Thursday, February 26, 2015

From the Big Orange... the Big Apple: I'll be in New York for the next few days. Blogging should resume on Monday.

P. S. I'll be live-tweeting my trip @BoringOldWhtGuy, of course, so you can follow along in real time.

Is it a three-man race...

...for the 2016 Republican nomination?

I know it's early, but following up on yesterday's post, is the GOP contest really down to Scott Walker, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush?

Forget the polls for a minute and just look at PredictWise and Paddy Power. From the former:

Jeb Bush (29.2%)
Marco Rubio (15.2%)
Scott Walker (14.3%)

The top three are followed by Rand Paul (9.8%), whose foreign policy is just plain out of step with the rest of the party, particularly if members of ISIS keep beheading people on TV. (Remember, the Republican Party is all about fear.) It's one thing to rail against President Obama and NSA spying; it's quite another to buck the party's neocons.

Ted Cruz is next at a paltry 4.4%, Chris Christie at 4.0%, Mike Huckabee at 3.2%, Ben Carson at 2.4%, Rick Perry at 1.9% and Susana Martinez -- who's not even running -- at 1.0%.

The only one of those who could break through, I think, is Cruz with some great debate performance. But so far he looks like an also-ran. Christie is fading fast, Huckabee is yesterday's news, Carson's a joke and Perry is just out to rehabilitate his image from his disastrous run in 2012.

Below Martinez is Rick Santorum (0.9%) and Bobby Jindal (0.8%). It's hard to take someone seriously if he can't even place above someone who's not running.

As for Paddy Power:

Jeb Bush (6/4)
Marco Rubio (9/2)
Scott Walker (5/1)

After the top three they list Rand Paul and Chris Christie, tied at 6/1, followed by Paul Ryan -- another Republican who's not even running -- at 12/1. I think that means you can write off the others behind Ryan: Ted Cruz (16/1), and Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry and Mike Huckabee, all at 25/1. (Michael Bloomberg and Rob Portman, who aren't running, are also at 25/1.) Oh, and Ben Carson is at 30/1 and Rick Santorum is at 33/1.

Now, as I said, it's early: the Iowa caucuses are about a year off. But don't kid yourself, the invisible primary is well underway, and has already claimed its first victim -- Mitt Romney. (Remember him?) Candidates are furiously hiring staff and lining up donors. And some hopefuls, like Paul and Christie, have been running for years now and aren't catching fire. Will they turn it around? I doubt it.

The only outlier I'd keep my eye on is Ted Cruz. Even though everyone in Washington seems to hate him (Republicans as well as Democrats), he's supposed to be an outstanding debater. We already know Cruz is something of a demagogue, so I'd say he's a bit of a dark horse to cause trouble.

But right now, I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say it's already come down to three: Walker, Rubio and Bush.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Who da ya like... 2016, Scott Walker or Jeb Bush?

I don't mean whom would you prefer; I mean who do you think will win the Republican nomination?

As for me, I'd rather see Jeb as the standard-bearer; he strikes me as a moderate, in tone if not ideology. Walker, on the other hand, is a True Believer, and that scares me. (For an interesting piece on Wisconsin's sluggish economy since Walker took office, click here.)

But back to the horse race. In a new PPP poll, Scott Walker leads the GOP field nationally with 25 percent. Ben Carson is in second place with 18 percent and Jeb Bush is in third with 17.

And in another new poll from Quinnipiac University this morning, Scott Walker leads in Iowa with 25 percent, followed by Rand Paul at 13 percent, 11 percent each for Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee and only 10 percent for Jeb Bush.

So Walker's the frontrunner, right?

Not so fast. On PredictWise and Paddy Power, Bush still leads over all, with Marco Rubio in second and Walker in third. So, to paraphrase Groucho Marx, who are you going to believe, the polls or the prediction/betting websites? I'll go with the latter.

But keep your eye on Rubio; the Florida senator could be the dark horse in the race. I keep reading that not only is Rubio the best communicator in the party, but also has the best command over policy. (Personally, I haven't seen either yet, but then again, I can't believe an Ayn Rand disciple is considered the intellectual leader of the GOP.) But Rubio can bridge the establishment and tea party wings of the party in a way that Bush can't. And he's probably a lot more ready for prime time than Walker, who has proven himself something of a rookie so far.

But Bush is still the favorite.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Looking for a new... (This one's been kind of boring lately.) I just discovered "A Chicago Sojourn: A journey through the architecture and urban landscape of Chicago – from industrial zones to Mid-Century suburbs and all points between":

A Chicago Sojourn is an architectural blog that explores the urban landscape of the city – finding patterns, hidden beauty, fading history, and obscure and forgotten corners of Chicago and its surroundings. Favorite topics include Mid-Century Modernism, church architecture, Victorian era design, industrial sites, historic preservation issues, and small commercial storefront architecture.

Check it out! 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Have you ever noticed...

...this church when driving into Chicago on the Kennedy Expressway? It's Saint Mary of the Angels, on North Hermitage Avenue in Bucktown. I walked past it yesterday and plan on attending a Mass there soon. (I haven't decided if it will be in English, Polish or Spanish.)

St. Mary's is just one of a number of churches in the Polish Cathedral style visible from the Kennedy. The parish was founded in 1899 and the present structure was completed in 1920 at a cost of $400,000. Its first pastor was a Rev. Francis Gordon who served until his death in 1931.

(If that name sounds familiar, it's because Gordon Tech was named after him when it opened in 1952.)

During the peak years of the 1920s, more than 1,600 families belonged to St. Mary's with nearly 1,200 children enrolled in the parish school. Like St. John Cantius to the southeast, construction of the Kennedy Expressway significantly impacted the parish. Many homes in the neighborhood were razed to make way for the highway, which cut through the heart of Chicago Polonia. By the time the segment of the expressway which extends from Lake Street to Foster Avenue opened to traffic on November 5, 1960, the parish had lost a sizable number of families and school enrollment had declined by one-third.

The church was closed and slated for demolition in 1988 due to unsafe conditions. Three years later, in 1991, the parish was turned over to the priests of Opus Dei, who fully restored the church -- including 26 rooftop angels! -- in time for its 100th anniversary in 1999.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Rudy Giuliani is in the news...

...this week for saying some impolitic things about President Obama.

After all these years, I really don't know what to say about that kind of stuff so I'll just leave it to Wayne Barrett of the New York Daily News (my emphasis):

The onetime presidential candidate also revealed at the party that Obama "doesn't love America," an echo of a speech he'd delivered to delirious cheers in Arizona a week earlier when he declared: "I would go anywhere, any place, anytime, and I wouldn't give a damn what the President of the United States said, to defend my country. That's a patriot. That's a man who loves his people. That's a man who fights for his people. Unlike our President."
Rudy may have forgotten the half-dozen deferments he won ducking the Vietnam War, even getting the federal judge he was clerking for to write a letter creating a special exemption for him.

Friday, February 20, 2015

It's still Hillary over Jeb... 2016. (Will I be writing that a year from now?)

From Paddy Power (with odds):

Hillary Clinton (6/5)
Jeb Bush (5/2)

And from PredictWise (with likely percentage):

Hillary Clinton (48.3%)
Jeb Bush (17.3%)

How do we get there? Forget the Democratic nomination; it's a done deal. As for the GOP, Paddy Power sees it this way:

Jeb Bush (6/4)
Marco Rubio (9/2)
Scott Walker (5/1)
Rand Paul (6/1)
Chris Christie (6/1)

And PredictWise:

Jeb Bush (29.6%)
Marco Rubio (14.8%)
Scott Walker (13.3%)
Rand Paul (10.7%)
Ted Cruz (4.4%0
Chris Christie (4.0%)
Mike Huckabee (3.2%)
Rick Perry (2.7%)
Ben Carson (1.5%)

Barring a recession in 2016, it's Hillary's to lose.

Still processing my trip... LA and my re-entry to frigid Chicago. In the meantime, here are a few good quotes I found on the City of Angels before embarking two weeks ago:

"Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles." (Frank Lloyd Wright)*

"Figuratively, literally, metaphorically -- any way you want to look at it -- everybody in LA keeps a bag packed. Just in case." (Michael Connelly)

"I normally live in Los Angeles, if you can call it normal living." (Morrissey)

And then there was this gem from the BBC (my emphasis):

I was also pleased to attend a local dinner party at which one guest announced his self-imposed dietary restriction -- that he wasn't a full vegetarian but he only ate meat when he was outdoors and another mentioned she only ate meat after 6pm.

Gotta love those Angelinos! 

* Wright's Hollyhock House (above), in East Hollywood, was one of the many sites I did not see on my vacation. (I also didn't go to the Getty Center, the La Brea Tar Pits or the Nixon Library, so don't ask.) While not a big sightseer as a rule (I hate crowds) I'll admit I tried -- kinda, sorta -- but quickly aborted the mission when I couldn't even get in the parking lot. I later found out (again, my emphasis):

The city celebrated the re-opening of the architectural masterpiece by keeping it open for 24 hours. LA residents flocked to the site, and many waited in line for several hours for the chance to wander around the house and its grounds.

I ended up going out to Pasadena to have lunch with an old friend instead. It was a great trip and I'll have a lot more to say in the next few days or so.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

While I was away...

...there were two big deaths in the news: David Carr, of course, and Lesley Gore.

Carr was, among other things, the author of The Night of the Gun, his 2008 memoir about hitting rock, rock bottom before recovering and eventually becoming a columnist for the New York Times.

He was also a 1974 alumnus of my high school in suburban Minneapolis:

It was assumed that I would go to Benilde High School, a suburban all-boys Catholic school where my older brothers had gone. We were expected to work summers and pay half the tuition. I caddied at a Jewish country club, came up with my share, and hated nearly every second of it. Benilde had the same triumvirate that existed in every high school at the time: jocks, nerds, and freaks. I self-assigned to the freaks. 

As I remember it, Benilde-St. Margaret's, as it came to be known by the time I arrived for my junior year in 1974 (it merged with a girls' school after Carr graduated), was divided into "burnouts," of which I assume Carr was one, and "straights," which included me (surprised?). So it's just as well we never met; I kind of doubt Carr would have liked me -- he was cool and I wasn't. (I did know his cousin, though -- a little.)

I once emailed Carr to tell him how much I enjoyed his writing. And to my surprise he actually answered me, briefly, something on the order of "Gee, thanks Mike." (I read later that Carr answered almost all his emails.) I tried to engage him further but heard nothing more. Like I said, he was cool and I wasn't. I just hope he didn't think I was stalking him.

As for Gore, well, I just liked her music.

I'm back home...

...from LA everybody. Had a great trip! Blogging should resume shortly.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Just like Andrew Sullivan...

...I'm quitting blogging. But, unlike Andrew Sullivan,* it will only be for a week or so.

I'm flying to California, the Golden State, today. Or do you call it the El Dorado State? Or the Eureka State? Los Angeles, to be specific -- L. A., La La Land, the City of Angels, Southland, the City of Flowers and Sunshine, Lotusland, Lotusville, Double Dubuque, El Pueblo (Spanish for "The Town"; I especially like that one), or, finally, the Big Orange.

Is that because New York calls itself the Big Apple and LA had to counter with another fruit of some kind? Or is it because of all the oranges that grow there? Or because of the smog, as in the picture above? (By the way, I've been out to LA three, four or five times and I've never seen this smog they talk about. Does it still exist?)

Actually, I'll be visiting my son in West Hollywood, or WeHo as the locals call it. Or Hollyweird or Tinseltown. (Okay; I'll stop.)

I'll be out of (blogging) commission until at least the 19th; I'm traveling from LA to Cheyenne, Wyoming next Monday. I figure we could all use a break from each other anyway. But I'll still be recording my trip on Twitter; you can follow my exploits (with pictures!) in real time @BoringOldWhtGuy.

And I have quite an agenda planned! It involves a pilgrimage to Hawthorne, CA, where Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys grew up; a stop at the original Brady Bunch house in Studio City; at least one high school basketball game (of course); a day trip to Pasadena to see an old friend from grade school/high school/college/the Merc and my cousin (whom I haven't seen -- literally -- in decades) and much, much more. (You'll find out when I find out.) Oh, and all the while I'll be living out my own personal version of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

But I really hope to just get some rest, enjoy the weather and spend some quality time with my son. (It's his 25th birthday tomorrow.) So follow me on Twitter if you want or just wait until I get back and I'll fill you in on all my adventures.

'Til then: mahalo, mahalo. (I know; that's Hawaiian. Sue me.)

* Sullivan's last day is today; what timing!

The Tom Toles cartoon...

...of the day seems particularly appropriate after hearing Gov. Bruce Rauner's State of the State Address the other day. Remember, when a Republican talks about "sacrifice," he's usually talking about the poor and middle class.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Citizens United decision...

...famously held (all emphasis mine):

...that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by a nonprofit corporation. The principles articulated by the Supreme Court in the case have also been extended to for-profit corporations, labor unions and other associations.

Now, forget all that criticism from lefties like President Obama or Justice John Paul Stevens, here's what some Republicans had to say about the decision:

Republican Senator John McCain, co-crafter of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act and the party's 2008 presidential nominee, said "there's going to be, over time, a backlash ... when you see the amounts of union and corporate money that's going to go into political campaigns." McCain was "disappointed by the decision of the Supreme Court and the lifting of the limits on corporate and union contributions" but not surprised by the decision, saying that "It was clear that Justice Roberts, Alito and Scalia, by their very skeptical and even sarcastic comments, were very much opposed to BCRA." Republican Senator Olympia Snowe opined that "Today's decision was a serious disservice to our country."

Today, I read in the Times, "Governor of Illinois Takes Aim at Labor: Bruce Rauner Backs ‘Right to Work’ Laws in State Address." In his first State of the State address:

Joining the ranks of Republican governors taking aim at the power of labor unions, the new chief executive of Illinois, Gov. Bruce Rauner, said on Wednesday that the state should ban some political contributions by public employee unions and allow local “right to work” laws.

That didn't take long, did it? (Corporations are people; unions, not so much.)

Makes me wonder (again), is folksy Bruce Rauner just Scott Walker without the scowl?

David Frum asks, "Is Jeb Bush...

...a Republican Obama?" in the latest Atlantic.*

Frum is one of the few Republicans worth listening to, and this piece is no exception. He begins by saying (my emphasis):

Margaret Thatcher famously said that her greatest success as a politician was the rise of Tony Blair to lead a party he called New Labour: “We forced our opponents to change their minds.” As yet, Barack Obama can make no similar boast. Just the opposite: He radicalized his Republican opponents, and empowered most those who agreed with him least. With the presidential campaign of Jeb Bush, Obama can finally glimpse Thatcher-style success. Here, at last, is an opponent in his own image.

The rest is mostly about Jeb's stance on immigration reform, but Frum does try to make the case that Jeb and Obama "may likewise express a commonality more important than their differences over energy policy, taxes, or abortion."

Is Frum right? I'm not sure, but if you listen to only a few minutes of the hour-long video in the piece you may come away thinking, as I did, that Jeb is a Republican that you could live with. He comes across as intelligent, reasonable and very mature emotionally. (He's much more appealing than Mitt Romney -- much more.) And if "likeability" wins elections, Hillary had better watch out!

Now, I happen to agree with the first part of Frum's opening paragraph as well as the second. And that is that the GOP is still not ready for someone whom I would consider intelligent, reasonable and emotionally mature. Even if Jeb didn't have "controversial" stands on immigration and the Common Core, I just can't see today's Republican Party nominating him for president in 2016. I think Frum's right, in that Obama will ultimately lead to a more reasonable Republican opponent -- but not yet. The GOP needs to get its ass kicked -- real bad -- a la Goldwater in 1964 or McGovern in 1972 before they begin to look at each other and say something like, "Gee, maybe we need to move more to the center of where America actually is right now, rather than where we wish it was." And when the others in the conversation nod their heads in agreement then I'll be convinced. But they're not there yet.

Today's Republican Party is still too gripped by fear, anger and resentment (due to the Great Recession?) to see or think clearly; the fever hasn't broken. I expect the GOP to nominate someone like Scott Walker and be in utter shock (just like the Romney people) when he loses to Hillary (probably by a greater margin than in 2012).

But I'll admit it: I do kind of like Jeb. So he's toast.

* Note to Republicans thinking of running for president (or any office, for that matter): scrub the Internet of any pictures of you smiling at President Obama.

It's seven degrees in Chicago...

...and, according to my phone, it's only going to get up to 19 today.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

I've been watching Scott Walker...

...ever since he was elected governor of Wisconsin in the tea party wave back in 2010. I even went up to Madison in the winter of 2011 to show my support for the teachers and other public employees. (I just didn't see how busting the unions could be good for the middle class; unions created the middle class.)

Now while I'll concede that I've underestimated Walker's popularity in Wisconsin, I can't help agreeing with this assessment from Rick Ungar in Forbes (my emphasis):

Here is the reality—as I’ve been saying for longer than I can remember, Scott Walker is a mediocre county executive who has risen far beyond his talents.

The very notion that he brings the gravitas and talent required to assume the mantle of the President of the United States and leader of the Free World reveals just how low the expectations of many Americans have fallen.

Ungar's right: the office of President of the United States requires a truly exceptional person (like Barack Obama). And my impression of Walker is that he just doesn't meet that description.

P. S. I will tell you this: I've been to Wisconsin a lot -- a lot. (My wife is from Milwaukee.) And no one I've ever talked to up there is neutral on the guy -- they either love him or hate him. So if what the Republicans want is a divisive nominee in 2016, they need look no further than Walker.

A cartoon in the New York Times...

...illustrates the growing problem of income/wealth inequality in America.

It reminded me, in particular, of something I once read by Paul Krugman about means-testing social security. I couldn't find the exact piece, but this one will do: "Six Reasons Joseph Stiglitz and Other Top Economists Think Means-Testing Medicare & Social Security Is a Destructive Idea: Means-testing is a back-door strategy for taking away benefits earned by hard-working Americans."

From the piece (my emphasis):

At their heart, programs like Medicare and Social Security are about fairness, equality and shared citizenship, values that progressive Americans hold dear.

Medicare and Social Security are not welfare programs. They are benefits that people pay for as they work. They are also smart social insurance programs that spread risk across society in order to protect everyone at rates no private insurance scheme, with its much smaller risk pool, could touch.

When I spoke to Joseph Stiglitz, he discussed the idea that “means-testing is mean.” Programs like Medicare and Social Security, he explained, are matters of political economy. They are important to social cohesion, where support comes from the fact that everybody is participating. “We don’t means-test public education,” explained Stiglitz, “because we believe that we want people to have the same opportunities and we lose out on that with means-testing.” The same is true of our belief that everyone deserves a dignified retirement and adequate medical care in old age.

Medicare and Social Security are not handouts to the needy. They are not even intended to be a safety net. In their design, they promote the fundamental notion that dignity and good health in old age are not special privileges that can be bestowed or taken away. They are fundamental rights that every working American who has contributed productively to the economy can expect to enjoy. As James K. Galbraith told me in an email, “It’s insurance, not charity.”

Means-testing runs against this fundamental idea by turning Medicare and Social Security into welfare programs that become bargaining chips for politicians. The programs become provisional rather than fundamental. President Franklin Roosevelt understood this point well, which is why he designed Social Security to be attached to a payroll tax so that “no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program.”

Conservatives have dedicated themselves to making Americans feel as though benefits they have earned are undeserved. Consider Mitt Romney’s infamous comments at a 2012 fundraiser:

“There are 47 percent of the people…who are…dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you-name-it -- that that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them.”

By turning Medicare and Social Security into welfare, means-testing feeds right into the Romney view of the world, an us-against-them mentality that pits the self-righteous wealthy against ordinary people. Means-testing would divide the population and further emphasize the difference between the haves and the have-nots by transferring a sense of receiving handouts to those getting Social Security and Medicare. 

Alicia Munnel, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, has explained that programs like Social Security represent "the payoff of a lifetime of premiums." Contrary to what Romney would have you believe, she points out that "the government writes the check, but in most cases individuals have paid for the benefits."

Today, when Grandma goes to the mailbox to find her Social Security check, she can be proud that the millionaire on the next block receives his check, too. They are bound together as Americans, as fellow citizens who have a stake in the economy and in a society that functions well for everyone.

As Dean Baker explained in an email, “People paid for these benefits. It's true that a few people like Peter Peterson may not need them, but these people probably also don't need the interest they get on government bonds. No one talks about means-testing that, or to take another example, federal flood insurance.”

To summarize: If the rich didn't participate in Social Security and Medicare like everyone else, how long do you suppose those programs would continue to exist?

Or look at public education: When the rich and powerful (like Rahm Emanuel or President Obama) send their kids to private schools, or the middle class (like my wife and me) flee to the suburbs, what happens to public schools in the cities?

Here's a thought experiment for you: What if you closed every private school in America (or just Illinois) tomorrow and funded everything from Washington (or Springfield)? Would the poor kid from the West Side of Chicago get the same quality education as the rich kid from Lake Forest? Or would they both get an equally crummy education?

Now, I know this could never happen. (I said it was a thought experiment, remember?) But conservatives are fond of saying things like "Equal opportunity should be the goal, not equal outcomes." Okay; fine. So how do you give the poor kid from the West Side the same opportunity as the rich kid from Lake Forest?

Aldo Ciccolini, a pianist who...

..."specialized in the music of French composers and was known in particular as a champion of Erik Satie," died at age 89.

I had never heard of Mr. Ciccolini, but I've heard Gymnopédie No. 1 many times, as I'm sure you have as well (my emphasis):

Through his recordings and live performances, Mr. Ciccolini was credited with bringing the work of Satie (1866-1925) to wide public attention. (In 1979, for instance, he played a program of Satie at the Bottom Line, the Greenwich Village cabaret.) Satie’s music, known for a hypnotic aural pointillism that prefigured minimalism, is today ubiquitous on film and television soundtracks.

What is it about Republican...

...presidential candidates who travel to London?  First it was Mitt Romney, who: an NBC interview in July 2012, described reports of security problems with the summer games in London as “disconcerting,” and said, “It’s hard to know just how well it will turn out.” The comments from the former Massachusetts governor, who chaired the winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002, overshadowed meetings with top political leaders including [Prime Minister David] Cameron.

This week it was Chris Christie:

After President Obama urged people to get vaccinated amid a measles outbreak, reporters asked Christie about his views on the matter. “Not every vaccine is created equal, and not every disease type is as great a public-health threat as others,” he said.

The New Jersey governor had to walk this back as well as his comment that:

...parents need “some measure of choice” on childhood immunizations.

Next it's Gov. Scott Walker, who's heading to London later this month.

So what is it about Republican presidential candidates and London? Is it the jet lag? Or are they just not used to talking to reporters who don't work for Rupert Murdoch?*

* By the way, Walker ventured outside the Fox "News" bubble on Sunday (my emphasis):

On ABC's "This Week," Walker was asked by Martha Raddatz about foreign policy, specifically Syria. He charged that the U.S. was insufficiently aggressive against Islamic State. In Syria, he said, "we have to be prepared to put boots on the ground." 


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Rand Paul will never be president.


And if you watch this interview with CNBC's Kelly Evans, it's really, really hard to imagine him even getting the Republican nomination in 2016.

Come on, Sen. Paul, this is hardly a "hardball" interview! (At one point, he accuses Ms. Evans of being "argumentative.") 

If a candidate is that thin-skinned, that prickly, that unable to handle an interview on a business channel, what chance does he have to run the gauntlet of a presidential campaign? (It's only 2015, for crying out loud! The race hasn't even begun yet!)

This is the same guy, you may remember, who blamed Rachel Maddow for his antediluvian views on civil rights.

Seriously, I wonder if Dr. Paul will even run for reelection to the Senate.

Here's the full interview:

This illustrates a big problem for Republicans: They're too used to speaking only to each other.

And it's where Fox "News" has ended up doing such a disservice to the party. If you spend all your time preaching to the choir on Fox, it gets really difficult to talk to the rest of America. The electorate in this country is much more than just the Republican Party base.

If this is any indication, the 2016 general election is going to go an awful lot like the one in 2012, with the same result for the GOP.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Now that the Super Bowl... over, what are you going to do for the next, oh, two hundred days or so?

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

St. Rita ended up...

...defeating Hales Franciscan Friday night, 55-48. (That's the scoreboard before the game, of course. And I know this is old, but better late than never.)

I don't have a whole lot to add to the excellent coverage by Mike Helfgot in the Tribune or Michael O'Brien in the Sun-Times. (Although the latter walked right past me after the game! He's tall; I wonder if he played ball when he was young?)

I was a little disappointed that Kentucky-bound Charles Matthews only scored nine points (although I read he had 28 the next night against Fenwick), St. Rita turned the ball over 19 times (what?) and 6' 9" center Myles Carter didn't even suit up. According to O'Brien: 

St. Rita coach Gary DeCesare said it was a “coaches decision.”

But, even without Carter or a stellar performance from Matthews, St. Rita won fairly easily. (Although Hales did give them a bit of a scare when they took a one-point lead in the middle of the fourth quarter; but did anyone in that crowded, noisy gym really think the Spartans were going to win? I don't think so.)

It was a fun game, I'm glad I went (even if I did have to park on the street and ended up with a mediocre seat) and have only one thing to add. The Mustangs started a junior at center, Meshach Obafemi, who's listed on the program as 6' 8" and 250 pounds. I'm not much of a judge of talent, particularly in basketball, and the kid came out of the game for good fairly early, but watch out for him next year -- if nothing else, he's huge! (I remember watching Cliff Alexander as a sophomore and not thinking he was anything special. And now look at him -- playing for Kansas as a freshman!) 

I'll be interested to see if St. Rita plays Stevenson in the postseason.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Good news!

Winter in Chicago is half over. (Even if you can't tell from that picture.)

I always tell people from out of town that Chicago is a really nice place to live -- six months out of the year. From, say, May 1st until Halloween the "Hog butcher for the World, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler; Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders" is actually a very pleasant place. But, as for the other six months of the year, well, you just count the days until the other half arrives.

So, by my count, we're halfway there!

Now that Mitt Romney... officially out of the 2016 race for the Republican nomination, let's check in with the betting markets to see what the "smart money" is thinking. From Paddy Power (with odds):

1. Jeb Bush (2/1)
2. Marco Rubio (9/2)
3. Rand Paul (6/1)
4. Chris Christie (6/1)
5. Scott Walker (6/1)

And from PredictWise (with percentage chance):

1. Jeb Bush (28.2)
2. Marco Rubio (14.8)
3. Scott Walker (12.0)
4. Rand Paul (9.6)
5. Chris Christie (5.7)
6. Ted Cruz (5.1)
7. Rick Perry (4.0)
8. Mike Huckabee (3.4)
9. Bobby Jindal (1.8)

Al Smith, the governor...

...of New York and 1928 Democratic nominee for president, was known as "the Happy Warrior of the political battlefield."

In my lifetime, I'd say the Happy Warrior was a Republican, Ronald Reagan.

If FDR was the leader of a revolution in America, in which the federal government took a more active role in people's lives and lasted almost 50 years, then Reagan was the face of the counter-revolution, which took power in 1981.

I say that (Saint) Reagan was the "face" of the counter-revolution because, to paraphrase Voltaire, "If Reagan hadn't existed, it would have been necessary to invent him."

In other words, while the seeds of the counter-revolution go all the way back to the Liberty League, which opposed FDR, up through the America First movement, Ayn Rand, William F. Buckley, Jr., and Barry Goldwater, it found its most successful leader in Ronald Reagan. Unlike his predecessors, the Gipper could actually win elections, first as governor of California in 1966 and finally as president in 1980. Why? I'd posit that it was because the former Hollywood actor was so darn likeable.

Why is this important? Because Reagan's famously sunny disposition was not only the key to his success, it was also a feature of his uniqueness. And why is that important? Because, ever since the 40th president left office the Republican Party has been trying desperately to identify an heir, or at least someone who could replicate his electoral success. And why has that been impossible so difficult? I'd say it's because it's so hard to find a likeable conservative. (Don't tell me you think Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity is cuddly.) In fact, isn't a counter-revolutionary almost by definition an angry person? (It's hard to redistribute wealth from the poor to your billionaire friends with a smile on your face.) Take Fox "News," for example: isn't that just a channel for angry old white people? Or the tea party: while everyone keeps talking about the "energy" on the right, aren't they really talking about the "anger" on the right?

And think about it: the right wing of the Republican Party hasn't found a likeable candidate for president since Reagan hung up his cowboy hat. I guess W. was the closest thing, but he proved to be a profound disappointment in the White House.

I bring all of this up to splash a little cold water on the current Republican field for president. Who among the 2016 hopefuls is likeable in the Reagan mold, Chris Christie? Ted Cruz? Scott Walker?

Although there seems to be a little boomlet underway for the governor of Wisconsin after his performance at the Iowa Freedom Summit last weekend, I'd like to caution my Republican friends (and I do have some) that Walker is no Ronald Reagan. I've been watching him since 2011 and my impression is that he's a mean-spirited individual. (Walker's solution to middle class angst? Bust the unions!) Now, while many (or most) Republicans will like this guy, his thinly-veiled contempt for the less fortunate won't play well in the long-run. If the candidate people like more wins the general election (and think back on it; isn't that usually the case?), then Walker doesn't stand a chance against Hillary (or anyone else).

Keep searching, Republicans.

The term "Blitzkrieg," you...

...may recall from your high school history classes, means "lightning war." It was used to describe the German strategy in World War II of defeating an enemy with a series of quick and decisive short battles to deliver a knockout blow before it could fully mobilize.

In modern American politics, it can also describe the strategy of the Bush brothers, George W. in 1999 and Jeb in 2015, of acting quickly and decisively to corner establishment money and talent in the "invisible primary" season.

Never mind all the reasons you've read about why Mitt Romney decided against another presidential run in 2016. He wanted to be the Republican nominee again -- badly. (He still does.) Why else, do you suppose, Romney released that gauzy movie Mitt last year or campaigned so hard for Republican candidates in the midterms? He was hoping, I think, that the party elders would turn to him in the end and plead with him to rescue the GOP in 2016. After all, I'm sure he thought, would else could beat Hillary?

But once again, like in 1999, a member of the Bush family preempted the field by lining up establishment support and crushed Romney in the invisible primary. Ask yourself, how many articles did you read in the last three weeks that were encouraging Romney to run again?

Let's be honest here: Romney didn't drop out "to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee." He dropped out because he got beat.

In typical Romney-speak, the candidate told supporters, "I am convinced that we could win the nomination, but fully realize it would have been difficult test and a hard fight.”

Translation: I didn't think I could win.

Or as one Romney associate said, “The level of support was broad and deep.”

Translation: The support we had hoped to see just didn't materialize.

I read recently that no one -- no one -- drops out of a presidential race for any other reason than that they think they can't win. The examples the writer gave were of John Thune and Haley Barbour in 2012: the support just wasn't there.

Need further proof that Romney was knocked out of the race by Jeb? How's this:

“I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders — one who may not be as well-known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started — may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee,” Romney said. “In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case.”

Translation: I hope somebody -- anybody! -- besides this a*****e Jeb Bush wins.