Tuesday, November 16, 2010


You be the judge. This is George W. Bush's official portrait:

Actually, I kind of like it as a portrait. But as a Presidential portrait?

Take a look at GWB's most recent predecessors, via Obsidian Wings.

Placed among the other portraits, GWB's reminded me of the dining halls at Oxford's colleges. They all seem to have portraits of the colleges' past presidents up and down and all around the walls. Some of them are in Henry VIII-era garb, and gradually they work their way through the clothing and hair styles of the different centuries. The 20th century is kind of a shock, with portraits that stylistically look avant garde at best (well, avant garde for Oxford, anyway), inappropriately informal at worst.

One thing about GWB's portrait: it stands out.

Dr. Strangelove (1964)

It's not really on anybody's radar these days, what with the recession and all, but via Crooks and Liars, here's a fascinating time-lapse video showing where all 2,053 nuclear explosions have occurred since World War II. As bluegal suggests, watch the world light up in the early 1960s. Fun times.

Don't let the 7-minute run time scare you; despite the modern world's efforts to the contrary, you still have an attention span that long. And it's so fascinating that you'll loose track of the time.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Simpson/Bowles Report

I've been scratching my head about the Simpson/Bowles deficit reduction report, which the media is referring to as a draft of the President's Deficit Commission Report, which it is not.

Some people, like Simpson and Bowles, think the government needs to be smaller. This doesn't seem to be based on any practical calculation, it's some kind of "philosophy" or something. It's very important to them. More important than making sure old people have enough to live on, or that sick people get health care. Personally, I think government should be as big as it needs to be. No bigger.

But I guess if you propose cuts to Social Security and Medicare, you're considered a serious person. Even if, as part of a deficit reduction package, you are proposing additional tax cuts for the wealthy. One man's serious is another man's insane, I guess. Paul Krugman doesn't think this is a serious package.

Kevin Drum has the facts that will not go away. Please read. It's short.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Profiles in Courage

Back in 2001, when the horrifying events of September 11 were still raw in our memory, a homicidal idiot decided it would be a good thing to send envelopes through the mail containing anthrax spores. Five people died. Nobody knew who was sending the letters, or why, or where the next one might turn up. It was frightening. It was during this time that I learned we can be at the mercy of the most hysterical people among us.

But we don't have to be hysterical. We can make another choice.

Last week it was reported that two packages mailed to the United States from Yemen contained explosive devices. One of those packages was addressed to a very small religious congregation in Chicago. This small congregation has been meeting in the building of a larger Chicago congregation.

That's pretty frightening for both congregations, and raises interesting questions, one of which is: How did the obscure, small congregation, which doesn't even have its own building, come to the attention of bomb makers in Yemen?

That's a question for the National Security folks. The questions of greatest moment for both congregations are: How purposeful were the bombers in sending the package? Are they determined to strike this little congregation, or was it a random pick in a long list of places they would like to destroy? In other words, what are the chances they'll try again?

If you're a member of either congregation, and your children attend its Sunday school, these are questions to keep you up at night. And you have a choice in how to respond to them.

You could choose hysteria. You could run away and never come back. Or you could allow your fears, which are real and justified, to trump what you say are your values. We see that so often these days.

Or you could choose another approach: courage. It's a quality we don't hear about too often outside of war stories, and apply to ourselves mostly in fantasies. But it is a courageous thing to face evil and not flinch; to say, "Our values are real, even when we are afraid."

If you're a member of the congregation, you do what you can do to make the place as safe as any place can be in this world, short of turning it into a place that violates its own values. I've talked to members of the congregation, and that's exactly what they're doing.

"Does that include suggesting the guest congregation find another meeting place?" I asked.

The response was emphatic. "Absolutely not!"

For some reason, I feel safer now.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Ted Sorensen 1923-2010

If you start watching this interview with Ted Sorensen, you'll have a hard time turning it off before it's over. He talks, among other things, of the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis, things from the earliest days of my political memory. Very interesting.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

About that Comma

In my years as a working man, I had to read and approve thousands of memoranda. And any staffer who wanted his/her work to see the light of day knew that "Comma Bob" did not accept the slovenly habit of failing to place a comma before the "and" in a series, as in "Three cheers for the red, white, and blue."

And here's a good illustration of why that was so:

Kudos to theweaselking for spotting this one.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bad News from Afghanistan

The news from Afghanistan has been relatively good recently (with strong emphasis on the relatively), what with headlines in the NY Times about the Taliban being routed in Kandahar province.

But this morning brought the news that Joao Silva, a NY Times photographer, had stepped on a land mine and "was wounded in his legs." Three American soldiers were also injured by the mine.

Joao Silva has had a remarkable career. As one of four members of the "Bang-Bang Club," he was responsible for some startling images of the apartheid era in South Africa. He has since worked as a photojournalist in the Balkans, Iraq, and now Afghanistan.

Here he is talking about one of his South Africa photographs.

Here's hoping for a speedy recovery for all.

October 24 Update: Lens, the NY Times blog, has a feature on Silva here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Enthusiasm Gap

If you're disappointed at what Obama has accomplished in a year and a half, you might reconsider after takng a look at Andrew Tobias's post today:
It’s remarkable how poorly we’ve done highlighting the accomplishments of the last 21 months – but that does not mean they weren’t real, or that it’s not crucial that we keep moving forward.
From the Washington Post:

. . . Reasonable people can debate whether the stimulus was big enough or whether Dems could have passed a more comprehensive health reform law. But you would have thought few would debate that this Congress is one of the most ambitious and productive in decades in terms of the sheer number and scale of successful legislative initiatives.

Yet despite passing an enormous stimulus that many credit with rescuing us from disaster, passing health reform after a half century of failure, rescuing the auto industry, and successfully completing the biggest overhaul of Wall Street regulations since the Great Depresssion, only one third of Democrats think this Congress has achieved more than other recent ones. . . .
Take a look at the rest of Obama's accomplishments, if you've got an hour or two.

Talking about Income Disparity is Socialist

Steve Benen over at Political Animal has a great screen capture from Fox News:

Addressing the disparity of income in America is something only socialists do, apparently. Read Benen's whole post; it'll only take a minute, and it's worth it.

Still Alive

The Tea Partiers don't believe in global warming. “They’re trying to use global warming against the people,” Ms. Deaton said. “It takes way our liberty.”

“Being a strong Christian,” she added, “I cannot help but believe the Lord placed a lot of minerals in our country and it’s not there to destroy us.”

Would somebody translate that "takes away our liberty" business for me? You hear it all the time from the Tea Partiers. What liberty is anybody trying to take away? Okay, there's the liberty [metaphor coming] to dump your night soil in the village well; we want to take that liberty away, yes. But what else, exactly?

Meanwhile, Juan Williams finally got canned at NPR. I'd largely stopped listening to NPR because of his "analysis," which consisted of repeating things he'd heard over at Fox News. Apparently he actually said, "I'm not a bigot, ... but ..." and then said some stupid things about Muslims. Fox News, where anti-Muslim bigotry is an article of faith, took no action.

Gail Collins can still make me laugh at it all.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Good 'Ole La Grande Jatte

Greetings from San Diego! If you, like I, had a vague feeling you had seen the young lady with the parasol before, it finally occurred to me where:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Idiots with Money

I'm travelling today, so no time to expand on this, but make sure you read Krugman today, and then follow his link to the incredibly vile, racist, fantasist cover story at Forbes Magazine. Then resist the urge to put white-hot pokers in your eyes.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Another Place Keeper

Sorry for the paucity of postings. My sister is home and doing well, and I'll be seeing her soon!

I'm paying attention to what's going on in politics, and it's ugly and scary. The Tea Party movement won't last more than a couple of years (they said that about the National Socialists in Germany, I'm sure), but it remains to be seen how much damage they'll do before they're done.

In the meantime, I've been buying 19th century photos on eBay. I absolutely love this one. Click on it.

The umbrella (or would that be a parasol?), the bustle, the pose, even the painted background. Love it. I won't mention that she's cute, too.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A Place Keeper

Right now most of my attention is focused about 2,000 miles away, where my sister is recovering from a heart attack. I'd tell you what a terrific sister she is, but that would be unMiller-like.

In the meanwhile, here's a picture from a couple of years ago. I think Suellen and I were going to a medical appointment, and I had my little Canon G9 with me. It was snowing, I think. It's a little more interesting if you click on it.

For non-Chicagoans, Water Tower Place used to be the shopping Mecca of Michigan Avenue. It's lost some of its luster over the years. Don't we all?

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Fact Check

From Steve Benen, over at Political Animal:

This is a chart of the jobs lost/gained in the private sector in the past few years. The red bars are Bush Administration; the blue bars are Obama Administration.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Stupid, Meet Evil

Via Chicago Ted, make sure you watch these two Daily Show episodes:


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Extremist Makeover - Homeland Edition
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Then go here:

At risk of sounding like a broken record: Why is it that this stuff is covered in comedy shows, but not in the mainstream media? Answer: They have been so lax for so long, and Fox has grown so powerful, that now MSM are afraid of Fox.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Cordoba House

Frank Rich has a good column today on the Fox cynicism behind the flap.

And don't miss Franklin Graham's explanation of how Obama was born a Muslim.

Finally, Laura points me to a little thing showing up on Facebook pages:

Fly the flag to show your opposition. Love that.
In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first.
-Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Have you noticed how, whenever there is a minority somewhere to be villainized, the Republicans fall all over themselves to seize the opportunity? It's apparently all they've got.

Lately it's illegal immigrants and Muslims. It's sad, too, how often they get away with it.

The so-called Mosque at Ground Zero, which isn't a mosque and isn't at Ground Zero, is a perfect example. Keep the folks at home all worked up over this, and real issues don't need to be discussed in the fall campaign. So Harry Reid has to take the cover offered by the Anti-Defamation League: I've got nothing against [insert minority here], but in this case ....

Wish I could work up head of steam on it, but it's all just too sad.

Here are two articles worth reading, though. First a quick one from TPM about what else is at the hallowed ground of Ground Zero. And this very informative one about Muslims. Turns out they're not all jihadists.

It's all just too sad.


No, this isn't about Chip's fabulous new lens, which is (literally) on a slow boat from China (or Japan).

It's a recommendation that you regularly visit the New York Times photography blog, called LENS. I've put the link to it in the list on the right, to make it easier for you. There's some really outstanding stuff there.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Underpass Update

Work on the underpass is moving along. All the "canvas" has got something on it, and now they're mostly in the shading phase, which means they're adding contour and depth to the paintings. There's some remarkable work being done there.

This was work done today.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Location, Location, Location

Across the street from us, they're building some boxes they'll be selling for about $625,000. Here's what two of them look like right now:

Meanwhile, out in Freeport, Illinois (115 miles WNW from Chicago), this is what you can get for about the same money. Make sure you click the link; it probably won't be active very long.

Anybody want to start a commune?


Again from Andrew Tobias, a link to a Huffington Post story about JPMorganChase.

Did you think the financial meltdown of 2008 sobered up anybody in the banking industry? Think again.

I was going to rerun the guillotine picture, but instead here's a shot of JPMorgan's global commodities group:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Road to Somewhere?

Andrew Tobias pointed to this video about the possibility of roadways made of solar panels (which are made of landfill). Sounds bizarre. But in addition to being a roadway, the panels serve as an electronic grid, delivering electricity everywhere it goes. Sounds cool.

A few years ago I bought a 1 gig flash drive for about $35. Today you can get three 4 gig flash drives for $35. And I just bought a 2 terabyte hard drive for less than our first 20 megabyte hard drive cost us. If there's a reason to be hopeful, it's because of things like this.

Monday, August 09, 2010

On the Road to Nowhere

Paul Krugman is pessimistic about the economy. So am I.

And don't miss his column about Wisconsin's Paul Ryan, who is what passes in Washington these days as a "serious thinker."

And if that hasn't got you reaching for the razor blades, try The Third Depression.

The Great Depression wasn't all bad, though. It was the Golden Age of Board Games and Jigsaw Puzzles. And it reminded people of the importance of having a functional government.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

T-Storms Again

Okay, so nobody liked the squirrel joke. I should have listened to Suellen, who thought it was a stupid joke.

It was really just a device to point you to my kid brother's Flickr site. He does outstanding wildlife photography (and bugs), and his bird pictures have been used by Audubon and others. Leaf through a few pages and you'll see why. Make sure you blow up the pictures. They're incredible.

I did get some pictures of the underpass yesterday, but there were only 3 or 4 people working. It was raining in the morning, and the humidity in the afternoon made me fear for my camera.

Everybody seems to like the stylized versions best (sigh) so here are some more.

This picture has been oversaturated:

And here's the same picture, desaturated:

Rain again this morning, which will give me the chance to get these pictures organized for sharing with the people who are doing all the work.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


It's raining this morning, so there may be no underpass painting activity. I'll post a picture from yesterday for now:

It's more interesting in the larger version (click on it to enlarge it), which usually means it's not all that interesting to begin with.

I'm not saying it's heavily manipulated, but this is the picture I started with.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Overpass Project

Took some more pictures of the overpass mural today. There was no activity over the weekend, but the kids were hard at work today.

I might have stylized this picture just a little.

And So It Begins

I've always liked Target stores. They're cleaner than most big-box stores, the aisles are wider. We recently bought a television at our local Target (plus a bunch of school supplies for the local food pantry to give out).

So I was really bummed to read this article in Talking Points Memo. Target Corporation has decided to take advantage of the unique opportunity provided by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision to corrupt the electoral process in Minnesota.

The Target Corporation has effectively given $150,000 of their stockholders' money to a gay-baiting, ├╝ber-conservative Republican candidate for governor.

According to TPM:
Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel has explained that the company's support for Emmer is based purely on economic issues. "Target has a history of supporting organizations and candidates, on both sides of the aisle, who seek to advance policies aligned with our business objectives, such as job creation and economic growth," wrote Steinhafel. "It is also important to note that we rarely endorse all advocated positions of organizations or candidates we support, and we do not have a political or social agenda."
Well, Gregg, if that's how you feel, use your own damn money. Myself, I'm going to have a hard time walking into a Target store anytime soon.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Street Art

A few blocks away a group of artists are in the process of creating a mural on the walls of a railroad underpass. And I've been dropping by to record their progress.

Here's how things are going so far:

Friday, July 30, 2010

Weiner Becomes a King

Rage is not a popular emotion among politicos. But I've been feeling so much rage for so long about the Republicans that it's a relief to see somebody actually call one out.

In this video, Rep. King (R) of New York is called out by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D), also of New York.

This morning, on Fox [spit] Weiner and King had it out again, or should I say: Weiner sliced and diced.

The commentator's closing comment is idiotic. But it was Fox, so that's redundant.

Thanks to TalkingPointsMemo for posting these clips.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

How Crazy Are They Really?

In this morning's NY Times:
The United States and South Korea on Sunday kicked off their largest joint war game in years, with a nuclear-powered American aircraft carrier prowling off the east coast of South Korea while North Korea threatened to retaliate with its nuclear weapons and reportedly put its military on an alert for war.
Seems like this should have made the evening news last night.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Another Fox Network Disgrace

One of these days the mainstream press will run with the actual story: Fox falsifies news whenever they can get away with it.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Note About That Video

I was kind of curious about the background on the video posted below, and started searching. The composer of the music is Garry Schyman, and the singer was a high school junior from Minneapolis named Palbasha Siddique. Palbasha was born in Bangladesh, but her parents moved to Minneapolis when she was six. The composer talks about how it came together in his June 22, 2008, entry here.

Matt Harding's girlfriend discovered the singer on a YouTube video from a fellow who does a show for KFAI radio in Minneapolis, who apparently went to the University of St. Thomas (threw that in for Laura).

The lyrics are from a poem by an Indian poet named Rabindranath Tagore, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 1913. Translated, they say:
Stream of Life
The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.
It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.
It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth and of death, in ebb and in flow.
I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life. And my pride is from the lifethrob of ages dancing in my blood this moment.
My suspicion is that Rabindranath Tagore did not make a profit on his lemonade stand.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Truly Remarkable

Chicago Ted sent this truly remarkable video. I promise you'll smile.

I had to make it smaller to fit, but click on those little arrows in the lower right-hand corner. Thanks, Ted.

The John Galt Theory of Lemonade Stands

Here in Chicago we have a personal finance columnist named Terry Savage, who works for the Sun-Times. I rarely read her because 1) I rarely read Chicago newspapers, and 2) especially not the Sun-Times, and 3) I heard her talk about Social Security once and it wasn't conventional wisdom, it was unconventional stupid.

Came across this "column" of hers this morning. Nice to know nothing has changed, and I still don't have to read her. I'll bet she keeps your ball if it goes in her yard.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


In celebration of the 1,000th post here on Sempringham, which this is, I'll share something I found in the back of a closet today: an old family photo.

It's about 34 years old, in fact. That's me and my bride. The Union Army did not issue Adidas sneakers as part of their standard uniform.

If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you'll notice our wedding rings are on our right hands and the U.S. on the belt buckle is backward. That's because images taken using this process (coated glass plate producing a positive image, with no intervening negative) produced reverse images. I could flip it, I guess, but why?

Monday, June 28, 2010

I'm getting a little tired of liberals trashing Obama. They're not paying attention. Rachel Maddow gets on to that (via Andrew Tobias):

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

That's not too bad for a year and a half in office, with the world's economy falling down around us.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


When the Obama Administration was young, the book to read was Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, about the Lincoln cabinet.

As I write this, Gen. Stanley McChrystal has had a 20-minute meeting with the President, and did not stick around for a meeting on progress in Afghanistan. Smells like toast from here.

Good thing.
A far better book to be reading right now is Lincoln and His Generals, by T. Harry Williams. McChrystal is Obama's McClellan.

There's more than one general in this Army. I'm sure one can be found who knows what loyalty and chain of command mean.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Man of Honor

Ran across this little tidbit a week or so ago, while doing research in 19th century newspapers:
William A Smith, who died a few days ago in Richmond, Va., enjoyed a unique distinction. He resigned a seat in Congress because he did not think he had sense enough to properly represent his constituents.
The guy deserves a statue.

Energy Dependency

Two Teds recommended this to me. For good reason.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
An Energy-Independent Future
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Kicking Some Ass

I've always liked Fareed Zakaria, and I think he pretty much nails it here, even though I don't think there's nothing that the federal government can do about the oil spill.

There is so much going on right now. The Euro is in danger of meltdown. The North Koreans could nuke the South Koreans any day. The Turks and Brazil are siding with Iran. And I think there's a war or something going on in Afghanistan.

And meanwhile the bobblehead dolls that read the news want Obama to waste time on being mad for public consumption.

Come back, Walter Cronkite. Your country needs you.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

GOP Follies

This guy is in a run-off election for the Republican nomination for a Congressional seat in Alabama.

It's looking more and more like the GOP will not be fielding many sane candidates in this year's off-election. Sharron Angle, who will be Harry Reid's opponent in Nevada, apparently not only wants to phase out Social Security and Medicare (a position she describes as "non-negotiable"), but reinstate prohibition. It remains to be seen how popular that position will be in Nevada.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Department of Useless Information

Yesterday, Andrew Tobias kindly linked to a post I did last year. You remember it: it was that hilarious "commercial" for Somalia: Libertarian Paradise.

Since then, little ole Sempringham has gotten 500+ hits.

Not a single one left a comment.

No reason they should; it's just almost interesting.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Our Chattering Class

Steve Benen over at The Washington Monthly's blog, Political Animal, has a perfect illustration of why George Will is now, and always has been, a horse's ass.

If you don't think you can stomach 55 seconds of Will's pontification, you don't have to watch; Benen gives you the gist. And Benen beautifully sums up criticism of Obama on the BP atrocity so far:
At this point, the discourse seems to boil down to a) those who want to see the president don a wetsuit and head to the Gulf floor; b) those who want to see the president don a cape and fly around the planet really quickly in order to reverse time; and c) those who want to see the president pound on podiums and lose his cool, as if that would make a difference. (Thanks, Maureen Dowd, for comparing Obama to Spock again. That never gets old.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Democracy in Action

Don't miss this video of the Ukraine Parliament's deliberations about whether to extend a lease on a Black Sea port to the Russian Navy.

Say what you want about them, at least it came to a vote. We should do so well.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Goldman Sachs

Hi everybody! Long time, no see!

I thought you might enjoy this article about the Goldman Sachs case, via Andrew Tobias. It's short and sweet, if a little arrogant, and some of the comments are worth scrolling down for, too.

I was particularly interested in one commenter's suggestion that Apple (currently trading at about $270 a share) will triple. Oh, my! From his mouth to Nasdaq's ear.

We were in our local Apple store to look at the iPad last week. Suellen told the very friendly sales person, "We're not going to buy one today," to which she replied, "Well, we don't have any more. They're all sold out."

"When are they expected in?"

"Don't know, but we can put your name on a list and we'll put one aside and call you when it comes in."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Quote of the Day

Hat tip to Kevin Drum, who has a greater tolerance for reading about Tea Party folks than I do:
From tea party supporter Jodine White of Rocklin, California, trying to explain how she reconciles her desire for smaller government with her support for Social Security:
That’s a conundrum, isn’t it? I don’t know what to say. Maybe I don’t want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security. I didn’t look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I’ve changed my mind.
The quote is from a NY Times piece about the Tea Party.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Better Than We Deserve

During the hell that was the Reagan-Bush-Bush years, I was a broken record: "In a democracy, we get the quality of government we deserve."

Now, I'm not so sure. Why, after all those years of screwing everything up – EVERYTHING! – do we all of a sudden have a President who's smart, stays calm, and makes me proud?

I love the way he laughs at the Washington news folks:

Friday, March 26, 2010

Wisdom from the Right

I thought I read this in a story about Sen. Bennett of Utah, but maybe I heard it on NPR. Either way, it was too good not to pass on:

"We should be like Illinois and limit our politicians to two terms: one in office, and one in prison."

Addendum: Gail Collins on the Illinois Lt. Governor race.

The Moral Majority

In case you missed it, Bart Stupak is a Congressman from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Stupak is strongly anti-abortion – so anti-abortion, in fact, that he was perfectly willing to let 30 million Americans live without health insurance, and tens of thousands die because of that every year, unless the Health Care Reform bill stated up one side and down the other that no government funds would be used for abortions (a point of settled law, by the way).

And when he got that, he still would not vote for it until Obama agreed to issue an Executive Order that no federal funds would be used for abortions. So you'd think that might cover things with the anti-abortion crowd, wouldn't you? Wrong.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

It's really time for the "pro-life" crowd to rethink their strategy.

Let's Have a Little Laugh

Pretty impressive squirrel!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Well THAT Didn't Take Long!

Two days ago we were talking about conservative Republican David Frum, and his observation that the Republicans had really screwed things up for themselves by taking the low road on Health Care Reform.

If there's one thing Republicans can't stand, it's somebody who tells the truth. So we knew Frum was going to pay. It didn't take long. Via Huffington Post, here's a letter he wrote to Arthur Brooks, head of the American Enterprise Institute:
Dear Arthur,

This will memorialize our conversation at lunch today. Effective immediately, my position as a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute is terminated. I appreciate the consideration that delays my emptying of my office until after my return from travel next week. Premises will be vacated no later than April 9.

I have had many fruitful years at the American Enterprise Institute, and I do regret this abrupt and unexpected conclusion of our relationship.

Very truly yours,
David Frum
If you're not familiar with the American Enterprise Institute, it's one of those sham outfits that do so well in Washington. They hire a bunch of PR guys to write op-eds and go on radio programs to represent a certain point of view. What's sham about it is that they call these guys "Fellows" or similar pretentious names, to imbue their words with lofty import. The inside-the-beltway press loves them because they're close at hand and give their programs and articles an appearance of probity and balance. The Cato Institute and Hudson Institute are similar organizations. If you see a guy from any of them, just think: "paid shill."

Like we said on Tuesday: good luck finding work, David. Surely you knew what the American right does with apostates.

Update: By being terminated by the "think" tank, Frum's family will lose their medical insurance. Sad. Ironic, but sad.

Can You Still Laugh?

Thanks to Talking Points Memo for highlighting this little video:

Mr. Maverick

Remember when you respected John McCain? Seems like such a long time ago, doesn't it?

In his latest hissy-fit, McCain promised the Democrats in Congress "There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year," because they had the temerity to pass the Health Care Reform bill.

Which led to this exchange at yesterday's press briefing:

Helen Thomas (God bless her): McCain said he's going to oppose everything.

Gibbs: Well, yes, I find it curious that not getting your way on one thing means you've decided to take your toys and go home. I don't think -- it doesn't work well for my six-year-old; I doubt it works well in the United States Senate, because we have issues that are important for his constituents and for all of America.

Look, again, when it comes to financial reform people are going to have an opportunity to weigh in on behalf of the banks or on behalf of consumers. And I'll let their vote on that dictate which side of that ledger they feel most comfortable on.

Chip Reed: Are you comparing McCain to a six-year-old?

Gibbs: I'm saying that I think the notion that if you don't get what you want you're not going to cooperate on anything else is not a whole lot different than I might hear from a six-year-old.

McCain must have been apoplectic.

Update: This just in from Washington — Senator John McCain has threatened to hold his breath until Gibbs apologizes.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Deep Thought

The Republicans are communists. This is obvious, because they are attempting to pick up where Lenin failed, and create a classless society:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dog Bites Man – An Honest Republican!

David Frum again, from Media Matters.

Unfortunately, it's too little, too late. The poor guy. Fox owns the GOP now. Good luck getting work.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Health Care Reform a Disaster – for the GOP

It got done.

Josh Marshall offers a perspective that I share here. Seven months in politics is a long time.

Bart Stupak, who held everything up in order to get stronger language against abortions, gets called a "baby killer" by a brave member of the Texas delegation who so far has declined to step forward and identify himself.*

David Frum, a conservative Republican, thinks the Health Care Reform bill was a disaster. For the Republicans. A taste here:
Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.

It’s hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster. Conservatives may cheer themselves that they’ll compensate for today’s expected vote with a big win in the November 2010 elections. But:

(1) It’s a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November – by then the economy will have improved and the immediate goodies in the healthcare bill will be reaching key voting blocs.

(2) So what? Legislative majorities come and go. This healthcare bill is forever. A win in November is very poor compensation for this debacle now.

So far, I think a lot of conservatives will agree with me. Now comes the hard lesson:

A huge part of the blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves.

At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994.

Only, the hardliners overlooked a few key facts: Obama was elected with 53% of the vote, not Clinton’s 42%.
*Update: It was Rep. Randy Neugebauer of Texas, a co-sponsor of "birther" legislation. Neugebauer has apologized, and claims he said "It's a baby killer!", "it" being Obama's Executive Order on the subject – the same Executive Order that NOW is furious about.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

How We Got Health Care Reform

It looks like, in a few hours, things will look considerably less bleak for millions of Americans. Yet, in January, the chances for passing Health Care Reform looked bleak. What happened?

This article in the NY Times hits the high spots. Samples:
Scott Brown, the upstart Republican, had just won his Senate race in Massachusetts, a victory that seemed to doom Mr. Obama’s dream of overhauling the nation’s health care system. The White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, once Ms. Pelosi’s right hand man on Capitol Hill, was pushing Mr. Obama to scale back his ambitions and pursue a pared-down bill.

Mr. Obama seemed open to the idea, though it was clearly not his first choice. Ms. Pelosi scoffed.

“Kiddie care,” she called the scaled-down plan, derisively, in private.

In a series of impassioned conversations, over the telephone and in the Oval Office, she conveyed her frustration to the president, according to four people familiar with the talks. If she and Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, were going to stick out their necks for Mr. Obama’s top legislative priority, Ms. Pelosi wanted assurances that the president would too. At the White House, aides to Mr. Obama say, he also wanted assurances; he needed to hear that the leaders could pass his far-reaching plan.

“We’re in the majority,” Ms. Pelosi told the president. “We’ll never have a better majority in your presidency in numbers than we’ve got right now. We can make this work.”
Sort of makes Rahm look like not such a brilliant tactician as a lot of folks were making him just two weeks ago.

Today's the Day

Today's the Health Reform vote. Yesterday Obama gave a powerful speech to the House Democrats. It's worth watching.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

No matter how the vote turns out, I sure am glad this guy got elected President.

I Was Going to Give This a Really Offensive Headline, But Thought Better of It. It's Tempting, Though.

Maureen Dowd said it better than I did: "...in a moral tug-of-war between the sisters and the bishops, you have to go with the gals." And she doesn't try not to offend.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Abortion and Health Care Reform

I've been scratching my head for weeks about why abortion opponents, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, especially, oppose the Health Care Reform bill. Read Chicago Cardinal Francis George's press release about it if you have a strong stomach.

I'm going to try very hard to say this without being insulting. I've already failed, but let's face it — Catholic cardinals need to be a little more humble, and they still haven't got that message. Now that I've told them, I'm sure they'll settle down.

Here are three facts:

• Medical bills to carry a child to term are 3-4 times more than they are to have an abortion. And a child's health care needs don't end at birth.

• Many women have abortions because they cannot afford to have a child.

• And here's the big one: As T.R. Reid wrote in Sunday's Washington Post: "There's a direct connection between greater health coverage and lower abortion rates." By all means, read the whole article. Reid writes:
The connection was explained to me by a wise and holy man, Cardinal Basil Hume. He was the senior Roman Catholic prelate of England and Wales when I lived in London; as a reporter and a Catholic, I got to know him.

In Britain, only 8 percent of the population is Catholic (compared with 25 percent in the United States). Abortion there is legal. Abortion is free. And yet British women have fewer abortions than Americans do. I asked Cardinal Hume why that is.

The cardinal said that there were several reasons but that one important explanation was Britain's universal health-care system. "If that frightened, unemployed 19-year-old knows that she and her child will have access to medical care whenever it's needed," Hume explained, "she's more likely to carry the baby to term. Isn't it obvious?"
[my emphasis]
Isn't it obvious?

Apparently not to to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It seems that if they can't reduce the abortion rate their way, they'd rather not reduce it at all. Oops, another insult.

The leaders of more than four dozen U.S. congregations of [Catholic] women religious are urging members of Congress to "cast a life-affirming 'yes' vote" on the Senate's version of health reform legislation.
Those women have got guts. The Grand Inquisitor, Ratzinger, is already after them.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Can't Get Enough of that CO2

While sniffing glue in a plastic bag, the South Dakota legislature made a remarkable discovery:
In South Dakota, a resolution calling for the “balanced teaching of global warming in public schools” passed the Legislature this week.

“Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant,” the resolution said, “but rather a highly beneficial ingredient for all plant life.”
So suddenly they're tree huggers?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

What You Can Get for $260,000

Coldwater, Michigan, which is halfway between Chicago and Detroit.

1886 Victorian.
Pocket doors.
Circular driveway.
Stained glass windows.
Two dining rooms.
Glass front library bookcases.
Hand carved stairway.
Seven fireplaces.
Maid's quarters (well, of course!)
Property taxes: $2,000

See it all here. Sigh.

Estimated annual upkeep: Too scary to contemplate.

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Way I Found 'Em

You might think I was talking politics too much, but I had nothing to do with this:

Click on the picture for a better view.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Great Newspaper Destroyed

Paul Krugman, who writes for the New York Times, on the Wall Street Journal:
Frankly, there was a time when I thought the Journal was better on business/economic news than the Times. But no longer; and it’s not just things like referring to the estate tax as the “death tax” in news stories. Overall, coverage is getting cruder, with more tendency to report opinions as if they were news, and substitute prejudices for real analysis.

... There’s a pretty good chance that we will end up with only one great national newspaper.
Call it the Rupert Murdoch Effect.

Jobs First, Then the Deficit

Politico receives its share of scorn, most of it richly deserved. The columnists dwell on cocktail circuit trivialities, their attention spans are short, and their insights are conventional, to be generous. Ideas that take more than a paragraph to express are not their forte.

But let me point you to a collaborative column by David Walker, former head of the Government Accountability Office and a deficit hawk, and Lawrence Mishel, President of the liberalish Economic Policy Institute, which is running on Politico right now.
President Barack Obama is in a difficult position when it comes to deficits. Today's high deficits will have to go even higher to help address unemployment. At the same time, many Americans are increasingly concerned about escalating deficits and debt. What's a president to do?

The answer, from a policy perspective, is not that hard: A focus on jobs now is consistent with addressing our deficit problems ahead.

The difficulty is that many politicians and news organizations often cast deficit debates as a dichotomy: You either care about them or you don’t.

But this is rarely accurate. The fact that the two of us, who have philosophical differences on the proper role of government, find much to agree on about deficits is a testament to the importance of dropping this useless dichotomy and finally talking about deficits in a reasonable way.

As in every economic downturn, federal revenues have fallen steeply because individuals and corporations earn less in a recession. High unemployment also results in higher expenditures for safety net programs, like Medicaid, unemployment benefits and food stamps.

Not surprisingly then, a huge recession can yield a huge deficit. Efforts to put people back to work and help restore the economy, like the recovery package passed last February, can also increase short-term deficits.


That’s why we agree that job creation must be a short-term priority. Job creation plans must be targeted so we can get the greatest return on investment. They must be timely, creating jobs this year and next. And they must be big enough to substantially fill the enormous jobs hole we’re in. They must also be temporary — affecting the deficit only in the next couple of years, without exacerbating our large and growing structural deficits in later years.

Funding key investment and infrastructure projects to promote economic growth and offering a job creation tax credit are among the policy ideas that meet all these standards. In addition, temporarily renewing extended unemployment benefits can lead to more jobs throughout the economy.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Garrison Tells It Like It Is

Thanks to my sister, Kay, for sending this column from Garrison Keillor.
It is a large moment for Democrats, learning to stick with a good man through a rough period when the people who crave disillusionment have become disillusioned. It's like a winter vacation in the Caribbean when it rains buckets and you eat some bad shellfish and a shrieky teenager says you've ruined her life forever. You smile, take a shower and organize a volleyball game. You have to work at it. It's work.
The rest is here, and manages to wrap in Sarah Palin, Warren Beatty ("15 women, maybe 18, 25 tops"), and J.D. Salinger.

In his following column, Keillor has the same take on the Tea Party folks that I do, only funnier, and well written.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What's Happening in Afghanistan?

Kudos to the NY Times for its reporting in the past couple of weeks on the operations around Marja, Afghanistan, a Taliban stronghold. This assessment of how the Afghan troops are doing seems even-handed, if pessimistic.

Do you think C.J. Chivers is hoping to have something to do with getting Captain Amanullah replaced? The Captain would do well in Chicago politics.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Take 30 Seconds to Learn and Laugh

Apropos of nothing, I came across this little Indian commercial. You might have to pause the video to read the explanation of the vermilion dot at the beginning – it goes by faster than I could read it.

All Things Pakistan

There is a large Pakistani community in Chicago, though I suspect not as large as it was before September 11, 2001. When they came to the Social Security office, Pakistani males seemed, as often as not, to be verbally abusive toward the female employees, though merely contemptuous of the males. They were also heavily involved in efforts to "game the system" to obtain Social Security numbers they should not have.

So you see, I did not have a high opinion of the Pakistanis I came into contact with. The fact that the Pakistan government played footsie with the Taliban for so long did nothing to improve my opinion.

That's changing now due to blog called All Things Pakistan. If you go there now, you'll find a funny recipe for a dish called rice masala. The author writes in a pre-Fannie Farmer (i.e., pre-standardized measure) world for people who don't usually cook (Pakistani men?).

Most of the posts are about Pakistani culture and politics, and are a window into a world I don't know anything about. The poly sci major in me finds it pretty fascinating.

But I got off the track at the very beginning of this post, because what I wanted to do was share this little video I found there:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Don't miss this NY Times story about the Tea Party movement.

I've been pretty dismissive about them until now, thinking they'll get tired of it all in a year or two. Here's a story about a somewhat similar movement in France that went nowhere.

But these people are living in an alternate universe.

They're anti-tyranny. Here's proof:
At a Tea Party protest in Las Vegas, Joe Heck, a Republican running for Congress, blamed both the Democratic and Republican Parties for moving the country toward “socialistic tyranny.” In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican seeking re-election, threw his support behind the state sovereignty movement. And in Indiana, Richard Behney, a Republican Senate candidate, told Tea Party supporters what he would do if the 2010 elections did not produce results to his liking: “I’m cleaning my guns and getting ready for the big show. And I’m serious about that, and I bet you are, too.”
They're against the tyranny of democracy, I guess.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Land of Lincoln – 21st Century Edition

This from Talking Points Memo:
The little-known pawnbroker who won this week's Democratic primary election for Illinois lieutenant governor was arrested in 2005 after his prostitute girlfriend alleged that he put a knife to her throat and pushed her against the wall -- an incident that could create a major headache for Governor Pat Quinn.

Scott Lee Cohen denies that he laid a hand on the woman, and says he didn't know she was a prostitute -- he thought she just worked in a massage parlor.
Where do we get these creeps? What is it about these guys (John Edwards, David Vitter, John Ensign, this cretin) that makes them think they're doing us some kind of favor by running for elective office? It seems like the only people who are ashamed are their poor families.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Between 20% and 50% Insane or Stupid

Bruce Bartlett is one of those Reagan wiz-kids who started this country on it's 30-year decline. Now he's shocked at what he's done.

According to Bartlett: "I can only conclude from this new poll of 2003 self-identified Republicans nationwide that between 20% and 50% of the party is either insane or mind-numbingly stupid."

He might be underestimating. Take a look at those poll results.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Tomorrow's Election

Today's Gail Collins column had an interesting note at the bottom it:

This column appeared exclusively in the Web edition of The New York Times on February 1, 2010.

It was a better column about tomorrow's election in Illinois than I've seen anywhere, including the Chicago Tribune and the Sun-Times. Hey, those papers have to try to survive in Chicago. Gail Collins doesn't.

Collins failed to mention that we've got former Governor Blagojevich's sister-in-law running for office, too. She is another daughter of the Chicago councilman that helped put Blago into office in the first place.

The local television and radio stations should have a very nice rainy-day fund by now, considering all the political ads they've been running, and they're nearly all negative, of course. There are some real crack-pots running for office (the Republicans) and some real sleeze-balls (the Democrats). It's a tough choice (not).

What a wonderful city.

Races to watch:

Does Mark Kirk (R) get skunked by the Tea Party candidate in the Republican Senatorial primary? (I doubt it.)

Does Joe Laiacona beat Deb Mell (the sister-in-law) for State Representative? (I doubt it. This is Chicago.)

Does Alexi Giannoulias, the 33-year-old "bank executive" whose bank is under federal oversight, get the Democratic Senatorial nomination to take Obama's seat? Is this the best the Democratic Party can offer up?

Does Dan Hynes, who went negative from Day 1 and gave the Repugnants lots of ammunition to use against his opponent, should the opponent win, beat Pat Quinn, who took the governor's chair when Blago was booted?

Oh, it's just too ugly.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Umida Akhmedova

Via a couple of posts on The Online Photographer, and a BBC story, I learned of the photography of Umida Akhmedova, of Uzbekistan.

Determined to destroy the reputation of Uzbekistan before most people have had a chance to form one, the authorities there have arrested her for "defamation and insulting Uzbek traditions." If convicted, she faces six months in prison, or three months at hard labor, for her 2007 collection of photographs of Uzbek people in their daily lives. [Click on the picture above for a better view of her alleged defamation. Then hit the back arrow to return here.]

Here are 51 of the photographs. You be the judge.