Monday, June 30, 2014

When I opened up my Times...

...this morning and saw the headline on the right column, "Before Shooting in Iraq, a Warning on Blackwater," I just assumed it went with this picture in the middle of the page. "Oh yeah," I thought, "that looks like Iraq." (I hadn't had my coffee yet.)

But then I read the caption, "La Salle County, Tex., is the site of an oil and gas boom, but studies have shown that 39 percent of children there live in poverty."


From the article (my emphasis):

This rural patch of thick mesquite in the brush country south of San Antonio had been known for something else. Five miles from here in Cotulla, Lyndon B. Johnson at the age of 20 saw hardship so searing that it would help inspire his war on poverty.

Now, it is the scene of one of the greatest oil booms the country has ever seen. But poverty endures in makeshift, barely governed communities called colonias, such as the one where Ms. Vargas shares her trailer with an ever-shifting assemblage of relatives.

Decades after Johnson took a teaching job here in 1928, the area, like the country, is a startling and incongruous mix of cascading wealth and crushing hardship. And though the boom has helped produce fortunes for some and comfortable lives for many, for others it exists within a rural landscape of unpaved streets without garbage pickup, where few dare to drink the tap water because it tastes and smells like chlorine.

Meanwhile, from Texas Gov. Rick Perry's website:

Texas is a land of ongoing success and endless opportunity; Texans aren't too shy about telling people about it, either. It's not bragging if it's true, however, and the Lone Star State’s winning mix of low taxes, reasonable regulatory structure, fair court system and world-class workforce has been paying dividends in terms of press recognition, economic rankings and, most importantly, good jobs for hard-working Texans.

And this guy wants to be president?

If Bruce Rauner is elected...

...governor of Illinois this year, do you think he'll be more like Jerry Brown in California (my emphasis)?

California has been Exhibit A for the fiscal upheaval that has rocked states throughout the recession. Year after year, California officials reported bigger and bigger deficits and sought to respond with spending cuts that left the state reeling. 

So it was something of a moment when a jaunty Gov. Jerry Brown strode before cameras here on Thursday to present his budget for 2013-14.

“The deficit is gone,” Mr. Brown proclaimed, standing in front of an array of that-was-then and this-is-now charts that illustrated what he said were dramatic changes in California’s fortunes.

“For the next four years we are talking about a balanced budget,” he said. “We are talking about living within our means. This is new. This is a breakthrough.”

Mr. Brown was not just talking about a balanced budget. He projected that the state would begin posting surpluses starting next year, leading to a projected surplus of $21.5 million by 2014, a dramatic turnaround from the deficit of $26 billion — billion, not million — he faced when he was elected in 2010.

The change in fortunes reflected cuts that were imposed over the past two years, a temporary tax surcharge approved by voters in November that expires in seven years, and a general improvement in the state’s economy.

Mr. Brown’s news was hailed on both sides of the political aisle. “This is a proposal that clearly shows California has turned the corner,” said John A. PĂ©rez, a Democrat who is the State Assembly’s speaker.
Connie Conway, the Assembly’s Republican leader, said it was “good news for taxpayers that the state has made progress in getting our financial house in order.”
Or will he be more like Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback?

Two years ago Kansas embarked on a remarkable fiscal experiment: It sharply slashed income taxes without any clear idea of what would replace the lost revenue. “Look out, Texas,” proclaimed Gov. Sam Brownback.

But Kansas isn’t booming — in fact, its economy is lagging both neighboring states and America as a whole. Meanwhile, the state’s budget has plunged deep into deficit, provoking a Moody’s downgrade of its debt.

There’s an important lesson here — but it’s not what you think. Yes, the Kansas debacle shows that tax cuts don’t have magical powers, but we already knew that. The real lesson from Kansas is the enduring power of bad ideas, as long as those ideas serve the interests of the right people.

If Rauner wins, I give him one term.

In the latest polls...

...from RealClearPolitics, five of the six most competitive U. S. Senate races -- Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, New Hampshire and North Carolina -- are leaning Democratic. (Only Mary Landrieu, in Louisiana, is trailing her Republican opponent, Bill Cassidy.)

If a wily veteran like Landrieu can pull it out (as I'm convinced she will) and you throw in Iowa and Michigan, how in the heck are the Republicans going to take control of the Senate this year? I just don't see it happening.

The Trib reminds us...

...this morning that the Prep Bowl drew over 80,000 fans at Soldier Field as recently as 1961. Wow!

The Bears, meanwhile, averaged only about 45,000 at Wrigley that year, including 49,711 against the Packers.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

I was at this pharmacy... the corner of Devon and Sacramento in West Rogers Park yesterday. (Long story; don't ask.)

(And it's always West Rogers Park, by the way, as opposed to East Rogers Park, which is known to the locals as simply Rogers Park. A friend of mine who grew up in Rogers Park and went to Sullivan said they thought the kids in West Rogers Park who attended Mather were rich because they lived in houses.)

Rosen Drugs is located on a stretch of Devon named after Golda Meir and is immediately next door to what I took to be an Arab grocery store.

And across the street was this restaurant featuring Indian and Pakistani cuisine.

As I walked around the neighborhood for about an hour or so, I saw several Orthodox Jewish families walking (to Temple, I presume?) as well as Muslims gathered in front of something called the ICNA (the Islamic Circle of North America) on California. I walked farther west on Devon and the street took on a more Indian (and Pakistani?) flavor.

And I thought, all of these disparate groups are living in harmony in this small neighborhood in Chicago. Is this a great city, or what?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Pop quiz: Only five countries... the world have escaped European domination at some point. Who are they?

According to Vox, the five are Japan, North and South Korea, Thailand and Liberia.

After the last election, Republican...

...National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, above, gave an assessment of the GOP's problems based on the results of a months-long review, and he called on the party to reinvent itself (all emphasis mine):

Referring to the November election, Priebus said at a breakfast meeting: “There’s no one reason we lost. Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; and our primary and debate process needed improvement."

"So, there’s no one solution," he said. "There’s a long list of them.”

Among the report's 219 prescriptions: a $10 million marketing campaign, aimed in particular at women, minorities and gays; a shorter, more controlled primary season and earlier national convention; and creation of an open data platform and analytics institute to provide research for Republican candidates.

The $10 million outreach effort to includes hiring national political directors for Hispanic, Asian-Pacific and African American voters and elevating minorities within the party. "We've done a real lousy job sometimes of bragging about the success that we've had" with minorities, in particular Hispanic candidates, Priebus said. To target African Americans, he plans to launch a pilot project in 2013 mayoral races aimed at identifying and turning out potential supporters in urban areas.

So, among other things, the GOP needs to get more blacks to vote for them, right? Well, good news! Yesterday, the Times reported, "Blacks Regain Sway at Polls in Mississippi":

For the first time since President Richard M. Nixon’s divisive “Southern strategy” that sent whites to the Republican Party and blacks to the Democrats, African-American voters have come out in force for a Republican in the Deep South.

“We’re in a moment here,” said Floyd Smith, an African-American and a longtime political worker who canvassed Jackson’s black precincts for Mr. Cochran. “Black folks went out and voted for a Republican. That’s history.”

Although Cochran campaign officials and longtime Democratic officials said white Republican voters probably made the biggest difference in Mr. Cochran’s victory, blacks turned out in record numbers for a Mississippi Republican primary.

So Republicans are finally attracting black voters. That's a good thing, isn't it? Not so fast. According to Politico, "Defiant Chris McDaniel declines to concede in speech to supporters":

Cochran is credited with winning by pumping up turnout for Tuesday’s runoff beyond the initial primary. In the final days of campaigning, he appealed to voters who don’t typically participate in Republican primaries, including those who traditionally vote Democrat, like blacks. Mississippi voting rules allow anyone to participate in a primary runoff.
The tea party-backed McDaniel camp cried foul, sending in poll monitors and questioning the final outcome of the race.

Barry Neyrey, chairman of the South Mississippi Tea Party on the Gulf Coast, blamed Cochran’s move to try and expand the electorate and increase Democratic turnout in the primary as “dirty politics.”

So, first Republicans say that they want black voters -- but only in the general. And, second -- and much, much worse -- the McDaniel people are implying that blacks can only vote in the general; that somehow participating in a Republican primary is "dirty politics." What, is the Republican Party for white voters only?

These guys have a long, long way to go.

I couldn't help clicking...

...on this story from my Comcast homepage, "America’s cheapest states to live in 2014." Here's the list*:

1. Kentucky
2. Arkansas
3. Oklahoma
4. Louisiana
5. West Virginia
6. Mississippi
7. Indiana, Alabama (tie)
9. Tennessee
10. South Carolina

Sorry to sound snarky here, but maybe those states are cheap because nobody wants to live there.

Remember that next time some Illinois Republican spouts off about relocating to Indiana (above). Go ahead, I always say, it's cheap for a reason.

* All red states, by the way.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Tom Toles cartoon of the day:

I didn't realize until this morning...

...that two of the greatest middle linebackers in history both went to Illinois, Ray Nitschke (above) and Dick Butkus (below). (And they played against each other in the NFL for seven years.)

According to the Trib's great series, "Countdown to high school football kickoff":

66. Jersey number worn by Proviso (now Proviso East) grad, Illinois great, former Packer and Pro Football Hall of Famer Ray Nitschke. 

According to Wikipedia (all emphasis mine):

Nitschke was born on December 29, 1936 in Elmwood Park, Illinois, the youngest of three sons to Robert and Anna Nitschke. His father was killed in a car accident in 1940, and his mother died of a blood clot when Ray was 13. Older brothers Robert Jr. (age 21) and Richard (age 17) decided they would raise Ray on their own.

Ray entered Proviso High School in Maywood shortly before his mother's death. The loss of both parents enraged Nitschke, and the lack of a parental disciplinarian to quell his rage, caused him to engage in fights with other kids in the neighborhood. His freshman year at Proviso, Ray played fullback on one of the school's three football teams. He was a poor student at school and his grades eventually caught up with him as he was declared academically ineligible to play sports his sophomore year. This embarrassment he would lament for the rest of his life.

He succeeded in raising his grades sufficiently enough in his sophomore year to allow him to engage in sports his junior year. By his junior year he had grown significantly to stand at 6' and his quick temper had become notorious. His junior year he became the quarterback on offense, and safety on defense of the varsity football team, for coach Andy Puplis. He played varsity basketball and was a pitcher and left fielder for the varsity baseball team. His baseballs skills brought him an offer from the professional St. Louis Browns with, what Ray considered an astronomical amount, a $3,000 signing bonus. Ray was also offered scholarships from college football programs around the country. Puplis advised him to accept a football scholarship. His desire to play at a Big Ten college, with a chance to play in the Rose Bowl, caused him to accept a football scholarship to the University of Illinois in 1954.

In the rural community, which his University was set in, Nitschke soon relished and embellished his role as a streetwise punk. He smoked, drank heavily, and fought at the drop of a hat. Never a good student in high school, his grades suffered at college. Similar to his contemporary, Jerry Kramer, Ray was ostracized by his professors because he attended the university as the result of a football scholarship.

In his sophomore year, due to a depletion of players in the offensive backfield, Illini head coach, Ray Eliot moved Nitschke from quarterback to fullback. His childhood dream of quarterbacking a team to a victory in the Rose Bowl was shattered. At this time, college football had reverted to single-platoon football. Single-platoon football meant those players that were on offense had to switch to defense, and vice-versa, when ball possession changed. On defense, Nitschke moved to the linebacking position. He proved to be a very skilled player and an absolute brutal tackler as a linebacker, so much so that, by Ray's senior year, Paul Brown considered him the best linebacker in college football. 

Growing up in the outskirts of Chicago, Ray had always idolized the Bears and he hoped to be chosen by them in the 1958 NFL draft. However, on December 2, 1957, Nitschke was chosen by Jack Vainisi, in what is considered the greatest drafting year in the history of the Green Bay Packers franchise, as a second pick of the third round.

Nitschke, of course, went on to play for the Packers until 1972 and was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1978.

Dick Butkus, who played for the Bears from 1965-1973, was also elected to the Hall of Fame, in 1979. 

From his Wikipedia page:

The youngest of eight children of an immigrant family from Lithuania, Richard Marvin "Dick" Butkus grew up in the Roseland neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. He played high school football for coach Bernie O'Brien at Chicago Vocational High School.

Butkus played center and linebacker from 1962 through 1964 at the University of Illinois.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Which Republican candidate...

...for president in 2016 is considered to be the most conservative? Which one is considered the least?

Philip Bump, writing in the Washington Post, has compiled this table for us. Cruz is the most conservative; Bush is the least.
  1. Ted Cruz
  2. Rick Perry
  3. Marco Rubio
  4. Bobby Jindal
  5. Rand Paul
  6. Scott Walker
  7. Paul Ryan
  8. Mike Huckabee
  9. Chris Christie
  10. Jeb Bush
Who do I think is the likeliest of these to get the nod? Rubio. (Cruz would be Goldwater redux.)

Is Chris McDaniel a blue state plant?

From an article in the Times today, "Mississippi Race Points to Appeal of Partisanship" (my emphasis):

“We try to make sure Mississippi’s voice is heard in Washington, is effective for our state and produces the results that you have right here in this state,” Sen. Thad Cochran intoned quietly into a microphone the same day, just down the coast in Gulfport.

Translation: If reelected, I will continue to bring in more federal dollars to Mississippi than my constituents send to Washington in taxes.

Or, as Marty Wiseman, retired director of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University, put it, “That was the contract: We’ll send you to Washington, and we’ll keep sending you as long as you watch out for Mississippi.”

Are blue states getting tired of supporting red ones? Was Mr. McDaniel sent down there secretly to change all that?

I wrote a post...

...a week or so ago that asked the question, What if establishment Republicans just give up on the GOP and migrate to the Democratic Party?

In Joe Nocera's column in the Times today, he talks about the possibility that Kevin McCarthy (above), the new Republican majority leader, may not support reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank (my emphasis):

Business is now up in arms. On Monday, the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers held a conference call to decry the threat to the Export-Import Bank and promised a “full-court press” to get Congress to take up the reauthorization.

So, again, I ask: If the Republican Party continues down its crazy path, what's to stop groups like the Chamber of Commerce, for example, from backing sympathetic Democrats?

Another Little Italy landmark... this statue of Columbus at the entrance to Arrigo Park at the corner of Polk and Loomis.

Originally known as Vernon Park, "the greenspace was officially renamed Arrigo Park in honor of Victor Arrigo (1908-1973). A vocal advocate for the Italian-American community, Arrigo served as Illinois State Representative for Chicago's near southwest side from 1966 to 1973. Arrigo was instrumental in bringing sculptor Moses Ezekiel's statue of Christopher Columbus to the park in 1966. First exhibited in the Italian pavilion at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, the bronze figure later graced a second-story alcove on State Street's Columbus Memorial Building. After the building came down in 1959, the statue went into storage. Arrigo argued that Columbus should find a new home in the city's oldest continuously Italian-American neighborhood, which was then experiencing wrenching transformation due to the construction of the University of Illinois' Circle Campus."

Monday, June 23, 2014

Fouad Ajami, who...

...helped rally support for the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003, died at age 68.

How timely.

From Ajami's obit in the Times (my emphasis):

An Arab, Mr. Ajami despaired of autocratic Arab governments finding their own way to democracy, and believed that the United States must confront what he called a “culture of terrorism” after the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Condoleezza Rice summoned him to the Bush White House when she was national security adviser, and he advised Paul Wolfowitz, then the deputy secretary of defense. In a speech in 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney invoked Mr. Ajami as predicting that Iraqis would greet liberation by the American military with joy.

In the years following the Iraqi invasion, Mr. Ajami continued to support the action as stabilizing.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

I was walking past Rush Hospital...

...the other day when I noticed this sign. From Rush's website:

The pavilion is named in honor of Edward A. Brennan, chairman of Rush’s Board of Trustees for nearly 10 years until his death in 2007. During his tenure as chairman, Brennan spearheaded the planning for the Rush Transformation.

Construction of the pavilion was funded solely by philanthropic gifts from friends, family and business associates of Brennan, including members of the Rush Board of Trustees.

Brennan, in case you don't know, was a former Chairman of the Board, President and CEO of Sears, Roebuck and Co. His younger brother, Bernard F. Brennan, was CEO of Montgomery Ward. These guys were obviously big hitters. 

But all I could think of was my mother's reaction to the news that Brennan had been appointed president of Sears. "Eddie Brennan? Really? I used to babysit that guy!"

Friday, June 20, 2014

Gerry Goffin, who...

...with Carole King wrote some of the biggest hits of the 1960s, died at age 75.

The pair collaborated on such songs as “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?,” “Up on the Roof,” “One Fine Day,” “Go Away Little Girl,” “Don’t Bring Me Down,” and “The Loco-Motion,” which made it all the way to No. 1 in 1962. That last one was sung by their babysitter, performing under the name Little Eva.

But I think my favorite of the bunch is “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” which was recorded by the Monkees in 1967. According to Wikipedia, the song was inspired by a street named Pleasant Valley Way, in West Orange, New Jersey where the couple was living at the time.

And in paragraph two...

...of that same article (my emphasis):

Warning that the militants pose a threat not just to Iraq but also to the United States, Mr. Obama said he was prepared to take “targeted and precise military action,” a campaign of airstrikes that a senior administration official said could be extended into neighboring Syria.

And from April 30, 1970:

President Nixon stuns Americans by announcing U.S. and South Vietnamese incursion into Cambodia "...not for the purpose of expanding the war into Cambodia but for the purpose of ending the war in Vietnam and winning the just peace we desire." 

I woke up and read this...

...on the front page of the Times today (my emphasis):

President Obama said Thursday that he would deploy up to 300 military advisers to Iraq to help its struggling security forces fend off a wave of Sunni militants who have overrun large parts of the country, edging the United States back into a conflict that Mr. Obama once thought he had left behind.

And I couldn't help comparing it to this:

In May, 1961, President Kennedy sent 400 American Green Beret 'Special Advisors' to South Vietnam to train South Vietnamese soldiers in methods of 'counter-insurgency' in the fight against Viet Cong guerrillas.

Eerie, isn't it?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Add Scott Walker to the list...

...of "moderate" Republicans, including Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, who will probably not be the party's nominee in 2016. From an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "John Doe prosecutors allege Scott Walker at center of 'criminal scheme' ":

Prosecutors allege that Gov. Scott Walker was at the center of an effort to illegally coordinate fundraising among conservative groups to help his campaign and those of Republican senators fend off recall elections during 2011 and '12, according to documents unsealed Thursday.

Meanwhile, Gail Collins asks:

Could powerful moderates in the Republican Party be desperate enough to want to bring back Mitt?

John Bolton, the former...

...ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, is considering a run for the White House in 2016, according to an article in the Times. (That's him, above, at CPAC in March.)

And I say it's time. It's time the crazy party had a nominee that actually looked the part.

Hampshire College...

...announced on Wednesday that it would no longer consider SAT or ACT scores in admissions or financial aid decisions.

That's interesting, but what I'd really like to know is, how often do people ask, "Where in New Hampshire is the College located?" (It's in Amherst, Massachusetts.)

Reminds me a little of Washington University in St. Louis, which had to add the "in St. Louis" to its official title in 1976 to prevent confusion over its location.

"Where do you go to school?"

"Washington University."

"Oh; that's in Seattle, right?"

"No, you're thinking of the University of Washington."

"Oh, right. It's in Pullman."

"No, that's Washington State University."

"Oh -- D. C.?"

"Nope. St. Louis."

"St. Louis? Really?"

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Denver Snuffer, an author of books about the Mormon Church. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The state of Mississippi takes in...

...over three dollars in federal spending for every dollar it sends Washington in taxes, the highest in the nation.

Some Mississippians want to change that.

From a front-page article in the Times today, "In Mississippi, Largess Helped a Senator, Until It Hurt Him: Thad Cochran Faces Chris McDaniel in a Primary Runoff Election Tuesday" (my emphasis):

Marty Wiseman, a political science professor and the former director of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development at Mississippi State University, said he was astonished that so many voters were choosing Mr. McDaniel in a state with the nation’s highest poverty rate and lowest median household income and, according to the Tax Foundation, a nonprofit Washington think tank, one that receives the highest level of federal aid as a percentage of state revenue.

“It’s the strangest thing I’ve ever seen,” said Professor Wiseman, who considers himself a liberal by Mississippi standards. “It defies logic or reason for somebody to not only run on cutting off the supply of federal money to Mississippi, but to actually be winning the race.”

Or maybe it's not so strange. Maybe the average Mississippian just doesn't see himself as a welfare queen:

“Everybody’s got their hand out like these damn people at the food stamp office,” said Randy Harris, a retired auctioneer, between sips of coffee on Thursday at a local barbecue restaurant. “They’ve got to put an end to all of this spending.”

I wonder if Mr. Harris has any idea how dependent he and his fellow Mississippians are on the federal government. Do you think the Republicans would ever tell them that?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Today is the 20th anniversary...

...of the Great Ford Bronco chase. Do you remember where you were on that day?

I was grilling in the back yard when my neighbor called.

"What does he want?" I asked my wife.

"I don't know; just talk to him, will ya?"

"What are you doing?" Steve asked me.

"Cooking dinner; why?"

"Go turn on the TV."

"I can't; I'm cooking..."

"Just do it."

"What channel?"

"Any channel."

Oh for Christ's sake...

"Hey Julie, come 'ere."

"What do you want?"

"Just come in here. You've got to see this!"

You can see three steeples...

...from Arrigo Park, which is across the street from my new house.

The closest is the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, above, to the northeast.

A traditionally Italian church, the current structure, above, was built in 1924. The website doesn't say, but I assume it was built in the Italianate style. Reasonable guess, wouldn't you say?

The second is Notre Dame, to the northwest, which was completed in 1892 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It's my favorite; the dome is spectacular. (The closeup, below, taken from the corner of Flournoy and Ada, doesn't do it justice.)

Designed in the Romanesque Revival style, it's the only existing structure built by the city's original French settlers.

My Irish grandmother, Bess Duffy, was born in this neighborhood around that time. Could she have been baptized there?

Finally, we have St. Ignatius to the southeast. That's it behind those condo buildings; it's about a half a mile away.

The main building, above, was built in the Second Empire style. (I looked that up; many of the structures on and around the Champs-Elysees, including the Elysee Palace itself, were built in that style.)

Begun in 1869, it is one of the five public buildings in Chicago that survived the Great Fire of 1871. It's also on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1987.

It's a cool neighborhood, isn't it?

Monday, June 16, 2014

The quote of the day... from J. Tucker Martin, a Republican operative and a native:

“Virginia has become a state full of Southern statues and Northern voters.”

And the sentence of the day is from a piece in yesterday's Times, "We Didn’t Have a Plan, but the Baby Did":

Seventeen million may be a high balance at Wells Fargo, but at the sperm bank it’s below the poverty line.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

We've been in our new digs...

...for two weeks now and the view from our second-story balcony (at 9:00 this morning) hasn't changed much from last week. It's beautiful here; so far we love it.

One of the things I especially like is the mix of people. It has to be the most diverse neighborhood I've ever seen: young and old; every race, creed and color; rich, poor and everything in between.  It looks like America -- the real America.

Also, I took a walk the other day and turned the corner at Arthington and Lytle. And here was the view -- Boom! -- the Sears Tower staring me in the face. (And, yes, I still call it the Sears Tower.) It makes me think: thirty-three years ago, when I first moved to Chicago, it was the tallest building in the world. I'm still in awe of it.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

It's time to check in...

...with the latest Senate polls from RealClearPolitics. As of this week:

Bill Cassidy (R) is up six over Mary Landrieu (D) in Louisiana (above);
Gary Peters (D) is up three over Terri Lynn Land (R) in Michigan;
Tom Cotton (R) is up four over Mark Pryor (D) in Arkansas;
Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) is up three over Mitch McConnell (R) in Kentucky; and
Joni Ernst (R) is up one or six over Bruce Braley (D) in Iowa.

Of these, I'll say Landrieu, Peters, Pryor, McConnell and Braley win in November.

The Democrats hold the Senate.

Ken Griffin is getting a little better... this philanthropy stuff. Even though he's still giving money to the super-rich, at least he's now taking pity on those less fortunate than himself. From an article in the Chicago Tribune:

Republican governor candidate Bruce Rauner has received the largest single cash donation of his campaign, today reporting the deposit of $2.5 million from billionaire hedge-fund founder Ken Griffin.

Griffin, as I mentioned in an earlier post, is worth an estimated $5.2 billion. Rauner, a piker in comparison, says his net worth is only in the "hundreds of millions of dollars."

Who will Griffin select for his next bestowal, some poor sap worth only tens of millions?

Eric Hill, who wrote...

...the Spot books, died at age 86.

In the video above Hill reads Where's Spot?, the first in the series. If I had a dime for every time I read this book to my own sons I'd have a lot of dimes.

It's early, but I may be...

...getting close to deciding on which high school football games to see in Week One.*

On Friday, August 29, four contests immediately jump out at me (last year's records in parentheses):

Providence (7-5) @ Joliet Catholic (10-2)
Montini (13-2) @ Maine South (9-3)
Crystal Lake South (5-5) @ Marian Central (8-3)
Oak Park and River Forest (9-2) @ Lincoln-Way East (9-3)

Providence will be looking to avenge last year's 42-35 loss to the Hilltoppers while Maine South will be in a similar bad mood after the 21-19 defeat they suffered at the hands of the Broncos in 2013.

Why Crystal Lake South and Marian Central? (Last year the Hurricanes crushed the Gators, 28-2.) To get an early look at Marian's quarterback Billy Bahl, above. (Great name, right?) The 6'4", 214-pound senior has a ton of interest from colleges. (Marian Central turns out good quarterbacks; remember Chris Streveler? He may start for the University of Minnesota this year.)

But it's that last game that has me really intrigued. After interviewing Coach John Hoerster of OPRF I am extremely high on this program. Do I really think the Huskies can travel down to Frankfort to give Rob Zvonar and the Griffins a good game? Absolutely.

Saturday, August 30, is a no-brainer:

Wheaton Warrenville South (8-3) @ Glenbard West (11-2)

Last year the Tigers defeated the Hitters at home, 17-14. This is an annual grudge match that every fan should attend.

And on Sunday night, August 31, we have a bonus game!

Simeon (9-5) vs. St. Rita (12-2) @ Toyota Park

The Mustangs defeated the Wolverines, 35-20, in last year's Prep Bowl. How will St. Rita do this year without quarterback Tommy Mister? Just fine, I'll bet. I can't remember his name, but I saw a junior come in for Mister near the end of the Willowbrook game last year and remember being very impressed. Was it C.J. Weydeman? Or Scott Procter? Neither name sounds familiar. (Both of these guys went to Dawes Elementary, by the way. What's with that place, is it a mini Marian Central or something?)

Only 77 days left. Get your car filled up.

* All subject to change, of course.

Friday, June 13, 2014

If the tea party completes...

...its takeover of the Republican Party in the next few years, where would that leave groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable? Might corporate America and Wall Street try to take over the Democratic Party? They already seem to own individual Democrats such as Rahm Emanuel and Hillary Clinton.

So what if establishment Republicans just give up on the GOP and migrate to the Democratic Party? (Much like Southern Democrats gave up on their party and took over the Republican Party in the last few decades.) Then you would have a far-right party and a center-right party in America.

Is that too far-fetched?

Count me among those...

...Chicagoans who are "wincing" over the installation of the garish "TRUMP" letters on his 92-story hotel and condominium tower here.

It really was a beautiful building.

Bruce Rauner has a ten-point lead...

...over Gov. Pat Quinn in a new poll from We Ask America.

Game over? Not necessarily. From a piece in Reboot Illinois (my emphasis):

“History teaches us to not make strong assumptions from these early polls,” said We Ask America CEO Gregg Durham. “Four years ago, Pat Quinn trailed Bill Brady by 10 points in August and fought his way back to win a close victory. Rauner’s lead in the collar counties and downstate is strong and may hold, but Cook County is the real battle ground.”

I found this particularly interesting:

The poll results show a gender gap in the race. Women favor Rauner by four percentages points, while men favor him over Quinn by 20 points.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

In today's Trib...

...the countdown to high school football continues:

79. Career rushing attempts by Thornton grad Antwaan Randle El, who played 9 NFL seasons as a WR. First receiver to throw TD pass in Super Bowl history when Steelers beat the Seahawks 21-10 in 2006.

I've been to a lot of high school games in the past few years. (Too many, some might say.) And I talk to a lot of guys in the stands. And, for what it's worth, the impression I get is that Randle El was THE most dominant player in recent memory in the state of Illinois.

Just sayin'.