Friday, August 29, 2008

Swing... and a miss...

Still trying to figure out the pluses of naming Sarah Palin as his VP has for John McCain.

Does the GOP think naming a pro-life, former beauty queen, Christian who believes intelligent design should be taught in school, former very-very-small-town mayor (my high school had about a third of its population), first-term governor of the third smallest state (population-wise) will woo Democratic supporters of Hillary Clinton to their ticket?

I'm pretty sure the addition of a pair of boobs to the Republican ticket will have not only a negligible impact, but a negative one as well. The women in my office were, as a group, pretty offended.

Now I know why they call it a party. Somebody was smoking something...

Powerful Words

OK, I have to admit, the man can give a good speech.

Barrack Obama’s presentation last night was moving, as evidenced by the tears many of the 80,000-plus had in their eyes. In fact, I’d go so far as to say he’s got a bit of the preacherman in him.

But can he back it up?

In my opinion, and all the talking heads agreed with this morning (even those on a certain news channel), Obama hit all the high points and made his position known on all the big issues. Seriously, when was the last time we heard someone say they support abortion rights (and reducing unwanted pregnancies) and the 2nd Amendment (and keeping AK-47s off the street)?

Obama’s run to the middle faster than Bill Clinton chasing a short-skirted intern carrying a sack of White Castles while Hillary is out of the country. Not that that’s a bad thing (either one, in fact). The middle is a good place to start from since you’re already halfway to a solution on any issue.

He also paid the proper respect to John McCain’s service, both in the Navy and the Senate…and then proceeded to trash his political record. (“I'm not ready to take a ten percent chance on change.” Brilliant!)The last time anyone was that diplomatic to an adversary, Henry Kissinger was chatting with Lo Duc Tho in Paris. (One thought he was winning, the other knew he’d won.) Diplomacy, of course, is the art of telling someone to go fuck themselves in such a way as to make them look forward to the trip.

I was particularly impressed with his goal of a 10-year $150 billion investment in energy security. (That’s a big increase over the Department of Energy’s 2007 budget request of $1.5 billion for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.) Not bad, now if we could get private industry to match that (on top of the money they’re already spending, which is impressive), we really could do what many of the Metro Buses say and tell OPEC to go fuck themselves. And not in a diplomatic way. (Anyone think someone’s been sharing a glass of Kool-Aid with Boone Pickens.)

The only thing I thought was missing was any statement on space exploration. The Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programs made America a world-wide scientific and engineering leader, it’s time for us to look to the sky again. Getting to the moon, again, by 2020 is not fast enough. It only took nine years the first time, why should it take 16 this go round?

Here’s me, looking forward to next week in Minneapolis. It’s gonna be fun.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Really Dirty Word

I was thinking as I watched the coverage of the Democratic National Convention on a certain news channel how the word liberal has become a dirty word in America. Soon, instead of saying “liberal,” we might be forced to use the annoying construction: “the L-word.”

It was almost as if this panel on a certain news channel was spitting the word out because it tasted like shit. But, I'm just guessing here, since they used it so very, very often they may just enjoy the flavor.

But I digress.

Why is it that liberal has become a pejorative to some? According to Webster’s, a liberal is “one who is open-minded or not strict in the observance of orthodox, traditional or established forms or ways.”

But the truth is some people merely equate “liberal” with “change” and for them change is bad. It upsets they’re little worlds by allowing people they don’t like to live next door.

Just for fun, let’s take a look at some famous “liberals” in American history. The list, of course, must begin with the father of American liberalism:

“Washington? A liberal?” *Gasp. Sputter. Eyes blood-shot and wide in rage* “How dare you call the father of our country a liberal.”

Uh, sir? Yeah, he led a revolution and successfully overthrew a government. Kinda like Lenin, Ho Chi Minh (who was known as “the George Washington of Viet Nam”) and Castro. Are there conservative Commies?

"As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality." – Geo. Washington
Other famous liberal moments in American history and the president in office at the time:
  • The 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, Woodrow Wilson
  • The New Deal to help pull the U.S. out of the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt
  • The integration of the military, Harry Truman
  • The Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts, Lyndon Johnson
  • Appointment of Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court, Johnson
A noteworthy list of accomplishments, I’d say, and a fine foundation for all of us to build our future upon.

It’s a damn shame politicians have self-segregated into two camps with only the most tenuous and barren of middle ground. This middle ground is used by the small minority who are willing to listen and, perhaps, admit the other guy might have an idea worth exploring. (Again, as in previous posts, I refuse to use the word “leader” to describe anyone in Washington. It would be an insult to the people I do consider leaders.)

And politicians being who they are – terrified of losing reelection and the perquisites that go along with American elected office – now only seek to polarize us for their own betterment. Rather than show some sack – used as a gender-neutral term in this case – and work together, the whole lot of them are more than willing to pull all of us down as they scream names at one another across the aisle.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Only ones they’ll ever get

Did anyone see this piece on Faux Noise yesterday or this morning?

Ya know what? They may do this kind of thing out there in Col-la-ray-do, but this just might answer Arjewtino’s question about when is it all right to punch a guy in the sack.

Go ahead, feed me another creature’s testicles without telling me what they are.

See what happens.

The Choice of a New Generation?

Blah de blah de blaaaaaah.

De blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Anyone else hear that drone coming from out West? Perhaps from the direction of the Mile-High City? Here’s a little of the Dew’s Wednesday morning quarterbacking of the first two days of the Democratic National Convention live from the Pepsi Center. (I wonder if they actually branded this?)

The Democrats* are proving – yet again – no matter how secure victory seems, there’s no election they can’t collectively chuck in the toilet and then yank on the handle. How can we forget this is the same group who couldn’t muster enough support for a sitting vice president to win his home state and the election eight years ago.

Hillary Clinton got up last night and made what was, by all accounts, a pretty good speech encouraging everyone to support Barrack Obama.

“You haven't worked so hard over the last 18 months, or endured the last eight years, to suffer through more failed leadership," Clinton said in her speech.

She conceded the nomination long ago, and yet, there’s still some folks out there unwilling to give up on the junior senator from New York. It’s these PUMA folks, Party Unity My Ass, who’re destine to be the Ralph Nader of the 2008 election if they don’t get a clue.

Get. Over. It. You tried, you failed, she lost.

Seriously, how does a two-term senator from New York who’s a great politician in her own right, and who’s married to one of the greatest politicians of the last half-century, blow a primary campaign to a guy who’s four years removed from a state house?

Really? Are you kidding me?

Way the Hell back last summer my brother and I were driving somewhere. During the drive our conversation, as it often happens, turned to politics. This was about the time McCain’s campaign was broke and imploding and he was getting his ass kicked by everybody including Fred Thompson.

“Now that McCain’s gone, who’s going to get the Republican nomination?” the Dew asked his pretty damn smart youngest brother.

“John McCain,” PDSYB answered.

Like I said, pretty damn smart.

So, to the PUMAs out in Denver, a bit of advice: If your support of Hillary Clinton is so extra special strong and you just can't live with out her up in Northwest, and you don’t so much mind Cindy McCain picking out the White House’s next china pattern, go ahead and do your thing. Keep on making your party to look like a gaggle of incompetents who, during the last two go-rounds, picked guys who either a) never saw a position on an issue they didn’t like or, b) are capable of winning the popular vote and yet still lose the election (and invent the internet).

* As previously stated many, many, many times before, I don’t think it makes a difference who we elect president since they’re Obama and McCain are both pretty much the same when you get right down to it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Get it while it lasts...

One of those random things that happens every once in a while happened to me today. As I was driving through Clarendon I noticed, shamefully and for the first time, Orpheus Records (3173 Wilson Boulevard).

It's a great little record shop, yeah, records. Its shelves are filled with all the vinyl of my youth - The Psychedelic Furs, Billy Joel's Innocent Man, Billy Idol - the records I saved my sparse allowance to buy. I searched for the laser-cut issue of Styx's Paradise Theater but, alas, was unable to find one. 

Unfortunately I no longer have a turntable, but I heard they're coming back (GQ says so). I had to satisfy myself with a couple of CDs (4 for $20). 

Why am I telling you this? Well, it wasn't Orpheus' sign that caught my eye, but the large red-and-white "Going Out Of Business" sign hanging just below. 

So, if you're a vinyl fan I recommend a trip over to Arlington, you may just discover a gem from your past.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Domo arigato

Like a Japanese salaryman who works for nothing but the glory of the company and is pleased by the simplest of perks, I was amazed this morning how much more convenient my new parking space is.

Until yesterday I was forced to park far, far, far away from the entrance to my building. (OK, maybe just far away.) Every day now, for almost three years I've slogged underground through the dank and dim G-3 level of my office complex's parking garage. Spring, summer, fall and winter, all my days began with the same spelunking-like trek.

But not today my friends. Today I parked a glorious four spaces away from the underground elevator lobby and was out of my car and into my holding cell...ah, I mean cube, in three minutes flat.

Serenity thy name is new parking space.

This makes me wonder, just a little, if the two knuckleheads running for president who are currently flaming each other in the media about who's the more "regular" guy have any concept about what it means to work for a living?

Both started out pretty regular, and have since made good on their own American Dreams, but do people with seven homes or million-dollar homes really think they're going to convince the rest of us that they're anything like us?

The next thing you know they'll be asking Hillary for tips on how to do shots at the corner bar.

Disillusion thy name is presidential candidate.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Methustos* (at least not yet)

I never really had a hard time finding something to drink during those dark years between 16 and 21. Looking back, that was quite a feat considering I grew up in Pennsylvania with its draconian liquor laws where they don’t even sell beer in grocery or convenience stores (you have to go to a distributor). Don’t even think about wine or liquor, the state handles all those sales through its own chain of stores.

That said I was intrigued by this story on CNN today. It seems 114 college presidents have signed on to a statement by the Amethyst Initiative calling for a “dispassionate debate” on a topic only slightly less explosive than raising the qualifying age for Social Security.

The signers of the Amethyst statement want to *gasp* discuss lowering the drinking age from 21. They feel that instead of curtailing underage drinking it has created a “culture of dangerous, clandestine binge-drinking.”

The Amethyst folks present the classic arguments: It doesn’t make sense that you can drive at 16, vote, serve on a jury, join the military and sign a contract at 18 but can’t buy booze until 21. I agree, and I also agree with them that having young people routinely disobey a law diminishes respect for the law (Prohibition anyone?).

These school leaders have accepted the fact that despite the state saying you have to be 21 to drink this doesn’t actually stop kids from drinking; it only makes them more creative in their pursuit of beer. And, really, how creative do you have to be in an environment where you’re bound to have at least one friend over 21.

I saw my share of binge drinking in the Southern Part of Heaven, Hell, I played rugby and I participated in more than my fair share of drink ups. But, and this is a gigantic “But,” I was a 24-year-old freshman who’d spent six years in the Marines before showing up in Chapel Hill. I’d already found my limit and knew exactly how to walk that line while drinking.

And, I must say, I did it well and often.

The key element in this part of my education was when my best friend looked at me one blurry Sunday morning and said, "Dew, I love you man, and I'm doing this because someone did it for me: You're a fucking asshole when you you get drunk."

And he was right. Bottle of Cuervo Gold + 22-year-old Marine = Instant (and aggressive) Asshole. I learned and learned quickly.

Many of my younger friends in Chapel Hill searched for the line I'd already found, and there are several occasions I remember being glad I was around when they badly misjudged their abilities (a certain before-classes party at Frat Court springs to mind.)

Mothers Against Drunk Driving, predictably, hit the roof with their response to the Amethyst Initiative.

“Maintaining the legal drinking age at 21 is a socially and medically sound policy that helps parents, schools and law enforcement protect our youth from the potentially life-threatening effects of underage drinking,” MADD stated on its Web site.

Personally, I think the Department of Transportation statistic MADD’s cites about how the 21 drinking age saves 1,000 lives a year is full of crap. I don’t think kids are drinking less, I just think they’re drinking and driving less. Because while drinking underage usually only get you a slap on the wrist, if you drink and drive you’re much more likely to find yourself spending some time in a cell becoming friends with Bubba or Darleen. (Unless, of course, you happen to be the star point guard of a national title contender. Then you get to watch a video and write a four-page paper.)

MADD cites almost 20-year-old stats on its Web site, so I went to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for its more recent point of view.

According to the CDC’s stats (what happened to the “P”?), alcohol-related fatalities for drivers between 16 and 17 have gone down 60 percent during the past 20 years, and 55 percent for those 18 to 20 during the same period. Those are pretty good numbers, keep em' away from the booze I say.

However, from 1991 to 2005 (sorry, best match I can come up with) CDC also reported in its National Youth Risk Behavior Survey of ninth- to 12th-graders, overall alcohol use in all three categories – lifetime use, current use and episodic heavy drinking – only decreased a total average of 6.9 percent.


And if you figure in their +/- factors, the numbers are even closer, a negligible 1.7 percent drop in high school-aged teens’ alcohol use.

I would also be more inclined to attribute many of those saved lives MADD claims to better engineered cars than to an arbitrary drinking age of 21. Anyone else think you might have a better chance of surviving a crash in a 2008 Civic compared to its 1988 grandfather? Yeah, me too.

Would lowering the drinking age make a difference? The Amethysts think it will by taking away alcohol’s mystique and making drinking less of a big deal. MADD, on the other hand, passionately believes the only thing keeping us safe from highways stained with teenagers’ blood is the 21 drinking age.

I think the answer lies somewhere in between. But, until we find that answer, kids are still going to lurk outside the beer distributor looking for just the right person to buy them those two cases of Bud they need for tonight’s party.

*A = not, Methustos = Intoxicated
It's the root of the word amethyst in case you skipped the links.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ice Cream Revelations

Sunday evening I had a terrible jones for some ice cream. Not just any ice cream, mind you, but a DQ Blizzard. Chocolate ice cream with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups crushed up in the soft serve.

Yeah, Baby!!

Well, as I was walked out of my building into the gloaming I had a sudden thought: Holy Crap! We’re halfway through August and the sun’s already going down at 7:45. Damn. Where the hell did my summer go?

Now I know how Calvin felt when he realized he and Hobbs only had one day left of summer vacation. One day for the two of them to cram all the fun things they hadn’t done into the time he’s got left before heading back to Ms. Wormwood’s classroom.

These used to be the best days of the summer. The days were spent at the pool or exploring the woods after, that is, fighting with my brothers about who would mow the lawn or do other chores that morning.

And the nights, ahh, the nights, let’s all just take a moment to reflect back on those summer nights. They were the sweetest time of all. Running around the neighborhood playing hide-and-go-seek and kick the can and sneaking smokes and, if we were lucky, a drink or two.

I’d also like to add this: man, could I send that Folgers can flying. Just the right technique.

Do kids still do those things? Are they allowed to just play and get dirty? Or does it all have to have something to do with their getting into an Ivy League college? Escape and evasion can be very handy skills for a young man; you can’t just stand still and hope she, like T-rex, won’t be able to see you.

One of the best descriptions of summer I’ve ever heard is on Fuzzatonic Scream by Bobby Gaylor. The track “One Moment” talks about his summer days and nights in some New England town and falling in love for the first time one night…and the next day being dragged kicking and screaming on a family vacation to the Grand Canyon.

That’s not to say I haven’t had fun this summer. My friends and I have been to Screen on the Green, the Tattoo at the Marine Corps War Memorial, HMS Pinafore at Wolf Trap, Nats’ games, bike rides, drinks at Polly’s and walks here and there, and I spent a great weekend celebrating my dad’s 75th b-day with the whole family.

But shouldn’t summer be more? I really can’t put my finger on what the “more” is in this case, although a water slide or amusement park springs to mind.

I don’t mind the longing, though. It reminds me I’m still young enough to recognize what summer is supposed to be: a time of joy to be spent and shared with friends.

And the Blizzard? Delish...

Monday, August 18, 2008

I Approved this Message…

You hear this at the end of every annoying campaign message. “I’m John McCain/Barrack Obama and I approved this message."

But do they? Really?

Seriously, if I was a candidate and the crap going out over the airwaves had my name attached to it I’d be looking for someone to hit. In the face. Very hard.

One thing I have noticed is Obama and McCain both seem to agree on the stock footage their ads are using. If you take not even a close look at McCain’s recent “Celebrity” ad and Obama’s “Hands” ad, you’ll notice both use the exact same stock footage of windmills when they talk about renewable energy.

With that being the case, can they really be that far apart on everything else? (They’re really not, but would like us to believe they are light years apart.)

Now that we have our presumptive nominees, can we just get this thing over with? We, as a country, have been dealing with these (and other) shills for the past two years. And, frankly, aside from energizing a few new voters due to novelty, all they’ve done is wreck the democratic process by dragging the campaign out ad nauseam.

As I’ve written before, and will harp upon again in the future, Obama and McCain offer the American voter very little or no difference. Especially on the big campaign issues.

“But he’ll protect us from terrorists in/get us out of Iraq if he’s elected,” the ardent supporters of both candidates whine.


Truth is, neither one of them is going to have the power to extricate us from/keep us in Iraq a day sooner or later than the situation allows. And the situation is not going to allow it for a while.

American blood and treasure have been spilled and spent my friends, and we are stuck there until we can leave.

And who says having 50,000 to 100,000 troops positioned in the Middle East is a bad thing after all? We’ve had troops garrisoned in Germany and Japan for 62 years and in South Korea for 55 years and have you seen any problems cropping up there?


We may not keep our troops in Iraq, but we’re going to have to find somewhere close by to turn into our Germany or Japan of the 21st century. Forward defense has always been an American military principle and our troops do us no good stationed in North Carolina, Georgia (ours, not the other one), Texas and California.

Being involved in the Middle East is a good thing for America. As Al Capone said, "You can get much further with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone."

Friday, August 15, 2008

Finally, a scientific explanation for your poor decisions

You've got to check out this article.

English scientists have proven that beer goggles do, in fact, exist.

"Everyone knows about beer goggles," Marcus Munafo said in the article. "But some of our results suggest that there's more going on than we might have thought."

What's next? Perhaps the "Coyote Ugly Effect" is due for deeper examination?

Today on Today

Following comments from the lovely Lemmonex yesterday about her morning TV preferences I broke my normal routine of CNBC and CNN (and loathing Fox) today and switched on Today for part of my morning news fix.


First of all, I also figured out why Today doesn't really fit with my morning schedule: It doesn't come on until 7 a.m., and I'm normally hustling out the door to work between 7:15 and 7:30. Doesn't leave me much time to enjoy the antics of Matt, Meredith, Ann and Al. Also, choosing to watch while they're working from Beijing has built in advantages and disadvantages.

The major advantage being near exclusive access to the low-hanging fruit of the American winners; the big prize Today was gymnasts Nastia Liukin (gold, all around) and Shawn Johnson (silver, all around). Nice interview by Ann Curry, none the less.

The biggest disadvantage is it's a bit difficult to go from the happy, feel good news of the Olympics to a story about the Russians invading Georgia. Just doesn't work, and it's kind of like an early morning two-by-four to the head.

Like I said earlier, it's been a long, long time since I've tuned into Today. The biggest thing I took away from my brief viewing was this: I miss Katie in the morning. Meredith Vieira does a good job, but she's no Katie. Maybe it's a knee-jerk reaction resulting from years of conditioning, and while I think she's doing a decent job on the evening news, it was always nice to wake up with Katie.

Gold Rush...

I stayed up late, so you wouldn't have to. It was a big night for American athletes in Beijing.

Nastia Liukin won the women's gymnastic all around gold with Shawn Johnson taking home the silver. Get ready to see the face of the Moscow-born Liukin (whose father, Valeri, won gold for the Soviets in Seoul in '88) all over the place. The face that launched a thousand marketing campaigns. 

In the Water Cube, Michael Phelps won his sixth gold with his sixth world record time in the 200 IM and Ryan Lochte won the bronze. 

It wasn't all bad for Lochte, he won his first individual gold in the 200m backstroke, breaking the world record he held with silver medalist Aaron Piersol

Rebecca Soni upset the favored Australian and set the another world record in the 200m breaststroke. 

And, finally, Natalie Coughlin took the bronze in 100m freestyle. 

All in all, they were wearing out the recording of the Star Spangled Banner in Beijing tonight.

The medal tally stands at 43 with 14 golds (six by Phelps), 12 silvers and 17 bronze, nine ahead of the Chinese (who have 22 golds).

OK, time for bed. Work is a lot closer than it should be.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wait...was that...

Most mornings, as I drag myself from the land of Nod to the less enjoyable land of the living and work, I like to watch the news. Old habits, as they say, die hard.

My usual viewing pattern begins with a few moments of CNN followed by a dose of Morning Joe before settling in for CNBC's Squawk Box.

Why Squawk? Well, first of all they have very few commercials, unlike a certain Atlanta-based news network. Second, they're all about business, eliminating the racist/sexist/thoughtless jingoism of genocidal tyrant Rupert Murdoch's Fox and Friends. And, finally, Becky Quick is really a very nice way to start the day.

That said, I saw something this morning on Squawk I'd never seen before. As part of the show's Market Watch logo they had one of these:

Yes indeedy folks, CNBC and its parent company, NBC Universal, have now officially, but quietly, announced their participation in the evil Masonic/Trilateral Commission/Illuminati plot to control our lives.

Everyone knows the All Seeing Eye (also know by a less threatening sobriquet, the Eye of Providence, in some of the more manipulative circles to keep us off guard) is the symbol of the New World Order, here to take our guns and other God-given rights and make us slaves to European overlords...Who we, of course, desperately need in these trying times of financial and social upheaval. (You know, just in case they're watching.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

You go girls (ahem, ladies)

I stayed up late last night (again) to watch the Olympics and, once they got past the beach volleyball coverage, it was pretty entertaining.

On coming into work today one of my co-workers mentioned she stayed up late watching as well, but was upset the American women had "lost" in gymnastics. Lost?? Seriously??

True, they didn't earn the gold medal, but since when is taking home an Olympic silver medal considered losing?

Yes, I'm sure they were disappointed in their performance (they also didn't have the added incentive of a repressive government holding their families hostage), but c'mon, there's 10 or 12 other teams of young women in China now (not to mention all those who didn't make their national teams) who would willingly trade cell phones to switch places.

Good job ladies. You've done well.

Another gymnastic observation: There is no way in Hell three of the six girls on the Chinese team are 16. (I have an almost 4-year-old niece who is close to their size.) But, then again, they took home the gold, so who's to say they shouldn't be allowed to compete.

Olympic quotes of the day come from the Water Cube.

Russian swimmer Alexander Sukhorukov on Michael Phelps: "He is just a normal person, but maybe from a different planet."

Not to be outdone, British swimmer Simon Burnett commented, "I think I've figured out Michael Phelps. He is not from another planet; he is from the future. His father made him and made a time machine. Sixty years from now he is an average swimmer, but he has come back here to mop up."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

100k...and counting!

OK, I'll admit it: I'm a bit of a space geek. I'm amazed by the men and women of all nations who strap rockets to their backs and fly into space. Sinking a bit deeper into geekdom, space is one of humanity's final frontiers.

That said, NASA announced this week the Hubble Space Telescope has completed its 100,000th orbit of earth. All told the orbiting spyglass has been up there for 18 years and traveled 2.72 billion miles.

To mark the occasion, NASA took this picture:

In this picture (the black part is intentional): "Hubble peered into a small portion of the nebula near the star cluster NGC 2074 (upper, left). The region is a firestorm of raw stellar creation, perhaps triggered by a nearby supernova explosion. It lies about 170,000 light-years away near the Tarantula nebula, one of the most active star-forming regions in our Local Group of galaxies."


Some other examples of Hubble's work include:

The Eagle Nebula (probably Hubble's most famous snap)

A "String of Cosmic Pearls" surrounding an exploding star

The Saturn Aurora

Astronauts are even now preparing for a fifth and final visit to Hubble that will, if all goes correctly, keep this amazing tool of discovery functioning until 2013. That same year, the James Webb Space Telescope, a much larger and more capable replacement for Hubble, is scheduled leave for its new home at the earth's second Lagrange (L2) point located 1.5 million kilometers in space.

In other space news, NASA officials said today America's new manned space vehicle, the Orion, won't be ready to fly until 2014. This means we, the U.S., will have to carpool with the Russians for at least four years to get to our $100 billion orbiting tree house after the shuttles are retired in 2010.


Seriously, these people call themselves rocket scientists? (Giving credit where credit is due: Congress also has not properly funded the program.)

Anyway, until Hubble finally tumbles out of control to a fiery death, we can still enjoy its work.

Here's looking at you, kid.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Company ink...

A little, minor news item that popped up over the weekend: apparently, a politician has had sex with a woman not his wife. Shocking. The next thing you know bears will be taking dumps in the woods. Oh, wait a minute...

In classic American political style, failed presidential candidate/failed vice presidential nominee/former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina sat down on Nightline and came clean about his affair with Rielle Hunter. Hunter, it seems, was a videographer who worked with his campaign. Edwards said the affair ended in 2006.

I know I shouldn't have to ask, but truthfully, do we really still care about this crap?

Seriously, the guy is a one-term senator who came in second in the Democratic primaries four years ago and wasn't even an also-ran this year. Supposedly, according to one article, he may have been in the running for a cabinet post should Barrack Obama win the election in November.

Probably not going to happen anymore.

If Liz, his wife, forgave him, which she apparently has since it happened at least two years ago and they're still married, what the hell business is it of ours?

Some say it shows a lack of judgement and a lack of trustworthiness. I say we already elected a president we know is a hound dog. So, as a country, we've pretty much forfeited any right to bitch about someone else's fidelity...or lack there of. Also, if you take a close look, our choices this November include another admitted adulterer and a guy who admitted to smoking pot and doing blow in high school.

If you're thinking, "Well, drug use is illegal, so that's much worse," you're wrong. Adultery violates the Uniform Code of Military Justice's Article 134, paragraph 60, making an extramarital tryst while in the military a federal felony conviction.

But, I guess, some people just aren't happy unless they're puritanically peeking through other people's bedroom (or hotel) windows. I say they just need to loosen up a bit and get a little.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Not a bad spectacle

After the opening ceremonies and the first day or so of competition, I have to say I'm enjoying the far.

Some observations:
  • The parade of nations, while taking entirely too long, was at least interesting because the countries entered Chinese. 
  • The opening ceremonies were pretty cool and, thankfully, there were no chrome pick-ups a la the Atlanta games (they show up about three minutes into the video). 
  • The US team got off to a good start by winning the first three medals with a gold, silver and bronze in the Women's Saber. USA! USA!
  • Michael Phelps is a machine with giant feet. How discouraging is it for the guys swimming against him to know he isn't racing them, he's racing his own world records. Must be like playing with Tiger on Sunday in a major. 
  • The venues the Chinese have built are beautiful, especially the Water Cube (swimming).
  • Dara Torres is one hot 41-year-old mom. 
  • For a group of multi-multi-millionaires the US basketball team is acquitting itself well. An interesting aspect of their white (I'm guessing road) uniforms is the players' names are done in white making them difficult to read. Without a close look all you see is a number and "USA." I approve.
  • There was tragedy: Todd Bachman, father-in-law of US volleyball team coach Hugh McCutcheon, was murdered by a Chinese man who also stabbed Bachman's wife before killing himself.
  • The tape delays aren't too bad. Phelps swam for his first gold at 10 a.m. Beijing time which was 10 p.m. EDT. So it kinda works out.
Totally off the subject of the Olympics, if you didn't catch "Don't Mess with the Zohan" you're missing one of the funnier movies of the year. If you still want to see it, it's playing at the Arlington Drafthouse. 

Well I'm off, back to women's cycling.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Let the Games Begin

As of an hour ago, the games of the XXIX Olympiad had begun with pomp and circumstance galore. Tune in to NBC tonight for the endless tape-delayed recap with Bob Costas.

Athletes will compete, medals will be awarded and, as sure as the Pope wears a funny hat, the Chinese are going to do something stupid. And then get their backs up when the world media call them on it...which will piss them off even more.

I don't know what's going to happen, but it's going to be fun to speculate.

The problem lies with the concept of an authoritarian government inviting the world over for two weeks and expecting them to play by the house's rules. There's something like 10,000 reporters in China. Note to the Chinese government: Reporters are individuals who, by their very nature, don't like to play by any rules but their own. The stricter the rules? The more fun they have trying to get around them. The first reporter expelled for telling a story the Chinese don't like will be a hero ... they also won't have to buy their own booze for a year.

It'll almost be a competition to see who can win the reporters' gold medal by getting booted, kicking and screaming, first. Even better than spending time in jail for refusing to give up a source.

Here's what I see happening, and it's not like I had to visit the Delphi Oracle:
  1. Sombody's going to protest something in a spectacular way in view of the media.
  2. The Chinese will commence their obligatory beat down which may or may not include said members of the media.
  3. News will happen.
  4. The Chinese will try, and fail, to control the story.
  5. World outrage will ensue.
  6. The Chinese will get even more pissed.
  7. Rinse, repeat.
Anyone else care to speculate on how it's going to go down? Chime in in the comments.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Back On Topic

“Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.” – John Adams, April 1814.

How many of you out there think we have a two-party system here in America? C’mon, raise your hands if you think that’s true (it’ll make everyone in your office wonder what’s going on and what they’re missing).

There are now two (major) political organizations out there vying for your fealty come Nov. 4. At noon on Jan. 20, 2009, one of our presumptive candidates will raise his right hand and swear to “preserve, protect and defend” the bedrock of our republic, the U.S. Constitution.

And that right there, my friends, is why we don’t have a two party system.

Those of you with your hands still up, put ‘em down. You’re starting to creep out the other inmates of your cube farm.

What we have here in America is a one party system divided by ideology. You see, despite their alleged differences, both the Republicans and the Democrats believe first and foremost in democracy. They just have different ideas about how they should work it to better control you.

They are both with a little “d” – drum roll please – democratic organizations. The members, well most of them, believe in this little experiment in representative democracy we have going here. There are extreme ends, who either want to take your guns away or make you go to their church for three hours every Sunday and Wednesday, but we’ll ignore them as it is only right and correct when dealing with shrill extremists.

As P.J. O’Rourke says in “Parliament of Whores,” his classic book on the federal government, “The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it.”

With the exception of Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a self-described democratic socialist, the other 536 elected members of our federal government are all Ds or Rs. Yeah, even Joe Lieberman, despite the (I-Ct.) after his name.

We have no communists (despite the dire warnings about some on the left), no fascists (again, despite the dire warnings, but this time about those on the right), no religious-based parties and no Greens lurking the halls of Congress or the White House.

In fact, except for their variation on one white-hot button issue (abortion), there really is virtually no difference between John McCain and Barrack Obama because, in the end, they both believe in democracy.

And on some of the only slightly less white-hot issues often dividing Americans – immigration, social security, the death penalty – both offer basically the same ideas. Both also support civil unions, but oppose gay marriage.

Ahh, you noticed I ignored the war in Iraq and energy. The reasons are twofold and simple. Despite what Obama or McCain claim and promise, America’s involvement in Iraq is like riding a tiger, and we’re stuck on that ride until it ends. And, even if they started punching holes off the Florida coast or building windmills tomorrow, neither of their energy plans will provide noticeable relief until long after they’re term-limited out of the White House.

They’re both going to take about the same amount of money out of your paycheck one way or another. Why? Because, once it has it, a government is exceedingly reluctant to give up either money or power. Come this time next year, you’re not going to be significantly better or worse off financially, all things being equal.

But, what would happen if a third party (also believing in democracy, of course) were thrown into the political Mix Master? A new ideology created to reclaim the center of the American debate both Dems and Reps have ground into dust.

An interesting idea (insert a Rock-like raised eyebrow here). Neither the Republican “Party” nor the Democratic “Party” offers us anything besides stagnation. When stagnation happens elsewhere, in business, science, art or literature, innovation takes over. It’s time for some innovation. Time for a better idea. Time for a political (r)evolution or, if you like, some political intelligent design (words you’ve never heard said before).

Viva la (r)evolution!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Eyeing the Storm

I watched with particular interest yesterday as tropical storm Edouard churned through the Gulf headed for the Texas coast.

First of all, what’s with the spelling of the name? Seriously, is the National Hurricane Center trying to avoid complaints by picking names only a minuscule number of people have?

It’s not like the folks there at the NHS have to worry about a call like this:

“Hello, National Hurricane Center, how may I help you?”

“Yes, my name is Gustav and people are giving me a hard time because I have the same name as the storm that just wrecked Miami. I’d like you to change it.”

Is your name lurking in the future as a possible Hugo (1989), Fran (1997), Katrina (2005) or Rita (2005)? By the way, these are just four of the more than a dozen hurricanes I’ve lived through or reported on in the past 15 years. But more on that another day.

Just for fun, here are the names for this year and next year so you can check.

2008 Tropical storm names

2009 Tropical storm names

Apparently, the NHC is not too worried about offending those of Spanish and French heritage.

You know, if they wanted odd names they could have gone with Aiden, Braden or Kaden (WTF?)…Oh, wait a minute…Damn it, those are the top three, seriously, the top three, baby boy names for 2007 according to Parents, seriously, put down the crack pipe. You think you’re being cute, but you’re not. Note: I’m saddened not to see my own moniker in the top 100, especially seeing how it lost out to Reece/Reese/Rhys, number 69; Mattox number 77, (isn’t that another name for a type of pick ax? Why not just name your child “Tool”?); and Colton number 96, which, to tell you the truth, sounds like a brand name for a type of stainless steel.

You’ll notice I’m not making fun of 2007’s baby girl names. Two reasons for that: One, for the most part, the top 10 are pretty nice names with the top two being Ava and Abigail. And two, I’m single and I don’t want to offend any possible dates by making fun of their names.

As it turns out Edouard did knock down some power lines and topple some trees, but that was about the extent of the damage. And, according to my friends at The Beaumont Enterprise, the utilities expected to have the power restored by later today.

That said, it’s still a silly sounding name for a hurricane.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Talking ‘bout my Generation

Late last night, laying there with my hed on my enormous pillow and totally unable to sleep, I did what any guy would do: got up and clicked on the TV.

Not wanting to flip endlessly from channel to channel, I went straight for the video on-demand to check out a show I’ve been wanting to watch, but consistently missing: HBO’s Generation Kill.

If you’re unfamiliar with GK, here’s the background: Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Rolling Stone writer Evan Wright embedded with a platoon from Bravo Company, 1st Recon Battalion, 1st Marine Division (oo-rah). The first part of a three-part article he wrote for RS, “The Killer Elite,” eventually morphed into the episode I watched early this morning: “Get Some.”

Now I don’t know how accurately Wright portrayed the invasion or the incidents and firefights he experienced along the way to Baghdad, but I’ll tell you one thing he got right: He absolutely, positively, 100 percent nailed the Marines he was with. He may not have gotten them individually correct; in fact, some of them later took issue – they physically threatened him after the articles were published – with how they were depicted. I think this is the best indicator Wright got it right. His subjects looked in the mirror and didn’t like what they saw.

But the overall picture of life as a Marine getting ready to go to war? Right. The fuck. On. It was fun to watch, and a whole hell of a lot better than Jarhead (Swoff's a good writer, but me thinks he's full of it).

I found myself smiling (and laughing) at the Marines' behavior and comments, things most people would probably cringe at seeing or hearing. Why is this you ask? Because I remember doing, saying, hearing and seeing similar things in January of ‘91 when my unit, the 2nd Marine Division, was getting ready to invade Kuwait the first time we tried this whole regime change thing.

Holy crap! Has it really been 17 years since the first go round? Damn.

To put things in the proper context, I’ll point out that although I was a Marine I was not, nor have I ever claimed to be a Marine infantryman. Let alone a member of one of the Recon battalions. But I have friends who were and as hyped and manic as my platoon’s antics were, I imagine the Marines shown in GK actually were that...and probably much more.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Marines are not soft and cuddly. Their job, if I remember my brainwashing correctly, is to “locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver.” Marine (reservists) may collect Toys for Tots every year and look nice in their dress blues doing it, and that’s nice, but their real job is finding and killing America’s enemies. Period.

I have six more episodes left and I’m looking forward to them. Not so much for the trip down memory lane, but to see something I’m guessing is as close to the truth as you’re going to get in this day in age.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A walk in the park

I went for a walk yesterday (Sunday, Aug. 3). I’m usually not a big walker to tell you the truth. Most of the time when I want to get out and about, I put on my padded shorts and helmet and climb on my bike. But yesterday I decided to slow down a bit, although my walking and riding speeds aren’t significantly different. For good measure I decided to haul my camera with me. 

My destination on Sunday was, in my opinion, one of D.C.’s more lightly visited spots: the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial on Roosevelt Island. For those of you who haven’t visited T.R. lately – or ever – I highly recommend the trip. While you’re walking along the island’s paths it’s difficult to believe you’re just a hop, skip and a jump from downtown D.C. and Rosslyn.

The memorial consists of the obligatory statue (actually a pretty nice one), a plaza, two fountains (interestingly, they seem like they’re shaped like bathtubs), some reflecting pools and four stone monoliths. The monoliths are inscribed with T.R.’s quotes on the State, Nature, Manhood and Youth.

Many are quite interesting, such as:

Youth: “Alike for the nation and the individual, the one indispensable requisite is character.” – American Ideals, 1897.

Manhood: “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” – The Strenuous Life, 1900.

The State: “A great democracy has got to be progressive or it will soon cease to be great or a democracy.” – The New Nationalism, 1910. (Keep in mind, ol’ Teddy was a Republican.)

And, finally, Nature: “The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.” – The New Nationalism, 1910.

There are more, but I wouldn’t want to ruin it for you.

OK, after that long and winding lead-in (kind of like the paths on Roosevelt Island), I’ll get to my point. In a campaign commercial the comment was made the greatest threat facing America today is the threat of global terrorism.

I disagree.

The greatest threat facing America today is our dependence on foreign dealer to supply our energy habit and the influence terrorism has on our uninterrupted fix of raw materials. Instead of searching the armpits and assholes of the world for the folks who don’t like us in a futile attempt to protect our access to oil – in areas of the world I note, where the United States is decidedly unpopular – wouldn’t it just be easier to say, “Fine, keep it. We don’t need your stinkin’ oil.”

Now, what I’m not saying is along with a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage there should also be a pump jack in your backyard. Oil was the fuel of the 20th century. We need to move on and develop the fuel of the 21st century and beyond. (Hint: it’s like the sun, but not solar.)

We need a new idea, but neither of the “presumptive” candidates for the position of our fearless leader, nor most of the candidates for the lesser offices on the Hill, offers us any new ideas.

Let’s concentrate on the principles, shall we? According to the Boston Globe’s candidate platform section, John McCain “[H]as pledged to end U.S. reliance on foreign oil and says America must modernize the way it generates and employs energy. As president, would support ‘declaration of independence’ from foreign oil suppliers and rely on technological innovations to achieve that goal.”

Barack Obama’s platform, on the other hand, “Pledges to invest $150 billion over the next 10 years to develop and implement ‘climate-friendly energy supplies, protect our existing manufacturing base and creates millions of new jobs.’ Pledges to double federal clean energy research spending. Supports efforts to reduce dependence on foreign oil, and to reduce oil consumption by 35 percent by 2030.”

Ehhhh, we need more. Obama just says he will “reduce” dependence. McCain, on the other hand, will “end” reliance on foreign oil, but at the promised price of more drilling here at home, which won’t do a damned thing. That’s like selling your flat screen to get money for smack. The truth is there just isn’t that much oil here in the good ol’ US of A. But, good news, we have plenty of other options.

“The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.”

Along with proven reserves of coal and natural gas, we also need to vigorously fund nuclear, wind, solar and anything else that will produce (preferably in a clean sort of way) a kilowatt of electricity. I’m pretty sure we can do this because another of our greatest natural resources are Americans’ creativity and ingenuity.

What we need is something Kennedy-esque, something inspiring (and I know I’ve already used this quote, but it’s a pretty good one), “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

JFK said this on Sept. 12, 1962. Less than seven years later, on July 20, 1969, Americans walked on another planet for the first time. Not too bad: seven years to go half a million miles (round trip). It was hard, but we did it with more than five months to spare.

We need to force politicians to give us concrete details about what they're going do if we vote for and elect them. No more waffling (ummmm, waffles). I don't mean make them promise what they're going to accomplish, no one can predict that and I wouldn't believe them anyway. But they've got to promise us in hand-in-the-air, cross-your-heart-and-hope-to-die, pinky swear concrete terms what they're going try to do to solve the problem.

I don’t care what other people say and think, I believe Americans are still, collectively, the smartest and most innovative group of people around. With the proper motivation, inspiration and leadership (from government and business) we, as a country can solve this problem.

The folks who hate us aren’t going to stop hating us because we stop buying their oil. In fact, the governments and terrorists in the Middle East (and idiots in South America) will probably hate us more because we’re no longer dependent on them. But I think it’s gonna be a lot easier to fight them when we’re no longer paying for the bullets and explosives they’re using on our troops in the first place.

Two Voices

One of these is not like the other, but which is which?


Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Dec. 11, 1918-Aug. 3, 2008

And, despite my loathing of the Atlanta Braves:

Skip Caray
Aug. 12, 1939-Aug. 3, 2008

Friday, August 1, 2008

Back for more…

OK, that wasn’t so hard. While I know I started off this blog with a long, Dennis Milleresque type rant, that’s not all I want it to be about. I’d like The Foggy Dew to be funny and entertaining as well as thought provoking.

Don’t know how I’m going to do that yet, but this whole thing is a work in progress. That said, until something better comes along, I’m going to continue my line of thought from yesterday.

I subscribe to no particular political ideology. I’ve been a newspaper reporter, a group of people – with the exception of Fox News and CBN – everyone knows are total left-wing liberals if not, in fact, parlor pinks. But before that I was a member of that most humble brother(and sister)hood, the Marine Corps, and we all know that every member of the military is just a jackboot away from a party meeting with Benito and Adolf.

To quote Ferris Bueller: “A person should not believe in an ism - he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon: ‘I don't believe in Beatles - I just believe in me.’ A good point there. Of course, he was the Walrus. I could be the Walrus - I'd still have to bum rides off of people.”

(After searching for that quote, I also noticed it’s kinda popular in the ‘sphere. Oh well, good writers borrow, great writers steal outright.)

People are so caught up today in -isms and labels it makes it impossible for you to have an honest disagreement with someone. Labels have made it impossible for politicians to compromise because we live in an age of absolutism (see, another ‘-ism). And, God forbid, you accidently listen to someone and decide, “Hey, maybe they’ve got a good point there,” and change you mind. You’d be kissing off any chance of ever getting elected again.

Looking back over the history of the United States you begin to wonder what happened to all the great leaders. “All we have to fear…” and “We choose to go to the moon…” have been replaced with “I did not have sex with that woman…” and “I’m the decider…”

Where are the men and women today who are willing to risk it all for something they believe in? Are you?

Is anyone today willing to “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our Sacred Honor.” (Yeah, that pesky document again.)

We often forget, 232 years into our republic, this country — this experiment in democracy — was founded in bloody revolution. The fight then was a long and difficult struggle. A battle to literally rip the 13 colonies away from Great Britain. Like the first settlers to set foot in the undiscovered country of North Carolina and Massachusetts, the founders left everything behind when they revolted against their king.

And, let’s be clear, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Ben Franklin and all the rest were risking their lives and committing treason when they stood up for what they believed in.

For these men there were no retractions on the news and, perhaps, some community service to apologize for offending the George III. If the Revolution failed the 56 names on the Declaration of Independence would have quickly appeared on headstones (if they were lucky) after they swung from the gallows.

For example, from the inspiration of our namesake, check out the section on the signatories.

What’s happened to the legacy of that treason that created this country? Washington, who said, “Our cause is noble, it is the cause of mankind,” would be stunned at how we’ve trashed the dream.
Remember the Keep America Beautiful ads? Just imagine Rembrandt Peale’s portrait of Washington with tears running down his face.

If Washington and the other founders could see the United States today, they’d be searching for a meeting room and, for good measure, having the air conditioning turned off.