Saturday, November 30, 2013

Today's task

Finding out if they wear the white helmets or the red helmets. Either way, it'll be a good show at Camp Randall. Light posting for the weekend otherwise.

Mystery Dance

Romeoville was restless, it was ready to kill:
The commotion began about 10 p.m. when police were alerted to a theft in progress at the store, Romeoville Police Chief Mark Turvey said. Police officers waited outside the store and soon saw two men bringing a shopping cart out of the store toward the Sunfire, police and witnesses said.

One of the suspects ran toward the Sunfire, police said. An officer caught up with him but the suspect "closed the car door on the officer's arm, not allowing the officer to disengage from the vehicle," police said in a statement. "The driver then drove away, dragging the officer with the vehicle.

"A second responding officer verbally ordered the driver multiple times to stop the vehicle as it continued in the parking lot, dragging the officer," the statement said. "After repeated orders to stop, the officer fire three to four shots at the driver."

The driver, 52, was wounded in the left arm, police said. The Sunfire stopped and the driver and a passenger were arrested. A third suspect was arrested in the store. All three suspects are from Joliet.
Let me tell you that I've tried and I've tried and I'm still mystified.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

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

It is Thanksgiving Day and that can only mean one thing:
Bon Appetit, Lem Barney Fan!
It's a holiday tradition, old dude, kinda like the way you typically begin your Thanksgiving with a big ol' swig of Geritol!

If you were my age, you'd be thankful for Geritol, too.

I still have a year or two before I need to experience the thrill of iron supplements. But when it comes to picking games, forget the iron. It's solid gold, baby! Watch me work!

Glorious Green Bay Packers (+6) vs. Detroit Motor City Kitties. And the Packers are still alive, even after that tie game. It took a while, but Matt Flynn, prodigal son, has returned, and there was much rejoicing among the faithful:

Any person that thinks that the Lions are going to walk all over the Packers is sadly mistaken. Matt Flynn likes playing in this offense against Detroit. Last time he went up against Matthew Stafford and company, he threw six touchdowns. I don't think he'll throw six this time, but he should have opportunities against the still-weak Lions secondary. The issue, as always, with the Lions is dealing with Megatron, who is looking more and more like the best receiver outside of Jerry Rice in NFL history. The guy is a straight-up beast and is impossible to defend one-on-one. The Packers will have a safety over the top, which means they'll need to figure out how to cover Reggie Bush out of the backfield. Tough to do, but it can be done. And with Flynn at the helm, the Packers are back in it. Packers 42, Lions 31.

I wish I believed that, but I don't. I think Flynn will do well, but it's going to be hard to keep up with Stafford and his gang this time. The defense has been the problem lately, even more than the absence of Aaron Rodgers. Frankly, they don't have enough good players to handle the Lions. The thing is, Rodgers will be back and so the Packers will have a chance to get by the Lions, who will find a way to screw things up, because they are the Lions. But I have to reluctantly pick against the Pack this week. Lions 38, Packers 27.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (+1) vs. Minnesota Vikings. So, check this out. Vegas like the Vikings for a change, and I can't blame them. Did you see what the Rams did to the Bears defense last week? It was ugly. The Bears are doing a great imitation of the mid-80s Chargers these days; they score a lot of points but they give up even more. It's going to be hard for them to stop Adrian Peterson when they let something called Zac Stacy run wild over them. And while da Bearz have always had great special teams, Cordarrelle Patterson is every bit as good as Devin Hester. Maybe better. And don't forget that earlier in the year, the Bears struggled to beat the Vikings in Chicago, when they were fully staffed. Now? Not so much. Vikings 27, da Bearz 20.

The problem with your scenario is that the Vikings defense is even worse than da Bearz. This will be a high scoring game, especially in the Dome. Can Christian Ponder outduel Josh McCown? Is this a question that anyone really ever anticipated asking? Yet here we are. Bears 38, Vikings 31.

Minnesota Golden Gophers (+14.5) vs. Michigan State Sparty the Spartan. I don't know about you, old dude, but is Michigan State really the second-best team in the Big Ten? They can D you up; that much is certain, but can they score? The Gophers really showed us something last week against the Badgers. They are a tough-minded team and they are not intimidated any more. This has all the makings of a trap game for the Spartans, who are going to get caught looking ahead. Minnesota 42,  Sparty 17.

Uh, no. I agree that this could be a trap game, but there is no way the Gophers will score 42 points on Saturday. They might win, but it will be a tight game. Michigan State 21, Gophers 13.

Penn State Nittany Lions (+24) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. Man, Vegas is harshing on Bill O'Brien's ballclub! But are they right? They could be. Penn State has been a terrible road team this year and Camp Randall is a house of horrors for most visiting teams. Last time Penn State was in Madison, the Benster was in the house and the Badgers romped and stomped. It's possible that this weekend, the Benster might be back again. And will it be another romp and stomp? Well, consider that the last two times I was in attendance at a game I picked, both my teams romped and stomped. So Penn State, you'd better hope I don't show up. Wisconsin 48, Penn State 7.

Might happen. The Badgers need style points for the BCS. Badgers 42, Penn State 14.

Sorry we can't stay longer, but there's a turkey to eat. Happy thanksgiving, y'all! Ben out!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Something else the Pope said

As always, I suspect that the pull quotes we're getting from Pope Francis's exhortation Evangelii Gaudium aren't telling us the whole story. Things are more complicated than that. For example, consider this:

63. The Catholic faith of many peoples is nowadays being challenged by the proliferation of new religious movements, some of which tend to fundamentalism while others seem to propose a spirituality without God. This is, on the one hand, a human reaction to a materialistic, consumerist and individualistic society, but it is also a means of exploiting the weaknesses of people living in poverty and on the fringes of society, people who make ends meet amid great human suffering and are looking for immediate solutions to their needs. These religious movements, not without a certain shrewdness, come to fill, within a predominantly individualistic culture, a vacuum left by secularist rationalism. We must recognize that if part of our baptized people lack a sense of belonging to the Church, this is also due to certain structures and the occasionally unwelcoming atmosphere of some of our parishes and communities, or to a bureaucratic way of dealing with problems, be they simple or complex, in the lives of our people. In many places an administrative approach prevails over a pastoral approach, as does a concentration on administering the sacraments apart from other forms of evangelization.
From what I can tell, this Pope is in the business of calling out all manner of bad behavior, and not just the excesses of capitalism. Spirituality without God is a growth industry these days. And a bureaucratic, officious Church that is overly concerned with administrative matters isn't up to the task of dealing with answering spirituality on the cheap. I'm going to read the entire exhortation over the next few days. You can, too.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Baseball HOF Ballot for 2013 -- My pix

I do this every year -- well, at least for a few years. Always an interesting day when the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot comes out. There are 36 names on the ballot this time around. Some of the guys on the ballot clearly aren't all-time greats, but others are. Let's take a spin through the names -- unless otherwise indicated, the candidates are on the ballot for the first time:

Moises Alou. First year on the ballot. A solid guy who played for a number of teams. Might be best remembered for not catching the foul ball that Cubs fan Steve Bartman tried to catch, which set in motion a chain of unlikely events that ended up with yet another heartbreak for the North Siders. He should be remembered for being an excellent all-around player. Is he HOF material? No.

Jeff Bagwell. This is his 4th year on the ballot. He got 60% last year and will likely make the HOF in the next few years. Probably not this year, though. A great player who played in obscurity in Houston. Some suspect he might have used performance enhancing drugs, but there is no solid evidence. Having contemporary slugger Frank Thomas on the ballot doesn't help Bagwell's cause.

Armando Benitez. First year on the ballot. Longtime reliever for a variety of teams. Very good player, nearly 300 saves. Not even close to a Hall of Famer. Much like Roberto Hernandez, who was on the ballot last year and got zero votes. I'd expect the same thing for Benitez.

Also a catcher
Craig Biggio. Second year on the ballot; almost made it last year with 68% of the ballot. If Roberto Alomar isn't the greatest second baseman since Joe Morgan and Ryne Sandberg, it's likely that Biggio is. His credentials are impeccable -- well over 3000 hits, over 400 stolen bases, 4 Gold Gloves and not a whiff of scandal. The only reason he won't make is because there are three very good first-time candidates. Was a teammate of Bagwell for most of his career. I think he'll make it this year. If not, for sure next year.

Barry Bonds. Second year on the ballot. Based on sheer numbers, probably one of the top five players in baseball history. Of course, he cheated. It's too bad, actually. If his career had ended in 1998, he would have been a first ballot Hall of Famer. Now, he might not get in for a very long time, if at all. His nasty disposition doesn't help him, either. Still, a genuinely great player.

Sean Casey. First year on the ballot. A quality player. Not a Hall of Famer at all.

Roger Clemens. Second year on the ballot. He got 38% of the vote last year. Of the cheaters (or suspected cheaters), potentially the hardest case. Based on the numbers, he's probably one of the ten greatest pitchers in the history of the game. And like Bonds, if he'd quit before 2000, he would already be in the Hall. He beat the criminal rap, but the jury of the baseball writers is far less likely to give him the nod. I suspect he could make it some day, but it's going to be a long time coming.

Ray Durham. First year on the ballot. A hard-nosed infielder who could hit. With 192 home runs, he's up the list of second basemen. But he's not close to Biggio, or Jeff Kent, who is also on the ballot this year. No chance.

Eric Gagne. First year on the ballot. For a period of about three years, he was absolutely dominant as the closer for the Dodgers. He also won the Cy Young in 2003. He also is a cheater. No shot.

All-time great
Tom Glavine. The finest lefthander of his generation and probably the best since Steve Carlton. Won 305 games and was the smartest pitcher outside of Greg Maddux to pitch in the last 20 years. He could hit, too. Easily a first ballot Hall of Famer. I would expect he'll get north of 85% of the vote. The only reason he wouldn't get a higher percentage is that his teammate, Greg Maddux, is also on the ballot, and Maddux is even greater than Glavine.

Sorry, you don't need these

This is ridiculous:
Coming soon to your local sheriff: 18-ton, armor-protected military fighting vehicles with gun turrets and bulletproof glass that were once the U.S. answer to roadside bombs during the Iraq war.

The hulking vehicles, built for about $500,000 each at the height of the war, are among the biggest pieces of equipment that the Defense Department is giving to law enforcement agencies under a national military surplus program.

For police and sheriff's departments, which have scooped up 165 of the mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, or MRAPS, since they became available this summer, the price and the ability to deliver shock and awe while serving warrants or dealing with hostage standoffs was just too good to pass up.
Actually, they have one in St. Cloud. St. Cloud? Here's a picture, courtesy of the St. Cloud Times:

This'll put a stop to that frat party, by jingo!
I've been to St. Cloud, which of course is actually just like Fallujah, if Fallujah had a Noodles and Company. There's simply no reason for a local police agency to have a vehicle like this. No one is planting IEDs on Division Street and there's been no reported fighting in the Munsinger Gardens. I have also not heard of any rocket attacks emanating from Sauk Rapids, but one cannot be sure what goes across the Euphrates Mississippi these days.

Police don't need this.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Lightning Round -- 112513

More topics, not enough time.

  • The news over the weekend that Iran had signed a nuclear deal indicates two things, both dubious. First, it signals that John Kerry and other diplomats involved in the deal think that the Iranian government is acting in good faith. Based on the available evidence, it's hard to see how anyone could come to that conclusion, but I suppose this is yet another example of how critics like me lack the critical ability to discern nuance, at least as John Kerry is fond of describing the term. Second, it sends an unmistakable message to the Israelis: you're on your own, kids. I am certain that Benjamin Netanyahu will get the message and proceed accordingly, inasmuch as there is nothing nuanced about it. Oh, and the Saudis are pissed, too. 
  • So the Packers and the Vikings played to a 26-26 tie yesterday. The last time the two teams played to a tie was back in 1978, the year the Packers almost returned to respectability in the generally desolate 1970s. The only thing the Packers have going for them now is the general ineptitude of their division rivals. The Bears got humiliated in St. Louis yesterday and the Lions kicked away a game to lowly Tampa Bay at Ford Field. If the Packers can figure out a way to beat the Lions on Thanksgiving, they'll probably win the division once Aaron Rodgers comes back, likely for the Atlanta game on Dec. 8. It sure looks like there are a lot of better teams in the other divisions than anyone in the NFC North this year, but the division winner will get in. Touch luck, Arizona Cardinals, among others. 
  • I'm a little late to the party on the end of the filibuster in the Senate and what the long-term implications might be. My suspicion is that there's really a short-term goal, which is to get more Obama judges on the federal judiciary while the getting is good. The longer-term implication is that control of the gavel in the Senate becomes even more important and that the Senate races in the 2014 cycle are going to be pretty vicious. There's a lot at stake. It's going to be interesting to watch how Al Franken approaches his campaign, because it suddenly might be a crucial seat for the Dems to hold.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Double Border Battle Edition

So old dude, I'm finally an adult. Time to break out this tune:

Except there's one difference between me and Alice Cooper. I know what I want, which is to dominate. And unleash the HYYYYYYPPPPPE!

So subtlety didn't arrive with maturity, then?

When am I ever subtle? I mean, have you been paying attention? Seriously, I am not subtle. It is not in my nature. I am, however, quite good at picking football games. So without any subtlety at all, watch me work!

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-16.5) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers. So let's think about this for a second, especially the line from the boys in Vegas. I see two messages in this line -- first, they aren't buying what the Gophers have done in recent weeks, and two, they are giving the BCS a bit of a rebuke for keeping the Badgers outside of the top 14 teams in the country. If the Badgers are a road favorite by more than two touchdowns against an 8-2 opponent, someone, maybe a lot of someones, are saying that the coaches poll and the various competing polls and computers and whatnot need a little reprogramming. That being said, this is a game that the Gophers have been looking forward to and this is the biggest game the Gophers have played since the Michigan game in 2003, where they blew a huge lead in a bizarre game. While the Gophers may be a good outfit, they are about to play one of the big boys. The Badgers have been storming ever since the close loss in Columbus and the blatant screw-up in Tempe. Be afraid, Minnesota, be very afraid. Badgers 42, Gophers 20.

I think you're spot on, young fella. Vegas is telling us something here. Most people who aren't paying attention might not realize it, but this might be the best Badger team of the last five, which is saying something when you realize they have been in Pasadena the last three seasons. The difference with this bunch is that they play very good defense. They may not make the BCS, but they're going to make a statement in January, someplace in Florida most likely. And while the Gophers are improving, this is a significant step up in class for them. Badgers 38, Gophers 13.

Chattanooga Choo-Choos (NL) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide. Pardon me boys, time for another song:

You might be asking yourself, why in the world would I pick this crappy game, in which the Crimson Tide again demonstrate their strength of schedule by playing one of the best teams in the country, the University of Chattanooga Mocs. That's a great name for them, because I'm about to unleash a boatload of mockery on this one. Seriously, why the heck would you play a team that is coming off a loss to Samford, which I believe was an old 70s comedy show starring Redd Foxx:

If you're an Alabama fan, how can you not be hanging your head in shame? Why are you playing down, way down, at this point in the season? I get you had to play a conference game early, but you could find a decent independent if you're looking for a bye week game. Maybe you could have played BYU, which would have been a good test? Or maybe Notre Dame, which would have been a lot of fun, especially if you would have been wiling to travel to Notre Dame. As it happens, BYU is playing Notre Dame this week. But no, the Tide is playing frickin' Chattanooga. C'mon, man! I cannot believe that nobody is calling them on this! Well, I am! And if this was a Big Ten team doing this, there'd be howls of outrage ringing across the land. But St. Nick Saban gets a pass, because he's jolly old St. Nick. My butt. Yo, Saban -- what are you afraid of? Why don't you come up to Madison, or Columbus, or East Lansing? You might remember East Lansing a little, but that was before you were a genius or something. And you know what? You didn't win your national title two years ago, you backed in. And I do hope your prospective victory parade this year makes a point of going through Chattanooga and saying thank you for a free win. Alabama 28, Chattanooga 0.

That was a good rant! Hard to argue with any of it. This is a distasteful practice that a lot of SEC schools use and it's a joke. Alabama 49, Chattanooga 0.

Minnesota Vikings (+4) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. Meanwhile, back at Lambeau, things are getting desperate. Thankfully for the wounded Packers, a giant purple bowl of chicken soup is about to be served. The Vikings are, well, not very good this year. They've shown some flashes of brilliance, but on the whole they have looked pretty awful and might even lose to Irondale. Well, maybe not Irondale, but you know what I mean. I'm sure they'd give Chattanooga a good game, at least. Anyway, the Packers once again go to battle with Scott Tolzien at the helm, who despite some turnovers has given the Packers a chance. I would think that Tolzien is going to need some help from the defense, which has really been the problem the last three weeks. There's a decent chance that Adrian Peterson won't play, or would be seriously limited in this game. Meanwhile, Christian Ponder is a train wreck and I'm surprised that Josh Freeman is not getting a chance at this point. It's not as though Ponder has anything left to prove. He's proven something, all right -- he's the poor man's Gus Frerotte. Packers 27, Vikings 21.

It's pretty simple here -- if the Packers lose this one, the season is over. If they win, they could survive a likely loss to the Lions on Thanksgiving Day and still have a chance for Rodgers to come back for the last four highly winnable games. Can Tolzien make enough plays to win against a horrible Vikings secondary? Yeah, I think so. Packers 31, Vikings 23.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (+1) vs. St. Louis Rams. Okay, so this is an interesting game. Da Bearz are again turning to Josh McCown, because Jay Cutler has now injured his groin, his ankle, his hamstring, his patellar tendon, his calf and perhaps the third toe on his foot. Some of those injuries might not actually be true, but it sure seems like that. Actually, the old dude and I feel sorry for Cutler, because he is a tough guy and he's been getting his butt kicked ever since he's been in Chicago. The irony of it is that he's been hurt so much and now, just as the Bears have finally improved their offensive line, his understudy is the one who is benefiting from the improved protection. McCown has been very, very good, and he has been getting help from his teammates. This is a dangerous game for da Bearz, though. The Rams may not look so hot on paper, but they play pretty good defense and they are now figuring out how to use Tayvon Austin, who could be the next Devin Hester, Percy Harvin, Randall Cobb and Wes Welker, all rolled up into one. He's an amazingly dynamic athlete and he's going to be a lot of fun to watch, if he doesn't get killed by some rogue linebacker. Rams 31, da Bearz 24.

Actually, I agree with you, but I have to pick one game differently, so let's play a hunch. Bears 27, Rams 24.

Time for a closing thought. A lot of music in this post, but that was nothing compared to what happened across the pond today. My beloved Everton squad drew 3-3 with hated Liverpool in what was a highly entertaining match at Fortress Goodison. So one more video:

Ben out!

Friday, November 22, 2013

If you like your doctor. . .

. . . too damn bad:
As of this week, not one of the plans for sale on New York’s health benefit exchange would cover treatment at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, one of the world’s largest and most respected cancer hospitals.

That could mean that the 615,000 individuals and 450,000 small business employees expected to eventually get their insurance through the exchange would have to go someplace else for treatment, or pay the bill out of their own pockets.
So other than losing your subpar insurance, your new and improved Obamacare insurance may preclude you from going to specialists. Have fun with that.

November 22, 1963


  • I don't remember where I was, because I wasn't yet born. Almost, but not quite.
  • I've been to the Sixth Floor museum. Oswald had an easy shot.
  • One of my old college professors, who is a bit of a media maven, opined that Kennedy's death was a good career move. That's a crass way to put it, but it's likely correct.
  • I should have realized this, but two other important figures died the same day -- C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley. That's quite a parlay.
  • That's all I've got.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Separated at birth?

Old school wrassling great Mad Dog Vachon, who died this morning at the ripe old age of 84:

And the Spanish Inquisition guy from Monty Python:

This also might be the first recorded instance of a Brit having the superior dental work.

The Benster Turns 18

It's difficult to wrap my mind around it, but my son is now an adult. Eighteen years have passed since the day he was born.

I remember it being a cold but sunny Tuesday morning, November 21, 1995. As it turned out, two things happened that day that are historic. First, the Dow Jones industrial average climbed over the 5000 mark for the first time. At Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the Dayton Peace Accords were initialed, marking the end of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. And at 1:52 p.m. CST, in a room at United Hospital in St. Paul, our first child was born.
Bundle of joy

We'd had a bit of a scare a month earlier and Mrs. D had spent about a week in the hospital with pre-term labor. She'd returned home and had been on bed rest. When we woke up that morning, it was clear that something was up. We called the hospital and they told us to come down. We worked our way down from our townhome in Shoreview, stopping once so I could get my cup of morning coffee. Momentous events require coffee.

Once we got to the hospital, we went to our room and Mrs. D went through the experience. Things were progressing along slowly but it seemed possible that this would be the day. The nurses and doctors came and went, none seemingly too worried about things. It was possible that it might be days before the baby would arrive, we were told, or the baby might come today. It seemed like a long morning. We'd been through the Lamaze classes and we were clued into what we might expect. We'd brought music to listen to and Mrs. D's favorite teddy bear, which she'd received as a gift in college. Whatever it took.

As the morning dragged toward noon, she turned to me and said, "look, I don't think anything is going to happen any time soon. Why don't you go and get some lunch. Take your time." Knowing that she was in good hands, I left the hospital and walked down to a Subway shop on West 7th. I got myself a turkey sub and a Pioneer Press and had a good long hour of decompressing. Although we were both excited about the possibilities of the day, it was good to get away and think about things other than the life-changing event that might happen. I strolled back to the hospital, got on the elevator and headed for the maternity ward.

When I got back, it was obvious that Mrs. D had had an eventful hour in my absence. She was rocking uncomfortably back and forth in the bed and she looked at me and said, "you can't leave now." There was a nurse nearby and we were told that the obstetrician would be arriving shortly. "It looks like the baby is going to come today," I was told. The next hour was a blur. I remember trying to hold Mrs. D's hand, and hold the teddy bear to give her a focal point. I remember trying to fish through our bag to change the tape (yep, we still had cassettes). I put on some Miles Davis - Kind of Blue, a favorite and something that would be comforting enough. As the bottom of the hour passed and we headed toward 2, it became pretty clear that this was the time. A close family friend had arrived to offer support and was pretty much horrified to realize that she had walked in at the moment of truth. She quickly beat a hasty retreat the waiting room. I will never forget the look on the friend's face.

Meanwhile, the moment had arrived. Childbirth is simultaneously amazing, frightening and a little bit bizarre. As the song All Blues wailed softly in the background, I saw the baby emerge. It was our son. As the nurses quickly took him to the side table to give him his first exam, the Apgar score, he let out a healthy wail. Mrs. D looked at me. I looked at her. It was the beginning.

Who is this guy? Ask Benster
Benster is now a senior in high school and while he is now legally an adult, the long road he's traveled to get to this point seems like a short trip, given what's out on the horizon. Benster is a bright, energetic young man with a quick wit and a boundless enthusiasm for discussing the topics that interest him, which range from the career of Nathanael Greene to the fortunes of Everton FC. Like his mother, he's an avid historian and he plows through books the size of coffee tables concerning the events of the past. Like his father, he bleeds Green and Gold. He's recently completed an Eagle Scout project that spanned the month of October and he's now in the process of figuring out the college he'll attend. Although Mrs. D and I worry a lot about the future he's entering, I have no question that he'll approach that future with great enthusiasm. Opportunities await a young man willing to find them and I am confident that he'll find great adventures ahead. We're eager to see what he'll find.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


A little dinking around with the template, just to change things up. Also added a few new blogs to the sidebar.

Might matter a little

It's not particularly astonishing that Obamacare is a train wreck, but this revelation is really a jaw dropper:
A crucial system for making payments to insurers from people who enroll in that federal Obamacare marketplace has yet to be built, a senior government IT official admitted Tuesday.

The official, Henry Chao, visibly stunned Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) when he said under questioning before a House subcommittee that a significant fraction of—30 to 40 percent of it—has yet to be constructed.

"We still need to build the payments system to make the payments [to insurance companies] in January," testified Chao, deputy chief information officer of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that operates

That so-called financial management tool was originally supposed to be part of when it launched Oct. 1, but officials later suspended its launch as part of their effort to get the consumer interface part of the site ready. The tool will, when it works, transmit the subsidies that the government is kicking in for many enrollees to offset the costs of their monthly premiums.
"When it works," eh? Are you sure about that "when" part there, Ollie?

Dawn breaks

A year late, of course:
For Mitt Romney, the 2012 election was held about a year too early.

Romney would hold a slight lead on President Obama if the 2012 election were replayed today, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The poll of registered voters shows Romney at 49 percent and Obama at 45 percent in the rematch, a mirror image of Romney’s four-point (51-47) popular-vote loss in 2012.
And it's across the board, apparently:
* Obama won women in 2012 by 11 points, according to exit polls; today he leads by one point.
* He has seen his lead among young voters (18-39 years old) drop from 18 percent to 2 percent.
* His four-point lead among those with less than a college degree has flipped to a nine-point deficit.
* Among those making less than $50,000, Obama’s 22-point lead is now three points.
* The biggest drop is among those professing to have no religion. While this group backed Obama by 44 points, it now supports him by a 22-point margin.
* Among liberals, Obama won by 75 points but now leads by 59 percent. One in five self-described liberals (20 percent) say they would vote for Romney.
You can chalk some of these changes up to the growing realization that maybe, just maybe, some of the free gubmint healthcare cheese isn't going to be free after all. The interesting one is the group professing to have no religion. It's by definition anecdotal, but it's always seemed to me that people who have "no religion" aren't people without faith; rather, they put their faith in something else and that often the something else is a charismatic politician promising free gubmint healthcare cheese.

The next three years are going to be some kind of ugly.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Border Battle Week

It's one of those weekends where the Badgers and the Gophers play on Saturday and the Packers and Vikings play on Sunday. That happens some years. What's rare is when the Saturday game is more noteworthy.

If you didn't look up the records and only relied on recent history, you'd assume that the Badgers would hold the all-time series lead in victories over the Gophers. You'd be wrong. It's close now, but the Gophers still lead the all-time series 59-55-8, despite having lost the last 10 in a row. Very few people now living can remember the days when Bernie Bierman's Gopher teams dominated college football in the 1930s. In historical terms, the Gophers have been much more successful, claiming a total of 7 national championships, while the Badgers have never won a national championship. The overall winning percentage for the Badgers is .574 (652-478-51), while the Gophers are sitting at .571 (660-490-44).

It's going to be interesting to see how this game plays out. While much discussion of Jerry Kill's career in Minneapolis has been about his health issues, the talent level has been improving steadily and there's reason to believe that the 8-2 record the Gophers bring into the game is legitimate. Other than a poor performance against Iowa, the Gophers have been pretty solid all season.

Are the Badgers still better? I would think so, and clearly Vegas does, having installed the Badgers as a 15 1/2 or even 16 point favorite. Considering the game is here in the Twin Cities, that's a surprising number; still, it might be right. I think you could argue that this Badgers team is the best one of the last four, given the improvement in team defense. When you realize that the Badgers have been in the Rose Bowl for the last three years, that's saying something. It's a veteran team with the usual assortment of monster offensive linemen and talented running backs. Since the days of Brent Moss and Terrell Fletcher some 20 years ago, the Badgers have often had a 1-2 punch at running back, and with James White and Melvin Gordon, this might the best one they've had. The 1-2 punch is a formula that the Gophers used successfully when they had Marion Barber and Laurence Maroney, but for now the key back is David Cobb, who is having a breakout season.

Although I am an unapologetic Badger fan, I think it's great that the Gophers are improving. The rivalries in college football are what make it fun and the Gopher/Badger rivalry is one of the oldest and best rivalries of all. It's going to be fun on Saturday.

I suppose he should

MSNBC's Bashir Apologizes For Saying Someone Should Defecate on Sarah Palin

Monday, November 18, 2013

Are you shocked?

The estimable Walter Russell Mead claims to be shocked at what the Leader of the Free World revealed last week:
The biggest shock and the most damning revelation came in the President’s hasty and awkward press conference when President Obama responded to a reporter’s question about his knowledge of the website’s problems:

OK. On the website, I was not informed directly that the website would not be working as — the way it was supposed to. Ha[d] I been informed, I wouldn’t be going out saying, boy, this is going to be great. You know, I’m accused of a lot of things, but I don’t think I’m stupid enough to go around saying, this is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity, a week before the website opens, if I thought that it wasn’t going to work. 
This was eyepopping. Obamacare is the single most important initiative of his presidency. The website rollout was, as the President himself has repeatedly stated, the most important element of the law’s debut.

Domestically speaking there was no higher priority for the President and his staff than getting this right. And the President is telling the world that a week before the disaster he had no idea how that website was doing. 
Reflect on that for a moment. The President of the United States is sitting in the Oval Office day after day. The West Wing is stuffed with high power aides. His political appointees sit atop federal bureaucracies, monitoring the work of the career staff around them. The President has told his core team, over and over, that the health care law and the website rollout are his number one domestic priorities.

And with all this, neither he nor, apparently, anyone in his close circle of aides and advisors knew that the website was a disaster. Vapid, blind, idly flapping their lips; they pushed paper, attended meetings and edited memos as the roof came crashing down. It is one thing to fail; it is much, much worse not to see failure coming. There is no way to construe this as anything but a world class flop.
I'm not shocked at all. A few reasons:

  • For the entirety of his presidency, Barack Obama has been able to count on a compliant media that would bail his presidential tuchus out of any number of issues. Candy Crowley turned on a dime from a debate moderator to a Praetorian Guard when it appeared that Mitt Romney might score a point on Benghazi. They weren't going to ask any hard questions, right? Why would you believe that it would happen, if it had never happened before? The press conference was surreal because it had nothing to do with any experience that the Leader of the Free World had ever had before in the first five years of his presidency.
  • There's an old saying about leadership: good leaders aren't afraid to have strong people around them. Poor leaders don't like to be challenged. Chicago politicians are used to getting their way and demanding loyalty first, second and last. The Leader of the Free World is a Chicago politician.
  • People who need to know have long since taken the measure of the Leader of the Free World. Why do you suppose that Vladimir Putin rag-dolls Obama every chance he can? Why do you suppose that Bashar Assad is getting by with doing a victory dance over the "red line." It's not complicated -- they both knew they could get by with it. And they have. While Chicago politicians are routinely ruthless toward underlings and those who would nip at their heels, they don't mess with people who have an independent power base. Assad doesn't have a patronage job.
Back to Mead:
What is a staff for? Surely a competent staff would have set up an effective monitoring and reporting system so that accurate and timely information about website problems would reach the White House. Surely at the first signs of trouble, an effective trouble-shooting response from the White House would delve into the issues, develop some action plans, and also inform the President and senior staff about any threat to the scheduled rollout. But apparently none of this happened, and at least from what we see so far in public, the President is OK with that. No heads are rolling. No one is being taken to the White House woodshed. There are reports that the President has vented, but “no drama Obama” is apparently still turning the other cheek. The President is content to keep working with the team he’s got.
I'm pretty sure that Mead, one of the most astute commenters around, knows better. They had to know what was happening. The heads of marionettes don't roll anyway; they might bounce once, but generally they flop in the breeze.

Once more to Mead:
Forget the merits and demerits of Obamacare. The White House now faces crises of confidence and competence and President Obama will not be able to solve one unless he addresses both. While much of the MSM is still doing its usual collusive best to avoid peering too deeply into the entrails of a liberal disaster (something already changing and likely to change more as liberal opinion continues to detach itself from a disappointing administration), some messes are too big to ignore. As more people reflect on the President’s extraordinary press conference, the public sense that the President and his team just aren’t up to the job will inevitably grow. It was a jaw dropping moment of naked self revelation, and the more one reflects on it the more striking it becomes. The President of the United States didn’t know that his major domestic priority wasn’t ready for prime time—and he thinks that sharing this news with us will somehow make it better. It is moments of this kind that give epithets like “Carteresque” their sting.
That's unfair to Jimmy Carter, of course. Carter's problem was that he tried to micromanage everything. Obama has only rarely given the appearance of caring about much of anything other than the blandishments of the office. If you hold on too tightly, or don't hold on at all, you end up in roughly the same place, but Carter at least seemed to care. The larger point has been obvious, for a very long time now. While Barack Obama is a hell of a salesman, he doesn't service what he sells.

Look in my eyes, what do you see

A lot of us were playing this video back in 2008:

And, as it happens, the moment when the cult falls apart inevitably arrives. Take it away, Fouad Adjami:
Five years on, we can still recall how the Obama coalition was formed. There were the African-Americans justifiably proud of one of their own. There were upper-class white professionals who were drawn to the candidate's "cool." There were Latinos swayed by the promise of immigration reform. The white working class in the Rust Belt was the last bloc to embrace Mr. Obama—he wasn't one of them, but they put their reservations aside during an economic storm and voted for the redistributive state and its protections. There were no economic or cultural bonds among this coalition. There was the new leader, all things to all people.

A nemesis awaited the promise of this new presidency: Mr. Obama would turn out to be among the most polarizing of American leaders. No, it wasn't his race, as Harry Reid would contend, that stirred up the opposition to him. It was his exalted views of himself, and his mission. The sharp lines were sharp between those who raised his banners and those who objected to his policies.

America holds presidential elections, we know. But Mr. Obama took his victory as a plebiscite on his reading of the American social contract. A president who constantly reminded his critics that he had won at the ballot box was bound to deepen the opposition of his critics.
The problem with a cult of personality is that any personality that aggregates a cult around itself is going to be malignant in some crucial way. We want to believe that our leaders are good people and that they have our interests at heart. You can still, even at this late hour, make that argument on behalf of Barack Obama. And you might even be right, in a limited way. Where it all comes apart is when leaders fail to accept their own limitations. I thought this was evident a long time ago with Obama. We're now finding out what those limitations actually mean.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- For Whom the Bell Tolziens Edition

Old dude, I'm a little surprised. Scott Tolzien, former Badger great, is now the temporary starting quarterback of the Green Bay Packers. Why would you not bring in Matt Flynn to start?

Bad arm, away for two years, Tolzien might be better. Should I go on?

No. We'll get to that soon enough. But for now, since the Geritol Fan can't find his beloved Xavier Hawks on the internet, we'll pick some games. Watch me work!

Indiana Wants Me, Lord I Can't Go Back There (+23) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. A 23-point spread, eh? That's a big number, but let's look at the series the last few years. Working our way back from last year, we see the following:

2012  Wisconsin 62, Indiana 14
2011  Wisconsin 59, Indiana 7
2010  Wisconsin 83, Indiana 20
2009  Wisconsin 31, Indiana 28
2008  Wisconsin 55, Indiana 20
2007  Wisconsin 33, Indiana 3
2006  Wisconsin 52, Indiana 17

The trend line seems pretty clear, don't you think? When these two teams play, it just doesn't go very well for the Hoosiers. And, since Antwaan Randle-El isn't playing in this game, I think we can assume that the Badgers are going to romp and stomp yet again. Badgers 70, Indiana Wants Me, Lord I Can't Go Back There 24.

What, no R. Dean Taylor video? No, we need the video:

Okay, now that we have that part done, I suspect you're right. Indiana can score some, but they don't play much defense, which is a poor idea when you're playing the Badgers. Wisconsin 49, Indiana 21.

Michigan State Sparty the Spartan (-6) vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers. Oh, looky here, old dude, Nebraska is a home dog! In the immortal words of John McEnroe:

Chalk flew up! C'mon, man! If Nebraska loses this game, then our old friend Bo Pelini might be gone. It would be a shame to lose a guy who behaves even worse than John McEnroe. Oh wait, it wouldn't be a shame. Meanwhile, Sparty has been putting together a nice season and should get a crack at the Big Ten Championship Game, which every Spartan fan wants to win because they are not over what happened to them last time. Sparty 13, Fire Bo Pelini 0.

I don't think Nebraska is that good. Michigan State plays some pretty good defense. Still, this game is in Lincoln. I really wonder if Sparty will be able to handle that. Nebraska 24, Michigan State 17.

Minnesota Vikings (+12) vs. Seattle Seabags. The last time out, the Vikings played a complete game and were able to come away with a victory. This week, things are going to be a little harder. Seattle is a tough place to play, the Seahawks are very good and Pete Carroll is still a weasel of the first kind. The problem is, weasels who coach talented teams often succeed in spite of their weasel tendencies. And as much as I'd like to think the Vikings could pull the upset, it's going to be very hard. And let's face it, how can you not love Russell Wilson? Seahawks 28, Vikings 24.

I don't think the Vikings could score 24 on the Seahawks if they played 'em for two games. Ponder is injured and Josh Freeman is apparently clueless, and Matt Cassel is buried deeper than Jimmy Hoffa, so it's hard to see where the offense is going to come from. I assume the Seahawks will put 8 big dudes in the box and dare the Vikings to throw. Since they can't, the result will be: Seahawks 28, Vikings 7.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (+5) vs. New York Football Giants. All right -- the Packers are playing Scott Tolzien instead of Matt Flynn. I'm surprised. No offense to Scott Tolzien, who we will always thank for his fine career as a Badger. Still, I would prefer to have Flynn, because Flynn knows the offense. The Giants have started to get their act together a little, but they are still a very schizo team. Eli Manning is showing once again that he can win all the games in the post-season, but can't win the big one in the regular season. The Packers got their season back on track in 2010 against the Giants. Will they do it again this year? Packers 45, Giants 17.

I don't know that the Packers are going to score 45 with Scott Tolzien in the lineup. But they can beat the Giants. I think Tolzien has a chance to be a decent backup and they are getting healthy in other areas. They have to have this game to save their season and I think they'll get it. Green Bay 21, Giants 16.

Kansas City Chiefs (+8.5) vs. Denver Broncos. First, let's go to our favorite Kansas City correspondent for his views:

It's crusty old Jack Harry, looking like a genius from back in August, saying that the Chiefs are going to surprise people. Jack, you old dog, you called it! I also called it. I've been telling anyone who will listen (and yes, I know that most people don't want to listen, but hear me out) that Alex Smith is a better quarterback than Colin Kaepernick and that he would be more successful this year than Kaepernick would be. Have you looked at the standings, old dude? Kansas City is 9-0 and the 49ers are 6-3 and barely bobbing on the surface of the water right now. See, if you listen to crusty old Jack Harry, or the master of HYYYYPPPPPE, the Benster, you can learn something. Denver may have caught magic in the bottle last year, but the Broncos had better hope that Tamba Hali doesn't catch Peyton Manning on Sunday night. Chiefs 20, Broncos 9.

I have to admit, I'm surprised by the Chiefs. Maybe I need to listen to ol' Jack more often. I think the Broncos are going to win this game, but it's going to be tough. And the Chiefs are legit. Denver 28, Kansas City 24.

I'm sorry to any Bears fans who were hoping to see my thought on their game against Baltimore this week, but let's face it, if I have a chance to post a Jack Harry video, what else can I do? And, I'd rather talk about something I haven't had the chance to discuss yet. I'm a Renaissance man, baby! Ben out!

These fragments I have shored against my ruins

Signed, sealed, delivered

Ownership Society
And no rock  
If there were rock  
And also water  
And water  
A spring
A pool among the rock  
If there were the sound of water only  
Not the cicada  
And dry grass singing  
But sound of water over a rock  
Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees  
Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop  
But there is no water

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Spectator in his own life

Personally, I don't care that much that Gov. Mark Dayton only gave $1,000 to charity in the past year. How he describes it is far more disturbing:
“I pride myself on my charitable giving and I’m disappointed in myself,” Dayton said at the end of a briefing with reporters on another issue. “I totaled it up and noticed I had fallen off, so I will remedy that.”
Translation: I really need to keep better tabs on myself. Riddle me this -- are you unaware of your own personal charitable giving? If you were to ask the average person on the street, they'd be able to give you at least a ballpark estimate of what they give and the beneficiaries. Mrs. D and I have been writing checks to many of the same charities for years. Some years we're able to give more, some years maybe less, but we know what we've given and why. A governor who doesn't govern his own life is a little problematic, no?

Not that I'm particularly proud of it, but. . . .

Ordinarily I'm not much of a fan of engaging in schadenfreude, but if ever a group of people deserved it, it would have to be our betters in the Obama administration. Jonah Goldberg serves the popcorn:

The hubris of our ocean-commanding commander-in-chief surely isn’t news to readers of this website. He’s said that he’s smarter and better than everyone who works for him. His wife informed us that he has “brought us out of the dark and into the light” and that he would fix our broken souls. The man defined sin itself as “being out of alignment with my values.” We may be the ones we’ve been waiting for, but at the same time, everyone has been waiting for him. Or as he put it in 2007, “Every place is Barack Obama country once Barack Obama’s been there.”

In every tale of hubris, the transgressor is eventually slapped across the face with the semi-frozen flounder of reality. The Greeks had a god, Nemesis, whose scythe performed the same function. It was Nemesis who lured Narcissus to the pool where he fell in love with his own reflection. Admittedly, most of Nemesis’s walk-on roles were in the Greek tragedies, but in the modern era, comeuppance-for-the-arrogant is more often found in comedies, and the “rollout” of has been downright hilarious. (I put quotation marks around “rollout” because the term implies actual rolling, and this thing has moved as gracefully as a grand piano in a peat bog.) But, as the president says, “it’s more than a website.” Indeed, the whole law is coming apart like a papier-mâché yacht in rough waters. The media feeding frenzy it has triggered from so many journalistic lapdogs has been both so funny and so poignant, it reminds me of nothing more than the climax of the classic film Air Bud, when the lovable basketball-playing golden retriever finally decides to maul the dog-abusing clown.
And that, my friends, is spot on. There's more, a whole lot more, at the link.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

New Coke Forever

It's only a matter of time now before we get "Classic Healthcare":
Debate over how to respond to Americans who are irate about losing their insurance is intensifying on Capitol Hill. The House plans to vote this week on a bill introduced by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) that would extend this year’s insurance plans for a year. On Tuesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she is co-sponsoring a bill with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) that would require insurers to offer 2013 plans on the individual market indefinitely.
As the article in the Washington Post points out, there's little chance that the online website for is likely to be working properly by the end of the month, which is the self-imposed deadline that the president set out for his troubled enterprise. The problem is that, as appealing as it would be to see a de facto repeal of Obamacare by stampeding red state Democrats, it won't work. If you allow people to keep their old insurance, the risk pools are going to be so skewed that the whole thing is going to collapse under its own weight. Now, it's possible that the collapse isn't a bug, but rather a feature.

One possible solution comes from a survivor of Kathleen Sebelius's reign in Kansas:
Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger said she and her counterparts in other states have offered suggestions to the White House on how best to address the problem of canceled policies. The most obvious solution, she said, would be to allow customers to renew policies early to let them stay in effect until November 2014. But that would come with a trade-off, she said: Those people would not receive federal subsidies for which they might be eligible if they bought a plan on the exchange.
Perhaps unwittingly, Praeger gives the game away. Among its many ambitions, Obamacare is at bottom a massive example of "spreading the wealth around," via subsidies. You might call it a Ponzi scheme, but that would be unfair to Ponzi. So what to do? Back to Praeger:
She said that she and other insurance commissioners are trying to address consumers’ desire to use the federal exchange. “Honestly,” she said, “it’s just a big mess right now. . . . I don’t know what to tell people.”
Other than, "I told you so?"

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Elections, Schmelections

You don't win, even if you win:
Days after a Republican was elected mayor of Annapolis, City Council members say they will revisit legislation that would strip the mayor’s office of much of its power.

Democratic Alderman Ross Arnett of Ward 8 tells The Capital he will introduce a charter amendment to move Annapolis to a council-manager style of government. The city manager would report directly to the City Council, not the mayor.
The question isn't whether you govern. The question is whether you rule.

Life's a Fitch

That which cannot be sustained, will not be sustained:
Fitch Ratings has downgraded the credit worthiness of Chicago's bond debt because of its public pension problems.

Fitch dropped the rating from AA- to A- on $8 billion in general obligation bonds, backed by property taxes.
Friday's downgrade stems from "the lack of meaningful solutions" to the city's pension situation. City and fire pension programs have no more than 30 percent of the money needed to cover obligations.
Have fun with that, Rahm.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Lightning Round -- 111113

Haven't done one of these in a while. Shake down the thunder from the sky:

  • The Star Tribune has noticed that municipal salaries have been going up sharply, especially for the bigwigs. In one of her periodic broken clock moments, State Sen. Barb Goodwin avers:  "My fears have come true. It's inevitable. If you could raise your own salary, you're going to, right? Wouldn't you?" Goodwin voted against the law that enabled the raises, which I'm sure she'll be reminding voters about when she's up for re-election in 2016. I would remind you that Goodwin supported Mary Kunesh-Podein in her unsuccessful run for New Brighton City Council. Kunesh-Podein was trying to unseat Gina Bauman, who recently ensured that all the LGA money that New Brighton received was given back to the taxpayers. As always, pay attention to what politicians actually do.
  • I only met Jonathan Brannen a few times, but I learned a lot from him. Jonathan was the only working poet I've known, who combined a courtly manner with a wide-ranging artistic approach. He wrote poetry, songs and a whole lot more. He passed away suddenly on Tuesday. You can get a sampling of his work in the current edition of the online literary journal AlteredScale. As I've slowly edged my way back into writing poetry, Jonathan's example and encouragement has meant a lot to me, and his generous spirit and intelligence meant quite a lot to other people, likely more than he ever knew. We don't have public poets like Carl Sandburg or Robert Frost that much any more; poets tend to work quietly and often their legacy is only discovered after they are gone. Jonathan leaves a legacy worth discovering.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Now That The Eagle Scout Project is Done Edition

Thank goodness I'm done with that Eagle Scout Project. Five weeks of getting up on a Saturday morning and trudging up to Isanti, Minnesota. But it turned out pretty nicely. Here's a picture, kiddies:
Two for the price of one
And the best part is that now Geritol Fan's wallet gets a rest, too. Just in time for the holidays, right, old dude?

Yep. And thanks for the reminder.

But we're not here to talk about money. No, it's my football picks that you want, which are money. Watch me work:

Penn State Probationary Lions (+2.5) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers. So, old dude, the Gophers have been playing better lately, in fact a lot better. They've beaten Northwestern, Nebraska and Indiana in the last three weeks, which is what you have to do to get into a bowl game that's not named after a substandard casual dining restaurant, or a department store. Penn State is improving under Bill O'Brien, but they haven't been very good on the road. And they are here, in Minnesota, one of the longest road trips that the Big Ten can muster, until that exciting Lincoln to New Jersey thing that's happening next year. But I digress. Gophers 31, Come to Penn State 17.

The Gophers are better, almost suddenly, after looking terrible against Iowa and Michigan. I think they'll prevail this week, but it won't be easy. Minnesota 28, Penn State 24.

Brigham Young Cougars (+8.5) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. If you may remember, the Badgers played their conference opener against hapless Purdue a week early, which opened the window for this unusual non-conference game. BYU has a long and distinguished history and beat the Badgers in Camp Randall back in the the early 1980s. Many, many, many things have changed since then. Jim McMahon is no longer the BYU quarterback and the Badgers have figured things out since then. BYU will be a tough outfit for the Badgers, since they are quick and can score. But if you've been watching the Badgers, you know that they can score on just about any play, especially if Melvin Gordon gets his hands on the ball. And he will get his hands on the ball this game. Wisconsin 42, BYU 38.

I think the Badger defense is pretty good this year -- Iowa may not be an offensive juggernaut, but holding the Hawkeyes to 9 points in Kinnick Stadium without Chris Borland playing was an impressive thing to see. I think they find a way to slow down the BYU attack. Badgers 38, Cougars 24.

LSU Bayou Bengals (+12.5) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide. I'm hoping to avoid the nightmare scenario of a national title game, which would be Alabama against Ohio State. I'm sick of Alabama, because they get favors from the BCS. The question today is, can LSU come into Tuscaloosa and win. Well, they did that two years ago, so they won't be intimidated. And Nick Saban is going to lose eventually. It might even be in 2013. LSU 21, Tide Rolled 13.

Nope. Not gonna happen. LSU is too inconsistent this year. Alabama 31, LSU 20.

Philadelphia Eagles (+1) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. So, the unthinkable has happened and Aaron Rodgers is out for at least 3-4 games. Somehow, the Packers find themselves playing a guy from The Hunger Games as their quarterback. No, wait, I have that wrong -- it's Seneca Wallace, not Seneca Crane. Actually, a side-by-side visual comparison should clear this up. Here's Seneca Wallace:
He's got a headset and a decent-looking beard. But Seneca Crane has an epic beard. Do you doubt me? Well, check out this action, kids:

Okay, now that we've established the superiority of facial hair, let's get to the game itself, in which the Packers are going to face the Eagles, who are now under the reign of Chip Kelly, who thinks that all offenses should be like NASCAR, or something like that. He's gonna have a couple of problems to deal with, including the return of Clay Matthews, who will be chasing Nick Foles around Lambeau the way a lion chases a wildebeest. It's going to be hard to generate a lot of offense in this game on both sides, although I think Wallace will be better with a week to prepare and play with the first team. And don't worry, Packer fans, the season is not over. Packers 24, Eagles 7.

The uncomfortable comparison I saw some rueful Packer fans make to Wallace was this guy:

That's what I'm talkin' about. I think it will go better than that, but I wouldn't be surprised if you don't see Scott Tolzien before this is over. Put it this way -- Eddie Lacy and John Starks better be ready to be John Brockington and MacArthur Lane, circa 1972: Packers 24, Eagles 16.

Detroit Motor City Kitties (Pick) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. I can imagine that Gino was very happy on Monday night and well played, Bears. The final drive that sucked out the entire 4th quarter was mighty impressive, and this is coming from one of your bigger Bears haters around. However, this week is going to be a little different. The word on the street is that Jay Cutler is coming back. I wonder if it's a little early. I don't question Cutler's toughness at all, but I would have rewarded Josh McCown with another start, just to be safe. The Lions are a different team outside of Ford Field, but I don't know that da Bearz can handle Megatron, especially off a short week. Bottom line is that the Lions are going to do the Packers a favor. Lions 24, da Bearz 23.

I agree -- Cutler should wait a week to come back; a groin injury might be amusing, but it hurts like crazy and affects his mobility. And Ndamukong Suh is a ruthless fellow who wouldn't hesitate to rag-doll Mr. Cutler if he gets the chance. That's what concerns me about this game. I think the Bears win at home, but I'm hardly confident in this pick. Bears 31, Lions 27.

Obviously, we couldn't pick the Vikings since they played on Thursday, but let's face it -- does anyone really care that much about the Vikings right now? Maybe in Minnesota, but not so much anywhere else. It's hard to build up much HYYYYYYYYYYPPPPE! for the Vikes these days. And I wanted to avoid talking about a certain name controversy, since, well, I'm deeply offended by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, given my Irish heritage as a grandson of a McNulty and a great-grandson of a Donovan. Ben out!

Friday, November 08, 2013

Not as sorry as we are, Mr. President

Also sprach Obama:
Seeking to calm a growing furor, President Barack Obama said Thursday he's sorry Americans are losing health insurance plans he repeatedly said they could keep under his signature health care law. But the president stopped short of apologizing for making those promises in the first place.

"I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me," he said in an interview with NBC News.
But is he really sorry? Let's look at the transcript:
Thanks to you. I'll start with health care. It's probably the most quoted thing or requoted thing you have said in your presidency, "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it." You said it a lot during the run up. At this point, though, it's obviously something-- a promise that has not been able to be kept. Just today, the Denver Post -- 250,000 people in Colorado are seeing health insurance policies cancelled. Some of those people liked those policies. And they can't keep them. What happened?

Well-- first of all, I meant what I said. And we worked hard to try to make sure that we implemented it properly. But obviously, we didn't do enough-- a good enough job-- and I regret that. We're talking about 5% of the population-- who are in what's called the individual market. They're out there buying health insurance on their own.
A lot of these plans are subpar plans. And we put in a clause in the law that said if you had one of those plans, even if it was subpar-- when the law was passed, you could keep it. But there's enough churn in the market that folks since then have bought subpar plans. And now that may be all they can afford. So even though it only affects a small amount of the population, you know, it means a lot to them, obviously, when they get-- this letter cancelled.
It begs a question or two, doesn't it? How do you define was "subpar" means? Up 'til now, you, as an individual consumer, got to define it. Not any more. And that's the point, right? It's entirely consistent with the idea that you aren't competent to make your own decisions and weigh the costs and risks associated with buying a product or service. Surely you'll get it wrong and buy something "subpar," so you need Barack Obama to give you better choices that are entirely of his choosing. And consider the disconnect in this statement:
You know-- I regret very much that-- what we intended to do, which is to make sure that everybody is moving into better plans because they want 'em, as opposed to because they're forced into it. That, you know, we weren't as clear as we needed to be-- in terms of the changes that were taking place. And I want to do everything we can to make sure that people are finding themselves in a good position-- a better position than they were before this law happened.
Well, when your existing policy is cancelled, you're being forced into choosing something else. The evidence is coming in that most people aren't going to be in a better position, either. The premiums are substantially higher and the potential out-of-pocket costs are considerably higher as well, because the "better" policies require maternity coverage for menopausal women and similar issues. And the real pain is coming next year, when the employer mandate kicks in, because then people who get their insurance through their employers will get to pay for all the same things that the lucky folks in the individual marketplace will now face. Enjoy it, people. Enjoy it.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

A truly painful process

It's almost poignant, this Kubler-Ross style struggle that so many people are living with, as they try to cope with the reality that the Leader of the Free World isn't really the Lightbringer. Ron Fournier, writing for National Journal, encapsulates the dilemma nicely:
On history's scale of deception, this one leaves a light footprint. Worse lies have been told by worse presidents, leading to more severe consequences, and you could argue that withholding a caveat is more a sin of omission. But this president is toying with a fragile commodity: his credibility. Once Americans stop believing in Obama, they will stop listening to him. They won't trust government to manage health care. And they will wonder what happened to the reform-minded leader who promised never to lie to them.
In case you're wondering what "withholding a caveat" means, he's referring to the dozens of times Obama said this:

Categorical statements, made repeatedly, that are not true are not "withholding a caveat," of course. They are lies. There was never an intention of letting people keep their existing health care plans. While Fournier is at least willing to call a lie by its name, it's obvious that he'd prefer not to.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

New Brighton Chooses Wisely

A screen grab from the Secretary of State's website reveals the good news:

Sensible Government Returns to New Brighton
Mayor Dave Jacobsen wins a clear victory over council member Mary Burg, while Gina Bauman comes in first and is returned to the City Council. Brian Strub, who ran as a protest candidate, is also elected. Incumbent Char Samuelson finishes just out of the running, while DFL bots Mary Kunesh-Podein and Graeme Allen go down to defeat.

What does it all mean? The good news is that Dave Jacobsen and Gina Bauman will continue to provide leadership in municipal government. They hold 2 of the five votes on the city council. Bauman and Strub will now serve four-year terms on the council, while Mayor Jacobsen gets another two years (the mayoral term is only two years). Incumbent council members Paul Jacobsen and Burg, who were not up for re-election in this cycle, remain on the council for two more years.

Vote today in New Brighton

If you'd prefer that more of your diminished after-Obamacare income go to paying higher property taxes, by all means vote the challengers in today's election in New Brighton. After all, they can spend your money better than you can and they are prepared to prove it to you.

If, instead, you'd prefer to keep more of your money and maintain efficient government at the municipal level, you need to re-elect Dave Jacobsen as mayor and Gina Bauman to the city council.

Polls are open until 8 p.m. Choose wisely.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Tomorrow's election in New Brighton

If you are a New Brighton voter, it's not particularly complicated. You have a choice -- you can continue to keep the current leadership in place, the leadership that has spent the last four years cleaning up the mess left behind by a quarter-century of misrule and waste of their predecessors, or you can turn out the cleanup crew and return the people who prefer spending money to solving problems to office.

For mayor, the choice is quite simple. Dave Jacobsen, the incumbent, has been a quiet, effective leader for the city and has spent much of his time in office trying to find solutions for the disastrous Northwest Quadrant boondoggle that has bedeviled the city for years. He has helped to hold the line on spending increases while maintaining needed city services at a solid level of performance. His opponent, council member Mary Burg, has been at best an uncertain trumpet on most issues. She'll vote with the majority most of the time, regardless of whether her positions are wise or even intellectually consistent. If the spenders are in control, she's a spender. While Mayor Jacobsen has been in charge, she's often voted with him. She'd prefer to spend, but for now she can't. There's no reason to turn Mayor Jacobsen from office and ample reason not to reward council member Burg with a promotion she hasn't earned.

As far as the city council race goes, there are five candidates vying for two seats. The two incumbents, Gina Bauman and Char Samuelson, are both running for re-election. Prior to the arrival of Mayor Jacobsen, Bauman was often a voice in the wilderness, trying to make people understand the proper role of city government and holding the line on property tax increases. Once the ancien regime was turned away four years ago, Bauman finally had a chance to make some needed changes and ever since, she's been the de facto leader of the council members, especially where budgeting matters are concerned. She has been indispensable and if she were to be turned away, the citizenry of New Brighton would come to regret the choice, and soon. She is the only candidate who deserves your vote.

Samuelson is a tough case. While she's served with distinction in both the city council and as a state representative, it is tough to watch her these days. She is clearly aging and has had difficulty following the debate on the council. In a better world, with better candidates on offer, she should be replaced. Unfortunately, the remaining candidates are all unacceptable. Even in a diminished state, Samuelson is preferable to any of the three challengers. Still, I wouldn't suggest voting for her, for reasons I'll explain below.

Two of the challengers are largely running as a tandem. Mary Kunesh-Podein is essentially a cat's paw for State Sen. Barb Goodwin; she is a lockstep liberal and seems confused about the proper role of government at the municipal level. Graeme Allen, who ran unsuccessfully for office two years ago, is a longtime DFL apparatchik and someone who has assiduously avoided any gainful employment in the private sector in his career. He has repeatedly misrepresented how city workers are paid in New Brighton. In addition, he spends a lot of time prattling on about education. That's great, but education issues are the purview of the Mounds View School District, not the city council. If Allen feels passionate about those issues, perhaps next time he might consider running for the school board. At a minimum, I'd suggest he consider actually doing a little learning about the proper role of government.

Finally, we have the case of Brian Strub, the man with the wet shoes. I'll simply refer you to Enlighten New Brighton, which does a great job of explaining Strub's variety of obsessions.

So how should you vote? It's pretty simple. Since the five city council candidates are all essentially running against one another, the key thing is to support the only candidate who really deserves your vote, Gina Bauman. Just because there are two open positions doesn't mean you are compelled to vote for two candidates. The second vote you cast effectively weakens the initial vote. As for mayor, it's obvious -- Dave Jacobsen has done an outstanding job in his two terms in office. There's simply no reason to vote him out. And remember, since Mary Burg is not up for re-election to the council in this cycle, she will be part of city government next year no matter what. And if she unseats Mayor Jacobsen, she'll play a major role in determining her successor for the remaining two years of her council term. Unless you really, really, really like Mary Burg, there's no reason to effectively give her two votes on the council for next year.

Dave Jacobsen and Gina Bauman have served the city well. They both richly deserve your vote.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Bear Week Lightning Round and Concrete Edition

Not much time, old dude! We've got to finish this Eagle Scout project and this blog post in record time. So watch me work!

Minnesota Golden Gophers (+9) vs. Indiana Wants Me, Lord I Can't Go Back There Hoosiers. So let me get this straight -- the Gophers destroyed Nebraska and beat Northwestern on the road, and they are a 9-point dog to Indiana? What in the name of  R. Dean Taylor are you talking about? Indiana is the perennial punching bag and the Gophers are on a roll. Can the Gophers get to a bowl that actually isn't named after a pizza chain? Yes. Gophers 63, Indiana 7.

Sorry, I don't see it coming down like that, but I could see the Gophers winning. Indiana can score, though. I'll have a nice glass of Gopher Kool-Aid and say: Minnesota 38, Indiana 35.

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-9.5) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes. So the last time that Wisconsin traveled to Iowa City, they won in dramatic fashion and set themselves on the road to the Rose Bowl. It's usually a tough thing to win in Iowa City, but these Badgers are a high-scoring team and can D you up. And it's a shame that they aren't going to get their shot at history this year, most likely. But they can pound a few lumps on the rest of the Big Ten and finally win a bowl game. Wisconsin 31, Iowa 30.

Iowa is underrated. But they can't catch Melvin Gordon. Wisconsin 35, Iowa 24.

Minnesota Vikings (+10) vs. Dallas How 'Bout Them Cowboahs. So the Vikings are a train wreck right now and they are playing the most confusing team in the National Football League. It's all drama with Dallas, with Dez Bryant doing his best Cris Carter imitation and Tony Romo not showing any leadership, although he does sell tickets. I'm always going to be a fan of Jerry World because it's the place where the Packers won the first Super Bowl that I can remember. Will the Vikings enjoy Jerry World? Not as much as I do, but: Vikings 28, Cowboahs 17.

Whaddyer, nuts? The Cowboys are pure Jekyll and Hyde, but they're still in it. They need this game. And they'll get it. Cowboys 34, Vikings 21.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (+10.5) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. So Gino's beloved Bearz are thinking that this is the time they'll finally break the losing streak they have to the Packers, which now stands at 6 games. Well, not quite. The Packers are dinged up, but da Bearz are hurt worse. Jay Cutler will not play. Lance Briggs will not play. James Jones might play. Aaron Rodgers is doing exceptionally well and Eddie Lacy has given the Packers a running game for the first time in 10 years. Can da Bearz break the curse? Well, only if they have enough guys to stop the Packer offense. I don't see it. Sorry, Gino. Packers 49, da Bearz 17.

I don't think da Bearz will give up seven touchdowns. They have too much pride. Devin Hester makes me nervous, too. But I think the Pack will prevail. Green Bay 31, Chicago 21.

The Old Dude and I have to finish building those dugouts, so we're done for now. But next week we'll have much more time for HYYYYYYYPPPPPE! Ben out!