Friday, May 31, 2013

Okay, okay, so some people think...

...the Catholic League Blue is the best conference in the state of Illinois. After all, Mount Carmel won the 8A title last year (against a school from the DVC, no less!) and Loyola was the runner-up in 2011. (Maybe they have a point.) And everyone knows that the kids in the Catholic League are just plain tougher and hit harder than those "pansies" in the public schools.

At any rate, here's a "synthetic" 2013 football schedule for all of you who, when asked the question, "Where did you grow up?" answer not with your town or neighborhood, but with the name of your parish.

Aug. 30 Brother Rice @ Shepard
                 Providence @ Joliet Academy

Aug. 31 Marquette (Milwaukee) @ Loyola

One of the added benefits of the Catholic League: Loyola plays its home games on Saturdays.

Sept. 1 St. Rita vs. Marist @ Soldier Field
               Mount Carmel vs. St. Patrick, also @ Soldier Field

Three days of football in a row? Why not?

Sept. 6 Brother Rice @ Marist
               Morgan Park @ Mount Carmel

Go with the first game; the Crusaders and the RedHawks are archrivals.

Sept. 7 Loyola @ O'Fallon

Too far to drive? Shut yer mouth! (The Panthers were 9-3 last year.)

Sept. 13 Mount Carmel @ Bishop McNamara
                 Fenwick @ Brother Rice
                 De La Salle @ Providence

Fenwick may be one of the teams to watch in 2013 after a much-improved 2012. And De La Salle has OT Jamarco Jones and Vanderbilt-bound running back Mikale Wilbon. The Meteors may surprise some people this year!

Sept. 20 Brother Rice @ Mount Carmel

Classic South Side matchup. 

Sept. 21 Providence @ Loyola

Sept. 27 Loyola @ Brother Rice
                  Mount Carmel @ St. Rita

Many of the kids on Mount Carmel and St. Rita went to grammar school together. Many of their fathers went to grammar school together. Many of their grandfathers...

Oct. 4 St. Rita @ Providence

Oct. 5 Mount Carmel @ Loyola

Always a contender for Game of the Year.

Oct. 11 Loyola @ De La Salle
               Brother Rice @ Bishop McNamara

Oct. 12 Providence @ Fenwick

Oct. 18  Providence @ Mount Carmel
                 St. Rita @ Brother Rice

Here we go with the grammar school thing again...

Oct. 25 Loyola @ St. Rita
                Brother Rice @ Providence

There; that should keep you busy this Fall. Go to a game near you!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Henry Morgentaler, a Canadian doctor...

...who performed abortions, died at age 90. From his obit in the Times (my emphasis):

In a country known for tolerance and free medical care for all citizens, Dr. Morgentaler was for decades at the center of battles between powerful forces like the Roman Catholic Church, which opposed abortion for any reason short of saving an endangered mother’s life, and women’s groups that contended that the decision not to bear a child is a personal one.

Dr. Morgentaler, who had survived Nazi death camps at Auschwitz and Dachau and emigrated from Poland to Canada after World War II, basically founded the Canadian abortion-rights movement in the late 1960s. He opened abortion clinics across the country, trained hundreds of doctors to perform abortions and said he had performed tens of thousands of them himself.

Dr. Morgentaler was threatened with death, attacked with garden shears, roughed up by a mob, caricatured as a baby butcher, splashed with ketchup and accused of fomenting violence. He escaped injury when one clinic was firebombed. After several abortion doctors were shot, he wore bulletproof vests and installed bulletproof windows at home. 

I wonder if anyone ever considered just talking to him.

Clarence Burke, Jr., lead singer...

...for the Five Stairsteps, died at age 64:

The Five Stairsteps — four brothers and a sister — formed in Chicago in the mid-1960s, having learned to play instruments and sing from their father, Clarence Sr., a police officer, and their mother, Betty. They were once called “the first family of soul,” a moniker later adopted by the Jackson 5.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Unfortunate Name of the Day...

...belongs to Phil Krinkie (far left), a former Minnesota state legislator who is said to be considering a run for Michele Bachmann's seat in Congress.

George Packer's new...

...book, The Unwinding, got a glowing review in the New York Times this morning: "...he’s written something close to a nonfiction masterpiece."

Money quote:

If a solitary fact can stand in for Mr. Packer’s arguments in “The Unwinding,” it is probably this one, about the heirs to Walton’s Walmart fortune: “Eventually six of the surviving Waltons,” the author writes, “would have as much money as the bottom 30 percent of Americans.”

Marshall Lytle, bassist for...

...Bill Haley and His Comets, died at age 79.

Are you a fan of the DVC?

If not, maybe you should be. After all, everyone knows the DuPage Valley is the best conference in Illinois. Now, because you have a busy life (and I don't have one at all) I've taken the liberty of constructing a "synthetic" 2013 high school football schedule for your convenience. Just stick with the plan I've outlined below and I'm sure you'll see plenty of high-quality football this fall. Ready? Go!

Aug. 30 Glenbard North @ Batavia
                 Cary-Grove @ Wheaton North
                 Glenbard West @ Wheaton Warrenville South
                 Waubonsie Valley @ Naperville Central
                 Naperville North @ Neuqua Valley

What an embarrassment of riches!

Sept. 6 Wheaton Warrenville South @ Maine South
               Neuqua Valley @ Naperville Central

Depends on how far you're willing to drive.

Sept. 13 Wheaton North @ Wheaton Warrenville South
                  Naperville North @ Glenbard North

Gotta go with the Wheaton rivalry.

Sept. 20 Naperville North @ Wheaton North

Sept. 27 Wheaton Warrenville South @ Naperville North

Oct. 4 Naperville Central @ Wheaton Warrenville South

Oct. 11 Glenbard North @ Naperville Central

Oct. 18 Wheaton Warrenville South @ Glenbard North
                Naperville Central @ Wheaton North

Tough one; we won't know which is the better game until that week.

Oct. 25 Glenbard North @ Wheaton North
                Naperville Central @ Naperville North (at North Central College)

Again, tough one. But I have to think GBN @ WN will be one for the ages!

The S&P 500 has now doubled...

...since President Obama took office and home prices are up ten percent over last year. The economy is clearly recovering.

Now, will the tea party "fever" in Washington finally start to break? Maybe. Rep. Michele Bachmann just announced that she won't run for reelection in 2014. That's one less crazy Republican in Congress. From the AP (my emphasis):

“My decision was not influenced by any concerns about my being re-elected,” Bachmann said. She narrowly won a fourth term in 2012 over Democrat Jim Graves, a hotel chain founder who is running again in 2014.

Bachmann also said, “This decision was not impacted in any way by the recent inquiries into the activities of my former presidential campaign.” In January, a former Bachmann aide filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, claiming Bachmann made improper payments to an Iowa state senator who was the state chairman of her 2012 presidential run. The aide, Peter Waldron, also accused Bachmann of other FEC violations.

Let the fever-breaking begin.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The next time you hear...

...someone brag about his or her ancestors, tell them you're the descendant of royalty:

...everyone of European heritage alive today is a descendant of Charlemagne, who ruled over much of Europe as the first Holy Roman Emperor. 

Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Sunday, May 26, 2013

After bugging Benet Academy...

...to post their 2013 football schedule on the school's Web site, I received a tweet today directing me to benetfootball.com. I'll save you the trouble of clicking on it (last year's records in parentheses):

Aug. 30 @ Downers Grove South (4-5)

Sept. 6 South Elgin (4-5)
Sept. 13 St. Patrick (7-4)
Sept. 20 @ Crete-Monee (14-0)
Sept. 27 @ Marian Catholic (1-8)

Oct. 4 St. Viator (5-5)
Oct. 12 @ Nazareth (5-4)
Oct. 18 @ Marist (8-2)
Oct. 25 Joliet Catholic (8-5)

The Redwings went 11-2 last year and made it to the 7A semifinals where they were eliminated by Lincoln-Way East, 37-13. (The Griffins went on to lose the final in a nail-biter to Glenbard West, 10-8.)

But 2012 was a heck of a turnaround for Benet, who went 1-8 the previous year. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the 2011 Redwings scored a total of 43 points all season. Their high-water mark was the 14 they scored in a losing effort to Marist. And in their lone victory over Washington of South Bend, Indiana, they could  manage only six points. The 2012 squad, in comparison, averaged 32 points a game, including 62 against a different Washington. (Did I read that right?) Bottom line: if your school is named "Washington," don't schedule a football game against Benet.

Actually, the real bottom line is that in only three seasons, Coach Pat New has taken the Benet program from an also-ran in the East Suburban Catholic Conference to a contender for the 7A title. Not bad.

And this year could be even better. Behind the signal-calling of 6'6" junior Jack Beneventi, above, (who already has offers from Illinois, Iowa and Notre Dame) the Redwings should be right back in the hunt. (I tell ya, these kids from Benet are so clean-cut they even wear ties under their jerseys!)

After two warm-up games against Downers Grove South and South Elgin, Benet is scheduled to face St. Patrick at home, the one team that beat them in the regular season last year, 17-16. I have to think the Redwings will be sky-high for this one and should return the favor.

So that puts Benet at 3-0 (or at least 2-1) going into what could be its toughest test of the year: on the road against defending 6A champs, Crete-Monee. Whoa. The good news? Laquon Treadwell, last year's Chicago Tribune Player of the Year, has moved on. Phew! The bad news? The Warriors have two highly-rated defensive players that could give Beneventi headaches: linebacker Nyles Morgan and defensive end Chris Slayton.

Will Benet survive its trip down to Crete in Week Four? I don't know, but I may very well have to go down there to find out. If the Redwings win, they're definitely for real. If not, they can lick their wounds the following week against Marian Catholic, a team that struggled last year.

So at the end of September, whither Benet? I'll say 4-1, with a loss to either St. Patrick or Crete-Monee. (5-0 would be a stretch.) Not too shabby, but October doesn't look to get any easier for the Redwings.

While the Lisle squad shut out St. Viator and Nazareth last year, both programs should be more competitive in 2013. Marist, led by Irish recruit Nic Weishar, will be itching to extract revenge from last year's 34-24 defeat, its only regular season loss. And, finally, Joliet Catholic, minus Ty Isaac, will also be out to avenge last year's 31-21 loss.

(By the way, will Beneventi be throwing to Weishar in a couple of years at ND? Sounds like Coach Brian Kelly could use him right now.)

As of today, I'll predict Benet goes into the postseason at a deceptively strong 7-2. While that's a touch worse than last year's 8-1, I expect the Redwings to be a better team going into the 2013 playoffs. Can they make it all the way down to Champaign DeKalb? Gosh, I don't know. But they should be fun to watch!

P. S. Now if I could just get Mount Carmel and Notre Dame to post their schedules...

David Carr talks about...

...his book, The Night of the Gun.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Tom Toles cartoon of the day:

I've begun reading...

...The Night of the Gun, by David Carr. It's a riveting story of his life as a drug addict, wife-beater and all-around thug before he cleaned up his act and became a reporter for the New York Times.

I knew Carr was from suburban Minneapolis, like me, but what I didn't know was that he and I attended the same high school:

It was assumed that I would go to Benilde High School, a suburban all-boys Catholic school where my older brothers had gone. We were expected to work summers and pay half the tuition. I caddied at a Jewish country club, came up with my share, and hated nearly every second of it. Benilde had the same triumvirate that existed in every high school at the time: jocks, nerds, and freaks. I self-assigned to the freaks.

Now, I guess my experience at Benilde was a little different from Carr's. First of all, he and I could have been a "tag team": Carr graduated in the spring of 1974 and I transferred in as a junior the following fall. (We moved to Minneapolis from New Jersey that year -- the subject of another post.) So our paths narrowly missed. Also, I didn't actually attend "Benilde," but rather Benilde-St. Margaret's. (The two schools had merged over the summer.) And, finally, I would characterize my experience at BSM as an overall positive one, after the initial shock of transferring into a newly-merged school as a junior while not knowing a soul in the entire state of Minnesota.

Carr's description of Benilde as a triumvirate made me think, though: to which of the three groups did I belong?

Well, it certainly wasn't the freaks. At sixteen, I was well on my way to developing a drinking problem, but I was still terrified of marijuana and other drugs at that time.

A jock? I wish. While -- strictly speaking -- a member of the varsity baseball team, I was probably the last one chosen for the squad and rarely saw playing time.

(I do remember one afternoon in my senior year when I actually started. We drove to away games in our own cars -- it was the '70s, remember? -- and one of the vehicles carrying a number of the starters got lost along the way. This was in the days before GPS; it was in the days before anything. Coach Elmer Schwankl -- his real name -- had no choice that day but to put me in at second base, probably where I could do the least amount of damage. As we were taking the field in the bottom of the first, Terry, our first baseman -- and not the nicest guy in the world -- stuck his glove in my chest and said, "No errors." I looked back at him as if to say, "Who, me?" and then promptly handled a routine ground ball hit on the very first pitch. Terry seemed genuinely surprised when he caught my throw to first, and I think he even acquired a new-found respect for me. When it was my turn to bat in the next inning, I either walked, or grounded out, or did something half-way respectable. At least I didn't strike out. But by that time, the starters had arrived and I took my usual seat on the bench next to Coach Schwankl. My day in the sun had finally come, I hadn't blown it, and I ended up getting my varsity letter after the season, albeit too late to wear on one of those jackets with the leather sleeves I so coveted. Oh, well.)

So what group does that leave? Well, the nerds, I guess. Although I didn't think of myself that way. Like everything else in life, the lines between the three groups were blurry (and probably still are). The guys I hung out with played sports but weren't what you'd call "jocks." Most, but not all, of us drank. And one of us had even tried pot. (I wonder if his older brother knew Carr.) But we certainly weren't freaks (or burn-outs, as we called them).

No, we were more like what Carr later described in the book as "the nerdy can-do people who worked [on the newspaper]. Too square. Too uptight. Too intimidating."

Too intimidating? Us? We were really just insecure, conscientious students who desperately wanted to please our parents. The kind of teenagers grown-ups would have called "good kids."

I wish I had known Carr back then, or knew someone who knew him. I'd love to meet him; he's one of my favorite writers on the Times.

But what I really want to know is, is David Carr related to Chris Carr, who graduated in my class? He was from Hopkins too. Are they brothers? Cousins? I'd like to know.

Haynes Johnson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning...

...journalist, died at age 81. He and his father Malcolm became the first father-and-son writers to win the coveted award: 

[Malcolm Johnson] was a newspaperman with The New York Sun. For The Sun, the elder Mr. Johnson won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting for his 24-part series, “Crime on the Waterfront.”

That series, which exposed the unsavory, often violent alliance of labor unions and organized crime on New York’s docks, inspired “On the Waterfront,” the 1954 film starring Marlon Brando.

P. S. Who has Venetian blinds in the back of his car?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Will the state of Wisconsin...

...have two candidates for the Republican nomination in 2016?

According to the Des Moines Register, Gov. Scott Walker's "appearance at a Polk County dinner could lay groundwork for a 2016 run":

Iowa GOP operatives say that Walker, who has yet to say whether he’ll seek the White House in 2016, seems to have the resume, philosophy and personality to make him popular with Republicans in Iowa. He has impeccable credentials with social conservatives and tea partiers, two must-please factions for anyone trying to win the GOP caucuses here.

Congressman Paul Ryan, meanwhile, is writing a book. According to the Washington Post:

Ryan is considered a potential presidential candidate in 2016, and writing a book is a common way for contenders to lay out their ideas.

So will the Dairy State have two contenders for the GOP nomination in 2016? With Governors Bobby Jindal and Chris Christie, and Senators Rand Paul, Marco Rubio (and Ted Cruz?) already making noises, the field could get real crowded real quick. 

You don't suppose they'll all compete to be the most conservative, do you?

I'll bring the popcorn.

Leonard Marsh, one of the founders...

...of Snapple, died at age 80. It mentioned in his obit that Marsh's father was a "cobbler." And I've often wondered, what the heck does a cobbler actually do?

I was reminded of the scene which preceded the one above from Seinfeld, "The Mom and Pop Store":

KRAMER: Jerry, you know that shoe repair place at the end of the block? Well, if they don't get some business, they're gonna have to shut down and make way for one of those gourmet coffee or cookie stores.

ELAINE: I like coffee.

GEORGE: I like <imitates Kramer> "cookies."

KRAMER: Yeah, of course you do. And do you know why? Because you're a bunch of yuppies. It's your go-go corporate takeover lifestyles that are driving out these Mom and Pop stores and destroying the fabric of this neighborhood.

GEORGE: Well, what's so great about a Mom and Pop store? Let me tell you something. If my Mom and Pop ran a store, I wouldn't shop there.

KRAMER: Hey, Bogambo - they've been in the neighborhood for 48 years. Now, come on, Jerry. You've gotta have a pair of shoes in need of a cobblin.'

JERRY: I really don't wear the kind of shoes that have to be cobbled.

Is China the "Japan" of our time?

I've been asking myself that question for some time now. Paul Krugman reminded me of it when I read his column today:

A generation ago, Japan was widely admired — and feared — as an economic paragon. Business best sellers put samurai warriors on their covers, promising to teach you the secrets of Japanese management; thrillers by the likes of Michael Crichton portrayed Japanese corporations as unstoppable juggernauts rapidly consolidating their domination of world markets.

Then Japan fell into a seemingly endless slump, and most of the world lost interest.

I wonder: does America always need some sort of bogeyman?

After World War II it was the Soviet Union. In the 1950s, it wasn't uncommon to see a Communist behind every tree. It seemed like everything was a Communist plot by those devious Russians to destroy the U. S. And when the Soviets launched the first space satellite, well, everyone in America just lost it.

And then in the 1970s, as relations between the U. S. and the Soviet Union improved and there was more interaction between the two countries, many Americans came to realize that the U. S. was far ahead of Russia in almost every category. It turned out that all that fear had been misplaced. And then in the 1990s the Soviet empire just ... collapsed.

Time for a new rival to worry about; enter Japan. (See Krugman, above.) But just when Americans were beginning to take notice of the Land of the Rising Sun, it was too late: the Nikkei topped out in 1989 and Japan went into a long and deep slump. (I know; I worked for a Japanese bank all through the '90s.)

So who's the fearsome country du jour? I'd say China. It seems like they do everything right. (Except all that central planning stuff.) After a thousand years of Western dominance of the globe, Americans suddenly want to know how the Chinese do everything, even -- absurdly -- parenting.

Now, the Chinese have done a great job in lifting one of the poorest nations on earth out of extreme poverty. Kudos to them. But will they continue in this vein, or become the next Soviet Union or Japan in the not-too-distant future? Call me nuts, but I'll bet on the latter.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Here's "Blackbird," a...

...taste portion of Henri Dutilleux, who died at age 97.

The modernist composer once told an interviewer, “I don’t support aesthetic terrorism.” That's good to know. I guess.

The U. S. Representative...

...for Florida's 3rd congressional district is a tea party Republican named Ted Yahoo Yoho.

Joe Nocera has a different take...

...on Apple CEO Timothy Cook's testimony before the Senate yesterday (my emphasis):

On Tuesday, despite the overwhelming evidence presented by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that Apple engaged in dubious tax avoidance gimmicks, Cook claimed that Apple never resorted to tax gimmickry. Even though the company appears to pay about 10 percent of its pretax income in taxes — when the federal corporate tax rate is 35 percent — Cook said, “We pay all the taxes we owe — every single dollar.” He added that Apple had never shifted any of its American profits to an offshore tax haven when, in fact, that is basically what it has done, routing tens of billions in pretax profits to a shell corporation in Ireland that exists solely to avoid taxes in the United States. He even said that the low taxes Apple pays overseas is on the profits of its overseas sales. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this was a flat-out lie.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma...

...voted no in January on a bill to provide $50 billion in disaster funding for states hit by Hurricane Sandy.

But yesterday, Inhofe seemed open to supporting a bill to provide extra funding for Oklahoma after a deadly tornado swept through the town of Moore on Monday afternoon.

Why the change of heart? “That was totally different,” Inhofe said on MSNBC, referring to the Sandy bill.

As the old saying goes, "The real scandal...

...in Washington isn’t what’s illegal -- the real scandal is what’s legal.”

According to Apple CEO Timothy Cook (above):

“It’s important to tell our story, and I’d like people to hear directly from me,” he told Mr. McCain and the other senators.

Apple, he testified, pays “all the taxes we owe — every single dollar.” 

And, as crazy as that sounds, I'm sure he's right.

According to Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (my emphasis): 

...a major study of the federal income taxes paid, or not paid, by 280 Fortune 500 corporations found, among other things, that 30 of the companies paid no net federal income tax from 2008 through 2010. New information for 2011 shows that almost all these 30 companies have maintained their tax dodging ways.

In fact, all but four of the 30 companies remained in the no-federal-income-tax category over the 2008-11 period.

In response to all this, liberal writer Matthew Yglesias writes 
here and here that the corporate income tax should just be scrapped altogether:

Rather than trying to mend the tax, we ought to end it and replace it with something else. My preference would be to structure its replacement to ensure that the costs are born by  
rich executives and wealthy shareholders rather than middle-class workers. That suggests curbing the current tax preference for dividend income over labor income. That way corporate profits that are paid out to firm owners would end 
up being taxed about as much as they are today, but profits reinvested in hiring new workers and expanded capacity wouldn’t be. Or if the concern is that too much of the benefits 
of a corporate income tax cut would accrue to highly paid executives, we could raise the payroll tax cap so highly compensated workers would pay more. A conservative might prefer to replace the corporate income tax with cuts to 
Medicaid or the EITC to make low-income families pay. The whole range of options is worth debating. But the goal 
should be to replace the mystery meat of the 
corporate income tax with a clear target. Pick who or what we want to tax, and tax it deliberately. 

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

One last look...

...at Ray Manzarek and the Doors. RIP.

I've often asked myself...

...at what point did I begin to evolve politically. And, like any evolution story, it's murky.

As far back as 1980, after singing the praises -- loudly -- of Ronald Reagan in 1976, I voted for John Anderson for president. I just couldn't see how the Gipper could cut taxes, raise defense spending and balance the budget. (Turns out Anderson was right: You do it with mirrors.)

So it's hard, impossible really, for me to put my finger on exactly when I began my long, strange journey from libertarian to Obama supporter.

But I do remember one of the points on the continuum: in the late 1990s, Republicans impeached President Clinton (whom I never cared much for personally) for having an extramarital affair with another consenting adult. Even my libertarian self thought, "Geez, you can't beat Clinton at the ballot box so you go after him for this? Really? Why not try coming up with better ideas for the country and then going out and selling them to the public?"

And I think that's the danger that today's Republicans are flirting with. Rather than harass President Obama over a bunch of imaginary "scandals," why not talk about a way to reduce the unemployment rate faster, or offer a conservative alternative to the Affordable Care Act, or ... something.

Just as I turned against the GOP in the late '90s, so must some people be souring on today's Republicans. I predict that, rather than energize the base, the GOP's conduct might actually force some independents into the waiting arms of the Democrats. Republicans should hold the House in 2014, but they may very well fail to take back the Senate. Then there's 2016. And at the rate they're going, I still think the GOP will nominate a far-right candidate and get just crushed.

The Tom Toles cartoon of the day:

The Most Frequently Misspelled Name...

...of the Day must surely be Julie Patrick Petrick, a Democratic strategist.

Ray Manzarek, a 1956 graduate of...

...St. Rita High School in Chicago (left), died at age 74. Manzarek went on to earn a bachelor's degree in economics from DePaul University before founding a rock band in 1965. (The name of it escapes me right now.)

The Unfortunate Name of the Day...

...belongs to Thomas Tootle, an Ohio workers’ compensation attorney.

Monday, May 20, 2013

What REALLY happened at the IRS:


Or was it more like this?

The metaphor of the day...

...is from David Carr, one of my favorite writers at the Times:

Interstate 95 between New York and Washington, D.C., is no one’s idea of a pleasant piece of real estate, and that went double for a recent Sunday afternoon. Fuming at the stop-and-go jam, I jabbed at the radio, looking for something, anything, to divert me from the conga line to nowhere.

P. S. I finally ordered Carr's book from Amazon, The Night of the Gun: A reporter investigates the darkest story of his life. His own. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Here's a great scene...

...from a great movie to start your weekend.

The Tom Toles cartoon of the day:

Jake Kolbe, quarterback...

...for Naperville Central, just committed to Illinois State. Congrats to him and the Redbirds!

I didn't see Kolbe or Central play last year; the Redhawks went a disappointing 4-5 after making it to the semifinals in 2011. (They lost a heartbreaker that year to the eventual champs, Bolingbrook, 22-19. I know; I was there.)

So do you want to see the 6'2", 170-pound Kolbe play this year? Me too. Looks like we'll have plenty of opportunities from the looks of the schedule (last year's records in parentheses):

Aug. 30 Waubonsie Valley (10-2)

Sept. 6 Neuqua Valley (12-1)
Sept. 13 Lake Park (4-5)
Sept. 20 Glenbard East (1-8)
Sept. 27 @ West Aurora (3-6)

Oct. 4 @ Wheaton Warrenville South (4-5)
Oct. 11 Glenbard North (12-2)
Oct. 18 @ Wheaton North (10-2)
Oct. 25 Naperville North (5-5), at North Central College

Now, I know what you're thinking: the Redhawks have to open up against Waubonsie and Neuqua? Yikes!

But wait; the Warriors graduated star running back Austin Guido (Western Michigan) and the Wildcats graduated two stars from their 2012 squad, quarterback Dylan Andrew (St. Thomas) and running back Joey Rhattigan (Princeton). Neuqua still has wide receiver, Mikey Dudek, who's already committed to Illinois. But do the Wildcats have anyone who can throw to him? Does either team have a running back who can fill Guido's or Rhattigan's outsized shoes? I don't know.

If Central can beat one of these two teams at home, they would then face four schools with losing records last year. Now, don't kid yourself: Wheaton Warrenville South had an off year last season and coach Ron Muhitch will no doubt have his Tigers back on the winning track in 2013.

But, at this point in the season, I would guess the Redhawks could be a very respectable 4-2.

Then comes Justin Jackson and Glenbard North, and Clayton Thorson and Wheaton North. Uh-oh. Okay, now Central is 4-4.

So might the 2013 season all come down to the last game against the Redhawk's cross-town rival, Naperville North? Here are the results from the last five years:

2012: North 26, Central 23
2011: Central 36, North 26
2010: North 27, Central 24
2009: Central 24, North 21
2008: North 35, Central 21

I'd say it's Central's turn to win. But who knows? That's why they play the game. (And I just might be there.)

The Name of the Day...

...is Brock Spack, the head football coach of Illinois State.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

My 93-year-old mother...

...is always imploring me to watch The Five on Fox, above. (I have; don't bother.)

This morning, I read that 41 percent of Republicans believe Benghazi is the worst scandal in American history.*

Now where in the world do you suppose they get ideas like that?

* Hat tip: Greg Sargent.

Thomas Messer, a longtime director...

...of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, died at age 93.

My mother and I visited the Guggenheim once when we were living in New Jersey in the early 1970s. According to Wikipedia:

Its unique ramp gallery extends from just under the skylight in the ceiling in a long, continuous spiral along the outer edges of the building until it reaches the ground level.

It was only after my mother and I walked up the ramp and reached the elevator at the top of the building that we realized you're supposed to take the elevator up and then walk down the ramp.

Oh, well. At least we got some "culture" that day.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

The Bad '80s Mullet of the Day...

...Award goes to Bart Chilton, a commissioner on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Al Fritz, who created the Sting-Ray...

...for Schwinn, died at age 88. From his obit in the Times (my emphasis):

The model, instantly recognizable by its banana seat and handlebars as high and curved as longhorns, found its initial market in young baby boomers at a time when motorcycles and souped-up vehicles of all kinds were the postwar rage.

Mr. Fritz was Schwinn’s vice president for engineering, research and development in 1962 when he flew to Southern California to investigate a new fad: children were buying used 20-inch bicycle frames and refitting them with long handlebars and banana seats. Recognizing the design’s mass-market potential, he built a prototype and came up with the name Sting-Ray because the curved handlebars reminded him of the upswept pectoral fins of a swimming stingray.

Many Schwinn employees were skeptical, but Mr. Fritz prevailed, and the first run of Sting-Rays was produced in 1963. Schwinn eventually sold more than two million Sting-Rays before the model was discontinued in the late 1970s. Vintage models now sell for thousands of dollars.

I had a Sting-Ray in "Radiant Coppertone" just like the one above.

Hey Northwestern football fans, save...

...the date: Glenbard North will travel to Wheaton North on October 25. Should be a great contest, as always. (The Panthers won last year, 17-15, on a last-second field goal. And I was there.)

So why should Wildcat supporters care? Because two of Northwestern's top recruits for 2014 will be facing  each other that night: running back Justin Jackson of Glenbard North (who just committed) and quarterback Clayton Thorson of Wheaton North. I wouldn't wait that long to see these two talented young athletes, but you could kill two birds with one stone that night.

Kudos to Wildcat coach Pat Fitzgerald! According to the Trib:

This is shaping up to be the best recruiting class in school history, surging to 15th in the country in 247Sports.com's composite rankings.

Edgy Tim O'Halloran writes...

...about high school sports for the Chicago Tribune. (I never miss his blog on football.)

Yesterday, Edgy Tim wrote about one of the area's top prospects. According to Mr. O'Halloran, "about 25 D-1 schools have either offered or will offer" this player. Wow! That's great. Here's an excerpt from the post (my emphasis):

It's hard to fathom in this age of non-stop recruiting coverage that any prospect with 13 offers could go under the radar. But that's the case with [High School] junior offensive tackle [Player's Name]. [Player] was just 185 pounds a year and a half ago, but he has hit a growth spurt. Add his work in the weight room and a strong nutrition plan, and the 6-6, 274-pound [Player] has transformed into a top-level recruit.

"A year and a half ago I was 185 pounds, and I was more like a stick figure," [Player] said. "It really started for me a few months ago with the recruiting interest. The coaches at my school started to talk to some of the colleges about how I added weight and strength and that I was a much different-looking player these days.

"I just really started to add weight and size once the season ended. I just started to really hit the weights hard, and I also got on a great nutrition program. The coaches said they felt I could play at the D-I level in college if I bought into the weights and getting bigger, and they were right. Once spring recruiting started the college coaches would come in and watch my workout, and all of a sudden more and more schools started to offer me a scholarship."

Wait a minute! Did I read that right? This kid gained almost ninety pounds in a year and a half? Granted, he's 6'6" and can carry that much weight on his frame, but isn't that a lot to gain in such a short period of time?

I was curious and asked my godson, who tried out for the Arizona Cardinals a couple of years ago as an offensive lineman. (He's huge.) His response:

"Zero percent chance that's not substance enhanced. I grew an inch and 45 pounds between my junior and senior year and that was extremely aggressive."

I asked him, "If a casual observer like me notices that, what about all the coaches, parents and scouts, etc. Are they just looking the other way? Am I naive?"

To which he responded, "Blissful ignorance on their part? Kind of shocking really."

Now, I'm not making any accusations. (I didn't include a link to the piece or the kid's name on purpose. I'll let you look it up.) This player is probably a nice kid. And I'm sure his parents and coaches have only the best intentions for him. But, still, am I the only reader who found this piece just a little ... troubling?

P. S. My godson also told me that he would never let his kids play football. He's that concerned about head trauma.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I heard President Obama put...

... an extra blanket on the First Couple's bed last night.

"Scandal!" shrieked Fox News.

"What's he covering up?" wondered Sen. Lindsey Graham.

"We want answers to these questions!" demanded Sen. John McCain.

Benghazi! The IRS! The Justice Department! 

Anyone else tired of all these "scandals?"

I like what Andrew Sullivan wrote today, "...the GOP has no relevant policies for our times, just politics."

Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic...

...and Ezra Klein of the Washington Post are two of the best writers I've found on the subject of health care reform.

That's why I read with great interest Cohn's new piece, "My Five Obamacare Anxieties: The Scenarios that Keep this Reform Advocate Up at Night."

Of the five, I think the last is the most significant: "Obama Will Get Smacked No Matter What" (my emphasis):

Here are a few predictions of things that will happen during the first year of Obamacare: Many people will experience long waits before being able to see a doctor. Insurance companies will refuse to cover important treatments that doctors say are necessary. Employers will balk at the rising cost of providing care to their employees. These predictions are certain to come true— because they come true every year. And while Obamacare was designed to address some of these problems, they won’t all vanish overnight.

Perhaps my biggest fear about Obamacare is that the inevitable, predictable troubles become full-blown political firestorms, undermining the entire system. The national Republican leadership doesn’t share the goal of universal health care coverage and neither do Rush Limbaugh or the pundits on Fox. They’ve made it clear they want to get rid of the entire ACA and replace it with nothing at all. You can expect these forces to exploit even the slightest sign of trouble—even problems in the general realm of health that don’t actually have anything to do with Obamacare. “[The administration] own[s] the health care system,” says Mark McClellan, the former administrator of Medicare and Medicaid, who oversaw implementation of Bush’s prescription drug benefit. “And ... they only get the things that go wrong.”

This could have a snowball effect. Insurers could get skittish about participating in the exchanges and stop offering plans. Wavering state officials might come to the conclusion that it’s too politically risky to help federal officials to fix the system and instead let the problems pile up. Individual consumers might decide that it’s too expensive to purchase insurance on the exchanges and opt to simply pay the penalty instead. That’s the true nightmare scenario—that the predictions of doom become self-fulfilling.

That’s why expectations are so important. Starting in January, millions of people will get the kind of affordable, comprehensive, and stable insurance they never could before. This may be quicker to happen in some states than others—and the experience may not always be easy. But it will certainly be an improvement on the current state of affairs. And even those who anticipate difficulties also expect that things will get better over time. “I have described my expectations for 2014 as ‘bumpy,’ ” says economist Gail Wilensky, who was in charge of Medicare and Medicaid under President George H. W. Bush, “but something I assume the country will muddle through.”

And I agree with all of that. I mean, after all, people were blaming Obamacare for all sorts of ills before the darn thing was even passed. You think that will change?

So here's my question: What will follow the near certain bumpy roll-out of Obamacare? 

A return to ... nothing? I don't think so. The previous "system," if you could call it that, was so dysfunctional that health care reform was the most pressing domestic issue in the 2008 campaign before the financial crisis hit. (Hard to remember, but true.)

How about a single-payer system, i. e., Medicare For All? Sadly, no. While that would probably be the most efficient system, the insurance companies are just too entrenched and too powerful. Like it or not, they're here to stay. 

So what does that leave? Obamacare, warts and all. I expect the Affordable Care Act will be pulled and pushed and prodded and tweaked over the years until the U. S. has a system roughly like that of Germany's: cradle-to-grave coverage by the private insurer of your choice which will be heavily regulated (like the utilities) by the federal government. (Seniors will still be covered by Medicare; nobody wants them.) 

It may take a while, but that's where I think we're headed. And, as Martha Stewart would say, that's a good thing.

Stuart Rothenberg asks...

..."Ted Cruz for President?" and answers, "Not So Fast."

I agree with Rothenberg's piece in Roll Call on one point: the junior senator from Texas will never be president. He's just too far right. But I disagree on another: Cruz has an excellent chance at winning the GOP nomination in 2016. And I think Rothenberg makes the case himself at the end of the article (my emphasis):

The question now is whether the Republican Party can take its generally conservative message and make it more broadly appealing, including to younger people, Hispanics and Asian-Americans, or whether the party needs to experience a true political blood bath before even the most conservative elements agree that a new message and new style are called for.

Canada’s Progressive Conservative Party was the governing party going into the 1993 elections, holding 156 seats in Parliament. The party suffered a humiliating defeat in that election, winning just two seats. It took a revamped Conservative Party 13 years to form another government, but the 1993 blood-letting left no doubt that the party had to change.

As the Republican National Committee’s March 2013 report on the state of the party demonstrated, most veteran national GOP strategists seem to understand where the party is headed and how it needs to change.

But it’s far from clear that the primary voters and grass-roots activists understand that, and successful 2014 midterm elections — which are certainly possible given the differences in presidential and off-year turnout and given the Obama administration’s current problems — could help too many Republicans forget the important lessons of 2012.

The 2016 GOP nominating process will tell us a lot about whether Republicans really understand what is happening or the party needs to experience an electoral blood bath to get the message.

And I think that's it in a nutshell: the Republican Party base has no idea how far out of the mainstream it's become. (The Washington establishment, however, does get it.) But it may take a thorough shellacking, a la Goldwater in 1964 or McGovern in 1972 (or, more recently, Dukakis in 1988, above) to bring the GOP back to its senses.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

The Most Unique Name...

...of the Day belongs to Phineas Baxandall, a Senior Policy Analyst specializing in tax and budget and transportation issues for the United States Public Interest Research Group.

Monday, May 13, 2013

I had a friendly discussion...

...with my brother recently about the stubbornly high rate of unemployment in America. (Click here for a larger view of the above chart.)

My brother maintained that the economy was suffering from "structural" unemployment, i. e., workers lack the necessary skills needed for all the existing job openings, or they may simply have to relocate to that part of the country where jobs are available.

I, of course, referred to Paul Krugman, who claims that the problem isn't "structural" at all, but rather a lack of demand in the economy and that fiscal and monetary policy should be acting to provide the missing demand.

I recalled that Krugman wrote in one of his posts that on the eve of World War II (my emphasis):

...as the US began its military buildup and demand increased as a result, employment rose by 20 percent — the equivalent of adding 26 million jobs today.

In his blog today, Ezra Klein linked to the graph above which shows the ratio of job seekers to available jobs. In December, 2000, shortly after the Internet bubble burst, the ratio was 1.1-to-1. In July, 2009, after the stock market had bottomed out in March of that year, the ratio was 6.7-to-1. And now that the economy is on the mend, the ratio has improved to 3.1-to-1.

So, tell me, did all those workers have the right job skills in 2000, lose them until 2009, and then get them back again? Is that drop since 2009 the result of retraining? That's hard for me to believe.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A friend of mine asked...

...in an e-mail yesterday:

Mike, will your blog be giving us your views on Benghazi one of these days?

And I thought I already did, when I asked a week or so ago:


Is "Benghazi" becoming the new "Whitewater?": A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

Seriously, what is the "scandal?" What, if anything, is the president or the former secretary of state covering up? They massaged some talking points? Is that it? Really? Honestly, I can't for the life of me figure out what has the Republicans' undies in such a bunch.

My friend went on to say:

I think this Republican push on Benghazi is all about defeating Hillary if she is nominated in 2016.

To which I would reply: Yeah. Bingo! You got it. Isn't that obvious?

But the story is lingering. 

When I went to visit my mother last weekend even she mentioned it (and how it would disqualify Hillary for the presidency in 2016). And I thought, So that's what they're saying on Fox News these days.

Okay, so the story won't go away. And my friend Tom wants to know what I think. So I began reading up on what conservatives were saying about Benghazi and I still keep asking myself, "What, exactly, is the scandal?"

I even went as far as reading Peggy Noonan's column in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, "The Inconvenient Truth About Benghazi." And the gist of it was:

What happened in Benghazi last Sept. 11 and 12 was terrible in every way. 

No argument from me so far.

The genesis of the scandal?

Great. Now we're getting somewhere.

It looks to me like this:

The Obama White House sees every event as a political event. Really, every event, even an attack on a consulate and the killing of an ambassador. 

That's it? That's the scandal? The White House politicizes everything? Really?

Couldn't she have just as easily written:

The Republicans see every event as a political event. Really, every event, even an attack on a consulate and the killing of an ambassador. 

Ms. Noonan finishes by saying (my emphasis):

Will this story ever be completely told? Maybe not. But it's not going to go away, either. It's a prime example of the stupidity of all-politics-all-the-time. You make some bad moves for political reasons. And then you suffer politically because you made bad moves. 

And I think she's right, although I would have written it this way:

It's a prime example of the stupidity of all-politics-all-the-time. The Republicans make some bad moves for political reasons. And then they suffer politically because they made bad moves. 

Really, the right wing needs to get over this Hating-Obama-All-The-Time business. It's not getting them anywhere with that portion of the electorate that doesn't watch Fox.

What the Republican Party needs now isn't a scandal, it's an agenda. What do they want to do for the American people? Because without a positive agenda, the GOP will never return to power.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

George M. Leader, a former...

...governor of Pennsylvania, died at age 95.

Has there ever been a more appropriate name for a chief executive than "Leader?"

Friday, May 10, 2013

From a front page article...

...in the Times this morning, "After Plant Explosion, Texas Remains Wary of Regulation" (my emphasis):

Five days after an explosion at a fertilizer plant leveled a wide swath of this town, Gov. Rick Perry tried to woo Illinois business officials by trumpeting his state’s low taxes and limited regulations.
___

Raymond J. Snokhous, a retired lawyer in West who lost two cousins — brothers who were volunteer firefighters — in the explosion, said, “There has been nobody saying anything about more regulations.”

Texas has always prided itself on its free-market posture. It is the only state that does not require companies to contribute to workers’ compensation coverage. It boasts the largest city in the country, Houston, with no zoning laws. It does not have a state fire code, and it prohibits smaller counties from having such codes. Some Texas counties even cite the lack of local fire codes as a reason for companies to move there.

But Texas has also had the nation’s highest number of workplace fatalities — more than 400 annually — for much of the past decade. Fires and explosions at Texas’ more than 1,300 chemical and industrial plants have cost as much in property damage as those in all the other states combined for the five years ending in May 2012. Compared with Illinois, which has the nation’s second-largest number of high-risk sites, more than 950, but tighter fire and safety rules, Texas had more than three times the number of accidents, four times the number of injuries and deaths, and 300 times the property damage costs. 
___

“Businesses can come down here and do pretty much what they want to,” Mr. Burka said. “That is the Texas way.”

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Hillary Clinton must be worried...

...that moderate Chris Christie may get the GOP nomination in 2016. Yesterday, First Lady Michelle Obama said the New Jersey governor is "terrific, and his family is wonderful, and I wish them the best."

He's toast.

When I was growing up...

...in suburban Chicago, New Jersey and Minnesota, our family read the Chicago Tribune, the Newark Star-Ledger and the Minneapolis Tribune.

Now, by "read" I mean we had subscriptions to those papers, had them delivered to our driveway and then essentially fought over the sports page. Oh, sure, there was also the comics, the local news and the obits (the Irish sports page), but I don't recall anyone looking at the front section or -- God forbid! -- the op-ed page.

As I got a little older we got into the habit, somehow, of driving over to a special newsstand after Mass and buying the Sunday New York Times. I can't imagine what any of us were thinking (it had a terrible sports page); maybe we just wanted to think of ourselves as more literate or something. As for actually reading it, well, everyone knew it was controlled by Those People (and I don't mean the WASPs at the local country club) and was filled with crazy (and dangerous) liberal ideas. So I think we just plopped it down on the coffee table in the living room and sat around it much like the apes around the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, above. After a decent interval, we would all then retire to the family room for a full day of watching the NFL on TV.
___

A digression: I remember one fall afternoon in particular. When we were on our third, or so, NFL game my sister-in-law entered the room. Still getting used to our habit of watching football all day on Sundays, she asked innocently, "Whom are we rooting for?"

Since the game was inconsequential -- two teams probably battling to stay out of last place late in the season -- my father answered, "No one in particular."

"Then why are we watching it?"

"Because it's the only game on."
___

So why this big, long, boring history lesson on my family's newspaper-reading habits? I have a point to make.

Somewhere along the line a thing called the Internet was invented, or emerged, or somehow appeared before most people. And, lo and behold, readers were no longer limited to their local newspapers. They could read whatever they wanted. In fact, you can -- and probably do -- assemble your own "virtual" newspaper every day: national news from the New York Times or the Washington Post, business news from the Wall Street Journal and sports from your local paper. Or whatever combination you choose. Beautiful!

But local newspapers (which were never that great in the first place) began to lose out in this Brave New  World of journalism. Subscriptions were dropped, advertising revenues declined and venerable dailies like the Chicago Tribune were sold to real estate tycoons with bad beards.

So -- and I'm finally getting to the point of this piece now -- the Koch brothers are back in the news, this time for trying to buy eight newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune. Apparently, the billionaire brothers think the "media" has a liberal bias (which it does, by the way, thank God) and are out to change that. If they could just make some local papers more like the Wall Street Journal, their reasoning goes, they would be able to bend public opinion in a more libertarian direction.

Now while some progressives are up in arms about all this, I say: Go ahead and try.

First of all, the Kochs are about twenty years too late. (But don't anyone tell them!) Most of us get our news from the "Internet" -- remember that? -- and choose what we read anyway. Are you a liberal? Then there's plenty for you to read. Conservative? Ditto; just check out the Journal and Fox. Middle-of-the-road? Have at it. In fact, the Internet is essentially infinite: you could surf all day and not even scratch the surface. No one's waiting for the LA Times or the Trib to hit their doorstep to find out what's in the news today.

(And, by the way, is there really a market for more conservative news? Isn't that niche pretty much filled already by the likes of the Journal, Fox and Rush Limbaugh?)

So I really don't think this strategy of buying local papers is going to have much of an impact. (Liberals can exhale.) Nobody reads them anymore anyway. They get their news from reliably conservative or liberal outlets and check out the local papers for sports and weather (if that).

So go ahead, Koch brothers, blow a ton of cash on your latest Quixotic adventure. It'll be a colossal waste of time and money. Don't believe me? Just ask Sam Zell; he'll set you straight.

(Or not. After all, he's the guy who's trying to dump these bad investments on the "greater fool.")