Monday, June 30, 2014

Happy Birthday, Mr. Sowell

Thomas Sowell turns 84 years old today. Over the years I have read the writings of many great thinkers and none can match Sowell's analytical skills or his ability to communicate important ideas in plain English. When I first discovered him in the early 1990's, his columns and books invigorated my mind like a jolt of lightning, and they have continued doing that ever since.

If you are not familiar with his biography, you may want to read this tribute that I wrote when he turned 79. But to really appreciate a scribe, it is best to read his own words in full context -- so with recent history in mind, here are links to my five favorite Thomas Sowell columns from the past three months, in order from oldest to newest:

To follow his columns and read other things by and about him, you can visit his web site here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Some Scars Don't Heal

Where birthdays of septuagenarian rock stars are concerned, last week was seminal. Paul McCartney turned 72 on Wednesday and it seemed like every radio station on Earth mentioned it. Three days later another English titan, Ray Davies, turned 70 -- and while his day did not go unnoticed, the attention it received was much less than it deserved.

The Kinks were founded by him and his younger brother Dave in the early 1960's, when they were teenagers living in Muswell Hill, North London.

If you are an everyday music fan, you definitely know the Kinks...if you are a casual fan, you probably know them...and if you are less than casual, you might not know their name but you have undoubtedly heard their songs.

There was no genre called hard rock when they released their third and fourth singles in the latter half of 1964, yet those songs -- "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night" -- are now considered hard rock standards, with gritty and instantly recognizable guitar work that does not sound dated five decades later. When that pair of tunes charted at #1 and #2 in the U.K. and reached the U.S. Top 10, the Kinks all of a sudden became a full-fledged member of the British Invasion well before Ray Davies's 21st birthday. (On a historical note, "You Really Got Me" was the first hit song built around power chords.)

However, Davies was not one to rest on his laurels or confine himself to one style, as evidenced by the fact that "See My Friends" -- one of the first songs in the Western world to feature a distinctly Indian sound -- was written, recorded, and released before 1965 was over. He was moved to compose it during a tour stopover in Bombay, when he heard local fishermen singing as they walked to the shore one morning. It hit the airwaves almost five months before the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" (which has the distinction of being the first Western song with a sitar).

With varying levels of popularity, the Kinks continued to record and play throughout the 1970's and 1980's and all the way to 1996 before disbanding. Their record sales slid after 1972 and for several years their new material received little airplay, though things started to turn back around with their 1977 album Sleepwalker.

Then, in 1978, an unknown rookie band called Van Halen recorded a cover of "You Really Got Me" that took the radio world by storm. Much like the original had done for the Kinks 14 years earlier, Van Halen's version, marked by juicing up the chords on PED's and introducing the song with a long, lyrical guitar solo, took a very young group and rocketed it into the stratosphere at the beginning of its run.

The Van Halen cover also helped make people aware that the Kinks were, unlike many other Sixties groups, still around. As the Reagan/Thatcher decade got going, they enjoyed such a renaissance in popularity that sales of their early 1980's records exceeded the sales they had enjoyed during their mid-1960's heyday. The 1981 album Give the People What They Want spawned a hit single of the same name, plus the even bigger hit "Destroyer."

*     *     *     *     *

Things peaked in 1983 when the catchy tune "Come Dancing" became their all-time highest charting single in the United States, as well as their first single to crack the U.K.'s Top 20 in more than a decade. And that is where my headline comes in.

"Come Dancing" is the one in which Davies sings about his sister going dancing at the palais "where the big bands used to come and play." You know she is older than him when he sings about her breaking curfew ("my mum would always sit up and wait / it always ended up in a big row / when my sister used to get home late") and when he mentions what he observed ("out of my window I can see them in the moonlight / two silhouettes saying goodnight by the garden gate").

Meanwhile, Davies can't help but keep his sister's image wholesome by adding this about her boyfriend: "he didn't know the night would end up in frustration / he'd end up blowing all his wages for the week / all for a cuddle and a peck on the cheek."

The bounciness and unvarnished nostalgia of "Come Dancing" make it unlike most Kinks songs, and some critics have probably accused it of being "commercial" (gasp!). But from the first time I paid attention to the lyrics I could tell there was something very personal about this song. It was Ray Davies, not Dave Davies, who wrote it; and when you listen, it is obvious that there is something extremely important to him about his sister. She is everywhere throughout, and when was the last time you heard a rocker compose a testament to a sibling instead of a lover?

In my mind's ear, I heard him recalling a point in life when he was in the English equivalent of an American middle school, when he was about 13 years old and insecure about puberty's onset; when his sister was 17 or 18 and exploring her sexuality as she started to leave childhood behind to enter adulthood; when he found himself envying her experiences, while at the same time feeling terrified that he might lose her to the temptations of a world that felt beyond his reach.

Little did I know that in reality, it runs much deeper than that.

*     *     *     *     *

Back in the Summer of Love that was 1967 -- 15 years before "Come Dancing" was written and 16 years before it charted -- the Kinks released a song called "Waterloo Sunset" that was a major hit in Europe but a bit of a flop in the U.S. Written by Davies in the first person, the lyrics depict a lonely man watching two lovers cross a bridge over the River Thames. Many people assumed the couple was supposed to be actor Terrence Stamp and actress Julie Christie, who were a celebrity couple at the time, but in a 2008 interview Davies described the song as "a fantasy about my sister going off with her boyfriend to a new world and they were going to emigrate and go to a new country."

When I read that quote recently, I immediately thought about "Come Dancing" and started Googling. What I learned was the kind of thing that makes your mouth go dry.

Ray and Dave Davies were the youngest of eight children and the only boys. The sister of whom Ray sings was named Rene, and she was 18 years older than him. As a child she had rheumatic fever that weakened her heart.

Rene married a Canadian and did in fact "emigrate and go to a new country." However, her husband was reported to be abusive and she occasionally returned to England for long stretches, so she and Ray had plenty of time together even though they were usually apart.

She was home for his 13th birthday, which she considered to be a major one because it marked the entrance to the teens. Although Ray was not involved in music at the time, he was "on the verge" and had been coveting a specific Spanish guitar. Knowing this, she surprised him by buying it for him as a birthday present, and after he opened it they played a song together at their parents' home. Rene played the piano and Ray got by on the guitar.

That night she went dancing at the Lyceum Ballroom in London's West End, eager to indulge in one of her pleasures without having to deal with her husband. Tragically, while the big band was belting out a tune from Oklahoma! and she was dancing to its swing, she went into cardiac arrest and died on the spot.

*     *     *     *     *

Once you hear that, everything changes in your mind, especially when you think about how the song depicts Rene as still living and assigns her a better fate than reality did: "my sister's married and she lives on an estate / her daughters go out, now it's her turn to wait."

Once you know the whole story, the song's final stanza becomes particularly poignant: "come dancing / come on sister, have yourself a ball / don't be afraid to come dancing / it's only natural."

I am not here to play amateur shrink, and God knows I despise it when people play amateur shrink about anything that goes on in my brain, but other aspects of Ray Davies make more sense after you learn about the tragic loss from his formative years. There was a suicide attempt in 1973. There is a decades-long feud between him and Dave that led to the Kinks' demise after 33 years as an active band. Rene's death was not the cause of those things, but I have a hard time believing that it wasn't one of the ingredients, so to speak.

*     *     *     *     *

The Kinks' place in rock's pantheon has been secure for a long time, and therefore the place of Ray Davies in the pantheon is also secure.

The Kinks' sardonic tone was unrivaled and led my father-in-law (a major music aficionado) to say they were "truly the original rock satirists"...their stylistic variety was ahead of its time, even if it has since been overshadowed...everyone from hard rockers to punk rockers and sentimentalists to garage bands cites them as a major influence...and even if you don't count "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night," their songs continue to be among the world's most covered ("I'm Not Like Everybody Else" comes immediately to mind).

As their songwriter, lead singer, rhythm guitarist, and undisputed front man, Ray Davies essentially was the Kinks. One can understand Dave Davies having a problem with that, since Dave's lead guitar work was integral to their sound (especially his decision to slice his amp's speaker cone and insert a pin into it prior to recording the riff to "You Really Got Me," thus creating its distinctive distortion) but at the end of the day, the Kinks existed because of Ray. Take away his driving force and the group may not have formed or lasted as long as it did.

Attending college during the summer quarter of 1990 (we didn't have no stinkin' semesters at Auburn University) I bought a new Kinks album called UK Jive and listened to it over and over. The songs were smart, swiftly paced, and played with the kind of edge that made the group sound like a hungry new outfit trying to make their mark. Yet it was recorded more than a quarter-century after they first hit it big, which says something about the dedication Davies and his bandmates have to their craft.

And the title of that album says something else about him: He embraces English culture in a way few other popular stars have done over the past half-century. He has always embraced it, not in an ethnocentric kind of way but simply in the manner of someone who likes his homeland and is proud to like it.

When encouraged to sing in a way that made it not so obvious he is an Englishman, Davies said no...when encouraged not to release "Come Dancing" in the U.S. because Arista Records President Clive Davis thought the amount of "English English" terminology (as opposed to "American English") would keep it from having mass appeal, he said no...clearly, his insistence on following his own arrow has served him better on our shores than if he had followed the advice of others.

*     *     *     *     *

Music buffs and radio heads know the name Ray Davies, but it would be nice if the "non-buff" crowd also knew, especially since there is no doubt that the "non-buff" crowd knows his work.

It would have been nice if every FM station in America, rather than a select percentage, made a big deal about his 70th birthday.

But perhaps as much as anything, it would be nice if we recognized that, like everyone, there is more to him than meets the eye. We think of accomplished people in the abstract, not in the reality, and fail to realize that they are real people who deal with real struggles. We fail to realize that it is often the struggles that make them who they are.

We know Roy Orbison as the shades-wearing singer who gave us "Pretty Woman," but how many of us know that he became a widower at the age of 30 when his wife was killed in a motorcycle accident? How many of us know that his two oldest sons died in a house fire when he was 32 and touring overseas?

We know Roy Rogers as the engaging, ever-steady singing cowboy who was married to Dale Evans. But how many of us know that his first wife, Arline, died in childbirth while delivering Roy Jr.? How many of us know that his daughter Robin died of a heart defect days before her second birthday? Or that his adopted daughter Debbie was killed in a church bus crash? Or that one year later, another of his adopted daughters, Sandy, choked to death?

The interests and accomplishments of Ray Davies are diverse and can not be boiled down to one chord, song, or political preference. Nor should they.

Nor should we think that because he was obviously affected by losing his sister, he must have become insecure to the point of weakness. After all, he is the same man who, while visiting New Orleans at age 60, attempted to run down a purse snatcher and took a bullet to his leg in the process.

Still, for as much as he has been in the public eye and as much impact as he has had in his chosen field, I can't help but wonder if Rene Davies is the one straw that always helps in the stirring of his mental drinks, sometimes to a larger degree and sometimes to a lesser one, but always to a degree. I can't help but wonder if she is to him what Rosebud was to Charles Foster Kane.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Solstice

Because I do not like hot weather, summer is my least favorite season. But there are still things I enjoy about it, and surprisingly, some of them are specific to this sweat-soaked state in which I live. So here are some thoughts on summer’s first day:

I love Independence Day.

I love that there is one time of year when I am able to prefer chilled white wine over room temperature red wine.

I love when evening breezes carry the sweet scent of orange blossoms across Florida.

I love watching swallow-tailed kites, one of my favorite birds of prey, as they soar in the air and seem to stay up there forever without flapping their wings.

I love seeing hummingbirds hover around the blossoms of honeysuckle and aloe.

I love watching fireflies illuminate the woods at dusk.

I love San Diego.

And I love the dramatic pulse of Florida’s afternoon storms, when black clouds darken the sky and spew lighting and thunder and unleash torrents of blinding rain – only to blow away and be replaced by sunny skies in less than an hour.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Red(skins) Herring

There are so many ways to spew rage about what Obama & Co. the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office did to the Washingston Redskins this week. Or to sing praises about it, if your view is different than mine. But I refuse to take what I believe to be bait; i.e., I refuse to slog chest-deep into a rhetorical swamp by quarreling about whether or not the word "redskin" is offensive.

Pretty much every word in the English language, with the exception of conjunctions like "and" and "but," is offensive to somebody, and I have no doubt that "redskin" has been used pejoratively by some people over the course of this nation's history. But it has not been used that way for generations, and it does not pass the laugh test to claim that the owner of a team/business would name it something his contemporary society found belittling or worthy of mocking. You always name your team something that will make fans puff out their chests with pride.

And I might add that many Native American high schools in this country use "Redskins" as the nickname for their sports teams.

I might also quote an AP article from last October, which said: "In the only recent poll to ask native people about the subject, 90 percent of respondents did not consider the term offensive..."

Or I might mention the fact that when the citizens of North Dakota voted in 2012 to make the University of North Dakota drop its long-time Fighting Sioux nickname, they did so against the wishes of the Spirit Lake Tribe, which had voted to keep the name two years before. (In case you're wondering, Spirit Lake Tribe is the name currently used by the Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Bands. Most of the tribe members live on the Spirit Lake Reservation, which stretches southward from 90,000-acre Devil's Lake in the northern part of the state.)

And I might...wait a minute. Damn it! I did what I said I wouldn't. I took the bait. So let me get back to what I intended to talk about, which is this: The creatures who inhabit the executive branch of the United States government couldn't care less if people are offended by the nickname of a privately owned NFL franchise based in the nation's capital. Protecting people from hurt feelings is not their goal -- it is their excuse for doing something that might achieve another goal.

All they care about is controlling the people of this country (people they think of not as citizens, but as subjects) and the whole purpose of them unleashing their power on a high profile target is to show everyone that they call the shots and from now on we had better think about what they want us to do before we act upon what we want to do.

The fact that the nickname "Redskins" has been accused of being bigoted (though only when used by an NFL franchise) by some people (almost all of whom are white folks who've never traveled within whiffing distance of a reservation) provided cover by giving the feds an opportunity to portray themselves as the guardians of tolerance and brotherhood. So they took that opportunity and used it to smash their cudgel into the skull of America's most popular sports league, which makes me think of the words of Louis Brandeis: "Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficent."

Make no mistake: The stripping of the Redskins' trademarks did not merely target the Redskins, it also targeted the NFL. After all, the NFL is a revenue-sharing league, and if the Redskins lose revenue because non-licensed merchants are able to sell merchandise without paying the Redskins for using their logo, then the NFL will lose money because it will not be able to get its cut. So the question becomes, will Roger Goodell step in and make Daniel Snyder cave to the wishes of the feds? Which makes me think of the words of Thomas Paine: "The rich are in general slaves to fear, and submit to courtly power with the trembling duplicity of a spaniel."

The problem for the rest of us is this: If the Redskins/NFL do not fight the government on principle because they don't want the PR hassle and don't want to fork out the legal fees, then a precedent will be set by which the government can dictate what you name your own business. And if they can do that to you, what can't they do to you?

Once a precedent is set, anyone who seeks to undo it faces an extremely arduous road and extremely long odds. Most people who have the resources to fight the precedent will probably decide it's not worth the time, stress, expense, etc. So our kids will be left with a future that is less free than that of their forebears.

Can someone please explain to me why so many  people are less upset about that possibility than they are about a private business continuing to use the same name it has used since FDR's first year in office?

Although I disagree with those who think the nickname of DC's football team should be changed, I do understand them. If the team's name was to be changed as a result of society precipitating that decision through open debate, through non-hectoring debate, through citizens pulling the levers of the free market to make their wishes clear -- I would be okay with it.

You might say that causing movement through such means is unworkable. I would respond by saying that causing movement through such means has a long record of success throughout not only America's history, but throughout the histories of other free nations.

In contrast, movement forced by central planners has a long history of failure, and of placing a chill on liberty and sometimes leaving civil disorder in its wake.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has tried this power play against the Redskins once before, in 1999, and it failed when their efforts got struck down in court. Let us hope that happens again. Even those who want the name to be changed shouldn't want this to be the means by which to achieve their end.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Cantor, Capped

Actually, it's not fair to say that incumbent Congressman Eric Cantor got "capped" in Tuesday's GOP primary. That word does a disservice to David Brat; to Brat's voters; and to Brat's even more numerous supporters.

To say someone got "capped" implies that he was doing the equivalent of standing on a sidewalk minding his own business, only to get gunned down by a bunch of thugs who wanted to murder him for no other reason than to show the 'hood that they own the street, not him...However, Cantor was not so innocent. Those who voted him out of office certainly wanted to show that they own the seat of Virginia's 7th Congressional District, not him -- and that he must do their bidding since he works for them, not the other way around -- but that is where the rhetorical similarities end.

Yes, Cantor's defeat had a lot to do with the well-founded belief that he is not serious about supporting equality in immigration, nor is he serious about protecting the overall integrity of immigration or the sanctity of U.S. citizenship, but it is false to say his views on those things (which the media deceptively refer to simply as "immigration") were the reason he lost.

Generally speaking, the Republican Party is the more conservative and Democratic Party the more liberal of our two big parties. And generally speaking, conservatives distrust government holistically, no matter who is "in charge" of it at a given time, while liberals trust it holistically even if their dislike of conservatism leads them to act venomous when criticizing conservative government officials. This creates a situation in which conservatives are much more likely to look at Republican officeholders with jaundiced eyes than liberals will ever be to look at Democrat officeholders with jaundiced eyes.

When it comes to Eric Cantor, he was already suspected of having gone native after spending so long in DC, of having abandoned the core principles that got him elected in the first place. Then his inconsistent remarks about  topics defined by the media as "immigration" only fed the fire and made his constituents even more leery about trusting him.

If his constituents had stopped trusting him only on "immigration," Cantor might well have won on Tuesday. After all, Marco Rubio remains popular with the conservative base despite deviating widely from it on the issue of "immigration." However, the idea that Cantor has gone native and become comfy with the notion of Master Government Over Servile Citizenry spilled over to other issues.

Brat successfully illustrated how Cantor seems okay with federal dictates on questionable education whims (such as Common Core, which is currently facing a grassroots, parents-led backlash)...and how he seems okay with "crony capitalism," which is the precise opposite of authentic, Reaganite capitalism...and how he seems ambivalent about government spending and the resulting national debt.

As a result, Brat defeated Cantor despite 1) Cantor being blessed with all the normal incumbent advantages, and 2) having reportedly spent only one-third as much money as Cantor while raising only one-eighth as much.

I will leave it to others to quarrel over what, if anything, this says about the GOP's chances in November. What I do know is that Brat's dethroning of Cantor (which had to feel like a "capping" to Cantor and his supporters) is good in the final analysis. It is good because it reflects we the people setting the agenda rather than being subjected to it.

Until next time, au revoir!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

et ceteras

Political commentary is coming, so I'll open with a topic that should be more uplifting: Music.

Two Fridays ago, Erika and I went to Zac Brown's concert here in Tampa. Perhaps I should say the Zac Brown Band's concert, but what's the point? When was the last time you heard someone talk about having seen the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Saville in London? But I digress.

From the first moment we heard a Zac Brown song not called "Chicken Fried," we put him on our bucket list because we could just tell that his skills are meant for jamming and genre-hopping. (Fyi, I have nothing against "Chicken Fried," but it was his first single and you need to hear more than one song before you can start evaluating somebody's talent).

Anyway, Brown and his bandmates more than met our expectations, blazing right out of the gate with a fiery rendition of "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" and then delving into their own deep songbook. Before all was said and done they had flexed their eclectic muscles by covering Bob Marley's "One Love" (woven around their own "Where the Boat Leaves From"), Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic" (woven around their own "Free"), and the Guns N' Roses tune "Patience."

When they came out for the encore, they tore through Metallica's "Enter Sandman" while wearing glow-in-the-dark skeleton costumes. Backup singer Clay Cook handled the lead vocals and they sounded so much like Metallica that I have no reason to ever think about attending a Metallica concert.

And did I mention that bluesman Keb Mo joined them onstage for a pair of wailers?

Put 'em on your bucket list if you haven't done so already.

If you think the NHL's powers-that-be busted their collective nut when the Stanley Cup Finals turned out to include teams from North America's two largest media markets, how do you think they're feeling now that the first two games have gone to overtime; included the most talked-about non-call since that time 15 years ago when Brett Hull lifted a puck past Dominik Hasek before leaving the crease; and featured a deliciously unlikely scenario in which tons of goals have been scored at the same time that strong defense and clutch goaltending is taking place?

From a business perspective this has turned out to be a very fortuitous postseason for the National Hockey League. The bad news is that it is (I suspect) all but over. The Rangers had two-goal leads in each of the first two games -- they even had three two-goal leads in Game Two -- yet still failed to win either game. That is not a good recipe for winning the Stanley Cup, especially when the Kings entered the finals having already erased more two-goal deficits than I have ever seen a team erase in a single postseason.

The Kings are deep; they never get nervous; and their confidence is so strong that it alone can win games they otherwise should lose. Yes, the series is going to NY tomorrow night and things can change on a dime, but I think this LA squad is too special to allow that to happen.

Don't stop!
After California Chrome came up short in his attempt to win the Triple Crown, his co-owner, Steve Coburn, pulled no punches in his withering criticisms of horse racing's entree rules and what he called "the coward's way out" -- that is, the strategy of some horse owners to hold their colts out of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, then enter them into the Belmont Stakes when they are (presumably) fresher than the others who have gone through the first two races before the last.

Some people probably think that Coburn's criticism is nothing but sour grapes, and his wife certainly looked like she wanted to crawl under a rock when he leaned into the microphone, wagged his finger, furrowed his brow beneath his cowboy hat, and let loose. But what he said seemed more true than false, and I am glad he felt no need to restrict himself from full use of his First Amendment rights. If only there were more Americans who weren't so sensitive about stepping on toes, we might get more accomplished these days -- and on top of that, I think we would wind up being more tolerant of differences in opinion.

Something about those "26.2" stickers that people like to slap on their cars makes me want to drag those people out of their cars and beat them to a pulp. I have very good friends, people I actually love, who put such stickers on their cars and I still can't hide my revulsion. Maybe it's because of this attitude.

But there is one person who can spangle her entire car with those stickers and my response will only be to salute and say I admire her. And if she can't afford to do so, I would be willing to pick up the cost and personally perform the labor.

Her name is Harriette Thompson and she recently completed the San Diego Marathon in just over seven hours. The thing is, she is 91 years old and her pace of 16:20 per mile sounds like it would be impressive for people who are her juniors by decades. Run on, Harriette!

Bergdahl, Part One
There are so many angles to take when criticizing the Bowe Bergdahl situation that it's hard to know where to start. So many spot-on criticisms have already been published that I tend to think there is little value in me chiming in.

Nonetheless, I feel compelled to comment when a presidential act is so noteworthy; and in this instance, I feel compelled not because I think am going to sway many minds but because I want my thoughts to be memorialized in real time -- so that many years from now my children can look back and read what I thought about things when they were actually happening.

In a word, I am against what Barack Obama did; i.e., against bringing Bergdahl home by submitting to the ransom demands of our enemies and allowing their all-star team of mass murderers to walk free and start murdering anew. However, I will withhold going into all my reasons until it is established whether or not Bergdahl is a deserter.

Bergdahl, Part Two
Nonetheless, I will not wait to opine about what the Bergdahl episode tells us of Obama's relationship with the truth (he's a pathological liar) and what it tells us about his opinion of we the people (he views us with contempt).

Though there are certain questions Obama would have to answer no matter how he spun this "personnel transfer," he could have made things more palatable if he had simply been honest.

He could have announced it while saying "I was going to release the prisoners anyway, but this way we got something in return."

He could have said: "We tried to extract more, but in the current situation, with the Taliban knowing that Guantanamo's closure is coming, all we were in position to get was Sgt. Bergdahl's release. And on top of that, we were able to get his release without acquiescing to the Taliban's demands for cash. In the final analysis, we believe the trade-off is worthy because (fill in the blank)."

He could have said: "American soldiers died trying to find Sgt. Bergdahl, and we felt we owe it to them, and to their loves ones' memories of them, to 'complete their mission' by returning Sgt. Bergdahl to America's embrace, where we might gain insight into what he heard and saw during his time with the Taliban."

But instead, Obama took a weak, embarrassing, one-pawn-for-five-queens transfer and tried to portray it as a victory -- never even considering the possibility that we the people might be smart enough to see through his mask.

With alarming amnesia, he took Susan Rice (she who is best known for lying about Benghazi on the Sunday shows in 2012) and returned her to the Sunday shows to lie again, by claiming that Bergdahl had served "with honor and distinction."

Obama did this without considering the possibility that the words "honor and distinction" have sacred, concrete meaning to our men and women in uniform. Therefore, he did it without considering the possibility that our men and women would smell the deceit and raise their voices in defense of principle.

And when he found himself caught in a backlash of his own making, Obama was simply not able to cut bait and own up. Instead he tried to make himself look more moral than thou by concocting a fantasy about having arranged the transfer out of concern for Sgt. Bergdahl's health.

In short, our president played us for fools and it didn't work. And when you think about it, is it we or he who looks the fool?

...enough is enough and I am signing off for now, though I will return soon. And yes, yes, I will soon continue the series I stated here about major problems in the American Criminal Justice System. Until then, au revoir!

Friday, June 6, 2014


Exactly seven decades ago this morning, human beings from the naval forces of eight Allied nations laid their lives on the line in ways most of us can hardly fathom. Two-thirds of them were from the U.S.U.K., and Canada.

Traveling in ships and amphibious vessels, they set sail from England in the pre-dawn hours of June 6, 1944, bound for the Normandy beaches of Nazi-controlled France. It was the first time since the 1600’s that any invading military had crossed the perilous waters of the English Channel, and as day broke tens of thousands of troops disembarked from their landing crafts and plunged into Hell on Earth.

Slogging first through waves and then through sand, they were sitting ducks for the Nazi gunners positioned on shore. Bullets rained on them amidst a cacophony of explosive reverberations. The men at the fronts of the landing crafts were the first ones to step on the beach, and they stepped onto it knowing they were likely to get shot. Each of them was acutely aware he might be entering the final seconds of his life.

Approximately 10,000 Allied men were killed or wounded that day. However, in bearing that brunt of brutality, those who were first on the scene helped clear the way for 100,000 of their fellow soldiers to reach shore and advance against the enemy, freeing occupied towns as they went. By the end of the month more than 800,000 men had done so, and the war’s momentum had swung in the Allies’ favor. Within a year the Nazis surrendered unconditionally.

In military parlance, the phrase “D-Day” refers to the first day of any operation, but in the public’s mind, it will always refer to the events on the beaches of Normandy. Now the men who braved the bullets on that distant shore are dying away at a rapid rate. Let us give them our thanks while they are still alive to hear it.

After all, we might never have tasted freedom if not for the valor of the soldiers of '44. Because of that, we must resolve to pass their story on to our children, so that they may pass it on to theirs, to preserve what Abraham Lincoln referred to as "the mystic chords" of our nation's memory.