Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Quick Hits: Volume LXXXVIII

- We've heard the phrase "Polar vortex" in reference to the much colder than usual weather we've experienced throughout North America in 2014. With the Minnesota Legislature back in session Tuesday, Polar vortex could also be a euphemism for what happens to Minnesotans' hard earned money when the DFL controls state government.

Ah, but fear not my fellow Minnesotans. The DFL's top priority is to provide middle-class tax relief by repealing certain taxes.....which they voted to increase last session....but now they expect a heroes welcome for returning those dollars to its rightful owners (i.e. the taxpayers).

The most galling aspect of this will be Gov. Mark Dayton on the campaign trail claiming he had the best interest of small businesses in mind upon signing a repeal of new sales taxes on business equipment repairs, telecommunications equipment purchases and warehousing services. However, it was Dayton himself who admitted he didn't realize what was contained in the final tax bill until after it was "already buttoned up" (translation: I had no idea what I signed). You gotta admit it's an intriguing strategy. Sign a tax bill increasing taxes, deny you knew of certain increases and then declare victory by giving back the money.


- About six months ago, Fox News personality Megyn Kelly was given the coveted 9:00 ET/8:00 CT slot on that network. Upon news of the lineup shift, Kelly's CNN counterpart in that time slot, Piers Morgan, tweeted the following:



I guess Mr. Morgan can consider it "brought on."

Gun-control opponents, take heart: "Piers Morgan Live" is about to get its barrel cleaned by CNN.

The 9 p.m. interview show hosted by the British-born Morgan — an outspoken and controversial champion of gun control — will be canceled as soon as next month, the host told the New York Times in an interview published Sunday.

"Piers Morgan Live" has sunk to some of its lowest-ever ratings recently, just as CNN boss Jeff Zucker is under relentless pressure to turn around the struggling cable news network. CNN is often a distant No. 3 behind Fox News Channel and MSNBC.

"CNN confirms that 'Piers Morgan Live' is ending," the network said in a statement. "The date of the final program is still to be determined."

Morgan did not respond to a request for comment, nor did his manager. He took over the 9 p.m. weeknight period for CNN in 2011, succeeding Larry King.

The fact of the matter is it didn't matter who was opposite of Morgan in the coveted 9:00 ET slot. His condescending (and sometimes downright hostile) attitude towards those who made coherent arguments refuting his vapid gun control screeds wore thin with Americans. To me, he reached the pinnacle of absurdity when he suggested to Pastor Rick Warren that the Holy Bible be amended.

From here I don't know where Morgan goes. Truth be told, I don't really care.


- I ride the Northstar commuter rail to my workplace in downtown Minneapolis. Over the past month there's been an inordinate amount of delays resulting in my not arriving in my office until past my normal 8:00 a.m. start time. The catalyst for said delays has been heavier freight traffic.

So when commerce interferes with a pet government project like the Northstar rail, I think you know what happens next.

The Minnesota Legislature is about to climb aboard the dilemma of passenger train delays in the state. Monday morning, the Northstar Commuter line was more than two hours late from Big Lake to Minneapolis.

House Transportation Finance Committee Chair Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis) intended to hold hearings on Wednesday on the impact and safety of increased freight rail traffic across the state. The dramatic increase in freight traffic is a product of the North Dakota oil boom. Almost all of that oil is transported by rail.

"The freight traffic has precedence over the passenger traffic and these rail companies need to communicate more effectively and schedule better so that they do not interfere with our commuter traffic," said Hornstein.
These proposed hearings are merely a symbolic gesture since, as Rep. Hornstein correctly pointed out, BNSF has priority on the tracks. As such, it appears state government has little recourse (not that they won't try to impose their will anyways).

Being at the mercy of BNSF was something which legislators were fully aware when they chose to fund a commuter train serving only the North-Northwest suburbs. Even without the significant delays (delays which may result in commuters no longer desiring to use Northstar), this rail line has been a boondoggle. As it stands now, taxpayers are subsidizing the Northstar to the tune of about $20 per rider each way. So this seemingly faux outrage put forth by Rep. Hornstein seems to be little more than a face-saving exercise.

While the money pit that is public transportation is an issue that will always linger, there may be a way to alleviate the delays caused by increased freighter traffic hauling oil out of North Dakota. Perhaps that issue can be broached with President Barack Obama when he visits the Twin Cities today.

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