Friday, May 30, 2014

We're moving this weekend... blogging could be non-existent until Monday. Goodbye Glenview!

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

In fairness, two polls...

...out yesterday show Republican challenger Thom Tillis with a five-point lead over Sen. Kay Hagan in North Carolina, above, and Republican Tom Cotton with a four-point lead over Sen. Mark Pryor in Arkansas, below.

Stay tuned; I still think the Democrats hold the U. S. Senate this year.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Tom Toles cartoon of the day:

Massimo Vignelli, acclaimed graphic...

... designer, died at age 83. He has quite an obit in the Times, including this:

He preached clarity and coherence and practiced them with intense discipline in everything he turned out, whether kitchenware, public signage, books or home interiors.

And I remember my mother bought a set of those Heller stacking dishes back in the 1970s. They were kind of cool and definitely stacked really well. The only problem was the liquid in the cups would dribble down the handles. (Maybe that's why you don't see them much anymore.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I finally figured out why...

...I've been singing this song to myself so much lately. It's about my leaving our house in Glenview.

Part III of my interview...

...with John Hoerster is up on the Oak Leaves.

My son sent this picture...

...from a restaurant in Los Angeles. Note the highlighted row: V=Vegan Vp=Vegan Possible Gf=Gluten Free. Vegan Possible?

Apparently, they like guessing games in Southern California.

"Is it vegan?"


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Navy Cmdr. Robert J. Flynn, who...

John Downey and Richard Fecteau
...spent five and a half years in a Communist Chinese prison during the Vietnam War, almost always in solitary confinement, after he was shot down on a bombing mission, died at age 76.

Five and a half years! Wow. But his obit in the Times also mentions:

Two C.I.A. agents, John Downey and Richard Fecteau, who had been captured in China in 1952 during the Korean War, were also at the prison where Lieutenant Flynn and Major Smith were held. Mr. Fecteau was freed in December 1971, and Mr. Downey in March 1973.

Whoa! These two guys were in a Chinese prison camp for twenty years? That's amazing.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

André Popp, a French composer

...whose instrumental “Love is Blue” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Pop chart in 1968, died at age 90.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Yesterday I wrote...

...that the Democratic Party should retain its majority in the United States Senate this year. I mentioned six incumbents, in particular, that Republicans need to beat in order to wrest control of the upper chamber:

Mark Begich, Alaska
Mark Pryor, Arkansas
Mark Udall, Colorado
Mary Landrieu, Louisiana
Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire
Kay Hagan, North Carolina

Let's start following the polls on each of these, shall we?

Today we'll look at the latest from Alaska, according to RealClearPolitics. As of May 13, Mark Begich, above, leads all three of his potential Republican opponents:

Begich 42, Dan Sullivan 37
Begich 41, Mead Treadwell 33
Begich 43, Joe Miller 27

Hillary vs. Huck in 2016?

That's what the latest PPP poll in Iowa shows (my emphasis):

PPP's newest Iowa 2016 poll finds the same thing every 2016 poll ever conducted has found -- a wide open race on the Republican side, and Hillary Clinton with a dominant lead among the Democrats.

For the Republicans Mike Huckabee leads with 20% to 15% for Ted Cruz, 12% for Jeb Bush, 10% for Rand Paul, 9% for Chris Christie, 8% for Paul Ryan, 6% for Scott Walker, 4% for Marco Rubio, and 3% for Rick Santorum. Huckabee led on our February poll as well. Huckabee leads based especially on his strength with conservatives, women, and seniors.

On the Democratic side Hillary Clinton remains ever dominant with 59% supporting her for the nomination to 12% for Joe Biden, 11% for Elizabeth Warren, 3% each for Cory Booker and Andrew Cuomo, and everyone else at 2% or lower. Clinton has an 83/12 favorability rating, and polls at least 53% with liberals, moderates, men, women, seniors, and younger voters alike.

Does any of this mean anything? Probably not. I doubt if Huckabee is even running. And what the poll doesn't measure is the strength of Rand Paul's organization in the state. But it's fun for political junkies like me to ponder. A few other interesting tidbits:

Huckabee is the only Republican to hit a 70% favorability rating in Iowa.

Jeb Bush, after Christie, has the second highest unfavorability rating of any of the serious contenders.

If Clinton doesn't run Biden leads the field with 34% to 22% for Warren, 7% for Cuomo, and 4% for Booker.

When it comes to the general election Hillary Clinton would lead all of the potential Republican candidates by similar margins to what Barack Obama won Iowa by in 2012. She leads Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul 46/42, Jeb Bush 44/39, Chris Christie 45/39, and Ted Cruz 47/40.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

On this date, May 22, 22 years...

...ago, Johnny Carson hosted his last show.

How do I remember that? We moved into our new house in Glenview that day and I watched the show with no picture (our antenna hadn't been set up yet) while sitting on a box. I was 33 years old and had lived in the city for 11 years. Now, at age 55, we're moving back to the city. In 11 more years I'll be 66; in 22 I'll be 77. (I can't find anything significant about the number 44.)

The health care paragraph...

...of the day is from -- who else? -- Jonathan Cohn at the New Republic (my emphasis):

Of course, it's worth remembering that some of the problems veterans are having right now have very little to do with the VA and a whole lot to do with American health care. As Phil Longman, author of Best Care Anywhere, noted in his own congressional testimony last week, long waits for services are actually pretty common in the U.S.even for people with serious medical conditionsbecause the demand for services exceeds the supply of physicians. ("It took me two-and-a-half years to find a primary care physician in Northwest Washington who was still taking patients," he noted.) The difference is that the VA actually sets guidelines for waiting times and monitors compliance, however poorly. That doesn’t happen in the private sector. The victims of those waits suffer, too. They just don’t get the same attention. 

I went to visit someone at the Hines VA in the western suburbs once and was struck by what a nice facility it was. My friend seemed to be getting excellent care; I sure didn't see anything that would justify the horror stories I've read in recent years. Just sayin'.

The cost of health insurance...

...has gone up by 28 percent since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, according to a piece in the Washington Post yesterday.

Now, before you say, "Thanks a lot, Obama!" take a look at this chart from the Economic Policy Institute:

In the ten years prior to passage of the ACA, family health insurance premiums rose 131 percent, far outpacing the growth in workers’ earnings and overall inflation. (Pssst! This is one of the main reasons we needed health care reform.)

The good news: Costs grew by just 5.4 percent between 2013 and 2014, the slowest rate since 2002.

Hang in there, everybody.

Prediction: Democrats are going to...

...hold the United States Senate this year.

Everyone* thinks otherwise, but here's my reasoning: to gain the six seats necessary for a majority, the Republicans have to pretty much run the table. And that's really hard to do. How much would you want to bet on drawing an inside straight?

Forget about Kentucky and Georgia; Mitch McConnell will keep his seat just like Harry Reid did in 2010. And the eventual Republican nominee will prevail in Georgia. (Come on; did you really think the Peach State would send a Democrat to Washington in this day and age?)

But check out these Democratic incumbents:

Mark Begich, Alaska
Mark Pryor, Arkansas
Mark Udall, Colorado
Mary Landrieu, Louisiana
Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire
Kay Hagan, North Carolina

I had a guy on Twitter tell me yesterday that the Republicans would win four out of these six races. That's wishful thinking. I'll say right now that the Democrats hold at least five of these six.  Beating an incumbent like Mark Pryor (above), for example, is a lot harder than it looks.

Republicans were positively giddy when they heard that Nate Silver gave them the edge this year. But I think everyone's getting a little ahead of their skis.

* Paddy Power, for example, has the GOP at 8/15 odds of winning the Senate; the Democrats are at 11/8.

Whither the real estate market?

It's all over the place. In a front-page article in the Times today, Neil Irwin writes (my emphasis):

Since the start of 2011, prices have risen 33 percent in the San Francisco area, 30 percent in Miami, 24 percent in Los Angeles — and even more in some of the most desirable neighborhoods within those areas.

Wow! And yet:

In the once-frothy markets of Phoenix, Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla., for example, the typical home price is still 30 to 40 percent below 2006 levels, even more if one accounts for inflation.

Bottom line? It's location-specific:

And the cliché about all real estate being local holds; each neighborhood can have its own unique dynamics in the for-sale and for-rent housing sectors that must be considered.

And it's a big country, remember?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Gordon Willis, a cinematographer...

...who worked on The Godfather among other great films from the 1970s, died at age 82. From his obit in the Times:

The cinematographer Conrad Hall called Mr. Willis “the prince of darkness” for his daring use of minimalist light and embrace of shadows. It was fully on display in “The Godfather,” in the haunted look of Marlon Brando’s Don Corleone and in the gothic composition of Don Corleone’s study...

Willis also worked on The Godfather, Parts II and III, All the President's Men, Klute, and eight Woody Allen movies, including Annie Hall, Manhattan, The Purple Rose of Cairo and Zelig. Wow.   

Monday, May 19, 2014

Remember Kapri Bibbs?

The former Colorado State and Plainfield North star has a tryout with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent. Bibbs rushed for an almost record* 520 yards and seven touchdowns in a game against Oswego in October, 2010. From an article in the Denver Post (my emphasis): 

The Broncos like Bibbs for a couple of reasons. One, they know he has the type of pure running skills that translate to the NFL. He not only rushed for 1,741 yards and averaged 6.2 per carry last season, his 31 touchdowns that led the nation proved he knows how to negotiate through goal-line scrums. 

Two, he comes from a pro-style offense at CSU and coach Jim McElwain, who is respected in the NFL. 

"I know I have the talent to play at the top level," Bibbs said. "I know there are guys at the top and I'm a guy who is trying to fight the guys at the top."

Good luck Kapri!

* The IHSA record for most yards rushing in a game is 593, held by DeAndre Hooper of Austin in a game against Near North on Oct. 19, 1996. Hooper scored six touchdowns that day.

Part II of my interview...

...with John Hoerster made the (digital) front page of the Oak Leaves. Check it out here.

Marmion Academy of Aurora...

...used to be known as Marmion Military Academy because of its Army Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps program. Isn't it fitting that the star of its baseball team is named Alex Troop?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

We're moving out of our house... Glenview two weeks from tomorrow. Here are a couple of pictures taken from Lyon School, which is right behind my house.

Lyon was built in 1948, ten years before I was born. Both of my sons went there and I taught them how to ride a bike in its parking lot. When they were really young I used to push them on the swings in the playground after dinner. I've also walked all of our dogs around it literally hundreds of times.

The first, above, shows a group of walruses and a group of penguins set in one of the outside walls. The theme is repeated several times around the school.

The second picture is a plaque commemorating a Lyon student who died at age eight in 1977. (That means she'd be 45 today.) I've looked at this plaque many times and it always made me stop and think. I wonder if she still has any family in town. Does anyone at the school now even know who she was? Does anyone in Glenview? It must have been terrible to lose such a young child.

I don't know what that "DAY BY DAY" is supposed to mean but I always find myself singing this song from the 1973 movie Godspell as I walk away. Was it her favorite song?

Here are some figures...

...from a book I'm reading that surprised me. In The Lost City: Discovering the Forgotten Virtues of Community in the Chicago of the 1950s, Alan Ehrenhalt, above, writes that:

By the late 1950s, more than four out of five fourteen- to seventeen-year olds in the United States were enrolled in high school.

Really? Only 80 percent?

But then there's this:

In 1930, the proportion was only about half. And in 1890, only 6 percent of that population was in high school.

And I thought about that; I think only one of my grandparents finished high school. (Maybe only one attended.)

Imagine that: about a hundred years ago, it was kind of a big deal to have a high school diploma. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The map of the day...

...shows Pangaea with the borders of modern-day countries.

Who does Paddy Power...

...think is going to win the 2016 presidential election? Hillary, at 5/4 odds.

Chris Christie and Marco Rubio are next at 10/1, Jeb Bush is at 12/1 and Paul Ryan is 16/1. Where's Rand Paul? Tied with Elizabeth Warren at 18/1.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The map of the day...

...shows that German is the most commonly spoken language other than English or Spanish in 16 states. I've been to 13 of those; how come I've never heard German spoken anywhere in this country outside of a classroom?

John McCain now thinks...

...the United States should send special forces to rescue the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria:

“If they knew where they were, I certainly would send in U.S. troops to rescue them, in a New York minute I would, without permission of the host country,” McCain told The Daily Beast Tuesday. “I wouldn’t be waiting for some kind of permission from some guy named Goodluck Jonathan,” he added, referring to the president of Nigeria.

Is there anywhere this guy wouldn't send troops?

Let me see; if John McCain were president it would be safe to assume the U. S. would still be at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's a layup, right? But it's also not too much of a stretch to think we'd be involved militarily in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iran and possibly North Korea. And is there any doubt we'd be in some sort of conflict with Russia over Ukraine?

Am I leaving any countries out? It's almost easier to say where the U. S. would not be at war.

Who's winning the "Twitter" primary?

Here are the total number of Twitter followers for some of the more prominent GOP candidates for president in 2016:

@marcorubio 608,000
@PRyan 593,000
@GovChristie 443,000
@SenRandPaul 436,000
@GovMikeHuckabee 330,000
@SenTedCruz 307,000

@GovPerry 223,000
@RickSantorum 223,000 } tie

@BobbyJindal 154,000
@JebBush 116,000
@ScottWalker 66,900

Oh, and what the heck:

@SarahPalinUSA 1,060,000

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

With the hiring of...

...Dan Hartman as Hinsdale Central's new football coach, Oak Park and River Forest's 2014 schedule just got a whole lot harder. (The two teams meet in Hinsdale on October 17.)

Read Part I of my interview with Huskie Coach John Hoerster, above, here.

William Ash, upon whom...

...Steve McQueen's character in The Great Escape may have been partially based, died at age 96. From his obit in the Times (my emphasis):

After his Spitfire was shot down over France in the spring of 1942, William Ash made his way to Nazi-occupied Paris with the help of the Resistance. His plan was to go to Spain, then on to England to resume flying. While waiting, he sauntered through Parisian streets as a tourist, visiting the Louvre and the zoo, dining out and swimming daily.

“He loved doing stuff for the hell of it,” said Brendan Foley, who helped Mr. Ash write his autobiography, published in 2005, and confirmed his death, on April 26 in London at the age of 96.

While in Paris, Pilot Officer Ash was seized by the Gestapo and sent to the notorious Fresnes Prison, south of the city, where he was tortured. After it was determined that he was an airman and not a spy, he was shuttled from one Nazi P.O.W. camp to another in Germany, Poland and Lithuania. It was in the camps that he discovered his true calling: would-be escape artist.

Before the war ended, he had attempted 13 escapes and made it outside the barbed wire a half-dozen times. He went under, over and through fences. He walked out in disguise. He tunneled through a latrine. He was always recaptured.

Mr. Ash said the routine was “a bit like being sent back to Go when playing Monopoly — only with more bruises.”

Most prisoners never tried to escape, much less become serial escapologists. Many who did were killed, like two-thirds of the 76 prisoners who participated in the mass breakout in March 1944 that inspired the 1963 movie “The Great Escape.”

Mr. Ash was not among the 76, though at the time he was in the same prison camp, Stalag Luft III, in an area of eastern Germany that is now part of Poland. He was in solitary confinement, or “the cooler,” where Virgil Hilts, the brash American played by Steve McQueen in the movie, often landed.

Some have suggested that Mr. Ash’s escape record made him a likely model for Hilts. “If I was, no one told me,” Mr. Ash wrote in his memoir, “Under the Wire: The World War II Adventures of a Legendary Escape Artist and ‘Cooler King.’ ”

John Sturges, the director of the film, said the characters were fictional composites.

If Jeb Bush is running...

...for president in 2016 does that mean Marco Rubio and Chris Christie are finished? I would think so. But in the current betting odds at Paddy Power Rubio and Christie are tied for first at 9/2. Jeb comes in at third with 6/1 odds. Rand Paul and Paul Ryan are tied at 8/1.

If nothing else, the race sure seems wide open.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Here are some pictures...

...I took on a walk through Bridgeport today. The first is a shuttered movie theater on Halsted just south of 35th Street. I wonder how long it's been like that.

The next one is an old-fashioned Chicago coffee shop just a little north. It looked busy inside.

This one is a combination police and fire station at Lowe and 35th, at the intersection where Mayor Daley grew up. I don't know if the house is still there or not.

And here's a close-up of the same shot.

All relics of an earlier era.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Last year, the top 25...

...hedge fund managers earned about two and a half times the income of all the kindergarten teachers in America combined.

Think of that as the election for Illinois governor approaches in November. At the Noble Network of Charter Schools, which Bruce Rauner helped start (my emphasis):

Noble has 526 full-time teachers making an average salary of $56,154 a year — about $14,000 less than the average pay for a CPS teacher.

Last month, the Chicago School Board gave Noble permission to open two new high schools in the fall. Noble wants to open nine more schools by 2018.

Or as an article in Bloomberg put it:

Organized labor sees a reincarnation of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who derailed collective bargaining for public workers and triggered a wave of anti-union legislation in the nation’s industrial heart. 

Public-employee unions are “organized against the public good,” Rauner said during a March 13 debate in Chicago. His antipathy toward unions is coupled with his support of charter schools that don’t have them.

Yep, that's what's wrong with America nowadays: teachers make too darned much money. 

Why doesn't Rauner just be honest and run on the slogan, "Elect me and I'll cut taxes on the rich and lower everyone else's income by busting the unions."

Is that really the path to prosperity, or a race to the bottom? Just look at our neighbors to the north: Under Scott Walker, Wisconsin is now 40th in job creation.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

In the biggest non-surprise...

...of the day:

The most Republican-leaning company in the country, based on political donations, is the company that makes Wonder Bread.

Who woulda thunk it?

The chart of the day...

...shows how closely the Catholic vote mirrors the overall presidential vote in America. From an old piece by Chris Cillizza (my emphasis):

The 2012 result also marked the fifth time in the last six presidential elections where the candidate who won the Catholic vote has won the election. 

President Obama carried Catholics 50 percent to 48 percent while he won the overall national vote 51 percent to 47 percent. That's the third straight election where the Catholic vote has been a near-carbon copy of the overall vote.  In 2008, Obama carried Catholics by nine points and beat Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) by seven points nationally. Four years earlier, George W. Bush won the Catholic vote by five points and beat Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D) by three points nationwide.

Why do I bring this up? Because an article in today's Times reports:

By all accounts, Hispanics are the future of Catholicism in America. Already, most young Roman Catholics in the United States are Hispanic, and soon that will be true of the overall Catholic population.

Since 1980 Democratic candidates for president have averaged 64 percent of the Hispanic vote. (President Obama garnered 71 percent in 2012.)

How can Republicans win back the White House if the pivotal Catholic vote keeps trending Hispanic?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

It's May 7th, which...

...reminds me of this great film from 1964. Have plans tonight? Break 'em! If you haven't seen Seven Days in May get it from Netflix or wherever and watch it now. I mean, come on, Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Fredric March and Ava Gardner? And a screenplay by Rod Serling? What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Tom Toles cartoon of the day:

This can't be good news...

...for Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois. According to a new Gallup poll, "about half of [Illinois] residents say that if given the chance to move to a different state, they would like to do so," more than any other state.

While the recent winter has to be a factor (I know it is with me), that statistic can't be a good sign for the incumbent.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The chart of the day...

...shows just how close the United States is to regaining all the jobs lost in the Great Recession.

Now about the quality of those jobs...

Reality check: While...

...Gov. Chris Christie's New Jersey ranks 35th out of 50 states in job creation, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin comes in at a dismal 40th. (See the entire list here.)

From where I sit...

...this morning, the 2016 GOP race may come down to Jeb Bush vs. Rand Paul.

While Bush represents the Republican establishment, the Old Guard and the foreign policy interventionist wings of the party, Paul will be the candidate of the Tea Party, which emerged largely as a reaction to the presidency of George W. Bush.

What about Chris Christie, you might ask. Too damaged. Bush wouldn't be running if Christie were the establishment candidate. Marco Rubio? A Bush protege who won't compete with his former mentor. Paul Ryan? More interested in the House Ways and Means job. Ted Cruz? Too extreme. Mike Huckabee? Won't run. Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, etc.? Don't bother.

So who would win in a contest between Bush and Paul? Well, the former president's brother (and son) has the backing of the establishment, but does he have the stomach for a race? I have no doubt that he'd like to be president, but does he want to run for president? Paul, on the other hand, has the requisite fire in the belly and the fervent support of the base and voters in important early states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Either way, it would be a battle for the soul of the Republican Party.

What do I think? If I had to bet I'd go with the establishment candidate. But 2016 may be different; it could be another Goldwater moment for the GOP. In any case, absent another recession, I can't see either one of them beating Hillary.

After Watergate, there was...

...a succession of scandals with the suffix, "-gate": Irangate, Troopergate, Travelgate, Monicagate and now Bridgegate. (A full list can be found here.)

An article in the Times this morning mentions a former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee by the name of Lawrence E. Bathgate II, above left.

I don't know why, but something tells me this guy is bad luck.