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December 2, 2016

Do Too Many Cooks Spoil the Re-opening?

Filed under: Minnesota,St. Paul,St. Paul Pioneer Press,Uncategorized — baseball91 @ 4:46 PM

Restaurants in the Age of Free Agents. Nostalgia for old places, with the Team of “dazzling chefs and restaurateurs.” Kevin Fitzgerald. Josh Thoma. Jack Riebel. These are owners of the The Lexington, a restaurant in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The managing partner is Lorin Zinter for the ownership – Josh Thoma, Kevin Fitzgerald and Jack Riebel – of the Lexington and Il Foro. The Team had been busy filling a hole of missing Italian eateries in downtown Minneapolis. Behold Il Foro!


Jack Reibel fondly remembers his days as the up-and-coming chef inside the kitchen when the address went by the name of Goodfellows which had a nine-year (1996-2005) run here [before that this had been The Forum Cafeteria]. Il Foro brought on Troy Unruh, who had worked in the Goodfellows kitchen with Riebel, to serve as executive chef.

Opened. The 11-month-old effort. Now closed. This Team composed of superstar cooks planned to open Il Foro first. Il Foro closed in May 2016. Like The Lexington Restaurant in St. Paul, closed since 2013. The Lex then had been under different ownership.

The best laid plans of mice and men. Opening of The Lexington was to follow some time in the spring of 2015, said The Team. After 30 years of cooking, Jack Riebel won a James Beard Award nomination for the Butcher & the Boar. Being mentioned in the top 25 best new restaurants in America, as a semifinalist, he is part of the Team.

Riebel, formerly of Butcher & the Boar which is open, remains in place as the executive chef at The Lexington. Butcher and Boar opened in 2012; Riebel’s co-owners bought out his share of Butcher & the Boar in 2014. At that time he told Mpls-St Paul magazine that he no longer was involved in the restaurant’s operations. He described the split as being friendly. The Butcher & the Boar building just sold for $6 million reported in September 2016.

Knowing that they needed another partner, enter Lorin Zinter, former co-owner with Jim Christiansen of Heyday; yes, Restaurant of the Year, Heyday. Zinter left Heyday to pursue an opportunity at soon-to-open Italian eatery, Il Foro. Zinter had been the front-of-house hospitalitarian at smoothly running Heyday.

At this point, the Team is about 20 months behind schedule with the mentioned re-opening of the Lex. The Il Foro ownership – Josh Thoma, Kevin Fitzgerald and Jack Riebel – wouldn’t talk to the Star Tribune about the demise.  And no one in St Paul seems able to find out what transpires inside The Lex.

How does this team of chefs eat?  Where is the money?  Who is Josh Thoma? Or where has he been? In a joint venture with Chicago’s Four Corners Tavern Group, whose owners visited the Minnesota Smack Shack, proposed a partnership in what became a 10,000-square-foot restaurant at he base of the Google building in the Chicago West Loop, which opened April 21, 2016 and seats 300. Co-founder of La Belle Vie and Smack Shack, with his Smack Shack partner Kevin Fitzgerald, Josh Toma’s Smack Shack started as a food truck zipping around Minneapolis, the first legal food truck in town. Founder Josh Thoma, six years later, has two Smack Shack: a 200-seater in Minneapolis which opened in 2013 and the Chicago location.

In June 2010 StarTribune story, Tim McKee’s partner in La Belle Vie, Solera, and Smalley’s Caribbean Barbeque, Josh Thoma, who more recently entered partnerships with the Barrio (with McKee) and La Grassa restaurants – stood accused of improperly transferring funds to the tune of $100,000 between Bar La Grassa and into two restaurants — Solera and Smalley’s Caribbean Barbeque — via La Belle Vie. Thoma’s partnership at Bar La Grassa is history, as he and his longtime business partner, Tim McKee, were no longer managing Barrio.  City Pages quoted Thoma, “It was just one of those things where I told the accountant to make it work.  To a degree, I didn’t know how much was going where and when, although ultimately I’m responsible.”  City Pages reported that Thoma and McKee repaid the funds by relinquishing their stake in Barrio, and Thoma’s equity in Bar La Grassa.

La Belle Vie, the last bastion of fine dining in Minnesota called it quits, on October 24, 2014. La Belle Vie chef/owner Tim McKee made the announcement that he was closing his restaurant, one day short of their tenth anniversary in Minneapolis. Before that La Belle Vie had been open for seven and a half years in Stillwater, Minnesota.

City people in Minnesota leave the city on summer weekends. Fourteen years after opening the doors to the original Heartland location on St. Clair Avenue, Lenny Russo announced in October that Heartland would be closing the doors in downtown St. Paul.

It is next to impossible to make money operating a restaurant on the profits of 9 months of the year. “If all of those people would have come in twice more a year,” said Tim McKee on the closing of La Belle Vie, “we’d still be open. It’s so important that if there’s a restaurant or business in your community that you feel is important, you’ve got to make it your mission to support them. Otherwise they will close.”

What is the state of the union of good restaurants? A cursory list of Tim McKee mentees, both at now-closed Solera and at La Belle Vie, would contain Sameh Wadi of the recently announced closed Saffron; Jack Riebel of the recently announced closed Il Foro, and Minneapolis’ most recent winner of the Food & Wine top ten chefs in America, Jim Christiansen of Heyday, which is actually open.

Keeping The Lexington’s name, renovating and giving the place a more casual atmosphere, with plans to renovate the structure and add a rooftop patio, these three Saint Paul-born big-time operators led by Josh Thoma and Kevin Fitzgerald of Smack Shack seem to be leaving Jack Riebel waiting. A news conference at The Lexington restaurant was where St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman introduced the trio of new owners, in November 2015. Speculation about the new owners ran high, until the names of the owners were released, followed by the theme of stagnation, just keeping a lady waiting.


January 10, 2016

On the Coverup of How Many Rapes in Germany?

Filed under: European Union,Homeland Security,Media,Minnesota,St. Paul — baseball91 @ 1:12 AM
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Stefan Wagstyl writes from Cologne on behalf of the Financial Times about the government response to the “ mass sexual assault.” In Cologne. On New Year’s Eve.

Weren’t these rapes? Outright organized rape!  The interior ministry has 32 people suspects for the 379 New Year’s Eve “sexual assaults,” 22 of whom are allegedly asylum seekers, including “Moroccans, Algerians and Syrians.” From what are the Moroccans seeking asylum?

With the second rape by not just the politicians trying to gain support over an outrageous event, but by the media like the Financial Times. Did you see the spin in the headline by the male journalist covering the story? “Merkel backs plans to tighten the law on refugees who commit crimes.”

Crimes! The missing word is rape [noting that a journalist does not write the headline].  And then the coverup of the rapes.  To call rape “sexual assault” is to soften the appreciation of the crime which is much more than a temporal offense. ‘Chancellor Angela Merkel said on 09 January 2016 that she wants stricter asylum laws, after a series of “sexual assaults” in the city of Cologne.’ To a nation that should be shocked by the response to rapes.

Three days after a piece by Marc Champion of Bloomberg in Newsday, Stefan Wagstyl is unaware that the story now is of THE COVERUP, as the number of criminal complaints rose to 379 from 170.  Women filing criminal complaints should be outraged at the lack of coverage on the coverup, as well as the phony story pursued about a government response to the “ mass sexual assault.”

The Financial Times does not see the story if it bit them in the proverbial ass.  These rapes are going to bring down not just PERSON OF THE YEAR, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s  government but will affect what happens to the United Kingdom’s future in the European Union, when the Brexit vote comes.

Private.  Secret.  Hidden.  The police operations of the current decade all over the world are in the category of secret and hidden using methods to secure data off license plates, over phone lines and computers, in the United States under the authority of secret courts. So how could this news of a public crime outside Cologne’s Cathedral occurring on New Year’s Eve be hidden for several days?  Were  all of these people still on a long holiday weekend?  Is there censorship in Germany because of the political sensitivity, of the influx of refugees? And the outrage was in the January 1st press release issued by the Cologne police that it had been a peaceful New Year’s Eve in Cologne. And journalists like Stefan Wagstyl in Cologne go with the press releases, unable to identify Cologne as a sanctuary city.

So there was this coverup …. In Germany, for a number of days after all these rapes in one night in Cologne. This was the danger of this open door policy toward immigrants combined with the then public accommodation, of rapists … given sanctuary.  Outside the cathedral.  And so few politicians seemed to know that most rapes are committed by serial rapists who are never caught. So the coverup is because of the concern about racism of German people, as exhibited in the 1930s, by the authorities? Speaking of one horror following the next.

In the United States, there is selective enforcement of the law.  Rebellions occur when inequality threatens stability.  Repeatedly in Minnesota, the laws involving permits to protest have not been enforced against Black Lives Matter since at least January 2015, when Black Lives Matter walked down the interstate highway with impunity. Today Black Lives Matter invaded retail stores in St. Paul with immunity, as the group had done during Christmas week, at the Minneapolis-St Paul airport.  More and more, select groups are above the law, given sanctuary.  Above the law, like so many of the elected leaders live their lives.

We do live in a police state where it is impossible to be a member of a police force, having to report to leaders like the Minnesota governor, the St. Paul mayor, or in the case of Cologne, the mayor in the city which is welcoming refugees who allegedly believe in Sharia law for everyone.  With immunity for rape.  As law and order breaks down. As government becomes the rule of men and women rather than the Rule of Law.

And sometime after January 2nd, according to Cologne Mayor Henriette’s interview with der Spiegel, she found out 19 claimed criminal complaints were registered with the FEDERAL police inside the train station, besides the 3 emergency calls made to local police. And the Mayor during the summer had had an office located right across the street from the cathedral,in order to follow events there. Before her election.

Was there a police presence that night, outside the cathedral?  Have you noticed the wrong methods of selected enforcement by so many police, by those with power above and so little understanding of what it is to have a Closeness, outside a cathedral, that is supposed to accompany power. There are many people who do not know who are given power. Worse than the people who do not know are those who do not feel. Those who no longer search, passing on the missing – the no THERE. Like in this piece in the Financial Times. No longer grasping the Truth or even trying to grasp something of the Truth into the new year. A reporter, passing on the missing news– could you feel the no THERE there in his story, like trying to pass on nothing, in the 2016 election year, with the missing feel for the game that surrounds Donald Trump, Hillory Clinton and so many of the news people who cover them. People who cover up rape. Or with a selected enforcement of the rule of law.


Post Script 2017:

Meanwhile, back in Europe, still in Vienna only on July 31, 2017, in the culture of the European Union, law enforcement ‘officials’ already ruled out a terrorist motive of a 34-year-old who came to Germany from Iraq as a child, for shooting up a disco. The ‘suspect’ was not named in keeping with German privacy laws, in the culture of the European Union, with the right to be forgotten.

VIENNA — A disagreement in a German discotheque turned deadly Sunday after the disco operator’s son-in-law left the club, returned with an assault rifle and started shooting, law enforcement officials said.

A security guard was killed and four other people were wounded, three of them seriously, during the rampage that started at the Grey Club Discotheque in the southwestern town of Konstanz. The suspect was fatally shot by a police officer.

Officials investigating the early-morning shooting identified the suspect as a 34-year-old who came to Germany from Iraq in 1991 as a child. They said they had no details of the dispute, but ruled out a terrorist motive.

Or in The Culture which knows everything, if not just too much, perhaps the issue is the culture of European Media. Reporting what the Media does not know and is too lazy to find out on their own, relying on the police. Behold the Omnipotence of Media! Could you feel the threat of the Masters of the Universe, as if the Media had created all the Universe.

January 14, 2011

Clawback on the Petter’s Ponzi Scheme Involving Mondale?

With the appointment by the new governor of Ted Mondale as chairman of the METROPOLITAN SPORTS FACILITIES COMMISSION, as the Minnesota Vikings have an ally in the fight to get a new stadium with public moneys, it is of note that our leading politically appointed prosecutors have not pursued issues of clawback, as has been going on in the wake of the Bernie Maddoff Ponzi scheme in the New York City area. It was less than six months ago that Tom Petter was convicted in his part in a Ponzi scheme.

Granted, the bloodless Petters trial does not evoke the emotions of the scars of the Rape of Europa, when seemingly innocent people ended up with the great art work as a result of the plunder of the Nazis in Eastern Europe. But the issues is still the same.

Clawback was the tool used with judicial oversight for getting back the unjustified profits of tainted money.

On Nov. 2, 2010, First American Financial Corporation announced the acquisition of NAZCA Solutions, Inc to add to their portfolio as a leading global provider of title insurance and settlement services for real estate transactions. Founded in 2003, “Nazca quickly built a reputation for innovation by developing technology that connected real estate professionals with a variety of databases needed for property and title research,” according to its website. Since that time, Nazca has been leveraging Web technology to aggregate disparate property data sets from multiple internal and external sources.

It is of note that in June 2002, Tom Petters, teaming with former Fingerhut chairman Ted Deikel, made purchase of the Fingerhut name, the customer list, along with their buildings in St. Cloud, Minnetonka, Plymouth as well as in Tennessee after Federated Department Stores decided to sell or close Fingerhut in 2002. Ted Deikel took over Fingerhut Direct Marketing Inc., which created the catalogs, while Tom Petters took over Fingerhut Fulfillment, based at a St. Cloud distribution center; the new Fingerhut restarted with online and catalog sales in November 2002. Deikel sold his interest in Fingerhut in 2004.

In the summer of 2002, Petters’ operations moved into Fingerhut’s former headquarters in Minnetonka. In April 2003, The Petters Group, with two minority investors, purchased uBid. The same month, Fingerhut Direct Inc. announced it had obtained a $100 million line of credit to finance inventory and receivables. In 2003, Petters allegedly invested in former Minnesota State Senator Ted Mondale’s Nazca Solutions. If you could believe Wikipedia. Nazca Solutions inevitably was hit by the slump in total real estate sales in 2010. And so the sale.

When bubbles burst. When the bough breaks. Like on a dome. “When the roof’s got a hole in it and I might drown.” Acquired by First American Financial for an undisclosed amount, Nazca Solutions works in partnership with clients to develop and integrate progressive data solutions, with a targeted focus towards settlement services companies and default management specialists. In the field of real estate which has not exactly been thriving lately.

Will there ever be an investigation of clawback of the Ponzi scheme of Tom Petters who allegedly invested in Nazca, and allowed a company to take off? Should the victims of Mr. Petters be allowed some fruits of the fraudulent transactions made with Tom Petter’s tainted money? Speaking of settlement services, will the son of Orville Freeman as the elected Hennepin County prosecutor be looking into the matter, if the federal judge did not, as Ted Mondale re-enters public service.

As the well-connected use their connections to see that the Minnesota Vikings spend little of their own capital, in the financing of a new stadium. With public moneys. Perhaps, people with not so dissimilar a philosophical outlook of someone involved in a Ponzi scheme. The sons of famous politicians who had been elected by farmers and laborers. When you had always been above the fray, and there seemed always to be privileges for the few. The lucky ones born who always had the art. And no one asked how it got there. For this bigger, stronger, faster high tech world. The one with steroids for weight-lifters. When so many of the ballplayers named in the Mitchell Report were the sons of former major league players.

Now with more public moneys. Speaking of sons, like the son of Bill Veek, who believes in using public money to build stadiums for the Saint Paul Saints. His Saint Paul Saints. Perhaps, people with not so dissimilar a philosophical outlook of someone involved in a Ponzi scheme, looking for an ally in the fight to get a new stadium with public moneys. Campaigning for a new stadium in St. Paul, with the help of a bonding bill, when that caliber of baseball was not expected to thrive much longer, with outdoor baseball now played outdoors at Target Field. When the Minnesota Gopher Baseball team was who really needed a new ballpark. Maybe Ted Mondale might differentiate between private enterprises and public entities with a state interest, in the latest Ponzi schemes under the auspices of football players, bush league baseball players, and their owners. As the rich get richer, only at public expense. When politics was always this modern day morality play reaching a consensus about goodness. Over public policy about what was truly good.

POST SCRIPT: It is worth note that clawback has begun in the Tom Petters’ case, sometime after this post. Led by an attorney named Kelley, doing a most admirable job; in his private life, if you like gossip, Attorney Kelley has been seen dating the ex-wife of Jim Pohlad, known for his leadership in the ownership these days of the Minnesota Twins.

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November 7, 2010

That Vagabond F. Scott Fitzgerald

Corley's This_Side_of_Paradise To be among the lucky people who ever lived. It was September in Saint Paul. One hundred years later, after F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birth, Saint Paul was celebrating his birthday. Even if those in charge seemed to be 4 years late.

I presently live in a building where Fitzgerald and Zelda had lived when their daughter was born. On occasion, strangers come looking, trying to get in, maybe thinking the Fitzgeralds still somehow were here.

Fitzgerald was born 17 days after my own grandfather. In the last year of the Gilded Age of American history. Across the river, my great grandfather was working at a stockbroker, the son of an Irish immigrant passing out the prospecti written in plain English on fledging American businesses. With a vagabond early youth spent in Syracuse and Buffalo, New York, the Fitzgerald family had returned to Minnesota when his father was fired from Procter and Gamble, the U.S.-based Irish soap-maker and candle-maker founded in 1837. I regularly pass the small school building where St. Paul Academy, a WASPish private school, had been in 1908 to 1911, until Fitzgerald was expelled for matters of effort and study habits, neglecting his studies. The vagabond theme continued at the age of sixteen when he enrolled in a Hackensack, New Jersey prep school in 1911–1912, Newman School. Never in his life did he ever purchase a home to call his own.

We are all connected in Saint Paul, and Saint Paul was reclaiming F. Scott. Though my sister told me last night at dinner that Garrison Keillor had said in his opening monologue that he no longer admires the man, as he once had. I had driven by the Keillor home yesterday on the way to church, where there were signs in the yard of a party the night before. Keillor now lived on the block where Fitzgerald had always dreamed to live. On the bookends of Summit Avenue, starting at the state capital, ending at the Mississippi. With the search for happiness in between.

Fitzgerald was oh so real. I walked past where his grandmother lived, regularly. And I almost bought a condo in what was then an apartment building when he was about five years old… where he had lived, in Saint Paul. he wrote about his search for happiness which he imagined inside the mansions –the governor’s, the archbishop’s, and every mansion in between, in this Catholic town, in this long thought of Scandinavian state.

The cultural canvas. A college dropout, a member of the Class of 1917, on academic probation at Princeton, neglecting his studies for his writing, no longer insulated from the Great War going on in Europe, he joined the army in 1917 and was sent to Camp Sheridan, not far from Montgomery, Alabama. Commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry, convinced he would die in the war, Fitzgerald rapidly wrote a novel, as he fell in love with 18-year old Zelda Sayre, the daughter of an Alabama Supreme Court judge.

That cultural canvas. The world provided the themes as he wrote, in a world of great promise, of a poor boy’s desperate desire for wealth, for the girl he could not have. The prospectus of just the dream of her. The street light at twilight, looking into the homes of the wealthy on Summit Avenue. Like James J. Hill. The Great War had ended just before he was to have been sent overseas. The romance intensified Fitzgerald’s hopes for the success of his novel, before his novel was rejected by Scribners for a second time.

Who was this vagabond, trying to marry a celebrated eighteen-year-old belle? As then came the imposed prohibition, National Prohibition, in 1919. Along with the influenza plague.

And so the prospectus as the Roaring Twenties began. Taking the good times away, in 1919, with Prohibition. Was it because of what liquor had done to the returning vets? With their battle fatigue or what now is called Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. During a parade celebrating the first anniversary of Armistice Day, a violent incident occurred in Centralia, Washington. On November 11, 1919, the Centralia Massacre contributed to the Red Scare of 1919-20. And thus the theme of aspiration of the idealism which he regarded as defining American character. And then dealing with mutability, if not with loss. With all the vagabonds returning home from war.

Fear was all around in the beginning of the Jazz Age. As Fitzgerald took his vows to live in either a better or worse world, in sickness or in health. The Jazz Age which defined, historian Ken Burns wrote, defined the America character to the rest of the world. With all of the surrounding Post Traumatic Stress which no one talked about. Did it seem so wonderful at the time?

The first War on Terror in the United States began at the end of World War I. After the Great Influenza. At the start of Volstead Act. And the start of the great labor wars. Which would come even to Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

The Red Scare. After the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. With the returning war veterans. Missing the actual war. As Fitzgerald wrote This Side of Paradise. The outsider looking in, at the end of war, in an America fueled by bombings and labor unrest, with approximately 30 booby trap bombs in late April 1919, and eight bombs in June 1919, sent to intended targets who had participated in some way with the investigation of or the opposition to anarchist radicals.

No longer insulated, on this side of paradise, with political agitation in America, following the hyper-patriotism of World War I, starting in February 1919 with the Seattle General Strike as 100 local unions joined with 35,000 shipyard workers on strike seeking wage increases, and 24 cities mostly urban areas with racial violence in the summer and early fall of 1919, and especially in the labor movement. The Boston Police Strike in September 1919. Sacco and Vanzetti, alleged to be Italian anarchists, were convicted for a 1920 murder of two men.

Vagabonds. In those periods of reconstruction. The world scene included vagabonds swept back into the undercurrent of world events, starting on the other side of paradise. On November 9, 1918, in Germany hundreds of thousands of people poured into the center of Berlin, in a movement which had started in the final days of October 1918 when 47 sailors dispatched needlessly to be sacrificed in battle in the last moment of the war without authorization mutinied, while the new democratic government was seeking peace. The mutiny of 47 affected sailors led to a general revolution supported by sailors and workers which was to sweep aside a hope to save Kaiser Wilhelm’s monarchy. Then in January 1919, hundreds of thousands of people again poured into central Berlin as a revolutionary wave developed. On January 4, 1919 Emil Eichhorn, the chief constable of Berlin was dismissed by the government when he refused to act against demonstrating workers in the Christmas Crisis after sailors — insisting on only their pay — had occupied the Imperial Chancellery, cut the phone lines, put the Council of People’s Representatives under house arrest, and captured Otto Wels. Reacting to Emil Eichhorn’s dismissal, revolutionary stewards and the chairs of the Communist Party called for a demonstration to take place on the following day. This demonstration in Berlin, turned into an assembly of hundreds of thousands of people, many of them armed, on January 5, 1919. In the first months of 1919, further armed revolts occurred with violence all over Germany, which was violently suppressed. Vladimir Lenin’s counterparts in Germany, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, were put to death.

The Red Scars. The Civil War in Ireland, between the Black and Tans. The Civil War in Russia over a six year period between the White and the Red armies. In Poland, the 1919-1920 Russo-Polish War, as the Russians attempted to carry their revolution westward, escalating when Polish Józef Pilsudski formed an alliance with the Ukrainian nationalist leader Symon Petlyura in April 21, 1920, as the Poles captured Kiev.

And people in love, in search of peace. In the beginning. In the periods of reconstruction. After everything seemed to be collapsing. After his discharge, Fitzgerald went to New York City, reaching out for the glitter, to seek his fortune. With Zelda looking for a guy with more than just a pocket full of promises, came the broken engagement. In real life. In love…..using complex structure and a controlled narrative point of view…Fitzgerald wrote. On This Side of Paradise.

Religion Blogs

April 9, 2010

Another Reason for Making Whoopi

Filed under: chicago,Chicago Cubs,Minneapolis,Minnesota,Minnesota Vikings,MN,St. Paul — baseball91 @ 7:48 PM

Those love nests called home.

The Minnesota Vikings expected a state so deeply in debt to finance their stadium. When decade after decade one owner replaced the other, reaping unbelievable return on their investment. In baseball, the franchise was owned by people who have lived here since 1961. In the case of the NFL, that no longer was true. Now our NFL franchise owner was from out east. A real estate tycoon. And his lease was up after 2011. But he was not making threats. About the Minnesota part of his franchise name.

Professional sports franchises. Their lobbyists had become the media that covered them, because the networks sold commercial time. Because consumers bought their products. But the athletes, whether locally grown or not, will pay taxes on the income. And people will travel here to see them play. That is the argument, without discussion of a user tax.

But with tax payers money, we are learning that the Minnesota franchises can play the same game with the redistribution of the wealth as in other localities. Where even the Saint Paul Saints wanted me to build them a stadium. A franchise that was making more profits in the 1990s than the big league club across the river.

It was not just the big leaguers. It was now what was going on in the amateur draft. Jeff Samardzija got $10 million when he was drafted in 2006 by the Chicago Cubs, which was paid for by the fans. Who? A “former Notre Dame wide receiver” who is now 25-years-old. You really did not give young men of college age this kind of money until they proved themselves in a profession, like baseball. Or except in baseball? At this point in his life, Jeff Samardzija is 91 victories behind where Bert Blyleven was at the age of 25. But in the Scot Boras age, the public perception is played on by spin doctors, where the value of the player is tied to how much he is paid.

When you did not have to pay for your own stadiums, you could afford to shell out bonuses to an elite. Even the unproven. Paid for by teams in the league, not so unlike government money which built the 19 other stadiums since Camden Yards opened. In he new system of Bud Selig baseball, your mistakes overcompensating could be overlooked. A lot like the mistakes of Carlos Zambrano with his $91.5 million over 5 years. Or Alfonso Soriano and the team investment of $136 million, over 8 years. Or Kosuke Fukudome making $12 million per year. Didn’t we just leave that hellhole of a ballpark? Fukudome. Hey! A new stadium will last longer than these .258 hitters like Fukudome, whose name your mother wanted the eldest child’s mouth washed out with soap, if she ever came over. So the expenditure were worth it? For 30 year leases?

These had become public policy issues. And now there was the stadium issue with the Minnesota Vikings.

Another bride
Another groom
Another sunny
Another season,
Another reason
For makin’ whoopee.

A quiet service,
A lot of rice,
The groom is nervous
He answers twice.
It’s really killing
That he’s so willing
To make whoopee.

Picture a little lovenest
Down where the roses cling
Picture that same sweet lovenest
Think what a year can bring.

He’s washing dishes
And baby clothes
He’s so ambitious
He even sews;
But don’t forget, boys
That’s what you get, boys
For makin’ whoopee. -by Gus Kahn

Sports Blogs

January 16, 2009

Star Tribune Files for Bankrupcy


You can try to have someone do the translating.  What it means.  From Minneapolis-St.Paul to Denver to Seattle.  The Minneapolis Star Tribune filed for chapter 11 in a New York court late yesterday while the local media covered the story of the lives saved on the Hudson River. 


The news.  What story to go after?  Today?  Why today?  The manufactured news versus the stories that had to be worked at….with sources.  With interviews.  Notice how there are fewer stories these days.  Everywhere.  The year 2009 was now all about economic news.  It did not cost as much to cover statistics. 

by Mark Fitzgerald is editor-at-large at


January 16, 2009 ….. It wasn’t the economy, but Avista’s own business decisions that brought the Minneapolis Star Tribune to bankruptcy, Picard argues. In his blog “The Media Business,” Robert Picard writes that newspapers’ traditional influence in communities was based on a perception of financial probity.  A well-known academic expert on media economics who is editor of the Journal of Media Business Studies, Picard said “traditional” newspaper companies will continue to try to avoid bankruptcy.  Longtime newspaper companies also are in better shape than Tribune and the Star-Tribune, even those that have substantial debt such as McClatchy, Picard said. “Private equity is the most expensive debt,” he said.  The Avista Capital Management partners private equity investors and real estate businessman Sam Zell of the Chicago Tribune are operated by chief executives new to the newspaper business.  “For any of the traditional newspaper companies, (bankruptcy) would be the absolute last resort,” he said. “But, you know, once the dam breaks, sometimes it’s easy to just kind of wash your hands and go along with it. A lot of the old rules are out, but I hope the old rule of reputation stands.”

“They’re blaming the changes in the industry, they’re blaming the economy, they’re blaming the unions — when clearly the blame belongs in
New York with the managers of Avista,” Picard told E&P today.


World GDP                        $47 trillion

World stock valuation     $121 trillion

Bond market                      $85 trillion

Credit derivatives             $473 trillion


Stock and bonds.  Herds.  Speed.  Information.  Changing direction.  Panics.


China-America.  American consumption had started to build a new China.  22 times richer…we need a loan…cheap Chinese labor. American consumption of Chinese goods.


Plentiful Chinese saving.  Lower interest rates due to Chinese savings.    50% of all global growth, and 33% of the world economy.   When the Chinese lose money on us.  Will there be Chinese anger at us?  Or when will they turn on the loans?  Escalating political risk.


(MarketWatch) by John Friedman


“December 22, 2008

….Print journalist of the year — Allan Sloan, senior editor at large of Time Warner’s Fortune magazine.  Sloan, the premier business journalist of his generation, doesn’t write on a 24/7 basis. He may seem woefully out of step in the age of the blogosphere, where spewing ill-informed opinions often count for more than old-fashioned reporting.


But Sloan stands out because his pieces always include all of the finest qualities of journalism — in any age — analysis, clarity, curiosity, depth, empathy and a point of view.


The financial meltdown has been the story of the year because it has had an impact on so many people.   The story has been ongoing, beginning with the subprime disaster, and extending to the woes of Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, AIG, Lehman Brothers and other once-glittering kings of finance. All the while, the stock market has crumbled.


The crisis has brought out the best in Sloan and his The Deal musings in the magazine.Main Street more than Wall Street in his simple, straight-forward imagery:


One of Sloan’s best pieces was published back in March and entitled “Don’t expect another bull market.”


Journalists everywhere should note that Sloan doesn’t get his points across with fancy writing. If anything, he reflects:


“Hello? Eight years of dead money in the broad stock market? How can that be, given that Ibbotson Associates says the S&P has returned an average of 10.3% a year, compounded, since 1926? Think of it as a six-foot man drowning in a pond with an average water level of six inches — if you step in at the wrong place, the water can be eight feet deep.”


Sloan reminds me of a veteran baseball pitcher who gets the batters out by drawing on his ample knowledge and experience, not because he has the best fastball in the league.”


More and more we will become a society that reads about the importance of statistics, instead of following the game.  Just as more and more the computer has made us all geeks.  A lot of old rules are out, but I hope the old rule of reputation stands.  If it doesn’t, there will be no place to discover who of your friends had died.  There will be no obituary page.  The obituary writer at the Star Tribune just took a buyout last week.  

January 11, 2009

Many Happy Returns?

Yeah.  Macy’s sucks.  I wonder how many other people had the experience post   Christmas with a gift from Macy’s ?  I returned a pair of jeans.  The gift giver apparently bought the jeans on-sale.  The sale was allegedly over and I was hit with a 25% increase when I attempted to exchange a pair of jeans that did not fit. 


I wonder how the business ethics of all this played out?  It was the same pair of jeans?   A new form bait and switch, brought to you by Macy’s dowtown Minneapolis store.  The things a store will do to survive where their corporate existence is threatened by recession.  If they make it, I will never shop there again. 


Bring back the local store.  Daytons.  Or Marshal Fields.

December 3, 2008

Star Tribune To Go After $30 Million in Cuts


The  Minneapolis Star Tribune announced today the immediate need for $30 million in cuts, in a newspaper that has made a number of reductions throughout the year.  Its survival was on the line.  

In the information age, there are a lot of insensitive people who leave their insensitive postings behind.  The age of the internet has revealed a lot of stupidity all around us.  The death of a newspaper, its role in a democracy, its role in a community, is incomprehensible.  If you were not following the story, the Tribune credit rating, the newspaper that serves Chicago and Los Angelos, is about as low as it can go.  This is not a local phenomenon.  It is time to change the business model of this newspaper.  Now.  A business model similar to Minnesota Public Radio with voluntary sustaining memberships, corporate sponsors, should be in the works.   On August 12, 2008, Nordic Capital and Avista Capital Partners paid $4.1 billion for ConvaTec, a company that specializes in advanced wound care management and ostomy (artificial skin opening) barriers.  It is time to put this wound care company to work with a new business model on the Star Tribune.  It is not too late.  These announced cuts are another short sighted solution to ongoing management of a media throughout the country in need of help.  Hopefully the people at Avista, with ConvaTec are, are more now thoughtful than those who read the news for free, those who bite the hands that feed us the news.  For free.  You actually need writers, sales people, staff to put out a product.  Too many good people have already been let go.

November 20, 2008

When The Chips Are Down

The financial crisis reportedly has already wiped out $6.7 trillion of value from the S&P 500 since October 2007.  Government lost the chance to tax a lot of currency in the last 12 months.  Government is powerless in this downward spiral and does not really have the assets to be loaning money.  That is the truth. 


Before this financial crisis was over, the Total Fiat Money System might be put at risk all because government was not ready to let those investment banks go bankrupt, to let those derivatives default.    


Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn) said that it looks “remote” that there will be an auto industry bailout, when something like 10% of American jobs revolve  around the auto industry.  Meanwhile, the governors of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey asked the federal government for a $48 million emergency grant that would allow the states to give each of the estimated 82,000 laid-off financial services worker in the New York City metro area who are losing their jobs  by the end $12,500 to help them find jobs, relocate, and provide other services.  




LAS VEGAS…It is the ninth straight month that key metric of visitor spending has fallen and most indications are that it is only going to get worse. Arrivals are falling by double-digit percentages, and the corresponding drops in casino and ancillary revenue have operators tightening their belts. Layoffs are rampant, many ambitious development projects have been postponed indefinitely and room prices have fallen through the floor. Visitation was off 10% in September, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority whiled the number of conventions was down 18%. Hotel occupancy fell 7% while the average daily room rate dropped 21% to $112 and change.


By Todd Harrison


We’ve long offered that time and price were the only true medicine for the cumulative imbalances that steadily built through the years. Much like a forest fire, the painful process of price discovery is a necessary precursor for fertile rebirthing and greener pastures.  With a conscious nod that the ultimate market bottom is likely a few years away as debt is destroyed and social moods shift, we wanted to share five vibes that could manifest into the year’s end as conventional wisdom catches up with reality.


As the world worried about inflation entering 2008, deflation was a central theme in Minyanville. We were early as the dollar dripped lower and commodities drifted higher into the summer.


Since July, the greenback has appreciated 21% vs. a basket of foreign currencies, and commodities are down an eye-popping 48%. All roads lead to deflation, we know, but the path of maximum frustration is often paved with detours.  Keep close tabs on the dollar, which recently registered several technical exhaustion signals. If it reverses lower, it’ll pave the way for commodities to enjoy a spirited counter-trend sprint.


We suggested in August that retail therapy — or, the need for retailers to visit their therapists — would be necessary as we edged toward the holiday season. There’s no denying that the consumer is on the ropes and spending is on sabbatical. That’s front-page news, however, and the market rarely rewards the obvious, if only for a trade.


Equilibrium between asset classes is askew as evidenced by insane volatility in equities, credit, commodities and currencies.  Some analysts believe that given the current state of credit, fair value on the S&P 500 Index is close to 600. In a finance-based global economy, further dislocation could conceivably lead to social unrest and geopolitical conflict. Remember, world wars are historically bred from economic hardship.  We may witness a grand scale asset-class readjustment. Potential scenarios include wiping the speculative CDS slate clean (contracts not backed by underlying collateral), massive revaluation (yuan), the introduction of a “convertible currency” or crude being denominated in something other than dollars.


There is widespread acceptance that we’ll continue to see forced selling by the hedge-fund community as money migrates from that once-golden goose. That may prove true, but there’s another side to the trade. In the mutual-fund universe, the conditioned mind-set is that the only thing worse than losing money is underperforming the benchmark. Given the horrid performance in the mainstay averages, that currently isn’t competing for mind share. Should the tape catch a sustainable bid, the potential for a “long squeeze” will manifest in kind. If that happens, look for the “master beta” plays such as Research In Motion Ltd., ($47) Google ($300), Apple($90), and Baidu ($129) to spring back to life and lead the speed.


Entering September, we shared that one of two things would happen as corporate credit came due. Either the market would suffer from cancer that chewed through the system or we would see a car crash as the wheels fell off the wagon. We’ve since experienced both. The S&P 500 is down 35% in a matter of months, credit continues to clog our systemic arteries and lame-duck politicians have thrown in the towel and passed the buck to the new administration.  The biggest potential land mine in the marketplace is widespread speculation that General Motors Corp. will file for bankruptcy before year’s end.


That General Motors bankruptcy could set the stage for our final surprise of 2008 — for when the auto industry is finally fitted for a toe tag, it may finally be time to close your eyes and buy the market for a trade


In a speech at the Cato Institute, Kohn said that the threat posed by deflation is still small but that it has grown in recent weeks as the global economy has slowed. “   -Greg Robb of MarketWatch


“With stocks tied to bonds, bonds tied to housing, housing tied to the credit crisis, and everyone hitched to the government, this was all like the conga line to the poor house.”  -Craig Rappaport, wealth manager at Janney Montgomery Scott


 “Since 1971 Total Fiat Money has been here operating under a global currency as John Maynard Keynes, the father of our Fiat Monetary System, pressed for an international paper unit that would fluctuate through an independent fiat monetary system around the world.  In this way, the Central Banks of the world could inflate together, create a massive feudal system of peonage on a global scale and maintain both political and social controls over the various populations of the world without very much restrain or limitations. The problem, of course, is that they appear to actually believe in the system that they created for these purposes ….herding the population into neat, controllable groups for convenience, taxing and regulating to maintain their political controls.” –from a Ron Paul website, ,, posted by Republicae on November 5, 2008

Negative Spirals


They just announced on the news that the minutes of the last Fed meeting were released.  To limit the current financial turmoil, the Fed announced a reduction of interest rates to 1% on October 29, 2008.  Looking ahead, the Federal Open Market Committee said further rate cuts may be necessary.  Lower than 1%.  Minnesotans think this means that they will be giving away money and a lot of us are planning a trip to meet them.  We are optimistic that money will be available to more than just bankers soon.  Where ever their closed-door meeting will be held, I want to be there.  That bailout was just a precursor of things to come in the way of give-aways.  Most of the risks were to the downside, according to their minutes, with some participants concerned about a ‘negative spiral’ in which financial strains lead to weaker spending, which in turn leads to high loan losses and a further deterioration in financial conditions.”  We have a quarterback here who uses negative spirals, and we all know the meaning of those kinds of downturns….Without using the word, even the FOMC is now forecasting a recession.  And they used to make fun of the way Alan Greenspan spoke. 


Minnesota.  Where you never really needed an icebox at this time of year.  It was where about 3 people named Anderson die per day.  And it really is pretty sad.  Especially if you were an Anderson yourself. 


Minnesota.  Where we have a place that calls itself the Original Mattress Factory.  But they never explain in their commercials if they are…. if they make original mattresses, or if this was just the place that was the original factory for mattresses.  And they moved back?  But what is an unoriginal mattress?   And they never explain why you needed to sleep on an original mattress, or if their mattresses are like a cocoon and turn into something else after a while.  And what if you are sleeping when it happens?  And then you need another mattress?


Minnesota.  Where Garrison Keillor pretty much just reports on real life.  You can’t make this stuff up.  It took a long while for Minnesotans to appreciate that Keillor was a comedienne.  People thought he seemed a lot like Eric Severoid who was from around here too.  They laughed at his stories when he first moved to New York.  Keillor.  Not Severoid.  About the time “Fargo” won an Academy Award.  Since I lived in Fargo for 3 years, I never saw the movie as funny.  It seemed like real life to me.  A lot like Sarah Palin.  In Europe, in most places on earth, they do not understand the American obsession with ice cubes, they say. 


Minnesota.  It is a difficult place to live.  Where most of us believed that life imprisonment was a worse sentence than the death penalty.  The death penalty has been outlawed here, by the way. 


Minnesota.  A place where either way, you had to vote for a comedienne for Senate.  They both were for the bailout.  Bailouts used to be what was needed if you got arrested.  A lot of those people running Wall Street should be arrested before it is over. 


Minnesota, where apparently the folks here don’t count here like they used to.  Those damn public schools, because recounts are in the news.  It is not that tough to count right the first time.  I am worried now about being short changed at the gas station.  But no one is asking for a “do over.”  Yet. 


Minnesota.  Where the last indoor college football game was going to be played this Saturday.  When the temperature will be about minus 4 degrees Celsius.  We were building an outdoor ballpark too.  For baseball.  Speaking of ice cubes.  In Minnesota we had thought that global warming would be here by next season.  We were still optimistic despite the economic forecast.  We did not expect that downturn here. 


Minnesota.  Where gas is so cheap, we did not expect the downturn here in prices and people are trying to find containers to keep it in. Tupperware doesn’t hold much, though the Tupperware sales ladies are suggesting it.  


Wow.  In the news.  Another Anderson died.  He was a former speaker of the house.  In Minnesota.  The state house.  It used to be traditional for all the Andersons to vote for another Anderson.  Even in legislative bodies.  You cannot make this stuff up.  And they say the Chinese had only 7 family names.  If you want to make a Minnesota laugh, one of our Andersons, you just say the name of Deng Xiaoping about 5 times.  Real slow.  Like we talk here.  

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