Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The cartoon of the day:

I almost forgot... mention Paul Preston's 98-yard touchdown for Maine South on the opening kickoff of the season against Warren; and

Charlie Dowdle's two touchdown receptions for Loyola on Friday night against Evanston.

The more that voters get to know...

...about Rick Perry (Republicans and independents), the less they may like him. Should the Texas governor fade, which is not inconceivable, the nation could be left with a choice that could leave both parties' bases cold. Then it would all come down to turnout.

In case you missed..., Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's longtime aide and chief of staff, told ABC News that former Vice President Dick Cheney "was president for all practical purposes for the first term of the Bush administration" and "fears being tried as a war criminal" (my emphasis):

"Waterboarding is a war crime, unwarranted surveillance… all of which are crimes. I don't care whether the president authorized him to do it or not, they are crimes," Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson said the former vice president always "coveted power" and that Cheney was "fully expecting that he was going to be vice-president" when he headed up the search team for Bush.

"He wanted desperately to be president of the United States … he knew the Texas governor was not steeped in anything but baseball, so he knew he was going to be president and I think he got his dream. He was president for all practical purposes for the first term of the Bush administration."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Connor Onion... the quarterback of Lyons Township.

A friend of mine, Leonard, writes... to BOWG:

Fed Out of Bullets? Here's an Idea

Warren Buffet’s purchase of Bank of America preferred stock will pay out a 6% dividend each year. This infusion of capital is good news for shareholders, but dismal news for depositors at B of A.

I think it is quite safe to say that a 6% dividend to preferred shareholders will be achieved by holding savings rates down on depositors for years to come. In addition, these low interest rates put a huge drag on the economy by preventing people on fixed incomes from being consumers, thus delaying our much longed-for recovery.

It is my opinion that the Fed needs to take some additional risks to infuse capital into our banking system and hopefully jump-start our recovery as well.

Using the B of A example, if the Fed would have backed a five-year 4% CD issued by B of A, the bank could have raised capital at a much lower rate which would enable the bank to repair its balance sheet sooner, rather than later, and depositors would enjoy interest income of 4% (which will be taxed at a higher rate than the dividends of the preferred shareholder).

Make sense?

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

The relationship between...

...religion and politics is back in the news this week (was it ever missing?) thanks to a piece in the New York Times Magazine on Sunday by Bill Keller and an answer on Monday from columnist Ross Douthat. 

Keller writes:

...when it comes to the religious beliefs of our would-be presidents, we are a little squeamish about probing too aggressively.

I agree. But then Keller says:

I honestly don’t care if Mitt Romney wears Mormon undergarments beneath his Gap skinny jeans, or if he believes that the stories of ancient American prophets were engraved on gold tablets and buried in upstate New York, or that Mormonism’s founding prophet practiced polygamy (which was disavowed by the church in 1890). Every faith has its baggage, and every faith holds beliefs that will seem bizarre to outsiders. I grew up believing that a priest could turn a bread wafer into the actual flesh of Christ.

Well you know what? I do care if Mitt Romney believes in magic underwear, or whether or not the Garden of Eden was in Missouri. (I suspect he doesn't.) And, frankly, I would like to know if a candidate for president believed in transubstantiation. (Although I can't believe even Rick Santorum does. Not really. Not under truth serum.)

I think it's important for the leader of the Free World to be rationalThink about it: would you really want someone like Michele Bachmann to have access to the nuclear codes?

So why can't a Mitt Romney just come out and say, "Look, I was born into a Mormon family. I didn't choose this religion. One of my ancestors bought into this stuff a long time ago and it just stuck. But, hey, I went to Harvard, remember? I worked at Bain Capital. Of course I don't believe any of this nonsense. It's just a family tradition; our culture -- like having a Christmas tree every December or having an Easter egg hunt for the kids in the spring. But don't worry; if I'm elected president, I'll use reason, backed up by evidence, to guide my decisions in the White House."

Is that too much to ask?

According to Felix Salmon... Reuters, Apple's new CEO Tim Cook, left, "is now the most powerful gay man in the world." What's more (my emphasis):

But surely this is something we can and should be celebrating, if only in the name of diversity — that a company which by some measures the largest and most important in the world is now being run by a gay man. Certainly when it comes to gay role models, Cook is great: he’s the boring systems-and-processes guy, not the flashy design guru, and as such he cuts sharply against stereotype. He’s like Barney Frank in that sense: a super-smart, powerful and non-effeminate man who shows that being gay is no obstacle to any career you might want.

And I agree. Who wouldn't?

Well, maybe Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. They are both candidates for the GOP nomination who are famously homophobic. Now, admittedly, neither one is likely to ever get elected president. But what if one of them did, and was forced to meet with Tim Cook in some gathering of America's top CEOs? How would that go? Not too well, I would imagine.

Which brings me to the point of this post: Haven't Bachmann or Santorum ever met a gay person? (Okay, Bachmann's half-sister is a lesbian.) But what about Santorum? Doesn't he have any gay friends or relatives? How about neighbors, or colleagues, or ... anything? If not, what sort of a bubble does this guy live in, anyway? And is this someone we'd really want as president? Really?

How about somebody who lives in the Real World -- in 2011.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Only 35% of Republican voters... Iowa believe in evolution. And these people may be choosing our next president?

If you are ever in Hyde Park...

...and you want to stroll past President Obama's house on 5046 S. Greenwood, don't walk past this sign. You may very well get yelled at by a Secret Service agent, even after telling him you only wanted to get a look at the president's house.

(Does that guy in the picture above look like he'd be a threat to anyone?)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

There's nothing like watching six hours...

...of football on a warm summer's eve to kick off the high school season. Despite the traffic, it was worth it.

Soldier Field, above, which was once one of the worst stadiums in the NFL must now be surely one of the best. I can remember, years ago, sitting in one of the end zone seats (and they were all end zone seats) and freezing my butt off in late August as the wind whipped off Lake Michigan. Fortunately, that's no longer the case.

Since the renovation in 2003, Soldier Field is now the smallest stadium in the NFL. The seats are close to the playing field (and the turf looks just fine, thank you; I don't know what everyone is talking about) and seem to climb at just the right angle. It makes for a great venue to watch football. And as for all those naysayers who complain that Soldier Field looks like a giant flying saucer landed on it, I say: Get over it! The architects dramatically improved the inside while preserving its historic facade.

As for the games (oh yeah, almost forgot about those), I arrived in the middle of the third quarter of the first contest in which Mount Carmel avenged last year's opening day loss to Simeon, 23-14. The guy sitting next to me (who turned out to be an old acquaintance of mine from the Merc) told me that Caravan running back Brandon Greer, above, was the highlight of the game (11 carries, 124 yards, one touchdown). But a player to watch going forward, he said, was Simeon offensive lineman Jordan Diamond (6'5", 315).

(Incidentally, Mount Carmel's quarterback, Don Butkus, who threw for one touchdown and ran for another, is the great nephew of Bears legend Dick Butkus.)

It was between the first and second games that I had my lightning bolt moment of the evening: President Obama is going to have a hard time getting reelected.

As I entered the stadium from the parking lot on the south side, I realized I had to make a choice: sit on the public school side or the Catholic school side. Are you kidding? That's easy; I always choose the Catholic school side because each one has its own unique personality. Take Providence, for example: far southern suburbs and blue collar-ish. As the president, a Father McGrath (sent directly from Central Casting), led the stadium in prayer before the game (imagine what the fans on the Morgan Park side were thinking), I remarked to my Merc friend that all of the Providence parents looked like they went to Brother Rice or Mount Carmel or Mother McAuley and moved south as young adults when they started families. (He gave me a quizzical look, for some reason.)

That was about the time that Merc Guy confided in me that not only had he been recently laid off, but he was also divorced, had declared bankruptcy, lost a brother and a cousin (and best friend) to cancer in the last year, attends AA regularly and, at age 47, has moved back home with his mother. Also, since losing his job, he no longer has health insurance and had to "humble himself" recently and go to Cook County Hospital to be treated for a bad back. But you know what? According to him he's doing just fine. Then he mentioned that he'd been involved in Republican politics lately and was hoping to get a job from someone in the party. (If the Democrats can't reach a guy like this, what chance does Obama have?)

As he was telling me all this (with cigar breath at close range, no less) I looked around at the (all white) Providence crowd and thought to myself, These people just don't look like Obama supporters to me. And what's more, they're probably representative of the rest of White America.

President Obama's best shot? Besides a recovering economy (which looks less and less likely), he'd better hope the Republicans nominate someone who scares independents (like a certain governor from Texas).

Back to the games. (I keep forgetting.) Providence, above, despite four turnovers (it was Week 1, after all), easily dispatched Morgan Park, 21-6. Amazingly, it was the first time the Celtics won their season opener since 2004, the last time they won the state championship. I say "amazingly," because Providence has one of the most consistently competitive programs in the Chicago area and is vastly underrated this year. In fact, they're not on anyone's radar, as far as I know. The Celtics are coming off their first losing season (2-7) since 1980 -- a fluke -- and should prove to be the Most Improved team in Illinois this year. Providence is big, strong, fast and well-coached. Look for the New Lenox squad to finish the season ranked solidly in the Top 20. (In case you can't tell, I really like this team.)

Another team I like is St. Ignatius, for different reasons. The Wolfpack scored 20 unanswered points in a come-from-behind victory over Whitney Young in the evening's finale. (The Chicago magnet school is Michelle Obama's alma mater.) Why do I like St. Ignatius? For starters, they're coached by Pat Jennings, above, who used to coach at Waukegan. (Merc Guy even knew Jennings from another life. He had on a gray T-shirt, khaki shorts and Old School high black Converse All-Stars on the sidelines. Priceless.)

Ignatius isn't particularly big or athletic, but I can just tell that after resuming varsity football in 2005 (after a 43-year hiatus) the 141-year old Jesuit institution will improve more and more each year. Eventually, they'll be competitive in the Catholic League. It may take ten years (or more) but, believe me, Jennings is building something real on the near West Side of Chicago.

Football is important to Catholic schools in a way that public schools (like Whitney Young) will never understand. Among the upscale Ignatius crowd that filled the stands for the third game was seemingly every new Freshman at the school. One after another filed past me in maroon T-shirts with CLASS OF 2015 on the front (yes, 2015!) and STARTS WITH "I" AND ENDS WITH "US" on the back. Attendance must have been mandatory, with JUG threatened for anyone without a doctor's note. (JUG, for those of you who didn't attend Catholic school, stands for "Justice Under God.")

So, six hours after taking my seat, it was time to leave. (That was quick!) Next week will find me closer to home: Montini at Loyola in Wilmette. Should be a good game.

The song of the day:

Friday, August 26, 2011

According to an article... the Washington Post, by 2030 half of all adults in the United States will be obese. Look around you; is that hard to believe?

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

The 2011 Illinois high school football...

...season starts today! Here's the lineup for the 7th Annual High School Football Kick-Off at Soldier Field (and I'll be there):

2:30 pm: Simeon (No. 12 Trib, No. 6 Sun-Times) v. Mt. Carmel (No.8 Trib, No. 4 Sun-Times)

5:15 pm: Morgan Park v. Providence Catholic

8:00 pm: Whitney Young v. St. Ignatius

I don't know about you, but I'm Ready to Go!

David Brooks warns... his column today that Governor Rick Perry could win the Republican nomination in 2012 (my emphasis):

Within the Republican Party, the rightward shift has been even more vehement. In 2008, roughly 63 percent of primary voters called themselves conservative, according to Public Policy Polling. Now it’s roughly 73 percent. The number of moderate Republicans has withered.

The events of 2009 and 2010 also concentrated the Republican mind. It used to be that there were many themes in the Republican hymnal. Now there is only one: Government is too big, and it needs to be brought under control. It used to be there were many threats on the horizon. Now there is only one: the interlocking oligarchy of politicians, academics, journalists, consultants and financiers who live along the Acela corridor want to rip America from its traditional moorings.

Perry is benefiting from these shifts. He does best among the most conservative voters. He has a simple and fashionable message: I will bring government under control. His persona is perfectly tuned to offend people along the Acela corridor and to rally those who oppose those people. He does very well with the alternative-reality right — those who don’t believe in global warming, evolution or that Obama was born in the U.S.

So, yes, it is time to take Perry seriously as a Republican nominee and even as a potential president.

I have just two words of caution for my Republican friends: Barry Goldwater.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

At the end of this clip...

...David Letterman points out that he and John Hiatt went to the same high school in Indianapolis. What Letterman doesn't mention is that Marilyn Tucker Quayle, wife of former Vice President Dan Quayle, also attended Broad Ripple High School.

Loyola Academy came in... No. 4 today in the Tribune preseason football rankings. The Sun-Times had the Ramblers at No. 13 last week. (I think they'll finish the season somewhere in between.)

Loyola coach John Holecek, above, is entering his sixth year at the helm and has led the Wilmette squad to three consecutive 11-win seasons. The problem is they've been eliminated in the playoffs by Maine South in each of those years. (And they should have won the last two.) So the big question is, Can the Ramblers finally knock off the Hawks? (The Sun-Times has the Park Ridge team ranked No. 1.)

The season starts tomorrow night at Evanston.

The cartoon of the day:

Dick Cheney is coming out...

...with his memoir next week and all I can say is, why? Why, Dick Cheney, couldn't you do this next year in the middle of the 2012 presidential campaign?

His publisher is calling it “without a doubt one of the largest media rollouts in nonfiction publishing history.”

Former Vice President Dick Cheney will emerge from private life next week for a publicity blitz surrounding his 576-page memoir, “In My Time,” and there are few major media outlets in print, radio and television that he will overlook.

After 35 days, my son...

...was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday.

My family's long ordeal is finally over.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Whom would you say... the greatest musician of all time? Bach?


Waka Flocka Flame?

Anthony Tommasini, writing in the Times today, makes the case for Franz Liszt (my emphasis):

In January, during my Top 10 Composers project, a two-week series of deliberative articles, blog posts and videos to come up with a list of the greatest composers in history, Liszt was never really a contender. Among comments from readers, there were surprisingly few calls to include him in this select group.

But if this exercise, an intellectual game played seriously, had involved coming up with the Top 10 musicians in history — those creative artists whose overall contributions had enormous influence on the art form — Liszt would easily have made the list. In fact, Liszt, born 200 years ago this Oct. 22, might have been my choice for the top spot.

One person who would agree is the musicologist Alan Walker. In his monumental three-volume Liszt biography and in two supplemental books, Mr. Walker makes a case for Liszt, who died in 1886, as the towering musical figure of the 19th century.

Three volumes and two supplemental books on Liszt? That may be a little more than I want to read. How about a blog post instead?

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Can you imagine...

...basing your whole life on the writings of some second-rate novelist from the 1950s? No, not Scientology, the cult founded by L. Ron Hubbard.

(Never trust a guy in an ascot.)

I was referring to a different cult, Objectivism, the "philosophy" of Ayn Rand.

Bad week for popular music... first Jerry Leiber died and then Ross Barbour. Now it's Nick Ashford, who with Valerie Simpson, wrote such Motown hits as "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough" and "Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing."

George Pataki is rumored... be the latest entrant into the 2012 race for the Republican nomination. The emergence of the charisma-challenged former governor of New York (Zzz...) is further evidence to me that President Obama will win reelection by default -- the GOP simply has no one to oppose him.

As I've mentioned before, the problem with the Republican Party isn't a lack of good candidates, it's a lack of good ideas.

Ross Barbour, the last...

...founding member of the Four Freshmen, died at age 82. (I think that's him, second from the left in the clip above.) According to the Times, the original group was from Butler University in Indiana (my emphasis):

Instead of studying, the Four Freshmen ended up teaching a fresh approach to close harmony, influencing the Beach Boys, the Mamas and the Papas, the Lettermen, the Manhattan Transfer and other groups. Their sound was characterized by long, lush chords — Mr. Barbour called them “purple chords” — and an improvisational style that made four voices seem like five or six. Each of the singers also played at least one instrument.

Brian Wilson, the genius behind the sound of the Beach Boys, was inspired by seeing the Four Freshmen when he was 15 at the Coconut Grove in Hollywood in 1958. He called them his “harmonic education.”

Another founding member, Bob Flanigan, died in May.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Jerry Leiber, who, with his...

...partner, Mike Stoller, wrote some of rock 'n' roll's greatest hits, died at age 78 (my emphasis):

In 1952, they wrote “Hound Dog” for the blues singer Big Mama Thornton. The song became an enormous hit for Elvis Presley in 1956 and made Leiber and Stoller the hottest songwriting team in rock ’n’ roll. They later wrote “Jailhouse Rock,” “Loving You,” “Don’t,” “Treat Me Nice,” “King Creole” and other songs for Presley, despite their loathing for his interpretation of “Hound Dog.”

In 1952, Sill arranged for Mr. Leiber and Mr. Stoller to visit the bandleader Johnny Otis and to listen to several of the rhythm-and-blues acts who worked with him, including Big Mama Thornton, who sang “Ball and Chain” for them. Inspired, the partners went back to Mr. Stoller’s house and wrote “Hound Dog.”

“I yelled, he played,” Mr. Leiber told Josh Alan Friedman, the author of “Tell the Truth Until They Bleed: Coming Clean in the Dirty World of Blues and Rock ’n’ Roll” (2008). “The groove came together and we finished in 12 minutes flat. I work fast. We raced right back to lay the song on Big Mama.”

Monday, August 22, 2011

While America's roads and bridges...

...crumble, the Germans have just completed a channel-bridge over the River Elbe near the city of Magdeburg. It took six years to build at a cost of 500 million euros.

If corporations are enjoying...

...record profits, why aren't they creating more jobs? Jia Lynn Yang, writing in the Washington Post, may have the answer (my emphasis):

The latest data show that multinationals cut 2.9 million jobs in the United States and added 2.4 million overseas between 2000 and 2009.

IBM chief executive Sam Palmisano (above) has met a number of times with the president, most recently in July at a lunch with other executives to talk about jobs and the economy. IBM stopped giving its U.S. head count in 2009.

“We just made a policy that we would only break out global head count,” said company spokesman Doug Shelton.

Data from before 2009 showed IBM rapidly shifting workers to India. Dave Finegold, dean of the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, estimates that 2009, when the company stopped sharing its U.S. employment figure, also marked the first time the company had more employees in India than the United States. Finegold based his number on reports from the media, third-party groups and former employees who have tried to track the number.

Jon Huntsman is tacking... the center after failing to catch fire in the race for the 2012 Republican nomination. From the Times this morning, "Criticizing Rivals, Huntsman Tries to Claim Middle Ground":

Jon M. Huntsman Jr., the former Utah governor who has been stuck in the second tier of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, took an aggressive new tone during a televised interview on Sunday, saying that recent remarks from two of his major rivals were “extreme” and “unrealistic.”

Mr. Huntsman insisted that the American public was “crying out for a sensible middle ground.”

Oh, really? Then why did Mr. Huntsman raise his hand during the last debate when asked if he would reject a hypothetical debt deal that would have cut $10 in spending for every $1 in tax increases?

Sorry; I'm not buying it.

Don't you wish President Obama...

...was more like FDR?

The Times has a front page...

...article today, "After Bruising Political Fights, 2 Governors Alter Their Tones" (my emphasis):

In the months after a flurry of Republican wins of governors’ offices and state legislatures in 2010, perhaps nowhere was the partisan rancor more pronounced than in the nation’s middle — places like Wisconsin and Ohio, where fights over labor unions exploded. But now, at least in those states, there are signs that the same Republicans see a need to show, at least publicly, a desire to play well with others.

The story's dateline is, coincidentally, Sayner, Wisconsin.

Friday, August 19, 2011

One picture... worth a thousand words.

Astonishingly, the drumbeat...

...for Paul Ryan for president continues. This morning Michael Medved, the former movie critic (seriously), is the latest chump to call for the Wisconsin Republican to throw his hat in the ring.

Do I sound just a little contemptuous? (It's because I am.) You see, Paul Krugman has been tearing Congressman Ryan to shreds for at least a year now, but very few people seem to be listening. (Or want to.) So as a public service, I've included a few tidbits from the Nobel Prize-winning economist's column. (There are tons more in his columns and on his blog. Really, Ryan should have been discredited by now.)

From "Ludicrous and Cruel" (all emphasis mine):

Many commentators swooned earlier this week after House Republicans, led by the Budget Committee chairman, Paul Ryan, unveiled their budget proposals. They lavished praise on Mr. Ryan, asserting that his plan set a new standard of fiscal seriousness.

Well, they should have waited until people who know how to read budget numbers had a chance to study the proposal. For the G.O.P. plan turns out not to be serious at all. Instead, it’s simultaneously ridiculous and heartless.

How ridiculous is it? Let me count the ways — or rather a few of the ways, because there are more howlers in the plan than I can cover in one column.

A more sober assessment from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office tells a different story. It finds that a large part of the supposed savings from spending cuts would go, not to reduce the deficit, but to pay for tax cuts. In fact, the budget office finds that over the next decade the plan would lead to bigger deficits and more debt than current law.

From "The Flimflam Man":

Mr. Ryan’s plan calls for steep cuts in both spending and taxes. He’d have you believe that the combined effect would be much lower budget deficits, and, according to that Washington Post report, he speaks about deficits “in apocalyptic terms.” And The Post also tells us that his plan would, indeed, sharply reduce the flow of red ink: “The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan would cut the budget deficit in half by 2020.”

But the budget office has done no such thing. At Mr. Ryan’s request, it produced an estimate of the budget effects of his proposed spending cuts — period. It didn’t address the revenue losses from his tax cuts.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has, however, stepped into the breach. Its numbers indicate that the Ryan plan would reduce revenue by almost $4 trillion over the next decade. If you add these revenue losses to the numbers The Post cites, you get a much larger deficit in 2020, roughly $1.3 trillion.

And that’s about the same as the budget office’s estimate of the 2020 deficit under the Obama administration’s plans. That is, Mr. Ryan may speak about the deficit in apocalyptic terms, but even if you believe that his proposed spending cuts are feasible — which you shouldn’t — the Roadmap wouldn’t reduce the deficit. All it would do is cut benefits for the middle class while slashing taxes on the rich.

And I do mean slash. The Tax Policy Center finds that the Ryan plan would cut taxes on the richest 1 percent of the population in half, giving them 117 percent of the plan’s total tax cuts. That’s not a misprint. Even as it slashed taxes at the top, the plan would raise taxes for 95 percent of the population.

From "Medicare and Mediscares":

Until his Medicare plan was rolled out in early April [Paul Ryan] had spent months bathing in warm approbation from many pundits, who had decided to anoint him as an icon of fiscal responsibility. And the plan itself received rapturous praise in the first couple of days after its release.

Then people who actually know how to read a budget proposal started looking at the plan. And that’s when everything started to fall apart.

Mr. Ryan may claim — and he may even believe — that he’s facing a backlash because his opponents are lying about his proposals. But the reality is that the Ryan plan is turning into a political disaster for Republicans, not because the plan’s critics are lying about it, but because they’re describing it accurately.

Anyway, the underlying premise behind statements like that is the assumption that the Ryan plan represents a serious effort to come to grip with America’s long-run fiscal problems. But what became clear soon after that plan was unveiled was that it was no such thing. In fact, it wasn’t really a deficit-reduction plan. Once you remove the absurd assumptions — discretionary spending, including defense, falling to Calvin Coolidge levels, and huge tax cuts for corporations and the rich, with no loss in revenue? — it’s highly questionable whether it would reduce the deficit at all.

What the Ryan plan is, instead, is an attempt to snooker Americans into accepting a standard right-wing wish list under the guise of deficit reduction. And Americans, it seems, have seen through the deception.

I could go on and on -- I really could. But I think you get the idea.

I read recently that the problem with today's Republican Party isn't the candidates, it's the Party. I'd go a little further: the Party has no ideas; it's intellectually bankrupt. And that's why I think President Obama will be reelected in 2012. Americans have no other choice.