Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye 2012

And good riddance. Hoping that 2013 is better. Here is Times Square in 1938.

Happy New Year!

Our traditional tune for the occasion. No Guy Lombardo!

Bring Out Your Dead Pool 2013!

Hey kids -- let's talk about dead people! I have the Benster in tow and he'll be making his debut in this annual competition this year. How do you feel about participating in this, young fella?

I'm not dead yet. But seriously, since I'm so used to kicking your old butt in football predictions, it only seems natural that I should be able to kick your butt in predicting death. Although I'm pretty sure that HYYYYYPPPPPE would be inappropriate for this competition.

I suspect so. We're supposed to be somber and serious here. No hype.

Well, I'm with the program. If you noticed, there was no exclamation point on HYYYYYPPPPPE, so that's how you can tell I'm being serious.

News you can use! First, let's go over the rules:

  • You get to pick five people.
  • They have to be alive as of January 1, 2013, so you can't pick someone like Vic Morrow, who died in 1982, to use an example. And Vic Morrow's death was, well, not very pleasant.
  • You get credit for each person who actually dies in the calendar year of 2013.
  • The winner gets, well, nothing.
Does that seem fair?

Yes. I get nothing from you most of the time, Geritol Fan, so I'm kinda used to it.

Well, good. We do want to set expectations. Our first contestant is Ace Blogger/Commenter and diehard Bears Fan Gino, who offers the following picks:

George H. W. Bush
Fidel Castro
Betty White
Zsa Zsa Gabor
Jesse Jackson, Jr.

These are all solid picks. The elder Bush has been ill lately and Fidel Castro is getting like Generalissimo Francisco Franco these days. Meanwhile, Betty White seems spry, but she's pretty old. As for Zsa Zsa Gabor, she's about 95 right now. And Jesse Jackson Jr. is a bit of a trainwreck these days, which makes him a good pick in the Amy Winehouse sorta style. Gino, you've done well.

Now it's time for the Benster's picks. He says:

Vladimir Putin
Morley Safer
Luis Suarez
Bashar Assad
Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Okay, here's my explanation. Putin is ticking off a lot of people lately, which means he's got a chance to get assassinated at pretty much any time. Morley Safer is a very old dude who seems to clutter up 60 Minutes and seems to be drooling on himself every time he appears. Luis Suarez is a striker for Liverpool FC, the soccer club I hate the most. Suarez is also a racist and a very dirty player, which means he could get whomped upside the head by a hooligan at pretty much any moment. And he'd deserve it. Bashar Assad is in the middle of a civil war, which means he's a good candidate to get Ceaucescued. And Ruth Bader Ginsburg seems to be propped up on the Supreme Court bench by way of hydraulic cylinders.

That's a pretty formidable list, actually. Here are my picks:

Hugo Chavez
Theodore Hesburgh
Patty Andrews
Pete Seeger
Stan Musial

Chavez, as we know, is very ill. He's the only leftover from last year's list. I was surprised to find out that Fr. Hesburgh is still alive, but he's now 95 and you have to wonder how much time he has left. Patty Andrews is the last of the Andrews Sisters and is also in her 90s and apparently in ill health. Pete Seeger is our favorite Commie folksinger who is now also in his 90s. He might survive because bile is a preservative. And while I hate to say it, Stan the Man is getting up there -- last I heard he was 92 and he's been fading from the scene for a while now.

So there you have it. Nominations remain available until the end of day on January 2. But if someone dies tomorrow, don't put that individual on your list. We'll be watching you, Wazowski.

Benster and D Pick Your Bowl Games -- Barry's Back and So Are the Domers Edition!

It's like old home week for the bowls, Geritol Fan! Think of the tradition! Think of the teams getting screwed over by the BCS!

Well, a good BCS screwing is becoming a tradition. Who got screwed over this time, Seabiscuit?

Well, I'd be willing to wager that Georgia got screwed over. How does it work that Georgia finishes ahead of Florida in the SEC East, yet doesn't get into the BCS? And what is Northern Illinois doing in the BCS? No disrespect to the Huskies, but the BCS Busters thing doesn't work with MAC teams. Sorry. Boise? Yeah. TCU? Sure, before they joined the Big XII. Utah? Okey dokey! But NIU? Seriously? What is up with that? Here's the official Orange Bowl Hat for this year:

A lovely souvenir
Well, the mesh construction should keep prospective Orange Bowl attendees nice and cool, I suppose.

Indeed. But enough of that. We'll get back to the NIU bashing soon. First, we have some other games to pick. Watch me work!

Rose Bowl -- Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (+6) vs. Stanford Cardinal. Barry's back and there's gonna be trouble. Hey la, hey la, Barry's back! Okay, the old dude made me say that. But it's true -- Barry Alvarez is back at the helm of the Badgers for one game only. And it's the Rose Bowl, baby! Now, Stanford is a very solid outfit and Mr. Stepfan Taylor has two things going for him -- fine running ability, and a highly unusual spelling of his first name. But what Vegas has failed to realize is that Wisconsin hung 70 points on Big Red a few weeks back and they are capable of scoring a whole lot of points in this game. No team has shown the ability to stop those runs from Melvin Gordon, who will be the X Factor in this game. Badgers 70, Stanford 63.

I doubt that will happen, because Bo Ryan's teams rarely score 70 points. Oh, wait, you mean the football team! Okay, that does happen sometimes. But only in the state of Indiana, dude. Looks like the game is in Pasadena. The Badgers will play well but what gives me pause is this -- Stanford is the only team that slowed down Oregon this season. And they did it in Eugene. I'm going to pick the Badgers, but I don't really have my heart in it. Badgers 27, Stanford 24.

Orange Bowl -- Northern Illinois Huskies (+13.5) vs. Florida State Seminoles. Okay, NIU. This is the team that Jerry the Cable Guy built. Yes, we mean Jerry Kill, now the coach of the Gophers. The NIU staff has won a lot of games with ol' Jerry's players. They play a very fast no-huddle offense that's somewhat like Oregon, except with ol' Jerry's players. Now, that might work against the Akron Zips, but will it work against a real opponent like Florida State? Maybe -- Florida State is not a great team, although they are the best the ACC has to offer this year. Still, this seems pretty unlikely to me. Noles 24, NIU 0.

If you look at NIU's results, you see that they struggled to win against Kansas and lost to an Iowa team that didn't even make a bowl this year. Yes, as grasshopper pointed out, NIU did a great job against the Akron Zips, but FSU is a much better opponent than they've seen up to this point. This is a mismatch. Florida State 34, NIU 14.

Sugar Bowl -- Florida Gators (-14) vs. Louisville Cardinals. Now, if this were a college basketball game, you'd have something. But this is football and while Louisville is a decent football school, they really have no business in the Sugar Bowl. Of course, neither does Florida, which should have been playing Nebraska in the Capitol One Bowl. But no -- the weirdness of the BCS made it possible for Florida to finish ahead of the team that was better than they were, Georgia. Still, Florida is a pretty good outfit this year and they are starting to rise again in the post-Urban Meyer era. Florida 17, Louisville 14.

I disagree. This won't be close. Florida 37, Louisville 7.

Fiesta Bowl -- Oregon Ducks (-9) vs. Kansas State Wildcats. Finally, a good game in the BCS that doesn't involve the Badgers! I expected these two teams to be playing for the national championship, but they both stubbed their toes late in the season, which allowed Alabama, who also stubbed their toe but at a more opportune moment, to get past these two schools. So they get to play in the undercard game. Oregon is explosive and has a lot of speed. Kansas State plays in the Big XII, where speed is also at a premium, so this should be an interesting matchup. The one thing K-State does well is that they are able to slow the tempo down, even while playing quickly when they need to. Oregon is always going 100 miles an hour and they can frustrated if they can't dictate the tempo. If this was a video game, I'd pick Oregon. But this isn't a video game. K-State 7, Oregon 0.

Uh, no. In most of their games, Oregon will have scored 14 points before the national anthem. I think Benster is on to something about pace and tempo, but I'm guessing that Oregon will control that. The team that beat K-State this season is Baylor, which also goes fast. I think Oregon pulls away late. Oregon 42, K-State 28.

Okay, that's enough for now. The BCS Championship is still a week out and I have to build up my HYYYYPPPPPE! So, Ben out!

An honest man

Let's give columnist Donald Kaul of the Des Moines Register special credit for his honesty. Res ipsa loquitur:

Here, then, is my “madder-than-hell-and-I’m-not-going-to-take-it-anymore” program for ending gun violence in America:

• Repeal the Second Amendment, the part about guns anyway. It’s badly written, confusing and more trouble than it’s worth. It offers an absolute right to gun ownership, but it puts it in the context of the need for a “well-regulated militia.” We don’t make our militia bring their own guns to battles. And surely the Founders couldn’t have envisioned weapons like those used in the Newtown shooting when they guaranteed gun rights. Owning a gun should be a privilege, not a right.

• Declare the NRA a terrorist organization and make membership illegal. Hey! We did it to the Communist Party, and the NRA has led to the deaths of more of us than American Commies ever did. (I would also raze the organization’s headquarters, clear the rubble and salt the earth, but that’s optional.) Make ownership of unlicensed assault rifles a felony. If some people refused to give up their guns, that “prying the guns from their cold, dead hands” thing works for me.

• Then I would tie Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, our esteemed Republican leaders, to the back of a Chevy pickup truck and drag them around a parking lot until they saw the light on gun control.

And if that didn’t work, I’d adopt radical measures. None of that is going to happen, of course. But I’ll bet gun sales will rise.
Yeah, I'll bet they would rise. In fact, they already have. And for what it's worth, at least Kaul didn't threaten Messrs. Boehner and McConnell with the Sammy Johns treatment. So we should be thankful for that.

Meanwhile, Mitch Berg gives Kaul the what-for over at his place, including le mot juste concerning Kaul's call for prying:
Mr. Kaul; you are welcome to try.  Start with me.  Bring friends.  You’ll need ‘em.  Maybe 14 or 15 of ‘em.
Somehow, when it comes to revenge fantasies, I suspect Mr. Kaul is more Charles Nelson Reilly than Charles Bronson, so I don't think Mitch has much to worry about.

The Kumquat Moment, or Can God Save Your Potato Salad?

If you've ever had the sneaking suspicion that all Thomas Friedman columns are well, kinda the same, here's another exercise in effective mockery -- the Thomas Friedman OpEd Generator!

Check out this beauty --

What has been going on in Nicaragua is unique, and it has been on my mind ever since it began. What's important, however, is that we focus on what this means to the citizens themselves. The media seems too caught up in dissecting the macro-level situation to pay attention to what's important on the ground. Just call it missing the shirts for the cloth.

When thinking about the recent turmoil, it's important to remember three things: One, people don't behave like car salesmen, so attempts to treat them as such are going to come across as foreign. Car salesmen never suddenly set up a black market for Western DVDs. Two, Nicaragua has spent decades torn by civil war and ethnic hatred, so a mindset of peace and stability will seem foreign and strange. And three, capitalism is an extraordinarily powerful idea: If ethnic conflict is Nicaragua's curtain rod, then capitalism is certainly its alarm clock.
Or simply press the button and generate another one:

The first rule of holes is that when you're in one, stop digging. When you're in three, bring a lot of shovels. If I had fifteen minutes to pitch my idea to politicians, I'd tell them two things about same-sex marriage. First, there's no way around the issue unless we're prepared to spend less: and not just spend less, but spend smarter by investing in the kind of national infrastructure that makes countries succeed. That's going to require some tax cuts as well, but as they say, "When in Rome."

Second, I'd tell them to look at Iceland, which all but solved its same-sex marriage crisis over the past decade. When I visited Iceland in 2002, Bartho, the cabbie who drove me from the airport, couldn't stop telling me about how he had to take a second job because of the high cost of same-sex marriage. I caught up with Bartho in Reykjavik last year. Thanks to Iceland's reformed approach toward same-sex marriage, Bartho has enough money in his pocket to finally be able to afford an apartment for his kids.

Or try this one:

So what should we do about the chaos in Turkey? Well, it's easier to start with what we should not do. We should not lob a handful of cruise missiles and hope that some explosions will snap Turkey's leaders to attention. Beyond that, we need to be careful to nurture the seeds of democratic ideals. The opportunity is there, but I worry that the path to stability is so poorly marked that Turkey will have to move down it very slowly. And of course Ankara needs to feel like it is part of the process.

Speaking with a young student from the large Catholic community here, I asked him if there was any message that he wanted me to carry back home with me. He pondered for a second, and then smiled and said, respre austee, which is a local saying that means roughly, "Abundance, like want, ruins many."

It's more fun than a sack of hammers, I tells ya.

Well, yeah

Let's just say this up front -- this video is decidedly Not Safe For Work. Let's also say it drops a few choice Anglo-Saxon terms that I ordinarily wouldn't post on this site. It's also exceptionally violent. But sometimes the occasional Anglo-Saxon word is useful, especially when we're dealing with the topic at hand:

Increasingly I am coming to believe that outright mockery is the best approach for a lot of these self-appointed moral guardians.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bring Out Your Dead Pool 2013 -- Get Ready

A game the Grumpy Old Men don't play well
The Dead Pool has been an annual tradition over at Grumpy Old Men, but while very few of the recorded picks in the 2012 dead pool came through, one thing that seems at least mostly dead is the Grumpy Old Men blog itself. Aside from K-Rod posting vacation photos, not much has been happening over there for a while.

So, I'm taking the liberty of hosting the Dead Pool for 2013 here. I'll make formal picks tomorrow, and perhaps the Benster will too, but let's do a little housekeeping from 2012. First, some video inspiration:

  • It would appear that one of the best ways to preserve someone's life is to have one of the GOM bloggers list a person for demise. Of the contestants for 2012, only one person actually died -- Jack Klugman, a pick of the aforementioned K-Rod. And the Klugger met his demise on Christmas Eve, so he almost got by the Reaper as well.
  • My picks for 2012 were Hugo Chavez, Jerry Sandusky, Jon Corzine, Sid Caesar and Ndamukong Suh. There's a chance that Chavez could still come in, but if not, he's going to be on my 2013 list. Just sayin'.
  • In the post at GOM, I also mentioned that someone should pick Etta James, even though I didn't put her on my list. That one came through, too. So while K-Rod looks like the winner, I could still win on a technicality.
  • If you want to play, by all means send me your list of five. We'll take entries up until the end of the day on January 2, to give you time. Here's a handy list of generally well-known old timers, too.
So get ready to play. It's sure to be the social (ahem) event of the season.

Prayers for Hillary Clinton

This could be bad. Very bad:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was admitted to a New York hospital Sunday after the discovery of a blood clot stemming from the concussion she sustained earlier this month.

Clinton's doctors discovered the clot Sunday while performing a follow-up exam, her spokesman, Philippe Reines, said. He would not elaborate on the location of the clot but said Clinton is being treated with anti-coagulants and would remain at New York-Presbyterian Hospital for at least the next 48 hours so doctors can monitor the medication.

"Her doctors will continue to assess her condition, including other issues associated with her concussion," Reines said in a statement. "They will determine if any further action is required."
Blood clots can turn into a pulmonary embolism. This strikes home with me, because a pulmonary embolism is what ultimately killed my father in 1990. We've come a long way since then on the medical front and Mrs. Clinton will surely get the best possible medical care, but these things still can be fatal. I would suggest a prayer on her behalf would be a good thing now.

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Too Much to Do Edition

So, old dude -- did you notice that people were calling for me?

Well, you are a weekend tradition in the fall and winter. Kinda like yard work.

Oh, yeah. I'm a regular rake. I should explain why we're so late. I've been a man about town lately. I was on a whirlwind tour of the Alexander Ramsey House yesterday and then I went to the Timberwolves game with the family last night. Between all those activities and my usual Bensterosity, I'm a very busy man.

Sounds that way. But do you have time to pick a few games?

Sure. Because even if we only have a few minutes, I've got the HYYYYYPPPPPPE! Watch me work.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (-3) vs. Detroit Motor City Kitties. So, old dude, did you hear that Lions thug/commercial spokesman Ndamukong Suh is now doing adds for AT&T? You know why, Geritol Fan?

Tell me.

Because the Lions have been phoning it in for weeks now. And that might be good news for da Bearz, who need to win and get a lot of help to make the playoffs. Da Bearz did their part against the Arizona Cardinals last week, but the Lions would love to play spoiler. Lions 21, da Bearz 17.

I think the Bears are better than the Lions. I'm not sure it's enough to win the game, though. I want to see Gino have to root for the Packers, though, which is what all Bears fans must do if they win. Bears 24, Lions 20.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-3.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings. Okay, here it is. If the Packers win, they knock the Vikings out of the playoffs and they get the number two seed. That's a lot of incentive, if you ask me. And since you're reading this genius-level post, I assume you meant to ask me. Now, here's what I think will happen. The Vikings are essentially playing for their lives and will take on the role we call the Desperate Team at Home. They do have Adrian Peterson, who is having a season for the ages, but they also have Samantha Steele's husband playing quarterback. If the Packers can slow Peterson down, then young Mr. Ponder will have to win the game for the Vikings. Tell me -- do you think that will happen? Packers 49, Vikings 42.

Wow, a shootout! I don't see that happening, but then again I didn't see the Packers putting up 55 on the Tennessee Titans last week. The last time the two teams met, the Packers did not have Clay Matthews on defense and Mike Neal was just getting started. Those two players have made a huge difference on defense and I think it will show up again today. Peterson will get some yards, but it's not going to be enough. Packers 31, Vikings 21.

That's all for now. We'll have the always-exciting Bowl Extravaganza picks up tomorrow. Ben out!

Friday, December 28, 2012


Nothing quite like a little math to concentrate someone's mind:

New Yorkers of all income levels got a rude awakening yesterday when they saw in The Post how much more they will pay in taxes next year without a fiscal-cliff deal by Jan. 1.

“It’s that much higher?” asked IT worker Vikas Kataria, 34, who discovered that his combined household income of about $250,000 per year will cost him nearly $10,000 more in taxes.

“I thought it was a couple thousand — but that’s a lot,” said Kataria, who works at Merrill Lynch in Manhattan and is married to a systems analyst for a brokerage firm. “That’s huge!”

With higher taxes, the couple would have to cut out on traveling and family vacations.

There's more pain coming, too:

Clothing designer Peter Opie, of Canary Wharf Clothier, made about $2 million this year — and would see his tax bill spike by a staggering $100,000.

“The system is nuts here — it’s madness personified!” he said

“We were impacted massively by the hurricane — and now there is this,” said Opie. “You work your butt off and you end up with next to nothing.”
Doesn't matter, Mr. Opie. Time to pony up. And we'll come back for to you. Meanwhile, even more anecdotes to share:

Jan Losick, a Medicare-aged counselor at Au Pair in America, makes about $150,000 when combined with her husband’s salary, and would pay about $6,000 more.

“The Senate and the House of Representatives should be sacked!” said Losick, who would have to cut down on vacations, going to the theater and eating out, and just stick to the basics. “They should be doing our bidding — not their own.”

Ms. Losick and her blue-state pals had a chance to sack someone in November, but they chose otherwise, and in overwhelming numbers. Sorry about your vacations and theater-going, sister, but the Leviathan needs to be fed. There are a lot of assistant undersecretaries to the associate directors in the Beltway and they need to have enough money so they can go on their vacations. "Our bidding?" Don't think so, ma'am.

Meanwhile, even on the lower end, the pain is nigh:

With a likely tax increase of $2,200 looming, Andre Hunter, 49, is kissing his dream of owning a home goodbye. “I’m trying to save for the future, to buy property — I’m a renter and would like to own a home,” said Hunter, a divorced father from the Riverdale section of The Bronx who works in human resources and makes about $75,000 a year.

“Every year, I save toward that, and paying this tax increase will lower my savings.”

He said he will have to trim activities like going out to dinner or the movies.

“I don’t like the uncertainty of this,” he added. “The fact that Congress can’t get the deal done is making me angry!”
Congress did it. That nasty Congress. They need to get to work and solve this problem for Mr. Hunter. We have to get with the program and get those rich people to pay their fair share. Time to really stick it to Mr. Opie. Hell, he makes $2 million a year! Says so right in the paper! He's rich!

Better not object to any of this, either. It wouldn't be fair.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas is a good thing

Four days, very little politics. And I haven't missed much, apparently. I think David Gregory is supposed to be deported because Piers Morgan violated D.C. gun laws, or something, but I haven't been paying enough attention to be certain. I'll try to dial in on it soon.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


I probably won't post that much over the next few days -- family matters more and I have some family time coming. I might weigh in here and there, but if I do it will be brief.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Useful reminder

from Michael Ramirez:

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Dang, We Missed the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl Edition

Yeah, it's Christmas and I've been so busy spreading holiday cheer and HYYYYYYPPPE! that somehow the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl got past us. I thought you were supposed to be paying attention to that, Geritol Fan!

I didn't get the memo on it.

That's too bad. It was an excellent memo. Anyway, we'll be paying attention to bowl games that actually matter in a future post, but for now, we have NFL action to consider. And we're all over it. Watch me work.

Minnesota Vikings (+8) vs. Houston Texans. The Vikings are currently holding the final playoff spot in the NFC, but their grip is a little loose. In all likelihood, they'll need to win out to get in, and even that might not be enough. There are something like 4,308,027,022,013 possible permutations left in the always-complicated NFL playoff tiebreaking systems. But that's an approximate number. The Vikings looked very good last week in dispatching the Rams, but this week they have a much more difficult matchup. The Texans are very good at home and need a win to clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs. After what happened to the Texans in New England, they'd rather not go back there. Bum Phillips 42, Vikes 39.

Actually, what the Texans do well is play defense, so 39 points out of the Vikings would be a pretty interesting result. Adrian Peterson is otherworldly right now, but the two teams that have beaten the Texans have had really good quarterbacks. The Vikings have a newly married quarterback. Don't know if that will be enough. Texans 28, Vikings 17.

Tennessee Tuxedos (+12.5) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. The Tennessee Titans aren't especially titanic these days, unless you mean like this:

See? We're educational around here! In fact, Jake Locker and the Titans are about to get schooled, especially if Charles Woodson shows up this week. The Packers took care of business last week by dismissing the Bears, who are now the representation of a non-playoff team. Packers 59, Titans 0.

Well, I do think the Titans will actually show up for the game. They won't enjoy their trip to Wisconsin very much, although the Paper Valley is a pretty nice hotel. It goes downhill from there, though. The Packers are getting better at the right time. I think this one will be pretty routine. Packers 35, Titans 17.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (-5.5) vs. Arizona Cardinals. A game between da Bearz and the Cardinals? In Arizona? You know what that means, right?

They are who we thought they were. Now, no one is going to crown the Bears this year, so Denny Green can calm down a little bit. After last week, da Bearz find themselves on the outside looking in, and they have no one to blame but themselves. Jay Cutler is guaranteed to make at least one mistake a game and they will usually be crucial ones. Cards 24, Fire Lovie Smith 3.

Uh, no. You've watched the Cardinals, right? They might have the worst quarterback situation in the history of the NFL. They have a magnificent wide receiver in Larry Fitzgerald and a bunch of dudes who can't throw him the football. Whatever problems the Bears have, they're better than the Cardinals. Everyone is better than the Cardinals. Bears 21, Cards 10.

Actually, you're wrong, old dude. The Bears have the worst quarterback situation in the history of the NFL. They've been running guys out there since Sid Luckman and still haven't figured it out. Here's a loving musical tribute to the Bears tradition!

I'm sorry Gino. Acutally, I'm not. Merry Christmas, though! Ben out!

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Fiscal Cliff of Insanity

3 minutes of metaphor, courtesy of The Princess Bride:

Yep, what's happening in Washington is inconceivable:
President Barack Obama says he'll press ahead with Congress to prevent across-the-board tax increases set to strike taxpayers Jan. 1 after House GOP leaders unexpectedly put off a vote on legislation calling for higher rates on million-dollar earners was abruptly scrapped Thursday evening.
Read that sentence and see if you can make sense of it. It doesn't track, but it's chock full of useful adverbs. It's all happening "unexpectedly" and "abruptly." Maybe this video will help:

Not surprisingly, John Boehner is coming in for a lot of criticism for how he's handling the negotiations. That's understandable, since it's a pretty good trick to be essentially negotiating with yourself and losing at it. This is the dynamic at play:

Boehner: Okay, we'll give in on taxes for people making a million dollars in income
Harry Reid: Don't bother, we'll kill it in the Senate and you'll get blamed for it
Boehner: What about taxing people making $750,000 a year?
Harry Reid: Don't bother, we'll kill it in the Senate and you'll get blamed for it
Boehner: Okay, we'll give you what you want, but we want a tax exemption for people who own wombats
Harry Reid: What do you have against wombats, you orange-skinned freak?

Boehner has no shot, because no one takes him seriously. Doubt that? Back to the breathless AP dispatch:
Thursday's drama was a major personal defeat for the Speaker, who retains the respect and affection of his tea party-infused conference, but sometimes has great difficulty in getting them to follow his leadership.
If Boehner had any respect or affection, the vote would have come down differently. Meanwhile, we get this from the president:

At the White House, Press Secretary Jay Carney said that Obama's "main priority is to ensure that taxes don't go up on 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses," citing statistics associated with Obama's campaign promise to increase top tax rates on household earning more than $250,000 a year.

"The President will work with Congress to get this done and we are hopeful that we will be able to find a bipartisan solution quickly that protects the middle class and our economy," Carney said. Pointedly, the statement didn't say whether Obama would work with Boehner to revive stalled talks with Boehner or turn to the Democratic-controlled Senate to try to salvage the situation.
Pointedly -- yet another adverb that doesn't work especially well, since the whole thing really doesn't have much of a point.

Now, Boehner isn't taking my calls, but I'll offer him a little bit of advice anyway. Walk away. You can't win this scenario. Let Obama and Harry Reid figure it out. And get a wombat.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

They would know

William A. Jacobson notices something:

The New York Times today ran a demeaning Op-Ed about Tim Scott, the Republican Congressman from South Carolina who was just appointed to the seat being vacated by Jim DeMint.

The Op-Ed was written by U. Penn. Political Science Professor Adolf L. Reed Jr.,  The Puzzle of Black Republicans, and accused Republicans of engaging in tokenism by appointing Scott:
Yeah, black conservatives are tokens. It's axiomatic as far as the Old Gray Lady is concerned. The laugh comes later, when Jacobson publishes a screen shot of the New York Times Editorial Board:

I will say this -- Bearded Americans are well represented.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Robert Bork, RIP

The man whose name became a verb died today. He didn't get on the Supreme Court, but his experience set the tone for every confirmation hearing that followed.

There's no point in decrying what happened to Robert Bork, because (a) we're a quarter-century past the event and (b) Bork managed to have a productive life and remained an influential thinker well beyond his encounter with Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, Lowell Weicker and the rest of those solons who found him wanting.

And per Ann Althouse, he was also the subject of perhaps the funniest David Letterman Top Ten List that I ever saw, with number 7 being a personal favorite, although 6 is pretty good, too:

"Top 10 Names for Robert Bork's Beard":

10. The Chin Slinky
 9. The Amish Outlaw
 8. The See-Through
 7. My Very First Beard - from Kenner!
 6. The Lunatic Fringe
 5. Senor Itchy
 4. The Radioactive Goat
 3. Salute to C. Everett Koop
 2. Gopher Butt
 1. The Babe Magnet

And the last irony? We'll give that one to Steven Hayward:
Bork’s death today might well represent his ultimate revenge on the Left: had he been confirmed to the Court, his passing today (there’s no special reason to think he would have retired) would have opened up an appointment for President Obama to name a new Justice and tip the Court to the Left.  Instead, the man Reagan put in the seat Bork would have filled, Anthony Kennedy, will carry on, determined, I am reliably told, to serve at least until Obama is gone in part because he was offended by Obama’s demagogic attack on the Citizens United decision that Kennedy wrote.  Another irony is that the chief reason Reagan selected Scalia over Bork for an open seat on the Court in 1986 was that he thought he might not get any more high court appointments, and wanted to place a jurist on the Court who would serve for a long time.
The rest of Hayward's piece is also worth your time, especially how he explains the way Joe Biden attacked Bork's political philosophy from the Right. RIP.

Sandy Hook Kabuki

Maybe it's just me, but when I get involved in the gun debate, I find it highly irritating. It's a debate that ultimately will never end and it inevitably leads to rancor and name-calling. You aren't going to have a civil debate when it looks like this, ahem, discussion between gun rights honcho Larry Pratt and CNN's excitable Piers Morgan:
PRATT: Your violent crime rate is higher than ours as is the violent crime rate in Australia. America is not the Wild West that you are depicting. We only have the problem in our cities, and unhappily, in our schools where people like you have been able to get laws put on the books that keep people from being able to defend themselves.
I honestly don't understand why you would rather have people be victims of a crime than be able to defend themselves. It's incomprehensible.
MORGAN: You're an unbelievably stupid man, aren't you?
PRATT: It seems to me that you're morally obtuse. You seem to prefer being a victim to being able to prevail over the criminal element. And I don't know why you want to be the criminal's friend.
MORGAN: What a ridiculous argument. You have absolutely no coherent argument whatsoever. You don't -- you don't actually give --
PRATT: You have no --
MORGAN: You don't give a damn, do you, about the gun murder rate in America? You don't actually care. All you care about --
PRATT: It seems to me that facts don't bother you, do they, Mr. Morgan?
MORGAN: -- is the right for any -- Americans -- you would like to see --
PRATT: Facts seem to -- they bounce right off of your head.
It actually gets worse than that, but I'll spare you the rest. It's at the link if you really want to go there.

For me, there are two things that are especially irritating about the post Sandy Hook discourse. First, it would be helpful if gun control advocates had evidence that their nostrums will work in this country. It's hard to find evidence that strict gun control laws prevent, or even inhibit, murder and mayhem. If you doubt that, consider Chicago, where gun control laws remain among the strictest in the nation. My friend Mitch Berg makes the point well here (link in original):
In Chicago, since 2008, 622 children have been murdered.  That’s almost thirty Sandy Hook classrooms full of kids.  They didn’t have the “luck” to look, largely, just like the children of our nation’s “elite”, our media, business and wonk classes – white, exurban, upper-middle-class.  The died in ones and twos, not in a bloody pile that became a media feeding frenzy.  They weren’t killed by children of privilege, shot by weapons that the dominant political class was trying to turn into a boogeyman and political wedge; they were mostly murdered by their neighborhoods’ own criminal underclass, carrying mundane, mostly-stolen pistols and illegally-modified shotguns, almost none of them by any “assault weapon” anyone would recognize.

No – they’re mostly black and Latino.  They’re mostly from poor families, students at Chicago’s wretched public schools.  And they live – lived – in a city that has been the American left’s social laboratory for the better part of a century.  And they died in a city that is a fully-owned subsidiary of the American left, and a key part of its national power base, and a place that has made it harder for the law-abiding citizen to buy guns than to buy crack, heroin or a hooker. A city that trumpets the ambitions – and exhibits the failures – of everything American “progressivism” stands for.
Do you think that's a harsh assessment? I suppose it is, but each of the deaths involved is every bit as meaningful as the deaths that took place in Newtown, Connecticut. Murder isn't any better when it happens on the installment plan. And the laws that are designed to make legal gun ownership onerous in Chicago clearly aren't working. If you look further at the link that Mitch provides, you see that the City of Chicago has had nearly 500 homicides in 2012. That's not a sign of efficacy. But you know what? If that's how Chicago politicians wants to handle things, and the citizenry of Chicago agrees with that approach, it's not really my concern. If you believe in local control, you have to let the locals have control. It's up to the people of Chicago to hold their politicians accountable.

Which leads us to the second issue -- while the Piers Morgans of the world bloviate, the various politicians in Washington who respond to such urgent national demands for serious action on guns aren't paying sufficient attention to other issues. Crucially, we're not seeing much movement on what really ought to be job one in Washington, dealing with the various fiscal bills/cliffs that we are about to face. Crime remains primarily a local issue, even when we're talking about heinous crimes like the ones Adam Lanza carried out. The actual working and finance of the federal government ought to be center stage right now. Instead, we're watching politicians alternate between grandstanding and hiding behind the grandstands. Keep your eyes on the prize, folks.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A hunch comes true

Last night I was on the Bucky's 5th Quarter website and made a comment because I had a hunch:

Just had a hunch

Well, now we know.

Sometimes you guess right. I think it's an excellent hire, by the way -- anyone who can go 11-2 at Utah State is doing something right. He also worked on Urban Meyer's staff at Utah, which is definitely a plus.

Here's a picture of the man and the coach he's replacing, Bret Bielema, from earlier this year when the Aggies almost beat the Badgers in Madison:

Changing of the guard

Not that it matters, but. . . .

The last two minutes of yesterday's game between the New York Jets and the Tennessee Titans was one of the most pathetic displays of football I've ever watched.

Newtown and Old Saws

We can stipulate that what happened in Newtown, Connecticut was horrible. But we really can't change it very much. In a long but very good article, Megan McCardle explains why:

Unlike many libertarians, I am fine with a ban on automatic weapons.  But no need to hop over to to start a petition to ban them; machine guns have been illegal in the United States since 1934, and since the 1980s, it has been illegal to manufacture and sell any automatic weapon.   Apparently unbeknownst to Twitter, we have also already made it illegal for the mentally ill to buy or have guns, and have background checks aimed at prevented just that.  

But beyond the strange calls to make serial killers pray more and outlaw things that are already illegal, the most interesting thing is how generic they were.  As soon as Newtown happened, people reached into a mental basket already full of "ways to stop school shootings" and pulled out a few of their favorite items.  They did not stop to find out whether those causes had actually obtained in this case.

Obviously, as the automatic weapons arguments show, some of the items in those baskets were not actually at all related to "causes of school shootings"; as far as I can determine, few to none of the mass shootings in recent decades involved automatics.

But even when the cause was correct--Adam Lanza, like many of these shooters, seems to have had some fairly severe mental health problems--the proposed cure didn't have anything to do with the specifics of Lanza's situation.  I've seen calls to punish people who don't secure their guns properly, but no suggestions about how you "properly secure" guns against an adult child who lives in the house, or acknowledgement of the fact that Nancy Lanza is beyond punishment.  Presumably if she's thought her son would do something like this, she'd have gotten rid of the guns long since.

"Make more mental health resources available" or "early identification and treatment of troubled children" is a fine answer to many cases, but Adam Lanza had all that you could wish for in terms of resources.  It didn't stop him from picking up a gun and going to that school.

What Lanza shows us is the limits of the obvious policy responses.  He had all the mental health resources he needed--and he did it anyway.  The law stopped him from buying a gun--and he did it anyway.  The school had an intercom system aimed at stopping unauthorized entry--and he did it anyway.  Any practical, easy-to-implement solution to school shootings that you could propose, along with several that were not at all easy to implement, was already in place.  Somehow, Lanza blew through them all.  

There's a lot more at the link and it's worth your time. One other point that McCardle makes is quite important:

I'll merely point out what Jeffrey Goldberg has already said, better and at greater length, in The Atlantic: the discussion is moot.  You can't ban guns.  That ship has sailed.

You can't ban them because the Supreme Court has now ruled, twice, that you can't.  You also can't ban them because there are hundreds of millions of guns in circulation in the United States--no one knows exactly how many, but we are either approaching, or well past, one gun per adult citizens.  Other countries that banned guns started with a less absolutist attitude towards civil liberties, and also, a lot fewer guns.

We don't know where any of those guns are.  So how would we get them?  House to house searches?  I keep getting these mailers from the ACLU saying that whatever administration is currently in power is "gutting" the fourth amendment, but the old girl still has a little life in her--enough to preclude any such measures.  At best, you would take guns away from the people least likely to use them: the folks law abiding enough to trundle down to the police station and dutifully surrender their weapons.

And that's assuming that you can get to the point of banning guns.  You can't.  Somewhere between 40-60% of American adults own a gun; they will not vote for your gun ban.  Others who do not own guns are nonetheless opposed to banning them.  Even if the events in Newtown changes some of those minds, the structural obstacles are pretty much insurmountable.  Since Heller, a ban would now take a constitutional amendment to implement.  A constitutional amendment would take either a constitutional convention, or 38 states to ratify.  You need only look at a map of the United States to see that you will never get enough votes at the state level. I doubt you would even get to 25.  A constitutional convention is even more unlikely.  

It is well nigh impossible to take the emotion out of the arguments, especially when we are presented with the horrifying reality of nearly two dozen murdered first-grade students. Six and seven year old children should not be meeting their Maker. But we're not going to do anything meaningful because there are no meaningful things we can do, given where we are right now. You can't make 300 million guns disappear. And the sooner we stop the magical thinking, the better.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A history lesson

The thing about history is that there's a lot of it. And mass murders at schools have a history that goes beyond our current time:

In the end there were 38 children dead at the school, two teachers and four other adults.

I’m not talking about the horrific shooting in Connecticut today. I’m talking about the worst school murder in American history. It took place in Michigan, in 1927. A school board official, enraged at a tax increase to fund school construction, quietly planted explosives in Bath Township Elementary. Then, the day he was finally ready, he set off an inferno. When crowds rushed in to rescue the children, he drove up his shrapnel-filled car and detonated it, too, killing more people, including himself. And then, something we’d find very strange happened.


No cameras were placed at the front of schools. No school guards started making visitors show identification. No Zero Tolerance laws were passed, nor were background checks required of PTA volunteers—all precautions that many American schools instituted in the wake of the Columbine shootings, in 1999. Americans in 1928—and for the next several generations —continued to send their kids to school without any of these measures. They didn’t even drive them there. How did they maintain the kind of confidence my own knees and heart don’t feel as I write this?

They had a distance that has disappeared. A distance that helped them keep the rarity and unpredictability of the tragedy in perspective, granting them parental peace.
I think the author of this piece, Lenore Skenazy, is on to something. More at the link.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Fog of War

Nearly 24 hours on, a lot of what happened in Newtown, CT is still difficult to fathom, but I think we can conclude a few things.

  • Nearly everything we read initially turned out to be wrong. I had read that they shooter was the father of one of the students, but was only 20 years old. I had also read that the dead mother was a teacher at the school and that the killer killed her in front of her students, then mowed them down. I also read that the killer's name was actually the name of the killer's brother. I also read that the killer's father had also been killed, someplace in New Jersey. At this writing, it appears that the only thing that is true among all the initial things I read is the age of the killer. This is the modern news cycle in action.
  • I am also reading that the killer had some sort of "personality disorder" and that it is somehow related to autism or Asperger's Syndrome. This isn't especially helpful. I know many people who have dealt with autism and Asperger's, including people within my extended family. I have also dealt with mental illness in my immediate family. It's an awfully complicated subject and there's a lot to suss out. If it turns out that the killer was dealing with these issues, it would have meaning, but it won't necessarily explain why he did what he did.
  • Of course whenever a mass shooting happens, especially within a school building, there's always a call for more gun control, or confiscation, or something. It's not going to happen. Guns aren't going away and it's a crank fantasy to assume that they ever will. If you want to know why, read up on Thermopylae. I believe the term is rendered as ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ. And anyone who says they are going to take "meaningful action" is posturing. And anyone calling for "immediate action" is doing something worse than posturing. ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ, Mayor Bloomberg.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Bear Week Edition

Hi everyone, it's Bear Week. And you know what that means, right?

Yep -- it means that Gino is going to write a morose post over at his place. But it's pure Gino. May I quote him?

Yes, you may.

All right, then:

Time for Lovie to hit the road.
He's had plenty of time to game for the Packers and Aaron Rodgers.
He's failed.
Again... the Bears will be Rodgers bitch this week.
You're right, Geritol Fan -- that's Pure Gino. And there's more where that came from! Well, we'll let him read our other pick first. Because, well, it's time to watch me work!

Minnesota Vikings (+3) vs. St. Louis Not So Timid Sheep. The Rams seem to be waking up a bit these days. They've put the hurt on Jim Harbaugh pretty good and they find themselves only a half-game behind the Vikings in the wild-card standings. So both teams have plenty of incentive to play well this week. One problem with the Vikings is that they don't a dependable #2 receiver. That's especially a problem when the #1 receiver is on injured reserve. That would be Percy Harvin, last seen grumbling to himself someplace over at Winter Park. The Vikings have a shot at getting into the playoffs, but they likely have to win out to make it happen. Will the dream die in St. Louis? Greatest Show on Turf 30, Vikings 13.

Hmmm. It's not as though the Vikings are defenseless here. They do have Adrian Peterson going and while Christian Ponder isn't exactly impressing anyone other than Samantha Steele, they played fairly well last week against the Bears. St. Louis is a hard team to figure; they have talent and Jeff Fisher is a good coach, but they haven't been very consistent. I think they stumble and the Vikings get to dream another week. Vikings 24, Rams 20.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-3) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. Gino has weighed in on this one and he seems to be singing this song:

Now I don't want to disagree with Gino, so I won't. Yes, the Bears still suck. Jay Cutler has been getting his butt kicked again lately behind the always hapless Bears offensive line. I've been suggesting that da Bearz fix their offensive line for years, but for some reason it never seems to happen. I think I know the reason. Hmmm, maybe it will come to me. I see a vision:

6'8" of ineptitude
Vikings fans will remember that face. No word on whether Fred Smoot is somehow drawing a salary in Chicago. Meanwhile, the Packers are getting healthier. Charles Woodson will not be back this week, but Clay Matthews will play. That's not what Mike Tice wants to see. But I want to see it. Packers 35, da Bearz 9.

Uh, no. The Bears are a proud team and despite Gino's gloom and doom, I think they have one last gasp left in them. The problem I see is this -- the Packers are just better. The best thing that has happened to the Packers since Charles Woodson went out is that their young defensive backs have had a chance to grow and mature. They now have a pretty good and athletic defensive backfield, especially with the contributions of Casey Hayward and Jerron McMillian, who are now playing very well. Brandon Marshall is going to be busy and Jay Cutler will be throwing a lot of passes his way. That means it could get interesting. Packers 27, Bears 24.

I'd pick another game, but frankly none of them interest me very much. It's hard to break out the HYYYYPPPPE on such a sad day, too. So say a prayer for the families in Connecticut and remember that despite the horrible things that happen in the world, good things happen too. Ben out!

We know something horrible happened today in Connecticut. We have no idea why. Eventually we might know more. There’s no point in speculating right now. I will say a prayer for the victims and their families.

Just wait'll the LED bulbs kick in

Good news for no one in particular:

Xcel Energy customers in Minnesota will pay 9 percent more for electricity starting next month, after the state Public Utilities Commission on Thursday approved a $250 million interim rate increase.

Starting Jan. 1, a typical residential customer will pay about $8 more per month as the charge is applied to all power users -- from major industries to retail shop owners.

So why is this happening?

Xcel says the increase is needed to recoup investments in its two nuclear power plants, counter a drop in electric sales and pay for other power plant and transmission upgrades as well as higher property taxes.
See, when you buy all that energy-efficient stuff you use less energy. Can't have that!
Betsy Wergin, a commissioner who voted for the interim rate hike, conceded that the amount is "a big number and hard for people to swallow."

"There will be a high level of scrutiny on all parts of the rate case," she said.
Swallowing and force feeding are often at odds
It is the fifth electric rate increase for Xcel's Minnesota customers in seven years. The cumulative effect of the earlier increases on a typical household has been $10.40 per month, the utility said, which doesn't include January's increase.
So your utility costs go up about $20/month when it's all taken into consideration. On the bright side, they're not done:
Indeed, Xcel customers should prepare for continued rate increases. Clark said the company intends to file for another rate case next year. Unlike this one, it would aim to spread out rate increases over two or more years, he said. 
Hey, it's only money.

Doesn't really matter

Apparently we're supposed to be concerned that Susan Rice isn't going to be replacing at Hillary Clinton at Foggy Bottom. If it's okay with you, I'm going to choose not to be especially concerned. That's all.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Big Catholic Conference

It was pretty much inevitable -- the Big East Conference has turned into the athletic equivalent of Maxwell Street and for the Catholic basketball-only members of the league, it doesn't make sense to stay, so it looks like they are going to head out together:

The seven Catholic schools in the Big East have agreed to leave the conference and are debating the process of departing it, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

How DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova leave the Big East still is undetermined. . . .

The seven Catholic school presidents have called a second conference call for Saturday when they are expected to address these issues and possibly make an official declaration.

The schools involved are all excellent universities with rich histories in basketball. Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova have all won national championships and the others have all appeared in Final Fours within the last 30 years or so.

It makes sense to go out on their own, because the remaining schools in the Big East aren't really a good fit. At this point, the Big East is essentially becoming Conference USA, adding teams like Houston, Memphis and Tulane. It's not a viable league, especially since there's little question that UConn and Cincinnati would take an invite from the ACC or Big Ten in a heartbeat, were one to be offered.

So what other teams might join the Catholic Seven? Well, there's one obvious suspect:
Notre Dame was supposed to stay in the Big East for a 27-month period, which could mean as long as the 2015 season. But the Irish have been negotiating an early exit.

[Notre Dame Coach Mike] Brey also said the discussion among the Catholic schools was to make it a national Catholic conference with Xavier, Saint Louis, Dayton, Creighton, Gonzaga and possibly Saint Mary's, as well.
I really don't think Notre Dame would come along for this, although you never know -- it would in some respects make more sense than going to the ACC does for the Irish. And while I'd be surprised if Gonzaga (located in Spokane, WA) and St. Mary's (Moraga, CA) would want in*, the other four would make a lot of sense. And you could add either St. Joe's or LaSalle (both in Philadelphia) or perhaps Loyola of Chicago and have a nice 12-team league.

I've always been a big Marquette fan and conference affiliations have always been a source of frustration for MU, as they've moved from the ill-fated Great Midwest Conference to Conference USA to what seemed like a better fit in the Big East. A potential Big Catholic League would be an excellent solution for most of the schools involved. Besides their current Big East colleagues, MU has played Xavier, Dayton, Saint Louis and Creighton many times over the years. It would work very, very well.

*Frankly, if you're going to go coast to coast, you'd probably want to add the University of San Francisco as well, which has a very proud basketball history of its own. And that's the problem with all these scenarios; there's always another school you could add.


Interns in the news:
Sen. Robert Menendez employed as an unpaid intern in his Senate office an illegal immigrant who was a registered sex offender, now under arrest by immigration authorities, The Associated Press has learned. The Homeland Security Department instructed federal agents not to arrest him until after Election Day, a U.S. official involved in the case told the AP.
Homeland Security denies that last part, by the way and the entire complicated story is at the link.

Rhetorical Tweet of the Day

Here you go:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


A little taste of what it was like in Michigan yesterday (NSFW):

It will be interesting to see if anything happens to the guy who attacked Steven Crowder.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Burying the lede

So it took me two weeks to mention it, but there's an interesting little nugget buried in a recent Star Tribune article concerning potential transportation plans for the state in 2013. The "she" referenced here is Katharine Tinucci, who serves as a spokeswoman for Gov. Dayton:

She focused mostly on greater use of the metro sales tax to finance transit.

"It helps take the transit system funding out of the state general fund and allows us to really operate it without going back to the Legislature and competing with other needs," Haigh told other Met Council members.

She noted that the recommendations call for having the state fund 37 percent of bus and light-rail transit operations instead of its current 61 percent.

Fares would continue to pay for about 28 percent of bus and light-rail transit, with regional governments paying for the rest.
Emphasis mine. Of course, the convenient little fiction is that regional governments are "paying" this cost. They aren't, of course. The taxpayers are. And with plans afoot for at least two more LRT lines in the next ten years, that number isn't going to decrease.

And remember what the topline number is, which actually is the lede:

Higher local sales taxes, gas taxes and vehicle fees are being pushed by Gov. Mark Dayton's task force on transportation and could help shape the debate on highway and transit funding as DFLers take control of the Legislature next year.

The draft recommendations call for raising taxes by $20 billion over 20 years and for shifting transit funding from the state to metro governments.

$20 billion is a lot of cash. We have to pay attention to this stuff, folks. (H/T Speed Gibson)

The New Madison

Lansing, Michigan. It's the new Madison:

Large numbers of Michigan State Police officers were around the Capitol building early this morning as Lansing braced for a day of protests related to controversial right-to-work legislation working its way through the state Legislature.

Today’s protests are a precursor to much larger ones planned for Tuesday, when thousands of union activists are expected to converge at the Capitol and supporters of right-to-work legislation have also promised a strong presence there. Union members took civil disobedience training in Detroit on Saturday to prepare for the protests.
This one is going to be interesting. If right-to-work passes in Michigan, and it certainly appears that it will, you're going to see some nasty stuff. If you thought the protests that roiled Wisconsin in 2011 were impressive, the show we're about to see in Michigan will dwarf that.

Monday, December 10, 2012

About 14 inches of snow at my house, so

No time to blog this morning -- will have to do a little ancillary shoveling and leave early. Not much happening anyway. We talked about the gay marriage going to SCOTUS over the weekend. Oh, and the Packers and Vikings won.

So make this an open thread. Back to blogging eventually, probably tomorrow.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Bielema's Gone But I'm Still Here Edition

Look, Geritol Fan -- it's simple. Just because Bret Bielema is taking his act to Arkansas, it doesn't mean that my brilliant predictions can go south, too. I may be a little late in getting these up, because I was busy cheering the mighty Irondale Knights to a huge 59-57 victory over hated Mounds View in an SD 621 grudge match, but I'm here and dang it, we need to pick these games.

As far as I could tell, I wasn't aware there was a problem.

Oh, there's a problem, old dude! It's like Xavier and the Lutherans from your high school days, which took place back in the 1840s or whatever.

Technically, that would be the late 1970s and early 1980s, but go on.

We had to win. And we did. So take that, you preppies! Feel the power from the wrong side of the tracks 35W! And now that I'm done gloating, I have some business to attend to. So watch me work!

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (-3) vs. Minnesota Vikings. The Bears defense is getting old. In fact, I hear that Dick Butkus and Doug Buffone may not be able to play tomorrow. Or was that Mike Singletary and Otis Wilson? I don't know; all I know is da Bearz always have nasty old dudes playing defense for them. Or not, when they are injured. Seriously, I mean that Brian Urlacher is not available this week. That could be a problem for da Bearz, especially since Adrian Peterson is playing like a combination of Jim Brown, Gale Sayers, LaDamian Tomlinson and Barry Sanders all rolled up into one. Which mean he has eight legs, I think. No, that's not right. Actually, what it means is that AD is a beast, bro. And the Vikings are going to be the ever-popular Desperate Team at Home. Vikings 27, da Bearz 17.

Do you even know who Doug Buffone is?

Of course I do, old dude. He was a great Bears linebacker in the 1960s and 1970s. I've seen the NFL Films stuff. Now stop stalling and get back to your pick.

Okay, I stand corrected. Adrian Peterson will get his yards. The question is whether or not Christian Ponder can help out. Last week he was very generous to the Packers. There's no question that Jay Cutler can make a lot of throws, but he'll have to stay upright to do it. There's also a lot to the "desperate team at home" thing. If the Vikes lose, they are done. They aren't done yet. Vikings 21, Bears 16.

Detroit Motor City Kitties (+6.5) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. So the Lions haven't won in Wisconsin since 1991, which is the year the Old Dude got married to Mrs. D and Soviet Union fell. In other words, we're talking ancient history here. If you look up futility in the dictionary, you will find a picture of Joey Harrington, the quintessential Lions quarterback. Now, Matthew Stafford is better than Joey Harrington. In fact, he's significantly better than Joey Harrington. However, his receivers are dropping like flies. He no longer has Nate Burleson, nor Titus Young, nor Ryan Broyles. He still has Calvin "Megatron" Johnson, but he will be quadruple-teamed for the rest of the season. That leaves Brandon Pettigrew, who has even worse hands than Jermichael Finley. And that's saying something. In other words, the Lions are still the definition of futility. Packers 56, Lions 24.

The Packers will have fun. Looks like this game could be a snowstorm game, which is always amusing. Who could forget this scene:

I can still see Steve Young getting thrown into a snowbank. Matthew Stafford will get a similar experience tomorrow night. Packers 31, Lions 20.

We really don't have any college games to pick, so a word about Bret Bielema. Couldn't you have waited until the Rose Bowl to leave town? I mean, seriously? C'mon, man! This ain't the Beef O'Brady's Bowl we're talking about here! This is the Rose Bowl! On the bright side, Bielema gets to spend the next several years doing this:

That seems like punishment enough to me. Ben out!

The Supremes Take Up Gay Marriage

I suppose it was inevitable:
The Supreme Court announced on Friday that it would enter the national debate over same-sex marriage, agreeing to hear a pair of cases challenging state and federal laws that define marriage to include only unions of a man and a woman.

One of the cases, from California, could establish or reject a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. The justices could also rule on narrower grounds that would apply only to marriages in California.

The second case, from New York, challenges a federal law that requires the federal government to deny benefits to gay and lesbian couples married in states that allow such unions.
There are a lot of ways this could play out, but I'm hopeful that the Court gets it right. First, a few assumptions:

  • We will eventually have gay marriage in this country. Whatever you think about the merits of it, it's going to happen, because young people are being taught that it is a civil right and have been taught that way for years. It may take a while to become universal, but it will happen and probably within 10 year, maybe sooner.
  • The secondary considerations in how these cases are decided are more important than the actual ruling on the merits.
  • We don't need any more Roe v. Wade type decisions, although we could get one when it's done.
The New York case is a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which defined marriage for federal purposes as the union of one man and one woman only. This sailed through Congress and was signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1996. At this point, if DOMA goes down it won't bother me that much. One size fits all federal laws are always going to be problematic and this one is no different. 

The inevitable reply -- but what about the Civil Rights Act? That would be the exception that tests the rule. The Civil Rights Act simply codified the constitutional rights conferred by the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, especially the 15th, which reads as follows:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.


The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
By my reading, the Civil Rights Act is precisely the "appropriate legislation" that the 15th envisions. You can argue, and some do make this argument, that gay marriage is a 14th Amendment issue, based on the Equal Protection clause. Well, maybe. But there's nothing as clear the 15th Amendment that involves gay marriage.

To me, the California case matters a lot more. In that case, a single judge on the 9th Circuit struck down California's Prop 8, which amended the state constitution to define marriage as one man, one woman.

You can argue that the judge is right and the citizenry of California was wrong to pass Prop 8. I find it pretty problematic, though. If a single federal judge can strike down a section of a state constitution and get by with it, it means two things:
  • A federal judge can be a king; and
  • State government is nothing more than an administrative entity.
Here's how I'd like the Supremes to tackle the matter.
  1. Go ahead and strike down DOMA. In retrospect, it was an overreach of federal power and now we can recognize that.
  2. Strike down the judge from the 9th Circuit because of his overreach and reinstate Prop 8. Then let Californians decide if they want to get rid of Prop 8 in the next election cycle.
What I fear is that the Supremes will just decide to rule on gay marriage itself and either invalidate the laws of the states that have it or compel the other states that don't to have it. That result leads to this generation's Roe v. Wade. We don't need that. Since I assume gay marriage will eventually win in the court of public opinion, it would be better if the Supreme Court let the court of public opinion decide the matter.

Not that I expect it to happen, of course.

Friday, December 07, 2012

The Ongoing Saga of the Vaseline Dome

Hey, it's a head-scratcher!

Tucked into Minnesota's economic forecast, along with the big picture look at state's spending and revenue projections, were passages that said that stadium cash is not flowing in as quickly as expected.

When lawmakers and the governor approved the Minnesota Vikings stadium, they assumed much of the state's share would come from gambling revenues from new electronic pulltabs.

Well, they told us that, anyway. What's actually happening?
For FY 2013, the projected reserve balance has been reduced from $34 to $16 million. Projected new gambling revenues from stadium legislation are expected to be $18 million (51 percent) below end-of-session estimates. For both the FY 2014-15 and FY 2016-17 biennia, estimates have been reduced $9 million (7.7 percent). The forecast reduction reflects a slower than expected implementation of electronic gaming options and reduced estimates for daily revenue per gaming device. As a result, the stadium reserve balance is now expected to be $47 million by the end of 2017, $36 million lower than end-of-session estimates.

Yes, the forecast calls for pain. We warned you. Many, many times we warned you.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Badger Coaching Carousel -- Two More Candidates

I wrote about potential candidates to replace Bret Bielema earlier this week. There's a good list of potential candidates at this website as well, including a few that would be amusing if nothing else -- how about Jim Tressel? If nothing else, that would take the Wisconsin/Ohio State rivalry into the stratosphere. I doubt that will happen, of course.

Here's what we know at this point:

  • Butch Jones apparently is out of the mix, as he's reportedly taken the job at Colorado.
  • Purdue hired Darrell Hazell, the coach at Kent State, for its open position.
  • Barry Alvarez is going to coach the Badgers in the Rose Bowl.
There are at least two potential candidates that have surfaced in the last day or so. Both are intriguing for different reasons. Here they are:

Up and comer
Willie Taggart. Currently the coach at Western Kentucky. He's been successful and has a background with the Harbaugh family, which is currently a hot brand in the coaching biz. Apparently has talked to UW officials. He's young and ambitious -- at 36, he'd be the youngest coach in the Big Ten. He's an intriguing possibility.

Proven winner
Chris Petersen. The highly successful coach at Boise State is reportedly a candidate as well. He's gone 83-8 at Boise and has take the Broncos to national prominence. At this point, though, you have to wonder what more he can accomplish there. Boise State is supposed to join the Big East, which is as geographically offensive as the blue turf at Boise is aesthetically. Petersen is a hell of a game day coach and has been able to find all manner of overachievers to play for him, which is the sort of player you're going to get at Wisconsin. It would make a lot of sense for Petersen to leave now, but will he? And if he's thinking about leaving, would it make more sense to go to another place with more resources, i.e., Tennessee? This would be a good hire if Alvarez could come up with the right package.

We'll keep watching this matter.

State of Play

If you want to know why I'm so tired of the kabuki going on in Washington right now, a helpful anonymous commenter on the blog explains the reasons quite nicely:
Looks like the right wing extremists in the Republican party continue to distill their "truth" serum down into more and more bitter and unpalatable bile. Soon enough only the most stomach hardened insanity-forged Republic-con will be able to swallow the vile syrup of their fantasy lunatic winner-take-all society. Poor Boehner has to sell this putrid brew to an ever more skeptical country, even after the nation said to him, "No thanks. We've tried your snake oil and it made us hurl." If Boehner's party chooses to send their unpopular stale ideas to the WH, then I say, fine, go over the cliff, then we'll see who the American people thinks caused their payroll taxes to go up Jan. 2. I'll bet dollars to donuts it'll be the Rs.
This is pretty much perfect -- ad hominem from start to finish, with a thesaurus worth of negative words in one paragraph. Count 'em up:

bitter and unpalatable bile
fantasy lunatic winner-take-all society
snake oil

I give the commenter credit, though -- not once did he/she/it compare Boehner to Adolf Hitler. That's progress.

And herein lies the problem the Republicans face. Our adjective-laden commenter is hardly the only person who views the world in these terms, and the White House knows this, because they've cultivated this narrative for a very long time now. Obama won the election because he got slightly more than 50% of the electorate to believe things of this sort about Republicans. And as long as significant portions of the American electorate feel this way, even in part, Republicans aren't going to win the debate. This is not a rational argument.

My guess is that, in the end, the Republicans are going to end up finding a way to vote "present" and let Obama and his team do what they do. The fiscal cliff is nothing compared to the pain that's coming unless we fix the structural problems that loom. At this point, the president and his party aren't especially interested in having that discussion and as long as they control the terms of the debate, we won't have that discussion. Better to let 'em monologue.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Bret Bielema Bolts Badgers

A stunner, to say the least. Bret Bielema, who just led the Wisconsin Badgers to their third consecutive Big Ten championship and third straight trip to Pasadena, leaves the program to go to Arkansas.

What's it all mean? Who knows, but I have a few guesses. First, Bielema has always been a controversial figure in Madison. He's an abrasive guy and while he was a hell of a recruiter, his game day coaching was often a source of heartburn in Madison. Second, he's going to get a lot of money at Arkansas, where they are desperate to find a coach who can clean up the mess left behind by Bobby Petrino and John L. Smith, two of the bigger train wrecks in recent NCAA history. Finally, I've often thought that Bielema thought he needed to get out from underneath the shadow of Barry Alvarez, the architect of the Badger program. Even though Bielema's record of 68-24 was pretty stellar, he was still viewed in some quarters as the beneficiary of something that had been built by someone else. At Arkansas, he'll be able to establish his own legacy.

So who will the Badgers hire? A few possibilities:

Offensive guru
Paul Chryst. Chryst was on Bielema's staff until last year, when he became the head coach at Pitt. Chryst has denied that he'd be interested in the Badgers, but I suspect he'd listen if Alvarez came calling. Chryst is an offensive minded coach and a brilliant playcaller. He'd have broad support in Madison. I would make Chryst the early favorite.

Rose Bowl Hero
Darrell Bevell. Bevell was Alvarez's first quarterback at Wisconsin and he led the Badgers to the 1994 Rose Bowl, a 21-16 victory over UCLA. Bevell has been a coach in the NFL for a long time now, with the Packers, the Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks. He's a smart guy and well loved in Madison. He'd certainly be interested in the job. He did a great job working with Brett Favre during his years in Green Bay, which proves he can deal with all manner of personalities. He also worked with Brad Childress in Minnesota and lived to tell the tale.

The It Girl
Butch Jones. The coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats is the hottest prospect on the market. He apparently turned down the Purdue job earlier this week and has interviewed for the job at Colorado. At this point, the UW job is a lot more appealing than the Purdue job, although that hasn't always been the case, while Colorado is a longtime power that has fallen on very hard times since they left the Big XII for the Pac-12. Perhaps Jones knew something was up. He's well regarded as a tactician and a recruiter and has the added benefit of being a guy who might be able to take a few more top recruits away from Ohio State. No connection to UW, though.

This Gruden guy, he's something
Jon Gruden. The wild card. He's turned down other jobs and may enjoy his gig as the analyst for Monday Night Football too much to return to coaching, but I think he'd listen to Alvarez showed interest. Gruden won a Super Bowl in Tampa, albeit with Tony Dungy's players. He's obviously a high-profile guy with a history in Wisconsin, since he began his career on Mike Holmgren's staff in Green Bay in the 1990s. He's not been a college coach and it's not clear if he could recruit, but I'm guessing he'd have no trouble getting inside the houses of most high school football players. I don't think this will happen, but you never know.

We'll have more to say about this in the coming days, but those are my guesses. If you have any guesses, put them in the comment section.