Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Donald Trump Birth Certificate Proves He Was Born in Jamaica

Donald Trump has been talking about running for President in 2012. One problem, to do that you have to be a natural born citizen of the United States. The Donald released his birth certificate, and it shows he was born in Jamaica:

Update: Donald Trump has released his long form birth certificate too, and "Jamaica" is very clearly written down at the bottom. Another curiousity, his mother Mary MacLeod is listed as being from Scotland, raising the alternative possibility that Donald Trimp is an anchor baby. My personal suspicion is that Donald Trump is the Highlander. There can be only one - The Donald.

A Truth About Libya: Some Nation Building Projects Are Smaller Than Others

President Obama has explained his decision to intervene in Libya with the statement "America is different." In a lot of people's minds that leaves open the question, "How is Libya different?"

I posited a few days ago that were probably 20 nations that could benefit from military intervention, and below is my list, either where the international community could help struggling governments deal with terrorists or insurgents or could replace brutal dictators and restore human rights protections. Indeed, you could probably add another 20 countries to the list, which illustrates the scope and scale of problems facing the world.

Democratic Republic of Congo67,827,000
Myanmar (Burma)50,496,000
North Korea23,991,000
Ivory Coast21,571,000
Palestinian Territories3,935,249

The U.S. has been militarily engaged overtly or covertly in several of these countries already, most notably Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq since the Reagan and Bush administrations.

Where is Libya on this list? Near the bottom in terms of population. Let's lump together the seemingly intractable and intertwined problems in the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, and Syria. Libya is the country on the list that poses the smallest problem.

That may be the Obama strategy, to work the list from the bottom up. Once Libya stabilizes (along with its larger neighbors Tunisia and Egypt), the next on the list would be the pirate menace to international shipping of from Somalia. Then you work with the European Union and Russia to bring democracy and new elections to Belarus. Next comes normalization of relations with Cuba perhaps with help from the emerging economic powerhouse Brazil and the other members of the Organization of America States. Then you work with South Africa and the African Union on human rights in Zimbabwe.

The real promise to the new international approach that President Obama is touting would be creation of the additional leverage to allow the world to move forward on more of these problem countries simultaneously. Indeed, the U.S. might not be necessary in Belarus, if Russia and the European Union can join together.

Indeed, if China wants to show that it is ready to take a positive lead role on the international stage, it can take the lead in breaking the nuclear weapons impasse in North Korea and Iran. That would show the American people that they have something to gain from internationalism. A cynic would say that can't happen, but I'm ready to be proved wrong.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Will Wal-Mart v. Dukes Become Another Wicked Case of Whiner Fatigue?

From Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert:

"I've been experiencing a wicked case of "whiner fatigue." It feels as if everyone in the world is whining about one damn thing or another. In normal times, I can tune it out. But lately the backdrop has been world class problems on the order of financial meltdowns, tsunamis, nuclear radiation, and bloody revolutions. THOSE are problems. Your thing: Not so much."
What prompted this case of whiner fatigue was the backlash to his blogging the following:

"The reality is that women are treated differently by society for exactly the same reason that children and the mentally handicapped are treated differently. It’s just easier this way for everyone. You don’t argue with a four-year old about why he shouldn’t eat candy for dinner. You don’t punch a mentally handicapped guy even if he punches you first. And you don’t argue when a women tells you she’s only making 80 cents to your dollar. It’s the path of least resistance. You save your energy for more important battles."
Scott Adams got called a misogynist for his troubles. The Other McCain humorously offers up this definition of misogynist: A guy who thinks feminists are funny when they’re angry. I'll add to that: A guy who thinks feminists are sexy when they’re angry is a sado-masochist.

Just what is a man supposed to say when confronted with the statistic that women make 80 cents on the dollar when compared to men doing the same work?

(1) You can shrug your shoulders in tacit agreement of how unfair life is and perhaps express a wish that something be done about it, while secretly wishing that does not mean having your own pay cut.

(2) You can express the viewpoint that in your own experience the pay differential for truly equal work is usually not that significant, which is essentially what Scott Adams hinted at while also admitting that the first response would be the path of least resistance. You're not going to win this argument, even if you are right.

(3) You can offer up various rationalizations for why women should be paid less than men and perhaps have better things to do for their family than hang out by the water cooler with Dilbert. This will earn you the wrath of feminists and career women, but actually does resonate with the not-so-dying breed of women who wouldn't mind having a husband who is able to support them financially.

(4) You can go to your boss and offer to take a pay cut and give the woman half the pay difference to equalize your pay with hers. When you tell your wife or girlfriend you have done this, however, she will think you are having an affair.

So, when it comes to pay equity, the radical feminists are not wrong when they think men are either trying to screw them or get in their pants. But they do lack perspective. Because feminists want to get into men's pants too, at least into their pants pockets.

Equal pay for equal work is a great slogan but what does it mean? I've never seen two employees that did equal work. One is always faster, more efficient, less error prone, easier to work with, more profitable, ... worth paying more.

In rural Iowa where I grew up, high school kids were hired to walk beans - walk through soybean bean fields and weed out weeds. The teenage girls always got these good-paying jobs, because the male farmers thought them to be faster workers and more reliable than teenage boys. Mothers were the same way about only hiring girls as babysitters. If a farmer wanted hay bales loaded or a widow wanted her lawn mowed, they hired a boy. Was that discrimination?

And I think that is where Scott Adams is really coming from, to quote him from another context:

"In reality, fairness is not so much about the actual distribution of loot as it is about the psychology of how you feel about it."
That brings us to Wal-Mart v. Dukes, a pay equity and promotion equity case that will be argued today in the U.S. Supreme Court with a decision likely this summer. Lawyers want to certify a class action on behalf of 1.5 million female employees in 53 departments and 170 job classifications, across 50 states and 3,400 Wal-Mart stores.

It's stories like this one that got Wal-Mart into this jam:

DARREN GERSH, PBS NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: For years, Chris Kwapnoski trained men who were soon promoted over her at Wal-Mart. Eventually, she asked a manager what she had to do to get ahead.

CHRIS KWAPNOSKI, WAL-MART EMPLOYEE: And he told me I need to blow the cobwebs off my makeup and doll up.
Dress for success is what they used to call that kind of advice, although you can't read that and not wonder what the manager was thinking and how much that's going to cost Wal-Mart.

The biggest shareholders at Wal-Mart are billionaires Christy Ruth Walton and Alice Louise Walton. You see, in the real world, whenever you tax a man for his alleged misbehavior to women, another woman quite often bears the burdens of that tax.

Over 43 petitions and briefs have been filed in the case. And this is just to decide if the case can be brought as a class action. If lawyers for the women win, they still have to go back to the lower courts to prove discrimination. That's a lot of whining and could go on for years. It's already gone on for 10 years. The path of least resistance, a settlement and some sort of dolled-up promise not to do it again, could prove very attractive to Wal-Mart.

Monday, March 28, 2011

At the UN It's Your World and Welcome to It!

A visit to the United Nations website opened up a whole new world.

عربيمرحبـاالأمم المتحدة — إنها عالمك
EnglishWelcomeUnited Nations — It's your world!
FrançaisBienvenueNations Unies — C'est votre monde!
РусскийДобро пожаловатьОрганизация Объединенных Наций — это ваш мир!
EspañolBienvenidosLas Naciones Unidas son su mundo

Not everyone is welcome in the world. As part of UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 a number Qadhafi regime supporters have been banned from international travel.

Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar QadhafiLeader of the Revolution, Supreme Commander of Armed Forces. Responsibility for ordering repression of demonstrations, human rights abuses.
Sayyid Mohammed Qadhaf Al-damCousin of Muammar Qadhafi. In the 1980s, Sayyid was involved in the dissident assassination campaign and allegedly responsible for several deaths in Europe. He is also thought to have been involved in arms procurement.
Aisha Muammar QadhafiDaughter of Muammar Qadhafi. Closeness of association with regime.
Hannibal Muammar QadhafiSon of Muammar Qadhafi. Closeness of association with regime.
Khamis Muammar QadhafiSon of Muammar Qadhafi. Closeness of association with regime. Command of military units involved in repression of demonstrations.
Mohammed Muammar QadhafiSon of Muammar Qadhafi. Closeness of association with regime.
Mutassim QadhafiNational Security Adviser. Son of Muammar Qadhafi. Closeness of association with regime.
Saadi QadhafiCommander Special Forces. Son of Muammar Qadhafi. Closeness of association with regime. Command of military units involved in repression of demonstrations.
Saif al-Arab QadhafiSon of Muammar Qadhafi. Closeness of association with regime.
Saif al-Islam QadhafiDirector, Qadhafi Foundation. Son of Muammar Qadhafi. Closeness of association with regime. Inflammatory public statements encouraging violence against demonstrators.
Colonel Abdullah Al-SenussiDirector Military Intelligence. Military Intelligence involvement in suppression of demonstrations. Past history includes suspicion of involvement in Abu Selim prison massacre. Convicted in absentia for bombing of UTA flight. Brother-in-law of Muammar Qadhafi.
Quren Salih Quren Al QadhafiLibyan Ambassador to Chad. Involved directly in recruiting and coordinating mercenaries for the regime.
Dr. Abdulqader Mohammed Al-BaghdadiHead of the Liaison Office of the Revolutionary Committees involved in violence against demonstrators.
Abdulqader Yusef DibriHead of Muammar Qadhafi’s personal security. Responsibility for regime security. History of directing violence against dissidents.
Abu Zayd Umar DordaDirector, External Security Organisation. Regime loyalist. Head of external intelligence agency.
Major General Abu Bakr Yunis JabirDefence Minister. Overall responsibility for actions of armed forces.
Matuq Mohammed MatuqSecretary for Utilities. Senior member of regime. Involvement with Revolutionary Committees. Past history of involvement in suppression of dissent and violence.
Colonel Amid Husain Al KuniGovernor of Ghat (South Libya). Directly involved in recruiting mercenaries.

The easiest way to get on this list is to have the name Qadhafi but there are 6 or 7 others too. If these are the "bad guys" in Libya it is surprising that it takes so few to keep a dictatorship going. Of course a lot of other people - soldiers, police, and civil servants - have to follow orders for a dictatorship to work.

The U.S. military action in Libya is being conducted under UN Security Council Resolution 1973. That's interesting reading.

It takes a while for the resolution to get to the point as the council starts off by recalling, deploring, expressing, reiterating, reaffirming, condemning, further condemning, considering, recalling, expressing its determination, recalling, taking note, taking note also, taking note further, recalling, reiterating its concern, deploring, considering, expressing concern, welcoming, reaffirming, determining, before finally acting.

The resolution contains 29 action points in all ending with this one: "Decides to remain actively seized of the matter." That of course is fundamentally the problem with the UN. When it comes to military action it can do little beyond "remaining actively seized." It falls to the member states to act, which almost always means the United States of America. But every other member state, there are 192 member states and 15 members of the security council., wants to be on the committee that tells the United States what it should and should not do. That is a recipe for inaction.

It's nice to see Qadhafi on the UN's list, he certainly had it coming. But let's be honest. There are probably 20 nations with dictatorships whose leaders should be equally shunned by the international community but that would require a resolve and unity of purpose that just isn't there.Welcome to our world.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Our Congressman Mike Capuano Gets Capped by Jon Stewart on Libya

Our congressman is fine company: John Bolton (R), Lindsey Graham (R), John McCain (R), Dennis Kucinich (D), Rob Andrews (D), and Mike Capuano (D).

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tea Party of Five for 2012

Every potential Republican candidate for President in 2012 would like to claim the Tea Party vote in 2012, but there are really only five who have a legitimate claim.

Sarah Palin tours Israel wearing a Star of David pendant and stealing Mitt Romney's no apology line.

Michele Bachmann proudly and unapologetically waves a tea bag in New Hampshire.

Ron Paul speaks to homeschoolers in Des Moines, Iowa in hopes school will be out on caucus night.

Rand Paul took the oath of office for his new U.S. Senate seat in January and now swears he won't run for President if daddy declares first.

Gary Johnson stands for peace and medical marijuana in live free or die New Hampshire.

Herman Cain wears the black hat as sometimes you have to as President.

The Sarah Palin Doctrine in Libya

Is President Obama following Sarah Palin's lead on Libya? Here's what Sarah Palin posted on Facebook back on February 22, 2011:

Here’s to Libya’s Freedom

It’s a little perplexing looking at the White House today. There was a statement on the horrible earthquake in New Zealand, and certainly our hearts go out to all those affected by this horrible natural disaster. But nothing on the slaughter in Libya? The protests in many places in the Middle East affect regimes that have cooperated with the U.S. on issues from peace with Israel, fighting al Qaeda, hosting our military forces, or cooperating against Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Gaddafi’s Libya is different. For four decades, this tyrant has held power. Gaddafi was Osama before Osama hit the scene. He ordered the bombing of a disco in Germany to kill Americans. When he paid the price for that – after President Reagan rightly ordered retaliation – he directed his agents to blow up Pan Am Flight 103. They did, and more than 250 innocent people died. Gaddafi tried to come in from the cold in 2003 – scared by the demonstration effect of Iraq. But we should have no illusions. Gaddafi is a brutal killer and Libya – not to mention the world – would be better off if he were out of power. Now is the time to speak out. Speak out for the long-suffering Libyan people. Speak out for the victims of Gaddafi’s terror. NATO and our allies should look at establishing a no-fly zone so Libyan air forces cannot continue slaughtering the Libyan people. We should not be afraid of freedom, especially when it comes to people suffering under a brutal enemy of America. Here’s to freedom from Gaddafi for the people of Libya.
The sentence I bolded sounds like a doctrine to me.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bill Maher, Speaking of Stupid Syphilitic Little Pricks

Here is how Bill Maher rolls: First he tells a joke about how Sarah Palin thinks tsunami is a country and we should invade. Then he starts his next sentence, "Speaking of dumb twats ..."

Oh, isn't Bill Maher too clever, he didn't really call Sarah Palin a degrading sexist name, he was just speaking of it.

Palin defenders spent a day or two trying to get a condemnation out of the National Organization of Women, which finally put out this blog post just to shut them up:

"We're on to you, right-wingers ... You're trying to take up our time getting us to defend your friend Sarah Palin."
NOW did slap Bill Maher's wrist, but not by name:

"Listen, supposedly progressive men (ok, and women, too): Cut the crap! Stop degrading women with whom you disagree and/or don't like by using female body terms or other gender-associated slurs. OK? Can you do that, please? If you think someone's an idiot or a danger to the country, feel free to say so, but try to keep their sex out of it. Sexist insults have an impact on all women."
"Try to keep their sex out of it" is not how NOW usually rolls. After this year's Super Bowl, NOW encouraged women to take action against advertisers whose commercials it deemed sexist:

"You can write to any one of these advertisers and give them a piece of your mind. We recommend Pepsi or Teleflora."
For an editorial cartoon that appeared on and in newspapers around the U.S.:

"Email Brian Fairrington and tell him what you think about his cartoon."
For a conservative blogger and sometime contributor to John King, USA on CNN:

"Tell CNN that Erick Erickson has got to go. NOW."
For a Vodka ad:

"Write to Skyy and tell them what you think about this ad. You can also contact the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States and urge them to investigate whether Skyy Vodka's latest campaign violates its "Code of Responsible Practices for Beverage Alcohol Advertising and Marketing."
For a sex scene on cable:

"Write to HBO and tell them what you think about this violent, misogynistic scene in True Blood."
Actually, Bill Maher's show Real Time is on HBO. You could write to HBO and tell them what you think about the stupid syphilitic little prick they have telling misogynistic dumb twat jokes. You could cancel your HBO subscription. Or you could respond, as I have, Fast Times at Ridgemont High style.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Poisoned Chalices Gambit in the Middle East

Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson writing for Newsweek expounds that President Obama has dithered too long before acting in Libya:

"Obama, a novice in foreign affairs, is a president without a strategy. Once a critic of American military intervention in the Middle East, once a skeptic about the chances of democratizing the region, he now finds himself with a poisoned chalice in each hand. In one there are the dregs of the last administration’s interventions: military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan that he is eager to wind down. In the other is a freshly poured draft of his own making..."
Yes, the old poisoned chalices gambit, any fan of The Princess Bride would recognize that:

"Never get involved in a land war in Asia."
"Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line."
Vizzini had a lot of advice for the masked man in black in their battle of wits, and drank the poison anyway for his trouble. The hero had poisoned both chalices, but had also spent years building up an immunity to the poison. Libya isn't even in Asia and Qadhafi is no Sicilian.

Niall also makes this stunningly irrelevant observation:

"When the news of the no-fly zone reached Benghazi last week, it was relayed from mosque loudspeakers, and the crowds responded with cries of 'Allahu akbar!' not 'God bless America!'"
Gee, Niall, I think to be welcomed as liberators we have to send ground troops and President Obama is not sending ground troops. Even then, the liberated usually sing their own national anthems.

Of course, Niall is insinuating that this is the same thing the Fort Hood shooter shouted back in 2009. But it's one thing to shout "Allahu akbar" before opening fire on a U.S. military base. It's another thing to shout "Allahu akbar" on the streets of a Muslim nation like Libya.

If it seems to have taken a long time for President Obama to choose the chalice from which to drink, there also seems to be some misdirection involved. The President announced the air strikes Saturday from Brazil, on the first leg of a five day diplomatic trip to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador. Has a U.S. President ever announced a U.S. military action from a foreign country? Unprecedented.

That seems designed to send a message, and not just to Qadhafi. To who else could President Obama be sending a message? Raul and Fidel Castro in Cuba? Hugo Chavez in Venezuela? Maybe Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua? The Washington Times reported just last Tuesday that Castro and Chavez were standing by Qadhafi. Just take a sip from the chalice boys, it's only kool aid.

Monday, March 21, 2011

President Obama Takes the U.S. to War in Libya

President Barack Obama has sent a letter to Congress explaining the military action he has taken over the weekend against Muammar Qadhafi in Libya.

President Obama starts by emphasizing he has undertaken these actions with the support of European "allies" and Arab "partners." He ends by expressing his appreciation for the support the Congress. Will Congress be an ally, a partner, or something else? Under the terms of the 1973 War Powers Resolution, Congress has 60 days to take a vote on authorizing continuation of the military action. That will be a moment to stand up and be counted.

The letter makes clear that while the U.S. purpose is ostensibly to enforce a no-fly zone, The U.S. also means to set the stage for further action by other coalition partners. Obama cites Qadhafi's defiance of the Arab League as well as of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

It must be said that Qadhafi made war on the U.S. with the bombing of the La Belle discotheque frequented by U.S servicemen in Berlin on December 5, 1986 and Pan Am Flight 103 bound for the U.S. over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 1988.

While President George W. Bush took Libya off the list of countries sponsoring terrorism in 2006, Qadhafi never came off my list.


March 21, 2011

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

At approximately 3:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, on March 19, 2011, at my direction, U.S. military forces commenced operations to assist an international effort authorized by the United Nations (U.N.) Security Council and undertaken with the support of European allies and Arab partners, to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and address the threat posed to international peace and security by the crisis in Libya. As part of the multilateral response authorized under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, U.S. military forces, under the command of Commander, U.S. Africa Command, began a series of strikes against air defense systems and military airfields for the purposes of preparing a no-fly zone. These strikes will be limited in their nature, duration, and scope. Their purpose is to support an international coalition as it takes all necessary measures to enforce the terms of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973. These limited U.S. actions will set the stage for further action by other coalition partners.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 authorized Member States, under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in Libya, including the establishment and enforcement of a "no-fly zone" in the airspace of Libya. United States military efforts are discrete and focused on employing unique U.S. military capabilities to set the conditions for our European allies and Arab partners to carry out the measures authorized by the U.N. Security Council Resolution.

Muammar Qadhafi was provided a very clear message that a cease-fire must be implemented immediately. The international community made clear that all attacks against civilians had to stop; Qadhafi had to stop his forces from advancing on Benghazi; pull them back from Ajdabiya, Misrata, and Zawiya; and establish water, electricity, and gas supplies to all areas. Finally, humanitarian assistance had to be allowed to reach the people of Libya.

Although Qadhafi's Foreign Minister announced an immediate cease-fire, Qadhafi and his forces made no attempt to implement such a cease-fire, and instead continued attacks on Misrata and advanced on Benghazi. Qadhafi's continued attacks and threats against civilians and civilian populated areas are of grave concern to neighboring Arab nations and, as expressly stated in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, constitute a threat to the region and to international peace and security. His illegitimate use of force not only is causing the deaths of substantial numbers of civilians among his own people, but also is forcing many others to flee to neighboring countries, thereby destabilizing the peace and security of the region. Left unaddressed, the growing instability in Libya could ignite wider instability in the Middle East, with dangerous consequences to the national security interests of the United States. Qadhafi's defiance of the Arab League, as well as the broader international community moreover, represents a lawless challenge to the authority of the Security Council and its efforts to preserve stability in the region. Qadhafi has forfeited his responsibility to protect his own citizens and created a serious need for immediate humanitarian assistance and protection, with any delay only putting more civilians at risk.

The United States has not deployed ground forces into Libya. United States forces are conducting a limited and well-defined mission in support of international efforts to protect civilians and prevent a humanitarian disaster. Accordingly, U.S. forces have targeted the Qadhafi regime's air defense systems, command and control structures, and other capabilities of Qadhafi's armed forces used to attack civilians and civilian populated areas. We will seek a rapid, but responsible, transition of operations to coalition, regional, or international organizations that are postured to continue activities as may be necessary to realize the objectives of U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973.

For these purposes, I have directed these actions, which are in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.

I am providing this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution. I appreciate the support of the Congress in this action.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dr. Stranngecoulter or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Radiation

"Good news, reports Ann Coulter, "anyone exposed to excess radiation from the nuclear power plants is now probably much less likely to get cancer."

The main stream media is at fault for fueling "hysteria for the past 20 years trying to convince Americans that radiation at any dose is bad." Remember the good old days in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s when the media touted the health benefits of radiation. They seem so long ago.

Dr. Ann Coulter reviews stacks of studies such as "one in Canada finding that tuberculosis patients subjected to multiple chest X-rays had much lower rates of breast cancer than the general population."

The source for that study is a 2001 story in the New York Times, which is the Coulter's gold standard in journalism so you can be sure it's a fact. Too bad, as Coulter's readers know, you can't get a chest X-ray in Canada due to their poor national health care system.

Dr. Ann Coulter imagines a rosy future for Japan as a tourist destination for cancer patients and others seeking alternative medical treatments:

"At the Free Enterprise Radon Health Mine in Boulder, people pay $5 to descend 85 feet into an old mining pit to be irradiated with more than 400 times the EPA-recommended level of radon. In the summer, 50 people a day visit the mine hoping for relief from chronic pain and autoimmune disorders."
That's Boulder, Montana not Boulder, Colorado so you needn't worry that this is some new age hippie scam. And not your run-of-the-mill western tourist trap, I might add.

Think of all the money Japan will make from Hollywood coming to Kukushima to film cancer flicks. Julia Roberts, if she still has her blonde Erin Brockovich wig, can play Dr. Ann Coulter in the movie about the brave and beautiful American doctor who against all conventional wisdom comes to Japan to found a free health clinic and spa on the ruins of the ruined Kukushima Dai-Itchi nuclear power plant. Well maybe not free, this is Ann Coulter.

You may ask where Dr. Ann Coulter got her medical license. I can assure you she graduated near the top of her class from the University of Michigan with a Juris Doctor degree. If you don't know, that's the J.D. they give lawyers not medical doctors.

I will grant Ann Coulter this: There have been thousands of deaths in Japan from the tsunami tidal wave and so far no reported deaths from radiation. And those white surgical masks you see tsunami survivors wearing on television are to protect against spreading bird flu. For much of the population right now, the loss of electricity generation capacity from the damaged nuclear power plants may be causing more havoc than radiation.

Still, when Ann Coulter concludes that "the survivors may outlive all of us over here in hermetically sealed, radiation-free America," I do worry that is akin to inviting terrorists with dirty bombs to bring 'em on.

But if Elected President Would Hillary Clinton Serve?

To be, or not to be, that is the question:

Q: If the President is reelected, do you want to serve a second term as Secretary of State?
A: No.

Q: Would you like to serve as Secretary of Defense?
A: No.

Q: Would you like to be Vice President of the United States.
A: No.

Q: Would you like to be President of the United States?
A: No.

That was an exchange between Hillary Clinton and CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, as reported by Politico.

The truthfulness of Hillary Clinton's answer about whether she would like to be President depends on what the meaning of the word "be" be. If it means would you like to be President at some future date, such as 2012 or 2016, then Hillary may well have been telling the truth. But if it means would you have liked to have been elected President when you ran in 2008, Hillary's answer "no" is undoubtedly false.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Barack Obama is Winning Reelection on Facebook, But Who is Gary Johnson?

In the real world, President Barack Obama faces a tough fight to win reelectionin 2012. Or maybe not. On Facebook, Barack Obama continues to build on the commanding lead he had when I first counted in January.

CandidateFriends on 1/16/2011Friends on 3/16/2011
Barack Obama17,822,15218,632,331
Joe Biden271,971274,670
Sarah Palin2,606,5862,777,509
Mitt Romney751,391814,705
Mike Huckabee522,079541,409
Ron Paul307,493307,495
Michele Bachmann150,467187,433
Donald Trump146,866184,512
Jim DeMint127,177129,848
Bobby Jindal121,977122,353
Newt Gingrich100,489113,269
Gary Johnson-110,466
Rand Paul-105,001
John Thune74,75474,837
Tim Pawlenty69,98573,135
Scott Walker-61,527
Paul Ryan50,90856,496
Herman Cain42,28955,720
Rick Perry51,45552,180
Mike Pence45,92347,712
Mitch Daniels39,41344,528
Chris Christie29,38833,990
Mike Bloomberg29,86230,344
Haley Barbour16,85417,459
Rick Santorum12,21113,252
Jimmy McMillan-8,362
John Bolton5,1705,658
Jeb Bush4,8415,027
Rudy Giuliani1,8912,194
Jon Huntsman-1,555
Fred Karger681826
Jon Greenspon581584
Buddy Roemer-570
Total Obama-Biden Friends18,094,123
Total Republican Friends5,310,731

I counted every Republican hopeful, wishful, wistful, or wasteful and even in the aggregate they don't have enough friends to unseat Barack Obama.

Of course it is too soon for this, but it is worth seeing where each candidate starts. Herman Cain did move up two notches from January, and Paul Ryan and Chris Christie each moved up one notch.

But who is Gary Johnson? I hadn't even been watching him until I noticed a suprising following that puts him at #9 on the Republican list, just a notch below the much better known New Gingrich and above a host of politicians giving the race serious consideration.

Turns out that Gary Johnson was Governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003. More recently he has been leading a political advocacy group called Our America Initiative.

Gary Johnson got his start as a door-to-door handyman, then started his own construction business, Big J Enterprises, which he grew into a multi-million dollar corporation that employed over 1,000 people.

"Good government is easy," Gary Johnson says. His method is a quiet but emphatic "just say no" with 750 vetoes on his belt in 8 years as governor. Only 2 of those vetoes were overridden.

Update: Red-meat conservatives won't find much to their taste on Gary Johnson's blog, at the Huffington Post, although the Other McCain thinks Gary is cool.

Update 3/25/2011: Added Rand Paul.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Charlie Sheen Burger Comes with 20 Ounces of Coke

I almost missed this story, which appeared in the Harvard Crimson student newspaper.

Mr. Bartley's Gourmet Burgers in Cambridge, Massachusetts has long served hamburgers named for local and national celebrities. The Michelle Obama, for example, is a hot & spicy blue cheese burger with cajun seasoning and french fries.

The new special on the menu is the Charlie Sheen burger with grilled peppers, onions, mushrooms, and topped with teriyaki sauce. And, I almost forgot to mention, it comes with 20 ounces of Coke.

The kids at the Crimson worshipped the Charlie Sheen like one of his goddesses:

"With fries that can’t be processed with a normal brain, this meal makes for a scrumptious, dare we say—winning—combination. So put on your total-bitchin’-rock-star-from-Mars pants, and gear up that tiger blood, because you’re about to have a dining experience straight out of Awesomeville."
But I'd be afraid my face would melt and my body would explode. So the next time I'm in Bartley's I think I'll just get the John Malkovich, grilled chicken, peppers, onions, feta cheese, lettuce, tomato & garlic mayonnaise.

One Mr. Ben S. Bernanke Wants My $10.5 Million Nigerian Compensation Fund

Nigerians are not great creative writers, judging from this email phishing scam I found in my spam filter. Full text:

Internal Audit, Monitoring, Consulting and Investigations Division

From: Ms. Carman L. Lapointe

Dear Unpaid Beneficiary,

This is to inform you that I came to Nigeria yesterday from London, after series of complaints from the FBI and other Security agencies from Asia, Europe, Oceania, Antarctica, South America and the United States of America respectively, against the Federal Government of Nigeria and the British Government for the rate of scam activities going on in these two nations.

I have met with President Goodluck of Nigeria who claimed that he has been trying his best to make sure you receive your fund in your account. Right now, as directed by our secretary general Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, we are working in collaborations with the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and have decided to waive away all your clearance fees/charges and authorize the Government of Nigeria to effect the payment of your compensation of an amount of $10.5M approved by both the British/United States government and the UN into your account without any delay. The only fee you will pay to confirm your fund in your account is your Court Notarization fee to the UN.

Sincerely, you are a lucky person because I have just discovered that some top Nigerian and British Government Officials are interested in your fund and they are working in collaboration with one Mr. Ben S. Bernanke and others from USA to frustrate you and thereafter divert your fund into their personal account. I have a very limited time to stay in Nigeria here so I would like you to urgently respond to this message so that I can advise you on how best to confirm your fund in your account within the next 72 hours.

Contact me immediately on this cell phone: +234-YYY ZZZZZZ or email me on

Sincerely yours,

Ms. Carman L. Lapointe
United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight
Cell Phone: +234-YYY ZZZZZZ
Direct Email:
I need to act fast or Ben Bernanke will screw me out of my money, the British are in on it too. I did some checking and the President of Nigeria is named Goodluck, so that just sounds fake. And of course UN under-secretaries get their email at hotmail. I googled Ms. Lapointe, she is Canadian and you can always trust a Canadian. It's just going to cost me the notarization fee, how much can that be?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fukushima Dai-ichi Are My New Swear Words

A massive earthquake with strong aftershocks, followed by a tsunami bringing widespread coastal flooding, followed by emergencies at several nuclear power plant reactors. The unfolding events in Japan illustrate the first principle of crisis management: just when you finally think things are back under some semblance of control, the really bad news starts to arrive.

At this writing it's clear that a series of last ditch measures are being taken at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. The explosion Saturday was caused by venting steam known to contain highly combustible hydrogen. There was an explosion Sunday at a second reactor at the same facility. Now they've turned to using sea water to cool the reactors, clearly not in the normal operating procedures. Let's pray those measures work.

Barring a horrendous outcome at Fukushima Dai-ichi, the most damage and loss of life was caused by the tsunami. The waves even hit the beaches and harbors of California. The live video Thursday night going into Friday morning of the tsunami hitting the Japanese coast was hard to watch. The leading edge of waves washed over or through everything in their path, pushing ahead huge amounts of debris.

The small town of Minamisanriku is missing 9,000 people, half its population. You can see from a picture of the devastation that the town sat on a narrow delta with the ocean at its front and hills at its back. Many who ran when they heard the tsunami warning made it to high ground. Those who weren't able to evacuate the low-lying areas were crushed or drowned.

But there are some miracles survival stories. One man and his wife swung by their house to gather belongs after the quake. That proved to be a mistake. She is lost, missing is probably the official designation. He was rescued 2 days later clinging to the remains of a roof waving a red cloth 10 miles out to sea. "I thought today was the last day of my life," he told rescuers.

But it's the fear of a more severe nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima that is unsettling the world. I was on the phone for a couple of hours Saturday with a Microsoft support technician in the Philippines, which is just south of Japan. Karen was worried about a nuclear meltdown. Karen also says they don't have the same building codes in the Phillipines as they have in Japan to protect against earthquake damage. She knows she lives in the ring of fire.

Karen was also worried about volcanoes. The news Sunday reported Shinmoedake volcano had erupted on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. It had been active recently, and only a few hundred people had to be evacuated. It's an upside-down world for Japan when a volcanic eruption is the least of their problems.

Back at Fukushima Dai-ichi, they are using the phrase partial meltdown. If nuclear meltdown freaks you out, I guess partial meltdown should only partially freak you out. Some plant workers have fallen victim to radiation sickness, and some local residents have also been treated. So far the really bad news has not arrived.

Anyway, I've been looking for new swear words and Fukushima Dai-ichi will do nicely. Die itchy is what will happen if you get doused with radiation. Fukushima speaks for itself. They can be used together or separately.

If you want to use my new swear, you are welcome. But please hit the swear jar by making a contribution for disaster relief to the American Red Cross, or one of the other agencies providing relief services in Japan and elsewhere around the world. Japan's resilience has been remarkable, but they will need help.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Charlie Sheen Will Be Funny or Die

"Now garnish it with a secret ingredient, Charlie Sheen. Mmm, tastes like winning. Warning: the taste of Charlie Sheen has the potential to cause you soul to weep and forfeit."

We imagine Charlie Sheen can get several ex-wives and ex-girlfriends to attest to that.

Jon Cryer is a Troll

Can the CBS show Two and a Half Men carry on without Charlie Sheen? A better question might be whether it can carry on without Jon Cryer. I have no doubt Jon Cryer could carry his own show. I would watch. He says he needs the work:

Friday, March 11, 2011

NPR Would Like to Remain Anonymous

It just gets worse for NPR with the posting of a recorded phone call between NPR fundraiser Betsy Liley and a guy calling himself Ibrahmim Kasaam offering to give NPR $5 million anonymously from the fictitious Muslim Education Action Center Trust.

To my mind, this was the crucial exchange:
Ibrahmim Kasaam: Are you suggesting NPR is considering not accepting ...

Betsy Liley: Oh no no no no no.
It's hard to reconcile that with NPR's statement earlier in the week that "The fraudulent organization represented in this video repeatedly pressed us to accept a $5 million check, with no strings attached, which we repeatedly refused to accept."

From what Betsy says in this long and rambling call, it does appear she came into this call after a meeting with NPR's general counsel in which she was instructed that there would need to be some due diligence done into the Muslim Education Action Center Trust before the gift could be accepted. Nonetheless, Betsy seems to beat around the bush on getting the specific information she was instructed to ask for concerning the structure of the trust, who else it has contributed to, and from whom it gets its money.

Betsy was placed on administrative leave earlier in the week. At one point in the call, Ibrahmim was fishing for a conference call with NPR CEO Vivian Schiller to discuss what information NPR wanted. So I imagine that we will be hearing that conversation soon. We'll see how well the actual recording matches her email description of the call which was released by NPR.

NPR's head lawyer Joyce Slocum did write a strong email making clear that NPR would not accept the $5 million gift without doing its due diligence. At the same time, she does seem to imply that if their paperwork was in order the gift would be accepted.

NPR has put a lot in the fact that they did not accept the offered $5 million check. It has still not sunk in that there never was any $5 million to accept. As the gift negotiations went forward, NPR's lawyer clearly thought something was fishy. The inevitable question is why they didn't contact law enforcement or have their own news hounds do some investigating.

Joyce Slocum has been named interim CEO at NPR. The NPR board might have done better to name someone who had no involvement with this embarrassing affair.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Enema Man and Snoopy Snoopy Poop Dogg Won't Fix Social Security Either

Former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson thinks grandma would rather keep cashing her check than fix Social Security for the sake of her grandchildren:

"If they care at all about their children or grandchildren, and sometimes I doubt that – I think, you know, grandchildren now don't write a thank-you for the Christmas presents, they're walking on their pants with the cap on backwards listening to the Enema Man and Snoopy Snoopy Poop Dogg, and they don't like them!"

Republican Alan Simpson co-chaired the deficit reduction commission with Democrat Erskine Bowles. The commission's proposals didn't get very far last December. And it would appear from Simpson's comments that he doesn't expect them to get very far this spring either.

After leaving the U.S. Senate, Simpson had a gig at the Kennedy School of Government in the late 1990s and was occasionally seen around Cambridge hanging out with Robert Reich, who Bill Clinton dropped as Labor Secretary for being a bit too liberal.

Alan Simpson generated some controversy with an email last August on saving Social Security:

"I've made some plenty smart cracks about people on Social Security who milk it to the last degree. You know 'em too. It's the same with any system in America. We've reached a point now where it's like a milk cow with 310 million tits! Call when you get honest work!"

Alan Simpson can sure crack wise, I've always like that about him, but he may just be another grandma on getting Social Security reform done. Exactly what constituency does he propose to deliver?

Partially Driven by How Passionately I Felt about This Country

... I started writing this blog.

Newt Gingrich's passionate feelings about this country, on the other hand, led him into an affair with one of his Congressional aides. She's now his third wife. Newt Gingrich wants to be President, some passions even a third wife can't cool.

The rest of us I suspect will be able to curb our enthusiasm if Newt he keeps talking like this:
"There's no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate. What I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn't trapped in situation ethics, I was doing things that were wrong, and yet, I was doing them. I found that I felt compelled to seek God's forgiveness. Not God's understanding, but God's forgiveness."
With phrases like "partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country" and "things happened in my life that were not appropriate" he could teach Bill Clinton a thing or two about dissembling. No word on whether he sought his second wife's forgiveness, or his first's. At least he wasn't trapped in situation ethics, that would be really unforgivable.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pick NPR Up in a Limo and They'll Suck Up to You Too

Remember James O'Keefe who brought down ACORN with hidden camera video footage? It appears he may have done it again to the folks at NPR, National Public Radio. The video speaks for itself:

A couple of guys masquerading as philanthropists associated with the Muslm Brotherhood pick up two NPR executives with a rented limo, take them to lunch, dangle a $5 million donation, and record the whole thing.

NPR had this to say:
"The fraudulent organization represented in this video repeatedly pressed us to accept a $5 million check, with no strings attached, which we repeatedly refused to accept. We are appalled by the comments made by Ron Schiller in the video, which are contrary to what NPR stands for. Mr. Schiller announced last week that he is leaving NPR for another job."

-- Dana Davis Rehm, SVP of Marketing, Communications & External Relations.
At the end of the business day, NPR had this update:
"The comments contained in the video released today are contrary to everything we stand for, and we completely disavow the views expressed. NPR is fair and open-minded about the people we cover. Our reporting reflects those values every single day – in the civility of our programming, the range of opinions we reflect and the diversity of stories we tell.

The assertion that NPR and public radio stations would be better off without federal funding does not reflect reality. The elimination of federal funding would significantly damage public broadcasting as a whole.

Prior to the lunch meeting presented in the edited video, Ron Schiller had informed NPR that he was resigning from his position to take a new job. His resignation was announced publicly last week, and he was expected to depart in May. While we review this situation, he has been placed on administrative leave."

-- Dana Davis Rehm, SVP of Marketing, Communications & External Relations.
Later in the evening, NPR revised the last paragraph:
"Ron Schiller tendered his resignation on January 24, well before the lunch meeting occurred. His resignation was announced last week. He was intending to stay with NPR through May 5. We have mutually agreed that Ron is leaving NPR effective today."

-- Dana Davis Rehm, SVP of Marketing, Communications & External Relations.
And even later in the evening NPR has this joint statement:
"While the meeting I participated in turned out to be a ruse, I made statements during the course of the meeting that are counter to NPR's values and also not reflective of my own beliefs. I offer my sincere apology to those I offended. I resigned from NPR, previously effective May 6th, to accept another job. In an effort to put this unfortunate matter behind us, NPR and I have agreed that my resignation is effective today."

-- Ron Schiller, Former SVP of Development and Former President of the NPR Foundation - March 8, 2011
"Ron Schiller's remarks are contrary to what NPR stands for and deeply distressing to reporters, editors and others who bring fairness, civility and respect for a wide variety of viewpoints to their work every day."

-- Vivian Schiller, President and CEO, NPR
And exactly what statements by Ron Schiller led to this cascade? Its hard to know where to start. There's this one:
"The current Republican Party, particularly the Tea Party, is fanatically involved in people’s personal lives and very fundamental Christian. I wouldn’t even call it Christian. It’s this weird Evangelical kind of move. ... The current Republican Party is not really the Republican Party. It's been hijacked by this group that is not just Islamophobic but, really, xenophobic. They believe in sort of white, middle America, gun-toting - it's scary. They're seriously racist, racist people."
And this one:
"It is very clear that we would be better off in the long run without federal funding,"
Let's recap the backtracking by NPR: We're appalled, we disavow, not our values, we're distressed. He already said he's leaving, he was leaving before this ever happened, he's on administrative leave, he's gone, I tell you he's gone.

I think there will be another statement, because CEO Vivian Schiller forgot to apologize on behalf of NPR in the last statement. Being distressed is neither an apology nor a disavowal. Just to make it messier, I've read elsewhere that Ron Schiller and Vivian Schiller are not related, so no doubt that will take some tries to clarify too.

While NPR itself gets very little of its funding from the government, local public radio stations get about 10 to 30 percent of their funding from government grants. Now the question is whether the Republicans in Congress will renew those grants, with legislation already introduced by Republicans to defund them.

All things considered, it's time for a little fresh air - the local public radio stations should apologize for and disavow NPR.

Update 3/9/2011: The other shoe has fallen at NPR and CEO Vivian Schiller has been forced out:
"The NPR Board of Directors announced today that it has accepted the resignation of Vivian Schiller as President and CEO of NPR, effective immediately.

Board Chairman Dave Edwards said: 'The Board accepted Vivian's resignation with understanding, genuine regret and great respect for her leadership of NPR these past two years.'

According to a CEO succession plan adopted by the Board in 2009, Joyce Slocum, SVP of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, will be appointed to the position of Interim CEO. The Board will establish an Executive Transition Committee to develop a timeframe and process for the recruitment and selection of new leadership."

-- NPR Board of Directors
And just who exactly is on this board?

Vivian Schiller, President and CEO of NPR (resigned)

Antoine W. van Agtmael, Chair of the NPR Foundation; Chairman and Chief Investment Officer, Emerging Markets Management, LLP

Dave Edwards, Director/General Manager, WUWM; Chair of the Board, NPR

Steve Bass, President and Chief Executive Officer, Oregon Public Broadcasting

Bill Davis, President and CEO, Southern California Public Radio

Jose Fajardo, President & CEO, WMFE

Betsy Gardella, President and CEO, New Hampshire Public Radio

Kit Jensen, Chief Operating Officer WVIZ/PBS & 90.3 WCPN ideastream

Jon McTaggart, Chief Operating Officer, Minnesota Public Radio

Greg Petrowich, Executive Director, WSIU Public Broadcasting

Marita Rivero, Vice President and General Manager for Radio and Television, WGBH

Roger Sarow, President, WFAE-FM

Carol Cartwright, President, Bowling Green State University; Vice Chair of the Board, NPR

Eduardo A. Hauser, Chief Executive Officer, DailyMe, Inc.

John A Herrmann, Jr., Vice Chairman, Lincoln International

Lyle Logan, Managing Director, Global Financial Institutions Group

Howard H. Stevenson, Sarofim-Rock Baker Foundation Professor, Harvard Business School; Senior Associate Dean, Director of HBS Publishing
I suspect Antoine van Agtmael will step down from the board, as Ron Schiller was under the NPR Foundation that he chairs, and we may see other replacements on the NPR board as well.

Is It Time to Salute a Few Good Women?

As Jack Nicholson playing Colonel Jessep in A Few Good Men said, there is nothing on this earth sexier than a woman you have to salute in the morning. And, I would add, there would be nothing more humiliating for our enemies than getting their asses kicked by a one of our girls.

A new study released today recommends allowing women to serve in combat units in the U.S. military. It also calls for greater racial, ethnic, and gender diversity at the top of the officer corps. The ranks are quite diverse. The U.S. military is one of the greatest meritocracies in the world, up to a point. If you don't think diversity makes a difference in the defense of our nation, read the book "Lasting Valor" by Vernon Baker.

But the issue of women serving in combat is really separate from the issue of promotion opportunities for African-American and Hispanic officers. And it's not one size fits all for every service - the issue of women serving as combat fighter or bomber pilots is different from women serving in combat infantry platoons.

Take the two most famous or infamous women soldiers of the last decade. Jessica Lynch served in a supply clerk with a maintenance company. Lynndie England served in the military police. Both had close contact with the enemy, without being in "combat" units.

I happen to know one woman who is now a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force with a thirty year career (she was a year ahead of me in high school in Iowa). I think the closest she's been allowed to combat was serving in a refueling squadron during the Gulf War. She has trained a lot of pilots. She can lead. She does have a Combat Readiness Medal. But will she make General?

Monday, March 7, 2011

John Stamos to Star with Olsen Twins in Two and a Half Women

The latest news from my Hollywood contacts is that John Stamos is not being courted by CBS to replace Charlie Sheen on Two and a Half Men.

Instead John Stamos is being offered a new show to be called Two and a Half Women. CBS is also seeking twins Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen as costars.

John Stamos with Mary Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen.

The Olsen twins appeared as John Stamos's nieces on the TV show Full House (1987-1995). In the new show they will be his girlfriends, who he calls the goddettes, with all three sharing a beachside house in Southern California. The "half women" of the title will be played in each episode by a different actress.

Episodes of the show will feature a parade of former girlfriends and ex-wives, and their children fathered by the John Stamos character. CBS wants Lori Loughlin to play his ex-wife Becky, Denise Richards to play another ex-wife, and Kelly Preston to play a former girlfriend. Several female porn stars are being auditioned for the show.

Chuck Lorre, who will produce the new show for CBS, says any resemblance of the new show to the life of Charlie Sheen is purely coincidental.

Charlie Sheen with live-in girlfriends Natalie Kenly and Rachel Oberlin.

Charlie Sheen's Guide to Duh Winning

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Harvard Reenlists in the U.S. Navy ROTC

Harvard has a long history with ROTC, the college program that trains officers for the U.S. military.

For the last 40 years, however, that relationship has been at arm's length. Harvard students wishing to join ROTC have had to do so through MIT. Of course, getting up a little earlier to run across town is the miltary's idea of good training. But still there was an element of second-class citizen-soldiership.

Harvard's official rift occurred because of the Vietnam War but had been extended over policies against gays serving in the military. With the DADT policy all but repealed, Harvard stepped up to reenlist. This Friday Harvard President Drew Faust signed an agreement with the U.S. Navy to bring ROTC back on campus officially.

The Harvard ROTC in May 1917. This was back in the days when the students sang "ten thousand men of Harvard want victory today" and meant it.

The Harvard ROTC commissioning ceremony in May 2010. A dozen graduating cadets in all were commissioned.

More Harvard ROTC pictures can be found at the Harvard Gazette. Agreements with the other military services are expected to follow. Whether ROTC enlistments rise remains to be seen.

Harvard has a long and illustrious military tradition:

Joseph Warren - killed in action at the Battle of Bunker Hill in June 1775.

Robert Gould Shaw - killed in action leading an assault by the all-black 54th Massachusetts Regiment on Fort Wagner near Charleston, South Carolina in July 1863.

Leonard Wood - carried dispatches over 100 miles of hostile territory during the Apache campaign in the summer of 1886.

Theodore Roosevelt - led the charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish American War in 1898.

Charles White Whittlesey - commander of the "Lost Battalion" which held out until relieved for six days after being surrounded by German troops in the Argonne Forest in October 1918.

John F. Kennedy - commander of PT-109 which was rammed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer in August 1943.

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. - rallied the troops landing on Utah Beach on D-Day June 6, 1944.

Sherrod E. Skinner - killed in action when he threw himself on an enemy grenade in Korea in October 1952.

Robert C. Murray - killed in action when he threw himself on an enemy grenade in Vietnam in 1970.

A plaque in Harvard's Memorial Church honors the 17 Harvard University graduates who have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Boston Barely Makes List of 20 Rudest Cities

The folks at have ranked the rudest English-speaking cities in the world, and Boston only came in #19.

The ranking was done based on curse words in comments left at, which only proves that Bostonians can't spell their curse words as well as folks in the other cities. Portland, Oregon is #8 on the list, and it isn't a rude city at all but residents do have very good spelling.

I have been to England and will have to grant Manchester the right to be #1.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bob Slate, Stationer to Sell Its Last Envelope in March

The Bob Slate, Stationer stores have been one of the iconic locally-owned businesses since I came to Cambridge thirty years ago. Now Bob Slate is closing.

This is the Bob Slate store on Church Street. I was just in to get an envelope a couple of weeks ago. Yes, one envelope, you can't buy one at Staples.

The letter on door tells the story. The owners have been trying to sell the business for several years, unsuccessfully. They let their Harvard Square leases expire and the stores will close in March.

This is the flagship Bob Slate store on Massachusetts Avenue. As a college student in the 1980s, they would sell me pencils and spiral notebooks and cash my checks. More recently Bob Slate has been selling me photo albums, cards, and gifts.

The story behind the story is that the store was owned by two brothers, the sons of the founder Bob Slate. They want to retire and don't want to put their children in the position of having to go into a declining small retail business.

The third store in Porter Square will also close.

How do you sell pencils and spiral notebooks in the age of laptops and iPads? Photo albums in the age of digital pictures? Cards in the age of email? Or gifts in the age of and a million other ecommerce websites?

The declining business problem is a hard one for small business in a recession. Is it you or is it the recession? Is your niche big enough or do you need to reinvent?