Iran and North Korea are Making a Mockery of Obama

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May 312009

Don’t you feel like everything is under control and will work itself out now that we have the crack foreign policy team of Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton handling Iran and North Korea?

In the old days at Officer Candidate School, the “tac officers,” snapping and snarling, would circle a hapless would-be lieutenant:

“You’re lost, Candidate.”

“You’re confused.

“What are you going to do now?”

“Make a decision! Make a decision!”

That cherished image of the bewildered victim of calculated harassment fits President Obama perfectly, when it comes to the shambles he’s made of foreign policy in record time.

Around the globe, our enemies — immediate and potential — are testing Obama to see how far they can go. Thus far, he hasn’t set a limit anywhere. Not a single dictator or terrorist leader got a single time-out.

Last week, North Korea nuke-mooned him, then spit missiles in multiple directions. Our president admonished Pyongyang. Words solve everything in Obama-World.

The Master of the Teleprompter didn’t seem to grasp the basics: Like spoiled brats, the North Koreans were demanding attention (and got it); Pyongyang never honors agreements; and, above all, this isn’t our problem to solve — it’s China’s. We just need to worry about nuke exports and keep our Navy gainfully employed.

Instead, we’ve let ourselves be set up as the bad cop, with Beijing as the good cop. We get the responsibilities, Beijing gets the benefits.

Until Beijing decides to get tough on North Korea, nothing happens. China keeps North Korea on a lifeline, viewing the famine-plagued land of routine horrors as a potential economic slave-state, once the Kim dynasty disintegrates. Beijing’s been confident that it’s ultimately in control of the neighborhood nukes.

Now the Chinese are having second thoughts: By allowing North Korea to go nuke, Beijing made a mistake similar to our own in backing the worst Islamist elements against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

We thought we could manage the Mujaheddin. China thought it could control the North Koreans. Now the dark-suited men in Beijing aren’t so sure.

Toss them the football. We’ve got enough to do.

A pervasive flaw in Obama’s approach to all foreign-policy problems is his chattering-class conviction that individuals and states will behave rationally in a crisis. History suggests otherwise (does Kim Jong-Il look rational to you?). But Obama lives in a world of contractual relations, the realm of the Harvard Law Review.

Our opponents view the world as a zero-sum game. And calm demeanors aren’t their strong suit.

Iran’s also defiant, plowing ahead with its nuclear-weapons program. As it turns out, Tehran has plenty of reasons to be confident that Obama won’t act against the regime: the administration has yanked — hard — on Israel’s military leash while engaging in murky dealings with Iran.

I’d love to know how Obama really feels about Israel.

Then there’s Hugo “Embraceable You” Chavez, who’s almost done dismantling Venezuela’s once-robust democracy. Elected officials from the opposition are beaten, jailed, locked out or driven into exile. Media freedom’s nearly dead. A once-vibrant economy’s a disaster. Corruption and demagoguery reign. And Chavez wants nukes, too.

Out of words, for once, Obama has nothing to say.

What does democracy matter, anyway? Ballots and human rights are so Bush-Cheney. In the next few days, Obama will rush to embrace the authoritarian regime in Egypt before crawling to Saudi Arabia. (How deep will his bow to the king go this time? Will photographers be kept away?)

Al Qaeda’s just a symptom. Wahhabism, sponsored globally by the Saudis, is the disease. And don’t Obama’s swooners-in-sweatpants care about the rights of Muslim women?

Sorry, I mis-wrote. Muslim women don’t have rights. Rights are for college-educated Western BFFs who trade tips on day-spas and where to get the best price on organic cat food.

(Then there’s Speaker Pelosi, who worried so terribly about the human rights of a handful of terrorists at Gitmo, but didn’t dare whisper one criticism of Beijing’s abuses of a billion Chinese during her recent pilgrimage to Beijing.)

And don’t overlook Russia, where we “hit the re-set button.” Well, the button must’ve been made in China, because it not only doesn’t work — it’s poisonous. Putin continues to menace his neighbors, suppress dissent (murderously, when necessary), and undercut every effort we make in the region.

Obama’s so desperate to get an arms treaty that he’s offering huge, unbalanced cuts in our nuclear arsenal. Feel safe yet?

While everything else is falling down around our president, the Obama Doctrine stands: Every enemy is a friend, or can be made into one. Let’s talk about it.

Meanwhile, Obama’s so far out of his depth that the only role-model he can turn to for Afghanistan is LBJ. Don’t have a clue what to do? Send more troops.

In Vietnam, we at least had secure supply lines and sensible rules of engagement. But, then, why feel sorry for our soldiers? Obama’s supporters know that those in uniform are all expendable losers. Since the change in administrations, we haven’t heard many chants of “Support our troops, bring them home!”

The hypocrisy’s inexhaustible.

Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, our border with Mexico . . . Gitmo . . . better order some back-up teleprompters.


They Never Said That!

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May 312009

You can misquote me on this: “Too much fact checking has ruined many a good news story.” ~ Gags (Evaluation)

The misstep was probably inevitable, given the many comparisons made between Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln. With seven weeks to go in Obama’s presidential campaign, the young candidate from Illinois inadvertently committed one of the most common sins in American politics—he used a phony Lincoln quote.

“Abraham Lincoln once said to one of his opponents,” then-senator Obama asserted, “‘If you stop telling lies about me, I’ll start telling truth about you.'”

William Randolph Hearst, who ran for governor of New York in 1906, also liked that line. But it was Republican senator Chauncey Depew, another prominent New Yorker, who is actually the first person known to employ a version of the phrase to bash his opponents back in the 19th century.

June is the month to celebrate the graduating class. It is also a month when bogus quotations flourish like spring flowers. For that we can thank commencement speakers, lazy speechwriters, partisan politics, and the Internet—that most powerful engine of misinformation. But special thanks should be reserved for American heads of state. Once a president misstates a quote, it’s especially hard to kill it.

John F. Kennedy was a repeat offender. In a 1963 speech, he misquoted Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev, warning Chinese leaders that in the event of a nuclear war, “the survivors would envy the dead.” Kennedy twice gave Dante credit for the idea that “the hottest places in hell” are reserved for those who remain neutral in times of moral crisis. But he made perhaps his most resounding misquote in a 1961 speech, when he credited British statesman Edmund Burke with saying, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Politicians—including presidents Ford and Reagan and, just this past year, Florida governor Charlie Crist—have repeated it ever since.

In fact, the “good men do nothing” line was voted the most popular quote of modern times by the editors of The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. One Canadian minister even says the line inspired him to launch a charity devoted to stopping the slaughter and mutilation of Tanzanian albinos. But hold on—there’s no evidence that Burke ever uttered these words. The Oxford editors have since fixed this error, sort of. They list the quote under Burke’s name, along with the notation “attributed (in a number of forms) to Burke, but not found in his writings.”

As for Kennedy’s “Khrushchev” quote? It’s from writer Herman Kahn’s 1960 book On Thermonuclear War. And while Dante wrote about hell, he did not say anything about reserved seating for moral neutralists.

Why don’t we check before repeating others’ words? Why is it that when we do, we can no longer be sure that even the reference books are correct? What motivates speakers—presidents, college professors, actors, and everyday Americans—to blithely misquote, miscredit, and fabricate?

Reader’s Digest has a particular interest in these questions, which we may as well get out of the way now. In The Yale Book of Quotations, published in 2006, editor Fred Shapiro sleuthed commonly misused quotes to their original sources. On numerous occasions, his search ended with a misattributed quote in our magazine. In recent decades, we’ve employed a diligent fact-checking team. But as penance for past sins, we offer the following handy guide.

Just as an exercise, go to your computer’s search engine and type in four words: lie, truth, boots, and world. You will get thousands of references to variations of the following quote: “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.” Most will cite Mark Twain as the author of this aphorism. Al Gore has given Twain credit for it. So has Mississippi governor Haley Barbour.

But Twain didn’t say it. Charles Haddon Spurgeon did, in 1855, and he attributed the wisdom to “an old proverb.” Spurgeon was a mid-19th-century British pastor, as famous in his time as Rick Warren and Billy Graham are today in the United States. But that’s the thing about fame: It can be fleeting.

“The voters have spoken—the bastards” is a frequent laugh line at political dinners, usually attributed to Morris Udall. The witty Arizona congressman may well have said it after losing the 1976 Democratic presidential primaries, but Dick Tuck said it first, in 1966 (though his exact words were “The people have spoken—the bastards”). Who is Dick Tuck? Precisely. For the record, he’s a now-retired political prankster.

“This suggests [a] key reason for getting quotations wrong,” notes wordsmith Ralph Keyes, “the need to put them in familiar mouths.” In his book on frequently misused sayings, The Quote Verifier, Keyes calls this phenomenon flypapering—because quotes stick to people like Twain and Churchill like flypaper. “Lies, damned lies, and statistics,” for instance, is often given to Twain, but Twain himself gave credit to British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, who was so famous in his day—even in America—that quotes attributed to “a wise statesman” were assumed to be Disraeli’s. But times change.

Regardless of the slogan on T-shirts and beer council ad campaigns, Benjamin Franklin never said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

What he did extol was wine, while making a larger point about the miracles of springtime. “We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana as of a miracle,” Franklin wrote (in French!) in a 1779 letter to his friend the Abbé André Morellet. “But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine—a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.”

Try putting that on a T-shirt.

Keyes calls this process bumper-stickering. It’s the process that renders Churchill’s “blood, toil, tears, and sweat” into “blood, sweat, and tears.” And turns baseball manager Leo Durocher’s “The nice guys are all over there—in seventh place” as the pithier “Nice guys finish last.” A full word is saved by saying “Beam me up, Scotty,” although the actual Star Trek line is “Beam us up, Mr. Scott.”

President Reagan certainly fit Ernest Hemingway’s definition of courage—”grace under pressure” (yes, Hemingway really did say this)—when he told first lady Nancy Reagan, “Honey, I forgot to duck,” after he was shot. This may have been spontaneous, but it wasn’t original. Jack Dempsey said it to his wife after losing the heavyweight boxing title to Gene Tunney in 1926. The president perhaps assumed that everyone would know the reference. Nonetheless, it is often attributed to Reagan.

The past couple of years, as the federal budget has ballooned out of control, Washington wags have been reprising a line usually attributed to former Illinois Republican Everett Dirksen, who served on Capitol Hill from 1933 to 1969: “A billion here, a billion there—pretty soon you’re talking about real money.” Actually, it’s an old Depression-era line; a variation of the quip was once even attached to Herbert Hoover. But Dirksen was more popular than Hoover. Who wants to hear from the politician most closely associated with the Great Depression? So the line caught on with Dirksen’s name attached.

Many of the sayings often attributed to Ben Franklin were ones he actually appropriated and put into the mouth of Richard in his Colonial-era guide to life, Poor Richard’s Almanack. Franklin didn’t pretend his sayings were original: “Why then should I give my Readers bad lines of my own,” he asked in his 1747 Almanack, “when good ones of other People’s are so plenty?” Thus, “A word to the wise is sufficient” and “Early to bed, early to rise …” are Franklin’s—but not originally.

As a flypaper figure, Franklin is also given credit for words uttered by his contemporaries, such as: “We must all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” If this was said at all, it was most likely by Richard Penn, the governor of Pennsylvania during the American Revolution.

There is an old newsroom saying, “too good to check”—meaning, if it’s too good to check, it probably isn’t true. Conservatives may wish that Dwight D. Eisenhower, when asked if he thought he’d made mistakes as president, had replied, “Yes, two, and they are both sitting on the Supreme Court.” It captured his frustration with the liberal tendencies of Earl Warren and William Brennan. But the oft-repeated story is unsourced. True, Eisenhower once told a Republican leader privately that appointing Warren was “one of the two biggest mistakes I made in my administration,” according to an oral history at the Eisenhower library. But the quip itself has been attributed to other presidents and is probably apocryphal.

This kind of thing has gotten worse in the era of the Internet. Surely, liberal activist and singer Barbra Strei sand thought she was being profound at a 2002 fund-raising concert for the Democratic Party when she read what she thought was a soliloquy from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor … When the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry … How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar.” Streisand was trying to allude to George W. Bush, but this was no more Shakespeare than it was Dr. Seuss. It was an Internet hoax, which Streisand was forced to acknowledge.

Another Web story involves Miriam Amanda “Ma” Ferguson, Texas’s first woman governor. Someone suggested that the new Spanish-speaking immigrants might benefit from classes taught in their native language. Furious, Ma picked up the King James Version of the New Testament and shouted, “If English was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for Texas!”

Ma has been credited with this goofy statement by New York Times columnist William Safire and Texas humorist Kinky Friedman, among others, none of whom has ever cited a source. Of course, that would be difficult. Ma Ferguson was a college-educated progressive, and it’s highly unlikely she said it. The yarn, in fact, dates to at least 1881, when Ferguson was six.

Republican president Calvin Coo lidge’s most famous line is “The business of America is business.” To this day, Democrats won’t give it a rest. Just last October, West Virginia senator Robert Byrd quoted it on the floor of the Senate. Did Coolidge really make the remark about the primacy of profit? The answer is, not really.

In a 1925 speech, Coolidge did utter these words: “After all, the chief business of the American people is business.” But he was building to a different point—the opposite one: “Of course the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence. We want wealth, but there are many other things that we want very much more. We want peace and honor, and that charity which is so strong an element of all civilization. The chief ideal of the American people is idealism.”

There’s another American trait that competes with idealism—and that’s our desire to sound hip and not overly sentimental, especially about our politics. Wasn’t it Harry Truman who casually dismissed his critics by stating that if you really want a friend in Washington, you should buy a dog? Actually, no. The line is fake, even though it’s often attributed to Truman. But President Obama still used it himself, although mercifully without blaming poor Harry. Appearing on The Tonight Show in March, the president said, “You know, they say if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”

Yes, “they” do say that. But perhaps what they ought to say is, “If you want to help a friend in Washington, get him a reliable quote book.” That’s Ben Franklin.

Well, no—but it could have been.


A Test For Alzheimer’s

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May 302009

This is a real test. Not too easy, but it does not take long to do.

Sit comfortably and be calm. This is a serious test, not a joke..
Put your thinking process aside – i.e. put your brain in neutral gear.

1 – Find the C below. Do not use any cursor help.


2 – If you already found the C, now find the 6 below.


3 – Now find the N below. It’s a little more difficult.


This is NOT a joke. If you were able to pass these 3 tests, you can cancel your annual visit to your neurologist. Your brain is great and you’re far from having a close relationship with Alzheimer’s.

Oh One more test….

Find the 44th President of The United States of America.

Barack Obama (D-Kenya) Learns About One of His Intelligence Agencies During a Burger Run

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May 302009

How many states are there again? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?

On his trip to get a burger with Brian Williams at Five Guys this afternoon, the President appears to have learned of the existence of a Defense Department intelligence arm, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, from an agency employee also at the burger restaurant.

“So explain to me exactly what this National Geospatial…” Obama said, after the worker mentioned his employer, according to a video of the event.

“We work with, uh, satellite imagery,” the worker, Walter replied.

The transcript:

Obama: What do you do Walter?
Walter: I work at, uh, NGA, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
Obama: Outstanding, how long you been doing that?
Walter: About six years
Obama: Yea?
Walter: Yes.
Obama: You like it?
Walter: I do, keeps me…
Obama: So explain to me exactly what this National Geospatial…uh…
Walter: Uh, we work with, uh, satellite imagery..
Obama: Right
Walter: [unintelligible] …support systems, so…
Obama: Sounds like good work.
Walter: Enjoy the weekend.
Obama: Appreciate it.

According to the Defense Department:

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is a Department of Defense combat support agency and a member of the national Intelligence Community (IC). NGA develops imagery and map-based intelligence solutions for U.S. national defense, homeland security and safety of navigation.

NGA provides timely, relevant and accurate geospatial intelligence in support of national security objectives. The term “geospatial intelligence” means the exploitation and analysis of imagery and geospatial information to describe, assess and visually depict physical features and geographically referenced activities on the Earth. Geospatial intelligence consists of imagery, imagery intelligence and geospatial (e.g., mapping, charting and geodesy) information.

Guess they’re not getting much airtime in the President’s Daily Brief.


U.S. Army Starts Testing ‘Judge Dredd’ Weapon

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May 292009

Because the U.S. Military doesn’t kick enough ass!

The U.S. Army is set to start testing a computerized, high-tech projectile launcher that can take out bad guys hiding around corners and in caves or trenches, even if they’re out of the soldier’s line of sight.

Some experts call it the “Judge Dredd” gun, after the Sylvester Stallone movie. The Pentagon calls it the XM-25 Individual Air Burst Weapon, which uses a laser rangefinder to precisely measure the distance to a target, then primes a fuse on a timed grenade so that the projectile explodes exactly where it should.

“The way a soldier operates this is you basically find your target, then laze to it, which gives the range, then you get an adjusted aim point, adjust fire and pull the trigger,” deputy program manager Richard Audette told Army News Service. “Say you’ve lazed out to 543 meters … when you pull the trigger it arms the round and fires it 543 meters plus or minus a one-, two- or three-meter increment, then it explodes over the target.”

A squad trying to neutralize an enemy fighter wouldn’t have to wait until he showed himself — instead, they could just aim to a spot near him, then use the XM-25 to have a grenade explode directly there.

“For example, in Iraq we had many instances where there was a sniper firing from a rooftop and you have a squad trying to engage that target, but the soldiers couldn’t get to him with the weapons they had, so they’d call in the Air Force to drop a JDAM (joint direct attack munition),” said Audette. “We can take out the target at $25 per XM round as opposed to a $20,000 to $50,000 JDAM.”

With a range of 750 meters — nearly half a mile — the XM-25 would also be very effective in Afghanistan, where Taliban fighters often hide behind rocks and in caves.

In addition to precision-timed grenades, the gun is also built to fire armor-piercing, door-breaching, anti-personnel and less-than-lethal rounds.


Why You Shouldn’t Mug a Conservative

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May 292009

To the Guy Who Mugged Me

I was the white guy with the black Burrberry jacket that you demanded I hand over shortly after you pulled the knife on me and my wife. You also asked for my wife’s purse and earrings. I hope you somehow come across this message. I’d like to apologize.

I didn’t expect you to crap your pants when I drew my pistol after you took my jacket. Truth is, I was wearing the jacket for a reason that evening, and it wasn’t that cold outside. You see, my wife had just bought me that Kimber 1911 .45 ACP pistol for Christmas, and we had just picked up a shoulder holster for it that evening. Beautiful pistol, eh? It’s a very intimidating weapon when pointed at your head, isn’t it?

I know it probably wasn’t a great deal of fun walking back to wherever you’d come from with that brown stinking sludge flopping about in your pants. I’m sure it was even worse since you also ended up leaving your shoes, cell phone, and wallet with me. I couldn’t have you calling up any of your buddies to come help you try to mug us again. I took the liberty of calling your mother, or “Momma” as you had her listed in your cell, and explaining to her your situation. I also bought myself some gas on your card. I gave your shoes to one of the homeless guys over by Vinnie Van Go Go’s, along with all of the cash in your wallet, then I threw the wallet itself in a dumpster.

I called a bunch of phone sex numbers from your cell. They’ll be on your bill in case you’d like to know which ones. Alltel recently shut down the line, and I’ve only had the phone for a little over a day now, so I don’t know what’s going on with that. I hope they haven’t permanently cut off your service. I was about to make some threatening phone calls to the DA’s office with it. Oh well.

So, about your pants. I know that I was a little rough on you when you did this whole attempted mugging thing, so I’d like to make it up to you. I’m sure you’ve already washed your pants, so I’d like to help you out. I’d like to reimburse you for the detergent you used on the pants. What brand did you use, and was it liquid or powder? I’d also like to apologize for not killing you and instead making you walk back home humiliated. I’m hoping that you’ll reconsider your choice of path in life. Next time you might not be so lucky. If you read this message, email me and we’ll do lunch and laundry. Peace!