Friday, September 30, 2011

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Cornmageddon Edition

Old dude, I can hear them driving up the highway. All those nasty Cornhusker fans, converging on Madison. It's a sea of Red driving right into the Red Sea. The last time anyone saw this much red, Brezhnev was waving to it on the balcony!

Madison politics aren't that bad, young fella.

Old dude, I'm not talking about politics! I'm talking about a game that really brings the HYYYYYYPPPPPPPE! It's Nebraska, coming to Wisconsin, starting their new career in the Big Ten! ESPN Game Day is there! Lee Corso will be wearing something stupid on his head!

Well, that happens every week.

Good point, Geritol Fan, but I'm better than Lee Corso. My picking methods may seem weird, but I never wear stupid stuff on my head, unless you count that Brewers cap you made me wear during Little League.

Let's be nice to the Brew Crew there, young fella. How did the Twins end up, anyway?

Well, based on what I saw, they finished behind Scranton/Wilks-Barre. But that's not why you're here, silly old person! Watch me work!

Minnesota Golden Gaffers (+20) vs. Michigan Hail to the Vanquished. I dunno, old dude -- are the Wolverines for real? They don't have RichRod to kick around any more, but they do have Brady Hoke, which may rhyme with Joke, but no one is laughing. Our Gophers lost to Jamestown College last week, or some school up in NoDak, it really doesn't matter which one. That's no good. So does anyone here really think the Gophers are going to win in the Big House and bring back the Jug? Or are they going to get jugged? Well, I know what I think. Go Blue 63, Gophers 35.

Well, it doesn't look like Jerry Kill was kidding when he said the rebuilding process is going to take time. I don't think the Gophers actually played Jamestown College, but Seabiscuit's point is a good one -- if you are a legitimate Big Ten school, you have no business losing to a school in North Dakota, South Dakota or any other Dakota you can think of. Denard Robinson will have big day. MarQueis Gray? Maybe not so much. Michigan 42, Minnesota 17.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (+9 1/2) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. They've been talking about this ever since the game appeared on the schedule last year. Nebraska, the mighty powerhouse from the Great Plains, joins the Big Ten and starts out in Mad City! I actually had to do some research on Nebraska, since we haven't paid attention to them until now. It turns out they wear red uniforms. Did you know that, Decrepit? And the last time the Badgers played Nebraska, it was 1974, a time of economic upheaval and scandal-plagued government. Kinda like now, actually. But I digress. The key to this game is simple: can the Badgers stop Taylor Martinez? Martinez is known for his running ability, but he only completes half of his passes. These days, that's not so good. It might have worked when the Cornhuskers were trotting out Irving Fryar and Tommy Frazier and people like that, but this is 2011. And the Badgers can match Nebraska with failed second baseman Russell Wilson, who might be the best quarterback in the nation not named Andrew Luck. Wilson has shown some running ability, too, but he also is completing about 75% of his passes. Nebraska won't like that very much. The key is for the Badgers to jump on Nebraska early and force the Cornhuskers to play catch-up. I'd also recommend that the Badgers get a couple of hits on Martinez early. Bucky 42, Herbie Husker 38.

So you don't see much defense happening, then? Well, someone will have to play defense. And I think it will be the Badgers. It's hard to argue with the young fella's analysis, but I think it will be more likely that the Badgers can stop Martinez than that the Cornhuskers can stop Wilson. Wisconsin 38, Nebraska 27.

Minnesota First Half Wonders (-1 1/2) vs. Kansas City Chefs. As our old pal Jack Harry would ask, "what's wrong with the Chiefs?" Well, let me clue you in, Jack -- the Chiefs pretty much stink. They might be the worst team in the National Football League. The Vikings remind me of Domino's Pizza: if you go beyond 30 minutes, you automatically win! And since they play games for 60 minutes in the NFL, the Vikings always seem to lose. Maybe this time, they should let the Chiefs go to the lead and try to rally in the second half. Or maybe the Vikings could get a new stadium or something. Vikings 63, Chefs 0.

Well, I suppose if the Vikings score 63 points in the first half, they'll probably win. I've seen parts of all their games and what's been happening to the Purple is very strange. But the Chiefs might be historically bad this season, based on the early results. Arrowhead is normally a tough place to win, but I think the Vikings stop the bleeding on Sunday. If not, it's going to be Christian Ponder time pretty quick. Vikings 27, Chiefs 17.

Denver Tebows (+12 1/2) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. Speaking of bad teams, let us now consider the curious case of the Denver Broncos. They are trying to decide whether or not to use Kyle Orton or Tim Tebow as their quarterback. That's like the Union Army choosing between McClellan and Burnside. Either way, it's not gonna go too well for ya. My Packers are a little banged up right now, but is there any reason to believe that the Broncos will win in Mr. Rodgers' Neighborhood? Uh, no. World Champs 35, Army of the Potomac 17.

Nothing like a little Civil War dissing for your football picks, eh? Let's just say that I agree with the young historian. Packers 42, Denver 20.

Carolina Fig Newtons (+6 1/2) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. Well, it's time for me to cater to Gino. We can throw our California-based blogger pal a bone here, because da Bearz are now safely in the rearview mirror of the Packers, at least for now. I still think Jay Cutler is a human pinata and almost feel sorry for him. It's as though the Bears cloned Allen "Swinging Gate" Barbre and put 5 versions along the offensive line. But then I watched the Giants get a bunch of sacks on YouTube and my sympathies stopped. I'll tell you this, though -- Cutler is lucky that he hasn't gotten a concussion yet. Or maybe he has and we can't tell the difference. Da Bearz 17, Scam Newton 13.

That sounds about right. I think the Bears will confuse young Mr. Newton a lot, but there's no reason to believe that the Bears will be able to score that much. Bears win. Bears 20, Panthers 12.

We could pick more games, but frankly, the HYYYYYYYYYYYYPPPPPPPPE! is clogging up the screen. It should be fun, but I'm going to do the proper thing and hang out with my friends at the Irondale High School Homecoming Dance on Saturday night instead of watching the Sea of Red/Cornmageddon. I might even talk to some girls. Heh heh heh. Ben out!

Major's Mentor Meets Maker

The man who inspired Maj. Hasan gets his martyrdom ticket punched.

The Yemeni government has released an official statement saying the U.S.-born al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki has been killed.

The government says al-Awlaki was targeted and killed 5 miles (8 kilometers) from the town of Khashef in the Province of al-Jawf. The town is located 87 miles (140 kilometers) east of the capital Sanaa.

The statement says the operation was launched on Friday around 9:55 a.m. It gave no other details.

A lot of passive voice in that report. Who launched the operation? Can't say I'm disappointed it happened, but you do wonder. I may be wrong about this, but I don't think that the U.S. is currently operating in Yemen.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Guilty Pleasures Part Eighty-Two: Fearless Maria Gets a Hall Pass

Fearless Maria is here this evening and we're thinking about the candidates for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We visited there last year and it was an interesting experience, don't you think?

Think? I know, Dad! I know that because that's just the way I roll! Oh yeah, oops. I'm supposed to say hi to everyone. Well, hi everyone! Long time no hear, huh? Finally we're back in business with another Guilty Pleasures. I hope that this experience will be pleasurable for you tonight. Please keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times, especially since some of these videos will make you dizzy. Thank you for riding the Guilty Pleasures Time Machine. It's just like the Tilt-a-Whirl in handy blog form!

You weren't kidding, Maria. They announced the nominees for the Hall earlier this week and they span a pretty big stretch of time. The first nominee we'll consider tonight began in England in the mid 60s. The band morphed several times, but at the beginning they were known as the Small Faces. And they looked and sounded like this:

The song is called "Itchykoo Park" and it's pure 60s, wouldn't you say, Maria?

Dad, how would I know? I wasn't born yet! How old do you think I am? As old as you? That's too scary to analyze for further research! Well, anyway, I am here in my critique mode and ready to roll. Their outfits were, yes Dad, as far as I know, sorta 60ish looking, but not too horrible. The overall video is pretty boring but it's a nice, fun song.

Yes, it's kind of jaunty, I think.

Jaunty? Well, folks, let's look it up. J-a-u- ah ha! Only a word that Mr. D would say and maybe my English teacher, but only if it's in our vocabulary workshop book!

I paid good money for this vocabulary, sweetheart.

Well, I'm glad to hear that, Dad! But anyway, who is next to step up to the plate? Do you have another 60s act?

Why yes, Maria. Yes I do. It's Donovan:

That is the "Hurdy Gurdy Man." What say you, Fearless Maria?

Well I say it's my turn to use a strange vocabulary word. Dad, this video was not inconceivable, it was incomprehensible! Oh, oh! Okay, I know, kinda lame, but anyhoo, moving on.

It looked to me like he combined some home movies and random stock footage.

Well, maybe it was a big screwup at Best Buy! Only the Hurdy Gurdy Man knows! Darn you! All I know is this:  if our home movies looked like that, you'd probably get arrested, Dad! Oh wait, we don't really have any home movies, now do we? My last statement was sure hypocritical! Wait, I'd better check and see if that's on my vocabulary list, too! Hey Dad, if we use a bunch of vocabulary words, I can get some extra credit!

Maybe. Does your teacher read my blog?

No, she has better taste than that. I'm kidding, Dad! She knows real work when she sees it! The question is, does she see it? Obviously you can see it, now that you have bifocals, Dad! Okay, back on topic. The next song is what? More 60s stuff? Or can we move into the 70s now?

Sure we can. How about something completely different?

That would be "Tell Me Something Good," circa 1974.

Well, there's no need for a disco ball on this one, Dad, because Chaka Khan's shirt is already a disco ball! But I guess her outfit is okay. You've shown me far worse things from the 1970s. The rest of the band is so-so, but not so bad. I do like the song -- is this one jaunty, Dad?

I'd go more with funky than jaunty, I guess.

Typical -- once I figure out what you're trying to tell me, I'm still not sure what you're trying to say. I'm not sure if I'm confused, or if you're just confusing. Please don't confuse me with this next song, whatever it might be!

Oh, it doesn't get much more straightforward than this:

It's Heart, with the Wilson sisters and a wall of guitarists, playing "Barracuda."

Gee, Dad! Looks like somebody went fishing! And instead of using fishing line, they just took a bunch of their hair and tied it all together and that's how they caught their Barracuda!

Tell me this, Maria -- who has better hair, the Wilson sisters or one of the other guitarist guys?

Very funny, Dad. I like the Wilson sisters' hair better, although I'll bet that the band's largest expense was probably not food or transportation, but hair care products! They look like they kept Sally Beauty Supply in business all by themselves! While they were at it, the boys were going to get manny-cures at Lexi Nails! Yippee doo da hooray! But before I forget, I really like the song! Vote for this one, people!

But I haven't shown you all the songs yet, Maria.

Good point. Let's keep going, dear father.

Okay. Here's a totally different hairstyle:

It's Joan Jett, asserting indifference about her reputation.

What's that? I can't hear you! Something about you having a bad reputation? I know you dropped the globe on the floor in second grade, Dad, but what else gives you bad reputation? Oh, I'm sorry, the song isn't about you? It's about Joan Jett, you tell me? Sorry -- I can see Halloween coming and I just want some candy, Dad. But anyway, the outfits were pretty 80ish of course and it's a cool little video. You could vote for this one too, people, if you really want to, but Heart will be very disappointed in you. If you're going to vote for this one, be a good guy and buy Heart some Kleenex. You know we're the number one critics in the country, right? Well, maybe within five blocks of the house and assuming that Simon Cowell isn't driving through the neighborhood.

I didn't know Simon liked to hang out in New Brighton, Maria.

Well, can you rule it out, Dad? I thought I saw him mowing the lawn the other day. Or maybe that was his evil twin Nomis?

So evil twins have your name spelled backwards? That would make my evil twin Kram.

He's very Krammy, Dad! Well, my evil twin is named Airam.

Airam? That sounds like a freight delivery company.

Why not, Dad? We've been carrying you for years! Okay, let's carry on. Any more where that came from, Dad?

Sure. Perhaps the most interesting hair style of all:
It's Robert Smith and the Cure, on German television, with "Friday I'm in Love."

Yay! He knows his days of the week! He also looks like Robert Pattinson as Edward in "Twlight," which I do not know anything about and do not want to read!

I think he looks a little like Alice Cooper there, too.

True, I agree. Just another example of why men shouldn't wear mascara or lipstick. There are just some things you shouldn't go near, even though people do. Tsk, tsk. As for the hair, I suppose he might want to ask Heart if they can lend him a comb, or maybe he could dumpster dive for one with my art teacher!

Your art teacher dumpster dives?

Well, probably not literally, but that's what she says she's going to do when she needs to find something.

So she's exaggerating a little, maybe?

I would hope so, Dad. Anyway, back to the song -- it was good, although it was a little repetitive. Maybe all that repetition would be good for educational purposes for the little ones who want to learn their days of the week, although I don't think he could get a job teaching kindergarten dressed like that. Unless it's Halloween. I'm still looking for that candy, Dad!

Well, the treat is this -- the polls have opened. It's time to vote for your favorite in the comments section. And while you're at it, tell us if you think these bands belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

And make it snappy, folks! If you make it snappy, I'll be happy!

And Fearless Maria's happiness is very important to all of us, right?

Well, it had better be. Vote, people!

Vikings to Arden Hills? XIII -- Voice of the People?

The old adage is that the people who show up run the world. And a lot of people showed up at the New Brighton Family Service Center last night to talk about the planned Vikings stadium, especially the idea that the citizens of Ramsey County should vote on whether to impose a half-cent sales tax to pay for the county's "share" of the stadium costs. The Star Tribune reports the relevant language:

The issue is whether to allow a 2012 ballot question that would amend the county's home-rule charter. The question: "Shall Ramsey County be prohibited from using any revenues, including those raised by taxes or bonding, to fund or assist in funding a Major League Baseball or National Football League sports team or stadium?"
It's tough, at least intellectually, to disagree with letting the people decide on such things, although we certainly don't put all tax increases up to a referendum. A few thoughts:
  • I tend to think this vote is theoretical at best, because I fully expect the Vikings to force the matter well before November, 2012. They don't want to be in the Metrodome and I take them at their word.
  • Public funding of private enterprises is always a problem. As Ed Morrissey pointed out the other day in a discussion of the Solyndra matter, the problem isn't that governments want to pick winners and losers as much as that, by definition, governments always pick losers. If the deal to build a stadium in Arden Hills made economic sense on its own terms, Zygi Wilf and the Vikings would be able to secure funding in the private sector and would only ask the government to provide road improvements and other amenities. That's not how the deal is structured. And there's a reason for that, of course:  Wilf has seen that every other stadium deal that happened in recent years has involved substantial public money.
  • The rejoinder to that argument is pretty basic and a citizen at the meeting put it quite nicely: Curt Lyons of Mounds View countered: "Really? They made a bad choice so we should make a bad choice? That didn't work when I was 4." Lyons was talking about Hennepin County's use of sales taxes to pay for Target Field, but the same argument applies to stadium funding generally. And Lyons is right, of course. But in the funhouse world of stadium funding, the choice is pay or lose your team. It now appears that the long-awaited stadium in Los Angeles will get built and there's no question that an NFL team will fill the stadium. It would make more sense for the NFL if that team were either the San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders or Jacksonville Jaguars. But we kid ourselves if we assume the team can't be the Minnesota Vikings. It wouldn't take much for the NFL to deal with the change, either. If the Vikings moved, the NFL would simply move the team to the NFC West and replace them in the NFC North with the St. Louis Rams. As an administrative matter, it would be pretty tidy.
  • As I said at the outset, the world is run by the people who show up and in the case of yesterday's meeting, the stadium foes far outnumbered the supporters. That might be an accurate reflection of public opinion on the matter. Personally, I'd rather not pay extra for a Vikings stadium, either. And I'm personally willing to let them leave town, too. The question remains -- are you willing to see them go, too?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Maybe a little martial law might prove useful, too

Desperate times call for desperate measures, I guess:

As a way to solve the national crisis, North Carolina Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue recommends suspending congressional elections for the next couple of years.

“I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover,” Perdue said at a rotary club event in Cary, N.C., according to the Raleigh News and Observer. “I really hope that someone can agree with me on that.”

Can I get an amen from somebody? After all, how better to do the will of the people than to take away their ability to weigh in on how well you are doing the will of the people, right?

Lest you think that North Carolina is being run by a distaff Ferdinand Marcos, her aides quickly explained that she was only joking:

Perdue press secretary Chris Mackey claims the governor was joking when she made the comment.

“Come on … Gov. Perdue was obviously using hyperbole to highlight what we can all agree is a serious problem: Washington politicians who focus on their own election instead of what’s best for the people they serve,” Mackey said in an email to The DC.

Yeah, suspending elections is comedy gold, all right. Henceforth, I propose that the governor change her name to Beverly "Shecky" Perdue and declare that all her press availabilities now have a two-drink minimum. Or if that change would cause her to run afoul of local blue laws, I'd suggest that she resign as governor of North Carolina, move to Minnesota and get Mark Dayton to appoint her to the Met Council. Alternatively, we could get Perdue's spokesman a good thesaurus -- one that clearly indicates that "hyperbole" and "stupidity" are not synonyms.

I'm a helper. I like to help.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Empire Strikes Back, New Brighton Edition

We're starting to see the yard signs going up around town, as there's going to be municipal elections in New Brighton in November. Bob Benke, who served as mayor of New Brighton for a very long time and did more to saddle the city with gigantic debt problems than any other politician, has decided that he wants to be mayor again. Putting him back in office would be a really bad idea. We'll be talking more about the reasons why in the coming weeks.

Just sayin'

As a Twins fan, I'm going to miss Ozzie Guillen, who has managed his last game with the Chicago White Sox. Ozzie has made the Twins/White Sox rivalry a lot of fun over the years. I think the White Sox are going to miss Ozzie even more, though.

Lawyers Guns and Money

I haven't written much about the scandal variously known as "Fast and Furious" or "Gunwalker," but I've been following the matter. And we now have a moment of clarity:
A letter forwarded on Friday by a proven reliable source to Gun Rights Examiner and Mike Vanderboegh of Sipsey Street Irregulars documents Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives management authorizing the sale of firearms, which sources say were intended for delivery to cartel purchasers as part of the “Fast and Furious” / ”Gunwalker” scandal.

You can read the letter here. Sipsey Street Irregulars, in case you were wondering, is a blog that has been following this case quite closely. But what happened to the guns that the ATFE agent bought?

The existence of this letter provided to these reporters by a previously reliable source familiar with the Fast and Furious investigation, coupled with interviews of other sources across the country which put it into context, provides startling proof that the Federal government did not merely “lose track” of weapons purchased by “straw buyers” under surveillance by the ATF and destined for the Mexican drug cartels. In an undercover operation ordered by Fast and Furious supervisor David Voth, the U.S. government purchased firearms with taxpayer money from licensed firearms dealers, instructed them to conduct the sales “off the books,” and used an ATF agent, John Dodson, to deliver them directly to people that Dodson believed were conducting them across the border.

Emphasis mine. Further:

According one source close to the Issa committee and knowledgeable of its workings, this revelation “puts a stake in the heart of the ‘botched sting operation’ lie.” He continued, “There never was any ‘sting,’ there was only a deliberate effort to provide weapons to the DTO’s (Drug Trafficking Organizations).” He added, “this was one hundred percent us — our money, our guy, our (gun)walking.”
And, in case you didn't know it, the fruits of this operation include the death of U.S. agents with guns that the Mexican drug cartels got from the operation.

I suspect we'll learn more about what actually happened in the coming days, but we live in a world where you need to rely on the Sipsey Street Irregulars instead of the folks at 30 Rock or elsewhere. There's a lot more at the link and I'd recommend you click it.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Football Follies

I grew up in Wisconsin in the 1970s, so I understand what Minnesota football fans are going through now. And it's no fun.

While I was enjoying a weekend in which the Badgers laid waste to a school from the Dakotas and the Packers handled the hated Bears at Soldier Field, most of the folks around here were suffering through yet another lost weekend. The Gophers had no answer for North Dakota State, a school that sent the Badgers their worst coach ever (Don Morton), while the Vikings once again blew a huge halftime lead and lost to the Lions, a team that hadn't won a game in these parts since 1997.

It's fairly easy to see the problem the Gophers face: they don't have the right kind of kids on campus to do what Jerry Kill and his staff want to do. MarQueis Gray is a talented guy but he's not a natural quarterback, which has made it difficult for the Gophers to be cohesive. Meanwhile, the defense is well short of Big Ten caliber right now. It isn't helping Kill's cause that he's had a series of highly publicized seizures and is now back in the hospital. His record indicates that he can win once he gets the right guys in place, but I suspect that the Kirk Ferentzes and Bret Bielemas of the world might have a few thoughts concerning Kill's health when they speak with potential recruits.

Meanwhile, there's the Purple, which still seems to think it is playing preseason games. It's been astonishing to watch the Vikings cough up big leads in three straight games. While it's not fair to put what's been happening at the feet of Donovan McNabb, it's clear that the Vikings need an upgrade at the position. Back in the 1970s the Packers went with a retread quarterback named John Hadl, who had been a productive quarterback for the Chargers and the Rams. By the time he got to Green Bay, Hadl didn't have much left in the tank and the Packers were pretty easy to beat. McNabb doesn't look like he has much left, either. There's more talent in Minnesota in 2011 than there was in Green Bay in 1975, but the 2011 Vikings have looked as overmatched as the 1975 Packers did, especially when the game is on the line.

Meanwhile, the Packers and Badgers are outstanding football teams. I'm trying to enjoy it while I can, because I know that someday it could go bad again.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

None of the Above

I guess everyone in the field is going to get a boomlet at some point or another, but I'll admit I'm surprised that Herman Cain won the Florida straw poll last night.

From what I can tell, Cain is a good, principled man with a pretty compelling life story, but I have a difficult time imagining that a man who has never run for elected office before could become president, so I take this vote as really meaning None of the Above in re: Romney and Perry.

And, to be honest, that's where I'm at right now. To me, Romney was preferable to John McCain in 2008, but he's not what we need right now. From what I've seen, Rick Perry doesn't impress me much, either. I don't the debates really tell us much about what we really need to know about a candidate's leadership abilities, but one thing seems clear about Perry -- he knows he could be president, but he has not demonstrated why he should be.

So that's where we're at. We need better candidates, but we're not likely to get them. Since the choice is, most likely, between Romney and Perry, we'll have to decide which one is better. Tough choice.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Under the Wire Edition

Okay, old dude, I realize we're a little late to get these posted, but I was busy cheering the Irondale Knights on to victory last night. St. Francis tasted the sole of the Irondale boot, 20-13. And the Knights even rallied to win to make it dramatic.

Drama is good, young fella.

Drama isn't good in football, I say. I prefer butt-kickings, especially when it's my team doing the butt-kicking. Speaking of which, it's time I start kicking your butt on picks. Watch me work.

North Dakota State Bison (NL) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers. Apparently the boys in Vegas don't know what to do about teams from the Dakotas, since there's no line for this game, or for the Badgers, but we'll get to that in a minute. The Gophers have some trouble with teams from North Dakota, South Dakota and maybe even Dakota Fanning. Jerry Kill understands this is a trap game, so he'll get his team ready. Gophers 49, NDSU 0.

I'll bet the Bison do better than that. They are a very good team at their level. But they are at a lower level. Gophs will win. Minnesota 27, North Dakota State 17.

South Dakota Wile E. Coyotes (NL) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. It never goes well for Wile E. Coyote in the cartoons. 'Nuff said. Bucky 83, Wile E. Coyote 17.

That could happen. South Dakota played fairly well last year against the Gophers and won. They aren't playing the Gophers this times. I expect a rout, too. Wisconsin 65, S. Dakota 14.

Detroit Motor City Kitties (-3 1/2) vs. Minnesota Vikings. Yep. It's true. The Vikings are a home underdog against the Detroit Lions. The Lions are putting all their eggs into their defensive line. So far, it's worked. Can the Vikings figure out a way to slow down Suh, Vanden Bosch and the rest of the gang? No. Lions 21, Vikings 17.

It's tough to tell if the Lions are really good or not. I'm not sure the Kansas City Chiefs were much of a test. The Vikings fit into Benster's favorite scenario, the desperate team at home. Interestingly, Benster ignored his own theory this time. I'm going to play a hunch. Vikings 24, Lions 20.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-3 1/2) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. Speaking of home dogs, da Bearz find themselves in that position against our beloved World Champion Packers, who have been a little shaky on defense this year. I'm nervous about not having Nick Collins, who is a pretty crucial part of that defense. I also think we should send the Claymaker to Gabe Carimi's side of the Bears' offensive line, especially since Carimi won't be playing, most likely. I'm half expecting to see the Swinging Gate over there. Lovie Smith said his goal was to beat the Green Bay Packers. Well, he could have knocked the Packers out twice last season, but failed both times. World Champions 17, NFC North Division Winners (2010) 10.

Jay Cutler is getting his butt kicked every week. He's on pace to take 88 sacks. The Packers will blitz the Bears silly this game. The key will be if the Bears counter effectively with screen passes and other trickery. I suspect this will be a war, too. Packers 20, Bears 17.

I'd pick more games, but really, what's the point? I have to go out and give my pal Charley a shout-out for earning his Eagle Scout this morning, so I don't have time to pick more football games. And so that's what I'll do. Ben out!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wanna Buy a Bridge?

One of Sir Tom Stoppard's earliest works was a one-act play called Albert's Bridge. The play tells the story of Albert, whose job it is to paint a railroad bridge. It takes him about 8 years to complete painting the bridge, at which time the bridge needs to be repainted. Since that timing doesn't work out so well, 1,800 painters are dispatched to paint the bridge in a single day, but their combined weight causes the bridge to collapse.

I read this play in my Brit Lit class in college, but I get the impression that Barack Obama never encountered it during his undergraduate years. Speaking in Cincinnati today, he tried to undergird his push for his putative jobs bill (you know, the one that Harry Reid won't bring to a vote) by tying the effort to a proposed bridge over the Ohio River:

Now, the bridge behind us just so happens to connect the state that’s home to the Speaker of the House with the state that’s home to the Minority Leader of the Senate. Sheer coincidence, of course. But part of the reason I came here is because Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell are the two most powerful Republicans in government. They can either kill this jobs bill, or they can help us pass it.

I know these men care about their states. And I can’t imagine that the Speaker wants to represent a state where nearly one in four bridges is classified as substandard. I know that when Senator McConnell visited the closed bridge in Kentucky, he said that “roads and bridges are not partisan in Washington.” I know that Paul Ryan, the Republican in charge of the budget process, recently said you can’t deny that “infrastructure does create jobs.”

Well if that’s the case, then there’s no reason for Republicans in Congress to stand in the way of more construction projects. There’s no reason to stand in the way of more jobs. Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge. Help us rebuild America.

Perhaps not as resonant as "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," but certainly a nice try. And let's give the President credit for name checking three of his favorite pin cushions in one sound bite.

One little problem, though -- the bridge he'd like to use to bash in Boehner's political bridgework isn't exactly, ahem, shovel ready. Blogger Dodd Harris explains:

For one thing, the river crossing in question is already slated for a new bridge. It’s been in the planning stages for years; the project is currently barely into the public comment phase. In fact, Obama’s own FHWA doesn’t expect it to start construction in 2015 or be completed until 2022.

The President did not explain how his ‘jobs bill’ will alter time so that the project can start creating jobs “right now.”
So the project is four years off. And you can well imagine that the "public comment phase" will probably be contentious, primarily because of opposition from groups that typically support people like Barack Obama.
But there's more, according to Andrew Malcolm of the Los Angeles Times:

It doesn't really need repairs. It's got decades of good life left in its steel spans. It's just overloaded. The bridge was built to handle 85,000 cars and trucks a day, which seemed like a lot back during construction in the Nixon era.

Today, the bridge sort of handles more than 150,000 vehicles a day with frequent jam-ups.

So, plans are not to repair or replace the Brent Spence Bridge. But to build another bridge nearby to ease the loads.

But here's the problem, as John Merline graphically notes here, that could screw up all those envisioned photo op shots of the Democrat and the traffic:

The president's jobs bill is designed for "immediate" highway spending.
And there's the little matter of the stimulus spending that we've just undertaken. You know, the stuff that was going to reduce the level of unemployment. How's that been working?

I suppose we could spend another $400-500 billion. Maybe we could hire 1800 new workers, too. But I'm not sure it would turn out any better than it did for Albert's Bridge. But these days we're getting used to collapses.

The Davis Case

I don't know if Troy Davis was innocent or not. He asserted he was until the moment he was executed, last night in Georgia.

What I do know is that if we discover that someone else was responsible for the 1989 murder of Mark MacPhail, we'll have no way to correct things.

The Dream within a Dream

We watched "The Princess Bride" the other night. I had watched it with Fearless Maria a number of years ago but she's now old enough to get the humor beyond the plot line. Mrs. D had never seen the movie before.

It's a very funny movie, of course, and one of the funniest parts is the wedding scene, in which the British comedian Peter Cook (Dudley Moore's old partner, by the way) plays "The Impressive Clergyman" and goes on to extol the virtues of marriage in a way that is almost incomprehensible.

I was thinking about this because yesterday happened to be my wedding anniversary. Mrs. D and I were married 20 years ago, so it was a fairly big milestone. I posted a wedding picture on Facebook and among the congratulations were a few observations about how tough it is to stay married for 20 years.

I'm of two minds about that. As it happens, many of our closest friends were also married in that same time frame. If I remember correctly, Mrs. D and I attended 8 other weddings in the period between the end of 1989 and the end of 1993. As of today, every single one of these marriages endures. Statistically, that's unusual, since we always hear that half of all marriages end in divorce. But it's not surprising to me, because I know that in every instance, our friends chose wisely.

There's never been a lack of advice to the lovelorn and I have no interest in being Dear Abby, but when I consider what we've done, and what our friends have done, I think we can see some common trends.

In most cases, these marriages were between people who were in their mid- to late twenties at the time. While we all know people who were high school sweethearts and made it work, in most cases you aren't really ready to make a lifelong commitment before the age of 25 or so. That made a big difference.

Marriage is simple, but it's not easy. You have to work at it. Mrs. D and I are fortunate in that we tend to see the world in the same way and that makes things easier, but you even where you disagree, you have to have your spouse's back, especially when the kids are involved.

I suspect a lot of people marry because they think that being with someone else will make them happy. Making someone else happy is too much work for your prospective spouse. You can be happy together, as the the old song goes, but your happiness is your own responsibility. Maturity is as much about managing your own expectations as anything else.

You can do things that will make your spouse happy, but each individual act has a statute of limitations. And that is where the work of marriage comes in. You can't pretend that a previous kindness is sufficient to make up for selfish behavior in the present, or that a previous slip can't be rectified. You get a chance to do the right things every day. You won't always do the right things, but your spouse should understand that if you've established that you are behaving in good faith.

Many things have happened over the last 20 years, but one thing has remained constant -- I can trust that my wife will have my back. And she knows that I have hers. Does that mean happily ever after? Not necessarily, but it gives us a good chance of it, as long as we stay true to ourselves and to each other. I'm eagerly awaiting the next 20 years and whatever comes after that. We might even have a dream or two fulfilled along the way.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

La la la

The official line -- don't tell us things like this:

The Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee on Tuesday drew fire from Democrats for backing Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s description of Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme.”

Social Security fits the technical definition of a Ponzi scheme, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told conservative Laura Ingraham on her radio show.

“It’s not a criminal enterprise, but it’s a pay-as-you-go system, where earlier investors — or say, taxpayers — get a positive rate of return, and the most recent investors — or taxpayers — get a negative rate of return,” he said. “That is how those schemes work.”

Ryan is wrong about one thing -- if you or I would set something like this up, it would be a criminal enterprise. But that's not the criticism we're hearing from our portside friends. We get this, instead:

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee pushed back against Ryan’s comments.

“Ryan’s belief that Social Security works like a Ponzi scheme proves — once and for all — that House Republicans have really declared a war on seniors,” DCCC spokesman Jesse Ferguson said in a statement. “A Ponzi scheme is Bernie Madoff ripping off Americans — not Social Security benefits that seniors earned and depend on during retirement.”
If it weren't for the pain that would be involved, it would almost be worth it to see the Democrats win on this issue, because they so richly deserve the whirlwind they would reap when the dang thing collapses of its own weight. The key to that phrase is, "almost." We know the train wreck is coming. We can't really "fix" Social Security, either, because the underlying scheme requires that we keeping adding layers to the pyramid. We can start winding the program down, though. The hour grows short.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

This Time It Will Work

Writing in the Washington Examiner, Tim Carney gets to the heart of the matter:

The problem is not that Obama's administration is bad at picking investments. Nor is Obama, among politicians, corrupt or unusually given to cronyism. The problem is that Obama's stated agenda, which involves giving government a central role in the private sector, inevitably creates waste, gives benefits to the well-connected, and opens the door for cronyism and corruption.

Obama promised to be the scourge of the lobbyists and the antidote to special-interest dominance in Washington, but he also promised an activist government role in the economy. The two are nearly mutually exclusive.
Actually, I think Obama is quite bad at picking investments, but we'll leave that aside. Carney's larger point is crucial — the incentive for corruption is baked into public/private initiatives. As a general rule, those nasty venture capitalists don't bother with anything that doesn't provide a good possibility of a return on investment. And further, venture capitalists generally fund companies that plan to compete in the existing market. Governments often are less interested in a return on investment than on ameliorating social ills.

It's instructive that one of the primary initiatives of the Left in recent years has been cap and trade, in which the government bid fair to create a marketplace that didn't exist. Carbon credits are a wholly artificial construct and the credits only would have had value to the extent that the government could create and operate a regulatory apparatus that controlled most financial activity. It would have taken a hell of a lot of enforcement to make it work, too.

The response comes back -- what about the hedge fund managers and the arbitrageurs who have spent the last few decades trashing the economy? Didn't they steal billions, maybe trillions, by gaming the system?

Yes, they did. And they did because they were able to figure out ways around the artificial constructs that the regulatory state attempted to impose, mostly with the ideal of making the housing market more "fair."

Are you ready to double down on all that? Then by all means, let's have more stimulus, more government-run job creation, more picking of winners and losers, with more funding out of the public fisc. Let's see if it works any differently than it did before. It's going to be brilliant this time, right? You have to break a few Solyndras to make an omelette, right?

Dawn Breaks Across the Hudson

David Brooks confirms our suspicions:

He claimed we can afford future Medicare costs if we raise taxes on the rich. He repeated the old half-truth about millionaires not paying as much in taxes as their secretaries. (In reality, the top 10 percent of earners pay nearly 70 percent of all income taxes, according to the I.R.S. People in the richest 1 percent pay 31 percent of their income to the federal government while the average worker pays less than 14 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office.)

This wasn’t a speech to get something done. This was the sort of speech that sounded better when Ted Kennedy was delivering it. The result is that we will get neither short-term stimulus nor long-term debt reduction anytime soon, and I’m a sap for thinking it was possible.
The "he" in question is President Obama, of course, and while Brooks has had to admit to his foolishness, the New York Times' pet conservative still wants a reason to believe:

Yes, I’m a sap. I believed Obama when he said he wanted to move beyond the stale ideological debates that have paralyzed this country. I always believe that Obama is on the verge of breaking out of the conventional categories and embracing one of the many bipartisan reform packages that are floating around.

But remember, I’m a sap.
It's easy to remember something that we've all understood for years, Mr. Brooks.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Five Minute Football Post

Not much time, but a few thoughts:
  • I don't know if Cam Newton is that good, or if the Packers defense is that bad. But I suspect it's both.
  • I don't know if the Chiefs are that terrible, or if the Lions are that good. But I suspect it's both.
  • Unless the Bears can get their offensive line straightened out, Jay Cutler is going to leave the field some day on a stretcher. People bag on Cutler for his courage, which is unfair, but he needs help.
  • The Vikings aren't very good right now. From what I can tell, they just don't have any margin for error at all and the minute they face adversity they are in trouble. And every team in the NFL can bring adversity to its opponent's doorstep. Well, maybe not the Chiefs.
  • Russell Wilson is the best present the Wisconsin Badgers have ever received. The Big Ten doesn't look very impressive this year, with one exception.
  • It was nice to see the Gophers get a win. I do think Jerry Kill and his staff will get things turned around, but there's a lot of rot to clear out from the ill-fated Brewster regime.

Breaking News from 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006....

Barack Obama announces a plan to stick it to the rich.

Usually in the fall we get announcements from the televison networks concerning new shows. The Obama administration apparently has chosen to enter the election season in reruns.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Hey St. Peter Edition

Well, it looks like Decrepit finally got the computer working so here we are. This computer is as decrepit as you are, old dude!

Is that even possible?

It would appear so. But one thing never gets old and that's my ultrafresh mad predicting skills. And as always, I'm feeling the HYYYYYYYYYYYYYPPPPPPE! So let's get to it, before the Geritol fan misses his bedtime. Watch me work.

Miami (Ohio) Red Menace (+4 1/2) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers. I decided to stop picking on Coach Jerry Kill after his unfortunate episode at the end of last week's game. We do wish him the best, but there's still the little matter that his team lost to New Mexico Freaking State, at home. That's like losing to Macalester, except maybe even more shameful. New Mexico State would have a tough time winning the MIAC, so what's up with that? Anyway, here's a chance for the Gophers to redeem themselves and get some momentum for the Big Ten schedule. Gophers 21, Miami 17.

So you're saying that the Gophers should avoid scheduling Augsburg next year? Yeah, that's probably wise. I too wish Coach Kill the best, but his team needs to step it up a notch. The Red Hawks (we know they're not the Red Menace, which would be Nebraska) are a pretty good team and Kill has a lot of knowledge about their program, since they were a nemesis for his NIU teams, about which more in a moment. Let's see if the Gophs can win one for the Killer. Gophers 17, Miami 14.

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-17) vs. Northern Illinois Huskies, at Soldier Field. Speaking of Jerry Kill, and dead grass, we find our Badgers playing Kill's old NIU squad at the worst field outside of the movie The Sandlot, Soldier Field in Chicago. That place looks like a dump from the outside and the grass is already shot. The Badgers are built for tearing into the turf and they'll get a good chance to do it at Soldier Field. NIU has a pretty good team -- in fact, they're probably better than Oregon State was last week. But can they stop Russell Wilson, Montee Ball, James White, Nick Toon and all the other weapons the Badgers have? Uh, no. Badgers 100, Huskies 0.

That seems a bit optimistic, grasshopper. NIU actually is pretty good and their new coach is Dave Doeren, who was on Bret Bielema's staff last year. He'll have a pretty good idea what the Badgers can do. They also have a pretty good QB in Chandler Harnish, but I suspect the Badgers will prevail. Wisconsin 45, NIU 27.

Oklahoma Boomer Sooners (-3) vs. Florida State Seminoles. The game of the week features the Sooners, who have announced that they will be making a decision about their conference affiliation next week. I understand that decision will be televised on ESPN. Let's go to one of the endless supply of ESPN lackeys right now for an update:

This is Trey Wingnut and we're here for the big announcement. Coach Bob Stoops is about to come to the podium and announce whether the Sooners will be joining the SEC, the Pac-12 or remaining in the Big XII, which is somewhat less than XII these days. Stoops is at the podium now. Sorry, we're having technical difficulties, so I'll have to transcribe his remarks.

Everyone, my name is Bob Stoops and I'm the football coach at Oklahoma University. We have decided to take our talents to St. Peter and join the MIAC Conference. There has been a gap in the conference ever since Macalester left a few years ago and we look forward to the challenge of facing our ancient rival Gustavus Adolphus. We think we can beat the Tommies, but that remains to be seen.

Wow. That's a shocker! You heard it hear first -- the Sooners have joined the MIAC. This is Trey Wingnut returning you to regular programming. Back to you, Benster!

Thank you, Trey. Dang, that's weird. Anyway, back to the game. I think Oklahoma is the better team, but Oklahoma has a habit of losing on the road to good teams. That might just happen this time. But the good news is that next year the Sooners should be favored against Augsburg. Noles 20, Chokelahoma 19.

No comment. None at all. Oklahoma 27, Florida St. 24.

Tampa Bay Creamsicles (+3) vs. Minnesota Vikings. Can I tell you a secret, old dude? Don't start Donovan McNabb on your fantasy league team! Are you kidding me? 39 yards? C'mon, man! Now comes Tampa Bay, which won 10 games last year, although I believe most of their games were against MIAC opponents. They lost to the Lions last week and have a weak secondary that maybe even McNabb can exploit. If not, I'm calling for Wade Wilson. Vikes 24, Creamsicles 10.

Okay, I think the Vikings will win, too. But this could be the most boring game in NFL history. Just sayin'. Vikings 12, Tampa 6.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-10) vs. Carolina Newtons. So, did you see what our guy Scam Newton did last week, old dude? He threw for over 400 yards, which is about half of what Carolina threw for all last season. I'm not sure he'll do that again, especially against a Dom Capers-coached defense. Newton never saw anyone like B. J. Raji in his grill when he was playing for Au-Barn last year. Consider this one part of his education, which is a good thing because I assume he never saw a classroom during his time at Auburn. Packers 50, Fig Newton 0.

Well, that's a harsh assessment. Actually, I think Cam Newton might turn out to be pretty good. But I do think the Packers will win. Carolina won't be able to keep up with Aaron Rodgers. Not sure anyone can right now. Packers 37, Carolina 17.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (+7) vs. New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees threw for about 9000 yards last week but still lost. And I'm guessing he's pretty mad about that. The Saints now are in my favorite betting position, the desperate team at home. I must admit that da Bearz played very well last week against Atlanta, and I say that in all sincerity, not just because we want to make Gino like us. Da Bearz have had trouble beating good teams and their success last year was mostly based on luck -- I do think they also played a portion of their schedule in the MIAC, since it was strange that they beat St. Olaf in Week 9. The Saints wear the same colors as St. Olaf, but they ain't the Oles. Who Dat Say Dey Gonna Beat Dem Saints 35, da Bearz 17.

Jay Cutler is improving, but I still swear he's gonna get killed some day playing behind that O-line they have in Chicago. Gabe Carimi will get better, but last week they looked lost. The amazing part is that they won anyway. Bears defense is good and will keep this close. But I like the Saints, too. Saints 24, Bears 20.

Well, that seems like plenty for now. We'll leave you with a musical interlude at the end in honor of Oklahoma's momentous decision. Ben out!

Just askin’

Is MinnPost just a little obsessed with Michele Bachmann?

Bachmann's Overreach

For a while, it had seemed that Michele Bachmann had figured it out. Then she stepped in it again following the recent presidential debate with some wild-ass assertions concerning vaccinations. MinnPost reports on a challenge:

University of Minnesota bioethics professor Dr. Steven Miles announced on Facebook Wednesday morning that he was offering $1,000 for “the name and medical records release of the person who Michele Bachmann says became mentally retarded as a consequence of the HPV [human papillomavirus]” vaccine.

Within hours, Arthur Caplan, former head of the U of M’s Center for Bioethics and current director of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics, had upped Miles’ challenge by $10,000, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

A couple of observations:

  • I would assume that Miles and Caplan both understand that releasing medical records is a dicey proposition, given the strictures involved. And it's hardly surprising that the news media aren't mentioning that these two ethicists are asking for a course of action that would be considered unethical. Would the parent of a child really consent to havving their child's medical history splashed across the airwaves and the internet? Would you?
  • Having said that, Bachmann is wrong, wrong, wrong about vaccinations. The anti-vaccination folks are playing a dangerous game and Bachmann was exceptionally foolish to play along in the hopes of gaining a temporary political advantage over her rival, Rick Perry. Whether Perry's approach to the matter was wise or not is tangential to the larger point, which is that vaccinations have greatly improved public health and saved the lives of millions of people.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Scenes From Our Moral Universe in 2011

Let's wrap our mind around some stories. First, Ann Althouse notes the following anecdote about a Madison-area d.j. and his wacky antics:

You can listen to the audio of the radio broadcast yesterday morning on WTDY. Sly gives out Ryan's home address, giggles about going over to the house to put candy there as a prank, and urges readers to head over there, with candy. He goes into detail about the directions to the house, the number of children who live there, and the physical attractiveness of the Congressman's wife.

The Ryan in question is Paul Ryan, the prominent Wisconsin congressman.

Meanwhile, we are urged to share our experiences in other areas:

As the 2012 presidential campaign heats up, President Obama’s campaign team has set up a new Web site,, to challenge negative statements about the president made by Republican presidential candidates and conservatives.

Obama for America national field director Jeremy Bird told ABC News that the site’s goal is to offer “resources to fight back” against attacks. Mostly, that means fact checking statements from the likes of GOP presidential contenders Mitt Romney and Rick Perry and conservative commentator Glenn Beck and offering evidence to the contrary. The site is designed in bold red and black colors, and uses statements like “support the truth” and “fight the smears.”

Subscribers to this noble effort are encouraged to forward specific examples to the authorities, er, I mean, the Obama campaign, which will then take the leads and then offer a stern gaze in the general direction of the offender or something. This is good news. I've been meaning to turn myself in for a long time. And if I play my cards right, maybe the Twin Cities equivalent of Sly will give out my home address and directions to eager listeners.

I was also heartened to see that Garry Trudeau has seen fit to use his comic strip to retail stories about Sarah Palin's 1980s sex life.

So how do we describe the world in 2011? Scorched earth, I guess.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The fierce moral urgency of managing the news cycle


The Obama White House tried to rush federal reviewers for a decision on a nearly half-billion-dollar loan to the solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra so Vice President Biden could announce the approval at a September 2009 groundbreaking for the company’s factory, newly obtained e-mails show.

The Silicon Valley company, a centerpiece in President Obama’s initiative to develop clean energy technologies, had been tentatively approved for the loan by the Energy Department but was awaiting a final financial review by the Office of Management and Budget.

The August 2009 e-mails, released to The Washington Post, show White House officials repeatedly asking OMB reviewers when they would be able to decide on the federal loan and noting a looming press event at which they planned to announce the deal. In response, OMB officials expressed concern that they were being rushed to approve the company’s project without adequate time to assess the risk to taxpayers, according to information provided by Republican congressional investigators.
Managing the news cycle matters more than due diligence, of course, especially if you're just spending other people's money. The punchline?

Solyndra collapsed two weeks ago, leaving taxpayers liable for the $535 million loan.

This story is getting more interesting by the moment.

Not really feeling it

As I've been studying the crop of potential opponents for Barack Obama in the next election, it's become pretty evident that they all have some major flaws. Frankly, I don't like any of them very much. If I were to guess, I'd imagine that Mitt Romney has the best chance of emerging in the end, but I don't think the moment calls for a technocrat.

Do you like any of the current candidates? If so, what recommends your favorite?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bad Ideas on the Dead Tree

We still have a subscription to the dead tree version of the Star Tribune and today's editions feature two really bad ideas as headlines, to wit:

Should Dayton unionize daycare?


Obama jobs bill plan: Tax the rich

Both deserve comment, but given my time constraints this morning, we'll concentrate on the latter one. Three quick thoughts:
  • First, the general notion that Obama wants to tax the rich hardly merits as news any more.
  • The specific proposal in question is this: "The White House said Congress should pay for the jobs plan by imposing new limits on itemized deductions for individuals who earn more than $200,000 a year and families earning more than $250,000." The sound you hear is the non-profit sector groaning. Life in a liberal arts college's development office would get a whole lot tougher if this passes. The non-profit sector tends to be supportive of Democrats, but often relies on the largesse of evil money-making Republicans for its survival. Everyone from my alma mater through Susan G. Komen gets thrown under the (campaign) bus.
  • Of course, there's no way in hell this will pass. And it's further evidence that Obama and his policy shop remain fresh out of ideas.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Lightning Round - 091211

We're way behind on blogging here because we've had a few things to deal with in recent days. I'm not going to go into detail here but the good news is that things should be back to normal soon. A lot has happened in the world outside our home in recent days. A few very quick thoughts:
  • We're at the point now where it starts to make sense to pay attention to presidential debates, but more pressing matters kept me from watching the fun on Wednesday. I guess we're supposed to pick between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney in this cycle. I'd like a better candidate than that, not that there was one on the podium with the two anointed frontrunners. The hour is late, but I think there will be others.
  • I also missed the president's speech before a joint session of Congress, but having read what he's proposing, I'd say this:  short-term fixes are fine and some of what he's proposing might even help a little bit, but the underlying problem in the economy is something we've talked about before:  the people who have the money are reluctant to put it out there right now because they sense that this administration will go Juan Peron on them. Whether that's a fair or rational way of looking at matters is entirely beside the point. That's the perception and Obama and his coterie haven't moved the needle on it yet.
  • We mentioned the Solyndra story briefly. It got more interesting now that the FBI has raided Solyndra's offices. Solyndra got a lot of money from the feds to prop up their business (making solar panels) and still went belly up. This story isn't going away.
  • The NFC North is a tough neighborhood. As much as I enjoyed the opening night performance of my beloved Packers, I must say that the Bears were very impressive on Sunday. It could be a very long year at Winter Park.
  • We haven't talked much about the Arden Hills stadium much lately, although things have been happening. We'll try to revisit that topic soon.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years After

I've rerun the first piece I wrote concerning 9/11 five years ago. It still holds up, I think. I'll add a few comments at the end:

It was an especially beautiful morning, and really a gorgeous day, one of those days that make September the best time of year in Minnesota. The sky was clear and the morning air was crisp. I climbed on the 4 bus on Foss Road and began my journey to my office in downtown Minneapolis. I arrived at my desk about the same time the first plane hit.

We all can remember what we were doing that day. I remember thinking that this was different. I remember the first reports coming around as routine office chatter – “did you hear that a small plane hit the World Trade Center?” Then we learned the second plane had hit. And the rumors were flying. Planes were crashing into buildings all over the country. The Air Force was shooting down airliners. We knew the nation was under attack, an attack we couldn’t quite comprehend. Work at my office crawled to a standstill as a single television set showed the smoking buildings. Broadcast e-mails from the top executives imploring everyone to “get back to work” were ignored. We didn’t know what we should do. A co-worker and fellow Catholic, who knew of my involvement at my home parish because we’d compared our experiences, suggested that we go to St. Olaf for noon Mass. A group of us did and found the downtown church filled to the rafters. We heard the pastor speak of peace, of remaining calm, of God’s love on a day when hatred was streaked across the skies and the airwaves. And we knew that Father Forliti was right. But we also knew that there would be a fight and the world had changed.

I went home that night and turned on the news. My son, freshly arrived from kindergarten, bounded down the steps, looking for his usual dose of Scooby Doo. My wife called down, “No, Benjamin, don’t go down there!” But he was there and he saw the footage of the plane striking the second tower. And he knew, in his child-like way, that this was real, and it was horrible. He started to cry and ran back up the stairs, screaming “I don’t want to see that!” I will never forget the look on his face.

Five years on, I think a lot of us are still screaming “I don’t want to see that!” It’s a rare thing in this life to actually witness evil, to see malevolence on a grand scale, to view an atrocity happen before your eyes. Most of the time, evil tends to happen quietly, in the background, without wide exposure. Because we don’t often see it as it occurs, we tend to either recoil from what we see, or fail to understand what we are seeing, or deny that we see is evil. That’s natural – we call it coping. But coping is not enough. Taking off our shoes in the airport is coping. We can cope indefinitely. But evil remains.

And I think we have to call this thing what it is – evil. Flying planes into buildings is evil. Bombing nightclubs and mosques is evil. Providing a cash stipend to the families of suicide bombers is evil. Pushing elderly men in wheelchairs into the Mediterranean is evil. Blowing up subway trains is evil. This is what we still face, five years on. I cannot predict where we will be in five years from this day, but I can only assume that we will still face evil. And saying “I don’t want to see that” will remain insufficient.
We're now five years past the day I wrote that. And in the five years since the fifth anniversary of the events of 9/11/01, things have changed rather a lot in America. I was worried then about complacency. Now we have our attention turned even further inward.

It's not surprising, really. We've expended billions, maybe even trillions depending on who does the counting, on the Great War on Terror, on Homeland Security, on the TSA. We're still removing our shoes in airports and now we walk through full body scanners. We accept a lot of strictures and bureaucratic meddling that would have been unthinkable on 9/10.

I remain convinced that evil still remains. Bin Laden is dead now but the underlying set of grievances that drove him and his partners still remains. Grievances aren't evil, but choosing to kill thousands indiscriminately certainly was. We've established a price for that, even if we can't quantify the cost. Ten years after, we still have a lot of questions to answer.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Benster and D Resume Picking Your Games -- No, We're Not Done Yet.

Okay, so we're 1-0 because the glorious, beloved, superoutstanding Green Bay Packers were able to stop Drew Brees and win the game. It was even a game that lived up to the HYYYYYYPPPPE!

That's true, Seabiscuit. Heckuva game.

What the heck is "heckuva," old dude? That must be some of that 23-skidoo, bee's knees slang that you hepcats used to use back in the day, right? I'll bet you know the lyrics to "Freddie the Freshman," even! My goodness, I'd better check your packaging because I think you're past the sell-by date!

Are you through?

I could go on, but I've made my point. Now we have some football to pick. Watch me work.

New Mexico State Aggies (+20) vs. Minnesota Golden Road-Jerry Kill. Well, old Jerry the Cable Guy got off to a fine start in his first game as the Gopher head coach. They gave Lane (I Get Jobs Because My Dad is Smarter Than Me) Kiffin a run for his money, or maybe that's the USC boosters' money, but I digress. So now the Gophers play the mighty Aggies of New Mexico State, perhaps the worst college football program outside of, well, Minnesota. And the wise guys in Vegas have given the Gophers a huge point spread to beat. I think that looking at recent history, this is trap game for the Gophers. They tend to lose games they should win, and lose games they should lose. Kill's job is to change that culture of defeatism, brought to you by the French Army, circa 1940. And Joel Maturi, too. Aggies 17, TLC Network 14.

Wow, no love for our man Jerry, huh? I think the Gophers will win. Not sure they'll cover that spread, but they'll win. I think Marqueis Gray will have a nice day. Gophers 31, NMSU 17.

Oregon State Buck Toothed Varmints (+20 1/2) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. Yosemite Sam shoots himself in the foot all the time, and so did Oregon State last week, losing to Sacramento Freaking State on their own field. You just don't lose to Sacramento Freaking State, now do ya, punk? So what is going to happen to the Beavers when they encounter the Badgers? I don't think they ever set up that matchup on Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, but I'm too young to remember that show. Let's just say that the Badgers might be really good. And let's just say that Oregon State might be really not so good. Bucky 100, Buck Toothed Varmints 0.

We once again say, uh... no. Oregon State has to be embarrassed about losing to Sacramento State and they'll try to up their game. Camp Randall is a tough place to make amends, though. I want to see if Russell Wilson can duplicate what he did last time. If he can, look out. Wisconsin 37, Oregon State 20.

Minnesota Vikings (+8 1/2) vs. San Diego Chargers. Not a lot of love for the local team in this point spread, huh Decrepit? The Vikings have Donovan McNabb as their quarterback now, because apparently Brett Favre is really, finally, truly, not kidding, retired. Either that or he sent the text he meant for Jenn Sterger to Zygi Wilf or something. Donovan McNabb isn't known for texting pictures of his various anatomical features to anyone, but he's rumored to like Chunky Soup. Draw your own conclusions. As for the game, who knows? The Vikings were hard to read during the preseason and the Chargers typically think the season starts in November, so I think this could be closer than the Vegas guys think. Vikings 63, Bolts 60.

Well, that's different. Actually, I think you might be on to something, grasshopper. I don't think San Diego plays very good defense and the Vikings should be able to do some scoring. The thing is, Phillip Rivers is a monster when he's on. I think the game is a shootout, too. Not the sort of track meet you suspect, though. San Diego 34, Vikings 28.

Hotlanta Falcons (-3) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. So, tell me this, Bears fans (and yes, I mean you Gino). How do you feel about your team being a home underdog after they just played in the NFC Championship Game? I tell ya, no respect. Then again, I don't have any respect for the Bears, either, but I'm trying to be objective here. Both these teams lost to the Packers in the playoffs last year. Did I mention that before? I'll bet I did. Sorry if I'm covering old ground and throwing salt in old wounds. But anyway, back to the game. Jay Cutler has been waiting for a photo opportunity, a shot at redemption (but don't call him Al) ever since half the league called him out on Twitter during the game back in January. Will he get his redemption against the Falcons? Or will he end up in a cartoon graveyard? Dirty Birds 35, da Bearz 0.

I'll take it you think he's in the cartoon graveyard, then. Fair enough. I think the Bears have a lot to prove, but I wonder if they have enough bullets left. I'm pretty sure I saw Olin Kreutz playing at Lambeau Field last night, but those weren't the Bears on the field. If the Bears don't win this one, they could be looking at an 0-3 start with the Saints and Packers on the docket after this one. So I'll go with the Bears. Bears 24, Falcons 21.

We were going to pick the Lions game, but really, who cares? Now before you watch football, please think about what happened 10 years ago this Sunday. I was in kindergarten when that happened, but I thank God every day that I'm an American. Ben out.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Yes, I Am Ready for Some Football, And Thanks for Asking!

Before I start my prognosticating, I would just like everyone to know that the blogging break that the old dude decreed the other night is over for the moment. He'll explain what's been going on later, but now it's time for some stratospheric HYYYYYYYYYYYYPPPPPPPE!!!!!!!!

We can all use a little HYYYYYYYPPPPPE!

I have a 55-gallon drum of it and I'm going to dump it all over y'all tonight. Watch me work.

New Orleans Who Dat Nation (+4 1/2) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. I used y'all because people in N'awlins sometimes talk that way. They also say other weird things, but we're not interested in local speech patterns tonight. We're interested in FOOTBALL! And so the Glorious, World Champion GREEN. BAY. PACKERS. take the field tonight against the Saints, who won the Super Bowl only one year ago. The last two times these teams played each other was in 2008, when the Packers weren't very good and Dom Capers was someplace else. Drew Brees opened up a can of whoop you know what* on our beloved Packers. But now things are different. Capers is a genius, Clay Matthews is a beast and B.J. Raji is a giant mountain of fun in the middle of the Packer D-line. It won't be a Brees, so to speak, for Brees to complete passes while he has a dude who looks like Fabio draped all over him. It might help him sell Romance novels, except that NFL quarterbacks don't usually write them. So when we write the story of this game, I see: Packers 35, Saints 31.

Brad Carlson will be disappointed in that pick, Benster. He thought you'd select the Pack by a score of 75-6. I think the Packers will win, too, but it won't be easy. Brees is an awfully good quarterback and the Saints have a lot of weapons. I think the Packers will outlast the Saints, but they'll have to do something special to get the win. Fortunately, I think they have plenty of special guys. Green Bay 34, New Orleans 27.

Well, thanks for that, old dude. We'll be back tomorrow with more picks, especially the highly exciting Gophers/New Mexico State tilt. We love us some Jerry "The Cable Guy" Kill. Ben out!

*You know what the word is. I'm Benster. I don't have to work blue. I'm better than that.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans

Some life is happening to us right about now, so posting may be light for the next few days. More when I know more.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Just a reminder

The Milwaukee Brewers are going to win the National League Central. Magic number is. . . 11.

The new civility

Ain't love grand?

“And you see it everywhere, it is the Tea Party. And you know, there is only one way to beat and win that war. The one thing about working people is we like a good fight. And you know what? They’ve got a war, they got a war with us and there’s only going to be one winner. It’s going to be the workers of Michigan, and America. We’re going to win that war... President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march… Everybody here’s got a vote... Let’s take these sons of bitches out and give America back to an America where we belong,” he concluded."

Those are the dulcet tones of Teamsters jefe Jimmy Hoffa, speaking at an event in Detroit, in front of President Obama, who famously values civility.

Remember, the call was never for civility. They mean servility. You will do as Hoffa says, you sons of bitches. This is not your America, pally.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

VDH Explains

Economics 101, from a classics professor:

Job growth is as often driven by psychological impulses on the part of employers as actual facts on the ground, given the requirement of a business that it must plan for the unknown future better than do its rivals. While business people don’t read every economic report or follow every political psychodrama, they do watch for trends, know hourly the pulse of their businesses, and talk to colleagues and rivals to form general opinions about business climate and government attitudes and future policies.
So what do they see?

Here is the lament I heard: the near $5 trillion in borrowing in just three years, the radical growth in the size of the federal government and its regulatory zeal, ObamaCare, the Boeing plant closure threat, the green jobs sweet-heart deals and Van Jones-like “Millions of Green Jobs” nonsense, the vast expansion in food stamps and unemployment pay-outs, the reversal of the Chrysler creditors, politically driven interference in the car industry, the failed efforts to get card check and cap and trade, the moratoria on new drilling in the Gulf, the general antipathy to new fossil fuel exploitation coupled with new finds of vast new reserves, the new financial regulations, an aggressive EPA oblivious to the effects of its advocacy on jobs, the threatened close-down of energy plants, the support for idling thousands of acres of irrigated farmland due to environmental regulations, the constant talk of higher taxes, the needlessly provocative rhetoric of “fat cat”, “millionaires and billionaires,” “corporate jet owners,” etc. juxtaposed, in hypocritical fashion, to Martha’s Vineyard, Costa del Sol, and Vail First Family getaways — all of these isolated strains finally are becoming a harrowing opera to business people.

And the result?

Despite enormous opportunity for many cash-rich firms to take advantage of the down cycles (low interest, plentiful potential employees, discounted prices, etc.), they are taking a pass, almost as if to collectively sigh, “This bunch doesn’t like me much and I’m going to hunker down, hoard my cash, and sit out the next year and a half until they are gone.”
I'm convinced that Victor Davis Hanson, the author of this piece, is right. What I see happening in the tiny corner of the business world that I occupy comports with this analysis, pretty much completely. Especially if you own your own company, what is the incentive to expand your operations, especially in an environment that feels like Buenos Aires in 1949? Why would you put your cash out there, have the government take it away, and then give it to Solyndra?

If the president wants to announce a job program that could turn things around on Thursday, about the best thing he could do is repudiate everything his administration has attempted in the past 2 1/2 years.

Friday, September 02, 2011

How Much Did You Get for Your Solyndra

Less green jobs, all of a sudden:

In the biggest green-tech flameout yet, Silicon Valley solar panel maker Solyndra shut its doors and laid off 1,100 workers Wednesday after raising more than $1 billion from investors and securing a half billion dollar federal loan guarantee to build a state-of-the-art robotic factory that opened less than a year ago.

In a statement, the Solyndra said it would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy while exploring a sale of the business or licensing its thin-film photovoltaic technology.

“Despite strong growth in the first half of 2011 and traction in North America with a number of orders for very large commercial rooftops, Solyndra could not achieve full-scale operations rapidly enough to compete in the near term with the resources of larger foreign manufacturers,” the company said. “This competitive challenge was exacerbated by a global oversupply of solar panels and a severe compression of prices that in part resulted from uncertainty in governmental incentive programs in Europe and the decline in credit markets that finance solar systems.”
There's a lot more to this story than I have time to discuss at the moment, but study the last paragraph carefully, especially the part about "uncertainty in government incentive programs in Europe." Our government funds a company that depends on the uncertain largesse of other governments. And it doesn't go well. Can we draw any conclusions from that fact pattern?

America Labor Secretary, Get Away from Me

The perils of attempting to "buy American":

To show her support for American workers, President Obama's labor secretary, Hilda Solis, has junked the standard black limo and purchased a new Chevrolet Equinox to ride around Washington in. The problem: the crossover SUV is built and assembled in Canada from parts also made in Canada.


In truth, given the global nature of the automobile industry, it's awfully difficult to call a lot of cars American-made. In the past few years, I have owned four different vehicles:
  • A Chevrolet Lumina, manufactured in Canada
  • A Dodge Intrepid, also manufactured in Canada
  • A Hyundai Santa Fe, manufactured in Montgomery, Alabama
  • A Honda Accord, manufactured in Marysville, Ohio
So which of these cars is American-made? You can argue that any of them are, or that none of them are. And you'd be right, or wrong, in either instance. Hope that clears matters up.

Solis had a rationale for her declaration:

Solis added that she was inspired to buy the Chevy because of the pride she saw in American auto workers during trips to U.S. car and truck plants. She said that she was wowed by "the pride that they take making our automobiles here in America."

I'd stipulate that her pride may be real, but attention to detail matters.