaining 40% of the vote gets divvied up will be an interesting thing to watch.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Meanwhile, across the St. Croix -- Updated

MILWAUKEE – A new Marquette Law School Poll finds Republican Gov. Scott Walker leading Democratic challenger Mary Burke 50 percent to 43 percent among likely voters in the Wisconsin governor’s race. Another 3 percent say that they are undecided or that they do not know whom they will support, while 1 percent say that they will vote for someone else. Likely voters are those who say that they are certain to vote in the November election.

Among registered voters in the poll, Walker receives 46 percent and Burke 45 percent, with 4 percent undecided and 1 percent saying that they will vote for someone else.

The poll interviewed 1,409 registered voters, including 1,164 likely voters, by landline and cell phone Oct. 23-26. For the full sample of 1,409 registered voters, the margin of error is +/- 2.7 percentage points. The margin of error for the sample of 1,164 likely voters is +/- 3.0 percentage points. This is the final Marquette Law School Poll before the Nov. 4 election.
And Mary Burke's claim that her tenure at her family's company, Trek Bicycle, is a qualification for higher office? Well. . . .

MADISON, Wis. — In attempting to explain her two-year work hiatus in the early to mid-1990s, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke has said she was just burned out after an intense period of leading European operations for Trek Bicycle Corp., her family’s Waterloo-based global manufacturer.

In fact, Burke apparently was fired by her own family following steep overseas financial losses and plummeting morale among Burke’s European sales staff, multiple former Trek executives and employees told Wisconsin Reporter.

The sales team threatened to quit if Burke was not removed from her position as director of European Operations, according to Gary Ellerman, who served as Trek’s human resources director for 12 years. His account was confirmed by three other former employees.
Now, it must be said that Ellerman is a Republican operative these days and for that reason this report could be viewed with suspicion. Except, well. . . .
But former Trek president Tom Albers told The Associated Press that Burke's role as head of Trek's overseas operations "just didn't work out. We were losing money." He said Burke's brother John fired her.

Both Mary Burke and her brother John Burke, the current head of Trek, denied Wednesday that she was fired from the job in 1993. They say she left as part of a reorganization of the overseas operation.
But Albers does want you to think well of Burke, kinda:
Two former high-level executives of Trek Bicycle claim that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke was forced out as head of European operations for her family's business 21 years ago — an allegation that Burke and the company denied, labeling it a last-minute smear campaign.

"I'm not saying she was incompetent," said Tom Albers, former Trek chief operating officer who left the company in 1997. "Maybe this job was too big for her."
It might not be the only job that's too big for her.

UPDATE: Albers has a lot more to say here. A taste:
“Her way of managing was kind of a ‘her way or the highway’ kind of approach to things,” Albers explains, adding that her subordinates “felt that she wouldn’t listen to them and was just imposing things on them that didn’t make sense.”

“So because of all that—which had gone on for a while, obviously—John Burke went to his father basically saying, ‘We need to make a change over here.’  Obviously, being a family situation, this was extremely sensitive and very difficult to pursue.  So Dick Burke came to me and said, ‘Before anything is done here, would you go over there and give me your thoughts on what the situation is like?’”

Albers flew to Trek’s European headquarters and quickly discovered that John Burke wasn’t exaggerating.

“I pretty much came back with the same conclusions that John Burke had made; and that was that we had major people problems over there and were in a situation where we could lose a lot of people.  We were losing a lot of money and I couldn’t see where Mary Burke was going to turn this thing around.”

Albers reported his findings to Richard Burke, who listened intently and then, Albers says, acted decisively.

“The family—and by that I mean Dick and John Burke—finally agreed to bring her back.  And so, to say it bluntly, she was fired.”
A few observations:

  • It's worth remembering that the events that are under discussion here took place 20 years ago. Under ordinary circumstances, one might expect that a person's performance would improve after 20 years. It's possible that a fired executive could get another chance elsewhere and build a record of success. We aren't hearing that because, in Burke's case, that hasn't happened.
  • It's frankly stunning that Burke hadn't gotten out front on this story, particularly if she were aware that senior executives at Trek had become Republican operatives. Gary Ellerman has been hiding in plain sight -- he is still based in Jefferson County, where Trek is located. There was ample time to frame the story of  Burke's tenure at the family company, but the campaign never did that. That's a huge error and it speaks directly to Burke's management acumen. If you can't handle basic messaging, it's difficult to see how you can effectively govern a state.
  • You have seen some comparisons between Burke and Mark Dayton, but there's a significant difference in their careers. Dayton never was part of management at Dayton Hudson/Target, so he never had to manage a profit/loss statement in a corporate environment, especially one where you are held accountable for financial results. Dayton has always been a politician. That's a huge advantage. Burke, like Dayton, has tried to buy her way into politics, but since she had to work for her family's company, she had performance metrics and now we've learned what they were. Dayton's only performance metrics have come at the ballot box. If you're going to be a limousine liberal, you need to stay in the limousine.

The state is in the very best of hands

Oversight? What oversight?
An audit of the MNsure insurance exchange has found that it had “generally adequate” internal controls for spending public money, but it took issue with how officials expanded a marketing contract earlier this year.

The problem with the marketing contract — which paid for the creation of a high-profile ad campaign featuring Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox — is one of eight findings related to internal control weaknesses and instances of noncompliance, according to the report released Tuesday by the state Office of the Legislative Auditor.

The audit did not examine MNsure’s operational performance. It’s the first of three reviews the office is conducting on the state’s health insurance exchange.

“MNsure did not appropriately authorize $925,458 of additional marketing work or execute a contract amendment until after the contractor completed the work,” auditors wrote in the report.
I don't know about you, but if a vendor did $925,458 of work for my organization, I'd make damned sure it had been authorized before it happened.

Ask an expert

Our country's in the very best of hands:
The other day I was talking to a senior Obama administration official about the foreign leader who seems to frustrate the White House and the State Department the most. “The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickenshit,” this official said, referring to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, by his nickname.
If that charming description doesn't drive the point home, consider the following, from the same article in the Atlantic:
Over the years, Obama administration officials have described Netanyahu to me as recalcitrant, myopic, reactionary, obtuse, blustering, pompous, and “Aspergery.” (These are verbatim descriptions; I keep a running list.)  But I had not previously heard Netanyahu described as a “chickenshit.” I thought I appreciated the implication of this description, but it turns out I didn’t have a full understanding. From time to time, current and former administration officials have described Netanyahu as a national leader who acts as though he is mayor of Jerusalem, which is to say, a no-vision small-timer who worries mainly about pleasing the hardest core of his political constituency. (President Obama, in interviews with me, has alluded to Netanyahu’s lack of political courage.)
"Aspergery" is particularly generous. On the bright side, no one is on record calling Netanyahu a "retard," but we still have over two years left in this administration.

So what makes Netanyahu a barnyard waste product?
“The good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars,” the official said, expanding the definition of what a chickenshit Israeli prime minister looks like. “The bad thing about him is that he won’t do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states. The only thing he’s interested in is protecting himself from political defeat. He’s not [Yitzhak] Rabin, he’s not [Ariel] Sharon, he’s certainly no [Menachem] Begin. He’s got no guts.”

I ran this notion by another senior official who deals with the Israel file regularly. This official agreed that Netanyahu is a “chickenshit” on matters related to the comatose peace process, but added that he’s also a “coward” on the issue of Iran’s nuclear threat. The official said the Obama administration no longer believes that Netanyahu would launch a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in order to keep the regime in Tehran from building an atomic arsenal. “It’s too late for him to do anything. Two, three years ago, this was a possibility. But ultimately he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. It was a combination of our pressure and his own unwillingness to do anything dramatic. Now it’s too late.”
Consider that last sentence. Netanyahu's to blame for Iran's nuclear program because, in the reading of a "senior official," he didn't openly defy the stated wishes of the United States government that this "senior official" represents. As I recall, about ten years ago this sort of thing was called nuance.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Just a reminder

That Al Franken personally approves of falsehoods:
The Franken ad implies that McFadden advised Smurfit-Stone on the bankruptcy process and that he’s responsible for the 417 layoffs at the Frenchtown Smurfit-Stone mill.

While the fact that Smurfit-Stone was listed as Lazard Middle Management’s client until recently raises some questions, McFadden’s fingerprints aren’t on the project otherwise.

As a result, this ad is misleading to the point of being false.
Franken has run a low, mendacious campaign. In other words, it's perfectly in keeping with his character.

El Norte

This should really help the ol' immigration debate:
 A man suspected of killing two deputies during a shooting rampage in Northern California was deported twice to Mexico and had a drug conviction, federal authorities said Saturday.

The suspected shooter told Sacramento County Sheriff's investigators that he was 34-year-old Marcelo Marquez of Salt Lake City. However, his fingerprints match the biometric records of a Luis Enrique Monroy-Bracamonte in a federal database, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice said.

Monroy-Bracamonte was first removed from the country in 1997 after being convicted in Arizona for possession of narcotics for sale. Monroy-Bracamonte was arrested and repatriated to Mexico a second time in 2001, Kice said.

"The fingerprints were the basis for our request for an immigration detainer," she said.
The good news now is that he'll certainly be able to stay in the United States. Meanwhile, we also learn this:
A search of Utah court records for Marquez shows a history of about 10 tickets and misdemeanor traffic offenses between 2003 and 2009. Those records list one speeding ticket for Monroy in 2009 and three small claims filings attempting to collect outstanding debts.
We aren't serious about many things.

Monday, October 27, 2014

News You Can Use

The next President of the United States explains it to you.

"Don't let anybody tell you that it's corporations and businesses that create jobs."

So who is actually creating jobs? Give me your best guess in the comment section.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Congratulations to Senator Franken. . .

for being the likely beneficiary of illegal voting:
How many non-citizens participate in U.S. elections? More than 14 percent of non-citizens in both the 2008 and 2010 samples indicated that they were registered to vote. Furthermore, some of these non-citizens voted. Our best guess, based upon extrapolations from the portion of the sample with a verified vote, is that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent of non-citizens voted in 2010.

Because non-citizens tended to favor Democrats (Obama won more than 80 percent of the votes of non-citizens in the 2008 CCES sample), we find that this participation was large enough to plausibly account for Democratic victories in a few close elections. Non-citizen votes could have given Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health-care reform and other Obama administration priorities in the 111th Congress. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) won election in 2008 with a victory margin of 312 votes. Votes cast by just 0.65 percent of Minnesota non-citizens could account for this margin. It is also possible that non-citizen votes were responsible for Obama’s 2008 victory in North Carolina. Obama won the state by 14,177 votes, so a turnout by 5.1 percent of North Carolina’s adult non-citizens would have provided this victory margin.
Mark Ritchie has ensured he'll get that vote again. Apparently Minnesota is okay with that.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- 411 Miles to the New Home of HYYYYYYPPPPE! Edition

So old dude, word is you're coming down to Knox tomorrow to see me in all my collegiate glory!

Everywhere you look, bargains galore!
It's true -- we'll all be coming to Galesburg for a visit and, if we play our cards right, an actual visit to the storied Carl Sandburg Mall.

That is a western Illinois showplace, Geritol Fan! You'll really like the JC Penney with the automotive department, I'm guessing.

Well, that and a chance to visit the Knosher Bowl and see your beloved Knox Prairie Fire in action. They still kinda stink, right?

I can neither confirm nor deny that, Decrepit! But I do think there's no doubt that we need to pick some games now, so let's stop the banter and get to the truth! Watch me work!

Minnesota Golden Gophers (-6.5) vs. University of Illinois Fighting a Losing Battle. Let's see.... the Illini are swirling the bowl on another Big Ten season and that means they'll be looking for yet another new coach soon. That being said, Illinois is a tough team and will look to get the big win to save their season and to build momentum. Minnesota has been good but I think the upset will get pulled. Illini 23, The U 20.

I agree -- this has got trap game written all over it, Seabiscuit. The Gophers got a scare against Purdue but they rallied to win and the hype machine is starting to build up here in the Twin Cities. Jerry Kill's team is tough minded and has some talent, but Purdue exposed some weaknesses on defense and the Illini can score. The pace of the game will be key here. If the Gophers can pound away on the Illinois defense, they'll win. If it turns into a track meet, it could be a problem. Minnesota 31, Illinois 28.

Maryland Terrapins (+11.5) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. The Terps are coming to Madison for the first time and this is the first meeting between the schools in football. What to expect? Well, that' why you come here. Maryland had a nice win over Iowa in College Park, but this time they have to play the big boys on the road. I think with the week of preparation, Maryland will understand that the Big Ten is not a joke conference, but you would never hear that from ESPN. Wisconsin 48, Maryland 17.

The Badgers had a bye week, but there's no evidence they've solved their quarterback dilemma yet. My impression is that Tanner McEvoy is the quarterback that Gary Andersen would prefer to play, but that Joel Stave is a better quarterback generally. The one thing that tilts this one towards the Badgers is that Maryland isn't very good against the run, while the Badgers have Melvin Gordon. I think that the Terps will be seeing a lot of Melvin's heels on Saturday. Badgers 42, Maryland 31.

Grinnell College Pioneers (NL) vs. Knox College Prairie Fire. Okay, old dude, this week it's gonna be different. Knox should be better because whenever I attend a game we pick, good things normally happen. A win here would set up momentum towards the vital game against the Monmouth "Safety School" Scots. And the Knosher Bowl is very beautiful. Knox 27, Grinnell 18.

Back in 1985, I saw a Beloit/Knox game at the Knosher Bowl. It was about 96 degrees that day and my Bucs beat Knox 45-36 on a day when it was about 96 degrees. Grinnell is a beatable opponent for your Fire and I think they'll want to give the parents a good show. Knox 31, Grinnell 24.

Minnesota Vikings (-3) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. You know, old dude, I don't know what to think about the Vikings at this point. Either they play very well, as they did against Atlanta, or they look bad, as happened in Green Bay. Thankfully, Tampa Bay is not a good team in a very weak sister division and I like Minnesota a lot in this one. Teddy is the Chosen One 31, Bucs 10.

Tampa's not very good. That's good news for a team that needs to get better. I'll be curious to see what ol' Leslie Frazier has cooked up for Teddy Bridgewater. I'm guessing that he'll see something a little different than just the Tampa 2. The Vikings are going to be lucky to be 6-10 at this point, but to get to 6 wins, they'll need to win one on the road. This seems like a good place to do it. Vikings 24, Bucs 20.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (+6.5) vs. New England Belichicks. It's not easy being Jay Cutler, old dude! First Brandon Marshall and now Brian Urlacher have called him out. Is Jay the problem? Or is it something else? I think the problem is in the choices that were made. Jay needs to step up and be the leader, because he is getting paid a lot of money and has not been able to beat the Packers consistently, which is inexcusable. I have quietly been hinted that the Bears need to make changes to win and maybe it starts with removing their quarterback. New England is a tough place to win and although the Bears have played well away from home, if they do not win on Sunday, maybe Jay can go to Montreal with his head coach. Patriots 45, Bears still suck 0.

I'm not sure what to think. I do know that New England is a tough place to win and right now the Bears are struggling with a lot of issues. If I were the Bears, I'd be more concerned about keeping Brandon Marshall happy than caring much about what Urlacher thinks -- you do need to remember that his departure from Chicago was a little less than amicable. Tom Brady has something to prove this year and the Bears aren't very solid defensively. This could get ugly. New England 35, Chicago 17.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (+1.5) vs. New Orleans Saints. It's the red hot Packers against the Saints, who are always tough at home and are officially a desperate team. What now? Last time the Packers played in New Orleans they got destroyed, but that was in 2008, when Aaron Rodgers was only showing flashes of his brilliance. Crowd noise will be a factor but the Saints have a horrible pass defense and the Packer defense has shown it can hold teams and get the ball to the offense, which has looked very good. I would love to have the scenario NBC fears most, which is a fast Packer start and cruise home. Packers 45, Saints 17.

The way I see it, the Packers have four fairly tough games remaining on their schedule and this is one of them. The Saints are still pretty formidable offensively, although their line is starting to age, which is why Drew Brees has had a few problems in recent weeks. The Packers are absolutely going to score in this game, maybe a lot. Will Brees be able to keep up? That's the question on this one. I think the Packers are a better team but it's really close. Green Bay 35, New Orleans 34.

Okay, old dude! Can't wait to show you around Knox this weekend. You'll find out where we keep the HYYYYYPPPPE! Ben out!

The Republicans get in the game

While it might be too late, the state Republican Party has a good and nasty anti-Dayton ad up, which I posted below. I am glad that someone is finally mentioning the astonishing comments that Dayton made earlier in the year, when he suggested that mothers who were being denied medical marijuana could go out and buy some on the street.

New anti-Dayton ad

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Home truth

John Hayward on compulsion in re same sex marriage:
In a contest between super-sincere same-sex couples who totally love each other and want to get married at this chapel right here, and stubborn eccentrics who defend their kooky hobby by quoting from some dusty old Bible, there is no way to hold compulsive force at bay by muttering about the theoretical right of American citizens to practice kooky hobbies.  Everyone who values liberty needs to get passionate about defending people like the Knapps, and that includes same-sex marriage proponents who believed a single word they said about valuing freedom and respecting conscience over the past decade.  You don’t have to share their beliefs in order to respect them.  And if you’re cool with the idea of using State power to break people whose beliefs you don’t agree with or respect – even when it’s not necessary to stamp out dissenters in order for your beliefs to flourish – the correct word for you is totalitarian.  It doesn’t matter one little bit that you think your beliefs are righteous.  Every other totalitarian feels the same way.
Emphasis in the original. And also this -- again, emphasis in the original:
Secular libertarians who seriously wish to help preserve religious liberty must learn to see it as more valuable than that, because I’m here to tell you, guys: our tightly fused government/media culture long ago abandoned the notion of absolute principles.  Everything is a value judgment now.  Nothing is truly off-limits to the power of the State; it awaits only an invitation from those who passionately desire its presence to enter any part of our lives.
The larger question is whether many people who claim to be secular libertarians give a damn about religious liberty. Put it this way -- there's ample reason to suspect they don't. Martin Niemöller, call your office.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

You can check out any time you'd like, but you can never leave

Welcome to the Hotel Obama:
"Well, look, here's the bottom line," said Obama, "We've got a tough map. A lot of the states that are contested this time are states that I didn't win. And so some of the candidates there, you know, it is difficult for them to have me in the state because the Republicans will use that to try to fan Republican turn-out. The bottom line is, though, these are all folks who vote with me. They have supported my agenda in Congress. They are on the right side of minimum wage. They are on the right side of fair pay. They are on the right side of rebuilding our infrastructure. They're on the right side of early childhood education.

"So, this isn't about my feelings being hurt. These are folks who are strong allies and supporters of me. And I tell them, I said, you know what, you do what you need to win. I will be responsible for making sure that our voters turn up."
So Alison Lundergan Grimes, your ad may say this:

But reality says this:

No kidding

Confession is good for the soul. First, an acknowledgement from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which Iowahawk accepts with grace:

If you doubt they're out of ideas, watch one of their Torrey Westrom attack ads sometime

Meanwhile, watch this video, especially the fumbling at the 1 minute mark, and remember that this man is a sitting United States Senator:

I dunno -- when I think of songs and Sen. Udall, this is the one that occurs to me:

Monday, October 20, 2014

You are very sleepy. Very sleepy.

Bill Glahn has been one of the best bloggers in Minnesota for a while now and the handy synopsis he published yesterday is right on the money:
We boil down the Sunday Minneapolis Star Tribune Opinion page to its basic message.

Lori Sturdevant:  All of the long-serving Democrat legislators, who occupy safe seats, tell Lori that this has been a quiet election year.  Everyone is just sitting around waiting for the labor unions and lefty billionaire donors to post their new list of demands.

Editorial Board:  The Board suggests voting for Democrat Mark Dayton.  Why?  See above.
There's more at the link and you should read it. In fact, you should have bookmarked Bill a long time ago if you care at all about Minnesota politics. A few observations of my own:

  • The Dayton endorsement was expected, of course, even though there's some generous observations made about Jeff Johnson. The Stribbers know that Johnson would be a good governor, but they like the Better Minnesota they've created. And Lori Sturdevant misses the good ol' days, when the only role Republicans had in this state involved offering a few cavils before the DFLers divided up the spoils.
  • The race has been sleepy precisely because a lot of people, including the Strib editorial board, aren't particularly interested in having an engaged citizenry. The television stations in town aren't covering the election with much fervor at all in this cycle and the debates are taking place at times when the chances that viewers might actually see them are pretty minimal. Why on earth would you have a debate at 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning? If you didn't want anyone to see it, it would be an excellent time. And if the local stations present a little context-free Johnson said/Dayton said and leave it at that, the rest goes right down the ol' memory hole.
  • Hannah Nicollet continues to complain that she is being left out of the debates and announced that she is going to sue Hamline University for keeping her off the stage on Sunday morning. That should get adjudicated a few months after the election is over. What the "major" Independence Party in general, and Hannah Nicollet in particular, are finding out is pretty simple -- now that a Better Minnesota is established, your services are no longer required. Outside of the weird amalgam of aging frat boys and slide rulers who seem to be Nicollet's primary consistency, no one cares about her campaign. When previous IP candidate Tom Horner endorsed Johnson instead of Nicollet, that meant the party was over. I think Hannah has a future if she chooses wisely. I made a modest suggestion last week
  • Johnson's only chance to win is if the unrest in outstate Minnesota sweeps out Collin Peterson and Rick Nolan. Dayton may have given Johnson a bit of an opening earlier, when he called Johnson a huckster and brought up the ill-fated chopsticks factory that was supposed to help the Iron Range 30 years ago. That raised a few hackles, but it won't matter if the DFL metrocrats can get enough votes in their districts. And that's the only danger for the DFL -- if the populace is too sleepy, there might be enough motivated Republicans in the exurbs and outstate to tip the balance. There's nothing like gay marriage, or another moral vanity vote for Obama, to motivate the bien pensant gang in this cycle. That may prove to be a miscalculation, but we likely won't know until election day.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Lord Have Mercy, Where is Percy Edition?

Old dude, did you ever read any of those "Where's Waldo" books when you were a kid? Or did they even have offset printing in those days?

Where's Waldo hadn't been created yet. I think the first book came out in the 1980s. Besides, there's really not a lot of "reading" involved in a Where's Waldo book. But anyway, why do you ask?

Because I see that Percy Harvin has been traded to the Jets. He's harder to find than Waldo these days.

I'll bet there's a story behind all that. I'll be curious to see what happens to him in New York.

His next stop might be Galesburg at this rate. I'll let you know if he shows up here. In the meantime, watch me work!

Purdon't Boilermakers (+14) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers. No Badgers this week, Geritol Fan, so we'll start out with this one. The Gophers are getting some love now that they're leading the Big Ten West. Minnesota is not home free at this point considering they still have to play Iowa, Bucky, and Nebraska. That being said ,considering what is happening nationwide, Minnesota winning the West would not surprise me, especially against a Purdue team that is getting better but not there yet. The Real U 34, Purdon't 9.

I'm pretty confident the Gophers will hold serve at home, but I'm not sure a 14-point spread makes much sense. Purdue's got some work to do, but we're starting to see some progress. I watched some of their game against Michigan State last week and they weren't intimidated at all. I think they come in and play the locals pretty tough. Minnesota 27, Purdue 23.

Knox College Prairie Fire (NL) vs. Cornell College Rams. Boy oh boy, old dude. It's the school I chose against the school I might have chosen, up in Mount Vernon, Iowa, baby! Knox looked bad last week mostly due to playing a physical D3 version of Nebraska football circa 1995. Knox can still finish good and I think that the mojo of the undefeated soccer team will rub off in Mt. Vernon. Old Main 26, One Loss at A Time 17.

A young fella like you chooses a college for a lot of reasons. You apparently didn't take winning football into consideration. Cornell will contend for the conference title this year, as they usually do. Your beloved Fire? Not so much. This one won't be pretty. Cornell 35, Knox 14.

Minnesota Vikings (+5) vs. Buffalo Bills. So now what, Vikings? Two pretty bad stompings in a row by division opponents, and now a trip to Buffalo? What will happen this time? Mike Zimmer sounded
frustrated on KFAN with the amount of picks that have hampered his team. That being said Buffalo is one of the teams that is sneaky good if they can figure out a way to pull it together. I like Zimmer to coach up the Norseman and get a W. Vikes 21, Buffalo Wild Wings 18.

I have no idea what to expect from either of these teams, to be honest. On paper, Buffalo is probably a better squad at the moment, because they have a pretty good defense, but then again, they haven't exactly figured things out on offense, either. The Vikings are finding out that it's going to be hard to win if they don't have a credible running game. At this point, they don't. Buffalo 31, Vikings 17.

Carolina Panthers (+7) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. Meanwhile, the Packers return to Green Bay after a nifty escape from the Tuna Net in Miami. The last time Carolina came up to Lambeau they won but that was a very different time for both teams. The major worry is the banged up secondary for Green Bay because we all know that Scam Newton likes to run, whether it is from defenses or from allegations about his shady doings. I like the chances for Green Bay because they win in October and, with no Greg Hardy or Steve Smith this time, I look for Green Bay to continue to relax and have fun. Green Bay 49, Carolina 17.

I think the Packers are hitting their stride. Cam Newton is a problem, because he's liable to run, but he's got very little help at this point. I think he'll make the Pack nervous a few times, but in the end it will be a happy day at Lambeau, because the Panthers don't have the defensive backfield that can slow down Jordy Nelson and his pals. Packers 35, Panthers 23.

Miami Tuna Net Victims (+3.5) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. Oh, so many subplots, old dude. It's Brandon Marshall versus his old team. It's, it's... well, maybe there's only that one subplot. The question for both teams is which quarterback shows up. Jay Cutler will either be brilliant or will find a way to lose the game. The Bears have been very good on the road but have lost 3 home games this year, which will kill them later on. I like Miami because they ambushed our boys and if Chicago loses there will be questions asked about the decisions that were made by the general manager and the head coach. Not Sorry Charlie 24, da Bearz 20.

The Bears played very well last week in Atlanta, which was something of a surprise. The thing that should worry the Bears is that the Miami defense is very quick, especially on the defensive line. That could get Jay Cutler nervous and when that happens, bad throws start to come. I sense a shootout. Chicago 31, Miami 28.

I think that's all we have time for, old dude! Next week, you show up in Galesburg! What then! Ben out!


We don't worry much about Kentucky politics around here, but I have to admit it's amusing to see that the Democratic candidate to unseat Senator Mitch McConnell refuses to say whether she voted for Barack Obama:
Alison Lundergan Grimes again refused to reveal whether she voted for President Barack Obama, dodging the question for the second time in a week Monday during the only debate of Kentucky's Senate race.

Grimes, the Democratic secretary of state who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in one of the nation's marquee races, cited the "matter of principle" of privacy at the ballot box, noting that she is the state's chief election officer.

"I'm not going to compromise a constitutional right provided here in Kentucky in order to curry favor on one or (an)other side or members of the media," she said during Monday night's debate.
This is ridiculous. If you are a private citizen and you aren't running for office, it's a rude and presumptuous question to ask about your political allegiances. This woman wants to be a Senator. That's a little different, I'd say. If things were going better in Washington, Grimes would be shouting her support for Barack Obama to the housetops. What she really fears is the follow-up question -- do you regret that vote?

Noted in passing

The US vice-president’s son Hunter Biden has been discharged from the US navy reserve after testing positive for cocaine.

Biden failed a drug test administered in June 2013, sources said. The son of Joe Biden issued a statement confirming his discharge and expressing regret and embarrassment for his actions.

Navy spokesman Commander Ryan Perry confirmed that Biden was discharged from the navy reserve in February 2014 but said privacy laws prevented him from releasing any details.
Morgan Grams had no comment.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Not what one would have preferred

So you went on the MNSure exchange last year and picked PreferredOne, because it was reasonable? Well, if you stay with them, not this year:
Sticker shock awaits thousands of people with health coverage through PreferredOne, the top seller on the MNsure exchange during its first year.

The Golden Valley-based insurer said Wednesday that its individual market subscribers will see an average premium increase next year of 63 percent due to high claims costs.

“Given the volatility of the individual marketplace due to the first year of the [federal health law], this increase is a significant step at stabilizing our rates and plans for the years to come,” the company said in a statement.

The announcement represents a startling turnaround for an insurer that offered some of the lowest premiums anywhere in the country in 2014.
If you wondered why the gubmint could claim MNSure rates were only going up 4.5% or so, this is why -- the dominant player in the exchange for this year is taking huge rate increases, but is no longer part of the exchange.

Guess we'd better start talking about Adrian Peterson or Ebola or something instead.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Should we be worried about Ebola?

I'm not, yet, but the emerging scene in Dallas isn't particularly reassuring:
A second Texas health care worker who provided care for Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan has contracted the virus, according to preliminary test results released early Wednesday. The worker reported a fever Tuesday and was immediately isolated at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, state health officials said in a statement. Confirmatory testing will be carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. "Health officials have interviewed the latest patient to quickly identify any contacts or potential exposures, and those people will be monitored," the Texas Department of State Health Services said. "The type of monitoring depends on the nature of their interactions and the potential they were exposed to the virus." It is the third case diagnosed in the U.S.
Oh, and do you remember the earlier reporting that the first nurse who contracted Ebola wasn't following protocols? Well, it's hard to follow protocols that aren't really protocols:

Also Tuesday, National Nurses United made troubling allegations about the hospital, claiming "guidelines were constantly changing" and "there were no protocols" about how to deal with the deadly virus."

"The protocols that should have been in place in Dallas were not in place, and that those protocols are not in place anywhere in the United States as far as we can tell," NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro said. "We're deeply alarmed."

Protective gear nurses initially wore left their necks exposed; they felt unsupported and unprepared, and they received no hands-on training, union co-president Deborah Burger said.

A Texas Health Presbyterian spokesman did not respond to the specific allegations, but said patient and employee safety is the hospital's top priority.
NNU is a labor union, so they have another agenda in making these charges. That doesn't necessarily mean the charges are incorrect, which the CDC folks are now beginning to admit:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it's moved a team of experienced experts in to help a Dallas hospital where a nurse became infected with Ebola to improve "every step in the process." And they'll send in a special response team to help any hospital in the future that gets an Ebola patient.

The team will help workers there improve their techniques for safely caring for Nina Pham, who was infected while herself caring for Thomas Eric Duncan before he died.

"The first and most important is ensuring that every hour of the day there’s a site manager there who is overseeing aspects of infection control," CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden told a news conference. One thing the site manager will do is make sure someone spots workers as they put on and take off personal protective equipment (PPE).

And he promised any hospital that receives an Ebola patient that CDC will help with a special response team. "We will put a team on the ground within hours with some of the world's leading experts on how to take care of and prevent health workers form Ebola virus infection," Frieden said.

"I wish we had put a team like this on the ground the day the first patient was diagnosed. That might have prevented this infection," Frieden added. "But we are prepared to do this in the future with any case anywhere in the U.S."
So imagine a scenario where you have an Ebola patient in Seattle, Salt Lake City, Topeka, Milwaukee, Louisville, Tallahassee and Providence. Do we have enough people who are trained properly to handle such a scenario? And would we have the right equipment and facilities in place? A lot hinges on the answers to such questions. And thus far, the answers we've been getting aren't particularly reassuring.

If a debate falls in the forest

Were you aware that Mark Dayton and Jeff Johnson had a debate yesterday? If you were watching the 10 p.m. news on KARE, you wouldn't have known. The topic never came up, although there was ample time for a long feature piece that detailed the musical career of a guy from Mound Westonka High School, who happened to be the classmate of the KARE reporter who filed the story, complete with a discussion of the sequined vest the reporter had worn during a school production of "West Side Story" back in the late 90s.

It's bad enough that the debate took place at 8 in the morning, when the chance for any audience was quite small. It's even worse when a major news outlet in the Twin Cities doesn't even bother to have a report on their late newscast.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hannah Barred-bera

So IP candidate Hannah Nicollet is not going to be participating in the next gubernatorial debate:
For the first time in at least four campaigns, the Democratic and Republican nominees were gearing up to go one-on-one.

Incumbent Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP rival Jeff Johnson were due to meet Tuesday on a debate stage in Duluth. The local chamber of commerce sponsoring the debate didn't invite Independence Party nominee Hannah Nicollet.
A few observations:

  • It's been silly to call the Independence Party a major party for a very long time now. While it's played a spoiler role in several elections, we're a long way from 1998 and the IP hasn't come close to electing anyone to statewide office since then.
  • Jeff Johnson would much rather be able to go after Mark Dayton directly than have to share time with Nicollet. This is hardly surprising, since his best chance to show he's governor material is by direct comparison with the incumbent.
  • Just wondering -- what is Mark Dayton's second-term agenda? He's spent most of the campaign taking credit for the Better Minnesota he's purportedly created, but there's not been much about what he's going to do with the next four years. Maybe someone could ask him about that today.
  • Based on what I've been able to observe, Hannah Nicollet has promise, but there's no reason to believe she could be an effective governor at this point in her political career. If we had a black swan event and she somehow found a way to win, she'd have no party support and would be whipsawed by the established sharks in St. Paul. If she is serious about public service via politics, what she really ought to do is to run for the state senate in 2016. She is a Roseville resident and the incumbent there is John Marty, who has been in office for a very long time and hasn't provided much other than sanctimonious pronouncements. No matter what banner she chose -- IP, Republican or DFL via primary, Nicollet would have a chance to establish some bona fides by running against a guy who is ripe for replacement. It's worth remembering that Nicollet is still quite young and could, if she played her cards right, be a formidable competitor for higher office in later years.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Just a guess

We'll have to see what the parameters of this announcement are, but it appears that Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has had enough:
Attorney Jeff Anderson and officials from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said Sunday that they would unveil a “historic child protection action plan” at a news conference Monday, but sources told the Star Tribune the plan is part of a deal to settle the suit filed against the Archdiocese and the Diocese of Winona.

The agreement, including undisclosed financial terms, is to be presented to Ramsey County District Court Judge John Van de North Monday morning, before the 1 p.m. news conference.

“This will be the first time in 30 years Anderson has stood with archdiocese officials to work in cooperation for child protection,” said a news release from Anderson’s office Sunday.

Neither Anderson nor Archdiocese officials would provided any further details on the child-protection plan or proposed settlement Sunday.
My guess is that the real reason for the settlement is that Anderson has essentially bled the Archdiocese dry and he's going to be moving on to other opportunities. Unfortunately, there are a lot of them. And if he's looking for a new vein to mine, he could try some of the leads here.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Double Dip at the Bank Edition

Old dude, we're having a very nice weekend down here in Galesburg. It's Homecoming at Knox and all the old Knox dudes are coming back to visit. It's like being at your reunions in Beloit, but a Bizarro World, parallel universe version.

Are they all misty-eyed about walking across campus?

Well, some of them, but there's more going on. There's a buzz that they're picking up, an excitement that they didn't expect when they returned to Galesburg.

What is that? I'm guessing I'll regret asking that question.

You already know, Geritol Fan! They are basking in the glow of HYYYYYYYPPPPPPE!

Yeah, I'll bet that's exactly what it is.

If you want to know what it is, watch me work!

Northwestern Fitzgeralds (+4) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers. Lotta action at the Bank this weekend, Decrepit! The Gophers are coming off a bye, while Northwestern comes off a big win against our beloved Badgers. Northwestern looked good and proved that the alums from the 1995 era were not deluding themselves in thinking they were good. As much as the Gophers have continued to improve this year, I like Northwestern because it looks like Pat Fitzgerald has a way to return to 1995. Wildcats 20, Gophers 16

I watched some of last week's game and it was difficult to tell whether Northwestern was good or if the Badgers were channeling the spirit of John Jardine. I suspect this week it's going to be a tougher assignment for the Wildcats. Jerry Kill has always had a plan and he's finally starting to get some of the kids he wants in key positions. I expect a low scoring game, but one that favors the locals. Gophers 21, Northwestern 16.

Illinois Fighting Ineptitudes (+26) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. Bucky is going to be in a bad mood for this one, old dude! The way they looked last week was bad, but the key thing was blowing the first drive. Illinois always plays the Badgers extremely tough and I never am secure until the win is secured. I also think it is time Gary looks to bring in Bart Houston, because someone has to wait until the golden boy quarterback is on campus. Wisconsin 35, Illinois 31.

Illinois doesn't have its quarterback. The Badgers have several quarterbacks but none seem to be very good. The difference will be the home field and Melvin Gordon. Could this be a 300-yard game for Gordon? Don't rule it out. Badgers 42, Illini 14.

Lake Forest Foresters (NL) vs. Knox College Prairie Fire. The excitement is building at the Knosher Bowl! All of the alums are back and there is belief on campus. Matt McCaffery has looked very good this year and Knox is undefeated at home. I love me some Knox football and considering that they put me up and feed me, I can't exactly be neutral. Knox 24, Lake Forest 17

Usually I'd expect Lake Forest to beat Knox, but the Foresters couldn't handle Beloit, so I suspect they're not that good. Should be some happy alumni back in Galesburg. Knox 24, Lake Forest 21.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-3.5) vs. Miami Dolphins.  It sure looks like the Packers got their mojo back last week against the Vikings. Now it's down to Miami, where things haven't gone well over the years, although the last time the Packers played down there Nick Saban was on his way out and thinking about how to win by scheduling cupcake nonconference games and avoid traveling to Big Ten stadiums. The heat is going to be an issue, but the Packers are coming off a dominating performance and are well rested and prepared. Ryan Tannehill, who was mentored by Mike Sherman, has not panned out so far and if Knowshon Moreno does not go, I like the Packers' chances because it remains clear that Dan Marino is not going to come back. 13 Time Champions 45, Tuna Net Victims 17.

I really don't know what to expect here. On balance, the Packers are a better team, especially since Knowshon Moreno probably won't play for the Dolphins. Ryan Tannehill is up and down, too. The key for the Packers will be keeping Cameron Wake away from Rodgers. If they do that, Pack wins for sure. I'm thinking they will. Packers 31, Dolphins 20.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (+3) vs. Hotlanta Falcons. So what's happened to da Bearz? The loss at Carolina was pretty much a choke job. And now the boys from Soldier Field have to face their old pal, Devin Hester. My Bear fan friends here at Knox are upset and they still believe in Jay. I don't know what is wrong with da Bearz, but Marc Trestman better find a way to win and fast or it is back to the CFL. Dirty Birds 24, Da Bearz 17.

The Falcons are pretty schizo this year, but they've been very tough to beat at home. The Bears are still trying to fight their way through injuries and this looks like a tough assignment to me. I'm guessing that they'll figure out a way to contain Hester, but Julio Jones and Roddy White are another matter entirely. Falcons 38, Bears 31.

Detroit Motor City Kitties (-1.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings. So let me get this straight. The Lions will probably go without Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush and Vikings are a home dog? Seriously? Well, they did not play well with Ponder starting, which should not be a problem since they are playing a different team and Zimmer will have his quarterback back. The Lions struggle on the road and the almighty theory of the "desperate team at home" proves itself once again. Vikes 49, Lions 0.

I'm puzzled by the line, too. I think this is actually a pretty easy pick. The Vikes will play much better this week since Christian Ponder is unlikely to see the field. The Lions are much less formidable outside of Ford Field and will be without some of their most important players. Think the Vikes will win, and win easily. Vikings 31, Lions 17.

Well, I'm off to watch the alums get all misty-eyed. It's a great tradition. Ben out!

This just in

Adrian Peterson is a moron.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Governor Gaslighting

So Mark Dayton proposed raising the gas tax last night to cover expenses for road repairs:

In the second debate of the 2014 governor’s race, Mark Dayton made news with his very first question, suggesting for the first time that he would seek an increase in the gasoline sales tax to fund transportation.

“I would make a specific proposal, including a sales tax on gasoline that will raise close to the $6.5 billion that we’re short in transportation funding over the next ten years,” Dayton said Wednesday night in Moorhead.  
If we're talking about $6.5 billion, that means $650 million a year. How would that work?

Well, let's think about that. How much gas is sold in Minnesota on an annual basis? According to the U.S. Department of Energy, we had daily sales of about 6,316,300 gallons a day in 2013. Here's a screen shot:

Gasoline Alley
If you break out the ol' back of the envelope for a few calculations, you'll see that means an annual total of about 2.3 billion gallons of gasoline were sold in Minnesota for 2013. Based on the trend line, you could safely assume the total will be about 2.4 billion for 2014. So we'll go with that.

If you're going to raise $650 million in revenue on 2.4 billion gallons sold, that works out to be about $0.27 or $0.28 a gallon. That would be on top of the current gas tax in Minnesota, which is now $0.286 per gallon (link is a PDF). So, essentially you'd be looking at doubling the gas tax in Minnesota. Add the current gas federal gas tax of $0.184 per gallon, and you are talking about an effective tax rate of $0.71 per gallon in Minnesota. That's 71 cents for every gallon of gas you put in your vehicle.

How many gallons of gas do you buy per week? I personally put about 15-20 gallons in my car each week and Mrs. D probably puts half that in her vehicle, so we'll say that's about 23 gallons per week in our vehicles. At $0.28 per gallon, that works out to about $6.44/week more in taxes. Annualized out, that's $334.88 a year. Now, we're safely in the middle class, so an extra $334.88 a year is more of an irritation than a major problem. But if you are not making a lot of money, $334.88 is a pretty substantial sum. What can you buy for $334.88? Well, for many families that would be a few weeks of groceries, or the equivalent of a monthly car payment. It's enough money that many people would feel it. And of course, a lot of people in Minnesota use more gas than we do.

The governor claimed that it would be a tax on wholesalers, but that doesn't make a difference at all, since wholesalers would pass the added taxes along in the prices they'd charge to the gas stations, so you'd still be paying for it at the pump.

Not surprisingly, Dayton tried to "clarify" things today, even admitting that hiding the tax through wholesalers wouldn't work:
During Wednesday's gubernatorial debate in Moorhead, Dayton said he'd propose adding "a sales tax on gasoline" if elected to a second term. Dayton told reporters Thursday he should have been clearer that he isn't seeking to boost the per-gallon tax assessed at the pump, but rather a tax at the wholesale level.

The governor acknowledged such a tax increase would likely get passed down to consumers, and said he's open to other proposals. 
No kidding, dude. Well, maybe we can use e-pulltabs again. That worked well.

Gasbag asks for gas tax

Speaks for itself:
After saying up until this point in his re-election campaign that he had no plans to raise taxes in a second term, Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday night he would propose putting a sales tax on gasoline to raise money for road and bridge projects.

He floated the idea right at the start of the second debate with his two challengers, Republican Jeff Johnson and Independence Party candidate Hannah Nicollet, when the candidates were asked for specifics about what they would do if elected.

"I'll make a specific proposal that will include a sales tax on gasoline that will raise close to the $6.5 billion that we're short for transportation funding over the next 10 years," the DFLer said.
The trains will get built. The roads, maybe not so much. Bottineau trumps pothole. It's a better Minnesota, baby!

Meanwhile, the governor issued this howler when the Vikings stadium came up:
Dayton defended the stadium. He said the NFL and Vikings owners threatened to move the team if they didn't get a new stadium. He said he got the best deal for the state.

"Tell the 7,500 people that are going to be working on this project and are now, 38 percent of whom are men and women of color, that this project is a debacle," Dayton said. "It's easy to sit on the sidelines, having had nothing to do with it, and take potshots. The fact is we didn't dictate this agreement. The Vikings held the upper hand."
You didn't have to give the Vikings anything, Governor. You chose to. A half billion dollars. Accept it.

Oh, one other thing. No questions about MNSure in the debate. There are certain issues that we simply won't be discussing this year.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The dream is over elsewhere, but maybe not here

The newspaper of Walter Duranty has finally noticed that the Leader of the Free World isn't mebbe so popular any more:
As November nears, Mr. Obama and his loyalists are being forced to reconcile that it is not only Democrats in conservative-leaning states, like Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, who are avoiding him. The president who became the first Democrat since Franklin D. Roosevelt to twice win a majority of the vote is flying in politically restricted airspace.

Democratic senators in Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia — states that were pivotal to his success and whose demographics reflect his winning coalition of young, minority and female voters — do not want him. Nor does his party’s Senate nominee in Iowa, where Mr. Obama won twice and whose youth-filled 2008 Democratic caucuses vaulted him toward the nomination.
So why is that? Allow Timesman Jonathan Martin to explain:
Last week, speaking at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., Mr. Obama declared that while he was not up for re-election, his “policies are on the ballot.” Immediately, Republicans pounced, putting the clip in videos to link their rivals to the president. Democrats winced, and David Axelrod, the longtime Obama adviser, acknowledged Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the remark was “a mistake.”

A succession of domestic and foreign crises, along with some self-inflicted wounds, has badly tarnished Mr. Obama. And that is on top of the history of the president’s party doing poorly in midterm elections.
Yet here, in Minnesota, these things don't matter so much, apparently. Mike McFadden has been hammering Al Franken about his 97% support of Obama, but the populace yawns. Mark Dayton has been presiding over an administration that makes drunken sailors appear parsimonious, yet Jeff Johnson can't get any traction at all.

The issue is pretty clear -- in order to present an alternative, you need to have a platform to do so. At this point the Republican Party in this state cannot get its message out in a consistent way. Johnson has been just about invisible on the airwaves, while ads supporting Dayton are ubiquitous. Weeks go by and you don't see Johnson's face on local newscasts  -- the John Cromans and Esme Murphys of the world see to that. If it weren't for a few lawn signs here and there, you'd not even realize this is an election year. The only thing we "know" about Republicans in this cycle is that there is some guy named Stewart Mills running for some office or another. He's apparently some rich guy with a mullet wearing boat shoes and that he's wrong for Minnesota, or something. Why wearing boat shoes is a problem remains a mystery.

I've been living in Minnesota for over 20 years, and I've never seen anything like this cycle. The campaign has reminded me of what it's like in Chicago, where effectively there are no Republicans. It takes money to get on the airwaves and the Johnson campaign doesn't have nearly enough to have a presence. The goal of the Dayton campaign has been to make his reelection seem inevitable and to ensure that people don't think too hard about what's happened in the last four years. Unless something changes soon, that goal will be met with ease.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Alles klar, Der Klobuchar

Hear the children
Don't turn around, uh-oh
Der Klobuchar's in town, uh-oh
She's got the power
And you're so weak
And your frustration
Will not let you speak
La, la, la, la, la, la

The invaluable First Ringer made an astute observation yesterday in the comments section of this feature:
The problem with the long-game is when you actually look down the road. Minnesota will be ignored at a presidential level in 2016, at least by the GOP, and with the state senate and house up for re-election, the DFL could very easily undo what Republican gains occur this year. Then we head to 2018 and that election will be highly determined by Amy Klobuchar's decision. Whether she seeks a re-election or perhaps the governorship will determine where GOP dollars go. They won't oppose her. A gubernatorial campaign by Klobuchar could have a disastrous effect on Republican legislative efforts.

Unless the GOP has some toe-hold on power - the governor, legislature, or even a constitutional officer - I fear to wonder what will happen to the party if another cycle or two goes by without a GOP victory. We could find ourselves looking like the New York or California GOP.
While I'd prefer to avoid this result, let's say for the sake of argument that Mark Dayton does prevail next month and gets another term as governor. Have you seen Mark Dayton recently? He does not look healthy at all. While he might be elected to serve another four years, I sincerely doubt that his health will allow him to make it. Most people that I know won't say it publicly, but as an obscure blogger I can get by with stating what is obvious -- if Mark Dayton is re-elected, there's an excellent chance that Tina Smith, his running mate, will become governor, perhaps as soon as 2016. Dayton's only job is to hold the seat for the DFL.

Fast forward to 2018. At that point, Amy Klobuchar will have a decision to make -- does she stay in the Senate and become a midwestern version of Barbara Mikulski, or does she want to grab a larger ring? There aren't many senators around who don't fancy themselves as potential presidents and there have been a number of signs that Klobuchar is one of them -- the amount of time she spends in Iowa is a tell. She's probably not going to be ready to run in 2016, since Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren are queued up in front of her. But if she wanted to differentiate herself for 2020, being a sitting governor would do the trick.

For that reason, I think it would make a lot of sense for Klobuchar to run for governor in 2018, if she had a clear path to the office. If Dayton could win and hang on for four years, that would be plausible. But what happens if the incumbent is Tina Smith? Would Smith step aside for Klobuchar? That seems less likely. And if that happens, Klobuchar would likely run for another term in Washington, which would mean a ticket to Mikulskiland for Klobuchar and, most likely, the end to her ambitions for 2020. That Senate perch would potentially give her an opening for 2024, but that would probably be too late, as she would be 64 years old and she'd likely have to contend with someone like Cory Booker or Julian Castro.

The alternative scenario is that, somehow, Mark Dayton blows a gasket in the next month and Jeff Johnson wins. Then it becomes a different game.

For Republicans, the larger concern is what FR says -- unless something pretty drastic changes, the MN GOP is headed for a long period in the wilderness. But that's another post.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Joe Biden and the Kinsleyan Gaffe

There's a reason why things go better for Joe Biden when he plagiarizes words from Neil Kinnock -- when he tries to come up with his own, he gets himself in a lot of trouble:
Vice President Joe Biden apologized to the United Arab Emirates Sunday for charging that the oil-rich ally had been supporting al Qaida and other jihadi groups in Syria's internal war, his second apology in as many days to a key participant in the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State extremists.

The White House said Biden telephoned Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi to say that his recent remarks “regarding the early stages” of the conflict in Syria “were not meant to imply that the Emirates had facilitated or supported” the Islamic State, al Qaida or other extremist groups in Syria.

But his apology, one day after expressing similar regrets to Turkey, left open whether the Emirates had supported the rise of al Qaida during the early stages of the war in Syria.
In some respects, this is what's known as a Kinsleyan Gaffe, because there is evidence that ISIS/ISIL/IceIceBaby gets a lot of their money from the Sunni oil sheiks:
How far is Saudi Arabia complicit in the Isis takeover of much of northern Iraq, and is it stoking an escalating Sunni-Shia conflict across the Islamic world? Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: "The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally 'God help the Shia'. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them."

The fatal moment predicted by Prince Bandar may now have come for many Shia, with Saudi Arabia playing an important role in bringing it about by supporting the anti-Shia jihad in Iraq and Syria. Since the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) on 10 June, Shia women and children have been killed in villages south of Kirkuk, and Shia air force cadets machine-gunned and buried in mass graves near Tikrit.

In Mosul, Shia shrines and mosques have been blown up, and in the nearby Shia Turkoman city of Tal Afar 4,000 houses have been taken over by Isis fighters as "spoils of war". Simply to be identified as Shia or a related sect, such as the Alawites, in Sunni rebel-held parts of Iraq and Syria today, has become as dangerous as being a Jew was in Nazi-controlled parts of Europe in 1940.
It may be true that the UAE itself has not supported these Sunni jihadis, but plenty of their pals have. Back to the original report from McClatchy:
The other two countries Biden named were Saudi Arabia, which is about to host the U.S.-funded training of thousands of Syrian rebel fighters, and Qatar, which houses a covert CIA training facility for Syrian rebels.

Biden said Saudi Arabia “has stopped the funding” going to extremists in Syria, and the Qataris “have cut off their support for the most extreme elements of the terrorist organizations.” Neither country has publicly demanded an apology so far.

Although senior U.S. officials have hinted that at least one Gulf country had been supporting Jabhat al Nusra, the Al Qaida-backed militia in Syria, no one had named the countries in a public forum until Biden. His remarks raised a number of questions: what form did the aid take, how long did it continue and what impact did it have on fighting on the ground?
All good questions. But we aren't supposed to talk about any of it, apparently.

We'll get what we deserve

You'd barely know there's a gubernatorial election this year. And at this point it isn't much of a race, as most polling shows Mark Dayton up around 10 points over Jeff Johnson.

Johnson's problem is that his campaign has no money for advertising, which is the only way he can get his message out. We're about a month away and so far he's been able to get one ad on the air, which wasn't enough to move the needle. Meanwhile, Dayton and his droogs from Alliance for a Better Minnesota can attack at will, since he also knows the local media outlets won't bother to point out myriad flaws in Dayton's performance.

Jeff Johnson is a good and decent man who would make an excellent governor, but he lives in the wrong state. The only chance he has is if Dayton makes a complete hash of himself in some debate and makes it clear how feeble he's become. However, since most of the debates are taking place on Radio Bulgaria and similar outlets, the chances of that are small. And Dayton's handlers are smart enough to limit the amount of speaking he does -- his newest ad features Dayton's narration, including the bald faced lie that he cut taxes, but if you ask him to do anything other than read a script, he can't explain much. He won't have to, though.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Phone It In Edition

[Not sure why this didn't post properly. But in the interest of full disclosure, here it is, complete with bad picks! -- Mr. D]

Old dude, it's getting busy here at Knox. I'm not sure I'm going to have a lot of time to make picks this week. Can I phone it in?

Kinda like the Vikings did on Thursday?

Yes. I'll try to work in a little HYYYYYPPPE, but since the big game has already passed and the Gophers are on bye, not much to say. But I'll pick up the phone. Watch me work!

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-8) vs. Northwestern Fitzgeralds. The Wildcats woke up last week and smacked around Penn State. The Badgers finally woke up in the second half and dispatched South Florida. What do we make of this? I would tend to make that Northwestern can be good and the Badgers have struggled in Evanston in my lifetime, but Melvin Gordon should have no problems right? Wisconsin 31, Northwestern 17.

I don't feel particularly comfortable about this game. The question is which Northwestern team shows up. Is it the one that beat Penn State, or the one that lost to Cal and Northern Illinois? We'll find out soon enough. Badgers 24, Northwestern 20.

Knox College Prairie Fire vs. Macalester Scots. So, Macalester is part of the Midwest Conference now for football. This means a long bus ride for the boys, and it also means you can watch them yourself, Geritol Fan! I was in attendance last week and Knox absolutely took Lawrence to the woodshed. The team looks good and our freshman quarterback Matt McCaffrey looks very good. You already know that since Knox teaches and puts me up for a while, I have to pick them. My School 45, Mac 17.

Currently I'm trapped in the house -- the new roof is going on and there are about a half-dozen dudes pounding and sawing away. It's a noisy deal, but I persevere. As for the Fire, this will be their second trip to Minnesota this year, which seems excessive. The Scots aren't as bad as they used to be, since Glenn Caruso left them with a viable game plan before he moved up the street to St. Thomas. I think this will be tough assignment for your boys. Macalester 31, Knox 24.

Buffalo Ortons (+7) vs. Detroit Motor City Kitties. The Lions have played pretty well lately and now they take on the Buffalo Bills, a talented team that seems to have soured on E. J. Manuel. My roommate is a big Lions fan and he tells me that they are not going to implode. I love my roommate and all, but Buffalo looks like they could take the AFC East since the Pats are struggling. Bills 24, Lions 17.

The Lions are going to implode eventually. They always do. But not this week. Detroit 28, Buffalo 17.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (+2) vs. Carolina Panthers. Da Bearz are still trying to figure out what happened last week when they threw away the game against our glorious Packers. Now they go down and face our old favorite, Scam Newton. Jay looked horrible in the second half and Trestman made a curious choice by being leisurely in his play calls, especially not running the last play of the first half to the end zone. I assume that Bears fans like Gino should be wondering about those things. Carolina has been bad but they need this to stay in the hunt in the NFC South. Do the Bears have a shot? Yes they do, but you have to wonder about some of the choices they have made. Panthers 41, Da Bearz 35.

I think the Bears will rebound nicely this week. The Panthers are a mess right now. Bears 33, Panthers 28.

Okay, old dude -- watch out for the falling shingles! Ben out!

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Go back to sleep, kids

Sure, MNSure is a trainwreck and the provider that had well over half the business on the exchange won't be participating this time around, and yes, the rates are going up, but it's really not so bad because we're still cheaper than other unnamed states and go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep:
The cost of insurance on the MNsure health exchange is on the rise, state officials said Wednesday, though premium rates in the Twin Cities will remain lower than in many parts of the country.

The average premium increase for companies continuing to offer policies on MNsure next year will be 4.5 percent, according to numbers released Wednesday by the state Commerce Department.
4.5 percent isn't so bad, except that you're talking about 4.5 percent more on plans that people weren't buying. You have to read on to learn the real number:
But the absence in 2015 of low-cost provider PreferredOne, which recently pulled out of the market, likely means bigger increases for many shoppers.

For example, a 25-year-old in the Twin Cities could get a “bronze” policy from Pre­ferredOne for $91 per month this year, but the cheapest option next year jumps to $110.
That would be a 20.8% increase in premium costs. State rep Nick Zerwas posted a handy chart on his Facebook page that lays out the real numbers:

What you have to remember is that 60% of MNSure customers chose PreferredOne. You can't get that any more. But go back to sleep.

Stopped clock moment

It's not often that I agree with Piers Morgan, but it's hard to argue with his analysis of President Obama's performance, especially the way he threw his intelligence folks under the bus:
‘James Clapper (Director of National Intelligence) has acknowledged that they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,’ he said, when asked how ISIS’ influence could have spread so fast.

As Governor Chris Christie pointed out, by saying ‘they’ rather than ‘we’, Obama tried to distance himself from any personal responsibility or accountability for what has been a catastrophic failure to act over the greatest terror threat facing the world since Osama Bin Laden.

A more shameless, reprehensible display of buck-passing it would be hard to find from a sitting President.
There's more at the link and it's a real dudgeon fest.

Home Truth

Walter Russell Mead, cutting through the crap:
As in 2006, voters are scrutinizing the record of an administration that has held power for six years, and asking themselves whether it has kept its promises or managed crises well. Many Democrats know that the public judgment on this White House is beginning to gel, and that President Obama is much closer to being remembered as the second coming of Jimmy Carter than as the new Abraham Lincoln. This is not the fault of Republicans in Congress. If the White House wants to turn things around—and we very much hope that it does—it needs to ask why so many of the policy choices it makes yield such disappointing results.
I'm pretty sure George W. Bush has something to do with all this.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Benster and D Pick Your Early Game -- Something to Ponder Edition

Old dude, you're going to need to wake up from your beauty sleep and make a pick. You realize that the Packers and Vikings are playing on Thursday, right?

Wait, it's Thanksgiving already?

No, it's the greedy NFL forcing teams to play on Thursday because they want to make lotsa money and saturate the market with football. And they probably think there's gonna be some HYYYYYPPPPPE!

Man, it's too soon for that. But you're right about the motivation. Oh well, we'll need to make the pick, then.

That's right, Geritol Fan! Get ready for it. Watch me work!

Minnesota Vikings (+9.5) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. So the Packers woke up last week and beat the Bears like a rented mule. And the Vikings unleashed Teddy Bridgewater on the Falcons. But the problem is that Bridgewater got hurt and he's not been able to practice all week. Word is that it will be a game-time decision on whether he plays. And you know what that means, right? It could be Ponder time! What is strange is that the last time the Packers hosted a prime time game against the Vikings it was Ponder who did not go. Ponder is a real quarterback and can help another team in the future, but this is a tough deal in a monsoon. Look for the Packers to work on the run which could be the difference considering that Packer killer AP is not suiting up. As much as I wish the Vikings well, the way the Packers play at Lambeau and how they played on Sunday makes me feel hopeful. Packers 38, Vikings 27.

This is a dilemma for the Vikings. The early weather forecast for Green Bay is that it's going to a rainy night and the footing might be treacherous. Do you want to let your prized quarterback take a chance on hurting his ankle even more, or do you roll out Christian Ponder? Tough call, because the Vikings will need to score some points to beat the Packers in Lambeau. Based on what I've seen, the Vikings are on the right track, even without Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph, but it's going to be tough to keep up. The Packers are happy to be home after playing 3 of their first 4 on the road. The run defense worries me rather a lot, but if Ponder plays, and I'm going to guess he will, the Packers will put 8 in the box and dare the Vikings to throw. If this game were on a Sunday, I'm certain Bridgewater would play. But this is too soon. Packers will win. Packers 31, Vikings 20.

Okay -- thanks for waking up long enough to make these picks, old dude! We'll reconvene later on for more brilliance. Ben out!

Attention to detail

So that jayvee team that's been causing trouble in the Mideast? The ones that we're bombing? Word was out a long time ago:
By late last year, classified American intelligence reports painted an increasingly ominous picture of a growing threat from Sunni extremists in Syria, according to senior intelligence and military officials. Just as worrisome, they said, were reports of deteriorating readiness and morale among troops next door in Iraq.

But the reports, they said, generated little attention in a White House consumed with multiple brush fires and reluctant to be drawn back into Iraq. “Some of us were pushing the reporting, but the White House just didn’t pay attention to it,” said a senior American intelligence official. “They were preoccupied with other crises,” the official added. “This just wasn’t a big priority.”
Of course, the president threw his security team under the bus on 60 Minutes on Sunday. That was a bad move, because the bureaucracy will outlast this president, just as it outlasted his predecessors. And there's a lot less incentive to stay quiet when the president is a lame duck:
President Obama fueled the debate in an interview broadcast over the weekend when he said that intelligence agencies had underestimated the peril posed by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Mr. Obama accurately quoted James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, acknowledging that he and his analysts did not foresee the stunning success of Islamic State forces or the catastrophic collapse of the Iraqi Army.

But by pointing to the agencies without mentioning any misjudgments of his own, Mr. Obama left intelligence officials bristling about being made into scapegoats and critics complaining that he was trying to avoid responsibility.
The kids in Langley may not be that great at detecting threats, but they are awfully good at protecting their turf. You can expect a lot more revelations.