Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The police and the state

We're not going to make any progress talking about the issue at this moment, but we do need to think about the amount of firepower that police departments have these days. It's still worth asking why St. Cloud, Minnesota has this vehicle:

It's also worth asking why a small town in Wisconsin has a vehicle like this:

And it's definitely worth asking why this vehicle and 24 armed officers went after a 75-year old man for a civil judgment. A taste of the reasoning:
Marathon County sheriff's officials aren't apologizing for their tactics. Sheriff's Capt. Greg Bean said officials expected to have to seize and remove tractors and wooden pallets to pay the judgment — hence the cadre of deputies. He also said what while Hoeppner was never considered dangerous, he was known to be argumentative.
That's the beauty part -- if you have armored personnel equipment, you are far less likely to have to apologize for anything. And woe betide you if you are an argumentative 75-year old guy. As Bean points out:
"I've been involved in about five standoff situations where, as soon as the MARV showed up, the person gives up," saving time, money and increasing safety, Bean said.
Massive force is often quite efficient.

il miglior fabbro

John Hayward, yet again, on the ludicrous notion that the Justice Department is going to really, no really, pursue a civil rights prosecution in the Michael Brown/Ferguson case:
This perpetual fantasy of federal double jeopardy to satisfy the mob is silly, because such charges are considerably more difficult to bring than regular criminal indictments.  The grand jury couldn’t even see “probable cause” – a very low standard – to charge Wilson with involuntary manslaughter.  A federal civil rights trial would have to prove that he abused his authority with the intent to deprive Michael Brown of his civil rights.  That would be orders of magnitude more difficult to prove than the less sensational charges the grand jury decided not to hand down.

I don’t think it’s healthy to use the Justice Department for performance art to entertain rioters, and give activists something to talk about on television for a few days.  This idea of civil-rights prosecution as a “do-over” when the regular court system fails to bring “justice” to a minority victim is poisonous.  It undermines confidence in the courts, and since the last-ditch civil-rights revenge trial never actually happens, it only makes everyone more cynical about the justice system.  For all the sunny rhetoric about “hope and change,” cynicism hangs like a dark cloud over everything these days.
More at the link.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Anyone could become obsessed with the past with a background like that!

-- Charlie Riedel, Associated Press
Talking loud and saying nothing
-- David Goldman, Associated Press

Actual caption follows, emphasis mine: A protester walks out of a store with goods after the announcement of the grand jury decision Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. A grand jury has decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed,...  Photo: David Goldman

Monday, November 24, 2014

Stories people don't like to cover

For years, the stories about Bill Cosby's apparent, ahem, predilections have been hiding in plain sight. No one really wanted to talk about it, but now it's all out there and his career is in ruins.

For years, Jonathan Gruber was telling his pals in the know how smart he was, littering the internet with tales of how his big brain and super spreadsheets fooled the masses. A lot of people still don't want to talk about it, but it's all out there and his career, while not in ruins, isn't going so well:
North Carolina’s state auditor on Thursday terminated a contract with Jonathan Gruber, the MIT economics professor and health-care expert whose comments on the Affordable Care Act have generated fury among conservatives.

Auditor Beth Wood (D) had hired Gruber to analyze the state’s Community Care of North Carolina program, which provides managed care to the poor and disabled. Gov. Pat McCrory (R) and state lawmakers involved in reforming the state’s Medicaid system were studying whether to include the Community Care program in the reformed system.
Why do that? According to the linked report, it was because those darned conservatives were angry:
The month before he was hired, Gruber had appeared at a health-care policy conference in Pennsylvania, where he credited “the stupidity of the American voter” with helping pass the Affordable Care Act. Unnoticed until this month, the comments — and others in which Gruber glibly insults voters and taxpayers — exploded on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show, Fox News and conservative Web sites.
Of course, conservatives knew all along that the Affordable Care Act was a disaster and voted accordingly. This was more of a cartoon villain doing a monologue:

No capes, Mr. Gruber. No capes.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Birthday Brilliance Edition

So old dude, how do you feel about yesterday being my 19th birthday?

I'm delighted about it. One of the most important days of my life. Even when you were just a tiny baby, I could sense the hype building.

Yes, it's true. I was born to deliver the HYYYYYYYYYPPPPE!

You were little, though. Here's what you looked like that day:

Pumping up the crowd, even then
That picture proves the point, though -- see that fist? I was already leading the crowd! Just like I'm a leader in picking games!

You've done well enough at it.

Time to go from strength to strength. Watch me work!

Minnesota Golden Gophers (+10.5) vs. Nebraska Speed Bumps. You know, Geritol Fan, I think I'm probably giving Nebraska too much credit by calling them a speed bump. A speed bump would have had better success than the Nebraska defense did last week. You remember this?

So that's the Nebraska defense? And they're favored by 10 1/2? Not quite. The Gophers gave Ohio State a scare last week and are a sneaky team that is better than the talking heads at ESecPN would let you know. Nebraska started well last week lest we forget it, but ended up getting thumped quite badly. As much as the "Desperate Team at Home" theory would say that Nebraska has got this, but remember that Minnesota has a running quarterback in Liedner and David Cobb, who is a very underrated back. Minnesota 31, Nebraska 17.

I think Nebraska will play better than that. They have to, actually. As for the Gophers, there's little question that they are improving, but this is going to be a tough test. Nebraska has a lot of pride and they don't lose very often in Lincoln, still one of the most intimidating addresses in college football. If Nebraska gets off to an early lead, the Gophers could have trouble. If the Gophers can control the clock, they win. Nebraska 28, Gophers 24.

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-10) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes. Old dude, can I admit something? Iowa confuses me. They are really an inconsistent team. They crush Northwestern, then get crushed by the Gophers. I'm not sure what to make of them, to be quite honest. So how will they do against Mr. Gordon and the Badgers? I talked to a friend who is a Hawkeye fan and he tells me that Iowa has been bad and he thinks that Ferentz could be on his way out. Iowa City is going to be a factor because the last two times Wisconsin was there they had to fight to get tough wins. The running game and defense should keep it close, and Iowa has a worse quarterback in Jake Rudock than Wisconsin has in Stave. Wisconsin 31, Iowa 30.

I don't think this will be easy -- trips to Iowa City rarely are. Having said that, the Badgers are looking pretty good right now. The last four games the Badgers have been outscoring their opponents  by an average score of 45-12. Melvin Gordon is just a monster and they have one of the best defenses in the country. I tend to think the trend continues. Iowa will make it interesting for a while, but the Badgers roll. Badgers 38, Iowa 20.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-9.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings. Speaking of rolling, Aaron Rodgers is doing some pretty amazing stuff. You don't expect an NFL team to score over 50 points two games in a row, but that's what the Packers have done. The first meeting was a Packer rout in Green Bay, but the Vikings play the Packers tough at home. Ben Tate signed with the Vikings this week and should be helpful until noted Packer killer Adrian "All Day" Peterson returns next year. This game should be close as normal, but as much as I love the Vikings and wish them well, this is not that week. Green Bay 45, Minnesota 23.

I do think the Vikings are headed in the right direction and I'm glad that they've finally figured out that Adrian Peterson isn't going to be walking through the door. You can't really plan with all the uncertainty. It hasn't helped. Teddy Bridgewater does some things well, but I do wonder about his arm strength, especially on what looks to be a rainy and windy day in Minneapolis. Aaron Rodgers can handle the weather. I also expect that the Packers fans will be numerous at the stadium, taking away some of the home field advantage. You have to like the Packers in this one. Packers 38, Vikings 17.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+6) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. So Lovie Smith and Josh McCown are coming back to town to face their old friends? Jay Cutler is ready for the event:

Did you know that the surgeon general has determined that watching Jay Cutler play football is hazardous to your health? Tampa Bay has looked as ugly as those old jerseys, which caused an incident with Green Bay down there a few years ago. I said in this feature that the Bears made some choices that were questionable, and if literature is any guide it is time to pay the Piper for all the success they once had. Old Bear Leader 31, Fire Everyone 11.

Jay is smokin', all right. Tampa is a pretty bad team, though, and I think the Bears hit bottom in Green Bay a few weeks back. Marc Trestman is fighting for his job right now and while Cutler appears to be nonchalant about his career, I think he does care. And remember, Tampa is a bad football team. Bears 28, Bucs 17.

New York J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets (NL) vs. Buffalo Bills, in Detroit. Ordinarily this game would rank quite high on my I Couldn't Care Less Meter, but did you see what that storm in Buffalo looked like? Look at this:

It's incredible. They can't get Ralph Wilson Stadium shoveled out in time for the game, so they have to move the game to Detroit. I hope everyone in the Buffalo area is doing ok and I pray for their safety. I said at the start of the year that the AFC East was up for grabs and that these teams could make some noise. I was horribly wrong about the Patriots. Both teams are struggling and the neutral field won't give any home advantage, so in that case: Buffalo 17, New York 17.

It's pretty incredible. Every time I see those pictures, I realize that I have no complaints about the early winter we're having up here. Buffalo is a mediocre team and the Jets are a bad team, so I 'll pick the mediocre team. Bills 24, Jets 17.

That's all I have, old dude! I'll see you on Monday as I plan for my triumphant return to the Twin Cities. Ben out!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Groundhog Day

President Obama did what he wanted yesterday. Nothing new there. What really changed, though? Think about it:

  • He's always been about selective law enforcement and ignoring things that are inconvenient to him. It's been the entire purpose of Eric Holder's career. Same thing for Lois Lerner, Jeh Johnson and everyone else who has ever been in the employ of this administration.
  • Will immigrants come out of the shadows? Why would they, really? Once you do, you reveal yourself to the government, assuming you're honest about your actual identity, and you get the privilege of paying taxes on your income. As long as there are people who are willing to pay for work that's off the books, a lot of people will continue to work that way.
  • Will border security be increased? Of course not. That could have happened at any point in the previous six years of this administration. Or, to be fair, in the previous 60 years since Eisenhower cracked down on border crossings. There are too many incentives, for too many people, to avoid an actual crackdown. The Chamber of Commerce wants low cost labor and the Democratic Party wants a larger clientele. Nothing new about any of that.
  • Most people who claim they don't like cheap labor are selective in their opposition. And we're all complicit in that. I had a new roof put on my house a month or so ago. The work crew that did the work were clearly guys from Mexico or further south into Central America. I talked to a few of them and more than a few couldn't speak English. I speak some Spanish so I was able to figure out what they were talking about as they worked, and it was mostly about the job they were doing. Had I called any roofing contractor in town, I'd have seen similar groups working on the job. On those days that I stop for coffee on the way in to work, I often see similar work crews who are getting coffee as well. They might be roofers, they might be landscapers, they might be painters. That's the way the world works and there's no point in pretending otherwise. I have no idea whether the roofing contractor was employing anyone who was in the country illegally, but it wasn't in my interest to make an inquiry.
  • At bottom, this action is a finger in the eye of Obama's political adversaries. The goal is to make the opposition mad, so that they say and do things that can then be portrayed as insensitive, or racist, or violating the sensibilities of the platoons of social justice warriors arrayed across our fair land. It's also a finger in the eye of many of his supporters as well, especially lower income workers who will have more competition for jobs, but Obama doesn't care about that particularly. He does what he does. As do we all.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hugh Hewitt Calls Me Out

When I was a young lad, I caddied. $4 a round. $6 for a double.  Three rounds a day on the weekends.  With tips you could make $25 in a day. Not bad for a 12 year old in 1968.

But there were jobs which, with sufficient seniority, you’d skip, even if it was the last bag of the day.  Crazy Lou –who was given to every newbie because he yelled at you.  A particular doctor who played worse then than I do now.  And Mr. D.

Mr. D was a cheater.  It was ignominious to be associated with him.  Everyone knew he was a cheater.  Everyone he played with.  The pro shop staff.  And of course the caddies.  Everybody knew.  He was disreputable.

Elections have consequences

The election that is most consequential at the moment isn't the one we just had, but rather the one we had in 2012. We'll find out more about the specifics tonight, when the Leader of the Free World speaks. Meanwhile, the Leader of the Free World has a message for all y'all:

We could have avoided this unpleasantness if you'd just given me what I wanted in the first place

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


It's a safe bet that Adrian Peterson will not be playing for the Minnesota Vikings this year:
In suspending the Minnesota Vikings star running back for at least the remainder of this season, the National Football League on Tuesday seemed to be using the case to set strict new guidelines for players, and at the same time try to rebuild its tarnished image.

The NFL has been under fire from sponsors and fans for the perception that it has treated player transgressions lightly, and Commissioner Roger Goodell has vowed to form policies that will strongly address those complaints. His penalties on Peterson, who two seasons ago was the league’s most valuable player, are likely evidence of the league’s change in policy.

Some attorneys said that arguing whether Peterson’s punishment for beating his child was more severe than what other NFL players had received for more serious crimes was no longer the point.
This case had the NFL in a box, largely of its own making. You can't be running things like this public service announcement during your broadcasts:

and then let Adrian Peterson back on the field as if nothing really happened.

It's a tough blow to the Vikings to lose the guy who has been the public face of their team for the better part of a decade. Having said that, Peterson's days as a Viking were numbered anyway. It's a tough time to be a running back in the NFL generally, since most runners are considered disposable. It's far more common for most teams in the NFL to have a new featured back every two years or so than to have a guy like Peterson; the only other back in the NFC North with any longevity on his team is Matt Forte of the Bears. Every year a new crop of running backs appear and the Vikings will find a suitable replacement soon enough.

For his part, Peterson seems far less nimble off the field than he is on the field. His admission that he was smoking marijuana while his case was being adjudicated certainly didn't help matters, and the league's ostentatiously pious pronouncements about his lack of remorse were particularly striking:
“In the absence of speaking to you to understand your current disposition toward child discipline,” Goodell wrote, “we cannot be sure that this conduct will not be repeated. Moreover, we are unaware of any effort on your part to acknowledge the seriousness of your conduct and your responsibility to demonstrate a genuine commitment to change.”
About that "absence of speaking to you" part. . . Peterson blew off a scheduled hearing last Friday, no doubt at the advice of his attorneys and the NFLPA. That was a mistake and it's emblematic of a larger problem for the players, i.e., the fecklessness of their union. The NFLPA is not like the baseball union; most NFL contracts are still pretty one-sided and players often get a lot less money than the reported figures indicate. If you doubt that the NFLPA is feckless, consider this weak sauce:
The NFLPA disagreed. Perhaps drawing the lines for a coming legal battle with Peterson caught in the middle, the union said Tuesday the league’s decision “is another example of the credibility gap that exists between the agreements they make and the actions they take.” The NFLPA added that an unnamed NFL executive had earlier told Peterson that his time on the commissioner’s exempt list — the running back was placed on it with pay shortly after his indictment in September — “would be considered as time served.”
Emphasis mine. If this were true, you'd expect the NFLPA to name the executive in question. There will be grievances filed and posturing galore, but we should all be surprised if anything really changes. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

With the usual subtlety

The New York Post asks the question:

If you have to ask
While it's too early for 2016, it would hardly be surprising if Hillary Clinton falls short yet again. She's also susceptible to the Roger Mudd question:

Inevitability is evanescent.

il miglior fabbro

John Hayward, yet again, on "Shirtgate," in which one of the scientists who landed a space probe on a comet was brought low because of his love of bad shirts:
We get these Internet mob actions so frequently, over such trivial affairs, because they’re easy.  In an early day, staging a demonstration, or even writing a letter of protest, would have taken some effort, especially if the outcry was loud enough to be noticed  by major media.  Now it’s the easiest thing in the world to join a mob by popping off a Tweet with the right hashtag.  The cost of participation is nil, while the satisfaction gained from destroying someone’s career or forcing a tearful apology from them is considerable.

No resource has ever been less expensive to produce than Internet bile.  Forgive me, feminist legions, if I find the fate of Yazidi girls at the hands of ISIS a far more important War on Women than anything happening on Matt Taylor’s shirt.  You’re not doing the real cause of women’s rights any favors by allowing yourselves to be distracted into trivial pursuits, high-fiving each other because you made a science nerd cry.  But this is all about low-effort, high-reward entertainment, isn’t it?  As we’ve seen from the insipid online campaign against the slavers of Boko Haram, it’s not much fun throwing hashtags of shame at savages who couldn’t care less about social media campaigns.  (By the way, for any social-justice warriors keeping score out there, Boko Haram just overran the village it kidnapped those girls from.  But who cares, right?  You guys are all over the cheesecake shirt menace.)
More at the link.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Thanks for reading, as always

I wrote a very short piece on net neutrality the other day and MinnPost ran it in their "Blog Cabin" feature. I was very amused by the responses I received there, which were in the main earnest and predictably outraged. I wrote a response to the responses (warning -- this is going to get a little meta), which I'm republishing here. I assume this comment will go through their moderation and eventually appear on the site, although it's not up as I post this. I've decided to offer it here because it's actually worth reminding people about why we (well, mostly Benster and me these days) operate this blog:
Glad you all enjoyed, or didn't enjoy, what was intended as an observation, not a full-blown argument, concerning net neutrality. A couple of points:

I have no dog in this fight, nor any great love for Comcast. I rather dislike them, actually -- hence the "mild profanity."

The point I'm making about New Brighton politicians is that they do have a voice in granting franchises. There's a pretty good chance that we will have a new cable provider/ISP serving our area soon, because the local commission may not choose to go with the successor company to Comcast -- my understanding is that Comcast is going to have to divest certain markets because of their pending merger. And that's the point -- to the extent that I, like most people, get my internet service from a de facto monopoly, I'd prefer to have that oversight of the monopoly take place at a level that's closer to me. Your mileage may vary.

Finally, I don't write for MinnPost, so whatever standards readers might envision for MinnPost don't enter into my thought process or approach. I never know when, or what, MinnPost chooses to publish from my blog. I am grateful that MinnPost does run my posts from time to time, since the MinnPost audience is significantly larger than the small but loyal readership I have on my own blog. To its credit, MinnPost is offering a conservative voice in what is largely a center-left format. And I'm happy to be a piñata for y'all. If I can get MinnPost a few extra clicks by offering a contrarian view, that's good for everyone. I'm not a member of the StarTribune alumni association that works for this website, nor am I attempting to be a professional journalist or pundit. There's a reason why my blog name uses the term dilettante; I have no interest in being comprehensive or definitive. I'm just offering my take on things.
I've been at this for nearly nine years and we have over 4,300 posts on the blog. I end up writing about politics more often than anything else, because political power and its uses are the greatest threats to my liberties. I harbor no illusions about the larger meaning of this blog; it's a spit in the ocean. It's worth doing because we can, and do, reach people. And that's good enough.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Benster and D Pick Your Games: Showdown Weekend Edition

Old dude, this weekend has games that will undoubtedly show if the teams we care about most are where they want to be at this time.

Yes -- it's always a voyage of discovery. 

Indeed. Hard to argue with that statement. Watch me work.

Ohio State Buckeyes (-13) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers. Minnesota has been a surprising team, contending in the Big Ten West, and the Gophers still has a chance to get a trip to Indy. This game looks like a mismatch, considering Ohio State had a big win on the road in East Lansing to pretty much seal the East. J.T Barrett has surprised many by keeping Ohio State on the outside of the top 4, and they still have a chance to play in the College Football Playoff if they win out. My views on the Buckeyes are no secret -- I hate 'em. This game smells like a trap because teams often will come off a big win in a hyped game and then lose to a surprising young team. It happened to Alabama two years ago when a guy named Johnny announced his arrival on the big stage. Mitch Leidner has the chance to write himself into legendary status. Look for him and David Cobb to win the biggest game Minnesota has played since that horrible night 11 years ago, when Michigan broke Glen Mason's heart. Minnesota 27, O-H-N-O 17.

Ohio State really surprised me last week. They're formidable. Having said that, I think the Gophers are getting better. This game is a pretty good measuring stick for Jerry Kill. I think it's going to be a battle, but in the end, I think OSU survives. Buckeyes 31, Gophers 24.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (+ 6.5) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers.  This series since Nebraska moved into the Big Ten has been interesting. Wisconsin destroyed Nebraska 3 years ago in Camp Randall in a "welcome to the real world, boys" moment. Nebraska won a tight tension filled game in Lincoln the next year, then Wisconsin hung 70 points on the Cornhuskers in the conference title game that year, the last act of Bret Bielema in Madison. Both teams have a powerful ground attack, and Ameer Abdullah and Melvin Gordon are the best in the country. Abdullah is hurt, though. If Abdullah can't answer the bell, or is less than 100% effective, I like Wisconsin, especially with the game in Mad City. Wisconsin 35, Blackshirts 24.

The secret of the Badgers is that they play very good defense. Nebraska is the best team they've played since LSU, but they are flawed in some ways. I think home field is going to matter a lot in this game as well. Badgers 38, Nebraska 27.

Beloit College Buccaneers (NL) vs. Knox College Prairie Fire. The Midwest Conference is having Championship week this week, where teams play crossover games. It makes no sense at all, but okay, so the Bucs are heading down to the Knosher Bowl. Both the Bucs and the Fire are not elite, but they could probably score on the Bears defense. Now, as you know, the old dude is a Beloit alumnus, so I have to tread carefully here. As much as I love the Bucs and respect the school, Knox is my school. I want the boys to win once more for the seniors. Fire 24, Bucs 10.

My Bucs were close in a lot of games this year, but had trouble closing the deal. Knox has the home field, but I suspect the Bucs have the better players, especially their talented running back named Mason Dixon. No, really -- the kid is really named Mason Dixon. For that reason alone, how could I not pick my Bucs? Beloit 31, Knox 24.

Minnesota Vikings (+ 3.5) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. I said that the Bears would play the Packers in a tight game. Boy, things did not go as anyone thought. Surprisingly, nobody in Chicago lost their job for that performance, which was embarrassing for the Bears, the league and for NBC, which had to be cringing as television sets were switched off everywhere but in Wisconsin t.v. markets. The Vikings have been playing better as of late and look to be going in the right direction, and considering that me and 10 other random guys on my floor could look good against the Bears, I like a real pro team's chances. Vikings 55, Bears 14.

We're going to find out a lot about the Bears this week. They can't be that bad. Or maybe they are. Just a hunch: Bears 27, Vikings 20.

Philadelphia Iggles ( +5.5) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. In Green Bay the mood is radically different than in Chicago. Aaron Rodgers played one of the best games I have ever seen a quarterback play on Sunday night. Philly will be a challenge because of Shady McCoy, but in an ironic twist from last year's meeting, Nick Foles will not be playing with a collarbone injury, which is very unfortunate. Last year, the Eagles had fun in Lambeau dealing with Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien. This year, they get Aaron Rodgers. I don't expect the Packers to play as well as he did against the Bears, but a win is vital. Packers 31, Iggles 29.

This should be a great game. The Eagles are 7-2 for a reason and Mark Sanchez, while not a great quarterback, should be serviceable. I think Rodgers and company are too much in Lambeau, though -- they've been blowing teams out. This one won't be a blowout, but it will go the way we'd like. Packers 38, Eagles 28.

Detroit Motor City Kitties (Even) vs. Arizona Cardinals. Who would have thought that this game would be a much anticipated game at the start of the season? The Lions have been winning games by the sleight of hand and luck, but they are winning them, so you have to give them credit for that. Arizona is a serious threat to win the NFC West and is looking like it could be the first team since Bayern Munich to host and play in a major sports championship. Even without Carson Palmer, Arizona should get the win. Arizona 35, Lions 34.

The Lions have surprised me -- they are playing well and have a good formula for success. The next two games will tell us whether they are for real; they play New England next week in Foxboro. Former Michigan State QB Drew Stanton runs the show for the Cardinals now. Can he break his home state's heart? Why yes, yes he can. Cardinals 24, Lions 20.

Thank you for reading and I will hopefully be more accurate this week. Ben out!