July 04, 2012

Reflecting upon Independence Day

This clip, from HBO's miniseries, "John Adams," recreates the moment when George Washington took the oath of office, becoming the nation's first president. An almost unrecognizable David Morse portrays the former general, capturing the man's humility, but it's Paul Giamatti as Adams who's unforgettable; his eyes burn with emotion and revolutionary zeal as he watches the former colonies gain their first chief executive.

It's hard for us today to realize the passions that moved our nation's founding fathers to rebellion -- treachery and treason in the eyes of those loyal to the English monarch -- risking their lives and the lives of their families for independence.

In this scene, the delegates rise, one by one, to cast their votes for -- or against -- independence. Imagine standing in the crowd on that sweltering July day and hearing the Declaration of Independence read for the very first time.

This clip, from the 1972 film version of the hit Broadway musical, "1776," has John Adams (played by the wonderful William Daniels), expressing his frustration with and contempt for Congress -- a feeling well deserved and little changed amongst Congress watchers past and present.

It opens with one of the best lines ever, as Adams storms into Congress:

ADAMS: I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace; that two are called a law firm; and that three or more become a Congress! And, by God, I have had this Congress! For ten years, King George and his Parliament have gulled, cullied and diddled these Colonies with their illegal taxes! Stamp Acts, Townshend Acts, Sugar Acts, Tea Acts! And when we dared stand up like men, they have stopped our trade, seized our ships, blockaded our ports, burned our towns and spilled our blood! And still this Congress refuses to grant any of my proposals on independence, even so much as the courtesy of open debate. Good God, what in Hell are you waiting for?

And in this, the final scene from the 1972 film, the delegates listen to a dispatch from Gen. Washington on the eve of battle, 5,000 would-be Americans facing 25,000 Red Coats, before rising to sign -- as the mordant Benjamin Franklin puts it -- "their passport to the gallows."

If you're in the mood to be both entertained and informed, start with "John Adams" and finish with "1776."

Posted by Mike Lief at 09:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Independence Day: We hold these truths to be self-evident ...

Click on this image and take a close look at the Declaration of Independence, note the impeccable penmanship, the occasional correction, and the signatures of the men who risked the gallows to declare that King George III was no longer their sovereign.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

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For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

You can view high-resolution versions of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of RIghts here.

Posted by Mike Lief at 09:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 17, 2012

Happy 48th Father's Day, Dad!

A look at the best Dad a guy could have, from the 1930s through the 2000s.

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Dad in Golden Gate Park with my Grandmother and his younger sister, my Aunt Lee, circa 1937.

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This shot is probably from 1950 -- in Brooklyn -- before Dad joined the Navy.

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Dad aboard ship during the Korean War. My father is proud to have served; I'm glad I could carry on the family tradition.

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Working at a pharmacy in downtown Los Angeles, circa 1965.

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The Lief Family, circa 1965, with Dad's parents. If I haven't mentioned it, it's a scientific fact that they were the best grandparents known to mankind.

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Disco Dad. Polyester leisure suit and a redonkulous moustache. Oy.


I snapped these shots during our cross-country train ride in 2004, when Dad and I celebrated his 70th and my 40th birthday by indulging our dislike of flying by riding the rails to Florida, returning to California via the Panama Canal aboard a cruise ship.

My stepmother casts an affectionate-yet-skeptical glance at Dad in our booth at Wolf Creek Restaurant & Brewery, April 2012. I think this captures the essence of their relationship.

Posted by Mike Lief at 08:20 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

June 06, 2012

Remembering D-Day

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Looking back across the 68 years since Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, it's easy to forget just how precarious, what a tremendous gamble the ambitious amphibious landing really was. General Dwight Eisenhower, the supreme Allied commander, sat at his desk during the long, stormy night before the invasion and wrote a letter conceding failure -- just in case things went badly -- taking responsibility for the defeat. The following hours would be critical: Would the soldiers of the Third Reich throw the Americans, Brits and Canadians back into the sea?

Eisenhower's pencilled draft was found in a pocket by an aide some days after the Allies had broken through the German defenses and made their way off the beaches. Ike wrote:

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops have been withdrawn.

My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.

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General Eisenhower issued this proclamation to the men before they set sail for France across the stormy Channel, reminding them of what was at stake during the coming desperate hours.

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The sounds of German machine guns and artillery echoed across the water as GIs huddled in their landing craft, heading towards Omaha Beach, waiting for the moment when the ramp dropped and their mad dash towards the waiting enemy began. Something catches the attention of these soldiers, and they peer over the side of their boat, steeling themselves, ready.

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GIs from Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division, are amongst the first Americans to set foot on Hitler's Festung Europa in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944. The waiting German troops greeted them with a hail of steel, MG-42 machine guns mowing down men with their distinctive "ripping-cloth" buzz.

Robert Edlin, fighting with the 2d Ranger Battalion, remembered the invasion getting off to a bad start:

"Our assault boat hit a sandbar. I looked over the ramp and we were at least seventy-five yards from the shore, and we had hoped for a dry landing. I told the coxswain, "Try to get in further." He screamed he couldn't. That British seaman had all the guts in the world but couldn't get off the sandbar. I told him to drop the ramp or we were going to die right there.

We had been trained for years not to go off the front of the ramp, because the boat might get rocked by a wave and run over you. So we went off the sides. I looked to my right and saw a B Company boat next to us with Lt. Bob Fitzsimmons, a good friend, take a direct hit on the ramp from a mortar or mine. I thought, there goes half of B Company.

It was cold, miserably cold, even though it was June. The water temperature was probably forty-five or fifty degrees. It was up to my shoulders when I went in, and I saw men sinking all about me. I tried to grab a couple, but my job was to get on in and get to the guns. There were bodies from the I I6th floating everywhere. They were facedown in the water with packs still on their backs. They had inflated their life jackets. Fortunately, most of the Rangers did not inflate theirs or they also might have turned over and drowned.

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Having left the relative -- and illusory --safety of the landing craft, GIs from the 16th Infantry Regiment begin the maddeningly slow slog toward the beach, as the German defenders hit them with mortars and machine gun fire.

I began to run with my rifle in front of me. I went directly across the beach to try to get to the seaway. In front of me was part of the II6th Infantry, pinned down and lying behind beach obstacles. They hadn't made it to the seaway. I kept screaming at them, 'You have to get up and go! You gotta get up and go!' But they didn't. They were worn out and defeated completely. There wasn't any time to help them.

I continued across the beach. There were mines and obstacles all up and down the beach. The air corps had missed it entirely. There were no shell holes in which to take cover. The mines had not been detonated. Absolutely nothing that had been planned for that part of the beach had worked. I knew that Vierville-sur-Mer was going to be a hellhole, and it was.

When I was about twenty yards from the seaway I was hit by what I assume was a sniper bullet. It shattered and broke my right leg. I thought, well, I've got a Purple Heart. I fell, and as I did, it was like a searing hot poker rammed into my leg. My rifle fell ten feet or so in front of me. I crawled forward to get to it, picked it up, and as I rose on my left leg, another burst of I think machine gun fire tore the muscles out of that leg, knocking me down again.

I lay there for seconds, looked ahead, and saw several Rangers lying there. One was Butch Bladorn from Wisconsin. I screamed at Butch, 'Get up and run!' Butch, a big, powerful man, just looked back and said, 'I can't.' I got up and hobbled towards him. I was going to kick him in the ass and get him off the beach. He was lying on his stomach, his face in the sand. Then I saw the blood coming out of his back. I realized he had been hit in the stomach and the bullet had come out his spine and he was completely immobilized. Even then I was sorry for screaming at him but I didn't have time to stop and help him. I thought, well, that's the end of Butch. Fortunately, it wasn't. He became a farmer in Wisconsin.

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Men from the 16th Infantry Regiment try to find protection from the German machine gunners, hiding for a few moments behind anti-tank obstacles placed on Omaha Beach as part of Field Marshall Erwin Rommel's plan to keep the Allies from establishing a beachhead on the Normandy coast.

As I moved forward, I hobbled. After you've been hit by gunfire, your legs stiffen up, not all at once but slowly. The pain was indescribable. I fell to my hands and knees and tried to crawl forwards. I managed a few yards, then blacked out for several minutes. When I came to, I saw Sgt. Bill Klaus. He was up to the seaway. When he saw my predicament, he crawled back to me under heavy rifle and mortar fire and dragged me up to the cover of the wall.

Klaus had also been wounded in one leg, and a medic gave him a shot of morphine. The medic did the same for me. My mental state was such that I told him to shoot it directly into my left leg, as that was the one hurting the most. He reminded me that if I took it in the ass or the arm it would get to the leg. I told him to give me a second shot because I was hit in the other leg. He didn't.

There were some Rangers gathered at the seaway - Sgt. William Courtney, Pvt. William Dreher, Garfield Ray, Gabby Hart, Sgt. Charles Berg. I yelled at them, 'You have to get off of here! You have to get up and get the guns!' They were gone immediately.

My platoon sergeant, Bill White, an ex-jockey whom we called Whitey, took charge. He was small, very active, and very courageous. He led what few men were left of the first platoon and started up the cliffs. I crawled and staggered forward as far as I could to some cover in the bushes behind a villa. There was a round stone well with a bucket and handle that turned the rope. It was so inviting. I was alone and I wanted that water so bad. But years of training told me it was booby-trapped.

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Photographer Frank Capa lay in the surf of the Easy Red Sector of Omaha Beach, snapping pictures from the furthest edge of the American assault, capturing the frenzied rush to get ashore and stop being a sitting duck in the surf. Capa's photos were rushed back to London, where the majority were destroyed in an accident in the lab. Only a few survived, comprising the most compelling images of the D-Day landings taken on the American beaches.

I looked up at the top of the cliffs and thought, I can't make it on this leg. Where was everyone? Had they all quit? Then I heard Dreher yelling, 'Come on up. These trenches are empty.' Then Kraut burp guns cut loose. I thought, oh God, I can't get there! I heard an American tommy gun, and Courtney shouted, 'Damn it, Dreher! They're empty now.'

There was more German small-arms fire and German grenades popping. I could hear Whitey yelling, 'Cover me!' I heard Garfield Ray's BAR [Browning automatic rifle] talking American. Then there was silence.

Now, I thought, where are the 5th Rangers? I turned and I couldn't walk or even hobble anymore. I crawled back to the beach. I saw 5th Rangers coming through the smoke of a burning LST that had been hit by artillery fire. Co!. Schneider had seen the slaughter on the beaches and used his experience with the Rangers in Africa, Sicily, and Anzio. He used the smoke as a screen and moved in behind it, saving the 5th Ranger Battalion many casualties.

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A wounded GI is helped ashore at Omaha Beach my some of his fellow soldiers. Note the still-inflated life preserver on the soldier to his left.

My years of training told me there would be a counterattack. I gathered the wounded by the seaway and told them to arm themselves as well as possible. I said if the Germans come we are either going to be captured or die on the beach, but we might as well take the Germans with us. I know it sounds ridiculous, but ten or fifteen Rangers lay there, facing up to the cliffs, praying that Sgt. White, Courtney, Dreher, and the 5th Ranger Battalion would get to the guns. Our fight was over unless the Germans counterattacked.

I looked back to the sea. There was nothing. There were no reinforcements. I thought the invasion had been abandoned. We would be dead or prisoners soon. Everyone had withdrawn and left us. Well, we had tried. Some guy crawled over and told me he was a colonel from the 29th Infantry Division. He said for us to relax, we were going to be okay. D, E, and F Companies were on the Pointe. The guns had been destroyed. A and B Companies and the 5th Rangers were inland. The 29th and Ist Divisions were getting off the beaches.

This colonel looked at me and said, 'You've done your job." I answered, 'How? By using up two rounds of German ammo on my legs?" Despite the awful pain, I hoped to catch up with the platoon the next day."

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An Army medic moves down the beach providing aid to the wounded, as exhausted troops huddle against the base of chalk cliffs, protected for the moment from the barrage of incoming German fire.

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Less than 24 hours earlier the same GIs had marched through the streets of seaside English towns, on the way to the docks where they'd board the troop transports for the ride across the English Channel to the Normandy coast. It's impossible not to wonder how many of these men made it off the beach the next morning.

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For some GIs, their war ended on the cold Normandy sand; their friends marked their deaths with impromptu markers, like these crossed rifles, then fought their way off the beaches. Ahead lay the battle of the hedgerows, the liberation of Paris, the Operation Market Garden debacle, and the bone-chilling despair -- and victory -- of the Battle of the Bulge.

A long 11 months lay ahead for D-Day's survivors.

Posted by Mike Lief at 12:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 31, 2012

Automotive Dreams: Mercedes 300SL

The Mercedes 300SL has long been one of my favorite classic cars, not just because of the gullwing doors that gave it its nickname, but also thanks to its timeless, sensuous lines.

I've seen them at high-end auctions, where they sell in the million-dollar range, but I've never heard the sound of one being driven hard, it's direct-injection inline-six cylinder engine screaming. Until now.


Classic cars deserve to be driven; warbirds should be flown. They're at the apex of engineering and art, and simply can't be appreciated as static displays in a museum.

I'm a bit envious of the owner, but more than that I admire him for his ability to shrug off the dents and dings and road damage that comes with driving his Gullwing to carshows, so that he can simply enjoy the damn thing the way God -- and Mercedes -- intended.

Posted by Mike Lief at 07:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2012: Taps

There is no sadder sound, and no moment when I'm more proud of those who served and gave their all in defense of this nation, than during the 24 notes of taps.

Take a minute-twenty out of your day and remember them.

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Remembering the Fallen: Normandy American Military Cemetery

Take a moment, turn on your speakers, and drink in the sights and sounds of the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, where 9,387 Americans slumber beneath 172 acres of verdant French turf, with more than 1,500 names of those men whose bodies were never found listed on a memorial wall in the gardens.

The live stream, featuring audio and
, is available from 2 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. EST.

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May 27, 2012

Memorial Day 2012: Battle Hymn of the Republic, World War II edition

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Memorial Day 2012: Remembering those who gave their all

Charles Durning is an actor you've seen in countless movies over the last 50 years, including The Sting, The Front Page, Dog Day Afternoon, Tootsie and The Muppet Movie; I especially enjoyed his performance as Gov. Pappy Daniels in O Brother, Where Art Thou?. But you've never seen him like this, speaking at the 2007 Memorial Day Concert. Durning is a decorated war veteran who fought his way across Europe, receiving numerous wounds in the fight against the Third Reich. Until recently, he remained silent about his wartime experiences, but, as the number of WWII vets dwindles, Durning decided to speak out, to bear witness to the heroism of those who never came home.

His portion of the video begins with a picture of him as a young GI at the 1:12 mark. Listen to his memories of D-Day, the raw emotion in his voice as he recalls the terror of those hours spent on the beaches of Normandy, and then think of how he and his fellow soldiers fought their way off the sand and continued on, mile after mile, month after month, through France and Belgium, the bitter cold of Bastogne, over the Rhine, until the enemy -- bled dry by the constant slaughter -- was defeated.

Durning came home and recovered from his wounds. Taking to the theater, the lean combat veteran soon disappearing into the role of corpulent character actor, often snagging comedic roles -- with a glimmer of barely-controlled rage occasionally peeking through, the twinkling eyes going cold and flat.

I'm grateful he's decided to end the decades-long silence about the war, and the heroes with whom be fought.

On this memorial day weekend, be sure to thank a veteran for his service, and make sure to tell him you remember his buddies, too, the ones who never made it home.

Posted by Mike Lief at 09:15 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

April 14, 2012

A word on the United Nations, its anti-Israel jihad, and the gullibility of the West

Brit Pat Condell offers a bracing dose of straight talk on the festering chancre of anti-semitism that is the United Nations. That the United States continues to host this collection of lunatics -- and pay the lion's share of its budget, too! -- is a disgrace. Whatever illusions I had of the useful role the U.N. could play -- burnished during my time studying there 25 years ago -- vanished long ago, along with the last vestiges of the organization's moral compass.

Here's Condell on the charge that Israel is an "apartheid state":

[T]he only apartheid you'll find in the Middle East is in Arab countries who won't allow their Palestinians to integrate, denying them the most basic of human rights and condemning them to generations of misery and resentment because they need the refugee camps to remain permanently, festering like open sores, to gain sympathy from the gullible West, and to con millions of good-hearted people here into supporting their religious war of hatred against Jews, all Jews. Indeed, the Hamas Charter specifically calls for the killing of all Jews, just in case anyone was in any doubt.

It's remarkable that pro-Palestinian Western liberals insist that Israel negotiate with Hamas and simply ignore the terrorist organization's explicitly-stated goal (the extermination of Jews) as nothing more than a rhetorical flourish.

Condell then turns to charges that Israel is an outlaw nation, refusing to abide by the United Nations' democratically-generated decrees:

Why would the Israelis ignore dozens of resolutions forced through by a cartel of anti-semitic Bronze Age barbarians who would destroy their country and everyone in it, including women and children, given half a chance? Beats me. I guess they must be fascists.

Well, who are those nations that dominate the debate, that hold Israel up before the international community, to be pilloried for its moral failings, whilst the United States and the West mutter and mumble with downcast eyes?

Among its many failings, the United Nations encourages Islamic religious hatred and racism to dress itself up in the language of human rights, repeatedly allowing its human rights council to be steamrollered in this regard by a cartel of 57 mainly dictatorships and theocracies known as the Organization of of Islamic ... something or other. They keep changing it, and I can't be bothered to keep up.

I don't really care what they call themselves; it's enough to know what they are, and that's brutal barbaric Islamic hell holes, that nobody in their right mind would choose to live in, and whose own human rights records are not only worse than Israel's, but immeasurably worse.

Countries like Iran, where they execute children; Sudan, where they practice slavery and casual genocide; Pakistan, which is supposed to be a democracy, but which is actually a dictatorship of religious ignorance, violence and fear, and where every year a thousand women are murdered by members of their own family. And of course Saudi Arabia, the black hole of Islamic barbarism, the world's leading source of terrorist funding, and the absolute moral anus of the universe.

These are some of the countries behind the blizzard of resolutions directed at Israel, countries that belong on the high moral ground the way that a rattlesnake belongs in a lunch box, countries united by a virulent religious hatred of Jews for being Jews.

These are the loudest voices at the United Nations, so of course the Israelis ignore them; it would be suicidal not to.

When it comes to Israel, the United Nations is a crooked court with a jury full of hanging judges, and it doesn't get any more corrupt than that.


In attacking Israel over and over, while ignoring the real human rights violators, not only the Islamic barbarians, but the North Korean and the Burmas of this world, the United Nations has shown itself to be nakedly partisan and to be effectively an enemy of Israel, and as I see it, unless youre an idiot or a Western liberal, you don't take orders from your enemies.

Here's where Condell touches on an issue that most Americans would find just as mysterious:

[F]rankly, I'm baffled as to why the Americans still tolerate this disgusting travesty on their soil, and pay all its bills. They should kick it out of the country and tell it to relocate to Tehran or Islamabad, where the Organization of Islamic Fascists can go ahead and pass all the fancy resolutions they like.

What do we gain from hosting the United Nation? Prestige? Honor? Influence?

If anything, by continuing to allow the U.N. to make a mockery of human rights and democracy on our own soil, thanks to a structure that gives dictatorships and rogue regimes the same number of votes in the General Assembly as those nations that don't hang homosexuals, stone rape victims, execute political opponents or condone terrorism, the United States lends an air of legitimacy to the organization that it clearly no longer warrants, and does not deserve.

And we damn well ought not pay for the privilege.

Posted by Mike Lief at 09:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 08, 2012

Remembering Mike Wallace: Compelling TV -- and an unsettling glimpse of amorality

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Col. George Connell, USMC, gives Mike Wallace a look of complete and utter contempt during an episode of Ethics in America.

Mike Wallace passed away this weekend, best known for his five decades of pugnacious interviews on CBS' 60 Minutes. Characterized by one of his fellow hosts as an avuncular interviewer, someone who could get away with asking the kinds of questions that would earn anyone else a punch in the mouth, I'm afraid that the most indelible memory I have of Wallace is quite different, ironically courtesy of PBS, in a show I first saw back in the mid-to-late '80s.

James Fallows wrote a piece for The Atlantic Monthly on why the public hates the media, and later expanded it into a book on the same topic. The piece recounted how Wallace believed himself a journalist first, an American second, if at all.

In the late 1980s, public television stations aired a talking head series called Ethics in America. For each show, more than a dozen prominent thinkers sat around a horseshoe-shaped table and tried to answer troubling ethical questions posed by a moderator.

From the respectability of the panelists to the super-seriousness of the topics, the series might have seemed a good bet to be paralyzingly dull. But the drama and tension of at least one show made that episode absolutely riveting.

This episode was sponsored by Montclair State College in the fall of 1987. Its title was "Under Orders, Under Fire," and most of the panelists were former soldiers talking about the ethical dilemmas of their work. The moderator was Charles Ogletree, a professor at Harvard Law School, who moved from expert to expert asking increasingly difficult questions in the law school's famous Socratic style.

During the first half of the show Ogletree made the soldiers squirm about ethical tangles on the battlefield.


Then Ogletree turned to the two most famous members of the evening's panel: Peter Jennings of World News Tonight and ABC, and Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes and CBS. Ogletree brought them into the same hypothetical war. He asked Jennings to imagine that he worked for a network that had been in contact with the enemy North Kosanese government. After much pleading, the North Kosanese had agreed to let Jennings and his news crew into their country, to film behind the lines and even travel with military units. Would Jennings be willing to go? Of course, Jennings replied. Any reporter would -- and in real wars reporters from his network often had.

But while Jennings and his crew are traveling with a North Kosanese unit, to visit the site of an alleged atrocity by American and South Kosanese troops, they unexpectedly cross the trail of a small group of American and South Kosanese soldiers. With Jennings in their midst, the northern soldiers set up a perfect ambush, which will let them gun down the Americans and Southerners, every one.

What does Jennings do? Ogletree asks. Would he tell his cameramen to "Roll tape!" as the North Kosanese opened fire? What would go through his mind as he watched the North Kosanese prepare to ambush the Americans?

Jennings sat silent for about fifteen seconds after Ogletree asked this question. "Well, I guess I wouldn't," he finally said. "I am going to tell you now what I am feeling, rather than the hypothesis I drew for myself. If I were with a North Kosanese unit that came upon Americans, I think that I personally would do what I could to warn the Americans." Even if it means losing the story? Ogletree asked. Even though it would almost certainly mean losing my life, Jennings replied. "But I do not think that I could bring myself to participate in that act. That's purely personal, and other reporters might have a different reaction."

Immediately Mike Wallace spoke up. "I think some other reporters would have a different reaction," he said, obviously referring to himself. "They would regard it simply as a story they were there to cover."

"I am astonished, really," at Jennings's answer, Wallace said moment later. He turned toward Jennings and began to lecture him: "You're a reporter. Granted you're an American"-at least for purposes of the fictional example; Jennings has actually retained Canadian citizenship. "I'm a little bit at a loss to understand why, because you're an American, you would not have covered that story."

Ogletree pushed Wallace. Didn't Jennings have some higher duty, either patriotic or human, to do something other than just roll film as soldiers from his own country were being shot?

"No," Wallace said flatly and immediately. "You don't have a higher duty. No. No. You're a reporter!" Jennings backtracked fast. Wallace was right, he said. "I chickened out." Jennings said that he had gotten so wrapped up in the hypothetical questions that he had lost sight of his journalistic duty to remain detached.

As Jennings said he agreed with Wallace, everyone else in the room seemed to regard the two of them with horror.

Ethics in America - Col Collins Mike Wallace and Brent Scowcroft.jpg

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Retired Air Force general Brent Scowcroft, who had been Gerald Ford's national security advisor and would soon serve in the same job for George Bush, said it was simply wrong to stand and watch as your side was slaughtered. "What's it worth?" he asked Wallace bitterly. "It's worth thirty seconds on the evening news, as opposed to saving a platoon."

Ogletree turned to Wallace. What about that? Shouldn't the reporter have said something? Wallace gave his most disarming grin, shrugged his shoulders and spread his palms wide in a "Don't ask me!" gesture, and said, "I don't know." He was mugging to the crowd in such a way that he got a big laugh-the first such moment of the discussion. Wallace paused to enjoy the crowd's reaction.

Ethics in America - Col Connell 2.jpg

"I feel utter contempt. Two days later, they're both walking off my hilltop -- they're 200 yards away -- and they get ambushed and they're lying there wounded, and they're gonna expect I'm gonna send Marines up there to get them. They're just journalists. They're not Americans. Is that a fair reaction? Can't have it both ways. But I'll do it. And that's what makes me so contemptuous of them. And Marines will die, going to get a couple of journalists."

A few minutes later Ogletree turned to George M. Connell, a Marine colonel in full uniform, jaw muscles flexing in anger, with stress on each word, Connell looked at the TV stars and said, "I feel utter . . . contempt. " Two days after this hypothetical episode, Connell Jennings or Wallace might be back with the American forces--and could be wounded by stray fire, as combat journalists often had been before. The instant that happened he said, they wouldn't be "just journalists" any more. Then they would drag them back, rather than leaving them to bleed to death on the battlefield. "We'll do it!" Connell said. "And that is what makes me so contemptuous of them. Marines will die going to get ... a couple of journalists."

The last few words dripped with disgust. Not even Ogletree knew what to say. There was dead silence for several seconds.

Then a square-jawed man with neat gray hair and aviator glasses spoke up. It was Newt Gingrich, looking a generation younger and trimmer than when he became Speaker of the House in 1995. One thing was clear from this exercise, he said: "The military has done a vastly better job of systematically thinking through the ethics of behavior in a violent environment than the journalists have."

Fallows summarized the moral failure, the abyss at the professional (and I'd argue, personal) core of the two newsmen, in as devastating a critique as I've ever read.

Peter Jennings and Mike Wallace are just two individuals, but their reactions spoke volumes about the values of their craft. Jennings was made to feel embarrassed about his natural, decent human impulse. Wallace was completely unembarrassed about feeling no connection to the soldiers in his country's army considering their deaths before his eyes as "simply a story."

In other important occupations people sometimes need to do the horrible [and a soldier on the panel] had thought through all the consequences and alternatives, and he knew he would live with the horror for the rest of his days.

When Mike Wallace said he would do something horrible, he didn't bother to argue a rationale. He did not try to explain the reasons a reporter might feel obliged to remain silent as the attack began -- for instance, that in combat reporters must be beyond country, or that they have a duty to bear impartial witness to deaths on either side, or that Jennings had implicitly made a promise not to betray the North Kosanese when he agreed to accompany them on the hypothetical patrol ... He relied on charm and star power to win acceptance from the crowd.

Mike Wallace on patrol with the North Kosanese, cameras rolling while his countrymen are gunned down, recognizing no "higher duty" to interfere in any way and offering no rationale beyond "I'm with the press" -- this is a nice symbol for what Americans hate about their media establishment in our age.

That's not the epitaph I'd wish for myself, but it's one that Wallace seemed comfortable earning.

My condolences to his family.

Requiescat in pace.

Posted by Mike Lief at 01:28 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

February 26, 2012

The Key to Freedom

"The key to freedom is the ability to be able to defend ourselves."

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Posted by Mike Lief at 07:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 20, 2012

The glory that was Hollywood: Soundtracks

I'm Hollywood's worst nightmare, which is ironic, given that I'm a lifelong film buff, a lover of film, someone who grew up in and surrounded by the movie business. Neighbors, classmates' parents, Dad's golf buddies; they were all part of the Biz, and going to the movies was a thrill from my earliest childhood days.

That having been said, I can't remember the last time I went to see a film in a theater; it's coming up on two years -- at least. If there's anything that captures my interest, I'll wait until it's available for a .99 cent rental at the Red Box machine outside my local supermarket.

There are countless reasons for this, including the abominable behavior of audiences, who treat the experience as if they're sitting at home on the couch, talking, texting, crinkling wrappers, seemingly incapable of just sitting still and shutting the hell up.

But that's ignoring the elephant in the room: The movies themselves are often lacking: poorly written, badly acted, unoriginal, uninteresting, seemingly hell bent on political reeducation for us misguided, misanthropic bitter clingers.

Let's focus for now on one aspect of the movie experience: The soundtrack. There's nothing like a stirring soundtrack, the composer able to perfectly compliment the onscreen action, ears and eyes working together to draw the viewer into the story. We respond viscerally to things aural, and I suspect that we've all gotten goosebumps far more often from a thing heard than seen.

Big Hollywood columnist Ben Shapiro shared his Top Ten Best Film Composers of All Time this weekend; I disagree with some of his choices, but there are several that are simply magnificent, beginning with his pick for Number 2: Elmer Bernstein.

Bernstein was a prolific composer; his IMDB profile lists 242 titles over 53 years, and some of his work is so good it's become part of the American collective consciousness.

There's no better place to begin than his score for the 1960 blockbuster The Magnificent Seven, starring Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Eli Wallach and Robert Vaughn.

This is perhaps my favorite theme in the entire canon of cinema soundtracks, a sweeping orchestral piece, so evocative of the West that it stands separate and apart from its film. Give it a listen and then we'll continue.

There are people who've never seen The Magnificent Seven, but instantly recognize the theme; it's truly iconic, reminiscent of Aaron Copland, at least to my untrained ears, not surprising, as Bernstein was Copland's protégé.

Three years later, Bernstein provided the score to another star-studded blockbuster, The Great Escape, also directed by John Sturges, with some of the same cast: Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, along with James Garner, Richard Attenborough and Donald Pleasance.

Based on a real-life mass escape of Allied POWs from German captivity -- and the aftermath -- the movie was lauded by survivors and remains popular for its casting and attention to detail.

Bernstein's score is used to great effect, and stays with the viewer long after the lights come up.

I find myself often whistling the melody, and did so whilst marching in boot camp, albeit very quietly. It's been nearly 40 years since I first heard this, and it instantly evokes scenes from the film in my mind's eye, especially Steve McQueen being escorted back to "The Cooler," and the sound of his baseball thumping off the cell walls and into his glove.

Topping Shapiro's list is Jerry Goldsmith, who scored 250 titles over 53 years. I first heard his work in 1970, when Dad took me and Grandpa to see Patton at the Studio City Theater, now a bookstore, on Ventura Boulevard, just west of Laurel Canyon. The film is most famous for George C. Scott's virtuosic portrayal of the brilliant and troubled general (he won an Oscar, which he refused), especially in the opening scene, with it's iconic monologue delivered against a gigantic American flag hanging behind the beribboned and bemedalled Patton.

But it's the score that's stayed with me over the years, the haunting, plaintive wail of trumpets, martial, echoing, like half-forgotten memories of past lives, past victories, past defeats; fitting, given Patton's belief in reincarnation -- and his belief that he'd walked ancient battlegrounds when the battles were still fresh.

The discordant notes figure prominently when we first view the aftermath of the Allied defeat by the Germans at Kasserine Pass in North Africa, buzzards feasting on the corpses of GIs, and later when Patton stands amidst the ruins of Carthage, telling Omar Bradley:

It was here. The battlefield was here.

The Carthaginians defending the city were attacked by three Roman Legions. The Carthaginians were proud and brave, but they couldn't hold and were massacred. Arab women stripped them of their tunics and their swords and lances.

The soldiers lay naked in the sun ... 2,000 years ago.

I was here.

And Goldsmith's horns softly wail and moan, fading, fleeting ... like all glory.

Chilling. And marvelous.

Goldsmith made effective use of horns again in perhaps my favorite relatively-recent score, L.A. Confidential (1997), starring Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger, Guy Pearce and James Cromwell in director Curtis Hanson's marvelous, gritty, neo-noir adaption of James Ellroy's novel.

There's corruption galore festering just beneath the glittering and glamorous surface of post-war Hollywood and Los Angeles, and Goldsmith's horns capture for me the yearning for lost innocence, the dreams turned to ash and sackcloth, of the cold reality that awaited those who came so eagerly to the City of Angels, and the faint hint of perfume and romance still to be found amongst the ruins of dreams.

Goldsmith and Bernstein are gone, and so too are the kind of scores they wrote. One less reason to buy a ticket at the box office, and why the best films are often playing at home.

Posted by Mike Lief at 11:21 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

February 19, 2012

Never bring a head filled with feathers to a battle of wits

Alec Baldwin probably regrets picking a fight with the famously pugnacious conservative Andrew Breitbart.

Baldwin tweeted yesterday -- without apparent provocation -- "andrewbreitbart is a festering boil on the anus of public discourse."

Breitbart's response: "There's NO REASON you should talk to me like I'm your daughter!"

That's gotta sting.

Here's the background for those who don't follow the twists and turns of Baldwin's family life.

Posted by Mike Lief at 09:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Han Solo, the Viet Cong, and everything that's wrong with Hollywood

What's wrong with Hollywood? Bill Whittle thinks George Lucas' rewriting of Star Wars history offers some insight into the disconnect between moviemakers and audiences. Agree or disagree with his big-picture analysis (I think Whittle's right), of this there can be no doubt: Han shot first -- and George Lucas thinks we're fools.

Listen for the revelation about the Ewoks and the Imperial Storm Troopers -- really, George? REALLY?

Posted by Mike Lief at 09:12 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

January 05, 2012

Jerry Brown in charge: California is doomed

Want proof that Gov. Jerry Brown is insane? That California's doomed? That Sacramento is filled with nothing but tax-and-spend lunatics? Check out his plans for California's buggered-beyond-belief taxpayers. Bloomberg reports:

Brown proposed $92.6 billion in spending for the year starting in July, an increase of about 7 percent, which will count on voters approving $7 billion of higher taxes in November.

The spending plan foresees a deficit of $9.2 billion through the next 18 months. Almost half of that is in the current fiscal year, he said. He called for $4.2 billion in cuts, mostly to welfare and programs for the poor. If the tax increase isn’t passed, Brown’s plan would cut another $4.8 billion in support for public schools and community colleges.

“The state of California is a very generous, compassionate political jurisdiction,” Brown said. “When we have to cut spending, that spending is going to come from programs that are doing a lot of good. It’s not nice. We don’t like it. But the economy and tax statutes of California make just so much money available.”

Brown, a 73-year-old Democrat, wants to raise income taxes on individuals making at least $250,000 a year to 10.3 percent from 9.3 percent, and would boost sales levies to 7.75 percent from 7.25 percent.

Yes, you heard that right, folks. Californians don't pay enough taxes.

Income tax?

Too damn low!

Sales tax?

Dammit! Too damn low!

Cut spending?

Only if you force us to, you selfish bastards -- and we'll target children, puppies and baby seals, first!

Honestly, it's as if Brown and his fellow travelers haven't the slightest clue how to encourage economic growth.

What does the financial world think about Gov. Moonbeam's fiscal sanity?

California is Standard & Poor’s lowest-rated state, at A-, six levels below AAA.

Moody’s Investment Service grades it A1, four steps below the top rating, tied with Illinois for the worst credit rating among states.

And my friends wonder why I tell them that there's no hope for this state. We are well and truly doomed.

Posted by Mike Lief at 07:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

December 20, 2011

Steyn on Gingrich: Hoo boy!

Columnist Mark Steyn is rather gobsmacked that Newt Gingrich has somehow ended up as the nearly-last man standing in the Republican primary season, after a series of potential presidential flavors-of-the-day have turned rancid on GOP voter's palates:

And when all the other Un-Romney of the Week candidates were gone, there was Newt, the last man standing, smirking, waddling to the debate podium.

Unlike the niche candidates, he offers all the faults of his predecessors rolled into one: Like Michele Bachmann, his staffers quit; like Herman Cain, he spent the latter decades of the last century making anonymous women uncomfortable, mainly through being married to them; like Mitt Romney, he was a flip-flopper, being in favor of government mandates on health care before he was against them, and in favor of big-government climate-change “solutions” before he was against them, and in favor of putting giant mirrors in space to light American highways by night before he was agai . . . oh, wait, that one he may still be in favor of. So, if you live in the I-95 corridor, you might want to buy blackout curtains.

And yet, and yet ... Gingrich still manages to stay in the race, conservatives uncomfortable with Mitt Romney's stiff, inauthentic self pushed to reconsider Gingrich -- especially given a collective sense that Romney is not the man to go for the knockout punch in what is sure to be a savage campaign season.

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What exactly is so conservative about the Newt Gestalt?

When Romney dared him to return his Freddie Mac windfall, Gingrich responded by demanding that Mitt “give back all of the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain.”

That’s a cute line if you’re a 32-year-old Transgender and Colonialism major trying to warm up the drum circle at Occupy Wall Street, but it’s very odd coming from the supposedly more-conservative candidate on the final stretch of a Republican primary.

When Romney attacked Perry’s views on Social Security by accusing him of wanting to shove Granny off a cliff, he was recycling the most shopworn Democratic talking point.

Newt effortlessly trumps that by recycling the laziest anti-globalist anarchist talking point. At Freddie Mac, Newt was peddling influence to a quasi-governmental entity. At Bain Capital, Mitt Romney was risking private equity in private business enterprise. What sort of “conservative” would conflate the two?

Steyn notes that Gingrich is anything but a conservative when it comes to a host of issues, and notwithstanding his ability to enrage Democrats, Gingrich is not opposed to Big Government, at least when the Big Ideas being implemented appeal to his Newtness.

It was Newt who gave us S-CHIP, the biggest expansion of Medicaid since the program was created. On the other hand, when it came to holding the line on “tax credits” for people who don’t pay any taxes, Gingrich looked into Clinton’s eyes and melted.


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Few politicians are more incisive at identifying the absurdities of America’s bloated, sclerotic leviathan ... but no other candidate on the right shares the boundless confidence that Leviathan will work just swell if only Knut the Great is there to command it. For Republicans, this is not someone who is both “very conservative” and “very moderate,” but someone who is potentially the worst of all worlds: a man who embraces big-government solutions to health care, climate change, and all the rest, but who gets damned as a mean-spirited vindictive right-wing hater.

Steyn reminds us that Romney has faults aplenty, too: "Romney is proposing to end [capital gains taxes] only for those making under $200,000 because it would be wrong to 'spend our precious tax dollars for a tax cut.' When 'conservatives' think tax cuts are government 'spending,' who needs Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank?"


I'd missed that Romney quote the first time around.


It's things like that that make me reconsider Newt.

And articles like this that make me think the GOP truly deserves its not-so-fond nickname: The Stupid Party.

Really? This is going to be our choice next year? Obama against Mitt or Newt?

It seems we're going to be offered a bite of a crap sandwich, and once again conservatives will be asked to pick the one that's marginally less stomach-turning.


I am neither amused nor enthused.

Posted by Mike Lief at 06:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 08, 2011

A date which will live in infamy ....

President Roosevelt addresses Congress the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

As Americans scoured the papers for information and listened to the radio for the latest news from Hawaii, Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered a blockbuster speech to Congress -- and the nation.

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.


The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph -- so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

You can listen to the speech here

Posted by Mike Lief at 12:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 07, 2011

Day of Infamy


We interrupt this program to bring you a special news bulletin!

The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by air, President Roosevelt has just announced.

The attack also was made on all naval and military activities on the principal island of Oahu.

On December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a sneak attack on the U.S. sailors, airmen and Marines stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, bringing Americans into a war most opposed fighting.

That opposition changed in the aftermath of the attack, and the Japanese guaranteed not victory, but their own eventual destruction. In another blunder, Hitler declared war on the U.S., ensuring that Germany would be forced to fight a war on two fronts.

As the few remaining survivors of the attack gather today to remember their fallen comrades, here is a visual record of the attack, made possible in part by the large number of Japanese pilots and crew who brought cameras with them and managed to take pictures during the attack.

The Japanese fleet steams toward the unsuspecting Americans, hiding behind stormy seas. Luck was on their side; they avoided American patrols and escaped detection.

Japanese planes on deck, waiting for the right time to begin the attack. Months of intensive training was about to pay off.

The pilots throttle up, waiting for the order to launch, their planes straining at the brakes, Mitsubishi radial engines screaming.

As one of the first torpedo bombers races down the deck, Japanese crewmen cry, "Banzai!" and lift their arms in tribute.

The planes lift off slowly, weighed down by the bombs and torpedoes destined for the American fleet, and the fuel needed to carry them to Pearl Harbor. They struggle into the air and move into formation for the journey to Hawaii.

The Japanese arrive and begin their attack. It had been a quiet Sunday morning, the Americans expecting a lazy day aboard ship, or liberty on the beach.

They target the battleships, lined up neatly, unsuspecting giants awaiting their fates. The harbor appeared remarkably similar to the model the Japanese used for practice.

Flak bursts fill the air as the American sailors begin to fight back, targetting the Japanese planes. While some were downed by the U.S. guns, far too often the planes clawed their way back into the sky for another run at the burning ships below.

Japanese bombs pierce the forward magazine of the USS Arizona, triggering an enormous explosion. Witnesses said the entire ship appeared to momentarily rise out of the water. These color images are frames taken from a 16mm motion picture of the attack.

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The aftermath is devastating to behold; the Pacific Fleet in ruins, the American West Coast undefended. Fires rage and thousands of sailors remain trapped below decks in the blazing, capsized hulks.

But the Japanese have made two mistakes that will prove fatal to their dream of Empire. The admiral in charge of the attack has cancelled the third wave of planes, leaving intact the oil tanks holding the fuel the Americans will need for their fleet in its defense of the Mainland.

And they've left the American carriers -- out at sea -- untouched.

In a few short months, these carriers will launch dive bombers and torpedo bombers at the Battle of Midway, handing the Imperial Japanese Navy a devastating defeat, dooming their plans for an empire spanning the Pacific.

Dauntless dive bombers, like these pictured above, will make full use of the American torpedo bombers' sacrifice; wiped out by the Japanese as they flew low and slow, they lured the fighters down to sea level, leaving an opening for the high-flying U.S. dive bombers to hurtle down at the enemy fleet, delivering their weapons with incredible accuracy, sending the Jap carriers to the bottom.

And American aces depleted the ranks of experienced Japanese aircrews; by the end of the war, inexperienced cadets were flying their planes on one-way Kamikaze suicide missions, never having had to learn how to land their aircraft.

December 7th, 1941, a day that will live in infamy, marked the beginning. The beginning of a titanic struggle for the American people, and the beginning of the end for the Japanese.

Posted by Mike Lief at 12:01 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

November 12, 2011

Journalism + Political Correctness = Waste of time

The local fishwrap, i.e., The Ventura County Star, ran a brief story today about a recent crime: Test drive in Ventura turns to kidnapping. It's little more than a rewrite of the press release from the local gendarmes, seeking the public's assistance in catching the crook.

Here's the version from the Ventura Police Department's website:

Kidnapping and Carjacking

Incident: Kidnapping and Carjacking
Contact: Watch Commander, 805-339-4416
Location: Ventura Toyota, 6360 Auto Center Drive
Date/Time Occurred: November 10, 2011, 5:00 p.m.
Officer(s) Involved: VPD Patrol
Victim(s): Alejandro Collazo, 36 yrs, Oxnard Resident
Suspect(s): Hispanic Male, 35-45 yrs., short stocky build
Report #: 11-12495
On the above date and time, the victim, a sales associate at Ventura Toyota, was assisting the suspect who was inquiring about test-driving a vehicle. The victim walked away from the suspect to retrieve keys for the vehicle and when he returned, the suspect took the keys away from him and simulated that he had weapon in his waistband. The suspect then ordered the victim into the car and drove away from the dealership.

The suspect drove to the area of Victoria Ave. and Gonzalez Rd. where he let the victim out of the vehicle. The suspect then left with the vehicle westbound on Gonzalez Road towards Harbor Blvd. The victim was not injured. The stolen vehicle is a Gray 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid with California license plate 6FRH988.

Let's take a look at The Star's version:

What started as a test drive at a Ventura car dealership on Thursday turned into a kidnapping and carjacking, police said.

About 5 p.m., a man told a salesman at Ventura Toyota on Auto Center Drive that he wanted to test drive a Toyota Hybrid Camry, according to Ventura police. When the salesman returned with the keys, the man acted like he had a gun in his pants and told the salesman to get in the car, police said. He drove to the corner of Victoria Boulevard and Gonzalez Road before letting the man out, unharmed.

The 2009 gray Camry, license plate 6FRH988, was last seen headed down Gonzales Road toward Harbor Boulevard. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

As you may have noticed, the police offered a bit of information that did not appear in the Star's story: Suspect(s): Hispanic Male, 35-45 yrs., short stocky build.

The Star, like many newspapers staffed and operated by politically-correct "journalists," maintains that to provide a description of a suspect that is so general is to encourage and participate in "racial profiling."

Oh, the horror.

Allow me to disagree.

I disagree.

Let's start with the numbers. According to the 2010 Census, Ventura County has 823,318 residents. So we begin with more than 800 thousand potential suspects, assuming for the sake of argument that the crook was a local.

The Star helpfully identified the suspect as a man (which seems too general to be helpful under their own guidelines, but I digress). Men represent 49.7% of the populace, which is 409,189 potential suspects.

So, The Star has narrowed the pool of people we should be casting a suspicious gaze upon to a little more than 400 thousand men.

If we use the information provided by the police, we can drill down a little further: Adding Hispanic to the search, using the Census, gives us approximately 164,903 Hispanic Males, eliminating 658,415 people as "persons of interest."

If we then eliminate people over 65, and younger than 18, we're left with 61,673 -- a number that would be even smaller if I could narrow the search to the 35-45 age description provided by the police. The Census doesn't offer height-related breakdown, but "short and stocky" would also further narrow the field of suspects.

Every additional data point helps tighten our focus, enables us to better assist in apprehending a criminal.

But journalists -- or "journalists" -- refuse to provide us with that additional information, preferring to give us descriptions that are worthless.

To summarize, The Ventura County Star leaves us with more than 400 thousand suspects -- all of them males.

The Ventura Police Department narrows that down by almost 90 percent -- and if we factor in height, weight and narrow the age, I'm guessing we're down to less than 3 percent of the Star's We're-All-Guilty-Of-Something pool of potential criminals.

Back in the days when you didn't need a degree to be a reporter, the essential requirements for the job description were tenacity and the ability to gather the Who-What-Where-When-Why-and-How of a story.

Nowadays, the "Who" appears to be unnecessary, an inconvenient, uncomfortable fact to be hidden under the cushions for ideological reasons.


Posted by Mike Lief at 08:41 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

November 11, 2011

Every day is a bonus

This is the perfect Veterans Day video; it's five minutes that perfectly capture the dignity and grace of the now-aged men who once fought and bled alongside their friends -- fallen comrades forever young in their memories -- in the battle to defeat tyranny.

Take a few minutes to watch these men -- and the Americans who recognize and honor the heroes who still walk amongst us.

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Remembering the Defenders of Freedom

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month the guns fell silent, ending the greatest slaughter the world had ever known. For 21 years it was known as "The Great War" and "The War to End All Wars," until new tyrants forced us to begin numbering our global conflicts. Today, the second war might have been called The Great War Ver. 1.2, but our forefathers settled on World War II.

Today is the day we remember the Americans who sacrificed everything for us. It used to be called Armistice Day, to commemorate the end of the First World War, but somewhere along the way someone decided to go generic.

I like the old name better, because it reminds us of a specific conflict, and of the men who fought and died in one war. It's why I prefer Lincoln's Birthday and Washington's Birthday to the plainwrap Presidents' Day.

There's nothing wrong with having a generic Veterans' Day -- Hell, no! -- but let's not diminish the opportunity to remember each and every war, so that we may remind ourselves of the lessons to be learned from each conflict.

For those inclined to decorate their Volvos and Priuses with "War Is Never the Answer" and "Coexist" bumperstickers, a reminder: it is because of brave men, buried in cemeteries from Normandy to Arlington, that you enjoy the right to spout such nonsense. Had your philosophy prevailed, the Confederacy would still exist (as would slavery); and Hitler's Reich would be celebrating it's seventy-eighth anniversary in a Jew-free empire. Sometimes war is the answer, and coexistence with evil can prove impossible; that's when the soldier picks up his club, sword, bow, musket, or rifle and wearily marches into battle.

I salute the fallen, and the troops who answered the call, as well as my own personal trio of heroes: my father,

Dad RTC sentry_1.jpg

Petty Officer Second Class Gerald Lief, who served at sea in the Korean War; his father,

Cpl. Harry Wiener Lief, Troop E, 3rd Cavalry, USA, who went to France and fought in the War to End All Wars; and my uncle,

Uncle Bern Korea.jpg

Sgt. Bernard Solomon, USMC, who fought at the Frozen Chosin and never forgot his pals who didn't come home. Semper Fi, Mac!

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November 06, 2011

Boehner pushes back

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) appeared on ABC's "This Week" today for a one-on-one interview with the always insufferable Christiane Amanpour. She was, as expected, mind-numbingly condescending, and Boehner was surprisingly combative, especially during the exchange dealing with class warfare and the so-called "fairness" issue.

She whinges on about "income inequality," which is what I'd expect from a socialist who loathes free-market capitalism and, by implication, a meritocracy. What does fairness have to do with income? Should the best player in the NBA make the same salary as, well, as me, a middle-aged short Jewish guy from Brooklyn with no discernible talent for shooting hoops?

What's that? I'm not as good at the job as Kobe Bryant? What does that have to do with anything?

Equality of opportunity is what has made America different from all other nations; "income equality" sounds a lot like, "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs," comrade.

AMANPOUR: Now, you obviously disagree with the idea of paying for this with extra taxes. Some 75 percent of Americans agree with a increase in tax on millionaires as a way to pay for these jobs provisions. Do you not feel that by opposing it, you're basically out of step with the American people on this issue?

BOEHNER: Well, over half of the people who would be taxed under this plan are, in fact, small businesspeople. And, as a result, you're going to basically increase taxes on the very people that were hoping will reinvest in our economy and create jobs. That's the real crux of the problem. And, secondly, I would point out this: we have a spending problem. We've done all this stimulus spending in the last couple of years and, clearly, it has not worked.


AMANPOUR: You talk about fairness, and of course a lot of the conversation in this country over the last year or so has been about spending cuts, getting the deficit under control. But it's sort of shifting, as you know now, to the whole big disparity in income, the income gap, the income inequality that people are talking about. Latest reports say that something like one in 15 Americans live in extreme poverty, which is defined as something like $11,000 per year for a family of four. Are you concerned that these budget cuts are going to hurt the people who can least afford it?

BOEHNER: No one here in this Congress, Democrat or Republican, wants to do anything about putting holes in the safety net for Americans. There are Americans who are poor. And I think it's the responsibility of the rest of us to ensure that they have food in their stomachs and they have a roof over their head.

You know, John Kennedy said some 50 years ago, a rising tide lifts all boats. We have to get our economy moving again. And until we get our economy moving again and we start producing more jobs, we're going to have all kinds of uncertainty, concern and, frankly, fear about the future.

AMANPOUR: You talk about a rising tide lifting all boats. And, of course, that is the American way. That's what all of us look to America for. And yet, not just income inequality has expanded, but also the idea of social mobility is kind of slowing down. It's even slower than in some other parts of the world. And clearly, the Republicans are being portrayed as the party that doesn't really care and are really, quote, unquote, the servants of the rich.

BOEHNER: Well, I think that...

AMANPOUR: Does that need to change?

BOEHNER: I think that's very unfair. Listen, I come from a family of 12. My dad owned a bar. I've got brothers and sisters on every rung of the economic ladder.

What our job here in Congress is to do -- and the reason I came here 21 years ago -- was to make sure that the American dream that was available to us is available for our kids and our grandkids. That -- most people don't believe that's the case today. And, frankly, I've got concerns that it may not be the case. We can't have government debt that's snuffing out the future for our kids and grandkids. We can't have a government that's taking in 30, 40 cents out of every dollar from our kids and grandkids to pay for government. That's -- you can't have both. And I do believe that my -- my job and my vision is to make sure the American dream is alive and well for everyone in America.

AMANPOUR: You look at Occupy Wall Street. I think you've said that you understand their frustrations. People such as, let's say, Eric Cantor, called them a mob not so long ago. Do you agree with that? Are they a mob?

BOEHNER: Listen, I understand people's frustrations. I understand their concerns. And, frankly, I understand that we have differences in America. We are not going to engage in class warfare. The president is out there doing it every day. I, frankly, think it's unfortunate.

AMANPOUR: You say…

BOEHNER: Because -- because our job is to help all Americans, not -- not to pit one set of Americans against another.

AMANPOUR: And do you think that's what's happening?

BOEHNER: The president's clearly trying to do it. And it's wrong.

AMANPOUR: You say class warfare. I asked Bill Gates last week about this whole notion. And he said, look, class warfare is when you've got people in the streets manning the barricades, you know, fighting each other. And that's not what's happening. It's not so much a redistribution of income that the president is talking about, but much more a shared and much fairer sense of sacrifice. And there doesn't seem to be the sense amongst people here that the sacrifice is being shared, because they point to taxes and tax cuts and who it benefits and who it doesn't.

BOEHNER: Come on. The top 1 percent pay 38 percent of the income taxes in America. How much more do you want them to pay? I'll tell you, well, let's take all the money that the rich have, all of it. It won't even put a dent in our current budget deficit, much less our debt.

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October 28, 2011

Talkin' food with the dog

Dear gawd, "the maple kind? Yeah?" just slays me.

The more people I meet, the more I like my dogs.

Courtesy of Rachel Lucas who doesn't blog much anymore (more's the pity).

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October 08, 2011

Pompous politician gets schooled by Justice Scalia (and Breyer, too!)

My contempt for the vast majority of politicians knows no bounds, and the specimens known as Congressional Crapweasels are at the top of the malodorous dungheap, the Senate comprising the cow pat balanced precariously atop that pinnacle of pulchritude and pomposity.

It's almost impossible for me to stomach listening to the self-satisfied, smug platitudes of a senator holding forth at a hearing, grilling a witness from a list of questions prepared in advance by anonymous staffers, smiling as she pelts her would-be victim with Gotcha! queries, teeth showing as she moves in for the kill, awaiting a flustered response.

Sometimes, however, the politician gets a tiger by the tail, someone who knows more than his questioner, someone who isn't cowed by her position.

Sen. Diane Feinstein (Dem-Calif., of course) got more than she bargained for when she decided to try and beat Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia like a pinata for his views on the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, as it applies to women's rights.

Diane Feinstein: And now I want to ask you something about the 14th Amendment and if both of you could respond to it. It's simple, "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, not shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without the due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Is a woman included in that definition?

Justice Steven Breyer: Yeah, a woman's a person. I think that's well established.

Justice Antonin Scalia: Yeah, the issue is not whether a woman's a person. The issue is --

Feinstein: You're right. Go on.

Scalia: The issue is, what constitutes equal protection?

Feinstein: Yes, all right. Are women included?

Scalia: Of course they're included --

Feinstein: Well, let me ask you --

Scalia: But does equal protection mean that you have to have unisex toilets, --

Feinstein: No, no ...

Scalia: I mean that's the kind of question you have to get into --

Feinstein: Your quote, Mr. Justce, in California, "Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn't. Nobody ever thought that's what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that. If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, hey, we have things called legislatures, and they enact things called laws."

So, why doesn't the 14th Amendment, then, cover women?

Scalia: The 14th Amendment, senator, does not apply to private discrimination. I was speaking of Title Vii and laws that prohibit private discrimination. The 14th Amendment says nothing about private discrimination, only discrimination by government.

Justice Breyer: Yes.

Feinstein: So -- oh, I see what you meant.

Scalia: Yeah.

Feinstein: Okay. All right ... if I can, let's go to Justice Scalia ....

I especially liked when Justice Breyer agreed with Scalia that Feinstein's premise was wrong: The 14th Amendment applies to government, not private discrimination. The expression on her face was priceless.

It was a perfect Emily Litella moment, the greatest instant deflation of a gasbag since the Hindenberg visited Lakehurst, New Jersey in '37.

Posted by Mike Lief at 07:35 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

October 06, 2011

Rainy Day Ensemble

It rained yesterday in Ventura, the first cold storm of the Fall, which meant it was time for my Rainy Day Ensemble: My old Navy trenchcoat and a fedora, much more useful (and stylish) than umbrellas -- which I loathe.

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Steve Jobs: 1955-2011

National Review's Kevin Williamson posted a terrific tribute to Steve Jobs and the capitalist greed that inspired him to innovate and create things that people want, things that people can't imagine living without -- courtesy of an eeeevil corporation and its allegedly rapacious CEO.

... Mr. Jobs’s contribution to the world is Apple and its products, along with Pixar and his other enterprises, his 338 patented inventions — his work — not some Steve Jobs Memorial Foundation for Giving Stuff to Poor People in Exotic Lands and Making Me Feel Good About Myself. Because he already did that: He gave them better computers, better telephones, better music players, etc. In a lot of cases, he gave them better jobs, too.

Did he do it because he was a nice guy, or because he was greedy, or because he was a maniacally single-minded competitor who got up every morning possessed by an unspeakable rage to strangle his rivals?

The beauty of capitalism — the beauty of the iPhone world as opposed to the world of politics — is that that question does not matter one little bit. Whatever drove Jobs, it drove him to create superior products, better stuff at better prices. Profits are not deductions from the sum of the public good, but the real measure of the social value a firm creates.

Those who talk about the horror of putting profits over people make no sense at all. The phrase is without intellectual content.

Perhaps you do not think that Apple, or Goldman Sachs, or a professional sports enterprise, or an internet pornographer actually creates much social value; but markets are very democratic — everybody gets to decide for himself what he values. That is not the final answer to every question, because economic answers can only satisfy economic questions. But the range of questions requiring economic answers is very broad.

I was down at the Occupy Wall Street protest today, and never has the divide between the iPhone world and the politics world been so clear: I saw a bunch of people very well-served by their computers and telephones (very often Apple products) but undeniably shortchanged by our government-run cartel education system. And the tragedy for them — and for us — is that they will spend their energy trying to expand the sphere of the ineffective, hidebound, rent-seeking, unproductive political world, giving the Barney Franks and Tom DeLays an even stronger whip hand over the Steve Jobses and Henry Fords. And they — and we — will be poorer for it.

Resquiat in pace.

Posted by Mike Lief at 06:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 19, 2011

Common sense is too damn uncommon

Yet another reason to like U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas:

Thomas rejects suggestions he’s a follower of originalism in interpreting the Constitution. “I am a follower of get-it-rightism,” he says, bringing laughter from law students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Thomas says it’s important to understand what is meant in the original document, what the words mean. “It’s a Constitution that’s written in words,” he says. “What, do people think it’s written in symbols? You need to say you’re a textualist. What else am I supposed to do, use a Ouija board, chicken bones?”


Thomas, who enters his 20th year on the nation’s high court next month, says the courts have become too involved in too many things. “I don’t know about all of these big moral questions any better than anybody else,” he says. “Unless I have a law to deal with, I think we’re off our terrain.”

Common sense and humility from a member of the highest court in the land?

More, please.

Posted by Mike Lief at 09:57 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

September 17, 2011

It seemed a good idea at the time

A C-130 Hercules festooned with 30 rockets -- firing down, forward, and back -- to enable it to land in and take off from a soccer field. What could go wrong?

The slow-motion footage of that last landing is pretty incredible; even more incredible is that no one aboard the ill-fated bird was injured.

Posted by Mike Lief at 09:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 14, 2011


This photo gave me the vapors.

What, you don't recognize one of the most iconic buildings in the world? It's the Empire State Building -- although this isn't the view most of us get, looking straight down from the antenna at the very top.

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Make sure to click on the photo to see a larger version.

Whoa. I just got dizzy again.

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September 12, 2011

My political compass

I took this test of my political orientation (hat tip: Neo Neocon), and my results were a little surprising.

My political compass.jpg

I don't usually think of myself as middle of the road about anything, but I've apparently shifted decidedly to the center when it comes to striking a balance between authoritarianism and libertarianism, which is odd, given that I often describe myself as an economic conservative and a social libertarian.

That self-description seems like something of an understatement when it comes to economic preferences; I nearly ran off the right side of the grid.

I suspect I'd have skewed more libertarian if they'd asked more questions about the right of individuals to self defense, to self-medicate, and whether or not the state ought to restrict most forms of minor vice with voluntary participation between consenting adults.

But what the hell, I can tell my friends that I'm officially a moderate -- at least on one axis.

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September 11, 2011


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September 10, 2011

An unimaginable future

The view from Liberty Island, circa 1991. Don't let the bright sunshine fool you; it was a cold winter's day, a biting arctic wind blowing from the north, the air clean and crisp, the twin towers of the World Trade Center looming over my shoulder. If you'd have told me they'd be gone in little more than ten years, I'd have said you were insane.

It seemed like they were always there, in the background. I never really liked them; too sterile, too modern, lacking any of the lush style and flair of the older buildings that made Manhattan such an architectural delight.

Rockefeller Center; the Empire State Building; the Chrysler Building. Man, they're beautiful.

But the behemoths that claimed lower Manhattan for themselves were so cold, devoid of human warmth or scale. The plaza between them was always a windy, barren patch of concrete, too cold and desolate for even the bums and pigeons. One hurried through the space as the wind howled, anxious to get inside, blind to the hidden charms of the twins.

But now, paging through a stack of old vacation photos, I spy a shot taken from Brooklyn, and there, in the background, they stand, beneath an oddly dark cloud.

And now they're gone, with their thousands of occupants and the brave firefighters and policemen who perished with them, too.

Only now do I realize that I miss them, never mind their ugliness or their ever-so-sophisticated design. They were a part of Manhattan, and if they were going to be stay or go, well, that was our decision.

And every time I look at the skyline, I think that it just looks wrong.

The appropriate response isn't sadness or sorrow or mournful contemplation.

The proper response is rage. White-hot fury. The need for vengeance, what the perfidious act of war inflicted upon our fellow citizens requires, and what our war dead demand.

Our enemies sneer, laugh and mock those who talk of healing, forgiveness and moving on. The jihad doesn't require our consent; only our necks stretched bare for the blade.

And what of those ugly Twin Towers, laid low by our enemies? I miss the skyline I knew and took for granted, and all the New Yorkers I had yet to know -- and never will after 9/11.

Posted by Mike Lief at 11:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 06, 2011


The competition for the thistle seed was especially fierce this weekend in the savage jungle backyard, the birds vying for a spot on the feeder, looking for an opening in the pattern ....

They're remarkably territorial; this fellow stared down the intruder coming in from below, while another swooped in from behind, the light glinting off his ebony beak.

The afternoon sun provided some dramatic lighting, isolating some of the more skilled avian aviators against the inky shadows.

Look out! Behind you!

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August 30, 2011

The jury is back ...

The phone rang in my office, the display showing "Bailiff, Courtroom 47." I glanced at my watch -- 10 o'clock -- as I reached for the handset.

"They've got a verdict," she said. "I'll be right up," I replied, grabbing a legal pad and heading out the door. I called my investigator on my cell phone -- he wanted to be there for the verdict -- as I headed up to the fourth floor.

I ducked into the men's room, snugged-up the knot of my tie, struggled with (and gave up on) an out-of-control cowlick, then strode into the courtroom. I stood next to my chair at counsel table; the bailiff said, "I'm bringing them in," returning moments later with the 12 men and women; they filed into the jury box and found their seats. When the last one was in her chair, I settled into mine, face blank, as I tried to discern their decision.

"Has the jury reached a verdict?" asked the judge.

"Yes, your honor," answered the forewoman, who handed the folded sheet of paper to the bailiff, who handed it to the judge, who glanced at it and handed it to the clerk, who stood up and read it to us.

"We, the jury, in the above entitled action, find the defendant ...."

I watched their faces; they studiously avoided eye contact with the defendant -- and me, too, for that matter -- giving away nothing, even as their decision was revealed.

The judge thanked them for their service and released them from jury duty, and I chatted with the jurors who decided to wait for me in the hallway outside the courtoom.

The verdict? Well, that'd be telling. Let me say this: Although I remained stoic throughout, I felt like Roscoe does in this video.

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August 29, 2011

The jury is out ...

The jury got the case (assault with a deadly weapon) Friday afternoon, deliberated for a couple of hours and then went home for the weekend. They've requested readback of the victim's testimony for this morning, and the nail-biting and second-guessing begins.

Of course, it could be worse.

I could be dealing with this.

A North Texas juror who was booted from a trial has been cited for contempt after trying to "friend" the defendant on Facebook.

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reallola lolita magazine set 004reallola magazinemikelief.com nvidia mcp79 7a audio download win 7 Court records show 22-year-old Jonathan Hudson on July 19 was removed from the jury in a Tarrant County civil case. The trial, over a 2008 car wreck, proceeded with 11 jurors.

Hudson last week pleaded guilty to four counts of contempt and has been ordered to serve two days of community service.

Texas recently added specific language to jury instructions that bans jurors from discussing the case on social networking sites. Hudson had received those instructions.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Sunday that Hudson attorney Steve Gordon says his client "made a silly mistake."

Seriously? Do we really have to remind jurors that they're not supposed to FRIEND DEFENDANTS ON FACEBOOK while deciding their fate?

Yeah, I know, it was a civil case, but still, unbelievable.

(shakes head)

I need another cup of coffee.

And some more aspirin.

(drums fingers on desk)

Was that my phone?


I'm sure they'll be coming back any minute now ....

Posted by Mike Lief at 07:48 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

August 22, 2011

Why the death penalty?

Death penalty opponents like to say that it has no deterrent effect; that it's a savage, brutal punishment, one that serves no legitimate societal purpose, doing nothing more than exacting revenge and satisfying our blood lust.

Stories like this, however, prove the stupidity, the besides-the-point nature of their critique.

The Chicago Tribune reports:

Moments before she was slain last week on Chicago's Southwest Side, 17-year-old Charinez Jefferson begged the gunman not to shoot because she was pregnant, prosecutors said today.

Despite her plea, Timothy Jones, 18, opened fire on Jefferson anyway, yelling an expletive at her as he shot her in the head, prosecutors said. He then stood over her as she lay on the ground and fired several more times, striking her in the chest and back.

Jefferson was pronounced dead a short time later, but doctors were able to successfully deliver her baby boy, who remained in critical condition today, Assistant State's Attorney John Dillon said.

"Tests are expected to be performed to determine whether the child has any brain activity, as there are concerns over the child possibly suffering from oxygen deprivation after the victim had been shot," Dillon told Judge Laura Sullivan.

Sullivan denied bond for Jones, 18, who was charged with first-degree murder in the Aug. 16 slaying.


Jones had seen Jefferson walking with a rival gang member in the 3000 block of West 64th Street and approached them in a car, Dillon said. He got out of the vehicle and fired at least one shot at the rival, who ran off, leaving Jefferson to fend for herself. After begging Jones for mercy, Jefferson was shot at "point-blank range," Dillon said.

Jones, of the 6300 block of South Rockwell Street, was arrested at his home Saturday after numerous witnesses identified him as the killer, according to information from prosecutors and court documents.

A police source said that Jones was a "stick-up man" well known to area police.

At the time of the shooting, Jones was serving 2 years of probation for a 2010 burglary conviction, Dillon said. He also has a "lengthy" juvenile record, including convictions for unlawful use of a weapon, possession of a stolen motor vehicle, and burglary, Dillon said.

Stop and think a second about this soulless thug, already on probation for crimes committed while a juvenile.

I'll concede that the death penalty would likely do nothing to deter a piece of filth like this from committing a terrible crime. After all, what could possibly be a greater deterrent than a terrified, pregnant teenager begging for her life, the life of her baby?

To listen to the fear in her voice, see the horror and hope in her eyes as she tried to convince him not to pull the trigger, searching for a human connection, a glimmer of compassion.

Think of the kind of demon -- for there is no other way to describe such a being -- who could remain unmoved, even enraged by her pleas. Picture him as he considered for an all-too-brief moment walking away, his eyes flat, empty -- did they show any emotion at all before he shot her in the head, then stood over her body, swollen and large with the child she carried, and fired more shots into her chest and back?

There is no redemption.

There is no rehabilitation.

There is no possibility of a safe return to society.

The death penalty serves a useful purpose especially in cases like this, where we can collectively kill this mad dog, protect other, future victims from his murderous attentions, erase this stain from our world, forget his name.

But remember his crime. And remember his victims.

Charinez Jefferson, 17, and her now-motherless and possibly brain-damaged son.

Why the death penalty?

Because this crime demands it.

Posted by Mike Lief at 07:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Are you sure that's still okay to eat?

When I was growing up, my Father -- born of the Great Depression -- was infamous for sniffing suspicious-looking leftovers in the refrigerator and pronouncing them eminently edible, much to the consternation of me and my sister.

Sometimes it seemed he took particular delight in a fearsomely foul, mold-flecked specimen, recounting tales of privation from the days before FDR and Adolf Hitler jump-started the economy with something known as WWII. He'd look at us, a gleam in his eyes, open a carton of milk that was rapidly transforming from liquid to curd-clotted sludge, breath deep, then tell us that the expiration date was merely a suggestion, before pouring a disgustingly-thick glass.

I suspect Dad would disagree with every conclusion in this article about how long food can be kept before it should be tossed.

Life span: One week to two months
Cheese is essentially curdled milk, a pretty shelf-stable dairy product. Still, it can -- and will -- succumb to mold. Soft and stinky cheeses -- cottage cheese, cream cheese, blue cheese, Camembert, and feta -- should be eaten within a week. Hard cheeses like cheddar and
Parmesan will stay fresh for up to two months. So go ahead and invest in that two-pound block of Parmesan.

Death rattle: When you see mold on a soft cheese, throw it out. By the time mold becomes visible, it’s already infected the whole lot. Of course, some cheese is intentionally moldy, like blue cheese. Keep tabs on it and look for any red or white mold. If a hard cheese starts growing mold, cut it off and eat the rest; the mold won’t affect the flavor.

Oh, how I remember Dad cutting away hairy, green patches from some cheese that stank the day it left the store. Even as a child I suspected that "[b]y the time mold becomes visible, it’s already infected the whole lot."


Read the whole stinky thing.

Especially you, Dad.

Posted by Mike Lief at 07:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 11, 2011

Straight talk from an angry Brit

Brit Pat Condell offer his pungent analysis of the riots -- and the rioters -- who've demonstrated for all to see that this is not the England, these are not the Englishmen of yore, and mores the pity.

It's a shame Condell pulled his punches, 'tho.

Posted by Mike Lief at 08:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

August 09, 2011

Let's resist the urge to "contextualize" looters

Self described lefty Brendan O'Neill delivers a sharp rebuke to those who seek to "contextualize" -- Orwellian new speak for excuse and justify -- the amoral and thuggish lowlifes rampaging throughout London and other cities, looting, burning and pillaging whilst the hapless police stand by and wring their hands.

O'Neill is willing to put the lawlessness into a broader political context, but he reaches some conclusions that are most assuredly anathema to the Left: the riots are clear evidence of the corrosive influence of the welfare state on the very fabric of society itself.

The political context is not the cuts agenda or racist policing – it is the welfare state, which, it is now clear, has nurtured a new generation that has absolutely no sense of community spirit or social solidarity.

What we have on the streets of London and elsewhere are welfare-state mobs. The youth who are ‘rising up’ – actually they are simply shattering their own communities – represent a generation that has been more suckled by the state than any generation before it. They live in those urban territories where the sharp-elbowed intrusion of the welfare state over the past 30 years has pushed aside older ideals of self-reliance and community spirit. The march of the welfare state into every aspect of less well-off urban people’s existences, from their financial wellbeing to their childrearing habits and even into their emotional lives, with the rise of therapeutic welfarism designed to ensure that the poor remain ‘mentally fit’, has helped to undermine such things as individual resourcefulness and social bonding. The anti-social youthful rioters look to me like the end product of such an anti-social system of state intervention.

But it’s more than childish destructiveness motivating the rioters. At a more fundamental level, these are youngsters who are uniquely alienated from the communities they grew up in ... We have a saying in Britain for people who undermine their own living quarters – we call it ‘shitting on your own doorstep’. And this rioting suggests that the welfare state has given rise to a generation perfectly happy to do that.

This is not a political rebellion; it is a mollycoddled mob, a riotous expression of carelessness for one’s own community. And as a left-winger, I refuse to celebrate nihilistic behaviour that has a profoundly negative impact on working people’s lives.

O'Neill also addresses an aspect of the riots that highlights for me the importance of the Second Amendment, the right to defend yourself -- or others -- from attack, including the right to protect your home or business, a right most assuredly denied to our English cousins.

There is one more important part to this story: the reaction of the cops. Their inability to handle the riots effectively reveals the extent to which the British police are far better adapted to consensual policing than conflictual policing. It also demonstrates how far they have been paralysed in our era of the politics of victimhood, where virtually no police activity fails to get followed up by a complaint or a legal case. Their kid-glove approach to the rioters of course only fuels the riots, because as one observer put it, when the rioters ‘see that the police cannot control the situation, [that] leads to a sort of adrenalin-fuelled euphoria’.

The rioters set fire to a family owned department store, a business they'd run for 150 years; today it's gone, destroyed by the mobs, abandoned by the same police who abandoned the British social contract: give up your weapons and we'll protect you.

During the Los Angeles riots after the Rodney King verdict, Korean business owners grabbed pistols, rifles and shotguns; to no one's surprise (other than gun ban proponents), their businesses and property survived almost completely unscathed, passed over by the rioters and looters for easier targets.

But you don't have to be a businessman to see the value of being able to defend yourself from the mob, especially when the police have run away, the rule of law replaced by the rule of the jungle.

It's interesting that these riots -- and the flash mobs in the previous post -- seem to be on the increase in areas where the citizenry is unarmed and dependent on the state for protection.

Posted by Mike Lief at 01:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)