Monday, December 31, 2012

The best performing stock... in Europe this year was ... Greece.

The ATHEX composite index of Greek shares edged out the German DAX, 33 to 29 percent.

I went to the wake...

...of one of my mother's oldest friends yesterday. She was almost 93 and first met my mom in 1933, when they were entering high school. (That's about 80 years ago, based on my phone's calculator.) But what I found most interesting was that she and her husband had five sons: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and ... Billy.

I guess they didn't know about the lost Gospel of Thomas.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ross Douthat has good advice...

...for all of us (especially me) in his column this morning: Next year, read stuff you wouldn't normally read. Douthat offers three specific steps you can take (my emphasis):

(1) Consider taking out a subscription to a magazine whose politics you don’t share. And whenever you’re tempted to hurl away an article in disgust, that’s exactly when you should turn the page or swipe the screen and keep on reading, to see what else the other side might have to say.

(2)  Expand your reading geographically as well as ideologically. Even in our supposedly globalized world, place still shapes perspective, and the fact that most American political writers live in just two metropolitan areas tends to cramp our ability to see the world entire.


(3) Finally, make a special effort to read outside existing partisan categories entirely. Crucially, this doesn’t just mean reading reasonable-seeming types who split the left-right difference. It means seeking out more marginal and idiosyncratic voices, whose views are often worth pondering precisely because they have no real purchase on our political debates.

It's good advice for those of us who tend to stay in our own ideological bubbles. I think I'll start with The American Conservative. I've heard good things about it.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The chart of the day... from Ezra Klein's blog. Instead of worrying so much about the debt, maybe we should be running bigger deficits (my emphasis): 

As we endlessly debated deficits and debts this year, every so often it was worth surfing over to the neglected corner of the Treasury.Gov Web site where they track the inflation-adjusted yield on government debt. Those quick jaunts were always a good reminder that everyone in politics was completely insane

The thing you worry about when you have high deficits is that the market will lose its confidence in your ability to repay your debts. The place you’d see the market losing its confidence is in high interest rates on government debt — that would be a signal that the market is pricing in some risk of default. But all this year, the real yield on three- , five- , seven- and, occasionally, even 20-year government debt has been negative. Negative! The world is so dangerous that the market will literally pay us to keep their money safe. 

If any corporation could borrow for less than nothing, they’d see that as the opportunity of a lifetime. We can borrow for less than nothing at a moment when our infrastructure is crumbling and millions are out of work. But instead of taking advantage of this amazing opportunity, we’re actually cutting our support to the economy and arguing exclusively about how to reduce our deficits. It’s embarrassing.

A gunman reportedly...

...shot three police officers in a New Jersey police station this morning. What will NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre recommend now, putting armed police officers in police stations?

According to a recent Gallup...

...poll, 54 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the NRA, while only 38 percent have an unfavorable opinion.

That's one reason why meaningful gun control legislation won't get passed any time soon. It's just not gonna happen.

Time to think of something else.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The tweet of the day:

So we're going to hit the debt ceiling then go off the fiscal cliff. I assume an anvil lands on us after that.

Life imitates art, but...

...only to a point. 

From an article in the Times this morning, " 'Nothing We Can Do,' Rescuers Say, For Whale Beached on Queens Shore" (my emphasis): 

There it sat on the sand at Breezy Point on Wednesday morning in the misty drizzle, gray and improbably enormous, flippers slowly flopping, mouth bobbing open and shut in the lapping tide. 

It was a whale, a 60-foot finback, longer than a city bus, “the banished and unconquerable Cain of his race” as Melville called it, looking almost robotic and entirely surreal on a stretch of Queens shoreline still littered with debris from Hurricane Sandy, with Brooklyn’s blocky skyline beyond. 

As evening fell, the whale, severely underweight even at about 60 tons, was alive, but its breathing was slowing, and it was not long for this world, rescuers said. 

The prognosis for beached whales, particularly of this size, is always grim, said Mendy Garron, a marine-mammal rescue coordinator with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Some residents first seemed hopeful that the whale might somehow make its way back out to sea, but as fog rolled in and the rain mixed with snow, the mood grew somber. One by one, the whale-watchers peeled away from the beach, leaving the giant, heaving animal, growing ever more still as day faded away.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Charles Durning, the..., died at age 89. More than his career, I found Durning's World War II experience interesting. From his obit in the Times:

His combat experiences were harrowing. He was in the first wave of troops to land on Omaha Beach on D-Day and his unit’s lone survivor of a machine-gun ambush. In Belgium he was stabbed in hand-to-hand combat with a German soldier, whom he bludgeoned to death with a rock. Fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, he and the rest of his company were captured and forced to march through a pine forest at Malmedy, the scene of an infamous massacre in which the Germans opened fire on almost 90 prisoners. Mr. Durning was among the few to escape.

By the war’s end he had been awarded a Silver Star for valor and three Purple Hearts, having suffered gunshot and shrapnel wounds as well. He spent months in hospitals and was treated for psychological trauma.

In the Parade interview, he recalled the hand-to-hand combat. “I was crossing a field somewhere in Belgium,” he said. “A German soldier ran toward me carrying a bayonet. He couldn’t have been more than 14 or 15. I didn’t see a soldier. I saw a boy. Even though he was coming at me, I couldn’t shoot.” 

They grappled, he recounted later — he was stabbed seven or eight times — until finally he grasped a rock and made it a weapon. After killing the youth, he said, he held him in his arms and wept.

Why did Mitt Romney...

...lose the 2012 election to President Obama? Books will be written on that topic.

In the meantime, the Boston Globe has an excellent piece on the difference in the two campaigns. In a nutshell, the president's organization was just far superior.

I would add two more thoughts, for starters:

(1) It's just really, really hard to beat an incumbent. Really. (Even George W. Bush won reelection in 2004.)


(2) Unfortunately for Gov. Romney, the economy was improving throughout 2012, albeit slowly.

Those two factors alone made a Romney victory in 2012 a long-shot.

Sen. Joe Lieberman seems...

...genuinely baffled by his critics as he retires from the U.S. Senate. From a piece in the Times this morning (my emphasis): 

“I’m not saying I was always right,” he said at his Senate office. “I’ll leave that to God and history. But I believed I was doing what I thought was right and people didn’t just disagree with me. There was hatred. But I’m not alone in that. You can take the last three presidents — Clinton, Bush, Obama — and people haven’t just disagreed with them, they’ve hated them. And to me, that’s really terrible. That’s a cancer that’s eating at our politics.” 

Gee, Joe, maybe it was more about, you know, you

But Mr. Lieberman became estranged from much of the Democratic Party over his enthusiastic support of the Iraq war. He then alienated more Democrats by backing Mr. McCain for president in 2008, his decision to speak at the Republican National Convention and his role in killing a so-called public option in President Obama’s health care bill. 

And critics, including many former supporters in Connecticut, say Mr. Lieberman’s form of bipartisanship has been in part pique because of his rejection by Democratic voters, in part egotistic grandstanding, in part a way to curry favor with Republicans and corporate interests. 

“He found a way to disguise opportunism as high-mindedness, and as much as anyone is the architect of this myth of bipartisanship,” said Bill Curry, a former unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Connecticut governor who served with Mr. Lieberman in the State Senate. 

Goodbye Joe. Don't let the door knob hit you on the way out.

The best thing I've read so far...

...concerning the terrible events in Connecticut (perhaps the only good thing) was in this morning's Times, "Our Failed Approach to Schizophrenia," by a psychiatrist named Paul Steinberg. From the piece (my emphasis): 

People with schizophrenia are unaware of how strange their thinking is and do not seek out treatment. At Virginia Tech, where Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people in a rampage shooting in 2007, professors knew something was terribly wrong, but he was not hospitalized for long enough to get well. The parents and community-college classmates of Jared L. Loughner, who killed 6 people and shot and injured 13 others (including a member of Congress) in 2011, did not know where to turn. We may never know with certainty what demons tormented Adam Lanza, who slaughtered 26 people at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, though his acts strongly suggest undiagnosed schizophrenia. 

 After mass murders, our airwaves are filled with unfounded speculations about video games, our culture of hedonism and our loss of religious faith, while psychiatrists, the ones who know the most about severe mental illness, are largely marginalized. 

Severely ill people like Mr. Lanza fall through the cracks, in part because school counselors are more familiar with anxiety and depression than with psychosis. Hospitalizations for acute onset of schizophrenia have been shortened to the point of absurdity. Insurance companies and families try to get patients out of hospitals as quickly as possible because of the prohibitively high cost of care. 

It takes a village to stop a rampage. We need reasonable controls on semiautomatic weapons; criminal penalties for those who sell weapons to people with clear signs of psychosis; greater insurance coverage and capacity at private and public hospitals for lengthier care for patients with schizophrenia; intense public education about how to deal with schizophrenia; greater willingness to seek involuntary commitment of those who pose a threat to themselves or others; and greater incentives for psychiatrists (and other mental health professionals) to treat the disorder, rather than less dangerous conditions. 

Too many people with acute schizophrenia have gone untreated. There have been too many Glocks, too many kids and adults cut down in their prime. Enough already.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The F.B.I. used...

... counterterrorism agents to investigate the Occupy Wall Street Movement, according to an article in the New York Times. 

From the piece (my emphasis): 

...F.B.I. personnel around the country were routinely involved in exchanging information about the movement with businesses, local law-enforcement agencies and universities. 

An October 2011 memo from the bureau’s Jacksonville, Fla., field office was titled Domain Program Management Domestic Terrorist. 

The memo said agents discussed “past and upcoming meetings” of the movement, and its spread. It said agents should contact Occupy Wall Street activists to ascertain whether people who attended their events had “violent tendencies.” 

The F.B.I. was concerned that the movement would provide “an outlet for a lone offender exploiting the movement for reasons associated with general government dissatisfaction.” 

No mention was made in the article about F.B.I. infiltration of the tea party movement.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

"I don't care if it's more bouncy -- it threatens the integrity of the game."

Sen. Lindsey Graham...

...of South Carolina was on Meet the Press yesterday (John McCain must have been sick) and he said at about 4:43 of this video:

"Well, I own an AR-15. I've got it at my house."

And David Gregory, who did a good job over all, let it pass. But what I wanted him to ask Graham was: Why on earth do you own an AR-15? Why do you have one of those in your house? What are you so afraid of?

But Gregory didn't, of course, and it made me realize how nearly impossible it would be to pass meaningful gun control legislation in this country (at least any time soon). The fact of the matter is, a large percentage of Americans own guns and can't imagine giving them up. What's more, the NRA and others have been suggesting in the wake of the Connecticut shootings that the problem in American is too few guns, not too many.

So I can only conclude that the mass shootings we've seen in recent years will become the new normal. And we'll all just have to get used to it. I don't see any other way out.

Sorry for such a pessimistic post on Christmas Eve.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Lee Dorman, the bass guitarist...

...for Iron Butterfly who played on the 1968 hit “In-a-Gadda-da-Vida,” died at age 70.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Inez Andrews, a gospel...

...singer, died at age 83. I have to admit, I'd never heard of Ms. Andrews. And I know next to nothing about gospel music, either. But since the genre was such an important antecedent of rock 'n' roll (Elvis Presley, among others, got his start singing gospel), I thought it was appropriate to mention her passing.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

"A low-level person who doesn't mean anything will see you now."

Today is either the first day...

...of winter or the Last Day of the World. I'll choose the former.

Happy Winter Solstice!

Frank Beardsley, the real-life...

...father played by Henry Fonda in the 1968 movie Yours, Mine and Ours, died at age 97.

Suzy Favor Hamilton, an...

...Olympic runner, admitted this week that:

...for the past year, her life as a real estate agent, mother and motivational speaker had also included work as a $600-an-hour prostitute for an escort service in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Chicago and other cities. 

From an article in the Times (my emphasis):

Last December, using the alias Kelly Lundy, Favor Hamilton began working for an escort service, she said. She told The Smoking Gun that it was “exciting,” though her husband disapproved.

“He tried to get me to stop,” Favor Hamilton told the Web site. “He wasn’t supportive of this at all.” 

If John Boehner couldn't...

...get his Republican colleagues to pass his "Plan B" last night then he can't get anything passed.

Fasten your seat belts everyone. We're going over the cliff.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

There's an old joke...

...that goes something like this:

A man asks a woman if she would have sex with him for $100,000.

"Sure!" she replies.

"Really? How about ten dollars?" he asks.

"Hey, what do you think I am, a whore?" she protests.

"We've already established what you are," he answers. "Now we're negotiating your fee."

I'm reminded of this by the news that John Boehner wants a vote in the House on his Plan B, which would raise taxes on those earning over $1 million a year. If the bill passes, we can all say "Great! The Republicans have finally conceded that taxes have to go up on the rich. Now we only have to agree on where to draw the line."

Robert Bork, who died...

...yesterday, was, among other things, a professor at Yale Law School from 1962 to 1975 and 1977 to 1981. If nothing else, he must have been a pretty good teacher, because his students included Jerry Brown, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Robert Reich, John Bolton and Anita Hill.

Congratulations Bob Surace!

The Charles W. Caldwell Jr. '25 Head Coach of Football at Princeton (yep, that's his real title) just received an oral commitment from Neuqua Valley running back Joey Rhattigan.

The Tigers (5-5, 4-3) tied for third place in the Ivy League under Surace in 2012, his third year at the helm.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mike Huckabee...

...was the first male in his family to graduate from high school. That's astounding. This guy graduated from high school?

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Robert Bork, conservative jurist...

...and Supreme Court nominee, died at age 85. Although Bork was a controversial figure in legal circles, there was one area of broad agreement about him among both liberals and conservatives: he had a bad haircut and an even worse beard.

Are your next-door neighbors...

...Democrats or Republicans? Not sure? If they're married and you live in the suburbs, ask yourself this question: Do they have a gun in the house? 

According to Nate Silver (yes, he's still around), writing in the Times today (my emphasis): 

If they identify as Democratic voters, the chances are only about one in four, or 25 percent, that they have a gun in their home. But the chances are more than twice that, almost 60 percent, if they are Republicans. 

Whether someone owns a gun is a more powerful predictor of a person’s political party than her gender, whether she identifies as gay or lesbian, whether she is Hispanic, whether she lives in the South or a number of other demographic characteristics. 

Now ask yourself: Are you surprised?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A deal on the fiscal cliff... rumored to be in the offing, and none of the progressives I read seem to mind the terms. For starters, here's what Paul Krugman, Ezra Klein and Greg Sargent have to say.

So what's my takeaway? If these guys aren't complaining, then there's no way -- no way -- that John Boehner could sell it to his caucus.

Back to the drawing board.

Sen. Daniel Inouye, who...

...represented Hawaii in Washington for over 50 years, died at age 88. But it was his military experience that I found most interesting (my emphasis): 

In 1943, when the United States Army lifted its ban on Japanese-Americans, Mr. Inouye joined the new 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the first all-nisei volunteer unit. It became the most decorated unit in American military history. In 1944, fighting in Italy and France, he won a battlefield commission to second lieutenant. He was shot in the chest, but the bullet was stopped by two silver dollars in his pocket. 

On April 21, 1945, weeks before the end of the war in Europe, he led an assault near San Terenzo, Italy. His platoon was pinned down by three machine guns. Although shot in the stomach, he ran forward and destroyed one emplacement with a hand grenade and another with his submachine gun. He was crawling toward the third when enemy fire nearly severed his right arm, leaving a grenade, in his words, “clenched in a fist that suddenly didn’t belong to me anymore.” He pried it loose, threw it with his left hand and destroyed the bunker. Stumbling forward, he silenced resistance with gun bursts before being hit in the leg and collapsing unconscious.

David Super... a professor of law at Georgetown.

Monday, December 17, 2012

I have some first-hand experience...

...with mental illness; two of my closest relatives have been hospitalized. Here's a statistic that you should know (my emphasis): 

More Americans receive mental health treatment in prisons and jails than in hospitals or treatment centers. In fact, the three largest inpatient psychiatric facilities in the country are jails: Los Angeles County Jail, Rikers Island Jail in New York City and Cook County Jail in Illinois. 

The point here (and from Friday's horrifying events in Connecticut) is that society can pay for mental health treatment on the front-end or the back. Right now, America pays overwhelmingly on the back.

P. S. Here's the link to that piece everyone is talking about, "I Am Adam Lanza's Mother." I can relate.

I visited my 93-year-old...

...mother in Minnesota this past weekend. Not only is she doing well, but she also seems to be getting younger while the rest of us (especially me) are getting older. Reminds me of that curious Brad Pitt movie from a couple of years ago that I never saw.

Would you feel more, or...

...less, safe if you knew that your neighbor had a gun like the one above? From an article in the Times today (my emphasis): 

...the AR-15 style rifle — the most popular rifle in America, according to gun dealers — was also the weapon of choice for Adam Lanza, who the police said used one made by Bushmaster on Friday to kill 20 young children and six adults in an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., in a massacre that has horrified the nation. 

The increasing appearance of the rifle in rampage killings — an AR-15 was used by James E. Holmes, who is accused of opening fire and killing 12 people in a movie theater in Colorado in July, police officials say, and by Jacob Roberts, who shot and killed two people and then took his own life in a shopping mall last week near Portland, Ore. — has rekindled the debate about its availability and its appeal to killers bent on mass slaughter.

What if you knew that your neighbor was suffering from bipolar disorder or schizophrenia? Would you really want him to have access to a gun that? Really? 

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Friday, December 14, 2012

I'll be in Minnesota...

...this weekend, visiting my mother. Blogging should be light.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

"He's going to FLIP over this French-toast maker."

"Not as much as He will when He sees this bird clock."

"And wait until He gets a load of this state-of-the-art shoe polisher."

The University of St. Thomas... team, led by head coach Glenn Caruso (above), will take on the University of Mount Union tonight in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, the Division III championship. The Tommies are 57-7 in five seasons under Coach Caruso and haven't lost a regular-season game since October, 2009.

From an article in the Times:

Directing high-scoring offenses as a coordinator at Division III Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Division II South Dakota led Caruso to his first head coaching job, at Macalester College in St. Paul. Caruso took a winless team with 24 players and went 2-7 and 4-5 in the next two seasons before leaving for St. Thomas in 2008.

Twenty-four players? How many high schools have rosters that small? I wonder how many of those kids had to go both ways. And how bad would you feel if you didn't get to play?

The best tweets of the... (so far):

Obama message: This time, I won't cave on debt ceiling. But first, I must cave on Susan Rice.

Just saw "Life of Pi"--gave it 3.1416 stars.

Stan Collender, the smartest guy... Washington on the federal budget (that I know of), now thinks we have a 75 percent chance of going over the fiscal cliff. Writing in his blog today, Capital Gains and Games:

I've come to the conclusion that there's only a one in four chance that a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff will be enacted before January 1. It's far more likely we'll go over the cliff and then fix it retroactively in January than that it can be avoided completely.

Susan Rice withdrew her name...

...from consideration for secretary of state yesterday. That's the bad news. (I hate to see the president get bullied.)

The good news is, that's probably the last we'll ever hear about Benghazi from Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sen. Joe Lieberman gave...

...his farewell address yesterday to a mostly empty chamber. You remember Joe Lieberman, don't you? He was the guy that Sen. John McCain almost picked to be his running mate in 2008. (I guess he thought his final choice was more qualified...)

Is the federal budget deficit...

...shrinking too quickly? Huh? What?

According to David Wessel of The Wall Street Journal:

The deficit—the difference between government revenue and spending—is shrinking even before the year-end fiscal cliff or a last-minute compromise to avoid it. In the depths of the most recent recession, the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2009, the deficit was 10.1% of gross domestic product, the value of all the goods and services produced. Since then, the deficit has declined to 9% of GDP in 2010, 8.7% in 2011 and 7.0% in fiscal 2012. Private analysts predict the deficit will be between 5.5% and 6.0% of GDP in fiscal 2013, depending on the outcome of the budget talks.

Maybe the deficit isn't such a big deal after all. Maybe Paul Krugman has been right all along: we should be focusing on growth and jobs instead.

Your second (set)...

...of fun facts for the day is from an article in the Times, "Income Malaise of Middle Class Complicates Democrats' Stance in Talks" (my emphasis):

The Congressional Budget Office has found that between 1979 and 2007, the top 1 percent of households saw their inflation-adjusted income grow 275 percent. For the bottom 20 percent, it grew just 18 percent, and federal tax and transfer programs also did less and less to reduce income inequality over that period.

The mounting concentration of wealth is even more dramatic. A recent Economic Policy Institute study  found that between 1983 and 2010 about three-quarters of all new wealth accrued to the wealthiest 5 percent of households. Over the same period, the bottom 60 percent actually became poorer.

As someone who was a Libertarian (yes, capital "L") for most of that time, I wonder sometimes if we were wrong about all that "trickle down" stuff. It didn't work very well, did it?

Your fun fact of the day... from Nicholas Kristof's column in the Times:

...the removal of lead from gasoline may have added 6 points to the I.Q. of American children, according to Dr. Philip Landrigan, a pediatrician and epidemiologist at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ravi Shankar died... age 92. I knew he worked with George Harrison, of course, but I didn't know that he'd worked with John Coltrane before that:

Mr. Shankar loved to mix the music of different cultures. He collaborated with the flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal and the jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane, who had become fascinated with Indian music and philosophy in the early ’60s. Coltrane met with Mr. Shankar several times from 1964 to 1966 to learn the basics of ragas, talas and Indian improvisation techniques. Coltrane named his son Ravi after Mr. Shankar. 

Shankar was also the father of singer Norah Jones.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

"Before we come in, was any part of your home produced in a facility that also handles wheat, milk, nuts, eggs, or soy?"

Gov. Rick Snyder signed...

...a "right to work" bill in Michigan yesterday. The first-term Republican insisted the legislation wasn't "anti-union" and "isn't about us versus them."

Understandably, many labor leaders were upset and vowed retribution at the ballot box:

“If we have to work it through 2014 and change the makeup of the legislatures, that’s what we’ll do,” said Lee Saunders, the president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Frank Burger, a teacher from the Flint area, shook his head. “These people just handed over the election to the Democrats in 2014. Just watch.”

But it's a little late for that, isn't it?

The Michigan Senate consists of 26 Republicans and only 12 Democrats. The House, meanwhile, is made up of 63 Republicans and 47 Democrats. And the governor, who was elected in 2010, will be in office until at least 2014.

So the voters of Michigan elected a Republican legislature and a Republican governor. After what we've seen in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio, I would just ask them: What did you expect?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I keep reading articles... progressive writers who, when considering whether or not the president should risk going over the fiscal cliff, quote conservative intellectual William Kristol. From a piece of his in the Weekly Standard:

Republicans will fold with lightning speed after we go over the tax cliff on January 1.

Now, while I'll admit that Kristol's argument is persuasive, it's important to remember whom we are talking about: William Kristol is the George Constanza of the Washington establishment. This is the same guy who has been pretty much wrong about everything. I'd take anything Kristol said with a huge grain of salt.

If you're a big college sports fan...

...then you probably shouldn't read Joe Nocera in the New York Times or Melinda Henneberger in the Washington Post. (You may get disillusioned.)

Nocera has been criticizing the NCAA and its treatment of athletes for some time now. In his column today, he laments the role of big money in college sports:

The annual IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum, held last week in Midtown Manhattan, is the kind of meeting where football games are routinely described as “product,” television networks are “distribution channels,” and rooting for State U. is an example of “brand loyalty.” The university presidents, conference commissioners, athletic directors and corporate marketers who attend spend very little time mouthing the usual pieties about how the “student-athlete” comes first. Rather, they gather each year to talk bluntly about making money.

Henneberger, for her part, is a Notre Dame alumna who is uncomfortable with the way her alma mater has handled some recent sex scandals. From her piece, "Why I won't be cheering for old Notre Dame" (her emphasis):

What’s really surprising me are those who believe as I do that two players on the team have committed serious criminal acts – sexual assault in one case, and rape in another — but assumed that I’d support the team anyway, just as they are.

“Aren’t you just a little bit excited?” one asked the other day. There are plenty of good guys on the team, too, I’m repeatedly told. And oh, that Manti Te'o is inspiring. I don’t doubt it. But as a thought exercise, how many predators would have to be on the team before you’d no longer feel like cheering?

On second thought, if you're a big college sports fan, maybe you should read these two reporters. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

David Frum has a good post... on the wisdom of tax deductions. From the piece:

Another large tax preference is the home-mortgage-interest deduction. This preference is justified by the claim that it promotes homeownership. Yet Canada, which doesn’t have the preference, has roughly the same home­ownership rate as the United States: a little over 60 percent.

Rather than put more people into homes, the deduction puts the same number of people into more home: before the Great Recession hit, new homes in the United States averaged 2,300 square feet; new homes in Canada, 1,800 square feet.

That’s bad economics: Americans end up borrowing more to buy houses and then cutting back on other forms of saving to make up for it. The deduction is also bad for the environment, because it encourages Americans to commute farther to bigger houses that require more heating and cooling.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Patrick Moore, an astronomer, television... host and author of popular science books, died at age 89. From his obit in the Times this morning:

With his trademark monocle, frumpy suits and penchant for playing the xylophone, Mr. Moore, who was knighted in 2001, was known as much for his outsize personality as his scientific work.

Let's talk about that monocle for a minute. 

Have you ever actually seen someone wear a monocle? I haven't. (Have I just led a sheltered life?) And what would that mean, to wear a monocle? That you have one bad eye and one perfectly good one? I've never heard of that. And how, exactly, would it work? Would you have to pinch it between your cheek and eyebrow all day? That sounds tiresome. Couldn't you just get a pair of glasses with one lens to correct for the bad eye and a clear one for the good eye?

Was Moore's monocle really necessary, or was it just part of his "schtick?" I wonder.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

For twenty-eight years, from...

...1801 to 1829, the Democratic-Republican Party controlled the White House under four presidents: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe and John Quincy Adams. Ten of those years, 1815-25, were known as the "Era of Good Feelings."

Later, the Republican Party occupied the Oval Office from 1869 to 1885, under Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur. (Not exactly a Murderer's Row.) Another group of Republicans, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, matched that sixteen year stretch from 1897 to 1913. Finally, the modern-day Democratic Party held the White House for twenty years, from 1933 to 1953 under Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S Truman. (And, no, I didn't forget to put a period after the "S" in Truman's name. The thirty-third president didn't have a middle name, only a middle initial; his parents couldn't agree on a name.)

Why the history lesson on a Sunday morning? Because I just read a front page article in the Times about whether or not Hillary Clinton will run for president in 2016. (Everybody seems to think "yes," but I'm not convinced she has the fire in the belly. We'll see.) But assume for a minute that she does run and is elected to two terms, ending in 2025. And, what if -- bear with me here -- Michelle Obama runs for the United States Senate from Illinois in 2016 (like another First Lady whose name escapes me right now)? And, what if -- indulge me -- Mrs. Obama ran for president in 2024 and served until 2032? That would make 24 consecutive years that an Obama or a Clinton would occupy the White House. Wouldn't that be something?

You could almost call it the "Second Era of Good Feelings."

Saturday, December 8, 2012

According to a recent...

...Gallup poll*, most Republicans (58 percent) believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years.

To give you some perspective on that, imagine assembling a typical group of Republicans like the one above. (And they do look like Republicans, don't they?) Six out of those ten individuals would believe in the Biblical story of creation.

And that highlights the main difference that I see between the two parties and something I've been meaning to write about since the election.

While Democrats are the party of science, reason and policy, Republicans have become the party of belief. It doesn't matter whether it's political or economic ideology, or religion; everything has become an article of faith with them. Unlike Democrats, Republicans believe what they believe because they believe it.

And this, to me, is what is going to hold the GOP back for a long time. You can talk all you want about how moderates like Jeb Bush or Chris Christie are going to take back the Republican Party in 2016, but they still have to win the support of the base to get the nomination. And I just don't see that happening yet.

* Hat tip: Charles Blow.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Friday, December 7, 2012

Congratulations to Seattle's...

...Jane Abbott Lighty and Pete-e Petersen! At midnight on Thursday, they became the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in the state of Washington.

But I have just one question: Pete-e?