The conservative talking point on President Obama’s big Afghanistan speech last night seems to already have been locked down. Within minutes of its conclusion, John McCain was on TV praising the increased military commitment but disparaging the 18-month time line. Ditto this morning with Michele Bachmann. Blogger Gary Gross, at Let Freedom Ring, collects GOP reactions. While Obama avoided fantasyland terms like “victory” and “winning,” Congresswoman Bachmann is all about total crushing conquest. She says, “It’s in the vital interests of the United States to defeat the Taliban, destroy Al Qaeda, and establish a free, sovereign Afghanistan that can govern and look after its own people. Anything less and we’re guaranteeing almost certain instability and chaos in the region. But going forward, we must be in it to win it because if we engage in this effort halfheartedly, then the war is already lost.”
We had a lot on Ventura yesterday, but the real Ventura story — the “exclusive” (as though Ventura ever only talks to one news source) — is over at City Pages today, which has the big lug on its cover this week, thanks, apparently, to Ventura being so PO’d at the Strib (for past offenses) he wouldn’t give them the time of day. Anyway … Hart Van Denburg (in a nicely written piece) gets Ventura over to a Washington Avenue coffee shop and gets his ear bent for a while. In this version, Ventura will get a shot at the granddaddy of conspiracies — JFK — if the show clicks enough for a second season. As is always the case with Ventura, you laugh at the hokey, self-serving bravado until he swings into something like this: “Recalling that it took years for the American public to learn that Johnson escalated the Vietnam War by exaggerating the Gulf of Tonkin incident, Ventura says he wants to rake some muck and challenge conventional wisdom. Sure he’s aiming for high TV ratings, but he’s also filming for the history books. ‘I just think that there needs to be a record that not everyone believes the status quo,” Ventura says. “One hundred years from now I want people to be able to find something that says, ‘Not everybody believed’. It’s time to shake up the lemmings.’ “
As the sun rises, there’s still no verdict in the Petters case. The jury has now deliberated more than 24 hours. David Phelps’ story in the Strib reports that yet another, uh, investment firm, Palm Beach Financial Partners, has fallen into bankruptcy after losing a cool billion to Tom and the gang.
The Bloomberg story on this little misfortune includes the detail of the Palm Beachies locked up in legal action with, “liquidators of two Cayman Islands-based units owed more than $696.5 million for ‘pending civil litigation’, according to court documents.” It seems, “Palm Beach Finance Partners sued the Caribbean funds last year over rights to pursue a $1.05 billion claim in the Petters Group bankruptcy. The liquidators counter-sued the Palm Beach funds in August in Delaware Superior Court, seeking to enforce payment of more than $720 million in promissory notes, plus interest.” What? If you can follow that, chances are you, too, could run a Ponzi scheme.
Even without any snow here, a few days in Mexico sounds pretty good. The Strib’s Suzanne Ziegler has a story of a Minnesota couple booked into Manzanillo for their wedding getting jacked around pretty bad by Delta as the airline clips flights to save money … and often makes a few extra bucks on the deal by soaking re-booking passengers with new fees. Naturally, no one interviewed for the story lays a hand on Delta, but you can feel the customers’ pain. “But what really irks [the bride-to-be] is the fees some of the wedding party are stuck with. [The groom’s] son and wife had to pay $100 each to change their flights from Oregon. The maid of honor’s original ticket was bought with frequent-flier miles. Cost of a new ticket: $680. The friends from California were going to have to pay $150 each to change tickets, but they were unable to make the new dates work and won’t be attending.”
Brian Bakst of the AP does a quickie Q&A on the latest bad news projections from the state budget offices. It appears that even after pulling out every rabbit in every hat and other tremendous feats of prestidigitation, the state is looking at a new shortfall in the range of $240 million: “Q: Is action required? A: Technically, no. The Minnesota Constitution merely requires the state to have its books balanced at the end of the budget cycle, which in this case is a two-year period that runs through June 30, 2011. Lawmakers could push some of the problem off until their 2011 session, but a solution only becomes more difficult as the time is compressed.” Oh well then, never mind.
A later story on the likely deficit puts the number at more like $1 billion over two years. This will re-ignite the usual wars between those trying to blend cuts with tax increases to shore up the most vital services … and those running for president. All is not gloom however, Baird Helgeson in the Strib writes that “IHS Global Insight, the state’s national economic consultant, says ‘the Great Recession’ appears to be over. Economists see a slow-to-modest recovery taking shape in the state led by transportation, warehousing and medical and technological sectors. The recovery, however, will be slow, with no notable improvement until later in 2010. Global Insight predicts that things could even worsen slightly as the federal stimulus money works its way out of the system over the next couple of years.”
Blogger Jeff Rosenberg, at MNPublius posts on Gov. Pawlenty’s disinclination to read anything particularly bleak or alarming into numbers like those. But the good part is down in his comments section where conservative blogger — and occasional PiPress op-ed writer, Craig Westover — pops up offering a tutorial for all of the intellectual lightweights locked in a perpetual battle over tax increases and spending cuts. As Westover sees it, it’s really a “structural” problem: “We need structural tax reform — moving away from taxes on productivity like high margin personal income tax and corporate income taxes, which are job-killers in an economy of mobile capital and labor, to a tax system based on low-rate but broad-based consumption taxes (sales taxes) which impose far less deadweight loss on society than taxes on productivity. We need to end the debate over whether or not Minnesota’s tax system is regressive or progressive and evaluate the system … on its economic efficiency, which benefits all by lowering the overall tax burden.” Or, in other words, give the already wealthy another fat tax cut.
All that stuff about defensive driving won’t help you if you’re in a situation like the crash in Roseville Tuesday afternoon. The seven-car pile-up on County Road C was caused by the driver of a speeding mini-van experiencing a “major medical problem.” As Tad Vezner and John Brewer write in the PiPress, the mini-van piled into the last of a line of six cars at a light killing the driver of that last vehicle.
According to a Finance and Commerce story written by Scott Carlson, CobornsDelivers, the grocery delivery company, has come up with a plan to deliver victuals to commuters heading home on the train to Big Lake. ” ‘Busy commuters can order their groceries online at CobornsDelivers by 10:00 in the morning, and we will have them there fresh and ready to pick up as customers get off the Northstar Commuter Train to head home that evening,’ Sue Westernman, CobornsDelivers vice-president of e-marketing, said in a statement.” The company is already offering the service at park ‘n’ rides.
Oh come on, Wisconsin! Make it a little tougher for us. According to an AP story, a 54-year-old Watertown, Wis., man has some better ‘splainin’ to do after his wife notified the cops in June that she thought the hub had been putting something in her drinks “for weeks.” (And she kept drinking the stuff?) When the crime lab folks ran tests, they came up with “foreign chemicals” — not really bad coffee, but weed killer. The spouse’s explanation? The man “told authorities there was ‘no way’ he would poison his wife. He said it is a mistake, and that he put the weed killer in the coffee pot to dilute it before using it, and he forgot to dump the rest of it out.” OK, but what about that shotgun rigged to the bedroom door?