Saturday, May 31, 2014

Reports: Meriam Ibrahim To Be Freed

Several British news outlets are reporting that Meriam Ibrahim, who has been sentenced to death under Sudanese law for "apostasy" against Islam and 100 lashes for "adultery", will be set free within a few days.  Ms. Ibrahim is married to an American citizen and recently gave birth to their second child while in prison.  Although raised as an Orthodox Christian by her mother, she was ruled by a Sudanese court to be a Muslim because her father was Muslim, and was thus considered an apostate from Islam because she has practiced Christianity.  Her marriage was considered invalid under Islamic law, which generally forbids Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men.  Islamic scripture recounts a command by Mohammed, in the Hadith entitled Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, No. 260 to kill anyone (understood as applying to Muslims) who discards his religion, thus showing the roots of the death penalty for apostasy.

Read the story at The Guardian, BBC News and Metro News.

UPDATE:  via Breitbart's The Conversation and from CNN, don't hold your breath.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday Links

A few stories in the news:

From NBC News, Jay Carney steps down from his position as White House Press Secretary.  Does he have something new in mind, or did he get tired of shoveling his boss's solid male bovine waste?

From Gateway Pundit, Carney blows a farewell kiss to the media.

From Fox News, David Attias, who was ruled not guilty for reason of insanity after plowing his car into group of young adults, killing four of them, back in 2001, has been released.  This attack occurred in Isla Vista, California, the same community as the stabbing and shooting rampage by Elliot Rodger.

From the New York Post, a survivor of Rodger's rampage tells her story.

From Breitbart's Big Government, illegal aliens under 18 have been estimated to cost American taxpayers 2 billion dollars next year.

From LifeNews, the practices of Texas abortionist Douglas Karpen have been described as similar to those of Kermit Gosnell.

From Reuters, the city of Los Angeles sues JP Morgan for discriminatory lending.

From The Right Scoop, a pastor in Northern Ireland is under investigation for a hate crime for what he said about Islam.

From Thomas More Society, a trespassing charge against a pro-lifer in Iowa has been dismissed.  (via Lisa Graas)

From CNET, NASA's IRIS satellite has spotted a solar flare seven times the size of the earth.

From Yahoo News, an American narco-corridos singer has been fatally shot.

From Newsbusters, MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell calls the VA scandal "far more serious" than other Obama-era "so-called scandals".

From Canada Free Press, the myth of the "97%" climate change consensus.

And from Polar Bear Science, the Polar Bear Specialist Group admits that its reported polar bear numbers is a "qualified guess".  (via The Daily Caller News Foundation)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Movin Pictures From OAS

These are not moving (with a "g") pictures, but pictures from Movin, as in Movin Forward, one of my fellow listeners on BlogTalkRadio and fellow participants in Operation American Spring.  In this first photo, with the Capitol building in the background, a group of OAS patriots gets ready to march.

Movin himself crouches down in front of one of our signs.  As I explained in an earlier post, we later changed "democrats" to "rats".

These people showed their support for both the United States and Israel.

Colonel Harry Riley poses after riding with Rolling Thunder.

Here are Movin and Col. Riley, at the Washington Monument after praying.

Chaplain Wiley Drake, on the right, speaks into his iPhone.

For whatever reason, this man, who is a Vietnam veteran, found himself dealing with a Park Police officer.  Notice the man at the left pointing his iPhone (and presumably its camera) in their general direction.

Some Commendable Legislation

In the last few days, two notably blue parts of the United States have done some things that will earn kudos even from a red American like myself.

The first comes via The Daily Caller, who say that "hell freezes over", because the D.C. council has passed tax reform that would affect lower and middle income residents, as well as businesses.  It would involve the biggest tax cut in D.C. for 15 years.  Read the full story in The Washington Post.

Meanwhile, in a story coming via Hot Air and from America's northern plains, the state legislature of Minnesota, in what what Governor Mark Dayton (DFL) called his "unsession", got rid of "1,175 obsolete, unnecessary and incomprehensible laws" and "made taxes simpler, cut bureaucratic red tape, speeded up business permits and required state agencies to communicate in plain language."  Read the full story at TwinCities(dot)com.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What Is And What Is Not Law?

Michael Anthony Peroutka, writing in Political Outcast, gives his view on this matter.
Last year, the legislature in my state of Maryland, enacted something called Senate Bill 281.  This "enactment" (notice, please, that I am not calling it a "law") blatantly violates the God-given right for Marylanders to keep and bear arms for their individual and common defense, and its purpose and intent run contrary to the clear language of the Second Amendment.
Read the full story at the link above.  I would point out that the Maryland Constitution includes a Declaration of Rights, which in Article 28 thereof mentions a "well regulated Militia", but which does not mention any right to bear arms.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Few Random Musings

This post is what you might call a sincere attempt at flattery.  Every once in a while, the conservative writer Thomas Sowell posts a column entitled Random Thoughts, the most recent being today's, in which he briefly discusses a bunch of different topics.  This is the same type of post, except that I will call it Musings, to be consistent with this blog's subtitle.  Since this is my first post of this type, some of the following items are things that I've been thinking about for a while.  In any event, with apologies to Dr. Sowell, but with no further ado:
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According to an old saying, there are three types of people who spend other people's money - children, politicians and thieves.  One thing I have realized is that these three groups are not mutually exclusive.

According to another old saying, fascism will come to the United States under the guise of national security.  I would add that if this ever happens, whoever brings fascism to America will accuse (or his supporters will accuse) those who oppose him of being fascist.  I also realize that there are some out there who believe fascism is already here, but whether that's true is a topic for another day.

The recent revelation that the Obama administration "accidentally" revealed the name of the CIA chief in Afghanistan has caused some people to recall the Valerie Plame affair.  One thing I remember is that the left was hopping mad about the leaking of Plame's name, but directed just about none of their anger at the actual leaker, Richard Armitage.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Civil War Veterans Returned To Gettysburg

This is another video Tweeted to my attention by Sue from NM.

In 1913, the surviving veterans of the Battle of Gettysburg returned for the 50th anniversary of the battle.  In 1938, the few veterans who were still alive returned to Gettysburg for the 75th anniversary.  These are some of the people we honor on Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

OAS, Memorials & Rolling Thunder

Today I went back down to Operation American Spring in our nation's capitol, which had a light Sunday agenda.  As there had been a week earlier, there was again a prayer meeting, this one at the D.C. War Memorial, which honors District residents who died in the First World War.  Here some of the OAS participants gathered for prayer, on one side of the Memorial.

Here's another shot of the Memorial, from a slightly different angle.

I took a quick walk across the street to see the memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This is the "mountain of despair", which serves as one entrance to the King Memorial.

I walked eastward to the World War II Memorial, stopping at this section.  One uncle of mine fought in World War II as a tailgunner on a Flying Fortress.  Like my older relatives in general, he hailed from Pennsylvania.

Near the Pennsylvania pylon is this plaque with a statement by President Harry Truman.  The Lincoln Memorial is in the background.

Rolling Thunder came in on their motorcycles.  It took several hours for all of them to drive their designated route through Washington, D.C.  Colonel Harry Riley, the main organizer of Operation American Spring, rode with Rolling Thunder.  A group of riders moves south on 4th Street.

Here are some more from Rolling Thunder.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The British Heritage Of America's Founding

(H/T Sue from NM, whom I follow on Twitter)

This is the most recent video from KrisAnne Hall, who recounts various British documents whose concepts later found their way into America's founding documents.  The story Ms. Hall presents starts even before William the Conqueror (whose homeland I recently visited) became king of England.  Among the topics presented, besides the specific documents, are a hunting accident in which an arrow shot by William's son Prince Henry somehow found its way into the body of his older brother King William II (and we Yanks thought Dick Cheney was bad), the taxation policies of King John, the real reason behind Robin Hood's legendary thievery, the excessive spending and dissolution of Parliament by King Charles I, and the decree of religious liberty by James II, with its catch, an accompanying ban on criticizing the king.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Judge Orders John Conyers' Name To Appear On Ballot

Representative John Conyers (D-Mich), who failed to qualify for his party's upcoming primary ballot, and lost a subsequent appeal, will be on the ballot anyway, thanks to a federal judge in Detroit.  The ruling was based on an earlier ruling that struck down a law in Ohio, which was similar to Michigan's law about nominating petition circulators.

Read the story at Fox News.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Back To Operation American Spring

After several days away, I went back to our nation's capitol to rejoin American Operation Spring.  Despite an early thunderstorm, the day turned out to be beautiful.  Here are the Washington Monument and the National Archives, with a crane between them.  A new museum is under construction near the west end of the DC Mall.

Trees became convenient spots to leave backpacks and flags, and one of our signs.  If you look closely to the left of the upper left corner of the sign, you'll see two Park Police officers mounted on horseback.

We saluted one congressman with whose actions we agree.

Some of our signs were mounted in frames made of PVC pipe.

These four signs were in a single frame.  We later covered the "democ" in "democrats", because we realized that rats may be found in both major parties.

This one was mounted onto a single stick.

Eventually we took the signs out of the PVC frames and took them on a march.  The man with the original version of the American flag decided that he couldn't carry both the flag and the sign, so I replaced him carrying the "Impeach the corrupt" sign.

Here we are approaching the Capitol.  We did not go up the long staircase, but stood on the steps to the right, in front of the fountain.  I'd say we got close enough for Senator Reid (D-NV) smell us.  I hope he got a good dose of odeur de Grand Pied.

After we marched back to our base camp near the Air and Space Museum, I set off for Union Station and  a train ride back to Maryland.  On the way, I walked into the Japanese American Memorial, which remembers the Japanese Americans interned during World War II, and took this shot.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tuesday Links

Here are a few things going on out there:

From Vatican News, the Canadian Ambassador for Religious Freedom visits the Vatican.

From Live Action News, pro-choice conundrums such as "battery on an unborn child".  (Does anyone remember that Scott Petersen was charged with TWO counts of murder, because his wife Laci was pregnant?)

From The Washington Free Beacon, the employees of one Obamacare contractor were paid to do nothing.

From Human Events, the full scale of the Obamacare launch disaster.

From the Washington Examiner, can you believe that 70% of these people don't trust the government?

From BBC News, the CIA no longer uses vaccines in its spying programs.  (via Breitbart's Big Peace)

From McClatchyDC, pot growers will not be allowed to use federally-controlled water for their crop.

From The Daily Caller, the Indian government promises enough solar generated electricity for one light bulb in every home.

From Want China Times, Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jimping of China meet in Shanghai to sign a gas deal, among other deals.

From Fox News, an opinion on the UN climate change report.

From Reuters, the flight attendants working for Virgin American are seeking a unionization vote.

From the New York Post, trained dogs can recognize the smell of chemicals specific to prostate cancer in urine samples, thus once again showing how they are man's best friend.

From the New York Daily News, conservative author Dinesh D'Souza pleads guilty to making illegal campaign donations, thus avoiding a trial that would have begun today.

And from StixBlog, all Godzillas are beautiful.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Music Break

It's about time for a music break, because I didn't even get to make one last month.  Let's start off with some hard rock with an odd instrument.  On It's A Long Way To The Top by AC/DC, lead singer Ronald Belford "Bon" Scott lives up to his last name by playing the bagpipes.  The rest of the band back then (1975 or so) consisted of Angus Young (lead guitar), Malcolm Young (rhythm guitar & backing vocals), Mark Evans (bass) and Phil Rudd (drums).

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Operation American Spring, Day 3

Today's events consisted mainly of a prayer service in front of the Lincoln Memorial, which is a pretty good walk from even the closest Metro station.  I was again able to find my friend (and fellow Maryland resident) Movin Forward, who wore his Sunday best.  As I approached the Memorial, I took this picture of it.

The OAS participants had gathered before the start of the service.

According to Movin, who had met them on Saturday, the two young black men with the large flag came in from Maryland.

Later on, Movin and I walked back to the DC Mall, where these men gladly posed for a picture.  The man on the left, as indicated by his sweatshirt, appears to be an alumnus of the University of Maryland.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Operation American Spring, Day 2

Today, I went back down to Washington, D.C., to again participate in Operation American Spring.  I arrived pretty late, but to my pleasant surprise, as I left the Metro station, the participants were marching toward me.  I briefly conferred with one of the security people out front, who told me it was a silence march to remember the victims of Benghazi.  I then took this first picture of the front of the march.

The marchers continue on their way, with a steady beat provided by a drummer.

I let most of the marchers pass and fell in towards the rear.  We moved westward within the DC Mall, and eventually passed these people.  They did not march with us, but definitely appeared to be on our side.

We left the mall, with DC Police blocking intersections to aid our movement.  We marched up 15th Street and entered the pedestrian street north of the White House.

After we arrived, we turned our backs to the president and stood there for at least 15 minutes.  Those of us who carried American flags turned them upside-down, as in the universal distress signal.

We then faced left, made a U-turn and continued back to the Mall.  A group of "Anonymous" people, some with their Guy Fawkes masks, stood in a line while most of us resumed our march.

We retraced, except for some detours to the facilities, our route back to the Mall.  Here are some of us back on the Mall.  I think the domed building in the background is the National Archives.

After we arrived at what appears to be the OAS "base camp" just off the Mall, Colonel Riley and several others gave some brief speeches and announcements concerning tomorrow's event, a religious service in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  After that, it was "stand down" for the day.

Operation American Spring, Day 1, Part 2

Every picture I posted in Part 1, other than of the view to the west, was of participants at the base of the Washington Monument.  In this post, we are joined by other participants, and move away from the Monument.  At around 11 a.m., we were joined by a group of people who marched from the vicinity of Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River.

Here are some more of the marchers from Arlington.

Eventually, the whole group would march away from the Monument.  Here are some of us, getting ready to head out.  As you can see from the shadows, the day had gotten sunny.

We eventually put some distance between us and the Washington Monument, which in this shot is well in the background.  Closer, but still behind us, is the "castle" structure of the Smithsonian Institution.

We eventually arrived at an area on the south side of the D.C. Mall, in front of the National Air and Space Museum.  Here are some participants at what could be called the "base camp".

Here's a wider shot of our crowd, again with the Monument in the background.

To finish, here's one last shot of OAS participants.

Operation American Spring, Day 1, Part 1

Yesterday was the start of Operation American Spring, a protest against the policies and actions of President Obama, House Speaker Boehner, Senator Reid, and other people in high places.  Due to my proximity to Washington, D.C., deciding to participate was essentially a no-brainer.  I arrived at around 8:00 a.m., at a location east of the Washington Monument, previously agreed on with a fellow BlogTalkRadio user known as Movin Forward.  After meeting up, we proceeded up to the Monument, which had previously been indicated by the OAS organization to be a starting point.  A small number of participants had gathered near the base of the Monument.  While enduring some rather intense rain, we exchanged pleasantries with some people, but also took some time to kneel down in prayer.  During the morning the rain gradually subsided and stopped, making life easier for us protesters.

Here are a few wet participants, in front of a few of the flags that surround the Washington Monument.

Toward the right, in this view facing the base of the Monument, the man in green, wearing glasses and a baseball cap, talking to a man in a light blue shirt, is Colonel Harry Riley, the principal organizer of the event.

These men present their grievances, and their opinions of the president and his signature piece of legislation.

Looking to the west, a view of the Lincoln Memorial, its reflecting pool, and part of the World War II memorial.

Steve Elliott of A 'Cross America Ministries brought his cross.  Somehow, I don't think that anyone crucified by the Romans had the luxury of a wheel at the bottom end.

A few protesters and their signs, and another group with theirs.

From the location of the photo immediately above, several people gave some short speeches, including Pastor Wiley Drake, the official OAS chaplain, wearing the suit and tie.  Colonel Riley, in green, stands next to him.  By this time, the weather had greatly improved.

Here's Another shot with Pastor Drake.

Pictures from the event will continue in the next post.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Château de Breuil

After leaving Giverny, we went to our last appointed stop, the distillery of Château de Breuil, to have a taste of their products, specifically the apple brandy known as calvados, and pommeau, which is made by mixing calvados with unfermented apple juice.  Calvados is also the name of the départment in which the Château is located.  (There is also a variety of calvados made from pears, but the apple-based version is far more common.)  We tasted the calvados and pommeau in this shop.

Near the shop was this metal apple tree.

In another part of the grounds was the actual château.

Near the beginning of the driveway leading to the shop was this barrel, similar to those used to store and age the calvados and pommeau.

These are my last pictures from France.  Afterwards, it was time to get back to Honfleur, pack up, and get ready to go home.

Claude Monet's Estate At Giverny

Now that I've made a few posts on things west of the Atlantic, it's time to return to my Normandy travelogue, with which I am almost done.

We spent most of the last full day of the tour in Giverny, at the estate of French impressionist painter Claude Monet.  Because Giverny was the farthest east, and thus farthest inland, place we visited, it was also the least rainy.  Monet's estate comprises a Japanese-inspired water garden, a flower garden, his house and a gift shop.  We first toured the water garden, which includes a grove of bamboo.

This pink-flowered bush was also in the water garden.

This bridge, called the Japanese bridge, spans a pond in the water garden.

Here's a closer shot of the bridge.

There was a woman on the tour who was originally from Japan, so I asked her if any of the water garden was authentically Japanese, to which she answered in the negative.  Although Monet had a soft spot for Japanese art, and collected Japanese woodblock prints, he never visited Japan, and thus never had a chance to see a real Japanese garden.

After walking around the water garden, we proceeded to the flower garden.  Here's a walkway, surrounded by flowers, trees and neighboring houses.

Of these two walkways, the one under the green archways was closed off.

Here are some more green frames, holding up flowers.


The tourists file into Monet's house, in which photography was forbidden.

Behind a wall were two neighboring houses.

After leaving Monet's estate, we took a short walk over to the Giverny Museum of Impressionism, which included an exhibit on American impressionists, including some who had traveled to France to learn from Monet himself.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Election Official: Rep. Conyers Fails To Qualify For Primary

According to a story by the Associated Press appearing in Fox News, longtime Representative John Conyers (D-Mich) has not qualified for the primary election to be held this coming August.  Wayne County Clerk Kathy Garrett says that Conyers does not have the 1,000 signatures necessary to have his name put on the ballot.  He has a brief period of time during which he can appeal Garrett's ruling.  If unsuccessful, he can still run as a write-in candidate.  Why an incumbent Congressman is even required to collect nominating signatures is not explained the story.  During his time in office, Conyers has often won re-election with over 80 percent of the vote, and even survived a recent redistricting.

John Conyers was first elected to Congress in 1964 and is currently 84 years old.  This would make him not only a career politician, but a lifetime politician.  For this reason, he is one of several, in both Houses and from both parties, that I will not miss when they step down.  Read the full story.

The Santa Maria Possibly Found Near Haiti

I guess that one good archaeological discovery deserves another.  Archaeologists have found the remains of a ship on the sea bottom off of the north coast of Haiti, and believe that it could be the Santa Maria, which was Christopher Columbus's flagship on his first voyage.  According to The Independent:
“All the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus’ famous flagship, the Santa Maria,” said the leader of a recent reconnaissance expedition to the site, one of America’s top underwater archaeological investigators, Barry Clifford.
Mr. Clifford's crew has measured and photographed the wreck, but has not otherwise disturbed it.  The wreck had also been surveyed in 2003, but was not suggested as possibly being the Santa Maria.  Read the full story.

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Stonehenge In Virginia?

An archaeological site in Clarke County, Virginia is reported to contain stone circles dating to around 10,000 B.C., making it about twice age of Stonehenge.  The site is privately owned, by Chris and Rene White, who are respectively Cherokee and Lumbee Indian.  Like the famous ancient monument in England, the Virginia site reportedly includes seasonal astronomical alignments.  According to newsleader:
A line from a center rock, over a specific boundary rock, intersects the feature called Bears Den Rocks on the mountain. Standing on that center rock, looking northeast, a viewer can see the sun rise over Bears Den on the day of the summer solstice in June.
Moving around the circle, another set of rocks points to Eagle Rock on the Blue Ridge, and also to sunrise on the day of the spring and fall equinox in March and September.
Yet a third points to a saddle in the mountain, where the sun rises at the winter solstice in December.
The "mountain" being referred to in the above excerpt is the Blue Ridge.

Astronomical alignments have been found (or least have been claimed to be found) in a variety of Native American sites, including Mound Builder sites such as Serpent Mound and Anasazi sites such as Chimney Rock.  Another site known for such alignments is America's Stonehenge in New Hampshire, which is also called Mystery Hill.  Read the full story at the above newsleader link.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Saturday Links

Now that I've been back in the USA, here are a few things going on, both here and elsewhere:

From the New York Post, Tiger Woods' ex takes some swipes at him during her college graduation speech.

From Yahoo News, Russia's deputy prime minister, after his flight is denied permission to pass through Romanian airspace, Tweets that he would return in a TU-160 bomber.

From France24 and the country I just visited, French President François Hollande says that his county would continue with its sale of two warships to Russia "for now".

From ABC News, a plane bound for Hawaii returns to LAX due to smoke in the cockpit.

From Bidness Etc, Microsoft and Google join the debate on net neutrality.

From CNET, two scientists theorize that the gene KL-VS boosts IQ and helps prolong life.

From Rare, Mel Brooks says, "We couldn't get away with making Blazing Saddles today."  Considering the movie's rather frequent use of the N-word, I'd have to agree with him.  (via Gulf Dogs)

From Fox News, in April, two American officials in Yemen reportedly fought off a kidnapping attempt.

From Gateway Pundit, FLOTUS gives her weekly radio address on the recently kidnapped Nigerian girls, without mentioning Boko Haram or Islam.

From America Rising, then-Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass) warned about Boko Haram two years ago.

From The Hill, Vice President Joe Biden, while in South Carolina, takes a swipe at.....the Clintons?

The New York Times calls Rhode Island "sized just right to contain its pride".

And from The Cagle Post, a Mother's Day cartoon.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Mont Saint Michel

Mont Saint Michel is a small fortified island that has been connected to the French mainland by a causeway, which is in the process of being replaced by a bridge.  The island is dominated by an abbey that forms its highest part.  Being the westernmost place we visited, it's not far from Normandy's border with Brittany.  At times in its history, Mont Saint Michel was connected to the mainland during low tide and then disconnected during high tide.  Just off the coast of County Cornwall, England is a similar place named St. Michael's Mount, which I visited in 2002.

Here's one view of Mont Saint Michel, as we walked from the shuttle bus stop on the causeway to the island itself.

Here's another view, closer and from a different angle.

Visitors walk up to the entrance of the abbey.

One of the many interior rooms of the abbey that we walked through.

Here's the cloister.

One room included this double fireplace.  The truncated pyramid shape reminded me of the American colonial-era furnaces that I have seen in Maryland.  One tourist looks up one of the chimneys while another gets ready to take her picture.

This garden provided a nice contrast to all the stonework we have been seeing.

At one time, supplies were brought up to the abbey using this wheel.  It's like a wheel in a hamster or gerbil cage, but scaled up for a human.

This is the Chapel of St. Stephen, with an altar and the arm of a tourist.

Finally, a section of the outer wall of the abbey.

After touring the abbey, we made our way down to the pedestrian part of the causeway, some of us taking in a snack at one of the small cafés along the way.  Eventually, we caught a shuttle bus back to the mainland and our tour bus in the parking lot.

Bears Draft Hokie Cornerback

Cornerback Kyle Fuller of Virginia Tech was selected by the Chicago Bears (or in the local dialect, dah Bearss) during yesterday's first round of the NFL Draft.  Fuller becomes the tenth Hokie to be selected in the first round, and the third member of his family to be drafted after playing for Virginia Tech, with a fourth one about to enter his sophomore year on the field this fall.  Several other former Tech players await their possible selection.

Read the story at Hokiesports, TechSideline and The Roanoke Times.

UPDATE:  Read yet more from the Bears themselves.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Brief Stop In Caen

After visiting the German cemetery at La Cambe, we proceeded on to the Peace Memorial in Caen, one of the larger cities in Normandy and capitol of the départment of Calvados and the region of Basse-Normandie (Lower Normandy).  At the memorial, we visited its museum, had lunch, and generally looked around.  I didn't find much worth photographing other than a few things outside of the building.

While wandering around, I found this pool, which appears to be the top of an artificial waterfall.

There were signs indicating the presence of an American garden and a Canadian garden.  I don't think I found the Canadian garden, but I did find their flag.  In the D-Day operations, Canadian forces landed in an area designated as Juno Beach, which was between the British areas of Gold Beach and Sword Beach.

There was a small park beside the memorial.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

House Holds Lois Lerner In Contempt

The House of Representatives has voted to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress, largely along party lines.  She becomes the sixth person in the last 40 years to be held in contempt by the full House, although others have been held in contempt by various congressional committees.

Read the story at the Washington Post and at Politico.

The German Cemetery At La Cambe

On the way back to Honfleur from Utah Beach, we stopped at the German cemetery near La Cambe, which had a much more somber appearance than the American cemetery at Colleville, the somberness perhaps enhanced by the rain.  This building is the cemetery's front entrance.

A plaque identifies the cemetery, in German and French.

In the middle of the cemetery is this artificial hill.

The gravestones included crosses in rows of five.

Most of the graves were marked by ground-level stones, such as this one.

For more on the German cemetery at La Cambe, go here, here and here.

Utah Beach

Utah Beach was the farthest west of the Allied landing zones during D-Day, comprising part of the east coast of the Cherbourg peninsula.  After visiting Sainte-Mère-Église, we proceeded to the coastal town of Saint-Marie-du-Mont.  Due to the (all too usual) wet weather, most of us didn't feel like going down to the beach itself, but there were some places to visit such as the Musée du Débarquement.  Here is a monument to the 1st Engineer Special Brigade.

Behind the monument is a cannon, surrounded by flagpoles and tourists.

This memorial is to the naval units that participated in the Utah Beach landing.  In the background, there is an American tank on the left and the Café Roosevelt (named after General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.) to the right.

Here's the tank, with another cannon in the background.  The grayish blur near the front end of the tracks is most likely the result of a raindrop on my camera lens.

Inside the Café Roosevelt were these war-era radios.

For more about the landings at Utah Beach, go here, here, here and here.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sainte-Mère-Église

Located inland from Utah Beach, Sainte-Mère-Église, which translates as "holy mother church", became the first town liberated on D-Day, the result of a landing by paratroopers from the American 82nd Airborne Division that started at around 1:30 a.m.  Today, the liberation of Sainte-Mère-Église is commemorated by the zero-kilometer marker of the Voie de la Liberté (Liberty Road).

The Hotel de Ville is not a hotel, but the town hall.

In front of the Hotel de Ville is the zero-kilometer marker, immediately behind which is a memorial to the people of Sainte-Mère-Église who gave their lives in the war.

In this front view of the local church, if you look closely, you can see a mannequin hanging from the tower.

Here's the church from a different angle.

A closeup of the tower shows the mannequin, which is a memorial to paratrooper John Steele, whose parachute was caught by the tower.  According to our guides, mannequin is incorrect on two counts, because it is located on the opposite side of the tower from where Steele actually landed, and because it includes a white parachute, whereas Steele's would have been olive green.

Behind this wall is part of the Airborne Museum, which was created in 1964.  The shelter houses a Douglas C-47 that was used to drop paratroopers.

To learn more about what happened at Sainte-Mère-Église, go here, here and here.

Bayeux

The city of Bayeux is famous for the Bayeux Tapestry, which pictorially recounts the successful invasion of England by William the Duke of Normandy, who afterwards became known as William the Conqueror.  The tapestry comprises two pieces of cloth, a woolen cloth into which depictions are sewn and a backing cloth made of linen, which includes numbers above each scene in the story.  The tapestry has been removed from Bayeux several times, but currently resides in its own museum.

The story set forth on the Bayeux Tapestry involves more than Duke William invading England.  It starts with the English king Edward the Confessor, knowing that he is near death and still childless, instructing his brother-in-law Harold go to Normandy and inform William that he is to inherit the English throne.  Harold constructs ships and sails southward, but goes off course and lands in Picardy, where he is held captive under the shipwreck laws of the day.  William is able to secure Harold's release and brings him to Normandy, where he makes him swear a loyalty oath.  Meanwhile, William is at war with the Duke of Brittany, and with Harold, leads a successful campaign against him.  Harold then sails back to England, where King Edward dies.  Instead of staying loyal to William, Harold sets himself up as King of England, thus violating his oath.  In response to this betrayal, William and his forces sail for England, land at Pevensey, and engage Harold and his troops.  During the battle, Harold is killed after an arrow pierces his eye.  William's forces win the battle, after which he is crowned King of England.

The foregoing is, of course, a summary made from memory by yours truly.  Click on the link above for more complete information.  As you might expect, taking pictures of the tapestry is interdit, so I can present only photos from the city itself.  For more about the city of Bayeux, go here.

The Aure river flows through Bayeux, and has been contained by channels that take it between and under buildings.  Here is a watergate near the place our bus was parked.

Here's one view of the Bayeux Cathedral.

Here, the Cathedral and its environs are seen from another direction.  We actually had some fair weather that day.

A short distance west of the Cathedral is Place Charles de Gaulle, which includes a fountain.

This a part of the Parc D'Ornano, which is right next to where our bus was parked.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Pointe du Hoc

Pointe du Hoc is an area of German gun emplacements above a 100-foot high cliff, near the west end of Omaha Beach.  The target of Allied bombing operations in April 1944, Pointe de Hoc was taken on D-Day by American troops from the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions.  The Rangers fought off German counter-attacks until June 8th, when they were relieved by troops arriving from Omaha Beach.  Today, the site is maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Here's the remains of one of the German gun batteries.

These are just two of the bomb craters.

These chunks of concrete are wreckage of some other gun positions.

This turntable, on which a gun sat and rotated, now lies partially embedded in the ground.

Several tourists walk around the remains of another gun emplacement.

Another visitor looks out the door of an underground bunker.

This rocky area is the literal Pointe du Hoc.

For more on the battle for Pointe du Hoc, go here, here, here and here.

Vierville-sur-Mer

The landing area for the 1st and 29th American Infantry Divisions was the beach below Vierville-sur-Mer.  During the fighting, the 29th lost a number of soldiers who hailed from the area of Bedford, Virginia, which eventually contributed to that town being chosen as the location for the American D-Day Memorial.  One street in Vierville is now named for Bedford.

A memorial to the 29th sits on the Avenue de Bedford.  The yin/yang symbol is used to show how the division is made of up men from both southern and northern parts of the United States.

Down at the beach is a memorial to the National Guard.

For more on what happened at Viervelle-sur-Mer, go here.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The American Cemetery At Colleville-sur-Mer

Located between the village of Colleville-sur-Mer and the beach along the English Channel, the Normandy American Cemetery occupies a 70-hectare site that was granted for life by France to the United States.  A total of 9,387 headstones mark the graves of American servicemen - and a few women - who gave their lives during the D-Day operation.

The entrance walkway is lined with trees shaped to resemble a style of hat known as the fez.

Another walkway goes down to the beach.

Here is just a small section of the cemetery, showing rows of cross-shaped headstones.

In this view, a few of the headstones are shaped as stars of David, for Jewish soldiers.

Near the center of the cemetery is the chapel.

Near the east entrance is this memorial, which includes a reflecting pool.

At the center of the memorial is this bronze statue of a young man, representing the youth of the fallen soldiers.

In one wing of the memorial is this map showing the allied troop movements that started with D-Day.  The map is upside-down from the normal convention, with up corresponding to south.

On the side of the memorial opposite the graves is an area dedicated to the missing in action, whose names are inscribed on the wall.

In this closeup, you can see that the names are accompanied by the soldier's rank and unit.

The vast majority of Americans buried in this cemetery are largely unknown, but there are a few relatively famous people here.  One is General Theodore Roosevelt Jr., son of the first President Roosevelt.  Another is Medal of Honor winner Lieutenant Jimmie Monteith Jr., an alumnus of Virginia Tech.  For more on the American Cemetery at Colleville, go here and here.

Arromanches-les-Bains

Arromanches-les-Bains is a seaside town where the British constructed a Mulberry harbor, known as Port Winston after their Prime Minister, during their landing at Gold Beach.  Today, the town includes a D-Day Museum sitting above the beach and the remains of the harbor.

Although Arromanches was in a British landing zone, I found this present from the United States in a parking lot next to the place where we had lunch.

Down on the beach was this caisson from the Mulberry harbor, with a bunch more in the background.

A row of caissons appears to have once formed a side of the harbor, or maybe a causeway.

Overlooking the beach is this viewing stand.  The tan section of roof behind and to the left of the carousel is part of the D-Day Museum.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Guns At Longues-sur-Mer

Being in Normandy, much of my vacation involved seeing military sites from World War II, particularly D-Day.  The first place we visited was the German gun emplacements at Longues-sur-Mer, part of their Atlantic Wall.  These guns were located several hundred yards inland from the cliffs rising above the English Channel, and had a range of about 11 miles.

The Germans also used this cannon, captured from the Soviet Army, but now located near a parking lot, complete with tourist vehicles.

The first gun installation we visited was heavily damaged.  The diagonal streaks in this picture are raindrops, which were coming down profusely.

The second gun we saw was more intact.  We had to step around a large puddle to get close to it.

The third gun was the only one pointing upward and thus in a viable firing position.  In the background to the right is a fourth gun, but we did not go to see it up close, since we were already wet enough from the rain.  With the second and third guns, it was possible to step around the gun's metal casing and get inside the respective concrete bunker.

For more information about Longues-sur-Mer and its guns, go here and here.

Efrem Zimbalist Jr. 1918-2014

Efrem Zimbalist Jr., the star of the TV shows 77 Sunset Strip and The F.B.I., died yesterday of natural causes at his ranch in Solvang, California.  His body was reportedly discovered by a handyman after he had been watering his grass.

Born on November 30, 1918, Zimbalist was the son of violinist Efrem Zimbalist Sr. and operatic soprano Alma Gluck.  He studied violin for seven years, but eventually became more interested in acting.  After being expelled from Yale, he enlisted in the Army during the Second World War, receiving a Purple Heart after being wounded at the battle of Hürtgen Forest.  He appeared in numerous movies, but was best known for his television roles, including starring roles on 77 Sunset Strip and The F.B.I., the latter show being made in consultation with the real F.B.I. and its director J. Edgar Hoover.  Zimbalist would afterwards maintain a friendship with Hoover.  Being politically conservative, he made appearances on behalf of GOP presidential candidate Barry Goldwater and was also a longtime friend of another actor, Ronald Reagan.  In his later years, he provided the voice of the butler Alfred in a cartoon version of Batman and had a recurring role on Remington Steele, which starred his daughter Stephanie.

Zimbalist was married and widowed twice, first to Emily McNair and then to Loranda Stephanie Spaulding.  With McNair, who died of cancer in 1950, he had two children, Nancy (who also died of cancer) and Efrem III.  Spaulding was the mother of their daughter Stephanie.  Besides his two living children, Zimbalist is also survived by several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Read more at The New York Times, LA Observed, Fox News and Philly(dot)com.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Two Churches Around Honfleur

In downtown Honfleur, just a block from the Vieux Bassin, is St. Catherine's Church, the largest wooden church in France.  Constructed by local shipbuilders during the 15th century, the church resembles two parallel inverted ship's hulls.  Here's one side of the church, with the view obscured somewhat by vehicles and tourists.

A tower that houses a clock and the church's bells stands separate from the church.  This arrangement was made because the wood of the church building was not believed to be strong enough to support the weight of the bells.  Even so, the tower appears to be likewise constructed of wood.

Immediately to the west of Honfleur is a hill named Côte de Grâce.  In a flat area at the top of the hill is the Notre-Dame de Grâce chapel.  Here's one side of the chapel, obstructed by (you guessed it) more cars.

Here's another side of the chapel, and another set of cars.

As I approached Notre-Dame de Grâce, I could hear the chapel before I could see it, because its bells were ringing.  Like St. Catherine's, Notre-Dame de Grâce has a separate structure for housing its bells.  Unlike at St. Catherine's, the bells are mounted in an outdoor wooden frame.

Around The Vieux Bassin In Honfleur

Here are some more pictures from Honfleur, Normandy, France.  A row of buildings stands along one side of the Vieux Bassin, as a parade of children pass in front of them.  Several sailing ships are anchored in the Bassin itself.

As the parade proceeded around the Bassin, we got to see the first group of marchers.

In the lead, however, was this group of drummers.

At one side of the entrance to the Bassin is this carousel.

On the other side of the entrance is the Lieutenancy, where the governor of Honfleur once lived, and which was depicted in a painting by French impressionist Claude Monet.  The name "Lieutenancy" is derived from the governor's other title, Lieutenant to the King.

On the side of an archway is this monument to Samuel de Champlain, who sailed from Honfleur in 1608 to North America, where he founded the city of Québec.

Some Sights In Honfleur

Honfleur, France is a relatively small city, but due to its location at the mouth of the Seine, serves as a port to both river traffic and seagoing vessels.  Its downtown area, which generally surrounds the Vieux Bassin (Old Port), includes some historical buildings and numerous restaurants.  Walking toward downtown, we saw St. Leonard's Church and a war memorial.  The text, to the extent that my admittedly limited knowledge of French allows me to translate, reads "The French memory for the soldiers and sailors of the canton dead for the fatherland".

Next to the memorial is this garden.

In the downtown area, the Galerie Chaye was once an upper class residence, but is now an art gallery.  At one time, houses were taxed according to the size of their windows.

Although buildings in France are made mainly out of stone or brick, one style common in Normandy features wooden outer walls, sometimes faced with slate.  Here's a shot of the upper part of a wood-faced building:

A stone wall separates two adjacent properties.

Many of the local pedestrian walkways are made of cobblestones.

One building includes deux chats on its roof.

That's all for this post.  More pictures from Honfleur will be coming soon.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Back From Normandy

I just got back from the French region of Normandy, which is known for two military campaigns that changed the course of history.  The first of these occurred in 1066, when Duke William of Normandy sailed northward to England, defeated the English led by King Harold at the Battle of Hastings, and then took the English throne, thus becoming known as William the Conqueror.  The other took place during World War II and is known as D-Day.  Many of the places I visited have a connection to the Allied operation that started on June 6th, 1944.

Normandy is named for the Norsemen who settled there a century or so before William was born.  However, one could be forgiven for thinking that the name means something like "it rains all the time".  There was rain at least part of every day I was there.  I don't think I've ever had a wetter vacation, certainly not in Europe.

I stayed in a city named Honfleur.  Although the syllable "fleur" looks exactly like the French word for "flower", it is actually derived from the Norse word "fjord".  This particular meaning of "fleur", however, is only true for place names in Normandy.  If you're somewhere else in France, and you see "fleur" in a name, it most likely means "flower".