Monday, November 30, 2015

Spot the loony

I love me some mug shots. Here's our latest exemplar from Colorado Springs, who killed three people in and around a Planned Parenthood location, though, interestingly enough, not any of the workers at the facility:

I ain't right
And here is the Unabomber, who was fond of blowing up academics he didn't much care for:

I disagree with your thesis. Boom.

And then there was James Holmes, who shot up a movie theater in Colorado. This was taken after he'd had a chance to clean up a bit:

Red isn't my color anyway

Crazy people do crazy things.

Follow the money

Don't you hate it when people buy elections? I always recommend the Open Secrets website, which pays attention to who is giving what, and to whom. And as a reminder, the top donors don't generally give to the party you hear about:

A bridge too Fahr
This list includes total contributions since the 2002 election cycle. The one that got my attention is Fahr LLC. Have you ever heard anything about them on the news? Turns out Fahr LLC is (a) an executive search firm and (b) controlled by Tom Steyer, a heavy hitter for Democrats.

If Steyer and his organizations want to give money to Democrats, that's their business. It is worth noting that 6 of the top 10 are labor unions, and that two of the top 6 are teachers' unions. When you see someone railing against the Koch Brothers (who come in on this list at #49, although they have been giving more lately), remember who gives the most.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Turkey That Doesn't Bring Down Russian Fighter Planes Edition

Old dude, it's a time filled with traditions. Including one of my personal favorites:

The best part is glob of paprika at the bottom of the taters
Yes, the LOLions get to show why they are so worthy of LOL today. But there's more happening than just the LOLions.

You mean this guy?

Back for a visit
Yes, ol' number 4 is back to get his number retired. And all of the four greatest quarterbacks in Packer history will be on hand -- Aaron Rodgers, Bart Starr, Brett Favre and this guy:

Enjoying a commemorative Newport Light for the occasion
That will be festive.

Yep -- so festive that I barely need to break out the HYYYYPPPPPE! So let's get on with it. Watch me work!

Philadelphia Iggles (pick) vs. Detroit LOLions. As is tradition, the LOLions kick off the turkey day festivities in their well-padded mausoleum in downtown Detroit. Actually, the Lions have been playing a little better lately. Did you notice that they are on a winning streak? That will end pretty soon, but will it be today? The Eagles have been a dumpster fire all year but are still in contention in the pathetic NFC East. They don't trust Sam Bradford at all, but they aren't really ready to concede the need to use Mark (the Sanchize) Sanchez yet again. Eagles 49, LOLions 0.

Using history as a guide, I see. For two bad teams, this could actually be an entertaining game. I don't expect to see much defense and both teams can score, although sometimes they don't. The Eagles are indeed a dumpster fire, but those do provide a bit of warmth. Lions 27, Eagles 24.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (+8.5) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. So how cool is this -- a Thanksgiving Day game at Lambeau? Against the ancient rivals? With Brett Favre getting his jersey retired? It's pretty cool, Geritol Fan! The Packers won a huge game on Sunday and seem to have righted the ship a bit. However, this game is going to be close because da Bearz have improved and will get Matt Forte back, it appears. John Fox is a doing a good job of restoring fundamentals and competence to the Bears. Will that be enough to win in this game? With all the glories and ghosts coming out? Packers 30, da Bearz 27.

If the Packers play like they did in Minneapolis, this will be easy. If they play like they did against the Lions two weeks ago, look out. The young fella is right -- the Bears are improving. Still, I wonder about their ability to play defense, because I don't see a lot of difference makers on that side of the ball. I think the Packers use the emotion and pull away in the second half. Packers 34, Bears 20.

Minnesota Vikings (+2) vs. Hotlanta Falcons. The Vikings lost last week and this game becomes an interesting test. The Falcons are reeling right now and have not played well for at least a month. Still, they are dangerous and have a lot of weapons. The encouraging thing for the Vikings is that they hung in there last week and have been showing signs that they are catching up offensively. That should be enough. Vikings 27, Falcons 18.

This game is interesting. We have the favorite thing for this feature -- a desperate team at home. The Falcons are in a lot of trouble right now and they have to get things straightened out. The Vikings present a tough challenge, especially on defense. The matchup to watch is Julio Jones vs. Xavier Rhodes. If Julio gets rolling, the Vikings are in trouble. Falcons 31, Vikings 28.

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-2.5) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Axe is on the line, but that's not all. The Gophers have to win to secure a bowl bid. Things have gone wrong for both of these programs this year and injuries are the primary reason. The Badgers can't run the ball that well, which has not been the case for nearly 25 years, while the Gophers have been hit with injuries on offense, defense, special teams and even in Pioneer Hall on campus. It's been bizarre, actually. Thankfully, whoever wins the Axe can forget about that. Badgers 21, Gophers 20.

If the Gophers are going to win the Axe, this is the year. The Badgers got absolutely jobbed last week and they will be an angry bunch. The Gophers really need this game, though, so I think this one goes the other way. Gophers 21, Badgers 20.

The Ohio State University Buckeyes (+2) vs. Meeeshegan Figthin' Harbaughs. So the Buckeyes soiled the bed last week against Sparty and now their glittering season could go up in smoke. Jim Harbaugh is no stranger to this game and he knows how to get his game up for a big game. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes are trying to sort out a lot of dissension in the ranks. You have drunk quarterbacks and bitter running backs and star defenders who get too many penalties. It's not a good formula for winning the one game that Ohio State fans want to win every single year. Michigan 35, Oh No 7.

Oh no? Uh, no. While Michigan has improved, there's still a talent gap involved and the Buckeyes really have to have this game. They'll find a way, despite it all. Ohio State 27, Michigan 21.

Happy thanksgiving, everyone! And, as God is my witness, I though turkeys could fly. But that's because I've seen too many LOLions games on Thanksgiving. Ben out!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Stuffing seminar

If we took a holiday
Took some time to celebrate
Just one day out of life
It would be
It would be so nice

They ain't gonna listen to Madonna. No such luck -- we need to gather the clans and provide moral instruction along with the cranberries. This time, the Democrats offer a website called "Your Republican Uncle," which purports to be a one-stop shop for all your lefty talking point needs. Allahpundit applies the proper ridicule with the headline shown in this screen shot:

It's an exciting development that's reminiscent of this previous attempt at crafting the proper narrative through infantilism, back in 2013:


The world is filled with problems. It always is, because life is problematic. Do everyone a favor and forget about the damned politics for a day. Have a nice dinner and talk about something else.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Mr. D's Quick and Dirty Baseball Hall of Fame Synopsis

I have done more detailed Hall of Fame posts in recent years, but this year I'm going to be a little more, shall we say, impressionistic. So here we are. A quick comment on every player on this year's ballot -- sorry, Juan Rincon -- you didn't make the ballot, despite offering one of the best quotes in baseball history:

You are correct, sir!

Garrett Anderson — nice player, nice career, mostly with the Angels. Similar player to Ellis Burks. No chance.

Brad Ausmus — Currently, the manager of the Detroit Tigers. He had a good, long career as a catcher. No chance.

Jeff Bagwell — Bagwell has HOF-quality numbers for sure, but he's in the unfortunate space of being suspected (by some) but never formally accused of using performance enhancing drugs (PED). He should make it, eventually, and has a decent chance of getting in either this year or next.

Barry Bonds — One of the all time greats, but clearly a PED user. He’ll be waiting a while longer, but some day he will be in, once the great minds of baseball figure out how to handle cases like his.

Luis Castillo — A good player who spent time with the Twins in the mid-2000s. No chance.

Roger Clemens — see Bonds. One of the all-time greats, perhaps the best modern right-handed starter of all. Still, almost certainly was a PED user, and a bit of a jackass to boot. He might get in before Bonds because he won his court case, but it will be a while.

David Eckstein — to paraphrase Paul Simon, every generation throws a Freddie Patek up the pop charts. Nice player, but no chance.

Jim Edmonds — I like him, but I wonder. A serious question; was Edmonds better than Bernie Williams, who was summarily (and unfairly) dismissed? It will be interesting to see how his candidacy is viewed. I think he has a chance, but not this year.

Nomar Garciaparra — back for another round. Seems like a “Hall of the Very Good” guy to me. Won't make it this time.

Troy Glaus — Third baseman with serious power, which gives him a chance, but to me, not a HOF player.

Ken Griffey Jr. — An all-time great, no doubt about it, first ballot Hall of Famer. The only question is will he get 90% of the voters on his side, or will it be more than that?

Mark Grudzialanek — A well-traveled middle infielder with some power. Nice player, nice career. No chance.

Mike Hampton — I think pitching at Coors Field wrecked his career. A contemporary of Brad Radke and a comparable player with similar career numbers. Like Radke, he won't make it.

Trevor Hoffman — the most interesting candidate on the ballot. Great career numbers, but not necessarily a dominant player. How much value do you place on the work of a modern closer? He could get you one inning, usually about 40-50 times a season, for nearly two decades. He won't make it this year, but he could in the next few. If he doesn't get in the HOF before Mariano Rivera gets on the ballot, he might have to wait a while.

Jason Kendall — A good catcher, but not one that people are going to remember. Maybe he and Ausmus can have dinner after the results are announced. Kendall was a better hitter than Ausmus and perhaps a better overall player, but he's not HOF.

Jeff Kent — Another guy with great offensive numbers but he did not offer much in the field. He played most of his career at second base, so his numbers really stand out in that context, but his career was largely in the Steroid Era. He has a chance; it will be interesting to see if his vote total begins to rise.

Mike Lowell — nice player, nice career. No chance.

Edgar Martinez — one of the best hitters of his generation, but being a DH hurts him. If he’s going to get in the HOF, he’d better do it before David Ortiz hits the ballot.

Fred McGriff — No taint of steroids, which helps, but not a clutch player, so he's a bit of a borderline case. I like him, but I’m not sure he’s done enough. If given a choice, I would definitely take Bagwell first.

Mark McGwire — PEDs killed his candidacy. Maybe the Veterans’ Committee will give him a sniff down the line.

Mike Mussina — A consistently outstanding starting pitcher with a long career. I think he’s HOF worthy; he compares favorably to Bert Blyleven, who is in. Maybe not this year, but he will get there eventually.

Mike Piazza — He just missed last year, so I think he’ll get in this year. I still like Bagwell better, but Piazza is the best hitting catcher of all time, so it’s tough to see a reason to deny him. PED suspicions but nothing definitive.

Tim Raines — I've argued for him before; to me, he's a no doubt about it HOF guy. Not sure the BBWAA agrees. Has made progress, but he’d better see a jump this year or he's going to fall short.

Curt Schilling — Realy a big game pitcher, dominant at times. Also a controversial character; not sure if that hurts his candidacy. He has a chance in the next year or two, but I wonder why he’s a better candidate than Jack Morris, who is now on the outside looking in.

Gary Sheffield — PED user and a complete jackass. Also hit 500 home runs. He may get enough votes to stay on the ballot, but in the end I don’t think he’ll make it.

Lee Smith — A dominant closer whose career straddles the old school, Goose Gossage era and the modern, Mariano Rivera era. His career makes an interesting comparison with Hoffman's. He has not made much progress in getting votes and he's running out of time; I could make an argument for him, though.

Sammy Sosa — over 600 home runs, but a huge PED taint. He’ll be waiting a while.

Mike Sweeney — the best player on a lot of bad Royals teams. Honorable career, but not a HOF player.

Alan Trammell — This is his last year on the ballot and he’s not going to make it. That’s a travesty. I think the Veterans’ Committee will eventually rectify the error. He was a great player. I hope his old partner Lou Whitaker gets a sniff from the Veterans’ Committee some time, too.

Billy Wagner — A dominant closer, but not as long a career as Hoffman. Poor man’s Goose Gossage. I don’t personally think he’s HOF, but he has his advocates.

Larry Walker — how much do you value his numbers given his long stint in Coors Field? I’m on the fence about him. Some legitimately great seasons, including a few in a terrible hitting par in Montreal, which somewhat mitigates the inflation built into his Coors Field numbers. I think he's a borderline case.

Randy Winn — nice that he got on the ballot. No chance.

So, to sum up -- I think Griffey and Piazza make it this year, and perhaps Mussina and/or Bagwell. Place your bets.

Huge story if true

Given that we now have a worldwide terrorism alert in effect, this little tidbit seems, well, huge:
Analysts at U.S. Central Command were pressured to ease off negative assessments about the Islamic State threat and were even told in an email to “cut it out,” Fox News has learned – as an investigation expands into whether intelligence reports were altered to present a more positive picture.

Fox News is told by a source close to the CENTCOM analysts that the pressure on them included at least two emails saying they needed to “cut it out” and “toe the line.”

Separately, a former Pentagon official told Fox News there apparently was an attempt to destroy the communications. The Pentagon official said the email warnings were "not well received" by the analysts.
As the Bush administration found out to its great pain, it's never a good idea to piss off the analysts, because they will make their displeasure public, just as has happened here. But there's more to the story, especially this:
The former Pentagon official said there were “multiple assessments” from military intelligence and the CIA regarding the “rapid rise” of ISIS in Iraq and North Africa in the year leading up to the group’s territory grab in 2014.

Similar intelligence was included in the President’s Daily Brief, or PDB – the intelligence community’s most authoritative product -- during the same time period. Yet the official, who was part of the White House discussions, said the administration kept "kicking the can down the road." The official said there was no discussion of the military involvement needed to make a difference.

The IG probe started earlier this year amid complaints that information was changed to make ISIS look more degraded than it really was.
Are we ready to start the "Obama lied, people died" chants yet?

Change you can believe in

Remember how we heard earlier this month that ISIL was contained? Good times:
The U.S. State Department issued a rare worldwide travel alert on Monday, warning American travelers about the widespread threats posed by members of the Islamic State or copycat bombers.

The alert said that there were increased terror threats from al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and ISIL, the term used by the federal government for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, which has claimed responsibility for the Paris terrorist attacks. The alert also said people unaffiliated with the groups may be inspired by recent terrorist attacks in France, Nigeria, Denmark, Turkey and Mali.

The alert comes as millions of Americans prepare to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, and organizers of major events like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade bolster their security preparations.
To underscore, this is a worldwide alert. I don't expect Boko Haram to show up in my living room, but apparently, you never know.


What the hell is wrong with people?
Five protesters were shot late Monday night near the Black Lives Matter encampment at the Fourth Precinct police station in north Minneapolis, according to police.

Those who were shot sustained non-life-threatening injuries, said police spokesman John Elder in a statement.

Miski Noor, a media contact for Black Lives Matter, said “a group of white supremacists showed up at the protest, as they have done most nights.”

One of the three counterdemonstrators wore a mask, said Dana Jaehnert, who had been at the protest site since early evening.

When about a dozen protesters attempted to herd the group away from the area, Noor said, they “opened fire on about six protesters,” hitting five of them. Jaehnert said she heard four gunshots.
I do hope the police find the perps and that the criminal justice system deals with the shooter(s) expeditiously. We'll keep following the story.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Packers win

No gloating today, but a few thoughts about how my beloved Packers beat the Vikings 30-13 yesterday at TCF Bank Stadium:

  • It looked like the Vikings were so amped up that they lost their composure and were not able to maintain the level of intensity they brought early on. I've seen a fair amount of the Vikings this season and they have, in most games, been focused and disciplined in their approach. They took way too many penalties, especially early on.
  • The Packers haven't solved their problems, but running the ball effectively made a big difference. Going into the game, I thought the Corey Linsley vs. Linal Joseph matchup would be key, but Linsley was injured early on and the Packers brought in their backup center, J.C. Tretter, in his stead. Tretter played very well; many of the best runs in the game were up the middle. Because the Packers were not predictable offensively, Mike Zimmer's defense was not able to key on Aaron Rodgers. When Rodgers has reliable options, he generally wins.
  • Teddy Bridgewater played pretty well. He's tougher than he looks, too. I thought he had a broken collarbone for sure when they took him out of the game late in the first half, but he was able to play through whatever injuries he suffered, even though he was getting his butt kicked early and often. One thing that became clear as the game went on -- the Vikings are not very good on the offensive line, especially if they are forced to pass block.
  • Cordarrelle Patterson is a bonehead. It's easy to see why he rarely sees the field.
  • It's taken a while, but the Packers are finally starting to see some dividends from defensive players Nick Perry and Datone Jones, two first round draft picks who have been disappointing early in their careers. They both had a big impact on the course of the game. 
  • It doesn't get any easier for the Vikings -- their schedule is tough over the rest of the season, including trips to Atlanta, Arizona and a return match at Lambeau, along with tough home dates against the Seahawks and Giants. The Packers have a few games left that will be difficult, especially their trip to Arizona, but they should be favored against all their other remaining opponents. Advantage, Pack.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Back from Galesburg, Baby! Edition

You might have noticed that the HYYYYYYPPPPPPPE! levels in Minnesota have increased in recent days. It seemed like a disturbance in the Force happened. Well, I'm the disturbance, baby!

The Benster's back and there's gonna be trouble. Hey la, hey la, the Benster's back!

Is it always necessary for you to break out into song every time I come back to town?

Ben, the two of us need look no more,
We both found what we were looking for

C'mon, old dude -- that song is an ode to a cinematic rat! You really need to do better than that!

Hey kids, plug into the faithless
Maybe they're blinded
But Bennie makes them ageless

That's a little better, but you're still 40 years in the rear view mirror, Geritol Fan! And let's face it, no one is here to see you quote ancient song lyrics! They're here to see my brilliance. So watch me work!

Illinois Cheating Illini (+5) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Gophers can still get a bowl bid if they win out. It has to start tomorrow and, thankfully, Illinois is a beatable opponent. They have some talent, but they invariably fail to utilize it. Thankfully, the Gophers have talent and have an experienced staff. It's time for the Gophers to make sure they take care of business, because next week is going to be a challenge. But for now, I like the Gophers. Gophers 38, Illinois 10.

I agree -- if the Gophers are going to make their push for the Tidy Bowl, or whatever silly lower-tier bowl they might get for a 6-6 record, the push had better come right now. They've been close against superior competition, so playing the undermanned Illini will seem like a relief. Time for Tracy Claes to get off the schneid. Gophers 31, Illinois 22.

Northwestern Wildcats (+10) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. So, old dude, have you checked the rankings? It seems that Northwestern is ranked higher than Wisconsin. So, why are the Badgers a 10 point favorite? Well, let me explain it to you. You might have noticed that tomorrow is November 21. That date has significance to me. And I'm putting Paul Chryst on notice -- you better win this one, pal. I could use a good birthday present! I think Northwestern is starting to fall to earth a little, but they still will give Wisconsin all they want. This time, I don't expect there to be a lot of purple in Madison. Once again, Wisconsin, you'd better win. Badgers 67, Wildcats 0.

Wait, tomorrow is your birthday? You mean, 20 years ago you looked like this?

Just born and already bringing the HYYYYYPPPPPPE!
That was a long time ago and many things have changed over the years. One thing hasn't, though -- Northwestern remains a tough out, especially for the Badgers. However, the last few times the Cats have come to Madison it's gotten pretty ugly for them. I think this one will be closer, but I like the Badgers to win a close defensive struggle. Badgers 21, Northwestern 16.

Michigan State Sparty the Spartan (+14) vs. The Ohio State University Buckeyes. Lots of folks have questioned how good Ohio State is this year, but they keep on rolling. Now comes a test. The Spartans should be undefeated, but they got hosed on a bizarre play in Lincoln a few weeks back and so they are looking to give Urban Meyer his first regular season Big Ten loss. One thing all the experts forget is that the senior class of Michigan State has beaten Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game two years ago. So, remind me again, why is Ohio State a two touchdown favorite? Michigan State 19, Ohio State 12.

Uh, no. Sparty did get hosed in Lincoln, but they also stole one against Big Brother Blue, so their karmic bank account is in balance. In the end, it comes down to talent and the home field. Ohio State has been improving of late and I suspect they are about to get into Playoff mode. Ohio State 34, Michigan State 26.

Denver Broncos (+1) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. So last weekend, Peyton Manning kinda, well, sucked. I realize that's not the nicest way to describe it, but his stat line was bad. Awful. Even unsightly. Perhaps, dare I say, atrocious? That is why you will not be seeing Peyton Manning playing against his old coach, John Fox. Instead, you will see Brock Osweiler, who is best known for being the tallest dude ever to appear on a milk carton, because he's been missing ever since he left Arizona State. The Bears would know something about quarterbacks on milk cartons, because they've been missing one for nearly 70 years now. Jay Cutler is, as always, smokin'. See for yourself:

I like Newports
There is no denying that da Bearz have improved, but this a little much. Denver 45, da Bearz 2.

Oy. Gino's not gonna like that one bit. And I think you're being a bit unfair to Peter Tom Willis, but I digress. This is going to be a low-scoring game, I suspect. Denver's defense is ferocious and the Bears are still having some trouble along the offensive line. Cutler has improved his happy feet problem this year, but he hasn't seen a pass rush like the one that's coming to Chicago on Sunday. That will be the difference. Broncos 20, Bears 14.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (+1) vs. Minnesota Vikings. Lots of people have been suggesting that the torch has been passed in the NFC North and that the Vikings are ready to take over. Well, they could be right. The Vikings have played very well this year, while the Packers have hit a very tough patch as of late. Losing to the Broncos and Panthers is one thing, but losing to the LOLions at home? That's quite another. So what happens this week? This is the first difficult game for the Vikings since they played at Denver several weeks ago. Give the Purple credit for hanging in there and winning the games they would expect to win. It gets harder the rest of the way, starting on Sunday in Minneapolis. As for the Packers, the sky may be falling, but inside, they're just fine. Packers 27, Vikings 20.

I dunno. The Vikings are pretty good and I wonder who is going to play for the Packers. The good news is that Eddie Lacy apparently will be available, but the Packers are down several receivers now, as it appears that both Ty Montgomery and Jared Abbrederis are unavailable. Mind you, these were guys the Packers never expected to need this season, but here we are. The secret problem the Packers are having is that their offensive line is not playing well and that has caused Aaron Rodgers a lot of grief. The Vikings like to get up the field on defense, so the Packers need to find a way to get them back on their heels a bit. Watch the battle between Linval Joseph of the Vikings and Corey Linsley of the Packers. The winner of that matchup will likely indicate the winner of the game. Packers 23, Vikings 21.

Any last words, Geritol Fan?

Glad to have you back, young fella! It's a lot easier to keep the house warm when you have HYYYYYYPPPPE! to burn.

Always glad to be of service. Ben out!

A big tree totters in the Obamacare forest

Things aren't going well for Obamacare, nor for the companies who are part of it. And now the biggest one of all is making noises:
The biggest U.S. health insurer said it has suffered major losses on policies sold on the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges and will consider withdrawing from them, adding to worries about the future of the marketplaces at the heart of the Obama administration’s signature health law.

The disclosure by UnitedHealth Group Inc., which had just last month sounded optimistic notes about the segment’s prospects, is the latest sign that many insurers are finding the new business unprofitable, despite an influx of customers that has helped swell revenues.
It's big news if UHG is thinking about getting out, but the key player to watch is Blue Cross/Blue Shield. UHG's primary business involves group plans for employers and while they are a significant player in the market, BC/BS is much more important. Having said that, these comments should cause you to raise your eyebrows:
UnitedHealth Group Chief Executive Stephen J. Hemsley said the company isn’t willing to continue its losses into 2017. UnitedHealth has already locked in its exchange offerings for 2016, but it is pulling back on marketing them during the current open-enrollment period to limit membership, which it said last month totaled around 550,000.

The company will make market-by-market determinations in the first half of next year about whether it will continue selling products on the exchanges.

“We can’t sustain these losses,” he said. “We can’t subsidize a market that doesn’t appear at this point to be sustaining itself.”
And the reason it's not sustaining itself? Don't tell me, lemme guess:
Mr. Hemsley emphasized problems with consumers “coming in and out of the exchange system to use medical services,” or essentially signing up for health plans when they need to cover health expenses—an issue also highlighted by other insurers.
If it's possible to game the system, people will do it. And why wouldn't they? The law makes it possible, which is why, for some people, it makes more sense to pay the individual mandate fine and sign up for insurance only when you need it. Heckuva plan, folks.

Meanwhile, in Bamako

Another terror event is unfolding, this time in Mali:
Men shouting "God is great" and armed with guns and throwing grenades stormed into the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali's capital Friday morning and seized 170 hostages.

The U.S. Embassy in Mali asked citizens to shelter in place amid reports of an "ongoing active shooter operation" at the hotel in Bamako. People in the area ran for their lives along a dirt road as a soldier in full combat gear them to safety.

Malian army commander Modibo Nama Traore said 10 gunmen stormed the hotel shouting "Allahu Akbar," or "God is great," in Arabic before firing on the guards and taking hostages. The Brussels-based Rezidor Hotel group that operates the hotel said the assailants have "locked in" 140 guests and 30 employees.
We haven't given Mali much thought over the past few years. I remember Mitt Romney talking about the country in the 2012 presidential debates and earning a fair amount of derision as a result; then again, everything Romney said seemed to earn derision. And, as usual, Romney was correct, because the northern part of Mali has been a stronghold for terrorists, despite the intervention of -- wait for it -- the French in 2013.

This is an active event, so we can only speculate about the endgame. We'll have our answer soon, though, and history suggests it won't be a happy ending.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Do you believe your eyes?

So, who are the Syrian refugees, anyway? We get a lot of visuals but they aren't helpful. The first image that most of us saw was this heartbreaking image of a drowned boy:

A horrifying fate
Who wouldn't want to help prevent that? Once the Syrian refugees started to arrive, however, the images changed substantially:

So where are the women and children?
These guys were waiting to board a boat bound for Athens. Not a child or woman in sight. Or is this image a more accurate depiction of the crisis?

Women and children galore
That's a much more traditional scene. And what do you make of the following image?

Lemme get in on this selfie
If you do a Google image search, all of these images come up on the first page or two, depending on the terms you use. And isn't that the point? How do you even know what's real?

Other people seem a lot more certain of what's happening than I am. Here's a typical social media meme, which has appeared at least 4 times on my feed in the past few days:

So there!
That's a bit, ahem, categorical. On the other hand, from a right wing friend, I see this:

Clothes make the man
We have more information than ever. And we have more propaganda than ever. Someone is lying. Do you know who it is? Do you really?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Quote of the day

“We just want some answers,” said Draper Larkins. “The federal investigation might get answers. But we want the correct answers.”
I'm not sure who Draper Larkins is. The Star Tribune article, written by Erin Golden, really doesn't tell us. The topic at hand is the shooting of Jamar Clark in North Minneapolis over the weekend. A member of the police shot Clark. Clark was, depending on whose version of events you believe, either a bad dude who was interfering with first responders who were attending to his girlfriend, or a guy who was executed in cold blood. At last report, Clark was on life support, but some reports indicate the family is taking him off life support. We don't really know.

A lot hangs on the notion of what the "correct answers" are. Are established facts the correct answers? Or is there an overarching narrative at play here? Who knows? Increasingly, I feel lost in the funhouse on these questions. I sent an email to Ms. Golden asking about the identity of Larkins. I'll let you know what I find out.


We're hearing quite a bit about refugees from Syria at the moment. Were you aware of this refugee wave?
Nicaragua dispatched its military and police to help close its southern border in a dispute with Costa Rica over the passage of Cuban migrants on their way to the U.S.

Costa Rica’s decision on Saturday to grant seven-day transit visas to 1,200 Cuban migrants who entered the country through Panama “violated national sovereignty,” Nicaragua’s government said in a statement over the weekend. Nicaraguan troops and riot police fired tear gas at people attempting to enter on Sunday in what Costa Rica called a "humanitarian crisis."

Authorities re-opened the border Monday morning to tourists and merchants. Some 450 Cuban migrants were transferred to shelters in Costa Rica while the rest remained at the border checkpoint. Nicaragua’s ambassador to the United Nations, Maria Rubiales, said Monday that Costa Rica had violated the UN Charter and international law by not consulting Nicaragua over the passage of the migrants.
Wait -- why would we need to take on more Cubans? I thought we'd reestablished diplomatic relations with Cuba and all that was better now. Weird.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Lightning Round -- 111615

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

  • We may be on the verge of our own Ferguson. A man was shot by police early Sunday morning in North Minneapolis. That much we know. The actual sequence of events seems to be in dispute, as is the condition of the man in question. The response is not. “We’ve been saying for a long time that Minneapolis was one bullet away from Ferguson. Well, that bullet was fired last night,” said Jason Sole, an associate professor at Metropolitan State University and a member of the local NAACP chapter. That's the quote from the Star Tribune. I have no idea what really happened. I'm pretty sure Sole doesn't, either. It may not matter.
  • It's easy to make fun of the French, but it's never a good idea to mess with them, as ISIS/ISIL/Daesh is finding out. The French military dropped bombs on Raqqa, the city in Syria where ISIS maintains a stronghold. I would assume there will be more bombs coming. The French always, always act in their own interest, and they aren't hesitant to use force as they see fit. You doubt that? Ask Greepeace some time.
  • Are you an obscure local politician in Burnsville? Would you like to have fifteen minutes of fame that is fully wrapped in ridicule? Would you like to be denounced by every member of your own political party within shouting distance of a microphone? Well, here's how you do it.
  • So, apparently the reason Hillary Clinton has taken a metric ton of money from Wall Street fat cats is because of 9/11 or something. That's amusing. Fortunately for Clinton, not too many people were watching.
  • Another of the old time wrasslers is gone -- Wicked Nick Bockwinkel died the other day, at the age of 80. Not many of those guys left any more.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Benster and D Pick Your Games--Objects In Your Mirror Edition

The question facing a couple teams is this -- can they finish the job as we start to get to the business end of the season?

An eternal question. And one that usually doesn't end well, young fella. Kinda like your picks.

Yeah, yeah. Take shots at me for being a bit of an optimist.

No, seriously, I appreciate your optimism. One day you'll be old and cynical like me.

Gee, I hope not. I always am an optimist. Somebody has to have a little faith around here. But more than that, I believe in HYYYYYPPPPE! So let me provide some. Watch me work!

Minnesota Golden Gophers (+10) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes. It is the first time ever that the Pig is being contested under the lights, and Iowa is a heavy favorite. I have been giving Iowa a lot of praise and credit, considering that they have gotten no respect from any of the members on the committee and they have the same quality win that Alabama has. Iowa has a simple path to Indy, which is just win, and nobody in the West can catch you. The problem is that this game is a rivalry game, and in recent years the Gophers have been a tough out. Minnesota is a team that gave Michigan and Ohio State all they wanted earlier in the year, and the players have some stability in knowing that the coaching staff is going to be sticking around. It's time to see if Iowa is for real, or if they have ran out of magic. Minnesota 19, Iowa 8.

If this game were taking place in Minneapolis, I would pick the Gophers. But the contest will take place in Kinnick Stadium and things haven't gone well for the Gophers there in recent years. I do think hiring Tracy Claes for real was the smart move, but this Iowa team looks like it's going to the Big Ten championship game. Iowa 31, Gophers 20.

Oklahoma Sooners (+2) vs. Baylor Bears. You might be asking yourself why I would choose to pick a game from the Big XII? The reason is that the conference has the motto "One True Champion," because every team will play each other, so there should be no debate at all over who is the champion. Of course, last year Baylor and TCU were co-champs, so what does the Big XII know? Baylor has to win this game at home in Waco, and then win on the road in Fort Worth against TCU in order to be called the "One True Champion," and then they would have a great argument to get into the playoff. Art Briles is a miracle worker for what he has done to make Baylor a name program, but Bob Stoops is experienced and can put up a lot of points too. Oklahoma 56, Baylor 49.

It'll be fun. No one seems to play defense in the Big XII. I'll go with the homestanding Bears. Baylor 45, Oklahoma 38.

Knox College Prairie Fire (NL) vs. Beloit College Bucs. Once again, it is time for some cross-divisional action in the Midwest Conference, and this game will be much discussed among our household. I have much respect for Beloit, and I did almost go there. However, Knox is an amazing place and I love it here. So sorry if I do this, but then again I always pick my school, even if they are playing against Decrepit's school. Knox 17, Belwah 0.

No need to apologize, Seabiscuit. Be true to your school! And, truth be told, Knox is getting better. Beloit can score, though. And they will. Game is at Beloit and I expect my beloved Bucs to get the job done. Beloit 34, Knox 24.

Minnesota Vikings (+3) vs. Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders. The Vikings are quietly sneaking up in the playoff picture, and control their own destiny in the NFC North, because they still get the Packers twice. Mike Zimmer has done a great job and deserves a lot of credit for winning with players he might not have picked himself. Oakland has also played well, and they have a realistic shot at a wild card spot over in the AFC. Heck, it is possible that Minnesota might not be done traveling to the Bay Area this year, if you understand my thought process. That being said, West Coast road trips are often difficult and Derrick Carr has been playing amazing lately, and I highly suggest that you add him to your fantasy roster if you don't like your quarterback. Raiders 24, Vikings 21 in overtime.

If the Vikings are going to slip up, this would be the game. The Raiders are getting better and they can come at you with multiple offensive talents. I'll be curious to see how Teddy Bridgewater plays after coming off a concussion. Raiders 27, Vikings 20.

Detroit LOLions (+10.5) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. It is getting a little tough to not want to panic, since the Packers have looked not good against Denver and Carolina. The good news is that they return home and get to play the LOLions, who have looked terrible all year. The Lions have not won a game in Wisconsin since 1991. To put that in perspective, George H.W. Bush was president, Mr and Mrs. D had just got married, though not at St. Ignatius Church of Christ, and I would not be born for another few years. Jason Hanson, who played for about 20 years in the Motor City, never won a game in Green Bay. Just a reminder for all those who are pushing the panic button. The last time the Packers lost two straight, they went on to win the next 17 or so, including 4 road playoff games in a row. Packers 35, Lions 0.

The St. Ignatius Church of Christ reference is an old family inside joke. Trust me, it's hilarious. As for the Packers, they get to enjoy a big ol' bowl of chicken soup in Honolulu Blue. The Lions still have talent, but they seem to be in disarray right now and are going to have to start over, yet again. If the Packers get any pass rush going, this is going to be a very long day for Matthew Stafford. He's become used to it. Packers 45, Lions 17.

And now, time for a Special Comment. I am not the first person to offer thoughts about Greg Hardy, nor will I be the last. The fact that he is still in the league is upsetting to me. I do not give a hoot if the man can toss a quarterback to the ground with consistency, but what he did in hitting a woman and getting off on a technicality of the law is an absolute joke, and I do not believe he should be allowed anywhere near a team. How can mothers and daughters hold him up as an example of a player to respect, and buy his jersey, when he has demonstrated that he will lie without conscience. And how he can be welcomed back into the league when it is facing an image problem of domestic violence is beyond me. I don't say this much, but Greg Hardy would never be welcome in my home, or on any team I support. The NFL should be better than that, and Jerry Jones should be better than that as well. It just makes me sick. Ben out.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Actual unspeakable evil

Earlier today, I posted a piece concerning some silly behavior at Claremont McKenna College in California. I titled the blog post using the term unspeakable evil. That was tongue in cheek.

What happened today on the streets of Paris actually was unspeakable evil. We saw coordinated terrorist attacks that it appears have killed at least 150 people. The terrorists killed their victims without remorse and indiscriminately. This was barbarism.

It is easy, probably too easy, to cast aspersions upon the French people. Goodness knows that I have done so on this blog over the years. We will now see the resolve of the French people as they deal with the aftermath of this horrific attack.

I'm reasonably certain that we will see a response that is resolute and ruthless. The French protect their own and they will do so without remorse. I am praying for the victims of these attacks. I understand why people are skeptical of European resolve in the face of barbarism. This day, we saw something horrible happen in one of the great cities of the world. Now we will see if we are capable of a response.

A blog post in which I expose my readership to unspeakable evil

The poop swastika at Mizzou can just go home. You want evil? We got it right here, pal:

The horror, the horror
These are students at Claremont McKenna College, an exclusive (less than 10% acceptance rate) college east of Los Angeles. Apparently wearing sombreros and mustaches is cultural appropriation and must be stopped. A student at CMC explains:
The photo began to circulate on Sunday morning after CMC junior Casey Garcelon ‘17 reposted the picture as her cover photo on Facebook with the message: “Dear Claremont community, For anyone who ever tries to invalidate the experiences of POC at the Claremont Colleges, here is a reminder of why we feel the way we do. Don’t tell me I’m overreacting, don’t tell me I’m being too sensitive. My voice will not be silenced. I’m mentally drained from being a part of this community and I’ve had enough. If you feel uncomfortable by my cover photo, I want you to know I feel uncomfortable as a person of color everyday on this campus.”
Okay, we won't tell you you're overreacting. I do think others at Claremont McKenna are overreacting:
Claremont McKenna College’s dean of students resigned Thursday amid protests over racial tensions on the campus, the same day student demonstrations roiled more than 100 colleges and universities nationwide.

Dean Mary Spellman at Claremont McKenna stepped down after she sparked a campus protest and hunger strikes by two students this week over her email to a Latina student saying she would work to serve those who “don’t fit our CMC mold.”
I have no idea what the CMC mold is. I would not be surprised if Spellman didn't really know, either. It doesn't really matter. She is not allowed to say anything that might cause offense to those whose voices will not be silenced.

Keep talking, folks. We'll figure out the meaning. By the way, the current cost of attending CMC is north of $60,000 a year.

Update: a dissent from the CMC Independent:

We are disappointed in the fact that your movement has successfully managed to convince its members that anyone who dissents does so not for intelligent reasons, but due to moral failure or maliciousness. We are disappointed that you’ve used phrases like “silence is violence” to not only demonize those who oppose you, but all who are not actively supporting you. We are most disappointed, however, in the rhetoric surrounding “safe spaces.” College is the last place that should be a safe space. We come here to learn about views that differ from our own, and if we aren’t made to feel uncomfortable by these ideas, then perhaps we aren’t venturing far enough outside of our comfort zone. We would be doing ourselves a disservice to ignore viewpoints solely on the grounds that they may make us uncomfortable, and we would not be preparing ourselves to cope well with adversity in the future. Dealing with ideas that make us uncomfortable is an important part of growing as students and as people, and your ideas will inhibit opportunities for that growth.
Someone at CMC is learning. The entire editorial is worth a read.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Who will rid me of this meddlesome priestess?

Local residents might remember that in November, 2013, we had a municipal election in New Brighton. As part of that election, Gina Bauman was reelected to the City Council to serve a four-year term. Or so she thought.

Fast forward to November, 2015. We recently had another municipal election in New Brighton. In this election, Bauman decided to run for mayor in what became a three person race. Her opponents were the incumbent mayor, Dave Jacobsen, and newcomer Val Johnson. When the votes were counted, Johnson narrowly defeated Jacobsen and will be seated as the new mayor in January. The term for the mayor in New Brighton is 2 years. Or so we thought.

Two days ago, the City Council met. Council member Brian Strub introduced a motion to change the timing of the next municipal election to 2016, so that it would now coincide with the normal, even year election cycle in which citizens go to the polls to elect state and national politicians to office. As part of Strub's proposal, he effectively proposed that the city council members who were elected in 2013, himself and Bauman, would now have to run in 2016, rather than 2017, effectively changing the term of office from four years to three, while extending the term of the incoming mayor, Johnson, to 2018. The motion passed.

So what's really going on? Strub explains it here:

Okay, technically that's not Strub. But it's pretty close. While the change was couched in terms of saving money and ensuring that more voters will weigh in on municipal elections, it was really about getting rid of Bauman, who has been an impediment in the efforts of the local left to install A Better New Brighton. A few points:

  • Just a guess -- if Bauman had been elected mayor, the proposal would have changed the mayoral term to one year, rather than extending it to three.
  • A petition is likely to appear on the ballot in 2016, asking voters to approve the change to the election cycle. But since the change will have already been made, it will be a fait accompli.
  • The idea that moving municipal elections to even number years will somehow save money is ludicrous. There will still be elections for school board and other offices in odd numbered years.
  • As Bauman rightly pointed out during the discussion, many voters, especially in a presidential election year, don't bother voting in the down-ballot races, so the idea that more citizens will now vote in municipal elections is specious. In fact, it's likely that these municipal elections and the campaigns themselves will get lost in the weeds.
  • Strub tried to make himself seem selfless in offering to shorten his own term, but he's banking on the usual DFL get-out-the-vote effort to carry him to victory, even though his office is, theoretically, nonpartisan.
  • If you doubt that the local DFL isn't trying to make these changes happen, consider this screen grab from the New Brighton Political Exchange group on Facebook:

That would be our state senator, asking to rid us of this meddlesome priestess. The city council has answered her call. There is more to say about all this and we'll revisit the issue in the coming days.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Republican stock report

Only saw about 45 minutes of last night's debate -- was at a much more interesting event earlier in the evening, which I'll get to later, perhaps tomorrow. Status:

  • Donald Trump is settling in. You either agree with him or you don't; generally, I don't. Will the voters actually go for him? We're going to find out.
  • Ben Carson has taken a lot of shots from the media in the last week, but he's still standing. I remain unconvinced he has any reason to be president.
  • Ted Cruz is a brilliant debater. He has a great mind. Not sure his persona will wear well with the public. Still would like him on the Supreme Court.
  • I wish I liked Marco Rubio more than I do. He's a talented politician and a very good orator. He still seems, I dunno, callow. If Trump fades, I would bet he's the nominee, though.
  • I agree with Rand Paul on many, many things. He's never going to be president, though, and he really ought to go back to Kentucky now.
  • Carly Fiorina intrigues me. She might be the best pure communicator of the bunch and has a quick mind. A good skill set, but is the right one? Could see her being the VP, though. 
  • How do I put this delicately? John Kasich is annoying. In some respects, he's playing the James Webb role on the Republican side. Or he's the Jon Huntsman of 2016. Either way, no chance.
  • Jeb Bush, go home. It's over.
For other reviews -- here's Bud Norman. And John Hinderaker. And Paul Mirengoff. And the ever-popular "drunk blogging" of Stephen Green.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Click bait

The nickname of the University of Missouri is Mizzou. That needs to change, at least for now. I'm thinking Mao-zou fits better:
After desperately trying to gin up media coverage of student protests at the University of Missouri, one of the school’s media professors is now furiously trying to “muscle” the press off campus to prevent them from covering student protests that rapidly spiraled out of control Monday.

Mizzou president Timothy Wolfe announced his resignation on Monday after members of the school’s 4-5 football team announced they would boycott team activities unless the school acceded to certain demands surrounding racial equality. Unsurprisingly, Wolfe’s resignation did little to quell the mob.

On Monday afternoon, activists who had demanded Wolfe’s resignation abruptly demanded that media stop covering their activities on the public campus of the taxpayer-funded university. At the center of those demands was Melissa Click, an assistant professor of mass media within Mizzou’s communications department.
Here's the video -- check out the call from public servant Click for "muscle" to get rid of those who are attempting to film the protesters, which comes in the last minute or so of the video -- scroll ahead to about the 6:00 minute mark to get the full flavor of Click's, er, performance:

What a pleasant person -- the state of Missouri is getting quite a good return on its investment in paying her salary.

A few observations:
  • When the football team can get a university president to resign, we're a long way from the days of Robert Maynard Hutchins, that's for sure.
  • The students you see on the video look to be comfortably middle class and are engaged in a public demonstration in a public place. I'm not sure why they would imagine they have a right to privacy in that context, unless they're afraid Mom and Dad might cut off their latte money.
  • Readers of this feature understand that free speech is not free of consequence. Say what you want, but own it. It's possible that, at some point, the students shown here understood that notion, but they aren't especially keen on accountability. That's not gonna fly once they get out of the comforting embrace of ol' alma mater.
  • Historically, Mizzou has been known as one of the best journalism schools in the country. Not sure how this sort of thing helps maintain that reputation.

Monday, November 09, 2015

A voice from exotic Kansas

I recently happened across a blogger out of Kansas named Bud Norman. I think he's very good. A sample:
Drop in on any left-leaning web site or “alternative” newspaper and you’ll notice a proliferation of profanity, of course the movies and television shows that the vast west wing of Hollywood produces are full of foul language, a similar vulgarity seems to pervade the conversations of most of our liberal friends, even the Vice President of the United States felt compelled drop an “F-bomb” to commemorate the passage of Obamacare, and this isn’t the first time that children have been dragged into it. The left regards cussing as authentically proletarian, even though the authentic proletariat is still saying grace before a meal and washing its kids’ mouths out with soap for such outbursts, and it fancies itself bravely defying the stultifying conventions of bourgeois society, even though it’s been a long time since the martyrdom of Lenny Bruce and by now what’s left of bourgeois society is no longer capable of stultifying even the most obnoxious behaviors.
A good observation. Here's even a better one:
Our newly-won freedom to spew curse words might be considered a small and insignificant expansion of liberty, but it’s hardly ample compensation for all the restrictions that the left wants to impose. Everything from %&*# to *+$@ is now allowed in the public square, but all sorts of formerly useful and respectable terms are now forbidden in polite company. “He” is an offensive word if used in reference to men who consider themselves women, “merit” and “hard work” are considered racist code in the more refined quarters of academia, of course “illegal immigrant” is not allowed to describe an immigrant who has entered the country illegally, and in the Democratic presidential race presumptive candidate Hillary Clinton is accusing pesky challenger and self-described socialist — which was formerly a dirty word — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders of being racist for using the word “urban” in their ongoing gun control debate. Try injecting any honest acknowledgment of the higher rate of criminal activity in certain communities into that debate or the related arguments over the “Black Lives Matter” movement and the police, and you’ll find that the certain points of view are now out of bounds no matter how profanely phrased. Anything having to do with sex, of course, is similarly constrained by the new rules of polite discourse.
I've been known to curse. I'm glad my comments aren't generally recorded for posterity when someone cuts me off on 35W, pretty much an everyday occurrence. I don't feel good about it, though. Norman's larger point about control of the language isn't new, but he states it well. I recommend his work. You can find the link to his blog, Central Standard Times, on the sidebar of this feature.

An excellent suggestion

Kevin Williamson, writing in National Review, provides an excellent suggestion for the new Speaker of the House:
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who is a numbers guy, should have the CBO rescore Obamacare as it is actually being implemented, incorporating not only the proposed Cadillac-tax repeal but also the effects of enrollment numbers that are lower than projected — current expectations are that 2016 will see about half the enrollments originally estimated. The result will be not billions but hundreds of billions of dollars in additional deficits. Let Herself defend that on the campaign trail this year, or let that batty old loon from Vermont try to convince the public that all that lost revenue can be made up by raising taxes on 400 guys in Manhattan. By all means, let’s have that fight.
It's also, without question, the discussion we need to be having. While it's always fun to discuss Ben Carson's CV, what happens with Obamacare matters a lot more.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Comings and goings

Two things to note on the blog front, broadly speaking.

Very glad to see the return of the Nightwriter after nearly three years. He's been otherwise occupied, which he explains well in his triumphant return post, and he will use his old redoubt to chronicle new adventures in the Czech Republic, among other things. I never took his blog off my sidebar, because I've always felt that even his archival material was more valuable than much of what you see on the ol' interwebs. Now, we'll have even more reason to visit. And while we're at it, I also recommend the blog he used to detail his amazing experience with ALS, No Longer I Who Live.

On the not-so-happy front, I've been meaning to lament the end of Grantland, the idiosyncratic sports/entertainment website that Bill Simmons ran as part of the ESPN empire. Big Sports Disney pulled the plug on this enterprise last week. The Grantland venture reminded me of the mostly forgotten The National Sports Daily, a wonderful but short-lived publication that ran its course in the very early 1990s. The link I've posted is a wonderful story about its history that appeared in Grantland in 2011. Of course.

Simmons, like his preceptor Frank Deford, is a difficult fellow and his editoral flights of fancy, like Deford's, made Grantland a continuing headache for the financial backers. Once ESPN ashcanned Simmons earlier this year, it wasn't surprising that his website would eventually get the ax as well. I imagine that some of the talented writers that Simmons assembled, particularly the brilliant baseball writer Jonah Keri, will quickly find other sinecures. I hope so.

Saturday, November 07, 2015


I don't know whether Ben Carson got an invitation to West Point or not. Neither do you. Politico certainly doesn't know, either. I do know a lack of evidence for one position does not mean the opposite position is true. In other words, if Ben Carson says General Westmoreland offered him a chance to go to West Point, and Carson didn't subsequently apply, that doesn't mean the offer wasn't extended. Westmoreland has been unable to comment for at least ten years now.

I don't support Ben Carson for President, but I'm glad he's been pushing back against Politico. The lesson that Republicans are finally learning is simple enough -- you do not have to accept the premises and biases of your interlocutors. And it is always worth pushing back on the premises and biases of the MSM.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Benster and D Pick Your Games --- Bronze Turkey Bowl Edition

Old dude, the committee should not be watching the game in Alabama, Clemson, or Ohio State, because a game that is important and very bitter is happening with major implications in the state of Illinois.

They play football in Illinois? That's news to me!

Well, maybe not professional football. No, it's time for the Bronze Turkey game between Knox and Monmouth. This game is traditionally full of good old fashioned hate.

Of the liberal arts variety, right?

That's correct! It means hate with footnotes! But you won't need any footnotes now, because it is time to once again lay down some killer hot takes that other folks shy away from. Watch the HYYYYYYYPPEEE! unfold. And watch me work!

Minnesota Golden Gophers (+23) vs. The Ohio State University Buckeyes. Let me tell you something that most analysts seem to have ignored, which is that Ohio State is going to be playing a tricky game on Saturday. Now, you might be saying that I am projecting my normal bias against the football team, but hear me out. J.T Barrett made a mistake by drinking and trying to get home himself, and as a result is suspended for this game. That means that Mr. Cardale Jones is going to be starting this ballgame. The problem Mr. Jones has is that he has not looked like the quarterback that beat 3 very good teams to win the first true National Championship in the history of the sport. Another thing people forger is that Minnesota is a team that may not get a lot of attention, but they came one play away from beating Michigan. Another thing to remember is that Ohio State struggled last year against Minnesota in the Twin Cities. Ohio State is starting a difficult run, which includes Michigan State, Michigan, and possibly Iowa in the conference title game. So this game is not going to be a walkover like all the talking heads seem to think. And a fair warning to all you Ohio State fans, which is that two years ago you had a great team, but you got ambushed a bunch and seemed to overestimate an opponent late in the year. Minnesota 27, O-H-N-O 23.

Cardale Jones needs to get better. Definitely agree with you there. But this game is in Columbus. I just don't see the Gophers winning there. They'll give 'em a battle, but OSU will wear the Gophers down, I'm afraid. Ohio State 34, Gophers 17.

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-10.5) vs. Maryland Terps. Wisconsin is making their first visit to College Park to take on a Maryland team that has fired its head coach and is struggling. The Badgers have the nation's best scoring defense under Dave Aranda, who should be getting more looks as a college head coach. The Badgers have also benefited from the return of Corey Clement, who looked quite good against Rutgers last week. Wisconsin needs a bit of help to get to Indy again, but they are certainly looking at a possible New Year's Day bowl game, which is my goal each and every year. Wisconsin 34, Maryland 11.

Maryland is a mess right now. The Badgers are getting better. The Badgers might not lose another game this year. They certainly won't in College Park. Wisconsin 41, Maryland 7.

Monmouth Scots (NL) vs. Knox Prairie Fire. This game is called the Bronze Turkey Game, because the winner gets the Bronze Turkey trophy. Monmouth is a far inferior school to Knox in just about every way. The good news is that a bunch of people will be out watching the Fire finally beat those sons of guns and restore our honor. Knox 34, Safety School -9.

Minus nine? That's the typical ACT score for a Monmouth matriculant, right? Thanks for the setup, there, young fella! Well, Monmouth is certainly superior to Knox in football. The record speaks for itself. Knox is improving, but they won't win this game. The turkey is headed back down U.S. 34 for another year. Monmouth 45, Knox 21.

St. Louis Rams (Pick) vs. Minnesota Vikings. This game is one of the most interesting games on the schedule this week, which is a bit unexpected. The Vikings quietly are a game back of the Packers in the NFC North, and Mike Zimmer must be happy that his team is playing very well. The Rams are a good story, as they have been playing well and are certainly contending in the NFC West, filling the void that the Seahawks have left. I think that Minnesota is going to play well, but I like St. Louis because they are well coached and that they have a good defense. Rams 32, Vikings 26.

I'm hearing you on this one. The Rams have improved quite a lot this year and Todd Gurley will be a real challenge for the Vikings. I felt like the Vikings stole one last week in Chicago, and you wonder if their good fortune will continue here. I say it does, but barely. Vikings 24, Rams 21.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-2.5) vs. Carolina Panthers. The Packers are facing a game that will determine where the road to Santa Clara will run. Carolina is an impressive team, but they have one less day of preparation, due to playing on Monday night last week. This game is going to be a tough one, but remember that the Packers have won the last two games in this series, including a win in Charlotte. Another thing to remember is that Aaron Rodgers was questioned about not playing well before facing a dangerous Texans team a few years ago down in Houston. He told us that "Outside the sky is falling, Inside, we're just fine."Once again, the Packers are just fine, because Carolina lost last year to a similar Packer team, while a damaged Colts took  Carolina to overtime and gave them all they wanted. Packers 21, Panthers 13.

Can the Packers run the football? They sure couldn't in Denver. This one is going to be tough. I think someone unexpected will make a big play for the Packers this week. Might wear 84 on his jersey. Let's see. Packers 27, Panthers 24.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (+4) vs. San Diego Chargers. The Bears will play this game without Eddie Royal and Matt Forte. Those losses are significant, because Forte is the cornerstone of the offense and his presence allows Jay Cutler to not have to win the game on his own. Phillip Rivers may not have Keenan Allen or Antonio Gates, but he still has plenty of targets and is a great fantasy option. The Bears will compete, but it won't be easy. Chargers 32, da Bearz 7.

The Chargers are down to their last chance. If they lose this one, it's probably just about over for them. Since Philip Rivers is my fantasy quarterback, I'd tend to agree with your assessment. He's been outstanding this year for scoring points, especially in garbage time. Jay needs more weapons than he'll have at his disposal this week. Chargers 31, Bears 17.

By the way, Alabama does not belong in the top four of the rankings, especially when an undefeated Iowa team has beaten the same common opponent as well as winning against Pitt. My two cents. Ben out!

The ol' frog and scorpion thing again

Bernie Sanders is now getting his reward for a grievous tactical error he made in the first debate, saying the following:

"Let me say something that may not be great politics, but the secretary is right. The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!" Sanders said to thunderous applause.
Bernie wants to talk about the issues, you see. That's not how it works, though. Team Clinton pocketed that gift and then gave ol' Bernie the what-for by branding his campaign as sexist:
The once respectful Democratic primary has devolved into a slugfest about gender, with Hillary Clinton surrogates expressing outrage over how Bernie Sanders is conducting his campaign — even calling for him to fire his staff over alleged sexist remarks.

The ugly dispute has knocked Sanders back on his heels, and placed him on the defensive — an unaccustomed position for a progressive who describes himself as a feminist. And it’s sent a signal flare to Republicans, who have been reminded of the pitfalls of using the wrong language when taking on Clinton — and also of her campaign’s ability to turn it to her advantage.

“I’m stunned that a man like Bernie Sanders, who has clearly committed his life to making the country a better place, would get sucked into this very dangerous rhetoric, which perpetuates sexist and misogynistic stereotypes,” fumed Christine Quinn, the former New York City Council speaker who sits on Clinton’s New York Leadership Council and does fundraising for her campaign. “The candidate is supposed to set the tone, set the agenda. If Bernie Sanders does not want to be seen as someone who uses sexist language and perpetuates a dangerous sexist stereotype of strong women, then he should tell his people to stop. And if they don’t stop, he should fire them.”
Once you let the Clintons define what the acceptable parameters of discourse are, you lose. This show has been going on for nearly a quarter century now. You'd think Bernie would have figured that out before he decided to campaign. I've long thought that Bernie Sanders really doesn't want to be president. He's going to get his wish.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

A healer

Barack Obama, 2007:
"I think it is fair to say that I believe I can bring the country together more effectively than [Hillary Clinton] can," Obama said. "I will add, by the way, that is not entirely a problem of her making. Some of those battles in the '90s that she went through were the result of some pretty unfair attacks on the Clintons. But that history exists, and so, yes, I believe I can bring the country together in a way she cannot do. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be running."
Barack Obama, 2015:
President Barack Obama tore into Republican presidential candidates Monday night at a Democratic fundraising event in New York, saying their complaints about CNBC's debate moderation aren't an encouraging preview for their governing abilities.

"Have you noticed that everyone of these candidates say, 'Obama's weak. Putin's kicking sand in his face. When I talk to Putin, he's going to straighten out,'" Obama said, impersonating a refrain among Republican candidates that he's allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin too much leeway.

"Then it turns out they can't handle a bunch of CNBC moderators at the debate. Let me tell you, if you can't handle those guys, then I don't think the Chinese and the Russians are going to be too worried about you," Obama said.
Hope and change, baby!

An odd definition of patriotic

A group of protesters tried to shout down a visiting lecturer at the University of Minnesota. That's not news -- in a world of trigger warnings and whatnot, voices that don't conform to the accepted wisdom are difficult to find on a college campus. What's interesting is the rationale of the protesters. From the Star Tribune account:
Rula Rashid, a U finance major who is president of Students for Justice in Palestine, defended the protest. “The most patriotic thing you can do is protest something that shouldn’t be happening on your campus,” she said. 
Are we to assume that the only things that should happen on a college campus are things that pass muster with Rula Rashid? I hope Univerity of Minnesota President Eric Kaler has Rashid on the ol' speed dial, because he's going to have to double check the calendar on a few things.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

The people have spoken

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

-- H. L. Mencken
The results are in for the municipal elections in New Brighton. A screen shot from the Secretary of State's election web page:

Good heavens, we've been Menckened!
Last week, I wrote the following:
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.
I stand by that prediction.

A few additional thoughts:

  • For those who are jubilant at the election results, and there are rather a lot of people who feel this way, I would recommend that they attend the Truth in Taxation meeting on December 1. I'll publish more details on this meeting closer to the date. You may learn something. As an aside, it would be far better if the Truth in Taxation meeting happened a month before the election, not a month after.
  • While I did support Gina Bauman for mayor, I have a lot of respect for Dave Jacobsen, a good man who did try to bring fiscal discipline to our community. I have little reason to believe his successor will be an improvement.
  • It will be interesting to see what Paul Jacobsen, who was comfortably re-elected to his city council seat, does in the next session. Will he fight for fiscal discipline, or will he simply sign off on what comes down the pike? He's going to find that his vote doesn't matter very much any more, because the dynamics of the incoming council essentially guarantee that 3 of the five council members (incoming mayor Val Johnson and council members Mary Burg and Brian Strub) are going to vote the lefty, big government line. When Paul Jacobsen first came to the council, he had more conservative support, but he grew comfortable with going along with the liberals. Now that they no longer need his support, he may find his role diminished. 
  • Gina Bauman will remain on the council for the next two years. She won't be able to stop much of what is coming, but she can continue to offer principled opposition and document what is to come. That will be a valuable service when it comes time to evaluate the city council in the next election cycle.
  • When property taxes rise, and they will now, it's going to hurt the senior citizen population in our community. My neighborhood was built in the mid-60s and there are still a few original owners in their homes on my street. I will be curious to see if some "For Sale" signs start to pop up in the next two years.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Dawn breaks slowly

A writer for the Washington Post figures it out:
Republican voters are fed up. They were told: “We need to win the House to block Obama!” So they elected a Republican House — and nothing changed. Then they were told: “That’s not good enough, we need to win the Senate, too.” So they elected a Republican Senate. And the result is this budget capitulation.

The message to the grassroots is clear: Elected Republicans care more about their own preservation than they care about principle.

If the Republican establishment wonders why Donald Trump has been surging in the polls, they need only look in the mirror. They are the Dr. Frankensteins that created the Trump monster that is now wreaking havoc on the GOP village. They have no one to blame but themselves.
That's columnist Marc Thiessen, generally conservative. And he's right. You can see a significant mismatch between the Republicans who walk around in Washington and the people who send them there.

This is a very old phenomenon. When I first started following politics, you would hear that certain Republicans had "grown" in office. The source of this growth was, inevitably, when they went along with what the Democrats wanted. Sometimes these moves would earn the Republican "strange new respect" in the covens salons along the Potomac. This was a regular enough phenomenon that Tom Bethell of the American Spectator would issue a "Strange New Respect" award for those erstwhile Republicans who pleased their betters.

It's always been an easy thing to do -- here in Minnesota, Arne Carlson has earned "Strange New Respect" so many times that he had his number retired, and if you ever hear from Dave Durenberger at all, it's usually because he's decided to bash his former colleagues.

I have thought that Trump would go away eventually, and that still may happen. But I'm starting to doubt it, and the zeitgeist that has filled his sails, and those of Ben Carson, is still out there. The smart Republicans understand it. And yes, despite a fair amount of evidence to the contrary, there are a few smart ones.