Open Letter To Michelle Obama

To: Michelle Obama, FLOTUS
From: Mitch Berg, Commoner
Re: Shelves

I – 6’5″ white guy – get asked by short people between three and five times a year to help someone get something off of the top shelf at Target, Walmart, or any other grocery store.

Heretofore, I’ve always been happy to oblige.

You’ve taken the scales for my eyes. Please give me a civil rights department contact; clearly, litigation is in order.

That is all.

If I Were The Dean At Harvard Law School

To:  Students of Harvard Law School
From: Mitch Berg, Angry Dean
Re:  Test Schedules

Dear Most Annoying Students in the World,

Starting at 8AM Monday morning, please line up in the front hall of the administration building in alphabetical order.  You will all be issued refund checks.  Because clearly we at HarvLaw have failed you as an institution.

The evidence – you all know that term, right? – is right here:

Those Harvard students have produced an open letter, in which they demand that their examinations be delayed. “Like many across the country,” its authors claim, students “are traumatized” and “visibly distressed” — to the extent that there is now a “palpable anguish looming over campus.”

I hope I’m long dead before I have people from big law firms writing me, chocking back their outrage at his institution for turning out such a vacuous pack of hamsters and calling them not only “lawyers”, but “Harvard Law School Grads”.

The “national crisis” that has been provoked by the cases of Garner and Brown, they argue, has left them with no choice but to “stand for justice rather than sit and prepare for exams.” And, like their brethren at Columbia, they contend that their “being asked to prepare for and take our exams in this moment” amounts to their “being asked to perform incredible acts of disassociation” — requests, which taken together, have led them “to question our place in this school community and the legal community at large.”

I can’t wait to see you vacuous children of boundless class privilege try that on a client in the real world; claim the violence inherent in the system makes it impossible for you to come into the office and work on your cases.  But at least you won’t “question your place in the legal community at large”, because by that point you’ll be transferring to the “fast food community”.

Justifiably so.

The bottom line? That students must be given “the opportunity to reschedule their exams in good faith and at their own discretion.”

And in good faith, I, your dean, will allow you and your faith and discretion to move your exams to any time another law school will let you, provided you get admitted.

Pick up your checks.  You haven’t failed. I have.

That is all.

Maybe Dog Whistles Just Jumped The Shark

Well, if I have anything to say about it, they have.

Because this particular episode may be the most parity worthy bit of leftist prattle I’ve ever seen.

Darius Rucker – African-American country western singer and onetime member of “Hootie and the Blowfish” – saying the seasonal classic “White Christmas” on NBC broadcast last night.

In the reaction was the kind of thing you do found in parody, 15 short, yet much smarter, years ago.

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What was it that PJ O’Rourke said? “Life is full of irony, when you’re stupid”?

The DFL Embraces Evil With A Big French Kiss

The DFL has a long, filthy history of dropping hit pieces in the closing hours of campaigns that would make people who care about petty annoyances like “right and wrong” and ‘truth” puke up their skulls.  Classic example – this piece from 2010, which tried to whip up ingorant anti-Arab sentiment against King Banaian – who happens to be of Armenian descent. 

But the people who do Democrat “Farmer” Labor Party hit pieces don’t bother with right and wrong.  Their ends justify their means.

I cited this piece, dropped against Stacey Stout in House District 43B, on the show over the weekend.  I called it “Evil”. 

It is. 

Here’s the front:
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Uh oh.  An abusive guy (are there any other kind in the DFL’s world?  Other than Pajama Boy, I mean?)

And here’s the back:
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This ad proves that the DFL is counting on finding a plurality of incurious cretins.  And in 43A, it apparently worked. 

Let’s go through this point by point:

Stout, like most people who don’t see “people with swastika armbands” as a government model to emulate, opposed a DFL proposal to take guns away from people accused, as opposed to convicted, of domestic abuse. 

The “Gun Show Loophole” is a fraud; every gun show I’m aware of requires an NICS background check, and require a police-issued “Permits to Purchase” to buy a gun.  The bill the DFL refers to would have required people to transfer all firearms via a Federal Firearms Licensed dealer.  That means if you’re handing a gun down to your kid, or lending a shotgun to your friend for duck season.  This does nothing but raise the price of firearms (FFLs don’t work for free) and create a paper trail for every gun – the same trail that police departments in Connecticut and New York are trying to use to confiscate firearms. 

As to her opposing a background check for “assault weapons?”  That was a proposal that would have added a second,  utterly redundant background check for buying such weapons. 

Stout made the right call in all three cases – if “following the law and the Constitution” is what you care about, which for the Democrat party it is not. 

Taking those stances, in favor of the law-abiding citizens’ civil liberties, and turning them into “support for rape and domestic abuse?”

If you’re a DFL official, you might want to steer clear of me today. 

And if you voted for Peter Fischer over this ad?   Sorry for all the two-syllable words.

Confederacy Of Dunces

Kevin Williamson’s piece, “Five Reasons You’re Too Dumb To Vote“, concludes with a plea to those that Lena Dunham – producer of HBO’s insipid “Girls” – would inveigle into voting for the reasons Ms. Dunham gives:

I would like to suggest, as gently as I can, that if you are voting as an act of self-gratification, if you do not understand the role that voting in fact plays in a constitutional republic, and if you need Lena Dunham to tell you why and how you should be voting — you should not vote. If you get your politics from actors and your news from television comedians — you should not vote. There’s no shame in it, your vote is statistically unlikely to affect the outcome of an election, and there are many much more meaningful ways to serve your country and your fellow man: Volunteer at a homeless shelter; join the Marine Corps; become a nun; start a business.

And maybe think about acting like men and women rather than boys and Girls.

What?  You want me to add commentary to Kevin Williamson?  No – do us both a favor and just read the whole piece.

This Is How Stupid They Think You Are

SCENE:  The Admiralty, London, May, 1940.  Winston CHURCHILL is poring over a map in the Admiralty’s operation’s center, looking over the deteriorating situation in France.  He is joined by Admiral Nigel FRIEDEN, head of the Royal Navy’s public health wing.

CHURCHILL:  It is clear that we are going to have to evacuate the British Army from France.  In addition to a maximum effort by the Royal Navy, we’ll need thousands of civilian boats to help get the troops off the beaches and evacuate them from the Nazis. 

FRIEDEN:  I’m afraid that’s a bad idea, sir.

CHURCHILL:  Why do you say that?

FRIEDEN:  If we evacuate the Army, it will just make the occupation worse in England.  Also, we’ll have to use the fleet to evacuate Germans from England, too, then.

CHURCHILL:  That makes no sense.

FRIEDEN:  I’m an expert. 

NEXT SCENE: The US Air Force base at Wiesbaden, West Germany, June, 1948.  General Lucius CLAY, commander of US Military Government in occupied West Germany, is looking at a map of the Eastern Zone.  Ominously, red Soviet stars sit astride the three road/rail routes supplying West Berlin; the Soviets have just instituted a blockade, trying to starve West Berlin into the Soviet sphere.  Clay looks pensive.  He is joined at the map table by Brigadier (one-star) General Maximilian FRIEDEN, head of his public health corps. 

CLAY:  Blockade, schmockade.  We will need to start the greatest airlift in history to keep Berlin supplied.  It will show Stalin that we’re serious about

FRIEDEN:  We can’t, General.

CLAY:  What the hell?

FRIEDEN:  If we bring food, medicine and coal to Berlin, it’ll just make the hunger, disease and cold worse.  Also, for every load of supplies we bring in, we’ll have to bring a plane-load of Soviet spies and commandos back. 

CLAY:  Whose army do you serve?

SCENE:  April 1975.  As the North Vietnamese Army overruns Saigon’s last line of defenses, US Marine Brigadier General Richard CAREY is discussing the upcoming evacuation of Americans and certain Vietnamese from Saigon.  Artillery is heard in the distance, as CAREY makes the final plans to remove the last Americans, and as many Vietnamese as possible, from the Embassy compound .  He is addressing a group of officers, including State Department public health attache T. Morton FRIEDEN.

CAREY:  And so we’ll bring in the helicopters from the aircraft carriers.  We’ll get the last of the Marines out by 1800 hours. 

FRIEDEN:  General, that’s a bad idea.  Evacuating Marines will only make them more subject to Communist rule.  And for every helicopter full of Marines you remove, you’ll need to bring one full of Vietnamese back from the ships. 

CAREY:  (Stands, slack-jawed).

———-

CDC director Thomas Frieden is telling us that wejust can’tstop all flights coming in from West Africa, because…:

It’ll Make the Epidemic Worse:  Because ancient tribal burial rituals, lack of information about handling infections, and superstitions about healthcare workers aren’t bad enough; dispersing the epidemic all around the world must be ten times better!

If we stop air travel, we won’t be able to bring supplies:  That’s only true if all flights from West Africa are on disposable aircraft, or are kamikaze flights.  Planes can fly in the other direction.  Hopefully to drop off supplies and trained well-equipped healthcare workers.  And return empty, until the crisis eases.

I imagine Mr. Frieden knows this.  But judging by the last round of elections, it’s a lot for a plurality of Amerians to understand…

UPDATE: You think I’m selling Dr. Friedman short? 

Read this – especially Dr. Frieden’s interview with Megyn Kelly

It only looks like one of my parodies.

Just Stupid

The lefty media has been giggling like schoolgirls over this story – a Texas waitress, who got not one but two $2000 tips from Rush Limbaugh – and gave the money to a pro-infanticide group:

“That was like blood money to me,’ Tierce told The Dallas Morning News.

Tierce was the former executive director at the Texas Equal Access Fund, which provides money to women who can’t afford to get abortions.

She was the “executive director” of a nonprofit that provided infanticide to poor women, AND a waitress?

Anyway…;

Tierce said it felt right to her to give the money to the TEA Fund.

‘It felt like laundering the money in a good way,’ she told the newspaper.

‘He’s such an obvious target for any feminist or sane person.

Yeah, Ms. Tierce seems pretty sane to me.

The part that I get the chuckle over? Ms. Tierce, and the media bobbleheads who’ve been reporting the story, keep saying that Ms. Tierce “gave Limbaugh’s money” to the infanticide charity.

No!

When Limbaugh left the tip – of his own free will, mind you, not as part of some “living wage” wealth transfer – it became her money.

She gave her own money to her own group.

This story isn’t “Man bites dog”. It isn’t even “dog sniffs dog”. It’s “Deeply morally ugly woman gives her own money to a group she used to run, while taking a snotty, stupid swipe at someone who has the temerity to “share the wealth” of his own free will, rather than at government gunpoint”.

The DFL’s Edina Brahmins

Why does the DFL hate the First Amendment?

Trackers – interns for various campaigns and groups filming footage of politicians giving speeches and doing other public appearances – have been a fixture of Minnesota political life for at least a decade now. Most politicians – and by “most” I mean “everyone I’ve encountered, from every party, so far” – accepts that with good grace, and tries not to say something stupid.

Apparently “good grace” is beyond DFL Rep. Paul Rosethal, from District 49B in Edina:

“You’re in the Edina City Hall. You’re not allowed to be here without their permission to film. So I’d appreciate your leaving,” Rosenthal said in an exchange posted on YouTube.

“It doesn’t matter. It’s a public building” replied [photographer Ethan] Hellier.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” said Rosenthal, moving in front of the camera.

Clever, Mr. Rosenthal.

At least, compared to representative Ron Erhardt, from District 498, who seems to be going more and more Tony Soprano as he gets older (With emphasis gleefully added):

Rep. Ron Erhardt, a Democrat, took a different approach.
Do you know what would happen to that thing if we dropped it? Probably wouldn’t work very well. Now would you back off please?” Erhardt said.

At least he isn’t threatening to blow Mr. Helier’s head off.

Dear Edina – these are the thugs you sent to StPaul in 2012. Let’s shoot for better this time, okay?

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

Are you sure you’ve thought through this lawsuit, Chris?

Chris Kluwe potentially kicks open a Pandora’s Box.

Given Chris Kluwe’s love of role-playing board games, it shouldn’t surprise that his latest actions have more angles than 23-sided dice.

On Tuesday, former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe was demanding that the team, through the law firm of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P, release the six-month independent investigation into Kluwe’s allegations that he was let go due to his gay marriage activism.  By Friday night, Kluwe (or at least his attorneys) might have wished the Vikings had kept the findings to themselves.

The 29-page summary of the investigation (pdf warning on the link) was notable for two things: 1) proving Kluwe’s story that current Special Teams coach Mike Priefer did indeed make his “nuke the gays” comment; 2) proving little else.  Instead, the investigation brought to light an incident of Kluwe mocking the Jerry Sandusky trial and generally negatively commented on Kluwe’s final years as a Viking:

The record does not support the claim that the Vikings released Kluwe because of his activism on behalf of marriage equality, but instead because of his declining punting performance in 2012 and potentially because of the distraction caused by Kluwe’s activism, as opposed to the substance of such.

Throughout the independent investigation, interviewees characterized Kluwe in similar
ways: someone who is highly intelligent, reads a lot, a prankster or jokester, comfortable with the media and seems to enjoy attention. [Vikings kicker Blair] Walsh stated that Kluwe spent much of his free time in the locker room doing interviews. Walsh also said that Kluwe “loves the attention,” “was focused on everything but football,” and wanted to be in the spotlight.

The fallout was sadly predictable.

The perpetually indignant community – Kluwe’s political base – expressed outrage (outrage!) that the Patron Saint of Punting was a “hypocrite” for engaging in the same sort of outrageously inappropriate locker room behavior that Kluwe supposedly was fighting against by his threatened lawsuit.  While many former media supporters were throwing Kluwe under the bus, the man at the center of the report took to twitter to vent, sparing even with gay marriage supporters and potentially getting the Vikings (and maybe himself) deeper into the dark waters of legal action:

Color me unimpressed with the outrage over Kluwe’s Sandusky jokes.  In the pantheon of vulgar Kluwe behavior/comments, his exposed butt cheeks aren’t even as crass as most of his Deadspin articles.  But Kluwe’s accusation that he (and presumably, the Vikings) knew about statutory rape and did nothing is a world away from Kluwe’s STD shots at Mankato or calling NFL lockout opponents “assh*le f**kwits.”  Kluwe is potentially an accomplice in this (alleged) crime at worst.  At best, he kept silent about actions against minors, but the words of a hot-headed, idiotic Special Teams coach were somehow his personal Rubicon…after he was fired.

Kluwe’s defenders, like ProFootballTalk.com’s Mike Florio, are trying to poke holes in the investigation’s conclusions over the Vikings’ assessment on Kluwe’s punting abilities, setting the stage for Kluwe’s threatened lawsuit that he was dismissed for his beliefs, not his on-field actions.  Despite all the vitriol, the merits of any potential Kluwe lawsuit are few and far between, and minus a heretofore undiscovered “smoking gun” document or testimony, a legal Trojan Horse for the entire NFL should Kluwe prevail.

NFL history, and Minnesota Vikings’ history, is replete with older veterans being replaced for players deemed to have a larger upside who can be signed for less money.  In the last several seasons, the Vikings alone have cut ties with still capable players like kicker Ryan Longwell or defensive end Jared Allen.  These moves aren’t always right or popular (SITD argued against the Allen move months ago) or consistent across franchises.  Denver’s punter, Britton Colquitt, is the highest paid punter in the NFL, earning $3.9 million a year for a 46.1 yards per punt average.  Chris Kluwe was making $1.5 million, due to increase to over $2 million, for a career average of 44.4 yards per punt.  Jeff Locke kicked an average of 44.2 yards for roughly $400,000 for the Vikings in 2013.  Is any of that logical?  By NFL standards, for better or worse, yes.

If Chris Kluwe can convince a jury that a $1.5 million punter with the league’s 22nd best average cannot be cut for a younger, cheaper option because said player is outspoken, then the NFL’s entire collective bargaining agreement will be up for grabs.  In a league with an openly gay 7th round draft pick who isn’t assured of making the team, what will stop current and future NFL players from adopting controversial political/social causes if they believe doing so will complicate their release?  Will the next Tim Tebow decide that his Christianity, not his throwing motion, was the motivating factor in his cutting, and sue his former employer?

A Kluwe victory (again, barring new evidence) means a more political NFL – an outcome that can only hurt the most popular sporting brand in the country.

Yes, Mr. Vice President. Yes, We Will.

Slow Joe Biden, in an interview with gun-owning gun-control advocate John Walsh:

“‘John, every one of them [is scared of the left's boogeyman, the NRA],’” the vice president replied, according to Walsh. “‘Because the NRA will run a tea-bagger against you. . . . They’ll put 5 million bucks against you.’”

As they should. 

It’s one of the reasons I’m a member.

Kill National Popular Vote With Greasy Fire

Word is starting to leak out; a number of GOP politicians are flirting with supporting the idea of the National Popular Vote.

Let me be blunt:  This idea must be stomped, and stomped some more, until the convulsions stop. 

This is an utterly wretched idea, favored by liberal plutocrats with deep pockets to give the nation’s population centers a stranglehold on presidential (and eventually, all)  politics.

The National Popular Vote means that presidential candidates will not, ever, need to campaign in flyover land.  They need only to play to the coasts.

It completely guts the “protection of minority states” that the Electoral College has given this nation, to its immense benefit.

Need a reason to oppose it?  Here are seven to start with, all of them worthy of a rhetorical death sentence. 

The campaign to institute it has been sneaky, under the radar, and not a little bit sleazy.  The supporters are clearly trying to gull a mass of low-information voters (swaying them with talk of “majority rule”) without fully airing out the consequences. 

It’s even sucked in a number of Republicans who should know better.  I’m not naming names.  But it’s going to happen, sooner or later.

Republicans:  I, for one, will support an NPV supporter about the same time I support a gun controller.   You support NPV?  We’re going to have a pointed conversation. 

This shall not pass.

Doakes Sunday: I Cried Because I Had No Shoes…No, Wait…

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Wendy Davis is running for Governor of Texas.  She’s been trying to play the victim card – grew up poor, lived in a trailer house, worked her way through college and law school, husband left her – but it’s not working.

Turns out she lived in a trailer for about three months, her husband put her through college and Harvard Law School and she divorced him (and he got custody of the kids in a state like Texas, which tells you a lot about her).

Latest thing – she complains that her opponent doesn’t understand what it’s like to overcome adversity.  He hasn’t walked a mile in her shoes.  And now that she’s a candidate, he’s running scared.

The guy’s in a wheelchair.

Reminds me of the other runners complaining that Oscar Pistorius had an unfair advantage because hisaluminum legs didn’t tire.  Excuse Me, The Man Has No Blinking Legs!  And YOU think YOU are the victim here?  Unbelievable.

For Harvard-lawyer Wendy Davis to play the Victim card against a man in a wheelchair, leaves me with just one question:  Why do Democrats hate cripples?

Joe Doakes

 In a year when the two most prominent Harvard Law grads are Ryan “Uncle Tom” Winkler and Wendy “Abortion Barbie” Davis, I think HarvLaw needs to work on its PR.

With Enemies Like This, Who Needs Enemies?

Chris Christie – who has stared down mobsters and the New Jersey teachers union, pardon the redundancy, and who issued a denial of knowledge last week of his staff’s alleged shenanigans that is tailor-made to backfire if he does happen to be lying – has come under attack by…

…Gail Collins of the NYTimes.

A woman who recently argued against her colleagues’ sending their good-for-nothing kids who’d been camping in their parents’ basements since graduating from Bard College with degrees in Victimization Studies to North Dakota to earn their keep in the oil fields because of the forty minute lines at McDonalds.

I’m not actually going to ask you to read Gail Collins.

Merely to note that the fact that Gail Collins has written about Chris Christie should be treated as a point for the defense.

Sort of like Nick Coleman.  Only at least Nick Coleman isn’t at the Times.

Never Waste A Crisis, Mate

For better or worse – and I think it’s largely “better” – I’ve tried to keep a high level of cultural literacy, not only about the US but around the world.  At most, I’m a jack of many cultural trades, and goodness knows a master of none, but I do try. 

One positive upshot is that I know – again, for better or worse – that different cultures see things differently than we do, sometimes for reasons that may baffle us, but that make perfect sense to them for reasons that, again, baffle us. 

Downside?  You find out that many foreigners are just as stupid as many Americans are.

Earlier this week Chris Lane, an Australian baseball player going to college in Oklahoma was murdered by a couple of teenagers; the teenagers were reputedly bored and looking for something to do, and murdering Lane apparently scratched that itch for them. 

And in a burst of non-sequitur worthy of Heather Martens or Jim Backstrom, Tim Fischer – a former Austrialian deputy Prime Minister and a prime mover in the disarmament of Australians during their spasm of gun control in the nineties – has urged a boycott of the US by Ozzy tourists:  

“Tourists thinking of going to the USA should think twice,” Fischer said.

“This is the bitter harvest and legacy of the policies of the NRA that even blocked background checks for people buying guns at gunshows.

Fischer is toking from the same bong that Jim Backstrom and Heather Martens are bogarting:

  • While I’ve seen no information as to where the “youths” got the gun, I’m going to suspect that it was via a source that would not be subject to a background check in any state, or any country, anywhere in the world. 
  • For that matter?  The shooters were all, every last one of them, minors.  None of them can legally own or carry a firearm.  The NRA is all about keeping guns away from people who legally must not.  And five’ll get you ten there’s at least one criminal record among the bunch.
  • Take a look at the few policies that actually have had a positive effect on violent crime; the NICS database in the form it was enacted, sentence enhancements for using guns in crimes, and of course concealed carry.  All the ones that actually work were supported by the NRA.  Every. Single. One.

Fischer keeps dragging on the bong:

“I am deeply angry about this because of the callous attitude of the three teenagers (but) it’s a sign of the proliferation of guns on the ground in the USA,” Fischer continued.

“There is a gun for almost every American.”

And yet the crime rate plummets.

And yet the crime rate is lowest in the places with the most  guns in the hands of the law-abiding, and highest where that right is the most abridged.

Oh, make no mistake; there are parts of the US I don’t advocate Ozzy tourists coming to.  Places where the culture has been so degraded by the devaluation of family, of social institutions, and cultures that glorify violence and devalue human life – which describes Moonshine Holler, Kentucky and Meth Circle, Suburbia as much as Crack Boulevard in Detroit. 

The NRA didn’t bring us any of those, Mr. Fischer.

#Still So Focused

“Kluwe’s tactics are the epitome of his generation – foul-mouthed personal attacks against anyone who disagrees. Pro-lockout players are “douchebags” who stand for “pretty much the definition of greed.” His opponents are “a**hole f**kwits”, which also suggests he’s a plagiarist since I’m sure he stole that from Oscar Wilde.” – SITD, May 6th

—-

“plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” — “the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing” – novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

Stay classy, Mr. Kluwe.

Justice Is Blind – But Berg’s Law Sees And Knows All

I’ve added a new corollary to “Berg’s Law” – especially in light of events of this past seven months and the doddering, bobbleheaded liberal punditry to which Real Americans have been subjected.

It’s the “Fugelsang Corollary to Berg’s Seventh Law of Liberal Projection” (Berg’s Seventh reads “When a Liberal issues a group defamation or assault on conservatives’ ethics, character or respect for liberty or the truth, they are at best projecting, and at worst drawing attention away from their own misdeeds.”)

It reads as follows:

The Fugelsang Corollary To Berg’s Seventh Law – a liberal who uses “I’m happy with my penis size” as a conclusion to a debate on the Second Amendment doth protest too much.

The thing about Berg’s Laws are that they are, in actual practice, absolute and inviolable.

Dear United Kingdom

To: The entire sane population of the United Kingdom
From: Mitch Berg, chagrinned Yank
Re: Apology

Dear UK,

My condolences on the passing of former Prime Minister Thatcher, a great influence on me as a conservative.

Please accept my apologies for my fifty-odd depraved countrymen who have disgraced our nation’s upper legislative chamber:

A Senate resolution to honor Lady Thatcher was supposed to pass last night. However, per well placed sources on the Hill, Democrats have a hold on the resolution.

To refuse to honor a woman of such great historical and political significance, who was deeply loyal to the United States, is petty and shameful. One truly has to wonder, what is it about Lady Thatcher that gives them pause? Her unfaltering commitment to freedom? Or perhaps the way she fought for individual liberty and limited government?

Our lower chamber followed the usual protocol:

The House used traditional bereavement procedures, the same model they used for John F. Kennedy. It’s a simple, solemn means of honoring the individual by passing a resolution and immediately adjourning. Similarly, Great Britain’s House of Commons was recalled, bringing members of Parliament back from vacation to honor Lady Thatcher.

How to explain this in British terms?  Hmm.  Democrats are to conservative women what Roundheads were to Catholics, maybe?

Fumble

The Monday Morning Quaterbacking over electronic gambling heats up.

Two gambles that haven’t paid off

When breaking down the various back-up funding plans for the Vaseline Dome, one step was neglected – the finger pointing.

For a funding mechanism that was originally billed to deliver $35 million in revenue per year, and continuously revised down to $17 million and then $1.7, the process of assigning blame should have been viewed as inevitable.  But like a legislative Atlas, who would shoulder the majority of the ownership of such a flawed model?  Gov. Mark Dayton, who was so publicly aggressive in his defense of a new stadium?  The hapless former Republican legislative majorities who acquiesced to the bill?  The Star Tribune, whose rampant conflict of interest with any Metrodome-site construction should have called into question their vocal support?

No, the Star Tribune has decided the real culprit are the gambling firms that provided the electronic pull-tab games:

While flawed, the gambling board’s sales estimates were extremely detailed, including the number of bars and restaurants that would adopt e-gambling, the number of devices in play, what hours they would be played and how much money would be wagered.

It projected 2,500 sites would be selling electronic pulltab within six months, or nearly 14 bars and restaurants joining in per day….

Nearly a year after those projections were made, about 200 Minnesota bars and restaurants offer electronic pulltabs, not the 2,500 that had been predicted. Electronic bingo games have just been introduced.

Average daily gross sales for electronic pulltabs have increased to about $69,000, but sales per gambling device have declined.

The firms may have been making bad assumptions about the capacity for Minnesota to support increased charitable gambling, but at least the firms’ figures came out of experiences in states like Montana, South Dakota and Oregon.  Still, the basic math of the gambling mechanism was public knowledge long before it was formally added to the final bill.

Minnesotans spend about $1 billion in charitable gambling, which equals the comparatively paltry sum of $36 million in revenue.  The Vikings stadium, requiring $35 million a year to cover the State’s $348 million share, would necessitate charitable gambling to either double to $2 billion or entirely overrun the current charitable competition.  In that light, it’s little wonder that other charitable organizations were not asked for their opinion.  A decision that now is being heavily criticized as charities across the State say some version of “I told you so.”

All the finger-pointing in the world doesn’t help hide the reality that the responsibility for flawed legislation needs to rest with the political leadership that authored it – a fact even the Star Tribune acknowledges:

“There was a willful blindness … driven by pressure politics,” charged David Schultz, a Hamline University political analyst and a professor of nonprofit law…

“This was a deal that was going to happen no matter what,” Schultz said. “The governor wanted a stadium. The money couldn’t come from the general fund. The charities had been asking for electronic games.”

Filtered for His Pleasure

With the clocking ticking closer to midnight on his mayoral legacy, Michael Bloomberg is banning as fast as he can.

Fran Drescher

In the era of “Yes, We Can,” Michael Bloomberg has long staked his legacy on “No, You Can’t.”  In the soon-to-be 12 years since he became Gotham’s Technocrat-in-Chief, Bloomberg has managed to ban, or try to ban: (in no particular order):

Bloomberg’s nanny-ish reach has been so broad that in his waning months he’s repeating himself.  Hizzoner’s latest ban plan?  Hide cigarettes from public view:

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pushing for a new citywide law requiring stores to physically conceal cigarettes and other tobacco products behind counters, curtains or cabinets—anywhere out of public view—as part of a new anti-smoking initiative.

The legislation would also increase penalties on the smuggling and illegal sales of cigarettes as part of an effort that Bloomberg said would help curb the youth smoking rate and promote a healthier New York City.

Three out of every five cigarettes smoked in New York City were “smuggled” – purchased over state lines where the $4.35 per pack expense, not counting the additional $1.50 per pack levied in New York City, wasn’t an issue.  So while smoking in New York is at historic lows (14% according to polling in 2011), most of those gains occurred from 2002 to 2007 – before Bloomberg’s more recent tobacco initiatives to ban workplace and outdoor smoking were set in motion.

Bloomberg isn’t likely to receive much push-back to his latest move.  Hitting tobacco is often a political winner and as nanny-state legislation goes, moving tobacco products behind the counter isn’t much of a reach.  Bloomberg’s past comments on tobacco put this latest move to shame, with Bloomberg even suggesting that children have the right to sue their parents if they’re exposed to second-hand smoke.

But Bloomberg’s acknowledgment that his past legislation has made underground tobacco sales Gotham’s latest cottage industry stands in stark contrast with his attitudes on marijuana.  Last June, in concert with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s move to downgrade possession of pot from a misdemeanor to a violation, Bloomberg chimed in that he would “limit” enforcement of New York City laws against marijuana.

So pot’s okay.  But a Big Gulp demands immediate legislation.

But of course, marijuana isn’t tobacco when it comes to the effect on health.  Right?  A 2012 study at the University of Alabama garnered some press for the headline that marijuana wasn’t as bad for your lungs as tobacco.  As usual, the substance of the research was buried by the lede.  Smoking marijuana, the study concurred, leads to chronic coughing, wheezing and potentially chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  The study even admitted that longer term research would be required to see what the rate of lung cancer was among long-term pot users.  Or as one quoted researcher simply put it, “casual or recreational marijuana use is not a safe alternative to tobacco smoking.”

By his actions, Bloomberg demonstrates a capricious sense of how to use the bully pulpit of the mayor’s office.  Marijuana restrictions need to be eased because enforcement has not only failed but is as likely to hurt the causal user as the hardcore dealer.  Tobacco restrictions need to be tightened even as Bloomberg acknowledges that his previous efforts have driven demand underground.  Tobacco users, who legally purchase a legal product over state lines need to be taught a lesson.  Marijuana users, who use a product that is currently illegal, are due leniency.

The macro issues of the Drug War aside, at a minimum, Michael Bloomberg has a high threshold for irony.

 

Liberté, égalité, vacances

France’s continued Hollande from reality gets a rude wake-up call from America.

With an unemployment rate that’s been hovering around 10% for nearly four years, unemployment benefits that somehow manage to be the most generous in Europe and yet exclude thousands of eligible non-workers, and an attempted tax bracket of 75% on top earners, France clearly isn’t economically serious about domestic jobs.  That hasn’t stopped them from being seriously upset at the lack of foreign capital coming to their rescue.  Or when that same foreign capital criticizes the famous French non-work ethic.

When Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co’s Amiens Nord plant faced being closed,  threatening 1,250 jobs, Paris attempted to mediate a sale to Illinois-based Titan International.  Unable to get the French unions to move on any of their conditions, Titan’s owner, Maurice Taylor (last seen running for the Republican presidential nomination in 1996), fired off his answer on any potential purchase:

“The French workforce gets paid high wages but works only three hours. They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three,” Taylor wrote on February 8 in the letter in English addressed to the minister, Arnaud Montebourg.

“I told this to the French union workers to their faces. They told me that’s the French way!” Taylor added in the letter, which was posted by business daily Les Echos on its website on Wednesday and which the ministry confirmed was genuine.

“How stupid do you think we are?” he asked at one point.

“Titan is going to buy a Chinese tire company or an Indian one, pay less than one Euro per hour wage and ship all the tires France needs,” he said. “You can keep the so-called workers.”

Taylor’s jab on going to China or India has to chafe Arnaud Montebourg, France’s Minister of Industrial Renewal, whose industrial policy has thus far been to scapegoat low-wage competitors.  Montebourg even blocked Indian steelmaker ArcelorMittal from buying a French plant in 2012, apparently proving that beggers can be chosers.

Who needs employers?

Taylor’s brusque reply may dominate the headlines (who are we kidding with ‘may’?), but the real story is France slowly coming to terms with, well, their unemployment terms.

Despite the reputation of being exceptionally generous, which they are, France’s unemployment benefits are reaching fewer and fewer unemployed.  Even as unemployment has increased, the percentage of beneficiaries has decreased – 44.8% of those eligible receive benefits, down from 48.5% in 2009.  Many eligible are being turned away, a situation brought to greater public awareness when an eligible beneficiary set himself on fire in protest for being declined.

Why are even eligible beneficiaries being told ‘non’?  Because as the French government auditor, the Cour des comptes (think of it as the French CBO), recently stated, the system of benefits is “unsustainable”:

The current funding system is expected to reach a deficit of 5 billion in 2013. According to the Cour, the French system is largely to blame for the deficit, as it is much more generous than similar benefits programs in neighboring countries. For example, the current allocation is between 63 and 93 percent of the previous incomes of the unemployed. In addition, the minimum compensation length for unemployment benefits in France is two years, compared to one year in Germany.

Such debts helped France’s credit rating fall to AA1, despite President Hollande’s pledge to reduce the deficit by the end of 2013.  With familiar rhetoric coming from another left-leaning politician, it’s little wonder what Maurice Taylor chose to acknowledge in his letter:

Socialist President Francois Hollande may take some comfort in the view Taylor expressed of Washington: “The U.S. government is not much better than the French,” he wrote…

Open Letter To Ron Paul

To:Ron Paul, Personality Cultist and Former Presidential Candidate
From: Mitch Berg, Crabby peasant and former big-L Libertarian
Re: Dumb

Mr. Paul,

Y’know, I try. I really do.

But when I see things like this on Twitter…:


…I’m more than a little tempted to say that the best thing you can do for your libertarian cause, and those of us who subscribe to at least parts of it, it so shut up and find yourself a little piece of pasture to go out to.

And go out to it.

Please.

That is all.

Posting this on Facebook yesterday caused a bit of a kerfuffle.  Some Paul supporters asked me why I was attacking Libertarianism.

I’m not, of course; I am a libertarian-conservative, and have been since long before it was cool.  I was – and am – criticizing Ron Paul.  But it’s a little discouraging how many of his supporters conflate the two.