Sunday, July 27, 2008


It’s odd how, when you’re working, and sort of going on automatic, you do things to occupy your mind. Since my only reason for being at work at 4 in the morning is to strip and wax an aisle each day, something I’ve been doing for thirty years - floor work, that is, not going in to the WalMart! - there are a few things I do as I perform the duties. For years, since I began writing, one of those things was to imagine scenes in whatever story I was struggling through, and work out the dialogue. Which means speaking the dialogue, out loud.

Needless to say, this can cause odd looks from people who hear you. The folks I worked with at the Seminole Casino understood that I was writing a book and grew used to my mumblings and such.

Gary Puckett & The Union GapBut I also hum, whistle, and sing. Quietly. Because I don’t sing today’s songs I know most of my co-workers would be annoyed at the selection of the day. So it’s quiet crooning I do whilst stripping the floors. I mention this only as an introduction to this post. Today, for some reason, I veered into late-60s music and began singing songs I can barely remember. Songs by Gary Puckett & The Union Gap.

I remember what an anomaly they were, in 1967 and beyond, as they didn’t perform long, drug-addled songs that were the “thing” for the time. No, they performed ballads. Short, sweet love songs with the front man - Gary Puckett - singing in a tenor voice (sometimes called a baritone) very much unlike the high-pitched, falsetto-laden voices of the more popular badns of the time. Puckett sang like an adult.

The songs the group recorded became hits, perhaps as a reaction to the prevailing recording artists’ preference for the afore-mentioned drug-addled, rambling, long-winded, never-ending drones. I think many music listeners were just waiting for love songs to reappear. And Gary Pucket & The Union Gap were there at the right time.

The hits are famous, and you probably remember them well: “Young Girl”, “Woman, Woman”, “Lady Willpower”, “Over You”, and more. When I got home and started to Google the band, I hit one of the lyrics sites and found a title that was familiar, but forgotten. Heck, I can still remember “Reverend Posey” which went nowhere, but here was a song called “Home”. And I could not recall a single lyric or the tune. So I clicked on the link and waited for the lyrics to load.
”And every night they lie awake
And dream of mama's chocolate cake
And wonder if there'll be a tomorrow
And will they ever see their home and their family
Or will they ever be back home”

That brought it back. I remember this very well - once my memory was jiggled a bit - and remember that this brought tears to my eyes the first time I heard it. Why? It’s a short song about the soldiers. American soldiers then fighting in Vietnam. And it wasn’t a hate song, or an anti-war song. It was just a sweet, sad ballad about them. And it was so different from everything else that it took my breath away.
”And boys who never learned to pray
Look to the heavens everyday
And stumble through a simple little prayer
And ask the Lord above
To send them home to the ones they love
Oh God, I hope they make it home”

Maybe the lyrics are a bit meaningless to you, right now. In black and white, as many lyrics are, they are just a poem, with not much power on their own. But add music, rhythm, and a poignant voice ...

Too many songs that are supposed to be in support of the men who wear the uniform of the US Armed Forces are nothing of the kind. They are political wailings designed to anger the listener, to denigrate the men in uniform who put themselves in Harm’s Way for our sake, meant to be used to force them out. But “Home” is none of those things.
”And every day some young man dies
And in the night some young girl cries
He'll never hear his baby's laughter
He'll never ever see his home and his family
Or what he's done for you and me
But I guess he's on his way back home”

Gary Puckett is still around, and performing - mostly as a solo act, or with other “Oldies” bands from yesteryear - and I read that he performs this song at his performances as a tribute to the troops. I hope that’s true. This is such a fine ballad for them, and such a good story, that it should be true!

Oddly enough, in my Googling, I learned that Gary Puckett lives practically up the road from me, in Clearwater, Florida, with his wife Lorrie and his two stepdaughters, Syd and Michaela. Hey, we’re practically neighbors!

The only video I could find of “Home” is this one from YouTube. If I can find my recording I’ll put better images with it and post one myself. Until then, this will give you an idea of what this song sounds like, and maybe bring a tear to your eye.

Gary Puckett
  • In 1968 Gary Puckett and The Union Gap had six consecutive gold records and sold more records than any other recording act...including the Beatles (my favorite band).

  • They played a command performance at the White House for Prince Charles and Princess Anne by special invitation of the President.

  • Gary Puckett and The Union Gap was one of a very select group of touring acts to achieve prominence worldwide.

  • In 1971 Gary disbanded The Union Gap

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Berlin Blockade

Today marks the 60th Anniversary of the Berlin Blockade, that illegal attempt by the Soviet Union to keep the Western Powers out of Berlin through intimidation. It didn’t work. The West knew it had every right to be in Berlin, by Treaty, and would not accede to this act of blatant force. Why Stalin tried this is something anyone who studied the Cuban Missile Crisis would understand.

In mid-July, 1945, with the Nazis defeated in May, the three Allied powers - the USA, Britain, and the Soviet Union - met to discuss the administration of a defeated Germany. The Americans were represented by President Harry Truman, the Britons by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and the Soviets by Communist Party General Secretary Joseph Stalin.

It was here where Truman first mentioned to Stalin that the Americans had developed the atomic bomb and might use it against Japan ( which they did on August 6th and August 9th). Stalin already knew quite a bit about the Manhattan Project through his network of spies in the USA. Stalin suggested that Truman preside over the conference as the only head of state attending, a recommendation accepted by Churchill. Truman, being seen by Stalin as weak and amenable to flattery, was as mistaken as Nikita Khrushchev would be not too many years later. Truman, for his part, liked FDR’s “Uncle Joe” and thought less of Winston Churchill. He had misread Stalin as somebody who could be dealt with.

Airlift RoutesIn an attempt to gain control of post-War Berlin, Stalin , then, on June 24, 1948, ordered the blockade of the three Western powers' railroad and street access to the western sectors of Berlin that they had been controlling. This had followed increasing Soviet interference in the movement of trains to Berlin. From Wikipedia:
On March 31 the Soviets increased the pressure on the West by demanding that every train entering Berlin from the western zones be examined. Several U.S. and British trains "forced the issue" with varied results, so General Lucius D. Clay, commander of the U.S. occupation zone in Germany, ordered all military trains to stop making the trip. Instead, he started an airlift, later to be known as the Little Lift, in order to supply the U.S. garrison with food and ammunition. The Little Lift lasted only about ten days, during which the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) flew in about 300 tons of supplies. The Soviets eased their restrictions on Allied military trains on April 10, 1948, but continued to periodically interrupt rail and road traffic during the next 75 days.

Stalin knew that, other than the USA, the rest of the Allied powers were exhausted by the War and would be reluctant to resume hostilities now with the Soviet Union. However, what Stalin did not realize was that Truman, though naive at times, and certainly a bit of an innocent when it came to foreign affairs, was no weak pushover. Truman refused to acquiesce to the Soviet move. He would not go to War over Berlin, but he would not allow the Soviet Union to dictate to the US what it could do when it was in the right.

Though General Clay believed the Soviets, who had closed all roads and barge traffic into the city, were bluffing, and could be forced to reopen access, President Truman, following the consensus in Congress, stated "It is too risky to engage in this due to the consequence of war."

Although the ground routes had never been negotiated, the same was not true of the air. On November 30, 1945, it had been agreed, in writing, that there would be three twenty-mile wide air corridors providing free access to the city. Additionally, unlike a force of tanks, the Soviets could not claim that cargo aircraft were some sort of military threat. In the face of an unarmed aircraft refusing to turn around, the only way to enforce the blockade would be to shoot them down. An airlift would force the Soviet Union into the position of either taking military action in a morally reprehensible fashion that would break their own agreements, or back down.

Forcing this decision would require the airlift to actually work, however. If the supplies could not be flown in fast enough, Soviet help would eventually be needed in order to prevent starvation. Clay was told to take advice from General Curtis LeMay, commander of United States Air Forces in Europe, to see if an airlift was possible. LeMay replied "We can haul anything."

Wiki reports:
In response, the Western Allies formed the Berlin Airlift to supply the city over pre-arranged air corridors. The effort was initially viewed with skepticism even in the countries mounting the attempt, as this sort of logistical effort had never been mounted before. The airlift to supply the German 6th Army at Stalingrad required 300 tonnes per day and rarely came even close to delivering this; the Berlin effort would require at least 5,000 tonnes a day, well over ten times as much. In spite of this, by the spring of 1949 the effort was clearly succeeding, and by April the airlift was delivering more cargo than had previously flowed into the city via rail.

The success of the Airlift was humiliating to the Soviets, who had repeatedly claimed it could never possibly work. When it became clear that it was, the blockade was lifted in May. One lasting legacy of the Airlift are the three airports in the former western zones of the city, which served as the primary gateways to Berlin for another fifty years.

Britain, which had already begun airlifting supplies to its own troops in Berlin, was better prepared for the effort and led the way. You can read about it at Wikipedia or do a search. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the incredible story of the Berlin Airlift.

Yet another stupid move by the Communist Power, based on their own misreading of reality. Starving their own people to suppress them, nearly destroying their own military in the 30s for political reasons, believing they could deal with the Nazis until their military was repaired, utterly mis-reading the little man from Independence, Missouri, as weak.

Truman was certainly not perfect. His disgust with Dwight Eisenhower over Eisenhower’s criticism of George Marshall, and his denunciations of Eisenhower’s fecklessness was pointless and off-target. Marshall, architect of the famous Marshall Plan, had originally included nearly every nation on earth as recipients of American largesse. He also did not quite recognize the Soviet threat for what it was. Marshall had his own naïveté.

Truman took a long time to see just how undependable the Soviets were. Much like FDR, he didn’t see the reality behind the simple facade of Soviet Ambassadors and others. Unlike FDR, though, Truman would eventually figure it out.

The Blockade of Berlin began 60 years ago. Harry Truman stood up to the Soviets then, beat them, and embarrassed the, There would not be such an embarrassment for the Soviets until a Massachusetts Senator took office in 1961. John Kennedy would be misread by the Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev, in the same way that Stalin misread Truman. And the Soviets would back down once more.

For that, thanks, Harry! Job well done!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Ralph Kramden and Alice KramdenNo, this isn't a post about Ralph Kramden, or Jackie Gleason, though that might be a fun topic. This is about Hominy. It's taken a while for me to ferret out the information. After all, aside from seeing cans of Hominy in the store, or seeing pictures of Hominy in menudo - a spicy tripe soup - my only up-close-and-personal knowledge of Hominy is in its dried, ground version we know as Grits.

I like Grits. On my days off I have two favorites for breakfast. Either egg/sausage/cheese burritos (which take maybe ten minutes to prepare) or grits. While the pot of coffee is brewing (dripping?) I want to make something fast, easy, and tasty. When I make grits I fry up some sausage, usually a single patty, and add some chopped green pepper. That's the hardest part.

I use Quick Grits - again, I want something fast and easy - and they are so easy it's laughable. 3 tablespoons of grits in a quart-bowl, one cup of water, a sprinkle of salt, then into the microwave. I run it on high for one minute, then stir, another minute and stir, another minute and stir, then 30 seconds. After that it sits quietly in the microwave for a few minutes.

I pull the bowl out, add a bit of butter (actually margarine, 'cause who can afford butter?) and stir in the fried sausage and green peppers. And, man, it's good eatin'!

I can just see some of you shaking your heads in disgust. "Ewww," you might be saying, "Grits?"

Uncooked GritsI used to make Cream of Wheat all the time. I liked it. I even tried Cream of Rice, too. But the rice is pretty bland. And I grew tired of Cream of Wheat. So I decided to give grits a try. My brother bought grits - well he begged my mom to buy him a canister of them - way back when we were still kids. I think he had them once, then never touched them again. My sister and I certainly never gave them a second thought. After all, with a name like Grits, who in their right mind is gonna eat them? Am I right?

Anyway, I had ordered them as a sidedish in an Egg Platter restaurant one time a few years ago (how many times can you get Home Fries or Hash Browns, huh?), just to see what they tasted like. And I liked them!

A little butter, a dash of salt. Not bad!

Quaker Quick GritsWal-Mart has its own "Great Value" brand of Quick Grits, so I bought a canister. Just like an oatmeal canister from Quaker Oats, minus the smiling Quaker. Quick Grits are inexpensive, and they are pretty filling. So adding a few tid-bits to them merely adds to the flavor. And I've been eating grits for nearly a year now.

But I got to wondering about them. What is Hominy? I mean it looks like big, fat corn, right? But just what the heck is it? So I went googling. Of course.

And got lost. I mean how hard is it to just say what hominy is? Where did it come from? And so on? But, dang! The sites I hit went all around the subject leaving me scratching my head and frustrated. But this morning I tried again and finally found the basic information I was seeking.

White HominyHominy is just dried corn. Dried corn that's been treated. Okay? Nothing exotic at all. It doesn't come from some secret 'Hominy' plant in the hinterlands of America. Ahh, but it's what is done to the corn that creates Hominy.

And basically here's what they do to make Hominy from corn.

Hominy was traditionally prepared by boiling the cleaned (got to get the dried silk and debris off, right?), dried corn kernels in a dilute lye solution made from wood-ash leachings until the hulls could be easily removed by hand and flushed away with running water. The lye in the wood ash causes the corn kernels to expand and thereby lose their outer skin. The resulting hominy would be washed at least seven times to remove the lye before being ground to a paste which was be made into tamales or tortillas. In the modern commercial technique, the corn is boiled in dilute sodium hydroxide, and the hulls are removed by the combined action of rotating cylinders and running water.

Corn. Before it is made into Hominy.Wikipedia describes Hominy:
Hominy or nixtamal is dried maize (corn) kernels which have been treated with an alkali of some kind.

The traditional U.S. version involves soaking dried corn in lye-water (sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide solution), traditionally derived from wood ash, until the hulls are removed. Mexican recipes describe a preparation process consisting primarily of cooking in lime-water (calcium hydroxide). In either case, the process is called nixtamalization, and removes the germ and the hard outer hull from the kernels, making them more palatable, easier to digest, and easier to process.


The earliest known usage of nixtamalization was in what is present-day Guatemala around 1500–1200 BC. It affords several significant nutritional advantages over untreated maize products. It converts some of the niacin (and possibly other B vitamins) into a form more absorbable by the body, improves the availability of the amino acids, and (at least in the lime-treated variant) supplements the calcium content, balancing maize's comparative excess of phosphorus.

Many aboriginal American cultures made hominy and integrated it into their diet. Cherokees, for example, made hominy grits by soaking corn in lye and beating it with a kanona (corn beater). The grits were used to make a traditional hominy soup (called Gv-No-He-Nv A-Ma-Gi-i), a hominy soup that was allowed to ferment (Gv-Wi Si-Da A-Ma-Gi-i), cornbread, dumplings (Di-Gu-Nv-i) or fried with bacon and green onions.

No reason you can't put syrup on them at breakfast. Or add some berries to them. I recommend grits to you. If you like Cream of Wheat, give Grits a try. I think you'll prefer them.

From bfeedme (eat well & laugh often) comes this:
Exploring the History of Grits

Grits are a common breakfast plate in the Southern US states where they are usually eaten with salt or cheese and never sugar unless you want a firm talking-to from the locals or an accusation that you don’t appreciate or understand the wonders of grits. Grits are also common, however, in East Africa where it is called Ugali and in southern Manchuria where it is called Gezi. The word ‘grits’ is a derivative of the Old English word ‘grytta’ which means a coarse meal of any kind. No matter the name, grits are a wonderful and delicious way to start or end the day.

Grits are basically coarsely ground corn that makes a sort of maize porridge. They are prepared simply by boiling the grits into a porridge or until enough water evaporates to leave them semi-solid, depending on your preference. They are traditionally served at breakfast, but I find that they are a perfect side for an evening steak.

I just may try that, next time I broil a steak. After all they're nothing more than corn. And did you know that corn is the only grain commonly eaten as a fresh vegetable? Think about it. It's true.

Mona Lea explains how she makes and cans her own Hominy. Interesting! She uses Baking Soda rather than a lye.

Recipes for Quick Grits.

polentaBy the way ... if you think that maybe grits are kinda silly for supper, consider Polenta. It's corn, too. As Wikipedia notes:
Polenta is very similar to corn grits, a common dish in the cuisine of the Southern United States, with the difference that grits are usually made from coarsely ground kernels. When properly cooked, grits and polenta have similarly smooth textures, "grit" referring to the texture of the dried corn before cooking. Another variation uses ground hominy, lye-treated corn kernels.

Polenta is similar to boiled maize dishes of Mexico, where both maize and hominy originate.

The Brazilian variety is also known as angu. Originally made by native Indians, it is a kind of polenta without salt nor any kind of oil. However, nowadays "Italian" polenta is much more common at Brazilian tables, especially in the southern and southeastern regions (which have high numbers of Italian immigrants), although some people still call it "angu". The city of São Bernardo do Campo is famous for its restaurants specialized in frango com polenta (fried chicken with fried polenta).

I'd bet Patrick is familiar with the South African version, too. Mealie pap which is made from cornmeal mush.

fried polentaI watched a cooking show where the lady sliced open a tube of polenta from the grocery store (very wet!), sliced it, mixed the sticks of polenta with oil and spices, and baked them to create polenta fries - a kind of corn-meal fries. They looked awfully tasty!

Corn! It's good for you!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Women of Windsor

Princess Mary next to her brother Edward. Albert at far right.

The Princess Mary with her mother, the future Queen Mary,

stands next to her brother Edward. Albert - future King George VI - is at far right.

Princess MaryI was watching a PBS showing about the Windsors - the British Royal Family - and I was reminded again that the modern press seems to delight in describing these people as rather homely. Horse-faced seemed to be the favorite description, especially regarding Prince Charles and Princess Anne. As I watched the program I saw a brief glimpse of the Princess Royal , Mary, daughter of King George V, and his wife Queen Mary. She was the couple's only daughter. Two of her brothers would become Kings: Edward VIII, then George VI. She live a long life, passing away in 1965.

George, Duke of York, 1893The Windsor men seem to carry the same narrow skull. It makes for a long face and, reinforced by the Mountbatten genes - think Prince Phillip - left poor Prince Charlie with that famous long face. His ears simply add to the overall look. Unfortunately Princess Anne also received the narrow skull of her father, grandfather - King George VI, and great-grandfather George V. Anne also seemed to favor hairstyles that did nothing to take the eye from the narrownees of her face.

But looking at the other women of the family it's actually quite striking how handsome many of these women are/were. Images of Elizabeth II in her youth and early years show a very pretty woman. Her sister Margaret was a beauty in her time.

Princess MarySo who was this very first of the Windsor women? The first daughter of the man who chose to take the family name Windsor instead of the German family names of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha?

Princess Mary and Prince Edward, circa 1901Born in 1897 to the Duke and Duchess of York, Victoria Alexandra Alice Mary, her great-grand-mother, Queen Victoria, then celebrating her Diamond Jubilee, called the baby, "My dear little Jubilee baby". She was the third child to the future King George, after Prince Edward and Prince Albert (later George VI).

Princess Mary was educated by governesses, but shared some lessons with her brothers, Prince Edward (later Edward VIII), Prince Albert (later George VI), and Prince Henry (later Duke of Gloucester). She became fluent in German and French and developed a life-long interest in horses and horse racing. Her first state appearance was at the coronation of her parents at Westminster Abbey on 11 June 1911.

Edward and Mary in Royal regaliaWith the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914, Princess Mary, like the rest of her family, went to work. The Royals became a rallying point for the British people, despite growing mumurs of discontent. The family, decscended from the royalty of Germany, was nonetheless completely British. But the family name became a bone of contention. Told that some of the people were saying he was a German, an alien, George replied, “I may be uninspiring, but I'll be damned if I'm an alien!” Thus he abandoned the family's germanic name and adopted the name suggested by an aide: Windsor.

From Marilyn's Royal Blog:
Princess Mary was extremely shy but she was her father's favorite child. Cooking was a favorite pastime and she enjoyed working the model dairy that her grandmother Queen Alexandra had set up at Sandringham, milking the cows, churning the milk, and making little pats of butter for her father's breakfast. She had her own school room, sharing her lessons with the younger daughters of the Duke of Devonshire. She studied piano and singing and shared drill classes with her brothers. Quick and intelligent, she was an excellent rider, and a good linguist, fluent in French and German.

The Saxe-Coburg and Gotha Family and thier children circa 1906Princess Mary, with siblings, 1910

As a nurse, circa 1920
During the First World War she was active in welfare organizations, particularily involved in projects to provide comfort to troops. This concern led to the creation of the Princess Mary gift box which was sent out to troops in Christmas 1914. These boxes contained one ounce of pipe tobacco, twenty cigarettes, a pipe, a tinder lighter, a Christmas card from the King and Queen and a photograph of Princess Mary. Non-smokers received a box containing a packet of acid tablets, a khaki writing case containing pencil, paper and envelopes together with the Christmas card and photograph. Princess Mary also took a nursing course and in 1918 went to work at the Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Mary with first son
Alexandra, her son George, his daughter Princess Mary and her son - 1923

The Princess Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood
In 1922 she married Henry, Viscount Lascelles, a man 15 years her senior at Wesminster Abbey. At first they made their home at Goldsborough Hall, near Knaresborough. Seven years after their wedding, Lord Lascelles succeeded his father as the sixth Earl of Harewood and they moved into Harewood House. Princess Mary loved Yorkshire and she was known as the 'Yorkshire Princess'. They had two sons, George the present Earl of Harewood, born in 1922 and Gerald born in 1923.

Mary, Princess Royal, 1935Follow the links to learn more about this woman, the first daughter of the first Windsors. A woman of real substance, dignity, devotion. And quite the handsome lass, as well. Princess Di was not the first lovely lady in the British Royal family of Windsors. The Princess Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood was that lady.

The Princess Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood at Google

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tony Snow Is Gone

Robert Anthony "Tony" Snow

(June 1, 1955 - July 12, 2008)

From Wizbang, I read the sad news. I googled to find more. From
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former White House press secretary Tony Snow -- who once told reporters "I'm a very lucky guy" -- has died at the age of 53 after a second battle with cancer.

Snow's Last televised briefingSnow, who had been undergoing chemotherapy treatments for a recurrence of the disease, left his White House job September 14, 2007, and joined CNN in April as a conservative commentator.

In parting comments to reporters at his final White House news conference, he said, "I feel great."

He also called the job "the most fun I've ever had."

Snow said he was leaving the White House position to make more money. His White House salary was $168,000.

"The White House is so deeply saddened by this loss," said his replacement, White House press secretary Dana Perino. "He was a great friend and colleague and a fantastic press secretary. And his dear family is in our thoughts and prayers."

From Wikipedia:
Early career
a young Tony SnowSnow began his newspaper career in 1979 in newspapers as an editorial writer for The Greensboro Record in North Carolina, next working as an editorial writer at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Virginia (1981-82), editorial page editor of The Daily Press in Newport News (1982-84), deputy editorial page editor of The Detroit News (1984-87) and editorial page editor of The Washington Times (1987-91). Also, The Detroit News published his commentary from 1993 to 2000, and he was a Counterpoint Columnist for USA Today from 1994 to 2000.

Snow also wrote a syndicated column for Creators Syndicate between 1993 and 2000. As a nationally syndicated columnist, his commentaries appeared in more than 200 newspapers nationwide. Snow won numerous awards during his print career, including citations from the Virginia Press Association, the Detroit Press Club, the Society of Professional Journalists, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, The Associated Press and Gannett.

He appeared on radio and television programs worldwide including The McLaughlin Group, The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour, Face the Nation, Crossfire, and Good Morning America. Until 1994, Snow was the writer, correspondent and host of a PBS news special, The New Militant Center.

In 1991, Snow took a sabbatical from journalism to work in the White House for President George H. W. Bush, first as chief speechwriter (Deputy Assistant to the President for Communications and Director of Speechwriting) and later as Deputy Assistant to the President for Media Affairs (1992-1993).

From 1996 to 2003, he served as the first host of FOX News Sunday, a Sunday morning interview and roundtable program produced by Fox News, airing on affiliates of the Fox Broadcasting Company and later in the day on Fox News Channel.

Snow served as the primary guest host of Rush Limbaugh's program from the mid-1990s on. He was also a frequent commentator on National Public Radio. Snow's own Tony Snow Show on Fox News Radio premiered in late 2003. It ended when he became White House Press Secretary in April 2006.

Kim Priestap, whose Wizbang post got me looking, writes:
"I was on a couple of blogger conference calls with Mr. Snow when he was press secretary for President Bush, and he was so nice and kind. I was thrilled when, upon getting the chance to ask him a question, he remarked how much he liked my posts and that he wanted to email me to tell me so but didn't know how to contact me.

This is such a shame."

Yes, it is. So long, Tony. You will be missed.

By the way: While looking for images of Snow I found this wonderful characature by John Cox of Cox & Forkum. The image accompanied a post from May of 2006. I also miss the Cox & Forkum duo.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Repost - Sarah Palin For VP: Maverick & Maverick?

With the Republican Convention nearing, and the questions of who will be McCain's pick for a running-mate swirling through the blogosphere, I figured I should repost this - from February - as a reminder of someone out there who would be as good a choice as any for the Republican standard-bearer. Who would you choose?

And do you care who the Obamamessiah picks for His running-mate?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“I respect our military personnel and understand the importance of Alaska's National Guard. As I watched our military men and women being deployed I recognized how important it is for their families to know how much Alaska and America support them.” - Sarah Palin

Sarah PalinSarah Palin is the incumbent Governor of Alaska and former Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. A Journalist, she is the first Governor of Alaska born after Alaska was granted statehood. She took office at the age of 42, making her the youngest Governor in Alaska's short history, as well as the first woman Governor.

Palin's oldest child, and only son, Track, joined the Army in 2007, at the age of 18. Palin also has three daughters, Bristol, Piper, and Willow, who live at home in Wasilla. Husband Todd is a commercial fisherman. Sarah Palin has a Bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Idaho, and is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association.
“I am a lifetime member of the NRA, I support our Constitutional right to bear arms and am a proponent of gun safety programs for Alaska's youth […]” - Sarah Palin

Some of her political imagery comes from her private life. When marijuana was still legal in Alaska - a true maverick state! - she admits she tried it, but didn't like it. One wonders just how good or bad Alaskan Gold is. She eats mooseburgers, and rides snowmobiles.

Sarah Palin's nice gams
Gov. Sarah Palin responds to a question in her downtown Anchorage office next to a grizzly her father shot in Denali Highway country. - photo by STEPHEN NOWERS / Anchorage Daily News

Palin's political career began with two terms on the Wasilla City Council, then was elected Mayor for two terms. She was elected President of the Alaska Conference of Mayors. From Wiki:
In 2002, Palin made a failed bid to become the state's lieutenant governor, coming in second place behind Loren Leman in a four-way race, some say due to her inability to raise campaign contributions equal to that of her opponents. After Frank Murkowski became governor, resigning from his long-time U.S. Senate seat, Palin was considered by some to be a candidate for that job; however Murkowski appointed his daughter, then State Representative Lisa Murkowski.

Governor Murkowski did appoint Palin to serve as a commissioner on the state's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission which she served on during 2003–2004, but later resigned, in protest over what she perceived to be the "lack of ethics" of fellow Alaskan Republican leaders. This included the state party's chairman, Randy Ruedrich, a fellow commissioner, who was accused of doing work for the party on public time and providing a sensitive email to a lobbyist. She filed formal complaints against both Ruedrich and former state Attorney General Gregg Renkes, who was eventually found not guilty.

Hmmm, spunky and ethical! No wonder the MSM ignores her while deifying Oprah and Hillary. A Republican takes on the Republican Party, and it ain't the MSM's favorite Maverick, John McCain, but a woman in Alaska. But the Republican Party had a small comeuppance coming.

Palin campaigningIn 2006 Palin took on the sitting Republican Governor Frank "Bridge To Nowhere" Murkowski in the Republican Primaries. She beat the party and Murkowski. Then she went on to the general election and whipped the former Governor, Tony Knowles, by 8 percentage points in a six-candidate race. Her plurality was 48%+. How many times have we sat back and groaned as the Party went out of its way to shove good candidates aside to protect lousy, incumbent Republicans in their re-election bids? Well, Palin fought them, beat them, and then beat the Democrat. And it turns out she has been so good as Governor that, in July 2007, Palin was heralded in the national media as being the most popular governor in the country, with an approval rating often in the 90s. An August 2007 poll had her approval rating at 84%, with 5% disapproving. Wonder who disapproved? Democrats, no doubt, wishing for a bigger government and more handouts.

Wanna talk about a Maverick? Sarah Palin supports moving the Legislative sessions out of Juneau - the state Capital - on occasion. She also pushes sending the state's wealth back down to the municipalities. Which, of course, is where that wealth came from in the first place. This is Municipal Revenue Sharing, something the National Football League uses a form of to keep smaller teams in smaller cities afloat. And after all, the locals know far better what is needed in their town than some elected twit in the Capital. I know that's political Heresy to the Left, but it's a fact nevertheless. Palin seems to understand that a government's wealth comes only from taking it from those who actually worked for it. Governments do not make money, nor do they create wealth. Ever. They consume it, ravenously, if allowed.

Maverick? When Palin was elected Governor, she decided Juneau had seen enough inaugurations. She moved the ceremonies to Fairbanks, Alaska. Imagine the President of the United States being inaugurated in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania rather than in Washington, D.C. Where would all those Big Wigs and government muckety-mucks stay? And just who would they impress? I like Palin's idea. Maybe we ought to try it one of these days for the President's inauguration, eh?

Sarah Palin is not immune to the disease of government meddling in things economic. And she did not come out looking good. Again, from Wiki:
Gov. Palin received widespread criticism for her handling of Matanuska Maid Dairy, a state owned dairy. When the State Dairy Board recommend the closing of the unprofitable state owned business, Palin fired the board and appointed long-time MATSU Borough associates to run the board, including influential real estate businesswoman Kristan Cole. The new board quickly approved raising the price of milk offered by the dairy in a vain attempt to control hemorrhaging fiscal losses and despite the fact that milk from the state of Washington was already offered in Alaska for much less the Mat Maid milk. In the end the dairy was forced to close and the state tried to sell the assets to pay for its huge debts, but because the initial minimum asking price was set too high no bids were received.
I hope she understands that government is not the answer to every problem. She does seem to.
“As Mayor and CEO of the booming city of Wasilla, my team invited investment and encouraged business growth by eliminating small business inventory taxes, eliminated personal property taxes, reduced real property tax mill levies every year I was in office, reduced fees, and built the infrastructure our businesses needed to grow and prosper.” - Sarah Palin

Palin did sign into law Alaska's largest operating budget ever, but also used her veto pen to make the second largest cuts ever, in the state's construction budget.

As the Murkowski Administration came to a close he appointed his Chief of Staff, Jim Clark, to the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority. Shortly after her inauguration, Palin tossed Clark off the Authority. In Murkowski's closing days he okayed the building of an eleven-mile-long gravel road to a mine outside Juneau. Palin scrapped that. Although it took a few years, Palin finally managed to sell the jet Murkowski bought for the state - with state money, of course - on eBay. That was one of her campaign promises. And she kept it.

Palin tours the Bunker Hill

Can you imagine her as a Commander in Chief? Touring the Bunker Hill.

As for the Social Values voters in conservative America, here's more Wiki:
Palin is strongly pro-life and belongs to Feminists for Life. She opposes same-sex marriage, but has gay friends and has otherwise been receptive to gay and lesbian concerns about discrimination. While the previous administration did not implement same-sex benefits, Palin followed an Alaska Supreme Court order and signed them into law.

She supports a democratic advisory vote from the public on whether there should be a constitutional amendment on the matter. Alaska was one of the first states to pass a constitutional ban on gay marriage, in 1998, along with Hawaii.

Palin's first veto was used on legislation that would have barred the state from granting benefits to gay state employees and their partners. In effect, her veto granted State benefits to same-sex couples. The veto occurred after Palin consulted with her attorney general on the constitutionality of the legislation.
I don't particularly care for that last part. State Benefits are just a way of redistributing wealth. If same-sex couples need benefits they should pay for them. I pay for mine. My folks pay for their's. And there is such a thing as a Will. Gays should learn to write them and use them rather than seek governmental approval of their lifestyle. Contracts are binding. Write up a contract, people! *sigh* Rant over.

Palin unveils Alaska Quarter design

Now you know something about Sarah Palin, Republican Governor of Alaska, and fair-to-middling conservative. I hope she's on John McCain's short-list as a Vice Presidential running mate. Let's hope we don't see a replay of the 1980 Republican Party trying to shoehorn in Gerald Ford as Ronald Reagan's VP running mate/co-presidential candidate (since the Party knew that Reagan couldn't win the election on his own. Have we learned anything, Republicans?). Enough of the old Party garbage. Let's put the old Pols to bed. Maybe Palin isn't the perfect VP candidate, but she's proven electoral candidate, she has managed a growing city and a growing State. And she's smart, bold, brave, ... and a Maverick!

Sarah Palin for Vice President of the United States of America!

Sarah Palin at
Alaska Governor Sarah Palin For VP?
Palin meets with McCain to talk about Pork
Que Sarah, Sarah
Sarah Palin for VP
Draft Sarah Palin For Vice President

Palin on the Political GraphAccording to VoteMatchQuiz, Palin is a Moderate Populist Conservative.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Independence Day!


The Summation of this document read as follows:
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

To read all of it, just as a reminder to us all, go on over to Wake Forest University.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Clark & McCain: Contrasts

Wesley ClarkGeneral Wesley Clark (ret) is a mouthpiece for the Democratic Presidential Nominee-apparent, Barack H. Obama. Touting his magnificent military record as evidence of his political acumen he has attacked Senator John McCain on quite a few occasions. The Obama campaign is using Clark as a stalking horse against McCain to give the American public the perception that McCain is not the man they say you think he is. Why use Wes Clark in this capacity?

General Wesley Clark - a Democrat - is considered by the Democratic Party a genuine military hero, much in the manner of John "France" Kerry, and thus immune to any counter-attacks by the mean-spirited Republicans and their thugs. As the Former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, his words carry a lot of weight, though this is not the usual case for the Democratic Party. The fact that he was fired from that position - by the Clinton Administration! - is conveniently ignored.

From Counterpunch:
Anyone seeking to understand the bloody fiasco of the Serbian war need hardly look further than the person of the beribboned Supreme Allied Commander, General Wesley K. Clark. Politicians and journalists are generally according him a respectful hearing as he discourses on the "schedule" for the destruction of Serbia, tellingly embracing phrases favored by military bureaucrats such as "systematic" and "methodical".

The reaction from former army subordinates is very different.

"The poster child for everything that is wrong with the GO (general officer) corps," exclaims one colonel, who has had occasion to observe Clark in action, citing, among other examples, his command of the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood from 1992 to 1994.

While Clark's official Pentagon biography proclaims his triumph in "transitioning the Division into a rapidly deployable force" this officer describes the "1st Horse Division" as "easily the worst division I have ever seen in 25 years of doing this stuff."

Clark cartoonAnd there's this:

While he regards his junior officers with watchful suspicion, he customarily accords the lower ranks little more than arrogant contempt. A veteran of Clark's tenure at Fort Hood recalls the general's "massive tantrum because the privates and sergeants and wives in the crowded (canteen) checkout lines didn't jump out of the way fast enough to let him through".

Clark's demeanor to those above is, of course, very different, a mode of behavior that has earned him rich dividends over the years. Thus, early in 1994, he was a candidate for promotion from two to three star general. Only one hurdle remained - a war game exercise known as the Battle Command Training Program in which Clark would have to maneuver his division against an opposing force. The commander of the opposing force, or "OPFOR" was known for the military skill with which he routinely demolished opponents.

But Clark's patrons on high were determined that no such humiliation should be visited on their favorite. Prior to the exercise therefore, strict orders came down that the battle should go Clark's way. Accordingly, the OPFOR was reduced in strength by half, thus enabling Clark, despite deploying tactics of signal ineptitude, to triumph. His third star came down a few weeks later.

Because Wesley Clark believes he is a truly gifted military man, and the Democrats want so desperately to believe that also, his word is accepted as Gospel in the Party. The Obama campaign clearly sees no problem in throwing Clark's insidious attacks in McCain's way. Despite disavowing Clark's statements - and not really! - Clark remains their stalking horse. What is it about Clark that has earned enmity from those in the military who served above, with, and under him? Why is the Golden-Haired Boy of his early military days now exposed for the cheap, vain, small-minded, little man he seems to be?

From Oceanguy at Somewhere on IA, comes "Wesley Clark - Useful Idiot":
I once described Wesley Clark as one of those military officers who believed their Fitness Reports… I still believe it.
I don't think the military is unusual in having a problem of inflated evaluations, but it's a system I'm very familiar with. Whatever the cause of the phenomenon, I lived it during a 20 year career in the Navy, both as an evaluator and as one being evaluated. Grades are inflated to the point that Ratings of "above average" are a slap in that face that could be career killers. "Superlatives" were merely average grades. The whole evaluation process was often laughable. I had one evaluation as a young 24 year old Lieutenant Junior Grade which described me as "sagacious" and "perspicacious." Yeah, at 24 I may have thought I was, but I still laughed at the comments, and was almost embarrassed during my evaluation interview.


And here I thought grade inflation was only used by the Leftist School Administrations. But, no, the military finds it easier to pass than fail.

I look at Wesley Clark and I see one of those men who believed their fitness reports. For his entire career he was almost certainly told he was superlative… just like 90% of his peers… if he hadn't been he'd have never been a General… and through the luck of timing, and maybe a politically minded mentor, or through his own burning ambition, he wound up in charge of something important ant a momentous time. The fact that he was basically fired, doesn't matter, because through it all, even after he was removed from the post, he believed his fitness reports. In fact his firing was publicly presented in such a way as to keep his superlative self-esteem intact. He was a success while being fired.

It's not at all surprising to me that such a man, one who feels great about his accomplishments while ignoring the reality of the results, winds up as a voice in today's Democratic Party. A sympathetic press, eager to have a military hero as a Democratic spokesman, rush to hold him up as an icon to their commitment to National Security. It's not at all surprising that, given that platform and his unfailing belief in his own fitness reports, that he would pull out his crank and stomp on it while attacking a genuinely courageous and soft-spoken hero. It's extremely offensive, but not at all surprising.

I think the most telling statement that shows exactly what a 'useful idiot' Clark is would be his most recent back-handed slap in McCain's face. While explaining that McCain had not had that much experience so as to be a President, he said, "I don't think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president."

No, that isn't a qualification. Nor is being the Editor of the Harvard Review, which is one of Barack Obama's chief resume points. But that simplistic bit of nastiness wasn't enough for Ol' Gen'rul Clark, no he wanted to make sure we all understood. His previous words were, "I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in the armed forces, as a prisoner of war, [...]"

McCain giving interview in April, 1974Look, I may not know all that much about matters military, but I don't recall ever reading that description. McCain was serving as a US Naval Aviator, not as a Prisoner of War. I imagine one does not 'serve' as a prisoner of war so much as endure. And McCain endured. For five-and-a-half years. Clark's words are an insult, not to mention stupid beyond belief. He may have been a Rhodes Scholar, and nobody will say he's not bright, but he's not terribly smart. Instead he's a weak man, full of himself, still hoping for greater things in his life. And McCain is a handy target for his unfulfilled ambitions. He's just another tool of the Obama smear campaign.

McCain speeks at Annapolis

And what of Senator John McCain? Who the heck is he that he commands such ugly attacks on himself? Here's an excerpt from the Jerusalem Post article/editorial, "A not-so-public man: the private character of John McCain":

It's pretty amazing when you think about it. War hero John McCain has been in the public eye almost his entire adult life. He's run numerous campaigns, served in Congress for 25 years, and is in his second run for the presidency.

Yet, there is so much of his life that reveals an absolutely sterling character, but remains largely unknown to the public. And in spite of the tremendous political advantages that publicity could confer, McCain instinctively keeps that information private. Although as a presidential candidate he may be forced to overcome this reticence, he honorably shies away from using his personal heroics for political gain.

How aware is the public that McCain has raised seven children? Or that he adopted his two oldest sons as small boys (children from his wife's prior marriage)? Or that he has raised a Bangladeshi girl with severe health problems adopted from Mother Theresa's orphanage? Or that his own sons have served in the military, including in Iraq?

It's widely known that McCain, a Navy pilot, was shot down, captured and tortured by the North Vietnamese for 5 and a half years - an episode worth a forthcoming column all its own. But few are aware that he refused early release until all the POWs captured before him were freed, and that he refused special treatment offered once it was discovered that he was the "crown prince" (the son of the admiral in charge of the Pacific Fleet) because he wouldn't provide the enemy with any propaganda victories.

Even fewer seem to know that those years were a fraction of a 22-year Navy career. Although broken and battered, after his release from Vietnamese captivity he went right back to the Navy, where he continued to serve for an additional eight years.


Remember the whispering campaign the MSM trumpeted in 200? You know, the one that hinted that John McCain had a “black baby”? I remember, and I recall wondering who really cared? After all we were coming to the close of the Bill Clinton era, the era of BJs in the Oval Office and other nasty behavior in the White House. Did anybody really care about John McCain? Well, some believe that campaign of innuendos ruined McCain’s chances at the Republican nomination in 2000.

I didn’t believe it, and I did vote for McCain that year. Not G.W.Bush. Of course it was more a protest vote against the Republican Party, but still ... I voted for McCain in 2000.

Angry John McCainMcCain may be a hot-head - the word is ... he is! - and he’s never going to be the conservative that we right-wing Republicans want. Like Barry Goldwater, McCain steers his own course, heedless of the opinions of others. If he doesn’t have all the facts he goes with his guts. That means he can be way off base, as he is with the Illegal Alien issue, or with the phony Man-made Global Change hysteria.

But with John McCain there is a solidity that his opponent does not have and his attackers have never had. With McCain Honor is not just a nice-looking word but a credo to live by. His loyalty may not be to the Republican Party, but it is to the United States of America, which he served for 22 years as a military man. His loyalty is to his constituents in Arizona whom he has served for 25 years. His loyalty is to his family.

While John McCain touts his political service and experience, his military service and experience, he rarely discusses his captivity and torture in North Vietnam. He shields his family from the public glare as much as is possible, and goes about his business. He is an honorable man, a prickly man, and as much a hero as any who served during the Vietnam War.

By the way, Wesley Clark also served in Vietnam. He received the Bronze Star for his work as a Staff Officer, and was wounded in combat one month after taking command of A Company, 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry of the 1st Infantry Division in January 1970. For his actions he was awarded the Silver Star. His “meteoric rise” through the military ranks began then. His press clippings rose, too.

Clark addresses Nutroots
Gen. Wesley Clark at YearlyKos conference in Chicago, Aug. 3, 2007.
Chicago Tribune photo by Charles Osgood.

Of the two men, I know whom I consider the far better and greater man, and the one whom I would trust. And it ain’t Wes Clark.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

It Didn't End With Piglet

Tayside, Scotland, 1974In Tayside, Scotland, it seems the Police have mightily offended the local Muslim population. How did they manage to offend the Muslims of Tayside, you ask? I bet some of you already know, but allow me to elucidate. The Tayside police produced what the Brits call a Postcard, which is a kind of advertisement. In this case an advertisement to let the locals know what the new non-emergency telephone number is and to remind them that "999" is the emergency number to call.

How did that offend the Muslims of Tayside - or at least the usual vocal idiots? The image the police chose for the card consists of a puppy sitting in a constable's hat. Now isn't that enough to make you choke with rage and indignation? Puppies! Good Lord, how offensive! Right?

Well, it is to overly-sensitive Muslims, it appears, as they are unable to turn their heads and not look at the offensive image of an unclean - non-Haraam - animal. They just can't get it out of their heads, as Jeff Lynne might say.

The horror! The horror!

From The Daily Mail Online:
The advert has upset Muslims because dogs are considered ritually unclean and has sparked such anger that some shopkeepers in Dundee have refused to display the advert.
Dundee councillor Mohammed Asif said: 'My concern was that it's not welcomed by all communities, with the dog on the cards.
'It was probably a waste of resources going to these communities.
'They (the police) should have understood. Since then, the police have explained that it was an oversight on their part, and that if they'd seen it was going to cause upset they wouldn't have done it.'
Councillor Asif, who is a member of the Tayside Joint Police Board, said that the force had a diversity adviser and was generally very aware of such issues.

Ahh, yes, the politically correct 'Diversity Adviser." What a wonderful world the Scots now live in where images of puppies are deemed offensive. Yeesh!

Rebel, the offensive pup, has now been completely inoculated, though not against human stupidity, and will be taking to the streets. We can expect that local Muslims will now complain about police use of dogs in their work, which is already a hot-button issue everywhere in Britain. Again from the Daily Mail:
A spokesman for Tayside Police said: 'Trainee police dog Rebel has proved extremely popular with children and adults since being introduced to the public, aged six weeks old, as Tayside Police's newest canine recruit.
'His incredible world-wide popularity - he has attracted record visitor numbers to our website - led us to believe Rebel could play a starring role in the promotion of our non-emergency number.
'We did not seek advice from the force's diversity adviser prior to publishing and distributing the postcards. That was an oversight and we apologise for any offence caused.'

How sad is it that the police feel any need to apologize for displaying a cute puppy on an advertisement? From the Daily Telegraph article comments section, a moment of sanity and clarity:
8. Posted by Stevie The Scot on July 02, 2008 10:04 AM
If Muslims find dogs offensive or, indeed, any other part of British life not to their liking, why don't they bugger off.

They moved here, so they either adapt to our culture or they can get lost.

I find them quite offensive at times, so I wouldn't dream of moving to a Muslim country because of that.

It's fairly simple.

I wish it really were that simple. I know you remember the hue and cry in Britain when Muslims - in 2005 - discovered Piglet. Mark Steyn wrote about it. So offensive was Piglet's image that local government's and employers sprang into action to erase the offending image. And that included ordering a homeowner to remove porcelain pig figurines from her windowsill. Can't be offending the Wogs on the street, now can we?

Frightening image!Even British Banks got into the act by banning ... wait for it ... Piggy Banks! The offense isn't to your regular British Muslim, but to the radical Islamists that have turned some areas in Britain into mini-nation-lettes under Muslim control. Even bare-shouldered images of little girls have been banned from Passport photos by overzealous bureaucrats. I would think that these are incredibly offensive actions to most British people.

Then again, perhaps not. They have yet to complain in sufficient numbers to put a stop to this stupidity. It continues. And it grows. Like the cancer that Islamism is.

So, hide your puppy pictures if you go to Scotland, cover your bare shoulders in Great Britain, and try not to be offensive. "Can't we all just get along?"

Tip of the Hat to Callimachus!