Thursday, January 31, 2013

According to a new PPP...

...poll, 49% of Texas voters support an assault weapons ban to just 41% opposed to it. Really.

I think Cory Booker is...

...making a mistake in forgoing a campaign for governor of New Jersey this year. Instead, the mayor of Newark is expected to run for Democrat Frank Lautenberg's U.S. Senate seat in 2014.

I know what you're thinking: Huh? But Gov. Chris Christie is one of the most popular governors in America, and Lautenberg is 89 years old! Am I crazy?

Maybe. But maybe not.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that Booker has his sights set ultimately on the White House. (No!) What would be a better launching pad, the New Jersey governor's mansion or the United States Senate? Well, let's see. While President Obama ran successfully for president from the World's Greatest Deliberative Body (Zzzz), he was the first since John F. Kennedy to do so since 1960. Remember Barry Goldwater, George McGovern, Bob Dole and John McCain? All losers. How about Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush? That's right -- winners. If Booker is elected to the Senate (as I expect he would), he'd be just one of a hundred lawmakers. (Again, Zzzz.)

If I were advising the mayor, I'd tell him to run for governor and run the cleanest, classiest, most issue-laden campaign ever. No negative ads, no personal stuff, nothin'. If Christie's popularity holds up, Booker would lose. But so what? He'd be only 43 years old and have a sterling image in New Jersey voters' minds (and with the national media). After four years in which Christie would presumably be running for president, Booker would be only 47 and well-positioned for another run. In 2020, he'd be 51. That's a perfect age for running for president.

Now, what if Chris Christie's approval ratings fade by November (See: Bush, President George H. W., 1992) and Booker actually won? Then he'd be a giant-killer, have even more executive experience and be in a terrific position to run for president in either 2016 or 2020. (And have that media on his side, too.)

Don't get bogged down in the United States Senate, Mr. Booker. Go Big or Go Home!

A new poll shows...

...just how hard it would be for Congress to pass meaningful gun control legislation. From the Times article, "New Gun Laws Erode Support for Cuomo":

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s approval rating has fallen sharply among New York voters since he pushed restrictive gun laws through the Legislature, a poll released on Wednesday said. 

Fifty-nine percent said they approved of Mr. Cuomo’s job performance, down 15 percentage points from his 74 percent approval rating last month, the Quinnipiac University poll found.

That's a twenty percent decline in popularity. And Cuomo is one of the more courageous ones. Can you imagine your Congressman or senator taking such an unpopular stand?

P. S. That's former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the video, above, telling senators to "be courageous." Yeah, right.

Glenn Caruso, the head coach...

...of the University of St. Thomas football team, has been particularly successful in recruiting from the Chicago area. After the news this week that Neuqua Valley quarterback Dylan Andrew would be attending the St. Paul, Minnesota school, I took a look at the 2012 roster and noticed there were five other Tommies from Illinois on the Division III runner up squad:

Xavier Vergara, a sophomore defensive back from Fenwick; Jim Lynch, freshman linebacker from Benet Academy; Matt Marciano, a freshman tight end from St. Rita; and Eric Bielinski and Charlie Dowdle, freshmen defensive back and wide receiver, respectively, from Loyola Academy.

I can't wait to see the rest of this year's recruiting class!

Patty Andrews, the last and...

...youngest of the Andrews Sisters, died at age 94. (I think that's her in the middle.)

A native of Minneapolis, Minnesota (where else?), Andrews was the daughter of a Greek immigrant who changed his name from Andreos to Andrews when he came to America. Her mother, Olga, was Norwegian (Ya, sure, hey).

Yesterday I ran a post...

...about the likely 2016 Republican presidential nominee, according to Intrade. (I completely forgot there were two major parties in the U.S.)

Needless to say, Hillary Clinton leads the Democratic field, by far, at about 33 percent. Vice President Joe Biden is a distant second, at 7.5 percent, tied with New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Sarah Palin's contract...

...with Fox News will not be renewed. Remind you of anyone else who became a liability for the Republican Party?

I know it's early, but...

...I can't help myself (it's a sickness). Intrade has Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (right) leading the pack for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. He's followed by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (center) and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Brady Jindal (left).

Chicago has some of the strictest...

...gun control laws in America. Not a single gun shop, for example, can be found in the city because they are outlawed. And Illinois remains the only state in the nation with no provision to let civilians carry guns in public. So why is gun violence here such a problem?

A front page article in today's Times tries to answer that (my emphasis):

More than a quarter of the firearms seized on the streets here by the Chicago Police Department over the past five years were bought just outside city limits in Cook County suburbs, according to an analysis by the University of Chicago Crime Lab. Others came from stores around Illinois and from other states, like Indiana, less than an hour’s drive away. Since 2008, more than 1,300 of the confiscated guns, the analysis showed, were bought from just one store, Chuck’s Gun Shop in Riverdale, Ill., within a few miles of Chicago’s city limits.

At the store, a clerk said the business followed all pertinent federal, state and local laws, then declined to be interviewed further. Among seized guns that had moved from purchase to the streets of Chicago in a year’s time or less, nearly 20 percent came from Chuck’s, the analysis found. Other guns arrived here that rapidly from gun shops in other parts of this state, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Mississippi, Georgia, Iowa and more. 
___

“Our gun strategy is only as strong as it is comprehensive, and it is constantly being undermined by events and occurrences happening outside the city — gun shows in surrounding counties, weak gun laws in neighboring states like Indiana and the inability to track purchasing,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “This must change.”

 “Chicago is not an island,” said David Spielfogel, senior adviser to Mr. Emanuel. “We’re only as strong as the weakest gun law in surrounding states.”

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Glenn Caruso has done it again!

I just got word that the coach of Division III runner up University of St. Thomas has landed Neuqua Valley quarterback Dylan Andrew, below.

I wonder if he'll be throwing to fellow Chicagoan and 2012 Loyola Academy grad Charlie Dowdle.

Kudos to both Coach Caruso and Andrew!

Yesterday I wrote a post...

...about a guy who keeps a handgun within reach at all times, even when taking a shower. (Seriously.)

Today, in the Science section of the Times, Jared Diamond writes that the odds of falling in the shower are about one in a thousand. That means that in the next three years, if you take an average of one shower a day, you can expect to fall at least once. On the other hand -- really -- how often is our friend going to need that pistol? Wouldn't he be a lot better off bringing a walker into the bathroom than a firearm?

Leroy Bonner, also known as...

..."Sugarfoot," of the Ohio Players, died at age 69. Sugarfoot?

The Ohio Players had the above hit, “Love Rollercoaster,” which reached No. 1 in 1973, my freshman year in high school. There was an urban myth at the time (to which we all subscribed) that the faint scream that can be heard at about 2:23 was actually the sound of a woman getting stabbed to death in the recording studio next door.

At least I always assumed it was a myth.

The Times has an opinion piece...

...about Coca-Cola today that confirms what you may have already suspected: as recently as 1903, the Atlanta-based soft drink still contained cocaine.

It's an interesting read, but also another excuse for me to post the Best Coke Jingle Ever, by the Fortunes in 1969.

As a former Boy Scout leader, it...

...was with some interest that I read the story in the Times this morning, "In a Quick Shift, Scouts Rethink a Ban on Gays."

From the piece (my emphasis):

Perhaps even more momentous was the acknowledgment that scouting itself had moved on, with a diversity of thought like the multicultural and sexually diverse buzz of modern America itself, that no longer could be confined or defined by a dictated policy from headquarters. Local chapters would be able to decide whether to admit gay scouts.

“The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents,” said a spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, Deron Smith, in a statement. “This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.” 

Translation: Mormons, who make up the largest group within Scouting -- by far -- will be able to continue to exclude gays from their troops.

This is kind of a big deal, because when I was in Scouts other leaders had told me that the LDS had made it known -- in no uncertain terms -- that it would bolt the organization if "National" changed its policy on gays.  

So a compromise must have been made here: while Mormons can keep their troops the way they want, the rest can admit gays, or not, depending on each individual troop's preference. (Makes sense to me.)

Now while my old troop will probably continue to not care about gays, and the LDS troop down the road will continue to care about gays, it makes me wonder: How will the troop sponsored by the local Catholic parish react? 

This could actually be a crucial moment for American Catholics. 

So far, the Church has been confused on the issue. While it's not a sin to be a homosexual, it is sinful to act upon it. Huh? (That's kind of like saying it's okay to be left-handed so long as you write with your right hand.)

So how will the Catholic Church decide on gays in the Scouts? Will the decision be handed down from Rome, or will each parish get to make its own choice? (I think the question answers itself.) 

This could actually be a watershed moment for American Catholics. Finally, they will have to choose: To discriminate against gays and lesbians, or not.

P. S. No, that's not me in the picture above. A free hot dog and fries, though, for anyone who can identify the founder of Scouting.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

"I've finished shovelling and am for the most part satisfied with the results, but I'll rest now and look at it again in the morning."

Haven't Republicans ever heard...

...the saying, "Old wine in new bottles?" I don't think so.

From an article in Politico (seriously),  "GOP Leaders Insist No Overhaul Needed" (my emphasis):

The Republican Party honchos who huddled here for their first big gathering since the election devoted lots of time talking about the need to welcome Latinos and women, close the technology gap with Democrats and stop the self-destructive talk about rape.

But the party’s main problem, dozens of Republican National Committee members argued in interviews over three days this week, is who delivers its message and how, not the message itself. Overwhelmingly they insisted that substantive policy changes aren’t the answer to last year’s losses.
___

“It’s not the platform of the party that’s the issue,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said Friday after being easily reelected to a second, two-year term. “In many cases, it’s how we communicate about it. It is a couple dumb things that people have said.”

“We don’t need a new pair of shoes; we just need to shine our shoes,” said West Virginia national committeewoman Melody Potter.
___

“Nobody is saying the Republican Party has to change our beliefs in any of our platform planks,” said New Hampshire chairman Wayne MacDonald.
___
 
 “On some things, we have the right policy and do a terrible job conveying it. And the Democrats have a bad policy and do a great job,” said Mississippi Republican Chairman Joe Nosef.
 
I could go on and on, but you really need to read it yourself. It's hysterical.

What is it about Texas...

...that seems to make everyone so fearful?

An opinion piece in the Times today, "Confessions of a Liberal Gun Owner," explains why a "New England liberal, born and bred" who now lives in Texas owns "half a dozen pistols." What's more, the author is "currently shopping for a shotgun, either a Remington 870 Express Tactical or a Mossberg 500 Flex with a pistol grip and adjustable stock." (Whatever those are.) Why?

From the piece (My emphasis):

There are a lot of reasons that a gun feels right in my hand, but I also own firearms to protect my family. I hope I never have to use one for this purpose, and I doubt I ever will. But I am my family’s last line of defense. I have chosen to meet this responsibility, in part, by being armed. It wasn’t a choice I made lightly. I am aware that, statistically speaking, a gun in the home represents a far greater danger to its inhabitants than to an intruder. But not every choice we make is data-driven. A lot comes from the gut.
___

I believe people are basically good, but not all of them and not all the time. Like most citizens of our modern, technological world, I am wholly reliant upon a fragile web of services to meet my most basic needs. What would happen if those services collapsed? Chaos, that’s what.

Chaos? Really? Why don't I ever feel like that? But wait; there's more:

It wasn’t until my mid-40s that my education in guns began, in the course of writing a novel in which pistols, shotguns and rifles, but also heavy weaponry like the AR-15 and its military analogue, the M-16, were widely used. I suspected that much of the gunplay I’d witnessed in movies and television was completely wrong (it is) and hired an instructor for a daylong private lesson “to shoot everything in the store.” The gentleman who met me at the range was someone whom I would have called “a gun nut.” A former New Yorker, he had relocated to Texas because of its lax gun laws and claimed to keep a pistol within arm’s reach even when he showered.

Really? Is Texas that dangerous? (I always keep my cell phone nearby, but that's so I don't miss a call.) But a gun? Really?

How come I don't live my life in constant fear like these guys? Am I naive, or are Texans just a little paranoid?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Before everyone gets...

...too carried away with the idea that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is some kind of "moderate" Republican, let me remind you that as recently as last September, he (my emphasis):

...and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum joined a statewide bus tour as part of a campaign aimed at ousting Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins because of his support for a April 2009 court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa.

In the above video, Jindal says that the Republican Party needs to "stop looking backwards ... has to compete for every single vote ... [should] work to unite all Americans ... must reject identity politics ... [that] the first step in getting the voters to like us is to demonstrate that we like them ... it's time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults ... [and should] stop insulting the intelligence of voters."

Finally, Jindal says that the GOP needs to "stop being the stupid party."

And I couldn't agree more. So how soon will Jindal get on board?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Big upset!

St. Viator defeated Marian Catholic last night, 66-61. 

As expected, Ore Arogundade (above) and Tyler Ulis put on quite a show, scoring 27 and 30 points, respectively.

(I suppose I should finish this post before I start watching No. 1 Whitney Young take on No. 2 Simeon on TV in half an hour.)

It was a thrilling game and I kept waiting for the Spartans to put away the pesky Lions. But it never happened. Although Ulis put up 30 points (I had previously written 28), Arogundade came on strong in the second half and St. Viator prevailed. 

I'd have to say Arogundade was the Player of the Game. In fact, the kid I saw last night could definitely play Division I basketball some day. 

Do you expect to be remembered...

...for your eyebrows? George Gund III, who died on Tuesday at age 75, was.

From his obit in the Times:

He was the firstborn son of the banker and philanthropist George Gund II, who made his fortune as the head of Cleveland Trust when it was the largest bank in Ohio. The younger Gund inherited his father’s vast wealth and his abundant eyebrows, but he only flaunted the latter. “He loved them,” Melanie Blum, a longtime assistant to Mr. Gund, recalled. “When he was going through chemo, he was worried he was going to lose his eyebrows. But he never did, and he was so happy about that.”

I prefer mine.

Grover Norquist is famous...

...for saying that his goal is to "shrink government to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub." This is also known as "starve the beast": cut taxes and create budget deficits until the public demands you limit the size of the government.

And it almost worked.

But what happens when people realize -- as I think more and more are -- that "the beast" is largely Social Security and Medicare? You know, those programs that keep your parents and grandparents from experiencing severe hardship? What then? 

Maybe, just maybe, the "beast" isn't so "beastly" after all. Maybe, like in the video above, it can actually be your friend. And maybe it can even -- gulp! -- help you in your time of need.

I think that's what President Obama meant when he said in his inaugural address (my emphasis):

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity.  We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.  But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.  For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn.  We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few.  We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other - through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security - these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us.  They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

Tonight, Marian Catholic travels...

...to Arlington Heights to take on St. Viator in an East Suburban Catholic matchup. And I may travel there as well.

I've seen Marian Catholic play once, in a losing effort against Benet. Depending on which news source you consult, the Spartans are either 18-2, 19-2 or 20-2. Whatever; suffice it to say they're real good. Marian is ranked No. 7 by the Trib and Sun-Times, and No. 11 by MaxPreps. Point guard Tyler Ulis (who is reason enough to drive out to the northwest suburbs) has 495 points, 50 assists and 27 rebounds on the year. Wow!

St. Viator, on the other hand, is either 14-3 or 13-4 and ranked only No. 35 by MaxPreps. So, am I headed for a blowout? I don't think so.

The Lions are led by a kid named Ore Arogundade, above. The 6'3" guard is the conference leader in rebounds with 52 (ahead of Benet's Sean O'Mara and Pat McInerney). The Nigerian-born junior (no birther jokes, please) also has 240 points and 11 assists on the season.

St. Viator has beaten such schools as Prospect, 63-54; Conant, 45-36; Marist, 55-44; Loyola, 55-53; and Fremd, 52-45. Their losses have all come at the hands of quality programs: St. Patrick, 58-55; Niles North, 67-49; and Lake Forest, 66-53.

So do I think the Lions can hand the Spartans their third loss tonight? No. But I do think it'll be a good game. See you there!

First it was gerrymandering, then...

Reince Priebus
...it was voter suppression. Now the Republicans' latest "strategy" to win elections is by tinkering with the Electoral College.

From -- of all places -- Fox News (my emphasis):

From Wisconsin to Pennsylvania, Republicans who control legislatures in states that supported President Barack Obama are considering changing laws that give the winner of a state's popular vote all of its Electoral College votes, too. They instead want Electoral College votes to be divided proportionally, a move that could transform the way the country elects its president.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus endorsed the idea this week, and other Republican leaders also support it -- suggesting that the effort may be gaining momentum. 

There are other signs that Republican state legislators, governors and veteran political strategists are seriously considering making the shift as the GOP looks to rebound from presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Electoral College shellacking and the demographic changes that threaten the party's long-term political prospects.

"It's something that a lot of states that have been consistently blue that are fully controlled red ought to be looking at," Priebus told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, emphasizing that each state must decide for itself.

Democrats are outraged at the potential change.

Obama won the popular vote with 65.9 million votes, or 51.1 percent, to Romney's 60.9 million, or 47.2 percent, and won the Electoral College by a wide margin, 332-206 electoral votes. It's unclear whether he would have been re-elected under the new system, depending upon how many states adopted the change.

Since gerrymandering has only produced a more extreme (and unpopular) Republican House, and voter suppression has only motivated more minorities Democrats to register and vote, the GOP may want to reconsider its latest scheme to attract support.

I have a suggestion for Mr. Priebus and his Republican colleagues: Try coming up with a better product.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Does the strange Republican...

...obsession with "Benghazi" remind you of any other non-scandals in recent years?

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Linda Riss Pugach...

...died on Tuesday at age 75. Who?

From the Times obit (my emphasis):

She was 22, a sheltered, dark-haired Bronx beauty said to look like Elizabeth Taylor.

He was a decade older, a suave lawyer who courted her with flowers, rides in his powder-blue Cadillac and trips to glittering Manhattan nightclubs. He was married, though not to her.

Before long, tiring of his unfulfilled promises to divorce his wife, she ended their affair. He hired three men, who threw lye in her face, blinding her, and went to prison for more than a decade.

Afterward, she married him.

According to Mr. Pugach, “Ours was a storybook romance.”

Are you as excited...

...as I am for the 2016 presidential election? (Or are you normal?)

If so, you can bet on the outcome on Intrade. Currently, the Democratic candidate has a 55 percent chance of winning; the Republican, 49 percent.

(Actually, if you're an American you can't bet on Intrade. But it's fun to play along at home.)

P. S. Even though I posted Jeb Bush's picture above, I think the GOP is more likely to nominate a candidate from the far Right. The Republicans need to get positively crushed before they'll be ready to move back to the center.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The tweets of the day:


Sec Panetta watches Sec Clinton kick their asses in Benghazi hearing, removes ban on women in combat roles.
  

If you keep screaming Benghazi, Mitt Romney will be retroactively elected and inaugurated.

To think: I've been living in states...

...that border on Wisconsin for the better part of my life and I had no idea how dangerous a place it is. Did you know that our neighbor to the north is positively loaded with cheese?

From the Times today (my emphasis):

A truckload of burning cheese has closed a road tunnel in Arctic Norway for the last six days. Some 27 tons of flaming brown cheese, or brunost, a Norwegian delicacy, blocked a 1.9-mile tunnel near the northern town of Narvik when it caught fire last Thursday. The fire was finally put out on Monday. Brunost is made from whey and contains up to 30 percent fat. "This high concentration of fat and sugar is almost like petrol if it gets hot enough," said Viggo Berg, a policeman. Kjell Bjoern Vinje at the Norwegian Public Roads Administration said this was the first time that cheese had caught fire on Norwegian roads since he joined the administration 15 years ago. The tunnel will be closed for repairs for at least a week.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Everyone seems to think...

...Joe Biden is running for president. But on election day, 2016, the vice president would be almost 74 years old. And if he served two full terms, Biden would leave the Oval Office at age 82.

Ronald Reagan, in comparison, was the oldest president inaugurated, at age 70. And the Gipper, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease at age 83, was 77 when he left office.

According to Wikipedia, "All four of Reagan's White House doctors said that they saw no evidence of Alzheimer's while he was president."

But Dr. Lawrence K. Altman, a physician employed as a reporter for the New York Times, noted that "the line between mere forgetfulness and the beginning of Alzheimer's can be fuzzy."

Finally, Dr. John E. Hutton, Reagan's primary physician from 1984 to 1989, said the president "absolutely" did not "show any signs of dementia or Alzheimer's."

(If you have to deny something that much, it has to make people wonder.)

So Joe Biden, in 2016, would be the oldest president to assume the office in U.S. history. That's a little hard to picture, isn't it?

Your German name for the day...

...is David McAllister. Huh? What? David McAllister?

From an article in the Times today, "Merkel’s Strong Standing Takes a Hit in Local German Elections" (my emphasis):

Speaking to reporters after meeting with her Christian Democratic party leaders, the chancellor did not try to play down the outcome of Sunday’s vote in the state of Lower Saxony. “I don’t want to beat around the bush — after such an emotional roller coaster, a loss hurts all the more,” said Ms. Merkel, standing beside her party’s lead candidate from the state, a visibly shellshocked David McAllister, who had led the polls for months. 

That name just doesn't sound German to me, somehow. 

Turns out, according to Wikipedia, McAllister:

...was born in West Berlin on 12 January 1971 to a Scottish father and a German mother. His father, James Buchanan McAllister, was a British civil servant, originally from Glasgow (where the family still has relatives), stationed in West Berlin since 1969, where he was attached to the Royal Corps of Signals. His mother, Mechthild McAllister, is a music teacher.

I wonder if there's a birther movement about this guy, too. Is that why McAllister lost? I can just hear a couple of drunks in some bierstube in Hanover:

"He's British, I tell ya! And probably an Anglican as well."

"Yeah; and the next thing you know he'll want to bring Common Law to Deutschland!"

"I'll bet he even wears a kilt when no one is looking!"

Again, from Wikipedia:

McAllister proposed to his wife at Loch Ness, and married in August 2003, wearing a kilt. He later explained it was a family tradition.

Ach du lieber. 

"I want my Fatherland back!"

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Manti Te'o tweet...

...of the day (actually, last week):

In fairness, attending Notre Dame and placing unquestioned faith in beings you've never actually met … is part of the admissions process.

I saw two movies this weekend...

...and was surprised by my reactions to both.

I didn't expect to like the first one, Inglourious Basterds, but I did. And, although I looked forward to seeing the second, Lincoln, I was disappointed.

I had resisted seeing Inglourious Basterds until now because of all the gore and violence in Quentin Tarantino's other movies. But someone had recorded it in our house and I started watching it on Friday night. It held my attention (my definition of a good movie) and had some interesting plot devices which I won't divulge here. I give it a "thumbs up."

Lincoln, on the other hand, was a movie I had been eagerly anticipating for some time. Everything I had heard and read about it was positively glowing, and it's been the runaway favorite for Best Picture on Intrade from the get-go.

But I found it to be ... boring.

I had heard it was a little "talky" and so should have been prepared. And maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind. But I fell asleep more than once and, honestly, couldn't wait for it to end. (When they started going through the whole roll call for the vote on the 13th Amendment I thought, You gotta be kidding me!) 

Lincoln may have made for a good book or magazine article, but for a movie -- for me -- it fell flat.

Sorry.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Stan "The Man" Musial and...

...Earl Weaver, two baseball Hall of Famers, died on Saturday.

Musial (above), a .331 career hitter (my emphasis):

...won seven batting championships, hit 475 home runs and amassed 3,630 hits. His brilliance lay in his consistency. He had 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 on the road. He drove in 1,951 runs and scored 1,949 runs. And his power could be explosive: he set a major league record, equaled only once, when he hit five home runs in a doubleheader. 

Musial also played on three World Series championship teams, won three Most Valuable Player awards, and was the fourth player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. 

Weaver (below) led the Baltimore Orioles:

...to five 100-win seasons, four American League pennants and the 1970 World Series championship.

Weaver managed the Orioles from 1968 through 1982, then came out of retirement in mid-1985 and managed the team through the end of 1986. His overall record was 1,480 victories and 1,060 losses, a .583 winning percentage, ninth in major league history and first among managers whose careers began in the past half-century. His only losing season was his last. 

With a sandpaper voice, a taste for beer (he was twice charged with drunken driving) and a tense, competitive manner, Weaver was a crusty personality, though he had a sharp wit and a well-developed sense of mischief. Once, when outfielder Pat Kelly was irritated that Weaver was not giving him enough time for a pregame prayer meeting, he said, “Earl, don’t you want us to walk with the Lord?” Weaver replied that he would rather have Kelly walk with the bases loaded.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

There's a heartwarming story...

...in the Times today about a cat named Holly who traveled 200 miles to reunite with its owners. Apparently, this isn't totally unheard of (my emphasis):

Roger Tabor, a British cat biologist, cited longer-distance reports he considered credible: Murka, a tortoiseshell in Russia, traveling about 325 miles home to Moscow from her owner’s mother’s house in Voronezh in 1989; Ninja, who returned to Farmington, Utah, in 1997, a year after her family moved from there to Mill Creek, Wash.; and Howie, an indoor Persian cat in Australia who in 1978 ran away from relatives his vacationing family left him with and eventually traveled 1,000 miles to his family’s home.

Professor Tabor also said a Siamese in the English village of Black Notley repeatedly hopped a train, disembarked at White Notley, and walked several miles back to Black Notley.

So how did Holly find her way home? Hard to say, since:

There is, in fact, little scientific dogma on cat navigation. Migratory animals like birds, turtles and insects have been studied more closely, and use magnetic fields, olfactory cues, or orientation by the sun.

Scientists say it is more common, although still rare, to hear of dogs returning home, perhaps suggesting, Dr. Bradshaw said, that they have inherited wolves’ ability to navigate using magnetic clues.

Huh? Magnetic fields, olfactory cues? Whatever. You can read the rest of it here.

But what I found more interesting was this:

Holly hardly seemed an adventurous wanderer, though her background might have given her a genetic advantage. Her mother was a feral cat roaming the Richters’ mobile home park, and Holly was born inside somebody’s air-conditioner, Ms. Richter said. When, at about six weeks old, Holly padded into their carport and jumped into the lap of Mr. Richter’s mother, there were “scars on her belly from when the air conditioner was turned on,” Ms. Richter said.

Scientists say that such early experience was too brief to explain how Holly might have been comfortable in the wild — after all, she spent most of her life as an indoor cat, except for occasionally running outside to chase lizards. But it might imply innate personality traits like nimbleness or toughness.

“You’ve got these real variations in temperament,” Dr. Bekoff said. “Fish can by shy or bold; there seem to be shy and bold spiders. This cat, it could be she has the personality of a survivor.”

He said being an indoor cat would not extinguish survivalist behaviors, like hunting mice or being aware of the sun’s orientation.

Where am I going with this? If you guessed "Nature vs. Nurture," you'd be right.

Because just as there are "shy and bold" fish or spiders, I believe more and more that there are "shy and bold" people. And smart people, and not-so-smart people, and people with "street smarts" but not "book smarts," and the other way around. Some people are fighters; some are quick to give up. Some are born optimists, some are born pessimists. I could go on and on. The point is, just as your physical characteristics are largely pre-determined by genetics, so I believe are your non-physical characteristics, like your personality.

The more I go along in life, the more I believe in inherent personality traits and the less I believe in free will. Ask yourself, did that cat sit down and make up its mind to return to its owners, or did it just do it? And ask yourself the same question, how many of your actions or decisions were made consciously, and how many were just plain pre-determined by who you are and what circumstances you found yourself in? I'll bet we have a lot less to say about the direction of our lives than we think.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Pauline Phillips, who wrote...

...the Dear Abby column, died at age 94. Phillips was the twin sister of Eppie Lederer, who wrote the Ann Landers column. Her obit in the Times reprinted a few of Dear Abby's better letters:

Dear Abby: I have always wanted to have my family history traced, but I can’t afford to spend a lot of money to do it. Have you any suggestions? — M. J. B. in Oakland, Calif.
 
Dear M. J. B.: Yes. Run for a public office.
___

Dear Abby: Our son married a girl when he was in the service. They were married in February and she had an 8 1/2-pound baby girl in August. She said the baby was premature. Can an 8 1/2-pound baby be this premature? — Wanting to Know
 
Dear Wanting: The baby was on time. The wedding was late. Forget it.
___

Dear Abby: Two men who claim to be father and adopted son just bought an old mansion across the street and fixed it up. We notice a very suspicious mixture of company coming and going at all hours — blacks, whites, Orientals, women who look like men and men who look like women. This has always been considered one of the finest sections of San Francisco, and these weirdos are giving it a bad name. How can we improve the neighborhood? — Nob Hill Residents
 
Dear Residents: You could move.

Friday, January 18, 2013

And now, to get your weekend...

...off on the right foot, here's a little Gene Kelly (and Leslie Caron) from the 1951 movie An American in Paris.

(I told my son recently that I was starting to like musicals and he gave me a funny look. Go figure.)

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Sorry, but I don't believe...

...Manti Te'o's story. Not all of it at least.

It reminds me a little of Anthony Weiner's Twitter account scandal from a few years ago. Remember that one? "I was hacked into!" the New York Congressman insisted. Sure you were. A few days later Weiner came clean. I'm half-expecting something like that from Te'o before too long.

If nothing else, Te'o has been caught in at least one lie: he didn't have a girlfriend. I know we're in a digital age and all, but don't you have to have at least met the person to call her your "girlfriend?"

Benet upset Marian Catholic...

...last night, 51-50, in a contest that more than lived up to the pre-game hype. (You can read all about it in the Trib and the Sun-Times.)

Not only did Benet center Sean O'Mara (No. 45, above) and Marian point guard Tyler Ulis (No. 3) dazzle the packed house in Lisle, but Wings Pat McInerney (No. 32) and Eddie Eshoo contributed significantly as well. From the article in the Trib:

Sean O'Mara, 19 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks
Pat McInerney, 21 points, 10 rebounds
Eddie Eshoo, 9 points, 3 3-pointers

Tyler Ulis, 25 points, 4 3-pointers, 3 assists
Terrone Parham, 11 points, 6 rebounds

Although the home team Redwings jumped out to an early seven-point lead, the Spartans led the contest at halftime, 22-18. But Benet came roaring out of the locker room to take a four-point lead with only 29 seconds remaining in the game. The raucous crowd -- which had the best student section I've seen so far this year -- understandably went nuts. The guy next to me even stood up and put his jacket on to leave. But, then, in a play that should have surprised no one in the gym, Marian's Ulis dribbled down the court, drained a nifty three-pointer (this kid can shoot!) and the following free throw to tie the game at 50. (It was then that I told the guy next to me, "You may want to take off your coat and sit down; we're going into OT!")

But I was wrong.

McInerney, who had left the game earlier with a bloody nose, made the game-winning free throw with about 1.8 seconds left to seal the deal for Benet. It was a thrilling finish to a great game and well-worth the four bucks I spent to get in (and the long drive). By the way, the woman selling tickets didn't ask me if I was a senior; does that mean I'm getting younger-looking?

As I mentioned, it was a great game and my only regret is that I hadn't seen either team play before. Ulis and O'Mara are definitely the Real Deal.

While Ulis is small, he's also "dead-on," as my late father used to say, from the field as well as the line. (After one of his many nothing-but-net free throws, the guy next to me said under his breath, "At least hit the rim once in a while!") And the 5'10" (really?) junior isn't afraid to drive to the basket either.

As for O'Mara, the 6'9", 240-pound junior is huge (and plays left tackle, I was told, on the resurgent Benet football team). I can't believe I missed the 37-36 victory over Curie, in which O'Mara went up against the equally large (6'9", 240 lbs.) Cliff Alexander. (I also missed the 42-41 win over Notre Dame, which was practically in my back yard. Shame on me!)

Oh, well, the 2012-13 season is still in diapers. If you missed last night's game, you can still see Benet host Naperville Central on January 26 (good cross-town rivalry, sort of), St. Viator on February 1, or travel to St. Patrick on February 8. And then there's the post-season, of course, and don't be too surprised if the Redwings go deep. The team I saw last night could definitely play on the same court with Simeon or Morgan Park.

As for Marian, the Spartans have upcoming games at St. Viator on January 25, Brother Rice at home on January 29, and host Notre Dame and St. Patrick on February 15 and 20, respectively.

So go and see one of these talented teams play real soon. You won't regret it. (And don't watch it at home on TV; the atmosphere last night was positively electric!)
___

Oh, and by the way, when did the East Suburban Catholic conference get so good in basketball? Has it always been like this? According to MaxPreps, five of the nine teams are ranked in the top 60 (and don't write off Marist or Nazareth, either):

7. Marian
14. Benet
26. St. Viator
27. Notre Dame
60. St. Patrick

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I'm off to Lisle tonight...

...to see the Redwings of Benet (16-3) host the Spartans of Marian Catholic (17-1). Should be a good game. Check out these rankings:

MaxPreps (4A)

1. Whitney Young
2. Simeon
3. Proviso East
4. Edwardsville
5. Marian Catholic
6. Aurora West
7. Neuqua Valley
8. Oswego
9. Benet

Chicago Tribune

1. Whitney Young
2. Morgan Park
3. Simeon
4. Proviso East
5. Marian Catholic
6. North Chicago
7. West Aurora
8. Curie
9. Oswego
10. Orr
11. Benet

Chicago Sun-Times

1. Whitney Young
2. Simeon
3. Morgan Park
4. Marian Catholic
5. North Chicago
6. Proviso East
7. Benet

AP (4A)

1. Whitney Young
2. Simeon
3. Proviso East
4. Marian Catholic
5. Edwardsville
6. Belleville East
7. Rock Island
8. Benet

Marian Catholic only lost to Homewood-Flossmoor, 67-58, in the third game of the season. Since then they've beaten:

Hillcrest, 64-54
Lanphier, 66-51
Bloom, 61-58

Benet, meanwhile, has three losses, to Naperville Central, 57-54; Thornton Fractional North, 39-34; and Proviso East, 50-46. Their victories include:

Naperville North, 47-39
Curie, 37-36
Homewood-Flossmoor, 71-55
Bogan, 60-51
Notre Dame, 42-41

Tonight could be a battle of the juniors: 5'8" point guard Tyler Ulis of the Spartans (above), and 6'9" center Sean O'Mara of the Redwings (below). Who wins? I'll give the edge to the home team.

See you at the game!

The NRA's answer to gun violence...

...is -- amazingly -- more guns. After last night's shooting at Chicago State, I think this idea is even crazier than when I first heard it.

I don't know exactly where or when the shooting took place. But as we were leaving the game, my son and nephew and I were just in front of a big scrum of people in the parking lot. There was all sorts of yelling and screaming and confusion and running around. As I mentioned, we were a little bit in front of this group, so we didn't feel too threatened. (At least I didn't.)

But, as I think back on it, if that was where the shooting took place, I can only imagine how much worse it would have been if there had been more guns on the scene. Just imagine more shooting amidst all that chaos. It's hard for me to believe that more people wouldn't have been injured or killed.

And one death is tragic enough.

NRA leader Wayne LaPierre recently said that "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." Well, how exactly would Mr. LaPierre have sorted out the good guys from the bad guys last night?

What in God's name is the NRA thinking? Are they thinking?

There was a shooting death...

...at last night's game between Simeon and Morgan Park at Chicago State. This morning, I read this from Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times (my emphasis):

To reduce auto deaths, we’ve taken a public health approach that you might call “car control” — driver’s licenses, air bags, seat belts, auto registration. The result is a steady decline in vehicle fatalities so that some time soon gun deaths are likely to exceed traffic fatalities, for the first time in modern American history.

There are no magic solutions to the gun carnage in America. But in the same spirit as what we’ve accomplished to make driving safer, President Obama has crafted careful, modest measures that won’t solve America’s epidemic of gun violence but should reduce it.

If we could reduce gun deaths by one-quarter, that would be 7,500 lives saved a year. Unless life in America really is cheap, that’s worth it. 

Makes sense, doesn't it?

Manti Te'o recently told ESPN...

...that "Faith is believing in something that you most likely can't see, but you believe to be true. You feel in your heart, and in your soul, that it's true, but you still take that leap."

Read the rest of the astonishing piece here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Simeon defeated Morgan Park, 53-51.

I was all set to write a smart-alecky post about all the police cars at the game last night until I read this in the Sun-Times:

Outside in the parking lot, a 20-year-old male was shot in the back about 20 minutes after the game ended, according to a Chicago Police source. He was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn in serious condition. He died late Wednesday night, the Cook County Medical Examiner's office said.

Now I don't feel like writing anything.

Billy Garrett, Jr. (above), was the Player of the Game.
___

P. S. Update from the Trib -- the kid was only 17 years old:

A 17-year-old boy was shot and killed outside a Chicago Public Schools high school basketball game at Chicago State University Wednesday night after a melee broke out in a handshake line after the game.

The boy was taken in serious condition to Advocate Christ Medical Center, according to the Chicago Fire Department, which had said he was 20 years old. The Cook County medical examiner's office identified the boy as Tyrone Lawson, 17, of the 11600 block of South Peoria Street.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

If the Republican Party turns...

Sen. Strom Thurmond (D-SC) supported Republican Barry Goldwater in 1964.
...its back on Big Business, as an article in the New York Times this morning suggests, it will complete the almost total transformation of America's two-party system in the last 80 years or so. From the piece (my emphasis):

Corporate chiefs in recent months have pleaded publicly with Republicans to raise their taxes for the sake of deficit reduction, and to raise the nation’s debt limit without a fight lest another confrontation like that in 2011 wallop the economy. But the lobbying has been to no avail. This is not their parents’ Republican Party.

In a shift over a half-century, the party base has been transplanted from the industrial Northeast and urban centers to become rooted in the South and West, in towns and rural areas. In turn, Republicans are electing more populist, antitax and antigovernment conservatives who are less supportive — and even suspicious — of appeals from big business. 

While the Democrats were traditionally the party of Jefferson and Madison -- southern, rural, libertarian -- the Republicans emerged in the mid-nineteenth century as the political descendants of Hamilton, the Federalists and the Whigs -- northern, industrial, and concerned with facilitating economic development. This meant that after the Civil War, the GOP became the party of Big Business. 

With the election of FDR in 1932, however, the parties gradually began to change places. The Democrats became the party of federal intervention in the economy (and elsewhere). Over time, they evolved into a center-left, northern, urban and suburban party. And all of the moderate northern Republicans of yesteryear are now Democrats.

The Republicans, beginning in about 1964, morphed into the old Democratic Party: conservative, southern, rural and -- yes -- white. So while it was once difficult to find a Republican in the South, it's now nearly impossible to find a Democrat. 

All that was left of the old GOP coalition was Big Business, which backed leaders like Reagan, the Bushes and Romney.

But, according to the article in today's Times, that may be over too. Today's GOP may be thought of as the new Libertarian Party, or the old Dixiecrat Party. The Democrats, meanwhile, are the new centrist party.

Tonight, Simeon and Morgan Park...

...will meet at Chicago State in what could be the Game of the Year (up to this point). Depending on what news service you read, they are the Nos. 2 and 3 teams in the state of Illinois.

MaxPreps

1. Whitney Young (13-1)
2. Morgan Park (16-1)
3. Simeon (11-2)

Chicago Tribune

1. Whitney Young
2. Morgan Park
3. Simeon

Chicago Sun-Times

1. Whitney Young
2. Simeon
3. Morgan Park

The Mustangs of Morgan Park (ranked No. 9 nationally by MaxPreps) have lost only one game, 83-80, to Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas (ranked 129). Among their sixteen victories were:

Notre Dame, 61-53
Lawrence North of Indianapolis, IN (No. 58 nationally), 67-58
Sheldon of Sacramento, CA (No. 60), 76-57
Our Savior New American, Centereach, NY (No. 2 in New York), 79-63
Bogan, 65-34
Stevenson, 67-52
Proviso East, 82-57
University (Normal), 81-51

Wow.

Simeon, meanwhile, has lost two games, to DeSoto (No. 1 in Texas and No. 5 nationally), 67-57, and to Montverde Academy of Florida (No. 1 nationally), 82-53. The Wolverines beat:

Aurora West, 60-47
Curie, 62-57
Southwind of Memphis, TN (No.35 nationally and No. 1 in the state), 55-53

I guess, based on those schedules, I'd have to rank Morgan Park higher as well.

But while the Mustangs have Billy Garrett, the No. 4-ranked player in the state (according to ESPN), Simeon boasts not only Jabari Parker (No. 1 in the state and No. 2 nationally), but also Kendrick Nunn (Nos. 2 and 59, respectively) and Kendall Pollard (No. 8).

With all that firepower, how can Simeon lose?

But, more importantly, with this big buildup, how can you not go to this game?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Tom Toles cartoon of the day:

Why did it take four years...

...for a Republican to come out and talk about the "dark vein of intolerance" in the GOP? And why did it have to be Colin Powell? As the former Secretary of State asked last Sunday, "Why do senior Republican leaders tolerate this kind of discussion within the party?"

Is it because establishment Republicans are afraid of their base? Are congressmen and senators afraid they'll be "primaried?" Are GOP leaders worried that the tea party might bolt the Republican Party? Are they putting their party above ... their country?

I understand why John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are silent on the subject; they're party hacks. But what about senior Republicans, like John McCain? He likes to think of himself as a leader. After all, the senator from Meet the Press Arizona was the party's standard-bearer as recently as 2008. (And he's also on the Sunday talk shows practically every week.) Why hasn't McCain spoken out like this? Why doesn't he distance himself from some of the uglier elements in the GOP? Is it ... lack of courage?