Thoughts from the ammo line

Today our friend Ammo Grrlll continues her series deriving from her recent high school reunion in ON THE ROAD – Part Dos – Or, Are We There Yet?

I believe it was French philosopher Alexis de Toqueville who said, “This is one big-ass country,” but I could be mistaken. It might have been the Texan next door who likes Whataburgers and French Fries. An understandable confusion.

If you only fly over America – particularly her heartland – you can never really understand America. This country was meant to be traveled in a big-ass American automobile, or at least a mid-sized Korean one. It is darn near twice as far from Los Angeles to New York as from Paris to Moscow! Texas, alone, is just under 800 miles across.

On my recent 5,000-mile trip to and from Minnesota for a class reunion, with my two BFFs Bonnie and Heather, I got to experience those miles up close and personal. Before you get too old, tired or disabled to make the trip, I would highly recommend a leisurely jaunt across the heartland, stopping at whim to see what’s out there. It is surprising and wonderful.

You have to be willing to engage with your fellow Americans, those warm-hearted and stunningly un-bitter clingers who just get up every day and make everything work. Most of what we discovered was serendipitous, one happy accident after another.

In a truckstop in Oklahoma, we chatted over terrific Barbecue with a Vietnam vet who had raised 24 foster children. In Guthrie, Oklahoma, we found a gorgeous giftshop called Aunt Gertrude’s House. It was full of the most exquisite art, jewelry, scarves, and pottery. Though the lovely proprietor proudly featured only American crafts and art, she made an exception – out of support – for Israeli artists! Who knew you could find a mezzuzah in a state known as the Buckle on the Bible Belt?

When I have journaled previous trips, most entries could be summed up in four words: “And then I ate…” Why stop now? The first night in Van Horn, TX, we found an outstanding meal at the historic El Capitan Hotel. The man next to us described his Chicken Fried Steak as the best he had ever eaten in his life. From my appetizer plate, I have no reason to doubt him. Bonnie’s entree salad was a feast for all the senses.

If you read my post last week, you learned that I am directionally-challenged. And yet, I can find favorite restaurants on the road like a heat-seeking missile. In Big Spring, TX, where I had stayed on previous trips West, I fell in love with Albertos Mexican restaurant. Craving huevos for breakfast, we left the highway, and I drove right to its front door. Que cosa! It did not open until 11:00. With enough therapy, I may eventually recover.

In Wichita – both coming and going – we ate at P.F. Chang’s. Though it’s a chain, Bonnie and Heather had never experienced Chang’s and we had an absolutely delightful waitress named Morgan. The food, libation, and service were exemplary. In a houseful of males (Household Motto: “The Seat is Always Up.”), I have serious Daughter Deprivation and want to adopt every young woman I see. Morgan would make a good choice.

Got a world-class burger and fries at Retta Mae’s Home Style Cookin’ in Roscoe, TX. Retta Mae is an African-American lady and her staff and happy regulars of every race and color could have populated that “I Am An American” propaganda piece that ran tediously after 9/11.

We found the Holy Grail of Mexican food at La Posta DeMesilla in Las Cruces, New Mexico. My neighbor said he routinely drove there from El Paso for dinner, evidently because there’s just not enough Mexican food in El Paso.

Guthrie, Oklahoma, was treasure trove enough to warrant another separate future trip. Ammo Grrrll normally has the patience of a teething toddler for museums, but The Oklahoma Territorial Museum is nothing short of delightful. My Daddy was a druggist and there is also an Apothecary Museum we will catch next time.

We left early enough in the morning from Guthrie to be able to hit the Cowboy Hall of Fame in OKCity when it opened. Ammo Grrrll had urged spending just two to three hours there in order to avoid the worst of rush hour when we returned Heather to Ft. Worth. Someone – why point fingers? – had squandered 30 minutes of that precious time in another slight directional error. (East, West – as HRC said, “What difference does it make now?”) Besides, two hours at that Museum would be like two hours at the Louvres. There is simply too much to see.

In addition to 1300 kinds of barbed wire (barbed wire’s greatest hits, culled from over 8,000 varieties), there is gallery after gallery of gorgeous Western and Native American art, a complete mock-up of a Western town, a vast collection of cowboy outfits worn in Westerns, a fine firearms gallery, a sprawling outdoor sculpture garden, a rodeo hall of fame, and an excellent lunch buffet! You quite literally cannot do it in a day. We spent five hours and the impending hellacious rush hour was totally worth it. (Photo below of the 3 amigas with Indian.)

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And so we end this episode with Ammo Grrrll lost in the Beirut-like construction maze that is Dallas-Ft. Worth at rush hour. Going a restful 90 mph to avoid being rear-ended by Texans doing 100. And I did NOT run a red light. And never have in my entire life. It was yellow all the way through the intersection and the wretched “Safelight” camera photo that allegedly captured me must have been photo-shopped! A pro bono case for John or Scott?

Next week: the 50th reunion itself, or, “Who are all these codgers?”

An embarrassment of Democrats (3): Eldridge edition

Chris Gibson represents New York’s Nineteenth Congressional District. He is an Iraq war vet and a Republican. He was elected to Congress in the wave of 2010. It’s a D+1 district, so Gibson’s reelection is far from a gimme.

I don’t know him, but Gibson is the kind of guy who makes me proud to be a Republican. His campaign site is here. The site includes a profile of Gibson that briefly summarizes his service:

Over the course of his 24 year Army career, Chris rose to the rank of Colonel and deployed seven times. This included four combat tours to Iraq, and separate deployments to Kosovo, the Southwestern US for a counter-drug operation, and most recently – just prior to his retirement – Haiti where he commanded the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT) during the opening month of that humanitarian relief operation. The Secretary of the Army awarded the BCT the Superior Unit Award for their actions in Haiti.

Chris earned two Legions of Merit, four Bronze Star Medals, the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge with Star, the Master Parachutist Badge and the Ranger Tab. For their actions in Mosul in support of the first national election in the new Iraq, his Battalion Task Force earned the Valorous Unit Award. For their actions in Tal Afar during the 2nd and 3rd national elections in Iraq his Battalion and the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment were recognized for excellence by President George W. Bush and earned a 2nd Valorous Unit Award.

Running against Gibson as he seeks reelection this November is Democrat Sean Eldridge. If I were a Democrat, I would be embarrassed to have to support this guy for office against anyone, but especially against a stellar incumbent like Gibson. Among other things, Eldridge has only recently moved to the district with his husband, Facebook gazillionaire and current New Republic owner Chris Hughes. Eldridge moved to the district to run for office. In an excellent look at the race, Politico called Eldridge’s candidacy “brazen.”

As I say, embarrassing.

Then New York Times reporter Ray Hernandez provided an unillusioned look at the Eldridge phenomenon in the article “Young, rich and relocating yet again in hunt for political office.” Hernandez introduced the story thusly:

This is the story of how one young couple came to the Hudson Valley with a fortune and big political dreams.

Two years ago, Sean Eldridge and his husband, the Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, bought a $5 million estate in Garrison, about 50 miles north of New York City. It offered 80 acres of rolling fields and a farmhouse once owned by a Vanderbilt. It would also allow Mr. Eldridge, 26, to run for the local Congressional seat if he chose to.

But that seat appeared unattainable, and soon the couple’s gaze shifted north, to the neighboring district. In January, they bought a $2 million modern home here overlooking a reservoir, laying the groundwork for Mr. Eldridge’s campaign for their new local Congressional seat, New York’s 19th.

Word of Mr. Eldridge’s political plans has delighted the friends who make up his social circle: Donors to his exploratory committee include George Soros, the billionaire financier, and Sean Parker, the tech entrepreneur behind Napster and Spotify.

But his ambitions have puzzled some residents among the farmers, mill workers and small-business owners who populate this district, which rises through the Catskills and rolls north through cornfields and apple orchards to the Vermont border….

As I say, embarrassing.

Eldridge can’t even give a straight answer to the question whether he will remain in the district in the event his husband’s millions fail to unseat Gibson. The Free Beacon noted Eldridge’s nonresponse to the question in “Carpetbaggers gonna carpetbag.”

In the interest of pursuing the humorous side of politics, the Free Beacon has stayed on Eldridge’s case, as in “Man of the people” and “Sean Eldridge on defense in new ads.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee has been following this race. It recently reported:

YO NO QUIERO TACO BELL. Sean Eldridge, in his latest attempt to try to relate to average voters in New York’s 19th District, told the editorial board of the Daily Freeman that his experience working at a Taco Bell – in high school – helps him relate to the middle class. Eldridge wants Hudson Valley families to rest assured knowing that he understands their issues because one summer he worked at Taco Bell.

As I say embarrassing.

What does Eldridge have to offer? He is “liberally” spreading “his” money around the district through the investment firm Hudson River Ventures. The Politico article notes:

Hudson River Ventures made its first investment in late 2012, as talk of an Eldridge political bid simmered. The firm has focused its giving on the culinary industry, which is crucial to the agriculturally rich Hudson Valley. It has provided money to local businesses such as Prohibition Distillery, Continental Organics and Bread Alone bakery, according to the firm’s website. Hudson River Ventures, aides say, is strictly for-profit. Eldridge’s advisers won’t say how many jobs the firm has created.

The site lists investments in 19 businesses, the majority within the confines of the 19th District. Aides won’t disclose how much Hudson River Ventures has spent in total, but they say investments range from $50,000 to $500,000 each.

Eldridge has also personally donated $250,000 to a 3-D printing project at SUNY New Paltz, which is in the district.

*****

Eldridge’s team denies that the venture capital firm and campaign are coordinated. But the overlap is undeniable.

Oh, did I forget to mention that Eldridge is in favor of campaign finance reform? Politico quotes him in a 2013 radio interview: “We will certainly do what we need to do to be competitive and win next year. But at the same time, when I am in Congress I will be a loud and consistent advocate for campaign-finance reform.”

As I say, embarrassing.

You can contribute to Gibson here.

When Barry gets blue

The British press has mocked President Obama’s golf game immediately following his statement on the beheading of James Foley. The Daily Mail story includes a photo of Obama giving a fist bump for the ages. At this point, a killer rabbit would be a decided improvement.

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But it’s not just the British press. The New York Daily News captured the reaction of sentient Americans with its “Bam’s golf war” cover. We’re in “more mush from the wimp” city.

Today Peter Baker and Julie Hirschfeld Davis give us the perspective of the New York Times crowd in “A terrorist horror, then golf: Incongruity fuels Obama critics.” Baker and Davis report that (despite appearances created by the incongruity of his joyous golf game) Obama was “unusually emotional” as a result of Foley’s beheading. The joyous photos of Obama’s golf outing — how to put it? — tend to belie the description of Obama’s state of mind as presented by Baker and Davis. Funny, he doesn’t look bluish.

Baker and Davis understand that some explanation is necessary. They assure us that, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, the emperor really is wearing his perfectly creased finery. They explain:

Presidents learn to wall off their feelings and compartmentalize their lives. They deal in death one moment and seek mental and physical relief the next. To make coldhearted decisions in the best interest of the country and manage the burdens of perhaps the most stressful job on the planet, current and former White House officials said, a president must guard against becoming consumed by the emotions of the situations they confront. And few presidents have been known more for cool, emotional detachment than Mr. Obama.

How do Baker and Davis purport to know what Obama was feeling? So far as one can determine from reading the story, they know because a White House public relations flack told them so:

“His concern for the Foleys and Jim was evident to all who saw and heard his statement,” said Jennifer Palmieri, the White House communications director.

In this case we can consult the ocular proof ourselves (video below). Do you see an “unusually emotional” Obama (a pretty low standard to begin with)? I see a guy who doesn’t give a rat’s ass. And in support of my reading, I offer the photos accompanying the Daily Mail story linked above.

More Climate Change Awesomeness

What caused the recent outbreak of ebola? Would you believe—why of course you would, it’s flippin’ obvious isn’t it? Climate change!

Ebola outbreaks may become more frequent because of climate change, scientists have warned, as the deadly disease ravages four countries across West Africa. . .

Some scientists believe global warming—and the subsequent increase in extreme weather—could be a factor behind in the virus’s ascendance.

Well that just settles it then.

Also floods. In England at least. But as the estimable Anthony Watts points out, it isn’t so much that there is increased precipitation so much as the fact of growing population in proximity to flood plains. Sort of like people building on the coast of Florida and the Carolinas and wondering why those coasts are at increased risk of hurricane damages.

Climate change: is there anything it can’t do? No, seriously. The list of things not linked to it is very short.

A Hawkish Rick Perry addresses the Heritage Foundation

Gov. Rick Perry stopped off in Washington today, on his way to New Hampshire, to give a speech at the Heritage Foundation. His address came at the conclusion of a panel discussion (which Perry did not participate in) called “The Border Crisis and the New Politics of Immigration.”

Perry talked for a while about immigration but, exercising potential presidential candidate’s prerogative, his speech focused primarily on a different topic — the threat posed by ISIS. (In fairness, the two subjects aren’t entirely unrelated; as Perry noted, lack of border security makes it easier for ISIS to attack the U.S. homeland).

Perry took a hard line on ISIS. He stated: “We better get on top of this [the threat posed by ISIS] with whatever means are necessary.” He called on the administration to “confront ISIS with overwhelming force,” not just in Iraq but in Syria too.

During the brief period for questions, an NBC reporter followed up by asking Perry whether the U.S. response to ISIS should include “traditional ground troops” in addition to special forces. Perry answered that “all options should be on the table.” He added that we should not tell our enemies in advance what we won’t do.

Perry’s aggressive position on ISIS goes further than what I’ve heard most “hawks” express. For example, at a Heritage event last week, the panel — consisting of Steven Hadley, Mary Habeck, and Steven Bucci –seemed to agree that the “boots on the ground” in the fight against ISIS in Iraq should not (with the exception of some advisers and special forces) be American boots. And I don’t believe the idea of the U.S. attacking ISIS in Syria was raised.

I suspect that many conservatives would, by now, support the use by the U.S. of conventional forces in the battle against ISIS, even perhaps in Syria. But few want to publicly advocate this or even talk about it as a possibility.

Perry didn’t advocate such a deployment. But his remarks made it clear, even before he was questioned, that this option should be on the table.

Is it wise politically for Perry to be so publicly hawkish? It’s not clear yet. If Obama’s more dovish approach halts ISIS and if ISIS doesn’t successfully attack America, Perry’s presidential ambitions (to the extent he has them) probably will have been ill-served. Otherwise, Perry will likely have helped himself by being an early exponent of going after ISIS hard.

I don’t mean to say that Perry’s position on ISIS is driven by presidential politics. In fact, I assume he is completely sincere.

Interestingly, though, Hillary Clinton, whose position almost certainly is politically driven, takes a relatively hawkish stance on ISIS too. Throw in the recent comments of Chuck Hagel, and it looks like rational figures across the political spectrum see big trouble ahead from these terrorists.

Finally, a note on Perry as a public speaker. He’s not bad, but he’s not inspirational either, at least not today. The Heritage audience was quite sympathetic, especially given Perry’s persecution in Texas. But, although his speech was received well, it didn’t seem to generate great enthusiasm.

In person, even more so than on television, Perry reminds me of George W. Bush whom he succeeded as governor but with whom, reportedly, relations weren’t great. The resemblance includes speaking style, speech patterns, and mannerisms. It even extends, I thought, to banter. Perry’s joking references to the youthful appearance of Rich Lowry (who introduced the governor) seemed very Bush-like.

How far can a Texas hawk with a resemblance to George W. Bush go in 2016? We may well have the opportunity to find out. For better or for worse, he has piqued my interest.

Science According to Steyer

Left-wing billionaire Tom Steyer reportedly is having trouble persuading fellow lefties to join his $100 million campaign to elect Democrats in November. Steyer is soldiering on, nevertheless, in large part through his organization NextGen Climate. In New Hampshire, NextGen is running anti-Scott Brown ads. Politico reports:

NextGen Climate, Tom Steyer’s environmental group, is going up with its first New Hampshire ad today, tying Scott Brown to the Koch Brothers and attacking him as a carpetbagger.

An official said the group will spend in the high-six figures to air the 30-second spot, produced by GMMB.

More conventional than some of their recent ads, it starts with an image of a man collecting syrup from a maple tree and then flips to a derrick sucking oil from the ground.

You get the drift. But it looks as though Steyer may need to pony up more millions, as the latest poll data are looking good for Brown. Also from Politico:

The New Hampshire Senate race is tightening, according to a just-posted WMUR poll that puts Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen up only 2 points, 46-44, over Republican Scott Brown.

That’s within the margin of error. The same poll last month had Shaheen ahead by 12 points.

NextGen Climate is a global warming scare group. But what sort of cutting-edge science are they peddling? In Florida, Next Gen used Steyer’s millions to stage a demonstration of sorts outside the office of Governor Rick Scott. The buffoon in the photo below purported to “educate” Governor Scott about global warming. Click to enlarge:

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What a pitiful display! “Climate change is Real…” Yes, and it has been real for millions of years. “The planet is older than 6,000 years old.” Huh? “Seawater is salty and rising.” Yes, at the same rate it has been for thousands of years. “The moon is not made of cheese.” I believe this is an Obama line. Apparently he considers it a crushing argument. “98% of scientists agree.” Not on anthropogenic global warming, they don’t. The battle continues to rage, and the hysterics are losing.

The white lab coat with too-long sleeves is an entertaining touch, too. If this is what Steyer is buying for his $100 million, Republicans can rest easy.

Sound Diagnosis, Pathetic Prescription

Earlier today, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel offered a surprisingly realistic and cogent evaluation of the threat posed by ISIL. This clip is only a minute and a half long, but it sums up the danger well:

Hagel says, correctly, that ISIL “is beyond anything we’ve seen,” creates a “whole new dynamic,” is “as sophisticated and well-funded as any organization we’ve seen,” an “imminent threat to every interest we have,” which poses a threat to our homeland for which we had better “get ready.” That’s the diagnosis.

So today the Obama administration announced that it is opening a criminal investigation into the murder of James Foley. I’m not kidding:

The U.S. Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation of the death of American journalist James Foley, Attorney General Eric Holder said on Thursday. …

A U.S. official said American investigators were urgently attempting to “identify and capture” the man in the video.

I am sure the prospect of having Eric Holder on his trail will strike fear into the guy who sawed off Foley’s head. When you catch him, though, make sure to read him his rights!

This isn’t even bringing a knife to a gun fight, this is bringing a legal brief to a gun fight. Let’s hope the administration has plans for ISIL that go beyond legal harassment.