Thursday, July 31, 2014

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar argues...

...in favor of unions in college sports. From his piece in Time (his emphasis):
  • Last year, NCAA March Madness made $1 billion for CBS and Turner Broadcasting.
  • The NCAA takes in more than $6 billion a year.
  • The NCAA president made $1.7 million last year.
  • The NCAA’s top 10 basketball coaches earn salaries that range from $2,200,000 to $9,682,032.
While these coaches and executives may deserve these amounts, they shouldn’t earn them while the 18-to-21-year-old kid who plays every game and risks a permanent career-ending injury gets only scholarship money — money that can be taken away if the player is injured and can’t contribute to the team anymore.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The runner-up...

...for Name of the Day is Geronimo Allison, wide receiver for Illinois.

Wah Wah Jones, a four-sport...

...letterman at the University of Kentucky (and my Name of the Day), died at age 88.

Jones, whose given name was Wallace, not only started on the 1948 championship basketball team, but also played football for the legendary Bear Bryant, below. From his obit in the Times:
  
A Bryant story he told concerned the time he was on the sidelines spitting blood after many of his teeth had been knocked loose. Coach Bryant put his arm around the player and ordered him back into the fray.

Jones replied: “My mouth is busted. I’m spittin’ blood.”

Bryant was undeterred. “You don’t run on your teeth!” he said. “Get in there!”

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Binky Chadha of Deutsche Bank. I don't know how I've missed this guy so far, but I read this morning that in October, 2007 Mr. Chadha said:

Stocks will rise so long as there’s no recession, and “the probability is significantly higher than 50 percent that we are not going to have a recession.”

Nice call, huh? (He probably got paid a lot of money for that advice.) So whatever happened to him? Last we heard, he got a promotion:

In February, 2012, Deutsche Bank named Binky Chadha chief global strategist.

The Times has upped...

...the Republicans' chances of retaking the Senate this year from 54 percent in April to 60 percent today. From The Upshot:

With the addition of the YouGov estimates to our model, the overall outlook for the Senate remains roughly the same. The Republicans appear to have a slight advantage, with the most likely outcome being a Republican gain of six seats, the minimum they need to finish with a 51-49 seat majority. But we, like many other forecasters, would not be surprised by a gain of anywhere from four to eight seats.

The article has the GOP prevailing in seven out of nine close races: Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Michigan, Louisiana, Iowa and North Carolina. The two states it has remaining Democratic are Alaska and Colorado.

I'll concede Georgia and Kentucky; those two are deeply red states. But do you really think Democratic incumbents are going to lose in Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina? From another piece, in Roll Call:

It’s hard to beat incumbents — especially Democrats. Republicans will likely need to defeat at least three Democratic incumbents to pick up six seats, and the party simply has a weak track record of doing that. A grand total of 14 incumbents have been defeated in general elections over the past five election cycles, which includes three straight wave cycles from 2006 to 2010. Of those, just three were Democrats, dating back to then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota in 2004.

As for Democratic seats in blue Michigan and purple Iowa, are they really going to flip to the GOP? Is there some Republican wave out there a la 2010 that I'm just not seeing?

I still say the Democrats hold the Senate in 2014.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

My favorite T-shirt...

...from Wicker Park Fest last night (aka Hipster Central) was this one:

Shirts with a haiku
they're kind of overrated
but I'm wearing one

Saturday, July 26, 2014

What sort of president...

...would Hillary Clinton be? Longtime Hillary-watcher Walter Shapiro says:

Ultimately she has an orthodox, mainstream, centrist, Eisenhower Republican view of the economy. It is much to the left of today’s Republican Party since there are no Eisenhower Republicans left, but it is also much less in keeping with large segments of the Democratic Party. I can see her being very involved in raising the minimum wage, because it’s not as if hedge-fund billionaires are on the barricades against it. But trying to do a better, tougher version of Dodd-Frank? Let’s merely say that the polls would have to get very dismal for Hillary leading up to the 2020 election for that to even be on her agenda. 

Maybe Mr. Shapiro is right. But I hope a Hillary Clinton presidency would more resemble that of another Republican, Theodore Roosevelt. (I think she has more liberal instincts than she's shown.)

In 1912, when TR ran on the Bull Moose ticket he called for:

  • A National Health Service to include all existing government medical agencies.
  • Social insurance, to provide for the elderly, the unemployed, and the disabled.
  • Limited injunctions in strikes.
  • A minimum wage law for women.
  • An eight hour workday.
  • A federal securities commission.
  • Farm relief.
  • Workers' compensation for work-related injuries.
  • An inheritance tax.
  • A Constitutional amendment to allow a Federal income tax.
  • Women's suffrage.
  • Direct election of Senators.
  • Primary elections for state and federal nominations.
  • Strict limits and disclosure requirements on political campaign contributions.
  • Registration of lobbyists.
  • Recording and publication of Congressional committee proceedings.

That was a pretty progressive platform for a hundred years ago. But most of it came to pass eventually.

So what could Hillary do to build on TR's (and President Obama's) legacy? How about strengthening the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank; lowering the age for Medicare and Social Security; ending the wars on labor unions, women, gays, etc.; raising the minimum wage; expanding the estate tax and raising taxes on the 1 percent; and passing meaningful campaign finance reform. Oh, and while we're at it, how about immigration reform?

That would be a pretty good start, wouldn't it?

The best piece I've read...

...so far on Paul Ryan's anti-poverty plan isn't from Paul Krugman. (I actually thought his blog post on the subject was a little lame; I expect more from him. Perhaps his next column on Monday will be a more thoughtful piece.)

No, the best thing I've read on this topic was in Mother Jones, "Paul Ryan's Anti-Poverty Plan Would Cost Billions to Implement. Will GOPers Go for That?" For starters (my emphasis):

His ideas about tailoring the safety net to the individual sound fabulous in theory—indeed, they're not far off from what liberals have been trying to achieve for decades. But, in practice, a central component of his anti-poverty prescription is unattainable. It could only be done right at an enormous cost to the taxpayers and with the expansion of the kind of government intrusiveness conservatives like Ryan typically despise.

Further:

Individualized anti-poverty services are way more expensive than just giving people cash or food stamps, and creating such services would inevitably expand the administrative demands on any social program or limit the number of people who could be served.

Consider, as a hypothetical, the food stamp program, which Ryan thinks should require people to work as a condition of receiving the benefit (ignoring, for the moment, that nearly 60 percent of working-age adults getting food stamps already work). More than 40 million Americans get food stamps. Providing all them with a hand-holding caseworker with whom, under Ryan's plan, they'd draft long-term plans and contracts outlining their responsibilities and goals before they'd be allowed to eat, would require a fleet of roughly more than 700,000 social workers, assuming a reasonable caseload of about 55 clients per caseworker. Social workers don't make much money, with a median salary of about $44,000 a year. Even so, 700,000 of them would cost more than $30 billion a year, not including benefits. That's nearly 40 percent of what the country currently spends on food stamps and nearly twice the entire federal welfare budget. By comparison, the current food stamp program delivers 92 percent of its funding directly to people in need; only 5 percent goes to administrative costs.

Like most libertarian schemes, it sounds better in theory than in practice.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The quote of the day...

...is from Annie Lowrey's piece in New York Magazine, "The Worst-Case Scenario for Obamacare." Regarding this week's court decision in Halbig v. Burwell:

In a great ironic twist, a law designed to redistribute money from wealthier blue states to poorer red states might end up redistributing money from poorer red states to wealthier blue ones.

It should come as no surprise...

...that a university marching band led by John Waters, above, would get into trouble with the authorities. Waters, also known as the "King of Bad Taste" or the "Pope of Trash," has built a reputation for shocking audiences. From his Wikipedia page:

Waters is an American film director, screenwriter, actor, stand-up comedian, journalist, visual artist, and art collector, who rose to fame in the early 1970s for his transgressive cult films. Waters's 1970s and early '80s trash films feature his regular troupe of actors known as the Dreamlanders—among them Divine, Mink Stole, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, and Edith Massey. Starting with "Desperate Living" (1977), Waters began casting real-life convicted criminals (Liz Renay, Patty Hearst) and infamous people (Traci Lords, a former pornographic actress).

He's at it again, apparently. From the Times (my emphasis):

Ohio State University fired the director of its renowned marching band on Thursday and released a report describing a culture of harassment and alcohol abuse in which students were told to mimic sex acts, march down the aisle of a bus while others tried to pull their clothes off, and march on the football field in their underwear.

The report, by the Office of University Compliance and Integrity at Ohio State, described the hazing as being by students against other students, particularly new band members, but said that the band’s director, Jon Waters, did not do enough to stop it.

“The misconduct described is highly sexual, frequent, and longstanding as part of the marching band’s culture,” it said.

Oops. I guess that's Jon Waters, not John Waters, a different guy altogether. Never mind.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

How far does the GOP...

...really want to go in their fight against Obamacare? Is it really a good long-term strategy to deny people health care? After one of yesterday's two court rulings, Republicans were practically high-fiving each other. But, according to NBC News (my emphasis):

Do they end up paying a price for wanting to take away benefits Americans are getting under the law? Yesterday, we saw Republican after Republican praise the D.C. Circuit ruling (even after the the 4th Circuit ruling came out), but it also raised a tricky follow-up question. Does that mean they support these Americans having to pay MORE for health care? All along, Republicans have charged that the law will hurt Americans’ pocketbooks. But then how do you cheer for a court ruling that would effectively increase health costs for Americans living in states that didn’t set up their own exchanges? 

Meanwhile, in a new poll from CNN:

More than half the public says Obamacare has helped either their families or others across the country...

So at what point do voters say, "Hey Republicans, how about instead of trying to dismantle the ACA you start trying to strengthen it"?

Frederick Ordway, the chief...

...technical consultant and scientific adviser for 2001: A Space Odyssey, died at age 87. (That's him at about 6:10 in the video above.)

Ordway turned out to be amazingly prescient (jump to 7:01). Remember all those problems they initially had with zero-gravity interplanetary space travel 13 years ago? (Those ZG toilets, in particular, were a bitch!) Aren't you glad they worked those all out?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The most astonishing thing...

...I read today is from the Motley Fool:

...of Warren Buffett's $63 billion net worth, $62.7 billion was added after his 50th birthday, and $60 billion came after his 60th.

Also, from the same piece:

The single best stock to own of the last 50 years was cigarette giant Altria. Its stock compounded at an average of nearly 20% a year for half a century – enough to turn $1,000 into more than $8 million.

David Perdue and Mitch McConnell...

...should win election and reelection, respectively, to the Senate in Georgia and Kentucky this year, keeping those two "in-play" seats in Republican hands. But Democrats will prevail in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire and North Carolina.

I still think Democrats retain control of the Senate in 2014.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:


"No pressure, but I do have another couple who are very interested."

The quote of the day...

...is from a piece in Vox on the Israel-Palestine conflict:

"It's not just that there is lots of resentment and distrust; Israelis and Palestinians have such widely divergent narratives of the last 70-plus years, of what has happened and why, that even reconciling their two realities is extremely difficult."

I liked that sentence because it could just as easily be rewritten as:

"It's not just that there is lots of resentment and distrust; Republicans and Democrats have such widely divergent narratives of the last [fill in the blank] years, of what has happened and why, that even reconciling their two realities is extremely difficult."

And isn't that true? If you're a liberal or a conservative, doesn't it seem sometimes that the other side not only has their own views, but also their own facts and even their own realities? Personally, I've stopped arguing with conservatives because there's no point to it -- I feel like we live in parallel universes.

Maybe this is how the religious wars of the Middle Ages were settled -- people just got tired of fighting and learned to "agree to disagree." I heard George Will once say that the current polarization in Congress will ultimately be decided by elections. And, if you look at California as a harbinger of the future, that may be true. In the Golden State, once Democrats took control of the legislature and the executive branches it began to solve the state's fiscal problems. Maybe we'll all just have to be patient until one side or the other finally takes control of the federal government.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Least Confidence-Inspiring Name...

...of the Day belongs to Taylor Swindle.

An aide to Newt Gingrich, Mr. Swindle assures us that the former presidential candidate "fully intends" to pay off the almost $5 million debt he owes from the 2012 race.

"The speaker is committed to the retirement of debt of the Newt 2012 presidential committee for as long as it takes," Swindle said.

Uh-huh.

Why isn't everyone moving...

...from Beverly Hills, California to Beverly Hills, Kansas?

After all, while California recently raised taxes, Kansas lowered them. The result? According to an article in Forbes (Forbes!):

Since the first round of tax cuts, job growth in Kansas has lagged the U.S. economy. So have personal incomes. 

The business boom predicted by tax cut advocates has not happened, and it certainly has not come remotely close to offsetting the static revenue loss from the legislated tax cuts.

Meanwhile, in the Golden State:

So what happened after voters approved the tax increases, which took effect at the start of 2013?

Last year California added 410,418 jobs, an increase of 2.8 percent over 2012, significantly better than the 1.8 percent national increase in jobs.

California is home to 12 percent of Americans, but last year it accounted for 17.5 percent of new jobs, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows.

So next time someone tries to tell you that raising income taxes will destroy jobs, tell them the evidence just does not support that claim.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/07/20/6564879/states-job-growth-defies-predictions.html#storylink=cp

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/07/20/6564879/states-job-growth-defies-predictions.html#storylink=

Are high taxes causing people...

...to leave Illinois? From an article in the Quincy Journal (all emphasis mine):

“Illinois is bleeding residents to other states at a rate of 1 person every 10 minutes, and that’s after you take into consideration all the people who have moved into the state,” said Michael Lucci, director of jobs and growth at the Illinois Policy Institute. "We can't ignore that high taxes play a major role in encouraging people to jump the border. The latest Census Bureau data, for example, shows the pace at which people leave Illinois accelerating since the 2011 state tax increase. If Illinois wants to stop the bleeding, it must abandon its tax-and-spend policies and look at pro-growth reforms being implemented in other states.”

Is Mr. Lucci right? I don't know, but according to a recent article in the New York Times, "Wealthier New Yorkers Aren’t Fleeing the City for Tax Havens, a Study Says":

The study, by the city’s Independent Budget Office, found that the share of higher-income households that moved from the city in 2012, 1.8 percent, equaled the share of lower-income households that left.

States known for lower taxes, among them, South Dakota, Delaware, New Mexico, Utah, Tennessee, Louisiana, Colorado, Alabama and Wyoming, did not even register on the study’s list of destinations for wealthier New York City movers.

While unequivocally critical of Mr. de Blasio’s tax-the-rich proposal, former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has acknowledged previously that high taxes have driven few of his fellow billionaires from New York. The study suggests that wealthier New York City residents, like other movers, weigh job opportunities, housing and family considerations when deciding whether to move.

“I can only tell you, among my friends, I’ve never heard one person say, ‘I’m going to move out of the city because of the taxes,’ ” he said.

How about you? Do you know anyone who's left Illinois because of the high taxes?

The Confusing Name of the Day...

...belongs to Mary John Miller, the Treasury's Under Secretary for Domestic Finance.

California just joined nineteen...

...other states in banning full-contact high school football practice in the off-season. In addition, middle school and high school football teams will be limited to no more than two full-contact practices per week during the preseason and regular season.

Is this the beginning of the end of high school football as we know it?

Not necessarily. John Gagliardi (above), the winningest coach in college football history, didn't allow any tackling in practice. Before retiring from St. John's University (MN) in 2012 Gagliardi explained, "That came to me as a young guy who was getting killed in practice. Our coach used to say, 'Hit somebody! Kill somebody!' But I noticed that I was the guy getting killed.

"We haven't made a tackle on the practice field since 1958.

"It isn't rocket science to me. I'll never forget the first time we won the national championship and, at a clinic afterwards, a fellow says to me, 'Don't you think, if you'd have hit more, you'd have done better.'

" 'Well,' I said, 'I don't know. We played 12 games and won them all. I don't know how we could've won 13.' "

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/07/21/6571618/jerry-brown-signs-bill-limiting.html#storylink=

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/07/21/6571618/jerry-brown-signs-bill-limiting.html#storylink=c

Monday, July 21, 2014

I knew the Republicans...

...practically canonized Ronald Reagan sometime in the last thirty years or so, but now they sound as if they are comparing him to Jesus. From Craig Shirley's piece in Real Clear Politics this morning (my emphasis):

The 40th president’s caution calls into the question the recent assertion by Texas Gov. Rick Perry in comparing Soviet Russia and Iraq. Perry seems to be suggesting that Reagan would send troops back into Iraq if he were in the White House today.

I believe this interpretation of Reagan's foreign policy is incorrect. For that matter, so is Sen. Rand Paul's. But in this case Perry is less correct than Paul. Reagan's foreign policy looked nothing like George W. Bush's; the only other time Reagan committed ground troops in eight years was in Grenada. But his foreign policy was not piecemeal. Reagan’s theory was that the demise of the Soviet Union would result in dominoes falling for freedom and indeed they did across much of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact and the Baltics. He also gave the Soviets frequent global tongue lashings, putting them in the dock in the court of world opinion, especially after the murderous shoot-down of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 in 1983. Reagan understood warfare took many forms.

Interpretation? Sheesh! Get over Him, will you? The Republicans are starting to remind me of the guy who can't stop talking about his glorious high school football career. Time to move on.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:


Did you really just tell me to keep my eye on the ball?

Curt Gentry, who wrote...

...the scariest book I've ever read, died at age 83.

James Garner...

...is dead at age 86. From his obit in the Times (my emphasis):

Mr. Garner came to acting late, and by accident. On his own after the age of 14 and a bit of a drifter, he had been working an endless series of jobs: telephone installer, oil field roughneck, chauffeur, dishwasher, janitor, lifeguard, grocery clerk, salesman and, fatefully, gas station attendant. While pumping gas in Los Angeles, he met a young man named Paul Gregory, who was working nearby as a soda jerk but wanted to be an agent.

Years later, after Mr. Garner had served in the Army during the Korean War — he was wounded in action twice, earning two Purple Hearts — he was working as a carpet layer in Los Angeles for a business run by his father. One afternoon he was driving on La Cienega Boulevard and saw a sign: Paul Gregory & Associates. Just then a car pulled out of a space in front of the building, and Mr. Garner, on a whim, pulled in. He was 25.

“The only reason I’m an actor is that a lady pulled out of a parking space in front of a producer’s office,” he wrote in “The Garner Files.”

Everywhere you look...

...all of a sudden, conservatives seem to be just dying for Sen. Elizabeth Warren to make a run for the White House in 2016. (Some liberals, too).  And why wouldn't they? Republicans feel the need to put up some roadblocks in front of the former First Lady, senator from New York and secretary of state. As I've mentioned before, absent a recession, Hillary is a lock for 2016. Who in the GOP can beat her, Rand Paul? Please.

So in the hope of bloodying her a little, conservatives are pushing the idea, that, yeah, Sen. Warren should run for president. Yeah, that's the ticket! (Scott Conroy is the latest.)

Now as someone who keeps moving left as he gets older (go figure), I think Warren would make a terrific president (except for the fact that she has no foreign policy experience). What she does have, ironically, is cojones, which seem to be in short supply in both parties.

Ms. Warren, unfortunately, also bears a close resemblance to another Democratic standard-bearer, George McGovern. Remember him? He carried exactly one state (and the District of Columbia) in the 1972 presidential election, against a guy who was later run out of office. Warren could suffer a similar fate. So it's no mystery why the GOP is positively salivating at the prospect of her winning the nomination.

Am I looking forward to the Hillary Coronation? Not especially. Like most Democrats, though, I'm more interested in keeping the White House than in who exactly inhabits it. (Unlike the other party, we're not into suicide -- yet.) Do I think Hillary would make a good president? Absolutely. (And, just like Theodore Roosevelt did, I'll bet she moves further left as her two terms progress; it's in her political DNA.) Do I like the idea of a Warren candidacy in 2016? Mostly no. (Let's not shoot ourselves in the foot like the tea party base of the Republican Party has for the last five years.) But is there any advantage at all for a Warren run in 2016? Yes, and John Dickerson points out several in his piece in Slate.  But the most important reason is one he didn't mention: a Warren primary challenge would ultimately make Hillary look that much more centrist in the general, even against an establishment candidate like Chris Christie or Jeb Bush.

So, go ahead, Sen. Warren, give it a shot. Just don't win.

If I read the Tribune's...

..."Countdown to high school football kickoff" correctly yesterday, Brother Rice was the first team to win the IHSA title with two losses. The Crusaders (11-2) defeated Reavis, 14-0, in the 1981 Class 6A final.

That's interesting, especially when you consider that last year three teams won their championships with at least two losses. Lena-Winslow (11-3) took the 1A crown, Stillman Valley (12-2) won in 3A and Naperville Central (11-3) came out on top in 8A.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

I set out today...

...to see two Ravenswood landmarks, only to discover that neither is actually in that neighborhood.

The first (above) is 2934 W. Sunnyside Avenue, the home of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. As far as I can tell, it's in Albany Park.

The second (below) is 4228 N. Hermitage Avenue, the home of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. That's in the far northwest corner of Lake View.

Ravenswood is in Lincoln Square and is bordered on the north by Foster Avenue, on the south by Montrose Avenue, on the west by the Chicago River and on the east by Ashland Avenue.

I boarded the Blue Line this afternoon at Racine just north of my house and took it to Montrose. I walked east, past this excellent neon sign at Albany and Montrose (below), and intended to take the Brown Line home. I ended up catching the No. 9 bus at Irving Park, though, and rode it down Ashland to Polk and walked home from there. It was a beautiful day.

In case you can't read the bottom, it says "Old Style Lager." Classic.

I'm not much for poetry...

...as a rule, but I heard "Consolation" by Billy Collins this morning and thought it was worth passing along.

How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hilltowns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every roadsign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.

There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes or famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon's
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.

How much better to command the simple precinct of home
than be dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyed camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?

Instead of slouching in a cafe ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress
known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning
paper, all language barriers down,
rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way.

And after breakfast, I will not have to find someone
willing to photograph me with my arm around the owner.
I will not puzzle over the bill or record in a journal
what I had to eat and how the sun came in the window.
It is enough to climb back into the car

as if it were the great car of English itself
and sounding my loud vernacular horn, speed off
down a road that will never lead to Rome, not even Bologna.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

As long as I'm bashing...

...Marco Rubio, have you seen his (non)answer to the question, "Have you ever smoked marijuana?" (Jump to 1:30 in the video above.) I have just three questions of my own after watching this:

1) Senator, why wouldn't we believe you? Are you untrustworthy?

2) If you run for president, do you really think this "answer" is going to stop people from asking the question?

And,

3) Is this guy a weasel, or what?

My dog Stewart...

...has a torn ACL. Or at least that's what his vet tells us. Actually, two veterinarians: our old one in Glenview and our new one in the city. But my wife and I are skeptical; he seems to move just fine except at night when he's a little stiff. Is it really a torn ACL, or is it merely hip dysplasia or early onset arthritis? Now I'm not an expert in these things, but just the other day, for example, Stewart gave spirited chase to a squirrel in the park. Could a human with a torn ACL do something like that? I doubt it.

But, as I said, I'm not a veterinarian and don't feel like going back to school for years and years just to find the answer. So if vets keep telling us that Stew has a torn ACL, then at some point we'll seriously consider surgery.

On a similar note, my old beater convertible wouldn't start one day last month and an auto mechanic told me I needed a new starter. I didn't feel like asking around so I just told him to go ahead and fix it. If I had shopped, though, and eight or nine out of ten auto mechanics told me the same thing I'd probably conclude that that was the problem.

Would either of these two examples be airtight? No; in fact, our current vet told me they have been convinced on more than one occasion that a dog had a torn ACL only to find out otherwise when he went under the knife.

Where am I going with all this? Yesterday, I wrote a post about climate change and -- like Marco Rubio -- conceded that I'm not a scientist, man. But, unlike the junior senator from Florida, I respect the scientific method and defer to the consensus among scientists that not only is climate change real but is to some extent man-made. And, if I really doubt it, it's up to me to either produce some evidence to the contrary or concede the point.

End of story? Not exactly. Just to confuse the issue a little, I remember when everyone -- and I mean everyone -- was convinced that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Everyone except me. (It just didn't pass the smell test.) So I was right. Once. Even though American, British, German and every other intelligence agency in the world thought he did. But if you had to bet on whether or not Iraq had WMD, would you have bet with them, or me? Exactly.

So, until experts -- be they veterinarians, auto mechanics, intelligence agents or climate scientists -- are proven wrong, it's probably best to honor their expertise and listen to them.

P. S. I'll let you know how that whole ACL thing turns out.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Johnny Winter, the famous...

...rock 'n' roller, died at age 70. From his obit in the Times:

Mr. Winter has been ranked the 63rd greatest guitar player of all time by Rolling Stone...

And I thought, Wait a minute; are you sure he wasn't the 62nd or 64th greatest guitar player ever?

I guess it's time for one of my periodic rants about the foolishness of ranking things, especially the top 100 of anything. Now, I'll grant you Rolling Stone has assembled a pretty impressive panel of judges, but can anyone really say that Mr. Winter was a better guitarist than Duane Eddy but not quite as good as Robert Fripp? And does it really matter? Can't it just suffice to say that Winter was a really, really good guitarist and leave it at that?

What is it about our fascination with always ranking things? Does it stem from some primal need of ours to impose order on an otherwise chaotic and random universe? Does it really make us more comfortable to think we have definitive answers to impossible questions?

P. S. In case you were wondering -- and you know you were! -- Jimi Hendrix was voted the best guitarist of all time.

P. P. S. And there were three guys with the surname King in the top 15: Freddy (No. 15), Albert (No. 13) and B. B. (No. 6). Go figure.

I haven't written much...

...about climate change in this blog (I haven't written about it at all) mostly because I really don't know what to make of it. To quote Marco Rubio in a different context, "I'm not a scientist, man." (This guy wants to be president -- really.)

I also don't have a strong opinion on it because, despite what you may think, I'm not a knee-jerk liberal either.

But this morning I noticed an article in the Times, "Without Much Straining, Minnesota Reins In Its Utilities’ Carbon Emissions," that's worth noting (my emphasis):

While other states and critics of the Obama administration have howled about complying with its proposed rule slashing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, Minnesota has been reining in its utilities’ carbon pollution for decades — not painlessly, but without breaking much of a sweat, either.

Today, Minnesota gets more of its power from wind than all but four other states, and the amount of coal burned at power plants has dropped by more than a third from its 2003 peak. And while electricity consumption per person has been slowly falling nationwide for the last five years, Minnesota’s decline is steeper than the average.

"That must be crushing the state's economy!" you might be thinking. Not really. According to Rick Haglund of the nonpartisan think tank Michigan Future, Minnesota not only has the best economy in the Great Lakes:

Minnesota is one of the top-ten best economies in the country.

Unemployment is 4.7% in Minnesota, and it hasn't had a month with double-digit employment rates since 1976. Minnesota has one of the highest percentages of adults in the labor force in the country.

Haglund goes on and on but all I can say is, thank God my 94-year-old mother isn't reading this because her head would be exploding right about now. How could someone who watches Fox "News" all day and is the biggest Minnesota booster I know possibly be expected to process this information. The article continues:

Minnesota is a high-tax and high-spending economy.

“For so long, the accepted formula is that in order to have a healthy state economy, you have to have low taxes, low spending, and right-to-work laws,” Haglund says. “Minnesota actually has turned all of that on its head.”

Ma, turn off Fox for a minute, walk outside and look around you. (And then come back in and give me the complaint du jour about the president. "It's raining outside. Thanks a lot, Obama!")

Oops! There's my phone right now. Gotta go.

What's the only school...

...with two four-star recruits on Scout.com (that I know of)? East St. Louis.

Terry Beckner (above) is a defensive end who has interest from Auburn, Ohio State, USC and, well, just about everybody else. And Natereace Strong (below) is a running back committed to Missouri.

Shoot!, you're probably thinking, I live in the Chicago area. Do I have to wait until the playoffs to see these two guys?

And the answer is no. The Flyers will be at Montini in Week Two on Saturday, September 6. Last year the Broncos won, 34-6, on the road. This year the game will be sandwiched between two road trips for Montini, to Maine South in Week One and St. Rita in Week Three.

Unless you're a Loyola fan and plan on seeing the Ramblers host Edwardsville that day, you'd better put that game on your calendar and start searching for Lombard on a map.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Immigration is now...

...the most important issue facing America, according to a new poll from Gallup. (Gee; I wonder why. Could it be that all those children from Central America are crowding out all other news lately?) From the Los Angeles Times:

One of six Americans say that immigration issues now rank as the nation's most pressing problem, a tripling in just one month, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday.

That should come as no surprise. But what I found more interesting was this:

Immigration ranked No. 1, according to the Gallup poll, while dissatisfaction with government and its leaders ranked No. 2 at 16%. The economy, unemployment and healthcare rounded out the top five at 15%, 14% and 8% respectively.

Obamacare Healthcare is only No. 5? And with only 8%? That's a big change from January, when it was tied for third place with 16%. What does that mean? Obamacare was supposed to be the Republicans' big issue* for November. That was supposed to be their ticket to a Senate majority. What happened? Did people suddenly decide it's not that big of a deal? Is Obamacare -- gulp -- working?

You watch: this current immigration crisis will fade by November, if not sooner, and the Democrats will retain the Senate.

*Then it was Benghazi. Remember that?

My friend Jamie from London...

...asked me the other day who would be the next U. S. president. I answered him the same way I answer everyone else: absent another recession, Hillary. (But I do have my doubts.)

This morning I read (all emphasis mine), "What Democrats always forget about Hillary: Hillary Clinton has the perfect résumé, but she's a terrible politician":

The Clintons' story last year was that she has learned from her mistakes. And maybe, after her gaffe-strewn book launch, she'll learn from them again. If she manages to keep challengers away in the Democratic primary, she'll also receive some cover for mistakes merely from the command she'll have of partisan energies by the time she faces an opponent. That'll help.

Clinton may have been masterly at State. But she's proven unable to master the hustings.

And it's true. As I told Jamie, Hillary would probably make a good president (maybe even a great president), but the problem is she's a horrible candidate. She just doesn't have the political instincts her husband or President Obama has and she has an inability to project authenticity, which I think is so important nowadays. Quick: Who came across as more genuine, Al Gore or George W. Bush? John Kerry or W.? Mitt Romney or Obama? If Hillary doesn't change (and that's not likely) she just might blow a can't-lose election.

Remind you of anyone?

The Sun-Times has a couple...

...of pieces this week on imPACT concussion tests, "Schools don't use imPACT concussion test uniformly" and "Regina's Maggie Palmer believes imPACT test discourages players from seeking help." (imPACT stands for Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing.)

It's interesting reading and reminds me of an article I read over the weekend about college football, "Coach Makes the Call: Athletic trainers who butt heads with coaches over concussion treatment take career hits." Money quote (my emphasis):

Nearly half of the major-college football trainers who responded to a recent Chronicle survey say they have felt pressure from football coaches to return concussed players to action before they were medically ready. The respondents included 101 head athletic trainers, head football trainers, and other sports-medicine professionals from the highest rung of college football, the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision.

It's unclear how many trainers have succumbed to the pressure, but previous studies suggest that concussed players are not getting enough rest. According to a 2010 NCAA survey, nearly half of responding institutions said they had put athletes back in the same game after a concussion diagnosis.

How do we resolve the conflict between our love for football (and other sports) and our concern for our kids' health? I have no idea.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The conflicted license plate of the day:

The purpose of a corporation...

...is to maximize profits. That statement is no less true today than when economist Milton Friedman said it 44 years ago.

(That's why we need government.)

Eduardo Porter, writing in the Times today, asks:

Is it naïve to expect corporations to assist in addressing the social, economic and environmental challenges of the day?

(The answer is yes.)

As an illustration, Porter writes:

Almost half a century later, Coca-Cola’s chairman, William E. Robinson, argued that a corporate executive served not just stockholders, but also workers, customers and the community. “The neglect of the customers and his labor relations will seal his doom far faster than an avaricious quick-dollar stockholder or director,” he said.

(I would argue that if Coca-Cola really cared about those constituencies, it would immediately cease production of all that caffeinated sugar water that is -- at best -- useless to society.)

No, to repeat: the purpose of a corporation is to maximize profits. That much is certainly true. But one of the purposes of government is to protect shareholders, employees, customers and the community at large (because corporations won't).

This isn't coming from some idealistic blogger in a bathrobe. (Okay, maybe it is.) But it's also coming from someone who's spent his entire adult life working in the private sector. And if there's one thing I've learned, it's that my interest and the interest of my organization has not always coincided with the interest of the customer, etc. There have been many times when I had to do something in a "gray" area for a customer because I knew my competition would. Also, there were many times when I did something that wasn't necessarily in the customer's best interest because I knew I had to make a sale or risk getting fired. (And my first responsibility is to my family, isn't it? How on earth could I come home and tell my wife I'd been fired because I wouldn't do something that was borderline unethical?)

And while I hate buying anything from Amazon or Walmart (I once had a friend, who published a book, tell me not to buy it on Amazon because it would actually cost her money!), I can recall interviewing a landscaper some years ago who told me that his service was more expensive because he didn't hire "illegals." What do I care? I thought, I'm looking for the best deal. (Shame on me.)

But I'm only human, after all, even if corporations aren't. (And they're not.) And that's exactly why governments need to regulate them. Because if someone doesn't, they will only be motivated to maximize profits at the expense of everything else. It's not a perfect system, but society needs protection.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

I know it's early, but...

...if the New York Times can have an article titled, "Christie to Test Presidential Hopes in Iowa Trip" on its front page, then I can mention four early primary state polls on RealClearPolitics. In short, Mike Huckabee is leading in Iowa, Chris Christie in New Hampshire, Christie and Jeb Bush in South Carolina and Bush (of course) in Florida.

My take? Huckabee won't run, Christie is damaged goods and Bush doesn't have the fire in the belly. Right now, I'd say it's between Rand Paul and Mitt Romney, with the edge going to the establishment candidate.

I was scrolling through Twitter...

...yesterday when I came upon this Tweet from my godson Brad:

If you follow national politics, I'd just like to say I don't think Rick Perry should be involved in defining Republican foreign policy.

After clicking on "Favorite," of course, I checked out the rest of Brad's page to see what he was up to. (Last I had heard, he was working for a private equity firm or hedge fund in Oakland, of all places.) I came upon this:

I still can't believe the love and support I've received this past week. Thank you to everyone who has reached out, I'm forever grateful.

Huh? I thought. What the heck is he talking about? What happened last week? I scrolled further and read this:

Ran the beach this morning and got an amazing email from my dad, felt compared to share: Each of you have brought so many special blessing to me and taught me how hard and yet joyful it is to be a father. It would be a lie to say I wasn't shocked when you came out to Mom and I but, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at my level of tolerance and understanding given my years of intolerance.  It is quite amazing to me how blindly bigoted I have allowed myself to be and for what?  I think we fear what we don’t fully understand, like the monster under the bed, there’s really nothing there to be afraid of! I have always and will always be the biggest advocate (except for your mom) for my kids.  You all mean the world to us and today I celebrate the joy of having all of you in my life. #BeTrue http://alpharoast.com/seeing-through-the-fog/

"Came out?"

I scrolled further:

As an athlete, I've struggled to accept my sexuality. Today, I'm proud to share who I am

I immediately texted my son and asked him if this was some sort of prank. We decided it wasn't, so I DM'd Brad on Twitter and found out first-hand that it was all legit. I tried to give him the same "love and support" he received from others and also emailed his mom (below) with a similar message, all I'm sure in my typically clumsy fashion.

But I'm still reeling from the news. Not because I care one way or the other (I hope I've gotten over all that a long time ago), but because I was so surprised. Brad, you see, was an O lineman at the University of Kansas who tried out for the Arizona Cardinals. A mountain of a man (whom I'd heard had shed a lot of weight since hanging up his cleats a few years ago), he was decidedly not your image of the typical gay man. In fact, I'm a little shocked that my "gay-dar" failed me so spectacularly. I would never have guessed in a million years that Brad was gay.

Either way, though, I still love this kid (and everyone who's younger than me is still a "kid") and I'm especially proud of his dad Brian. A typical suburban, Republican, golf-playing, steak-eating, beer-drinking, Packers-watching pharmaceutical salesman, he really stretched and came through for his son. I've often wondered how I would react in a similar situation; if I could handle it half as well as Brian I'd be pretty happy with myself.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Is Chicago the murder capital...

...of America? Not really. From the Pew Research Center (my emphasis):

According to the FBI figures, Flint, Mich., had the highest murder rate of any sizeable U.S. city in 2012, the most recent year available. There were 62 murders per 100,000 population (which, coincidentally, was just about Flint’s estimated population that year). Trailing Flint were Detroit (54.6 murders per 100,000), New Orleans (53.2 per 100,000) and Jackson, Miss., (35.8 per 100,000). Chicago, whose population is several times bigger than any of those cities, came in 21st, with 18.5 murders per 100,000 — nearly quadruple the national average, true, but still nowhere near the highest in the country.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

My weekend jaunt...

...took me to the Southwest Side of the city, in particular the Chicago Lawn and West Lawn neighborhoods.

"Why there?" you might ask. In May I read The Lost City: The Forgotten Virtues Of Community In America by Alan Ehrenhalt. From a review on Amazon (my emphasis):

Millions of Americans yearn for a lost sense of community, for the days when neighbors looked out for one another and families were stable and secure. The 1950s are regarded as the golden age of community, but 1960s rebellion and 1980s nostalgia have blurred our view of what life was really like back then. In "The Lost City," Alan Ehrenhalt cuts through the fog, immersing us in the sights, sounds, and rhythms of life in America forty years ago. He takes us down the streets and into the homes, schools, and shops of three neighborhoods in one quintessentially American city: Chicago. In St. Nicholas of Tolentine parish on the Southwest Side, we see how the local Catholic church served as the moral and social center of community life. In Bronzeville, the heart of the black South Side, we meet the civic leaders who offered hope and role models to people hemmed in by poverty and segregation. And in Elmhurst, a commuter suburb bursting with new subdivisions, we witness the culture of middle-class conformity and the ways in which children and adults bent to the rules of the majority culture. Through evocative stories and incisive analysis, Ehrenhalt shows that the glue holding each neighborhood together was an unstated social compact under which people accepted limits in their lives and deferred to authority figures to enforce those limits—a compact destroyed by the baby boomers’ rejection of authority in the 1960s. Since that time, an entire generation has come to believe that personal choice is the most important of life’s values. But Ehrenhalt argues that if we truly wish to balance the demands of modern life with a feeling of community, we have a great deal to learn from the ”limited” life of the 1950s. "The Lost City" reveals the price we must pay to restore community in our lives today and the values that will make such a restoration possible.

From another review in First Things:

If you’ve ever entered Chicago at Midway Airport, chances are your taxi took you through the first of these neighborhoods -- St. Nicholas of Tolentine Parish. St. Nick’s lies in the “bungalow belt” on Chicago’s Southwest Side, a vast expanse of low, solid, bay-windowed, five-or six-room brick dwellings in shades of beige and ochre. In the fifties, these were the dream houses of a diverse mixture of working-class Bohemian, German, Irish, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish, and Slovak families. Outwardly, the bungalows look much the same today as they did forty years ago, even to the ornamental lamps and plants in the front windows. What has vanished is the neighborhood-centered life that once buzzed around them -- the shops where merchants and customers knew one another; the comings and goings between adjacent back yards; the activity in the streets that was “monitored during all the waking hours of the day by the informal law enforcement system of the neighborhood, the at-home mothers.” The mothers had an important ally in watchful Monsignor Fennessy, who, for decades, “walked the neighborhood day and night, dressed in a black cassock that reached down to his shoe-tops . . . greet[ing] people on their front stoops, and hand[ing] out dimes to children.” St. Nick’s Church itself was mother to a host of associations and activities for men, women, and children. Its pre-Vatican II Latin liturgy was richly ceremonial; its masses well-attended; its parish school staffed with a full complement of nuns. As it happens, I knew that neighborhood well. During the academic year 1956-57, I was a part-time reporter for its gung-ho weekly paper, the Southwest News-Herald. Five days a week, after class at the University of Chicago, I took the long bus ride to 59th and Kedzie, journeying, as through a space warp, from the Great Books to the great bake-offs. I spent many hours covering events in neighborhood churches, gymnasiums, and schools; and recording the births, weddings, achievements, mishaps, and deaths of Southwest-siders. Across the street from the News-Herald was a union hall where the Mayor himself would sometimes make a brief appearance, flanked by burly men in Robert Hall suits. The engines that kept that way of life humming were the churches, the unions, the locally owned businesses, and the unpaid labor of women. So far as I can tell, there is not a single false note in Ehrenhalt’s recreation of that busy little world. Today, the Southwest Side is a shell of its former self -- with few stay-at-home parents, most of its local businesses bought up by distant corporations, and not one nun left in St. Nick’s struggling parish school. Plant closings took their toll on the economic life of the community; divorce took its toll on families; and women’s increased labor force participation deprived the schools and churches not only of their volunteers, but of interested close observers of their missions. Community seems to have evaporated. As for authority, Ehrenhalt writes, “Outside the province of the individual family, there are no noticeable figures of authority at all.”

Was this the best book I've ever read? No, not even the best book I've read in the past year. But it did pique my interest in the neighborhood. 


As you can see from the alternating banners outside the parish, St. Nick's now has a large Spanish-speaking population in addition to whatever "Bohemian, German, Irish, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish, and Slovak families" still remain. There was a festival going on yesterday, in fact, which seemed to be largely Hispanic (Mexican?) complete with a Latino band. Although there were a few of the old residents in attendance (playing bingo, of course), it was almost entirely Hispanic.

The area also contains Marquette Park, which, if you'll remember, was the scene of some neo-Nazi demonstrations in the 1970s in one of the weirder chapters in Chicago history.

Finally, in a mischievous mood, I took this picture outside Eberhart Elementary School on 65th Place. Its generic sign reminded me of this picture of another Chicago icon, below.