Saturday, December 27, 2014

Quiet week ahead for the blog

We're going on a little "assignment" for the next week, so posting will be a little light, most likely. Try to have some fun during this coming week. We plan to.

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Golden State Edition

So, old dude, in less than 24 hours we won't be in snowy Minnesota.

Right. Where are we going again?

I think that Metamucil is starting to eat away at your cerebral cortex, there, Geritol Fan! Lay off the over-the-counter meds and start paying attention. You know where we'll be! Here's a picture as a reminder:

The end of Route 66, baby!
Yes, that's right. We've made up our minds, we've made a new start. We're going to California with an achin' in our hearts.

Stop with the Led Zeppelin references! Seriously! You know Mrs. D doesn't approve of such things!

Sure, but if we play our cards right we'll see Gino.

Yes. But before we get on the plane, we need to make a few picks. Watch me work!

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (+6) vs. Minnesota Vikings. So Jimmy Clausen lasted less than a week as the Bears starting quarterback. Rather than going with third stringer, the aptly named David Fales -- I mean, seriously, is there a better name for a Bears quarterback than Fales? -- the Bears have decided to go back to Smokin' Jay Cutler, who has not been the answer this season. Meanwhile, the Vikings are trying to finish strong with Teddy Bridgewater at the helm. Teddy has had his moments this year, and this game will be a good test, because it's going to be cold and snowy at TCF Bank Stadium. If Teddy is going to succeed in this division, he needs to win cold weather games, even if the Vikings are headed back indoors in 2016. Vikings 32, da Bearz 7.

So this game marks the return of Jared Allen to Minnesota. If you recall, the Bears let Julius Peppers go to Green Bay and used the money to sign Allen. How'd that turn out? Here's a screen shot of Allen's year:

Not much production, but a handsome beard
Now, here's a screen shot of Peppers's year:

We should mention that the two interceptions were pick sixes
You hear plenty of blame for Marc Trestman and the stumbling of the Bears offense, but the real problem in Chicago is defense. And that's what the Vikings are going to exploit tomorrow. Vikings 28, Bears 17.

Detroit Motor City Kitties (+7.5) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. Here you go. It's the big one? How big?

That's right. It's the big one. This couldn't be simpler. Winner gets a bye, loser goes to Dallas, most likely. The Packers struggled in Week 3 against the Lions, but this time some things have changed. The big issue for the Lions is on the lines, both offensive and defensive. On offense, the Lions will be without Dominic Raiola, who was last seen doing this:

He won't be playing on Sunday. Neither will Nick Fairley, the nasty defensive lineman who has been battling injuries all year long. The Packers do need to worry about this guy, though:

When you play the Lions, you'd best keep your head on a swivel. The Lions do have another problem beyond their questionable tactics. That problem is they have not won a game in Wisconsin since 1991. What do I know about 1991? Not much, because I was not even born! Have you seen how the Packers have destroyed everyone who has come into Lambeau this year? It's gonna take more than spearing and foot-stomping to win. Packers 56, Lions 49.

Bet the over, then? No, it's not going to be a scoring festival, but I'm pretty confident that the Packers will score this time. The Lions are a good, if nasty, team, but at Lambeau the Packers will get it done. Packers 34, Lions 24.

Since we're going on vacation, I'm not certain we'll have a chance to do many bowl game picks, but we are going to do a lightning round on a few. Here goes!

Citrus Bowl -- Mizzou Tigers (-5) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Gophers are playing on New Year's Day! Good for them. Unfortunately, they are taking on R. A. Crankbait's Mizzou Tigers, a very capable squad. Will Goldy prevail? Gophers 31, Mizzou 0.

Uh, no. Mizzou 28, Gophers 24.

Outback Bowl -- Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (+6.5) vs. Au-barn Tiger/War Eagle/Plainsmen/Whatever the heck they call themselves these days. That title was so long I barely have room for a pick. Sorry, Au-barn. Bucky 21, Au-barn 13.

Auburn is explosive. That's the challenge. Auburn 38, Wisconsin 31.

Rose Bowl -- Oregon Ducks (-9) vs. Florida State Seminoles. The Old Dude and I will be looking live at this game! We are pumped! Too bad it's the annoying Seminoles. But hey, what a thrill for us and never again will the Rose Bowl have this much HYYYYYYPPPPPPE!!! Green-clad National Champions 45, Criminals 7.

I hope it's a better game than that. Ducks 38, Seminoles 28.

Sugar Bowl -- Alabama Roll Tide (-9) vs. The Ohio State University Buckeyes. We shall never again discuss the Big Ten Championship game. As for this game, I expect a repeat. Ohio State 35, Alabama 31.

Wait, did you just pick the Buckeyes? Dang. Alabama 34, Ohio State 28.

See, I'm reasonable. I can pick the Buckeyes if I really want to. Not that I ever do, but I have my reasons. Meanwhile, we'll be seeing this:

So I observe
And this:

When you wish upon a star, your wallet will be cleared by far
 And even this:

I don't get to use the DeLorean, though
Ben out!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

"Existential schizophrenia"

I've got a little list — I've got a little list
Of society offenders who might well be underground,
And who never would be missed — who never would be missed!

-- Gilbert and Sullivan, "The Mikado"

Pope Francis has his list, too, but there's nothing little about it. In his efforts to reform the Curia, Francis has identified 15 specific points. All are worth discussion; one of the more intriguing ones is point #8:
8) Suffering from 'existential schizophrenia.' "It's the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of hypocrisy that is typical of mediocre and progressive spiritual emptiness that academic degrees cannot fill. It's a sickness that often affects those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic work, losing contact with reality and concrete people."
While Francis is specifically concerned with the cocooned Curia, he's offering a challenge that is universal. How many of us are limiting ourselves to bureaucratic work? You don't have to work in an established bureaucracy for this to happen -- we worry about checking off the boxes on our own little lists and lose sight of the people who surround us. In most cases the stakes aren't as high in your own life, but focusing on the task list keeps us from seeing beyond it.

Are you called to pastoral service? If you are a Christian, you are. The services you render don't necessarily have to include serving soup at the Dorothy Day Center, but we do have an obligation to get beyond our selves and our lists. The more we focus on our lists, the more certain that the Lord High Executioner's claims become true -- the "society offenders" never would be missed, because we don't see them.

Francis's point about academic degrees is especially apt. We all know people who are highly educated and use their education and their academic prowess as a shield from the outside world, or as a truncheon. The curriculum vitae is a little list of its own, but it's only retrospective.

More to come.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Things the Pope actually does say

Yesterday we highlighted a bunch of nonsense attributed to Pope Francis. As it happens, Francis did have plenty to say on other topics yesterday:
Francis issued a blistering indictment of the Vatican bureaucracy Monday, accusing the cardinals, bishops and priests who serve him of using their Vatican careers to grab power and wealth, of living "hypocritical" double lives and forgetting that they're supposed to be joyful men of God.

Francis turned the traditional, genteel exchange of Christmas greetings into a public dressing down of the Curia, the central administration of the Holy See which governs the 1.2-billion strong Catholic Church. He made clear that his plans for a radical reform of the structures of church power must be accompanied by an even more radical spiritual reform of the men involved.
Two things, before we go any further. The Curia doesn't "serve" the Pope; they are supposed to serve the Church itself. Second, because so many members of the Curia have only served themselves, what Francis plans to do is absolutely necessary.

Francis offered a striking bill of particulars. A few favorites:
6) Having 'spiritual Alzheimer's.' "We see it in the people who have forgotten their encounter with the Lord ... in those who depend completely on their here and now, on their passions, whims and manias, in those who build walls around themselves and become enslaved to the idols that they have built with their own hands."

8) Suffering from 'existential schizophrenia.' "It's the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of hypocrisy that is typical of mediocre and progressive spiritual emptiness that academic degrees cannot fill. It's a sickness that often affects those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic work, losing contact with reality and concrete people."

10) Glorifying one's bosses. "It's the sickness of those who court their superiors, hoping for their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, they honor people who aren't God."

12) Having a 'funereal face.' "In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity. The apostle must be polite, serene, enthusiastic and happy and transmit joy wherever he goes."
Francis is identifying issues that happen in all organizations and is calling on the Curia to get back to first principles, principles that largely get ignored the deeper one resides in any bureaucratic structure. The larger question is what he is willing to do to bring about the needed reform. Bureaucracies depend on inertia and delay; since Francis is an old man, a lot of folks in the Curia assume they'll be able to wait him out. The task at hand is to keep the pressure on.

The "funereal face" line is particularly amusing, because it's such a feature of institutionalized Catholicism. The assistant principal at the Catholic high school I attended was a nun that nearly everyone called "Funeral Face." She was severe, officious and if she ever smiled, there were few witnesses. Her primary task seemed to be enforcing the dress code for girls, which required that girls wear a blue blazer while "in transit," meaning between classes. The real purpose was to keep the gals covered up, lest the boys get distracted by their Catholic schoolgirl charms. I can assure you the policy did nothing except irritate the girls -- we were plenty distracted anyway.

We'll come back to this topic.

Monday, December 22, 2014

More crap on the internet

This has been making the rounds lately:

C'mon, man

I will stipulate that there are atheists and agnostics who are kind and decent. And any honest Christian knows that the faithful are all sinners in one way or another. If I want to see a sinner, all I have to do is look in the mirror.

Francis is many things, but he's not a pagan. I have seen a lot of ostensibly intelligent people who seem to think that the man who sits on the throne of St. Peter is really going to argue that the traditional notion of God is outdated, and they also apparently believe that utterly ludicrous notion would be (a) possible and (b) desirable.

If you want to understand the problem that the Catholic Church (and Christendom generally) faces, this is it. Oh, and one other thing:

Tort tort baby

I probably wasn't going to go see "The Interview," the apparently shelved movie in which Seth Rogen and James Franco go all Bill and Ted, or Day of the Jackal, or something, on Kim Jong Un.

Can't see it now, though. And while Kim Jong Un might be part of the issue, the larger issue is closer to home, as attorney Kurt Schlichter points out:
If some pack of scumbags walked into a movie theater showing The Interview and opened fire, Sony and the theater companies would get sued. There’s no question about that – the Aurora theater chain where that psycho decided to start shooting is getting sued by the victims’ heirs as we speak. And, under our ridiculous tort system, the theater will lose, whether it prevails in court or not. Defense lawyers like me are not cheap.

Sony is a business; its duty isn’t to fight for our principles but to preserve and expand shareholder value. We veterans all swore to die, if necessary, to defend our Constitution, but Sony didn’t. It’s easy for us to say to Sony, “Hey, let’s you and him fight,” when it’s neither our money nor our personal safety on the line. 
Incentives matter. And given the wounds that Sony has suffered in recent weeks, the last thing it would want to do is take a chance.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Running Out of Games Again Edition

Old dude, it's hard to find a game to pick these days. Unless we choose to look at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, a stirring contest between Air Force and Western Michigan. That's a game I wouldn't watch if it happened in September, so what do we do?

Pick the games we can pick? That's a possibility, right?

Seems sensible to me. But I'm going to have to dig down deep in the well of HYYYYYYPPPPE! to get too excited. Watch me work!

Minnesota Vikings (+6.5) vs. Miami Tuna Net Victims. When we last saw the Dolphins, they were getting crushed by New England. Now that happens all the time, but we are duty bound to look past the thrashing and consider the fate of the local team, which is taking its talents to South Beach, at least temporarily. Somehow I think ol' Zygi won't let the Vikings stay on South Beach, though. Probably they'll be in a motel on Alligator Alley or something. As for the game, the Dolphins almost beat the Packers earlier in the season, but they are 7-7 and pretty much out of the playoff hunt, unless several teams have unfortunate aviation accidents in the next few weeks. I think the Vikings have a chance in this one -- Teddy Bridgewater is playing pretty well and it won't be cold down there. That's certain. Vikings 27, Tuna Net Victims 3.

Here was an early report from Miami:

I was not aware that the coach of Notre Dame was part of the cast. The Vikings have a plan and while the Dolphins are technically still alive for the playoffs, they aren't likely to get there. Still, motivation is a factor and I think the Dolphins will outlast the Vikings in the end. Still, expect a good showing. Dolphins 28, Vikings 24.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-10.5) vs. Tampa Bay Creamsicles. Last week didn't go particularly well for the Packers, as they struggled against an inspired Buffalo Bills team. This week they head down to Tampa, a place where they've sometimes struggled. However, a quick look at the standings tells us that the Buccaneers have only won two games, both against local Florida high schools. Lovie Smith does have the book on the Packers, but one reason he's in Tampa was that the Packers were regularly running circles around his now antique Tampa 2 defense. The Bucs don't have very good personnel and will have a very difficult time stopping the Packers on offense. And just a reminder -- you have to R-E-L-A-X. That's hard for me to do, given my HYYYYYYPPPE!, but I pay attention to Aaron Rodgers. Packers 51, Bucs 31.

The Packers should win this game. Of course, I said the same thing about last week. I have a better feeling about this one, because the Bucs are, well, 

Charles Barkley is one of the greatest philosophers of our time. Packers 38, Bucs 21.

Detroit Motor City Kitties (-9.5) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. Our man Jay Cutler finally got benched. He's been replaced by Jimmy Clausen, last seen leading the Carolina Panthers to a #1 draft pick that replaced him. As I have suggested, maybe it's best for Jimmy Clausen to lead this team. He joins a fine tradition of Bears quarterbacks that includes Peter Tom Willis, Sexy Rexy Grossman and Cade McNown. On the bright side, as far as I know, none of these former QBs are in prison, although an earlier Bears QB isn't so fortunate. I am also certain that no other former Bears quarterback has been the governor of Illinois, which is also a position that usually leads to a trip to Joliet. I would like da Bearz to win this game, because it would be exceptionally funny and helpful to the Packers. And you know what? I'm serious. Yes Gino, I'm throwing you a bone on this one. And unlike most Bears quarterbacks, I expect that the pass will not be intercepted. Bearz 31, Choke Artists 0.

Uh, no. Did you watch that game last week? I'm not sure the Bears were even in the stadium for a lot of the game. Marc Trestman is very close to joining the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Yeah, I'd like the Bears to win, too. But I'm not crazy. Lions 28, Bears 14.

The funny thing is, while I understand that picking the Bears is a ludicrous idea, I've made my peace with it. Just remember this -- I may sound like I'm crazy. But at least I'm not delusional. As far as you know, at least. Ben out!

They must have changed the planogram

As a former Target employee team member, I find this amusing:
The first lady also described being mistreated at a Target store in suburban Washington, during a shopping trip she took in 2011. "Even as the first lady," she told the magazine, "during the wonderfully publicized trip I took to Target, not highly disguised, the only person who came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her take something off a shelf."
Things have changed since I was in the employ of the ol' bullseye. If the assistance of the FLOTUS was required, apparently Target is now stocking crappy school lunches on its high shelves. Either that or the FLOTUS is a Randy Newman fan.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Poetry quote of the day

We're not supposed to listen to Rudyard Kipling, but this seems apt:

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
  To puff and look important and to say: --
"Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
  We will therefore pay you cash to go away."

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
  But we've  proved it again and  again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
  You never get rid of the Dane.

Only I can run but I can't walk

All night I tried and tried
I could not master the Cuban Slide

So we're going to normalize relations with Cuba, apparently. It's in all the papers:
The United States and Cuba ended more than a half-century of enmity Wednesday, announcing that they would reestablish diplomatic relations and begin dismantling the last pillar of the Cold War.

The historic move, following 18 months of secret negotiations and finally made possible by Cuba’s release of detained U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross, fulfilled one of President Obama’s key second-term goals.
Why normalizing relations with the Castros would be a key goal is puzzling, but we'll set it aside. The invaluable John Hayward has some fun with the reaction:
One consequence of the Cuba deal that Obama might not have gamed out all the way is the incandescent rise of Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio, who instantly emerged as his leading critic, at least temporarily eclipsing fellow Floridian Jeb Bush’s declaration of consideration of the possibility of a presidential run.  Bush isn’t happy about normalization either, but his mild statement of protest – “I don’t think we should be negotiating with a repressive regime to make changes in our relationship” – was drowned out by the thunder of Rubio’s thermonuclear eruption.  Rubio is so utterly beside himself that he appears to have replicated, appearing simultaneously on every media outlet.  He might be able to serve as his own running mate on the 2016 presidential ticket.
A few thoughts:

  • The timing is, shall we say, interesting, to say the least. In recent years, Cuba's primary benefactors have been such key U.S. allies as Russia, Venezuela and Iran. These countries, particularly Venezuela, have been able to help the fellas out because they are all oil producing countries. Thing is, oil prices are way down right now and maintaining Fidel and Raul Castro had to be a drain on the ol' finances. So that's a little curious.
  • The Castros aren't likely to change their ways, but apparently that concern doesn't matter.
  • Apparently the agreement was brokered by the Canadians and Pope Francis. I'll be curious to see what the Pope's role was and what the Vatican hopes to accomplish. 
Meanwhile, there are a few little details that deserve some attention, especially the five Cuban spies who are going back to Cuba in exchange for Alan Gross. Back to Hayward:
Ah, yes, the small matter of the Cuban Five, whose story the U.S. media seems completely uninterested in telling, because it makes Barack Obama look just awful.  They were part of a Castro terrorist network whose targets also included the U.S. Southern Command.  They helped Barack Obama’s wonderful new Partners in Peace shoot down two unarmed Brothers to the Rescue planes in 1996.  No word on whether the humanitarian pilots had their hands up in the “Don’t shoot!” position when Cuban ordnance hit their planes.  Don’t expect the media to pay much attention to what their families think about the Cuba deal; they matter about as much as people who got rooked by ObamaCare.
We don't know how normalized relations will change Cuba, other than getting some newer vehicles on the road. The Castros are old men -- Fidel is pushing 90 and is rarely seen any more; Raul is well into his 80s. I would hope that some day Cuba Libre won't just be the name of a mixed drink, but there's reason for skepticism.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

St. Anthony gets its mosque

Two years ago, the village of St. Anthony denied a Muslim group the right to start a mosque in a building on Old Highway 8. Now they've had to "compromise":

An Islamic worship center once rejected in St. Anthony will open after all under a settlement reached between the city and the U.S. attorney’s office.

“The city’s decision will be reversed and soon members of Abu Huraira will be able to hold prayer services in this building,” said U.S. Attorney Andy Luger Tuesday, standing outside the office building that has been the focus of a two-year battle.

Luger said he was “proud” of the agreement, which settles a lawsuit his office filed against St. Anthony in August. Eight local imams, four from the new center, stood behind him along with other Somali worshipers.

“God bless you and God bless America,” said Sheikh Abdirahman Omar, vice president of the center. He thanked the Justice Department and “all the neighbors who have reached out to us and offered your support and encouragement.”

St. Anthony Mayor Jerry Faust also praised what he called a “compromise” and predicted that the City Council will approve the settlement. That would undo its 4-1 vote in 2012 to reject the request by Islamic leaders to place the worship center in the building. “We welcome the Islamic Center to the city of St. Anthony,” he said.
This result is a lot of things. It might even be a desirable outcome. But let's not pretend it was a compromise. Andy Luger doesn't compromise.

Hurricane Jeb

No, we don't need another Bush in the White House. Despite that, Jeb Bush is running:
Jeb Bush answered the biggest question looming over the Republican Party's next campaign for the White House on Tuesday, all but declaring his candidacy for president more than a year before the first primaries.

Bush, the son and brother of Republican presidents, is the first potential candidate to step this far into the 2016 contest, and his early announcement could deeply affect the race for the GOP nomination.

He is the early favorite of the GOP's establishment wing, and his move puts immediate pressure on other establishment-minded GOP contenders to start competing with him for donors, campaign staff and national attention.

The 61-year old former two-term governor of Florida declared on Facebook he would "actively explore the possibility of running for president of the United States."
Heck, he's not the only politician past his sell-by date considering run. Remember this guy?
Add George Pataki to the growing list of Republicans who are considering running for president in 2016.

The former, three-term New York governor told the New York Daily News in an interview published on Tuesday that he’s “very seriously” thinking about making a bid for the nation’s highest office.
Maybe we could get Jim Edgar in the race. After all, he's got excellent credentials in that he's one of the few recent Illinois governors who haven't gone to prison. Heck, if we really want to go old school, I suppose we could chat up Al Quie.

So why do we have all these retreads coming back? A few thoughts:

  • Jeb's case seems to be more about divine right than electoral necessity; still, he's going to be formidable if he runs because of his name and his connections.
  • Hillary Clinton is not a strong candidate. In fact, I'd be surprised if she's actually the Dem standard bearer in 2016.
  • Jeb's early move is designed to suck all the money and oxygen out the race, of course. If Jeb runs, it's going to be difficult for either Mitt Romney or Marco Rubio, Jeb's protege, to get in. I don't know that either of them would have won at this point, but they aren't likely to get past Jeb.
  • There's been an obvious disconnect between conservatives and Republicans that has only grown in recent years. While there can be significant overlap on certain issues, most of the current Republican leadership, especially on Capitol Hill, isn't interested in reforming Washington or cutting the size and scope of government. And their patrons, especially at the Chamber of Commerce, have no particular issue with the barriers to entry that the leviathan regulatory state provides to potential competitors. The Ohio River separates John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, but not much else does.
  • Can another candidate emerge? Certainly one will, but it's difficult to see who it would be at this early point. I could envision a number of Midwestern Republican governors getting in the race -- Scott Walker, John Kasich, or Mike Pence come to mind -- and certainly Rick Perry will take another bite of the apple. I also suspect that Rand Paul and potentially Ted Cruz might try to use their senatorial perches as a springboard into the race. There won't be any shortage of candidates, but there is a shortage of resources.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ask an expert

When Joe Biden met Ayaan Hirsi Ali:
In her speech to the dinner guests in Washington, Hirsi Ali recalled meeting Vice President Joe Biden. He informed her that “ISIS had nothing to do with Islam.” When she disagreed with him, Biden actually responded: “Let me tell you one or two things about Islam.”

“I politely left the conversation at that,” Hirsi Ali said, to laughter. “I wasn’t used to arguing with vice presidents.”
No word on what Neil Kinnock thinks.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The best curmudgeon in the world

Gotta love P. J. O'Rourke, writing here on Lena Dunham:
The young people in Girls are miserable, peevish, depressed, hate their bodies, themselves, their life, and each other. They occupy apartments with the size and charm of the janitor’s closet, shared by The Abominable Roommate. They dress in clothing from the flophouse lost-and-found and are groomed with a hacksaw and gravel rake. They are tattooed all over with things that don’t even look like things the way a anchor or a mermaid or a heart inscribed “Mom” does, and they’re only a few years older than my daughters.

The characters in Girls take drugs. They “hook up” in a manner that makes the casual sex of the 1960s seem like an arranged marriage in Oman. And they drink and they vomit and they drink and they vomit and they drink and they vomit.

It’s every parent’s nightmare. I had to have a lot to drink before I could get to sleep after watching this show about young people who are only a few years older than my daughters.
Sounds quite appealing, actually.

Res ipsa loquitur

Dick Cheney's appearance on Meet the Press yesterday was about as categorical as it gets. Read it yourself; here are a couple of exchanges with Chuck Todd that I find particularly illuminating:

So if an American citizen is waterboarded by ISIS are we going to try to prosecute for war crimes?

He's not likely to be waterboarded, he's likely to have his head cut off. It's not a close call.
--well, let me ask you this, why do you not have some doubt in the C.I.A.? This is the same intelligence community that didn't get it right on WMDs in Iraq. Why are you so confident that they're telling you the truth in these memos?

Well, because I know the people involved because I've worked-- five out of the six former directors and deputy directors are men I've known for years and trust intimately with the difficult problems they'd dealt with. Jose Rodriguez is one of the outstanding officers in the agency.

I know what they were asked to do and I know what they did. And I'm perfectly comfortable that they deserve our praise, they deserve to be decorated. They don't deserve to be harassed. Can you imagine what it's going to be like if you were out there now as an officer in the agency and you were undertaking a complicated, difficult, dangerous task and you had the view that ten years from now even though the president approved it, even though the Justice Department signed off on it, some politician on Capitol Hill is going to come back and want a piece of your fanny.
I'll say this -- the guy doesn't mince words. Lots more at the link.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Nine years of Dilettantism

It began on a gloomy Tuesday afternoon, during the lunch hour at Bank of America's Bloomington Loan Center. B of A was closing the office in Bloomington, combining its operations into another loan center within B of A's normal corporate footprint, so my job was going to Hillsboro, Oregon. I wasn't going to Hillsboro, though, so I would be out of work by April of the following year.

Seemed like a good time to start a blog. And so this blog was born.

It doesn't seem that long ago, but nine years is a long time. I was writing those initial posts about such luminaries as Samkon Gado and Bruce Bartlett. You'll be forgiven if you don't remember either of those people, although Bartlett is still in there pitching.

In the past nine years, we've posted 4,344 times. That's more than one post a day; it's a lot of posting. There were thousands, maybe even millions, of bloggers in the early days. Not many people are doing this any more. The information superhighway is strewn with the detritus of old blogs. Still, it seems like a worthwhile endeavor, so this blog goes on.

I've never made a dime from the venture, but the friendships that have come from blogging have been a reward beyond appraisal. Thank you for your support and your friendship. And thank you for reading.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- 59-Rip Edition

I promise you that this will be the last time the events of last Saturday evening will be mentioned here. Oh, sorry, hi everyone, it's me, the Benster. We all know what happened last weekend and if you really want to relive that, you must live in Toledo or somewhere else in the great state of Ohio, or at least lived there at some point in your desperate, pathetic life.

Not taking it so well, then?

No. And if I were Gary Andersen, I'd have run off to Corvallis myself. By the way, here's a picture of Gary's new office:

Welcome to Corvallis, baby!
That should work out well for him. Meanwhile, the college season is in a lull for the moment, as we shift our attention to the bowl games, which are still a week or more away. We'd pick the Army/Navy game, but Navy has won approximately 354,210 times in a row now, so I'm not feeling the HYYYYYPPPPE! Both teams feature upstanding young men who will defend our country with honor and distinction, but let's face it, we've got other agendas. Like the pros! So watch me work!

Minnesota Vikings (+7.5) vs. Detroit Motor City Kitties. If you're a Detroit fan, now is the time you expect the Lions to cough up a hairball. The Lions are claiming they don't do that any more, and so far, they haven't. But they have to win out to win the division and that includes a trip to Lambeau, where they have not won since Millard Fillmore was president. But first things first -- the Lions have to deal with the improving Vikings, who are quietly 6-7 and not completely eliminated from the playoff race. You doubt me? I have visuals!

See, I told you!
So can the Vikings win a game in Detroit? I think they can. Will they? Vikings 31, Lions 20.

Man, I hope you're right. But I don't think you are. The Lions are playing significantly better than they have in recent seasons because they are a more disciplined team under Jim Caldwell. They still employ a lot of nasty people, but they are nasty with a purpose. The key here is whether the Vikings offensive line can keep the Lions out of Teddy Bridgewater's face. I'm not sure they can. Lions 24, Vikings 17.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-4.5) vs. Buffalo Soldier, Dreadlock Rasta. Bet you didn't see that reference coming, there, Decrepit! This game makes me nervous. Buffalo is better than you think -- they are above .500 and while they aren't on the radar screen for the playoffs, they are not eliminated at all. And they can play defense. Aaron Rodgers has been unbelievably good for the last two months, but this will be the best defense the Packers have faced in that time. Of course, it also doesn't help being on a short week. Having said that, we also are looking at Kyle Orton once again. You remember Kyle Orton, right? He's the guy who looks like he should have been in a dirty movie in the 1970s:

I am pretty.
You might want to try the regular coffee there, Kyle. Packers 20, Bills 18.

Yeah, this game makes me a little nervous, too. The Packers will get their points, but the record shows that the Packers have never won a regular season game in Buffalo. This would be a good time to end that streak. I say they will, but it won't be easy. Packers 28, Buffalo 20.

New Orleans Aints (-3) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. Wow, old dude! Da Bearz are not only eliminated from the playoffs, but they are a home dog against a not-especially-good Saints team that doesn't win on the road very much. What happened to da Bearz? Well, put it this way -- they might want to rethink their creative financing, since Jay Cutler is making a lot of money and delivering not a lot of production. In fact, it would be better if da Bearz tanked and hoped to get Jameis Winston. Yes, it's time to start over in Chicago. Aints 7, da Bearz 0.

I think the Bears should trade Cutler to the Redskins straight up for RGIII. They could exchange one train wreck for another. Change of scenery, they call it. It won't happen, of course, but I like the idea because it's a great way to mock both franchises. Anyway, the Bears do need to start over. Now that it looks like the Wisconsin Badgers have come to their senses and are going to hire Paul Chryst, I think that Bears could be looking at the start of the Bo Pelini regime in Chicago. Why not, right? Bears 24, Saints 21.

Okay, that's enough cruelty for one weekend, Geritol Fan! Think of poor Gino, who has to endure this dumpster fire of a football team! Oh, the humanity! Ben out!

Horrifying rumor of the day

Too horrifying to contemplate, actually:
When the news broke on Wednesday night that Gary Andersen was leaving Wisconsin to take the Oregon State job, a frequent suggestion on the Internet was that Wisconsin should take a look at Bo Pelini. Well, regardless of whether those suggestions were in jest or not, the former Nebraska head coach is reportedly an option to take over in Madison, according to 247 Sports.

If Pelini were to take the Wisconsin job, it would put a neat bow on what essentially was a three-team coach trade. Nebraska got things started back on Nov. 30 by firing Pelini and hiring former long-time Oregon State coach Mike Riley in a surprise move. Not to be outdone, Oregon State went and hired Andersen away from Wisconsin, which leaves athletic director and former head coach Barry Alvarez -- who will be coaching the Badgers in their bowl game once again -- in the position of conducting yet another coaching search.

Well, that calls for a poll.

Rumor mill suggests that Barry Alvarez is actually considering Bo Pelini. Your reaction?

 free polls

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Lightning Round -- 121114

Thoughts galore, limited time:

  • I've been mostly staying away from the UVa rape story that has been unraveling ever since it was published. It's only interesting in that it's yet another example of how narrative trumps the actual story. The Washington Post has been systematically demolishing the account of "Jackie" the victim and her chronicler, Sabrina Rubin Erdely. No one wanted to fact check the story, because the narrative is more important. Meanwhile, Allahpundit at Hot Air found a very amusing account from Erdely of another famous journalistic fabulist that she knew in college. Hit the link; it's worth your time.
  • Meanwhile, over at Smith College, President Kathleen McCartney got in trouble for bungling the slogan. The caption of this picture says it all:

    Whether your life matters depends on what the undergraduates at Smith believe. Be sure to get the narrative right.
  • Wisconsin football coach Gary Andersen bolted from Madison for lovely Corvallis, Oregon, where he will take over the program at Oregon State. Andersen had only been in Madison for two years and hasn't yet explained his reasons for leaving. It would seem like a lateral move, or even a step down, to go to OSU. While the Beavers compete in the Pac 12, they are eternally in the shadow of the mighty Oregon Ducks. Moreover, OSU has been a difficult place to win over the years. I'll eventually write a longer post about this topic, but I'd like to hear Andersen's explanation first.
  • Meanwhile, the Minneapolis City Council is trying to save the world by spending more money again. Actually, that's not news. Never mind.
  • Although I haven't seen him in many years, I know Fr. Mark Huberty, who was acquitted the other day of charges for criminal sexual conduct. He's got a long road ahead. We all do.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pump it up

You've certainly noticed that gasoline prices have dropped significantly in the last few months. I'm seeing about $2.45-$2.50/gallon in my part of town, and even in California the price is mostly below $3 a gallon. It's definitely a benefit to all of us in the short term. Still, issues may arise.

Oil is a commodity, but the cost involved in bringing a barrel of oil to market varies significantly. Some of the worst actors on the world stage are oil producers -- Iran, Russia, Venezuela. These countries are getting crushed:
The Opec oil cartel no longer exists in any meaningful sense and crude prices will slump to $50 a barrel over the coming months as market forces shake out the weakest producers, Bank of America has warned. 
Revolutionary changes sweeping the world’s energy industry will drive down the price of liquefied natural gas (LNG), creating a “multi-year” glut and a much cheaper source of gas for Europe. 
Francisco Blanch, the bank’s commodity chief, said Opec is “effectively dissolved” after it failed to stabilize prices at its last meeting. “The consequences are profound and long-lasting,“ he said. 
The free market will now set the global cost of oil, leading to a new era of wild price swings and disorderly trading that benefits only the Mid-East petro-states with deepest pockets such as Saudi Arabia. If so, the weaker peripheral members such as Venezuela and Nigeria are being thrown to the wolves.

The bank said in its year-end report that at least 15pc of US shale producers are losing money at current prices, and more than half will be under water if US crude falls below $55. The high-cost producers in the Permian basin will be the first to “feel the pain” and may soon have to cut back on production.
The BofA analysts may be wrong in the particulars, but I suspect the the general trend is true. I can't prove it, but I suspect the reason the Saudis are willing to make less per barrel is that the impact of lower prices on them is far less than it is on Iran. If Iran starts to become impoverished, things could get dangerous.

Enjoy it all while it lasts.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

What's the point, then?

The Baseball Hall of Fame is an irritating institution at times. Especially at times like this:
One more vote, and Tony Oliva would have been on a plane, heading west to warmer weather at the annual baseball winter meetings and a news conference about his induction into baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Instead Oliva watched from his home in Bloomington on Monday when Jane Forbes Clark, chairman of the Hall of Fame’s board of directors, announced that no one on the 10-person ballot received the 12 votes required for election into the Hall of Fame by the 16-member Golden Era committee.

Then Clark added the jaw-dropping details.

“The vote totals are as follows,” she began. “Dick Allen and Tony Oliva, 11 votes … ”

Many in the audience — many of them media members — groaned at the close call.
It's frankly a stupid exercise. If you aren't willing to vote people in, why have the committee at all?

Personally, I think the best player who was denied yesterday wasn't Oliva, or Dick Allen, or Jim Kaat, although I'd be willing to argue for Oliva and Kaat. The guy who deserves to be in is Minnie Minoso, a great player who lost a chunk of his career to the color line. I'd also argue that Luis Tiant is at least as deserving as Kaat. But it doesn't matter, apparently.

Monday, December 08, 2014

The Garner Case -- Get the Widow on the Set

You know the boys in the newsroom
Got a running bet
Get the widow on the set
We need dirty laundry

Chuck Todd did just that on Meet the Press yesterday -- he spoke with the widow of Eric Garner, who didn't necessarily answer the question the way one might expect:

Your husband is now the face of bias in our law enforcement. How do you feel about that?

I feel that he was murdered unjustly. I don't even feel like it's a black and white thing, honestly, you know, in my opinion. I really don't feel like it's a black and white thing. I feel like it's just something that he continued to do and the police knew. You know, they knew. It wasn't like it was a shock. They knew. You know? They knew him by name. 
They harassed us. They said things to us. We would go shopping. You know? They, "Hi Cigarette Man. Hey Cigarette Man Wife." You know? Stuff like that. And I would just say, "Eric, just keep walking. Don't say anything. Don't respond. You know? Don't give them a reason to do anything to you. 
And he just felt like, "But baby, they keep harassing me." And I said, "Just ignore them, Eric." And he said, "But how much can I ignore them?" And I would say, "Just stay away from the block. You know? Just find something else to do." And he's like, "What else can I do? I keep getting sick." He tried working with the Parks Department. But he had asthma. You know? He had issues. You know? Heavy guy. And he was very lazy. You know? He didn't like to do anything. He wasn't used to it, so.
How to interpret that? In the widow's reading, Eric Garner was just a poor schlub who didn't have a lot of prospects, dealing with cops who were essentially bullying him. I think she's telling the truth and therein lies a problem. Police are tasked with protecting us from harm. It's difficult to see the threat that Eric Garner posed that day. Going all Lord of the Flies on a guy selling cigarettes is, at best, a disproportionate response.

There are other problems, though -- along with the Widow Garner, Todd had Al Sharpton on as well, who said the following:
First of all, to blame the victim, the insensitivity of that is striking. But it's also, when you look at the video, the difference between Ferguson and Staten Island, even though we're bringing them together for now, is the video. And if you see in the video a man taken down on the ground with police over him, and then you continue to choke him, and the chokehold is illegal, are you now saying at the worst-case scenario, if he had resisted arrest and clearly he did, but the penalty then is that you choke him to death? I mean, I think it's the most absurd premise that this person could have raised.
Are the two incidents the same, though? In the Ferguson case, an officer had to make a split second decision whether to use deadly force on a suspect who had already been violent. There's no evidence that Garner had been violent and he was dealing with multiple officers. To suggest that the only difference between the two events is that one was videotaped ignores a variety of other issues. But that's the point, right? We're all about the narrative these days. Personally, I'm significantly more troubled by what happened to Eric Garner than I am with what happened in Ferguson. It's in Sharpton's interest to conflate the two cases, but I don't think they are the same thing. One might also wonder why Sharpton is in the employ of NBC, but that's an issue for another post.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Saturday in the Park Edition

So, Old Dude, we made a mistake.

Before we even started? That's bad, even for us. What happened?

We neglected to pick the Bearz game. How will Gino cope? And what about all the fair citizens of the Chicagoland area who depend on our utterly biased opinions on such things?

Maybe we can play some Chicago songs:

I don't think that will make Gino feel any better, but I do appreciate the hippy marching band outfits. Very nice -- you were dressed like that in '73, I assume?

Thankfully, there's very little photographic evidence of that time time period available.

Well, that's probably a good thing. Meanwhile, let's turn our attention some football! Watch me work!

Big Ten Championship -- Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-4) vs. The Ohio State University Buckeyes, in Indianapolis. The Badgers return to Indy, where last time they whooped Nebraska but good, 70-31, in the Big Ten Championship game, causing Gus Johnson to go absolutely berserk several times. Ohio State lost to Sparty last year, so they want to grab the ring. The problem they have is that they are down to their third string quarterback, someone named Cardale Jones. We haven't seen much of Cardale Jones, but he must be good, because he plays for The Ohio State University. Just ask them! You know my feelings about the Buckeyes; yeah, I don't like 'em very much. I would very much like to see the Badgers win this game and they are well equipped to do so. Urban Meyer has to remember that last year he dared Wisconsin to pass the ball. That almost bit him in the butt. I'm not sure the Buckeyes can hold up to the rushing attack of Melvin Gordon. Can Cardale Jones score enough points to win the game against the best defense in the Big Ten? I don't think so. Wisconsin 38, Ohio State 35.

Everything seems to point to a Badger win, which makes me nervous. The Gophers beat up Bucky a little bit last week and Gordon did sprain his ankle late in the game. All reports say he's fine, but you have to wonder a little bit. The Buckeyes were pretty explosive with J. T. Barrett at the helm and while there will be some dropoff, I don't think it's going to be as much as the Badgers might hope. The Buckeyes could sneak into the playoff if they can win. That's a pretty powerful incentive. So while I hate to do this and hope I'm wrong, I'm picking the Buckeyes. OSU 34, Badgers 28.

Old dude, really? I think you need to cheer up. Maybe it's time for another Chicago song:

Okay. So, is Urban Meyer paying you?

No, but I'd not turn down a few donations from him if he were so inclined.

Glad to see that your price is negotiable. Time to move on.

SEC Championship -- Missouri Tigers (+14.5) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide, in Atlanta. Time for the Night Writer's squad to represent! The SEC this year has been brutal -- a lot of evenly matched teams beating the heck out of each other all season long. Somehow Mizzou was able to avoid the carnage and finds itself in Atlanta for the second straight year, this time against Alabama. You figure that Alabama has got this. Vegas sure seems to think so. Not exactly, I say. Alabama has been shaky this year and needed some late game magic to pull out victories, especially at LSU. I figure that, either way, Alabama probably has a ticket to the playoff. Mizzou would like to get in a better bowl game, and often when a team has nothing to lose, they have plenty to gain. Night Writer, this one's for you. Mizzou 56, Tide Rolled 17.

Did you happen to notice that Mizzou lost to Indiana earlier this year? Thought I'd mention that. Mizzou is doing surprisingly well in the SEC, but Alabama has big game in their sights. It should be fun, but I like the favorite here. Alabama 34, Mizzou 24.

New York J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS (+6) vs. Minnesota Vikings. So Percy Harvin's coming back to town, but this time he's playing for the Jets. The Jets? Have you seen the Jets recently? I'd post a video, but it would be totally NSFW. They bring the fail. And the Vikings do not bring the fail. Things are looking up in Minnesota; while they have some things to figure out, the Vikings have played well lately. This is their third straight home game and against a very bad team, I would expect that the Vikings will continue to play well. Vikings 31, Jets 0.

Percy won't even get a sniff of the end zone? Maybe. Seabiscuit is correct -- the Jets are a dumpster fire of a football team right now, but I think they can get ol' Percy in the end zone once. Vikings 20, Jets 10.

Hotlanta Falcons (+12.5) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. Another game at Lambeau. Last week, the Packers held off the New England Patriots in what was a pretty epic football game. Now comes the Falcons, who are improving but aren't very good. The Packers have been routing lesser teams in Lambeau all season long. They've even routed a good team, the Eagles. Can Atlanta win, when they have the worst defense in the league against the pass? That doesn't sound very promising. I would look for ESPN executives to bemoan people tuning out another rout by halftime. But I'll watch the whole thing. You bet I will. Packers 63, Falcons 21.

The Packers could score 63 against Atlanta. I don't think they will, but they'll win comfortably. What I want to see is how they do against Atlanta's very good wide receivers. If they can slow down Julio Jones and Roddy White, look out. Packers 42, Falcons 24.

Again, I want to apologize to Gino for not picking the Bears. But we'll make it up to you someday; likely we will before Marc Trestman ever does. Ben out!

The Garner Case -- Part One

The Eric Garner case is a tough one because there are multiple issues to consider. A few thoughts are in order, but again, here is video of the event -- the one I posted yesterday has been taken down:

And here are the last recorded words of Garner:

He was correct -- it did stop that day
Is the issue here racism? Or is it untrammeled, unaccountable police power? Or is it a hyper-regulatory state that makes it difficult for citizens to stay within the law, because there are too damned many laws? Three thoughts;

  • Race is always an issue, because it is. I'd once thought that we were seeking a color-blind society, but it's been clear for a long time now that many people have no interest in that pursuit, so we're going to continue to talk about race forever and never resolve the issue. There's a lot of money to be made in grievance mongering; as a heartless capitalist I shouldn't really begrudge the racial entrepreneurship of Al Sharpton, right? He's just trying to make a buck out there. But just for giggles, let's throw out a thought experiment -- would this video and event be any less egregious if one of the cops in question had been black?
  • Police power is vast and ever increasing, which should worry everyone. I've posted this picture before, but it's worth looking at again in this context:
    Occupying force
    There are a hell of a lot of crimes that take place every day, but we don't have major war-like skirmishes on the streets of American cities. Our police are equipped for events that aren't really happening. It's not helpful and it sends a message.
  • Finally, let's think about the law that Garner was supposedly afoul of -- he was selling loose cigarettes on the street. Why would someone do that? Well, the cost of a pack of cigarettes in New York City these days can be as much as $14. I quit smoking in 1990 and remember paying about $13-15 for a carton of smokes. I'm not sure where Garner was getting his loose cigarettes, but likely they were from someplace outside of NYC. If you are a smoker and are trying to save money, a guy like Garner would likely seem a blessing. These cops were essentially tax collectors, which makes sense when the excise tax on a pack of smokes is about $4.35 and the city tax is an additional $1.60. There's an interactive map at the link that spells out the price of cigarettes in the region -- if you can get to Pennsylvania, you can buy a pack of smokes for less than half of the cost of a pack of smokes in NYC. Hard to imagine how a black market might set up in such conditions, eh?
We'll pick at this a little more in the coming days.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Meanwhile, back home in New Brighton

We gotta pot o' money and we're gonna spend, spend, spend! The invaluable Gina Bauman, who is the only true watchdog on the City Council, spells out the particulars:
The following is a summary of the proposed budget, along with some of my concerns:
  • Even though you might have heard of a 4-1 vote taken in September that the preliminary 2015 city taxing levy is being raised by only 1.92% (approximately $131,000), this is not reflective of true budgeted spending by the city. Point of information: While this number can only go down, I have not heard from any other council member or the mayor that they are interested in doing so.
  • The city will receive $554,000 in Local Government Aid (LGA) from state taxpayers which will be put into the general fund for additional spending.
  • Ramsey County determined that it had wrongly collected $101,000 in city property taxes last year. This amount was returned to the city, but will also be put into the general fund for additional spending. If you add all of the above figures, there will be approximately $789,000 – a levy amount of over 12% of additional spending. There will also be $211,600 use of revenue reserves.
Last year, Bauman got the city to return all the LGA money back to the citizens as property tax relief. This year, the City Manager, Dean Lotter, wants to spend the LGA money.

The big problem with this approach is that you can't count on LGA money coming every year. If you build the money into the budgeting process and it doesn't come through next year, the city will be looking at a big hole in the budget. As Bauman relates, Lotter has a wish list:

As the 2015 budget now stands, most of the tax increases paid by New Brighton residents will be used for the following:

  • Increase of $200,000+ for staff, salaries and steps. Note – The average salary before benefits and insurance is $75,000. Point of information: City manager salary will be approx. $126,000 plus a step increase. He believes that he is underpaid.
  • Increase of $850,000+ for renovation of the rest rooms and locker rooms and the purchase of new exercise equipment for the New Brighton Community Center. Please note that only about 850 of the 1500 members live in New Brighton.
  • Increase of almost $300,000 for the Police Department (budget $4,489,500/year).
  • Also, employee health insurance is going up by 22.5% in 2015 and the city manager would like another $116,500 – not included in the preliminary budget – to be paid by the taxpayers. A reorganization proposed by the city manager this past Tuesday could result in a budget savings of $167,213. He has, however,  proposed using those funds to offset the employee health care increase.

Emphasis in original. The city council meets next Tuesday to vote on the budget. It seems that the skids are already greased. A show of support for Bauman might persuade a few people that this isn't a good idea. More at the link.

res ipsa loquitur

The video of Eric Garner's arrest, which led directly to his death, in July. Draw your own conclusions:

His crime, apparently, was selling single cigarettes. Again, draw your own conclusions.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Congressional staffers in the news

Bill Cosby has been getting a lot of ink lately for his depredations. We just saw a congressional staffer get banished for snarky Facebook messaging. Why not combine the two?
A former Democratic congressional aide pleaded guilty Tuesday to sexually assaulting two women in 2010.

Donny Ray Williams Jr., 37, who served as a staff director for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee, pleaded guilty to third-degree sexual abuse, two misdemeanor counts of sexual abuse and one count of misdemeanor threats.

Prosecutors say that on July 22, 2010, Williams invited a female congressional colleague to his Capitol Hill apartment and promised to introduce her to Senate employees. At the house, prosecutors said, Williams spiked a drink with Ambien. The woman, according to court documents, fell into a “deep sleep,” at which point Williams raped her.
Good that the Washington Post covered the story. Not so good that it appeared in the "local news" section of the paper. Let's see if this becomes a national story. It probably should, but somehow I suspect it won't. Why would that be? Mr. Williams had better taste in employers:
Williams began his Capitol Hill career in 1999. He worked for panels chaired by Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.). He also said he worked for Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).
By the way, he won't be going to prison, either.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The turkey was pardoned

The turkey received better treatment:
Our long national Elizabeth Lauten nightmare is over.  She’s out of a job, after tendering the sort of “resignations” that would usually be accompanied by an expressed desire to spend more time with her family.  Don’t you feel better now?

Who’s Elizabeth Lauten, you ask?  You must not have been following the mainstream media over the weekend, because they thought she was a very big deal.  Until now, she was the comms director for Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN).  Don’t you dare ask, “Who’s Stephen Fincher?”  I just told you.  It’s right there in between the parentheses.  The “R” is the most significant of the three letters contained therein.
Lauten's sin was to criticize the dress and deportment of the Obama daughters, Sasha and Malia, in a Facebook post. The event Lauten referenced was the now-annual White House turkey pardon, in which a random gobbler survives the ax at the behest of the Leader of the Free World. Lauten was kinda snide and that's a huge deal, so she had to be gone.

I always know when any Republican operative, anywhere, says something that might not be very nice. The lefties on my own Facebook feed share the news instantaneously. The dope in Big Stone County who wanted to frag Muslims? Heard all about it. This lady? Wall-to-wall coverage.

Yet again, John Hayward makes the salient point:
When Jonathan Gruber, the architect of ObamaCare, was caught on tape admitting to the massive fraud necessary to shove the program through Congress, it was scarcely treated as news by Big Media (although Jake Tapper at CNN was a notable exception.)  When President Obama straight-up lied to the American people about his association with Gruber, the media yawned and relayed the lies with little objection or criticism, essentially taking the attitude that it was a non-story because everyone knew Obama was lying out of obvious political necessity.

But a staffer for a Republican member of Congress says something critical of the Royal Family, and look out – it’s an instant four-alarm fire, complete with an Internet flash mob – the laziest form of pressure ever invented – and a head swiftly rolls.  Lauten was gone in a fraction of the time it took to cashier VA Secretary Eric Shinseki after the worst scandal ever, in a messy department where that’s a fairly high bar to clear, despite a far louder outcry from more serious people than the insta-critics that took Lauten down over a Facebook post.  And it wasn’t an inherently outrageous or profane post, either.
All that is true, but there's also a larger point -- back to Hayward:
We’ve also seen sinister flash mobs go after pop-up outrage targets like Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, not because of anything he said or did today, but because of a political donation made years ago.  It’s quick and easy to be part of an outrage swarm.  The cost in terms of time spent is virtually zero, the consequences for unreasonably hounding someone are negligible – unsuccessful outrage swarms end with nothing but a brief sense of mild disappointment, followed by a stampede to the next exciting target – and success makes for briefly entertaining blood sport.

One of the reasons I fear for the political future of free speech is that it’s no longer a cultural value.  When someone gets hounded out of a job for allegedly offensive speech, we’re told it’s nothing to worry about from a First Amendment standpoint, because it wasn’t “censorship,” the government prosecuting someone for exercising their free-speech rights; it was an employer succumbing to public pressure and terminating a business relationship.  True, but the esteem we hold for values such as free speech is reflected in our conduct, and government power reflects that conduct in turn.  The more comfortable people get with dropping heavy consequences upon those who speak out of turn, the more comfortable they’ll become with the government regulation of speech.  If freelance vigilante censorship is vigorous enough, one hardly even needs the unconstitutional government variety.  Free speech can be taken from a society, or it can be thrown away… but either way, it’s gone.
There's a lot of "shut up, they explained" out there these days. While no one seriously argues that free speech should always be consequence-free speech, the consequences for someone like Lauten are ridiculous. It's the reason why I almost never post anything political on Facebook.

For the record, the Obama daughters looked fine. And they looked bored. Can't say that I blame them for that.

Monday, December 01, 2014


Darren Wilson can just go away now:
Former Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson's lawyer says Wilson resigned because he was concerned about the potential for violence against other officers if he didn't.

Neil Bruntrager told The Associated Press on Sunday that Wilson decided to step aside after police Chief Tom Jackson told him that the department had received threats. Bruntrager would not elaborate on the nature of the alleged threats. Messages seeking comment from Jackson were not returned.
Meanwhile, in Seattle:
A caffeinated gang of annoying white hipsters in Seattle did their level best to ruin Christmas this year by surrounding the city’s annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, chanting and making a bunch of little kids cry.

Okay, maybe that's a little tendentious, but read on:
The young, well-heeled, largely white crowd of demonstrators was protesting in response to Monday’s announcement that a grand jury in Missouri had refused to indict white police officer Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black male, on Aug. 9.

Friday’s incident in Seattle occurred at Westlake Mall, according to local NBC affiliate KING-TV.

Westlake Mall is some 2,119 miles away from Ferguson, Mo., where Wilson shot Brown.

Protesters stormed the mall on Black Friday, forcing stores to close five hours early on what is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year across America. They managed to disrupt the tree-lighting ceremony where a throng of young children was present. Many of the children were frightened because they did not understand the situation, parents said.
And their cause, beyond unconquerable moral vanity?
“America goes where their pocketbook goes, so today we’re blocking Black Friday,” protest leader Marissa Johnson said, according to the NBC station. “We want you to be uncomfortable shopping.”

Demonstrators commandeered escalators. They harangued shoppers. They blocked traffic and shut down rail service to the busy mall. They also participated in a “die-in” on the fourth floor.
Hope and change.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Try Edmonton

Ray Rice can come back to the NFL, or so we're told:
Former Ravens running back Ray Rice has won his appeal and been reinstated to the NFL.

The judge who made the ruling in the case believed Rice did not lie to the NFL during a meeting with commissioner Roger Goodell in June.

"I find that the NFLPA carried its burden of showing that Rice did not mislead the Commissioner at the June 16th meeting, and therefore, that the imposition of a second suspension based on the same incident and the same known facts about the incident, was arbitrary," Judge Barbara Jones wrote in her decision, which was obtained by ESPN.

"The Commissioner needed to be fair and consistent in his imposition of discipline," Jones added.
I don't think Rice will play in the NFL again. You can't be running this ad:

And then welcome back the guy who did this:

You can "start a conversation," but the NFL isn't particularly interested in having that particular conversation at the moment. It's just not going to happen. If Ray Rice is going to play football again, it's a lot more likely that he'll play in Canada than in the NFL.

What does the decision mean for Adrian Peterson? Well, he'll probably be reinstated, too. It may not be this year, but I don't think Roger Goodell will want to lose again. I suspect Peterson will have a chance to play in the league next year; will it be in Minnesota? I suspect the Vikings are doing some focus group work on the matter even as we speak.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Go Get That Axe Edition

Well, Decrepit, do you feel the inspiration?

It's real, it's raw. Sometimes it's real raw. Did you know that?

Is this post going to require a parental advisory?

No, but as an expert on HYYYYYYPPPPE!, I do have to give props to one of the biggest hype machines around. We miss Coach Brew, who was never dull but usually got his butt kicked. Speaking of butt kicking, watch me work!

Minnesota Golden Gophers (+14) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. This game will decide who gets Ohio State next week. I'm kinda surprised at how little love the boys in Vegas are giving those Gophers, who have proven that they can win in tough venues. However, Camp Randall is the toughest venue yet and the Gophers have to deal with this man:

The lesson that Minnesota has to learn is that Wisconsin is not a one-man team. The temptation will be to load up the box and stop Gordon at all costs. Joel Stave isn't a great quarterback, but he can hurt you if you try to stop Gordon. Just ask Iowa, or some of the other teams he's faced this season. The Gophers are tough and will not go away quietly. Sorry Gopher fans -- the Axe stays in Madison. Wisconsin 35, Minnesota 32.

It's always funny to watch those old Brewster tapes, because he was (well, still is) such a buffoon. Jerry Kill and his staff are turning things around and they are going to be a tough out. Still, I think the Badgers have too much firepower and Camp Randall will be rocking. Wisconsin 31, Minnesota 20.

Carolina Panthers (+2.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings came close last week against the Packers, but fell short. This week our old pal Scam Newton comes to town with his limping Carolina squad, who are still contending for a playoff spot even though they well, stink. Such is the NFC South these days. The Vikings are doing better each week and it's pretty clear that Mike Zimmer knows what he is doing. The question is when the Vikings can get it done. They still have some personnel issues and while they are making progress, it should be interesting to see what they do against a lesser opponent at home. Vikings 20, Panthers 17.

The Vikings are getting better, but at the same time they are starting to face a lot of attrition. Losing Phil Loadholt for the rest of the season will certainly hurt their offensive line and at this point, the line isn't doing what's needed to keep the pass rushers out of young Teddy Bridgewater's grill. The thing I worry about is that the Vikings might get their quarterback hurt unless they protect him better. Carolina is no great shakes but they can rush the passer. Vikings 24, Panthers 14.

New England Belichicks (+3) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. So, Geritol Fan, you say you want some HYYYYYYYYPPPPPPPE!? Well, this matchup has plenty. If you read the national publications, they are calling this a Super Bowl preview. I don't know about that -- there is a lot of football left, but for the moment our Packers are playing superb ball, especially at home. The Patriots are on a major hot streak and are more balanced than they have been in recent years. They can run the football effectively and Tom Brady always has all the throws. Last time these teams played, Matt Flynn was at the helm and almost beat the Patriots in Foxboro. This time, the game is in Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers is more than ready. This game should be high scoring and I don't expect the Packers to run away with it as they did against Philadelphia. Packers 56, New England 49.

So you're suggesting we bet the over, then. I don't think it's going to go quite like that, but it will be a close game. The Patriots are having an outstanding season and they can beat you with their offense or their defense. I think Aaron Rodgers has something to prove and that will make the difference. Green Bay 34, New England 27.

So that's all we have -- too many games on Thanksgiving and earlier today. They need to space these things out a little bit. Who has time to watch all that football, anyway? Maybe Coach Brew. Ben out!