Sunday, September 30, 2007

All I Wanted Was Some Yogurt!!!

Would somebody tell me, please, I beg, what the hell happenned to the state of YOGURT while my back was turned? I went to get myself a couple cups today for upcoming breakfasts, and I was freakin’ LOST.

It’s been a few years since I bought yogurt on a regular basis, and I’ve always been pretty simple & basic in what I like. I want an 8-ounce cup of fruit-on-the-bottom, preferably blueberry, peach, or raspberry, maybe even pineapple or just plain old vanilla now & again. That’s not too much to ask, or so I thought.

Somewhere along the way, yogurt cups shrank in size as the price went up. They used to be four for a buck….Now, some of the ones I saw today were 89 cents apiece, and that was cheap in some cases. Most every cup I saw was now a shrunken 6 ounces or a shriveled and paltry 4 ounces. That’s what, two spoonfuls? What the hell kind of snack is that, let alone a serious breakfast?

It’s nigh on impossible to find fruit on the bottom anymore. Everything is swirled and blended and chunk-free. I want chunks. I want real fruit. I wanna mix it up at my own discretion.

The other impossibility is in finding something that isn’t “Lite”. Screw Lite. That’s devilry and pure crap, because it means artificial sweeteners like Aspartame and Splenda, both of which taste like pure, 100% unadulterated ass. A little sugar and real fruit makes all the difference.

All the labels are full of pretty, polysyllabic healthy-sounding words like probiotic, imunitas, Activ, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus reuteri, DHA, Omega-3, bifidas, and other such gobbledygook. I just want an 8-ounce cup of stir-me-up-and-eat-me-real-fruit-non-lite-full-sugar-and-carbs non pro-anything yogurt. Please.

I don’t want to be assaulted with reminders of how healthy it is, because I already know that it’s good for me. Even when it has the sugar and lacks all that 12-letter mumbojumbo biology-class crappage, it’s STILL good for you. I don’t need blended, whipped, Swiss-Style, Mousse, Lite, etc all in a wee plastic shotglass. I’m about to just go get one of those monster 2-pound buckets of plain yogurt and spoon in a jar of Polaner All-Fruit raspberry jam……

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Concert Review: Shiny Toy Guns at the Windjammer

I had a religious experience Tuesday night. I entered the venue a casual fan and exited a full-fledged convert to the church of Shiny Toy Guns.

The band was founded in 2002 by Jeremy Dawson (bass and synths) and Chad Petree (vocals/guitar), with Carah Faye (vocals/synths/bass) and Mikey Martin (drums) joining in 2004. The band quickly gained popularity locally and through their MySpace site. In early 2005, they independently released their first album We Are Pilots. They began to tour extensively, and in June 2006 they signed to Universal Records. The re-released a finalized copy of We Are Pilots in late fall 2006. And as their website states, they’ve been “on tour forever”.

Allow me to preface a bit by saying it was Karma that intervened on my behalf and allowed me to even see the show in the first place. Bands that I like don’t exactly play Charleston on a weekly basis. Seldom do they venture closer than Atlanta or Orlando, and if they do it’s usually Charlotte. I had originally wanted to go see Shiny Toy Guns at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, playing with Blue October and Yellowcard last Friday night. However, I work late on Friday nights, and being a responsible adult human with a mortgage and car payment is a bitch. Needless to say, seeing the show was out of the question. By sheer blind luck I caught the tail end of a radio ad for Shiny Toy Guns playing at the Windjammer on Isle of Palms and immediately made a mental note to look it up. Sure enough, it was on Tuesday, my day off, and it was gonna be a FREE show. Whoo hoo! I was to be rewarded for my suffering after all.

Oddly enough, in my seven years of living here in the Lowcountry, I’d never been inside the Windjammer before. Upon entering I was quite surprised at how compact it is, which meant that barring any sudden surge of bodies, we’d be a mere couple feet from the band. BONUS!

After about 60 seconds in the place I took a better look at the guy standing in front of me at the bar & recognized the tattoo on his forearm. Lo & behold, it was none other than Chad. Very cool. He was kind enough to take a picture with me (which I accidentally deleted, like a total dumbass) and we chatted for a couple minutes. He was very personable and genuine, and radiated ZERO pompousness or swelled-head attitude. Here I was just casually chatting with a guy that I listen to on the radio and see on TV, like two regular Joes. Both Jeremy and Mikey were also wandering the venue, checking equiptment and saying hi to people. I didn't see Carah before the show except for the occasional glimpse from the upstairs waiting area, but during the show she interacted with all of us n the front row. I’ve caught more loftiness from certain local minor-league sports figures that I’ve encountered than all four of these genuine rock stars combined. It was damned refreshing.

The show itself was pure energy, despite Chad’s bronchitis and a tour schedule that saw the band go from Myrtle Beach to Seattle to Virginia to Charleston in a span from Friday night to Tuesday. The acoustics at the ‘Jammer made it a little hard at times to pick out all the words, and admittedly I only knew a few of the songs at first, but every song sounded great. Dancefloor anthem “Le Disko”, currently heard in the new Motorola RAZR commercial, was a little less electronic and a little thrashier live, with Carah’s half-growled, half-purred vocals carrying raw power that the crowd fed off of. It’s impossible to stand still at a Shiny Toy Guns show.

A song I’d never heard before, the gorgeous track “Rocketship”, is getting constant play on my MP3 player now, and the show closer was an incredible performance of the current single “You Are The One”, which has been the song on my MySpace page for about the last month or so. But out of a sense of sentimentality, I think the highlight of the set list was a special treat for me, a killer cover of “Stripped”, originally done by my all-time favorite band, Depeche Mode. Shinys, you did the Mode proud. It was amazing.

All too soon it was over, and the band was gracious enough to hang out afterwards to take pictures and sign autographs; again, very cool of them to do so. If not for the hour and a half drive home and having to work the next day, we would have stayed awhile and gotten more pictures. Instead, it was out into the falling drizzle with my faith renewed in the fact that there are still good bands out there left for me to discover, and with the knowledge that with their tour schedule, there’s a good chance that I’ll get to see Shiny Toy Guns again soon.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What Am I Listening To?

I don’t listen to a lot of regular radio anymore. My local alternative station abruptly shit the bed and changed formats to pre-programmed lite schlock-rock, and if you read my blogs regularly you know my disdain for Top-40 radio on the whole. At home, I listen to a lot of the Sirius channels, but mostly the New Wave channel and they don’t really play anything newer than 1990. I catch some new stuff via recommendations from friends, and from catching the occasional song on VH-1 or IMF. So…..what exactly am I listening to these days?

•Shiny Toy Guns: two songs, “You Are The One” and “Le Disko”. Part synth-pop, part rock, all cool. STG are playing a show at the Windjammer Tuesday night and all signs point to a FREE show for the over-21 crowd.

•Erasure: “Light at the End of the World”--The full cd is yet another incredible release from Erasure. I dare you to sit still during “Sucker For Love”.

•Erasure: “Golden Heart” (GRN’s Golden Glow Mix)—This was a fan club-only free download for one of the album tracks to the above cd. Yayyy for free downloads!

•Dave Gahan: “Kingdom”. The first single off his upcoming cd “Hourglass”. A really solid song from the Depeche Mode front man. The chorus soars above a deep murky wall of sound.

•Just Jack: “Snowflakes”—Very clever song from earlier this year, a stream of consciousness rap set over The Cure’s classic song “Lullabye”. Something tells me the guy takes his name from the in-joke on Will & Grace.

•B21: “Darshan”—I first heard this song a couple years ago on the soundtrack to “Bend It Like Beckham”. It’s a wicked dance groove set to a Bhangra beat and sung in Hindi. I have no idea what the song’s about but it sounds great.

•Brandi Carlile: “The Story”—Thanks to VH-1 for helping me discover this song, a delicious blend of Sarah McLachlan’s frailty and Melissa Etheridge’s power.

•The Last Town Chorus: “Modern Love”-This song was featured on an episode of Gray’s Anatomy last year. It’s a cover of David Bowie’s song, but slowed down into a somber ballad punctuated by pedal-steel guitars.

•Kate Havnevik: “Grace Master”—Another song from Gray’s Anatomy.

•Greeeen: “Hajikero Hajikero”—I caught this song by total accident on IMF. It’s in Japanese so I again have zero clue what the song is about. It sounds like a poppy blend of rock and rap and the video is super cute. Catchier than the flu in January.

•Kelly Osbourne: “One Word”— Before you start throwing rocks at me, listen to the song. It really amazed me at how good it is. Very old-school 1985 New Wave gloominess, unless you’re listening to the Chris Cox Remix, in which case it’s an ethereal dose of bum-wigglery. It’s over a year old now actually…I just refuse to put it out of my MP3 playlists.

If you’re bored senseless and looking for something to listen to, go check these songs out on iTunes or YouTube and see if you like them. Maybe you too will discover something new & interesting.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Before She Commits Felonious Vandalism....

While everyone is complaining that Britney and Lindsay and Paris and Nicole are supposedly bad role models for our young female populace, another more insidious threat looms under the guise of a squeaky clean image. Carrie Underwood, the winner of Season Five of American Idol, winner of umpteen Grammy/ACA/CMA Awards, etc… is corrupting our youth. Who would suspect that an American Idol would be teaching our daughters to commit felonies? This criminal must be stopped!!!

Wait. What exactly are you babbling about, Steve?

I give you the song “Before He Cheats”, a crossover hit on both the pop and country charts. Carrie sings about a boyfriend who is out with another woman, a woman that she clearly looks down upon for her inability to shoot pool or drink whiskey, and she vents her rage by committing destruction to private property.

The chorus says it all:

I dug my keys into the side of his pretty little souped-up four-wheel-drive;
Carved my name into his leather seats.
I took a Louisville Slugger to both headlights, slashed a hole in all for tires,
Maybe next time he’ll think before he cheats…

Rather than confront her significant other in a rational manner and voice her displeasure at being stepped out upon, Miss Underwood instead brandishes a baseball bat and a knife and vandalizes someone else’s property.

According to Kelly Blue Book’s website ( a 2007 Dodge Ram SLT 1500 4WD, fully loaded with a 5.7 liter Hemi, has an MSRP of approximately $39, 230.00.

After having a key dug into the sides, a trip to Maaco for their Ambassador Paint Service will run approximately $1500.00 for the prep, painting, and clearcoating.

After having a name carved into the leather seats, they’ll of course need replacing. KBB listed leather seats on the Ram 1500 as being $910.00, so having them installed at the dealership, plus markup, will run an even grand.

Both headlights need to be replaced, at approximately $150.00 each.

And those slashed tires, well-- those Michelin LTX M/S - P275/60TR20 tires run you $252.96 each at Sears, or $1,011.84.

So, doing the math, that comes out to approximately $3811.84 before tax. Call the sales tax perhaps 12% and that’s $457.42. We’re in the neighborhood of $4269.26 now, fully depreciating the truck’s value by a full 11%.

Tell me that this isn’t worth a few nights in the slammer?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

28 Days Later

Back on Friday, August 24 I received the disturbing news that some scumbag had managed to get hold of my Visa debit card number and had used it to make some fraudulent charges that caused my account to be overdrawn for a day or two. Needless to say, I was bent. Beyond bent; I was livid.

I spent the better part of 30 minutes on the phone with a fraud manager at Wachovia, and this individual was quite helpful at the time. They cancelled my card and said they’d issue me a new one, and that I’d get it in 3-5 days. They also said they’d reimburse my account for any & all charges and that I should have the money back in my account by 0900 Saturday morning. Okay, cool… I may have to go without my bank card for a couple days but at least I’ll have my scratch back.

Sure enough, the money was there at 0900 Saturday morning as promised. And right after that is when the wheels fell off the train. After a week of waiting, Crys called Wachovia wondering where the card was. They said it would be 7-10 business days, not 3-5 days as I was originally told. Okayyyyyy…….factoring in the weekends and the Labor Day bank holiday, I was looking at two weeks without a card. Daily checking of a very empty mailbox ensues.

She called again, and they didn’t want to give any information because it was for my card, not hers. WTF? It’s a joint account. So she called again the next day, and this day's guy seemed all happy & jolly and said that we should have received the card since it had already been mailed out. He said he’d cancel that card and overnight us a new one……

Now, this is Thursday night when he says this, so the card would be overnighted on Friday. The day before the Scottish Games. Nobody’s gonna be home on Saturday, we say, so can you have it sent for Monday delivery? Suuuurrrrre…no problem, says he.

Monday rolls around. UPS hasn’t shown up by 5PM. A call to UPS finds no such package for delivery to mine address. So sad. Yet another call to Wachovia with much anger and ill will follows. This last guy was appalled that we’d been waiting over 3 weeks for a replacement card, and also wonders why no one along the way has suggested I go to my local branch and get a temporary ATM card. Well, well, well…what’s this? News to us, sayeth I. Helpful Dude says that the previous guy never overnighted my card, and instead put it in the regular snail mail.

Whoa. Hold up. All engines stop. It…was…MAILED? So, that’s like, what, another 5-7 days? Shit! Helpful Guy was terribly sorry, old chap, and was hopeful that it would arrive by the end of the week.

It did. It arrived Friday the 21st, at Late O’clock in the afternoon, while I was at work. By the time I get home and call to activate the card, it will be the 22d, which means it’s been 4 weeks. Yes, 28 days from when I called to cancel my tainted card and order a new one to the time when I’ll be able to access my money when I want to without writing a check or using cash. How’s that for a scary story?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sure Signs You're Getting Old

This goes sorta hand in hand, tongue in cheek with the blog I posted yesterday...that one was serious, and this one, well, is typical me.

Sure signs you’re getting old:

•Looking “emo” makes no sense. Nor does wearing baggy clothes with your ass hanging out.
•Your clothes actually fit, and can segue from the workplace to a casual get together.
•When you see kids twirling glow sticks at a dance club, you want to shove those glow sticks up their asses. And the pacifiers. And the lollipops.
•You check out a hottie’s ass and then feel gross when you realize she could be your daughter.
•You check out a hottie’s ass and feel gross when you realize she’s your friend’s daughter…and that she hangs out with YOUR daughter.
•When and if you do go to a dance club, instead of going at 11PM and staying till 5AM, you go at 9PM and want to bail around 1AM
•Instead of just drinking all your money away & eating Ramen Noodles, you weigh the cost of a few drinks to how much grocery money you’re wasting, and you sure as hell can’t take grocery money out of the mortgage payment to cover it.
•Instead of feeling the aftereffects of the night’s festivities the next afternoon when you regain consciousness, such as sore legs or a headache, you’re hurting by midnight.
•You overanalyze the concept of Red Bull and Vodka as inane, mixing a depressant and a stimulant and therefore canceling each other out.
•You understand that Jaegermeister was conceived as an aid to ease your stomach after a big meal and not as an all-purpose ingredient in getting trashed.
•You finally have enough money to buy a sweet convertible sports car….and then realize that you’re now that sad, balding, chubby dork trying to look cool with the expensive four-wheeled penis extender that you made fun off in high school.
•You listen to talk radio in the car as you commute instead of blaring 140 BPM techno through the subwoofers.
•You own a mini-van complete with stickers proclaiming your kid to be a mediocre underachiever at JP Dillweed Middle School…and like it.
•You remember the phone as being a big chunky thing that was either black, puke yellow, tan, or avocado green and had a rotary dial, and are blown away that you can now talk on a Star Trek earpiece that’s hooked to the Dingleberry pocket calculator in your pants.
•You remember when you had to physically CHANGE the TV channels instead of programming a DVR.
•You remember MTV playing videos.
•You remember Britney Spears in pigtails, dressed like a hooker & lip-syncing her first single, instead of in a wig, dressed like a hooker and lip-syncing her new single.
•The only time you get to hear your favorite songs anymore on the radio are when some rap star samples them to repetitively mumble incoherently over.
•The only way to find a t-shirt for your favorite bands is to make one yourself or shop at vintage thrift shops.
•You remember a time when you couldn’t get a CBGB shirt at Target and had to actually GO there. Or… remember CBGB’s being relevant at all.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Everybody's Get Old

This has been a very, very surreal summer for me. It’s been a summer of bittersweet emotions and nostalgic walks down memory lane. It’s been a summer of quiet introspection at times, and the occasional self-imposed question of “what if?” now & again. You see, I graduated high school 20 years ago this past June 10th, and it’s now been 20 years since that special summer of 1987, my last summer as a kid and my first summer as an adult, making stupid kid mistakes and learning adult lessons in the process.

I’m 38 now, and wondering where the hell the past 20 years actually WENT. I really don’t look 38, unless you look really close at the silver hairs gathering at my temples and the crow’s feet around my eyes. Most days I don’t really feel 38, except at the end of a 14-16 hour day at work or when I first wake up a little stiff from the aforementioned days. And most anyone who knows me swears I don’t act like I’m 38. There’s still a healthy bit of that 18-year old kid left in me, I guess.

Along the way, I’ve lived, loved, lost, learned, and laughed. Lots.

Am I where I thought I’d be now 20 years ago? Not hardly. But who at 18 can really predict and forecast with absolute accuracy where they’ll be in 20 years? I deviated from my so-called Master Plan probably about 30 minutes after I made it. Most of you did, too, I bet.

I did achieve some of my goals, though some took longer than others. I became a soldier, fulfilling a childhood dream of being in the military, but I never did get to fly a bad-ass jet fighter at twice the speed of sound. I made it to Germany like I wanted to, and was a part of history as the Berlin Wall came down around me. I made a couple trips to Italy and got to see some amazing things there. I left the military somewhat disillusioned after only 4 years, but I don’t regret a single moment of it.

I thought I’d be married with kids and entrenched in a successful career by the time I was 25. I was wrong.

I eventually got married…twice. The first was pretty much an unmitigated disaster and I take my fair share of the blame for it. Mistakes were made. The second time around has been a lot more fun, though, and I’d like to think I’m doing it right this time. I’m certainly a lot happier.

I never did get bitten by the baby bug like I thought I would, so I have no biological children, but I do have a seven year old stepson that I think I’ve made a pretty good impact on. He loves hockey and thinks wearing a kilt is cool. He already liked dinosaurs before I came along so I can’t take credit for that one, despite my own childhood obsession with paleontology. If I can just get him to listen to Depeche Mode, I’ll have fully corrupted the boy.

As a teenager I wanted an earring but my folks would have none of that. I finally did that at almost 23 years of age, and 16 years later I’m lucky if I wear it twice a month. I toyed with the idea of getting a tattoo when I was a young adult, especially in the Army, but could never decide on it and never really expected myself to ever go through with it. Two year ago I finally got my first, and two weeks ago I just got my third and am designing my fourth. I seem to have gotten over my indecision pretty well.

After writing for the school paper, I always expected to have written a couple of best-selling novels by now, spending my royalty checks basking in the sun on a white-sand beach and sucking down fruity drinks with fruity umbrellas in them, wearing fruity shorts and fruity shirts. Instead, I write an obscure fruity blog while basking in the cool glow of my laptop screen.

I guess I expected to have a full head of hair and a 30-inch waist forever, too. Not bloody likely. I guess I kinda miss my “lines”….my storyline, my waistline, and my hairline.

I don’t look at the past 20 years as wasted; far from it. I look at them as spent. Some of my time was spent wisely and some….well, not so much. I still have time left to do the things I want to do, like fling myself out of a moving aircraft or stand on the walls of a castle in the Scottish Highlands, but I just have fewer years left in which to do them.
At 18, there was less urgency I guess, figuring I had forever, or at least a good 50-60 years with which to pursue my dreams. Now, at 38, I do feel a slight almost-panic at knowing I only have maybe 30-40 years left to work with before the Big Dirt Nap.

I still listen to a lot of the same bands that I did at 18. I’m fortunate in that most of them are still producing music today. I’ve also picked up TONS of new music along the way, too. My tastes have stayed somewhat the same, but expanded a lot as well. I used to wanna be a famous entertainer, but I obviously never became a rock star or Hollywood A-Lister either. Oops.

And friends……you gotta have friends. I’m very lucky to still be as close as ever with some of my oldest friends, the ones who stood by me through all the times good & bad. John and Chris, I salute you for being two of the best friends a guy could ever ask for. I’m grateful to still be friends with some of my old Army buddies, like Rick, Ray, Mike, Steve, and DJ. And I’ve become better friends within the past year with some of my old classmates from school , friends that I may never have been close to while we were in school, but I’m grateful to be better friends with now. Michelle, Anne, Courtney, and Lea Ann: thanks a million.

To still be friends with people for 20 years is a blessing indeed. I’ve lost many along the way, but gained so many more during that same time. So to my friends, I say thank you for putting up with me.

And to my wife: the best is yet to come. Two years down; forever to go.

In closing, I want to share with you this brilliantly poignant video clip that was recently sent to me by my friend Ray Gellenbeck. An enterprising young director named Ryan Ferreira made, as his first project, a short film set to the music/narrative of “Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen” from Baz Luhrmann. Please go give it a view:

I guarantee after you watch it, you’ll take a trip through the years yourself.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Sun and The Rainfall

Seeing that this summer marked 20 years since I graduated, a lot of my thoughts as of late have been reminiscings of that summer of 1987 when I graduated from Robert W. Traip Academy in Kittery, Maine.

Summers here in South Carolina are hot and muggy, oppressively so. That wasn’t the case in coastal southern Maine in the summer of 1987. The days could be hot, but hot for Maine was 90 with a relatively low humidity tempered by the cool ocean-fed breezes. The evenings, by South Carolina standards, were coolish at times, down to the mid 60’s.

The other day while driving home after midnight after a mind-numbing work shift, the night air held that same cool, calm feel to it that I remembered. It felt great, almost decadent, after such a blazing summer. And there, on a dark, two-lane rural road, with a 70-degree breeze on my arm out the window, I lost 20 years.

In my mind I was no longer driving on Highway 17A, but riding in the backseat of a pale blue Datsun B210 with a red and yellow “MEAT IS MURDER” bumper sticker on it from the band The Smiths. It was Selina Standish’s car, and she had invited me along to go joyriding across the river in New Hampshire with her brother Gil, his buddy Jon Saddler, and her friend Annette Sheldon, whom I started dating a short time later after we realized we each had a crush on the other. At the tender age of 18, and barely that by just a couple months, I was the oldest one in the car. It was late by my standards, close to 1AM, and there was an almost full moon out that night casting a purple sheen against the few white puffy clouds visible in a fairly clear sky full of stars.

We were listening, as per the usual, to the college radio station out of the University of New Hampshire, WUNH 91.3, since we considered ourselves far too cool and hip to listen to mere commercial radio. The station was about to sign off for the night and as the final song of the night the DJ played “The Sun and The Rainfall” by Depeche Mode. In mid-1987 the song was fully 5 years old and not very well-known in the USA, but as Depeche Mode was my favorite band, I knew the song backwards and front. It’s a quiet song, atmospheric really, and it was absolutely the most perfect choice for a quiet night along a deserted country lane. Selina turned it up at my request, and for the next five minutes and four seconds we all just sat silently and listened to the soothing melody mixing with the wind coming through the windows. All was well in the world. There were no worries, no fears, no crushing responsibilities or debts. We were all young, invincible, and would someday conquer the word.

As the song faded out and the station went silent I kept my head against Annette’s shoulder and knew that this was one of those moments that I’d always remember, and that it would be a memory that I’d look back on years down the road. Sure enough, I did. And twenty years later, with the group of us between 35 and 38 now, all grown up with families of our own and lives scattered across the country, I wonder if any of my fellow passengers remember that night at all, or if they even would recognize the song if they heard it again. Wherever you guys are, I wish you all the best, and I hope from time to time that you remember, too.

NOTE: The picture up top is by photographer Brian Griffin, and it was used as the cover for the album that “The Sun and the Rainfall” is on, “A Broken Frame”. It was named one of Life Magazines' 'Worlds Greatest Pictures 1980 - 1990' and was the cover picture for that issue of the magazine. There was never an official video for the song, since it was never a single release, but there’s a fan-made clip on YouTube that features more pictures based on the album jacket and some live footage of the band performing the song at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1982. Hopefully you’ll find the song as captivating as I do, 25 years after it was recorded.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

And like I said before, Russia's not our friend either

Did I not say a month or so ago that Russia’s government is NOT our friend?

Maybe I’m just having 1987 flashbacks to the Cold War while reminiscing about my high school days 20 years ago, but I could swear that the news has been full of incidents of the Russian Air Force sending out probing flights of ancient Tupolev Tu-95 Bear bombers to the edges of the sovereign airspace of Iceland, within cruise missile striking distance of the US, and towards the US base on Guam, and alongside Tu-22M Backfire and Tu-160 Blackjack bombers in groups of up to eleven planes around Norwegian airspace. One of the Norwegian flights turned south towards Scotland, trailed by Norwegian F-16’s and were intercepted by British Tornado fighters in British airspace before returning to their bases.

It’s been years since the Kremlin has sent nuclear-capable bombers on such overflights, and it smacks of the sort of Cold War saber-rattling made famous by the former Soviet Union. Granted, the Bear is a decrepit old 1950’s airframe, and the Backfire dates back to the early 70’s, but the Blackjack is pretty modern, based upon our B-1B Lancer and only about 20 years old.

Speaking after Russian and Chinese forces completed major war games exercises for the first time on Russian turf, Vladimir Putin said a halt in long-range bombers' flights after the Soviet collapse had affected Russia's security as other nations had continued such missions — an oblique reference to the United States. About the flights, our best-buddy Putin stated, "I have made a decision to resume regular flights of Russian strategic aviation. We proceed from the assumption that our partners will view the resumption of flights of Russia's strategic aviation with understanding… Starting in 1992, the Russian Federation unilaterally suspended strategic aviation flights to remote areas. Regrettably, other nations haven't followed our example. That has created certain problems for Russia's security…Starting today such tours of duty would be conducted regularly and on the strategic scale. Our pilots have been grounded for too long; they are happy to start a new life." I bet. Flying an 18-hour mission over water is always more fun than being an unpaid guy on the ground making vodka from de-icing solution.

The announcement comes amid a growing chill in the U.S.-Russian relations, strained over Washington's criticism of Russia's democracy record, Moscow's strong criticism of U.S. missile defense plans in Poland and the Czech Republic, and differences over crises such as the Iraq war. Plus, rising oil prices have given Putin some extra cash with which to flex his muscles again. Russia recently planted a titanium reproduction of its flag at the North Pole and claimed the North Pole as Russian soil, test-fired a new ballistic missile supposedly capable of thwarting Washington's fledgling missile shield, and has blocked moves at the U.N. aimed at granting Kosovo formal independence from Russia's ally, Serbia.

And just this morning I read a report on the Russian military testing a new thermobaric bomb based upon the American MOAB (Massive Ordnance Air Blast, nicknamed the Mother Of All Bombs.) They are calling theirs the Dad of all Bombs, and tests have shown that the new air-delivered ordnance is comparable to a nuclear weapon in its efficiency and capability, according to Colonel-General Alexander Rukshin, a deputy chief of the Russian military's General Staff, speaking on Russian Channel One television. Thermobaric weapons explode in an intense fireball combined with a devastating blast, producing a terrifying nuclear bomb-like mushroom cloud and sending a massive shock wave created by the air burst and high temperature. Channel One said that while the Russian bomb contains 7.8 tons of high explosives compared to more than 8 tons of explosives in the U.S. bomb, it's four times more powerful because it uses a new, highly efficient type of explosives that the report didn't identify. While the U.S. bomb is equivalent to 11 tons of TNT, the Russian one is equivalent to 44 tons of regular explosives. The Russian weapon's blast radius is 990 feet, twice as big as that of the U.S. design, the report said.

Feel that cool breeze coming in from the Cold War memory banks? And don't forget that they were recently testing out a new ballistic missile system that supposedly renders our proposed Euro-based missile shield obsolete before we can even build it.

Once again, kids…the Mojo Man is on top of things. Now you know, and as GI Joe said, knowing is half the battle……

Like I said, China is NOT our friend

Did I not tell you guys a couple weeks ago that China is NOT our friend?

Just this past week it was revealed that China was caught trying to hack into Pentagon and other military computers, and that it’s been going on for quite some time. A report on the front page of the Financial Times claimed that in June hackers from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army were caught trying to break into the network of the office of none other than Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. That’s pretty ballsy.

In a 2005 article in Time Magazine, it was reported that sometime on November 1st, 2004, hackers sat down at computers in Guangdong Province, China and set off once again on their daily hunt for U.S. secrets. Since 2003 the group had been conducting wide-ranging assaults on U.S. government targets to steal sensitive information, part of a massive cyber-espionage ring that U.S. investigators have codenamed Titan Rain. On this particular night, the hackers' quarry was military data, and they were armed with a scanner program that searched vast military networks for single computers with vulnerabilities that the attackers could exploit later.

They hit hundreds of computers that night and morning alone, and a brief list of scanned systems gives an indication of the breadth of the attacks. At 10:23 PM (PST), they found vulnerabilities at the U.S. Army Information Systems Engineering Command at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. At 1:19 am PST, they found the same hole in computers at the military's Defense Information Systems Agency in Arlington, Virginia. At 3:25 am, they hit the Naval Ocean Systems Center in San Diego. At 4:46 am PST, they struck the Army Space and Strategic Defense installation in Huntsville, Alabama. As with prior attacks, the targeted networks were unclassified systems; the military's classified networks are not connected directly to the Internet. But even unclassified systems store sensitive information and provide logistics support throughout the armed forces. Government analysts say the attacks are ongoing, and increasing in frequency. But whether the Titan Rain hackers were gathering industrial information or simply testing their ability to infiltrate a rival nation's military systems, the U.S. government is taking the threat very seriously.

The hackers, are thought to have stolen U.S. military secrets, including aviation specifications and flight-planning software. Allegedly, the hackers struck Redstone Arsenal, the Alabama home to the Army Aviation and Missile Command, and grabbed specs for the aviation mission-planning system for Army helicopters, as well as Falconview 3.2, the flight-planning software used by the Army and Air Force.

We’re not alone either. It’s also been reported recently that Chinese cyber-attacks have hit the British Foreign Office and other key departments. While Britain has kept quiet about the attacks, Angela Merkel, Germany's Chancellor, is reported to have raised the issue of similar Chinese attacks on her government's computers during a visit to Beijing.

Is this part of China's efforts at building up its "asymmetric warfare" capabilities? The principle behind this kind of warfare is to not confront opponents head-on in a conventional battle. China may be calculating that it would not fare very well against Western countries in a straight confrontation given its current military capabilities. Instead, determining the vulnerabilities of these countries' information infrastructure and undermining them in times of conflict may be a more cost-effective way to attack should things go sour in the future, using a tactic now being referred to as “pressure point warfare”, or the attacking of specific computer network nodes, the cross point of lines in a network, to paralyze the adversary. Their methods are likely to include attempts to overload US computer systems with meaningless data and spam, tampering with websites, and e-mailing computer viruses to American government employees.

Yes, indeed. Toxic poisons and lead paint and tainted pet food…..and hacking into your MySpace. Thanks a lot, President Nixon, for setting the stage for President Clinton to sell the White House to Beijing. At least we got some freakin’ panda bears for rent in the deal.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11 Remembered

(Special thanks to Paul Scharff for his photo.

Thankfully it’s not very often when something so horrific and earth-shattering happens that in coming years people will ask “Where were you when such & such happened?” For years the benchmark was the Kennedy assassination. That was six years before I was born, so I can’t give an answer to that one. I was home sick from school in 1981 when Reagan was shot. I was in 4th period study hall when the space shuttle Challenger blew up. I was sitting at home on a Saturday morning having coffee over the morning paper when Columbia blew up. I was on Mount Desert Island servicing an advertising account in April 1999 when Columbine happened. I was at work at the Walterboro dairy branch when Virginia Tech happened. When the Gulf War kicked off in 1991, I was standing in the TV room in my barracks at Fort Riley, Kansas. But I think the defining “where were you” moment of my generation will forever be September 11, 2001.

I’m sure every single one of you remembers where you were and what you were doing. I was standing in front of the TV in a towel on my way from the shower to get dressed for work that Tuesday morning, looking at footage of a fire at the WTC North Tower. They said a plane had hit the building, and all I could think of was a small Cessna, until they said it was a “passenger plane”, and even then I was thinking a small puddle-jumper, not a Boeing 767. Then, as I watched, a second plane struck the South Tower, and right then I knew this was no coincidence. I quickly finished getting dressed and headed to work with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, and as soon as I got to work I heard that another aircraft had hit the Pentagon. That convinced me that there were coordinated terrorist attacks taking place and my mind started racing in CT Mode, thinking back to any & all counter-terror training I received as an MP in the Army. My workplace wasn’t all that far from Charleston Air Force Base and Charleston International Airport, and I started scanning the skies for Bad Things.

At work, everyone was tweeked about what was going on, and I volunteered to run the 5 minutes back to my house for a set of rabbit ears to attach to the TV we had at work to watch training videos. On the way back to work, Howard Stern had stopped all his usual shenanigans and made the command decision to cut his show short and turn the airwaves over to the news people at his New York studios. I remember thinking that was a very professional move on his part, and that you knew things in NYC were bad when Stern got serious. Once back at work we set up the TV, and no one could say a word as we watched the footage. After the first tower collapsed we were all in a sort of shocked daze.

Right about that time the reporters stated that all flights in the nation were being grounded immediately and it occurred to me that I wasn’t hearing the usual jet traffic that was common overhead. And car traffic was a lot less out on super-busy Dorchester Road than was normal. In due course the second tower collapsed and then news about the plane crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania was broadcast. And somewhere in that span, I heard a jet overhead and ran outside to see what was going on. It was a Boeing 737 that looked to be painted orange and yellow, and it was making a wide circle around Charleston on approach to the airport. Turns out that it was an Air Jamaica flight that was one of the last flights still in the air on the east coast, and they were told to land at the far side of the airport away from the Air Forces hangars until their status could be verified.

I was scheduled off work the next day, and at about 10:30 AM I pulled into the parking lot of the old Red Cross donor center in West Ashley. I felt compelled to do something, anything, to lend a hand. The place was already packed, with a line stretched around the back of the strip mall where the center was located. Not long after we arrived an official told us from that where we were, it could be as much as an 8-hour wait. A few people left, disheartened, but the rest of us stalwarts stayed there in line for what ended up being 10 hours to the time I left the donor center minus a pint of prime AB+. The poor lady in line in front of me found out that after waiting over 9 & a half hours that her blood lacked enough iron to donate, and she was sent home dejected.

A couple weeks after 9/11, I got to thinking that since I’d never actually been in New York City proper, I’d never been in either tower nor had I ever really seen the WTC up close. A memory came to mind at that moment, from October 13, 2000. That was the day I moved back to SC after 7 years in Maine, and as I was coming off the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River, I looked over real quick towards the city and even from that distance I could faintly see the WTC towers. Little did I know that would be the last time I’d ever see them standing and that less than a year later they’d be gone.

As an Army veteran, I grieved the loss of my fellow comrades-in-arms at the Pentagon. As a former member of the law-enforcement community, I keenly felt the loss of so many firefighters and police officers. As a hockey fan, I mourned the loss of Los Angeles Kings scouts Garnet "Ace" Bailey and Mark Bavis (also a former South Carolina Stingray) on United 175, and as an American and just as a human being, I felt an emptiness at the loss of all the rest. Between the two towers, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, some 3000 people lost their lives, victims and rescuers alike. On this sixth sad anniversary, I salute you all. You are not forgotten. The terrorists did not win, nor will they ever. America will not be diminished, and united we shall stand evermore.

Anyone But Hillary in 2008

All the past couple weeks I’ve been hearing about how Hillary Clinton thinks her résumé makes her qualified to be President of the United States. What a crock. From what I can see, she’s qualified to be the disgruntled pseudo-wife of a career politician, qualified to look the other way to cover for his philandering, qualified to be embroiled in the shady Whitewater land deals, qualified to be the first First Lady ever subpoenaed by a Federal grand jury via “Travelgate” with charges that the White House had used alleged financial improprieties in the Travel Office operation to give the business to Arkansas friends of theirs, qualified to be implicated in “Filegate” which was the June 1996 discovery of improper White House access to hundreds of FBI background reports on former Republican White House employees; accusations were made that Hillary Clinton had requested these files and that she had recommended hiring the unqualified head of the White House Security Office. Senator Clinton was cleared in all cases, but it still makes one wonder…and we won't even go into all the mysterious deaths that have surrounded the Clintons through the years.

Mrs. Clinton is also eminently qualified, it seems, to accept donations illegally from Chinese nationals, too. This was a trick she picked up after her husband accepted money from Yah Lin "Charlie" Trie in 1996. Immediately after donating $460,000 to President Clinton's legal defense fund in March 1996, Trie sent a letter to President Clinton that expressed concern about America's intervention in tensions arising from China's military exercises being conducted near Taiwan. Trie told the President in his letter that war with China was a possibility should U.S. intervention continue. A month earlier, Trie had invited Wang Jun, chairman of CITIC and Poly Technologies (an alleged front company for the Chinese military ) to a White House "coffee" with President Clinton. Also busted in the 1996 investigation to illegal campaign contributions was another Chinese-born Clinton friend, Johny Huang. Prosecutors said Huang was responsible for arranging about $156,000 in illegal campaign contributions from employees of the Lippo Group banking conglomerate in Indonesia to the Democratic Party.

Last month, Hillary fund-raiser Norman Yung Yuen Hsu was revealed to be a fugitive on the run for the past 15 years in an investment fraud case. He is also suspected of having possibly broken campaign finance law. Fancy that. In August, an investigation by The Wall Street Journal revealed potential campaign finance irregularities involving Hsu, in his role as a "bundler" (someone who bundles contributions from many individuals into a lump-sum contribution to circumvent the limitation upon personal contributions from any one individual of $2,300) and his long-time associates, the Paw family of Daly City, California. Specifically, members of the Paw family made donations of over $200,000 to Democratic candidates since 2005.

These donations closely tracked those of Hsu in terms of timing, amounts and those donating. In addition, the donations appeared to be much larger than would be expected given the Paw's modest income. According to records obtained for the investigation, the Paws own a gift shop and live in a 1,280-square-foot house that they recently refinanced for $270,000. In the San Francisco area, a $270,000 house is pretty damned modest. William Paw, the head of the household, works for the U.S. Postal Service and earns approximately $49,000 a year. So this dude has donated his entire salary for the past 4 years to the Democratic Party? One focal point for the investigation concerns whether any of the donations by the Paws were reimbursed by Hsu, which would constitute a felony. In addition to the $260,000 he contributed to federal candidates, Hsu also contributed at least $330,000 to state Democratic candidates and state party committees and ballot initiatives during the 2004 and 2006 election cycles.

Hsu skipped out on a $2million bond when he failed to appear for a bail reduction hearing on September 5 at which he was expected to turn in his passport. A "no bail" warrant was immediately issued for his arrest and Hsu forfeited the $2 million. Authorities began to search for Hsu and on September 6, he was arrested by the FBI in Grand Junction, Colorado, after becoming sick and falling on the California Zephyr train headed for Chicago. Hsu now faces federal charges of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Hillary’s campaign is now being forced to give back $850,000 donated through Hsu. Some great friend, Hillary.

You’re barely qualified to walk & chew gum at the same time. If you’re such a great Senator for the people of upstate New York, why is it that Kodak, the last major company left in Rochester, is rumored to be thinking of moving out of state? Oh wait…Kodak out-sources most of its digital camera manufacturing to Chinon, a Chinese company. What a coincidence, Comrade Hillary.

Now…..would someone like to tell me how the United States Secret Service allows their charges to meet up all the time with nefarious and shady characters from China?

Monday, September 10, 2007

ADHD and Preservatives

I swear I’m a freakin’ clairvoyant sometimes. At least three months ago I told you guys that preservatives and HFCS were messing with the DNA of the world’s kids.

Now there’s all this hullabaloo and hubris over a study that just came out that links preservatives to ADHD.

A carefully designed study released Thursday in The Lancet, a leading British medical journal, shows that a variety of common food dyes and the preservative sodium benzoate, an ingredient in many soft drinks, fruit juices, and other foods, causes some kids to become more hyperactive and distracted than usual. You don’t say?

The research, led by Jim Stevenson, a professor of psychology at England's University of Southampton, involved about 300 children in two age groups. There were 153 3-year-olds and 144 8- and 9-year-olds from the general population. In all, 267 of the 297 children completed the study and were evaluated by teachers and parents for behavior changes. Over three one-week periods, the children were randomly assigned to consume one of three fruit drinks daily: one contained the amount of dye and sodium benzoate typically found in a British child's diet, a second drink had a lower concentration of the additives, and a third was additive-free. All the children spent a week drinking each of the three mixtures, which looked and tasted alike. During each week-long period, teachers and parents (who didn’t know which drink the kids were getting) used a variety of standardized behavior-evaluation tools — some observational and one computer-based — to size up restlessness, lack of concentration, fidgeting, and talking or interrupting too much.

Stevenson found that children in both age groups were significantly more hyperactive when drinking the stuff containing additives. Three-year-olds had a bigger response than the older kids to the lower dose of additives — roughly the same amount of food coloring as in two 2-oz. bags of candy. And, there were big individual differences in sensitivity. While the effects were not nearly so great as to cause full-blown ADHD, Stevenson nonetheless warns that "these adverse effects could affect the child's ability to benefit from the experience of school."

In response to the study, some pediatricians cautioned that a diet without artificial colors and preservatives might cause other problems for children.

“Even if it shows some increase in hyperactivity, is it clinically significant and does it impact the child’s life?” said Dr. Thomas Spencer, a specialist in Pediatric Psychopharmacology at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Is it powerful enough that you want to ostracize your kid? It is very socially impacting if children can’t eat the things that their friends do.”

True. It’s much better to have an obese hyperactive kid that’s loved by everyone than a healthy kid without a skewed sense of self-worth wrapped up in a Twinkie wrapper. To quote blogger Brett Levy: “What kind of insane society do we live in where we keep toxic chemicals in food all for the benefit of our children’s “socialization?” “

Besides, unless these kids get hooked on Ritalin, Adderal, and all that other yummy stuff, the doctors don’t get any kickbacks from drug manufacturers.

Once again, the Mojo Man is ahead of the power curve. Boo Yow!

Ciao, Luciano

The world lost one of its greatest voices this week.

I was deeply saddened at the death of Luciano Pavarotti this week at the age of 71, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. I’m not necessarily a fan of opera on the whole, but to listen to that man’s voice as he sang "Ave Maria", or the "Vesti La Guibba" aria from the opera Pagliacci would make every hair on my neck stand up. It was breathtakingly beautiful to hear him sing.

Officials in his hometown of Modena said that upwards of 100,000 people came to view his casket as he lay in state at the cathedral this small northern Italian town. I’ve been to Modena, in April of 1990, and the citizens of this beautiful town were all justifiably proud of their favorite son. The final funeral Saturday itself was invitation-only and thousands of mourners watched on giant screens erected in Modena’s central plaza. On hand in attendance were the Italian premier, Romano Prodi, U2 singer Bono, film director Franco Zeffirelli and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Italy's Air Force precision flying team flew over the cathedral at the end of the service, releasing red, white and green smoke in the colors of the Italian flag.

Pavarotti's white maple casket , covered in his favorite sunflowers lay before the altar, with his wife, Nicoletta Mantovani, looking on. Sitting nearby were Pavarotti's three daughters from his first marriage. The service began with a message of condolence from Pope Benedict XVI, saying that Pavarotti had "honored the divine gift of music through his extraordinary interpretative talent".

Arrivederci, Maestro. You will be missed, but your music lives on.

The Titanic of Awards Shows: The 2007 VMA's

The Britney Train may have finally derailed, live on TV.

With nothing better to do, I popped on the MTV Video Music Awards while I was working. The VMA’s are a bit of a joke now, really, since eMpTyVee quite playing videos a LONG time ago. (

The show started with Mizz Britney Spears “singing” her newest stripper anthem, titled “Gimme More”. It was possibly the worst lip-sync I’ve ever seen her do. And it was done without even any pretense of being sung live, since all she did was gyrate poorly and look mildly confused, with only a tiny microscopic headset on as in her previous fake performances. In comparison, Chris Brown’s lip-sync was better, as was his dancing.

It was sad, yet funny. Then again, I’m not a very nice man. It set the stage for a truly lousy show. I mean, it was worse than usual.

Before the show, Kanye West, who has a new album set to be released Tuesday, whined and bitched about not being asked to open the show, stating that Britney hasn’t had a hit in years, and that maybe his skin color wasn’t right. Oh please…shut the fuck up, Kanye. 90% of what MTV and MTV2 plays (when they do play videos at all) is rap and black artists, so quit trying to play the race card like an asshole. You still got to perform halfway through the show, and it wasn’t all that, trust me.

Asked what he thought of Britney Spears, Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl said:"You know those things that you put batteries in and they just vacuum the floor without anyone touching them? That's what I think of Britney Spears."

My award for quote of the night goes to Justin Timberlake, who came out onstage with Tim “Timbaland” Mosely. The back of Tim’s head looks like a pack of Ballpark franks, but he’s so damned talented. Justin told MTV’s executives that he wanted to challenge MTV to play more videos. Then he was whisked away by bodyguards and disappeared, probably out of embarrassment at having once banged Spears and then looking at her now. He bailed before anyone could ask him what he thought, no doubt.

Linkin Park gave a spirited performance of “Bleed It Out”, with Chester Bennington screaming like a cat in heat and Mike Shinoda getting his opening rap bleeped out a few times. They sounded a lot better than Fallout Boy, who sounded like a karaoke band that needed to be beaten with lead pipes. But holy crap, I learned a brand new respect for System of a Down, who performed a great cover of Dead Kennedy’s classic anthem “Holiday In Cambodia” for about 30 seconds before MTV cut to a commercial.

The best part of the whole show was the trailer for the movie “Dragon Wars”, followed by the trailer for “Beowulf”. It hit a new low when the now infamously stupid Miss Teen South Carolina, Lauren Caitlin Upton, further embarrassed the state I live in with incoherent idiocy playing up on her abysmal interview during the Miss Teen USA Pageant. MTV was really hoping that this years’ VMA show wouldn’t suck. They cut it from 3 hours to 2, and concentrated more on performances than actual awards, possibly because they don’t actually PLAY videos. They should have changed the name to the MTV Overhyped Lame Performances Show… Oh well, MTV…you still suck. Follow Justin’s advice before you’re as washed up as Britney, bitches.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

No more tag...

What sort of world are we living in now? Ladies & gentlemen, I bring you yet another wretched example of the Pussification of the American Sheeple. Schools across the USA have been banning the game of tag. Yes, TAG, as in tag, ‘yer it. It seems that children were complaining about being chased and harassed. Oh, please.

Last I knew, wasn’t the main point of the game was to get chased? And it’s not like it’s a gang of kids chasing you; quite the opposite. One kid chases an entire group. And hey, zipperhead, if you don’t wanna be chased, then STAND STILL. You’ll get tagged and be “it”, and then YOU get to do the chasing.

Everyone’s so shit-scared of kids running into each other and falling down and getting hurt, that traditional games & sports that we had at recess and PhysEd class like tag, dodge ball, touch football, and in some cases, even soccer are now banned.

Sweet mother of pearl. Are you shitting me? How are these kids gonna ever learn to be a part of a team, work together, resolve disputes, negotiate rules, and learn that in most aspects of life, there are winners and losers and not everyone gets a fucking prize just for showing up?

And then there’s the pandemic of fat-assed kids who are being denied the only exercise that they might otherwise get because someone’s so shit-scared they might fall and skin a knee and that the school will be held liable.

This isn’t just happening in one certain area, either. Schools in places like Santa Monica and San Jose CA, Wichita KS, Beaverton OR, Charleston SC, Colorado Springs CO, and Attleboro MA are circling the wagons, raising the white flag, and rolling over.

Don’t forget the No Touching policy that is in effect at Kilmer Middle School in Virginia that won’t let kids even shake hands. God forbid, it might be a gang sign or might offend some immigrant who refuses to assimilate into normal American society. And then there was an incident at a Denver area elementary school in 2002 when seven 4th graders got a week’s detention for making finger guns on the playground during a game of “Army vs. Aliens”, thus exhibiting “violent and aggressive behavior” and violating the school’s zero-tolerance policy of making imaginary guns out of their fingers. What a load of crap.

America’s next generation of kids, the ones that are gonna grow up and take care of this nation when I’m too old & feeble to do it myself, are going to be so micromanaged and socially repressed that they will never be able to handle an adverse crisis, thinking that if shit runs awry, they an go cry & say they don’t like it, and some sissy-assed administrative official will make it all better for their bloated obese selves. Great. We’re doomed. Time to move to the Australian Outback and raise wombats.

Wake up, Sheeple! Take America back from the Idiots, or suffer with the results. Getting hurt is part of life. Kids need to learn this at a young age, or it will just be devastating later on.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Higher Standards For Our Public Officials?

In my humble, yet correct, opinion, it’s high time we went back to holding our elected officials to a higher standard of conduct and moral/ethical behavior. I’m no angel, not by any means, but I’m also not in the spotlight representing millions of constituents, either. The antics of some of these clowns don’t border on the criminal; they are criminal. Growing up, the members of your Congressional delegation, Representatives and Senators both, were held in high esteem and lauded for their selfless service to the country and to the people who elected them. Nowadays, politicos are so worried about perpetuating themselves and securing their power bases that integrity is a foreign concept, and Caligula himself would blanch at what the good people of America have sent to Washington to represent their interests.

Most recently, here in the last week the good Senator from Idaho, Larry Craig (R), was found to have been arrested for cruising for gay sex in an airport bathroom in Minneapolis. Of course he denies it, despite pleading guilty to a charge of disturbing the peace and paying a fine. Granted, the poor fellow could just have been extremely confused at being apprehended by an undercover cop, who could have misconstrued Senator Craig’s responses to his bait signals, but the public bathroom in question is reputed to be known nationwide as being a good spot to cruise, and it was nowhere near Craig’s departure gate. Mister Craig, I don’t care whether or not you’re gay. To me that’s a non-issue. But seeking out anonymous bootie calls in airport johns is just sleazy. And then to plead guilty hoping t would never come to light and then try to lie & retract your way out of it is just sad. Just come out with the truth.

In July, Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana), was implicated in a prostitution scandal. His phone number was found in a list of clients of the so-called “DC Madam”, Deborah Jeane Palfrey. A couple of the calls allegedly took place during roll calls when Vitter was serving in the House of Representatives. It was also during his tenure in the House that Vitter is alleged to have had an 11-month adulterous affair with a New Orleans prostitute named Wendy Cortez. Ironically, Vitter had replaced Bob Livingston in the House after Livingston resigned following his own adultery scandal. I guess you Cajun boys can’t keep it in your pants, huh? If you have an unhappy, unfulfilling marriage, get out of it. Divorce has less of a stigma than cheating or whoring.

Also in beleaguered Louisiana, there’s Democratic Representative William Jefferson, who stands accused of accepting bribes, among several other charges. Federal agents found $90,00000 in cash hidden in his freezer. Cold hard cash, indeed. This is the same William Jefferson who, in the midst of the turmoil surrounding Hurricane Katrina, made up the excuse of wanting to tour the New Orleans district that he represents, and took half a dozen MP’s in a 5-ton truck on an excursion that, lo and behold, took them right to Jefferson’s house. Fancy that…

The water reached to the third step of Jefferson's house, a military source familiar with the incident told ABC News, and the vehicle pulled up onto Jefferson's front lawn so he wouldn't have to walk in the water. Jefferson went into the house alone, the source says, while the soldiers waited on the porch for about an hour. Finally, according to the source, Jefferson emerged with a laptop computer, three suitcases, and a box about the size of a small refrigerator, which the enlisted men loaded up into the truck. The truck got stuck, and the soldiers signaled to nearby helicopters for aid. A Coast Guard helicopter pilot saw the signal and flew to Jefferson's home. The chopper was already carrying four rescued New Orleans residents at the time. After spending approximately 45 minutes with Jefferson, who refused to go aboard the aircraft (probably because he didn't want to leave his stash behind), the helicopter went on to rescue three additional New Orleans residents before it ran low on fuel and was forced to end its mission. The Louisiana National Guard then sent a second five-ton truck to rescue the first truck, and Jefferson and his personal items were returned to the Superdome.

You, sir, are self-serving and just plain dirty. Don’t lie and say you’re checking on constituents when you just wanted to retrieve your own gear, and held up real rescues for people who needed rescuing. I won't even get into your bribery problems.

Last year, Florida Republican Representative Mark Foley resigned after it came out that he had been sending dirty emails and text messages to teenaged Congressional pages. Foley had sent email messages from his personal AOL account to a former Congressional page, asking the page to send a photo of himself to Foley, among other things. The original news report prompted another page to come forward and ABC News reported that it had seen excerpts of sexually explicit instant messages allegedly sent by Foley that made repeated references to sexual organs and acts. The revelations prompted even more pages to come forward, alleging a history of inappropriate conduct by Foley dating back at least 10 years. Sounds like serial sexual predation and borderline pedophilia. Had you not been a Congressman (who ironically pushed a lot of anti-porn and anti-sex offender legislation) we’d have eventually seen you being busted by Chris Hansen on Dateline NBC.

But the one member of Congress who really broke my heart wih his corruption was Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham, a childhood hero of mine. During the Vietnam War, Cunningham and his Radar Intercept Officer, Willy "Irish" Driscoll, became the only Navy aces in the war, flying an F-4 Phantom from aboard USS Constellation and recording five confirmed kills, making him one of two U.S. pilots to attain "ace" status in that war.

Cunningham resigned from the House on November 28, 2005 after pleading guilty to accepting at least $2.4 million in bribes and underreporting his income for 2004's taxes. He pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud, and tax evasion. On March 3, 2006, he received a sentence of eight years and four months in prison and an order to pay $1.8 million in restitution. The only reason he didn’t receive the full ten years asked for by the prosecution was that at 64 years of age & sufferring from prostate cancer, it was unlikely that Cunningham would survive his entire sentence.

Commander Cunningham, you spent 21 years in the Navy. You were awarded the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, fifteen Air Medals, and two Purple Hearts. You were a TOPGUN instructor. You downed 5 enemy aircraft and became a jet ace. As a legislator, you sponsored legislation to keep people from desecrating the American flag and a bill that later allowed law enforcement officers from any jurisdiction to carry a firearm anywhere within the jurisdiction of the United States for their own safey. And in the end, Duke, you sold yourself. You let me down, sir.

These are just a few of the stories that are out there. Doubtless there are more awaiting discovery. We send these people to Washington to represent us, to look out for our interests, and enact legislation that is supposed to keep us the leaders of the free world. An august body of 535 people who supposedly represent we the people, but if such a high percentage of them are this corrupted by sex, money, and power, what does that say about us as a country?