Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday's football results:

Maine South quarterback Matt Alviti.
Dallas Jesuit 30, Loyola 29
Ramblers are now 1-1.

Glenbrook South 45, Metea Valley 16
Titans are also 1-1.

Cary-Grove 21, Lake Zurich 6
The undefeated Trojans travel to Crystal Lake South next Friday to avenge last year's 10-7 loss -- and I'll be there.

Lincoln-Way East 20, Montini 14
The undefeated Griffins will be at Lockport next week.

Marist 49, Brother Rice 35
The undefeated Red Hawks travel to Nazareth next Saturday -- and I'll be there. The Roadrunners defeated Marist last year, 33-20.

The Game of the Week:

Maine South 19, Wheaton Warrenville South 13
Tigers started out last year, 0-2, before finishing as Class 7A runners up.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Today's reality check...

...is courtesy of Paul Krugman. In regard to Paul Ryan's plan to "reform" Medicare by issuing vouchers to everyone currently under the age of 55 (my emphasis):

Beyond that, the promise of unchanged benefits for Americans of a certain age just isn’t credible. Think about the political dynamics that would arise once someone born in 1956 still received full Medicare while someone born in 1959 couldn’t afford decent coverage. Do you really think that would be a stable situation? For sure, it would unleash political warfare between the cohorts — and the odds are high that older cohorts would soon find their alleged guarantees snatched away.

Apparently, Paul Ryan's speech...

...to the Republican convention was too disingenuous for even -- are you ready for this? -- Fox News. (Yes, you read that correctly.) From a piece yesterday by Sally Kohn (my emphasis): 

On the other hand, to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech. On this measure, while it was  Romney who ran the Olympics, Ryan earned the gold. 

The good news is that the Romney-Ryan campaign has likely created dozens of new jobs among the legions of additional fact checkers that media outlets are rushing to hire to sift through the mountain of cow dung that flowed from Ryan’s mouth. Said fact checkers have already condemned certain arguments that Ryan still irresponsibly repeated. 
 ___ 

Elections should be about competing based on your record in the past and your vision for the future, not competing to see who can get away with the most lies and distortions without voters noticing or bother to care. Both parties should hold themselves to that standard. Republicans should be ashamed that there was even one misrepresentation in Ryan’s speech but sadly, there were many.

Somebody pinch me.

The chart of the day...

...tells an interesting story about private vs. public payrolls.

(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.)

And the tweet of the night...

...about Mitt Romney's speech:


Romney blasts Obama for having no private-sector experience before being president. In other news Paul Ryan just slumped lower in his chair.

The best tweet I saw...

...about Clint Eastwood's unusual speech last night was from Jamelle Bouie:


This is a perfect representation of the campaign: an old white man arguing with an imaginary Barack Obama.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

I'll be at the Friendly Confines...

...of Wrigley Field this afternoon. We have box seats in the upper deck of the infield -- my favorite place to sit -- with a view similar to the one above. The Cubbies are playing the Milwaukee Brewers, but really, who cares? It's just fun to be out at the ol' ballpark!

Matt Miller of the Washington Post...

...is rapidly becoming one of my favorite pundits. His column today is excellent (my emphasis):

Though the analogy isn’t precise, Mitt Romney still feels like the Manchurian candidate in this race, the Massachusetts moderate disguised as a staunch conservative who wins the GOP nomination before he is revealed. I’m just speculating — at this point, no one can have any idea what Romney really thinks about anything — but it’s possible that what follows is the acceptance speech in Mitt’s head that he obviously can’t deliver:


“My fellow Republicans — boy, you sure make it tough on a guy! I knew it would be hard to run the gauntlet of a Republican primary process. But knowing you’ll have to twist yourself into a pretzel and actually doing it are two very different things...

Read the rest of it here.

Steve Franken, who played...

...a young Mitt Romney "the wealthy and snobbish Chatsworth Osborne Jr. on the hit sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis," died at age 80.

I always thought my friend Kevin...

...was the master of the backhanded compliment. (He used to swell with pride when he said that "mine get you on the train ride home.") But after hearing Mike Huckabee's endorsement of Mitt Romney the other day, I'm not so sure:

"If you've just been diagnosed with a brain tumor, you honestly don't care if your neurosurgeon is a jerk."

The best reason to watch...

...the Republican convention (the only reason) is to try to discern who will be the party's front-runner in 2016. Paul Ryan? Chris Christie? Mike Huckabee? Rick Santorum? Or someone else entirely, like Jeb Bush?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The quote of the day...

...is from Chris Cillizza's blog (my emphasis):

...Obama remains over 50 percent in polling averages in every state he won in 2008 save two. If Obama carried all of his 2008 states with the exception of North Carolina and Indiana, he would be re-elected with ease.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Reality check: President Obama is...

...not responsible for the vast majority of the federal debt, no matter what the Republicans in Tampa say this week.

He just isn't.

Sorry.

(Ezra Klein reprinted the graph above in his blog yesterday.)

The biggest games of Week Two...

...in the Chicago area (and beyond) will be on Friday. (All teams are undefeated unless otherwise noted.)

Lake Zurich at Cary-Grove (The Trojans bested Lake Zurich last year, 10-7);

Lincoln-Way East at Montini (This may be the first meeting ever between the two powerhouses);

Loyola vs. Dallas Jesuit (Texas) in Dublin, Ireland (The season opener for the Rangers);

Marist at Brother Rice (The Crusaders defeated Marist last year, 34-31); and

The Game of the Week:

Maine South at Wheaton Warrenville South, 0-1 (The Tigers will be out to avenge last year's loss to Matt Alviti, above, and Maine South, 13-9).

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mike Lofgren writes...

...in the American Conservative -- of all places -- that the rich are seceding from the U.S. It's a truly disturbing piece (my emphasis): 

I do not mean secession by physical withdrawal from the territory of the state, although that happens from time to time—for example, Erik Prince, who was born into a fortune, is related to the even bigger Amway fortune, and made yet another fortune as CEO of the mercenary-for-hire firm Blackwater, moved his company (renamed Xe) to the United Arab Emirates in 2011. What I mean by secession is a withdrawal into enclaves, an internal immigration, whereby the rich disconnect themselves from the civic life of the nation and from any concern about its well being except as a place to extract loot. 

Our plutocracy now lives like the British in colonial India: in the place and ruling it, but not of it. If one can afford private security, public safety is of no concern; if one owns a Gulfstream jet, crumbling bridges cause less apprehension—and viable public transportation doesn’t even show up on the radar screen. With private doctors on call and a chartered plane to get to the Mayo Clinic, why worry about Medicare? 
___ 

But millions of Americans who do not pay federal income taxes do pay federal payroll taxes. These taxes are regressive, and the dirty little secret is that over the last several decades they have made up a greater and greater share of federal revenues. In 1950, payroll and other federal retirement contributions constituted 10.9 percent of all federal revenues. By 2007, the last “normal” economic year before federal revenues began falling, they made up 33.9 percent. By contrast, corporate income taxes were 26.4 percent of federal revenues in 1950. By 2007 they had fallen to 14.4 percent. So who has skin in the game?

The latest Republican nut case...

...is a judge from Lubbock, Texas, by the unfortunate name of Tom Head. From an article in the Times (my emphasis): 

A few days before, the county’s top elected official, County Judge Tom Head, made an appearance on a local television station to generate support for the tax increase. He said he was expecting civil unrest if President Obama is re-elected, and that the president would send United Nations forces into Lubbock, population 233,740, to stop any uprising. 

“He is going to try to hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the U.N.,” Mr. Head said on Fox 34 last week. “O.K., what’s going to happen when that happens? I’m thinking worst-case scenario: civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war, maybe. And we’re not talking just a few riots here and demonstrations. We’re talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms and get rid of the guy.” 

Now, I know what you're thinking: It's a little hard to take a guy seriously who wears a Bugs Bunny tie in public. 

But don't worry, Judge Head maintains his statements were "taken out of context." Uh huh.

One Lubbock resident, Grace Rogers, suggests "There is an element in this city that is so anti-Obama that I think they have lost grip a little bit on reality." 

Ms. Rogers, I think you could say that about a lot of today's Republicans.  

Here are the Top Ten teams...

...in Illinois high school football, according to the three main rankings. (All teams are undefeated unless otherwise noted.)

MaxPreps:

1. Bolingbrook
2. Prairie Ridge
3. Rockford Boylan
4. Loyola
5. Glenbard West
6. Montini
7. Wheaton North
8. Lincoln-Way East
9. Aurora Christian
10. Batavia

Chicago Sun-Times:

1. Maine South
2. Bolingbrook
3. Glenbard West
4. Mount Carmel
5. Loyola
6. Wheaton Warrenville South (0-1)
7. Montini
8. Marist
9. Stevenson
10. Wheaton North

Chicago Tribune:

1. Bolingbrook
2. Maine South
3. Mount Carmel
4. Loyola
5. Glenbard West
6. Marist
7. Montini
8. Wheaton Warrenville South (0-1)
9. Lincoln-Way East
10. Wheaton North

Why did I list only ten? Why not? (Easier to focus.)

There are only five teams common to all rankings: Bolingbrook, Loyola, Glenbard West, Montini and Wheaton North.

How would I rank them? I'm not sure; but for starters, I'd certainly have Bolingbrook at the top. Last year's 8A champs are No. 1 until proven otherwise. (I think the Sun-Times is just being difficult.)

Prairie Ridge, Loyola, Montini, Mount Carmel, Aurora Christian (?), Maine South, Stevenson and possibly Marist may be all a tad overrated in one poll or another.

But Rockford Boylan, Glenbard West, Wheaton North, Lincoln-Way East, Batavia and Wheaton Warrenville South are all somewhat fairly ranked.

As I mentioned last week, rankings this early in the season are probably meaningless. But they're fun to talk about.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:


"Now should we add something at the end about how wise we are and therefore nothing in here should ever be changed?"

Terry "Tubesteak" Tracy, the model for...

...the Big Kahuna in the Gidget stories, died at age 77.

When I first saw his obit in the Times this morning I thought to myself, Tracy, huh? No relation. But after reading it, I'm not so sure (my emphasis):

Terry Tracy, who as an easygoing, fun-loving surfer inspired the "Gidget" movies and television series and helped make surfing an international sport — in the process becoming the embodiment of the cool alternative lifestyle of sunglass-wearing beach bums.

Uninterested in a 9-to-5 routine, Mr. Tracy quit his job at his family’s savings and loan in the mid-1950s and built himself a shack on Malibu Beach. He used discarded lumber for the frame and palm fronds for the walls and furnished it with a couch without legs. For two summers the shack became the hub for a small tribe of young men who loved surfing — and beach parties — as much as he did. They called themselves the “pit crew.”

Mr. Tracy himself came to represent an idealized time when the beach and its denizens were untamed. He amplified that persona over the years by writing about the wild beach parties of his era. In an interview, Ms. Kohner, now Katherine Zuckerman, said Mr. Tracy “personified the Big Kahuna’s mellow style and his love of the ocean.”

Sound familiar?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Two items that I DIDN'T expect...

...to see in this morning's New York Times were about Basques in Idaho (my emphasis):

...remnants of the Basque culture are evident throughout Idaho, especially in Boise, where roughly 15,000 people of Basque descent still live, the highest concentration outside Europe. The city’s mayor, David H. Bieter, spent part of his youth in the Basque Country and is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the only Basque-speaking mayor in the United States

And the headline:
Trial to Begin for 16 Members of Amish Group Charged in Beard-Cutting Attacks.

The Onion, maybe, but not the Times.

I'm sure you've seen this picture...

...many times. It's of a Parisian reacting to the news of the French surrender to the Germans in World War II.

What does that have to do with anything?

I think I had a bit of an "Aha!" moment the other night when my son and I were riding bikes after dinner.

At various times during our ride, we came upon freshly paved roads that were really nice. And I thought to myself, I wonder if these were repaved as part of the president's stimulus bill? Because, again, they're really nice!

And as I was thinking that, I passed a few homeowners who looked to me like typical Obama-haters. How can I tell? Well, for starters, they were middle-aged white suburbanites. (That's usually a good sign -- or a bad one.) And I thought to myself, I wonder if these people appreciate these nice roads? And the president who had them repaved?

And then -- like a light bulb! -- it occurred to me, Hell no! They hate this president! Why? Well, among other things (like race), it has to do with that French man in the picture above.

Let me explain.

The Americans bailed out the French twice in the last century, during World Wars I and II. And yet, the French seem so ungrateful for our help. And Americans, for the life of us, can't understand why. (And I think this is why the average American, generally, has contempt for all things French.)

The problem is that the French know the Americans bailed them out -- and they hate us for it. Why? Because they didn't want the help (even if they knew, at some level, that they needed it). The French wanted to defeat the Germans by themselves. (Every adult wants to think of himself as self-sufficient.) And so the French hate Americans for not allowing them to do so.

And I think it's the same with the average American and the stimulus (and the Obama administration in general). Americans are a hardy lot; libertarianism is one of the strongest and most fundamental strains in this country. (Evangelical Christianity is another.) Americans want to think of themselves as self-reliant, that they did everything themselves -- without any help from the -- ugh! -- government (or anyone else). It's part of our national mythology. And it's also why the president's words, "You didn't build that," struck such a chord with Republicans (even if it was taken out of context).

So the French hate America for helping them during the wars, and Americans hate the government for helping them during this recession.

(Now all I have to figure out is why that woman in the above picture appears to be clapping.)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Economist asks...

..."So, Mitt, What Do You Really Believe?" 

From the piece (my emphasis):

When Mitt Romney was governor of liberal Massachusetts, he supported abortion, gun control, tackling climate change and a requirement that everyone should buy health insurance, backed up with generous subsidies for those who could not afford it. Now, as he prepares to fly to Tampa to accept the Republican Party’s nomination for president on August 30th, he opposes all those things. A year ago he favoured keeping income taxes at their current levels; now he wants to slash them for everybody, with the rate falling from 35% to 28% for the richest Americans.
___

But competence is worthless without direction and, frankly, character. Would that Candidate Romney had indeed presented himself as a solid chief executive who got things done. Instead he has appeared as a fawning PR man, apparently willing to do or say just about anything to get elected. In some areas, notably social policy and foreign affairs, the result is that he is now committed to needlessly extreme or dangerous courses that he may not actually believe in but will find hard to drop; in others, especially to do with the economy, the lack of details means that some attractive-sounding headline policies prove meaningless (and possibly dangerous) on closer inspection. Behind all this sits the worrying idea of a man who does not really know his own mind.
___

Mr Romney may calculate that it is best to keep quiet: the faltering economy will drive voters towards him. It is more likely, however, that his evasiveness will erode his main competitive advantage. A businessman without a credible plan to fix a problem stops being a credible businessman. So does a businessman who tells you one thing at breakfast and the opposite at supper. Indeed, all this underlines the main doubt: nobody knows who this strange man really is. It is half a decade since he ran something. Why won’t he talk about his business career openly? Why has he been so reluctant to disclose his tax returns? How can a leader change tack so often? Where does he really want to take the world’s most powerful country?  

In Saturday's games:

Loyola 20, Simeon 0 (Running back Julius Holley, above, scored the first Rambler touchdown of the 2012 season.);

Marist 35, St. Rita 25;

And (not) the Game of the WeekGlenbard West 28, Wheaton Warrenville South 7.

There's a complicated article...

...in the Times this morning, "Tax Credits Shed Light on Romney," that tries to give some answers as to what the GOP nominee may be trying to hide by not releasing his tax returns. I think this is the money paragraph (my emphasis):

But the data does suggest that Mr. Romney was able to reduce his taxable income in 2009 to a very low level, and thus might have paid relatively little tax — even if it did, as Mr. Romney claims, amount to at least 13 percent of his taxable income. Tax experts also said it is theoretically possible, though highly unlikely, that he paid no federal income tax in 2009. 

Friday night's scores:

Prospect 55, Glenbrook South 41;

Batavia 42, Glenbard North 41;

Lincoln-Way East 31, Carmel 6;

Prairie Ridge 35, Glenbard South 28;

Providence 40, Joliet Catholic 34 ( JCA's Ty Isaac, above, arguably the best running back in the state, left the game early with a shoulder injury.);

Waubonsie Valley 34, Naperville Central 14;

Wheaton North 49, Bartlett 0;

The Game of the NightMontini 40, Palatine 37, OT.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The cartoon of the day:

Over 6,000 American...

...service members have now died in the two wars begun by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

All because of a couple of draft dodgers.

Anders Behring Breivik, the

...Norwegian mass murderer, was sentenced to 21 years in prison for killing 77 people. That's a little over three months for every individual. Does that seem right to you?

According to a Gallup...

...poll, 58 percent of Republicans believe that "God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years." Fifty-eight percent!

Really, people, a two-party system requires two parties.

Hat tip: Timothy Egan.
___

P. S. And from Paul Krugman this morning:

...consider the fact that Paul Ryan is considered the modern G.O.P.’s big thinker. What does it say about the party when its intellectual leader evidently gets his ideas largely from deeply unrealistic fantasy novels?

Now that the rankings are...

...all in, let's have a look at them, shall we?

Since the Chicago Tribune only ranks the top 20, we'll limit our comparison to that number. (The Sun-Times ranks the top 25 and MaxPreps seems to rank the entire state.) Also, while the Chicago papers only rank the schools in the metropolitan area, MaxPreps ranks teams from all of Illinois; so it's not an apples-to-apples comparison. But so what? Here goes.

First, Max Preps:

1. Joliet Catholic
2. Bolingbrook
3. Prairie Ridge
4. Loyola
5. Montini
6. Naperville Central
7. Glenbard West
8. Wheaton North
9. Rockford Boylan
10. Lake Zurich
11. Wheaton Warrenville South
12. Lincoln-Way East
13. Glenbard North
14. Aurora Christian
15. Batavia
16. Maine South
17. Palatine
18. Peoria Richwoods
19. East St. Louis
20. Mount Carmel

Next, the Sun-Times:

1. Maine South
2. Bolingbrook
3. Glenbard West
4. Wheaton Warrenville South
5. Mount Carmel
6. Loyola
7. Montini
8. Joliet Catholic
9. Glenbard North
10. Simeon
11. St. Rita
12. Stevenson
13. Marist
14. Wheaton North
15. Lincoln-Way East
16. Hinsdale Central
17. Palatine
18. Crete-Monee
19. Elk Grove
20. Lemont

And, finally, the Trib:

1. Bolingbrook
2. Maine South
3. Wheaton Warrenville South
4. Mount Carmel
5. Loyola
6. Glenbard West
7. St. Rita
8. Marist
9. Montini
10. Joliet Catholic
11. Glenbard North
12. Lincoln-Way East
13. Wheaton North
14. Simeon
15. Stevenson
16. Crete-Monee
17. Palatine
18. Naperville Central
19. Lemont
20. Crystal Lake South

Here's my take. First of all, rankings -- particularly at the beginning of the season, before anyone's even played a game -- are meaningless. But they're still fun to talk about. So here are a few of my thoughts.

Twelve teams made all three rankings (I've even color-coded them for your convenience; where else are you going to get that kind of service?): Joliet Catholic, Bolingbrook, Loyola, Montini, Glenbard West, Wheaton North, Wheaton Warrenville South, Lincoln-Way East, Glenbard North, Maine South, Palatine and Mount Carmel.

If senior quarterback (and Illinois recruit) Aaron Bailey stays healthy and has as good a season as last year (over 2,000 yards rushing!), there's no reason to think that Bolingbrook can't repeat as state 8A champs. (Okay, there's one: the Raiders lost some key players -- Antonio Morrison, Austin Van Meter and Tevin Teamer -- from last year's defense.)

And Maine South, who exited the playoffs early last year, could come roaring back and challenge the Raiders for the state title. With Northwestern-bound senior Matt Alviti at quarterback, the Hawks -- coached by Dave Inserra -- will be back in the hunt this season. Last year, everyone expected a rematch with Loyola and was disappointed when South was upended in the second round by Stevenson. But that was a fluke; the Hawks should go much deeper in the postseason this year. (With one caveat: do the Hawks have a running back that can take some pressure off Alviti?)

My number 3 team is Joliet Catholic, based almost entirely on senior running back (and USC-bound) Ty Isaac. He could very well be the best player in the state this season, and if the Hilltoppers can show up on defense they could be formidable.

Loyola will probably not be as good as last year's 8A runner-up team (2011 was supposed to be their year), but the Wilmette squad may surprise. Peter Pujals will do just fine as Malcolm Weaver's replacement at quarterback, and head coach John Holecek will have his Ramblers ready. (Last year, if Loyola had played Bolingbrook ten times, methinks, they would have split 5-5 -- Weaver just had an off night.) The Ramblers could start the season, 0-2, however, with games against Simeon at home tomorrow and Dallas Jesuit in Dublin, Ireland, next week. (The Texas powerhouse has four seniors committed to Big 12 programs.)

MaxPreps has one of my favorite teams, Prairie Ridge, ranked number 3, and while I wrote a post chastising the Sun-Times for ranking the Wolves number 21, I don't think they're that good. (The Crystal Lake squad may have simply lost too many players from last year's 6A championship team.) I'd rank PR lower, around 9 or 10.

Naperville Central is another team that graduated a lot of seniors last year, including quarterback Ian Lewandowski and running back Matt Randolph. Sure, Coach Mike Stine will field a good team, but I'll reserve judgement on the Redhawks for the time being.

Other teams that you just know will be in the hunt come November will be Rockford Boylan (undefeated 7A champs and ranked number 1 overall by MaxPreps last year); Glenbard WestWheaton Warrenville South (Coach Ron Muhitch is always competitive); Wheaton North (perhaps my dark horse); and Lincoln-Way East (the Griffins, despite graduating Blake Winkler and Jason Robertson, will make the playoffs -- they always do. Last year's early upset at the hands of Wheaton Warrenville South was another fluke.)

Two teams that I'm not so sure about this year are Montini and Mount Carmel (both questionable at the QB position). The Broncos graduated a lot of starters last year (including wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp and quarterback John Rhode) and could fall to Palatine tonight. And the Caravan, well, I'm not convinced they'll ever be the power they once were (prove me a liar, Coach Frank Lenti). But Carmel does have a "favorable" schedule this year -- only four teams that had winning records last year.

Oh, and one last thing: Hey Stevenson, get some more parking, will you?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

The quote of the day...

...is from Jim Ryan, 75, a retired executive from Bradenton, Florida (my emphasis): 

We’re enjoying the benefits [of Medicare] now, and the Paul Ryan program of making it into a voucher system would change things. I know it’s not intended to apply to people in our age group, but I’m concerned about the future. I think it’s a wonderful program, and I’ve got middle-aged children and I don’t want to see the program destroyed. It’s probably one of the best programs sponsored by the federal government that we’ve ever had. It does have to be made fiscally sound, but there are ways to do that without destroying the whole concept or the substance of it.

I know it's only Thursday, but...

...here are the big games for Week 1 in Illinois high school football (Chicago area). Last year's records are in parentheses.

Friday:

Batavia (13-1) at Glenbard North (9-4);

Carmel (7-4) at Lincoln-Way East (10-1);

Glenbard South (7-4) at Prairie Ridge (13-1) The Wolves crushed Glenbard South twice last year, 55-12, in the opener, and, 55-7, in the playoffs.

Joliet Catholic (12-3) at Providence (6-4);

Naperville Central (9-4) at Waubonsie Valley (8-2). The Red Hawks lost to Waubonsie Valley, 21-7, to open the 2011 season.

Wheaton North (8-3) vs. Bartlett (7-3) at Streamwood. The Falcons defeated Bartlett in the first game of the season last year, 26-24.

The Game of the Night: Montini (12-2) at Palatine (9-2). The Broncos beat Palatine in last year's opener, 26-21.

Saturday:

Marist (7-3) vs. St. Rita (10-3) at Soldier Field;

Simeon (10-3) at Loyola (13-1);

And the Game of the Week: Wheaton Warrenville South (10-4) at Glenbard West (10-1). The Tigers will try to avenge last year's opening season loss to Glenbard West, 21-7.

Go to a game near you!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I wrote a post on Monday...

...that was not about my lawn mower. Instead, it was about -- among other things -- our lack of control over events that are beyond our control: 

In ancient times, when there was a flood or some other natural disaster, people probably thought they had brought it on themselves by their bad behavior, i. e., the gods were punishing them. Can you imagine anyone thinking that way today? 

This morning, I read in Dana Milbank's column in the Washington Post: 

Last year, Rep. Michele Bachmann, then a Republican presidential candidate, said that the East Coast earthquake and Hurricane Irene — another “I” storm, but not an Old Testament one — were attempts by God "to get the attention of the politicians." In remarks later termed a “joke,” she said: "It's time for an act of God and we're getting it." 

The influential conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck said last year that the Japanese earthquake and tsunami were God’s "message being sent" to that country. A year earlier, Christian broadcaster and former GOP presidential candidate Pat Robertson tied the Haitian earthquake to that country’s "pact to the devil." 

Previously, Robertson had argued that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for abortion, while the Rev. John Hagee said the storm was God’s way of punishing homosexuality. The late Jerry Falwell thought that God allowed the Sept. 11 attacks as retribution for feminists and the ACLU. 

It must be Flashback Day...

...here at BOWG. Rep. Todd Akin's comments on the Sean Hannity Show remind me of this famous scene from Casablanca (my emphasis): 

Hannity asked Akin to clarify what he meant when he said “the female body has ways of trying to shut that whole thing down,” referring to the pregnancy that could result from a rape. 

“Well, my only point in that was I had heard from medical reports that rape is such a traumatic type of thing that, um, that it, uh, that here is a reaction,” said Akin. “But that’s wrong and that’s the second thing that I’ve apologized for.” 
___ 

Hannity pressed for Akin to clarify his remarks. Akin said that he had heard, at one point, a medical report which led him to believe that the female body rejects unwanted pregnancies. He went on to again admit that he was incorrect.

When I think of today's GOP...

...I can't help remembering this famous scene from The Three Stooges. To paraphrase Dudley Dickerson's character, "This party has sho' gone crazy!"

The Times has an article...

...this morning about Todd Akin, the latest in what can only be called the Republican Party Freak Show (my emphasis): 

William Todd Akin was born in New York on July 5, 1947, but grew up in St. Louis, near where his family had a steel business. He is, in some ways, an enigma. 

While he home-schooled all of his children and is appealing mostly to a working-class constituency, he graduated from an elite suburban St. Louis prep school, John Burroughs. He got a degree in engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute before earning a master’s in divinity from the Covenant Theological Seminary in Missouri. 

He worked as a manager at now-bankrupt Laclede Steel, the company his great-grandfather founded and served at as president, succeeded by Mr. Akin’s grandfather and father. Mr. Akin’s great-grandfather, grandfather and father all attended Harvard. 

Oh, and again, Congressman Akin is a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. 

What has happened to this country?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Phyllis Diller, the famous...

...comedienne, died at age 95. Although not much of a fan, I was vaguely aware that she'd had "some work done," but not to this extent (my emphasis): 

She became one of the first celebrities not just to have plastic surgery but also to acknowledge and even publicize that fact. By the 1990s she had had more than a dozen operations, including two nose jobs, three face-lifts, a chemical peel, a breast reduction, cheek implants, an eyeliner tattoo and bonded teeth. 

And I had certainly never heard of her talent at the keyboard (skip to 1:30 in the above clip): 

Between 1971 and 1981 she appeared as a piano soloist with some 100 symphony orchestras across the country under the transparently phony name Dame Illya Dillya. Although her performances were spiced with humor, she took the music seriously. A review of one of her concerts in The San Francisco Examiner called her “a fine concert pianist with a firm touch.”

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Scott McKenzie, who sang...

...the 1967 hit "San Francisco," died at age 73.

The song was actually written by John Phillips, a founder of the Mamas and the Papas, who had been a friend of McKenzie's since high school. McKenzie did, however, collaborate with Phillips, Mike Love and Terry Melcher to write the 1988 Beach Boys hit "Kokomo."

I'm reluctant to give attention...

...to anything put out with Robert Prechter's name on it (he was a bit of a crank back in the 1980s; I can't believe he's still around), but if it's good enough for Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times, then what the heck. 

Sorkin's column today refers to this study by the Social Science Research Network:

The best single predictor of presidential re-election results that we found was the percentage change in the stock market during the three years that preceded Election Day. Changes in stock prices had a positive, substantial and statistically significant association with incumbents' performances in re-elections. We found that they accounted for more than a quarter of the variation in incumbents' popular vote margins.

Whoa! St. Rita may have...

...the toughest 2012 schedule of them all. The Mustangs play eight -- count 'em -- eight teams that had winning records last year: Marist (7-3), Danville (10-2), Brother Rice (8-5), Providence (6-4), Hales Franciscan (7-5), Bishop McNamara (9-3), Mount Carmel (9-4), and Loyola (13-1).

(Looks like I'll be traveling down to 77th and Western a lot this year.)

Now, I'm all for scheduling good opponents (it better prepares you for the playoffs, and, since you only need to go 5-4 to qualify, why not?), but eight tough games? (That's twice as many as crosstown rival Mount Carmel.)

Coach Todd Kuska, what were you thinking?

Last month, I wrote about...


...a few schools that had particularly difficult schedules this year (Montini, Wheaton Warrenville South, Loyola, Lincoln-Way East) and a few that didn't (Bolingbrook, Maine South).

How did I miss Marist's tough schedule?

In the Tribune this morning, an article about the Redhawks mentions that five of its opponents had winning records last year: St. Rita (10-3), Brother Rice (8-5), Nazareth (10-2), Joliet Catholic (12-3), and Carmel (7-4). But what the piece doesn't mention is that the Mount Greenwood squad also plays a sixth, Withrow (7-3), from Cincinnati, Ohio. That's a lineup that rivals Loyola's and Lincoln-Way East's.

Well done, Coach Pat Dunne!

Monday, August 20, 2012

The cartoon of the day:

This post is not about my lawn mower.

It's not even about my "lawn mower issues." But that's where it starts. (And it's going to be long and rambling, so if you're going to bail on me, now would be a good time.)

I'd been having trouble with my Black and Decker electric lawn mower ever since I had the blade sharpened at the beginning of the season. (I've owned it since 2009 and figured it was high time I had it done.) Well -- surprise, surprise! -- I put the blade back on wrong. As a result, the motor had to work harder and harder until it just ... died. 

I took the machine (appliance?) over to a repair place in Bensenville, not too far from the airport. They were actually very nice and not only put in a new motor but made some other small improvements as well. One of which was to replace the old handle with a new and improved one. (Foreshadowing.)

So I went home and plugged the mower in and, later, when cutting the grass, it died on me (again). What the...

It must be the charger, I thought. I took it back to the repair shop and showed it to them. "Did you bring the mower?," the woman behind the counter asked.

"Uh, no." (Of course not.)

"Well, we'll take a look at it."

It wasn't the charger.

So I came back a few days later with the mower. (Meanwhile, my grass was growing; the worst drought in recent memory was ending with rainrainrain. Yikes!)

It wasn't the mower either.

Then it could be only one other thing: the electric outlet in my garage must be on the fritz. Aha! But I took my toaster out there and it worked just fine. 

What on earth is going on here? Am I on "Candid Camera" or something?

Maybe, I thought, it's this new handle they gave me. Lightbulb! Maybe I should try plugging it in a different way (upside down). Eureka! It worked. Mystery solved.


Looks like I won't be driving to and from Bensenville on my lunch break anymore.

Which is where this post should have begun.

(By the way, I must have been quite a sight tooling down Elmhurst Road in my Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses and a baseball cap, in my ancient red convertible with the NOT A REPUBLICAN bumper sticker, a lawn mower in the passenger seat and a basset hound in the back.)

As I was driving, I passed a trailer park in Des Plaines called the Oasis Mobile Home Park. And I thought to myself, Why is it that I didn't end up in a trailer park?

(Now the purpose of this piece isn't to denigrate trailer parks -- far from it. But you have to admit, they've gotten some bad press in recent years.)

And I thought to myself: Is it because I'm smarter than those people? No. (I'd guess my IQ is probably somewhere in the middle of the range -- I hope it is!) Is it because I worked harder than those people? Ha! At the first sign of any chore around the house, I duck out to a high school football game. Did I lead a more moral, more disciplined lifestyle? I don't know; I lived the way my parents did.

Seriously, though, how come I ended up in a comfortable suburban setting and not a trailer park?

And I thought, honestly, because I was born to live that way.

If you look at my childhood, it was solidly middle-class. It was just assumed that all five of us would go to college and that my father would pay for it. Why? Because he and his three siblings all went to college and his father paid for it. See a pattern here?

And, for all of my complaining, we had a (reasonably) good home life: my parents had a stable marriage (67 years!) and my father came home every night for dinner when he wasn't traveling for business. What's more, he bought me absolutely everything I could possibly need in the way of food, shelter, clothing, etc.

Really, when I think about it, I was destined to end up where I did. Wasn't I?

Two pieces in the Times yesterday reinforced this for me: "Deluded Individualism" by Firmin DeBrabender (more on that name later), and the cover story in the magazine, "What Does Obama Really Believe In?," about the dysfunctional Roseland neighborhood on Chicago's South Side.

From the first (my emphasis): 

By Freud’s account, conscious autonomy is a charade. “We are lived,” as he puts it, and yet we don’t see it as such. Indeed, Freud suggests that to be human is to rebel against that vision — the truth. We tend to see ourselves as self-determining, self-conscious agents in all that we decide and do, and we cling to that image. But why? Why do we resist the truth? Why do we wish — strain, strive, against the grain of reality — to be autonomous individuals, and see ourselves as such? 

Perhaps Freud is too cynical regarding conscious autonomy, but he is right to question our presumption to it. He is right to suggest that we typically — wrongly — ignore the extent to which we are determined by unknown forces, and overestimate our self-control. The path to happiness for Freud, or some semblance of it in his stormy account of the psyche, involves accepting our basic condition. But why do we presume individual agency in the first place? Why do we insist on it stubbornly, irrationally, often recklessly?

(This second highlighted sentence brings up a corollary to my argument: we overestimate our ability to control events. How many times have you said to yourself -- or heard someone else say -- If only I had done this or that I would have had a different result. Baloney! 

A. You probably didn't have that much control over your actions in the first place; and

B. You don't have that much control over the universe anyway.

In ancient times, when there was a flood or some other natural disaster, people probably thought they had brought it on themselves by their bad behavior, i. e., the gods were punishing them. Can you imagine anyone thinking that way today? Don't answer that.)

Or, as the piece goes on to say:

Spinoza also questioned the human pretense to autonomy. Men believe themselves free, he said, merely because they are conscious of their volitions and appetites, but they are wholly determined. In fact, Spinoza claimed — to the horror of his contemporaries —that we are all just modes of one substance, “God or Nature” he called it, which is really the same thing. Individual actions are no such thing at all; they are expressions of another entity altogether, which acts through us unwittingly. 

As for the second piece, about Roseland, is there any doubt that growing up there would make it infinitely more difficult to achieve a middle class existence than growing up, like I did, in Leave it to Beaver suburbia?

Imagine a place, a dangerous place, filled with families headed by single mothers, with limited job opportunities,  under-performing schools and rampant drug abuse, gangs and violence. Is it any wonder that so many of these unfortunate people turn to using and selling drugs, and die young or end up in prison? Could anyone seriously argue that they have the same chance of success as someone like me who grew up in such cushy circumstances?

Bottom line(s): We are all products of our environment, free will is (mostly) an illusion, and we have very little control over the universe or even ourselves.

Okay, that's my (not) lawn mower story.

My niece wrote on her Facebook...

...page last night, "I'm a Republican and I'm embarrassed." 

Apparently, the object of her embarrassment is Representative Todd Akin (above), who is running for the United States Senate from Missouri. 

I'm vaguely aware of Akin and read this about him in the Times this morning:

In an effort to explain his stance on abortion, Representative Todd Akin, the Republican Senate nominee from Missouri, provoked ire across the political spectrum on Sunday by saying that in instances of what he called “legitimate rape,” women’s bodies somehow blocked an unwanted pregnancy.

Whatever. I stopped listening to the tea party years ago.

But then I thought about my niece. And I wanted to write on her page: If you're still a Republican, after eight years of George W. Bush and four years of the tea party, you should be embarrassed. Or, put another way: After all that, it took this to make you embarrassed to be a Republican?

P. S. The article also notes that Congressman Akin is a member of the House Science Committee. (Is it any wonder that this Congress has only a ten percent approval rating?)