Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Will Jay Rockefeller...

...take Ted Kennedy's place as the Liberal Lion of the Senate?

I took a walk on my break... I am wont to do, and I went on one of my usual routes that takes me down a street called Mickey Lane. (Who in the heck ever thought that that would be a good name for a street?) It's just off Winnetka Road, which is the name of a fancy suburb nearby, and feeds into Burr Oak Drive, which sounds like a charming, tree-lined street. Burr Oak, in turn, leads into Sunset Ridge Road, which also has nice connotations. So how did Mickey Lane get in there? (Did some developer name it after his son? And if so, does that mean that he once thought that it would be a good name for his son?) What's more, Mickey Lane is actually a nice street with a number of beautiful, expensive homes. But somehow I can't picture myself spending over a million dollars on a house only to have to write down "Mickey Lane" as my address. Couldn't we just say that I live a couple of doors in from Burr Oak Drive?

I turned on Sunset Ridge and walked past a fence with the name Bob Jaacks on it. I couldn't help thinking how difficult it must be to go through life with a name like that.


"Yes, I'd like to reserve a table for two tonight."

"Certainly, sir. And what time would you like?"

"How about 7:30?"

"7:30 it is. And what is the name?"

"Jaacks. Bob Jaacks."

"Jaacks. Got it. Spelled just as it sounds, I imagine."

"Well, actually, it's spelled with two A's."

"Beg pardon?"

"It has two A's. It's spelled J-A-A-C-K-S."


"It has two A's!"

"What has two A's?"

"My last name! It's spelled J-A-A-C-K-S!"

"Are you serious?"

It would probably continue on in that vein for a few more minutes, but I'm sure he would finally make his reservation.

Just before I turned onto my own street, I was startled by a guy who came out of his house suddenly in just a pair of pants. That's right; no shirt or shoes or socks, just a pair of pants. (And people think I look strange getting my newspaper every morning in my bathrobe.) I was a little concerned, at first, that he was being held hostage or something in his own home. But as I stared at him he just nodded back at me and grinned as if to say, "What's the matter, haven't you ever seen a guy step out of his house to get the mail before?"

I took this as my cue to go back home. See what you're missing, not working out of the house?

I can't believe it...

...but the Cubs were eliminated yesterday for the 101st year in a row!

What? A grown-up...

...Republican?!? Did I read this right, or was Governor Bobby Jindal misquoted when he said that the GOP should work with the Democrats on health care and actually offer solutions instead of just saying "no?"

You can write him off for 2012. But as for 2016...

I know a woman...

...who is just about the nicest person you'd ever want to meet. She happens to have a nephew who is accused of a crime that he's been found guilty of in the past. (Somehow she feels guilty about his current predicament.) When asked about it, she responds that "he's innocent." Again, she's a lovely person. But all I can think is, sure he is. As a friend of mine once told me, everyone in jail is innocent.

I thought of this when I read this piece on Liz Cheney, the former vice president's daughter. In her mind, water-boarding isn't torture. And her father is innocent of any war crimes. Sure he is.

Roman Polanski...

...just hired a lawyer who is a close friend of Attorney General Eric Holder. You don't suppose the wingnuts will have anything to say about that, do you?

Somebody get me to Brooklyn...!

Tom Friedman...

...has a good column in the Times today about the current political atmosphere in this country and its similarity with that of Israel just before Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995. It's disturbing, and I was reminded of the evening I spent recently with my friend Brian. I listened as he ranted (now there's a role reversal for you!) and the whole time I couldn't help thinking to myself, "How did he get so agitated?" At one point he even claimed that Obama was for "redistributing wealth" and that that was just code for "reparations." He was clearly upset with the president on many levels, and I had to ask myself, "What on earth is he reading?" (He later admitted to buying several books by Glenn Beck, of all people, and recommended a few. He called Beck "an interesting thinker." Yikes! It was also obvious to me that he watched way too much Fox.) When he defended Sarah Palin and her use of the term "death panels," I think my jaw almost dropped. Fortunately, I was too busy eating pizza at the time. (Good pizza, too.)

I came away from the evening depressed, partly because the political dialogue in this country has gotten so poisoned. I keep asking myself, "Where is the modern-day equivalent of Joseph Welch?" He was the attorney for the U. S. Army who famously confronted another bully, Senator Joe McCarthy. "You've done enough," Welch said. "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" It was the beginning of the end for McCarthy.

So who will step up and play the role of Joseph Welch today? Who will tell the irresponsible right wing to just "Stop!" Where is that courageous person?

When I first saw this article...

...I thought to myself, "Yeah, everybody's got a shtick." I used to say that a lot when I was down on the Merc floor. Translated, it means roughly, "People will do just about anything to be different." Then I read the piece and looked at the pictures. And it's unbelievable! You have to check it out.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Roman Polanski...

...pled guilty to having sex with a 13-year old girl. What more needs to be said?

One of the first tea-baggers... also behind the creation of a new "birther infomercial." His name is Gary Kreep.

In case you missed it...

...Don Fisher, the founder of the Gap, died Sunday at age 81. He and his wife founded the clothing chain in 1969 to sell Levi's jeans and music. If not for his wife, who suggested the name "Gap" after the generation gap, the store would have been called "Pants and Discs." Good call, Mrs. Fisher.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average...

...should hit 10,000 either this week or next. It really doesn't mean very much, but the media will be all over it and there will be considerable buzz over it. The market should then quickly correct, however, and give up about 5 or 10% before resuming its upward climb.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Only five days left until...

...what I hope is only the first (of many) Annual BOWG Dinners (lunch, actually) at Jim's Original and/or the Express Grill on Maxwell Street (Union Street). My son and I will be down there between 11am and 1pm on Saturday (no RSVP required; if I recognize your face, you're in). The forecast calls for rain and this may be a problem since there is no indoor seating at either location. In case of inclement weather, the fall-back will be Wolfy's on Peterson Avenue across from Mather High School in Rogers Park. Consult BOWG for details as we get closer to the Big Day.

In high school football news, I've already tipped my hand that my Game of the Week (and everyone else's) will be No. 2 St. Rita vs. No. 11 Mt. Carmel at Gately Stadium on Friday. I have to give the edge to the Mustangs this year. My non-Upset of the week will be Brother Rice giving No. 9 Loyola a scare in Wilmette on Saturday; the Ramblers will still prevail, however. (This should be Loyola's last test before the St. Rita game on October 24; the Mustangs still have to get past Providence on October 9.)

The rest of the schedule should be pretty lame. No. 7 Providence will have no trouble at home with Fenwick on Friday. And on Saturday, No. 1 Maine South will be inhospitable hosts to Evanston while Glenbrook South will rude guests at Waukegan. (The Trib still hasn't mentioned the Titans although the Sun-Times has them "On the Bubble." No wonder the Trib is in so much trouble these days.)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I made a pilgrimage of sorts last night... Brother Rice High School at 99th and Pulaski on the Great South Side of Chicago. While growing up in an old Catholic League family, I had always heard about Brother Rice and thought of it as a legendary place right up there with Mt. Carmel, St. Rita, and De La Salle. But I had never actually been there. I was not disappointed.

I got off the Tri-State at 95th Street and drove east under the overpass that announces Welcome to Oak Lawn. So far, so good. I called my friend, Brian, whom I was meeting at the game. He's a Rice alum and my guide for the evening. He gave me instructions on the best place to park and assured me that I would make it in time for the kickoff.

As I approached the stadium I could tell I was in the right place by the sound of bagpipes. It seems like everywhere you go in Catholic Chicago--weddings, funerals, football games--you hear bagpipes playing. That tell-tale aroma of brats and burgers was also thick in the September night as I bought my ticket ("No, I'm not an alum"). I met up with my buddy just as the band was playing the National Anthem and we made our way to the bleachers. It was Homecoming for the Crusaders and the crowd was Standing Room Only. Brian seemed to know just about everyone there ("This guy went to St. John Fisher; that guy went to Christ the King...") and he introduced me to his old pal, Mel, who was a coach at the school. Mel looked exactly as you might picture him: a crusty old veteran wearing a Rice jacket and baseball cap. (All that maroon and orange made me think I was at Virginia Tech.) Once up in the stands, Brian pointed out Rice's sister school Mother McAuley immediately next door and St. Xavier University just beyond. (Although he and everyone else insisted on pronouncing it "St. Ex-avier.") No matter. I was just happy to finally be there and soaking up the atmosphere.

I was reminded of a couple other South Siders that I had known in my time at the Merc. One was Mike Elwood, another Rice alum, who told me once that the mothers in his neighborhood all used to say "Rice guys are nice guys." The other one--who was much older than me--went to Mendel in the 1960s. He explained to me once that there were two kinds of guys in his neighborhood: the Greasers, of which he was one, and the Ricers, who were the preppy, suburban types who went to Brother Rice (which is actually in the city). Greasers slicked their hair back into ducktails and wore Banlon shirts and narrow-toed "fence climber" shoes. Ricers, on the other hand, wore a lot of Madras plaid, khaki pants, and white socks with their penny loafers. Ricers were rich in comparison and went on to places like Notre Dame, Marquette, and Loyola University, while Mendel guys went to Work (or DePaul if they were lucky).

As an aside, one of my current neighbors went to Mendel and worked his way through the University of Chicago while living at home (his father died while he was still in high school). He's brilliant, though, and took an economics class from Milton Friedman while pursuing a degree in Chemistry. He went on to get a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Illinois, but every third sentence out of his mouth seems to be, "There you go!" (Except in his case it sounds like "Dare ya go!")

The game against Gordon Tech was a blow-out, 42-0, and we bolted at the end of the third quarter so we could beat the rush to Brian's favorite pizza joint for a "pie." It turned out to be Rosangela's Pizzeria on 95th and California in Evergreen Park, just spitting distance from Beverly Country Club. The pizza was as good as any I've had anywhere, and again, Brian seemed to know pretty much everybody in the place (and it was packed).

We finally got down to talking politics, which was the original purpose of our meeting. Brian has evolved into one of these tea-bagger types while I think of myself mostly as an "Obama Independent" these days. I could tell right away that he watched a lot of Fox and even admitted to liking Glenn Beck and reading conspiracy-type books. I found it all a little depressing, as he struck me as an intelligent guy who has allowed himself to be brainwashed. As I listened to him, however, I got even more depressed thinking that maybe I'm no less brainwashed myself. After all, I read the New York Times, not The Wall Street Journal, and I watch MSNBC, not Fox. I also read columnists that I already agree with and skip over those who I know are only going to irritate me. So am I just as bad? And then what really got me depressed was the thought that maybe all of us are brainwashed if we expose ourselves only to information with which we already agree. In that case, is truth really attainable? Or is it all just subjective? Do we just sleep-walk through life in our own self-created realities? It bothered me all day.

Pizza was good, though.

My Game of the Week...

...last night turned out to be a bust as No. 3 Wheaton-Warrenville South crushed No. 18 Naperville North, 38-7, in Naperville. It seems that the Tigers have recovered from their disastrous first quarter of the season against Maine South and I'm the last person in Illinois to figure it out. Maybe WWS will end up in a rematch against the Hawks in the finals. Who knows? It's hard to bet against a team with alternating quarterbacks named Reilly O'Toole and Mack Tracey.

My Upset of the Week almost came true, however, as No. 11 Warren finally put away unranked Lake Forest in OT, 43-42. The Scouts have a great quarterback in Tommy Rees, but apparently their defense just can't get its act together.

Elsewhere, No. 1 Maine South defeated Niles West, 56-21, and Glenbrook South beat New Trier, 36-14 (it's time now for the Titans to get a little respect from the Chicago papers). Also, Brother Rice demolished Gordon Tech, 42-0; No. 8 Providence got past St. Laurence, 25-17; No. 2 St. Rita had no trouble with Bishop McNamara, 34-19; and No. 13 Mt. Carmel made light work of De La Salle, 42-21.

This sets up my Game of the Week for next Friday, St. Rita against Mt. Carmel at Gately Stadium. Normally I'd go with the Caravan, but I think this is the Mustangs' year. I'll say St. Rita comes out on top, 24-21.

In today's contests, Fenwick squares off against Leo at Morton West and No. 12 Loyola plays host to St. Ignatius, in what should amount to a week off for the Ramblers. (Word to the wise: Brother Rice invades Sachs Stadium next Saturday and could knock off the home team if the North Siders take the Crusaders too lightly. I was in attendance last night and can say from watching them that Rice is a much better team than their 2-3 record would indicate; they may be ripe to play the role of spoiler. Remember, this is the same team that narrowly lost at Providence, 23-21. I predict that if they don't upset the Ramblers they could beat Mt. Carmel at home the following weekend.)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Michael Moore is out with a new movie...

...called "Capitalism: A Love Story," and I really don't expect to run out and see it anytime soon. I saw "Roger & Me" and "Fahrenheit 9/11" and they both played fast and loose with the truth. Moore reminds me a little of Oliver Stone in that he makes movies that are entertaining but not particularly edifying. As an opponent of the Iraq War, I found "Fahrenheit 9/11" counterproductive because its distortions were not helpful to the anti-war cause. We had the facts on our side; we didn't need lies or misinformation to make our case. The movie only hurt our credibility. To paraphrase Jed Clampett, "Quit helpin' us, boy."

Moore appeared this week on "Larry King Live" and "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" to plug his new movie and I can only conclude that he is just plain misinformed. (Does he really think that the banks set out to take people's homes?) He seems well-intentioned, but I would urge anyone to take anything he says with a large grain of salt.

Joe Scarborough...

...has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Republican nomination in 2012. I don't think he's interested, but it would be the best thing for the party and the country. He's a grown-up.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Kiddieland, 1929-2009...

...RIP. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Guess who's leading... the race for governor of California in 2010? (I'm full of questions this morning.) If you guessed Jerry Brown, you'd be right. Yes, that Jerry Brown. Everyone's favorite Jesuit novitiate is 71, bald (not that there's anything wrong with that), and ready to take over the world's 10th largest economy (according to the CIA's World Factbook). Crazy? Maybe, but maybe not. California is in such a mess that it would be a little like taking over as head coach of the Detroit Lions--there's only one direction to go: up.

If nothing else, Jerry Brown is a Major League character and the whole spectacle will be fun to watch. You thought it would be interesting to have Schwarzenegger as governor? Trust me; this will be infinitely better, as anyone my age can tell you. I've always thought of him as a bit of a fraud, but an entertaining one. I remember when he was the latest "ABC" (anybody but Carter) candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976. He was only 38 years old and new to the national stage. A cartoon in the New Yorker said it best. A middle-aged couple was sitting in their living room and reading the paper. The husband said to his wife, impatiently, "Everyone sort of likes Jerry Brown!"

Stay tuned. This should be good.

If you were to guess... likely a person was to vote Republican or Democratic, what demographic would you use? Gender? Age? Race? How about income? How about none of the above? The correct answer is frequency of church attendance. Apparently, the more often a person attends church services, the more likely they are to vote Republican. Conversely, the less often they attend, the more likely they are to vote Democratic. Go figure.

In a post yesterday in the Daily Dish, Andrew Sullivan talks about the fastest growing religious affiliation in America today: none. He cites a recent study that estimates that in twenty years, the "Nones" will make up about 25 percent of Americans.

So what does this mean for the future of the Republican and Democratic parties in America? It's hard not to picture the GOP as getting increasingly southern, rural, white, and religious--not a winning demographic. The Democrats, on the other hand, would appear to have the advantage in the West, Midwest, and Northeast. They should also have the advantage among the non-white segment and the growing secular population. So more and more, like the current debate over health care reform, I would expect future debates in this country to take place not between the two parties, but within the Democratic Party itself. At this rate, the Republicans may find themselves shut out of the national conversation altogether.

One of my favorite sitcoms from the 1960s...

...was "The Beverly Hillbillies." If you're too young to have ever seen it you really should find it somewhere because it was truly hilarious. It featured a family of hillbillies from Tennessee who found oil on their property and moved to Beverly Hills, California. The cast included Buddy Ebsen as the family patriarch Jed Clampett. (Ebsen was originally cast as the Scarecrow and later as the Tin Man in "The Wizard of Oz.") His nephew, Jethro Bodine, was played by Max Baer, Jr. (His father was the Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World for a year or so in the 1930s). The series also starred Irene Ryan as Grannie and Donna Douglas as Elly May. I find myself quoting the show all the time.

In one of my favorite episodes, the clueless Jethro keeps trying to assist his Uncle Jed in some endeavor only to see his efforts backfire over and over. Each time he explains, "Just trying to help, Uncle Jed." To which his exasperated uncle replies, "Quit helpin' me, boy."

I was reminded of that line after hearing about Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi's speech yesterday at the UN. (Never mind the whole tent-pitching controversy; there has to be a blog posting in there somewhere. I'm working on it.) He delivered a rambling 90 minute address in a slot reserved for only 15. Apparently, very few of those present actually listened to the speech; many were reported to have dozed off.

President Obama should be so lucky. After all the town hall nonsense and "birther" talk has finally died down, Qaddafi referred to the 44th president as "a son of Africa." He said "We are happy that a young African Kenyan was voted for and made president." Ouch. The Libyan leader went on to say that Obama is a "glimmer in the dark" and we would be "content and happy if Obama could stay forever as the president." Double ouch.

I could only imagine Obama watching the address from some hotel room in New York and saying quietly to himself, "Quit helpin' me, boy."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bruce Bartlett has a good...

...piece in entitled "Why I am Anti-Republican." (He also writes on how the tea-baggers are mistaken about being over-taxed.)

Bartlett isn't some wild-eyed liberal; he worked as a staff economist for Congressman Jack Kemp in the 1970s and helped draft the Kemp-Roth tax bill, which ultimately formed the basis of President Reagan's 1981 tax cut. He went on to work as a domestic policy advisor in the Reagan administration and was a treasury official under the first President Bush. I admire his ability to remain flexible in his thinking.

If you listen to this clip...

...of Frank Gaffney from "Hardball" yesterday and substitute the words "Vietnam" for "Afghanistan," and "Communism" for "Sharia," it sounds eerily like the debates from the 1960s. Have we learned nothing from our Vietnam experience? It's time we had a national conversation about our goals and objectives for Afghanistan. Do we really want to commit more American lives and resources or should we cut our losses now?

There's a good editorial... today's Times regarding (what else?) health care reform that everyone should read. The key findings are:

A study by the Treasury Department found that almost half of all Americans below Medicare age have gone without insurance at some point over the last decade.

It found that, between 1997 and 2006, 48 percent of nonelderly Americans went without health insurance for at least one month, 41 percent lacked coverage for at least six months and 36 percent were uncovered for a year or more.

I personally know of one family that was dropped by their insurance company for about three months, appealed the decision and lost. Nothing bad happened and they are again covered but the lesson is clear: we are all vulnerable under the current system. Those with company-sponsored plans shouldn't feel too secure. Most Americans are only a pink slip away from losing their coverage and at the mercy of the private insurers if they get sick. (That's another argument for a public option; the insurers' profits are directly related to denying claims.) Reform is not just about covering those that don't have insurance; it's also about protecting those that are already covered.

Everyone is making fun of Tom Delay...

...for his appearance on "Dancing With the Stars." I say he's a good sport. (Trust me, you wouldn't want to see an Irish guy try that.)

David Brooks and Gail Collins...

...have a blog in the online version of the New York Times called "the Conversation." Anything written by these two is worth reading. Brooks is one of the best columnists out there and Collins is really witty. In today's blog Brooks says:

"...there is a broad consensus on what we need to do to solve many of our major problems, but no political way to get there. Most experts of left and right believe we need a gas tax in order to address our energy problems. No political way to get there. Most believe that we need a flatter, fairer tax code, probably based on a consumption tax. No political way to get there. Most agree that the fee-for-service system drives up health care costs and the employer based insurance system is unsustainable. There is apparently no political way to change these things. Most experts agree that teacher quality is crucial to the schools and that bad teachers need to be fired. Again, no political way to do this."

This is something I've been trying to say in my own blog for a while now. Take health care, for example. I could accept a solution from either the right, like a more market-based reform, or from the left, like a single-payer system akin to Medicare or the Canadian model. Either one would be preferable to the mess we have now. But the problem is how to get there politically; it's nearly impossible. The medical-industrial complex is just too powerful. So the Republicans only propose legislation when the Democrats are in power. (Where were their reforms when they held the White House for 20 of the last 29 years? On a shelf somewhere, gathering dust.) And for the same reason, a single-payer system is just a non-starter. Too many in Washington get campaign funds from the parties that would be most affected.

And this is one reason I like Obama so much; he's a pragmatist. He'll get a health care bill to sign by Thanksgiving. It will be far from perfect; the right and left will both complain. But it will be better than what we currently have and something to build on in the future.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tim Pawlenty is...

...taking all the necessary steps to make a run for the Republican nomination in 2012. Aside from his shameless pandering to the right wing in regard to Obama's recent speech to schoolchildren, I find the man utterly charisma-challenged. He could get the nod as running mate but that's about it.

The autumnal equinox...

...or fall, as we call it around here, arrives in the Chicago area today at 4:18 pm.

I still can't decide if people... Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, or Sarah Palin really believe the things they say or are just pandering for ratings or votes. But I am confident that until a leader emerges in the Republican Party who can stand up to the fringe, the loonies will continue to run the asylum and the GOP will remain a minority and largely irrelevant party.

It's not enough for David Frum or Joe Scarborough to speak out. (Scarborough calls out Mitt Romney. Please; I've seen jellyfish with more backbone than that guy.) The Republicans need an officeholder to step up. What about John McCain? He likes to think of himself as a leader and is forever talking about honor and doing what's best for the country. What's he afraid of? They never liked him in the first place. What are they going to do, primary him? Come on, John, strap on a pair!

The Emmy Awards were telecast...

...on Sunday night to an estimated 13.3 million viewers, nearly a million more than last year. I remember the Emmys were kind of a big deal when I was a kid. But I didn't even realize they were on this time. My question is, who still watches the Emmys anyway, and why?

Monday, September 21, 2009

My game of the week...

...features No. 3 Wheaton Warrenville South (again) at No. 17 Naperville North. Both teams are 3-1, but I'm going to go with the home team Huskies this time. (The Tigers' challenging schedule may finally be catching up with them.) My upset of the week is Lake Forest over visiting No. 11 Warren. Not to take anything away from the undefeated Blue Devils, but they have yet to be tested. The Scouts, on the other hand, are led by quarterback Tommy Rees (who committed to Notre Dame in July) and are on the verge of breaking out after beginning the season 1-3 against tough opponents.

In other games this week, No. 1 Maine South (4-0) should dominate Niles West (1-3). The same can be said for No. 2 St. Rita (4-0) at Bishop McNamara; No. 8 Providence (3-1) at St. Laurence (4-0, but against weak opponents); No. 12 Loyola (3-1) at St. Ignatius (1-3); and No. 13 Mt. Carmel (3-1) at DeLaSalle (1-3).

Brother Rice (1-3) should defeat Gordon (2-2) in what will be homecoming for the Crusaders. (I'll be in attendance and available for updates on Twitter.) Glenbrook South (3-1) should beat visiting New Trier (2-2), in the midst of a building year. The Titans could crack the Top 20 with another offensive display from Michael Hirsch and company. Finally, Fenwick (1-3) should have no trouble as it travels to Leo in a game of also-rans.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Since Mt. Carmel and USC...

...both lost this weekend, I've been literally inundated by e-mails and calls from readers (okay, maybe just one; and come to think of it, it was just a text message). The burning question: Do I want to change my predictions for the Illinois high school and BCS championships? In a word: No.

Mt. Carmel (3-1) only needs two more victories to qualify for the playoffs. Although they have a brutal schedule from here on out--including games against St. Rita, Brother Rice, and Providence--I still think the Caravan can manufacture at least two victories against DeLaSalle this week and St. Laurence in Week 8. Once they make the playoffs, Mt. Carmel's record is the same as everyone else's, 0-0. And they have the added benefit of a tough schedule to prepare them for the post-season.

As for Southern Cal, they are still very much in the hunt for the National Championship. The last three BCS champs were Florida in 2008 and '06 (both 13-1) and LSU in '07 (12-2), so one loss needn't disqualify the Trojans. A quick glance at their remaining games turns up California as their biggest remaining hurdle. And there's no pesky conference championship to worry about, either.

So I'll stick with my original predictions (for now): Mt. Carmel vs. Maine South in the 8A finals and USC vs. Florida in the BCS.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Irving Kristol, William's father...

...and one of the founders of neoconservatism, died on Friday at age 89. I found this paragraph in his obit in the New York Times particularly ironic:

The Public Interest writers did not take issue with the ends of the Great Society so much as with the means, the “unintended consequences” of the Democrats’ good intentions. Welfare programs, they argued, were breeding a culture of dependency; affirmative action created social divisions and did damage to its supposed beneficiaries. They placed practicality ahead of ideals. “The legitimate question to ask about any program,” Mr. Kristol said, “is, ‘Will it work?’,” and the reforms of the 1960s and ’70s, he believed, were not working. (My emphasis.)

After two seemingly endless wars that were launched in part by neocons, and by an almost mindless adherence to supply-side economics and other ideological orthodoxies from the Reagan era, it would behoove Republicans to re-read these words spoken by Kristol all those years ago. When did a pragmatic reaction to an ideology (in Kristol's case the New Deal and the Great Society) morph into a rigid ideology of its own? I find it ironic that some of the worst ideologues today are the intellectual (and literal, in the case of William) descendants of Irving Kristol.

If you haven't seen SNL's take...

...on Joe Wilson's outburst, you really need to watch this. It's very well done.

Loyola upsets Mt. Carmel, 28-15... Gately Stadium Friday night! Quarterback William Forsyth (5-for-11, 71 yards, TD; 12 carries, 42 yards, TD) and running back Addison Perry (19 carries, 80 yards, 2 TDs) combined to propel the Ramblers to their first victory over the Caravan since a 21-7 decision in 2003.

Loyola is now 3-1 and plays host to St. Ignatius next Saturday. With the possible exception of Brother Rice on October 3, the North Siders could go undefeated down the stretch until their big Catholic Blue Conference showdown with No.2 St. Rita on October 24 in Wilmette. That should be a game you won't want to miss!

In other contests yesterday, Wheaton Warrenville had no trouble with No. 18 Naperville Central, 24-8; St. Rita beat Fenwick, 35-13; and Providence edged Brother Rice, 23-21.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The actual move-in...

...took place last Saturday, after a pretty good night's sleep at a motel in upstate New York. What are you supposed to do when the desk clerk tells you that the only rooms left are on the same side of the building as the train tracks? (Red flag.) Oh, and even though the trains do pass by in the middle of the night, they don't usually blow their horns or anything. (Double red flag.) Am I supposed to negotiate at 11:00 at night after driving several miles off the highway to find this place? And then what am I supposed to say, "No. I want you to kick someone else out of their room and give me theirs?"

"I'll take it."

Big mistake. Oh well, a waitress with a nice smile gave us free coffee to take with us the next morning so I guess it wasn't a total loss.

So on we drove, through a light drizzle, into Saratoga Springs for breakfast. It's easily my favorite town along the way, and one you should visit if you ever find yourself in that part of the world. We both had eggs Benedict and Joe pronounced it quite possibly the best he'd ever had. He also remarked (again) on how well I could clean my plate after what is usually such a messy dish for everyone else. "It's a gift," I confided to him.

We continued on through Woodstock, Vermont (my second favorite town along the way, not to be confused with Woodstock, Ontario), and finally crossed the Connecticut River. I knew we were getting close to the campus when I noticed a pretty coed walking along on the sidewalk. "Another homely Dartmouth girl," my son observed. (Mind-reading is not one of his talents.)

After a quick victory lap around Hanover, we parked the van outside the house he'll share with six other students. He's right about one thing: it's much bigger on the inside than it appears. And although all seven of them will have their own rooms, Joe has finagled by far the largest one. (Conning people is one of his talents.) I had originally hoped to drive straight through to Hanover on Friday and spend the night in the house, but my son told me, "Dad, you don't want to do that." After just a few minutes spent meeting and talking to this group of sophomores, I grasped his point. They didn't exactly strike me as an "early to bed, early to rise" crowd. (I've often remarked to my son that the most attractive feature to me of his school is the "substance-free" dorm on campus. This always elicits a double-take from him, but I'm serious. I can even imagine leading a pep rally in the hallway some night. "Okay, everybody, let's see how early we can get to bed tonight. Waddya say, Ten? NINE-THIRTY? NINE?")

Just then a car with a large piece of plywood on its roof (to be used for beer pong) screeched into the driveway on two wheels, and I took that as my cue to get back in the van and start home. I hugged my son, got my iPod going, and headed west through Vermont.

The return trip was uneventful--pleasant even--as the weather turned sunny and the drive through Vermont, especially, was beautiful. I was able to catch the second half of the USC-Ohio State game in my hotel room just west of Rochester, and although I had my doubts about the wisdom of starting a freshman quarterback against the Buckeyes in Columbus, Pete Carroll once again proved to me that maybe, just maybe, he's more qualified to run a college football program than me. Maybe.

I sailed past Buffalo (no Bills game this year) and didn't have to worry about Chicago either, as the Bears were in Green Bay on Sunday night. Just when I thought I had it all figured out I started to see guys in Browns jerseys driving just outside of Cleveland at around 11:00 in the morning. I missed the worst of the traffic, somehow, but it made me reflect on the phenomenon of grown men wearing NFL jerseys. I think I stopped doing that in about fifth grade. What are these guys thinking, that there's an outside chance that they'll be called down from the stands and put into the game? The only thing worse than men who wear football jerseys are women who wear hockey jerseys to NHL games. And the only thing worse than that are women who wear hockey jerseys to minor league hockey games. If you're going to be a groupie, at least be a groupie of somebody who's good.

I think it was also in Ohio that I drove up behind someone with a hand-lettered cardboard sign in his rear windshield that said, OBAMA IS A DAMNED LIAR. I desperately wanted to give him the single-fingered salute, but as I pulled up next to him I suddenly realized that anyone who felt that strongly about Obama might feel just as passionately about gun ownership, too. (And the corollary about carrying a loaded one in public.) So I had to settle for hunching over the steering wheel and scowling as I sped past him. "A*****E!"

I ended up making good time (doesn't everyone?) and pulled back into my driveway around 4:30 on Sunday afternoon. The old van survived another long road trip and went on to pass the emissions test on Tuesday. Now it's time for me to really focus on the high school football season. Loyola travels to Mt. Carmel tonight; could be a long night for the Ramblers.

In a couple of games...

...worthy of a Thursday night, Glenbrook South trounced Niles North, 49-6, and Maine South shut out Maine West, 63-0. The Titans will play host to New Trier next Friday in what should be a hard fought victory for the home team. Maine South, meanwhile, will travel to Niles West for another mismatch. The Hawks' schedule is relatively light until October 17, when they meet up with GBS in Park Ridge.

Mitt Romney has been strangely...

...silent lately for someone presumably jockeying for position for the GOP nomination in 2012. Or is it so strange? After all, the big topic for the last few months has been health care reform and the Republicans have made it very clear that they will oppose pretty much anything that Obama and the Democrats propose. (Okay, maybe one--Olympia Snowe--may sign on, but even the chances for that are only about fifty-fifty at this point.) Now that the Baucus bill has emerged from the Senate Finance Committee (which some experts have said all along will be the basis for the final bill), it looks like Obamacare may end up looking a lot like the reform Romney signed in Massachusetts. This has to be awkward for the former governor of the Bay State and would effectively eliminate health care as an issue if he runs.

So what would this leave Romney to run on in 2012, foreign policy? Although it's been done before, it's hard for a former governor to run against a sitting president absent some burning foreign policy issue. The economy? Romney certainly has the chops, but if the U. S. is in a recovery by then it pretty much takes that off the table as well. Culture Wars? Hard to see Romney's voice rising above a Sarah Palin's, a Mike Huckabee's, or even a Newt Gingrich's in that area. And then there's that pesky Mormon thing (best not to even bring that up).

So where does that leave good old Mitt? It's still early, of course, and it's important to remember that at this point in the last cycle Obama wasn't even on the radar screen. But it's never too early for political junkies like me to speculate and, while I think Romney is still the early favorite of the establishment, he has some rough going ahead. I would never place a large bet on his candidacy (or a small one for that matter). Even though Romney is a proven money-raiser, he's a horrible campaigner. (I think of him a little as a modern-day Republican Al Gore.)

If I had to guess--and again I know it's early--I think the next GOP nominee will be someone from the wing-nut branch of the party. (Michele Bachmann, anyone? Just kidding.) The general election would then be disastrous enough to make Republicans nostalgic for the Goldwater debacle of 1964. But this could then be a turning point for the party. It could be the catalyst for a serious re-thinking of the GOP's future. If not, move over Whigs.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I like Robert Reich's latest take...

...on the health care sausage-making process.

Happy Birthday John...

...Seventeen on the Seventeenth!

The Actual Move-in...

...will have to wait another day (not that it's such a great story). In a nod to Quentin Tarantino, I thought I'd tell the story of our journey in a non-linear fashion. It all began last Friday morning when my son and I left town and predictably got stuck in traffic driving through the city. Taking an alternate route, we bypassed the Chicago Skyway altogether and made our way up through northeast Michigan en route to Canada.

When we arrived at the border we were interrogated by an attractive-looking Canadian border agent (at least compared with the SWAT team-like characters on our side). I was immediately struck by her Canadian accent; I figured we would have to drive at least a little while to hear that. I was half-tempted to ask her to "talk some French," but I didn't want to get detained or anything. Anyway, it was enough to crack a lame joke about "wanting some of your free health care," which caused my son to wince for some reason. After assuring her that we weren't carrying any firearms in the car (and if we were, would we own up to it?), and in any case were just passing through her nice country on the way to Buffalo and points east, she waved us on through. So far, so good.

My first reaction on the new road was the speed limit, Maximum 100 (!). "That's kilometers, Dad." I knew that. But it does throw you a little at first. When I came upon a sign a little later for some city with the population listed at the bottom, I thought to myself, "I wonder if they count differently up here, too." I also noticed that, unlike the U. S., everyone seemed to be observing the speed limit. Great. Just what we need right now, a nation of law-abiding citizens. (The U. S. was looking better already.) But we settled in for the ride, and as my son drifted off to sleep, I took in the sights around me. Ontario looks a lot like the U. S., except there seems to be an inordinate number of golf courses up there. (I kept having this image of healthy Canadians on the links yelling, "QUATRE!") Also, it's a little weird to see all those Canadian flags. (Who's idea was it to put a maple leaf on the flag, anyway? Did the pine cone get voted down?) And Esso stations! When was the last time you saw one of those?

But the highlight (if you could call it that) was our stop in Woodstock, Ontario for dinner. Our plan was to get off the highway in some small Canadian village and sample the local fare and talk to the townspeople. I guess I had some image of burly Canadians in red-and-black checked wool shirts and stocking caps eating Walleye and drinking Molson's. But Woodstock turned out to be a little creepier than we had bargained for. It was really rundown and like something out of the Twilight Zone. Talk about shades of gray! And the people on the street all looked like the extras in a Stephen King movie. You know the type: they walk down the sidewalk toward you at a slight angle with a vacant look on their face and then just when they get near you their heads EXPLODE! (We didn't want to get out of the car.) But our hunger finally got the better of us and we stopped at a place called Bob's Diner. The cheeseburgers and fries were actually very good, even if the girl behind the counter did give me some funky Canadian coins as change from my twenty. "What the heck is that?"

"Oh, that's a Toonie."

"A what?"

"A Toonie. It's a two-dollar coin."

"Spell it."

As she did, I gave her my patented Larry David stare, trying to catch her in a lie, but she just smiled back at me. So I figured it must be legit and we ate our dinner. Afterward, we left the Town that Time Forgot and headed through a light drizzle for the border.

Next: The Actual Move-in (I promise).

A reminder: this is the...

...twenty-first century.

Mary Travers, 1936-2009,...


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pete Stark is a Democratic Representative...

...from California and one of the few Unitarian Universalists in Congress. At a town hall meeting recently, a constituent concluded a rant with "...don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining." Without missing a beat, Stark responded "I wouldn't dignify you by peeing on your leg; it wouldn't be worth wasting the urine."

This story reminds me of another Unitarian in politics, Adlai Stevenson, who was also known for his witty ripostes. In an earlier, more civilized era the governor of Illinois was once asked his opinion of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, the famous Protestant preacher. While he may be known today primarily as the author of the best-seller, The Power of Positive Thinking, Peale was a somewhat more controversial figure in his day. Not only did he consider Stevenson unfit for the presidency because he was divorced, but he was also known for his anti-Catholic bigotry, foreshadowing some of today's not-so-subtle racism. When asked about the candidacy of John F. Kennedy in 1960, Peale declared "Faced with the election of a Catholic, our culture is at stake." He also implied that a Kennedy administration could end free speech in America.

Stevenson's response? "Speaking as a Christian, I find the Apostle Paul appealing, and the Apostle Peale appalling."

T. R. Reid is plugging his new book...

...everywhere, including this article in Newsweek. It's very readable and really explains health care well. Check it out.

Ayn Rand held some fascination for me...

...when I was in my twenties and thirties (and even into my early forties). Her philosophy definitely has a certain appeal for a young man who's away from home for the first time and trying to make sense of things. While I never considered myself a full-blown Objectivist, I certainly had some friends who did. The closest I ever got to it was "Objectivist Sympathizer." I still think Rand got much of it right (a lot of it, actually), but I eventually worked my way through it (as many young men do). In hindsight, I was always a little suspicious of anyone who claimed to have all the answers. I guess it just reminded me too much of organized religion. In fact, the Objectivists I knew seemed to practically believe that Rand was infallible, a scary concept for me.

Jonathan Chait has a review in the New Republic of two new books about Ayn Rand. It's a good read, but the best observation for me was that:

Ultimately the Objectivist movement failed for the same reason that communism failed: it tried to make its people live by the dictates of a totalizing ideology that failed to honor the realities of human existence.

As I mentioned, the Objectivists I knew all bought into the philosophy hook, line, and sinker. It seemed a little cultish to me and I always found that a little off-putting. After all, no one could get everything right. And as I got older, I think I came to realize that the universe is mysterious and difficult to explain in simplistic terms. It's tempting, and comforting to do that, but ultimately futile. Sorry, but reality is messy. It sure would be a lot easier if everything could be reduced to Black and White, but I'm afraid that as I go on in life all I see are more and more shades of gray.

So I'll let the Objectivists revel in their certainty while I muddle along in my confusion. They may feel more secure in having an explanation for everything, but I suspect my approach is actually more in tune with reality.

I have a friend from the UK...

...who used to laugh and shake his head at all the odd pastimes that Americans enjoyed. "Another sport you Yanks invented just so that you could be Number One in the world!" Well, Jamie, now the Dutch are at it. It seems they've taken a page from our playbook and have elevated lockpicking to the level of a competitive sport.

Jimmy Carter may not have been...

...the best president ever. In fact, he may not even qualify as the best president of the 1970s (Nixon, Ford, Carter--not exactly a Murderer's Row). But his post-presidency has to rank right up there with the very best. In fact, you'd have to go all the way back to William Howard Taft, who served as Chief Justice of the United States from 1921-30, to find such a productive post-presidency.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Here's a good piece...

...for everyone out there who believes, as I do, that at least part of the resistance to health care reform is due to racism.

In case you missed Wendell Potter...

...the first time, here he is again and it's scary stuff.

This is a hysterical...

...article about the Bush administration written by one of his speechwriters.

If you see me walking down the street...

...and it appears that my chest is just a little more puffed up than usual or that maybe I have just a little extra spring to my step it's not your imagination. I'm pleased to announce that after only five tries (at two different locations) and only 400 bucks later, my van has finally passed the state emissions test. (I think it only took John F. Kennedy, Jr. three times to pass the New York Bar Exam, but no matter.) So if you need any pointers, I'm available to help. (Shucks, it was nuthin'...)

After my son and I re-entered...

...the U. S. (successfully), things got much less exciting. The sun went down and we drove on through the darkness only to be confronted by a sign along the side of the road announcing Salt Museum, next exit. Salt museum? We both looked at each other. What could you possibly say about salt that could fill an entire museum? Well, let's see...

"Deers lick it." Yeah.

"It's been around a long time." Yeah. What else? Come on; think! (We were getting a little punchy by this point.)

"We thought about introducing other colors but at the end of the day we decided to just stick with the traditional white."

"It comes in several varieties: plain, iodized (whatever that is), Kosher (!), sea salt..." Hey, maybe there's more to this than we thought!

"We're thinking of opening up a new wing to accommodate salt's evil twin, pepper."

"Oh, and be sure to visit our gift shop on the way out. In it you'll find copies of the bestseller, An Illustrated History of Salt, which might look like a bunch of plain, white pages with numbers at the bottom, but those are actually pictures of salt through the ages. The companion CD is just white noise." (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

"Also, we have those little packets for sale--regular and the ones with the little tubes." (Why on earth would you need more than one kind of little packet? "Okay, this is how we'll differentiate our salt--we'll put it in little packets with tubes. The customers will demand our product.")

Like I said, we were getting a little tired by that point. It was our cue to start looking for a hotel.

Next: The Actual Move-In.

Once again...

...Paul Waldman nails it.

Here's an interesting slant...

...on health care (just after the piece on bin Laden).

By the way, it's worth mentioning again that two of the best voices on health care are Ezra Klein in the Washington Post and Jonathan Cohn in the New Republic.

Good article... Robert Shrum.

I just read the review...

...of T. R. Reid's new book, The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper and Fairer Health Care, and I can't wait to get my hands on it. (If you're thinking of reserving it at the Glenview Public Library, there's at least one person ahead of you.) I've seen Reid reporting on health care on TV and he's both interesting and easy to understand. (To give you an idea, he also wrote a book about life in Japan that my younger son read last year as a freshman in high school, so reading it shouldn't require a pot of coffee.) Here's the link to the show he did on PBS.

Incidentally, if you've never reserved a book online at your local public library, it's really easy to do and as John Belushi's character in "Animal House," Bluto Blutarsky, would say, "Don't cost nothin'."

Monday, September 14, 2009

Think it would be a good idea... try to enter the country from Canada in a beat-up old minivan with a one-month temporary registration (I keep flunking the emissions test), packed to the gills with God-Knows-What, on the eighth anniversary of 9/11? Think again. Especially if you have a nervous 19-year-old behind the wheel who answers, "Glenview" when asked where he's from at exactly the same time that his father answers, "Chicago." This from an armed, black-clad (and vaguely stormtrooperish-looking) border agent who looked like it was his first day on the job and nobody, but nobody was going to get in the country illegally on his watch. "Uh-huh," he said, but he was clearly thinking, "Go ahead, make a break for it. Make my day." After asking us a few more banal questions (which we mostly stumbled over), he tapped the inside panel of our car (while carefully keeping his eyes on us) and said--Surprise!--we'd been randomly selected to have our car searched. "Pull over there (next to that other stormtrooper), get out of the car, and wait in that building over there." Great. All this so we could take an alternative route through Canada and drive on a highway that looked like any other Interstate anywhere else in America.

Just before getting out, I thought it would be a good idea to throw away some of the trash we'd accumulated on the trip. "Are you crazy?" My son asked. Good point. So we went inside and it was obvious that we were the only non-illegals to be detained. Just suffice it to say that if you want to pass as an American, go get yourself a polo shirt, some khaki shorts, and a pair of top-siders. On second thought, that's exactly what I was wearing and it didn't do me any good (and I don't even have a swarthy complexion). So there we sat (and sat) and watched a dozen or so other stormtroopers walk back and forth with important-looking pieces of paper in their hands while nervous travelers awaited their fate.

Finally I could have sworn that my name was called. My son heard it the second time and we approached one of the many counters. "Did you call my name?" Some guy with a mustache appeared out of nowhere and said, "Tracy? Yeah, you can go." So out we went (that was painless) until another stormtrooper stopped us at the door.

"Where do you think you're going?"

"That guy said we could leave."

"Which guy?"

"The guy with the mustache." We all looked at the counter and of course the guy with the mustache was nowhere to be seen.

"Did he give you your travel documents?"

Travel documents? This was starting to sound like "Casablanca" and those letters of transit that Peter Lorre kept talking about. "No."

"Just wait over there until your name is called."

I figure it's never a good idea to argue with an armed man; we returned to our seats.

After what seemed like an eternity, some lady stormtrooper came out of the back and said we were free to go. I wasn't about to make the same mistake twice.

"Could I have my travel documents, please?"

"Travel documents? You mean your passports? Sure, here they are."

Needless to say, on my return trip I drove back around Lake Erie. It went much faster.

Next: The Salt Museum.

The Illinois high school football... of the week should be No. 3 Wheaton Warrenville South against No. 18 Naperville Central on Friday. This is usually a hard-fought contest, but I give the edge to the Tigers, not so much for their No. 3 ranking as for their home-field advantage.

Elsewhere, on Thursday No. 1 Maine South plays at home against Maine West and Glenbrook South plays host to Niles North in what should be a couple of mismatches. On Friday No. 2 St. Rita should have no trouble with Fenwick at home; No. 8 Mt. Carmel should beat Loyola at Gateway; and Brother Rice should go down in defeat at Providence.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Here's a bare-bones recap...

...of this week's Illinois high school football:

Maine South 50, Highland Park 12
St. Rita 35, Brother Rice 14
Mt. Carmel 49, Fenwick 14
Providence 10, Loyola 3
Glenbrook South 62, Deerfield 21.

The trip to New Hampshire went well; details to follow.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Not only will I be "Out of Pocket"...

...this weekend, but I'll be out of the country as well (for about two hours or so). I'll be taking my son back to school in New Hampshire and we plan on driving through Canada for part of the journey. I was a little worried about the border-crossing process at first, especially on a day like September 11, but my son has assured me that there's nothing for an old "Time-Nazi" like me to be afraid of. "What are they going to do, Dad, detain us and give us free health care?"

Which got me to thinking, maybe this two hour jaunt across southern Ontario might be just the opportunity I've been looking for to take a good, hard look at the Canadian health care system. We plan on pulling off the road and having dinner someplace anyway, mostly so we can sample their exotic accents first-hand and brush up on our Ugly American schticks. ("Waddaya mean, you can't get the Cubs game on? Is there something wrong with your TV?") So maybe we'll just drop in at a clinic or two while we're there and interview a couple of doctors and patients. I'm sure it will all be very edifying.

Then it's on through upstate New York (which is actually quite beautiful), southern Vermont (which is also beautiful) and across the Connecticut River to the state whose motto is "Live Free or Die." (My son thought that sounded just a tad extreme when he first heard it. "Hey, I like freedom as much as the next guy, but...")

So once again, BOWG will go "dark," as they say, for at least a couple of days. But I should be back on Sunday night, hopefully with some humorous anecdotes and some observations about our socialist neighbors to the North. Have a great weekend everybody!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Here are two more phrases...

...that are getting a little old: "The devil is in the details" and "Kick the can down the road."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Here's my favorite... care article of the day. And you would never find it in The Wall Street Journal.

...has a review of Ron Paul's new book, End the Fed in which he calls for--surprise!--abolishing the Federal Reserve and returning the U. S. to the gold standard. As much as I want to like Dr. Paul, I'm afraid that this book is an example of everything that is wrong with libertarianism. Forgetting for a minute the merits of his argument (and they can be compelling in the abstract), there's just no way, no how that anyone is going to abolish something like the Fed that has been around for almost 100 years. It just ain't gonna happen. So talking about it is mostly a waste of time. Sure, it's interesting to ponder the possibilities and consider an America without a central bank and I'll even buy the first round at the bar when we do. But Real World problems demand Real World solutions, and they're not going to be found in Utopian ideology.

One picture is worth...

...a thousand words.

I finally got around... reading "How American Health Care Killed My Father," David Goldhill's fine article in the Atlantic that everyone is talking about. I agree that it's an excellent piece and one that everyone interested in the health care debate should read carefully. However (and you knew there had to be a "however"), I'm reminded by what Donald Rumsfeld (of all people) said during the Iraq War,"As you know, you go to war with the Army you have." Or to quote Robert Reich, "Devising a [health] plan is easy compared with the politics of getting it enacted."

I believe in this last quote especially. A lot of experts, on the right and the left, have come up with credible health care reform plans. It's really not that hard to devise something that would be an improvement over what we currently have. I could see anything from a single-payer system, like the one in Canada (or Medicare for all), to a strictly free-market system working better than what has evolved in the U. S. The trick, of course, is in getting it passed. And this is one of the reasons I am no longer a libertarian. There's really little value in pondering ideas that can never be brought to fruition. Health care is a great example.

Obama has clearly stated, as have many others, that he would prefer a single-payer system if he could start all over. People like Paul Ryan, Republican from Wisconsin, have put forward more market-based systems that make sense, also. But they are all non-starters, and everyone in Congress knows it. Obama's plan would involve doing away with the private insurance industry, a worthy but unrealistic goal. Any industry that spends more money in Washington than any other is not going anywhere. And anyone who can't see that isn't realistic enough to have a voice in the debate. So the president has wisely decided to build on the current system; trying to take it down is just not possible. (Look at how much trouble he's having now by just tweaking the current system; and make no mistake about it, it's just tweaking.) As for Paul Ryan, on the other hand, he would first need to get a Republican majority in the House and Senate--no small accomplishment. And even then, his colleagues have shown no real appetite to change the status quo. Again, no less a Republican than John McCain once remarked that health care reform could never take place so long as the GOP was owned by the insurance companies.

At the end of the day, politics is still the art of the possible. Or, as Ross Douthat said about that other transformational president, Ronald Reagan, the lesson is in "marrying principle to practicality, tolerating fractiousness within one's own coalition and dealing with the political landscape as it actually exists, rather than as you would prefer it to be." The U. S. is a center-right country, and change only comes glacially. Health care reform has been on the table for a hundred years, since Theodore Roosevelt.

So I'm all for studying health care, and I think Goldhill is on the right track here, but let's get the heart attack victim to the hospital first. Once his situation is stable we can then talk about a sensible diet and exercise regimen.

The Republicans may have...

...finally overplayed their hand yesterday by opposing the President's address to schoolchildren:

I watched the speech and can't imagine how a reasonable person could object to anything Obama said. Any president could have given that speech. Even most Republicans, it seems, had to concede as much as the day wore on. And any reasonable person would also have to conclude that the President's opponents are really just interested in bringing him down. It reminds me of the Clinton years, when the right wing acted much in the same way. And it may end up having the same effect; the right may lose credibility with independents and the President may be given the benefit of the doubt. During his impeachment, for example, Clinton's popularity soared to a level unmatched even by Reagan; the GOP's declined.

Tonight Obama will be speaking before Congress about health care reform. After all the silliness in August and now this latest non-controversy, the nation may be more willing to give the president a fresh hearing. It's harder to take all of the "socialist" and "Nazi" rhetoric seriously after yesterday's boilerplate speech. Maybe people will return to the reality that Obama was elected president by a majority vote and is working honestly to solve America's problems.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hey wing-nuts...

...AP reports:

In a pep talk that kept clear of politics, President Barack Obama on Tuesday challenged the nation's students to take pride and ownership in their education — and stick with it even if they don't like every class or must overcome tough circumstances at home.

...feel silly now?

The uproar over his speech followed him across the Potomac River, as his motorcade was greeted by a small band of protesters. One carried a sign exclaiming: "Mr. President, stay away from our kids."

I guess not.

In Politico today...

...Martin Kady II writes:

2010 SENATE OUTLOOK: National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas), sent a memo this morning to his Senate Republican colleagues outlining the 2010 outlook. In it, he says that Republican fortunes have changed dramatically since the August recess, and he specifically highlights Republican polling gains in Colorado, Arkansas, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

But Cornyn warns against overconfidence: “In closing, while the overall political climate has improved markedly for Republicans since January, the election is still 14 months away, which is a lifetime in politics. We have a very real opportunity to make gains in the Senate next year, but we must continue to offer our own positive agenda as an alternative to the Democrats’ increasingly unpopular policies. If we are successful with this, we have a strong chance of exceeding the expectations set for us when the cycle began.”

Those are my italics. We must continue to offer our own positive agenda. Did I miss something? What positive agenda would that be?

Pete Seeger famously asked...

..."Where Have all the Flowers Gone?" To which I would ask, "Where Have all the Responsible Republicans Gone?"

It began last summer, when the McCain/Palin rallies tried to stir up the base with questions about Obama and his patriotism. Rather than act like the candidate with "the experience and the knowledge and the background and the judgment," as he put it, John McCain stood idly by while the wing-nuts worked themselves into a frenzy. Turns out it was his staff all along that was encouraging his running mate to talk about Obama "palling around with terrorists":

More recently, Sarah Palin raised the specter of "death panels." I was sure that this gem would disqualify her once and for all, but McCain and the rest of the Republican establishment again stood idly by. If anything, it enhanced her reputation within the party. Newt Gingrich, thought to be a candidate in 2012 himself, passed on the opportunity to criticize his potential rival and actually added fuel to the fire:

“You are asking us to trust turning power over to the government, when there are clearly people in America who believe in establishing euthanasia, including selective standards.” There are?

Chuck Grassley, who was one of the "Gang of Six" that was supposedly negotiating for a bipartisan health care bill, chimed in " have every right to fear...We should not have a government program that determines if you're going to pull the plug on grandma." How's that?

Mike Huckabee, also considered a contender in 2012, added his two cents' worth to this high-minded discussion by suggesting that under the health care reforms being put forth Ted Kennedy would be told to “go home to take pain pills and die.” Really?

The latest is this made-up controversy about the President of the United States speaking to the nation's schoolchildren. As Jim Greer, the chairman of the Florida GOP said,

"As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology." (My emphasis.)

So what did Tim Pawlenty, considered one of the party's moderates and another potential candidate in 2012, say to calm the right wing's fears? Showing the address could be disruptive and raises concerns "about the content and the motive." The Republican governor also said that the speech is "uninvited." (Cross off another one from the list of serious candidates for 2012.)

What is going on here? Where are the GOP's elder statesmen? Where are the grown-ups in this party? Are there any left? Does anybody care?

It reminds me of the movie "Fahrenheit 9/11." I'm not a big fan of Michael Moore's. I'm also not a big fan of the Iraq War; never have been. But I was disgusted by all the lies and distortions in the movie because I felt like we already had the truth on our side and didn't need to resort to that. If anything, it just hurt the credibility of the anti-war movement. I'm surprised that more Republicans aren't saying the same thing now. I've heard David Frum, David Brooks, and Joe Scarborough make some noises to that effect, but where is the outrage from Republican office-holders? Are they trying to become irrelevant?

Monday, September 7, 2009

My Illinois high school game of the week...

...will feature the Tribune's No. 11 Providence at Loyola Academy on Saturday. (The Sun-Times, which is rapidly gaining credibility with this writer, ranks the Celtics No. 14 and the Ramblers No. 17.) Providence (1-1) is coming off a big victory over Joliet Catholic, 21-7, after stumbling in their opener to perennial power Lincoln-Way East. Loyola (2-0) has yet to be tested, and despite home-field advantage, will probably fall to the visitors from the far South suburb of New Lenox. (I'll be On the Road this weekend and won't be available for updates on Twitter.)

In other games, No. 1 Maine South will be traveling to Highland Park to square off against the best 0-2 team in the state. The Giants lost to Stevenson and Warren but should not be taken lightly. The Hawks are on a roll, however, and are expected to prevail. Glenbrook South (1-1)should return to their winning ways this Friday at Deerfield (2-0) in what will look like Michigan-Ohio State to the near-sighted. No. 8 Mt. Carmel (No. 2 in the Sun-Times) will have no trouble with Fenwick (1-1) at Toyota Park on Friday night. Incidentally, the park is only a 5-minute cab ride from Midway Airport and therefore an easy destination for out-of-towners. You could fly in, grab a hot dog or a slice of pizza for dinner at the game, and fly home the same night (in-out, nobody gets hurt). Finally, No. 2 St. Rita (No. 4 in the Sun-Times) will host Brother Rice (1-1) and make the Crusaders the best losing team in Illinois.

As long as I'm making predictions, I have to admit it wouldn't be too difficult to envision a Mt. Carmel-Maine South championship.

My guess is that Obama...

...will come out in favor of the "trigger" approach to the public option in his speech on health care reform Wednesday night.

Under the so-called "trigger" plan, the government would set certain market goals for health insurance companies to meet; if they didn't, a public health insurance option would kick in.

This combines the best of both worlds. Obama gets to be true to himself, as he's always been in favor of a public option, while attempting to mollify the liberal wing of his party. At the same time, it could bring along Blue Dog Democrats like Ben Nelson (who made noises yesterday that he would accept a "trigger") and Republican Olympia Snowe, who's been for it all along. This is probably the best way to get to a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority (with a fig leaf of bipartisanship) in the Senate. As for the House and its many members who have vowed not to vote for a bill without a public option, Obama will just have to make the case to them not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Meanwhile, he can leave the arm-twisting and head-banging to people like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. That way the president could get a good bill signed by Thanksgiving.

The "reset button"...

...needs to go the way of the "teachable moment."

Sunday, September 6, 2009

I know it's early, but...

...BYU's upset over Oklahoma yesterday got me thinking. And since Lou Holtz has already made his outlandish prediction, I might as well make mine. And that is for Southern Cal to beat Florida in the BCS Championship. (I think they could have beat them last year.)

The Republicans are very, very good... at least one thing: scaring the bejesus out of people. You have to give them that much. Bush and Cheney made an eight-year career out of essentially telling the public that the bad guys were out to get America and that only they could keep us safe. They were so good at it, in fact, that most people seemed to forget that the worst terror attack in American history happened on their watch. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

There was also No doubt that Saddam Hussein has Weapons of Mass Destruction, and We don't want the smoking gun to come in the shape of a mushroom cloud. That was right before they launched the Iraq War--a war of choice--that has resulted in the deaths of more Americans than the attacks on 9/11. To paraphrase Grouch Marx, Who are you going to believe, us or those pesky U. N. inspectors?

Now they are scaring the public in regard to health care reform. Whether their motivation comes from genuine anti-government ideology, indebtedness to the private insurance industry, or just a good old-fashioned desire to thwart the opposition and regain power, they have done a masterful job of scaring people. First it was those Golden Oldies from yesteryear: It's a government takeover of the health care system! and You don't want a government bureaucrat to come between you and your doctor! Then came the latest in misinformation: Obamacare will create "death panels!" and 100 million Americans will be forced into a public plan! Next thing you know, people are bringing guns to town hall meetings and biting other people's pinkies off.

You've gotta hand it to 'em; they're good at what they do.

I mention this because the president is scheduled to speak before Congress on Wednesday night in regard to health care reform. Although he has a reputation for speaking in a reasoned, professorial manner, I wish he'd take a page from the GOP playbook and start scaring people a little. But unlike the Republicans, I wish he'd scare people with the truth. All along he's said that if you like your current health plan, under reform, you'll get to keep it. What I'd really like to hear him say is, If you like your current health plan, without reform, you probably won't be able to keep it, because the current system is unsustainable. And what I'd like to hear him tell Congress is, If you don't pass a good bill, you will probably be turned out of office like the Democrats were in 1994.

Reasoned arguments are great, but as the Republicans have demonstrated time and again, fear is the best motivator of all.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

One of my out-of-town readers...

...has expressed an interest in attending the First Annual BOWG Dinner (which in this case is actually a luncheon), tentatively scheduled for October 3 on Maxwell Street (weather permitting). In order to sweeten the offer, literally, I've decided to pass out complimentary jars of Dalmatia Fig Spread to all those who RSVP by, say, October 1. As if a Polish sausage with grilled onions (or any other sandwich on the menu) and scintillating conversation with an overly-opinionated, middle-aged, suburban white guy (who wears bad hats) wasn't already enough of an inducement to attend, you now have a jar of fig spread to motivate you, much like a dangling carrot in front of an old mule. (Not that any of you resemble old mules--quite the contrary.) I plan to be outside (there is no inside) Jim's Original and the Express Grill (which are actually on Union Street) from 11am to 1pm. After lunch, we can all hop on the expressway and head up to Loyola Academy and watch the Ramblers host the visiting Crusaders from Brother Rice in what is sure to be a key Catholic Blue conference showdown. So what have you got to lose? A couple hundred bucks in travel expenses? So what! Life is short. Besides, you'll never miss that money. But you will never get another opportunity to attend the First BOWG dinner (lunch). So put it on your calendar right now! You won't regret it.