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!

Private Parts

I can't keep up with all the scandals at the moment. I have limited experience in such matters, but there has never been a time where I thought it would be a good idea to tell a woman about my genitalia, much less provide a product demo, unless she had expressed an interest in the topic.

The biological imperative is strong and it can be unruly, but we've established norms concerning such matters that are long-standing. We've always had libertines among us, but until about 1963 or so, when the Pill first became available, there were obvious consequences to pursuing a libertine approach to one's sex life. The past 50+ years have been a great time for libertines, but it's beginning to look like that might be over, and quite suddenly.

Back in the middle of it all, in 1983, I remember listening to a record by T-Bone Burnett called "The Sixties." There's an audible sneer in Burnett's voice:

It's a little tendentious, but his description of a shmuck trying to play the game brought me up short back then:

When he was younger and out struggling to climb the ladder
He used to fight with his wife
Or have a night out with the boys
And he'd maybe go to a bar and try to pick up some strange
If you get my drift

And after a while, he started hearing about free love
And he felt left out
And he tortured his imagination dreaming of pot parties
With those suntanned girls in halter tops with their cutoffs
Slit up to their belt loops
Then he saw a picture in Playboy of Ursula Andress
On the arm of some hippie
And that did it

He began his rebellion late
But now he's got a designer camper
And one time he even got to sleep in it with
One of those girls in the cutoffs
But it made me feel awful
Cause he had to pay her fifty dollars
And it was twenty for anybody else

Glamour is seductive. And our glamour factories haven't been working so well lately. I don't know what rough beast's hour has come 'round at last. But it's here.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Good enough for John Lennon, good enough for me

Nothing to do it's up to you
I've got nothing to say but it's OK

Good morning, good morning
Good morning ah

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The Local Scene -- Big Yellow Taxi, or Whatever Lotter Wants, Lotter Gets

Following the election results of yesterday, I can safely say two things about municipal government in New Brighton:

  • The city council will get along splendidly and will be spending a lot of time congratulating itself for its wisdom and courage in investing in a brave new future for our fair city; and
  • The city council will be a rubber stamp for the person who actually runs things, City Manager Dean Lotter.
After 12 years fighting the powers that be, Gina Bauman will not be part of the council next year. Gina was the one person on the council who would regularly challenge the logrolling and "what am I signing, Radar?" ways of the rest of the council, especially in the last two years. Because she was regularly outvoted 4-1 on fiscal matters, Bauman hasn't been able to effect needed changes for a while now, but her efforts have meant that some of the more dubious ideas get at least a touch of scrutiny. That's gone now. You can expect a lot of 5-0 votes on the council going forward -- the incoming council members, Graeme Allen and Emily Dunsworth, are both DFL operatives and while their positions are nominally nonpartisan, there's little question they will defer to Lotter's wishes and pose for a lot of photo opportunities. I'm sure they'll have a great time.

There's more to say about this election, especially the role of the successful school board levy vote in driving the results, but the lesson is obvious -- if you go along, you get along. And as the citizens of New Brighton look at their property tax bills in the coming years, they'll understand the refrain of Joni Mitchell's song "Big Yellow Taxi":

Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.

We'll be keeping a tally here.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Due diligence

I mostly stay out of the gun control debate. I don't think additional gun control laws are needed, at least until we get around to enforcing what's already on the books. In the case of Devin Kelley, the guy who shot up a church outside of San Antonio over the weekend, we have an apt illustration:
The Texas church shooter shouldn't have been able to legally own a gun.

But an Air Force officer failed to enter Devin Patrick Kelley's domestic violence court-martial into a national database that would have barred him from buying weapons, the Air Force said Monday.

Top Air Force brass ordered a full review of how the service handled Kelley's conviction at a general court-martial in 2012, Ann Stefanek, a spokeswoman for the Air Force, said in a statement Monday.
Based on what we're learning, Kelley was an all-around bad dude:
Kelley, 26, of New Braunfels, Texas, joined the Air Force after graduating from New Braunfels High School in 2009. He trained at Lackland and Goodfellow Air Force bases in Texas, before reporting to his assignment in logistics readiness at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.

In 2012, Kelley was convicted at general court-martial on two charges of assault, the Air Force said. A retired Air Force colonel who supervised prosecutors when Kelley was tried said Kelley was convicted of fracturing his baby stepson's skull and assaulting his first wife, Tessa, at Holloman.
There was more:
Records show his first wife divorced him in 2012 in New Mexico. "She's very upset," her mother told NBC News, adding that she did not want to speak about him until she was interviewed by law enforcement.

Kelley remarried in Texas in 2014. The status of that marriage was not clear, but authorities said there was a "domestic situation" with his in-laws.

"The suspect's mother-in-law attended this church," Freeman Martin, regional director of the state Department of Public Safety, said at a Monday news conference. "She has received threatening texts from him."
And more still:
Two ex-girlfriends told NBC News that Kelley stalked them after breakups.

"Years after dating me he would try to bribe me to hang out with him," Landry, who met Kelley in church as a teenager, told NBC News in a Facebook message. "He ended up assaulting me. He would stalk me by repeatedly calling me — even prank calling me, saying really weird stuff. 
"That was another thing about him — he was very sick in the head...He would tell me very sick strange things," she said, without providing details.
Other people provided details, though:
Brittany Adcock, 22, said she dated Kelley for two months when she was 13 and he was 18.

"At the time I didn't think much into it being so young but now I realize that there's something off about someone who is 18 with someone who is 13," she said.
More than something, although Jerry Lee Lewis might disagree. There's more:
When she broke it off, he continued to harass her, she said.

"He somehow would always find out my number although none of my friends talked to him and he would constantly call me until I blocked his number," she said. "Then I'd get calls from an unknown number so I've had to change my number quite a bit.

"He would offer me money to hang out with him quite a bit. There has been one point that I called the police because he was just calling me so much I wanted to report harassment," Adcock said.
And if you keep reading the linked article, you find out about animal cruelty charges and a host of other offenses. So, this is a dude who didn't have a right to own a gun, but he had one. The argument I'm seeing is that another overlay of laws would have made a difference, but do you really believe that? If so, why?

Monday, November 06, 2017

The Local Scene -- Endgame

The election in New Brighton is tomorrow. I honestly have no idea what will happen. For the better part of a dozen years, the dynamic in the New Brighton City Council has been Gina Bauman vs. the Machine. For a few years, I wrote for a blog called Truth vs. the Machine. The underlying premise of that blog was to detail how Republican candidates had to fight against the political machine that is the DFL. The guy who ran the blog, Gary Miller, has long since left conservative politics and is now something of a anarcho-capitalist, which historically are not two great tastes that taste great together, but back then he was on to an important notion -- the left is machine-like, especially in Minnesota.

The way the dynamic plays out in New Brighton has been fairly predictable. The key player in New Brighton isn't anyone in elected office, but rather the city manager, Dean Lotter. Lotter, like most city managers, wants to ensure he has all the money he wants to pursue whatever agenda he deems necessary, so his goal is to find citizens who will serve in municipal government as rubber stamps. There's nothing particularly unusual about this dynamic; you see it in a lot of suburban enclaves. For the past dozen years, Gina has refused the ceremonial role and has been digging into how things are run. She asks tough questions and often challenges the prerogatives of the city government and its employees. Not surprisingly, these folks dislike Bauman for it.

The other politicians who serve on the city council are lefties for the most part. The mayor, Val Johnson, is very nice as long as you agree with her, but if you don't, she gets nasty and personal in a hurry. I posted the video of her outburst at a recent city council work session last week, but a repeat seems in order:

While Val Johnson isn't running against Bauman directly, that's the actual dynamic involved. The other members of the council include Brian Strub, who shares a similar mindset to Johnson (with more emotional control). He is not running for reelection. The machine has its candidates, Graeme Allen and Emily Dunsworth, who if elected would ensure that Dean Lotter's life would be much easier. Bauman is running as part of a de facto opposition slate, along with Susan Erickson and Sharon Doffing, who is Johnson's actual opponent. If elected, Doffing and Erickson would shake things up. The other two members of the city council, Mary Burg and Paul Jacobsen, aren't up for election in this cycle, but both have grown comfortable being Lotter's pal.

If I'm reading the tea leaves correctly, the machine is set to prevail this time. While Mayor Johnson's behavior has raised a few eyebrows, most of her supporters see the world the way she does and don't mind it much if she calls people racists without justification. It adds a little flavor to the stew and makes them feel better about living in Trumpland. Bauman has fought this machine for over a decade and deserves a chance to continue the fight. I hope she gets it. And further, I hope she gets some reinforcements in Erickson and Doffing. The city is a better place if we don't let it run on autopilot.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Committee Hates Big Ten Edition

Old dude, it seems like the powers that be have a real beef with the Big Ten. They should have read my Very Special Comment.

I'm not certain they can read. They were taking their coursework in Roy Williams Hall at North Carolina.

They should listen to me. I call it like I see it, and I certainly am not biased. Heck, I even think Ohio State got a raw deal in the rankings.

I can see your point. But it's not the end of the world if the Big Ten has to prove it on the field. I think they can and will.

Well, the good news is that there is another major college game going on, one that is the most important rivalry game in Knox County.

Is it time for the Turkey Bowl?

Wait and see, Geritol Fan! It is time to pick some games, and maybe add some hard hitting analysis. So feel the HYYYYYYPPPEE! and watch me work!

Battle for the Little Brown Jug: Minnesota Golden Elite Rowers of the Boat (+15.5) vs. Michigan Hail To the Victors. So P.J. Fleck takes his Gophers out to Ann Arbor to face a very young and scuffling Michigan team. Jim Harbaugh is getting paid a lot of money for not a lot of good results. He has not beaten his main rivals consistently, and as a Badger fan I am conflicted. On the one hand, you want Michigan to win so that they could be ranked when they come to Madison. On the other hand, if the Gophers win then maybe the Gophers could gain confidence. I am going to go with my heart here, and think that P.J. Fleck will pull a big win that will get him some momentum going forward, even if this win won't be the signature Gopher win that he is going to need in year 2. Elite Rowers 36, Fire Jim Harbaugh 17.

The Gophers are a mess right now. I'm not certain Michigan is very good, either, but I don't see it happening this time. Michigan 33, Gophers 19.

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-9) vs. Indiana Wants Me, Lord I Can't Go Back There. It's been a while since we have had a chance to bust out this song, but tradition demands it.

The Badgers are up against it this weekend, with getting zero respect from the powers that be, possibly no Jonathan Taylor, Quintez Cephus, or D'Cota Dixon, and will be facing a very game Indiana team that has played better opponents very tough. This game is the type of trap game that every contender will face at some point, and I think this game is going to come down to Alex Hornibrook having to make some key plays. The Badgers probably won't blow the Hoosiers out like they have in the past, but should do just enough to escape and live to fight another day. Badgers 24, Hoosiers 10.

Bucky needs some style points. This is an opportunity. Bucky will find a way to make it less interesting than it should be. Wisconsin 34, Indiana 14.

The Bronze Turkey Bowl: Knox College Prarie Fire (NL) vs. Monmouth College Scots. This is by far the biggest and most important rivarly game in college football. Anyone that goes to either of these schools knows that this game is personal, and I consider Monmouth to be more annoying and almost as bad as Ohio State in my book. Monmouth has owned this game for a decade plus, but this year is going to be the year we go over there and steal back what is rightfully ours. And yes, since I go to Knox, I can drop the we. Knox 1835, Monmouth=Safety School -90.

Knox has had a nice season, but Monmouth is a lot better in football. Maybe not anything else, but football for sure. Monmouth 45, Knox 24.

Detroit LOLions (-2) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. The Packers are facing a game that they must find a way to win in order to keep on the Vikings's tail, and stay close enough in order for Aaron Rodgers to come back and get his revenge in December. The Packers need to do a couple of things in order to win; first, let Hundley use the full playbook, and give him some help. I was not happy with the coaching staff going too conservative against the Saints, and the Lions have a potent offense just like the Saints. Hundley does not have to win this game on his own, but will need more of Aaron Jones and needs Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, and more specifically Martellus Bennett to combine for 150 receiving yards and 2 scores. This game will not be easy, but if the Packers stay together and Hundley makes enough plays and gets help from the other guys in all three phases, then the Packers win and send a message to the Vikings that they have to stay the course. Packers 27, LOLions 17.

I think the Packers can win this game. In fact, they'd better. Packers 24, Lions 19.

We would pick more games, but no other college games interest me, and both the Vikings and the Bears are taking the weekend off. Enjoy your football this weekend, and Ben out!

Mostly open thread

Don't have much to say, so we will call this an open thread. I would call your attention to this article from the Atlantic. Pull quote:
The most popular public forum at Reed is Facebook, where social tribes coalesce and where the most emotive and partisan views get the most attention. “Facebook conversations at Reed bring out the extreme aspects of political discourse on campus,” said Yuta, a sophomore who recently co-founded a student group, The Thinkery, “dedicated to critical and open discussion.”(The Atlantic used first names for students out of concern for online harassment.) Raphael, the founder of the Political Dissidents Club, warned incoming students over Facebook that “Reed’s culture can be stifling/suffocating and narrow minded.”

It can also be bullying. When the parent of a freshman rebuked RAR for derailing a lecture, a RAR supporter tagged the parent’s employer in a post. In mid-April, when students were studying for finals, a RAR leader grew frustrated that more supporters weren’t showing up to protest Hum 110. In a post viewable only to Reed students, the leader let loose:

To all the white & able(mentally/physically) who don’t come to sit-ins(ever, anymore, rarely): all i got is shade for you. [... If] you ain’t with me, then I will accept that you are against me. There’s 6 hums left, I best be seein all u phony ass white allies show-up. […] How you gonna be makin all ur white supremacy messes & not help clean-up your own community by coming and sitting for a frickin hour & still claim that you ain’t a laughin at a lynchin kinda white.

The RAR leader proceeded to call out at least 15 students by name. One named Patrick defended himself, saying in part, “I didn’t realize this was [your] opinion of me as a friend. … I will not give you my support simply because you are leading a noble cause.” The leader referred to that defense as “white supremacy.” Another leader used a vulgar insult, followed by “White tears white tears.”
That's a long pull quote, but it's a long article. Stay with it, though. Perhaps the fog is lifting, just a little.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

The Old Curiosity Shop

“One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing.”
-- Oscar Wilde

So are you looking for a good laugh? You could read Charles Dickens. Or you could read Donna Brazile:
Before I called Bernie Sanders, I lit a candle in my living room and put on some gospel music. I wanted to center myself for what I knew would be an emotional phone call.
So begins the excerpt from Brazile's book, which purports to explain why Hillary Clinton's campaign and the ineptitude of the Democratic National Committee delivered us Le Grand Orange.

Say amen, somebody:
The Saturday morning after the convention in July, I called Gary Gensler, the chief financial officer of Hillary’s campaign. He wasted no words. He told me the Democratic Party was broke and $2 million in debt.

“What?” I screamed. “I am an officer of the party and they’ve been telling us everything is fine and they were raising money with no problems.”
The candle Brazile lit wasn't the only thing burning:
That wasn’t true, he said. Officials from Hillary’s campaign had taken a look at the DNC’s books. Obama left the party $24 million in debt—$15 million in bank debt and more than $8 million owed to vendors after the 2012 campaign and had been paying that off very slowly. Obama’s campaign was not scheduled to pay it off until 2016. Hillary for America (the campaign) and the Hillary Victory Fund (its joint fundraising vehicle with the DNC) had taken care of 80 percent of the remaining debt in 2016, about $10 million, and had placed the party on an allowance.

If I didn’t know about this, I assumed that none of the other officers knew about it, either. That was just Debbie’s way. In my experience she didn’t come to the officers of the DNC for advice and counsel. She seemed to make decisions on her own and let us know at the last minute what she had decided, as she had done when she told us about the hacking only minutes before the Washington Post broke the news.
And then there was the matter of financing itself:
I wanted to believe Hillary, who made campaign finance reform part of her platform, but I had made this pledge to Bernie and did not want to disappoint him. I kept asking the party lawyers and the DNC staff to show me the agreements that the party had made for sharing the money they raised, but there was a lot of shuffling of feet and looking the other way.

When I got back from a vacation in Martha’s Vineyard I at last found the document that described it all: the Joint Fund-Raising Agreement between the DNC, the Hillary Victory Fund, and Hillary for America.

The agreement—signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, and Robby Mook with a copy to Marc Elias—specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.
There's more, much more, at the link if you're interested, but a few observations are in order:

  • Is anyone who was really paying attention surprised that Barack Obama didn't give a damn about sustaining anything other than his own brand? Or that his campaign was quite good at spending other people's money?
  • Is anyone surprised Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is a clueless hack? Or that she would prefer to ask for forgiveness over asking for permission?
  • Is anyone surprised Hillary Clinton would be more interested in the money than in helping Democrats down the ticket?
  • I'm amused, to say the least, that Donna Brazile of all people wants to be the whistleblower. I've been paying attention to politics for over 40 years -- my Dad had my brothers and me helping out the congressional campaign of Harold Froehlich way back in 1976 -- and  from what I've observed, there have been few people in public life who are more hacktastic than Donna Brazile. She was the person who was feeding debate questions to Hillary Clinton in advance. And we are now to believe she wanted to expiate her guilt with ol' Bernie?
Any time a Democrat tells you they ought to be running the country, consider who they actually are and what they actually do.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

How was I to know. . .

they were with the Russians, too:
One of several Twin Cities protests four days after the fatal police shooting of Philando Castile 16 months ago may have been organized in part by Russian hackers, according to national media accounts, before skeptical local organizers took over.

The reports by CNN and the Wall Street Journal alleged that Russian agents were behind eight Facebook accounts that publicized or financed at least 60 rallies in the United States, including one in the Twin Cities on July 10, 2016. The Journal said it examined archived versions of now-deleted Facebook posts and interviewed activists familiar with the events.
The locals are "skeptical":
Some local activists said Tuesday they didn’t believe it was Russians promoting the demonstration. Instead, they said, out-of-state protesters were trying to meddle.

One of the Facebook pages, hosted by a group called “Don’t Shoot,” publicized a demonstration scheduled for that day outside St. Paul police headquarters, recalled Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality. She and other organizers were suspicious, saying St. Paul police were not involved in the Castile shooting, and that no one had heard of the group. “This was pretty crazy,” Gross said. “Who was calling this?”

The local General Defense Committee (GDC) of the International Workers of the World (IWW) and Gross’ group worried that protesters might not be safe, and both posted notices urging people not to attend.
The IWW would know. Everyone knows the Wobblies have nothing to do with the Russians.

Meanwhile, in Lower Manhattan

Another terrorist, using a truck to kill:
A truck-driving terrorist carved a mile-long path of carnage through lower Manhattan, killing eight innocents Tuesday as he plowed down helpless victims on a bike path.

The rented white pickup hopped the curb at W. Houston with ISIS-inspired suspect Sayfullo Saipov drawing a bead on bicyclists as screams filled the Halloween skies and blood stained the pavement.

“God is Great!” The Uzbekistan native shouted in Arabic before a hero cop pumped a bullet into his abdomen, ending the deadly assault on a bright holiday afternoon.

Authorities said he was hospitalized after the shooting, underwent surgery and was expected to survive.
I'm glad he survived. It would be useful to actually interrogate one of these guys to find out why they do what they do and who is doing the actual ISIS-inspiring.