Friday, July 31, 2009

White House Friday Afternoon News Dump

Late this afternoon, the Department of Defense released several photographs and documentation of that Air Force One flyover of New York City that produced great embarrassment for the administration. Here's a link, courtesy of Michelle Malkin's blog.

Not too impressive, as photos go these days, but DOD was probably wise in not doctoring them, as Malkin's posts notes. Visibility in the Big Apple was poor, as well.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Old Perfesser

For a kid born in 1946 and growing up in Lefty Grove's Georges Creek Valley, playing baseball should be a natural. Sometime it doesn't work out that way. Rotten vision and Coke bottle bottom glasses rendered me useless on a baseball diamond, so I didn't play organized ball with my pals. On the other hand, I followed the sport just as fiercely, collecting my hundreds of baseball cards, listening to - later watching - the Washington Senators and the Baltimore Orioles, and arguing about those Yankees, love 'em or
hate 'em.

Whether you love or hate the Yankees really doesn't matter today. It's simply a great day in baseball history for a beloved man of the game who happened to do well - very well - with the Yankees. His name was Casey Stengel, born on July 30, 1890, in Kansas City. Stengel took over as the Yankees' manager in 1949 and won the World Series championship. They won again in 1950. And 1951, 1952, and 1953. It's a record of consecutive wins that still stands. Stengel went on to win two more championships with the Yankees in 1956 and 1958.

He retired in 1960 only to return to the game two years later as manager of the "Lovable Losers", the New York Mets. Fans loved them and their "Old Perfesser" coach who captivated the press and broadcast media with his quips and comments, delivered in his famous "Stengelese" style, nurtured over his rich career.

To learn more about Casey Stengel, visit his Baseball Hall of Fame page here. The page links to some good multimedia features, as well. Link to Wikipedia's more extensive biography here. The Official Casey Stengel Site has a great list of quotes here.

I left Georges Creek Valley in 1956 and have no idea what happened to my baseball pals. For certain, most of them left Appalachia in search of a better life. But regardless of their destinations, I imagine baseball was never left behind. Though we are pulled in many directions, and obligations place demands on our leisure, the old pastime is still with us, thanks to icons like Stengel. If you want to honor the old man, I can't think of a better way than gathering all the men and boys in the family - and the girls who'll understand - sitting them down for two hours and watching Field of Dreams. Chances are, Casey will drop by.

On second thought, I think the girls can find something else to do.

Winners And Losers

The state-run media certainly isn't talking about it and there's hardly a murmur on the Internet, but there's something going on. President Obama's poll numbers continued to tank over the past two weeks. The economic news stayed fairly grim during the period. Democrats, the coalition of the oppressed, came unhinged over health care legislation. Through it all, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&p 500 Index both gained approximately 12% over the same period. Imagine that.

"Follow the money" was an operative phrase I learned a long time ago well before it became popular during the Watergate years. Could it be that the market rally comes directly out of a realization that this clearly anti-capitalist administration is in deep trouble with independent and center left voters? Keep this in mind over the next few weeks. The first hints will come from the conservative blogosphere. Also pay attention to the White House Friday afternoon news dumps to see how they handle the public announcements of news they would rather leave unsaid. Finally, look for reactions from the centrist press and conservative columnists.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Left Behind

Abandoned places seem to fascinate us regardless of their age. Perhaps the former inhabitants leave behind an aura and we, by nature, seek fellowship with the energies they leave behind. Sometimes there is in abandonment a sense of haste and hopelessness. This school was left behind in 2007.

Moonbattery has the details and comments here. Link directly to the original source and more pictures here.

Reserved For The States

Mark Steyn has a short and spot on comment about why unread thousand page bills make no sense for our republic.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Massive New York Times Correction

The nation's "newspaper of record" continues its transformation into the "newspaper of wreckage." You would think the copy editors - they do have a few, I trust - could catch a series of errors about a hero journalist like Walter Cronkite, given all the technology these days. Alas, they could not, and have issued a massive correction that should rattle any reader's confidence in their ability to produce trustworthy journalism.

Read it here, thanks to Powerline.

Dash Snow: Art Circle Jerk

Dash Snow caught the attention of the art world a few years ago with his headline collages, pictures of oral sex, nude girls, cocaine being snorted off body parts, and "making art by ejaculating on copies of The New York Post." His "art" soon caught on with the patrons who gladly paid five figures to have a Snow in the house. About two weeks ago, he died of a drug overdose at the age of 27, the quintessential up and coming artist.

The New York Times gave him a one-page obituary on July 15 followed by three pages on July 24 delving into his family, his world, his troubled last days, and his "contribution" to art. It reads like a parody. Susan Alexander's opera career comes to mind. It says as much about the state of the Times and the art world as it does about an immensely rich, overindulged, degenerate, angry, lost soul hellbent on self-destruction.

You may ask how 20th century art in the United States got to where it is today. In his wonderful little essay, The Painted Word, written in 1975, Tom Wolfe took art critics and modern art to the woodshed for a good thrashing. Obviously, it was not well received among art circles, but much of what he said has played out into reality in the past three decades.

Basically, his thesis described modern art as having lost all sense of art itself, emerging as theory represented by words spewing from a tight circle of critics. I don't agree with Wolfe completely. We still have "artists" expressing themselves, but it's another world:

"In the beginning we got rid of nineteenth-century storybook realism. Then we got rid of representational objects. Then we got rid of the third dimension altogether and got really flat (Abstract Expressionism). Then we got rid of airiness, brushstrokes, most of the paint, and the last viruses of drawing and complicated designs". After providing examples of other techniques and the schools that abandoned them, Wolfe concluded with conceptual art: "…there, at last, it was! No more realism, no more representation objects, no more lines, colors, forms, and contours, no more pigments, no more brushstrokes. … Art made its final flight, climbed higher and higher in an ever-decreasing tighter-turning spiral until…it disappeared up its own fundamental aperture…and came out the other side as Art Theory! [Wikipedia: The Painted Word]
I'm saddened by Snow's death and angered, first, that there was no successful intervention somewhere in his life, and second, that our society has devalued art so much that talent is no longer required. Today, art happens, anything goes. This is why I draw my Weimar Republic parallels you have read about earlier on OTR.

Credit my daughter with tipping me off to the Instapundit post and its link to Althouse where the comments are a must read.

Lets Talk About Race. Who's Wants To Be First?

Andrew Breitbart has a fine column today about President Obama's accidental gift on race. Here's a sample"

Americans, especially nonblacks are fearful that the dynamic is predicated on an un-American premise: presumed guilt. Under the extra constitutional reign of political correctness, liberalism's brand of soft Sharia law, must be proved ex post facto.

Think not? Ask the Duke lacrosse team, which had 88 of the school's professors signed a petition that presumed their guilt before their side of the story was known. Even though the white athletes were exonerated and the liberal district attorney who pushed the case was dethroned, disbarred, and disgraced, the professoriate that assigned guilt to its own students still refuses to apologize.

Those signatories constituted 90% of Duke's African and African-American Studies Department, the subject matter domain of Mr. Gates, Michael Eric Dyson, Cornell West, and other tenure-wielding, highfalutin, iambic-pentameter-filibustering race-baiters, and 60% of Duke's women's studies department, another hotbed of victimology posing as intellectualism.
Read the rest of the story here.
Thanks to Instapundit for the link.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

You'll Shoot Your Eye Out!

If you mention "Ralphie" and "Red Ryder BB gun" in the same breath, I'd say most people could make an immediate connection with the film, A Christmas Story, and it's famous line that is the title of this entry. On the other hand, most people probably know very little about the remarkable personality behind that story. His name is Jean Shepherd. He was born on this day in 1921 on Chicago's south side and raised in nearby Hammond, Indiana.

Following service in World War II, Shepherd went on to a career in broadcasting, writing, film, and live performance. In radio, he was the voice of a late night show for over twenty years - all unscripted - on New York's WOR where he entertained listeners with his humorous stories, interviews, and practical jokes. Shepherd hosted a television show for WOR as well, but he is best remembered in video narrating a number of productions based on his stories of growing up in the Midwest. Many of the scripts were so popular they later appeared in print.

Of course, his best known contribution to American humor is A Christmas Story, a compilation of stories and characters drawn from his earlier work. It was originally produced as a feature film in 1983 and made the transition into a television classic, thanks to the persistence of Ted Turner. Almost any man born before 1950 has lived some or all of Ralphie's/Shep's childhood. Each man's path to adulthood is his own, but the markers are identical. Jean Shepherd was a genius at capturing them. And his skills as a narrator made him a natural at weaving the common threads into humorous and entertaining listening.

I find Shepherd's personal path in the American experience a most interesting one. Although he surely had the talent to become a well-known national treasure, radio did not provide him coast-to-coast exposure available with the new medium of television. He was fiercely independent, a maverick, and one not to take life too seriously. I can imagine he was a threat to the ego of more than one radio executive. Furthermore, he was a "night owl" on radio, broadcasting to a dedicated but smaller audience, and in direct competition with televised local news and the likes of Johnny Carson and The Tonight Show. In fact, a Wikipedia entry, not verified, notes that Shepherd was in line to take over The Tonight Show with Steve Allen's departure in 1957, but Jack Paar had the right of first refusal with the NBC network. Paar unexpectedly accepted, thus, denying Shepherd his big break on one of television's most popular shows. Finally, from my research, it seems Shepherd maligned his radio work when he moved into writing film for television in the '70s. Indeed, it apparently was a clean break - maybe the execs were happier without him - and he did go on to success with films, including The Phantom of the Open Hearth, The Great American Fourth of July and Other Disasters, and Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss. Still, I think the fates denied Shep the opportunity to become a big television star in the 1950's and much better well-known in his lifetime. This strikes me as unfortunate because humorists, especially, should enjoy the recognition while they're alive because psychologists tell us much of their success originates in past hardships. I do hope he was happy with his professional life as it most certainly overshadowed his four marriages and two children.

Jean Shepherd died ten years ago in Florida, known primarily for one film produced in 1983 when he was 62. There's much more creativity to him than that. I hope more people come to enjoy his work as it ages into fine wine expressing one man's harvest of life in 20th century America.

Walter Cronkite, The Sailor

A few days ago I made a comment about remembering Cronkite at the helm sailing with his family. This article appeared this morning in The Baltimore Sun, elaborating on him as a sailor and his fondness for Chesapeake Bay. It's full of some beautiful imagery so I thought my reader would enjoy it.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama Falls Below 50% Approval In Rasmussen Poll

This is the first time President Obama's overall approval rating has fallen below 50% in the Rasmussen daily tracking poll of likely voters. Rasmussen is the tracker to watch because it is the recognized leader in polling accuracy. This story is everywhere on the Internet. Here is the original post.

A Gatesgate Update

Sorry, but I couldn't help but borrow this from Mark Kirkorian at The Corner:

Shamelessly accurate, I'd say.

Mark Steyn adds his touch here. Thanks to Urgent Agenda for the link.

Entertaining History

Matt Patterson is a National Review Institute Washington fellow who enjoys history, but he has mixed feelings - most of us do - about The History Channel as a source. He consulted with two leading historians, Victor Davis Hanson and Susan Wise Bauer for their opinions, and presents it all in an entertaining History essay at NRO. I think you'll be surprised.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Prosperity By Referendum

Is there any leader among Michigan Democrats who took Economics 101 in school? From the latest news coming out of party headquarters in Lansing, I'd say they couldn't reconcile a checkbook, let alone address supply and demand. The most astounding proposal is a referendum on raising the state minimum wage to $10 an hour or 30% more than the federal wage. I didn't realize there was so much excess wealth in the Automotive State.

Michigan has bled jobs for thirty years. Detroit and Flint now symbolize the nation's post-industrial decline. Under pro-union Governor Jennifer Granholm, an Ivy League leftist shaped by the machine politics of Detroit, nanny statism will continue to grow at least through the end of her term in 2011. Most economists would tell us that the best hope for prosperity in the United States rests in the nation's millions of small businesses. Raising the costs of small businesses in Michigan by 30% would be disastrous for existing companies and a risible disincentive for potential ones. And placing the decision in the hands of an electorate hungry for high wages makes little sense as well. Perhaps they'll come to their senses and avoid the massive layoffs that will surely follow if voters approve the increase. I have my doubts.

Either way, I'm sure the party in power will find some way - stimulus funds - to throw billions in tax revenues into massive infrastructure projects. And, should that wage increase be approved, all those rebuilt interstates will make it much easier for businesses owners and the unemployed to escape the madness.

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Personally, I was hoping this incident would blow over quickly, as I have tremendous respect for Henry Louis Gates. We grew up about one mile from each other, but in separate worlds. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen. President Obama leaped into the fray at his news conference yesterday when he stated that the Cambridge Police acted "stupidly" in arresting Gates for disorderly conduct. Obama may claim to be the great unifier, but he seems to be playing with a full deck of race cards and little knowledge of the facts of the case. You can decide for yourself with the help a few links:

Here's the police report. Here's a perspective on Obama's comment. And here's the arresting officer's position.

I think all three need a session in the time out chair. Separated, of course.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

New Zealand Lurches Toward Australia

How well I remember the excitement over the theory of plate tectonics - and confirmation of continental drift - that emerged among geomorphologists in the late '60s.

Last week's earthquake off New Zealand moved South Island twelve inches closer to Australia. Geologists called it a subduction thrust rupture on the boundary of the Australian and Pacific continental plates. The 7.8 magnitude quake was the strongest shaker in New Zealand since 1931. Natural events like this one help me put anthropogenic impacts on Earth into perspective.

Medieval English Soldier Database

Researchers in military history now have a tremendous new source of original materials on line. It's the Medieval Soldier Database containing the service records of over 250,000 English soldiers enrolled between 1369 and 1453.

Years ago in college, I read a fascinating little book by H.S. Bennett entitled, Six Medieval Men and Women (1955). Only one of Bennett's subjects was what we would call an ordinary person in everyday life. This new database contains the records of thousands of common soldiers. Although it's unlikely that an author could build an essay on one person from the database alone, composite profiles are likely to reveal new details about common people in medieval England. Yes, it's a very small window for a equally small group of researchers, but the database illustrates the power of information technology to both organize, distribute and enliven source materials that would otherwise rest quietly in some obscure archive.

Check out the BBC News article here. Your direct link to the database is here. My source: The Corner.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Paradigm Shifts In Education Coming Fast

The psychiatrist blogging as Shrinkwrapped has some thoughts on the coming paradigm shifts in education that may lead to individualized teaching. Once more, neuroscience plays a prominent role in this exciting transformation.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Carnival Of Space

Glenn Reynolds found a really well done Carnival of Space blog themed on the 40th anniversary of the first manned landing on the Moon. I concur with Reynolds's assessment, certainly can't improve on the post, so simply offer it to you.

Also, on this special day, I thought you would enjoy a photograph of the spectacular "Space Window" at the Washington National Cathedral. The black dot in the center of the red circle contains a lunar rock collected during the Apollo 11 landing.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

God Tells Governor Sanford To Stay

Well, I'm glad that's cleared up. After all, the same strategy worked temporarily for the PTL - pass the loot - crowd in upcountry South Carolina and for many national televangelists caught in similar circumstances in the past forty years. Unfortunately, Sanford is a politician and not subject to the forgiveness doctrines that have enabled his electric fraternity brothers to often escape the grosser punishments.

At this point, Sanford doesn't need political opposition to punish him. Every time he opens his mouth about his scandals it's like another scab ripped off a wound. One would think his political handlers could shut him up, better still, get him to resign. South Carolinians - and the Republican Party - deserve better than this pathetic philanderer and fraud. Read his latest scab here, in addition to some pointed comments, all thanks to South Carolina State House Blog. Story courtesy of LGF.

NASA's Full-Blown Purgatory

Tom Wolfe has an op-ed piece at The New York Times today. My suspicion is they could reverse their financial death spiral overnight by printing more of this quality more often. It may be tough to reverse the stream of leftist drivel one has come to expect after a long gestation beginning in earnest with Walter Duranty in the '30s.

My editorializing aside, Wolfe's analysis of our space program over the forty years following the first moon landing is bold and honest. As the author of The Right Stuff, he is well-positioned to address the place of space exploration in the American psyche. Furthermore, T.S. Eliot told us that old men should be explorers. At 78, Wolfe remains one of our best.

BTW The Right Stuff would make great summer reading this year.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Chappaquiddick Incident Forty Years Ago

Yes, this is the fortieth anniversary of Chappaquiddick. It's something you will not hear about in the state-run media. It is a defining moment when Ted Kennedy showed his true character. Scott Johnson has some brief comment on Powerline, then closes with this:
Ted Kennedy has styled himself an opponent of wealth and privilege, but his career is a tribute to their power when wielded by a man of the left. The lesson of Chappaquiddick thus remains timely forty years on.

The Gelded Age

For a hilarious appraisal of the Restore Our American Mustangs Act (ROAM), debated yesterday in the House, you need go no farther than Mark Steyn at NRO. This is $700 million of your tax money NOT for restoration, but for "managed care" of a mustang herd that doubles every four years. Currently there are 36,000 wild mustangs. With euthanasia out of the question, I'll leave the proposed solution(s) to your imagination.

Friday, July 17, 2009

You Are There

In my lifetime, I suppose I've watched thousands of CBS Evening News broadcasts anchored by Walter Cronkite. His death today reminds me that he had a great influence in shaping my interests in studying world history and the American experience. Cronkite first came into my world in 1953 as the host of You Are There, a weekly half hour, first-person reenactment of historical events. I was seven that year, and for the next four years Cronkite brought me and my family into some riveting historical events, including wars, disasters, political events, and discoveries. In 1957, Cronkite began hosting The Twentieth Century. The program was a weekly half-hour documentary featuring interviews, newsreels and other footage of significant events. It survived well into my college years in the mid-'60s.

Tomorrow, the news wires and blogs will be humming with the Cronkite biography, his influence on the anti-war movement and Vietnam, his political convention and election banter, his excitement over NASA and manned flight in space and the lunar landings, and his empathic words in time of national sorrow.

I can recall all of those events, but I would rather think of him interviewing George Washington crossing the Delaware on a bitter Christmas dawn. Why? I was there thanks to Walter Cronkite, a most powerful shaper of me, perhaps you, and without question, the American experience..

The Unsustainable Democrat Economy Leads To Disaster

This isn't me talking, it's the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. CBO bean counters have the rather awesome and tedious task of crunching numbers into some kind of reliable prediction of revenue flow into and out of the government's accounts. When they use the word "unsustainable," it's time to take notice. Yesterday, the CBO director testified before Congress that our economy is heading for disaster given the massive spending by Obama and the Democrats because "federal debt will continue to grow much faster than the economy over the long run." Here's a Washington Post article from late June addressing the growing issue. Here's a copy of yesterday's testimony. I get the feeling this administration is really bent on redefining my country into something I will not like.

Top Ten Endearing Habits Of A Geeky Spouse

This one was so on the mark that I am compelled to share it with OTR readers. The technical support habit, however, is the responsibility of my children. Source: Glenn Reynolds.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

California: 12% Of The National Population, 32% Of The Welfare Caseload

Yes, you read the headline correctly. The bellwether state of California has 12% of the population of the U.S. and 32% of the national welfare caseload. Is there any wonder the state is $40 billion in the hole and digging faster and deeper? The national implications are frightening.

You can see several graphic representations of this situation on U.S. Senate candidate, Chuck DeVore's website here.

Thanks to Mark Hemingway at NRO's The Corner.

Identity Cultivation

The instruction to choose your battles carefully is one of the best lessons in the book of life. I haven't much to say about the Sotomayor hearing this week simply because that axiom applies. When all of the testimonial dust settles, the Senate will confirm a liberal justice to replace a retiring liberal justice. But out of these give and take hearings on the inevitable there comes the back-story. It is the how and why behind a person at the threshold of the nation's last word on the law . In this NRO article, Heather Mac Donald provides us with some background on identity politics in today's law schools and how it shapes legal theory, young minds and the testimony of Supreme Court nominees.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Borderline Sociopathic Book For Boys

Guys, when our world isn't as comfortable as it should be, the place to go is The Borderline Sociopathic Book For Boys. This is a gold mine for edgy retirees like me who should have taken more leaps of faith before the arthritis set in. Check out another side of the man behind the blog at Sippican Cottage. Wish we lived closer. I'd like to talk to him over a table of Lowcountry boil and cold beer.

Let's Watch Mommy Explode For The Homeland

Hamas TV invited two young children to a special broadcast where they watched a reenactment of their mother's suicide bombing. Gateway Pundit has the video and comment. This is insane.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Soderbergh Snoozer Production

Humberto Fontova reports on Babalu that Steven Soderbergh's four-hour long simpatico biopic, entitled Che, has grossed about $30 million world-wide, including a total take of $293,708 in North America. The good news is the cost of production: $58 million. Che seemed to have had high production values and a quality cast, but the subject was a stinker. Soderbergh has every right to worry about his career.

Didn't see this film in theaters. Don't plan to put it in a Netflix queue either. And God help us if a musical gets to Broadway.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Grueling Pace At White House Is Downright Intoxicating

A staff job at the White House may sound great on the dinner party circuit, but the reality is something different. The price for the prestige, the honor of serving and the opportunity to build your resume is a work environment that would likely kill most of us or at least mangle our home life. Today's Washington Post presents a very accurate picture of what a West Wing job in the White House entails.

Aside from the high-profile jobs, there is a host ordinary people doing ordinary jobs for ordinary Federal Schedule pay. Nothing glamorous about that. Then there are the volunteers, some of the most dedicated and hard working - I would add most difficult to supervise - folks inside the White House fence.

I knew a few of those ordinary folks and met a few of the higher-ups as well during my time in Washington forty years ago. The pace was grinding then and in some respects - the Vietnam war was raging - may have been worse then. But that doesn't take away any of the respect I have for anyone working in the White House today. It's a tough job from top to bottom and no wonder that the pace is taking its toll just six months after the inauguration. It takes a special kind of person to accomplish the task and, very often than not, one who is in a" right place, right time" situation. For those dedicated servants who thrive on the excitement of the moment, it can be very rewarding. For most of us, forty hours will suffice. Having somewhat been there and done that in Washington, retirement will suffice, thank you.

Creative Solutions Department

Source: Scott Hussey via Moonbattery

The Cluelessness Continues At The White House

Power Line's John Hinderaker posts more about "Amateur Hour At The White House." I've had "Potomac Fever" for fifty years and never in those years witnessed such a struggle to approach competence. Either the career employees in the White House are too afraid to make suggestions or the Obama people are ignoring them.

William Katz (Urgent Agenda) had some comments today that apply to this dilemma:

We recall that Douglas MacArthur once said that all defeats begin with two words: Too late. Obama is learning. But, by the time he comes to the right conclusions and gets himself the right advisors, it may be too late. What was gained in the Western (i.e. American) victory in the Cold War can slip away.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Meritocracy's Limits

James Joyner (Outside The Beltway) has some significant personal observations on the limits of meritocracy as he discusses Stacy McCain's blog post on the same topic. Be sure to read McCain's post as well as the OTR links to the significance of unpaid internships to careers in public policy and media jobs. Joyner is correct that the subject of apprenticeships in Washington is fascinating and, I might add, one the power brokers would like you to overlook.

Bush Era "Crime Of The Week"

The New York Times headline screams that Dick Chaney ordered the CIA to withheld information from Congress about a secret counterintelligence program. William Katz says the rest of the article is full of caveats and leads one to conclude that Chaney "was acting well within the law and wise practice." Here's the Urgent Agenda post with a link to the NYT story.

Reference my post of last night, the Democrats are playing with fire.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Who Needs To Know What?

The news wires are humming with a statement from Gen. Michael Hayden that members of Congress were kept well-informed of agency activities regarding surveillance and other agency activities following the World Trade Center attack in 2001. Hayden's remarks deserve attention as he was the man in charge at the National Security Agency (1999-2005) and Central Intelligence Agency (2006-2009) while the questioned activities took place.

Let me say at the outset that any readers who think the NSA and CIA have been deceiving or lying to Congress over the past eight years on this issue are intoxicated on the conspiracy Kool Aid to the point of delusion. Yes, Richard Nixon did abuse his authority by using the CIA to thwart the FBI's investigation of the Watergate burglary. Yes, subsequent congressional investigations in the mid-70s revealed that the CIA had acted outside its legal authority. In the thirty years since these indiscretions, many safeguards and redundant systems have been put in place to assure us that the agencies operate within the law. To think that the CIA would lie outright to members of Congress with any conceivable confidence they could get away with it for eight years stretches the imagination. Even for members of Congress, "need to know" does not imply one needs to tell everything to everybody. After all, it is called a "briefing." Furthermore, there will - and should - be many shades of gray about "black" programs. Why should this not apply to activities of a more transparent nature?

I think there is great danger for any political party to repeatedly question the integrity of our intelligence agencies unless the evidence is beyond question. This is especially true when polls show that the original accuser, Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and her defenders have the confidence of less than 20% of Americans. I venture to guess that the CIA and NSA enjoy a far higher level of confidence, as does the U.S. military. So who do we believe? I'll place my confidence in the career military officer any day. If Democrats in Congress who speak before thinking insist on playing with this fire when only one out of five Americans trust them, they deserve to get burned.

Afghan Refugee Mom And Seven Kids Live In London Mansion At Taxpayer Expense

Here is another unbelievable story about the British welfare system and why it is bankrupting the UK. Be sure to click on the link to the Daily Mail article if you want to be completely outraged.

Last year, I met a couple in their forties from southwest of London who vacationed at their two modest properties in the U.S., one in central North Carolina, the other in Missouri. Back home in England, they operated a small, successful sandwich shop in a resort town. I asked them if they looked forward to retiring there and was met with an abrupt response that they would be here permanently in the U.S. tomorrow if our authorities would let them. Would the welfare story have something to do with their attitude?

The People "Catch On To Obama's Fiscal Sins and Rhetorical Devices"

My favorite grape farmer from Fresno, Victor Davis Hanson, has another well-reasoned observation at NRO. His topic is the falling popularity of the Obama administration. A sample:

Because Obama is a revolutionary who seeks to overturn 50 years of doing business in America, both at home and abroad, his shortcomings have the potential not only to diminish his own stature through unmet impossible expectations, but to take all those who signed on with his megalomania down with him.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Power To The People

The New York Times Company has been caught in another fauxtography tangle, this time, involving a Portuguese freelancer and his "photos" of unfinished housing projects across the U.S. Powerline has some comment along with links to the story, original photos, and Adam Gurno, the very average Joe who exposed the fraud.

Unmanned Fighter Aircraft On the Horizon

My sons have been piloting fighters in their computer games for years. This is really nothing new as U.S. military forces and NASA, among others, have years of experience flying robotic air and space crafts. As this Outside the Beltway blog entry states, it is only a matter of time before unmanned fighters and bombers dominate air forces around the world. But the fighter pilot mystique is strong and the likelihood that cockpits disappear from future airframes seems highly unlikely.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Obama Approval Sinking Fast

This week, the Rassmussen daily Presidential Tracking Poll shows President Obama's approval in serious decline. Today's poll shows 30% of voters strongly approve of his performance while 38% strongly disapprove. This puts the Presidential Approval Index at -8, its lowest point since Obama's inauguration on January 20. The index was even on June 28. Read more here, here, here and here. As Powerline's John Hinderaker observes, this significant decline is occurring long before voters can feel any negatives from Obama's policies. That is very bad news if you believe in hope and change.

Thomas Sowell Speaks: All Should Listen

This week on Uncommon Knowledge, Peter Robinson interviews Thomas Sowell, one of the nation's most respected economists. The primary topic has been housing. Today, Sowell talks about FDR's New Deal. Here is your link.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Wannabee Tribe

In my career, I knew and worked with a wide range of American Indians, especially in the Southwest and South. Nothing was more revolting to me and my colleagues than working with impostors. We did have a place for them. We called it the Wannabee tribe, as in "I wanna be an Indian." I was quite pleased to hear earlier today a Denver District Court judge denied Ward Churchill, today's foremost Wannabee member, reinstatement at the University of Colorado. The university argued that he was removed as a result of plagiarism, not for his disturbing comment that the World Trade Center victims were "little Eichmanns." I will be the first in line to defend free speech; however, I know intellectual detritus when I see it. The university, liberal though it may be, deserves better. Let us hope that this Wannabee accepts his judgement without reservation.

There Is Hope For American Songwriting

Readers know that the OTR has great respect for William Katz, blogging at Urgent Agenda. Katz writes occasional pieces for Powerline. There's a new one up today entitled, "Four Deaths And A Rule Change," about the deaths of Ed McMahon, Farah Fawcett, Karl Malden and Michael Jackson and a rule change by the Academy Awards. You can read it here.

OTR is very pleased to see the rule change regarding Best Song. It's also fitting that this change takes place in 2009, the centennial of the birth of the great American lyricist - my favorite - Johnny Mercer, a co-founder of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.As many of you know, I think American songwriting died around 1970. Don't misunderstand though, I do enjoy much of the music coming out of the last forty years, but I also know we paid dearly when beat and back beat began to dominate lyric. Today, mediocrity and worse dominates the popular music scene. Bad far outweighs good because we have developed a mindset that anyone can write a song. That attitude needs to change. I hope the rule changes at the Academy represent the first of many steps on the road to recovery for American songwriting.

Why The Waxman-Markey Cap And Trade Bill Makes No Sense

If China and India have no intention of limiting their output of carbon dioxide, a "cap and trade" bill in the United States is guaranteed to transfer wealth and employment to China and India. It doesn't get any simpler for a capitalist. Read more here.

Beat It To Death

This comment sums up my feelings about the physical death by celebrity of Michael Jackson. In all honesty, he died decades ago as a singer after a great career with the Jackson 5. Deeply troubled in an adult world, he could best be described as freaky and one hell of an entertainer who came to a very sad end.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

On Robert McNamara's Passing

As the architect of the Vietnam War, McNamara was never one of my favorites. I saw only his public side: the slicked "hair helmet," robotic and humorless presentation, and the obsession with statistics. To me, he seemed more likely to be pictured reviewing parades from the Kremlin than prosecuting war in the interest of the free world. He was the kind of personality that made me strive for a centered existence. Of course, there was a private, softer side to McNamara and it emerged years later in his Vietnam mea culpas. Joseph Califano Jr. - one of McNamara's Pentagon "whiz kids" - reflects on the private man in his editorial appearing in today's Washington Post.

I hope Robert McNamara finds the peace that eluded him for much of his life.

All Talk And Pending Action On Iran?

There's been plenty of speculation this weekend on a pending air strike against nuclear facilities in Iran. Some reports say that Saudi Arabia would not protest the attack as they have reason to fear Iran's nuclear weapons as much as other nearby nations. Vice President Joe Biden made similar "suggestions" that the U.S. could not prevent another nation from taking unilateral action against Iran. All of this was a backdrop to President Obama's statement in today's papers that there was no "approval" of such an attack by Israel. Actually, the statement, as reported in the Jerusalem Post, is a nice blend of interests. For now, the middlegame continues.

The Coming American Matriarchy

Instapundit brings this subject to our attention today with a link to Fabius Maximus.

Monday, July 6, 2009

An Ancient Bible - Codex Sinaiticus - On Line

Codex Sinaiticus is one of the most important books in the world. Handwritten well over 1600 years ago, the manuscript contains the Christian Bible in Greek, including the oldest complete copy of the New Testament. Its heavily corrected text is of outstanding importance for the history of the Bible and the manuscript - the oldest substantial book to survive Antiquity - is of supreme importance for the history of the book.

Here is a link to the site. Thanks to four institutions, each holding a large segment of the book, an electronic version of this important document is available for scholars and curiosity seekers around the world. Source: Blue Crab Boulevard.

The Fifteen Creepiest Vintage Ads

The first one, Demon Jelly, looks like this:

See the rest of them here. Thanks to Jonah Goldberg and NRO for the post.

Dumbing Down The Naval Academy

Powerline's Paul Mirengoff comments on the decline in academic admission standards at the Naval Academy. "Oh well, it's only our nation's security that's at stake," he concludes.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Unfree And Easy Or Free and Uneasy?

The German Democratic Republic - East Germany - disappeared from world atlases over two decades ago. No one expected adapting to the free world and capitalism to be easy for two generations of Germans who lived under the yoke of communism. The economic pendulum in the free world swings with a wide arc. The extremes of both good and bad times stress all of us. At the same time, I think most people who live in the free world would have expected East Germans to embrace their freedom and the opportunities it afforded them. That does not appear to be the case in a poll reported in Der Spiegel. In fact, 57% of former GDR residents defend the GDR as the provider of a "nice life" and a "happier and better" life than in a unified Germany.

What I find interesting here is the power of the collective psychology - not unlike slavery - to deeply affect adaptation to a free world where personal initiative and responsibility are paramount. Human adaptation is at once a blessing and a curse for the species. If you waited at the food coop each week for thirty years to receive the same loaf of bread, how would you respond when faced with 100 bread choices at the Kroger or Publix bakery? And there is a cashier expecting you to pay for the bread on your way out. And the money comes to your pocket from your personal initiative. When the economic pendulum swings into bad times, it's easy to see how the evils of tyranny fade with thoughts of virtually free bread. I pray the tint of the rose-colored glasses many former East Germans wear soon clears to reveal the evil they left behind and the promise their future holds in a free nation.

New York Legislature In Crisis

Factions, infighting, incompetence, and "affirmative discrimination" are bringing chaos to the New York state legislature. Read about it here, courtesy of William Katz and his blog, Urgent Agenda. My employer went through a similar meltdown beginning around 1995.

New York Times Magazine On California's Problems: Don't Mention The Unions

There is an entry on Instapundit today critiquing an article that appeared in this week's New York Times Magazine. The article was a lengthy feature on problems in California. There are a host of reasons why California is the basket case that it is; however, the article ignores the public employee unions that play a major role in crippling the state. This is another example of the astonishing decline in objectivity as practiced by investigative journalist in the nation's leading newspapers.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Variations On America

In defining the United States of America, the word "diversity," in its fullest expression, would rank high on any list. On this Fourth of July 2009, OTR sends his best wishes for a safe and happy holiday in the form of Variations on America.

Charles Ives, a fiercely original American composer, wrote this piece for organ in 1891 when he was seventeen. Sadly, he was generally unknown and ignored in his lifetime, but is now recognized as a pioneer in 20th century music. The organist in this performance is another American original, Virgil Fox. Describing Fox as flamboyant in terms of his persona and technique would be an understatement. He introduced classical music to thousands of young people in a series of cross-country tours in the '70s. I was fortunate to see him perform once in an unforgettable concert in Washington. As for Variations on America, there are five of them, each speaking with a unique voice, but united by a beloved melody. It has been a favorite of mine since childhood. I hope you enjoy the next seven minutes and fifty-six seconds of diverse American originals as much as I do.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that Fox had a repertoire of over 250 pieces, all memorized. He never performed with a score, even when accompanied by an orchestra.

Friday, July 3, 2009

America Exceptionalism: Michael Jackson Meets Ronald Reagan

Monica Cowley has an appropriate comment for this Fourth of July holiday season.

Shortchanging High Achievers

The Washington Post has an editorial today describing the elimination of a Maryland program that has served high achievers well during its 41 year history. Education systems across the nation have been criticized frequently for failing to address school students who excel. I find it hard to believe that the Maryland legislature cannot find the $500,000 to fund the program. That kind of money rates as "petty cash" or "chump change" in a state rather well-known for shady dealing and slush.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Cynthia McKinney Jailed in Israel

Here's the story, courtesy of Gateway Pundit. If we're lucky the Israelis will keep her.

More On The Ricci Case And The Diversity "Delusion"

Scott Johnson, blogging on Powerline, has more on the Ricci case and its implications for the future course of diversity. Get the story here. Be sure to read the links.

What Will The Next Web Look Like?

Outside the Beltway gives is the word here. This is another video from TED, one of the most informative and thought-provoking sites I've found in my cyberlife.

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Sport Coupe

My dad bought one - Surf Green over Highland Green - and drove it until 1968, then sold it to a friend who drove it until 1979. On trips home to see the folks in the '70s, I would occasionally see the car on the road. Sure wish it was in my garage today.

Looks just like it! Link source: Instapundit

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Diversity "Delusion"

In light of the Ricci decision by the Supreme Court, here are some thoughts on race and merit as the nation moves into what could be a new phase in its search for "diversity."

Obama Sides With Chavez, Ortega And Los Castro

George Moneo - at Babalu - says Charles Krauthammer has nailed it again regarding the astounding alliance over Honduras. I must agree. Read it here.