Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Memories of Good Friday

When I was living in residential Detroit, in my elementary and junior high school days (in the same large public school buildings), Good Friday meant ONE thing to us (those of the Hebrew persuasion and nose size). It meant EARLY dismissal from school and the first GOOD day to play golf.
School dismissed at 11:30 a.m. BECAUSE, in northern industrial cities dominated by Catholic churches, everything shut DOWN from noon-3 p.m. (I need not tell you why). At noon, church bells rang ALL over Detroit and the city went eerily silent at times, until 3 p.m. when the same bells rang back civilization.
For those who were NOT Catholic, it meant a free day on a spring Friday and where I lived, it meant runing home, gathering your golf clubs and bicycles and dashing as fast as one could to the Palmer Park Public golf course - one of the many public parks and rec facilities in the Motor City (ours was located in the northern half).
Greens fees were charged by 9 holes ($1.50 back in THE day) ... BUT, if you go to the course, BEFORE noon, here's how it played ... The "clubhouse" closed at noon so all one would have to do in pay for 9 holes, finished the front nine BEFORE 3 p.m. and get to the back 9, on the other side of the par and away from the attendants' eyes, for a FREE 9 HOLES! You'd have thought we won the freaking lottery! Weren't we the smartest guys in town?
Good Friday/Easter weekend was always colorful for people with children dyeing eggs, women displayed outrageous hats (do they do that anymore?) and families going for leisurely drives after church to celebrate the start of the new season (much like Thanksgiving in Detroit harkened the start of winter).
Sadly, in my neighborhood, which was dominated by a huge Jesuit grade school (across the street from the Jesuit-led University of Detroit; they added Mercy a couple of decades ago). And some of my neighbors were not fond of their Jewish residents.
I have, in my lifetime, been spat upon and cursed the most vile epithets (including the ever-unpopular "Christ killer!") simply for being who I was. And it was done by youth and their parents alike. Such ignorance always made me more sad than mad.
But to all, Happy Easter (which will happily be free of watching "The Robe" or "The Ten Commandments" for the millionth time!).

Liar, liar; pants on fire

When Kay Bailey Hutchison said she would resign the Senate, win or lose, after the Texas Republican governor's race, did anyone see a hint of truth in her eyes? Personally, as with a lot of people, I believed she never ever intended to give up that seat if she lost. And at some point, perhaps WEEKS before the vote, she knew that was a distinct possibility (although I guess she was hoping for a runoff).
So it makes today's announcement, that she was completing her term, as no surprise; she's a flip-flopper to use GOP vernacular, and a goddamn liar, to use Texan vernacular.
She's just another political animal, and unlike the suburban coyote roaming the Costcos of Plano, she's isn't becoming extinct.
Aren't you SO proud, here in Texas, to have such a lying fool in Washington, D.C.?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Time to make a ‘Beilein’ from here

As a Michigan alum, I am downrigth saddened by the continuing turmoil surrounding the basketball program. I am submitting the following column to the student newspaper, the Michigan Daily, where I learned my craft for four years.
Junior Manny Harris’ decision to enter the NBA Draft, with one year of collegiate eligibility remaining, simply caps THE most disappointing season in the history of Michigan men’s basketball. It was a squad with four returning starts and a trunk full of high pre-season expectations, including a Top 15 ranking.
The season is completed, left in a crumbled, broken heap, and in all honesty, with few prospects for even a mediocre future. There will be no senior leadership (other than reserve Anthony Wright), no returning starter averaging in double figures in scoring and no one over 6-5 of consequence.
At some point, this mess must be laid at the feet of the person who has been the overseer for the last three seasons – head coach John Beilein. And on a simple “pass/fail” grading system (all the rage in my day on campus), any objective observer would have to scream “fail!”
Accordingly, changes must be made as soon as possible by the new UM athletic administration in order to stop the further marginalization of a once-proud program.
Here is the case to be made:
In his three season, Beilein is 46-63, one of only three UM coaches with a losing record (not counting the 1909 season at 1-4,which then saw the school wait eight years until commencing a fulltime program). Even Brian Ellerbe, who left under a major cloud, had a 62-60 mark and led Michigan to its last Big Ten tournament title in 1998. Some of you were in grade school when that happened.
Beilein’s teams have one legitimate non-conference win in three seasons (the 81-73 home victory over Duke on Dec. 6, 2008). This past season’s win over UConn was versus a team that didn’t even sniff the NCAA Tournament. The win over Ohio State two weeks earlier was against a squad minus the top player in the nation, Evan Turner.
The number of unforgiveable losses requires a second hand upon which to count – including road losses at Indiana and Northwestern and a home setback against Penn State. The regular season-ending loss at Michigan State was downright embarrassing because it was beyond bad; it was non-competitive.
On a good night, the Wolverines looked slow afoot, lacked a strong inside game on offense AND defense and shot horrifically all year long (an absolute curse for a team employing three guards most minutes of the game). A team that depended on three-point shooting as its backbone went less than 30 percent from beyond the arc, yet never altered much of anything during the campaign.
In the Beilein era, there has been no true standout recruit brought to Ann Arbor. DeShawn Sims and Harris were recruited by Beilein’s predecessor, Tommy Amaker, as well as Ekpe Udoh, who transferred away from Michigan after two seasons (including Beilein’s first year as coach).
You might have noticed his power to the bucket and rebounding prowess in a Baylor uniform, leading the Bears to the Elite Eight. That was a team totally destroyed following the murder of one player by a teammate and eventual cover-up by its former coach. That happened in 2003 and Baylor went from a team that only won 36 games from 2003-2007. Now Baylor is a place where players WANT to go, and trust me, Ann Arbor is paradise next to Waco, Texas.
The Michigan program appears to be no longer competitive in prime recruiting areas – Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, or here in North Texas (where I live in the same city that produced Jimmy King, one of the Fab Five). The last McDonald’s All-American to wear a Wolverine uniform was guard Daniel Horton, from a suburban Dallas high school, in 2002. The last first round NBA draft pick was Jamal Crawford in 2000; by all projections, Harris will never reach that level (possibly going undrafted according to ESPN draft analysts).
Now to be fair, if you examine the UM rosters since 1998, you’ve got to shake your head in wonderment about how the talent level has fallen so fall from the 1989 national championship or the aforementioned Fab 5. Look where that squad hailed from – Jalen Rose and Chris (Ho Who Shall Not Be Named) Webber were from Detroit, Juwan Howard came from Chicago, King from North Texas and Ray Jackson from Austin, Texas.
The 1989 lineup had players from Los Angeles (Sean Higgins), Boston (Rumeal Robinson), Flint, which UM used to own as a recruiting base (Glen Rice, Demetrius Calip), Romulus (Terry Mills), Muskegon (Mark Hughes) and Kentwood (Loy Vaught). Michigan was a NATIONAL program, but honestly, not any more.
To be great you have to get great players. Our counterparts in East Lansing do that each and every year; they stand at the point where the Spartans can lose their best player and STILL make the Final Four because Kalin Lucas is surrounded with so much talent.
Finally, Michigan never really appeared to be the best coached team on the court during most games. The squad cratered too many times in second halves, turning close affairs into losses, mostly on the defensive end. The most vivid example, of course, was Turner’s 35-foot buzzer beater to end the Michigan season in the second round of the Big Ten tournament. He was able to take that shot because no one in a blue uniform was within 20 feet of him, permitting an unrestricted path toward that open shot. That’s coaching because it SO appeared to be Michigan’s intention not to guard him.
The same thing happened at home against the Spartans when Lucas was left wide open to hit the winning jumper. Everyone in Crisler Arena knew who was taking that shot and the players should have been instructed to that very fact.
Coaching is a cruel business; nice men often get rolled over by circumstance. But men’s collegiate basketball is also a business and when someone is not doing the job required to produce results, changes must be made. Michigan needs a major injection of youth and talent and that will only come with a change at the top.
If you need some suggested names, try New Mexico’s Steve Alford (who turned the Lobo program completely around and, for some reason, isn’t wanted by his alma mater at Indiana) or Butler’s Brad Stevens, leading his Bulldogs to the Final Four this year. A former Butler head coach, Thad Matta, seems to be doing just fine, thank you, at Ohio State.
Relying on incoming freshmen to lead Michigan back to the Promiseland is an iffy proposition at best and the best players in the state are already committed to East Lansing, not Ann Arbor. Unless they are the likes of John Wall, Carmelo Anthony or Derrick Rose, Michigan fans could be waiting, and waiting and waiting …
As we say in Texas about a certain brand of canned chili, “that’s just too damn long.” It’s time to speed up the clock and it must begin with a housecleaning on the bench.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

GOP now stands for Grand Obstacles Party

This from today's Huffington Post: It's as silly and childish as it gets. And it's ALL done by Republicans.
Senate Republicans fuming over the passage of health care reform are now refusing to work past 2 p.m. -- a tactic they can employ by invoking a little-known Senate rule.

On Wednesday, the Judiciary Committee was forced to cancel a hearing as was the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) tweeted today : "Disappointed. Rs refusing to allow hearings today. Had to cancel my oversight hearing on police training contracts in Afghanistan."
Sen. Mark Udall also complained that he had to delay a hearing on the cause of Western forest fires.
Making good on Sen. John McCain's threat to withhold all Republican cooperation from Democrats in the Senate in retribution for the majority party using reconciliation to pass health care reform, the GOP used the rule that states committees can only meet when the chamber is in session with the unanimous consent of all members. That consent has almost never been withheld -- until now.
Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) asked for consent for his panel to operate Wednesday afternoon. He noted, ironically, that his request had the support of McCain.
"There is objection on our side of the aisle and therefore I object," said Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.).
The GOP objection blocked testimony from Admiral Robert Willard, United States Navy Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command; from General Kevin Chilton, United States Air Force, Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, and from General Walter Sharp, United States Army Commander, U.S. Forces Korea.
For his part, Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) was livid when his committee was forced to delay consideration of several judicial nominees.
"I have accommodated requests from Judiciary Committee Republicans to delay the Committee's hearing to consider Professor Liu's nomination," Leahy said.
He continued: "For months, Senate Republicans have resisted efforts to enact important reforms to our health insurance system. But when the dust settles and the emotions are calmed, history will show that President Obama and this Congress responded to a pressing national issue, and proved once again that we can act with the purpose of advancing an important national interest. Sadly, actions like today's objections from Senate Republicans to the consideration of a highly qualified, historic nominee will be viewed as little more than petty, partisan politics."
Jim Manley, a spokesperson for Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), objected to the objection. "For a second straight day, Republicans are using tricks to shut down several key Senate committees. So let me get this straight: in retaliation for our efforts to have an up-or-down vote to improve health care reform, Republicans are blocking an Armed Services committee hearing to discuss critical national security issues among other committee meetings? These political games and obstruction have to stop -- the American people expect and deserve better."
Without unanimous consent, committees are allowed to meet for two hours following the opening of the Senate session -- which on Wednesday was 9:00 a.m. The committees need consent to continue and consent again to continue after 2:00 p.m. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, had his hearing shut down abruptly at 11:00 Wednesday morning, in the middle of a discussion on the effort to end veteran homelessness in the next five years. It is estimated that more than 100,000 veterans are homeless in the United States on any given night.
"The Senate should be a place for debate, but I cannot imagine how shutting down a hearing on helping homeless veterans has any part of the debate on the health insurance reform," said Akaka. "I am deeply disappointed that my colleagues chose to hinder our common work to help end veteran homelessness."
Committee meetings were also canceled on Tuesday, but as the result of a behind-the-scenes threat, rather than an on-the-floor objection. One meeting that was shut down even dealt with transparency in government. The Executive Director of the Sunlight Foundation, Ellen Miller was cut off during the hearing.
The damn Republicans should just bring baby blankets to work since they seem no longer capable of actually EARNING their government salaries and surely don't care about other important topics such as homeless veterans. So WHY in the world would anyone WANT that party to be returned to power in Congress???
Shame on them for being such whiny, boo-hoo babies!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

'Boo hoo' cries the Republicans

Boo hoo!
Wah! Wah!
This Don Quixote campaign against the newly-signed health care law by the various RED states attornies general (the exception being Michigan and its a Republican AG running for governor along with three other social-climbing GOPers) is trying to do the VERY thing Republicans wish to forbid others from doing (going to court and suing).
Their hue-and-cry has NO case law to back its un-Constitutional claim. While the 10th Amendment covers some things, the supremacy clause DOES override it.
Ironic, isn't it? Suing because they lost the 2008 election (what it is in effect). And it is being led by ... former members of the old Confederacy, who have NEVER accepted the outcome from 1865.
As has been said by MANY others, elections HAVE consequences and in 2008, that meant substantial change. We saw it happen (to this nation's detriment) in 2000; and we survived (except for those sons and daughters who gave their lives in a useless war).
And how about shutting the fuck up about fascism and communism and all those other "isms" people keep yelling about but have absolutely no clue or concept of their true meaning. Under Cheney-Bush, we came closer to actually seeing imperialistic rule in this nation than President Obama has ever conceived on his worst day.
After screwing up ITS majority rule, Republicans can only moan and groan and attempt to disrupt the majority now owned by the Democrats. They have NOTHING to offer despite all pronouncements to the contrary; they fought merely to stop, not to substitute. Starting over did not mean offering something better; they loved the status quo which was not working for most of the people (save those entitled and those rich enough NOT to care).
All the angry older white people can throw anybody they desire out of office and mistakenly think the replacements will be better. The huge budget deficit is a product of massive GOP spending and policies leading up to the 2008 election. To deny that fact is to deny the earth is round. To think Republicans will do better the second time around is as stupid as believing bankers will regulate themselves.
People are right; the adopted health care law is not a great bill, but it begins fixing many problems and future Congresses can improve on it. The first step HAS been taken and those shedding crocodile tears will be the first ones to take advantage of the new law.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

When a picture truly says 1,000 words ...

There are times when words aren't enough adn a few properly chosen ones say it all.
The folloiwng is from the Washington Post's 44 blog, written by Philip Rucker and Eli Saslow:

The political odyssey of health care reform in many ways is the story of Ted Kennedy, and as President Obama signed the historic bill into law Tuesday, Kennedy's gravesite was a place of quiet celebration and poignant reflection.
The late senator's widow, Vicki Reggie Kennedy, spent hours on Sunday at the simple white cross at Arlington National Cemetery marking where her husband was laid to rest only seven months ago. Ted Kennedy's youngest son, Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.), visited on Monday morning and left a hand-written note that read: "Dad, the unfinished business is done."
And on a dreary Tuesday morning, dozens of school children and health care advocates paused at Kennedy's tombstone to commemorate the man who for decades made overhauling the nation's health-care system his life's mission.
Kennedy's legacy was not lost on anyone who filled the East Room of the White House for Obama's bill-signing ceremony. Members of Congress wore blue "TedStrong" wristbands in his honor and posed for pictures with Patrick Kennedy. Caroline Kennedy, the senator's niece, sat in the front row, with other members of the storied family. Vicki Kennedy walked into the room with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).
Obama received a thunderous applause when he evoked the ghost of Ted Kennedy near the climax of his speech.
"I remember seeing Ted walk through that door in a summit in this room a year ago, one of his last public appearances, and it was hard for him to make it, but he was confident that we would do the right thing," Obama said.
When Obama sat to sign the bill, Patrick and Vicki Kennedy stood behind him. Finally, Ted Kennedy's dream became the law of the land.

Ted Kennedy's spirit can finally rest in peace.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I rest my case!

If you wish to know how hate-filled the debate over health care and the 2008 election stands now, just read the comment posted on my post below. It says it all!
And when people devoid of historical knowledge are allowed to enter the debate, ignorance abounds, especially when they constantly refer to Adolf Hitler. Hitler was a fascist who HATED communists. They are polar opposites in terms of philosophy, yet opponents of health care reform toss it out like handfuls of confetti.
YET ... these same people bitch and moan and yell about government-cntrolled health care and programs .... while gladly accepting Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. Exactly who in the fuck do they think runs that????????
And then go to church and pray for exactly the opposite of what Jesus taught mankind.
In the language it deserves, far too many people believe in "I got mine and fuck all the rest of you." Civil War? Stupidity runs amok.
And the Republicans, scurrilous and duplicit in their silence, should be ashamed at how the debate has proceeded and their refusal to denounce these tactics. The end, in their eyes, justifies the means. Damn ALL of them for not speaking out!!!!!!!!!!
And to the guy who posted on my blog, bring it on; you'll be 0-2!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Why must Tea Party followers revert to the most vile forms of expression???

This following story appears on the Washington Post's website.
And the question tat MUST be asked is "Why does it ALWAYS seem that Tea Party gatherings and/or protests involve the most vile, bigoted, racist, ugly and despicable things imaginable?"
'Tea party' protesters accused of spitting on lawmaker, using slurs

By Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 20, 2010; 10:25 p.m.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus said that racial epithets were hurled at them Saturday by angry protesters who had gathered at the Capitol to protest health-care legislation, and one congressman said he was spit upon. The most high-profile openly gay congressman, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), was heckled with anti-gay chants.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) issued a statement late Saturday saying that he was spit upon while walking to the Capitol to cast a vote, leading the Capitol Police to usher him into the building out of concern for his safety. Police detained the individual, who was then released because Cleaver declined to press charges.
"The congressman was walking into the Capitol to vote, when one protester spat on him. The congressman would like to thank the U.S. Capitol Police officer who quickly escorted the other Members and him into the Capitol, and defused the tense situation with professionalism and care," said Danny Rotert, a spokesman for Cleaver.
Protesters outside the Capitol hurled epithets at Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Andre Carson (D-Ind.) as they left the building after President Obama delivered an 11th-hour speech on behalf of the health care bill. Carson told reporters that protesters yelled "kill the bill," then used a racial epithet to describe Carson and Lewis, who is a revered figure on both sides of the aisle.
According to observers, Frank was confronted by about 100 protesters inside the Longworth House Office Building, where Democrats were huddling for another meeting about the legislation. Some targeted Frank with anti-gay epithets and urged him to vote against the bill.
Democratic leaders and their aides said they were outraged by the day's behavior.
"I have heard things today that I have not heard since March 15, 1960, when I was marching to get off the back of the bus," said House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the highest-ranking black official in Congress.
And Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a statement, "On the one hand, I am saddened that America's debate on health care -- which could have been a national conversation of substance and respect -- has degenerated to the point of such anger and incivility. But on the other, I know that every step toward a more just America has aroused similar hate in its own time; and I know that John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights movement, has learned to wear the worst slurs as a badge of honor."
"This is not the first time the congressman has been called the 'n' word and certainly not the worst assault he has endured in his years fighting for equal rights for all Americans," said Rotert, Cleaver's spokesman. "That being said, he is disappointed that in the 21st century our national discourse has devolved to the point of name-calling and spitting."
The incidents followed a noontime protest on the west side of the Capitol that drew several thousand people from around the country for a "Code Red" rally against the health-care bill. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) addressed the crowd.
As that rally ended, some protesters moved around to the south side of the Capitol, near the entrance to the House chamber, and across the east front of the complex.
On the first day of spring, most lawmakers walked across the street from their office buildings to the Capitol, rather than using the underground tunnels. That brought them into contact with protesters forming a gauntlet on each side of the walkway leading into the House. At one point, when Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) wanted to walk across the street to an office building, he was ushered into a car by his security detail and driven a couple hundred feet through the screaming crowd.
Saturday evening, more than a handful of House Republicans held an impromptu rally on the Capitol steps. Using a megaphone, the lawmakers urged on the crowd. Shortly after 6 p.m., Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.) dared House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to come out onto the House steps and address the more than 1,000 people who were gathered at the foot of the Capitol, prompting a loud and angry chant of "Nancy, Nancy, Nancy."
The protesters believe that the Obama administration and Congress are ignoring the public's opposition to the $940 billion legislation, which they consider it to be a government takeover of the health-care system. They carried signs saying "Remember in November"; one carried a broomstick with cardboard pasted onto it with the label "Here's Your Ride," for Pelosi.
Why? And please STOP saying it's a tiny minority. That group is growing larger and is being egged on by stupid Republican politicians who only see their own short-term benefit, and by hatemonger commentators out fo the glory and never for the good.
Why? Someone PLEASE explain why it is happening more and more and more.
Damn ALL of them!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Finding agreement with those of whom you strongly disagree

Often times, you see something profound and marvel at how has said it and how much of it you actually agree.
If people cast aside personal feelings about the author and actually WATCHED Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Live Story,” now out on DVD, you’d be SHOCKED at the number of times you found yourself nodding your head in agreement – regardless of party affiliation.
On this topic, even conservatives will find themselves agreeing with his basic premise – Wall Street and big banks have corrupted the capitalistic system of THIS country and the 2008 Bush-led bank/Wall Street bailout was nothing more than open robbery of the American taxpayer.
Hell, Moore sounds more “Tea Party” than any Tea Party activists around! While he DOES add the ingredient SO lacking with the Tea Party members (mainly, humor; they substitute personal insults and all too often racist imagery for wit), his words are biting and direct. Wall Street robbed the public blind and has helped to severely damage this nation.
One of the highlights comes toward the movie’s conclusion when Moore displays archival film from FDR and what became known as the Second Bill of Rights. As he explains, THIS was the premise by which the United States employed to re-write new constitutions in the defeated and destroyed Japan and Germany. They prospered, they recovered and they began to out-maneuver our nation in the area of industrial manufacturing (cars, steel production, etc.) – and did so with the influence of labor unions and bettering the living standards of its citizens with FDR’s blueprint.
This is from President Roosevelt’s January 11, 1944 message to the Congress of the United States on the State of the Union:
“It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people – whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth – is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.
This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights – among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.
As our nation has grown in size and stature, however – as our indus-trial economy expanded –these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. ‘Necessitous men are not free men.’ People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
In our day, these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all – regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
* The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
* The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
* The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
* The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
* The right of every family to a decent home;
* The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
* The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment;
* The right to a good education.
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won, we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.
America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens.”
I would strongly suggest everyone see this film – do NOT dismiss offhand because you don’t care for Moore’s personality or his politics. As a twin feature, you should see “Sicko,” his prior work about the American health care system and the debate about the quality of life in those countries who DO offer it to their people.
Again, you’ll be surprised how often you find yourself in agreement.

Fearless Chuck's NCAA Div. 1 men's basketball selections (read 'em and weep)

Here’s what you’ve all been waiting for: my NCAA Men’s Division 1 tournament picks:

First round
Kentucky over E. Tennessee State
Texas over Wake Forest (although UT has played the worst hoops of any no. 1 team this season)
Temple over Cornell
Wisconsin over Wofford
Marquette over Washington
New Mexico over Montana
Missouri over Clemson
West Virginia over Morgan State

Duke over Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Louisville over California
Texas A&M over Utah State (battle of Aggies)
Siena over Purdue
Old Dominion over Notre Dame
Baylor over Sam Houston State
St. Mary’s over Richmond
Villanova over Robert Morris

Kansas over Lehigh (why did Lehigh change its name from the Engineers? What tribe was upset by THAT?)
Northern Iowa over UNLV
Michigan State over New Mexico State (wrong set of Aggies)
Maryland over Houston
Tennessee over San Diego State (Aztecs might have ex-UM coach Mike Fisher, from the Miracle of 1989, but not this year)
Georgetown over Ohio
Georgia Tech over Oklahoma State
Ohio State over UC-Santa Barbara

WEST (upset central)
Syracuse over Vermont (the Catamounts, gotta love that name)
Gonzaga over Florida State
UTEP over Butler (12 beats a 5)
Murray State over Vanderbilt (13 beats a 4)
Minnesota over Xavier (11 beats a 6)
Pitt over Oakland
Brigham Young over Florida
Kansas State over North Texas (Mean Green v. Purple Wildcats – the Sherwin-Williams special)

Second round
Kentucky over Texas
Temple over Wisconsin
Marquette over New Mexico
West Virginia over Missouri

Duke over Louisville (once upon a time, this would have been the Finals)
Texas A&M over Siena (sorry Saints)
Baylor over Old Dominion
Villanova over St. Mary’s

Kansas over Northern Iowa
Michigan State over Maryland
Georgetown over Tennessee
Ohio State over Georgia Tech

Syracuse over Gonzaga
UTEP over Murray State (shades of 1966???)
Pitt over Minnesota
Kansas State over Brigham Young

Sweet Sixteen
Kentucky over Temple
West Virginia over Marquette

Duke over Texas A&M
Villanova over Baylor

Kansas over Michigan State
Ohio State over Georgetown

Syracuse over UTEP
Pitt over Kansas State

Elite Eight
Kentucky over West Virginia

Duke over Villanova

Kansas over Ohio State

Pitt over Syracuse

Kentucky over Duke
Kansas over Pitt

Kansas 78, Kentucky 73

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A brief history of St. Patrick’s Day

Chuck – Here is a history of St. Patrick’s Day from an article in Ceili Music Magazine (plus info from U.S. Census Bureau) and a few recipes courtesy of the Los Angeles Times and my own files:

By Michelle Osborne
The story of St. Patrick’s Day begins around 385 A.D. with a man named Maewyn. At age 16, Pagan Maewyn was sold into slavery, which brought him closer to God. He finally managed to escape slavery six years later and headed to a monastery in Gaul to study, where he adopted Christian name, “Patrick.”
Upon ending his studies, he moved to Ireland, where he felt his calling in life was to convert Pagans to Christianity. For next 30 years, he traveled throughout thr country, setting up monasteries and converting natives. After his death in 461 A.D. (on March 17, when else did you expect?), he was declared a saint.
So what happened from there? How did a man who spent his entire life converting Pagans to Christianity result in a day devoted to rowdy songs, parades, and drinking green beer, a day when everyone is just a wee bit Irish?
The first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was in America, not Ireland. It took place in New York City in 1762, and consisted of Irish soldiers in English military marching through city. This was a chance for soldiers to reconnect with their heritage. Eventually, as more Irish immigrants came to America, parades were a show of strength for Irish-Americans and political candidates had to make an appearance at them. Now a regular annual event, people of all backgrounds celebrate this day.
Ireland, on other hand, does not have such a long history of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Prior to 1970s, it was a religious occasion and, indeed, Irish law mandated that pubs be closed on March 17! Apparently, there was no green beer for those in Ireland.
This changed around 1995, when government made a push to use St. Patrick’s Day as a way to drive tourism and to showcase Ireland to the rest of world. Parades and celebrations are now common in Ireland around this day (in fact, their celebrations last several days) and some 1 million people took part in last year’s festivities in Dublin.
When people nowadays think of this day, they get an image of shamrock in their head. You see it on the sides of buildings, on hats and clothing, on balloons and decorations. Why? Its origins are rooted in Patrick himself. He used the shamrock as a way to show how the trinity works: three separate elements of same entity.
So wherever you are, whether you’re Irish or not, get out there and enjoy day!
Celtic MP3s Music Magazine writer Michelle Osborne (Irish Music Reviews), a native to central New York region, plays both high and low whistles regularly with the Syracuse Irish session. Besides being heavily involved in Irish traditional music, she is also a classical clarinetist and composer.
For more information on the holiday, The History Channel will be showing The History of St. Patrick’s Day this Wednesday, March 17 at 6 p.m.

And from the U.S Census:
The St. Patrick’s Day parade became an annual event with President Truman attending in 1948. Congress proclaimed March as Irish-American Heritage Month in 1995 and President issues a proclamation each year.
U.S. residents of Irish ancestry
The number of U.S. residents who claimed Irish ancestry in 2008 was 36.3 million. This number was more than eight times the population of Ireland itself (4.4 million). Irish was nation’s second most frequently reported ancestry, trailing only German.

Irish heritage in Massachusetts
The percent of Massachusetts residents who were of Irish ancestry in 2008 was 24 percent. This compares with a rate of 12 percent for the nation as a whole.

The percentage of people of Irish ancestry, 25 or older, who have a bachelor’s degree, or more, education is 32 percent. In addition, 92 percent of Irish-Americans in this age group had at least a high school diploma. For the nation as a whole, corresponding rates were 28 percent and 85 percent.

Households median
The median income for households headed by an Irish-American is $52,029 for all households. In addition, 9 percent of people of Irish ancestry were in poverty, lower than the rate of 13 percent for all Americans.

The percentage of householders of Irish ancestry who owned home in which they live is 71 percent, with the remainder renting. For the nation as a whole, homeownership rate was 67 percent.

U.S. cities named for the shamrock
There are several places in the United States named Shamrock, which is the floral emblem of Ireland. Mount Gay-Shamrock, W.Va., and Shamrock, Texas, were the most populous, with 2,623 and 1,807 residents, respectively. Shamrock Lakes, Ind., had 153 residents and Shamrock, Okla., 123.

Beef and Cabbage Production
United States beef and cabbage production in pounds in 2008 was 40.7 billion and 2.5 billion. Corned beef and cabbage is a traditional St. Patrick’s Day dish.
The corned beef that celebrants dine on may very well have originated in Texas, which produced 6.5 billion pounds worth of beef. The largest producers of cabbage are New York, which produced 584 million pounds and California, which produced 528 million pounds.

Beer-Battered Rock Shrimp with Honey Mustard
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra flour for dusting
2 teaspoons cayenne
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 8-ounce bottle of beer, room temperature
1 ½ pounds rock shrimp
4 cups peanut oil for frying
Lemon wedges for garnish

Honey-Mustard Dipping Sauce
6 tablespoons honey
¼ cup Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon Tabasco

To make batter, combine flour, cayenne, salt, baking powder and sugar in a medium bowl. Add beer and whisk until smooth. Set aside uncovered for at least 1 hour.
In large saucepan, heat oil to deep-fry temperature, about 350 degrees. Test oil by sprinkling in few drops of batter. If they immediately rise to surface, oil is ready.
Dry strips of rock shrimp or fish on paper towels; dust with flour, patting well to remove excess. Thoroughly coat shrimp by dipping one at time in batter; fry 5 pieces at time until crisp and golden, about 2-3 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine dipping sauce ingredients in small bowl and set aside.
Remove fish or shrimp with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and dipping sauce. Serves 6.

Gilliland’s Irish Bread Pudding with Caramel-Whiskey Sauce
1 (2 lb.) loaf sliced white bread, crusts removed
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup raisins
1/3 cup Irish Whiskey
2 ½ cups milk
2 ½ cups whipping cream
1 vanilla bean, slit
8 eggs
1 cup sugar
Cinnamon-sugar (about ¼ cup)

Spread bread slices with some of soft butter. Toast lightly on 1 side. Cut bread in ½-inch squares. Set aside.
Plump raisins in Irish whiskey. Set aside.
Heat milk and cream with vanilla bean, scraping out seeds from bean. Cool; discard bean. Set milk aside.
Beat eggs with sugar. Add to milk mixture. Stir in bread cubes and raisin mixture. Let stand 15 minutes.
Pour bread mixture into well-buttered 13x9-inch glass baking pan. Dot with remaining butter, sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar to taste. Bake at 350 degrees 45-60 minutes or until lightly golden on top.
Serve with Caramel-Whiskey Sauce. Makes 8 servings.

Caramel-Whiskey Sauce
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup water
½ cup butter
Whipping cream
¼ cup Irish whiskey
Melt sugar in water over low heat until caramelized. Add butter and 1 ½ cups whipping cream and cook to desired consistency. Cool, then add whiskey and more cream for desired consistency, if necessary.
Makes about 3 cups.

Authentic Irish soda bread
3 cups unbleached flour, plus more for kneading
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon caraway seeds, optional

6 tablespoons butter
2 eggs, beaten, optional
1 ¼-2 cups buttermilk
1 cup raisins or mixed raisins and currants, plumped in hot water 5 minutes

Combine unbleached flour, whole-wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, cinnamon and caraway seeds. Cut butter into dry ingredients by hand or using paddle or hook attachment on mixer at slow speed.
Add eggs and buttermilk to form soft dough; stir in raisins. Turn out onto floured work surface and gently knead 8 times or so, to firm up dough. Let rest 10 minutes.
Shape into an 8- or 9-inch round. Score top with a knife to make cross. Dust with white flour or sprinkle with bran or oatmeal. Place in 9-inch cast-iron pan and bake at 375 degrees until top is brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 40-50 minutes. Remove and cool in pan on rack.

Shepherd’s Pie
1 lb. ground beef
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
2 cups beef stock
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
4 cups mashed potatoes, from scratch, using Yukon Golds
2 teaspoons paprika

Brown ground beef in large skillet with onion and green pepper. Add beef stock. In small saucepan, melt butter over low heat and whisk in flour. Add mixture to beef stock to thicken; stir in salt, thyme, and mixed vegetables; simmer for 20 minutes.
Preheat broiler. Spoon mixture into an ovenproof casserole dish. Top it with mashed potatoes, using large pastry bag if desired. Sprinkle paprika on top. Place pie under broiler to brown.

Champ (Green onion mashed potatoes)
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ cup whipping cream
¼ cup (½ stick) butter
1 bunch green onions, sliced (about 1 1/3 cups)

Cook potatoes in pot of boiling salted water until very tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring cream and butter to simmer in heavy small saucepan over me¬di¬um heat, stirring often. Mix in green onions. Remove from heat. Cover and let steep while potatoes cook.
Drain potatoes thoroughly. Return potatoes to same pot and mash. Add cream mixture and stir until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Cover; let stand at room temperature. Re-warm over low heat, stirring often.) Serves 4.

Ballymaloe Irish stew
2 lbs. shoulder lamb chops, about 1-inch thick
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup Guinness beer or any dark beer
1 pound new potatoes
1 pound baby carrots, peeled
1 pint pearl onions, peeled
4 cups lamb stock
2 tablespoons dark roux
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

Season lamb chops with salt and pepper. In large Dutch oven, over medium heat, add oil. When oil is hot, but not smoking, add chops. Sear for 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove chops from pan and set aside. Add beer and continue to cook for 1 minute, scraping any brown particles off bottom of pan. Add lamb back to pan.
In mixing bowl, toss vegetables with salt and pepper, and to pan.
Cover with stock, bring liquid to boil, cover and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for about 2 hours or until lamb falls off bone. Stir in roux and continue to cook for 10 minutes. Stir in parsley and spoon into serving bowls. Serves 4.

Beef and Guinness stew
2 pounds stew beef
3 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tablespoons tomato puree, dissolved in 4 tablespoons water
1 ¼ cups Guinness
2 cups largely diced carrots
Sprig of fresh thyme
Chopped parsley, for garnish

Trim meat of any fat or gristle, and cut into 2-inch cubes. Toss beef with 1 tablespoon of oil. In small bowl, season flour with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Toss meat with seasoned flour.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet over high heat. Brown meat on all sides. Reduce heat, add onions, crushed garlic and tomato puree to skillet, cover, and cook gently for 5 minutes. Transfer contents to cas¬se¬role and pour half of Guinness into skillet. Bring Guinness to boil and stir to dissolve caramelized meat juices on pan. Pour over meat, along with remaining Guinness. Add carrots and thyme. Stir and adjust season¬ings. Cover casserole and simmer over low heat, or in 300-degree oven until meat is tender, 2-3 hours.
Garnish beef with parsley and serve. Serves 6.

Irish beef stew
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 ¼-pounds stew beef, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 large garlic cloves, minced
8 cups canned beef broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons (¼-stick) butter
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 7 cups)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups ½-inch pieces peeled carrots

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add beef and sauté until brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute.
Add beef stock, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, melt butter in another large pot over medium heat. Add potatoes, onion and carrots. Sauté vegetables until golden, about 20 minutes. Add vegetables to beef stew. Simmer uncovered until vegetables and beef are very tender, about 40 minutes. Discard bay leaves; tilt pan and spoon off fat. (Can be prepared up to two days ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and refrigerate. Bring to simmer before serving).
Transfer stew to serving bowl. Makes 4-6 servings.


Saturday, March 06, 2010

Why not vote for 'none of the above?'

Author's Note: This was published in today's (March 6, 2010) edition of the Dallas Morning News on its Viewpoints page.
There is a plotline to an old Richard Pryor movie, the seventh remake version of the 1902 novel, "Brewster’s Millions." In the 1985 version, Pryor is an old minor league pitcher (Montgomery Brewster) who must spend $30 million in 30 days and have no tangible assets when the clock strikes 12. For his efforts, he will inherit $300 million from a long-lost eccentric millionaire relative.

Along with such ingenious moves (such as buying a priceless stamp worth millions and then using it to actually mail a letter), Brewster decides to run a campaign to be mayor of New York City. He urges all voters to simply vote for “none of the above” in protest over the other two seemingly corrupt challengers.
As the contrived plot weaves its way through, one of the threads finds none of the human candidates winning; instead “none of the above” emerges in the top spot, sending a powerful message.
As a registered voter, I wish most campaigns would be half as entertaining as a Richard Pryor movie. Instead, as the primary races that came to a head this week show, voters are often saddled with inane commercials, the same tired rhetoric filled with the code words and acerbic barbs, and a complete lack of cogent ideas about how to govern.
While there are some minor party representatives on the November ballots, this state and country is - for better and far worse — a two-party political system. Actually, in many places, it’s a one-party system (especially when one of the major parties refuses, or is unable, to field a suitable slate of candidates).
In Texas, voters never have full participation in choosing its representatives because the primary system forces an automatic political division. Often, as is the case for state representative race in Collin County, only Republicans will choose a voice in Austin for the rest of us. In November, only one name (a Republican’s) will appear, and the outcome is a foregone conclusion.
But it wouldn’t be so if there was an alternate choice on the ballot. Why not be able to vote for “none of the above”?
That might express, in a more accurate sense, the will of the people. If voters want someone other than what is shown them, maybe they should have the final word. If you don’t want an octogenarian going to Congress for the umpteenth time, but find the other choices to be completely unsatisfactory, why shouldn’t you tell the political establishment “none of the above”? If no one represents your viewpoints, why can’t you push back with “none of the above”?
It might force the parties to field better candidates and allow for better representation in the various legislatures, city halls, school boards and courthouses. Critics might claim that such a voter option would result in stymied government and a less-than-effective means to exercise democracy. I would counter with one question: Is it really working that well right now?
With the overriding influence of Montgomery Brewster-like money in the most meager of contests (and with the poisoning potential for even more monetary participation from corporations), we don’t always seem to get the “best” and the “brightest” to be our advocates. The average person needs someone, or in this case, something to grasp in this democratic process of ours.
“None of the above” would be a start, and it would add a new level of accountability to the system.
Now, that would be a welcome storyline.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Texas primary results - take 1

LOST was much more interesting tonight but ... a few things are being made clear with the results of the Texas primary elections (more take later).
1) Tea Party does NOT deliver votes, only complaints. Otherwise, Perry would be out (the biggest incumbent of them all is moving on to gold medal round against a MUCH better campaigner). If people like Cong. Ralph Hall (our version of the 1,000-year-old man) also win, all that "throw the bums out" talk is just that - cheap talk without a shred of direct action. To be feared, you gotta deliver in the clutch. As it is said here, the Tea Party is "all hat, no cattle."
2) This SHOULD be the end for Kay Bailey Hutchison. She wants to leave D.C., come home and promised to resign - win or lose - after tonight's results. Let's see if she follows through. And this was not only a loss, it was a rebuke of her.
She can't win in 4 years after tonight because the blueprint to beat her has been written. And this loss gives Perry the chance to appoint someone HE wants there (I don't know who or how after all he's said about how BAD people in DC are).
3) If you run, don't be a clown ... like Farouk Shami. And if you endorse someone, know that person FIRST (statewide Hispanic Dems groups) before getting embarassed.
4) Ask this: would turnout have been greater if the primary were held on a Saturday???????????? Still hard for many people to vote on a weekday workday.
More later when I actually get some damn sleep.

New name, same old face and temper

Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning, who shall forever be knwon as ...
Senator Mean Mister Mustard