Thursday, December 31, 2015

Dawn breaks for Mr. Dent

Stephen Dent is uneasy about his new friends, according to the Star Tribune:
“I’m about as liberal as you can get in this world,” Dent said. “And I hate to say it, but my goodness it’s all the conservatives that are supporting me. It makes me nervous.”
Scary indeed. Why is Mr. Dent receiving support from conservatives? Well, he got doxxed:
Minneapolis City Council Member Alondra Cano said she was trying to keep discussion of Black Lives Matter issues “in public light” by broadcasting on Twitter critical messages sent to her office last week.

Her decision to tweet several messages critiquing her involvement in a Dec. 23 rally at the Mall of America, including the senders’ contact information, has since drawn an ethics complaint from one of the people whose information was disclosed. 
That would be Mr. Dent who filed the ethics complaint. And I'm glad he did. It apparently isn't illegal to publish the contact information of your political opponents in Minnesota, but it's a very bad practice in a time when the pitchforks are always close by. If you are a public servant, and Ms. Cano is, retaliating against your constituents is a terrible practice. Not that Cano seems to understand that:
Cano was accused of “doxing,” Internet parlance for publicizing someone’s personal information online. But Cano rejected the label Wednesday, saying the term is typically associated with the intentional targeting and harassment of someone.

“I did neither of those,” Cano said. “And my intention was never to put anyone in harm’s way.”
She's just a soul whose intentions are good. Oh Lord, please don't let her be misunderstood. But there's more:
Cano said she posted the messages because “I think that it’s a way to keep this public discussion going and keep it in public light. And not pretend like I hadn’t gotten any e-mails or ignore them.”

As for why she included the contact information, rather than redacting it, Cano said it wasn’t feasible in the rush of posting live Twitter updates about the rally.

“Honestly, I just didn’t have time,” Cano said. “I was at the mall, using my phone, I was running around. It was kind of a thing that was happening at the moment and responding to those issues in that timely manner matters.”
Do you accept that explanation? Seriously? She just didn't have time? We send representatives to the halls of government because we expect them to take the time to consider the issues and offer reasoned responses. She is a member of a deliberative body. If a few of her constituents get run over in the process, they need to understand Cano's needs first, you see.
Cano later deleted the tweets and said she worried that the online backlash from what she described as the “white supremacy community” was detracting from the broader point of the protests.
So, is Mr. Dent a member of the "white supremacy community?" I'm guessing no. Remember, he's as liberal as you can get in this world, so how could he be part of that? I'm assuming that Ms. Cano just doesn't have time to make those distinctions, either.

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard," said H. L. Mencken. Mr. Dent just got it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Benster and D Pick Your Games---New Year's Day Edition

It's time to pick some better bowl games than the Belk Bowl or the Quick Lane Bowl. For some reason, New Year's Eve has the better bowl matchups this year.

I was looking forward to the Belk Bowl.

I have to say, for a rapidly aging suburban guy who swigs Geritol like it's Gatorade, looking forward to the Belk Bowl is an admission of failure.

Well, I do need to pay ESPN its respects.

Whatever ESPN wants, ESPN gets.

Of that, there is no doubt. Besides that, why waste your skills on a game like that?

Now you're making feel just a little bit guilty, so I would like to apologize for not picking a crappy bowl game. I'm trying to preserve the HYYYYYYPPPPE! for games that deserve them, and let's face it -- at the end of the day we're all about the preservation of pure intentions and rarefied HYYYYYPPPE! So watch me work!

The Holiday Bowl -- USC Trojans (-3) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers, in San Diego. First of all, now I must criticize the supreme masters of all things sport, ESPN, a second time. Why is this game scheduled to start so late? I get that you want to play in prime time, but the Central Time Zone has more people and let's face it, most of the people in California are too busy paying off snail darter taxes and crossing off items from Gov. Brown's wish list to have time to watch football. Anyway, the Trojans have survived a season of chaos to get to this game, despite the fact that they have the talent to be playing in the Rose Bowl. Wisconsin has looked shaky, but they will let ol' Joel Stave have one more round tonight. U$C is always overrated, and I expect the Trojans to learn what the U found out a few years back -- nasty Big Ten schools can beat up on pretty boys. Badgers 34, Probation Nation 9.

USC is talented -- no doubt about it. They have superior athletes all over the field, but they have been pretty chaotic this year. It didn't help that their former coach Steve Sarkisian was channeling this guy:

Can Bucky win? Sure. Why not? Wisconsin 24, USC 20.

Orange Bowl -- Oklahoma Boomer Sooners (-4) vs. Clemson Tigers, in Miami Gardens. Both these teams are surprising because they were not expected to win their respective conferences. Clemson finally broke through and they are considered to be the best team in the nation. Oklahoma is here despite the fact that they lost to freaking Texas. Bob Stoops can't coach in big games anymore, so I expect him to get canned after this debacle. Clemson 59, Chokelahoma 0.

You have to like a guy named Dabo. And the Clemson Tigers have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. Oklahoma can score in bunches, but they haven't seen too many good defenses up to this point. They will this time. Clemson 31, Oklahoma 24.

Cotton Bowl -- Michigan State Spartans (+10) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide. The major subplot to this game is that Nick Saban faces his former employer. Alabama is very good, but they have not had experience in close games lately. Sparty has beaten evil Ohio State and Iowa at the time of asking, so Sparty will use senior leadership to show that the Big Ten is the new power in college football. Sparty 23, Tide Rolled 8.

It's tough to pick against Sparty, but I'm going to. The problem is that Connor Cook, the decorated Spartan quarterback, has been playing through some pretty serious injuries. Alabama is a relentless bunch and they will find ways to exploit any weakness. They also have the Heisman Trophy winner on their side. Close game, but.... Alabama 27, Michigan State 24.

Rose Bowl -- Iowa Hawkeyes (+6) vs. Stanford Cardinal, in Pasadena. The Rose Bowl goes back to a traditional Big Ten/PAC 12 format. This year, there is far less HYYYYYYYPPPPEE! because I am not in Southern California to personally witness the event, but this should be a great football game. Both teams are fundamentally sound and are well-coached. Can Iowa bounce back after Michigan State ripped out millions of Black and Gold hearts out in Indy? Stanford 34, Iowa 31.

It comes down to this -- can the Hawkeyes stop Christian McCaffrey, one of the best running backs in the country? If they can, they win. If not, well. . . Stanford 28, Iowa 24.

Fiesta Bowl -- Notre Dame Fighting Irish (+6.5) vs. The Ohio State University Buckeyes. Two of the most hated teams in the country are going to play each other. I don't know who I want to root for, because Notre Dame is a bit haughty at times, and long time readers will know I am not welcome in the Buckeye media tent. Ohio State is better, but Urban Meyer needs to get a hold of some of his players. Ohio State 7, Notre Dame 5. (Just skip this game and watch the Rose Bowl instead.)

7-5? Who is pitching in this one? The Buckeyes have been inconsistent all season, but they are a better team overall. That will show up in the desert. Ohio State 31, Notre Dame 20.

Okay -- that will be it for now. We'll be back for the big NFL showdowns later in the week. Ben out!

Bring Out Your Dead Pool -- Back for 2016

Fun for the entire family!

Because we were traveling in California last year, I didn't get around to renewing the Dead Pool for the previous year, so we just let the 2014 Dead Pool picks ride through 2015. As the year quickly comes to a close, let's take a look at where we ended up:

Benster's picks:
Jimmy Carter
Ralph Wilson -- RIP (3/25/14)
Pope Benedict XVI
Bashar Assad
Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Fantasy Football Superstar Gino's picks:
George H. W. Bush
Bob Dole
Betty White
Zsa Zsa Gabor
George Zimmerman
Angelina Jolie

My picks:
Eli Wallach -- RIP (6/24/14)
Theodore Hesburgh -- RIP (2/27/15)
John Kundla
Al Molinaro -- RIP (10/30/15)
Harper Lee
Rob Ford

Ace Commenter Brian's picks:
Dick Cheney
Fidel Castro
Billy Graham
#3 guy in Al Qaida
#2 guy in North Korea -- RIP (4/30/15)

First Ringer's picks:
Jerry Lewis
Kirk Douglas
John McVie
Valerie Harper
Frankie Muniz

The obvious conclusion? Celebrities who wish for longevity should find a way to have this distinguished panel select them to die. A second conclusion? Some people who were on these lists aren't in the news much any more. Does anyone think of Rob Ford these days? And the final conclusion: I kicked all y'all's butts.

So, here are the rules:

  • Pick 5-6 people who you believe are going to begin the long dirt nap in the coming year. Five should be people who are old, infirm or notably reckless (the Amy Winehouse model), while the bonus sixth pick should be someone who no one would see coming.
  • Previous competitors, should they choose to play, can carry over up to two of their previous picks to 2016. For the record, I am carrying over John Kundla, the former Minneapolis Lakers coach who is still hanging on into his late 90s.
  • Send me your picks in the comments section by no later than the end of the day on January 3, 2016 to enter. First come, first serve!
One bit of housekeeping; other than Kundla, I'll have the rest of my picks made by end of day today; I need to speak to my elite actuarial advisory team first. Have fun!

Collateral damage

Not the stupidest tweet I've ever seen, but pretty close:

What a maroon
Huh -- you mean collateral doesn't matter any more? Cool!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

RIP, Lemmy and (Meadowlark) Lemon

It must have been an interesting day for St. Peter at the gates of Heaven. We lost Meadowlark Lemon and Lemmy Kilmister yesterday.

How do you sum up Lemmy? I've always been fond of this quote:

There's always a place in the world for a cheerful reprobate and Lemmy was probably the exemplar of this type. As the leader of Motörhead, he played a no-nonsense version of headbang metal. He liked drinking and screwing around and was unapologetic about it. And he lived to be 70 years old, somehow. Another quote:
"People don't become better when they're dead; you just talk about them as if they are. But it's not true! People are still assholes, they're just dead assholes!"
So they are. I can't say that I listen to Lemmy's music very much, but I always appreciated his unvarnished, and I mean extremely unvarnished, wit. RIP.

Then there was Meadowlark Lemon, the Clown Prince of Basketball and the leader of the Harlem Globetrotters, who passed away yesterday at the age of 83. Kids of my generation saw a lot of the Harlem Globetrotters, between their regular appearances on ABC's Wide World of Sports program and their continual barnstorming. I saw them as a kid when they came to the Brown County Arena and Meadowlark was an amazing guy to watch:

The "games" against the hapless Washington Generals were always silly and a lot of the schtick was predictable, but the Globetrotters were all about entertainment and you couldn't help but smile when you watched them. Not many people can make that claim. RIP.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Lightning Round -- 122815

Random thoughts from a holiday weekend:

  • I was going to complain about the snow we're going to get today, but then I saw what happened in Texas from this same storm. We have snowplows and the know-how to dig out from snowstorms, but a tornado is another matter entirely.
  • We saw the new Star Wars movie over the weekend. Is it Great Art? Of course not, but it's a good popcorn movie and it hits most of the right notes for rebooting the franchise. I didn't bother with the Star Wars movies that came out around 2000 and from what I've been told, I didn't miss much. I'm irritated with Goth Vader, a/k/a Kilo Kylo Ren, the new bad guy, who is more hamdinger than Hamlet, but the rest is good clean fun. You can never go back to 1977, but the new movie is worth a look, especially at a matinee price. 
  • Yes, I know the Packers played a miserably bad game yesterday. I don't think they're that good this year, but I reject the idea that it's time to clean house. The Vikings are coming on, though, and they're going to be a problem for the next few years.
  • I don't know when we started looking to Al-Jazeera for sports coverage, but the reporting they are offering concerning Peyton Manning using Human Growth Hormone seems to be falling apart. I'm in the middle of reading a fascinating book on the rivalry between Manning and Tom Brady and the notion that Manning would use HGH doesn't ring true. Then again, I used to believe a lot of things about Tiger Woods that didn't turn out to be true.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- NFL and Emergency Bowl Game Edition

Old dude, I'm feeling the HYYYYYPPPPPEEE! We are less than three days away from the biggest sporting event in history!

Wait, what?

That's right, Geritol Fan! It's the Belk Bowl! Check it out!

The Hub of Fashion in the Carolinas. Get it.
That is exciting. But don't we have a few games to pick in the meantime.

Yes, but I want to set the stage. Check out that happening line art! That's some kick-butt advertising right there, old dude!

I'm pretty sure it was all the rage back in the day.

Not my day. Now watch me work!

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (+3) vs. Tampa Bay Winstons. This game is a bigger dog than a St. Bernard on steroids. We're only bothering with this because (a) Gino would complain if we don't address it, and (b) we want to consider the exciting running back duel between Matt Forte and Doug Martin. Unless you play fantasy football, don't even bother watching this game. Unless you're Gino. If you're Gino, go right ahead. Creamsicles 70, da Bearz 0.

So I take it that you're favoring Doug Martin, then. The Bears have had their moments, but at this point they are probably better off losing games and getting a better draft pick. They still have needs to address and I'm pretty sure they'll have multiple scouts in attendance at the Belk Bowl. Bucs 24, Bears 21.

New York Football Giants (+6) vs. Minnesota Vikings. By the time this game starts, the Giants could be eliminated from the playoffs. That's not a bad thing, because no one want to see this again:

Might want a little ointment there, Frosty Face
The Vikings, on the other hand, are pretty much guaranteed a spot in the playoffs and they will have a chance to win the division next week at Lambeau. However, they have to take care of business. They catch a break because Odell Beckham Jr. decided to go full ninja last week and is now suspended for the game, which means the Giants will be going with Phil McConkey or someone like that at receiver. This is a game the Vikings should win. Giants 24, Vikings 21.

Wow. Uh, no. If the Vikings can't win this game, they don't deserve to be in the playoffs. The Giants are a tough team to read this year and they've been up and down all season. The one thing I wonder about is whether Teddy Bridgewater can handle the cold, since the forecast indicates a dip in temperatures for tomorrow night. As long as he handles it better than Tom Coughlin, the Vikings should be okay. Vikings 31, Giants 24.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (+4) vs. Arizona Cardinals. This game is a critical one. If the Cardinals win, they lock up the #2 seed and get a bye. If the Packers win, they could be the #2 seed if they take care of business at Lambeau. The issue is that the Cardinals are really, really, really, really good. They have an outstanding offense and a disciplined defense and they have played well all year long. The Packers have been shaky, but they have won three in a row, so that makes for an interesting question -- if the Packers get off to a hot start, how many Packers fans are going to make noise? There will be a lot of Green and Gold in the building, since the Cardinals always have plenty of opposing fans at their games. Packers 41, Raising Arizona 38.

That would be great. I don't see it. The Packers need to play defense to win this game, because I don't see the offense scoring 41 points against anyone this year. It's going to take their best effort. I wouldn't be surprised if we see it, but I'm skeptical that they will win. Cardinals 31, Packers 28.

Emergency Bowl Game Edition -- Quick Lane Bowl, at Detroit -- Minnesota Golden Gophers (-4) vs. Central Michigan Chippewas. Now, this ain't the Belk Bowl, but we are obligated to pick this game. The Gophers got into this game because, well, somebody had to and the Quick Lane Bowl officials were concerned that Macalester wouldn't sell enough tickets. The Gophers should win, but Central Michigan is a good MAC team. Gophers 7, Chips 0.

Sounds like a scintillating matchup. It's a good deal for the Gophers because they were able to get some extra practices in and that will help them next season, but let's face it -- a 5-7 team really shouldn't be in a bowl game. Of course, they are in Detroit, so that's punishment enough. I predict the winning team will throw a Hail Mary to win. Gophers 27, Chippewas 23.

There are way too many bowl games. ESPN needs some sort of programming and thank the Lord that Skip Bayless is not doing play-by-play for any of them. I understand that, for this week only, Skip has been locked in a fitting room at a Belk store someplace in the Carolinas. Ben out!

Let's be careful out there

I've long believed that some people are only on this earth to serve as a cautionary tale:
A man fell off a cliff to his death on Christmas day while apparently distracted by his cell phone.

Bill Bender with San Diego Lifeguards at Sunset Cliffs told NBC San Diego: 'Witnesses stated seeing someone distracted by an electronic device and he just fell over the edge.

'(He) wasn't watching where he was walking, he was looking down at the device in his hands.'

He was declared dead at the scene, the television station reported.
No word on whether his cell phone was supplied by the Acme Company.

It's a sad ending, of course. The man was apparently in his 30s. It's possible he had a family, too -- we don't have that information in the article. Still, it's a ridiculous way to die and completely avoidable. There's nothing on your phone that merits your attention more than paying attention to your surroundings, especially if you're walking along a cliff. Stay in the moment -- you might experience something that matters.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Isaiah 9 1:6

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
Upon those who lived in a land of gloom
a light has shone

You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing;
They rejoice before you as people rejoice at harvest,
as they exult when dividing the spoils.

For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
The rod of their taskmaster,
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.

For every boot that tramped in battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
will be burned as fuel for fire

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.

His dominion is vast
and forever peaceful,
Upon David’s throne, and over his kingdom,
which he confirms and sustains
By judgment and justice,
both now and forever
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Point of order

So what, precisely, is the real purpose of attempting to shut down the airport on one of the busiest travel days of the year?
Hundreds of protesters shut down stores, light-rail trains and traffic to the airport Wednesday afternoon, creating a rolling wave of disruption on one of the busiest travel and shopping days of the year.

Organizers with Black Lives Matter Minneapolis had announced plans to protest at the Mall of America as they did before Christmas one year ago, but they expanded the protest beyond the mall, splintering into smaller groups to take over several light-rail stations and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Multiple law enforcement agencies showed up in full force, ushering protesters off roadways to and from the airport terminals, patrolling light-rail stations and shutting down security checkpoints at Terminal 2 (Humphrey) in case protesters tried to access the secure area on the day before Christmas Eve. There were more than 100 officers at the Mall of America alone, mostly from the Bloomington Police Department.
Is the idea to win people over to a cause? Or is it something else?
“We accomplished exactly what we came here to accomplish — we wanted to shut down the highway, shut down the airport and show solidarity with other Black Lives Matter groups,” said Michelle Barnes of Minneapolis, one of the protest organizers.
Again, what does it accomplish?
At the airport, some travelers may have missed flights due to the closed roads and extra traffic congestion. Samantha Herman, 16, of Madison, S.D., was hurrying to catch a flight to Detroit to visit her father for Christmas, but she said she was worried she would miss the flight even though it was delayed an hour.

“We waited for an hour just to get into the stupid airport,” she said, adding that there was no other flight Wednesday to replace hers if she missed it.
So a 16-year old person who is attempting to travel from South Dakota to Detroit needs to have their day disrupted and their travel plans wrecked. There's a moral imperative in that?
“We raised the bar,” said Pastor Danny Givens of Above Every Name Church in St. Paul after protesting outside Terminal 1. “We let the nation and the world know that black lives matter.”
When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, when the young men at the lunch counters in the South were attempting to have lunch, the goal was noble. Disrupting the travel plans of 16-year olds from South Dakota clearly rises to the same level of nobility.

You can see a gallery of pictures from yesterday at the Star Tribune; this one gives the game away:

Self-absorption matters
No one is silencing this young woman. I wouldn't be surprised if people get tired of listening to her, but that's a different matter. Perhaps she could remove the tape from her mouth and explain the moral imperative of inconveniencing 16-year olds from South Dakota.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Schlong and Winding Road

I've decided that Donald Trump is actually an unholy amalgam of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, Andrew "Dice" Clay and Otto West, the character that Kevin Kline played in "A Fish Called Wanda." For his latest act, he's broken out the Yiddish:

I don't know that anyone has ever used "schlong" as a verb in a presidential campaign before. That's part of Trump's appeal, I guess -- his tendency to say any damned thing on his mind is what his fans love.

Then again, we're clearly in a season where just about anything goes. Consider this cartoon from Ann Telnaes of the Washington Post, in which she portrays the daughters of Ted Cruz, who are 7 and 5, as monkeys:

WaPo took it down, but it deserves to be remembered

Apparently this is okay because Cruz featured his daughters in a political ad he ran last week.

I'm guessing Telnaes will be forced to issue a non-apology apology later today, but her explanation of her cartoon demonstrates that, well, certain children deserve it:
But when a politician uses his children as political props, as Ted Cruz recently did in his Christmas parody video in which his eldest daughter read (with her father’s dramatic flourish) a passage of an edited Christmas classic, then I figure they are fair game.
You know what? I'd rather see Telnaes not bother with the ritual non-apology apology. She honestly thinks it's okay to go after people's children to make a political point. Now we know what she is and how she views the world. And if we give Donald Trump a few days, he'll probably find a way to work in the proper Yiddish term to describe Telnaes.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

OMG TRO MOA BLM WTF #belaborthepoint

The holiday season is upon us and as always, there are plenty of returns:
With a planned demonstration by Black Lives Matter at the Mall of America less than two days away, a Hennepin County judge on Monday heard arguments over whether the shopping complex has the right to a restraining order against protesters.

In its request, the mall named four leaders of Black Lives Matter and asked Judge Karen Janisch to prevent them from encouraging people to demonstrate Wednesday and to take down any social media messages about the event.

The mall also wanted Black Lives Matter to post a social media message canceling the demonstration and to post a copy of the judge's restraining order, if one is issued.

Attorney Jordan Kushner, representing the named Black Lives Matter leaders, said the mall seeks to restrict the constitutional right to free speech.
I don't have a dog in this fight, but I suspect the entire BLM movement is running out of gas. The Jamar Clark case gave them an excuse to continue protesting, but it's difficult to see the point of returning to the Mall of America, other than to be irritating. And while you can argue that BLM is championing free speech, they aren't necessarily fans of due process, as the Star Tribune reports:
Organizers have no plans to halt the demonstration, they say, unless authorities release the tapes related to Jamar Clark's case, prosecute police by special prosecutor without a grand jury and bring federal terrorism charges against those accused of shooting five protesters in November near a protest at the Fourth Precinct police headquarters.
Can't have a grand jury involved, because they might not reach the decision that BLM wants. Actually, my favorite novel legal theory from BLM is this one, also from the Star Tribune article:
This isn't just about Black Lives Matter, Noor said, but for everybody's free speech.

She said the mall is the "people's space" because of all the taxpayer subsidies it has received over the years. She said Janisch appeared open and fair during the hearing.
So, if a homeowner takes out an FHA loan, which is ultimately subsidized by the taxpayers, does that mean BLM has the right to start chanting in your breakfast nook? And next year, do you suppose that BLM will be able to march out on the field during the middle of a Vikings game because their new stadium will also be subsidized by the taxpayers? Good luck with that one.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Lightning round -- 122115

Let's cover the waterfront:

  • I watched a fair amount of the DNC debate on Saturday. It was generally a snooze fest. I'm not particularly inclined to like any of the three candidates on offer, so there's not much to say about it. Hillary Clinton is going to win easily, primarily because she's less ridiculous than her competitors. 
  • The omnibus budget bill that came down from Capitol Hill is a disgrace and you can find any number of commentators who can explain why. I keep seeing reports that someone is going to primary Paul Ryan, but I notice that the reports don't come from anyone in Wisconsin, so I would be skeptical of that. Not that he doesn't deserve it, though.
  • My friend Brad Carlson, who understands a little bit about being the emcee at a beauty pageant, has an amusing wrapup of the fiasco ending of the Miss Universe Pageant last night, in which host Steve Harvey inadvertently gave the crown to the wrong contestant. I'm hoping that Harvey can figure out a way to get these folks on Family Feud at some point.
  • The Packers are in the playoffs and the Vikings are almost certainly going to be a playoff team as well. While the Carolina Panthers are 14-0, I'm not convinced they are a great team. This year feels like one where we will see a surprise winner in the Super Bowl. I suspect that once you get in the tournament, all bets are off.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Benster and D Pick Your Games---Point of No Return Edition

For the teams in the NFC North, they are getting to the point of no return, and decisions still have to be made.

So many decisions. Will Jim Caldwell have Chinese or Italian food for the post-game meal? Will Adrian Peterson sit in the dark or will he flip the switch? Will Robbie Gould have to go into hiding?

No, not those kind of choices! Although that Peterson reference was kinda sly.

Glad you noticed.

You're all about the sarcasm, old dude. I'm all about the HYYYYYPPPPE!

Play to your strengths, I always say.

Yeah, I get it. It's time for some more mad skills. Watch me work!

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (+6.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings.  The Vikings have had a few extra days to prepare for a critical last three games. They have to win all of them in order to win the NFC North, which will not be easy. The Vikings played very well down in Arizona, and they would have won the game if not for some questionable choices at the end. Da Bearz are pretty much dead, even though they have played well, but they have been let down by the kicking game. Minnesota has had a lot of trouble at home recently, and this game is the Continental Divide of their season. da Bearz 24, Vikings 20.

I think we're going to learn a lot about Teddy Bridgewater in the next few weeks. Can he take the team on his back? Or will he start to regress? The Bears will have a number of decisions to make in the offseason, so this stretch will be for John Fox to figure out who can play for him in 2016. Much more is at stake in Minneapolis, so I would bet accordingly. Vikings 24, Bears 17.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-3) vs. Oakland Raiders. The Packers made a critical change last week in having Mike McCarthy call the plays again, and it worked quite well. Eddie Lacy and James Starks each had a great game and the Packers won with ease. There will be a lot of Packers fans in Oakland, and they will see a close game. Oakland is a better team than they get credit for. Derrick Carr is an outstanding young quarterback, and you know that Charles Woodson has the book on the Packers. I don't think this will be a lopsided game like in 2003, but the Packers will pull out a tight win. Packers 34, Raiders 28.

The Raiders are finally starting to figure things out. I saw some good things last week for the Packers in their victory against Dallas. A win here and the Packers are in the playoffs. I think they will get it. Packers 28, Raiders 20.

Detroit LOLions (+3) vs. New Orleans Who Dat Nation. Quite frankly, this game is only relevant if you play fantasy football or have nothing better to do on a Monday night. Both teams are a sorry excuse of fail, and can't defend a wet paper bag. LOLions 67, Saints 9.

I hope that score is wrong, considering my fantasy quarterback this week is Drew Brees and my opponent is playing Stafford. Saints 67, LOLions 9.

Let's go back to our original theme. Feel the nostalgia, Geritol Fan!

Okay, technically that's "Point of Know Return," but you get the point, so I won't return to it. Ben out!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Hiding in plain sight

Walter Russell Mead and his team at The American Interest note yet another study in which we determine the blindingly obvious:
High levels of education-based assortative mating are likely both a cause and consequence of economic inequality. It’s a cause because children born to two highly educated parents have more resources at their disposal than two children born to less-educated parents, and it’s a consequence because a wide social distance between groups may make them less likely to intermingle. Regardless of its relationship with economic inequality, however, it’s clear that the steady rise of educational homogamy is indicative an ever-more siloed elite (a group that, in our opinion, is increasingly out of touch with non-elites, and increasingly beholden to establishmentarian groupthink).
Of course this happens. It's a variation on the old story about Pauline Kael, the film critic from the New Yorker who was dumbfounded that Nixon had won the 1972 election because she didn't know anyone who voted for him. Men and women who share similar backgrounds and worldviews are much more likely to pair up than those that don't.

The elite is this country is, as Mead also points out, ostensibly meritocratic:
The irony here is that a partial cause of this trend is the rise of meritocracy. Today, women are more likely to go to college and peoples’ wages are more tightly correlated with their education, which increases the incentive to marry someone of a similar educational status. These developments are related to the end of class-based privilege and the rise of a fairer, more egalitarian system. And yet, a byproduct of our hyper-meritocracy is an ever-more pronounced system of educational assortative mating that makes our society more stratified and more unequal.
Well, yeah. If you are an outsider, you do need to have significant academic chops to get into the an Ivy League school, but the dirty little secret of these places is that rich parents, especially those who are alumni of the school, are ultimately able to bypass the admissions gatekeepers and get their offspring with less than impressive credentials to quietly transfer in after a freshman year elsewhere -- we saw kids do this at my alma mater, which has the reputation in certain circles of being a safety school.

Of course, the point of getting into an Ivy isn't the education you receive per se; what really matters is the access you get to the alumni directory. There are doors that open for an Ivy League grad that don't open for a brilliant kid who attended, say, Oklahoma State. Understand that I'm not decrying this situation -- people are going to do what they do and allegiances and affinities are powerful. It's rare to find people who don't care at least tangentially about these allegiances. We all take care of our own -- it's human nature to do that.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A letter from St. Paul to the Trumpians

It's always nice when a city council can dispense with the mundane work of reviewing city business and get on to more important topics:
Donald Trump may be welcome in the city of St. Paul, but the City Council voted Wednesday to condemn his “anti-Muslim, anti-refugee and anti-immigrant speech” in a move that had the American Civil Liberties Union defending the Republican presidential candidate’s right to speak.

Council Member Dai Thao, who sponsored the resolution, and his colleagues acknowledged that they could not ban Trump, even if they don’t like what he has to say.
I really wish they'd tried to ban Trump. It would have been entertaining as hell. May I speak freely? Dai Thao is a moron. But he's not the biggest moron in the room:
Council Member Dave Thune said he admires Thao’s action condemning Trump’s message, saying “it’s a crime to not stand up and call him on it.” He added that he was proud of Thao for bringing the resolution forward.
It was more of a squat than standing up, but I digress. We'll give Thune the benefit of the doubt and assume he actually meant it would be an unfortunate decision to refrain from condemning Trump and that he really didn't mean it's an actual crime if someone refrains from being an upholstered chair SJW with a designated parking spot at City Hall.

Meanwhile, give local ACLU majordomo Chuck Samuelson credit for having the bravery to state the obvious:
“My advice to the City Council is they should have their speeches and then table it until 2017,” he said. “What this is doing is not a role the City Council should have.”

Trump is a private citizen, Samuelson said. If he chose to come to St. Paul, stand in the center of Rice Park and yell at the top of his lungs to ban Muslims, “what would happen to him? Nothing.”

The resolution “is not an appropriate response for a city council. Their response borders on the unconstitutional,” he said. “The only thing that saves them is that they didn’t make a law and, when he shows up, they didn’t tell him he was unwelcome.”
Meanwhile, we might consider the following observation from the city's namesake, from 1 Corinthians 1:20:
Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 
Careful there, Paul. The road to Damascus ain't West 7th.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Debate post-mortem

I saw nearly all of the debate this time. Impressions:

  • Jeb Bush's campaign is dead but too dumb to lie down. He flubbed both his opening and closing statements and while he clearly came prepared to match Donald Trump insult for insult, Trump flicked him away without a second thought. He doesn't project strength, or depth, or much of anything. At this point it seems the only reason his campaign goes on is that he has a lot of advisers who are drawing handsome salaries and they intend to bleed the donors dry. The money will dry up soon, though.
  • John Kasich was a little less dyspeptic last night than he has been in previous debates, but I'm still not sure why he's even bothering. He's a contrarian and a charmless one at that. His applause lines generate crickets. I hear he's from Ohio, though.
  • While I like Carly Fiorina a lot, she's getting diminishing returns at this point. I don't sense she broke any new ground. She played the Margaret Thatcher card; why wouldn't she? She's certainly more Margaret Thatcher than Margaret Dumont, but that's what we call damning with faint praise. I don't see where she goes from here.
  • Ben Carson is clearly a great guy and I am certain he could teach all of us many things, but he's not going to be president. I don't see a path forward for him, either.
  • I don't know if the money will run out for Rand Paul, but I hope he stays in the race. I don't see him having a way forward, either, but by offering a contrarian view of foreign policy generally, and military policy in particular, he provided a useful service in the debate. It's not a given that spending a lot more money on defense is the right answer. We do need to think long and hard about the failures of nation building and whether a return to a more neoconservative approach is proper. Paul is asking the right questions.
  • My hunch is that Chris Christie made the most progress yesterday. The standard objections apply in his case, but his demeanor seems better suited for the moment than just about everyone else on the stage. I suspect he'll move up and will contend in New Hampshire.
  • Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were going at it hammer and tong throughout much of the debate. On an intellectual level, Cruz seems far superior, but Rubio is a far more appealing politician. While the provenance of the Gang of Eight is a relevant consideration to the Republican primary electorate, I'm not convinced it will matter very much in the general election. What happened at the beginning of 2013 matters quite a lot less than what is happening now. In some important ways, Cruz is closer to Rand Paul's approach, while Rubio has become significantly more bellicose as the campaign goes on. I suspect both of these guys will be in the race for a while.
  • Then we have our man Trump, candidate as performance artist. No one laid a glove on him yesterday. He will continue to throw out substance-free assertions as long as he can get by with it and I don't see anyone who can force him to be specific -- Hugh Hewitt tried with his questions about the triad, but Trump just blew the question off. We'll be tough and great, apparently, if Trump is at the helm. As that noted political savant Baron von Raschke would say, that is all the people need to know. Personally, I'd like to know a lot more but I'm doubtful we'll hear details any time soon.
In the end, I don't think yesterday changed much. How did you see things? Did you see it? Let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Frogs with national audiences

Talk radio has been a crucial component of the conservative movement ever since Rush Limbaugh emerged on the scene about 25 years ago. I hear Limbaugh maybe 4-5 times a year, mostly if I happen to be in the car when he's broadcasting. In this market, the dyspeptic Mark Levin is on at 8 p.m., at a time when I'm often in the car, either heading off to the gym or to pick up a family member from an engagement, so I might hear Levin for about a 5 minute stretch.

From what little I've personally heard and what I've seen from other sources, both Limbaugh and Levin have been big champions of Donald Trump in this cycle. While steering clear of an outright endorsement, they've run a lot of interference for Trump, primarily because he's been a vehicle for those who are disenchanted with the political status quo, especially the establishment wing of the Republican Party. So it was especially interesting that both Limbaugh and Levin went after Trump on their broadcasts yesterday, essentially for the same reason. First, Limbaugh (h/t Allahpundit):

RUSH: Fox News Sunday, Donald Trump was on with Chris Wallace who said, "What do you think of Ted Cruz?"

TRUMP:  I don't think he has the right temperament.  I don't think he's got the right judgment.  You look at the way he's dealt with the Senate where he goes in there like a... You know, frankly, like a little bit of a maniac. You're never gonna get things done that way.  You can't walk into the Senate and scream and call people liars and not be able to cajole and get along with people.  He'll never get anything done, and that's the problem with Ted.

RUSH:  Whoa.  Wait just a second here.  Doesn't that kind of describe the way Trump has been dealing with people he disagrees with?  I mean, he's been calling them stupid, he's been calling them incompetent, he's been saying you can't get anything done with these people.  But for the people in the Trump support base who are conservatives, and who may not even have any affinity for Cruz... The conservative base of the Republican Party likes a lot of different people. 
Then, Levin:
As a reminder, yesterday on Fox News Sunday, Trump said that Cruz won’t be able to get anything done as president because “you can’t walk into the Senate and scream and call people liars and not be able to cajole and get along with people.”

Levin scolded Trump for criticizing Justice Antonin Scalia on affirmative action and said it’s beyond the pale for Trump to be personally going after Cruz like this. He cried, “Why raise a stupid issue?!”

Levin argued that the real maniacs are in the establishment and when he played a clip of Trump going on a tangent about his “phenomenal business,” Levin stopped the audio and pretty angrily said he needs to stick to the issues. “You, of all people,” he said, “should get it! But instead you went for the cheap shot.”
Just a cowtown senator on a Saturday night. He's a maniac, a maniac. So what do we make of it? A few thoughts:

  • It's pretty freaking silly to imagine that Trump is going to start going Marquess of Queensbury with Cruz, considering the way he's attacked everyone else in the field.
  • Both Limbaugh and Levin seem to be surprised that Trump would attack Cruz from the left. Did they not notice how Trump used Mary Burke's talking points against Scott Walker?
  • It should be clear to anyone that the only fixed principle animating The Donald's campaign is the idea that The Donald ought to run things. 
  • It was always a dangerous game to assume that, once the Trump monster was let loose in the countryside, that it would obey its putative masters. One imagines that both Limbaugh and Levin thought they were somehow mentoring The Donald, but it was quite predictable that he would treat both of them as Charmin when the moment seemed propitious.
Back to Limbaugh:
My questioning here about the way Trump has gone off Cruz here, calling him a maniac, refusing to work with people in the Senate, the reason I'm focusing on that, folks, 'cause that's so unlike Trump.  I mean, that's a huge mistake.  On paper it's a huge mistake.  Trump gets away with his mistakes.  Such is the bond of loyalty that his support base has for him that he gets away with them.  And I don't think he's made that many.  Don't misunderstand.  But for any of you who are holding out hope that Trump is a genuine conservative.  A genuine conservative, even in the Republican field, would not go after Cruz this way.  So that just raised a red flag for me, made me somewhat curious. 
No true Scotsman and all that. Well, it's a little late in the game to make that argument, doncha think? I have no idea how things will play out in this election -- it's entirely possible that the eventual president isn't even in the field yet. What I do know is this: if you didn't see the red flags on Trump when he was going after Walker from the left, you had to have a willful commitment to ignorance. Own it.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Debate tomorrow

It's time for yet another presidential debate on the Republican side. The timing is actually good, too, because the campaign has become stale and we need a shakeup. A few observations:

Donald Trump is tiresome and some of his supporters are even worse. I get this vibe from his campaign lately:

"We're gonna show that stupid GOPe!" Sure you are, kids.

Ted Cruz is now second in Iowa. He's an improvement from Trump, but I still wonder about his electability in the general election. I also would like someone with executive experience, but Trump has mostly cleared the field of candidates who have that credential (Walker, Jindal, Perry).

My sense on Marco Rubio is that he's simply too callow to be president. I like vision and soaring rhetoric as much as the next guy, but there's a thin line between inspiration and boilerplate.

Ben Carson is a good man who has no business being president. He's not going to make it and I get the sense he knows it, too.

Jeb Bush is still hanging around on the fringes, hoping that somehow he can can find a way to catch the prize as the others fall. If he were everyone's second pick, that might be plausible. He's not.

I still like Carly Fiorina, but the only time you see her in this campaign is on the debate stage. Until she demonstrates that she can remain visible, she won't be a factor. My guess is that's too late.

At this point, the guy who might have the most upside in the election is Chris Christie. It's difficult to forgive him for his behavior at the end of the 2012 cycle, but he's pretty good on the stump and he can be effective in debates. He's due for a second look and my guess is that he'll get one.

John Kasich is a scold. Scolds aren't elected president.

No one else in the race matters. Where do you see it?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Ten Years of Blogging

Things can change substantially in 10 years. Amazingly enough, I am still blogging and somehow, after over 4,800 posts, here we are.

It all started as a bit of a lark. I missed the heyday of this ephemeral genre, which was really around the time of the 2004 presidential election. That was the time when bloggers like the guys at PowerLine could actually lead the charge to stop the corruption of the mainstream media. I got in the game at least a year too late to join in that fun. Can't say that I missed it, though.

When I set up the blog, I was in the middle of my lunch hour at Bank of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. That same lunch hour, two of my colleagues also started blogs. Those blogs are probably still out there someplace, in the vast expanse of the World Wide Web, but they went moribund a long time ago. I never would have guessed that this blog would still exist a decade later.

At the time, my family faced a dilemma. My job was moving to Portland, Oregon, and I had to decide whether I wanted to go there, or remain in the Twin Cities and find something different. As it happened, I decided to stay here and blogging became a way to cope with what became a frustrating job search.

For the first 18 to 24 months of this enterprise, I did not seek an audience. As I learned more about blogging, I decided that I could get into the game and reach a wider audience. I joined the MOB (Minnesota Organization of Bloggers, now also moribund) and did reach a wider audience, but I never pursued one with a concerted effort. Although I have had some posts that had over a thousand page views, the audience for this feature has rarely gone much beyond a few hundred readers. Many of my friends, and nearly all of my coworkers, are not even aware that I have a blog. In some respects, this is a secret enterprise that is hiding in plain sight. And that's okay.

The point of blogging, as I have learned, isn't necessarily to make a name for myself, or to become a recognized authority in politics, or sports, or music, or any of the other topics we have covered here over the past 10 years. It sure the heck isn't to make money. The point of this enterprise, the one thing that has really mattered the most, is that it has led to some wonderful friendships that would not have been possible otherwise. I have met great people and had remarkable experiences.

The example I used, very early on, was to compare blogging to dropping a penny into a well. The idea is to listen for a splash. We've dropped a lot of pennies over the years. We've also heard more than a few splashes. As the old song says, you don't miss your water until the well runs dry. I think we have a good well here. Thank you all for drawing from it.

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- NFC North, Baby! Edition

Well, Vikings fans are questioning the choices that were made inside the last minute on Thursday night.

I think they should.

The Vikings are not out of contention yet -- we have a lot of football left and the other teams in our favorite division, the NFC North, are a little shaky, and surprisingly lacking in HYYYYYPPPE!

Like Shakey's Pizza?

Of course not. And it's about time you pull your butt out of the 1970s and look at a calendar, Old Dude! Although I hear the Mojo potatoes were pretty tasty.

They were. But that's not why we're here, right?

Yep -- it's time to pick some games, so park your nostalgia bus for a minute and watch me work!

Detroit LOLions (+3) vs. St. Louis Sheep. Man, what a crappy game! The LOLions threw away a 20-point lead and then let this happen:

I never get tired of that! The LOLions are always the LOLions. Meanwhile, what the heck is going on in St. Louis? The Rams looked pretty good early this season, but lately it looks like they are trying to move to Los Angeles so much that they are trying to pretend they don't play in St. Louis any more. However, in this game the Rams are playing the LOLions, so.... L.A. Rams (or so they think) 100, LOLions 0.

Excellent -- it's time for a trip down memory lane! You won't remember this, Seabiscuit, but I'll wager some of our readers will:

Ah, good times. The Rams are a talented enigma of a team. Defensively, they are very impressive, but their offense is messed up at the moment and they are really wasting the talents of Todd Gurley. The Lions are, well, the Lions again. They have their moments, but who knows what will happen. I'm not really sure how to pick this game, but here goes: Rams 17, Lions 14.

Washington Politically Incorrect NFL Franchise (+3.5) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz: Oh look, yet another dumpster fire of a game! Da Bearz were looking better but they really soiled the bed against San Francisco last week. I don't know how you let this happen:

My theory on that -- Vic Fangio did not call that defense. I think it was Mel Tucker, back for a glorious reunion with the fans of da Bearz! Washington, somehow, is still in contention. I'm pretty sure that the NFC East is so bad that da Bearz ought to petition the league to switch divisions! If you have to watch this game, I am so sorry for you! Da Bearz 17, Politically Incorrects 0.

I think the key to the success of the, ahem, Redskins, is the stellar play of backup tight end and former Beloit College great Derek Carrier. That must be it, and I'm guessing that his presence on a team with the nickname Redskins is causing all manner of indigestion back on campus. The Bears are getting better, but they are done. The Redskins have something to play for, so... Redskins 24, Bears 21.

Dallas How Bout Them Cowboahs (+6.5) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. It's the long-awaited return of Dez Bryant and the Cowboys to Green Bay, where last time we saw this matchup, we learned yet again the meaning of the word catch remains a mystery. Dez may be back, but he's missing his quarterback, Tony Romo, and is now hoping to catch the passes of Matt Cassel, who has had his moments, but not since 2008. The Packers are getting healthier and the extra few days after the Miracle in Motown will allow people like Ty Montgomery to get back on the field. This game is going to be difficult, because the Cowboys can play defense, but they are offensively challenged, to say the least. I figure that Chris Christie will not be in attendance and he will be able to drown his sorrows at the concession stand, using taxpayer money. Packers 27, Cowboys 26.

The season almost went south last week, but then the miracle happened. Sometimes a near-death experience can turn a team around. The key to this game is Eddie Lacy. If he gets it going, the Packers will cruise. And I think Ty Montgomery's return is going to make a difference as well. Packers 31, Cowboys 20.

We don't have any college games to pick for a while, but that's okay, because I'll need to get up a head of steam to be ready to select the winner of the Belk Bowl. Ben out!

Life in a one party town -- local moral vanity edition

That'll show 'em:

Donald Trump should stay away from St. Paul, a city with a rich history of accepting immigrants and refugees, a City Council member said Thursday.

Dai Thao is sponsoring a resolution at Wednesday’s council meeting that condemns Trump’s “anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant” statements. The New York billionaire, who currently is leading Republican presidential polls, would be declared unwelcome in St. Paul if the City Council approves the resolution.

“We don’t have any authority to kick him out, but we’ll send a strong message that that sort of bigotry isn’t accepted here,” Thao said. “We won’t stand by to let him try to divide our community.”
Meaningless gestures are always a growth industry in a one party town.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Life in a one party town

Prediction -- Rahm Emanuel will not resign his position as mayor of Chicago. He'll get by with everything. The protests will mean nothing:
There was no mea culpa great enough, no promises convincing enough to satisfy hundreds of protesters who converged downtown in a vociferous rebuke of how he has handled issues of police misconduct, brought to the forefront in recent weeks by the controversy over Laquan McDonald's shooting death in 2014.

They want Emanuel gone.

"This is not a black problem, this is a democracy problem. We don't want your apology, we want your resignation!" one woman yelled.
It won't happen. He will wait the protesters out. It's going to get cold eventually. The snow will fly and people won't want to tromp around in the nasty weather, so eventually they'll go home. And nothing will change. The bullets will still be flying in the rougher precincts. Human life is cheap in a one party town.

Benster and D Pick Your Games----Yet Another NFL Network Required Edition

So, old dude, what is with the NFL Network and having a team of interest on a Thursday Night yet again? Three weeks in a row now. Is the league office trying to get our readers to upgrade a tier to get NFL Network?

It could be -- it's all about the money with the NFL. Was this going to conflict with something you wanted to watch on the Hallmark Channel?

Not particularly, but thanks for asking!

I know -- you wanted to watch Australian Rules Football on ESPN24.5.

Maybe, but then again, we live in a 1000 channel universe, so I suppose I could catch that later. The NFL needs something beyond yet another studio show; if it weren't for live events I wonder if the network would become a thing of the past.

Hard to argue with that.

It is time to discuss the game in the desert. Watch me work!

Minnesota Vikings (+9) vs. Arizona Cardinals. The Vikings are going to the desert, which means it is time to bust out an old favorite. If you are a Vikings fan, I suggest you don't watch this video:

Much has changed since that day 12 years ago. The Vikings are still very much alive for the division and even a possible bye, but they were routed by a surging Seattle team at home over the weekend. Arizona is no slouch either, with Carson Palmer doing an excellent Kurt Warner imitation and Holy Angles alum Larry Fitzgerald having arguably the best year in his decorated career. This game is going to be very tough for the Vikings, who have surprised many this year. Could the Vikings start to gain some confidence back? Sure, because this game is going to be closer than you might think. But it might not be enough. Raising Arizona 37, Vikings 31.

Tough spot for the Vikings -- they are missing half their defense, they have to play on the road in a hostile venue and they aren't doing very well offensively, either. It would actually benefit the Packers if the Vikings won, because it would potentially set up a chance for the Packers to overtake the Cardinals for the 2nd seed in the NFC with a win in a few weeks. But I don't see that happening. Cardinals 34, Vikings 17.

We will be back at our normal time for yet another edition of Benster and D. I will even add some HYYYYYYPPPPEE! Ben out!

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Watching the Wheels

I wrote the original version of this piece five years ago. It still seems to work:

True story: on the day John Lennon was killed, I had turned in a paper I wrote for my high school sociology class concerning gun control. And as a young smartass and White Album fan, I had titled the paper, "Happiness is a Warm Gun."

I was a senior in high school on December 8, 1980, and I heard the news that day (oh boy) as I sat at the dining room table, which was where I typically did my homework. I had lugged out the massive, cobalt blue IBM Selectric typewriter that my dad had brought home from the office. I was typing up a paper for my high school English class that was due the next morning. You could see the television set in the living from there and at the end of the 10 p.m. news, a late bulletin arrived. John Lennon had been shot dead in New York City.

It's easy to forget now, but it was the beginning of a very violent 10 month period. At the end of that long winter of 1980-81, President Reagan nearly died at the hands of an assassin. Not long after, Pope John Paul II nearly met his maker. By the fall, Anwar Sadat was felled.

My generation was too young to really understand the events of the 1960s, especially the toll of the assassins of that blighted decade. We had come of age in the 1970s, a time that seems especially grim in retrospect. It was pretty easy for me, and for a lot of my classmates, to adopt a mask of adolescent cynicism and to sneer at a lot of what we saw in front of us.

When Lennon was killed that night, I remember thinking that cynicism I felt about my life and future prospects was somehow justified. I felt like a caged animal in those days, believing that I was being constrained by the petty, small-minded town I had called home. I kept thinking to myself -- I just can't wait to get the hell out of this place. It wasn't for me, this silly backwater of Appleton, Wisconsin. There was no way I would ever come back to Podunk and I sneered at my classmates who seemed content to stay and settle for the blandishments of a boring little town, a suburb without a city attached to it.

The thing was, that cynicism had a very thin veneer. I remember that when we were discussing the murder in school the next day, one of my friends reported the reaction of Mick Jagger, who called Lennon's murder "a good career move" or something like that. We were all convinced it was the worst thing we'd ever heard and some of my friends vowed to get rid of their Stones albums. They didn't.

Adolescents are like that -- simultaneously full of dreams and full of shit. 35 years later, I now have an young adult son and a teenaged daughter, who both have a far sunnier disposition than I did at the same age. That's a good thing and will serve them both well, because cynicism at a young age can corrode your soul in ways that are difficult to understand until years later. They have come of age in a time that's like the late 1970s in too many ways. The Benster even prefers 1970s era music -- if you grab his MP3 player you'll find a lot of AC/DC and Aerosmith. Both of my kids are at the age where they have reason to question many things and they have long since discovered that the world can disappoint you if you let it. I hope they see the opportunities that remain, even in a low, mendacious time.

Many, many things have changed in the 35 years since John Lennon died. One thing hasn't -- I still do a lot of my writing at the dining room table. And while I look at John Lennon's more fuzzy nostrums with a gimlet eye these days, I'm less cynical than I was in 1980. No matter how rotten the world might look, there are always opportunities if we choose to see them.

May the smell be with you

Things I'll never understand:
Marilyn Monroe and Freddy Krueger were trying not to look annoyed. But their mood was obvious on Monday afternoon as tourists paid little heed to the celebrity impersonators on Hollywood Boulevard, instead focusing their curiosity on more than 100 people camped out in the courtyard of the historic Chinese Theater.

No. It couldn’t be. Seriously?

“We’re lining up for the new ‘Star Wars’ movie,” an Australian woman at the front of the queue, Caroline Ritter, told an incredulous-looking couple visiting from Ohio who stopped to inquire and take photos. “Yes, we still have a very long time to wait,” Ms. Ritter added. “No, we’re not crazy.”

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” will arrive at the TCL Chinese Theater Imax, as the site is now officially called, on the evening of Dec. 17 — meaning that Ms. Ritter and her fellow die-hards will have waited for 12 unwashed days before the first light sabers flicker to life. (They began to assemble here on Saturday afternoon.) 
Not crazy, they say. Suuurre.

Putting a finger on it

I've run these pictures before, but it's worth a reminder:


Less subtle

Subtle as a Panzer division

And he means it

You get that for 7 years and there's a response coming. It looks like this:

I am a middle finger. Classy and yuge, too

I don't support Donald Trump. I completely understand why other people do, though. Johnny Cash isn't available:

You hear that train a comin'?
2016 is not going to be pleasant.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

The Trump Believer

The full press release from Donald Trump is here. The nut graf:
Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on. According to Pew Research, among others, there is great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population. Most recently, a poll from the Center for Security Policy released data showing "25% of those polled agreed that violence against Americans here in the United States is justified as a part of the global jihad" and 51% of those polled, "agreed that Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to Shariah." Shariah authorizes such atrocities as murder against non-believers who won't convert, beheadings and more unthinkable acts that pose great harm to Americans, especially women.
I have a few questions, to wit:

  • How would we institute a total and complete shutdown? Please be specific.
  • Have we identified the membership of "our country's representatives?"
  • The poll cited is an online poll. Are we confident enough about the methodology to believe that it actually represents the opinions of those it purports to represent?
Will Trump's proposal come to pass? It seems unlikely to me, even if Trump is elected president. My guess is Trump is attempting to move the Overton Window regarding immigration generally in the long term. In the immediate term, he is also attempting to get denunciations of his proposal from his opponents. They have all obliged

I have long championed Eric Hoffer's midcentury book The True Believer. Hoffer makes the distinction between the Man of Words and the Man of Action. Trump has positioned himself as the Man of Action, but is he actually a Man of Words?

"Mass movements do not usually rise until the prevailing order has been discredited. The discrediting is not an automatic result of the blunders and abuses of those in power, but the deliberate work of men of words with a grievance...

"The preliminary work of undermining existing institutions, of familiarizing the masses with the idea of change, and of creating a receptivity to a new faith, can be done only by men who are, first and foremost, talkers or writers and are recognized as such by all. As long as the existing order functions in a more or less orderly fashion, the masses remain basically conservative. They can think of reform but not of total innovation. The fanatical extremist, no matter how eloquent, strikes them as dangerous, traitorous, impractical or even insane. They will not listen to him...

"The division between men of words, fanatics and practical men of not meant to be categorical. Men like Gandhi and Trotsky start out as apparently ineffectual men of words and later display exceptional talents as administrators or generals. A man like Mohammed starts out as a man of words, develops into an implacable fanatic and finally reveals a superb practical sense. A fanatic like Lenin is a master of the spoken word, and unequaled as a man of action. What the classification attempts to suggest is that the readying of the ground for a mass movement is done best by men whose chief claim to excellence is their skill in the use of the spoken or written word; that the hatching of an actual movement requires the temperament and the talents of the fanatic; and that the final consolidation of the movement is largely the work of practical men of action...
Trump's pitch, at bottom, is that he can get things done -- a Man of Action. At the same time, he is one of the most gifted communicators I have ever seen. The moment is right for someone like Trump to emerge. The question for the electorate is this -- do you trust what he's telling you?

Monday, December 07, 2015

The Vatican II Rag

We went to a concert last night at our home parish, St. Rose of Lima. The concert featured three of the most important contemporary liturgical composers in the Catholic Church, David Haas, Marty Haugen and Fr. Michael Joncas. If you've gone to Mass in the last 30 years, chances are quite good you have heard the music these three men have created.

This is one of Haas's most well-known hymns, "We Are Called":

A representative example of Haugen's music is "All Are Welcome":

And for Joncas, there is the ubiquitous "On Eagles Wings":

It was fascinating to attend the concert -- the work of these three men is heard nearly every Sunday. It was, at times, thrilling to hear the music performed by the composers themselves. People came from all over to see the concert -- St. Rose has a pretty big parking lot and it was filled, with cars lined up for blocks on the side streets behind the church, and I saw license plates from neighboring states in the lot.

In the wake of Vatican II and the changes in liturgy that flowed from it, finding contemporary music was a challenge. Most of the hymns of my youth dated back hundreds of years and didn't mesh very well with the tone of liturgy in the 1970s, so the music of Haas, Haugen and Joncas was a welcome development.

At the same time, the relative age of the audience was, frankly, a little alarming. We saw very few young people there and I would peg the median age at somewhere north of 60. And while much of the music we heard last night was contemporary in sound, we're now 20-40 years past the date many of these hymns were first heard. We are at the point now where the renewal is becoming a bit long in the tooth. I don't know if we are reaching the younger generation.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Cherchez la femme

We now know the identity of the female half of the San Bernardino terrorist attack:
Since news today that San Bernardino shooter Tashfeen Malik is said to have posted a pledge of allegiance to ISIS around the time she and her husband killed 14 people Wednesday, the world’s attention has shifted to the mysterious mother-turned-murderer.

Malik, a photograph of whom was obtained by ABC News, was born in Pakistan but moved to Saudi Arabia 25 years ago when she was about four years old. When she was older, she likely moved back and forth between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, according to a source close to the Saudi Arabian government.
In one sense, this isn't particularly surprising -- women, like men, are capable of doing horrific things. If women weren't capable of such behavior, there would be no need for women's prisons. It's human nature we worry about.

It's problematic for those who prefer narratives over news, though. Our betters have been instructing us that we need to take more refugees from Syria and other environs because many of the refugees are women and children. Do we have to rethink that assumption now? I don't have that answer, but we'd better consider the question carefully.

Benster and D Pick Your Games---Hail Mary Edition

Quite frankly, no game this weekend can match the events in the Motor City last night. I am feeling a ton of HYYYYYYYYYPPPEEE!

It was pretty cool. And I suspect the Packers may have saved the season, but I will need to see more evidence.

The Packers stared in the face of death and survived, thanks to Richard Rodgers catching the Hail Mary. But that is in the rear view mirror. Now, it is time to go back to other games that matter.

Other games matter?

Yes. Surprisingly enough, they do. Watch me work!

Michigan State Sparty the Spartan (-3.5) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes, in Indianapolis. This game is the biggest game in the Big Ten since the 2006 Michigan vs. Ohio State game. Iowa and Michigan State are playing for a right to be in the top four. Iowa has been a major surprise and is having an historic season. Michigan State is the toughest game that Iowa has faced since the first week of conference play, which was a long time ago. Both teams are well-coached and very physical, which is very typical of Big Ten teams. As much as I think Iowa is the better story and an example of how teams are better than you think, Michigan State has a very experienced quarterback and a very decorated senior class with big game experience. Michigan State 24, Iowa 21.

This one is tough to call, because I'm really not sure how good Iowa really is. They are undefeated, yes, but a few of their games should have gone the other way. I have seen progress in their play over the season, especially on offense. That gives them a chance in this one, but I suspect Sparty is better. Michigan State 31, Iowa 20.

Seattle Seachickens (pick) vs. Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are still leading the NFC North and are having a fine season, but this is a game that will tell if the Vikings are contenders in the division. Seattle has righted the ship after a terrible start and Russell Wilson is the type of player that might be the new breed of quarterback in the NFL. There is no doubt that the Vikings have improved, but they still have to win out to win the division. I would go with the Desperate For A Playoff Birth At Home theory, but the Vikings had a chance like this a few weeks ago, and could not get a big win. Seachickens 31, Vikings 17.

Russell Wilson is a challenge. No Marshawn Lynch and no Jimmy Graham complicates things, however. The best part of the Vikings defense is their pass rush, which can be ferocious. Seattle's offensive line has been shaky all season. That's going to be where this game is decided. Vikings 24, Seahawks 21.

San Francisco 49ers (+7.5) vs. Bear Down Chicago Da Bearz. The Bears played well on Thanksgiving Night and are still quietly hanging around in the playoff picture. Jay Cutler finally has figured out that he can be successful without going full gunslinger. The Bears should win this game because the 49ers are a trainwreck. Yeah, but remember that I often fool you with my reasoning and will pick something different. 49ers 23, Bears Still Suck -1985.

Reasoning doesn't appear to be involved in this pick, but oh well. The 49ers are awful and the Bears think they have a chance. While I remain skeptical of Chicago's overall chances this season, 8-8 is possible. The glory of mediocrity! Bears 31, 49ers 13.

Before we go, a belated Happy Birthday to the Old Dude. Also, if you missed the ending to the game on Thursday, you probably are regretting it. Ben out!

Friday, December 04, 2015

In sports news

Five Lions, all behind the play
The Packers still have a lot of issues to solve and they may not get very far the rest of the season, particularly if they can't get their offensive line healthy. Still, the miraculous pass from Aaron Rodgers to Richard Rodgers that made the Packers a 27-23 winner over the Detroit Lions last night was one of the best moments I've had in the 45+ years I've been watching the team.

No kidding

Motes and beams, baby.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino

I don't know the motive for the shooting yesterday in the town the locals call San Berdoo. I do know that leftist hive mockery doesn't help matters:

Reasoned discourse
I pray every day. Today, I might even pray for the editors of the New York Daily News. Hope they don't mind.

Benster and D Pick Your Games-----NFL Network Mandated Emergency Edition

I know what you are thinking.

I doubt that, Seabiscuit. But go on.

Why would we be here discussing a game on a weekday? Well, the NFL decided that the Packers and Lions have to do Thursday duty again. Is nothing sacred in this world?

I can think of a few shrines and holy sites, but we're talking about Mammon in this case.

That too, and the schedule requires that I bring some HYYYYYPPPPPEEE! early. We can pick more games on the normal schedule. So it's a double dose of my brilliance this week. Yay, readers! Now watch me work!

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-3) vs. Detroit Lions. You could argue that this game is crucial for the Packers. They managed to post an unsightly 1-4 record in November, and they need to find a way to respond to adversity. They did not play well a few weeks ago against Detroit, and Detroit has started to figure things out, so this game is going to be a difficult one. One bright spot is that the Packers have had chances to win every game during this swoon, with the exception of the Denver game. I expect that this Packer team will right the ship, and will remind everyone that the Packers still have it. Packers 38, LOLions 17.

I think you're correct -- if they lose this game, the season could slip away quickly. Can they right the ship? I'm not positive. This pick is made with my heart more than my head, but so it goes. Packers 24, Lions 17.

We'll return on the weekend for more brilliance. Ben out!

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Children in the Marketplace, Shouting to Their Playmates

Corporate CEOs do miscalculate. No business person has infallible judgement. Yet this is a jaw-dropping admission from a local CEO:
The CEO of UnitedHealthCare on Tuesday said he regretted the decision to enter the ObamaCare marketplace last year, which the company says has resulted in millions of dollars in losses.

“It was for us a bad decision,” UnitedHealth CEO Stephen Hemsley said at an investor’s meeting in New York, according to Bloomberg Business.

UnitedHealth, the country’s largest insurer, announced last month that it would no longer advertise its ObamaCare plans over the next year and may pull out completely in 2016 — a move that sent shockwaves across the healthcare sector.
As we've said before, if Blue Cross/Blue Shield gets the willies, then the whole playhouse comes crashing down. UHC is a big player, but its primary business is group health insurance plans for businesses. Still, this isn't helpful if you're an ObamaCare acolyte.

You can see the issue in the lead -- ObamaCare isn't really a marketplace. People can enter and leave a marketplace voluntarily. While UHC did enter voluntarily, the potential customers it was assuming it would get aren't there voluntarily -- they are there under penalty of law. And in many cases, they are not good risks; you're going to lose money if you are insuring people who are actually going to file claims. The idea behind ObamaCare was that young people would subsidize the older ones. That's not really happening, certainly not at the scale necessary to make the scheme work.

Just a hunch -- 2016 is going to be a hell of a ride.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015


Walter Russell Mead, pointing out an inconvenient truth:
Third, it will be interesting to see how the left-wing revolt against [Woodrow] Wilson plays out in the broader Democratic Party. Unlike Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson (two other presidents who have recently fallen out of favor on the left), Wilson is in many ways the father of modern progressive thought. He thought the founding documents were outdated, believed strongly in the ability of government professionals to improve peoples’ lives, and—in so many words—said that opponents of his elite-approved, scientific agenda were on the wrong side of history. Perhaps an inadvertent effect of the anti-Wilson protests will be to dampen modern progressives’ crusading confidence that they are always and everywhere on the right side—but we’re not holding our breath.
Woodrow Wilson, if you haven't heard, is now in dock, especially at Princeton, because he was a bad guy. Mind you, Jonah Goldberg was all over this topic years ago, but the Wilsonian impulse never goes away. We can safely assume that our new and improved Wilsonians will simply take the formula and use it to solve our current problems without error.