Anthony Varriano

Anthony Varriano

The Minnesota Timberwolves were fourth in the NBA’s Western Conference after a comeback win over the Portland Trail Blazers in Minneapolis on Monday, but there are glaring problems with the wolfpack that could derail its playoff hopes.

The Minutes

Tom Thibodeau, unsurprisingly, is overworking his starters. All five of his starters are averaging more than 33 minutes played per game. That’s right, Taj Gibson is averaging 33 minutes a night because he has the highest on-the-floor/off-the-floor plus/minus of anyone on the team (+23).

In Thursday’s 23-point win over Sacramento, which was a 24-point Timberwolves lead entering the fourth quarter, Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins played 36, 35 and 34 minutes, respectively. That’s just one minute less than their average for the season. With two minutes left and a 20-point lead, Wiggins and Towns were still on the floor. That’s just creating risk where there is none.

It’s not as if Butler, Towns and Wiggins are playing more minutes than anyone ever has. But all three are in the top 15 in minutes played per game this season. No other team has three players in the top 15 in average minutes played.

The result has been multiple collapses late in games. The Timberwolves were torched by Ben Simmons back-cuts over and over again in the fourth quarter against Philadelphia on Tuesday at Target Center. A nine-point lead with 6:06 left evaporated in less than four minutes.

The Timberwolves led by 13 over the the Wizards at home with 9:51 to go in the third quarter. By the end of the third quarter it was a one-possession game. They lost. They led by six with 9:04 to go at Phoenix and lost by eight. And they led by 11 with 9:57 to go against Detroit at home and lost by three.

All told the Wolves have lost three games by one possession, one in overtime, and one more by four points. This was a big problem for Minnesota last season. The Wolves logged a .391 winning percentage in close games in 2016-17, fifth-worst in the league. They’re 14th with a .545 winning percentage in close games this year, so things are looking up. But as the minutes add up, the fourth quarters get tougher and tougher.

How to fix it: Give Jamal Crawford and Gorgui Dieng more minutes. Thibodeau finally played Crawford in the fourth quarter of Monday’s game against Portland, resulting in 23 minutes played. Crawford played all 82 games for the Clippers last year, averaging 26.3 minutes per game. He’s averaging 17.7 minutes per game this season, and his numbers don’t indicate a falling off. Both his offensive and defensive ratings are actually better than they were last year. The legs of Minnesota’s best defender, Butler, would be grateful for Crawford’s minutes in the fourth quarter. Butler also benefited directly from Crawford’s presence on the floor in the fourth.

Dieng has seen his minutes nearly cut in half from last season, from 32.4 to 17.7 per game. He hasn’t been quite as effective, but he was playing power forward last season. He’s still capable of more than 17.7 minutes per game at center, which would keep Towns fresh for the fourth quarters.

The Threes (or lack thereof)

The Timberwolves finished five of 29 from beyond the arc against the 76ers last Tuesday, and had made five percent of their shots from beyond the arc until Jimmy Butler hit consecutive threes late in the fourth quarter that allowed the Wolves to force overtime. They were missing their best perimeter shooter in Nemanja Bjelica, though.

Even with Bjelica, the Wolves are 20th in three-point percentage and third to last in three-pointers attempted. They lack shooters, and given their defensive struggles, keeping up with the Rockets and Warriors will be a challenge. Scoring 107.7 points per game just won’t cut it against the West’s best.

How to fix it: Trade for Tony Snell. This should thrill Thibodeau, who has been trying to get the Bulls band back together. Snell is fourth in the league in three-point percentage, ahead of Klay Thompson, but he’s missed time with left patellar tendinitis. Assuming he’s healthy and his 70-point increase in his three-point percentage from last year is no fluke, he’s exactly what Thibodeau and the Wolves need, but the Bucks will want a lot in return. Snell would likely require a player and a draft pick.

The Bucks need a center and the Wolves have four on the roster. Dieng could end up being one piece they seek, which would clear some money for the Wolves, but leave them with 17 minutes going to Cole Aldrich, unless Justin Patton is ever able to play. A backup center can be had for less than $14 million, though. Kyle O’Quinn and his $4 million salary could be brought in from New York for a second-round draft pick, or Dewayne Dedmon of the Hawks could be a short-term solution at $6 million.

The Bench

The Wolves’ bench has been atrocious. Only the Pelicans have been worse, so it’s not as though Thibodeau needs to make up a reason for giving his starters minutes. Luckily, adding depth prior to the trade deadline is always a possibility. Besides Crawford, the Wolves don’t have bench players who can create their own open shots. Tyus Jones is barely a facilitator, and Bjelica is a spot-up shooter.

How to fix it: Adding a guy like O’Quinn would be a boost given his box plus/minus of five points above average per 100 possessions, and that’s mostly due to his defense. Dieng’s is .8.

Acquiring Ersan Ilyasova from Atlanta would improve Minnesota’s bench, too. His offensive and defensive ratings per 100 possessions this season are the best in his career and would be even better if he was playing fewer than the 23.5 minutes per game he’s currently averaging.

So while there are many problems with the Minnesota Timberwolves, they can be fixed through trades. Acquiring bench players at the deadline will at least give Thibodeau options that will save his starters’ legs, but Thibodeau still has to be convinced the team would benefit from his starters playing fewer minutes.

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Democrats all over America are staking claim to Doug Jones’s victory over alleged sexual predator Roy Moore for Alabama’s Senate seat, Tuesday night. But it was women, and specifically black women, who made the difference in Alabama -- women and a football coach.

The black vote wasn’t suppressed this time

According to Mother Jones, 235 calls were made to The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law as of 3:24 p.m. EST, Tuesday, reporting all manner of voter suppression tactics common in black neighborhoods, like bringing in police to check voters’ warrants for arrest and incorrectly turning away voters with inactive statuses. Long lines weren’t enough to deter black voters from the polls this time, as 38 percent of Alabama’s registered voters turned out for the special election, which far exceeded expectations of 20 to 25 percent.

Black women accounted for 18 percent of the vote in Alabama on Tuesday, and despite almost two-thirds of white, Alabama women finding a reason to vote for Moore, it wasn’t enough, as another 10 percent of voters went to Jones in the form of white women. That’s 28 percent of the vote right there, and with black men accounting for another 12 percent, Jones needed just 10 percent of remaining white, male voters to choose him to have a majority.

Alabama football coach Nick Saban turned the tide

Jones got eight percent of the remaining votes of white men instead, which was enough thanks to Alabama Crimson Tide head football coach Nick Saban...probably. We don’t yet know who Alabamians (it should be Alabamans because that’s how Alabamians pronounce it) chose to write-in, but the bulk of 22,777 write-in votes had to have gone to Coach Saban. Many think Saban will finish third in the election.

Alabama a victory for democracy, not Democrats

The Alabama special election for the U.S. Senate was a victory for democracy, not Democrats. Sure, a Democrat won a Senate seat that’s been filled by a Republican since 1996. And sure, the Republican majority in the Senate is down to one seat, which Democrats are likely to win in 2018. But Democrats didn’t win in Alabama because Alabamians are suddenly leaning Democratic. And they didn’t win because Alabamians are fed up with Donald Trump. They won because Alabamians didn’t want to be the laughing stock of America for electing an alleged sexual predator with a specific interest in 14-year-old girls. Jones will most certainly be replaced by a Republican come 2020. Until then, Alabamians will get a chance to see what Democrats will do for them.

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ESPN’s David Schoenfield predicted the Minnesota Twins would sign 29-year-old, free agent starter Alex Cobb during the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings at Walt Disney World -- a fitting place for an MLB Hot Stove that was slow to heat up.

The stove is finally preheated, with the Babe Ruth of Japanese baseball, Shohei Ohtani, choosing to play for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the New York Yankees working with former Yankee Derek Jeter to acquire Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins.

The Twins’ non-division competition is tougher in 2018

The moves certainly don’t improve the Twins’ chances of returning to the postseason in 2018. The Angels were just five games back of the Twins for the second Wild Card spot in 2017, and the Yankees finished six games ahead of the Twins for the first Wild Card spot. And while the Twins’ best division opponent, Cleveland, hasn’t done much, they finished 2017 with a 17-game lead over Minnesota.

The Twins stand to pick up plenty of games playing in the AL Central next year. With the Tigers, White Sox and Royals all rebuilding, the 2018 Twins should be better than their 41-35 record within their division in 2017. But with the Angels, Mariners and Yankees improving their rosters considerably, Twins fans can expect a worse record against AL East and AL West clubs if the Twins make no moves.

For once, the Twins have a lot of starting pitching

But the Twins have money to spend, which is the only reason Schoenfield offers in defense of his prediction that the Twins sign Cobb. Given the Twins’ rotation, though, a starting pitcher worth just two wins above replacement in 2017 isn’t going to be enough to hold off the rest of the American League.

There aren’t as many open spots in the Twins’ starting pitching rotation as in past years. Jose Berrios is finally entering a Spring Training with a firm hold on a rotation spot. Ervin Santana returns, and the Twins are hoping the Kyle Gibson that showed up in the final month of the season is the Kyle Gibson they get all season in a contract year.

Adalberto Mejia was worth .8 WAR in 2017 over 98 innings and should get a chance at one of the Twins’ rotation spots. Mejia improved considerably from 2016, dropping his hard-hit percentage from 42 to 32 percent. That’s better than both Cobb’s (37) and Gibson’s (36) hard-hit percentages in 2017.

The Twins’ pitching question marks

So without Cobb, the Twins have four capable starters. Then there’s Phil Hughes, who is a huge question mark. Minnesota president of baseball operations Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine have to be entering the season expecting nothing from Hughes. If the Twins end up with a replacement-level reliever in Hughes, they’d likely take that. Hughes certainly has earned the right to compete for a starting role in Spring Training, though.

Trevor May could come off of Tommy John surgery and compete for a starting job, too. While the Twins need reliable relievers, which May was prior to surgery, Twins Daily’s Seth Stohs thinks bringing back May as a starter would be easier on his arm and body.

Then there’s the rotation depth in Rochester, where there are six starters fighting for five spots. If the Twins add no starters, Aaron Slegers, Felix Jorge, Dietrich Enns, Stephen Gonsalves, Zack Littell and Fernando Romero would be fighting for one big-league rotation spot with up to two other big-leaguers (Hughes and May). They’d also be fighting to all stay in AAA, with Romero the most likely candidate to return to AA Chattanooga. But at some point during 2018, one or more of these young hurlers will have earned a call-up. So what should the Twins ask Santa to bring them at the Winter Meetings?

Chris Archer

Obtaining Chris Archer’s team-friendly contract through 2019 should be the Twins’ first priority. He’s owed less than $7 million next season, and his deal even comes with team options for 2020 and 2021 at $9 million and $11 million, respectively. He’s one of five pitchers to throw over 200 innings in three consecutive seasons, and he’s a solid number two starter despite his 1.2 WAR posted in 2017.

Archer was a victim of his hard-hit percentage increasing from 33 percent in 2016 to 39 percent in 2017, but a lot of those hard hits occurred late in games when some would argue his manager, Kevin Cash, left him in too long. Jim Turvey writes: “If Archer had exited every game in the sixth or earlier last season, his ERA would have dropped from 4.02 to 3.68.”

So Archer isn’t going to match Santana when it comes to pitching complete games, but having Santana in front of him in the rotation should make Paul Molitor comfortable pulling Archer for a reliever in or prior to the sixth inning.

Acquiring Archer would be worth parting with Nick Gordon, as the Rays’ worst hitters were at second base and shortstop last season. It would also give the Rays a reason to trade shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who rebounded from posting a 64 OPS+ in 2016 to put up an 88 in 2017 and is a free agent in 2019.

Mostly, Archer is more desirable than Darvish because of his team-friendly contract and Darvish’s struggles in the postseason and down the stretch of the regular season last year.

Gerrit Cole

If the Twins can’t score Archer, Cole is a logical second option. His 2.8 WAR in 2017 was just one win less than Darvish’s, and Cole will make a fraction of what Darvish demands in arbitration the next two seasons. And if the Twins wish to retain Nick Gordon, the Pirates could be a better trade partner than Tampa given their need for young, starting pitching.

Yu Darvish

Yu Darvish was worth 3.8 WAR last season. That’s not close to competitive with aces in the league, but would make him a solid number two starter on any team, including the Twins. Santana finished 2017 with 4.8 WAR and finished seventh in the Cy Young voting.

The Twins should resist overpaying Darvish, though, considering their starting pitching depth and the aforementioned availability of number-two starters with team-friendly contracts.

So instead of spending all that money Schoenfield cites, the Twins would be better off trading for a short-term solution to add to their pitching staff that will allow them to be even more active in free agency next year, when Clayton Kershaw is likely to be available. The Twins could even move Miguel Sano to first base and acquire either Josh Donaldson or Manny Machado with Joe Mauer’s contract expiring. Whether the new front office is willing to let the long-time face of the franchise go is a question that won’t likely be answered until next year.

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Minnesota governor Mark Dayton is expected to appoint lieutenant governor Tina Smith to replace United States Senator Al Franken, who resigned amid sexual harassment allegations. But Smith is now contemplating running for reelection in 2018, which has Democrats applying pressure on Dayton to appoint more than just a caretaker to the Senate seat.

Democrats have a stable of good horses to win the 2018 race for Franken’s vacated seat, but U.S. House Representative from Minnesota’s fifth district, Keith Ellison, is the thoroughbred. Ellison has served as the fifth district’s House Representative since 2007, so he’s put in the time to earn a promotion to the Senate. Furthermore, he’d vacate another U.S. Congressional seat Democrats could easily win back in 2018 given its Minneapolis voting base. But who will replace Ellison if he indeed runs for the U.S. Senate in 2018?

Here are the candidates most likely to run for Minnesota’s fifth district if Ellison does run for Franken’s Senate seat.

Lori Swanson, Minnesota Attorney General

Rumor is Swanson wants to run for governor, and her office didn’t return our call as of this writing, but she’d probably be a shoe-in for the U.S. House. For an attorney general, Swanson has pretty good name recognition throughout the state and even the nation. She was named one of America’s top ten lawyers by Lawyers USA in 2009, and the very next year, she was named Public Official of the Year by the Minnesota Nurses Association, whose support would be essential for a Democratic victory in Minnesota’s Fifth U.S. House District.

Ginger Jentzen, Socialist Alternative Party

Jentzen was the big story out of Minnesota during the 2017 municipal elections despite losing a bid for Minneapolis’s City Council. She won the popular vote in seven of 12 precincts, but lost the seat to ranked-choice voting. She didn’t get enough second- or third-choice votes to get a majority. That wouldn’t be the case in a race for Minnesota’s fifth district for the U.S. House, where a win would make her the first Socialist in the House of Representatives since Victor Berger of neighboring Wisconsin in 1910 (Bernie Sanders served in the House as an Independent, and retains that affiliation in the Senate). Jentzen had no comment when asked if she’d be interested in running for the U.S. House seat at a Socialist Alternative event on Saturday night.

Raymond Dehn, Democratic Farmer Labor

Dehn was a close second to Jacob Frey in the Minneapolis mayoral race in 2017, garnering 42.8 percent of the vote, but was fourth in first-choice votes. Tom Hoch and incumbent Betsy Hodges received more first-choice votes than Dehn, but Hoch gave money to Republicans, and Hodges isn’t likely to perform well given her third-place finish as incumbent mayor of Minneapolis.

Nekima Levy-Pounds, Democratic Farmer Labor

Pounds was fifth in first-choice votes for Minneapolis mayor, but would certainly receive the endorsement of Ellison given her work as President of the Minnesota NAACP. Ellison was the first black Representative elected out of Minnesota, and was the first ever Muslim Congressman elected in the United States.

If Smith intends to run for reelection, however, Franken’s vacant Senate seat would be ripe for Republican picking. Franken barely edged Republican Norm Coleman back in 2008, and Hillary Clinton won the state in 2016 by just 1.5 percentage points in 2016.

Update: Pounds returned a message stating she has no interest in running for the District 5 U.S. House seat, but offered two candidates who might.

Jamal Abdulahi, Democratic Farmer Labor

Abdulahi announced his candidacy for Minnesota's Fifth Congressional District when Ellison was being considered as chair of the Democratic National Committee in 2016. He is a Somali American who grew up in Minnesota and would be the first Somali American in Congress. He'd be continuing a trend in Minnesota, which has the largest Somali American population in the country by far. Minnesotans elected the first Somali American Muslim woman to the state legislature last year.

 

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The plot surrounding Russia’s effect on the 2016 Presidential election is thick as mud, and Donald Trump looks more guilty everyday. Michael Flynn allegedly intends to testify that then President-elect Trump ordered him to contact the Russians. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has been revealed as the transition-team official who ordered Flynn to contact Russian officials shortly after the election. Facebook has verified that ads purchased by fake accounts owned by Russians had an effect on the 2016 Presidential election.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Republicans. In fact, getting rid of Trump sooner rather than later could save the jobs of many House and Senate Republicans. Here are five reasons why Republicans should want Trump impeached.

1. It would lift Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections

Trump’s record-low approval rating as President this far into his Presidency is falling to even more embarrassing depths, and that approval rating has a considerable effect on the results of the midterm elections. “Since 1934, the party of a newly elected president has suffered an average loss of 23 seats in the House in the following midterm,” according to Ballotpedia. But we’ve never had a President with an approval rating of 35 percent this early in his Presidency.

Democrats need to pick up 24 seats in the 2018 midterm elections for a majority in the House of Representatives. Ballotpedia classifies the reelection chances of 17 incumbent Republicans as battleground races and another 12 as “races to watch.” Just six incumbent Democrats are at risk of losing their seats, and another two are classified as races to watch. 270ToWin predicts 20 tossups in the House and doesn’t see the Democrats gaining a majority in 2018. But if the 2017 Virginia special elections are any indication, Republicans should be worried.

There are eight Republican Senators up for reelection in 2018, two of whom Ballotpedia predicts could lose their seats. The seat vacated by Jeff Flake in Arizona and Dean Heller’s seat in Nevada are two seats the Democrats need to swing the Senate majority in their favor. 270ToWin has 11 tossups predicted for the 2018 midterm elections, so there are plenty of seats to be had by Democrats, and that outcome becomes more and more likely as Trump’s approval rating falls.

2. It would give Republicans a chance in the 2020 Presidential election

Republicans would be better off with Mike Pence as their Presidential candidate. Right now, PredictIt shares of Trump losing the election are selling at 64 cents, so despite his shares of winning the 2020 Presidential election leading the pack at 37 cents, the market doesn’t have a lot of faith in him. Shares of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren winning the 2020 Presidential election are both trending up, as Trump’s shares go unchanged. Shares of Mike Pence winning are steady at seven cents.

Pence is ideal for Republicans because the Koch brothers prefer him. The possibility of a Pence Presidency would likely result in more spending by the Kochs on Republicans’ behalf, perhaps preserving Republicans’ Congressional majority.

3. It would give Republicans a reason to make abortion and gay marriage election issues, again

Republicans would love to make abortion and gay marriage election issues again and forever, and President Pence would make ending both his campaign promises. Trump doesn’t seem to be as interested in social issues. What he doesn’t understand is that as long as Republicans are talking about why Planned Parenthood should be defunded for all the wrong reasons and abortion should be illegal for even victims of rape, they’re not defending their tax scam that turns churches into the next big, dark-money donors to Republican campaigns or defending their belief that climate change is a hoax and not man-made.

Republicans love talking about abortion and gay marriage because they don’t need evidence of any kind to defend their position. Thanks to The Bible, they’ll be correct in their minds -- not unlike the illogicality of jihadist suicide bombers.

4. It would give Republicans a chance to “drain the swamp,” again

The revolving door that has been the Trump Administration would finally stop revolving after Republicans kick Trump’s appointments through it. Republicans would love to get back to an administration that does as little as possible as quietly as possible, but replacing Trump officials would give Republicans an opportunity to draw the eyes of the media and public away from things like their support of a alleged pedophile from Alabama for the United States Senate. If there’s something Republicans have learned from the Trump Administration, it’s that constantly moving parts allows for mass misdirection of the media and public.

5. It would give Republicans a chance to rebuild relationships with foreign leaders

It only took a Tweet for Trump to wear out his welcome in Great Britain, a country whose recent nationalist and immigration-stifling interests he wants to copy. Kim Jong-un has never been more willing or more prepared to start nuclear war. Virtually every nation disagrees with Trump’s position on climate change, but that’s not going to change with Trump impeached. Pence’s personality would likely repair relationships with Great Britain and Jong-un, though, to the extent the latter exists.

So there are five reason why Republicans should want Trump impeached. The first -- the 2018 midterm elections -- should be enough to convince at least a few Republicans to vote for impeachment.

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After needing a shootout to beat the Central’s worst team, Colorado, at home just over a week ago, and allowing 13 goals over their next two games, the Minnesota Wild got their two biggest wins of their wild season over two of the Western Conference’s best teams.

Wild Now vs. Then

The Wild squad on Saturday was better than the team that was eliminated by the Blues in the playoffs last season, despite Zach Parise’s absence -- and the Wild dominated almost every aspect of that series with the Blues except where it counted most. The Wild defense is considerably different than it was last year despite the return of Nate Prosser a few days ago.

The addition of Marcus Foligno to a squad that delivered so few hits last season has resulted in more takeaways closer to their opponents’ goal. The Wild were second to last in hits per game last season and have raised their average per game by more than three so far this year. Foligno had six hits on Saturday -- two more than any other player.

Wild Defense Sparks Wild Offense

The Wild were also good defensively in the neutral zone on Saturday, and it resulted in six takeaways to St. Louis’s zero. The Blues’ struggles to carry the puck into the offensive zone forced them to alter their offensive zone entry strategy. The Blues resorted to dumping pucks in and chasing more often than they’d like, but that’s what happens when you can’t retain possession of the puck through the neutral zone.

The Wild’s first goal on Saturday was the result of a neutral zone turnover by the Blues. A seemingly unnoticeable step-up by Miko Koivu into Blues center Vladimir Sobotka at the Blues’ blue line forced a turnover to Matt Dumba at center as the Blues attempted a change. What resulted was a carry-in by Ryan Suter, who left a dropback pass to Jason Zucker. Suter then skated into his forecheck ever so innocently and was rewarded with a fat rebound off the slapshot of Zucker, which he bounced off goalie Jake Allen into the net. The ease of carrying the puck into the Blues’ zone rather than requiring the Wild a long dump-in resulted in a dropback pass and quick shot, which turned into assists for Zucker and Dumba.

In overtime, Anthony LaPanta pointed out that Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau changed his overtime strategy, starting the overtime period with two defensemen on the ice. You can always add a forward if you win the faceoff, so it’s perfectly logical. Since the Wild lost the overtime-opening faceoff, they got to defend the first Blues’ possession with two defensemen, and it paid off in an unexpected way.

The Blues got two shots on their first overtime possession, only one of which got through to Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk. But having the offensive-minded defenseman Dumba on the ice sure seemed to be the difference in the game.

Dumba knew he had a chance to create an immediate scoring opportunity off the rebound of the Blues’ shot. He carried in quickly, made a pass to the charging Charlie Coyle, and buried Coyle’s pass back after Vladimir Tarasenko made a defensive mistake in failing to get inside position on Dumba. It made the 42-25 Blues lead in shots on goal and 35-21 faceoff advantage irrelevant, as did Dubnyk’s 41 saves. And the recently acquired Nate Prosser had a takeaway, a hit, three blocked shots and a shot on goal.

Wild Takeaways and Vegas Giveaways Lift Wild

The Wild’s forecheck and neutral zone defense against the surprising Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday was again key to a 4-2 win. The Wild led 9-6 in hits and overcame eight giveaways with a 29-23 edge in the faceoff circle, but three of the Wild’s four goals were the result of takeaways or Vegas giveaways.

Zucker forced a turnover behind the Vegas net that resulted in a shot on goal and an offensive zone faceoff, which the Wild won. A perfect pass from Mike Reilly led to a wide open shooting lane for Mikael Granlund, who bounced it off the post and in for the Wild’s first goal three minutes before the end of the second period.

At 2-2 with eight minutes to play, Eric Staal didn’t allow the Knights’ Pierre-Edouard Bellemare an easy clear up the boards, Dumba pinched to hold the zone, and Staal moved to the net to bury the deflection of Dumba’s slapshot.

The Wild’s empty net goal was also scored off a neutral zone turnover by the Knights. Staal intercepted a blue line entry pass and sent it slowly down the ice into the empty net.

Wild Schedule

The two wins put Minnesota seven points back of the Blues and Winnipeg Jets in the Western Conference with the always tough California road trip upcoming. So instead of looking up at 10 teams in the Western Conference, the Wild are looking up at eight teams and are just a point out of the Wild Card.

After playing roughly once every five days to open the season, the Wild are entering the toughest stretch of their schedule. They entered the Vegas game having played three games in four days and will host Calgary (14-11-1), Toronto (17-10-1) and Edmonton (11-14-2) and visit Chicago (12-9-5) over the course of six days.

Wild Injuries

The Wild can do without Parise for a while, but they can’t do without Jared Spurgeon for too long. Spurgeon is out two weeks nursing a groin strain and could come back either Dec. 14 against Toronto or Dec. 16 against Edmonton. Most importantly, Spurgeon should be close to fully healthy when the Wild visit Chicago for a big, division game. The two are tied with 29 points this season.

With Parise skating in consecutive days on Thursday for the first time since having surgery to address nerve pain caused by a herniated disc in his back, the Wild are in much better position to welcome him back when he’s fully healthy. They won’t need Parise to be Parise right away, but in the playoffs, they will need his nose for the net if they’re to advance.


 

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"Since 1995, more than $15 million in taxpayer dollars has been paid out to settle claims, including sexual harassment claims, on behalf of members of Congress and congressional staff. While the amount of money paid is public, everything else is secret. The public doesn’t know which members have been involved in taxpayer-financed settlements for alleged misconduct."

Those are the words of Florida Republican Representative Rob DeSantis, who is a cosponsor of a bill that would stop Congress’ secret, taxpayer-funded harassment settlements. While anyone else would be required to spend their personal funds to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit, politicians have been using tax dollars to do so for decades. Now that male politicians have been revealed as the pigs they are, now more than ever it’s important American taxpayers are refunded for bailing out the pigs.

While the bipartisan bill would require lawmakers who used the secret Treasury Department fund reimburse the government, with interest, that’s not enough. American taxpayers deserve to be reimbursed -- not the government. That’s our money -- not the government’s, and when our money is used to bail out politicians who are already rich, our money needs to be returned.

Since the Republican tax bill will force poor and middle class Americans to pay more in taxes to fund a massive tax cut for corporations and the rich (and raise the deficit to boot), the least Republicans could do is toss the average American a refund for settling sexual harassment suits. It might only result in a 13-cent refund for each American taxpayer ($15 million divided by 122 million taxpayers), that’s still more than most Americans are getting with the current legislation.

Contact your Senators and Representatives and demand any taxes used to bail out politicians accused of harassment, sexual or otherwise, be returned to you and every American taxpayer immediately. This should be something upon which both Democrats and Republicans can agree -- taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be used or collected to bail out political pigs.

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With a majority-Republican Federal Communications Commission led by Republican Ajit Pai on the verge of reversing net neutrality rules put in place by President Barack Obama in 2015, people won’t even be able to guide their own education anymore, and they won’t even know they aren’t in control. All of this despite more than a million public comments submitted to the FCC opposing net neutrality probably being fake.

Pai’s proposal to destroy the freedom of the Internet would allow Internet service providers to influence the “answers” users receive when surfing the web. ISPs would be allowed to guide users to information on websites they own or of which they approve, providing a guided tour of information acceptable to them instead of allowing the user to investigate all information available.

The information superhighway would be exactly that -- if said highway’s path was dictated by those providing the concrete and materials and not the people who pay the taxes to build it. A highway with infinite exits would gave way to a highway of limited exits, determined by the biggest companies providing services along the highway. If your business is too small, it doesn’t get an exit on the information superhighway. People will have to pay extra to find you.

The proposal would also allow ISPs to break up their information offerings and charge separately for them. Say, for instance, Verizon provides your mobile data. Well, under the new rules, which are expected to be adopted on Dec. 14, Verizon could charge more for audio and video content than it does for access to written web content. They could even charge more for specific shows that don’t represent Verizon particularly well. So shows that actually inform could be off limits to those who can’t afford to pay the ISP’s fee.

Controlling the access to information is one of the oldest tricks in the business class’s textbook. Ignorance is key to controlling people. Slave owners didn’t want slaves reading and writing for a reason. Now that the business class realizes it can dictate behavior through media and advertising and has made public education bad enough and post-secondary education expensive enough to keep the majority of Americans ignorant of its agenda, controlling the Internet is the last logical step in obtaining complete control of the populace and establishing a Fascist state.

The Kochs’ investment in Meredith Corp’s purchase of Time, Inc. (consisting of some of the most-read magazines like Time and Sports Illustrated) is indicative of the value in controlling information. While the Kochs won’t have a seat on Meredith Corp’s board nor the power to dictate editorial decisions, they will have the inside track to nearly a third of the magazines’ pages through advertising.

The Kochs are investing in Time and Sports Illustrated’s dedicated audiences, consisting of people the Kochs don’t likely reach with their current advertising campaigns. This will give them the opportunity to influence people without them knowing and, perhaps, “turn” them to the Kochs’ side. The strategy is not unlike that of Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is the largest owner of local news broadcasts in mid-markets and dictates editorial content that makes people needlessly fear terrorist attacks and is designed to make its viewers into Conservative Nationalists.

Sinclair and the Kochs are in the business of molding Republicans so they can pass legislation that’s friendly to their fat pocketbooks. And now they have the FCC on their side, working to make ignoramuses of us all. Don’t let them. Pay the $30 or so per year for a virtual private network to hide your IP address when you surf the web. Investigate your internet service and mobile data providers thoroughly. Read your contract before committing to any ISP or mobile data provider, and never commit to either for more than one year.

Contracts with ISPs and mobile data providers are likely to change dramatically in 2018, so be on the lookout for an email in your inbox with “Changes to our terms” or something like it in the subject. Read it. Don’t just delete it, because you could be agreeing to charges that will surprise you when you receive your bill. And if it gets to the point the reversal of net neutrality rules gets so bad many Americans don’t have reasonably-priced access to an Internet experience free from corporate influence, we all need to give up our Internet and mobile data, because a boycott is the only way to bring down an unregulated corporation operating as a monopoly.

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I’ve been to plenty of stadiums. I’ve been to Miller Park -- a dump in a bad part of Milwaukee. I’ve been to the Metrodome -- a terrible place to watch baseball but loud and fun nonetheless. I’ve been to Safeco Field -- a beautiful, quaint place to watch baseball as long as the roof is open. I’ve been to Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City -- a beautifully vast stadium. I’ve been to Fenway Park, which makes me feel spoiled every time I visit Target Field. But even Target Field nor the newly renovated Target Center compares to the decadence that is U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Bathrooms

The most important aspect of any stadium experience is the bathroom experience. Long lines are bad, but dirty, smelly bathrooms are worse. Both the Metrodome and Target Center had urinal troughs omitting a smell no number of fresh urinal cakes could mask. The U.S. Bank Stadium bathroom I used was as clean at the end of the third quarter as it was prior to kickoff of Sunday’s game between the Vikings and Rams.

Not only are the U.S. Bank Stadium bathrooms fresh, they’re smartly located and designed to limit time spent in line. I didn’t spend any time in line for the bathroom, but had I, I wouldn’t have been that disappointed. In our section (C7 of the second level), there’s a lounge with televisions and comfortable seating so you can watch the Vikings game or any other game for that matter.

The Seats

While we didn’t spend much time in them, the padded seats at U.S. Bank Stadium were plush and relatively roomy. The addition of padded seats in Target Center was the second biggest reason for my purchase of a 10-game season ticket package this season (the addition of Jimmy Butler being the first). Baseball stadiums need to start installing more padded seats because a comfortable seat can make people forget about the length of your game. There are a lot of breaks in NFL action, so the fact our butts were comfortable made the inaction slightly more tolerable.

The Atmosphere

Before the Vikings (specifically, Detroit Lakes’ Adam Thielen) started running away from a pretty good Los Angeles Rams’ defense, U.S. Bank Stadium was rocking. It’s certainly comparable to the Metrodome when it comes to crowd noise. During the 1987 and 1991 World Series, the crowd noise at the Metrodome was measured at 125 and 118 decibels, respectively -- the equivalent of a jet airliner and on the threshold of causing physical pain. The decibels at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday were repeatedly measured above 118 -- during a regular season game.

The Vikings do a fantastic job getting the crowd revved up, too. I nearly leaked tears of joy as the Vikings ran onto the field as if exiting a Viking ship that breathes fire to the sound of a blaring Viking horn while former Vikings like John Randle and Randy Moss narrate. As far as player introductions go, it’s a very distant second to the introduction of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, which still gives me goosebumps.

The Eats and Drinks

While eats and drinks, alcoholic or otherwise, were severely overpriced, there is a diverse menu of both available at U.S. Bank Stadium. The only downside is you can’t find a Coca-Cola product in the building, and a cocktail and a domestic beer will cost you $20. A plate of salmon and lobster with chips will cost you $18, but looked delicious, as did a mushroom Swiss burger that was enjoyed by a fan in the row in front of us. If you can afford it, I highly recommend eating a meal at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Product

The stadium experience is also dependent on having a good product inside the stadium, and the Vikings took a big step in securing a first-round bye and a home game in the NFL playoffs with a win over the contending Rams. If the Philadelphia Eagles ever stumble, the Vikings could stay at home throughout the playoffs and have a chance to win their first championship in their own building. Only the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XIX and Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XIV have ever played for a championship in their home market. The Niners won and Rams lost. Regardless of who represents the NFC and AFC in Super Bowl LII, U.S. Bank Stadium will quite possibly provide the best stadium experience for fans ever.

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The only surprise from the recent barrage of sexual allegations brought against, first, members of Hollywood’s power elite, and later, members of the political power elite, is that it took this long for victims to air their allegations. It should surprise no one that Kevin Spacey and Louis CK are sexually deviant, and it should surprise no one that men granted political power -- even George Bush and Al Franken -- tend to be predatorily handsy.

Perhaps the victims of America’s politicians needed Hollywood’s victims to come out to feel safe enough to reveal the wrongdoings of their alleged predators. That too should surprise no one. After all, a Hollywood producer like Harvey Weinstein might be able to write a check and make allegations of sexual harassment disappear, but an American politician could make their accuser disappear. All it would take is a bit of evidence planting to place an American citizen in Guantanamo Bay and never give them a trial.

American politics are more like House of Cards than most people would probably like to believe. That show would be a hit with or without Spacey because Americans love the criminal or violent nature of competition in all things -- politics included. Television ratings are indicative of this.

While the 2016 Presidential Election drew eyes away from NFL games, Sunday Night Football was still the most watched television show of the 2016-17 season, followed by Thursday Night Football, then NCIS, a show about investigating violent, criminal acts. Another Thursday Night Football game rounded out the top four. Violence draws viewers.

If you include online television offerings, Orange is the New Black tops the list of most watched streaming shows of last year -- a show about life in prison. Next is Stranger Things, a show about supernatural forces, conspiracy theories and governmental corruption. Fuller House, a sequel to the family favorite Full House, is refreshingly third most-watched, followed by two Marvel shows featuring comic book heroes, and, no doubt, violence. House of Cards was sixth.

American politics were a reality TV show long before Donald Trump or House of Cards. The Red Scare, Vietnam, Watergate, the Cold War, the Bay of Pigs, the Gulf War, Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, the antics of George W. Bush -- all were watched by all, turning public servants into celebrities. When you put people on a pedestal, they’ll take advantage of it in order to stay there.

Regardless, the problem is not that these men are ill-trained to deal with women in the workplace. Training is not the issue, regardless of what lawmakers say. Men shouldn’t require obedience training in order to recognize that exposing their genitals or grabbing people by the genitals on any floor let alone the House floor is wrong. Every instance of that behavior was committed by someone incapable of serving public office. That’s it, and that’s all.

I don’t care if you grew up when Mad Men office behavior was the norm, and James Bond was still groping Moneypenny. Your inability or unwillingness to change your behavior is exactly why Congress has accomplished fuck all since Obamacare. You are stuck in your ways, and they aren’t the ways of the American people.

This is our problem and our fault as voters. Notice that it’s rarely women accused of sexual misconduct, yet the overwhelming majority of our elected officials are men. This problem could be avoided almost entirely if we elected more women to office.

Less than 20 percent of U.S. Congressional seats are filled by women, and less than 25 percent of state legislators are women. There are just six female governors, and only 39 women have ever served as governor.

So during the 2018 midterm elections, instead of looking for a “D” or an “R” behind an unfamiliar name on the ballot, consider giving women the advantage for once. At the very least, they tend to keep their hands to themselves.

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