Wednesday, December 13, 2017

No need to be coy, Roy

Random observations, following the news from Alabama.

  • I thought Roy Moore would win, but then again I though Hillary Clinton would win, too. It's difficult to make predictions about the voting patterns in a state you've never visited and, at best, any observations I could have made about the race would have been from a great distance and based on, at best, third-hand information. 
  • I suspect at least a few of Moore's accusers were lying, but there was enough underlying truth to the reports, and enough of an ick factor involved, that Moore was going to be tough to defend. Doug Jones, his opponent, is a down-the-line leftist and, in the end, the seat will go back the other way. Of course, a lot of damage can obtain in the interim. Expect a lot of posturing from the usual suspects -- Collins, Flake, Corker, et al. -- through the next year. But I suspect the Democrats will overplay their hand, because they always do.
  • The one thing I'm certain of is this -- if Al Franken were thinking about using a Moore victory as an excuse to stay in the Senate, that excuse is now gone. I recommend Franken and Garrison Keillor go out and start a new Chautauqua circuit so they can sneer at the people who deserve it. Perhaps they can do a morality play skit in which they expiate their sins by ululating in the general direction of an intersectional feminist planted in the audience.
  • I'm also wondering if the purges are going to slow down now -- the mob isn't going to materialize against Trump any more than it did against Bill Clinton, and for the same reason -- unless people are hurting in the wallet, they aren't ready to upset the applecart. I've long suspected Nixon would have survived if there hadn't been gas lines and other underlying economic tensions in the era.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Operatives in the shadows

We learn even more about the nature of Wisconsin Democrats, and it's ugly:
In the course of its secretive “John Doe” investigation, the [Government Accountability Board] hoovered up millions of personal emails from Republican donors and supporters, and even raided people’s homes, while forbidding them to talk about it.
We knew that. The "investigation" was supposed to stop after various courts told the GAB to stop. They didn't, though:
The prosecutors felt justified in these actions because they had already made up their minds about their targets’ guilt. As the report says, “After reviewing the emails exchanged between the attorneys at GAB, it is apparent that GAB attorneys had prejudged the guilt of Governor Walker, Wisconsin Republicans, and related organizations that they were investigating and this dramatically influenced their ability to give competent legal advice. GAB attorneys did not act in a detached and professional manner. The most reasonable inference is that they were on a mission to bring down the Walker campaign and the Governor himself.”

The investigation continued despite its failure to find anything like the sort of violations it was ostensibly intended to investigate. It continued despite court orders to stop. And prosecutors retained evidence (including medical and other records about Republican officials and donors, kept in a file labeled “opposition research”) even after being ordered by the Wisconsin Supreme Court to turn all the information over. It was a lawless exercise of prosecutorial power, for political ends.
It's unbelievable, really. A government-funded prosecution of political enemies? Whoever heard of such a thing? Guess we wouldn't want to draw any parallels, right? Or should we?
A senior Justice Department official demoted last week for concealing his meetings with the men behind the anti-Trump “dossier” had even closer ties to Fusion GPS, the firm responsible for the incendiary document, than have been disclosed, Fox News has confirmed: The official’s wife worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 election.

Contacted by Fox News, investigators for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) confirmed that Nellie H. Ohr, wife of the demoted official, Bruce G. Ohr, worked for the opposition research firm last year. The precise nature of Mrs. Ohr’s duties – including whether she worked on the dossier – remains unclear but a review of her published works available online reveals Mrs. Ohr has written extensively on Russia-related subjects. HPSCI staff confirmed to Fox News that she was paid by Fusion GPS through the summer and fall of 2016.

Fusion GPS has attracted scrutiny because Republican lawmakers have spent the better part of this year investigating whether the dossier, which was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, served as the basis for the Justice Department and the FBI to obtain FISA surveillance last year on a Trump campaign adviser named Carter Page.
So we have a spouse of a high-ranking Justice Department official working with an opposition research firm that's trying to bring down Donald Trump. And remember, what Robert Mueller is doing is investigating potential Trump malfeasance. The stench is getting awfully strong -- no wonder everyone would rather talk about Roy Moore.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Right to the point

Instapundit makes a 100% correct point about Trump's rise:
If George W. Bush — or Mitt Romney — had pushed back against the media 1/10 as hard as Trump does, there wouldn’t be a President Trump. For that matter, there wouldn’t be a President Trump if the media had pushed back against Barack Obama 1/10 as hard as they pushed against Bush, Romney, or Trump.
Marquess of Queensberry rules do not apply in a gunfight. I don't approve of Trump's boorishness in the least, but he takes the battle to his opponents and concedes them nothing. That's why he's president. And that's also why Roy Moore will be elected tomorrow in Alabama. You don't have to make your peace with that if you'd like, but it behooves you to understand the dynamics involved.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Morris and Trammell to the HOF

So I got confused and thought the Veterans' Committee was reporting later. Instead, they reported their votes today and we now know that Jack Morris and Alan Trammell are going into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Tigers, Tigers, burning bright

Out of the 10 finalists, these were probably the two best candidates, although I liked Ted Simmons or Luis Tiant as candidates as well. Morris is controversial because his stats aren't the most impressive, but he was the one guy you wanted to have in a big game throughout the 1980s. And, of course, he won Game 7 of the 1991 World Series almost by himself, shutting down the Atlanta Braves. He was a hell of a pitcher and he's worthy.

Trammell was a great player for a very long time. I think his double play partner, Lou Whitaker, was just as good, but it's still great to see Trammell make it. He wasn't as good as Robin Yount or Cal Ripken, but that's not the level of competition you compare him to. If you look at the 24 shortstops currently in the HOF, he would be in the top half, I think. Good choices. Now we await the other new members.

Quick and Dirty Baseball HOF Roundup

Who will join them?
It kinda snuck up on me this year, but it's a tradition and I have a little time this morning, so let's get to it, especially since the announcement will take place later today. The Veteran's Committee will weigh in later and that's worth a separate post.

First year candidates with no chance include:

Brad Lidge -- a good relief pitcher for a few years.
Jason Isringhausen -- a decent pitcher who never did anything notable.
Aubrey Huff -- a first baseman/outfielder type who lasted longer than you'd have expected.
Carlos Lee -- El Caballo. A power hitting outfielder who wasn't very good defensively.
Kevin Millwood -- a poor man's Brad Radke.
Orlando Hudson -- a good player, nothing more.
Carlos Zambrano -- a dominant pitcher at times, but could not sustain his career.
Chris Carpenter -- at times, a very good pitcher. Not enough of a career to go forward, though.

First year curiosities with no chance include:

Hideki Matsui -- a pretty good player, but not great. Came over from Japan and acquitted himself well.
Kerry Wood -- dominant power pitcher who blew out his arm and never really recovered. Tried to come back as a reliever, but only had one good year at that.
Livan Hernandez -- came over from Cuba and had a long career. Overall win/loss record was 178-177, which sums him up.

Five guys who will get more than one look:

Jamie Moyer -- similar profile to Tommy John and Jim Kaat, but in the modern era. Never dominant, but generally good and pitched until he was almost 50. He'll probably fall short for the same reason Kaat and John have, but winning 269 games in the major leagues is a hell of an accomplishment.
Omar Vizquel -- a long, distinguished career. Great defensive shortstop, many Gold Gloves. Not a great hitter. There are worse shortstops than Vizquel already in the Hall of Fame, but that doesn't mean he'll get there. I expect he'll be a source of much discussion for the next ten years.
Johnny Damon -- Very good hitter and defensive outfielder who was a key contributor on two World Series champions ('04 Red Sox, '09 Yankees). Had power and speed, too. Did he do enough to make it? Baseball-Reference compares his career to Vada Pinson and Steve Finley, who are both on the outside looking in. Damon will stay on the ballot, but my guess is he falls short.
Andruw Jones -- A challenging career to evaluate. He was an all-time great defensive outfielder for the first part of his career and he hit well over 400 home runs. But when he started to decline, he was terrible. And his career batting average (.254) is not even close to HOF-worthy. Here's the upshot -- if you had to choose, would you choose Jones or Dale Murphy? Murphy is on the outside looking in. What makes Jones better? That's the question for the voters.
Johan Santana -- Really an interesting case. Was perhaps the best pitcher in baseball for a period of about five years, but once the arm trouble hit he was never the same. You could make an argument that he's essentially a modern-day Sandy Koufax; in fact, I've seen that argument made. Santana won the Cy Young award twice. His WAR (51.4) is slightly ahead of Koufax's (49.0). If Koufax, and for that matter Pedro Martinez, are HOF pitchers, and no one seriously disputes they are, Santana ought to get a look.

Will make it, but not on the first ballot

Scott Rolen -- he's Ron Santo, but with a better glove. He was always a dangerous hitter and a very smart player, too. He's not better than Chipper Jones, who we will discuss next, but he's a HOF player in my estimation. The only third baseman in this era who is better is Adrian Beltre, but Rolen will be in the HOF before Beltre hits the ballot.

First year, should be in

Jim Thome -- one of the all-time great power hitters. The only knock you might have on him is he wasn't a great defensive player, but a guy who hits 612 home runs is an all-timer. And even though he played in the heart of the Steroid Era, no one for a second suspected he was a user. The Paul Bunyan of baseball.

Chipper Jones  -- a no-brainer, first-ballot, mortal lock. Lifetime batting average of .303, 468 home runs. Not a great defensive player, but never a liability. Remarkably consistent career -- if you could get a guy in your lineup for 20 years who hit .300 and drove in 30 home runs and 105 RBI, would you take him? Of course you would.

Returning to the ballot

I expect Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero to be elected this time, as both were over 70% on the balloting the previous year. I personally think Hoffman is overrated, but he was consistently good for a long time. I was a bit surprised that Vlady was as highly regarded the first time, but upon further consideration he has an excellent case for the HOF as a modern-day Andre Dawson type. Edgar Martinez is getting closer, but he may run out of time. Mike Mussina is climbing; he won't make it this year, but he should get there.

The interesting question is how we view Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Both were named on over 50% of the ballots the last time. Both are, of course, tainted with suspicion of using steroids. What makes it tough is this -- they were both HOF players before the Steroid Era really hit and if they'd simply retired, both would have been in the HOF. I don't know what to say about it. Meanwhile, the viability of the candidacies of Manny Ramirez and Gary Sheffield are both contingent on what happens with Clemens and Bonds.

Curt Schilling continues to hang around on the ballot, but I don't know if he'll make it. Benster thinks Larry Walker deserves more consideration than he's received thus far, a view that I'm coming around to -- yes, playing in Coors Field helped Walker, but he put up big numbers in Montreal, too, which was a terrible hitter's park. It's an endlessly fascinating subject. You can view the credentials of all the candidates at the invaluable Baseball-Reference website. Check it out.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- We Almost Forgot Edition

Old dude, we almost forgot to do our picks this week! What happened?

I think we were in a Cajun-induced coma, between my tasty jambalaya and your fried oyster po'boy at Bistro La Roux. Too much celebrating can take you off your game!

That's some good Cajun food. But now we need to get the HYYYYYYYPPPPPE! back. So we'll be brief about it. Watch me work!

Minnesota Vikings (-2.5) vs. Scam Newton and his Carolina Panthers. So, Scam Newton is going to try and stop the Vikings. He has a chance. The Vikings are a good team and should be viewed as a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The problem, as we all know, is for the Vikings to live down their amazing history of choking. I'm curious to see how the Vikings are going to respond after a loss. They will get to showcase that skill, but not this week. Vikings 24, Panthers 7.

I've been amazed by the rise of the Vikings, actually. No one saw it coming, especially with Case Keenum at the helm. As a Packers supporter, it would actually be better for the Vikings to win this game, as it would set up an opportunity for the Packers to catch and pass the Panthers in the wild card if a few things break correctly. The Packers will have their opportunity to deal with the Purple eventually, but for now, enjoy the ride, Vikings fans. Vikings 24, Panthers 20.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-3) vs. Cleveland Browns. I was at Lambeau last weekend and it was a great experience, as usual. The Packers are very much alive, but they cannot look past the Browns. Brett Hundley needs to play better than he did last week. I think he will, but this game will not be easy, since the Browns are, despite all appearances, a professional football team. Packers 17, Browns 9.

Josh Gordon makes me nervous. He's a great talent with something to prove and nothing to lose, while the Packers secondary is decimated with injuries. The key to this game for the Packers will be getting a pass rush, so that rookie Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer, who is actually younger than the Benster, doesn't feel as though he has a chance to throw the deep ball. I'm nervous! Packers 21, Browns 17.

Enjoy your football this weekend. We will! Ben out!

Friday, December 08, 2017

Good riddance

Al Franken resigned, sort of, from the Senate yesterday. It almost appeared he was trying to leave himself a little wiggle room, though:
 Facing a barrage of sexual harassment complaints and calls to step down from friends and foes alike, Sen. Al Franken took to the floor of the U.S. Senate Thursday to announce he would resign — a swift and historic fall for an unlikely Minnesota politician who had become one of the Democratic Party’s most recognizable leaders.

Franken was quick to explain that he was stepping down not because he thought he had done something wrong, but because he had determined that Minnesotans deserved a senator who wasn’t distracted by mounting allegations and a looming Senate Ethics Committee investigation.
Would resign. He hasn't yet. Could he try to wait it out and rescind his resignation if, say, the citizens of Alabama send Roy Moore to the Senate next week? If Mark Dayton delays announcing his replacement, that might be the game, but I don't it will happen. The moment Franken tried to wiggle out of the mess, more accusers would surface. I bet the eight women we've heard from are only a fraction of the people whose experiences would be something Franken "remembers differently." It would be helpful if, some day, a reporter would actually ask Franken precisely how his recollections differ from the accusations, and why we should choose to believe him. That question doesn't seem to get asked very much.

The long game for the Democrats is to go after Le Grand Orange, of course. Everything they do these days is designed to get rid of Trump. I don't know that it will work, though. For every scandal the Democrats attempt to hang on Trump, there are others tied to their party that are worse. We'll have plenty to talk about in the coming days and weeks.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

il miglior fabbro

From exotic Wichita, Bud Norman sums up the Masterpiece Cakeshop case correctly:
Those got-durned liberal fashion designers who decline to design dresses for President Donald Trump’s third First Lady deserve the same right, and so does any black baker who declines to decorate a cake with a confederate flag, and so does any homosexual baker who declines the Westboro Baptist Church’s request for a “God hate fags” cake. Outside of the legal arguments and here on the personal level, there’s no way of restricting one person’s liberty without eventually restricting the liberty of someone on the other side of political or cultural divide.
Public accommodation vs. free association. They don't have to be mutually exclusive. We'll have to see what Anthony Kennedy thinks.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Mene Mene Franken Upharsin

At the moment, Al Franken is calling reports that he is going to resign tomorrow premature, but he's gone and he knows it. You can't have half your caucus calling for you to resign and then expect to survive. He has been weighed and found wanting in the court of public opinion, and his continued presence in the Senate complicates the efforts of his party to keep the heat on Roy Moore. If Chuck Schumer wants Franken out, he'll be out. And Schumer wants him out.

So that means Mark Dayton will be appointing a successor. The Star Tribune believes Lt. Gov. Tina Flint "Abbatoir" Smith, former Planned Parenthood honcho, will get the nod as a caretaker and that a full-on raging battle for the seat will take place in the fall 2018 special election to fill the seat for the remaining two years of Franken's term. The notion is Smith will not be interested in staying in Washington. Are we sure of that? It's pretty nice in D.C. and I'm sure Planned Parenthood would love to have their own personal senator, beyond the 48 or so they already have.

So let's handicap the field:

Tina Flint Smith. Whether she'd want to stay or not, she'd be a completely loyal soldier for Schumer. She also would not likely get in the way of Amy Klobuchar's ambitions. I think there's a strong chance she'd get the nod.

Lori Swanson. Currently the attorney general, she's better at making waves and offering soundbites than Smith, but her prosecutor profile is perhaps a little too close to Klobuchar's for Amy's comfort. However, if Dayton wants to reward Swanson for her hard work as a DFL apparatchik by giving her a head start, this could happen.

Keith Ellison. Some of the more excitable conservative commentators think Ellison would be the pick, but I don't see it. I seriously doubt he could win a statewide election, and there have been enough rumors about his zipper issues over the years that he could get the same treatment Franken has received. He's reached his career apex as the congressman for CD-5 and he's smart enough to know it.

Betty McCollum. She's stayed in Washington for nearly 20 years by living inside the lapel pocket of Nancy Pelosi. If McCollum ran for statewide office, she'd have to speak. That wouldn't go well for her. No chance.

Ilhan Omar. The DFL has high hopes for her, but she's not ready. And Scott Johnson has a few questions for her that she's never really answered.

Chris Coleman. The outgoing St. Paul mayor, who wants Mark Dayton's job, but Tim Walz is standing in the way. I could see Coleman making the switch from the governor's race and take a shot at the seat in 2018, especially if Smith gets the nod and does not run. It's also possible for Walz to decide he'd rather run for the Senate, but I think he'll have a better chance running for governor.

John Choi. A darkhorse. Currently the Ramsey County attorney, he's been less overtly partisan than some of the other county attorneys and he's been generally successful in navigating a couple of high-profile cases, especially involving the scandals at the Archdiocese. He didn't get Jeronimo Yanez convicted, but sending a cop to jail is awfully tough to do. He could get the seat and hold it for 30 years.

Who do you think will get the nod? Cast your vote in the comments section!

I Wanna Destroy You

First, a little musical number:

We're into destroying things, and people, lately. In discussing the latest round of sexual harassment mongers, Victor Davis Hanson noticed it:
So what are the common pathologies to all these male icons — who are falling as fast as Confederate statutes a few months ago, in our earlier manifestation of collective moral frenzy?
I get nervous when collective moral frenzy gets rolling. It's pitchforks and torches all the way down these days and the capriciousness of it all is troubling. I hold no brief for any of the people accused; I'll also admit I am amused to see nasty, sanctimonious people like Al Franken get their indiscretions broadcast to a less-than-adoring public.

But still. . . ought not a moral imperative be involved? Is there a moral imperative involved? Are we sure? It's striking that Minnesota Public Radio hasn't just removed Garrison Keillor from its airwaves; instead, MPR and its parent company are wiping out any references to Keillor they have. It's the same notion as pulling down a Confederate statue; ought we be in the business of pretending things we now find unpleasant no longer can be mentioned?

Back to our song, written around 1980. Does this stanza ring out?

A pox upon the media
And everything you read
They tell you your opinions
And they're very good indeed

 That almost perfectly captures the argument of any critic of the MSM. I don't have a problem at all with calling down a pox on the poseurs and charlatans who tell me my opinions off their teleprompters. At the same time, can we find any coherent set of principles currently on offer? Or are we all about power -- taking it and using it? Because if we are, there's more to the song:

I wanna destroy you
And when I have destroyed you
I'll come picking at your bone
And you won't have a single atom left
To call your own

Personally, I don't have too many atoms other people would want to have, but still. If the only thing that matters is will, we're in a dangerous place.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Keyser Soze Strzok

A former top counterintelligence expert at the FBI, now at the center of a political uproar for exchanging private messages that appeared to mock President Donald Trump, changed a key phrase in former FBI Director James Comey's description of how former secretary of state Hillary Clinton handled classified information, according to US officials familiar with the matter.

Electronic records show Peter Strzok, who led the investigation of Hillary Clinton's private email server as the No. 2 official in the counterintelligence division, changed Comey's earlier draft language describing Clinton's actions as "grossly negligent" to "extremely careless," the sources said.

The drafting process was a team effort, CNN is told, with a handful of people reviewing the language as edits were made, according to another US official familiar with the matter.
Why does changing the verbiage matter? Back to the report:
The shift from "grossly negligent" to "extremely careless," which may appear pedestrian at first glance, reflected a decision by the FBI that could have had potentially significant legal implications, as the federal law governing the mishandling of classified material establishes criminal penalties for "gross negligence."

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, raised questions over why the change was made after receiving documents from the FBI last month, but the identity of who was behind the edit has not been reported until now.
Strzok appears to be at the center of a lot of things:
CNN has also learned that Strzok was the FBI official who signed the document officially opening an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, according to sources familiar with the matter. As the No. 2 official in counterintelligence, Strzok was considered to be one of the bureau's top experts on Russia.

But the news of Strzok's direct role in the statement that ultimately cleared the former Democratic presidential candidate of criminal wrongdoing, now combined with the fact that he was dismissed from special counsel Robert Mueller's team after exchanging private messages with an FBI lawyer that could be seen as favoring Clinton politically, may give ammunition to those seeking ways to discredit Mueller's Russia investigation.
The FBI lawyer in question is Lisa Page. Strzok was also having an affair with her. But there's more:
The FBI agent who was fired from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation team for sending anti-Donald Trump text messages conducted the interviews with two Hillary Clinton aides accused of giving false statements about what they knew of the former secretary of state’s private email server.

Neither of the Clinton associates, Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin, faced legal consequences for their misleading statements, which they made in interviews last year with former FBI section chief Peter Strzok.
And so who was in charge of the interview with Michael Flynn, now in the crosshairs for lying to the FBI? It would be our guy Strzok:
But another Strzok interview subject was not so lucky.

Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, pleaded guilty last week to lying during an interview he gave on Jan. 24 to Strzok and another FBI agent. Circa journalist Sara Carter reported on Monday that Strzok took part in that interview with the retired lieutenant general.
And why does that matter?
At the time, Strzok was the FBI’s top investigator on the fledgling investigation into Russian interference in the presidential campaign. He was appointed to supervise that effort at the end of July 2016, just weeks after the conclusion of the Clinton email probe. CNN reported on Monday that as the FBI’s No. 2 counterintelligence official, Strzok signed the documents that officially opened the collusion inquiry.
The starkly different outcomes from Strzok’s interviews — a felony charge against Flynn and a free pass to Mills and Abedin — are sure to raise questions from Republicans about double-standards in the FBI’s two most prominent political investigations. FBI Director Christopher Wray will likely be pressed on the Strzok scandal on Thursday when he attends an oversight hearing before the House Judiciary Committee.
Either we have a justice system, or we don't. Either we treat everyone in the same way, or we don't. If we don't, we're past the rule of law and fully into something entirely different. When federal agents are simultaneously political operatives and use their powers to absolve their friends and indict their enemies, we are in a truly dangerous place. Mueller and others associated with the FBI have been stonewalling Congress for months now, precisely because proper oversight would reveal such improprieties and lead to a public outcry against the schemes of those who are supposed to serve the cause of justice. And there's more:
Along with Justice Department attorney David Laufman, Strzok interviewed Clinton herself on July 2, 2016. The pair also interviewed Mills, Abedin and two other Clinton aides, Jake Sullivan and Heather Samuelson.

Summaries of the interviews, known as 302s, were released by the FBI last year.

A review of those documents conducted by The Daily Caller shows that Mills and Abedin told Strzok and Laufman that they were not aware of Clinton’s server until after she left the State Department.

“Mills did not learn Clinton was using a private server until after Clinton’s [Department of State] tenure,” reads notes from Mills’ May 28, 2016 interview. “Mills stated she was not even sure she knew what a server was at the time.”

Abedin also denied knowing about Clinton’s server until leaving the State Department in 2013.

“Abedin did not know that Clinton had a private server until about a year and a half ago when it became public knowledge,” the summary of Strzok’s interview with Abedin states.
But that wasn't true:
But undercutting those denials are email exchanges in which both Mills and Abedin either directly discussed or were involved in discussing Clinton’s server.

“hrc email coming back — is server okay?” Mills asked in a Feb. 27, 2010 email to Abedin and Justin Cooper, a longtime aide to Bill Clinton who helped set up the Clinton server.

“Ur funny. We are on the same server,” Cooper replied.
So is lying to the FBI a crime, or is it not? Here's James Comey on the matter in 2016:
Former FBI Director James Comey defended the Clinton aides’ inconsistent statements in a House Judiciary Committee hearing held on Sept. 28, 2016.

“Having done many investigations myself, there’s always conflicting recollections of facts, some of which are central [to the investigation], some of which are peripheral,” Comey told Jason Chaffetz, a former Utah congressman who served on the committee last year.

Chaffetz was not buying Comey’s dismissive response.

“I think she lied to everybody,” he said of Mills in an interview on Fox News the night of the Comey hearing.

“There’s direct evidence that she actually did know [about the server],” said Chaffetz, who added that Comey’s defense of Mills “makes no sense.”
If Michael Flynn should be brought to justice for lying to the FBI, then Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills should be, too. Either we have a justice system, or we have something else. It's increasingly clear we have something else.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Song of the day

Integrating my social media efforts:

High school. It was fun then. Still is.

A busy news weekend, but. . .

I think it can be dispensed with quickly enough. Three quick observations:

  • I tend to think there's less to the news than meets the eye. Yes, the Senate passed a tax bill, but it's going to conference, so we don't know how things are going to look in the end. I'm amused to see the Democrats screaming about how slipshod the Senate bill was, complete with handwritten additions and whatnot. Do they not remember the Obamacare process? Further proof that politicians will say any damn thing to support their current argument.
  • As for Robert Mueller claiming a scalp, it may not mean much. As has been pointed out elsewhere, most notably by Alan Dershowitz, by getting Michael Flynn to plead guilty to lying to the FBI, Mueller and his claque have established that their potential key witness is a liar. Nice work, gents.
  • In truth, the most important news, at least around here, is the giant sinkhole in Oakdale, caused by a failed water main in the area. Since I-694 will be closed in the area for days, traffic is going to be a nightmare throughout the east metro. There's a much larger story here; our infrastructure is vulnerable virtually everywhere. I thought we were going to be spending billions, if not trillions, to fix our infrastructure following the 2008 financial crisis. Sure wonder where the hell all that money went.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Lambeau Bound Edition

Old dude, I'm going east tomorrow. I'm going to personally supervise the Packers getting back into shape! That's right, I'll be at Lambeau Field on Sunday!

And for a December game, it won't be -20 for a change!

That's because the weather service brought the heat, so I'm bringing the HYYYYYYYPPPE!

We'll be watching for you -- don't cause any incidents, okay?

I won't. But first we have some bidness. Watch me work!

Big XII Title Game, at Jerryworld. Oklahoma Sooners (-7) vs. TCU Horned Frogs. I know this game does not involve Alabama, but if TCU wins the game, it gives Alabama a back door into the playoffs. I don't want that to happen, but I think there is a chance it will. This game is essentially a TCU home game, as the Horned Frogs are only 15 miles or so from their campus in Fort Worth. Combine that with this game being a rematch, and you have to wonder how Oklahoma is going to find the way to make this happen. TCU 24, Oklahoma 21.

I've seen Baker Mayfield a few times. He's pretty good. TCU has a pretty good defense, but last time the Sooners put 38 up on the Horned Frogs and they never got into the game. A fast start for the Sooners would be death. Oklahoma 31, TCU 20.

B1G Title Game, at the House that Peyton Manning Built -- Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (+5) vs. That School in Columbus. Once again, the Badgers are getting no respect, despite being an undefeated team. It's like this:

The critics are wearing blindfolds yet again! Ohio State has a problem entirely of their own making. They are so mad about what happened on the sidelines last weekend that I suspect they've lost some focus. No one cares about the camera guy who may or may not have hit J.T. Barrett. Combine that outrage with Ohio State's already noxious campaign to get into the playoff and you have to wonder whether they even realize there's going to be a team on the other side of the field. The team on the other side of the field is 12-0. The Badgers will win the most important game they have played in my lifetime. And still won't get any respect. Wisconsin vs. Everyone 35, Ohio State 17.

Remember that bit about getting jumped early? That's the key here. The only thing that makes me nervous about this Badgers team is their quarterback's bad habit of throwing careless interceptions early on. You can get by with that sort of thing against lesser Big Ten teams, but not the Buckeyes. The Badgers need to be crisp and ready to roll. I think they will be, but it's going to be a struggle. Badgers 27, Ohio State 24.

Minnesota Vikings (+3) vs. Hotlanta Falcons. So what's the next trick for the Fighting Keenums? The Vikings are clearly in control in the NFC North, but this is a game that will give them problems. The Falcons still have a potent offense and I question the ability of Trae Waynes to cover Mohamed Sanu. Everyone pays attention to Julio, but the other guy makes plays, too. I also think the Vikings are going to struggle with the running game -- I have called Atlanta's run defense their hidden strength. This game is a trap game for the Vikings. Let's see how the Vikings respond to a little adversity as they step up in class. Falcons 45, Vikings 31.

Bet the over, then? I'm not so sure about that. I think it will be closer than that, and lower scoring, too. But I think the Falcons are going to be a tough out at home. Falcons 24, Vikings 20.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+2) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. I will be taking this game in at Lambeau, sitting with a part owner, my aunt. It's her birthday on Sunday and she will be expecting her employees to perform well on her behalf. Will it happen? Yes. Tampa is not a very good team, although they have talent. The Packers looked a lot better last week against Pittsburgh and I think Brett Hundley turned the corner. I will have a lot of fun regardless, but the Packers better win. You don't want to see my aunt when she's angry at her employees. Packers 45, Bucs 0.

Uh, no. I like the Packers in this one, but they aren't going to win by that margin. They will win comfortably, however. Packers 27, Bucs 17.

I think that's it. I have to pack my bag and get ready to go to Lambeau. Last time I was there, it looked like this:

I'm not saying it happens again, but you never know. Ben out!

Not a world I know

I watched the Today Show periodically when I was in high school and college, but it's not been part of my morning routine as an adult. As a result, I don't really know much about Matt Lauer, or Ann Curry, or Meredith Vieira, or any of the other players in the particular psychodrama going on right now. From what we've learned in recent days, Lauer is a scoundrel of the first order and maybe more than that.

What I do know is the world they inhabit has little to do with the world most of their viewers experience. The familiarity of television personalities is artificial and we really know nothing of their lives beyond the reach of the cameras. I also know this -- if you are a serious person, you should take the promises you make seriously, especially where Topic A is concerned. While I am hardwired to notice the physical attributes of all women, I'm a married man and therefore I shouldn't be trying to get into a physical relationship with any woman aside from my spouse. Cheating on one's spouse is a betrayal at the most basic level. Matt Lauer is a married man. If you are willing to betray someone you promise to share your life with, you aren't someone who can be trusted. We need to remember that.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Another tell

Garrison Keillor, expatriate:
“It’s astonishing that 50 years of hard work can be trashed in a morning by an accusation,” he said in a Facebook post Wednesday evening. “I always believed in hard work and now it feels sort of meaningless. Only a friend can hurt you this badly. I think I have to leave the country in order to walk around in public and not feel accusing glances.”
There is more to this story. From the Star Tribune article:
Although he stepped away from “Prairie Home,” Keillor retained a producer credit and continued to record his daily feature, “The Writer’s Almanac,” for syndication by MPR’s distribution arm, St. Paul-based American Public Media.

MPR said it would halt that feature. It also will separate itself from the Pretty Good Goods online catalog, which sells Keillor merchandise, and the website

“I’m in shock,” new host Thile wrote on Twitter. “I know nothing beyond what’s contained in the MPR statement but I trust that the proper steps are being taken.”
Minnesota Public Radio wouldn't turn Keillor into a nonperson and disavow his brand entirely if there weren't. If Keillor needs to leave the country, it's not because an ambivalent mob is at his door. Keillor was the biggest cash cow MPR has ever had, and likely ever will have. The people on the MPR board are all highly experienced business executives. The board wouldn't cut ties with someone as important as Keillor has been to MPR based on a hearsay single incident. And Keillor knows that. There's something else going on. We won't find out what it is right away, but we will find out. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Game on

Ace Commenter Gino had the idea:

time for a Perve Pool. name 5 creeps who are going down before the end of the year.

i'll go...

Anderson Cooper
Roger Goodell
Geraldo Rivera
Chuck Schumer
Rahm Emmanuel

I'll play. I must say Gino has taken the favorite in the clubhouse. Geraldo doth protest too much lately. I would be more surprised if Geraldo wasn't one.

My five:

Stephen Colbert
Bill de Blasio
Joe Biden (hanging curve ball, amirite?)
Bill Nye
Ted Lieu

You can play, too, in the comment section. Pick your five. We'll post 'em and see what happens. Have at it!

Robespierre Goes to Lake Wobegon

I don't much care about Matt Lauer, but Garrison Keillor getting the pipe is a story:
Garrison Keillor, the force behind the popular “A Prairie Home Companion” show, was fired by Minnesota Public Radio over inappropriate behavior claims.

The radio station received a complaint about improper actions with an employee while he oversaw the popular Saturday afternoon radio show, the station said in a lengthy statement. He retired from it last year.

“MPR takes these allegations seriously and we are committed to maintaining a safe, respectful and supportive work environment for all employees and everyone associated with MPR,” the broadcaster said in a statement.

The station has cut ties with Keillor’s private companies, the statement continued.
Truth be told, I'm not surprised at all. Keillor has been a hateful crank for at least 25 years. The tell for me was the publication of The Book of Guys, which I always assumed was an admission of sins and/or cry for help rather than a work of satire. Misanthropes are the way they are for a reason, and the reason is usually self-loathing. I'm sure we'll learn more about the particulars in the coming days, but Keillor has only intermittently tried to disguise his bile for a long time now. Let's just say this moment has been coming, and in the current environment Keillor was a high-probability target for the tumbrels.

Need to know basis

Ann Althouse, making a point that needs to be made:
"Don’t get in the elevator with him, you know, and the whole every female in the press corps knew that, right, don’t get in elevator with him."

"Now people are saying it out loud. And I think that does make a difference."

Said newswoman Cokie Roberts, speaking about John Conyers. The question, of course, is why didn't she or any of the other women in the press corps say it out loud? And what are you still not saying out loud?
That's for Cokie to know and you to find out. If she thinks you should. Or you can take the stairs.

Top of the world

The day of reckoning approaches:
North Korea said Wednesday that it fired a brand-new intercontinental ballistic missile into the waters off Japan, ending a more than two-month hiatus by Pyongyang and threatening to ramp up tensions with the U.S. and in the region.

In a nationally televised broadcast, North Korea’s state television said that it had successfully fired a more advanced ICBM, which it dubbed the Hwasong-15 and which it said was capable of reaching any point on the U.S. mainland, in a launch personally ordered by leader Kim Jong Un.

Mr. Kim was quoted by state media as saying that, with the success of the new missile, “We have finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.”

Independent experts said that the launch sent a North Korean missile higher than ever before, demonstrating a trajectory that could put Washington, D.C., in range. It triggered an unusually robust reaction from South Korea, which quickly responded with a battery of missile launches of its own.
So this regime can now reach just about anyplace in the United States they'd like. Then again, there's this revelation concerning a North Korean soldier who defected:
A doctor who operated on him at the Ajou University Hospital after he was rescued by South Korean troops told reporters that "an enormous number" of parasites were found in the soldier’s body, including an 11-inch worm. Oh was also described by medics as a "nice guy" who liked American movies and TV shows and South Korean K-pop music. 
The worms are worms, but they are also a metaphor. I suspect the gig is just about up for Kim Jong-Un and his pals, but they are going to give us the full Cagney:

We can go around casting for recriminations until the day the bomb hits. I don't care which former president you choose to blame, because it could be anyone from Bill Clinton forward. Trump gets to deal with the problem. He says he will. We're at the point where it can't really wait much longer.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Where the (damaged) door hits you

A curious tale coming out of Dinkytown:
Demry Croft, the sophomore quarterback who after Saturday’s loss to Wisconsin asked Gophers coach P.J. Fleck for his release from the program, on Monday night said he’ll transfer from Minnesota and that he was falsely accused of damaging a door, which led to a suspension early in the season.

“After this semester ends I will be transferring from the University of Minnesota,’’ Croft posted in a statement on Twitter. “Due to the unfortunate situation I have decided to leave the football program and the University of Minnesota. I was falsely accused of damaging a door. Which I was indefinitely suspended for. The video clearly shows my innocence. Which has created a very uncomfortable environment. Which my family and I have decided to depart from the University and start a new chapter.’’

Croft in his statement also thanked former Gophers coach Jerry Kill for recruiting him and the current staff for this season.
No word on whether the damaged door was caused by Croft not carrying his oar properly. It's far more likely that Croft is getting run off because Fleck is bringing in a new quarterback. It's possible Fleck will succeed here, but his first year has been something less than, well, elite.

In which I actually agree with the Star Tribune editorial board

It's rare, but the Strib editorial board is reading Al Franken's modified limited hangout properly:
The Minnesota Democrat said in one interview it was important "that we listen to women," but then refuted the story of Leeann Tweeden, the USO entertainer who accused him of shoving his tongue down her throat during a rehearsed "kiss." He recalls "a normal rehearsal," but didn't elaborate. On the subsequent allegations of women who say he groped them during photos — specifically, that he grabbed their buttocks — Franken apologized, but for what, exactly?

He said he does not recall groping and said he "would never intentionally" squeeze or grope a woman but often hugs people. Is he suggesting these women could not distinguish between a friendly embrace and groping? Or that at his age he somehow groped unintentionally? Can one credibly apologize for acts without acknowledging they occurred?
Yep. And there's more:
Under such circumstances, Franken's apology is less a statement of accountability and more akin to "I'm sorry for what you think I did." 
Don't ask Al what he thinks of you, he might not give the answer that you want him to.

My guess -- the Dems and their allies don't really want Al Franken to be the hill on which they die. I suspect others have done far worse things than Franken, who as always is more of an opportunist than anything else. You can safely assume a lot of other people in the 202 area code have stories that they would prefer are not shared. Franken also does not face the voters until 2020. He's dearly hoping the news cycle will move on. Most likely, it will.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Weekend wrapup

Sort of a lightning round, I guess:

  • Apparently saving John Conyers and Al Franken is more important than defeating Roy Moore; that's the best conclusion I can draw from this weekend's latest political machinations. Sexual misconduct of varying degrees brings the ick factor, but it's not good form for Conyers to end his long career with his pants around his ankles. And, apparently, Al Franken does enjoy the droit du seigneur and can get by with the random grope because his followers were able to manufacture enough votes in 2008 to get him over the top, so to speak. The Dems were hoping to steal a seat in Alabama, but if they have to protect their own people from accusations over their sexual conduct, they aren't going to be able to attack Moore's long past predations. It's a tough gig to go full-on Victorian when your entire party is about smashing conventions most of the time.
  • I usually leave the football ranting to Benster, but I am amused at the transparent machinations of College Football, Inc., LLC, in trying to keep a lid on the Wisconsin Badgers. The Badgers don't play a particularly marketable style of football but are nonetheless undefeated, a claim no other team in the so-called Power 5 can make. From what I can tell, the only team in the Big Ten that is allowed to be discussed in polite company is Ohio State, who must stop the Badgers to prevent them from gaining a national audience. It would not do for the vaunted Committee to leave the Badgers on the outside if they win the Big Ten Championship, so something must be done. ESPN has invested a lot of coin in the Southeastern Conference, and their prerogatives must be at the forefront. The Big Ten is in bed with Fox, so a representative that isn't Ohio State is a problem. 
  • Must protect precious. Must protect precious.
  • Time sells itself to a company associated with the Koch Brothers. It will be interesting to see if we see a change in how Time Magazine (yes, they are still in business) operates now.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Time to Be Elite, Boys and Girls, Edition

All right, I have returned from Galesburg and I am fully prepared to be elite!

So that wasn't you who made the air smell like manure on Monday?

No, but I can see how you were confused. You're easily confused these days. D does stand for dementia, right?

Not yet. But it gives me something to shoot for.

As we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving today, I always think of the feast to come:

Bon Appetit!

If you don't like being with your family today, remember, it could be worse. You could be a Lions fan!

I wouldn't wish that on anyone. How cruel.

Be thankful for you life, Geritol Fan. Be thankful for the HYYYYYYYYPPPPE! And watch me work!

Minnesota Vikings (-3.5) vs. Detroit LOLions. Well, the Vikings have been having a season that has been going much better than many observers would have expected. They are in control in the NFC North and show no signs of letting the Lions back into the driver's seat. There is one problem, though. Case Keenum is getting a lot of credit for the success of the Vikings; some of this credit is unwarranted. More credit should be given to the organizational stability of the Vikings; Rick Spielman has made some good personnel decisions and the Vikings defense has been quietly playing very well. The Lions are a team that gets by on their ability to rally in the 4th quarter. While that's an impressive trait, it's hard to sustain. I expect this game to be close, but I think the Vikings should not plan on coming home with a victory. Lions 31, Vikings 29.

The Lions are a pretty good outfit, but if you line them up they don't really match up well in this game. Darius Slay needs to take Adam Thielen out of the game, but I'm not sure he can do that. Neither team runs the ball that well, so I expect a lot of passes. That should favor the Lions, but not today. Vikings 27, Lions 23.

That School in Columbus (-12.5) vs. Michigan Harbaughs. The Champions of the West are currently 3rd in the East, so if you're confused, ask Jim Delaney. We will talk a little more next week about That School in Columbus, but this is a game they can't overlook. Michigan looked pretty good in Madison last weekend, but eventually the Badgers wore them down. This game is Michigan's Super Bowl. As is my custom, I will pick against the Buckeyes and hope that the administration sees fit to remove Urban Meyer after the season is over. Michigan 24, That School in Columbus 12.

There was a famous quote attributed to Henry Kissinger, when he was discussing the 1980s era war between Iran and Iraq. He said the best outcome would be if both sides lost. That's generally how most Big Ten fans feel about this game. On balance, I prefer Michigan as a school and a program, but on the field you have to assume the Buckeyes will get it done this time. Ohio State 31, Michigan 27.

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-17.5) vs. Minnesota Golden Elite Rowers of the Boat. P.J. Fleck is the gift that keeps on giving, but lately his Elite Rowers of the Boat have been capsizing with alarming frequency. So he's gone back to the source of great inspiration:

You want to get some, you'd better bring some, there, P.J.! The Badgers will not be looking ahead to the Big Ten Championship Game. I freely admit this game is going to be difficult, because the Badgers have not started well in most games this season. I also expect the Elite Rowers of the Boat to jump out quickly. But the Badgers should wear them down, like they've done to every other opponent on their schedule. The Badgers should win and might get some help this weekend. Badgers 31, Row Row Row Your Boat Elitely 17.

The Gophers aren't bereft of talent, but it doesn't add up to much. I think the Badgers are going to force Gophers quarterback Demry Croft to win the game. I don't think he can. And while the Gophers have some talent, especially on their defensive line, the typical Badger attrition strategy will work as designed. Badgers 38, Gophers 14.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (+14) vs. Pittsburgh Stillers. Packers fans, I have good news for you. I'll be going to Green Bay next Sunday to whip them into shape. Meanwhile, the Pack has an unpleasant trip to Pittsburgh to deal with. As strange as this may sound, this is going to be a difficult game for the Steelers. The long break they had might have sapped some of their momentum. And as bad as the Packers looked against the Ravens, I know they can play better. Let's just hope my trip to Lambeau is going to have a less of a hostile feeling. Packers 24, Steelers 7.

Uh, no. Are yinz nuts? I love my Packers, but as this photo from last week's game indicates, things aren't so great:

If you look carefully, you'll see Davante Mays fumbling
The NFL being the NFL, I could see this going weird, but the Pittsburgh defense will have our guy Hundley even more befuddled than he was last week. Not sure what you do about that. I'm just hoping he doesn't get injured, because if Joe Callahan gets into the game, it will look like this:

I remember the bad old days. Yes, I do. Steelers 28, Packers 10.

Oh, ye old dude of little faith! Have a Happy Thanksgiving. And if you don't like your family, watch football! Ben out!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Safe bet

There will be more of these:
A woman says Al Franken pulled her in tightly and put his hand on her buttocks in 2010 while posing for a picture at the Minnesota State Fair, the second allegation of improper conduct against the Democrat and first involving his time as a senator.

Lindsay Menz told CNN last week for a report broadcast Monday that the interaction with the Minnesota senator made her feel “gross.” She said she immediately told her husband that Franken had “grabbed” her bottom and that she posted about it on Facebook.
It's not particularly difficult to figure out that a guy who treats people badly for a living, as Franken repeatedly demonstrated during his comedy career, would not place a lot of value on human dignity.
Franken’s office did not respond to repeated Associated Press messages seeking comment.

With the Capitol empty due to Thanksgiving break, reaction to the latest allegation against Franken were muted compared to an outcry last week — and Democrats nationally and in Minnesota were silent.
Of course. There will be other accusers, though. And the silence won't be sustainable forever.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Childhood fears

I was five years old in the summer of 1969. If you watched the news then, and I did, you would see plenty of amazing things. I didn't understand them all that well, but in the midst of the Apollo 11 triumph and the euphoria of Woodstock, the one guy I remember the best was Charles Manson, who died yesterday at the age of 83.

Manson was the monster under my bed personified. I was convinced that he was coming to Wisconsin to kill me and my family. My parents tried to reassure me that I was almost certainly wrong about my belief, but it stuck with me. It was lurid stuff:
Manson did not commit the murders himself; instead he persuaded his group of followers to carry out the killings. The crimes received frenzied news coverage, because so many lurid and sensational elements coalesced at the time — Hollywood celebrity, cult behavior, group sex, drugs and savage murders that concluded with the killers scrawling words with their victims’ blood.
Manson's lethal followers looked a lot like the young adults I'd see walking the streets of Appleton, Wisconsin. While they never made it to Appleton, they were on our family television at 5:30 every afternoon:
Manson and four of his followers — Susan Atkins, Leslie Van Houten, Patricia Krenwinkel and Charles “Tex” Watson — were convicted of murdering actress Sharon Tate, the wife of movie director Roman Polanski, in their Bel-Air home on Aug. 9, 1969, along with four others.

Watson had been a high school football star. Krenwinkel a former Sunday school teacher. Van Houten a homecoming princess from Monrovia. And Atkins once sang in her church choir. Linda Kasabian, a pregnant 20-year-old with a baby daughter, who said she was asked to go along that night because she was the only one with a valid driver’s license, testified against the others in return for immunity from prosecution. Atkins died in 2009 in prison; the others remain incarcerated.
As I left my childhood behind, I didn't fear Manson and his followers, but the wild-eyed image of Manson himself, compared with the dead eyes of his acolytes, is still jarring:

Cold blooded

As is the description of their crimes:
Tate, 26, who was eight months pregnant, pleaded with her killers to spare the life of her unborn baby. Atkins replied, “Woman, I have no mercy for you.” Tate was stabbed 16 times. “PIG” was written in her blood on the front door.
It's difficult to understand evil of this sort. You can lay out all manner of rationales and explanations for what caused Manson to become the monster he was -- the linked obituary from the Los Angeles Times lays out the horrific events of Manson's childhood in detail -- but as always, there's the matter of free will. Manson chose his path, and while he was able to control his acolytes, they chose their paths as well. The childhood fears I had of Charles Manson weren't his responsibility -- Manson didn't ask Walter Cronkite to discuss his case every night, although he surely didn't mind it, either. But it became part of who I am today. And as I chose my own path, I had to put such fears away. They don't arise that often any more, but they will always remain.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Big Game Edition

Old dude, the Badgers may be playing the most important game in their history this weekend against Michigan.

I can think of at least six Rose Bowls I've seen in the last 25 years that might have been a smidge more important, but as for regular season games, this is a biggie.

And if one Harbaugh is bad enough, Jim's less annoying brother is going to be in Green Bay this weekend as well. Will their brother-in-law Tom Crean come to Wisconsin to coach AAU ball this weekend so we have the full Harbaugh coaching experience in Wisconsin?

I hope not. I would think air quality warnings are already in effect.

All I know is, this weekend is going to be interesting. I get to come back to Minnesota to make sure that the HYYYYYYYPPPEEE! levels in the state return to normal for a bit.

It will be good to have you back. P. J. Fleck can't handle the job alone, you know.

It is going to be fun, and time to watch me work!

Minnesota Golden Elite Rowers of the Boating (+7.5) vs. Northwestern Wildcats. The Gophers still have a chance to do some things to give Gopher Nation some hope, but they better not look ahead to next weekend too early. Northwestern is a tough minded outfit that gives good teams fits, and are always well-coached. P.J. Fleck may sound like Billy Mays trying to convince you to take an elite rowing class on a bad infomercial, but the guy can coach. I think the Gophers pull the upset on the road to secure a bowl game and then they can focus on rowing. Row Row Row Your Boat Elitely 24, Wildcats 9.

Northwestern has played quite well lately, so I'm not so sure about this. If the Wildcats keep winning, an outside shot at a New Year's Day bowl is not out of the question, so I suspect they'll keep their eyes on the prize. Northwestern 27, Gophers 20.

Michigan Wolverines (+7.5) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. This might be the biggest game that Camp Randall has ever hosted in the 100 years that football has been played here. The Badgers got through Iowa, but Michigan offers another test. The Wolverines have been a thorn in the Badgers' side for many years, and the Khaki Man can coach his guys up. The Badgers will not be caught looking ahead since they have no margin for error, especially with the national media giving them a whole lot of love, with College Gameday in Madison, and Fox airing the game live on network television from coast to coast. The Badger defense will be the key, but I feel it is time that Alex Hornibrook proves the doubters wrong. He needs to take care of the ball and make enough plays so that the Badgers get another huge win against a ranked team, and a win here would set things up nicely for next week's game in Minneapolis and two weeks from now in Indianpolis against that one school located in Columbus. Badgers 17, Wolverines 8.

You like low scoring football? You may love this one. The Wolverines will bring the best defense the Badgers have faced this season to Madison, but the performance the Badgers gave last week was otherworldly good. Michigan will get on the board, but not much. And the Badgers will wear them down. Badgers 21, Michigan 10.

Los Angeles Rams (+2) vs. Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings continue to stay the course, and before this week would have liked getting the Rams at home. It turns out that the Rams are very good, and the Vikings are doing something I do not like. What I don't like is why are they talking about bringing back Teddy Bridgewater. Look, I get that Teddy should get a look, and that Vikings fans would love to see him pick up where he let off, but Case Keenum is playing very well this year, and has done nothing to warrant losing his place. You do not want to tempt fate by making a switch, especially because the Lions and the Packers still have to play the Vikings head to head a second time. Stick with Keenum, and stay the course. I do think that the Vikings are due for a loss, and they better hope that the Ravens win because if the Packers keep it close, then Aaron returns. You do not want Aaron back if you are a Vikings fan. Rams 45, Vikings 19.

This is a tough one. The Rams have been outstanding as of late, but I'm still not convinced they are a great team. I like the Vikings at home, but it's going to be a tough one. The Vikings may worry about Aaron Rodgers down the line, but if they're smart they'll worry about Aaron Donald now. Vikings 27, Rams 21.

Baltimore Ravens (-2) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. Speaking of the Packers, they finally won last week, and Brett Hundley demonstrated that he can make you pay throwing down the field, which may have turned the tide. The Ravens are a team that either looks really good, or looks flat out terrible. Jamaal Williams is going to have to step up and carry the load at running back, but he looked very competent against the Bears, and I expect the Packers get another big win and stay within striking distance to allow Aaron Rodgers to come back and make Vikings and LOLions fans nervous again. Packers 27, Ravens 20.

Most important game of the season, because this game is the hinge of the season. If the Packers win, they could reasonably expect to be 8-6 going into the Christmas game with the Vikings. If not, forget it. Ravens aren't great and if the Packers keep Terrell Suggs out of the backfield, they'll be fine. Packers 24, Ravens 17.

That is it, because there are no other games we deemed worthy of consideration. Enjoy the football this weekend and stay out of trouble. Ben out!

Meanwhile, in other things now beyond Al Franken's grasp. . .

. . . Al Franken's blue slip is now made of Charmin:
Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras’ candidacy for a seat on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals received new life on Thursday, when a key U.S. senator said he would do away with a long-standing tradition that allowed home state senators to stall nominations.

After months of speculation, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said Thursday he would proceed with Stras’ confirmation and scheduled a Nov. 29 hearing for Stras and a Fifth Circuit nominee.

Stras was nominated in May by President Donald Trump, but his candidacy has been in limbo since September, when Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said he was withholding his “blue-slip,” a document that by Senate tradition grants home-state senators the courtesy of approving a hearing for a jurist’s nomination.

Grassley told senators Thursday that the blue slip could not be used by home-state senators as “veto power” over nominees.
While I'm guessing the timing of this announcement was coincidental, it's yet another sign that Franken's clout as a politician continues to wane.

Stras is a conservative, but no one familiar with his career as a jurist in Minnesota thinks he's a hack. As the linked article from the Star Tribune mentions, he has received support from across the legal community in Minnesota. He's clearly qualified. And he'll be headed for the 8th Circuit soon.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Jester's Thorny Crown

Before you consider the fate of Al Franken, it's worth looking what the accusation was, directly from the his accuser, Leeann Tweeden:
When I saw the script, Franken had written a moment when his character comes at me for a ‘kiss’. I suspected what he was after, but I figured I could turn my head at the last minute, or put my hand over his mouth, to get more laughs from the crowd.

On the day of the show Franken and I were alone backstage going over our lines one last time. He said to me, “We need to rehearse the kiss.” I laughed and ignored him. Then he said it again. I said something like, ‘Relax Al, this isn’t SNL…we don’t need to rehearse the kiss.’

He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable.
We are talking about events in 2006. We are talking about a man who had been married for 31 years and was 55 years old at the time. Back to Tweeden:
He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said ‘OK’ so he would stop badgering me. We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.

I immediately pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again I wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time.

I walked away. All I could think about was getting to a bathroom as fast as possible to rinse the taste of him out of my mouth.

I felt disgusted and violated.

Not long after, I performed the skit as written, carefully turning my head so he couldn’t kiss me on the lips.
55 years old, remember. Franken wasn't done:
Other than our dialogue on stage, I never had a voluntary conversation with Al Franken again. I avoided him as much as possible and made sure I was never alone with him again for the rest of the tour.

Franken repaid me with petty insults, including drawing devil horns on at least one of the headshots I was autographing for the troops.

But he didn’t stop there.

The tour wrapped and on Christmas Eve we began the 36-hour trip home to L.A. After 2 weeks of grueling travel and performing I was exhausted. When our C-17 cargo plane took off from Afghanistan I immediately fell asleep, even though I was still wearing my flak vest and Kevlar helmet.

It wasn’t until I was back in the US and looking through the CD of photos we were given by the photographer that I saw this one:
I'm your handyman
Tweeden's reaction? Well, what do you think?
I couldn’t believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep.

I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated.

How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?
It's not funny. In the least. But what do you expect from a guy who would say something like this in a major publication?
In the New York Magazine article, dated March 13, 1995, entitled "Comedy Isn't Funny: Saturday Night Live At Twenty--How The Show That Transformed TV Became A Grim Joke" Franken veers off of a discussion of a skit involving Andy Rooney, and proposes a skit involving the drugging and rape of Lesley Stahl.

Franken: And, "I give the pills to Lesley Stahl. Then, when Lesley's passed out, I take her to the closet and rape her." Or, "That's why you never see Lesley until February." Or, "When she passes out, I put her in various positions and take pictures of her."
The punchline became reality, I guess. You'll notice that the source of this anecdote is City Pages, from back in 2008. It's worth remembering, my fellow Minnesotans saw fit to elect this guy in 2008, and once again in 2014. Yes, the 2008 election was probably stolen, but we don't get to unring that bell, and Franken won a second term comfortably in 2014, when he ran against a painted sheet metal office credenza. I don't think that's exactly who he defeated, but it's been a number of years. It wasn't close, though.

So what do we make of it? My preliminary thoughts:

  • Even before I heard of this incident, or read the City Pages piece back in '08, I was pretty sure Franken was a creep. He's always had that vibe. As we entered this time of tumbrels, if I'd had to predict which senators were most likely to be sexual miscreants, Franken would have been in my top 5 choices.
  • The continuing saga of Roy Moore complicates Franken's career prospects. If the Democrats needed Franken, they'd have circled the wagons around him by now. They don't need him, though. If Franken were to leave tomorrow, Mark Dayton would have a replacement ready, most likely Lt. Governor Tina "Madame Abbatoir" Flint Smith, who was an executive with Planned Parenthood before she went into the retail side of politics. She would easily have use of the hagiography brigade that has served Amy Klobuchar so well over the years.
  • The reason Moore matters is simple -- for the Democrats to claim any moral high ground, they need to appear tougher on their reprobates and more full-throated in their denunciations than the professional Republicans have been with Moore. It's more difficult to tut-tut Moore if you're simultaneously protecting Franken. Once Franken gave the Democrats the 60th vote for Obamacare, he's always been living on borrowed time. The moment you are no longer valuable to Chuck Schumer et al., you get this action:

  • But wait -- doesn't Franken have value to the DFL? Not as much as you'd think. He ran well behind Barack Obama in '08 and he did nothing to lift the overall ticket in 2014, as Dayton and everyone else in the DFL won their races comfortably. And while it hasn't been fashionable for the DFL rank-and-file to bash Franken, there are more than a few people in the party who view him as something less than a team player. Some of the Metrocrats are hyenas, too.
  • If I were to bet, I'd say Franken only survives if no one else comes forward. But if I were to bet, someone else will come forward. Franken was a reprobate long before he became a politician and if there's value in dropping on a dime on him now, and there's every reason to imagine there is value, we'll have more accusers. Some may even have pictures.

We'll get to Al Franken anon

Get your Götterdämmerung on. And getcha popcorn. If anyone deserves a trip through the sex creep spin cycle, it's our self-satisfied, sanctimonious junior senator. In the meantime, forgive me for a post with more tags than text.

Lately one or two has fully paid their due

Back in 1980, when Mugabe first came to power, I was in high school. The album that I listened to incessantly that year was London Calling, by the Clash. One of the many great songs on that album was one called "Clampdown," which made reference to the spate of repressive regimes that were beginning to fall for various reasons.

In these days of evil Presidentes
Working for the clampdown
But lately one or two has fully paid their due
For working for the clampdown

That was 37 years ago. Now, news comes from one of the places that Mick Jones and Joe Strummer had in mind. Ha! Gitalong, gitalong:
HARARE, Zimbabwe — Residents along the streets of this capital city grappled with a new reality Wednesday after the military sidelined President Robert Mugabe, its leader for the past 37 years.

Once heralded for seizing power from British rule and the nation's white elites, the 93-year-old's tenure in recent years has been marked by human rights abuses and economic collapse in what was once one of the African continent's most promising and prosperous nations.

"Mugabe was president since I was born," said Kudakwashe Gore, 32, a mechanic. "He was spoiling his legacy by failing to pass on the baton."

Military forces detained Mugabe, the world's oldest head of state, and his wife, Grace Mugabe, 52, and placed them under house arrest early Wednesday after weeks of political tumult rocked the nation.
Not long before London Calling was recorded, Zimbabwe was known as Rhodesia and was an apartheid state similar to South Africa. The people in this nation never have been free; once Mugabe took over, courtesy of Jimmy Carter, he took over:
Mugabe wanted the government to himself, he told everyone who would listen that he would turn the country into a single party, Marxist state. The Carter administration knew this but refused to admit it in public. In public, he said that Mugabe was just the sweetest of guys. But American pressure eventually forced [Abel] Muzorewa to call for new elections in which the despot Mugabe was elected.
Muzorewa played the Kerensky role in this particularly morality play. A familiar formula -- one man, one vote, one time. There's more:
Robert Mugabe’s iron-fisted rule has subjected Zimbabwe to a reign of terror directed toward all of his people, both white and black.  Not long after taking power in 1980, he began his reign of terror by killing about 20,000 people belonging to a minority tribe, the Ndebele.  He uses rape as a political weapon against his opponents and critics.  Mugabe has been killing people ever since, perhaps as a tribute to Jimmy Carter:

 In 2005, Mugabe ordered a raid conducted on what the government termed “illegal shelters” in Harare, resulting in 10,000 urban poor being left homeless from “Operation Drive Out the Rubbish.” The authorities themselves had moved the poor inhabitants to the area in 1992, telling them not to build permanent homes and that their new homes were temporary, leading the inhabitants to build their own temporary shelters out of cardboard and wood. The UK’s Telegraph noted that Mugabe’s “latest palace”, in the style of a pagoda, was located a mile from the destroyed shelters. The UN released a report stating that the actions of Mugabe resulted in the loss of home or livelihood for more than 700,000 Zimbabweans and negatively affected 2.4 million more. (Source: Moore, Charles (6 March 2005).”Mugabe’s raids leave townships in tatters”.
It's not clear what will happen next, but Mugabe deserves more than being "sidelined," whatever that means.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Two things

The muse didn't show up for work, so I'll refer you elsewhere.

First, Gino on Roy Moore.

Second, Victor Davis Hanson on the Baby Boomers. One pull quote:

What caused this societal meltdown among our Boomer custodians?
It was not material want. Our inheritance ensured we were the most affluent and leisured generation in history. Rather, excess led to hubris. We masked incompetence with snazzy technology and the elite’s ability to travel and acquire at will — and to sound hip and “with it” in speech and diction.

Our generation also, inevitably, became divorced from both nature and the muscularity of the physical, desperate ordeal of surviving. The result was a vicarious romance about the wild and an ignorance of and disdain for those who must fight the wild to produce our food, wood, steel, concrete, and fuel. The result, again, is a vicarious life. Silicon Valley grandees pontificate about open borders, “undocumented migrants,” and “sanctuary cities,” but beneath their noses are streets lined with tightly parked Winnebagoes in which thousands of poor Mexican nationals sleep, live, eat, and prep for another day servicing the masters of the universe. To suggest that the geography of the Bay Area is still vast and its open spaces ripe for affordable housing is the heresy of “how dare you even suggest getting near my Portola Valley estate”?

Our culture and financial elite are primarily a coastal tribe, cut off from both the poor and the material conditions that face the poor. They find penance and exemption for their privilege in loud but empty virtue-signaling and in easy contempt for the supposedly grasping middle class. But what we wanted from them was excellence, competence, and leadership; yet they had neither the education nor character for any of that.
And I'm one of them. In both cases, hit the links.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Say more by saying nothing

Dumb in so many ways:
Keurig found itself in the midst of a brewing controversy after it removed its advertising from Hannity in response to the Fox News host's comments that Senate candidate Roy Moore — accused of sexual misconduct with teen girls — should be given the benefit of the doubt.

Met with calls to dump its advertising from the highly-rated show, Keurig and a handful of other retail companies over the weekend quickly responded on Twitter that they would. But fans of Hannity responded with their own #KeurigBoycott, featuring fans destroying their coffee machines.

By Monday, the maker of coffee machines and disposable flavor pods was trying to back out of the social media storm.

A memo to Keurig Green Mountain employees from CEO Bob Gamgort, obtained by The Washington Post, said the Waterbury, Vermont company did not mean to appear as if it was "taking sides" in what had already been a heated cultural discussion about Moore. The company’s move to make its announcement on Twitter “was done outside of company protocols,” he said in memo to employees Monday.
It's either worth advertising on Hannity or it isn't. The only appropriate response to an online mob is for a company like Keurig to say "we'll review the matter" and say no more. Go ahead and pull the advertising if it makes sense, but the ostentatious displays of piety aren't useful or very smart.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Youth Movement

Writing for the New York Post, Michael Goodwin explains what Donna Brazile is really doing:
 If it sticks, Brazile’s searing indictment of Hillary’s persona, ethics and political skills could prove fatal to her hopes for a 2020 comeback.

In fact, I believe that is the ultimate point of the book: to clear the Democratic decks for desperately needed new leadership and messages.
And it does need new leadership and messages. That's also the point of the bit on Saturday Night Live that they uncorked later in the show, after they'd done the usual Republican bashing in the cold open:

It's not gonna work for the Democrats if they trot out Hillary yet again, or Joe Biden, especially in the current context where unwanted sexual advances are in the news. I predict Biden will have a formal accuser eventually in order to clear him from the decks. The entire party reminds me of the old classic Sunset Boulevard:

Of course, the comparison to Gloria Swanson hardly seems fair, as she was much more vital in 1950 than Hillary Clinton is today.

Saturday, November 11, 2017


I did a little pruning of the blog roll, trying to get rid of blogs that no longer exist or that I can no longer recommend. While it's sad to see that some stalwarts are no longer with us, there's no point in maintaining a portal that leads nowhere, or to a place not worth going.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Continental Divide Edition

Old dude, the Packers are facing a game where they have to beat the Bears to stay alive for a playoff spot and keep hope that Aaron can come back.

Beating the Bears is reward enough most years, but yeah, if this doesn't happen, it's probably a lost season. Which we aren't particularly used to.

Maybe they should try and sign Matt Saracen, or else go back to some retread of the 1980's which you tell me were not exactly Hall of Fame worthy players.

A fictional high school quarterback might be better than Randy Wright was. It's difficult to explain how bad they really were in those days. You needed to see it, but fortunately for you you weren't born yet.

Youth has its advantages, Geritol Fan!

That's true. You never saw Paul Ott Carruth play.

I'm glad for it. It is time to feel they HYYYYYYYYPPPPPEE!, and watch me work!

Nebraska Cornhuskers (+2.5) vs. Minnesota Golden Elite Rowers of Boating. For the Cornhuskers, they have an important decision to make in the offseason, which is what they should do with Mike Riley. If I were Nebraska, I would fire him and replace him with either Dan Mullen or Bret "My Chart Said Go for 2 up 25" Bielema. My reasoning is that Dan Mullen has done wonders at a Mississippi State program that is not known for winning, and Bielema is a proven winner in the Big Ten conference who would bring back the old school power running game that I feel Nebraska has gotten away from. I like the Gophers in this game, because even though P.J. Fleck has not gotten as good results as I would have thought, he will start to get his guys in the program, and beating Nebraska at home would be a good start. Row Row Your Boat Elitely 25, Nebraska 9.

Bielema in Lincoln? Heh. That would be amusing. These two teams are both pretty disappointing. I guess you pick the home team, but with little enthusiasm. Gophers 24, Nebraska 20.

Iowa Hawkeyes (+12.5) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. This game all of a sudden became a very important game nationally after Iowa beat up on Ohio State like this:

That was a very nice win for Iowa, and because of that win it now means the Badgers finally get to play a ranked team. The issue I am seeing for Iowa is that they looked very impressive against Ohio State. That was last week and this time they are facing one of the 5 best defenses in the country, and will not have the aid of a very loud home crowd. All the Badgers have to do is stay the course, and the so called experts will continue to eat crow. Also, if the Badgers win again do you think that the Big Ten office is going to start lobbying for the Badgers? I doubt it, but winning close games is all the Badgers can do. Wisconsin 27, Iowa 20.

This will be a good game. I think Wisconsin can exploit the Iowa defense and they have enough defensive backs to stop Iowa from getting plays down the field. It's going to go down the 4th quarter and I suspect the Badger offensive line will wear the Hawkeyes down. Wisconsin 26, Iowa 23.

Lawrence University Vikings (NL) vs. Knox College Prairie Fire. It's Championship Week in the Midwest Conference, which means that schools play a crossover game against a school from the other division. The Vikings come down to the Knosher Bowl, and they are normally pretty decent in football. I am going to pick Knox, because that is what I do, and I am biased in their favor. Knox 45, Larrys 9.

I have no idea. I just hope my beloved Beloit Bucs can get off the schneid and beat woeful Grinnell. Knox 31, Lawrence 27.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-3.5) vs. The U (Otherwise Known as the Miami Hurricanes). We normally do not talk much about the Irish or the Hurricanes for two reasons; neither program has been nationally relevant in recent years, and the Old Dude does not like Notre Dame football that much. But, this game has important significance for both the Badgers and the playoff scenario, since the loser is going to be in danger and the winner could be competing with the Badgers for the last playoff spot. Miami has quietly been having a great year under their second year coach Mark Richt. Notre Dame also has a strong argument to being for the top 4 as they have won all their games but for losing at home to a very good Georgia team. In the interest of the Badgers, you would like to see The U knock out the Irish. The U 30, Irish 9.

I'm all about Notre Dame losing. It should be a good game. I don't like the team, but I think the Irish are the better squad. Notre Dame 31, Miami 30.

Minnesota Vikings (-1.5) vs. Washington Gridlocks. The Vikings suddenly have taken control of the NFC North, and Teddy Bridgewater is going to be dressing for the first time in over a year. Things are looking up for the Vikings, and already the local media, especially the Vikings approved commentators on KFAN like Paul Allen and the guys on Bumper to Bumper are dreaming of the Vikings making history. These are the Vikings though, a team that has struggled to get over the hump. Washington is going to be a tough out in Landover, as Kirk Cousins is an underrated quarterback, and the Vikings are due for a letdown. Gridlocks 24, Vikings 10.

I see it the same way. Based on my observations, the best team in the division is (gulp) the Lions. I think the wheels are going to start coming off the wagon for the Vikings on Sunday. This is not a great team. Redskins 31, Vikings 24.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (+6) vs. Bear Down Chicago Da Bearz. Last Monday night was about as bad as I have seen the Packers play in the last couple of years. There was no passion, a very disappointing defensive effort, and a horrible lack of execution. However, they do get to play the Bears, who are not exactly lighting things up in Chicago as desperate homers like Hub Arkush convince themselves that Mitch Trubisky will be the long awaited elite quarterback, just like they did with Smokin' Jay, Kyle Orton, Sexy Rexy, Craig Krenzel, Cade McNown, and so many others. All the Packers need is one win, and I think they get it, making this year a good year no matter what. Call me a delusional and desperate homer, but the Bears will lose, and that is always a good thing to beat the Bears twice. Packers 24, da Bearz Still Suck 0.

I'm more concerned about the defense than the offense. I suspect Brett Hundley will play a little better this week, but the defense needs to get better. Trubisky has a chance to be decent, but he's not there yet. It's down to the defense to carry the team for a change. At least this week, I think they can. Packers 20, Bears 17.

Enjoy your football this weekend and thank a veteran for their service. Ben out!