Saturday, January 30, 2016

Don't worry. He didn't mean you.

“The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world.” 

― Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements

Michele Bachmann, please pick up the white courtesy phone

Do you remember this?
Michele Bachmann is still defending her opposition to the vaccine that prevents HPV, the leading cause of cervical cancer. At a campaign event in Sheldon, Iowa on Monday night, she sympathized with a mother who believes her daughter Jessica, now 16, has been debilitated by headaches, pains and seizures brought on by the vaccine three years ago and can no longer attend school.

"Michele, on behalf of myself and a lot of other mothers that have a child that’s sick from the Gardasil vaccine, I would like to thank you for the attention that you brought to it," Julie Wepple said, according to the Des Moines Register.

Bachmann thanked Wepple for bringing up the vaccine issue. "Parents have to make that decision for their kids because it isn't the schools that are going to follow up with Jessica," she said. "It isn’t the schools that live with Jessica every day. It’s Jessica who’s having to have her body live with the ravages of this vaccine."
Bachmann got hooted off the stage for her antics. I don't have a problem with her being out of public life, for a variety of reasons, but it's worth noting this development, four years on:

The American College of Pediatricians (The College) is committed to the health and well-being of children, including prevention of disease by vaccines. It has recently come to the attention of the College that one of the recommended vaccines could possibly be associated with the very rare but serious condition of premature ovarian failure (POF), also known as premature menopause. There have been two case report series (3 cases each) published since 2013 in which post-menarcheal adolescent girls developed laboratory documented POF within weeks to several years of receiving Gardasil, a four-strain human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV4).1,2 Adverse events that occur after vaccines are frequently not caused by the vaccine and there has not been a noticeable rise in POF cases in the last 9 years since HPV4 vaccine has been widely used.

Nevertheless there are legitimate concerns that should be addressed: (1) long-term ovarian function was not assessed in either the original rat safety studies3,4 or in the human vaccine trials, (2) most primary care physicians are probably unaware of a possible association between HPV4 and POF and may not consider reporting POF cases or prolonged amenorrhea (missing menstrual periods) to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), (3) potential mechanisms of action have been postulated based on autoimmune associations with the aluminum adjuvant used1 and previously documented ovarian toxicity in rats from another component, polysorbate 80,2 and (4) since licensure of Gardasil® in 2006, there have been about 213 VAERS reports (per the publicly available CDC WONDER VAERS database) involving amenorrhea, POF or premature menopause, 88% of which have been associated with Gardasil®.5 The two-strain HPV2, CervarixTM, was licensed late in 2009 and accounts for 4.7 % of VAERS amenorrhea reports since 2006, and 8.5% of those reports from February 2010 through May 2015. This compares to the pre-HPV vaccine period from 1990 to 2006 during which no cases of POF or premature menopause and 32 cases of amenorrhea were reported to VAERS.
Long and the short of it -- there will need to be more testing, especially more longitudinal testing, but this isn't looking good for those who have called for this vaccine to be mandatory.

Bachmann was trying to gain a political advantage over Rick Perry, who had ordered girls from Texas to get the vaccine. I thought she was playing a dangerous game then, but there's a reason why categorical judgments sometimes bite us in the butt years later.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Light posting

There are some bad bugs going around town these days and I seem to have one, so posting will likely remain shortish for the next few days.

il miglior fabbro -- Debate Edition

Our friend Brad Carlson has a good summation of last night's debate. I see it pretty much the way he does, so hit the link and read what he has to say.

Only other comment I'd make -- I do hope that some enterprising journalists follow up in a few months on how much money from Trump's self-congratulatory fundraiser actually gets to the veterans.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Trouble in River City

It's going to be an interesting experiment, that's for sure:
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump abruptly announced here Tuesday that he would not participate in Thursday’s scheduled debate, escalating his off-and-on feud with Fox News Channel and throwing the GOP campaign into turmoil.
Turmoil! Consternation! Trouble right here in River City!

I'm gonna be perfectly frank.
Would ya like to know what kinda conversation goes
On while they're loafin' around that Hall?

So the show is going on with The Donald. A few thoughts:

  • Trump is assuming he's such a huge part of the show that no one will watch without him. Perhaps he's right, but I'm not so sure about that. The national polling suggests that, while he continues to have a plurality of votes on the Republican side, he hasn't closed the deal by any means. The highest numbers I've seen suggests that he gets 40%. That's not enough. And it's worth remembering that, once we get past Iowa and New Hampshire, many of the later primaries aren't open primaries, so rank and file Republicans will be doing the voting. I'm not convinced that these Republicans are inclined to support Trump. He still has to make that sale.
  • The stated reason for Trump's decision is that Fox News will once again use Megyn Kelly as a debate moderator. Trump and Kelly had a nasty dustup following an earlier debate. Kelly does ask tough questions and she does have a pretty good sneer going on. Trump thinks Kelly is not fair to him. Well, hell -- if anyone understands that the world is not fair, it ought to be Donald Trump. Fox also understands that if it were to dump Kelly at this point, it would be a complete capitulation. The network had to stand behind Kelly. It was the right move.
  • If Fox is smart, they'll borrow Clint Eastwood's empty chair and put it where Trump was supposed to be.
  • Of course, the other candidates are happy, because they get a chance to address the country without having The Donald on the stage. Jeb Bush alone is likely to avoid half the flop sweat we've seen in earlier skirmishes.
  • The candidate I want to see is Rand Paul, who is back on the main stage after missing the last debate. He should have more room to maneuver and he could be a big factor. 
For another take, check out Brad Carlson's piece this morning.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Too good

Ah, youth sports:
Jason Hanauska found out Friday his high school team with Rogers Area Youth Basketball Association (RAYBA) was kicked out of their own league.

“We found out on Friday they were not going to be allowed because according to the league our girls were too talented,” Hanauska said.

Their winning streak cut short ahead of this weekend's 3-on-3 tournament.
I don't find this scenario particularly surprising. A few years back, Fearless Maria was on a summer softball team that represented the Arden Hills Parks and Recreation Department. The team played a round-robin schedule with the parks departments for two other neighboring towns, Shoreview and Mounds View. Maria's team was, to put it mildly, loaded. Most of the Arden Hills girls were multi-sport athletes and have gone on to be varsity performers in various sports at both Irondale and Mounds View high schools. The other two teams had girls who were (a) younger and (b) didn't have nearly the same level of athleticism, so every game was an utter mismatch. Maria's team would win games 30-4, or 36-2, or 33-5. The other two teams, when they played each other, were competitive, but they had no shot against Maria's team. It had to be frustrating for the other teams to show up to the field and know they were going to get destroyed.

Our family has also been on the other side of the ledger. Benster played on some, ahem, challenged teams during his youth sports days. I wrote here about a game his team played in back in 2006 in which his basketball squad was edged 70-6. 

So why does this happen? As I wrote back in '06, sometimes the league is to blame:
For some reason, the grandees who run the program didn’t consider the wisdom of balancing the teams. Our inexperienced 5th graders were playing a team that was filled with experienced, talented 6th graders. The result was unsurprising. Ben is one of the more experienced kids on our team. He is not a big kid, though – about 4-8 and less than 80 pounds. He knew what was coming but he didn’t have the physical skills to deal with bigger, faster, more aggressive kids.
While Ben was playing on an Irondale Youth team, his team also played against kids from St. Anthony and Roseville and the IBA might have decided to put the good kids on the same team to ensure they would beat the St. Anthony and Roseville kids. I can't prove that was what happened, and 10 years on it doesn't matter, but it's a typical situation. Two years later, Benster played on a different Irondale Youth team with some of the kids who had kicked his butt in the past. By then, he was older and more ready to play and he was a contributor to a team that won most of its games.

It was the same dynamic in Maria's situation, but for different reasons; most of the Arden Hills kids knew one another growing up and had competed together in other sports; they decided to play in-house softball during the summer just to have fun. There wasn't anything particularly pernicious about it, but I'm sure the parents from the other teams didn't think so highly of our team.

You can learn from playing a superior team and you can improve. It's difficult to see that when you are in the middle of a whipping. The lessons you learn from youth sports often aren't understood until much, much later.

In which I agree with Bernie Sanders, kinda

The news that America's Nanny, Michael Bloomberg, is pondering an independent run for the White House, prompted this response from Bernie Sanders:
“If Donald Trump wins and Mr. Bloomberg gets in you’re gonna have two multi-billionaires running for president,” Sanders said in an interview on Meet the Press. “The American people do not want to see our nation moved toward an oligarchy.”
Right. I don't want the country moved toward Venezuela, either.

Monday, January 25, 2016

World Where You Live

Let's start with a little music from the band Crowded House, circa 1986:

Here's someone now who's got the muscle
His steady hand could move a mountain
Expert in bed, but come on now
There must be something missing
That golden one leads a double life
You'll find out

The detail about being expert in bed is a tell. Just ask him.

Tell me, I don't know where you go
Do you climb into space
To the world where you live
The world where you live, oh-hoo

The world where you live matters. So if you ask an expert, what do you learn? Here's one right now:
Democrats' principal appeal isn't to philosophical coherence: They tell their coalition that they'll take care of their own - the gays, the blacks, the feminists, the transitioning, the environmentalists, the Hispanics, the educators... This time round, a big chunk of the Republican base has figured it'd like someone who's looking out for them, too.

If the present polls hold up through Iowa and New Hampshire, it'd be the reconfiguration of Mr and Mrs Main Street America as just another interest group. So a philosophical commitment to free trade means less to them than the degeneration of mill and factory towns into wastelands of fast-food service jobs and heroin addiction. An abstract respect for religious pluralism means less to them than reducing the number of crazies running around whose last words before opening fire are "Allahu akbar!" A theoretical belief in private-sector health care means less to them than not getting stiffed by crappy five-figure health "insurance" that can be yanked out from under you at any moment under Byzantine rules and regulations that change 30 times a day. And bipartisan myth-making about "a nation of immigrants" means a whole lot less than another decade of Press One For English, flatlined wages, sanctuary cities and remorseless cultural transformation...
That's Mark Steyn, surveying the scene. Everybody searching for something, and if it's true, a lot of people are landing on a blowhard with a combover. 

His steady hand could move a mountain

Meanwhile, out in exotic Wichita, our man Bud Norman and his "editorial we" aren't so sure:
We also note that except for the predictable schoolyard taunts that Trump prefers, and the frequent outright racist screeds from supporters won’t hold Trump responsible for, and there’s the strangely anachronistic argument that anyone who isn’t marching in lockstep with Trump must be supporting some evil creature called “Jeb!,” but the most common retort from Trump and his acolytes is that “at least he fights.”
But who is the fight against? Bud doesn't know, either.
By “establishment,” we no longer have no idea what Trump’s supporters mean to describe.

At the outset of Trump’s campaign we assumed he meant the likes of former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas and current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who have so frequently angered such rebellious and old-fashioned conservatives as ourselves by signing off on big government crony-capitalist scams from ethanol subsidies to private property land-grabs to big-bank bail-outs and all those deficit-spending budgets, but now we’re told by Trump himself that Cruz was a loose cannon to have opposed all that as a Senator and that nobody in the establishment likes him as a result so the master deal-maker is best suited make the deals that will increase the ethanol subsidies that Iowa voters have a special interest in and uphold that “wonderful” Supreme Court decision that allowed him to tear down a widow’s home and build a parking lot for his casino and assure the next round of bail-outs that he didn’t think were big enough the last time around and pass a plan that cuts taxes and doesn’t decrease spending and will somehow end with a surplus. 
Do you climb into space
To the world where you live

It's all irreconcilable, isn't it? We make America great again by fighting what, exactly?

Here's someone now who's got the muscle

How will it be deployed? Don't expect any help from our normal tutors. Back to Steyn:

All the Chumpy McDonorpants had to do was sit on their hands and not give 100 million bucks to another hereditary-class rich-boy stiff with no flair for retail politics who thinks that illegal immigration is "an act of love". But they couldn't help themselves. The Donor Class decided it would take its contempt for the rubes to the next level ...and now they're surprised that the rubes have decided to take it to the next level, too. They don't care when the insiders say that Trump isn't a "real Republican". To them, that's not a bug, it's a feature. But Rush posits that disenchantment with the only electoral alternative to the Democrats is now so great that they don't even care that Trump isn't a "real conservative". My old colleague Jonah Goldberg is pointing out today, yet again, that Trump is "not a conservative".

That's true. But he's not campaigning like one, is he? Cruz is running proudly under the conservative banner. Trump is running like a guy who got Frank Luntz to do one of his "words that work" focus groups and "conservative" came back with net unfavorables.
It's an impasse. I'm not sure how to bridge the gap, especially when the operative notion seems to be to burn it all down.

We're looking for wide open spaces 
High above the kitchen
And we're strangers here
On our way to some other place

I don't know that we're going to like the destination very much.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Benster and D Pick Your Games----Conference Championship Edition

Old dude, it is time to see who wants to go to Santa Clara for the 50th Super Bowl

I want to, but I don't get to go.

You aren't in the NFL, Geritol Fan!

Oh, you mean the teams left in the tournament.

The thing is, this is a big year for the NFL, and they should have played Super Bowl 50 at the temporary home for the Rams, but I digress.

Oh, the Rams are back in L.A. That's right.

Don't worry, that will be a possible Very Special Comment in the future about why the NFL is making a huge mistake. But that detracts from the HYYYYYYYYYYYYYPPPEEE! Watch me work!

New England Patriots (-3) vs. Denver Broncos. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have played each other numerous times in big games, so it is fitting that two of the best quarterbacks of my generation will play to go to Santa Clara. Now, we all know that the Nationwide pitchman struggles in cold weather games, and has had an epic number of chokes in big games. He never beat Florida in college, lost a National Championship to Nebraska, lost numerous times to New England, lost two Super Bowls, lost to a huge underdog Steeler team, lost his Mastercard sponsorship. and so on. Brady, on the other hand is the Joe Montana of this generation. Brady is very much the champion quarterback, who is very good in big games, a great leader, can do it with less than elite wideouts, has the supermodel for a wife. You figure that the Hoodie will have a game plan, and that Manning will prove once again that no matter how good he is, he will never be as good as his brother. Yeah, I just went there. Patriots 17, Broncos 0.

You mean Cooper? Oh. I'm pulling for the old warrior in this one, but I wish he'd say "Council Bluffs" once in a while just to switch things up a bit. If Denver is going to win this game, it will have to be on defense. I think your instincts on a low-scoring game are correct, but I'm going to go the other way. Broncos 17, Patriots 14.

Arizona Cardinals (+3) vs. Carolina Panthers. Both teams got ambushed at home last weekend and were lucky to survive. The Cardinals had to rely on Larry Fitzgerald to play out of his mind to overcome my Packers, who had to play without the top 4 wideouts they had expected in training camp. The Panther nearly blew a 31 point lead against Seattle, which is even more concerning for me. Carolina is not as good as the record says they are, and I do not buy that they are legit. Good teams close out opponents. When the Packers almost come back from a 20 point deficit, when the Giants almost come back from 28 points down, when Seattle almost comes back from 31 points down, then you know that your team has not been coached well. Riverboat Ron needs to step up and win this game, or otherwise he and Scam Newton will have to face critics and will have to accept that this whole ride has been smoke and mirrors, and that real champions can actually close out a team when it matters. I expect Carolina to blow a 20+ point lead tomorrow night, and it won't be pretty. Cardinals 31, Panthers 27.

I agree with you on this one. I really wonder if the Panthers are as good as advertised. This Cardinals team has been impressive throughout the season and I imagine that, when the time comes to win the game, they will find the wherewithal to do it. The only concern is whether Carson Palmer will make a mistake. He was a little lucky against the Packers. I think he'll be better this week and that will be the difference. Cardinals 28, Panthers 20.

Those were some very powerful and strong hot takes there, but I do believe it is true. You have to be able to win big games, and I believe that Arizona and New England are better coached and better prepared. Ben out!

A very long time ago

Mark Steyn on the National Review anti-Trumpalooza:
Nevertheless, notwithstanding some contributors I admire, the whole feels like a rather obvious trolling exercise. As I explained yesterday, I don't think Trump supporters care that he's not a fully paid-up member in good standing of "the conservative movement" - in part because, as they see it, the conservative movement barely moves anything. If you want the gist of NR's argument, here it is:

I think we can say that this is a Republican campaign that would have appalled Buckley, Goldwater, and Reagan...

A real conservative walks with us. Ronald Reagan read National Review and Human Events for intellectual sustenance...

My old boss, Ronald Reagan, once said...

Ronald Reagan was famous for...

When Reagan first ran for governor of California...

Reagan showed respect for...

Reagan kept the Eleventh Commandment...

Far cry from Ronald Reagan's "I am paying for this microphone" line...

Trump is Dan Quayle, and everyone and his auntie are Lloyd Bentsen: "I knew Ronald Reagan, I worked for Ronald Reagan, I filled in Ronald Reagan's subscription-renewal form for National Review. And you, sir, are no Ronald Reagan."

You have to be over 50 to have voted for Reagan, and a supposed "movement" can't dine out on one guy forever, can it? What else you got?
Emphasis in original. Let's think about that last line. You have to be over 50 to have voted for Reagan. That brought me up short, but it's true. I did vote in the 1984 election and I was 20 years old at the time. I wasn't sure what I believed, but I wasn't going to vote for Ronnie Raygun. To show you how confused I was, I voted for Gary Hart in the primary and David Bergland, the Libertarian Party candidate, in the general. How does one go from a Democrat to a Libertarian in less than a year? By continuing to reject Reagan, especially after he enthusiastically signed a law that nationalized the drinking age at 21, while simultaneously recognizing that Walter Mondale was a sanctimonious scold. I also had a good friend who was an LP member and he certainly had some influence on my thinking.

My dad was a rock-ribbed Republican and he always maintained a subscription to National Review, so I had an opportunity to read plenty of NR growing up. Bill Buckley and Bill Rusher were the high priests of the conservative movement and they were willing to cast apostates into the outer darkness. It was Buckley who sent the Birchers and the Randians away. Later on, he cast Pat Buchanan and Joseph Sobran into the abyss. Buckley has been gone for nearly a decade now and NR no longer holds the imprimatur it had then. Back to Steyn:
The movement conservatives at National Review make a pretty nice living out of "ideas, ideology, philosophy, policy, and so forth". The voters can't afford that luxury: They live in a world where, in large part due to the incompetence of the national Republican Party post-Reagan, Democrat ideas are in the ascendant. And they feel that this is maybe the last chance to change that.
Hope is a lapel pin
You used to see, from time to time, people wearing a lapel pin of the sort you see on the left. That pin identified the wearer as a speaker of Esperanto, the 19th century synthetic language that people hoped would become the lingua franca of a better world. Esperanto has elements of  both Slavic and Romance languages but also other elements, in an effort to be internationalist. The name itself is similar to the Spanish word esperanza, which means hope. Esperanto still has its adherents but it never really caught on while you can still learn it, I wouldn't be surprised if more people know how to speak Klingon these days. And in some crucial ways, I think movement conservatism is becoming too much like Esperanto, a language people could learn but never will. I haven't seen an Esperanto lapel pin in at least 20 years. Hell, it's increasingly rare to see lapels these days. 1984 is a very long time ago.

Donald Trump doesn't bother with political Esperanto. He talks directly to people and he's very good at it. The writers and thinkers at NR are, in the main, not known for direct expression. Trump is winning because he doesn't bother with caveats and cavils. As Steyn notes, the hour is short. No one gives a damn about fealty to an idea, or for hero worship. People want a plan. A couple dozen denunciations isn't a plan. What is the conservative movement for? Do you know? If you read  the current issue of National Review, you won't know.

Friday, January 22, 2016

22 pundits, no waiting

So National Review has brought out a boatload of pundits to inveigh against the Donald, including everyone from old Reagan hand Edwin Meese III (show of hands, how many people thought he died 20 years ago?) to Dana Loesch, who posed for her book cover with a cocktail dress and a big gun.

You can read what they all say at the link I've provided. It's all good and I agree with nearly every sentiment expressed. And you know what? It won't matter at all. From what I can see, people who support Trump aren't doing so because they see him as the redeemer of Russell Kirk or William F. Buckley. That's not the point. Trump supporters are instead, in the main, looking for a Man of Action rather than a Man of Words. So the pleadings of the Men (and Women) of Words aren't going to change anything.

In his 1963 work "The Ordeal of Change," Eric Hoffer explains the distinction:
In the modern Occident power was, and still is, the prerogative of men of action – landowners, soldiers, businessmen, industrialists, and their hangers-on. The intellectual is treated as a poor relation and has to pick up the crumbs. He usually ekes out a living by teaching, journalism, or some white-collar job. Even when his excellence as a writer, artist, scientist, or educator is generally recognized and rewarded, he does not feel himself one of the elite.
Trump is a Man of Action -- he builds skyscrapers and casinos with his name on them. He doesn't walk on the stage. He struts. And he doesn't really give a damn about intellectual consistency. Why would he?

So when pundit L. Brent Bozell III, who is the nephew of William F. Buckley, Jr. and has been on the ramparts for over 30 years, offers the following:
A real conservative walks with us. Ronald Reagan read National Review and Human Events for intellectual sustenance; spoke annually to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Young Americans for Freedom, and other organizations to rally the troops; supported Barry Goldwater when the GOP mainstream turned its back on him; raised money for countless conservative groups; wrote hundreds of op-eds; and delivered even more speeches, everywhere championing our cause. Until he decided to run for the GOP nomination a few months ago, Trump had done none of these things, perhaps because he was too distracted publicly raising money for liberals such as the Clintons; championing Planned Parenthood, tax increases, and single-payer health coverage; and demonstrating his allegiance to the Democratic party. We conservatives should support the one candidate who walks with us.
If you were to ask a Trump supporter about all that, the response would be, so what? This isn't about hoary principles and whether you have built your credibility in the conservative salt mines over the decades. This is about results. Does L. Brent Bozell III have a 98-story building in Chicago with his name on it? Yes, Ronald Reagan walked with us. Donald Trump struts.

Don't get me wrong -- I admire Brent Bozell and the work he has done for movement conservatism. No one has been more diligent in exposing the systemic rot of liberalism and the role its cheerleaders in the mainstream media play in propagating nonsense. It doesn't matter, though. If you put every word that Brent Bozell has offered on paper, Donald Trump would treat it as Charmin.

The torrent of words pouring forth from NR isn't about convincing anyone, really. It's about establishing parameters. That's worth doing, but we should not assume it will convince a single soul to abandon Trump.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A coveted demographic, or "pictures or it didn't happen"

Finally, a phenomenon explained:
A nation of Trump fans turns its lonely eyes to you
While explaining that he believes that Donald Trump's success in the Republican party does not mean that establishment conservatism is dying, GOP strategist Rick Wilson dismissed the "childless single men" who support Trump's presidential bid.

"The fact of the matter is, most of them are childless single men who masturbate to anime. They’re not real political players. These are not people who matter in the overall course of humanity," Wilson said of Trump supporters on MSNBC's "All In with Chris Hayes."
Empahsis mine. Well, glad to see that they've moved on from Fritz the Cat, although the level of specificity involved in the insult suggests more knowledge of the matter than a person really ought to have.

Bob Dole would like you to know that Bob Dole doesn't like Ted Cruz

The retired senator from Archer Daniels Midland would like to share his views:
Bob Dole, the former Kansas senator and 1996 Republican presidential nominee, has never been fond of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. But in an interview Wednesday, Mr. Dole said that the party would suffer “cataclysmic” and “wholesale losses” if Mr. Cruz were the nominee, and that Donald J. Trump would fare better.

“I question his allegiance to the party,” Mr. Dole said of Mr. Cruz. “I don’t know how often you’ve heard him say the word ‘Republican’ — not very often.” Instead, Mr. Cruz uses the word “conservative,” Mr. Dole said, before offering up a different word for Mr. Cruz: “extremist.”
That's a tell. So is this:
But Mr. Dole, 92, said he thought Mr. Trump could “probably work with Congress, because he’s, you know, he’s got the right personality and he’s kind of a deal-maker.”
Dealmaking isn't a big problem in Washington. They make deals all the time. Most of the time the citizenry isn't cut into the deals, but that's nothing we need to worry our pretty little heads over. So why is Bob Dole so mad? Perhaps this might be the reason:
The animosity between the two men began after Mr. Cruz invoked Mr. Dole’s name as an example of the missteps the party had made with past presidential nominees — as in, “Remember President Dole? Remember President McCain? Remember President Romney?”

“In other words, we weren’t right wing like he is, and I didn’t like that very much,” Mr. Dole said in the interview. “It kind of hurt, because we worked hard, we did the best we could. We are conservatives, we are traditional Republican conservatives. And then, of course, he doesn’t have any friends in Congress. He called the leader of the Republicans a liar on the Senate floor.”
Maybe we could give Bob Dole a participation trophy -- after all, Bob Dole did the best he could. If you want to know why Cruz called Mitch McConnell a liar, click this link. I think this was the quote that got ol' Mitch upset:
We had a Senate Republican lunch where I stood up and I asked the majority leader very directly, what was the deal that was just cut on [trade legislation, and was there a deal for the Export-Import Bank? It was a direct question. I asked the majority leader in front of all the Republican senators. The majority leader was visibly angry with me that I would ask such a question, and the majority leader looked at me and said, "There is no deal, there is no deal, there is no deal."

"Like Saint Peter, he repeated it three times," Cruz added.
The other message? Apparently Donald Trump is more acceptable to the dealmakers in Washington than Ted Cruz is. You can draw your own conclusions about what that means.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

In re Sarah Palin's endorsement of the Donald

I don't think it matters that much. There's likely a pretty significant overlap between those who dislike Sarah Palin and those who dislike Donald Trump, just as there's significant overlap between the fans of both. Trump will pocket the endorsement and move on. And Palin will do whatever it is she's doing these days.

We are living in interesting times.

Hunka hunka Bern

Lord almighty, feel the temperature rise:
Three weeks before Granite Staters head to the polls to select their favorites to be their parties' presidential nominees, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has built a commanding lead over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton among likely Democratic primary voters.

Sanders leads Clinton 60 percent to 33 percent in the latest WMUR/CNN New Hampshire Primary Poll, with former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley at 1 percent and 6 percent undecided.

The University of New Hampshire Survey Center conducted the poll Jan. 13-18 among 420 likely Democratic primary voters. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percent.
This result isn't particularly astonishing. Hillary Clinton is a human dumpster fire at this point in her career. My guess is that most people realize she's corrupt and while the MSM would prefer not to discuss the matter, the multiple scandals she's involved with have to be taking a toll on her popularity. And since those who propose to rob Peter to pay Paul invariably have Paul's support, Bernie Sanders is going to be a good bet for the Party of Envy.

Back in '08, Barack Obama promised Hope and Change. In this cycle, Bernie Sanders is proposing money and revenge. All Hillary Clinton has ever promised is careerism, but only her own. That's not a bandwagon most people will want to climb aboard.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What is Hip

RIP, Mick Gillette of Tower of Power:

You went an' found you a guru.
In an effort to find you a new you,
And maybe even manage to raise your conscious level.
While you're striving to find the right road,
There's one thing you should know,
"What's hip today, might become passe'."

A word to the wise.

The Golden Age of Rock 'n Roll

RIP, Dale Griffin of Mott the Hoople:

Everybody hazy, shell-shocked and crazy.
Screaming for the face at the window.
Jeans for the genies, dresses for the dreamies,
Fighting for a place in the front row.

It was a long time ago now.

Already Gone

RIP, Glenn Frey:

But let me tell you I got some news for you
And you'll soon find out it's true
And then you'll have to eat your lunch all by yourself

It won't taste quite the same.

Follow the money, yet again

So why is the water bad in Flint, Michigan? I know better than to trust Michael Moore's explanations, so I turned to a more reliable source, Walter Russell Mead:
Where there’s a crisis in a modern American city, blue model failures—in particular, bankrupt pension funds or intractable public unions—are probably lurking not far below the surface. That is certainly the case for the water contamination disaster in Flint, Michigan, which is traceable to the city’s desperate efforts to save money by switching its water source from the City of Detroit’s water system to the Flint River. 
The problem is, the water in the Flint River is corrosive and is eating away at the lead pipes:

Over the summer, researchers from Virginia Tech found that Flint River water is highly corrosive. That means when it comes into contact with lead from service lines, household pipes or solder, it eats away at the lead and sends it right to people's faucets.

Why did Flint change its water supply? Because it owes a lot of money to other people. Back to Mead:
Flint’s problem is fundamentally one of money. The city was the birthplace of General Motors and once had a thriving economy based on the auto industry, but those days are long gone and Flint is now known for its deep poverty (40 percent of the population is impoverished), urban blight, and high crime. As a result, Flint’s population has fallen sharply from about 200,000 in the 1960s to under 100,000 today. The economic downturn combined with a drop in population has unsurprisingly severely restricted Flint’s tax revenues.

What hasn’t been restricted much, though, are the pension demands of Flint’s former workers. Flint has about 1,900 government retirees, who outnumber actual city employees three to one. A glance at the city’s financial forecast from spring 2015 shows that, within the city’s general fund, pensions and retiree health care dominate 33 cents of ever dollar spent, with the figure expected to hit 37 percent by 2020.
So why not find a way to cut the pensions? Good luck with that. A story from 2013 tells why:
Another potential blow to Flint's finances was delivered last week when a federal judge denied a second attempt by the city to enact cuts to retiree benefits made by an emergency manager.

Detroit Federal District Judge Arthur J. Tarnow denied Flint’s request for a stay of the injunction on June 25 that means the city cannot make $3.5 million in cuts to retiree health care benefits.

Flint Emergency Manager Ed Kurtz said the city plans an emergency appeal because the ruling “has placed the city’s long-term financial future in question.”
Have to pay the pensioners, even if it means poisoning the children. By the way, Judge Tarnow is a Clinton appointee, in case you're interested. Back to Mead:
The Democratic presidential candidates earned applause last night for denouncing Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s handling of the Flint situation. But have any of them offered a plan for addressing the underlying cost problems plaguing Flint and other Democratic-controlled urban areas? As we’ve written before, the federal government will likely need to get involved, at some point, with the deepening budgetary disasters plaguing these cities. But this involvement must be guided by the concept of relief-for-reform, in which the bankrupt cities get limited assistance in exchange for real changes to the policies that led to this mess. Those policies include, but aren’t limited to, high wages and pension promises (usually underfunded) for unionized public employees, zoning restrictions, enterprise-killing regulations, unrealistically high levels of tax combined with “exemptions” and carve-outs for crony capitalist special interests, and an overstuffed bureaucracy to give jobs to the politically well-connected. The Democrats are comfortable talking about more money for American cities, but not so much about that whole reform idea—at least, not yet.
Reform must come, but that's not the conversation that the Michael Moores of the world want.

Monday, January 18, 2016

What I hear

We did some running around over the weekend, but not much, as it's been bitterly cold here in the great frozen north. Watched a lot of football, including the amazing end of the season for the Packers, but the other three games weren't especially compelling. What I did not see much of was the news, so I don't have a lot to offer about the events of the weekend.

This is what I hear: apparently there was a debate between two addled seasoned citizens and some creepy guy from Baltimore. And some of my doomier friends are convinced that Armageddon is nigh in the financial markets. Could be. And apparently the governor of Michigan is personally responsible for the condition of 100-year old water pipes in Flint, along with the decisions made at the federal level (EPA), because he is the governor of Michigan and simply is responsible, and he should resign now, because he should take responsibility, because he simply is, and apparently Michael Moore's word on the matter is dispositive. Between leaching lead in Michigan, and the general depredations of Scott Walker and Bruce Rauner in the neighboring states, midwestern Republican governors are horrible, horrible people who ought to be brought to justice, or something.

If you were paying attention this weekend, let me know. Maybe I didn't get some of that correct.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Benster and D Pick Your Games-----Divisional Round Edition

This weekend is one of the best weeks of football all year, because the top seeds in the NFL are coming out to protect home field against some surprising road teams.

Defend that turf from the opposition and from the ravages of HYYYYYPPPPE!

Old dude, you should know there's no defense for that, even your tub of Metamucil. The major question I have is over on the NFC side -- can the top 2 seeds actually win a home game, something that did not happen at all last weekend.

Well, I'm especially concerned about one road team.

You're getting ahead of yourself again, Geritol Fan. I'm trying to take this seriously and you've turned into a space potato. Try to dial it back a notch and don't give away the plotline, mkay? It is time to watch me work.

Kansas City Chiefs (+5) vs. New England PSI. With the X-Files coming back to television this year, maybe Mulder and Scully can find out what exactly happened to the PSI of those footballs. I mean, the Patriots fans believe that the NFL hates them, so the Hoodie changed the intro music to this:

As for the actual game, a lot of people forget that Kansas City made Tom Brady look super old last year in Arrowhead. A lot of people also forget that New England was a little casual in trying to get home field advantage, so that really concerns me. I don't know about you, but I kinda wonder if New England is a bit more lucky than good. Chiefs 31, PSI-Files 7.

Oh, they are lucky, but they can score. And they do. I would worry about the Chiefs as well, but until the Patriots are dethroned, you need to give them respect. And I do. Patriots 27, Chiefs 20.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (+7.5) vs. Arizona Cardinals. This game, quite frankly, is going to be a bit different than the previous trip the Packers took to Arizona. This time, the Packers come out to Arizona with a much healthier O-Line, and an offense that played very well against a good Redskins team in DC. Davante Adams is not going to go, but the advantage the Packers have is that they feel a lot more confident, and really have nothing to lose. I always thought that the bye was something that can be a bit of a double edge sword, because Arizona now has a 0-0 record. I do expect a tough game, but there is no reason why the Packers can't win. Packers 38, Raising Arizona 8.

Man, I want to agree with you, but I can't. The Packers will be better, but Arizona can attack you all over the field. The one thing worth noting is that the Seahawks may have cracked the code, but I'm not sure the Packers have the same sort of personnel. Watch the Packers pass rush -- if they start getting home on Carson Palmer, it could go the other way. But prudence dictates this pick. Cardinals 28, Packers 24.

Seattle Seahawks (+3) vs. Carolina Panthers. The Panthers may have failed in the chase for 16-0, but they still have all the goals in front of them. The problem is that Seattle is one of the luckiest teams I have seen. I swear that Russell made a deal with Jesus or something, because there is no way that they survive a hell of an effort by the Vikings. Seattle has pretty much owned Carolina in recent years, and with Beast Mode back, I expect that the results of Week 2 will be important, because the Packers have some demons to slay next week. Seattle 17, Carolina 9.

The Seahawks are lucky, all right. Their luck runs out in Charlotte, though. The Panthers are a good team and they'll be healthy and ready for the challenge. Panthers 21, Seahawks 17.

Pittsburgh Steelers (+4) vs. Denver Broncos. The last time that these teams played in the playoffs, Skip "Tebow" Bayless's BFF showed the world why he was so annoying. Tebow is now a talking head, and the Nationwide Pitchman is the quarterback. Peyton has a record of postseason failure that is epic and goes back to his college days as a Tennessee Volunteer. Big Ben, on the other hand is an experienced and very good quarterback. I expect Pittsburgh to win, though it won't be another street brawl. Pittsburgh 31, Denver 2.

Hmm. All road teams again? I think the Steelers could win, but Big Ben is hurting and he won't have Antonio Brown available. I don't think he has enough bullets against an excellent Denver defense. Low scoring = Denver. Broncos 20, Steelers 13. 

I do expect road teams to be bringing the HYYYYYPPE! I mean after all, somebody has to make history, right? Ben out!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Face the music

I've seen a lot of freakouts about this bit of nonsense:

Yeah, it's creepy, but so was this:

And they both need to step up their games to top this:


I saw a good chunk of it, but not all. Quick impressions:

  • Trump is still winning. I'm hardly enamored of him, but he projects an aura of leadership that no one else on the stage can match. I don't know if that's what people will want in the end, but it has undeniable appeal. His deft use of 9-11 to deal with Cruz's "New York values" gaffe was the most masterful moment of this cycle. He saw the hanging curve ball and drove it into the third deck. I'm not so crazy about his apparent willingness to start a trade war, among other things.
  • Cruz probably shut down the birther nonsense. He also took a lot of shots from the other candidates, especially Rubio, and didn't handle his exchange with Trump well, as mentioned above. He's in good shape.
  • The more I see of Rubio, the less I like him. He's a talent, but he doesn't seem ready to be President.
  • Christie is the only other guy on the stage who seems even remotely plausible. I still don't like him for a number of reasons, but he'll probably do well in New Hampshire, and we'll see after that.
  • Carson needs to go home now. Bush should have gone home months ago, but he's still got a lot of other people's money left to waste. I'm not sure why Kasich was even on the stage, although it's nice to know that he knew Strom Thurmond, who ran for president in 1948. No word on whether he also knew Henry Wallace or Thomas Dewey.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

They don't get it

I don't support Donald Trump, because I believe there are better candidates for president available. Having said that, it's now blindingly obvious that the energy behind the Trump campaign is causing the Republican establishment to have a meltdown. The latest example? The response to the Republican response to the State of the Union address, as delivered by Nikki Haley, governor of South Carolina:
The celebration by Republican elites was instant, and so was the backlash on the far right.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, the youthful daughter of Indian immigrants, had delivered a sunny and inclusive Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address that stood as an unmistakable counter to her party’s two presidential front-runners.

But Haley’s moment and its aftermath revealed an uncomfortable reality for GOP leaders. Even as they praised their chosen representative for condemning the polarizing politics fueling the rise of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, the currents of the 2016 race still churn against the establishment.
Haley might have intended to be sunny and inclusive, but it doesn't work that way when there's an insurrection going on. Compromise and getting along and playing nice? Screw that!
Speaking Tuesday night from Columbia, S.C., Haley urged Americans to resist the temptation “to follow the siren call of the angriest voices” and to make everyone in the country feel welcome. The remarks were widely viewed as a clear reference to Trump’s immigration-related proposals, which include a massive wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country.

Haley also said Democrats were not solely responsible for the failures in Washington. “There is more than enough blame to go around,” she said. “We, as Republicans, need to own that truth.”
Haley is right, but not for the reasons she thinks. If you actually listen to what the primary electorate is saying, you'll see that the anger isn't directed at the Republican leadership isn't for its divisiveness; rather, it's the sense that, on one initiative after another, the leadership has caved instead of fighting.

The smarter observers see that:
There doesn’t seem to be a plan for how to deal with Trump. They’re afraid,” said William J. Bennett, a top official in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. “Instead of taking him on directly, they’re making vague, diffuse references.

“What’s worse,” he continued, “is that this leaves them in a position to be thumped by Trump. This is not the way he talks or campaigns, and he’ll hit them right back as fuzzy and weak.”
And he will. The party leadership wants harmony and good governance. I do, too. You can't really have both in an environment where the other side of the aisle is willing to offer goodies and will always outbid you. Trump is leading an insurrection because he understands the moment better than his competitors.

Paul Ryan doesn't get it:
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) selected Haley to deliver the party’s nationally televised response. Haley embodies the kind of party Ryan in particular is trying to build: even-tempered, reform-minded, pro-business and open to minorities.
You grow up and you calm down
You're working for the clampdown
You start wearing the blue and brown 
You're working for the clampdown

Issuing white papers on how you will reform something is one thing. Paul Ryan has a million plans. Do you suppose that, by being reasonable and even-tempered, you can actually change the behavior of the hive in Washington?

The people supporting Trump, and to a lesser extent his Menshevik frenemy Ted Cruz, don't buy it. The current path is filled undersecretaries to the undersecretary of the deputy undersecretary of the Ministry of Love. You can try to rearrange the furniture and put some fresh paint on the rotting structure -- that's the essence of Ryan's million plans. Have fun with that.

Let fury have the hour
Anger can be power
D'you know that you can use it?

They are coming to tear the playhouse down. It's going to be ugly.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


I didn't write about the special election in SD35, mostly because I live behind the iron curtain in SD41 and I'm only aware of one SD35 voter who regularly reads this feature. That reader is our friend Brad Carlson, who shares the disappointing news:
Two months ago the Republican delegates in SD 35 (of which I am one) voted to endorse activist (and, for purposes of full disclosure, my friend) Andy Aplikowski. However, Andy would have to overcome a GOP primary challenge from Jim Abeler, who served 16 years in the MN House before opting to run for U.S. Senate in 2014 (he was soundly defeated in that race's Republican primary).

Over the past several weeks I was asked by a number of my local political friends how I felt the campaign was progressing and if I had any sense of who would prevail. I always uttered the obvious retort by saying "It depends on turnout." That and the fact Abeler never had to win votes in Andover, which is a much more conservative part of the Senate District. If we can turn out enough people there to effectively offset purplish Anoka (Abeler's hometown, where he consistently dominated by 3 to 1 margins in prior elections), Andy might have a chance.

In the end, turnout in SD 35 was a paltry 10% of registered voters and Andy won ruby red Andover by a mere 3%.


For the record, Abeler moves on as the Republican candidate in the special election February 9 thanks to a 61% to 39% win in the GOP primary. 
The party endorsement is often useless in Minnesota, especially since we have an open primary and the other party can mess with the results. That is likely what happened in SD35. Andy is a friend of mine as well and he would have made a great senator. You'll find no one who is more principled and enthusiastic and he would have fought for the right things. Abeler is a time server, at best, and also someone who has voted with the DFL at key junctures. I'm sure that Andy will find other ways to serve, as he always has. I don't know what Abeler will do, but I suspect it will only be intermittently useful to causes we hold dear.

Brotherly love

I'm not sure how to sort out the theological implications of this one:
This video shows the shocking moment a Buddhist monk was robbed as he bought lottery tickets at a gas station in Philadelphia.

The 61-year-old victim was purchasing tickets from a machine at a Sunoco store when a black man approached him and snatched his wallet, along with $350.
The video is at the link. There's more:
The thief is seen harassing the monk and as he turns his back to use the machine, the robber quickly grabs the Buddhist's wallet and makes for the exit.

Giving chase, the monk runs after the robber and catches up with him as he tries to get into his Silver Ford Mustang, which was parked out front. 
The monk grabs hold of the thief, but is thrown to the floor as the robber, who was wearing a dark blue jacket and a black and white baseball cap, tries to escape.

The video then shows him jumping into his car and making a hasty getaway as the monk watches in despair. 
Who robs a Buddhist monk, anyway? I can't imagine the bad karma involved.

Interesting times

Observation of the evening, from Ann Althouse:
I am contemplating the possibility that through some fancy footwork, the 2 men sitting behind Obama will be the 2 major party candidates for President next fall.
Stranger things could happen. And probably will.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Hey Hey, WIAA -- Tell Us What We're Allowed To Say -- UPDATE: Jay Bilas Has Some Helpful Suggestions

Comstockery disguised as sportsmanship, taken to a ridiculous level:
The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association has banned high school students from chanting certain words and phrases at basketball games, and none of them are remotely close to being hurtful or inappropriate.

In an email sent out to students in December, which was obtained by the Post-Crescent, the WIAA banned “chants by student sections directed at opponents and/or opponents’ supporters that are clearly intended to disrespect.”

The following words were reportedly included as examples:

• “Fundamentals”
• “Sieve”
• “We can’t hear you”
• “Air ball”
• “You can’t do that”
• “There’s a net there”
• “Scoreboard”
• “Season’s over” (during tournament play)
So how ridiculous a list is that? You can't chant "air ball" when a kid for the other team throws one up? You can't taunt the opposing goalie with "sieve" when he (or she) lets a goal get past? And forbidding "you can't do that," usually heard when a kid on the other team gets called for a foul? Apparently, in Wisconsin in 2016, you can't do anything.

The text of the email itself sounds like a directive to straighten up and fly right:
Not wanting to restrict creativity or enjoyment, an enthusiastic and boisterous display of support for a school’s team is welcomed and encouraged at interscholastic events when directed in a positive manner. However, any action directed at opposing teams or their spectators with the intent to taunt, disrespect, distract or entice an unsporting behavior in response is not acceptable sportsmanship. Student groups, school administrators and event managers should take immediate steps to correct this unsporting behavior.
They don't want to restrict creativity or enjoyment, but they're prepared to do it for the greater good, you see.

Half the fun of being a high school student is seeing what you could get by with, especially when you are competing against a rival high school. There was a guy who played for one of our biggest rivals, Green Bay Premontre, named Pat Wong. He was an unbelievable long range shooter -- he would launch the ball from just about anywhere inside the half court line -- and, rumor had it, a bit of a stoner. So it should come as no surprise that when he and his Premontre teammates showed up in our gym for a basketball game, the chant "Wong Does Bongs" emanated from our student section. Wong didn't mind -- he started laughing when he heard the chant. Was it poor sportsmanship? I suppose. Did it matter? All these years later, not a bit. I assume we'd be put to death for that now.

I also remember picking the Benster up after a football game in which his beloved Irondale Knights beat a rival high school (Benilde-St. Margaret) on their homecoming weekend. I arrived just as the game was ending; I could hear the Irondale student section chanting "Happy Homecoming" with evident glee. I was confused until I looked at the scoreboard and realized that Irondale had just won the game. The Benilde kids looked a little glum, but so what? You have to learn to lose, too. And Benilde returned the favor to Irondale the next year. I don't remember if the Benilde fans chanted "Happy Homecoming" at Irondale or not, but it wouldn't have mattered.

Should we encourage good sportsmanship? Of course. This isn't how you do it.

UPDATE: ESPN analyst Jay Bilas noticed and got in some polite yet devastating trolling of the WIAA:

The clock operator appreciates such alerts
And this:

Seems like a reasonable request
And this one:

These fans are not, to my knowledge, chanting "Wong Does Bongs"

The refreshing beverages are always much appreciated.

Before I forget...

. . . the most impressive thing I saw this past weekend:

I'll kick all y'all's asses
Tougher than we'll ever be.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Football weekend

A few notes:

  • First, the locals. I really try not to troll the Vikings and their fans. It is astonishing, really, how cruel their losses are. This one has to rank right up there. It was an awfully cold day yesterday and to lose the game on a chip shot field goal is particularly excruciating. The Vikings gave a good accounting on themselves on that frozen field yesterday and gave themselves a chance to win against a team that had crushed them only a month before. I don't think this season was a flash in the pan, either -- the Vikings should have a multiple-year window ahead of them where they will contend for a championship. That's all you can ask, really.
  • After being missing for over half the season, a team that bore a strong resemblance to the Green Bay Packers played very well yesterday. The Packer offense moved the ball well, especially on the ground, and Aaron Rodgers had the spring back in his step. I've been worried that something is physically wrong with Rodgers all season; beyond the ineptitude of his teammates, he hasn't looked right, missing throws he would have made in previous seasons. The Packers have a tough assignment in the desert next weekend, but if they play at the level they showed yesterday against the Redskins, they will have a chance. Arizona is formidable, but not invincible.
  • The Pittsburgh-Cincinnati game on Saturday night had a number of disgraceful moments. The cheap shot that Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict laid on Antonio Brown of the Steelers was a stupid play. When Ben Roethlisberger was being taken off in a cart, the Bengals fans were pelting him with debris. That struck me as particularly strange, as the fans we encountered at a Reds baseball game were gracious and exceptionally friendly. Emotion is baked into all sports and football in particular, but it got completely out of hand at Paul Brown Stadium. You used to see this sort of mayhem in the 1970s, but the league has made considerable efforts to bring the thugs to heel. It will be interesting to see how the NFL responds after this ugly event.

RIP, David Bowie

Very sad news -- he had just turned 69 years old. A major figure in the history of rock and roll. It's difficult to know where to begin with his recorded legacy, because he wrote and performed so many great songs. A few pop into my mind this morning:

And this one:

And this one, in full sneer:

And this one, in full despair:

I'm sure you have your favorites, too. RIP, David.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A good explanation

Mark Steyn went to a Trump rally in Vermont. As usual, his synopsis is spot-on. You should absolutely read the whole thing, but this passage is crucial:
~MESSAGE DISCIPLINE: In fairness, he is (or was) actually competing against Pataki, and still is (just about) against Rand Paul. But he also did a couple of minutes on Martin O'Malley. He'd been talking about the crowds he's been getting, and he'd said that when he goes back home his wife asks him how the speech went and whether anyone was there. Because the cameras stay directly focused on him and never show the audience. And he thought at first this was because they were fixed and hammered into place - until a protester starts yelling and then suddenly the cameras are twisting around like pretzels, no matter what corner of the room they're in. Anyway, at some point, he mused on a Martin O'Malley rally at which apparently only one person showed up. So O'Malley talked with him one on one for an hour, and at the end a reporter asked the guy whether he would be supporting O'Malley. And the fellow said no.

And we all laughed, as did Trump.

Now, short of the mullahs nuking Hillary in Chappaqua and the following day Kim Jong-Un nuking Bernie in Burlington, there is no conceivable scenario in which Trump will be facing off against Martin O'Malley. So talking about him is a complete waste of time - and Karl Rove says that campaigning is all about the efficient use of the dwindling amount of time you have this close to Iowa and New Hampshire. So doing ten minutes of knee-slappers on Martin O'Malley is ten minutes you could have used to talk about Social Security reform that you'll never get back.

Maybe Rove is right. But as a practical matter it's led to the stilted robotic artificiality of the eternally on-message candidate - which is one of the things that normal people hate about politics. And Trump's messages are so clear that he doesn't have to "stay on" them. People get them instantly: On Thursday he did a little bit of audience participation. "Who's going to pay for the wall?" And everyone yelled back, "Mexico!" He may appear to be totally undisciplined, yet everyone's got the message. Likewise, his line on an end to Muslim immigration "until we can figure out what the hell's going on" is actually a subtle and very artfully poised way of putting it that generates huge applause. Trump has such a natural talent for "message" that it frees up plenty of time to do ten minutes of Martin O'Malley shtick.
Emphasis mine. In contrast, consider this criticism of Trump from a bien pensant at Salon:
The point is that when a large portion of the electorate is fooled into adopting an ideology of ignorance, spaces open up for charlatans, frauds and demagogues to gain political power over the masses. This is precisely what we’ve seen with the rise of Trump in 2015, and it’s why he’s a symptom of the disease rather than a cause, as mentioned above. Indeed, according to a recent poll, Trump’s support base consists of the least educated Americans. As a Washington Post article put it, “Even when pollsters took race out of the equation — to the extent that that is possible since the Republican base is overwhelmingly white — and looked at all Republicans, the relationship between education and Trump support was pretty clear.”

This conclusion is consistent with a Boston Globe analysis that found that Trump talks at a fourth-grade level. And it fits with the observation that the more outrageous, harebrained, foolish, and asinine Trump’s claims — from John McCain not being a “war hero” to shutting down parts of the Internet to violating the Geneva Convention by killing terrorists’ families to temporarily keeping Muslims out of America — the more Trump’s poll numbers seem to rise. Holding beliefs that are properly tethered to reality via the best available evidence doesn’t matter much to the army of quasi-fascist conservatives who’ve been hypnotized by Trump’s shallow charisma.
Again, emphasis mine. The sneer about "talks at a fourth-grade level" demonstrates that the author of the piece, Phil Torres, is more committed to a world view than he is to understanding what's happening in the campaign. Trump is effective precisely because, as Steyn notes, his messages are easy to comprehend. Anyone who writes for a living should understand that reaching the largest possible audience is a good thing, especially if you are asking for someone's allegiance. Trump understands that the vote of someone who understands the world at a fourth-grade level has equal value to the vote of a Wharton grad. Perhaps more, if the voter with the fourth-grade understanding lives in an early primary state.

Note also that Trump was speaking in Vermont, a left enclave that is the home of Bernie Sanders. Back to Steyn:
When was the last time a GOP presidential candidate held (in the frantic run-up to Iowa and New Hampshire) an event in Vermont? Every fourth January, Republican campaigns are focused on the first caucus and the first primary states, as Bush, Rubio, Christie, Kasich, Huckabee, Fiorina et al are right now. But in fact the Green Mountain primary is on March 1st, and its delegates count as much as any other state's. In recent cycles, the American electoral system has diminished and degraded itself by retreating into turnout-model reductionism and seriously competing only over a handful of purple states. Even if he's only doing it as a massive head-fake, Trump understands the importance of symbolism: By going into Berniestan, he's saying he's going for every voter and he's happy to play down the other guy's half of the field.
No one has tried to be a national candidate on the Republican side since Ronald Reagan. Trump is not Reagan, yet it's important to remember that Reagan was known as The Great Communicator because of his ability to reach audiences where they were. Trump has the same skill set. He's going to be very difficult to beat.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Benster and D Pick Your Games-----Wild Card Weekend Edition

It is one of the best weekends of football all year this weekend. We have four interesting playoff games, and on Monday we will crown a national champion in college ball. Plus, both teams in the Upper Midwest are playing on Sunday.

It's a great combo. High stakes football all the way around.

I know that other weeks in sports are bigger, but I gotta love when there are meaningful games.

You don't even need to employ any HYYYYYYYYYPPPPE, right?

This week? Not as much. It's all baked in. Watch me work.

Kansas City Chiefs (-3.5) vs. Houston Texans. The Chiefs have not won a playoff game since the early 90's, and they would love to win down in Houston. Houston won a very soft AFC South and they have quarterback issues. The funny thing is that Houston has had a pretty good year in sports and will be led by a former Houston Cougar star, Case Keenum. However, Andy Reid is a veteran playoff coach and Alex Smith is a capable quarterback who was screwed over in San Francisco. I don't see Colin Kaepernick in the playoffs. By The Way, What is Right With The Chiefs 32, Texans 5.

If you've ever wondered what a Charcandrick was, you can find out in this game. Kansas City has been unbelievably hot in recent weeks and it's difficult to see this Texans team beating them. Chiefs 24, Texans 17.

Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) vs. Cincinnati Bengals. These teams are both divisional foes and they have been in the playoffs a lot this decade. Andy Dalton has to be wondering if this year is finally the year he wins a playoff game, but he is not playing. I do not think that AJ McCarron will have Eddie Lacy or Nick Saban to help him, and it will show. Pittsburgh 21, Cincy 0.

Perhaps that's the secret to Andy Dalton winning a playoff game -- just don't participate! Two good teams with fundamental flaws. I'm concerned about the Steelers having the ability to move the ball on the ground, since that sets up their ability to turn their fearsome passing game loose. I see it the other way. Bengals 27, Steelers 24.

Seattle Seachickens (-5.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings. As much as it pains me to say this, Minnesota did play well for most of the game last week and the Viking Nation should enjoy their division championship. They earned it. While I am sure that the Vikings are happy to get an outdoor playoff game before the new stadium opens in the fall, this might not be the opponent they wanted. Seattle smoked the Vikings on this very field earlier in the year, and they are a very dangerous team. This game is going to be a lot closer than most people think, and you know that the Vikings are going to be pumped. The problem is that they almost threw the game away in Green Bay last weekend, and that game took a lot out of them emotionally. Seachickens 32, Vikings 9.

It's cold up here. It's been worse, but it's cold. Cold tends to be an equalizer, so I expect this game to be close. Seattle is too good, though. Seahawks 28, Vikings 17.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-1) vs. Washington Gridlocks. The Packers have been called out and the national media is saying that they have no chance. That is fine by me. Bottom line is that this is a new season, and everyone starts off with no stats and no record. Washington is a good team, but they played in a horrible, ugly travesty of a division. The Packers can win, but they need to just play well for four quarters. I also do think that the Vikings have not seen the last of them. Packers 23, Gridlocks 17.

The Redskins have improved, but they are suspect on defense. That gives the Packers a chance. The last time the Packers played a playoff game in Washington was in 1972. John Brockington, this one's for you. Packers 28, Redskins 24.

College Football Playoff National Championship Game: Alabama Crimson Tide (-7) vs. Clemson Tigers, at Glendale. I think you already know that most of America will be wanting to do the Dabo. I am sick and tired of hearing about the SEC and how they are so dominant. I kinda like Clemson because they have a very good team and they have yet to lose all year. Alabama is always well-coached, but they have to lose a title game sometime, right? Clemson 34, Alabama, -9000.

I always appreciate your subtlety. I don't like 'em either, but the way the Tide handled Sparty convinced me they are the real deal. Should be a fun game. Alabama 24, Clemson 21.

Yeah, I won't be welcome in the SEC tent after that pick. But it's just as well; they can't handle all the HYYYYYYYPPPPE! Ben out!

Friday, January 08, 2016


A few tweaks to the appearance of the blog -- I typically like to change things up at the beginning of the year. I'll probably be playing with things a bit more in the coming days. Sometimes it's the right thing to do.

Also, fear not -- Benster and D will be up in the morning.

Keeping up appearances

It turns out that some of Germany's newest residents have some odd ideas about deportment around women, but that's not the problem, apparently. The problem is the reaction:
Ralf Jaeger, interior minister for North Rhine-Westphalia, said police had to “adjust” to the fact that groups of men had attacked women en masse.[ . . . ]

Mr Jaeger also warned that anti-immigrant groups were trying to use the attacks to stir up hatred against refugees.

“What happens on the right-wing platforms and in chatrooms is at least as awful as the acts of those assaulting the women,” he said. “This is poisoning the climate of our society.”
The invaluable Walter Russell Mead makes the salient observation:
So in the wake of a high-profile, mass attack on women by refugees, an independent Mayor, a SPD regional minister, and a CDU Chancellor have all come out in ways that seem to be at least as concerned—at least—with protecting liberal pieties as addressing popular concerns. It’s the backlash, not the actual attacks, that seems to most worry some of these centrist politicians.

And this is precisely the recipe for getting people to look to Orban-style populism. After all, if even terrorist attacks such as Paris and incidents against women, committed on a large scale, in Cologne cannot get the centrists to focus on popular concerns about immigration, a German voter might wonder, what ever will? Whereas the populists, whatever else might be said about them, do. Which means the choice may indeed come down to Orbanism or Merkelism. And in this environment, that’s not one the elites can necessarily count on winning.
Orban, in case you don't know, is Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary, who has responded to the wave of migrants by building walls on his border. From what I know of Orban, he's a bad dude. I'm certain Angela Merkel is much nicer.

I'm wary of populists of all stripes, because they tend to be demagogues. I fully expect populists to continue to rise, however, because the elites don't believe in much other than themselves.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Griffey and Piazza to the Hall

The results are now in and Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza will be the Class of 2016 for the Baseball Hall of Fame. A few quick thoughts:

  • Griffey's vote percentage of 99.3% is the highest ever. I suspect he reached that level because he was the anti-Bonds. He's probably one of the top 20 players of all time, so it was a no-brainer.
  • Piazza made it after three previous attempts. He's certainly the greatest offensive catcher in history. Some people question whether he was on the juice, but there is no evidence of that. A deserving choice.
  • Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines fell just short of induction. I think both will go in next year, as there aren't any obvious new candidates coming on to the ballot for the 2017 class; the two best players in the next group are Ivan Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez, who are both implicated in using PEDs; the only other new candidate who might have a chance is Vladimir Guerrero, but I would take Bagwell or Raines over him.
  • Trevor Hoffman started out well and is likely to gain induction within the next two years. Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina are both likely to make it soon as well. I like all of these players.
  • I've taken up the cause of Alan Trammell many times, so I won't revisit it. I think he deserves to be in the HOF, as does his double-play partner Lou Whitaker, who barely got a sniff. Those Detroit Tigers teams of the 1980s were excellent and the Trammell-Whitaker combination is arguably the best ever, when you factor in quality and longevity. The Veterans' Committee has some work to do.

Here we go again

China is having problems again:
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng China Enterprises Index tumbled 4.2 percent to the lowest level since Oct. 6, 2011. Trading of shares and index futures in the mainland was halted by automatic circuit breakers from about 9:59 a.m. after the CSI 300 Index slid more than 7 percent. The People’s Bank of China cut its reference rate on Thursday for an eighth straight day, fueling concern that tepid economic growth is prompting authorities to guide the currency lower.

“The yuan’s depreciation has exceeded investors’ expectations,” said Wang Zheng, Shanghai-based chief investment officer at Jingxi Investment Management Co. “Investors are getting spooked by the declines, which will spur capital outflows.”

The yuan weakened 0.6 percent to 6.5938 per dollar at 4:20 p.m. in Shanghai. The currency rallied from early declines in offshore trading, strengthening 0.4 percent in Hong Kong amid speculation the central bank propped up the exchange rate after setting a weaker fixing that sent the currency tumbling.
Central planners assume they can control events. It never works that way. Hang on, folks.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Meanwhile, in the Hermit Kingdom

This just happened:
North Korea said Wednesday it had conducted a powerful hydrogen bomb test, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would be a huge jump in Pyongyang's quest to improve its still-limited nuclear arsenal. 
A television anchor said in a typically propaganda-heavy statement that the North had tested a "miniaturized" hydrogen bomb, elevating the country's "nuclear might to the next level" and providing it with a weapon to defend against the United States and its other enemies.
Defend, you say? Nope. I don't think so. Whatever they did, it registered 5.1 on the Richter Scale:
In the first indication of a possible test, the U.S. Geological Survey measured an earthquake Wednesday morning with a magnitude of 5.1. An official from the Korea Metrological Administration, South Korea's weather agency, said the agency believed the earthquake was caused artificially, based on an analysis of the seismic waves and because it originated 49 kilometers (30 miles) north of Kilju, the northeastern area where North Korea's main nuclear test site is located. The country conducted all three previous atomic detonations there.
We can worry about chimerical gun show loopholes all day long, but it's a sideshow. Pay attention to what's happening in the center ring, please.

But for others I put on a show

Bizarro World Smokey Robinson:

But when it comes down to fooling you, honey that's quite a different subject

We've seen this crap before, of course:

So if you want to know, how I really feel/Get the cameras rolling, get the action going
And it's bipartisan:

Now I taught the weeping willow how to cry
Will the Leader of the Free World's latest proposals move the needle on guns? Not really, but it does give an especially intrusive federal agency (BAFTE) a pretext to add staffing, which is always a goal in Washington.

If you like your kabuki moistened with tears, you can keep your kabuki moistened with tears.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Bring Out Your Dead Pool -- 2016

The results are in and it is time to recap the entries and entrants for the 2016 Dead Pool!

Our first contestant is Ace Commenter Brian:

Brian's Picks:
Fidel Castro
Billy Graham
Vince Neil (of Mötley Crüe fame)
Max von Sydow
Garrison Keillor
Gwyneth Paltrow

Comments: Brian carried over two picks (Castro and Graham) from the previous Dead Pool. Both are likely to go at any time. Brian has reported that he saw Neil on the Crüe farewell tour recently and that he didn't look too good, so perhaps a more permanent farewell might be in order. Keillor is a Minnesota institution who has looked a bit shaky as well. Brian's rationale for the Paltrow pick ("because you have to admit it would be kind of funny") rings true. It also would prevent the possibility of future duets with Huey Lewis, which ought to be avoided at all costs:

Overall grade: Solid. Very solid indeed.

Next up, the man who needs no further introduction -- Gino!

Gino's Picks:
Bob Dole
George H. W. Bush
Lamar Odom
Pete Rose
Tommy Lasorda
Any Kardashian chick, "just for the ratings."

Comments: Gino carried over Dole and the elder President Bush, who are both the dictionary definition of doddering these days. I think his pick of addled ex-NBA star Odom is a savvy choice, as Odom seems to favor copious pharmaceutical consumption and hookers, rarely a winning combination for a healthy life. Rose and Lasorda, while baseball icons, are both pretty long in the tooth and certainly ripe for ripening. And the strategic ambiguity of the Kardashian chicks opens up a variety of possibilities. It would also be a welcome result for the public airwaves, which are altogether too filled with the trashy exploits of that particular clan.

Overall grade: Cagey. A definite contender.

Next up, west central Iowa's favorite pastor and poet, W. B. Picklesworth:

Picklesworth's Picks:
Nancy Reagan
Herman Wouk
Prince Phillip
Kirk Douglas
Harper Lee
Barack Obama

Comments: Picklesworth is new to the competition, so he had no holdover picks. Mrs. Reagan is quite frail and Kirk Douglas is nearly 100 years old, so these seem like sensible picks. Herman Wouk is 100 years old and it's quite possible that a stiff breeze could fell the author of "The Winds of War." We heard from Harper Lee last year with great fanfare, as her book "Go Set a Watchman" finally saw publication, although we didn't see much of Lee herself. She's apparently been infirm for years. While Prince Phillip seems strapping enough, he's 94. While the pick of the sitting president might raise eyebrows, we can assure the Secret Service that we wish the Leader of the Free World continued health and, based on today's bravura performance, a box of Charmin.

You don't know what the sound is, darlin'/It's the sound of my tears fallin'
Or is it the rain? You don't know

Overall grade: Solid, but unexpectedly damp.

Next up, the king of HYYYYYYYPPPPPE himself, the Benster:

Benster's Picks:
Virginia McCaskey
Pope Benedict XVI
Ruth Bader Ginsberg
Duchess of Cornwall
Keith Jackson
Chip Kelly

Comments: Benster carried over Pope Benedict and the notorious RBG, who are both frail but surprisingly feisty. For my money, the savviest pick on Benster's board is Virginia McCaskey, the daughter of Papa Bear Halas and owner of the the Chicago Bears. Mrs. McCaskey may be alive, but she's been forced to die at least a little bit nearly every Sunday in the fall for years now. For those keeping score at home, the Duchess of Cornwall is better known as Camilla Parker-Bowles, the consort of Prince Charles. Our panel seems a bit hostile to royalty, no? Keith Jackson is the great retired voice of college football and, while not as old as some of the other entrants, certainly is now approaching the end zone. The Chip Kelly pick may seem outlandish, but that's how the Benster rolls.

Overall grade: Longshots, but you discount the Benster's skills at your peril.

Next up, high school superstar Fearless Maria:

Fearless Maria's Picks:
Queen Elizabeth II
Betty White
Donald Sutherland
Craig Sager
Beverly Cleary

Gordon Ramsey ("from a severe nervous mental breakdown or vocal cord rupture")

Comments: Fearless Maria is a first-time contestant, so her picks are all new. She leads off with yet another prognostication of demise for the royal family, making this blog post the equivalent of Oliver Cromwell. Children's author Cleary is 99 years old, so that is a good, conventional pick, while White and Sutherland are certainly getting up there as well. Sager, the NBA sideline reporter best known for his questionable taste in clothing, has recovered from a recent bout of cancer, but unfortunately cancer can come back. And let's face it -- Ramsey is liable to blow at any minute.

Overall grade: Intriguing, with serious upside.

Finally, it's my turn:

Mr. D's Picks:
John Kundla
Bobby Doerr (the old Red Sox player and the oldest living member of the Baseball HOF)
Tom Brokaw
Chuck Berry
Johnny Manziel
Donald Trump

Comments: I carried over John Kundla, the ancient coach of the Minneapolis Lakers. Doerr was a teammate of Ted Williams and has not indicated that he is interested in going cryogenic like Teddy Ballgame. Brokaw has been in ill health. Johnny Manziel is a remarkably self-destructive fellow who is in the process of flushing his NFL career. Chuck Berry is due to turn 90 this year, believe it or not. As for Trump, well, again we remind the Secret Service that we wish him continued health, but I have a hunch.

Overall grade (from Fearless Maria): In a stunning turn of events, Mr. D has surprised us all by drafting a surprisingly boring list of picks again this year. Not that I would recall from past years, but I have my hunches, just as he has his hunches about his most interesting pick, Donald Trump. Overall, the motives behind each pick exhibit great intelligence and clever utilization of "" We will see who kicks the can, or in Johnny Manziel's case, thinks the can is a blunt and tries to smoke it, or in Trump's case, mocks its IQ and issues a Twitter rant. It's sure to be an eventful Dead Pool. May the odds be ever in your favor, unless you're gonna die!

Thanks, Maria. A very tidy summation indeed! Good luck to all our contestants and we'll keep track of things on the blog.