Friday, December 31, 2010

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- New Year's Day Bowl Edition

Okay, old dude, we've finally gotten the Beef O'Brady's Bowl and the Meineke Car Care Bowl out of the way, so we can finally start picking some bowl games that matter. Are you ready to feel the HYYYYYPPPPEEE!

Well, I wasn't feeling the Meineke Car Care Bowl, so I guess we can move on.

It's time. Watch me work:

Ticket City Bowl, in Dallas: Northwestern Wildcat Offense (+9 1/2) vs. Texas Tech Red Raid-uhs. When we last saw Northwestern, they were under the wheels of the Badger bandwagon, which rolled them over by a score of 70-23. So, is Texas Tech as good as the Badgers? Well, look at it this way: if they were, would they be in the freaking Ticket City Bowl? I don't think so, Decrepit! Cats 20, Raid-uhs 17.

I, for one, am pleased to see that a legal ticket scalping outfit (Ticket City) can sponsor a bowl game. Here's a guess -- I bet they couldn't get anyone to pay over face value for tickets to this lousy game. Northwestern isn't the same team without Dan Persa, so I think they'll struggle initially, but I do think that having a few extra weeks of prep time might be enough to make this game a little more interesting than it would have been otherwise. Texas Tech 27, Northwestern 20.

Outback Bowl, in Tampa, FL: Penn State Paternos (+7) vs. Florida Gators. So, let me get this straight. Joe Paterno is, like, 108 years old, but he's not the coach that is retiring after this game. Urban "Legend" Meyer is, because he can't stand life after Tim Tebow or something. Florida wins, enough said. Life After Tebow 7, Come to Penn State 2.

Well, that is strange when you think about it. Penn State has been up and down this year and the Gators have been very disappointing. I'm actually inclined to think that Penn State will do well and win. The few times I've seen Florida this year, they haven't impressed me very much. Penn State 24, Florida 20.

Gator Bowl, in Jacksonville, FL: Mississippi State Bulldogs (-4 1/2) vs. Meeshegan Wolverines. I see that Tate Forcier, who puts the force in Forcier, has been declared ineligible for this game because he couldn't hack the classwork in his arduous slate of jock-sniffing classes like "History of Football" and "Justin Bieber and Bobby Sherman: A Historical Comparison." Fortunately for RichRod, he has Denard Robinson, who actually got a B- in the Bieber/Sherman class. I haven't seen the Bulldogs much, but I do know two things about them: Old Dude's cousin Gerry is an MSU alum, and they really like cowbells. Fellas, I'm tellin' ya, you're gonna need more cowbell. Meeshegan 100, Cowbell 0.

This game will be interesting. The Bulldogs have been one of the better teams in the SEC this year, but they had the bad fortune of being in the same division with Auburn, LSU, Arkansas and Alabama. Had they been on the other side, they might have made the SEC championship game. What they haven't seen is someone like Denard Robinson, though. This one will be a shootout and although Michigan can't play defense, I think they can outscore the Bulldogs. Sorry, Gerry. Michigan 44, Mississippi State 37.

Capital One Bowl, in Orlando, FL: Michigan State Sparty the Spartan (+10) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide. The one thing I wanted Alabama to do was put Cam Newton in his place, but they failed. F-A-I-L. I'm sorry, but you never get on the Benster's good side if you F-A-I-L. So therefore I'm going to have to go with the team from the Big Ten. This is Sparta 300, F-A-I-L Tide 0.

Lots of reasons to pick the Spartans, actually. They feel like they got cheated by the BCS system and the rest of the Big Ten, and they'd love to pound a few lumps on Nick Saban, who abandoned East Lansing some years ago for LSU. Most years I'd assume Alabama is the better team, but I'm not sure I see it this time. Motivation may trump talent level this time, and it's not like Michigan State is bereft of talent anyway. Michigan State 27, Alabama 20.

Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA: Texas Christian Horned Frogs (-3) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. Okay, so apparently Vegas thinks that TCU is going to out-speed the Badgers. You would think that they'd remember some history. Last year Miami was supposed to run rings around the Badgers, but instead they got their butts kicked pretty good by a huge Badger team that was fast enough to catch Jacory Harris and his fleet pals. Some more history: the Badgers have won the Rose Bowl the last 3 times they were there. They were told they were too slow against UCLA in both 1994 and 1999. But that wasn't true, either. The Badgers also put up 83 points against Indiana and 70 points against Michigan without having their best running back available. John Clay is now available for this game. And Scott Tolzien is the best quarterback the Badgers have had since Brooks Bollinger, the last guy to win a Rose Bowl for the Badgers. Badger Badger Badger 50, TCU 0.

TCU is very, very good. I'm not convinced they are 3 points better than the Badgers. If the Badgers break to the lead, they'll steamroll TCU like they've steamrolled everyone else lately. If not, game on. I still like the Badgers in this one, though. Badgers 38, TCU 31.

Fiesta Bowl, in Glendale, AZ: Connecticut Huskies (+16 1/2) vs. Oklahoma Boomer Sooner. Why the heck is UConn even in this game? I think the UConn women's basketball team would have a better chance against OU than their really mediocre football team. Michigan State, or better yet Boise State, should be here instead. The Big East may be the best basketball league in the universe, but they really stink when it comes to football. This is an absolute travesty, because the BCS is locked into more stupid rules than Brezhnev. And they don't wear cool fur hats like Brezhnev did, either. Boomer Sooner 300, Geno Auriemma Nation 0.

I have to agree with you about this one, Seabiscuit. UConn is a joke and doesn't belong in this game. There are many problems with the BCS, but because of the politics in the NCAA the Big East has a seat the adult table. The funny thing is that TCU is joining the Big East next year just so they can have a chance at dominating that league. And let's face it, who doesn't value a traditional rivalry like TCU vs. Rutgers? This game is Exhibit A regarding what is wrong with college football. Oklahoma should have no trouble here. Oklahoma 41, UConn 7.

We'll be back tomorrow, after the Badgers crush the Horned Frogs, to pick your pro games. Save your fire, Gino. One last thing -- I can think of a more deserving Exhibit A than the one the Geritol Fan pointed out: last year's Fiesta Bowl, when the BCS turned the game into a non-BCS showcase/leper colony. Can you say playoffs? Ben out!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Guilty Pleasures Part Seventy-Four -- Fearless Maria Meets the Class of 2011

Fearless Maria is in the house and she's ready for action and another edition of Guilty Pleasures.

Happy holidays to all and to all a good night! But don't go to bed before we finish the post! Sleepin' on the job? Tsk, tsk! And even if you're not fully awake, we'll wake you up with some really weird people we have on this time, right Dad?

Yes, I think we can bring the weird this time, Maria. We're going to take a look at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Class of 2011. Two of the inductees are music industry executives, Art Rupe and Jac Holzman, who weren't musicians. But the rest are famous rock and roll musicians and all have done some familiar songs.

Familiar to you, Dad. And we all know that you're not with the newer program. Don't take offense on that, but let's face it, you aren't up on the new music. KQRS and KDWB are a lot different, you know!

True. One plays old tunes, the other plays AutoTune. But since we're looking at the Hall of Fame inductees, it's pretty much a given that everyone we'll show this time is old, right?

Dad, when you're almost 11 like me, everything is old! Or at least everything I hear in your car, except the turn signal! That's noise from 2007, when the car was built, I think!

Indeed. So are you ready to go back and look at some old stuff?

Sure -- let's jump into the retro time machine and hope it doesn't malfunction like the last time, when I secretly looked back at your closet when you were my age. I didn't think they even had colors like that in nature!

You can do marvelous things with polyester, my dear. As we'll demonstrate tonight. First, let's go back to about 1965 and enjoy something that's not very strange. It's Darlene Love, at the helm of the Crystals, singing:

Well, if you don't like this song, you're certainly a bit of a rebel yourself, right Dad? I know you like the go-go dancers in the background. The clothing looks okay -- not too weird but since it's old film I can't see if it's in weird colors like you had in your closet in 1974!

Yep. A lot of these girl groups were somewhat interchangeable back in the day -- the record might say "The Crystals" on it, but it might actually be someone else. But Darlene Love's voice is unmistakable and was perhaps the best of the singers of that era.

She's good. But what's next, Dad? It can't be Darlene Love of the Crystals, right? Is it Sharlene Hate of the Lava Rocks?

No, but it's someone else who emerged from that Brill Building era to have some hits in the 1960s. It's a guy who's had a very long career in the music business, Neil Diamond:

Neil forgot how to rock later on, but back in 1967 he could do it. What do you think, Maria?

Well, what a surprise! He actually looks respectable, like a normal man doing a normal song in a normal building, unlike some other people we've had on Guilty Pleasures that ate a weird hamburger with weird patties and weird tomatoes and ketchup before their performance, which made them look like they came out of a trash can! Or at least a costume box! And I thought the song was pretty cool -- maybe the Food Network would like to play it. But I'm not surprised you liked it, considering you eat cherry yogurt so much, Dad!

Neil Diamond has never had much to do with my yogurt consumption, Maria. But that song gives me less indigestion than some things he recorded later on. Shall we move on?

Sounds like a good idea, Dad. So far we've had crystals and diamonds, so what do have next? Is it some guy named Jared? Or is it a girl named Kay?

No, it's time to put the jewelry away. We're now up to the early 1970s, where things started to get a little, shall we say, weirder.

I know the 70s are weird, Dad! I've have plenty of experience with that, especially when we went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year! I never saw so much ruined fabric in my life! There were a few nice dresses that people like the Crystals wore that looked okay, but wow, there was some weird stuff there!

Okay, this guy was a little weird. He's in more as a sideman, but he had a few hits of his own, too. It's Leon Russell:

Dad! Dad! Get the phone! Call 911 and tell them that we found the missing member of ZZ Top! This guy has some hair issues, and I have to say that I don't find his circus clown outfit very amusing! Is he one of those evil clown dudes, Dad? Or is he supposed to be dressed as the Scooby Doo hypnotizing Ghost Clown guy? No wonder his girlfriend is blind -- who'd want to look at that! I do like the song, though -- he's a talented musician. But why do they all have to be so weird, Dad?

Part of the job, Maria. Part of the job.

But you're an advertising copywriter, not a musician, so how do you know this? What do advertising copywriters have to be as part of the job? Do you go into to the office and wear silly clothes to get inspired? I mostly see you wearing polo shirts.

I try not to frighten my boss with weird clothes, Maria. What do I have to be? Clever, I suppose. But we leave the cleverness to you around here. Meanwhile, if you thought Leon Russell was a little weird, we're going to up the ante a little bit right now. First, we'll go with someone you've seen before, our old friend Alice Cooper. But let's pick a different song this time:

Well Dad, I think they need to change the lyrics a bit! It's more like "the telephone is ringing, you got me half dressed, anticipating a shower to wipe off the mascara accident on my face." Or is he warning about talking on the cell phone when you're driving? Did they even have cell phones in 1971? I really don't think they did, because people in the 1970s didn't have any technology, but now we're just. that. coolio.

No, they didn't have cell phones in 1971, but Alice Cooper had a lot of people calling the authorities, I think. But you know what?

No, what, Dad?

I'll bet you'll think the next guy's outfit is scarier. It's the next inductee, Dr. John:

So, people, you know earlier I said the phrase, "coming out of a costume box?" Yeah, this is certainly where it is appropriate, in case, like, you didn't know the 10-foot long fuzzy chicken crest thing coming out of his hat? Or the sequined cowboy top he bought from "Fringe and Sparkles 'R Us?" Or the weird sequined dress on the background singer from Runny Rainbow Central? I think we were definitely in the wrong place for fashion, but the right time for music, because it's a pretty cool song. I also have another question -- why so many closeups of his mouth? Ads for bad dentistry?

I don't think he was representing Pepsodent Toothpaste at the time, if you know what I mean.

We have a tube of Pepsodent in the bathroom. Maybe we should send it to him?

That's a good thought. I actually thought his hat was a Flair Hair gone really, really wrong.

That was good, Dad, getting a plug for your website on the blog. You are a clever copywriter, aren't you? Just like you said!

Well, I gotta move the merch, sweetheart. Shall we move on?

Okay, sounds good. Is there any way we could get weirder yet?

Oh, sure. We could break out Tom Waits, appearing here on the old 1970s television talk show spoof Fernwood Tonight:

Well, I'm guessing that Tom Waits isn't a role model for the anti-smoking campaign, is he? Why, I don't think the piano was drinking at all! And maybe that's why his car broke down in Toledo! Dad, he's not setting a very good example for the youth of America, like Gino does! The song is very funny, but not as funny as some of the posts on Mr. Dilettante's Neighborhood! Free entertainment for the good of the people, people! Okay, I'll admit it, Tom Waits is pretty cool, especially his Shrek performance. You know what, Dad?

No, what, Maria?

Maybe someone ought to offer Tom Waits a throat lozenge or something?

If he's not raspy, he's not working, Maria.

Well, okay. I'm just trying to help. Christmastime charity, you know! Now is that it, Dad? You said that Art Rupe guy didn't sing, right?

No, but he did discover Little Richard.

That's interesting. What did that Jac Holzman guy do?

He ran Elektra Records and recorded the Doors, among other things.

Don't hold that against him, Dad! I'm teasing. Anyway, I think it's time to ask our lovely, awesome, generous, great reader friends to vote for their favorite in the comments section! C'mon people, you know that Fearless Maria likes all her readers very, very much! Don't you, Dad? (Wink wink)

What's not to love? You heard her: let's get those votes in, okay?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lightning Round - 122910

Life goes on as the year ends.
  • One of the most annoying figures in public life is the current mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg. He's a scold and a 55-gallon drum of sanctimony most of the time, especially since he seems to believe that his own claims of independence from the two main political parties is anything other than an overweening belief in himself. While indulging in schadenfreude is not a good thing generally, seeing Bloomberg flail in his primary responsibility isn't bothering me much. The blizzard that rocked the East Coast over the weekend has left Bloomberg in the same position that then-Chicago Mayor Michael Bilandic found himself in the brutal winter of 1979. It didn't end so well for Bilandic, who lost his office to Jane Byrne after repeated failures to get the streets of Chicago cleared. It's not really Bloomberg's fault, per se: two feet is a lot of snow, especially in a place as tightly packed as the Big Apple, but it does put the lie to some of Bloomberg's more grandiose pronouncements about himself. For the sake of New Yorkers who are suffering, I hope the city figures things out. As for Bloomberg, maybe a little less time chiding people about their proclivities and more time dealing with his actual job might be useful.
  • I found myself in the unfamiliar position of cheering on the Vikings last night as they pulled off a highly improbable 24-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, following a 2-day delay in the game because of the aforementioned blizzard, which hit the entire Eastern Seaboard. Joe Webb, the rookie quarterback that the Vikings sent out last night, did a pretty good job against a team that many have touted as the best in the NFC. He didn't make any glaring mistakes and he made some key plays when he had to. It was a good performance under very difficult circumstances. I hope the Vikings fight the urge to give Brett Favre one last look against Detroit on Sunday. They don't really owe Favre anything and it would be useful to see if Webb can duplicate his performance against an improving Lions team.
  • I also suspect that yesterday's performance could earn interim Vikings coach Leslie Frazier a promotion to permanent head coach. He's had to deal with more strangeness than any coach in the modern history of the league, including two home games on fields that are not home, and somehow he's managed to keep the team on task and motivated. No one would have been surprised if the Vikings had gotten drilled last night, but they managed to win in a very tough place and give the rest of the league a template for how to beat Michael Vick. That's a pretty impressive twofer.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Two Minute Drill

Don't have a lot of time, but wanted to say a few words about our experience this weekend at Lambeau Field.

I had not been to a Packers game at Lambeau Field since 1983, a well-remembered track meet of a Monday Night Football game that the Packers won over the Redskins, 48-47. A lot has changed in those 27 years, especially the fortunes of the Packers.

The game-day experience was a lot of fun, especially for the Benster, who had dreamed of the moment for most of his life. While the outside of the stadium has changed substantially, with a beautiful atrium and the massive statues of Curley Lambeau and Vince Lombardi at the north entrance, once you enter the tunnel and see the field, it's essentially the same place it has been since 1957. And that's the glory of it, I think. The Packers did a masterful job of keeping what was special about Lambeau intact. It's especially striking when you compare the renovation of Lambeau to what the Bears did to Soldier Field, which looks like a giant spaceship dropped inside the old facade.

In some ways, the Packers have conformed to the NFL marketing approach -- there's no longer a Packer marching band and most of the music that gets pumped into the stadium is of recent vintage. There's something amusing about watching a mostly middle-aged crowd, well-bundled, attempting to "Jump Around" with the House of Pain, although I was impressed to learn that Stinger knows all the words.

The game itself was great fun if you weren't a backer of the Giants, as the Packers scored early and often, dominating Big Blue 45-17. Aaron Rodgers looked masterful and it was amusing to be sitting on the visitors' side, since we got an excellent view of the sulking that Eli Manning was doing on the sidelines as the interceptions mounted.

Every football fan ought to go to Lambeau -- that much is certain.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Live From Uncle Paul's Dining Room Edition

That's right -- I am in Appleton, Wisconsin. And I can feel the HYYYYYYYPPPPPPEEE!

Why would that be, Seabiscuit?

You have to ask, Decrepit? You know why. We're about 48 hours away from our visit to Lambeau! My goodness -- are you that slow on the uptake? Can you fog a mirror?

Oh, I suppose I could. I am excited about it -- it's been a long time since I've been to a game in Green Bay and it's going to be a lot of fun.

You got that right, Geritol Fan! But there's more: Uncle Mike, a/k/a the Stinger, is in the house and he wants to help us pick these games. What a Good Samaritan. He's going to Lambeau, too! But first we have some business to attend to. Watch me work!

Motor City Kitties (+3 1/2) vs. Miami Tuna Net Victims. It's time for the pink slips. 'Nuff said. Fish Are Friends, Not Food 17, Tame House Cats 3.

Miami is not playing well lately and the young fella is right -- you could see Miami get De-Sparanoed pretty quick. The Lions are playing better and have now proven they can win on the road. Why not make a trend of it? Lions 17, Dolphins 13.

Stinger here. The Lions have been close all season. Unfortunately, I think they figured it out against the Pack a couple of weeks ago. The Lions are going to become a real problem over the next couple of seasons. As for the Fins, they have had ongoing issues at QB, and they have not played well at home this year. Lions 27, Dolphins 24.

New York J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS! (+1) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. I have to give the Jets credit; going into Pittsburgh and winning is no small feat. However, Rex Ryan has been footsy-ing or whatever and he's in trouble again. That's not good for a team going to play on the road in a hostile environment. I would also venture to guess that not a lot of starters will be playing, because the Bears have nothing to lose. Dit-ka Dit-ka 35, Gang Green 20.

The Bears do have one thing to play for -- a first round bye in the playoffs. That matters rather a lot to them. I think they'll hold serve this week. Meanwhile, the Jets are a circus, but far less entertaining. Bears 24, Jets 17.

Stinger: I don't get the Bears. This should not be happening. They should not be NFC North champs. But, here we are. Anyway, the Jets have a lot of the pieces in place. And, I think if their secondary shows up, Trust Fund Kid (a.k.a. Jay Cutler) is going to have a bad day. So, mostly to be a contrarian, and because I think the secondary will show up, with a pinch of wishful thinking, I am going with the Jets. Jets 21, Bears 14.

Minnesota Nomads (+14 1/2) vs. Philadelphia Dog Loving Americans. So, we're sitting at Uncle Paul's house and there are dogs all over the place. We have two Labradors and a greyhound around. And they all insist that Michael Vick is EVIL EVIL EVIL. Evel Knievel, even! But the problem is that the Eagles are playing a bunch of dogs this week. The Vikings may not have Brett Favre back ever and they are bringing in dudes off the street to back up Joe (Jack) Webb. There's no way this Viking team can slow down Michael Vick, who may be MVP. PETA 100, Webbkinz 0.

I don't think the Vikings will have much of a chance in Philly, either. 14 1/2 points is a lot, but I suspect the Eagles will cover. They have a lot in front of them and the Vikings are playing out the string in an amazingly strange season. It will not end with a bang, but a whimper. Eagles 34, Vikings 7.

Stinger again: Take heart, Vikings fans. The odds are long that the Vikings will beat the Eagles on Sunday night. However, there are longer odds for the following:

-Mr. D becomes a Democrat

-Benster acquires an Aunt Scarlett from me

-Irondale beats Eden Prairie in football

The Vikings have given up, except for Brett Favre in his attempts to grab the spotlight. The Eagles, on the other hand, look like a team that's ready to make a serious run. With that in mind, Eagles 38, Vikings 13.

New York Football Giants (+3) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. After the Miracle in the Meadowlands Part II last week, the Giants are on life support and it doesn't get any better when Benster is in the House of Curly! Packers 90, All Hail the New York Giants 0.

Benster assumes that he'll show up at Lambeau, but the Giants won't. Doesn't work that way. This is going to be an excellent game and a tough one. The Giants will be coming in angry after what happened to them last week, but the Packers gotta have this one. I suspect Aaron Rodgers will play very well and that the Packers will get a touchdown from an unlikely source. Packers 24, Giants 20.

Stinger once more: I am not sure how the Giants are going to recover from that loss to the Eagles last week. Hopefully, the Packers won't give them a chance. This is going to be a tough game, and I think there will be several lead changes. However, I think the Packers pull this one out. Packers 27, Giants 21.

Aunt Scarlett...Benster could do a lot worse.

Uncle Mike, it's really unseemly to be begging. I'll see what I can do for you, though! Ben out!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Imagine That

People really do some strange things. It's awfully difficult to predict human behavior, especially when things are so counterintuitive. Consider this surprising result from Oregon:

Oregon raised its income tax on the richest 2% of its residents last year to fix its budget hole, but now the state treasury admits it collected nearly one-third less revenue than the bean counters projected. ...

In 2009 the state legislature raised the tax rate to 10.8% on joint-filer income of between $250,000 and $500,000, and to 11% on income above $500,000. Only New York City's rate is higher. Oregon's liberal voters ratified the tax increase on individuals and another on businesses in January of this year, no doubt feeling good about their "shared sacrifice."

Congratulations. Instead of $180 million collected last year from the new tax, the state received $130 million. ...

Hard to imagine why that would happen. Equally puzzling is this report on the latest census numbers, from Michael Barone:

First, the great engine of growth in America is not the Northeast Megalopolis, which was growing faster than average in the mid-20th century, or California, which grew lustily in the succeeding half-century. It is Texas.

Its population grew 21 percent in the past decade, from nearly 21 million to more than 25 million. That was more rapid growth than in any states except for four much smaller ones (Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Idaho).

Texas' diversified economy, business-friendly regulations and low taxes have attracted not only immigrants but substantial inflow from the other 49 states. As a result, the 2010 reapportionment gives Texas four additional House seats. In contrast, California gets no new House seats, for the first time since it was admitted to the Union in 1850.

But that's not all. Barone:

There's a similar lesson in the fact that Florida gains two seats in the reapportionment and New York loses two.

This leads to a second point, which is that growth tends to be stronger where taxes are lower. Seven of the nine states that do not levy an income tax grew faster than the national average. The other two, South Dakota and New Hampshire, had the fastest growth in their regions, the Midwest and New England.

South Dakota? Dan Hindbjorgen could have told you that. In fact, he tells us that quite regularly on radio ads.

We're getting Mark Dayton as our governor in 2011. Dayton doesn't buy these trends and will attempt to govern the state in a different manner. Minnesota barely held on to its 8 congressional seats in this census. It will be interesting to see if under Dayton's stewardship we are able to maintain that 8th seat. It will also be interesting to see if California, under the stewardship of Jerry Brown and a cavalcade of other Democrats who are in full Alfred E. Neuman mode, will maintain their status in this decade. Perhaps California and Minnesota, along with the other large industrial states that have chosen to stick with the Democrats, will lead the way in the coming years. Guess we're going to find out.

Dayton Walker Wilf Stadium

It was fun to watch the outdoor Vikings game on Monday, especially from the comfort of my family room, although as a Packers fan I wasn't especially enamored of the outcome. The issue of what to do about the Metrodome has become a big topic in recent days, following the continuing problems with the roof.

I heard a report on the radio (during my two hour commute) that in order to clear more snow off an already compromised teflon panel, someone decided to fire a shotgun slug at the roof. I suppose there's a symbolic value in that, as a lot of people would like to take the dome out back and shoot it and now the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission is apparently doing just that.

The question before us hasn't changed: what is the economic rationale behind spending as much as a billion dollars on a new football stadium for the team? There's no gainsaying the love that many people have for the Vikings. But nothing has changed about the economic picture. There's little economic rationale for building a new stadium for a tenant that plays 10 games a season, especially with public money. And since we've all been hectored incessantly about the state's $194 gigabillion deficit, there simply can't be any way that there's money for such an edifice.

So we need some new solutions for this issue, which requires some different thinking. I'm proposing an idea, but I'd like to hear some others.

Let's start with a notion that has plays out all the time in these parts. There's a conflict between high and low culture, although politicians love to green light either. A good example of this is the new complex that was built for the Guthrie Theater (on a site that would have made a nice place for a football stadium, of course), or the millions spent to move the old Shubert Theater building a block and a half to a new site, where it then sat vacant for a decade. But while the high culture types enjoy the subsidizing of their entertainment preferences, they hate spending money on football stadiums.

We know a few things about Mark Dayton -- he has always been more fond of spending other people's money than he is of spending his own, but he also is willing to sell art for things that matter to him, like his own self-aggrandizement. So what we need here is a compromise. I'm thinking we could build a new stadium if the incoming governor would sell off some of his art collection and use the proceeds to set up a new stadium/art gallery space. We could display the remainder of Dayton's collection in the concourses of the new stadium and hire the food service from the Walker to serve organic bratwurst on artisan buns. Either that or merge the Vikings with the Walker and integrate the Spoonbridge into a new pedestrian bridge for entering the stadium. Heck, why not do both? We can then call the new stadium Dayton Walker Wilf Stadium, which serves the added purpose of putting Mark Dayton's name on something beyond failed policy initiatives. And if the Wilfs are willing to accept third billing, we can let them help build the thing and tack on some appropriately high-end retail.

The Fierce Moral Urgency of Plausible Deniability

Moe Lane noticed something:

They’re readying an executive order right now that will confirm that certain detainees – read: the murderous, terrorist scum that we already weren’t releasing – can be continued to be held indefinitely without trial. The fig leaf here is that the new proceedings (unlike those of the wicked, wicked Bush administration!) will be ‘more adversarial’ – which means whatever you want it to mean, of course – and that lawyers for the murderous, terrorist scum can ask again after the administration refuses to let said murderous, terrorist scum go the first time. Maybe even every year.
As a conservative, my understanding of nuance always catches me up short, so I'm sure there's a reason why the Obama approach is superior to the Bush approach -- my guess is because it involves more chances for appeal, which is yet another jobs program for highly paid public sector civil servants. But I'm sure there's another reason I'm missing. Lane offers a highly cynical guess:

What’s going on here is, of course, that Congress is on the verge of passing legislation that would effectively make it impossible to transfer the cases of murderous, terrorist scum to regular American courts. Congress is doing this, earlier Democratic rhetoric to the contrary, because there are actual limits to legislative stupidity, and it’s pretty stupid to put murderous, terrorist scum into a civilian court system not particularly designed to handle it. For that matter, the Obama administration itself is unlikely to have really believed any of the nonsense that it spouted off on the subject in years past… but they have to do something, seeing as progressives are already fairly livid with them over the tax issue.

That can't be right, since there's no way to believe there's any limit to legislative stupidity, as the lame duck Congress has been proving conclusively. As for the idea that the Obama administration is cynical, that's pretty plausible.

In the past few weeks we've seen Democrats essentially throw everything they've said about taxes under the bus, and now this. Are you not amused?

Monday, December 20, 2010


Julian Assange gets some of his own medicine:

LAWYERS for Julian Assange have expressed anger about an alleged smear campaign against the Australian WikiLeaks founder.

Incriminating police files were published in the British newspaper that has used him as its source for hundreds of leaked US embassy cables.

In a move that surprised many of Mr Assange's closest supporters on Saturday, The Guardian newspaper published previously unseen police documents that accused Mr Assange in graphic detail of sexually assaulting two Swedish women.

Oof. And the punchline?
One witness is said to have stated: "Not only had it been the world's worst screw, it had also been violent."

That's the sort of publicity a fella might not want, although I suppose Assange could claim that it would be difficult to consider the qualitative assessment to be authoritative. It can't do a lot for his future dating prospects, though.

Lightning Round - 122010

Busy weekend. A few very quick thoughts:
  • If it's not the Coffee Party, it's "No Labels." George Will dispatches these wastes of space efficiently. What people of this sort want is power without accountability. And any movement that includes Michael Bloomberg and Charlie Crist deserves no power whatsoever.
  • Apparently some are complaining about the treatment being afforded PFC Bradley Manning, the guy who apparently gave Julian Assange much the information that's ended up on WikiLeaks. Writing at HotAir, Jazz Shaw cuts those assertions down to their proper size.
  • Tough loss for the Packers last night, but a pretty valiant effort in defeat. Matt Flynn played well enough to give the Pack a chance to win, but in the end they didn't get it done. There's been a lot of that sort of thing this season. I'm not sure what's missing, besides half the team on injured reserve.
  • The trade the Brewers made for Zach Greinke is probably the biggest one they've made since the Ted Simmons/Rollie Fingers trade of 30 years ago. I'm glad they're making the effort to win now, but I'm pretty skeptical that they can win the NL as they're currently built. As for the Twins, no comment until some more of the dust settles.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Don't Know, Can't Say

Don't Ask, Don't Tell appears to be on the way to repeal following today's vote in the Senate. I haven't written much about this issue because we're talking about topics that are beyond my ken. I've not gay and I haven't served in the military. I have no way of knowing whether or not having openly gay soldiers will affect morale, unit cohesion and the like. And truth be told, neither do the partisans on either side of this very long debate. One would assume that in the modern volunteer military, where professionalism is a given, they will be able to make the necessary adjustments, if any are necessary.

There are a lot of things we don't know, actually.
  • Has DADT kept people from joining? Probably, but it's not as though the Army has had an active recruiting station in the Castro District or on Halsted Street. Perhaps they will start recruiting there and perhaps there will be success.
  • Will the addition of gay soldiers hurt recruiting in other areas? Again, we don't really know. Questions of this sort have been theoretical up to now.
  • Would gay soldiers be sexually aggressive? I kinda doubt that. There are rules against that sort of thing among heterosexual soldiers and most likely those rules could be and most likely will be extended to gay soldiers. Unit cohesion necessitates a lot of self-denial in any event.
  • Will the abolition of DADT mean a better reception for military recruiters on college campuses? One would hope so. We'll find that out soon enough. It will also be interesting to see if ROTC chapters return to places like Harvard and Yale.

In the end, this change may not move the needle much at all. Our military has responded to a great variety of challenges in its history. If you haven't done so, I'd highly recommend you read Imperial Grunts, the 2005 book written by Robert Kaplan, which details military operations all over the world and the astonishing variety of assignments we give our uniformed personnel. It is one of the greatest blessings of our nation that we have a military that is thoroughly professional and under civilian control. I don't know how, or if, today's changes will affect the military we now have. But I have a lot of faith in the men and women who wear the uniform.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Bowl Games We Wouldn't Watch Anyway Edition

Hi everyone. I was just explaining something to my dad here.

I need a lot of explanations from you these days, Seabiscuit.

Yeah, whatever. Here's the thing, old fella. I'm looking at this bowl schedule and most of these games would be boring if they happened in the regular season? I mean, look at the first one out of the chute, the epic New Mexico Bowl, which features BYU and UTEP. Can you say, "limited regional audience?" Ordinarily this is the sort of game that doesn't even make it on Versus! I gotta be honest with you, Geritol Fan -- I'm not feeling the HYYYYYPPPPPPE!

So you're not going to pick the winner of this game, I take it.

No. I think both teams are like Bugs Bunny and took a wrong turn at Albuquerque. And unless Bugs and Daffy are announcing the game, I'm. Not. Interested. But do you want to know what I'm really interested in?

Video games? Girls?

Besides that. Geez -- we're trying to do a professional blog post here, Decrepit, and you start bringing in my social life? C'mon, man!

I was just trying to answer your question.

It was a rhetorical question, you jackwagon. I'm interested in professional games. But I will pick one especially magical bowl game this week. Watch me work:

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (OFF) vs. Minnesota Patrick Ramseys. So now the Vikings are bringing quarterbacks in from off the street. Why not? I'll bet Daunte Culpepper is just waiting by his phone, but it never rings! So sad.... But anyway, I guess they brought in Patrick Ramsey because Gary Cuozzo wasn't available. This game will be played at TCF Bank Stadium, because the Metrodome roof has more holes in it than the Viking defense. And that's saying something. This might sound wishful, but: Fran Tarkenton 10, Bob Avellini 7.

Huh. That is wishful thinking, I suspect. I don't think the Bears are really that good -- New England pretty much proved that -- but they are generally pretty resourceful and the Vikings are running on fumes. No Fav-ruh. No T-Jack. No stadium. No clue. It should be fun to watch the Vikings play out in the cold, but I suspect the result will leave their fans cold. Bears 24, Vikings 13.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (OFF) vs. New England Belichecks. Interestingly enough, another streak might be in jeopardy on Sunday. Aaron Rodgers has always answered the bell, but he had his second concussion of the year last week in Detroit, so he may not play. That's not good news for the Packers. Packers quarterbacks have never missed a start since the days of Don Majkowski, back in the bad old Lindy Infante days. However, the Patriots have nothing to play for, because they hold all the tiebreakers in the AFC. Also, remember that last year the Packers lost a game they shouldn't have against the Tampa Bay Creamsicles and they responded with a winning streak. I'm putting New England on upset alert. Packers 70, Benjarvus Green-Ellis 49.

Let's look at this rationally, young fella. I know you're not fond of that approach, but humor me here. If Matt Flynn couldn't beat the Detroit Lions, how is he going to beat the Patriots? In Foxborough? Without any running backs? I'd love to believe it's possible. But I don't. I do think Flynn will play surprisingly well with a week's worth of practice reps. But the Green Bay defense had better bring their A+++++ game. New England 24, Green Bay 16.

Philadelphia Cheesesteaks (+3) vs. The New York Football Giants. Decrepit and I will get to see The New York Giants get their butts kicked at Lambeau next week, so they'd better win this one. The Giants and the Eagles are tied right now, so this game is pretty crucial, but Philly won the first game, so Philly technically is in the lead. I think the Giants will win because they can keep Michael Vick off the field with their running game. All Hail The New York Giants 44, PETA 7.

Speaking of PETA, I read that Michael Vick has expressed an interest in getting a new dog. Might I suggest he start with Sea Monkeys and work his way up? Anyway, back to the game. I suspect the Giants are the better team, but I also wonder about how they'll react to the excellent adventure they had last week, in which they set off for Minnesota, got stranded in Kansas City and ended up playing a game in Detroit. They had a pretty hinky week, wouldn't you say? Playing the hunch, I say: Philadelphia 27, New York 20.

Beef O'Brady's Bowl!!!!!!! Yes, that's right -- I said the Beef O'Brady's Bowl. Live it, learn it, love it! Oh, excuse me, I need to tell you what teams are in it. Ahem. Louisville Cardinals (-3) vs. Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles, in Leningrad, Soviet Union. Wait -- this just in. The game is actually in St. Petersburg, Florida. Looks like I got some outdated information there. That's the last time I'll trust Brezhnev! I'll be honest -- I don't know a lot about these teams. I'll also be even more honest and tell you that I don't want to know much about these teams. This game is dull. But let's face it, since it is the Beef O'Brady's Bowl, I have to care a little. Because in this life, we all need a little Beef O'Brady's, now don't we? I'm pretty sure that Rick Pitino (of Louisville) and Brett Favre (of Southern Mississippi) are not involved in this game whatsoever. But they'll be back at Beef O'Brady's, sharing a basket of onion rings with a side of tasty haggis. Louisville 20, Southern Miss 19.

I don't believe they sell haggis at Beef O'Brady's, youngblood. But look at it this way -- if an obscure sports bar chain can take over a fourth-rate bowl game, perhaps some day we can take over a bowl game ourselves. I can see it now, the "Benster and D Pick Your Game Bowl," played at the Fargodome. It's gonna be hot. And we can invite Bowling Green and Wofford or something. As for the game, I guess I'll pick Southern Miss because I've been disagreeing with you on every pick, so why stop now? Southern Miss 31, Louisville 24.

You want haggis with that? Ben out!


Reuters has spoken:

Whatever you think about using grating words, at the end of the day it's actually better not to say whatever, if you know what I mean.

For the second consecutive year "whatever' topped a Marist poll as the most annoying word or phrase in the English language.

Nearly 39 percent of 1,020 Americans questioned in the survey deemed it the most irritating word, followed by "like" with 28 percent and the phrase "you know what I mean' at 15 percent.

It's not such a bad word, if you know how to use it.

Thrown Under the Omnibus

No soap for Harry Reid:

Democrats controlling the Senate have abandoned a 1,924-page catchall spending measure that's laced with homestate pet projects known as earmarks and that would have provided another $158 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nevada Democrat Harry Reid gave up on the nearly $1.3 trillion bill after several Republicans who had been thinking of voting for the bill pulled back their support.

There was always a lot of brinksmanship going on in this discussion, but in the end the optics of this deal were too much. It's difficult to even conceptualize how big a trillion is, the vapor trail of zeros is so long. It looks like this:


There will be a continuing resolution that comes out of this session and the next Congress will now get a chance to weigh in. I suspect those members of Congress who will be returning to Washington will have a chance to hear a few, ahem, Christmas greetings from their constituents over the holidays. While it's unfortunate that Harry Reid will be among those returning to Washington, he'll have far less power to do stupid things when he comes back in January.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Class of 2011

The 2011 inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are:

Alice Cooper (the band, not the dude with the mascara at the helm)
Neil Diamond
Dr. John
Darlene Love
Tom Waits

In addition, Leon Russell gets in as a sideman and recording industry figures Art Rupe and Jac Holzman get past the velvet ropes. A few quick thoughts:
  • It's easy to forget now, but the Alice Cooper band was really quite good and equally controversial back in the day. There was a time when certain rock critics wondered aloud if Alice Cooper would be the American version of the Rolling Stones. That never happened, but for a shining moment or two in the early 1970s, they were a force.
  • Yes, the majority of Neil Diamond's career has been in the service of schlock. In the 1960s things were very different. Give a listen to "Kentucky Woman" or "Cherry, Cherry" sometime.
  • In some ways, I think you can pair Dr. John and Leon Russell. Both were extraordinary keyboard players from the American South. Dr. John was a much better bandleader which is why he gets in the front door. Leon Russell's solo career was patchy, but it had its moments.
  • Darlene Love was one of the primary voices of the Phil Spector sound and my guess is that her annual appearances on David Letterman's show helped her candidacy a lot. I don't have a problem with that -- she remains to this day a powerhouse vocalist and those sides she cut with Spector still sound fresh nearly a half-century later.
  • Waits is the most interesting case, since he's not really a rock and roller in the traditional sense. He's had a remarkable career but if you were to ask the average music listener to name 5 Waits songs, they'd be hard pressed to do it. As a stylistic influence he deserves the award, though.

Fearless Maria and I may turn our attention to these artists in a Guilty Pleasures at some point. In the meantime, here are my questions for the audience:

Do you have an issue with any of these inductees? And;

What act (or acts) not currently in the Hall deserves to be?

Do you even care about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

Shut It Down, Send Them Home

Jake Tapper of ABC News provides the numbers on the last ditch effort of the current Congress to keep us in the ditch:

The Obama administration today told Congress to pass an omnibus spending bill containing $8 billion in earmark projects, even though just a few days ago the president said one of the lessons he learned from the 2010 midterm elections was to take more seriously the public’s disapproval of – and his pledge to oppose -- earmarks.

“We wish there were no earmarks and are troubled with their presence” in the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill, an administration source told ABC News. “But Secretary Gates has told the President that the alternative bill” – a continuing resolution that for one year funds the government, which is due to run out of cash at the end of the week – “doesn't have the funding critical for several national security priorities.”

The term of the month has been "hostage situation." Well, yeah. Apparently national security is hostage to earmarks and $1.1 trillion in spending. This is standard operating procedure in Washington and precisely the sort of thing that the last election was about.

We don't have the money, kids. Nor do our kids, who actually get the bill for a lot of this nonsense. This Congress needs to go home. Kill the omnibus spending bill, pass the continuing resolution and deal with the issues in the next Congress.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Can't You See Me Standing Here, I've Got My Back Against The Message Machine

Eric Black at MinnPost offers the following observation about messaging:

Like many liberals, I’ve been increasingly frustrated with liberals’ ability to lose the political battles even though they have (according to me) the superior facts and arguments on their side.

Now as a conservative I'm painfully aware that I lack nuance, but I don't know what an "inferior fact" would be -- a fact is a fact and arguing otherwise is an assertion. But we'll set that aside as inartful phrasing in the service of Black's superior argument. Black quotes a much longer piece on messaging from U.C. Berkeley linguistics professor George Lakoff. Lakoff says this:

Conservatives who are savvy about marketing their ideas are closer to the way people really think than Democrats are, because people who teach marketing tend to be up on how the brain and language work. And over the past three decades, they have not just built an effective message machine, but they repeated messages that have changed the brains of a great many Americans.

We're not changing minds -- dammit, we're changing brains! Feel the power, baby. This conservative message machine must be damned good, because liberals like Black and his friends are having trouble getting their message out even though they tend to control most media outlets. It's gotta be some Vulcan mind meld or bad Rovian juju or something, right?

This assertion falls under the category of "lies you tell yourself." There's never been an issue with liberals getting their message out. There are liberals everywhere and they never, ever shut up. I can hear a liberal talking every minute of the day should I choose to seek one out. The problem isn't that conservatives have a better "message machine." The problem is that liberals have a message that many people have already heard -- hell, how could they not have heard it? -- and have rejected.

And the funny thing is this: Lakoff provides the reason, which is apparently hiding in plain sight:

Think of the TV show ‘So You Want to Be a Millionaire’ or the movies ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and ‘How to Marry a Millionaire.’ To most Americans, being a millionaire is a good thing to aspire to.

Of course it is. I'm not a millionaire and I may never get there, but I don't begrudge anyone who does. I went to school with a number of people who are now, at mid-career, millionaires, including at least one who is a millionaire many times over. Good for all of them.

And the thing is, I'm hardly alone in feeling this way. It seems to trouble Lakoff, though:

But the conservative message machine, over the past 30 years, has come to own the word ‘tax.’ They have changed its meaning to most Americans. They have been able to make ‘tax’ mean ‘money the government takes out of the pockets of people who have earned it in order to give it to people who haven't earned it and don't deserve it.’ Thus, ‘tax relief’ assumes that taxation is an affliction to be cured and a ‘tax cut’ is a good thing in general. Hence, conservatives make the argument, ‘No one should have their taxes raised.

Now, if there were evidence that the government could make more beneficial use of a millionaire's money than a millionaire can if left to his (or her -- lotsa female millionaires out there) own devices, that conservative argument would fall flat. But it's not an argument that the Left seems to make.

Why would that be? Remember, Black asserts that liberals have the superior arguments. Is it an inferior messaging machine? Or is it because such assertions are "inferior facts?"

Let me offer some help to Mr. Black, who has a far larger audience than I do (and good for him, because he's earned it), despite my perch on the periphery of the mighty conservative message machine. It's pretty simple: aspiration for a better life is pretty much a universal thing. Every human being has dreams and most of the dreams involve bettering one's station in life. You don't have to change someone's brain to appeal to that very basic part of human nature. Nor do you need any great marketing savvy to figure that out.

Let's go back to something Lakoff said:

Conservatives who are savvy about marketing their ideas are closer to the way people really think.

Well, yeah. It's a hell of a lot easier to convince someone about something they already believe. You don't have to be a Berkeley prof or even take a college-level marketing class to know that.

So how does all that apply to the "superior arguments" of liberals? If you listen to a liberal for any length of time, and we all have, you hear grievances. Listen a few minutes longer and you'll hear a desire to have some greater power, usually the State, redress those grievances. Such howls of righteousness can work for a time, but after a while, people get sick of listening to it.

Obama understood that, at least initially. Since he's taken office, however, the message of hope that was integral to his campaign has turned into grievance mongering. The last few months have been like the made up holiday Festivus, a Seinfeldian airing of the grievances. Having to compromise with Republicans is a hostage situation. They treat me like a dog.

People have heard all that before. How could they not have heard it? The problem isn't the liberal messaging machine. The problem is the liberal message. And here's a hint for Black and Lakoff -- maybe the brains that need changing aren't those of conservatives.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Viking Horn

I watched a good portion of the Vikings game last night, in lieu of doing something useful, I guess. Both of the Fox announcers, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, were speculating at some length about whether the collapse of the Metrodome roof will be the catalyst for getting a new stadium for the Vikings.

I'm still pretty skeptical about it -- I don't imagine there will be much support in Hennepin County for additional taxes to fund yet another stadium and alternatives for funding are likely to be non-starters. While it is possible to site a stadium elsewhere, you'll likely get grumbling from the ticket-buying public if a stadium is sited on the north side of town. The site in Blaine could have been up and running by now, but that got sabotaged. I don't know where you'd put a stadium on the south side of town, unless the tribe running Mystic Lake Casino decided to get involved and built it out by Prior Lake. While that wouldn't be a terrible drive for many season-ticket holders, it would erode support for the team on the St. Paul side.

This much is certain -- there's no way the Vikings will renew a lease for the Metrodome. And I can't blame them for that.

So, Is ObamaCare Unconstitutional?

Doesn't matter what I think, really. Nor will it matter what Henry E. Hudson thinks, either.

Now, what Anthony Kennedy thinks -- that matters a lot. Philosopher-king must be a pretty cool gig.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Five Years

I heard telephones, opera house, favourite melodies
I saw boys, toys, electric irons, and TVs
My brain hurt like a warehouse
It had no room to spare
I had to cram so many things
To store everything in there

-- David Bowie, "Five Years"

Monday is the 5-year anniversary of the debut of this feature, now known as Mr. Dilettante's Neighborhood.

A lot of things change in five years. At the time I began this thing, I was about to lose my job as a program analyst for Bank of America. I'd been faking my way through that job pretty well, but when it came time to decide whether to take the relocation package to Portland, Oregon, or remain at home and take my chances here, I decided to stay. And the blog was going to be my creative outlet to get through the hard times ahead. Through an extended bout of unemployment, a health scare that revealed a pituitary tumor that culminated in brain surgery and recovery, and a radical career change, there's no doubt that tickling the pixels has been an important constant.

The second post I did was the one where I set out the tone I had in mind for this feature. The principal points read as follows:

There's a scene in Bull Durham where the Kevin Costner character prattles on at great length about what he believes. Since the movie was filmed in 1987, he couldn't blog and instead had to talk to Susan Sarandon. Oddly enough, Ms. Sarandon hasn't been returning my calls, so I thought I'd share some random thoughts in my very own blog.

You can be a Great American hero and still be a moron. Charles Lindbergh, meet John Murtha.

Who has been more influential - John Rawls or Hugh Hefner? You could make a good case that Lou Rawls is more influential than John Rawls.

I don't really want to talk to Susan Sarandon.

Lee Harvey Oswald did act alone.

Five years later, I still believe all those things are true, although we don't have John Murtha to kick around any more. Looking back, the one thing that seemed true to me then still animates this feature -- you can be serious without taking things all that seriously.

Sometimes my brain does hurt like a warehouse. I bet yours does too. We store so many things in our consciousness and we spend a lot of time trying to make sense of it all. I don't know if writing a blog, or reading a blog, helps that much. But I do know this -- if any of the 2,330 posts that have appeared in this space since December 13, 2005 have helped my readers to sort things out, or at least made them smile, it's been worth the effort. And I still think pretty highly of Lou Rawls.

I've made a lot of great friends in the last five years because of this blog, and I've renewed friendships long dormant. That's been the best benefit of blogging. To all of you, I thank you for your support of this feature. And I hope that, at a minimum, I haven't made your brain hurt a lot.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Old Home Weak

So who was that guy standing at the podium at the White House yesterday?

Obama introduced Clinton lightly as "the other guy" and recalled how Clinton has overseen heady economic times. Obama warned that he wouldn't be staying long -- another White House Christmas party was waiting, as was his wife, Michelle.

And so it became clear pretty quickly that this was Clinton's show.

"I feel awkward being here, and now you're going to leave me all by myself," Clinton said from the stage of the White House briefing room.

Not that awkward.

Clinton comfortably outlined how the pending package of tax cuts, business incentives and unemployment benefits would boost the economy -- even though it included tax help for the wealthy that Obama had to swallow.

Think about this for a minute. Could you have ever imagined any other president turning over the podium to a predecessor? If George W. Bush had let his dad run a press conference, his presidency would have been over at that very minute. Could you have imagined Richard Nixon giving Dwight Eisenhower one last turn? Or John Kennedy kicking it back to Harry Truman?

And the reason -- because he was late for a freaking Christmas party? Wow. Just wow.

On the other hand, at least one pundit saw it coming. I give you Iowahawk, writing in November, 2008:

Ending weeks of speculation and rumors, President-Elect Barack Obama today named Bill Clinton to join his incoming administration as President of the United States, where he will head the federal government's executive branch.

"I am pleased that Bill Clinton has agreed to come out of retirement to head up this crucial post in my administration," said Obama. "He brings a lifetime of previous executive experience as Governor of Arkansas and President of the United States, and has worked closely with most of the members of my Cabinet."

Clinton said he was "excited and honored" by the appointment, and would work "day and night" to defeat all the key policy objectives proposed by Mr. Obama during the campaign.

"I am gratified that the President-Elect has entrusted me with this important responsibility," said Clinton. "I'm looking forward to getting back behind, and under, the Oval Office desk again.

As I have told the President-Elect, I pledge to do whatever I can to serve his historic administration by making sure that none of that bullshit he talked about during the campaign will ever see the light of day. Americans can rest assured that he will be safely confined to the East Wing, as far away as possible from any potentially dangerous office equipment or nuclear buttons."

What can we learn from this? Well, two things:

Satirists like Iowahawk often understand things better than pundits do -- I'm looking at you, Charles Krauthammer; and

I am planning to ask Iowahawk to pick out my Powerball ticket numbers.

Only one regret -- I would have preferred that the White House wheel out an animatronic Harry Truman instead.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Eagerly Awaiting the Tradition-Laden Beef O'Brady's Bowl Edition

We're running out of college football games, Decrepit! But pretty soon the bowls will begin and the highly inspirational Beef O'Brady's Bowl will take place. I can't wait to see Louisville and Southern Mississippi duke it out over some tasty Beef O'Brady! Can you feel the HYYYYYPPPPPEEE!

No, youngblood -- I gotta be honest with you. I'm not feeling it.

But old dude, Beef O'Brady's looks just like Hooter's, except a lot more boring!

Yep, and a game between Louisville and Southern Miss would be pretty boring, too.

It's 10 days away, old dude. Try to get yourself psyched up, okay? In the meantime, don't worry. I've got other assignments for you. Now it's time to make some picks. Watch me work:

Army Black Knights (+8) vs. Navy Mids, at Philadelphia. Mrs. D always likes this game, because the fans are dressed up in their nice uniforms and don't have body paint on themselves. That's because these future military leaders have to deal with drill sergeants at 6 a.m., unlike kids from other colleges, the jackwagons! Anyway, these young men are going on to do good things, unlike the BCS, which is EVIL EVIL EVIL, I tell you! Mids 35, Cadets 21.

I knew you couldn't resist a BCS dig. Both Army and Navy are going to bowls this year, which would be a nice thing, except that there are approximately 2,475 bowl games this year. In fact, chances are you personally are playing in a bowl game and just don't realize it yet. Navy has won this game pretty frequently in recent years and I don't think that will change this time. Navy 31, Army 24.

New York Football Giants (-2 1/2) vs. Minnesota Down Goes Fraziers. Is this the day that Brett Favre doesn't answer the bell? He has a shoulder injury, which makes it very hard to throw the football. Now mind you, the way Favre has been throwing the football lately, we might not be able to tell the difference. So it could be T-Jack Attack. Can he handle the Giants? Will he be out of luck against Justin Tuck? Yes. Andre the Giant 30, T-Jack Attack 20.

I haven't heard what Favre's status is -- he could be a game time decision. Of course, given the fact that we are predicted to get about 726 inches of snow this weekend, the entire game might be a game time decision. But I digress. I'm not sure it does the Vikings any good to play the old guy anyway -- they need to know if T-Jack can handle the job. The Giants are a very good test. The guess here: T-Jack surprises a few people. Vikings 27, Giants 20.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-6 1/2) vs. Motor City Kitties. Well, in a couple of weeks I, the Benster, will be in Lambeau to watch the Packers play the Giants. In the meantime, the Packers have to go to Detroit. What a thrill for them! The question for me is which Packer team shows up. Is it the one that showed up against Washington and Miami and stunk up the joint, or the team that knocked two NFL coaches out of a job. It won't be easy, since the Lions are capable of hanging with teams, but they seem to run out of gas at the end. Packers 20, Lions 19.

The Lions are getting better. Despite the 2-10 record, they have some guys you have to plan for, especially Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh. But they are playing their 3rd string quarterback and the Packers are going to be plenty motivated. I suspect it will go well for the boys in Green. Packers 35, Lions 17.

New England Benjarvus Green-Ellises (-3) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. Strangely enough, some of the kids in school have been calling me Benjarvus Green-Ellis, even though I don't have an NFL resume or really cool hair like that guy. But it's cool with me. I have to wonder if New England has enough left in the tank after Monday's demolition of the New York Jets. The Bears are a Jekyll and Hyde team but they've been very good lately. The game is in Chicago, which will help, since New England never loses at home. Sorry Gino -- I have to pick the Pats for standings reasons. Benjarvus Green-Ellis 90, Dit-ka Dit-ka 0.

Uh, no. I think the Patriots could win. And I'd really like it if they did. But I'm very worried about this one. The Pats are certainly due for a letdown and the Bears seem to have found something lately. You can move the ball on the New England defense and I suspect that the Bears will move it. I hate this pick, but here it is: Bears 27, Patriots 24.

Old fella, I think you need to run me and Fearless Maria up to Beef O'Brady's one of these days so I can have me some buffalo wings or Beef O'Brady or something. I bet they serve haggis, too. Ben out!

Joel of Arc

Joel Rosenberg is a topnotch writer and gun safety instructor and an excellent person. He has lately been fighting the power, a/k/a the Minneapolis Police Department. There's a long story involved but, suffice it to say, the MPD doesn't like it very much if you publicly demonstrate their hamhandedness. This synopsis at Popehat does a good job of explaining what's going on. Mitch Berg has also been following this story closely. If you believe in principle and also decry capricious law enforcement, and you should, this is a story worth watching.


If you've ever expressed any skepticism about the increasingly ineffectual campaign against global warming climate change, chances are pretty good you've been accused of being against science. Global warming climate change activists pride themselves on their superior understanding of science. Just ask them.

It is precisely this measure of erudition among the scientific elites who support lavish funding of their research, and the young acolytes who believe in Science, that makes it easy to find signatories at the latest global warming climate change confab in Cancun (natch, why go to Copenhagen again and risk it snowing during your presentations) who would put their John Hancocks on a petition to ban an especially odious chemical compound, the dreaded global warming agent DHMO*.

Wonder if Kate Knuth signed this one. . . .

*DHMO is Dihydrogen Monoxide, also known as water.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

And so, Governor Dayton

Tom Emmer decided to concede yesterday, so we are now faced with the prospect of four years of Governor Mark Dayton. A few thoughts:
  • If you search around the local blogosphere, you'll see the same greeting for Mr. Dayton twice, from both Mitch Berg and Gary Gross: Welcome to Hell. If that seems somehow ungracious, let me help you understand why so many conservatives are especially bitter about this election: it's not just that Tom Emmer lost by such a close margin. It's the incredibly sleazy and cynical way Mark Dayton ran his campaign, with the complicity of a news media that completely ignored all the red flags that surround the governor-elect. This is a man who couldn't handle the rigors of being a backbencher Senator, but now he will be in charge of a state government. This is also a man who has had myriad substance abuse problems and mental health issues. He is ill-equipped for the job on any number of levels. Of all the prominent figures on the Minnesota political scene, he was the worst possible choice for an executive position. And yet here he is. And a lot of people, who know all these things, were cheering him on.
  • The good news is that Dayton will have adult supervision in the form of a legislature that is now in Republican hands. Dayton will not be able to raise taxes, because the lege holds the power of the purse. I don't suspect that Dayton's calls for tax hikes will get much traction among the citizenry either, especially since it now appears that inflation is coming and will eat away at household incomes. Gas prices are now around $3 a gallon and that's a sign of things to come. Nor will punitive tax policies be likely to attract new business to the state. I'm guessing that Dan Hindbjorgen of the Sioux Falls Development Council will be spending a lot of time in the recording studio over the next few years.
  • Watch carefully who ends up being on Dayton's staff. There's been a lot of speculation on the starboard side that Mike Hatch would have a prominent role in a prospective Dayton administration. That could happen. What I want to see is if Matt Entenza has a role. You might remember Entenza, the unappealing politico with the rich wife who spent millions of dollars on a primary campaign in which he never really criticized Dayton, instead attacking Emmer and, at the very end, Dayton's real DFL challenger, Margaret Anderson Kelliher. It's always struck me as strange that Entenza would do these things, unless he had some expectation of either (a) a prominent role in a Dayton administration, or (b) the prospect of having state monies directed to his wife's environmental startup company. I'm going to watch this carefully. If Entenza has a role in a Dayton administration, it ought to be a subject of discussion.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Watching the Wheels

True story: on the day John Lennon was killed, I had turned in a paper I wrote for my high school sociology class concerning gun control. And as a young smartass and White Album fan, I had titled the paper, "Happiness is a Warm Gun."

I was a senior in high school and learned the news as I sat at the dining room table, which was where I typically did my homework in those days. I had lugged out the massive, cobalt blue IBM Selectric typewriter that my dad had brought home from the office. I was typing up a paper for my high school English class that was due the next morning. You could see the television set in the living from there and at the end of the 10 p.m. news, a late bulletin arrived. John Lennon had been shot dead in New York City.

It's easy to forget now, but it was the beginning of a very violent 10 month period. At the end of that long winter of 1980-81, President Reagan nearly died at the hands of an assassin. Not long after, Pope John Paul II nearly met his maker. By the fall, Anwar Sadat was felled.

My generation was too young to really understand the events of the 1960s, especially the toll of the assassins of that blighted decade. We had come of age in the 1970s, a time that seems especially grim in retrospect. It was pretty easy for me, and for a lot of my classmates, to adopt a mask of adolescent cynicism and to sneer at a lot of what we saw in front of us.

When Lennon was killed that night, I remember thinking that cynicism I felt about my life and future prospects was somehow justified. I felt like a caged animal in those days, believing that I was being constrained by the petty, small-minded town I had called home. I kept thinking to myself -- I just can't wait to get the hell out of this place. It wasn't for me, this silly backwater of Appleton, Wisconsin. There was no way I would ever come back to Podunk and I sneered at my classmates who seemed content to stay and settle for the blandishments of a boring little town, a suburb without a city attached to it.

The thing was, that cynicism had a very thin veneer. I remember that when we were discussing the murder in school the next day, one of my friends reported the reaction of Mick Jagger, who called Lennon's murder "a good career move" or something like that. We were all convinced it was the worst thing we'd ever heard and some of my friends vowed to get rid of their Stones albums. They didn't.

Adolescents are like that -- simultaneously full of dreams and full of shit. 30 years later, I now have an adolescent son, who has a far sunnier disposition than I did at the same age. That's a good thing and will serve him well, because cynicism at a young age can corrode your soul in ways that are difficult to understand until years later. He's coming of age in a time that's like the late 1970s in too many ways. He even prefers 1970s era music -- if you grab his MP3 player you'll find a lot of AC/DC and Aerosmith. He's at the age where he's starting to question many things and he's discovering that the world can disappoint you if you let it. My job is to ensure that he sees the opportunities that remain, even in a low, mendacious time.

Many, many things have changed in the 30 years since John Lennon died. One thing hasn't -- I still do a lot of my writing at the dining room table. And while I look at John Lennon's more fuzzy nostrums with a gimlet eye these days, I'm actually a lot less cynical than I was in 1980. No matter how rotten the world might look, there are always opportunities if we choose to see them.

il miglior fabbro

Yesterday was the 69th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. As usual, Mitch Berg has an excellent take.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Apparently we shouldn't even bother

We're doomed, I tells ya. No chance at all for any Republican to unseat Amy Klobuchar, it would appear:

Sen. Amy Klobuchar holds a double-digit lead over the biggest names in the Republican Party who could possibly challenge her in 2012, an early Public Policy Polling survey found.

Wrote PPP: "Amy Klobuchar is overwhelmingly popular and would cruise to reelection at this point pretty much no matter who her Republican opponent was."

Hell, Klobuchar should run for Divine Right Monarch with those numbers, right? Let's just say this: we'll check back in a year or so, or even in 18 months, when people start paying attention.

Changing the Tone

Do you remember when President Obama pledged to change the tone in Washington? He sure did it today. Behold as he describes his negotiating session with the Loyal Opposition:

As he recounted the White House effort to get the GOP to relinquish its support for those cuts -- something he described as the party's "holy grail" -- the president admitted bluntly, "I have not been able to budge them." Opinion polls show overwhelming popular support for ending the tax breaks for higher earners. He later added, "I think it's tempting not to negotiate with hostage takers, unless the hostage gets harmed, then people will question the wisdom of that strategy. In this case, the hostage was the American people, and I was not willing to see them get harmed."
Emphasis mine. I'm glad to see that the President is taking things so well.

Standards for thee, but not for me

Jamie Dupree of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution details another vote of confidence for ObamaCare:

The Obama Administration has quietly granted even more waivers to one provision of the new federal health reform law, doubling the number in just the last three weeks to a new total of 222.

One of the more recognizable business names included on the newly-expanded list of waivers issued by the feds is that of Waffle House, which received a waiver on November 23 for health coverage that covers 3,947 enrollees.

Another familiar name was that of Universal Orlando, which runs a variety of very popular resorts in the Orlando, Florida area. Universal was given a waiver for plans that cover 668 workers.

These waivers deal with limited health benefit plans, sometimes referred to as "mini-med" policies, which companies as large as McDonald's use for some its employees.

So why would these companies need waivers? And why would the Obama administration be so eager to grant them?

The feds though have granted waivers from that law, amid concern that certain groups would drop their health insurance programs entirely. Those waivers are good for one year, and can be considered for renewal.

So, what sorts of groups would drop their health insurance?

Several weeks ago, critics singled out a number of unions which had received government approval for exemptions from certain provisions of the law dealing with annual medical spending limit requirements.

And there are more unions who have received waivers in this latest batch, like the Bricklayers Local 1 of MD, VA and DC, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, the Indiana Teamsters Health Benefits Fund, Service Employees International Union Local 1 Cleveland Welfare Fund, and more are listed.

And here I thought that unions were among the most enthusiastic supporters of ObamaCare. Go figure. There's a lot more at the link. Go read the whole thing.

This Morning's Pinata

Timothy Dalrymple, via Allahpundit:

For the cultural elitists on the Left, Palin lacks everything they pride themselves on possessing, possesses everything they pride themselves on scorning, and stands for everything they pride themselves on opposing. She lacks cosmopolitan tastes and elite university credentials, a well-worn passport and fluency in foreign tongues, a blueblood vocabulary and literary speech patterns, not to mention a fashionable address and a vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard. She possesses a beauty-queen title and the wrong kind of good looks, a large brood of lily-white children with outdoorsy names like Track and Piper, a commoner’s cadence and a steady supply of you-betcha folksy phrases, and a background in conservative white evangelical and even Pentecostal churches. And she stands for the defense of the unborn, for heterosexual marriage, for premarital abstinence, for the extraction of our natural resources, for small government and second amendment rights, for conservative Judeo-Christian traditions and for American exceptionalism.

There's an element of truth to that, although I know plenty of people who hate Palin who do not have elite university credentials or a blueblood vocabulary. I'm not convinced that Palin would be the right person to be president -- in some respects she is the antitheses of Barack Obama and would represent an overreaction to what we now have.

Read the whole thing.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Lightning Round - 120610

Catching up after a weekend mostly spent away from the internet:

  • It's not especially surprising that Tom Emmer's campaign is not faring well in the recount, since there's obviously no stomach for it among most people. The only way you can stop voter fraud is to make it too painful for those who would commit. If we aren't willing to send people to jail for false vouching or voting more than once, nothing is going to change. Once the votes are cast, it's too late. It's clear that Minnesota isn't ready to punish people for such behaviors. As a practical matter, it means that Republicans need to win elections by larger margins than Democrats do, so long as Democrats control the apparatus of voting.
  • Lori Sturdevant bashed Tim Pawlenty pretty good on Sunday in the Star Tribune, essentially blaming Pawlenty personally for the mythical $6.2 billion deficit. What she's really mad about is this: Pawlenty exposed the fiction of government funding by auto-pilot, which she desires. And since the D's won't control the Legislature this time around, the spending she'd envisioned won't happen and the budget deficit she posits won't materialize. Which, unless I miss my guess, Sturdevant will credit to the heretofore unrealized genius fiscal management skills of Mark Dayton.
  • Badgers to the Rose Bowl, to face Texas Christian. TCU was once part of the big time as the footwipe of the old Southwestern Conference, but they now are one of the so-called "BCS Busters," although that will change next year when Horned Frogs join the Big East. I have a feeling that a lot of people who like the current system will be hoping that the Badgers put a whipping on the Horned Frogs. It should be a fun game.
  • Meanwhile, the hapless Gophers have selected a guy named Jerry Kill as their new head football coach. My son and colleague Benster has already informed me that the term often used for the Gophers around here, the "Golden Roadkill," is still operative.

Friday, December 03, 2010

New Neighbors?

The Star Tribune reports this morning that the Vikings have been talking with various politicos in Ramsey, Anoka and Washington Counties about potentially siting their new stadium at the Twin Cities Ammunition Plant site in Arden Hills.

I can see why the Vikings would be interested; they have up to 430 acres available, the site is only about 12 miles north of downtown Minneapolis and while the roads would need a major upgrade, there would be development possibilities galore.

The cost of developing the site could be problematic -- there's a lot of pollution there and while the Army is committed to the cost of some remediation, it's always been an open question concerning how viable the site is for development, since no one really knows for sure what's buried out there. Right now the roads in the area are not sufficient to handle the potential traffic, but it could be improved without changing the current routing patterns that much. If the Vikings came, it would also have a potentially huge impact on what happens at the Northwest Quadrant site in New Brighton.

There's a lot to sort out, but if this thing goes through, it could be a huge game changer for my little corner of the world.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

MDE Notices a Local

Minnesota Democrats Exposed is under new management these days and one of the new guys at blog, Andy Post, noticed that our plucky, orange-clad state representative, Kate Knuth, got her climate change trip to Copenhagen funded by the Will Steger Foundation. The thing is, the Steger Foundation also gets money from the state. Knuth apparently recused herself from voting on this funding when the final vote came before the House, but she may not have recused herself from when the measure was voted out of committee. You can evaluate all this at the MDE site, which promises a Part II to the story as well.

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- How Old Is Decrepit, Anyway? Edition

So, I hear it's your birthday, old fella! How old are you again? The over/under is 104.

Take the under, Seabiscuit. I'm only 47.

Whatever! Happy birthday, Dad! I may give you grief because you're old, and you are really quite old, by the way. But I still love you -- not that it's going to stop me from kicking your butt yet again this week.

Well, of course it isn't. What games have you selected for us, Grasshopper?

Here they come. Watch me work:

Oregon Quack Quack Attack (-16 1/2) vs. Oregon State Buck Toothed Varmints. Who's gonna stop the Duck? I know how you do it, so listen up, Beavers -- you play ball control. The Oregon offense can't score if they never see the field. Turn those running backs loose and keep pounding the rock. Also, this Oregon team isn't as good as the team from last year and you remember what happened last year -- when Oregon faced a team with quality personnel (that would be The Ohio State University), they fell short. Buck Toothed Varmints 35, Quack Quack Attack 7.

Don't get me wrong -- I think the Beavers have a chance on their home field. But I think the young fella is picking that one with his heart, because he wants TCU to get to the National Championship Game. I don't see it. The Ducks score a lot of points and are actually quite a bit more ruthless than a certain Cardinal-clad midwestern team that I'm fond of. And with the National Championship Game in their sights, they won't fall short. Oregon 42, Oregon State 21.

Oklahoma Boomer Sooner (-5) vs. Nebraska Future Big Ten Representatives, in lovely Arlington, Texas. It's the last chance for Nebraska to give a parting shot to their soon-to-be former rivals. The Cornhuskers are headed for the Big Ten next year and will be in the same division as the Gophers, who are looking forward to facing yet another team that will kick their butts. Look for Nebraska to go out on top. Johnny Rodgers 70, Jack Mildren 63.

Wow, that's old school even for me! Nice 1970s name check, young fella! I think Nebraska will enjoy the Big Ten, but they'll miss this rivalry in particular, which has been a classic over the years. I suspect that Oklahoma will win this one, but it's gonna be close. Oklahoma 35, Nebraska 31.

Au-Barn WAAAR-Eagle! (-5) vs. South Carolina Gamecocks, in Atlanta, GA. So, I wonder if I can get a loan from Cam Newton? He must have a tough time running down the field with all those $100 bills stuffed down his pants. I'm a nice young man and am perfectly willing to lighten his load a bit. Benster will take good care of your Benjamins, Cam! Really, trust me! I'm going to have to play devil's advocate again -- remember, once upon a time, Florida lost to the Seminoles in the regular season, but beat them when it mattered later on. I'm gonna call it! Gamecocks 17, WAAAR-Eagle 13.

I actually agree with you. The Auburn situation has been a bit of a circus this week and they have a lot of pressure. I've seen the Gamecocks play a few times this season and they are pretty good. I suspect the Ol' Ball Coach has a trick or two ready this time for Newton and the rest of the Auburn squad. I also like this because it would put TCU in the Championship Game and Stanford in the Rose Bowl where they belong. Gamecocks 34, Auburn 24.

Buffalo Wings (+6) vs. Minnesota Down Goes Fraziers. Do I even need to analyze this? Joe Frazier 100, B-Dubs 0.

Apparently you didn't need to analyze this. So I will -- the paying customers of this free blog demand analysis. Buffalo is playing very well, although their receiver Stevie Johnson had an existential crisis over the weekend after he dropped a sure touchdown pass last week. I don't think that God is a Steelers fan, but the Bills have been pretty God-forsaken or something this season. Vince Lombardi got his theology from the Jesuits and they said "Run to Win." So you should pick the team with Adrian Peterson (even an injured Adrian Peterson) in that context. Vikings 24, Bills 17.

San Francisco 49ers (+9 1/2) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. It's Decrepit's birthday today, and it's also the birthday of Aaron Rodgers, who is 20 years younger than the old fella. In other words, Rodgers is in his prime right now. And also the 49ers never beat the Packers. It's not gonna start on Sunday, especially considering that the Packers are going to come out swinging the Hammer of the Gods. Pack 27, Niners 20.

Here's the thing I don't get -- the Wisconsin Badgers have 3 top running backs and the Packers have none. Isn't there any way they could sneak Montee Ball into the stadium under an assumed name or something? They could call him Montee Blood McNally or something. The Packers won't need him this week, but later on. . . . Packers 31, San Fran 17.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (-3 1/2) vs. Motor City Kitties. Gino has been whining incessantly that we aren't paying sufficient attention to his Bears, so here we go. The Bears are currently leading the division, behind the quality quarterback play of Jack Concannon, er, I mean Bob Avellini, er, scratch that, Mike Tomczak, no, that's not right, Peter Tom Willis. Yeah, that's it. The last time these teams met, Calvin Johnson somehow didn't catch the ball that he actually caught. It's really quite confusing. Like how the Lions have a chance to get roasted on Thanksgiving every. single. year. Rex Grossman 7, Eric Hipple 6.

Okay, my pick is likely wishful thinking, but while we have great respect and admiration for our pal Gino, screw the Bears. I keed, I keed. Are the Bears the better team? Yeah. Will they win on Sunday? Not necessarily. Lions 24, Bears 20.

We're a little early this week because I'm dragging the old man camping this weekend. Out in the cold, even! Ben out!