"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

Monday, January 31, 2011

Boo Yeah!

Roger Vinson, a senior judge in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida, today struck down Obamacare as unconstitutional in its entirety because (a) the individual mandate violates the Constitution's Commerce Clause because it purports to grant Congress the right to force an individual to buy health insurance; and (b) because, absent the individual mandate, the law as a whole is unintellligible (in legal terms, the individual mandate cannot be "severed" from the law as a whole).   The money quote, which will get a lot of play going forward, is this passage from Judge Vinson's opinion:


It would be a radical departure from existing case law to hold that Congress can regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause. If it has the power to compel an otherwise passive individual into a commercial transaction with a third party merely by asserting --- as was done in the Act --- that compelling the actual transaction is itself “commercial and economic in nature, and substantially affects interstate commerce” [see Act § 1501(a)(1)], it is not hyperbolizing to suggest that Congress could do almost anything it wanted. It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place. If Congress can penalize a passive individual for failing to engage in commerce, the enumeration of powers in the Constitution would have been in vain for it would be “difficult to perceive any limitation on federal power” [Lopez, supra, 514 U.S. at 564], and we would have a Constitution in name only. Surely this is not what the Founding Fathers could have intended. See id. at 592 (quoting Hamilton at the New York Convention that there would be just cause to reject the Constitution if it would allow the federal government to “penetrate the recesses of domestic life, and control, in all respects, the private conduct of individuals”) (Thomas, J., concurring).
Vinson has this just about perfect, but I can already hear the howls of displeasure welling up from the bowels of the mainstream media and the left tomorrow, in which they will make much hay out of Vinson's reference to the original tea party (and, by implication, to the current Tea Party), and the fact that he was appointed by Ronald Reagan, and the fact that he went to the Naval Academy and Vanderbilt Law School and was born in Kentucky.   He'll be dismissed as a right-wing extremist and a Southerner and some may even snigger that he didn't go to Harvard or Yale.  That's what the Left does when it has lost an argument.  

The decision will no doubt be stayed pending appeal, and the appeal process is going to be a long one, perhaps lasting into the term of the next President, but this is a great day for freedom nevertheless.   Hence.... "boo yeah!"

Downton Abbey

My wife and I watched the Masterpiece Theatre show Downton Abbey last night.  We have to play catch up, because we missed the first two weeks, but PBS thankfully has the shows available online.   Set in the years just before World War I, the show is an almost classic British period drama:  a death in the family (on the Titanic, no less) means that an entailed estate will pass to a distant third-cousin because the family has three daughters and no son.   Naturally, this plot recalls Pride and Prejudice, and naturally much of it revolves around efforts to marry off the family's daughters to suitable suitors, but the show in reality is much more of a realistic drama than a romance, and the focus is less on the daughters (who aren't nearly as likeable as the Bennett girls in Austen), and much more on the life of the servants below stairs in the great house.   The first episode was wonderful, and I can't wait to watch the rest.   Apparently, too, the BBC has renewed it for a second season.  




This sort of thing is maybe the only thing the Brits still do well, but they do it very well indeed.  

Robert Kaplan on the Egyptian Demonstrations

Robert Kaplan, author of the recent book Monsoon on the importance of the Indian Ocean to American foreign policy going forward, has an article up at Foreign Policy on the chaos in Eygpt.   His points are two-fold.  First, Egypt 2011 is not Iran 1979:
The most telling aspect of the anti-regime demonstrations that have rocked the Arab world is what they are not about: They are not about the existential plight of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation; nor are they at least overtly anti-Western or even anti-American. The demonstrators have directed their ire against unemployment, tyranny, and the general lack of dignity and justice in their own societies. This constitutes a sea change in modern Middle Eastern history.

Of course, such was the course of demonstrations against the Shah of Iran in 1978 and 1979, before that revolution was hijacked by Islamists. But in none of these Arab countries is there a charismatic Islamic radical who is the oppositional focal point, like Ayatollah Khomeini was; nor are the various Islamist organizations in the Arab world as theoretical and ideological in their anti-Americanism as was the Shiite clergy. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt functions to a significant extent as a community self-help organization and may not necessarily try to hijack the uprising to the extent as happened in Iran. And even Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is not quite so identified with American interests as was the shah. The differences between 2011 in Egypt and 1978 in Iran are more profound than the similarities.
Second, but on the other hand, Kaplan writes
...the dangers to U.S. interests of what comes next in the Arab world are hard to exaggerate. Were demonstrations to spread in a big way to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, a catastrophe could be looming. A more enlightened, pro-American regime than the one now in Jordan is hard to imagine. As for the Saudi royal family, it is probably the worst possible form of government for that country except for any other that might credibly replace it. Imagine all that weaponry the United States has sold the Saudis over the decades falling into the hands of Wahhabi radicals. Imagine Yemen were it divided once again into northern and southern parts, or with even weaker central control issuing from the capital city of Sanaa. The United States would be virtually on its own battling al Qaeda there.
Kaplan is one of my favorite "foreign correspondents" and everything he writes is worth reading for its insight.   But, here, it seems like he, like everyone else, doesn't know what's coming next.  It could be manageable, or it could be Armageddon.   We just don't know.


Girl Monday - Veronica Lake

Preston Sturges was one of the great comedy directors of the 1930s and 1940s, and his best movie perhaps was Sullivan's Travels, with Joel McRea and Veronica Lake, our girl of the day.   Veronica Lake had a sad life, with problems with alcoholism and mental illness -- she was reputed to be so difficult to work with that McRea later turned down a role because, as he said, "life is too short for two movies with Veronica Lake" --and she died of hepatitis at age 51, which, since it is my current age, seems entirely too young.   When she was in her early twenties in the 1940s and first making it big in Hollywood, however, she was strikingly beautiful, with perhaps the most recognizable hairdo in movie history, her bangs flipping down over one eye.

Tempus fugit.    

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Girl Saturday - Julie Christie

Since I mentioned her yesterday, the least I could do would be to make Julie Christie the Girl of the Day.   Here she is, in her most famous role, as Lara in David Lean's epic Dr. Zhivago:

Egypt Explodes

Authoritarian rulers can survive for the life span of the strong man in charge, but rarely longer.   As the strong man ages -- Hosni Mubarek, in the case of Egypt, who is now 82 -- the potential energy of the suppressed population begins to leak out, gradually at first, and then more quickly, until it explodes.  But what's happening in Egypt this week is not romantic, not a beautiful upsurging of democracy and freedom.   People want a say in how they are ruled, sure, but sometimes people -- the masses, so to speak -- want something even more authoritative, even more compelling.   In Egypt, the masses want sharia, I fear; they want an Islamic state along the lines of Iran, and heaven help the secular middle classes or the Coptic Christians.   Egypt and Turkey for a long time have been the most moderate of the predominantly Muslim countries in Eurasia and the Middle East.   Those times are ending.  We ride the whirlwind, for the near future anyway. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Girl Friday - Susannah York


Among the young British actresses of the 1960s, Susannah York would probably come third behind Julie Christie and Helen Mirren in both acting and that inestimable quality of beauty and poise we now refer to as "hotness."   Nonetheless, she was in a great movie, Tom Jones, and another really cool movie that I loved in my early teens called Sebastian, starting Dirk Bogard and York as British code-breakers.    I wonder if it's available on Amazon?

Nope.  But apparently you can buy the poster.   God, I love Amazon.

Birthdays Today

Two interesting birthdays today that represent a paean to a certain kind of Englishman, now extinct.  Today is the birthday of Charles George Gordon, the British general whose fame (like George Armstrong Custer in America) derives from dying in a massacre perpetrated by barbarians, in his case by the Mahdist (read "Islamist") rebels who sacked Khartoum in the Sudan in 1885.   Gordon was born in 1833, and was 52 when he died.  

Also born today, in 1841, was Henry Stanley, the English journalist and explorer most famous for locating Dr. Livingstone in Tanzania after a 7,000 mile trek through the jungles of Central Africa.  

Gordon was apparently a bit of a nutjob in real life -- he believed in reincarnation and, apparently, that the world was enclosed in a hollow sphere with God's throne directly above the altar of the Temple in Jerusalem, and the Devil inhabiting the opposite point of the globe near Pitcairn Island in the Pacific -- and also a short guy (5'5").  Stanley too was apparently a bit of a nutjob and self-promoter -- there are serious doubts among scholars whether his signature statement ("Dr. Livingstone, I presume") was real, or was made up afterwards as a public relations ploy, and there are historical disputes about the degree of his own cruelty to the Africans who went with him on his expeditions (Sir Richard Burton is quoted as saying "Stanley shoots Negroes as if they were monkeys").   Nevertheless, these nutjobs in the service of Queen Victoria did extraordinary things and "saw the world," making journeys that, in their time, were the equivalent of space travel.   Gordon fought in the Crimean War against Russia, led an army in China in the Second Opium War, served as Governor-General of the Sudan, and was about to take charge of the Belgian Congo when called back to the Sudan, where he died at Khartoum.    Stanley came to America at age 18 by himself, served on both sides in the Civil War (a neat trick), became a foreign correspondent for the New York Herald, traveling in the Ottoman Empire and India, at age 30 outfitted the expedition to find Livingstone (with 200 porters), later descended the River Congo on a 999-day expedition that cost the lives of more than 2/3rds of the expedition, and was in large part responsible for negotiating the transfer of the Congo to King Leopold of Belgium.  

The contrast between these men -- however morally compromised or ambiguous -- and the contemporary exemplars of Great Britain is stark.   After decades of socialism, British manhood has, safe to say, declined, just as British power has waned.   It is now a shadow of the British Empire of Queen Victoria.   Mark Steyn has said it best recently in an essay called "Dependence Day" in The New Criterion:
When William Beveridge laid out his blueprint for the modern British welfare state in 1942, his goal was the “abolition of want,” to be accomplished by “cooperation between the State and the individual.” In attempting to insulate the citizenry from the vicissitudes of fate, Sir William succeeded beyond his wildest dreams: Want has been all but abolished. Today, fewer and fewer Britons want to work, want to marry, want to raise children, want to lead a life of any purpose or dignity. Churchill called his book The History of the English-Speaking Peoples—not the English-Speaking Nations. The extraordinary role played by those nations in the creation and maintenance of the modern world derived from their human capital.

What happens when, as a matter of state policy, you debauch your human capital? The United Kingdom has the highest drug use in Europe, the highest incidence of sexually transmitted disease, the highest number of single mothers; marriage is all but defunct, except for toffs, upscale gays, and Muslims. For Americans, the quickest way to understand modern Britain is to look at what lbj’s Great Society did to the black family and imagine it applied to the general population. One-fifth of British children are raised in homes in which no adult works. Just under 900,000 people have been off sick for over a decade, claiming “sick benefits,” week in, week out, for ten years and counting. “Indolence,” as Machiavelli understood, is the greatest enemy of a free society, but rarely has any state embraced this oldest temptation as literally as Britain. There is almost nothing you can’t get the government to pay for.
In short, the British Empire does not produce men like Gordon or Stanley anymore.   Here in America, Gordon was played by Charlton Heston in the movie Khartoum, and Stanley was played by Spencer Tracy in the 1939 movie Stanley and Livingstone (see below).   They played them as heroes, larger than life, better than they were certainly, but aspirational nonetheless.   We don't make movies like that much anymore (although maybe The King's Speech suggests that movies with a heroic and even martial theme can still move American audiences).   What worries me in a world of Obamacare and an omnipresent therapeutic culture in which we expect someone (a medical professional or a politican, it doesn't matter who) to "do something" to help us out of the most trivial difficulties of our lives, that we won't long be making Gordons and Stanleys either.  



By the way, when was the last time we went to the moon?

***

It's also Jackson Pollock's birthday (born in 1912), whose abstract paintings best represented for many what was wrong with abstract painting, yet which for me are still quite beautiful:


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Girl Wednesday - Rebecca Hall

As is my wont, I'm watching movies on the road in the hotel room.   The first night I was here I saw The Town, which is a very good cops and robbers movie set in Charlestown, MA (part of Boston) directed (and partly written by) Ben Affleck, who is actually (and surprisingly) turning into quite a good director.   (He directed his brother, Casey Affleck, in a terrific movie a couple of years ago called Gone Baby Gone.)

Anyway, the love interest in The Town is played by Rebecca Hall, a young English actress whom I first saw in a funny little movie called Starter for 10.   A very cute girl who exudes intelligence -- just like I like 'em, as my wife proves.  

Case Closed

Medicare's chief actuary testified before Congress today.   With a Republican Congress, expect to hear testimony like this -- dry facts that are devastating to Obamacare's basic premises -- much more often:



McCLINTOCK: “True or false: The two principle promises that were made in support of Obamacare were one, that it would hold costs down. True or false?”
FOSTER: “I would say false, more so than true.”
McCLINTOCK: “The other promise…was the promise that if you like your plan, you can keep it. True or false?”
FOSTER: “Not true in all cases.”
As they say, case closed.   If these two pieces of reality had been widely known prior to its passage, Obamacare would never have seen the light of day.   Now that they are known, they justify immediate repeal.  It's a shame that there is no principle I am aware of in the law that permits courts to void laws ab initio that were enacted based on fraudulent premises.   Probably would be a step too far toward rule by unelected courts, but still.... I guess we'll just have to do our work in 2012.  

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Girl Tuesday - Clemence Poesy

I watched 127 Hours in the hotel tonight. It is the story of Aron Ralston, the young man who cut off his own arm to save himself after being trapped under a boulder for five days in the remote  Blue John Canyon near Moab, Utah.   As he his trapped, Ralston hallucinates in the movie about a girl he has broken up with.   The image of the girl is heartbreaking -- Ralston is a young man who feels that he has learned too late what is worth living for.   The girl cast to play the role was Clemence Poesy, who has both a great name and not so great teeth.  Somehow the lack of perfection makes her even more attractive.   Love makes imperfections perfect, and turns the imperfect into beauty.   I wax poetic from loneliness for my own beautiful wife.  

Anyway, the girl of the day:


Work and Pleasure

I didn't blog yesterday because I was getting ready for a business trip and then traveling.  Tonight I am in Baltimore, a lovely (if poor) city, with a beautiful Inner Harbor area.    Last night I had crabcakes; today I had a full and productive work day for my favorite client; tonight I watched a really good movie (127 Hours with James Franco) and then went out for sushi and a couple of really good drinks (Grey Goose on the rocks with a twist of lemon).   I have avoided entirely the President's State of the Union address, which will no doubt be a cynical attempt to package liberalism as centrism, and huge government spending as fiscal conservatism.   Good.   Work and pleasure:  a good day's labor, with a high component of creativity and intellect, followed by a good movie and a few stiff drinks and a few nice pieces of raw fish.  Yum.   There is much more to life than politics.  

Life is worth living.   Keep saying it.  Life is worth living.   One more time.  Live is worth living.  

OK, maybe I shouldn't have finished off that second drink.  

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Birthdays Today

Solid but unspectacular birthdays today, sort of like a 20-13 Packers victory over the Bears.
  
First, it's Edouard Manet's birthday, born in 1832.   Manet is one of my favorites from the French Impressionists; here is one of the most famous, and most beautiful.


It's also the birthday of David Hilbert, perhaps the greatest mathematician ever, born in 1862.  Hilbert is perhaps best known for a talk he gave in 1900 in which he laid out 23 problems that at that time were unsolved as problems that mathematicians in the 20th Century should work toward solving; the most famous of which, the Riemann Hypothesis ("The real part of any non-trivial zero of the Riemann zeta function is 1/2."), has never been solved.   John Derbyshire of National Review has written a terrific book about efforts to solve the Riemann Hypothesis through the years, called Prime Obsession.
 















It's also the great Django Reinhardt's birthday, born in 1910.   Django (like Madonna, he really only needs one name) was the greatest jazz guitarist ever, even though he only played with two fingers. Here he is, playing with Stefan Grappelli, the violinist:



Finally, today is the birthday of the comedian Ernie Kovacs, born in 1919.   Kovacs was huge in the late 1950s.... sort of an intellectual's Sid Caesar.   Here is one of his most famous bits, Percy Dovetonsils, the "famous" poet.

NFC Championship Sunday

Pray that this guy doesn't show up.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Birthdays Today

Today is the birthday of Lord Byron.   Born in 1788, Byron, to me anyway, would rank third or fourth in the pantheon of great English Romantic poets, behind Wordsworth and Keats, and tied with or just ahead or behind of Shelley.   I don't recollect much of Byron the way I recall Wordsworth or Keats; this is probably the poem I would gravitate to:

SHE walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
 
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
 
And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent.
 ***

It's also the birthday of George Balanchine, the choreographer, born in 1904.  I'm not much on ballet, but Balanchine also did some great work for Broadway theater in its classic period in the 1930s-1950s; here is a famous ballet called "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue," with Vera Ellen and the great (okay, I say that a lot, but this time I really mean it) Gene Kelly:

Girl Saturday - Molly Parker

My new favorite TV show is the HBO series Deadwood, which aired from 2004-2006.   Molly Parker plays the rich widow, Alma Garrett, who is stranded on the frontier when her idiot husband is murdered after disputing a bogus gold claim that he was duped into buying.   It's a great show, and so far Parker has been very good as a laudanum-addled woman who has to pull herself together to save herself and a young orphan she adopts.  

Friday, January 21, 2011

Scary Chart!


I saw this chart the other day and it struck me as both persausive and terrifying.   Japan has been stagnant for twenty years, with cratering real estate prices and a birthrate below replacement.   America's trends are following a similar path.   With a housing bubble already bursting, and the percentage of working age population dropping, who will buy my house in fifteen or twenty years?   And at what price?   Yikes. 

Demographics matter.  Is there a connection between America's economic growth and its birthrate?   There certainly is one in Europe, which has stagnated for years, and which now doesn't have enough youth to work to pay for the retirement benefits promised to European elderly.   A story like the one from a few weeks ago that New York City's abortion rate is 41% is appalling from a moral perspective.  But it's also alarming from an economic perspective.... who exactly is going to be around to pay for the City's retired sanitation workers and school administrators and cops and firefighters in their very well-paid dotage?  

The chart above looks more and more like a country driving itself off a cliff. 

Looking Under the Rock of Abortion

Two stories in recent days have brought home, to me anyway, the reality of the abortion issue.... the vermin living under the rock that most of us dare not pick up.   The first was the arrest for murder of a Philadelphia doctor whose "practice" apparently consisted of providing late-term abortions to women under the most gruesome conditions; he's charged with homicide of one woman patient and seven babies, who were born alive and then murdered.   Here is a photograph of this miscreant, "Dr." Kermit Gosnell:



The DA in Philadelphia is reported as saying the following about the good Doctor:
I am aware that abortion is a hot-button topic.  But as district attorney, my job is to carry out the law. A doctor who knowingly and systematically mistreats female patients, to the point that one of them dies in his so-called care, commits murder under the law. A doctor who cuts into the necks severing the spinal cords of living, breathing babies, who would survive with proper medical attention, is committing murder under the law.
Sickness.   Dr. Gosnell is reported as having made as much as $1.8 million a year performing these atrocities.

The second story comes from Robert Verbruggen at National Review, who digs beneath the data that was recently reported that upwards of 41% of pregnancies in New York City are terminated by abortions to ask, in essence, "why so many?"
The single most damning statistic about abortion in America was presented in Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner’s book Freakonomics: Following Roe v. Wade, conceptions rose by almost 30 percent, while births decreased by 6 percent. This quite clearly indicates that some women (and men) took the existence of legal abortion as a license to be less responsible in their sexual behavior; indeed, it suggests that a large majority of terminated pregnancies wouldn’t have existed in the first place if abortion hadn’t been legally available as a backup.

And the overwhelming majority of women who have abortions did behave irresponsibly. According to a survey by the Guttmacher Institute, nearly half of them didn’t use any form of contraception at all in the month they got pregnant. Of those who did use contraception, three-quarters of pill users and half of condom users admit they used their method “inconsistently.” Only 13 to 14 percent of pill and condom users claim they got pregnant despite “perfect” use.

It’s not as if they don’t know better. In the Guttmacher survey, most women who didn’t use contraception in the month they got pregnant had used it in the past. And as Benjamin notes, “comprehensive sex ed” classes that encourage contraception seem to have no effect whatsoever.

The prevalence of multiple abortions is another indicator that women who have abortions do not see the practice as a highly regrettable but sometimes necessary option. If they saw it that way, one imagines, they would be particularly careful after needing a first abortion. And yet each year, of the 2 percent of women aged 15 to 44 who have an abortion, half are not having their first.

To summarize:  on the supply side, the abortion industry is just that:  an industry in which profits are the paramount purpose, regardless of the impact on the "health" of mothers or their babies.   On the demand side, the vast majority of women seeking abortions have become pregant because they "chose" not to use birth control, even though fully aware of the consequences and, often, even though they'd been through abortions before; in other words, through their own recklessness and with callous disregard for their babies.  

It's an ugly, ugly underbelly of an increasingly ugly America.

***

UPDATE: 

Ace at Ace of Spades makes the brilliant point that while the mainstream media was quick to tell us, without evidence, that the Tucson shootings were the inevitable product of a "culture" of "extreme rhetoric" and "incivility" in political discourse, the same mainstream media is at pains to inform us that, despite all of the evidence, the Gosnell murder story is not about the "culture" of abortion rights.   Ace takes them to task in high style:
Are you quite sure it's not about abortion? Because, if'n I have this all right, women sought abortions from an abortion mill and received them from an abortion doctor who performed abortions and is charged with 33 counts of illegal late-term abortions (in addition to other double-secret abortions which have been charged as murder) and the grand jury stated that abortion politics -- specifically pro-abortion politics -- caused the state medical and health bureaucracy to stop inspecting abortion clinics and not pursue complaints about negligence in conducting abortions because of their fear of how such scrutiny about abortions would play within the pro-abortion community.
 
I'm just an ordinary workin' feller but I'm gonna take a flyer and posit that maybe this had something to do with abortion.
 
Here's a test: If you are unable to explain the facts and charges without mentioning the word "abortion," guess what, it's a story about abortion.

File This Under "Things We Already Knew"

Alarming results from an academic study of how well academia educates young Americans:
Nearly half of the nation's undergraduates show almost no gains in learning in their first two years of college, in large part because colleges don't make academics a priority, a new report shows.
 
Instructors tend to be more focused on their own faculty research than teaching younger students, who in turn are more tuned in to their social lives, according to the report, based on a book titled Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. Findings are based on transcripts and surveys of more than 3,000 full-time traditional-age students on 29 campuses nationwide, along with their results on the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a standardized test that gauges students' critical thinking, analytic reasoning and writing skills.

After two years in college, 45% of students showed no significant gains in learning; after four years, 36% showed little change.

Students also spent 50% less time studying compared with students a few decades ago, the research shows.

"These are really kind of shocking, disturbing numbers," says New York University professor Richard Arum, lead author of the book, published by the University of Chicago Press.

He noted that students in the study, on average, earned a 3.2 grade-point average. "Students are able to navigate through the system quite well with little effort," Arum said.
This blogger puts it a lot more bluntly:
The next financial bubble is out there. It is comprised of people like your son who are carrying enormous debt without any prospect of paying it off. They are going to default.... But don’t worry. The system won’t change, not even after the defaults. There are too many vested interests that benefit from the system. Colleges are labor-intensive operations. They employ lots of people at all sorts of levels. In economic downturns, they expand their physical plants. And besides, parents want to see degrees, not failures. Students want the campus experience. Everyone needs to believe the myth, and we are as good as Elmer Gantry at selling it.
We continue to drain the intellectual capital of the rest of the world. That enables us to compensate for the abundance of people we produce who are without academic or economic skills. When the defaults come, we will print more money and maybe foreclose on a few for-profit institutions. There will be congressional hearings, a few scapegoats from the for-profit world, and a few horror stories about exploitative student loans. There will be an academic Enron and an academic Countrywide. When the smoke clears, the academic AIG will have bailed out the academic Goldman Sachs for one hundred cents on the dollar. And it will be business as usual.
Scorching stuff, and it's all true.  There are far too many people employed in the college education industry, whose livelihood depends on advertising and selling America a product that doesn't work and that we don't need.   But the bubble is going to burst soon, and it's not going to be pretty. 

Birthdays Today

I have always been fascinated by individuals who become the "best in the world" at something that is extremely competitive.   Do they have more talent than others?   More drive?   Better coaching or teaching?  Did they start younger?   Did they have more luck?  Did they have a particular mentor who helped them?   Did they have to overcome obstacles?  Did they learn from mistakes more than others do?   Were their physical gifts matched by intellectual gifts?   Why them?  (And, implicitly, why not me?)

There are only a few people who fit this description at any given time.   In sports, right now, I'd say Rafael Nadal in tennis, LeBron James in basketball, Albert Pujols in baseball, Lionel Messi in soccer.   (A few years ago, it would have been names like Federer, Kobe, A-Rod.)    Only a year ago you would have said Tiger Woods in golf, but no more. 

In the world of the arts the determinations are harder -- acting is subjective, popular music is diffuse, creative writing (novels) is personal and not truly competitive, etc.   One area where there has been a consensus has been in the world of opera, where there have been only a few tenors who gain serious notice as the "greatest tenor in the world."

Anyway, two men who have been the greatest in the world at different times have their birthdays today.   Jack Nicklaus turns 70.   Nicklaus is the greatest golfer ever.  Woods had a chance to eclipse him, and may still do so, but my prediction is that Woods is done, and won't pass Nicklaus' total of 18 major championships.   Woods is at 14 now, so he would need to have what for anyone else would be considered a fantastic career (5 majors) just to pass him, starting now, at age 34, with his confidence shot and bum knees.   Not going to happen.  

Here is Nicklaus winning his last major, the 1986 Masters, at the age of 46:



Another "greatest in the world" whose birthday is today is the great tenor Placido Domingo, who turns 69.   Here is Domingo singing the great aria "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's opera, Turandot:




***

On a more minor key, today is the birthday of the literary critic, Louis Menand, whose book The Metaphysical Club, is one of the more interesting books on the "history of ideas" in America that I've read.  He's 58.  

Girl Friday - Go Pack!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Girl Thursday - Diana Krall


Diana Krall has been one of the best singers of jazz "standards" for nearly two decades now.   Here she is, doing one of the classics, East of the Sun and West of the Moon:

50 Years Ago

Fifty years ago today, President John F. Kennedy's inaugural address contained -- famously -- the following passages:
We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans -- born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility -- I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.
Is it too much to say that the Democratic Party of today would find these sentiments from its greatest hero anathema?   Patriotism?  Perseverance?  Self-sacrifice?   They are not to be found in the party of Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama and their like.  To them, America is a a source of evil in the world, a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, imperialistic stain on a planet that, without America, would inevitably be green and pure and happy and peaceful utopia. 

Johnny, where are you when we need you?  

Oh, and by the way, here is JFK on taxes:
It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now ... Cutting taxes now is not to incur a budget deficit, but to achieve the more prosperous, expanding economy which can bring a budget surplus.
Hmmmm.... would JFK be a Republican now?  


And these:

The Anglosphere in Decline

Mark Steyn is waxing pessimistic in The New Criterion about the future of England and the U.S. in the 21st Century. 

To.  Say.  The.   Least.  
When a society loses its memory, it descends inevitably into dementia. As I always try to tell my American neighbors, national decline is at least partly psychological—and therefore what matters is accepting the psychology of decline. Thus, Hayek’s greatest insight in The Road to Serfdom, which he wrote with an immigrant’s eye on the Britain of 1944:
There is one aspect of the change in moral values brought about by the advance of collectivism which at the present time provides special food for thought. It is that the virtues which are held less and less in esteem and which consequently become rarer are precisely those on which the British people justly prided themselves and in which they were generally agreed to excel.
The virtues possessed by Anglo-Saxons in a higher degree than most other people, excepting only a few of the smaller nations, like the Swiss and the Dutch, were independence and self-reliance, individual initiative and local responsibility, the successful reliance on voluntary activity, noninterference with one’s neighbor and tolerance of the different and queer, respect for custom and tradition, and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.
Within little more than half a century, almost every item on the list had been abandoned, from “independence and self-reliance” (some 40 percent of Britons receive state handouts) to “a healthy suspicion of power and authority”—the reflex response now to almost any passing inconvenience is to demand the government “do something.” American exceptionalism would have to be awfully exceptional to suffer a similar expansion of government without a similar descent, in enough of the citizenry, into chronic dependency.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Last Time

The last time the Packers met the Bears in an NFL post-season game was in 1941, just weeks after Pearl Harbor.   A different country then, and a different brand of football, obviously:


In December 1941, the Packers lost to the Bears, 33-14.  Let's hope we do a little better this time.   This has to be the Game of the Century, at least for Packers and Bears fans.   

Birthdays Today

Charles de Montesquieu, the French philosopher and political theorist, was born today in 1689.   Montesquieu's writings were widely read by the Founding Fathers, and he is generally credited with creating the theoretical underpinnings of our system of divided government restrained by checks and balances, most particularly in his The Spirit of the Laws. 



Montesquieu once said, "I have never known any distress that an hour's reading did not relieve."  I couldn't agree more; whenever I find myself blue, it is almost always because I haven't found time to immerse myself in a good book.

***

Today is also the birthday of the great Cary Grant, born in 1904.   Here is about the funniest line I've ever seen in a movie, from Bringing Up Baby, and it was a complete ad lib by Grant:


Girls Tuesday - Friday Night Lights Version

From my son's favorite TV show, Friday Night Lights, here are Minka Kelly (good girl) and Adrianne Palicki (bad girl): 



Monday, January 17, 2011

Birthdays Today

Really great birthdays today.

First, Benjamin Franklin was born today in 1706.   Is it too much to say that Franklin invented the idea of the American?   Pragmatic, scientific, a man who melded the civic-minded with the business-minded, Franklin was perhaps the most famous man in the world in the era of the American and French Revolutions.   His Autobiography is still read because it still teaches us what it means to be a self-made man, to work hard, to save, to defer gratification, to innovate for the good of others by creating things that other free men might want to buy, to think and act morally for your own good, for the good of your family, your community, your nation.  



Al Capone was also born today in 1899.   At the other end from Franklin, Capone is the archetype of the American criminal, invariably a young man on the make who can't do what Franklin did, can't defer gratification and work for others, but instead chooses crime out of a kind of cowardice, a fear of doing the necessary work.    It's telling that he was in his twenties in the 1920s when he "made his bones" in Chicago.   A thug like the young thugs of today, peddling illegal alchohol just like today's young thugs peddle crack.



A better model... Muhammad Ali was born today in 1942, which makes him 68.   That seems young, perhaps because Ali has seemed so old for so long, afflicted as he is by the brain injuries that unfortunately come with boxing.   His wars with Joe Frazier are among the best in the history of boxing, but to look at tapes of them now is bittersweet.  You can almost see the intelligence of the man -- patent in the young Cassius Clay -- being beaten out of him.   Here he is, in his prime, floating like a butterfly against Sonny Liston:



Today is also the birthday of Sebastian Junger, the author of A Perfect Storm and last year's War, about a year in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan with an American platoon.   War was a great read, and a great portrait of the heroism and comradeship of the small unit in combat.
















Finally, it is also the 31st birthday of one of my favorite young actresses, Zooey Deschanel, who starred most notably (and cutely) in 500 Days of Summer.

Journalism 101

Here are two quotes from a New York Times article from Saturday's edition that purported to "look behind" the motives of Jared Loughner, the Tucson shooter.   See if you notice what's in the second one that's not in the first:
He became intrigued by antigovernment conspiracy theories, including that the Sept. 11 attacks were perpetrated by the government and that the country’s central banking system was enslaving its citizens. His anger would well up at the sight of President George W. Bush, or in discussing what he considered to be the nefarious designs of government.


A few days later, during a meeting with a school administrator, Mr. Loughner said that he had paid for his courses illegally because, “I did not pay with gold and silver” — a standard position among right-wing extremist groups. With Mr. Loughner’s consent, that same administrator then arranged to meet with the student and his mother to discuss the creation of a “behavioral contract” for him...
Obviously, what's in the second quote is an editorial comment (not news and not even news analysis) that a belief, even an irrational belief held by a madman, in the primacy of gold and silver as the true form of money, is a "standard position among right-wing extremist groups."   But there is no such comment in the first quote that a belief "that the September 11th attacks were perpetrated by the government" is a standard positoin among left-wing extremist groups, in fact, it is a position much more associated with the left than an odd clinging to the gold standard is associated with the right.    Hmmmmm.... I wonder why?   Could it be that the notoin that Loughner was a young lefty hurts the chosen narrative that the Tuscon shootings were the result of harsh right-wing, Tea Party rhetoric?

Another exhibit in why the New York Times is a dying institution. 

Girl Monday - Leslie Mann

Nepotism isn't always bad; sometimes it's a shortcut to determining whether someone will be a productive and honest employee.   Did Leslie Mann get cast in movies like Knocked Up and Funny People  because she was director Judd Apatow's wife?   Probably.  But she's also really funny and attractive.  





Besides, she showed up at the Packers-Falcons game and apparently was having a good time:


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Smile of the Day - Brett Who?

Wow!   Aaron Rodgers and the Packers were A-W-E-S-O-M-E last night in dismantling the Falcons in Atlanta, 48-21.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Girl Friday - Kim Dickens

Kim Dickens has been great in three of my favorite TV shows, Friday Night Lights (as Matt Saracen's mom), Treme, and Deadwood.  

Signposts on the Road to Serfdom

We lose our freedoms incrementally, and often with the complicity of people who believe they are doing "good."   A couple of signposts on the "road to serfdom" from recent days caught my attention.

First, there was the absolutely silly and unconscionable decision to publish a new edition of Huckleberry Finn with all uses of the word "nigger" redacted and replaced with the word "slave."   The word "nigger" is, of course, offensive and dehumanizing.   But that's the point!   Mark Twain's great masterpiece -- arguably the greatest American novel ever -- is very specifically about the struggle of a generic American (the boy Huck) to recognize and appreciate the humanity of his friend, his slave, Jim.   Huck's triumph over his own racism is the core of the book, and when Huck decides to help Jim escape from slavery, even though he knows that, given the prevailing morality of ante bellum America, what he is doing is "wrong," and he says "all right, then, I'll go to Hell," it is one of the greatest moments in all literature.   Redacting the book because of modern sensibilities -- all the while permitting the grossest filth, inevitably including the word "nigger," to be broadcast as "music" on hip-hop and rap stations across America -- is ridiculous and offensive in itself.  It defaces a great work of art, just as much as if a prude painted sweatshirts onto the torsos of every nude painting in the Louvre.



Second, there was Canada's decision to ban the Dire Straits song "Money for Nothing," because it uses the term "faggot" in its lyric.   Again, the use is literary -- the composer, the great guitarist Mark Knopfler, was miming the voice of working class British men talking about rock and roll stars they see on MTV in derogatory terms; in other words, the usage is in character and is not meant to derogate, but to describe people who derogate gays satirically.   It's a great song, and the notion that the use of a word in a literary manner in character means that the song itself is somehow homophobic is ludicrous.  Here it is, in a great live version that I'm sure my guitar-playing young-un will love:



Where are the liberals on these issues?  Where are the free speech advocates?  Where are the artists?   Where is Hollywood?   You can say practically anything about the Catholic Church or priests and no one rises up to censor you, but apparently you can get away with censoring works of art that offend blacks or gays.    (Actually, I don't think they really offend anyone.   I think the type of bureaucrats who make these decisions are just taking the path of least resistance to try to avoid any criticism should any hypothetical black or gay person ever care enough to be offended.  My common sense tells me that no one is really offended other than, perhaps, those whose living depend on being offended.)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

While We Were Worried About The Tone of Political Discourse...

The real problems grow ever closer to a point of no return.   An example:
"We have become increasingly clear about the fact that if there are not offsetting measures to reverse the deterioration in negative fundamentals in the U.S., the likelihood of a negative outlook over the next two years will increase," said Sarah Carlson, senior analyst at Moody's.

Standard & Poor's Corp. also didn't rule out changing the outlook for its U.S. sovereign-debt rating because of the recent deterioration of the country's fiscal situation. The U.S. has a triple-A rating with a stable outlook at both raters.

"The view of markets is that the U.S. will continue to benefit from the exorbitant privilege linked to the U.S. dollar" to fund its deficits, Carol Sirou, head of S&P France, said at a conference in Paris on Thursday. "But that may change. We can't rule out changing the outlook" on the U.S. sovereign debt rating in the future, she warned. She added the jobless nature of the U.S. recovery was one of the biggest threats to the U.S. economy. "No triple-A rating is forever," she said.
Another:
South Korea would be within its rights to retaliate if North Korea mounts an attack, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday, but the United States wants Seoul and its neighbors to try to head off a North Korean provocation that could lead to war.

The United States fears that the risk of war is rising between U.S. ally South Korea and the heavily militarized and increasingly unpredictable regime in North Korea, which the Pentagon also considers a looming threat to the mainland United States.

"It's a long-standing principle that every country has the right to protect itself and defend itself against an unprovoked attack," Gates said following discussions with Japanese political leaders keyed to the rising threat of war on the Korean peninsula.

Earlier this week Gates lobbied China to pressure the North not to go too far. Gates will go to South Korea on Friday for a quick and hastily arranged crisis session about the North.
A mass shooting by a deranged, sick individual like Jared Lee Loughner in Tucson is a sad event, but it has zero economic or geopolitical/strategic impact.   We are fiddling while Rome burns.  

Girl Thursday - Robin Weigert

My next door neighbor and I have started watching Deadwood.  It's great, with tremendous (albeit profane) dialogue and wonderful acting.  Perhaps the best role and the best acting is done by Robin Weigert as Calamity Jane, the foul-mouthed, mannish woman-scout and frontierswoman who follows Wild Bill Hickok into Deadwood.   Weigert is, of course, secretly very attractive:

Birthdays Today

Today's birthdays fall under the heading of political commentary.   It is Edmund Burke's birthday.   Born in 1729, Edmund Burke is the father of modern conservatism in its truest form, in which those who would govern ought to be constrained by a profound humility about the limits of their own abilities to reshape human nature and should be particularly reticent about unwinding the threads of society's time-worn fabric of traditions in exchange for visions of utopia.   Here is Burke writing in 1791 in the aftermath of the French Revolution:
Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites, — in proportion as their love to justice is above their rapacity, — in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption, — in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.
Like de Toqueville two generations later, Burke repays re-reading, even two hundred and more years later.



*

It's also Rush Limbaugh's birthday.   Vilified on the left, Limbaugh has become the spokesman for the common-sense, Middle America, small business, Main Street conservative -- men, not incidentally, like my own father, men who get agitated when they hear self-appointed elites from coastal metropolises tell them that they know better what's good for them.   The people who vilify Limbaugh don't listen to him, and likely have never listened to him, but simply take it on faith that what he says is evil and vicious.  It's not.  Limbaugh is consistently funny, humane, and wise -- you couldn't be anything else and survive for twenty plus years talking to people for three hours a day.   Rush is 59.  


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hilarious Video on Global Warming Hoax

Not sure who did this, but it's great.    

Girl Wednesday - Peggy Fleming

It's hard to overstate how big Peggy Fleming was when she won the gold medal for figure skating in the 1968 Olympics.   American pop culture was such a smaller circle then... there were only 3 TV networks, and literally everyone was watching the Winter Olympics and knew and talked about Fleming and Jean Claude-Killy, the great French skier who swept the slalom, giant slalom and downhill.   Fleming was America's sweetheart then in a way that reallly hasn't been duplicated since in sports.



A story I had forgotten:  Fleming won the only gold medal America won in the 1968 Olympics, and her gold was particularly important, because the U.S. figure skating team had essentially been wiped out in a plane crash in 1961 traveling to the World Championships.  

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Reason from Reason

Here is a very good short video from Reason TV about 5 things we should keep in mind in reacting (but not over-reacting) to the Tucson tragedy:

Dick Winters

The death of Dick Winters at 92 last week was a great loss.   Winters, the leader of "Easy Company" in the 101st Airborne in World War II that was the focus of the book and miniseries Band of Brothers, was a true American hero.   His obituary his here; the excerpt below particularly touched me:
Winters talked about his view of leadership for an August 2004 article in American History Magazine:

"If you can," he wrote, "find that peace within yourself, that peace and quiet and confidence that you can pass on to others, so that they know that you are honest and you are fair and will help them, no matter what, when the chips are down."

When people asked whether he was a hero, he echoed the words of his World War II buddy, Mike Ranney: "No, but I served in a company of heroes."

"He was a good man, a very good man," Guarnere said. "I would follow him to hell and back. So would the men from E Company."
Here he is in an interview talking about the surrender of a German officer at the end of the war:




A patriot and a gentleman.  RIP.  

The King's Speech

My wife and I finally saw The King's Speech with Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter.   Excellent, excellent movie, and I now think that it will sweep the acting Oscars for Actor, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress.   The story of King George VI (Firth) and his efforts, with the help of an uncredentialed and unorthodox speech therapist (Rush) and his loving wife (Carter as the Queen Mother), is touching, uplifting, and often hilariously funny.  (At one point, the King momentarily overcomes his stuttering by unleashing a stream of profanity that would give Lenny Bruce a run for his money.)   Best of all, it's a movie that champions values that thoughtful adults ought to champion -- honor, decency, loyalty, perseverance, bravery and, not least, friendship.   Really good stuff.

Perspective from the Girl of the Day

Claire Berlinski has a great article up about the Tucson shootings and the relative importance of another assassination -- the assassination of a Pakistani governor by a jihadist in the Pakistani Army.  On the Tucson shooting, Berlinski makes a great point about the mainstream (left) media's attempt to pin the shootings on right-wing rhetoric and, particularly, on Sarah Palin's rhetoric:
If you show me a well-constructed, longitudinal study of young schizophrenics, half of whom have been exposed to the Sarah Palin's crosshair-chart and half of whom have not, and mutatis mutandis, a statistically significant number of the second group go on to commit an act of political violence, maybe it might be worth talking about. But absent that, this is pure hysteria. 
But Berlinski is even better in pointing out that sane Americans ought to have bigger fish to fry:

Before his court appearances, the lawyers showered rose petals over the confessed killer, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, a member of an elite police group who had been assigned to guard the governor, but who instead turned his gun on him. They have now enthusiastically taken up his defense.

That's a nuclear power. Which one of these events is really worth talking about this much? 
Berlinski is also sort of attractive for a politics wonk, so I'll kill two birds with one stone and make her my Girl of the Day too.





P.S.   Speaking of killing two birds with one stone, for somewhat personal reasons, this quote from Berlinski's article struck a nerve with me:

Surely no one doubts that the metaphors of the military--and shooting and boxing, for that matter--are part of the normal fabric of the English language, used by everyone, and that sane people know the difference between the literal and the metaphorical?
Berlinski's latest book is an essay on Margaret Thatcher called There is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters.



Quick Hits

Thomas Sowell often writes columns that assemble short aphorisms or comments on an almost random set of topics.   It would be nice to be able to get paid for doing so, but the strategy does seve a useful purpose of allowing you to catch up when you haven't been able to blog for a few days.  So here are my "Quick Hits" on recent events, offered in part because my wonderful Mother thinks I haven't blogged enough lately.

Autism and Vaccines.    The lie that autism is caused by vaccinating children has hopefully been put to rest forever by the revelation that the study that demonstrated the conclusion was the product of pure and unadulterated scientific fraud.   Literally the whole thing was made up.    But what about the children who have died all over the world because their parents decided to believe the story?   Someone needs to go to jail for a long time because of this.

Tucson Shooting.   The murder of six innocents, including a nine year-old girl, and the wounding of Representative Giffords, Democrat of Arizona, has spawned a torrent of commentary trying to connect the shooting spree to right-wing rhetoric.  But here is what we know so far:  (1)  Jared Loughner, the killer, was a severely disturbed young man, and likely a schizophrenic; and (2) if anything, his politics were leftist, not rightist.   There is literally no factual connection between Loughner's heinous deed and the political right.   The fact that mainstream media outlets like the New York Times have tried to make one simply shows that they are exactly what conservatives have always claimed -- propagandists for the left.   It's also why they are a dying industry.

December 2010 Unemployment Drops to 9.4%.   President Obama was crowing last week about the drop in the unemployment rate from 9.8% to 9.4%.   Not so fast.   Half of the number was due to people leaving the workforce (who thus don't count as unemployed, since they are no longer seeking work).   The drop could also have been due to seasonal employment for Christmas.  And 9.4% is still way above what Obama's economic advisors predicted for the result of their stimulus, as shown in the famous chart below.  



Finally, in this chart from Ace of Spades HQ, it's clear that the downturn in unemployment claims has coincided with the belief, and then the reality, that the GOP would take back Congress.  


Pigford.  The Pigford case involved supposed discrimination by the Department of Agriculture against black farmers in the South.   The government "settled" the case with the black farmers for a cool $1.15 billion.   Good so far?   Then 86,000 claimants emerged.    There are only 40,000 black farmers in the U.S.   Problem?  Not for the feds.... just keep paying out those checks and, oh, by the way, the lawyers get a third.   Disgusting.   Andrew Breitbart's site, Big Government, has been all over this one.

Abortion in NYC.   According to this report, 41% of pregnancies in New York City end in abortion.   Whatever your views on the legality of abortion -- I am pro-life -- this has to be a sickening statistic.   For blacks in NYC, the figure is over 60%.   Where are black leaders talking about this genocide?   The only one talking is the great man of the City, Archbishop Timothy Dolan.  

Birthdays Today - The Big Man!

In honor of my beautiful son, whom I have called "the Little Man" since birth, although he now towers over me, and who loves Bruce Springsteen, today is the 69th birthday of the "Big Man," Clarence Clemons. Here's his great solo on "Jungleland":

Monday, January 10, 2011

Girl Monday - Sarah Palin

Since everyone wants to blame her for the Tucson murders -- strange notions of causation these lefties have -- I thought it's time to make Sarah Palin the Girl of the Day.

When Jared Loughner turns out to be a lunatic lefty (although the emphasis in fairness has to be on the lunatic) will anyone in the left-wing media and blogosphere apologize?  

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Smile of the Day

Rookie James Starks of the Packers, who rushed for 123 yards in the Pack's 21-16 playoff win over the Eagles.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Birthdays Today

It's Elvis' birthday today.  Had he lived, he would be 75 today.   Hard to believe.   There are some people who just don't seem like they ought to have ever grown old -- Marilyn Monroe would be another.  


Girl Saturday - Seahawks Cheerleader

Didn't see 41-36 Seahawks over the Saints coming.   Maybe she did. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Girl Friday - Rosalind Russell



Rosalind Russell wasn't the greatest beauty in Hollywood, but she was a great stage and screen presence -- probably better on the stage actually, where she won a Tony Award in 1953 for the musical Wonderful Town and was even more famous for her role in Auntie Mame.   Her ratatatat dialogue with Cary Grant in the 1940 screwball comedy His Girl Friday is some of the greatest in movie history.  



Russell was also Catholic, and was married once, for 35 years, until her death in 1976.  

Smile of the Day

Michael Ramirez at Townhall is probably the best conservative political cartoonist going today.   This one really captured the moment when John Boehner took over from Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House:

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Birthdays Today

It's Joan of Arc's birthday.   I have somewhat of a hard time believing that we accurately know birthdays for people six hundred years ago, but apparently we do.   She's 599 years young today.



It's also Carl Sandburg's birthday, the great American poet and biographer of Lincoln.   Poetry is essentially dead now, captured by the academy, the stuff of MFA programs and wispy assistant professors churning out their unread masterpieces so they can put another line on their resumes.   But once upon a time American poets could articulate visions of the country that became part of the collective vocabulary.   Sandburg was one of those, as in this famous passage about Chicago:

 Hog Butcher for the World,
     Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
     Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
     Stormy, husky, brawling,
     City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I
     have seen your painted women under the gas lamps
     luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it
     is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to
     kill again.
Everybody remembers the first part, but it's that last line that gets me now, particularly with William Daley coming to be Barack Obama's White House Chief of Staff.   They tell me you are wicked and I believe them.... They tell me you are crooked and I answer:  Yes.   Now, apparently, in America's most hallowed halls of government, it's the Chicago way, or the highway.  

***

It's also Bjorn Lomborg's birthday.  He's 45.   Lomborg's book, Cool It, is one of the more sane tracts in political economics of recent years, as it proposes cost-benefit analyses for efforts to combat global warming, and largely concludes that they aren't going to be worth it and that we have better things to spend our resources on that trying to fend off a purely speculative harm that might be hundreds of years in the future.   Good stuff.