"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, May 31, 2011


The big story in the blogosphere over the weekend is actually a small story -- a liberal Democratic Congressman, Anthony Weiner of New York, apparently accidentally sent a picture of his schlong over his public Twitter account to 40,000 followers, when he meant to send it secretly over his private Twitter account to a 21 year-old coed.   He has since claimed that he is the victim of "hacking" and a "prank."   No one believes it.... this is a story that cries out for Occam's Razor.   The simplest explanation is... a horny middle-aged guy gets attention from young girls because of his political position, and he likes it so much that he goes overboard.   The going overboard, of course, is exacerbated and complicated in modern times by technology.... the ease of relatively anonymous communication on Twitter, Facebook, email, texting, etc. makes this kind of illicit contact too tempting for jerks like this guy who apparently never grew up and never developed a moral sense.   (Important to note: I am confident that most men actually aren't like this, that most men actually aren't doing this sort of thing.   There is a moral silent majority out there who would recognize that sending a picture of your dong over the Internet to a 21 year-old girl is way-out-there creepy.)   Here's a good timeline/summary of the story to date.  

But other than the embarrassment factor, what exactly is the story?   Did he make a false police report?   I don't think so.   Did he defame Twitter and hurt it's business reputation (by putting a hokey story out there that suggests that Twitter accounts can be easily "hacked")?   Maybe; this is a closer call, but I doubt that Twitter wants to sue a sitting Congressman and get more publicity out of this, and frankly I think this will end up actually being positive publicity for Twitter once they are able to make the case that their security is strong.   So what is the story?

Two things, I think, make this marginally more interesting:

1.   What if it had happened to a Republican?   What if it had happened to Todd Palin, for instance?   So this is more a story of mainstream media bias and willingness to spin to help a liberal Democrat.   But we knew that anyway.  But still....

2.  The name of the guy.   Anthony Weiner...   you can only imagine what fun the headline writers are having.

Weiner Shows His Weiner
That's Not A Gun in His Pants, That's Weiner
Could I Have Some Kraut With That?

I could go on, but I guess I ought not.  

What a doofus.

On the Other Hand... President Duffer Strikes Again

I hadn't heard this because, of course, it wouldn't be reported by the mainstream media.   But President Obama apparently chose yesterday, Memorial Day, to play yet another round of golf:
The business of memorializing our war dead done, President Obama headed out to the Fort Belvoir golf course today, finding his way onto the links for the ninth weekend in a row.
Obama earlier today laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and met with families of those killed in battle. But he emerged from the day’s solemnity to go golfing for the 12th time this year and the 70th time of his presidency.
The decision to golf on Memorial Day invites comparison with President George W. Bush, who gave up the game early in his presidency and said he did it out of respect for the families of those killed in Iraq.
Look, I get it.   He works hard, he needs to relax, he likes golf.   Fine.   But lots of us work hard and can't find the time to golf.   And lots of us have kids and do things with the kids on the weekends, because we don't have time during the week.   12 rounds of golf?   Nine straight weekends?   Really?

This is shameful stuff for the "Commander-in-Chief."  Frankly, it would be shameful stuff for any father of relatively young children. 

Memorial Day

Yesterday in Milwaukee was glorious -- mid-80s, pushing 90 degrees, sunny all day, not a cloud in the sky.  After a truly dismal spring of weather in the 40s and 50s (we haven't had a Little League game yet where the parents weren't huddled under blankets), it was like a get-out-of-jail-free card.   So we swam and we played Indian ball (a baseball game we play where the hitter tries to get hits between a short outfielder and a long outfielder -- we play with a tennis ball and the outfield is the lawn of the rectory across the street) and we cooked out and drank beers on the patio with neighbors.   We did just about everything except look at a computer screen and do any blogging.   So here is a belated Memorial Day shout out to all of the servicemen and families of servicemen (like ours), and particularly to my late Dad, 1st Lt. Richard H. Bauer, and my nephew, currently in Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne, Sgt. Jason McCullough.   Thank you for all that you've done and all that you're still doing for our country.   Via con dios.   

Also, continuing on a Memorial Day theme, something that the Internet allows you to do is to get access to information and history that you couldn't get very easily.   For instance, one of the things I've enjoyed and been awe-struck by are the citations for Medal of Honor winners, which are available here.    Here is one from 101st Airborne in Vietnam:

Rank and organization: Specialist Fourth Class, U.S. Army, Troop D, 2d Squadron, 17th Cavalry, 101st Airborne Division. Place and date: Khe Sanh, Republic of Vietnam, 23 March 1971. Entered service at: Jamestown, N. Dak. Born: 9 March 1950, Jamestown, N. Dak . Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sp4c. Fitzmaurice, 3d Platoon, Troop D, distinguished himself at Khe Sanh. Sp4c. Fitzmaurice and 3 fellow soldiers were occupying a bunker when a company of North Vietnamese sappers infiltrated the area. At the onset of the attack Sp4c. Fitzmaurice observed 3 explosive charges which had been thrown into the bunker by the enemy. Realizing the imminent danger to his comrades, and with complete disregard for his personal safety, he hurled 2 of the charges out of the bunker. He then threw his flak vest and himself over the remaining charge. By this courageous act he absorbed the blast and shielded his fellow-soldiers. Although suffering from serious multiple wounds and partial loss of sight, he charged out of the bunker, and engaged the enemy until his rifle was damaged by the blast of an enemy hand grenade. While in search of another weapon, Sp4c. Fitzmaurice encountered and overcame an enemy sapper in hand-to-hand combat. Having obtained another weapon, he returned to his original fighting position and inflicted additional casualties on the attacking enemy. Although seriously wounded, Sp4c. Fitzmaurice refused to be medically evacuated, preferring to remain at his post. Sp4c. Fitzmaurice's extraordinary heroism in action at the risk of his life contributed significantly to the successful defense of the position and resulted in saving the lives of a number of his fellow soldiers. These acts of heroism go above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflect great credit on Sp4c. Fitzmaurice and the U.S. Army.
Wow.   A 21 year-old kid did this.   We can't thank these guys enough.  

Girl Tuesday - Rosamund Pike

My 14 year-old son, who plays football, basketball, baseball, runs track, and generally exudes testosterone, is reading Pride and Prejudice.   He actually chose the book from a list of suggestions from his English teacher, because he had heard his mother and father talk about it many times over the years as one of our favorites.   Weirdly, the class is supposed to read a novel and then also watch the movie version of the novel, and then write a comparison.   Hard to imagine that most kids won't be skipping right to the movie version.   anyway, he's about 100 pages into the book, so we watched the movie version up to that point.   Keira Knightley, of course, plays Elizabeth Bennett, but to me the more beautiful (and it's not close) actress plays Jane Bennett, the older sister.   Her name is Rosamund Pike.   Here she is in the movie:

And here she is in civvies:

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Palin Bus/The Palin Movie

Sarah Palin is apparently starting a multi-state tour of the Northeast, going to famous patriotic sites in a bus that, somewhat unsubtly, looks like this:

She describes the tour as follows:
SarahPAC is proud to announce the One Nation Tour!   This Sunday, May 29th, Governor Palin and the SarahPAC team will begin a trip through our nation's rich historical sites, starting from Washington, DC and going up through New England.   The "One Nation Tour" is part of our new campaign to educate and energize American's about our nation's founding principles, in order to promote the Fundamental Restoration of America.
Hmmmm.... up through New England?   Could she possibly be planning stops in New Hampshire?

Meanwhile, Palin is also scheduled to release a full-length movie about herself.   Where, pray tell, will the premiere be?   In Iowa.   Hmmmm.

Look, I've said all along that I don't think she's running for President.   I also, if pushed, would say that she can't possibly win the Presidency with her negatives, and with a relentless media attacking her every day.   But there's a chance that she's the opposite of what everyone thinks.   There's a chance that she came down to the Lower 48 in 2008 and decided that she could play the game better than the professional pols and the supposed elites.   All she's done since then is parley her fame into, arguably, leading the GOP to a huge victory in 2010; becoming the Queen of the Tea Party, the wing of the GOP where the most energy (and campaign funding) exists; and make herself untold millions through TV, books, and speaking engagements.  

In short, there's a chance that, contrary to popular opinion, she's really really smart, and has figured out, better than the professional pols, that modern politics consists of keeping your name recognition out there through Twitter and Facebook and FoxNews and movies and reality TV, etc., all of which she has mastered faster and better than any other politician working.   Can you get to the top of the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire with a movie and a bus tour and a FoxNews show without ever declaring your candidacy and campaigning in the traditional way (the way that Romney and Pawlenty are using right now)?   I think that she may think that she can.

Girl of the Day - Lauren Bacall

One of the coolest femme fatales from the late 1940s and early 1950s, with one of the greatest voices every, Lauren Bacall, who is probably most famous for her early roles as the girl in Humphrey Bogart movies (and, of course, as Bogart's wife from 1945 until his death in 1957):

Krauthammer on Obama's Idiocy on Israel

Krauthammer doesn't call it idiocy in his article from yesterday.   Not quite.   But he criticizes Obama's fecklessness on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and in particular his call for a return to the 1967 borders, about as harshly as he can:
Note how Obama has undermined Israel’s negotiating position. He is demanding that Israel go into peace talks having already forfeited its claim to the territory won in the ’67 war — its only bargaining chip. Remember: That ’67 line runs right through Jerusalem. Thus the starting point of negotiations would be that the Western Wall and even Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter are Palestinian — alien territory for which Israel must now bargain.

The very idea that Judaism’s holiest shrine is alien or that Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter is rightfully or historically or demographically Arab is an absurdity. And the idea that, in order to retain them, Israel has to give up parts of itself is a travesty.
Krauthammer goes on to criticize Obama's apparent willingness to consider negotiations on the Palestinians' so-called "right of return":
Obama didn’t just move the goal posts on borders. He also did so on the so-called right of return. Flooding Israel with millions of Arabs would destroy the world’s only Jewish state while creating a 23rd Arab state and a second Palestinian state — not exactly what we mean when we speak of a “two-state solution.” That’s why it has been the policy of the United States to adamantly oppose this “right.”

Yet in his State Department speech, Obama refused to simply restate this position — and refused again in a supposedly corrective speech three days later. Instead, he told Israel it must negotiate the right of return with the Palestinians after having given every inch of territory. Bargaining with what, pray tell?
Krauthammer then asks the $64,000 Question:  Is Obama simply feckless in the way that an amateur in foreign policy matters might be when thrown in over his head?   Or is he truly anti-Israel and, hence, for my money anyway, anti-Semitic?   Again, Krauthammer doesn't use the word "anti-Semitic."   That's me.  But the implication is there, and it's scary for America and for Israel:
The only remaining question is whether this perverse and ultimately self-defeating policy is born of genuine antipathy toward Israel or of the arrogance of a blundering amateur who refuses to see that he is undermining not just peace but the very possibility of negotiations.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Storm of War

I have begun Andrew Roberts' The Storm of War, a one-volume history of World War II.   The first chapters focus, perhaps inevitably, on the prelude to war in Europe and the appeasement of Hitler as he ramped up the German military and annexed Austria, the Sudetenland, and Czechoslovakia.   Roberts is a very good writer, and is very clear-eyed about the source of the war in the weakness and naivete of the British leadership in the 1930s.   This is all a story that has long been told, but Roberts does a good job on it, without being too much in a rush to offer a "revisionist" version. 

There are, of course, lessons to be learned for today, as we continually appease the ambitions of Iran in the Middle East.   But, then, if we didn't repeat prior mistakes, what would history be about?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Girl of the Day - Diana Rigg

As a kid, one of the shows we watched in reruns was the British spy spoof, The Avengers.   The girl spy on the show was the great Shakespearean actress, Diana Rigg.   About all I recall from the show is Rigg in these types of outfits:

In some ways, the 60s weren't so bad.  

Monday, May 23, 2011

"Don't You Know Who I Am?"

Supposedly the head of the International Monetary Fund/rapist, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, said this to the maid at the Sofitel in New York as he attempted to sodomize her.   Two things:

1.  I have stayed many times at the Sofitel on business.   It is hard to imagine a more genteel hotel.   The staff there is tremendous, very professional, and very nice.   The hotel is beautiful, even the cheaper rooms, where I stay.   I imagine the $3000 a night suite this Euro-bureaucrat was in was truly marvelous.   It's simply hard to imagine this sort of thing happening there.

2.  Could anyone invent something that more precisely captures the mindset of the Western elites who claim to be uniquely qualified to govern us?   I mean, you can't write this stuff.   "Don't you know who I am?" said by a powerful man as he attempts to rape a maid.   Man, do I hope he goes to jail and has some cell-block boss tell him "Don't you know who I am?"

Mark Steyn has a great column up about Strauss-Kahn and the elites in America and Europe who want to run everything and think they are the new aristocracy:
The arrest of a mediocre international civil servant in the first-class cabin of his jet isn't just a sex story: It's a glimpse of the widening gulf between the government class and their subjects in a post-prosperity West. Neither Geithner nor Strauss-Kahn have ever created a dime of wealth in their lives. They have devoted their careers to "public service," and thus are in the happy position of rarely if ever having to write a personal check. At the Sofitel in New York, DSK was in a $3,000-per-night suite. Was the IMF picking up the tab? If so, you the plucky U.S. taxpayer paid around 550 bucks of that...
Read the whole thing.  

Birthdays Today

Other than the Right Curmudgeon/Regular Guy himself, who turns LII today (seems better in Roman numerals), there are only a couple of interesting birthdays, both of female singers of different vintages.   The first is Rosemary Clooney, born in 1928, who had a great deep voice, perfect for smoky ballads of the 50s.   Here she is singing one from her only big starring movie role, in White Christmas:

The second is Jewel (no last name), born in 1974 (can she really be 37... eek!).   Here is her debut single, "Who Will Save Your Soul."   Very cute girl, somewhat marginal career since then (although that's true for most of us who never have a hit in anything):  

Fluidity or Coalescence?

The Republican presidential field seems to still be a bit fluid, particularly in the aftermath of Mitch Daniels' decision not to run, although perhaps that is wishful thinking.   Maybe it just seems "fluid" because we can't see the patterns clearly, even though they are emerging below the surface.   Here is a useful summary from Michael Barone:
In, in alphabetical order: Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Gary Johnson, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum.
Of these, the only serious candidates I see who could make a significant run are Pawlenty and Romney.   Hugh Hewitt agrees with this.   Cain took a step backward with his flummoxed response on the Palestinians and their "right of return."   Gingrich imploded with his comments about Paul Ryan's budget plan.   Santorum is a fringe candidate of the pro-Lifers; Johnson and Paul fringe candidates of the libertarians.   So it's Pawlenty and Romney.   Both are flawed, Pawlenty by prior support for cap-and-trade, Romney for Romneycare.   Both have executive experience as governors and, for Romney, extensive high-level business experience.  I think Pawlenty could win Iowa because he's more of a social conservative, but Romney will come back and win New Hampshire big, and Romney's money and organization will likely give him a big win on Super Tuesday.  
Probably in: Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman.
Bachmann could siphon off Iowa votes from fellow Minnesotan Pawlenty, and could score big in conservative South Carolina.  But I see her run as a borderline vanity candidacy, designed to raise money for her PAC going forward and keep her name in front of the public, but not to win.   Huntsman, on the other hand, could be a decent candidate, but I think he lacks name recognition, and will seem like Romney-lite (fellow Utahan) when all is said and done.   Working in the Obama Administration (ambassador to China) didn't help, although the China knowledge (he speaks fluent Mandarin) is an interesting added value.
Probably not in: John Bolton, Sarah Palin.
I'd be surprised if Palin runs.   There's just too much money to be made being Sarah Palin, and running for President now would interfere with that.   I don't blame her; after 2008, who needs another year or so of media piling on.   She's tough, but living well is the best revenge.   Bolton, meanwhile, should be on the short list for Secretary of State in the next Republican administration, but lacks the executive experience and presence to be a real Presidential candidate.   And he probably knows it.
Out: Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, Mike Huckabee, Mike Pence, John Thune.
Daniels dropping out surprised many, but his wife's story (leaves him to marry another man, comes back three years later to remarry Daniels) seems a little too weird for primetime.  I can see why neither he nor his wife would want to spend a year explaining that.  
Declared out but still being wooed: Chris Christie, Rick Perry, Paul Ryan.
Christie is not running.   Get it out of your heads.   He's been governor of New Jersey for what?  Two years?   He's not ready and he knows it.   Ryan is only 40.   He's also not ready, and he knows it too.   Both are well-served by staying out for now, possibly getting drafted as VP candidates, although if I were Ryan I'd stay away from that too.   He can do better as the de facto head of Republicans in Congress.  

As for Perry, well, I think he's making moves that suggest he's going to come into this thing late.   Then there will be three ex-governors, from Massachusetts (Romney), Minnesota (Pawlenty), and Texas (Perry).   If he can get his organization in place in time, I think Perry as a Southerner can win that race with a late surge beginning in South Carolina.  

Netanyahu Schools Obama

Here's the money clip:

And now, for extra credit, compare and contrast... see if you can pick out who the serious young man with real responsibilities is:

Prayers for Joplin

Joplin, MO in my erstwhile home state, got hit yesterday with what appears to be about the most devastating tornado that I can remember.   Please pray for all of the people who lost their lives, and their families, and for all the rescue teams that must be working round the clock in the town to try to find and save more people.   Just a horrible, horrible tragedy.  

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Wisconsin Supreme Court Update

The recount demanded by liberal loser Joanne Kloppenburg in the Wisconsin Supreme Court is now over, and conservative justice David Prosser maintained his 7,000+ lead, as expected, winning reelection.   Now, also as expected, Kloppenburg will likely bring a court action to challenge the election results.   Can she win?   Not if she gets a real judge.   But, then again, she will likely bring the action in Dane County (liberal Madison), where you never know what happens.  

So what's the real goal?   Delay.... delay Prosser getting seated (normally his term would start August 1st), so that a divided Supreme Court, 3-3, will not be able to decide on Scott Walker's budget reform bill, leaving whatever a lower Court of Appeals decides to stand.   Second goal:  to delegitimize any decisions Prosser makes going forward that hurt the Left.    Third goal, and maybe the most important:  keep the issue alive so the Wisconsin Dems and their union cronies can keep raising money.   

Kloppenburg's fast becoming the Wicked Witch of the West for Wisconsin conservatives:

Girl of the Day - Rita Hayworth

A couple of days ago when I did Fred Astaire's birthday, I featured a dance with Astaire and Rita Hayworth.  Her dancing, which I had never really known before (because I always focused on the Ginger Rogers-Astaire classic 1930s movies), knocked me out.   So I thought I'd better bring her back for an encore:

I mean it.... wow!   She is all of that, and then some.

And, of course, there's this:

Heat Is On

As much as I hate to say it, if the Miami Heat now win all of their remaining home games, they will be Eastern Conference champions in the NBA.   Then they will have home-court advantage for the NBA Finals over either Dallas or Oklahoma City, because of a better regular season record.  Which means that if they win seven straight home games from here on out, these guys will be the NBA champions:


Friday, May 20, 2011

Birthdays Today

Today is the birthday of HonorĂ© de Balzac, the great French novelist, born in 1799.   Balzac is one of my wife's favorites, and I've always meant to read more of his works.   The one I read, which was great, was Pere Goriot, which centers, like so many 19th century novels, on a social climber, this one named Rastignac, who has eyes for Old Father Goriot's married daughter, Delphine.  

The picture of Balzac above, by the way, reminds me of the Rodin sculpture of Balzac, which I had always thought was abstract, but which apparently was pretty accurate.   Not a handsome guy:

It's also the 65th birthday of Cher.   Wow!   Tempus fugit, again, and again.   Here she is back before Botox, when she was pretty cute in a weird 60s sort of way:

Finally, leaving the best for last, today is the birthday of Jimmy Stewart, Princeton '32, who was born in 1908.   Stewart was, of course, one of our greatest actors, but my favorite thing about Stewart is the fact that, at age 33, in March 1941, nine months before Pearl Harbor, he quit Hollywood, and enlisted in the Army Air Force.   During the war, Stewart, already a fine pilot, flew more than twenty combat missions over Germany in a B-24 unit, and rose from Private to Colonel, receiving along the way two Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Croix de Guerre, and the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, and served as group operations officer to the 453rd Bombardment Group and, later, as Chief of Staff of the 2nd Combat Bombardment Wing of the Eighth Air Force.    Later, after the war, he continued in the Air Force Reserve, rising to the rank of Brigadier General.  

Here is Stewart in one of my favorite movies, The Shop Around the Corner, with Margaret Sullavan:

Girl Friday - Does This Make Me Bad?

I don't know.  Does it?

Hard to overestimate what this Herb Alpert album cover did to teenage boys in the 1960s.  

Here is the one hit song from the record, "A Taste of Honey"... now it sounds like "A Taste of 1966":

Media Bias or Mass Stupidity?

This was a draft post from last week, I think.   Not sure if I ever pressed the "publish" button.   So here it is:

Recently President Obama said in a speech in El Paso on immigration something on the order of "Texas has always been Republican."   Many have pointed out that Obama here demonstrated a spectacular lack of historical accuracy, since Texas was heavily Democratic through most of its history up until very, very recently.  (The Texas House, for instance, didn't go majority Republican until 2005; George W. Bush as a Republican Governor of Texas had to deal with a Democratic legislature.)

This is not an atypical rhetorical move, however.   Liberals are constantly obfuscating the fact that the Democratic Party, and not the Republican Party, was the party of slavery and segregation and Jim Crow laws.  Remember the furor when Trent Lott lauded Strom Thurmond (a Democrat) at his funeral for having run for President in 1948 (as an avowed segregationist)?   Big deal, right?   Remember any similar furor about Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia having been a leader of the Ku Klux Klan?   I didn't think so. 

Here is another example, from a recent article by Richard Cohen of the Washington Post on the topic of "American exceptionalism" (note: he's against it):

The huge role of religion in American politics is nothing new but always a matter for concern nonetheless. In the years preceding the Civil War, both sides of the slavery issue claimed the endorsement of God. The 1856 Republican convention concluded with a song that ended like this: “We’ve truth on our side/ We’ve God for our guide.” Within five years, Americans were slaughtering one another on the battlefield.
Therein lies the danger of American exceptionalism. It discourages compromise, for what God has made exceptional, man must not alter.
See what he did there?  He talks about slavery, then he talks about the Republican convention, and then he talks about the Civil War, then he talks about a failure to compromise.   How many readers educated in American schools will know that the Republican Party was the party of abolition and Abraham Lincoln, while the Democratic Party was the party of slavery and secession; that the Democratic Party and the South caused the Civil War; and that it was the Democratic Party and the South that wouldn't compromise to give up slavery in the territories?

Cohen surely knows better, so his mistake is calculated bias.   But many of his readers simply equate -- because the media has drilled this equation into their heads -- Republicans with racism.   They just don't know any better.

Catching Up

Haven't blogged this week due to the press of work and too many Little League games.   Anyway, here's my quick thoughts on a few of the main things I see happening out there:

1.   Obama on Israel.   President Obama gave a speech this week at the State Department, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in attendance, in which he basically told Israel that the 1967 borders with Syria, Jordan and Egypt would be just fine with him.   Netanyahu calls those borders "indefensible."  

Wow.   Who could have predicted that if you elected a President with a Muslim father, who grew up in the hard Left where support for the Palestinians was a requirement for ideological purity and criticism of Israel as a colonialist, racist "occupier" is de regueur, and who made his political bones in the Chicago of Louis Farrakhan.... who could have predicted that he would throw Israel under the bus?   That he does so with complete confidence that liberals in America won't desert him, even though siding with anti-Semites, simply shows the decadence of the American liberal conscience, and, in particular, of liberal Jewish communities in New York, Chicago, and other major urban centers, who apparently believe fealty to the DNC trumps support for Israel.   Sad.  

2.  Gingrich Implodes.   Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.   Maybe it's me, but the three wives is both a disqualifier for me, and also a clear sign that this guy doesn't get it.    If you don't stand with Paul Ryan and the House Republicans in wanting to reign in entitlements, what will you stand for.   Profile in Courage?  Not so much.

3.   Mitch Daniels Catches Heat.   Mitch Daniels, who hasn't even declared for the Presidency yet, is catching some heat from conservatives about having once said less than damning things about the idea of an individual mandate to buy health insurance as part of health reform.   I don't know.   I obviously don't like Obamacare, but not because of the individual mandate (although I think it's unconstitutional), but rather because there's just too much government involvement in what should be a private insurance market.    And I don't like Romneycare, for the same reasons (although a state law individual mandate is constitutional), because I again think there's too much government involvement.   But, while in general I don't really like the idea of any government telling any citizen they have to buy X, we do it all the time.  For instance, we mandate in Wisconsin that drivers have liability insurance as a prerequisite to getting a driver's license.   The idea is that deadbeats shouldn't be able to shirk the social costs of car accidents, shifting them onto responsible people who have purchased automobile insurance.  

What's so different (ontologically?) about health insurance?   Isn't the problem the same... deadbeats without insurance still want health care (just like they still want to drive), but they want to shift costs onto the rest of us who are responsible enough to buy health insurance?    Frankly, I could live with health care reform that simply said, I don't care how you get it, but everyone has to have catastrophic health care insurance.   And that's all.... after that, get out of the way and let the free market figure out how to provide it.

Maybe I just like Mitch Daniels... he's a short guy who went to Princeton.  

4. Cornel West Disses Obama.   On the other hand, Princeton doesn't always produce the best and the brightest.    For instance, this week a prominent African-American "academic," Princeton professor Cornel West, laid it on Obama pretty hard:

The well-known Princeton professor and author, who has released rap albums and starred in Hollywood films, supported Obama in the 2008 presidential campaign but now calls the president a “black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.”

Focusing on Obama and race, West said: “I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men . . . It’s understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white. He is just as human as I am, but that is his cultural formation.”
Really offensive.  As much as I dislike Obama, this is reprehensible race-baiting, particularly coming from a Princeton professor.   My alma mater should be ashamed. 

That's all for now.... back to work.    

Monday, May 16, 2011

Girl Monday - Audrey Hepburn

Blogging about Richard Avedon got me thinking back to Audrey Hepburn.   I know she's been the girl of the day before, but, seriously, can a little bit more of Audrey Hepburn be a bad thing?   Here's an Avedon portrait of her:

And here she is with Fred Astaire in the Avedon-inspired Funny Face:  

Social Security Retirement Age

Social Security was enacted in 1935.   At that time, the average life expectancy for Americans was 61.7 years.   Obviously, that figure is distorted by early deaths that now would be avoided, primarily deaths in childbirth.   So, if you made it to 61.7, you were actually likely to live for a few more years.  

Nevertheless, when we began providing for the elderly at age 65, we were really providing for the elderly, with little expectation that they would live on average too much past 65.   Heart disease and cancer were untreatable; hips and knees fell apart and could not be replaced, the victims becoming bedridden and, often as not, dying of pneumonia; etc., etc.  

We are extraordinarily fortunate to live at this time when medical science has advanced so far and give so many so much additional time and quality of life.  The average life expectancy for Americans today is 77.9; and, of course, if you make it that long it's a matter of actuarial science that you are likely to make it much longer.   It's not uncommon anymore to talk about 90 and 95 and even 100 year old folks still around and still kicking. 

This is a great "problem" to have, don't get me wrong.  But it's a problem for a Social Security system that was not created and is not structured to deal with people living 15, 20, 25, 30 years beyond 65.   We could have fixed it much sooner, and should have fixed it much sooner; by the early 1970s, the average life expectancy for Americans had gone up by more than 10 years, yet the retirement age for Social Security remained the same.   In 1983 we made a modest fix, changing the retirement age in increments from 65 to 67, with people born in 1960 or after having a retirement age of 67.  (Note: born in 1959, my retirement age will be 66 years and 10 months.  My sisters, born in 1955 and 1957, will have retirement ages of 66 and 2 months and 66 and 6 months, respectively.)   But it isn't nearly enough.

No one who is serious about saving our country from fiscal ruin should disagree with the proposition that the first step in reforming Social Security will be to change the average retirement age significantly.   A real leader (like Paul Ryan) would propose something like this:

Age 60+                No change
Age 55-59             Retirement Age = 67
Age 50-54             Retirement Age = 68
Age 45-49             Retirement Age = 69
Age 0-44               Retirement Age = 70

Do I want to work until I'm 68?  No.   But should the federal government or me do the saving to pay for my retirement if I want to retire earlier?   And, beyond "should," can the government afford it?   No.  

Too bad for me.   Is there generational inequity?  Sure.   On the other hand, earlier generations also fought World Wars and, generally, had harder lives than we have.   So tough.

Republican Presidential Campaign - Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction

We keep hoping for a perfect candidate, the "Giant" who will rescue us from all evils and restore utopia.  Not going to happen.   So, some notes toward the "supreme fiction" of a GOP Presidential candidate who can defeat Obama and restore us, in a minor key, to some semblance of smaller government and living within our means as a society:

1.  Newt Gingrich implodes.    No one really thought Gingrich could win this thing.   Too much baggage.  But did he really have to come out over the weekend and call Paul Ryan a "radical" whose plans for Medicare in his budget are "right wing social engineering"?   Really?   I think most GOP primary voters think Ryan didn't go far enough.   Cross Newt off.  

2.  Romney gets some decent press.   From Hugh Hewitt, no less, who claims that his speech on Romneycare, in which he promised to repeal Obamacare by executive orders granting waivers to all 50 states on his first day in office, was secretly brilliant.   I don't know.   And I don't like, as a Constitutionalist, the notion that presidents can simply undo legislation they don't like by granting waivers.   And Hewitt has long carried water for Romney.   But it doesn't hurt him and maybe he can get to the point where Romneycare (the Massachusetts precursor to Obama's national health care reform) can be dismissed as "old news."  

3.  Trump and Huckabee demur.   Who's kidding whom?   Does anybody believe that Trump was going to run for President and give up Celebrity Apprentice?   Does anybody believe Huckabee was going to run for President and give up his FoxNews gig?   Too much money involved.   Now wait for the Sarah Palin shoe to drop, although maybe she could get some legs from being the one GOP candidate who didn't grab for the brass ring of television millions.   

4.  Paul Ryan speaks.   Ryan is speaking today at a high profile event, the Economic Club of Chicago.   Here's the text.   And here's a couple of key passages:

Those committed to the mindset of “shared scarcity” are telling future generations, sorry, you’re just going to have to make do with less. Your taxes will go up, because Washington can’t get government spending down.
They are telling future generations, you know, there’s just not much we can do about health care costs. Government spending on health care is going to keep going up and up and up… and when we can’t borrow or tax another dollar, we’ll have to give a board of unelected bureaucrats the power to tell you what kind of treatments you can and can’t receive.
If we succumb to this view that our problems are bigger than we are – if we surrender more control over our economy to the governing class – then we are choosing shared scarcity over renewed prosperity, and managed decline over economic growth.
That’s the real class warfare that threatens us – a class of governing elites picking winners and losers, and determining our destinies for us.
We face a choice between two futures. We can continue to go down the path toward shared scarcity, or we can choose the path of renewed prosperity.
The question before us is simple: Which path will our generation choose?
Sounds like a candidate.  Over the weekend, Ryan did not demur when asked about running for Herb Kohl's now open Senate seat in Wisconsin.   If he's willing to do that, is he willing to run for the big job?   Maybe, maybe not.  

In short, there are lots of balls still in the air. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Birthdays Today - Where the Regular Guy Thinks Deep Thoughts About Modern Art

Two birthdays today of visual artists whose work is immediately recognizable and iconic, but, to me anyway, unappealing and unsatisfying.

First,  Richard Avedon, the photographer, was born today in 1923.   Avedon branched out from fashion photography into portraiture in the 1950s; his most famous photographs are probably of Audrey Hepburn, and his work with her became the inspiration for the Fred Astaire-Hepburn movie, Funny Face.   He was known for capturing his subjects' personalities in his pictures.   Here is one of his classic portraits of a different Hepburn:

And here is another Avedon, this time of Marilyn Monroe:

I don't know.   I like these photographs, but I can't help thinking that what makes them interesting is not the skill or talent of the photographer but the fame of the subject.   Avedon seems to me like a one-trick pony, who managed to ingratiate himself with the famous, and then having an "Avedon" taken of you became the thing to do.   He made a name for himself by taking pictures of people caught slightly off-guard.   Interesting, but... did he make great art?  I can't say yes.

Also born today, in 1930, was the painter, Jasper Johns.   Of all 20th Century American painters, Johns is probably the most famous, and, to the Regular Guy, controversially so, because his work, more than most, requires the overlay of art criticism to be even marginally comprehensible as art.  Call me a Philistine, but I don't think you ought to need to footnote your work if you're going to be a great artist; it ought to please without exegesis all men at all times; it ought to be beautiful in a way that touches the human eye and mind without having to have an Associate Professor of Art History tell you why it should.  

I can't help thinking that much of modern art is really a matter of self-promotion to the guardians of elite opinion in academia.   Maybe it has always been thus.  But I suspect that there's a reason that, as of 2011, I can't name a single living contemporary visual artist or a single living contemporary poet.   I am an educated, literate and affluent person, but those "artists" have chosen to stop speaking to me.   If they can't speak to people like me, I submit that they won't pass the test of time.   If they won't pass the test of time, I submit that they aren't making art in any real sense.  

Compare and contrast:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Girls of the Day - Beach Blanket Bingo Edition

Milwaukee winters go on forever.   Last night at Little League the temperature was in the low 40s and the wind was howling out of the north at 25 miles per hour.   My son hit a blast that might have gotten out over the left-field fence if it hadn't been hit into the wind; the leftfielder caught it in deep left.   We won, 13-11, but the main feeling we took away was... cold.  Bone-chilling, teeth-chattering, finger-numbing cold. 

So we need us some beaches, so to speak:

Just sayin'. 

Modestly Revised Thoughts on the GOP Field

I will generally stand with my comments below that the GOP Presidential field is actually pretty strong.   But Romney's apparent doubling-down on the health care reform he helped enact in Massachusetts -- let's call it Romneycare, because everyone else will -- in his speech this week, effectively hobbles him as a GOP candidate.   Here's what Mark Steyn had to say:
Unfortunately for [Romney], his signature legislation in Massachusetts looks awfully like a pilot program for Obamacare. So in recent days, he’s been out yet again defending his record: If I understand him correctly, his argument is that the salient point about Romneycare and Obamacare is not that they’re both disasters, but that one’s local and the other’s national, and that Obama has a one-disaster-fits-all approach to health care whereas Romney believes in letting a thousand disasters bloom. Celebrate diversity!
Ouch!   Romney may think that this is what he has to do to distance himself from the Tea Partiers in the GOP and present himself as the responsible adult alternative, but I think he underestimates how damaging his support for the individual mandate part of Romneycare/Obamacare is in a GOP primary.   Obamacare is hated by GOP activists precisely because of the individual mandate, ergo, Romneycare and Romney will also be hated.   Again, here's Steyn:
American conservatives’ problem with Romneycare is the same as with Obamacare — that, if the government (whether state or federal) can compel you to make arrangements for the care of your body parts that meet the approval of state commissars, then the Constitution is dead. And Americans might as well shred the thing and scatter it as confetti over Prince William and his lovely bride, along with an accompanying note saying, “Come back. It was all a ghastly mistake.” For if conceding jurisdiction over your lungs and kidneys and bladder does not make you a subject rather than a citizen, what does?
Double ouch!

Romney has a reputation, perhaps undeserved, as a northeastern liberal Republican squish, not necessarily trustworthy on taxes or abortion.   And now this. 

Can you say "Mitch Daniels"?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Thought Experiments on the National Debt

$14.3 trillion dollars in national debt.  What exactly does that mean?

OK, well, that means that if we ran a $143 billion dollar surplus and paid whatever interest on that debt we are obliged to pay every year for 100 years -- that's pronounced "a hundred f***ing years" for those listening at home -- we could pay it off.   Of course, an $143 billion dollar surplus is larger than every surplus America has ever had except one -- the $236 billion surplus we ran in 2000 at the height of the Internet dot.com bubble.   So that's not really happening.   True, as we move through that timeline, paying $143 billion a year will be less and less due to inflation, but still… not going to happen.   Recalling John Maynard Keynes, in the long run we're all dead.   So, for all meaningful purposes, we're in debt forever.  

So what is going to happen?    Well, if we could somehow balance the budget and if we could somehow grow the economy to double its current size over the next 20 years (requiring, by the "Rule of 72," an average growth rate of 3.6% per year), at the end of that time, our national debt would be roughly 40% or so of our total GDP.   Not bad…. but is that level of growth do-able?    Not in an America that has Obamacare, with a government engaged in hyper-regulation, with a legal system that is over-lawyered and dedicated to the extortion rackets of class actions and mass torts.   We've had average growth of 2.7% since 2000.   Think it's suddenly going to get better?    Somebody going to invent the personal computer again?  And, of course, we've begged the question... how exactly are you going to balance the budget?   With this President?   With this Congress?   With 300 million Americans crying about their Social Security and Medicare and how Paul Ryan's plan is going to kill Grandma?   Not likely.    

So what's left?  If you can't pay off debt and you can't grow your way out of it, there's really only one thing to do.    Hyper-inflation.   Hold the line marginally on spending, but print money like crazy and, presto, your national debt evaporates.   And I think that's where we're headed.  

Of course, if our national debt evaporates, so does your life savings.  Bon appĂ©tit!  Which is French for…. we're so boned.

Blogger Down

The service that supports this blog and probably millions of others, blogspot.com, has been down since yesterday, so I haven't been able to blog.   It's amazing how we become completely dependent on these technologies, so when they go out we're lost.   Anyway,somewhere out there, every day engineers are working hard to make my life more fun.   Thanks to all of them.  

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Morality of Killing Osama

Peter Wehner has a brilliant article up at Commentary, in which he refutes a Christian theologian's argument that killing Osama bin Laden was unChristian murder.   Here is the key logic Wehner uses, which is an argument that made me really think:
Wright [the theologian] is falling into a common error, which is to assume the Sermon on the Mount was intended to articulate a political philosophy and blueprint for how the state must conduct itself. In plain fact, the moral duties placed on persons are, in important respects, different from those placed on the state. Indeed, within Judaism and Christianity the state has invested in it powers and responsibilities that are different from, and sometimes denied to, persons....

Collapsing the distinction between person and state represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of government, which has granted to it powers of life, death, and coercion denied to individual persons. And these powers can be used to defend innocent lives and establish social order. They can also create the conditions that allow the church to exist, Christians to minister, and good works to be done. For this reason, the callings of soldier, policeman, and president are not merely permissible for Christians, but honorable.

The Immorality of National Debt for Entitlements

"Monty" at Ace of Spades publishes a daily entry entitled "DOOM," which discusses, in suitably terrifying terms, the coming financial apocalypse that America seems unable to avoid, a disaster he attributes largely to government policies and, in particular, unaffordable entitlement programs (the big 3, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid).  After linking to a good post by Greg Mankiw (Harvard economics professor) about the "negative bequest" to our children that our national debt represents, Monty has this to say, which pretty much sums up what I think on the issue, and says it in a way that can't be improved:
It is morally wrong to force young people to make good on false promises made before they were even born. It is an outrage, a scandal, a shame on our society. A society that invests in the old at the expense of (actually, to the large detriment of) the young cannot survive. A caring and kind society cares for the weak and elderly and helpless; a dynamic and just society allows the young to grow and prosper on their own merits. If America is to prosper as a nation, the young must be given room to build families and careers. To build lives, without the onerous, crushing burden of debt run up by their forebears.

Girl of the Day - Not Faye Dunaway

At the beginning of one of my favorite all-time movies, the original version of The Thomas Crowne Affair, with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway, McQueen has an extraordinarily beautiful girlfriend to whom he pays scant attention.   The one scene I remember is when he is flying his glider very dangerously while the girl waits for him on the ground nervously.   Anyway, her name was Astrid Heeren:

Again, the crap you remember when you get older.  Sheesh!

Birthday Today - George Carlin

Not a lot of great birthdays today.   About the only one of note is George Carlin, the great comedian.   I loved Carlin growing up, and, apropos of yesterday's comments on Petticoat Junction, I still find myself saying some of his lines.   For instance, at spring Little League games where it looks like the sun is going down before we can finish the 7 innings, I often find myself saying, to some blank looks from my 13 and 14 year-old team, "Forecast for tonight.... dark!   Changing to widely scattered light in the morning."

Here, in fact, is the Hippy-Dippy Weatherman:

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Contrarian Thoughts on the GOP Candidates for 2012

There has been a good deal of talk about the supposed "weakness" of the Republican field for President in 2012, despite the fact that we are still 8 months away from the Iowa caucuses.   Here is a typically gloomy description of the prevailing GOP mood, from Byron York of National Review
Talk to enough people around this key primary state and you'll learn two lessons, over and over again.  One is that there is absolutely, positively no unity among Republicans about any presidential candidate or potential candidate; there's no such thing as a frontrunner.  The other is that in the back of their minds, many Republicans are hoping that somewhere, somehow, a superhero candidate will swoop down out of the sky and rescue them from their current lackluster presidential field.  They know it's a fantasy, but they still hope.
I have a contrary opinion.  Let's review who we know for sure is in the race, namely, the people who showed up for the first debate in South Carolina: Tim Pawlenty (former Governor of swing state, Minnesota); Rick Santorum (former Senator of swing state, Pennsylvania); Herman Cain (prominent African-American businessman); Ron Paul (libertarian Congressman from Texas and medical doctor); Gary Johnson (libertarian former Governor of swing state, New Mexico, and successful businessman).   That's not bad... you have two former Governors, two successful businessmen, some ideological diversity (Santorum provides the strongest pro-Life voice in the party and Paul and Johnson provide a libertarian alternative vision), some racial diversity (Cain).

Now let's add the people we think will be in the race because they're doing everything they ought to do if they're running:  Mitt Romney (former Governor of "blue" state, Massachusetts, and successful businessman); Mitch Daniels (current Governor of Indiana, former head of federal OMB, and successful businessman); Newt Gingrich (former Speaker of the House and high-profile commentator); and Michelle Bachmann (current Congresswoman from swing state, Minnesota, and, fairly stated, the "Queen" of the Tea Party movement).   Again, that's not that bad... you have two more Governors with executive experience (Romney and Daniels), business experience (same), people who are capable of making strong conservative ideological arguments (Gingrich and Bachmann), and, again, some diversity with a woman candidate who is, not to belabor the point, pretty attractive (Bachmann).  

Now let's add in the people we don't know about, but who might conceivably run:  Rick Perry (current governor of Texas since 2000); Jon Huntsman (former Governor of Utah and ambassador to Singapore and China (and fluent in Mandarin); Donald Trump (billionaire real estate developer and high-profile reality TV star); Mike Huckabee (former Governor of Arkansas and Fox News star); and Sarah Palin (former Governor of Alaska, former Vice-Presidential candidate in 2008, and current multimedia star (books, TV, etc.).   Again, this is a pretty good group, with four Governors, interesting life experiences (Perry was an Air Force pilot, Huntsman was a Mormon missionary in China, Trump is Trump, Palin is Palin, etc.).  

Finally, let's think about the "bench" -- people we don't think are going to run, but who could be persuaded to join a ticket as VP, or who might be in the wings waiting for 2016:  Paul Ryan (leading Congressman and budget hawk from a swing state, Wisconsin); Bobby Jindal (Indian-American governor of Louisiana and Rhodes Scholar... like to see him debate Joe Biden, wouldn't you?); Nikki Haley (Indian-American governor of South Carolina and very attractive young female leader); Marco Rubio (Cuban-American senator from a swing state, Florida); and Chris Christie (governor of New Jersey and Youtube sensation with his stare-downs of state employee union members).   That's a great list, and, for my money, where the future of the party is.  

Sure, there are some people I'd rather not see in the race, namely, Donald Trump, whom I don't believe is a real Republican or conservative and who is, frankly, weird; and Newt Gingrich, whose three marriages kill his candidacy for me.   And there are some people whom I don't believe can win, although they add some intellectual interest to the debates we're going to have:  Cain, Paul, Johnson, Santorum, Bachmann.   And, finally, there are some whom I don't believe are going to run:  Palin and Huckabee, because they can't win, and because they'd be giving up too much money to run.   But, if the race comes down to Romney, Daniels, Pawlenty, Huntsman and maybe Rick Perry (here's hoping), you'd have a field of five successful governors whose real executive experience will contrast well with the incompetence and inexperience of Barack Obama.   Couple them with an attractive younger VP candidate (Ryan, Rubio, Jindal), and you'd have a really good ticket.

Finally, let's think about where we were in 2000, the last time we didn't have an obvious candidate (McCain, in retrospect, was due in 2008).    Senators John Ashcroft, Fred Thompson, and Trent Lott all decided not to run, as did Governors Tommy Thompson and Jeb Bush.   Former Vice President Dan Quayle withdrew before the primaries, as did Governor Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire, former Education Secretary and North Carolina Senator Liddy Dole, and TV commentator Pat Buchanan.   The candidates in the primary elections were thus down to Gary Bauer (pro-Life activist), businessman Steve Forbes, African-American commentator Alan Keyes, and two relatively old Senators, John McCain and Orrin Hatch, along with a single Governor, George W. Bush of Texas, who had served there for a total of six years.   Bush, of course, won, and the pool for potential VP candidates was so thin that he ended up naming Dick Cheney, who brought nothing to the table in terms of electoral votes (Wyoming), and hadn't been part of anybody's thinking prior to that.  

We're much better off now.   Santorum is better than Bauer; Herman Cain is much better than Alan Keyes; we have governors instead of old Senators; we have real conservatives rather than RINOs like McCain and Hatch and Liddy Dole; we even have a Texas governor with more experience who isn't named Bush.   And then there's that bench.

I'm just saying.   Jay Cost in the Weekly Standard comes to the same conclusion, with a different rationale.   Essentially he says it's too early to tell.  I agree, but I also think that what we have is pretty good.   For my money, a Daniels-Jindal or Perry-Jindal or Huntsman-Jindal ticket would be just fine.  

Birthday Today - Doggy Version

Our family hound, Gibby (named after Bob Gibson, the Cardinals pitcher), turns three today. In people years that would make him 21, which means he should move out of the house and get a job.

Doesn't look like he's going anywhere, does it?

Happy Birthday, Gibby!

Birthday Today - Irving Berlin

A good follow up to yesterday's birthday of Fred Astaire, Irving Berlin was born on this day in 1888.   Astaire actually was the singer for some of Berlin's best songs, and there were a lot of great ones.   Here's one of my favorites, which I used to sing to my children:

Girl of the Day - Petticoat Junction Edition

We remember our childhood, if happy, as mine was, through rose-colored glasses.   Sunny days, baked fields, the arc of a ball through the air, the salty taste of sweat, the cool of the air in the house when you came in from play.   Little things stand out, and often echo in the pet phrases we continue to use that only we understand, because the origins are so obscure.   For instance, I often say, "I'm wearing a cardboard belt!" when someone intimates that I make a good living.  It comes from the movie "The Producers" by Mel Brooks; in the movie it's a lament from Zero Mostel to his accountant about why he hadn't paid income taxes -- he simply didn't have a pot to piss in.

Another phrase that I use habitually, usually when I see someone hobbling or when I see a kid in baseball practice not moving quickly enough to suit me is "Hey, Uncle Joe, he's moving kinda slow."   That phrase, which is truly obscure, is from the theme song to a popular Sixties television show called "Petticoat Junction."

Anyway, about all I remember from the show is that it had a set of three young ladies on it who were very attractive, none of whom, at least as far as I recall, ever went on to stardom.   The show was set in a fictional small Southern town called "Hooterville," which, in retrospect, captures its appeal perfectly.   The girls' names on the show were "Billie Jo, Bobbie Jo, and Bettie Jo."   Here's a shot from the set:

And here they are in a semi-famous shot from the opening credits, where the girls, or so it is implied, are skinny-dipping in the water-tank at the train station:

I have a sense that the girls changed over the years the show was on, 1963-1970, but it doesn't much matter.   The prettiest of the bunch was probably Meredith MacRae, who had a certain classic Sixties California blonde appeal:

Man, the crap you remember.   I'd probably work better if I could purge the memory banks every few years.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Birthday Today - Fred Astaire

Born in 1899, Fred Astaire is.... well, he's Fred Astaire, and no one else is, or likely ever will be.   The greatest dancer ever?  I think so.   Here he is with Rita Hayworth, whom Astaire considered to be the best female dancer in Hollywood during the 1940s.   Funny, I never thought of her as a dancer, but she's cute as a button in this number.   Neat stuff.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Girl Monday - Kim Novak

Kim Novak was never really my cup of tea; something about her looks seemed a little too harsh for my taste.   But she was a huge star in the late 1950s in great movies like The Man With the Golden Arm, Picnic, and Vertigo (opposite Frank Sinatra, William Holden and Jimmy Stewart, respectively).   In Picnic, she has one of the iconic scenes in history, dancing on the pier with Holden:

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I, Me, My... the Rhetoric of Barack Obama

Victor Davis Hanson captured something important earlier this week about Obama's nature, as he analyzed the rhetoric of Obama's speech announcing the killing of Osama bin Laden.   Hanson, a classical scholar, noted the obvious and by-now-default mode of Obama to use the first person singular in speeches that are about his administration's or the nation's accomplishments, as if he had done it all himself:
Here are a few excerpts from President Obama’s speech on Sunday night about the killing of Osama bin Laden.
“Tonight, I can report . . . And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta . . . I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden . . . I met repeatedly with my national security team . . . I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action. . . . Today, at my direction . . . I’ve made clear . . . Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear . . . Tonight, I called President Zardari . . . and my team has also spoken. . .These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief . . . Finally, let me say to the families . . . I know that it has, at times, frayed. . . .”
It is amazing that Obama's speechwriters haven't learned the first lesson of Presidential rhetoric.   It's found, most notably, in the Gettysburg Address:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom— and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Presidential speeches, especially in times of national crisis or moments where national security is at stake, should always be in the first person plural, not the first person singular.  It's always about "us"; it should never be about "me."  

The narcisissm of President Obama was on full display in this truly poor speech.  Over at Ace of Spades, they've usefully compared Obama's speech with the speech of George W.  Bush announcing the capture of Saddam Hussein, in which Bush used "we" or "our" formulations almost exclusively.  Quite a contrast, one that reflects the difference between a narcissist and a man with real humility and generosity.  


From Jim Geraghty at National Review:

Here is Geraghty's commentary, which I can't improve.   Great stuff:
I can hear the liberal cries of outrage, so to recap: The interrogations of KSM (which included waterboarding) and the interrogation of Hassan Ghul (held in “black site” prisons) were key to identifying the courier; the president then authorized military action in a foreign country without going to the United Nations or informing the host government; the military action was unilateral, and we did not consult with our allies; Congress was not informed of the military action; and it increasingly appears that no serious effort was made to treat Osama bin Laden as a criminal (reading him his rights, etc.). The monitoring of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s phone call was a result of an extensive global wiretapping system. Furthermore, as Charles Krauthammer notes, the helicopters used in the raid came from Bagram and Jalalabad; if we had withdrawn from Afghanistan on the antiwar Left’s timetable, we would have had no bases from which to launch this operation.
On a similar tack, Victor Davis Hanson nails the Obama administration's hypocrisy:
Senator Obama opposed tribunals, renditions, Guantanamo, preventive detention, Predator-drone attacks, the Iraq War, wiretaps, and intercepts — before President Obama either continued or expanded nearly all of them, in addition to embracing targeted assassinations, new body scanning and patdowns at airports, and a third preemptive war against an oil-exporting Arab Muslim nation — this one including NATO efforts to kill the Qaddafi family. The only thing more surreal than Barack Obama’s radical transformation is the sudden approval of it by the once hysterical Left. In Animal Farm and 1984 fashion, the world we knew in 2006 has simply been airbrushed away.
Times change. People say one thing when they are candidates for public office, quite another as officeholders with responsibility of governance. Obama as president naturally does not wish to be treated in the manner in which he once treated President Bush. Conservatives might resent Obama’s prior demagoguery at a critical period in our national security, as much as they are relieved that he seems to have grown up and repudiated it.
Okay, the public perhaps understands all that hypocrisy as the stuff of presidential politics. But I think it will not quite accept the next step of taking full credit in hyperbolic first-person fashion for operations that would have been impossible had his own views prevailed.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Birthdays Today

Really great birthdays today.  

First, today is the birthday of Sigmund Freud, born in 1856.   Freud was, of course, the author of the theory of psychoanalysis that dominated much of the middle part of the 20th Century, at least in high European, Western culture.   Freud has never been my cup of tea; I've always thought that his emphasis on childhood sexuality and sexuality generally as the main motivator of human action is both simplistic and sensationalistic.   I think human beings are both more complex and more boring than the sex-crazed loonies that seem to appear from Freud's world-view.   I also think his emphasis on dream interpretation is just silly; and that his use of the "talking cure" as the mode of treatment for depressed or neurotic or even psychotic individuals has had a horrible effect on our entire culture -- we now seem to believe (or, at least, liberals do ) that any problem can be solved simply by talking about it.   But it's hard to overstate his influence on our common cultural vocabulary.   My favorite work of his is probably Civilization and Its Discontents (1930), which deals with the repression of aggressive impulses by society and the formation of a super-ego which internalizes that societal repression.   Essentially Freud says that, while we need civilization to survive, civilization also inherently makes us unhappy because it represses our sexual and aggressive impulses.      "Civilization," Freud writes, "therefore, obtains mastery over the individual's dangerous desire for aggression by weakening and disarming it and by setting up an agency within him to watch over it, like a garrison in a conquered city."


It's also the birthday of Orson Welles, born in 1915.   Welles directed arguably the greatest American movie ever, Citizen Kane, when he was 25, and followed it with some remarkable, lesser-known works, including The Magnificent Ambersons, The Lady from Shanghai and Touch of Evil, as wells as his remarkable series of Shakespearean dramas, Macbeth, Othello, and Chimes at Midnight (focusing on the character of Falstaff).   Here is a great, great scene from a movie he took over directing and starred in, but did not receive credit for directing, The Third Man, with his running mate, Joseph Cotton:


It's also Willie Mays' 80th birthday.   Possibly the greatest baseball player ever; surely the most exciting, Mays provided probably the greatest World Series catch ever, with this grab against the Indians in the Polo Grounds in the 1954 series:


Finally, it's also the 28th birthday of one of our favorite actresses, from one of our favorite shows, Friday Night Lights, Adrianne Palicki, who has been a Girl of the Day in the past, but obviously deserves a reprise: