Clint Eastwood: Super Bowl ad aimed at Americans, not politicians

Unless you were taking a Super Bowl beer break at the time, you saw the ad -- the only Super Bowl ad, it seems that mattered: Gravely voiced, squinty-eyed Clint Eastwood giving Americans the pep talk of their lives. Since then, politicians on both sides of the aisle have been howling or crowing about subliminal political messages they believe to be embedded in the Chrysler ad and what they might mean for the November election.

Well, Eastwood himself is now weighing in, telling both sides to give it a rest. There was "no spin" or selling intended in that ad, no politics, no subliminal message, no endorsements. It was simply meant to inspire Americans to do what they do best -- get back in the game, no excuses, just get back in the game.

"This country can't be knocked out with one punch," Eastwood says in the ad. "We get right back up again and, when we do, the world is gonna hear the roar of our engines. Yeah, it's halftime America, and the second half is about to begin."

Eastwood, a well-known Republican, Fox TV watcher and acquaintance of Bill O'Reilly, issued an exclusive statement to Fox's "O’Reilly Factor" producer Ron Mitchell. Here is the statement:

"I just want to say that the spin stops with you guys, and there is no spin in that ad. On this I am certain. I am certainly not politically affiliated with Mr. Obama. It was meant to be a message just about job growth and the spirit of America. I think all politicians will agree with it. I thought the spirit was OK. I am not supporting any politician at this time. Chrysler to their credit didn’t even have cars in the ad. Anything they gave me for it went for charity. If any Obama or any other politician wants to run with the spirit of that ad, go for it."

Now, far be it from us to argue with Dirty Harry. We'll take him at his word, especially since he seems to be inviting both sides to invoke the ad if it suits their political needs -- that's about as bipartisan as you can get in an election year.

Still, it's fascinating to see how both sides are parsing the imagery, the timing, the sponsor and, of course, Eastwood's language for hints of partisanship or even whether this is a big "Thank You" ad from Chrysler to American people, and, of course, President Obama, for the tax-funded bailout.

If you were indeed taking a beer break during the Super Bowl and missed the ad, watch it for yourself, above. And then watch the O'Reilly's segment, below, which includes interesting takes on why both sides are eager to dissect the ad's subliminal symbolism.


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-- Rene Lynch

Tim Thomas guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct, snubbing teammates?

Boston Bruins goalkeeper Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas' decision to boycott a White House ceremony to honor the Boston Bruins' Stanley Cup victory has some critics accusing the team's MVP goalie of being a sore loser, and snubbing not just President Obama, but Thomas' teammates as well.

The White House ceremony saw Obama joshing with the Bruins players and honoring the team for its charitable work off the ice. But Thomas, who is conservative, cited politics for his decision to skip the White House gathering. Here's the comment that he posted on his Facebook page, and he gets all the credit for the creative capitalization:

"I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People. This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.

"Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.

"This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT"

Many are blasting the athlete for snubbing not just the president, but the teammates who helped him win the 2011 Stanley Cup.

Here is a sampling of comments:

-- "...bottom line is that he should be there with his teammates that won him a cup," said one comment on

-- "His TEAM was being honored for the most part. He needs to open a dictionary and look up the words TEAM, HONOR, RESPECT, GRACE, etc....BAD MOVE, Tiny Tim!" said a comment on

-- "Thomas is an idiot and selfish. You attend with your TEAM. He didn't and HE became the story. Gimme a break saying its not political," chimed in a comment posted at our sister blog Fabulous Forum.

On Tuesday night, Thomas might not start as goalie against the Washington Capitals. But team management says that decision has nothing to do with the White House flap, according to Club policy keeps the starting goaltender away from the media on game day.


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Photo: Bruins goalkeeper Tim Thomas. Credit: Grant Halverson / Getty Images

Bruins goalie Tim Thomas snubs Stanley Cup party at White House

Tim Thomas declined to join his teammates at the White House this afternoon when President Obama honored the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. Why? Obama's views are apparently so liberal that the Bruins star goalie simply can't stand to be in the same room with him.

Obama was honoring the six-time champion Bruins for their latest 2011 title as well as their charitable work off the ice. The Boston Bruins Foundation has donated more than $7 million to charities in New England.

Hosting the champions at a White House ceremony Monday afternoon, the president noted it has been a good sports run of late for Boston fans -- with big victories for the Celtics in 2008, the Red Sox in 2007 and the New England Patriots in 2005. Moreover, the Patriots play in next month's Super Bowl.

"...the Bruins, the Sox, the Celtics, now the Patriots. Enough already, Boston," joked the president. (See video above.)

Not in attendance, however, was the team's star goalie.

Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli told Sports Illustrated that he'd discussed this very scenario with Thomas in recent months and the team's star goalie was apparently always adamant: He would not attend a White House ceremony because his political views differ so dramatically from Obama's.

(Is it any wonder that the country is so politically fractured when a bunch of guys can't agree to just get together and talk sports?)

"Everyone has the right to voice their opinion," Chiarelli said. Thomas has said he plans to explain his position on his Facebook page about 6 p.m. Eastern time.

"Whatever he will say is not reflective of our organization's views or beliefs," Chiarelli told Sports Illustrated.

Reaction over at Pro Hockey Talk was mixed.

"Whatever the reason, this just makes me love TT even more. Snubbing the president... LOLz," read one comment.

"Not cool Tim, you’re an athlete not a political pundit. Just shake the President’s hand, smile for a photo and be done with it," read another.

A third commenter criticized the media for paraphrasing Thomas' reasons, and urged everyone to reserve judgment until Thomas releases his statement.

There was no reaction from the White House regarding Thomas' absence.


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Homeless whiz kid gets ticket to State of the Union address


Samantha Garvey, the science whiz kid who has been living in a Long Island homeless shelter, will go to the State of the Union address, says her congressman, Steve Israel (D-N.Y.). He invited the high school student to attend the president’s speech, offering her his own ticket.

Garvey, an aspiring marine biologist, is one of 300 national semifinalists in the Intel national science competition. She recently captured the nation’s attention for winning that distinction even though she and her family have been living in a homeless shelter on Long Island in suburban New York.

“The congressman thought it was really an inspirational story and a wonderful accomplishment,” congressional spokesman Jack Pratt said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “With all of the powerful people who come down for the State of the Union, it is nice to bring somebody who has been through tough circumstances and persevered.”

Israel is chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and has been a member of Congress since 2001. He offered Garvey his sole gallery ticket over the weekend, Pratt said. On Monday, Israel mentioned the offer at a public event attended by a journalist from Newsday, which first reported the story.

According to Pratt, Garvey will sit in the gallery for the Jan. 24 speech by President Obama, who will lay out his agenda for the rest of the presidential election year. Garvey’s parents will likely watch from the congressman’s office.

In this election year, when the tough economy and its effect on everyone’s life will be key political issue, the Garveys have emerged as the face of a family damaged by forces beyond their control, yet fighting to come back. The family became homeless at the beginning of the year when it fell behind on rent after a severe car accident left both parents too injured to work.

Last week, Samantha Garvey was named as one of the finalists of the science contest, and the family’s luck began to change.

The family dog was moved from an animal shelter to a private kennel, thanks to the help of a anonymous donor. And family members have been told they can move into a rent-controlled home owned by the county later this month.


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Photo: Intel science competition semifinalist Samantha Garvey, 17, center, gets a hug earlier this month from Brentwood Superintendent of Schools Joseph Bond, left, as her mother, Olga Garvey, right, applauds. Garvey is one of 300 students who have a chance at the competition's top prize of $100,000. The 17-year-old and her family moved into a homeless shelter on Jan. 1. Credit: John Dunn / Associated Press


Tucson shooting anniversary: Obama praises Gabrielle Giffords


President Obama, who led the nation in mourning after the attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others a year ago in Tucson, has called the congresswoman to praise her as an inspiration, the White House announced Sunday.

Obama’s call came as Tucson and the nation commemorated the events of Jan. 8, 2011, when a lone gunman opened fire on Giffords, who was holding a meet-and-greet event in a parking lot at a Tucson shopping center. Six people were killed and 13 others, including the Giffords, were injured in the attack.

The White House said Obama called Giffords on Sunday to say that he and First Lady Michelle Obama keep her, “the families of the fallen, and the whole Tucson community in their daily thoughts and prayers and, along with the entire nation, continue to join her in mourning those lost.”

Obama also said he was amazed by the “courage and determination” Giffords “has shown along her incredible road to recovery,” and called her “an inspiration to his family and Americans across the country.”

Giffords, 41, who was shot in the head during the attack, has spent much of the last year in Houston undergoing physical and speech therapy.

Giffords has regained the ability to walk and talk and has even appeared in Congress to cast a vote. She gave a televised interview to ABC's Diane Sawyer in May.

Still, it remains unclear what the long-term effects of the gunshot to her brain will be. Giffords is in her third term in Congress and has several months before she has to formally declare whether she will seek a fourth term.

Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, were expected to join thousands at an evening candlelight vigil at the University of Arizona. Kelly was expected to speak.

Jared Lee Loughner, 23, has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges in connection with the shooting. He is being medicated at a Missouri prison facility after he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.


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Photo: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, center, husband Mark Kelly and Nancy Barber, the wife of Giffords' district director, Ron Barber, visit the Davidson Canyon Gabe Zimmerman Memorial Trailhead  overlooking Tucson on Saturday. Zimmerman was one of six people killed in the attack that left Giffords gravely injured. Credit: Cheryl Evans / Arizona Republic


Jim Sensenbrenner sorry for saying Michelle Obama has 'big butt'


Republican lawmaker Jim Sensenbrenner has apologized for snarky remarks made about First Lady Michelle Obama's figure, including that she has a "big butt" for someone who is always admonishing the nation to eat right and exercise.

"I regret my inappropriate comment and I have sent a personal note to the first lady apologizing," the U.S. representative from Wisconsin said in a statement released to the media.

The lawmaker appears to have made two separate comments about the first lady's derriere, both connected with his appearance at a church's Christmas bazaar in Hartford, Wis. One church member in attendance, 72-year-old retiree Ann Marsh-Meigs, said she was among those stunned to hear Sensenbrenner's negative comments about the first lady, which also extended beyond her figure.

At one point, she told Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the congressman noted that the first lady wrapped up her work at a charitable event just as the media took its leave, while Sensenbrenner's handicapped wife continued to work it.

"He then talked about how different first ladies have had different projects -- Laura Bush and literacy -- and he named two or three others. And then he said, 'And Michelle Obama, her project is obesity. And look at her big butt,'" Marsh-Meigs told Bice.

She told Bice she was the only woman sitting at the table at the time, and wasn't going to let the comment pass. "I just said, 'I just happen to think Michelle Obama is a beautiful and elegant lady, and I think she dresses beautifully.' And then he said, 'Oh, well, I think she's elegant, too.' He just started backpedaling.'"

A while later, Sensenbrenner was reportedly overheard on a cellphone seeming to brag about the confrontation with Marsh-Meigs. According to Bice, the lawmaker allegedly said that he had been at a church event "buying all their 'crap'" when a woman began complimenting the first lady and he told her '"she lectures us on eating right while she has a large posterior herself.'"

Amanda Infield, a spokeswoman for Sensenbrenner, said in a statement to Bice that Sensenbrenner planned to apologize: "Mr. Sensenbrenner was referring to the first lady's healthy food initiative," the statement said in part. "He doesn't think the government should be telling Americans what to eat. While he may not agree with all of her initiatives, he plans to contact the first lady's office to apologize for his comments."

No word yet on whether Sensenbrenner will also apologize for his remark about the church bazaar.

This story is making headlines for another reason as well. Because it involves politics, journalism and hearsay, there is also a story behind the story.

Bice said he had the goods on this story days ago but "Unfortunately his editors made him sit on it (pun intended) to gather more information," says Fishbowl D.C. It offers a look at the sausage-making in a story headlined, "Sensenbrenner Big Butt Plot Thickens."

As for Michelle Obama, she is unlikely to respond to Sensenbrenner. She didn't respond publicly when conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh made fun of her body shape. And besides, she's vacationing in Hawaii with daughters Sasha and Malia.


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Photo: First lady Michelle Obama carries a bag of donated Christmas toys to a Toys for Tots event last Friday. Credit: Associated Press/Evan Vucci

President Obama says happy Hanukkah to Jews around the world

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have a message for Jews around the world: chag sameach.

That’s Hebrew for wishing someone a festive holiday, akin to a "happy holidays" greeting. The Obamas issued the following statement today in honor of Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, which begins tonight at sundown:

Michelle and I send our warmest wishes to all those celebrating Hanukkah around the world. 

This Hanukkah season we remember the powerful story of a band of believers who rose up and freed their people, only to discover that the oil left in their desecrated temple –- which should have been enough for only one night –- ended up lasting for eight.

It’s a timeless story of right over might and faith over doubt –- one that has given hope to Jewish people everywhere for over 2,000 years. And tonight, as families and friends come together to light the menorah, it is a story that reminds us to count our blessings, to honor the sacrifices of our ancestors, and to believe that through faith and determination, we can work together to build a brighter, better world for generations to come.

From our family to the Jewish Community around the world, chag sameach.

Chag sameach and happy Hanukkah to all!


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Photo: First Lady Michelle Obama and the president arrive at a Hanukkah celebration held at the White House. (European Pressphoto Agency /Win McNamee)

President Obama 'deeply saddened' by death of Vaclav Havel

Remembering Vaclav Havel

Vaclav Havel, leader of Czechoslavakia's 1989 "Velvet Revolution" has died, and President Obama says he is "deeply saddened" by the news.

In a statement Sunday from the White House, the president said Havel's "peaceful resistance shook the foundations of an empire, exposed the emptiness of a repressive ideology, and proved that moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon."

Havel, a onetime dissident playwright and leader of the anti-Communist struggles in Eastern Europe, was 75. He was the last president of Czechoslovakia, from 1989 to 1992, and, after the nation split, was the first president of the Czech Republic, from 1993 to 2003.

Obama said:

Having encountered many setbacks, Havel lived with a spirit of hope, which he defined as 'the ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.' ... He played a seminal role in the Velvet Revolution that won his people their freedom and inspired generations to reach for self-determination and dignity in all parts of the world. He also embodied the aspirations of half a continent that had been cut off by the Iron Curtain, and helped unleash tides of history that led to a united and democratic Europe.

The president said that he, like "millions around the world," was inspired by Havel's "words and leadership."

"We extend our condolences to President Havel’s family and all those in the Czech Republic and around the world who remain inspired by his example," Obama said. "Vaclav Havel was a friend to America and to all who strive for freedom and dignity, and his words will echo through the ages."


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Photo: People gather to lay flowers and light candles to commemorate Vaclav Havel in Prague, Czech Republic, on Sunday. Credit: Petr David Josek / Associated Press

Texas approves controversial license plate featuring crosses

Calvary Hills license plate with crosses

Texas license plates are again drawing national scrutiny.

Last week, the board of the state's Department of Motor Vehicles voted to approve the "Calvary Hill" specialty license plate that reads "One State Under God" and features three crosses.

Motorists who choose to buy the plate pay a surcharge, which is divided between the state and the sponsoring group -- in the case of Calvary Hill, a Christian-based youth anti-gang ministry in the east Texas city of Nacogdoches.

The board, all appointees of Gov. Rick Perry, voted 4 to 3 to approve the plate the same week he unveiled a television ad in Iowa in which he vowed to end President Obama's "attacks on religion."

The Republican presidential hopeful has avoided commenting about the Calvary Hill plate, saying the DMV board acted alone.

Critics said the governor should condemn the plate as religious discrimination.

“Texas is getting a reputation for being unwelcoming to all faiths. The decision by the DMV simply reemphasizes that problem," Kathy Miller, president of the liberal Texas Freedom Network, an Austin-based watchdog group, told The Times. "This is the danger of government playing favorites with faith: It can lead to folks having their faith questioned or diminished by government bodies, and that’s wrong.”

Miller, whose group released a statement opposing the plates, called on the DMV board to reconsider its decision, and on the state Legislature to clarify what plate designs are permissible.

“This isn’t a question of free speech; this is a question of government endorsing particular symbols, in this case religious symbols, in a way that diminishes religious freedom,” Miller said.

But Jonathan Saenz, the director of legislative affairs for the Austin offices of the conservative Liberty Institute, blogged in support of the plates, saying critics are attacking Christians.

“People have this view that Christians should be treated as second-class citizens when it comes to exercising their 1st Amendment rights,” Saenz told The Times, adding that when it comes to purchasing the plates, "This is a private decision and private speech.”

“It’s ludicrous for anyone to suggest that because someone puts a license plate on their car, that is endorsing religion,” he said, adding that the design is “about as mainstream Texan and American as you can get.”

Saenz noted that Texas has already issued several specialty license plates featuring crosses, and that in 2007, the Legislature inserted "One State Under God" into the pledge to the Texas flag.

The Calvary Hill plate is among about 100 specialty license plates the DMV board has approved since the program's inception two years ago, a spokeswoman said.

Last week, the Texas division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans sued the state in federal court for rejecting its proposed specialty plate featuring a Confederate flag. Before the November vote on that plate, Perry spoke out against it, as did many prominent Texas officials and the NAACP.


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Image: Last week, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles board voted to approve the Calvary Hill specialty license plate. Credit: MyPlates

Horse slaughter poised to resume in U.S. -- with PETA's approval?

Slaughtering horses for meat -- which was halted in this country in 2007 -- could resume after a recent quiet change in the law. And PETA supports the change.

Turns out, this animal issue is not as black and white as one might think.

Most Americans would never consider eating horse meat. The creatures are a cherished symbol of the West, are kept by many as beloved pets and family members, and celebrated in literature, TV and movies.

But other countries, including France, Canada and Mexico have no problem with putting horse meat on the dinner table. U.S. slaughterhouses helped feed this demand by exporting horse meat -- until Congress effectively banned the practice by refusing to fund the necessary government oversight. (Meat is legally required to undergo a federal inspection in the U.S.)

The move was cheered by many animal right activists. But some -- such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA -- said there were unintended side effects. For one, the ban did not halt the practice of eating horse meat. Horses that were abandoned, rounded up or seized weren't put to death in the U.S., true. They were instead shipped under inhumane conditions to other countries for slaughter there.

So, let's make it clear: PETA -- which is known for taking provocative positions in its fight to protect animals -- continues to oppose the slaughter of horses for meat. But it says that allowing the reopening of U.S. slaughterhouses may ultimately reduce the animals' suffering.

A better alternative, PETA says, is to ban both the domestic slaughter of horses and the export of horses for slaughter.

"PETA was always worried about the horse-slaughter bill, fearing that it might cause more suffering while the option existed to ship horses on a frightening, long, and miserable journey to Canada or Mexico to meet their end in slaughterhouses there," the animal rights organization said in a statement released to The Times.

The statement adds: "This transport of live horses -- often in vehicles with low ceilings in which horses must hunch over, slipping and sliding on their own waste ... is an indictment of the horse-breeding and -ranching business. To reduce suffering, there should be a ban on the export of live horses, even if that means opening slaughterhouses in the U.S. again."

"But the better option is to ban slaughter in the U.S. and ban the export of live horses so that no one is slaughtering America's horses."

Not incidental to this controversy, or PETA's position: The mere prospect of reopening slaughterhouses in the U.S. will cast a greater spotlight on a practice that could raise the ire of even the most devoted steak eaters.

Such a showdown could occur in a matter of months. Congress' decision to lift the de facto ban via its new spending bill does not explicitly set aside money for slaughterhouse oversight. But the U.S. Department of Argriculture confirmed this week that if a slaughterhouse were to open, the agency would conduct inspections, reports the Billings Gazette.

The paper adds that plans for a slaughterhouse in either Wyoming or Montana could be up and running by spring. And according to a pro-slaughter group called United Horsemen, meat processors are now considering opening facilities in at least a half-dozen states across the U.S. including Georgia, North Dakota, and Oregon, according to the Christian Science Monitor. 


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File photo: Animal rights activists have long opposed the slaughter of horses, including wild horses, above, for meat. Credit: Associated Press


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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal

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