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Showing posts from July, 2014

American Sniper

I hadn't given much thought to the story of Chris Kyle until I saw some of the anger being vented over the recent decision to award Jesse Ventura $1.8 million in a defamation lawsuit against the estate of Chris Kyle.  Many felt that Ventura should have dropped the lawsuit when Kyle was shot and killed at a shooting range in Texas last February.  Instead, Jesse proceeded, naming Kyle's wife in the lawsuit, since she was now the executor of his estate.  This seems to be what has galled most people.  Not only is Chris Kyle considered a genuine American hero, but the gall of Ventura to go after his wife!

The death of Kyle was indeed tragic.  Nicholas Schmidle tries to make sense of it in this article for the New Yorker, published in June of last year. After a lengthy piece on Kyle and how he came to be regarded as a live action hero, Schmidle uses the second half of the article to explore Eddie Ray Routh's troubled psyche and how it proved fatal to Chris Kyle, who thought he …

Full Frontal Violence

Madeleine Albright recently said "the world is a mess" due to the violence in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and Israel.  After a period of relative quiet, the Obama administration has been hit on all sides with violent outbreaks that it seems powerless to control without intervention.  This is something the President desperately wants to avoid and is actively seeking diplomatic solutions.

Unfortunately for him, he has run up against brick walls in Putin and Netanyahu, both of whom have felt that their adversaries have crossed the proverbial red line.  Putin has a way of moving the wall, suggesting reconciliation is possible while at the same time blaming the US for inciting the troubles in Ukraine.  Netanyahu is not so nuanced, releasing information on negotiations to the Israeli press, which has infuriated the White House.  But, the Obama administration has to walk a fine line on this one, as most Americans stand resolutely behind Israel in its full frontal assault of Gaza, which h…

You Betcha

She should call it CSN -- the Crazy Sarah Network.  It seems some persons can never get enough of the Sweetheart of Wasilla, who launched her own internet channel this week to the delight of fans.  She leads her blog, er channel, with a banner that includes the ever-growing national debt and how many days left in the Obama administration.  She also has a word of the day -- factious -- noting her dissenting nature.  Facetious would have probably been a better word.

The debate of the day is "The Truth About the War in Israel" but unfortunately you have to become a member to join the thread.  $9.95 per month thank you.  She also asks you to send her questions, videos and what not, but you guessed it, you have to be a member to do that too.  She does provide a few free samples, like anniversary wishes to her parents, "53 years of wedded bliss," and a link to her daughter's blog, "BristolPalin: Life.  Family.  Alaska."  Apparently it is free.  And, of cou…

The Temptress in the Tea Pot

It is safe to say that The Harding Affair won't generate as much interest as the latest book on Hemingway's romances, Hotel Florida, but the "steamy" love letters between Warren Harding and Carrie Phillips will go on display at the Library of Congress after having been sealed for the past 50 years.

Harding and Phillips were both married at the time, which would have made the letters much better news fodder back in the late teens than they are now.  Harding ran successfully for President in 1920.  He wanted a "return to normalcy" after WWI and what had been seen as the much too "liberal" Wilson administration.  Such a torrid love affair would not have fit with the staid image he cultivated of himself, but seemed to be the one of the few things worth noting from his conservative life.  
There were other affairs too, including one with Nan Britton, whose daughter she claimed was his.  The GOP did its best to keep these juicy stories under wraps in t…

In Search of the Perfect Wave

50 years ago, Bruce Brown kicked off his epic surfing trip around the world, filming Robert August and Mike Hynson as they checked out one magical beach after another, many of them for the first time.  There was a wonderful scene in Ghana, where the two world-class surfers taught a local village to ride waves on their long boards.

The idea of The Endless Summer was to literally spend a year, January 1964 to January 1965, surfing around the globe, never losing the spirit of summer.  Pretty easy to do in the sub-tropics and tropics, where much of the film was shot.  They seemed to find their perfect wave at Cape St. Francis in the Natal Province of South Africa, a virtually endless wave befitting the theme of the movie.

Funny enough, the first recorded notes of surfing were by the crew of the HMS Endeavor, who witnessed surfing in Hawaii in 1796.  Captain James Cook really got around.  It was called he'enalu.  Naturally, the chief of the village had the best board, made from the b…

Israel: The 51st State

Back in 1945, Zionist lobbyists began pressing Harry Truman to recognize Israeli statehood.  Apparently, Truman held out for a joint-Palestinian-Israeli solution but as the pressure grew Truman gave into the lobbyists and recognized the State of Israel in 1948.  In a new book, Genesis, John Judis explores the roots of the pro-Israel lobby in United States and its ever-increasing influence over American politics.

Since 1948, each president has had to wrestle with the hostilities and wars that came with that decision.  US Foreign Aid has poured into Israel each year, starting with $100 million in 1949, roughly $1 billion when adjusted for inflation.  Today we pay out a little over $3 billion in military aid per annum, plus we have an extensive free trade agreement that imports roughly $20 billion in Israeli goods each year, while exporting approximately $10 billion.  A surplus that clearly works in Israel's favor.

Israel isn't exactly a ward of the United States, but it benefi…

Plagiarism in Politics

Acting U.S. Senator John Walsh is the latest victim of "oppo-research," a new level in research into political candidates and opponents that digs into virtually every aspect of a person's life, including his academic records.  As it turns out, Walsh plagiarized large sections of his 2007 Master's thesis and now finds himself in trouble, not just politically but with the university.

Last year, it didn't take Rachel Maddow very long to root out the source of Paul Rand's comments on eugenics, catching him quoting from a wiki page on the movie, Gattaca, adding the word "liberal."  This turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg, as Rand often doesn't attribute his sources.  He claims he was just being "sloppy."

There was also a big brouhaha over where Obama's 2008 campaign slogan, "Yes we can" came from.  Many conservative sources attributed it to Bob the Builder, but it has been used so many times that one would consider …

Raising Arizona

I remember my first trip across America when I was no more than 6 years old, stopping off at Old Tucson to watch one of their famous staged gunfights.  The studio dates back to 1939 and is still used today, although its glory days when Gene Autry, Glenn Ford and Jimmy Stewart rode into town are long since over.  Tombstone was the last movie of any significance to be shot at the studio in 1993.

Still, that spirit lives on, moreso than some persons would like it to, as Arizona has placed itself prominently in the news with its border clashes and its virtually non-existent gun laws.  You can purchase almost any type of gun today and carry it openly, just like in the days of the Old West.

Much of Arizona came in with the Western territories in 1848, the spoils of the Mexican War.  The Gadsden Purchase completed the deal in 1853, forming what is now the border with Mexico.  In 1862, Arizona was given its own territorial government apart from New Mexico, and immediately threw its sympathi…

Speak up, I can't hear you

In 1878, Thomas Edison augmented the megaphone so that hard-of-hearing persons could pick up vibrations and possibly hear what is being said around them.  He came up with this unusual device, which quickly garnered attention around the world, including New Zealand, where this article stems from.  It sure would be nice to hear from all those looking in ; )

The Neverending Debate

The "debate" lives on 89 years later.  It is worth looking at the comments to this anniversary note, just to get a cross section of opinion, as the theory of evolution remains a deeply divisive issue in America.  More striking is that Americans are less accepting of evolution than any country in Europe except for Turkey.  So, it seems we have allowed this "debate" to rage on, while other developed countries have long since moved on.

Trying to find the reasons why are complex, but it seems that it largely suits the conservative political establishment to use evolution as one of its whipping posts, as it continues to promote a staunchly conservative religious view of society.  Roughly 3 in 10 Americans take the Bible literally, with conservatives actively promoting their view of "creationism" in one form or another.

Interestingly, Creationists are accepting dinosaurs even though there is no specific mention of such beasts in the Bible.  Recently, Michael P…

There is a house in New Orleans ...

Recently I read that Dave Von Ronk was given credit for the definitive version of the song, which Dylan swiped from him before he had a chance to record it.  Then came the Animals classic version in 1964, which Alan Price claimed was from a 16th century English folk song about a Soho brothel,but in the song the band specifically referenced New Orleans.   You have to figure Alan heard Dylan sing it, as it was on his 1962 debut album.

As it turns out, the song does have deep roots but is generally perceived to be an American folk song first recorded by an Appalachian duo in 1934, and soon after by Alan Lomax in 1937, also in the Appalachian region. Both refer to a house in New Orleans.  It was known as The Rising Sun Blues.  Along the way, Woodie Guthrie, Josh White, Leadbelly and Pete Seeger all covered the song.  Even Andy Griffith sampled it in 1959.  Von Ronk says it was the Lomax recording that inspired him, but you figure he heard these other versions too.  I have to say I like t…

On the road again

The Johnny Appleseed exhibit is going on the road, like the man himself, to inform new generations of the man behind the legend.  John Chapman was a late 18th and early 19th century nurseryman who did introduce apple trees to the Midwest, but he also was part of the Awakening of the time, spreading the Swedenborgian Church through religious pamphlets.  So, those apples came at a price.

One of the earliest national accounts of Chapman was in Harper's New Monthly Magazine in 1871, which was essentially a biography of the man replete with engravings.    The image of him in a tin pot hat stuck.  Chapman was known for living a spartan life, but he often charged for his seeds so it wasn't like he took an oath of poverty.

Over the years, a virtual treasure trove of memorabilia has been collected, and his image has been illustrated countless times, including the most memorable one of him on The Saturday Evening Post.

A flight over troubled air space

It didn't take John McCain very long to point the finger at Russia in the apparent rocket attack of Malaysian Airlines MH-17.  Those are pretty bold words considering 23 Americans were initially noted on board, thereby making the bombing an act of war.  Since then only one American has been officially named, a Dutch-American Quinn Lucas, who was traveling as a Dutch citizen.  You would think that Mackie, who was shot down himself over Vietnam and spent 6 years in a prison camp, would be a little more cautious in his statements, but he just let his words fly, venting all his rage on Putin before any investigation is carried out to determine who was responsible for this malicious attack.

Initial evidence does indeed point to the separatists in the Donetsk region.  It appears they are working with sympathetic factions inside Russia (not necessarily the Kremlin) and neighboring territories, who are supplying them with powerful munitions like the Buk rocket launcher, which was apparent…

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

A recent PPP survey showed that 37 per cent of Mississippi Republicans said they would back a Confederates States of America if a new Civil War broke out, compared to just 9 per cent among Democrats.  It gives you a pretty good indication where the Dixiecrats went after the landmark 1964 Civil Rights legislation and shows that Dixie is far from dead in a lot of people's minds.

The open feud between Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel over the Republican Senate primary appears to have opened up deep wounds, but such pro-Confederate feelings aren't confined to Mississippi.  The Klu Klux Klan has mounted recruiting drives in several states, notably South Carolina and Georgia where they indiscriminately left "goodie bags" on door steps with the hope of luring persons who are upset about the ongoing immigration "crisis."

Yet, anytime someone brings up race the radical right seems to cringe as if we live in a post-racial society.  Eric Holder once again came under f…

Ballad of Easy Rider

It was 45 years ago this month that Easy Rider hit the screens and took in $40 million by the end of the year.  Not bad for a counterculture movie financed largely out of Bert Schneider's and Peter Fonda's pockets and shot on the road with plenty of drugs along the way.

This visceral feel struck home with viewers and is why the film continues to make capture audiences.  Fonda had always loved motorbikes.  He had teamed up with Bruce Dern and Nancy Sinatra in The Wild Angels and experimented with LSD in The Trip, but he wanted something more than just an acid trip in Easy Rider.  He approached Dennis Hopper saying he had a vision of two bikers riding across John Ford's West like in The Searchers.  They recruited Jack Nicholson to join the ride, who to this point had been little more than a Hollywood screenwriter.
Kalem Aftab caught up to Fonda at a BFI retrospective of Dennis Hopper.  Sad to read that the two had a falling out over the writing credits for the movie and wer…

Apes with guns

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is headed for a big box office weekend, an estimated $70 million.  Not surprising given its post-apocalyptic theme where apes gain ascendancy over man, reminiscent of the original series.  It also fits with the current obsession with man in a survivalist mode, replacing zombies with apes.

Chimpanzees are not to be messed with and can grow to the size of a human.  Just ask Charla Nash who was mauled by her boss's 200 lb. chimp named Travis and had to undergo a facial transplant.  She is now a major advocate of more strict regulations on exotic pets.

Chimps have long been treated as lovable semi-human beings which you can dress up.  They even starred in television series like Lancelot Link in the early 70s.  After all, they only differ from humans by one chromosome.  Anthropologists estimate that humans branched off from chimpanzees about 6 million years ago, evolving into a new species.  We still share many of the same traits, which is why drug compa…

Killing Patton

Bill O'Reilly is not the first to explore General George S. Patton's untimely death.  Robert Wilcox dug into the long dormant case back in the 1990s and came out with a book in 2008, Target Patton, in which he puts forward the conspiracy theory that there were those who wanted the flamboyant general out of the picture.

Much of the theory rests on interviews between the author and Douglas Bazata.  Wilcox reported that Bazata said the Soviets were called in to finish the job after Patton apparently recovered from a car crash in Manheim, Germany.  This after Bazata supposedly was ordered by General "Wild Bill" Donovan to drive a truck into Patton's car.  Donovan was head of the OSS at the time.  Wilcox claimed that Bazata confessed all this to him in a 1999 interview, and found diary entries after Bazata's death to back up these assertions.

Douglas DeWitt Bazata was a highly decorated war veteran, who enjoyed a colorful life that had him brushing shoulders with…

Sound and fury, signifying nothing

Attempts to impeach Obama date back to 2010 when Darrell Issa considered the presumed pressure by the White House on Joe Sestak to drop out of the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate Primary an impeachable offense, as the WH was actively supporting turncoat Allen Spector, who had switched parties to support the ACA.  After that effort failed to get any momentum, Michael Burgess suggested a "preemptive impeachment," citing no specific reason other than to stop the President from "pushing his agenda."

Of course, there was the ongoing row over his birth certificate as well, which many conservatives felt disqualified him from being in office in the first place, arguing that Obama wasn't a natural born citizen of the United States.  This "drive" actually began in the 2008 primaries when upset Hillary supporters attempted to derail Obama's momentum by suggesting his Hawaiian short form certificate was fake.  This story was picked up by conservative websites…