Thursday, January 31, 2008

Fearless Dilettante Football Predictions - Super Bowl Edition

So the big game is finally here. No one wearing green and gold is anywhere in sight. And it's good to see that Tom Coughlin has finally recovered from the NFC Championship game, based on the illustration to your left. But enough of the idle prattle; the pick must be made. No reason to delay!

New England Evil Empire 37, New York Plaxico Giants 20. Let's stipulate that the Giants are a very good football team. The tread marks on the back of Al Harris's uniform should be enough visual evidence for anyone. But they aren't playing my beloved Packers this time, with their rastafarian cornerbacks and their puzzling game plan. Now they are facing the EVIL EMPIRE.

Tom Brady may come off a little like Eddie Haskell at times, but you have to like his game. He's fearless, makes all the throws and in between all that manages to date one of the most beautiful women in the world. If I weren't already married to the most beautiful woman in the world, I might even be a bit jealous of the guy. But the key to this game is the defense. And I mean New England's defense.

The Patriot defense doesn't get a lot of attention, but it's been awfully good for a very long time now. They have pretty much everything you'd like - a run stuffing defensive line, active linebackers and a clever, aggressive secondary. It's easy to forget, given the amount of points the Patriots have scored this year, that the defense has had a lot to do with the perfect record they've put together. And they now have a little more motivation, thanks to the ill-advised trash talking undertaken by one Plaxico Burress, Giant wideout and T.O. wannabe. Mr. Burress has predicted that the Giants will win the game 23-17. Not gonna happen. A few guesses on what will happen:

  • Laurence Maroney will play a major role.

  • If a New England receiver makes a key catch, it will be either Donte Stallworth or Jabar Gaffney, not our ol' pal Randy Moss.

  • Eli Manning will continue to play very well, but not well enough.

  • Tom Petty will give a fine halftime concert and many Americans will say, "wait - he sang that?" at least a half-dozen times. And he won't have a wardrobe malfunction unless he wears the silly hat from the "Don't Come Around Here No More" video.

  • Another undercapitalized internet startup or two will pop for big bucks for a 30 second ad that no one will understand and will then go out of business within six months.

  • Mr. Dilettante will stop making picks on football games until August at the earliest.

Enjoy the game, kids.

ACTUAL RESULT: NEW YORK FOOTBALL GIANTS 17, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 14. Congratulations to the Giants for a fine season. Tom Brady may be one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, but I have yet to see a quarterback who was effective while lying in a crumpled heap on the turf. And I think all of America agrees - Don Shula and the rest of those smug '72 Dolphins should still shaddup.

Patriotism, not Profit

So that's what motivates John McCain. He said it himself last night at the debate. And here I was thinking what motivated him was his boundless reservoir of self-righteousness and bile in the 55-gallon drum size.

It's pretty clear that John McCain doesn't understand diddly squat about how the world works. Profit matters. Free enterprise and liberty are inseparable and always have been. I want a president who understands that. At this point, there's only one such person left who is running for president. And I'll be caucusing for him on Tuesday.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

'Scuse Me While I Fisk This Guy

Although we don't agree about politics much, I am a fan of my friend Strolling Amok's blog. But sometimes he recommends things that make me wonder. For example, this post by some dude named Will Wilkinson. SA summed this up as "three paragraphs that sum up what's wrong with Weekly Standard style 'conservatism' as well as anything I've seen." Let's think about this a little bit.

Wilkinson begins by linking to an article from The Weekly Standard that, not surprisingly, is touting John McCain and bashing libertarianism. No suprise there: many of the people at the The Weekly Standard have been in the bag for Mr. Straight Talk for a long time. And the Standard folks certainly have no real compunctions about Big Government: back in the 1980s, Fred Barnes fit quite comfortably on the masthead of The New Republic. So I'm thinking, maybe I might agree with this guy. Then Mr. Wilkinson proceeds to write the following "translation" of the article:

Libertarianism is dangerous because it discourages juvenile romantic attachment to higher things — meaningful things – like Honor, Virtue, and the indescribable joy of sacrificing one’s life to the service of the American Volksreich. All libertarians care about is superficial shit like not starving, living a long time, and being creative and happy. Blah blah blah. But, really, what’s the point of living to 200 if all you do is enjoy yourself the whole time? I mean, don‘t you want to know what it is like to kill a man? DON’T YOU WANT TO TASTE BLOOD!? Besides, virtue.
Vote John McCain.

I went through a fairly long stretch where I considered myself a libertarian and while Wilkinson has a point, you won't see it if he wears a hat. "American Volksreich?" Ah, we are clever, using German words, hinting at something more sinister.

Then we get another trowel of subtlety, as Wilkinson purports to explain the deeper meaning from the hapless authors: "DON'T YOU WANT TO TASTE BLOOD!?" Actually, no. Thanks for asking, though. And if you read the article that Wilkinson links to, it's hard to find any bloodlust there. Some tendentious ideas, perhaps - again, standard fare at The Weekly Standard.

The article does have one obvious flaw, however, and Wilkinson has noticed: the authors (or their editors) have misspelled Milton Friedman's name. Our tourguide notes it in passing, feigning regret, then draws a conclusion.

Oh, goodness that’s not fair! But, really, that whole thing is just as embarrassing as misspelling ‘Friedman’. I am more and more coming to the conclusion that National Greatness Conservatism, like all quasi-fascist movements, is based on a weird romantic teenager’s fantasies about what it means to be a grown up. The fundamental moral decency of liberal individualism seems, to the unserious mind that thinks itself serious, completely insipid next to very exciting big boy ideas about shared struggle, sacrifice, duty, glory, virtue, and (most of all) power. And reading Aristotle in Greek.

Oh, we've unpacked our adjectives, haven't we? Embarrassing. Quasi-fascist. Weird. Romantic. Unserious. Insipid. "Big boy." You get the sense that our tourguide likes to sneer just a little bit. Here's a question from the audience: why would one sneer at "shared struggle, sacrifice, duty, glory, virtue?" Ah, because of the next word: "power." No one really believes in such things unless they are motivated by a lust for "power."

Is it possible that such hoary notions as "shared struggle, sacrifice, duty, glory, virtue" are sneered at because they are in such short supply these days? One of the valid criticisms of the Bush administration is that it hasn't really called for much sacrifice. Instead, we are supposed to go about our merry way, being consumers and driving the economy through purchases of lattes and durable goods. You could make an argument that we have subcontracted shared struggle and sacrifice to others and you wouldn't be wrong about it. But there's another angle to it. Maybe, just maybe, shared struggle, sacrifice, duty, glory, virtue and other such verities have an intrinsic value? And maybe, just maybe we can maintain a lifestyle with ample room for "liberal individualism" while simultaneously pursuing things like duty, glory and virtue. We do it all the time. We help our neighbors. We give to charity. Most people live virtuous lives as a matter of course. We do it because we understand that it's the best way to live. Things work better. And there's nothing weird or romantic or insipid about it.

Wilkinson then adds an aesthetic judgment to his earlier ones, as follows:

I sometimes think that liberal individualism is something like the intellectual and moral equivalent of the best modernist design — spare, elegant, functional — but hard to grasp or truly appreciate without a cultivated sense of style, without a little discerning maturity. National Greatness Conservatism is like a grotesque wood-paneled den stuffed with animal heads, mounted swords, garish carpets, and a giant roaring fire. Only the most vulgar tuck in next to that fire, light a fat cigar, and think they’ve really got it all figured out. But I’m afraid that’s pretty much the kind of thing you get at the Committee on Social Thought. If you declaim the importance of virtue loudly enough, you don’t have to actually think.

Ah, it's hard to grasp. Deer hunters and their Hummel figurine collecting wives could hardly begin to understand Mies or Mondrian or Schoenberg like our tourguide does. He's been to college and he paid attention, avoiding the neo-Straussian blind alley and accounting classes. No vulgarity for our tourguide, who isn't shy about touting his own refinement - no wood paneling or fat cigars for Mr. Wilkinson! His virtue is sneering at those who prattle on about virtue without understanding the greater verities. I can see Mr. Wilkinson now, perched in his Wassily chair, sneering at Elmer VanderPutten reclining in his Barcalounger. After all, if you already have all the answers, you don't have to actually think. And you definitely don't have to pay attention to the Committee on Social Thought.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wrapping your mind around stuff

Wow. There's an image that will scare the horses, huh? Lots of stuff happening and only a few minutes to blog about it, so what's a fella to do? Pull out the bullets, of course.

  • It looks like John McCain has won Florida tonight and that Rudy Giuliani is going to drop out and endorse him. I've posted the picture of McCain that went out with the AP story. I gotta be honest with you - the dude looks a little maniacal in the picture. If McCain wins the nomination and Obama manages to fight off the forces of doom on the other side, Obama the Cool Cat will look even better. I gave one cheer to Obama yesterday for his intelligence; I hope that he is as intelligent as he appears to be, because if this is the competition, Obama's going to be the President of the United States if he can sidestep the Arkansas Mafia.

  • I do hope that if Rudy does endorse McCain, that he wears this to the ceremony. And, as always, a special thanks to my pal Strolling Amok for that useful if highly disturbing image.

  • It also appears that the Twins have traded Johan Santana to the New York Mets for some of Omar Minaya's pocket lint and an autographed copy of the original cast recording of the musical "Pippin." I know, you have to wait to see how these things turn out, but I remember when my beloved Milwaukee Bucks traded away Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Everyone was talking about the great value the Buckos got in return, but Kareem won several championships in El Lay, while the Bucks managed to be just good enough to lose to the 76ers or Celtics every year during the 1980s. At least Johan won't be with the Yankees and my son will never be forced to cheer "Let's go, Melky." That's something, I guess.

Monday, January 28, 2008


The news lately has had me thinking about James Joyce. The great Irish master wrote wonderful books (Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man), challenging ones (Ulysses) and impenetrable ones (Finnegans Wake). Joyce's most accessible work was Dubliners, a series of short stories he wrote while living in Trieste around 1905 that was published in 1914. All of the stories are well worth your time and are easy enough to digest. Joyce meant the stories to serve as a moral history of the Irish people and he uses the short story form to present a variety of vignettes, roughly chronological, with the earliest stories concerning children and the latter ones concerning adults.

The common theme of all the stories is the notion of the "epiphany," by which Joyce meant a realization that a character comes to, often quite by surprise, that changes the meaning of the events experienced and, in the broader sense, changes the character's understanding of his life. This particular season has been a time of many epiphanies, it seems. A careful observer of the scene would note that many of these epiphanies have taken place in the last few weeks, in a place where self-realization is often quite rare; i.e., the campaign trail.

Jonathan Chait has been a prominent political writer and occupies a pretty prestigious spot as the writer primarily responsible for the venerable TRB column in The New Republic. Chait wasn't, for the longest time, particularly concerned about the political carnage that the former president and his wife have wreaked. But lately the subtle ministrations of America's favorite couple have been trained on Barack Obama, putative wunderkind of the Democratic Party who is bidding to save us all from ourselves. Oddly, some of the tactics that were ignored, or even admired, are now the source of concern, disdain and even disgust among the bien pensants of our betters in the Democratic Party. Chait states his epiphany this way:

But the conservatives might have had a point about the Clintons' character. Bill's affair with Monica Lewinsky jeopardized the whole progressive project for momentary pleasure. The Clintons gleefully triangulated the Democrats in Congress to boost his approval rating. They do seem to have a feeling of entitlement to power.

Then there's my friend Strolling Amok, who described Mrs. Clinton this way a while back:

I know a lot of people who like Hillary's husband Bill a lot but can't stand her. I'm not one of those people - as I've mentioned I always found Bill to be
an unctuous sleaze even though I thought he was an OK president. Hillary reminds
me of one of those Meryl Streep characters who seems completely detestable but
is actually kind of an OK person. Like that Australian lady who everyone thought
murdered her baby even though it was actually eaten by a dingo.

Not any more, though. Now that the Clinton dingoes have been unleased on Senator Obama, SA has learned what a lot of us wingnuts (or Repuglicans, to use a favorite SA term of affection) knew a long time ago. You might even say that SA, Chait and a lot of other portsiders have had an epiphany.

One of the things that I do seriously admire about Obama is this: despite his callowness and his wrong-headedness about most issues, Obama is clearly a very smart man and is capable of learning. As it turns out, so are some of his supporters.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Ed and Mary Jane

My parents were married 45 years ago today, at St. Therese Catholic Church in Appleton, Wisconsin. It was cold as hell - I have been told that it was as cold that day as it was for the Ice Bowl. My dad was finishing his senior year at UW-Madison and would take his first job later that summer with CNA Insurance in Chicago. My mom was an executive secretary for Kimberly-Clark, the huge paper company based in nearby Neenah. I was born at the end of the year.

My parents had a tough marriage - I've chronicled in this space my mother's lifelong challenges with mental illness which were at the root of their problems. They had seven children together (one daughter died shortly after birth) and ultimately they ended up separating in 1977 and divorcing in 1980. My father died in 1990 following complications from heart surgery and my mother died in 2000, also following complications from a mastectomy.
My dad has has been gone for a long time now and my mom has, too. Life didn't turn out the way they would likely have chosen. But even though their marriage ended in divorce, it does not mean they failed. My siblings and I are all reasonably successful and those of us who are married (four of six) have fine marriages, indeed. My father did not live long enough to meet any of his six granchildren and my mother only lived long enough to meet three of the six, but my siblings and I have tried to make sure that they are a part of our children's lives. You can't sum up a marriage, or a life, in a blog post. But I am thankful for these two people, who loved each other enough to bring me into this world.

Four Guys Named Ben Update - 012608

Ben's Gold Standard lost another heartbreaker this morning, 24-22 to yet another mysterious Mounds View team at Chippewa Middle School. Their opponents had a lot of height, including one young fellow who was well on his way to 6 feet tall, and despite our guys's best effort, it was not meant to be. Ben did not score, but he grabbed four rebounds, made two steals and garnered an assist, along with his usual tenacious defense. The team's record now stands at 3-5-1 with one last game on the regular season schedule, again at Chippewa. Game time is 1 p.m. Remember, Mr. Dilettante is your source for continuing coverage of Irondale in-house 5-6 basketball.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I am remiss. . .

In not mentioning the passing of Suzanne Pleshette, who died over the weekend. Ms. Pleshette played Bob Newhart's sensible and sometimes sardonic wife Emily on "The Bob Newhart Show" in the 1970s. As regular readers of this feature know, Newhart is a personal favorite of mine and I greatly admired Ms. Pleshette's work on that show. She appeared in many other shows, movies and plays during her long, distinguished career. May she rest in peace.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

935 Luftballoons

Didja hear that "two non-profit organizations" have undertaken a study that demonstrates that the Bush administration lied 935 times about weapons of mass destruction and misled us into war? Shocking. Just shocking.

Did you know that the "Center for Public Integrity" is funded by George Soros? As is the "Fund for Independence in Journalism." Do you think that mentioning that might be somehow relevant to understanding the story that the AP, CBS News, the New York Times, etc. are hawking this morning?

935 is an impressive number. It sounds really daunting, really damning. But it's meaningless. One could find at least 935 separate attacks on the Bush administration from George Soros and his constellation of front groups. And that's fine. I don't know what the Bushes ever did to George Soros to make him as p.o. 'ed as he is at them, but it ultimately doesn't matter. He is certainly free to spend millions on attacking the administration, for whatever reason. He can even create a series of organizations with Orwellian names that provide steady employment for perpetually aggrieved leftists. People like that need jobs, too.

All that matters is that we recognize it for what it is. These organizations are "non-profit" for two reasons - to avoid paying taxes even though they are engaged in political activity; and because you couldn't make a profit selling this crap. Even if the media these people chide are always willing to swallow it whole.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Say a prayer

for Leo Pusateri, an excellent MOB blogger who blogs at Psycmeistr's Ice Palace. His father has been ill for some time and it doesn't look good.

Freddie's Dead

We're all built up with progress

But sometimes I must confess

We can deal with rockets and dreams

But reality, what does it mean

Ain't nothing said

'Cause freddies dead

--Curtis Mayfield

Well, his campaign is, at least. Too bad. What does this mean? Who knows? One guess, though; it won't help John McCain as much as he thinks.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Back to politics

Now that midnight has struck for my beloved Packers, it's time to turn back to politics for a while. Let's look at the candidates:


John Edwards: It's difficult to see the rationale for his campaign at this point. He might be running for Veep now, although he's taken some hard shots at both of the front runners. Still a cheap demagogue and a phony. His last stand is South Carolina - if he doesn't win it outright, he's gone. And good riddance.

Barack Obama: He's still in it but his campaign is taking on water now. We've discussed the matter here before, but he is starting to understand how formidable the Clinton machine really is. Still full of balloon juice on all the issues, but Obama demonstrates an active intelligence that is rare among Democratic candidates, who tend to be wedded to the usual litany of programs. He's still well short of 50, so he'll have another chance, unless the Clintons destroy him, which just might happen as things get more acrimonious.

Hillary Clinton: She's looking like the nominee at this point. All of her problems remain intact: her sanctimony, her plasticity, her lack of warmth. Her organization is now effectively taking down Obama but it could be a Pyrrhic victory, given the amount of bad feeling she's generating among a lot of African-Americans, who remain the most loyal Democratic constituency. Her husband has had to do a lot of heavy lifting on the trail, too, which may end up hurting her later on. Still, if you were to lay odds on who will be the 44th president, she would be the favorite at this time.

Dennis Kucinich/Mike Gravel/etc.: Dead but too dumb to lie down.


John McCain: Trumpeted as the favorite by many in the media. I don't see it, though. For many reasons he remains anathema with the conservative base. He also doesn't have a lot of money and isn't likely to get much more any time soon. He has won a few contests early but he's going to be running on fumes soon. Unless he wins about half the states on Super Tuesday, he's toast. If he does survive the process, he runs as Bob Dole redux. And we know how that one ends.

Mike Huckabee: Remember Richard Gephardt? I know, I barely do either. He won the Iowa caucus, too. Huckabee hasn't won anything since that unrepresentative opening caucus. Probably running for Vice President now but he won't get the job, especially if Romney wins the nomination.

Fred Thompson: Thompson has run perhaps the most casual campaign I've ever seen. He probably is the most reliable conservative in the race, but to me it seems he's been looking for a casting director to give him the job more than he's been willing to actively campaign for the job. Since he hasn't made the effort to make the case for his candidacy, he isn't going to win.

Rudy Giuliani: You may have heard of Rudy - America's Mayor, crusading U.S. Attorney, Mr. 9-11, channeler of Uncle Miltie*. He's been hiding in the Everglades, waiting for the race to come to him. Did he wait too long? We're about to find out. My guess is that he has.

Ron Paul: Revealed as a crank. Anyone who subcontracts anything to Lew Rockwell gets what he deserves. He has no chance to be president, but will likely be a regular on the chat show circuit going forward because, like his progenitor Pat Buchanan, he is useful to the Left wearing the mantel of "conservative commentator." Paul's commitment to limited government is principled, compelling and noble. But he's still a crank.

Mitt Romney: My concerns with Romney are simple enough. He's protean, he's quick to attack, his positions on issues tend to be modular. Having said that, my guess is that he will eventually be the nominee. He has two things going for him: his executive experience and his great personal wealth. He could, if he chose, essentially self-fund his campaign. That alone may make the difference. I also suspect that whatever ill feeling his campaign has generated up to this point, he's been careful enough not to burn all the bridges. The problem is this; just as McCain reminds me of Bob Dole, Romney reminds me of John Kerry. Yes, I know that it's a facile, superficial comparison, but Romney can be attacked in much the same way Kerry was. And unlike Kerry, Romney won't get any help from the mainstream media.

* I know, the link comes from my friend Strolling Amok's blog and isn't very nice to Republicans, but that picture of Rudy - oy.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Better Team Won

Congratulations to the Giants. And thanks to my Packers for a wonderful season that was beyond any expectations I had at the beginning of the year. I strongly suspect, Favre or no Favre, that the Packers will be a contendah next year. And I'll bet Favre comes back.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Tonto's Expanding Headband

Just a little housekeeping; wanted to let you know I've added several new links to my sidebar under the "Me Gusta" section. All are MOB blogs that I think are worthy of your attention, but as always I'm just enough of a contrary bastard that I won't put them up by their proper name. But that's the fun of the hunt - punch a few links and see what you find.

Just read this

You may have heard about the New York Times's recent article that tried to portray returning war veterans as unhinged lunatics. Well, the redoubtable Iowahawk is on the case and has a companion report.

When the Iowahawk is on the case, Woodward and Bernstein may as well go home.

Four Guys Named Ben Update 011908

The Gold Standard played a tough Irondale #1 team this morning at the SACC, battling all the way but losing 36-31. Irondale #1 had two superior players who were just a bit too tough for our charges. Ben again did not score, but managed four rebounds and two steals and at least one assist, playing his usual unselfish, all-around game.

The loss brings the squad's overall record to 3-4-1, with the season finale coming next week against yet another mysterious Mounds View team at 11 a.m. at Chippewa Middle School. As always, Mr. Dilettante is your source for hard-hitting coverage of Irondale 5-6 in-house basketball.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Prairie Mansion Companion

Round these parts, Garrison Keillor is larger than life. But for all his fame, he's really not a very nice man. This story details the ongoing dispute between Keillor and his neighbors, who are attempting to build a garage on their property. Keillor is doing everything he can to stop this from happening. The property on the right is the neighbor's home, a fairly modest home in St. Paul. The massive pile of bricks on the left is Keillor's house. Keillor could, if he chose, lob French-accented insults and cows over the top of his place onto the neighbors a la Monty Python. But instead, he's claiming that their garage, which has already passed muster with the local busybodies, will somehow be out of scope for the neighborhood. You can see the foundation for the proposed garage on the neighbor's property. It's not a small edifice, but it's hardly a "carriage house," as Keillor claims.
It's often a challenge to separate the art from the artist. Keillor is one of the most talented writers of our time and has written several wonderful books. He has entertained many, many people with his show on Radio Moscow - I think that's what it's on, I'm not sure, it's some state subsidized propaganda organ. If I can enjoy Marvin Gaye's music even though he was a lousy human being, I suppose I can enjoy Keillor as well. But stuff like this, to say nothing of his insufferable syndicated newspaper column, doesn't make it any easier. Kathy the Cake Eater (a very good blogger, by the way) had a choice term for Mr. Keillor in her discussion of the matter. I won't use it here, but let's just say it's le mot juste.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Patty Hearst Heard the Burst

Warren Zevon is one of our favorites around here. He was an odd duck, a strange combination of James Taylor and Raymond Chandler, writing beautiful songs laced with sulfuric acid. One of my portsider friends made reference to Zevon's 1978 semihit "Excitable Boy" in discussing his support for Barack Obama. But we're going to put Mr. Obama to the side for just a moment, although he figures in the story at the end. I'm more interested in discussing the Clintons. And that means it's time to break out a different song from Zevon's "Excitable Boy" album. Instead, we're going to look at "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner."

The Clintons have always had a bevy of Thompson Gunners in their employ. It's part of their mystique and a source of their power. Since the Clintons first arrived on the scene in 1991, their political operatives have been the ones with the sharpest elbows and, when necessary, the biggest guns. For all of Clinton's enormous political skills, his initial candidacy was always under threat because of wounds that were, in the main, self-inflicted. Even his greatest admirers will stipulate that he was a hound when it came to women. In addition, he emerged from a state that is notorious for political corruption. It was inevitable that the many skeletons in his closet would be problematic. Clinton understood that and made sure that his operatives were able to punish anyone who might be a problem politically. Through a combination of personal charm and sheer ruthlessness, he was able to get through a nasty 1992 campaign and an eight-year presidency. They would find Ken Starr in a figurative Mombassa, in a barroom drinking gin. And if you know the song, you know what happens.

Now the Clintons are back and they have their Thompson Gunners arrayed again. But to get to where they want to be, they have to gun down someone other than the hapless Republicans they so easily befuddled during the 1990s. Now they have to gun down a certain Illinois senator who stands in their way.

And therein lies the dilemma for Democrats. Many Democrats, like Patty Hearst, heard the burst of the Thompson guns in the 1990s and bought into it because the fire was directed at Republicans and they enjoyed the carnage. But it's different now. Someone less nasty, someone more likable, would like to take the stage. But he must be damaged, even destroyed if necessary. And there is a lot of collateral damage that is being wrought, and not only for the Democrats. But the problem remains -- like Roland, these gunners are remorseless and relentless. And even if that son of a bitch Obama blows off Roland's head, the gunner will keep coming.

What a maroon

Whenever you hear Democrats talk about how they are going to restore competence to Washington, consider whom they've sent there already.

Fearless Dilettante Football Predictions - Big Mouth Pundit Edition

Making picks? Mais oui. But not just that; we're telling it like it is.

Green Bay Packers 27, New York Football Giants 14. The Giants are a better team now than they were in Week 2, when my beloved Packers manhandled them 35-13 in lovely East Rutherford, New Jersey. The rematch is in Green Bay. The weather forecast calls for temperatures to be right around zero at game time, which has been delayed to the evening so that Fox can score mongo television ratings. But what's going to happen? Here's how I see it. The key is that the Giants are running very low on defensive backs right now. Aaron Ross, their rookie nickel back, is going to try to play with a separated shoulder. If he can't go, they have to use a guy from their practice squad. R.W. McQuarters has never been much more than a turnstile during his career - he didn't scare me as a 49er or a Bear and he doesn't scare me as a Giant. Figure that the Packers will slant the Giants to death, especially given their penchant for leaving the middle of the field open, which Tony Romo saw but was inexplicably unable to exploit last week. Favre will be cautious and pick his spots. He'll find them. And then it's on to Internet College Field in Glendale, Arizona for the much-anticipated matchup against the Evil Empire, about which more directly below.
ACTUAL RESULT: NEW YORK GIANTS 23, GREEN BAY PACKERS 20. Pretty simple. The better team won. The Giants dictated the pace of the game and they deserved to win. A great season for my Packers; too bad they couldn't get it done tonight. But give the credit to the Giants, who played a beautiful game.

New England Evil Empire 41, San Diego Attrition 17. Give the Chargers credit for getting this far; their win in Indy last week was very impressive, especially given that LaDanian Tomlinson and Phillip Rivers were spectators. Unfortunately, the Patriots are healthy and ruthless. And Randy Moss getting gigged during the week just means that he's going to be even more motivated. I'd say there's a 50/50 chance he'll come out with a 'fro going like he used to in Minnesota when he was looking to dominate. Brady always finds him. And I don't think Quentin Jammer is going to stop him. The only way the Chargers win this is if they get off to a quick start and can control the ball on offense with long, time-consuming drives. That's always been the formula for beating the Patriots, but no one has been able to do it yet. And I can't see it happening on Sunday.
ACTUAL RESULT: EVIL EMPIRE 21, BOLTS 12. A really good game and give the Chargers a lot of credit for a wonderful effort. But the Patriots are the best team this year. But they will have another challenge in the Giants.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hugh can come off the ledge now

Finally Mitt Romney wins one in Michigan. The pundits are now atwitter - the Republicans are fractured! How can they reunite? What will happen? Everyone will be mad! Huge factions will stay home!

It's the same now as it was last week. No one knows anything. This thing is going to be going on for some time now and I'm not particularly concerned that the candidates have not yet been decided on either side. There's a decent chance that both major parties will have candidates who have been properly vetted by the time this is done. The choices should be clear. And we'll decide.

Ice Bowl II?

The weather forecast indicates that it could very well be below zero all day on Sunday in Green Bay. Perhaps it will look like this.


You've heard of the SI cover jinx, right? Well, this isn't good news.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It was 8 years ago today

The first call came at 3:00 in the morning. My wife, already in the hospital on bed rest, was on the line. I was home with my son. She told me that I should be ready; the doctors were trying to slow things down, but it was possible that the baby was coming.

The next call came at 3:30. This time it was a nurse; she told me that I should get over to the hospital, because the baby was coming. I called my mother-in-law and told her to come over to watch my son. I got in the shower and started thinking about how my life was about to change.

About 4, my mother-in-law arrived. I was already dressed and we barely spoke as I headed for my car. It was snowing moderately - all told about 3 inches would fall that morning - as I slowly made my way down 694 to St. John's Hospital. I strolled in about 4:20, told the lady at the desk that my wife was in labor, and I headed for her room. It was strangely quiet. I walked right past the bassinet, not even realizing that my second child had already arrived. The doctor was cleaning up and my wife was lying in her bed, tired but happy. "It's Maria," she said. "She's right behind you - you walked right past her."

Then I looked and realized that indeed, there was a baby in the bassinet. My daughter had arrived at 3:50 in the morning. I missed the moment, but immediately went over to see her. A nurse had her bundled and told me that I could pick her up and hold her. I did.

For the next hour and a half, I held my daughter and tried to imagine what she would turn out to be. I talked to her and told her many things - how much I loved her, how happy we were, what a nice brother she had. I told her many things that morning. But mostly I wondered; who was this little girl?

Today Maria is 8 years old. I know many more things about Maria than I did that day, and she knows many more things about her father. Maria is sweet, silly, funny and amazingly smart. She has moments of amazing insight and some days she has a tongue like a lash. She's a good portion of the way through her childhood already. It goes by fast. She will change and grow in countless ways in the next 8 years, in ways I can hardly imagine. The one thing I know most of all; I am fortunate to be her father.

I sincerely hope

That Steve Murphy, Larry Pogemiller and the rest of the DFL cabal really try to kick out Carol Molnau as Transportation Secretary now that this report from the NTSB shows that the 35W bridge was doomed from the start because of a faulty design.

It would show, once and for all, what the DFL is about. If these folks had any sense of shame, they'd slowly slink away. But being a DFLer means never having to say you're sorry.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Another look at 1961

On this one you see Paul Hornung (5) heading for a touchdown. Boyd Dowler (86) is going to provide the final block needed, and you can also see Jim Taylor (31), Forrest Gregg (75), Fuzzy Thurston (63), Bob Skoronski (78), Jim Ringo (51) and Bart Starr (15) in action. That might be Jerry Kramer in there too, but you can't tell for sure. Perhaps we'll get a similar shot on Sunday.
This picture is also from Packerville. For you Packer fans, I'm telling you, it's a treat.

Vince in 1961

The coach surveys the action on the City Stadium sideline. Note that he's got a heater going in his right hand. Won't see anything like that on the sideline this time around. Found this picture on Packerville, U.S.A., a site that every Packer fan should bookmark. I've added it to my blogroll for easy reference. Lotsa cool stuff there!

A lesson for sons of Packers fans

We've enjoyed Brett Favre for so long that it's easy to forget the not so glorious past. As my good friend ATD pointed out in another post here, our sons do not know that there was a time when the Packers were known primarily for mediocrity. Or worse. So here's a little history lesson.
The picture to the left shows the Packer quarterback stable at the beginning of the training camp in 1972. On the left is Jerry Tagge, who very briefly wore #14 until someone pointed out that the number was retired; Bart Starr, who ended up retiring before the season; and Scott Hunter, who led the Packers for three seasons during that time, generally without distinction. The second picture is John Hadl, who arrived in Green Bay in the middle of 1974 in the most disastrous trade in Green Bay history as an aging 34 year old quarterback and was sent away after two middling seasons. The fellow on the right is David Whitehurst, who was the Packers quarterback in the late 1970s. It's easy now, after 17 years of sustained excellence at the quarterback position with Brett Favre, to forget how dire things have been at times in Green Bay. Just looking at those pictures fills me with gratitude for all the good football I've been able to enjoy since Favre arrived in 1992.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Last time the Giants were in Green Bay for a championship game was before I was born. It was 1961, at what was then known as City Stadium. Those Packers were on the cusp of becoming the dominant team of the 1960s and were led by an intense, charismatic coach named Vince Lombardi who had prowled the Giants sideline as offensive coordinator only two years previously and a young talented quarterback named Bart Starr. The Giants were a tested, veteran team led by a charismatic, grizzled veteran quarterback named Y. A. Tittle. The Packers won that day 37-0 and the legend of Lombardi was born.

We're now nearly 50 years on from that day. The game has changed tremendously. The big town/little town dynamic that was so much a part of that contest won't be that big of a deal this time. This time, the Giants are the team with the promising young quarterback (Eli Manning) and the Packers are the team with the grizzled veteran (ol' number 4). You'll hear a lot about that history this week, and of other games that have taken place on the "frozen tundra" of Lambeau Field. It's entirely likely that the stentorian voice of John Facenda will meet your ears again, especially if you tune in to ESPN at any point. It's going to be a lot of fun.

In case you hadn't heard

Green Bay 42, Seattle 20. That is all.

It's not easy being the Walrus

Oddly enough, not everyone enjoyed the game yesterday as much as I did.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Good Heavens, I've Been Memed

Uncle Ben has tagged me with a meme. Okay, so here's how it works, and the result is below.

Here’s how it works: first article title on the page is the name of your band. last four words of the very last quote is the title of your album. third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

So here's the result:

1. The name of my band is "Hollywood Wiretap"

2. The name of the album is "Looks Like a Haddock"

3. And the image is what you see above. Let's be honest, though - this young lass doesn't look like a haddock.
And the fun of a meme is passing it on. So here you go, Strolling Amok and Dan. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a Packer game to watch. . . .

Four Guys Named Ben Update - 011208

The Gold Standard started out well but a determined rally by yet another anonymous Mounds View team led to a 26-20 loss this afternoon at Chippewa Middle School. Ben did not score but pulled down four rebounds and had two steals. The loss brings the team's record back to .500 at 3-3-1. They take the court again next Saturday against Irondale #1 at 9 a.m. at the SACC. Stay tuned to Mr. Dilettante for continuing coverage of exciting Irondale 5-6 in-house basketball.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Former Employers in the News

Interesting week in the business world, especially concerning two of my previous employers, Target Corporation and Bank of America. Target announced this week that CEO Bob Ulrich is stepping down in May and will be replaced by longtime heir apparent Gregg Steinhafel, while B of A is in talks to take over Countrywide, a large mortgage lender that has been been hurt badly by the housing slump and the problems in the subprime market.

Ulrich has had a pretty successful tenure at Target, essentially transforming the company from a regional multi-line retailer into a formidable competitor in the discount store arena. Given Target's performance over the just-completed holiday season, it's probably as good a time as any for Ulrich to move on. I wonder what's going to happen to Steinhafel, though. He has a challenge on his hands from William Ackman, the activist investor who is agitating for Target to get rid of its credit card business. I'm not sure where I stand on this, but I suspect that Target needs to make some changes - it seems like they have been drifting for the last few years and they are now in a place that seems less hospitable for their fortunes: a discounter that relies too heavily on items that cannot be discounted easily.

B of A, on the other hand, looks pretty smart to me. Countrywide is in a lot of trouble right now, but the real value of the company is not in its management but in the many, many good loans they still have in their portfolio. Once completed, the move will put B of A in a good position to challenge their ancient rival Wells Fargo for superiority in the home mortgage market. And they are getting Countrywide at about as deep a discount as is possible.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Reason to Believe

I gave my lefty friends a ration earlier this week about their, shall we say, ardor toward the candidacy of Senator Obama. There's something fascinating about it and while it would be easier (and maybe funnier) to chalk it all up to something like a "man crush," I think there's something else going on this year over on the port side.

I think that a lot of Democrats want a reason to believe. Okay, cue the Tim Hardin:

If I listened long enough to you

Id find a way to believe that its all true

Knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried

Still I look to find a reason to believe

Someone like you makes it hard to live without

Somebody else

Someone like you makes it easy to give

Never think about myself

If I gave you time to change my mind

Id find a way just to leave the past behind

Knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried

Still I look to find a reason to believe

If I listened long enough to you

Id find a way to believe that its all true

Knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried

Still I look to find a reason to believe

Someone like you makes it hard to live without

Somebody else

Someone like you makes it easy to give

Never think about myself

This old chestnut was most likely about some sort of failed romance - I can't claim to be a Tim Hardin scholar; perhaps the Anonymous Truck Driver might know more about it. But as I've been watching the election coverage in the past few weeks, I've been getting the sense that while the Democrats are energized, there's a lot of disillusioned people on the Left. And that made me think of this song. I get the same sense here - a lot of people are hanging on to a failed romance.

There are a couple interesting ideas in Hardin's song. First is the notion that if you listen long enough to something, you can trick yourself into believing it. That's a trick that politicians have understood since time immemorial. It's one reason why the Democrats are chanting the mantra of change in this election. The change that's on offer for 2008 is hardly anything new; as a practical matter, the Democrats have been running on the same platform since 1964. They have stood for the same thing - more governmental programs, more governmental oversight, more everything. This stance has not changed since Lyndon Johnson was sitting in the big chair. And all LBJ did is expand the vision that has guided the Democrats since 1932.

Hillary Clinton wanted to overhaul health care 16 years ago. She still does. Al Gore wanted to impose an onerous new regulatory regime for the environment 16 years ago. He still does. Ted Kennedy wanted to do both these things 40 years ago and might have been able to do them save for his inability to control his appetites and his Oldsmobile. I don't know what Barack Obama wanted to do 16 years ago but he's for the same things that the others in the Democratic Party have been supporting for the past 44 years.

We are, apparently, being asked to believe that turning over the keys to government to a party that hasn't changed its thinking in any essential way for 44 years is a good way to bring about change. We are asked to believe this even though the vast majority of the current Democratic agenda was put in place over 40 years ago and has not been altered in any real way since, despite the ministrations of five different Republican presidents since then. I often wonder if, somewhere deep down, a lot of people who support the Democrats understand all this. I have to think that at least some of them do. Still they look to find a reason to believe.

Coming next: Patty Hearst heard the burst

Fearless Dilettante Football Predictions - I Am the Walrus Edition

I am he as you are he and you are me and we are all together. So why not make some football picks?

Green Bay Packers 31, Seattle Seabags 24. The first thing to realize is that it won't be easy. Mike Holmgren is still a fine football coach and he understands Brett Favre better than most opposing coaches. There is no question that the Walrus will find ways to get inside Brett's head and I'm guessing that Favre will not be flawless this time. But the Packers are healthy and the great equalizer for the Seahawks, running back Shaun Alexander, is not the same guy he was two years ago. Look for Ryan Grant to continue his excellent Dorsey Levens imitation, figure that someone surprising (maybe James Jones?) will do something big and that in the end, the Pack will win. But it won't be easy.
ACTUAL RESULT: PACKERS 42, SEAHAWKS 20. What a fun game - the snow, the long runs, the ferocious tackling by Atari Bigby. One of the most enjoyable Packer games I've seen in my life, and I've seen a lot of them. Ryan Grant giveth and Ryan Grant taketh away. One thing, though - I wouldn't recommend spotting the other team 14 points next time, especially if the game is in Dallas.

Dallas Cowboahs 27, New York Football Giants 24. Oh, how I'd love to pick the G-Men. And there are reasons for optimism. But I have two feelings about this game. One is that Marion Barber is going to be a big-time stud; and more importantly, I think Terrell Owens is playing possum. The Giants are good and have been tough on the road. But their road ends here.
ACTUAL RESULT: G-MEN 21, COWBOAHS 17. This result will get the most analysis (and psychoanalysis) of the weekend, but not here. No schadenfreude either. You just have to give the Giants credit for doing what it took to win. They will be a formidable foe for my beloved Packers.

New England Evil Empire 34, Jacksonville Jagwires 21. Can the Patriots be beaten? Sure. But not by these guys, at least not this year. The team that can beat them is playing elsewhere this weekend.
ACTUAL RESULT: EVIL EMPIRE 31, JAGS 20. Tom Brady may be smug, but he's an awfully good quarterback. After this weekend, they have to be prohibitive favorite to run the table. But I still have hope should my boys get to the Super Bowl.

Tony Dungy Nation 31, San Diego Chargers 23. The defending champions are still in the middle of Indiana. They will not relinquish their crown easily.
ACTUAL RESULT: BOLTS 28, COLTS 24. Best game of the weekend and quite a remarkable effort by the Chargers, who were running out of bullets but managed to survive. While I think that New England will handle them, they are a tough out.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Say hello to my little friend

Yep, the bullets are flying again:

  • I hear that Tubby Smith may be turning things around over at the U. Since the games are all being held hostage on the Big Ten Network, I cannot confirm this rumor.

  • Post New Hampshire thought of the day: needless to say, the punditocracy is all looking around at each other, trying to figure out the source of the smell. It's getting to be axiomatic - anyone who claims to know what is going to happen next is going to look foolish by the time the next event rolls around. But one thing everyone should know by now - the Clintons are not going away quietly.

  • Once again we are treated to another round of crowing from fans of the SEC following LSU's thumping of Ohio State the other night. It's not entirely clear that the Big Ten Conference is following the lead of one of its charter members (the University of Chicago) and de-emphasizing sports. At a minimum, one might argue that the schools have de-emphasized winning. Maybe next year. . . .

  • So Secretary of State Mark Ritchie was cleared of wrongdoing, but the findings indicate that he essentially misrepresented what he did. Silly me, I thought he was supposed to be a reformer.

  • A question for my fellow voters in District 50B - are you aware that Kate Knuth's father is a lobbyist? And do you know his primary client? Okay, that's two questions. See if you can guess. The answer is an interesting one.

  • As I write this, my daughter is showing me something on her Nintendo DS. And I have no idea what it is. She is very interested in it, though. What a drag it is getting old....

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Empire Strikes Back

As I write, about 55% of the votes have been counted in the New Hampshire primary and it appears quite possible that Hillary Clinton might be about to defeat Barack Obama. I'll leave it to my lefty friends to figure out exactly why that might be, but here are a few guesses:
1) The Iowa caucuses are not a secret ballot. In the main, these caucuses are attended by party activists on both sides. Party activists tend to be further down the ideological spectrum, either to the Left or Right, than the general population. On the D's side of the aisle, such people like Obama.
2) Because you had to publicly declare your allegiance in the Iowa caucus, you had the element of moral vanity involved. There's always been a certain amount of preening that goes on in such a scenario and it leads to a group dynamic that would benefit someone like Obama who is the challenger, the outsider, the one who is poised to epater le bourgeoisie (pardon my French). Those crusty New Hampshireites were in a voting booth and they could do what they wanted. Some of them may not have bought into the dream.
3) A hell of a lot of people in the Democractic Party are beholden to the Clintons. Many of them remain loyal. It's possible they saw what was about to happen and rushed to the barricades.
4) Every four years we hear about the candidate who is going to be the one who brings the youth to the polls. In my first presidential election that particular flavor was Gary Hart. Last time around, it was Howard Dean. Back in 1968, it was all those fresh-scrubbed "Clean for Gene" folks. Notice how many of these folks ended up winning the election. The youth wave has been, in the main, chimerical. Maybe, just maybe it is again.
Obama may win this yet, even tonight. But the visions that a lot of people had that this would be a rout, that the Clintons would go quietly, always seemed far-fetched. Barack Obama will have to convince many, many more Americans that he is the guy. He might be able to do it. But this thing is just starting.
Update: now with 70% of the vote in, Clinton has extended her lead over Obama. Are you all ready for the "comeback kid" stuff on the 10 o'clock news?

Monday, January 07, 2008

And I Moved

The testimony of of my house lefty friends, juxtaposed to an old chestnut from Pete Townshend's "Empty Glass" album of 1980, coincidentally the year when arrived the Dread Pirate Reagan and their vale of tears began.

And I moved

As I saw him looking in through my window

"I often felt he might have been trying a little too hard to be careful not to take positions that were too controversial, but generally believe he is a person of remarkable intellect, decency and intention who could genuinely set a vastly different and superior tone to how this country thinks of itself and is perceived around the world. . . ." Anonymous Truck Driver

His eyes were silent lies

And I moved

And I saw him standing in the doorway

"If there is any substance in this guy to even come close to matching his pretty words he could be one of the best, most important presidents in American history." Strolling Amok

His figure merely filled the space

And I moved

But I moved toward him

"When I listen to him I feel like my primitive Democratic ancestors must have felt when they listened to Robert Kennedy or Franklin Roosevelt. I've never experienced anything like it in my life and I hope to god he's not all talk." Strolling Amok

And I moved

And his hands felt like ice exciting

As he laid me back just like an empty dress

"But Obama moves me. I find that my contempt and vitriol for the Right, and the Clintons, and the satisfaction in its venting is trumped by the value of being drawn toward the empathy and forgiveness that Obama engenders." Rich

But a minute after he was weeping

His tears his only truth

And I moved

But I moved toward him

"Obama will have mojo like we haven’t experienced in my lifetime." Rich

Sunday, January 06, 2008

T. J. Hooker explains the Iowa caucus

Sometimes when things are difficult to explain, you need to call in an expert. And when it comes to wisdom, few shows were able to deliver more succint thinking (and subtle line readings) than the 1980s William Shatner vehicle, T.J. Hooker. Two lines from that show, spit out in the inimitable Shatner style, go a long way toward explaining what happened on Thursday night.
Q. Hey Hooker, what happened to Mrs. Clinton's campaign?
A. She came here with stars in her eyes and left with a bullet in her chest.
Q. Hooker - did you see the negative campaign ads they were running in Iowa? What about ethics? What about morals?
A. Ethics and morals are living together in a trailer park on the wrong side of the tracks.

Crawling with lefties

Man, you start writing about politics and all of a sudden it's Old Home Week around here. I heard from my great old friend Anonymous Truck Driver today. ATD and I go back to college days and he is one of my favorite people in the world. He too is a Democrat, though. All of a sudden the joint is crawling with these people....

That seems to be how it goes; as my friend Strolling Amok has noted on his blog, he doesn't like Republicans, but his blog is chock full of Republican commentary. Anyway, since ATD is disappointed that he didn't get to vie for the job of house lefty before I made the appointment, I've decided to give him a chance to have the job, too. Thing is, having three house lefties means I have to change the titles around. That's okay though - even a hidebound conservative like me has to be willing to embrace change from time to time.
So we now have three house lefties here: Rich, Strolling Amok and the Anonymous Truck Driver. They will be henceforth be known collectively as the Nairobi Trio, in tribute to the old Ernie Kovacs skit. Since I fully expect to get hit with the rhetorical equivalent of tympani mallets throughout this blogging year, it seemed like an obvious choice.
By the way, Romney won the Wyoming caucus yesterday. Were you even aware that Wyoming had a caucus yesterday? Me neither until I read about it last night.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Iowa As Acronym and Example

One of my favorite old jokes is the one that explains Iowa as an acronym for "I Owe the World an Apology." After watching the results of Thursday's Hawkeye Cauci come in, that old chestnut had some added resonance. If nothing else, it did upset a few expectations.
I've posted the image of Snidely Whiplash because I'm wondering about a few cherished assumptions. Snidely Whiplash was, for those of us who grew up before the Age of Homer Simpson, the cartoon villain of choice. He was forever threatening lovely Nell, Dudley-Do-Right's theoretical main squeeze, with all manner of ridiculous mayhem. But for all his bluster, he never closed the deal. My lefty friend Lee has suggested that those of us on the starboard side of politics tend to give the Clintons too much credit for their propensity for evil. I have always assumed that, if Barack Obama were ever to become a real threat to the campaign of Hillary, he would be destroyed by the Clinton Machine. While I still think that's possible, I've been rethinking the matter lately and am beginning to wonder if Lee is correct. It might be telling that the dirt the Clintons deployed prior to Iowa was the ridiculous business about schoolwork Obama did when he was in kindergarten.
In thinking about Obama, I have always had two assumptions about him: first, because he comes from the eternally corrupt State of Illinois, he would be tainted in some way that would prove disastrous at some point; and second, because Team Clinton has operatives all over Illinois, these acolytes would deploy said taint in a way that would eventually destroy Obama's candidacy.
We are now into this thing and none of those things have happened. It is possible that the Clintons may still have a trick up their sleeve, but I'm beginning to wonder. One thing that has always been clear is that Obama is a likeable fellow and that Hillary Clinton is not. Some of what is said about Hillary is unfair and yes, sexist. But it's instructive that much of the opposition to Hillary comes from other women. Mark Steyn made a fairly simple but important point the other day: if part of what motivates the Democrats in this election is the chance to do something historic with their votes, it would be a lot more pleasant to vote for Obama. That is what happened in Iowa on Thursday.
Where I think Iowa owes the world an apology is on the other side of the ballot. The more I see of Mike Huckabee, the less I like. My suspicion is that he won't survive the scrutiny that is coming his way, but his campaign has damaged other, more viable candidates, especially Mitt Romney. I have issues with Romney, too, but he is plausible as a candidate and as President. Huckabee, not so much. The other house lefty on this blog, Rich, suggested in a comment that Fred Thompson needs a B-12 shot. This was spot-on: if Romney isn't viable, Thompson would probably be the best potential candidate for the Republicans; the problem is he doesn't appear to care that much whether he wins or not. It is entirely possible that McCain could be the beneficary of all this, which would put a lot of us who hate McCain-Feingold and the other things that McCain has done over the years into a real quandary. But it might be shaping up that way.
Perhaps New Hampshire will clarify that - one thought I had was that, because independents can vote in either primary, it's possible that some of the support McCain is counting on might end up as votes for Obama instead. We'll find out soon enough.

Four Guys Named Ben Update - 010508

Ben's fighting Irondale 5-6 In-House Team 2 (a/k/a the "Gold Standard") defeated another Mounds View team scattered with former baseball teammates of Ben's by a score 0f 24-11 this morning at Chippewa Middle School in tony North Oaks. Despite playing without two of the team's big men, the Gold Standard steadily took a lead and played generally stifling defense to wear out the beleaguered Mounds View squad. Ben did not score but managed to pull down six rebounds and recorded three steals.

The win brings the team's record to 3-2-1 and they will return to action at 1 p.m. Saturday against yet another Mounds View team, again at Chippewa. Remember, Mr. Dilettante is your source for continuing coverage of the Irondale 5-6 In-House Basketball League.

Fearless Dilettante Football Predictions - Wild Card Edition

Wild card weekend in the NFL. Four games that I wouldn't ordinarily give a rat's patootie about, but there they are. So pick we must:

Washington Politically Incorrects 21, Seattle Seabags 17. The 'Skins are on a mission - just ask the Vikings - and while Seattle is a good team, they don't scare anyone. Usually Seattle is a very difficult place to win, but the forecast is for terrible weather and that should make Matt Hasselbeck's day problematic. Clinton Portis can run in any conditions. He'll prove that today. And remember, those Cowboahs want no part of the Redskins again.

ACTUAL RESULT: SEAHAWKS 35, REDSKINS 14. For a minute there, in the 4th quarter, this looked like a pretty good pick. Then the Redskins kicker missed the field goal and the Seahawks never looked back. So that means the Walrus returns to Green Bay yet again. Will he figure out how to foil Favre?

Jacksonville Jagwires 24, Pittsburgh Stillers 16. The Steelers haven't been the same since they lost Willie Parker. Neither was my fantasy football team, for that matter. The Jags are very good and they've already demonstrated that they can win in Pittsburgh. Look for a sequel.

ACTUAL RESULT: JAGS 29, STEELERS 28. Probably the best game of the weekend and a really gutty performance on both sides. This one was a war. Can the Jags keep running the ball and keep it out of Tom Brady's hands?

New York Football Giants 27, Tampa Bay Pewter Pirates 21. Tampa is probably the weakest team in the field. The Giants are hard to figure - they gave the Patriots a stern test but were roadkill against the Vikings and my beloved Packers, so I'm not real confident about this pick. But if talent will out, and it usually does, then you have to go with the G-Men.

ACTUAL RESULT: GIANTS 24, BUCS 14. Tampa didn't have the margin for error to commit turnovers. So the G-Men get their third crack at the Cowboys.

San Diego Chargers 31, Tennessee Tuxedos 17. One of the home teams has to win, right? And the Chargers are playing well right now. This seems like the easiest pick of the weekend. That's why it's quite likely to be wrong.

ACTUAL RESULT: CHARGERS 17, TITANS 6. The Chargers didn't get their wakeup call until halftime, but they took care of business after that. They won't have that luxury when they go to Indy next week.

Since politics are local. . .

things that happen in Minnesota often have more immediate impact on our lives than what was being discussed in the carnival that recently left our southern neighbors. On the same night, there was a special election in MN SD 25, which is the area around Northfield. The Democrats took the seat, which now means that they have a potentially veto-proof majority in the Senate. This complicates Governor Pawlenty's life in myriad ways and it also means that the chances that taxes will go up, potentially significantly, has just increased.

We can't do anything about changing the composition of the Minnesota Senate until the 2010 cycle. The Minnesota House is another matter. I live in House District 50B and am represented by first-term DFLer Kate Knuth. Knuth is 26 years old and campaigned as a fresh young face last time around. She didn't exactly mention that her father is a longtime DFL lobbyist and served in the Minnesota House without distinction years ago. She's essentially a DFL footsoldier who happens to prefer Birkenstocks. I'm still amazed that she was able to use "qualifications" that included being the drum major for Irondale High School as part of her campaign literature and still got elected anyway.

50B has been a swing district forever. There's no reason that Ms. Knuth cannot be beaten this time around. But it requires those of us who prefer politics on the Cincinnatus model to get involved. I'd prefer to stay with my plow. But we don't have that option this year. So I'll be devoting a fair amount of time to this particular campaign.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Team Dilettante 2008

We're 3 days in and it's finally time to get started on the new year in blogging. I want to do a few things. First, I want to acknowledge the passing of former Wisconsin Governor Lee Dreyfus, who died today at the age of 81. Dreyfus was the governor from 1979-1983 and was most famous for his trademark red vest. This vest made it easy to spot him whenever they took a picture at the National Governor's Association meetings, which seemed to take place weekly during his tenure. Dreyfus was a moderate Republican and didn't really move the state one way or another, but he was a good egg. That's more than I can say about most politicians.
Next, I want to announce a few appointments. I recently heard from an old friend of mine from Beloit named Rich. We lived on the same floor in the 1982-83 school year, but he ended up leaving school that year and I hadn't heard from him in a long time. I'm glad he stopped by and he has already left a few interesting responses on this blog. He suggested that he would like to be the "self-appointed house leftist" for my blog. We already had one of those, of course - my friend Lee, who has recently resumed blogging at But there's always room for two lefties, so I am naming them to the positions of Statler and Waldorf, after the hecklers from the Muppet Show. They are both uniquely qualified for the post; Rich witnessed the death of many of my brain cells during that particular school year, and Lee witnessed my struggles in using the brain cells I had remaining as a co-worker at B of A. They are both fine fellows, despite their odd political proclivities. They will be here to call "bullcrap" on me as needed. Since it is an election year, unfortunately I expect that politics will rear its ugly head here more than I might ordinarily want. But they will add just a little venom around here for flavoring.
I am also designating a few other friends of this blog for honoria at this time:
Dilettante Spiritual Advisor: This job falls to Ben of Hammerswing75 fame. Ben is currently studying for the ministry. Now you might think it odd that a blog that wears its Catholicism on its sleeve would designate a prospective Protestant minister as the official spiritual advisor, but a fella needs to cover his bets. Besides that, Ben is a great, thoughtful guy and his faith is strong and sure. And we can always finesse the doctrine a little bit. Read Ben at
Dilettante Sports Antagonist: This job falls to Dan, the Northern Alliance Wannabe. It takes a special kind of sports perversity to be a Cubs fan, a Cowboys fan and an Illini fan. Quite a trifecta, actually. But Dan does it with style, grace, verve and panache. Which is a good trick, because the typical U of I grad would have a difficult time pronouncing a lot of those words. Read Dan at
Dilettante Southern Hater: That would fall to my brother, a/k/a The Stinger. His epic rant against all things south of the Mason-Dixon line was a highlight of my 2007 blogging. At some point we'll make a formal presentation of an autographed picture of Steve Spurrier to him. The Stinger does not yet have his own blog and America is certainly wondering why that is. C'mon Stinger, your public awaits you!
I may choose to bestow additional honoraria as the year goes on. But it's always good to be part of the team.