Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Gettysburg Address at 150 -- The Lighter Side

Today is the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.  At one point I had it committed to mind, all 271 or so (depending on the version) words.  Time has frayed my memory, although I think I can still do a mite better than Barney Fife trying to recite from his memory the Preamble to the Constitution:

As for Lincoln himself, here's Bob Newhart's playing a modern advertising man preping a somewhat befuddled Lincoln for the Gettysburg Address, in what I think is his best bit (link):

Friday, November 15, 2013

Obama’s Obamacare "Fix" – He Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Legal Basis

Once again, as he did with the Obamacare employer mandate, Obama has personally decreed that he will not enforce, for as long as it suits him to do so, certain requirements that are the law of the land under Obamacare.  There is some uncertainty whether all such requirements stem entirely from the Obamacare law itself, which cannot be changed without new legislation, or whether some stem from his regulations, which are legally changeable only once a certain lengthy administrative process has been followed (for example, a public notice and comment period).  Either way, neither the law itself nor the regulations pursuant to it have been legally changed and so remain in full effect.  Obama cannot change either with a speech.

Regardless, despite being Constitutionally required to enforce the laws of the land and having taken an oath to do so (on Lincoln’s Bible no less), Obama now asserts that he will not enforce certain parts of the law and legally-established regulations, without bothering to go through the long and arduous process of legally changing either, and will look the other way if insurance companies follow his suggestion to willfully break the law in renewing policies that violate the new law.  If the companies break the law and later get sued over a dispute under an illegal policy, well that’s the insurance companies’ problem since they’re bad guys anyways.  If such insurance companies decide not to break federal law and decline to re-establish  illegal policies, Obama says only they, the insurance companies, will be to blame for this mess. 

When asked about the legal basis for his highly selective non-enforcement of laws he is sworn to uphold and for his public encouragement to insurance companies to willfully break federal law, Obama, parroting the bandit leader’s crafty legal opinion voiced to the skeptical Humphrey Bogart in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, said “Legal basis?! You want to see the legal basis?!  I don’t have no legal basis, I don’t need no stinkin’ legal basis!”

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Experts Jump the Shark on New One World Trade Center Height – 70% Building & 30% Mast; the Clintons & Obama Comment

Obama assures Chicagoans that if they like the tallest building designation for the Willis Tower, they can keep it.  Period. 

As Abraham Lincoln said, even if you call a tail a leg a dog still has only four legs.

Willis Tower (per Wikipedia)
The height committee of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, an international body based at Chicago’s Illinois Institute of Technology (that very underappreciated university that should be much better known), determined (link) that the big mast rising up from the top of the new One World Trade Center in New York City qualifies as a “spire”, and is not an “antenna” even though it looks exactly like one, because it is a permanent feature and thus counts in their estimation as part of the building’s height.  Despite the fact the spire accounts for a ridiculous 30% of the building’s now “official” height of a very symbolic 1,776 feet, the new structure is now designated by them as the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.  Such designation could of course add to the building’s attraction as a target for Islamic terrorists, and the structure will now be defended by the administration of the city’s newly elected mayor, a socialist no less, whose main promise is to compromise the city’s increasingly successful police protection methods. 

The Willis (formerly Sears) Tower in Chicago, once the world’s tallest building, is 1,451 feet tall and doesn’t have a mast as part of its official height, while the roof of the new One World Trade Center is (only) 1,368 feet tall.  Normal people, rather than experts who sometimes, like here, get twisted up into non-sensical positions, would regard a building’s height as closely related to the tallest occupiable space on which a human could stand.  By that definition, as I understand it the Willis Tower remains the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and taller than many other “officially” higher buildings around the globe which have increasingly resorted to longer and longer “spires” in what amounts to a spire race to one-up competitors.  I think everyone would agree, though, that Willis Tower still has the highest toilets in the Western Hemisphere.

Reaction was swift.  Former President Bill Clinton, apparently an architectural buff since he's often overheard using the term “tall mast” on overnights in Chicago, said that whether the mast is a spire or an antenna depends on what the definition of “is” is.  Chicagoland native Hillary Clinton, also a prominent Democrat politician, mastermind of the Benghazi Betrayal, and noted cattle futures expert, also weighed in, saying “At this point, what difference does it make?”  Former Chicago resident Barack Obama, whose only significant adult job and therefore main qualification for the presidency of the United States was the “street cred” he garnered as a local community organizer for a socialist organization, assured Chicagoans that if they liked the tallest building designation for the Willis Tower, they could keep it.  Period. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Armistice Day at 95

A Remembrance Poppy (link)
Today is Armistice Day, commemorating, now 95 years ago, the end of the Great War, an especially senseless, useless, and destructive one, which led to, along with the further destruction from its continuation as WWII, the passivity and cultural self-disdain that runs so strong through much of Western Civilization and threatens its very existence in perhaps the greatest danger since 732 A.D.  

The tragedy and suffering of the War have been expressed so well by my favorite contemporary author, James/Jan Morris; in the incomparable Pax Britannia Trilogy there is this about grieving parents visiting their son’s grave, so very far away from home:  

In one of the lonely cemeteries in which, buried where they died, the Anzacs lay lost among the Gallipoli ravines, the parents of one young soldier wrote their own epitaph to their son, killed so far away, so bravely we need not doubt, in so obscure a purpose: “God Took Our Norman, It Was His Will, Forget Him, No, We Never Will” ... for all too often the sacrifices of the Great War, as its contemporaries called it, were given to a cause that was already receding into history, like those discredited grey battleships, their smoke-pall filling the sky, hull-down on the Aegean horizon.

Related posts:

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Lying about Who’s Lying at the NY Times -- Obama "Misspoke"

The New York Times recently published an editorial about all the now-obvious lying Obama engaged in to secure passage of the health law enacted solely by Democrats.  The NY Times says Obama “misspoke”.  The word “misspoke” means, at least to those not engaged in writing and publishing for a living, a mistake, a mistaken notion of what should have been said.  Obama, however, “misspoke” often, as often as he could to anyone who would listen, with the exact same unequivocal statements about Obamacare such as “If you like your existing health care plan, you can keep it.  Period.” – words we now know the Democrats knew were lies all along.   

Responding to criticism of the editorial’s using the term “misspoke”, the NY Times’ editorial page editor, one Andrew Rosenthal, defended the word by asserting “We have a high threshold for [saying] whether someone lied.”

This statement turns out to be a big, bald-faced lie, as Seth Mandel documents (link) in a post at Commentary online.  Not many years ago the NY Times repeatedly and explicitly called President George Bush a liar when disagreeing with him over policy.  Thus, when a Republican was president the NY Times was free and loose with the “liar” accusation, but now with a Democrat in office the NY Times can’t even use the word when evidence clearly shows that Obama and his aides discussed the ongoing need to lie as Obama was lying.  Ironic it is, the NY Times lying about its standard for calling someone a liar.   

I bother now to write this post not to document evidence of the extreme liberal bias at the NY Times, an unnecessary effort since examples are legion.  Rather, I write to express a certain sadness from the reminder that once-great institutions often corrode from the inside when no adults are left who know right from wrong, or good from bad.  We know now that the New York Times was long this way (its cover up of Stalin’s massacres by its reporter Walter Duranty [link] quickly comes to mind), and before the explosion of alternative sources to more readily grasp what is true and what is not, we just didn’t know different, or better.

Update 11/15/2013:  The NY Times by many accounts has abandoned the ridiculous "misspoke" terminology, and has adopted now the term "incorrect promise".  I am not making this up.  Honestly.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Remembering Sidney Reilly, the Ace of Spies

The Name's Reilly, Sidney Reilly
On this day in 1925, 88 years ago, Sidney Reilly, adventurer, con-man, and British agent, the model for Fleming’s James Bond, was supposedly executed by the Soviets after being lured to Russia in a trap.  I say supposedly because much of Reilly’s story is shrouded in uncertainty, as he fabricated stories and identities as a matter of course.  

Perhaps the first true international man of mystery, it seems most likely that he was born in Czarist Russia to Jewish parents and found his way to Britain where he married a wealthy woman, freshly widowed perhaps during an affair with Reilly, and became a valued operative for the young British Secret Service.  His undercover exploits were all over the globe, including his foiling the Russians in Manchuria just before the Russo-Japanese war, stealing weapon plans from Germany before WWI, and causing much mischief in Russia for the Bolsheviks.    

Sam Neill as Sidney Reilly
I first learned of Reilly from the excellent 1983 TV mini-series Reilly: Ace of Spies, which was based the book of the same name, which I later read, by Robert Bruce Lockhart.  The music theme was a haunting melody I enjoyed so much that I recorded it from the TV speaker onto a cassette tape; I only knew it was "The Romance" movement from a Dmitri Shostakovich score for a movie called The Gadfly.  What I didn’t know until today, knocking about on Wikipedia as I am wont to do, is that this film was an adaptation of the novel of the same name, written by an Irish woman named Ethel Voynich, allegedly once a lover of Reilly’s, whose theme is revolution and romance and whose central character is allegedly based on none other than Reilly himself.    

Lockhart was a friend and colleague of Sidney Reilly.  He later worked closely in British intelligence with Ian Fleming, and Reilly undoubtedly came up in conversation.  According to the Wikipedia entry (link), “Reilly was multi-lingual, fascinated by the Far East, fond of fine living, and a compulsive gambler” – just like some other secret agent we know.

R Balsamo

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Remembering Burt Lancaster, at 100

Today would have been the 100th birthday of actor Burt Lancaster, one of the greats of Hollywood and a particular favorite of mine.  As a boy I especially liked adventure stories, and Lancaster’s The Crimson Pirate is one of the first I can remember seeing; I was particularly enthralled by the daring and ingenious escape in which he and two others, while chained together in a small dinghy, capsize their boat to trap air in its hull, sink to the bottom, and walk the whole way back to shore on the sea floor breathing the trapped air.  That movie was in the repertory of the weekly Family Classics movie series on WGN TV in Chicago along with another film of his – Jim Thorpe – All-American.  

Although born and raised in East Harlem in New York City, Lancaster started out as a circus performer, and his gracefulness of motion is evident in his work.  He had a warm, confident persona accompanied by an easy, almost trademarked, wide, toothy smile and an expressive physicality.  In his long career drama was his strength.  He won an Academy Award for his role in Elmer Gantry, a film which showcases his charm and talent as well as any other and which won an Oscar for co-star Shirley Jones as well.  Some of his other well-known performances were in The Bird Man of Alcatraz and Atlantic City.  He starred alongside some remarkable leading ladies, such as Katherine Hepburn in The Rainmaker, Audrey Hepburn in The Unforgiven, and Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity.  He also started a production company that, among other things, produced the award-winning movie Marty as well as Sweet Smell of Success, in which he starred as the heavy.

Particular favorites of mine include war pictures The Train, Go Tell the Spartans, Castle Keep, and Run Silent, Run Deep, and Westerns Ulzana’s Raid, The Professionals, and Lawman.  He had notable performances all the way to the end of his career, and his late roles in Rocket Gibraltar and Field of Dreams constitute a memorable finish to a remarkable body of work.  Lancaster died in 1994 at the age of 80.