Saturday, April 30, 2011

The song of the day:

Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana...

...has indicated that he'll sign a bill restricting taxpayer funding for abortions in his state. This comes right after the news that his good friend Haley Barbour will not run for president.

Does this mean that Daniels is considering a run for the White House after all?

I saw Representative Paul Ryan...

...yesterday at a town hall meeting in Racine, Wisconsin. (You didn't think I was really going, did you?) The "Listening Session," as Ryan's Web site called it, had been moved to the Caesar Chavez Community Center Gymnasium in order to -- like others this week -- "accommodate larger crowds." (The video above is from a Racine newspaper Web site.)

I set out for the "Kringle Capital of the World" (and hometown of Fredric March) just after the markets closed at three o'clock. Mapquest said it would take about an hour and twenty minutes from my house in the northern suburbs of Chicago. The meeting was scheduled to run from 3:45 until five. Could I make it? How bad would the traffic be? And once there, would I be turned away because of the crowds? All I could think of was Bill Murray's famous line from "Stripes":

C'mon, it's Czechoslovakia. We zip in, we pick 'em up, we zip right out again. We're not going to Moscow. It's Czechoslovakia. It's like going into Wisconsin.

So I left the house. I had to go straight from the meeting to a party in Evanston afterward, where I was expected to bring the drinks. Wine? Check. Soda? Check. Let's go!

(There was only one thing I forgot -- the directions to the Community Center in Racine. Not to worry; I never know where I'm going and yet always seem to get there -- and back.)

So I drove up to Racine on a beautiful sunny day in unusually light traffic. So far, so good. I (kind of) remembered where I was going and managed to get off the Interstate at the right exit (Racine). From there I just pointed my car in the general direction of where I wanted to go and hoped for the best. (Kind of like my overall approach to life.) I knew the Center was on Douglas Avenue and figured I'd run into it eventually, which I did. Eureka!

On the way, though, I drove briefly through a "low income" neighborhood (one of the streets was named after Martin Luther King) and all I could think was, how could Representative Ryan really want to cut spending on the most vulnerable of his constituents in order to give tax breaks to the most fortunate? (But this piece is not a hit job.)

Anyway, once on Douglas Avenue it was easy to find the Center. Parking, however, was another story -- the place was obviously packed. It was about 4:20 at this point (Mapquest was spot on!) but I was determined to get a look at the Congressman and the crowd. Would there be a lot of dissent? Rage, even? How would Ryan react? What, exactly, would be the mood in that gym? That's what I was most interested in gauging. So I found a parking spot on a side street and ... ran to the Community Center. (I can only imagine the entertainment value for the residents of that neighborhood in seeing a fat, fifty-two year old bald guy running down the street in order to hear the chairman of the House Budget Committee speak in a hot, crowded gymnasium. Priceless.)

To my surprise, I was able to get into the gym, although not on the actual floor. I was directed by some staffer to the balcony. (Apparently, they can spot an Obama supporter with no trouble at all.)

I found a seat among five hundred or so people and got my first look at the Congressman in person. I couldn't get over how thin he was. And young, and tall, and good-looking. All of the things that I am not. (Did I mention that he had a full head of dark hair?)

But I really wanted to see this guy with my own eyes. Is he, as David Brooks reported, one "of the smartest, most admirable and most genial men in Washington," or the "Flimflam Man," as Paul Krugman called him?

And what I saw, I think, was ... myself. Or, at least, a younger (and much smarter) version of the libertarian I used to be.

My impression is that Paul Ryan is an earnest and sincere young man who really, truly believes in what he is preaching -- the gospel of free markets and laissez-faire capitalism. (Or, what you might call "the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.")  He's a libertarian and his budget isn't so much a "budget" as it is a "libertarian manifesto." Ryan wants to shrink the size of government and lower taxes dramatically. It's been said that he wants to take the U. S. back not only to what it was before the Great Society, but to what it was before the New Deal. His plan, in fact, would reduce tax rates back to levels not seen since the days of Herbert Hoover. Wow! 

(I would argue that Ryan would really like to transform the U. S. into some libertarian Utopia from an Ayn Rand novel, but first things, first.)

Now I'd heard all of this before and have probably read a lot of the same stuff that informs Ryan. I used to be an avid reader of the Journal myself, and even went through my own Ayn Rand phase when I was a young man. (Unlike Ryan, though, I worked through it.)

As I was listening to the Q. and A. -- I missed Ryan's opening speech in the video above -- I kept wondering, how would his vision of America help those poor people in that neighborhood I drove through to get to this gym? And I know his answer (because I used to give it myself): lowering taxes on small businesses would encourage hiring and lead to economic growth and blah, blah, blah. But would it? Would it really be preferable to have no Medicare, no Medicaid, no Social Security, no food stamps, no universal health care, no safety net at all? (Think about your parents for a minute.)

Would poor people prosper in a libertarian society, or be left to rot? I really don't know the answer.

(And isn't this what the Republicans have been selling us since 1980? As far as I can tell, the rich have just gotten fabulously richer while the middle class and poor have been left behind.)

But the final turning point in my own personal evolution from libertarian to "pragmatist" was TARP. Because during the financial crisis in the fall of '08, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson said that, in effect, if we didn't bail out the banking system the U. S. would descend into another Great Depression. And -- suddenly -- there were no atheists in foxholes. I was persuaded, President Bush was persuaded, and, yes, even Paul Ryan was persuaded that the federal government had to come to the rescue. So while it's one thing to talk about laissez-faire capitalism and Ayn Rand and all that, it's quite another to stick to it in a crisis. As President Bush himself said at the time, "I didn't want to be Herbert Hoover."

So Mr. Ryan laid out his vision for America in the Q. and A. to a mostly sympathetic crowd. (My estimate is that only about 10-15% were hostile.) He had a number of applause lines and the overwhelmingly white, tea party-ish crowd ate it up. (I didn't know what to expect coming in, although I was pretty sure it wouldn't be anything like the rage seen at town halls in the summer of '09 -- and it wasn't.) No, the crowd seemed generally supportive. They liked Ryan's talking points: strong dollar, less spending, lower taxes, no more borrowing, balanced budgets, etc., etc., etc. And why wouldn't they? That's how individuals and households manage their own finances.

(I couldn't help hearing Sarah Palin's voice in my own head talking about her "common sense solutions." And there is some wisdom in that. After all, common sense guides us in life: work hard, live within your means, don't drink too much, etc.)

But running a government like the United States and its $13 trillion economy is a lot more complicated. A lot.

And that brings up another thought. There are essentially three kinds of people in this conversation: lay people, like me and the rest of the crowd yesterday; more informed people, like Representative Ryan; and the most informed people, like Krugman and Bruce Bartlett, who said:  

...the Ryan plan is a monstrosity. The rich would receive huge tax cuts while the social safety net would be shredded to pay for them. Even as an opening bid to begin budget negotiations with the Democrats, the Ryan plan cannot be taken seriously. It is less of a wish list than a fairy tale utterly disconnected from the real world, backed up by make-believe numbers and unreasonable assumptions. Ryan’s plan isn’t even an act of courage; it’s just pandering to the Tea Party.

And Bartlett is a Republican!

But that's what I'd really like to see. Don't take questions from people like me, get up on a stage with people like Krugman and Bartlett and take questions from them.

Representative Ryan finished at about twenty after five with a few last words about his vision; he was given a standing ovation. (The tea party is alive and well, thank you.)

And my last thought was that here was a younger, white, archconservative version of Barack Obama. This guy is smooth -- and good at what he does. He's going to be around for a while.

Your Googie architecture fix...

...for the day.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

The last word (I hope)...

...on Donald Trump and the whole birth certificate controversy, from David Remnick of the New Yorker (my emphasis):

What is truly disturbing is the game Trump has been participating in, the conspiracy thinking he was playing with. And here the polls—to the extent that they can be taken as hard fact—tell a disturbing story, in which no small part of the country has believed in a variety of tales about Barack Obama. There is the birther fantasy; the fantasy that Bill Ayers wrote “Dreams from My Father”; the fantasy that the President has some other father, and not Barack Obama, Sr.; the fantasy that Obama got into Harvard Law School with the help of a Saudi prince and the Nation of Islam. There is a veritable fantasy industry at work online and in the book-publishing industry; there are dollars to be made.

The cynicism of the purveyors of these fantasies is that they know very well what they are playing at, the prejudices they are fanning: that Obama is foreign, a fake, incapable of writing a book, incapable of intellectual achievement. Let’s say what is plainly true (and what the President himself is reluctant to say): these rumors, this industry of fantasy, are designed to arouse a fear of the Other, of an African-American man with a white American mother and a black Kenyan father. Obama, as a politician, is clearly not a radical; he is a center-left pragmatist. If anything, he believes deeply in his capacity to lead with subtle diplomacy and political maneuvering, with a highly realistic sense of the possible; in fact, to many he is maddeningly pragmatic.

The one radical thing about Barack Obama is his race, his name. Of course, there is nothing innately radical about being black or having Hussein as middle name; what is radical is that he has those attributes and is sitting in the Oval Office. And even now, more than two years after the fact, this is deeply disturbing to many people, and, at the same time, the easiest way to arouse visceral opposition to him. Let’s be even plainer: to do what Trump has done (and he is only the latest and loudest and most spectacularly hirsute) is a conscious form of race-baiting, of fear-mongering.

I think the New Republic...

...hit on the secret to Donald Trump's appeal to Republicans (my emphasis):

What Trump actually stands for is an exaggerated sense of victimhood. This is the theme that unites his personal style with the political views he has thus far expressed. Are you tired of being pushed around? Are you tired of our country being pushed around? Trump’s political acuity lies in his ability to take these grievances and turn them into politics. His foreign policy views in essence consist of a pledge to bully other nations. China is “decimating our country.” OPEC is imperiling the economy. And ungrateful Libyans and Iraqis are trying to build a society from oil that is rightfully ours. (“We won the war. We take over the oil fields. We use the oil.”) When Bill O’Reilly, in an interview with Trump, seemed taken aback by the idea that we could simply force OPEC or China to do our bidding, Trump appeared surprised that anyone could view international relations as anything more than a contest of machismo. “The messenger is the key,” Trump told O’Reilly. “If you have the right messenger and they know how to deliver the message … you’re going to scare them, absolutely.”

Remind you of anyone?

Substitute the words "Soviet Union," "big government," or "welfare queens" for "China" or "OPEC" above. And "tinhorn dictators" for "ungrateful Libyans and Iraqis" and "Panama Canal" for "oil fields."

Republicans just l-o-o-o-ve tough talkers.

Matt Latimer, former speechwriter... the second Bush administration, sums up the 2012 Republican field and declares Tim Pawlenty the "winner" (my emphasis):

For those willing to bother themselves with such trifles as the next leader of the free world, there’s a simple way to save an enormous amount of time and money: Send Gov. Tim Pawlenty the Robert J. Dole “Thanks for being the GOP nominee and not embarrassing us too badly” Award and then get on with it. It’s his race to lose. And, don’t worry, he probably will. But not until November 2012.

Then there are the 2008 also-rans, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, the two most handicapped frontrunners for any contest since Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. The social conservatives don’t trust the once proudly moderate Romney. The fiscal conservatives don’t trust the once big-spending Huckabee. And the rest are voting for Ron Paul. There are of course other candidates I am forgetting—that probably says enough about them right there.

Where does that leave the Republican field? You guessed it. Gov. Pawlenty seems like a fine sort, the kind of fellow who scrubs his hands before every meal, always remembers to return borrowed books on time, and runs a very efficient Scrabble night whenever it’s his turn to host. No faction of the party has much against him, which is why he will ultimately triumph. But few really want a president whose main selling point is: You Despise Me the Least.
I think I like Jon Stewart's description of TPaw the best: "The guy who looks like your high school guidance counselor."

Congressman Paul Ryan...

...will be answering questions about his new "budget" at a town hall meeting in Racine, Wisconsin today.

And this intrepid blogger will be there.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Your Googie architecture fix...

...for the day.

David Frum, a -- Shhh! -- moderate...

...Republican, asks today, "Why Didn't the GOP Stand Up to the Birthers?"

Yesterday, in "The Birther Disgrace," he wrote (my emphasis):

How did this poisonous and not very subtly racist allegation get such a grip on our conservative movement and our Republican party?

I know there will be Republican writers and conservative publicists who will now deny that birtherism ever did get a grip. Sorry, that’s just wrong. Not only did Trump surge ahead in Republican polls by flaming racial fires – not only did conservative media outlets from Fox to Drudge to the Breitbart sites indulge the birthers – but so also did every Republican candidate who said, “I take the president at his word.” Birthers did not doubt the president’s “word.” They were doubting the official records of the state of Hawaii.

I wish it were otherwise, but it does seem that these racialized attacks on Obama have exacted a toll on him. But they also have exacted a toll on the opposition to Obama. The too-faint repudiation of birtherism by regular Republicans has shaped not only the Obama brand, but also the Republican brand. 

Clearly, some Republicans, like John Boehner and Eric Cantor -- in the words of Ricky Ricardo -- have some 'splainin' to do.

Someone close to Donald Trump,...

...his daughter perhaps, needs to take him aside and quietly tell him, "Dad, stop! You're making a fool of yourself."

Elmer Hauldren, the Empire Carpet...

...guy, died on Tuesday at age 89. Mr. Hauldren, as I called him, was a bit of a local celebrity. It's hard to tell, but that's him in the above picture throwing out the first pitch at a Cubs' game. (My son and I just happened to be there that day. More about that later.)

Anyone who's spent any time in Chicago would recognize Mr. Hauldren from the Empire Carpet commercials on WGN. You know, "5-8-8, 2-3-hundred, Emp-i-i-ire."

As I said, I called him Mr. Hauldren because he was the father of a neighbor of mine and I actually had the privilege of meeting him once.

"Hey, you know those new people who just moved in down the street?"

"You mean the Hauldrens?"

"Yeah. His dad is the Empire Carpet guy."

"No kidding!"

"Yeah. But I guess he doesn't own the company or anything. He's just an advertising guy who does the spots for them."

After I got to know Ryan Hauldren a little, I told him I'd really like to meet his dad sometime. He looked at me a little funny (a lot of people do), but later that summer I found myself talking to the Empire Carpet guy himself at a backyard barbecue at Ryan's house. And you know what? He was a really nice, soft-spoken guy. And he seemed genuinely puzzled by his celebrity.

Which brings me back to that Cubs' game. It must have been "Empire Carpet Day" or something, because on the sidelines was a guy dressed up like Mr. Hauldren with one of those huge heads, sort of like a giant bobblehead doll.

And my son Joe turned to me and said, "Dad, you know you've made it when you've got your own bobblehead doll!"

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Michael Scherer, of Time...

...magazine, asks today:

Just how bad is it for Republicans? Multiple choice: A) 76% of Republicans are dissatisfied with their choices for President, says Zogby. B) Only 40% of Republicans are satisfied with their choices, says CBS News. Or C) Just 52% of Republicans are satisfied, says Newsweek.

Answer: None of the above. Those are trick answers. Those polls were done in 2007 and 2008, the last time political journalists seized on the theme that the current slate of Republican candidates are historically disappointing.

Scherer goes on to say in "Don't Believe the Hype: The GOP Primary Field is not Disappointing":

In fact, it seems unlikely that the sort of malaise that John McCain struggled with in 2008 will be repeated in 2012.

To which I reply: By November, 2012, the Republicans may be pining for John McCain.

Remember, last time McCain started out as the front-runner and was replaced by Rudy Giuliani, then Mike Huckabee, and then Fred Thompson (with Mitt Romney and Ron Paul lingering in the background). Only then did the establishment hold its nose and nominate McCain.

This time around, the GOP has no McCain to fall back on -- only Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty to offer (with Huckabee and Paul -- again -- lingering in the background). Yikes!

McCain made the worst showing of any Republican presidential candidate since Barry Goldwater in 1964. Don't be too surprised if 2012 is even worse.

The cartoon of the day:

The White House just released...

...President Obama's long-form birth certificate and I have to say I'm shocked. Why now? I thought for sure they were waiting until the fall of 2012, after the Republicans had settled on some birther nutcase for the nomination.

Ezra Klein writes...

...this morning that he's:

...old enough to remember when the Republican Party didn’t like “ObamaCare.” Hated it, in fact. Thought it wouldn’t work, would diminish our freedoms, would never prove sustainable. And, to be fair, they still feel that way about the Affordable Care Act. Most days, the House votes to repeal it once before breakfast and twice before lunch.

But it turns out that their skepticism of ObamaCare melts away when you’re talking about applying it to seniors. In fact, it’s now the official Republican plan for the over-65 group. The Ryan budget, John Boehner told ABC News, “transforms Medicare into a plan that’s very similar to the President’s own healthcare bill.” Sen. John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senate Committee, made the same point a few weeks ago. “It’s exactly like Obamacare,” he said. “It is.” (My emphasis.)

How can anyone take these people seriously?

Eldon Davis, the father of...

...Googie architecture, died at age 94. (And his obit wasn't even in the New York Times. Shame on you, Gray Lady!)

Don't know what Googie architecture is? You've seen it many times:

When America was in love with aerodynamic design, Davis devised a concept for Norms restaurant (above) that made it appear poised for liftoff.

Built on La Cienega Boulevard in 1957, Norms had many features that came to typify the whimsical style of architecture known as Googie — a vaulted roof that resembles a flying wing, a room-length dining counter and an attention-grabbing vertical neon sign with roots in Las Vegas kitsch.
With architect Louis Armet, Davis opened a local firm in 1947 and developed a reputation for being willing to try almost anything to catch the attention of motorists who sped by.
The architects were chief proponents of Googie, named for a now-defunct cafe in West Hollywood, and derided by critics in the 1950s and 1960s "who didn't think a lot of our work but we didn't care," said Victor Newlove, a partner in the firm who started as an intern in the 1960s.
With their soaring and exaggerated roof lines, their buildings appeared to defy gravity, a structural innovation for which Davis was largely responsible.

Neon signs became a trademark, and they devised an animated sign for Pann's (above), a coffee shop in Westchester. Run by the same family since it opened in 1958, the restaurant is probably the best preserved example of Davis' work, Newlove said.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The cartoon of the day:

Here's a graph...

...from Paul Krugman's blog, "showing that shocks to commodity prices do not, in fact, presage higher core inflation."

In fact, says Krugman, "If commodity price rises lead to broader price inflation this time around, it will be a first."

I bring this up in response to (another) helpful e-mail from Senator Mark Kirk:

Dear Friends:

Since November, I have hosted 20 town-hall meetings and two Small Business Advisory Board Meetings where residents across Illinois have shared hundreds of stories about about economic difficulties, deficits and debt.

Recently, a new theme has emerged. More than record-high gas prices, costs are also rising in every sector. While inflation has not been a dominant problem in recent years, many of us remember times of higher inflation and the pain it causes. We know that inflation hurts fixed-income seniors the most.

The Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Ben Bernanke, will hold an unprecedented news conference on Wednesday. What will he say? What should he say?

Q. Do you see rapidly rising inflation in your business or family bills?

__ Yes

__ No

__ Do not know

I have begun to look into this question, and the possible solutions, in great detail. I have also written to the head of our Federal Reserve, Chairman Bernanke, to ask for his attention to this trend we see in Illinois.

Gee, with gas prices over $4.00 in Illinois, which of the above answers do you suppose people gave the most?

Oh, and don't tell me, it's all President Obama's fault.

Ever wonder how a Canadian-style...

...single-payer health care system would work in the United States? (Admit it; you lie awake at night thinking about this stuff!)

Well, you may not have to wonder much longer, because Vermont is getting close to adopting that model on the state level (my emphasis):

The Vermont Senate passed a bill yesterday that will move the state toward a single-payer health system. Since it had already been passed by the state House, the two bills just need to be reconciled, and then Vermont will be on its way... 

This is just the start of a process in Vermont -- many questions are left to be answered by a commission, including how the funding will work. The system could end up looking something like what they have in France: a basic public plan that covers everyone, with most people buying supplemental private insurance on top of that. The most important change may be that Green Mountain Care could cut the link between employment and health care.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Michael Gerson, who worked... the second Bush administration, has a good explanation of Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, in the Washington Post (my emphasis):

“The Objectivist ethics, in essence,” said Rand, “hold that man exists for his own sake, that the pursuit of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose, that he must not sacrifice himself to others, nor sacrifice others to himself.”

If Objectivism seems familiar, it is because most people know it under another name: adolescence. Many of us experienced a few unfortunate years of invincible self-involvement, testing moral boundaries and prone to stormy egotism and hero worship. Usually one grows out of it, eventually discovering that the quality of our lives is tied to the benefit of others. Rand’s achievement was to turn a phase into a philosophy, as attractive as an outbreak of acne.
Reaction to Rand draws a line in political theory. Some believe with Rand that all government is coercion and theft — the tearing-down of the strong for the benefit of the undeserving. Others believe that government has a limited but noble role in helping the most vulnerable in society — not motivated by egalitarianism, which is destructive, but by compassion, which is human.
I wonder if Paul Ryan (above), Washington's most famous follower of Ayn Rand, read Gerson's piece.

The Cubs won yesterday...

...and "set an unusual major league record of being the only team to start at .500 through 20 games while making a stop at 1-1, 2-2, etc."

My guess is that the Cubbies will continue much in this vein until at least the All-Star break, at which point they'll begin their stretch drive to the pennant -- all with players named Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney (above).

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Donald Trump is confident...

...of at least one group's support if he makes a run for the White House. Recently, the real estate tycoon told an Albany, New York, radio station, "I've always had a great relationship with the blacks."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Speaking of great ads,...

...remember this one from British Airways?

I have three movies... recommend for a rainy weekend:

Black Swan -- which I'm sure you know all about -- will have you talking. My wife and I had to watch it a second time.

American Splendor (2003), which I just saw for the first time. It's about a comic book writer named Harvey Pekar. Quirky, but interesting. I want to see it again. (Reminded me of a certain blogger.)

And Thirteen Conversations About One Thing (2001), which I just watched for the third or fourth time. (I'll leave you to figure out what that one thing is.)

Thirteen Conversations contains the line, "Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." (I just found out that that's a quote from Soren Kierkegaard.) Kind of like my favorite line from Amelie, " is but a draft, a long rehearsal for a show that will never play."

Or, as I told my younger son yesterday, "Do the best you can; we're all living this life for the first time. None of us knows what we're doing. It only makes sense in hindsight."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My friend Jack...

...has a radio show!

Answer: The percentage of...

...the autistic population in the United States that is currently under the age of 18.

Question: What is eighty?

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Loyola Academy will play...

...its second game of the 2012 football season against Dallas Jesuit in Ireland.

David Frum has a good piece...

...about his personal evolution from 1980s libertarian to one who now asks, "How do we champion entrepreneurship and individualism within the context of a social insurance state?"

It mirrors my own journey (my emphasis):

Especially after 2000, incomes did not much improve for middle-class Americans. The promise of macroeconomic stability proved a mirage: America and the world were hit in 2008 by the sharpest and widest financial crisis since the 1930s. Conservatives do not like to hear it, but the crisis originated in the malfunctioning of an under-regulated financial sector, not in government overspending or government over-generosity to less affluent homebuyers. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were bad actors, yes, but they could not have capsized the world economy by themselves. It took Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, AIG, and — maybe above all — Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s to do that.

In the aftermath of the catastrophe, the free-market assumption and expectation that an unemployed person could always find work somewhere has been massively falsified: at the trough of this recession, there were almost 6 jobseekers in the US for every unfilled job. Nothing like such a disparity had been seen since the 1930s. The young faced the worst job odds. But some of the most dismal outcomes were endured by workers in their 50s, laid off from middle-class jobs likely never to see middle-class employment again.

GK Chesterton once wrote that we should never tear down a fence until we knew why it had been built. In the calamity after 2008, we rediscovered why the fences of the old social insurance state had been built.

Speaking only personally, I cannot take seriously the idea that the worst thing that has happened in the past three years is that government got bigger. Or that money was borrowed. Or that the number of people on food stamps and unemployment insurance and Medicaid increased. The worst thing was that tens of millions of Americans – and not only Americans – were plunged into unemployment, foreclosure, poverty. If food stamps and unemployment insurance, and Medicaid mitigated those disasters, then two cheers for food stamps, unemployment insurance, and Medicaid.

If you're looking for a sane Republican (and I'll admit it can be pretty discouraging sometimes), look no further than David Frum. If the GOP has any future at all, it will be with individuals like him.

Tom Toles's take...

...on the nation's finances:

There is no deficit crisis. The science is flawed and not proven. Budgets fluctuate all the time; it’s a natural phenomenon. They go up, they go down. Budget forecasters may all agree that the deficits are headed up, but consensus is a sure sign of conspiracy.

Maybe humans are causing the budgets to go up and maybe they aren’t. Who’s to say? Paul Ryan? Has he ever “borrowed” money for a mortgage or to buy a car? Then he is a bigger hypocrite than Al Gore. Did Paul Ryan ever vote for deficit-increasing measures? Well, actually he did, a lot, but only Democrats can be hypocrites.

Does “spending” cause deficits? What, now you want to label “spending” as a BAD thing? Polls show overwhelmingly that Americans enjoy spending. Maybe higher deficits forever will be a GOOD thing. Again, who’s to say?? “Experts?” “Experts” just want to look in my wallet and control my life. Only I am allowed in my own wallet. Why, I look right here in my wallet and see a twenty and three ones. Is that your “deficit?” If that’s a deficit, I’ll take more of that! Actually it WOULD take more than that to fill my gas tank if Al Gore had his way, which he didn’t, but now gas costs more anyway. Did the “experts” predict THAT? I think I may just “borrow” a hundred dollars and buy a gallon of gas just to make Al Gore mad.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The cartoon of the day:

A friend of mine, who...

...was a philosophy professor for many years at Loyola University in Chicago, once defined a philosopher to me as "a blind man searching in a dark room for a black cat that isn't there."

A theologian, on the other hand, is "the same, except he thinks he's found the cat."

According to a new poll...

...from Quinnipiac University (my emphasis):

New Jersey voters do not believe Gov. Christopher Christie's claim that he would beat President Barack Obama in a 2012 White House run and back the president over the governor 52 - 39 percent. President Obama also tops Gov. Christie in job approval and likeability.

Gov. Christie's split 47 - 46 percent job approval compares to a 52 - 40 percent job approval in a February 9 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University.

In today's survey, men approve of Christie 56 - 38 percent as women disapprove 53 - 38 percent.

"How about at home in Trenton? Christie's job approval numbers are only narrowly positive. And there's a real gender split over this 'Jersey guy' governor: Men like him a lot; women don't," Carroll added.

"Bully," "arrogant," "good," "aggressive" are among words offered when voters are asked, with no suggestions given, to describe Gov. Christie in one word.

In trader's parlance, this guy's a short.

Ever had Nutella?

It's good, isn't it? What if I told you its origins were serendipitous?

During the war, ingredients needed to make chocolate were in short supply, so ... Pietro Ferrero began experimenting by mixing in hazelnuts to increase the volume, according to the company’s Web site. From this came Nutella, the chocolate-hazelnut spread that has been produced since the early 1960s and has been available in the United States since 1983.

Who would get your vote...

...for the greatest Canadian of all time? Alexander Graham Bell?

How about Wayne Gretzky?

Lorne Greene?

Yeah; Lorne Greene. You got a problem with that?

Well, in 2004, The Greatest Canadian, a television show, selected Tommy Douglas, the former premier of Saskatchewan. Who? (That's what I said.)

Douglas (above) is widely considered to be the father of Medicare, the Canadian health care system. Apparently, as recently as 2004, Canadians were so happy with the system they voted Douglas the "Greatest Canadian."

I'm reminded of all this by the news in the Times this morning of the death of Allan Blakeney. Again, who?

Allan Blakeney (above), the health minister of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan helped start North America’s first tax-financed universal health care system in 1962.

In 1946, the government of Tommy Douglas, then Saskatchewan’s premier, enacted universal insurance coverage for hospitalization. Mr. Douglas’s successor, Woodrow Lloyd expanded the program in 1962 to include the costs of medical care provided by doctors.

Nine out of 10 doctors responded by going on strike, people demonstrated in support of the doctors and newspapers editorialized in their favor. Mr. Blakeney, as the health minister in Mr. Lloyd’s government, became the main negotiator with the physicians. He succeeded in keeping the new system — partly by emphasizing its lower cost — but compromised to give doctors the right to charge fees for services, rather than going on salary.

Mr. Blakeney later called the brouhaha the “the greatest social conflict I was involved in.” By 1966, universal medical coverage had been extended to all Canadians. Opposition to the plan in Saskatchewan, however, helped the Liberal Party defeat Mr. Lloyd’s government in 1964.
Mr. Blakeney watched the United States’ debate on health care, which resulted in the Affordable Health Care for America Act of 2009, with keen interest. He called the American law “a painfully small step.”
(All emphasis mine.)