Quotulatiousness

June 22, 2014

“Draw Play” Dave on how Minnesota got the Super Bowl in 2018

Filed under: Business, Football, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:20

I probably don’t need to say that the Super Bowl is a big ticket item … that much must be clear even to people who don’t have any conscious awareness of the NFL. Part of the push for a new football stadium in Minnesota was the hope that the new stadium would allow Minneapolis/St. Paul to bid on (and hope to win) the competition to host the Super Bowl in the newly completed stadium. The NFL being what it is, this meant a lot of “sweeteners” had to be offered to entice the league up to the deep freeze of Minnesota in the middle of winter. (Full disclosure: I’ve never been to Minnesota in winter, so maybe I’m just being swayed by pro-winter propaganda, but I believe it gets a tad cooler in the land of the ten thousand frozen lakes than it does in, say, Miami.)

“Draw Play” Dave Rappoccio admits he’s a bit late to this story, but I rather liked it anyway:

Click to see the full cartoon

Click to see the full cartoon

Again, older news that I never got to, but deserved a joke.

Has anyone actually looked up the requirements for cities to host the Super Bowl? The NFL is shameless in how is screws cities over and I can’t believe cities sign up for it.

May 29, 2014

A state legislative session devoted to “unlegislating”

Filed under: Government, Law — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:56

Our elected officials at all levels of government spend much of their time passing new laws … to the extent that it is no longer possible for an average citizen of a state or province to know what their legal status is on any given issue — it’s been estimated that you’ll commit three felonies a day without ever knowing it. Given that, this session of the Minnesota state legislature has a huge natural attraction:

It’s no longer a crime in Minnesota to carry fruit in an illegally sized container. The state’s telegraph regulations are gone. And it’s now legal to drive a car in neutral — if you can figure out how to do it.

Those were among the 1,175 obsolete, unnecessary and incomprehensible laws that Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature repealed this year as part of the governor’s “unsession” initiative. His goal was to make state government work better, faster and smarter.

“I think we’re off to a very good start,” Dayton said Tuesday at a Capitol news conference.

In addition to getting rid of outdated laws, the project made taxes simpler, cut bureaucratic red tape, speeded up business permits and required state agencies to communicate in plain language.

“We got rid of all the silly laws,” said Tony Sertich, the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board commissioner who headed Dayton’s effort.

Well, not quite all of them. They kept a law on the books that requires state Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson to personally capture or destroy any wild boar that gets loose in Minneapolis or St. Paul. Sertich said it’s conceivable that such a critter could wander into the cities.

It would be a good use of any legislature’s time to trim old laws from the books, but that’s not how most politicians view their job, unfortunately.

H/T to Doug Mataconis for the link.

May 21, 2014

QotD: February in Minneapolis

Filed under: Football, Humour, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:17

It’s not surprising that the Wilfs, the Vikings and downtown Minneapolis business leaders want the Super Bowl in Minneapolis. Their pockets will be lined, and with more than fur.

The question is why the average Minnesotan would want the Super Bowl here in February.

We don’t invite friends and relatives to Minnesota in February. Why would we invite the world?

Especially the portion of the world that wields laptops and cameras?

You remember February, unless your therapist has helped you block it out. February is when we suffer from cabin fever and cold sores, when we lock ourselves indoors with a fire (whether we have a fireplace or not) and stare at screens until our skin matches the blue fluorescent glow emanating from the TV.

And those are the good days.

I’ve spoken to visitors who are forced to travel here during winter. They ask why we live here. They laugh at us. When Jerry Seinfeld did a show in downtown Minneapolis this winter, he referred to our skyways as “Habitrails.”

The rest of the country cannot fathom why we put ourselves through this, and let’s be honest: We can’t either when we’re in the throes of winter. We all just pile on layers and pray that, this year, summer will fall on a Saturday.

Jim Souhan, “We’re back on center stage, with frozen warts and all”, Star Tribune, 2014-05-21.

January 2, 2014

Chris Kluwe burns his bridges in Minnesota … and the rest of the NFL

Filed under: Football, Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 13:57

He’s been looking for work since his time in Minnesota came to an end shortly after the team drafted Jeff Locke in the 2013 draft, but hasn’t been able to catch on with a team, despite his still-respectable abilities. He has strong suspicions why this might be, and he’s probably right. Now that he’s come to terms with the end of his punting career, Chris Kluwe explains what he think happened between him and the Vikings in 2012 and pretty much guarantees he will never work in the NFL again:

During the summer of 2012, I was approached by a group called Minnesotans for Marriage Equality, which asked if I would be interested in helping defeat what was known as the Minnesota Gay Marriage Amendment. The proposed amendment would have defined marriage as “only a union of one man and one woman.” (It was voted down, and same-sex marriage is now legal in Minnesota.) I said yes, but that I would have to clear it with the team first. After talking to the Vikings legal department, I was given the go-ahead to speak on the issue as long as I made it clear I was acting as a private citizen, not as a spokesman for the Vikings, which I felt was fair and complied with. I did several radio advertisements and a dinner appearance for Minnesotans for Marriage Equality. No one from the Vikings’ legal department told me I was doing anything wrong or that I had to stop.

On Sept. 7, 2012, this website published a letter I had written to Maryland delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. chastising him for trampling the free-speech rights of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo. The letter also detailed why I supported the rights of same-sex couples to get married. It quickly went viral.

On Sept. 8, the head coach of the Vikings, Leslie Frazier, called me into his office after our morning special-teams meeting. I anticipated it would be about the letter (punters aren’t generally called into the principal’s office). Once inside, Coach Frazier immediately told me that I “needed to be quiet, and stop speaking out on this stuff” (referring to my support for same-sex marriage rights). I told Coach Frazier that I felt it was the right thing to do (what with supporting equality and all), and I also told him that one of his main coaching points to us was to be “good men” and to “do the right thing.” He reiterated his fervent desire for me to cease speaking on the subject, stating that “a wise coach once told me there are two things you don’t talk about in the NFL, politics and religion.” I repeated my stance that this was the right thing to do, that equality is not something to be denied anyone, and that I would not promise to cease speaking out. At that point, Coach Frazier told me in a flat voice, “If that’s what you feel you have to do,” and the meeting ended. The atmosphere was tense as I left the room.

[...]

So there you have it. It’s my belief, based on everything that happened over the course of 2012, that I was fired by Mike Priefer, a bigot who didn’t agree with the cause I was working for, and two cowards, Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman, both of whom knew I was a good punter and would remain a good punter for the foreseeable future, as my numbers over my eight-year career had shown, but who lacked the fortitude to disagree with Mike Priefer on a touchy subject matter. (Frazier was fired on Monday, at the conclusion of a 5-10-1 season.) One of the main coaching points I’ve heard throughout my entire life is, “How you respond to difficult situations defines your character,” and I think it’s a good saying. I also think it applies to more than just the players.

If there’s one thing I hope to achieve from sharing this story, it’s to make sure that Mike Priefer never holds a coaching position again in the NFL, and ideally never coaches at any level. (According to the Pioneer Press, he is “the only in-house candidate with a chance” at the head-coaching job.) It’s inexcusable that someone would use his status as a teacher and a role model to proselytize on behalf of his own doctrine of intolerance, and I hope he never gets another opportunity to pass his example along to anyone else. I also hope that Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman take a good look in the mirror and ask themselves if they are the people they truly profess themselves to be.

Update, 3 January: The Vikings have hired two lawyers, one of them the former chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, to investigate Kluwe’s allegations.

Eric Magnuson, the former chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and Chris Madel, a former U.S. Department of Justice Trial attorney, will lead the investigation.

“It is extremely important for the Vikings organization to react immediately and comprehensively with an independent review of these allegations,” Vikings owner/president Mark Wilf said in a statement issued by the team Friday.

Magnuson and Madel are partners in the firm Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. Their investigation is already underway, according to the Vikings’ release.

“This is a highly sensitive matter that we as an organization will address with integrity,” Vikings vice president of legal affairs and chief administrative officer Kevin Warren said in the statement.

“Eric and Chris have stellar reputations in both the local and national legal community. They have handled numerous cases involving a wide range of issues, and we are confident they will move swiftly and fairly in completing this investigation.”

[...]

The Vikings investigation comes a little less than two months after the NFL hired attorney Ted Wells to investigate issues of workplace conduct with the Miami Dolphins, who asked the league for help after representatives for tackle Jonathan Martin turned over evidence of alleged abuse at the hands of teammate Richie Incognito.

The results of Wells’ investigation, which are to be made public, have not yet been released. Martin never returned to the team after a cafeteria prank Oct. 28. Incognito finished the season on the suspended list.

“The Vikings contacted us yesterday about the matter and have kept us fully informed,” league spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an email to USA TODAY Sports. “We have no plans to conduct a separate review.”

December 27, 2013

The Metrodome had “a retro-futuristic feel that was equal parts Jetsons and Lite-Brite”

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:56

This Sunday, the final game will be played in Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. ESPN‘s Kevin Seifert looks at some of the oddities of the soon-to-be demolished stadium:

They played two World Series in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, and the same number of Final Fours. Baseball’s All-Star Game, the Super Bowl, Pink Floyd and Paul McCartney all made appearances, as well. And yet, from a national perspective, the dominant memory might well have originated on Dec. 12, 2010 — when the roof collapsed a day before a Minnesota Vikings game.

The Teflon-coated roof was one of many engineering quirks that gave the Metrodome a retro-futuristic feel that was equal parts Jetsons and Lite-Brite. My personal favorite was the strict rule against opening any set of double doors at the same time, a fail-safe against altering the air pressure setting that maintained the roof’s shape.

That rule was one of many improvised plans that stadium engineers developed and followed to maintain a building that will host its final event Sunday. And it’s why Steve Maki and six colleagues found themselves on the roof with fire hoses and a steam connection in the hours before the 2010 collapse.

We’ll get back to that incredible instance of homespun maintenance in a moment. First, it’s important to know a few facts about the roof.

The original design called for 20 fans of 90-horsepower apiece to maintain inflation from their position at the top of the stadium. Because it was used in a region that receives about 50 inches of snow per year, a system was installed to melt snow accumulation on the roof by shooting hot air between two layers of fabric on the surface.

December 7, 2013

Pro and college football as taxpayer-funded non-essential services

Filed under: Football, Government — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

In Time, Nick Gillespie points out that among the most-subsidized industries in the United States, the college and pro football leagues get a lot from taxpayers (even taxpayers who don’t like football):

As we enter the drama-filled final week of the regular college football season and the final month of the National Football League’s schedule, forget about GM and Chrysler, Solyndra, or even cowboy poetry readings. Fact is, nothing is more profitable, more popular, and more on the public teat than good old American football. That’s right. You, dear taxpayer, are footing the bill for football through an outrageous series of giveaways to billionaire team owners and public universities that put pigskin before sheepskin.

It’s just not right when governments shovel tax dollars at favored companies or special interests, even when those firms are called, say, the Minnesota Vikings or the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers University. The NFL’s Vikings are lousy at scoring touchdowns — they have the worst record in the NFC North — but they’ve proven remarkably adept in shaking down Minnesotans for free money. Next year they’ll be playing ball in a brand-spanking new $975 million complex in downtown Minneapolis, more than half of whose cost is being picked up by state and local taxpayers. Over the 30-year life of the project, the public share of costs will come to $678 million. The team will pay about $13 million a year to use the stadium, but since it gets virtually all revenue from parking, food, luxury boxes, naming rights, and more, it should be able to cover that tab. Not that the Vikings were ever hard up for money: Forbes values the franchise at nearly $800 million and the team’s principal owner, Zygi Wilf, is worth a cool $310 million. When the Minnesota legislature signed off on its stadium deal for the Vikings, the state was facing a $1.1 billion budget deficit. Priorities, priorities.

[...]

Especially in an age of busted government budgets, even the most rabid sports fan should agree that it’s an outrage that the highest-paid public employee in a majority of states is a college football coach (in another 13, it’s a basketball coach). It’s far better to be broke and have a cellar-dwelling NFL franchise, right?

Minor nit: they just broke ground for the Vikings’ new stadium, so it’ll be a few years before they actually open for business there. Other than that, Nick is quite right.

October 16, 2013

Cultural organizations and unions

Filed under: Economics, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:41

Richard Epstein looks at two recent disputes between unionized employees and cultural organizations:

This past week featured two stories about major orchestras dealing with their adamant unions. The first incident occurred on Wednesday, October 2 at Carnegie Hall in New York City. A fancy opening night gala, featuring the violinist Joshua Bell and the young jazz performer Esperanza Spalding, was called off due to a surprise strike by Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

The second dispute, still unresolved, involves the protracted labor impasse at the Minnesota Orchestra. On October 1, true to his promise, star music director Osmo Vänskä resigned because of the inability of the orchestra and its musicians’ union to hammer out a new contract in time to prepare for concerts scheduled at Carnegie Hall on November 2 and 3. The issues in these two labor disputes could scarcely be more different. But each of them, in its own way, illustrates the long-term toll that American labor law takes on the cultural lifeblood of our nation.

The incident at Carnegie Hall raised more than a few eyebrows when it was revealed that the strike was organized by the five full-time Carnegie Hall stagehands who were members of Local One. Their annual compensation in wages and overtime averaged a cool $419,000 per year, making them — one properties manager, two carpenters, and two electricians — five of the seven highest paid workers at Carnegie Hall after Carnegie CEO Clive Gillenson. Other union members in unspecified numbers were called in to help from time to time, presumably at rates on par with those Carnegie Hall paid to its full time workers.

As befits the sorry state of labor relations in the United States, the dispute was not about the status of these five workers. Rather, it focused on the new jobs that would open upon the completion of a new education wing in 2015. Mr. Gillenson was not exactly breathing fire when, well-coached in the pitfalls of labor law, he eschewed any anti-union sentiment and announced that he expected union workers to take the stagehand slots in that new facility. It was just that he insisted on dealing with unions that lacked the clout and the wages of the hardy men from Local One.

[...]

The bargaining dynamics could not have been more different in the Minnesota dispute. It is no secret that unionized musicians command a short-run monopoly premium for their members. The orchestra knows that it can earn back some fraction of that wage premium by securing the most talented musicians. But by the same token, any generous deal opens the orchestra up to financial ruin if its endowment shrinks or if its key donors cut back their support in hard times. But usually the large gains for older musicians carry the day.

Unions in all industries — think of the debacle at General Motors — do not do well in negotiating givebacks to management. Yet, ironically, the higher the premium that unions are able to extract during good times, the larger the give-backs are needed to bring the employer’s fiscal position into balance during bad times.

Just that dynamic was in play with the Minnesota Orchestra. The high wages before 2009 led to one round of union concessions. But in 2011, the budget was still out of balance, and management came back with a request for further cuts of about 32 percent. It later softened its demands to insist on wage cuts that would reach 25 percent after three years. Those cuts would be offset by a one time $20,000 bonus, which would, of course, not be part of the wage base in future years.

The union proposals were for pay cuts in the range of six to eight percent. This would have left an annual deficit in the order of $6 million. In the end, no deal could be reached, which precipitated Vänskä’s departure and the subsequent huge hit to prestige of the orchestra’s hard-earned international reputation.

May 14, 2013

In other Minnesota news, same-sex marriage becomes legal today

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:57

Jacob Sullum notes that Minnesota becomes the twelfth state to legalize same-sex marriage today:

Today Minnesota, where voters last fall rejected a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, becomes the 12th state to give homosexual unions the same legal status as heterosexual unions. The state legislature approved the bill yesterday, and Gov. Mark Dayton plans to sign it this evening. Minnesota is the third state to legalize gay marriage in the last 10 days, following Rhode Island on May 2 and Delaware on May 7. The nine other states are Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York, where legal recognition of gay marriage was approved by the legislature or by voters, plus Connecticut, Iowa, and Massachusetts, where courts required the change.

Minnesota Vikings unveil new stadium design

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:31

It’s the Minnesota answer to the Crystal Palace:

New Vikings stadium 1

From the official press release:

The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), the Minnesota Vikings and HKS Sports & Entertainment Group together unveiled the design of the State’s new multi-purpose stadium Monday evening in Minneapolis, a major milestone in getting the $975 million stadium built on time and on budget. The design package will now be submitted to the Minneapolis Stadium Implementation Committee and the City of Minneapolis for review.

Described as an authentic structure influenced by its Minnesota location, the new stadium exhibits a bold, progressive design that combines efficient functionality with stunning architecture. With a soaring prow, the largest transparent roof in the world, and operable doors that open to the downtown skyline, the facility’s openness and sleek geometric exterior will make it unlike any other stadium in the country.

Update, 15 May: Even though Bud Grant himself has approved the new design, the St. Paul Pioneer Press has at least one doubter on staff:

Sometimes the box that stuff comes in is more fancy and artsy and intriguing than the stuff. Football, for example, is dirty and gritty and brutally plain. But the new ballpark looks like one of those boxes made of space-age material with the acrylic cover and the item purchased, a watch or electronic device, settled into a bed of crushed velvet.

[. . .]

Football keeps doing this, building grand establishments that are antithetical to the game. The Vikings are named for, well, Vikings, who sailed around in crude boats and hit people over the head with clubs and chewed furiously on fermented shark meat. A real Viking would no more be at home in this glass palace than a group of Cub Scouts in a biker bar.

It looks like a glass palace, with so much roof acreage, but it isn’t even glass. The southern half of the roof will be made of a transparent ETFE ethylene tetrafluoroethylene membrane supported by steel. I hope so. The northern half of the roof will be made of a hard, opaque material. And to think, seven levels. Seven? Children have games that are designed to encourage their wonder and dexterity by allowing them to drop a colored ball at the top of a layered acrylic box and watch as the ball finds its way to the bottom. How many people will be lost in this place and left there overnight because they got lost trying to get from Level Seven to Level One with a little too much boutique beer on board?

April 26, 2013

Minnesota introduces new policy for dealing with veterans

Filed under: Humour, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:30

You may not hear about this in the mainstream press, but The Duffel Blog digs for the real story:

Officials from the Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles have confirmed approval of a new policy making it mandatory for all active-duty and military veterans to register their status with the agency. The move will require all veterans to have a special “Vet” designation on their drivers’ licenses and state identification cards.

The Minn. DMV, which hopes to have the policy implemented by 2015, cites an inherent mental health threat by veterans as their main reason for devising the plan.

“We’ve seen what these savages are capable of all over CNN and MSNBC,” says DMV director, Greg Olson. “Out of all the millions of men and women who have deployed to combat zones this past decade, there are literally a dozen, perhaps even two, who have come home and committed atrocious acts. That’s way too big a chance. We can’t risk having these people hidden in our community and will be making sure they’re easily identifiable to law enforcement personnel and citizens in general.”

The new strategy will most likely result in changed police escalation-of-force procedure when dealing with veterans during routine traffic stops.

According to Olson, law enforcement officers will be given more opportunity to defend themselves against a perceived threat.

“Phase One will consist of the officer identifying an individual’s vet status on his or her driver’s license,” he says. “Once the officer realizes what he or she is dealing with, Phase Two will kick in and they will immediately unsheathe their pistol and drawdown on the potential psychopath. Then, at Phase Three, the officer will be given free reign to search the individual’s vehicle for weapons and dead bodies. If, and only if, the officer doesn’t find anything, then he will subsequently release the veteran and thank them for their service.”

November 7, 2012

Reason.tv: The Wildly Unpopular Status Quo Is Ratified!

Filed under: Government, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:41

“After four years of a crappy economy, bipartisan dissatisfaction with bailout economics, and populous revolts on the right and the left, we are seeing basically the exact same government we had on November 6th,” says Reason magazine Editor in Chief Matt Welch. “The status quo, which has never been less popular, has just been ratified.”

And yet, says Welch, big wins on marijuana legalization and gay marriage give limited government types a lot to be happy about.

Update: Jacob Sullum on the victories for both same-sex marriage and marijuana normalization:

Tonight was a good night for gay marriage as well as marijuana. Voters approved ballot measures legalizing same-sex marriage in three states by similar margins: 53 to 47 in Maine, 52 to 48 in Maryland and Washington. In Minnesota an initiative that would amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage is tied right now, with 75 percent of precincts reporting [was defeated 51-48].

This is the first time gay marriage has been legalized by popular vote. In the six other states where it is legal (Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont), the policy was enacted by the legislature or compelled by a court decision. By contrast, most of the state laws allowing medical use of marijuana — another one of which passed tonight in Massachusetts — have been enacted by voters. (Colorado and Washington both had such laws before broadening the policy to include recreational use.)

October 19, 2012

Minnesota takes a firm stance … against free education

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:43

If that headline sounds stupid, it’s only because it’s accurate:

Every day, it seems, we hear of yet another story of silly out-of-date regulations, which may have had a reasonable purpose initially, getting in the way of perfectly legitimate innovation. For example, there’s been a massive growth in “open courseware” or open education programs, that put various educational classes online for everyone to benefit. They’re not designed to replace the degrees of college, but rather to just help people learn. One of the biggest ones, Coursera, recently told people in Minnesota that they could no longer take Coursera classes, due to ridiculously outdated Minnesota regulations:

    Notice for Minnesota Users:

    Coursera has been informed by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education that under Minnesota Statutes (136A.61 to 136A.71), a university cannot offer online courses to Minnesota residents unless the university has received authorization from the State of Minnesota to do so. If you are a resident of Minnesota, you agree that either (1) you will not take courses on Coursera, or (2) for each class that you take, the majority of work you do for the class will be done from outside the State of Minnesota.

Update: In the first of what promises to be a cascade of Minnesota-education-related announcements, Popehat is forced to introduce new terms of service for Minnesota residents:

Now circumstances require us to create special terms of use for Minnesota residents. See, some of you have occasionally said that, despite our best efforts and lack of relevant skills or experience, you occasionally learn something at Popehat [...] That’s problematical in Minnesota.

You’d think that Minnesota residents should be free to learn whatever they want from any site on the internet. You’d be wrong. The State of Minnesota determines not just what degrees may be offered there, but how its residents may learn things on the internet.

[. . .]

Now, I think it’s unlikely that Popehat would be treated as subject to the statute. We’re not a learning institution and we don’t offer “courses,” per se, except in the sense of “a course of abuse.” But we can’t be too careful. We’re talking about a state that thinks it should dictate whether web sites in other states can make free online content available to its citizens. Who knows what they’ll do next? I don’t want to subject Popehat to Minnesota’s onerous disclosure requirements or pay fees or be subject to injunctions if some functionary within the Minnesota Office of Higher Education decides that Popehat is attempting to offer courses in, say, Spammer Communications. I don’t want to have to go to Minnesota to defend myself. Lakes make me itchy. Plus, my lovely wife spent only a couple of years there in the 1970s and I still laugh at her accent, so I’m concerned that legal proceedings there may not go my way.

Update, 22 October: Minnesota belatedly realizes that beclowning yourselves in front of an international audience is sub-optimal:

Last week, we were among those who reported on a ridiculous attempt by regulators in Minnesota to enforce a regulation aimed at stopping degree mills, by telling various legitimate online learning providers like Coursera that Minnesota residents couldn’t take courses from without state approval. Thankfully, all of the attention has caused Minnesota officials to admit that this was silly and back down. According to Larry Pogemiller, director of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education:

    Obviously, our office encourages lifelong learning and wants Minnesotans to take advantage of educational materials available on the Internet, particularly if they’re free. No Minnesotan should hesitate to take advantage of free, online offerings from Coursera.

May 16, 2012

The real reason for Ron Paul’s surprising announcement

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:52

Edward Morrissey thinks the reason Ron Paul won’t be contesting any more primaries is that he’s already achieved his real aim:

On Monday, the Republican nomination fight finally got reduced to a single candidate. This might surprise people who believed that the departure of Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum had already made Mitt Romney the official nominee. But until Monday, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) had continued to raise funds and campaign in upcoming primary states.

That changed with a statement from the candidate himself — or at least it changed somewhat. Unlike Santorum and Gingrich, who suspended their campaigns entirely, Paul has instead decided not to contest any more states. Paul explained that his efforts in the rest of the nomination process would focus on consolidating his delegate gains in states that had already held their contests. “Our campaign will continue to work in the state convention process,” Paul explained in his message. “We will continue to take leadership positions, win delegates, and carry a strong message to the Republican National Convention that Liberty is the way of the future.”

[. . .]

So what is the real endgame? Some wonder whether Paul wants to stage a demonstration at the Republican convention, which he adamantly denied last week. Rumors have also circulated that Paul would flex his muscle to get the rules changed and unbind all delegates at the convention, but he doesn’t have that kind of muscle, and it wouldn’t result in a Paul nomination even if he did. Paul’s delegates will have an impact on the party platform, which most believe is the object of Paul’s strategy, but party platforms don’t really have that much practical impact. Few people read them, and even fewer candidates feel bound to them.

Most people miss the fact that Paul has already achieved his end game, or is within a few weeks of its conclusion. The aim for Paul isn’t the convention, which is a mainly meaningless but entertaining exercise in American politics. The real goal was to seize control of party apparatuses in states that rely on caucuses. With that in hand, Paul’s organization can direct party funds and operations to recruit and support candidates that follow Paul’s platform, and in that way exert some influence on the national Republican Party as well, potentially for years to come. Paul hasn’t won every battle in that fight, but Minnesota will probably end up being more the rule than the exception.

May 11, 2012

Vikings get public support for a new stadium

Filed under: Football, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:48

After much politicking, the Minnesota Vikings finally got the state to provide some funding toward a new football stadium. While I’m pleased that the team will stay in Minnesota, I’m always against governments using tax money to subsidize private organizations like professional football teams (see this post from last month, for example).

Long drawn-out political drama like the (literally) decade-long campaign for a new stadium can bring out the very worst in politicians, as Christian Peterson reports:

My first observation is that, apparently, being well-educated about an issue is not a prerequisite for being elected and, ultimately, casting a legislative vote. That may be harsh, but I was struck by the sheer idiocy of many of the arguments, both for and against, the proposed stadium. I understand that much of the posturing and the bringing forth of ludicrous proposed amendments is a political tactic employed by legislators on both sides of the issue, but some of it most certainly isn’t. It’s both frightening and shocking to see how ill-informed some of the legislators were on the issue at hand.

For example, here are just a few of the absurdities that occurred during the initial debates in the House and Senate on Tuesday and Wednesday:

  • One congresswoman stood up and declared her desire to add an amendment that would require that every Vikings game be carried on television for free for every citizen of Minnesota. The NFL’s blackout rules and the television networks be damned, by law we were going to force every game to be on free T.V. for everyone! During her argument, she made vague reference to “rumors” about the NFL starting their own network. Hate to break it to you, ma’am, but the NFL Network debuted in 2003.
  • A legislator made reference to “Zygi Wolf.”
  • Another railed against the expansion of gambling one minute, only to subsequently propose an amendment that would have created an online lottery.
  • There was an attempt to make the Vikings a publicly-owned entity, like the Green Bay Packers. NFL rules no longer permit public ownership of their franchises – it’s been disallowed since the 1980s.
  • Late on Wednesday night, a legislator stood up and confused the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs with Saks 5th Avenue.
  • Within a span of a few hours, the Senate added a requirement for a Minneapolis referendum to approve the stadium plan, only to revoke it, then they passed an amendment that would have dramatically increased the amount of user fees in the bill, only to have the same amendment voted down on a re-vote only moments after it had been approved.
  • One of the main proponents of the bill held up a sign saying “Help!” as one of his colleagues proposed yet another hare-brained amendment. In a refreshingly candid revelation, a representative stood up late in the House debates on Tuesday and said, “People are watching, and see how stupid we look.” Amen, brother.

And that’s just a tiny fraction of the shenanigans that occurred during the combined 20-plus hours of debate on the stadium bill in both houses of the Minnesota legislature. Eventually, it got to the point where it wouldn’t have been a surprise if someone had raised an amendment proposing that the Vikings be allowed to play with 15 players on the field, or another forcing the Packers to trade Aaron Rodgers to the Vikings. Many of these legislators evidently believe they can do just about anything they want.

To be fair, there were more than a few very intelligent and well-spoken people arguing on both sides of the debate. But generally speaking, it’s nothing short of astonishing that these are the people who are making decisions on not only the stadium, but on far more important issues. I can only hope that they are less ignorant when it comes to things like health care and education.

April 20, 2012

The stadium issue for the Minnesota Vikings

Filed under: Economics, Football, Government — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:40

It’s been a big issue in Minnesota for the entire off-season, but I haven’t been following too closely (not living in the state, I don’t know anything about the issue other than what the StarTribune and the Pioneer Press have been reporting, leavened with some angst and bile from the various Viking fan blogs).

In a nutshell, the Vikings have been playing at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis for 30 years. Their lease on the building expired at the end of the 2011 season and they’ve been trying to get political support for a new stadium for the last ten years. The stadium debate has gone over the same ground repeatedly, but even when the site is agreed upon and the team and the city appear to be happy with the compromise, it still required the state to provide additional funding … lots of additional funding.

That’s where what appeared to be a done deal went off the rails earlier this week. The state legislature voted down the state’s share of the funding for the stadium, which appears to have been a rude surprise to both Minneapolis and the team.

The NFL is now warning Minnesota that the Vikings could move out of state (Los Angeles has been hoping for a team for years now, although given California’s dire financial straits, it’s hard to imagine them putting up any more money than Minnesota might be willing to offer).

As I wrote back in November,

The Vikings are hoping to get a new stadium built, and the state legislature has been doing what they can to kick the issue down the road every time it’s come up. I don’t have a say in the matter, as I’m not located in Minnesota and I’d probably still cheer for the team even if it moved elsewhere (though it would be a sad thing to see it move after half a century in Minnesota).

In general, I don’t think governments should build stadiums for professional sports teams, as it’s using tax money to subsidize private profits. If a new stadium is going to generate a profit, the team’s ownership should bear the costs themselves. The fact that they generally don’t — mostly because politicians don’t want to deal with angry sports fans after the team leaves town — doesn’t make it right.

It is quite noteworthy that the question has never actually been asked of the voters — the folks whose taxes will have to subsidize the team’s new stadium — if they are willing to pay. I have to assume that this is because they have indicated in other ways that they are not willing. If that’s the case (and I can’t blame them in the slightest if that’s true), then the Vikings should either pony up enough money to build a stadium without taxpayer assistance, or go looking for a city or a state foolish enough to pour more money into the pockets of the team’s ownership. Here once again are Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch on why public funding for professional sports facilities are a bad idea:

Older Posts »
« « Building High Speed Rail won’t do much to cut carbon dioxide emissions| Confused about the F-35 program? Scott Feschuk will help you » »

Powered by WordPress