"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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Max Weinberg Experience (with Mindy Abair)

It took the Regular Son to Summerfest last night to hear Bruce Springsteen's drummer, Max Weinberg, and his band.   It was great.... fantastic musicians playing classic 1960s and 1970s R&B songs.   The main singer was Bill Champlin of Chicago, but the hit of the show was Mindy Abair, a jazz saxaphonist, who is tall and blonde and, well, you get the picture.   The only downside was the sparse crowd, probably under 500 people... good music and great musicians apparently aren't enough... if you're not the latest hip thing, or else a big name, you can't draw, I guess.   But it was a really fun show, and the Regular Son liked it, so that's all that matters.  

Here is Mindy Abair from 2008 with a different group, but it gives you the flavor of what we saw last night.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Time Horizons


We worry about tomorrow's tasks.  We worry about our children completing this year's grade, or doing well in this sport's season.   We imagine our lives only so far forward; perhaps next year; perhaps only until the end of summer.   Perhaps, if of a political bent, we think about the 2012 elections, and imagine that event to be the be-all-and-end-all.   Perhaps we think of our "careers," a span of a few decades.  

Pope Benedict XVI has a different time horizon:  eternity.   Today was his 60th anniversary as a priest, and his homily captures the scale and stakes of what he worries about and focuses on (and what we should worry about and focus on):
I know that forgiveness comes at a price: In his Passion [Jesus] went deep down into the sordid darkness of our sins. He went down into the night of our guilt, for only thus can it be transformed. And by giving me authority to forgive sins, he lets me look down into the abyss of man, into the immensity of his suffering for us men, and this enables me to sense the immensity of his love. He confides in me: “No longer servants, but friends.” He entrusts to me the words of consecration in the Eucharist. He trusts me to proclaim his word, to explain it aright, and to bring it to the people of today. He entrusts himself to me. “You are no longer servants, but friends”: These words bring great inner joy, but at the same time, they are so awe-inspiring that one can feel daunted as the decades go by amid so many experiences of one’s own frailty and his inexhaustible goodness.
It's like suddenly looking through a telescope and seeing the universe, after focusing your eyes for too long on the motes of dust in front of your face, kicked up by your own meanderings in the desert.

Girls of the Day - Dexter Version

It's only three months until the season premiere of our favorite show, Dexter.    So it's an opportune time to recap the main "love interests" for Dexter Morgan's serial killer character.   In season one, he met his soon-to-be wife, "Rita," played by the lovely Julie Benz:


In the second season, Dexter was "stepping out" on Rita with a warped (but luscious) British femme fatale, "Lila," played by Jaime Murray:



Finally, in season five, Dexter met a girl who might have been his soulmate, a survivor from an attack by another serial killer, a girl called "Lumen," played by Julia Stiles:


Apparently for season six they've added Molly Parker from Deadwood, which should make things interesting again.

Birthday Today

The only birthday of note today is Frank Loesser, the composer and lyricist for one of my favorite Broadway musicals, Guys and Dolls.   Here is the opening number for the musical (I am a connoisseur of openings to musicals), and I don't know that there's been a better or more distinctive curtain raiser:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

An Obvious Correlation

The obvious correlation between economic freedom and per capita income, personal happiness, life expectancy, and other measures of the "good life," is captured in this nice video from the Charles Koch Foundation:



Not as funny though as the Keynes v. Hayek rap contest:

First... Do No Harm

The Hippocratic oath doctors take includes the proscription, "first, do no harm."   The idea is that, if you don't know what to do, doing nothing may be the best course.   That's a hard lesson to learn for anyone, but it seems especially hard to do in the nexus between politics and economics.   Whenever there's an economic downturn, the public clamors for politicians to "do something."   And politicians inevitably do "do something," and the somethings they do often make matters worse.   The most recent example is obvious:   Barack Obama's failed stimulus, a trillion-dollar "something" that made the American economy worse, not better.

On the topic of "doing nothing" as a strategy, here is another interesting article about what Warren Harding did (or, rather, didn't do) in the early 1920s to avoid a deep recession/depression, written from the perspective of Austrian economics.   (It's from the Ludwig von Mises Institute website.)   The recipe (so hard for current politicians) was largely to do nothing and let the market cycle work itself out, with government providing only a stable backdrop of consistent policies.
If the Austrian view is correct — and I believe the theoretical and empirical evidence strongly indicates that it is — then the best approach to recovery would be close to the opposite of these Keynesian strategies. The government budget should be cut, not increased, thereby releasing resources that private actors can use to realign the capital structure.

The money supply should not be increased. Bailouts merely freeze entrepreneurial error in place, instead of allowing the redistribution of resources into the hands of parties better able to provide for consumer demands in light of entrepreneurs' new understanding of real conditions. Emergency lending to troubled firms perpetuates the misallocation of resources and extends favoritism to firms engaged in unsustainable activities at the expense of sound firms prepared to put those resources to more appropriate uses.

This recipe of government austerity is precisely what Harding called for in his 1921 inaugural address.

Financial Armageddon Grows Ever Closer

Like one of those movies where a comet is approaching the earth and will destroy all life on the planet unless some intrepid heroes from central casting find a way to destroy it first.   Here's an alarming article about Social Security's finances.   The takeaways:

  • Since last year, the present value of Social Security’s long-term funding gap widened by $1.1 trillion. In one year. 
  • Last year, the trustees reported that Social Security would be unable to pay all of its promised benefits beginning in 2037; now the expected default year is 2036.
  • The year in which Social Security is projected to start running in the red—that is, the year in which it will start adding permanently to the budget deficit—advanced from four years in the future to one year in the past.
And here's an even more alarming article from the Wall Street Journal:

Washington is struggling to make a deal that will couple an increase in the debt ceiling with a long-term reduction in spending. There is no reason for the players to make their task seem even more Herculean than it already is. But we should be prepared for upward revisions in official deficit projections in the years ahead—even if a deal is struck. There are at least three major reasons for concern.

First, a normalization of interest rates would upend any budgetary deal if and when one should occur. At present, the average cost of Treasury borrowing is 2.5%. The average over the last two decades was 5.7%. Should we ramp up to the higher number, annual interest expenses would be roughly $420 billion higher in 2014 and $700 billion higher in 2020....

The second reason for concern is that official growth forecasts are much higher than what the academic consensus believes we should expect after a financial crisis. That consensus holds that economies tend to return to trend growth of about 2.5%, without ever recapturing what was lost in the downturn.

But the president's budget of February 2011 projects economic growth of 4% in 2012, 4.5% in 2013, and 4.2% in 2014. That budget also estimates that the 10-year budget cost of missing the growth estimate by just one point for one year is $750 billion. So, if we just grow at trend those three years, we will miss the president's forecast by a cumulative 5.2 percentage points and—using the numbers provided in his budget—incur additional debt of $4 trillion. That is the equivalent of all of the 10-year savings in Congressman Paul Ryan's budget, passed by the House in April, or in the Bowles-Simpson budget plan.

Third, it is increasingly clear that the long-run cost estimates of ObamaCare were well short of the mark because of the incentive that employers will have under that plan to end private coverage and put employees on the public system. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has already issued 1,400 waivers from the act's regulations for employers as large as McDonald's to stop them from dumping their employees' coverage....

Underestimating the long-term budget situation is an old game in Washington. But never have the numbers been this large.
The perfect storm, which could actually happen, is a combination of interest rates going up to more normal historical levels, anemic growth in the economy, and a brand new entitlement program about which no one knows what to expect, turning out (surprise!) to cost a lot more than the Washington bureaucrats told us it would cost.   The first one is undoubtedly going to happen at some point, and we need to prepare for it.   The second two can be avoided if we elect a Republican Congress and President and repeal Obamacare and, at the same time, lower taxes on individuals and businesses.   Then you might have a chance to get businesses hiring again. 

Girl of the Day - Maria Sharapova

UPDATE:   Sharapova made it to the semifinals today with an easy 6-1, 6-1 victory over Dominika Cibulkova from Slovakia.   The question arises... why are so many of the top women tennis players from Eastern Europe?   If it wasn't for Serena and Venus Williams, American tennis would be a wasteland.   The men's side is no better... Andy Roddick at 30 is still the highest ranked American at #10 in the world.   Where are the young American superstars that will bring tennis back in America?   Not playing tennis, that's for sure.    
 
***

Maria Sharapova has made it through to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.   Care to wager on how much the TV networks want her to make it all the way to the final?   I can see why.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Girl of the Day - Anna Gunn

I had Anna Gunn as the girl of the day when my backyard neighbor and I were watching Deadwood.   Now we're watching Breaking Bad, and she's great as the beleaguered wife of the chemistry teacher turned meth amphetamine manufacturer:


Gay Marriage in New York, Chokeholds in Madison - The Connection

Here are two stories that don't seem to have that much to do with each other at first glance, but actually are the same story.

First, as everyone knows, the New York legislature voted late last week to legalize gay marriage within New York state.    Now, I don't spend much time worrying about gay marriage.   Although essentially a Catholic, and, at the very least, a person who subscribes to Catholic doctrine on sexuality and the family, I just can't get too excited one way or the other about the issue.   The gay men and women whom I've known and been friends with have always treated me well and I hope I've always treated them well.   I don't really like the notion that two dudes shacking up is somehow legally equivalent to my wife and I raising our three children, and I think that it's a sign of decadence in our society to pretend that they are, but then there are so many signs of decadence in our society right now, particularly with regard to marriage (the divorce rate, to name the most obvious) that singling out gay marriage as too peculiarly decadent and dangerous for the American family strikes me as a kind of scapegoating.   If we could repeal no-fault divorce and make divorces much much harder to get as a parallel enactment to gay marriage, I might sign up.   My point:  families aren't disintegrating because of gay dudes wanting to wear white one day in their lives; they're disintegrating because straight men and women aren't taking the sacrament of marriage seriously enough.  

What does bother me, though, is the fact that this was jammed through the legislature with a lot of lobbying and campaign money changing hands at the last minute.   What bothers me is that, if the idea of gay marriage were put to the people of New York for a vote, I doubt very much that it would pass.   After all, it hasn't passed anywhere else in America, including California, which is at least as gay-friendly and liberal as New York.    So, once again, this is a case of a political elite executing a cram-down of their own values on the people, who have different values.    Once again, they know best.  

Here's the second story, and it's a doozy.   As everyone knows, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld Scott Walker's budget-repair/collective bargaining bill in a 4-3 vote, with the four conservatives (including newly-reelected David Prosser) out-voting the three liberals.   Apparently a meeting among the justices about the vote turned contentious, and either Prosser without provocation choked a woman justice, Ann Walsh Bradley; or else Ms. Bradley rushed at Prosser with her fists flying, and Prosser, in defending himself, somehow touched her neck.   I know which one I believe, but that's not the point.

The connection between the two stories?   Maybe it's a stretch, but don't these two stories both suggest that the political class (and party affiliation notwithstanding) behaves in ways that are just alien to how the rest of "Regular Guy" America thinks and acts?   To Regular Guy America, marriage is pretty simply defined... it's exactly what your grandmother and grandfather thought it was, which is two young people, a man and a woman, standing up in front of their families and their God, and pledging that they will be true to one another "til death do us part," and meaning it.   And in Regular Guy workplaces, we don't get angry and run at each other with fists flying, or choke each other.   What were they thinking?  

Trampoline, or How I Became Uninsurable

Sorry for the lack of blogging.  I spent much of the weekend setting up a trampoline that my youngest girl wheedled me into buying.   Let me just say (a) stretching 90 springs is a surefire way to have really sore hands; (b) there may be a great writer out there who writes crystal clear, you-can't-screw-this-up written directions for putting together play equipment; however, I've never run into him or her.... everytime I put something together, I just factor in the "oh, fuck me" moment when I have to take it apart and start over again because Step M37  really would have been better if you'd done it before Step C13, not two hours later; and (c) it will be a miracle if my neighbor doesn't end up suing me when his third grader plummets off the thing onto his head. 

I don't know how I'll break the news to my insurance agent.  

Friday, June 24, 2011

What the Internals Are Showing Isn't Pretty

The killing of Osama bin Laden gave the President a minor boost in his reelection prospects.   It hasn't lasted.   According to Rasmussen, which to my mind is the most reliable of pollsters, because he always does "likely" voters, and doesn't skew to a fictitious sampling of Democrats much larger than their representation in the population, Obama's approval index is at -16, with 39% strong disapproval versus only 23% strong approval.  

We know the White House watches the polls, and we know that they have their own internal polling.   This cartoon today by the great Michael Ramirez captures how much they rely on them:


Here's my take, though:  it's even worse for Obama than the polls suggest.   He won election at 53%-47% over John McCain, a very weak Republican candidate at a time when the GOP brand had taken a beating under George W. Bush, and during a horrible downturn in the market that voters inevitably pinned on Bush.   He will be seeking reelection presumably over a stronger Republican candidate (Rick Perry?) with the GOP brand in resurgence (Chris Christie?  Paul Ryan?), and with the continuing economic malaise firmly tied to his own bad policies (tax increases, the stimulus, the deficits, over-regulation, etc.).   Much of his first election success was driven by the novelty of having a black man as President; that novelty has worn off.   Much of it was driven by his affecting centrism; we now know he is a dyed-in-the-wool leftist.   Much of it was driven by his being "above" partisanship; we now know he is a hyper-partisan from the Chicago wards.    Much of it was driven by his supposedly soaring rhetoric; we now know he is a male version of Mrs. Malaprop.  

Most of all, I believe that Obama's victory was driven by overwhelming turnout by suburban women (who thought voting for Obama was the right thing to do as a sign of racial healing); by African-Americans (who voted for Obama out of a strong sense of tribe.... sorry, there's not another accurate word for it); and by young voters (who voted for Obama because it was the cool thing to do).  I think suburban women now will vote against Obama because economic worries will trump racial guilt; and I think young voters will vote against Obama (at least in greater numbers than they did), because he just isn't cool anymore.   Finally, I think African-Americans will voice their disappointment by quietly staying home on election day.   It won't be a big shift, but it will be enough to cut a percentage point or more off his margin.  

Put all these things together, and I think that a solid Republican candidate will defeat Obama handily, much like Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in 1980.   I think this is what the President's internal polling is showing, and I think you will see increasing signs of desperation from the White House as we move forward toward 2012.  

The Regular Guy Believes... The World Doesn't End if the Credit Limit Isn't Raised

The talks between the Obama administration and Congressional Republicans about deficit reduction have apparently broken down.   The administration wants tax increases that would fall heavily on high-income Americans (read:  small business owners who do most of the job-creation); Republicans, not surprisingly, think that raising taxes in a precarious, slow-growing, jobless recovery is a bad idea.   Republicans want instead to cut government spending without tax increases; Democrats, not surprisingly, can't abide the idea of ever cutting the size and scope of government.  

These talks, of course, are all supposedly made more dramatic by the looming deadline for raising the U.S. debt ceiling above its current $14.29 trillion limit.   But this deadline is artificial... it's simply a date when Treasury Department officials -- i.e., the Obama administration -- say that without additional borrowing authority, the government will run out of cash to pay its bills by Aug. 2.   They warn ominously that, if that happens, America will default on its obligations and that could trigger another financial crisis and recession or worse.  

Bull.   There is no need to default on obligations; the federal government has plenty of revenue to service its debt.   It simply has to decide to use it for that purpose, rather than spending it on other things.   Making those decisions might be hard (actually, I don't think it is), but the notion of a "deadline" where the only option is "default" is fiction.  

Here's what I would do if I were Republicans.   I'd immediately pass through the House, which Republicans control, a law stating that the federal government must pay Social Security recipients and members of the military all payments when due, as the government's first priority.   That will keep the Democrats from demogoguing that the GOP is killing granny or starving military families while our boys are overseas.   Then I'd simply call their bluff on the debt limit.   The premise can't be that the debt limit will always be raised; that's a recipe for ultimate disaster.   Now is the time to make the debt ceiling a true ceiling and say "no more."   Then the cuts would have to come, because there would simply not be money there to pay for the massive government we now have.

Girl of the Day - Minka Kelly

It's Minka Kelly's birthday.   She's 31, which strikes me as ridiculous, since the only thing I've ever seen her in was as the lead cheerleader in the TV show of Friday Night Lights.   I would have thought she was younger, but then again, I never saw anyone look like this in high school either:


Chris Christie Wins a Big One in New Jersey

Chris Christie pushed through landmark legislation in New Jersey that very much resembles the legislation Scott Walker passed in Wisconsin, reining in out-of-control health and pension benefits for state workers and limiting public workers' collective bargaining rights for benefits.   Here is the most interesting part to me:
Supporters of the bill say the state needs to cut costs because the pension and health systems are underfunded by more than $120 billion total. The Christie administration estimated the bill would save $3 billion in health benefits over the next 10 years and $120 billion in pension costs over 30 years. Much of the pension savings are from the controversial elimination of the cost-of-living adjustments for retirees, which unions have threatened to challenge in court.

The tremendous bang-for-the-buck you can get by eliminating or reducing COLAs for retirees, compounded over time, is the key thing here.   Doing so reduces payouts to retirees only gradually, allowing them time to plan.   It sure seems like a fair formula to me, particularly when younger workers are going to have drastically limited pensions, if they get any pensions at all.   Why couldn't we do something like this for Social Security?   Instead, the fear of the AARP and other old-folks' lobbyists keeps talk of reforming Social Security within the parameters of.... "and remember:  we're not touching anything having to do with people currently in retirement or nearing retirement."   But if we don't touch them, we're letting a huge (and rich) portion of the public off scot-free, while the young will bear the entire burden.  

Paul Ryan, My Hero

UPDATE: I've bumped this post to the top because it's so important.   A number of bloggers have commented on the exchange between Ryan and CBO chief Doug Elmendorf (below), but Powerline sums it up best:
The Democratic Party has defaulted on the most basic duty of a democratic government: it refuses to say how it intends to spend the people's money.
***

As a lawyer, you try to prepare your witnesses to give the answer you want in a forceful and persuasive manner.   Paul Ryan isn't a lawyer, but he's got the idea down pat.   Here he is questioning Doug Elmendorf from the Congressional Budget Office about Obama's "framework" for deficit reduction, announced in the President's April 2011 speech:



Ouch.   I know this was a set up to get a maximally-effective sound bite, but still... that's gotta leave a mark. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Scandalous

I hope I am not a virulent partisan in my comments on this blog about President Obama.   I am a conservative; he is a liberal or even radical.   We disagree.   But I hope I am fair in my criticisms and not mean-spirited.    Presidents can make mistakes, can misspeak, and they deserve to be cut some slack.   They're not perfect; they're human beings.  They have wives and children and the first rule of dissent ought to be that you try to remember the humanity of the people you criticize.  

That being said, there are some things that I think that any President should hold absolutely sacred.   Period.   There are some things a President simply can't get wrong.   The memory of soldiers who have died in their nation's service while performing acts of heroism and bravery so far above the call of duty that they receive the Medal of Honor is sacred.   You.   Can't.   Screw.   With.   The.  Medal.  Of.  Honor.

The Medal of Honor is sacred in America.  Don't believe me?  Go read the citations.   If you can read more than two or three without crying, and thanking God that we had these great men to defend our nation, you're a better man than I am, Gunga Din.       

So this story from the Ace of Spades blog drives me absolutely insane.  
The Commander in Chief addressed the 10th Mountain Division today:
First time I saw 10th Mountain Division, you guys were in southern Iraq. When I went back to visit Afghanistan, you guys were the first ones there. I had the great honor of seeing some of you because a comrade of yours, Jared Monti, was the first person who I was able to award the Medal of Honor to who actually came back and wasn’t receiving it posthumously.
In case you missed it, President Obama has been to Iraq and Afghanistan. He has also awarded the Medal of Honor.
Of course, there was one little detail he got wrong in his speech. Something so small ... trivial, really ... that I hate to even bring it up.
Jared Monti, who was in 10th Mountain, was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously. His eternal resting place is about 50 miles from where I sit typing this.
As all readers of this Smart Military Blog™ know, Salvatore Giunta, who was not in 10th Mountain but instead the 173rd Airborne, was the first living Medal of Honor recipient from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
And, given that he was also the first living recipient since the Vietnam War, you'd think this might leave a lasting impression on the Commander in Chief. You'd be wrong.
It's a shame whoever loaded TOTUS with that speech didn't care half as much about this very simple detail as he did making sure his boss took credit for something. And it's doubly shameful that Obama didn't catch it, but we all know he just reads whatever is on the 'prompter anyway.
There's no excuse for it.   President Teleprompter has done the memory of Jared Monti, and the Monti family, a grave disservice.   He can't apologize profusely enough, and quickly enough.  Maybe he will; I doubt it; but who knows?   We'll see if he has the same understanding of "Honor" as the rest of us do.

More Bob Fosse

I love Bob Fosse.  Back in college when I was writing very bad musical plays, I tried to write an opening number that would capture something of the great openings of Cabaret (Joel Grey singing "Willkommen") or Chicago ("All That Jazz").   At the time, it turned out OK.  In retrospect:  epic fail.   

Here is another of Fosse's opening numbers, from the musical-within-the-musical the Fosse character is working on in the bio-pic, All That Jazz, called "Air-otica":

Birthdays Today - The Other Clarence


It would be disrespectful to call him the "Big Man," but he's certainly a major figure -- it's Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' birthday today.   Justice Thomas is 63, which means that, God willing, we might have him on the Court as a staunch and principled conservative and originalist for another 15-20 years.   I won't mention the bizarre and scurrilous attacks on him during his confirmation; just say that he was right to call them a "high-tech lynching."   A great man, and a great American.

You Think American Elections Are Bad?

Here's Claire Berlinski on the recent Turkish elections:
And hysterical—and ugly—the election campaign was, marked by terrorist attacks, including one on the prime minister’s convoy; the release of sex tapes starring opposition leaders; blackmail; vulgar anti-Semitic rhetoric; insane conspiracy theory upon insane conspiracy theory; a scandal revealing the rigging of college entrance exams; the arrests of more military officers on charges of coup plotting (these arrests have been going on for years); threats by leading Kurdish politicians to set the country ablaze; serious efforts by Kurdish terrorists to do precisely that; growing Internet and press censorship; the last-minute discovery of 10 million new voters on the electoral rolls, only half of whom could even remotely be explained by Turkey’s changing demography; and noise, constant noise. It had become difficult even to imagine five minutes without the sound of loudspeakers blaring from campaign buses, or the prime minister’s bellowing voice, mute only for a few notable minutes when at one rally his teleprompter failed, leaving him staring speechless into the void.
We take for granted our history of free and fair and non-violent elections.   We take them so much for granted that we may lose them.   Election fraud, post-election litigation when results don't go the preferred way or are "too close," constant campaign cycles and fund-raising (read: graft), apathy, demogoguery -- all of these maladies are trending upward in America and they all tend to make us feel less confident in the outcome of elections.   We still are way ahead of most places in the world, as the example of Turkey shows, but the gap is narrowing.  

Girls of the Day - Gwen Verdon and Ann Reinking

It's choreographer Bob Fosse's birthday, so it makes sense to pay tribute to him by having our girls of the day be his two most famous dancers, Gwen Verdon and Ann Reinking.   Here's Verdon with Fosse in a show-stopping song from Damn Yankees  (it's literally show-stopping... it has nothing to do with the plot):




And here's Reinking in a great, great number from Fosse's best work (in my opinion), Chicago:


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Birthdays Today

A mixed bag of birthdays today, but an opportunity for some good video clips.

First, it's the great writer-director, Billy Wilder, born in 1906.   Wilder is responsible for some of the greatest movies and some of my favorites, including Ninotchka (as writer), Stalag 17 with William Holden, Sabrina, Some Like It Hot, and The Apartment.  What I like about Wilder is that he writes for the screen, not for the page; on the page it's melodrama, but on the screen it comes alive.   It's the experience he had of having done dozens of movies in the 1920s-1940s, where he had to sell his writing and prove that it worked.   Here's a great scene from Stalag 17:



It's also the 64th birthday of Don Henley of the Eagles.   Here is arguably his best song, "The Boys of Summer"; I always loved this video:




It's also my wife's favorite rocker's birthday, Todd Rundgren, who is 63.   It's weird how many hit songs came from Rundgren's pen, and yet I never thought of him as a huge star.   Bizarrely, the one that gets played the most nowadays (during afternoon drive-time on classic rock radio), is this one, "I Just Wanna Bang on the Drum All Day":





Finally, it's Meryl Streep's birthday.   She's 62.   Man, does this all make me feel old.   Here's Streep in a really beautiful moment at the end of Kramer v. Kramer, for which she won a Supporting Actress Oscar:

Clueless

Here's a post from Forbes about Ben Bernanke's press conference today,which sent the markets into a sharp downward slide:
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke touched on every topic, admitting that the recovery was weaker than expected and that beyond temporary factors like supply chain disruptions in Japan and high energy prices, he was at a loss as to what was causing the soft patch....
Brutally honest, Bernanke admitted that he had no clue what was actually causing the current fragility in the U.S. economic recovery.  While the FOMC statement assigned blame outside of the U.S., pointing at Japan along with rising food and oil prices, Bernanke was put on the spot by a reporter who noted the inconsistency behind that explanation and a lowering of long term forecasts.  Bernanke took the hit, admitting only some of the factors were temporary and that he didn’t know exactly what was causing the slowdown, but that it would persist. 
He knows, he just can't say.   He knows that the uncertainties caused by Barack Obama's policies of massive borrowing and government intervention in business and hyper-regulation of the job-creating private sector, are a huge drag on the American economy.   He knows.   It's just something that can't be said out loud.

The.   Emperor.   Has.   No.   Clothes.

Still More of the Big Man!

We can't get enough of Bruce and Clarence at our house.   Here's the Boss and the Big Man doing "Born to Run" in New Jersey in 1993:

Girl of the Day - Rainy Day Edition (Audrey Hepburn, Claudette Colbert, Keira Knightley)

It's been raining hard in Milwaukee the past couple of days, apt penance for us to pay after our wonderful week at the beach.   Little League baseball has been canceled; work has reared its ugly head; the house is still a mess after the trip; the kids are already talking about being bored in the summer.   Eek!  

Anyway, I was trying to think about moments in famous movies where actresses are caught, like us, in the rain.   The first one that came to mind was Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's, the moment at the end where she finally realizes she loves George Peppard:



Here's another, funnier one, with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, in It Happened One Night:  




And here's maybe the best rain scene of all, the proposal scene from the 2005 Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley:



Must just have rainy days on my mind.   Man, do I miss Little League.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

More Clarence!

The Regular Son believes that my blog needs more Clarence Clemons.   So here he is, with a great sax intro, on Springsteen's "Sherry Darling":

Monday, June 20, 2011

Birthdays Today


Some interesting birthdays today.   First, born all of 2,247 years ago, Scipio Africanus, the general of the Second Punic War, who famously defeated Hannibal at the battle of Zama.




Next, the Scottish sociologist/historian, Adam Ferguson, a contemporary of both David Hume and Adam Smith, with whom he shared an understanding of modern commercial society as a "spontaneous order" in which a civil society emerges from the uncoordinated and self-interested actions of many individuals.   His most famous work was his 1767 book Essay on the History of Civil Society.  



It's also Lillian Hellman's birthday, the American playwright and famous Communist, born in 1905.   About Hellman, it was famously said by Mary McCarthy that  "every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'."

Next, a movie hero who tried to enlist in the Army in World War II but who was declared 4-F, Errol Flynn; and a real hero, Audie Murphy, who later became a B-movie star.   Flynn was one of my favorites growing up, particularly for his role as Robin Hood:



But Murphy, the winner of the Medal of Honor and America's most decorated serviceman in World War II, was the real deal.   Here he is in a 1963 interview:




Finally, it's hard to believe that Nicole Kidman is 44, but she is.   Oddly, I think I've only seen one of her movies all the way through, a cool spy-military thriller called The Peacemaker, with George Clooney.   She's one of those Hollywood actresses who have unfortunately had a bit too much plastic surgery over the years, but when she was younger she was maybe the most beautiful woman in Hollywood.  


Why the NBA is a Different Sport Than the NCAA in Basketball


Here is the Rivals 150 ranking for the high-school class of 2007 in basketball, the boys who would have been seniors in 2010-2011 in college.    It ranks Duke's Kyle Singler as the fifth best recruit in the country, ahead of current NBA All-Stars Kevin Love (no. 6) and Blake Griffin (astonishingly, no. 23), and only two behind current NBA MVP Derrick Rose.  



And here is the same ranking for the high-school class of 2010, including Duke's Kyrie Irving as the no. 4 overall recruit.   So basically Singler and Irving were ranked the same coming out of high-school.  

In his first (and only) year at Duke, Irving missed all but 11 games with a freak toe injury, while Singler played four years, started every game, and was the MVP of the Final Four his junior year when Duke won the national championship.

Now, here is an article from John Hollinger of ESPN ranking the likely NBA draft order.... Irving goes No. 1.   But Singler is nowhere to be found!   

How is it that a player who was so highly rated coming out of high school can play four years in college for a great coach, have tremendous success, including a national championship, and have his draft stock plummet to the point where he will be lucky to catch on as a prospect in the D-League, and more likely will end up playing in the Euroleague?   And, at the same time, his teammate, who was not significantly more highly rated coming out of high school, is the consensus Number 1 pick, even though he played only 11 games as a freshman? 

My conclusion:  the NBA is simply a different game played by a different caliber of athlete... taller, quicker, faster, more agile, stronger, etc.   If you are that kind of elite athlete (like Irving), college experience doesn't matter.   If you're not that kind of elite athlete (like Singler), all the college experience in the world won't matter.   It's that simple.

Fine.  But why then does the NBA and NCAA collude together to restrict opportunities for talented athletes to move directly to the NBA when they are ready, and instead makes them wait a year and play college for a year before they can start?    I think that rule is stupid, and it's particularly stupid (and possibly racist) when you see young white girls making millions playing tennis at age 17 or 18.   Just sayin'.

Singler is a great kid and will do well in life.   But isn't it somewhat sad to be that good and yet not quite have what it takes to play at the highest level? 

Michael Totten and Incommensurables in Jerusalem

The great British philosopher, Isaiah Berlin, described what I would call his "tragic world-view" by noting that competing belief systems held by human beings can be "incommensurable."  What he meant was that certain ideas are not reconcilable with other ideas, no matter how much discussion or reasoning or logic is applied.   His ultimate point was that the liberal Western post-Enlightenment belief that science and reason can solve all issues in human societies is wrong-headed and doomed.  

I thought of this concept of "incommensurables" today when I read this article by Michael Totten, one of our finest foreign correspondents, writing about Arabs in Jerusalem.   Here's the passage that jumped out for me:
    “Where were we?” he said.
    “We were discussing politics,” I said, “so let me ask you what you think of Barack Obama.”
    “I will cut off my hand if Obama makes peace in this country,” he said. “He can’t. And when he’s gone, the next president will be the same. Obama is on Israel’s side. I don’t know if it’s because of the Jewish lobby or what, but he will never force Israel to give us a state.”
    “All our recent presidents,” I said, “including Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, supported a Palestinian state.”
    He dismissed what I said with a wave of his hand.
    “What about Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza?” I said.
    Again, he dismissed what I said with a wave of his hand.
    I asked him about Barak’s and Clinton’s offers for a final settlement in 2000, which would have given the Palestinians all of Gaza, almost all of the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem, including the Muslim, Christian and Armenian quarters of the Old City.
    “They wouldn’t give us the mosque,” he said.
    “The Al Aqsa Mosque,” I said.
    “Yes, the mosque,” he said.
    “Israelis don’t care about keeping the mosque,” I said. “They just want to keep the Western Wall of the temple.”
    “I hope Iran gets the bomb,” he said. “Then we’ll be equal.”
    “Don’t you think that will make the Middle East even more dangerous than it already is?” I said.
    “I am ready to die,” he said. “If Israel can be destroyed, I am willing to die.”
Can you reason with a man who would willingly die so long as he can destroy Israel?   Can you make peace with him?   Would even giving such Palestinians a homeland satsify him?   I doubt it.   The non-sequiturs tell the tale:  when told that Israelis would concede a key point about the Al Aqsa Mosque, he doesn't care, and switches the conversation to his hope that Iran gets nuclear weapons.  

It also reminds me of this passage from an article today by the inestimable Mark Steyn, writing about "Amina Arraf," the so-called "Gay Girl from Damascus" blogger, who became a cause celebre of the left, but who also turned out to be a 40 year old college student (read: slacker) from Georgia:  
Tom MacMaster topped even that. He took an actual, live, mass popular uprising and made an entirely unrepresentative and, indeed, nonexistent person its poster “girl.” From CNN to the Guardian to Bianca Jagger to legions of Tweeters, Western liberalism fell for a ludicrous hoax. Why? 
Because they wanted to. It would be nice if “Amina Arraf” existed. As niche constituencies go, we could use more hijab-wearing Muslim lesbian militants and fewer fortysomething male Western deadbeat college students. But the latter is a real and pathetically numerous demographic, and the former is a fiction — a fantasy for Western liberals, who think that in the multicultural society the nice gay couple at 27 Rainbow Avenue can live next door to the big bearded imam with four child brides at Number 29 and gambol and frolic in admiration of each other’s diversity. They will proffer cheery greetings over the picket fence, the one admiring the other’s attractive buttock-hugging leather shorts for that day’s Gay Pride parade as he prepares to take his daughter to the clitoridectomy clinic.
It's a fantasy to believe that we can "all just get along."

Sad Weekend in the Regular Guy's House - The Big Man, RIP

The Regular Family is back from vacation and moving on into summer in Wisconsin (naturally, it's raining cats and dogs here today).    The Regular Son had four baseball games over the weekend; the Regular Girls tried out for a summer musical at the local high school; the Regular Wife dug out from a mound of vacation laundry; and the Regular Guy himself celebrated Father's Day at the backyard neighbor's fish boil.   All in all, it would have been great, but for the sad news that Clarence Clemons, the saxaphonist of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, passed away at 69 from a stroke.

Now, this might not be earth-shattering news in every household.   But in our house, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band border on an obsession.   We have all the records, we listen to E Street radio in the car, and the Regular Son can play virtually all of the Boss' songs on the guitar.   So losing Clarence was not quite like losing a member of the family, but close -- it's like losing a much-beloved teacher or coach.  

So, in tribute, here's the Big Man in his greatest moment, playing the sax solo from "Jungleland."  

163,000,000

That's the number of girls aborted in the past three decades, according to a new book by Mara Hvistendahl called Unnatural Selection, reviewed by Jonathan Last in today's Wall Street Journal.   The culprit is sex-selective abortion, practiced primarily in India and China.   Here is the horror paragraph:
In nature, 105 boys are born for every 100 girls. This ratio is biologically ironclad. Between 104 and 106 is the normal range, and that's as far as the natural window goes. Any other number is the result of unnatural events.

Yet today in India there are 112 boys born for every 100 girls. In China, the number is 121—though plenty of Chinese towns are over the 150 mark. China's and India's populations are mammoth enough that their outlying sex ratios have skewed the global average to a biologically impossible 107. But the imbalance is not only in Asia. Azerbaijan stands at 115, Georgia at 118 and Armenia at 120.

What is causing the skewed ratio: abortion. If the male number in the sex ratio is above 106, it means that couples are having abortions when they find out the mother is carrying a girl. By Ms. Hvistendahl's counting, there have been so many sex-selective abortions in the past three decades that 163 million girls, who by biological averages should have been born, are missing from the world.
Where are feminists on this issue?   Where are liberals?   Where is basic human decency?   More than 25 Holocausts perpetrated on little baby girls... and yet the silence is deafening.   If Ms. Hvistendahl's numbers are wrong, tell us why they're wrong and prove it.   If they're right, tell us why this carnage is a good thing.   Explain how this is moral in any recognizable moral universe.   

Girl of the Day - Michelle Bachmann

Michelle Bachmann appears to have been the big winner of the first GOP debate, coming out of it as the leading alternative to Mitt Romney for Republicans who want a less squishy conservative at the head of their ticket.   Could she pull it off?   I don't think so.... once Rick Perry gets in, Bachmann will sink.   But she's a formidable fund-raiser among Tea Party activists, and, as the mother of five and foster mother to 23 children in the past, she's also perhaps our most persuasive pro-Life voice.  

Two Sides of the Same Coin

Here are two stories that basically are about the same thing -- our increasingly totalitarian public culture, a culture where the thought-crime of "being offensive" outweighs freedom of religion.

First, there was NBC's opening montage for the U.S. Open in which, having school-children recite the Pledge of Allegiance, they edited out some words.   What words, pray tell?   NBC's on-air apology didn't say:
We began our coverage of this final round just about three hours ago, and when we did it was our intent to begin the coverage of this U.S. Open championship with a feature that captured the patriotism of our national championship being held in our nation’s capital for the third time. Regrettably, a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance that was in that feature was edited out. It was not done to upset anyone, and we’d like to apologize to those of you who were offended by it.
I heard this apology live, however, and immediately turned to my wife and said that they had obviously edited out "under God."   And, of course, they had.   So apparently even saying the words "under God" are simply too offensive to NBC editors and announcers.... they can't even say them when they're apologizing for not saying them.

Second, there was this story about Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York's Father's Day homily in which he urged New York to reject changing the definition of marriage to expand beyond a union between a man and a woman:

Dolan, the leader of 2 million Catholics, used his pulpit to pray "that marriage stays between a man and a woman in the state of New York" - a view that got mixed reviews from worshipers at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
Megan Seaman, 18, who was visiting from Cleveland, said she thought Dolan's prayer was inappropriate. "Maybe there were gay people in the church. That's offensive," said Seaman, who has plans to study at Cornell University in the fall.
So, here, the leader of the Archdiocese of New York, and inarguably the most powerful Catholic priest in America, and a certain future Cardinal, is "offensive" and "inappropriate" in the eyes of this young woman, if he articulates what has been her own church's received wisdom and belief for two thousand years!   

Have we gotten to the point where merely exercising your own religious freedom is going to be deemed too "offensive" to be permitted?   No, certainly not.   But we're a lot closer to it than we were a generation ago.   And, by the way, it certainly seems that the only religion that is ever "offensive" is Christianity.   I don't see the Megan Seamans of the world complaining about Islam.   But that's another story.  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Girl of the Day - Back to Basics with Bette Davis

Leaving the Caribbean today, so the SI swimsuit girls go on hiatus.   Time to go back to the tried-and-true classics.   Here, for instance, is the great Bette Davis:



A conventional beauty?  Maybe not.  But radiating intelligence and class?   Definitely.   A different era, a different standard. 

On the other hand, maybe it was the 1940s hairdos.   Here's a younger Bette Davis, probably from the late 1920s, early 1930s.... pretty darn cute, I'd say.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Zombies Didn't Scare Me... Until Now!



Here's a ridiculously scary article on the current American economics scene, by "Spengler" in the Asia Times, in which he describes the American economy as a "zombie economy":
We aren't going to have another financial crash. In fact, nothing at all is going to happen. Forecasting the United States economy is about as exciting as predicting next quarter's gross domestic product in 1957 Poland. You want to know what's going to happen, comrade? Read the Five Year Plan. With 40% of US personal income coming from transfer payments, it's almost nostalgic to call it capitalism.

The so-called American economic recovery won't die, because it's undead. It was a zombie to begin with. Equity investors during the past six weeks came to the collective conclusion that the US is not in the early phase of an economic recovery, but in the endless middle of a structural slump...
Ouch!   Can a GOP President turn this around?  Can we move from crony capitalism and quasi-socialism back to an opportunity economy?   Yes.   Will we?   I doubt it.   If I were God for a decade or so, I could get the economy turned around.   Here's what we'd do:

1.  Cut the top income tax rate to 25%.   The government should never take more than a quarter of every dollar you make, period.
2. Cut capital gains tax to 10%.   You've already paid income tax on your savings, why should you pay twice?
3.  Eliminate the estate tax.   You've already paid taxes once or twice, why pay thrice?  This has been an abomination forever and needs to go.
4.  Repeal Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and every other regulation issued by the Obama administration.  Give every Secretary of every Department the power to immediately repeal any regulations in their areas.   Give them marching orders to repeal 25% of their regulations.
5.  Repeal every subsidy for every industry (sorry Big Ethanol!) and start over.  
6.  Balance the budget, period.   Whatever it takes, whatever we have to cut.
7.  Reform (read:  start over) on Social Security and Medicare.   People are going to have to save for their own retirement and pay for their own health care, just like any other goods or services.   Don't like it?   Who cares?   It's going to happen, either sooner (less painful and more plan-able) or later (catastrophic, blood-in-the-streets).  

That's the program:  low taxes, low regulation, free markets, fiscal sobriety, personal responsibility.   Then stand back and let the prosperity happen.

Girl of the Day - Last Day at the Beach! (Esti Ginzburg)

It's the Regular Family's last day at the beach in lovely Turks and Caicos.   (For those of you looking for a great family vacation, it would be hard to do better than what we got this week at the Beaches resort:  scuba, snorkeling, wave-running, wind-surfing, banana boating, sailing... oh, and did I mention the swim-up bars!   Let me just say that with the amount of gin-and-tonics I've consumed, I have no malaria worries.)   So here's my last beach girl, the lovely Esti Ginzburg, from Tel Aviv, Israel:



Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Girl of the Day - More and More Beaches! (Kathy Ireland)

OK, so this has now become just an excuse to put up pictures of supermodels in bikinis.   My bad.  


Kathy Ireland, by the way, is vocally and courageously pro-Life.   She's 48 now, the mother of three, her husband is a doctor, and she's wildly successful as a fashion entrepreneur.   So it's not like she's some model bimbo.   She's smart, successful, and beautiful, and she's pro-Life.  Sort of like Sarah Palin, huh?

Taranto on Weiner and the Weirdness of Our Therapeautic Culture

Brilliant point from James Taranto of the WSJ:
Unlike homosexuality, heterosexuality is amenable to therapeutic remedies--or so Anthony Weiner and his fellow House Democrats would like us to believe. "Congressman Weiner departed this morning to seek professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person."
It is bizarre the way our culture includes or excludes different human behaviors from the realms of the medical or therapeautic.   If you're a drunk or a drug abuser or a wife beater or a degenerate gambler or an Internet porn freak, you're "sick" and need "treatment" in a "rehab" facility, paid for, I would suppose, by your health insurance, which means, paid for by the rest of us who pay health insurance but don't use much health care.   (The perversities of the health insurance market are the subject of another day.)   We used to just think that the man who indulged this kind of behavior was a sonuvabitch.   If he was a next door neighbor, we comforted his wife and sheltered his kids, as necessary.   We called the cops if it came to that.   But no one would have ever bought into the notion that the asshole had a "disease" and needed "help."   We would say he needed an ass-kicking, or that his wife should "throw the bum out."

Those days are no more.   Now nearly everything is a "sickness" and the occasion for medical and pyschotherapeutic intervention.

But, at the same time, we've taken what used to be viewed as an almost unmentionably aberrant behavior, male homosexuality, and transformed it into a kind of secular sainthood, where you can't ever say anything bad about a gay person, much less suggest that the acts and behaviors of homosexuality are somehow deviant or self-destructive.  When we've had thirty years of evidence that male homosexuality (read:  anal sex) causes serious health issues (AIDS, hepatitis, etc.), this transformation culturally is astonishing.   A good thing?   A bad thing?   I can't say.   But it's weird, and somewhat difficult logically to square that circle. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Oops! The Media's Fishing Expedition in Sarah Palin's Emails Backfires... Big Time!

One of the emails discovered in the 24,000 pages of emails the State of Alaska released from Sarah Palin's term as Governor is a private email to family and friends from 2008, when her baby, Trig, was born.   Palin, in a way that liberals can't understand, is beloved by many conservative, pro-Life women precisely because she decided (chose) to keep Trig, where many, if not most, would have aborted a Down's Syndrome baby.   She didn't, and so pro-Life (read:  Catholic, for the most part) women love her, while liberal feminists hate her.   She shames them, pure and simple.

Anyway, here is the email in its entirety.   Again, read it and weep... literally.
To the Sisters, Brother, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and Friends of Trig Paxson Van Palin (or whatever you end up naming him!):
I am blessing you with this surprise baby because I only want the best for you. I've heard your prayers that this baby will be happy and healthy, and I've answered them because I only want the best for you!
I heard your heart when you hinted that another boy would fit best in the Palin family, to round it out and complete that starting five line-up.
Though another girl would be so nice, you didn't think you could ask for what you REALLY wanted, but I knew, so I gave you a boy because I only want the best for you!
Then, I put the idea in your hearts that his name should be 'Trig', because it's so fitting, with two Norse meanings: "True" and "Brave Victory". You also have a Bristol Bay relative with that name, so I knew it would be best for you!
Then, I let Trig's mom have an exceptionally comfortable pregnancy so she could enjoy every minute of it, and I even seemed to rush it along so she could wait until near the end to surprise you with the news - that way Piper wouldn't have so long to wait and count down so many days - just like Christmastime when you have to wait, impatiently, for that special day to finally open your gift? (Or the way the Palmas look forward to birthday celebrations that go on for three, four days_ you all really like cake.) I know you, I knew you'd be better off with just a short time to wait!
Then, finally, I let Trig's mom and dad find out before he was born that this little boy will truly be a GIFT. They were told in early tests that Trig may provide more challenges, and more joy, than what they ever may have imagined or ever asked for.
At first the news seemed unreal and sad and confusing. But I gave Trig's mom and dad lots of time to think about it because they needed lots of time to understand that everything will be OK, in fact, everything will be great, because I only want the best for you!
I've given Trig's mom and dad peace and joy as they wait to meet their new son. I gave them a happy anticipation because they asked me for that.
I'll give all of you the same happy anticipation and strength to deal with Trig's challenges, but I won't impose on you... I just need to know you want to receive my offer to be with all of you and help you everyday to make Trig's life a great one.
This new person in your life can help everyone put things in perspective and bind us together and get everyone focused on what really matters.
The baby will expand your world and let you see and feel things you haven't experienced yet. He'll show you what "true, brave victory" really means as those who love him will think less about self and focus less on what the world tells you is "normal" or "perfect°.
You will grow and be blessed with greater understanding that will he born along with Trig.Trig will be his dad's little buddy and he'll wear Carhartts while he learns to tinker in the garage. He'll love to be read to, he'll want to play goalie, and he'll steal his mom's heart just like Track, Bristol, Willow and Piper did.
And Trig will be the cuddly, innocent, mischievous, dependent little brother that his siblings have been waiting for_in fact Trig will - in some diagnostic ways - always be a mischievous, dependent little brother, because I created him a bit different than a lot of babies born into this world today.
Every child is created special, with awesome purpose and amazing potential. Children are the most precious and promising ingredient in this mixed up world you live in down there on earth. Trig is no different, except he has one extra chromosome. Doctors call it "Down's Syndrome", and Downs kids have challenges, but can bring you much delight and more love than you can ever imagine! Just wait and see, let me prove this, because I only want the best for you!
Some of the rest of the world may not want him, but take comfort in that because the world will not compete for him. Take care of him and he will always be yours!
Trig's mom and dad don't want people to focus on the baby's extra chromosome. They're human, so they haven't known how to explain this to people who are so caring and are interested in this new little Alaskan. Sarah and Todd want people to share in the joy of this gift I'm giving to the Palin family, and the greater Alaska family.
Many people won't understand_ and I understand that. Some will think Trig should not be allowed to be born because they fear a Downs child won't be considered "perfect" in your world. (But tell me, what do you earthlings consider "perfect" or even "normal" anyway? Have you peeked down any grocery store isle, or school hallway, or into your office lunchroom lately? Or considered the odd celebrities you celebrate as "perfect" on t.v.? Have you noticed I make 'em all shapes and sizes? Believe me, there is no "perfect"!)
Many people will express sympathy, but you don't want or need that, because Trig will be a joy. You will have to trust me on this.
I know it will take time to grasp this and come to accept that I only want the best for you, and I only give my best. Remember though: "My ways are not your ways, my thoughts are not your thoughts- for as the heavens are higher than the earth, my ways are higher than yours!"
I wrote that all down for you in the Good Book! Look it up! You claim that you believe me - now it's time to live out that belief!
Please look to me as this new challenge and chapter of life unfolds in front of you. I promise to equip you. I won't give you anything you can't handle. I am answering your prayers. Trig can't wait to meet you. I'm giving you ONLY THE BEST!
Love,
Trig's Creator, Your Heavenly Father

Girl of the Day - Still More Beaches! (Kate Upton)

The Regular Guy's brood continues on vacation -- lots of conch salad, lots of banana boating and snorkeling and scuba diving and general cabana-ing.   The concept of a swim-up bar, I have decided, is genius... where have I been since this has been invented?  Oh, yes, I remember... poor, then working, then small children, then working some more.   No swim-up bars at the city pool, and no swim-up bars at the Little League park.  So this is a pretty neat deal.

Keeping with the beach theme, here's another gal who would be out of the Regular Son's league, Kate Upton, from the 2011 swimsuit issue:


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Meanwhile, Back in Alaska

While a leading light of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party (begging the question: is there a different wing?), Anthony Weiner, has made himself into a laughingstock (or, in the new parlance, "beclowned" himself), the mainstream media has been expending resources covering a routine document dump pursuant to a FOIA request of 25,000 pages of emails from Sarah Palin's term as Governor of Alaska.   The  big news to come out of it... Sarah Palin was actually hard-working and smart and, egad, ambitious to enter national politics.   She was also a good Christian mother happily awaiting the birth of a Down's Syndrome baby.  

Compare and contrast with the morality and "habits" of Weiner.  Nah, too easy.   But it is interesting to note that a Republican who has raised or is raising five children, including a special-needs child, and who has a long and happy marriage, and who has made millions for herself and her family, and who has actually had gainful employment outside of government, is somehow "dumb"; while a Democrat who has no children, and who fairly obviously has screwed up his very brief marriage, and who can't do the honorable thing and resign from Congress because he can't afford to do it because he's never made any money for himself, and who has never done anything but suck at the government teat, is somehow "brilliant."   Funny how that works, huh?   Sort of an "all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding" proposition.... but then liberalism and logic aren't really bedfellows.  

Ask yourself this:  who would you rather have as your next door neighbor?   Who do you think might water your plants while you're out of town?   Who do you think might loan you their snow blower when yours breaks down?   More importantly, who would you rather have babysit your nine and eleven year-old daughters?   This family?




Or this geek?





Easy answer for the Regular Guy.

Weiner Redux - And When Exactly Did They Know It?

UPDATE:  Bumped to the top from yesterday.... apparently nude and semi-nude pictures of Weiner taken at the Congressional Gym (in the basement of the Rayburn House Office Building) have surfaced, according to this story in TMZ.   In other words.... photos he took at work! 

So, again, I ask the question.... did the Democratic leadership know about Weiner's proclivities?   Did anyone see him doing this kind of stuff?   And, if so, when did they know it?   (Also, for that matter, since I doubt there's a separate gym for Democrats, did Republicans know that Weiner was... well, a weiner?)


The Democratic leadership is trying to cut Anthony Weiner off at the legs.   Here is a statement from former Speaker of the House and current House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi today:
"Congressman Weiner has the love of his family, the confidence of his constituents, and the recognition that he needs help.  I urge Congressman Weiner to seek that help without the pressures of being a Member of Congress."
Meanwhile, DNC chairwoman and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz called the scandal a "sordid affair" and said that "it is with great disappointment that I call on Representative Anthony Weiner to resign."

OK, so why are they doing this now, after two weeks?  Why are they doing it to Weiner when they didn't do it to Bill Clinton as President when the Monica Lewinski scandal broke?   Why are they doing it to Weiner when they didn't do it to Ted Kennedy when he killed Mary Jo Kopechne? 

Here's why I think they are doing it.   First, and most obviously, they know that the scandal has metastasized.   It's no longer Anthony Weiner, victim of a "hack," or even Anthony Weiner, Congressman who likes to talk dirty on the Internet to strangers.   Now, inevitably, it seems like it's going to be Anthony Weiner, pervert and child molester, who chatted online with underage girl(s).   This story broke yesterday, primarily through the work of the blogger Patterico here and here and here (oh, heck, just read all of Patterico... he did the heavy lifting for the MSM on this one... it's the work Americans won't do!)   Weiner is going into "rehab" (whatever that means), but it won't help him if he's shown to have talked dirty with a 17 year-old.   As the father of two daughters soon to be teenagers, I can say that would make him radioactive, no ifs-ands-or-buts about it.  

But that's not why the Democratic leadership are moving so quickly to cut Weiner loose, I think.   They're doing it, I'd lay dollars to donuts, because someone is going to ask a question of the leadership along these lines:   What rumors had you heard about Anthony Weiner's sexual preferences and peccadilloes?   Had you heard rumors that he had an interest in young girls?  

In other words, the Watergate question:   What did you know, and when did you know it?

They want him to go away, and quickly.  

Ace Scares Me

Ace at the Ace of Spades blog is one of the smartest, funniest and most humane commentators on the Internet.   Having gone after Anthony Weiner more than nearly anyone on the Internet (Patterico being perhaps the only exception), Ace here adds a little modest does of sympathy.   
Think about where Anthony Weiner was 15 days ago. Puffed-up bantam of a partisan venom-spitter -- a liberal cockatrice -- and a big fightin' hero on MSNBC and Daily Kos and partisan hate-rallies (like the Wisconsin rally he was scheduled to attend). Generally considered to be the prime contender for the next mayor of New York City.

And after getting serious executive experience... who knows what next.

Think about where he is now.

Now think about what caused this.

No, don't say "immoral behavior" or "reckless sexual compulsiveness" or "hubris" or the "entitlement of the putative elite" or "the need of high-functioning, modern men to take the edge off."

Yes, those caused this, but they weren't the immediate cause of this. He was doing that stuff for years without any problems arising from it.

No, what caused all this was.... a typo.

The Typo From Hell. Possibly the worst typo in the history of politics.

Not saying he doesn't deserve it -- he does -- but consider that but for a single clumsy move by an errant left forefinger, none of this happens.

The smallest error of a fingertip, and a man is wholly undone.

Just a little mindblowing.
There but for the Grace of God?   Not quite, since most of us wouldn't be flirting with young girls on Twitter to begin with.   But the possiblity of being undone by our technology, by a "typo," is real, and scary.   And the possibility, nay, the likelihood of being undone by our hubris.... well, that's been scary for along time, hasn't it?  

Mark Steyn is the Spengler of the 21st Century

Mark Steyn is our hardest-boiled, decline-of-the-West, say-goodbye-to-Europe, America-as-an-underwater-homeowner-writ-large pessimist; he's the Oswald Spengler for the 21st Century, if Spengler had been less of a German mystic and more of a good Anglo-Saxon pragmatist.   (Spengler famously wrote The Decline of the West in 1918, which some Nazis read as a precursor for National Socialism, but he broke with the Nazis in 1933 on the question of anti-Semitism, and was essentially ostracized by the party until his death in 1936.)   Here is Steyn in high dudgeon today:
The American Dream, 2011: You pay four bucks a gallon to commute between your McJob and your underwater housing to prop up a spendaholic, grabafeelic, paramilitarized bureaucracy-without-end bankrupting your future at the rate of a fifth of a billion dollars every hour.

In a sane world, Americans would be outraged at the government waste that confronts them everywhere you turn: The abolition of the federal Education Department and the TSA is the very least they should be demanding. Instead, our elites worry about sea levels.

The oceans will do just fine. It's America that's drowning.
As they say, read it all.   Or, as they might say, read it and weep.  

Girl of the Day - Keep Them Beaches Coming! (Daniella Sarabyha)

As you get older, and particularly if you have daughters (as mentioned below in reference to Anthony Weiner's creepiness), you begin to feel odd looking at the Sports Illustrated swimsuit models.   Cheryl Tiegs was the cover girl when I was in my teens... that's OK.   Christie Brinkley was the main model when I was in my early twenties... that's OK too.   But the girls now could be my daughters.   So it's a little... uncomfortable.

That being said, I really love this girl, Daniella Sarabyha, from Brazil, whose been in recent SI swimsuit issues.  The thing I like about her is that she usually is smiling... most models put on this pouty model face that seems silly and pretentious to me, and makes the swimsuit issue a little too much like porn.   This girl seems like someone you wouldn't mind having your son date (although, FYI, son... she's out of your league).  

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Girl of the Day - I Have a Fever, and the Only Prescription is.... More Beaches! (Christie Brinkley)

While on vacation, I have decided to take the opportunity to indulge some fairly juvenile interest in classic SI swimsuit issues.   So sue me.   Here's Christie Brinkley in an iconic shot:



Again, so sue me. 

David Mamet and The Secret Knowledge

I began adulthood as a liberal and became gradually more conservative during my 20s, ironically, as I took a Ph.D. in English at Duke University, whose English Department was to the left of... well, to the left of Trotsky anyway.   I've recounted that story here.   But it occurs to me that this "narrative of disillusionment" that characterizes so many moves from left to right has no real counterpart in the opposite direction.   People become radicalized as youths, before they have experience, but experience itself never seems to radicalize.   You don't get more liberal as you get older and wiser, you inevitably become more conservative.  

The classic in the genre of leftists becoming conservatives, of course, is Whittaker Chambers' epic Witness.   But a new entrant in the lists is the playwright David Mamet's new book, The Secret Knowledge, in which he recounts his move to the right and his rejection of the leftism of his youth.   Hugh Hewitt, who does great interviews, had a long interview with Mamet posted yesterday.   Here's an excerpt:
HH: In the book, in the middle, you write that a play is basically an exercise in raising, lowering and altering of expectations. So are interviews. And so I kind of want to start by raising the expectation of the audience as to how clear you are in this by talking about Sarah Palin. On Page 137, you write, “Part of the left’s savage animus against Sarah Palin is attributable to her status not as a woman, neither as a conservative, but as a Worker.” That is, I think, 100% correct. Would you explain that to people?

DM: Yeah, the left of today is not the left of my father’s day when it was made up of workers and factory workers and housewives, and veterans of World War II, and people who fix the lawnmowers, and the Republicans were the guys in the plaid pants who didn’t let the Jews in. The left of today is, it’s very much the cheese and white wine guy sitting around and talking about the greed, how greedy the world is, and how the dumb Americans have ruined this beautiful, beautiful world. And it’s kind of Malthusian. It’s saying don’t those people realize there are just too many folks on the highway, in the national forest, and they’re getting in my way? That would be, now tell me the question again. I got carried away with my own rhetoric.

HH: Sarah Palin, how Sarah Palin fits into that.

DM: Oh, sure. So Sarah Palin is a threat for several reasons. One is she’s a woman, and as I wrote an article in Misogyny, the left, if you look at it, really doesn’t like women. How do I know? Well, let’s look at Monica Lewinsky and Broadbent, and Mary Jo Kopechne, and all of these people who were in various ways vastly abused, and in one place, killed by liberal men and the left said nothing about it. They never mentioned it.

HH: Right.

DM: …because they weren’t, because as much as they’re “feminists,” it was more important to be a member of…is attacked as a woman, as attacked as an attractive woman, freed succubus, and attacked because she’s an actual worker, and because her story is part of the American myth.

HH: Yeah, she was a commercial fisherman, and like Harry Truman, actually knew of which she speaks when she talks about hard work.

DM: Sure, and also it’s part of our myth of Hollywood, you know, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, or The Farmer’s Daughter, The Candidate, Bulworth, The Contender. The myth is played out over and over and over again, Dave, the normal person who says well heck, I can do that, and in effect, can do it and rises to the highest office in the land. So when the left sees that in real life, of someone who is not on their side but on the other side, someone who has not been indoctrinated, someone who expresses herself well and is unusual and attractive and funny, it scares the hell out of them. So they say oh, you know, she’s stupid. I say I don’t get the joke. I don’t see what she’s stupid about. She seems to have succeeded wildly at everything that she ever did. All right, she’s just the governor of Alaska. Well hell, I’m not the governor of Alaska, and you aren’t. I doubt that either of us could be starting from zero. Well, it’s a small state. It just has a few people, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. But the left knows not why it hates Sarah Palin, but they’re still talking about her.

HH: Yeah.

DM: I mean, even before it became clear that she’s probably going to run for president, when they were still bitching about George Bush, and they’re still kvetching about Sarah Palin. They got scared so bad that they can’t stop complaining about her.
Great stuff.   Makes me want to buy and read his book.  But maybe somebody can give it to me for Father's Day?   (Hint.)