Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Local Scene -- Game Theory

We have a municipal election in New Brighton and voting is already underway. The general contours of the election are pretty clear.

Mayor: The incumbent is Val Johnson, who snuck in last time in a three-way battle. From what I can tell, her mayoral priorities are (a) giving Dean Lotter, the city manager, whatever he wants; and (b) virtue signaling. It's not a promising combination. Her challenger is Sharon Doffing, a former city council member who would be far more likely to challenge the comfy status quo at City Hall.

City Council: Two seats are up for a vote. One incumbent, lefty Brian Strub, decided not to run. The other, Gina Bauman, has a target on her back. Gina has fought the powers that be for over a decade. She views her role as a watchdog for the taxpayer and because she's never been afraid of being in the minority on a vote, she's not particularly popular with Johnson and the rest of the council, who like spending money and taking bows for their generosity with other people's money.

Challengers: Two candidates are essentially running together for the council seats -- Emily Dunsworth, a cookie-cutter liberal lawyer closely connected to the DFL; and Graeme Allen, who is a less affable version of Strub. Running as a more conservative candidate is Susan Erickson, who would work well with Bauman. Former mayor Dave Jacobsen is also running for a council seat, but from what I can tell he's mostly phoning it in. There is also a libertarian candidate named Peter Berthelsen in the race, but he's not really making much headway.

So the choices are fairly simple. If you like the status quo, which means higher taxes with a bien pensant veneer, you ought to choose Johnson, Dunsworth, and Allen. If you'd actually like to change the direction New Brighton is going and bring some fiscal responsibility to City Hall, Doffing, Bauman, and Erickson are the way to go.

There's more to say about this race -- a lot more, actually, and we'll return to the topic in the coming days.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The day after

Aaron Rodgers goes down. A few thoughts:

  • You can't really replace Rodgers. Another guy can play the position, but you can't replace a guy with the skill set Rodgers brings to the team. It's yet another reminder of how blessed the Packers have been for the past quarter century. 
  • Brett Hundley will be better next week at home than he was in Minneapolis yesterday. He was a very good college quarterback and he has two years in the system. He can make plays. I don't know if he'll make enough to keep the Packers alive this season, but he'll give it a go. And it won't all be bad. He's playing for his future, which could be lucrative if he makes good.
  • Should the Packers bring in Colin Kaepernick? I would not be surprised if the Packers do sign Kaepernick. I believe them when they say they want to ride with Hundley, but they'll need a competent backup. With the bye week coming soon, they would have time to teach him what he needs to know if something happens to Hundley. And the NFL would dearly love to have that grievance Kaepernick just filed against the league to go away. There are certain teams in the league that could "take one for the shield" (e.g., Packers, Giants, Steelers, Bears, old school teams) and I wouldn't be surprised if Roger Goodell and his friends haven't been on the phone with Mark Murphy about it. 
  • The downside of Kaepernick isn't his silly politics, per se -- it's the question of whether or not he's sufficiently committed to doing what it takes to succeed. The 49ers let him go because he wasn't particularly effective after the first two seasons; the stories I've read indicate he wasn't willing to do the work outside of the team building that the top quarterbacks do, primarily because he had become too involved in the political causes du jour. If you're going to be a top quarterback, you have to be dedicated to your craft. The potential advantage for Kaepernick to come to Green Bay is simple; people there don't care about the politics nearly as much as they do about football. If you want to concentrate on your craft, Green Bay is a great place to do it, because there aren't as many distractions available as you would find in San Francisco, or even here in the Twin Cities.
  • Is there an upside for the Packers signing Kaepernick? Maybe. I do not believe the Packers seriously want to see Joe Callahan playing in a regular season game, which is the current scenario if Hundley is injured. Although Callahan has experience in their system, the jump from being a Div-3 quarterback to the NFL is awfully steep.
  • One last thing -- tell me, do you think the following meme is amusing? It was posted on something called "Minnesota Vikings Memes," which I assume has nothing to do with the Vikings organization itself: 
  • Image may contain: one or more people and text
Apparently some Vikings fans do. I think it's crappy as hell.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Benster and D Pick Your Games-------Border Battle Editon

Old dude, the Packers have crossed the St. Croix and are looking to beat up on those Vikings.

You could hear them coming all the way from Hudson.

I know that Carl Gerbschmidt is getting excited to call into Bumper to Bumper on Sunday.

You realize Gerbschmidt is a bit, right? Not a real person, right?

Yes, but whoever is doing the voice does a decent job of capturing the tone of the rivalry.

You might want to ask a Vikings fan about that.

Vikings fans? Why ask? Just watch. They are really feeling the HYYYYYYPPPPEE!, and this rivalry matters in Minnesota in a way that is hard to explain to outsiders.

That's true. Minnesota fans would like to treat the Wisconsin sports teams like Little Brother, but it's not so easy.

Especially when they lose. But we'll get to that later. It is time to get down to bidness. Watch me work!

Michigan State Spartans (-4) vs. Minnesota Elite Boat Rowers. The P.J. Fleck Elite Boat Rowing Experience has gone down a couple of rapids lately, with the Gophers 0-2 in conference play. I would probably put the West title out of reach for the Gophers, but this a winnable game for them. Sparty had a huge win over Jim "Lost the Super Bowl to my Brother" Harbaugh and the always overrated Wolverines in Ann Arbor last weekend. The danger I see for the Spartans is that they have to play a game that is not as big to their team, and I think Fleck gets a good win, if not a signature win. Row Row Row Your Boat 34,  Spartans Hate Walls 29.

I don't know what to make of Sparty. I think winning in Michigan Stadium is a pretty good trick, but I could see it going sideways on them tomorrow. Gophers 24, Spartans 20.

Purdue Boilermakers (+17) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. The Badgers continue to quietly keep playing well, as evidenced by a very good win on the road in Memorial Stadium last weekend. I am surprised that nobody is giving freshman sensation Jonathan Taylor any credit for being the best running back in the conference and he should be a contender for a trip to New York in December. Purdue is a team that has improved and has played teams pretty tough, but I think the Badgers will continue to play well enough to get a routine home win. Badgers 42, Spoilermakers 13.

Purdue is getting better. Not good enough to beat the Badgers in Madison, though. Badgers 34, Purdue 17.

Grinnell College Pioneers (NL) vs. Knox College Prairie Fire.  There is a good chance that I will be at this game, since the Knosher Bowl is one of the most iconic and legendary venues in all of college football. Only Camp Randall and the Rose Bowl are more iconic than the Knosher Bowl in terms of great places to watch a game. Knox should get a nice home win, and the guys on the Knox team are great guys who are Champions of Life. Knox 89, Grinnell 0.

I might add that Grinnell is terrible. Knox cruises at home. Knox 35, Grinnell 3.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-3) vs. Minnesota Vikings. The Packers come into the Twin Cities on a major high after winning an epic game in Dallas against the Cowboys. The Vikings will roll with Case Keenum yet again at quarterback, but are coming in on a short week after playing on Monday night. The Vikings will play the Packers tough, and are going to be fully ready to go. I think the Packers can win, but it will not be a huge blowout. Packers 31, Vikings 20.

The Vikings will hit the Packers in the mouth and might even lead for a time. But they won't be able to hang with the Packers down the stretch. Packers 27, Vikings 21.

Bear Down Chicago Da Bearz (+6.5) vs. Baltimore Ravens. For the Bears, this season is still a mess. I know that Trubisky looked pretty good against the Vikings, and that the Chicago fans and media are looking for the quarterback to finally lead them back to the top of the mountain, but this Bears team is not good enough yet. I feel bad for poor Gino, going to a Bear bar every Sunday and having to watch his team get beat, but it warms my Packer fan heart. The Ravens should get this win at home, no problems at all. Ravens 10, da Bearz 0.

Gino will be okay with it. He's used to it by now. If the game were in Chicago, I'd pick the Bears. Not in Baltimore. Ravens 24, Bears 14.

That is all from us, and enjoy your football this weekend, and please help and pray for those dealing with natural disasters in this country. Ben out!

Bottom line

I should say a few brief words about this particular topic:
The Boy Scouts of America announced on Wednesday that girls will soon be allowed to become Cub Scouts and to earn the coveted rank of Eagle Scout, the organization’s highest honor.

"We believe it is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children," said Michael Surbaugh, chief executive of the Boy Scouts.

The scouting board of directors voted unanimously to make the historic change in an organization that has been primarily for boys since its founding more than 100 years ago.
Why would girls want to join the Boy Scouts instead of the Girl Scouts? A guess:
The Girl Scouts have long focused on social justice, diversity and inclusion in their activities. 
Show of hands -- would you rather focus and social justice, or go camping?

As readers of this feature know, Benster is an Eagle Scout and Fearless Maria is a Gold Award winner. While there's no question both of our kids gained great benefits from the respective Scouting experiences, it's easy to see why the Boy Scouts are a better organization. Fearless Maria's troop essentially ended the moment she earned her Gold Award, because the other girls in the troop had fallen away from Scouting. Benster's troop existed long before Ben became involved and continues onward today. That's the bottom line.

And as Ann Althouse rightly observes:
If I were a young girl, I'd pick the organization that had activities that were fun and useful for me to learn, and "social justice, diversity and inclusion" doesn't even sound like an activity.
And as one of her commenters rightly observes:
More people would want to do Girl Scouts if it were better.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Free Speech, More Speech

Bad idea, Mr. Trump:

We get to decide what's fair, pal. Not you.
I get why Trump is frustrated. I don't doubt much of what is reported isn't accurate. Much of it is outright crap. But when someone, anyone, with the ability to wield the vast powers of the regulatory state threatens to shut off the liars, that's no good.

Free speech is not provisional. And never claim power that you would not be willing to have used against you.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Full Polanski

I don't think he's coming back:
Harvey Weinstein is boarding a private jet Tuesday night, bound for a rehab center in Europe for sex addiction ... sources connected with the former mogul tell TMZ.

We're told Harvey has decided to take the advice of the people around him and leave immediately. We're told he will enter a live-in facility and will deal both with sex and other behavioral issues.
Extradition may not be one of the behavioral issues in question, but it wouldn't surprise me. If half of the reporting about ol' Harvey is accurate, he really ought to be in jail. But I suspect he'll be hanging with Roman Polanski instead.

Of course, other people see the bigger picture:

Bet he doesn't even have UCare

Hollywood-style debauchery is a very old story. The sensational trials of Fatty Arbuckle are almost a century in the rearview mirror now. I recently read a book about the still-unsolved murder of William Desmond Taylor, essentially from the same era, which goes into detail about the murder, the various stars and hangers-on around the case, and the studio executives who saw the dangers the moral scolds provided to their nascent industry. What happened in 1922 isn't terribly different than what's been going on in the Weinstein cases.

I don't care about that world; I'm not part of it and never wanted to be. Nor do I have any brief for moral scolds. Watching Weinstein get his comeuppance is pure schadenfreude. And for me, it's less about Weinstein than it is about his dwindling supply of defenders, who were all too ready to give Weinstein a pass on his behavior as long as he made successful movies and kept the political donations coming. All that is over now. Now all that's left for Weinstein is the inevitable:

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Chez Che

Che Guevara has now been gone for 50 years. The world may not be a demonstrably better place because he's been gone -- we never run out of monsters entirely. But he was a monster. And all the hagiography and t-shirts in the world don't change the story.

Monday, October 09, 2017


It makes no difference if you're black or white
If you're a boy or a girl
If the music's pumping it will give you new life
You're a superstar, yes, that's what you are, you know it

A dance floor sensation of 25 years ago? No. It was the National Anthem:
Vice President Mike Pence walked out on his home-state Indianapolis Colts Sunday when members of the opposing team kneeled for the national anthem, but a report that Colin Kaepernick, the player who started it all, will stand if given another shot in the NFL was quickly dialed back.

"I left today's Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem," Pence tweeted.
Pence almost certainly knew that 49ers players would take a knee; they have been doing it all season. And you know what? Good for Pence. Why not play the game? There's more than one way to virtue signal, right?

Don't just stand there, let's get to it
Strike a pose, there's nothing to it

Whatever point Colin Kaepernick was trying to make is long gone, as people who make more money each time they get a game check than most of their fans make all year tell us how oppressed they are. The whole thing is tiresome. It's all limousine liberalism writ large. And there's nothing entertaining, or enlightening, about any of it.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Question Mark Edition

Well. it seems that the teams with interest around here all have some question marks. What say you, old dude?

What was the question again?

Put down the Metamucil and pay attention, if you would.

I need my fiber.

First of all, TMI. But answer the question. Don't the teams we pay attention have question marks?

Yes. More question marks than exclamation points, for sure.

Well, will anyone answer the questions this weekend?

I thought that was your gig. It's why we write this piece, isn't it?

I'm asking the questions.

I question that.

You are incorrigible, old dude! Let's see what happens this weekend.

It depends on how well the Metamucil works.

Oy vey. It is time to pick some football games. I am feeling the HYYYYYYYYYYYPPPPPEEE! and I am ready to go. Watch me work.

Minnesota Golden Elite Boat Rowers (+3.5) vs. Purdue Boilermakers. The local sports media types in Minnesota are not happy about what happened last week at home against Maryland for Mr. Fleck and his charges. The Gophers took a step back, no doubt about it, and this game does not get any easier. Purdue looks like they have improved a lot this year. It is also the first home game since former Purdue coaching legend Joe Tiller died, so look for Purdue to surge on emotion early. I like Purdue here, because they are a threat that not a lot of people are banking on being scary. Boilermakers 35, Rowing Out of Town 11.

We'll actually answer some questions about the Gophers tomorrow. It's a tough matchup, as Purdue appears to be much improved. While the previous regime didn't leave the cupboard bare, Fleck's team doesn't appear to be elite where roster depth is concerned. Purdue 34, Gophers 27.

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-10.5) vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers. This game is going to be a war, and the Badgers are getting too high a line. Nebraska is always a tough team to beat, and they have a very good record in night games in Memorial Stadium. Wisconsin did struggle against Northwestern, and there are questions surrounding Alex Hornibrook, who took a step back last week in terms of making good choices with the football. I still think the Badgers win, but they will have to earn this win in a very nervy game. Badgers 27, Huskers 21.

Nebraska isn't Nebraska these days. I think they'll give Bucky a good punch early, but they won't be able to hang with the Badgers. Watch for the Badgers to wear the Cornhuskers down late. Wisconsin 34, Nebraska 23.

Knox College Prairie Fire (NL) vs. Lake Forest Foresters. So, it turns out that Knox got beat down last week against St. Norbert. No biggie, they go to Lake Forest, who is a pretty good team, but not exactly Alabama level in the Midwest Conference. I never pick against my school, because our guys are men of distinction and honor, and they will find a way to win. Fire 35, Foresters 19.

While I am sure they are men of distinction and honor, they won't beat Lake Forest. Foresters 31, Fire 27.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (+2) vs. Dallas How 'Bout Them Cowboahs? The Cowboys and their fans have been waiting for this game since Mason Crosby won that epic playoff game in Janurary. The Cowboy homers in the media say that this time will be different, but the Cowboys have struggled, while the Packers look like they will get some of their injured back. Make no mistake, the Packers will have to play at a high level to win, and I think they will. If that happens, be sure to watch a certain former Dallas sportswriter on Monday. Packers 38, Cowboys 30.

The Packers had enough time to start getting healthy. That should help them tremendously. This game is pretty crucial for the Cowboys, because if they lose this one, they'll be well behind other teams in the conference. Desperate team at home? I hate doing this, but. . . Cowboys 31, Packers 28.

Minnesota Vikings (-3) vs. Bear Down Chicago Da Bearz.  Yeah, the Bears are still a dumpster fire. They really looked bad against the Packers last Thursday, and even though Mr. Trubisky will start, it still is a mess. Quite frankly, I wonder how Gino even deals with watching them play. Maybe he should take a knee in protest of the front office. The Vikings will be without Dalvin Cook for the rest of the year, but they should be fine here, especially with a chance that Sam Bradford will make his return. Of course, there is always the matter of the Vikings not playing well in Chicago at times. Da Bearz 24, Vikings 10.

Young Mr. Trubisky will see things he's never seen on the football field before. And he'll be on his back a few times. Vikings have just enough to win. Vikings 14, Bears 13.

Enjoy the football this weekend, and please pray for the folks in Las Vegas. Ben out!

A tale as old as time

Harvey Weinstein had a casting couch:
Two decades ago, Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein invited Ashley Judd to the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel for what the young actress expected to be a business breakfast meeting. Instead, he had her sent up to his room, where he appeared in a bathrobe and asked if he could give her a massage or she could watch him shower, she said.

“How do I get out of the room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?” Judd said she remembers thinking.
Apparently Weinstein did this sort of thing quite a bit. Hardly anything new. Sex and power are often intertwined. And guys who have power assume they can use it to get what they want from women. The story is more interesting because Weinstein has been hugely successful and regularly sanctimonious:
The allegations piled up even as Weinstein helped define popular culture. He has collected six best-picture Oscars and turned out a number of touchstones, from the films “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” “Pulp Fiction” and “Good Will Hunting” to the television show “Project Runway.” In public, he presents himself as a liberal lion, a champion of women and a winner of not just artistic but humanitarian awards.
So he's none of these things. Are we surprised?

Thursday, October 05, 2017


Still finding it difficult to write anything. We've reached a point of annoying stasis in the political world, which the events in Las Vegas have underscored. The lefties I know are still calling for gun control, but they know they can't have it, so they just get on with their virtue signaling and self-talk. The NFL thing is dying down. I suppose we could ask why U.S. special forces are getting killed in Niger, but first we'd have to ask people to find it on a map.

It's a roundabout way of saying you've got an open thread.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Still too soon

Not yet time to write about the mass murder in Las Vegas. Some information about the murderer is emerging, but it's not conclusive in any way. I would like to know if he really wired $100,000 to the Philippines, and what that meant, but the only thing you can reasonably conclude thus far is he planned his attack out in great detail.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Tom Petty, RIP

It was easy to take Tom Petty for granted. He was the rock and roll equivalent of a Honda Accord -- always reliable, comfortable, capable. His songbook is one of the deepest of the rock era. He may not have had the moments of sheer brilliance that you get from Bruce Springsteen, or Prince, or Dylan, but he was consistently listenable. As word spread of his heart attack and death, with reporting retracted and then confirmed, the radio filled with his songs. And there were a lot of them. A few favorites, then -- first out of the gate, a well-executed emulation on the Byrds:

Then some straight-ahead rock and roll:

A collaboration with fellow titans Roy Orbison, Dylan, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne:

A moody reflection on madness and love presumably lost:

Another straight ahead rocker:

And finally, where we are:

You probably have your favorites, too. RIP.

UPDATE:  Mitch Berg offers a heartfelt tribute of his own.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Fog of War

We don't know why a guy opened fire on a country music contest in Las Vegas last night, but we do know it was awful. Various news reports indicate at least 20 people are dead and over 100 are injured, and that gunman opened fire on the crowd from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay complex on the Vegas strip. There are plenty of photos and video out there, some pretty gruesome. You can find them for yourself; I'll not point you there.

What I do know is prayer is always in order. So we'll start there and see where the story goes after that.

UPDATE (5:50 a.m.): Apparently the number killed is up to 50. More prayers.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Packers Beat The Bears Edition

So Old Dude, last night was a good night for the Packers. I bet Gino is probably not happy at his team right now, and he is not feeling the HYYYYYYYYYPPPPPEEE!

HYYYYYYYYPPPPPPEEE! is not Gino's thing. But it's yours.

Last night also confirmed one of the few enduring truths in this world. The Bears still suck, and they always will. Not that I have strong views on that.

No, you seem remarkably objective about it, actually.

With Packers fans able to relax and enjoy the rest of the weekend, it is time to pick some games. Watch me work!

Maryland Terps (+13) vs. Minnesota Golden Elite Boat Rowers. The Gophers start the P.J. Fleck Elite Boat Rowing Experience in conference play this week against a Maryland team who look like they are improving. The Gophers are a younger team this year, and I do not expect them to be a huge factor in the Big Ten West this year, but are certainly a solid outfit. Yes, Maryland beat Texas in a true road game, and I think the game might be a bit closer, this is the type of home game that the Gophers should paddle through, before tougher rapids emerge down the river. Gophers 24, Terps 14.

Maryland is on its fourth quarterback, apparently, as the first three are all out for the season with injuries. You get down to your fourth quarterback and it's not going to go well. Terps will hang around for a while, but will wear down at the end. Gophers 27, Maryland 17.

Northwestern Wildcats (+16) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. I think that the Badgers have not really played a complete football game. Utah State and FAU both gave the Badgers a bit of a scare, and BYU was a bit of a letdown compared to what I was expecting. The Badgers have a legit shot at having a very special season, but Northwestern is the type of well coached team that the Badgers can struggle with. This game should be closer than what the Vegas folks think it is, but the Badgers should gut out a win. Badgers 35, Wildcats 29.

It's an odd series, but the talent level is now starting to widen. I'm not sure why beating BYU 40-6 in Provo is not meeting expectations; to me, it sure is. I think the Badgers will wear the Wildcats down early and cruise. Badgers 34, NU 17.

Knox College Prairie Fire (NL) vs. St. Norbert Green Knights. My beloved Fire is 3-0, and looked pretty good last weekend. However, St. Norbert is the Alabama of the Midwest Conference, always very good and can make even strong teams cry. However, I never pick against Knox because I go to school here, and because I know some guys on the team, and they are men of action and hard workers. Fire 50, Green Knights 0.

I don't doubt for a minute they are men of action and hard workers. But they aren't gonna beat St. Norbert, especially in DePere. St. Norbert 44, Knox 21.

Detroit LOLions (+2) vs. Minnesota Vikings. This game will determine who is tied atop the standings with the Packers in the division, but the Vikings are going to have to make due without Sam Bradford yet again. Lions fans got close against Atlanta last week, but have no right to complain when you do not bother to throw inside the end zone instead of risking coming up short with no timeouts. What makes that sequence even more amusing is that Golden Tate caught that pass -- I think that was justice for what happened in a game 5 years ago last Sunday, for his former employers, that ended with him getting away with something he should not have gotten away with. Even though the Vikings have looked good in the past few weeks, they will have it all to do, especially if they lead after three quarters. LOLions 49, Vikings 39.

Have the Lions scored 49 points all season? I think the Vikings will prevail in The People's Stadium, but if the Vikings offensive line starts to spring a leak, look out. Vikings 27, Lions 24.

We would pick another pro game, but in light of doing a special edition for the Thursday Night Football game  I think we are good. Enjoy your football this weekend, and please pray and donate for the victims of natural disasters. Ben out!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Hugh Hefner, RIP

It was a hell of a party. Most parties don't last for more than 60 years:
Playboy founder Hugh Hefner died Wednesday, Playboy Enterprises, Inc. announced. He was 91.

"Hugh M. Hefner, the American icon who in 1953 introduced the world to Playboy magazine and built the company into one of the most recognizable American global brands in history, peacefully passed away today from natural causes at his home, The Playboy Mansion, surrounded by loved ones," Playboy Enterprises, Inc. said in a statement Wednesday night.

It wasn't just Playboy magazine, which started way back in 1953 with a nekkid Marilyn Monroe. He had Playboy Clubs all over the country and had television shows like Playboy After Dark, which featured memorable music performances, too -- here's Deep Purple:

Back in 1984, I had a summer job working as a shipping clerk for a small ink company. The company shared space in a large American Can facility in Neenah, Wisconsin. Another company operating out of the facility printed the centerfolds for Playboy, so for that summer I got to see the centerfolds a few months before they appeared on the newsstands. At the time, it seemed like a real cool deal. Here's a picture of Miss August (don't worry, it's safe for work) that year, a woman named Suzi Schott:

Image result for suzi schott
There was more to the picture
Those big blue eyes were staring at me the whole summer. Hundreds of beautiful women posed for Hugh Hefner's cameras. The joke, as always, was that people would get Playboy for the articles. That wasn't completely false, because there were often interesting features in the magazine -- Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer, Shel Silverstein, even Roald Dahl graced its pages. And reading the Playboy Interview of various members of the Sandinistas was revelatory -- that inteview, meant to be sympathetic, made it clear to me that evil was afoot. But it was mostly about pictures of nekkid women.

It's been nearly 20 years since I've looked at a copy of Playboy; you have to grow up eventually and girlie magazines don't help you get there. We can debate the larger meaning of Hefner's career, and the glittering wreckage he left in his wake. But I'll always remember those big blue eyes and that come hither stare.

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- NFL Network Mandated Edition

Old dude, the NFL would clearly like us to watch the Packers and Bears on a short week, all in the name of money and television ratings. Is nothing sacred in this world?

Oh, there's plenty that is sacred. But we're talkin' Mammon.

The only Thursday where NFL games should be on is Thanksgiving because it is traditional. It makes too much sense for the powers that be in the league, who want you to feel the HYYYYYYYYPPPE! as two rivals clash, and to call your cable provider to upgrade a tier to get NFL Network.

That's the formula.

I have a formula, too. Watch me work!

Bear Down Chicago Da Bearz (+7) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. Both teams won overtime thrillers on Sunday, and both had to fight through adversity. The Bears are always a tough out for the Packers because of the nature of the rivalry. The major lesson of what happened on Sunday for this game was that the Bears are a team that can cause issues for a very good team, and that the Packers can win a close game at home. I think the keys to the Packers winning are to get more plays from Josh Jones on defense, and either Geronimo Allison or Trevor Davis on offense. The Bears will be a tough out as always, but I expect the Packers to make enough plays to win. Packers 28, Da Bearz 17.

All about the injuries in this game. As of this morning, it appears the Packers will be playing backups at tackle yet again on the offensive line, including a guy who was on the Arizona Cardinals practice squad a few days ago. This makes me nervous as hell; when Aaron Rodgers got hurt in 2013, it was at the hands of the Bears and in a similar circumstance. The Bears will try to pound the ball down the throat of the Packers, who spend a lot of time playing with five defensive backs. If the Packers can get the Bears blocked, they win. If not, this could be a bad game. Packers 24, Bears 21.

We will be back at our normal time to pick some more games. Enjoy the rest of your week, and enjoy the game tomorrow. Ben out!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

MnDOT gonna MnDOT

It's going to be a busy weekend in the Twin Cities. The Twins, Vikings, and Gophers are all playing at home. It's the Twin Cities Marathon. And there are other events, too, including our home marching band show for Irondale. But if you want to get around in the Twin Cities this weekend, MnDOT has a message for you -- tough luck:
The Minnesota Department of Transportation will shut down both directions of Interstate 35W between Crosstown Hwy. 62 and downtown Minneapolis from Friday night through Monday morning. It’s a weekend that features Sunday’s big 26.2-mile race between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul, along with a Vikings game Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium; Twins games Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Target Field; and a University of Minnesota football game Saturday at the U. And the Wild plays at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Saturday night.

Sporting events aside, I-35W already handles about 200,000 vehicles a day. So all that extra traffic will have to spread out on alternate routes, meaning drivers will be on an endurance test of their own.

“There is no real good time to close a major interstate, but it’s usually easier to do it on a weekend rather than during the week,” said MnDOT spokeswoman Denise Workcuff.

On most weekends, that’s likely true, but there might not be a worse weekend than this one to close the busiest freeway in the metro area.
MnDOT knows they are screwing people, but they don't care:
MnDOT said that it was aware of the events calendar but that it was moving ahead with the freeway closure in order to move utilities and prepare for the demolition of the Franklin Avenue bridge. That will bring another I-35W closure next weekend.
And the ripple effects won't be pleasant either, especially when the Marathon is underway:
On Sunday morning, the area on the east end of downtown Minneapolis from 5th Avenue S. to 11th Avenue S. and from S. 3rd Street to S. 7th Street will be closed as runners queue up next to U.S. Bank Stadium for the 34th annual marathon.
And then it gets worse:
Streets will be blocked off for the race until about 9 a.m. As they reopen, other streets around the stadium will shut down before the noon kickoff for the Vikings game against the Detroit Lions.

Other south Minneapolis routes remain blocked, too. The Cedar and Portland avenue bridges over the Midtown Greenway remain closed, eliminating those as viable north-south options. Hiawatha Avenue could see heavy levels of traffic.

With Franklin Avenue closed over I-35W, those drivers are being diverted to 26th and 28th streets, with Hennepin being a likely receiver of drivers trying to get into downtown Minneapolis.
Yep, let's jam a few thousand more cars through Uptown. That'll be great.

Yes, these are First World Problems. People in San Juan wouldn't have much sympathy for our plight. It's the bureaucratic indifference that rankles. Your time isn't as valuable as MnDOT's. Just so you know. But have a nice weekend!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Mao-Maoing the Flak Catcher

So yesterday I singled out Alejandro Villanueva, the Pittsburgh Steelers lineman who stood out on the field during the playing of the national anthem with his hand over his heart and his helmet in hand. He apologized for that yesterday:
Offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva was the only member of the Pittsburgh Steelers to take the field for the national anthem before Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears, but the former U.S. Army Ranger said the moment happened by accident.

“Unfortunately, I threw my teammates under the bus, unintentionally,” Villanueva said at a press conference on Monday. “Every single time I see that picture of me, standing by myself, I feel embarrassed.”

Villanueva appeared to stand firm on Sunday, holding his his hand over his heart as the song played, while his teammates remained in the tunnel behind him in protest of President Donald Trump’s recent criticism of players who "disrespect" the U.S.
I'm not holding a brief for Le Grand Orange on this one -- it would be better if he'd concentrate his efforts on other things than the NFL. But obscure bloggers in Minnesota don't get to set his agenda. Having said that, there's something screwed up when a guy who stands for the national anthem is somehow throwing his team under the bus. What's worse is Villanueva being compelled to apologize for his actions. When standing for the anthem becomes a thoughtcrime, it's time for the people running the Pittsburgh Steelers to give some thought to the larger message they are conveying.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Do what you want

Standing alone
I don't care what you do. But believe in it. I am confident Alejandro Villanueva believes in what he does.

Everbody's heard about the bird

I'm pretty sure Donald Trump flipped the bird yesterday:

Just can't put my finger on what's happening
This is a trap, Democrats. If they start going off about coarseness, there's plenty of impressive evidence that his behavior in this instance is, well, presidential:

Have some, Paul Ryan
If that's too ambiguous for you, there's this:

A dream is a wish your heart makes
Or this:

Hello, Jacksonville!
Or this:

And when you smile for the camera, I know I love you better
There's even a legacy:

If it were up to me, presidents wouldn't flip the bird at people. But it's not. And let's not pretend anything Trump does is an affront to decency. That ship sailed a long time ago.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Benster and D Pick Your Games--Bye Week Edition

Old dude, both the Badgers and the Gophers are on byes this week, meaning that we have to find some other games to focus our attention on.

I sense a Prairie Fire sighting is imminent.

Is it that predictable?

We've been doing this for a long time, so I know your approach. But at least you're not phoning it in, like a certain Cowboys running back who shall remain nameless.

I agree, and I am going to put more effort in this post than Zeke did last weekend on that pick. That was not a good look for him, and maybe he needs to get a dose of HYYYYYYYYYPPPPPPEEE!

I thought he was going to remain nameless. Oh well, he deserved that shot.

Yes. Yes he did. I guess it is time to get down to bidness, and it is time for the world to watch me work!

Ripon College Red Hawks (NL) vs. Knox College Prairie Fire. Ripon is 0-2 this year, and are going to be paying a visit to my guys here at Knox. Knox did win against Beloit, which is a good win even if some other family members would disagree with me. I am a homer, and Knox has looked better, and the football team has good guys that are hard workers, so I think we should win a very tough, low scoring football game. Prairie Fire 19, Red Hawks 9.

Assuming the weather doesn't change, it's likely to be about 100 degrees in that Knosher Bowl. If you haven't seen Knox's football stadium, it's essentially a pit, and I don't mean that as an insult. See for yourself:

Image result for knosher bowl knox college
Down there
Ripon doesn't come calling very often, so they might not find it to their liking. Knox 24, Ripon 21.

Penn State Nittany Lions (-12) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes. This line is awfully high, and quite frankly is based on a couple of misunderstandings. The first is that Iowa is a team that always going to be well coached and will make you earn every single yard. The second misunderstanding is that Iowa City is a very difficult away trip, which you can ask Michigan about after their shocking upset a year ago. Penn State is the defending conference champion, and considering that they got screwed over by the powers that be, despite being a name program, after winning a surprise conference title, the Nittany Lions know that they need to win every game in order to get the benefit of the doubt that a school in Ohio gets. However, Iowa is going to throw a monkey wrench into James Franklin's charges, and will hopefully showcase the depth of the league. Hawkeyes 22, We Are 8.

Iowa is always a tough out, but Penn State is good. Real good. Penn State 35, Iowa 21.

English Premier League: West Ham United (NL) vs. Tottenham Hotspur. Because of the bye weeks for the Gophers and Badgers, and because high school football is going on as I write this, we have to turn to soccer once again. Tottenham have had a mixed start to their season, with a good win against Dortmund in the Champions League, but have been dropping points, most notably to Swansea City last weekend at Wembley. West Ham are a team that is midtable, and are most well known in the United States for being mentioned in Harry Potter and for playing their home matches in the Olympic Stadium. I expect Spurs to win, since they should beat West Ham. Spurs 2, West Ham 0.

Actually, that sounds about right. Spurs need to win this game and I think they will. Spurs 3, West Ham 1.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NL) vs. Minnesota Vikings. This game has no line because it was unknown if Sam Bradford would be able to go, but we now know that Bradford will be out again. I have heard online that some Vikings fans want to sign Mr. Kaepernick, but that is for the front office to determine. The Vikings did not look good last week, but I think that was more playing a good Steelers team away from home in a tricky game. Tampa Bay is a team that I regard as capable of being a factor later on, but this is a home game and you would expect the Vikings to win. However, if the Vikings lose this game there will be a lot more questions asked about whether the front office and coaching staff are the right people to have in place. Vikings 35, Bucs 13.

I expect the Vikings to play better this week, but Case Keenum is not the guy you want to go to war with. The Vikings will try to take Mike Evans away. They may not be able to do so. Tampa Bay 24, Minnesota 17.

Cincinnati Bungles (+9) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. It looks like the Packers are going to be short handed because of all the injuries, which is concerning to me. However, Green Bay did show flashes and hung in there down in Atlanta next week. This game is a bit of a trap game, because the Packers have a short week going into the Bears game, and the Bengals are no slouches -- they have beaten the Packers a couple of times in the past. I think the Packers should win this game since it is at home, and should have better pass protection with Bryan Bulaga back on the field. Watch for Kevin King to make a play or two covering A.J Green sometime during the game. Packers 28. Bengals 9.

The Bengals are a mess right now. The Packers have a lot of work to do, but even short handed they shouldn't have too much difficulty with this one. Davante Adams picks up the slack and scores at least one touchdown, maybe two. Packers 35, Bengals 13.

Pittsburgh Steelers (-7.5) vs. Bear Down Chicago Da Bearz. The Bears are quite frankly a bit of a dumpster fire. I am sure that Gino probably wants to see John Fox gone. There is no way they beat the Steelers, even though this game is in Chicago and the Bears are going to be game. You almost wonder if Papa Bear Halas is shaking his head in heaven, and you have to feel bad that a historic team of this league has been such a nonfactor since 2010. Maybe they should bring back Lovie and Jay to save them, or kick it back a notch further to 2006 and bring out the glory of Sexy Rexy. Steelers 175. Da Bearz Still Suck -15.

The Bears simply don't have enough talent to win right now. I'm not entirely sure how it happened, but they have just a dismal set of receivers. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen have talent, but the Steelers will have 8-9 guys in the box and Mike Glennon won't be able to make them pay. Steelers 35, Bears 14.

That is all from us today. Enjoy the football this weekend, and donate to help all those in need because of natural disasters. Ben out!

Home Truth

Mel Brooks, making a point that should be obvious but isn't said enough:
Society's "stupidly politically correct" sensibilities will lead to the "death of comedy", the veteran Hollywood comedian Mel Brooks has warned.

Brooks, known for his plethora of acclaimed comedy movies, said political correctness was becoming a stranglehold on comedians.

"It's not good for comedy. Comedy has to walk a thin line, take risks," he said.

"Comedy is the lecherous little elf whispering in the king's ear, always telling the truth about human behaviour."
And he makes the obvious point about how things have changed over the last 40 years:
The producer and director said that his iconic western parody Blazing Saddles could not be made in today's political climate.
Most people remember Blazing Saddles for things like the campfire scene or the Mongo character punching a horse, but it was chock full of social commentary. One of my favorite moments of insight is in this short scene, which happens after the Sheriff Bart character is called, well, the N-word:

We all are, at any given moment, morons. To his credit, Brooks has always recognized that home truth. And then there's this image from the film:

Or else

In its own way, the juxtaposition of messaging isn't much different than what we see from these guys:

Or else
At bottom, comedy is about telling the truth. We can, for now.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Mayor Cluster

It doesn't look good for the mayor of Minneapolis:
Six staffers have left Mayor Betsy Hodges’ campaign less than two months before the election, the second campaign shake-up in six months for the incumbent.

Hodges’ campaign manager, Mike Pfarr, declined to comment. A spokeswoman confirmed six people have resigned, including communications director Alida Tieberg, senior staff member Jim Niland and four others.

Five staff members who worked for the campaign — including Tieberg and Niland — did not return messages from the Star Tribune on Wednesday.
So why would they leave? Follow the money:
And Hodges’ fundraising is lagging. Her campaign reported having $54,901 in cash on hand at the end of July, but also $75,500 in debt to Hodges personally, and $24,217 in unpaid bills to five vendors.
What might save Betsy's bacon is the less-than-scintillating lineup of challengers:
Hodges is running for re-election against a crowded field of challengers, including Council Member Jacob Frey, Nekima Levy-Pounds, DFL state Rep. Ray Dehn, Tom Hoch and several others. The election is Nov. 7.

None of the other campaigns said they had hired an ex-Hodges staffer recently. The Dehn, Frey and Levy-Pounds campaign declined to comment.
They probably don't have the money, either. Getcha popcorn.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Unidentified Flying Object

I was on my way home from work yesterday. I had just crossed the Minnesota River. Then it happened. I have no idea what it was, because I never saw it hit my driver's side window. But the sound was loud and sharp. What the hell was that, I thought, as I continued on my way, northbound on 35W, heading for home.

After about a minute, in the time it takes to travel from 106th Street to 98th Street, the broken glass began to tumble onto me. Then more glass, then more still. As soon as I was able to work my way across the four lanes of rush hour traffic, I exited on 90th Street. I have lived in the Twin Cities for about 25 years, but I don't believe I've ever been on 90th Street before. I drove about a half mile to the east, past Lyndale, where I found an auto body shop. I pulled my glass-strewn car into the driveway and stopped. Fortunately, they were able to take a look at my vehicle, give me a quote for the repair and put a plastic wrap over the now-missing space where my window once was. I will be able to get the window fixed on Thursday.

Had I arrived at the point of impact a tenth of a second earlier, the object might have hit my windshield and the story would have potentially been very different. Had I arrived two seconds earlier, I'd have been on my way and some other dude might have taken the blow.

I could feel sorry for myself. It's an inconvenience. I might feel lucky, but good luck is not getting hit by something flying through the air in the first place. I could complain about it, but then I turn on the news and see the death toll continue to mount in Mexico, and watch the latest hurricane take aim at Puerto Rico. It can always be worse.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Look out

Here comes Maria:
Two weeks ago, Puerto Rico was spared a devastating hit when Hurricane Irma ripped up the Caribbean. This time, it may not be so lucky.

The bankrupt island, already contending with the aftermath of a storm that left as much as $1 billion of damage and hundreds of thousands still without power, faces even more upheaval with Hurricane Maria set to hit as soon as Tuesday night. The government ordered rationing of basic necessities, including water and batteries, although those items were already gone from some San Juan store shelves as residents prepared for what could be the worst storm for the U.S. territory in decades.
Maria is not messing around, either:
The Caribbean island nation of Dominica sustained “mind boggling” damage from Hurricane Maria, its prime minister said on Tuesday, after the storm hit with maximum sustained winds of nearly 160 miles per hour that ripped roofs off buildings, including his own home.

There was no immediate word of deaths or injuries on the island from Maria, the third in a string of devastating hurricanes to sweep through the region in recent weeks.

The National Hurricane Center said just after 5 a.m. that the storm, now moving away from Dominica, had regained Category 5 strength, after briefly dropping to Category 4. It is expected to remain “extremely dangerous” as it approaches the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Tuesday night and Wednesday, the center said.

Roosevelt Skerrit, Dominica’s prime minister, wrote on Facebook earlier Tuesday that the island nation of 72,000 had experienced “widespread devastation,” based on initial reports.
Maria may stay away from Florida, however:

Image result for predicted path of hurricane maria
Stay away
Hoping things don't get any worse for Puerto Rico, as they have problems enough these days, but it doesn't look good.

Monday, September 18, 2017

In fact, it's cold as hell

The news services struggle with how to cover President Performance Artist:
President Donald Trump on Sunday mocked the leader of nuclear-armed North Korea as "Rocket Man" while White House advisers said the isolated nation would face destruction unless it shelves its weapons programs and bellicose threats.
They asked H. R. McMaster for help:
Asked about Trump's description of Kim, national security adviser H.R. McMaster said "Rocket Man" was "a new one and I think maybe for the president." But, he said, "that's where the rockets are coming from. Rockets, though, we ought to probably not laugh too much about because they do represent a great threat to all."
You need to go to the proper source material:

Rock it, man.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Back At Knox Edition

Old Dude, it is time to pick some games, and this week is going answer a fair amount of questions early on for the pro teams our family cares about most on the road.

The road is always calling my name.

The road is calling for Geritol?

Well, maybe not that.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. But the road to success requires brilliance and HYYYYYYPPPPE!

Choose the right road, Seabiscuit.

I always do. Now where was I? In the college ranks, both the Badgers and the Gophers have their last tuneups before the start of Big Ten league play. Should be a fun football weekend in the Midwest.

I love me some football.

And non-standard usage, I guess. Well, enough of your attempts to stay hip and with it. It is time to get down to bidness, so watch me work!

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (+10.5) vs. Minnesota Golden Elite Boat Rowers. The Gophers should have no problems winning this game, especially in light of going to Oregon State and beating down Gary Anderson and his Beavers. The Fleck Elite Boat Rowing Experience seems to be going well, and they like their quarterback situation with Conor Rhoda playing well last weekend. I expect the Gophers to gear up well for Big Ten play, where we will find out if Fleck is an elite rower of the boat, or if he will have to paddle back out of town being chased by a flotilla. Gophers 38, Blue Raiders 10.

Sail on, sailor. Middle Tennessee beat the Gophers on the basketball court in the NCAA tournament earlier this year. We're not on the basketball court this time. Gophers 31, MTSU 14.

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-17) vs. BYU Cougars. Normally, the Badgers would probably be given the right amount of being favored by the experts in Vegas, but this line seems a little high. BYU is not going to roll over and die, and the Badgers have not put together a complete performance yet. Jonathan Taylor looks like he is the next great running back, but Alex Hornibrook needs to step up a bit, because he probably shouldn't have to look over his shoulder for now. Provo is going to be a tough place to get a win, but one I expect the Badgers can win. Badgers 33, Cougars 18.

This one is not going to be easy, but BYU is down a bit this year, at least based on the early results. I'm still concerned with how the Badgers have been slow out of the gate, but this one shouldn't be a problem. Badgers 31, BYU 16.

Texas Longhorns (+15.5) vs. USC Trojans. The last time these traditional powers played, it was an instant classic and one of the best college football games I have ever seen. That was over a decade ago, and these two teams are not as good as the teams that played in the Rose Bowl that night. Sam Darnold is the favorite for the Heisman Trophy, but might not be as good as his crosstown rival Josh Rosen. Texas is trying to rebuild yet again under Tom Herman, but suffered what seemed like an embarrassing home loss to a Maryland team, but that loss might not look as bad down the line. USC looks like they have things figured out based on how well they played against Stanford last week, and should win this game. Trojans 41, Longhorns 34.

I think Herman can win in Austin, but it's going to take time. Not this week. USC 45, Texas 23.

Minnesota Vikings (+6) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers. The Vikings did not get a gift from the schedule makers, as they have a short week to go to Pittsburgh to play a Steelers team that believes it can break to break through and win a Super Bowl, or at least win a conference title. The Steelers have an elite running back in LeVeon Bell, and they also have wide receiver Antonio Brown, who is a stud for me in my fantasy football league. The Vikings put up points on the Saints in a climate controlled stadium, but this game should be much more difficult. Steelers 28, Vikings 9.

Sam Bradford is already injured. He played well against the Saints, but if he has trouble with his mobility on Sunday, the Steelers will get him. They are a nasty bunch. Steelers 31, Vikings 20.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-3) vs. Atlanta Falcons (Who Blew a 28-3 Lead) For the second consecutive year, the Packers get to play on national television against a team opening up their shiny new stadium. My theory on how the Packers have to go in order to win this game is something that other pundits would not touch for fear of their jobs, but I will go for it. What the Packers have to do is to let Matt Ryan do his thing and not worry about him. The reason why is because the secret to the success of the Falcons is Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman on the ground. Once the Falcons get their ground game started, they became really scary good. This game has to be a situation where Packers linemen Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels are making plays to stop Freeman and Coleman. On the other side of the ball, the Packers need to run the football, and not rely on Aaron Rodgers winning a shootout. This theory sounds a bit strange, but I haveto be honest with you and call it like I see it. Packers 31, Falcons 17.

You're always about being counter-intuitive. That's your thing. It's going to be a tough place to win. I think the Packers can win, but this is the home opener and the Falcons will be ready. Shootout. Falcons 38, Packers 35.

Enjoy watching football this weekend, and a special thank you to the kind ad that FAU took out thanking Wisconsin for housing them. The Owls are welcome to play in Madison again, and I hope they do well this weekend. And maybe soon, I'll stop ignoring the Bears. Ben out!

Musical interlude

I've been reading a biography of Peggy Lee, the midcentury singer who went from North Dakota to major stardom. Here's a taste:

There's a lot of interesting music from that era out there now -- here's another sultry singer of the era, Julie London:

Good stuff.

The Knights get a little love

Nice article on the Star Tribune website today about the alma mater of Benster and Fearless Maria and the surprising success of the football team:
Through it all, Irondale football coach Ben Fuller never doubted. Not through a winless first season, nor through a mere five victories in his first three. Not even when his quarterback, who showed all the trappings of being a potential star, spent the first two years of his career on the bench because of injuries.
Now things are changing:
Expectations were high, but there needed to be a catalyst, something to crank up the ignition. That happened in the first game of the season when Irondale rolled over nearby rival Spring Lake Park — a 2016 Prep Bowl finalist — 35-0. Mention that game to players and smiles creep over their faces.

“That was a huge confidence boost for us to beat them,” said [quarterback Brendan] White, a senior. “I don’t think we’ve beaten them in, like, five years.”
We see the kids practicing, often at the same time that Fearless Maria's Irondale Marching Knights are practicing. Historically, Irondale has been an also-ran, at best, in football. It would be fun to see this trend continue.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Everybody must get zoned

Back in the early 1990s, before we moved to to the Twin Cities, I lived in the Chicago area and worked for a big law firm in Chicago that had over 300 attorneys. Much of the firm's work was in real estate, including big real estate deals for properties like shopping malls. One of the attorneys at the firm was an expert in zoning and he was proud to tell anyone who would listen that he was going to be helping the city of Houston develop its first zoning laws. I don't think he got very far.

Houston has been in the news because it took a huge shot from Hurricane Harvey. As you may know, among the many features of Houston is that the city doesn't have the sorts of zoning laws that you find in other areas. This has always bothered the bien pensants of the world, who equate Houston with being benighted and profligate, the embodiment of urban sprawl and bad carbon footprints, like that. And because Houston suffered so much damage from Harvey and had so many problems, the bien pensants are blaming Houston's lack of zoning for exacerbating the problems. Here's a typical example from the website Quartz.com:
Largely unobstructed either by rules or by natural features such as mountains, the Houston area sprawled. Between 1992 and 2010 alone nearly 25,000 acres (about 10,000 hectares) of natural wetland infrastructure was wiped out, the Texas A&M research shows. Most of the losses were in Harris County, where almost 30% of wetlands disappeared.

Altogether, the region lost the ability to handle nearly four billion gallons (15 billion liters) of storm water. That’s equivalent to $600 million worth of flood water detention capacity, according to the university researchers’ calculations.
Sounds bad, right? But would it have made much difference? The invaluable Joel Kotkin doesn't think so:
Much blame for Harvey has been linked to development on the fringe, a major component of the region’s growth. Over an 18-year period, Houston lost about 25,000 acres of wetlands, which took away about 4 billion gallons of storm water detention capacity. In contrast Harvey dumped about 1 trillion gallons, meaning those wetlands could have only absorbed about 0.4% of Harvey’s deluge. Many flooded roads were consciously designed to hold storm water temporarily when there is nowhere for it to drain.
And would zoning have helped? Kotkin is skeptical:
The zoning argument is, simply put, bogus. Cities in the area that were heavily zoned, like West University, or intensely planned like Sugarland, got hit as hard as more haphazard areas. Harvey, it turns out, was an equal opportunity devastator. Similarly, Sandy dropped barely one-third the rain from Harvey, yet overwhelmed a dense and very zoned area. New Orleans before Katrina was dense and zoned; a lot of good it did them.
There can be advantages to zoning; I wouldn't want my neighbor to sell his property to someone who turned it into a micro-sized oil refinery, nor would I want to move my house a mile or so north so I'd be downwind from the telephone pole yards. But rules and rulemaking aren't what make a city work. It's the sense of people in the community itself, the commitment to making the community a place where you can live and thrive, that makes the difference. Back to Kotkin:
In the decades before Katrina, as southern cities like Houston and Atlanta were burgeoning, New Orleans stagnated. Joel Garreau in his Nine Nations of North America described the Crescent City as a “marvelous collection of sleaziness and peeling paint.” The aristocracy enjoyed the city’s unparalleled culture while many ambitious people from its neighborhoods migrated elsewhere. Without a strong, engaged business community and middle class, there was little attempt to fix the infrastructure. This weak civic culture has left a city with huge economic challenges that a regenerated local business community is now gamely trying to address.

Houston performed very differently during Harvey. Mayor Turner and the Harris County Judge, Ed Emmett, epitomized level-headed leadership. Gov. Abbot, unlike Louisiana’s dithering Gov. Kathleen Blanco, swung immediately to action. Local volunteers pitched in, so much so, notes Houston-based analyst Tory Gattis, that many found themselves unable to participate because each Facebook call for help spurred more volunteers than could be accommodated. Houston can also count on something New Orleans lacked: a strong, and philanthropically inclined business establishment who are pouring millions into recovery efforts.
We won't be talking much about the recovery in Houston in a year or so, because the people there will be making it happen without commentary. We're still worrying about the fate of New Orleans a dozen years after Katrina. You can plan all you want, but if people aren't buying the plan, it won't matter.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


One way or another, the primary topic in the political world is Le Grand Orange, the Leader of the Free World. And I'm tired of writing about him.

I don't want to shut down this blog, because I love to write and these days I spend most of my days directing and reviewing the work of other writers. But lately it's been a struggle to find any interest in what's going on in Washington or elsewhere. Beyond Trump himself, the other politicians on the stage right now are a dismal lot. Paul Ryan is smart as a whip but can't find his own ass with both hands. Mitch McConnell commands the respect of no one. Chuck Schumer is a strange combination of a carnival barker with the sense of fun of a funeral director. Nancy Pelosi is demented. Hillary Clinton is an even bigger narcissist than Trump. Meanwhile, closer to home, Mark Dayton is Gov. LePetomane and every other politician in the state is a dry well. It's hardly a promising landscape.

Sports was once a refuge from all that, but for the last several years politics has increasingly crept into the realm of those who play with sticks and balls. Colin Kaepernick and his portside girlfriend bore me to tears and I couldn't care less what Curt Schilling thinks of politics, either.

I'll get out of this funk. But it won't be easy.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

More bullets

Fighting through a case of writer's block, but we do need content, so. . .

Monday, September 11, 2017


Not even a lightning round, just random thoughts. It's been busy.

  • Hurricane Irma has been largely as advertised. It will be a while before we're able to determine what the aftermath really is, but given the amount of looting that already seems to be taking place, it's likely to be far more disturbing story than what the narrative seemed to be coming out of Houston after Harvey's rampage.
  • Spent most of the weekend away from the news, as it was time to send the Benster back for his final year of college. We've made the trip south many times in the past few years and we'll be making a different trip next year, once Fearless Maria picks her school.
  • I'm really enjoying the rollout of the Hillary Clinton book. She's not taking things well.
  • Packers 17, Seabags 9. Not the score we expected, but a satisfying result.
  • I think the NFL has some real issues ahead. Forget the National Anthem, which in the end is really a non-issue. Injuries are a big story this year already. David Johnson may be out multiple weeks for the Cardinals, and Allen Robinson is done for the year already. It's become even more of a war of attrition and in the end, no one really enjoys that.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Return of the HYYYYYYYYYYYYPPPPEEE! Edition

Old dude, it is time for another football season, where I unleash the hot takes and bring the HYYYYYYYYYYYYYPPPPPPPEEE! that other media types are too afraid to bring out.

There's no question -- you've got the hottest takes around. Skip Bayless is frightened of you.

And he should be, Geritol Fan! These hot takes include adding my personal views, which have not made we welcome on fall Saturday afternoons in the state university of Ohio, but I was put on double secret probation about 4 years ago.

I remember it well.

Remember -- fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, old dude! You should realize that by now. It is time to get down to bidness. Watch me work!

Minnesota Golden Flecks (+2.5) vs. Oregon State Beavers. The Gophers began the P.J. Fleck Experience last Thursday and did not really answer a whole lot of questions. They struggled against Buffalo, and now have to travel halfway across the country to face Oregon State. The Beavers are a lower level PAC 12 outfit, but because of the late start time here in the Midwest, and considering that Fleck still does not know who his quarterback is, this could get interesting fast. Beavers 24, Row the Boaters 18.

Hey look -- it's former Badger coach Gary Andersen, hanging out in the Witness Protection Program in Corvallis! If you need to hide, it's a great spot. No one will find him there. Having said that, the Gophers are not exactly a frightening juggernaut heading west. I think the first hole in the dinghy gets administered tomorrow. Oregon State 27, Minnesota 22.

Florida Atlantic Owls (+33) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. This game almost did not go off as scheduled because of the danger of Hurricane Irma, but thankfully FAU got out of there just fine. New Owl head coach Lane Kiffin is going to be one of the most watched new coaching hires in the country, and he has a lot of work to be done. The Badgers fought off an ambush by Utah State last week, but Wisconsin righted the ship on the stroke of halftime and rolled home. FAU will be well coached, but the gulf in class combined with the understandable distractions this week mean that the Badgers should be just fine. Badgers 52, Owls 17.

Kiffin brought in a bunch of transfers and ne'er-do-wells from other schools. There's talent on their sideline, but not a lot of cohesion. Bucky will roll. Badgers 55, FAU 10.

Oklahoma Sooners (+7.5) vs. A School in Columbus Buckeyes. This game is going to tell us a lot about the two head coaches, and how they will manage the increased expectations. For Urban Meyer, he has all the pressure on him, since his charges blew out Oklahoma in Norman a year ago, and are a favorite for winning the Big Ten. However, Meyer has only won 1 conference title, and if not for beating Michigan all the time and winning a national championship with players he might not have chosen to start recruiting, he has to win games like this right now with his players. New Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley has much less pressure to win, because he is the new coach, and will get a bit of a grace period this year. The Buckeyes (Who lost to Penn State, but got a free pass for it) are on upset alert because they struggled against Indiana, and Oklahoma has a very good passing game. Oklahoma 49, Ohio State 31.

I think it's a shoot-out. But I think it goes the other way. Ohio State 49, Oklahoma 31.

New Orleans Saints (+3) vs. Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings are a team that flamed out in epic fashion a year ago after starting 5-0 and missing the playoffs. What this tells me is that Mike Zimmer has burned a lot of the goodwill that he earned two years ago, and that the Vikings need to be more consistent if they want to make NFL history in the winter. New Orleans will have the quick strike offense that they are known for, and you know that Adrian Peterson wants to get on over on his former team. This game is going to be filled with a lot of points, and if it goes the way I think, Zimmer will have a real job on his hands. Saints 65, Vikings 25.

Uh, no. Saints won't score 65. But they might score 40. Can the Vikings keep up? Based on the available evidence, not likely. Saints 31, Vikings 17.

Seattle Seachickens (+3) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. For the Packers, this game is one that is going to be full of nerves, as well as a sign if they will turn the Super Bowl into Lambeau West. Seattle is going to be a very tough opponent, but the Packers know that and have added a couple of new weapons for Aaron to play with. This game will have points, and should be close for much of the game, but Russell Wilson does not play well in Green Bay, and if Aaron Rodgers can hit Bennett on a long pass early, then Seattle will be in trouble. Packers 35, Seachickens 24.

The key to this game will be to make sure a hot dog vendor is stationed close to Eddie Lacy. You can get plenty of sausages in all varieties in Green Bay. The offensive line gets a test, but I think it holds up. Packers score and win. Packers 31, Seattle 21.

English Premier League: Everton FC (NL) vs. Tottenham Hotspur. As some of our readers might be aware, I support Everton as my soccer team of choice, while the Old Dude supports Tottenham. Spurs have not looked so good, especially at their temporary home Wembley, while my beloved Toffees have looked decent, though with the amount of money spent this summer on signings, you would expect a bit more. I know that with 40,000 Blues supporters backing the team, it will be very difficult for Spurs to get a win, and I will take a draw or better. Everton 2, Tottenham 1. 

How about worse? COYS. Spurs 3, Everton 1.

Have a good football weekend and enjoy the games, and be sure to donate to help the folks down in Texas or Florida. Ben out!

Nothing but trouble

In case you needed a reminder, it's worth remembering -- Mother Nature is trying to kill us:
An earthquake of magnitude 8.1 struck off the southern coast of Mexico late on Thursday, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said, killing at least six people and triggering small tsunami waves but no major destruction. 
The quake was apparently stronger than a devastating 1985 tremor that flattened swathes of Mexico City and killed thousands, but this time damage to the city was limited.
8.1 is huge. The death toll is certainly going to rise:
A number of buildings suffered severe damage in parts of southern Mexico. Some of the worst initial reports came from Juchitan in Oaxaca state, where sections of the town hall, a hotel, a bar and other buildings were reduced to rubble.

Rescue workers labored through the night in badly affected areas to check for people trapped in collapsed buildings.

Windows also shattered at Mexico City airport and power went out in several neighborhoods of the capital, affecting more than 1 million people. The cornice of a hotel came down in the southern tourist city of Oaxaca, a witness said. The tremor was felt as far away as neighboring Guatemala.
Meanwhile, Irma is coming:
Hurricane Irma poses the most significant threat to Florida in memory — and "this is the kind of storm that you read about in the history books," said Bryan Norcross, senior hurricane specialist at The Weather Channel.

"This has the possibility of running up the peninsula and affecting every major city in the state. It's not certain that that's what's going to happen, but it certainly is a possibility," Norcross said Wednesday.

"We don't know what is going to happen exactly. But we know what the range of possibilities is — and this is a situation where the top of that range is extraordinarily extreme," he said. "This is the kind of storm that I always pictured when I read the history books about the great Florida hurricanes of the past and imagined how they would impact the modern state."
If you want a visual representation of how big Irma is, this will do the trick:

The smaller hurricane that flashes on and off in the GIF is Hurricane Andrew. Irma is the big one behind it.

And then there's the West:
Dozens of forest and brush fires are currently burning across eight western states, forcing thousands to flee, destroying homes, and closing highways. Enormous volumes of smoke and ash are being thrown into the atmosphere as more than a million acres have burned in the past week alone, creating hazardous breathing conditions in many parts of the Pacific Northwest. In California, the La Tuna fire near Burbank has burned nearly 7,200 acres, becoming the largest fire ever recorded in Los Angeles in terms of area.
Here's a look at the fire in the Columbia River gorge, between Washington state and Oregon:

Burning, burning, all you can take

And in case that wasn't enough, how about some mosquito trouble:
A mounting number of citations on a popular disease-tracking website suggests that mosquitoes may be moving into new ecological niches with greater frequency.

The website, ProMED mail, has carried more than a dozen such reports since June, all involving mosquito species known to transmit human diseases.

Most reports have concerned the United States, where, for example, Aedes aegypti — the yellow fever mosquito, which also spreads Zika, dengue and chikungunya — has been turning up in counties in California and Nevada where it had never, or only rarely, been seen.
On the bright side, it's going to be a lovely day in Minneapolis. So we got that going for us.