Monday, May 30, 2011

Honoring those who have sacrificed...


On this Memorial Day, 2011, we remember those who have gone before us...and those who gave all.

World War II Memorial, Washington, D.C...

-- And remember the Gold Star Moms and Gold Star Dads.

--Not all of the brave carry a rifle: "US medics brave fire to save lives in Afghan war"...

Pacific Theater/World War II Memorial, Washington, D.C...

Atlantic Theater/World War II Memorial, Washington, D.C...

--In one of the most stirring speeches honoring the heroes of World War II: President Ronald Reagan commemorates the 40th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion/D-Day (clip below).

Want to know more about the history of Memorial Day? Check out this article in the New York Times.

World War II Memorial, Washington, D.C...

Finally, "For the Fallen"...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Writing with clarity

Having been on the other side...

Know David Mamet?

Even if you don't know who he is, you surely know his work: "The Untouchables," "The Verdict," "American Buffalo" and the powerful "Glengarry Glen Ross" (remember the character portrayed by Alec Baldwin whose tagline was, "Put that coffee is for closers!"?).

Several years ago, the prize-winning writer (plays, films and assorted other venues) stunned the world of the liberal intelligentsia by penning a controversial op-ed for The Village Voice, "Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain- Dead Liberal," which set that world on its heels. In that piece, he took down liberal beliefs in a way that had those on the left feeling like they'd been simultaneously betrayed and hit with a shotgun blast to the gut.

That op-ed was written in 2008 and the chattering class hasn't stopped talking about it. Now they'll have something to add to their discussions about him and what he's saying. In his new book, "The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture" (published by Sentinel HC), Mamet goes deeper than he could in just a single column. The brilliant, controversial and thought provoking writer takes out after a variety of our era's most important issues, from global warming to religion (and all of the big things in between).

Mamet, in a statement/excerpt provided by his publisher, explains what was behind his latest effort: "The problems facing us, faced by all mankind engaged in Democracy, may seem complex, or indeed insolvable, and we, in despair, may revert to a state of wish fulfillment-a state of 'belief' in the power of the various experts presenting themselves as a cure for our indecision. But this is a sort of Stockholm Syndrome. Here, the captives, unable to bear the anxiety occasioned by their powerlessness, suppress it by identifying with their captors.

"This is the essence of Leftist thought. It is a devolution from reason to 'belief,' in an effort to stave off a feeling of powerlessness," he adds. "And if government is Good, it is a logical elaboration that more government power is Better. But the opposite is apparent both to anyone who has ever had to deal with Government and, I think, to any dispassionate observer. It is in sympathy with the first and in the hope of enlarging the second group that I have written this book."

Given the shockwaves his 2008 piece still makes, there is little doubt that Mamet's latest criticism of the left's lockstep thinking/responses will do anything less.

The infamous "Glengarry Glen Ross" scene, immortalized by Baldwin but created by Mamet...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Do as she says...

...not as she does.

'Debbie Does Bailouts" - Democratic National Committee Chairperson Debbie Wasserman-Schultz...

Remember when the Administration and the Democrats in Congress were pushing for the Federal bailout of the U.S. auto industry?

One of those championing a bailout was then-Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), the new chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, who practically led the charge against Republicans opposing President Barack Obama's pro-union efforts.

"If it were up to the candidates for president on the Republican side," she declared, "we would be driving foreign cars. They would have let the auto industry in America go down the tubes!"

Want to guess what country Little Debbie's car comes from?

It starts with a "J" and ends with "apan." That's right, the Debster drives a 2010 Infiniti FX35 that is built by Nissan in Tochigi, Japan.

Way to put your money where your mouth is, Debbie!

Your tax dollars at work...

Half-a-mill for shrimp on a treadmill?

...I'd settle for paying a few bucks for a shrimp on the barbie.

How do you feel about taxpayer-supported research?

Sounds good until you hear about $500,000 to study shrimp "working out" on a treadmill. Or $1.5 million to create a robot that folds laundry. Or $300,000 to study how the Facebook-based game, Farmville, builds personal relationships.? (Or for the National Science Foundation, which is carrying out all this "work," moving into a new building that rents for $26 million a year -- compared to its current rent of $19 million per year?)

The list, which includes a study on gelatin wrestling, was disclosed as part of the video clip below from ABC News.

So how do you feel about the spending, now?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Count your blessings...

If a picture paints a thousand words, these two photos tell a multitude of stories that can't be imagined...

The story behind this pair of images is that this is/was is Joplin, Missouri. The top photo is a Google street view and bottom is the same street after the devastating tornado that hit recently.

Those interested in helping the people hit by the storms can donate to the Red Cross (in three ways): By texting "REDCROSS" to 90999 to make a $10 donation, visiting the regional American Red Cross website, or calling 1-800-REDCROSS.

(h/t: Craig Gardner via Stuart Jackson)


Wait for your cue...

According to ABC News' Jake Tapper, who is traveling with President Barack Obama in England, things didn't go as planned at tonight's state dinner in London.

"When the president toasted the Queen the orchestra misunderstood a pause and what seemed to be a cue from the president for “God Save the Queen” to begin playing," Tapper reports. "'Ladies and gentlemen please stand with me and raise your glasses as I propose a toast,' the president said, putting down his note cards and grabbing his glass. 'To her majesty the Queen.'”

Tapper adds, "The president paused, the guests stood, and the orchestra prepared to play. But the president wasn’t done speaking. 'The vitality –' the president said before the orchestra began. Then the familiar tune – you might know it better as 'My Country ‘Tis of Thee” – started up.

President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Queen Elizabeth II, and Prince Philip pose for photographers prior to a dinner hosted by the queen at Buckingham Palace Tuesday evening...

"The president kept going: ' -- of the special relationship between our peoples and for the words of Shakespeare to this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,' the president said as the awkward moment played out," Tapper notes. "The Queen looked ahead as the UK anthem played. 'To the Queen,' the president finally said. He lifted his glass to her, she smiled a bit uncomfortably."

Tapper concludes his report: "It almost felt like one of those moments at the Academy Awards when the speech from the recipient for Best Original Screenplay goes on too long and the orchestra tries to hustle him or her off the stage. Kind of weird."

Weird, indeed.

An important book...

(Especially if you want to know where you -- and your money -- are going...)

Stating the obvious: the nation's economy -- read: the world's economy -- is in a real mess right now. The little secret, however, is that a number of people are doing well because they saw what was coming and took a better path.

Even if you're not one of those comfortable few, hope is not lost. Economics is about trends, signposts and cycles. And if you have a better understanding of how it all it works and what to look for (good and bad), you're more likely to weather the storms.

A good guide can be helpful when it comes to charting these things out, so it is with great pleasure that I highly recommend a new (guide) book by an old friend: "50 Economic Indicators That Really Matter: From Big Macs to 'Zombie Banks,' the Indicators Smart Investors Watch to Beat the Market," is by Simon Constable (columnist and host of the Wall Street Journal's web program, "The News Hub") and Robert E. Wright. It's a look at those things, great and small, that let us know where the money is going.

Constable has been a radio colleague (the John Batchelor Show) and a friend for several years, and I never cease to be impressed by his work on News Hub, his writing or his off-the-cuff (wry) observations. He's smart, witty and plain-spoken...and that all comes across in his writings. (He appears in the ABC News interview clip below.)

As the publisher points out, the book "offer[s] investors powerful new tools to guide them through the markets. Whether it's the VIX index (which tracks the level of anxiety among investors) or the Vixen index (which tracks the number of attractive waitresses in your hometown), this essential guide includes in-depth analyses of 50 valuable economic indicators, as well as what to watch for, what to do when movement happens, and the risk level involved in taking action. This must-have guide entertains and enlightens while offering essential advice on navigating the global economic climate."

If you want to gain a better understanding of how money moves the world (as well as around it), I wholeheartedly recommend you grab a copy of "50 Economic Indicators That Really Matter."

You and your wallet will thank me (and Simon)...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Don't hold your breath...

Will "Joey Plugs" make a run at the White House in 2016?

If the GOP doesn't have a reason to get off its backside, it does now.

According to POLITICO, "Vice President Joe Biden surprised a gathering of donors in Cincinnati last week when he floated the prospect of his succeeding President Barack Obama in the White House [in 2016]. Biden, who started in the Senate young and would be just 70 in 2012, raised the possibility unprompted during a wide-ranging conversation at the May 19 dinner with major Democratic Party donors, a source in the room said. But the spontaneous suggestion caught the attention of at least some in the audience, said the guest, 'given he volunteered that without prompting...and given the audience.' A spokeswoman for Biden declined to comment on the exchange."

Biden for president?

On the other hand, a Biden candidacy might just be the driving force behind putting a Republican back in the White House...

How many more years?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

More in common than you think...

...the LA Times ran this photo with the story, "Politicians and sex: Why do they stray?"

Sometimes the captions just write themselves, don't they?

(h/t: Duncan McIntosh / AFP/Getty Images)

Speaking truth to power...

A native son sounds off...

Gene Simmons: Telling it like it really is...

Chaim Witz -- who most people know as the fire-breathing, blood-spitting, bassist of the rock group KISS -- is outspoken. To say the least.

Whether it's money, music or women, Simmons has an opinion. And he comes about each opinion through experience. You see, unlike most celebs, he doesn't talk out of his hat. Even if you disagree with his viewpoint, he at least came about it honestly (not because someone told him it was the "cool" or "expected" thing to do).

Gene Simmons' KISS persona...

Which is why the clip below is worth watching. Simmons, a native of Israel and the son of a Holocaust survivor, has some harsh words for President Barack Obama's newly voiced declaration that the Jewish state needs to return land to enemies who waged war on Israel and lost territory (which Israel has kept as a security buffer).

In the CNBC interview (below), Simmons -- a former Obama supporter -- explains why Obama's speech was reckless and unworkable.

JANE WELLS, CNBC: What do you think of President Obama’s suggestion that the borders be redrawn pre-67?

GENE SIMMONS, KISS: President Obama, I voted for an idea. What I didn’t realize what I was getting was an idealist. If you’ve never been to the moon, you can’t issue policy about the moon. You have no f—king idea what it’s like on the moon. For a president to be sitting in Washington, D.C., and saying, “Go back to your 67 borders in Israel,” how about you live there and try to defend an indefensible border nine miles wide? On one side you’ve got hundreds of millions of people who hate your guts, on the other side you’ve got the Mediterranean. Unless you control, in Israel, unless you control those Golan Heights, it’s an indefensible position. It’s a nice idea, when you grow up you find out that life isn’t the way you imagined it, and President Obama means well. I think he’s actually a good guy. He has no f—king idea what the world is like because he doesn’t have to live there.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Learning a lesson...

Yesterday, U.S. President Barack Obama attempted to lay a new course when it comes to Middle East policy.

By most accounts, his speech -- which was obviously written with the idea in mind that it would be a "watershed" moment in his presidency -- failed.

Today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the White House to speak with his American counterpart.

Only Netanyahu didn't just speak with him...he spoke to was more like "instructed" him in the realities of Middle East history and policy.

Benajamin Netanyahu (left) explains reality to Barack Obama...

ABC News' Jake Tapper was at the White House and he filed this report:

In Oval Office, Bibi Offers History Lessons to Obama

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to think he needed to educate President Obama on some issues today, so in the Oval Office he described in some detail to the president a history of the refugee problem in the region dating back 63 years, as well as his view on the need for Israel to be able to defend itself in the context of thousands of years of Jewish suffering.

“We don't have a lot of margin for error,” Netanyahu said to the president. “Because, Mr. President, history will not give the Jewish people another chance.”

Netanyahu, whose father is a retired academic, offered the president repeated history lessons, saying Jews have “been around for almost 4,000 years. We have experienced struggle and suffering like no other people. We've gone through expulsions and pogroms and massacres and the murder of millions. But I can say that even at the dearth of -- even at the nadir of the valley of death, we never lost hope and we never lost our dream of reestablishing a sovereign state in our ancient homeland, the land of Israel.”

Yesterday, President Obama angered Netanyahu by -- for the first time -- stating as a matter of U.S. policy that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”

The language everyone understands...

Body language...

"Netanyahu shows no signs of budging on deal": At a White House meeting with the president today, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, declared that his country would not withdraw to 1967 boundaries to help make way for an adjacent Palestinian state, which Barack Obama had urged Israel to do in a speech yesterday.

Hard to tell they're not seeing eye-to-eye...

That's what friends are for...

(With friends like him, who needs enemies?)

The headline in the New York Times: "Obama and Netanyahu, Distrustful Allies, to Meet"...

Yes, because Israel's position has been unpredictable, wavered and two-faced...


Thursday, May 19, 2011

What did they know?

...and when did they know it?

In better times?

Men-about-town and former political mover-shakers, Arnold Schwarzenegger (left) and John Edwards...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Who's your daddy?

It's the question on everyone's mind...

He promised...

About a week ago, former California Gov./occasional cyborg Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, announced they were “separating.” Many saw it as the end of their 25-year marriage (the phrase, “Hasta la vista, Maria!,” was tossed around).

Now we know why.

Ah-nold has a kid that isn't Maria's, too.

The big political/celebrity news crossed the wires Tuesday: Ah-nold had been fooling around with a member of the Schwarzen-Kennedy household staff...and that fooling around had produced another heir.


"I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family," Schwarzenegger wrote in a statement. "There are no excuses and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused. I have apologized to Maria, my children and my family. I am truly sorry."

Shriver, a member of the Kennedy clan, also released a statement: "This is a painful and heartbreaking time. As a mother, my concern is for the children. I ask for compassion, respect and privacy as my children and I try to rebuild our lives and heal. I will have no further comment."

Don’t feel too bad for Ah-nold: according to the Los Angeles Times, "Few strategists believe that the disclosure about his out-of-wedlock child will permanently derail Arnold Schwarzenegger's political or entertainment pursuits."

The celeb-driven website, Gawker, threw up a post today in which the guv’s alleged gal pal (and supposed love child) are identified. ‘Two tabloids have just identified the woman as Mildred ‘"Patty’ Baena, age 50, a former housekeeper at Schwarzenegger's Brentwood estate. Radar Online spoke with two sources who confirmed that Baena is the woman identified in the Los Angeles Times article that broke the story of Schwarzenegger's hidden child. Pictures show Baena and an adolescent boy, matching the age range and gender given in a New York Times article. (The New York Times doesn't identify Baena by name.)’”

Is this the woman (and child) in question?

That’s not where this story is ending, though.

According to Gawker (and other sources), “According to TMZ, Baena didn't tell Schwarzenegger that he was the father of her son until the boy was a toddler. According to friends, she'd ‘pursued’" him sometime in the late 90s, eventually leading to regular episodes of ‘"unprotected sex during the day at the house.’ What does this mean for our earlier story identifying a former flight attendant named Tammy Tousignant as the mother of Schwarzenegger's child? We were incorrect to identify Tammy's son, Tanner Tousignant, as the subject of the Los Angeles Times story. But we still believe Tanner could be Schwarzenegger's son, as does Daily Mail reporter Wendy Leigh, who originally broke the story in 2003. Leigh told us earlier (before Baena had been identified) that she was ‘"hearing that [the child acknowledged by Schwarzenegger] is a different child. Which means there are two.’" Indeed, given the numerous stories of Schwarzenegger's infidelity, it would hardly come as a surprise to learn that he had two illegitimate children—though, to be fair Tammy Tousignant claims to have a paternity test proving that her husband Tommy is the father of her son.”

This story isn’t over.

Not by a long shot.

Out of the mouths of former governors...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

An honest mistake

Happens all the time...

Of all the stories surrounding the kill-bin Laden operation, this is emerging as one of the funnier ones...

In a story posted at GeekoSystem, we learn that the following humorous mix-up occurred on German TV as a newscaster attempted to report on the special forces who killed the terror leader.

There are perils associated with apparently using Google Image Search to get material for your official news broadcast. When a German television news channel, N24, was reporting a story on Navy SEAL Team Six, the unit which spearheaded the operation which ultimately killed Osama bin Laden, the channel accidentally used a fan-made logo for the Maquis, an anti-Cardassian rebel group which originally appeared in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, in place of the SEAL Team Six emblem.

As TrekMovie points out, there are a few differences between the logos:“[The newscaster] didn’t seem to notice (or care) that the skull in question was from a Klingon and included a bolted-on eyepatch. He and N24 also appear undeterred by the emblem’s inclusion of a phaser, 3 Klingon bat’leth swords and the word ‘Maquis.’” They also made on-air comments that acknowledged the Maquis logo and seemed to treat it as the real thing: “And they also have the ‘Team Six,’ that carried out the mission. They don’t have the skull in their emblem for nothing.”

Honest mistake.

(h/t: GeekoSystem, TrekMovie via io9 via Neatorama)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Passing notes?

Thanks for a job well done?

Was this a note (below) that had something to do with Osama bin Laden's demise?

The Italian television broadcast purports this "note passing" to be part of the Obama Administration's "Operation Geronimo."

A person commenting on the video, however, wrote, "They are exchanging their 'Challenge Coins.' Challenge Coins are a military tradition where commanders will 'unofficially' award a subordinate by passing his/her commanders coin in the clasp of the hand typically passed during a handshake for a job well done."

Which/what is it? Like most of the questions surrounding the get-bin Laden operation, we'll likely never know the real answer...

Note: The authenticity (narration and date stamp) of this video could not be independently verified.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Desperate times call for "Desperate Housewives?"

A meeting of the minds...

When Barry met Eva...

So this is how we "do" policy now...a la Hollywood?

I guess when you're trying to push a policy that most voters are against, you'll try anything.

Regardless of which side you come down on in the immigration debate, there can be little argument over this: using pretty people who speak lines that other people write for them in order to further political discourse is suspect -- at best.

Wait a minute..."pretty people who speak lines that other people write for them?"...Kinda sounds like some public officials we know.

All I can say is, "Viva la Teleprompter!"

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The vital but relatively obscure part of the OBL-kill team...

The view from above...

One of America's most obscure intelligence agencies helped make the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound (top photo) the success that it was...

Here's a great story from the National Journal that's just part of the rich OBL-kill tapestry:

President Obama’s first brush with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency was ignominious. Out for lunch in May 2009, at a Five Guys burger franchise in Washington, the new president started to shake the hands of other customers, TV cameras in tow. Then he turned to men with government ID badges. (See video below.)

“So, what do you?” Obama asked. “I work at NGA, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency,” one said.

“Outstanding. How long have you been doing that?” the president wondered. “Six years.” Obama then asked: “So, explain to me exactly what this National Geospatial--” His voice trailed off. “Uh, we work with, uh, satellite imagery.” Obama: “Sounds like good work.” The response is obscured by the audio.

Suffice it to say: Obama knows what the NGA does today.

(Read the rest here...)

What's great about this story is that it shows how complex/multi-faceted an operation like this truly is. Not only do you have the brave special forces operators low-roping into an enemy position and overwhelming opposition with precise force (not to mention killing the target), but you've also got a host of people working behind the scenes who make these operations possible.

Special "Kill OBL" bonus: The NGA is the only U.S. intel-related agency headed by a female. (Ya gotta love that a misogynistic bastard like OBL owes at least part of his demise to a smart American woman.)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Where was he?

Over there!

Apparently, the Janitor on "Scrubs" wasn't the only one who knew Osama bin Laden was kicking back in Pakistan.

In an excerpt from the HBO show, "Real Time With Bill Maher," aired Oct. 3rd, 2008, ABC's Christiane Amanpour revealed that at least one person in US intelligence suspected Osama Bin Laden was residing in a comfortable villa inside Pakistan -- not a cave.

Somehow, the Pakistan government's story that they didn't know bin Laden was in town is getting easier to pick at...

The numbers game...

What Osama bin Laden cost us...

I don't usually run such large chunks from other sources, but this piece (below) deserves to be republished as completely as possible.

It was created by Dave Gilson for Mother Jones.

And while it's a pretty comprehensive set of statistics, it fails to measure the most important things -- those things than can only be measured by those who experience them (grief, sorrow, anger, loss, worry, etc.).


Most Wanted List: FBI

Reward: State Department

Cost of 9/11 attacks: 9/11 Commission (PDF)

9/11 death toll: The New York Times. Does not include hijackers.

Economic impact of 9/11: New York City Comptroller (PDF)

Costs of military operations: Congressional Research Service (PDF)

US casualties: Department of Defense

Civilian casualties: United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (PDF)

Drone attacks: "The Year of the Drone," by Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann, New America Foundation

Al Qaeda members: "The Almanac of Al Qaeda," by Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann, New America Foundation

Aid to Pakistan: Congressional Research Service (PDF)

Bin Laden compound: Christian Science Monitor, Google Maps

Helicopter cost: Department of Defense

Commandos and dogs: New York Times