Thursday, June 23, 2011

Barack Milhous Obama, War President

The only thing we ever learn from history is that we never learn from history. Unless, of course, you are running for re-election during war time. In that case, the lesson is, keep the war going through to Election Day because everyone loves a "War President". After all, it worked for Nixon in 1972 and Bush in 2004.

In President Obama's speech on the Afghanistan war pull-out, he proposed (in round numbers):
  • 10,000 troops out in the near term (to satiate the peaceniks)
  • 20,000 troops out by the end of November 2012 (how convenient)
With roughly 100,000 troops currently in Afghanistan, this leaves - again in round numbers - 70,000 troops still in country, scheduled to leave in 2014. Of course there is no guarantee this will actually happen.

Why not pull them all out now? Does anyone realistically believe the situation in Afghanistan will be at all improved between now and 2014?

Take a look at this word cloud from the President's speech. Can you find the word "PEACE" in there anywhere? I'm still looking.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


In the photo, Harold Pickens, newly-minted Jersey Guy, transplanted from Cincinnati, OH, gazes lovingly at his young son (can you blame him?), while the little boy, safely enclosed behind the bars of his play pen, thinks, "some day I want to be like him".

On a side note, Mom was a much better photographer than she was ever given credit for, usually ceding that job to Dad. But the photos of me and Dad from the old days are gems.

Dad is holding what appears to be a staple gun, fixing something, as he often did. He fixed everything. When the TV broke, we didn't buy a new one. Dad would take the back off the TV, remove all the tubes, and we would go to the hardware store and test each tube in the tube tester. Once he identified the bad tube(s), he would buy news one(s), put all the tubes back in the TV, and it was fixed.

An aircraft mechanic by trade, Dad fixed the cars, and tried, with moderate success, to teach me how to do the same. I was not that good at it but at least I understand (kind of) how an internal combustion engine works, and was able to do basic repairs, and today I can speak to a mechanic with some degree of knowledge and not get ripped off.

I never really fully picked up Dad's penchant for DIY-ing; I am basically useless in that regard. About five years ago Dad called me to help him install a garage door opener in his house.

"Where did you buy it?"
"Why don't you have them install it?"
"Because they want $150 for it"
"You can afford that"
"I want to do it myself. Come over and help me"

So I went over and we got to work, me on the ladder and Dad handing me the hardware and giving instructions. It went well until we hit a spot in the garage ceiling where there was no stud. Dad said, "looks like we need a molly", and went over to his tool box to get a molly screw and handed it to me.

I held the molly; clueless.

"Don't you know what to do with that?"
"Uh, no"
"Don't you ever have to hang anything in your house?"
"What do you do?"
"I find the stud"
"What if there's no stud?"
"I don't hang anything unless there's a stud"

And so, at the ripe old age of 49, I learned how to use a molly screw. It was the first and last time. I know better than to try it myself at home.

Dad fixed everything. He picked me up whenever I fell, as he did for Mom, and my brother and sister. He is the most selfless person on the planet; the real deal when it comes to family values. It will take a lifetime to repay him for all he's done for me and my family.

Happy Fathers Day, Dad

Friday, June 3, 2011

Guest Blog - Martin Bashir on Gil Scott-Heron

I'm not much of a fan of Martin Bashir, but his tribute to the late Gil Scott-Heron, one of my all time favorite performers, was spot-on. From his show today on MSNBC. I'll post the video when it's available.

The music world is notoriously divided when it comes to deciding who are the great artists and who’s had the biggest impact on a particular genre.

But the loss of one particular musician has produced an unusually united response. From places as far afield as Chicago, where he was born, to South Africa, where he campaigned against Apartheid – almost everyone seems to agree that we have lost one of the greatest musicians that ever lived.

Gil Scott-Heron passed away here in New York, a week ago, and will be buried after a private funeral service tomorrow. He was a novelist, a composer and a lyricist. He combined the insight of a social scientist with the intuition of a poet.

I can remember hearing his most famous song, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” as an eight-year-old child in London in 1971, and asking a teacher, how it was possible for a man’s voice to be so dominant across the whole record? She told me, then, what I would soon discover for myself – that Gil Scott-Heron possessed more talent than most bands put together.

His music often conveyed the anger felt by so many African-Americans during the post-Civil Rights era – when the hope of change collided with the still powerful forces of institutional racism. From “Home is where the Hatred is” to “Whitey on the Moon,” he described the predicament of joblessness and hopelessness for so many of his contemporaries.

But it would be a disservice to describe his music as driven solely by anger. In fact, many of his songs are tender and romantic and often speak of the brittle nature of love and family life. And he wrote from experience.

The separation of his parents when he was just two was followed by 10 happy years living with his grandmother. But then, aged 12, he would wake up to find that she had passed away in the night. The pain of that loss lived in his memory and can be heard in the harmonies of so many of his songs.

His album, “Pieces of a Man,” features a song entitled, “I think I’ll Call it Morning.” It is one of Gil Scott-Heron’s most beautiful compositions and may yet prove to be true for him.

“I’m gonna take myself a piece of sunshine,” he wrote, “and paint it all over my sky… be no rain, be no rain.” Gil Scott-Heron was 62. He will be laid to rest tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"Coptergate" eclipses "Iowagate"

Or, "Drumthwacketgate", if you're into tongue twisters.

By now we all know that Governor Christie used a state helicopter to watch his son's baseball game at St Joe's in Montvale yesterday, and the Liberal Media was all over it.

Am I alone in being less than apoplectic about this? I am no expert in the do's and don'ts of the use of state vehicles by the governor, so I can't say if this was an improper use of the state helicopter, although it certainly seems so. And for all I know there may have been some important state business he needed to get to or from before or after the game.

In the list of outrages committed by this governor this incident ranks somewhere towards the bottom. Bad optics? Absolutely. But hey, he was going to watch his kid play ball, so at least he walks the walk rides the SUV when it comes to family values.

Far more offensive (to me at least), and I'm no lawyer but possibly illegal, is his using the taxpayer owned governor's mansion, Drumthwacket, to host a cadre of GOP bigwig donors form Iowa to beg him to run for president. This story was buried deep below the fold yesterday; I needed to hit "next" several times on to find any reference to it. As of Tuesday morning  there was only a passing reference to it.

If outrage is a limited resource, we should care more about Iowagate and less about Coptergate.

This is neither the first time nor the last time Christie  has misused NJ taxpayer dollars (e.g. "town hall" meetings, YouTube videos). Does anyone care that he hosted GOP donors from Iowa at the taxpayer-owned governor's mansion?

I would like to know what he was anticipating was going to happen at that meeting to cause him to pull a stunt like Coptergate to create such a diversion and deflect attention from the Iowa meeting, which was a more egregious misuse of taxpayer funds. If creating a diversion was his intention, it worked.