Monday, January 31, 2011

The Sarah Palin- Tea Party Battle Hymn


To close out the month of January.....with a civil unrest in Egypt, healthcare reform under attack from courts, the lingering images of the Tucson massacre, and much too much snow.....let's say "GOOD RIDDANCE!" to this nasty month with a laugh or two.

Below, from The Young Turks, Cenk Uygur prsents a couple who've written a battle hymn for Sarah Palin and the Tea Party that must be seen and heard to be believed.



See you next month!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

40 Years Ago On This Date A Kid From Jersey Joined The Air Force

lackland afb Pictures, Images and Photos

January 29, 1971 was a cold day in New Jersey, around 18 degrees in the morning. I packed light for my trip to Texas. I was beginning a new job; in a few hours I would be a federal employee, performing a similar job my father once had, and his father before him. I would be flying, but I had no need for a ticket; the taxpayers of the United States were picking up the tab. But first I had to get to the Federal Building in Newark. That's where I was to sworn in; in a few short hours life as I knew it would be gone forever, as would the adolescence I managed to hang onto as even after I had turned 20.

Because shortly after lunchtime I would cease to be Joe Civilian and would be known from that point, and for several years until I gained the rank of sergeant, as Airman. I was to take the oath and sworn in as a member of the United States Air Force, and before the day was out I would be in my new home, a barracks somewhere at Lackland Air Force Base, just outside of San Antonio, Texas.

I was too young and too foolish to be scared- I only felt a sense of relief that at long last all of the questions about would I or would I not be drafted would be over . No, I was not drafted.....but the specter of the draft made me choose the Air Force. I was joining by choice, but with more than a little nudging. My draft lottery number was 40, which meant I would probably receive a draft notice within the next two months. I had taken a pre-induction physical by orders of Selective Service two weeks before. Even though I was, and still am, incredibly nearsighted I could tell by watching what was happening around me of what was to come- I would be classified "1A", meaning I was able to serve.

It would just be a matter of time before I received a letter that said GREETINGS!

The problem was I really didn't want to go in the Army. There was this conflict you might have heard of in Vietnam, still raging in 1971 with no real end in sight. Truth be told, I was one of those long haired hippie types who knew what kind of guitars Neil Young and Stephen Stills played, but couldn't tell an M-16 from an MG. And besides, I had some authority issues as well- I flunked out of one college (maybe I should have gone to class), and dropped out of another.

So....I was draft bait. Uncle Sam wanted me....and to be honest, I was going reluctantly. And I'll bottomline this as best I can without getting into all of the late Sixties rhetoric. I hated the war in Vietnam; I bought the whole song and dance about saving Vietnam from Communism while I was in high school.....but in April of my senior year Martin Luther King was murdered. And in June, Robert F. Kennedy's life ended from Sirhan Sirhan's bullets. And my illusions of the life in America began to change in that turbulent year of 1968. I loved my country, then and now. But the land that I saw as a child as perfect had- in my eyes- some very serious flaws.

My mantra became "Save Vietnam, so they can be like us? And have leaders murdered almost routinely?". It was a time of civil unrest, well documented. Nineteen sixty-eight was a heck of year to be sent off into adulthood.

Anyway, while at my pre-induction physical, and knowing I was mere weeks away from being drafted, our whole group of "pre-inductees" were in a holding area where we saw new recruits being processed into the US military. We watched a group of guys coming in thinking they were being drafted into the Army; they were told to count off in three's. When they were done, the Army sergeant processing them told all of the three's to step forward and move across the room. After they followed his order the sergeant told them, "Congratulations....all of you men are going to be Marines".

We watched this cautionary tale before our eyes, and some of us looked at the far end of holding area; there were recruiters for the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force in little cubicles. We were still in our underwear, holding the final paperwork from our pre-induction physicals. One guy sitting next me said, "That's it, I'm seeing if I can get in the Navy". I thought he made a good choice. And with little hesitation I took a walk to the Air Force recruiter and asked him if they were still taking volunteers. My entire thought process of thinking about joining the Air Force and actually doing it was about 30 seconds. I don't think I've ever made a life changing decision so split second before or since.

After I turned my medical papers over to the sergeant at the desk, he asked, "Do you want to go next week?"

"Ahhh.....how about in two weeks?", I countered.

"Sure....we need you to fill out some more paperwork". And I obliged.

And.....that was that. I had to come back the following Saturday and take some aptitude tests, but that was it. I was going into the Air Force.

Now....some may ask, if I hated the war so much why didn't I resist the draft or go to Canada?

Very simply.....I hated the war. I didn't hate my country. My country frustrated me, sometimes it made me angry....but people and things we love usually have a way of doing that. Going to jail to make a point may be the right thing for some people, but it was not my way. and as for going to Canada to avoid the draft....I never considered it. If I had gone into a self imposed Canadian exile in my own heart and soul I would have forfeited my voice forever; in good conscience, I could not do it. Go ahead and serve, just like Dad and Grandpa did during the World Wars, and I would have paid my dues. I had a right to be heard. I am an American, and in the future no one could silence me if I didn't wish to be silenced.

And so two weeks later, Mom and Dad tearfully drove me to Newark, where I said my goodbyes as stiff-lippedly as I could- I hated to watch my Mom cry. And after lunch at the Federal Building we freshly minted US airmen got on a bus to Newark Airport, where we got on an old Braniff Airlines 727- each one was painted a different color; no wonder they went broke. During the flight to San Antonio we hit an airpocket; the beautiful blond flight attendant fell into my lap momentarily. She apologized, and I smiled but couldn't think of a clever thing to say. Little did I know she would be the last woman I would come in contact with that closely for many a month.

At San Antonio it was close to 70 degrees in the evening...remember, this was January. We bussed from the airport to Lackland AFB under the direction of Sgt. Sawed Off, a little guy with glasses and a squeaky voice. There was about a dozen of us from New Jersey; soon we were joined by about twenty guys from Brooklyn, and some from Ohio, and to keep it interesting, about ten more from Mississippi. These were the 50 men I would be with during basic training....we stood on a drill pad where we met our "TI's" (Training Instructors)....let's call them Tech Sgt Face Like Clenched Fist and Staff Sgt Gold Tooth. Gold Tooth did all the talking. After introducing themselves Gold Tooth gave us our first order.

"From now on the first and last words out of your mouth when addressing me or any Training Instructor will be 'Sir!' Now, you hogs have ten minutes to get get all beards, moustaches and sideburns shaved off.....now, get your filthy asses in that dorm....RIGHT NOW!"

Now....there were 50 of us in the latrine scrambling for space to shave in the five sinks. One guy, Bill from Brooklyn, shaved so fast and sloppily that he had what looked like a Hitler moustache over his lip, but it was really a scab. It was a Friday night and we wouldn't officially begin training until Monday. We'd spend one last weekend in our civvies, sleeping in an open bay barracks. Gold Tooth got us out of bed at 5:00 AM the next day; first the light went on, and if you didn't move Gold Tooth flipped the bed over with you in it.

He only had to do it once; there were no repeat offenders.

Monday we got our heads shaved and were issued uniforms, and training began. I can remember some details of those days like it happened last week, and I can recall the smells, and tastes, and emotions, and even how the weather was for duration- it was Texas in the winter, temperatures ranged from highs in the 70's to near freezing.

I remember how the chow hall smelled outside on those chilly mornings; you could smell the bacon and hotcakes from 100 yards away.

And on the Monday we got our heads shaved we left the barbershop and were to march over to the uniform distribution center. We were supposed to get in the same formation behind the same guy we marched in with. The problem is, everybody looked different without any hair. The only way I found the guy who I was supposed to behind in formation was to look for the strange red birthmark he had on the back of his neck. I found him, but it took awhile.

I remember a kid from New York named Leroy who was dry shaved by Gold Tooth because he had too much stubble.

And there was mail call....and those letters from home that always made your day.

There was the first base liberty we had after two weeks of training- we were given $30 and freedom to go around the base (with certain limits) for a Saturday. I remember going to a hamburger stand, and ordering a chocolate shake after two weeks of nothing but Air Force chow and only Air Force chow....I never missed something so much in my life as I did those chocolate shakes. My God it tasted good. It was perfect.

There was Sgt Screech, who subbed for Gold Tooth one day, and got into my face, informing me that I marched like I have a corn cob shoved up my ass.

One cold morning that winter Tech Sgt. Face Like A Clenched Fist told us that Joe Frazier beat Muhammad Ali the previous night in Madison Square Garden. The whole world was watching that fight....everybody except basic trainees that is.

Then... I got the flu, and was laid up for 48 hours. I ended up missing M-16 training, which I had to make up before leaving Lackland. I had to spend an extra week there to make up "wet fire" on the range. And surprise...I qualified as a marksman.

I started going to chapel on Sundays because there were WAF's there. I had to reassure myself that women were still part of the human race; those six other days I hadn't seen a woman, and of course we had no TV or radio.

In March we were allowed to go into San Antonio on a 12 hour pass. It was St. Patrick's Day, and the river was dyed green...but were expressly forbidden from even thinking about buying a drink. It was our final week of training, and there were military police all over town watching and waiting for recruits to step out of line.

While in San Antonio on the Riverwalk, I saw an Army Sergeant a few yards away. He had a lot of fruit salad on his uniform, and appeared to be a combat vet. He turned and looked in my direction.....half his face had been melted away by napalm. That horribly scarred face has been locked in my memory banks all of these forty years. I wonder what ever became of the guy.

Lackland was the beginning of my military adventure. I never was sent to Vietnam. After Lackland I was stationed at Sheppard AFB near Wichita Falls, TX for a few months, then it was on to Hill AFB near Ogden, UT (onetime home of Donnie and Marie) for two years and then RAF Lakenheath, a British base in East Anglia leased by the US Air Force.....I was there for my final two years.

I saw a lot of the United States, and the world. And like most aspects of life there was good and bad, but for the most part there was more good than bad. But what I remember most of those days were the people, the guys who I befriended, some of whom exposed me to books and ideas I was previously unaware of, and of their own uniqueness. There were some great people, incredible parties, and a live for today attitude.....the phone could ring, and we could be told at any moment to get ready, we're being reassigned to Southeast Asia.

There are stories of those days...so many.

But that mind have to wait for another cold snow day when I feel like sharing some "war stories"....well, sort of.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sarah Palin, Sputnik and a REAL "WTF" Moment


On MORNING JOE (on MSNBC) Joe, Mika, Willie and guests watched a clip of Greta Van Susteren's interview of Sarah Palin critiquing President Obama's State of the Union Address, complete with her use of the acronym "WTF" to describe areas of his speech. I'm pretty sure she knows what it means- and it's not "Winning The Future". Surely Palin probably got some yucks from the knuckleheads who think she should run for president in 2012. But what was really interesting was Palin's response to the term "Sputnik Moment", meaning that event that challenges America to get up, be more competitive, excel, and win, just like the US did after the Soviets launched Sputnik in 1957 and America entered and eventually won the space race.



Hmmmm. That answer kind of reminded me of something I saw years ago. From another former pageant contestant.



Anyway....back to the original subject.

Wouldn't it have been merciful to all who still care about Sarah Palin to have Greta Van Susteren just stop Palin in the middle of her gibberish and say....."Governor Palin, you really have no idea what a 'Sputnik Moment' refers to, do you?".

But I guess the Fox News audience would have turned on Van Susteren, called her a "RINO", and demand her firing.

I guess Uncle Pat Buchanan deserves some high marks, however. At least he had the good sense as not to try to spin her words.....and the reaction from the MORNING JOE regulars was priceless.

One more time......this woman knows NOTHING.

The Official Mid Winter Cabin Fever Is Killing Me Entry


Above- the view of my street after 14 inches of snow fell in Central New Jersey last night. It's only January and already it's made it to #6 snowiest winter of all time in the NYC Metro area

I used to kid my brother who now lives in northern Ohio about living in a snow belt, with lake effect snows and even days when it's so cold snow comes down with no clouds in the sky.

So I suppose there's some reverse karma at work right now....the New Brunswick area is starting to look like Ashtabula. But we were among the luckier ones; we never lost power (6,500 residents did) and my cousin in Clifton got socked with 19 inches of the white stuff.

Yesterday we had two separate storms, the first of which was 4 inches of wintry mix that began in the wee hours of Wednesday and ended in the early afternoon. Then it was the main event, a Nor'easter that had ripped through Florida early in the week and churned up the coast with warm air hitting cold air in the Mid-Atlantic, causing "thunder snow" (see previous post) and freezing rain that felt and sounded like a tropical storm, then a changeover to a heavy, wet snow that downed trees, powerlines, and made travel impossible in these parts. Central Park in New York recorded 19 inches of snow and passed the 30 inch mark for the month; this was the snowiest January in New York's recorded history.

And we've got two more months of winter to go.....Groundhog Day can't come fast enough. Please Phil, give us some good news!

Everyone who reads this blog regularly knows I'm no youngster....heck, I still own a SONY WALKMAN (and it still works). And I'm starting to feel the physical ravages of removing snow two and three times a week.

But I must admit....snow sure can be beautiful, even awe inspiring. And it's more aesthetically pleasing than gray skies, brown lawns, and bare trees.

Here's some pics from the first few minutes prior to the beginning of snow removal.

The back patio. Check out the picnic table

The deck in the back garden

The back door, freshly dug out!

The view from the top of the driveway before I started removing snow. At the end of the driveway is a five foot tall wall of snow, courtesy of a township snowplow.

The Old Homestead

Somewhere under that four foot pile of snow are daffodil bulbs hoping to make an appearance sometime in 2011.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Quick Hits For January 26, 2011 (State of The Union And Snowbound Edition)



OK boys and girls....I've been slacking off (NOT) for the past few days, and it's time to get caught up with some of the stories people are talking about, the one's that are keeping me up at night, and total fluff that maybe one or two of you have even heard of....plus a couple of personal opinions.

(1). To all parents who want to get your lazy teenage kids to remove snow from your driveway, here's a sure fire method; just buy them a car.

(2). The President's State of the Union speech last night was without a doubt a move to the center- about 90% was a message that even the Republicans couldn't rail against. How do you sit there with arms folded when Barack Obama calls for improvements to education, or new forms of energy, or a presidential veto of earmarks? His mention of a need for high speed rail and a cutting of oil subsidies met with a chilly reception for the Republicans, and a mixed review for another look at the Dream Act, as well as blank looks at the mention of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".

But for much of the speech, there was little that the Republicans could pounce on and yell "extremism", though that hasn't stopped the lunatic fringe in the media, the blogesphere, and even in Congress from doing so.

(3). As I type this on January 26, 205 Americans have been shot on this day alone. On a night when Gabrielle Giffords chair was left empty, and the family of little Christina Taylor Green were sitting in the gallery with Mrs. Obama, shouldn't the President have mentioned the need to restrict the sale of extension magazines for handguns? Even Dick Cheney has mentioned that maybe its time to re-examine the easy access to high capacity ammo clips. How much is enough?

(4). Representaitive Michele Bachmann.....oh brother! I confess, I didn't watch her personal rebuttal to the SOTU that followed Paul Ryan's official Republican rebuttal. But I can't take her seriously....not when she actually told a group that the Founding Fathers did away with slavery....and she can't say she was misquoted because, as they say in football, there is "indisputable video evidence" to the contrary.



Ms. Bachmann......go into your wallet. Take out a five dollar bill. Do you see the man with the beard? Excellent! Write down his name and GOOGLE it.

And write a 500 word essay due on Friday....then you can go back to Congress, or run for president.

Anyone for tea?

(5). I was supposed to be at the Rutgers-UCONN women's basketball game at The RAC in Piscataway at this very hour.....but the weather is not co-operating. We had four inches of snow so far today, then there's been a brief pause, and a second storm that will dump around ten additional inches is just starting. The game will not be postponed because UCONN is already in town, and so are the officials.

So anybody who's reading this can have my seat in section 104 tonight.....if you can get there. My guess- they'll be around 6,000 no shows tonight for a game that usually sells out at the 8,000 seat RAC.

(6). Jets go down in Pittsburgh. I guess the countdown to baseball season has officially begun.

(7). Speaking of COUNTDOWN......that Olbermann guy has turned into The Twitter King.

(8). You're not going to believe this.....but there's lightning and thunder outside in a winter storm in January! Nah, there's no climate change!

I just checked outside, and it's freezing rain....and it's driving.

(9). I swore I'd never watch Big Love after the disaster of a season last time around. But I'm back watching.....and I'm still wondering why.

(10). Finally....I'm getting concerned that we could lose power. So I'm outta here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

NFL- The Winners of the NFC and AFC Championship Games Will Be........


I have to hurry and get this posted and get on record for my picks in today's games, the last TRUE football weekend of the season. Super Bowls don't count; it's a day for people who know zilch about football to party their asses off, sort of like New Year's Eve is for "amateurs", as Jackie Gleason used to say.

OK, very quickly.....it's going to be Green Bay over the Bears, 35-17, and the Jets over Pittsburgh, 24-20. The wins will have nothing to do with Aaron Rodgers or Mark Sanchez having great games.

No, they will win because God wants them to. Trust me on this one.

I went to Mass at 12:00PM.....the priest was wearing green vestments. And so was every Catholic priest in the United States, and throughout the world. Think green!

They must have some inside info.....God willing.

Of course, I'm wearing my old #28 Curtis Martin jersey as I type this. And no, the priest this morning had no number on the back of his green vestments.

But he did sound a helluva lot like Rex Ryan.

Keith Olbermann Exits- A "Special Comment" of My Own


Commentary

This morning I watched Johnny Cash's America, a two hour biographical film on A&E. It traced the highs and lows, the demons and triumphs of the life of this American original. Many of us old enough can remember the zenith of Cash's career in the early 1970's when he had a weekly TV show that appealed not only to his country music base, but to the Baby Boomer generation; on any given JOHNNY CASH SHOW you could find Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, or Stevie Wonder, often jamming with Cash and Carl Perkins and the Tennessee Three.

But ten years later Cash's career spiraled downward. By the early 1980's Columbia Records, Cash's label for nearly 30 years, unceremoniously dropped him. Some friends said that the money Cash generated in record sales built Columbia's Nashville headquarters, and the suits showed their gratitude by giving him the boot.

I'm telling this little story because I couldn't help but think of the departure of Keith Olbermann from MSNBC last Friday, and the similarities it had to that of Johnny Cash being tossed by Columbia three decades ago. In my eyes, time should be marked at MSNBC as "BKO" for the years before Olbermann took over COUNTDOWN, and call whatever follows the "Left Turn Era". Keith Olbermann was THAT important to the branding of MSNBC, which before the emergence of Olbermann and COUNTDOWN was deeply mired in third place among the three cable news networks.

To be frank about it, MSNBC had no identity before COUNTDOWN. The Right had Fox News, and CNN was "the Original Recipe", the first cable news station, the one for the rest of us. Yes, MSNBC did have Don Imus in those days; many have now forgotten in the wake of the flap of his remarks about the Rutgers Women's Basketball team is that Imus would have left leaning guests on his show, not because Imus was a liberal (he was a registered Republican), but he only had guests on his show that he liked. And that included members of all political ideologies.

But it was Keith Olbermann's emergence as the most prominent liberal.....if not the only....voice in cable news that began the re-branding of MSNBC as a progressive alternative to the FOX NEWS juggernaut, and the bland neutrality of CNN. At a time when it was still fashionable for The Right to use the word "liberal" as a pejorative, Olbermann was unapologetic for his progressive views. While war raged in Iraq and Afghanistan, and any criticism of the wars was deemed as unpatriotic by the Right, Olbermann showed that dissent from popular opinion at risk to one's own position may be in itself the highest form of patriotism. The emergence of his progressive voice began a process that saw more liberal voices coming out of the woodwork and seeking a platform. Not only did Keith Olbermann set a tone for what came to follow at MSNBC, but his voice may have been responsible for spawning hundreds or even thousands of others in the media or in the blogesphere.

And for that, we owe him a collective "thank you".

We may never know all of the reasons for Olbermann's departure from MSNBC. Some conspiracy theorists say that COMCAST was behind the termination...I don't buy that, and yes, I am aware of the situation involving Bill O'Reilly, COMCAST, and former COMCAST broadcaster Barry Nolan. You don't show your biggest star the door when you depend on ratings for advertising dollars. It's business, and it's still always about money.

Keith is rich, and will return to TV even richer. And maybe this is a good time for him to step back and take some time for himself. In the past two years he had to bury both of his parents, and saw a politician he financially supported (resulting in his suspension) shot in the head. And maybe in this time when media and politicians are being asked to tone it down and heed the call of the "new civility" Keith Olbermann just decided to step away, and just watch what will happen next.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Olbermann Leaves MSNBC


In a surprising turn of events, tonight Keith Olbermann announced that this would be his last night hosting COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

It wasn't a gag, or a publicity stunt. NBC News said on TWITTER that MSNBC has decided Olbermann's contract would not be renewed. Friends such as Luke Russert and Shannyn Moore immediately tweeted goodbyes and goodlucks to Olbermann.

Below, his short farewell and thank you to his audience.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Well...what's next?

It's just my opinion, but don't be surprised if Keith ends up on CNN. Their ratings are in the tank, their Parker/Spitzer is a disaster and is a poor lead in to the new Piers Morgan Show. The entire evening lineup needs a makeover, and fast.

I think after Olbermann's non-compete is completed he ends up at 8:00PM Eastern and Pacific on CNN.

One thing you can bank on...he's not in line to replace Regis.

THE LONG ORDEAL OF JAMES BRADY - NYTimes.com

Pictured; Jim and Sarah Brady

In the September 27, 1981 link below Dr. Richard E. Cytowic, a Washington neurologist and medical writer, told the story of President Ronald Reagan's press secretary Jim Brady, shot in the head by John Hinckley during Hinckley's attempted assassination of the President on March 30, 1981.

What followed were hours of confusion and false reports of Brady's death by the news media while the fight to save his life continued at George Washington University Hospital. Some of what is presented in the article will remind the reader of the ordeal of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, of the possible trauma to her brain and the swelling that could have resulted in her death. Like Jim Brady, Gaby Giffords was shot in the daytime, a fact that may have given her a better chance of survival since full daytime staff was on the floor of the hospital as she was brought in.

Brady's story of survival and the aftermath of the shooting may serve as a guide as to what to expect in Gaby Giffords' road to recovery. Dr. Cytowic's story is an eight page glimpse of what it was like on the day Ronald Reagan almost lost his life, and Jim Brady's life was altered forever.

Click the link below for the full story, from THE NEW YORK TIMES.


THE LONG ORDEAL OF JAMES BRADY - NYTimes.com

It is January 21, 2011. As of 8:00PM, 224 Americans have been shot this day.

Had enough? Visit The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

In The Time I Took To Write This Entry, Twenty Americans Have Been Shot


Commentary

It's 6:37PM Thursday evening and so far today, according to The Brady Campaign, 207 Americans have been shot, including two police officers in Miami, one of whom has died died according to MSNBC. And as of this date, January 20th, 2011, the fiftieth anniversary of John F. Kennedy's inauguration and his "ask not what your country can do for you" speech, 5,301 Americans have been shot either accidentally or or with intent to do harm.

Over 9,000 Americans were murdered with guns last year. Two hundred were shot to death in Canada, 194 in Germany, 35 in Australia, 39 in England and Wales, and 17 in Finland. The United States has about 283 million guns in civilian hands, and 4.5 million guns are sold each year.

I could go on and on, and keep adding facts and figures to try and try to score points, but I'd only find myself preaching to the choir. But I will not lash out against guns and gun ownership; it is a Second Amendment right, as upheld by are courts, and if a law abiding citizen wishes to buy a firearm, they have the right to do so.

However, there are two points I'd like to mention, The first of which I think no member of the gun lobby or Second Amendment can give a logical and coherent argument against; the second point speaks to us as a people.

More gun ownership in America does not make us safer. Period. End of story And as we say in parts of New Jersey, you have to be a little stunod to think otherwise. In a nation of more than 300 million, with an estimated 283 million guns in civilian hands, and hundreds- that's right, plural- of people shot by firearms everyday, how are we safer? Canada has one tenth the United States population, around 30 million people, yet had 200 shooting deaths last year as opposed to over 9,000 shooting deaths in the United States. About 90% of all female homicides in the United States are killed by someone they know, and gun owners are 7.8 times more likely to have threatened their partners with a gun.

In the United States children 5 to 14 are killed at a rate 11 times higher than the combined rates of 22 other populous high income nations. Twenty-two percent of US teenagers have witnessed a shooting, and three years ago an average of eight people aged one year or less to age 19 were killed by firearms everyday.

As for those who protect and serve, the nation's law enforcement officers, from 2000-2009 490 state and local officers have been killed and 20,459 have been assaulted with guns. And in the five year period from 2005-2009 501 federal officers have been killed or assaulted with firearms.

So I ask....how is America safer with more guns?

The answer is...we aren't. And to believe otherwise is either delusional, naive, or for lack of a better word, pretty stupid.

But the saddest statement about the situation that we allow to go on is.....that we allow it to go on.

And that's the second point I'll toss at you.

Our politicians are either funded by or are fearful of gun rights organizations who hold a great deal of clout. The gun guys always seem to work their magic around election day, with  phone banks and ads about candidates they see as a unacceptable, usually calling the opponent a threat to the Second Amendment. And so after a bloodbath like Virginia Tech, or Columbine, or Tucson there is an initial outcry from the media and certain lawmakers about gun violence in America....and a few weeks later, it's on to the next story- what should be a national shame is reluctantly accepted, and we move on....until the next big shooting.

But everyday, there are all the little incidents that don't make the 6:00 news, or the morning edition, or your internet homepage. Imagine writing up a story for each of the 9,000 lives that get snuffed out each year from being on the wrong end of a gun.

Let's say someone at a news organization started to read the story of each shooting death in the United States for last year, that's 9,484 men, women, and children. And let's say each story lasted for one minute, and there were no commercial interruptions. We'd start reading at 12:01am on a Sunday morning......that would round off to 159 straight hours of reading about American shooting deaths.

The roll call of all of those killed in one year would finally end about 1:00PM the following Saturday.

I keep asking myself in chicken or the egg fashion, are the atrocious amount of gun deaths the disease, or is it a symptom of something more insidious going on in America? And how do we cure it?

This shouldn't be about Democrats or Republicans, this is an American issue. And I'm sure some may want bring up the Founding Fathers, and what they meant in 1789 with the ratification of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and the ambiguity of the wording of the Second Amendment. Most is subject to interpretation and debate among the readers.

But I'm certain of one thing; if we could somehow transport Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton and Franklin to the 21st century to give them a look at how we're doing, I'm sure they would be pleased with much of what they would see- a world of wonder they would barely comprehend two centuries ago.

And then they would see the death toll modern America experiences everyday as the result of firearms. I'm positive that the founders of our republic would be sickened by that sad terrible fact.


In closing....it's 7:53 PM. And 227 Americans have been shot today.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Colleagues, family and friends honor fallen Lakewood police officer with candlelight vigil | NJ.com



Note: In the days since the massacre in Tucson we've been told countless times that the gun laws in America are sacrosanct, and will not and cannot be changed by our elected leadership. No one is saying take all guns away, and I am not either. But something dark and evil grows like a cancer in America.  According to The Brady Campaign the United States of America had 9,484 gun murders last year; Canada was second among Western nations with 200, and England and Wales had 39 gun deaths. The United States leads developed nations with 9.42 gun deaths per 100,000 persons. Switzerland is second with 6.20, Canada is way down the list at 3.20, and the UK failed to chart.

As I type this on January 17, 4,532 have been shot in the United States in 2011.

And 244 Americans have been shot today.

Yet the answer to ending the gun violence in America from our leaders has been simply this to the public......just buy more guns.

Since this blog has found readership in 177 nations I've decided to link with stories of those who's lives were snuffed out too soon courtesy of the gun. Starting this chronicle on the day we remember Dr. Martin Luther King seems entirely appropriate.

The link below will take you The Star-Ledger, where you'll read the story of Lakewood (NJ) police officer Christopher Matlosz, who was shot three times and killed after a routine stop on patrol last Friday night.

Colleagues, family and friends honor fallen Lakewood police officer with candlelight vigil | NJ.com

Martin Luther King, Jr


Before moving on to the day's activities.....and checking out some of the holiday sales....stop and take a moment or two to reflect on the life and times of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., the greatest voice and figure of the civil rights movement, and someone who should be in the list of everyone's Ten Greatest Americans.

Had he lived, he would have been 82 years old on Saturday, the same age as my mother, who's birthday was last week as well.

Dr. King was murdered at age 39.....a life cut tragically short.

And he was one of too many of our countrymen who's life ended as a result of gun violence.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The President's Speech and The Loss of A Precious Young Life


Just in case you were in a cave last night and didn't hear President Obama's speech at the memorial service in Tucson last night, here it is below in it's entirety.




The one victim of this senseless tragedy who has continue to haunt me, and millions throughout the world was nine year old Christina Taylor Green. Below are some of President Obama's remarks regarding the little girl who's short life was bookmarked on each end by tragedies, her birth being on September 11, 2001, and her passing last Saturday. (From a transcript found at cnn.com).

That’s what I believe, in part because that’s what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed. Imagine, imagine here for a moment, a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just beginning to glimpse that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation’s future. She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism, vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

I want to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it. All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.

This was already mentioned, Christina was given to us on September 11th, 2001, one of 50 babies born that day to be pictured in a book called “Faces of Hope.” On either side of her photo in that book were simple wishes for a child’s life. 'I hope you help those in need,' read one. 'I hope you know all of the words to the National Anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart. I hope you jump in rain puddles.'

If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today. And here, on this Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and we commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit.

May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in restful and eternal peace. May He love and watch over the survivors. And may He bless the United States of America.


The rest of the night I couldn't get this old song from The Moody Blues out of my head, "The Eyes of a Child", composed by John Lodge, and released on TO OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN'S CHILDREN (1969). I found this very appropriate video on YouTube.





Wednesday, January 12, 2011

BLOOD LIBEL: A Video History (Mrs Palin, Are You Watching?)


Today Sarah Palin broke her silence after the tragedy in Tucson last Saturday, by posting a video that repudiated the accusation by some that the harsh political rhetoric in the country had any connection with the shooting that left six dead and more than a dozen wounded, including Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords, the target of alleged shooter Jared Loughner.

Palin's website at one time had a picture of Ms. Giffords in crosshairs such are found in a rifle, targeting Giffords for ouster in the upcoming midterm elections.

Palin said the following in the video.....

I listened at first puzzled, then with concerned, and now with sadness to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event If you don't like a person's vision for the country, you're free to debate that vision. If you don't like their ideas, you're free to propose better ideas. But especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible."



And as usual, Palin did her best to portray herself as a victim. And Sarah being Sarah, she made a huge tactical blunder by using the term blood libel, which was used in the past and in the present day by anti Semites to accuse Jews of sacrificing Christian and Muslim children and consuming their blood. Jewish groups, upon hearing Palin use the term, expressed their outrage.

Furthermore, Gabrielle Giffords is the first Jewish woman elected to Congress from Arizona.

Below, a video history of "blood libels".

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Maj Dick Winters 1918-2011; Commander of WW II's "Easy Company"


I just heard the news that Major Richard D Winters passed away on January 2, two weeks before his 93rd birthday. Dick Winters was the commander of Company "E", 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, US Army,  popularly known as "Easy Company", who's exploits were told in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. In the series, Major Winters was portrayed by Damian Lewis, and Winters added some commentary to the series along with other surviving members of Easy Company.

Winters and his men parachuted into Normandy in the dark morning of June 6, 1944, and began to fight their way across France, Belgium, the Netherlands and into Germany. D-Day, the Bulge, the siege of Bastogne, and into Hitler's Germany; Winters and Easy Company were there. He was one of the dwindling numbers of our Greatest Generation, one of those men and women who fought to save civilization during World War II and then went home to post war America and set the stage for what would be the zenith of the American Century.

His was a remarkable story, and he led an extraordinary life.

We are all in his debt, as we are to all who served in that era. My condolences to his loved ones, and here's a final salute a man who's story and that of his comrades will live for generations.

For more on the life of Major Dick Winters click here.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Shooting of Gabrielle Giffords; A Commentary


Commentary

When I heard the news yesterday of the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords at a meet and greet in a Tucson supermarket I must admit, I was not shocked. I was saddened to hear of the incident that left Ms. Giffords shot through the head, and six others dead and another 12 people wounded. A man who can best described as a deranged lunatic named Jared Lee Loughner was the alleged gunman. Federal judge John Roll, 9 year old Christina Taylor- Green-the granddaughter of former Phillies manager and Cubs general manager Dallas Green, Gifford's aide Gabriel Zimmermann, 76 year old Dorothy Murray, 76 year old Dorwin Stoddard, and 79 year old Phyllis Scheck lay dead after the scene was sprayed with shots from a handgun that we're told held 30 rounds of ammo in it's magazine.

No, I was not shocked in the least....in fact I said to myself, well, it finally happened. "It" being a violent event so shocking that the entire nation would be talking about it, just like after Virginia Tech, and just like after Columbine. And as in the case of those two horrific incidents, much will be said about guns and gun violence in America, and the examination of the Second Amendment...and ultimately nothing will change.

But this slaughter was different from the others in that it seemed to have a sitting member of Congress as it's target. We know that Ms. Giffords' congressional office in Tuscon was vandalized in the hours after the healthcare bill was passed last year- Ms. Giffords was a supporter of the bill. And we know that Sarah Palin had an image of crosshairs on her website targetting Giffords and 19 others for defeat in 2010 (Palin's aid Rebecca Monsour defended the image in an interview conducted Saturday).

No rational person can say that the angry rhetoric we hear in political discourse everyday was responsible for the shooting. But sometimes irrational people can believe the nonsense that they're hearing and act on it. I've often wondered if Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck actually believe even half of the BS they spew out daily, or are they just throwing it out there to appeal to a lunatic fringe. The extreme voices that talk about "second amendment remedies", and accuse a sitting president of being (pick one) a Communist, Nazi, racist, Marxist-Socialist, a Muslim, or not even being an American citizen didn't pull a trigger that killed six and wounded a dozen others. But they stir a pot that's ingredients are fear, ignorance, and paranoia.

And to certain deranged minds, like that of Jared Loughner, the conspiracy theories and angry rhetoric make perfect sense.

The Right will say there was anger and vitriol pointed towards the Bush administration and towards conservatives in general. To be sure, there were angry words- but never did members of People For The American Way show up "locked and loaded" with firearms at a Bush political event, nor did any Blue State governor call for secession if we didn't stop using his states' National Guardsmen in an Iraq war he didn't support. There was anger, but the progressives left 19th century remedies where they belong.

And to those who say the words of politicians and extreme media members don't incite people to violence, well aren't some of those the same people who fingered rappers and rockers for lyrical content that they contend lead young listeners to misogyny, drug addiction, and the murder of the nation's cops?

Many years ago I worked in a hotel in Miami. The Speaker of the House at the time, the Democrat Thomas Philip "Tip" O'Neill was a frequent guest with his wife.The Speaker would vacation with his best friend from Massachusetts, the Republican Silvio Conte. Among those in their close circle of friends were Bob and Elizabeth Dole, both Republicans and, and Democratic National Committee Chairman Bob Strauss. That was about 25 years ago, but it was a glimpse as to how things used to work in Washington- lawmakers were like an extended family, with disagreements on certain issues, but in many instances with deep personal friendships when the nation's work ended. It's no coincidence that the wedge that began to divide America was born in the late 1980's with the rise of Right Wing talk radio. The conservative base found a voice with Limbaugh, and he spawned scores of imitators and wannabes.

And the nation changed....and for my money, not for the better.

Below, a special comment from Keith Olbermann.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Rudy Giuliani To Chris Christie- "They Elected You Governor.....They Expect You To Be There".


Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani appeared on Friday's edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe with hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, and guests Lesley Stahl and Donny Deutsch, and the onetime Republican presidential candidate had a constructive critique of his successor's handling of last week's blizzard, and also of the governor of New Jersey's disappearing act during the weather emergency.

Giuliani said that overall New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg has done a good job as mayor, and shouldn't be judged by the poor snow removal performance in the city last week. A Marist poll has said that only 21% of New Yorkers thought that the mayor handled the situation well, while more than 70% thought he did a poor job.


But Giuliani's most pointed criticism was directed towards New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who went to Disney World on the day the blizzard hit, while his lieutenant governor was also vacationing. State Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat and third in command, was in charge while the Republican governor was in Florida. Rudy joins Republican stalwarts Pat Buchanan, Ed Rollins, and former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman in tweaking the YouTube star Christie for his no show during a statewide emergency.

In the interview Mika Brzezinski asked.... "Was it (taking a vacation during an emergency) a mistake on Chris Christie's part?"

Giuliani- "Yeah. Chris should have come back. If he would have asked my advice I would have said, 'They elected you governor, they've got an emergency, they expect you to be there. You've got to be there if you are a governor, a mayor, or even a president if it's important'".

There's a famous YouTube video that might be responsible for putting Chris Christie in the public eye. In it, Christie tells a teacher at a town hall meeting that if she doesn't like the conditions in schools that she doesn't have to teach.

And turnaround being fair, if Chris Christie doesn't want to govern during a weather emergency, then he doesn't have to be governor.

But it is the business he has chosen.



BELIEVE! Eric LeGrand's First Interview With ESPN's Tom Rinaldi


Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand, paralyzed from the neck down after making a tackle in a game against Army last October, has his first interview since the injury with Tom Rinaldi of ESPN. And there is hope for recovery.




What a courageous young guy. Whenever you think you're having a bad day, think of Eric.

BELIEVE!!!!!!!!!!

 

 
 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Changes! Here They Are.................


OK my friends...

A couple of days ago I spoke of some changes that I wanted to make to the blog. Some of these will be about content, some will be about publishing. None of these changes will be a radical departure, but I'll explain as I get into the nuts and bolts of what's going to happen.

1). I'll be doing fewer national political stories- I said fewer, not excluding them altogether. I've decided to do this because of the redundancy that happens in the blogesphere; hundreds of posts about the same subject with an equal amount being buried in the shuffle. There's alot of people out there writing about national issues, and doing it better and more passionately than me.

2). Instead, I'll be writing more New Jersey related entries, and about topics that may be flowing under the radar. I just heard of the new poll that says Chris Christie could beat Barack Obama in a general election. I guess those voters in other states are smarter than we are here in New Jersey regarding our governor, you know, the guy who went to Disney World while his state was buried (in parts ) with three feet of snow, and who returned to blame anyone but himself for any problems encountered while he was away? No, there's plenty to write about here in New Jersey. And the "under the radar" people and topics always seem to get the most response from readers, and the most comments. There will be books, movies, and TV reviews as well....and the odd national topic discussed, just not as frequently.

3). I'm going to be posting less. This has become a necessity for me, and without going into too many details, I'll try to explain. As many of you know, I'm the primary caregiver to both of my 80-something parents. Their needs are becoming more acute with each passing month- nothing life threatening or anything like that, just more frequent and time consuming. For example, I just went through a five day stretch where I took my Dad to three different doctors in that time frame, all during New Year's weekend- nothing big, just routine maintenance for eighty year olds. Some of the more mundane tasks they used to perform alone now need an extra pair of hands, meaning me. So, I'm kind of on call, 24/7. Hey, it's my job, man! And I wouldn't trade it for the world.

4). I need more personal time for me. I do need to sneak away for personal time whenever possible, just to recharge and clear my head. And as much as I like blogging and the exchange of ideas, it's becoming clear that I do need to get away from the keyboard more often, and smell the roses. I need to do a few more things for me.

5.)Finally, I'm thinking about renaming the blog. Maybe redesigning it as well. Did you ever just get a point when you look at your hosue and just need to paint it? Well, that's how I'm feeling right now.

Change is good.

Sometimes, anyway.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Singer Gerry Rafferty Dies at Age 63


If you're of a certain age you'll remember turning up the volume on your car stereo in those days of the late 1970's.....there was the slow, ethereal sounding intro, followed by an unforgettable sax solo, and then the Lennonesque voice of Scottish singer Gerry Rafferty singing his greatest hit song Baker Street. He was once part of the group STEALER"s WHEEL with partner Joe Egan, and had a hit with Stuck In the Middle With You in 1972, and his debut solo album, 1978's CITY TO CITY contained Baker Street and another hit, All Down The Line.

Those were the highlights to a good career that had the potential to be great. And today we've learned that Gerry Rafferty has passed on at age 63 after being taken off life support in the UK. He was suffering from liver failure after battling alcoholism for years.

I'm very sad to hear the news....I liked his music, and feel this man only scratched the surface of his talents.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Changes


I'll get it to it in more detail very shortly.....but anticipate some changes to this blog soon.




Speaking of CHANGES.....wasn't the guy in the video above once known as Cat Stevens?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Bowled Over by Bowls



Good morning and happy "1-1-11"!

That's the most "ones" we'll have in any date for 10 days and it's "1-11-11", but still nothing compared to November when it becomes "11-11-11".....a numerologist's Dream Day.

There's kind of a strange vibe to this New Year's Day, and much of it has to do with the bowl games today. For what seems like forever the bowl schedule would begin with the Outback Bowl from Tampa (Florida vs Penn Sate) on ESPN at 11:00AM. The Capital One Bowl from Orlando (Alabama vs Michigan State) would begin on ABC at noon, followed by "the Grandaddy of "em all", The Rose Bowl from Pasadena (TCU vs Wisconsin) at 4:00, also on ABC.

Meanwhile, the Cotton Bowl from Dallas (LSU vs Texas A&M) would start at noon on FOX, and CBS would have the Gator Bowl from Jacksonville (Michigan vs Mississippi State) around the same time. Back in the day, NBC would have the Orange Bowl from Miami (Stanford vs Virginia Tech) to close out the day, with the Fiesta Bowl from Arizona (Oklahoma-UCONN) and the Sugar Bowl (Arkansas vs Ohio State) from New Orleans either preceding the Orange on New Year's Day, or one would be played New Year's Eve.

Before the BCS, we would have final polls on January 2, and an unofficial national champion would be declared by the writer's and the coach's polls. This year the champions will be crowned after the meeting of Auburn and Oregon in Glendale, AZ....on January 10.

I know it seems confusing and a lot of gobblegook from anyone who's not a fan of college football. But the rhythm of what used to be has once again been disrupted, partially to facilitate TV scheduling, and also to maximize profit.

Something I've never heard of, the the Ticket City Bowl (I HATE the use of corporate names attached to the bowls) is being played in the Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas on New Year's Day, pitting Northwestern and Texas Tech. Meanwhile the Cotton Bowl Game is NOT played in the Cotton Bowl, but in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington...and the venerable old New Year's Day classic has been moved to Friday, January 7. The Orange Bowl, not played in the old Orange Bowl Stadium (now torn down) for at least ten years, has been moved to January 3, and the Sugar Bowl will be played on January 4th.

All six of the New Year's Day Games will be on the ABC-ESPN family of networks....The Ticket City at noon on EPNU; the Capital One on ESPN at 1:00PM; The Outback on ABC at 1:00PM; the Gator on ESPN 2 at 1:30: the Rose at 4:30 on ESPN; and the Fiesta at 8:30 on ESPN.

For the first time the Rose Bowl will not be on one of the Big Four Networks, and the Gator has moved to basic cable for the first time. The Outback went from a 11:00 am regular on basic cable to a network featured game on ABC.

Are you confused yet?

Well don't worry about it... I'm a college football fan....and I'm having a hard time keeping track of all the stuff.
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