Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Poetry Reading

So I read three poems in Dinkytown last night to a small audience at the Bookhouse, an amazing used bookstore on 14th Avenue just down the street from Al's Breakfast, right in the heart of Dinkytown. I was one of five people performing their work from the online journal AlteredScale, which is curated by my friend Jeff Hansen. The featured artist at the event was Maria Damon, a professor at the University of Minnesota who works in a variety of media. I'm a low rent scribe in comparison, but I didn't embarrass myself.

I am an advertising copywriter by trade and so coming up with snappy adman patter isn't especially difficult for me, but there's a discipline involved in being a working poet that is much different than what a blogger faces. You can bluster your way through a blog post, but a poem constructed with bluster won't hold up to scrutiny. It can't, really.

I wrote a lot of poetry during my college years and immediately thereafter, but there's a reason that the word sophomoric exists and a lot of what I wrote in those days qualified for that moniker. A quarter century has passed since those days and I'm in a very different part of my life now and this seems like a good time to summon the muse, or at least make the attempt. The one thing that is different now is that I've learned not to take myself too seriously. There's no point in being a stern-visaged artist, at least the way I see it.

And they kept me spinnin' babe, didn't think I'd ever get off

So what is the political impact of Hurricane Sandy? No one knows. We've not had a storm of this magnitude  hit the Eastern seaboard in our lifetimes, so we don't have any basis for comparison.

Anyone who tells you that he knows what will happen is almost certain to be wrong.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pressing Issue of the Day

Sandy, Benghazi -- no big thing. Sometimes you need to focus on the important stuff:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama's iPod could pass for a voter outreach tool.

Interviewed Monday on Cincinnati radio station WIZF, Obama ran through his musical tastes, an eclectic and all-encompassing list of artists and tracks that reflect the varied coalition of voters he is seeking to attract.


"I've got old school - Stevie Wonder, James Brown. I've got Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan," he said.

There are also plenty of tracks that young voters might have downloaded to their own collections.

"And then I've got everything from Jay-Z, to Eminem, to the Fugees, to you name it. There's probably not a group that you play that I don't have on my iPod," Obama told the station's E.J. Greig.

For the voters whose tastes are more esoteric, "I've got some jazz - John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Gil Scott-Heron," the president said, adding, "You've got to mix it up. It just depends on what mood I'm in."
Perhaps some day he'll be in the mood to answer some questions about other issues.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A reminder

As I noted earlier, I have a poem in 2. And I will be participating in a reading tomorrow night:

I plan to read two poems tomorrow. And I plan to be reasonably coherent.

The Bookhouse is in Dinkytown at 429 14th Avenue SE. If you happen to be in the neighborhood, or even if you don't happen to be in the neighborhood, check it out!

Culture is a good thing.

Dawn Breaks

Michael Goodwin fesses up:

Each time I mention that I voted for Barack Obama in 2008, I get a blast from some who didn’t. “How could you be so dumb?” is a typical response to my confession.

It is certainly a confession — of error. Obama fooled me once, but not twice. I’m voting for Mitt Romney Nov. 6th.
Now, Goodwin had his reasons for voting for Obama, some of which made sense at the time:

McCain, a genuine American hero, often revealed his maverick streak, his choice of Sarah Palin being Exhibit A. Despite doubts about her readiness, I found myself defending her against the vicious attacks from the left, especially by women.

McCain was my real problem. Mavericks make good whistleblowers and lousy CEOs. Upsetting the apple cart is not a qualification for the Oval Office.

I always thought this line of thought interesting -- a lot of people I knew were worried about Palin's readiness in 2008, but not Obama's. But the rest rings true to me. The concern about McCain was legitimate; he wasn't a CEO type. Then again, neither was his opponent. But anyway. . . .

Obama’s soaring rhetoric enticed me at first, and I agreed that a restoration of the Clinton presidency would be a bad idea. Still, I got a jolt of Messiah Alert when he said his rise marked the moment “when the planet began to heal.”

Where he totally fooled me was his claim to be a pragmatist, not an ideologue. He spoke of uniting the country and I believed he was capable and sincere. That he won 70 million votes and more than two-thirds of the Electoral College spoke to his appeal.
This was the part that never made sense to me. There was no evidence at all that Obama was a pragmatist, but a lot of people wanted to believe that. You can't have the sort of career that Obama had and be a pragmatist.

Still, Goodwin figured it out. And he's not afraid to say it.
He failed as president because he is incompetent, dishonest and not interested in the actual work of governing. His statist policies helped consign millions of Americans to a lower standard of living and his odious class warfare further divided the nation. He had no intention of uniting the country — it was his Big Lie.

I don’t hate him. But I sure as hell don’t trust him.
And finally, the coup de grace:
As for the desperate charge that opposition to Obama makes me a racist, let me note that he was black when I voted for him.
If we find in 8 days that Mitt Romney is our next president, it will be the fulfillment of Martin Luther King's dream. We will not have judged Barack Obama on the color of his skin, but rather on the content of his character.

By the way, I wonder what Christopher Buckley is thinking these days.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Is Minnesota in Play?

The infamous Star Tribune Minnesota Poll suggests, maybe:

As the presidential race tightens across the country, a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll has found that it is narrowing here as well, with President Obama holding a 3-point lead and Republican Mitt Romney making gains in the state.

The poll shows Obama with support from 47 percent of likely voters and Romney earning backing from 44 percent -- a lead within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Last month, Obama had an 8-percentage point advantage in the Minnesota Poll. Romney has apparently cut into the Democrat's advantage among women since then and picked up support from Minnesotans who were previously undecided or said they would vote for a third-party candidate.
There's a better reason for this, which we'll get to in a minute. The next observation is weird, though:
Independents, on the other hand, are leaning more toward Obama. Barely a third supported him last month, but that number has grown to 43 percent. Romney's support among independents remains virtually unchanged, with 13 percent of that group remaining undecided.

This finding runs counter to what's happening nearly everywhere else. A few brief thoughts:

  • I suspect the polls have moved Romney's way for a variety of reasons, but the most important one is this -- the sample on this poll is a lot closer to reality than the last one. The initial Minnesota Poll in this cycle was D +13, while this one is D +5. D +5 seems a lot closer to reality to me.
  • I've long believed that a lot of independents aren't really that independent; they just don't want to declare a party. I think that's especially true in Minnesota, where there are a lot of people who are really DFLers but don't want to admit it. That would explain the result here.
  • Do I think Romney will actually win Minnesota? Probably not, but it is closer than a lot of people thought. Minnesota is slowly trending Republican and it would not surprise me if it finally flips the other way in the next decade, as the blue state model fails here and elsewhere. But we aren't there yet.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Things to Do in Denver When Your (Campaign is) Dead

If you're President Obama, the top thing to do in Denver is to avoid interviews with Kyle Clark of KUSA. Hit the link -- it's pretty amazing. Here's my favorite question of the interview:

KYLE CLARK: Mr. President, you've called for more civility in our nation's political conversation - and much has obviously been made about the tone of this race. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, you called Governor Romney a "bullshitter." What did you mean and why did you choose that word?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, this was a conversation after an interview, a casual conversation with a reporter. The basic point that I've been talking about throughout this campaign, is people know what I mean and they know that I mean what I say and what I care about, who I'm fighting for and you know a major issue in any election is can you count on the person you're putting into the Oval Office fighting for you having a clear set of convictions that they believe in.

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Inadvertent Vikings Blow-Off Edition

Hi everyone. First, we owe the many Vikings fans who read our feature regularly an apology. We unfortunately could not get around to picking the Vikings game due to rampant suburban lifestyle obligations, including the old dude sitting in on some Eagle Scout Boards of Review and his other strange political obsessions.

Well, I gotta be me.

Actually, I wish you wouldn't, but what are you gonna do. Meanwhile, we do have games to pick, so watch me work!

Purdue Boilermakers (-3) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers. Lemme get this straight. Purdue is favored in this game? They have the same record as the Gophers and they have gotten drilled more often than the Bakken Oil Field in North Dakota lately. That doesn't make any sense, Geritol Fan! I'm not surprised both teams are in trouble, because neither team can make up its mind which quarterback to use. The Gophers seem to have chosen Philip Nelson, boy wonder of Mankato, who pulled off his redshirt last week and got sacked by a bunch of dudes wearing red jerseys. It didn't go well, but he lived to tell the tale and now he gets to play in a friendly environment. Meanwhile, Purdue is going with a rotation of quarterbacks including Robert Marve, Caleb TerBush and (apparently) Bob Griese. My view is that Purdue should go with Marve, because Marve can make more things happen and people forget that he was once good enough to be the quarterback at the "U" (University of Miami, not our local "U.") Boilermaker Pete 29, Goldy Gopher 27.

So you object to the pointspread, but think the Boilermakers are going to win? Hmmm. I don't think the Boilermakers are going to win. I know, because Seabiscuit reminded me recently, that the Boilermakers almost won in Columbus last week. That's impressive, but moral victories don't get you into the Little Caesar's Bowl or whatever strange corporate entity these teams are fighting for. Perhaps the loser could play in the Bush's Baked Beans Bowl or something like that. Gophers 21, Purdue 17.

Michigan State Sparty the Spartan (+6.5) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. Old dude, I've been working up a head of steam for this game. Spartan fans seem to think that they will get a trip to Pasadena. Not going to happen! They have played like crap -- yes, I said crap -- against Notre Dame, Michigan and Ohio State. And they expect to go to Madison and win? When they also lost to Iowa in their own stadium? Seriously? You cannot be serious! How can you possibly call that possible? And Mark D'Antonio, you are the pits of the world! In fact, you and Bo Pelini give the Big Ten a horrible image. I say bring back George Perles, or Duffy Daugherty, or even John L. Smith! He needs the money! Oh, and Keith Nicol won't bail you out this time. Wisconsin 300, This is not quite Sparta -300.

Okay, I guess a 600 point margin of victory would beat the point spread. Excuse me a minute while I retrieve the gasket the young fella just blew across the room. Okay, now that I've tidied up, I'll say this -- the Badgers are playing better right now and playing at home. I think they'll win, too. Badgers 31, Michigan State 17.

Texas Tech Red Raiders (+7.5) vs. Kansas State Wildcats. I decided that we'd focus on this game because K-State is the one team that can beat Alabama. Why, you ask? Because K-State has Collin Klein, who is emerging as the best overall quarterback in the land and now has an excellent shot at winning the Heisman. Texas Tech is a good outfit and can score, but you can't score much against K-State because they keep the ball for so long. If K-State runs the table they will get to the national championship game and they will be the ones to finally end the SEC stranglehold. And finally, we won't have to listen to those SEC yahoos for a while. K-State 21, Texas Tech 13.

I'll take your word for it. K-State 31, Texas Tech 20.

Jacksonville Jaguars (+15.5) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. So let's imagine that you are the Jacksonville Jaguars. You aren't very good and your best player, Maurice Jones-Drew, will not be able to participate. And your quarterback, Blaine Gabbert, may not participate either, meaning the Jags will be starting, what, Mark Brunell? He might be in the league, for all I know. Okay, we looked it up -- the backup is Chad Henne, who we all remember for his exploits with the Michigan Wolverines and for his excellent performances on the television series Green Acres. Here's a sample of his work:

I don't think that Chad Henne will be wearing the dumb hat when he shows up at Lambeau, because Clay Matthews would knock it off his head. Jaguars forfeit!

Uh, no. I'm reasonably certain they'll show up. But it won't go well. Packers 42, Jaguars 20.

Carolina Panthers (+7.5) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. Time to give Gino a little love. Da Bearz are playing the now-erratic Scam Newton, which makes my job easier. Da Bearz 35, Panthers 0.

So you're assuming the Panthers may not show up, either? Perhaps they'll be stuck in traffic on the Dan Ryan and won't be able to get into Soldier Field. Well, I think they'll show up and play well. But the Bears are better. Bears 24, Panthers 14.

I guess we're done. See Gino, we do love you. And because you requested it, here's a different song by the Chameleons:

We aim to please. Ben out!

Lena Comedy Gold Strike

I'll admit it -- I'm amused:

There is likely a demographic this particular message is aimed at and I'm certain that I'm not in it, so there's no point in being outrageously outraged about it. And there's not much point in decrying sexual innuendo in a world where it's ubiquitous.

What the ad actually tells me is this -- the Obama campaign senses that it isn't anywhere close to getting the youth vote it needs, so it's time to break out a youth culture icon. I'm assuming Diablo Cody is past her sell-by date on this one, so we get the slightly overripe liberal arts gal (Dunham went to Oberlin, natch) with the shoulder tat.

Others have also pointed out that the Obama campaign apparently stole the idea from Vladimir Putin:

I actually like the Putin ad better, because it shows better political reasoning at work. And the young woman seeking her fortune is quite fetching.

Anyway, the topic of a first presidential vote is amusing. My first presidential vote came in the 1984 Wisconsin primary. I was 20 years old at the time and was in my junior year at Beloit. I cast my initial vote for Ernest Hollings, of all people. Hollings, for those of you who don't remember, was sort of a Foghorn Leghorn type of southern Democrat. Hollings was a complete also-ran in that cycle and by the time the Wisconsin primary rolled around, it was clear that the race on the Democratic side was between Gary Hart and Walter Mondale. I had a sense at the time that Hart was a phony and Mondale has never impressed me, so I figured I'd pick someone else. And since Hollings had a sense of humor, he got my vote. Hollings had characterized the 1983 invasion of Grenada as "an attack on a golf course." I thought that was pretty funny and since Don Rickles wasn't on the ballot, Hollings was the choice. I knew he wouldn't win, but I couldn't see myself voting for any of the other candidates. It was a classic young person's vote in the silly division.

People make their choices for a lot of reasons. It would be nice to imagine that we all take citizenship seriously and soberly study the issues, but it's just not so. Obama understands this, which is why he had Kal Penn make an innuendo-laden speech at the DNC convention, too. In the end, you have to hope that people think things through and make the right decision.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Kurt Bills is On the Air

And he's on the attack:

The ad is going to run during the Vikings game tonight on KARE, which means that a very large audience will have a chance to learn two things they may not have realized before, to wit:

  • Amy Klobuchar does have an opponent; and
  • Amy Klobuchar does have a record that she hasn't had to discuss before.

The media in the state haven't wanted to talk about the underlying issue, which is detailed here and which I discussed earlier this week. Perhaps now, only 10 days before the election, we'll actually have a conversation about it.


If you were to follow the local newscasts or read the Star Tribune, you'd think nothing else matters in this election at the state level as much as the Marriage Amendment. Not taxes, not the proper role of government, not whether Mark Dayton's tax and spend agenda is a good idea, none of it. It's all about gay marriage -- it seems to be one of the lead stories just about every day.

I've talked about this topic before and I have nothing more to say about it. I just wish people would spend more time thinking about what's really going to affect their lives.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I got your sequester right here, pal

Remember when President Obama promised that the sequester will not happen? That was during the debate on Monday.

Guess he forgot:

So when you combine the Bush tax cuts expiring, the sequester in place, the commitment of both myself and my opponent -- at least Governor Romney claims that he wants to reduce the deficit -- but we’re going to be in a position where I believe in the first six months we are going to solve that big piece of business.

It will probably be messy. It won’t be pleasant. But I am absolutely confident that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain that essentially I’ve been offering to the Republicans for a very long time, which is $2.50 worth of cuts for every dollar in spending, and work to reduce the costs of our health care programs.

Emphasis mine. That quote would be from his off-the-record then on-the-record interview with the Des Moines Register. An interview he did the morning after the debate.

As Jim Geraghty pointed out four years ago, all Obama promises come with an expiration date. This one came with the half life of Potassium 42.

(H/T: Instapundit via a few other places)

Freak Show

Rumors are that Donald Trump and Gloria Allred are planning dueling October Surprises today or tomorrow. If what I've read about the nature of the surprises is true, you can safely ignore both of them. Of course, where Trump and Allred are concerned, that's good advice at any time.

Petters and A-Klo

It's a long read, but I'd recommend this piece in the Daily Caller to your attention. The Tom Petters case was always especially strange to me -- how do you pull a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme and keep it going for so long? Well, it helps if you have law enforcement officials who look the other way:

Documents obtained by The Daily Caller show that U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar helped keep a multibillion-dollar Ponzi schemer out of prison in the late 1990s when she was the County Attorney in Hennepin County, Minnesota.

That financial criminal, Tom Petters, presided over companies whose employees gave Klobuchar $8,500 for her re-election campaign, and would later contribute more than $120,000 toward her U.S. Senate run.

One of those companies’ vice presidents was Ted Mondale, a former state senator and son of former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale. Before taking office as Hennepin County Attorney, Klobuchar was a partner at the Minneapolis law firm of Dorsey & Whitney, where Walter Mondale has practiced law since 1987.

Perhaps because of the lure of Petters’ campaign cash or his deep connection to Minnesota Democratic politics, Klobuchar used the power of her office in 1999 to ensure Petters was not charged with financial crimes. And despite significant evidence against him, she cleared the way for Petters to build his multibillion-dollar illegal empire by prosecuting only his early co-conspirators.
Perhaps, although it appears that Petters shared the wealth to both parties:

Hettler added that some Minnesota Republicans were also tainted by Petters’ political donations. “He doled money out to both sides of the aisle, depending on whoever got elected,” Hettler said. Names he mentioned include former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Sen. Norm Coleman.
There is one difference, though -- as a district attorney, Klobuchar could have put Petters in jail. That she didn't raises a lot of questions. Not that I expect anyone outside of the starboard side blogosphere to raise any of them until after the election is over. There's a lot more, needless to say, at the link, including the role of  Klobuchar's predecessor and successor in office, Mike Freeman.

Back to Benghazi, Briefly

Mitt Romney chose not to engage on what happened in Benghazi during Monday's final debate. That doesn't mean that the issue is going away, however. Reuters, hardly a conservative organ, dropped this little tidbit:

Officials at the White House and State Department were advised two hours after attackers assaulted the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11 that an Islamic militant group had claimed credit for the attack, official emails show.

The emails, obtained by Reuters from government sources not connected with U.S. spy agencies or the State Department and who requested anonymity, specifically mention that the Libyan group called Ansar al-Sharia had asserted responsibility for the attacks.

The brief emails also show how U.S. diplomats described the attack, even as it was still under way, to Washington.

That doesn't help the ol' narrative much. Neither does this:

The evidence suggests that the Obama administration has not simply been engaging, legitimating, enriching and emboldening Islamists who have taken over or are ascendant in much of the Middle East. Starting in March 2011, when American diplomat J. Christopher Stevens was designated the liaison to the “opposition” in Libya, the Obama administration has been arming them, including jihadists like Abdelhakim Belhadj, leader of the al Qaeda franchise known as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.

Once Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown, Stevens was appointed ambassador to the new Libya run by Mr. Belhadj and his friends. Not surprisingly, one of the most important priorities for someone in that position would be to try to find and secure the immense amount of armaments that had been cached by the dictator around the country and systematically looted during and after the revolution.

One of the places in Libya most awash with such weapons in the most dangerous of hands is Benghazi. It now appears that Stevens was there — on a particularly risky day, with no security to speak of and despite now copiously documented concerns about his own safety and that of his subordinates — for another priority mission: sending arms recovered from the former regime’s stocks to the “opposition” in Syria. As in Libya, the insurgents are known to include al Qaeda and other Shariah-supremacist groups, including none other than Abdelhakim Belhadj.

Fox News has chronicled how the Al Entisar, a Libyan-flagged vessel carrying 400 tons of cargo, docked on Sept. 6 in the Turkish port of Iskenderun. It reportedly supplied both humanitarian assistance and arms — including deadly SA-7 man-portable surface-to-air missiles — apparently destined for Islamists, again including al Qaeda elements, in Syria.

There's a lot more at the two links. If any of this is true, it would explain a lot of White House behavior that otherwise has been pretty inexplicable.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

From A to B

In the 1972 campaign, the recently departed George McGovern became known as the candidate of "Acid, Amnesty and Abortion."

Forty years on, Mitt Romney is the candidate of Big Bird, Binders and Bayonets.

One slur worked. This year's model? Probably not so much.

The end of the debates

So this time I watched the debate at a "viewing party" in Arden Hills. Group dynamics do change your perspective of what you are seeing, so I am trying to separate out the experience from what happened last night. A few thoughts:

  • Mitt Romney made a strategic decision to sidestep a direct attack on President Obama in regards to Benghazi. While a lot of conservatives would have preferred he make that attack, I suspect he decided it wasn't worth getting sidetracked on the issue. He wanted to keep his focus on the larger picture.
  • The moment that people will remember about this debate was the exchange in which Obama tried to belittle Romney by pointing out that the military doesn't spend as much on bayonets and horses as it did in 1916. You know who really liked that answer the best? This guy.
Thanks, President Obama!
Yes, it's "the extraordinary story of a band of U.S. soldiers who rode to victory in Afghanistan." I think Doug Stanton really ought to send the president a thank-you note.
  • President Obama brought more snark than just that line, of course, but I'm not sure it played well with anyone except people who were going to vote for him anyway. I've always thought that Obama does best when he is being expansive and magnanimous in his remarks. He doesn't do snark well, because the anger is so visible on his face. He looked angry the whole night, frankly.
  • Romney took every opportunity he had to turn the discussion back to domestic policy issues, which was the smart thing to do. And since moderator Bob Schieffer decided to be unobtrusive, Romney was able to steer the discussion that way a number of times. That's always stronger ground for a challenger.
  • Scheiffer was, I thought, by far the best moderator of the four we saw in this cycle. He took the same approach last night as he did in the final Obama/McCain debate; he asked his questions and then got out of the way. After Candy Crowley's ministrations, I appreciated that.
  • Overall, I stand by my first view of the debate -- it was essentially a draw. Obama got his points across and took his shots, but he really didn't score a knockout blow. The momentum of the race isn't likely to change very much in the coming days and it does appear that this election will be, as it should be, a referendum on the incumbent. While there could be another surprise or two in the next two weeks, I think that Romney has to be pleased with his position. Obama, not so much.

Monday, October 22, 2012


That's how I saw it. Obama got his snark line off about horses and bayonets (which are both still in use in Afghanistan, but I digress), but it probably wasn't enough to change things much either way.

More tomorrow.

Beyond the numbers

The polling numbers in the presidential campaign have been hard to take seriously in this cycle for a variety of reasons. I think you can get a better sense of where things really are at by watching the behavior of the campaigns.

In the past week or so, we've seen the Obama campaign latching on to strange things like "binders." They've also taken to calling Mitt Romney a liar pretty much on a daily basis. I was thinking I'd seen this behavior before. In a very shrewd piece, Ed Morrissey reminds us where we've seen it:

 In fact, it was 20 years ago, when George H. W. Bush lost in a three-way fight to Bill Clinton.  What made that election remarkable was that Bush had enjoyed some of the best-ever job approval ratings of any modern American President just a little over a year earlier, into the 80s — unthinkable these days for anyone, Republican or Democrat.  Bush, a decorated veteran of World War II and a longtime player in diplomacy and national security, lost the election to an upstart Governor when the economy turned somewhat sour.

I recall the moment when I realized for the first time — not feared, but realized — that Bush would lose the election.  Bush was campaigning in Michigan at the end of October, trying to whip some energy back into his campaign in the home stretch, a task that would fall far short just a few days later.  Then-Governor John Engler told the Warren, MI crowd that the Bush campaign was “hot” and the Democrats “dead in the water,” which was merely the kind of fantasy all campaigns spin toward the end.

Bush then spoke, and went after Clinton and Al Gore in a personal, demeaning way I’d not heard from the President before then:

Morrissey then pulls this quote from news coverage of the event 20 years ago:

At a midday GOP rally at Macomb Community College, the president unleashed a rhetorical fusillade on Bill Clinton and running mate Sen. Albert Gore Jr., attacking their fitness for office, their character and charging, "My dog Millie knows more about foreign policy than these two bozos."

In particular, Bush targeted Gore, whom he now calls "Ozone Man," or just plain "Ozone." "You know why I call him Ozone Man?" Bush said. "This guy is so far out in the environmental extreme, we'll be up to our neck in owls and outta work for every American. He is way out, far out, man."

Does any of that sound familiar? Here was Obama on the hustings on Friday:
 But now that we’re 18 days out from the election, Mr. “Severely Conservative” wants you to think he was “severely kidding” about everything he’s said over the last year. He told folks he was “the ideal candidate” for the Tea Party, now suddenly he’s saying, “what, who, me?” He’s forgetting what his own positions are, and he’s betting that you will too.

I mean he’s changing up so much – backtracking and sidestepping. We’ve gotta name this condition that he’s going through.. I think it’s called “Romnesia.” That’s what it’s called. I think that’s what he’s going through.

Now, I’m not a medical doctor but I do want to go over some of the symptoms with you because I want to make sure nobody else catches it. …
A confident candidate usually finds a way to subcontract his cheap-shot duties to surrogates. That Obama is doing the dirty deeds himself tells you a few things:

  • He's not as confident in his prospects as, say, Nate Silver is
  • Hope and Change are gone
It's possible that tonight's final debate will be yet another game changer, but I suspect not. While Obama had been implying that his dog knew more about foreign policy than Romney/Ryan, that's not really a good argument in the wake of Benghazi.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Closed circuit to Twin Cities readers

If you need a Christmas wreath this year, let us know. Benster's Boy Scout Troop 399 is selling them and he'd be happy to hook you up. Drop me a line via email and we'll be happy to add some holiday cheer to your festivities.
It's a holiday favorite!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Closed Circuit to Chuckwagon Boy

Our alma mater is in the news:
Obama For America took out a $15 million loan from Bank of America last month, according to the campaign’s October monthly FEC report. The loan was incurred on September 4 and is due November 14, eight days after the election. OFA received an interest rate of 2.5% plus the current Libor rate.

Well, yeah

Michael Ramirez explains it, yet again:

Get the transcript
But binders or something.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Border Battle Edition!

Hi everyone, I'm back! They let me get out of Fred C. Andersen Scout Camp without any incidents, so now I'm here in my usual Friday perch to pick games, share my wisdom and bring the HYYYYYYYPPPPPE!

That is reassuring, although you should know that Fearless Maria did a great job in your absence. I'm not saying you should watch your back, but I'm just sayin'...

Relax, Geritol Fan! I'm the expert here and you'd be the one out on the street there, Old Dude, if I chose to bring along Fearless Maria as a prognosticator. But for this week I'll let you slide. Now watch me work!

Minnesota Golden Gophers (+17.5) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. So we have late-breaking news on this game from our pals at the Star Tribune -- the Gophs are going to start Philip Nelson, their prized freshman quarterback, in Madison. Here's what you need to know about Nelson -- he was a star quarterback at Mankato West High School, but he grew up outside of Madison and his dad was a Badger player back in the day. The Badgers wanted him but he signed with the Gophs instead. So this game got a little more interesting. However, this is a mistake. The Gophers need consistency at the quarterback position and starting a true freshman in one of the most hostile environments around is puzzling. I don't care about the back story; I suspect Nelson will be on his back side all day long, courtesy of Beau Allen (from Minnetonka, by the way) and Chris Borland. Meanwhile, the Badgers apparently smoked Purdue last week. Bad timing for the Gophers. Badgers 83, Gophers 17.

I have to agree with the young fella here -- this is a major roll of the dice for the Gophers and frankly seems a little desperate. I know that Max Shortell is inconsistent and that MarQueis Gray is still not ready to play, but if this Nelson kid is the future, he really needs to redshirt. The Badgers are playing a redshirt freshman at quarterback these days, Joel Stave, and the extra year of watching and learning has really helped him. Nelson could make some great plays and he'll certainly be excited to play on the field at Camp Randall, but he's unlikely to pull the upset. I don't see the value in doing this. Wisconsin 35, Gophers 10.

Michigan State Sparty the Spartan (+9.5) vs. Meeshegan Wolverines. Lately Sparty has been getting the better of their hated instate rivals, but this is different. I've heard a lot of Sparty fans saying that this is their year to go to the Rose Bowl, but if you can't beat Iowa on your own field, you aren't going to Pasadena. You might be going to the Meineke Car Care Bowl instead. That would be good, because it's about time someone put a muffler on Mark D'Antonio! He's always flapping his jaw and he refuses to recognize the fact that his team plays dirty. There, I said it. Deal with it. Meanwhile, Michigan seems to have their groove back under Brady Hoke, who sounds most like Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker from the old SNL days. You doubt me? Compare and contrast:

That's Brady Hoke. Now, let's look at the old SNL tape!

And Sparty? You're not going to amount to jack squat, either! Kirk Cousins and Keith Nicol aren't around to bail you out this time! M Go Blue 35, Little Brother 7.

I'm reasonably certain that Brady Hoke doesn't live in a van down by the river, but I tend to agree with the young fella in that I think Sparty is up a creek in this one. Look for Denard Robinson to run wild. Michigan 31, Michigan State 14.

Optimal Binders, or something

I've been paying attention to political campaigns, especially presidential campaigns, since 1972, when I was in the 4th grade and my fellow St. Therese students made our own Nixon or McGovern signs and paraded down Wisconsin Avenue with them.

Maybe I'm a little thick or something, but for the life of me I can't understand why the Dems are trying to turn Mitt Romney's "binders full of women" line into some sort of scandal. It can't be helping.

Neither does this:

President Obama, during the taping of The Daily Show, discussed the Benghazi terrorist attack that claimed the lives of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.

“Here’s what I’ll say. When four Americans get killed, it’s not optimal. We’re going to fix it,” Obama said per pool. “The government is a big operation and [at] any given time something screws up,” he also said, saying that he believes “you find out what’s broken and you fix it.”

The president was responding to this question from Stewart. “Is part of the investigation helping the communication between these divisions? Not just what happened in Benghazi, but what happened within,” the comedian asked according to the pooler. “Because I would say, even you would admit, it was not the optimal response, at least to the American people, as far as all of us being on the same page” (emphasis added).

I guess I'm supposed to be outrageously outraged at Obama's callousness in his phrasing, but I can't get that worked up about it. He was merely responding to the question Jon Stewart asked and mimicked the phrasing.

There are two larger problems, as I see it:

  • The gotcha game has long since jumped the shark
  • Obama's problem isn't what he said, but where he said it
More on both topics anon.

Getting Springer With It in the 5th CD

Now here's something you don't see every day:

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison offered a public apology Thursday after calling his opponent "a lowlife scumbag" during a contentious radio debate in which the Fifth Congressional District candidates traded insults and accusations.

During the debate on KFAI-FM, sparks flew when Chris Fields accused Ellison of paying a Washington, D.C.-based political research firm to dig up dirt on Fields, whose ex-wife filed for a restraining order against him in 2006 when they lived together in Southern California. Fields has since remarried.

Ellison called Fields stupid for discussing the domestic dispute, then denied that he had anything to do with the release of information.

"You're a scumbag," Ellison told Fields. "You're a lowlife scumbag."

Said twice, for emphasis.

It shouldn't be surprising for anyone who has followed Ellison's career that he would say something intemperate -- he's often an intemperate fellow. This is kinda dumb, though -- the 5th CD is so DFL-heavy that just about any politician with a pulse and the letter "DFL" after his/her name would win the election. Given the number of ambitious pols in the 5th, it's kinda surprising that Ellison is still the standard-bearer there, just as it is that Betty McCollum continues to be the DFL pick in the neighboring 4th. These are two of the least impressive people in Congress and yet they are nearly impossible to move.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Guilty Pleasures Party Eighty-Seven -- Fearless Maria's Wild Ride

Fearless Maria is here and since it's MEA weekend, she's finally got an evening where she doesn't have a ton of homework.

You thought it would never happen, but guess what, people -- miracles do happen! Dreams do come true! It turns out that the highly annoying Cinderella Talking Princess Doll is right! Don't give up hope, people! Keep fighting! And I'll keep giving you completely ridiculous and utterly fake motivational pep talks! Yeah, whatever. Hey guys, I'm back. No more math homework for the week.

So you want to run some numbers on the music front, Maria?

We may as well, Dad! We may as well. . . .

Okay, so what should we offer the vast worldwide audience this evening?

Vast worldwide audience? My dad is such a modest person, right Gino, Night Writer and Picklesworth? After all, except for you guys, Brian and that Chuckwagon Boy dude, who's reading his nonsense anyway these days?

Well, it's a geographically diverse group. I have the entire West Coast covered!

But what about Delaware? Who's reading you in Puerto Rico? How about Austria? Or even Albuquerque? I think you took a wrong turn in Albuquerque, Dad!

Thanks for the perspective, Maria.

My pleasure. Now let's move on to Guilty Pleasures! Our theme this evening involves cars, and rides, and whatnot. Benster is working on his driving skills, so you may want to make sure to watch out for him when he comes down the street. Don't take those bifocals off, kids!

Kids? How old are you?

Well, younger than you, Dad! But I think you knew that. I hope you knew that. I'm just trying to make people laugh here without making Geritol jokes like the Benster. I'm a lot nicer than he is, for the most part.

Okay. Fair enough. We'll start at the very beginning of the rock and roll era, with what is arguably the first rock and roll song, from way back in 1951:

It's Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats, singing "Rocket 88." One of those Delta Cats was Ike Turner, later known for his work with Tina (and for being a very bad dude).

I heard Ike was a mean guy, but let's stay focused on the song. This definitely sounds like old time rock and roll to me! But what are Delta Cats? Was Delta Airlines around then?

I think so, but I assume this had to do with the delta of the Mississippi River. Ike Turner was from St. Louis and some of the other guys in the band were from Memphis.

Neither of which are near the Delta, but I think I get the point. Anyway, really good song. I give it an A. 

I think it's great -- a real find. I give it an A.

What's next, Papa?

We'll go with something tried and true:

Beep beep, beep beep, yeah! It's "Drive My Car," by the Beatles, of course.

Good song, good song! So what's up with John Lennon wearing the bucket on his head and the weird red and white striped bathing suits from the 1920s? Was all that on their bucket list, Dad?

Hard to say, Maria. Maybe it was like when you used to wear the Sweet Martha's cookie bucket on your head when you were two.

You have reached Fearless Maria. I'm not available right now, but please leave a detailed message at the tone and I'll get back to you. Thank you. BEEEEP!

I take it you didn't want me to bring up the Sweet Martha's incident, then?

It's cute, maybe not for the "vast worldwide audience." I have a reputation as a fashion leader to uphold, you know.

I think after a decade, the statute of limitations has run out on that one.

Okay, Dad. Whatever. I'll give the Beatles an A-, because they had to go all whacko for a little tiny bit there and someone around here has to maintain some standards.

I love "Drive My Car." It's probably on my top ten list of favorite Beatles songs, which means something considering how good the Beatles were. I give it an A.

Well, let's try something else, then:

It's "409" by the Beach Boys:

Well, I'll give you the 411 on "409," without pain, of course. I think it's pretty good -- another classic-y Beach Boys song with the great harmonies and some good guitar. And nothing to critique on the video because it's just a bunch of cars, but they're kinda cool old cars, I guess. I'm not a huge car person yet but maybe I'll change my ways when I'm old enough to drive. I would give this an A-.

Not my favorite Beach Boys song, but a good one. I give it a B+. Now if you want a car song from that era, consider this one from the duo that were the biggest rivals of the Beach Boys:

Won't go back to Dead Man's Curve!

You're right, Dad -- they sound a lot like the Beach Boys. I guess I'd rate it about the same -- A-. What I don't get is why it's a boy named Jan. I though Jan was a girl's name!

These days it's more likely to be a girl's name, but back then it was a boy's name. It's a cheeseball classic, so I give it an A.

And we know you like cheeseballs, Dad! When it comes to songs and videos and to those delicious Cheeto-like snacks you can occasionally find, you're almost as big a fan of cheese as Wallace and Gromit!

Almost. Let's consider another car song of that era. More Memphis based, though:

It's Wicked Wilson Pickett, with "Mustang Sally."

Man, look at those saxophones go! And Wilson Pickett looks like he's trying to discreetly pull his pants up the whole time! No wonder he's screaming so much! I do like the song and appreciate the actual instruments, rather than what pop stars these days do with that darned AutoTune. Give me a whole bunch of saxophones and trumpets and trombones any time! I give it a B+.

I'll give it an A. Love Wicked Pickett. Anyway, let's try something totally different. We're up to to about 1971 at this point:

It's Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen with "Hot Rod Lincoln."

I sure feel bad for the people known as the "Lost Planet Airmen." Kinda makes them sound like a bunch of failures. Well, pretty cool song, especially the way they make the fiddle sound like a siren and some of the other sounds they get, too. The video is kinda random with all the diving and sliding off the car, but whatever. Just don't try it at home kids, especially when you don't have your bifocals on. I probably should stop making fun of you all with your bifocals because I'm already wearing glasses and by the time I get to be old like you I'll need bifocals, too. Wait, did I say you were old? Sorry, I meant "seasoned." Respect your elders -- I know, I know. I give this one a B.

Cool song, especially for me since I'm a Bob Wills fan and it has a little of that Western Swing thing going. But it's not the best song here, so I'll agree -- B.

Well, Dad -- I noticed something. Again, all these songs are really old. Can you find something that's actually been recorded in my lifetime?

Well, if you insist -- this is more recent. And it's about cars, sort of:

It's Sheryl Crow, singing about the guy who was in a lot of great chase scenes, "Steve McQueen." And I think she's got Dale Jr. in there, too.

So is that where the Pixar guys got the idea for Lightning McQueen?

Yes. Yes it was.

A ha! I'm on to you now, Pixar! Anyway I like the song, though I think her outfits are kinda so-so. Leather pants aren't really my thing, but if that's what floats your boat, or chases your car in this case, cool with me. I give it a B.

I like the recreating of the chase scenes from Bullitt and The Great Escape better than I like the song, but the song is cool. I give it a B as well.

Well, now it's time for you to vote, vast worldwide audience. Pick your favorite!

Which song from Guilty Pleasures Part Eighty-Seven Do You Choose? free polls 
Thanks everyone! Haste makes waste! Get voting, people! See you soon.

Don't forget the squirrels


It's too bad that Theodore White is long gone: he'd have written a hell of a book about this election.

Out with a bang

While my lefty friends spent yesterday high-fiving one another about binders, a different group of people with  the demonstrated ability to move public opinion were focused on something else that got said in Tuesday's debate. Forget binders, everyone -- the real question is clips:

In his 2008 campaign and while president, Obama has distanced himself from gun issues, aware that it could hurt him politically in key battleground states. But when pressed about gun violence during the Tuesday town hall-style presidential debate, he fully embraced a Clinton-style assault weapons ban. Clinton's ban expired in 2004.

Suggesting a ban not just on semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15 but maybe even handguns, the most popular rifle in America, the president said, "What I'm trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced. But part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence. Because frankly, in my hometown of Chicago, there's an awful lot of violence and they're not using AK-47s. They're using cheap handguns."

That got the National Rifle Association's attention:

The National Rifle Association, jumping on President Obama's new and firm support for a Clinton-style assault weapons ban, is stepping up its attack on the president in Ohio, Virginia, Florida and Wisconsin with a new "we told you so" theme.

David Keene, president of the NRA, told Secrets, "the president has ratified what we have been saying" in ads and mailings to pro-gun voters. "See, he peeked out and finally said what he wants," said Keene.
I think that was a big mistake on Obama's part. If Ohio and Wisconsin both go Romney's way, the Obama presidency will be over in January. The NRA is awfully good at reaching gun owners and there are a lot of them in both Ohio and Wisconsin. And gun owners and those who support the 2nd Amendment are always likely voters.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

News We Could Use

Brian, over at his place, makes a shrewd point:
The common thread through both Fast and Furious and an awful lot of gun violence here is the drug war, which of course neither candidate mentioned. One of them is going to have to deal with at least one state legalizing marijuana, possibly as early as next year. It would be good to get a sense of what they are actually going to do about it.
Why yes. Yes it would. More at the link.

You Don't Need a Hempstead Nursery

A few more thoughts on the debate from last night:

We talked briefly last night about Candy Crowley's interference in the Libya discussion. The more I think about that, the more I realize that she actually did the Romney campaign a favor. Because of the ham-handed way she intervened, she essentially guaranteed that the discussion concerning who said what and when will continue throughout the week. And since she walked back what she did not more than an hour afterward, she probably gave the Romney campaign a week's worth of ad materials.

I don't know who is responsible on the Republican side for negotiating the debate formats, but you would be hard pressed to imagine a less hospitable venue than the New York area for a debate. Hofstra University is located in Hempstead, NY, out on Long Island. While Long Island tends to be more Republican than, say, midtown Manhattan, it's still pretty blue territory. When you couple the location with the all MSM moderator lineup, you begin to wonder how a Republican could get a fair shake. Still, Romney held his own in a hostile environment.

I noticed on my Facebook feed that my lefty friends were having a lot of fun with Mitt Romney's statement that he had "binders" of women or somesuch. Assuming that Romney wins, this is excellent news for Jacob Weisberg, who made a lucrative income repackaging George W. Bush's malapropisms in a variety of ways. The gravy train may be coming back, Mr. Weisberg, and my old college pals are gonna be demanding more.

So who won the debate? Let's poll it:

Who won the debate -- Romney or Obama? free polls 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Very brief take on the debate

It's late.

  • Obama was a lot better tonight. He wasn't lethargic or deferential at all. Which is appropriate. He shouldn't be, since he's President of the United States.
  • Romney held his ground for the most part, although he fouled off the hanging curveball at the end about Benghazi. The obvious rejoinder to what Obama said was this -- if you knew this was an act of terror and believed it to be such from the outset, why the hell did Susan Rice go on about YouTube videos? And why did you go the U.N. and talk about YouTube videos? And why did you go on "The View" and talk about YouTube videos? And why did two weeks pass before the real story came out? Obama has no answer for these questions, as far as I can tell.
  • One thing to note -- during the Benghazi discussion, moderator Candy Crowley seemed to endorse the Obama version of events. She later walked it back on CNN.
  • Will this save Obama's bacon? I don't know, but my guess is no. The reason is this -- in the end, this election remains a referendum on the Obama presidency. His record, especially on economic issues, is pretty weak, essentially in Jimmy Carter territory. All Mitt Romney has had to do is to appear plausible as a president. I see no evidence that he disqualified himself tonight. Perhaps he will next Monday in Florida, but I expect that the Benghazi issue will get fleshed out a lot more there and that will not help Obama. Obama needed a knockout tonight and he didn't get it.

Programming note

Benster and I have some important Boy Scout business to attend to this evening, so there won't be a live blog of the debate here tonight. I'll catch what I can when we get home.

I'm reasonably certain that Barack Obama, a full two hours before the debate begins, is already the winner. We must have our narrative.

A Dime's Worth of Difference

Submitted without further comment:

President Barack Obama said on Thursday that “we got back every dime we used to rescue the financial system."

According to the Congressional Budget Office, however, the government will lose about $24 billion on the bailout.

“We got back every dime we used to rescue the financial system, but we also passed a historic law to end taxpayer-funded Wall Street bailouts for good,” Obama said in Miami Thursday.

The Congressional Budget Office--based on figures from Obama’s own Office of Management and Budget---gives a different assessment.

“The cost to the federal government of the TARP’s transactions (also referred to as the subsidy cost), including grants for mortgage programs that have not yet been made, will amount to $24 billion,” said the CBO report, which was released on the same day Obama spoke.

George McGovern

The end is near, apparently, for George McGovern:

Longtime former U.S. Sen. George McGovern, the Democratic presidential candidate who lost to President Richard Nixon in a historic landslide, has moved into hospice care near his home in South Dakota, his family said Monday.

"He's coming to the end of his life," his daughter, Ann McGovern, told The Associated Press. She declined to elaborate but noted that her 90-year-old father has suffered several health problems in the last year.

McGovern was probably the most forthright left-liberal candidate ever to run for president. He got his butt kicked for a lot of reasons, but I've always found him an admirable figure, because he was (a) absolutely true to his beliefs and (b) capable of learning. He wrote this article in 1993, some 20 years after his run for the presidency, in which he discussed the burdens a small businessman must face:

The second lesson I learned by owning the Stratford Inn is that legislators and government regulators must more carefully consider the economic and management burdens we have been imposing on U.S. business. As an innkeeper, I wanted excellent safeguards against a fire. But I was startled to be told that our two-story structure, which had large sliding doors opening from every guest room to all-concrete decks, required us to meet fire regulations more appropriate to the Waldorf-Astoria. A costly automatic sprinkler system and new exit doors were items that helped sink the Stratford Inn -- items I was convinced added little to the safety of our guests and employees. And a critical promotional campaign never got off the ground, partly because my manager was forced to concentrate for days at a time on needlessly complicated tax forms for both the IRS and the state of Connecticut.

I'm for protecting the health and well-being of both workers and consumers. I'm for a clean environment and economic justice. But I'm convinced we can pursue those worthy goals and still cut down vastly on the incredible paperwork, the complicated tax forms, the number of minute regulations, and the seemingly endless reporting requirements that afflict American business. Many businesses, especially small independents such as the Stratford Inn, simply can't pass such costs on to their customers and remain competitive or profitable.

I'm not expert enough after only two and a half years as a business owner to know the solutions to all those concerns. I do know that if I were back in the U.S. Senate or in the White House, I would ask a lot of questions before I voted for any more burdens on the thousands of struggling businesses across the nation.

This was a startling and welcome admission at the time and one we seem to have forgotten. As we ponder the life and work of Sen. McGovern, it's well worth remembering.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hillary Falls on the Sword, Janet Reno Style

So Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is going to be the good soldier, apparently:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the bucks stops with her when it comes to who is blame for a deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.

"I take responsibility" for what happened on September 11, Clinton said in an interview with CNN's Elise Labott soon after arriving in Lima, Peru for a visit. The interview, one of a series given to U.S. television networks Monday night, were the first she has given about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

Clinton insisted President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are not involved in security decisions, Clinton said.

"I want to avoid some kind of political gotcha," she added, noting that it is close to the election.

A few thoughts:

  • I assume this is a Janet Reno-style taking of responsibility, in which the head of the bureaucracy in question takes "responsibility," but doesn't actually have any accountability afterward. There was a time, not even that long ago, when someone responsible for a mess of this political magnitude would resign. No sign of that happening. I would remind my readers that Les Aspin, Clinton's original secretary of defense, resigned after the Black Hawk Down episode in Mogadishu. But that's not how we roll any more. For what it's worth, Donald Rumsfeld stayed on after Abu Ghraib, although he did offer his resignation twice. It will be interesting to see what Clinton does now.
  • You should assume that Clinton is falling on the sword because she's calculated that it will do less harm to her long-term prospects than to pass the buck upward to the president. I also assume the Clinton intends to have a role in politics in the future.
  • There's one question that remains unanswered, however -- who directed Susan Rice to go on the Sunday chat show circuit and blame the attack on the YouTube video? Did Clinton? Did someone else in the White House? If I am not mistaken, the Ambassador to the U.N. is these days a cabinet-level position and Rice reports directly to the President, not through State. If Rice made the decision to make these assertions herself, she either (a) did not know the truth 5 days after the fact or (b) knew it and told the country something that she knew not to be true. Either way, her position is untenable. This question needs to be resolved, and quickly.

Old School

Michael Barone makes a very good point about the campaign -- actually, several good points:

On the campaign trail in the week after the presidential debate, Obama mentioned Big Bird 13 times -- 13 times more than he mentioned Libya.

And the Obama campaign rolled out a 30-second spot showing Mitt Romney saying "Big Bird" several times. Even liberals labeled it the worst TV ad they had ever seen.

But someone in the Obama campaign -- and remember that the campaign always reflects the candidate -- thought hitting Romney for defunding PBS, "Sesame Street" and Big Bird would be devastating.

Never mind that "Sesame Street" gets little money from the government and has an endowment in the hundreds of millions. As the "Sesame" folks assured us, Big Bird is going to continue to be on the air whatever Romney does.

The Big Bird offensive would have been more effective in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when Obama came of political age. Lots of people then saw public broadcasting as a needed alternative to commercial television.

First of all, if I were Obama, I'd prefer not to talk about Libya either. Nothing good could come of it. The larger point about how television has changed since the 1970s can't be overstated. When Sesame Street first came on the air, there really wasn't much educational television available. Sesame Street changed that and it was one of many such television shows that I remember seeing, including "The Electric Company," "Zoom" and more. While I preferred watching Bugs Bunny cartoons myself, my younger siblings gained an undeniable benefit from watching such shows, as have my own children.

However, my children also have had a chance to watch a lot of other educational shows available on other channels. Not everyone gets cable television, but in the internet era you can get at pretty much any educational show you want, any time you want. And if PBS were to go out of business tomorrow, and it won't, Sesame Street would have no trouble finding a home on commercial television.

There's a larger point here, which Barone also makes by looking at some of the statements Joe Biden made in last week's debate, in between mugging for the cameras:

On entitlements, Biden said that Social Security and Medicare were "guaranteed." That's not what most young voters think. They understand in some visceral way that the current programs are unsustainable.

In his closing statement Biden identified Romney's "47 percent of the people who won't take responsibility" with "my mother and father. He's talking about the places I grew up in, my neighbors in Scranton, [Pa.], and Claymont, [Del.]"

Those people, born around 1920, would rally to candidates who promised to maintain Social Security and Medicare when Biden first ran for the Senate in 1972. They would understand his reference to Republican opposition to these programs when they were enacted in 1935 and 1965. But that's 77 and 47 years ago now.
It is a long time ago. And we've been conducting a longitudinal study of the effectiveness of such programs ever since. Demographic changes have caught up with much of what the Democrats have delivered in the 20th Century. It's been easy to see this coming and the time for kicking the can down the road is just about over.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


I added a few more links to the sidebar. Feel free to explore. There's a lot of dead or dying links remaining on my sidebar and eventually I'll get to culling those, but for now I'm going to leave them. The blogosphere is constantly changing and I'm always on the hunt for people who think clearly and write well.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


I took the ol' I Side With Quiz again and came up with the following:

October Surprise

When I took this earlier in the year, it came out this way:

I was apparently less of a fascist back then
The nature of these quizzes is that you can take them on different days and get different results. And unless I miss my guess, they asked some questions differently earlier in the year than they did this time. And I think Romney has changed a few stances since then, as has Johnson.

The interesting number is the 52% agreement with Barack Obama. I have no idea how that happened.

If you're inclined, take the quiz and share your results in the comments section.

First Guess on Election Results and a Poll

Why not? You can do your own here:

I'm sure you can do better than this

States mostly likely to flip from this prediction:

Michigan - to Romney
Iowa - to Obama
Nevada - to Romney
New Hampshire - to Obama
Ohio - to Obama
Wisconsin - to Obama

In other words, Obama could still win. Or it could turn into a bit of a rout. But this his how I see it today.

Meanwhile, it's time resolve an eternal question:

The eternal sitcom babe question -- I prefer: free polls 

The Pompatus of Joe

Best observation of the Ryan/Biden debate I've seen yet, from the Twitter feed of the inimitable Iowahawk:

Biden did what he had to do last night: audition for a 5pm slot at MSNBC in January.

Meanwhile, the Taiwanese animators have weighed in:

Doubt that SNL will be able to top that.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fearless Maria and D Pick Your Games -- Benster's In the Woods Edition

Hi everyone. Benster was unavailable tonight because he is at a Boy Scout Camporee at the ever-popular Fred C. Andersen Scout Camp in Houlton, Wisconsin. For those of you who are wondering who Fred C. Andersen is, he used to run a paint store or something. So Fearless Maria has graciously decided to pick the games instead of the Benster. Say hello to your adoring public, Fearless Maria....

And Ben will be unavailable a few weeks from now because he will be attending the Camporee at Sherwin-Williams Scout Camp in Nowheresville, U.S.A. No, just kidding! Hi everyone! I suppose this is a different audience and for those of you who don't know me, well, you should know me. I don't bother with the hype. I don't need hype, at least not Benster-style HYYYYYYYYPPPPPE! Besides, whenever he talks about the hype, it always makes me think of one of those flashy news stations from the 80s. Action News! Now with Gusto! And Jazz Hands! And Paul Douglas with the weather.

Ah, the Goof on the Roof, as he was known in Chicago. Coincidentally, Paul Douglas was a Boy Scout, too.

Oh, I can totally see that. "Be prepared! Get under your kerchiefs everybody! It's gonna rain soon!" He was born to do the weather, I think.

All true. So should we pick some games, or pick on Paul Douglas some more?

Paul Douglas never did anything to us. Let's be good citizens and pick the games.

Northwestern Wildcats (-3.5) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers. Okay, Fearless Maria, here's the story on this one. The Gophers were off to a good start, then they lost to Iowa and then they had a week off. Northwestern has had a good start and they lost to Penn State. So this game actually means something to someone other than the parents of the teams. The Gophers are going to go with backup quarterback Max Shortell, while Northwestern sometimes plays two quarterbacks at once. Confused? I am, too, but it seems to work for them. I'm going to go with the home team this time. Gophers 31, Northwestern 24.

Two quarterbacks at once? That seems a little weird. It's like putting two salt shakers on the table and not bothering with any pepper. I'm going to think that the Gophers are going to win, too, because Jerry "The Cable Guy" Kill seems to have been picking up the pace this year, as far as I can tell. So I think the Gophers will "git 'er done." Gophers 42, Northwestern 31.

You're off to a good start, Maria! A real natural!

Sure.... You expect me to believe that, Dad?

Why not? Positive thinking and all.

That's true. Kinda like this!

And the best part? Annie looks a little like Max Shortell!

I heard he played Annie in a production of the play at his high school in Kansas, actually.

No he didn't, Dad! Stop making stuff up and get to the next game, please!

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (pick) vs. Purdue Boilermakers. This game actually matters, too, since the winner of the game will likely have a chance to get to the Big Ten championship game, since Ohio State and Penn State are both ineligible. The Badgers have been a pretty dicey proposition this year, but I've seen some improvement in recent weeks and they should have a chance against the Boilermakers, who are having trouble deciding which quarterback to use, either Caleb TerBush or Robert Marve. If you have two quarterbacks, you really don't have any. Wisconsin 27, Purdue 19.

Wait a minute. Didn't you say that Northwestern plays two quarterbacks at the same time? So they don't really have any quarterbacks, either? Or they have too many? Make up your mind, Dad! As for the game, Boilermakers? Really? What's their mascot, the Little Engine That Could? Are they sponsored by Dolly Parton? Well, as much I don't want to upset the my father and brother, the Badgers have seemed a bit inconsistent this year. I guess I don't know about Purdue, but I suppose they've been chugging along. Purdue 35, Wisconsin 26.

Ah, you're doing well, Maria! Ready to pick a pro game?

Cool -- does that mean it's time to pick the Bears and make fun of Gino?

Unfortunately, the Bears are on bye this week and aren't playing.

Can I make fun of Gino, anyway? We want to keep practicing our favorite sport!

Sure, go ahead.

The Bears are on bye? Does that mean their chances of winning the Super Bowl have gone bye-bye? I'm just kidding, I do know what a bye means. And Gino, we may seem like rotten pals for always picking on your Bears, but don't worry -- we're just being weird. It's one of our favorite hobbies. Dad, could you get the Vikings game up?

Minnesota Vikings (no line) vs. Washington Redskins. There's no line on the game because it's still not clear whether Redskins QB Robert Griffin III can play. Griffin was injured last week and he may not be available. If he can't go, the Redskins go with Kirk Cousins, who was the quarterback at Michigan State last season and has nothing to do with the chain of sandwich shops. If Cousins can't play, perhaps they'll go with Jimmy John or Jersey Mike. Either way, I expect the Vikings to get their lunch handed to them. Redskins 24, Vikings 21.

Now I need the readers to understand something. Unlike the Benster, I'm a Vikings fan, although I also cheer for the Packers, too. Everybody may think that rooting for two teams is sad, but let me ask you this, punks -- do you call the vast land that is Switzerland sad? They could make you come to their country and they could freeze you in a block of ice in the Alps. Then you wouldn't be calling their neutrality sad! So, ha! And I am not the one to use a blow dryer to get you out of that ice block! And it's better to let you hair dry naturally, anyway! For the record, I am not really sure who's going to win this game, but at the same time I don't want to say it's a tie because that would be highly unlikely. Almost as unlikely as some of the boys in the Highview Middle School band remembering how to tie a tie properly! I guess I'll just pick the Vikings for fun. And Jared Allen needs a haircut, by the way. Vikings 29, Redskins 19.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (+3.5) vs. Houston Texans. The Packers need help -- things haven't been going well lately for them. Now they have to play what might be the best team in the league. The Texans are undefeated and feature a whole mess of former Badger greats on their team, including the dominant J. J. Watt, who might be the best defensive lineman in the league. Will the Packers right the ship in what will be a very hostile environment? Sure, why not? Packers 27, Houston 23.

I have also have faith in the Packers and my Auntie Carol posts a "Go Pack Go" on Facebook pretty much every weekend, and I think that they will take that into account. Trust me on this one, kids -- you don't want to make Auntie Carol mad at you! It's like poking a sleeping bear, or Bears. But it doesn't have anything to do with Gino! Packers 20, Houston 16.

There you go. Do you think anyone even missed the Benster?

Well, I do, Dad! And I'm sure that people miss having the hype, especially those people who are big fans of 100-0 predictions! Not my style -- that's what happens when you did way too many ball park estimates in 3rd and 4th grade math! And I'm pretty good at math, unfortunately.

Why yes. Yes you are. Should we leave them with a song, Maria?

What song should we leave them with, Dad?

How about one for Gino?

See, Gino? Beneath all of the teasing, we really do love you. See you later!