Sunday, September 30, 2012

Barone on the Polls

He knows more about politics than I do. Or just about anyone else. So when he says:

It may be that we're seeing the phenomenon we've seen for years in exit polls, which have consistently skewed Democratic (and toward Barack Obama in the 2008 primaries). Part of that is interviewer error: Exit poll pioneer Warren Mitofsky found the biggest discrepancies between exit polls and actual results were in precincts where the interviewers were female graduate students.

But he also found that Democrats were simply more willing to fill out the exit poll. Which raises the question: Are we seeing the same thing in this month's polls?
It's a question that the triumphalists on the left need to consider.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Under the Wire Edition

Yeah, we're trying to sneak these in under the wire. I was at Benilde-St. Margaret's last night, as I watched the mighty Irondale Knights wreck Benilde's homecoming by the final score of 20-14. The Knights are now 4-1, baby! By the way, how did your high school do last night, old dude?

They lost to Waupaca last night, thus having their own homecoming spoiled. Tough year for the Xavier Hawks.

It happens, old dude. From what you've told me, you're used to football disappointment, especially where your high school is concerned. Didn't you tell me that your team finished 2-7 all four years you were a student there?

That's right. Consistently poor. Kinda like my picking last week.

I was going to say something about that, but I'll let it pass. This time. Meanwhile, time for the HYYYYYPPPPPE! Watch me work.

Minnesota Gooooooolden Gophers (+7) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes. Now, I know that Vegas doesn't pay a lot of attention to the Gophers and this pointspread is no different. C'mon guys -- the Gophers are 4-0 and Iowa is 2-2 with a home loss to Central Michigan on their record. Really? Really? I'd also remind the boys in Vegas that the Gophers have won two straight in this rivalry. They've brought the Pig down to Iowa City with them. They'll be bringing it back. And there won't be any shenanigans in the restrooms. Gophs 14, Iowa 9.

I'd almost forgotten about the rutting Iowans. That was four years ago. A lot has changed in this series. I'm not 100% convinced that the Gophers have turned the corner, but I think this is a winnable game. And lately the characteristic of Jerry Kill teams is that they win winnable games. Gophers 24, Iowa 16.

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (+11 1/2) vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Badgers looked a little better last week against UTEP. This ain't UTEP. Nebraska will have revenge on its mind after the 48-17 beatdown they took in Madison last year. The Badgers do have a history of playing well on the road in the Big Ten, although last year they lost on a couple of Hail Marys. We don't like Hail Marys around here. Will it come down to a Hail Mary this time? No. Bucky 56, Herbie Husker 31.

Uh, no. The Badgers are better than they've shown so far, but this time they'll be facing a very motivated opponent. Nebraska has defensive issues and I expect the Badgers to score a little, but they won't put 56 up in Lincoln. Nebraska 31, Wisconsin 27.

Minnesota Vikings (+4 1/2) vs. Detroit Lions. So are the Vikings turning the corner? Possibly. Christian Ponder played very well against the 49ers last week and they are playing a team that still doesn't play defense. I mean, really? Tennessee Titans 44, Detroit 41? 44 points? Tennessee had scored 23 points in the two games before they faced Detroit and they hang 44 on the Lions? That spells trouble. In fact, former Lions defensive great Alex Karras had the following reaction to the Lions performance last week:

No, PETA, I'm not taking your calls. Vikes 24, Lions 21.

Good move, young fella. I think the Lions win, because if they don't they're done. But they are a very flawed team and the Vikings are making progress. Just not this week. Lions 31, Vikings 23.

New Orleans Saints (+7 1/2) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. Thank you, Roger Goodell. The two angriest teams in the league meet at Lambeau, both harmed greatly by the moronic NFL commissioner. Whatever you think about the Saints, they still have a legitimate grievance. I have seen no evidence of any hits that can be construed as cash motivated. They might have been cheap shots, but there aren't many teams in the league that don't uncork a few of those. And then there's the disgraceful events in Seattle last week. I have a ton of things to say about that, but I'm really trying to keep the old dude happy by making my comments no more than PG-13. So, let's just say this. Roger Goodell is a #@%#(@(#! Further, he can #*@#(%! himself. Although I'm not sure that's actually possible. Anyway, I digress. The Packers are going to play angry and while the Saints are desperate, they haven't been able to stop anybody this year. Good luck with Aaron Rodgers, boys. Packers 100, Who Dat 21.

I admire your restraint, Seabiscuit. And your command of the symbols on top of the QWERTY keyboard. Well done. As for the game, I think it comes down to defense. The Packers have quietly become a top 5 defense this year. Cedric Benson is getting integrated. I think it starts to come together this week. Packers win comfortably. Packers 34, Saints 19.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (+3 1/2) vs. Dallas Cowboahs. You know what's funny? As I'm writing this, the Geritol Fan has music playing out of the computer. The song? Mr. Jones, by the Counting Crows. Sing along with me:

That guy needs a better outfit, but those sorts of critiques are Fearless Maria's job. Anyway, da Bearz are going to the house that Mr. Jones built. That would be Jerry Jones, the arrogant kajillioinaire who owns the Cowboys and thinks he's a GM. The Cowboys always have talent, but they can't ever seem to get their act together. It's been almost 20 years since they've been to the Super Bowl. So I have to laugh at Jerry. Ha ha ha! Now that I have that out of the way, let's get to the game. I hate both of these teams with a passion. Could they both lose? That would be best, but it won't happen. So, what will happen? Cowboahs 19, da Bearz 18.

Will Jay Cutler make it through the game without another meltdown? That's the question. I say he does. Bears 24, Cowboys 20.

Well I'm glad the replacement refs are going back to the La Brea Tar Pits or wherever they came from. Good riddance. And Golden Tate? You'll get yours, pal. Ben out!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Brief Programming Note

As I noted earlier, I have a poem in 2. And I will be participating in a reading on October 30:

The Bookhouse is in Dinkytown at 429 14th Avenue SE. More details anon.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Good times

Remember how we were assured that a Barack Obama administration would put an end to domestic surveillance and other bad sins against the citizenry that George W. Bush loosed upon the nation?

As Jim Geraghty famously observed, all promises that Barack Obama makes have an expiration date. In this case, it turned out to be January 20, 2009:

Justice Department documents released today by the ACLU reveal that federal law enforcement agencies are increasingly monitoring Americans’ electronic communications, and doing so without warrants, sufficient oversight, or meaningful accountability.

The documents, handed over by the government only after months of litigation, are the attorney general’s 2010 and 2011 reports on the use of “pen register” and “trap and trace” surveillance powers. The reports show a dramatic increase in the use of these surveillance tools, which are used to gather information about telephone, email, and other Internet communications. The revelations underscore the importance of regulating and overseeing the government’s surveillance power.  (Our original Freedom of Information Act request and our legal complaint are online.)

And here's a handy chart from the ACLU:

He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sakes!
But that's okay. Nate Silver says go to sleep.

The refs are back

Hip hip hooray or something.
"As you know, this has to be ratified and we know very little about it, but we're excited to be back. And ready," referee Ed Hochuli told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "And I think that's the most important message — that we're ready."
Hochuli is the cartoonish referee with the gun show arms who, to paraphrase a memorable comment I once heard from Vikings announcer Paul Allen, tells you how the watch is made when you ask him what time it is. It's amazing when you look forward to the return of someone like that. But here we are.

Here is how you will know if the NFL understands how badly it has screwed the pooch in recent weeks -- yesterday fines went out to a variety of people, including Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, for their complaints and actions during and following games on Sunday. If T. J. Lang of the Packers doesn't get fined for his comments, it will be a tacit confirmation that the NFL really understands what a disaster the last three weeks have been.

The Truth Will Out

Maybe by mid-November, that is. John Hayward makes the relevant point:

There is no way to spin this, no way to pretty it up, no way to interpret it through any lens that would make Obama and his team look better.  They willfully, aggressively, repeatedly lied to the American people about events in Benghazi.  As Lake points out, as recently as last Sunday, Obama adviser Robert Gibbs claimed that the Administration narrative was still evolving due to new information.

And U.N. ambassador Susan Rice was marched onto every TV show in America to insist That Damned Video was the cause of all the “spontaneous” violence.  When specifically asked about the Benghazi attack on Fox News, Rice stated, “This was not a pre-planned, pre-meditated attack.  What happened initially was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo as a consequence of the video. People gathered outside the embassy and then it grew very violent. People with extremist ties joined the fray and came with heavy weapons – which, unfortunately, are quite common in post-revolutionary Libya – and that then spun out of control.”

That was a false statement.  The Administration knew it was a false statement.  What are we going to get from Obama apologists now – a load of bunk about how Susan Rice is an out-of-control loose cannon who speaks for no one but herself?  How empty does that chair in the Oval Office have to get?

Just have to keep a lid on it until November 7. After that, we should have the results of the investigation. Patience, people.

il miglior fabbro

I saw this piece in the Atlantic from Conor Freidersdorf and was thinking about using it for a blog post, but Brian has already covered the ground well. So go see Brian's piece, which not only discusses the particulars of Freidersdorf's article, but also the eternal problem of the Libertarian Party's willful commitment to ineffectiveness. A little taste:
Successful presidential candidates don't just materialize out of the ether. If the LP (or any third party) really wants to be a player in national politics, they have to take a longer view. No one is going to sue their way into presidential viability. They're going to have to work their way in from the ground up. To my mind, that means stop wasting time on symbolic presidential runs. For that matter, stop wasting time on symbolic governor and senate runs, too. What needs to happen is a focused, coordinated, and well-researched identification of cities, counties, and (maybe) congressional districts where the LP could become the second party. And with that, a focused and coordinated recruitment of good candidates to run in those races. Candidates that, if they actually won, might do a good job in the office to which they are elected. Candidates with an interest in actually governing, rather than just "getting the message out". 
Yep. Go read the rest.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Stench Gets Beaten With Sticks

The first time I read Roger Simon was about 30 years ago. Back then, he was a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and was a standard-issue liberal. He would periodically issue columns called "Simon Says" in which he would make observations on the passing scene that tended to be, well, a little snarky. He would often suggest that things (or people) that annoyed him should be "beaten with sticks." Here's an example:
People who lick their fingers before turning the pages of magazines should be beaten with sticks.
You might think it's the soul of wit. Or not. But Simon has been doing this shtick for a very long time now. In fact, I remember reading his columns on the 3rd floor of Whitney Hall at Beloit College with Ace Commenter Rich/Dick back in the day, along with a few of our other ne'er-do-well floormates. That "beaten with sticks" thing was pretty damned funny to us at the time, but we'd often had a few highballs by the time we had received the paper.

So when I saw the latest Roger Simon piece in Politico, it didn't take long to figure out that he wasn't being serious. Especially this part:

“I hate to say this, but if Ryan wants to run for national office again, he’ll probably have to wash the stench of Romney off of him,” Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Republican Party of Iowa, told The New York Times on Sunday.

Coming from a resident of Iowa, a state where people are polite even to soybeans, this was a powerful condemnation of the Republican nominee.

Though Ryan had already decided to distance himself from the floundering Romney campaign, he now feels totally uninhibited. Reportedly, he has been marching around his campaign bus, saying things like, “If Stench calls, take a message” and “Tell Stench I’m having finger sandwiches with Peggy Noonan and will text him later.”
Satire isn't supposed to be something where you beat people with sticks. And whether you think Simon's faux reportage is amusing, it was clearly satire. I'll admit, I like the bit about eating finger sandwiches with Peggy Noonan, because that's snarky on a couple of levels.

We all believe what we want to believe, of course. And because a lot of people with bigger soapboxes than mine want to believe that Mitt Romney is d-e-d dead, they were happy to pass this little bit along as a scoop. The most notable hoaxee was none other than Paul Krugman, Nobel laureate:

Intrade still gives Romney a 27 percent chance of winning, not far off Nate Silver’s estimate. But if this Politico piece is to be believed, Paul Ryan has already bailed out:

Though Ryan had already decided to distance himself from the floundering Romney campaign, he now feels totally uninhibited. Reportedly, he has been marching around his campaign bus, saying things like, “If Stench calls, take a message” and “Tell Stench I’m having finger sandwiches with Peggy Noonan and will text him later.”

Can I say that even though I’m not exactly a fan of Mitt Romney’s, this is just bad behavior? You’re supposed to wait until it’s actually over before you do this kind of thing.

The strikeout appears there now, since Krugman's finally been tipped that he was had. He was hardly the only one, though.

Here's the thing -- there's plenty in the Simon piece that should tip even a slightly addled reader that the quote is fiction and intentionally so. Look at the setup -- Iowans are polite to soybeans? Perhaps Simon needed to embed a .wav file in his piece with a rimshot and an Ed McMahon-style "Hey-oooo!" to tip his audience, but if that's the case it's a pretty strong indictment of his readership's acumen.

Ann Althouse suggests a more sinister motive for Simon's piece (link in original):

I call bullshit. People don't read and read down into an article. Simon intentionally put a fake quote out there knowing it would be taken as real. You have to get 2/3 of the way into his piece to see the euthanize-cattle nudge. That's not the way people read these days.

Here you can see page 1. Who would click to page 2?

This was a deliberate attempt to pollute the public debate, to promote Simon's candidate. He would never fun with Obama like that. He kept his deniability, but he put it way down where no one would read. His writing doesn't merit the click to page 2.

I don't really buy that -- I think the click-through game is pretty well-established on most websites and that the websites really want you to click to page 2, because it increases their traffic numbers. And although Althouse's question is rhetorical, I'll tell you that I did click to page 2, where you see Simon dispense with the subtlety entirely:

A word about PowerPoint. PowerPoint was released by Microsoft in 1990 as a way to euthanize cattle using a method less cruel than hitting them over the head with iron mallets. After PETA successfully argued in court that PowerPoint actually was more cruel than iron mallets, the program was adopted by corporations for slide show presentations.
Presumably the iron mallets are a substitute for the sticks that Simon usually recommends. He's a very violent fellow, this Simon, and apparently he hasn't mellowed with age. But I digress.

To prevent further confusion, or being like Paul Krugman, I'd recommend the following:

  • When you see Roger Simon's byline, remember that he likes to make jokes. He's not necessarily that good at it, but he's always in there pitching.
  • When you read anything from Politico, it's safe to assume there's a chance it's unintentional satire.
  • There are a lot of people out on the internet who aren't necessarily telling you the truth. That might even include me. Caveat lector, always.

It's Electric, So Frantically Hectic

Toyota tells the truth:

Toyota Motor is backing off from electric vehicles and focusing on hybrids, with plans to offer 21 new or redesigned hybrid models by 2015. It sells one electric vehicle now, the pricey Rav4 EV. It had planned to sell thousands of a second, small electric vehicle, but now it only intends to sell about 100 of them to to governments and “selected users in Japan and the U.S.” According to Reuters, Toyota says it “misread the market and the ability of still-emerging battery technology to meet consumer demands.”

"The current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society's needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge," said, [Takeshi] Uchiyamada, who spearheaded Toyota's development of the Prius hybrid in the 1990s.
Emphasis mine. Bubba can confirm this, but barring something extraordinary happening, 20 years from now, we'll still be talking about battery technology as "still-emerging." And 20 years after that.

Head Shop Fury

From Los Angeles comes word of the latest ministrations from the Obama administration:

Federal authorities on Tuesday took legal action against 71 medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles County, part of an ongoing campaign to crack down on the establishments.

“Over the past several years, we have seen an explosion of commercial marijuana stores -– an explosion that is being driven by the massive profits associated with marijuana distribution,” said U.S. Atty. André Birotte Jr. in a statement.  “As today’s operations make clear, the sale and distribution of marijuana violates federal law, and we intend to enforce the law. Even those stores not targeted today should understand that they cannot continue to profit in violation of the law.”

Marijuana is a lot less profitable when sold on the black market, of course. There's more -- see if you can figure out the problem:

Last year, California's four U.S. attorneys announced that they were taking aim at large-scale growers and dispensary owners who are raking in millions of dollars while falsely claiming that their medical marijuana operations comply with state law, which does not allow for-profit sales.

In the early days of President Obama's tenure, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. announced that prosecutors would not target medical marijuana users and caregivers as long as they followed state laws. But as the risk of prosecution diminished, storefront dispensaries and enormous growing operations proliferated in California, often in brazen defiance of zoning laws and local bans.
So when did the federal government get into the business of enforcing zoning laws, or local bans? And which laws rule -- the federal laws or the local ones? No matter what you think of medical marijuana, and I think it's a dodge for a lot of people who just like smoking dope, the blurring of these distinctions is always problematic, in whatever realm it happens. It's no concern of mine if you are a person who likes smoking dope. Abusive federal power? Now that's a concern.

I'll have to rely on our California correspondents to tell us if these head shops medical marijuana dispensaries are actually causing problems for the commonweal, but if I were to make a guess, I'd assume they aren't, really. Perhaps if the store help wears a lab coat instead of a Phish concert t-shirt, it might seem a little more copacetic to the feds. By the way, does anyone even call these places head shops any more?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Unified Field Theory Tweet of the Year

From Brit Hume:

Pigs fly

Yes, strange days indeed when I find myself quoting a member of the Minnesota Vikings. Take it away, Chris Kluwe:

Let's be clear: We're past the preseason now. These games really matter, and the Packers just lost one that counts for real, one that by all rights they should have won. As a divisional rival, it pains me to say this, but the Packers got royally horsebuggered on that last play, and this could have serious implications down the road when it comes to playoff seeds and homefield advantage.

One of the main points Commissioner Goodell has always harped on is protecting the shield: not letting anything tarnish the brand of the NFL. Commissioner, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but right now the shield is tarnishing faster than a sailor's virtue in a two-dollar whorehouse. Players see it; coaches see it; fans see it. These refs are not fit to stand in for the men you've locked out for what is increasingly looking like nothing more than simple greed—attempting to squeeze blood from a stone simply because you can. The NFL is America's No. 1 sport in part because everyone watching it knows that the players determine the outcome of a game, not the refs. As of right now, you're hurting business by putting a product out on the field that challenges that belief.

We all know that the regular refs sometimes get calls wrong, but never this egregiously, never this overtly. Sure, they may miss a pass interference or a holding call, but they always mark off the right yardage, and there's a trust that they'll get the vast majority of the calls right. Right now, there's no trust for the replacement refs. We've seen them make mistake after mistake, and it'll only get worse as players and coaches continue to push the envelope to see what they can get away with (extra timeouts are pretty awesome, not gonna lie).

Kluwe is 100% correct -- as much as I hate yesterday's result as a Packers fan, the larger question is the overall credibility of the league. The Vikings were screwed on Sunday when the replacement officials essentially gave Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers the equivalent of two extra timeouts and a replay challenge they were not entitled to by rule. As it happened, the outcome of the game did not change. This time, it did. And if you think that Golden Tate of the Seattle Seahawks caught the touchdown pass at the end of the game, you need to see this still image:

One last thing -- the Packers were favored by 3.5 and were leading by 5 when this play happened. Millions of dollars changed hands as a result of what happened last night and I'd wager (ahem) that Roger Goodell and the league will be hearing about that part of it, too.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Under 50% in Minnesota

That's what the Star Tribune says about Barack Obama:
President Obama has established a substantial lead against Republican challenger Mitt Romney in Minnesota but remains under the critical 50 percent mark and trails Romney among independent voters, according to a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll.
It's always best to take any Star Tribune polling with more than a grain of salt, but this is actually quite surprising. If this president can't even get 50% of Minnesotans to support him, you have to wonder how well he's doing elsewhere. Especially when the poll has a D +13 split, which is especially amusing given that Obama only beat McCain by 10 points last time.

Don't get me wrong -- I'd be very surprised if Mitt Romney won Minnesota. The larger point is this -- the national polling continues to show essentially an even race and Barack Obama is not coming close to 50% right now. You can assume the president is a shoo-in if you want, but I wouldn't.

Home Truth

Stephen Hayes, in the Weekly Standard:

So we are left with this: Four Americans were killed in a premeditated terrorist attack on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, and for more than a week the Obama administration misled the country about what happened.

This isn’t just a problem. It’s a scandal.
I blame Mitt Romney.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Interesting if True

In the middle of an op-ed in favor of the Marriage Amendment, Katherine Kersten dropped the following tidbit:
Scholars are discovering that questioning the new orthodoxy may end their careers. At corporations like Target and General Mills, employees who believe children need a mother and father increasingly fear that making their views clear could threaten job advancement.
I worked at Target for the better part of the decade. If this is true, Target has changed a lot since I left.

Do you suppose it is true?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Irondale and Everton Edition

Hi, I'm finally here. I know you've been pining for my butt-kicking analysis and overall mad picking skillz, but I've been busy watching my beloved Irondale Knights toying with hapless Fridley and my beloved Everton FC dispatching Swansea City.

Swansea? Dylan Thomas will be upset!

Dead poets don't really get upset, old dude. I'm pretty sure of that. But my adoring public will be if we don't get this HYYYYPPPPPE! rolling. So let's get to it. Watch me work!

Syracuse Boeheims (-1) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers. So the old dude was telling me that Syracuse actually has a pretty great football history. Not that you'd know it lately, but apparently they were very good back in the day. Jim Brown is a Syracuse grad and so is Donovan McNabb. And if you consider that history, you wonder why the Gophers would schedule a team that could actually beat them in their non-conference schedule. Of course the Gophers have had no trouble in recent weeks, but now they go into battle without MarQueis "Touch of" Grey, their regular quarterback. In steps Max Shortell, who really ought to change his name. The dude is 6'6", so he's not short! He's actually a better passer than Grey, but he's a classic old-school pocket quarterback, kinda like Dan Marino or Terry Bradshaw. You don't see too many guys like that in the college game any more, but Shortell played very well last week against Western Michigan. So the Gophers should have no trouble. Gophers 21, Orange 17.

I think this will be a little more high scoring game than that. Syracuse can score. Can the Gophers keep up? Syracuse 34, Gophers 31.

UTEP Miners (+17 1/2) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. So the Badgers are favored by 17 1/2? Has Vegas been watching the Badgers lately? The only way the Badgers will beat the spread is if UTEP scores -3 points. Well, maybe it won't be that bad. The Badgers showed me something last week. It wasn't offense, mind you, but they did show me that the defense can do its job and help give some confidence to the offensive line. The line got a couple of good blocks, but the passing game was horrible. Jared Abbrederis is back this week, which should help out new quarterback Joel Stave (pronounced STAH-vay), who was saying "Stave Maria" a few times last week against Utah State. I think it goes better this week and keep in mind this: since the 2010 season, after a Badger loss in the regular season, Wisconsin has lost a grand total of one game. Badgers 24, UTEP 7.

It's been stunning to see the mighty Badger offense revert to 1977 form in the last few weeks. I keep looking for Montee Ball and seeing Ira Matthews instead. I think the Badgers win this week, but they're gonna get drilled at Nebraska next week. Badgers 28, UTEP 17.

I disagree, Geritol Fan! I think the Badgers got their wakeup call and I'm standing by my prediction that the Badgers will be in the Big Ten Championship Game later this year. But I digress. . . .

San Francisco 49ers (-6 1/2) vs. Minnesota Vikings. So with a win on Sunday, the 49ers will win the NFC North. So far they've whipped our glorious Packers and the Motor City Kitties in succession, and now the big bad 49ers are coming to the Metrodome, or Mall of America Field, or whatever the heck they're calling that dump these days. It's the return of Randy Moss, this time wearing a 49ers uniform, and I'm interested to see what the reaction is. Here's a question -- why do Minnesota people love Moss and hate A. J. Pierzynski? I don't have an answer for that, but it's an interesting question. Anyway, back to the game. The  Niners have looked dominant thus far and the Vikings have looked, well, ordinary. Does dominant beat ordinary? Ordinarily, yes. Vikes 28, Niners 14.

Well, that's counter-intuitive. But that's what makes you the Benster. I guess I'm just a slave to conventional wisdom, but I don't see how the Vikings win this game. I think the 49ers can be beaten, but it won't be this week. 49ers 31, Vikings 17.

St. Louis Timid Sheep (+7 1/2) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. Ram tough? Nope. So da Bearz have had 10 days to think about the butt-kicking they endured at Lambeau last week. And Jay Cutler has been thinking about apologizing for his behavior, but can't quite seem to bring himself to do it. The bigger question wasn't how Cutler got into people's faces. The real problem was Cutler getting the ball into the hands of Packer D-backs. Cutler has a tendency to play like a bum when he gets frustrated and that's what happened last week. The Rams will see this game as an opportunity and that is scary for da Bearz. Rams 49, da Bearz 0.

That's no way to treat Gino, Seabiscuit! I agree with what you said about Cutler -- my sister has suggested that Cutler should be doing celebrity endorsements for Kleenex. But I think the Bears rebound this week. Bears 31, Rams 20.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-3 1/2) vs. Seattle Seabags. This is no fun, old dude. Russell Wilson is the quarterback of the Seahawks and we all love Russell Wilson around here. So will we be happy when Clay Mattews tries to screw him into the turf? I guess, but it's still going to be strange. As for the game, Seattle has no shot. Packers 77, Seattle 63.

Uh, no. Two things -- Seattle plays defense and surprisingly enough, so does Green Bay. Seattle is an awfully tough place to win, too -- the fans there are absolutely nuts and it might be the loudest outdoor stadium in the league. Of course a few Aaron Rodgers touchdown passes might quiet things down. I think the Packers break out a little, but it won't be easy. Green Bay 35, Seattle 27.

Well, that's it for this week. And remember -- Everton is good. Also, I'm going to be out on Friday on assignment as I invade Benilde-St. Margaret's. Somebody has to do it, right? Ben out!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Poetry and the Altered Scale

You might remember that I published a poem here last month. I'm not an accomplished poet, but I've long admired poetry and I wrote a lot of poems in my early adulthood. I hadn't seriously tried to write one in a long time, but in the past few years Mrs. D and I have renewed our friendship with an old college pal, Jefferson Hansen, who lives here in the Twin Cities and has been deeply involved in literary endeavors for most of his life. It's been a real blessing to have Jeff back in our lives -- he's a brilliant man with a great breadth of knowledge and wide-ranging interests. And as we've spent time with Jeff over the past few years, I've come to realize that while I've been an active blogger, I need to write poetry again. And so I am.

Jeff is the editor and curator of an online journal called  Alert readers will have noticed that and its companion blog have been featured on our recommended site list for a while now. Jeff was gracious enough to publish a poem that I wrote in May in the second edition of AlteredScale, which he published today. You can read my poem at the site if you are interested. The poem I submitted is called "Reboot" and you can find it in the first gallery of the journal.

If you go to read my poem, make sure to stay awhile and check out some of the other work that Jeff has published in the journal. A lot of the work, including poetry, prose and music, tends to be experimental. There's a lot there that you will find rewarding, I think. And you'll find more than a few things that might challenge more traditionalist notions. And that's good. Jeff explains his methodology in this way:
Ideally, a reader/viewer would first watch my short introductory video in order to understand my intent with this journal. Put simply, after the feature on Maria Damon, I arrange work in galleries with an eye toward playing with and off musical elements implicit in the works: harmony, disharmony, tone, atonality, tone-lock, rhythm, and so on. The galleries are long, so be sure to scroll all the way to a terminal point. Once there, you will find a link to the next gallery.
Jeff often looks at the world in a musical way. In fact, the name "Altered Scale" comes from a musical technique that's often used in jazz. An example of an altered scale would be as follows:

 C D♭ E♭ F♭ G♭ A♭ B♭ C

Essentially, the notes in the scale are down a half a note from a straight C scale. The slight modification makes a big difference.

While this blog tends to be political, I often wish it weren't. I write about politics mostly because I think it's important to do so, but there are many things that are more enjoyable and ennobling than watching the two major political parties play Whack-A-Mole with one another. And I'm going to continue to write more poetry. I may publish it here, or I might pursue other avenues of publication. But I'm going to stay after it. Somehow I think a well-crafted poem might have more lasting impact than yet another polemic.

K Street T-Paw

So Tim Pawlenty is going to Washington after all. As the chief lobbyist for the financial services industry, no less:

The Financial Services Roundtable announced Thursday that Pawlenty will become its new president and chief executive officer on November 1. Pawlenty adviser Brian McClung told The Associated Press that Pawlenty ruled out the races as he prepared to take the job heading the Wall Street lobbying group.

"With this new position, Governor Pawlenty is taking off the table running for U.S. Senate or governor in 2014," McClung said in an email. Pawlenty did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

What the means for Minnesota is a subject we'll return to at another time. What it means right now is more interesting, I think. If you believe the breathless reportage we've seen in recent weeks about the Romney campaign, you might assume that Pawlenty's decision is an example of a rat fleeing a sinking ship. T-Paw, as you'll recall, is one of the chief honchos in the Romney campaign and has been one of its most visible surrogates for the better part of a year now. So if you assume that Barack Obama is going to win and that the Democrats are going to, at a minimum, retain the Senate, it's passing strange that T-Paw would be the guy the money men would pick as their public face.

Suzy Khimm of the Washington Post tries to suss the larger meaning out:

The downsides seem clearer than the upsides. If Romney wins, then Pawlenty, a close Romney friend who co-chaired the Republican candidate’s presidential campaign and was seriously considered for the veep slot, will have all the access he could want. But if Obama is reelected, Pawlenty isn’t likely to be the most appealing messenger to the Democrats’ administration.

But to put it in market lingo, the Financial Service Roundtable, observers say, is pricing that in. The past four years have made it clear that Democrats aren’t likely to sympathize with the Financial Services Roundtable, regardless of what happens on Election Day. But Congressional Republicans might.
I actually take it as a sign that the big money boys aren't so sure that Obama is going to win. If they thought Obama was going to win, it would have made a lot more sense to hire someone like Jennifer Granholm, the Democrat who was governor of Michigan at the same time T-Paw was at the helm here. And let's be honest; Granholm is whole lot easier on the eyes than T-Paw:
Yeah, I was on the Dating Game
Don't hate me because I'm beautiful

But that didn't happen, now did it? No matter what you think of Wall Street generally, and I don't think much of it, the people who run the various firms there aren't stupid. They understand the value of having the right people in Washington to represent their interests, especially since they operate in one of the most heavily regulated sectors of the economy.

Sending T-Paw as your messenger also sends a message about what they expect to see, and whom they expect to deal with, in Washington for the next few years.If you choose a public face that looks like Tim Pawlenty, there has to be a reason for it. Do you agree?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Look in my eyes, what do you see

One Obama, indivisible

I'm every person you need to be.

Damned right we do our part

With his stripes we are healed

The genius of Matt Drudge (via Althouse):

Isaiah 53:5, call your office
On the left, the stripes of dried blood left behind on the walls of the consulate in Benghazi, blood from the bleeding hands of the Americans killed in Benghazi last week, who were, it now appears, dragged off to their death. On the right, merch from the Obama shop, in which the 50 stars are replaced with the Obama logo. Only $35, I believe. Doesn't have to be blood money, though, as they take most major credit cards. Makes a lovely holiday gift.

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands

I'm sorry, but this is creepy as hell:

Kenny Loggins won't take his calls
It's Obama operative Jim Messina, looking like a guy with a carpeted panel van and a bag of lollipops, providing the latest way to honor your membership in the cult -- writing why you love Obama on your hands and posting it on social media. This innovative thinking dates back to at least 1955, of course:

At least this is just a movie
And it's already got it's well-deserved spot on Meme Generator. Here's mine:

Chiiilll... dren! 
Go make your own!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I believe

What do you believe? A few views on the matter. First, Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) in Bull Durham (NSFW):

Next, Barack Obama at Loyola University, 1998:

Finally, the wisdom of the Lady Miss Kier:

Who do you believe? free polls 

Got to have a mother for me

Moe Lane notices something:

Seriously: if you’re going to put up a video that purports to be the entire raw footage of a Romney fundraiser, that’s fine. If it’s too big, that’s also fine.

But for Heaven’s sakes: don’t show us two videos where the first one ends with “We poll all these people to see where you stand in the polls but 45 percent of the people vote for the Republicans and 48 or 49…” and the second one starts with “…about twice as much as China, not 10 times as much like is reported” and expect people not to notice that there is obviously a piece missing in there somewhere.

The video's at the link. And I'm sure there's a perfectly logical explanation, right?


Mickey Kaus:

We need a new rule: Pundits and bloggers can only declare Romney’s campaign dead once.  If the race gets close after that, you can’t start commenting again as if he’s got a shot. He’s already dead to you! No second fatal gaffes. … Use it wisely!…

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

And Another Reason Why I Miss Christopher Hitchens

Via Althouse, Hitchens in 2006, from a speech at the University of Toronto:

Bear in mind, ladies and gentleman, that every time you violate, or propose the violate, the right to free speech of someone else, you in potentia [are] making a rod for your own back. Because the other question raised by Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes is simply this: who’s going to decide, to whom do you award the right to decide which speech is harmful, or who is the harmful speaker? Or to determine in advance what the harmful consequences [are] going to be that we know enough about in advance to prevent? To whom would you give this job? To whom are you going to award the task of being the censor?

I wouldn't trust anyone to do that job. Especially myself.

I'd also add that a number of passages in the speech are personally offensive to me. And if you read the speech, chances are pretty good you'll find something that offends you. I'll let you find those passages yourself, but you know what? That's the point. So when you read something like this:
While many 1st Amendment scholars defend the right of the filmmakers to produce this film, arguing that the ensuing violence was not sufficiently imminent, I spoke to several experts who said the trailer may well fall outside constitutional guarantees of free speech. "Based on my understanding of the events," 1st Amendment authority Anthony Lewis said in an interview Thursday, "I think this meets the imminence standard."
Ask yourself this -- do you trust Anthony Lewis to be your censor? And if so, why?

Monday, September 17, 2012

MoJo Catches Mitt Telling the Truth

Feelin' guilty, feelin' scared, hidden cameras everywhere 
Stop! Hold on. Stay in control 
                                                 -- Ray Davies, "Destroyer"

Sounds like ol' Mitt Romney was at a fundraiser recently and someone recorded his comments. And it also sounds as though we're supposed to shocked, shocked by what he had to say. David Corn of Mother Jones has the breathless dispatch, complete with money quote:
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.
Ooh, that cold-hearted bastard.

Actually, he's got the math pretty much right. About 47% of Americans don't pay income tax, although the many of them do have income taxes withheld from their paychecks in what becomes essentially an interest-free loan to Uncle Sam. I don't think all of the 47% in question are Democrats, although many are.

Romney is actually explaining something that matters rather a lot. The reason pruning back government is going to be so horribly difficult is that many millions of Americans are essentially on the dole, either through Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SSI and other general relief programs. And because we've been running over 8% unemployment for the past four years, with a workforce participation rate of only 58%, the government has a lot of clients. And since the Democrats are the Party of Government, they will have a lot of support.

I don't think there's anything especially controversial about any of that. The devil is in the details, of course. The 47% number is pretty steady right now, but the composition of those in that 47% changes. Young people start out in that number and, if their lives go well, leave and become net taxpayers. Old people pay taxes, many for years, and as they retire they become part of the 47%. Politicians understand these things, which is why the Party of Government is always trying to scare seniors about Medicare. Lately the Republicans have been doing the same thing.

For me, the most interesting part of Corn's dispatch is what Romney says about the disenchanted Obama voters he's trying to reach:

We speak with voters across the country about their perceptions. Those people I told you—the 5 to 6 or 7 percent that we have to bring onto our side—they all voted for Barack Obama four years ago. So, and by the way, when you say to them, "Do you think Barack Obama is a failure?" they overwhelmingly say no. They like him. But when you say, "Are you disappointed that his policies haven't worked?" they say yes. And because they voted for him, they don't want to be told that they were wrong, that he's a bad guy, that he did bad things, that he's corrupt. Those people that we have to get, they want to believe they did the right thing, but he just wasn't up to the task. They love the phrase that he's "over his head." But if we're—but we, but you see, you and I, we spend our day with Republicans. We spend our days with people who agree with us. And these people are people who voted for him and don't agree with us. And so the things that animate us are not the things that animate them. And the best success I have at speaking with those people is saying, you know, the president has been a disappointment. He told you he'd keep unemployment below 8 percent. Hasn't been below eight percent since. Fifty percent of kids coming out of school can't get a job. Fifty percent. Fifty percent of the kids in high school in our 50 largest cities won't graduate from high school. What're they gonna do? These are the kinds of things that I can say to that audience that they nod their head and say, "Yeah, I think you're right." What he's going to do, by the way, is try and vilify me as someone who's been successful, or who's, you know, closed businesses or laid people off, and is an evil bad guy. And that may work.
This is a pretty realistic assessment of what has happened to this point. I've long understood and agreed with Romney on the main point -- no one likes having his (or her) nose rubbed in it. So I get the approach he's taken.

Of course, now that this snippet is out, that strategy will be well-nigh impossible to maintain. So what does Romney do?

I think the right answer is to call out Obama's failings, every single day and in every single way. The stimulus didn't really do much of anything. The bets Obama and his team made on green energy were busts. The Cairo speech was just a speech. And he needs to explain why the current path is unsustainable.

And Romney needs to tell people what he intends to do to change things, in clear terms. I do think the American people deserve that. If Romney does those things and loses, that's the way it goes. But if he tries to pretend that the clear meaning of what he said isn't really what he meant, he'll lose. And deserve to lose. At this point, Romney needs to own the statements, because the Democrats will make him do it anyway. And it's possible that the American people will understand.

Meanwhile, in Chicago

The blue-on-blue fun continues:

The week-old teachers strike in Chicago's public schools will continue into the new week, after a representative group of the Chicago Teachers Union decided not to end the walkout even though union leaders and school officials had reached a tentative contract deal.

The move left Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowing to go to court to force teachers back to work, calling Sunday's actions by the union "a delay of choice that is wrong for our children."

The mayor announced in a statement that he's asked city lawyers "to file an injunction in circuit court to immediately end this strike." He contended the strike is illegal because "it is over issues that are deemed by state law to be nonstrikable, and it endangers the health and safety of our children."

Here's a suggestion, Rahm -- when you're out forum shopping, remember not to call anyone like Juan Colas.

Lost in the Funhouse

There are plenty of times in my life where I'm not sure what to believe, or whom to believe. But this isn't one of them:

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi last week was not premeditated, directly contradicting top Libyan officials who say the attack was planned in advance.

“Our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous – not a premeditated – response to what had transpired in Cairo,” Rice told me this morning on “This Week.”

“In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated,” Rice said, referring to protests in Egypt Tuesday over a film that depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud. Protesters in Cairo breached the walls of the U.S. Embassy, tearing apart an American flag.

“We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the embassy to – or to the consulate, rather, to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo,” Rice said. “And then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons… And it then evolved from there.”

Do you believe that people just spontaneously decide to fire rocket-propelled grenades at a consulate? Ah, those Libyans, always living for the moment. Or do you believe this dispatch?

Three days before the deadly assault on the United States consulate in Libya, a local security official says he met with American diplomats in the city and warned them about deteriorating security.

Jamal Mabrouk, a member of the February 17th Brigade, told CNN that he and a battalion commander had a meeting about the economy and security.

He said they told the diplomats that the security situation wasn't good for international business.

"The situation is frightening, it scares us," Mabrouk said they told the U.S. officials. He did not say how they responded.

Blogger Sean Medlock, who blogs under the name "Jim Treacher" at the Daily Caller, has had a long ordeal trying to recover from being hit by a State Department vehicle while crossing the street in Washington, DC. He's been trying to get answers from the State Department for two years now. His conclusion about what happened in Libya, I think, is closer to the mark:

God rest your soul, Christopher Stevens. You tried to make the world a better place, the people you trusted let you down, and now they care about nothing but saving their own asses. You deserved better.

We all do.
There's a lot more about what Medlock has gone through at the link and it's worth your time.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Freedom of Speech. . . just watch what you say

Chances are you've heard that the  LAPD L.A. County Sheriff's office brought in the guy who purportedly made the EVIL EVIL EVIL movie that's up on YouTube that has cause the ENTIRE ARAB WORLD TO EXPLODE!

Or something like that. Here was the photo of the event, where five, count 'em five guys brought him in for "voluntary" questioning:

You have the right to free speech, or the right to remain silent. Choose wisely.
This is a hell of a pass we're at, if you think about it. And it's about time we think about it. This guy might be a crank and an asshole, but he has a right to free speech. And in this country, that should mean something. I'm not so sure it does any more.

The Instapundit is in high dudgeon over this series of events:

When taking office, the President does not swear to create jobs. He does not swear to “grow the economy.” He does not swear to institute “fairness.” The only oath the President takes is this one:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

By sending — literally — brownshirted enforcers to engage in — literally — a midnight knock at the door of a man for the non-crime of embarrassing the President of the United States and his administration, President Obama violated that oath. You can try to pretty this up (It’s just about possible probation violations! Sure.), or make excuses or draw distinctions, but that’s what’s happened. It is a betrayal of his duties as President, and a disgrace.

He won’t resign, of course. First, the President has the appreciation of free speech that one would expect from a Chicago Machine politician, which is to say, none. Second, he’s not getting any pressure. Indeed, the very press that went crazy over Ari Fleischer’s misrepresented remarks seems far less interested in the actions of an administration that I repeat, literally sent brown-shirted enforcers to launch a midnight knock on a filmmaker’s door.

But Obama’s behavior — and that of his enablers in the press — has laid down a marker for those who are paying attention. By these actions he is, I repeat, unfit to hold office. I hope and expect that the voters will agree in November.

Emphasis in original. I have to agree. Free speech means nothing if brownshirts can show up and take you away. The way to stop this sort of thing from happening in the future, and from happening to you, is to speak up now and to make your voice and your vote count.

And in the meantime, you can have some fun with it, because free speech should be fun. Over at Quickmeme there are already a bunch of people enjoying conditional free speech by captioning that image. Here are a couple on the "popular" page that are spot-on:

And I added a few, using music lyrics that came to mind:

First, the Clash:
With your hands on your head, or on the trigger of a gun?
Next, Steely Dan:

Soon it will be too late. . . bobbing for apples can wait
And finally the Talking Heads:

Crosseyed and Painless -- the best-case scenario
I'm going to enjoy free speech for as long as it lasts. Lots more at the link. Create your own meme too, while you can.

UPDATE -- a few more I like:

See Gino's blog for more details on that particular topic
No business like show business
I'd better stop now, otherwise this blog might not get the following seal of approval:
We do our part

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Another reason why I miss Christopher Hitchens

From an essay Hitchens wrote in 2007 for City Journal (H/T Scott Johnson), a reminder that disputes between the United States and Muslims in North Africa date back a very long time:

One immediate effect of the American Revolution, however, was to strengthen the hand of those very same North African potentates: roughly speaking, the Maghrebian provinces of the Ottoman Empire that conform to today’s Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia. Deprived of Royal Navy protection, American shipping became even more subject than before to the depredations of those who controlled the Strait of Gibraltar. The infant United States had therefore to decide not just upon a question of national honor but upon whether it would stand or fall by free navigation of the seas.

One of the historians of the Barbary conflict, Frank Lambert, argues that the imperative of free trade drove America much more than did any quarrel with Islam or “tyranny,” let alone “terrorism.” He resists any comparison with today’s tormenting confrontations. “The Barbary Wars were primarily about trade, not theology,” he writes. “Rather than being holy wars, they were an extension of America’s War of Independence.”

Let us not call this view reductionist. Jefferson would perhaps have been just as eager to send a squadron to put down any Christian piracy that was restraining commerce. But one cannot get around what Jefferson heard when he went with John Adams to wait upon Tripoli’s ambassador to London in March 1785. When they inquired by what right the Barbary states preyed upon American shipping, enslaving both crews and passengers, America’s two foremost envoys were informed that “it was written in the Koran, that all Nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon whoever they could find and to make Slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.” (It is worth noting that the United States played no part in the Crusades, or in the Catholic reconquista of Andalusia.)

Emphasis mine. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this crap has been going on for a very long time.

Now, in the subsequent 200+ years since these events, the United States has become a somewhat ambivalent empire itself and Muslims certainly have grievances against us for any number of reasons. But the underlying message of the Koran, and its possible interpretations, hasn't really changed at all. In other words, some movie on YouTube doesn't have much to do with what's been happening.

The rest of the essay is well worth your time, as is usually the case with Hitchens, especially his conclusion:

Perhaps above all, though, the Barbary Wars gave Americans an inkling of the fact that they were, and always would be, bound up with global affairs. Providence might have seemed to grant them a haven guarded by two oceans, but if they wanted to be anything more than the Chile of North America—a long littoral ribbon caught between the mountains and the sea—they would have to prepare for a maritime struggle as well as a campaign to redeem the unexplored landmass to their west. The U.S. Navy’s Mediterranean squadron has, in one form or another, been on patrol ever since.

And then, finally, there is principle. It would be simplistic to say that something innate in America made it incompatible with slavery and tyranny. But would it be too much to claim that many Americans saw a radical incompatibility between the Barbary system and their own? And is it not pleasant when the interests of free trade and human emancipation can coincide? I would close with a few staves of Kipling, whose poem “Dane-Geld” is a finer effort than anything managed by Francis Scott Key:

It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbor and to say:
“We invaded you last night—we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away.”

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you’ve only to pay ’em the Dane-geld
And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!

Kipling runs briskly through the stages of humiliation undergone by any power that falls for this appeasement, and concludes:

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say:—

“We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that plays it is lost!”

It may be fortunate that the United States had to pass this test, and imbibe this lesson, so early in its life as a nation. 

And the lessons continue.

This Week in the Campaign

Ably summarized by the indispensable Michael Ramirez:

For what it's worth

Stream of consciousness blog post, with a little math:

I'd assume you've noticed that gas prices are scraping around $4/gallon again in the Twin Cities. That's a problem and even when you factor inflation into the mix, it's very expensive right now.

As it happens, I'm enjoying one of my favorite indulgences this morning, which is listening to "Saturday Morning Flashback" streaming from WXRT in Chicago. They are featuring the year 1975 and they happen to playing "Ooh Las Vegas" by Emmylou Harris as I write.

Host Wendy Rice just mentioned in passing that the average price for a gallon of gas in Chicago in 1975 was $0.58/gallon. In 2012 dollars, that would be $2.48. You can verify the calculation here. As I write, the average price of gas in Chicago is $4.32. That means, in constant dollars, the price of gas is 74% higher than it was in 1975.

In 2008 the price of gas was a big story. I was in Chicago in August, 2008 and paid about $4.20 for a gallon of gas. Comparing that price to the 1975 price, gas should have been the equivalent of $2.32 in constant dollars. That meant, in constant dollars, that the price of gas was 81% higher in 2008 than 1975. Of course  in August, 2008, the price was falling, eventually heading to a price around $2/gallon by the end of the year. It's been rising steadily lately. And I don't suppose that the current adventures in the Middle East are going to help the prices go down much.

So why aren't we talking about the price of gas now? I'll take your guesses in the comment section.

Oh, and by the way, now that Ben Bernanke is launching the latest round of quantitative easing, that $4 price you're paying now is more likely to be a floor than a ceiling. But that's another post.

The Wisdom of Dane County Judges

Eventually they'll run out of Dane County circuit court judges. But for now, the Wile E. Coyotes have struck again:
A county judge in Wisconsin on Friday struck down much of the 2011 state law pushed through by Gov. Scott Walker that severely restricts the ability of public employees to bargain collectively.

Judge Juan B. Colás of Dane County Circuit Court overturned the law with regard to city, county and school district workers — although not state employees — ruling that it violated the federal and state Constitutions.

Judge Colás said the Republican-backed measure, which led to huge union protests, violated union members’ freedom of speech and association as well as the equal protection of the laws by subjecting them to penalties not faced by nonunion public employees.
So what happens now? A few guesses:

  • The decision rips open all the old wounds again.
  • It probably will help Tommy Thompson and Mitt Romney, because people in Wisconsin are just tired of all this and want it to stop. So the people who won't take no for an answer will get slapped down again.
  • It will also affect the upcoming legislative elections, to the detriment of Democrats. Because of redistricting, the Wisconsin Senate is likely to switch back to Republican control.
Meanwhile, this little tidbit from 2011 is worth considering as background on the Honorable Juan B. Colás:
Yesterday, a judge ruled that the state had improperly closed the Capitol and ordered it opened, but did rule that there could be date and time limits on the protests. (The decision was delayed because the first judge, the Honorable Juan Colas, assigned the case had to recuse himself because his own daughter was sleeping in the Wisconsin State Capitol.)
Justice isn't blind -- it sees what it wants to see, apparently.

The Wisdom of Facebook

From Mitch -- makes the point as succinctly as it can be made:

And it goes without saying that the people who are most victimized by Muslim terrorists, and their supporters, are other Muslims.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Post-Lambeau Beatdown Edition

We now return to our regularly scheduled HYYYYYYYPPPPPPPEEEE! But first, a few brief thoughts about the game last night. Jay Cutler's mouth wrote a check his team couldn't cash. The Packers defense has been criticized a lot. And it should be. But not last night, baby! It was 2010 Tramon Williams and 2010 Clay Matthews out there! And finally, the Packers have a quasi-bye week to get healthy. The funny thing about the NFL season is that panic can turn to happiness in just a few hours. And yes, the Benster is happy. How about you, old dude?

I'm good with it.

Thought so. Watch me work!

Western Michigan Broncos (+2 1/2) vs. Minnesota Goooolden Gophers. I was dead wrong about the Gophers last week. In fact, to accept my great regret at picking against them, I submit the following video:

That's actually a childhood representation of Jerry Kill as he played in his youth on the plains of Kansas, or wherever the heck he's from. But enough of that. I would normally put the Gophers on upset alert, but they seem to be figuring a few things out and Jerry Kill is a former MAC coach, so he knows how to beat Western Michigan. And so, Go Go Gophers 35, Broncos 10.

Western Michigan has had a few good teams and players over the years, including one of our favorites, Greg Jennings. Unfortunately for the Broncos, he won't be at TCF Bank Stadium tomorrow unless he's there as a spectator. So I'll take the Gophers, too. Gophers 27, Western Michigan 17.

Utah State Aggies (+14) vs. Beloved, Battered Wisconsin Badgers. So, what the heck happened in Corvallis? Are we sure that the Badgers actually were there? It sure didn't look like the Badgers, especially the offensive line, which got stuffed big time by Oregon State. This is a little alarming, but Bret Bielema has already taken bold action:

But there's one thing to keep in mind about recent history -- in the 2010 season, the Badgers lost to Michigan State. That didn't derail the season. In 2011, the Badgers lost twice in a row in heartbreaking fashion. That didn't derail the season. Do you really think the Badgers are done? I don't think so and Utah State, I don't care how good they are -- no team wants to play an angry group of Badgers in Madison. Badgers 100, Utah State 0.

Uh, no. Don't get me wrong -- I think the Badgers will win, but this team isn't as good as the teams in 2010 or 2011. They could get better, but based on what I've seen thus far Danny O'Brien looks like Scott Tolzien with a better haircut. That might be good enough to win the Leaders Division, but they've got work to do. Badgers 31, Utah State 24.

Minnesota Vikings (-1 1/2) vs. Indianapolis Lucks. So check that line out -- the Vikings are a road favorite? Really? These Vikings? Are you kidding me? Well, the wise guys in Vegas usually know something we don't, which is why their offices are in multi-million dollar entertainment complexes and we're writing this on a laptop at the dining room table. But do you think that stops us! No! The Vikings looked better last week against a terrible Jacksonville team. How terrible were they?

Just turrible. And yet the Vikings almost lost to some guy named Cecil Shorts. The Vikes got lucky because they've got the Project. The Blair Walsh Project. A scary little kicker who boots 55 yard field goals like it's nothing. And he's easier to understand than Martin Gramatica. Vikings 13, Colts 12.

The Vikings should win if they get a pass rush. I think Andrew Luck will eventually be a very tough quarterback to beat, but the Vikings picked a good time to play him. So yes, the Vikings could be atop the NFC North at the end of the weekend. We'll explain why shortly. That's called foreshadowing. . . . Vikings 27, Colts 19.

Detroit Motor City Kitties (+6 1/2) vs. San Francisco 49ers. So, how good are the 49ers? Based on last week, pretty good. They went into Lambeau and kicked our beloved Packers around like they were barely there. Given that, why should we assume that the Lions, who barely beat the woeful Rams in Detroit last week, will have any shot at Candlestick, or whatever they're calling that dump these days. Niners 42, Lions 24.

I was impressed by what I saw last week, too. San Francisco looks like a complete team -- athletic, nasty and well-coached, as much as that pains me to say, given Jim Harbaugh's colossal ego and overall poor deportment. I believe the Lions haven't won a game in San Francisco since the Eisenhower administration, although I might not have that exactly right. I don't see it changing on Sunday. 49ers 34, Lions 17.

Hey Geritol Fan, you know what? We didn't disagree on anything this week. You must be learning something. Ben out!

I sincerely hope

. . . that this article from the London Independent  is 100% wrong:
According to senior diplomatic sources, the US State Department had credible information 48 hours before mobs charged the consulate in Benghazi, and the embassy in Cairo, that American missions may be targeted, but no warnings were given for diplomats to go on high alert and "lockdown", under which movement is severely restricted.
We talked a little yesterday about what "outsourcing" meant in the context of what happened in Benghazi. In case you weren't clear about the meaning, consider the following:

According to security sources the consulate had been given a "health check" in preparation for any violence connected to the 9/11 anniversary. In the event, the perimeter was breached within 15 minutes of an angry crowd starting to attack it at around 10pm on Tuesday night. There was, according to witnesses, little defence put up by the 30 or more local guards meant to protect the staff. Ali Fetori, a 59-year-old accountant who lives near by, said: "The security people just all ran away and the people in charge were the young men with guns and bombs."

Wissam Buhmeid, the commander of the Tripoli government-sanctioned Libya's Shield Brigade, effectively a police force for Benghazi, maintained that it was anger over the Mohamed video which made the guards abandon their post. "There were definitely people from the security forces who let the attack happen because they were themselves offended by the film; they would absolutely put their loyalty to the Prophet over the consulate. The deaths are all nothing compared to insulting the Prophet."

Emphasis mine. Do you believe Buhmeid's story, that it was a movie that caused this attack? Or does this explanation seem more plausible to you?

Senior officials are increasingly convinced, however, that the ferocious nature of the Benghazi attack, in which rocket-propelled grenades were used, indicated it was not the result of spontaneous anger due to the video, called Innocence of Muslims. Patrick Kennedy, Under-Secretary at the State Department, said he was convinced the assault was planned due to its extensive nature and the proliferation of weapons.

There is growing belief that the attack was in revenge for the killing in a drone strike in Pakistan of Mohammed Hassan Qaed, an al-Qa'ida operative who was, as his nom-de-guerre Abu Yahya al-Libi suggests, from Libya, and timed for the anniversary of the 11 September attacks.

So if the article is correct, what to make of it?

  • First, the Arab Spring isn't going to be a time of hope.
  • Second, we need to stop pretending that we are dealing with reasonable people in many parts of the world. Diplomacy does not always mean making nice with people. I would hope that the gang at Foggy Bottom understands that.
  • Finally, the notion that the Obama campaign has been floating, that the Obama administration has the foreign policy thing all figured out, is silly. 
It would be churlish to suggest that we have any good options in the Middle East these days, since we don't. When we say that Islam is a "religion of peace," it is true to the extent that most Muslims, if left to their own devices, wouldn't participate in jihad and would prefer to live in peace. The problem we face is trying to stop those who do. I don't think it's a task that any diplomat, or president, can really tackle without a lot of pain. The truth of the matter is this -- we can't solve the problem from without. The only way the problem goes away is if Muslims decide that Salafism and other similar doctrines are not the proper path.