Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Acting Attorney General Warhol

In the future, everyone will be Eliot Richardson for 15 minutes:
President Donald Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates as conflict escalated over his executive order banning entry to the U.S. by citizens of seven predominantly Muslim nations.

Yates, an Obama administration holdover, was ousted Monday just hours after she told Justice Department staff not to defend the ban in court because she didn’t think it was legal. A White House statement said she was removed for “refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.” 
An acting attorney general who runs the office on whim? Yeah, that sounds like someone from the Obama administration. There's more:
Trump quickly named another Obama appointee to the post, Dana Boente, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, who instructed the department’s lawyers to defend the immigration ban against legal challenges. Boente would stay until Trump’s choice for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is confirmed by the Senate -- though Democrats are vowing a vicious fight to block the nomination.
We can argue the merits of Trump's decision; I fully expect we'll be arguing the merits of all of Trump's decisions rather a lot over the next four years. What is unacceptable is the idea that an attorney general, even an acting one, can take the law into her own hands. Yates admits as much:

My role is different from that of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), which, through administrations of both parties, has reviewed Executive Orders for form and legality before they are issued. OLC’s review is limited to the narrow question of whether, in OLC’s view, a proposed Executive Order is lawful on its face and properly drafted. Its review does not take account of statements made by an administration or it surrogates close in time to the issuance of an Executive Order that may bear on the order’s purpose. And importantly, it does not address whether any policy choice embodied in an Executive Order is wise or just. 

Similarly, in litigation, DOJ Civil Division lawyers are charged with advancing reasonable legal arguments that can be made supporting an Executive Order. But my role as leader of this institution is different and broader. My responsibility is to ensure that the position of the Department of Justice is not only legally defensible, but is informed by our best view of what the law is after consideration of all the facts. In addition, I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right. At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the Executive Order is lawful.

Emphasis mine. In other words, Yates felt she had the ability to determine what is "wise or just." And that's a problem, as Jonathan Adler writes at the Washington Post:
A few quick observations. First, the statement seems to indicate that the executive order was reviewed by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which apparently concluded that the executive order was lawful. Second, Yates does not claim that she cannot defend the executive order because it is unconstitutional or because the Justice Department would be unable to offer good-faith arguments in defense of its legality. To the contrary, Yates claims she is ordering the Justice Department not to defend the executive order because it is not “wise or just.” This is quite significant. I am not aware of any instance in which the Justice Department has refused to defend a presumptively lawful executive action on this basis.
That's because there is no basis for defying a lawful executive action. And this is where the comparison to Eliot Richardson, who refused to fire Archibald Cox during the Nixon years, is apt. Back to Adler:
Some have asked what I think AAG Yates should have done, given her views of the EO. My answer is simple: Resign, and then publicly explain her reasons for doing so. If Yates believes that the President’s various comments about a “Muslim ban” undermine her ability to defend (or oversee the defense of) an executive action that OLC concluded (and she does not dispute) is “lawful on its face,” she should have stepped down as Acting Attorney General.

There is some precedent for this sort of thing. Recall the “Saturday Night Massacre,” when Attorney General Eliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckleshaus resigned rather than fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox at President Nixon’s insistence. If AAG Yates believes she is being asked to do something that violates her conscience — as she apparently does — this is the model she should have followed.
It won't matter in the end, because Jeff Sessions will be the attorney general eventually. But let's face it; this wasn't about conscience. It was a career move. Until yesterday evening, very people knew who Sally Yates was. Today, she's famous. At a minimum, she should get a few guest shots on MSNBC outta the deal. She also sends a signal that the rest of the entrenched bureaucracy will quickly note -- opposing Trump is a great way to get your name in the papers. I expect we'll see a lot more bureaucrats seeking their 15 minutes of fame in the coming weeks.

Monday, January 30, 2017

I don't know. Really, I don't.

One of the advantages of being an unpaid pundit is being able to say "I don't know" when confronted with a question. And when it comes to the policy changes President Trump announced recently concerning entering the country, "I don't know" is the proper answer.

One of the maps that I've seen is quite tendentious:

The implication is that Trump only bans people from countries where his organization doesn't do business. Lemme ask you a question -- if you were a businessman, would you be investing in any of those countries? Lemme ask you another question -- many of Trump's overseas business holdings are resorts and vacation properties. Are you, or anyone you know, planning to take a holiday in Sudan or Yemen? Thought so. Are there tourist attractions worth seeing in Egypt? I can think of a few. It's possible there are some in Yemen, or Libya, but can you name any without consulting Google? Here's a hint -- businesses do not invest in places where they aren't likely to make money. I have to assume the Khartoum Visitor's Bureau isn't a very good gig these days, although if you'd like to go, here are the details.

So does a ban on people entering the country from Yemen make sense? I don't know. How about Iraq? Depends on who it is. Same thing would go for most of these countries, which share one characteristic -- they are failed states. The exception is Iran, which has been sponsoring terrorists for nearly 40 years.

We need to have a conversation about these things, but shrieking at the airport isn't a conversation. I'd really like to understand the benefits of the anti-Trump position, along with how we would adequately serve additional refugee populations when the countries surrounding these states won't take the refugees, either. Help us understand the right approach. Or just keep shouting hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go. That'll be easy enough to ignore.

Friday, January 27, 2017

You run your mouth and I'll run my business, brother

Advice that will not be taken:
Just days after President Trump spoke of a “running war’’ with the media, his chief White House strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, ratcheted up the attacks, arguing that news organizations had been “humiliated” by the election outcome and repeatedly describing the media as “the opposition party” of the current administration.

“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while,” Mr. Bannon said in an interview on Wednesday.

“I want you to quote this,” Mr. Bannon added. “The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”
I immediately thought of this song:

You run your juicy mouth and I'll run my business, Brother, 
Just run your juicy mouth and I'll run my business, Brother, 
You always tellin' me what to do, 
Sayin', "I wouldn't do that if I was you!"
You run your mouth and I'll run my business, brother.

Trump has been president for a week and one thing we certainly know about his presidency is that people who buy ink by the barrel and really, really, really outraged about it. The internet is replete with news media types who are so busy denouncing the Leader of the Free World that they aren't actually spending enough time unpacking what he's doing. They are, however, quite certain of some things. The New York Times article I've linked makes this assertion shortly after recording Bannon's broadside:
The scathing assessment — delivered by one of Mr. Trump’s most trusted and influential advisers, in the first days of his presidency — comes at a moment of high tension between the news media and the administration, with skirmishes over the size of Mr. Trump’s inaugural crowd and the president’s false claims that millions of illegal votes by undocumented immigrants swayed the popular vote against him.
Emphasis mine. We know this is false? I really don't know how many illegal aliens undocumented immigrants voted, because those who would ordinarily be charged with investigating such things won't do it. I have no idea if Trump is right. I don't think he is, but I don't know it. And neither does the Times, but that doesn't matter if you have an agenda to pursue. I'll run my mouth and they'll run their business, brother.

It's easy to look at Bannon's statements and believe he's being thuggish. It's always unnerving if a government official tells anyone to keep their mouth shut. But the second part of Bannon's statement is the key point -- the continual shrieking from Trump's many opponents means any understanding of why he won the election isn't important. His election and his presidency are both illegitimate by definition.

I've spent a lot of time in this feature trying to answer the question the Times refuses to consider. I've been trying to listen. Gino offers insight over at his place:
"Somebody on our side, for a change."
I heard variations of this phrase most of the day.

As I've stated before, I'm a mill worker. I've been there just shy of 25yrs. Fully one half of my co-workers have been there longer than I. Needless to say, we are an aging bunch without many options left, and this is still the best gig we can get.

It's still the best gig because after this, there is not an other gig to be had.
The factories are closing. Automation has made it possible to do more with fewer workers. This is not a bad thing. Automation also makes the work a little less hard on our aging bodies, too.

Progress being progress, me and my 125 co-workers are under pressure with every contract. Give up more benefits (we've not much left anymore). Give up more pay. (a 40hr paycheck can no longer pay a man's rent in Southern California. There was once a time men bought agreeable homes and raised families with stay-at-home mothers. Those guys are all retired now.)
The author of the Times piece, Michael M. Grynbaum, really ought to talk to Gino, or Gino's co-workers. He won't, though. He'll run his business, brother.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Starting point

Trump has been in office less than a week and the freakouts haven't ceased. If anything, the amount of shrieking I see on social media has only gotten louder. It feels a bit like this (a bit NSFW, by the way):

I'm not crazy about using executive orders generally; I would strongly prefer the power to reside in Congress. That genie left the bottle about the time Grover Cleveland left office, however, and the only president who wasn't fond of using executive power after that time was Calvin Coolidge. So for Congress to assert its prerogatives, we'll need to see a big change in thinking. It's difficult to use muscles that have only atrophied in the past 90 years.

Meanwhile, Trump's opponents would do well to consider who is in the opposite camp, as Myron Magnet reminds us:

Commentators are right that a big portion of Trump voters were working-class Americans displaced from their jobs by Obama’s war on fossil fuels, by globalization, automation, and the shifting balance in manufacturing from the importance of the raw materials that go into products to that of the engineering expertise that designs them. These are the people Trump referred to in his Inaugural Address as “the forgotten men and women of our country.”

But that’s only part of the new president’s coalition. As Amity Shlaes shows in her 2008 book The Forgotten Man, that term, which Franklin Roosevelt applied to the man on the breadline in the Great Depression, “the man at the bottom of the economic pyramid,” more properly applies to those unhappy-if-silent taxpayers who funded the New Deal’s social-welfare schemes. And these are the forerunners of the Tea Partiers, another key class of Trump voter: the widow on a fixed income whose property-tax payment helps house a public-sector retiree comfortably but whose inexorable rise is making her own paid-off home unaffordable; the retiree whose IRA savings the Great Recession eroded or who can no longer get an adequate income from safe bond investments, thanks to  the Federal Reserve’s policies; the small businessman or farmer ruined by undemocratic government regulation lacking even the pretense of due process; the ex-soldier abandoned by a dysfunctional Veterans Administration; the parent disgusted with public schools that impose ideologies she abhors on her children, while leaving them inadequately educated; and all those sincere believers in God or traditional values whom Obama dismissed as clinging desperately to outmoded pieties, as the arc of history, which the elite professor-president claimed to understand and direct according to his politically correct enlightenment, swirled them down the drain.
Obama's IRS minions may have driven the Tea Party underground, but it did nothing to quell the reasons the Tea Party arose in the first place. We may have seen a counter to the Tea Party marching in the streets of our major cities over the weekend, dressed in pink hats. I'll be watching to see if the energy of the marches translates into a coherent political movement with specific goals, or if it remains virtue signaling writ large.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Still time to go, Governor

Governor Mark Dayton insists he can complete his term as governor. I don't think so. He announced he has an additional health challenge yesterday, one ostensibly unrelated to whatever caused him to faint during his State of the State address on Monday:
Gov. Mark Dayton revealed Tuesday that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, a new personal challenge for a governor who has struggled with health problems throughout his term and is just embarking on his last two years in office

Dayton disclosed his diagnosis at a news conference the morning after he collapsed during his State of the State speech, cutting the address short and rattling several hundred state legislators and others gathered in the House chamber. Back in front of the cameras Tuesday morning, Dayton said his early prognosis is good, and that he expects to learn more after a follow-up consultation at Mayo Clinic next week to discuss treatment options.

“I don’t expect it to, within a very short period of time, impede my performance of my responsibilities,” Dayton said. “We’ll know more next week.”
It's been clear for a long time now that Dayton has multiple health issues. He's had multiple surgeries for leg and back pain and he regularly walks with a cane. He regularly slurs his words when speaking. While he's hardly unique in facing health issues as he enters his seventies (he turns 70 tomorrow), he has a high-stress job and the stress level isn't going to lessen any time soon, as he battles a legislature under Republican control.

He wants to continue. I don't think he should.

Keeping an eye on California

I've seen reports that as many as one in three Californians now favor secession. Given the crises hitting the state concerning their pensions, secession would be a good deal for the rest of us:
Public schools around California are bracing for a crisis driven by skyrocketing worker pension costs that are expected to force districts to divert billions of dollars from classrooms into retirement accounts, education officials said.

The depth of the funding gap became clear to district leaders when they returned from the holiday break: What they contribute to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, known as CalPERS, will likely double within six years, according to state estimates.

CalPERS, a public pension fund with $300 billion in assets that is the country’s largest, manages retirement benefits for 1.8 million current and former city, state and school district employees, though it does not cover teachers, who fall under a different pension system.

School district officials say that unless the situation changes, they will have to make cuts elsewhere, possibly leading to larger class sizes, stagnant worker pay, fewer counselors and librarians, and less art and music in schools. Insolvency and state takeover are not out of the question for some districts.
So why would they need to do that?
California’s pension problem isn’t new. For years, economists and policymakers have warned that the state’s pension systems won’t have enough money to fulfill promises to millions of current and retired workers. But next year, officials said, rising pension costs will eat up more than a third of proposed increases to the state education budget.

There is a predicted shortfall among all state retirement accounts of at least $230 billion based on what’s owed to current and future retirees. The pension funds, including CalPERS, haven’t made as much money from the stock market and other investments as they had hoped.

That means school districts — like other public agencies — have had to backfill pension funds. Workers have also been forced to pay more. But it hasn’t been enough.
And if California comes with hat in hand to Washington? Let's see how that one goes.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


Straight outta Dale Carnegie:
Democrats must provide “training” that focuses in part on teaching Americans “how to be sensitive and how to shut their mouths if they are white,” urged the executive director of Idaho’s Democratic Party, Sally Boynton Brown, who is white.

The event’s moderator, MSNBC’s Joy Ann Reid, asked the candidates how the party should handle the Black Lives Now movement.

The candidates uniformly emphasized that the party must embrace the activists unreservedly.  
“It makes me sad that we’re even having that conversation and that tells me that white leaders in our party have failed,” Brown said. “I’m a white woman, I don’t get it. … My job is to listen and be a voice and shut other white people down when they want to interrupt.”

“This is life and death” she emphasized. “I am a human being trying to do good work and I can’t do it without y’all. So please, please, please, get ahold of me. Sally at we-the-dnc.org. I need schooling so I can go school the other white people.”
Emphasis mine. That approach should work very well. I should mention that Boyton Brown would like to lead the Democratic National Committee. She appears to be the perfect choice.

Time to go, Governor

Mark Dayton collapsed last evening as he was delivering his State of the State speech:

I don't like Mark Dayton the politician, but no one wants to see this happen. I hope he recovers from whatever illness he is fighting, but he needs to do so as a private citizen. This is going to be a contentious session and I don't think the governor is up to the task he faces. A lot of potential DFL candidates would grumble if he resigns, because it would give Lt. Governor Tina Flint Smith a big leg up in the 2018 campaign, but that shouldn't matter.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Who really watches RT?

We're supposed to be concerned about Russia Today, the website that that purports to be a news service but really is a Russian propaganda organ. But does it really matter? Damir Marusic at The American Interest is skeptical:
In the current panicked mood about all things Russia, it’s hard to drive this point home hard enough: no one really watches RT. Our own Karina Orlova noted all of this early last year, and pointed out that RT is not just lying to the outside world when it misreports its impact figures; it’s lying to its own government in order to secure funding for itself.
Or, more to the point -- reach does not equal grasp, as the Economist points out:
RT has a clever way with numbers. Its “audience” of 550m refers to the number of people who can access its channel, not those who actually watch it. RT has never released the latter figure, but a 2015 survey of the top 94 cable channels in America by Nielsen, a research firm, found that RT did not even make it into the rankings. In Britain last month, it captured just 0.04% of viewers, according to the Broadcast Audience Research Board.
I would wager more people saw the Green RT logo on the latest SNL spoof than have ever seen any RT, ahem, programming. I only hope the Voice of America is more effective.

Falcons 44, Packers 21

The mirror image of 2010, in which the Packers laid waste to the Falcons 48-21, in the same building. All you can do is tip your hat to the Falcons, who were clearly the superior team, and get ready for next season.

Knowledge Gap

Walter Russell Mead, once again saying what should be obvious, but apparently is not:
Liberals tend to blame Republican anti-intellectualism on the right’s own fever swamps and paranoia and prejudices. But the [David] Gelernter affair highlights another reason why conservatives tends to view intellectuals with suspicion: Because in the halls of elite newspapers and the Ivory Tower, the term is often understood to exclude right-wing thinkers by definition. If the category “intellectual” only encompasses those on the Left, then it is only natural that right-wing populists would turn it into a slur.
For an understanding of the "Gelernter affair," here you go:
Gelernter, a pioneering computer scientist at Yale, author of an extraordinary range of books, and about the most learned person you could hope to find in the wild, is apparently being considered for the role of White House science advisor. But it seems he has written critically about both Barack Obama and liberal academics. Worse yet, the Post’s Sarah Kaplan informs us, “Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said he hadn’t heard of Gelernter until Tuesday.”
Perhaps Mr. Rosenberg doesn't know his history, either. Here's a piece from ten years ago, from the student newspaper of the institution where Gelernter serves:

Early in the morning on June 24, 1993, Gelernter settled in his 5th floor office in Arthur K. Watson Hall at the base of Science Hill. Having just returned from a vacation in Washington, D.C., Gelernter found a stack of mail, including a package — a Ph.D. dissertation, he assumed — sitting on his chair.

Ripping open the package, smoke billowed out, and then a flash. Gelernter headed to a nearby bathroom to wash his eye out before discovering a more pressing concern — he was bleeding profusely. Rather than wait for help to arrive, he hobbled down five flights of stairs — “in pain and royally annoyed,” he recalled in a 1997 book on the attack — and headed across Hillhouse Avenue to University Health Services. Had he waited, he likely would have bled to death, doctors told him.

“My first thought was along the lines of: Bombs must be going off all over campus this morning,” Gelernter wrote. “It didn’t occur to me that I could possibly have been singled out as a target. I was not in a murder-prone line of work; I had no personal enemies, on account not of being lovable but of being obscure.”

When he arrived at the clinic, Gelernter had a blood pressure reading of zero. FBI agents later found one of his shoes in his office — where shrapnel sliced through metal filing cabinets — and his bloodied shirt strewn on the staircase. The bomb had severely wounded his abdomen, chest, face and hand, and even today Gelernter does not have the use of his right hand.
Gelertner had survived an attack from the Unabomber. You don't have to necessarily know that history if you read this blog, but if you're supposedly representing an organization of "concerned scientists," you'd think the incident might ring a bell. Their concerns lie elsewhere, of course. But that's a different post.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Inauguration of Champions Edition

Old dude, it's time to see who is going to get to go down to Houston and play for a nice shiny trophy, and I am pretty sure that this post will be a political free zone here.

Man, I hope so. One of the reasons we play games is to forget about everything else and we're seeing too much of the political world seeping into places where it ought not.

That actually makes sense, Decrepit! Have they been putting some extra brain additives in your Geritol lately?

Again, I hope so. But that's not why we're here, right?

Nope, we're here because of football. And the biggest thing is we have two excellent matchups, and people are going to enjoy the football, and not worry about politics, at least for a couple of hours. And as usual, I have a metric ton of HYYYYYYYYYPPPPE! to unleash.

You never seem to run out.

That's right. I got it. And it is time to talk some football and pick some games. Watch me work!

Glorious Green Bay Packers (+5.5) vs. Hotlanta Dirty Birds. This is a rematch of a game played in October, that the Falcons won in a 33-32 shootout. The Packers come in very beat up, though it sounds like some of their injured players might be able to give it a go. What the Packers need to do is going to be tough, but I think they can do it. The key for the Packers is to have Ty Montgomery run the ball and keep Matt Ryan off the field. My biggest concern for Atlanta is that this is the final game in the Georgia Dome, and there is bound to be a lot of emotion and pressure on the Falcons. Matt Ryan has not performed well in the playoffs throughout his career, and that needs to change in the biggest game of his life. This game will feature a lot of points, but I think the Packers will still have another game to play. Packers 63, Falcons 50.

Bet the over, then? I suspect a lot of points will indeed be scored, but I don't see anyone putting up 63. Two key players for the Packers did not play the last time these teams met -- Jared Cook and Clay Matthews. Those are key contributors, especially Cook, who has really opened up the middle of the field for the Packer offense. Atlanta can rush the passer better than the Cowboys, but they are suspect along the back line. If the Packers can get a couple of stops defensively, they will win. But it's going to be a shootout for sure. Packers 37, Falcons 34.

Pittsburgh Steelers (+6) vs. New England Patriots. The Patriots were expected to roll through the Texans, and did just that. The issue I see for New England is that the Steelers are not just a team along for the ride. They have talent and Mike Tomlin has done a better job than some of his critics give him credit for, and it's worth remember the Steelers are a talented group of players. Even though New England won the first meeting in Pittsburgh, look for this game to be very close until the Steelers pull away late, and for New England sports fans to face the reality that maybe it is time to clean house. Steelers 35, Patriots 11.

What does Tom Brady have left in the tank? That's the question. He looked mortal at times against the Texans, although that's an excellent defensive team. The question for the Patriots is simple -- can you stop LeVeon Bell? No one has recently. The Patriots tend to take away one player, and the guess here is that they will concentrate on Antonio Brown instead. Pick your poison. Patriots 24, Steelers 20.

Enjoy your football Sunday, and hopefully these games are going to be dramatic and interesting. And again, I may say some crazy stuff, but I call it like I see it. Ben out!

Goodbye to all that

I thought about doing a tidy summation of the Obama years, but we're still way too close to say What It All Means. Way back when, when Barack Obama burst upon the scene, I kept thinking of this song:

Eight years on, it hasn't really changed much. The lefties on my social media feed are filling their pages with soft-focus pictures of their hero; others have turned their profile pictures to solid black, as though the dawning of Trump is the End of Days. So yeah, it's a cult of personality. My fear is, for at least some of his supporters, the incoming president is just a different flavor (orange whip?) of the same thing. But we'll have at least four years to explore that question. And so will the Democrats:
As Trump takes over the GOP and starts remaking its new identity as a nationalist, populist party, creating a new political pole in American politics for the first time in generations, all eyes are on the Democrats. How will they confront a suddenly awakened, and galvanized, white majority? What’s to stop Trump from doing whatever he wants? Who’s going to pull a coherent new vision together? Worried liberals are watching with trepidation, fearful that Trump is just the beginning of worse to come, desperate for a comeback strategy that can work.

What’s clear from interviews with several dozen top Democratic politicians and operatives at all levels, however, is that there is no comeback strategy—just a collection of half-formed ideas, all of them challenged by reality. And for whatever scheme they come up with, Democrats don’t even have a flag-carrier. Barack Obama? He doesn’t want the job. Hillary Clinton? Too damaged. Bernie Sanders? Too socialist. Joe Biden? Too tied to Obama. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer? Too Washington. Elizabeth Warren? Maybe. And all of them old, old, old.
I dispute whether all eyes are on the Democrats, but we'll leave that aside. The piece I've linked, written by Edward-Isaac Dovere of Politico, is quite good, because it gets into the true legacy of the man leaving the stage; the party Barack Obama has helmed for the past eight years is truly in desperate straits. You'll want to pack a lunch, but it's a smartly reported piece and worth your time.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Gino is back in the game

After about a year away, our friend Gino is blogging again. And he cuts to the heart of the matter, as he is wont to do, in re his reluctant but steadfast support of the president-in-waiting:
Though it was a choice I had decided to not make in the beginning, Trump was the only one out there actually speaking to the issues that mattered the most to me, and to most people who reside within my socio-economic tribe: the loss of our nation's manufacturing base, the transfer of decent jobs across the border, the unwillingness to defend our borders, and a perceived (if not real) all out assault from the Powers That Be on what being an American was all about.

Standing where I was on the sidelines while in much agreement with those of my Tribe on the issues, it really pissed me off seeing Trump's supporters branded as ignorant, racist, stupid, deplorable, and 'not part of America'. I had to stand with my people. There was nothing else... no other righteous decision left for me to make.
Over the past year, my operating assumptions were different, but since Trump won the election it's become increasingly clear that the Left is essentially unhinged. By training and background, I'm actually part of a different "Tribe" than Gino, but I've come to similar conclusions since the election. Back to Gino:
Something very different and polarizing was happening in my country... Where one side used to try to convince the other side that their cause was better, we had a complete turn around. It came down to "if you are not on our higher moral plain, then you suck!"
He's right about that -- the Left in this country is censorious 24/7. The statements I see now from the port side are not reasoned arguments. Instead, we get denunciations. I've long had the sense that the Left's demands are simply calls for orthodoxy. When someone is more interested in identifying and punishing apostates than in finding converts, it's always a sign of trouble.

I'm almost certain Trump will disappoint his voters, in large ways and small. Politicians all do that. Still, I sense there's at least an opening now for a needed discussion, rather than a listening tour that's really a lecture. We'll see. This much I know -- I'm glad Gino is back in the game.

Adieu, adieu, to you and you and you

You're likable enough, Mr. President.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


We'll get the announcement regarding the new members of the Baseball Hall of Fame later today. The consensus is Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines are going in, with potentially first-time ballot players Ivan Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero having a shot. I've written more extensively about the HOF elsewhere, but I think that would be a good class. Bagwell was a legitimately great player, but because he played in Houston he was often out of the spotlight.

This is the last year on the ballot for Raines, who would have been considered the greatest leadoff hitter in baseball history except for one thing -- he was an exact contemporary of Rickey Henderson, who was a greater player than Raines. One could make the argument that Henderson is one of the top 20 players in the history of the game, so falling short of that standard hardly seems like a disqualification for Raines. He's been worthy of induction since his first year on the ballot, in my view.

Rodriguez is an interesting case, because he has been linked to steroids, although it's never been proven. If you look at the objective numbers, he's arguably the greatest defensive catcher in history and his offensive numbers are comparable to Yogi Berra. He certainly belongs there on the merits.

I've give a little more thought to Vlad Guerrero, who was a great hitter (.318 batting average, the same as Kirby Puckett) and hit 449 homers. Those are really good numbers. He also was a good, if somewhat erratic, outfielder. No one has linked him to PEDs. He's more likely to get there sooner than Manny Ramirez, who was a better overall player but has two failed drug tests on his record.

The other guy who should be close is Trevor Hoffman, the longtime relief pitcher. I'm not sold on him as an HOF guy, but he's going to get in within the next year or two. It could even be this year.

The other story to watch -- will Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens get closer? They both have an undeniable PED taint to their careers, but I would argue both were lock HOF players before they got involved with the dark side, which was on the downside of their careers. I don't think either will make it this time, but if either of them get above the 50% threshold, it will mean the baseball writers are making their peace with the steroid era.

UPDATE: While it's not definitive, the Hall of Fame Tracker results suggest that Raines, Bagwell and Rodriguez will comprise the HOF Class of 2017. Trevor Hoffman and Vlad Guerrero may end up just short of the 75% threshold, while Edgar Martinez, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are now all well above 60%, suggesting their chances are good in subsequent years. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

If only we could draw the maps

It is an article of faith among a lot of lefties I know -- if only those nasty Republicans didn't gerrymander things back in 2010, the Democrats would be in charge of a lot more. Is it true? Walter Russell Mead wonders about that, using the example of our neighbors to the south:
1990s-era Democrats still had a strong presence in rural areas. But as the party moved to accommodate a more urban and liberal electoral base, its support outside of major metropolitan areas faded, especially during the Obama years.

Territorial representation penalizes parties for failing to build geographically broad political coalitions. So matter how lopsided a majority the Democrats can build in places like Des Moines, they will always be hamstrung if they can’t win compete less-densely populated areas as well.
You can tell this trend is happening by what happened here in Minnesota. No one thought Tim Walz was in trouble in the 1st CD, but he nearly got beat, winning by less than 3000 votes, against an opponent who he'd beaten by 19,000 the time before. It was less than comfortable for Collin Peterson in the 7th as well; he won his district with 60% of the vote in 2012, but only 52% in 2016. And Rick Nolan barely hung on in the 8th.

I live in the 4th CD; you could put the DFL label on a potted plant and it would be elected to Congress; we've demonstrated that conclusively by sending Betty McCollum back to the Hill nine times. It's easy for the DFL to control my district, but they don't have very good arguments outstate. As we look at the new legislature in St. Paul, and the new Congress, it's the same issue. Iowa and Wisconsin were both blue states less than 10 years ago, but that's changed. It could change here, too, if the DFL learns the wrong lessons from the election.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Packers 34, Cowboys 31

It was a tiptoe game:

Head, shoulders, knees (up) and toes
I'm trying to stay calm about it, but given how the season appeared to be lost at Thanksgiving, this has been a tremendous run. I'm not sure any team has been as blessed at quarterback as the Green Bay Packers have been, at least over the last 25 years.

Press your luck

Jason Willick, writing for The American Interest:
The media’s approval rating has been declining for a generation, but it entered freefall over the last year. Among Republicans, confidence in the mainstream media is close to destroyed, with just 14 percent saying they have even a “fair amount” of trust in the press, according to Gallup. Democrats are significantly more trusting, at 51 percent, although that is down from 70 percent in 2005. Among independents, the figure is 30 percent, closer to Republican levels.

High levels of polarization and partisanship mean that most Republicans will take the president’s side and Democrats will take the media’s side in their ongoing wars of attrition. If the press is to continue to hold sway, it will need to win the confidence of independents, who don’t hold Donald Trump in particularly high regard (by historical standards) but who do not exactly have warm feelings for the media, either. As Rutenberg says, high-level failures of judgment by major news organizations will continue to wear down the press’s approval ratings among this critical group. So will the ongoing perception of liberal bias, even if unintentional.
And there's a price to be paid. Ann Althouse:
Should [the press] be ousted [from their space in the White House to a different building] if they are not playing the role the place supposedly symbolizes? Are they representing us, the People, who, collectively, elected Trump, or are they representing the Democratic Party?

I don't know that the symbolism is what should determine whether the press has that space or some other space, but I don't think the press — with respect to the Trump administration — represents the people. I think the statement "They are the opposition party" is much more accurate. Too bad they did that to themselves. We could use a vigorous, professional press.
We could. I can envision countless reasons for the future Leader of the Free World to be held to account, but at this point, aside from maybe Jake Tapper, how can you take any of these reporters seriously?

Friday, January 13, 2017

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Welcome to 1995 Edition

I know what you are thinking about the title. Why 1995? Well, the Packers are playing their first playoff game in Dallas since 1995-96. And that game is going to be interesting and filled with HYYYYYYYYYYYPPPPPPEEE!

The last time the Packers played a playoff game in Dallas against the Cowboys, you had a rattle in your hand. Just a baby, and the only thing you could fill was a diaper. Those were the Packers of Brett Favre and Reggie White, against the Cowboys of Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman. 

Things have changed a lot since then. I understand football a lot better, and all of those players in those games are all doing other things.

Yes. It's difficult to imagine it's been 21 years, but here we are.

Well, you'd better get ready. Take a swig of that Metamucil and get in position, Decrepit!  It is time to pick some football. Watch me work!

Seattle Seachickens (+4.5) vs. Hotlanta Dirty Birds. Seattle played very well in sweeping away the LOLions last weekend, but this game is a real test for them. For my money, Matt Ryan is probably the MVP of the league because he was more consistent all year and did not have a really bad game. This could be the final game in the Georgia Dome, and Atlanta is hoping that is not the case. What they need to do is to use their running game, which is a hidden key they have. Seattle will not have the aid of their crowd this time, and I question if they are strong enough to dig out a result. Falcons 28, Seahawks 17.

I think Atlanta actually is the better team, but their history works against them. Matt Ryan has been great this season, but his playoff record is abysmal and I'm guessing the Falcons will feel a lot of pressure. Seattle is battle tested. The key will be if the Falcons can keep the pressure on Russell Wilson. I think they do, but it's close. Atlanta 28, Seattle 24.

Houston Texans (+13) vs. New England Deflation. New England is expected to roll right through to the conference title game and face the Cowboys in the Super Bowl. We will discuss the Cowboys later, but New England is a very good team. The issue I see for them is that sometimes the bye week is not a good enough reward, since teams can get rusty. The Patriots have earned their championship/dynasty cred back, but Houston looks like they figured something out against Oakland, Do not expect a Foxboro Massacre, because maybe the New Englanders might be the ones who will see their championship dreams die. Texans 17, Cheatriots 9.

Uh, no. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady know how to win playoff games. Brock Osweiler? Not really. This will be ugly. Patriots 35, Texans 10.

Pittsburgh Steelers (-1.5) vs. Kansas City Chiefs. The Steelers got a break today because the NFL pushed the starting time back because of an ice storm. Pittsburgh is a team that is really equipped to handle a cold weather game, and have a lot of great offensive talent. Kansas City is a very scrappy bunch of players, and their fans will have a few extra hours to lube up and get even more intimidating. I think Pittsburgh can win, but they are going to have to earn it. Steelers 20, By The Way, What's Wrong With The Chiefs? 17.

What's wrong with the Chiefs? Better ask an expert:

I miss ol' Jack Harry. He was a piece of work. As for the game, I'm also looking at the history of things. The Steelers have a glorious playoff history. The Chiefs? Not since this guy:

Matriculating down the field
Perhaps the Chiefs can get it done. The home crowd at Arrowhead is ferocious and the young fella is correct that they will likely be pretty well liquored up by game time. Is that enough against another battle tested team? Pittsburgh 34, Kansas City 27.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (+5) vs. Dallas How Bout Them Cowboahs? The Packers started very slowly against the Giants, and managed to come alive for the last 27 minutes. No Jordy Nelson is going to be a big hurt, but the Packers can still come out of Dallas with a win. Dallas has not played a meaningful game in a couple of weeks, and even our loudmouth pal Skip Brainless has to admit that all the pressure is on the Cowboys. Even though they won in Lambeau in October, the Packers have improved a lot since then, and Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott are going to face pressure. The Packers need to run the football and get off to a great start to force Prescott to air it out in order to win. Make no mistake about it, if Dallas does not play well, then Dak Prescott will be in danger of being pulled for Tony Romo, and the annoying Cowgirls fans will question Mr. Prescott. And mark my words, Dallas is about to get exposed and the meltdown Skip will have will be fun to watch. Packers 40, Cowgirls 21.

Man, I hope you're right. I agree with the broad outline -- for the Packers to win, they will need to start fast and control the game flow. If Dallas is playing from behind, the chances that Zeke Elliott can wear the Packers down behind all the road graders on the Dallas offensive line is lessened. If Dallas breaks to the lead, this could go south in a hurry. The idea is to make this guy beat the Packers:

This is all he does, and he does it well
Oops, I think that's the wrong picture. Anyway, excuse me while I chase my Metamucil with Kool-Aid... Packers 30, Cowboys 27.

Enjoy your football this weekend, and if the Cowboys lose, watch Skip. And if Skip wants to debate me, just ask. Ben out!

Same as it ever was

We've been going through the cabinet confirmation process this week and, as usual, we aren't learning very much. I remember having the same feeling back in '09, when Team Obama was riding into town. I looked back through my archives to a similar time frame and found this observation:
The Washington Post is reporting that the nomination of Eric Holder to de-Albertoize the Justice Department has hit a snag. Oddly, it seems that there are some concerns being raised about Mr. Holder's role in the delivery of justice for Marc Rich and the news that Mr. Holder has been seen consorting with the inconvenient Rod Blagojevich. It's possible that the evil Mitch McConnell might raise a few impertinent questions during the hearings that are scheduled for this week. 
Impertinent questions come from across the aisle, but in the end it doesn't matter very much. Eric Holder got the job despite his previous sins and was able to commit a bunch more at the helm of the Justice Department. Jeff Sessions will likely commit different sins; perhaps we'll like his sins better. I'm not particularly alarmed by anyone Trump has nominated; I might have selected some other names for key positions, but I'm just a guy banging a keyboard in his dining room. Whatever changes we see in Washington will be at the margins.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Now it can be told

President-Elect Donald Trump likes to be forced into a leather cat-suit, have a blow-up gag inserted into his mouth, be bound from head to toe, and get stuffed into a sleeping bag, which is then filled with strawberry jam and zipped closed. Still in the bag, he is rolled down a rocky hill into a pool of medium-rare Trump steaks. Extricated from the bag, he then likes to have Meryl Streep throw Trump Grill Taco Bowls at him while Rosie O’Donnell reads aloud select excerpts from 50 Shades of Grey and Mein Kampf.

Or not.
It's on the internet and I was able to provide a link, so I'm pretty sure it's true. This part of the story, however, apparently isn't true:
A Russian venture capitalist and tech expert whose name and company are mentioned in the now-notorious document alleging connections between the Donald Trump campaign and Russian hackers says no intelligence officers have ever contacted him about the accusations, which he says are false.

A report compiled by a former Western intelligence official as opposition research against Trump was made public Tuesday when BuzzFeed posted its 35 pages. The document included unsubstantiated claims of collusion between the Trump campaign team and the Kremlin.

It also alleged that global tech firm XBT Holding, with operations in Dallas, was instrumental in the hack of leaked Democratic Party emails that embarrassed Hillary Clinton and fellow Democrats.

XBT, owner of Dallas-based enterprise-hosting company Webzilla, is run by a successful Russian tech startup expert, Aleksej Gubarev. In a phone interview from Cyprus, where he said he’d lived since 2002, Gubarev said he was surprised to see his name in the report.

“I don’t know why I was there,” Gubarev said, adding that perhaps a competitor sought to discredit him. “I still don’t understand the true reason for this report.”
All we need is a soundtrack:

Sing along with me!

Master of the current scene
There was a cat that really was gone
Russia's greatest love machine
It was a shame how he carried on

Meanwhile, Glenn "Instapundit" makes the salient point:
First, the press and the Deep State are already going after him, before he’s even had a chance to get out of line. And second, I mean, holy crap, could they be any sorrier at doing so? I mean, “Peegate?” Really? What the hell?

This is good news for Trump, sort of, but overall it’s really bad news, since it means that both journalism and the intelligence community are both more politicized, and less competent, than even I thought. Sweet Jesus, these people are terrible.
If you have any outrageous tales of Trump, share them in the comments section. I'll make sure that John McCain passes them along to the appropriate channels.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Unsubstantiated = Bullshit

I am a bona fide #NeverTrump guy. Wrote plenty of blog posts criticizing, even denouncing the guy. To this day, I remain skeptical of his ability to serve as President of the United States. Having said all that, his opponents are a lot worse. An amazing dispatch from the New York Times, via the local rag, demonstrates the absurdity of it all:
The chiefs of U.S. intelligence agencies last week presented President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump with a summary of unsubstantiated reports that Russia had collected compromising and salacious personal information about Trump, two officials with knowledge of the briefing said.

The summary is based on memos generated by political operatives seeking to derail Trump’s candidacy. Details of the reports began circulating in the fall and were widely known among journalists and politicians in Washington.

The two-page summary, first reported by CNN, was presented as an appendix to the intelligence agencies’ report on Russian hacking efforts during the election, the officials said. The material was not corroborated, and The New York Times has not been able to confirm the claims.
Unsubstantiated, and its kissing cousin not corroborated, means the Times is simply retailing whatever bullshit someone opposed to Trump wanted out there. My favorite bit of nonsense is this:
The memos describe sex videos involving prostitutes with Trump in a 2013 visit to a Moscow hotel. The videos were supposedly prepared as “kompromat,” or compromising material, with the possible goal of blackmailing Trump in the future.
That's a bit more delicate than retellings of the story you can find elsewhere -- the preposterous suggestion that Trump hired prostitutes to urinate on the bed in the presidential suite at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow, the same place where Obama had supposedly stayed when he had been there earlier. We are also told that the Russians have the entire hotel bugged, so that's how we know it's true.

Okay, so let's think about that -- if the Russians had the entire hotel bugged, what are the chances that Obama would have stayed there? Do you not think the Secret Service and the various operatives who travel with the president would have allowed that to happen? Seriously? Or did the Russians pull the bugs out and then put them back in?

Another story has already taken on water:
Michael Cohen, a lawyer and adviser to Trump, also went to Twitter to deny a specific claim in the opposition research involving him. One of the memos claims that Cohen went to Prague in August or September to meet with Kremlin representatives and to talk about Russian hacking of Democrats. 
Cohen tweeted Tuesday night: “I have never been to Prague in my life. #fakenews.”
It would be easy to substantiate whether Cohen had been to Prague. The Times didn't do it, nor has anyone else. The Atlantic did find out where Cohen actually was:
Cohen said that during the time the report places him in Prague, he was actually with his son visiting USC and meeting with the baseball coach. A USC baseball source confirmed Tuesday night that Cohen and his son had visited USC on August 29th. Cohen said that he was in Los Angeles from the 23rd through the 29th of August, and that the rest of the month he was in New York. He said that his only trip to an EU country over the summer had been a vacation to Italy in July.

Cohen also tweeted a photo of his passport: “I have never been to Prague in my life. #fakenews.” Trump retweeted Cohen’s tweet.
I suppose the USC baseball coach could be a Russian operative -- in a world where MSM publications retail any damn thing, it's possible. But we're in bizarro cloud cuckoo land here.

In the end, this is all good news for Le Grand Orange. Now that it's been established that the MSM will publish anything, you can safely assume that whatever credibility they had has now been urinated away. And that's a problem for all of us -- we need an honest watchdog to keep our government accountable. We haven't had one for a long time now.

Update (9:30 a.m.): Res ipsa loquitur:

Other than that, it's great reporting

When asked for further comment, Tapper said the following:

Forget it Jake — it's MSMtown

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Coming attractions

Chicago has problems galore, but the largest one might be its parlous financial condition:
The Windy City has become a poster child for financial mismanagement, having suffered a series of ratings downgrades in recent years. Aside from having thin reserves and large volumes of outstanding debt, Chicago is notorious for its underfunded pension plans.

For example, the city’s Municipal Employees' Annuity and Benefit Fund (MEABF) reported $4.7 billion in assets and $14.7 billion of actuarially accrued liabilities at the end of 2015, representing a funded ratio of just 33 percent. The actuarial calculations rely on a controversial practice of discounting future benefits at a rate of 7.5 percent, which is the assumed return on the fund’s portfolio return. If a more conservative assumption was employed, MEABF’s liabilities would be higher and its funded ratio lower.
The State of Illinois is not going to be able to bail Chicago out. Somebody is going to get stuck. Will it be the pensioners of Chicago, or will it be you and I? It's a story that will play out across the country. Be ready.

This just in

Actually, I don't care what Meryl Streep thinks. We pay attention to what she says when she is saying words that other people have provided her, in artificial worlds created by other people.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Nat Hentoff, RIP

One of the most useful commentators in public life has now passed away. Nat Hentoff is perhaps best known for being one of the greatest jazz critics of all, writing primarily for the Village Voice, but he did some of his greatest work as a tireless advocate for free speech and the First Amendment. He was an increasingly rare bird, a pro-life liberal, and he was willing to put his beliefs on the line. A taste of Hentoff from 1992, when he helped to provide a forum for Bob Casey, then the governor of Pennsylvania, who had become unwelcome in his own Democratic Party because he, too, was pro-life:
In a full-page announcement, New York's Village Voice recently invited one and all to come to the Great Hall of Cooper Union -- where Abraham Lincoln made the speech that caused his bid for the presidency to catch fire. I have been at many debates and discussions there, some fiery, but always the clashing ideas could be heard.

This time Democratic Gov. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania was to deliver the speech the Democratic Party would not allow him to make at its "unified" convention. Casey is a liberal Democrat. He has created and expanded, for example, a program providing crucial medical services to low-income pregnant women and young children, and he was responsible for the first increase in minimum teacher salaries in the state in a quarter of a century.

But Casey failed to pass the official Democratic loyalty test of chairman RonBrown. Casey is pro-life, and so he was gagged for the entire New York celebration of Democratic pluralism.
What happened next is depressingly familiar:
As moderator, I started what would have been the discussion by pointing out that this was an evening about free speech -- not only that of the governor of Pennsylvania but also that of anyone in the audience who wanted to challenge him.

The hooting, screaming, pounding and whistle blowing began. Strategically located at both sides of the hall -- disruption by stereo -- a preening array of hooligans made all speech except their own inaudible. They reminded me of the domestic brown shirts breaking up Jewish meetings in my youth, but these were howling soldiers of the left. (There is no difference, of course, between right and left when it comes to silencing the bearers of uncomfortable ideas.)

Among the opponents of any free exchange of ideas were ACT UP and various pro-choice (sic) cadres, among them: WHAM (Women's Health Action Mobilization); and NYU Students for Pro-Choice.

At least 80 percent of the audience wanted to hear Casey and said so, as best they could, by applauding his attempts to get started. But they were no match for the speech muggers.

After several tries, Gov. Casey yielded. "The Democratic Convention suspended the First Amendment," he tried to say, "and tonight you did the same thing." Casey walked off the stage as the shouters congratulated each other.
There's more at the link, including an anecdote about a long-time lefty cause célèbre, Mumia Abu-Jumal. Hentoff was able to support the pro-life movement and the cause of Mumia. You might think that wrongheaded, but Hentoff would have loved that reaction and would have mounted a spirited defense of both positions, just as he would have supported your ability to argue against him. I have a copy of his book "Free Speech for Me, But Not for Thee -- How The American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other" in my library and I recommend it. RIP.

Saturday, January 07, 2017


Just a layout change and updates to the Dead Pool. Didn't feel the need for major surgery on this thing just yet. Still mulling over the larger purpose of what I do, however, so we'll see. Much will depend on just how entertaining the circus in Washington gets. As always, I thank you for your support!

Friday, January 06, 2017

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Wild Card HYYYYYYYYYYYYPPPEE! Edition

Old dude, it's time for the playoffs, and the national championship in college football. There is a lot of HYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYPPPPPEE! going on this weekend.

It's a growth industry, especially at Benster Enterprises. Good you have it, because I'm running a little bit short lately.

I will provide it for both of us. And the Gophers got a new coach, which should be interesting. He already has practice losing to the Badgers.

I wondered why they hired a banjo player:

You've got the wrong Fleck again. Man, you may need to up your Metamucil dosage! But enough talk about the Gophers and P. J. Fleck, it is time to pick some football games. It is time to watch me work!

Oakland Raiders (+3.5) vs. Houston Texans. Oakland is making a return to the playoffs for the first time since Jon Gruden destroyed them in the Super Bowl in 2003. The Raiders looked like they were going to get a bye, but disaster struck when Derrick Carr got lost for the year, and after another QB injury the Raiders have to rely on Connor Cook. The Texans also have QB issues since Tom Savage might not go, meaning that Brock "Waste of Money" Osweiler will have to try and earn the goodwill of Texans fans. Houston has motivation to win the AFC title, since they would make history as the first team to play in and host a Super Bowl in league history. That being said, Connor Cook was a good big game player at Michigan State, and the Raiders are arguably the best team in the AFC outside of New England. Raiders 35, Texans 17.

Tough spot for both teams. I'm not sure Cook is ready for this assignment. Osweiler is problematic, but he does have some experience. That should be enough. Texans 17, Raiders 13.

Detroit LOLions (+8) vs. Seattle Seachickens. Detroit is a team that looked like they were going to easily win the NFC North 7 weeks ago. However, as I have said repeatedly, it is questionable if they are actually as good as their record, or if they have simply been good at winning close games. Seattle has looked questionable all year, with offensive line issues that make me wonder if they should have spent more money on the offensive line instead of on other players. With no Tyler Lockett in this game, look for Seattle to finally lose a home playoff game and have all the bandwagon fans leave. LOLions 56, Seachickens 8.

I'd love to see it happen, but I don't think it will. The Seahawks are flawed this season, especially without Earl Thomas available, but the Lions have been fading down the stretch. I think it's close, but I think the homestanding Seahawks advance. Seahawks 21, Lions 17.

Miami Tuna Net Victims (+8) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers. The Dolphins got arguably the most difficult assignment of any playoff team so far. Pittsburgh really looks to be peaking at the right time, and with the weather looking like it is going to be cold, Le'Veon Bell is going to be the key person to watch. I think that if Bell has more than 100 total yards from scrimmage and Pittsburgh has at least a touchdown lead, Miami is going back down to South Beach in disgrace. Warm weather or dome teams do not do well in the cold. Steelers 45, Sorry, Charlie 0.

Your theory about warm weather teams is correct. Especially those who might not have their starting quarterback. Pittsburgh could be in the Super Bowl. For that to happen, clearly they need to win this weekend. Not a problem. Steelers 34, Dolphins 14.

New York Football Giants (+4.5) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. I am not going to front my audience, because this game makes me nervous. The last two times the Giants have come to Lambeau at playoff time, they came out with a win. And just like 2007 and 2011, the Packers are considered very real contenders, and the weather is going to be cold. Also, like in 2007 and 2011 the Packers beat the Giants head to head in the regular season. The Packers are running thin in the secondary, and the Giants have looked a lot better in recent weeks compared to their indifferent performance in October in Lambeau. I think the Packers can get through this game, but something just doesn't feel right. Packers 20, Giants 13.

I'm nervous, too. This is the game where Dom Capers has to earn his money. The Giants can attack with Odell Beckham and I'm not sure the Packers defensive backfield can keep up with him. So the secret is to plant Eli Manning on his backside early and often. Julius Peppers, this is your moment. Packers 24, Giants 20.

Clemson Tigers (+6.5) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide. This line seems a wee bit high to me. Alabama is a very good team, but they did struggle a bit offensively against Washington. I said Clemson was going to destroy A School in Columbus, and look what happened. Clemson really looks like the better team and they are motivated to get revenge. Bottom line is this -- Deshaun Watson has experience in big games, while his opposing number Jalen Hurts is only a true freshman, who really has been along for the ride and is more of a game manager. Hurts will have a new playcaller since Lane Kiffin has already moved on to his new job, which is the first monumental mistake Nick Saban has made in a few years. Clemson 45, Alabama 40.

The Alabama defense has been nothing short of awesome all season. This is where they prove it. Clemson is explosive and they rocked Brutus Buckeye good last weekend. This will be a test for Alabama, but I think they are the best team in the land. Alabama 31, Clemson 27.

Enjoy your weekend of fun football, and be sure to pray for the victims of the shooting at the airport in Florida. Ben out!

Just a question

So if the idea was to present Barack Obama and Donald Trump with a report outlining Russian skullduggery in the election, why do we already know about what's in the report before Trump is presented with it? Because we do:
A senior U.S. intelligence official with direct knowledge confirmed to NBC News that the report on Russian hacking delivered to President Obama Thursday says that U.S. intelligence picked up senior Russian officials celebrating Donald Trump's win.

The source described the intelligence about the celebration, first reported by the Washington Post, as a minor part of the overall intelligence report, which makes the case that Russia intervened in the election.

"Highly classified intercepts illustrate Russian government planning and direction of a multifaceted campaign by Moscow to undermine the integrity of the American political system," said the official.
Trump was wondering the same thing:

It was a senior intelligence official -- said so right in the article!
There's a message being delivered here, and it's not really about Russian hacking. There are "senior intelligence officials" in covens all along the Potomac who take great pleasure in sandbagging Le Grand Orange. I'm assuming Trump knew all this when he decided to run for office. It will be interesting to see how he responds. He may need a medium that has more than a 140-character limit.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Goodbye, Dayton's

You're not gonna make it, after all
It hasn't been Dayton's for a long time now, but the huge set of buildings that was once the flagship of the Dayton Hudson department store chain, where Mary Tyler Moore famously tossed her tam, is now being closed for good by its current owner, Macy's:
Macy’s Inc. is closing the biggest store in downtown Minneapolis.

The retail giant said Wednesday that it is selling the three buildings on Nicollet Mall that the store occupies, a place known to Minnesotans for decades as the flagship of the Dayton’s department store chain. A New York firm with a record of remaking older properties will take over.

The move ends more than a century of department store retailing in the heart of Minneapolis.

Shoppers have wondered for several years whether the store would survive as Macy’s was shuttering stores in city centers across the United States. Company executives signaled last year that they were seeking a buyer for the Minneapolis property after they failed to form a redevelopment team for the site.

Macy’s announced the deal as part of a larger restructuring that involves dozens of other store closings and a cut of about 10,000 of its 150,000 jobs across the country. About 280 people will lose their jobs when the downtown Minneapolis store closes in March.
I worked for Dayton Hudson, now known as Target, for nearly ten years. I spent a lot of time in the downtown store, but I really didn't buy that much. If I needed something, I was more likely to buy it at Rosedale. I was hardly alone in that, and Macy's is keeping its Rosedale location open. Thousands of office workers in downtown Minneapolis would walk through the store every day but I'm guessing they didn't buy much, either.

The downtown department store of my youth was H.C. Prange, which had a six-story monolith in downtown Appleton, Wisconsin. I'm guessing this picture was taken about 1970 or so, around the same time that Moore tossed her tam:

The big white puzzle palace on College Avenue
Many towns had a big department store like Dayton's or Prange's. Chicago had Marshall Field's, Detroit had Hudson's, Los Angeles had Robinson's. They were great places to shop and, for a kid who didn't have money, a great place to kill an afternoon, as long as you kept your hands off the merchandise. Those days are long gone. The downtown department store has been going away for a long time now. Prange's decamped for the mall years ago and is now part of the Younkers chain. The Prange building in Appleton is now a multi-use space that includes offices, a children' museum, and City Hall. The old white monolith has been opened up somewhat; this picture shows the building from the opposite side and was taken about five years ago:

Windows on the world
Things change. The business model that made sense for Prange's, and for the Dayton family, is no longer viable. The business model for suburban mall shopping locations seems to be changing even as we go about our business now. In 20 years, a mall Macy's may seem as quaint and out of date as the downtown buildings we remember. One could write books about the reasons for these changes; people do. We adapt, though -- we always adapt.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

The Gophers start over, again

That didn't take long:
First-year University of Minnesota athletic director Mark Coyle fired football coach Tracy Claeys and most of the team’s assistants Tuesday while calling for a cultural overhaul in Gophers sports.

Coyle gave a blistering assessment of the football program, which has been engulfed in turmoil for three weeks, and declared Tuesday night a need for more “integrity and class” across athletics.

Gophers football has been roiling since Dec. 13, when Coyle suspended 10 players in connection with an alleged Sept. 2 sexual assault. The players responded with a two-day boycott, and Claeys publicly supported their stance, pitting him against the administration.
Thoughts? Yeah, I have a few:

  • Even if the scandal hadn't taken place, there was a better than even chance Coyle would have ashcanned Claeys anyway. The most important person in any D-1 athletic department is the head football coach, and I'm certain Coyle wanted to have his own guy in there.
  • I have no way of knowing how much Claeys knew about the incident on Sept. 2, but he should have handled things differently. I understand the instinct of standing with your players, but your players don't sign your paycheck. Publicly defying your bosses rarely goes well.
  • There was a time when the Gophers didn't have institutional advantages over their competitors, but that time is now past. I'm a Wisconsin Badgers fan and I love Madison, but there's no reason the Badgers should be so far ahead of the Gophers. Just the lure of performing in a major metropolitan area, with a dynamic economy, should be a great incentive to play here instead of in Madison. It's even more alarming that the Gophers have generally lagged behind Iowa. I travel through Iowa City regularly these days and while it's a nice, generally prosperous town, it's not exactly a dynamic place. The Gophers should be able to out-recruit the Hawkeyes every time.
  • Having said all that, the right hire could change everything. It's easy to forget now, but when Barry Alvarez arrived in Madison in 1990, the Badgers fielded horrible teams in football and men's basketball. There had been no real success in either sport for 30 years. Alvarez changed that and his athletic director, Pat Richter, gave him and basketball coach Dick Bennett the institutional support he needed to build a program. In 2017, the Badgers are almost always in the Top 25 in football and have been a Top Ten program in better years. They have also been a consistent NCAA tournament team in basketball. The Gophers aren't anywhere near that level. Is there another Barry Alvarez out there? If Coyle can find one, things can change.
  • Of the coaches who might be candidates, I'd be looking at either Craig Bohl or Chris Klieman. Klieman is the head coach at North Dakota State and Bohl, the head man at Wyoming, is his predecessor. The Bison have been one of the best smaller college programs around and both guys know how to win. Chasing Les Miles or Chip Kelly would be a mistake. The hottest name out there is P. J. Fleck, the coach at Western Michigan, but I have a feeling he'll be headed elsewhere.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Don't think -- emote!

Looks like 2017 is going to be a lot like 2016, at least for the next few weeks. Trump is gonna troll and people are gonna emote, rather than think. First, the trolling:

All of whom revealed themselves in spittle-flecked rage 
Honk if you're a Trump enemy! Maybe you can get a bumper sticker, too!

Meanwhile, there's this outrageous outrage:
House Republicans are moving to adopt a proposal weakening the chamber's outside ethics watchdog, removing its independence and establishing new limitations on its powers.

The House GOP Conference on Monday adopted Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte's (R-Va.) amendment to the larger rules package being voted on Tuesday, the first day of the new Congress.

The amendment puts the independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) watchdog under the oversight of lawmakers through the House Ethics Committee.
Point of order: did the ethics watchdog actually make Congress more ethical? Or is it just another bureaucratic gig? The article I've linked doesn't say, nor do the more breathless dispatches I've seen elsewhere. Never mind that, though -- it must be bad, because the usual suspects say it is:
Democrats and ethics watchdog groups blasted the GOP’s move Monday night, which came on a federal holiday and only one day before the full rules package hits the House floor.

“Republicans claim they want to ‘drain the swamp,’ but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House GOP has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions," Pelosi said in a statement.

"Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress," the House Democratic leader said.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) echoed that sentiment, accusing House Republicans of "signaling a return to the days of Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay."
Oh, yeah -- Tom DeLay. Whatever happened to him, anyway?
An appeals court in Texas has overturned the 2010 conviction of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who had been found guilty of illegally funneling corporate money to Texas candidates during the 2002 campaign cycle.

DeLay, a Republican, had been out on bail while appealing his conviction and the three-year prison sentence he was handed afterward.

But in a 2-1 ruling released Thursday, the state's Third District Court of Appeals says "we conclude that the evidence presented does not support a conclusion that DeLay committed the crimes that were charged. ... The fundamental problem with the State's case was its failure to prove proceeds of criminal activity."
Innocence wasn't the point. The process is the punishment, and unless you are willing to do a Google search on the matter, most people, if they remember Tom DeLay at all, will sense his name is tied to a scandal that wasn't actually a scandal. And never mind that DeLay wouldn't have been in the crosshairs of the office Pelosi created, anyway. None of that matters; just enjoy the ride on the high horse.