Thursday, January 31, 2019

Post 6000

Another odometer flip, as we've reached 6000 posts. This feature started in December of 2005 and, on average, we've averaged about 455 posts a year, although lately the pace has slowed a bit. Generally, we don't post much on the weekends any more, and there have been more open threads lately than I'd prefer, but it's still a lot.

Blogging isn't as big now as it was back in '05, primarily because social media and Twitter have swallowed up most of the potential bloggers. There's a fair amount of overlap between our readership here and my friends on Facebook, although the content here is substantially different. I do my best to stay out of politics on FB, because it's not a particularly tolerant place and many people I know who are decent and respectful in real life turn into flying monkeys when they log in to Zuckerbergia.

Is that cowardly? Shouldn't I let my freak flag fly there? I don't think so. I make a point of "liking" pictures of my FB friends, or funny things they post, but in the main I just scroll by the political rants. It's not worth engaging people on that level. But sometimes I wonder if the intemperance and intolerance of social media doesn't creep in here, at least a little bit. It seems to have creeped in everywhere else. When I look back at things I wrote, say, 10 years ago, the tone was different. I'm not always comfortable with that, but generally this is still a reasonably calm place, except when Benster is in the house.

Some, maybe most, of the people who come here these days have been coming for a decade or more. I consider most of my readers to be friends. As Gino has pointed out, friendships are still the best reason to stay in the game. I am grateful for the wisdom and good humor I receive here. Thank you for sticking with me, and the rest of us, as we continue on the eternal quest to sort things out.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

By the way. . .

It's cold:
Who's bitter?
Every once in a while, Mother Nature tries to kill us. Be careful out there, if you have to be out there.

Responding to incentives

It's what people always do:
Reality check: The number of residents fleeing Illinois for other states jumped to 93,704 in 2014 from 68,204 the previous year. It increased in 2015 to 106,544, and in 2016 to 109,941. More exodus in 2017 of 114,779 and last year, another 114,154.

Who do you think is leaving Illinois? For the most part, it’s people who have the means to do so.
And why would they be leaving?
Left-leaning politicians bash people like [Tom] Ricketts and want to tax them more to solve budget problems. But remember: Ricketts didn’t vote on those unbalanced budgets, year after year. He didn’t accumulate mountains of debt. He didn’t vote to underfund worker pensions. He didn’t vote to borrow more money instead of cut spending.

The Democrats in Chicago and Springfield did that. So when you hear the wealth-bashing, make no mistake who’s really responsible for the budget mess we’re in. It isn’t the Ricketts family.
Tom Ricketts owns the Cubs. He's got a lot of money, perhaps even as much as J.B. Pritzker, the new billionaire governor of Illinois. And what does Pritzker have in mind?
Pritzker and a Democrat-led House and Senate plan to introduce a graduated income tax proposal that would, at least initially, hit upper-income earners in Illinois. Candidates for Chicago mayor, including Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, have proposed a new tax on million-dollar property transactions. Aldermanic candidates, including Ald. Pat Dowell, 3rd, have floated the idea of a separate city income tax for wealthy Chicagoans. And mayoral candidate Bill Daley is open to a tax on commuters who live outside the city but work in Chicago.
I'm sure that will work nicely. Illinois has been circling the drain for a long time now, but it's worth watching what is happening there. What politicians do there will be coming to Minnesota soon enough.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Cold shot

This is a tough blogging moment -- there are some obvious things going on that aren't really ripe for discussion, and others that await further developments. It's also cold as hell right now in the Twin Cities:

Seriously, why do we live here?
There will be a thaw eventually. But right now, everything is cold. One interesting tidbit about Mayor Val Johnson's recent scrape with the law:

Things that make you go hmmmm.
So the mayor has expired tabs and needs a public defender? To quote a guy from Hibbing, something is happening here, but you don't know what it is.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Profiles in Cowardice

It is traditional to refer to a bishop as "your excellency." We don't stand much for tradition these days, because, frankly, most bishops aren't excellent in any way. And that goes double for Roger Foys, the bishop of Diocese of Covington. Let's recall the original bleating from this moral colossus:

Now, we get this:
“We apologize to anyone who has been offended in any way by either of our statements which were made with good will based on the information we had,” said Bishop Foys in the letter, which was addressed to the parents of Covington Catholic students.
 We're sorry if you were offended? Our statements were made with good will? And based on the information we had? Did it occur to you that you might get more information from the people who were actually there? Did you even talk to anyone from Covington Catholic before you issued your statement?

The next paragraph is closer to the truth, but still well afoul of the 8th Commandment.
“We should not have allowed ourselves to be bullied and pressured into making a statement prematurely, and we take full responsibility for it.”
Pardon my French, but how in the hell does a bishop get bullied? You have the staff and the hat, sir. You preside over the high school these students attend. You also have a responsibility to defend not only the faith, but also to provide aid and comfort to the faithful. There's more:
“I especially apologize to Nicholas Sandmann and his family as well as to all CovCath families who have felt abandoned during this ordeal. Nicholas unfortunately has become the face of these allegations based on video clips,” said Foys. “This is not fair. This is not just.”
Felt abandoned? No, Bishop Foys. Sandmann and everyone else there were abandoned, in straight-up Pontius Pilate style. And your malignant statement was up on the diocesan website for two full days before you shut the website down for "maintenance." You're right about one thing -- it wasn't fair. It wasn't just. And you were responsible for it, along with your superior, Joseph Kurtz, who had this to say:
Since I joined with Bishop Foys in condemning the alleged actions by Covington Catholic students, I apologize for what was a premature statement on my part based upon incomplete information. I very much regret the pain and disruption in the lives of the Covington Catholic community and in the broader Church and society.
We look to our bishops and archbishops to provide moral and spiritual guidance. We expect that guidance to be based on reflection and prayer. Instead, we got a couple of hot takes.

Back to Foys:
Foys’ most recent statement said that it was his “hope and expectation” that this investigation would “exonerate” the students, and that they will be able to move past this ordeal. He also expressed support for Robert Rowe, the principal of Covington Catholic High School. Rowe is a “fine leader,” said Foys, and “those calling for his resignation simply do not know him.”
The buck doesn't stop with the principal, Bishop Foys. It stops with you. There's more:
“I pray that with the grace of God and the goodwill of all involved peace will once again reign in the hearts and minds of our faithful,” said Foys.
For peace to reign, there needs to be justice. And justice requires those in position of authority to do more than offer a liturgical version of "whoops, my bad."

Meanwhile, as you consider the matter of goodwill, consider what happened in Washington, D.C., as the Covington Catholic students were returning to a firestorm and a bishop with a gas can:
The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception has confirmed that protesters led by the Native American activist Nathan Phillips attempted to disrupt the celebration of Mass on the evening of Jan. 19.

On Jan. 23, a spokesperson for the Washington, DC basilica released a statement to CNA confirming the previously reported events of Saturday night.

The statement said that while Mass was being celebrated, “a group of approximately 50 individuals attempted to gain entrance to the basilica while chanting and hitting drums.”
I don't know the condition of Nathan Phillips's soul, but based on the available evidence it's difficult to find much goodwill in his actions, either at the Lincoln Memorial or at the Basilica the next day. I would encourage Bishop Foys to continue to pray for Mr. Phillips, but I'd also suggest that Bishop Foys ought to have a resignation letter in the mail to the Pope.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Visual aid

Do you have difficulty reading people or situations? Are you not sure how to interpret visual cues?  The Babylon Bee comes to the rescue.

Presented as a public service.

Open thread/Everybody Must Get Stone

Ran out of time this morning, so it's an open thread. Drudge has his flashing light up because apparently the FBI decided to arrest Roger Stone overnight and took him into custody under cover of darkness, because that's what open democracies always do. It probably means we get another set of "Time to Impeach Trump" chants today, but lately that seems to happen every Friday. I'm sure the breathless reportage will arrive anon.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Getting Some Strange

John "Doc Zero" Hayward started out as a commenter and then contributor at Hot Air, the group blog where Ed Morrissey plies his trade. These days he's at Breitbart and spends most of his time writing about foreign affairs. I wish he'd write more about what's happening in the United States, because he's uniformly excellent at it. His latest is spot-on:
Passive conservatism was so thoroughly terrorized away from social issues over the past generation that it became reluctant to engage even when leftists are clearly the aggressors and their attacks are utterly dishonest.

The debate on the passive Right was never about pushing back or fighting, especially not by top-tier Republican officials looking to preserve their “electability.” The only serious topic of discussion was how much ground to yield, how many of the Left’s premises to agree with.

The idea was that yielding all cultural battles to the Left would allow Republicans to focus on “fiscal conservatism” and win over moderate voters who only care about pocketbook issues. Curiously, the Left never saw it that way, not for an instant.

As we would learn, ceding cultural battles to the Left without a fight, or actively helping them to score a little Strange New Respect and maybe some roundtable seats, made the “pocketbook issues” largely irrelevant. The Left frames everything in moral terms now.
The "Strange New Respect" thing dates back to 1992 or thereabouts, when a conservative writer named Tom Bethell first codified it:
If you’re not familiar with the “strange new respect” trope, a short primer. The American Spectator’s Tom Bethell introduced the concept in a 1992 article to ridicule the practice of liberal journalists who would reward conservative politicians who migrated from right to left by commenting in print on how they were now commanding “strange new respect” in Washington, showing “growth,” “maturity,” “wisdom,” and “thoughtfulness.” 
As I recall, David Broder of the Washington Post was often the guy who would bestow Strange New Respect. John McCain was a full-blown junkie for it, but as we know it was always a provisional honor. McCain was respected as long as he didn't contest the Left too seriously -- when he became the Republican nominee for president in 2008, he was a monster, but only until the election was over.

Back to Hayward:
What passive conservatism ceded to the Left was righteousness. Every left-wing issue is presented as a righteous crusade which no one can legitimately resist. The motives of dissenters are ruthlessly challenged and they are damned as apostates by the Church of the State.

The Left gained an almost unchallenged ability to designate cultural villains and target them for destruction, an ability they were boldly exercising against the Covington kids until citizen-journalists brought them up short with amateur video.

Meanwhile, the Right was completely stripped of righteousness. It cannot present anything as a moral crusade, not even when it speaks up for unborn children or victims of violent crime — not even when it champions those the Left allegedly cares about, like the “working class.”

The passive Right lost the ability to project righteousness even when defending core American principles, and indeed the pillars of Western civilization, like the presumption of innocence. The Left openly demands we sacrifice those things for their crusades.
Again, this is spot-on. And it's ground that our pal Gino has been tilling for years now. And Hayward's suggestion that the State is a Church is 100% accurate as well. It's all straight out of Eric Hoffer, but it's mostly a product of people trying to find a substitute for the social structures that they've rejected, as Jennifer Kabbany notes:
In the absence of a strong family identity, young people look for meaning and belonging. It may be a feminist, a socialist, or a Democrat tribe. The only requirement is that the tribe define itself in some way as a victim of the predominantly white, western culture and its institutions. Thus, if you challenge such a person’s tribal identity—perhaps by declaring that “there is only one race, the human race” or “I believe the most qualified person should get the job”—it is perceived as a threat to his existence. You threaten his life’s meaning. It’s much harder to practice tolerance if you think a challenge to your ideas is a challenge to your significance. It’s a recipe for endless division. The hunger for identity is what fuels the mob-ready grievance culture …

Too many students are stuck in a bottomless pit of social media posturing, where there is nothing more meaningful to do than to find the “bad guy” who thinks differently, line up for a cellphone video, and chant your way to a feeling of righteousness.
Kids from a suburban Catholic high school wearing MAGA hats are a threat because they aren't down with the struggle. Middle-aged middle managers writing early morning blog posts at their dining room tables are not. I'm easy enough to ignore and I prefer it that way. If young Nicholas Sandmann were to take off his MAGA hat and get on the platform with David Hogg, he'd get Strange New Respect for sure. But for now, he's a smug little bastard who deserves to get punched, or put into a wood chipper. Because compassion.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019


One can be an elder and still be other things. As we learn more about Nathan Phillips, the man who presented himself as a victim of evil Cincinnati-area teenagers, we discover a few things that might be worth consideration.

First, he's not a "recon ranger," whatever that was supposed to mean:

Discharged, but not never promoted
He was actually a guy who repaired refrigerators, and he never left the United States while he was a Marine:

Cold hard truth
Nothing wrong with that, but the records show he not a guy who ever saw combat, even though he hinted he served in Vietnam. And yes, he did hint that:

Phillips: When I was there and I was standing there and I seen that group of people in front of me and I seen the angry faces and all of that, I realized I had put myself in a really dangerous situation. Here’s a group of people who were angry at somebody else and I put myself in front of that, and all of a sudden, I’m the one whose all that anger and all that wanting to have the freedom to just rip me apart, that was scary. And I’m a Vietnam veteran and I know that mentality of “There’s enough of us. We can do this.” (Emphasis added.)
As has been well established, Phillips wasn't surrounded; in fact, he instigated the incident. And he wasn't done:
While chanting and playing ceremonial drums, a group of Native American rights activists reportedly led by Nathan Phillips attempted Jan. 19 to enter Washington, D.C.’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception during a Saturday evening Mass.

The group of 20 demonstrators was stopped by shrine security as it tried to enter the church during its 5:15 pm Vigil Mass, according to a shrine security guard on duty during the Mass.

“It was really upsetting,” the guard told CNA.
The kids from Covington Catholic, including the kid with the apparently radioactive smirk, did not enter the day intending to be the target of invective. It's quite likely these kids are sinners. We all are. But it simply won't do to say these kids were victimizing a tribal elder. They weren't.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Mayor Val Gets a DWI

The New Brighton mayor’s blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit when a police officer pulled her over early Sunday morning, according to charges filed against her Tuesday.

Valerie Johnson admitted to the offense when she made her first appearance on the charges Tuesday afternoon at the Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center.

Johnson pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree DWI during the hearing. A second count against her was dropped.

Johnson, 60, was pulled over at Ramsey County Road E and Old Highway 8 at 1:55 a.m. Sunday by a New Brighton police officer who noted she had expired tabs and was traveling 54 mph in a 40 mph zone, legal documents say.

Johnson was slurring her speech and exhibited watery, bloodshot eyes, during the traffic stop, so she was given a preliminary breath test.

Her blood-alcohol at the time was 0.17, according to the charges. The legal limit to drive is 0.08 in Minnesota.
A few thoughts:

  • If you blow a 0.17, you have no excuse. None.
  • As readers of this feature know, I don't care for Mayor Johnson or her politics. I think she's been an abysmally bad mayor for any number of reasons. That stands.
  • I've not personally witnessed her public behavior, but it's long been an open secret that she likes to drink and often drinks to excess. The stories have gone around town for years. Perhaps she'll learn from this. I hope she does.
  • The most curious thing about the episode? I do not know how she could possibly have expired tabs. She is the mayor of New Brighton. There is a license bureau in City Hall. She would have had almost unlimited opportunities to go get new tabs. Plenty of people have trouble getting over to the license bureau. It does not compute.
  • Should she resign? Maybe, but I'm not calling for it. She needs to get help, though, and soon. She could have killed someone. 
We'll continue to watch this matter. The jockeying for position could get interesting.

Profiles in Courage

After pulling their website down all morning, the Diocese of Covington punts:
A statement from the Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School 
On Monday afternoon the Covington Police alerted us that they had intelligence concerning a planned protest, Jan. 22, at Covington Catholic High School and a vigil at the Diocesan Curia. Due to threats of violence and the possibility of large crowds the Diocese was advised to close Covington Catholic High School, the Diocesan Curia and neighboring Covington Latin School. We thank law enforcement officers for their protection and will reopen when they say it is safe to do so.

Concerning the incident in Washington, D.C., between Covington Catholic students, Elder Nathan Phillips and Black Hebrew Israelites the independent, third-party investigation is planned to begin this week. This is a very serious matter that has already permanently altered the lives of many people. It is important for us to gather the facts that will allow us to determine what corrective actions, if any, are appropriate.

We pray that we may come to the truth and that this unfortunate situation may be resolved peacefully and amicably and ask others to join us in this prayer.

We will have no further statements until the investigation is complete.
The facts are there. There is video galore. The only corrective action needed in this case would be for the bishop and his pals in the chancery to admit they jumped the gun and to apologize to the children who were placed in their care. You don't need an independent third-party to do the right thing, folks. Or you could just resign, too. That would work.

Closer to home

I've written twice about the incident at the Lincoln Memorial involving professional protesters and a bunch of Catholic school kids wearing MAGA hats. This incident bothers me more than most things I write about, most likely because I can envision what these kids were thinking. I am a product of Catholic education and graduated from Xavier High School in Appleton, Wisconsin, in 1981. While I didn't send my own children to Catholic schools, it wasn't because I didn't value my own experience.

Covington, Kentucky, is across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. The kids who attend Covington Catholic High School are, most likely, upper middle-class. But if you look at them and the way they are behaving, I don't see arrogance. I can imagine being a high school junior, in a strange place, being confronted without warning or, in my view, provocation. I understand that wearing a MAGA hat seems to cause some people consternation, but it's still free speech and the kid most prominently featured in the videos, isn't really saying much.

If I had been the kid, I might have told the guy with the drum to leave me alone. Perhaps that would have been the better course, rather than standing still. The closest thing I can remember to that was being accosted in the Miami airport when I was on my way to Guatemala as an exchange student. I was confused and tired and was suddenly accosted by some Moonie-type guys who pinned a flower to my lapel and grabbed me while I was attempting to work my way down the corridor to my plane's gate. They would not let go of me until I gave them $5, which in 1979 was a lot of money for a 15-year-old kid. I was separated from the rest of my group and didn't know how to ask for help.

Is this a different set of circumstances? Of course. But if you are suddenly confronted with something new that you do not understand, whether it is a couple of guys grabbing you in the airport, or a guy beating a drum in your face, it's difficult to know how to react, especially if you are young.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Before it goes down the ol' memory hole

When we look back at the Covington Catholic kids and their excellent adventure on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, let's not forget this archived piece, which National Review pulled down after the argument became, well, non-operative.  Your author is Nicholas Frankovich, who seems to have forgotten what the 8th Commandment says:
It appears that most of the teenagers in this video are from a Catholic high school near Covington, Kentucky, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. They mock a serious, frail-looking older man and gloat in their momentary role as Roman soldiers to his Christ. “Bullying” is a worn-out word and doesn’t convey the full extent of the evil on display here.

For some of us, the gospel stories of Jesus’s passion and death are so familiar we no longer hear them. The evangelists are terse in their descriptions of the humiliations heaped on Jesus in the final hours before his crucifixion, the consummate humiliation. Read the accounts again or, if you’d rather not, watch the video. The human capacity for sadism is too great.

Evil. Sadism. Those are strong charges, even if they've been pulled down. But Frankovich had one more observation to make:
In any case, keeping in mind the parable of the proper priests and the Good Samaritan, whose religious practice Jesus’s listeners thought was wrong, listen to Phillips reflect on his experience on the Mall. Decide for yourself who is more pleasing to Christ, Phillips or his mockers. As for the putatively Catholic students from Covington, they might as well have just spit on the cross and got it over with.

National Review has a piece up on their site now excoriating people for jumping to conclusions. Kyle Smith describes what happened properly:
If you insult someone, and that person insults you back, you don’t get to cry, “Oh my gosh, for no reason whatsoever I’ve just been insulted!” The Christian thing to do is of course turn the other cheek, but if we’re being honest, people do tend to take the bait when they’re being baited, and teens are less likely than others to turn away from outright provocation. Nathan Phillips went out seeking to create an incident, and he fooled the New York Times and the Washington Post into accepting his false version of it.
All right and proper. But as of this writing, we've not heard a word from NR, or Frankovich, about the calumnies they heaped upon the Covington kids in believing the false version of events. If apologies are in order, it would seem that the apologies from that particular glass house are well overdue as well.

Update (Monday evening): Nicholas Frankovich of NR has issued an apology, but only to his readers:
Early Sunday morning, I posted a “strongly worded” (Rich Lowry’s description) condemnation of the conduct, seen far and wide on video, of a group of high-school students at the conclusion of the March for Life on Friday afternoon. I was preachy and rhetorically excessive, and I regret it. The overheated post I wrote has been taken down. Let this apology stand in its stead, both here on the Corner and in the memory of readers who justifiably objected to my high-handedness.
Does Frankovich still object to the "conduct" of the students? It's tough to say, but his avoidance of the topic suggests he still hasn't come to grips with the real meaning of what he said. I would argue his words were a little more than high-handed. I hope he gives it more thought.

Still, there is a larger apology that needs to happen. That would be from the Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School, which still had a denunciation of the students on its website. Here is a screenshot:

Under the bus

As of this evening, the site is currently in maintenance mode, which suggests the Diocese is taking down the comment and replacing it with something else, perhaps something that's a little less, uh, high-handed. As an aside, I don't know how you condemn first and investigate second, unless the Inquisition is back in town. I sent a note to the Diocese asking them to consider retracting this statement. I'll let you know if they respond.

It's all fake

Trump directed Cohen to lie, except he didn't. Some kids in MAGA hats from outside of Cincinnati were tormenting a noble Native American. Except they weren't.

Can you believe anything you read? Sure. Believe anything you want. But be prepared to check the motivations of the tale-tellers. And trust your own experiences. I know Catholic schoolboys. I was a Catholic schoolboy. I think the kids from Covington Catholic who were on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial were actually behaving pretty well, considering the amount of provocation on offer.

And provocation is key here. Again, my observation only, but it sure feels like a lot of people on the Left are spoiling for a fight right now. So far, the fight has been more metaphorical than real. But it's coming. If you start to see people walking around with MAGA hats and yellow hi-vis jackets, you'll know the hour is near.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

D and Benster Talk Hall of Fame Ballot -- 2019 Edition, Part Two

Part one is here.

We move on to returning candidates on the ballot. We'll go in order of votes received in 2018:

I'm ready, Geritol Fan.

Andruw Jones: He got votes on 7.3% of the ballots last year. He started out as an all-time great defensive centerfielder, morphed into a fearsome power hitter, then gained weight and absolutely hit the wall. He was a very different sort of player, but his overall numbers are similar to Dale Murphy, who was also a long-time slugger for the Braves who has thus far fallen short of enshrinement. His career batting average of .254 will be difficult to overcome. 434 home runs are impressive. He's not going to make it and may fall off the ballot this year, but a future Veteran's Committee may give him another look.

He's also significant for being the first prominent major leaguer from Curacao. This guy has Vets Committee written all over him.

Sammy Sosa: He got 7.8% last time. He's probably hurt more by PED use than anyone else. He hit 609 home runs. He was beloved. But his fall from grace was swift and severe. His numbers compare to Jim Thome, Mike Schmidt, Reggie Jackson -- HOFers, all. But he was on the juice. And he's not going to be in the HOF any time soon.

I watched Sammy Sosa on WGN as a kid and he was one of my favorites. Just a shame that he used drugs. 

Scott Rolen: He got 10.2% last time. Not everyone thinks WAR is a great measurement, but by that standard Rolen is a no-brainer and one of the top 100 players in baseball history. He's actually a lot like Ron Santo; a wonderful player who never got the credit he deserved. Santo eventually made the Hall, but his selection was posthumous. Rolen's biggest problem is that he was a contemporary of two third basemen who were better -- Chipper Jones (in the HOF) and Adrian Beltre (retiring this year and a first ballot HOFer, I think). But he was excellent. Maybe someday, but not this year.

I think Rolen is hurt by the fact that this year is a strong ballot. I think he gets in, but he's going to have to wait.

Billy Wagner: He got 11.1% last time. A dominant lefty reliever. Played most of his career in Houston and suffered for that. He seems like a Hall of Very Good guy to me.

Wagner is not the best closer of his era. That's Rivera. You could also argue that K-Rod is better. Wagner might get in when the Vets Committee takes a look, but it's tough to see him getting voted in with the normal process.

Gary Sheffield: He also got 11.1% last time. A jackass, bad teammate and a PED user. But a hell of a player nonetheless. Over 500 home runs, career .292 hitter. His career numbers are similar to great players like Chipper Jones, Mel Ott, Reggie Jackson, but he's likely to be the Dick Allen of his generation. As an aside, Allen may make the HOF as an old-timer in the next few years, but I wonder if Sheffield will ever make it.

Sheffield is arguably the face of BALCO. If you let him in, then you let Pete Rose in. 

Jeff Kent: He got 14.5% last time. With the possible exception of Joe Morgan and Rogers Hornsby, he might be the best offensive second baseman to ever play the game. Has offensive numbers similar to Ryne Sandberg, but Sandberg was a far superior player. Kent was an indifferent fielder and a bit of a putz, from most accounts. Probably deserves more recognition than he's likely to get, but it's difficult to make a strong argument for his candidacy.

I agree. I will say his feud with Barry Bonds was spicy.

Manny Ramirez: He got 22% last time. Offensive numbers say all-time great. But he was a notorious PED guy and, even though he did amazing things on the field, still seen as a malingerer during his career. 555 career homers and a lifetime .312 batting average translates into Jimmie Foxx/Frank Robinson territory, but would you take Manny over those guys? Of course not. He'll have to hope time and tide change views of his career, but as of now he doesn't have much support.

Manny also benefited from hitting next to David Ortiz for much of his career. He'll have to settle for being a Boston legend.

Fred McGriff: He got 23.2% last time. It's also his last chance on the ballot. A fearsome slugger and a good dude, but always seemed like a near-miss. But if Harold Baines is in the HOF, why wouldn't McGriff be? He's Baines with better overall numbers. McGriff's overall numbers compare in some ways to Willie McCovey, but in other ways to Paul Konerko. That's the dilemma. What do you make of his career? I'll be curious to see what happens.

The Crime Dog is a victim of his peers choosing to juice. If the writers left the roid users off the ballot, McGriff would get in. It's a shame he won't get in this year.

Larry Walker: He got 34.1% last time. This guy is a tough one. He was a great hitter and, at times, an exceptional outfielder. He hit 383 homers, with a lifetime batting average of .313. His offensive numbers are comparable to Duke Snider and Joe DiMaggio, but no one thinks Walker is that good. Should they? His largest problem is that he compiled some big years in Coors Field, but he also played the first half of his career in the mausoleum that was Olympic Stadium in Montreal. If you take his numbers at face value, he deserves the nod. I do.

I've been arguing Walker's case for a long time. He's arguably the best player in Rockies history and had a great end to his career in St. Louis. You can't keep an entire organization out of the Hall of Fame.

Omar Vizquel: He got 37.2% last time. The Ozzie Smith of his generation. Had a very long career (24 years!) and is among the greatest fielders of all time. Played long enough to get 2877 hits. His numbers are similar to Smith and Luis Apiricio. He's going to make it eventually, but it may take a few years.

Defense has always been underrated by the voters, except when it's overrated for really good defenders. I don't think Vizquel is a Hall of Famer, but I wouldn't be surprised if he got in.

Curt Schilling: He got 51.2% last time. Schilling was a huge talent, but I really think his huge mouth is hurting his candidacy. I've always been lukewarm about his career, but he was beyond dispute a big-game pitcher who went to the World Series with three teams and was instrumental in winning with both the Diamondbacks and the Red Sox. His overall numbers are like Don Drysdale and Doc Halladay. Drysdale is in and Halladay will be, perhaps as soon as this year. Tough to see why they measure up and Schilling doesn't.

If Schilling were a Democrat, nobody would care about what he says. He's the definition of a workhorse and belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Barry Bonds: He got 56.2% last time. I've probably said this before, but I wish Bonds had retired in 1998. He'd have been in the HOF for sure. But he watched McGwire and Sosa have their parade and decided he could top them. He got on the juice and proved he could hit more home runs, but in the process he wrecked everything. He was a great player, possibly in the Top 10 of all time, but he'll always have the taint. He ought to change his middle name to Hubris and be done with it.

When Bonds broke the all-time home run record, I felt anger. It's a shame that Roger Maris and Hank Aaron don't have their records back.

Roger Clemens: He got 57.3% last time. Same thing as Bonds. He won 354 games. He was a better version of Tom Seaver and if he had simply retired at, say, age 36, he's in for sure. But he extended his career with PEDs and is now paying the price for it. One of the top 5 pitchers of all time, but it's tough to argue on his behalf at the moment.

It really is a shame. Clemens had a heck of a second act in New York, but he chose to ruin his career in the process.

Mike Mussina: He got 63.5% last time. He won 270 games. He was a big game pitcher who rarely had the chance to pitch in one. But he was really good. The best comparable pitcher to Mussina is probably Juan Marichal. That's HOF quality. He may not make it this time, but he'll get there.

It's amazing that Mussina is underrated, but he is. He was quietly brilliant for a long time and is a key reason why the Yankees won the 2003 ALCS. I think he gets over the hump this year.

Edgar Martinez: He just fell short last time, getting 70.4%. This is his last year on the ballot. Martinez is the greatest DH of all time, with the possible exception of David Ortiz. Is it enough? Well, again the Harold Baines question looms. If Harold Baines is in the HOF, why not Martinez? Baines hit more home runs, Martinez hit for a better average. In my recollection, Baines was respected. Martinez, at his best, was feared. I'd like to see him make it, but he's a close call, which the overall numbers make clear.

I'd argue Martinez was as good a hitter as Junior. No one disputes that Junior is in the HOF. The DH has been around since 1973, and I think it's only fair that a DH gets into the Hall of Fame.

We will get the results this coming week. My guess is the class is Rivera, Halladay, and Martinez. Mussina might make it, too. If you want a darkhorse candidate, it could be Walker.

I think it's a big class this year. I have Rivera, Halladay, Martinez, Mussina, and Walker. 

Thanks for your help, Benster. And glad to see you've calmed down from the football picks!

The pastoral thing really helps, Old Dude. Thanks for letting me play!

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Patriots Aren't Underdogs Edition

Old dude, does it bother you that the Patriots are underdogs? Was Darth Vader an underdog during the Star Wars saga?

When you're talking comparative morality and Las Vegas is involved, I'm not sure it's a distinction of much value.

I really don't like morality plays. I am feeling the HYYYYYPPPPEEEE!, and can't wait to discuss these games.

I sense a disturbance in the Force. Or is it a Very Special Comment?

Watch and see. It is time to watch me work.

Los Angeles Rams (+3) vs. New Orleans Saints. This is a rematch of a game played earlier this year where the Rams were run out of the Dome. Some say that Sean McVay's personal assistant is going to be hired as a head coach, because apparently McVay knows everything and is the coaching flavor of the month. The Saints are almost unbeatable in the Dome these days, and I think they are going to dominate again. The Rams are too much of a finesse offensive team and all their talent has not won anything yet. Saints 70, Rams 49.

Saints are going to make their free throws, I assume? I expect a shootout, but perhaps not to that extent. Rams will have a chance, but I'm thinking Brees will find a way. Saints 34, Rams 28.

New England Cheatriots (+3) vs. Kansas City Chiefs. It's time for another Very Special Comment. I know that New England is not the underdog, but the NFL needs to seriously consider if it is better for their brand to keep having New England being showcased all the time. The Patriots have a coach and star player who knowingly cheated and an owner who makes Jerry Jones look like a moral guardian. How can Patriots fans continue to root for a team that does not care about the rules and is a bad example for our children? If Robert Kraft had any morality or shred of humanity, he would give back all the tainted money and fire every single cheater on his staff, and be banned from ever owning a football team. The Hoodie should be banned and stripped of his wins and be forced to give back his salary to the league. Brady should be stripped of his wins and give all of his mtroney to Adam Vinatieri. Vinatieri is the only reason that the Patriots are relevant these days, and every single Patriots fan should thank the heavens that he could kick in the clutch. Patriots fans, if you have any shred of morality, give up your tickets and turn your back on the team. You are aiding cheating and have shown you won't hold your "heroes" accountable. Kansas City should win, and they have a moral duty to. I am going to call on Roger Goodell to strip New England of every single win that the cheating weasels won and force them to give back their trophies to the teams who were screwed over by a rogue organization that is an embarrassment to the game of football. Chiefs 31, Cheatriots 0.

Whoa. I love you, young fella, but that was some Grade A crapola you just put out there. For a guy who claims he doesn't like morality plays, that's a ton of moralism you're flinging. I checked the record, just to be sure. I believe Adam Vinatieri left the Patriots around 2006. A lot has happened since then. I'll grant you one thing -- the Patriots are shady as hell. But I've been watching them for a long time and they win because they figure out how to beat their opponents and rarely make mistakes when the game is on the line. Anyway, on to the particulars. I think the Chiefs are better overall, but they haven't been in the Super Bowl since the 1969 season. Patrick Mahomes is a heck of a talent, but I have a feeling ol' Hoodie has something special for him. I don't like saying this, but. . . Patriots 27, Chiefs 24.

That was straight fire right there. Ben out.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Give me a ticket to an aeroplane

Baby just wrote me a letter:

"In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate."

I don't care how much money I gotta spend/Got to get back to my baby again.

"I also feel that, during this period, it would be better if you were in Washington and negotiating with me and joining the Strong Border Security movement to end the Shutdown."

And how can Nancy Pelosi respond? Realistically, if the shutdown is a crisis, why was she leaving town? For that matter, why were a bunch of Democrats in Puerto Rico last weekend? The job is in Washington, D.C., or so we thought.

The rack full o' luggage is pretty amusing, too:

Or is it baggage?
This may be a new thing -- the totally righteous troll. And not to put too fine a point on it, but one thing is clear -- Pelosi and her pals don't give a damn about the shutdown, or the impact of the shutdown. They were perfectly content to leave town and let their flying monkeys in the MSM frame the narrative their way. Again, pardon my French, but calling bullshit on this and stopping Pelosi's junket is one of the finest moments of Trump's presidency.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

D and Benster Talk Hall of Fame Ballot -- 2019 Edition, Part One

It's more or less an annual tradition that we talk about the candidates for the 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame. This year, Benster is going to be weighing in as well. We will cover 1st year candidates in this post, then circle back for the rest on Saturday. By the way, this is the strongest group of first-year candidates we've seen in a long time.

I'm old enough now where I've seen many of the players on the ballot, so I figure my opinion is worth something.

Opinions you've got for sure. So let's weigh in, shall we?

One and done (most likely) candidates. These guys are on the ballot because they meet the minimum requirements, but no one thinks they're worthy. I will dispatch each with a brief comment, and Benster will weigh in as he feels necessary:

Rick Ankiel: Started out as a pitcher, then became an outfielder. Memorable more for personal issues than anything he did on the field.

Interesting story, but his baseball career is more about the virtual circuit. Not a HOF player at all.

Juan Pierre: Speedy outfielder, sort of a modern-day Mickey Rivers, but less of a character than Mickey. Had a few nice seasons, but that was it.

He was underrated member and key contributor to the '03 Marlins, but doesn't belong.

Darren Oliver: He had a long career, 20 seasons. Was a starter initially, but ended up being a situational lefty. Won more games (118) in the majors than you might think, but was never a dominant player.

Not even close.

Jon Garland: Tall righthander, pitched most of his career with the White Sox. Had his best year in the championship season of 2005, winning 18 games for the Sox with an era of 3.50. He was never a dominant pitcher but he would definitely keep you in the game.

Solid #3 starter. As a rule, number 3 guys aren't in the HOF unless they are John Smoltz. He's not Smoltz.

Freddy Garcia: A good righthander, teammate of Garland on the 2005 White Sox. More successful career than Garland overall, winning 156 games. Similar career to current Twin Ervin Santana. A guy you were never afraid to trot out there, but not a HOF pitcher. May get enough votes to get a second crack, but probably not.

Had some good years in Seattle; other pitchers of his generation were better.

Ted Lilly: A poor man's Tom Glavine. Lefthander, bounced around a lot. Had several good seasons with the Cubs. He won over 10 games in 10 different seasons, which will keep you around. Good guy, by all accounts.

A good glue guy to have in your rotation. Glue guys don't make the Hall.

Michael Young: A good infielder, mostly at 3rd base. Had some power and usually hit for a good average -- lifetime .300 hitter. Made the All-Star Game 7 times, usually representing the Texas Rangers. Similar career to Ian Kinsler, although Kinsler is a better overall player. Might get a second look, but won't make it.

I'd also add that the Rangers were inconsistent during his tenure. Since he was one of the leaders of the team, that's not a good look.

Jason Bay: A power hitting leftfielder who bounced around a lot. Hit over 30 home runs in 4 seasons. Career numbers are similar to guys like Jesse Barfield, who you might remember but don't consider a HOF player. Of course, Barfield had probably the best outfield arm in the American League during his career. Bay was out in left because he couldn't throw.

Did win Rookie of the Year, but a lot of guys who aren't in the Hall won Rookie of the Year. 

Travis Hafner: Essentially a poor man's Jim Thome. Like Thome, he played the bulk of his career with the Indians. Hit 42 homers in his best season (2006), but ended up with about a third of Thome's career totals. Thome is in the Hall of Fame. Hafner is not going to get there.

He also struggled with injuries, which greatly shortened his career. Even so, he's not dominant enough to get by that.

Vernon Wells: A contemporary of Jermaine Dye and of similar value. He hit 270 homers and did win  3 Gold Gloves, but he was never great and he made the mistake of playing the majority of his career in Toronto, which meant no one paid much attention to him. But if no one thought Jermaine Dye was a HOFer, no one will think Wells is one, either.

Wells got caught in the shuffle, due to residing in the unglamorous city in baseball's glamor division. I'd be shocked if the Vets Committee gives him a second look.

Derek Lowe: He had a career that resembled John Smoltz, except he wasn't nearly as good. A starter who became a closer and then went back to being a starter, Lowe won 176 games, which means he had a substantial career. He also was a key member of the Red Sox when they finally broke through in 2004. Is that enough? Probably not. He may get enough votes to stay on the ballot, but I don't think he's ever going to get in.

Lowe won all three clinching playoff games in 2004, which is impressive. But it's not enough.

Kevin Youkilis: A guy who had great taste in teammates, he's a right-handed version of Mike Moustakas. Hit with moderate power and for a good average. Remembered more for being a colorful character than anything he did on the diamond.

Bill James famously called Youkilis "The Greek God of Walks." He'll have to live with that being his claim to fame, although I bet he rarely pays for a drink in a Boston bar.

Placido Polanco: Actually a pretty good player who was an excellent #2 hitter, but his career is scattered because he bounced around a lot. A career .297 hitter with decent power and a good glove, he was always a guy you wanted on your team. He might stick around on the ballot for a cycle or two, but I fear his tendency to be on the move will hurt him.

Those Tiger teams he played on were better than you might remember. If the '84 Tigers had to wait for recognition, Polanco will have to wait as well.

Miguel Tejada: An excellent career, but a steroid and HGH user who lied to Congress during their 2005 investigation. His stats are comparable to players like Alan Trammell (in the Hall) and Robinson Cano (active but with PED problems of his own). If he'd put together the career he did without juicing, I think he'd have an argument. Not sure he does now. May stay on the ballot for a while, though.

I think steroid users have no business even being on the ballot. Bye, Miguel.

Multiple ballot guys -- these guys will stay on the ballot, but won't make it in our estimation:

Roy Oswalt: An excellent pitcher who was never the staff ace, he won 163 games and had an superb career ERA (3.36), but he was, like Jon Garland, usually the #3 starter. Some of that was because his teammates (Clemens, Pettitte, Halladay) were just better, but when you look at his overall numbers, he compares favorably to people like Ron Guidry and Bret Saberhagen, who were great pitchers. But, you might notice, neither Guidry nor Saberhagen are in the Hall, either.

I want to like Oswalt. I really do. I just can't think of a signature moment in his career, though. It wouldn't surprise me if he falls off the ballot, but he's likely to stay on for another year.

Lance Berkman: He had a really nice career -- 366 homers, career .293 average, and was a winning player who was a contributor in multiple World Series teams. Is that enough? Do you think Jim Edmonds and Dick Allen are HOF-worthy? Maybe, but neither are in, although Edmonds has a better case. Berkman's career numbers are similar to those guys. Hall of the Very Good, if you ask me.

Berkman is borderline to me as well. He's a guy that I think the Veteran's Committee will give a second look some day.

Andy Pettitte: Man, this guy is a tough case. He won a lot of games (256) and was a key figure on some great Yankees teams. He also helped the Astros make the World Series in '05. But he was a PED guy, too, and he also was a bit of a weasel when you look back at things. If he'd laid off the juice, he'd be a no-brainer. But for now, I don't think he's there. He'll get a chance to make his case, though.

I've always compared Pettitte to Whitey Ford. Both were proven postseason performers. The problem is, Whitey Ford's only drug of choice was booze. You can argue about the morality of that, and his hijinks with Mickey Mantle are legendary. But he didn't use steroids. I'd be a hypocrite if I thought Pettitte was a Hall of Famer.

Todd Helton: For me, the most interesting guy on the 1st year list. I think Helton was a great player. He hit .316 for his career and hit 369 home runs. He was a Gold Glove first baseman, a leader, and probably one of the best ambassadors the game has had in the 21st Century. But he played his entire career at Coors Field, so some voters are going to knock him. I think the comparable player in this case is Jeff Bagwell, who is in the HOF on merit. Bagwell had to wait a few years, and Helton might, too, but he's a HOF player for sure in my estimation.

We'll discuss the other longtime Rockie on the ballot later. I think Helton belongs. I also find it hypocritical that people hold Coors Field against guys like Helton, when there are plenty of players who benefited from their own home ballparks, including a list of Yankee left-handed power hitters as long as your arm. The Gold Gloves at Coors should count for something, too.

Roy Halladay: Doc died in a plane crash, but we're going to forget that. Based on his career, which was somewhat shorter than some HOF pitchers, does he deserve enshrinement? I think yes, and I think he clears the bar rather easily. He won over 200 games and had an outstanding ERA (3.38). He was a straight-up intimidator and a stopper of the first rank. You gave him the ball and he got the job done. He also threw a no hitter in the playoffs, which only Don Larsen beat. He was the greatest pitcher in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays and a key player for some very strong Phillies teams as well. He may make it on the first ballot, but if he doesn't, he'll be there soon.

Doc was a very fun pitcher to watch. He's going to get in on the first ballot. He was the type of pitcher you wanted to give the ball to.

Mariano Rivera: Quite simply the greatest relief pitcher of all time. He was dominant and amazingly consistent. He kept Louisville Slugger in business with all the bats he shattered with his terrifying cutter. And yet he was a modest, gentlemanly player who was universally respected throughout baseball. But he was a stone killer. An all-time great for sure.

My only complaint about Rivera is that he dominated the Twins. When you can consistently get major league hitters out with one pitch, it's hard to deny your greatness. I consider myself lucky to have watched him play.

That's that. See you later for the returning candidates.

Get your hate on

Victor Davis Hanson, once again, explains the larger forces at play:
[Rick] Wilson was not original in his smear of the 63 million Americans who voted for Trump. He was likely resonating an earlier slander of Politico reporter Marco Caputo. The latter had tweeted of the crowd he saw at a Trump rally: “If you put everyone’s mouths together in this video, you’d get a full set of teeth.”

Was the point of these stereotypes that poor white working-class people who supposedly voted for the controversial Trump understandably ate improperly, did not practice proper dental hygiene, or did not visit dentists—or all three combined?

When challenged, Caputo doubled down on his invective. He snarled, “Oh no! I made fun of garbage people jeering at another person as they falsely accused him of lying and flipped him off. Someone fetch a fainting couch.”
Peel him a grape, too. There's more:
Caputo’s “Garbage people” was also a synonym for the smears that two career FBI agents on separate occasions had called the archetypical Trump voters.

In the released trove of the Department of Justice text communications involving the Clinton email probe, an unidentified FBI employee had texted to another FBI attorney his abject contempt for the proverbial Trump voter and indeed middle America itself: “Trump’s supporters are all poor to middle class, uneducated, lazy POS [“pieces of sh*t”].” In fact, Trump in 2016 received about 90 percent of all Republican votes, about the same ratio as won by both recent presidential candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney.

In the now notorious text communications between Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, fired FBI operatives on Robert Mueller’s special counsel team, Strzok right before the 2016 election had texted his paramour Page: “Just went to a southern Virginia Walmart. I could SMELL the Trump support.”
If you want to know why the government shutdown, and the plight of our noble public servants as they struggle with temporary cash flow issues, doesn't seem to be getting much traction, you might want to consider Page and Strzok, and their great love for those they serve.

So if you are a self-proclaimed paragon of tolerance, why the hate? Back to Hanson:
These outbursts were all voiced from highly educated elites (Caputo has a journalism degree from the University of Miami, [Donny] Deutsch graduated from the Wharton School, [Sarah] Jeong from Harvard Law School, Strzok received a master’s degree from Georgetown, Wilson attended George Washington University). And all engaged in vicious and cowardly stereotyping of a demographic in a manner that they assumed involved no downside. Rather, the smears were delivered on the expectation of winning approbation from their peers. And they did in twitter-fueled competitions to find the crudest pejoratives.
 Cue the Dobie Gray:

I'm in with the in crowd 
I go where the in crowd goes 
I'm in with the in crowd 
And I know what the in crowd knows

Hatred can wear academic regalia, or it can wear the cloak of professionalism. But at bottom, it's all the same. Hanson:
Those who slander the deplorables and irredeemables assume that they can say almost anything and expect no pushback, given the white working classes lack the romance of the poor and the supposed panache of the elite. A race to the bottom develops in which the more the hatred, the more the clicks and the media exposure. Minority critics expect their own identity politics affiliations to shield them from criticism. Wealthy white elites virtue-signal their disgust for those without privilege as a way of ensuring that those like themselves, who most certainly enjoy privilege, are rewarded with ideological exemptions for it.

Finally, we are learning that the entire idea of political correctness was never much about universal ideas of tolerance of the other, or insistence that language and protocols must not stigmatize individuals by lumping them into stereotyped and dehumanized collective groups.  What we are witnessing, instead, is that it is fine to demonize millions, from their appearance to their purported hygiene and smell to affinities with feces and apes—if it serves political or cultural agendas.

In sum, cultural progressivism is about raw power, not principle.
It's also the realization that, no matter how many degrees and credentials one obtains, we all will revert to junior high social norms when we can get by with it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Under a spell

I guess Bad Orange Man made a typo the other day in one of his tweets. This isn't news, but apparently one of the beneficiaries of his purchases thought it was trollin' time:

We are funny, so funny
Of course, typographical errors are yet another sign that the 25th Amendment should be invoked, at least according to John McWhorter:
The president of the United States has many faults, but let’s not ignore this one: He cannot write sentences. If a tree falls in a forrest and no one is there to hear it … wait: Pretty much all of you noticed that mistake, right? Yet Wednesday morning, the president did not; he released a tweet referring to “forrest fires” twice, as if these fires were set by Mr. Gump. Trump’s serial misuse of public language is one of many shortcomings that betray his lack of fitness for the presidency.
Trump writes sentences. Professor McWhorter does not approve of his sentence structure. I am a writer by trade, although I don't write much for my employer, because I have a team of copywriters who handle the work. Do I prefer copy that is free of typographical errors? Of course. This is also why my company employs a copy editor.

McWhorter knows his premise is faulty, but persists anyway:
One must not automatically equate sloppy spelling with sloppy thinking. Quite a few admired writers are not great spellers before editing. The problem here is that he neither checked the tidiness of this message before it went out to the public, nor asked anyone else to take that step, about an issue as dire as an interruption of governmental services (Governmental Services?). Such negligence is of a piece with Trump’s general disregard of norms, details, and accuracy.
One must not do something, but one does it anyway. Thanks for clarifying, Professor.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Nobody does it better

Trump feeds the Clemson Tigers fast food and turns the outrage meter up to 11:

Image result for trump fast food clemson
Have some
The sputtering rage on my social media feed was something to see. A representative sample:
REPREHENSIBLE. In America it has been customary for champions of any sport to be invited to the White House for a celebration. Prior to Jan 20, 2017 it was a high honor. Now that the criminal occupant of the WH is there, the ceremony is ridiculous. For the football national champions Clemson University, the “menu” is McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy’s; fast food chains. There’s a 5 STAR CHEF at the White House, and this imbecile serves the champions junk food. Disgusting!!!!!!
It's all there. And you don't need to figure out which fork to use.

Snowmageddon in St. Louis -- Sloppy

We pick up the story the following morning. By the time we had to check out of the Hampton in Chesterfield, the snow was turning into rain. That makes all the difference, because now we were simply dealing with wet roads. We were able to make our way to the Saint Louis University campus, then head back west to the Delmar Loop area of St. Louis, a district of shops and restaurants that reminds me of Grand Avenue in St. Paul, although with one difference; there are no Chuck Berry statues in St. Paul:

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, snow, tree and outdoor
Meanwhile, I'm still thinkin'
Had the temperature dropped, as generally happens in the Twin Cities following a big snowstorm, things would have been much worse. We were generally able to get around, especially since many of the good citizens of St. Louis were still hunkered down. We headed back to SLU and got the rest of Fearless Maria's things unpacked, then headed to our hotel, near Union Station. It's a great location and the building itself dates back to the early 1900s.

Image result for drury inn st. louis at union station
Old school
They don't build 'em like that any more. It was a much better day.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Snowmageddon in St. Louis

Well, that was a hell of a weekend. We went to St. Louis to drop Fearless Maria off at Saint Louis University. You may have heard about the snowstorm that hit the area over the weekend. It was tough out there. Really tough. I've clipped a map to set the scene:

MoDot hostage situation

The main road shown is I-64, which begins around Wentzville, Missouri, about 20 miles to the west. We arrived at the area about 6:00 p.m., heading eastbound. Our car was located about where the 64 logo is shown on the left of the screen. It was snowing heavily and traffic was stopped.  Absent any information from the Missouri Department of Transportation about road conditions ahead, we assumed it was a temporary delay. It was not. The road was closed up ahead. We did not know that. We turned on the local radio, hoping in vain to find out information about our particular situation. Instead, we got Cardinals happy talk on KMOX. By about 6:45, we had edged to the area around the off-ramp, but we were in the middle lane and could not get over. By this time, we'd started downloading the MoDOT apps on our phones and were calling MoDOT directly to find out what was going on. We found out that the road was closed ahead. We wanted to know what the plan was to open the road. Apparently there was no plan. Since I was behind the wheel, I couldn't call ahead to our hotel, but Fearless Maria was able to reach the hotel and cancel our reservation.

By 7:30, we were under the overpass. Still, no movement. Stuck in the center lane. The snow continued to fall. Nothing. No communication. Eventually, I was able to find an open space and get over to the right lane. By 8:50, we were at the merge point from Boone's Crossing to the highway. We were able to turn the car around and then go back up the on-ramp. We saw hotels (not shown) on the right side. We were able to pull into the parking lot of the Hampton Inn property. They had no rooms, but they were hoping there might be a cancellation, and offered us the opportunity to stay in the lobby. I did that, while Fearless Maria trudged through the snow to find a restaurant. Just about everything had closed, including the Brick House Tavern (shown on the map), which is next door to the hotel. They pointedly refused to get us food. Maria met a customer leaving the Brick House, and he told her that there was a Raising Cane's down the street that was still open. Mrs. D was able to find her way over there and get food and bring it back. By 9:50, the night manager at the Hampton had found us a room and our ordeal was over.

We were fortunate, actually. MoDOT was prepared to leave people out on that highway all night long; we learned the next morning that they were doing "wellness checks" on people stranded in the area, bringing them water and perhaps a snack, but weren't doing anything to get the road cleared and people off the highway. Eventually things cleared in the morning, but had we not been able to sidle our way over to the right lane and go back up the on-ramp, we'd have been out there all night. The poor schmucks who were stuck past the merge point, who knows when they were freed?

The next morning, the roads were cleared sufficiently so we could continue our journey and get around the area. There's more to the story and I'll pick it up tomorrow. Let's just say this -- MoDOT is a clown show.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

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

So old dude, do you think that Gino helped run Cody Parkey out of Chicago for what happened Sunday? I personally found it to be quite amusing.

There were laughs. Yes.

Divisional weekend is up next, and the big dogs come out to protect the home field advantage they earned.

Yep. And we must evaluate from snowbound Chesterfield, MO, where they don't have football any more.

But we have it. It is time to watch me work.

Indianapolis Colts (+5) vs. Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are a team who have struggled to win in the playoffs when it matters. In fact, Andy Reid will sell you a manual car that can't perform when you engage the clutch. The Colts are a difficult draw because they are the type of team that can handle a high powered offense with good defense and a quarterback who is viewed as old news. I like the Colts to pull the upset and set the stage for a very interesting throwback AFC title game. Colts 31, By The Way, What's Wrong with the Chiefs? 17.

It's snowing like hell here in St. Louis and it's snowing in Kansas City, too. Is that an advantage for the Chiefs? Historically, not necessarily. Colts are playing with the house money, but I like the Chiefs this week. Chiefs 28, Colts 20.

Dallas How Bout Them Cowboahs (+7) vs. Los Angeles Rams. Much has been said about the Sean McVay revolution this week when the Packers hired LaFleur, so we get to see if the HYYYYYYYPPPPEEE! is worth it. There are going to be a lot of Cowboys fans in the Coliseum on Saturday night, ready to see if Dallas can get past the barrier that is the Divisional Round. The Rams can play bully ball as well, and I think Dallas is going to waste more talent again. Rams 50, Cowpokes 0.

That's a subtle pick. Can Zeke Elliott play? He'll give it a go. Rams are rested and ready. Rams 31, Cowboys 21.

Los Angeles Chargers (+5) vs. New England Patriots. The Chargers get rewarded with another long trip to play an early game in the Eastern time zone, and to a place where the home team does not lose. Problem is that Patriots fans will never bring up that you can win at Foxboro in the playoffs. This Chargers team looks very interesting to me because Rivers looks like he wants to equal Big Ben and Eli in getting a ring to make those choices all look about equal. This Patriots team reminds me of 2009/2010, a good team that lives off past glories. Chargers 11, Patriots 0.

The Chargers are a team without a country, or even a fan base. But they don't care. The Patriots may be past their sell-by date. I agree with the young fella. Chargers 24, Patriots 17.

Philadelphia Eagles (+8) vs. New Orleans Saints. Well, Nick Foles survived his trip to Chicago and the Eagles are still defending their crown. New Orleans plays amazing in the Dome, though I think the week off is going to be something that hurts a Saints team that thrives off momentum and they also sat their starts. The Eagles are a proven champion team, and I can't pick against Foles, who laughs at your doubts. Eagles 30, Saints 10.

Ah, no. Saints are the best overall team in the tournament. And they will win at home. Saints 31, Eagles 24.
Enjoy your weekend. Ben out.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Travelin' shoes

Back on the road this morning. Driving into a storm, it appears.

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Let it snow

Benster will post his thoughts on the playoffs tonight, but I expect posting to be light otherwise for a few days.

Have an open thread.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

I don't know, but I've been told

Have you ever wondered if anything you read is true? Take yesterday, for example:
“The president stomped out of the meeting when he said to me, ‘Will you support a wall?’ and I said no. Now they’re trying to mischaracterize what he actually said,” Pelosi said of GOP leaders. “It was a petulant president of the United States.”
Was it? Do you trust Nancy Pelosi's account of the matter. Or do you have to pass the meeting to see what's in it? There's more:
Trump made clear to Democrats that “there will be no deal without a wall,” said Vice President Mike Pence. It was the third such bipartisan meeting in a week, all of which were unproductive. But this was the shortest, clocking in at about 30 minutes.
Did some one have a watch? Read on:
In the bipartisan meeting, Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Trump, Pence and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen did almost all the talking, according to a person briefed on it.
A person briefed on it? Who is the person? Who did the briefing? In a court of law, this would be called hearsay. Based on previous observation, although from afar, it's easy enough to believe that Pelosi and Schumer were doing a lot of talking. Schumer in particular loves the sound of his own droning voice.

We can believe that these individuals were in the same room, but do we really know what happened in the room? Do we trust any of the participants are telling the truth? Based on what assumptions?

You can go a long way into the weeds with epistemological discussions, but as you attempt to observe the sausage being made, especially from over 1000 miles away, it's never a good idea to assume you're being told the truth.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Approaching lifelike

No, this isn't particularly creepy:

Every picture tells a story, don't it

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Welcome Matt

So the Packers have hired a new coach. It's not this guy:

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Shameless homer Matt Lepay
And it's not this guy:

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That "Friends" guy Matt LeBlanc
Nor is it this guy:

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Flying Frenchman Guy LaFleur

Instead, it's this guy, Matt LaFleur:

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The new face of the Packers

The biographical data, from Pro Football Talk:
The 39-year-old LaFleur, who played college football at Saginaw Valley State, started his coaching career there in 2003. After five years as a college coach, LaFleur became an offensive quality control coach with the Texans. Two years later, LaFleur joined Washington. Four seasons later, he served as quarterbacks coach in Atlanta, working with Kyle Shanahan. LaFleur then become offensive coordinator with the Rams for one year, before taking that same job in Tennessee (where he was working with a defensive coach, giving him more control over the offense).
A few observations:
  • While I'm not certain the young hotshot model is always the way to go, LaFleur has good credentials and demonstrable success, especially in Atlanta. Matt Ryan was never better than in 2016, the year LaFleur was there. How much credit LaFleur deserves for that is impossible to know, but the record shows Ryan hasn't been as good since then.
  • Most of the national pundits thought Josh McDaniels, who has been Bill Belichick's right hand in New England, would get the job, but I'm not surprised he didn't. After the way McDaniels jilted the Colts last season, it would have been difficult for McDaniels to assemble a coaching staff. McDaniels is known for his innovative offensives. Unless I miss my guess, the Packers figured LaFleur could do what McDaniels does without the baggage.
  • It sounds like the Packers are going to retain the incumbent defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine. That's a good move. Pettine did nice work this past season, despite an unbelievable run of injuries. By the end of the season, the Packers were playing street free agents in several spots on defense, but Pettine was able to keep things from falling apart. His steady hand will allow LaFleur to concentrate on the key part of the job, which is. . .
  • Aaron Rodgers. Can LaFleur do for Rodgers what he apparently did for Ryan? That's the wager the Packers are making. From what is known about LaFleur, he has the intellectual firepower to deal with Rodgers, a brilliant but arrogant man who happens to be the most gifted quarterback of his generation. It was clear that Mike McCarthy's relationship with Rodgers was beyond repair, which is why he's looking for work. I doubt Rodgers had veto power over the hire, but I'd be willing to wager that Rodgers is okay with it.
  • I was surprised the Packers moved this quickly, but if they decided LaFleur was a better choice than McDaniels, it's likely another team might have felt the same way. The other advantage is LaFleur gets a head start on assembling the rest of his staff. That matters.
The formal announcement should come today. The Green Bay job is unique and the Packers usually are patient with coaches, but there's a sense of urgency given where Rodgers is in his career. Good luck, Coach.