Wednesday, April 29, 2009

UPDATE: Duke and Ella Together

Earlier today, I was working at the computer listening to a playlist of Duke Ellington's music on YouTube. Somehow, the recording below slipped through the cracks during my search for some of the best of Ella and Duke. Here they are together approaching perfection in sound. Train enthusiasts will enjoy this one as well. Once more, I ask, "Where is this music today?"

A New Cosmic Distance Record

Something big happened in the sky on April 23. The Swift satellite spotted a brilliant gamma-ray burst. NASA astronomers determined its distance at 13.035 billion light years or within 5% of the edge of time and the universe as we understand it. For more on this event, here is a direct link, courtesy of

Ultraviolet/optical and x-ray composite image: NASA/Swift/Stefan Immler

The Real Meaning Of The Manhattan Fly-By

Word is out ( that the White House postcard fly-by of Manhattan cost American taxpayers $329,000. And that doesn't include the printing costs. After more than thirty years in government, I can tell you this not an isolated incident. What makes the fly-by newsworthy is a combination of the organizational level at which the decision was made, the complete disregard for the obvious reaction it would draw, and instant media saturation it would attract. This was a decision made out of inexperience, one of many we've seen from this administration in its first hundred days. I get the feeling the Oval Office doesn't have much command and control in the White House. A few more layers of review and approval would give me comfort. Those layers would do much to temper authority and ego that tend to excess and embarrassment, especially among the newly appointed.

Outside the Beltway, you can find the same process at work, only farther down the org charts. There, the negative decisions generally have a narrower impact on fewer people and often go unnoticed by local media. It's there where the costly follies occur by the hundreds from sea to shining sea. The late, endearing senator from Illinois, Everett Dirkson's famous quote that "a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money" would apply nicely. To be honest, the truly rotten decisions I witnessed occurred infrequently, but their cost was often well beyond $329,000. What's frightening is my belief that we not only did good work, but also exceeded the performance of most agencies.

I'm sure Director of the White House Military Office, Louis Caldera, made the fly-by decision with the best of intentions. Unfortunately, an off-the-shelf photoshop program, a few sharp images, and a $328,000 printing budget could have bought at least 33,000,000 postcards without creating a stir until it came time to store them. Someone in addition to the taxpayers will have to "pay" for this sorry incident. The candidate is Caldera and his acceptance of full responsibility is probably not enough. If past is prologue, he'll merely transfer outside the Beltway and descend into the managerial charts where tomorrow's "fly-bys" usually go unnoticed. This is bureaucracy. Soon, it will be building your car, maybe even performing your surgery.

Duke Ellington

Today marks the birthday of another legend in American music, Duke Ellington. He was born in Washington, DC in 1899 and spent his early career there while learning his trade. He wrote what he called "American music," a unique blend of his creative genius and elements of jazz, blues, classical, swing, bop, and popular song. Ellington appealed to a wide audience, but the appeal was compartmentalized and so broad that you would be hard pressed to find someone who liked everything he composed. I think the one element that unified his work was elegance. Early on, that came from his training as a pianist and was bolstered later by impressionistic classical influences. Also, much of that elegance came from his long-time association with the classically trained composer, arranger and pianist, Billy Strayhorn.

I discovered Ellington "late" most likely because I was immersed in his '40s sound at an early age and grew up thinking there was nothing new. That changed in 1968 when I began listening to the music of the British composer, Frederick Delius. His music left me spellbound. Delius's music is rich, melodic, and complex, so much so that it is considered some of the most difficult to realize in the classical catalog. As early as the 1880s, his compositions incorporated motifs and melodies from the songs of ex-slaves working on the orange plantations he managed along the St. Johns River in Florida. Those musical themes would appear frequently throughout his career.

Later, I learned that the impressionistic music by Delius had a deep influence on Ellington. In fact, Ellington eventually composed and recorded a tribute - In A Blue Summer Garden - to Delius. That was all I needed to move into an exploration of the Duke I did not know.

Listening to Ellington is akin to attending a lavish banquet featuring an array of fine courses, good wines and pleasant company. Very satisfying. For the past thirty years, it's been a joy to grow in the understanding and appreciation of Ellington as one of the nation's most innovative musical entertainers.

Here are two of Ellington's finest moments. The first one is universally recognized and comes from the orchestra near its peak in the early '40s. The second, from 1965, is lesser known , but still full of all the magic the master and his orchestra possessed.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Straight Talk On General Motors

Suppose you and a friend decided to lend a third friend some money. You gave the borrower $27 with the understanding that he would repay you 10 cents a month. Your friend gave the borrow $10 and his repayment was 40 cents a month. There is something wrong with this picture.

General Motors bondholders are more than upset with the White House's pending company reorganization because they're getting the 10 cents while the union gets the 40 cents. This is a pure political payoff. Read more about it in this post by John Hinderacker blogging at PowerLine.

I find it interesting that one of the quotes in the post includes the term "national-socialism." Many historians have noted that left-wing philosophies have traditionally had difficulty gaining traction in the United States. Are the times changing?

Senator Arlen Specter Now An Official Democrat

Arlen Specter switched parties today knowing that he would not survive in the upcoming Republican primary. His move puts the United States one vote closer to a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and one step farther down the road to serfdom. Obviously, Specter has become very comfortable with his thirty years of privilege, protocol, and power. Loyalty to party and principle means nothing when the title of "Senator" is more important. Will the voters of Pennsylvania rally around the old RINO? Probably, as the state has been trending liberal in the last few election cycles. On the other hand, the voters are a restless group and we are far removed from a solid embrace of President Obama's economics. Furthermore, Pat Toomey is poised to give any Democrat a good challenge.

I'm sorry to see anyone take up what amounts to little more than a socialist agenda simply for political survival. One would think an elder statesman could appreciate history, recognize a failed social and economic system, and lead his nation into a prosperous future. Specter apparently surrendered to his narcissism. He hasn't helped the Republican Party for a long time. His departure should be welcomed. As an independent and fiscal conservative, I am more inclined to identify with the party now that he is gone.

In the words of the unforgettable Edward R. Murrow, "Good night and good luck."

Monday, April 27, 2009

Forgotten Holiday

The folks at Peach Pundit reminded readers today that yesterday was Confederate Memorial Day in Georgia. It was certainly news to me as there was nothing in the newspapers, on radio, television or my state Internet sources. Someone, somewhere must have celebrated something, but it is a sign of the times, of the New South, that nothing made the news. It's just as well for me as I have no personal connections to the Confederacy, but I did marry into a family with deep roots - nine generations - in Virginia history. In the same way that General Robert E. Lee chose loyalty to Virginia rather than the United States, they have chosen loyalty to Virginia rather than the Confederacy. With that said, Confederate Memorial Day can slip easily from memory.

My suspicion is that this holiday is about to regain some stature, especially in the historic landmark cities and rural South where time has slowed and attitudes, opinions, and beliefs persist well into old age. It is a reflection of the fact that the nation has both come a long way from the Civil War and yet not very far. The spark for this revival is the sesquicentennial of the Civil War - War of Northern Aggression or War Between the States, if you're "from these parts" - which will begin April 11, 2011. On that date and for the next four years, those in the South should have many opportunities to see colorful events associated with the commemoration. At the same time, Americans will have time to reflect on the never ending debate on the causes and effects of that conflict. It will be interesting to see how the history and conclusions about it compare with the interpretations of fifty years ago.

[The illustration is the First National Flag of the Confederacy - the Stars and Bars - adopted in 1861 and replaced in 1863. Replace the circle of stars with the Georgia State Seal and you have the official stage flag of Georgia, adopted in 2004. The more things change the more they remain the same.]

Planning It Right For Cities In Demand

Leesburg, Virginia was a small dot on the map when I moved to Washington in 1964. Today, it's a historic core surrounded by development based on our society's love for the automobile. I haven't been there in twenty years. Even then, it was overrun with cars. As Ben Adler writes in The American Prospect, its probably too late for Leesburg, but not for other towns and counties that find themselves part of exurbia.

This is s nice companion piece to today's post on planning strategies in Flint. Michigan. Thanks to James Joyner and Outside the Beltway for the story.

Downsizing Cities In Decline

Every day I thank my long-departed mom and dad for having the courage to separate their family from the economic and social decline of the Appalachian Rust Belt. Leaving "home," the house itself, nearby family members, and the sense of security and place offered by those ancient mountains was not an easy decision. At the same time, ambition and declining opportunity can be powerful motivators when in tandem. But what happens to those who stay? The region my parents left fifty years ago began to reach a stasis around 2000 after years of slow, steady decline. With a few exceptions, the population centers became ghosts of their former selves. I expect substantial improvement in the next fifty years because the area will become the exurbs of Washington. Four generations is a long time to return to modest prosperity.

What happens if there is no Washington on the horizon? What happens if the city is Flint, Michigan, one of many large cities in a nanny state where high business taxes, unsustainable union wages, and the costs of generous state benefits and services suppress private incentives? A contributor at has some comment on Flint and its strategy to develop a viable community after losing half its population in the last forty years. Reading the link to the New York Times article is essential.

Blame, Justice, And The Damnation Of Memory

Why is the investigation of past national policy a bad idea? Victor Davis Hanson provides answers in his post at National Review Online.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

More On Elitism And The Political Classes

David Kralik, writing at The Next Right, has some observations on how elitism infects "the political class" - Democrats and Republicans - and what my former employer would call "monumentation."

Mark Steyn On Elitism

Always observant, Mark Steyn finds an interesting parallel in British and American attitudes among the liberal elite.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Supreme Court And Ricci vs. DeStefano

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing the case this week. Ricci vs. DeStefano is a reverse discrimination case involving fire fighters in New Haven, Connecticut. The case will have no winners. John Derbyshire, writing for National Review Online, tells us why in his post, The Husk of Dead Theories. Half of the post is a valuable list and analysis of publications on race in America dating from 1960.

This is a powerful article. If you ever had doubts about the value of a strong nuclear family to a constitutional republic, this article will remove them.

Ella Fitzgerald, The First Lady of Song Is Born

In 1934, Ella Jane Fitzgerald wanted to dance at an amateur night at the Apollo in Harlem, but was intimidated by other dancers and decided to sing instead. It was the beginning of a career that took her magnificent voice through the big bands, to jazz, bop, and the Great American Songbook. With a voice ranging from smoky to bright she put her signature on every note and sharp diction on every word. For people who like to immerse themselves in lyrics, Ella was unbeatable. And when she forgot those lyrics or let the spontaneity flow, the scat singing was priceless.

I saw her perform once in an overcrowded and hot venue in Washington. After a few songs, the crowd didn't mind the environment. She had us wrapped in music for over two hours and left us wanting more after several encores. Everyone had a great time that night, especially Ella. Looking back on that concert, I realize how significant it was. Ella had turned 50 and completed her famous songbook series a few years earlier. And though her peak years were coming to an end, what she had left exceeded the best of what most 20th century singers ever offered. She went on to perform another quarter of a century dazzling audiences everywhere. Ella passed away about 13 years ago, but she's still making her mark, living on through a huge discography and video record. In all, it is an immense, if not iconic legacy.

Throughout her very public life, Ella Fitzgerald remained a private, if not shy, person. Were she receiving a birthday cake today, I can envision a broad, approving smile and nervous glances from squinting eyes behind those big bottle bottom glasses. She'd respond with a heart-felt "Thank you, thank you," and move into the comfort and safety of song.

Happy birthday, Ella. What a lady, that First Lady of Song. Thank you! Thank you!

This post would not be complete without a song or, in this case, two songs. The first is Ella and the Chick Webb Orchestra with her 1938 breakthrough hit, A-Tiskit A-Tasket. Next is her interpretation of Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most, recorded live in the Netherlands in 1974.

Photo: Carl Van Vechten

Friday, April 24, 2009

Talking About Race

Shrinkwrapped talks honestly about talking about race. I doubt if this post will make Attorney General Eric Holder - "nation of cowards" - very happy. I can't add anything to this post beyond stating that people in the United States had better wake up soon.

Sunday Sunset Spectacular

This is a heads-up - literally - for an astronomical treat. This Sunday at twilight you can look into the western sky and our Moon, the planet Mercury, and the Pleiades star cluster in a very tight arc. This is a naked eye event, but binoculars and a small telescope will make for a revealing experience. For example, the moon will be a slight crescent, making it perfect for enjoying earthshine on the shadowed portion and fine details in the illuminated crescent. Mercury will be a pink jewel to the naked eye, but a telescope will show it is also in a crescent phase. Even with binoculars, new gazers will be surprised to find the Pleiades cluster actually contains hundreds of stars.

Thanks to Spaceweather, an outstanding sky and space site, for the reminder. The page has a link if you want to read more.

Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pakistan Bears Watching

William Katz, blogging at Urban Agenda, has been telling his readers for weeks now that Pakistan is at the tipping point. His report tonight is not good. Carefully note his comment on Hillary Clinton's remarks on the situation. Could she be posturing for another run in 2012? Kudos to Katz for his incisive, concise observations. Keep reading him. I hope somebody in the White House is.

Driving The Future

Growing up in the '50s and '60, I remember how every guy looked forward to Fall and the introduction of Detroit's new line-up of automobiles for the coming year. My family had the honor of buying two of General Motor's finest products, a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Hardtop and a 1968 Camaro Sport Coupe. These days, Detroit's new models aren't on my mind, but I really wish those two cars were still in my garage.

That doesn't mean I'm stuck in the past. There is a new car that is about to go into production for sale in California. It's called the Aptera. I've been watching its development for about two years. The vehicle is unlike anything coming out of Detroit or anywhere else. Instapundit provides us with a link to a test drive by Wired Magazine. There's much more information at the Aptera Motors website. How would you like to pick up your date in an Aptera?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What's Up With Fox News?

Anybody notice that Fox News seems to be getting a bit "edgy" lately? I wonder if they're moving right of the perceived right-center orientation of their past news programs. Of course, the opinion programs, e.g., O'Reilly, can go where they may as they are not intended to be "straight news." I am concerned about Glenn Beck though. Since moving from CNN to Fox News, he seems to be delivering opinion while on some new and disagreeable medication.

We know the purpose behind television programming is selling soap. The top entertainment sells the most soap. Unfortunately, the entertainment that has broad appeal is very often not the best. Fox News has made a good run at delivering news and opinion over the past decade. I hope this recent condition doesn't translate into a permanent trend.

Charles Johnson, at Little Green Footballs, provides an example of the same behavior on a Fox News online program hosted by Andrew Napolitano.

Redoubt Volcano: Perfect Outdoor Classroom

Redoubt Volcano has put on a modest show for watchers mostly due to the endless periods of poor visibility. For volcanologists, it's been a very willing subject. Redoubt is a stratovolcano, rather ordinary, but subject to catastrophic explosive eruptions and, therefore, very dangerous. Thankfully, scientists know enough about the behavior of volcanoes to recognize the high risk factors and plan their on-site visits accordingly. Still, they also know that work on Redoubt's slopes or in the skies above the cone always presents serious danger.

Weather conditions have improved significantly so you can find several photographs on the Alaska Volcano Observatory's Redoubt website. Those interested in learning more about the science behind the images will find a world of information there as well.

Redoubt is building a significant lava dome in its summit crater. Such activity often preceeds explosive eruptions. I think we'll be hearing more than rumbling from this volcano in the near future.

Photo: David Wartinbee

Nothing Good Can Come of This

The idea of prosecuting a lawyer because he wrote a legal analysis with which the current Attorney General disagrees is so outrageous that I can't believe it would be seriously considered.
Read the rest of John Hinderaker's opinion on prosecuting attorneys in the Bush Justice Department.

Monday, April 20, 2009

"Spengler" Revealed

For several years, columns written under the name "Spengler" have appeared occasionally on my screen. He was self-revealed last week to be David P. Goldman, ending plenty of speculation on the Internet. John Derbyshire, at NRO's The Corner, brings to our attention Goldman's interpretation of popular culture and its linkage to the "decline of the west." Spengler's example is Susan Boyle, a frumpy Scottish singer recently "discovered" on British television's Britain's Got Talent. No doubt about it, Boyle can sing, but Spengler makes some brilliant points about Western perceptions and values. If you follow the link to the full article, you may find yourself willing to explore "The Complete Spengler" link on the same page. I don't expect you to agree with everything you read there; however, you'll come away having read some outstanding essays and primed to ponder issues of our times.

Goldman is now the assistant editor of First Things, " a journal of religion, culture and public life," and can be read at

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Could It Replace Waterboarding?

The film, Che, was released last December. Its production and marketing costs were between $40 million and $60 million. To date, it has earned slightly more than $1 million. At this rate, it will soon be known as Hollywood's biggest all-time box office bomb. Henry Louis Gomez, at Babalu, provides some commentary and a link to the story here.

Mel Brooks or Woody Allen could have turned a big profit on this subject as a mockumentary musical comedy. Perhaps we should simply thank the director, Steven Soderbergh, for creating a remarkably effective interrogation technique at no cost to the government. As for that bottom line, I hope he lost only his money in this disaster. Also like to think he learned a lesson or two.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Showing the Flag

Outside the Beltway has a post today about the difficulty of managing the pirate issue off Somalia. It mentions that there are "fewer than 250 American-flagged vessels of over 1000 tons" operating on the world's oceans. I'm amazed at this. The country must have some stiff requirements, fees or other significant disincentives impacting registration under the Stars and Stripes.


H.G. Wells probably got it right when nature's biological weapons took care of the Martians in his book, War of the Worlds. I watched George Pal's 1953 film adaptation of that book with a group of older cousins. We were lying on blankets at a drive-in theater under a canopy of stars. That night, any one of those twinkling lights overhead could have been a Martian spacecraft on its way to Earth. I was seven that year, perhaps a bit young to be watching such an impressionable film, but I survived and went on to enjoy all the decades of horror Hollywood could produce.

Interestingly, the same year that War of the Worlds hit the screen for the first time, Dr. Jonas Salk announced a vaccine to prevent poliomyelitis. The disease had become the most terrifying public health issue in the post-war U.S. Attacking mostly children, there were tens of thousands of cases each year and, up to 1952, the numbers were increasing. Today polio is on the threshold of eradication. That could have been said for other diseases a decade ago, but now they are a growing threat, especially among what the London Daily Mail calls the "Victorian" diseases. The reason: unwarranted fear of the DTP and MMR vaccines.

Granted, any medical procedure or application of medical science involves some risk to health. Where there is too much risk or flawed research or outright crime, appropriate actions must be taken. But risk to life safety is inevitable. Weighing those risks is a personal decision that should be based on reasonable evidence. Too often, we do not hear the good news verifying low risk to health and safety. Instead, we hear the opposite, and it can be news based on the persuasive performances of trial lawyers out to win a living, not earn the truth. In this climate, exacerbated by mistrust, emotion and fear, we can lose site of that reasonable evidence and place ourselves and those we love at serious risk.

Diphtheria, tetanus. pertussis (whooping cough) - DTP - and measles, mumps, and rubella - MMR - the diseases that ravaged our ancestors, are now ascending in many parts of the developed world. All of these diseases could be prevented easily with injections of vaccines that have very, very low risks. Virtually all medical professionals recommend the vaccinations rather than risking damage or death from the diseases. Given the much higher risks we take for granted everyday, the risks from a vaccination seem more than acceptable. Why give these biological weapons the advantage? If we ignore them, they could win the war of this world.

Friday, April 17, 2009

More Thoughts On The Weimar Effect

In earlier posts, you've read my thoughts about something I've come to call the Weimar Effect. It is a process and product taken from the history of the Weimar Republic, a 24 year period in Germany beginning in 1919 and ending with the rise of Adolf Hitler. Although the arts flourished in those years, German society was wracked by almost constant political division, violence, hyperinflation and a loss of meaning among a once-proud people. The effect ends in pathology.

Yesterday, Shrinkwrapped completed a five part series addressing the effects of modernity on demographics. Much of what he writes about resembles the German experience during the Weimar years. It also applies to the present-day West and our conflict with radical Islam. Here is his summary statement:

I have suggested that the collapse of Communism led to a collapse of meaning in Russia and is contributory to Russia's demographic collapse. I have suggested that the collapse of meaning in the increasingly narcissistic (and solipsistic) West (the death of G-d and His replacement by secular religious beliefs, such as Anthropogenic Global Warming) is contributory to [the] West's demographic collapse. Islam has presented itself as the final ideology, the supplier of all meaning, yet two of the most ideological Islamic societies are in various stages of demographic decline.
The meaning offered by Islamism involves the idealization of death. A society that idealizes death cannot long survive once it[s] people gain the ability to make choices.
It remains an interesting and indisputable fact that the modern societies that continue to grow, that have children and are future oriented, are those societies that embrace life. It is American Christians and Orthodox Jews who still believe in large families. The implications of this are far reaching and should be thought provoking.
Tackling Shrinkwrapped's well-reasoned article will require attention and commitment. Read it and grow. Here is a link to the the first post. Others in the series can be accessed from that page, left column, under "Recent Posts." Read the comments for some significant first-person observations.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tea And Sympathy

From all accounts, the national tea party held in 750 cities yesterday attracted around 500,000 people. It was good to see citizens exercising their freedom of expression regardless of political persuasions. The diffuse themes, varied programs, and range of attendance supported the belief that the parties were a grass roots effort.

The Atlanta party drew about 15,000 participants to the Georgia State Capitol steps. I'd say it was a typical political rally except for the hype added by the live broadcast of the Sean Hannity Show which began at the conclusion of the official rally. Actually, the Hannity program suffered from a sense of forced spontaneity. It came across to me like a premiere in need of a few more rehearsals. In addition, there were some less than inspiring interviews. I didn't watch much of the event, but I'll bet Hannity was glad to see it end; however, his program did attract 3.2 million cable viewers in prime time.

Interestingly, Fox News crushed the cable opposition yesterday. Perhaps that was expected as Fox is generally regarded as a right-leaning organization and the tea parties played to a primarily right-center audience. You'll get no argument from me on that issue; however, I do believe the network surely approaches better balance in comparison to its competition. That leads me to the "sympathy." Once again, I'm feeling for CNN as its viewership decline continues. The network has undergone several programming and staff changes in an attempt to stem viewer loss. Some changes appear to have worked, but the network still suffers from serious pitfalls. I liken it to rearranging the deck chairs on the RMS Titanic which, by coincidence, sank April 15, 1912. The CNN "deckhand" who rearranged the most chairs yesterday was Susan Roesqen. Here's why:

Is this journalism? Sadly, no. She helped sink CNN yesterday, but don't worry about her. She has a lifeboat called NPR and your tax dollars help keep it afloat. Isn't that special.

Charlie Chaplin

If you took a photograph of the "Little Tramp" to almost any corner of the world touched by Western culture, chances are, someone would recognize it. That's a powerful statement given that the character hasn't appeared in a film for over seventy years. Greatness persists. And so it is with Charlie Chaplin, born on this date in London in 1889.

In his 88 years, he graced the world of entertainment as a performer, director, producer, businessman, and composer. His concern for everyday people and their often difficult lives was a common theme in virtually all his films as well as his private life. Such humanitarian sympathies led him to ally with well-known leftist in the U.S. and eventually leave the country in the early 1950s. Through it all, his endearing, bumbling, yet refined, tramp brought laughter and awareness to millions.

Take some time today to visit Chaplin's official site. The biography page is especially useful, providing information about nine "masterpiece features" and a complete filmography.

Below, watch Chaplin at his best - with a variation of the "Tramp" - portraying Adenoid Hynkel, dictator of Tomainia, as he contemplates ruling the world. Any resemblance between Adenoid Hynkel and Adolph Hilter is completely intentional. If you have not watched The Great Dictator (1940), add it to your queue today. You'll love it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Joe Biden Keeps HIS Money

This should be an eye-opener, especially for liberals. How much did you give to charity in the last decade? The Volokh Conspiracy reports the following:

Between 1998 and 2006, Joe Biden contributed between $120 and $380 a year to charity, according to his tax returns, on AGIs [adjusted gross incomes] of $210,000 and $321,100. Imagine if he hadn't been thinking of running for president.
If this is true, it speaks directly to the mythology surrounding liberals as sympathetic to the interests of people in need. Indeed, many liberals I know are very generous people. The difference is that my acquaintances earn far less than Biden.

Thanks to Glenn Reynolds and Instapundit for the story.

Care For Some Tea?

Hundreds of tea parties across the U.S. today will draw millions of concerned taxpayers from the left, the right and in between. My son will be attending the Atlanta party. OTR will have a report up early tomorrow.

UPDATE: OTR's reporter will not be on site; however, do look for a post, as planned.

Forms Follow Functions

Here's a little diversion for Tax Day as well as Tea Party Day. This link, courtesy of Instapundit, shows the evolution of the federal tax from from 1913 to 2006. Will the form's increasing complexity lead to just one line reading, "Send in all income?" I've had a few years that seemed so.

We've come a long way from 1913 when the maximum tax was 6 per cent. Imagine that.

More Cash For Castro?

Babalu has more on the trickle down economics going on in Cuba regarding the easing of monetary remittances during the Bush years. Seems that the regime only pocketed about 250 million dollars over those few years. Will even more money go to subsidize this dictatorship? Read the post here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

More(on) Black Caucus and Cuba

Here's another take on the CBC pilgrimage to Fidel's "Freedonia." The only certified winner in this game is the Castro family. In 2006, Forbes Magazine named Fidel Castro as the world's seventh richest "leader." His fortune, skimmed from island tourism, retail and drug industries, was estimated at 900 million dollars.

Obama's Mirage Economics

Remember my post some time ago about economics as the best understood and most predictable of the "social" sciences? This morning, Blue Crab Boulevard has a link to Robert Samuelson's article on the impacts of Obama's "cap and trade" environmental policy. Discarding policies that have raised living standards for hundreds of millions of people over the past three centuries doesn't make sense. Read about it here.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Canada Eh!

Love those Canadians. My family took a long vacation in Canada when I was 14. We traveled from Windsor to the Gaspe Peninsula over the course of almost three weeks. The people were friendly, helpful and eager to show off their culture even in the smaller towns in Quebec where we had been told to expect a cool reception. In Wisconsin, forty years later, I had the opportunity to spend two intense weeks each year for a five year period with about 50 Canadians. Nothing changed. They were a diverse collection of smiling faces and very generous with their time and talents. Whether it was the "high-test" beer they smuggled into the country or the poutine they prepared, I always looked forward to seeing the old and new folks from the north.

Apparently, not all Canadians share the love when it comes to their southern neighbors. I can understand. So how do you interpret this hostility if you hold dual citizenship? For one answer. check out this hilarious post at Big Hollywood . When you stop laughing, go pay your respects with some poutine and a Molson's.

Black Caucus Enjoys Tropical Kool Aid

My friends, I cannot confirm some essential information for an original post on the Congressional Black Caucus and their recent visit to Cuba . My story must wait, but the truth about this outrageous incident can't, so here is a link to Michelle Malkin's post on the issue.

The following members made the trip:

Barbara Lee (D-CA, 9th District)
Laura Richardson (D-CA, 37th District)
Mike Honda (D-CA, 15th District)
Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO, 5th District)
Bobby Rush (D-IL, 1st District)
Marcia Fudge (D-OH, 11th District)
Mel Watt (D-NC, 12th District)

These seven people are either profoundly stupid - lacking in intelligence - or cheerfully promoting a collectivist America in place of the constitutional republic we now enjoy. These people are dangerous. You can hear just how clueless they are in this collection of sound bites courtesy of Rush Limbaugh:

Holy Saturday

from Death on a Friday Afternoon, by Richard Neuhaus:

Holy Saturday . . . is the sound of perfect silence. Yesterday's mockery, the good thief's prayer, the cry of deriliction - all of that is past now. Mary has dried her tears, and the whole creation is still, waiting for what will happen next.
Read the longer quotation in Kathryn Jean Lopez's NRO post here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday 2009

El Greco, 1580

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fidel's Cuba: Paradise Lost

OTR is deeply disturbed by the Congressional Black Caucus's fawning before the communist dictator of Cuba. He has a draft post addressing this issue, but is awaiting confirmation of a few details before committing an article to the universe. He's finding it hard to contain the anger and using this alert as a vent.

Maundy Thursday

Mandatum novem do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos.
(A new commandment I give unto you. That ye love one another as I have loved you.)

Today is the fifth day of Holy Week, commemorating Jesus Christ's washing of his disciples' feet, the institution of Holy Communion, His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, and Judas Iscariot's betrayal of Christ.

From John 13:1-15 CEV:

It was before Passover, and Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and return to the Father. He had always loved his followers in this world and he loved them to the very end.

Even before the evening meal started, the devil had made Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, decide to betray Jesus.

Jesus knew that he had come from God and would go back to God. He also knew that the Father had given him complete power. So during the meal Jesus got up, removed his outer gaarment and wrapped a towel around his waist. He put some water into a large bowl. Then he began washing his disciples' feet and drying them with the towel he was wearing.

But when he came to Simon Peter, that disciple asked, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"
Jesus answered, "You don't really know what I'm doing, but later you will understand."
"You will never wash my feet!" Peter replied.
"If I don't wash you," Jesus told him, "you really don't belong to me."
Peter said, "Lord, don't wash just my feet. Wash my hands and my head."
Jesus answered, "People who have bathed and are clean all over need to wash just their feet. And you, my disciples, are clean except for one of you."
Jesus knew who would betray him. That is why he said, "except for one of you."

After Jesus had washed his disciples' feet and had put his outer garment back on, he sat down again. Then he said:

Do you understand what I have done? You call me your teacher and Lord, and you should because that is who I am. And if your Lord and teacher has washed your feet, you should do the same for each other. I have set the example, and you should do for each other exactly what I have done for you.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Under Fire in Afghanistan

"Don't worry . . . We're armored and heavily armed when we go out."

My son assured me that his NATO keepers took good care of their civilian employees. He was right. Yesterday, he emailed this picture showing how a Taliban sympathizer tested the bullet-resistant glass on their SUV.

The first installment of his Afghanistan experience is still in draft on my computer. I asked him to report primarily on people, daily life and the culture at large, and balance it with the military presence. What could fulfill that request better than the picture of a solitary vendor patiently waiting for customers at his colorful stand as seen through a bullet-marred window? My wishes for a deep depth of field on Afghanistan have been put into a very proper perspective.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Update: A Thousand Words

It seems that President George W. Bush "bowed" to have a medal placed around his neck by none other than King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. LGF has the video here and some good points about our diplomatic history. He got a handshake and a kiss, too, but he didn't bow on greeting the king. We really don't need to be this nice to "friends" while they happily fund those intent on submission or death for infidels.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday

Today is Palm Sunday, the last Sunday of Lent. On this day, Christians around the world will commemorate the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and the beginning of Holy Week.

All glory, laud, and honor to you Redeemer King,
To whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.

You are the king of Israel and David's royal Son,
Now in the Lord's name coming, our King and Blessed One.

The company of angels are praising you on high;
Creation and all mortals in chorus make reply.

The multitude of pilgrims with palms before you went,
Our praise and prayer and anthems before you we present.

To you, before your Passion, they sang their hymns of praise.
To you, now high exalted, our melody we raise.

Their praises you accepted; accept the prayers we bring,
Great author of all goodness, all good and gracious King.

All glory, laud and honor to you, Redeemer King,
To whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.

Theodulf of Orleans, 750/760-821

[The postcard, printed in Germany before 1914, is from the family archive.]

Get Hooked on College Lacrosse

I'm writing this for my readers today because I missed a televised lacrosse game last week. Never again. That game saw my beloved Terps lose to the top-ranked Cavaliers, 10-9, in seven overtimes. Yes, it was seven overtimes. Ties don't exist in this game. It was the longest lacrosse game in NCAA history. No doubt one of the most exciting as well.

Lacrosse is an ancient American sport, dating from about 1000 C.E. In it's early days, lacrosse had a religious significance. A game could consist of as many as a few thousand players and the losing side sometimes paid with their lives. Fast forward to today and you could say the game still has that religious fervor if you live from Maryland to New England, that part of the country where three- year-old boys get little lacrosse sticks for Christmas. These days, the teams are a bit smaller - ten players on each side - and there's almost always some bloodshed - cuts and scrapes - but it's during play.

Lacrosse is fast and furious requiring superb conditioning and a multiplicity of skills. If you can't stand soccer because you're always thinking "pick up the ball," you will love lacrosse. Currently, it may be the fastest growing team sport in the country. In Atlanta, many prep schools already playing the game now have competition from teams representing several public school systems. I expect the regional universities may raise their club teams to "official" status and join in NCAA play in a few years.

Thanks to ESPN, you will have an opportunity to see some top college games in April and May, including the men's NCAA Division I finals hosted by Harvard at Gillette Stadium, Boston. Check the schedule here. Most of games are on ESPNU; however, you can watch Virginia at Duke on ESPN2 on April 11 at 4:00 ET, the semifinal games on ESPN2 on May 23 at noon and 2:00 ET, and the championship match on ESPN on May 25 at 1:00 ET. Put those three dates on your calendar now. You'll be watching the "fastest game on two feet."

Game photo: Daniel Steger

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Thousand Words

Yes. This is our president bowing to a king who rules a state where human trafficking and involuntary servitude - the nice way of saying "slavery" - are part of everyday life. Bowing wasn't required or suggested by protocol. In 2009, why would any black American honor a slave-holding king with a bow? I'll bet you won't see this appalling behavior anywhere in the MSM.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Pigasus Awards

If you've been visiting this site for awhile, you know OTR appreciates logic and reason when it come to observing the world around us. Whenever there's a chance to expose the snake oil salesmen, you'll read about it here. That brings us to the Pigasus Awards. These annual prizes are the brainchild of James Randi, magician, escape artist, skeptic and educator. The video of Randi - humorous, engaging and easy to listen to - describing the 2009 winners is available here. Aren't you glad pigs won't be flying anytime soon?

Tea Is The New Coffee

The news in this Wired blog is music to my ears. After years of being relegated far down the list of preferred beverages in the U.S., tea is on a rapid rise in popularity. I' enjoy carefully brewed coffee, but enjoy tea as well. Just imagine the varieties of bulk tea that will soon be in the Publix near you.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Emmylou Harris, my "sweetheart of the rodeo," was born on this day in 1947. She played many of the local clubs and coffee houses in and around DC when I was there around 1970. Unfortunately, I wasn't into the folk-blue grass sound at the time and, therefore, not in the audience. Still, it was impossible not to see and hear the advertising in and around Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Silver Spring. Eventually, she moved to Los Angeles to work with Gram Parsons and his band, The Grievous Angels. When he died in 1973, she was devastated, but carried on Parsons's search for the fusion sound he called "cosmic American music." Two years later, with the release of her album, Pieces of the Sky, she was on her way. The sound Harris and Parsons produced in their short time together would have a significant impact on decades of folk, rock, and country music to follow.

Here is the song she wrote with Bill Danoff as a tribute to Parsons:

Harris's career as a songwriter and entertainer just seems to keep going and going without an end in sight. I say, "Let it go!"

If you're interested in a detailed biography, this link will suffice.
Photo, top left: Yogibones