Monday, March 31, 2014

Have you seen...

...this commercial for Cadillac?

I think one of my neighbors may be taking it a little too seriously.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Chris Christie's lawyers conducted...

...a thorough investigation of the George Washington Bridge scandal and found their client . . . not guilty!

Meanwhile, in her column in the Times this morning, Gail Collins writes (my emphasis):

Let’s take a minute to search for life lessons in the latest Chris Christie bridge-traffic-jam episode. I believe there are two. First, when the political ship is going down, nobody will bother to rescue the unattached woman and the dork from senior year.

On Friday, Christie held a news conference to discuss the results of an investigation into the now infamous lane closings on the George Washington Bridge. The inquiry was commissioned by, um, Chris Christie. It concluded that the villains were Bridget the Aide and David Who Was Not Popular in High School.

And it all reminds me of that clip above from the original Mission: Impossible series from my childhood. The voice on the tape would always say:

"Your mission, should you choose to accept it..."

And:

"As always, should you or any member of your IM force be caught or killed, the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions."

Gov. Christie is way too smart to have his fingerprints anywhere near this scandal. I'll be shocked if there are any incriminating emails or texts that connect him with the bridge closing. Instead, I imagine there was some hint -- or wink or nod -- that if either Bridget Anne Kelly or David Wildstein (or anyone else) was caught doing the governor's dirty work, his office would "disavow any knowledge of your actions."

The only questions left are: Will Kelly and Wildstein talk and will their stories jibe? And who will the public believe, the two sacrificial lambs or the guy running for president?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Is Obamacare a job killer?

I don't know. But Phil Schiliro, writing in Politico, says (my emphasis):

Just three months after the law was signed, House Republicans sounded a warning on jobs and released a report claiming the ACA was “making it harder to put people back to work. By signing ObamaCare into law, President Obama effectively signed pink slips for millions of American workers who will lose their jobs or be denied new jobs.”

That’s not what the facts say. In the 10 years before the law was passed, 3.6 million private-sector jobs were lost. Since its passage, more than 8.5 million private sector jobs have been created. The ACA didn’t create all those jobs, but Republicans’ hyperbolic alarm has been proven blatantly false.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

From a review...

...in the Times of a new book, Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts and Hooks Us (my emphasis):

From its beginnings in the late 19th century, Coca-Cola was advertised as a stimulant. In 1909 the federal government seized an interstate shipment of syrup, charging that the beverage’s caffeine content violated the Pure Food and Drug Act. It took five years for the Coca-Cola Company to win that case, whereupon it promptly reduced the amount of caffeine in the proprietary formula.

I wonder if Rand Paul...

...read David Brooks's column in the Times today. Brooks talks about "disorder, violence and man-inflicted suffering" in the developing world (my emphasis):

People in many parts of the world simply live beyond the apparatus of law and order. The District of Columbia spends about $850 per person per year on police. In Bangladesh, the government spends less than $1.50 per person per year on police. The cops are just not there.

In the United States, there is one prosecutor for every 12,000 citizens. In Malawi, there is one prosecutor for every 1.5 million citizens. The prosecutors are just not there.

In a world without functioning institutions, predatory behavior and the passions of domination and submission blot out economic logic.

Libertarianism may be fine for an Ayn Rand novel, but I'm not so sure it would work in reality.

The final rankings are in...

...and all three news services have Whitney Young at No. 1. As they should. Is it any doubt that the Dolphins (Dolphins?) are the best team in the state of Illinois? (Well, yes, there is that small matter of Curie, above. But I'll leave that to those with a higher pay grade, i. e., anything above zero, to decide.)

The only question left, I think, is: What the heck do we do with Benet? The team I saw lose to St. Viator in January was not the same squad that came within two points of winning the 4A championship.

According to Mike Helfgot of the Tribune, "Nobody played Young, Jahlil Okafor better." Really? So why doesn't he have them ranked No. 2?

Michael O'Brien of the Sun-Times, meanwhile, has Benet ranked No. 3, over Stevenson and Marian Catholic, two teams which beat the Redwings this year.

So who's right? What should we do with a team that lost seven games en route to the final? (Benet's other four defeats were at the hands of Fenwick, Providence-St. Mel, Rockford Auburn and Hamilton of Milwaukee, WI.) How, might you ask, did the Redwings find themselves in the finals against Whitney Young? Could it be -- gulp -- that they competed in a "favorable" bracket? Maybe. After all, Benet's postseason run went through Lemont (ranked No. 189 by MaxPreps), Waubonsie Valley (No. 77), Hinsdale Central (No. 20), Geneva (No. 22) and Glenbard North (No. 21). What if they had had to face Curie? Or Loyola? Or St. Rita or Simeon? Or Stevenson or St. Viator or Marian Catholic again? Would the Redwings have made it all the way to Peoria?

I don't want to sound like I'm knocking Benet or the guys whose job it is to compile the final rankings. There isn't a perfect playoff system and rating teams is not an exact science. But after looking at these three sets of rankings, I think MaxPreps has it the best this week.

My only remaining question, of course, is: Is Curie really the best team in Illinois?

Trib

1. Young (29-5)
2. Stevenson (32-2)*
3. Morgan Park (24-6) 
4. Benet (25-8)*
5. Orr (26-5)
6. Marian Catholic (28-3)*
7. Curie (0-26) 
8. Simeon (22-5)* 
9. Bogan (27-6)
10. North Chicago (26-5)

Sun-Times

1. Young (28-5)
2. Morgan Park (24-6)
3. Benet (25-8)* 
4. Stevenson (32-2)*
5. Orr (26-5)
6. Marian Catholic (28-3)*
7. Bogan (27-6)
8. North Chicago (26-5)
9. Glenbard North (24-6)
10. Loyola (25-6)*

MaxPreps

1. Young (30-5)
2. Stevenson (31-2)*
3. Curie (17-8)
4. Morgan Park (22-5) 
5. Benet (24-9)*
6. Lincoln (34-3)^
7. Springfield Lanphier (27-2)^
8. Marian Catholic (27-3)*
9. Orr (24-4)
10. Edwardsville (29-4)^

 And here's last week's.

* Seen 'em.

^ Outside the Chicago area.

Monday, March 24, 2014

James Rebhorn, who played...

...the assistant district attorney on the final Seinfeld episode (among other roles), died at age 65.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Happy Vernal Equinox!

Even if I am a day late.

Robert Strauss died...

...at age 95. What a character this guy must have been! From his obit in the Times:

Strauss rose from the Texas Plains to become an influential Washington insider, leading the Democratic Party and hopscotching among White House posts when not making millions as a lobbyist and deal maker.

When President Carter ordered White House personnel to fly coach, reporters asked Mr. Strauss if he would still fly first-class. “Yes,” he said, “unless there is something better.”

Others joked about Mr. Strauss’s cultivation of the role of “insider’s insider.” Jim Wright, the former House speaker and a fellow Texan, said of him, “It’s an honor to have with us a close friend of the next president of the United States — whoever the hell he may be.”

He was indeed a "close friend" of President Carter's:

Five months later he resigned to become chairman of Mr. Carter’s 1980 re-election campaign. After Mr. Carter lost to Reagan, Mr. Strauss slipped into the role of unofficial adviser to the new president and a lunchtime companion of Mrs. Reagan’s.

“Bob Strauss is a very loyal friend,” Mr. Carter remarked. “He waited a whole week after the election before he had dinner with Ronald Reagan.”

Lawrence E. Walsh, the...

...prosecutor in the Iran-contra scandal, died at age 102. From his obit in the Times (my emphasis):

In the end he won convictions, but many were overturned, and six defendants were pardoned by Mr. Reagan’s successor, George Bush, who was vice president during the events of Iran-contra. Mr. Walsh belatedly tried to confront his critics. Abandoning his earlier reserve, he called many Reagan administration officials brazenly deceptive. In a 1997 memoir, “Firewall: The Iran-Contra Conspiracy and Cover-Up,” he concluded that Mr. Reagan must have known of the basic details of the Iran-contra operation and that the president’s advisers had tried to shield him by concealing records and personal notes. That shield — a firewall, as Mr. Walsh described it — was only reinforced by Mr. Bush’s pardons.

Remind you of a certain governor of New Jersey?

“What set Iran-contra apart from previous political scandals,” he wrote, “was that a cover-up engineered in the White House of one president and completed by his successor prevented the rule of law being applied to perpetrators of criminal activity of constitutional dimension.”

That's depressing.

But then there's this piece of irony:

Few American lawyers have had as long and varied a career in both the public and private spheres as Mr. Walsh. Besides sitting on the federal bench, he was a prosecutor, corporate litigator, counsel to Gov. Thomas E. Dewey of New York, deputy attorney general under President Dwight D. Eisenhower and a negotiator at the Paris peace talks during the Vietnam War.

Mr. Walsh said that he had been chosen for the job with Dewey in part because of the governor's desire for staff diversity; Dewey had hired the office’s first black prosecutor and then sought Republican Catholics. “The joke was that in one week he hired Jim O’Malley, Florence Kelley and me, and we were all Protestant,” Mr. Walsh said. 

Americans for Prosperity...

...is running an ad featuring a real-life woman named Emilie Lamb, a 40-year-old Tennessean who suffers from lupus. At the end it displays the message:

TELL PRESIDENT OBAMA YOU DESERVE BETTER THAN OBAMACARE

And my first thought was, what's better than Obamacare, the status quo? Surely not. The non-existent Republican health care plan? The question answers itself.

So, really, what the heck is AFP talking about? And is the ad even accurate? For this last question I went to PolitiFact.com, "Does an Americans for Prosperity ad about a woman with lupus tell the whole story?" It's a good read. Here's the gist of it (my emphasis):

Testimonials are a powerful tool for ad-makers but the anecdotal evidence presented in them is often atypical. In this case, the ad doesn’t present a full picture of the law’s effects.

In addition to the ad, Lamb was invited to the State of the Union on Jan. 28 as the guest of Rep.  Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., who told Lamb’s story in an op-ed piece for The Tennessean and during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing. Lamb also penned her own op-ed for the New York Post describing her health situation in more details.

We tried to reach Lamb through Blackburn’s office and through other means, but were unsuccessful.

Surprise!

The plans on the federal marketplace also have no cap on the annual benefits an individual can claim. This would be particularly critical for serious illness that would result in extended hospital stays. When Lamb had CoverTN, if she got really sick, from her lupus or something else, or was in an accident, her coverage would stop at $25,000. That’s not allowed anymore.

So, in other words, if Ms. Lamb got, say, cancer, and her bill exceeded $25,000 -- by a lot -- either she would have to declare bankruptcy or you and I would have to pick up the tab. Which is better?

But proponents of the law say the purpose of insurance is to protect you when you get sick and against catastrophic circumstances. Plans that capped coverage often did not meet that standard, and Lamb’s previous plan definitely capped coverage.

I repeat:

...the ad doesn’t present a full picture of the law’s effects.

Read the piece.

Looks like it's going to be...

...Whitney Young over Edwardsville in the 4A finals and Morgan Park over Lincoln in 3A.

(Although, as everyone knows, tonight's game between Stevenson and Young is the real final. Can't wait!)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Iola Brubeck, the wife...

...of jazz legend Dave Brubeck, died at age 90. There was nothing terribly extraordinary about her obit in the Times; I just like having an excuse to post this video of "Take Five."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Tom Toles cartoon of the day:

Peter Callander, a British songwriter...

...who provided lyrics for some of the worst music of my childhood, died at age 74. While I'm sure Mr. Callander was a nice man (actually I'm not sure, but I feel compelled to say that about someone who just passed away), he was responsible for such "hits" as “The Night Chicago Died,” “Billy, Don’t Be a Hero,” (below) and “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast” (bottom).

If you grew up in the 1970s, like I did, you were subjected to this kind of thing over and over and over again on Top 40 AM radio until you discovered such "freeform progressive rock" stations as WXRT in Chicago or KQRS in Minneapolis. (Which have both since gone to hell, by the way.)

Kids today have it so much easier than their parents.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Times has two stories...

...on health care today. In the first, "G.O.P. House Members Plan Tour To Test Alternatives on Health Care," Jonathan Weisman writes (my emphasis):

Senior House Republicans -- struggling to find consensus for health care legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act -- are planning to test ideas in April at town-hall-style meetings that could provide a path toward a long-promised alternative to President Obama's signature legislative achievement.

The "House ObamaCare Accountability Project" is still months away from producing actual legislation. With Democrats opposed, Republican leaders will have a hard time finding enough votes for any plan, and Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio remains cool to guaranteeing a vote.

But a road map is developing.

Meanwhile, on the same page, Robert Pear reports, "5 Million Have Enrolled for Coverage Under Health Law, White House Says."

So Republicans are "planning to test ideas in April" but are still "months away from producing actual legislation." And "a road map is developing."

Sorry, guys, but that health care reform ship has already sailed. You should have been doing this stuff five years ago.

Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, American...

...aristocrat, died at age 104. From her obit in the Times:

Born into wealth and married to men with banking, oil and steel empires, Mrs. Mellon had houses in New York and Washington, apartments in Paris and country seats on Cape Cod, Antigua and Nantucket, besides her estate in Virginia. Her friends were presidents, royalty, socialites and celebrities.

But her real love, apparently, was gardening (my emphasis):

She became known to many Americans in 1961, after President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, when at the request of her friend Jacqueline Kennedy she redesigned the White House Rose Garden.

Long used for presidential announcements and ceremonies, the Rose Garden, a plot 125 feet long and 60 feet wide outside the Oval Office in the West Wing, was created by Ellen Wilson, President Woodrow Wilson’s wife, in 1913, replacing a colonial garden planted in 1902 by Edith Roosevelt, President Theodore Roosevelt’s wife. President Dwight D. Eisenhower cut down the roses and turned it into a putting green.

Isn't that just like a Republican?

Is Glenbard North...

...the most underrated team going into the Super-Sectionals? The No. 6 seed Panthers (25-5) are led by 6'5" senior Chip Flanigan, above, and take on Benet Academy (only No. 11 in the Tribune) tonight at Hinsdale Central. Missing from everyone's top ten, GBN is ranked No. 11 in the Sun-Times, No. 15 in the Tribune and -- what? -- No. 29 in MaxPreps.

The rankings are in from the three news services and I have just a few observations.

While the Trib and MaxPreps still don't quite know what to do with the thorny problem of Curie, Michael O'Brien (happy belated St. Patrick's Day!) leaves the Condors out completely.

The Trib and Sun-Times still have Simeon in their top ten and MaxPreps still has Springfield Lanphier and Fremd in theirs.

Oddly, MaxPreps also has Orr at No. 12, Bogan No. 17, Loyola No. 20, Rockford Auburn No. 30, North Chicago No. 36, Rockford Lutheran No. 56 and Peoria Notre Dame No. 93. All are still alive.

Here are this week's rankings (I think the Sun-Times has it best this week):

Trib

1. Stevenson (30-1)*
2. Young (26-5) 
3. Marian Catholic (28-2)*
4. Orr (24-4)
5. Curie (0-26) 
6. Simeon (22-5)* 
7. Bogan (27-5)
8. Morgan Park (20-6)
9. Loyola (25-5)*
10. North Chicago (26-4)

Sun-Times

1. Young (26-5) 
2. Stevenson (30-1)*
3. Marian Catholic (28-2)*
4. Orr (24-4)
5. Simeon (22-5)*
6. Morgan Park (20-6) 
7. Loyola (25-5)*
8. Bogan (27-5)
9. North Chicago (26-4)
10. Benet (23-7)*

MaxPreps

1. Stevenson (28-1)*
2. Young (25-5)
3. Lincoln (31-2)^
4. Curie (19-6)
5. Marian Catholic (26-2)*
6. Springfield Lanphier (27-2)^ 
7. Morgan Park (18-5) 
8. Benet (21-8)*
9. Edwardsville (26-2)^
10. Fremd (27-0)*
 
And here's last week's.

* Seen 'em.

^ Outside the Chicago area.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Enjoy your corned beef and cabbage, everyone.

Is America on the wrong track?

I think so. Is it President Obama's fault? I don't think so. Haven't things have been sliding in this country for a long, long time?

In his column today, Paul Krugman acknowledges as much (my emphasis):

But over the past 40 years good jobs for ordinary workers have disappeared, not just from inner cities but everywhere: adjusted for inflation, wages have fallen for 60 percent of working American men. And as economic opportunity has shriveled for half the population, many behaviors that used to be held up as demonstrations of black cultural breakdown — the breakdown of marriage, drug abuse, and so on — have spread among working-class whites too.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

David Brenner died...

... at age 78. From his obit in the Times:

In an interview in December on “CBS This Morning,” Mr. Brenner recalled how Mr. Carson once explained why he was frequently asked to perform stand-up on the show: “He said, ‘Because I like to sit back, smoke a cigarette and laugh for six minutes.’”

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

The basketball season is over...

...for me. Or at least attending games in person is over for me.

I'm busy next Tuesday; otherwise I'd probably go see that Benet - Glenbard North contest at Hinsdale Central. (And I'd be looking for a GBN upset over the Redwings, by the way.) If not, I'd probably go to Loyola - Whitney Young at Chicago State (although I think it could be a long night for the Ramblers). On Friday I look forward to watching Whitney Young and Stevenson in the semis on TV. (I went to Peoria, above, last year -- never again; too far to drive and my seat was too far from the court.) After that I expect to see Young defeat Marian Catholic in the finals on Saturday after Stevenson delivers another blow to Glenbard North in the consolation game. (Remember last fall when the Patriots upset the Panthers on the road in the football playoffs?) Stevenson! [clenched fist].

(If I had time for 3A -- which I don't -- I could watch Bogan and Morgan Park at Joliet Central, but I'd never again see North Chicago and Orr at Hoffman Estates. Why? It's a lousy place to watch a game. Read my take on last year's matchup here.)

So Friday night's game between Fremd and Stevenson was my thirteenth and last of the year. (I saw 15 different teams since December 12. Pretty pathetic when you consider that I watched a total of 26 football games in 13 weeks last fall.) But basketball is so different from football in so many ways. (I'll have to write a post on it one of these days.) And, let's face it, football is my first love. (Although I do like the fact that it's always 72 and sunny at these cage matches.)

Here's the skinny on the Fremd - Stevenson game from the Trib and Sun-Times. (I really can't improve on their coverage.)

And here's a final ranking of the 15 teams I saw this year. I watched Stevenson five times, St. Viator and Fremd three times each, and Loyola, Zion-Benton and Marian Catholic twice. I never got to see Curie or Whitney Young. Any regrets? Just one: I wish I had gone to that 95-93 double-overtime Stevenson victory over Lake Forest last month in which Jalen Brunson scored an eye-popping 56 points while Evan Boudreaux added 43. That must have been fun to watch!

So, again, here are my personal rankings. (And they're in the order in which I really feel they should; not in the order in which I'd be expected to rank them.)

1. Stevenson
2. Simeon
3. Marian Catholic
4. St. Viator
5. Fremd 
6. St. Rita
7. Lake Forest
8. Loyola
9. Zion-Benton

I feel more confident about the bottom six:

10. Benet
11. St. Patrick
12. Highland Park 
13. St. Ignatius 
14. Glenbrook South
15. Barrington

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Tony Benn, the first peer...

...to surrender an aristocratic title to remain in the House of Commons, died at age 88.

It's hard to find a picture of Benn without his ever-present pipe. But the one above also includes a "cuppa." Still, I couldn't resist this one as well:

It's so veddy, veddy, Briddish to have bad teeth -- even for an aristocrat like Benn. Don't they have dentists in the UK? Now, where have I seen that look before...


Oh, yeah.

Sir Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn, the second Viscount Stansgate, renounced his title in 1963 to remain in the House of Commons. According to his obit in the Times:

From then on he was known simply as Tony Benn, or by the nickname Wedgie.

I wonder if that means the same thing in Britain as it does in the Colonies.

Friday, March 14, 2014

A conversation with Gene Nudo, Part IV

I concluded my interview with Coach Nudo by telling him about my godson, who played tackle at Kansas and tried out for the Arizona Cardinals a few years ago. After injuring his foot in training camp, Brad retired from the game and is now working at a hedge fund in California. He's told me more than once that due to all the concern today about head trauma he would never allow his own kids to play football. I asked Coach Nudo about this.
  
"More and more people are saying they wouldn’t let their kids play football. You see that sign on the wall behind you?"

It read: THE VIRTUES OF FOOTBALL FAR OUTWEIGH THE DANGERS. 

"We’ve done more to help kids. The emphasis on safety is better than it’s ever been. I know a lot of old football players who played without face masks and aren’t walking around punch-drunk. They played with proper form. It’s disappointing to me: all these people who made their fortune in the game we love are now trying to cash in on it after the fact. At that level, these guys are beat up. They come in on crutches the day after a game and you would never think they’d be able to line up the next week. I’ve been in locker rooms where guys had needles injected in the front of their big toes. You can’t imagine the pain they're in. The problem with the game is everybody got bigger, faster and stronger too quickly. 

"Safety has always been a concern for me. If nobody got hurt no doubt this would be the greatest game ever. It still is. Unfortunately, it’s a big part of it. We never pray for a win. God doesn’t have time to figure out who wins football games. We pray that everybody – both groups -- comes out all right. 

"Guys who just finished their career, have fifty million in the bank say, 'Okay, I’m not going to let my kid play.' Guess what? You’re kid doesn’t have to play! He can do whatever he wants for the rest of his life." 

Are the dangers overstated?

"We’re in a different age. I’m not so sure we shouldn’t be playing with leather helmets. That’s how those guys played years ago. They took their helmet off, folded it up and put it in their back pocket. It would take the helmet out of the game. It’s a shame. I worry about what it does. Nobody has written articles that more kids get hurt cheerleading and get more concussions playing soccer than they do playing football. In football, there are eleven or twelve exposures on every play of the game. 'Oh my god, that kid got hurt playing football.' There were 4,000 collisions in that game!

"I’m defensive. I think football is a very honorable game. You get out of football what you put into football. If you’re taught by the right people the right way this game stays with you forever.

"I had a kid this year – talk about injuries -- when he was a freshman he broke his collarbone, when he was a sophomore he broke his wrist. His folks wouldn’t let him play as a junior. He was an injury-prone kid. He begged his mom and step-dad to let him play. He would come to my office crying. But I understood where his parents were coming from. I talked to his mom and they let him play. He scored a touchdown in our first game against St. Joseph. He comes running off the field, jumps in my arms and says, 'Coach, I love you. Thank you!' All this other stuff doesn’t mean anything. That was the greatest moment of my coaching career. I helped him and he was so excited and it was like that the whole year for him. I nicknamed him Boo Bulaich, after the guy who played for the Colts."

It had been over an hour by now and I felt like I had kept Coach Nudo talking long enough. We didn't get to everything but we'd covered a lot of ground. I finished by asking him about next year.

"We have a lot of hard work to do. We’ve got one starter coming back on offense and seven or eight on defense. Could be a different type of team for us."

A different type of team? Perhaps, but you can probably count on the Friars making the playoffs again. And who knows? Maybe they'll make a run at the 7A crown this time.

They definitely have the right coach.

I have to admit...

...fresh fudge and costumes is a market niche I hadn't thought of.

"Follow the money..."

...was the famous advice given to Bob Woodward in All the President's Men.

From an article in Bloomberg today, "Americans Stick With Obamacare as Opposition Burns Bright" (my emphasis):

Investors are betting the law will withstand political challenges. An “Obamacare” portfolio of stocks that benefit from the law developed by the online broker Motif Investing is up 40.9 percent over a year ago as of March 12, almost doubling the performance of the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, which returned 22.9 percent.

A “Repeal Obamacare” portfolio underperformed the benchmark stock index, rising 16.1 percent during the period.

So is the "smart" money betting on Obamacare? Maybe.

Here's more encouraging news from the piece:

President Barack Obama’s health-care law is becoming more entrenched, with 64 percent of Americans now supporting it outright or backing small changes. 

Fifty-one percent of Americans favor retaining the Affordable Care Act with “small modifications,” while 13 percent would leave the law intact and 34 percent would repeal it. That’s the highest level of public acceptance for the law yet in the Bloomberg poll.  

What's more:

Still, rank-and-file Republicans want several key provisions retained. Sixty-two percent of Republicans want to retain the law’s ban on denying coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions, and 57 percent want to keep the requirement that insurance companies allow children up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ policies. 

Even majorities of those who would repeal the law want to maintain some of those provisions. Fifty-eight percent of repeal backers favor keeping the prohibition on denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and 58 percent also want to continue to allow those up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ policies. A substantial 40 percent minority of repeal advocates would keep the law’s ban on lifetime caps on insurance benefits.

So are we home free? Will Obamacare survive? And, if so, will it work? I'm not sure, but I like Deep Throat's advice: Follow the money.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Can you imagine loving...

...a soft drink so much you'd order a license plate to tell the world?

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

The quote of the day...

...is from, of all places, Forbes (my emphasis):

The most recent enrollment numbers should crush conservatives’ fantasies of seeing Obamacare fall apart. But they should also encourage conservatives who recognize that the health insurance market before Obamacare was a disaster, and was in dire need of reform. There are serious reforms that need to be made to the law – they’ll either happen now or later. It’s up to Republicans whether they will be at the table negotiating, or booing on the sidelines.

Are conservatives beginning to acknowledge reality?

Fremd defeated Highland Park...

...last night, 47-26, setting up what could be a great Sectional final tomorrow night against Stevenson. And I'll be there.

And so should you. Why? Because it will pit the No. 2 seed Vikings against the No. 1 seed Patriots. What's more, Fremd is undefeated at 28-0 and Stevenson is the defending 4A runner-up. How do they stack up in the rankings? Well, Fremd doesn't quite get the respect from the news services that you might expect (No. 7 in the Tribune, No. 11 in the Sun-Times and No. 12 in MaxPreps). Stevenson, meanwhile, is ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in all three -- and for good reason; they're that good. But undefeated is nothing to sniff at, especially when you've beaten Conant (twice), Naperville Central, St. Viator (by ten points!), Carmel, Evanston, Prospect and now Highland Park. (And most of those games were on the road.)

Now, do I think Fremd can take Stevenson? In a word, no. Especially if the Patriot team I saw against St. Viator shows up tomorrow night. (That squad could have beaten anybody, including Whitney Young.) And especially if Vikings' star Riley Glassmann only scores four points, like he did last night against the Bears. (As the guy behind me pointed out, they didn't need him. But tomorrow night, Glassmann will need to bring his "A" game.)

It could be a good matchup. While Stevenson is clearly the better team, Fremd's starting five: Ben Carson and Glassmann (pictured above), Garrett Groot, Xavier Williams and Matthew Ochoa (and Jalon Roundy coming off the bench) is pretty darn good. They're taller than the Patriots and should dominate the boards. The question is, of course, when you have shooters like Jalen Brunson, Connor Cashaw, Cameron Green, Parker Nichols, Matt Johnson and Matt Morrissey, will that really matter? I'll say no. But I'll be there, just in case. Either way, it should be a good contest.

P. S. Watch out for Highland Park next year. As far as I can tell, the Bears are only graduating one starter, Tommy Sutker. David Sachs (last night's high-scorer for HP), Luke Norcia, Jacob Iden, Hallvard Lundevall (sounds like an exchange student from Sweden) and Jordan Krawitz will all be back. This is a scrappy, well-coached team. If they could have shot just a little better last night it may have turned out much differently.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The last time Highland Park...

...played in this gym was on February 15, when the Giants lost to Lake Zurich, 49-45. Since then, HP has been on a tear -- going 5-1 -- and tonight find themselves in the Lake Zurich Sectional semifinals against undefeated Fremd (27-0). Can the Giants pull off an upset and earn a birth in the finals against Stevenson

To get here, Highland Park (21-8) beat Prospect, St. Patrick, Lyons, Maine South and Libertyville (twice). Besides Lake Zurich, the Giants fell to St. Viator, Conant and New Trier. They split with Deerfield and Lake Forest

Of those teams, only Maine South is still alive in the postseason. 

While I haven't seen Highland Park play this year, I have seen Fremd -- and, if anything, they're underrated. Can the Giants be the first (and only) team to beat the Vikings? Maybe. But to do so, coach Paul Harris will need to get the most out of David Sachs, Tommy Sutker, Jordan Krawitz, Luke Norcia and Adam Wolf

I'll be there and live-tweeting the game @BoringOldWhtGuy

P. S. As for last night's game between St. Viator and Stevenson, all I can say is: Wow! (You can read all about it here and here.) I had been to three Stevenson games this year -- against Zion-Benton, Marian Catholic and Simeon -- and this was by far the sharpest I've ever seen them. According to Mike Helfgot of the Trib (my emphasis): 

Jalen Brunson had 34 points, six assists and six straight 3-pointers.

And from Michael O'Brien of the Sun-Times:

It wasn’t just Brunson who was hot from outside. The Patriots shot 12-for-21 from three-point range.

If the Patriots play like this against Whitney Young next Friday in the State semifinals, then they'll win the 4A championship the next night. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Rand Paul won the CPAC...

...presidential straw poll last week, just as he did last year. (Is he wearing blue jeans?) From an article in the Washington Post: 

Paul won 31 percent of the vote (compared with the 25 percent he won last year), beating a crowded field of more than two dozen names, including a number of potential 2016 GOP presidential contenders. He crushed second-place finisher Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who came in with 11 percent.

No big surprise, right? After all, his father, Ron Paul, won in 2010 and 2011. So who came in third, Chris Christie? Marco Rubio? Paul Ryan? Nope. It was Ben Carson. Who? You know, the neurosurgeon who has never held elective office.

According to his Wikipedia page, Carson (above) has said:

"Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn't matter what they are. They don't get to change the definition."

And,

"I don't believe in evolution ... I simply don’t have enough faith to believe that something as complex as our ability to rationalize, think, and plan, and have a moral sense of what’s right and wrong, just appeared."

"Just appeared." Isn't that the story of creation?

He also called the Affordable Care Act:

"The worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery."

This guy came in third? Hoo boy! The Republican Party may be in worse shape than I thought.

The rankings are in...

...from the three news services I follow.

Despite their big victory over Zion-Benton last week, St. Viator failed to crack the Sun-Times top ten. And Fremd, well, what do they have to do to get Michael O'Brien's respect? Go undefeated?

In the MaxPreps rankings, there's no Simeon, Fremd, Orr or Bogan in the top ten. What? I guess they just have a thing for those downstate teams. But, come on, St. Viator only No. 22? And Loyola No. 24, Fenwick No. 30 and St. Joseph No. 46?

Once again, I think Mike Helfgot has it best. But there remains that lingering question: What are we supposed to do with Curie? Personally, I'd move Loyola and St. Viator up instead.

Tonight I'll be out at Lake Zurich for the St. Viator - Stevenson game. And tomorrow night Highland Park vs. Fremd. (And Friday night ... Fremd vs. Stevenson?)

After watching the Lions just demolish the Zee-Bees in the second half last week, I wonder: Can Roosevelt Smart (above) and Ore Arogundade contain Stevenson's Jalen Brunson and Connor Cashaw? Can Tom Martin handle Parker Nichols under the boards? These two squads match up well. If Smart, who's only a junior, can play like he did Friday night (33 points!), St. Viator just might give Stevenson a run for the money. I'll be live-tweeting the game @BoringOldWhtGuy.

In the meantime, here are the latest rankings:

Trib

1. Stevenson (28-1)*
2. Young (24-5) 
3. Marian Catholic (26-2)*
4. Curie (0-26)
5. Orr (22-4) 
6. Simeon (22-4)* 
7. Fremd (27-0)*
8. Bogan (25-5)
9. Morgan Park (18-6)
10. St. Joseph (23-6)

Sun-Times

1. Young (24-5) 
2. Stevenson (28-1)*
3. Marian Catholic (26-2)*
4. Orr (22-4)
5. Simeon (22-4)*
6. Morgan Park (18-6) 
7. Loyola (23-5)*
8. Bogan (25-5)
9. St. Joseph (23-6)
10. Fenwick (21-8)

MaxPreps

1. Stevenson (27-1)*
2. Springfield Lanphier (27-1)^
3. Young (24-5)
4. Lincoln (30-2)^
5. Curie (20-5)
6. Marian Catholic (25-2)* 
7. Edwardsville (25-2)^
8. Morgan Park (18-5) 
9. Morton (18-4)
10. Benet (20-8)*
 
And here's last week's.

* Seen 'em.

^ Outside the Chicago area.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The quote of the day...

...is from a piece in the Atlantic, "Is Speed Reading Possible?":

We now read an average of 54,000 words a day by some estimates, roughly the length of a novel.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

We finally have an answer...

...to the question, "What does Sarah Palin read?"

Seriously, have you ever seen anyone so bitter in your entire life?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sheila MacRae, who played...

...Alice Kramden (above, left) in “The Honeymooners” sketches on The Jackie Gleason Show, died at age 92. The show, which also starred Jackie Gleason, Art Carney and Jane Kean, was one of my favorites growing up.

Ms. MacRae must have really been something (I was pretty young at the time), because according to her obit in the Times:

During her husband’s troubles, Ms. MacRae wrote in her memoir, she rebuffed overtures from suitors including Henry Fonda, Peter Sellers and Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Ms. McCrae turned down a marriage proposal from Frank Sinatra, she said.

Wow!

What I also didn't realize was that her daughter, Meredith MacRae (below, right), starred in Petticoat Junction, another sitcom from my childhood.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sean Potts, a founding member...

...of the traditional Irish band the Chieftains, died at age 83. Here's a little sample of his music just in time for St. Patrick's Day. That's Potts on the right, playing the tin whistle and later speaking in ... Gaelic?

From Potts's obit in the New York Times:

Over the next 15 years or so, the Chieftains moved from small stages in Ireland to touring the United States. They eventually signed with Island Records and established themselves, counter-intuitively, as crossover artists, sometimes performing with rock groups, including the Grateful Dead. 

The Chieftains performed with the Dead?

Friday, March 7, 2014

A conversation with Gene Nudo, Part III.

Coming to Fenwick from the Arena League must have been a big change for Coach Nudo. I asked him what the difference was between coaching pro and high school athletes.
  
"Five or six years ago I was recruiting kids from PAC-12 schools, Big Ten schools; now I’m looking at kids from St. Isaac Jogues. But I believe coaching is teaching anyway. Whether you’re a pro coach or a college coach or a high school coach, you’re trying to sell what you do to the people you’re presenting it to. Our kids bought into it."

Is it difficult, I wondered, to predict success at the next level?

"Absolutely. I have a 6 foot, 190-pound corner named Aaron Garland. He's a junior, but the services are saying he’ll be a safety. Why, because nobody needs big corners in big-time college football? A big corner is like a piece of gold! Usually these guys are all singing midgets. They’re 5 foot 7. Robert Spillane, I believe, is going to be a tailback at Western Michigan. He’s 6’2”, 225. Guess what? He can carry the ball and run. He’s going to punish you. There aren’t a lot of guys walking around like that. And you don’t know how a kid’s going to continue to grow. I think Spillane will be a running back in college. He might end up 6’4’’, 250 and be an inside linebacker. But I think they want him to carry the ball. He’s fast enough and he’ll be bigger than most of the guys trying to tackle him. That was the big advantage we had last year. We ran a lot of two-back stuff.  A lot of these teams don’t see that anymore. Everybody wants to spread it out. So we put a 210-pound kid in front of Spillane -- 225 following 210 running full-speed at you. You’ve got to man up! We were lucky; we had great kids. You put a 6'5", 245-pound tight end out in the slot and now you’ve got three big people. And we had a quarterback who could throw the ball to them."

What about the recruiting aspect of the job? 

"It’s changed. A lot of it is poor planning by parents. All of a sudden they think, ‘My kid is graduating and I don’t have any money saved for him!’ It’s a tough world to live in. College was $4,000 a year when I was growing up, but today a private school can cost forty grand. So parents try to get their kid exposure. There’s pressure on me and pressure on the college coaches -- when you don’t get a kid, you have to answer to somebody. I wouldn’t want one of those college jobs. My wife always tells me, you should have taken one of those. ‘Yeah, if you don’t ever want to see me again.’ Those guys – when they have a day off – they’re always on the road."

Sounds like the recruiting process has been mixed for Coach Nudo.

"Take Pat Hart, for example. He was another great player for me. He was a quarterback when he was a sophomore here and we wanted to make him a linebacker. Pat was as good a linebacker in the state of Illinois as anyone last year. I told everybody he was the real deal. Nobody would offer him anything. He walked on at USC and was a third-string fullback as a freshman. He calls me up and says, ‘Coach, I’m in Hawaii right now.’ All these schools and no one would offer him a dime. But he winds up at USC. And they're redshirting him so they must think he’s got value. Or take Ryan Smith, 6’5”, 245 -- I think he’s the best tight end in the state of Illinois. Couldn’t get anything until late. He’s going to Miami of Ohio, though. He’s going to get a great education and be a great player for them."

Has coaching become a 12-month job? 

"It has -- it's a year-round thing. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been logging in every play we ran last year. Sideline and end zone so we have a video playbook for our guys. The down, the distance, the formation, the play, run right, run left – every play. I’m up to the Brother Rice game. The kids can type a play in. All the times we ran that play will come down. I’ll refine it to the ones that were run properly. They now have visual backup. That’s a big part of what I’m doing."

Nudo showed me his computer screen.

"First and ten, we’re on the right hash, we’re in a twenty formation, running marine west, lead to the left. We go east and west; they don’t number plays like they used to. It’s all here for the kids; they watch a lot of films."

What's a "twenty formation"? I asked.

"Twenty is two backs and no tight ends."

Now I felt like I was being let into the Inner Sanctum. It was really cool!

"Here’s the same play from the end zone. When the kids look at it I say, 'Where are you going? What are you doing? Why?' It’s a nice tool. The problem we have is we don’t have meeting time for these kids; they’re in school all day long. During the season, on Tuesdays the defense meets with the defensive coach and has lunch with him and watches the tape. We have 20 minutes of video time. At Fenwick, we’re about the kids going to school. We even get heat about the 6:30 a.m. weightlifting time. Everybody’s tired. But the rest of the world is working at 6:30!

Do you change your offense from year to year? 

"You have to." 

Are there trends? 

"Everybody now runs from the spread."

Will you ever adopt a no-huddle offense? 

"We can. Everything we do is with words. Originally when we set this up that was the idea. Wheaton North ran a play every 20 seconds against us. Their belief system was, 'We're in better shape than you and we know where we’re going.' We may head to that next year. The nice thing is we have smart kids. There’s key words in everything we do."

There's only one drawback.

"Teams that signal it in have a dummy coach. How do I tell a guy you’re the dummy coach? Nobody’s paying attention to you but you’ve got to do all this stuff?"

Nudo laughed.

"That’s the great thing about being here; the kids are smart. You tell them something once and you’d better tell them the same thing tomorrow because they’re going to call you on it. 'Coach, that’s not what you said yesterday.' And that’s good. It keeps you on your toes; it keeps you young."

How do you manage the parents? 

"Parents are great but you have to be firm and consistent in the rules. Parents will take as much room as you will give them. My first year at Driscoll parents were everywhere! So the first day I painted a circle on the field. I said 'Guess what guys, stay in the circle until we leave the field.' Nice thing is, I’m a parent too. I’m sure I thought my kids were better than they were. Why would I think that? I was never a great athlete. If the gene pool wasn’t working for me why would it be working for them? I had a kid ask me once, ‘Coach, how come you don’t tell us what a great player you were?’ Because I wasn’t!

"There was a Division I player at another school last year whose mother was a problem and the coach couldn’t get his arms around the situation. The high school coach is the professional. I had a dad one time who told me his kid wasn’t going to play football; he didn’t carry the ball enough. I won’t tell you how to be a plumber; you don’t tell me how to be a coach. Maybe I’ve had a little easier time with that because of where I’ve been. Even when I hadn’t accomplished much, I wasn’t going to let myself get pushed around. I’m always going to do what’s in the best interests of the kids. Parents come and go. I tell the kids, ‘When you guys have your 25-year reunion, I want to be there even if it’s in an urn! I want to be at the party.’ 

"When I was the head coach of the Arizona Rattlers, I was also coaching my son’s Pop Warner team. On that team I had a quarterback who's now at Washington State, a tailback at Arizona State, a guard at Wyoming and a linebacker at Florida Atlantic. It was the worst year of my life. I got fired from the Rattlers. I had a worse time coaching that Pop Warner team than I did losing my professional job. The quarterback wasn’t getting enough throws, the running back wasn’t getting enough touches, etc. We were winning every game 30-0 at the half so we had to run every play tackle-to-tackle in the second half. It was not what I signed up for. It was really sad because I felt bad for my own kid. He was the one coming home with me and I was not in a good place. 

"But I love coaching kids."

Next week: The virtues of football far outweigh the dangers.

After watching this video, is...

...it any wonder that a recent poll found John McCain to be the least popular United States senator?

PPP's newest Arizona poll finds that John McCain is unpopular with Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike and has now become the least popular Senator in the country. Only 30% of Arizonans approve of the job McCain is doing to 54% who disapprove. There isn't much variability in his numbers by party -- he's at 35/55 with Republicans, 29/53 with Democrats, and 25/55 with independents.

Now, granted, McCain concedes in the speech above that "there is not a military option" with respect to the current situation in Ukraine. Phew! But if he had been elected president in 2008, wouldn't the U. S. still be in Iraq and Afghanistan? What's more, wouldn't we also be at war in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iran and North Korea?

Whatever you think of President Obama's foreign policy, isn't it a relief that John McCain isn't in the White House at a time like this?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

In response to the recent events...

...in the Ukraine, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said, “We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression. President Obama needs to do something!”

In his column in the New York Times this morning, Nicholas Kristoff reminds us that:

The Soviet Union didn’t invade Hungary because of President Eisenhower’s weakness, nor Czechoslovakia because of President Johnson’s weakness. Russia didn’t help dismember Moldova because of George H.W. Bush’s weakness or invade Georgia because of George W. Bush’s.

It's time for everyone to take a deep breath.