Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Since 2009, or the first...

...year of President Obama's administration, there have been 3,694 homicides in the city of Chicago. That's about 462 per year, although there are still four months to go in 2016.

(I got my numbers from Wikipedia; feel free to check my math.)

During the Bush era (2001-2008), in comparison, Chicago had 4,260 homicides for an average of 532.5 per year. And during the Clinton years (1993-2000), the city had 6,151, or almost 769 per year.

If you go back to the first President Bush, who only served for one term, Chicago had 3,464 murders, or 866 per year. Reagan? 5,776 homicides in the years 1981-88, or 722 per year. Carter? Another one-term president. During his four years in the White House 3,329 Chicagoans were the victims of homicide, or 832 per year. During the Nixon/Ford years, 1969-1976, the Windy City saw 6,524 homicides, or about 815 per year. For the seven years before that (and that's as far back as the table in Wikipedia goes -- although it does have the year 1928 for some reason, when 498 homicides took place), LBJ was in office when 3,523 homicides were committed in Chicago, or about 503 per year.

Let's look at that information a little bit differently, in a Homicides Per Year table:

Johnson: 503
Nixon/Ford: 815
Carter: 832
Reagan: 722
Bush: 866
Clinton: 769
Bush: 532.5
Obama: 462

See a pattern here? Since the mid-1960s, when I was a kid, homicides in Chicago have actually been going down, not up.

To be fair, the population of Chicago has also been declining during this period, so the numbers per capita may be a little bit different. Here are the census figures for those years:

1960 3,550,404
1970 3,366,957
1980 3,005,072
1990 2,783,911
2000 2,893,666
2010 2,695,598

By my math (and that's always in question), the city's population has declined by about 24 percent since 1960. Homicides (and, again, feel free to check my math) have declined by over 30 percent since 1969, Nixon's first year in office. (Did I cherry-pick those numbers? A little. The number would actually be up since 1964, LBJ's first full year in office. But I stand by the per capita trend, which is down. This table supports that argument.)

But in an article in the Trib yesterday, "August most violent month in Chicago in nearly 20 years," that information was only mentioned near the very end (all emphasis mine):

Tavon was among more than 400 people shot in Chicago this month. There have been at least 78 homicides, marking August as the most violent month in the city in almost 20 years, according to data provided by the Chicago Police Department. And there are two more days to go.

The city hasn't seen a deadlier month since October of 1997, when there were 79 homicides. For the whole year, the count was 761, according to department numbers.

Chicago has recorded 487 homicides and more than 2,800 people shot so far this year, compared to 491 homicides and 2,988 people shot all of last year, according to Tribune data.

Earlier this month, Johnson met with several police chiefs from across the country to discuss the nation's gun violence problem, noting that over 40 U.S. cities experienced spikes in violence last year after years of decreases in the number of killings.

What's the moral of the story? I guess that Paul Krugman was right when he wrote recently:

But then a funny thing happened: The murder rate began falling, and falling, and falling. By 2014 it was all the way back down to where it was half a century earlier. There was some rise in 2015, but so far, at least, it’s barely a blip in the long-run picture.

Basically, American cities are as safe as they’ve ever been. Nobody is completely sure why crime has plunged, but the point is that the nightmare landscape of the Republican candidate’s rhetoric — call it Trump’s hellhole? — bears no resemblance to reality.

I keep saying this, but as far as my wife and I are concerned (we moved back to the city two years ago), Chicago has never been nicer. Really. I even wrote a post about it; you can read it here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Week One is in...

IC Catholic's Jordan Rowell.
...the books, and here is how the Chicago newspapers and MaxPreps rank the Top Ten. (All teams undefeated unless otherwise noted.)

Trib:

1. Loyola
2. Lincoln-Way East 
3. Glenbard North
4. Glenbard West
5. Mount Carmel
6. Homewood-Flossmoor
7. Brother Rice
8. Waubonsie Valley
9. Neuqua Valley
10. Palatine

Sun-Times:

1. Loyola
2. Mount Carmel
3. Homewood-Flossmoor
4. Glenbard West
5. Lincoln-Way East
6. Crete-Monee
7. Brother Rice
8. Bolingbrook (0-1)
9. Neuqua Valley
10. Marist (0-1)

MaxPreps:

1. Loyola
2. Palatine 
3. Prairie Ridge
4. Glenbard West
5. IC Catholic
6. Nazareth
7. Sacred Heart-Griffin
8. Neuqua Valley
9. Cary-Grove (0-1)
10. Glenbard North

I guess what immediately jumps out is that Loyola is No. 1 in all three news services. Glenbard West, coincidentally, is No. 4 in each. And Neuqua Valley is the only other school that appears in all three.

Other than that, MaxPreps is the outlier, with tiny IC Catholic (who shut out defending 3A champ McNamara, 34-0) and Sacred Heart-Griffin, who's outside the Chicago area, in the mix. (Could IC really beat Nazareth? Or Glenbard North?)

Also, the Sun-Times and MaxPreps include teams that have lost a game, namely Bolingbrook, Marist and Cary-Grove.

Is IC for real? According to Mike Helfgot, writing in the Tribune:

The Elmhurst school made one of the biggest opening-night statements in the area, a 34-0 victory over Bishop Mac. NIU recruit Jordan Rowell had his typical big game with more than 200 yards, and the defense shut out a team that scored 91 points against it last year.

Next week may present the biggest challenge on IC's schedule — at St. Laurence, which has a 1,597-495 enrollment advantage (IHSA multiplier included) and is coming off an impressive win of its own, 31-21 over Benet.

If not for Saturday afternoon's Maine South at Loyola game, IC at St. Laurence on Friday night could be my Game of the Week. (It still might.)

Who are these two teams anyway? Well, IC was 11-2 last year and made it all the way to the semifinals of 3A. (Its two losses were at the hands of McNamara.) In the last six years the Knights have had only one losing season, 4-5 in 2014.

St. Laurence, for its part, was 10-3 last year, also losing in the semis to the eventual champ, in this case 5A Nazareth.

Pat Disabato of the Daily Southtown has been talking up the Vikings for a while now and for good reason: last year's impressive season was up from a 1-8 finish as recently as 2012. Friday night's victory over Benet avenged last year's 42-21 loss.

Who will win this one? As far as I can tell the two schools have never met. But here's a clue: in 2015 St. Laurence defeated McNamara by thirty points. Jordan Rowell will have to have the game of his life to upset the Vikings in Burbank.

Gene Wilder, who starred...

...in Blazing Saddles and other movies, died at age 83. From his New York Times obit:

His first of many visits to a psychotherapist is the opening scene in the memoir he published in 2005, “Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art.”

“What seems to be the trouble?” the therapist asks.

“I want to give all my money away,” he says.

“How much do you have?”

“I owe three hundred dollars.”

And:

In his first major role on Broadway, Mr. Wilder played the chaplain in a 1963 production of Bertolt Brecht’s “Mother Courage and Her Children.” The production ran for less than two months, and he came to believe that he had been miscast. The good news was that he met the boyfriend of the star, Anne Bancroft: Mel Brooks, who wore a pea coat the night he met Mr. Wilder backstage and told him, “You know, they used to call these urine jackets, but they didn’t sell.”

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Maine South defeated Montini...

...last night, 44-13, in what could only be described as a rout. In fact, if it wasn't for a fluke fumble-recovery-for-a-touchdown on the first series of downs the Broncos may have been held to just seven points all night. And without Montini's other score, a 70-yard scamper from running back Will Smith, it could have been a shutout.

You can read Michael O'Brien's article in the Sun-Times here, but the key was this:

Montini was without star running back Prince Walker, a Western Michigan recruit. According to [coach Chris] Adriano he has a quad strain. 

What would the game have been like had Walker played? Who knows?

But I will tell you this: Maine South is a very good team. While O'Brien talked a lot about Hawks quarterback Nick Leongas, and Michigan State recruit Kevin Jarvis (OL, 6-5, 325) gets a lot of attention (and rightly so -- this kid is huge!), Maine South also has a solid defense and some tall and very sure-handed receivers. But the standout player for me?

Maine South running back Fotis Kokosioulis (above) was another eye-opener. He had 23 carries for 211 yards with touchdown runs of 31 and 13 yards.

This guy is fast, quick and the real deal. The great Maine South teams of yore always had a first-rate running back. Kokosioulis (good luck pronouncing that) fits right into that mold. Also, from O'Brien's piece:

It was the biggest margin of defeat suffered by Montini since the opening game in 2004.

All I can say is Loyola had better be ready next week because this is probably the best Maine South team I've seen in a while. Last year the Ramblers beat the Hawks like a rented mule, 49-8, in Park Ridge.* Unless I'm completely off-base, this year's tilt will be much closer.
___

In other news in high school football, three state champs last year -- Montini (6A), Phillips (4A) and McNamara (3A) -- all lost their openers. Does that matter? Not really; but it's worth mentioning.

You know who else lost last night? Perennial post-season teams such as Naperville Central, 35-6, at the hands of Glenbard North (could the Panthers be the team to beat this year?); Bolingbrook; Richards; Simeon; Stevenson; Cary-Grove; Joliet Catholic; Batavia and Jacobs. (The Golden Eagles were shut out, 35-0, by Huntley! Maybe last year's 10-1 finish for the Red Raiders wasn't just a one-off.)

But all of those teams will be in the hunt come November.

Finally, besides that Maine South at Loyola game next Saturday I'll be keeping my eye on two other match-ups that could be interesting:

IC Catholic at St. Laurence; and
Crete-Monee at Brother Rice

Last night, IC shut out defending 3A champ McNamara, 34-0 (!), while St. Laurence defeated Benet, 31-21, on the road. (The Knights could be my sleeper team.)

And Crete-Monee, for its part, took care of business against Thornton Fractional South, 42-7. Now depending on Sunday's game at Soldier Field between arch-rivals Brother Rice and Marist, that could be a heck of a game at 99th and Pulaski next Friday.

* Why do people beat rented mules?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Kerwin Swint, a professor of political science at Kennesaw State University.

The Tom Toles...

...cartoon of the day.

Over the last three years...

...Montini and Maine South have traded victories, with the home team winning each time by an average of only two points. And in each of those three seasons both schools went on to the playoffs, with Montini taking the 6A crown in 2015 with a perfect 14-0 record.

Tomorrow night's game in Park Ridge should be just as exciting. It's my Game of the Week.

The Broncos are rated No.1 in the AP 6A, No. 7 in both MaxPreps' and the Sun-Times' preseason rankings and No. 10 in the Tribune. The Hawks, meanwhile, are only ranked No. 19 in the Times, No. 35 in MaxPreps, "On the Verge" in the Trib and nowhere to be found in the AP.

Beth Long at the Sun-Times has a nice preview of the game here. Bottom line: Can Maine South contain Montini's star running back Prince Walker (above)? My Magic 8 Ball says, Don't count on it.

Here are the scores from the last three years (home team in CAPS):

2015: MONTINI 20, Maine South 17
2014: MAINE SOUTH 36, Montini 35
2013: MONTINI 21, Maine South 19

P. S. As always, you can follow along with me on Twitter @BoringOldWhtGuy. See you at the game!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Just when you thought...

...all was lost at the Chicago Tribune, Mike Helfgot comes out with his preseason Top 20.

Since the Sun-Times only ranks the Top Five, here's a comparison of the two Chicago papers with MaxPreps:

Trib

1. Loyola
2. Lincoln-Way East
3. Glenbard North
4. Glenbard West
5. Mount Carmel

Sun-Times

1. Loyola (I assume)
2. Mount Carmel
3. Marist
4. Homewood-Flossmoor
5. Glenbard West

MaxPreps

1. Loyola
2. Palatine
3. Prairie Ridge
4. Glenbard West
5. Cary-Grove

See anything in common? Wouldn't it be great if Loyola could square off against Glenbard West someday?

Based on these rankings alone, though, I'd say the best games for Week One will be:

Lincoln-Way East at South Bend Adams (8-5 last year);
Glenbard North at Naperville Central;
Glenbard West at Bolingbrook;
Palatine at Stevenson;
Prairie Ridge at Cary-Grove; and

Brother Rice at Marist at Soldier Field on Sunday.

My game of the week? Tune in tomorrow.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Friday, August 19, 2016

Illinois high school football...

...starts a week from tonight, but you would barely know it if you read the Chicago newspapers.

In the past, I would eagerly await each paper's countdown of the Top Twenty or Twenty-five teams beginning in early or mid-August. But this year? Mostly crickets.

As far as I can tell, the most recent article on high school football in the Tribune was from last Monday. When I asked its author, Mike Clark, on Twitter, "Isn't the @chicagotribune going to do a countdown of the Top Twenty football teams this year?," I didn't get an answer.

I asked the same question of the Sun-Times's Michael O'Brien and got this response, "We will have a top 5 teams countdown and then the top 10 defenders, receivers, RB and QB's."

Is this due to budget cuts or is interest in high school football waning?

Yesterday I received this text from a friend who teaches at a suburban Catholic grammar school:

[We] couldn't field a varsity football team this year. First time in 45-50 years. Some Catholic grade schools pulling kids from 2-3 schools to make a team.

Is there something going on here? Are parents holding their kids back from playing football? Are kids losing interest in the sport? And, if so, what implications does that have for the future of the game? And the future of the NFL? After all, if fewer kids play football won't that hurt the quality in high school, college and eventually the pros?

I don't know if it's my imagination or not, but I think the quality of high school football in Illinois has gone down a little. And I, for one, am not as excited for the season as I usually am.

When my dad was a kid boxing and horse racing were two of the biggest sports in America. When was the last time you went to either? Are we witnessing the beginning of the end for football? I know, I know -- it's crazy; the NFL has never been healthier. But, as we used to say on the Merc floor (which also went away), markets always look best at the top.

Gerald Grosvenor, the sixth Duke...

...of Westminster, a multibillionaire and one of Britain’s richest residents, died at age 64. (I've already alluded to his death in a previous post.)

His obit in the Times is a classic example of a British aristocrat's (my emphasis):

Mr. Grosvenor (pronounced GROVE-nor) was chairman of the trustees of the Grosvenor Estate, which through subsidiaries manages assets of about $15 billion, with vast holdings in the Mayfair and Belgravia sections of London, adjacent to Buckingham Palace, where he hobnobbed with the royal family, and around the globe. 

In 1978 he married the former Natalia Phillips, who is descended from Czar Nicholas I of Russia and the author Alexander Pushkin and is the godmother to Prince William, second in line to the British throne. 

The Grosvenor family dates from the Norman Conquest. Its fortune is rooted in the 1677 marriage of Sir Thomas Grosvenor to 12-year-old Mary Davies, heiress to 430 acres of boggy marsh between what is now Knightsbridge and the Thames in London’s West End. 

Asked what advice he had for young entrepreneurs, Mr. Grosvenor told The Financial Times, “Make sure they have an ancestor who was a very close friend of William the Conqueror.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Is the tea party dead?

That's the gist of a piece in Bloomberg this morning, "The Tea Party Meets Its Maker." According to Francis Wilkinson (all emphasis mine):

The angry oldsters who formed its white-hot core fancied themselves tax protesters. 

There is a long tradition of supporting state spending on yourself (hands off my Medicare) while opposing the allocation of tax dollars to someone else (Obamacare is tyranny). The Tea Party covered this mundane transaction in a powdered wig.

Until Donald Trump came along.

Trump, whose genuine populist instincts appear unconscious of, and unencumbered by, American history, dispensed with the tri-corner hats. His offer required no validation from neo-colonials, no resort to hallowed principles of limited government. Trump's deal was straight up: He would secure the government programs -- Social Security, Medicare -- that benefit older, whiter Tea Party voters while chasing younger, browner Americans away from the public trough. He would even clear out of the country anyone who failed to prove citizenship.

The Tea Party is now indistinguishable from the Trump Party. 

One of my readers said essentially the same thing in response to a post I wrote recently on the upcoming three-way civil war in the Republican Party:

Tea party supporters and Trump supporters are the same people. They came out of the woodwork in 2010 because they thought the black president was going to give money to "undeserving" (brown) people. They have been called "Reagan Democrats," "white ethnics," "NASCAR dads" -- but what they are is white nationalists. Not cross-burning racists -- a lot "softer." Chris Rock called them "sorority racists." The three factions in the Republican party are corporatists, bible-thumpers, and racists. There is a very, very small overlap. Mostly they support the other factions in order to get what THEY want. But Trump showed that the white nationalists are a plurality of the GOP, and that they are tired of being "dog whistled," at as well as tired of seeing brown people and gays getting equal rights.

But I'm going to disagree with both and stand by my earlier post: I still expect a three-way civil war after the election between Trump voters, the tea party and the establishment.

Who, exactly, would represent these three factions of the Republican Party (as in the picture above)? Good question, and I doubt we'll know right away.

Trump, as I mentioned in my earlier post, is 70 years old and will probably be exhausted after this campaign. But he's identified a sub-group within the party that had previously gone un-served by either the tea party or the establishment: whites without a college degree who couldn't care less about social issues, tax cuts for the rich or adventurism abroad but are animated by trade, immigration, their entitlements and, yes, race.

(By the way, Wilkinson also writes:

Competing arguments that Trump supporters are motivated by declining economic prospects versus racial resentment are not mutually exclusive.

I think this will be a huge topic after the election: what motivated Trump's voters, the economy or race -- or both? I'm not sure myself, and I think it will be a subject for discussion for a long time.)

Back to Trump. Either the Donald will stick around, or anoint a successor, or some other enterprising individual will step up to serve that market segment. But his voters aren't going anywhere.

Then there's the tea party. If you'll recall, Ted Cruz -- the darling of the tea party -- came in second in the primaries. Who knows, if a bigger con artist (Trump) hadn't come along the junior senator from Texas could have been the GOP standard-bearer right now. So don't tell me the tea party isn't alive and well.

Cruz will almost surely run again in 2020, but I think he had his chance. That doesn't mean there still isn't room for a Koch brothers-backed, "Constitutional Christian" candidate. Think of Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska or his more hawkish colleague, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

Finally, of course, there's the Republican establishment. (Remember them?) Paul Ryan's name would immediately come to mind as its likely candidate in 2020, but I'm going to say the speaker of the House would much rather be chairman of the Ways and Means Committee than president (or speaker, for that matter). I predict the establishment turns to someone more in the mold of Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a popular, business-friendly, socially liberal, fiscal conservative who would outsource foreign policy to the "realist" wing of the GOP.

(I know what you're thinking: didn't the Republicans already run a governor like that from Massachusetts?)

Whomever the establishment settles on, though, he (or she) will also be strongly pro-immigration reform, pro-free trade and make a real effort to reach out to blacks, Hispanics and women in a bid to expand the party. (Good luck with that.)

Which of these three will come out on top? Your guess is as good as mine. But it will be bloody: I'm going to estimate that each "wing" represents about a third of the party. It could take years to sort this out. In the meantime, don't be too surprised if the United States finds itself in another Era of Good Feelings in which Democrats control the White House for six consecutive terms (at least).

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Glenn Yarbrough, a singer...

...with the popular folk trio the Limeliters, died at age 86.

Yarbrough had his own hit single, “Baby the Rain Must Fall,” the title song of the 1965 film starring Steve McQueen and Lee Remick.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

An article in Bloomberg...

...today illustrates exactly why we have an estate tax. From "New Duke of Westminster Is Youngest Among World’s 400 Richest" (all emphasis mine):

Hugh Richard Louis Grosvenor, who became the 7th Duke of Westminster after the sudden death of his father Tuesday, joins the Bloomberg Billionaires Index today as his inheritance makes him the youngest billionaire among the world’s 400 richest people.

As duke, the 25-year-old now heads his family’s $12.3 billion estate, which includes hundreds of acres in London’s Belgravia and Mayfair neighborhoods, country homes, and Grosvenor Group, the London-based real estate firm with assets under management of 13 billion pounds ($19 billion) at the end of 2015.

That's kind of a grainy picture of the duke and his late father, taken at the former's "21st birthday party attended by royalty at the family’s ancestral home."

Now, I really don't have a problem with that kid. He may be a very nice person for all I know. But did he earn any of that $12.3 billion? If it was "gifted" to him, or if he "earned" it through the lottery or some other way, it would surely be subject to tax, right? Would anyone object to that?

But in another article in Bloomberg, yesterday, "Sliding Trump Seeks Solidarity With Establishment He Spurned,"

Donald Trump attempted to stop hemorrhaging support with an economic policy speech on Monday that contained a series of olive branches aimed at impressing Republican donors and leaders.

"I'm really heartened by it," said Brian Ballard, a former top Jeb Bush donor who is now Trump's finance chair in Florida. "Now we have a tax plan and an economic plan that we can get conservatives to rally behind and feel good about."

"Three cheers for getting rid of the death tax," Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong wrote on Twitter during Trump's speech.

Ballard also welcomed Trump's proposal, calling a repeal of the estate tax "the linchpin of the conservative movement: they get you when you're earning your money and they get you when you die."

Actually, they don't "get you" when you die; they "get" your heirs. And that's an important distinction.

Again, I have nothing against that young man in the UK. And I'm really not familiar with British tax law. (I assume his inheritance will be taxed.) But the point is, that kid didn't earn anything. And to pass down wealth from generation to generation, as it used to be done in Europe and the United States, creates an aristocracy based on heredity -- not ability or talent -- in which power resides in the hands of a small, privileged ruling class.

Republicans are always knocking Democrats for wanting to impose "European-style socialism." Are they now trying to impose a "European-style aristocracy?"

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

In case you've been...

Loyola coach John Holecek.
...too busy watching the Olympics (or distracted by Donald Trump's latest gaffe) to think about Illinois high school football, here's the preseason Top Ten from MaxPreps:

1. Loyola
2. Palatine
3. Prairie Ridge
4. Glenbard West
5. Cary-Grove
6. Neuqua Valley
7. Montini
8. Benet
9. Nazareth
10. Brother Rice

Last year, Loyola, Glenbard West, Montini and Phillips were all undefeated at 14-0. (Possible subject for a future post: Are the best teams running away from the pack?)

In the meantime, here are some noteworthy games (so far) for Week One:

Friday, August 26

Palatine at Stevenson
Prairie Ridge at Cary-Grove
Glenbard West at Bolingbrook
Montini at Maine South
St. Laurence at Benet

Sunday, August 28

Brother Rice at Marist at Soldier Field

Continuing with the Lucille Ball...

...theme this morning, Ricci Martin (left), the youngest son of Dean Martin, died at (the young age) of 62.

Mr. Martin joined the band Dino, Desi and Billy in the 1990s, taking the place of his brother Dean Paul Martin, who died in 1987 when his Air National Guard F-4 Phantom fighter crashed in California during a storm.

(Desi, of course, is Desi Arnaz, Jr., the son of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball.)

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

Survivors include his three daughters, Pepper, Montana and Rio...

Couldn't resist.

One of my earliest memories...

...is watching I Love Lucy -- from a playpen, I think -- and wondering, Why is my mother on TV?

I thought of this when reading a piece yesterday in the Times, "Here’s Lucy! ‘Scary’ Statue Is Replaced With One That Looks Like Her." (That's the replacement statue, above.)

Why did I think Lucille Ball -- or Lucy Ball, as my grandmother called her -- was my mother? I have no idea. My mom wasn't a redhead and she wasn't particularly ditzy. In fact, she wasn't ditzy at all. Did she resemble Ms. Ball? Not really; I guess I was just a little confused.

When I began dating my wife in the mid-1980s she asked me what my mother looked like. I immediately thought of Donna Reed, above. When my mother heard this she told my sister she hoped her future daughter-in-law "wouldn't be disappointed."

I have to admit, that's a heck of a picture of Donna Reed. A friend of mine once told me that when he was young he thought his mother was the most beautiful woman in the world. That's probably not uncommon. But even I don't think my mother was as beautiful as Donna Reed.

Why is any of this important? It's not, I guess. Just thinking about my mother.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A front-page article...

...in the Times today, "At 82, Emperor Akihito of Japan Wants to Retire. Will Japan Let Him?," raises so many questions it's hard to know where to begin.

The first, of course, is retire from what?

The piece isn't clear, but it makes reference to the emperor's "punishing" and "rigorous" daily schedule, and "the burden of his official duties and his anxieties."

(Wikipedia has a list of the emperor's ceremonial roles here. Spoiler alert: none of them appear to be too "punishing," "rigorous," or "burdensome.")

But in a fit of uncharacteristic Japanese hyperbole Daisuke Kodaka, an employee at a cosmetics company in Tokyo, is quoted in the article as saying (all emphasis mine):

We speak respectfully about the emperor, but arguably we use him like a slave. He’s our symbol, but as a person he doesn’t have human rights. We should recognize his rights.

Another, Tobias Harris of Teneo Intelligence, a political risk consulting firm, adds:

This is an aging country, and there are going to be a lot of people sympathetic to the emperor’s wanting a comfortable retirement

Slave? Really? No human rights? This is a person who is:

...never referred to by his given name, but rather is referred to as "His Majesty the Emperor" which may be shortened to "His Majesty."

Something tells me the emperor's "comfortable retirement" might look a lot like his "comfortable pre-retirement." Just a guess.

Second, the piece in the Times mentions:

Japan's monarchy — the Chrysanthemum Throne — is the oldest in the world, stretching back to antiquity. Emperor Akihito’s family has held it almost 2,700 years, according to the customary, if semi-legendary genealogy.

2,700 years? That's a long time! I can only imagine what my ancestors were doing 2,700 years ago. Assuming they were walking upright in 684 B. C., I suppose they were probably making fun of that newfangled invention, the wheel (in air quotes): "Ha! It'll never catch on -- it's just a fad. What a maroon!"

Finally, check out that picture of the emperor at the top of this post. When do you suppose, in the vast 2,700 years of the monarchy's history, did the emperor decide to wear Western clothes like that? (He looks like he grew up in Connecticut!) That's a heck of a concession from one of "the direct descendants of the sun-goddess Amaterasu's grandson Ninigi, who descended from Heaven."

Someone asked me...

...recently what I thought of a piece in Vox, "A Republican intellectual explains why the Republican Party is going to die."

The Republican intellectual in question is a guy named Avik Roy and he's described as:

...a Republican’s Republican. A health care wonk and editor at Forbes, he has worked for three Republican presidential hopefuls — Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Marco Rubio. Much of his adult life has been dedicated to advancing the Republican Party and conservative ideals.

Mr. Roy's Wikipedia page opens with:

Avik Roy is an Indian-American journalist, editor, policy advisor, political strategist, and investment analyst. While working as an investment research analyst, Roy began blogging in response to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, from a critical point of view. The blog was republished at National Review Online, and moved to Forbes in 2011. Roy has published two books about the Affordable Care Act, as well as research and proposals though the Manhattan Institute, where he is a senior fellow.

Roy has advised three losing Republican Party presidential candidates. He was a health care policy advisor to Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign and was the senior advisor to Rick Perry's 2016 campaign. After Rick Perry withdrew from the race, Roy joined the 2016 presidential campaign of Marco Rubio as a policy advisor.

I'm a little familiar with Roy, having seen him on TV a few times talking about the ACA. My reader quotes the following from the piece (my emphasis):

“Conservative intellectuals, and conservative politicians, have been in kind of a bubble,” Roy says. “We’ve had this view that the voters were with us on conservatism — philosophical, economic conservatism. In reality, the gravitational center of the Republican Party is white nationalism.”

And comments:

In other words, the "conservative" principles are only applied in the ways that they serve white nationalism -- low taxes means no government programs to lift minorities out of poverty -- low regulation means that corporations can run roughshod over the poor, etc.

I'm not exactly sure how to respond except to note that when aging white people launched the tea party movement back in 2009 to oppose the Affordable Care Act (among other things) they remained staunch supporters of the entitlements that benefited aging white people, namely Social Security and Medicare. Funny how that works, isn't it? Socialism for me, but not for thee.

The article in Vox raises the question, "Is the Republican Party 'driven by white nationalism rather than a true commitment to equality for all Americans?' "

Roy seems to think so:

“I think the conservative movement is fundamentally broken,” Roy tells me. “Trump is not a random act. This election is not a random act.”

And I agree. I can think of at least three anecdotes from my own life that back up Roy's claim that "Trump is not a random act."

The first was when a Republican told me she thought there was no racism in America. Really? I wanted to say. One of the two major political parties is racist! But, believe it or not, I bit my tongue.

That's one of the myths Republicans tell themselves, though: Everyone in America has an equal shot. If you don't make it it's because you're stupid or lazy or just defective in some other way. And I want to say, come with me and visit some of the poorer neighborhoods on the South or West Side of Chicago (I promise we won't get out of the car!) and tell me your life would have turned out just the way it did if you had grown up there. I know mine wouldn't have.

I had two parents, one who worked steadily while the other stayed home and made sure we had everything we could possibly want. (Except mayonnaise and top-shelf toilet paper.) Although my mom and dad both drank (sometimes too much), drug use was something we only heard about on TV or in school. Gangs? Violence? Jail time? Again, TV or school. Oh, and those were cushy schools. Really, my entire upbringing was pretty cushy. In fact, there was never any doubt that I would graduate from college someday and live a comfortable middle-class existence just like my parents. It was pretty much a given at the time I was born.

So Louis C.K. is right when he says in the video above, "If you're white and you don't admit that it's great you're an a-----e!"

The second anecdote was when a Republican relative told me recently that Barack Obama was nominated in 2008 because the Democrats were "looking for someone who was black, but not too black." I turned around and walked away. (Another example of my emerging self-control!)

Republicans just can't seem to get past the fact that President Obama is black. And they'll never admit that he got there -- and succeeded -- because he was uniquely qualified for the office. No, they seem to think, it was some sort of Affirmative Action. (As I was walking away that same person tried to make the familiar Republican comparison between Obama and Jimmy Carter, that other "failed" Democratic president.)

Finally, a tweet just the other day asked, "What would Republicans say about a black nominee for president who had five children by three different wives and talked about money and women the way Trump does?"

You know the answer, "Typical f-----g n----r!"

Am I right?

What I want to say to Republicans is "That's why you have Trump. Because he appeals to the worst racist elements in your party."

Roy believes "Democrats will dominate national American politics for some time."

I'd be careful to write the GOP's obituary just yet. A lot of people have made this mistake before -- about Republicans after Watergate and about Democrats in the early years of George W. Bush's administration.

But I do think over time the U. S. could resemble California more and more. Ever since the Democrats took control of all branches of government there everything seems to be improving in the Golden State. (Can you believe they went from a seemingly intractable budget deficit to a budget surplus?) Now, might that have something to do with the tech boom in Silicon Valley and a resurgent Hollywood? Sure. But maybe having a "sane" party in charge helps too.

Monday, August 8, 2016

David Carr died...

...about a year and a half ago, and I'm sorry to say I still can't find mention of him anywhere at our shared alma mater.*

Mr. Carr, a 1974 graduate of Benilde High School, was a writer for The New York Times and author of the memoir The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life, His Own.

(I just read that AMC is developing a miniseries based on the book that will star Bob Odenkirk as Carr.)

When Carr died, in February, 2015, I sent a tweet to the Benilde-St. Margaret's Twitter page with the information. The response was something anodyne like "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family," to which I concluded that they had no idea who David Carr was.

I was disappointed for two reasons. First, not only was Carr one of my favorite writers, but he was also widely-admired by the cognoscenti. Someone at Benilde should have known who he was. Doesn't anyone there read The New York Times? Or is The Wall Street Journal the newspaper of record there? Among the moderately-literate, David Carr was a household name.

(Full disclosure: my son's future father-in-law, who just retired from his post as editor at HarperCollins, once played cards with Carr in Manhattan. Very cool.)

The second reason is even worse: Or did the good folks at Benilde know about David Carr all too well?

Carr, as I mentioned, was the author of a memoir that was mildly disparaging of the high school we both attended in St. Louis Park, Minnesota (all emphasis mine):

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 wrote in 2013:

Now, I guess my experience at Benilde was a little different from Carr's. First of all, he and I could have been a "tag team": Carr graduated in the spring of 1974 and I transferred in as a junior the following fall. (We moved to Minneapolis from New Jersey that year -- the subject of another post.) So our paths narrowly missed. Also, I didn't actually attend "Benilde," but rather Benilde-St. Margaret's. (The two schools had merged over the summer.) And, finally, I would characterize my experience at BSM as an overall positive one, after the initial shock of transferring into a newly-merged school as a junior while not knowing a soul in the entire state of Minnesota.

Carr's description of Benilde as a triumvirate made me think, though: to which of the three groups did I belong?

And again, in 2015:

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'll bet what really bothered the "nice people" at BSM, though, was that Carr's memoir recalled his early life as a drug addict, wife-beater and all-around thug before he cleaned up his act and became a reporter for The New York Times.

But isn't that a great story? Guy hits rock bottom and then fights his way back up to become a big success? Who wouldn't love that?

Well, BSM, I guess.

Benilde has gotten a lot more conservative -- and "fancy" -- since I graduated way back in 1976. The place that almost closed its doors in the early '70s now seems to be one of the more "prestigious" schools in the area. (Go figure!) And, since BSM is a private school, of course, they have to always be "selling" themselves. After all, if Benilde isn't "better" than your local public school, then why on earth would you spend thousands of dollars to send your kid there? And the last thing a Benilde parent wants is for their little dears to turn out to be drug addicts like Carr! (No one else at Benilde has ever tried alcohol or drugs besides Carr.) No, BSM parents expect their precious offspring to remain squeaky clean and go on to a suitable Catholic university like Notre Dame. (And don't even think about following in Carr's footsteps to be a "writer." It's strictly business, law or medicine for my Johnny or Janie!)

You know what would really impress me? If Benilde-St. Margaret's were secure enough to say that, yeah, David Carr struggled after graduation but turned out to be a famous, gifted writer. We don't care what he said about Benilde -- we're proud of him just the same!

* If I'm wrong, please tell me in the comments section below. Or tweet to me @BoringOldWhtGuy or send an email to the address in the upper-right corner of this blog.

The most unlikely name...

...for someone associated with Donald Trump's presidential campaign belongs to Stuart Jolly, who previously served as national field director and is now an adviser to the pro-Trump Great America PAC.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Sunday, August 7, 2016

I've heard Chris Matthews...


...say more than once, "Democrats fall in love; Republicans fall in line."

I have to think he would agree that the parties have flipped in that respect this year. While the GOP had a free-for-all that resulted in about a third of their voters falling in love with a demagogue, the Democrats had a coronation (albeit a surprisingly contested one).

So the field was cleared -- almost -- for Hillary Clinton in 2016. One by one, prominent Democrats proclaimed they were "ready for Hillary." Is that such a bad thing? Or is that what political parties are supposed to do?

Some people seem to think, instead, that there's some nefarious plot to "install" Mrs. Clinton in the White House. Are they right?

I'm picking up on a sentiment out there that the Democratic Party, in particular, is "hand-picking" its candidates for office and then "ramming" them down everyone's throats. Here are three examples:

1. Bernie Sanders and his followers complained that the Democratic primaries were somehow "rigged" in favor of Mrs. Clinton. The existence of the party's superdelegates, for example, was cited as evidence.

2. At the Democratic convention President Obama "threw" Rahm Emanuel "under the bus" while Toni Preckwinkle sat next to former President Bill Clinton. "Aha!" they exclaimed. "The fix is in! Rahm is out and Preckwinkle is in."

3. Yesterday someone told me that Obama traded his endorsement of Hillary in 2016 for her willingness to "step aside" in 2008. (At least I think that's what he said; he's deleted the Tweets since then.)

Where do I begin?

How about with that famous quote by the first Mayor Daley, "We don't want nobody nobody sent"? Or, in other words, we'll pick the slate of candidates and you either vote for them or don't.

Is that wrong? I submit that it is not.

One of the main purposes of a political party is to identify and recruit qualified candidates. They should:

1. Be able to do the job they're running for;

2. Agree with most of what the party stands for; and

3. Be able to win.

(When asked who would be the wisest Republican choice, William F. Buckley answered, “The wisest choice would be the one who would win. No sense running Mona Lisa in a beauty contest. I’d be for the most right, viable candidate who could win. If you could convince me that Barry Goldwater could win, I’d vote for him.”)

So let's go back to my original three examples.

1. First of all, until last year, Bernie Sanders wasn't even a Democrat. Is it really too much to ask that the standard-bearer of your party first be a member of your party? I know, I know, Trump wasn't necessarily a member of the Republican Party, either. And that's where superdelegates come in. According to Wikipedia (my emphasis):

Further soul-searching took place among [Democratic Party] leaders, who argued that the pendulum had swung too far in the direction of primary elections over insider decision-making, with one May 1981 California white paper declaring that the Democratic Party had "lost its leadership, collective vision and ties with the past," resulting in the nomination of unelectable candidates. A new 70-member commission headed by Governor of North Carolina Jim Hunt was appointed to further refine the Democratic Party's nomination process, attempting to balance the wishes of rank-and-file Democrats with the collective wisdom of party leaders and to thereby avoid the nomination of insurgent candidates exemplified by the liberal McGovern or the anti-Washington conservative Carter and lessening the potential influence of single-issue politics in the selection process.

Or, in other words, avoid the nomination of insurgent candidates like . . . Donald Trump. Don't you think the Republicans wished they had superdelegates this year?

As a Democrat, I'm relieved the party has superdelegates. We don't need a hostile takeover of our party (like the Republicans) by a candidate like Bernie Sanders (or Trump) who can't win the general. All the best intentions of Bernie would come to naught if Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio were sitting in the White House come January.

2. Has Toni Preckwinkle been "anointed" to succeed Rahm Emanuel as mayor of Chicago? I don't know; maybe. What if all the Democratic leaders got together and agreed that Rahm hasn't done nearly as good a job as they had hoped? What if they think Ms. Preckwinkle could do a better one? Wouldn't they be derelict in their duties if they didn't push for this change? If Preckwinkle runs for the Democratic nomination next time and you don't like it, vote for her opponent in the primary. Or vote for her opponent in the general.

3. Did Hillary "step aside" in 2008 to make way for Barack Obama? And did he agree in turn to grease the wheels for her in 2016? I don't think so. If you'll remember, he beat her fair and square in the primaries. Like Hillary this year, he arrived at the convention with enough delegates to win the nomination outright -- it wasn't really contested. And think about it: would you take a "deal" that didn't pay off for eight years? I wouldn't.

Now, did President Obama help clear the field this year in return for Bill Clinton's support in 2012? Sure! Wouldn't you? He was in a tough reelection campaign and could use all the help he could get. (She was also the most qualified Democrat for the job.) Did it prevent a wild card like Bernie Sanders from coming in and almost upsetting Clinton? No. And if Sanders had won enough primaries this year the superdelegates would have felt obligated -- just like they did with Obama in 2008 -- to "feel the Bern." (Thank God he didn't.)

So, do political parties indeed put forward the best candidates they can? Yes. Is it okay? I think so.

Okay, Frank Bruni, you...

...got my attention this morning with your column in the Times, "Hillary’s Summer of Love." You also got my "Irish" up!

Did I read this wrong, or did Mr. Bruni suggest that if Mrs. Clinton won big this year she should unilaterally surrender to the Republicans? You tell me (all emphasis mine):

For many months now, she has been sending signals that a second Clinton administration would differ from President Obama’s in the earnestness and aggressiveness of its bid for bipartisan cooperation. Her pick of Senator Tim Kaine as a running mate fit into that framework. He’s liked and respected by Republican colleagues, a dynamic that Clinton surrogates immediately stressed.

What hasn’t happened, though, is the construction of a substantive, policy-based bridge across the aisle. She moved leftward during the primaries to deal with Bernie Sanders’s challenge, and many of her positions are anathema even to those Republicans who prefer her to Trump.

Does she change that over the next months or, if elected, upon taking office? Does she have to? There are some fascinating forks in the road ahead — some big decisions — all created by the singular mess of Trump’s candidacy and the possibility, suggested in the latest polls, including one that showed her ahead in Georgia, that he’ll lose the election by a devastating margin.

Many Democrats smell a rout, hope that a slew of Republicans go down with Trump, and fantasize about a subsequent Democratic dominance in Washington that will allow the party to enact laws without much if any Republican input and assistance. After all the Republican obstructionism that they’ve put up with, they ache for such liberation.

But such a rout would presumably require Clinton to campaign stridently against endangered House and Senate Republicans between now and Nov. 8, an approach at odds with her current entreaties to the Whitmans of the world.

It would also be a huge, risky bet on sustained Republican disarray and a durable Democratic advantage, without which Republican revenge would be swift and merciless. Obama defied Republicans during the first two years of his presidency, only to be tormented by them for the remainder of it.

I'm sorry, but I have to interrupt here: Obama defied Republicans during the first two years of his presidency??? (I'll give you a second to rub your eyes and read that sentence again.)  
Did I live in some alternative universe back then? Or did Republicans defy President Obama at every turn? Wasn't that their whole strategy? Obstruct, obstruct, obstruct and then win back the White House and Congress after a failed one-term Obama presidency? Is my memory faulty, or did Republicans defy Obama -- not the other way around -- by not casting a single House vote for the stimulus that saved the economy and, by extension, the entire country? (Talk about putting party before country!) Oh, and that health care reform legislation that the nation was clamoring for in 2008? Didn't they obstruct it in every way possible? Aren't they still?

That’s why I’m hoping that Clinton takes a different, big-tent tack, and combines passion projects with attention to areas of common Democratic and Republican interest: tax reform, immigration reform, maybe even education reform.

Yes, a big Democratic victory in November would give Democrats both the right and the imperative to implement their most deeply cherished ideas. But it would reflect the unpopularity of Trump as much as any sweeping, compelling mandate for a particular program.

And we’ve seen, in recent years, what sharply drawn lines and perpetual warfare between the parties bequeath: legislative paralysis, debased discourse and the precise public disgust with politics and politicians that has given rise to Trump. Here we are, stuck and miserable.

Clinton’s summer of love isn’t merely a stunning narrative twist. It’s an opportunity, in the nick of time. Despite our supposedly intractable partisanship, a swelling group of highly visible leaders is putting country before indiscriminate allegiance to their party. That’s an invitation for Clinton to do a bit of the same. Of all politicians, she could be the one with the best chance to move us a few crucial inches beyond this wretched sclerosis. Who would have ever predicted that?

Before I go any further, ask yourself this question: If an establishment Republican like, say, Marco Rubio or John Kasich or Jeb Bush, had won the GOP nomination and then crushed some outlandish Democrat like Alan Grayson in the general, do you think for a minute that he'd take the oath of office and then start talking "bipartisanship"? No f-----g way! Oh, sure, I can just imagine a President Rubio saying in January, 2017, "You know, the Affordable Care Act, after seven years, is actually working pretty well. More Americans are insured than ever before at a cost lower than expected. Instead of repealing it, let's work with the Democratic minority to improve it around the margins."

Are you laughing too hard right now to continue reading this?

Last week, Tom Friedman had a similar column in the Times, "How Clinton Could Knock Trump Out," which I dismissed at the time as a piece by a guy who should have retired a long time ago:

And that leads to my second reason for pushing Clinton to inject some capitalism into her economic plan: The coalition she could lead. If there is one thing that is not going to revive growth right now, it is an anti-trade, regulatory heavy, socialist-lite agenda the Democratic Party has drifted to under the sway of Bernie Sanders. Socialism is the greatest system ever invented for making people equally poor. Capitalism makes people unequally rich, but I would much rather grow our pie bigger and faster and better adjust the slices than redivide a shrinking one.

There are a lot of center-right, business Republicans today feeling orphaned by Trump. They can’t vote for him — but a lot of them still claim they can’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary, either. Clinton should be reaching out to them with a real pro-growth, start-up, deregulation, entrepreneurship agenda and give them a positive reason to vote for her.

It makes sense politically: Take Trump on at his self-proclaimed strength. And it makes sense economically: If Clinton wins, she will need to get stuff done, not just give stuff away.

I get that she had to lean toward Sanders and his voters to win the nomination; their concerns with fairness and inequality are honorable. But those concerns can be addressed only with economic growth; the rising anti-immigration sentiments in the country can be defused only with economic growth; the general anxiety feeding Trumpism can be eased only with economic growth.

Sanders had no plan whatsoever for growth. Trump doesn’t, either, but he can fake it. It’s time that Hillary pivoted. The country today doesn’t need the first female president. It needs the first president in a long time who can govern with a center-left, center-right coalition, and actually end the gridlock on fiscal policy in a smart way.

Again, whose fault is that, Obama's? I'm sorry, but I just don't see it that way.

If Trump continues to melt down into a puddle of bile, more and more Republicans will be up for grabs. With the right pro-growth economic policies, Clinton would have an opening to not only enlist them to help her win, but to build a governing coalition for the morning after.

After reading that piece I just smiled, shook my head and said something to myself like, "That Tom Friedman! I remember when he was a good columnist."  I quickly forgot about it, though, and went on to the rest of the paper. I didn't think anyone else had actually read it.

But then on Friday Paul Krugman wrote in his column, "No Right Turn":

But at least some commentators are calling on her to do something very different — to make a right turn, moving the Democratic agenda toward the preferences of those fleeing the sinking Republican ship. The idea, I guess, is to offer to create an American version of a European-style grand coalition of the center-left and the center-right.

I don’t think there’s much prospect that Mrs. Clinton will actually do that. But if by any chance she and those around her are tempted to take this recommendation seriously: Don’t.

First of all, let’s be clear about what she’s running on. It’s an unabashedly progressive program, but hardly extreme. We’re talking about higher taxes on high incomes, but nowhere near as high as those taxes were for a generation after World War II; expanded social programs, but nothing close to those of European welfare states; stronger financial regulation and more action on climate change, but aren’t the cases for both overwhelming?

The Trumpification of the G.O.P. didn’t come out of nowhere. On the contrary, it was the natural outcome of a cynical strategy: long ago, conservatives decided to harness racial resentment to sell right-wing economic policies to working-class whites, especially in the South.

This strategy brought many electoral victories, but always at the risk that the racial resentment would run out of control, leaving the economic conservatives — whose ideas never had much popular support — stranded. And that is what has just happened.

So now the strategy that rightists had used to sell policies that were neither popular nor successful has blown up in their faces. And the Democratic response should be to adopt some of those policies? Say what?

Also, I can’t help but notice a curious pattern in the recommendations of some self-proclaimed centrists. When Republicans were in the ascendant, centrists urged Democrats to adapt by moving right. Now that Republicans are in trouble, with some feeling that they have no choice except to vote Democratic, these same centrists are urging Democrats to … adapt by moving right. Funny how that works.

If some conservatives find this too much and bolt the party, good for them, and they should be welcomed into the coalition of the sane. But they can’t expect policy concessions in return. When Dr. Frankenstein finally realizes that he has created a monster, he doesn’t get a reward. Mrs. Clinton and her party should stay the course.

I thought he did a good job of putting Mr. Friedman in his place. But after reading Mr. Bruni this morning I'm wondering: Is this really a thing? After Republicans acted shamefully -- and unpatriotically, I might add -- over the last eight years (and don't even get me started on Bill Clinton's two terms), Democrats are supposed to say, "Hey, no hard feelings! Let's work together to pass Republican bipartisan legislation. Never mind that your party has gone completely off the rails (anti-science, anti-immigrant, anti-trade, etc.), we'll take the High Road and 'reach out across the aisle.' After all, you'd do the same for us, wouldn't you? Well, wouldn't you?"

No, they wouldn't. They haven't. And it's time this country was led by the Party of Reason, not the Party of Crazy.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

I'm getting a little tired...

...of hearing about:

A) Hillary Clinton's high "unfavorables";

B) The (very effective) Republican meme that "both candidates are equally bad (so why not just vote for Donald Trump?)" and;

C) How any other Democrat would be absolutely "crushing" Trump right now or how any other Republican would be absolutely "crushing" Mrs. Clinton right now.

First let me say that I am not some Hillary Clinton sycophant or apologist. I never cared for the Clintons personally (still don't) but respect the jobs they've done as president, US senator and secretary of state. If anything, I'm an Obama Democrat. I was a passionate supporter of his in the 2008 Democratic primary and the general election and would happily vote for a third Obama term. If you don't believe any of that just go back and read anything I've written in this blog since I started it in the fall of '08.

Now, then, while I don't have any hard evidence or metrics -- or anything else, besides my gut -- to back up the following, please hear me out.

As for the first two arguments, that Hillary Clinton has high "unfavorables" and that the two candidates for president are "equally bad," let me just say: Come on!

One candidate has been in public life for over 40 years, was First Lady of Arkansas and later the United States, served for eight years as US Senator from New York and then four as US Secretary of State. Clinton has been an integral part of two very successful, two-term presidential administrations.

The other candidate is plain and simply unfit to be president of the United States. (Please don't make me go into all the reasons why -- I haven't got all day.)

As for the next argument, that any other Democrat would be "crushing" Donald Trump right now, well, Clinton is "crushing" Donald Trump right now.

And, who, might I ask, would have been that mythical Democratic candidate who would be running away with the race right now, Joe Biden? Please. While Ol' Joe is a likable enough back-slapper and baby-kisser (aka US Senator), he's not nearly "big" enough for the Oval Office. (There's a reason Obama handpicked Hillary as his successor -- she's the most qualified for the job.) If Biden had run, I'm convinced his best poll numbers would have been on the day he announced. And instead of people asking "Is Hillary too dishonest to be president?" they'd be asking "Is Biden smart enough to be president?" Don't forget, Biden has run for president at least two times before and gotten absolutely nowhere. Everybody looks great until they announce.

How about Bernie Sanders? If you're too liberal for the Democratic nomination, how on earth could you win the general?

Elizabeth Warren? Not quite as liberal as Sanders but probably still too liberal for the country as a whole. I like Sen. Warren (and Bernie too, for that matter), but she would be a niche candidate: her schtick is banking/finance. Does she have any opinions at all on, say, foreign policy? Not that I know of. Also, like Biden, I'd bet her best numbers would be on the day she announced.

Finally, Republicans seem to believe that if they'd only nominated someone like Sen. Marco Rubio or Gov. John Kasich (who only won one state, each, in the primaries if I remember correctly) or some other conventional candidate, he or she would be "crushing" Mrs. Clinton right now. Well, here's the deal: I think almost any Democrat would be leading almost any Republican this year. Why? For at least these three reasons: the economy is still recovering, President Obama's approval ratings are over 50 percent and the Democrats just plain have a natural advantage in the Electoral College.

It's fun to talk about the election -- it's my favorite spectator sport. But, really, it's probably all preordained. You watch: on election night all the talking heads will be marveling at how similar the 2016 map looks to the 2012 and 2008 maps ("Who woulda thunk it?"). The big stories will be how Pennsylvania failed to turn red (!) or how Arizona and/or Georgia failed to turn blue ("Go figure!").

So let's just stop all this nonsense. Hillary Clinton is the best person for the job and Donald Trump is a symptom of a very, very sick Republican Party. She'll get elected easily in November, serve two (mostly) successful terms and tee it up nicely for Tim Kaine in 2024.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Did you ever wonder...

...how boring old white guys came to be? (Hint: they began life as boring young white guys.)

I went out of my way yesterday to buy some ham salad at the HoneyBaked Ham store up on North Ashland Avenue. I guess it was a bit of a birthday present to myself in honor of my late mother, who made excellent ham salad.

You may not have even known there was such a thing. (Is "excellent ham salad" an oxymoron?) Whenever I brought a ham salad sandwich to school the person next to me would invariably recoil in horror: "What the hell is that?" (It's not exactly appetizing-looking.) But home-made ham salad was, along with Toll House cookies, one of my mom's specialties and considered -- like pickled herring on Triscuit crackers on NFL Sundays -- a delicacy in our house. (We were not without our quirks.)

I first noticed HoneyBaked Ham sold ham salad when I was waiting in one of those snake-lines at Easter one year. I had never had decent ham salad from any deli counter at any grocery store but figured I'd give it one last shot. (My oldest brother asked me recently why I didn't just get a cast-iron meat grinder like the one my mom had and make it myself. Is he kidding? What's next, sew my own clothes?)

For the record, HoneyBaked ham salad is pretty darn good -- almost as good as my mom's. Heresy! I'm pretty sure I got the last package in the store and the guy ringing me up looked at me as if to say, I always wondered who ate that stuff. Who knows how long it had actually been sitting in that case, but as my sister-in-law pointed out to me: ham and mayonnaise -- don't they both have the shelf life of a Twinkie? (Now the store manager has to call up headquarters and order another package. "Hey, we finally sold the only one we had; can you believe it?")

Twinkies, Oscar Mayer bologna (or "baloney," as we called it), Fritos, liver sausage -- those were the staples in my lunch bag growing up.

(I once won a gift certificate to Les Nomades, a swanky French restaurant in Streeterville. One of the guys at the Merc who liked to think of himself as having a sophisticated palate sniffed, "I bet you were the only one in there who'd had a bologna sandwich for lunch!" He was probably right.)

I also bought some liver sausage at Mariano's yesterday. As I told my sister-in-law, my mother was surely the only person in America who served it on rye with mayonnaise. Woody Allen would have been horrified! (I still like it that way. It gets me some funny looks, but if there's one thing I'm used to it's funny looks.)

But that actually brings up a few of my mother's faults. She had only three that immediately come to mind. Other than that, she was pretty much perfect. Really.

The first was that, unlike the clip above from the 1986 movie Hannah and Her Sisters, my mom bought something called Miracle Whip instead of real mayonnaise. (But also unlike the clip, my mother served Pepperidge Farm white bread instead of Wonder Bread, which was a big improvement in case you didn't know. By the way, one of my many nicknames at the Merc was "White Bread" -- seriously! Most of the others are unprintable in a "family" blog.)

Her second fault was that she insisted on buying that cheap Scott Tissue instead of something more luxurious, like Quilted Northern, which I treat myself to as an adult. In case you're not familiar with Scott Tissue it's about a notch below the stuff they put in the public restrooms at Union Station. It's still a notch above newspaper, though, I suppose.

(A corollary to this fault was that my mom also loaded the toilet paper, or "bathroom tissue" as the commercials call it, so that you had to reach all the way under to get at it instead of having it come over the top like I do. Much better.)

My mom's third fault is actually a real one, and it's too soon to get into that.

I've been promising myself to write an obituary for my mother similar to the one I wrote after my father died in 2010. I'm having trouble getting started for some reason. Maybe it's because my brother already did such a good job himself. But I'd still like to get at exactly who my mom was to me. Maybe this is a start.

Oh, and the ham salad? It was delicious.

The Most Appropriate Name...

...of the Day belongs to Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action for America.

For what else has the tea party been but a primal scream by aging white people?

What happens if Donald Trump...

...loses in November? (At this writing, it seems more than likely.)

Does the Donald just go away? That's a little hard to imagine, although the guy is 70 years old. I think, in any event, the Republican Party is going to find itself in a three-way civil war between Trump's voters, the tea party and the establishment.

Even if Trump doesn't stick around for the 2020 election (in which he'll only be as old as Bernie Sanders is today), what happens to the thirty or forty percent of the party he represents? Surely they will not just disappear, or run back into the waiting arms of the establishment. If nothing else, some opportunist enterprising young Republican will come along to speak for aging whites without a college degree who feel left behind by the modern economy. He or she could do so without all the racial and other baggage Trump brought to the conversation, or . . . Republicans may find themselves with someone even worse than Trump in 2020. It could happen.

What about the tea party? Despite Tuesday's defeat of Representative Tim Huelskamp in the Kansas Republican primary (the most overlooked story of the week), tea partiers such as Ted Cruz (and far-right groups like the Club for Growth) aren't going anywhere. While I don't think the junior senator from Texas will ever get the Republican nomination for president, that doesn't mean he won't stop trying (and, by the way, won't stop being a pain in the neck for GOP leaders).

(Oh, and allow me to repeat a prediction I've been making lately: No Republican who ran for president this year will ever get the GOP nomination. They all had their chance and blew it. Look, instead, to up-and-comers such as Ben Sasse, Tom Cotton and Charlie Baker.)

Finally, there's the Republican Party establishment. Even if Mitt Romney and the Bushes are yesterday's news, you still have people like Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and the Chamber of Commerce as de facto establishment leaders.

I wrote after the 2012 election that the Republican Party was an uneasy coalition of its tea party base and the Washington establishment. And that it would hold back the party until it sorted itself out. Little did I know that someone like Donald Trump would come along and uncover a third faction made up of older white people without a college degree who feel they have lost out in the global economy, don't care much for immigration reform, free trade or wars of choice, couldn't care less about tax cuts for the rich, but do like entitlements for old white people like Social Security and Medicare.

Expect a long and bloody civil war following this election. And it may not end for a while. As Josh Barro said recently, we may run out of popcorn before this is over.

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Billy House, the Congressional correspondent for Bloomberg News.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Quote of the Day...

...is from a panel discussion on the "Future of Conservatism" two years ago that is every bit as relevant as it was back then. In a video I stumbled upon, Josh Barro, above, said in regard to the "problem" of the debt and deficits (at about 1:22:00):

 "A conservative is somebody who thinks every market is efficient except the Treasury bond market."

This was immediately after Megan McArdle said, "People hate the debt! Everyone hates borrowing money!"

And just before Avik Roy, for his part, declared the debt "The most profound economic problem." His evidence? His prediction that "In 2040 you will be very concerned about the price of Treasuries!"

I came across this video while searching for a picture that included Roy and Yuval Levin, two conservative intellectuals. I was surprised, by the way, at how few I could find.

Why was I looking for that? Someone asked me last week if I had read a recent piece in Vox, "A Republican intellectual explains why the Republican Party is going to die." I did, and it reminded me of a similar piece in Vox the week before, "Conservative intellectual Yuval Levin on how the Republican Party lost its way."

I intend to get to both of those shortly -- I promise.

But this panel discussion I'm referring to was interesting in that it provided a window into conservative thinking two years before the current election cycle. (Don't bother watching it -- it's an hour and a half long and -- despite what I just said -- is a little tedious.)

In addition to Barro, McArdle, Roy and Levin, the panel included David Brooks as moderator and Reihan Salam.

Levin starts off the discussion (at about 3:30) by saying that "conservatism and the Republican Party are not connecting with the problems of the day."

Barro got a little more specific when he noted (at about 7:00) that a core problem is the decoupling of productivity growth from wage growth, or in other words, the stagnation of middle-class wealth and incomes.

Was Donald Trump watching this back in 2014?

Barro also mentioned that conservatives are still fighting the problems of the 1970s (over-regulation and high marginal tax rates) and still offering the same solutions from before the 2008 financial crisis.

Levin echoed this somewhat (I'm too lazy to find exactly where) by making the point (and a good one) that both parties are gripped by a kind of nostalgia for the post-World War II era.

As I'm sure you can imagine, there was no mention anywhere of the 2016 Republican nominee, but the usual names -- Senators Mike Lee and Marco Rubio -- were offered up as examples of innovative conservative thinkers (oxymoron?).

I'm always fascinated by the esteem in which Party bigwigs hold Rubio -- he must be a lot more impressive in private than he is in public. And that illustrates another challenge for Republicans: their difficulty in speaking to the average voter. Rubio's famous line, "Let's dispel once and for all with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing; he knows exactly what he's doing," might have been problematic not just because he repeated it so often, but because it insulted the intelligence of the average voter. While that's certainly red meat for the base, the typical American doesn't think of President Obama as some sort of Manchurian candidate.

In many ways, this discussion was illustrative of the gulf between the GOP's intellectuals and office-holders on the one hand and its base on the other. And the Republican Party has lost touch not just with its own voters but the entire electorate. I wonder what the panelists would say if they watched it today.