Friday open thread

You have to check out the following video of a home that has lights synchronized to various Christmas songs – it’s amazing!

Can you imagine being this guy’s next door neighbor, though? LOL!

Update: OMG – check THIS one out, done to Wizards of Winter by Trans Siberian Orchestra (Hat tip: chard in the comment section):

Now that one would drive me nuts!

Sat Update: Hi ya’ll – had a super busy day today getting some last minute things done before Christmas. I returned this evening to a ton of spam, and made the mistake of deleting all comments in moderation before checking to see if some were legit, so if you attemped to post something and it didn’t show up, my apologies as it’s likely my fault.

Be back to blogging Sunday.

Members of the military, others, respond to Rep. Rangel and Sen. Kerry’s insults about their education

First, a recap of Rangel’s and Kerry’s comments about our troops:

Rep. Rangel – 11/26/06: “I want to make it abundantly clear: if there’s anyone who believes that these youngsters want to fight, as the Pentagon and some generals have said, you can just forget about it. No young, bright individual wants to fight just because of a bonus and just because of educational benefits. And most all of them come from communities of very, very high unemployment. If a young fella has an option of having a decent career or joining the army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life that he would not be in Iraq.”

Rep. Rangel – 1/7/03: “”Those who love this country have a patriotic obligation to defend this country” Rangel said. “For those who say the poor fight better, I say give the rich a chance.”

Senator Kerry – 10/30/06: “You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

And now, a word or two in response from our members of our fine military, family members, and others:

Arnold Dupuy put his education on hold to serve his country:

“I was working on my second M.A. when an opportunity arose to train Afghan soldiers. I jumped at the chance, as I wanted to make a contribution to the war effort and help the Afghan people. I dropped out of classes, left my wife and two young children, and with a team of exceptionally intelligent and dedicated men, trained several hundred Afghan artillery men. I have since resumed my studies and will finish next year. Other than being a parent, that experience has been one of the most satisfying of my life.

Furthermore, my brother completed three tours in Southeast Asia; my father fought the Japanese in Burma; and my grandfather served in Europe in both world wars. They were all highly intelligent, educated men who made the military a career not because they were losers, but because they loved this country.

Why is it so difficult for Kerry, Rangel and their ilk to understand that bright men and women will put on the uniform not out of desperation but out of love and devotion to their county? ”

Brian O’Rourke didn’t make the cut:

“In 1992, my senior year of college, I was rejected for military service on medical grounds: I had asthma after age 12. Because people like Rangel were screaming at the time for a “peace dividend,” the military was drawing down its forces at a rate like that at the end of World War II. Had I not failed the physical on those grounds, I’d most likely be in the Coast Guard (though I was flirting with the blue water Navy as well) fighting drug dealers in the Caribbean, or guarding ports in the Gulf, or searching tankers off Boston harbor. Sadly, I’m not, so I live military life vicariously, through my best man, who though an Air Force staff officer was awarded a Bronze Star for his service in Iraq; through a former student’s service in the Navy–even now traveling home from the Middle East; through another groomsman in the Army reserve who has been to many ugly mudholes around the world; and through others who have come and gone from my life over the years.

The two men in my wedding graduated from college with me, from Tufts, which has a long, distinguished history of ROTC and a more recent, shameful one of disparaging the hell out of the men and women who join it. I know from firsthand witness that they’ve been mocked, jeered at and insulted in Rangelian terms since they began their undergraduate years. All this at a school that is among the most highly selective schools in the country–a school that has produced quite a few of the self-styled cognoscenti in Kerry and Rangel’s service. That former student is an Annapolis grad. I taught him in high school, and he could have gone to any school in the country–he chose service–and now he’s my daughter’s godfather.

In the final analysis, I’m always a little embarrassed that I failed the physical, because from a young age I wanted to serve, and wheezy lungs seems like such a stupid reason to have to be a “wannabe.” But my association with these friends is a great honor to me. These men are smart, capable and honorable, and Rangel isn’t fit to lace their combat boots. ”

Bob Crotty salutes his son’s bravery:

“In rebuttal to the Rangel/Kerry attitude towards today’s military, I offer a brief story about my son’s service. He is a second lieutenant in the Army headed to Korea next year.

He graduated from Stanford with a 3.2 average and a degree in computer science in June 2006. He could be enjoying his first job in Silicon Valley or elsewhere, but instead decided, on his own, to try Army ROTC as a freshman at Stanford. Stanford, of course, does not permit ROTC on its campus, so Bobby and numerous other Stanford students drove the hour round trip to Santa Clara University several times a week to pursue ROTC.

The Army offered Bobby a four-year scholarship as a freshman, but I counseled him to turn it down because he did not need the financial assistance. As a dad who served in the military, I would wholeheartedly support his decision to serve. But, because we are in the midst of a war, I wanted him to be certain that he wanted to serve. At the beginning of his sophomore year and without telling us until afterwards, he accepted an Army scholarship and committed to serving at least four years of active duty. He is currently on active duty and hopes to attend Ranger school before shipping out to his first duty station in Korea.

I had a chance to meet a number of the young men and women in his ROTC unit, as well as the Santa Clara University ROTC cadre–what an impressive group! I can confidently report that the country’s military is, and will continue to be, in good hands, much better hands than the likes of Kerry or Rangel. Those young ROTC students are the best of American youth, willing to serve their country in a time of peril. We sing that we are the land of the free and the home of the brave. I ask you, who today is braver than those serving in the military?”

Capt. Michael Tyson writes in from the front:

“I have been deployed to Iraq for almost two months and only recently got to a point where I can take some time every day to read Best of the Web. I’ve been trying to catch up, and latched on to the series of emails you’ve received from folks like me in response to the Hon. Kerry and Rangel.

Let me tell you about my team. We are small, numbering only nine, but judging by the responses you’ve gotten, we are typical. I have been serving this great nation for a little over 20 years, most of that time enlisted. I joined a year out of high school. A short nine years later I finished my bachelor’s; I would have finished it sooner, but deployments to Saudi and shift work made it difficult. I finished with a degree in Russian and a 3.67 GPA. I am now an officer with a master’s in national security studies.

My team chief is a man with about 15 years’ Air Force experience and a bachelor’s degree, and he just happens to speak five languages, all but one of which he learned in the Air Force.

The next three of my team have varying years of experience (from 6 to 12). All speak Arabic fluently (none had Arabic-speaking parents). All but one have a bachelor’s degree. One speaks five other languages fluently.

My lead technician is a Desert Storm veteran and is now on his second tour to the Middle East. Did I mention he’s a civilian and he volunteered for this?

My other technician just got accepted for a new assignment to serve on Air Force One. He has a bachelor’s degree and is actively seeking a master’s program for when he gets to Washington.

My senior operator has a bachelor’s degree in Korean and is on her second Iraq deployment, having spent only four months at home between the two trips. Yes, she volunteered for both.

Lastly, I have an operator who is celebrating his first wedding anniversary in a few days. He has spent a total of three months with his new bride this entire first year of his marriage. And yes, he’s volunteered for every deployment this last year. Additionally, he got back from a yearlong remote tour in Korea a little more than a year ago.

Oh, did I mention all of my team except me are enlisted? This is typical of what I’ve seen in the last 20-plus years.

Cheers from the sandbox, sir.”

And, of course, let’s not forget about this initial response from members of our military ;)

Hat tip: Anchoress

The WaPo movie review of “The Pursuit of Happyness”

I have been eagerly awaiting the release of Will Smith’s new movie The Pursuit of Happyness, in which he stars as a homeless father who has this ‘never say quit’ attitude towards succeeding. A brief synopsis of the movie:

The rousing, true-life story of a single dad who went from living on the streets to working on Wall Street is brought to the big screen by superstar Will Smith, appearing for the first time opposite his real-life son Jaden Smith. Set in early-’80s San Francisco, the film charts the hard times and eventual comeback of Chris Gardner, a divorced salesman who wins custody of his son, but finds that providing for the two of them is a challenge in the increasingly unstable economic climate. He struggles to work his way from unpaid intern at Dean Witter to something more substantial, even as life continues to offer him setbacks. Making his Hollywood debut, Italian director Gabriele Muccino was championed by Will Smith for the project. ~ Michael Hastings, All Movie Guide

The movie debuts in theaters today.

All the previews I’ve seen of this movie suggest an empahsis on the very important role fathers play in the lives of their children (something that, IMO, we don’t see nearly enough of in movies and TV shows today), as well as promotes the idea that you can do anything you want in life: you just have to want to work hard for it (gasp!).

Surprisingly, the WaPo gave this pick-yourself-up-off-the-floor-and-dust-yourself-and-try-again movie a decent review. You can read it here. The NYTimes review is a little less charitable, as it characterizes Smith’s character as not just wanting a humble house to raise his son but a mansion. Sigh … I guess it’s wrong to dream big. But overall, their write-up wasn’t too bad – not for the NYT, anyway.

In any event, all signs point to this one being a “must-see.” It should be especially enjoyable seeing that Smith’s son Jaden plays his son in the movie – rumor has it he steals the show :)

Hat tip: Brian at Iowa Voice

The Congressional divide

With the speculation on what the Senate would look like should Senator Tim Johnson be unable to serve out the remainder of his term in Congress (good news: it looks like he’s getting better) reaching fever pitch, Alex Kamen at the Washington Post weighs in with this timely piece about the 83rd Congress from 1953 and 1954, a time, Kamen reports, that 9 of the then-96 Senators passed away (including one who committed suicide).

That article also provides some important reminders that really dirty politics is not a new thing in Washington, DC. It may seem so, because of the increased coverage the alleged dirty laundry of politicians in a world with Internet news and 24-7 cable news outlets, but in actuality in some ways the dirty politics of yesteryear are actually worse than they are today. That’s not an excuse for some of the cheap tricks we see, mind you, but all the same, it’s worth noting.

Kerry volunteers to talk to Iran and Syria

I guess old habits die hard. Allah’s got the details.

Update: On a more serious note, author and historian Arthur Herman has a must-read piece up at Commentary Online which discusses how he believes the US should respond to Iran:

But, as I have tried to show, the most immediate menace Iran poses is not nuclear but conventional in nature. How might it be dealt with militarily, and is it conceivable that both perils could be dealt with at once? What follows is one possible scenario for military action.

The first step would be to make it clear that the United States will tolerate no action by any state that endangers the international flow of commerce in the Straits of Hormuz. Signaling our determination to back up this statement with force would be a deployment in the Gulf of Oman of minesweepers, a carrier strike group’s guided-missile destroyers, an Aegis-class cruiser, and anti-submarine assets, with the rest of the carrier group remaining in the Indian Ocean. The U.S. Navy could also deploy UAV’s (unmanned air vehicles) and submarines to keep watch above and below against any Iranian missile threat to our flotilla.

Our next step would be to declare a halt to all shipments of Iranian oil while guaranteeing the safety of tankers carrying non-Iranian oil and the platforms of other Gulf states. We would then guarantee this guarantee by launching a comprehensive air campaign aimed at destroying Iran’s air-defense system, its air-force bases and communications systems, and finally its missile sites along the Gulf coast. At that point the attack could move to include Iran’s nuclear facilities—not only the “hard” sites but also infrastructure like bridges and tunnels in order to prevent the shifting of critical materials from one to site to another.

Above all, the air attack would concentrate on Iran’s gasoline refineries. It is still insufficiently appreciated that Iran, a huge oil exporter, imports nearly 40 percent of its gasoline from foreign sources, including the Gulf states. With its refineries gone and its storage facilities destroyed, Iran’s cars, trucks, buses, planes, tanks, and other military hardware would run dry in a matter of weeks or even days. This alone would render impossible any major countermoves by the Iranian army. (For its part, the Iranian navy is aging and decrepit, and its biggest asset, three Russian-made Kilo-class submarines, should and could be destroyed before leaving port.)

The scenario would not end here. With the systematic reduction of Iran’s capacity to respond, an amphibious force of Marines and special-operations forces could seize key Iranian oil assets in the Gulf, the most important of which is a series of 100 offshore wells and platforms built on Iran’s continental shelf. North and South Pars offshore fields, which represent the future of Iran’s oil and natural-gas industry, could also be seized, while Kargh Island at the far western edge of the Persian Gulf, whose terminus pumps the oil from Iran’s most mature and copiously producing fields (Ahwaz, Marun, and Gachsaran, among others), could be rendered virtually useless. By the time the campaign was over, the United States military would be in a position to control the flow of Iranian oil at the flick of a switch.

I know this will lead to the inevitable cries of “neocon warmongers!!!” from certain folks, but I’d really like to see an engaging flame-free discussion of this proposal in the comments section, because, whether some people want to admit it or not, Iran is a very serious threat and something is going to have to be done about them – not later, but sooner. What that “something” is, however, is the big question.

John Hawkins interviews 2008 Republican pres. contender Rep. Duncan Hunter

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about Rep. Duncan Hunter (52nd District in CA), who has thrown his hat in the ring as a contender for the Republican nomination for president in 2008.

I know he’s not well known, but the guy is definitely worth a second look and thankfully, John Hawkins has helped us out with that by conducting an interview with him. You can read the interview here.