Thursday, July 31, 2014

A big ol' bottle of Haterade

The Leader of the Free World, in full goad mode:
President Barack Obama took his criticism of congressional Republicans to a higher pitch on Wednesday, imploring them to "stop just hatin' all the time" as they voted to sue him over charges he has overstepped the bounds of his office.
In utterly unrelated news, emails from former IRS honcho Lois Lerner offered this measured analysis of the Loyal Opposition:
Lois Lerner, the former Internal Revenue Service official at the center of a scandal involving that agency’s targeting of conservative groups, called Republicans “crazies” and “assholes,” according to emails released Wednesday.
We can only assume that Lerner was speaking out of abiding respect and love for her fellow citizens.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

He's only the governor, after all

This is beautiful:
Indiana governor Mike Pence said he first learned the federal government had placed 245 unaccompanied alien children in Indiana through media reports.

In a letter to President Obama, Pence wrote that the Department of Health and Human Services informed him that the federal government had housed hundreds of unaccompanied alien children in Indiana from January 1, 2014, to July 7, 2014, but only after reports surfaced in the media.
Do you think Obama gives a damn what Pence thinks? We already know the answer.

The Contours of the Verdict

Our good friend and local radio luminary Brad Carlson asks the right question:
The better question is, now that Ventura may be nearly $2 million richer, does he even care about his reputation anymore?
The Contours (and J. Geils Band) had the response:

I don't care if you got yourself a wrap
All I want is your pretty green cash
Bought me a suit, bought me a car
Want me to look like a hollywood star
Money, (Money!) I want money (Money!)
Baby, ain't no "why", baby (Money!)
I need money!
First I look at the purse!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Go figure

Former governor of Minnesota. No, really.
Jesse Ventura won his defamation case against the estate of author Chris Kyle, a former U.S. Navy SEAL who said he punched out the former Minnesota governor for criticizing the SEALs’ role in the Iraq war.

The jury awarded a total of $1.845 million: $500,000 in defamation damages and $1.345 million for “unjust enrichment” — or to be specific, $1,345,477.25.

Jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict, as instructed. Instead, with the consent of both sides, they voted 8 to 2 in Ventura’s favor.

Ventura was not in the courtroom when the verdict was read.

U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle said federal rules require a unanimous verdict but allow for a split verdict if both sides agree.

One man and one woman voted no on verdict when all jurors were polled in the courtroom. It appeared the forewoman was one of the two no votes.
A few thoughts:

  • First, the obvious one -- I surely didn't see this coming. Ventura has spent his adult life as a controversialist, so it's difficult to imagine that anyone would somehow think better of him after winning this verdict, but he doesn't have to convince the public at large; he only had to convince 10 people and somehow he got 8 of the 10 to agree.
  • Is he vindicated? I tend to doubt it. He might have been justified in suing Chris Kyle while he was alive, but after Kyle was murdered, it would have been a gracious move to quietly drop the matter, rather than dragging his widow into court. Jesse Ventura's never been about being gracious, though.
  • The only winner here are the lawyers who made up Ventura's legal team. I have a feeling that they'll be in great demand for the foreseeable future, because winning a case of this sort is highly impressive. Winning a libel suit when the person claiming damages is a public figure is horrendously difficult.
  • It will be interesting to see if Kyle's widow decides to settle the case now. She might win on appeal, but the court costs could further impoverish her. 
  • Does this verdict reflect unfavorably on Minnesota? Well, yes and no. I tend to think it reflects more on the jury, and again in the skills of Ventura's legal team in identifying jurors who would be willing to give Ventura the benefit of the doubt. I will be highly curious to see what the jurors say in the coming days about the trial and about the deliberations that followed.

Getcha popcorn

Matt Entenza is not a popular figure in the DFL, for reasons that Briana Bierschbach outlines in an article in the ol' MinnPost:
For Otto and her backers, the race is vintage Entenza. He served as DFL minority leader in the state House from 2003 to 2006 before leaving that position to run for attorney general. When it was discovered he had commissioned negative research on then Attorney General Mike Hatch, he left the race. Four years later, Entenza challenged DFL-endorsed candidate and House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher in a three-way primary for the governor’s office. Neither won that contest, with the nomination instead going to current Gov. Mark Dayton.

Otto also believes that Entenza’s interest in being auditor has nothing to do with actually being auditor. Rather, she says, he simply wants to use the office as a springboard to run for one of the two jobs he covets, attorney general or governor. (Both Dayton and former Republican Gov. Arne Carlson previously served as state auditors.) “There isn’t an interest in this office,” Otto said. “He did run for governor, he appears to be running for governor again. … He’s doing mailings talking about policy issues for governor. That should cause great concern for the voters and Democratic activists.”
And great amusement for Republicans.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Four on the floor

The PiPress gave some space to the four Republicans who are in the primary to run against Mark Dayton. I haven't spent a lot of time on this race, mostly because I'm pretty sure that my opinion is of minimal importance to most people. I have my preferences, but I'd have no trouble supporting any of the four against Dayton, who generally makes William J. LePetomane, the addled governor played by Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles, look coherent.

The PiPress does a mostly fair job of profiling the four main candidates, including providing the obligatory attack lines from Carrie Lucking, Ken Martin, and the rest of the goon squad associated with the DFL and its ancillaries. In case you care, Scott Honour is Mitt Romney, Jeff Johnson is a Tea Party stooge, and Kurt Zellers is out of touch and was completely responsible for the shutdown in 2011. Marty Seifert apparently doesn't merit a swat from the apparat, at least that Bill Salisbury is allowed to share just yet.

For the sake of party unity, it would be easiest if Johnson, who won the endorsement at the GOP convention, ends up winning the primary. I suspect the party could get behind Zellers if he wins, but there's a lot of bad blood regarding Seifert, especially his graceless departure from the nominating process. Unless Honour surges, I don't see him making it, although he's going to be spending a lot of his own money in the next few weeks. What's been most striking about the campaign thus far is that the candidates have been mostly unwilling to attack one another.

One thing seems clear -- Dayton, for his part, is going to do his best to limit the opportunities to be seen on the same stage with the GOP primary winner. He's blowing off the Minnesota Public Radio debate at the State Fair and it remains to be seen whether he'll be willing to debate much after that. If you're Dayton, that's a smart move, because he can count on the local media not calling him out for avoiding discussions, while he'll have a lot of support from Alliance for a Better Minnesota, the dirt merchants who turned Tom Emmer into Emmanuel Goldstein in the last cycle. A similar fate awaits any of the four contenders; the key will be to counter-attack and not let ABM's narrative become the campaign narrative.

One thing worth mentioning -- in an ordinary year, you'd likely have a bunch of DFLers voting in the Republican primary to pick their preferred opponent for Dayton, but that won't necessarily happen in this cycle, because there's a contested primary on the DFL side. Our old pal Matt Entenza, who has burned many bridges in his career, is taking on Rebecca Otto for the state auditor job. The DFL doesn't want Entenza to win and has needed to expend a fair amount of effort to bolster Otto. DFL voters will need to stay involved in this primary, which limits the potential for mischief.

For now, let's take a poll:

Your preferred candidate for governor in the GOP primary is.... free polls 
You can vote for more than one candidate, but it's probably better to vote for just one. Share your rationale in the comments section, if you'd like.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Stirring Anthem

The wonders of Obamacare proceed apace:
Nancy Pippenger and Marcia Perez live thousands of miles apart but have the same complaint: Doctors who treated them last year won't take their insurance now, even though they haven't changed insurers.

"They said, 'We take the old plan, but not the new one,' " says Perez, an attorney in Palo Alto, Calif.

In Plymouth, Ind., Pippenger got similar news from her longtime orthopedic surgeon, so she shelled out $300 from her own pocket to see him.

Both women unwittingly enrolled in policies with limited networks of doctors and hospitals that provide little or no payment for care outside those networks. Such plans existed before the health law, but with its expansion of insurance, they are covering more people — and some are shrinking enrollees' options further than before. The policies' limitations have come as a surprise to some enrollees used to broader job-based coverage or to plans they held before the law took effect.

"It's totally different," said Pippenger, 57, whose new Anthem Blue Cross plan doesn't pay for any care outside its network, although the job-based Anthem plan she had last year did cover some of those costs. "Now I can't find a doctor."
So why is that?
Insurers say they are simply trying to provide low-cost plans in a challenging environment. The new federal health law doesn't let them reject enrollees with health problems or charge them more just because they are sick. So they are using the few tools left to them — contracting with smaller groups of hospitals and doctors willing to accept lower reimbursements; requiring referrals for specialty care; and limiting coverage outside those networks.
It's really a head-scratcher, that the people who ultimately have to pay the bills would try to find ways to cut costs. That never happens in any other sort of enterprise, right?

All the standard aphorisms apply -- you can't get something for nothing. There's no such thing as a free lunch. Something that can't go on, won't go on. Wonkery and Ivy League wizardry notwithstanding, it never made sense to assume that the people who brought you the post office and the Department of Motor Vehicles could somehow do a superior job of delivering health care.

Of course, to use yet another aphorism, there are some things that are so foolish that only an intellectual could believe them. Or, alternatively, it could be this (h/t Stacy McCain):

Meanwhile, Ms. Pippenger, you'll just have to deal with the doctor you can get, not the doctor you want. Change you can believe in.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Things I learn on the internet

Do you ever wonder about what the Westboro Baptist Church is doing? Me neither, but I can always find out by from Facebook. Bonus discovery -- I also get to find out what Panic at the Disco is doing these days.

Do you spend a lot of time thinking about what Michele Bachmann is doing? Me neither, but I can always find out by reading the ol' HuffPo. Bonus discovery -- apparently it's perfectly acceptable to make all manner of gay slurs in the HuffPo comments section. At least if the slurs refer to Bachmann's husband.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Oh, by the way

Just thought they'd mention it, apparently:
The United States said on Thursday that Russia was firing artillery across the border into Ukraine to target Ukrainian military positions in the conflict against pro-Russian separatists.

"We have new evidence that the Russians intend to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers to the separatist forces in Ukraine, and have evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military positions," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

Harf, speaking at a regular media briefing, cited intelligence reports, but said she could give no more information of what the reports were based on.
While we're at it, just passing this along, too:
Islamic State, the al-Qaeda offshoot that seized large swathes of northern Iraq last month, has warned women in the city of Mosul to wear full-face veils or risk severe punishment.

The Sunni insurgents, who have declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria and have threatened to march on Baghdad, also listed guidelines on how veils and clothes should be worn, part of a campaign to violently impose their radical brand of Islam.

"The conditions imposed on her clothes and grooming was only to end the pretext of debauchery resulting from grooming and overdressing," said the Islamic State in a statement.

"This is not a restriction on her freedom but to prevent her from falling into humiliation and vulgarity or to be a theater for the eyes of those who are looking."
Theater for the eyes. That's not bad. Somehow, I also suspect that "overdressing" isn't the issue, either.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Open thread

Went to the Aquatennial Torchlight Parade last night and got back quite late, so my brain isn't working so well this morning. So let's have an open thread.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A clarification and a related observation

As we predicted yesterday, Tony Dungy had to issue a clarification in re Michael Sam:
The best players make the team, and everyone should get the opportunity to prove whether they’re good enough to play.  That’s my opinion as a coach.  But those were not the questions I was asked.

What I was asked about was my philosophy of drafting, a philosophy that was developed over the years, which was to minimize distractions for my teams.

I do not believe Michael’s sexual orientation will be a distraction to his teammates or his organization.

I do, however, believe that the media attention that comes with it will be a distraction.  Unfortunately we are all seeing this play out now, and I feel badly that my remarks played a role in the distraction.
More at the link. To his credit, Dungy's "clarification" isn't an apology, an important distinction. He had no reason to apologize. I do want to go back to one thing, though. Yesterday's post offered the following observation by Yahoo Sports writer Dan Wetzel:
This is Dungy not standing up for his own convictions.
Show of hands here -- does anyone believe that Dan Wetzel has any freaking idea what Dungy's convictions are? Or is this Wetzel projecting his own convictions onto Dungy? It's presumptuous as hell for Wetzel to tell Dungy what his convictions are. Perhaps the most pernicious thing about modern liberalism is the way that liberals attempt to control the terms of any debate. The least we can do for Tony Dungy is to let him speak for himself. We need to do a better job of calling out jackasses like Wetzel who deign to tell people what their convictions ought to be.

Don't bother

It's more exciting than a one man band
The saddest little show in all the land

-- "Sideshow," a 1974 hit for Blue Magic

Apparently we have our sideshow:
Though set to retire from the U.S. House after her term expires at the end of this year, Michele Bachmann may not be done with electoral politics.

The Minnesota congresswoman and 2012 Republican presidential candidate told RealClearPolitics on Tuesday that she is considering a second White House run. 
We haven't had a good Minnesota-based perennial candidate since Harold Stassen, so why not, right?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Look what you've Dungy

You are allowed to have certain opinions. Make sure you pick the right ones:
“I wouldn’t have taken him,’’ said former Bucs and Colts coach Tony Dungy, now an analyst for NBC. “Not because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it. 
“It’s not going to be totally smooth … things will happen."
 That quote has set off a firestorm. Here's a typical measured response, from Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports:
This is Dungy not standing up for his own convictions. It's Dungy using the same old buzzwords that caused society to move so slowly to grant equal rights and opportunities to minorities of all kinds, choosing what's easy over what's right (even if it likely will be easier for the generation of guys who actually play than an old man like Dungy realizes).

Integrated third grades weren't "smooth." A black man on the Dodgers caused "things to happen." The first female executives in the business world weren't welcome by all. Lots of people were aghast at the thought of minorities owning homes, especially in their neighborhood. Politicians that didn't look like the Founding Fathers were upsetting to some. Many bristled against the idea of blacks, Hispanics, Asians, women, gays, whatever on factory lines, boardrooms, school boards and on military front lines.

This isn't even worth arguing. Caving to the most ignorant and obstinate among us is an embarrassment and should never, ever, be the basis for anything. Ever.
You see, you're supposed to cave to Dan Wetzel. A few points:

  • Dungy is trying to explain how coaches think, especially NFL coaches. They want to keep the focus on the game itself.
  • Anyone who follows the local team understands full well how distractions can mess up a season. Remember the Love Boat? Up until that moment, Daunte Culpepper was considered a solid citizen and a leader of men. Not long after, he tore up his knee and he was out of the league entirely by 2009. 
  • Speaking of distractions, how much fun are the Vikings having now, dealing with their former punter? Our friend First Ringer has an excellent synopsis of that mess over at Shot in the Dark
Wetzel sees a more malign motive from Dungy:

Dungy is an outspoken conservative Christian and if he were to say that he wouldn't have drafted Michael Sam because the Bible that Dungy believes in condemns Sam's lifestyle that would be … well, that would be ridiculous, hypocritical and wrong also, but at least it would seemingly jibe with Dungy's sometimes expressed beliefs.

Sometimes being the operative word.
Dungy will get his mind right. There are plenty of people who will see to that.