Saturday, June 30, 2012

A week ago today... son and I set out for California. To paraphrase the Chinese philosopher, Lao-tzu, "A journey of a little over two thousand miles began at the end of our driveway."

It proved to be a bittersweet trip.

Having graduated from college just two weeks before, my son decided to move to Los Angeles where he would try to break into television (behind the camera, not in front). Sensing an opportunity for one last road trip with my son (and a short vacation in southern California), I offered to make the drive with him and leave my beloved Honda Civic Hybrid (with satellite radio!) in his care.

So at a little after seven o'clock last Saturday morning, we said goodbye to my wife and headed west for Cheyenne, Wyoming. (Or The Great American West, as Jack Kerouac might have called it.) According to Mapquest it would take us about fourteen and a half hours; with a stop for a late lunch / early dinner in Omaha, Nebraska, it took a little longer -- about sixteen and a half.

(Lunch was at Brewburger's, above, a restaurant featured on the Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. My son had a burger of some sort; I went with the smoked brisket with Swiss cheese on rye -- good call! -- and House fries -- another good call.)

We emerged from the restaurant after about an hour and I looked at my son in the parking lot; I couldn't help recalling that famous quote from On the Road: "I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future."

We pushed on.

After driving through western Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska (and, boy, is Nebraska a long state!) we pulled into Cheyenne at around 11:00 local time, or 12:00 our time, or whatever -- it was late! -- and we were both beat. We collapsed into bed knowing we only had a twelve hour trip ahead of us the next day. But at the end of that leg was Las Vegas!

Marc Webb... the director of The Amazing Spider-Man.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen... being considered for sainthood by the Catholic Church. 

Now, every once in a while I run across something in the newspaper that simply cannot be improved upon by any smart aleck remark from me; I can only add emphasis. From an article in today's New York Times: 

A church committee will now determine whether it believes that, since his death, Archbishop Sheen has interceded on behalf of someone alive to bring about a miracle, a requirement for the next step on the path to canonization.

Friday, June 29, 2012

According to Timothy Egan... the Times, Mitt Romney's Web site says he'll nominate judges "in the mold of" John Roberts. Funny; I couldn't find that this morning. You don't suppose they removed it, do you?

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

In the other big news...

...yesterday, Don Grady, who played Robbie in the 1960s sitcom My Three Sons, died at age 68.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

We made it to Hollywood...

...and I made it back. (I'll have a lot more to say just as soon as I get settled in.)

P. S. In the meantime, how about that SCOTUS decision? (In short, everyone was right about Kennedy but wrong about Roberts.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

Made it to LA!

Westwood is beautiful...

If it's Monday morning... must be LA!

After demonstrating my prowess in the casino to my son last night (let's just say we had a little difficulty locating the hot table), it's time to get back on the road and head west.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Today, my son and I...

...embark on what we hope will be a cross-country road trip of Kerouacian proportions. As the picture above indicates, we're headed to sunny California, where Joe intends to seek his fame and fortune in show biz. 

After driving through western Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska today, we plan on spending the night in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Tomorrow, it's off to Las Vegas via the rest of Wyoming (and there's a lot of it) and Utah. On Monday we should pull into the City of Angels around lunchtime. 

I'll get Joe squared away in his new digs at UCLA (and maybe check out Venice Beach and Pink's for a chili dog while I'm in town) and then hand over the keys to the Honda. I should be on a plane back to Chicago by the end of the week.

In the meantime, blogging will be intermittent, at best; but I'll try to provide updates along the way. There should be a lot of material for future posts. Wish us luck!

Friday, June 22, 2012

The license plate of the day:

How do you deal with...

...a political party (the Republicans) in which 63 percent believe -- today -- that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction on the eve of the U. S. invasion in 2003? And of that 63 percent, 64 percent say that they have either always believed (or have come to believe) that President Obama was born in another country.

So, again, how do you deal with a party like that?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Newt Gingrich said recently...

...that he was defeated in the Republican primary by Mitt Romney's financial advantage:

"In the end, he had, I think, 16 billionaires and we had one," Gingrich told ABC News.

To which I say:

(1) Why didn't you attract more billionaires? And,

(2) Mitt Romney won the GOP nomination because he ran unopposed. Seriously, the Republican Party would have never nominated Gingrich, Rick Santorum or Ron Paul. Never.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

It's a slow news day... let's have a look at the next entry in My Road Home: 

Tuesday July 3rd 

Mike who sleeps in the cot next to mine, and whom I have become friendly with, drinks about 15 cups of coffee per day. Each one containing 4 packs of sugar. I watch him methodically prepare; pouring in the freeze-dried coffee, adding a drop of hot water, sugar, then he will whip it up into a kind of paste. Once the paste hardens Mike pours in the hot water. He was kind enough to make me a cup as well, I must admit, for instant coffee, it tasted pretty darn good. 

Mike's trial is coming up in a few weeks; he faces anywhere between a year and six. Besides his drug charge he ran a small escort service along the side. His girls would not only offer their bodies to the clients, but deal Mike's drugs to them as well. Call it one stop shopping. Like me he reads books all day & night. The lights go out here @ Midnight, but it's meaningless, the noise level even at that hour sounds like Times Sq. on New Years Eve. I can already see that to the majority of men in this dorm, the whole prison thing is no big deal. You see it in the way they carry themselves, looking totally relaxed and at ease, playing cards with their buddies, like they were back home or something. 

Tomorrow is the 4th of July & Eileen is coming to visit. Not only will it be a relief to get out of this dorm for an hour, it will be great to see her. She's promised me a few books, a newspaper, and earplugs.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Texas is a safe state...

...for Republicans this year, but that may not always be the case. According to Chris Cillizza's blog (my emphasis): 

Whites in Texas, meanwhile, are already less than a majority. And the rapid Latino growth there has Democrats licking their chops for the day where they may have a shot at the state’s 34 electoral votes. 

Democrats are definitely a couple cycles (at least) away from competing in the Lone Star State, but that day isn’t as far off as one may think. This state experienced the biggest population growth in the country over the last decade, and two-thirds of it came in the Latino community. 

By the 2020 election, it’s quite possible that the state will feature more Latinos than whites and whites could comprise less than two in five Texans.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

If Mitt Romney is elected president...

...the United States could look more and more like Ireland, according to Paul Krugman. Great! Bring it on, right? 

"Ireland is Romney economics in practice," the Nobel-Prize winning economist and New York Times columnist said on the Colbert Report on Monday. "I think Ireland is America's future if Romney is president." 

"They've laid off a large fraction of their public workforce, they've slashed spending, they've had extreme austerity programs, they haven't really raised taxes on corporations or the rich at all, they have 14 percent unemployment, 30 percent youth unemployment, zero economic growth," Krugman said.

My home town of Glenview, Illinois...

...made the front page of the New York Times business section today. Hug the bear! Only trouble is, they misspelled it in the print edition: 

An aquarium is one attraction at Abt Electronics in Glenville, Ill...

Guido Westerwelle... the Foreign Minister of Germany under Chancellor Angela Merkel. One of his duties is to enforce austerity throughout the eurozone.

Figures that the only guy in Germany named "Guido" would be selected to be its enforcer.

Tim Pawlenty is coming up... along the rail in the Veepstakes on Intrade. What's up with that?

Is Florida Senator Marco Rubio just too tea party for the establishment? Is Ohio Senator Rob Portman too closely associated with W. (he was budget director for a while -- yikes!) and therefore not tea party enough? Does Pawlenty strike just the right balance between establishment and tea party? And is the former governor of Minnesota just bland enough to hide in the standard bearer's shadow? What's behind the rise on Intrade?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Another excerpt...

...from My Road Home: 

Monday July 2nd 

I come to find the only highlight of my day here is the one hour I am allowed to go outside. It is sunny and warm, and when I step outside the building, I look straight up and see the nothing but blue sky, it's never looked so perfect. I know I only have 60 minutes, so I want to soak up every second. 

I did not sleep well and this isolation is weighing heavy, and it's only my 2nd week. How will I survive this I keep asking myself. I continue to read about a book a day. I refuse to sleep the day away or take naps as most other inmates seem to do. I tell myself that would be a form of surrender to the system, to roll over (literally) feels like giving up. If I am to survive this I must never give up hope, I have to believe in myself, I must stay strong.

Who is that young...

...production assistant (off to the right) filming NYLaughs in Central Park on Saturday? He looks familiar somehow...

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Mitt Romney...

...cartoon of the day.

It was Mary McCarthy...

...who famously said about Lillian Hellman (below), "Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.' "

Remind you of anyone?

Friday, June 15, 2012

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

I thought of Jeff Foxworthy...

...and his "you might be a redneck" bit when I was at the airport last Friday.

Let me explain. After dropping my wife and son at the curb, I pulled out to head for the long-term parking lot. I had to wait, however, for another car to move and as I was sitting there I noticed Paul Begala getting out. Hey, I thought, that's Paul Begala! (For those of you who don't follow politics as closely as I do, Begala is a Democratic strategist and frequent guest on CNN.) Begala had his back to me at first, but when he turned around there was no mistaking who he was. I quickly rolled down my window and called out to him, "Hey, Paul Begala!" He looked stunned, of course. "I love watching you on TV," I said, and blurted out a few more banalities about President Obama and the Clintons. He stared back at me as if accosted by some sort of lunatic (imagine!). Muttering "thanks" or something, he walked away, but not before I could smile and give him a big "thumbs up" sign.

And as I pulled away from the curb, I thought of Jeff Foxworthy. To paraphrase the comedian: "You just might be a political junkie -- if you recognize Paul Begala from behind."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The next entry... My Road Home: 

Sunday July 1st 

Because I have been sentenced to more than one year in prison, Rikers Island will be only a temporary stop. The next shit hole will be a processing jail where I will be evaluated, tested both mentally & physically, have my hair shaven, and receive all my state prison garb which I'll have to wear for only God knows how long. After a brief (usually 3 weeks from what I understand) stay there I will eventually be bussed up north to one of the 70 prisons throughout NY state. 

Along with my family, my hope and prayer is to be assigned to a Minimum Security facility. Considering that I am a 1st time felon and my crime is of a non-violent nature, I would think I fall into that category. As I overhear the other veteran inmates talk about "going upstate" they promise me there is no comparison to Rikers. 'Like a Four Seasons Hotel compared to this dump' they stress. I pray they're right. 

A brief scuffle in the TV room earlier, punches about to be thrown until cooler heads prevailed. One idiot wanted to watch pro wrestling, the other a baseball game......wrestling got the nod. I had to go to bed, I'm sad, lonely and becoming more and more depressed. I miss my sons so much.

The cartoon of the day:

"Wanna buy a 24 ounce soda?"

Dave Boswell, Major League...

...pitcher, died at age 67. Boswell won 20 games for the Minnesota Twins in 1969, but was also known for getting into a fight with his manager, Billy Martin (my emphasis): 

Accounts differed. Martin said he had confronted Boswell at the bar after the Twins’ pitching coach, Art Fowler, reported to him that Boswell had refused to run his customary laps before the game that evening. 

Boswell then got into a fight outside the bar with Bob Allison, a Twins outfielder, who, as Martin told it, was trying to calm him. Martin said that when he got outside, Boswell hit him as well, at which point Martin’s peacemaking efforts collapsed, as did Boswell. 

Martin retaliated by landing “about five or six punches to the stomach, a couple to the head, and when he came off the wall, I hit him again,” he told The Associated Press, adding, “He was out before he hit the ground.” 

Boswell told The Minneapolis Tribune that he had indeed hit Allison, but denied going after Martin. He complained that Martin “really mauled me.” He received numerous stitches in his face, and Martin had his right hand stitched up. Boswell was fined for the incident, but no action was taken against Martin. 

Martin was fired by the Twins soon after their 1969 season. 

The Twins released Boswell in the spring of 1971, and he was picked up by the Tigers. He went on to pitch briefly for their new manager, Billy Martin.

Henry Hill, the inspiration...

...for Ray Liotta's character in the 1990 movie "Goodfellas," died at age 69. From the Times obit: 

He joined the Army at 17 and soon had a tidy sideline in surplus mess-hall steaks, which he sold to restaurants near his base at Fort Bragg, in North Carolina. 

He was discharged several years later, he wrote, when he started a brawl and, after the sheriff arrived, elected to steal the sheriff’s car.

Here are two sites...

...I'd like to recommend: Living the Map and JoeNeedsAJob.

The first is by a guy named Daniel Seddiqui who wrote 50 Jobs in 50 States. The book is pretty much what it sounds like: the author traveled around the country and worked at fifty jobs in fifty states in fifty weeks. Not only that, but he worked at jobs that were characteristic of each state. For example, he worked as a coal miner in West Virginia, a lobsterman in Maine and a cheesemaker in Wisconsin. It's a good read.

(Seddiqui lives in the Chicago area now; if you get a chance to hear him speak -- like I did -- take it! Like Garrison Keillor, he's actually a better speaker than a writer.)

As for the second site, that's my son Joe's new blog about his life after college. Like father, like son!

Ed Crotty, the song...

...of the day is for you!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Loyola Academy wide receiver...

...Charlie Dowdle (above) will join teammate Eric Bielinski at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota next year.

Oh, and Bob Welch...

...died, too, while I was gone. The former member of Fleetwood Mac made the Top 10 with this solo hit in 1977.

As long as I'm beating up...

...on poor ol' Mitt Romney, allow me to share a bit of an epiphany I may have had about the former governor of Massachusetts while traveling recently.

For a long time now, I couldn't for the life of me understand how a guy who appeared to be such an exemplary human being could run such horrible campaigns for president. After all, here was a man who had two degrees from Harvard and was a self-made gazillionaire who gave generously of his time and money to charity. In addition, Romney struck me as a near perfect family man who, with his high school sweetheart, raised five handsome and successful sons.

So how on earth, I wondered, did this guy run such an incompetent campaign for president in 2008? And why did his Republican primary opponents -- namely John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani -- hate him so much? (Think they were jealous, somehow? Remember, Romney came in third in '08. Maybe -- just maybe -- they saw him up close and didn't like what they saw.)

And why is such a seemingly upright and religious man running such a dishonest campaign in 2012? How could Romney be such a shameless liar?

And so my epiphany, I guess, is that maybe I've been looking at it backward all this time. Maybe Romney's campaigns for president -- which is all I really know about the man -- are more revealing of his true character. Maybe his career at Bain wasn't so ethical after all. Maybe it was rapacious. (How the heck would I know?) Maybe Mario Puzo was right when he famously wrote in The Godfather, that "behind every great fortune is a great crime."

Maybe the private Mitt Romney is every bit as amoral as the public Mitt Romney.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Mitt Romney may have...

...a little indigestion when he reads this opinion piece in the Times this morning, "I'm a Mormon, Not a Christian," while eating his scrambled eggs. Something tells me that the following paragraph, in particular, may hurt him just a tad with the GOP base (call it a wild guess): 

I want to be on record about this. I’m about as genuine a Mormon as you’ll find — a templegoer with a Utah pedigree and an administrative position in a congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am also emphatically not a Christian. (My emphasis.) 

So is Mitt Romney a Christian, or not? Frankly, I don't care. (I think all religions are nuts.)  But there are just a few questions I'd like to ask Mr. Romney about his faith: 

* First of all, Do you wear magic underwear? 

* Second, Do you believe the Garden of Eden was in Missouri? 

* And third, Do you believe Jesus visited North America? 

Crazy stuff? Perhaps, but those are all commonplace among Mormons. And like most Americans, I want to know: Who, exactly, is this Mitt Romney guy?

I'm still getting caught up...

...on my New York Times obits. Actors from two of my favorite 1960s sitcoms, Hogan's Heroes' Richard Dawson and Green Acres' Frank Cady, died while I was traveling. Dawson played Cpl. Newkirk in the clip above.

Cady, who played a straight man -- Mr. Drucker -- is the slide projector operator in this particular scene. But it was Mr. Kimball (above) and Mr. Haney (below) who were two of the characters that made Green Acres such a good show.

My son graduated from college...

...this past weekend and I'm so proud of him for so many reasons. (That's him in front of his frat house -- I still can't pronounce the name of the place.)

But I think what gratified me most of all was when my wife and I ran into the custodian of his building as we were walking out the back door on Saturday. Unprompted, he told us "You are blessed. He's really a nice kid."

I mentioned this later to Joe and he said, "Yeah, that's Bill. He's a good guy. When he first showed up we called him 'sir' and he said, 'Most people around  here call me bitch.' And I said, 'Well maybe we can find something in between.' We made sure to include him and his dog in the Class of '12 picture."

And I thought, anyone can brown-nose a professor or a coach or a boss. But to show respect for those who don't have power over us is a measure of one's character.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How about another excerpt...

...from Jerry Byrne's book, My Road Home? 

Friday June 29th 

In a very short time I have come to discover prison is something akin to a hate factory, with pain & suffering coming at you from all directions. The hate and sadness seems to permeate through the walls like maple syrup flowing through a tree in Vermont. Yes I am here doing the time, but the ripple effect of my crime is far-reaching. I have hurt (and let down) my loving parents along with my 5 siblings. Not to mention the two most important accomplishments of my life, my sons Brooks and Philip, ages 17 & 14. I couldn't have been more blessed, nor ask for more. 

I will certainly have a lot of time for reflection here. I grew up upper middle class & never in a million years did I ever foresee so much as a minute of prison in my future. I began my career on Wall Street in the Fall of 1980, & while I did indeed have many productive years working there, they were off-set by my destruction that inevitably would befall me; the inability to look myself in the eye and say "I can't handle this, I'm not strong enough." Surrounded by 'action' on a daily basis would prove to be too much for me. I could go years and years without the desire to make trades for my personal account, but then something (I never have understood 'what' it was) would toggle a switch in my brain, and off on a binge I would go; throwing hundreds of thousands dollars around recklessly. More often than not, on the losing side of a trade. This sort of behavior went on for years, eventually leading me down the road to divorce, and eventually prison, as I cut one too many corners.

As I was taking my seat...

...on the plane yesterday in Manchester, New Hampshire, an old guy from Wisconsin asked me if he could take a look at my newspaper. "Someone told me there's an editorial about Scott Walker!," he exclaimed almost breathlessly. When he noticed that I was reading The New York Times instead of The Wall Street Journal he slumped back in his seat. "Never mind," he muttered forlornly.

I looked over at the old codger and his wife but didn't have the heart to tell them that the tea party would be coming after seniors next. After all, to paraphrase the famous bank robber Willie Sutton, Medicare and Social Security are where the money is.

Lots and lots and...

...lots of news items, obits and random thoughts to catch up on. Should be up and running again soon...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Hanover, New Hampshire... nice this time of year. I'll be there through Monday; blogging should be non-existent.

P. S. If you really need me, check over at Lou's.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The cartoon of the day:

Ray Bradbury, author...

...of The Martian Chronicles and other science fiction, died at age 91. Chronicles was one of the very few books assigned to me in high school that I actually liked; I'll have to read it again now. 

From his obit in the Times (my emphasis): 

While Mr. Bradbury championed the space program as an adventure that humanity dared not shirk, he was content to restrict his own adventures to the realm of imagination. He lived in the same house in Los Angeles for more than 5o years, rearing four daughters with his wife, Marguerite, who died in 2003. For many years he refused to travel by plane, preferring trains, and he never learned to drive. 

Can you imagine living in Los Angeles and never learning how to drive?

I once told myself...

...(I talk to myself a lot) that politics -- at the end of the day -- is all about getting more than a dollar's worth of services from the government than every dollar paid in taxes.

(Think about it: if everyone received exactly what they paid for, there would be no need for lobbyists -- and legislators could work part-time. Really, the vast majority of what goes on in Washington is about tweaking the tax code for one's advantage.)

Yesterday, in a post about Wisconsin, I mentioned that most red states receive more from the federal government than they pay in taxes.

To check that, I referred to a piece in the Economist from last August. (Hence the map above.) According to the article, the top ten states which received more from Washington than they paid in federal taxes in the last twenty years (adjusted for the size of their economies) were:

1. Puerto Rico (U. S. territory)
2. New Mexico
3. Mississippi
4. West Virginia
5. Montana
6. Alabama
7. North Dakota
8. Maine
9. Maryland (includes D. C.)
10. Alaska

And the top ten states which received less than they paid to the federal government were:

1. Delaware
2. Minnesota
3. New Jersey
4. Illinois
5. Connecticut
6. New York
7. Ohio
8. Michigan
9. Nebraska
10. Massachusetts

As you can see from this map, six of the ten states that received more from the federal government voted for John McCain in the last election; only one of the states that received less voted for the Republican candidate for president.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What would a Mitt Romney...

...presidency look like? David Frum offers a cautionary tale (his emphasis): 

If Romney wins, the first challenge he will face is a contest with Congress to determine who will control the GOP agenda. Romney will have to exercise caution to protect himself —not only against the general electorate—but also against his own party. A President Romney will arrive in office with very few instrumentalities of power. His congressional party will believe that he rode their coat tails into office. They spent the prior two years writing an agenda for him, and they'll expect him dutifully to execute it—at least until they receive some shock from the voters that jolts them into fear of over-reach. But they won't learn that fear from President Romney.

While traveling up to Minnesota...

...and back these last few days, I arrived at three separate, tentative conclusions which I hope to elaborate on later. (And don't worry; unlike the guy above, I had both hands on the steering wheel at all times.)

The first thought I had, while driving for six and a half hours on Saturday (mostly through Wisconsin), was that the Republicans and Democrats in the Dairy State are essentially fighting over a dead body. The economy in Wisconsin, if it ever was anything special, has long been lost to history. The emergence in the Badger State of such tea partiers as Scott Walker, Ron Johnson and Paul Ryan only confirm to me that Wisconsin may have already evolved into a red state. What does that mean? Like other red states, such as Indiana, Tennessee and Mississippi, Wisconsin is gradually becoming a ward of the federal government. In other words, like most red states, it will receive more from the federal government than it sends to Washington in taxes. Stuck between prosperous Minneapolis and Chicago, Wisconsin is resembling -- more and more -- Indiana.

My next thought is that Mitt Romney, whom we all suspect to be devoid of political ideology, is only interested in becoming the head of state, not the head of government. Like Ronald Reagan, the former governor of Massachusetts would be content to be "king." But unlike the Gipper, Romney would take very little interest in the actual workings of government, content to outsource that function to the Republican "prime ministers," most notably Paul Ryan. (Mitt would most likely function simply as the Bill-Signer-in-Chief.) Like George H. W. Bush before him, Mitt Romney sees the oval office as an end in itself, not as a means to advancing any agenda. The vision, for Romney, is to be president. And that would be a nice final chapter in a long life of achievement. (But God help us!)

Lastly, what if the economy continues to drift and Romney is elected president and the Republicans take over both houses of Congress? Including the Supreme Court, the GOP would then control all three branches of the federal government. So what would that mean? Well, for starters, the Republicans would have an unchecked opportunity to carry out their agenda (which I assume would mean austerity). Would it work? Who knows? But my question is, what if it doesn't? Then what? Would the Democrats retake Congress in two years? Probably. But if austerity weakens the economy like it has in Europe, might the country turn from the extreme right to the extreme left? I doubt it; there just isn't any leftist tradition in this country. So what else could happen? A more authoritarian, right-wing government? Sounds crazy, doesn't it? (At least I hope so.)