Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Remember when Jeb Bush...

...said that the Republican candidate for president in 2016 had to be willing to "lose the primary to win the general, without violating your principles"? He promised "to be much more uplifting, much more positive, much more willing to be practical."

Or how about (all emphasis mine):

“You don’t abandon your core beliefs, you go try to persuade people as I’m doing now,” Bush said at a Nashua Chamber of Commerce business roundtable in New Hampshire. "I think you need to be genuine. I think you need to have a backbone.”

And whom do you suppose he was talking about when he said:

He got sucked into other people’s agendas, and I think it hurt him a little bit,” Bush said in the TV interview. He added, “Winning with purpose, winning with meaning, winning with your integrity is what I’m trying to talk about.”

Remember that guy?

Well, just yesterday Jeb praised Indiana Governor Mike Pence for signing the controversial Religious Freedom Act into law.

"I think Governor Pence has done the right thing," Bush said.

Bush then rallied to the defense to those who he said the laws were meant to protect. 
"But there are incidents of people who, for example, the florist in Washington State who had a business that based on her conscience, she couldn’t be participating in a gay wedding, organizing it, even though the person, one of the people was a friend of hers. And she was taken to court."

This is the same guy who said three months ago, "Do I have the skills to [run for president] in a way that tries to lift people's spirits and not get sucked into the vortex? It's easy to say; it's harder to do."

Oh, well. That didn't take long.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Here's a headline that should...

...surprise no one, "2016 Hopefuls and Wealthy Are Aligned on Inequality." From today's Times (my emphasis):

In recent years, a small cohort of scholars has begun to study the policy views of the country’s most affluent voters, and the results are especially illuminating on the subject of inequality. In a 2013 paper, Benjamin I. Page and Jason Seawright of Northwestern University and Larry M. Bartels of Vanderbilt University surveyed more than 80 wealthy Chicago-area residents and found that 62 percent felt “differences in income in America are too large” — a figure generally in line with public opinion.

But when it came to addressing inequality, the rich were much closer to Mr. Cruz than to the American public. Only 13 percent of wealthy interview subjects said the government should “reduce the differences in income between people with high incomes and those with low incomes.” Only 17 percent said the government should “redistribute wealth by heavy taxes on the rich.”

More recently, one of Professor Page’s protégés, a Northwestern graduate student named Fiona Chin, has further investigated the subject, conducting interviews with nearly 100 other wealthy Americans across the country. Unlike Professors Page, Seawright and Bartels, whose interviewers typically spent under an hour soliciting their subjects’ views on a range of policy questions, Ms. Chin limited her discussions to inequality and often spoke with her subjects for several hours at a time.

Ms. Chin’s findings, which she is scheduled to present at a conference in April, are even more stark. As she puts it, the rich tend to see inequality “as a story about individual hard work, effort and character.”

They recognize that growing up poor puts workers at a disadvantage but argue that a middle-class background presents no barrier to economic success and that growing up wealthy can even be a liability because it robs people of their incentive to work hard. In general, Ms. Chin has found, the rich regard those who do not succeed in life as “people who didn’t take advantage of the education system,” not victims of circumstances beyond their control.

And in many cases that's true. I'll bet you know lots of people who succeeded on their own.

But if I look at my own life -- and if I'm honest -- I have to admit I grew up in a solidly upper-middle-class household with two parents and no doubt I'd graduate from college. (And that my parents would pay for it.) 

But I'm small potatoes; let's have a look at the truly rich, according to Forbes magazine. And of the 400 richest Americans (Forbes's emphasis):

276 members of the list are self-made billionaires; 58 inherited their wealth, and 66 inherited at least a portion but are still increasing it.

Let's see: 124 members of the Forbes 400 inherited at least a portion their money. That's about a third. Do they attribute their success to "individual hard work, effort and character"?

And let's have a closer look at that list. Four of the top ten are named Walton -- and none of them have the first name "Sam." (That's three of them in the picture above.) And two others are named Koch, neither of whom is called "Fred." I wonder if they all feel they "took advantage of the education system"? And would they agree "that growing up wealthy can even be a liability because it robs people of their incentive to work hard"?

Or would any of them admit that it really, really helps to win the sperm lottery?

It's been a week since...

...Ted Cruz announced his candidacy for president at Liberty University in Virginia. So how's the junior senator from Texas doing so far?

Well, Bloomberg has a piece this morning, "Poll: Jeb Bush Still Tops List of GOP Candidates, But Ted Cruz Is Rising Fast," which says (my emphasis):

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush continues to lead the pack of Republican presidential hopefuls, but one candidate is making moves. 
Texas Senator Ted Cruz, the only GOP hopeful to formally announced his candidacy thus far, has shot up in the rankings in a new CBS News poll. Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed said that they would consider voting for Cruz in March, up 14 points from when the same question was asked a month ago.

Wow. And if you asked me, I'd say Cruz could end up as the lone conservative alternative to Jeb. If he runs to the right of everybody on every issue, as I think Cruz will do, then he'll have to win the non-Jeb "bracket" of the GOP primary, right?

But before anyone puts champagne on ice, here's a little cold reality: PredictWise still has Cruz with only a 2.1 percent chance of winning the nomination and Paddy Power still has him at 12/1 odds. That's where he was last week.

Until further notice, Hillary still beats Jeb.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Joe Heck, the U.S. Representative for Nevada's 3rd congressional district.

Heck is thought to be mulling a run for the seat held by retiring Sen. Harry Reid. If he wins, do you think Democrats may have something stronger to say than, "Oh, Heck!"?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

From the Far Southwest Side...

...last weekend to the Far Northeast Side (although no one calls it that) today.

I've lived in Chicago for most of my life; can you believe I'd never been on the campus of Loyola University until today? (And I even had a niece that went there.) Shame on me!

But I was up in Evanston today for a memorial service and stopped off at Loyola on the way home. (As you can see from my pictures the light wasn't optimal; or was it?)

I was inspired by my new favorite blog to check out Madonna della Strada Chapel, a great example of Art Deco architecture. What I didn't know is that the chapel is only one of three Art Deco structures on campus.

According to this website I found (my emphasis):

The chapel of Madonna della Strada at Loyola University Chicago was constructed in 1938-1939, toward the end of the Great Depression. Its Art Deco design reflects its inception in the Jazz Age.

Huh? What? Art Deco and the Jazz Age are associated with the 1920s, not the 1930s.

However, planning and fundraising for the new chapel went back to the year 1924. Fr. James J. Mertz, SJ, worked over fifteen years (1924-1939) to raise $750,000 for construction costs. The existence of Madonna della Strada is due primarily to Mertz’s dogged efforts sustained over the long haul.
As an undated sketch for the proposed chapel — in an Italianate style — demonstrates, the ultimate Art Deco design was not envisioned from the beginning. It was in 1929 that Andrew Rebori, a member of the Chicago School of architecture, submitted his design which was ultimately accepted.

In 1929, construction was underway on the Elizabeth M. Cudahy Memorial Library, also in the Art Deco style and the building with which the chapel would eventually be a pendant. In the fall of 1929 — at the very moment of the October Wall Street Crash that set off the Great Depression — construction had also begun on the Art Deco building of Mundelein College. These three buildings — Cudahy Library, Madonna della Strada, and the Mundelein College skyscraper — would eventually form an Art Deco triangle on the Lake Michigan shore.

Mundelein College

Cudahy Library

Check out these doors!

In spite of the Great Depression, Mertz succeeded in raising the funds needed to begin construction in 1938. However, even after the exterior’s completion in late 1939, the chapel’s interior remained unfinished.

As you can see, the interior's curved forms echo the Art Deco style on the outside. (This picture, the postcard above, and the aerial photo below are the only ones I didn't take.) 

Postscript: the "Madonna della Strada" — the Madonna of the "Way" or of the "Road" (la strada) —- is the patroness of the Jesuit order.

However, the name has a more particular significance. In the 1930s, Lake Shore Drive was being extended northward — by 1933, it had reached Foster Avenue. Had money not run out during the Great Depression, plans to extend it further north might have been realized around the time that Madonna della Strada was completed. The church is designed so that its front door would open out on to the Lake Drive — and its patroness, the “Madonna of the Roadway” — would look over the cars on the route. However, the Lake Drive was never extended past its 1957 terminus at Hollywood — and so Madonna della Strada’s front doors open on to the shore of Lake Michigan.

Is Rand Paul the latest...

...Republican candidate for president to implode?

Consider these numbers: while PredictWise has the freshman senator from Kentucky in fourth place with only a 9.7 percent chance of winning the GOP nomination, Paddy Power also has him in fourth, at 6/1 odds, tied with Chris Christie (who?).

Don't care about stuff like that nearly a year out from the Iowa caucuses? Fine. Then how about this (all emphasis mine):

Rand Paul called the push for same-sex marriage a “moral crisis” during a private prayer breakfast in Washington, D.C. “The moral crisis we have in our country, there is a role for us trying to figure out a thing like marriage,” Paul said Thursday on video obtained by CBN News’s David Brody. “There’s also a moral crisis that allows people to think there would be some sort of other marriage.” The Republican senator from Kentucky is due to announce his presidential candidacy next month. “The First Amendment says keep government out of religion, not religion out of government.” Paul said America needs a religious revival. “We need another Great Awakening with tent revivals of thousands of people saying reform or see what’s going to happen if we don’t reform.” 

Huh? Does that sound like a "libertarian" to you? (Sounds more to me like a guy who "hears footsteps" from -- oh, I don't know -- Ted Cruz.)

How about this:

Just weeks before announcing his 2016 presidential bid, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is completing an about-face on a longstanding pledge to curb the growth in defense spending.

In an olive branch to defense hawks hell-bent on curtailing his White House ambitions, the libertarian Senator introduced a budget amendment late Wednesday calling for a nearly $190 billion infusion to the defense budget over the next two years—a roughly 16 percent increase.

Still not convinced? Okay, last one:

With progress having been made on the Iran negotiations, Republican Senators opposed to a deal have been threatening the administration left and right over it. Today, they took a different tack, issuing an open letter to Iran, warning them against the deal on the grounds that they’re just going to sabotage it in the future.

The letter was pushed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R – AR) and signed by 47 senators. Surprisingly, this included Sen. Rand Paul (R – KY), who had previously expressed opposition to Congressional attempts to sabotage the negotiations.

Just a month ago, Sen. Paul had admonished the Senate against standing in the way of negotiations in good faith. Now, with Iran a key issue in the upcoming presidential primaries, he seems to be wavering on the matter, and towing the party line.

Do these sound like the words and deeds of a confident presidential candidate? Or one who senses his libertarian philosophy is a little out of step with a party dominated by evangelical Christians and neocons? (And did he just figure that out?) 
Does it sound like Senator Paul will hold to his dearest principles, like his father, no matter what the consequences? Or does he look like a candidate desperate to "get right" with his party on the eve of the primary season?

Some free advice to Senator Paul: you will never compete for the evangelical vote with the likes of Mike Huckabee or Ted Cruz (they're the real deal). And you'll never convince the Sheldon Adelsons and William Kristols of your party that you're one of them either.

So, please, either run as yourself or just don't bother. (You're getting killed in the polls anyway.)

Friday, March 27, 2015

I'm so bored...

...with the news that I stumbled upon this video of Mitt Romney and Jimmy Fallon on the Huffington Post. And I can't believe how normal and likeable Mitt is! Where has this guy been all his life? Better yet, why on earth didn't he show this more human side in the 2012 campaign?

I've read that Hillary Clinton is also charming -- even funny -- in person. But she, too, appears wooden in public. It's important to come across as authentic in politics; will that be her undoing in 2016?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

I was able to take a walk...

...on my lunch break today, and I just had to take a picture of this old police station at the corner of Racine and Monroe in the West Loop. I've passed it many times, but the light today was particularly good.

I did a little digging, and apparently: 

The Chicago Children's Theatre is eyeing the old 12th District Chicago Police Station at 100 S. Racine Avenue to be its new home. The 12th District moved into their brand new station at 1412 S. Blue Island Avenue at the end of 2012. According to an announcement from the West Loop Community Organization, the theater company is planning an adaptive reuse of the building that will include a new performance space, classrooms and offices.

Well, it's 2015 and as you can see, there's no sign of life yet. But it's a beautiful old building; I especially like the art deco font. Looks a little haunted, doesn't it?

From an article in the Chicago Tribune, dated June 19, 1948:


Despite material and labor shortage delays, the new $320,000 police station at 100 S. Racine av. to replace the antiquated structure at 120 N. Desplaines st. is expected to be ready for occupancy this year, City Architect Paul Gerhardt Jr. said yesterday. The foundation is in, the floor slabs are poured and work on the brick walls is about to start, he said.

(And those aren't typos; the paper spelled it "av." and "st.")

A little farther south on Racine is a condo building with THE DAILY NEWS carved into it.  

According to Wikipedia, the Chicago Daily News was an afternoon daily published between 1876 and 1978. (That was before my time; I migrated to Chicago in 1981.)

In 1929 the Daily News moved into a new 26-floor headquarters building at 400 West Madison Street. Designed by architects Holabird & Root, the Art Deco structure became a Chicago landmark, and stands today under the name Riverside Plaza. The east side of the building features important scenes from the history of journalism, depicting icons such as Joseph Pulitzer, Joseph Medill, and Horace Greeley.

Two North Riverside sits across the Chicago River from the Civic Opera Building. 

Facing each other on opposite banks of the river, these two art deco giants stand as odes to Chicago's rich history and identity. Also completed in 1929, the Civic Opera Building was built by Samuel Insull, business magnate who also created Commonwealth Edison, the largest electric utility in Illinois. The building, shaped like a giant armchair facing the river, is often referred to as "Insull's Throne." 

This location, however, must have been where they printed the paper. Or something.

Several people have argued...

...in the last couple of days that Ted Cruz's going on Obamacare is not hypocritical. (Click here and here for starters.)

But I beg to differ -- still.

Cruz's family lost its insurance when his wife took a leave of absence from her job at Goldman Sachs. As a result, Cruz has to go on an exchange and find a new policy. So, in effect, he's making the argument for Obamacare: If you lose your insurance for whatever reason, you're still covered -- period. And, yet, at the same time, he's still hoping to "repeal every last word" of it.

That's hypocritical: to demonstrate the value of something while still arguing for its repeal.

The Republicans have a choice...

...in 2016: nominate an establishment candidate like Jeb Bush and lose narrowly, or go with someone like Ted Cruz and lose big.

(Caveat to -- overconfident? -- Democrats like myself: If the economy is in recession next year at this time even someone as extreme as Cruz could win.)

Actually, the Republican Party's choice is pretty much always that: nominate the candidate of the establishment or the "movement" candidate du jour. Since, in the end, Republicans want to win, they usually go with the safer pick. But this time could be different.

Jonathan Bernstein writes in Bloomberg, "Will Jeb Be the Rudy of 2016?" (all emphasis mine):

Bush is going to be able to raise tons of money. That’s something, especially from donors tied to the party network. Yet plenty of candidates over the years, from John Connally 1980 to Rudolph Giuliani in 2008, have done well with donors but couldn’t translate that support into greater success.

(I would add Phil Gramm's name to that list.)

If party actors remain split or uncommitted and prefer to wait for tests of electoral strength, it’s easy to imagine Bush finishing fifth or lower in Iowa, failing to rally in New Hampshire, and then finding himself almost a non-factor in South Carolina. 

In the Times this morning, meanwhile, Trip Gabriel reports, "Unhappy With a Moderate Jeb Bush, Conservatives Aim to Unite Behind an Alternative":

Fearing that Republicans will ultimately nominate an establishment presidential candidate like Jeb Bush, leaders of the nation’s Christian right have mounted an ambitious effort to coalesce their support behind a single social-conservative contender months before the first primary votes are cast.

The efforts to coalesce behind an alternative candidate — in frequent calls, teleconferences and meetings involving a range of organizations, many of them with overlapping memberships — are premised on two articles of conservative faith: Republicans did not win the White House in the past two elections because their nominees were too moderate and failed to excite the party’s base. And a conservative alternative failed to win the nomination each time because voters did not unite behind a single champion in the primary fight.

And I think that's where conservatives get themselves into trouble. While it's true that establishment candidates like Bob Dole '96, John McCain '08 and Mitt Romney '12 lost, George W. Bush won -- albeit narrowly -- twice. And think about it: in the years it lost, would the GOP have been better off nominating more conservative candidates like Pat Buchanan, Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum? I don't think so. And this year won't be any different (unless we get that recession I keep worrying about).

If the Republicans nominate Jeb they'll probably lose to Hillary in a close, hard-fought contest (the country is still split about 50/50 between Republicans and Democrats, even if Dems have an Electoral College edge). But if the GOP nominates someone like Cruz, Mrs. Clinton should win in a landslide. (A landslide being only 55/45.) 

Now, the good news for Republicans is that the sooner they nominate a movement conservative and get beaten decisively, a la Barry Goldwater in 1964, the sooner they'll look at each other and say something like, "You know, if we ever want to win back the White House we're going to have to moderate some of our positions. And we may also have to cut out all this nonsense of being so obstructionist in Congress. It's time for us to grow up."

It's kind of like an alcoholic hitting rock bottom. 

And that's when Democrats have to start worrying. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Is Ted Cruz a hypocrite?

A piece in U. S. News & World Report implies as much (my emphasis): 

If Cruz wanted to stand on no-Obamacare, no-way principle, however, perhaps he could opt out of government-sponsored health care entirely, just like the 6.3 million Texans who don’t have health insurance -- in part because his state, and his party, decided to block it. That includes 1.2 million children just like Cruz’s two little girls who can’t get health care if they get sick. 

That’s made Texas the state with the highest number of uninsured people, nearly twice the national average. 

Further, if you squint, the changes the Cruz family are undergoing -- loss of a job or a dramatic life change that reduces income -- are the top reasons people lose health insurance, and among the reasons Obamacare exists in the first place. And if a parent or spouse gets sick without insurance, it can lead to some serious financial hardship. 

It’s perhaps safe to say Cruz understands that intuitively, even if he probably would never say so explicitly. Which is probably why he signed up, and where the hypocrisy comes in. 

Even though it exposes him to a modicum of ridicule, allegations of hypocrisy and getting the stink-eye from some of his die-hard supporters, Ted’s Excellent Obamacare Adventure speaks more loudly than his “repeal every word of Obamacare” applause line. When it came down to brass tacks and he lost his wife’s coverage, he opted-in. 

He may be a fierce Obamacare critic, and he may agree with the decision to deny affordable health insurance to more than 6 million Texans who, one imagines, he assumes would rather have liberty than Lipitor. But when it becomes a personal matter involving his own family, his conservative ideals don’t necessarily apply. 

Does Ted Cruz believe a word he says, or is he just taking the rubes for a ride?

The debate over Obamacare...

...is finally over. After losing his family's insurance, Senator Ted Cruz has been forced to buy a policy in the private market. Do any of his family members have pre-existing conditions? Doesn't matter; they're covered.

The Affordable Care Act must give him a great sense of relief.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Admit it: you're wondering...

...two things this morning. First, what sort of guy is this Ted Cruz anyway? And second, who will his campaign for president affect the most?

You're not? Oh, well, humor me.

Josh Marshall, of Talking Points Memo, has an interesting piece about Ted Cruz which he actually wrote about a year and a half ago. But it's still worth reading (my emphasis):

Well, it turns out Ted and I went to college together. And not just we happened to be at the same place at the same time. We were both at a pretty small part of a relatively small university. We both went to Princeton. I was one year ahead of him. But we were both in the same residential college, which basically meant a small cluster of dorms of freshmen and sophomores numbering four or five hundred students who all ate in the same dining hall.

My wife meanwhile was also in the same residential college and she was actually Ted's year - Class of 92.  She totally remembered Ted and basically as a conceited and fairly nerdy jerk.

I was curious. Was this just my wife who tends to be a get-along and go-along kind of person? So I started getting in touch with a lot of old friends and asking whether they remembered Ted. It was an experience really unlike I've ever had. Everybody I talked to - men and women, cool kids and nerds, conservative and liberal - started the conversation pretty much the same. 

"Ted? Oh yeah, immense a*#hole." Sometimes "total raging a#%hole." Sometimes other variations on the theme. But you get the idea. Very common reaction.

But that wasn't all. Before retelling this or that anecdote, there was one other thing that everybody said, "A really, really smart dude."

Bottom line? Cruz is a highly intelligent jerk.

And that leads into my next question: Who should fear a Ted Cruz candidacy the most?

Hillary Clinton? I don't think so. If the economy is still humming along a year from now she's in. If not, she's out. I don't think it matters a whole lot who the Republicans nominate.

But the rest of the Republican field, including the current frontrunners Jeb Bush and Scott Walker? Consider this from another piece in TPM this morning:

Where Cruz stands out is not his ideological principles — he shares common beliefs with many of his rivals — but his scorched-earth tactics in service of those principles, and his proclivity for painting fellow Republicans with tactical disagreements as capitulators.

Imagine: A really smart jerk who doesn't care what other people think who is also an expert debater. Do you think Cruz would hesitate for a second to fillet a couple of guys like wishy-washy Jeb or that dullard Walker in the GOP debates next fall? Even if he loses the nomination, he'll bloody them unlike anyone else in the race could. Those are the two guys who should be quaking in their boots right now.

But, then again, it probably doesn't matter. Remember, it's the economy, stupid. (But it will be fun to watch.)

Monday, March 23, 2015

I've been reading...

...this book, Mutual Contempt, for like -- forever, it seems -- but came across this passage the other night and felt compelled to share it. As I've highlighted, this took place in the summer of 1963, when John F. Kennedy was still president. And even as far back as then the country's leaders suspected Vietnam was a lost cause. Amazing.

The Kennedy administration, propelled by events toward an early reckoning in Vietnam, was racked by confusion and division. In the summer of 1963, Bobby Kennedy began privately to express grave doubts about the whole enterprise. He peppered presidential assistant for Far Eastern affairs Mike Forrestal with the hard, pragmatic questions no one wanted to ask:

Was the United States capable of achieving even the limited objectives that we then had in Vietnam? Did the United States have the resources, the men and the philosophy and the thinking to have anything useful to contribute or say in a country as politically unstable as South Vietnam? Was it not possible that we had overestimated our own resources and underestimated the problem in South Vietnam?

Bobby himself bristled at these questions, at least when posed by others. On August 31, Paul Kattenburg, staff director of the Interdepartmental Task Force on Vietnam, returned from Saigon to brief the NSC. Kattenburg called Vietnam policy "a garden path to tragedy" and recommended that the United States "get out honorably." The attorney general fixed him with an icy glare. But Bobby did not, as Secretary McNamara did, blurt out in self-defense, "We are winning this war!" Of that Bobby was less sure.

In the next seven years, from 1964 to 1970, the U. S. would suffer over 50,000 deaths.

If Jeb Bush is the candidate...

...of the Republican establishment (and someone who could actually win a general election), and Scott Walker and Marco Rubio -- conservatives who are still acceptable to the party elite -- are there if he falters, what space is there left for any of the other hopefuls in the crowded 2016 GOP field?

And the only answer I can think of is: maximally conservative positions on all the issues. That means anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, anti-immigration, anti-Common Core, pro-gun, anti-tax (including capital gains and dividends -- even abolishing the IRS!), pro-balanced budget, pro-Christian, anti-Muslim, hard-line ISIS and Iran, anti-Putin, pro-Netanyahu, anti-two state solution, and on and on and on.

And who might fit that bill? Chris Christie? Still hoping to get the establishment nod. Rand Paul? Too dovish on foreign policy. Rick Perry? Too squishy on immigration. Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum? Unacceptable to the Club for Growth crowd.

By my reckoning, that leaves only Bobby Jindal and Ted Cruz.

Now since Jindal may not even make it to the starting line (read Charles Blow's column in the Times today), Cruz could end up running to the right of everybody on everything. And that might not be such a bad strategy.

I wouldn't be surprised if Cruz came out swinging in his announcement for president today. With nothing to lose (the Texas senator is a decided long shot and nobody likes him anyway) the champion debater could steal one of the early debates and throw the whole thing up for grabs.

Reince Priebus: better order some extra Rolaids now.

Ted Cruz, who is expected...

...to announce for president today, has a 2.2 percent chance of winning the Republican nomination, according to PredictWise. That's just slightly ahead of Gov. Rick "Oops" Perry.

Over at Paddy Power, the Irish betting website, Cruz is a 12/1 long shot to become the next GOP standard-bearer. The junior senator from Texas is tied with Paul Ryan, who isn't even running for president.

Since he's already considered a pariah among his Republican colleagues in Washington, what exactly does Cruz expect to accomplish with such a dark horse campaign?

Here's a little free advice for GOP chairman Reince Priebus: Expect trouble.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:


High school basketball is over.

Is it too early to be thinking about football? My friend from Naperville sent me this recently:

Got Neuqua Valley’s 2015 football schedule today... one tough road, especially the first four games. I won’t venture a guess on their prospects for ’15 until I know more about the team and this year's opponents. Certainly a lot of these teams are strong, but several like Naperville North, Wheaton North and even Glenbard North have been up and down the last few years. Could come down to just how you catch teams this year and that could account for maybe two wins or losses on either side of the ledger. Will be interesting to watch...

Aug. 28 @ Metea Valley

Sept. 4 @ Naperville Central
Sept. 11 Waubonsie Valley (North Central College)
Sept. 18 @ Wheaton Warrenville South
Sept. 25 @ Bartlett

Oct. 2 Naperville North
Oct. 9 @ Wheaton North
Oct. 16 @ Lake Park
Oct. 23 Glenbard North

Yes, it will be interesting to watch. I know the DVC is in flux, but why only two true home games? (The Waubonsie Valley date is also considered a home game.) 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

I don't care what anybody...

...says, I really like Tudor Revival architecture.

I happened upon this building on 111th Street, just east of Western Avenue, as I was driving through the Morgan Park neighborhood on the Far Southwest Side of Chicago yesterday.

The current home of Little Hands Learning Center was probably built in the 1920s, before the Great Depression, when the style was popular.

From A Chicago Sojourn, my new favorite blog, Robert Powers writes:

Castellated architecture has its roots in the Gothic Revival and its Romantic views of the middle ages. In the eclectic 1920s, when a tidal wave of revival styles swept across America, a variety of castellated styles were used on large apartment buildings around Chicagoland. The implications of luxurious living – worthy of a monarch – would make a powerful advertising statement for the developers trying to fill their newly constructed buildings, as well as pleasing neighbors concerned about the aesthetics of a large new building in their neighborhood.

Is there a bowman up in that tower?
The most common castle architectural elements include massive turrets with small “arrow slit” windows, rough limestone bases, and crenelated rooflines. Of course, the need to supply the basics of a modern home, such as windows, mean that the castle motif can only run so far. On most examples, it is combined with a Tudor Revival style, which uses faux half-timbering for some surfaces for a more domestic effect which also happens to be more amenable to larger windows.
The castle craze was part of the period revival craze of the 1920s, when practically every style associated with pre-industrial society came into vogue.

The Great Depression, of course, put the kibosh on any further such flights of fancy. By the time construction resumed in the 1950s, both style and economics demanded the simplicity of Modernism. Castle apartments were a quaint curiosity – a last hoorah for historicist revivalism. 

My guess is that any true "student" of architecture would turn up his nose at this style. But I agree with the American architect Robert Venturi, who, in response to Mies van der Rohe's famous modernist dictum, "Less is more," said, "Less is a bore."

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Bad week for pop music!

First, Andy Fraser, who helped write the rock anthem “All Right Now” as a teenager when he was the bassist for the British rock band Free, died on Monday at age 62.

And then, Michael Brown, a keyboardist and songwriter who at 16 was a writer of the 1966 hit “Walk Away Renee” for his band the Left Banke, died on Thursday at age 65.

Friday, March 20, 2015

It's the first day of spring...

...in Chicago and as good a time as any to walk over to Garibaldi Park on Polk Street, between Laflin and Ashland.

The plaque in front of the statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi describes him as an "Italian patriot, soldier and leading figure of the 'Risorgimento,' the 19th century movement for the liberation and unification of Italy.

"With his band of 'red shirts,' Garibaldi fought armies of the French, Austrians, Spanish, creating, for the first time, a united and independent Kingdom of Italy."

The statue was dedicated in Lincoln Park in 1934 and relocated to its current location in Little Italy fifty years later, in 1984.

On my way out of the park, I could see the dome from nearby St. Basil Greek Orthodox Church on Ashland.

Completed in 1910 in the Greek Revival style, the building was originally designed as a synagogue. In 1927, it was transformed into a Greek Orthodox Church.

Samuel Charters, music...

...scholar, died at age 85. From his obit in the Times:

Mr. Charters was also drawn to the psychedelic music emerging in the San Francisco area in the mid-’60s. He produced the first four albums by Country Joe & the Fish, including the satirical “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag,” one of the best-known protest songs of the Vietnam War era.

And which contains the chilling line:

Be the first one on your block to have your boy come home in a box.*

The obit also mentions Mr. Charters's wife, Ann, and I wondered, Where have I heard that name? Oh, yeah (my emphasis):

In addition, Mr. Charters wrote two books with his wife, an expert on the literature of the Beat Generation as well as a pianist and photographer: a biography of the Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and “Brother Souls: John Clellon Holmes, Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation.”

* McDonald, by the way, wasn't just some long-haired hippie. At the age of 17, he enlisted in the United States Navy for three years and was stationed in Japan.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Daevid Allen, a member...

...of the rock groups the Soft Machine and Gong, died at age 77.

Now, not only is that first name problematic (you don't suppose anyone ever misspelled it, do you?), but it appears to have been a self-inflicted wound. From his obit in the Times:

Christopher David Allen (he stopped using his first name and added the “e” himself) was born on Jan. 13, 1938, and grew up in Melbourne, Australia. 

It doesn't say, but I'm sure he had a good reason.

March Madness...

...driving you mad? Then watch this.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Here's a view of the Chicago River -- dyed green -- on Saturday morning.

Mike Porcaro, bass player...

... for the rock band Toto, died at age 59.

“Africa” was a No. 1 hit for the group in 1982.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Here's Buckingham Fountain...

...late yesterday afternoon. Even though it was mild, it's still March.

Ever since Intrade...

...went down, I've been looking for a prediction/betting website that I could rely on.

Intrade, you may recall, while not perfect, was pretty darn good. For example, it had President Obama consistently beating Mitt Romney for at least a year or so before the 2012 election actually took place. In fact, it had the results on election night, state by state, long before the TV networks did.

Every now and then, of course, Intrade got something wrong, like Hillary's famous upset of Obama in the New Hampshire primary in 2008. But, on balance, it was the most reliable political predictor out there.

So now I'm watching Paddy Power and PredictWise. And tomorrow will be my first big test for the latter. While Paddy Power doesn't have the Israeli election on its site (at least as far as I can tell), PredictWise does. And, despite what you may have read elsewhere, it has Benjamin Netanyahu heavily favored to continue on as Prime Minister.

If Bibi loses, I'll be doing my happy dance. But I'm not counting on it.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

I almost forgot!

Beware the Ides of March:

In September 2010, the City of Berwyn, Illinois, dedicated Home Avenue between Riverside Drive and Cermak Road (the location of J. Sterling Morton High School West, the school most of the band members attended) to "Ides Of March Way" in tribute of the band.

Maureen Dowd pretty much...

...nailed it in her column this morning. The subtext, she writes, of Hillary Clinton's press conference Tuesday was:

“You can have the first woman president. You can get rid of those epically awful Republicans who have vandalized Congress, marginalized the president and jeopardized our Iran policy. You can get a more progressive American society. But, in return, you must accept our foibles and protect us.”

Now, frankly, I don't care if the next president is a woman, or black or gay, so long as (s)he's a Democrat. (Is Hillary my first choice? Not really, but she can win.)

I do hope for "a more progressive American society." And, at the same time, I'm deathly afraid some reactionary Republican will undo President Obama's legacy and plunge America back into darkness.

So, yeah, I'll accept the Clintons' foibles in return for that.

Oh, and by the way, I predict Hillary will be a lot more progressive than anyone thinks anyway -- certainly more than her husband was.

Yesterday was March 14, or...

...Pi Day, and as good a prompt as any to begin recalling my trip to Los Angeles last month.

(To be exact, yesterday was 3/14/15 -- the first five digits of pi. I even heard Jewel was selling pies for $3.14! Nice gimmick.)

So what on earth does Pi Day have to do with my vacation? Well, on Thursday, February 12, near the end of my "spring break" in LA, my 72-year-old gay roommate suggested -- no, insisted -- that I accompany him and his gay senior men's group on a hike through Griffith Park. The payoff, at the end of the trek (above), he assured me, would be "the best rhubarb pie you have ever had."

Whoa, whoa, whoa, you're probably thinking. Back up! 72-year-old GAY roommate??? As Ricky Ricardo would say, "You've got some splainin' to do!"

Okay; fine.

First of all, exhale: I'm still the boring old white guy you have come to know and love tolerate. But I'm also still one of the cheapest people you'll ever meet. (Just ask anyone who knows me.) And when planning my trip to LA my wife suggested I look into getting a weekly rate at the hotel we stayed at last time in West Hollywood. No way, I thought. Let's go on Airbnb and see what I can find there.

Since Airbnb had worked so well for my family last August when we traveled up to Minnesota to see my mother, I thought I'd give it a shot for my trip to LA. (The four of us had the first floor of a vintage house in the very cool Lowry Hill neighborhood of Minneapolis. It had three bedrooms -- everyone had their own bed -- a bathroom, kitchen, dining room and huge living room with a smart TV. It was great. I'd recommend Airbnb to anyone: beats the heck out of two small hotel rooms!)

So I went on the website and searched for rooms within walking distance of my son's place in West Hollywood. Now, in case you don't know, WeHo -- as the locals call it (or at least as I call it) -- is the gay neighborhood of Los Angeles. (Anyone who watched Johnny Carson back in the day would know that.)

I could have made things easy on myself by renting a room from a woman or a couple. Or, I could take the rock-bottom price of $60/night that "Brad" was offering. Hmmm. I checked Brad's picture. Is this guy gay? Could be. Then again, my "gaydar" hasn't been very reliable of late. But sixty bucks is sixty bucks and the location was perfect. I'll take it!

I arrived on the evening of Monday, February 9, and met Brad. He was much older than his picture on the website (that's good!) and told me he was originally from North Carolina. "Oh, really?" I asked him as he showed me around the house. "How did you get out here?"

"A boyfriend," he responded. Aw, Jeez -- here we go!

"We're no longer together; he went back to Texas. I could look him up I suppose..."

So this would be my opportunity to show the world (and myself) that I was not homophobic.

(It reminded me of the last time I visited my son. He has a good friend from college whose roommate is both black and gay. He explained that it proves he isn't racist or homophobic.)

And I thought, Hey, I'm a liberal Democrat! I live in a big city. I have a lesbian business partner. I can handle this! 

Brad turned out to be a nice old guy and was the perfect host. But that's not to say we didn't have our awkward moments. Or at least one.

Each morning, I would get up first and bring a cup of coffee and my iPad into the living room. As if on cue, Brad would come running out of his bedroom to talk. (I think he was lonely.) We conversed easily, though, and shared our life stories. Brad was very personable and had no trouble talking about his life as a gay man. And why wouldn't he? He's been living as an openly gay man for thirty or forty years in a gay neighborhood in California for crying out loud. What else would I expect?

On the first morning, after about an hour or so, we walked over to a local spot, Ed's Coffee Shop on Robertson, for breakfast. But as we were finishing our French toast, the conversation took a turn for the, well, uncomfortable, at least for me. Brad recalled a time when he asked his brother if he had a big penis. He then mentioned that he himself "had a good one."

I think I almost spit out my coffee like they do on TV.

It was time to go anyway, so I asked for the check and we left. I had a big day planned and it was time to get moving. But for the rest of the day I agonized a little: Are we going to have to have The Conversation? You know, the one where I make it clear that I'm happily heterosexual and not the least bit interested in experimenting? Sheesh! What was I thinking? My cheap-skatedness had finally caught up with me!

But, as it turned out, we never had to have The Conversation after all. I don't know if it was because Brad never meant anything by his remark, or if it was because I kept talking -- and talking -- about how long I've been married to my wife, etc., or if I was just imagining the whole thing in the first place. But after that one awkward moment at breakfast (and almost a full day's anguish), it was just fine. I even ended up meeting Brad's boyfriend, Ron, on my last day there and he was a nice old guy too.

But more than once, I have to admit, I lay awake at night thinking to myself: How many people do I know could DO this? Rent a room in a gay man's house! What would my brothers think? What about MY DAD? (That last question was just too laughable to consider.)

But about that hike. And the pie. (It's never a bad idea to talk about pie.) Brad, either from a sense of duty to act as a tour guide or because he wanted the company (and I suspect it was the latter), was constantly suggesting activities for us to do together. I kept making excuses, though, partly because I had my own agenda and partly because, let's face it, I didn't come to LA to hang out with an old gay man. But I finally relented on that Thursday morning. Since I planned on meeting my cousin for lunch in Pasadena and Griffith Park was on the way, I thought: What the hell, let's go on this hike with Brad and his buddies.

And I had a really good time. About eight or ten older gay men were waiting for us when we arrived at the entrance to the park on Fern Dell Drive. We shook hands (they were all very friendly) and I got the impression that it wasn't unusual for one of them to bring along a token straight guy, kind of like Show-and-Tell. It was a little weird, at first, to feel like a minority, but I got over it.

The hike, in fact, turned out to be one of the highlights of my trip (and there were a lot of highlights). A guy who was originally from Chicago -- I think his name was John (on the right) -- walked with Brad (on the left) and me and peppered me with questions about the current state of his hometown. (I insisted to him later that he might be just a little homesick.) But he was a very intelligent and interesting man and the three of us had a great conversation between huffing and puffing as we climbed the steep trail to the observatory. After completing about a three-mile loop we ended up at the Trails (at top) for an iced tea and that piece of rhubarb pie that Brad promised. He wasn't kidding, by the way; it was to die for! (Or at least go on a hike with a bunch of old gay men.)

The group disbanded after a while and I got into my car for the drive out to Pasadena. But it was funny: for the rest of my trip, whenever I told anyone about my hike with a gay seniors group, I admitted that it wasn't so much the "gay" part that bothered me as it was the "seniors" part.

And as for Brad, he really was a great host. He even gave me a hug when I left and told me he'd miss our breakfasts at Ed's. I would definitely consider staying at his place again.

Unless I can find something cheaper!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Jimmy Greenspoon, longtime...

... keyboardist for Three Dog Night, died at age 67.

The band had a remarkable 21 Billboard Top 40 hits between 1969 and 1975. "Joy to the World," which reached No. 1 in 1971, was huge when I was in eighth grade.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Michael Graves, a postmodern...

...architect "who designed more than 350 buildings around the world," died at age 80.

350 buildings, I thought to myself, That's a lot! I can't wait to find out what he did in Chicago.

Nothing. Nada. Bagels. How can that be?

I checked this list and the only building that I should recognize (but don't) is the expansion to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, above.

But the best part of Mr. Graves's obit in the Times was (my emphasis):

But by 1985 the backlash against postmodernism had begun, and the rejection of Mr. Graves’s plan for expanding the Whitney Museum of Art’s famed Breuer building was a setback. “No Mo Po Mo!” became the rallying cry of foes of postmodernism. His design would have radically altered the facade of the building, prompting objections from community groups and the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.