Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Meanwhile, in "socialist" Germany...

...unemployment fell in May for the 23rd straight month. The jobless rate is now down to 7 percent, the lowest since German reunification in 1991.

I wonder how the Wall Street Journal is going to spin that.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Here's George Carlin...

...at his absolute best. Take four minutes out of your busy weekend and listen to this -- it's not only amazing that he wrote this but that he could also recite it from memory.

I’m a modern man,
A man for the millennium,
Digital and smoke free.
A diversified multicultural postmodern deconstructionist,
Politically anatomically and ecologically incorrect.
I’ve been uplinked and downloaded.
I’ve been inputted and outsourced.
I know the upside of downsizing.
I know the downside of upgrading.
I’m a high tech lowlife.
A cutting edge state-of-the-art bicoastal multitasker,
And I can give you a gigabyte in a nanosecond.
I’m new wave but I’m old school,
And my inner child is outward bound.
I’m a hot wired heat seeking warm hearted cool customer,
Voice activated and biodegradable.
I interface from a database,
And my database is in cyberspace,
So I’m interactive,
I’m hyperactive,
And from time-to-time,
I’m radioactive.
Behind the eight ball,
Ahead of the curve,
Riding the wave,
Dodging a bullet,
Pushing the envelope.
I’m on point,
On task,
On message,
And off drugs.
I got no need for coke and speed,
I got no urge to binge and purge.
I’m in the moment,
On the edge,
Over the top,
But under the radar.
A high concept,
Low profile,
Medium range ballistic missionary.
A street-wise smart bomb.
A top gun bottom feeder.
I wear power ties,
I tell power lies,
I take power naps,
I run victory laps.
I’m a totally ongoing bigfoot slam dunk rainmaker with a proactive outreach.
A raging workaholic.
A working ragaholic.
Out of rehab,
And in denial.
I got a personal trainer,
A personal shopper,
A personal assistant,
And a personal agenda.
You can’t shut me up,
You can’t dumb me down.
‘Cause I’m tireless,
And I’m wireless.
I’m an alpha male on beta blockers.
I’m a non-believer and an over-achiever.
Laid back but fashion forward.
Up front,
Down home,
Low rent,
High maintenance.
Super size,
Long lasting,
High definition,
Fast acting,
Oven ready,
And built to last.
I’m a hands on,
Foot loose,
Knee jerk,
Head case.
Prematurely post traumatic,
And I got a love child who sends me hate mail.
But I’m feeling,
I’m caring,
I’m healing,
I’m sharing.
A supportive bonding nurturing primary care giver.
My output is down,
But my income is up.
I take a short position on the long bond,
And my revenue stream has its own cash flow.
I read junk mail,
I eat junk food,
I buy junk bonds,
I watch trash sports.
I’m gender specific,
Capital intensive,
User friendly,
And lactose intolerant.
I like rough sex.
I like tough love.
I use the f word in my email,
And the software on my hard drive is hard core, no soft porn.
I bought a microwave at a mini mall.
I bought a mini van in a mega store.
I eat fast food in the slow lane.
I’m toll free,
Bite sized,
Ready to wear,
And I come in all sizes.
A fully equipped,
Factory authorized,
Hospital tested,
Clinically proven,
Scientifically formulated medical miracle.
I’ve been pre-washed,
And I have an unlimited broadband capacity.
I’m a rude dude,
But I’m the real deal.
Lean and mean.
Cocked, locked and ready to rock.
Rough tough and hard to bluff.
I take it slow.
I go with the flow.
I ride with the tide.
I got glide in my stride.
Drivin’ and movin’,
Sailin’ and spinnin’,
Jivin’ and groovin’,
Wailin’ and winnin’.
I don’t snooze,
So I don’t lose.
I keep the pedal to the metal,
And the rubber on the road.
I party hearty,
And lunch time is crunch time.
I’m hanging in,
There ain’t no doubt.
And I’m hanging tough,
Over and out.

(From Andrew Sullivan's blog.)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I watched "Too Big to Fail"...

...the other night on HBO and another show (above) about the movie. They were both very well done and explained the financial crisis in a way that was easy to understand.

Andrew Ross Sorkin, who wrote the book on which the movie is based, said a couple of things in particular that caught my interest. The first was at about 5:34 of the above clip. Sorkin said that Richard Fuld, the CEO of Lehman Brothers, owned stock in the company that was at one time worth $1 billion. By the time the investment bank declared bankruptcy in the fall of 2008, Fuld's holdings had dwindled to only $56,000.

Sorkin goes on to explain (at about 11:10) that after Lehman failed, Morgan Stanley was expected to be next. And after Morgan, Goldman. And after Goldman, General Electric. That's how the Wall Street crisis began to affect Main Street.

According to a rumor during the week of the Lehman bankruptcy, Sorkin goes on to say, Bank of America may have ceased funding McDonald's, causing the hamburger chain to fail to pay its employees.

That's how close the United States was to an economic disaster.

Your Googie architecture...

...fix for the day.

According to a new poll...

...from Gallup, "Romney, Palin Lead Reduced GOP Field for 2012":

Mitt Romney (17%) and Sarah Palin (15%) now lead a smaller field of potential Republican presidential candidates in rank-and-file Republicans' preferences for the party's 2012 nominee.

Now that many observers are again wondering aloud about a Palin candidacy, does that mean that the Republican race is right back to what many had originally expected, a two-person contest between Romney and Palin?

And could that be the eventual GOP ticket?

Chris Cillizza reported...

...about Michele Bachmann in his blog yesterday:

...after suggesting she might move up her 2012 announcement, [Bachmann] is going back to her original plan. She will reveal her plans in June. “We want to make sure that what we are doing is deliberate and focused. We want to be prudent and responsible in the decisions that we are making,” she told the Des Moines Register. “So we’ve got our team together, and we’re trying to lay a well-grounded plan.”

What is the significance of that? My guess is that Bachmann, after hearing all the recent buzz about Sarah Palin, is waiting to see what the former governor of Alaska does. If Palin enters the race, Bachmann will take a pass. If Palin doesn't run, the Minnesota Congresswoman will probably jump in. But there's clearly room for only one of them.

And either way, it spells trouble for Tim Pawlenty in Iowa.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The New Yorker cartoon...

...of the day.

Joe Steffy, College Football...

...Hall of Famer (shown here serving tea to his fellow cadets), died at age 85. The 5' 10", 190-pound guard played one season at the University of Tennessee and three at West Point in the 1940s:

Steffy recalled that sportswriters in New York would often ask him about the most intense game he played in. For all his memories of West Point, his thoughts went back to a 0-0 tie in his first year of college football.

As he related it to The Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999: “I told ’em, Tennessee and Alabama. You determined who won that game by the number of teeth you had left when the game was over.”

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

When my kids were young...

...I thought some of the other kids, who were allergic to peanuts, took it a little far. I guess I was wrong:

Doctors in the Netherlands said that a 6-year-old boy with an allergy to peanuts went into anaphylactic shock after receiving a blood transfusion from donors who had been snacking on them.

Blood tests revealed that the child had indeed developed an allergic reaction to peanuts during the transfusion. Three of five donors whose platelets were used recalled that they had eaten peanuts the evening before donating blood.

T-Paw's announcement video...

...on YouTube came out two days later than Terry Moore's, on how to tie your shoes, and it already has more hits.

Tim Pawlenty's campaign...

...for president is off and running. (Although at least one Republican, former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson, is not impressed.)

According to the Times, T-Paw is presenting himself as:

...a candidate willing to confront tough political choices, pledging to reinvent or dismantle programs like ethanol subsidies, Medicare and Social Security to address the nation’s fiscal burdens.

“We need to cut spending, and we need to cut it big-time,” Mr. Pawlenty said. “The hard truth is that there are no longer any sacred programs.”

But the hard truth, also, is that none of those are Republican sacred programs.

Or, as Walt Wendland, president of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, said, “Iowans look forward to Governor Pawlenty further detailing his plans to phase out petroleum subsidies, perhaps in a speech in Houston, Texas.”

If T-Paw really wanted to "confront tough political choices," he could start by taking on that most sacred of Republican sacred cows, revenue increases. After all, everyone knows that has to be on the table sooner or later.

Now that would demonstrate the "courage to stand."

Who says America doesn't...

...have an aristocracy? Peter Frelinghuysen Jr. died Monday at age 95 on his 200-acre estate in Harding Township, New Jersey:

Mr. Frelinghuysen represented affluent Morris and Somerset Counties in the House of Representatives from 1953 through 1974. He was a member of a socially prominent family that has provided four United States senators and two House members from New Jersey since the nation’s earliest years.

Most, like him, have been Republicans, including his son Rodney, who, since 1995, has represented the same north-central New Jersey area in the House that his father did.

His entry in the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress states after his name: “Cousin of Joseph Sherman Frelinghuysen, great-grandson of Frederick T. Frelinghuysen, great-great-nephew of Theodore Frelinghuysen, and great-great-great-grandson of Frederick Frelinghuysen” — the four senators in the family tree.

Peter Hood Ballantine Frelinghuysen Jr. was born in New York City on Jan. 17, 1916. His father was a banker whose Dutch forebears settled in Somerset County in the 18th century. His mother was the former Adaline Havemeyer.

He and his brother, Henry Osborne Havemeyer Frelinghuysen, attended St. Mark's School in Southborough, Massachusetts.

After graduating from Princeton University and, in 1941, from Yale Law School, Mr. Frelinghuysen served in naval intelligence during World War II. He then did postgraduate work in history at Columbia University and was in the investment business in the city before running for Congress in 1952.

He married Beatrice Sterling Procter, a descendant of a founder of Procter & Gamble, in 1940. She died in 1996.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Newt Gingrich announced for president...

...on YouTube about a week and a half ago. So far, his video has received a little over 150,000 hits. (That's not a lot in a country of over 300 million people.)

Tim Pawlenty posted his announcement on YouTube last night:

Which one do you think will get fewer hits?

Now that Mitch Daniels is out...

...of the race for the 2012 Republican nomination, all eyes (or at least some of them) are on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. And my advice to those tempted to gawk? To paraphrase Kramer in the above clip, "Look away; he's hideous..."

No, not his physical appearance. (Heck, even I've put on a few pounds since I got married.) I'm referring instead to something Christie said last week in regard to the teaching of creationism in New Jersey schools (my emphasis):

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says it’s “none of your business” whether he believes in evolution, creationism or intelligent design.

Christie, a Republican, was asked his personal views a week after he said local school districts should be able to decide for themselves whether to integrate creationism into the curriculum.

On Thursday morning, at a press conference in Jersey City recognizing the St. Anthony’s High School basketball team, ranked no. 1 in the country, Christie again said it should be a “local decision” whether to teach creationism along with the state-approved curriculum. He said there was no consensus on teaching creationism, whereas evolution is part of the curriculum because there is a consensus.

Well, I guess I was wrong about one thing: Christie really is interested in the Republican nomination.

David Carr writes about the media...

...every Monday in the Business section of the New York Times. I'm rarely interested in the subject matter of the column, but I never fail to read it because Carr is such a good writer.

Today's is about Nancy Grace (above), a former prosecutor who hosts a show along the lines of "America's Most Wanted." (I saw her interviewed on television once.) According to Carr:

...Ms. Grace came by her victimhood honestly when her fiancĂ©, Keith Griffin, was killed when she was just 19. In her book “Objection,” Ms. Grace suggested that a stranger with a criminal record shot Mr. Griffin outside a convenience store, was arrested and denied any involvement. By her recollection, she had to sit through three days of agonizing deliberation and then the prosecutor asked her if the defendant should be given the death penalty. She said no, she had no stomach for it.

The New York Observer fact-checked her written account and discovered that Mr. Griffin was killed by a former co-worker with no criminal record who confessed to the crime immediately. At trial, he was convicted within hours and the prosecution did in fact ask for the death penalty, but was denied. Ms. Grace explained the variance by telling The Observer, “I have tried not to think about it.”

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Here's a picture...

...of my mother's childhood home, 321 N. Mayfield, in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago. Her grandmother owned the two-flat until 1938, when my mother was 19. She then moved with her older sister, Betty, and her parents to an apartment on Euclid Avenue in Oak Park.

(I have no idea who that bald guy is.)

So Governor Mitch Daniels...

...of Indiana is out of the race for the 2012 Republican nomination. (And I, for one, am surprised.)

Prepare now to hear even more talk about drafting New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, or Jeb Bush, or Paul Ryan, or -- the latest -- Governor Rick Perry of Texas. Prepare to hear it and prepare to dismiss it.

The GOP field is set.

Either Mitt Romney (above left) or Tim Pawlenty (right) will be the Republican candidate in 2012. And the winner may struggle to get as many votes as John McCain in '08.

Jon Huntsman? He'll position himself to be the frontrunner for 2016.

And either Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, or (maybe) even Sarah Palin (though I doubt she'll run) will be the insurgent pain-in-the-butt candidate with tea party backing who will serve mainly to annoy (and give migraines to) the establishment. While one (or two) of them could win the Iowa caucuses or even the South Carolina primary, the ultimate GOP standard bearer will be Romney or Pawlenty. (The only question remaining -- and a good one -- is who will be the running mate.)

And President Obama will win reelection in a walk.

Michael William Coplestone...

...Dillon Onslow, the seventh Earl of Onslow, died in England at age 73.

Lord Onslow was also, among other things, the seventh Viscount Cranley, 10th Baron Onslow and 11th Baronet of West Clandon.

A nominal Conservative and a constitutional contrarian, Lord Onslow continued a family tradition of parliamentary service begun in the 16th century. “I don’t know what Tory policy is on virtually anything,” he told The Daily Telegraph in 2004. “And I’d probably disagree with it even if I did.”

It's true; there'll always be an England.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dylan Ratigan was on...

...Real Time with Bill Maher last night. Maher brought up the findings of the recent study commissioned by the nation's Catholic bishops, "The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010":

The huge spike in abuse cases in the 1960s and 1970s, the authors found, was essentially due to emotionally ill-equipped priests who were trained in earlier years and lost their way in the social cataclysm of the sexual revolution.

Or, in other words, "Blame Woodstock."

To which Ratigan asked, "Is that the reason for the cover-up, as well?"

Friday, May 20, 2011

The song of the day...

...spent two weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in early 1963.

Arne Carlson, Republican governor...

...of Minnesota from 1991 to 1999, says of Tim Pawlenty:

"I don't think any governor has left behind a worse financial mess than he has."

Republican economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin...

...offers a one-minute tutorial on the debt ceiling.

First, the Republican Party...

...split in two: the establishment and the tea party. Now, the tea party itself may be in danger of splintering.

First, a short history lesson. The tea party emerged in the fall of 2008 (although it was still called the Republican Party base at that time). Finally fed up with the runaway spending and deficits of the Bush years, the base drew a line in the sand and rebelled over TARP. And not without reason. After all, weren't failing businesses in a market economy supposed to fail? Whatever happened to creative destruction? Was Main Street obligated to bail out Wall Street? This wasn't the way things were supposed to work.

But in the Real World, allowing Wall Street to fail may have very well brought about the failure of the American (and the world) economy. Oh, yeah? Sez who? Well, for starters, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. Oh. Even a former free trader like George Bush figured it was better to bail out the banks than go down in history as another Herbert Hoover. I can just picture W in the Oval Office: "Risk my place in history? F*** that! Come up with a bailout plan -- ASAP!"

So while those on the far left and far right bitched and moaned, those in the center said, "Yeah, it stinks; but a global depression would stink even more."

And thus TARP was passed (on the second go-around) and the world was saved. (Give Bush credit for doing at least one thing right in eight years.)

But then came the inauguration of the first black president. And with it the stimulus, the auto bailout and health care reform. And the Republican Party base (now known as the tea party) went absolutely berserk.

At first the GOP establishment was ecstatic. Beautiful! The tea partiers could function as useful idiots in their plan to retake Congress and, eventually, the White House.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the voting booths last November. As the above cartoon illustrates, the tea partiers had other ideas. Establishment candidates were thrown overboard in favor of such right wing zealots as Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell, Ken Buck and Joe Miller (and others). And defeat in the Senate was snatched from the jaws of victory. Suddenly, the "idiots" weren't so useful.

Which brings us up to the present. Kevin Drum, David Weigel, and Joshua Green all weigh in this week on the state of the tea party.

And my take? As I mentioned in the first paragraph, the tea party itself may very well be splitting in two (or more). Because while Ron Paul has already announced for president, rival tea partier Michele Bachmann is also said to be considering a run. (And that doesn't even take into account Sarah Palin -- or Herman Cain.)

But Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann represent two very different constituencies. Paul is a libertarian; Bachmann is more of a culture warrior. (Don't be too surprised if there's a tea party-backed third party candidate.)

So whither the Republican Party? Do they have a consistent message, or is it just a coalition of Obama-haters? I'm afraid it may be nothing more than the latter.

Consider the GOP presidential hopefuls. Mitt Romney, the frontrunner, has problems with the base, the religious right, the tea partiers, opponents of health care reform, Fox, the Wall Street Journal -- I could go on and on. And he's the frontrunner! Then there's Tim Pawlenty (yawn), Newt Gingrich (if he's still in the race at the time of this posting), John Huntsman (maybe 2016), Mitch Daniels (if he can talk his wife into running -- or at least not running away) and ... well, you get the picture. In short, today's Republican Party is a train wreck. (And I didn't even get into the subject of Paul Ryan's radioactive budget or the disastrous new crop of GOP governors.)

So, again, whither the Republican Party? What do they stand for, besides hatred for that black guy in the White House? Hard to say. So while the GOP might very well retake the Senate in 2012, they could hand the House back to the Democrats.

And the presidential election? Forget it. It may turn out even worse for them than '08.

Speaking of Gomer Pyle, does...

...Jim Nabors remind you of anyone else on television?

Barbara Stuart died...

...at age 81. Although the actress made a number of cameo appearances over the course of her 50-year career in television, I will always remember her as "Bunny," Sergeant Carter's girlfriend, in that classic 1960s sitcom, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.

Now that was quality television.

I'm sorry, but...

...I just can't let this go.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Here's another graph...

...that sheds light on the federal budget. (From the Economic Policy Institute.)

Never mind Chris Christie...

...for president in 2012. Can this guy even get reelected governor of New Jersey?

According to an article in Politico (my emphasis):

A Monmouth University survey released Wednesday shows the New Jersey governor with a 47 percent approval rating among state residents, compared to 49 percent who disapprove of his performance. Christie's approval rating is the same as it was in a February Monmouth poll, but his negative number has climbed by 9 points since then.

Jonathan Chait makes a point...

...about Mitch Daniels that's been on my mind ever since the news broke about the Indiana governor's marriage (my emphasis):

A former colleague of mine recently speculated that Mitch Daniels' marriage would become a problem for him in the Republican primary --  not because he was divorced, but because his wife humiliated him and he forgave her.

And I think there's something to this. Republicans love "manly" men; they don't like wimps. Remember the Gipper? No woman would ever walk out on him. (Except, maybe, his first wife, Jane Wyman.)

A few weeks ago, I asked...

...the question, "How big of a deal is raising the debt limit, anyway?"

In this morning's Wall Street Journal, Alan Blinder, former Vice Chairman of the Fed, writes about the consequences of a default (my emphasis):

For openers, suppose the federal government actually does reduce its expenditures by 40% overnight. That translates to roughly $1.5 trillion at annual rates, or about 10% of GDP. That's an enormous fiscal contraction for any economy to withstand, never mind one in a sluggish recovery with 9% unemployment. Even contemplating such a possibility is evidence of a dark, self-destructive impulse. Second, markets now assign essentially zero probability to the U.S. losing its fiscal mind. They'd be caught flat-footed if the threat of default suddenly started to look real, possibly triggering a world-wide financial panic. Remember how markets reacted to the Lehman Brothers surprise?

It was only two weeks ago...

...that Tina Fey, playing Sarah Palin, said "...And I just hope that tonight the lamestream media won't twist my words by repeating 'em verbatim." (About 1:24 of this clip.)

Hysterical? Of course it is. Until you hear what GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said just the other day: "Any ad which quotes what I said on Sunday is a falsehood..."

Truth is truly stranger than fiction.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Kevin Gallagher, the song...

...of the day is for YOU.

Your Googie architecture...

...fix for the day.

Are you over the age...

...of fifty? Had a colonoscopy yet? I don't care if you have a history of colon cancer in your family or not -- be a grownup and schedule one today!

Tim Pawlenty may very well be...

...the best positioned candidate for the 2012 Republican nomination. T-Paw seems to be everyone's second choice and could be acceptable to all the various GOP constituencies: the establishment, tea partiers, the religious right, libertarians, budget hawks, the Club for Growth and whomever is currently responsible for crafting the party's foreign policy (hint: the opposite of whatever President Obama is doing at the moment).

So if Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Mitch Daniels, John Huntsman, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul are all seen as flawed by one or more of these groups, is T-Paw a possible dark horse for the nomination? Perhaps.

And yet ... a look at the actual calendar gives me pause.

The first contest is Iowa, which is usually won by someone with support from the religious right (think Mike Huckabee or Pat Robertson). Does T-Paw fit that description? Maybe. But so does Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Sarah Palin and even Newt Gingrich. So let's say that someone besides T-Paw wins Iowa. What's next? New Hampshire, where Mitt Romney is the heavy favorite. Figure the former Massachusetts governor wins there (and in Nevada, which he won in 2008). Now it's on to South Carolina. If T-Paw is 0-for-3 at this point, are southern evangelicals going to suddenly rally to his side? Doubtful, in my mind. So somebody else takes the Palmetto State. By the time Super Tuesday rolls around, T-Paw could very well be out of money (and out of the race).

So what does all this mean to me (today)? Pawlenty has to win Iowa or it could be curtains for his candidacy.

A front page story...

...in the Times today reports (my emphasis):

A five-year study commissioned by the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops to provide a definitive answer to what caused the church’s sexual abuse crisis has concluded that neither the all-male celibate priesthood nor homosexuality were to blame.

Instead, the report says, the abuse occurred because priests who were poorly prepared and monitored, and were under stress, landed amid the social and sexual turmoil of the 1960s and ’70s.

Known occurrences of sexual abuse of minors by priests rose sharply during those decades, the report found, and the problem grew worse when the church’s hierarchy responded by showing more care for the perpetrators than the victims.

The “blame Woodstock” explanation has been floated by bishops since the church was engulfed by scandal in the United States in 2002 and by Pope Benedict XVI after it erupted in Europe in 2010.

This reminds me of something an old boss of mine once told me. "Mike," he said, "You never hire a consultant without first telling him the answer you want."

So who, exactly, paid for this study that was "commissioned by the nation's Roman Catholic bishops?"

About half was provided by the bishops, with additional money contributed by Catholic organizations and foundations.

While I'm on the subject, a story in the Chicago Tribune last week reported (my emphasis): 

Emboldened by a recent court ruling that ordered the Vatican to open its records about a priest accused of child sex abuse, a Minneapolis attorney has sued the Vatican on behalf of a mother whose son was molested by former Roman Catholic priest Daniel McCormack.

Announcing the suit at a news conference in Chicago on Wednesday, attorney Jeff Anderson said he had sufficient evidence to hold Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor Pope John Paul II accountable for enabling McCormack's long pattern of child sex abuse.

What say we slow down all this talk of sainthood just a little?

Yesterday, I posted...

...the Beach Boys song, "Their Hearts were Full of Spring," which was originally recorded by the Four Freshmen.

"A Young Man is Gone" is a cover of the same song and a tribute to the actor James Dean, who was killed in a car accident in 1955.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My colonoscopy went...

...swimmingly, just like Harry Smith's, above. (Certainly better than George Bush's, if the cartoon below is any indication.)

In fact, Dr. Shah (you didn't think his name would be O'Brien, did you?) said I had one of the most beautiful colons he had ever seen. (I would've posted the pictures, but that would be bragging.)

Seriously, it was polyp-free. And that gives me some comfort, especially knowing that my grandfather died from colon cancer.

Now Dr. Shah says I don't have to have another one for 7-10 years. (And for a typical Irishman like me, who never goes to the doctor, that means more like twelve.)

Bob Flanigan, a founding member...

...of the Four Freshmen, died at age 84. The tight-harmony group, founded in 1948 at Butler University in Indiana, was a key influence on later groups such as the Beach Boys. Not only did the Four Freshmen record "Graduation Day," but they also sang "Their Hearts were Full of Spring."

I'm having my first...

...colonoscopy today (and hopefully my last), so postings should be light.

Unlike Harry Smith's procedure (above), mine will not be televised. (At least as far as I know.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

All of the Sunday morning...

...talk shows that I record -- Chris Matthews, This Week and Meet the Press -- had at least one person make the same observation about the 2012 Republican presidential race: "It's the most wide open since 1940." Incredible! It's as though everyone in Washington was reading from the same script.

That prompted me to do a little research on the 1940 election. And it seems that a little-known utility executive, Wendell Willkie (above) -- who had never run for office before -- emerged as the Republican standard bearer that year. And the result? FDR was reelected in a landslide; Willkie carried only ten states for a grand total of 82 electoral votes.

The Mitt Romney...

...cartoon of the day.

Murray Handwerker died...

...at age 89. His death would be blogworthy for that name alone, of course. But Handwerker was also president of Nathan's Famous, the hot dog chain. (If there was a Hot Dog Hall of Fame, Handwerker would surely be in it.)

And, yes, I've been to the original location on Coney Island (above).

It turns out that Mike Huckabee...

...won't be running for president in 2012 after all. The reason? Well, there are a lot of them, but the main one is, No fire in the belly. Or not enough of it. (Or, as one wag quipped about Haley Barbour, "More belly than fire.")

Ross Douthat has a (mostly complimentary) piece on the former governor of Arkansas in this morning's Times, "A Requiem for Huckabee." But he also points out Huck's glaring weakness:

...a desperate lack of policy substance. Huckabee won votes by talking about issues that the other Republican candidates wouldn’t touch, but his actual agenda was a grab bag of gimmicks and crank ideas. And nothing in his subsequent television career has indicated a strong interest in putting policy meat on the bones of his worldview.

David Brooks put it well (and succinctly) back in 2008 when he dismissed Huckabee's candidacy by saying, "He doesn't believe in evolution."

And I agree. The president of the United States should -- at the very least -- believe in science.

Newt Gingrich has (finally)...

...announced that he's running for the Republican nomination for president in 2012 (via Twitter and Facebook), and I can just imagine the reaction from my 21-year-old son and his friends: Who? (That's, of course, if they even noticed.) No, it's not Gary Hart, Steve Forbes, or even Bob Kerrey. Again, who? (And that's not a misprint, by the way; there was a Bob Kerrey who ran for president in the '90s before John Kerry ran in 2004.)

No, the guy's name is Newt Gingrich, and he was the Speaker of the House back in 1999 -- when you were nine years old. (But those were all good guesses, and I can tell you've been paying attention in your American history classes -- A+!)

That's my first reaction to Newt Gingrich's announcement -- the '90s relic is not just yesterday's news; he's the day before yesterday's news. And is anyone under the age of thirty going to even notice?

My second reaction is -- never mind the three marriages and all that -- if people do take notice of the former speaker, what will they think of his incendiary language? You know, like how he called Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, "a Latina woman racist." Or how about, "Democrats want to impose a secular-socialist machine" on America. Or my favorite, "What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together his actions? That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior."

Now, for those of us who remember the '90s, we can just chuckle, shake our heads and say, "Oh, yeah, that's Newt. He's really something, isn't he?" But younger people must be horrified by such zaniness. Kind of makes Michele Bachmann look ... mainstream.

If a genie would grant me the wish, I'd like to ask each of the candidates just one question -- all alone in a room, with no tape recorders or anything. And my question for Newt would be, Do you really think all this crazy talk of yours is going to appeal to independents? Really? Because that's who you need to convince if you're serious about running for president. (Or are you just in it to sell more books?)