Sunday, July 31, 2011

2012 Election tip - Steer clear of POLITICIANS who have written memoirs and manifestoes as it isn't about helping US, only themselves

I have little patience for self-serving political types that write memoirs that are nothing more than a pathetic exercise in " Why I LOVE ME " and other nonsense that they feel compelled to foist upon the world. Example in point on the DEM side of things is POTUS' two memoirs and the idiot Governor of Massachusetts' book that is so far down on the NY TIMES best seller list they had to dig a new subterranean category to list it. As if any hard working, tax paying, check earning citizen wants to try to parse through the drivel that these self absorbed fools put on paper.....give us a break, get over yourself and do the job we pay you for. Really.

Well a scribe from the LA TIMES dissects the other side of the political aisle and a number of the POLS over there that have done the same time-wasting exercise of trying to get us to read their drivel. Here is one of my favorite clips from this timely article:

The Romney we meet in "No Apology" is earnest, pedantic and, let's say it, dull. He's given to leaden statements of the obvious. "It is good for America to be strong," he advises. And: "To strengthen America's economy, we must minimize those things that retard economic growth and promote those things that accelerate it." way....I was gobsmacked that the author is able to see what the rest of us know for a fact, only he left out pathetically desperate and pandering too.

Gingrich has 23 Books published....really. That makes him 23 times more unappealing as the rest of the POLS.

I was impressed that Rep. Michelle Bachmann didn't make the list of the self absorbed authors as she doesn't have a book all about herself....maybe there is a ray of hope for her after all.

All I know is that each of the people who are Presidential contenders for the office in 2012 and Authors (including the "empty suit in residence at the White House") have two things in common. Each of them is in LOVE with the sound of their own voice and have NO INTEREST in listening to the average citizen as all they really care about is themselves.

And that is the truth.

LA Times Op-Ed

McManus: The write stuff
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a politician seeking the presidency must be in want of a memoir.

By Doyle McManus July 31, 2011

The news from Washington — bickering over the debt ceiling, poor prospects for the economy — hasn't been uplifting lately. It's time for some beach reading.

And I have just the ticket. There's a whole crop of potential Republican presidential candidates who promise to lead us to a better tomorrow, and most of them have written books to spell out their visions, demonstrate intellectual depth and give their fans something to spend $29.95 on.

GOP wannabes Writing memoirs and manifestoes has become a rite of passage for politicians, a way to show that they're up to the job — so much that just one book won't always suffice. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have each written two. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wins the productivity prize, with his name on no fewer than 23 books, including eight novels. Even pizza mogul Herman Cain has promised a book this fall. If they hope to stand a chance in this field, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. better get busy.

As a public service, I took a pile of these literary works on vacation and dug in. (Now you know one more difference between Washington policy wonks and normal Americans.) And here's what I found:

In their own telling, all these politicians are fiercely patriotic, devoted to their families and humble.

And they're all deeply worried about the future of the country, especially if President Obama and the Democrats stay in power.

"They simply don't believe in America as it was shaped by the founders," warns Romney in his book "No Apology," and he's among the most moderate of the bunch.

Want something stronger? Try Gingrich. In "To Save America," he says Obama is running a "secular-socialist machine [which] represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did."

The Romney we meet in "No Apology" is earnest, pedantic and, let's say it, dull. He's given to leaden statements of the obvious. "It is good for America to be strong," he advises. And: "To strengthen America's economy, we must minimize those things that retard economic growth and promote those things that accelerate it."

Gingrich is at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, furious and hyperbolic. "America is facing an existential threat," he warns in "To Save America." Obama "has presided over a political machine that has tried to impose on this country a radical left-wing agenda that is alien to American history and American values."

In between is former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty — no less conservative but less confrontational, at least back when he was writing "Courage to Stand" last year. In politics, he suggests, "You never want to punch when somebody's down. You want to win, but you don't want to destroy your opponent." In this year's Republican field, that measure of civility qualifies as Minnesota nice.

Then there's Perry, who's almost as angry as Gingrich. "We are tired of being told how much salt to put on our food, what kind of cars we can drive, what kind of guns we can own, what kind of prayers we can say … [and] what doctor we can see," Perry writes in "Fed Up!"

And, of course, Palin, who manages to sound both slashing and cheerful at the same time. "We have allowed the left, with its unconstrained vision, to convince us that America's current woes were caused by too little government involvement," she writes. "This is nonsense. We got into this economic mess because of misplaced government interference in the first place."

There's a long list of issues all these candidates agree on. "We need to have a more limited, more accountable government," Pawlenty writes.

"The road to success is lower taxes [and] smaller government," echoes Perry.

But once in a while, a bit of daring comes through, in this case from Romney: "Government can promote opportunity or it can crush it," he writes. "To a point, even taxes can foster opportunity." No wonder "tea party" adherents are suspicious.

They all want to repeal Obama's healthcare law. "It will destroy our nation's healthcare system," warns Perry. "This is not hyperbole."

Even Romney, who signed a healthcare law in Massachusetts that was one of the inspirations for Obama's plan, now agrees. "Obamacare is an unconstitutional federal incursion into the rights of states," he writes in a passage that he added to the second edition of his book. (The first edition, published when the healthcare law was still being debated, wasn't that tough.)

They all believe religious faith should be an explicit underpinning of politics. "Removing God from our conversations, our plans and our actions is not in the best interest of our country," writes Pawlenty, who laces his memoir with verses from the Bible. In her second book, Palin praises Romney for defending his Mormon faith during his 2008 campaign, and contrasts him with John F. Kennedy, who she says "seemed to want to run away from religion" in 1960. (Of course, Kennedy was trying to answer fears that a Catholic president would take orders from the Vatican.)

And they all believe defense spending is, if anything, too low. "Right now America is, based on its defense spending, well on the road to weakness," writes Romney.

"Defense spending is now being squeezed out of the budget because of the explosion in entitlement spending," Perry complains.

The choice for Republican primary voters next year, at least judging by the literary works of the candidates, lies within a remarkably narrow range. They won't be offered differing approaches to government, only different ideas about how hard and fast to pursue it.

If, after all that, you're still hoping for a recommendation on what book to take to the beach, here's this reviewer's bottom line:

Most readable: Sarah Palin, "Going Rogue."

Least readable: Mitt Romney, "No Apology."

Most difficult political tightrope act: Romney, "No Apology."

Most intriguing new author: Rick Perry, "Fed Up."

Most appealing life story: Tim Pawlenty, "Courage to Stand."

Most terrifying jeremiad: Newt Gingrich, "To Save America."

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Luckiest Hobo - British War Hero K-9 is back on duty after suffering life-threatening injuries in a Taliban attack

Our K-9 Heroes do not worry about themselves, but rather our safety. We are lucky to have good pups like HOBO out there to protect the troops.

As HOBO is with our good friends the BRITS, we send along a hearty " GOOD SHOW " to HOBO and his mates. His actions are " brilliant, just brilliant " as our allies from the UK would say.

Back on duty: The plucky bomb-hunting dog of war the Taliban couldn't kill
By Christopher Leake
30th July 2011 - UK MAIL

An army dog which suffered life-threatening injuries in a Taliban attack less than two weeks ago will be celebrating his third birthday back on the frontline tomorrow.

Hobo, a bomb-hunting black labrador with A Company, 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles, was badly wounded when a patrol came under heavy fire in Helmand Province ten days ago.

As enemy grenades were hurled at the patrol’s position, Hobo was hit three times by shrapnel in his neck, abdomen and body. Comrades saved his life by giving first aid to stem the bleeding until he was taken by helicopter to the safety of Camp Bastion along with wounded soldiers.

The labrador is now being considered for the Dickin Medal, the highest animal award for bravery.

Nicknamed ‘The Luckiest Hobo’, he began serving in Afghanistan two months ago and is thought to have saved the lives of many soldiers by sniffing out the roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that have taken such a toll on the Army.

Captain George Shipman, 28, of 29 Commando Royal Artillery was with the patrol. He said: ‘Hobo was hit and bleeding heavily. He remained really calm and just stood there while we treated him.

"Hobo’s become one of us, bounding around the patrol base all the time. We’re very fond of him."

After receiving further treatment at Camp Bastion, Hobo had all but recovered within two days and now is due to return to service.

Private Patrick Medhurst-Feeny, 22, a veterinary technician who helped treat Hobo, said: ‘We met him off the helicopter and put him straight on to fluids because of the huge blood loss. He’s recovered fantastically well.’

Having been ‘battle inoculated’ by training against explosions, Hobo is unlikely to suffer trauma from the attack. He is due to return to the UK in November to begin a new role as an Army demonstration dog

US ARMY Major Sullivan Ballou - (March 28, 1829 – July 28, 1861) - US Civil War Hero, Patriot and one of my ancestors

We owe a large debt to all those who have gone before us, especilly those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that the promise of America was kept alive for the next generation. It is part of the reason I am proud to have served and done my part to defend our great country.

I am the 13th Generation of a family that came to Massachusetts in 1635. Our first Ancestor, Walter, came to the colonies as an indentured servant having been sold into servitude by his family in England (a common practice back then and a way for the younger person to learn a trade) He was between 10-12 years old at the time and had to work 18 years to repay that servitude to become a " Freeman ", which allowed him to vote, own land and exercise all the rights of a free citizen had under the Crown in the colonies.

The many members of the family that followed from this humble start branched out across Massachusetts and what eventually became Rhode Island. The main group of my ancestors settled in the Blackstone Valley area of Cumberland and Woonsocket, which at one point were part of Massachusetts until the border line was moved north in the final demarcation of RI & MASS.

One of the things that was also a common practice back in that time of the late 1700s - early 1800 was that your family would make alliances to have your children marry into each other's families to ensure that the land & family wealth would stay with the family as opposed to having some interloper coming in, marry your daughter and take the family farm & fortune in the deal.

In that way, we have been able to trace my family's ancestry to three other families in that area - the Snow, White & Ballou families. My Mother was lucky enough to meet a woman back in 1964 who had the entire lineage of our family documented (long before you could do this online). My Mother hand typed out a copy of the record on a manual typewriter amounting to 110 pages of records.
The updated copy we now possess details of all the births, death & marriages in the 14 generations (my kids being the 14th generation) back to Walter in 1635.

One of our relatives is a gentleman named Major Sullivan Ballou. He died at
First Battle of Bull Run 150 years ago this week.

Major Sullivan Ballou (March 28, 1829 – July 28, 1861)
was a lawyer, politician, and officer in the United States Army. He is best remembered for the eloquent letter he wrote to his wife a week before he fought and was mortally wounded alongside his Rhode Island Volunteers in the First Battle of Bull Run.

Ballou married Sarah Hunt Shumway on October 15, 1855. They had two sons, Edgar and William. In his letter to his wife, Ballou attempted to crystallize the emotions he was feeling: worry, fear, guilt, sadness and, most importantly, the pull between his love for her and his sense of duty.

The letter was featured prominently in the Ken Burns documentary The Civil War, where it was paired with Jay Ungar's musical piece "Ashokan Farewell" and read by Paul Roebling. However, the documentary featured a shortened version of the letter, which did not contain many of Ballou's personal references to his family and his upbringing. It has been difficult to identify which of the several extant versions is closest to the one he actually sent, as the original seems not to have survived.

The following is an extended version:

July the 14th, 1861 Washington D.C.

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure—and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine O God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows—when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children—is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar—that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the brightest day and in the darkest night—amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours—always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for me, for we shall meet again.

As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God's blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.


The letter may never have been mailed; it was found in Ballou's trunk after he died. It was reclaimed and delivered to Ballou's widow by Governor William Sprague, either after Sprague had traveled to Virginia to reclaim the effects of dead Rhode Island soldiers, or from Camp Sprague in Washington, D.C

Friday, July 29, 2011

The $203,000, 563 horsepower Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS Gullwing --- Fan-freaking-tastic !!!!

The guy at Wired gets to drive the Wundercars like this one and I get to work in the Afghan desert....somehow it doesn't seem quite fair....

$200K+ for a Super Car is quite a bit to spend on speed & wheels from Bavaria but if you have the kind of $$$$ this car requires, it really doesn't impact your world that much....I agree that it is highly likely I will need to buy some lottery tix when I get that is the only way I'll get my hands on one of these.

Benz’s Beauty Stretches Its Wings
Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS Gullwing
Automotive · $203,500 as tested · Mercedes-Benz
Reviewed by Chuck Squatriglia - Wired Magazine · July 29, 2011

If and when I am ever filthy rich, I will own a Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS Gullwing. I will not care that its fuel economy is obscene and I will not care that it almost certainly costs obscene amounts of money to maintain.

There are many reasons for my decision, not the least of which is that it’s absurdly easy to drive the SLS criminally fast. The power is instantaneous, the handling is precise and the emotional and visceral response is off the charts. The SLS inspires such confidence at speed your grandmother would lose her license in it.

Yet as wonderful as that makes the AMG SLS, it is hardly the car’s biggest selling point. No, what really stands out are the doors and engine. Specifically, how the doors look and how the engine sounds.

Both can be described in one word: Fan-freaking-tastic.

I realize it is odd praising something so seemingly trivial as the doors and engine note, but they underscore the visceral appeal of the SLS. To open those gloriously grandiose doors or revel in the molten gurgling of a hand-built V8 is to know you’re driving something special.

Before we get to that, though, a little history is in order. The SLS is an homage to the 300 SL Gullwing, a masterpiece that was, by any measure, the first modern supercar when it appeared in 1954. In an age when even the best sports cars were a handful at the limit, the SL was fast, smooth and a joy to drive flat-out.

The SLS is all of those things. Few cars so beautifully blend luxury and performance in a package this engaging and rewarding.

The only reason it has gullwing doors is because they’re so damn cool. If that isn’t reason enough for you, then buy a Prius and be done with it because you just don’t get cars.Now then. About those doors. They open upward, like the wings of a bird, something that always draws a crowd. People ooh and ahh. They point and snap pictures. They offer some variation of “Nice car” before invariably asking two questions, always the same two questions: “How much?” (A lot) and “How fast?” (Ridiculously).

No one ever asks, “Why?” That’s just as well, because the answer is, essentially, “Why not?” The SL had gullwing doors because its tubular steel frame required them. Nothing else would work. The SLS has an aluminum space frame and no need for such extravagance. The only reason it has gullwing doors is because they’re so damn cool. If that isn’t reason enough for you, then buy a Prius and be done with it because you just don’t get cars.

The rest of the car is no less impressive, even if it just sort of ends. The flaccid, rounded rear is a disappointing counterpoint to a front end more intimidating than SEAL Team 6. It’s as if the designers ran out of ideas once they got aft of the doors.

They can be forgiven though, because everything else works. The SLS recalls the classic sports cars of yore: long and low, with an aggressive stance and a hood that ends in the next zip code. Parking’s a bitch because you have no idea where the wheels are, and you’re so low that even gently sloped driveways scrape the spoiler with a grinding that sounds like a big check being written.

Of course, riding so low creates a subterranean center of gravity. That and an almost comically wide stance — those front wheels are 66.2 inches apart — keep the SLS flatter than last night’s beer through turns. Although the SLS is made of aluminum, it still a relatively big beast at 3,885 pounds. Most of the mass, including the engine, is between the axles, so the SLS doesn’t turn so much as pirouette. The back end likes to step out of line, but that adds to the fun. All manner of electronic nannies keep you out of trouble without being intrusive.

The handling is so responsive, so predictable, that the SLS encourages you to push harder than you might otherwise consider possible — or prudent. I lost count of how many times I caught a glimpse of the speedometer mid-turn and found myself at velocities that would give Condé Nast’s insurance agent an aneurysm.

But then, excessive exuberance comes easily when you’re playing with 563 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. Acceleration is effortless in any of the car’s seven gears. If you simply must mainline all that power in one shot, activate the launch control system and hold on. The 6.2-liter V8 rockets you to 62 mph in just 3.8 seconds. Keep the pedal mashed another 7 seconds and you’ll reach twice that. Top speed is 197, though I’ll have to take Mercedes’ word for it.

Push the big red “start” button and the engine emits a roar that literally turns heads. Then it settles into a low idle, gurgling like Satan’s own cauldron.The sound of the engine is no less intoxicating than its unrelenting power. To call it glorious is to undersell it. It barks. It gurgles. It snarls. It makes you shake your head and smile and thank Karl Benz for inventing the automobile because this, by God, is what a car should sound like. It is the sound every boy hears in his head as he says “Vroom! Vroom!” while pushing a Matchbox car.

Push the big red “start” button and the engine emits a roar that literally turns heads. Then it settles into a low idle, gurgling like Satan’s own cauldron. It’s a deep, primordial sound that builds to a metallic wail as the power comes on in a seemingly unending rush. Back off the throttle going into a turn and the engine pops and barks with such ferocity you expect to see flames shooting from the tailpipes.

Despite the barely contained rage of the engine and the ease with which it delivers eyeball-flatting speed, the SLS is remarkably happy tooling around town. While the sport, sport-plus and manual modes unleash increasingly unfettered performance, “controlled efficiency” mode reins it all in, keeping the car sedate if not quite docile.

For all its focus on performance, the SLS is remarkably practical. Well, as practical as a $203,000 car capable of ungodly thrust can be.

Getting in gracefully takes a bit of practice, but the interior is surprisingly comfortable. It’s deliciously appointed, though so understated as to border on dull even with the $4,500 carbon fiber trim package. The leather is softer than newborn kittens, the aluminum vents look spectacular and the optional 1,000-watt Bang & Olufsen stereo makes it sound like Thelonious Monk is riding shotgun. (At $6,400, it damned well better.) There’s even an anchor for a baby seat. My only complaint is the trunk is only slightly larger than the glovebox. Still, the SLS is so comfortable and composed around town you could commute in it if you could afford the gas.

Ah, yes. Fuel economy. If you must know, the feds peg it at 14 city, 20 highway and 16 combined. That’s about what I got racking up 766 miles driving all over creation one weekend. I would have felt guilty but, frankly, I was having far too much fun.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have lottery tickets to buy.

WIRED Opulence and performance in an exotic you can actually live with. The harder you push it, the better it gets. Is there anything cooler than gullwing doors? No, there is not.

TIRED Slows shifts. Tiny trunk. The damned door buzzer gets mighty annoying when you’re driving with the gullwing doors open

“The Navy,” McCain said, “…could be the service that’s most adversely affected.” - Budget cutters target US Navy

US Senator John McCain is one of the people you would want in your corner if you have a tough fight to take on. Conversely, if he offers you advice, you ignore it at your own peril.

The US Navy makes a rather large target on the spreadsheets but it has a large task on it's hands. 3/4 of the earth's surface is covered in water, so that means the US Navy is always out there, 24/7 protecting Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of all that threaten it.

Hope the Bean Counters don't get carried away or we could wind up like the UK, without a proper sized Navy and vunerable to those who would leverage that to our disadvantage.

McCain to Navy: Get Shipshape or Face Severe Cuts
July 28, 2011
Stars and Stripes by Kevin Baron

-- Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., warned Thursday that the Navy could see the most severe budget cuts of all the services, especially if it doesn’t get its act together on two major weapons systems that Congress has put under hot lamps: the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Littoral Combat Ship.

“The Navy,” McCain said, “…could be the service that’s most adversely affected.”

Of those big-ticket items, McCain said the Navy’s “recent track record has been less than admirable,” and if its performance in developing those two programs doesn’t improve, the Navy would have a hard time fighting budget cuts.

His comments came during the confirmation hearing for Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, vice chief of naval operations, to be the next chief of naval operations, the Navy’s top officer who sits on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Greenert takes over at a time when there are many concerns about how President Barack Obama’s budget cutting demands will force the Navy to cut back or reschedule plans for the F-35 and LCS, but also how cuts will affect building or refitting submarines and the next aircraft carrier.

The viability of maintaining the entire Navy fleet size has been openly questioned by senators of both parties.

The Littoral Combat Ship has gone from receiving great news last fall, when it was announced the Navy would purchase 20 ships -- 10 each of two models by competing shipyards -- instead of 10 ships from one maker. But both models have had trouble, dogged by reports of corrosion and superstructure and weld cracks.

“The Navy continues to lack a single ship that is operationally effective or reliable,” McCain, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said.

Meanwhile, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is on Capitol Hill’s radar after a CQ Weekly cover story hit every member of Congress’ office, blasting the program as the most expensive weapons project in history, way over budget and overdue. Get your hands on a copy to read how each administration has passed the blame, and how an unworkable helmet targeting system planned for JSF pilots could scuttle the entire project.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

“It’s not about ribbons or medals out here, it’s about being a part of a team.." - Marine Sgt. Maj. & Son Serve Together

Fathers & sons.....together and dedicated to selfless service to their country and the USMC that they both love.

My son & I were in the US Navy at the same time but he was on a carrier and I wound up spending all my time out in the Middle East, having too much fun in the "sand box".

SEMPER FI to the Sgt. Major and his Son. You make us proud.

Marine Sgt. Maj., Son Serve Together
July 29, 2011
Marine Corps News by Cpl. Rashaun X. James

-- Upon hearing the news that his son would be deploying to Afghanistan, Sgt. Maj. Robert Allen of Marine Wing Support Squadron 272 began making the arrangements to join the fight.

“After I came off of recruiting duty I started trying to get into a unit that was deploying so I would be here with him during his first deployment,” said Allen. “I wanted him to have someone to talk to and vent to.”

The elder Allen works in the support squadron’s compound on Camp Leatherneck and spends most of his days literally across the street from his son, also Robert Allen, a Marine lance corporal and motor transport operator with Combat Logistics Battalion 8.

“This experience has been helpful for both of us,” the sergeant major said. “We talk all the time. We laugh and we kid around with each other, and it makes the days go by a bit quicker.”

But knowing all too well the pitfalls young Marines encounter, the senior Allen said he works in earnest to steer his son away from them.

“In my experience, young Marines are so eager to come out here and do great things that they forget about the need to have a balance between work and taking time to call their spouses to see how they are doing back home,” said the sergeant major.

Lance Cpl. Allen and his wife, D’Lee, were married Jan. 2, just 22 days before he deployed.

“He definitely keeps me in check,” the younger Allen said about his father. “There was one time when I hadn’t called my wife in about a week and a half and he came and got me out of bed and made me call her at 11 o’clock at night.”

Among other lessons he has imparted on his son, Allen said he has stressed the need to stay physically fit, keep a positive attitude and remain humble.

“It’s not about ribbons or medals out here, it’s about being a part of a team and doing the best job you can do,” said the elder Allen. “It’s not about the recognition.”

While the experience of deploying together has further bonded the two Marines, both agree the person who has faced the brunt of heartache and stress has been Leslie Allen, the wife of the elder Allen, and mother of the younger.

“This whole thing has driven my mother crazy,” said the younger Allen. “Growing up, my dad’s deployments really weren’t that bad because after a while we just got used to them, but this is all completely different with us both being here.”

Leslie said her feelings about the deployment fluctuate daily, but her heart bursts with pride knowing two generations of the Allen family are fighting side-by-side.

But the sergeant major, with 26 years of Marine Corps service, said he knows never before has his wife faced the possibility of such a devastating loss as during this deployment.

“My son and I went on a convoy together, and it was one of the worst convoys they’d had in a long time, with four improvised explosive devices hitting and three [medical evacuations],” said Allen. “I’d say she’s probably aged ten years since we’ve both been out here. She deserves all the credit in the world. She’s been taking care of everything on the home front, all while continuing to be a great wife to me and a wonderful mother for him.”

“I’ve been seeing my husband off for 25 years now, that I got used to, but this is my first time sending my son off as well,” said Leslie. Both Leslie and her husband are natives of Portland, Maine, and the family claims the New England state as their home outside of the Marine Corps.

“I now understand the feelings of a mother as opposed to a wife,” Leslie Allen said. “While many of the feelings are the same, it’s somehow different with a child.”

In the near future, the younger Allen will head back to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. Leslie Allen said she and her daughter-in-law, D’Lee, have been busy in North Carolina, preparing for the young Marine’s return.

“D’Lee just signed the contract to move into base housing, so that’s been keeping us busy getting their first home ready for when Robert gets back,” Leslie Allen explained.

A few months after the lance corporal’s return, his father will join him in the Jacksonville, N.C., area, bringing their time serving in Afghanistan together to a close.

“This has been great,” said the younger Allen. “Having someone in your family in the same branch of service deployed overseas with you is something that everyone in the Marine Corps dreams of while they’re here. I never thought this would happen.”

Both men share a common belief in the importance of loyalty. It is something that has been passed down from father to son and has evolved into a creed between the two.

“My son’s got a tattoo on his arm that says, ‘Family and Loyalty,’ and it’s something we live by,” said the elder Allen. “He’s finally seeing what I’ve talking about for all these years, that while he and I are a family, the Marine Corps is our family, too.

“To see my son put on a uniform and help defend his country with such zeal and honor has proven to be the culminating feature of my career,” said the sergeant major. “I feel even better going home to retire now that my son is a Marine. I know he’s got it, and everything is good to go.”

SEMPER FI LADIES - Photos of the Female Marines who are out at the tip of the spear

Left: Female Engagement Team leader Sgt. Sheena Adams, 25, of Kauai, Hawaii, outside of a clinic in Landay Nawah County on Jan. 31.

Right: Hospitalman Shannon Crowley, 22, of Swampscott, Mass., on Jan. 31.

One of the most popular posts I have made here in the past two years has been the one about female Marines who serve on the FET (Female Engagement Teams) in Afghanistan. See the post at the enclosed link:

These female Marines are the real deal and tough as nails. They walk patrols side by side with their male counterparts and accept the risk as they have a mission to complete; To demonstrate to the people of Afghanistan that we are here to assist them and will provide them with access to basic healtcare which has been unknown in many parts of this land.

Foriegn Policy magazine has presented another great photo essay on the ladies who go out into the villages and try to assist the citizens with healthcare, schooling and basic services that only they can offer to the families of Afghanistan.

Take a look at the additional pictures that you will find on the FP website.

Female Engagement
In Afghanistan, a Marine's work is never done.

About the Photographer -

Rita Leistner is a photographer and writer based in Toronto. In 2003, she crossed into Iraq on foot, traveling with Kurdish smugglers from Turkey.

She later spent four months embedded with the U.S. 3/7 Cavalry during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

She has won 12 Canadian National Magazine Awards and co-authored two books, Unembedded: Four Independent Photojournalists on the War in Iraq and Ihe Edward Curtis Project: A Modern Picture Story.

She teaches photojournalism at the University of Toronto.

SLICK MITT ROMNEY anoints himself the GOP Nominee w/o a single vote being cast.....REALLY ???? Hey MITT ! Get over yourself.

Without a single vote cast or counted, SLICK MITT ROMNEY has already anointed himself the Republican Nominee and has started to act like the White House is his for the taking.

Don't get me wrong, I admire "ego strength" in a capable and well disciplined candidate but are you F&%king kidding me? DUDE, catch a clue, you can't just decide for yourself that based on polls more than 5 months out that you can appoint yourself the nominee.....This is one more in a long line of bizarre behaviors that shows why we don't need this feckless POL anymore than we need the empty suit that is in the White House.

The PRESIDENCY of the UNITED STATES requires the best person, the most qualified, the soundest of judgments, and someone who makes others feel like they are being listened to. Mitt Romney only hears the sound of his own voice, just like the delusional fool we have as President right now. WHY in God's sake would we elect a Republican version of the same thing we have now ??

We have to let the process work itself through the primaries and let the PEOPLE have a say on who they want to run against Obama, not decide it based on who has the most $$$$ and can get an early lead established by pandering to well heeled lobbyists.

We should reject the stupidity of anyone who acts like SLICK MITT as it is not the sign of leadership but of self delusion. We have one delusional lightweight in the White House - The last thing we need is Slick Mitt and Mrs. Slick Mitt for 4 years after we kick out the "Lecturer in Chief" and his Cow of a wife. Really, I am begging you....Let's return the decision power to the people where it belongs.

Mitt Romney's Measuring His White House Drapes
Elspeth Reeve Jul 27, 2011 - The Atlantic

Mitt Romney told donors in Virginia Beach Tuesday night that three guys are on his short list for vice president: Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Bearing Drift reports. Aside from the amusing thought of the Tea Partying Rubio being No. 2 for Romney--whose state's overhaul was a model for President Obama's--the list feels like one more instance of Romney counting his chickens before they're hatched, NBC News' First Read observes--"he’s acting like someone who’s already wrapped up the GOP nomination, or even the White House."

Romney told New Hampshire voters that he'd be back in four years--with Secret Service in tow. As he did Tuesday night, he's visiting swing states that don't have early primary elections--Pennsylvania, California, and Virginia. Politico's Alexander Burns reports he'll be hitting Obama on jobs in Ohio on Wednesday, after securing the endorsement of former Sen. George Voinovich and more than a dozen state Republicans. First Read writes,
"Romney is starting to resemble a gambler who's up $500 at the blackjack table and is already counting the ways he's going to spend his earnings--but before he walks away from the table."

.... The New York Times' Nate Silver should give him pause. When poll numbers are adjusted for name recognition--how many of the respondents have actually heard of the guy--Romney is merely a co-frontrunner with still-undeclared Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

An average of the seven most recent polls of Republican voters ... finds Mr. Romney with the lead, with an average of 22 percent of the vote. After that, there's essentially a four-way tie between Ms. Bachmann (13 percent), Sarah Palin (13 percent), Mr. Perry (12 percent) and Rudolph W. Giuliani (11 percent in the polls in which he is included). ...

The results tighten up a bit, however, once we adjust for name recognition based on the latest Gallup numbers. (Dividing a candidate's polling average by his name recognition can somewhat improve the predictive power of early-stage polls.) In particular, Mr. Perry is recognized by only slightly more than half of Republican voters. Of those who recognize his name, 21 percent list him as their first choice, just slightly behind Mr. Romney at 25 percent.

Perry hasn't yet had to endure the scrutiny that comes after a politician officially declares his candidacy--look at what happened to Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman, for example. Still, Silver writes, if Perry's "roll-out goes well... the Republican campaign could well develop into a heavyweight battle between the two rather than the Lord-of-the-Flies scenario that had seemed more likely before."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Taliban Bastards use children to test weapons in Afghanistan

Here, on the ground in Afghanistan, things are much clearer than you can imagine. You see the reality of what the conflict here means to those it impacts the most, the citizens of Afghanistan and the military that is trying to defend them from the terrorists.

The Taliban are butchers, ruthless and soulless. They try to say they are fighting in the name of their faith but they are liars. The use of children as pawns in the fight is the sign of shallow, depraved and godless criminals. They are not the representatives of the people of Afghanistan and should not be granted any place in the outcome of Afghanistan. I ask you to read what is written below by Micheal Yon. If it doesn't fill you with disgust and revulsion, then I am concerned about what would convince you that the Taliban are no better than the Nazis, the Khmer Rouge or any other group that murders innocent children to incite terror.

Taliban Attacking More Children
26 July 2011
Zhari District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan
Micheal Yon -

Over the past several days there have been news stories here in Afghanistan about the Taliban strangling an 8-year-old boy. The reports say that his father refused to turn over a police vehicle to the enemy, and so they murdered his son.

Late last night, a courageous Afghan journalist named Mustafa Kazemi emailed an image of the boy that Mustafa said had been murdered. Afghans are enraged. They hate this behavior as much as we do. The boy appears to have had his eyes gouged out before being strangled to death. This image is graphic.

And so last night I walked to the Headquarters of 4-4CAV here in Zhari District, the most active district in Afghanistan at this time. I asked what was going on tonight. A noncommissioned officer filled me in on the day’s events. We had been in a minor ambush resulting in a slight injury and a damaged MRAP, so I knew about that one. But then he explained about a boy whom he said the Taliban forced to step on an IED just down the road from here. Apparently, according to Afghans, the Taliban may have been testing a new bomb made from a soda bottle. The boy’s name is Jalil, and our people estimate that Jalil is 6 to 8-years-old. Jalil was picking grapes with his brother when the Taliban, according to reporting, told the boy to step on the bomb. It blew off his right leg below the knee, leaving hamburger on the stump, and fractured his femur. Afghans brought Jalil to the nearby American base called COP Kolk, where 4-4CAV Soldiers treated him. A helicopter took Jalil and his father to Kandahar Airfield for advanced treatment.

I asked the Taliban spokesman for his take on this, and he emailed back that “It is enemy propaganda.” The evidence is against him.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

" Can't get there from heah...."

What you're looking for is right across from the "Five & Dime" store and next to the TV Repair shop...places that are relics of the " Good Old Days "

Monday, July 25, 2011

Like Pigs at the feeding trough - Educators line themselves up for taxpayer-funded benefits of $100,000 a year or more

The fact that the number of $100K pensions has skyrocketed is a key indication that the people setting themselves up for these outrageously high retirements have no care for anyone else but themselves. Greedy Bastards who claim to have worked for this waste of taxpayers money. The educators only paid in 11% of their pay in and in return collect the other 89% from the taxpayers......Nice return when you get 800% back on your investment.

They claim that they are entitled to it because they worked hard over their careers...the many taxpayers who will be footing the bill for these blowhards worked hard also, they just didn't have a HACK based & written law mandating a major ripoff of the taxpayers assisting them.

These HACKS can make up all the reasons they want to justify this ripoff of the taxpayers. It is still an affront to all those who have to pay the way for these ripoff artists who have used the law to feather their own nest with a " I got mine" selfish attitude.

Educator’s pensions skyrocket
Expert: ‘Urgent need for reform’
By Chris Cassidy - Boston Herald
Monday, July 25, 2011

The number of retired Bay State public school employees raking in six-figure pensions has skyrocketed — more than doubling in just four years — contributing to a booming retirement bonanza that could plunge the Bay State into a deep financial crisis unless lawmakers move quickly to fix the system, experts told the Herald.

The latest pension records indicate 140 educators, most of them administrators, are enjoying retired life with taxpayer-funded benefits of $100,000 a year or more — up from 93 in 2009 and 55 in 2007, a Herald investigation found.

Topping the list is retired Randolph Superintendent Arthur Melia, with an annual pension of $147,492.

“I always strived to be No. 1 at everything, you know?” Melia told the Herald. “This was part of the law and part of what I earned over 32 years.”

Former Concord Superintendent Brenda Finn ($145,724) and retired Whittier Vocational Superintendent Karen Sarkisian ($142,913) round out the top three.

The June 30 figures from the Massachusetts Teachers Retirement System also showed educators’ pensions last fiscal year totaled $2.1 billion, up $300 million in two years.

“This is a serious problem, and there’s an urgent need for reform,” said Michael Widmer of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. “Just as companies have found they can’t afford defined pension plans because they’re too rich, governments are finding the same problems.”

“This is the tip of the pension iceberg,” said David Tuerck of the Beacon Hill Institute. “Sooner or later Massachusetts will reach a crisis point, where we find ourselves unable to maintain normal functions of government and are unable to pay for these pensions because of resistance of taxpayers to further tax increases.”

Critics point to the state’s generous formula that gives public retirees 80 percent of their three highest consecutive earning years. They warn the state is putting off the day of reckoning.

“They need to act fast,” said Jim Stergios of the Pioneer Institute. “This is something that’s not going away, and it’s going to eat up other services we’re trying to afford”

Gov. Deval Patrick introduced a pension reform bill in January that would push back retirement ages and base pensions on a retiree’s five highest years of service. A legislative subcommittee held a hearing in March and is considering other ideas, including putting a maximum cap on pensions, and expects to present a bill in early fall, state Rep. John Scibak said.

“The real thing I’m striving for is a system perceived both by state employees and the general public as fair and equitable,” said Scibak, who chairs the Public Service Committee.

The rising pensions are a result of a superintendent shortage and the grueling nature of the 24/7 job, which have driven up salaries, said Tom Scott of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents.

“There is a big problem with finding qualified people . . . even in this job market,” Scott said.

Paul Toner of the Massachusetts Teachers Association said strong pensions keep teachers from leaving the profession and that teachers now pay a higher percentage of their salary — 11 percent — into the system.

“A good pension is a major retention tool,” Toner said.

The AFGHANISTAN version of the " Non-Denial Denial "

As previously reviewed here, we are once again encountering the phenomena known as
"The Non-Denial Denial "

To wit: " Non-denial denial is a phrase that became popular in the wake of the Watergate scandal, referring to an equivocal denial, particularly one made by an official to the press."

READ between the lines here as US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker spoke to the press today in Kabul -

"We will stay as long as we need to and not one day more."

"Beyond 2014, even when Afghans have transitioned to a full security lead, I'm confident we and the international community will be in the position to work with Afghanistan to prevent any forcible return of the Taliban to power."

While both of these statements are technically true, they are also so wide open you could drive a Bradley Tank through them....

No, my good friends, this is the " New Germany ", this is the " New Korea ".....think about how long we have been in both of these places and then read the report again.

The NON-DENIAL DENIAL is alive and well......and in full effect.

No permanent U.S. bases in Afghanistan: U.S. ambassador
By Michelle Nichols
KABUL Mon Jul 25, 2011 4:02am EDT

KABUL (Reuters) - The United States has no interest in creating permanent military bases in Afghanistan and does not want to use the country as a platform to influence neighboring countries, the new U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan said Monday.

Washington is negotiating with the Afghan government on a deal to define the long-term American role in Afghanistan beyond the end of 2014, when NATO-led combat troops are due to leave after handing security control to the Afghan army and police.

It remains unclear whether the "strategic partnership" agreement would explicitly refer to possible U.S. military bases in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said the possibility of long-term U.S. bases can only be addressed once peace has been achieved.

"We have no interest in permanent bases in Afghanistan," said U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker shortly after he was sworn in at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, in an apparent nod to Afghanistan's powerful and wary neighbors.

"We will stay as long as we need to and not one day more."

Afghanistan has complex relationships with Pakistan and Iran, who see the country as vital to their own security and fear U.S. efforts to undermine their influence there, while both China and Russia are wary of U.S. ambitions in the region.

However, despite billions being poured into building up the Afghan security forces, the problems they face -- from illiteracy to corruption -- means both Afghans and foreigners expect some kind of continued military support beyond 2014, even if foreign troops are no longer on the front lines.

The United States may also be keen to keep bases for attacks on targets in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas believed to pose a terrorist threat, such as the base that was used to launch the raid that killed al Qaeda head Osama bin Laden earlier this year, analysts say.

Crocker said the United States had no hidden agenda.

"We have no interest in using Afghanistan as a platform to project influence into neighboring countries," he said.

"Our sole interest is in Afghanistan's security and sustainable stability and ensuring it will never again become a haven for international terrorism."

Crocker reopened the U.S. embassy in Kabul in 2001 after the Taliban were ousted by U.S.-backed Afghan forces for harboring al Qaeda militants, including bin Laden who was killed in May at his hideout in neighboring Pakistan.

Crocker has also served as U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon. Ambassadors are normally sworn in by the Secretary of State in Washington, but Crocker chose to be sworn in by a junior foreign service member in Kabul.

He said that as Afghanistan gradually took control of its own security, it was important to remind Afghans that there would be no "rush for the exits" by the international community.

"Beyond 2014, even when Afghans have transitioned to a full security lead, I'm confident we and the international community will be in the position to work with Afghanistan to prevent any forcible return of the Taliban to power," he said.

Supporting the Troops.....more than just a slogan

BRAVO ZULU to Ms. Kayyem for putting this issue on the radar screen for those who don't have a family member who has served and for anyone else who needs some perspective.

A soldier’s money
From health care to finances, we should protect those who protected us
By Juliette Kayyem - Boston Globe
July 25, 2011

LAST WEEK, 650 troops quietly left Afghanistan, beginning the long slog home as part of President Obama’s drawdown. At the same time, General David Petraeus, the architect of the surges in both Iraq and Afghanistan, formally resigned from the military to take over as director of the CIA. The timing was coincidental, but not without meaning: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now simultaneously moving to a close.

Petraeus handed his Afghanistan command to Marine Lieutenant General John Allen, who will oversee further troop departures. He also symbolically handed over some measure of responsibility for those troops’ future well-being to his wife, Holly Petraeus, who represents a rare growth industry in government: protecting and providing to our returning service members and veterans.

As a nation, we are simply unprepared for the numbers of returning troops we now face. The wars of the last ten years have created over 1.1 million veterans; another 2.4 million men and women are on active, National Guard, or reserve duty. This class includes soldiers who have served in combat longer than any in US history. Of the nearly 400,000 who have seen combat duty, more than 13,000 have spent at least 45 months - nearly four cumulative years - in combat.

We know so little about the magnitude and the depth of the issues they will be facing in health care, employment, and education. All they want is to go back to normal lives. And that too is a challenge.

Holly Petraeus will help wage a small piece of this upcoming war. She runs the Office of Service member Affairs for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the entity conceived and established (but not to be run) by Elizabeth Warren. Her statutory mission, authorized to begin just last week, is to provide financial education for service members. Many are “young and inexperienced, with twice-a-month guaranteed paychecks, who move to areas in the country where they have never lived before and try to make ends meet,’’ she told me in an interview. Outside many military installations in the United States are strips of storefronts offering too-good-to-be-true deals: buy this, buy that, pawn this, cash that.

Service members are stressed, in difficult situations, and money is often tight. A survey of US military personnel showed that 25 percent have over $10,000 in credit-card debt; only 50 percent have any sort of rainy day fund for financial emergencies.

Today, the number one reason for a service member to lose security clearance is not loose lips, or drugs, or espionage. It is failure to show good financial standing because they simply can’t get ahead of their bills.

The blame isn’t just with shifty car dealers and pawn brokers. Earlier this year, JPMorgan Chase violated the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act, which gives mortgage relief to deployed personnel, by overcharging thousands of clients and even foreclosing on 14 houses.

Financial woes may turn out to be the least of returning service members’ problems. At the highest levels of the Pentagon, there is a dawning recognition that we as a nation have no idea how the impact of excessive redeployments and the guerrilla nature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will affect soldiers and their families. The end of war has been marked by celebration in the streets, as in World War II, or a hurried helicopter ride, as in Vietnam. This time, it must be marked by a much greater effort to adapt to the needs and aspirations of those returning home.

We are now ending the longest volunteer-only military effort since the American Revolution. And because there has been no draft, the divide between the US military and citizens who were asked to sacrifice little has grown. “Supporting our troops’’ has become a cliché with no meaning. We have learned to love our troops - often for selfish reasons, such as avoiding a draft - without really knowing them. Service members represent just 0.8 percent of the population.

In the months and years to come, we will be welcoming home and into society a population the likes we have not seen in our lifetime; the sheer numbers who have seen combat over and over will change the nature of the moral duty we owe those who fought voluntarily. And it will begin to change us. Ask Petraeus. Either one.

Juliette Kayyem can be reached at

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"The only major beneficiaries of the recovery have been corporate profits and the stock market and its shareholders"

"The Horders" is not some reality show where we see a couple who has gathered too much stuff in their cramped quarters but rather the story of what businesses are doing in a period of record profits.

The heads of the corporations in questions are short sighted as the more they follow this path of grabbing profits and not sending that back to the workforce in the form of pay increases and benefits eventually (and likely already) have reached a tipping point where the workers (a.k.a. consumers) will not have the $$$ to spend on the goods and service which generate the profits.

Instead of allowing things to go along as they should, they are trying to strangle the very Golden Goose who supplies their profits. The Unions didn't help either as they are only interested in their own interests and that is not supporting workers but rather keeping things good for those in charge of the Unions. The Unions "use & abuse" the workers just like the businesses.

Northeastern economics professor Andrew Sum called the mismatch "historically unprecedented" and said it bodes ill for future growth..."Workers have no money, no purchasing power, so that's why consumption is not moving," he said.

A freshman economics student can tell you what happens next - The "GREED" factor causes the whole thing to stutter as the companies make it impossible for people to buy the new cars and other durable goods needed because they haven't been able to keep up with inflation. This is further evidence of the " I got mine" aspect in businesses and it will only result in prolonged recession and pain for the majority. The cost of gas and other consumer goods have risen steadily in the last two 1/2 years that the Feckless Fool in the White House has been in charge. This has happened on his watch and he is solely responsible for a failure to act.

And what does the Feckless Fool in the White House have to say about it??

" Time to eat your peas."- President Obama

Oh, and for the record, the Empty Suit and his family will still be going for their 10 day Martha's Vineyard Holiday (at taxpayers expense) even if the majority of Americans can't afford to have a vacation.

HEY, Mr. President - Have you ever heard the term, " Leadership by example ?" - No, I am SURE you haven't. He is the King of the " Do as I say, not as I do" set. And just for the record, he'll be on the government payroll for the rest of his life, regardless of how many people's lives he wrecked with his incompetence.

Companies churn out profits but not jobs

By Steven C. Johnson Reuters 24JULY2011

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The sluggish pace of hiring may be hobbling the U.S. economy, but it's not been holding back big U.S. companies' profits thanks to growth overseas and cost controls at home. And that's bad news for the more than 14 million Americans without jobs.

Big businesses would normally be desperate for surging job growth as it would feed into domestic demand but these aren't normal times. Massive growth opportunities overseas, especially in China and other buoyant Asian economies, have some of the largest American companies on track for record profits, even if they're businesses are mostly treading water in the U.S.

The message last week from the chief financial officer of one of the nation's industrial giants couldn't be clearer.

"We've driven all this cost out. Sales have come back, but people have not," said Greg Hayes, chief financial officer at United Technologies Corp. "It's the structural cost reductions that we have done over the past few years that have allowed us to see strong bottom-line results.

The company, the world's largest maker of air conditioners and elevators, said second-quarter profit rose 19 percent, and it is doing most of its hiring in emerging markets where demand for its products is growing fastest.

It isn't alone in seeing profits climb in the current earnings reporting season.

About 78 percent of companies in the benchmark S&P 500 index that have reported second-quarter earnings have beaten Wall Street expectations. Many benefited after slashing costs when the financial crisis hit and then keeping tight control on them even as sales recovered.

Economists say the ability to do more with less has helped create a two-speed U.S. recovery. The S&P 500 has doubled in value since the recession ended and per-share earnings are currently on track for a new annual record, while employment remains below the level seen in late 2008 when corporate profits troughed.

Employers added fewer jobs in June than at any time in the past nine months, and the jobless rate rose to 9.2 percent - not far below its level of 9.5 percent in June 2009 when the recession ended.

"We've never seen the kind of shedding of jobs that we saw in this recession. America's corporations have never been running so efficiently," said Ellen Zentner, senior U.S. economist at Nomura Securities in New York.


What's more, workers have never claimed such a paltry share of real national income growth. Economists at Northeastern University in Boston recently found corporate profits captured 88 percent of income growth between the second quarter of 2009 and the fourth quarter of 2010.

Workers' take? Slightly more than 1 percent.

"The only major beneficiaries of the recovery have been corporate profits and the stock market and its shareholders," the study concludes.

The high jobless rate is also keeping wage growth severely restrained in the U.S., which is also good for profit margins.

Recent Department of Labor data showed unit labor costs edged up 0.7 percent in the year to March, though not enough to make up a 2.9 percent decline in the prior 12-month period.

Northeastern economics professor Andrew Sum called the mismatch "historically unprecedented" and said it bodes ill for future growth, especially given many companies are sitting on their cash rather than investing it.

"Workers have no money, no purchasing power, so that's why consumption is not moving," he said. By sitting on profits, firms are acting like earners "who take their money and stuff it in the mattress. That's happening across the economy."

U.S. economic growth slowed sharply in the first quarter and was expected to remain below 2 percent in the April-June period.

Some blamed that on high energy prices and supply shortages caused by Japan's earthquake and are betting on a rebound in the second half.

A July Reuters poll put the median estimate for 2011 growth at 2.7 percent, down from 2.9 percent in 2010.


Businesses' ability to do more with the same or less -- what economists term increased productivity -- has been rising since the 1990s, thanks partly to technological advancements and the ability to tap markets in fast-growing, lower-cost developing countries.

Some of the most profitable firms are those with overseas markets. The largest U.S. conglomerate General Electric Co. tied its 21.6 percent rise in earnings partly to strong foreign demand for its heavy equipment, including jet engines and electric turbines.

In the United States, things are obviously different. Consumers are still trying to pay down large debts built up during the boom years, which suppresses spending and means there is little incentive for companies to hire.

"It's a chicken-and-egg thing -- whether demand or supply drives growth," Zentner said. "Studies show that lack of sales for small business is the biggest impediment to hiring."

Even companies selling basic consumer products are feeling the pinch as the jobless and those on low incomes watch the pennies. Pepsi Co Inc tempered its full-year outlook this week and said performance in its North American beverage business was worse than expected.

In the cost-conscious auto industry. General Motors Co's top U.S. sales chief, Don Johnson, told Reuters that its manufacturing managers have been "squeaking out extra units through improving line rates, adding on extra shifts". The company indicated it is in no hurry to build new factories or hire lots of new workers.

Uncertainty about future tax rates and policy, a by-product of the deadlock in Washington over whether to raise the country's borrowing limit and how to rein in a gaping budget deficit, has also made firms cautious, said Jacob Oubina, senior U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets.

But Doug Cliggott, U.S. equity strategist at Credit Suisse, said investors and CEOs alike should probably prepare for more subdued earnings in the second half and beyond.

For one thing, growth abroad appears to be slowing as booming economies such as China and Brazil try to tame inflation. Heavy machine maker Caterpillar blamed slower U.S. and global growth for disappointing quarterly earnings on Friday.

And while U.S. interest rates are likely to remain very low for some time, companies won't be able to rely on massive federal spending, which Cliggott said also helped boost profits over the past two years.

(Additional reporting by Scott Malone in Boston, Nick Zieminksi in New York and Clare Baldwin in Detroit; Editing by Martin Howell)

Taliban hang eight-year-old son of Afghanistan police chief

If the headline on this post doesn't cause you to be filled with an overwhelming feeling of horror, disgust and desire to stamp out these vile bastards, I am not sure what would.

The Taliban are Narco-Terrorists, plain & simple. They use the religious issue as a screen while they try to terrorize the populations of the AF/PAK region. Their main source of funding is Opium and they have no care for anything other than their own soulless & twisted version of reality.

I defer to USMC General James Mattis and his words on what we should do about this Godless Group of Murderers:

" You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually it's quite fun to fight them, you know. It's a hell of a hoot. "

General James N. Mattis - Commander of the US Central Command (USCENTCOM).

ROGER THAT SIR. If they want to see their God, we'll be more than happy to arrange the meeting.

Taliban hang eight-year-old son of Afghanistan police chief
By Daily Mail Reporter
24th July 2011

Suspected members of the Taliban hung the eight-year-old son of a police commander after ordering his father to surrender, it was claimed today.

The Deutsche Presse-Agentur news agency reported that the young boy was kidnapped by militants in the Greshk district of Helmand province last Tuesday.

He was hanged on Friday after they demanded his father give himself up or else the boy would be executed.

'The militants had warned his father to surrender with his police vehicle and weapons, otherwise they would kill his son,' provincial governor spokesman Daud Ahmadi told the agency.

While child executions by the Taliban are not common, children often fall victim to Taliban militants when they carry out attacks.

Youngsters have also been used by the Taliban as suicide bombers.

Two months ago, four civilians were killed and 12 others were injured when a 12-year-old suicide bomber blew himself up at a crowded market in eastern Afghanistan.

The Taliban have always denied using children to carry out their attacks.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A pair of feckless Pols who haven't got a clue.....

Yoda: Always two there are, no more, no less. A master and an apprentice.

At times like this, it is hard to decide whether Master Yoda was speaking about The Sith or Politics in Washington DC and Beacon Hill in Boston.

The Feckless POL who sits in the White House taking temper tantrums because the world refuses to recognize his "alledged greatness" got another in a long line of "reality checks" as the unemployment figures from June show that the majority of states saw an increase in their unemployment rates, with the 2nd largest group having their rates remain unchanged.....Pain & misery for all those who are seeking jobs and/or losing homes, amounting to further evidence that this idiot who was elected by those who bought into his "hopey changey" BS is as shallow as piss on a flat rock.

To think that you could have the unmitigated gall to try for a 2nd term when your first term is so marked with incompetence....His Presidency is a new high-water mark in political train wrecks and he & his feckless comrades want to try to bull-shite their way into 4 more years of this defies all common sense.

States see unemployment rates rise
UPI July 23, 2011

-- Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia saw their unemployment rates increase in June, the U.S. Labor Department said.

In June, 14 states saw no change in their unemployment rates, while eight states recorded decreases, the department said in report released Friday.

The number of jobs rose in 26 states and the District of Columbia, while 24 states saw the number of jobs decline.

Texas added the most non-farm jobs in June, gaining by 32,000. California added 28,800 jobs in the month -- having lost 29,200 in the previous month -- while Michigan added 18,000 jobs in June.

The largest declines were posted by Tennessee, which lost 16,900 jobs. Missouri lost the second largest number, down 15,700. In Virginia, 14,600 jobs were lost in the month.

The unemployment rate is highest in Nevada, where the rate jumped from 12.1 percent in May to 12.4 percent. California's unemployment rate, second highest in the nation, is 11.8 percent.

North Dakota, on the other end of the spectrum, has an unemployment rate of 4.1 percent, the lowest in the country, but a sharp jump from the 3.2 percent unemployment rate for the state in May.

The national unemployment rate was 9.2 percent in June

And then there's this....It seems that Governor "Spend-it-all" Deval Patrick needs to learn that " Denial " is not just a river in Egypt.....what a putz.

Gov. Deval Patrick doubts high jobless rate will cost Obama his job
By Thomas Grillo
Friday, July 22, 2011 - Boston Herald

While touting Massachusetts’ success at putting people back to work, Gov. Deval Patrick predicted yesterday that his pal President Obama won’t lose his job because of the nation’s high unemployment rate.

“I don’t think that any economic indicator will determine who the next president is,” Patrick told the Herald. “I think the economy is incredibly important, but I think it’s most important that people realize that this president has a plan for investing in our growth.”

Nate Little, executive director of the Massachusetts Republican Party, said Patrick’s comments show that the governor is out of touch.

“Isn’t the oldest saying in the book people vote with their pocketbooks?” Little said. “And I have no doubt that they’re going to next November. ‘It’s the economy, stupid’ still holds true.”

Patrick, who won re-election last year despite a high jobless rate and has pledged not to run again, frequently boasts that the Bay State’s unemployment rate — which remained unchanged at 7.6 percent in June — is better than the 9.2 percent national average, which has increased in recent months.

“We have an unemployment rate which is well below the national average,” said Patrick yesterday. “We have been growing jobs here in the Commonwealth faster than 46 other states and that’s not by accident. We have a strategy based on investing in education and innovation and infrastructure and it’s working. But at 7.6 percent here in the Commonwealth, we still have a lot of people out of work so we have to keep going and I’m determined to do that until everybody who seeks work can find it.”In fact, 263,800 Bay State residents remain unemployed and major employers continue to move high-paying jobs out of state.

“They are dealing with growing pains and economic adjustments like everyone else,” Patrick said of companies that are moving jobs out of Massachusetts. “I’m obviously concerned about any individual whose life and family has been disrupted because of some of the decisions of those firms, but we are doing everything we can in every sector to expand opportunity and we are playing a long game here.”

While the state lost 4,100 jobs in May, the Patrick administration reported that Massachusetts added 10,400 jobs in June, which is astonishingly more than half the new jobs created in the entire United States — a meager 18,000 — last month. The state unemployment rate is based on a monthly sample of households, while the job estimates are derived from a monthly sample survey of employers, which is why the two statistics for June exhibit different trends

Brits find 15mph speed limit on AFGHN bases a little "limiting"

There are certain things you have to adjust to when you spend a significant amount of time out here in Afghanistan.

It is dusty - HEAT, like the kind they are complaining about back home but for months instead of days/weeks - Food at the chow halls is "meh" - living in cramped qtrs. - basic bathrooms and shower facilities -

And the one overriding rule if you are driving anywhere on base - The 15 mph speed limit. In an effort to not lose anyone to needless accidents, the speed limit is set at 15 mph on all ISAF bases. This is exceedingly slow, especially if you need to get from point A to point B on base and you are running late. I got pulled over once on KAF because I was tooling along on the perimeter road at the ungodly rate of 40 mph. The MP who pulled me over was fairly understanding when I told him I was late for a flight and needed to get back out to the Whiskey Ramp. He gently suggested that I take it slower as there was a rather hefty fine for speeding.

Well it seems our allies the Brits have had to deal with this issue also....Must be from watching all those episodes of TOP GEAR that has got the chaps ready to get behind the wheel and yell, " More POWER !!!"

Speed guns new threat to troops in Afghanistan as top brass fine drivers for breaking 15mph limit
By UK Mail On Sunday Reporter
24th July 2011

Military police are using speed guns to catch soldiers staging ‘wacky races’ in armoured vehicles at Britain’s main base in Afghanistan.

The crackdown follows a series of accidents at Camp Bastion after soldiers raced against each other in combat trucks worth tens of millions of pounds.

Squaddies caught taking part in races have been fined £50 – a day’s pay – and received a ticking off from commanders. The speed limit inside the base is 15 miles per hour.

Vehicles at the huge desert garrison, where 10,000 UK troops are based, include the powerful, four-ton Jackal armoured car, which can reach up to 80 mph.

There are also various 20-ton armoured personnel carriers,
24-ton Warrior armoured vehicles, and hundreds of civilian off-road 4x4s.
Commanders argue that safety is paramount and the speed guns are necessary to avoid accidents.

But many frontline troops are unhappy over the crackdown, saying ‘politically correct’ officers have already ordered checks on uniforms and hair length.
One soldier said: ‘If it wasn’t so serious it would be funny, but these guys are taking their jobs too seriously. We already have the “style police”, who have nothing better to do than check our uniforms are pressed.

‘Then we have the “haircut police” telling everyone to get a haircut. It is bonkers when there is a war going on.’

A senior RAF officer said: ‘If it saves one life then I think it will have been worth it.’

An MoD spokesman said: ‘We take road safety as seriously on operations as we do in the UK.

Just Another Day At The Beach

US NAVY PHOTO 110708-N-DI587-040 PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla. (July 8, 2011) The U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, perform the "Diamond 360" maneuver during the Pensacola Beach Air Show. The show was part of the 2011 show season and in celebration of the Centennial of Naval Aviation. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rachel McMarr/Released)

All in how you define the "problem"

Not like I have a lot of faith in Congress either as they were one of the "prime enablers" in letting the President spend us into a $14 Trillion Dollar hole....We need to take the keys away from the idjit-in-charge and elect someone who understands that you CAN'T spend what you don't HAVE !!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Nasa's HL-20, The Dream Chaser.....Is this our next Space Vehicle ??

There's been quite a bit of anguish due to the end of the Space Shuttle program. I feel that way too but at the same time, it is 1970's technology....we've retrofitted it with improvements but it is still akin to loading the family into a 1972 Impala Station Wagon for a cross country trip and hoping nothing goes wrong on the 6000 mile round trip.

Here is one of the proposed replacements.....It is on schedule for a 2015 launch.

Pictured above is a scale model of Nasa's HL-20, the Dream Chaser's inspiration. On the right, a wire-frame image, again of the HL-20. Before the Dream Chaser launches in 2015, it needs to pass a safety checklist that includes, atmospheric, orbital and crew-rated testing.

Like many other vehicles, they evolve and the newer ones are "leaner, meaner, cheaper & better".....Here's hoping that they "make it so.."

Will This Spaceship Replace the Shuttle?

The next-generation spaceship chosen to fly American astronauts into orbit and back may look a lot like NASA's soon-to-be-retired space shuttle — and it even has NASA roots, too.

The Dream Chaser space plane, a private spaceship under development by the firm Sierra Nevada Corp., is in the running to provide orbital taxi services to NASA for trips to the International Space Station.

With the end of NASA's space shuttle program, the space agency will rely on others for travel to space. Here are the leading companies and their current generation space taxi systems.

The Dream Chaser vehicle looks much like a miniature version of the space shuttle, and its design is based largely on the HL-20, a NASA concept vehiclefirst drawn up in the early 1980s.

Sierra Nevada officials celebrated Dream Chaser's NASA heritage with a June 22 event at the agency's Langley Research Center in Virginia.

"I had made a promise that if we ever got to the point where the program was beginning to go to the next level, that we would find a way to come back and thank all of those people who enabled this," Sierra Nevada chairman Mark Sirangelo told the crowd, according to a NASA statement. [Vote Now! The Best Spaceships of All Time]

Secret Soviet spaceship origins

NASA didn't dream up the HL-20 all by itself. Rather, the agency was inspired by photos taken in 1982 by an Australian spy plane, which showed a Soviet ship recovering a spacecraft from the Indian Ocean.

"We spent a long time trying to figure out what it was," said Del Freeman, who was one of the few people at Langley with security clearance to see the photos.

The Soviet craft, it turns out, was a mini-shuttle called the BOR-4. NASA engineers used the photos to build a cherry-wood model of their own, which served as a starting point for the vehicle that would come to be known as the HL-20 (for horizontal lander). [10 Unrealized Military Aircraft Concepts]

"We were reverse-engineering it," Freeman said of the BOR-4. "Finally, we got enough information to build a model, and we put it into [a wind] tunnel. When we tested it, we really figured out that we had something."

The HL-20 evolved, then stalled when NASA moved on to other things. Then the idea of a space taxi stalled altogether, NASA officials said. But Sierra Nevada eventually revived the vehicle's basic idea.

Dream Chaser takes shape

The commercial space company SpaceDev, which was later acquired by Sierra Nevada, publicly announced plans for the Dream Chaser vehicle in 2004. Multiple concepts were initially considered, but ultimately company officials opted to go with the HL-20.

"The HL-20 had the best combination — a lot of history, a lot of testing done on it," Sirangelo said. "Also, the people who worked on it are still alive and around and engaged, so we had a chance to get that history."

The spacecraft of two decades ago and today's Dream Chaser look remarkably alike, officials said.

"You'd be surprised at how little it's changed," Sirangelo told the NASA employees. "The more we got into it, the more we realized how smart you all were."

The Colorado-based Sierra Nevada kept working on the Dream Chaser, and its efforts have paid off. On April 18, NASA awarded the company $80 million to continue developing the spacecraft after it was judged among four winners of the second round of the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

$18 Million Dollar Ferrari.....or you can have what is behind Door #2 ?

If you had $18 Million Dollars, would you be able to part with it for this piece of Automotive history ? It is a rare and exotic girl, one that would take your breath away each and every time you drove it but is that worth $18 Million ?

For $18 Million Dollars, I could buy a $2 Million Dollar home in Maui for the winters, another $2 Million dollar home on Cape Cod for the summers, spend a few million outfitting both homes along with filling the garages with some nice wheels (classic ones of course) and still have plenty of $$$ left over to enjoy...

She is a beautiful and rare car but I am not sure I would part with $18 Million for her even if I had it.....just sayin'

Records to fall?
The 1957 Ferrari Testa Rossa prototype heads the lots at Gooding's Monterey sale – will it create another record?
21st July 2011

Gooding & Company is offering the 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa Prototype and the 1963 Shelby Cobra 289 Factory Team Car at the world-renowned Pebble Beach Auctions on 20-21 August. It's the 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa Prototype that really interests – joins an elite list of extraordinary competition Ferraris that have crossed the block at Gooding & Company's auctions, including the record-breaking 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider that sold for $ 7.26m and the 1961 Ferrari 250GT SWB Berlinetta SEFAC Hot Rod that sold for $ 6.1m in 2010. And if it sells, the expectation is that it will be for a record amount.

The 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa Prototype, Chassis 0666 TR started it all as the prototype and test-bed for the Testa Rossa line, which is arguably the most successful series of sports racing cars in history. Based on the 290MM, the prototype TR was assembled in 1957 featuring the classic V12 engine, de Dion rear axle and right-hand drive. The car debuted at the Nurburgring 1000kms where Masten Gregory and Olindo Morolli finished in 10th place. As a factory team car, 0666 TR practiced in Sweden and ran the GP of Sweden. After receiving pontoon-fender coachwork by Scaglietti, Ferrari campaigned the car in the Venezuelan Grand Prixand the 1000kms of Buenos Aires, where it placed an impressive 3rd and 2nd, respectively. It has been raced at all of the major events worldwide including Sebring, Nurburgring and Le Mans, as well as SCCA events. Restored to superb condition with its original, matching-numbers engine and 1958 NART livery, the wildly impressive historic racer has won two Best in Class trophies from Pebble Beach, a Platinum Award and the TR Cup at Cavallino, and it is one of only two factory Classiche-certified TRs in existence. With just two owners in 40 years, this car's presentation at auction this August is a once in a lifetime opportunity. If this Testa Rossa sells next month, it will be the most valuable car ever sold at auction in the world.

Also on offer is the 1963 Shelby Cobra 289 Factory Team Car, CSX2129. Completed in May 1963, CSX2129 was built by Shelby to full 'Sebring' specification as a Factory Team Car. In what would become an unprecedented year for Shelby, CSX2129 competed through the 1963 USSRC season at the hand of Bob Bondurant and, predominantly, Ken Miles. Numerous class victories and pole positions marked CSX2129's successful 1963 season playing a major role in Shelby America's win of the USRRC Manufacturer's Championship, USRRC Driver's Championship and an SCCA Championship. Successfully raced by Graham Shaw in 1964, the 289 team car returned to Shelby and was displayed at the 1964 New York World's Fair. Now fashionable in its authentic 1963 team livery, this American motorsport legend has an estimate of $ 2.4m - $ 2.8m and will be an exciting highlight of Gooding & Company's Pebble Beach Auctions.