Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Is Chris Christie a Republican...

...I could actually see voting for some day? Yesterday the governor of New Jersey said (my emphasis):

"I find it interesting that Sen. Paul is accusing us of having a 'Gimme, gimme, gimme' attitude toward federal spending when in fact New Jersey is a donor state and we get 61 cents back on every dollar we send to Washington. Interestingly, Kentucky gets $1.51 on every dollar they send to Washington," he said.

"So if Sen. Paul wants to start looking at where he's going to cut spending to afford defense, maybe he should start looking at the pork barrel spending he brings home to Kentucky."

Whoa! Gov. Christie stopped just short of calling Sen. Paul a ... taker. Ouch!

In an unrelated, but interesting, piece on Obamacare, economist Brad DeLong backs up the New Jersey governor (my emphasis):

In the Democratic-controlled “blue” states, where 60% of the US population lives – and which account for 70% of national income and 80% of its wealth – implementation of the ACA is likely to be like that of RomneyCare in Massachusetts: a somewhat bumpy ride, but a clear success that nobody will wish to repeal after the fact.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

The quote of the day... from Jared Bernstein, writing in the Times:

At this point, if President Obama came out in favor of breathing, Republican leaders would tell their caucus members to hold their breaths.

Runner-up is from the same piece:

I know, we’re in an upside-down world, but given how hard Republicans have fought for a lower corporate rate, the absence of accountability is particularly striking in this example.  At this point, I truly wonder that if the president finally gave in and offered to repeal Obamacare, they’d fight to implement it tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

James Gordon, a physicist...

...influential in the development of the first "laser," died at age 85.

Dr. Gordon, who won tournaments in platform tennis, liked to wear his raccoon coat, sit on his front porch and smoke a Meerschaum pipe. One time, his wife recalled, his hair was mussed, and she asked him, “Who do you think you are, Einstein?”

“I’m closer than most people,” he answered.

William Scranton, a moderate...

...Republican candidate for president in 1964, died at age 96. From his obit in the Times (my emphasis):

Moderate and liberal Republicans — concerned about the drift of their party to the right and fearing that the polarizing conservative views of the front-runner, Senator Goldwater of Arizona, might bring defeat in November — first coalesced around Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York as an alternative. But when the Rockefeller bandwagon lost steam, the dissident focus shifted to Governor Scranton.

Denouncing Goldwater as an agent of fear, Mr. Scranton won the support of 10 state delegations at the Republican National Convention in San Francisco. But Goldwater captured the nomination on the first ballot. He lost the election to President Lyndon B. Johnson in one of the largest landslides in history. 

Now, imagine these same two paragraphs written in January, 2017, with just a few small changes in bold:
Moderate and liberal Republicans — concerned about the drift of their party to the extreme right and fearing that the polarizing conservative views of the front-runner, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas (or Rand Paul of Kentucky), might bring defeat in November — first coalesced around Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey as an alternative. But when the Christie bandwagon lost steam, the dissident focus shifted to former Governor Jeb Bush.

Denouncing Cruz as an agent of fear, Mr. Bush won the support of 10 state delegations at the Republican National Convention in Charlotte. But Cruz captured the nomination on the first ballot. He lost the election to Hillary Clinton in one of the largest landslides in history.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

J. J. Cale, musician and...

...songwriter who inspired Eric Clapton and others, died at age 74. From his obit:

He is best known as the writer of “Cocaine” and “After Midnight,” songs made famous when they were recorded by his collaborator Eric Clapton. 

Mr. Cale recorded “After Midnight” in the mid-1960s, according to the biography, but had retreated to his native Tulsa, Okla., and “given up on the business part of the record business” by the time Mr. Clapton covered it in 1970. He heard it on the radio that year, he told NPR, “and I went: ‘Oh, boy, I’m a songwriter now. I’m not an engineer or an elevator operator.’ ” 

I saw the movie "42" recently...

...and, sadly to say, it's not that good. (When did Harrison Ford forget how to act? Did he ever know how to act?) Do yourself a favor and just watch the 1950 film The Jackie Robinson Story instead.

But Bill Keller, writing in the Times this morning, makes a comparison which I can't believe I had missed:

Randall Kennedy, another Harvard law professor who has studied Obama and criticized him for a lack of audacity, says frustration should be tempered by realism. “My view of Obama is as a Jackie Robinson figure,” Kennedy told me. “Jackie Robinson breaks the color barrier and encounters all sorts of denigration, people spitting on him, and because he was a pioneer he had to be above it all.”

Keller goes on to write this, which is also true:

“There’s sort of a persistent misperception that talking about race is black folk’s burden,” said Benjamin Jealous, president of the N.A.A.C.P., when I asked him about Obama’s obligation. “Ultimately, only men can end sexism, and only white people can end racism.”

Wouldn’t you like to hear John Boehner or Mitch McConnell or Chris Christie or Rick Perry own up as candidly as the president has to the corrosive vestiges of racism in our society?

That would be something, wouldn't it? Do you think any Republican would have the courage to do that? I don't.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Marist tight end Nic Weishar...

...was named "2013 Mr. Football" from Illinois by MaxPreps.

A good choice, to be sure, but there are so many other athletes that could have been considered. Here's a (tentative) list of a few early games I hope to attend that will feature some of the very best skill position players in the Chicago area.

Aug. 30 Glenbard North (Justin Jackson, RB) @ Batavia

Don't like that choice? There's also:

Cary-Grove (last year's Class 6A runner-up) @ Wheaton North (Clayton Thorson, QB), or
Bolingbrook (Parrker Westphal, DB) @ Hinsdale Central (Ian Bunting, TE)

Aug. 31 Triple-header at Soldier Field!

10:00 a.m.      Mt. Carmel (Matt Domer, RB) vs. St. Patrick
1:00 p.m.        DeLaSalle (Mikale Wilbon, RB) vs. Phillips
7:00 p.m.        St. Rita (Tommy Mister, ATH) vs. Marist (Nic Weishar, TE)

Yes, all three.

Sept. 6 Neuqua Valley (Mikey Dudek, WR) @ Naperville Central (Jake Kolbe, QB)

Great cross-town rivalry!

Sept. 7 Notre Dame (Chris James, RB) @ Bartlett

Sept. 13 Glenbard West @ Downers Grove North (David Edwards, QB), or

Wheaton North (Clayton Thorson, QB) @ Wheaton Warrenville South

Hard to say at this point which will be the better game.

Sept. 20 Benet (Jack Beneventi, QB) @ Crete-Monee

That brings us up to Week Five when I'll be out of town. (And a good chance for you to rob my house.) By that point I should have seen eleven of the state's top skill position players. (It's all subject to change, of course. Remember, above all else I want to see the best game between the best teams.)

So whom have I left out? Well, Andrew running back Jarvion Franklin, Thornton wide receiver Jauan Wesley and Lincoln-Way North wide receiver Julian Hylton, to name a few. I'll have to work them in somehow; there's always October and the playoffs.

But that should get you started for now.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads... on a roll! Yesterday the Cyclones announced that Thornton wide receiver Jauan Wesley will be joining St. Rita quarterback (?) Tommy Mister in Ames next year.

Paul Szczesny, who operates Core 6 Athletes, said it best: "Iowa State is doing a great job in Chicago."

You can watch Wesley, along with quarterback Jowahn Brown, running back D'Anthony Cross and cornerback Tifonte Hunt host Morgan Park (6-5 last year) in the opener on August 30.

Here's the rest of the Wildcats' schedule, with last year's records in parentheses:

Sept. 6 @ Naperville North (5-5)
Sept. 13 Thornwood (3-6)
Sept. 20 Bradley-Bourbonnais (6-4)
Sept. 27 @ Lincoln-Way North (6-4)

Oct. 4 @ Andrew (6-4)
Oct. 11 Lincoln-Way Central (4-5)
Oct. 18 @ Lincoln-Way West (8-4)
Oct. 25 @ Thornridge (0-9)

That's a pretty good schedule. Thornton went 8-3 last year, including victories over Bradley-Bourbonnais, Lincoln-Way North and Lincoln-Way West before falling to Downers Grove North in the second round of the playoffs. The Wildcats are loaded with talent this year and may be one of the teams to watch in 2013.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

The good news about the race...

...for mayor of New York is that the safe, boring, plain vanilla candidate is the one who would not only be the first woman elected to the office, but the first from the LGBT community.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dennis Farina, real-life and...

...television detective, died at age 69. I combed through his obit in the Times to see where the Chicago native went to high school. Mount Carmel? St. Rita? DePaul? But after some digging I found out that Farina attended St. Michael Central High School (above), which closed in 1978. How come I had never heard of this place? (My emphasis.)

St. Michael's Central High School, located in the Old Town section of Chicago at North and Hudson Avenues (near Wells Street), was opened as a two-year, co-institutional parish school with a commercial program in 1887. Instead of being a co-educational school (with boys and girls attending classes together), each gender was educated at separate ends of the building. The boys were under the direction of the Brothers of Mary, and the girls were taught by the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

The educational focus changed from commercial to academic in 1923, by which time there were four years of classes for boys (which started in 1919), and the girls section became four years in 1924. A new building was also opened in 1928, which coincided with the designation of being a central high school for Catholic students on the north side of the Chicago River, just west of Lincoln Park. 

St. Michael Central's enrollment was steady during the 1950's and 1960's, reaching 754 in 1967, but it dwindled to 575 by 1973, which may have the reason that the school became co-ed in the fall of 1976. It was not enough to save the school, due to the increasing operating expenses that mounted and the deteriorating condition of the building, and St. Michael Central closed its doors in the spring of 1978 after having 468 students attend class there.

The school gym was torn down some time later, but the majority of the school was renovated and became the home of luxury condominiums inside the Old Town Triangle, which has received both city and National Landmark Status. There is a street just west of Hudson and north of North Avenue that is called St. Michaels Court that pays tribute to the fact that the school existed nearby.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Ezra Klein's blog had... interesting post the other day, "Six Crazy Ideas for Saving Detroit." I think my favorite was "Number 1. Eliminate all the taxes and regulations" (my emphasis):

Eliminate all taxes for year-round residents of Detroit, with the federal government paying the cost of the abolition of state and local taxes. Get rid of zoning, parking requirements, occupational licensing and other cumbersome regulations while you’re at it. See how many businesses come.

What the heck? Why not try it (or one of the other suggestions)? Detroit has lost over half its population since 1950. What more do they have to lose?

What if we tried a truly libertarian experiment in Detroit? If it worked we could expand it elsewhere. And if not, maybe some of the more extreme voices in today's Republican Party would shut up. (Or the rest of us could just stop listening to them.)

But, seriously, let's give it a try. This could be a great opportunity.

The Times had this picture... its SportsMonday section today with the caption, "Alex Rodriguez after striking out Saturday."

And I thought, Can you imagine being the pimply, twice-a-week shaving, nineteen-year-old minor league kid who struck out the great A-Rod? (He may have been pitching in high school a few months ago.)

The accompanying article said that Rodriguez struck out three times Saturday night. It doesn't say, but what if the same pitcher mowed him down all three times? Can you imagine the breathless phone call to his parents afterward?

"Mom, Dad, you won't believe what happened tonight!"

There's an ad for Univision...

...on the back page of the front section of the New York Times today. It says that the Spanish-language channel:

...swept ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. For the first time ever, the Network's no-repeat lineup of primetime novelas, variety and sports made Univision America's New #1 Network among both adults 18-34 and 18-49, including men and women. In any language.

Now, even for a popular-culture illiterate such as myself (I'm only watching The Sopranos now, six years after its last episode aired), that sounds like a big deal.

(Full disclosure: my son works in "the industry," as they call it in Hollywood. He's told me that "winning the demo" is what it's all about in television. No extra charge for that inside info.)

I also noticed that Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa (above) recently:

...told a host of the Spanish-language network Univision that his speech comparing immigrants to hunting dogs was intended to be “complimentary.”

Speaking to a crowd in Pocahontas, Iowa in 2012, King had said that the U.S. should only allow the “pick of the litter” when selecting immigrants.

I don't think it takes a Ph.D. in political science to see how Republicans are committing electoral suicide by alienating Latinos, the nation's fastest-growing group. How come they can't see that?

Friday, July 19, 2013

T-Model Ford, a blues...

...musician, died at age 90-something. His obit in the Times is really worth reading, but the part that caught my eye this morning -- given my theme for the day -- was this:

Mr. Ford toured energetically until last year, when he suffered a stroke. He owed his crackling longevity and lust for life, he said (he had 6 wives and at least 26 children), to a simple three-part regimen.

“Jack Daniel’s, the women and the Lord been keeping me here,” he told The Chicago Sun-Times in 2003.

And I thought, how many times do older people get asked The Secret to a Long Life? And how many of them respond as though they know the answer? And how many of us listen?

You've heard some variation of this, I'm sure:

"My faith in God."

"I never [fill in the blank] drank, smoked, ate red meat, walked under ladders, etc."

"I swim a mile every morning."

But, really, do any of these things ensure a long life? And are any of these people really responsible for their longevity? Do any of them have any idea at all why they lived so long?

Wasn't it really genes? (And the good fortune not to have a piano fall on them while walking down the street?)

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Nature vs. nurture, part...

...whatever. Are you responsible for your height, hair color, etc.? Of course not. What about your weight? From an article in the Times today, "Overweight? Maybe You Really Can Blame Your Genes" (my emphasis):

Scientists have long thought explanations for why some people get fat might lie in their genes. They knew body weight was strongly inherited. Years ago, for example, they found that twins reared apart tended to have similar weights and adoptees tended to have weights like their biological parents, not the ones who reared them. As researchers developed tools to look for the actual genes, they found evidence that many — maybe even hundreds — of genes may be involved, stoking appetites, making people voraciously hungry.

“The history of obesity for many many years has been one of blaming people for lack of self control,” said Dr. Joseph Majzoub, chief of endocrinology at Boston Children’s Hospital and lead author of the new paper. “If some of it is due to a slow metabolism, that would completely change the perspectives of parents and patients. It really would change the way we think of the disease.” 

What if -- what if -- everything about us -- not just our physical characteristics -- is preprogrammed from birth? What if your life would have turned out much the way it did even if you were raised under completely different circumstances?

As I was walking through downtown Chicago on my way to the Taste recently, I noticed all kinds of people: fat, not-so-fat, good-looking, not-so-good-looking, those leaving work, some pan-handling, etc. And I thought to myself, What if everyone really is doing the best they can? What if all of our lives are more out of our control than we think?

Is the notion that we don't have as much free will as we would like to think just too hard to contemplate? Is it an illusion to think we really control our destiny?

P. S. My dad always attributed his thick head of hair (which stayed dark well into his seventies) from not letting the stream of water from the shower hit his head directly. Seriously. Instead, he always filtered it with his hands. (Maybe that's where I went wrong.) Or maybe it all had more to do with my dad's genes than any action he took to affect it.

How many of us think like that?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

In the last scene of...

..."Sing a Song of Six Pants," the Three Stooges short, Shemp counts a newly-found bankroll (jump to about 16:30 in the above video):

"One hundred, two hundred, three hundred, four hundred, five hundred, fifty -- oh, how'd that get in here?"

And that's a little how I felt when I finally saw the lineup for the 9th Annual High School Kick-off Classic at Soldier Field on August 31:

10:00 a.m.      Mt. Carmel vs. St. Patrick

1:00 p.m.        De La Salle vs. Phillips

4:00 p.m.        Ave Maria University vs. Robert Morris University

7:00 p.m.        St. Rita vs. Marist

"One hundred, two hundred, three hundred, four hundred, Ave Maria vs. Robert Morris -- how'd that get in there?"

The Soldier Field Web site says:

The Preseason Prep Bowl was developed to offer Chicago Catholic League and Chicago Public League teams the opportunity to play in the historic Soldier Field.


So, after watching star running backs Matt Domer of Mount Carmel and Mikale Wilbon of De La Salle, I have to sit through a game between two obscure Division III teams to see quarterback (?) Tommy Mister of St. Rita and tight end Nic Weishar of Marist? Is this someone's idea of a joke?

Actually, it just might be worth it to see four of the area's top high school teams in one sitting. I guess I'll go.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"History doesn't repeat itself, it rhymes."

Although that quote has been widely attributed to Mark Twain, he may or may not have actually said it. But it's still a good line.

From an article in the Times this morning, "Call for Calm as Los Angeles Girds for More Unrest":

The police here were preparing for another night of protests on Tuesday, and community activists were working to maintain the peace after anger over the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin turned violent in South Los Angeles on Monday night.  

Two decades after the acquittal of white Los Angeles police officers in the beating of Rodney King sparked deadly riots in the same part of the city, residents and public officials agreed that the more muted anger over the Zimmerman verdict — and the much smaller outbreak of violence — showed how much, and how little, has changed. 

As the city’s new mayor, Eric Garcetti (above right), called for calm on the streets on Tuesday, he acknowledged the echoes from the Rodney King riots, but insisted the city had come a long way.

And who was the Los Angeles County District Attorney back in 1992? The current mayor's father, Gil Garcetti (above left).

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Anyone remember Kapri Bibbs?

He was a star running back for Plainfield North almost three years ago. After lighting up the scoreboard here in Illinois, Bibbs headed off to Colorado State in Fort Collins. (I wrote about him here, here, here and here.)

I had this to say about him in 2010:

Just last week, in a game against Oswego, the Plainfield North senior gained 520 yards on 39 carries for seven touchdowns. (In sixth grade, Bibbs scored 23 touchdowns on 23 carries. Yes, you read that correctly.)

Bibbs's 520 yards were thought to be a new state record until officials were reminded of Austin's DeAndre Hooper and his 593-yard game in 1996 against Near North.

Bibbs strengthened his claim to Player of the Year last night by scoring five touchdowns (three for 31, 52 and 65 yards) and throwing  92 yards for a sixth as the Tigers upset No. 13 Plainfield South, 43-35. The Colorado State-bound running back scored the winning touchdown with two minutes remaining on his 56th and final carry of the night. Bibbs finished the game with 395 yards rushing and carried the ball on all but two plays in the second half.

Bibbs has committed to Colorado State next year. The 5'10", 195-pound senior rushed for 2,560 yards on 282 carries this year. To give you some perspective, only seven running backs in the NFL carried the ball as many times in the 2009 regular season -- and that was in twice as many games. Oh, and Bibbs also scored 37 touchdowns.

And as if that weren't enough, Bibbs was also on his high school bowling team!

So whatever happened to that guy?

Turns out, academic issues sent Bibbs to a couple of junior colleges, first in Utah and then in Colorado. But, apparently, he's made good on his original commitment to Colorado State (my emphasis):

All in all a four year journey from his commitment in high school to arriving at Colorado State, Bibbs finally put on a Ram uniform and reported for spring ball in spring 2013. He has his work cut out for him in a rotation lead by veteran starters Chris Nwoke and Donnell Alexander, but showed his worth in spring practices and the spring game despite his year absence from football. Bibbs will most likely take the third spot in running back core, but look for him to make solid contributions in an offense that utilizes multiple backs. Even if he doesn't live up to his high school hype, it is hard to root against a kid who showed such dedication and drive to hold true to his commitment even with the hurdles he faced.

What a great story!

Hat tip: Bill Andrew.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Leonard Garment, law partner...

...and adviser to President Richard Nixon, died at age 89.

When Nixon looked to rehabilitate his political career in the mid-1960s, Mr. Garment joined a small nucleus of trusted advisers.

Their differences in temperament were apparent even then. After Mr. Garment helped Nixon in a triumphal round of campaigning for Congressional candidates in 1966, Nixon told him: “You’re never going to make it in politics, Len. You just don’t know how to lie.”

Another clear case of self-defense?

From the Associated Press, via the Times, "Wisconsin: Trial Begins for White Man in Killing of a Black Teenager" (my emphasis):

Fourteen jurors have been selected to hear the case of a 76-year-old white Milwaukee man charged with first-degree homicide in the killing of an unarmed 13-year-old black boy last year. The man, John Henry Spooner (above), is accused of killing a neighbor, Darius Simmons, on a sidewalk near their homes. Prosecutors say Mr. Spooner accused the teenager of breaking into his home and stealing guns. When he denied the thefts, Mr. Spooner shot him in the chest from five feet away, then shot him again as he tried to run. Mr. Spooner’s lawyer says he will argue that his client did not intend to kill. The jury pool contained four black people, but the defense removed three of them. The prosecutor, Mark Williams, told the judge he wants to take up the issue on Tuesday.

I wonder if Mr. Spooner feared "great bodily harm or death" when he pulled out his gun. Or will he invoke the Wisconsin version of Stand Your Ground:

In general, a person who uses force in self-defense or in the defense of another person may not be convicted of a crime stemming from that use of force. This law applies only when: 1) the amount of force used is reasonable; and 2) the person uses that force to prevent or stop what he or she reasonably believes is an unlawful interference with himself or herself or another person, such as the crime of battery. Current law specifies that a person may use force that is intended or likely to cause the death of or great bodily harm to another individual only if the person reasonably believes that using such force is necessary to prevent the imminent death of or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another person.

Could you really say for sure, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Mr. Spooner didn't fear for his safety?

Who knows what that old codger was thinking?

In the wake of the...

...George Zimmerman trial, it's worth recommending -- again -- The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson. I can honestly say, it changed my life. Or, at least, the way I look at black people.

(I've written about it here and here.)

If you're white and grew up in the suburbs, like me, you're probably only vaguely aware of the horrible experience that black Americans have had. But if, again like me, you have relatives who say things like, "The Irish had it pretty bad, too," then you need to read this book. You really need to read this book. Because, no matter who you are, your family's history was nothing like this.

(And, by the way, it's very readable; not something you have to slog through. Everyone to whom I've recommended it has thanked me.)

Next on my reading to-do list is The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander. It's supposed to be great.

Your Illinois high school football... fact of the day is courtesy of Pat Disabato, over at the Sun-Times:

[Homewood-Flossmoor's] sophomore class is special. Real special. 

As freshmen in 2012, not only did the Vikings register an undefeated season, they led each opponent, on average, 49-0. At the half. 

That’s right. A running clock to begin the second half of each game.

Wow! These guys may be a team to watch this year, especially if Bolingbrook and Lincoln-Way East are in rebuilding mode. And H-F plays them both at home in 2013. 

(Former Raiders' quarterback Aaron Bailey and Griffins' QB Tom Fuessel will be taking snaps in Champaign and Evanston, respectively, this year. Will they start against each other some day?)

Here's Homewood-Flossmoor's schedule for 2013 (with last year's records in parentheses):

Aug. 30 Simeon (11-2)

Sept. 6 @ Stevenson (8-3)
Sept. 13 Joliet West (3-6)
Sept. 21 @ Joliet Central (0-9)
Sept. 27 Lincoln-Way East (13-1)

Oct. 4 @ Sandburg (7-3)
Oct. 11 Bolingbrook (8-3)
Oct. 18 @ Lockport (1-8)
Oct. 25 @ Stagg (2-7)

Whoa! On the face of it, that looks like a brutal schedule. 

Those first two games will be good tests for the Vikings. But Simeon got shut out last year by Loyola and could only manage six points against Mount Carmel. The Wolverines then fell to a 6-6 Brother Rice team in the Prep Bowl, 14-12. Let's say H-F is 1-1 after Week Two.

Weeks Three and Four should bring the Vikings up to at least 3-1, possibly 4-0. Then comes a (rebuilding?) Lincoln-Way East team. (Are the Griffins ever rebuilding?) After traveling to Sandburg and then hosting (another rebuilding?) Bolingbrook, H-F could be 5-2 at this point. Could be.

If so, the last two road games against Lockport and Stagg might leave the Vikings at 7-2 going into the playoffs. (And my buddy, Kevin, would sure be excited!) Will it happen? I don't know, but I'd never underestimate head coach Craig Buzea (top).

P. S. The award for Best Twins' Names of the Day goes to H-F sophomores Devonte Harley-Hampton and Deonte Harley-Hampton. I wonder if they're identical: "Are you the one with the 'V' or not?"

Monday, July 15, 2013

According to one preseason...

...poll, the top five Division III football teams are:

1. Linfield (above)

2. Mount Union

3. Wisconsin-Whitewater

4. St. Thomas

5. Mary Hardin-Baylor

See a pattern here? They all have purple uniforms. What are the odds?

Hat tip: Bill Andrew.

From a front-page story... the Times this morning, "In Zimmerman Case, Self-Defense Was Hard to Topple" (my emphasis):

Soon after Mr. Zimmerman was arrested, there appeared to be a chance that the defense would invoke a provision of Florida self-defense law known as Stand Your Ground. Ultimately it was not part of Mr. O’Mara’s courtroom strategy, though it did play a pivotal role immediately after the shooting.

The provision, enacted by the Florida Legislature in 2005 and since adopted by more than 20 other states, allows people who fear great harm or death not to retreat, even if they can safely do so. If an attacker is retreating, people are still permitted to use deadly force.

Does that describe George Zimmerman or ... Trayvon Martin?

When I read Ross Douthat's...

...column and his blog posts in the New York Times, I often come away thinking that he doesn't seem to really buy the argument he's just made. He reminds me of a debate team member who's given a position to defend that he doesn't hold himself.

On immigration reform, however, Douthat has come across as sincere and has actually made me question some aspects of the bipartisan bill that passed the Senate recently.

But in his column yesterday, I detected just a little disingenuousness creeping back in. Douthat lists the various groups within the Republican Party who object to the bill and why:

Instead, as the Democrats have come to march in lock step on the issue — dropping the old union-populist skepticism of low-wage immigration in favor of liberal cosmopolitanism and Hispanic interest-group pandering — many of the country’s varying, conflicting opinions have ended up crowded inside the Republican Party’s tent.

So there are Republicans who would happily vote for the Senate bill as is, no questions asked, and Republicans who might never vote for a bill that contains the words “comprehensive” and “reform,” let alone “immigration.”

There are law-and-order Republicans who care only about border security and E-Verify, pro-business Republicans seeking new guest-worker programs and religious-conservative Republicans for whom amnesty is a humanitarian cause.

There are libertarian Republicans who believe “the more, the better” is the only answer on immigration policy and communitarian Republicans who worry about the impact on wages, assimilation and cultural cohesion.

There are calculating, self-interested Republicans who think immigration reform will save their party from extinction, and calculating, self-interested Republicans who worry that it will create millions of new Democratic voters.

I don't doubt that those are all legitimate positions on the bill. But isn't Douthat leaving out the largest group of all in the Republican Party? What about the white, rural, "Christian," nativist base of the party that just doesn't like Mexicans? What about them?

Let's be honest here. Isn't that what opposition to this bill among House Republicans is really all about?

Like me, you probably have friends or family members who vote Republican. And you know how some of them talk when no one else is around. The truth is that most Republicans just don't like brown people or black people or anybody for that matter who isn't of European descent.

Isn't this really about racism?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Naperville Central hosted a 7-on-7...

...tournament Friday night with Naperville North, Neuqua Valley, Waubonsie Valley and Metea Valley.

My buddy from Naperville was there and here's his eyewitness report, lightly edited:

I usually don’t put too much stock in 7-on-7s; just a chance to enjoy a nice summer night of some form of football. That said, the two best players on the field were Jake Kolbe of Central, who looked really good, and Mikey Dudek, who was a man among boys. 

Kolbe is big, confident and throws a rope. He was passing into some really tight windows and wasn’t at all shy about taking chances. It was 7-on-7 and held at Central, remember, so I’m sure he was feeling his oats. It will be interesting to see how he plays this fall. 

Dudek was off the charts, or should I say the field -- literally. He’s super fast, which is well-known, but his leaping ability was most impressive. He made a one-handed leaping catch on a crossing route, in stride, that was jaw-dropping and made the sizable crowd go "ooohh" and "ahhhh." He looked like a super jacked-up video game receiver out there, compared to the defenders. 

One other kid to keep an eye on is Central’s Bobby McMillen (above). He’s a good-sized linebacker, probably 6’2”, 215 or so, and just a junior. In 7-on-7 you don’t see all that a linebacker can do, but this kid has the physical tools to be really good. His dad, Bob McMillen, played at Benedictine University in Lisle and is head coach of the Chicago Rush of the Arena League.

This 7-on-7 deal was a first, bringing all the local schools together. It was great to get the “football community” together and great for parents like us to catch up with other football families. I think the coaches thought it went well and were already talking about making this an annual event.

The downside is injuries. You never want to see a kid get hurt and unfortunately that can happen. A Neuqua receiver went down with a hip issue and it was really unfortunate. Prayers for him that he can make a full and speedy recovery.
The All-Star Game is this week and while the White Sox are in last place, the Cubs are only a few games ahead of last-place Milwaukee. Hurry football!

Two quotes caught my eye...

...while reading the Times this morning. The first was from the front-page story, "Zimmerman Is Acquitted in Killing of Trayvon Martin":

Manslaughter, which under Florida law is typically added as a lesser charge if either side requests it, was a lower bar. Jurors needed to decide only that Mr. Zimmerman put himself in a situation that culminated in Mr. Martin’s death.

If that's the definition of manslaughter in Florida, how on earth could Zimmerman not be found guilty? Didn't he follow Martin in his car -- after being told by police not to -- get out of his car with a loaded gun and then "put himself in a situation that culminated in Mr. Martin’s death"?

The second was from an article on Kris W. Kobach, Kansas’ "staunchly conservative secretary of state," "Kansas Official Holds Line Against Moderation in Debate on Immigration":

Moderation on immigration, some Republicans say, is vital to the future of the party if it hopes to remain relevant in a country of shifting demographics. But even if public sentiment and electoral math on immigration might be bending away from his principles, Mr. Kobach is not budging.

“Any politician who thinks, ‘Oh, we just cast one vote, and then all of a sudden this demographic group comes flocking to us,’ they’re being superficial Washington idiots,” Mr. Kobach said.

And he's right; Hispanics won't necessarily flock to the Republican Party just because immigration reform passes. 

But if the Republican House blocks reform, which seems likely, then the GOP will have an extremely difficult time getting Latinos to even give them a hearing.

More and more, the Republican Party is gaining the reputation -- rightly, I think -- of the racist, white people's party. (And that's going to hurt it with college-educated, suburban whites too.)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Chuck Foley, who...

...with a colleague created the game Twister, died at age 82. From his obit in the Times:

Visually, Twister marries Alexander Calder sculpture with the hokey pokey and the Kama Sutra — the last point brought unmistakably home on “The Tonight Show” in 1966, when Johnny Carson and a low-necklined Eva Gabor played the game on camera, sending sales soaring.

When Twister made its debut, Milton Bradley’s competitors accused the company of selling “sex in a box.” But that, Mr. Foley said, was practically beside the point.

“Once you get men and women in play positions, unless you’re drinking, you forget the sex thing,” he told an interviewer in 1994. “The urge to win takes over.”

Uh huh.

Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio...

...both made a strategic decision at the beginning of this year: come out in full support of immigration reform in order to be the candidate of the Republican Party establishment in 2016.

If the House of Representatives is successful in killing reform, however, what seemed like a good idea after last November's debacle may turn out to be a fatal mistake.

I'm still convinced that the next Republican presidential nominee will be the most conservative candidate in the race. (Think Ted Cruz.) That's just where the party is right now. If so, Ryan and Rubio may already be disqualified.

Curtis Sliwa, the founder...

...of the Guardian Angels, compares George Zimmerman to a certain character played by Robert De Niro, above. (My emphasis.)

“George Zimmerman is Travis Bickle in 'Taxi Driver.' He’s a nut. He’s a complete nut job who thinks he’s on a ‘mission,’ and this young black man ended up on his radar screen, and then dead.

“Because I deal with the wannabes who want to join the Guardian Angels, I see right away what this guy Zimmerman is: a self-appointed guardian. It’s him determining who is and is not a threat. Forget laws, forget standards, forget the police.

Those trying to suggest [Trayvon] Martin was ... some sort of thug who brought on his own death because he smoked marijuana or bragged with friends about fighting, “they should impale themselves," said Sliwa. "Here’s a kid, goes out at half-time to get Skittles and iced tea, puts his hoodie on because it’s starting to rain, doesn’t say anything to anybody, isn’t eye-fornicating anybody, just minding his own business. He doesn’t have a M.O. He doesn’t do home invasions. What the hell are you following this kid for? Goddamn right he fights back. The same law that says you can stand and defend yourself in Florida—Martin is defending himself against a guy approaching him with a gun and confronting him.”

I agree with Sliwa.

I've read that there's no way Zimmerman is going to get convicted; there's just not enough evidence. But do I have any doubt that he's guilty of something? No. Remember, here's a guy who drove around his neighborhood with a loaded gun. (And I don't know when he took off the safety device.) When he saw a young black kid walking along he called the police, who told him not to follow Martin. He did so anyway and eventually got out of his car with a loaded gun. He approached Martin, got into a fight with him and shot him.

Now how on earth is that self-defense?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Leland Mitchell, a member of...

...the 1963 Mississippi State basketball team, died at age 72. From his obit in the Times:

In the game, all-white Mississippi State took on a Loyola team with four black starters. The Mississippi team was named the Maroons, an old Southern term for runaway slaves, which eventually gave way to Bulldogs.

According to Wikipedia, MSU adopted the new nickname in1961, when I was only two. I get it: the South used to be racist but isn't any more. In fact, the whole country has changed a lot since then.

So how come the marching band is still known as the "Famous Maroon Band"?

Montini won the Red Grange...

...7-on-7 Classic last month, defeating Naperville Central and its Illinois State-bound quarterback, Jake Kolbe, twice.

Edgy Tim, writing in the Tribune this morning, makes mention of three Broncos in particular:

Senior linebacker Nile Sykes, a highly coveted prospect by several schools, was named the Red Grange Classic's top defensive player. Wide receiver Tyler Tumpane earned the offensive player honor. Quarterback Alex Wills received the most important accolade — [Coach Chris] Andriano's praise for his leadership and poise.

And it makes me wonder: Should I change my plans for the first game of the season? Should I go watch Maine South at Montini instead?

Besides the three players in the above paragraph, lists the following Broncos among its list of recruiting prospects:

Seniors Simmie Cobbs, WR; Keith Doyle, DT; Dylan Thompson, DE (committed to Ohio State); Derrick Curry, S; and juniors Isaac Lane, CB; Grant Branch, OT; and Leon Thornton, WR.

Wow! All that from a school of only 1100 students. (Lombard must have a heck of a youth program!)

Maine South, which won the 8A championship as recently as 2010, has only one player on the list, offensive tackle Brendan Brosnan. I know the Hawks graduated quarterback Matt Alviti, who's headed to Northwestern, but don't they have anyone else in the pipeline? We're talking about a perennial power with almost 2500 students!

(Last year, the Hawks made it to the third round of the playoffs before losing to eventual runner-up Glenbard North, 29-23. The year before, they got knocked out in the second round by Stevenson, 24-22.)

So whither Maine South now? Will 2013 be a rebuilding year? Or will the Hawks sneak up on everybody? After the Montini game, the Park Ridge squad hosts Wheaton Warrenville South (Red Grange's alma mater). Those two contests could be telling.

(Although I hasten to add that Maine South began that 2010 championship season with a record of 0-2. Wheaton South, for its part, started out 1-3 in 2011 before making it to the 7A final in Champaign. Clearly, neither Hawks' coach Dave Inserra, nor Tigers' coach Ron Muhitch, is given to panicking.)

But back to Montini: Can the Broncos defeat the big, bad Hawks at home on opening night? Might be worth a trip.

Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter... the 1980 presidential election, 50.8 to 41 percent. (Independent candidate John Anderson garnered 6.6 percent, including my vote.) In the Electoral College, the Gipper amassed a stunning 489 votes to the incumbent's 49. Simply speaking, it was a blowout.

The lead story in this morning's Times is titled "Republicans in House Resist Overhaul for Immigration" (my emphasis):

House Republicans find themselves in a difficult spot on immigration, caught between the needs of the national party to broaden its appeal to Hispanics, and the views of constituents in gerrymandered, largely safe conservative districts.

Many returned to Congress this week after hearing from constituents in their districts who do not trust the federal government to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws, as well as mounting evidence that conservative opinion is beginning to harden against a broad immigration push.

House Republicans largely believe that the concerns of their national party elite are overblown, and that their political future and 2016 prospects do not hinge on passing an immigration bill this year.

Maybe the GOP base is right; maybe they can win future presidential elections by just doubling down on the white vote. 

But Republican strategist Mike Murphy thinks otherwise:

Sensitive to the near-universal reverence Republicans of all ages pay to the legacy and presidency of Ronald Reagan, Murphy bluntly warns his fellow GOPers that — given the profound, and continuing, demographic changes over the past three decades — Ronald Reagan would have a tough time beating Jimmy Carter today.

Consider this reality. In his 1980 race against President Carter, when Gov. Reagan won 56 percent of the nation's white vote, whites comprised 88 percent of the total national electorate. Simply stated, Reagan's 1980 share of the white vote alone constituted 49.3 percent of all voters. This meant that for the Gipper to achieve his overall 51 percent majority he simply had to earn the support of one out of seven non-white voters — which is what he did.

But by 2008, enormous changes were taking place. The white share of the national vote had fallen to 74 percent. So Reagan's 56 percent share of that group would have translated into just 41.2 percent of all voters. Demographic shifts, by themselves, would have subtracted more than 8 percentage points from Ronald Reagan's 1980 victory margin. 

Even more alarming for Republicans, the white share of the overall U.S. population is predicted by Census projections to drop to 60 percent by 2020. Another cautionary note: The lion's share of the Latino growth over the next generation will not come from immigration but rather from the children of past immigrants who already live here.
In fact, Democratic pollster Peter Hart predicts that Texas — the reddest Republican of the nation's big states — will, because of its fast-growing Hispanic population, by 2024 — just four presidential elections away — have become a Democratic blue state.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Julian Hylton committed... Illinois yesterday, but you can still see the star running back (?), defensive back (?), wide receiver (?) play one last season at Lincoln-Way North this year.

The Phoenix, coached by George Czart, went 6-4 last year, including a big win over Andrew, 37-20, in Week Eight, and a first-round playoff loss to Richards, 36-14.

How does 2013 look for the Frankfort school? Well, let's have a look at their schedule, with last year's records, as always, in parentheses:

Aug. 30 @ LaSalle-Peru (3-6)

Sept. 6 Hillcrest (1-8)
Sept. 13 Andrew (6-4)
Sept. 20 @ Thornridge (0-9)
Sept. 27 Thornton (8-3)

Oct. 4 @ Lincoln-Way Central (4-5)
Oct. 11 Lincoln-Way West (8-4)
Oct. 18 @ Bradley-Bourbonnaise (6-4)
Oct. 25 @ Thornwood (3-6)

Look familiar? Lincoln-Way North plays in the same conference as Andrew, the Southwest Suburban (Red), which I touched on a couple of weeks ago. I won't go into who's good and who's not-so-good again; I'll let you (re)read if for yourself. Suffice it to say that the Phoenix play a lot of schools that begin with either "Lincoln-Way" or "Thorn-."

But you may want to watch for that game against Andrew in Week Three, which could be a heck of a match-up between Hylton and Thunderbolt running back Jarvion Franklin. And who knows? Maybe those two will end up playing for Illinois together in 2014.

Another game you might consider attending (if you don't mind driving) is the opener, against LaSalle-Peru. Will that be a good contest? I have no idea. But it will be played at historic Howard Fellows Stadium, below, in LaSalle, Illinois (about two hours from my house).

Edgy Tim summed up Fellows this way last year: "Old-school stadium has a ton of charm."

Another blogger had this to say about it:

...a real hidden gem of a venue that ... may be the state’s best kept secret as far as athletic facilities go.

Fellows Stadium is definitely unique in many respects. Built in 1937, the stadium was intended to be used by a local community college, but that plan never came to fruition. Now it’s used as the home field for the high school in the area. With the concrete walls and three (yes, THREE) tiers of seats, it’s definitely a throwback to a much different era. However, the stadium appears to have held up quite well in that time, receiving some renovations about 20 years ago. The stands on the home side are extremely tall and run right down to the field, which has no track separating the stands from the surface. The front part of the stands are elevated about 10 feet, so even fans in the front rows will have a decent view of [the field].

As you can see from the pictures (I think that's my car on the far right!), it's certainly worth a stop one of these days.

I'll be out at Batavia for opening night this year, but Fellows is definitely on my High School Football Bucket List.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Nate Cohn argues... the New Republic --  persuasively, I'd say -- that Republican extremism actually makes a rebrand easier, since a candidate can move to the center and still clearly stand on the right. Think Chris Christie, above, in 2020. (2016 is too soon.)

I wonder if any Republicans have read this (my emphasis):

Don’t castrate the party, smooth out the many sharp edges of the GOP’s platform and message.  Keep supporting tax cuts and less regulation, but add an agenda and message aimed at the middle and working class. Remain pro-life, but don’t appear opposed to Planned Parenthood or contraceptives, and return to supporting exceptions in instances of rape or the health of the mother, as President Bush did. Stay committed to religion, but don’t reflexively doubt the science of evolution and global warming, or the promise of stem cell research or renewable energy. Oppose gun control, but why force yourself to oppose background checks? On all of these issues, the GOP need not compromise on its core policy objectives, but can’t afford to consistently stake out ground so far from the center. That allows Democrats to cast the party and their core beliefs outside of the mainstream, which has already happened on abortion.

Finally, and again, I think Cohn is spot-on here:

That makes it even more important that immigration reform passes. Sometimes, allowing issues to disappear can be just as helpful as rebranding.

Why would Republicans kill the immigration bill? Just get the darn thing off the table. Why hand the Democrats a club with which to beat you in 2014 and 2016 (and beyond)?

Here's the view from...

...inside a train traveling at about 250 miles per hour in China.

Why can't we do that?

The Unfortunate Name of the Day...

...belongs to Kent Glasscock, above left, with the deer-in-the-headlights stare. Glasscock, a Republican (surprised?), is a former speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives.

Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer...

...are back in the news. Weiner, left, is running for mayor of New York, while Spitzer is running for comptroller. (Comp-what?)

Prediction: Either both of these former officeholders win or they both lose.

Do I care one way or the other? Not really; although I guess I'm secretly rooting for them.

First of all, I'm a little tired of all the hypocrisy. (Remember; their wives forgave them. Who are we not to do the same?)

Second, as a (very) casual observer of the New York political scene, I'm bored by all the other candidates. (And I think that's why these two are even being talked about seriously. Their opponents are all so dull.)

For example, if Christine Quinn, the Speaker of the New York City Council and the heir apparent, is so great, why is she generating so little enthusiasm? Why hasn't Mayor Bloomberg endorsed her? Or has he? (I can't tell.)

Let's face it; New York is the Big Apple. And it needs a Big Personality in Gracie Mansion.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Monday, July 8, 2013

It was Joseph-Marie de Maistre...

...who famously said (okay, not so famously), "The Counter-Revolution will not be a reverse revolution, but the reverse of a Revolution."

Why do I bring up this obscure French philosopher on a dreary Monday morning following a holiday weekend in July? Because I think the United States may very well be nearing the end of its own counterrevolution.

Indulge me.

If the New Deal of the 1930s was a revolution -- and I think it was -- then a counterrevolution was ushered in by President Reagan in 1981. And if FDR changed the relationship between the state and its citizens, essentially by enlarging the role of the federal government, then the counterrevolution sought to reverse this development.

I probably don't need to go into all the changes the New Deal brought to a severely depressed America, but it's important to note that every subsequent president until 1980, Democrat and Republican, essentially furthered its goals. While Medicare, signed into law by LBJ is often thought of as the culmination of the New Deal, Johnson's successor, Richard Nixon, also expanded the reach of the federal government.

The New Deal always had its opponents, but it wasn't until the 1950s that the seeds of the counterrevolution were sown. The writings of Ayn Rand and William F. Buckley, Jr. led to the candidacy of Barry Goldwater in 1964 which led, in turn, to the rise of Ronald Reagan. Thus the Reagan Revolution, which I maintain was actually a counterrevolution, began in January, 1981.

After Reagan's two terms, which brought lower taxes and less regulation (among other things), came the one-term presidency of George H. W. Bush, an establishment Republican who was never trusted by the counterrevolutionaries. In an attempt to balance the budget, Bush went back on his "no new taxes" pledge and was turned out of office in 1992 in an unusual three-way race involving the eventual winner, Bill Clinton, and an independent candidate, Ross Perot.

Clinton, who never achieved a majority of the popular vote, was seen by many counterrevolutionaries as an illegitimate president and an accident of history. Although his impeachment was ultimately unsuccessful, the Republicans were able to elect George W. Bush -- barely -- over Clinton's vice president, Al Gore, in 2000.

Terrorism and national security in the next few years provided a bit of a truce in the war between the revolutionaries and the counterrevolutionaries.

But when the financial panic ensued in the Fall of 2008, the war resumed. The counterrevolutionaries, or the base of the Republican Party, took on a new name, the "Tea Party." They opposed any federal action to combat the effects of the economic downturn -- TARP, the stimulus, the auto rescue, etc. The rest, as they say, is history.

But my point in all of this is to look at America from a larger perspective. If a revolution began with FDR in the 1930s, then a counterrevolution emerged in the 1980s. The tug of war is still in effect, with the country arguably more polarized than at any time since the Civil War.

(Obviously, an entire book could be written on this subject. But, for this morning, a short blog post will have to suffice.)

So how will it all end? It may not surprise you to hear that I think the counterrevolution -- like most -- will ultimately fail. (Revolutions happen for a reason -- to correct the injustices in the previous system.) Social Security, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act are all here to stay. The tea party, made up mostly of old, white, conservative, rural, religious people, will begin to -- literally -- die out soon. But the younger, non-white, progressive, city/suburban, science-based community will only grow. And, in the end, the counterrevolution will be seen for what it was: a last-ditch effort to reinstate the ancien regime.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Liz Cheney, the daughter...

...of arguably the worst president vice president in recent memory, may make a run for the U. S. Senate from Wyoming in 2014, according to a front-page story in the Times today.

In typical Cheney fashion, however, the dyspeptic Ms. Cheney may disregard protocol and challenge the Republican incumbent, Sen. Mike Enzi. The article says that Enzi isn't ready to retire just yet and Ms. Cheney's expected campaign is upsetting the apple cart in Wyoming Republican circles.

Now, don't get me wrong: I'm all for another front in what has become a multifaceted civil war in the Republican Party. What's more, I wouldn't shed one crocodile tear for Enzi -- a party hack who, like his Wyoming colleague Sen. John Barrasso, mostly just takes up space -- if he was defeated.

No, what irks me about the prospect of a Senator Cheney, this ... this ... character (for lack of a better word), is that by representing the smallest state in the Union at a little over half a million people, she would have the same vote in the United States Senate as the senators from California, New York and Texas, who represent a combined population of over 80 million souls.

Now that's depressing.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Donald Bevan, veteran, artist and...

...playwright, died at age 93. The former prisoner of war coauthored the play Stalag 17, which was later made into a movie, above.

Bevan's obit in the Times recalls the unusual circumstances under which he was introduced to his future bride:

According to his son Mark, he met his wife, the actress Patricia Kirkland, when his friends set him up on a phony blind date. Mr. Bevan showed up at her apartment, only to learn that there was no date.

“But I guess she liked him anyway,” Mark Bevan said.