Friday, October 30, 2015

Benster and D Pick Your Games --- At Least Mildly Intriguing Games Edition

Old dude, so many games that are interesting to look at this weekend. A lot of questions in the Big Ten, as well as in the NFL, where in the next few weeks should figure out if certain teams are for real, and others are just dressing up as ones for Halloween.

It's pretty spooky out there, actually.

You know, I try to set you up for a punchline and you whiff on it. You really need to try harder than that.

I must need to up my Geritol dosage.

Good plan. Now watch me work!

Michigan Wolverines (-13) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers. Jerry Kill sadly had to retire because, even though he is a great coach and even better leader and man, he did not want jeopardize his health. That is a sad feeling for Gopher fans, and I wish he and his family all the best. In the meantime, Michigan is in town and the Wolverines are led by Jim "Jerkbag" Harbaugh, who is a great coach but a bit animated on the sidelines, despite his preference for boring khaki pants. The Gopher players have every excuse to lose this game, and nobody would blame them, but remember this--- they have experience playing without Coach Kill, and his coaching staff is quite good. Michigan may think that this game is going to be easy, but remember that they got ambushed in Minneapolis 12 years ago, and they survived by the skin of their teeth. They may not this time. Gophers 35, Michigan 13.

I really have no idea how the Gophers will do in this one. Michigan is pretty good and they want to take the Little Brown Jug back to Ann Arbor. I think this one comes down to defense. Can the Gophers deliver? Michigan 17, Gophers 14.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (+19.5) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. Wisconsin had a tough day against Illinois and was able to find a way to win despite losing Joel Stave to a concussion. Stave could play tomorrow, but if he can't go, Bart Houston looked decent. Rutgers is a Big Ten school, but they just are not that good. I think the Badgers are playing well, and should line up for a good New Year's Day Bowl against somebody from the SEC. Badgers 42, Knights 7.

It sounds like Rutgers may be without their top player, the wonderfully named Leonte Carroo. The Badgers are banged up pretty good, but this stretch should help them prepare for the end of the season. If Corey Clement finally returns, watch out. Badgers 34, Rutgers 13.

Knox College Prairie Fire (NL) vs. Illinois College Blueboys. Knox had no problems at Grinnell, and did win the game. This is the last game before the epic showdown against the #@$%$ Scots in the Turkey Bowl, where we should be victorious. You know that I always pick my school because I love it, and because that is how I roll. Knox 67, Blueboys 9.

Illinois College put up 83 on Grinnell. I think they'll score early and often. Bet it's a shootout, but I don't think your beloved Prairie Fire will prevail. IC 45, Knox 36.

Minnesota Norseman (-1.5) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. Da Bearz are a team that is still struggling and very much beatable, despite their now competent coaching staff. Jay Cutler is still being Jay, which is about as predictable as the French getting invaded via Belgium. The Vikings have found a good receiver in Stephon Diggs, who seems to have a great relationship with Teddy "Smoke on the" Bridgwater. The Bears should lose this game, and should continue to try and improve their draft position. Vikings 77, da Bearz 2.

I bet against the Vikings last week and it didn't work out so well. The Bears are rested and I think this one will go right down to the end. Vikings 24, Bears 21.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-2.5) vs. Denver Broncos. If any game this week deserves the HYYYYYYPPPPEEE! this week, it is this game. Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning are facing each other for only the second time ever this weekend, and this game matters because both teams are undefeated. Both teams have had two weeks to prepare for this matchup, so I see no advantage on that front. Denver is going to be difficult because the altitude is something that is impossible to prepare for. Both offenses are going to be good, but the question is, what defense can step up? I like the fact that the Packers are a good blitzing team, and that tends to make Peyton a little nervous. I do not think he will be throwing any chicken parm to Papa John, though. I look for James Starks to be the key in this game, since the Packers can run a lot of screens. I would also look for a Jeff Janis play sometime in the game, because he made a few key plays against San Diego/ L.A. Packers 43, Chicken Parm You Taste So Good 42, in OT.

Can you even win a game by one point in overtime? I digress. I think defense is the key here and I don't see nearly that much scoring. If the Packers can get to Manning, they win. I think they will. Packers 24, Denver 21.

Detroit LOLions (+3) vs. Kansas City Chefs, in London.  And now, time for a Special Comment. Yes, despite the fact that the EPL has traditionally moved key games to Sunday for Sky Sports, the NFL is insisting on playing a game involving two bad teams at Wembley Stadium. This would be like the EPL sending Sunderland and Watford to play in the Rose Bowl up against the late NFL games over here. It is a joke that a team should have to give up a home game to play in a country that would rather watch Everton play Sunderland. Quite frankly, Roger Goodell should move these games to Los Angeles and play them at the Rose Bowl or the Coliseum to see if LA will turn up. As for this game, I would expect that Detroit would win. LOLions 3, Chiefs 3, Lions win 5-4 on penalty kicks.

I dunno -- I think Jolly Old England has been waiting for a Charcandrick West appearance, don't you? This game is a dog, though -- have to agree with you there, young fella. Neither team is going anywhere this year, but I think the Chiefs are a little better defensively, so let's say... Chiefs 23, Lions 16.

That is all. And Roger, if you need any more ideas, you know that I can help you out with determining where to play games. You might want to consider Galesburg, Illinois, for example. Ben out!

Res ipsa loquitur

Walter Russell Mead:
The national elite press does not, on the whole, welcome the decline of blue model America and, like academics and others whose interests, self-image and power in the world are adversely affected by the reshaping of American society, it naturally and almost inevitably interprets many of the changes taking place through the conceptual model of the Grim Slide from the time of Ronald Reagan to the present day. The changes in American society look like the systemic erosion of the social achievements and protections of the progressive era, and the economic misfortunes, falling wages and declining job security of many old media journalists reinforce their dark forebodings about what the transformations mean.
Everyone becomes a conservative, in their own way, for their own reasons, especially if there's money and prestige on the line.

A break in the Wetterling case

Maybe, just maybe, we might have the answer to a longstanding mystery:
An Annandale, Minn., man first questioned 26 years ago about the disappearance of Jacob Wetterling has re-emerged as a “person of interest” in a chilling abduction that has long stymied investigators and haunted the public, authorities said Thursday.

Daniel James Heinrich, 52, was arrested at his home Wednesday night on charges of receiving and possessing child pornography. At a news conference Thursday in Minneapolis, authorities said they are also investigating Heinrich’s possible link to the Wetterling case.
We didn't live in Minnesota when this abduction took place and I don't really remember reading about it at the time, but it's always been an enduring story. The abduction of Jacob Wetterling has never faded as a source of news and any potential developments in the case have always led the local newscasts. Yes, we've been down this road before. This time does seem different, however. I hope, for the sake of everyone involved, that it is.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Debate Recap -- It's Raining Mensheviks!

I didn't see all of yesterday's debate, but I caught enough of it to get a flavor. Observations:

  • More than a few of these people need to go home now. The entire undercard would be a good place to start; the only candidate of that group that I'd want to hear is Bobby Jindal, but it's just not happening for him in this cycle.
  • Mike Huckabee needs to go home. He's very good in this format, but he's never going to be president and it's time he makes his peace with that. As he kept talking about eradicating diseases, I was half expecting him to start doing one of his infomercials.
  • John Kasich should go home as well. He's not going to be president and when, you watch his body language and demeanor, he knows it.
  • Rand Paul was there, apparently. Not so much that you'd notice, though. I think Ted Cruz has essentially eaten his lunch. I wish Rand well in his promised filibuster today -- a return to the Senate is very much in order.
  • Chris Christie had a good night, but I doubt he did enough to move the needle. I appreciated his comment about fantasy football, as it underscores the behavior of our government and the functionaries and grandees who are in its employ -- they are less interested in solving existing problems than in finding new opportunities to regulate and control the behavior of others. H. L. Mencken made the same point many years ago.
  • Jeb Bush had a disastrous night. He tried, pretty much at the outset, to take out Marco Rubio, but his attack went nowhere, because Rubio was ready for it. It's difficult to see any rationale for Bush's campaign, other than it's his turn. Bush has a lot of money and a big ol' Super PAC, but I don't see a way forward.
  • Carly Fiorina didn't make much progress. According to NPR's clock, she got the most time to speak, but in the exchanges I saw she wasn't particularly effective. I suspect she sticks around for a while, but the window appears to be closing on her campaign.
  • Ted Cruz intrigues me, but I wonder if he'll be able to translate his intellect into a winning campaign formula for the general election. He was quite effective in excoriating the CNBC moderators for their bias and rudeness, but I wonder if references to the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks work in the larger context. He's the smartest man in the room, but I sense he's still too much of the college debate champion and suspect he'll be a tough sell to the audience he needs to win. He scares the hell of the Left, though, and that's something..
  • Ben Carson is leading in some national polling and while I don't see the reason for it, I suspect his calm demeanor is crucial. He's a doctor with an outstanding bedside manner. Does that make him a plausible president? I'm still skeptical.
  • Marco Rubio is a contender. He had an excellent debate last night and he's left Jeb Bush in his wake. He was ready for the attack on his Senate attendance record and he seemed to gain the sympathy of the audience when the moderators started in on his personal finances. He may not win, but he's going to be there at the end.
  • Donald Trump is an acquired taste and I'm not likely to acquire it. Having said that, he's a compelling figure and his supporters don't care much about the many cavils others might offer. While I think Cruz has more native intelligence, Trump has done a great job of reading the mood of the electorate he is currently courting. He might get bored with the campaign, but I wouldn't bet on that happening. He's going to be around to the end.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sorting out the local election

We have an election in less than a week in New Brighton. There are five people currently on the city council, including the following:

  • Dave Jacobsen, the mayor. He would like to return to the office.
  • Paul Jacobsen, a city council member. His seat is up and he would like to return.
  • Mary Burg, a city council member. Her seat is up and she would like to return.
  • Brian Strub, a city council member. His seat is not up and he will serve for the next two years.
  • Gina Bauman, a city council member. Her seat is not up, but she is running for mayor.
The other candidates in the field are the following:
  • Val Johnson, running for mayor.
  • Susan Erickson, running for city council.
  • Rick Moses, running for city council.
The council seats are at-large, so the voters will vote for two city council members, who serve a four-year term, and for mayor. The mayoral term is two years.

A few general comments on the candidates:
  • Dave Jacobsen has been, for the most part, a big improvement over his predecessors. Having said that, we're starting to see diminishing returns. The longer he stays in office, the more amenable he has been to increasing spending and being open to raising taxes.
  • Paul Jacobsen has also been trending left over his time on the council. Under the proper circumstances, he could reverse that trend.
  • Mary Burg likes to spend money. She's consistently pushed for larger government, more taxes, and more roles for the city government. If you're into that sort of thing, she gives you what you want.
  • Gina Bauman is the only truly consistent conservative in local government. Gina takes her role seriously and is not afraid to battle against the others on the council.
  • Val Johnson is a longtime city resident who argues that her love of the city compels her to seek a greater role. If elected, she will spend as much money as she can.
  • Susan Erickson is a conservative. If elected, she would work well with Gina Bauman as a fiscal guardian.
  • Rick Moses is also a conservative. If elected, he would be a fiscal guardian as well and an effective one.
It's difficult to guess how this election will turn out. New Brighton tends to support big spenders in general elections, but local elections tend to have far less voter participation, so the side that is more motivated is the one that generally wins, and the conservatives are often particularly motivated in off-year elections. 

What is certain about city government for the next two years -- Brian Strub will be on the council. Strub is a liberal and makes no bones about it. Gina Bauman will be on the council as well, but her role is yet to be determined.

What do you want your government to do? If you want city government to be kept on a short leash, you should support Gina Bauman for mayor and Susan Erickson and Rick Moses for city council. If Gina becomes mayor, there would be an appointment to fill her remaining term on the council and you could safely assume another conservative would fill that role.

If you want a free-spending, liberal city government, you should support Val Johnson for mayor and Mary Burg and Paul Jacobsen for city council. You will get a bigger government and can safely assume that your property taxes will rise, perhaps significantly, over the next two years..

If you want the status quo, which means a slow drift to the left and increasing taxes, but just not in such a hurry, you should support Dave Jacobsen for mayor and Burg and Paul Jacobsen for city council.

The best result would look like this:

Mayor: Gina Bauman
City Council: Susan Erickson, Rick Moses, Brian Strub and an appointed council member

An acceptable scenario would be:

Mayor: Dave Jacobsen
City Council: Gina Bauman, either Erickson or Moses, Strub and Paul Jacobsen

The worst case scenario:

Mayor: Val Johnson:
City Council, Bauman, Mary Burg, Paul Jacobsen and Strub

We'll sort it out in a week.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The race

My take, at this moment, a day before the next debate scrambles things again:

  • I sense Donald Trump is starting to get a little bored with the festivities. He's leading, but he's not necessarily winning.
  • Ben Carson says some things that ought to be said, but he's not going to be president.
  • Marco Rubio has a chance. That's become obvious in recent days as his patrons, the Bush family, are now attacking him.
  • Ted Cruz has a plan and he is executing it well. He's still a problematic candidate for the general election, but he's clearly the most intelligent candidate in the field. And if he can make a splash in South Carolina, watch out.
  • It's been fairly quiet for Carly Fiorina since she made her splash in September. She needs to raise her profile again.
  • Jeb Bush is not going to be president. He's not attuned to the concerns of the primary electorate and he's not going to get to the general election unless he can convince enough primary voters that he does understand their concerns. He can't make that sale.
  • Everyone else in the Republican field has no shot. 
  • Hillary Clinton, barring a deus ex machina moment, is going to be the Democratic nominee. And the MSM is going to be doing some heavy lifting on her behalf.
  • Bernie Sanders doesn't really want to be president. That's a good thing.
  • Martin O'Malley desperately wants to be president. He won't be. In 20 years, he can run again as the portside version of George Pataki.
Who do you like? Who don't you like?

Monday, October 26, 2015

A gentle reminder

Hillary Clinton had a long day on Thursday. John Hayward recalls a longer stretch:
As for Hillary’s day of testimony, her media has sought to portray it as extraordinary or unreasonable, but they avoid using words like “unprecedented” because it isn’t. Hearings tend to run long for witnesses with limited availability. Lt. Col. Oliver North testified for six straight days in the Iran-Contra hearings, to cite one of the most famous examples of truly “grueling” testimony.
This is true. But the invaluable Hayward makes a larger point that merits greater consideration:
Republicans on the Benghazi committee don’t appear to have planned their media strategy for the aftermath very well. There were indeed some big revelations, including the final and indisputable proof that Hillary Clinton knowingly lied about the nature of the Benghazi attack while reserving the truth for her family and a few political insiders, but committee Republicans seem genuinely surprised the media quickly spun a “nothing new here, Clinton emerges unscathed” narrative.

The larger, and more disturbing, question is: why have congressional hearings at all, if accountability is dead? Everything can be delayed for years, subpoenas can be defied, laws and policies ignored with impunity. Is there any way to have anything resembling a comprehensive investigation without investing years of effort… and giving partisans ammunition to complain the inquiry is unreasonably long and expensive?

It will probably be harder for a Republican Administration to get away with such tactics, but not impossible, and they’re sure-fire winners for Democrats. If congressional oversight means nothing but theatrical productions years after the fact, we are one step closer to Congress becoming a vestigial organ, instead of a co-equal branch of government.
There may come a day when Democrats will understand the need for Congressional oversight.

Flip Saunders, RIP

Cancer is vicious. Flip Saunders, who was diagnosed with cancer only a few months ago, died yesterday at the age of 60. The Star Tribune has more:
Saunders was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma — a cancer of the immune system — in June and soon began chemotherapy treatments. In August, the team announced his condition, saying he intended to work uninterrupted while being treated for a cancer his doctors considered very curable.

Saunders had said in a team statement: “I am attacking this with the same passion I do everything in my life, knowing this is a serious issue. I also know that God has prepared me to fight this battle.”
The fight didn't last long, unfortunately. Chemotherapy is nasty and apparently it caused additional complications for Saunders that he was unable to overcome.

I've followed the Timberwolves since we moved here. Saunders has been one of the most important figures in the history of the franchise. Before that, he'd been a Gopher, so he was a Minnesota guy through and through. Even when he was coaching elsewhere, he was a pretty regular presence on the sports scene here. It finally looks like the Timberwolves, who now have a lot of young talent on their roster thanks to the work Saunders has done as a general manager, have a future. It's a shame that the architect of the team won't get to see his work come to fruition. RIP, Flip.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Benster and D Pick Your Games --- Parents Weekend Edition

It is Parents Weekend this week at Knox, so that means that all the parents can come down and see the delights that Western Illinois has to offer.

Like the sounds of endless trains?

No, I am not sure of those, but there are others, But time is short. I'll think of some eventually. In the meantime, atch me work!

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-5) vs. Illinois Cheating Illini. Wisconsin is still finding ways to win close games, which is good to see, because in the Big Ten, that is how you win and get to Indy. Illinois is a difficult trip in the recent past and always seems to give Wisconsin a tough time, despite not being as good as in the days of Juice Williams. The Badgers should win again, but I would not expect any typical Wisconsin blowout of a weak sister team. Badgers 28, Cheating Illini 23.

Hard to argue with that. Corey Clement may play today, which would help. Joel Stave has done well without a lot of targets. Close game. Badgers 24, Illinois 14.

Indiana Wants Me, Lord I Can't Go Back There Hoosiers (+16) vs. Michigan State Sparty the Spartan. You may be asking yourself why I would allow myself to branch out and pick a Big Ten game that I might not have an interest in. The reason is to highlight a fact that the media is not paying attention to. Indiana is a good team this year, capable of causing an upset. Sparty is coming off one of the craziest victories I have ever seen against Big Brother in Ann Arbor. The Hoosiers are the type of team that has shown that the best football this year is in the Big Ten. Iowa is also getting no respect nationally, despite the fact that if they go undefeated and beat the East Winner in Indy, they would be impossible to screw out of the Cotton or Orange bowls. As for this game, as much as I respect Sparty for what they have done, this game has all the makings of a trap game. Indiana Wants Me, Lord I Can't Go Back There 20, Sparty 14.

Disagree. Sparty is going to kill 'em. Spartans 44, Hoosiers 10.
Knox College Prarie Fire (NL, Because Vegas Is Full of Scots Grads) vs. Grinnell College Pioneers. Knox has a rough day at the office against the Rams of Cornell last weekend, and they will be on the road to hopefully ruining somebody;s day at Grinnell. You know that I will always choose Knox, because it is my school and because we have been on SportsCenter this year for being awesome. Knox 100, Pioneers 2.

Could happen -- Grinnell got edged by Illinois College 83-10 last week. I suspect Knox will score and score often. Knox 45, Grinnell 28.

Minnesota Vikings (-2) vs. Detroit LOLions. The Vikings won a game against Kansas City last week, and they looked pretty solid. Stephon Diggs has been killing it on the field, and Teddy "Smoke On The" Bridgewater seems to like looking for him to make big plays. That is a positive sign and I am sure that Viking fans have been waiting for a solid receiver to emerge to help Mike Wallace. The LOLions looked better as Matthew Stafford finally started to figure out that throwing deep to Megatron will work sometimes. Granted, they were playing the Bears, who are about as reliable as Hillary Clinton's server. Minnesota should win, and maybe the Lions can rehire Matt Millen, who was an excellent source of humor and fun to an entire nation. Minnesota 56, Hire Matt Millen 8.

Better than listening to Millen mispronounce the names of Rutgers players on the Big Ten Network. I think this game is a trap for the Vikings. They've had a lot of people telling them how good they are. That's always a problem. Lions 31, Vikings 26.
This week is a terrible week to find games to pick, because the Packers and Bears are both on bye this week. I would pick the Packers against the bye, while the Bears will struggle because the Bears are just not good against a lot of opponents. Ben out!

Friday, October 23, 2015

If a Benghazi falls in the woods

Hillary Clinton said enough yesterday to make anyone who is paying attention realize she is unfit for office. Paying attention to hours of testimony requires a time commitment that few people are willing to make.

The Narrative is set and Hillary did great. She will not be held accountable for anything that happened on her watch. The reason you want Republicans in office is that they can be held accountable.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Return of Guilty Pleasures -- Fearless Maria Takes You Back to the Future

Well, lookee here! Who is that?

Hi! It's me! Fearless Maria! No, I have returned from the war! It was a long, long, war, fighting against the citizens of the far off galaxy known as Adolescence! Or maybe it was the Broken Arrow Marching Band!

I'm so glad to see you again, gracing this space, Miss Maria!

And I'm glad to be back. Things were getting a little too dry over here, anyway!

So, when we last did one of these, you were still in middle school. What's going on now?

Just like in the 17th Century in England, I had a Great Awakening! Looking back on these posts, I complained about homework then. So just imagine how it is for me now! That, the war, and my part-time shift at Darboy Fried Chicken, and I have no time! I'm trying to feed my kids! I need an increase in the minimum wage!

You're making some of that up, I think.

Just a few details. Or most of them! But I want to talk about music again!

Sounds good to me. What great, overarching theme have you selected for us today?

Well, as you all probably saw on social media yesterday, it was Back to the Future Day, the day that the characters supposedly arrived in the future! I'm still looking for my floating skateboard! And where's the DeLorean, Dad? You know I've got my permit!

Maybe we'll start with something with a little less horsepower than a DeLorean, Maria.

Fine, fine, fine. Lord knows, we need to get something kick started, because it's been at least two years since we've done one of these! So let's go Back to the Future! We'll set the Wayback Machine to 1955. What do you got, Daddy-O, from your freshman year?

I'm not that old.

So you say. Suuuurrrre.

Okay, let's consider this one, from a certain gentleman from Tennessee:

Well, I'm a little rusty in my critiques, but give me a moment to oil the machine that is my genius! And please, be sure to step away at least fifty feet and don't touch the other artifacts in the hall! And no flash photography!

Uh, Maria?

Yes, Dad?

If they step back fifty feet, how are they going to read the blog?

Laser vision! Try to keep up! At least try, Dad! Anyways, for the critique of the song -- you can tell just by the lamentation of the lyrics and the tastefully placed finger snaps, this was truly a keystone of the era! However, I do have to comment on the clarinet riffs. I have a number of friends that play clarinet and let me tell you, they don't owe their souls to the company store! They also play with better tone projection! But perhaps that's because ol' Tennessee Ernie was trying to be all egocentric and kept them behind the curtain! No respect for the musicians!

Well, he was the headliner.

Yeah, but if we're talking about headliners, do all those people do all that stuff? We see Obama in the headlines, but can he play a clarinet riff? I doubt it! And that smirky Joe Biden guy is no better, either. He probably chipped the reed on his giant teeth and now he can't be a model for Colgate any more!

Well, he'll need to figure out something, I guess. Needless to say, I love "Sixteen Tons," which is an eternal classic, but maybe it's due for a remake with an oboe.

We need to give the woodwinds the respect they deserve! What's next, Daddy-O?

Let's return to the infancy of rock and roll:

Wow, check out the plaid tuxedo! Bill Haley must have been foreshadowing the future wardrobe stylings of  the 1970s! Maybe he was even Herb Tarlek's dad!

My favorite part is the greasy cowlick hair.

Sadly, that's kinda coming back a little bit now, although any time I see one of the kids at my high school wearing that I'm afraid that President Obama is going to declare an environmental emergency and send FEMA out to clean it up!

That would explain the faint sound of sirens I seem to hear all the time.

We like to keep it fresh at Irondale. What a great honor it is to be able to witness the prenatal birth pangs of the rock and roll era!

Yep -- that's where it began. Now, let's move on the year of the original Back to the Future movie, 1985. The technology had started to change and we saw this groundbreaking video:

Wow, Dad! Did you hear that high note in the chorus? Did they cut out the scene in this video where they had an animated cattle prod?

Oh, I sincerely hope so, Maria.

In all honesty, I did think the animation was pretty cool. I would bet that was a lot of work back then. I also definitely approve of the message of falling in love with animated fictional characters. Let me tell you -- I've seen the field and these days, we're not exactly in the prime, so sometimes you gotta turn to the fantasy world.

So you're saying the pickings are a little slim at the ol' high school?

Well, I'd better consult my attorney before I answer any further questions on the matter, dear father.

Probably wise. Meanwhile, we heard this one in the movie:

The Power of Love seems to have short circuited on this one! It's an okay song, but I wouldn't say it was particularly Newsworthy!

Very nice. We interrupt this Guilty Pleasures for the following:

Hey, you laughed! Since when have you become such a critic, oh King Daddy of Punsterville? I have inherited much of my pun wisdom from you, but I really hope to overcome that. Anyway, are we ready to move on the future that is cleverly disguised as today?

Sure. But why don't you introduce these, since I've been a refugee from popular culture since the late 80s:

Sure thing. Try this:

This is "Shut Up and Dance" by Walk the Moon:

It's pretty peppy. Maybe even zippy!

You're supposed to be in the future! What's up with the Depression-era adjectives?

I don't know. I assume the DeLorean hit a pothole on the space-time continuum. Actually, it's quite pleasant the video is entertaining. And I didn't hear any AutoTune. Works for me!

All right, glad you liked that one. Next on DJ Fearless Radio, let's try this chart-topper by the alternative group Fall Out Boy -- this is "Uma Thurman":

Uma Thurman? That sounds like the Munsters! Thank you for clearing up a mystery I've had for weeks -- I've been hearing that Munsters riff around and had no idea why I was hearing it! I was afraid that we were in the middle of an endless Munsters reunion. As for the song itself, it's an interesting pastiche. And if you want to dance like Uma Thurman, you need to do this:

Well, even though the Uma Thurman song is popular with my generation, I'm not sure any of them would do the twist, even to an old Chuck Berry song. But that song brings us almost all the way back to 1955, so we've come full circle, folks! Let's pick your favorite Guilty Pleasure and put it in the comments section! Your choices are:

"Sixteen Tons," Tennessee Ernie Ford
"Rock Around the Clock," Bill Haley and His Comets
"Take On Me," A-Ha
"The Power of Love," Huey Lewis and the News
"Shut Up and Dance," Walk the Moon
"Uma Thurman," Fall Out Boy
"You Never Can Tell," Chuck Berry

I'm glad you're back, Fearless Maria.

I am, too. We need music around here! Now vote, people!

You will comply

Here comes the stick:
The math is harsh: The federal penalty for having no health insurance is set to jump to $695, and the Obama administration is being urged to highlight that cold fact in its new pitch for health law sign-ups.

That means the 2016 sign-up season starting Nov. 1 could see penalties become a bigger focus for millions of people who have remained eligible for coverage, but uninsured. They’re said to be squeezed for money, and skeptical about spending what they have on health insurance.

Until now, health overhaul supporters have stressed the benefits: taxpayer subsidies that pay roughly 70 percent of the monthly premium, financial protection against sudden illness or an accident, and access to regular preventive and follow-up medical care.

But in 2016, the penalty for being uninsured will rise to the greater of either $695 or 2.5 percent of taxable income. That’s for someone without coverage for a full 12 months. This year the comparable numbers are $325 or 2 percent of income.
It's a steep fine, but when you consider what even crappy health insurance costs these days, accepting the fine is easier than paying the premium. I seem to remember being told otherwise:

Huh. That hasn't happened?

No Joe

As you've almost certainly heard, Joe Biden has taken a pass on one last campaign. A few thoughts:

  • Biden is, and will always be, a hack. He wouldn't have won the primary campaign anyway.
  • Hillary Clinton isn't necessarily going to the be the nominee. The notion that it's too late to get into the race presupposes that a candidate must run the gauntlet to get the nomination of a political party. Are we sure about that? The Democrats are geniuses at finding replacement candidates at the last minute when they need one. They pulled Frank Lautenberg out of mothballs in New Jersey back in 2002, a month before the general election, when the stench of Robert Torricelli's scandals became too much. If the drips of scandal become too much, the Dems will find an alternative.
  • That Biden was seen as the one person who could derail Clinton tells you something about the bench strength of the Democratic Party. The folks on the debate stage last week looked like refugees from Madame Tussaud's, with the exception of Martin O'Malley, who projects the power and flavor of three-day-old church basement coffee. The next generation of Democratic leadership is, well, gone.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The blank screen wins

I started about a half dozen posts today, but I can't get my thoughts organized into something coherent enough to publish. So this becomes an open thread. What is on your mind?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Don't follow leaders, watch your parking meters

Chris Coleman and his pals got an earful last night about the plan to add meters to Grand Avenue:

For weeks, the green “No Meters” signs posted on Grand Avenue storefronts told St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and other city officials how most business owners and neighbors view a plan to install parking meters along one of the Twin Cities’ best known shopping avenues.

On Monday night, a raucous crowd of several hundred people took the opportunity to tell him in person.

It wasn’t pretty.
It rarely is pretty. A businessman on the street understood what's going on:
“What we need is honest politicians,” Mike Schumann, owner of Traditions on Grand, a home furnishings store, said to loud cheers from the crowd. “This is not about parking, this is about raising revenue.”
Of course it is. As the Star Tribune's James Walsh explains, the meters are the camel's nose:
The Grand Avenue plan would serve as a pilot program for potentially adding meters elsewhere in St. Paul. The city already has increased hours and raised parking rates at meters around Xcel Energy Center and CHS Field in Lowertown.
If you can put meters on Grand Avenue, you can put them on a number of other commercial corridors in St. Paul -- Snelling Avenue, Payne Avenue, Larpenteur Avenue, Cleveland Avenue -- and those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

Just a guess -- parking will remain free in Roseville, Eagan and Maplewood.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Bernie's got some 'splainin to do

This ought to be good:
Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said Sunday that he is preparing to give a “major speech” on democratic socialism, the political philosophy that is guiding him and his upstart campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“I think we have some explaining and work to do,” the Vermont senator told an audience at a house party here in the nation’s first caucus state, acknowledging that the term “democratic socialism” makes some people “very, very nervous.”
While he's offering his vision, perhaps he could explain this development:
Wal-Mart's second profit warning in two months should be a wake-up call for the political left. If America's largest private employer is struggling with its own pay increases, how will other businesses cope with even larger minimum-wage hikes?

The stunning hit to profitability for the nation's biggest retailer raises serious questions about the Democrats' economic agenda to raise the minimum wage to $12 or $15 an hour, while asking low-wage employers to provide their workers with health insurance and paid sick leave.

Taken together with August's announcement of a 7% to 13% drop in earnings per share in the current fiscal year, Wal-Mart's latest warning of a further 6% to 12% EPS decline next year — even as it plans to cut share count with a new $20 billion stock buyback — points to a dramatic drop in profitability.
Or maybe this:
With city leaders scrapping a controversial workplace scheduling proposal, Minneapolis workers and business owners are shifting their attention to the topic still before the City Council: Universal paid sick leave.

Workers’ groups demonstrated at City Hall on Thursday, expressing frustration over Mayor Betsy Hodges’ decision to back off her push for regulations requiring predictable work schedules — and urging council members to support the remaining pieces of Hodges’ Working Families Agenda. Meanwhile, a coalition of business owners and association leaders, concerned about some elements of the sick-leave proposal, rallied their ranks for their own City Hall gathering on Friday.

At issue is a proposal that would require all employers to provide paid sick time to employees, earned at a rate of one hour per 30 hours worked. Employees at businesses with at least 21 employees could earn up to 72 hours, while those at smaller companies could earn 40 hours of sick leave. Only workers covered by collective bargaining agreements that specifically waive the law would be exempt.
I'm sure Bernie can pay for all these things, or at least make sure someone else does. It should be a heck of a speech.

With the requisite subtlety

Argument by assertion:
"Jeb [Bush] said 'We were safe with my brother. We were safe.' Well, the World Trade Center just went down. Now, am I trying to blame him? I'm not blaming anybody, but the World Trade Center came down, so when he said we were safe, we were not safe. We lost 3,000 people. It was one of the greatest — probably the greatest catastrophe ever in this country," the Republican presidential hopeful said.

If he were president, Trump said, it would have been different.

"I am extremely, extremely tough on people coming into this country," Trump said. And if he were president then, he said, he doubted "those people would've been in the country. … There's a good chance that those people would not have been in the country."
Extremely, extremely tough. Just ask him!

It's a stupid argument, really. You can blame George W. Bush for many things, but you can't make a bureaucracy turn on a dime. "There's a good chance" it would have been different, Trump says. How? What specific measures would he have taken to ensure a different result? Trump doesn't really have answers to these questions.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Homecoming Time Edition

Old Dude, the alums are coming back to Western Illinois and getting all sentimental, because it is homecoming weekend at Knox!

Always a stirring vision, I would imagine, as they return to Galesburg to relive past glories.

Well, I don't know how many glories there are, Geritol Fan. But they seem happy. And why wouldn't they be happy. I'm sure they can sense the growing levels of HYYYYYYYPPPPPPPPE!!!

It must be quite a sight.

I even saw a member of the Class of  '50 with Knox pennants attached to his portable oxygen tank! And you know what he told me?

That he enjoyed the Lincoln/Douglas debate?

No, Geritol Fan. He wasn't a member of the Class of 1850. Goodness, did they teach you anything at Beloit? You might want to up the dosage on your Carter's Little Liver Pills, there, sport. Now watch me work!

Nebraska Cornhuskers (-1.5) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers. Nebraska has been a team who has been finding new and more cringeworthy ways to lose. Wisconsin did not play well last week in Lincoln, but they took advantage of some questionable decisions late in the game by the Nebraska coaching staff and broke Nebraska's heart yet again. The Gophers were picked by many to be a factor in the Big Ten West, but they have struggled in recent weeks and look really shaky. The coaching staff at Nebraska needs to win in order to keep the locker room, because those players are putting a lot of time and effort in and just can't break through. If Nebraska loses, I look for Big Red Nation, a great and knowledgeable set of football fans not known for their patience, to be wishing that they had kept the most angry coach in America. Nebraska 25, Gophers 9.

Where have you gone, Bo Pelini? We'd even take Faux Pelini, who helped to invent this great new tradition in collegiate athletics: 

It's the $5-Bits-of-Broken-Chair-Trophy! I could explain, but what's the point, really? Anyway, Nebraska has to win this game. Can they, though? Not so sure. Gophers 17, Nebraska 16. 

Purdon't Boilermakers (+20.5) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. At the time of asking, Wisconsin was able to get a huge win in Lincoln, and that may be the turning point for the season. Wisconsin is not out of the Big Ten West race at all, because in the past they have been able to come back and regain control of their division. Joel Stave looked somewhat better in the second half, and he certainly is a leader. The problem is that the offensive line looks shaky and the run game has been struggling. Still, Purdue is a speed bump that has offered very little resistance in recent years. Badgers 35, Purdue 10.

To quote Sir Charles, Purdue is turrible. Bucky will roll. Badgers 42, Purdue 13.

Cornell College Rams (NL) vs. Knox College Prairie Fire.  It is Homecoming Weekend down here, and Knox looks to get back to .500 against Cornell. The team has struggled in the last two games, getting blown out both times. However, remember that the Benster could be in attendance with all the alums, and that will help. Has Cornell been on national television for a great play? The answer is no, and Cornell should go back to Mount Vernon with no victory. Prairie Fire 45, One Loss At A Time 0.

Knox is getting better, but they haven't beaten Cornell since 1988 and your beloved Prairie Fire sport a sprightly 19-55-3 all time record against the Rams. Maybe that changes this year, but I wouldn't get your hopes up, young fella. Cornell 31, Knox 24.

Kansas City Chiefs (+3.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings come off the bye week rested and ready to play a very winnable home game. Kansas City choked last week against the Bears and lost Jamaal Charles to an ACL, so now they need to break out their secret weapon, the immortal Charcandrick West. Let's see how that works out. The Vikings may not win the division this year, but if they take care of business at home, then they have an excellent chance of getting to .500, and it's easy to envision them in the playoffs. Vikings 28, Chiefs 11.

It's too bad that Jack Harry retired -- I would have enjoyed hearing him try to pronounce Charcandrick. This is a good setup for the Vikings. I expect them to win easily. Vikings 31, Chiefs 17.

San Diego Chargers (+10.5) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. The Packers did not play well at times against St. Louis, but they managed to keep alive their home winning streak. San Diego comes in off a tough loss to Pittsburgh and has a short week to prepare. I do think San Diego is going to be a tough out, because San Diego has weapons offensively, and can keep up in a track meet, as Packer games at home often are. Packers 45, San Diego 38.

I saw the Monday night game and it looked like Phillip Rivers was running for his life. That's not a good scenario against the Packers, who have found their pass rush this year. Short week, long road trip, superior opponent? Sorry, San Diego. Packers roll. Packers 42, Chargers 17.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (+3.0) vs. Detroit Auto Accident. I'm not sure that Fox Sports will even find a an announcing team willing to do this game. Let's be honest and not mince words here -- both of these teams kinda suck this year, and it is like watching an accident in slow motion. Matthew Stafford has been an absolute embarrassment, and possibly might be off many fantasy rosters, including, well, mine, if he doesn't pick it up. Chicago did win in Kansas City last week and should get Alshon Jeffery back, which will help Jay "Pick 6" Cutler out. I'm not seeing this as a top-notch entertainment, if you get my drift. da Bearz 3, Auto Accident 2.

I see improvement in Chicago. John Fox knows what he's doing, but they have to do some rebuilding. The Lions are mystifying, actually. They have defensive problems, but this team should score points. They aren't even doing that. I'm picking the Lions for one reason -- if they don't win this game, I'm not sure if they can beat anyone. Lions 21, Bears 17.

That's all for this week, as I continue my dominance at picking football. Ben out!

Friday, October 16, 2015

As seen on the internet

Feel the Bern

Gimme gimme gimme

Heavens to Betsy:
With city leaders scrapping a controversial workplace scheduling proposal, Minneapolis workers and business owners are shifting their attention to the topic still before the City Council: Universal paid sick leave.

Workers’ groups demonstrated at City Hall on Thursday, expressing frustration over Mayor Betsy Hodges’ decision to back off her push for regulations requiring predictable work schedules — and urging council members to support the remaining pieces of Hodges’ Working Families Agenda. Meanwhile, a coalition of business owners and association leaders, concerned about some elements of the sick-leave proposal, rallied their ranks for their own City Hall gathering on Friday.
So how much sick leave do they want? Well, that's not really the issue:
At issue is a proposal that would require all employers to provide paid sick time to employees, earned at a rate of one hour per 30 hours worked. Employees at businesses with at least 21 employees could earn up to 72 hours, while those at smaller companies could earn 40 hours of sick leave. Only workers covered by collective bargaining agreements that specifically waive the law would be exempt.
Emphasis mine. Sure looks like someone is burying the lede. How do you stop City Hall from its predations? Why, make your place of business a union shop, of course!


The purveyors of the Red Card are working blue:
Shoppers at a Target store in San Jose stopped in their tracks Wednesday morning when a sexually explicit recording began blaring over the store’s public address system.

Chris Minor, who was shopping at the Westgate Mall store, said the material was X-rated and had profanities. Minor recorded the incident, along with the reactions of fellow shoppers, on his cell phone. Customers, which included mothers with babies, were stunned.
On the other hand, this might work out for Target -- they could save a boatload on new construction if they start slapping up old quonset huts on the highway instead of big boxes. And they could probably get a two-drink minimum out of their in-store snack bars. Yeah, this could work....

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Most situations comedies are a half hour long. Since I was only able to watch the last half hour of the Democrat's Vegas shindig last evening, I'm sure that I missed something in the parts I didn't see. But from what I did see, I'd say the following:

  • I have no idea why Lincoln Chafee is running for president. Neither does he, it would appear. Some of his facial expressions called to mind the old comedian Red "Never Got a Dinner" Buttons, a favorite on the Dean Martin roasts back in the 1970s. At some point, we'll say that Chafee never got a dinner, either.
  • Jim Webb is a Jacksonian Democrat. He apparently didn't get the memo that Jacksonians aren't welcome in the party. And since he barely had any camera time, it didn't much matter, anyway.
  • I've always thought Martin O'Malley is an empty suit. He was the governor of one of the bluest states in the union, Maryland, and his record was so outstanding that his protege lost to a Republican. Kinda whiny, too. No chance.
  • My pet theory -- just about everyone who is actually amenable to Bernie Sanders's pitch has already gone to one of his rallies. He's not going anywhere.
  • Hillary Clinton is going to sail to the nomination if this is the only competition she faces. She was protected throughout the half hour I saw and that very gentle treatment may continue for a while, but eventually those mean old Republicans are going to get a shot at her and I'm not sure she'll be able to respond. 
  • The winner of the debate? Probably Joe Biden.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

I sell the things you need to be

Ann Althouse, pining for the fjords:
When was the last President who got support from his party's follow-on candidate? John McCain ran away from George W. Bush, and Al Gore distanced himself from Bill Clinton. You have to go back to 1988 to find a candidate who reinforced his party's President.

I'd like to see Joe Biden enter the race with the focused message that Obama has been good, and I am offering America not change, but continuity. Otherwise, it's a grim 15 months we face, with a President getting torn down from all sides. I'm not saying I want a continuation of Obama, only that I want one voice in the debate arguing for the continuation. We need that and we deserve to hear that, not merely, within the President's party, Hillary and Bernie fighting to get better distance between themselves and our President.
Emphasis in original. Why anyone would want continuity is beyond me, but let's consider the following statement. "Otherwise, it's a grim 15 months we face, with a President getting torn down from all sides." I would argue that we're going to face a grim 15 months in any event.

And why on earth do we need or deserve to hear an argument for continuation? Continuation of what? Question for the audience -- can you think of an Obama legacy that deserves to be preserved?

I exploit you still you love me?
I told you one and one makes three

The best laid plans

There's a plan in place, but it doesn't mean it will actually happen:
CNN's Anderson Cooper will moderate the first Democratic presidential debate this week, and unlike the previous Republican debate hosted by CNN, Cooper said he won't be encouraging confrontations between the candidates.

"I'm always uncomfortable with that notion of setting people up in order to kind of promote some sort of a face off," Cooper said Sunday on CNN's "Reliable Sources." "Look, these are all serious people. This is a serious debate. They want to talk about the issues and I want to give them an opportunity to do that."
Two observations:

  • I'm sure Hillary Clinton doesn't want confrontations. I'm not so sure that Martin O'Malley and Jim Webb will feel the same way.
  • Lincoln Chafee isn't a serious person.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Oh, good

Iran has successfully test-fired a new precision-guided, long-range missile, state-run media reported on Sunday.

The Emad (Pillar) surface-to-surface missile, designed and built by Iranian experts, is the country's first long-range missile that can be precision-guided until it reaches its target, said Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehqan, Iran's defense minister.

"To follow our defense programs, we don't ask permission from anyone," he said, according to state-run news agency IRNA.

The new rocket is "capable of scrutinizing the targets and destroying them completely," IRNA reported.

The Emad would be Tehran's first precision-guided missile with the range to reach its enemy, Israel.
Remember, that nuclear deal with Iran is a great idea.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- No Vikings, No Problem Edition

Do you know what it's time for, Geritol Fan?

Not sure. But I'm guessing you'll clue me in.

It's time for some HYYYYYYYYYPPPPPPPPE! Time to pick some football! Still, I'm wondering about something. I noticed that the Vikings are on a bye already.

That's what my schedule says, too.

Old dude, doesn't it seem a little early for a bye week? Maybe not for you, because you're a big fan of naps and need plenty of rest.

Well, I'm old, you know.

That's true -- you're so old your cell phone has a carbon 14 clock.

Wise guy, eh? So are you interested in a half-life? I mean, that can be arranged.

Just kidding. So touchy. Look, this banter is good, but I have work to do. So watch me work!

Minnesota Golden Gophers (-3.5) vs. Purdon't Boilermakers. I don't know what happened to the Gophers last week, but they really got crushed at Northwestern. I was not surprised that Northwestern won, because Northwestern is a very tricky road trip. Purdue is a dumpster fire of a team, and of course you would think I would pick the desperate team right? Well, I never am as predictable as you would think. Purdue 28, Gophers 17.

It was a disheartening loss for the Gophers last week and I wonder if they made a mistake in taking the redshirt from Demry Croft. The Gophers kinda need to win this game, but Purdue gave Sparty a scare last week. I'm going with the Gophers on this one, but without much confidence. Gophers 17, Purdue 14.

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (+1.5) vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers. Did someone forget to tell the Badgers offense about the game last week? That was horrible and made me embarrassed to be a fan of that team. Thankfully, the Badgers have owned Nebraska in recent years, and considering that Nebraska had the gall to dump a coach that had led them to consistent success for a coach from a weak sister team out west, I think history will repeat itself. Badgers 31, Nebraska 0.
This game looks better on paper than it probably will be on the field. Nebraska has not played well and the Badgers were unimpressive in losing to Iowa at home last week. Bucky needs to show more offense. I think they can handle this one. Wisconsin 28, Nebraska 24.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (+8.5) vs. Kansas City Chiefs. The Bearz woke up last week at home. Now they go to a very tough venue -- Arrowhead Stadium. Jay actually looked decent, but it was against the Raiders. Kansas City is a good team and well coached. Wait, I hear a crazy guy coming in.

Well, Benster! You seem to forget that the Chiefs are going to be very good. There is not a lot wrong with the Chiefs. Even though I retired after many years of yelling at them and questioning them, I still believe in them. Alex Smith is looking better, and this is why you must be a Kansas fan. You wear that shirt all the time and your mom was right about bugging you! This might be the greatest win in recent Chiefs History! This is Jack Harry!

Time for a Jack Smack. Nice lips, by the way

I am sorry for that. Jack Harry must be bored in his retirement. What is it with me and interruptions? First I have some guy named Johnny, then Peyton Manning, and now Jack "The Best Sportscaster Ever" Harry come in. Jack looks like he's been mainlining lemons. I really ought to look at improving the security around here -- at a minimum, I might want to get a velvet rope or something. By the Way, What's Wrong With the Chiefs? 83, Fire John Fox 0.

Well, that escalated quickly. Hmm. 83-0? Uh, no. First of all, shall we praise Jay Cutler? He actually played pretty well last week. This is a tough game, though, and the Chiefs are a desperate team at home. If the Bears can hold down Jamaal Charles, they will have a chance to steal one. I say they beat the spread -- Chiefs 31, Bears 24.

Arizona Cardinals (-2.5) vs. Detroit Lions. No Vikings this week, so let's pay attention the Motor City Kitties. This team is very much the team I wanted to think would take the step with the Vikings to a real contender, and Detroit is making me look bad. If the Benster asks for a favor, then you had better deliver. Arizona is a tough team and they will give Seattle a run for their money in the NFC West. I said last year that they could have played in the Super Bowl. I stand by that, considering that Larry Fitzgerald has looked very good this year, and Carson Palmer has many similarities to a certain ex-grocery store worker who found himself in the desert. I think Arizona is going to play a part in the Green Bay Revenge Tour 2015. Raising Arizona 56, LOLions 0.

The Cardinals are a good team and will be angry after losing to the Rams, but this game is pretty much the season for the Lions. 0-5 will not get it done. The problem seems to be on the lines -- it's easy to talk about the loss of Ndamukong Suh, but the real problem the Lions have is on the offensive line, where they are getting no pass protection and Matthew Stafford is getting crushed. I used to think Stafford was a bit of a hothouse flower, but you can't question his toughness this year. It can't last, though. And the Cardinals defense is nasty. Cardinals 31, Lions 21.

St. Louis Rams (+8.5) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. We used to call the Rams the Sheep, but they aren't very sheep-like any more. They have a very dangerous player in Tavon Austin, who can change the game in an instant. The Packers typically win at home, and the team is discovering an identity. As much as I think that St. Louis is a possible contender, Lambeau is a place where ghosts come out. Believe me, I have been there and you feel the ghosts. Maybe the Rams could feel the ghosts at the Rose Bowl soon, or perhaps near the Forum, if you know what I mean. Just ask the ghost of Georgia Frontiere. Packers 35, Georgia Frontiere 32.

This game does concern me, because the Rams can rush the passer. It looks like the Packers are going to get Bryan Bulaga back, which should help keep Aaron Rodgers upright. I suspect the Rams will take a few chances -- watch for a fake punt or something like that, a Jeff Fisher specialty. A good test for the improved Packers special teams. And another win at Lambeau. Packers 31, Rams 17.

Don't worry, Vikings fans! We'll be happy to discuss your latest failure next week! Ben out!

Friday, October 09, 2015

A House of Follies

As many of you know, my daughter is a budding musician who has been involved with her high school marching band and winter drumline competitions. For many people who perform in such organizations, the next step is to join a drum and bugle corps. There are two major ones in the Twin Cities, including River City Rhythm. As I watched events unfold yesterday in Washington, I couldn't help but think of RCR's 2015 drumline show, which was called "A House of Follies":

It's an entertaining show, significantly more entertaining than the house of follies in Washington. If you have seven minutes to spare, check it out.

Meanwhile, as for what's happening in DC, let's just say this: if you ever harbored the notion that we send the best and the brightest to Washington, you're probably mistaken. 

Thursday, October 08, 2015

The dilemma of the Cubs

Cubs win! Cubs win! Well, they did last night at least, defeating the Pirates 4-0 in a game that included some outstanding pitching by Jake Arietta and an ineffectual bench clearing brawl.

So now the Cubs are in the NLDS, facing the St. Louis Cardinals. I'm reminded of the quote often attributed to Henry Kissinger concerning the Iran/Iraq war -- it's a pity they can't both lose.

The Cubs are a love/hate thing for me. My dad was a Cubs fan and I remember him watching the Sunday afternoon Cubs games that would run in the summertime on one of the Green Bay television stations in the mid 70s. Once we got cable television we could see the Cubs most days on WGN and it was easy to follow them. I enjoyed listening to the courtly but enthusiastic Jack Brickhouse and, later on, the always exuberant but usually sloshed Harry Caray. And their near miss in 1984 was a lot of fun.

The problem for me is, beyond the rivalry with my beloved Brewers, the whole scene around the Cubs creeps me out a bit. It's a little too precious and definitely too corporate. And the "lovable loser" shtick has always struck me as an excuse for incompetence. And while it may be venerable, Wrigley Field is a dump, with a lot of obstructed view seats. I know, because I've sat in them.

I've always been fond of Steve Goodman's song, "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request," which has added resonance since he was, at the time this was recorded, actually a dying Cubs fan himself:

The chorus sums it up well:

 Do they still play the blues in Chicago
When baseball season rolls around
When the snow melts away,
Do the Cubbies still play
In their ivy-covered burial ground
When I was a boy they were my pride and joy
But now they only bring fatigue
To the home of the brave
The land of the free
And the doormat of the National League

I suspect this modern version of the Cubs is going to be a powerhouse for a while. After 107 years of losing, they have competent management and, it would appear, a lot of money. And they have a lot of excellent young talent. These are not the nickel and dime Cubs of yore. This is a gleaming superstructure. There's little chance of this scenario, also from Goodman's song:

Have the Cubbies run right out into the middle of the field,
Have Keith Moreland drop a routine fly
Give everybody two bags of peanuts and a frosty malt
And I'll be ready to die

Or this:

Or this:

Maybe this is the year. In the meantime, I'll be rooting for the Royals.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

The Real Slim Shaddy

An amusing exchange:
The context is not clear, but it suggests there was growing anxiety over how the system was managed and who would be held responsible. At about the time of that exchange, Platte River had been in discussions with Datto about the length of time Clinton e-mail data was preserved and whether copies were saved, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

“If we had that email we are golden,” the employee wrote.

“Starting to think this whole thing really is covering up some shaddy [sic] shit,” the employee wrote.
Who, or what, is Datto, you ask? Allow the Washington Post to explain:
The FBI’s probe into the security of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s e-mail has expanded to include a second private technology company, which said Tuesday it plans to provide the law enforcement agency with data it preserved from Clinton’s account.

The additional data, provided by Connecticut-based Datto Inc., could open a new avenue for investigators interested in recovering e-mails deleted by the former secretary of state — now the Democratic presidential front-runner — that have caught the interest of GOP lawmakers.

Datto’s work on the Clinton e-mail system became public Tuesday when the Republican chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee sent the company a lengthy letter seeking information about the role it and other firms played in managing the Clinton e-mail system.
Datto, it appears, was providing backup cloud storage of Hillary's emails, especially the "private" ones that were supposedly gone, can't find 'em, forget about it, don't even ask. And because they had this information, it's hardly surprising that Congress wants to know if they still do:
An official from Datto told The Washington Post on Tuesday about his company’s interactions with the federal investigators.

“Datto is working with the FBI to provide data in conjunction with its investigation,” said Michael Fass, general counsel at Datto.

Fass said Datto had received consent to turn over data from the Clintons and from Platte River. A Datto official said the FBI would receive a “node,” a piece of hardware the company housed in Pennsylvania that allowed it to store data on its cloud.
Then spoke the thunder
Datta: what have we given?
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment’s surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed
Which is not to be found in our obituaries
Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider
Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
In our empty rooms

If you don't think Team Clinton is worried about this, consider the vehemence of the response:
Brian Fallon, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign, accused Johnson of “ripping a page from the House Benghazi Committee’s playbook and mounting his own, taxpayer-funded sham of an investigation with the sole purpose of attacking Hillary Clinton politically.”

“The Justice Department is already conducting a review concerning the security of her server equipment, and is fully aware of Datto’s role in providing services to Platte River Networks. The Justice Department’s independent review is led by nonpolitical, career professionals, and Ron Johnson has no business interfering with it for his own partisan ends,” he said in a statement.
Ron Johnson, in case you didn't know, is a senator from Wisconsin. He's also the aforementioned chairman of the senate committee on homeland security. But see, he needs to shut up now, because the Hillary campaign says so. In fact, he should sit down and shut up and leave things to the professionals, who should have all this wrapped up some time in 2017.

Somebody's out to get your lady
A few of your buddies they sure look shady
Blades are long, clenched tight in their fist
Aimin' straight at your back
And I don't think they'll miss

Johnson is a partisan, no doubt about it. Everyone in Washington is a partisan. So what? One of the ways partisans actually serve the public good is by exposing the "shaddy shit" that their opponents do. There was never any question that the Democrats had a partisan agenda when they pursued Watergate, Iran-Contra, Plamegate and any other Republican scandal you'd care to name. And that's the reason Johnson went public with his request -- to move the story forward, you have to force the press organs in Washington to cover the story. If the Washington Post had taken President Nixon's assurances about his behavior at face value, history would look very different now.

Johnson doesn't have the jowly charm of Sam Ervin, but again, so what? Either Congress gets to perform oversight over the Executive Branch as a coequal branch of government, or it should just go home and we can get on with the business of serial monarchy that our ever benevolent betters would prefer.

What is that sound high in the air
Murmur of maternal lamentation
Who are those hooded hordes swarming
Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth
Ringed by the flat horizon only
What is the city over the mountains
Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air
Falling towers
Jerusalem Athens Alexandria
Vienna London

Eliot left out Washington. We don't, though. And we shouldn't.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

The moment

The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge -- I face this challenge with profound humility and knowledge of my own limitations, but I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people.

Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that, generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless...


... this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal...


... this was the moment when we ended a war, and secured our nation, and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth.


This was the moment, this was the time when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves and our highest ideals.

Thank you, Minnesota. God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.
Meanwhile, back home:
A violent September in Chicago ended with more homicides than any other month this year and the second-most shootings, according to data kept by the Chicago Tribune's breaking news desk. Though the summer months in Chicago have traditionally been the most violent, shootings last month decreased little from August and there were about 50 percent more shootings than September 2014.
A crowded hospital in the embattled city of Kunduz that treats war wounded came under attack on Saturday and the American military acknowledged that it may have killed 19 patients, staff members and others at the facility while firing on insurgents nearby.

The attack, which the military said in a statement might have been “collateral damage” that occurred while engaging militants, drew a fierce international outcry. The head of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, condemned it and called for a “thorough and impartial investigation.” It also renewed scrutiny of the United States military’s record of causing civilian casualties, which has alienated the Afghan public and often undermined relations with the government here.
And while we're at it,
While Russia has said that it is conducting military operations to wipe out ISIS, U.S. officials have questioned that aim given that many of its airstrikes have not targeted places ISIS is active. Instead, they have seen the effort mostly as a move to bolster close Moscow ally President Bashar al-Assad.

The latest U.S. assessment of Moscow's activity in western Syria indicates Russia has moved several ground combat weapons and troops into the area to potentially back up Syrian forces in the field planning to attack anti-regime forces, according to two U.S. defense officials.
And we really ought to mention:
The U.S. economy created 142,000 jobs in September, a number that missed expectations and could cool expectations that the Federal Reserve will start raising interest rates soon.

The participation rate plunged to 62.4 percent in September, its lowest since October 1977. The total labor force fell to a 2015 low, losing another 350,000 people. The household survey was even worse than the headline establishment number, showing a decrease of 236,000 in employment. However, the number reporting they were unemployed declined as well, by 114,000. Those reported not in the labor force increased by 579,000.

In addition to the weak headline numbers, wages were flat, indicating little inflationary pressures for the Fed, and the average work week actually fell a fraction to 34.5 hours.
As always, I blame George W. Bush.

Monday, October 05, 2015

No, that's not it

I saw this headline, or a variant of it, several times in recent days:

We've explained this before, but apparently people don't get it. The reason this priest is being dismissed isn't that he's gay -- he's being dismissed because he's not celibate. If he'd come out with a woman on his arm, the result would have been the same.

Bust some Kaeps off

From the Newspaper of Record:
Losers of three consecutive games, the 49ers can place much of the blame the last two weeks on quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Last week Kaepernick threw four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, and this week he failed to get anything going, passing for just 160 yards and an interception. It was the third time in four games that he failed to break 200 yards passing, and he was sacked six times.

Piling on to Kaepernick’s misfortune, television cameras picked up Packers linebacker Clay Matthews taunting his rival, saying “You ain’t Russell Wilson, bro” in reference to the Seattle Seahawks’ Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
Why so personal? You might remember this image:

Young and pleased with himself
Matthews and the Packers exacted their revenge yesterday:

Of course it's childish. That's why it's great

All that said, what's happened to Kaepernick's career is pretty astonishing. The guy looked like the next great quarterback not that long ago, a new age weapon capable of beating you with his arm or his legs. Not any more. At this point, he's just a guy.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Big Ten for Real Edition

Old dude, it's actually been a little chilly down here in Galesburg.

It's definitely autumn here as well. So, how did you like your beloved Knox College Prairie Fire showing up on SportsCenter last week?

That was pretty cool. Our vast readership needs to see this catch:

That's Ilir Emini, everyone. Ask for him by name.

Really liked it. It didn't even require any embellishment.

Oh, we think it's worthy of HYYYYYYYPPPPPPE! Lots and lots of HYYYYYYYPPPPPPPE!

Well, it's a nice deal for sure. But that was last week. What about this week?

Oh, I've got an answer for that, Geritol Fan! Watch me work!

Minnesota Golden Gophers (+3.5) vs. Northwestern Wildcats. So, it's the nationally ranked Wildcats playing our Gophers. What is this, 1995? Evanston is a really tricky place to win and Northwestern is quietly one of the better teams in the Big Ten. The Gophers have looked really shaky at times in the out of conference schedule and have to play a difficult game. I think this game is very much going to tell us if Northwestern is for real. Northwestern 31, Jerry the Cable Guy 20.

This game could be a bit of a snoozer if you aren't interested in the results. The over/under on the game is 39.5, which tells you that Vegas isn't expecting a lot of offense out of these squads. So far the Gophers have been winning close games against lower shelf opponents, although they did play TCU very tough in the opener. I'm not sure what to make of this one, actually. Do you believe in Northwestern? Not sure that I do, but on the home field they should have enough. Northwestern 24, Gophers 20.

Macalester Scots (NL) vs. Knox College Prairie Fire. Hey, if Knox can get on national television, I'm gonna pick their game! Knox has looked good and should be a factor. The coaching staff does a great job at getting the players to just make good plays and hang in there. The Fire is going to be in contention this year, as Knox continues to step up the athletic game. Seymour Union 45, Mac 0.

Macalester was actually pretty good last year. This year, they seem to be reverting to form. Knox is improving; the circus catch aside, in the past they would not have won at Lawrence. They may not be ready for the top teams in the MWC, but they should be able to handle the Scots. Knox 31, Macalester 20.

Iowa Hawkeyes (+6.5) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. This game is traditionally one of the most difficult games on the Badger schedule. Iowa always is a difficult team to play against, as they are tough and well-coached. Joel Stave has really improved, and he may be getting to that level of Scott Tolzien or Darrell Bevell, if you get what I mean. I do not expect an easy game, but considering that Wisconsin has won the last three games in Iowa City, I feel quietly confident. Wisconsin 31, Iowa 28.

I don't know if the Hawkeyes are any good or not. They have won a number of close games against inferior opponents. The Badgers have been winning their games by large margins. Does that translate into victory? Not sure, but I would think the odds favor the Badgers, particularly at Camp Randall. Badgers 34, Iowa 24.

Oakland Raiders (-3) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. Da Beatz are like watching an accident waiting to happen. As much as we think that the Raiders are a crap team, they are starting to figure things out. I like the Raiders here because the Bears are about as dangerous as a teddy bear. Raiders 31, Bears 7.

Life is not good when the Raiders are a road favorite in  your building. The Bears will once again have to go without Alshon Jeffrey and, most likely, Jay Cutler. Hard to see how they generate much offense without those guys. Assume that Matt Forte will be getting a lot of attention. Still, I have a feeling about this one. Bears 24, Raiders 23.

Minnesota Vikings (+6.5) vs. Denver Broncos. Peyton Manning is starting to get old and he might be as shifty as the statue of John Elway in the parking lot. The Vikings have really improved and are looking like a team that will challenge Green Bay for the division. I like Minnesota in this game, considering Denver is not going to be going anywhere right now. Minnesota 21, Denver 17.

This one seems pretty simple. Can the Vikings get through the Broncos offensive line enough to batter Peyton Manning into submission? That's been the formula for their last two victories. Now that, as the young fellow has pointed out, Manning has Lynn Dickey-like mobility, it's possible. I look for a steady diet of bubble screens to Denver running backs. That should get them by, but if a Viking gets a big hit on Peyton, watch out. Broncos 27, Vikings 17.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-6.5) vs. San Francisco 49ers. The 2015 Revenge Tour continues this week, as it's time to offer payback to Colin Kaepernick. No jerk Harbaugh this time, and the Packers are hoping that this is not the last trip they make out to Santa Clara, if you get my drift. The Packer defense has been playing amazing lately, and with all of the turnover in the Bay Area, look for another Packer win. Packers 67, Kaeper-not 0.

Kaepernick still scares me, but this 49ers team is pretty depleted. They don't the strength on defense that they used to have and it seems possible to deny Kaepernick room to maneuver. The Packers are more athletic on the edge than they used to be. I don't see the 49ers getting home against Aaron Rodgers, either. Think this will go the Packers way. Packers 34, 49ers 20.

Okay, old dude! Nice job staying awake long enough to make these picks! Chug some Metamucil and call it a night! Ben out!

One more item submitted without further comment

A pregnant girl was taken to a hospital Wednesday following a fight involving from 30 to 40 students inside Barack Obama School of Career and Technical Education on Milwaukee's north side, according to Milwaukee police and media reports.

Milwaukee police were called to the former Custer High School, 5075 N Sherman Blvd, shortly before 2:30 p.m. to back up school resource officers, WITI-TV in Milwaukee reported on its website.

Also submitted without further comment

Last week, Major General Salehi, the commander of Iran’s army, proclaimed this:

“We will annihilate Israel for sure.”

“We are glad that we are in the forefront of executing the Supreme Leader’s order to destroy Israel.”

And as for the Supreme Leader himself, a few days after the nuclear deal was announced, he released his latest book.

Here it is.

It’s a 400-page screed detailing his plan to destroy the State of Israel.

Last month, Khamenei once again made his genocidal intentions clear before Iran’s top clerical body, the Assembly of Experts.

He spoke about Israel, home to over six million Jews. He pledged, “there will be no Israel in 25 years.”

Seventy years after the murder of six million Jews, Iran’s rulers promise to destroy my country.

Murder my people.

And the response from this body, the response from nearly every one of the governments represented here has been absolutely nothing!

Utter silence!

Deafening silence.

Perhaps you can now understand why Israel is not joining you in celebrating this deal.