Saturday, March 31, 2012

The license plate of the day:


A friend of mine posted this cartoon...

...on Facebook the other day with the caption, "I keep wondering what people don't like about the health care plan."

And I feel the same way: What don't people like about the Affordable Care Act? All it does, as far as I can tell, is see that everyone in America is covered (which is the norm in the developed world) and curbs the worst abuses of the insurance industry. How could anybody object to that?

(There's other stuff in there, of course, but no "death panels," no "government takeover of health care," no anything you hear on Fox News.)

So I responded (of course) to her post with, "Good law; horrible messaging." Which I believe is the truth; it's a good law but its proponents have done a horrible job explaining it. (And its opponents have done a masterful job at defining it negatively.)

To which one of her friends wrote, "Have you actually read the complete law?"

Now, a few years ago I would have responded to that and got into some back-and-forth that would have gotten me (and her friend) absolutely nowhere. Instead, I can say to myself, "Hey; I have a blog!"

So here goes.

No, Mr. Abernathy (whoever you are), I haven't actually read the complete law. I get it: it's 2,700 pages long (as Republicans are quick to point out), and, I suppose, I can't say with metaphysical certitude that it's a good law. You're right; you got me.

(In a perfect world, the health care law would have been written in just three words: Medicare for all. But this isn't a perfect world; in fact, there were very powerful forces lobbying against the ACA. There still are. So the law had to be written in such a way that it would pass. And, amazingly, that took 2,700 pages. That's why I always tell people that the ACA was the best health care reform law that could get passed. Nothing more, nothing less.)

But ... I have read a great deal about the law. Even though I haven't read one word of the actual legislation, I feel like I have a pretty good layman's understanding of the Affordable Care Act.

(Full disclosure: I've never read one word of any piece of legislation. In fact, I've never read one word of any contract I've ever signed. I usually just ask a lawyer whom I trust to tell me what's in the document. If I don't understand something I just ask him questions until I do. Lazy? Irresponsible? Perhaps. But so far, I haven't had any problems -- knock on wood.)

But back to the Affordable Care Act. For reasons for which I won't go into here, I've taken a great interest in the subject of health care reform in the last few years. I've read almost everything I could get my hands cursor on. (The two best writers on the subject, I've found, are Ezra Klein of the Washington Post and Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic.)

Now, I know what you're thinking Mr. Abernathy: How do you know what you're reading is the truth? How do you know you're not being fed a load of baloney by the liberal news media. Again, I don't -- not with metaphysical certitude. But .. how do we know anything? How can we trust anything we read or anything anyone tells us? Without getting into a discussion of epistemology, I guess I can only answer that by saying that I use my best judgement.

For example, Mr. Abernathy, I trust my wife. I've known her for over twenty-five years now and she has a pretty good track record. Is it conceivable that she could slip up? Sure. But so far, my judgement of her has been rock-solid.

As for Messrs. Klein and Cohn, I've been reading their blogs for several years now and their information has stood up really well. (And, by the way, they are in no way my only sources for information on the subject.)

So when one of them writes something about health care reform, I find it's pretty reliable. (I've compared what they've written with other writers and they are usually right. And when other writers make mistakes on the subject, they are quick to point them out.)

It's Darwinian, really. I haven't kept up with their blogs because they've been wrong, but because they've been right. I usually stop reading those writers who are wrong.

Now I imagine none of this is very convincing for you, Mr. Abernathy. But that's a very short lesson on how I navigate through all the various information and misinformation that's out there. Did I read the 2,700 page Affordable Care Act? No. Will I read it? No. Do I feel like I understand the issue pretty well? Yes, actually, I do. Will I persuade you to my view of the ACA? Probably not.

So, good luck, Mr. Abernathy (whoever you are). I hope you're happy with the decision by the Supreme Court in June. But -- and I would tell this to all my friends who are opponents of the ACA -- be careful what you wish for. If the statute is indeed struck down, the only people who will benefit will be the CEOs of health insurance companies.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Shep Drinkwater... the Executive Chef at Vi at the Glen, a retirement community in Glenview, Illinois.

Hat tip: JFT

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

By now, the Supreme Court...

...may have already voted on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. On Intrade the chance of the Court overturning the individual mandate is currently 58%. 

According to an article in the Washington Post (my emphasis): 

If the usual process occurs, the justices of the Supreme Court will gather around a large rectangular table Friday morning and, one by one, cast their votes on the constitutionality of President Obama’s health-care law.

They will let the rest of us know the outcome in due time.
It can take years for a controversy to reach the court and months for the justices to write the opinions that lay out the legal frameworks for their decisions. But they move with surprising speed to vote on cases they have heard, almost always within days of oral arguments. Then — silence.
In a town where secrets are hard to keep, the Supreme Court is a striking outlier. The justices and their clerks know the outcome of cases almost immediately, but it’s rare for rulings to become known before the justices announce them.
“It’s only a small number of people who know, and they just don’t leak,” said Orin Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University and a former clerk to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. “I mean, you’re sworn to secrecy.”
Fair enough. But are those clerks (and judges) sworn not to "gamble?"

Former President George H. W. Bush...

...endorsed Mitt Romney for president yesterday, following last week's endorsement by his son, Jeb Bush. That leaves only one famous member of the Bush family to endorse the former governor of Massachusetts. But I wouldn't hold my breath on hearing that any time soon.

But, seriously, how can we get that yoke around Mitt Romney's neck?

I was born in a hospital... Oak Park, Illinois -- West Suburban Hospital. (I won't mention the year, but those cars in the picture above look about right.) It was a Monday morning, I think (although my memory is sketchy), and I weighed over nine pounds -- the largest baby in the family! My dad was also born at West Suburban, and my great aunt was a nurse there for many years. 

Now I know what you're thinking: Who cares? 

Well, bear with me, because I have a point to make. 

I was reading in the Times this morning, "In Health Case, Appeals to a Justice's Idea of Liberty," about -- you guessed it! -- Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. And a two paragraph passage caught my eye. It was about the individual mandate, which is at the heart of the case, and whether or not someone who doesn't buy insurance is still engaging in interstate commerce. From the article (my emphasis): 

“The young person who is uninsured,” Justice Kennedy told Michael A. Carvin, a lawyer for private parties challenging the law, “is uniquely proximately very close to affecting the rates of insurance and the costs of providing medical care in a way that is not true in other industries. That’s my concern in the case.”

Mr. Carvin responded that the law actually frustrated individual responsibility. “They’re compelling us to enter into the marketplace,” he said, but “they’re prohibiting us from buying the only economically sensible product that we would want, catastrophic insurance.” 
It's that one clause, "They're compelling us to enter into the marketplace," that I find so interesting. And it's because we're all in the health care marketplace. We begin our lives -- most of us -- in a hospital and, by virtue of being human, are always in the health care marketplace. Even that "young person," whom Justice Kennedy referred to is in the marketplace by virtue of breathing. If he steps outside his home and is hit by a car, he needs medical attention and someone has to pay for it. If he doesn't have insurance, you and I have to pay for it.
So how can anyone claim that anyone is outside the health care marketplace?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

An open letter to Anthony Kennedy.

Dear Justice Kennedy,

Congratulations! For the next three months or so, you will be the most powerful person in America. That's pretty cool! While the Supreme Court is deciding on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, you will likely be the fifth vote in a 5-4 decision. How does it feel to be more important than President Obama, Mitt Romney or even Jeremy Lin? Pretty awesome, I'll bet.

But with your power comes responsibility. Bummer. And you will hold in your hands the fate of 30 million Americans and their access to affordable health care (something everyone else in the developed world takes for granted). If the ACA is overturned, health care costs will continue their inexorable rise and more and more businesses will likely end coverage for their employees. In addition, insurance companies will be able to resume denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions, drop clients when they get sick, and, well, do just about anything else they feel like doing.

Now, I noticed from Wikipedia that you're 75 years old. And still working? Didn't you have a 401(k)? So I assume that you and your wife Mary are on Medicare (a government-run insurance plan). Also, I'm sure that you rarely come in contact with any of the 30 million uninsured. (I picture you being driven to work by one of your clerks, eating lunch at your desk from a brown paper bag, and getting dropped off at home at the end of the day.)

So whether the Affordable Care Act is overturned, or not, won't really affect you.

But I also noticed in Wikipedia that you have three kids. (No mention of any grandchildren.) And, although I can't be sure, I'd guess that -- like the rest of us -- they're all just a pink slip away from losing their health insurance. And if they (or any of their kids) have any pre-existing conditions, it could be really difficult (or impossible) to get another policy.

So I guess my bottom line here, Mr. Kennedy, is that even though the 5-4 decision won't affect you personally, it could affect your kids and grandchildren. (Not to mention that pesky 30 million uninsured.)

But don't consider America's future when casting your vote. Just consider your family's future. Don't you want them to have access to affordable health care?

In closing, I wish you good luck, sir, especially with that Scalia guy (he has nine kids). And enjoy your status -- until June, at least -- as the Most Powerful Man in America.

Boring Old White Guy

The cartoon of the day:

Earl Scruggs, the bluegrass banjo player...

...who, with his partner Lester Flatt, was known for "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" (above) and "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" (below), died at age 88.

The Supreme Court concluded...

...its third and final day of oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act yesterday. SCOTUS watchers are now saying that not only could the individual mandate be found unconstitutional (Intrade has the chance at well over 60%), but the entire ACA may be struck down. A ruling is expected from the Court sometime in June.

If the ACA is indeed overturned (and as recently as last week, the chance of that was seen as remote), Americans will once again have to grapple with health care reform. Under the status quo, health care costs in America are rising at an unsustainable rate, more and more people are losing their coverage and outcomes are falling further and further behind other developed nations. In short, it's an emergency.

But this post isn't about health care policy, and it isn't even about politics. (I'll get to those two topics soon enough.)

No, what I'd like to talk about for just a moment is the reality of passing health care reform in America. And the reality is that it would take a Democratic president, a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate. And not only would it take a Democratic Senate, but it would take a 60-vote, filibuster-proof Democratic majority in the Senate.

(What about the Republicans' promise to "Repeal and Replace?" Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said just recently that there wouldn't be any "Replace" part if the ACA is overturned. Surprised?)

Now I know what you're thinking: No big deal -- just elect 60 Democrats to the Senate.

Not so fast.

To pass the ACA, the Democrats had a 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority in the Senate (including two independents) for exactly seven months. (Al Franken was finally sworn in in July, 2009, but Scott Brown was seated in February, 2010.) That's a pretty small window of opportunity.

Again, you may be thinking: fine -- just elect 60 Democrats to the Senate and get on with it. Well, that's not as easy as it sounds. Before that seven month window from July, 2009 to February, 2010, the Democrats didn't have 60 votes in the Senate since 1976 -- 36 years ago. (I was in high school.)

So the bottom line is that if the ACA is struck down by a 5-4 majority along partisan lines (which looks increasingly likely), the U. S. may not see health care reform for another thirty years.

And that's discouraging.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The New Yorker cartoon...

...of the day is for Kevin from Flossmoor:

"Not the Cape May lump blue-claw crab cake with creme fraiche, fried quail egg, osetra caviar, duck confit, and peach con frutti again?!!"

Why would a skeptical...

...non-believer such as myself feel such an affinity for an evangelical Christian like Tim Tebow? 

Maybe it's because he seems, unlike so many of today's public "Christians," to be using his belief in such a positive way. From "Tebow, a Careful Evangelical," in the Times today: 

On Monday, he used a question about his charity work to promote his Tim Tebow Foundation, which is aimed at everything from orphanages to “Timmy’s playrooms” at hospitals. 

“Because ultimately I know that’s more important than anything I do on the football field, is the ability to brighten a kid’s day or the ability to make someone smile,” Tebow said. 

 Why don't more "Christians" talk like that?

Mitt Romney is planning...

...a $12 million renovation to his vacation home in La Jolla, California. The beachfront property will be over 8,000 square feet with a basement measuring over 3,000 square feet (larger than most people's homes) and a "car elevator," whatever that is.

Now Mitt Romney is a wealthy man who made his money legally and can spend it any way he wants. But for a guy who is trying so desperately to connect with "average" voters, isn't the timing of this just a little unwise? Couldn't he wait until -- oh, I don't know -- after the election to initiate this project?

Who's advising this guy?

Tom Friedman has an interesting piece... the Times today about Australia and New Zealand. Among other things, Friedman reports that the two nations require their citizens to vote. He quotes Malcolm Turnbull, a former leader of Australia's main conservative party (my emphasis): 

“We also have compulsory voting,” said Turnbull. You get fined if you don’t vote. “In a voluntary voting system like yours, there is always the temptation to run hard on hot-button issues that will fire up the base and get them out to vote. In a compulsory voting system, your base has to vote — as does everyone else — and so the goal is to target the middle ground.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Phil Elliott...


Sant says Mitt wld be worst possible R to nominate, then says he'd be willing to be Mitt's veep.

The cartoon of the day:

David Brooks is coming around...

...slowly -- slowly -- on health care reform. Brooks concedes in his column today that: 

Universal coverage is a worthy goal. 

Head snap! 

Also (my emphasis): own view is that the individual mandate is perfectly acceptable policy. We effectively have a national health care system. We all indirectly pay for ill, uninsured people who show up at emergency rooms. If all Americans are in the same interconnected health care system, I think it’s reasonable for government to insist that all Americans participate in the insurance network that is the payment method for that system. 

Brooks's movement on the issue reinforces my belief that as the law gets implemented, more and more people will come to see its wisdom.

The Republican race...

...may be truly over. Not only is Mitt Romney leading Rick Santorum in Wisconsin on Intrade, but the former governor of Massachusetts is also ahead of Santorum in his home state of Pennsylvania.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

The irony of the individual mandate... that while Mitt Romney was for it before he was against it, President Obama was against it before he was for it.

Why not just have Medicare for all?

Frank Bruni had the best piece... the Sunday New York Times yesterday, "Rethinking His Religion," about an old college classmate who had arrived at the University of North Carolina as a devout Catholic but whose life had taken an interesting turn: 

He’d gone into medicine, just as he’d always planned. He’d married and had kids. But he’d also strayed from his onetime script. As a doctor, he has spent a part of his time providing abortions. 

Over years to come, in various settings, he continued this work, often braving protesters, sometimes wearing a bulletproof vest. 

He knew George Tiller, the Kansas abortion provider shot dead in 2009 by an abortion foe. 

Tiller, you may recall, was famous for performing "late-term," or "partial-birth" abortions, depending on your point of view. 

While Tiller was called "Tiller the Baby Killer" by Bill O'Reilly, he was actually a church-going family man who was much beloved by the women who worked in his practice. 

As someone who was raised as a Catholic, I've always had a hard time understanding late-term abortions. But, unlike O'Reilly, I used to wonder what it would be like to sit down with Tiller and actually listen to his side of the story. Might be edifying. 

(I've often daydreamed about having my own talk show -- like Charlie Rose's -- but, unlike Rose, I'd actually let my guests talk and try to listen to them.) 

So why couldn't O'Reilly do that? 

Bruni's piece ends with: 

He shared a story about one of the loudest abortion foes he ever encountered, a woman who stood year in and year out on a ladder, so that her head would be above other protesters’ as she shouted “murderer” at him and other doctors and “whore” at every woman who walked into the clinic. 

One day she was missing. “I thought, ‘I hope she’s O.K.,’ ” he recalled. He walked into an examining room to find her there. She needed an abortion and had come to him because, she explained, he was a familiar face. After the procedure, she assured him she wasn’t like all those other women: loose, unprincipled. 

She told him: “I don’t have the money for a baby right now. And my relationship isn’t where it should be.” 

“Nothing like life,” he responded, “to teach you a little more.” 

A week later, she was back on her ladder.

ABC's Terry Moran, who...

...covers the Supreme Court (and is a graduate of Barrington High School), thinks politics will be at the center of the debate about the Affordable Care Act. From This Week yesterday (my emphasis): 

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... starting on tomorrow, Monday. Terry Moran, you cover the court for us. And basically, the Supreme Court has four options that I can see, correct me if I'm wrong. They can uphold the law. They can overturn it in whole. They can split it. They can overturn the mandate, uphold the rest of the law. Or they can punt, just decide nothing until the tax takes hold in 2014. Which do you think is most likely and why? 

MORAN: Well, the smart money is betting that the Supreme Court will uphold this law. Now, a lot of the same smart money bet that the Supreme Court would not declare corporations are people and have First Amendment or will award the 2000 election to George W. Bush. 

That's -- I think that what -- one of the overlooked factors here is the politics, and not the impact that the Supreme Court can have on the presidential campaign, but the other way. What does the presidential campaign do the way the justices think here? 

The people's representatives passed this law, whether you like it or not. Now the people are engaged in a great free democratic political debate. Why should the Supreme Court come in and call a halt to that debate preemptively and take the political... 


MORAN: They can punt. They can punt. And I think they will. 

ROBERTS: But why did they -- why did they take it, then? Why did they take the case if they were going to (OFF-MIKE) 

MORAN: They took it at a different time, in some ways. The Republicans, Michele Bachmann, are making this the number-one issue. Some of the biggest mistakes the Supreme Court has ever made is when they decided cases they didn't have to. And John Roberts as chief justice, loves the court, is very protective of its institutional authority. The more it gets involved in politics, the more that authority comes down.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Republican Bruce Bartlett...

...doesn't think much of Paul Ryan's new budget. From his piece in The Fiscal Times (my emphasis):

I think Ryan has an undeserved reputation for seriousness in budget matters. The word “fantasy” would better apply. As Prof. Calvin Johnson of the University of Texas law school told me, the tax side of Ryan’s plan “is floating in the clouds without any connection to earth or reality.” And of course accomplishing what he hopes to do on the spending side is even more fanciful.
In my opinion, the Ryan budget should be seen as nothing more than a PR document for Republicans so they can say they have a plan to balance the budget, cut taxes, and cure the common cold. It may serve that narrow purpose, although many Republicans are saying that it doesn’t go far enough in slashing spending. I wish I could buy some of the stuff these guys are drinking or smoking.
Anyone can make up numbers that balance the budget while slashing taxes at the same time if they have no concern whatsoever for the proper functioning of government, no concern for the hardship it would cause, and are in a position to order the CBO to accept those numbers at face value. Coming up with specific legislative changes that will actually implement such a vision, getting it enacted, and accepting the consequences is something else altogether.

This is why I voted...

...for Mitt Romney in the Illinois primary. If elected, I trust he'll govern much as he did in Massachusetts -- as a non-ideological problem-solver.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Today marks the second anniversary...

...of the Affordable Care Act. On Monday, the Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments on the constitutionality of the individual mandate. Will the Supremes overturn the historic law? Beats me; but the folks over at Intrade give it only a 1-in-3 chance.

Jim Yong Kim, or...

..."Stinky Pete" as Conan O'Brien calls him in the above video, was selected by the White House to head up the World Bank.

O'Brien's commencement address is the best one I've ever heard. In fact, it's probably the only one I've ever actually listened to from start to finish. (And I've watched it several times.)

The video is over 24 minutes long, but I guarantee you've squandered that amount of time on less productive things many times before. Check it out.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

"He's been so much more attentive since he found out I have the bomb."

My last post reminded me...

...of the time I saw Ron Paul defend earmarks for his district on Meet the Press. At the time of its airing, I was a supporter of the Texas Congressman for president. But I remember, after watching that show, having some nagging doubts about Paul's sincerity.

Is Ron Paul a hypocrite?

Apparently, even Ron Paul...

...isn't above feeding from the federal trough. From an article in the Times today, "Study Shows House Members Profit": 

One accusation long directed at Congress is that lawmakers come to this capital city not just to serve the American people but also to enrich themselves and their families. 

Campaign accounts of Representative Ron Paul, a Republican of Texas who is running for the party’s presidential nomination, paid salaries or fees to his daughter, brother, grandson, daughter’s mother-in-law, granddaughter and grandson-in-law, totaling more than $300,000, according to the report. 

Mr. Paul did not dispute the findings, though Jesse Benton, a spokesman, said, “Any implication that there is anything inappropriate is wildly off base.” 

And it's true: 

Most of these practices do not appear to violate any laws or House ethics rules. 

But it's also true that what's often outrageous in Washington isn't what's illegal, but what's perfectly legal

 And, frankly, I would expect more from Congressman Paul.

Again, I repeat Chuck Todd's...

...question, "Who is Mitt Romney?"

Some of my friends...

...and readers couldn't quite understand what I meant the other day when I said that I was voting for Mitt Romney in the Illinois primary because he was "the least objectionable Republican" on the ballot.

The man in the video above is the Rev. Dennis Terry of the Greenwell Springs Baptist Church. In the video below he introduces and prays for Rick Santorum at a rally in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Now, ask yourself, could you picture Mitt Romney at a rally like this one?

Samuel Glazer, the co-founder...

...of the company that manufactured Mr. Coffee, died at age 89. 

Older readers of this blog will recall that Joe DiMaggio was the public face of the company for 14 years, promoting Mr. Coffee in print advertisements and television commercials. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Here's one that should...

...make your head explode: Rick Santorum thinks Paul Ryan's new budget doesn't cut spending fast enough

Sure, it's a "great blueprint," the former senator from Pennsylvania says, but he believes "we need to cut government spending faster" than the $5.3 trillion Ryan has proposed over the next decade. 

And here's the part I've been trying to tell my 92-year-old mother (there I go again!) who "kind of likes that guy Santorum." From a piece in the Washington Post (my emphasis): 

Santorum has said Medicare changes must be implemented immediately and not be imposed only on future retirees. 

Ya hear that, Ma? That nice-looking Catholic man with the seven kids wants to throw you under the bus.

Ross Douthat claims...

...that the Romney campaign made three mistakes in its run for the White House. (Only three?) 

From "Mistakes Were Made," in the Times today: 

(1) They didn’t know how to talk about Romney’s wealth. 
(2) They played a prevent defense in South Carolina.
(3) They let up after Florida and let Rick Santorum back into the race. 

I'd go Douthat one better; I think Romney has made only one mistake (but it's been a big one): 

He failed to articulate a positive message. 

We all know what Mitt Romney is against -- President Obama, Newt Gingrich and now Rick Santorum. But what, if anything, is he for? Whenever I see the former governor of Massachusetts criticize the president on television, I just want to say, "But what would you do? What would you have done differently?" 

Repeal Obamacare? I don't believe you. 

Even the economic "plan" Romney delivered in Ford Field has been derided by fellow Republicans as adding to the deficit. (He's obviously not serious about it.) 

So what do you believe in, Mitt? What -- if anything -- do you stand for? (Besides singing patriotic songs.)

The cartoon of the day:

Paul Ryan's new budget is so bad...

...that even his supporters are saying things like this (my emphasis): 

What hasn’t changed from last year, unfortunately, is the budget’s studious vagueness about the details of its proposed tax reform (it calls for lower rates and a broader base without itemizing which of the many popular deductions it wants capped or eliminated) and the absence of any replacement for a repealed Obamacare. The tax reform details are theoretically supposed to be filled in by the House Ways and Means Committee, but that didn’t happen last year and I’m not holding my breath; the absence of a “replace” in repeal-and-replace, meanwhile, seems to just reflect Ryan’s inability to rally his colleagues around his own vision for health care reform. There is, to be sure, a case for vagueness on some of these fronts. But by being specific about rate reductions and vague about how to pay for them, and by declining to offer anything substantial as an Obamacare alternative, the Ryan budget makes it easier for the Democrats to claim that this is just Republican politics-as-usual: Unfunded tax cuts for the rich, nothing on health care except cuts to Medicare, and deficit reduction on the backs of the poor. 

(From Ross Douthat in the Times.) 

And now, just to prove...

...that I do too read the sports page, I want to give a shout-out to a  piece in the Times, "Slower and Slower, but Not Stopping," about Jamie Moyer. It's definitely my Article of the Day (no emphasis required): 

On Sept. 13, 1932, in the first game of a doubleheader at Ebbets Field, a Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher named Jack Quinn threw five shutout innings to beat the St. Louis Cardinals. Quinn was 49 years 74 days old, the oldest pitcher to win a major league game. 

Jamie Moyer is two months older than Quinn was then. He is fighting for a job in the Colorado Rockies' starting rotation, competing with several pitchers who were not born when he pitched his first major league game, in 1986.

Moyer is a father of eight who wears old-fashioned stirrups and thanks the plate umpire whenever he leaves a game. He is older than 8 current managers and 16 current general managers. He has pitched in 49 major league ballparks, and started the last game at Wrigley Field before lights were installed there.

Moyer holds the major league record for home runs allowed, with 511. But he also has 267 career victories, more than Hall of Famers like Whitey Ford and Bob Gibson. Not bad for a man who led the National League in earned runs allowed in his first full season, and who was offered a coaching job by the Chicago Cubs when they released him at age 29.

Eduardo Porter has a good, balanced...

...piece in the Times today, "Inequality Undermines Democracy," in which he points out, among other things (my emphasis): 

From 1993 to 2010, the incomes of the richest 1 percent of Americans grew 58 percent while the rest had a 6.4 percent bump. 


The income gap narrowed briefly during the Great Recession, as plummeting stock prices shrunk the portfolios of the rich. But in 2010, the first year of recovery, the top 1 percent of Americans captured 93 percent of the income gains. 

One of Paul Ryan's...

...more obnoxious images is one he apparently resurrected yesterday in his "new" budget (my emphasis): 

"We propose welfare reform, round 2," he added, charging that aid programs were encouraging people to sponge off the government. "We don't want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people ... into complacency and dependence." 

I've mentioned this one before, but Charles Pierce, writing in Esquire, points out: 

...[Ryan] got through high school and college on Social Security survivor's benefits. 


Pierce also mocks Ryan's intention to "strengthen" Medicare: 

"We propose to save and strengthen Medicare by taking the power away from bureaucrats," said Ryan as he rolled out his proposal Tuesday on Capitol Hill. "We believe competition and choice should be the way forward." 

So, again with the notion that, in competition and choice, there are no such things as "bureaucrats" in, say, insurance companies, who have the power to decide that, No, your dialysis won't be covered there, Gramps. So, again with the notion that "freedom" consists of the 72-year-old wife of a 75-year-old Alzheimer's patient going out into the insurance market to determine which of the dozens of companies who will be scrambling for her business offers her the best deal. And, since he also proposes to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act, we'll all get a chance to practice being helpless and old and at the mercy of the greediest industry in America over the course of our entire lives. Bonus! 

Or take my 92-year-old mother. (Sorry, Ma, there I go telling the world your age again.) What insurance company would want to write her a policy? 

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid have all worked well for generations. Why not return to the tax rates of the pre-George W. Bush years to close the deficit? 

Just because Rep. Ryan requires his staffers to read Atlas Shrugged doesn't mean we all have to live in some creepy Ayn Rand novel. 

Hat tip: Ed Crotty

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I just voted for Mitt Romney... the Illinois primary. Yes, like the cartoon above, a part of me will be rooting for Rick Santorum tonight, even though he's reported to be trailing Romney by 15 points. But the patriotic American in me had to cast my ballot for Mitt. (Strangely, I didn't see anyone taking exit polls where I voted. Isn't anyone interested in my opinion?)

William F. Buckley famously advised his fellow Republicans to vote for the most conservative candidate who could actually win. My rule of thumb is to vote for the least objectionable Republican on the ballot.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Is the housing crisis over?

According to an article in Reuters, homebuilders such as Toll Brothers, Lennar and DR Horton have seen their stock prices climb by more than 30 percent in the last six months.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A reader, Ed, thinks Mitt Romney... a "chameleon" who has "no permanent policy positions -- only whatever will get him elected."

Now where did he get that idea?

Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.

I'm voting for Mitt Romney... the Illinois primary tomorrow.

Surprised? Don't be; I'd still rather see President Obama get reelected. But, if the recovery stalls out and a Republican should happen to win in November, I'd rather see Romney -- a closet Democrat -- in the White House than any of the alternatives.

Would Mitt Romney really govern from the center, like President Obama? Who knows? If there's one thing we can all agree on -- left, right and center -- it's that no one has any idea what a Romney administration would look like. 

Or, as NBC's Chuck Todd once put it, "Who is Mitt Romney?"

Well, at least we have his one term as governor of Massachusetts to go by. And Romney governed there as a non-ideological problem-solver.

But wouldn't a President Romney be handcuffed by the GOP base? I'm not so sure. I could see Mitt getting sworn in and telling the tea party, "Hey, you guys fought me the whole way; now I don't need you. Go jump in the lake!"

Face it; Mitt Romney's been a phenomenal success at everything he's ever tried. He's not going to blow it by going off the deep end.

For example, would a President Romney embrace austerity and risk a double-dip recession and a one-term presidency? Not on your life.

How about Obamacare? Wouldn't Mitt repeal the Affordable Care Act? Don't count on it. First of all, repeal doesn't poll well. Secondly, Romney was the guy who made his bones reforming health care in Massachusetts. Besides, what would he replace it with, Romneycare? It's the same thing!

And don't expect Romney to repeal Dodd-Frank or get goofy with immigration, the environment or Iran. Remember, he's not a stupid man.

I guess there is that (not-so-small) matter of Supreme Court nominees; after all, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 79 and Anthony Kennedy is 75. This is an area, I guess, where Romney could do some damage.

But I'm not saying I want Mitt Romney to be elected president; I'm just saying that he'd be the least of all evils on the GOP side. No, I'm voting for Romney tomorrow because if we have to endure another Republican president, I'd rather it be a moderate like Mitt Romney than an extremist like Rick Santorum.

Is your son, or daughter, a nerd?

Is he, or she, an indifferent student? Take heart; according to a piece in the Times today, your teenager could grow up to be a billionaire (my emphasis): 

As a child, Michael Bloomberg was a nerdy but middling student, president of the Medford High School slide rule club and briefly in charge of collecting dues from fellow students. 

Bloomberg was also captain of the debate team and a member of the Science and Technical clubs (surprised?).

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Noble Fleming died...

...last month at age 92. Never heard of him? I hadn't either. But, based on that name alone, do you think he was famous for being:

(A) a longshoreman;
(B) a professional wrestler;
(C) a middle school custodian; or
(D) the leading tea taster for the Thomas J. Lipton Company.

Hint: the correct answer isn't (A), (B) or (C).

Need more help? Okay. His full name was Noble Fearnley Hutchinson Fleming.

Reminds me of the time Jerry Seinfeld said, "Ever notice a lot of butlers are named Jeeves? You know, I think when you name a baby Jeeves, you've pretty much mapped out his future, wouldn't you say?"

Friday, March 16, 2012

The cartoon of the day:

I just put my corned beef...

...on the stove, and boy does it look good. (Somebody call the cops!)

My son, who is home from college on Spring Break, asked me when it would be ready.

"About four-thirty," I replied. He gave me a quizzical look.

"Why? What did you have in mind?"

"Oh, I don't know -- dinner time?"

"That is dinner time." (These crazy college kids with their crazy ideas!)

But as I was opening the package, I noticed the cooking instructions (my emphasis):

Remove from bag.

So far, so good.

Place corned beef and spices in a large pot. Add water to cover. Cover pot and place on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Once the water comes to a boil, skim foam off top, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 2 1/2 - 3 hours or until desired tenderness. Corned beef is tender when easily pierced with a fork. Slice against the grain and serve with boiled potatoes and cabbage, if desired.

First of all, I don't really need these directions because I can always call the Corned Beef and Cabbage Hotline my 92-year-old mother.

But it's that last line that got my attention: "...serve with boiled potatoes and cabbage, if desired." (My emphasis.)

Is that really necessary? Couldn't they just as easily say, "...serve with chocolate syrup, if desired?"

Gary Gutting, a professor...

...of philosophy at Notre Dame, has a piece in the Times today, "The Myth of the Student-Athlete." Gutting argues that: 

Football and men’s basketball players are admitted and given full scholarships almost entirely because of their athletic abilities. 


But there is a way that profit-making athletic powerhouses could avoid the hypocrisy of the student-athlete. 

They could admit athletes who fall far short of their regular academic criteria as “associate students” (or maybe even “athlete-students”), who take just two or three courses a term and are not expected to receive a bachelor’s degree after four years.  They would instead receive an associate’s degree (like that currently awarded by some colleges), which would, after four years, put them in a position to gain regular admission to a college where they could complete a bachelor’s degree in two more years. (There would, of course, still be athletes who met standard criteria of admission and so would be expected to earn a regular degree in four years.) 

It's an interesting piece and well worth reading. 

And it reminds me of a conversation I had with a young man at a high school football game last fall. He had played defensive tackle (I think) at a DuPage Valley Conference school and received a scholarship to play for the University of Iowa. Good for him! 

But he couldn't qualify academically and was hoping to try again next year. And I felt sorry for him. Why, I thought, should a kid with a potential NFL career have to go to college? After all, how many professional accountants had to first prove their skills on the gridiron? Why can't this kid go to Iowa and play football as an "honorary student," or as an "associate student," as Gutting suggests? 

(I'm sure glad I didn't have to throw the shot put, or run a 440, to get my undergraduate degree in history. My son, however, did have to pass a swim test to get his degree; he showed up for it in his LIFEGUARD trunks.) 

Gutting finishes the piece (my emphasis): 

Although this is hardly an ideal solution, it’s better than trying to maintain the myth of the student-athlete.  But what a magnificent gesture it would be if, say, a school with a legendary and lucrative football program could find the courage to give up the money and the glory for a ringing endorsement of intellectual values. 

 Gee, I wonder if he had any particular school in mind?

I predict the next...

...big (non) issue in the Republican primaries will be that of making English the official language of the United States.

Rick Santorum has already broached the subject in Puerto Rico, demanding this week that the U. S. territory adopt English as its official language in order to achieve statehood. (Mitt Romney, predictably, is pandering to the Spanish-speaking islanders, after doing everything he possibly could to alienate Hispanic voters with his harsh stance on immigration reform. Surprised?)

As the economy recovers (jobless claims were down again yesterday and the stock market was up), don't be too surprised if the Republicans focus more and more on issues dear to the party's right wing (and irrelevant to everyone else), such as contraception, gay marriage and now -- you watch -- the "English-only movement."

I'll be making my corned beef...

...and cabbage today instead of tomorrow. (And, yes, that's a little dab of horseradish on top.)

Why? I still might make the three-hour trek down to Peoria tomorrow for the 4A basketball championship, especially if it's between Proviso East and Simeon. (I've seen both teams twice and I think it could be one for the ages.)

Oh, and by the way, my corned beef is from Vienna, of course, and I'll throw some carrots and red potatoes in the pot as well. I also bought a loaf of S. Rosen's rye bread (with caraway seeds) and real butter, and I plan to wash it all down with a Kaliber (or two).

We'll start our vegan diets -- tomorrow!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I've lived in the Chicago area...

...for about 40 of my 53 years (that's about 75 percent for those of you keeping score at home), and I can tell you that there's no way -- no way -- that Rick Santorum is going to defeat Mitt Romney in the Illinois primary next Tuesday.

Illinois is a much more moderate state than either Michigan or Ohio, so I don't think it will even be close. In fact, I'll bet that Santorum will be all but finished after next week. Romney will be seen as the inevitable nominee -- finally -- and the establishment will coalesce around the former governor of Massachusetts.

On to the general.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day: