Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Principles and the Times

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I don't think I'll ever take a word that's printed in the New York Times seriously again. Scott Johnson at Powerline lays it out nicely:

The New York Times is participating in the dissemination of the stolen State Department cables that have been made available to it in one way or another via WikiLeaks. My friend Steve Hayward recalls that only last year the New York Times ostentatiously declined to publish or post any of the Climategate emails because they had been illegally obtained. Surely readers will recall Times reporter Andrew Revkin's inspiring statement of principle: "The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won't be posted here."

Interested readers may want to compare and contrast Revkin's statement of principle with the editorial note posted by the Times on the WikiLeaks documents this afternoon. Today the Times cites the availability of the documents elsewhere and the pubic interest in their revelations as supporting their publication by the Times. Both factors applied in roughly equal measure to the Climategate emails.

Without belaboring the point, let us note simply that the two statements are logically irreconcilable.

No doubt. As Groucho Marx once said, "These are my principles. And if you don't like them, I have others." The Times has developed great facility in compartmentalizing its principles.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wiki tikki tavi

There's a lot that needs to be said about the materials now coming out because of Wikileaks, but I have two initial thoughts about the matter:
  • First, we can no longer assume that anything is confidential in matters of State. Electronic communications don't live in diplomatic pouches and cannot be burned. That changes the nature of statesmanship and my fear is that candor will be increasingly short supply. There are times when you need to make private judgments, but it no longer seems possible to record those judgments. My guess is that makes the world a more dangerous place.
  • There's a lot more to read, but my general impression is that most of the things we're learning are things we already suspected -- North Korea and Iran are working together, for example. What is surprising is that the Arab regimes seem to be genuinely alarmed about Iran in ways they've not stated publicly. The Jerusalem Post, among others, has noticed this, detailing some of the comments from the Saudis and Jordanians, among others. Will anything come of these revelations, beyond embarrassment?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Blood and Roses

(Photo: AP)

Enjoy it when you can, because it doesn't come very often. Barring something weird happening when the computers start belching things out, the Wisconsin Badgers are going to the Rose Bowl. A few thoughts on yesterday's 70-23 demolition of Northwestern and the Gophers winning back the Pig:

  • Because the Badgers have suddenly become an offensive juggernaut for the first time in school history, there's been some talk about whether or not Bret Bielema is running up the score on teams. Having watched most of yesterday's game, I don't think so. The Badgers scored 70 primarily because Northwestern gave them the ball numerous times and couldn't tackle. Northwestern hasn't been a footwipe for a long time now but that was as bad a performance as I've seen from a squad wearing purple in a long time, especially on defense.

  • As good as Montee Ball, James White and John Clay appear to be, one thing has become obvious as the season has gone on: the Badger offensive line is one of the best college lines I've ever seen. I would wager that Gabe Carimi, John Moffitt and Peter Konz will all be playing on Sundays in the future. And the scary part is that Josh Oglesby, who might be the most talented offensive lineman in Madison, hasn't even been playing this season.

  • I think one thing that Bielema and offensive coordinator Paul Chryst did do consciously yesterday was showcase Badger quarterback Scott Tolzien. Tolzien was magnificent, throwing for 4 touchdown passes. There's a message there for the school that draws the Badgers in the Rose Bowl (most likely TCU): if you try to put 8 or 9 in the box to stop the run, you will pay.

  • Meanwhile, you have to be happy for the Gophers, who salvaged something from an otherwise lost season by beating Iowa yesterday and reclaiming Floyd of Rosedale. Benster and I have given Gopher quarterback Adam Weber a lot of grief this year, mostly in jest, but it needs to be said: the kid has done a very good job in terrible circumstances. I suspect he'll get a chance to play on Sundays, because a guy who throws for over 11,000 yards in a college career has accomplished something. And kudos to Jeff Horton, the interim coach who led the Gophers to two more wins than his risible former boss did. I'm not sure who the Gophers will bring in next year, but they might do worse than keeping the interim guy.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Adam Weber and Chilly Disappear Edition

Thanksgiving is over, baybee! So we now return you to your regularly scheduled HYYYYYYPPPPPE!

Never seems to be in short supply around here, Grasshopper.

I'm like the Energizer Bunny, old dude -- I keep going and going and going. And I'm going to kick your butt a little further with picks shortly. You're okay with that, right?

Uh, no. But we'll see what happens.

Iowa Stanzis (-15 1/2) vs. Minnesota Golden Roadkill. It's the end of the line for Adam Weber, Gopher quarterback and garbageman supreme. I've heard rumors that he's in contention for a management trainee position with Waste Management, but he might want to waste a few years as an NFL backup before he becomes a minister of refuse. We've picked on Weber a lot here, but he's a guy you actually have to admire. He could have had Ricky Stanzi's job and probably would have played on New Year's Day a number of times, but he was loyal to the Gophers. That's cool. But it won't stop the Hawkeyes from thrashing him one last time, just for old time's sake. It's time for a touch of Gray -- Marqueis Gray, that is. Hayden Fry Nation 100, Roadkill 35.

Well, that was a touching sendoff for our friend and neighbor from Shoreview. I guess you Irondale guys have no love for a Mounds View grad! Anyway, the problem has never been Adam Weber. The problem is the carousel of coaches and systems he's had to endure the last four seasons. It might actually help him get a sniff with the NFL, because anyone who has had to learn so many systems should be able to learn an NFL system with ease. And I'd be happy to make six figures holding a clipboard. Iowa can forget the Big Ten title this year and they'll be in an ornery mood after what's happened lately. But at least there probably won't be any bad Iowa fan behavior in the restrooms at TCF Bank Stadium because they don't serve alcohol and it's outdoors. Iowa 34, Gophers 17.

Northwestern Wildcat Offense (+23) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. Meanwhile in Madison, the Badgers have some hope of smelling Roses. If they win and Ohio State doesn't lose to Meeshegan, the Badgers will likely be headed for Pasadena. That's pretty good incentive not to screw this one up. Northwestern is down one Dan Persa, who might have been the Big Ten Player of the Year had he not been injured a few weeks ago. Do you think a freshman quarterback will come into Madison and beat a Badger team that has been scoring points in huge bunches lately? The Badger offense reminds me of the Blitzkrieg, because they'll just run you over and Northwestern looks a lot like the Belgian countryside. Matt LePay Nation 101, Belgium 0.

I think the Badgers will face a little more resistance than the Wehrmacht did. But I don't see Northwestern doing much to stop Montee Ball or John Clay or James White. Pasadena, anyone? Wisconsin 49, Northwestern 21.

Minnesota Childress-Free Vikings (+1) vs. Washington Unacceptably High Federal Spending. Unfortunately, the election is now over so I can't make fun of politicians. But I can make fun of Donovan McNabb. So I wonder if the Chunky Soup Curse is finally catching up to McNabb. So here's the question for this game -- is Leslie Frazier auditioning for a 2011 job with the Vikings, or is Donovan McNabb? The Vikings like to take really old quarterbacks and play them, but I don't think Donovan McNabb isn't likely to get in trouble with his cell phone, so maybe the Vikings will take a pass. I was Brad Childress for Halloween once and no one knew who I was. Now no one cares who Brad Childress is, so I guess that's symbolic or something. Skins 20, Down Goes Frazier 19.

I don't know what to expect. It was weird listening to Leslie Frazier's press conference on the radio on Monday afternoon -- he sounds just like Tony Dungy. I don't know if he'll get the same results, though. Now that the Vikings are in the rear view mirror, I hope they play well and that ol' number 4 doesn't get seriously hurt. But I don't have a lot of inclination to care that much, either. It seems like the Vikings haven't won on the road since the Carter administration, so they'll lose again this week. But they'll probably play okay. Washington 24, Minnesota 21.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (+2) vs. Hotlanta Dirty Birds. Little known fact -- the last time the Packers played in Atlanta, they won behind the stellar play of Samkon Gado. No, really, it happened. That was back in 2005 when the Packers had their worst season in the last 20. Things look a lot different now. There's no Samkon Gado and the Falcons are a very different team, too. A good one, by the way. However, the Packers are playing like they did last year after that incident with the Creamsicles. Here's a bold prediction: Packers 27, Dirty Birds 24.

That is bold, Seasbiscuit. But I'm not sure that our boys can do it. I've been burned a few times picking against the Packers and probably should have learned. But I'm old and set in my ways, as my son is fond of pointing out. Hoping I'm wrong, but: Atlanta 31, Green Bay 24.

Yeah, I do not like Mounds View High School, so I'm probably a little harder on Adam Weber than some people are. But Adam Weber deserves better than what's he's had in his Gophers career. Ben out!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Benster and D Pick Your Thanksgiving Games -- Turkeys Everywhere You Look

Old dude, I think I've found the turkey already. It's E. Gordon Gee, who told us that he doesn't think much of Boise State and TCU. Here's what he said:

I do know, having been a Southeastern Conference president and a Big Ten president, that it's like Murderer's Row every week for these schools. We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor. We play very fine schools on any given day. So I think that until a university runs through that gauntlet, that there's some reason to believe that they may not be the best teams to be in the big ball game.

I take it you disagree with that, youngblood.

Yes, Decrepit. So tell me who Ohio State played in non-conference games this year. I looked it up and they played Miami, which is a pretty tough opponent. But their other opponents include some real heavyweights, like Marshall, Ohio University and the dreaded Eastern Michigan. You know what two things those schools have in common, old dude?

They all wear green, I think.

Good for you, AARP-meister! But the other thing they have in common is this -- they stink! Boise beat Oregon State and Virginia Tech in non-conference play, and TCU beat Utah on the road. I don't see why E. Gordon Gee should get all gee-whiz about these fine non-BCS squads. And I'm confused -- why would a guy who was involved in Watergate be the president of Ohio State?

I think you're confusing E. Gordon Gee with G. Gordon Liddy. A common misperception.

Thank you for clearing that up, Bob Woodward! But the other thing I have to say to Gee is this: c'mon, man!

I admire your restraint.

Well, I turn on the HYYYYYYPPPPE when it's time to pick football games. So here it comes, baybee!

New England Belicheks (-6 1/2) vs. Motor City Kitties. Well it's that time of the year when the Lions go on national television and humiliate themselves. It's like being on Dancing with the Stars and not being able to dance. The Lions haven't won on Thanksgiving Day since 2003. Can they win today? No way. Plymouth Rock 35, Tame House Cats 0.

You know something? The Lions are getting better. They've played everyone tough this year and I expect they'll play the Patriots tough, too. I think the Lions are 7-3 against the point spread this year, even though they are 2-8. So let's say they beat the spread and lose the game. New England 28, Lions 24.

New Orleans Epic Fantasy League Quarterback Drew Breeses (-4) vs. Dallas How 'Bout Them Cowboahs. Wow, I'm almost out of breath after that intro! As you might guess, I have epic fantasy league quarterback Drew Brees on my squad, while Decrepit has Bobby Hebert, I think. He has a hard time keeping up on things, as you've probably noticed from his terrible picking this year. I've been surprised how Jason Garrett has been able to turn the ship around in Dallas. They are playing much better since they slunk out of Green Bay a few weeks back. But the Saints are only the defending Super Bowl Champions. That means something. The Saints also remember that the Cowboys beat them last year. The Saints won't be happy. Who Dat 70, Cowboahs 69.

No defense in Big D, you say? Could be. But I suspect that the Cowboys are going to give a good accounting of themselves. And they will win today. Dallas 31, New Orleans 23.

Au-barn War Eagle/Tigers/Cam Newton Payers (+4 1/2) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide. Now, I don't know for sure if Auburn paid Cam Newton to be their quarterback, but it's pretty clear that he's paid off for them thus far. But, this game is different. This is Alabama. This is Sparta! Alabama is second in the nation in passing defense and on offense they should try to eat up as much time as possible to keep Newton off the field. That is, if the NCAA doesn't get to him first. No BCS for you, Au-Barn! Roll Tide 17, Waaaar Eagle 13.

These teams hate each other. And everyone else hates them. Especially people in the Boise area. I agree with the young fella -- the Boise State Broncos are going to get their chance. Alabama wins. Alabama 24, Auburn 17.

Time to get some turkey! Ben out!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Guilty Pleasures Part Seventy-Three -- Thanksgiving Jones Edition

Fearless Maria is back and she's ready for action!

That's true, Dad. But I'm not like Alicia Bridges, who wanted Act-shone! Because my act, which is trying to be the coolest 10-year old girl in the blogosphere has been well shown! And I dress a lot better. At least I'm not wearing your Aunt Mabel's black curtains turned into running shorts. Wait, do you even have an Aunt Mabel?

Last time I checked, I didn't. I'm not sure where I'd get one, Maria.

Ooh, what a shame. So what are we going to for Guilty Pleasures? I wanted to do something about Thanksgiving, but I don't think Cold Turkey is appropriate for our vonderfull audience.

I agree -- the screaming at the end is likely to scare the customers.

You didn't hear that, everybody! He was talking about what the turkeys do on their way to the grocery store. No offense, turkeys. Thanksgiving is a bad day for turkeys, assuming they even make it that far.

Well, there are other things we could do, Maria.

Like what?

I've been doing something weird on Facebook this week, picking songs with Joneses in them.

Ooh, hint hint Facebook people! Which sadly, I am not one of yet. I'm sooo ready for social networking, Dad!

We'll take that conversation offline.

I know what that means! You won't talk to me about it at all! Avoiding the tiger!

Have you been eavesdropping in my office, Maria?

Well, you know at some point I wouldn't mind hearing what goes on in your office, rather than taking multiplication time tests.

I can see that. So let's run the musical numbers. First we'll go with this one. It's Boz Scaggs:

All right pardner, here is the Fearless Maria critiquing as I throw down on "Lowdown." Dad, doesn't that all white outfit remind of your Halloween outfit, where you dressed up in a hazmat suit, without all the magic marker we put on there? Gosh, I feel bad -- they brought in a full orchestra and they have to hide behind a curtain and a guy who looks like he fell into a bucket of white paint! Of course, I like the song, but my goodness, the outfits are a whole other story.

What's scary is this -- Maria. By the standards of the 1970s, what you saw was actually pretty stylish.

Wow -- that makes me wonder what's on the dark, shadowy horizon of 70s looks if that's supposed to be good. Dad, he was wearing Sansabelt slacks. I've been warned about those! In fact, all they need is one of those neon yellow caution signs for a construction site. Or maybe better, they could have the construction site use them to wipe off the white paint!

Well, let's try this one instead. This is Billy Paul, from late 1972:

Dad, did he borrow the orchestra from Boz Scaggs? That hat he's wearing looks like he made it from one of Mom's saucepans! Or maybe it's one of Mrs. Jones's saucepans and Mr. Jones hit him over the head with it because he found out what he was doing with Mrs. Jones! I think it's a pretty good song, but there sure seem to be a lot of questions going on here. Maybe they need to borrow 20 Questions from my teacher's game cabinet and stop meeting at the cafe. He has to be extra careful, you know.

Sounds like he could have saved himself some grief if he'd only talked to you first, Maria.

Well, that's my job here and he needs to accept the facts of the great big swirling sphere that we are standing on at the moment. Or at least move to Mars and face their facts. But I don't think they have any cafes on Mars, Dad.

Probably not. So anyway, here's another Jones thing from later in the 1970s. It's the Jam:

All right, Jam -- it may seem that I'm putting you in the toaster here, but that's impossible because you're not on bread yet. You're very, very, very British-sounding; not that there's a problem with that but your voices and your style are coated in United Kingdomness. Dad told me that the Jam never did much in the United States and I can understand why -- because once again they didn't have bread. They probably had scones!

So you're saying that the Jam is not your cup of tea, Maria?

No, it's not my cup of tea, or coffee, or any other java jive because it doesn't love me, Dad! So who steps up next, because not everyone is a winner, but everybody pays the same price of FREE!

That's true -- no admission is charged here. So we can move forward to 1993 and these guys:

Dad, are you sure that's 1993? He's got one of those fringe jackets like they wore in the 1970s and he's got fringe hair, too! I know they're dreadlocks, but they certainly aren't a dreadlock holiday. Well, the song was okay, but I don't think they shouldn't count their crows before they hatch! That singer does look a little full of himself and I'm sure he'd be better off counting crows than eating crow! And his words.

Well, a lot of singers are full of themselves, Maria.

I know that, Dad. Waah waah waaaahhhh! It's really a shame, because some of them are probably perfectly good people, but it messes with their minds. They become super-egos. They were mesmerized in the false-tivity of the situation!


I guess falsi-tivity isn't a word, Dad. It was only a dream that I would have been able to make my own word and contribute to etymology!

Etymology? How old are you?

Ten, Dad! What, a ten-year old can't use the word etymology? It was one of our spelling words a few weeks back, in the deep waters of my school.

Pretty deep, all right. Anyway, if you were wondering what the Counting Crows guy was talking about, he was talking about this song by Bob Dylan:

So, is the "Ballad of a Thin Man" what they play on the Wii Fit commercial? It was a pretty good song except I'm wondering, did they have to strangle some bluebirds to get that weird, high-pitched noise?

That's an organ, Maria.

Sounds like someone was getting bodily organs crushed, Dad! Really squeaky! Okay, I know it's like one of those organs that they have in bands or at church, but I don't think I've ever heard anyone at St. John's make it sound so squeaky and crushy!

It was the 1960s, Maria.

I know. And I'd have been worried for the sake of humanity and animal-anity back then. Good thing I wasn't born until 35 years later!

Well, the only way we can time travel is through these videos, Maria.

And you know what? YouTube isn't exactly as great as Albert Einstein, Dad! But speaking of time travel, it's time to vote! You can stay right here in our somewhat safe blogosphere generation, because it's my generation! And no, the people in the link aren't from my generation. Pick your favorite in the comment section, but don't smash any guitars!

An anniversary unremarked

Perhaps it's a good sign that I actually forgot to write this, but better late than never. Twenty years ago this month I made one of the best decisions of my life. I quit smoking.

I had become a smoker mostly because of the typically young adult lifestyle I was then leading. At some point I'd learned that you could get an extra jolt out of your beer buzz if you added a few smokes. Eventually I started smoking at times when I wasn't out socializing and by the time 1990 rolled around, I was smoking about a pack a day.

As it turned out, 1990 was a pretty eventful year. Mrs. D and I were on the path to marriage and I formally proposed to her at the beginning of August. Less than a month later, my dad passed away. Dad would fire up a cigar from time to time but wasn't a regular smoker, but his premature demise certainly got my attention.

At the time I quit, a pack of cigarettes would set you back about $1.50 to $1.75, depending on where you bought them. I usually got mine at the little neighborhood store a block from my apartment, so I typically paid a little more. It wasn't a huge expense but it was adding up and there wasn't much that I enjoyed about smoking. Mrs. D had said she would marry me if I were still a smoker, but that she wasn't crazy about the idea of having children breathing cigarette smoke. So it was time.

I decided to quit over a weekend and we arranged to get out of town. Smoking is a matter of habit in more ways than one and breaking the normal routine was key. The other key was making it difficult to light up the cigarette. Late that Friday night, I was having a cigarette on the back steps of the apartment building. A guy was walking down the alley and saw me. He asked me if I had a light.

I told him I did and tossed him my lighter. Then I told him to keep it. "I want to quit smoking, so I won't need this." The guy thanked me and went on his way. And that was that.

The weekend wasn't pleasant, since the withdrawal is unpleasant. But quitting cold turkey was the way to go. By the time the weekend was over, the cravings had subsided a bit. I had put the ashtrays away and I'd thrown away the last few cigarettes that had been in my pack. I got up on Monday morning and went to work a former smoker. And I haven't gone back to it.

I realize that for many people, quitting smoking is very difficult. But it can be done. And I think the most important thing you can do to quit smoking is to make it difficult to light a cigarette. If you have to make an effort to light up a smoke, you have enough time to fight off the urge. Don't carry a lighter and get rid of your matches. And most of all, don't stop trying to quit. You can do it.

Just so we're clear

The point of contesting the results of the election isn't to stop Mark Dayton from being governor. He's going to become governor. The point of the exercise is to show how he became governor and the things that some people have done to ensure it would happen.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Over at MinnPost, David Brauer asks and answers a question:

First, the question, prompted by Twittering:

The argument goes something like this: the local sportsfolk haven't broken the biggest Vikings stories this year, including Brett Favre's return, the Randy Moss trade, and now, Chili's firing. Depending on how you parse out credit, the scoops belonged to ESPN, the NFL Network and Fox Sports. So why should, say, the Strib have three guys working the Vikings/NFL beat when they can't bring home the biggest stories — especially when less sexy but more important news beats have one or no reporters?

Brauer's take on the matter of scoops, which I find persuasive:

The locals are getting beat by national outlets that pay the NFL millions for TV rights (ESPN/Fox) or those owned directly by the league (NFL Network). Say all you want about "mainstream" organizations paying for news, but I have to believe this is a factor. There's a substantial business relationship here.

Of course this is true and anyone who thinks otherwise isn't thinking the matter through. Guys like Ed Werder of ESPN and Jay Glazer at Fox have a much larger platform than someone like Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune. Given the egos involved, it makes sense to talk first to the guy with the bigger blowtorch, as they say in the radio business.

What is even more silly is the notion that somehow devoting more beat writers to sports is a bad thing for a local newspaper to do. Brauer:

If the Strib suddenly got religion on sports and cut the staff, would they shift money over to news? Perhaps, but not as much as you might think.

At least on the newspaper side, sports is a major driver of readership. Brett Favre's '09 return produced the biggest traffic day in Startribune.com history. Most of that may have been "drive-by" traffic that produces tenths of pennies per click. But over time, being the "go-to" local sports platform adds up. How many of you keep your subscription to luxuriate over the sports pages after a big win?

I think this is correct. Almost no one on my street takes the paper anymore, but people still want to have a copy of the paper when there's a big sports story. Newspapers barber a lot about public service, but at bottom they are for-profit corporations and the key thing is to make money. While there may be enough interesting things going on at Minneapolis City Hall to merit an additional reporter, the folks hanging out at Winter Park are the ones who deliver the most eyeballs.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chilly we hardly knew ye

So, will Brett Favre give Chilly a ride to the airport?

Okay, I'll admit I stole that line from a friend of mine, but it kinda sums things up. As you've probably heard, the Vikings gassed Brad Childress this morning and have named Leslie Frazier as the interim coach. A few thoughts:

  • I wrote about Favre this morning and really don't have a lot to add about his situation, except to say that he's been pretty rough on those who would coach him in recent years. His antics probably got Eric Mangini fired in New York and now Brad Childress lost his job.
  • I've spoken with any number of Vikings fans about Childress and while their has been almost universal disgust with his tenure, I'm not convinced that his coaching has been that bad, really. He'd done a very good job of identifying good players and deploying them in positions where they could succeed. If you look at the Vikings roster now and compare it to 2005, when Mike Tice was ashcanned, you will notice that nearly the entire roster has turned over. The results got steadily better for the first four years of the Childress regime, but at the end things went south. While I think you can put a lot of that on Childress and a fair amount on Favre, I think there's plenty of blame to go around.
  • When we get a little distance from things, I suspect that the failed Randy Moss experiment will turn out to be crucial, but not necessarily for the reasons we have thought. Moss has his flaws, but there's evidence that he's actually a pretty shrewd fellow -- our friend Night Writer has said as much in the past. I think you could argue that Moss sized up the situation here and forced his way out precisely because he saw the dysfunction. He didn't want to be part of it and knew exactly how to extricate himself.
  • Leslie Frazier gets the job on an interim basis and a thankless job it is. He's been loyal to Childress, which makes me wonder how easy it will be for him to distance himself from what's been happening this season. The word on Frazier is that he's exceptionally bright and patient, which are admirable traits. My guess is that this team, as it is currently, needs someone who's not afraid to kick some butts. Perhaps Frazier can do that but one has to wonder.
  • As a Packer fan, what's been most interesting is that we've now seen teams fire their coaches in consecutive games after getting whipped by the boys in Green. It's a coincidence, but I think one thing has been clear -- the reason the Packers are still hanging in there while their opponents fade away is that the Packers do a good job of policing egos. Unlike the Vikings or the Cowboys, the Packers show up and do their work every week without a lot of talking. That's a testament to the approach that permeates the team from top to bottom. Mike McCarthy is a thoroughly dull dude but he's obviously able to keep the drama in check. It seems to be a rare skill set.

The Limits of Schadenfavre

As a Packer fan, there's no disputing that I enjoyed every minute of the 31-3 drubbing they inflicted upon the Minnesota Vikings yesterday at Har-Mar, er I mean Mall of America Field. After a bit of a slow start, Aaron Rodgers was masterful and the Packer defense was generally quite effective in slowing down what is left of the Minnesota offense. Good show.

And yet, and yet -- there's something a little hollow in watching Brett Favre turn into Willie Mays in a Mets uniform. Yes, the Favre act has gotten even older than he is and yes, the Vikings are getting what they deserved for believing that a once-in-a-lifetime series of events could be replicated.

Still, I don't feel any great joy in Favre's comeuppance. His performances have absolutely vindicated the decisions that Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy made in 2008, when they decided to turn over control of the Packers to Rodgers. Still, I continue to believe that Favre's departure could have been handled with a little more grace.

Favre, for all his faults, was the face the of the Packers for 16 seasons. Aside from Curly Lambeau or Vince Lombardi, no one other individual has represented the team in such a public way in its history. He did lead the team to a stretch of enormous success and won a lot of games for four very different coaches in his tenure. He made the Packers a team the nation wanted to watch again, putting the lie to the sneering of national observers like Frank Deford, who declared the Packers dead and irrelevant in the 1980s. It would be churlish to forget the role Favre has had in making Packer football both relevant and enjoyable.

At one point in yesterday's broadcast, the cameras turned to Chuck Foreman, the great old Viking runner of the 1970s, who disappointed me by whipping up on the Packers regularly during my childhood. I was watching the game with the Benster and told him about my memories of Chuck Foreman. It occurs to me that Benster has never felt the despair of knowing his team cannot compete. More than anyone else, Brett Favre is the reason for that.

And while I always prefer the Packers to the Vikings, I live in Minnesota. The Vikings are, for better or worse, the team that generates the most passion in these parts and while it pains me to admit it, I think that most Vikings fans understand the game well and are actually pretty reasonable. The mood of this place is always better when the Vikings are winning -- it's almost palpable. With the onset of an early winter that is suggesting ferocity, it's been a depressing week in Minnesota and the long winter the Vikings have delivered doesn't help the mood. My own personal happiness aside, there's no joy in that.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Old Man and Bartman Edition

So I'm going to be a year older this weekend. You know that I'm going to be feeling some HYYYYYYYPPPPPPE!

Yes, that's correct. Happy almost 15th birthday, young fella! How did you get so old, anyway?

It's not like I had a choice, Decrepit! But you know what is the best part about being an adolescent?

I'm sure you'll tell me.

Well, yeah. I get to be adolescent! Yeah, baybee! That means it's time to lay down some smack and pick some games. Did you notice that I was almost right with my Badger pick last week? Well, didya? Ha-ha!

That turned out okay. Good thing that the Badgers were playing a team that didn't bother to play defense.

Lotta that thing going around, old dude. Watch me work. . . .

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-4) vs. Meeshegan Hail to the Vanquished. I would not expect Michigan to just lay down and die like Indiana did last week, but they play defense like France. Do you know why they planted trees along Division Street in Ann Arbor? So that Brett Bielema could walk in the shade! I think we need more Nelson Muntz. The Badgers win by keeping Denard Robinson standing on the sidelines, next to RichRod. BadgerBadgerBadger 30, Meeshegan 17.

I think I understand your theory and it's a good one, youngblood. If the Badgers can play ball control and score touchdowns, Michigan has no shot. I think it won't be easy, since the Badgers haven't won in Ann Arbor in your lifetime, Seabiscuit. But that streak comes to an end tomorrow afternoon. Badgers 38, Michigan 27.

Illinois Fighting Zooks (-7 1/2) vs. Northwestern Wildcat Offense, at Wrigley Field in Chicago. So this is a strange thing, AARP wannabe -- the Wildcats gave up a home game to play at Wrigley. The last time a college game took place in Wrigley, I think it involved either the University of Chicago or a joust. It's been a loooong time, Decrepit! But I'm sure this guy was there. Lemme hear ya! No, I'd rather not, Harry. There's a problem with playing at Wrigley. Because one end zone is about two feet from the right field wall, they are concerned about safety and will have to do some switching around to handle plays in the end zone. Maybe they're afraid that this guy will show up. None of this has much to do with football, but let's face it, tormenting Cubs fans never gets old! Maybe I'd better stay clear of the North Side. As for the game, it's tough for Northwestern since they lost their star quarterback. The Zooks got embarrassed by our Gophers last week and they'll be angry and on the warpath. Chief Illiniwek 100, Steve Bartman Nation 0.

I dimly remember watching Da Bearz play at Wrigley when I was a kid and I don't remember the right field wall being a problem. Then again, the Bears had a hard time scoring in those days and the end zone was mostly a rumor to them. I think Northwestern is a better team if they have Dan Persa. But they don't. So I'll agree with the birthday boy. Illinois 27, Northwestern 23.

The Ohio State University Buckeyes (-3) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes. I still think Iowa fans worship Hayden Fry. They probably have some temple out in a cornfield some place. Since it's Iowa, that doesn't really narrow down a location, though. Maybe it's in Kankakee? No wait, that's Illinois. Maybe it's in Keokuk. But no matter where they keep the secret temple of Fry, the Hawkeyes will need to get someone better than Ricky Stanzi as their quarterback. He's just good enough to lose. Iowa should play their hearts out and it will be enough to overcome the Stanzi Factor and squeak by. Temple of Hayden 10, Brutus Buckeye 9.

I don't know what to think, although I'd suggest a game of Scrabble between Iowa wideout Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and OSU flanker Dane Sanzenbacher. Long names, good games. I think OSU wins because they're just a better team, but I thought the same thing about Michigan State. Oh well, we'll take our chances. Ohio State 27, Iowa 20.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-3) vs. Minnesota Turmoils. So I heard they changed the name of the Vikings pre-game television show to "All My Childress," in honor of the soap opera going on at Winter Park. I obviously want the Packers to win this game really badly, since it falls on my birthday. Did I mention my birthday? Did I? The Vikings are like the Titanic about a half hour after they've hit the iceberg. They still think they're on the Love Boat, but noooo! Favre sees his old team for likely the last time, unless he changes his mind and signs on with Lions. The problem is, about the only team that will want him are these Lions. I also would not be surprised if Favre gets the number 52 implanted on his chest courtesy of the Claymaker. However, I am worried that Chad Clifton won't be able to hear the snap count and we might have to put about six tight ends on the side with Jared Allen. Verde Bay 30, All My Childress 0.

Oh, I think the old guy has a little something left over for my beloved Packers. It's going to be tough. I think the key is stopping Percy Harvin. If the Packers keep him from going nuts, the Vikings go down easily. If not, watch out. Packers 27, Vikings 24.

Motor City Kitties (+6 1/2) vs. Dallas Cowboahs. So I'm confused, old dude -- the Cowboys who came up to Green Bay, they weren't the same guys who were in New Jersey last week. I know Wade Phillips was channeling his inner Tim Brewster, but what gives? I wonder which team is going to show up? Bet Jerry Jones does, too. As for the Kitties, Matthew Stafford is now as likely to play quarterback for the Lions as Jim Stafford. Since the game is in Dallas and not Branson, I'm going to pick the Cowboys. Cowboy Up 3, Tame House Cats 2.

Think you're in the wrong ballpark there, Grasshopper. This game doesn't involve the Rangers as far as I know. I saw enough of the Cowboy game last week to be very confused, too. There's no way they should have dominated the Giants, but they did. Go figure! As for the Lions, it's clear they are a better team now but without Stafford they'll have trouble scoring. Your instincts are correct on this one, but in football the scores go up by 3s and 7s, so: Cowboys 14, Lions 13.

Indianapolis Mannings (+3 1/2) vs. New England Bradys. How can Peyton Manning win with guys I've never heard of playing receiver? He's some kind of genius. The problem is that the Patriots have some geniuses, too. And better talent. I'm also very fond of saying Benjarvis Green-Ellis. No doubt that the Patriots remember how the last game ended and will try to keep Manning off the field. Brady's Bunch 24, Peyton Place 7.

I have nothing to support this pick other than a hunch. So I'll just make the pick. Colts 28, Patriots 17.

Favre is old. The Ghost of Bartman is out and about. It's cold outside. And it's my birthday. Did I mention that it's my birthday? I must have said something about it. ¡Feliz cumpleaños a Ben! ¡Feliz cumpleaños a Ben! Ben out!

The Lights Go Out at TvM

It appears that my friend Gary Miller has pulled the plug on Truth vs. the Machine, which was until recently one of the key blogs on the starboard side of the Minnesota blogosphere. Gary hadn't been doing much with the blog and the other writers Gary had assembled were contributing less frequently, so it makes sense that it would quietly die.

TvM started out as a blog dedicated to following the election cycle in 2006, which was not an easy thing to do. It paid special attention to the travails of Mark Kennedy, the Republican congressman who ended up losing badly to Amy Klobuchar in the race to replace Mark Dayton in the Senate. Gary assembled some really talented people to write at the blog and it was a lively place, even as it became clear that candidate Kennedy was going nowhere. I'd argue that what was then called "Kennedy vs. the Machine" was better than Kennedy.

After the election, TvM became a place where good local conservative writers had a chance to discuss the topics of the day, but it was more than that. It was a lot of fun. Jeff Kouba provided excellent commentary on the travails of the television show "24," while Gary's brother, writing under the name "Carnivore," provided top-notch discussions of all things gun. And over the years Gary had some really outstanding talent from the local blogosphere on his team, including Doug Williams, Andy Aplikowski, Kouba, First Ringer, Pat Shortridge and Steam Valve. This was a heck of a roster and while the voices on the blog varied, they shared a sensibility that I found appealing -- they were quite serious about the issues, but no one who wrote for TvM in any of its incarnations took himself (or herself) too seriously. Gary even let me play in his sandbox, which was a great opportunity.

As Gary's day job and other responsibilities changed, I'm sure it was tough to devote the time needed to maintain the blog. These days most of Gary's creativity is channeled into his Facebook account and he has thousands of friends. It's no surprise -- he's still deadly serious about his faith and family, but his foray into social networking is usually hilarious, especially his dispatches from "Farmville," which are a bit like Hunter S. Thompson visiting Petticoat Junction.

Blogs come and go -- you have to be a bit of an obsessive to face the blank screen every day and bang something out, especially if you want to get past the received wisdom. While it was in its heyday, TvM was first-rate precisely because it wasn't about received wisdom. While I'll miss TvM, it served its purpose and served it well. Thanks, Gary.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cry Me a (Hudson) River

Charlie Rangel ponders his mortality:

“I don’t know how much longer I have to live,” said Mr. Rangel, 80, his eyes watery and his voice quivering. But, he said, whatever time he has, he will spend it trying “to help people and thank God for what he’s given to me.”

Why the look back in sorrow? Because he's going to be censured for a variety of sins.

A censure would mark a momentous downfall for Mr. Rangel, a Democrat who for 40 years has represented Harlem, where he was born. As a decorated Korean War veteran and civil rights advocate, he became a combative and irrepressible voice for liberal causes and, in 2007, snared one of the most powerful positions in Congress, the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee.

Censure requires approval by the full House, which plans to take up the matter after its Thanksgiving recess.

If, as expected, censure is approved, Mr. Rangel will be the first member to receive such punishment since 1983, when two congressmen were rebuked for sexual misconduct with House pages. Mr. Rangel would be required to stand in the well of the House while the speaker reads a resolution rebuking him.

I'd prefer Rangel to stand on the steps of the Capitol and announce his resignation, but that's likely too much to ask. Rangel has a lot in common with another decorated veteran who disgraced himself in Congress, John Murtha. Murtha died earlier this year and never ended up facing an ethics panel, but there were more than a few scandals that had surfaced with his name on them. If he hadn't died on the operating table, there was a pretty good chance he'd have faced the same fate as Charlie Rangel.

The problem is incumbency. You end up with people like Rangel, who was in position for 40 years. John Dingell has been in Congress for well over 50 years. No one should hold office that long, Republican or Democrat. The longer you spend in the artificial environment of the Capitol, where lobbyists ply you and sycophants tell you how great you are, the more likely you are to lose sight of why you were sent there in the first place. Public service and self-service are often hard to separate, especially for someone who has spent most of their life in Congress.

If Charlie Rangel is sincere about trying to help people, he ought to go back to Harlem and dig in. Surely there is someone else who can do his job.

83-20, 7-52 and 0-56

I did most of my growing up in the 1970s, which was generally a bad time for a Wisconsin Badger football fan. While the Badgers had some fairly remarkable players on their rosters in those days, it was always safe to assume that the best result the Badgers could expect was a 4th place finish in the Big Ten. The best team the Badgers had in that era was probably the 1974 squad, which beat Nebraska and finished 7-4 overall. Even so, they got their butts handed to them when the went to Columbus, losing to Ohio State 52-7. A few years later in 1977, the Badgers went into Ann Arbor sporting a 5-0 record and ended up getting edged by Michigan 56-0.

There were a lot of scores of that sort back then. Things have been very different in Madison over the last 20 years since Barry Alvarez came to town and changed the culture completely. This season's squad is 9-1 under the direction of Brett Bielema and has been accused of running up the score, especially after last weekend's 83-20 demolition of a hapless Indiana squad. As a Badger fan, this is a strange sensation.

I watched the last part of the game on Saturday, especially the 4th quarter. It was a lot like watching Benster play Madden '10 on the Wii -- the Indiana team was only making a cursory effort and the Badgers were able to move the ball virtually at will. The most bored man in the stadium had to be the Badger punter, who never had to practice his craft, since the Badgers scored every time they had the ball. Is it bad sportsmanship to score when the other team is laying down?

The question of running up the score is out there because of something that happened earlier in the season, when the Badgers were leading the Minnesota Gophers by 25 points and Bielema went for a 2-point conversion. This move aroused the ire of then-Gopher coach Tim Brewster, who complained quite loudly about the matter to anyone who would listen. Two things were at work -- Bielema and Brewster had a contentious relationship because of their recruiting battles and Brewster realized that his job tenure was in serious jeopardy. While I understand why Bielema might have wanted to rub Brewster's nose in it a little, I wish he hadn't done it. And Bielema's explanation for why he did it (the coaches' card said to) was silly. Brewster got the ax a few weeks later and his team's performance against Wisconsin had a lot to do with his dismissal.

I don't think this week's accusations were fair, since Indiana seemed almost indifferent to their fate. I also find it troubling that some of the critics, especially Mike Golic of ESPN, weighed in even though they hadn't bothered to watch film of the game. The problem for the Badgers is this: once you get a reputation for poor sportsmanship, even if it's for specious reasons, it follows you.

Bielema isn't really old enough to remember the events 1974 or 1977, or much care about that ancient history. Fans do remember, though. And while it's gratifying that the Badgers are now a consistently good program, it's easy enough to imagine a day when 0-56 results return.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

And now, the news

I was going to give outgoing WCCO-TV news anchor Don Shelby a little shot before he left, but Brian "St. Paul" Ward has already done the work over at Fraters. A representative sample:

More to the point, the idea that he was regularly grilling the "powerful" from behind his desk and teleprompter is laughable. I suppose 30 years ago when he started he may have been holding powerful people's feet to the fire.

These days, the man who became known as "DFL Don" is more likely to be holding powerful people like Minneapols Mayor RT Rybak not accountable, but sweetly in his arms while laughing and performing at a fundraiser for a liberal news web site.

Just so. I stopped watching WCCO after Shelby's self-importance became too much to bear, especially his commentaries, where he comes off as Ted Baxter with a slightly better vocabulary.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that self-importance is a trait of anyone who thinks they ought to appear on television. Some people eventually get beyond that. When I was in college there was a hotshot news anchor who came on the air at a Green Bay television station. The guy's name is Tom Zalaski and he started at WBAY television not long after Shelby began at WCCO. At first it was obvious that Zalaski was thinking Green Bay was just a stepping stone and that he was bound for glory, or at least a larger market. In his initial broadcasts the condescension in his voice was almost palpable as he discussed the latest drunken domestic dispute in Bonduel or kicked it over to Carmen Winkler in the "Lakeshore Bureau" for a dispatch on a barn fire outside of Two Rivers.

But a funny thing happened; we'll let Zalaski tell the story:

I came to Green Bay at age 25, telling myself I would stay here for one year and then it was off to the 'Big Time'. Now, 25 years later I realize how blessed I am to have stayed. There is nothing more important one can provide for his family than quality of life. In that respect, Green Bay is the Big Time.

Zalaski raised a family in Green Bay and lost his wife to cancer in the 1990s. He did move from WBAY to WFRV, but that was the only change he made. Although I don't know the particulars of Zalaski's career, he most likely had opportunities to go someplace else. He was at least as professional a news reader as anyone currently working in the Twin Cities. It would have been easy enough to imagine Zalaski landing a job at one of WCCO's competitors; after all, Zalaski's former colleague Joe Schmit got out of Green Bay and ended up here. But Tom Zalaski realized something important, something that I rarely see in other television personalities -- it really isn't about you.

The last time I was back in the Valley, I caught Zalaski on a newscast. While he was the same guy I'd seen all those years ago, he wasn't the brash, almost-smartass broadcaster he'd been in the 1980s. He seemed content to tell people what was going on without adornment or puffery. He didn't feel any need to opine or tell us What It All Means. He trusted that his audience would be able to figure things out without any prompting. Somewhere along the way Tom Zalaski learned to trust the intelligence of his audience and stopped sneering at barn fire reporting. I wish more people in the news gathering business felt the same way.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A tale of leadership

So it turns out that Paul Ryan has had precisely one more conversation with Nancy Pelosi than I have:

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the incoming chairman of the House Budget Committee, suggested Republicans get along best with [Steny] Hoyer, the second-ranking House Democrat who will stay in the No. 2 position in the next Congress."

I get along pretty well with Steny. He's the only one we really talk to," Ryan said Monday morning on CNBC. "I don't know Nancy Pelosi. I had a 30-second conversation with her about six years ago, and that's about it."

That's pretty astonishing if you think about it. Ryan isn't a backbencher; of all the younger Republicans who have emerged in the last decade, he might be the most impressive of the lot. You would think that Pelosi would at least have wanted a little insight into what someone like Ryan is thinking.

I remain convinced that hubris had a lot to do with what happened to the Democrats in this cycle. Nancy Pelosi has long been able to operate without any effective opposition -- she represents an utterly safe congressional district and because of the institutional setup of the House, she could operate however she pleased. Lord Acton warned about this sort of thing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lightning Round - 111510

Have to go fast again this a.m.:

  • There's been an amazing amount of ink spilled and pixels deployed to discuss the ongoing saga in Winter Park, which someone on Facebook called "All My Childress." I think we can stop now. As Eliot put it, this is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper. Or with a Hank Baskett sighting.
  • More of a question than anything else, especially for my fellow cheeseheads: were you in any way troubled seeing the Badgers put up 83 points on hapless Indiana? I saw the last quarter of the game and it didn't seem like the Badgers were trying to run up the score, but you have to wonder. My sense is that because of the current system (that being the odious BCS), it's almost obligatory to start stomping your opponents as hard as possible to please the computers.
  • A little intramural political fun from Missouri: Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) warned Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) of "disloyalty" to President Obama if she should seek to distance herself from the White House in her re-election campaign. Cleaver, who's seen as the likely next leader of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), cautioned the centrist senator of distancing herself from Obama, the way many endangered incumbents had done in the closing weeks of the 2012 election. “Any attempt to extricate herself from him will be an act of disloyalty,” Cleaver told McClatchy in a piece profiling McCaskill's re-election campaign. “She will not do that at all.” I don't think Cleaver understands that McCaskill faces a little different electorate than he does, even though they're from the same state. Not that I have a lot of sympathy for McCaskill, who was highly fortunate to run for office in 2006. Things change.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Snowmageddon and Its (Dis)contents

It snowed a little here in the Twin Cities yesterday...OK, it snowed quite a bit. While this was happening, I noticed something that I have noticed many times before, but couldn't put my finger on how to describe it. I find that snow has an infantilzing effect on us. It manifested itself nicely, in writing, on Facebook. Some of the status updates I saw yesterday:

"I hate snow."
"SNOW!! Keep it coming!"
"Dumb snow."
"Time to go play in the snow!!"

Now, I expressed a wish for it to be snowing bacon...mostly because this snowstorm threatened an annual celebration of bacon I have with some of my coworker friends. Worry not, dear readers, for it went off without a hitch (other than depressed attendance).

I tend to come down on the not-a-fan-of-snow side of things, especially a big snowstorm before Thanksgiving. But, it's funny how the first snowfall of the season makes us act like children. Whether we like snow or not, we kinda spaz out. All of those status quotes are from adults, many of whom are pretty respectable, mature people. But, here we are, throwing child-like temper tantrums because we have to shovel/drive/walk in it, or conversely, getting overly excited because we, even though we are adults, want to run around and play in it.

So, yeah snow or nay snow, our reactions to it are very interesting. Very child-like.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- R. Dean Taylor Edition

I'm going to be out dancing this evening, old dude!

You don't dance, do you?

Oh, I'll be rockin' it at the Sadie Hawkins Dance at school tonight. So don't come looking for me. Because I'll be showing the world my pure, true Bensterness. But first I have to kick your butt on football picks again. Are you ready, Metamucil Maven?

If you insist.

Minnesota Golden Roadkill (+21) vs. Illinois Fighting Zooks. I'm pretty sure that Illinois scored more points last week in Ann Arbor than the Gophers scored in the last month. Even though Adam Weber remains the undisputed king of Garbage Time, he can't play defense or kick field goals, to name a few other things that the Gophers don't do well. Gophers lose, enough said. Fighting Zooks 50, Roadkill 17.

I've heard that Adam Weber might give way to a little more of Marqueis Gray in this game. I must say this -- Adam Weber is probably the guy who has been messed over more than any other in the chaos at the U. If this guy had gone to a school with some stability, he'd probably be a 2nd or 3rd round draft pick for the NFL, but I'm not sure what's going to happen to him now. I hope he enjoyed the rest of his college experience, because it won't get better down in Champaign-Urbana tomorrow. Illinois 41, Gophers 20.

Indiana Wants Me, Lord I Can't Go Back There (+21 1/2) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. Before we go any further, it must be said -- that song really stinks, old dude! No wonder Indiana never wins football games. It must be tough to overcome the outright wimpitude of that awful balladry. I'm picturing the Indiana quarterback, whose name also happens to be Ben, trying to throw a football while simultaneously trying to play the string section part of that awful song. Won't work, dude! This game is obviously not in Gary, which is really good. I've now seen Gary and I don't want to go back there, whether Indiana wants me or not. Nice slag heaps, though! Of course, the Indiana football team is a bit of a slag heap, too. And they will get run over by Montee Ball or James White or whoever else happens to show up in Madison. Badger Badger Badger 70, R. Dean Taylor 0.

Fearless Maria just wandered by and said "Like that's gonna happen." She's right. It's not gonna happen. But the Badgers should win easily, since Indiana seems to think defense is optional. Not a good way to win in the Big Ten. Wisconsin 45, Indiana 17.

Penn State Paternos (+18) vs. The Ohio State University Buckeyes. Plus 18? For Penn State? C'mon, man! JoePa's not gonna take that lyin' down. You have to wonder if Penn State is hung over from the JoePa fest last week against Northwestern, where they roared back from a 21-point deficit to score, what was it, about 900 points? Something like that. However, the Lions are like Washington -- they just can't make up their mind about who's in charge. Which quarterback will they use this week? My partner in this enterprise thinks it's going to be Chuck Fusina. I may need to check your meds, Decrepit! Knights of Columbus 50, Come to Penn State 2.

Hmmm. I don't think 18 points is realistic, either. But that's because this game is going to be closer than that. I'm really surprised at the line, since the Nittany Lions are playing much better these days. I suspect OSU wins, but it won't be easy. Ohio State 31, Penn State 24.

Minnesota Stergers (-1) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. Here's the question before America -- will Gino be happy this week, or will Mrs. D, a/k/a my Mom? I know that for my sake, it would be far better if Mrs. D is happy. Gino, sorry about that, bro! A lot of people are starting to think that the Vikings are righting the ship after beating the Arizona Cardinals last week. I say to those people, C'mon, man! The Vikings are probably going to be without Sidney Rice and could be without Percy Harvin. Also, it doesn't help that Jen Sterger has now talked to the NFL about her experiences with cell phones. It wouldn't surprise me if old Favre has to take a call on his cell phone next week from some league official. In fact, if Favre couldn't start against the Packers, that would be justice. Meanwhile, Favre's biggest problem this week is to avoid being turned into a pepper steak by Julius Peppers. Hey Julius -- save one for the Claymaker, willya? Ditka Ditka Ditka 30, Don't Text Me, Bro 27.

Mrs. D doesn't like that pick, I'm guessing. I'm worried about Julius Peppers, too. Bryant McKinnie better stay away from Rush Street on Saturday night. Meanwhile, the Bears are a mess, too. It wouldn't surprise me if this game features 15 quarterback sacks. Here's a guess -- at least one key play comes from Chester Taylor. Better hope that Harvin is ready. I'll go with the Vikings, given my vested interest in keeping Mrs. D happy. Vikings 24, Bears 20.

Motor City Kitties (+3) vs. Buffalo Wings. So let me get this straight. Buffalo hasn't won a game this season, but they're the favorite. Is that right? What's up with that? C'mon, man! It's obvious that the Bills escaped from the Mounties last week but they still lost to da Bearz. In Detroit, Matthew Stafford is again on the sidelines and the Lions are wheeling out Shaun "of the Dead" Hill, mostly because Eric Hipple won't return their calls. I gotta be honest with you, readers -- this might be the worst game in NFL history. B-Dub 0, Kitties 0.

A scoreless tie? Uh, no. I bet at least one of these sorry teams scores a safety because the other team trips in the end zone. Actually, the Lions are getting better, but losing Stafford will hurt them. As a Packer fan, I must say that having the Lions and the Bears in the division is a real treat, because no two teams have had consistently worse quarterback play in my lifetime. But I'm going to pick the Lions anyway. Lions 21, Bills 17.

West De Pere Phantoms vs. Xavier Hawks, at Kimberly H.S. That's right, Wisconsin D3 football, baby! It's Decrepit's alma mater, XHS, facing off against a school with a really cool nickname. And both teams are 12-0. This is Sparta! I honestly don't know anything about these teams, but I never miss a chance to give the old dude a ration. So I'm going to pick it this way: West De Pere 3, Xavier Key Club 0.

Hey, the Xavier Key Club was pretty tough when I was there. Much more successful than the football team, actually. But times are different now and it's been a thrill to watch the Blue and White not lose 31-0 every week like they did in my day. WDP is the best team they'll play this year and it will be tough. But I gotta go with my heart on this one. Xavier 14, West De Pere 7.

You know, you're actually an old softy, Decrepit! I think Brett Favre needs to go mamby-pamby land and get some self respect, the jackwagon! Tissue? Uh, no. Ben out!

Mysteries explained

Interesting piece on KSTP last night concerning the use and misuse of Minnesota's welfare system. It turns out that EBT cards are being used a number of places one might not expect, including liquor stores in California, unlicensed tattoo parlors and even the U.S. Virgin Islands. It's 5 minutes long and definitely worth your time.

Another interesting thing: the politicians who appear, or choose not to, on the report. A tale of two Martys:

Not surprisingly, ostentatious DFL scold John Marty cancelled a scheduled interview on the topic. Marty probably hadn't quite figured out how to square this particular circle yet.

On the GOP side, it was like seeing a ghost, as Marty Seifert offered copious commentary on the matter. I hadn't seen Marty Seifert anywhere since he lost the GOP nomination to Tom Emmer in the spring. And if you take that comment in more than one way, that's the idea.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Open thread challenge

Since we know that the Mr. Dilettante's Neighborhood readership is among the most brilliant assemblage of talent one might find anywhere, this should be easy. Write a comment that includes the following:

1. A song lyric from either The Kinks, The Yardbirds, AC/DC or The Rolling Stones;

2. A quote from either A Fish Called Wanda, Blazing Saddles or Raising Arizona; and

3. A specific event you remember from the year 1991.

Early favorite is, as always, Night Writer.

Empowering Septuagenarians

There are a lot of reasons why the first two years of the Obama administration have not gone well, but I think one of the most important reasons is that Obama has turned out to be a frontman for a bunch of really old politicians. It's one thing for Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to declare themselves progressives, but (not to put too fine a point on it), they seem old and grasping.

And they don't want to go away, either, which is beginning to frustrate younger Democrats:

A younger generation of Democrats is chafing at being asked to stand aside and let a triumvirate of elders keep their leadership positions in the wake of a catastrophic midterm election result.

Barring an unexpected shake-up, House Democrats next year will be led by a combination of Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Steny Hoyer (Md.) and James Clyburn (S.C.)
— lawmakers who are 70 or older and have served in Congress for decades.

There's a certain irony in this, since many people who lead the Democratic Party had their formative years in the 1960s, when youthful idealism drove people into politics, or so the narrative goes. I've long thought that narrative was crap, but we'll set that aside. The larger problem is this: the 60s are a long time ago. The New Frontier is now 50 years back in the rear view. In 1960, was anyone longing for the glory days of William Howard Taft? And the younger Democrats aren't getting much traction:

Democratic Reps. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Joseph Crowley (N.Y.) and Diana DeGette (Colo.), among others, were all seen as top contenders to move up but have found themselves in limbo as Pelosi locks down the minority-leader post and Hoyer and Clyburn vie for whip. Becerra is trying to hold on to the vice chairmanship of the caucus, while Van Hollen, the campaign chief appointed by Pelosi as assistant to the Speaker, is for now on the outside looking in. He is now seeking the top Democratic position on the House Budget Committee.

None of those lawmakers has complained publicly about being shut out, but other Democrats have warned that the party risks ignoring a message from voters if they keep the same leaders in place.

“We can’t let them sit on the bench for too much longer,” one Democratic aide said, referring to the party’s younger lawmakers. “There’s a push to add in some new ideas and new faces and new energy.”

While I'm skeptical that this younger generation of Democrats will bring new ideas to the table, there's little doubt that the continuing presence of Nancy Pelosi won't help branding efforts for the Democrats.

Of course, that's the problem the Democrats face. They aren't coming up with new ideas. They spent the last two years ramming through a governmental takover of health care, an item from Harry Truman's wish list. Their party can't get past Keynes and John Rawls.

The Republican Party has troubles of its own, but at least some of its younger members are getting places at the table. Who is the Democratic Party equivalent of Paul Ryan? It would behoove the Democrats to find one.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why you do it

Mitch Berg and a lot of other local bloggers have been digging around a little bit on the events of this most recent election day, but I was struck by the reaction he got from posting something he'd received via e-mail:

I got this email. The author asked to remain anonymous:

Mitch, in 2008 my mentally incompetent mother at an assisted living facility in St. Paul probably voted. We never had her declared incompetent, but the staff knew she was completely out of it. They also knew she was so afraid of being kicked out of a place she liked she would do whatever the staff person told her to do. She literally didn’t know what day of the week it was let alone who was running for office. I was the responsible party. I never changed her voter registration when she moved. Somehow she registered to vote at her new address. I found absentee ballot application information in her apartment as well as an I Voted sticker on her walker. I was livid, but it was after the election so there was nothing I could do. Before senile dementia had set in she adored Norm Coleman but you can bet her vote went to Franken.

I suspect a lot of this goes on. After all, SEIU represents a lot of nursing home staff.
You file that under the "interesting if true" file. Mitch's somewhat mordant summation:

I have a hunch this state could keep an army of investigators busy.

Yeah, I kinda think so, too. But what was interesting was the response he got from one of his regular commenters, a lefty who goes by Dog Gone:

Beyond that – shame on you, damn it, for spreading more slander about the legitimacy of voters. The responsibility for allowing or denying this woman her legal right to vote is NOT within the authority of health care staff at an assisted living facility.

And frankly, if someone IS involved actively with their relative at such a facility, they would be in better communication with the staff about such decisions and such care.

To promote the idea that low paid incredibly kind people who do a really difficult job in caring for these people, of the most personal and frequently unpleasant kinds of care – a job we all used to do for the elderly much more ourselves – to question their integrity in this way is just beyond vile.

But, you might ask, why would a woman with dementia vote at all? And why would she have an "I Voted" sticker? Dog Gone's reply:

Similarly, there are many occasions where bright stickers are used by the staff for the residents and patients. It is a source of continuing interaction where that contact, that interaction is decreasing daily. The presence of a sticker is so far from an indication of wrongdoing as to be laughable if it were not so nasty.

I don't doubt that many nursing homes use stickers as a visual indicator that something has been done. But they don't sell "I Voted" stickers at Staples.

The vehemence you get from asking these questions is pretty striking. And so we're clear -- even if one could prove malfeasance, there's nothing much that can be done about it once the votes are cast.

No, the reason you raise these allegations and attempt to document them is so people realize they can't get by with it going forward.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Choosing the Pro-Life Candidate

I'm late to this party, but I think it's worth highlighting something that Chad the Elder wrote last week over at Fraters Libertas:

Wait a second. You mean to tell me that social issues still matter? That people are motivated to vote for particular candidates because of their stands on these issues and that these issues can make the difference in the election's outcome? Who would have thunk it? Certainly not Tom Emmer.

Just a few short weeks ago, the Republican candidate for governor appeared on a local weekend conservative talk radio show. When the brash young host dared raise a question about one of these issues, Emmer immediately slapped the whippersnapper down by retorting, "We're not going to talk about that. We're only going to talk about jobs and the economy."

And what has all that talk about jobs and the economy gotten Emmer? A nine-thousand vote deficit and looming recount that he will almost assuredly lose. To Mark bleepin' Dayton.

There were other things that the Emmer campaign didn't address, but this one might have hurt. Consider what happened in the 8th Congressional District, where Chip Cravaack unseated the eternal incumbent, Jim Oberstar. There were a number of reasons that Oberstar lost, but one that mattered was his vote on Obamacare, which effectively ended the charade that he was somehow pro-life. Chad explains:

What was different this time around was that the voters in the Eighth were finally able to understand that when it came to abortion, Oberstar was pro-life in name only. His decision to set aside his supposedly staunch pro-life principles to vote for ObamaCare showed where he really stood when the rubber was introduced to the road. And people noticed. . . .

Had Oberstar voted against ObamaCare he almost certainly would have been reelected as his Democratic colleague Collin Peterson--who had the courage to follow his pro-life convictions in voting against it--was in Minnesota's Seventh District. Social issues did matter in the Eighth District. Tom Emmer's refusal to talk about them may help explain why while Chip Cravaack beat Oberstar by 4,402 votes, Emmer lost the Eighth District to Dayton by around 20,000 (rough estimate) and why he ran behind Cravaack in every single county in the district.

It's easy to understand why Emmer, who had established clear pro-life bona fides during his time as a state rep, didn't think he needed to talk about social issues. It's not likely that pro-life voters would have selected Dayton or Horner, who both were for abortion rights. But can you imagine that there were enough pro-life voters who didn't think it mattered because Emmer didn't make a point of mentioning his bona fides? Emmer was well-known to Capitol observers before the election season, but only the political junkies knew who he was. He had to make a more complete introduction to other voters, especially those who don't hang on every word uttered by David Schultz or Eric Black. We may never know if Emmer blew it on this issue, but I'd bet that the election results would have been a hell of a lot more to Emmer's liking if he'd made the point about his being the only pro-life candidate a few more times.

You think you're so illustrious, you call yourself intense

I remember watching Keith Olbermann back in his ESPN days and he was amusing, especially when paired on SportsCenter with the affable Dan Patrick. He's long since left what is known in the biz as the "toy department" and has long been a very strange presence on MSNBC.

What I've never been able to figure out is this: how much of what he says is real and how much of it is shtick. I think this piece by Ed Driscoll is spot on. Driscoll quotes a reader on Instapundit who described Olbermann thus:

The act is not at all what Olbermann says it is. It’s a very old act: The fire and brimstone preacher.

The left has become horrifically sanctimonious. They have become what they hated in the right back in the 60s.

Every issue for the left is a moral issue on the level of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement. So, their opponents are always wicked devils consumed with sin.

And, it’s their job to save us from eternal damnation.

Olbermann is just the secular version of the fire and brimstone preacher.

Just nowhere near as attractive or moving.

You do get a sense that had Olbermann been born 350 years earlier, he'd have been fully capable of being Jonathan Edwards. Although I'd say Edwards is a lot more fair-minded.

Monday, November 08, 2010

An instructive difference

I don't know if Brad Childress saved his job yesterday, but I'd bet that Wade Phillips lost his.

The Vikings were getting their butts kicked and looked terrible yesterday -- in fact, they looked so bad that I turned the game off and went out to do some yard work. By the time I got back in from cleaning up leaves in the back yard, the score was tied and they went on to stuff Arizona in overtime and score a winning field goal. With all the soap opera elements at Winter Park, it would have been easy for the Vikings to lay down and die. They didn't.

Then last night I watched my beloved Packers kick Dallas to the curb. Not that it was that difficult to do. The Cowboys put on a shameful performance in Green Bay yesterday and it was obvious that they had quit as a team. It's tough to win without your quarterback but the way Dallas was playing it wouldn't have mattered if Tony Romo were out there.

As much as I enjoyed seeing the Packers play very well yesterday, it's difficult to really gauge how good a team they actually are. It's much easier to tell that the Cowboys are terrible.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Home Truth

Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post:

Nor should Republicans overinterpret their Tuesday mandate. They received none. They were merely rewarded for acting as the people's proxy in saying no to Obama's overreaching liberalism. As one wag put it, this wasn't an election so much as a restraining order.

The Republicans won by default. And their prize is nothing more than a two-year lease on the House. The building was available because the previous occupant had been evicted for arrogant misbehavior and, by rule, alas, the House cannot be left vacant.

Same thing goes in St. Paul -- every legislative office will again be contested in 2012. All the Republican Party really got on Tuesday was an opportunity. If they blow it this time, they probably won't get another. That's why the smart Republicans aren't celebrating.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Noooooo! Edition

Look, we have to do this, people! You know that Packer fans are feeling the HYYYYYYYPPPPE!

Yep. And even if they weren't, you wouldn't let that persist, now would you Youngblood?

In the words of Rupert Murdoch, NO! But now we need to pick some games, or maybe I should say it's time to kick your butt again, Decrepit?

Unfortunately, you could say that. Roll that beautiful bean footage:

Minnesota Golden Roadkill (+24) vs. Sparty the Spartan. I bet somewhere a Gopher fan is poking holes in a Tim Brewster voodoo doll. What a mess this goofball left behind! I bet Jeff Horton feels like the maid cleaning up after Led Zeppelin came through the hotel, but I don't want to see him wearing a maid uniform. Are we clear on that? Good. As for the game, Michigan State is angry after getting Rickrolled (or should I say RickyStanziRolled?) in Iowa City last week. The Gophers have less career prospects than Rick Astley does right now, although Adam Weber should get his obligatory garbage time touchdown pass after the Gophers are down by a bazillion or so. This is Sparta 300, Gophers 7.

That score won't happen, but I'm guessing you knew that and just couldn't resist the joke. Unfortunately, the Gophers are a pretty bad joke, too. The Spartans will be angry and it won't go well for our unfortunate locals. Michigan State 42, Gophers 17.

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-20) vs. Purdon't Boilermakers. The Boilermakers are a long ways away from Drew Brees. They're on their fourth quarterback, who might be Nancy Drew for all I know. Even Carmen Sandiego might be enough if they can find her. Or maybe we should get Waldo involved? ¿Dónde está Waldo? No matter what, the Boilermakers are feeling lost, even at home. Badger Badger Badger 50, Purdon't 0.

The Badgers have played well recently, but I'm shocked to see a 20 point line in their favor for a Big Ten road game. The Boilers are hurting, but I don't think the Badgers are going to win by 20. Maybe 17? Wisconsin 34, Purdue 17.

TCU Horned Frogs (-4 1/2) vs. Utah Utes. I may have mentioned that I really hate the BCS. Here are two teams that are outside the BCS. Both are undefeated. Both would kick a lot of BCS-eligible schools where it hurts. And yet one of these teams will be out of the BCS bowls after this game is over. My theory is that Oregon will be the only BCS school that is undefeated at the end of the year and Boise State will win out. So maybe both of these schools are out of luck. Do we need a playoff? You kiddin' me? Of course we need a playoff, ya jackwagon! Utes 28, TCU 27.

I have no idea how to pick this game. Utah joins the Pac-10 next year so they'll get to sit at the adult table going forward. So for no other reason than to disagree with the Benster, I'll go with the Horned Frogs, who always deserve mention just for being the Horned Frogs. TCU 31, Utah 24.

Arizona Iced Tea (+8 1/2) vs. Minnesota Rolling Stones. Why Rolling Stones, you ask? Well, they gather no Moss, of course! What a spectacle this team is! I'm reminded of what happened a few years back, at the very end of the 2003 season. Say it with me, kids -- NOOOOOOOO! Wow, that never gets old! Anyway, this year P.A. is probably wondering why his favorite quarterback still has a cell phone contract. The Vikings will have to readjust to life without Randy, who has been exiled to Nashville, where he's likely spending most of his time annoying people at the Grand Ole Opry. If that's not bad enough, Percy Harvin might not be able to go, which means we might get our first look at the immortal Hank Baskett. The Vikings will win because they are a desperate team at home. And a weird one, too. Don't Text Me, Bro 20, Nate Poole Nation 17.

Moss had better watch it -- if he washes out in Nashville that means his next stop is Branson. Maybe he can be the opening act for Jim Stafford or something. Anyway, as for the game, I really have no idea what the Vikings are going to do. The Cardinals are using Derek Anderson as their quarterback, which is essentially a form of surrender. I think the Vikes play well this week and win easily, although it would hardly surprise me if they cough up another hairball. Vikings 34, Cardinals 14.

Dallas How 'Bout Them Cowboahs (+8) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. So if the Packers have a bunch of guys in St. Vincent Hospital, do you think that the Cowboys have Tony Romo staying in St. Landry's? That's right, Tony Romo is out, which means the Cowboys come to town with Jon Kitna as their quarterback. That's a lot like going to Vegas and seeing Frank Sinatra Jr. I do expect Wade Phillips to get fired pretty soon and the Cowboys can go after some fast-talking southern coach like Mack Brown or something like that. Meanwhile, the Packers are getting better and that's not good news for the boys from Big D, especially considering the Packers were able to shut out the Jets in New Jersey last week, with guys they picked up off the street. Green Bay 49, Fire Wade Phillips 0.

One problem with your theory, Benster -- the Pack did pitch a shutout last week, but they only scored 9 points themselves. Of course, that's enough to beat the point spread. So what the heck. Packers 9, Cowboys 0.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (-3) vs. Buffalo Bills, in Toronto. The way the Bills have been playing, maybe they can be the opening act for Randy Moss in Branson. They evidently meet the standards for substandard performance. Oh, Canada indeed -- if the NFL keeps sending games this bad to Canada, don't be surprised if Ottawa breaks off diplomatic relations sometime soon. I wouldn't be surprised if the Bills are turned back by Customs. The good news for da Bearz is that Buffalo doesn't have anyone who can rush the passer, although the way da Bearz block, it's possible that anyone in the stands in Rogers Centre will be able to sack Jay Cutler. Ditka, Ditka! 70, On the run from the Mounties 0.

Can't argue with you, this isn't the most attractive way to feature the NFL across the border. The Bears are a mess right now and while Buffalo has improved recently, they are 0-7 on merit. And after the Bears are done with them, I'm thinking 0-8. Bears 17, Bills 10.

I wouldn't be surprised if Jeff Horton gets kicked into a random pit in East Lansing. Some people would argue that East Lansing itself is a random pit, but not me. But I could be persuaded to think so. I would also add that C. J. Spiller shouldn't be thrown into a Mountie prison, because he's on my fantasy football team. Ben out!

il miglior fabbro

I tried to explain this a few posts back, but Kevin Ecker does a better job. In the previous legislative session, the DFL inadvertently screwed themselves. As part of a much longer election post-mortem, Ecker lays out Mark Dayton's dilemma:

The Governor’s seats is still up for grabs. If it’s Emmer than Republicans control all three legs and they get run of the board. But even if it’s Dayton, with Republicans in charge of both Houses, his agenda is a dead stick. But it gets worse for DFL and they have only themselves to blame.

Last session we had the opposite situation, a DFL legislature with a GOP Governor. When the DFL couldn’t come up with a budget they simply passed an unreasonable one and adjourned and made it Pawlenty’s problem. Pawlenty in turn used unallotment. Well the DFL collectively wet themselves and through the courts made sure that couldn’t be done ever again. So now facing a $6 billion deficit, what are Dayton’s options?? Either he agrees to the Republican’s version of a budget, thereby pissing off his base and making the right happy. Or he shuts down the government and calls the legislature into a special session, thereby pissing off his base and mildly annoying the right. The Legislature in turn, if they really want to play hardball can just keep passing the same budget until Dayton relents. After all, what is Dayton’s recourse??? Bitch to the media that the legislature won’t raise taxes??? Yeah, that’ll get sympathy from the public.

That's really perfect. Tim Pawlenty did a lot of things that gave conservatives indigestion, but using unallotment in 2009 was a genius move. And now a potential DFL governor has very few options in dealing with the lege.

Kevin explains a whole lot of other things in his excellent election post-mortem. Read the whole thing.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Speaking of Tea. . . .

The invaluable Sheila Kihne points us to a very good blog post from a local blogger named Crystal Kelley, who is doing the work that perhaps Pat Kessler or John Croman or Rachel Stassen-Berger ought to have done. An excerpt:

I ran across an article from the StarTribune, published July 4 2010, which lead me down a path that questions Mark Dayton’s sobriety. The article was titled, "Mark Dayton: a topsy-turvey ride." In the second paragraph article, something caught my eye. It said, "Sipping from a bottle of kombucha, a fermented tea that has become a campaign trail staple, this former U.S. senator is trying to revive an up-and-down political career at age 63."

Fermented tea? Doesn't "fermented" usually mean something has turned to alcohol? There began my research on kombucha, the official drink of the Dayton campaign.

What I found was a treasure trove of reasons why an alcoholic shouldn't be downing kombucha tea, and if he is, he is no longer sober according to the sobriety requirements of Alcoholics Anonymous. Here's an article on Relapse Prevention, which may apply to this situation, because this tea is well known for its varying alcohol content.

There's more:

Kombucha, in fact, may contain much more alcohol than mentioned above. On June 28, 2010, the New York Times reported Whole Foods pulled the product from their shelves because, "the alcohol content might be high enough to attract the attention of the federal government."

Well, they were right.

Two days later, the Treasury Department issued a warning stating kombucha may be subject to the same taxes and regulations as other beverages containing alcohol. The agency said it “is coordinating with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure kombucha products currently on the market comply with Federal laws..."

Analysts said some kombucha teas sold under brand names like Synergy can
ferment after shipment, raising the alcohol content from a legal 0.5 percent or less to as high as 3 percent, similar to some beers.

Mark Dayton got north of 900,000 votes. Do you suppose that it might have made a difference if someone with a larger megaphone than Crystal Kelley would have brought it to the attention of the public? Kelley makes a somewhat, ahem, astringent point at the end of her piece:

There is a saying made famous by the movie, "28 Days," starring Sandra Bullock. It addresses when an addict should try to have a serious relationship. It is, in a nutshell, after an addict has become sober he should buy a potted plant. If after one year the plant is still alive, he should buy a pet. If after the second year the pet is alive, then in the third year the addict may begin to consider having a serious relationship with another person.

We don’t know exactly where Dayton falls on that sobriety spectrum. But either way it’s too soon for him to be entering into the very important relationship of governor of an entire state with responsibility for roughly five million souls. I just think it's unwise.

I'd have to agree with that. But now it's too late. Read the whole thing.