Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The quote of the day...

...is from Paul Krugman's blog, "Romney hearts single-payer, as long as it's in Israel."

The next entry...

...in My Road Home: 

Monday July 9th 

I've just completed my third week of prison! So much of this existence is brutal; but I have come to find the weekends particularly hard. They are filled with too much time on my hands, which leads to memories of happier days. Days spent with my sons, families and friends. For the past ten years as Brooks & Philip were growing up, they played in countless town baseball, soccer, and basketball games. In all those years I missed maybe one or two of those games. What a joy I would get, sitting in the stands, watching the two of them compete, the innocence of the surroundings protecting us all at that moment. What a proud father I was. While I sit in prison I recall taking them out for a treat or lunch afterwards, I wanted to soak up every single minute of being in their space. And as I look around at my current surroundings, I miss the connotation of Saturday mornings; the errands, trips to the local coffee shop where I would hang out reading the papers, planning a busy day ahead. 

I have begun to realize that I almost have to force myself not to look back on those days. As harsh as that sounds, it's true. While yes they define my past and my days as a father, it's just too damn painful. It is almost like I have to block the boys & my family from my mind, they can't exist inside my head while I stay here, perhaps just quick little pit stops here & there. Because to dwell on the past will just make me sad and weak, and to get through this, I need to be the total opposite. I have to tell myself that kids are resilient, they are healthy, they are getting tons of support from family and friends, and someday we'll all come out of this in one piece. Maintaining a strong psyche, I realize more and more, is the key to survival here. Prison is a hate factory, and if I'm not careful it will strip me of my remaining dignity and self-esteem.

The Mitt Romney...

...cartoon of the day.

Peter WATERfield...

...is an Olympic diver from Great Britain.

Every time I see another...

...economic statistic come out (and I pretty much watch them for a living), I think to myself: Boy, is this economy horrible! And then I think to myself: And it's probably not going to get better any time soon; in fact, it'll probably get worse. And then I think to myself: President Obama should be getting crushed in the polls.

And then I click on Intrade and see that the president is still way ahead of Mitt Romney. And when I look at the electoral map I realize how difficult a path Romney has to 270 votes.

And then I think to myself: If President Obama wins reelection (which I think is still more than likely) it will be because of the weakness of the Republican candidate and his party's platform.

The GOP really needs to get its act together. A two-party system requires two parties.

A corollary to the Irish weakness...

...for alcohol is their tendency to blame the British for all their troubles.

Following on my previous post on Jaywalking with the Irish:

One eye-opening statistic would be a tally of the number of stupid and abusive rants that occur in pubs after heavy swilling -- the scary second Janus face of the Irish drinker. Experts at this sport develop invisible, hydraulically activated gauges in their heads that keep them upright when those of other nationalities would topple over hours earlier. 

A couple of decades ago, these gauges came imprinted with the get-even word "British." Whisper the B-word in the evening's declining hours and you would immediately witness gears turning in slack faces and vacant eyes burning with fresh life -- chugga-chugga bang went the internal hydraulics and out came a tirade about the last eight hundred years...

Now, as an Irish-American I don't recall too much complaining about the British. (My ancestors arrived on these shores well over a hundred years ago.) Besides, we had our own demons (the Catholic Church, our fathers, etc.) to blame for our shortcomings. But when I hear about the terrible things the British did to the Irish for eight hundred years, not only do I think Shame on the Brits! but also Shame on the Irish! You let them do all that to you for almost a millennium? Shame on you!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Got an hour to kill?

Or do you really need to watch more synchronized diving?

Here's an interesting documentary on Mitt Romney and the Mormon Church from the BBC.

Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.

Your Andy Borowitz...

...tweet of the day: 

Romney to Lech Walesa: "I strongly support unions and workers' rights as long as they're in Poland."

The license plates of the day:



and, simply,


Sunday, July 29, 2012

As someone who is nearly...

...one hundred percent Irish, I read with great interest the book Jaywalking with the Irish(Seven of my eight great-grandparents were Irish, the eighth being Scottish -- I know: same thing.

The book is by the husband of one of my grade school classmates, and it recounts their experience migrating with their three children from Connecticut to the city of Cork. It stirred up a lot of thoughts and emotions in me, not least of which was about the Irish "fondness for the drop." From the book (my emphasis):

The Irish love affair with alcohol, which had seemed like such fun in our early going, was revealing its darker side. One study indicated that the country's citizens had officially topped the Luxembourgians as the top quaffers in the world. Some pundits beat their chests, calling drink "the spiritual disease of the Irish," but mostly everybody laughed, and why wouldn't they with newspaper advertisements featuring twelve twenty-ounce pints lined up in rows above a slogan saying "Live life to the power of Guinness." God knows increasing numbers were doing their best, now that Ireland's former legions of "pioneer" adherents to the Father Mathew message of abstemiousness had largely disappeared. The Irish understandably despise the stereotype of being regarded as a nation riddled with alcoholics, and the fact is the vast majority use the drink as moderately as any other people.

Yeah, right.

...Statistics say that in the last decade the country's per capita consumption of wine has risen by 300 percent, hard cider by 500 percent, and beer by 26 percent, the latter growth sounding modest possibly because it couldn't get much higher. The average intake of the hops, barley, and malt has reached 150 liters for every citizen over fifteen, despite the fact Irish women generally eschew the stuff, and the very young and senior citizens drag down the national statistics. Even the suds-loving Germans manage to swill only an average of 127 liters, although the Czechs still rule at 163 liters of beer per head. In terms of the pure alcohol equivalent, Ireland's per capita intake has risen from five liters in 1960 to 12.3 liters today, double the U.S. rate of 6.6, and well ahead of the boisterous Aussies, who down 7.5 liters.

Now for an old recovered drunk like me, I found this to be more than a little depressing. Growing up, I remember hearing other Irish friends and relatives say on occasion that "If the Irish didn't drink, they'd rule the world." I'd usually nod along with everyone else while ordering another beer.

But, somewhere along the way, I reflected on this and thought, If that's all it would take, then why don't the Irish quit drinking? And it's still a good question.

P. S. I quit about thirty years ago. And while I don't rule the world just yet -- not even close, actually -- I can honestly say that sobriety is a lot better than drunkenness.

If you're the leader of the free world...

...you have to think very carefully before you speak. You can't just blurt out the first thing that comes into your head.

Maybe it takes more than just running a private equity firm to be president of the United States.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

President Obama is taking...

...a lot of grief from Republicans for saying that no individual businessman built the infrastructure that allowed him to succeed. 

According to Thomas Paine, above, (my emphasis): 

Separate an individual from society, and give him an island or a continent to possess, and he cannot acquire personal property. He cannot be rich. So inseparably are the means connected with the end, in all cases, that where the former do not exist the latter cannot be obtained. All accumulation, therefore, of personal property, beyond what a man's own hands produce, is derived to him by living in society; and he owes on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came. 

Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Poor Mitt Romney...

...is getting crushed on Twitter: 

Romney in London says he's not sure Brits doing a good job w/olympics. Tomorrow: thinks UK ppl have bad teeth and queen looks 'really old'

Rafalca reportedly behaving just like Mitt: "You call this hay. This ... this is not good hay. I've had lots better hay."

If you tried to dream up an ideal, soft-focus junket for Romney, you would say "oh, the Olympics, that can't go wrong."

Dear England: We don't know him.

According to Lawrence Lessig, a...

...professor at Harvard Law School, fewer than 200 of the country's 310 million residents have contributed 80 percent of all super-PAC donations.

The Mitt Romney...

...cartoon of the day.

Ross Douthat is one of...

...the New York Times's resident conservative columnists. (Stop smirking.) Although I enjoy reading him, he reminds me a little of the kid on the high school debate team who is handed a position to defend that he doesn't really believe in. Douthat sometimes seems to be trying really, really hard. (Too hard.) And after finishing his column I often think to myself, That was good, but does he really believe it? 

Lately, however, Douthat has been taking up a topic that he does seem to believe in: the decline of liberal Christianity. He writes about it here and here

In "Can Liberal Christianity be Saved?" Douthat begins by saying (my emphasis): 

In 1998, John Shelby Spong, then the reliably controversial Episcopal bishop of Newark, published a book entitled “Why Christianity Must Change or Die.” Spong was a uniquely radical figure — during his career, he dismissed almost every element of traditional Christian faith as so much superstition — but most recent leaders of the Episcopal Church have shared his premise. Thus their church has spent the last several decades changing and then changing some more, from a sedate pillar of the WASP establishment into one of the most self-consciously progressive Christian bodies in the United States. 

As a result, today the Episcopal Church looks roughly how Roman Catholicism would look if Pope Benedict XVI suddenly adopted every reform ever urged on the Vatican by liberal pundits and theologians. It still has priests and bishops, altars and stained-glass windows. But it is flexible to the point of indifference on dogma, friendly to sexual liberation in almost every form, willing to blend Christianity with other faiths, and eager to downplay theology entirely in favor of secular political causes. 

Yet instead of attracting a younger, more open-minded demographic with these changes, the Episcopal Church’s dying has proceeded apace. Last week, while the church’s House of Bishops was approving a rite to bless same-sex unions, Episcopalian church attendance figures for 2000-10 circulated in the religion blogosphere. They showed something between a decline and a collapse: In the last decade, average Sunday attendance dropped 23 percent, and not a single Episcopal diocese in the country saw churchgoing increase. 

Douthat essentially concludes that liberal denominations are doomed and that only traditional ones have any hope for success. (And his numbers support this to an extent.) 

But Douthat is only half-right. While liberal Christianity is in an irreversible decline, so are the conservative versions; they are just a generation or two behind. 

And Douthat has it backward that liberal religions have declined because they pandered to their congregations. As he writes, John Shelby Spong didn't change because the laity changed; rather the laity changed because the Episcopal clergy changed. (And they both became more secular as a result.) 

For example, I have a friend who is an ordained Episcopal minister. He once said that he and many of his fellow ministers simply lost their faith over time. And while some of them remained in the pulpit, he and others could not. (He is now a Unitarian Universalist.) 

So it may not be a case of pandering; it may be an honest evolution

And the Mainline Protestant churches that Douthat lists as being most in decline (the Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregationalist) may have just evolved first -- and from the top down

So even though the more conservative denominations appear to be hanging on for now, their days may be numbered as well. How can the Catholic Church, for example, hope to survive in its present state without ordaining enough young, conservative priests to replace the ones who are retiring? (It can't.) Maybe, instead of evolving like the Mainline Protestant ministers did, the men (and women) who would have joined the Catholic clergy in an earlier age are just taking different paths in life altogether. Maybe they are evolving before they join the clergy. And maybe -- just maybe -- the Catholic laity is evolving too, quietly, before our very eyes and will follow the example of Mainline Protestants in the years to come.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The next entry...

...in My Road Home: 

Sunday July 8th 

The dorm was raided this morning! There I was getting ready for my precious one hour of outdoor recreation, the hour that keeps me sane, keeps me going throughout the day, when all of a sudden 30-40 officers come storming in, most dressed in riot gear, with their helmets, long shields, night sticks, looking just like a group of Ninja Turtles, but a whole lot meaner. What the hell was going on? 

Well apparently it all stemmed from 1 idiotic inmate the night before who had put on such a scene; screaming, cursing at the night guard, refusing to shut up for a solid hour. As they do I guess, the night CO recorded all of this in his daily log, so when the Sergeant came around to inspect the book, well that's all he needed to see. Game over for this dude, and the rest of us as well. Time to show these inmates who is really in charge. What struck me as weird was that none of these other bad asses in the room bothered to challenge this lunatic. No one yelled over, telling him to sit the fuck down or something to that effect. And believe me, there are some hard core dudes living here who take no shit from anyone. Because even a rookie like me knew there would be consequences for his actions. 

Once the Ninja Turtles took charge of the room, we were all ordered to strip naked, our clothes then tossed in every direction. Then each man's bed was stripped, lockers overturned, food spilled every which way. There was shit thrown about the entire room. If contraband was found on anyone, that would be a bonus for the guards, but the main goal was simple shock & awe. To create the largest mess and headache for us. The raid was a particular blow for me, not only did I never get my hour of rec, my sneakers were confiscated. They were the Nike Air Max 360's. The problem is they had the tiny plastic bubble soles along the base of the shoe. Big deal, right? Well the guard claimed they could be used to insert and hide various drugs. What? In addition, they had a trace of red on them, which is a gang color, so red is abolished throughout Rikers. I'm so pissed as they were my running shoes. Now I don't have a pair. Of any shoe! So I was given a pair of orange slip-ons (Pataki's they call them, after the former NY State Governor who cracked down on prison reform) which are absolutely repulsive & make me look like a convict more than ever.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

"I can help, but first you must admit you have a problem!"

Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk...

...Indian born in 1656, is about to be the first Native American canonized a saint by the Catholic Church. 

According to a story in the Times today, however, some American Indians "doubt the truthfulness of her story as told by the church." 

I'll let you be the judge (my emphasis): 

According to the Jesuits who documented her life, Kateri was born in what is now Auriesville, N.Y., on the southern bank of the Mohawk River, about 40 miles west of Albany. When she was 4, a smallpox epidemic killed her Algonquin Christian mother and Mohawk-warrior father. The disease also badly scarred her face and impaired her eyesight, earning her the name Tekakwitha, which means, “she who bumps into things.” At age 10, after war destroyed her birth village, she moved with her uncle’s family to a long house on the other side of the river. 

In contact with missionaries as a teenager, she decided to become a Catholic, despite opposition from her clan and an impending arranged marriage. After she was baptized at age 20, she fled to a Catholic Indian settlement in what is now Canada. There, she worked with the sick, took a vow of perpetual virginity, and began practicing self-mortification, which included praying for hours outdoors, on her knees, during the winter. She became ill, and died at 24. 

It was a simple life, marked by devotion. But after her death, Jesuits and others said they saw miraculous signs. The pockmarks on her body disappeared, they said. Prayers seeking her assistance were followed by healing. 

In 1880, Catholics began petitioning the Vatican to declare Kateri a saint, and 100 years later, the Vatican certified the first miracle attributed to her intercession. Last year, the Vatican credited her with aiding in the healing of a flesh-eating infection in an American Indian boy in Washington State, the second miracle that was required for canonization. 

Kateri performed her first miracle in 1980, three hundred years after she died? What the heck was she waiting for? And her second, and qualifying, miracle wasn't performed until 2011? 

Now, I'm not an expert on such things, but wouldn't you at least expect a miracle to be performed in a timely manner?

Sherman Hemsley, the star of...

...the 1970s sitcom The Jeffersons, died at age 74. I used to watch the show, which was a spinoff from All in the Family, and was surprised to read this (my emphasis): 

“The Jeffersons” made its debut in January 1975; in the opening episode, George, the owner of a successful cleaning business; his wife, whom he called Weezy (played by Isabel Sanford, who was 20 years Mr. Hemsley’s senior); and their son, Lionel (Mike Evans), leave Queens and, in the words of the show’s memorable theme song, are “movin’ on up” to Manhattan’s fashionable Upper East Side — to “a deluxe apartment in the sky.”

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The quote of the day...

...is as relevant now as it was in the 1950s: 

“If they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them.” 

-Adlai Stevenson.

The Republican Party's biggest flake*...

...has just endorsed Representative Jeff Flake for the United States Senate from Arizona. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin said Flake is "not afraid to 'go rogue.' "

Flake's GOP primary opponent, businessman Wil Cardon, said the endorsement was "further proof of politicians rallying around their friend, career politician Jeff Flake."

Things are getting curiouser and curiouser.

* Okay; second biggest flake.

The Times had a piece yesterday...

...about voter suppression, not by the Republicans in Florida or Pennsylvania, but by ... the Obama campaign. Huh? 

From the piece (my emphasis): 

[President Obama] is running a two-track campaign. One track of his re-election drive seeks to boost turnout among core liberal groups; the other aims to suppress turnout and minimize his margin of defeat in the most hostile segment of the electorate, whites without college degrees. 

A central goal of the anti-Romney commercials is to cross-pressure these whites. Persuading more than 28 percent of them to vote for Obama is a tough sell, but the Obama campaign can try to make the alternative, voting for Romney, equally unacceptable. Conflicted voters, especially those holding negative views of both candidates, are likely to skip voting altogether. 

Then, this morning I read this from John Heilemann: 

The Obamans counter that their polling and focus-grouping show that perceptions of Romney as an out-of-touch plutocrat who doesn’t share the values or understand the struggles of ordinary ­voters—and, worse, as an evasive shape-shifter with something to hide—are sinking in and hardening in a way that will be difficult for their rival to shake come the fall. 

And I thought back to my experience knocking on doors for the Obama campaign in Iowa last weekend. I was struck by how many whites without college degrees (which I determined by the number of tattoos they had) answered the door by saying something like, "I don't like either of them." 

It didn't hit me at the time, but after reading these two pieces, I wonder if the Obama campaign is having its desired effect: persuading whites without college degrees that a Mitt Romney presidency wouldn't be any better than a Barack Obama one.

The yield on the benchmark...

...10-year U. S. Treasury note is now trading at about 1.5%.

Do you think we'll ever wonder some day, Why the devil didn't we borrow more back then to fix our crumbling infrastructure?

Not one, but...

Hat tip: Andrew Bernstein

Betsey Stevenson and...

...Justin Wolfers are a couple of economists at the University of Pennsylvania. They have a piece in Bloomberg this morning that argues that there is actually a "remarkable consensus among mainstream economists on most major macroeconomic issues."  

"The debate in Washington," they assert, "is phony. It's manufactured. And it's entirely political." 

For example (my emphasis): 

The standard Republican talking point is that [the stimulus] failed, meaning it didn't reduce unemployment. Yet in a survey of leading economists conducted by the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, 92 percent agreed that the stimulus succeeded in reducing the jobless rate. 


How about the oft-cited Republican claim that tax cuts will boost the economy so much that they will pay for themselves? It's an idea born as a sketch on a restaurant napkin by conservative economist Art Laffer. Perhaps when the top tax rate was 91 percent, the idea was plausible. Today, it's a fantasy. The Booth poll couldn't find a single economist who believed that cutting taxes today will lead to higher government revenue -- even if we lower only the top tax rate. 

There's more, and it would be a good article to show your Fox News-watching relatives at the next family gathering. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

The license plates of the weekend:


XCOOS ME, and 

SWAMPY. Swampy?

If Mitt Romney defeats...

...President Obama in November, it will be because he outspent him, not because he out-organized him. (And for the first time in history, the challenger is expected to outspend the incumbent.)

That was the main takeaway I had from my experience knocking on doors for the Obama campaign in Iowa on Saturday.

That, and the observation that everyone in Davenport must own a dog. (A crazed dachshund, like the one above, even chased me half-way down the street at one point. Awright, already! So vote for Romney; see if I care!)

Other than that, the trip was unremarkable.

Eight or nine of us assembled at the Democratic Party headquarters in Evanston at eight o'clock on Saturday morning. I was grouped with three other college students and we drove to HQ in Davenport, about three hours away. Ben, a tall history / secondary ed major at Northeastern, owned the car. Since I prefer to drive, I took the wheel, and Ben sat in the passenger seat. In the back were two undergrads from Northwestern: Ani, an Indian guy from Houston, and Emilia, a journalism student from Los Angeles. I spent the whole day with these three and I came away very impressed; they were all intelligent, well-informed and pleasant. I really enjoyed their company. And, they were incredibly patient and polite to the old guy in the front seat.

We arrived in Davenport a little after twelve and got our marching orders from the field organizer. After a quick bite at a Wendy's we were off to our canvassing neighborhood. We split into two pairs; I went with Ani. (A political junkie, I learned by the end of the day that there isn't too much about American politics that this young junior doesn't know.) Each group hit about forty or so houses; they were all identified as likely Democratic voters. The challenge here is to make sure they turn out. To this effort, we handed out a number of Vote By Mail forms that allow individuals to cast their ballots ahead of election day. We'd been told this would be important.

The four of us finished at around 4:30, just as it began to rain slightly. Ani, who had been talking about some chain called Pizza Ranch since we'd left Evanston, rallied the troops for an early dinner. The name of the place rang a bell with me; I seem to remember Rick Santorum spending a lot of time there during the Iowa caucuses. According to Wikipedia:

Pizza Ranch is a Christian based company. This can be seen on their mission / vision posters in their restaurants and on their Web site. The Pizza Ranch vision is "To glorify God by positively impacting the world we live in."

That may be, but all I know is that when I went up to the register to pay for the buffet -- yes, a pizza buffet -- the young woman looked at me, looked down and then looked up at me again.

Yeah, what is it?

"Sixty-five?" she said sheepishly.


"Uh, no. But that's okay; everyone asks me that."

The three students all looked at me as if to say, "You're not sixty-five?"

After loading up on pizza of all kinds -- including dessert pizza -- we got back in the car for the return trip to Chicago. (As Ben described it at the beginning of the trip, it was a college car. In other words, when I went to open the driver's side door from the inside I found out that the handle was broken off. I had to roll the window down, reach out and open it from the outside -- excellent!)

About an hour outside of Chicago, Ben noticed that the car was near empty. We made it to a gas station on fumes, somehow, and filled it up. I offered to spring for it since I was the only one gainfully employed, but the others wouldn't hear of it. They insisted on chipping in. As I said, they were three really nice kids.

That's probably the only canvassing trip I'll take this year. My weekends between now and November are starting to fill up. But I was very impressed with the people I met on Saturday and the Obama campaign in general. They seem  really well organized.

I just can't see any of Mitt Romney's supporters having that much dedication.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I'll be in Davenport, Iowa...

...today knocking on doors for the Obama campaign. While Mitt Romney is expected to outspend the president, the Obama people claim they still have the advantage due to their superior "ground game."

We'll see.

Friday, July 20, 2012

My eighth grade reunion...

...is this Sunday, and I'm not saying how many years it's been. (Forty.) It's in New Jersey (on the shore, no less) so I won't be in attendance. But it turns out that another member of my class has a book out, Jaywalking With the Irish, and I just started reading it. Actually, it was written by her husband, David Monagan, but it's about their family's reverse migration to Ireland. In the year 2000, Monagan and his wife Jamie, nee Donnelly, chucked their all-American life in Connecticut and moved with their three kids to Cork. Cool, huh?

Here's an excerpt:

Ireland had always promised a separate reality, a place where we could let down our guard and slide into the amble of conversation, both feeling like we somehow just fit. This conceit may have been no more than a holiday-steeped dream, but its sway held. We contemplated moving to certain seashore towns closer to home, but they seemed too similar to what we already had, promising more of the same dull earnestness and fastidiously programmed lives that we wanted to escape, if only for one more fling at youth or freedom before it was too late. One night in March we looked at each other and said let's finally do it; let's embrace one great adventure before the children grow any older and our next rendezvous with excitement will have to be postponed to our denture days.

Sylvia Woods, the owner of...

...Sylvia's, the Harlem soul-food restaurant, died at age 86. (I went there once in the late 1980s.) 

A native of South Carolina (my emphasis): 

Sylvia met her future husband, Herbert Deward Woods, when she was 11 and he was 12 and both were working in the fields, picking beans under the blazing sun. 

As a teenager, Sylvia moved to New York to join her mother, who had gone there for work. She found work herself, in a hat factory in Queens. In 1944, she married Mr. Woods, who had come North for her. 

In the 1950s, Ms. Woods began work as a waitress at Johnson’s Luncheonette in Harlem; because she had grown up poor in the Jim Crow era, the day she first set foot in the place was the first time she had been inside a restaurant anywhere. 

In 1962, with help from her mother, who mortgaged the family farm, Ms. Woods bought the luncheonette and renamed it Sylvia’s. Three decades ago, Gael Greene, the food critic of New York magazine, wrote a laudatory article on Sylvia’s, sealing the restaurant’s success.

Tom Davis, one half of the...

...comedy team Franken and Davis, died at age 59. (I'm surprised there aren't more clips of them on YouTube; they were really funny.) From the New York Times obit (my emphasis): 

In 1975, Mr. Davis, brilliant at improvisational comedy, and Mr. Franken, a whiz at plotting funny sequences, became two of the first writers on a new show called “Saturday Night Live,” which has lasted 37 years. (The two should actually be called one of the show’s first writers: they accepted a single salary of $350 a week. Each, singly, was called “the guys.”) 

Actually, the show was originally called NBC's Saturday Night. Saturday Night Live, a variety show hosted by, of all people, Howard Cosell, also debuted in 1975. It lasted about six months.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The tweet of the day:

Remember when that black guy killed that white guy and Fox News did a one-hour interview with him? Me neither.

Time for another excerpt...

...from My Road Home. 

Saturday July 7th 

Remember the clothes vultures I mentioned a few days ago? Well Mike & I turned into "bed vultures" early this morning. Let me explain. Both of our cots had been in the middle of this long, windowless, dull room. The noise level seemed to be ground zero right where we were. So at 3:30 a.m. when we saw two guys getting the nod signaling they were departing Rikers (Steve was one of them, serving 2-4 for hitting his next door neighbor over the head with a brick, and John sentenced 6-9 years for massive credit card fraud) and whose beds were along the coveted wall area, (no one behind you & quieter) we sprang into action. Quickly we switched our mattresses & sheets with theirs, and just like that, we had moved into a more desirable (quieter?) neighborhood. And to think, a mere week ago I would never have had the nerve to make such a move. Hopefully tonight I can finally get some sleep.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Don't look now, but...

...Tim Pawlenty just passed Rob Portman in the Veepstakes on Intrade.

I heard John Heilemann say the other day that Portman, who served as George W. Bush's budget director, may be too closely associated with the ancien regime for the tea party wing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

William Raspberry, a columnist...

...for the Washington Post, died at age 76. His obit in the Times isn't all that remarkable, except for this one thing that you don't often see about someone who lived well into his eighth decade (my emphasis): 

Mr. Raspberry married Sondra Patricia Dodson in 1966. Besides his wife, he is survived by his mother, who is 106; two daughters, Patricia Raspberry and Angela Raspberry Jackson; a son, Mark; a foster son, Reginald Harrison; a sister; and a brother. 

Now, losing a child is a terrible thing. But, I guess once you've hit the century mark, you have to at least brace yourself for the possibility

I wonder if my mom will outlive me.

I was a Boy Scout leader...

...for many years, and even wore the full uniform (loved it!) and went to summer camp in Wisconsin with my son two years in a row. And, every once in a while, I'd try to cause trouble around the campfire (who, me?) by asking the other leaders about the Scouts' position on the three "G"s: girls, gays and the godless. And, to my (partial) disappointment, nobody ever took the bait: 

"Look, Mike, we all agree with you. One of the best scouts we ever had in this troop was gay. None of us cared. It's all because of 'national.' " 

National? They meant the national headquarters in Irving, Texas. 

I'm reminded of all this by a story in the Times this morning, "Boy Scouts to Continue Excluding Gay People": 

The Boy Scouts of America has reaffirmed its longtime policy of barring openly gay boys from membership and gay or lesbian adults from serving as leaders. The decision, announced on Tuesday, came after what the organization described as a wide-ranging internal review, and despite public protests. 

What the article doesn't say is what my fellow Scout leaders also told me around the campfire: it's all about the Mormon Church. Huh? You see, they said, Mormons make up the single-largest group within the Scouts and they've told national, in no uncertain terms, that if they change the policy on gays, we're outta here. 

"It's really about numbers, Mike. National doesn't want to lose all those Mormon kids and their dollars. So they keep the policy on gays and we just ignore it." 


I wrote a post yesterday...

...in which I said that the term "community organizer" in Republican circles means "black troublemaker." 

And I struggled with that. 

For the rest of the day, I thought to myself, Should I have used the word "black?" Should I take that out of there? Do I sound like some crank? (Don't answer that last one.) 

I decided to leave it in. 

Then, later in the day, I heard that Romney surrogate John Sununu, above, said this about President Obama (my emphasis): 

"He has no idea how the American system functions, and we shouldn't be surprised about that, because he spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent the next set of years in Indonesia, another set of years in Indonesia," he said. "And, frankly, when he came to the U.S. he worked as a community organizer, which is a socialized structure, and then got into politics in Chicago." 

(Socialized structure? What the heck is he talking about?)

Look: as the title of this blog indicates, I'm a white guy. What's more, I've been a white guy all my life. And I know how white people talk about black people when they're not around. In the white suburban world in which I live, the term "community organizer" is a derogatory one. It doesn't mean, some guy who graduated from an Ivy League school who chose to go into the city to try and make people's lives better instead of taking a job on Wall Street. No, it means, some black guy who went into the ghetto to stir up trouble. 

Or, as my father used to say, a militant, as in, "Is he a militant?" 

"No, Dad, he's one of the good ones." 

"Oh, okay." 

So don't kid yourself. When you hear some old white guy like Sununu say -- usually with a smirk -- that somebody was a "community organizer," it really does mean "black troublemaker." 


By the way, the Developing Communities Project is a faith-based community organization originally comprising eight Catholic parishes on Chicago's South Side. It was organized in 1984 in response to the hardships caused by lay-offs and plant closings in the area. When President Obama worked there he helped set up a job training program, a college preparatory tutoring program and a tenants' rights organization in Altgeld Gardens, a public housing project. 


The quote of the day...

...is from a piece in Politico (my emphasis): 

Mitt Romney's tax returns had nothing to do with Sen. John McCain's decision to choose Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008, according to the Arizona Republican, saying he chose the former Alaska governor because she was a "better candidate." 

Asked why he chose not to go with Romney, McCain said: "Oh come on, because we thought that Sarah Palin was the better candidate. Why did we not take [Tim] Pawlenty, why did we not take any of the other 10 other people. Why didn’t I? Because we had a better candidate, the same way with all the others. ... Come on, why? That’s a stupid question."

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Stephen Covey, the author of...

...The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Restoring the Character Ethic, died at age 79. 

If there had been an eighth habit, it may have been multitasking (my emphasis): 

Mr. Covey hated to waste time. He made copies of documents and kept them in briefcases under his desk in case he lost an original. And he liked to do more than one thing at a time. Fortune reported that he was once seen at a gym lying on the floor of the shower room being sprayed by three shower heads while he brushed his teeth and shaved.

Remember when President Obama...

...had to produce his birth certificate to prove that he was born in the United States? That's right; for anyone who slept through it all, there had been some doubt among Republicans that the president of the United States was even a citizen.

This was after, of course, Republicans called the president a "socialist," a "Marxist," a "Muslim," a "follower of Saul Alinsky," and even -- gasp! -- a "community organizer." (That last one is actually true; but in Republican circles it means "black troublemaker.")

President Obama was also said to have gone on an "apology tour," "didn't understand America," and wanted to turn the U. S. into some sort of European-style socialist welfare state. (If only.) And this was either before, or after, he tried to raise the price of gasoline to wean the U. S. off fossil fuels. Remember that one?

Oh, and the Affordable Care Act -- in case you forgot -- was a "government takeover of health care." (Never mind that it was based on a Republican bill from the 1990s.)

"Now wait a minute," you might be saying, "Not all Republicans made those charges." No, but not one of the GOP elder statesmen -- not John McCain, not Lamar Alexander, not even Richard Lugar (that guy who just lost a primary in Indiana for being too moderate) -- stood up and said, "Hey, cut out all this nonsense! The president is a citizen and that's that!"

Not one.

Last week the Obama campaign hit back. They called on Mitt Romney to release more of his tax returns and also asked the former governor of Massachusetts exactly when he left Bain Capital. Was it 1999, as he has stated, or was it 2002, as it appears on SEC documents? It's a simple question, really; I can tell you the year (and even the month) that I left every one of my jobs. And Romney only had one.

So, after all this, do you know what the Republican candidate for president's response was?

He wants an apology.

I think that's what my Jewish friends call "chutzpah."

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Mitt Romney is expected...

...to announce his choice for running mate any day now, and it's important to remember -- amid all the noise -- that only two individuals, Tim Pawlenty and Rob Portman -- are in double digits on Intrade.

Donald Sobol, the creator of...

...Encyclopedia Brown, died at age 87.

The first book in the series, Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective (above), was published in 1963. Sobol ended up writing 28 in all.

I think I read one or two (or a dozen) of these to my boys when they were growing up.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Times has an article...

...today about an annual pageant taking place this week in upstate New York (all emphasis mine): 

This is the 75th year that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been staging the Hill Cumorah Pageant, at the very place where, according to the church’s history, Joseph Smith found the golden plates on which were written the Book of Mormon in the 1820s. 

And I thought to myself, whatever happened to those golden plates, anyway? From the official LDS Web site: 

When some people interested in the Book of Mormon ask to see the golden plates, they are disappointed to learn that Joseph returned them to Moroni. When told that several witnesses did see and handle them, they ask, "What did they look like?" 

Joseph Smith was careful to obey the command from the Lord that he not show the plates to others. As he translated the Book of Mormon, Joseph learned that special witnesses would be called to bear testimony of the ancient record written on metal plates. He was quite relieved when he was permitted to show the plates to several witnesses. Those witnesses were then commanded to testify of their experience to others and to write their testimonies concerning the Book of Mormon. 

Come on! You can't produce the plates? Even the Catholic Church has the original Shroud of Turin!

Life imitates art...

...at The New Yorker this week.

Remember the Seinfeld episode, above, when Elaine drew a cartoon of a pig at a complaint window? Check out this week's entry for the magazine's Caption Contest, below:

You've heard of...

..."Tricky Dick" Nixon?

How about "Slick Willie" Clinton?

Well, meet "Slippery Willard" Romney.