Friday, December 29, 2017

Benster and D Pick Your Games-------Media Narrative Edition

Old dude, the Vikings seem to be getting a lot of love from the media lately, and it seems fairly deserved.

For a swarthy bunch of pillagers, they're quite photogenic. And it all seems like such a nice story.

Or is it? We will discuss the Vikings later, but we have other games to pick in college football.

I like college football. It's got a lot of spectacle and pageantry, and beyond that sometimes the football itself isn't too bad. I'm actually watching some football tonight. Your favorite team is playing.

Those jerks from Ohio? No, that's too strong. Let's try to be nicer for the new year. So, while Ohio State plays against USC tonight, we have some HYYYYYPPPEEE! upped games to discuss. Watch me work!

Orange Bowl: Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-5.5) vs. The U, in Miami. The Badgers are playing what is a neutral site game, but really is a home game for the Miami Hurricanes. Wisconsin was 60 minutes away from sniffing the Rose Bowl, but thanks to A School in Columbus find themselves in Miami. The U is well-coached under Mark Richt, who I argue is the best coach in America for the improvement he has engineered by turning Miami back into a national title contender. Having said that I expect the Badgers to wear down Miami and show that Hurricane speed will lose to farm boy power. Wisconsin 35, Miami 20.

Some of those farm boys can move. And the war of attrition is going to be the key here. Miami struggled with teams that could get physical with them this year, and no team in college football is more physical than the Badgers, especially on the offensive line. The holes will open in the second half and Jonathan Taylor will get his yards and his points. Wisconsin 34, Miami 21.

Rose Bowl: Oklahoma Boomer Sooner (+2) vs. Georgia Bulldogs, in Pasadena. This game would never be a traditional Rose Bowl, but in the playoff era we have to make due. Baker Mayfield, the annoying Sooner quarterback who quit on Texas Tech when he couldn't handle competition, is ill and might not be at 100%. Georgia is a good defensive team who is the SEC team that deserves the right to be here on merit, after looking very impressive in the SEC title game. I expect Oklahoma to not score a whole lot of points, but to beat Georgia to hopefully set up a more palatable national title game. Oklahoma 28, Georgia 14.

Georgia will fool you -- they are more explosive than they seem. The key will be who sets the pace -- if the game is a track meet, OU will win. If it turns into a slog, favor the Dogs. Georgia 24, Oklahoma 21.

Sugar Bowl: Alabama Crimson Tide (-3) vs. Clemson Tigers, in New Orleans. I swear to God, why do we need to see this game again? Clemson deserves to be here on merit, because they won their conference. I normally don't shill for A School in Columbus, but in what world do you allow Alabama, a team that coughed up a hairball against Auburn and did not even win their division into the playoffs over the Buckeyes, a team that won their conference and beat the only Power 5 unbeaten? The committee clearly views conference championships as a suggestion, and as a result these two semifinals are very regional in their interests, where us Big Ten and Pac-12 fans have no reason to care about who wins. I want Clemson to win so the SEC homers like Paul "ESPN Paid SEC Shill" Finebaum will see the light. Clemson 31, Tide Rolled 10.

Not that you have any opinion on the matter. I'm tired of Alabama, too, but they are pretty good. Can they beat Clemson? I think they can, but I don't think they will. Clemson will win this game with defense. It won't be a wild one like the title game last year. Clemson 24, Alabama 20.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (+7) vs. Detroit LOLions. The Packers are playing for pride this week, and it is a shame. This team looked good early in the year, but thanks to a boatload of injuries and questionable defensive schemes, Packers fans will go into next year knowing that the natural and correct order in the NFC North will return to normal in the coming year. I think the Packers play well and get to 8-8, and hopefully management fires Capers and brings in someone like Vic Fangio and gives the new guy total control of the defense. Packers 31, LOLions Going To LOLions 0.

I dunno. The Packers barely have enough players to play this game. I will be very interested to see if the Lions play hard to save Jim Caldwell's job. We should know the answer to that question pretty quickly. Lions 31, Packers 20.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz Still Suck (+12.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings. Sorry, Gino. You know it's true. Meanwhile, on to the Purple. The Vikings are getting a lot of love, and their record says that all the love is deserved. Well, here is what the Vikings fans drinking the Kool-Aid won't tell you. Coming into this season, the Vikings schedule was ranked 27th in terms of difficulty, with opponent winning percentage of .453 based on 2016 records. This information is here. The scores of the Vikings games can be found on their team website. While I would agree that the Vikings have played well against the NFC South and their record is a fair reflection of their talent this year, when looking at the scores of their games one can clearly see that they have not exactly had many blowouts, and have won games based on making just enough plays. The NFC North overall has been down, as both the Packers and the Lions are going to miss the playoffs after making the playoffs a year ago. Also, the Vikings started 5-0 last year, and missed the playoffs with almost the entire roster core already being on the team, including Sam Bradford setting a league record for completion percentage. So, what I am trying to say is that although the Vikings are a good football team and a legitimate Super Bowl contender, the media is not telling you the whole story. The NFL is very much hoping for positive headlines surrounding the league, especially after a year filled with controversy about injuries, national anthem questions, injuries to star players, and flat television ratings. The Vikings are the perfect distraction in the eyes of the league, and thus it is in the interests of the league and it's media partners to talk up the Vikings as a distraction from those issues. I think the Vikings win, but we should remember that while the Vikings are a good football team, they are not really that much better than last year. Vikings 27, Da Bearz 17.

Sometimes you look better if everyone else looks worse. And at this point, the Vikings look better because they've largely avoided looking worse. They are a well-coached, disciplined team that will hit you in the mouth. That's always been a formula for success at every level of football, so it doesn't surprise me they have succeeded this year. I still think an NFC South team will break their hearts in the playoffs, but they aren't playing one of those teams this week. Vic Fangio, come to Green Bay! Vikings 33, Bears 14.

As God is my witness, the Packers will rise again and have their revenge. Ben out!

Cold shot

If you live in this part of the world, you can't spend a lot of time freaking out about cold weather. It's inevitable and we get a blast of cold nearly every winter. It usually comes a few weeks later, but what we're dealing with right now is hardly out of the ordinary. We aren't going to get below -20 in this stretch, at least not in the Twin Cities.

It's bitter -- says right here
Will it keep the crowds down in Times Square on New Year's Eve? Maybe. It's usually a lot warmer than -5 there. We'll see how committed they are to the bit.

Meanwhile, the world is coming here in just over a month for the Super Bowl. It's way too early to know how warm it will be then, but it's unlikely to be this cold. It's usually around 20 or so, which isn't that bad. The record low for February 4 in Minnesota is -28. It will be fun to see how much of a freakout we see if the temperatures dip below, say, -10. Of course, I remember it being -32 on February 2, 1996. My son was still an infant and it was just flat nasty that whole winter, so it can get cold in February. It's not the way to bet, but if we get another Arctic blast it could be a lot of fun for our visitors then.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Home truth

John Hayward:
Lost in all this political maneuvering is the lesson Americans really should learn from the sexual harassment meltdown: the dangers of centralized power.

This is not a scandal that coincidentally just happened to affect entertainment media, journalism, and politics. Those are the three pillars of centralized power in the United States, and they are symbiotic. They depend on each other for story content, influence, political contributions, access to newsmakers, and the ability to silence accusers. In what other industries would so many politically active, outspoken, charismatic, and financially secure women keep quiet about a tidal wave of crimes that strike at the very heart of feminist convictions?
Yep. And there's more:
Power is the bait that lures victims, the fuel for arrogance, and the milk that nourishes the sense of childish entitlement displayed by so many of the men who walked out of the shower naked in front of female subordinates, or pushed buttons to lock them in offices until they paid proper tribute to the big star. Power is the prize that makes influential people abandon their principles in pursuit of some greater good.

Power long ago became the substitute for personal honor and moral judgment in our political class, which most definitely includes top journalists and the culture-makers of Hollywood. They share a common belief that policy positions are the true measure of morality. As a “feminist” infamously put it at the height of the Lewinsky scandal, Bill Clinton was entitled to a few blowjobs for keeping abortion legal. To this day, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, some insist that Democrats with solid left-wing voting records simply cannot be misogynists or racists. There is a reason Harvey Weinstein’s first response to the exposure of his misdeeds was to declare war against the National Rifle Association.
More, a lot more, at the link.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The New Brighton Cozy Coup Makes the News

KSTP-TV advances the story of the great New Brighton Election Switcheroo:
New Brighton's city clerk explained to Mayor Val Johnson and the four council members that changes in Minnesota statute allowed an opening for municipalities to change their city elections from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years. The ordinance states that because of the change, "the 2019 City election is hereby cancelled."

The effect of the new ordinance means Johnson and two council members – Mary Burg and Paul Jacobsen – will retain their seats until 2020 instead of running for re-election in 2019.

"It's very unusual, and I think the public should be aware of it," said Sharon Doffing, who lost the mayoral race to Johnson.
Yes, the public should be aware of it. Most people in New Brighton are not aware of it, though.

Naming Burg and Jacobsen in the story is equally important, because they benefit as much from the switch as Johnson, but have been mostly allowed to hide from the consequences of their vote.

For her part, Doffing makes the salient point:
Doffing said she felt voters got duped in the process, since the council did not begin discussing the ordinance change until after the November election.

"When you run for office, and it says on the ballot that you run for two years, and then somebody wins and suddenly they're in for three years – that doesn't seem fair," Doffing said.
It is a bait and switch. Of course, Mayor Johnson doesn't see it that way:
At the Dec. 12 council meeting, Mayor Johnson reacted to criticism from Bauman.

"I don't see where extending a term is self-serving by any means," Johnson said. "I also do not believe that we are hiding anything from the public."
Essentially, Johnson, Burg, and Jacobsen are arguing that because the plan for the vote was on the city website, they weren't hiding anything. That's also a self-serving fiction, because Johnson and her colleagues know almost no one looks at the website, especially when they have to wade through multiple clicks to get to the truth. Try the city's website for yourself. See how quickly you can find the information.

There will almost certainly be a referendum on the ballot in 2018, which I predict the City Council will ensure is printed on the back side of the ballot, grouped in with the judges and the soil and conservation district elections. Watch and see.

We'll continue to watch this story closely.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Just like Him

Satisfaction oozes from his pores.
At the outset, we must note that this guy is a psychologist:
A Los Angeles psychologist says he hand-delivered gift-wrapped package of manure to Steve Mnuchin's Bel Air mansion because the GOP tax bill is 'bulls***' .

Robby Strong identified himself as the man who dropped off a box of horse manure at Mnuchin's house in an interview with 
As a general rule, horse**** is even more unpleasant than bull****. But when you're dealing with psychologists, a little imprecision with the barnyard epithets to be expected. Meanwhile, Mr. Strong is quite with himself. And he'll admit to being a bit messianic:
He likened himself to Jesus and said the stunt was an 'act of political theater,' to show that 'Republicans have done nothing for the American worker.'

'What I did, I would like to compare to what Jesus did when he went into a temple and overturned the tables of money-changers, who were exploiting the people financially in the name of religion,' Strong told KPCC. 
Jesus was Abbie Hoffman, apparently. But Strong knows his cause is just. Check out his Facebook post:

Anals of history, he says
He's not the best proofreader, but if you're busy being messianic by transporting manure, I suppose attention to detail is a secondary consideration at best. Unfortunately, the Secret Service pays attention to detail and wasn't amused. But our man Strong says the incidental visit from the Secret Service was no big thing:

Right of passage -- only for hero's
You sometimes hear the term "thought leader" to describe those who strive to come up with better ideas and lead the hoi polloi to a better path. If you were to ask our would-be messiah if he is a thought leader, he'd likely agree. Our "hero's" have always been thought leaders, especially when they are psychologists. Just ask them:
A leading psychiatry group has told its members they should not feel bound by a longstanding rule against commenting publicly on the mental state of public figures — even the president.

The statement, an email this month from the executive committee of the American Psychoanalytic Association to its 3,500 members, represents the first significant crack in the profession’s decades-old united front aimed at preventing experts from discussing the psychiatric aspects of politicians’ behavior. It will likely make many of its members feel more comfortable speaking openly about President Trump’s mental health.

The impetus for the email was “belief in the value of psychoanalytic knowledge in explaining human behavior,” said psychoanalytic association past president Dr. Prudence Gourguechon, a psychiatrist in Chicago. “We don’t want to prohibit our members from using their knowledge responsibly.”
I'm guessing many members of this esteemed organization would argue Mr. Strong's knowledge is being used responsibly.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter Edition

Old dude, are you ready to celebrate Christmas this year?

I'm as holly jolly as anyone, young fella. And I have the Burl Ives physique to match:

True enough. But we're not just about wassailing, or whatever that is. We also have some football to watch, which is better than avoiding all of the boring NBA games where defense is an afterthought and the best players in the league seemingly forgot everything they learned in Little Dribblers.

I remember Little Dribblers! Playing basketball with a bib!

That's not it, although it's easy to see how you'd get confused. You remember the glorious days of my youth basketball experience at various gyms in the North Metro, right?

Sure. It was magic. But I didn't see LeBron there.

He wasn't good enough to hang with me. Yeah, that was a shot against the NBA, but it is time to feel the HYYYYYYYYPPPEE and watch me work!

Minnesota Vikings (-8) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. The Packers decided to roll with Brett Hundley once again now that they can't have another miracle playoff rally. I think that is a decision that makes sense, but the problem is that it is a defeatist choice. The Vikings are still hunting a first round bye, but part of me wonders if the Vikings are actually good, or if they have benefited from an NFC North that has not been as good as predicted.That is something that the Vikings homers on KFAN or in the Strib would rather not tell you, but I will because I am not beholden to those corporate narratives. The Vikings have to win the Super Bowl this year, because if they waste this chance then there will be some truth to the narrative about the Vikings we have been told for years. I think the Vikings will be a very tough out, but the Packers will get their revenge. Packers 24, Vikings 17.

It's possible, even without Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams. But it's gonna take some defense and the Packers haven't been playing much of that lately. If the Packers can turn this into a slog, they could win, but a few big plays and it won't be very merry at Lambeau. Vikings 27, Packers 20.

Cleveland Browns (+7) vs. Bear Down Chicago Da Bearz. If you choose to watch this game, you either are a very loyal fan, or really have nothing else to watch. These teams quite frankly suck this year. The Browns are lucky that they do not play in the Premier League, because they would have been relegated already. Da Bearz are hanging on to the hope that it is Trubisky Time, but he is having the normal growing pains. I like Da Bearz because they are slightly more competent. Plus, John Fox can be fired sooner so the Packers can hire Fangio as our next defensive coordinator. Da Bearz Still Suck 9, Clowns 0.

I like the Fangio idea rather a lot. The Bears defense has been far nastier than their available personnel would suggest they should be, so that's a sign of good coaching. As for the rest of it, well, the Bears should be thankful they are playing a terrible team. The Browns have talent, but they are a dumpster fire. It should keep Chicago warm for the holidays. Bears 20, Browns 13.

Merry Christmas, and enjoy this weekend. Watch football if you don't want to talk to family members. Ben out!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Another open thread

It's not so much not having the time to write, it's really about having the time to think about what you intend to write. We have multiple topics to discuss in the coming days.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

While we're doing this reckoning. . .

. . . let's really get down to it. Heading to theaters soon:

Remember, Ted Kennedy was the America's conscience. Consider this bit of wisdom from Neal Gabler:
What we loved and admired in him, what we hope for ourselves and our country, is his sense of moral largeness, his unbounded capacity to care, not because he was a saint but because he wasn't. By challenging us as he challenged himself, and reminding us where we fall short, Kennedy shames us, a gift that, one suspects, will linger in the national soul.
A guy who left a woman to drown in an Oldsmobile shames us. I suppose that's right, but not in the way Gabler thinks it does.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


None too subtle:
Jubilant Republicans pushed on early Wednesday to the verge of the most sweeping rewrite of the nation's tax laws in more than three decades, a deeply unpopular bill they insist Americans will learn to love when they see their paychecks in the new year. President Donald Trump cheered the lawmakers on, eager to claim his first major legislative victory.
Emphasis mine. It's unpopular because it's said to be unpopular. If you ask most people about the tax bill, they'll not be able to tell you why this dislike it, unless they are accountants. So we'll watch and see.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Get Your Mind Right

Joel Kotkin, making an important point about the state of play:
America’s authoritarian shift did not start with Trump’s election, but has been brewing for years. In the Obama years, we lived under “pen and phone” rule by decree that largely disempowered both Congress and local control. The former president’s legacy to the progressive coalition — paused briefly when power unexpectedly went to the GOP — means continued Democratic support for agglomeration of power in the executive.

This form of executive dictatorship is now more likely to return to the White House in 2020. The notion of enlightened rule from above may have even been further justified by the very fact that what Time’s Joe Klein has called “a nation of dodos” voted for Trump in the first place. The hoi polloi can be appealed to and cajoled, it appears, but not really trusted.
If you aren't sure who the hoi polloi are, you're one of them. Back to Kotkin:
Unlike Trump, whose political methods are both offensive and self-defeating, the mandarins can count on support from most of the media, the non-profit world and the ascendant techie wing of the tech/media oligarchy, what Daniel Bell called “the priests of the machine.” Unlike the factionalized Republicans, the new mandarinate — entertainment, news media, law, software — share a strong commitment to a common progressive ideology.

More important still, the mandarins control most of the means of communication, particularly those that attract younger people. This will assist, as our secular pontiff, Jerry Brown, put it, efforts to successfully “brainwash” the masses. China’s recently anointed emperor, Xi Jinping, admired by Brown and many other American mandarins, may emerge as the new role model. That is, after Xi has shown how control of education and media can work on getting the masses to embrace “right thinking.”
What is true and proper is whatever our betters tell us is true and proper. Better get your mind right.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Open thread

Events are again in the saddle. We have a lot to think about in the coming days, but I haven't had much time to write, so take things where you will. A few general comments:

  • I don't see there being any way that the Robert Mueller investigation will end other than as a constitutional crisis. This is blood sport, y'all.
  • We will be returning to the local scene in New Brighton soon. There's a lot to talk about there.
  • I heard the Packers lost. If you'd like to remind me, go ahead.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- No, We Did Not Forget Edition

I hear the people, asking if we forgot to do picks this week, and no we did not. We have been busy running around and shopping for gifts.

This the season to spend money, fa la la la la, etc.

Yeah, and watching bad bowl games, because who doesn't get a kick out of the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, which is fun for the whole family. Who doesn't enjoy watching bowl games that you would not watch if the teams met in the regular season?

R&L Carriers?

I assume. But that's it. And don't get me started on the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl!

What the hell is this?
Fun for the entire family. Point of order, though -- do you actually think that many people will be in the stands?

I won't be -- I know that much. But that's enough of that for now. It is time to feel the HYYYYYYPPPPEE! and watch me work!

Cincinnati Bungles (+10.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings still hold an ironclad grip on the NFC, but they were a bit loose in the turns last weekend in Charlotte. I still think the Vikings will win the division, but they need to win to avoid going to Lambeau to play a Packers team that has willed its way back into contention. The Bengals are a tough team who has played tough all year, but has not finished the deal a couple of times, and will not form a guard of honor for the Vikings on their quest to both make league history and erase their own tortured history. This is the biggest Viking home game since the playoff game against Seattle 2 years ago, and I think that questions will continue to be asked about the Vikings. Bengals 42, Vikings 24.

Hmmm. I dunno. It's possible the Vikings are going to be exposed, but I don't think it happens this week. The offensive line is starting to have problems, though, and that bears watching. If Case Keenum has to run for his life, it might be a problem. Vikings 27, Bengals 20.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (+2.5) vs. Carolina Panthers. The Packers got the good news from the bone density scan, and Aaron Rodgers will be starting again in Charlotte. The Packers are going to need to win, and get some help, but are certainly far from dead in the water. The Panthers are a tough out, and will have a lot of confidence from last week. I figure that Aaron will be a bit rusty, but he is one of two players in this league that tilt the playing field simply by being in uniform. I think the Packers gut out another tough win, and keep pace in the playoff hunt. Packers 26, Panthers 19.

Man, I hope you're right. And, by the way, so does the NFL. A triumphant return for Rodgers is just the think the league wants for ratings and storylines. The problem I see with the dream scenario is the Packers defense, which is still a few players short, especially on the back end. Getting to Cam early is going to be key. I'm going to drink the Kool-Aid for this one, but it's gonna be tough. Packers 31, Panthers 28.

We shall see if I am right. Enjoy the rest of your football this weekend, and Ben out!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Satisfied customers!

I love an endorsement! This from the New Brighton Political Exchange, a local FB nest of bien pensant thinkers:

And an endorsement from a former public servant who loves our work:

They don't like dissent much at the New Brighton Political Exchange. By the way, if you wonder why former Sen. Goodwin isn't particularly fond of our work, read this and this.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Mayor of New Brighton Engineers a Cozy Coup

So I went to the New Brighton City Council meeting on Tuesday, because I'd gotten wind that there would be skulduggery afoot. That's putting it mildly. Our friends at Enlighten New Brighton pick up the story:
 At the December 12 New Brighton City Council meeting not only did the council (with the exception of Council Member Gina Bauman who continued to stand up for the people of New Brighton in her final meeting) ram through a large tax levy increase and a hefty utilities increase, they also voted themselves an extra year on their terms of office. This occurred at the very end of a long and tedious meeting where many who started watching at home or in person likely gave up on it.
It was exceptionally tedious. The deed was done over two hours after the meeting began. How did it happen?
They did this in a sneaky manner by emphasizing that the purpose of the ordinance they passed was to improve voter participation numbers by moving city elections to even years. The wording of the ordinance conveniently omitted the fact that a recently changed state law provides that if the change moves the election year such that an existing term would expire before the new election day the term would, by default, be extended if the ordinance language did not explicitly address existing terms. This is exactly how the ordinance was carefully worded.
The upshot is this:
  • Mayor Valerie Johnson rewarded herself with an extra year before she has to face the voters; instead of having an election in 2019, she now gets to stay in her sinecure until 2020.
  • City council members Paul Jacobsen and Mary Burg, elected to four year terms in 2015, now get the extra year as well.
  • Incoming council members Graeme Allen and Emily Dunsworth now have a five-year first term.
You might remember Mayor Johnson, whose bravura tantrum concerning her own idiosyncratic formulation of white privilege earned her a few minutes on national television recently:

Since most of our fellow citizens weren't aware of the Mayor's, ahem, deportment, and because a concurrent school levy referendum was on the ballot, she was re-elected a month ago, to a two-year term that she has now made a 3-year term. Almost no one in the city was aware Mayor Johnson and her colleagues were planning this particular move. Our friends at Enlighten New Brighton pick up the story yet again:
The council's action wasn't a spur of the moment decision or an unintended consequence of a poorly worded ordinance - it was carefully and deliberately calculated and plotted at a council work session that took place on November 28.

Fortunately council work sessions are recorded and available on the city web site ( Unfortunately a lot of people probably did not view the term extension discussion as it occurred at over an hour into the meeting.
Go to the ENB site to see the actual video. Hit the link. Take a few minutes.

There's more to the story, as there always is. We'll be returning to the story in the coming days.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

No need to be coy, Roy

Random observations, following the news from Alabama.

  • I thought Roy Moore would win, but then again I though Hillary Clinton would win, too. It's difficult to make predictions about the voting patterns in a state you've never visited and, at best, any observations I could have made about the race would have been from a great distance and based on, at best, third-hand information. 
  • I suspect at least a few of Moore's accusers were lying, but there was enough underlying truth to the reports, and enough of an ick factor involved, that Moore was going to be tough to defend. Doug Jones, his opponent, is a down-the-line leftist and, in the end, the seat will go back the other way. Of course, a lot of damage can obtain in the interim. Expect a lot of posturing from the usual suspects -- Collins, Flake, Corker, et al. -- through the next year. But I suspect the Democrats will overplay their hand, because they always do.
  • The one thing I'm certain of is this -- if Al Franken were thinking about using a Moore victory as an excuse to stay in the Senate, that excuse is now gone. I recommend Franken and Garrison Keillor go out and start a new Chautauqua circuit so they can sneer at the people who deserve it. Perhaps they can do a morality play skit in which they expiate their sins by ululating in the general direction of an intersectional feminist planted in the audience.
  • I'm also wondering if the purges are going to slow down now -- the mob isn't going to materialize against Trump any more than it did against Bill Clinton, and for the same reason -- unless people are hurting in the wallet, they aren't ready to upset the applecart. I've long suspected Nixon would have survived if there hadn't been gas lines and other underlying economic tensions in the era.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Operatives in the shadows

We learn even more about the nature of Wisconsin Democrats, and it's ugly:
In the course of its secretive “John Doe” investigation, the [Government Accountability Board] hoovered up millions of personal emails from Republican donors and supporters, and even raided people’s homes, while forbidding them to talk about it.
We knew that. The "investigation" was supposed to stop after various courts told the GAB to stop. They didn't, though:
The prosecutors felt justified in these actions because they had already made up their minds about their targets’ guilt. As the report says, “After reviewing the emails exchanged between the attorneys at GAB, it is apparent that GAB attorneys had prejudged the guilt of Governor Walker, Wisconsin Republicans, and related organizations that they were investigating and this dramatically influenced their ability to give competent legal advice. GAB attorneys did not act in a detached and professional manner. The most reasonable inference is that they were on a mission to bring down the Walker campaign and the Governor himself.”

The investigation continued despite its failure to find anything like the sort of violations it was ostensibly intended to investigate. It continued despite court orders to stop. And prosecutors retained evidence (including medical and other records about Republican officials and donors, kept in a file labeled “opposition research”) even after being ordered by the Wisconsin Supreme Court to turn all the information over. It was a lawless exercise of prosecutorial power, for political ends.
It's unbelievable, really. A government-funded prosecution of political enemies? Whoever heard of such a thing? Guess we wouldn't want to draw any parallels, right? Or should we?
A senior Justice Department official demoted last week for concealing his meetings with the men behind the anti-Trump “dossier” had even closer ties to Fusion GPS, the firm responsible for the incendiary document, than have been disclosed, Fox News has confirmed: The official’s wife worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 election.

Contacted by Fox News, investigators for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) confirmed that Nellie H. Ohr, wife of the demoted official, Bruce G. Ohr, worked for the opposition research firm last year. The precise nature of Mrs. Ohr’s duties – including whether she worked on the dossier – remains unclear but a review of her published works available online reveals Mrs. Ohr has written extensively on Russia-related subjects. HPSCI staff confirmed to Fox News that she was paid by Fusion GPS through the summer and fall of 2016.

Fusion GPS has attracted scrutiny because Republican lawmakers have spent the better part of this year investigating whether the dossier, which was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, served as the basis for the Justice Department and the FBI to obtain FISA surveillance last year on a Trump campaign adviser named Carter Page.
So we have a spouse of a high-ranking Justice Department official working with an opposition research firm that's trying to bring down Donald Trump. And remember, what Robert Mueller is doing is investigating potential Trump malfeasance. The stench is getting awfully strong -- no wonder everyone would rather talk about Roy Moore.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Right to the point

Instapundit makes a 100% correct point about Trump's rise:
If George W. Bush — or Mitt Romney — had pushed back against the media 1/10 as hard as Trump does, there wouldn’t be a President Trump. For that matter, there wouldn’t be a President Trump if the media had pushed back against Barack Obama 1/10 as hard as they pushed against Bush, Romney, or Trump.
Marquess of Queensberry rules do not apply in a gunfight. I don't approve of Trump's boorishness in the least, but he takes the battle to his opponents and concedes them nothing. That's why he's president. And that's also why Roy Moore will be elected tomorrow in Alabama. You don't have to make your peace with that if you'd like, but it behooves you to understand the dynamics involved.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Morris and Trammell to the HOF

So I got confused and thought the Veterans' Committee was reporting later. Instead, they reported their votes today and we now know that Jack Morris and Alan Trammell are going into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Tigers, Tigers, burning bright

Out of the 10 finalists, these were probably the two best candidates, although I liked Ted Simmons or Luis Tiant as candidates as well. Morris is controversial because his stats aren't the most impressive, but he was the one guy you wanted to have in a big game throughout the 1980s. And, of course, he won Game 7 of the 1991 World Series almost by himself, shutting down the Atlanta Braves. He was a hell of a pitcher and he's worthy.

Trammell was a great player for a very long time. I think his double play partner, Lou Whitaker, was just as good, but it's still great to see Trammell make it. He wasn't as good as Robin Yount or Cal Ripken, but that's not the level of competition you compare him to. If you look at the 24 shortstops currently in the HOF, he would be in the top half, I think. Good choices. Now we await the other new members.

Quick and Dirty Baseball HOF Roundup

Who will join them?
It kinda snuck up on me this year, but it's a tradition and I have a little time this morning, so let's get to it, especially since the announcement will take place later today. The Veteran's Committee will weigh in later and that's worth a separate post.

First year candidates with no chance include:

Brad Lidge -- a good relief pitcher for a few years.
Jason Isringhausen -- a decent pitcher who never did anything notable.
Aubrey Huff -- a first baseman/outfielder type who lasted longer than you'd have expected.
Carlos Lee -- El Caballo. A power hitting outfielder who wasn't very good defensively.
Kevin Millwood -- a poor man's Brad Radke.
Orlando Hudson -- a good player, nothing more.
Carlos Zambrano -- a dominant pitcher at times, but could not sustain his career.
Chris Carpenter -- at times, a very good pitcher. Not enough of a career to go forward, though.

First year curiosities with no chance include:

Hideki Matsui -- a pretty good player, but not great. Came over from Japan and acquitted himself well.
Kerry Wood -- dominant power pitcher who blew out his arm and never really recovered. Tried to come back as a reliever, but only had one good year at that.
Livan Hernandez -- came over from Cuba and had a long career. Overall win/loss record was 178-177, which sums him up.

Five guys who will get more than one look:

Jamie Moyer -- similar profile to Tommy John and Jim Kaat, but in the modern era. Never dominant, but generally good and pitched until he was almost 50. He'll probably fall short for the same reason Kaat and John have, but winning 269 games in the major leagues is a hell of an accomplishment.
Omar Vizquel -- a long, distinguished career. Great defensive shortstop, many Gold Gloves. Not a great hitter. There are worse shortstops than Vizquel already in the Hall of Fame, but that doesn't mean he'll get there. I expect he'll be a source of much discussion for the next ten years.
Johnny Damon -- Very good hitter and defensive outfielder who was a key contributor on two World Series champions ('04 Red Sox, '09 Yankees). Had power and speed, too. Did he do enough to make it? Baseball-Reference compares his career to Vada Pinson and Steve Finley, who are both on the outside looking in. Damon will stay on the ballot, but my guess is he falls short.
Andruw Jones -- A challenging career to evaluate. He was an all-time great defensive outfielder for the first part of his career and he hit well over 400 home runs. But when he started to decline, he was terrible. And his career batting average (.254) is not even close to HOF-worthy. Here's the upshot -- if you had to choose, would you choose Jones or Dale Murphy? Murphy is on the outside looking in. What makes Jones better? That's the question for the voters.
Johan Santana -- Really an interesting case. Was perhaps the best pitcher in baseball for a period of about five years, but once the arm trouble hit he was never the same. You could make an argument that he's essentially a modern-day Sandy Koufax; in fact, I've seen that argument made. Santana won the Cy Young award twice. His WAR (51.4) is slightly ahead of Koufax's (49.0). If Koufax, and for that matter Pedro Martinez, are HOF pitchers, and no one seriously disputes they are, Santana ought to get a look.

Will make it, but not on the first ballot

Scott Rolen -- he's Ron Santo, but with a better glove. He was always a dangerous hitter and a very smart player, too. He's not better than Chipper Jones, who we will discuss next, but he's a HOF player in my estimation. The only third baseman in this era who is better is Adrian Beltre, but Rolen will be in the HOF before Beltre hits the ballot.

First year, should be in

Jim Thome -- one of the all-time great power hitters. The only knock you might have on him is he wasn't a great defensive player, but a guy who hits 612 home runs is an all-timer. And even though he played in the heart of the Steroid Era, no one for a second suspected he was a user. The Paul Bunyan of baseball.

Chipper Jones  -- a no-brainer, first-ballot, mortal lock. Lifetime batting average of .303, 468 home runs. Not a great defensive player, but never a liability. Remarkably consistent career -- if you could get a guy in your lineup for 20 years who hit .300 and drove in 30 home runs and 105 RBI, would you take him? Of course you would.

Returning to the ballot

I expect Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero to be elected this time, as both were over 70% on the balloting the previous year. I personally think Hoffman is overrated, but he was consistently good for a long time. I was a bit surprised that Vlady was as highly regarded the first time, but upon further consideration he has an excellent case for the HOF as a modern-day Andre Dawson type. Edgar Martinez is getting closer, but he may run out of time. Mike Mussina is climbing; he won't make it this year, but he should get there.

The interesting question is how we view Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Both were named on over 50% of the ballots the last time. Both are, of course, tainted with suspicion of using steroids. What makes it tough is this -- they were both HOF players before the Steroid Era really hit and if they'd simply retired, both would have been in the HOF. I don't know what to say about it. Meanwhile, the viability of the candidacies of Manny Ramirez and Gary Sheffield are both contingent on what happens with Clemens and Bonds.

Curt Schilling continues to hang around on the ballot, but I don't know if he'll make it. Benster thinks Larry Walker deserves more consideration than he's received thus far, a view that I'm coming around to -- yes, playing in Coors Field helped Walker, but he put up big numbers in Montreal, too, which was a terrible hitter's park. It's an endlessly fascinating subject. You can view the credentials of all the candidates at the invaluable Baseball-Reference website. Check it out.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- We Almost Forgot Edition

Old dude, we almost forgot to do our picks this week! What happened?

I think we were in a Cajun-induced coma, between my tasty jambalaya and your fried oyster po'boy at Bistro La Roux. Too much celebrating can take you off your game!

That's some good Cajun food. But now we need to get the HYYYYYYYPPPPPE! back. So we'll be brief about it. Watch me work!

Minnesota Vikings (-2.5) vs. Scam Newton and his Carolina Panthers. So, Scam Newton is going to try and stop the Vikings. He has a chance. The Vikings are a good team and should be viewed as a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The problem, as we all know, is for the Vikings to live down their amazing history of choking. I'm curious to see how the Vikings are going to respond after a loss. They will get to showcase that skill, but not this week. Vikings 24, Panthers 7.

I've been amazed by the rise of the Vikings, actually. No one saw it coming, especially with Case Keenum at the helm. As a Packers supporter, it would actually be better for the Vikings to win this game, as it would set up an opportunity for the Packers to catch and pass the Panthers in the wild card if a few things break correctly. The Packers will have their opportunity to deal with the Purple eventually, but for now, enjoy the ride, Vikings fans. Vikings 24, Panthers 20.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-3) vs. Cleveland Browns. I was at Lambeau last weekend and it was a great experience, as usual. The Packers are very much alive, but they cannot look past the Browns. Brett Hundley needs to play better than he did last week. I think he will, but this game will not be easy, since the Browns are, despite all appearances, a professional football team. Packers 17, Browns 9.

Josh Gordon makes me nervous. He's a great talent with something to prove and nothing to lose, while the Packers secondary is decimated with injuries. The key to this game for the Packers will be getting a pass rush, so that rookie Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer, who is actually younger than the Benster, doesn't feel as though he has a chance to throw the deep ball. I'm nervous! Packers 21, Browns 17.

Enjoy your football this weekend. We will! Ben out!

Friday, December 08, 2017

Good riddance

Al Franken resigned, sort of, from the Senate yesterday. It almost appeared he was trying to leave himself a little wiggle room, though:
 Facing a barrage of sexual harassment complaints and calls to step down from friends and foes alike, Sen. Al Franken took to the floor of the U.S. Senate Thursday to announce he would resign — a swift and historic fall for an unlikely Minnesota politician who had become one of the Democratic Party’s most recognizable leaders.

Franken was quick to explain that he was stepping down not because he thought he had done something wrong, but because he had determined that Minnesotans deserved a senator who wasn’t distracted by mounting allegations and a looming Senate Ethics Committee investigation.
Would resign. He hasn't yet. Could he try to wait it out and rescind his resignation if, say, the citizens of Alabama send Roy Moore to the Senate next week? If Mark Dayton delays announcing his replacement, that might be the game, but I don't it will happen. The moment Franken tried to wiggle out of the mess, more accusers would surface. I bet the eight women we've heard from are only a fraction of the people whose experiences would be something Franken "remembers differently." It would be helpful if, some day, a reporter would actually ask Franken precisely how his recollections differ from the accusations, and why we should choose to believe him. That question doesn't seem to get asked very much.

The long game for the Democrats is to go after Le Grand Orange, of course. Everything they do these days is designed to get rid of Trump. I don't know that it will work, though. For every scandal the Democrats attempt to hang on Trump, there are others tied to their party that are worse. We'll have plenty to talk about in the coming days and weeks.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

il miglior fabbro

From exotic Wichita, Bud Norman sums up the Masterpiece Cakeshop case correctly:
Those got-durned liberal fashion designers who decline to design dresses for President Donald Trump’s third First Lady deserve the same right, and so does any black baker who declines to decorate a cake with a confederate flag, and so does any homosexual baker who declines the Westboro Baptist Church’s request for a “God hate fags” cake. Outside of the legal arguments and here on the personal level, there’s no way of restricting one person’s liberty without eventually restricting the liberty of someone on the other side of political or cultural divide.
Public accommodation vs. free association. They don't have to be mutually exclusive. We'll have to see what Anthony Kennedy thinks.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Mene Mene Franken Upharsin

At the moment, Al Franken is calling reports that he is going to resign tomorrow premature, but he's gone and he knows it. You can't have half your caucus calling for you to resign and then expect to survive. He has been weighed and found wanting in the court of public opinion, and his continued presence in the Senate complicates the efforts of his party to keep the heat on Roy Moore. If Chuck Schumer wants Franken out, he'll be out. And Schumer wants him out.

So that means Mark Dayton will be appointing a successor. The Star Tribune believes Lt. Gov. Tina Flint "Abbatoir" Smith, former Planned Parenthood honcho, will get the nod as a caretaker and that a full-on raging battle for the seat will take place in the fall 2018 special election to fill the seat for the remaining two years of Franken's term. The notion is Smith will not be interested in staying in Washington. Are we sure of that? It's pretty nice in D.C. and I'm sure Planned Parenthood would love to have their own personal senator, beyond the 48 or so they already have.

So let's handicap the field:

Tina Flint Smith. Whether she'd want to stay or not, she'd be a completely loyal soldier for Schumer. She also would not likely get in the way of Amy Klobuchar's ambitions. I think there's a strong chance she'd get the nod.

Lori Swanson. Currently the attorney general, she's better at making waves and offering soundbites than Smith, but her prosecutor profile is perhaps a little too close to Klobuchar's for Amy's comfort. However, if Dayton wants to reward Swanson for her hard work as a DFL apparatchik by giving her a head start, this could happen.

Keith Ellison. Some of the more excitable conservative commentators think Ellison would be the pick, but I don't see it. I seriously doubt he could win a statewide election, and there have been enough rumors about his zipper issues over the years that he could get the same treatment Franken has received. He's reached his career apex as the congressman for CD-5 and he's smart enough to know it.

Betty McCollum. She's stayed in Washington for nearly 20 years by living inside the lapel pocket of Nancy Pelosi. If McCollum ran for statewide office, she'd have to speak. That wouldn't go well for her. No chance.

Ilhan Omar. The DFL has high hopes for her, but she's not ready. And Scott Johnson has a few questions for her that she's never really answered.

Chris Coleman. The outgoing St. Paul mayor, who wants Mark Dayton's job, but Tim Walz is standing in the way. I could see Coleman making the switch from the governor's race and take a shot at the seat in 2018, especially if Smith gets the nod and does not run. It's also possible for Walz to decide he'd rather run for the Senate, but I think he'll have a better chance running for governor.

John Choi. A darkhorse. Currently the Ramsey County attorney, he's been less overtly partisan than some of the other county attorneys and he's been generally successful in navigating a couple of high-profile cases, especially involving the scandals at the Archdiocese. He didn't get Jeronimo Yanez convicted, but sending a cop to jail is awfully tough to do. He could get the seat and hold it for 30 years.

Who do you think will get the nod? Cast your vote in the comments section!

I Wanna Destroy You

First, a little musical number:

We're into destroying things, and people, lately. In discussing the latest round of sexual harassment mongers, Victor Davis Hanson noticed it:
So what are the common pathologies to all these male icons — who are falling as fast as Confederate statutes a few months ago, in our earlier manifestation of collective moral frenzy?
I get nervous when collective moral frenzy gets rolling. It's pitchforks and torches all the way down these days and the capriciousness of it all is troubling. I hold no brief for any of the people accused; I'll also admit I am amused to see nasty, sanctimonious people like Al Franken get their indiscretions broadcast to a less-than-adoring public.

But still. . . ought not a moral imperative be involved? Is there a moral imperative involved? Are we sure? It's striking that Minnesota Public Radio hasn't just removed Garrison Keillor from its airwaves; instead, MPR and its parent company are wiping out any references to Keillor they have. It's the same notion as pulling down a Confederate statue; ought we be in the business of pretending things we now find unpleasant no longer can be mentioned?

Back to our song, written around 1980. Does this stanza ring out?

A pox upon the media
And everything you read
They tell you your opinions
And they're very good indeed

 That almost perfectly captures the argument of any critic of the MSM. I don't have a problem at all with calling down a pox on the poseurs and charlatans who tell me my opinions off their teleprompters. At the same time, can we find any coherent set of principles currently on offer? Or are we all about power -- taking it and using it? Because if we are, there's more to the song:

I wanna destroy you
And when I have destroyed you
I'll come picking at your bone
And you won't have a single atom left
To call your own

Personally, I don't have too many atoms other people would want to have, but still. If the only thing that matters is will, we're in a dangerous place.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Keyser Soze Strzok

A former top counterintelligence expert at the FBI, now at the center of a political uproar for exchanging private messages that appeared to mock President Donald Trump, changed a key phrase in former FBI Director James Comey's description of how former secretary of state Hillary Clinton handled classified information, according to US officials familiar with the matter.

Electronic records show Peter Strzok, who led the investigation of Hillary Clinton's private email server as the No. 2 official in the counterintelligence division, changed Comey's earlier draft language describing Clinton's actions as "grossly negligent" to "extremely careless," the sources said.

The drafting process was a team effort, CNN is told, with a handful of people reviewing the language as edits were made, according to another US official familiar with the matter.
Why does changing the verbiage matter? Back to the report:
The shift from "grossly negligent" to "extremely careless," which may appear pedestrian at first glance, reflected a decision by the FBI that could have had potentially significant legal implications, as the federal law governing the mishandling of classified material establishes criminal penalties for "gross negligence."

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, raised questions over why the change was made after receiving documents from the FBI last month, but the identity of who was behind the edit has not been reported until now.
Strzok appears to be at the center of a lot of things:
CNN has also learned that Strzok was the FBI official who signed the document officially opening an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, according to sources familiar with the matter. As the No. 2 official in counterintelligence, Strzok was considered to be one of the bureau's top experts on Russia.

But the news of Strzok's direct role in the statement that ultimately cleared the former Democratic presidential candidate of criminal wrongdoing, now combined with the fact that he was dismissed from special counsel Robert Mueller's team after exchanging private messages with an FBI lawyer that could be seen as favoring Clinton politically, may give ammunition to those seeking ways to discredit Mueller's Russia investigation.
The FBI lawyer in question is Lisa Page. Strzok was also having an affair with her. But there's more:
The FBI agent who was fired from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation team for sending anti-Donald Trump text messages conducted the interviews with two Hillary Clinton aides accused of giving false statements about what they knew of the former secretary of state’s private email server.

Neither of the Clinton associates, Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin, faced legal consequences for their misleading statements, which they made in interviews last year with former FBI section chief Peter Strzok.
And so who was in charge of the interview with Michael Flynn, now in the crosshairs for lying to the FBI? It would be our guy Strzok:
But another Strzok interview subject was not so lucky.

Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, pleaded guilty last week to lying during an interview he gave on Jan. 24 to Strzok and another FBI agent. Circa journalist Sara Carter reported on Monday that Strzok took part in that interview with the retired lieutenant general.
And why does that matter?
At the time, Strzok was the FBI’s top investigator on the fledgling investigation into Russian interference in the presidential campaign. He was appointed to supervise that effort at the end of July 2016, just weeks after the conclusion of the Clinton email probe. CNN reported on Monday that as the FBI’s No. 2 counterintelligence official, Strzok signed the documents that officially opened the collusion inquiry.
The starkly different outcomes from Strzok’s interviews — a felony charge against Flynn and a free pass to Mills and Abedin — are sure to raise questions from Republicans about double-standards in the FBI’s two most prominent political investigations. FBI Director Christopher Wray will likely be pressed on the Strzok scandal on Thursday when he attends an oversight hearing before the House Judiciary Committee.
Either we have a justice system, or we don't. Either we treat everyone in the same way, or we don't. If we don't, we're past the rule of law and fully into something entirely different. When federal agents are simultaneously political operatives and use their powers to absolve their friends and indict their enemies, we are in a truly dangerous place. Mueller and others associated with the FBI have been stonewalling Congress for months now, precisely because proper oversight would reveal such improprieties and lead to a public outcry against the schemes of those who are supposed to serve the cause of justice. And there's more:
Along with Justice Department attorney David Laufman, Strzok interviewed Clinton herself on July 2, 2016. The pair also interviewed Mills, Abedin and two other Clinton aides, Jake Sullivan and Heather Samuelson.

Summaries of the interviews, known as 302s, were released by the FBI last year.

A review of those documents conducted by The Daily Caller shows that Mills and Abedin told Strzok and Laufman that they were not aware of Clinton’s server until after she left the State Department.

“Mills did not learn Clinton was using a private server until after Clinton’s [Department of State] tenure,” reads notes from Mills’ May 28, 2016 interview. “Mills stated she was not even sure she knew what a server was at the time.”

Abedin also denied knowing about Clinton’s server until leaving the State Department in 2013.

“Abedin did not know that Clinton had a private server until about a year and a half ago when it became public knowledge,” the summary of Strzok’s interview with Abedin states.
But that wasn't true:
But undercutting those denials are email exchanges in which both Mills and Abedin either directly discussed or were involved in discussing Clinton’s server.

“hrc email coming back — is server okay?” Mills asked in a Feb. 27, 2010 email to Abedin and Justin Cooper, a longtime aide to Bill Clinton who helped set up the Clinton server.

“Ur funny. We are on the same server,” Cooper replied.
So is lying to the FBI a crime, or is it not? Here's James Comey on the matter in 2016:
Former FBI Director James Comey defended the Clinton aides’ inconsistent statements in a House Judiciary Committee hearing held on Sept. 28, 2016.

“Having done many investigations myself, there’s always conflicting recollections of facts, some of which are central [to the investigation], some of which are peripheral,” Comey told Jason Chaffetz, a former Utah congressman who served on the committee last year.

Chaffetz was not buying Comey’s dismissive response.

“I think she lied to everybody,” he said of Mills in an interview on Fox News the night of the Comey hearing.

“There’s direct evidence that she actually did know [about the server],” said Chaffetz, who added that Comey’s defense of Mills “makes no sense.”
If Michael Flynn should be brought to justice for lying to the FBI, then Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills should be, too. Either we have a justice system, or we have something else. It's increasingly clear we have something else.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Song of the day

Integrating my social media efforts:

High school. It was fun then. Still is.

A busy news weekend, but. . .

I think it can be dispensed with quickly enough. Three quick observations:

  • I tend to think there's less to the news than meets the eye. Yes, the Senate passed a tax bill, but it's going to conference, so we don't know how things are going to look in the end. I'm amused to see the Democrats screaming about how slipshod the Senate bill was, complete with handwritten additions and whatnot. Do they not remember the Obamacare process? Further proof that politicians will say any damn thing to support their current argument.
  • As for Robert Mueller claiming a scalp, it may not mean much. As has been pointed out elsewhere, most notably by Alan Dershowitz, by getting Michael Flynn to plead guilty to lying to the FBI, Mueller and his claque have established that their potential key witness is a liar. Nice work, gents.
  • In truth, the most important news, at least around here, is the giant sinkhole in Oakdale, caused by a failed water main in the area. Since I-694 will be closed in the area for days, traffic is going to be a nightmare throughout the east metro. There's a much larger story here; our infrastructure is vulnerable virtually everywhere. I thought we were going to be spending billions, if not trillions, to fix our infrastructure following the 2008 financial crisis. Sure wonder where the hell all that money went.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Lambeau Bound Edition

Old dude, I'm going east tomorrow. I'm going to personally supervise the Packers getting back into shape! That's right, I'll be at Lambeau Field on Sunday!

And for a December game, it won't be -20 for a change!

That's because the weather service brought the heat, so I'm bringing the HYYYYYYYPPPE!

We'll be watching for you -- don't cause any incidents, okay?

I won't. But first we have some bidness. Watch me work!

Big XII Title Game, at Jerryworld. Oklahoma Sooners (-7) vs. TCU Horned Frogs. I know this game does not involve Alabama, but if TCU wins the game, it gives Alabama a back door into the playoffs. I don't want that to happen, but I think there is a chance it will. This game is essentially a TCU home game, as the Horned Frogs are only 15 miles or so from their campus in Fort Worth. Combine that with this game being a rematch, and you have to wonder how Oklahoma is going to find the way to make this happen. TCU 24, Oklahoma 21.

I've seen Baker Mayfield a few times. He's pretty good. TCU has a pretty good defense, but last time the Sooners put 38 up on the Horned Frogs and they never got into the game. A fast start for the Sooners would be death. Oklahoma 31, TCU 20.

B1G Title Game, at the House that Peyton Manning Built -- Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (+5) vs. That School in Columbus. Once again, the Badgers are getting no respect, despite being an undefeated team. It's like this:

The critics are wearing blindfolds yet again! Ohio State has a problem entirely of their own making. They are so mad about what happened on the sidelines last weekend that I suspect they've lost some focus. No one cares about the camera guy who may or may not have hit J.T. Barrett. Combine that outrage with Ohio State's already noxious campaign to get into the playoff and you have to wonder whether they even realize there's going to be a team on the other side of the field. The team on the other side of the field is 12-0. The Badgers will win the most important game they have played in my lifetime. And still won't get any respect. Wisconsin vs. Everyone 35, Ohio State 17.

Remember that bit about getting jumped early? That's the key here. The only thing that makes me nervous about this Badgers team is their quarterback's bad habit of throwing careless interceptions early on. You can get by with that sort of thing against lesser Big Ten teams, but not the Buckeyes. The Badgers need to be crisp and ready to roll. I think they will be, but it's going to be a struggle. Badgers 27, Ohio State 24.

Minnesota Vikings (+3) vs. Hotlanta Falcons. So what's the next trick for the Fighting Keenums? The Vikings are clearly in control in the NFC North, but this is a game that will give them problems. The Falcons still have a potent offense and I question the ability of Trae Waynes to cover Mohamed Sanu. Everyone pays attention to Julio, but the other guy makes plays, too. I also think the Vikings are going to struggle with the running game -- I have called Atlanta's run defense their hidden strength. This game is a trap game for the Vikings. Let's see how the Vikings respond to a little adversity as they step up in class. Falcons 45, Vikings 31.

Bet the over, then? I'm not so sure about that. I think it will be closer than that, and lower scoring, too. But I think the Falcons are going to be a tough out at home. Falcons 24, Vikings 20.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+2) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. I will be taking this game in at Lambeau, sitting with a part owner, my aunt. It's her birthday on Sunday and she will be expecting her employees to perform well on her behalf. Will it happen? Yes. Tampa is not a very good team, although they have talent. The Packers looked a lot better last week against Pittsburgh and I think Brett Hundley turned the corner. I will have a lot of fun regardless, but the Packers better win. You don't want to see my aunt when she's angry at her employees. Packers 45, Bucs 0.

Uh, no. I like the Packers in this one, but they aren't going to win by that margin. They will win comfortably, however. Packers 27, Bucs 17.

I think that's it. I have to pack my bag and get ready to go to Lambeau. Last time I was there, it looked like this:

I'm not saying it happens again, but you never know. Ben out!

Not a world I know

I watched the Today Show periodically when I was in high school and college, but it's not been part of my morning routine as an adult. As a result, I don't really know much about Matt Lauer, or Ann Curry, or Meredith Vieira, or any of the other players in the particular psychodrama going on right now. From what we've learned in recent days, Lauer is a scoundrel of the first order and maybe more than that.

What I do know is the world they inhabit has little to do with the world most of their viewers experience. The familiarity of television personalities is artificial and we really know nothing of their lives beyond the reach of the cameras. I also know this -- if you are a serious person, you should take the promises you make seriously, especially where Topic A is concerned. While I am hardwired to notice the physical attributes of all women, I'm a married man and therefore I shouldn't be trying to get into a physical relationship with any woman aside from my spouse. Cheating on one's spouse is a betrayal at the most basic level. Matt Lauer is a married man. If you are willing to betray someone you promise to share your life with, you aren't someone who can be trusted. We need to remember that.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Another tell

Garrison Keillor, expatriate:
“It’s astonishing that 50 years of hard work can be trashed in a morning by an accusation,” he said in a Facebook post Wednesday evening. “I always believed in hard work and now it feels sort of meaningless. Only a friend can hurt you this badly. I think I have to leave the country in order to walk around in public and not feel accusing glances.”
There is more to this story. From the Star Tribune article:
Although he stepped away from “Prairie Home,” Keillor retained a producer credit and continued to record his daily feature, “The Writer’s Almanac,” for syndication by MPR’s distribution arm, St. Paul-based American Public Media.

MPR said it would halt that feature. It also will separate itself from the Pretty Good Goods online catalog, which sells Keillor merchandise, and the website

“I’m in shock,” new host Thile wrote on Twitter. “I know nothing beyond what’s contained in the MPR statement but I trust that the proper steps are being taken.”
Minnesota Public Radio wouldn't turn Keillor into a nonperson and disavow his brand entirely if there weren't. If Keillor needs to leave the country, it's not because an ambivalent mob is at his door. Keillor was the biggest cash cow MPR has ever had, and likely ever will have. The people on the MPR board are all highly experienced business executives. The board wouldn't cut ties with someone as important as Keillor has been to MPR based on a hearsay single incident. And Keillor knows that. There's something else going on. We won't find out what it is right away, but we will find out. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Game on

Ace Commenter Gino had the idea:

time for a Perve Pool. name 5 creeps who are going down before the end of the year.

i'll go...

Anderson Cooper
Roger Goodell
Geraldo Rivera
Chuck Schumer
Rahm Emmanuel

I'll play. I must say Gino has taken the favorite in the clubhouse. Geraldo doth protest too much lately. I would be more surprised if Geraldo wasn't one.

My five:

Stephen Colbert
Bill de Blasio
Joe Biden (hanging curve ball, amirite?)
Bill Nye
Ted Lieu

You can play, too, in the comment section. Pick your five. We'll post 'em and see what happens. Have at it!

Robespierre Goes to Lake Wobegon

I don't much care about Matt Lauer, but Garrison Keillor getting the pipe is a story:
Garrison Keillor, the force behind the popular “A Prairie Home Companion” show, was fired by Minnesota Public Radio over inappropriate behavior claims.

The radio station received a complaint about improper actions with an employee while he oversaw the popular Saturday afternoon radio show, the station said in a lengthy statement. He retired from it last year.

“MPR takes these allegations seriously and we are committed to maintaining a safe, respectful and supportive work environment for all employees and everyone associated with MPR,” the broadcaster said in a statement.

The station has cut ties with Keillor’s private companies, the statement continued.
Truth be told, I'm not surprised at all. Keillor has been a hateful crank for at least 25 years. The tell for me was the publication of The Book of Guys, which I always assumed was an admission of sins and/or cry for help rather than a work of satire. Misanthropes are the way they are for a reason, and the reason is usually self-loathing. I'm sure we'll learn more about the particulars in the coming days, but Keillor has only intermittently tried to disguise his bile for a long time now. Let's just say this moment has been coming, and in the current environment Keillor was a high-probability target for the tumbrels.

Need to know basis

Ann Althouse, making a point that needs to be made:
"Don’t get in the elevator with him, you know, and the whole every female in the press corps knew that, right, don’t get in elevator with him."

"Now people are saying it out loud. And I think that does make a difference."

Said newswoman Cokie Roberts, speaking about John Conyers. The question, of course, is why didn't she or any of the other women in the press corps say it out loud? And what are you still not saying out loud?
That's for Cokie to know and you to find out. If she thinks you should. Or you can take the stairs.

Top of the world

The day of reckoning approaches:
North Korea said Wednesday that it fired a brand-new intercontinental ballistic missile into the waters off Japan, ending a more than two-month hiatus by Pyongyang and threatening to ramp up tensions with the U.S. and in the region.

In a nationally televised broadcast, North Korea’s state television said that it had successfully fired a more advanced ICBM, which it dubbed the Hwasong-15 and which it said was capable of reaching any point on the U.S. mainland, in a launch personally ordered by leader Kim Jong Un.

Mr. Kim was quoted by state media as saying that, with the success of the new missile, “We have finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.”

Independent experts said that the launch sent a North Korean missile higher than ever before, demonstrating a trajectory that could put Washington, D.C., in range. It triggered an unusually robust reaction from South Korea, which quickly responded with a battery of missile launches of its own.
So this regime can now reach just about anyplace in the United States they'd like. Then again, there's this revelation concerning a North Korean soldier who defected:
A doctor who operated on him at the Ajou University Hospital after he was rescued by South Korean troops told reporters that "an enormous number" of parasites were found in the soldier’s body, including an 11-inch worm. Oh was also described by medics as a "nice guy" who liked American movies and TV shows and South Korean K-pop music. 
The worms are worms, but they are also a metaphor. I suspect the gig is just about up for Kim Jong-Un and his pals, but they are going to give us the full Cagney:

We can go around casting for recriminations until the day the bomb hits. I don't care which former president you choose to blame, because it could be anyone from Bill Clinton forward. Trump gets to deal with the problem. He says he will. We're at the point where it can't really wait much longer.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Where the (damaged) door hits you

A curious tale coming out of Dinkytown:
Demry Croft, the sophomore quarterback who after Saturday’s loss to Wisconsin asked Gophers coach P.J. Fleck for his release from the program, on Monday night said he’ll transfer from Minnesota and that he was falsely accused of damaging a door, which led to a suspension early in the season.

“After this semester ends I will be transferring from the University of Minnesota,’’ Croft posted in a statement on Twitter. “Due to the unfortunate situation I have decided to leave the football program and the University of Minnesota. I was falsely accused of damaging a door. Which I was indefinitely suspended for. The video clearly shows my innocence. Which has created a very uncomfortable environment. Which my family and I have decided to depart from the University and start a new chapter.’’

Croft in his statement also thanked former Gophers coach Jerry Kill for recruiting him and the current staff for this season.
No word on whether the damaged door was caused by Croft not carrying his oar properly. It's far more likely that Croft is getting run off because Fleck is bringing in a new quarterback. It's possible Fleck will succeed here, but his first year has been something less than, well, elite.

In which I actually agree with the Star Tribune editorial board

It's rare, but the Strib editorial board is reading Al Franken's modified limited hangout properly:
The Minnesota Democrat said in one interview it was important "that we listen to women," but then refuted the story of Leeann Tweeden, the USO entertainer who accused him of shoving his tongue down her throat during a rehearsed "kiss." He recalls "a normal rehearsal," but didn't elaborate. On the subsequent allegations of women who say he groped them during photos — specifically, that he grabbed their buttocks — Franken apologized, but for what, exactly?

He said he does not recall groping and said he "would never intentionally" squeeze or grope a woman but often hugs people. Is he suggesting these women could not distinguish between a friendly embrace and groping? Or that at his age he somehow groped unintentionally? Can one credibly apologize for acts without acknowledging they occurred?
Yep. And there's more:
Under such circumstances, Franken's apology is less a statement of accountability and more akin to "I'm sorry for what you think I did." 
Don't ask Al what he thinks of you, he might not give the answer that you want him to.

My guess -- the Dems and their allies don't really want Al Franken to be the hill on which they die. I suspect others have done far worse things than Franken, who as always is more of an opportunist than anything else. You can safely assume a lot of other people in the 202 area code have stories that they would prefer are not shared. Franken also does not face the voters until 2020. He's dearly hoping the news cycle will move on. Most likely, it will.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Weekend wrapup

Sort of a lightning round, I guess:

  • Apparently saving John Conyers and Al Franken is more important than defeating Roy Moore; that's the best conclusion I can draw from this weekend's latest political machinations. Sexual misconduct of varying degrees brings the ick factor, but it's not good form for Conyers to end his long career with his pants around his ankles. And, apparently, Al Franken does enjoy the droit du seigneur and can get by with the random grope because his followers were able to manufacture enough votes in 2008 to get him over the top, so to speak. The Dems were hoping to steal a seat in Alabama, but if they have to protect their own people from accusations over their sexual conduct, they aren't going to be able to attack Moore's long past predations. It's a tough gig to go full-on Victorian when your entire party is about smashing conventions most of the time.
  • I usually leave the football ranting to Benster, but I am amused at the transparent machinations of College Football, Inc., LLC, in trying to keep a lid on the Wisconsin Badgers. The Badgers don't play a particularly marketable style of football but are nonetheless undefeated, a claim no other team in the so-called Power 5 can make. From what I can tell, the only team in the Big Ten that is allowed to be discussed in polite company is Ohio State, who must stop the Badgers to prevent them from gaining a national audience. It would not do for the vaunted Committee to leave the Badgers on the outside if they win the Big Ten Championship, so something must be done. ESPN has invested a lot of coin in the Southeastern Conference, and their prerogatives must be at the forefront. The Big Ten is in bed with Fox, so a representative that isn't Ohio State is a problem. 
  • Must protect precious. Must protect precious.
  • Time sells itself to a company associated with the Koch Brothers. It will be interesting to see if we see a change in how Time Magazine (yes, they are still in business) operates now.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Time to Be Elite, Boys and Girls, Edition

All right, I have returned from Galesburg and I am fully prepared to be elite!

So that wasn't you who made the air smell like manure on Monday?

No, but I can see how you were confused. You're easily confused these days. D does stand for dementia, right?

Not yet. But it gives me something to shoot for.

As we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving today, I always think of the feast to come:

Bon Appetit!

If you don't like being with your family today, remember, it could be worse. You could be a Lions fan!

I wouldn't wish that on anyone. How cruel.

Be thankful for you life, Geritol Fan. Be thankful for the HYYYYYYYYPPPPE! And watch me work!

Minnesota Vikings (-3.5) vs. Detroit LOLions. Well, the Vikings have been having a season that has been going much better than many observers would have expected. They are in control in the NFC North and show no signs of letting the Lions back into the driver's seat. There is one problem, though. Case Keenum is getting a lot of credit for the success of the Vikings; some of this credit is unwarranted. More credit should be given to the organizational stability of the Vikings; Rick Spielman has made some good personnel decisions and the Vikings defense has been quietly playing very well. The Lions are a team that gets by on their ability to rally in the 4th quarter. While that's an impressive trait, it's hard to sustain. I expect this game to be close, but I think the Vikings should not plan on coming home with a victory. Lions 31, Vikings 29.

The Lions are a pretty good outfit, but if you line them up they don't really match up well in this game. Darius Slay needs to take Adam Thielen out of the game, but I'm not sure he can do that. Neither team runs the ball that well, so I expect a lot of passes. That should favor the Lions, but not today. Vikings 27, Lions 23.

That School in Columbus (-12.5) vs. Michigan Harbaughs. The Champions of the West are currently 3rd in the East, so if you're confused, ask Jim Delaney. We will talk a little more next week about That School in Columbus, but this is a game they can't overlook. Michigan looked pretty good in Madison last weekend, but eventually the Badgers wore them down. This game is Michigan's Super Bowl. As is my custom, I will pick against the Buckeyes and hope that the administration sees fit to remove Urban Meyer after the season is over. Michigan 24, That School in Columbus 12.

There was a famous quote attributed to Henry Kissinger, when he was discussing the 1980s era war between Iran and Iraq. He said the best outcome would be if both sides lost. That's generally how most Big Ten fans feel about this game. On balance, I prefer Michigan as a school and a program, but on the field you have to assume the Buckeyes will get it done this time. Ohio State 31, Michigan 27.

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-17.5) vs. Minnesota Golden Elite Rowers of the Boat. P.J. Fleck is the gift that keeps on giving, but lately his Elite Rowers of the Boat have been capsizing with alarming frequency. So he's gone back to the source of great inspiration:

You want to get some, you'd better bring some, there, P.J.! The Badgers will not be looking ahead to the Big Ten Championship Game. I freely admit this game is going to be difficult, because the Badgers have not started well in most games this season. I also expect the Elite Rowers of the Boat to jump out quickly. But the Badgers should wear them down, like they've done to every other opponent on their schedule. The Badgers should win and might get some help this weekend. Badgers 31, Row Row Row Your Boat Elitely 17.

The Gophers aren't bereft of talent, but it doesn't add up to much. I think the Badgers are going to force Gophers quarterback Demry Croft to win the game. I don't think he can. And while the Gophers have some talent, especially on their defensive line, the typical Badger attrition strategy will work as designed. Badgers 38, Gophers 14.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (+14) vs. Pittsburgh Stillers. Packers fans, I have good news for you. I'll be going to Green Bay next Sunday to whip them into shape. Meanwhile, the Pack has an unpleasant trip to Pittsburgh to deal with. As strange as this may sound, this is going to be a difficult game for the Steelers. The long break they had might have sapped some of their momentum. And as bad as the Packers looked against the Ravens, I know they can play better. Let's just hope my trip to Lambeau is going to have a less of a hostile feeling. Packers 24, Steelers 7.

Uh, no. Are yinz nuts? I love my Packers, but as this photo from last week's game indicates, things aren't so great:

If you look carefully, you'll see Davante Mays fumbling
The NFL being the NFL, I could see this going weird, but the Pittsburgh defense will have our guy Hundley even more befuddled than he was last week. Not sure what you do about that. I'm just hoping he doesn't get injured, because if Joe Callahan gets into the game, it will look like this:

I remember the bad old days. Yes, I do. Steelers 28, Packers 10.

Oh, ye old dude of little faith! Have a Happy Thanksgiving. And if you don't like your family, watch football! Ben out!