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Showing posts from May, 2015

The Chicken Hawks

I can't imagine Reince Priebus is too excited about Donald Trump joining the presidential race, especially with him polling in the top ten of the straw polls, which will determine the line-up for the debates.  The Donald is not afraid to stir the pot, and will no doubt go after Ted Cruz on his citizenship, which he has already done.

The walking hair piece isn't done there.  He is openly taking the Obama administration to task over the rise of ISIS in the Muslim world and says he has a "foolproof plan" to get rid of them once and for all.  Of course, he's not saying much as he believes secrecy is the key to his plan's success, hinting only that he would find a general like Patton or MacArthur to carry out his orders.  No pussyfooting around, as he believes the President and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have done.

Lindsey Graham also feels the President has been soft on ISIS, lashing out at the Commander-in-Chief  as a man who leads from behind, in an interview …

Wild Bill O'Reilly's Legends and Lies

Bill O'Reilly is a busy man these days.  He has broken away from his serial murder genre to give us a look into the Real West.  It is a companion volume to a television series, which offers us such "eye-opening looks" into the real life of Black Bart and what really happened to Butch and Sundance down Argentina way.  The title, if not the content as well, appears to come from Dale Walker's 1997 book.  Bill just seems to have put his name in front of it.

This was probably not a smart decision, especially in the wake of the stories he fabricated about himself in Argentina at the time of the Falkland Islands War, and the more recent allegations of domestic violence.  It opens him to quite a bit of ridicule and scorn.  Of course, few expect Papa Bear to be a hard-hitting journalist, much less a hard-hitting historian.  Bill prefers the soft balls of political punditry, where he can bend events to suit his arguments, and if necessary inflate his involvement in them to gi…

George Who?

I bet you didn't see this one coming.  I sure didn't.  George Pataki has to be the least likely of Presidential candidates, nearly ten years out of a job, not that very many even knew him when he served three terms as governor of New York.

It seems George is trying to cash in on his leadership following 911, judging from his video clip.  It didn't help Mayor Ray in 2008 and I doubt it will get much play in 2016.  The funny part is that he announced his candidacy in New Hampshire.  I guess he thinks this will give him a leg up in the state primary, the first in the election cycle after the Iowa caucuses.  It's the only hope he has of making his mark early in the Republican primaries.

However, Pataki looks like another one of those vanity candidates hoping to get some free publicity and land a spot on Fox News.  He hasn't seemed to be doing much with himself since he stepped down as governor in January, 2007.  He set up a "Leadership and Learning Center" …

The Curious Campaign of Rand Paul

Rand Paul is the most intriguing candidate in the race.  While the other Republican candidates try to jockey for the lead position in the religious conservative straw polls, Rand has staked out the middle ground, trying to reach out to a much broader segment of the population with a message most clear-headed individuals can relate to -- personal rights.  Whether he is genuine in his stand against the prying hand of the Patriot Act or not, it was refreshing to finally see a Congressperson stand up against it, mounting another marathon filibuster that kept disgruntled Senators in session long after they were ready to leave for the Memorial Day weekend.  Not that many stayed around to hear him through.

For the past two years, Rand has been busy touring college campuses, Liberty University excluded.  He has become quite popular among the youth in this country with his message of individual freedom.  He has made the Patriot Act his pet issue, and given the amount of time students spend on…

The Eternal Optimism of Rick Perry

It was hard not to stifle a laugh reading this article on the return of Rick Perry to Iowa, where he has regaled audiences with his homespun stories of growing up in Paint Creek, Texas, and bumper yields of corn.  Rick is indeed an eternal optimist if he thinks he has a snow ball's chance in hell of getting the Republican nomination.  Not so much for his infamous "Oops" moment, as for his trail of petty governance as the chief executive of Texas these past 14 years.  He still has an indictment hanging over his head for trying to strong arm Rosemary Lehmberg out of her Travis County District Attorney seat.

Rick has been sporting an expensive pair of Jean LaFont eyeglasses, picked out by his wife, that he seems to think gives him a new vision.  They have become the centerpiece of his campaign, which he plans to formally launch June 4 with his announcement in Dallas, Texas.  In the meantime, he has been glad-handing folks in Iowa, where he says he will win over voters &quo…

When I Hugged the President

The political downfall of Charlie Crist, once the popular governor of Florida, has been sad to watch, because he didn't deserve it.  Here was a man with an approval rating of over 60 per cent before his ill-fated hug with the President.   It wasn't like he was doing anything great as governor, but he was keeping the state on an even keel, which is far more than can be said of the state's current governor, Rick Scott.

Crist seemed a shoe-in for US Senator when he chose to run for Mel Martinez's seat in Congress rather than another term as governor.  The hug dogged him throughout the election.  The Tea Party foisted Marco Rubio, the little known Florida Senate leader, into the limelight, who eventually toppled Crist in the Republican primaries.  Crist tried to run as an independent candidate in the general election, but lost again.

This was at the peak of Tea Party politics where you had to show that you were against the Obama administration in every way, shape or form.…

Tomatoland

I remember reading Summer Lightning some years back about an old man and a boy growing up in Depression-era South Florida, not much unlike Huck Finn and Injun Joe.  In this case, the two had come across a bunch of crates of tomatoes piled up in a barn that seemed to be allowed to go rotten, so the two proceeded to eat as many of the juicy fruits as they could, until someone caught them and the old man, Mr. McCree, found himself faced with charges for trespassing and theft.  Young Terry was only 6 years old.  Of course, the old man was eventually acquitted and the tomato plantation owner revealed to be nothing more than an evil tyrant.

My mother and I had tried to grow tomatoes in Northwest Florida, but they came out rather salty being so close to the beach.  As Barry Estabrook describes in his book, Tomatoland, on the tomato industry in Florida, the soil simply isn't right for tomatoes.  What you have instead is a year-round climate that allows for the mass cultivation of tomatoe…

That's right, Kevin. You don't have to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance

Another Memorial Day is upon us and if you have a facebook account, I'm sure you've seen a steady stream of memes commemorating our men and women in uniform.  One of my favorites is this one about little Kevin who apparently doesn't understand the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance.  This kind of "shaming" is not unusual.

Apparently, a lot of schools do make their students stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, resulting in a growing sense of resentment and outrage among parents and students, particularly those who object to the line, "one Nation under God" which was amended to the pledge in 1954.  The idea that we live in a plural secular society seems lost on a great number of people, who see public schools as a way of inculcating what they believe to be American "values."

The "Pledge" was not formally adopted by Congress until 1942, during time of war when many felt Americans had to show their loyalty to the nation.  Initia…

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to Israel I go

It seems that for every Republican presidential candidate it is a prerequisite to visit Israel.  They've all gone over in recent months, including Ben Carson, who apparently made quite an ass of himself, showing a blissful ignorance of the region, including the time span of Islam, charting it back to the Old Testament.

Now, we have Scott Walker fresh from his "listening tour" of the Holy Lands, excluding the Palestinian territories.  He even managed to book a date with Bibi Netanyahu, pledging his unequivocal support of his government.

Like all the other candidates, Walker believes that the President is letting Israel down, and that we need to reaffirm our relationship with the country.  I guess he didn't take time to read of the current infighting in the Knesset, where Bibi just barely was able to cobble a coalition of religious right wing parties and the Likud together.  It is not Obama who is openly critical of Netanyahu, it is his own country, and for good reas…

So long, Dave, and thanks for all the fish

The one-time iconoclast is now being treated like royalty as he ends his 33-year run of Late Night television.  With over 6000 episodes under his belt, he officially gets the title of "Iron Man" having beaten Johnny Carson by a mile in terms of endurance.  But, for all the accolades, Letterman was neither original nor all that funny.  In fact, most of the time he was just downright annoying, especially the way he treated his guests.

How many times did he make Terry Garr undress on his show?  Well beyond the point it was clear she was uncomfortable in the role  Tina Fey seemed all too happy to revive this antic during the last week of his run, albeit looking more like a Romanian weightlifter.   
Guests were foils for Letterman's antics.  Some gladly played into them, like Bill Murray.  Others seemed to squirm and grow visibly agitated.   Occasionally, a guest would beat Letterman at his own game, like Harmony Korine, whose three appearances on the Late Show are considere…

Riding with the King

Psychedelic Rock and Blues seemed like a strange combination, but it became the norm in the 60s, with many Blues musicians playing along side Psychedelic musicians, or vice-versa depending on your point of view.  Here is a recording of B.B. King playing with Jimi Hendrix at the Generation Club in NYC in 1968.  A lot of Psychedelic guitarists moonlighted as Blues musicians like Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane, offering up songs like Hesitation Blues.

After Cream had reached its peak in the late 60s, Eric Clapton went back to Blues-based ballads and formed a life-long relationship with B.B. King, capped by the wonderful album, Riding with the King.  Many felt that relationships like this kept Blues alive, but the music was never going away.  It is the most identifiable American music, and immensely popular the world over.

When Ry Cooder teamed up with Ali Farka Toure in the 1990s, many thought that the Malian musician was playing a form of the Blues, and were surprised to learn t…

No need to fear, Underdog is here

Look up in the air!  It's a bird.  It's a plane.  It's a frog.  A frog?  No, it's Lindsey Graham!

Yes, that's right folks, Lindsey Graham is running for President because the "world is falling apart."  He is only polling a miniscule one per cent in GOP presidential straw polls, but not to worry Underdog is here to save us from the evil forces confronting us in this crumbling world.

Lindsey has been sounding the alarm for some time now, firmly believing that ISIS may kill us all.  That's why he plans to send no less than 10,000 troops into Iraq, if elected Commander-in-Chief, to rid us of this pernicious threat once and for all.  Uber-Lindsey doesn't think the Iraq War was a mistake, saying, "at the end of the day, I blame President Obama for the mess in Iraq and Syria, not President Bush."  Are you listening, Jeb?

It is easy to dismiss Lindsey's candidacy as a joke, as he is seen as little more than a fringe figure in the Republica…

That Giant Sucking Sound

Like the Republicans wrestling over the "hypothetical question" of what they would have done if they had been in Dubya's shoes back in 2003 in regard to Iraq, Democrats find themselves wrestling over what they would have done if they had been in Bubba's shoes back in 1993 when he signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, more commonly known as NAFTA, into law with broad Congressional support.

The current Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, has been unfavorably compared to NAFTA.  Democrats have come down hard on the free trade agreement being proposed by the Obama administration.  One of the harshest critics is Robert Reich, who was Bill Clinton's Secretary of Labor back in 1993.  I guess if he knew then what he knows now, he would have never gone along with NAFTA, like so many Democrats anxious to create a greater North American trade union.

It was Ross Perot who likened NAFTA to a giant sucking sound drawing away jobs from the United States.  The AFL-CIO …

Jeb misspeaks ... again

Things are getting kind of squirrely on the campaign trail.  At first Jeb gave his unconditional support for Brother George on the Iraq War, saying he would have done the same in his position.  However, Brother Jeb backed away a little after being pressed on the issue, and by the end of the week had turned 180 degrees and said he would not have gone to war with Iraq, having issued his fourth statement on the subject in a matter of days.  You have to wonder what George feels, but if anyone should know, all's fair in war and politics.

Jeb would have been best to follow Lindsey Graham's lead and blame the whole thing on Obama for "coitus interruptus."  Lindsey remains unabashed in his defense of the Iraq War, saying that while Dubya mades some mistakes, Obama leaving Iraq was the biggest mistake of all.  Graham believes that we should have maintained our military position in Iraq, even if military advisers supported full withdrawal.

Dear Lindsey refuses to concede that…

History distilled

Nothing I enjoy more than a good bourbon.  I stumbled across this bottle the other day in the vynoteka, as they call liquor stores here in Lithuania, and have to say I was very impressed.  Woodford Reserve had the full body taste of a Kentucky whiskey but was smooth as silk.  It was so good that the bottle was the first to go at my wife's birthday celebration, and I had to go back the next day and buy another bottle for myself.

The distillery don't go much into its history on its website, but it has been around for quite a while.  I guess they feel that the whiskey speaks for itself.  I did find some more information on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail website, which noted that Woodford Reserve dates back to 1797 when Elijah Pepper began distilling in Woodford County, and that the distillery is a national landmark, as well it should be.  Not surprised that it is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby, which was run last weekend.

I imagine it makes for a fine mint julep, but I l…

What a tangled web we weave

The biggest appeal of House of Cards is that it reduces politics to its basest level, even to the point of murder to cover a messy trail.  This is how most people see politics, which is why it is so easy to invent conspiracy theories and have so many persons believe in them.

It's nice to see that in the third season of House of Cards, Claire Underwood appears to have discovered her moral center and no longer is playing the game as set by her husband Francis.  The all too obvious allusions to the Clinton White House abound in this television series, right down to the mysterious death of Vince Foster, which was played out in the first season in the death of Peter Russo.  With Francis having wormed his way into the oval office, Claire is no longer content to play second fiddle, demanding the position of US Ambassador to the United Nations, echoing to some degree Hillary's rise to Secretary of State.  Things didn't turn out too well for Claire, much as was the case with Hill…

Give me that old time religion

I have to wonder about a candidate that keeps calling the President a psychopath.  In this case a psychopathic liar.  I hate to break it to the good doctor but the official unemployment rate is 5.5 per cent.  Now, you can argue about the metrics and claim that the real unemployment rate is much higher since so many persons are no longer counted.  But, this is the same measuring stick used for decades.  The same standard existed under the previous President, so was George W. Bush also "lying like a psychopath" when he pointed to a low unemployment rate during much of his administration?

It is odd, to say the least, to find someone with so much scorn for the President.  Even Joe Wilson didn't go this far, when he shouted "You Lie" during Obama's health care speech back in 2009.  Rep. Wilson even apologized afterward.  However, you won't hear Ben Carson apologizing.

The closest Dr. Ben comes is to admit he has an anger management problem.  Maybe Barack O…

Best Years of Our Lives

This being V-E Day, I thought it would be nice to remember our troops from World War II through one of the best movies made in their honor, The Best Years of Our Lives.  Unlike the many other war films of the era, William Wyler chose to deal with the aftermath of the war and how difficult it was for many of these former soldiers to readjust to civilian life.

As Bosley Crowther wrote in a review from 1946, the film "honestly and sensitively images the terrible loneliness of the man who has been hurt -- hurt not only physically but in the deep recesses of his self-esteem."  Most veterans got past these anxieties and adjusted to everyday life, but many fell through the cracks of society, as we have seen with each war.  Just as importantly, the film deals with the women in these former GIs' lives.

As we look at a united Europe today, we can say that the soldiers and the many, many civilians who died during this brutal war did not do so in vain.


Operation Red Dawn

Leave it to Texas to turn a seemingly simple military training exercise into a coup attempt.  Greg "Wheels" Abbott is not even six months on the job and he panicked, going with a story broke by Alex Jones on Infowars to call on the state militia to protect the Great State of Texas against presumed invaders from the North -- the U.S. Army.  One can understand Alex getting his panties in a wad, but as governor you would think Greg Abbott wouldn't fall for such paranoid nonsense.

Instead, we see Operation Red Dawn, a massive mobilization of state militia groups, only loosely affiliated with Texas.  These are private armies under the cover of the second amendment, which as a Texan I think you would be far more worried about than the U.S. Army, which is actually answerable to someone.  Of course, in this case it is the President, which is what got conservative Texans all lathered up, thinking Obama was overthrowing their state government and imposing a military junta.

It was…

I ♥ Huckabee

Back in 2008, when Huck first ran for President, I kind of liked him.  He had a sense of humor, which was sorely lacking in McCain, Romney and Giuliani, and seemed to be a decent guy underneath his evangelical message.  The former Arkansas governor seized on the "moral majority" vote that had made Pat Robertson a serious contender in the 1988 election.  Huckabee carried 8 states and won over 4 million votes in the Republican primaries, undercutting Mitt's challenge to Mackie by half.

For some odd reason Huck sat out 2012, opening the field to a slough of Bible thumpers, who pretty much canceled each other out.  It looks like it is going to be the same thing again in 2016 as Huck finds himself among a crowded field all vying for the evangelical vote that makes up about 60 per cent of the Republican electorate.  His biggest challenge will probably be Dr. Ben Carson, who is a favorite among the religious right wing, although utterly humorless.

Can Huck find that same magi…