Saturday, December 03, 2016

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Lord I Can't Go Back There Edition

Old dude, they're going back to Indy! But the Committee refuses to give Wisconsin and Penn State the respect they deserve!

Well, you don't know that, because the final pairings haven't been announced yet. But you're probably right about the Playoff.

Many people in Indiana have that attitude, Seabiscuit!

Well, that is true. And I have to honor my word about a promise I made the other day: Skip Bayless is a genius, and who am I to question him?

I'll just leave that burnt offering alone.

Okay, now that I got that off my chest, watch me work!

Big Ten Championship, at Indianapolis: Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-2.5) vs. Penn State Nittany Lions. Wisconsin's winning the Big Ten West was a surprise, but not completely unbelievable. Penn State winning the East? That was a shocker! If you are a fan of team in Ohio, and I don't mean the Browns, you better hope to the heavens that this game is close. Penn State is a deserving team and they have been getting better all season long. However, the Badgers have played all the big boys in the Big Ten and are not scared of Penn State. Badgers 45, Sad Valley 21.

I agree with the pick, but not the points. The Badgers have made their name with defense this season and will hold Penn State's explosive offense down somewhat. At this point, Penn State's star running back Saquon Barkley is going to play, but he comes in with an ankle injury that is likely to limit him. The Badgers do a great job of pursuing and keeping teams off the edge, so it's difficult to see where Penn State will get their big plays. On offense, the Badgers are improving, but I don't see them scoring 45 points. I do think they will win, however. Wisconsin 24, Penn State 14.

Houston Texans (+6.5) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. What a difference a week makes. Suddenly, the Packers looked like the Packers again. The good news for the Packers is that they still get to play of their divisional opponents and they get the Seahawks at home next week. There is still the matter of this week and how they will do against an inconsistent Texans team. The biggest thing the Packers are going to need is to put points on the board right away. It's also important for every Packer fan in attendance to not boo. Positivity, baby! Packers 35, Texans 21.

Brock Osweiler, the Texan quarterback, has been a big disappointment for the Texans. He looks the part, but he seems to make bad decisions under pressure. The Packers will be providing rather a lot of pressure this week and while the Texan receivers are talented enough to win their battles, Osweiler is going to have a tough time completing passes from his back. This one should go well for the Green and Gold. Packers 28, Texans 20.

San Francisco Kaepernicks (pick) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. I'm wondering Gino's going to protest how bad the Bears are playing by taking a knee throughout the entirety of this game. If you are unfortunate enough to get this game on television, you might consider burning your television. It's going to be Must Not See TV. But since Gino is a good guy, and Colin Kapernick is not, I figure da Bearz are going to win and Gino's fantasy team will go down in flames. Da Bearz 56, 49ers 8.

We were fortunate enough to get an advanced screening of this game:

Maybe we had the wrong channel. In any event, it's not likely to be a very good game. Someone will win, though. Bears 17, 49ers 14.

Hopefully your holiday preparations give you more joy and HYYYYYYPPPPPPE! than da Bearz are likely to provide. But that's a low bar. Ben out!

Friday, December 02, 2016

Open thread

Comcast covers itself in glory yet again, so I  have no Internet service at home. I'm not especially adept at blogging from my phone, so we'll call this one an open thread.

Having said that, I would ask that you keep the two young women from Mounds View High School who died yesterday morning in your thoughts and prayers. Life is precious and the car crash that cost them their lives was horrific.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Pigs in the dining room

A week later, in the afternoon, a number of dogcarts drove up to the farm. A deputation of neighbouring farmers had been invited to make a tour of inspection. They were shown all over the farm, and expressed great admiration for everything they saw, especially the windmill. The animals were weeding the turnip field. They worked diligently, hardly raising their faces from the ground, and not knowing whether to be more frightened of the pigs or of the human visitors.

That evening loud laughter and bursts of singing came from the farmhouse. And suddenly, at the sound of the mingled voices, the animals were stricken with curiosity. What could be happening in there, now that for the first time animals and human beings were meeting on terms of equality? With one accord they began to creep as quietly as possible into the farmhouse garden.

At the gate they paused, half frightened to go on but Clover led the way in. They tiptoed up to the house, and such animals as were tall enough peered in at the dining-room window. There, round the long table, sat half a dozen farmers and half a dozen of the more eminent pigs, Napoleon himself occupying the seat of honour at the head of the table. The pigs appeared completely at ease in their chairs The company had been enjoying a game of cards but had broken off for the moment, evidently in order to drink a toast. A large jug was circulating, and the mugs were being refilled with beer. No one noticed the wondering faces of the animals that gazed in at the window.
-- George Orwell, "Animal Farm"

Now I know why Gov. Dayton said the U.S. Bank stadium would be known as “the people’s stadium.” 
It’s because the big-shot DFLers who have been given access to some of the best seats in two exclusive suites in the Vikings Magnificent Palace are, technically, people.

Calling it “The Special People’s Stadium” just didn’t have the proper populist ring to it.

Those seats, in the rarefied and inebriated air along the 20-yard line, were essentially free to a cabal of party loyalists, until Star Tribune reporter Rochelle Olson called to ask about them.

Sultans of Swag Michele Kelm-Helgen and Ted Mondale then scrambled to collect checks from public officials who took advantage of the chance to watch mediocre football in the house that taxpayers bought. That must have been awkward. The DFL insiders came for the “free lunch” and ended up buying the timeshare.

Still, it was a heck of a deal. The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) honchos retroactively determined those tickets were worth $132 apiece, and added $68 for food, for a total of $200. The public officials, all DFLers from what I can tell, dug deep for the dough and all was well.

Nice try. If you are not a DFL insider, just try to buy seats anywhere near those boxes for $132 for Thursday’s game against Dallas. The cheapest I found in the entire stadium were for $195, and those closer to the party’s party box were much higher. That didn’t include food or VIP parking.
-- Jon Tevlin, Star Tribune, November 29

The best person in Minnesota government, Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles, has noticed the faces in the window:
The state's top auditor said he's opened a "priority" investigation into the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority's control of two prime luxury suites in U.S. Bank Stadium. Separately, the state senator who sponsored the bill authorizing the stadium said she's "disgusted" by the lack of transparency by the authority over who uses the suites at Vikings games and other events.

Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles said Wednesday that he had begun an inquiry into the MSFA's "control and use of suites in the U.S. Bank Stadium."

The nonpartisan office conducts routine audits on the financial activities of state agencies and boards and investigates potential wrongdoing.
You don't want to be in the crosshairs of Jim Nobles. So who has been using the suites?
Kelm-Helgen and Mondale said they and the four MSFA commissioners use the suites to host potential clients who are looking to rent all or portions of the stadium, which opened in August. Last week, they released the identities of 12 current and former public officials who reimbursed the authority $200 for their tickets to the suite.

In the past two weeks, reimbursement checks were deposited from Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and her husband, Gary Cunningham, city attorney Susan Segal and her husband, Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans (who attended two games and deposited a total of $800) and City Council Member Jacob Frey, who said he was there to talk to X Games officials and doesn't even like football.
Any time of the year, don't you hear? Spendin' cash, talkin' trash
I'll show you a real good time, come on with me, leave your troubles behind
I don't care where you've been, you ain't been nowhere til you've been in
With the in crowd, with the in crowd, in crowd!

Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

And that's why Jim Nobles is on the case.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Benster and D Pick Your Game -- Why Are We Still Playing on Thursday Edition

That's right -- why in the wide, wide world of sports does the NFL insist on having games on Thursday? The only time football should be played on Thursday is Thanksgiving. Is tomorrow Thanksgiving? No. It's December Freaking First! Knock it off, Goodell.

You know why this happening, young fella. I know you know why. Here's why:

Your concerns? You can give them to the birds and bees. Goodell wants the money. That's what he wants.

Quit drinking the Kool-Aid! Or are you mixing it with your Geritol again?

Don't knock it until you've tried it, Seabiscuit.

Naaah. I'll settle for something a little more refreshing. Something with HYYYYYYPPPPPE! Watch me work!

Dallas How 'Bout Them Cowboahs (-3.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings. Speaking of unquenchable greed, here comes Jerry Jones to town, with his nasty Cowboys. The Cowboys are suddenly a good team again this year, no doubt making carnival barkers like Skip Bayless happier than a pig in, well, you know. However, the Vikings are no slouches. The key will be to stop the run game. Ezekiel Elliott has been nothing short of outstanding in his rookie season, while Dak Prescott has been the busiest bankruptcy lawyer in Minnesota. No, that's not right. That would be our pal the late, great, Jack Prescott. Dak Prescott has been putting his opponents into Chapter 7 all season long. The Vikings have to win this game, because they need to keep pace with the Lions and the Packers are now nipping at their heels. I'm so confident the Vikings will win that if my pick doesn't come true, I will call Skip Bayless a genius. Vikings 45, Cowboahs 17.

I'd rather call Skip Bayless a cab to the airport, as long as he rides in the trunk. This one is going to be tough because the Vikings are suddenly riddled with injuries. They will not have Sharrif Floyd, Joe Berger, Marcus Sherels or Mackenzie Alexander available this week. Floyd hasn't been playing much this season because of injuries, but they could really use him this week. It's going to be tough. Stefon Diggs is still questionable and may not play. So it's adversity time at the People's Stadium, and not just because Ted Mondale is taking up a bunch of suites. I'd like the Vikings to win, because the Cowboys are flat evil, but I don't see it this week. Cowboys 27, Vikings 19.

I can't believe I just promised to say something nice about Skip Bayless. He's still upset because Vince Lombardi spoiled his sorry-ass childhood. Ben out!

Another loss in the recount

Guess we won't have a recount by hand in Wisconsin after all:
Dane County Circuit Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn said the effort to force the hand recount, which was backed by Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign, did not meet the state’s legal standard for prohibiting the use of machines in the recount, saying that the two campaigns did not show a hand recount, though more thorough, was necessary or show there was a clear and convincing evidence of fraud or other problems.

Bailey-Rihn said there were good reasons to do a hand recount but no legal basis for her to mandate it.

"I follow the law. That's who I am despite my personal opinions," said Bailey-Rihn, who was elected to the bench last spring.
A Dane County judge who follows the law? Dang -- didn't know that was possible.

Safe space

My goodness:
Gov. Mark Dayton stormed out of a public meeting about the State Capitol restoration on Tuesday, after accusing a Republican state lawmaker of playing politics with decisions about a set of Civil War paintings and their placement in the soon-to-reopen building.

“If this commission gets hijacked for political purposes, I’ll resign from it,” Dayton said at the meeting of the Capitol Preservation Commission. He cited a recent memo by state Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, to his House colleagues arguing against what he alleged was a move by the administration to remove one or several Civil War paintings.

“The Capitol should not be designed around the likes and dislikes of any temporary tenant,” Dean wrote in the memo.
Where to begin?

  • Storming out of a meeting is always the best approach to a dispute.
  • I would like a bit more precision in the reporting -- "one or several"? 
  • Dean is correct -- the Capitol is more than just a place the politicians meet.
There's more -- back to the Star Tribune story:
At a news conference later in the afternoon, Dayton reiterated that he believed House Republicans were trying to make political hay out of disagreements over the paintings’ placement: “I’m not going to sit around and be part of that contrivance,” the DFL governor said. He said he would not try to influence the Historical Society’s decision.

Dayton said he believed the art kerfuffle was an attempt by Republicans to distract from their inaction in addressing an expected spike in MNsure premiums in January. He also alleged that Dean, who is considering a 2018 bid for governor, was using the issue to bolster his own conservative credentials.
I don't know if the Republicans want to take action on MNsure, but they can't do a thing unless a special session is called. The only person who can call a special session is Dayton, but he won't call a special session because once the legislature is in session, it can do any number of things. Dayton only wants the lege to rubber stamp what he wants done. That's not how it works in a system of government where the legislature and the executive share power. Despite having similar voting patterns, St. Paul is not Pyongang, at least not yet. 

As for MNsure, it's difficult to see why the Republicans are responsible for fixing something that the DFL broke. At this point, Dayton would be better off calling the special session and letting the chips fall where they may, because the next lege will be completely in Republican hands and he's not likely to get a better deal on anything in 2017. And of course the personal attack on Dean is par for the course.

Someday we'll look back on the Dayton era and marvel at it all. For now, the repeated demonstrations of pique that we get from the guy who is head of the state government are causes for disgust and shame.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Recount down for the count?

If you're someone who dreams of a last-minute reversal of fortune that will send Hillary Clinton to the White House, yesterday didn't help your agenda. First, no foot-dragging hand recount in Wisconsin:
The Wisconsin Elections Commission agreed Monday to begin a recount of the presidential election on Thursday but was sued by Green Party candidate Jill Stein after the agency declined to require county officials to recount the votes by hand.
On the bright side for Stein, who is acting as a cat's-paw for Clinton, the suit is filed in Dane County, where nearly every judge is more than willing to aid the Left. The problem for Stein is she's likely to run out of time. Moreover, she also needs to sue to get a recount in Pennsylvania, because she missed the deadline:
Jill Stein has everything she needs to launch a presidential recount. She's got the cash, the grassroots fervor and the spotlight of an adoring media. But there's one thing she needs to overturn Trump's victory: a calendar.

Stein missed Pennsylvania's deadline to file for a voter-initiated recount. That blown deadline is a huge blow for Democrats who have pinned their hopes on recounts in the Keystone State, Michigan and Wisconsin.

"According to Wanda Murren, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of State," the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Monday, "the deadline for a voter-initiated recount was Monday, Nov. 21."
You don't have to like Donald Trump; goodness knows I don't. Although I took it down after the election, this feature had a #NeverTrump banner on the sidebar for nearly the entirety of the election. Having said that, Donald Trump is President-elect because he won the election as the election is contested, in the Electoral College. Jill Stein has no path to victory and neither does Hillary Clinton. The Democrats and their patrons would do well to start making better arguments and start fielding better candidates so they can run against Trump in 2020. Their efforts at litigating their way to victory in a contest that is alrady lost suggest they have worries about their abilities to contest the election properly in the next cycle.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Madness takes its toll

While there's news aplenty, it's becoming increasingly difficult to take much of it seriously. Most of the headlines at the moment concern the silly recount effort underway in Wisconsin. There's not a chance in hell that the results will change, but we're going to be treated to a plethora of chin-scratchers from the assembled punditocracy. If you have 800 words to fill, it's a great way to do it.

What is underlying the recount, however, does bear some scrutiny. I'm frankly a little worried about how unhinged people have become about the election of Le Gran Orange. Every day I read things like "he must be stopped" and "he cannot be president" on my social media feed. Such statements require a question -- if Trump must be stopped and cannot be president, what are people prepared to do to stop him? Are people on the Left willing to mount an insurrection?

I don't think they are, nor do I think they are capable of it. Still, I wonder about how long the madness can go on.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Mayor of New Brighton

This Star Tribune article on the latest nonsense out of New Brighton city hall generally speaks for itself, but one passage deserves special note, as it neatly crystallizes the problem at the helm:
Instead, consultant Barb Strandell, who has worked with squabbling city councils around the region, will lead a “team-building” exercise in January that may include personality assessments.

Strandell learned how steep her challenge is at a recent preparatory session when Mayor Valerie Johnson declared: “I don’t want to walk into another meeting where the first words are, ‘You are not a dictator!’ ”

When Strandell sought to cut in with a soothing, “Well, now, just let me say …” the mayor was having none of it.

“No, I’m going to keep talking,” Johnson said. “It’s my meeting.”
Keep talking, Mayor Johnson. Keep talking.

We'll come back to this topic in the coming days.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fidel Castro is dead

RIP doesn't seem appropriate for a guy who should have gotten the Ceaușescu treatment. Castro will have to hope his Maker is more merciful than he ever was. A reminder of who Fidel Castro really was seems in order. A good place to start is the Babalu Blog; there's plenty at the link.

Meanwhile, it's also worth remembering this photo, in which Castro's brother Raul blindfolding a man about to be murdered by one of his brother's firing squads:

Monsters, Inc.
I'm also certain you will see the name of the dictator Castro overthrew, Fulgencio Batista, thrown around as someone who was worse. Batista was a monster, yes, but a tyrant is a tyrant. Life in Cuba won't change appreciably until Raul Castro and his partners in tyranny are gone. I hope that day arrives soon.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Right Where We Left Off Edition

We now return to your regularly scheduled HYYYYYYYPPPPPPE!

A fine addition to anyone's Black Friday. Plenty o' hype out there at Rosedale today.

I thought everyone was sleeping off the turkey. That's what you were doing last night? Or were you mainlining the NyQuil again?

You must have me mistaken for some other Mr. D.

No, I don't think so. You're over the counter medicated and way under the line in your prediction skills. Watch me work!

Meeshegan Harbaughs (+6.5) vs. A School in Ohio Buckeyes. If you've been watching ESPN at all this week, and why would you, but anyway I'm sure you have, you know that this game has even more HYYYYYYPPPPPE! than normal. It's a straight elimination game, but with a twist -- if Ohio State wins, there is a good chance that they will be watching the Big Ten Championship Game on television, assuming Penn State does their job against a woeful Sparty squad. I've gone on record as saying I do not like either head coach of these respective institutions, and I consider them to have underachieved at their current jobs. You are thinking to yourself, but Benster -- hasn't Urban Meyer won a national championship at Ohio State? True. I'll give him that. However, he is in danger of wasting yet another golden chance at a national championship. Meanwhile, Harbaugh needs to win this game. Although I hate to do this. . . Ohio State 42, Michigan 39.

Hmmm. I thought Michigan's calling card was their stout defense. Hmmm. I'm not sure I agree with your analysis, Seabiscuit. But you're used to that. I think both teams will want to have an explosive offensive day, but neither will be able to get much going. So all other things being equal, who would you put your money on -- J. T. Barrett, or Wilton Speight? Ohio State 20, Michigan 16.

Minnesota Golden Gophers (+15) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. No matter what happens tomorrow, the Badgers have already punched their ticket to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game. Because of the odd tie-breaking rules, even if the Badgers lose tomorrow, they would win a four-way tie. However, the Badgers have to win this game to keep their hopes alive for a New Year's Six Game, or even a berth in the Playoff. The Gophers are a good team, but this is asking a lot of them. Badgers 31, Gophers 20.

I agree with you -- this line seems too high for the Badgers. The Gophers are solid across the board and they do play defense pretty well, although they do seem to have a distressing penchant for picking up targeting penalties. I think that Tracy Claes needs to get that cleaned up for next season, and yes, I think he'll be coming back for another season. What's been interesting to see about the Badgers at this point in the season is the emergence of yet another stud running back, Bradrick Shaw, who is the heir apparent to both Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbawale. And let's face it, Shaw is a lot easier to spell than Ogunbawale. Too much talent in Red this time. Badgers 35, Gophers 21.

Tennessee Tuxedos (+5) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. We haven't been paying a lot of attention to da Bearz in recent weeks, and that's because they are irrelevant. They are down to Charles Arnie Matt Barkley as their quarterback. In case you don't know who Arnie Barkley is, Old Dude has a video clip from his dim and distant past:

If you wonder why old dudes of Old Dude's generation are so thoroughly screwed up, this is proof that there was more disturbing stuff out there on Saturday mornings than just Sid and Marty Krofft. As for the game, Tennessee is gonna roll, unless they use this guy as quarterback:

Tennessee 90, da Bearz 2.

I don't think Gino's gonna want to send you any venison sausage with a pick like that, Seabiscuit! The only good news about this season in Chicago is now it should be pretty easy to get rid of Jay Cutler once and for all. Time to start over, again. Titans 31, Bears 10.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (+4) vs. Philadelphia Iggles. I'm going to say it right now -- the Packers are not dead. They did look better on offense last week. Yes, the defense was a dumpster fire, but there's progress. Here's the other thing -- all the Packers need to do is win on Monday night and then the schedule starts to get a bit more manageable. Yes, they have the big bad Seahawks coming to town, but they still get the Lions and Vikings, so they have a chance to make up some ground on the frontrunners. Anybody that says the Packers are dead is trying to sell you something. Packers 24, Iggles 17.

I guess I'm trying to sell you something, then. I think the Packers have a chance this week, but it's going to be tough. I don't see enough help coming back on defense and at this point, without a running game, there's little reason to believe the Packers are going to be able to keep opposing defenses off balance. I think we need to do a bit of soul searching this year. Right now, this team isn't good enough to win consistently, or even that much. Perhaps that's my 70s-era skepticism coming back to the fore, or maybe I'm traumatized with the Barkleys reruns. Eagles 28, Packers 20.

Oh Old Dude of Little Faith. Believe, baby! They said the same thing in 2003, and 2013. Anything is possible. And for all the Packer fans out there, it's time to back the team and stop screaming for people to get fired. Ben out!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Emergency Turkey Edition

Good morning, football fans! It's that day to eat turkey and watch a few turkeys cavorting on the field in Detroit. What could be better?

I have an itemized list of things that could be better.

You don't have to be like this guy:

Looks more like D every year
Get happy, Geritol Fan! It's a glorious moment! It's football, darn it! And this year the Vikings get to do the dirty work that the Packers usually pull, which is reminding America that (a) the Lions are still in the league, and (b) probably are happy they can't be relegated.

We shouldn't be talking about relegation, given the way our boys are playing, young fella.

That is a topic we'll discuss tomorrow. For now, watch me work!

Minnesota Vikings (+2.5) vs. Detroit LOLions. So check it out, old dude -- the LOLions are favored on Thanksgiving Day! I don't know if that powers that be have already had their turkey, because that line makes no sense at all. The Vikings managed to get out of their funk last week against a reeling Cardinals squad, while the LOLions have been quietly taking care of business against a string of weak opponents. One of the few enduring truths of the world is that the LOLions are only playing today because of tradition. They will embarrass themselves. That's also a tradition. So if you want to avoid talking to your family about politics, you can always make LOLions jokes. Vikings 49, LOLions 24.

I know this is odd to you, since you've never actually seen it before, but the Lions are pretty good. The Vikings did show a pulse last week, and there's no question they can still play defense, but I don't think they have a hope in Hades of scoring 49 points today. It all depends on getting to Matt Stafford. If the Viking rushers can keep him sufficiently harassed, the Vikes have a good chance to win. I'm going to say they get close, but not close enough. Lions 24, Vikings 20.

If the Lions score 49 points today, Old Dude has promised to eat a TV dinner! That should be incentive enough for the Purple. Ben out!