"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Birthdays Today

A really remarkable series of birthdays today.   First, it is Jonathan Swift's birthday, the author of Gulliver's Travels, who was born in 1667.   Then, in 1835, Mark Twain was born.  So, arguably, the greatest English satirist and the greatest American comic novelist (if not the greatest American novelist period, for Huck Finn) were born on the same day.

Today is also the birthday of the Great Man of the Twentieth Century, Winston Churchill.  We are not who we are, if Churchill was not who he was. 

Also born today, in 1937, was one of my favorite movie directors, Ridley Scott, the director of the cult classic Blade Runner, the original Alien and the Academy Award-winning Gladiator; the playwright, David Mamet, author of Glengarry Glen Ross; and the great football/baseball player, Bo Jackson (hard to believe he's 48).   Here are some of his greatest runs in football, his best sport; the last one is the one that freakishly ended his career -- his leg muscles were so strong that he pulled his leg out of its hip socket when tackled from behind. Later, he came back to play major league baseball at least for a time with an artificial hip.

Finally, born today in 1982 was the actress (from 24), Elisha Cuthbert, who is included in this august company for the simple reason that, well, you know:

Girl Tuesday - Ursula Andress

Hard to recreate the splash Ursula Andress made as the original hot Bond girl -- the character's name was "Honey Ryder" -- in Dr. No:  

Smile of the Day - Creep Version

Bradley Manning, pictured above, was the twenty-two year-old Army private who pirated all of the Classified information that has made its way to Wikileaks and, now, onto the Internet.   There are a lot of questions to be raised for the future:  (1) Why are our diplomats so, well, undiplomatic?  (2) Why are there so many classified documents, including information that plainly isn't secret?  (3) Why are so many people -- I read one source that said up to 3 million -- given clearance to look at secret materials?  (4) How does a goof like Manning get to be one of those people?  

That's all fine.  But I think the question is:  what do we do now?  Repairing the damage to our diplomacy is the least of our worries; from what I've read, nothing released seems to be anything that couldn't have been deduced by a reasonable poli-sci graduate student.   China selling missiles to Iran?  Alert the media.   Relatively moderate Arab states afraid of a nuclear Iran?  Who would have guessed Arabs wouldn't like to be dominated by Persians?  Russia is a mobocracy?  What else is new?  When was it something else?

Keeping more significant espionage from occurring in the future would be my main focus.   How do we do that?  I think the first step is to say two things:  (1) Bradley Manning is a traitor, and the U.S. government will seek the death penalty.  (2) Recipients of classified information like Wikileaks are abettors of treason, and their leaders, like Julian Assange (pictured below), will be extradited and prosecuted.   America will demand that any country harboring Assange extradite him to American justice or else face sanctions.  

There is too much classified information and too many people with clearance to think that internal controls will handle everything.   You need swift and sure justice to deter treason.  

It starts with the doofus shown above, and this jerk:


National Review Online has a good post on Manning's liability under the Espionage Act.   

Monday, November 29, 2010

Real Achievement Or Hoop-Jumping in Schools?

The New York Times has an article today called "A's for Good Behavior" about the difference between "compliance" in schools -- doing all the homework, handing things in on time, doing neat work, etc. -- and actual academic achievement, which ought to mean ability to master complex subject matter.  Here's the hook:

A few years ago, teachers at Ellis Middle School in Austin, Minn., might have said that their top students were easy to identify: they completed their homework and handed it in on time; were rarely tardy; sat in the front of the class; wrote legibly; and jumped at the chance to do extra-credit assignments. But after poring over four years of data comparing semester grades with end-of-the-year test scores on state subject exams, the teachers at Ellis began to question whether they really knew who the smartest students were.  About 10 percent of the students who earned A’s and B’s in school stumbled during end-of-the-year exams. By contrast, about 10 percent of students who scraped along with C’s, D’s and even F’s — students who turned in homework late, never raised their hands and generally seemed turned off by school — did better than their eager-to-please B+ classmates.
One of my favorite bloggers, Ann Althouse, comments:
It seems obvious to me that schools should give achievement in learning the primary place it deserves and should also demand appropriate behavior. Students need to be decently well-behaved, diligent, and organized, but it's wrong to treat teacher's-pet-type students as if they are the best. That drives many smart kids into rebellion. And, frankly, it's likely to create unnecessary problems for lots of boys. And it doesn't do girls any favors either, since real careers aren't about handing in all the homework and pleasing the authority figure.
As the father of a really really smart but not very well-behaved thirteen year-old boy, I couldn't agree more.  My boy is going to be a huge success in life, and I worry every day that most of what will happen in school between now and then will hinder that success more than it helps. 

Look, this will sound harsh.   Everyone deserved dignity as a human being, from the least intelligent to the most intelligent.  But the truth is that most of what has raised society from the jungle has been accomplished by individuals at the east end of the bell curve -- invention, entrepreneurship, leadership, victory, problem-solving, creation.  To the extent that our schools do not cherish and focus on the most capable minds -- not the neatest, not the nicest, not the most polite, not the most punctual, but the most intellectually capable -- they are not only disserving those children, they are disserving America's future.  

Obama in Jesusland

Remember how the Left criticized and ridiculed George W. Bush for his overt Christianity?   Here's an example from the way-back machine, from a lefty blogger named Ken Layne, writing about the 2004 election:

I've never had a problem with actual conservatives ... But I've got a big problem with Jesusland. If you want to worship the ghost of a jew from the Roman Empire, that's cool. Enjoy it! But when you people and your bizarre mystery cult claim the goddamned president as your prime convert who rules by the voices in his head, I call bullshit.
Now, here is Barack Obama on his own religious practice:
"Michelle and I have not only benefited from our prayer life, but I think the girls have too," the president told [Barbara] Walters. "We say grace before we eat dinner every night. We take turns."... When asked if he prays himself, the president said: "I do. Every night."   He also says that he reads the Bible.  
Why does the Left not castigate and ridicule Obama for his Christianity?  Isn't this a ridiculously obvious double standard?

Actually, I don't think it is a double standard.   I think the atheist Left hates George W. Bush and cuts Obama slack for a very simple reason that is entirely consistent.   They hate (or, rather, feel intellectually superior to) Christians.   So they hate George W. Bush, because he is one.   But they just don't think Obama is sincere or honest in what he's saying here to Barbara Walters (of all people).   They see it for what it is:  a cynical political ploy, designed to help him move back to the center politically.   They realize Obama doesn't mean what he's saying.  George W. Bush actually meant it when he professed his faith.  

Birthdays Today

Christian Doppler, the physicist who discovered the Doppler effect, was born today in 1803.   The Doppler effect explains why the sound of a siren is higher as the fire engine approaches an observer, and lower as the fire engine moves away from the observer; the sound waves are shortened or bunched up due to the relative motion of the oncoming fire engine, but elongated as the fire engine recedes.  

Maybe this is a stretch, but I see a similar phenomena in celebrity ages.   For movie actors, time seems to slow, because we see them all the time on TV in repeats of movies they made as much younger men.  For athletes, however, because we only generally see them playing in games that are happening right now -- no one watches games from twenty years ago, except in highlights -- they tend to age normally, like the rest of us (which means way too fast).   For instance, today is the birthday of Andrew McCarthy, the young actor from St. Elmo's Fire and other "Brat Pack" movies.   It is also the birthday of the great reliever for the Yankees, Mariano Rivera.   Who's older?   In my mind's eye, here is what they would look like:

Who's older?   Well, of course, Andrew McCarthy today turns 49, while Mariano Rivera is still going strong on the mound for the Yankees at a youthful 41.  

I actually kind of liked McCarthy in a recent Lifetime TV movie called Straight from the Heart about a widower cowboy who falls for a big city girl (Teri Polo).   Sappy, but he played a tough guy pretty well.   Unfortunately, guys like him have been completely typecast, so I'm afraid he'll only get roles like that on sappy TV movies.   

Girl Monday - Audrey Hepburn

Smile of the Day

A great man, Pope Benedict.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Birthdays Today

The poet William Blake was born today in 1757.   The poems from Songs of Innocence and Experience are well-known, but to me the best part of the book are Blake's own illustrations.   He was perhaps a better painter than a poet.  

Today is also the 60th birthday of the actor Ed Harris, who is part of the ensembles in two of my favorite movies, The Right Stuff and Apollo 13.  Here is a great moment from the latter:

Finallly, it's the 26th birthday of the Milwaukee Bucks' center, Andrew Bogut, who is slowly recovering from a terrible injury last year.  The Bucks will go only as far as Bogut takes them.   

Girl Sunday - Rachel McAdams

In a bizarre move, I somehow ended up taking my strapping testosterone-laden 13 1/2 year old son to see a chick flick last night, Morning Glory, with today's Girl of the Day, Rachel McAdams.   The movie was very entertaining, and McAdams was very appealing, even to a 13 1/2 year old (or, perhaps, especially to a 13 1/2 year old).

Smile of the Day - Badger Version

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Birthdays Today

It has always amazed me that (a) Israel exists; (b) that Israel as the product, in large part, of Holocaust survivors, has a moral claim on European and American allegiance; (c) that Israel as the only real democracy in the Middle East has a political-strategic claim on European and American allegiance; and yet (d) many on the Left in Europe and America seem willing to side with Israel's enemies, radical Islamists and their Arab enablers, who desire nothing less than Israel's eradication.  That the Left does so is a scandal to liberalism.  

In any event, today is the birthday of Chaim Weizmann, the first President of Israel, who was born n 1874.  

Girl Saturday - Joan Fontaine

Young Joan Fontaine in Rebecca:

Smile of the Day

Auburn's miracle comeback on the road against arch-rival Alabama was one for the ages, likely assuring them a place in the national championship game.  They still have to win the SEC Championship Game next week.   Auburn is led by their likely Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Cam Newton:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Very Dangerous

The U.S. and South Korea are planning joint naval exercises in the Yellow Sea this weekend.   The carrier U.S.S. George Washington has left its port in Japan and is headed there now.  

This is a very very dangerous situation.   North Korea has nothing to lose, and for its leaders, a war with South Korea may be a last gasp and/or a way to distract the North Korean people from just how much of a failure the regime has been in the most basic terms of providing food, shelter, medical care, and decent lives for its citizens.  

Again, language is telling.  Only insane dictators issue public statements like this one:
"The army and people of [North Korea] are now greatly enraged at the provocation of the puppet group, while getting fully ready to give a shower of dreadful fire and blow up the bulwark of the enemies if they dare to encroach again upon [North Korea's] dignity and sovereignty even in the least.  The group should not run amuck, clearly understanding the will and mettle of the highly alerted army and people of [North Korea] to wipe out the enemies."

Birthdays Today

Mediocre birthdays today, but one of note:  Charles Schulz, the creator of "Peanuts," was born today in 1922.  Hard to imagine the Christmas season without Linus' monologue on the meaning of Christmas:

Girl Friday - Shelley Winters

In honor of the day after Thanksgiving, when we're all recovering from eating too much, the most famous fat girl in Hollywood history, who was actually pretty hot and tempting as a young thing, Shelley Winters:

Smile(s) of the Day

The World Champion U-15 caeli team from my daughters' school, Cashel Dennehy.  We're at Oreachtas with their caeli teams, U-10 and U-12, this weekend in Chicago.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Gipper Gives Thanks

From Ronald Reagan's 1988 Thanksgiving Day proclamation:
Today, cognizant of our American heritage of freedom and opportunity, we are again called to gratitude, thanksgiving, and contrition. Thanksgiving Day summons every American to pause in the midst of activity, however necessary and valuable, to give simple and humble thanks to God. This gracious gratitude is the "service" of which Washington spoke. It is a service that opens our hearts to one another as members of a single family gathered around the bounteous table of God’s Creation. The images of the Thanksgiving celebrations at America’s earliest settlement - of Pilgrim and Iroquois Confederacy assembled in festive friendship - resonate with even greater power in our own day. People from every race, culture, and creed on the face of the Earth now inhabit this land. Their presence illuminates the basic yearning for freedom, peace, and prosperity that has always been the spirit of the New World.
You can read all of President Reagan's Thanksgiving Day proclamations here.

Birthdays Today

Joe DiMaggio was born today in 1914.   Query:  is Joe DiMaggio, like Derek Jeter, overrated because he played in New York for the Yankees?  This is not to say they are not great players, only that they are not quite as great as everyone thinks they are.   Consider these career statistics:

1390 runs, 2214 hits, 389 doubles, 131 triples, 361 homeruns, 1537 RBIs, lifetime .325 batting average

Now compare these:

1949 runs, 3630 hits, 725 doubles, 177 triples, 475 homeruns, 1951 RBIs, lifetime .331 batting average.

The first one is DiMaggio's, and they are very very good.  But the second set of statistics are, you guessed it, Stan Musial's, and they are better by far in every category.   Yet, when the greatest outfielders of the 20th Century were voted on by fans, DiMaggio made the Top 10 easily, while Musial had to be added as a "special" panel selection, an after thought.   

I'm just saying.

Smile of the Day

The Regular Guy loves a Thanksgiving parade:

Girl Thursday - Mariel Hemingway

In Woody Allen's Manhattan, Allen's character is dating a seventeen year-old girl named Tracy played by the model Mariel Hemingway.   At one point in the movie he has broken up with her and is distraught, and he is lying on his couch talking into a tape recorder, listing the things that make life worth living.   The last one he comes up with is "Tracy's face":

Thanksgiving's a good time to remember all the things that make life worth living.   Here's the scene from the movie:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Apotheosis of the Liberal Mind ca. 2010

Richard Cohen, columnist for the Washington Post, has a column up that seems to me to be the apotheosis of the liberal mind circa 2010.   His thesis is that Sarah Palin, by criticizing Michelle Obama in her new book for having famously said that her husband's election as President was the first time she had been proud of America, shows herself to be "ignorant" of American history.   In one column Cohen unites, first, America-hating:
It was the government that oppressed blacks, enforcing the laws that imprisoned them and hanged them for crimes grave and trivial, whipped them if they bolted for freedom and, in the Civil War, massacred them if they were captured fighting for the North.
America in Cohen's world -- the world of the Eastern Establishment liberal media elite -- is irredeemably racist, and it's central event is slavery even today.   That Americans fought and died to end slavery is written out of American history -- "the North" appears here as a essentially a separate country, whose moral acts aren't attributed to America. 

Second, Cohen offers up unudulerated hatred for Sarah Palin:

Sarah Palin teases that she might run for president. But she is unqualified - not just in the (let me count the) usual ways, but because she does not know the country. She could not be the president of black America nor of Hispanic America. She knows more about grizzlies than she does about African Americans - and she clearly has more interest in the former than the latter.
Palin here is not just ignorant, she's not just racist -- of course, the liberal mind views anyone who criticizes the Obamas as racist -- but fundamentally immoral, a person who cares more about "grizzlies" than she does about her fellow human beings and fellow Americans who happen to be black or Hispanic.

Third, Cohen demonstrates a willingness to spin wildly on behalf of the Obamas in a way that must be transparent to any independent voter:
Michelle Obama quickly explained herself. She was proud of the turnout in the primaries - so many young people, etc. Evan Thomas, writing perceptively in Newsweek, thought - as I did - that she was saying something else. He dug into her senior thesis at Princeton - "Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community" - to find a young woman who felt, or was made to feel, "more aware of my 'blackness' than ever before." This was not a statement of racism. This was a statement of fact.
In Cohen's world, when Michelle Obama said that her husband's election was "the first time in my adult life" that she could be proud of her country, that wasn't an expression of an anti-American sentiment, notwithstanding the fact that Mrs. Obama had spent the prior twenty years sitting in the Chicago church of Jeremiah Wright hearing precisely that kind of anti-American thought spewed on a weekly basis.   No, in Cohen's world, we have to buy Michelle Obama's spin that she was just proud of the young people who had turned out to support Barack in the primaries.   And, if we have to dig deeper, we have to credit her conclusion as a black woman who was made "more aware of her 'blackness'" while she was at Princeton.

At Princeton.   Remember:  Michelle Obama went to Princeton, one of the finest undergraduate universities in the world.   She went to Harvard Law School, one of the finest law schools (at least by reputation, if not by the quality of the education) in the nation.   She and her husband were offered jobs by major law firms.   She ultimately obtained a high-paying job as an attorney in the health care field.   Her brother is a highly paid college basketball coach.   Doesn't all that suggest that Michelle Obama's own life exemplifies much that we as Americans should be proud of?   Yet, for the the liberal mind as exemplified in Cohen, the arc of Michelle Obama's life leads to this:
It's appalling that Palin and too many others fail to understand that fact - indeed so many facts of American history. They don't offer the slightest hint that they can appreciate the history of the Obama family and that in Michelle's case, her ancestors were slaves - Jim Robinson of South Carolina, her paternal great-great grandfather, being one. Even after they were freed they were consigned to peonage, second-class citizens, forbidden to vote in much of the South, dissuaded from doing so in some of the North, relegated to separate schools, restaurants, churches, hotels, waiting rooms of train stations, the back of the bus, the other side of the tracks, the mortuary, the cemetery and, if whites could manage it, heaven itself.
Michelle Obama grew up in Chicago, not the South.   In Chicago, where her father was a city employee and Democratic precinct captain.   Do you think he was forbidden to vote in Chicago?   Do you think he was dissuaded from voting?   Do you think Michelle Obama was relegated to separate schools?  Remember: at Princeton.   I mean, really, come on!

Which leads to the final aspect of the liberal mind.  On top of America-hating, Palin-loathing, Obama-loving, the liberal mind adds one final fundamental quality:  it's illogical.   America ca. 2010 does not equal the ante-bellum Confederate South, nor does it equal the Jim Crow South of the 1950s.  The part does not define the whole.  The men who died in the Civil War for the North; the people who came to hear Marian Anderson sing at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939; Branch Rickey, the man who integrated baseball by signing Jackie Robinson in 1947; the Supreme Court Justices who voted 9-0 in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954; the people who marched for Civil Rights in the early 1960s; all of those people were Americans too. 

The Regular Guy Believes in Big Ass Birds

The Regular Guy is having an unmentionable procedure today that involves turning 50.  Do not cry for me; everyone has it; and if I've learned anything useful in life it's not to complain about things that everyone has to endure as part of life.  In other words, if they can do it, I can do it.  

On the other hand, I haven't eaten for about thirty-six hours.   Can I have some turkey soon, please?

Birthdays Today

Born today in 1868, one of the greatest American composers, and the greatest composer of ragtime, Scott Joplin.   Starting late, I learned how to play piano for the sole purpose of playing Scott Joplin after having seen The Sting when I was thirteen or fourteen.   Here is Joplin himself playing "Maple Leaf Rag":

Also born today in 1911 was the great Joe "Ducky" Medwick, Cardinals outfielder of the 1930s, who is the last National Leaguer to win the Triple Crown, when he led the league in 1937 with 31 HRs, 154 RBIs, and a batting average of .374. Perhaps even more amazing -- Medwick had 56 doubles and 10 triples that year.

Finally, born today in 1976 was Katherine Heigl, who I liked in Knocked Up, but who doesn't seem to have followed up with anything too good.  But, as they say, she's still nice to look upon:

Girl Wednesday - Cybill Shepherd

A young Cybill Shepherd, probably right around 1970 or so:

Smile of the Day

Smiling all the way to the bank.  

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thoughts on Litigating Election Results

Republican and Tea Party candidate Joe Miller is apparently suing to stop certification of the Alaska Senate race in which Lisa Murkowski, the incumbent Republican, has apparently won re-election in a write-in campaign, alleging, among other things, that certain precincts were rife with voter fraud.  This is a very bad result for Republicans in so many ways:  Murkowski's sore loser campaign after losing the Republican primary fair-and-square; Miller's poor campaign in which he failed to make the case for himself against Murkowski; Murkowski's narrow victory with some suspicious circumstances; and now Miller's decision to litigate the election results.  No one covered themselves with glory up there, and the fact that it all reflects badly on Alaska's political culture doesn't do Sarah Palin any good either.  

But the big problem in my view is the last step... the whole concept that now appears to be set in stone that every close election must result in a lawsuit where courts decide who won and who lost.   This is the gift that keeps on giving from Al Gore, whose decision to litigate the 2000 Presidential election will, I believe, go down as one of the most selfish and damaging acts in American history.   In a democracy, whatever else happens, we have to believe in elections, and we have to believe in the results.   If our guy wins, great.   If our guy loses, that's too bad, but we'll congratulate the victor and move on, hoping that next time we can persuade more of our fellow citizens.   Elections should end on election night, period; otherwise, we have have chaos.  

Maybe not now, but sometime down the road, we'll have a Presidential election that will be close.   Lawyers will descend like locusts; the losing side will cry "fraud" and say the election was "stolen."  And we will stare once again into the Constitutional abyss of having judges decide our elections for us.   Will we trust the judges?   Maybe.   We eked by in 2000.   But what if the winning candidate has been labeled as extreme or dangerous (a Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater)?  Or what if the losing candidate is a member of a minority (Barack Obama)?   It isn't hard to imagine blood flowing in the streets when people don't trust the results of an election and the lawsuit over the election.  

Republicans (and patriots) like Joe Miller ought not be participants in creating a culture of litigating election results.   He should manfully concede, and prepare himself for the next election, where he hopefully will do a better job of running his campaign.  

I can live with a RINO (Republican in Name Only) like Murkowski in the Senate for six years.   I can't live in a country where every election is "stolen" and then litigated.

War in Korea?

South and North Korea are apparently trading artillery fire after North Korea shelled the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong in the Yellow Sea.   Geography always matters in these things:

Yeonpyeong Island is right on the DMZ between North and South Korea and is among disputed islands in the Yellow Sea.   Although not shown on this map, Seoul, South Korea's largest city and capitol, is right there on the northern border too, well within range of North Korean artillery. 

North Korea is a basket case, unable to feed its own people, and in the midst of a succession crisis with national leader Kim Jong Il apparently in ailing health.   So they are capable of anything.   You can tell a lot from the language they used in today's press release:  "The revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK standing guard over the inviolable territorial waters of the country took such decisive military step as reacting to the military provocation of the puppet group with a prompt powerful physical strike."  This is a country that is divorced from reality. 

Very dangerous.  

Birthdays Today

Two great writers were born today.   Christopher Logue was born in 1926.  

Logue has spent the better part of the last few decades re-imagining The Iliad in a contemporary poetic form.  I've read a number of the volumes he's produced; they're all remarkable, moving, beautiful.   Here's a snippet from 1995's The Husbands, which reimagines Books 3 and 4:
Think of those fields of light that sometimes sheet
Low tide sands, and of the panes of such a tide
When, carrying the sky, they start to flow
Everywhere, and then across themselves:
Likewise the Greek bronze streaming out at speed,
Glinting among the orchards and the groves,
And then across the plain -- dust, grass, no grass,
Its long low swells and falls -- all warwear pearl,
Blue Heaven above, Mt Ida's snow behind, Troy inbetween.
It's not as good as the original Homer, obviously, but it beats nearly anything published in the last fifty years or so by a mile. 

Also born today in 1934 was Robert Towne, the screenwriter who wrote probably the best private detective movie ever, Chinatown.   Here is a scene with the two stars, Faye Dunaway and Jack Nicholson as the private dick, Jake Gittes.  It's probably Nicholson's greatest role:

Girl Tuesday - Marilyn Monroe

I have never entirely seen the attraction of Marilyn Monroe, at least in her public persona.   The overdone, overly-made-up, overly breathless, and frankly overweight platinum blonde bombshell of the late 1950s (see Some Like It Hot) just doesn't work for me, except as comedy.   On the other hand, pictures of Monroe when she was a young model give glimpses of the beautiful girl that was, and lend poignancy to the way in which Hollywood effectively corrupted and killed her.  

Smile of the Day

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I drew $125 million over last weekend, blowing past the franchise's last pre-Thanksgiving debut and previous opening weekend gross high, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which earned $102.7 million out of the gate in 2005.  No wonder these people are smiling:

Monday, November 22, 2010

GM'S IPO - The Default Position

The United States Treasury ("UST") is a selling stockholder in the General Motors initial public offering.  In the prospectus for the offering, a required document under the federal securities laws, there is this remarkable statement:

The UST, a selling stockholder, is a federal agency, and your ability to bring a claim against it under the federal securities laws may be limited.
The doctrine of sovereign immunity, as limited by the Federal Tort Claims Act (the FTCA), provides that claims may not be brought against the United States of America or any agency or instrumentality thereof unless specifically permitted by act of Congress. The FTCA bars claims for fraud or misrepresentation. At least one federal court, in a case involving a federal agency, has held that the United States may assert its sovereign immunity to claims brought under the federal securities laws. In addition, the UST and its officers, agents and employees are exempt from liability for any violation or alleged violation of the anti-fraud provisions of Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act by virtue of Section 3(c) thereof. Thus, any attempt to assert a claim against the UST or any of its officers, agents or employees alleging a violation of the federal securities laws, including the Securities Act and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the Exchange Act), resulting from an alleged material misstatement in or material omission from this prospectus or the registration statement of which this prospectus is a part, or any other act or omission in connection with this offering, likely would be barred.  
In other words, the federal government has exempted itself from the very securities fraud statutes that govern every other issuer of securities.   They have, in short, given themselves the right to say anything about GM's profitability or prospects, without fear of any kind of lawsuit.  

The default position of the Regular Guy on the GM IPO is.... anyone who buys GM stock under this regime is a fool.  

Birthdays Today

Lots of interesting birthdays, so many, in fact, that I'll have to put some off to next year.  

George Eliot, aka Mary Evans, the great (I mean GREAT) English novelist, was born in 1819.   Among 19th century British novelists, I'd put her with only Jane Austen at the top of the pantheon (that's right, ahead of Dickens).   And, I'd put her greatest work, Middlemarch, in the list with perhaps only Anna Karenin and War and Peace and Remembrance of Things Past as the greatest long novels in any language.   When I used to teach English a million years ago, I taught my students that pretty much everything you need to know about the novel and what it is supposed to be about you can learn from the central moment of Middlemarch where, after hundreds of pages in which the reader comes to loathe the dried-up old pedant, Casaubon, whom the wonderful young heroine, Dorothea Brooke, has unaccountably married in a fit of misplaced intellectual romanticism, the narrator (the Wise Woman, i.e., Eliot herself), turns to the reader and asks, "But what about Casaubon?  Does he not have dreams, feelings, hopes, pains?   Put yourself in his shoes, dear reader."   I'm paraphrasing, but the effect is thrilling and almost heartbreaking.   Middlemarch makes the reader confront what it means to be a moral person -- the ability to view other people as things-in-themselves and not as means-to-an-end, to accord even the most unattractive character the dignity and human consideration all are due.  

There's a great BBC version of Middlemarch that my wife and I have watched with great pleasure.  In fact, just talking about Eliot makes me want to watch it again... and, of course, to get out Middlemarch for a good reread.


Today is also the sixtieth birthday of "Little Steven" Van Zandt, the lead guitarist for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, and (as a character actor much later) Silvio Dante in The Sopranos.   Here is Southside Johnny (with Springsteen) in 1978 doing "Fever":

Girl Monday - Scarlett Johansson

It's actually Scarlett Johansson's birthday today, so I thought I'd just make her Girl of the Day.   Loved her in Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation with Bill Murray, though I suspect that might turn out to be her greatest role when all is said and done.  

You'll note that once again I have avoided incurring the wrath of my beautiful and gracious wife by not including a picture of Miss Johansson that looks like this:

Smile of the Day - Vikings Beat-Down Version

Packers 31, Vikings 3.    Brett Favre is officially done, over, kaput.  Aaron Rodgers is The Man in Green Bay.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

November 22, 1963

On November 22, 1963, I was four and a half years old.   The Kennedy assassination is about the first historical event I can remember experiencing in real time.  Memory is tricky, though, so I'm sure I'll be corrected by my mother and sisters if this is wrong, but I remember that my grandfather was getting married that weekend for the second time (my grandmother having died a couple of years earlier).  Maybe it was the family circumstances or maybe it was the assassination, but I remember that there was a weird vibe that weekend.   (Of course, at 4 and a half I wouldn't have used the phrase "weird vibe.")  

I do remember watching the funeral, the horse-drawn, flag-draped coffin in particular, a couple of days later, on a flickering black-and-white television that got three or four channels and had a hard time with the vertical hold.    (Does anyone remember vertical hold?)

A few years later I have clearer memories of Martin Luther King's assassination, because the news broke while I was at school in fourth grade.  


The Regular Guy Believes in Pumpkin Pie

Get some!

On Reading War and Peace

My wife rereads Proust every few years because she loves it, thinks its great, and believes that life is too short to read bad books.  (Though she does read a few bad ones for her book club, which is more for socializing than reading.)   I am the same way: there are a few great books that I reread every few years.   One of them is Tolstoy's War and Peace.   Last night I finished the third book, with the great climactic scene of the Battle of Austerlitz where Prince Andrew Bolkonski, who has long idolized Napoleon as a political genius even though he is the enemy of Russia, is wounded and left for dead.   As he lies on the ground in the aftermath of the battle, half-dreaming, Napoleon appears on horseback above him, inspecting  the field.   As he looks up at Napoleon, Prince Andrew (Andrei in my version) realizes that politics are infinitessimally insignificant compared to the realities of death and the hereafter:     
"That's a fine death!" said Napoleon as he gazed at Bolkonski.
      Prince Andrew understood that this was said of him and that it was Napoleon who said it. He heard the speaker addressed as Sire. But he heard the words as he might have heard the buzzing of a fly. Not only did they not interest him, but he took no notice of them and at once forgot them. His head was burning, he felt himself bleeding to death, and he saw above him the remote, lofty, and everlasting sky. He knew it was Napoleon- his hero- but at that moment Napoleon seemed to him such a small, insignificant creature compared with what was passing now between himself and that lofty infinite sky with the clouds flying over it. At that moment it meant nothing to him who might be standing over him, or what was said of him; he was only glad that people were standing near him and only wished that they would help him and bring him back to life, which seemed to him so beautiful now that he had today learned to understand it so differently. He collected all his strength, to stir and utter a sound. He feebly moved his leg and uttered a weak, sickly groan which aroused his own pity.
     "Ah! He is alive," said Napoleon. "Lift this young man up and carry him to the dressing station."
Life is very big and strange and beautiful, and most of what we talk about -- mid-term elections, TSA pat-downs, tax cuts -- are not very important in the grand scheme of things.  

Just a thought heading into Thanksgiving.  

Birthdays Today

Today is the birthday of Stan Musial, the greatest Cardinal, who turns 90.   I wrote about Stan the Man last week here, so all I'll say now is Happy Birthday, Mr. Musial!   What a great person and what a great player.

It's also the 41st birthday of Ken Griffey, Jr., perhaps the greatest player of the past twenty years, who was on pace to be the greatest ever until injuries somewhat derailed his later years.   Still, Junior Griffey has eye-popping numbers, especially for a guy who, by all accounts, did not enhance his performance with steroids the way so many of his generation did.   630 home runs.  1836 RBIs.   And he lost at least three or four years in his prime to injury!   What would he have done if he'd been healthy?  Well, between ages 26 and 29, here were his season stats:

1996     49 HRs     140 RBIs
1997     56 HRs     147 RBIs
1998     56 HRs     146 RBIs
1999     48 HRs     134 RBIs


Very weird that two of the greatest sluggers in the history of baseball were born on the same day.   But it gets weirder still.... Musial was born in 1920 in the small town of Donora, Pennsylvania.   Griffey was born in 1969 in the small town of... you guessed it.... Donora, Pennsylvania!   Must be something in the water. 

Girl Sunday - Julie Benz

My absolute favorite TV show is Sunday night on Showtime -- Dexter, the story of a good guy "blood smatter analyst" who works for Miami Homicide, Dexter Morgan, who is also, by night, a serial killer (who, of course, only kills other bad guys, including other serial killers).   Dexter's girlfriend and then wife for the first four seasons was Julie Benz, who unfortunately was killed off at the end of Season Four by the "Trinity" killer, who Dexter then killed, but too late.   Julie Benz is very much to be missed, for obvious reasons:

Smile of the Day

The Iron Lady herself, Margaret Thatcher.   Claire Berlinski has a new book out on Thatcher, There Is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Birthdays Today

Weird birthdays today.  On the one hand, we have one of the most famous pure mathematicians of the Twentieth Century, Benoit Mandelbrot, the father of fractal geometry, born in 1924.   Fractal geometry derives from mathematical equations that undergoes "iteration," a form of feedback.   The forms that the equations yield are quite beautiful, and have fine structures at small scales that echo similar structures at larger scales.   Mandelbrot's most famous work is The Fractal Geometry of Nature.  Here, for instance, is the fractal geometry of a cauliflower at microscopic scale:

On the other hand, today is also the birthday of a series of relatively minor actresses, all of whom I liked at one point in their careers, but who have never really made it big: Ming Na-Wen (ER), Callie Thorne (Homicide), and Sabrina Lloyd (Sports Night).   All of them are in their early 40s, which unfortunately means that in modern Hollywood we probably won't be seeing much of them from now on.  Too bad.

Girl Saturday - Christina Hendricks

I'm usually inclined toward posting older actresses and models as my Girl of the Day.  Having two daughters, I generally don't go in much for ogling girls or women who would actually be around to ogle.   On the other hand, Christina Hendricks from Mad Men is hard to ignore, and I noticed looking back over past posts that I have unconscionably been discriminating against redheads.   So consider this post as my effort at political correctness and equal treatment.

Also, for my wife's benefit, you'll note that I did not select a shot of Miss Hendricks in a low-cut dress, such as this one:

As the first President Bush said, "wouldn't be prudent."