Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Vacation had to get away

"Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys" - P.J. O'Rourke, Parliament of Whores

So, let me get this straight: According to the prez our nation (and the rest of the world for that matter) is facing an economic meltdown of cosmic proportions because of rules he and his friends made (or, rather, unmade as the case may be when it comes to regulation of the financial markets), and which the members of his party signed off on during his first six years in office.

OK, just wanted to make sure we understand the situation.

After a long day in business suits giving 15 minute speeches on the floor of the House and talking about the weekend's college and NFL games in the cloak room, the plan to use $700 billion of our money collapsed like...well, like the Dow on Monday.

After this exhausting failure of a five-hour work day, where the most strenuous thing most of them did was slide a card into a slot and hit the "No" button, Congress today is getting right back to work ...

Wait a minute? What's that you say? They're taking today off? Oh, it's Rosh Hashanah. Well that makes sense. Everyone deserves a day off now and then.

Are you kidding me?


I didn't get today off. Pretty much everyone I know is at work, including my Jewish brother-in-law and the Muslim woman I work with, although she is leaving at noon to spend
Eid with her family (an interesting coincidence of dates with Rosh Hashanah which I would expound on more if I wasn't so pissed at Congress). I wish her, and all my Muslim and Jewish brothers and sisters, a very happy and hopefully peaceful new year.

Getting back to the object(s) of my disgust and derision.

You're seriously telling me that while one of the cornerstones of America teeters on the edge those thieving jackasses in Congress who allegedly represent us are taking a day off?

That's it. I'm done with them. Every last worthless one of them.

Congress is broken beyond repair and, when something is that screwed up, the only thing to do is throw it away and start anew. If they can't show us the respect we deserve as Americans, then they deserve none from us. Vote 'em all out I say. Every last one of those miserable, lying sons of bitches has got to go.

Not only should we vote them all out, I think it's about time for us to rewrite the rules they work by. A couple of tweaks and some editing of Article I should do the trick.

The Founders never intended the Constitution to remain static, that's why they gave us the power to amend it when necessary. The only way for the Constitution to survive is to evolve and change with the times. The only problem with amending the Constitution is the process starts in one of two ways. The first way, unfortunately involves those same ... I'm running out of nasty names for them, oh, wait, here's one ... bottom feeding scum suckers in Congress (my apologies to catfish everywhere). The second, which you can be sure those in power will oppose, begins with the individual states calling for a constitutional convention.

The best way to do this, I think, is the second through an
Article V constitutional convention. It's a lot easier to scare the shit out of local legislators than to do it to the idiots on the Hill.

It's not going to happen soon but, as I read in a fortune cookie once, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." So I say let's all step up and work for real change, not the crap they're peddling on TV these days, throw the bastards out and start fixing this country.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Let me eat cake!

After my fourth cross-country flight in two weeks, I decided to take today off. Along with sleeping in late, I had a bunch of stuff to get done before heading off to my second wedding in two weeks this weekend.

Now that my tux is at the cleaners with a guarantee of being done on Wednesday, I can now relax and look back on this past weekend, which was spent deeeeeep in the back woods of Colorado.

I was there for my friend Liz's wedding. I've known Liz for 14 years and I can say, without a doubt, she looked happier and more beautiful Saturday night than at any time in the past.

OK, enough about the bride. This was the view out of my hotel room at Gateway Canyons:

Not too shabby. It was also the backdrop for the wedding ceremony.

I had wanted to get out to Arches National Park, but it was a bit of stretch, so I made do with a three-hour drive through the Colorado National Monument. Here are a couple shots from there:

The Independence Monument

The view down Ute Canyon

Me getting creative with some B&W shots
of some rocks called The Coke Ovens

The bride and her new husband live in the Colorado National Monument, and I'm a bit jealous of the views they have every day. They even have an airstrip on their property.

I would not, however, want to live there myself.

While talking with some of the other guests I came to the conclusion I'm a city person. I like cities. I like other people being near me. Arlington, the smallest county in the country, has a population density of almost 8,000 people per square mile. Mesa County, where the wedding took place has more than 100k residents, but they're pretty spread out: 34 people per square mile.


There was a sign at the side of the road leading to the resort reading "Last Gas For 44 Miles."

Thank you, no. Give me the Drafthouse, my Thai restaurant right up the street, the Metro on a summer day and the Mall during Screen on the Green.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

No questions, please

(I started this post long ago today in the distant past before I was required to make a harrowing journey to the five-sided palace on the Potomac. Doesn't matter why I was there, what matters is that it took six hours of my life I'll never get back. Oh, yeah, I also had to walk through the rain to get back to my car.)

Tuesday John McCain's campaign broke not one, but two rules when it comes to dealing with the media. After almost 30 years in politics and two years on the campaign trail, I was surprised.

The first rule he broke is: The media decides what's news. This kinda goes back to the joke about how there's always just enough news to fit in the paper every day.

When Sarah Palin's handlers decided to exclude producers and reporters from a photo spray of the Veep candidate and some world leaders, they were told "Thanks, but if we can't have them in there, we're not going to take pictures of her chatting it up with Hamid Karzai."

The decision was quickly reversed.

The second, and more important, rule they broke (again), was when the campaign got angry at the media for taking a stand. Calling the media names violates the "Don't pick fights with people who buy ink by the barrel." Because you calling them names is what they're going to report to fill their limited space.

Now this may not seem like a big deal, and some may in fact enjoy seeing members of the fourth estate put in their place (even I do some times), but it misses the point. When I worked as a reporter it was my job to go to the places and meetings and such other people didn't have the time for. I, and my fellow reporters, took this task very seriously because, as boring as a city council meeting about next year's tax rate may be, it's something that affects everyone.

Palin has spoken to many cheering audiences since her nomination, but answered questions from reporters only three times. I don't think it's too unreasonable to expect her to answer a couple of questions on the record seeing as how, ya know, she's asking for your vote for veep.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Didja hear?

This shocking news from the world of music: North Carolina's very own American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken has announced, on the cover of People no less, he's gay.

I truly did not see this coming.

The next thing you know they'll be telling us NBA players are above average height.

Now that he's a daddy Clay's telling the world he could no longer hide his true self from his son.

"I cannot raise a child to lie or to hide things," Clay tells People mag. "I wasn't raised that way, and I'm not going to raise a child to do that."

Obviously, he has no idea about parenting, mine lied to me all the time.

My personal fave was my dad's response to his loving children's repeated and passionate pleas for a dog: "The landlord doesn't allow them." OK Dad, we understand, it's in the rules.

It seemed like a good answer, until a head-slapping moment much later in life when I realized I'd always lived in a house with a mortgage. It was only then when I understood exactly what he was saying and the diabolical nature of his plan. My old man, by diffusing the dog situation early on, made sure none of us would make the connection to who the landlord really was.

That said, good luck Clay. You're gonna need it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

? !

I did something Monday night I hadn't done in a very long time: laughed at a sitcom. Three sitcoms in fact. (Yeah, yuck it up, I know what you were thinking.)

I've heard the sitcom is dead, but let me tell you the Monday line-up of Big Bang Theory (giggle), How I Met Your Mother (Barney rules!!) and Two-and-a-Half Men (I'm surprised this is on network TV it's so rudely funny) is just 90 minutes of fun.

It's almost reminiscent of the old Cheers-led Thursdays. Only smarter and, just a little, baser.

Even though it comes in the middle of this three-pack of funny, HIMYM is the stand-out of the group. And, standing head-and-shoulders above his peers, is NPH's Barney Stinson.

Any man, real or imagined, who can drunkenly text "?" for a 3 a.m. booty call and get a "!" back? Well, my friend, that's a man we should all strive to emulate.

Barney is all id (in case you forgot college psych). Yeah, like you wouldn't want to be too.

He (along with Charlie Sheen) gets some of the best lines ever written for the small screen. Last night's "Bimbo monologue" is a case in point.

When Barney is forced to choose between the woman he has caught "feelings" for and bimbos, he says: "I choose bimbos. Bimbos make me happy. Bimbos make me feel alive. Bimbos make me want to pretend to be a better man. This whole thing with Robin was just a fling, but, at the end of the day, my heart belongs to bimbos."

For a more insightful look into a man's heart I think, no, I know you'd have to go back to Shakespeare.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Don't let the door knob hit you...

This weekend, up in NYC, the Yankees played their last game in the House that Ruth Built. Personally, I have no memories of this legen-wait for it-----dary stadium, but my mom did.

Growing up her father, my Grandpa Tom, was a NY cop who worked the beat around Yankee Stadium and was, according to my mom, well-known to the players from the '30s through the '60s. Some amazing players passed through the Bronx during this time - Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Roger Marris, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra - while my mom was growing up.

But it was Ruth, DiMaggio and Gehrig my mom especially remembered as they were her dad's friends with whom he probably shared a drink (he was an Irish cop after all) and, on occasion, meals at my mom's house. Apparently, players back then, were loath to turn down a free meal and didn't mind spending time with friends who did normal things like walk a beat.

With those memories close at hand, and my mom and Grandpa Tom both long gone, I can only wonder what they'd think of today's massively overpaid, narcissistic, selfish, whining crybaby jackasses who bid farewell to Yankee Stadium yesterday? (At least they won on the way out the door.)

Probably not much.

The new one's on the right. Doesn't look
that much different from the old one.

For the price of "New Yankee Stadium" my hometown built PNC Park for the Pirates ($216 million); Heinz Field for the Steelers ($281 million): a yet-to-be-named hockey arena for the Penguins ($290 million); and expanded its convention center ($354 million) - and would still have almost a half a billion dollars left over. (All figures according to Wikipedia).

As expensive as land and construction and everything else are in NYC all I can say is, Really? A billion six (of mostly taxpayer money) for one stadium?

I can't even begin to imagine how much it's going to cost to go to a game there. Anybody think there'll be $5 seats like at Nat's Park? (Insert maniacal New York-accented laughter here, here and here.)

All I can hope for is that as The Boss (old George himself) moves his aging lineup of not-nearly-as-good-as-they-think-they-are wannabe superstars into their new $1.6 billion palace, they tank. H.A.R.D. Like the Red Sox and Cubs of yore.

Special Irish Hex: No playoffs for you Yankees for two years; no pennants for five and not even a taste of World Series glory for the next 10 years.

You read it here first.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Virtual Panty Raid

I got this in the mail a couple of days ago and have been pondering what to do with it. 

Seeing as how while I'm a big fain of Victoria's Secret, I personally have very little use for their wares since they just don't make a decent boxer brief anymore.

So I thought in honor of Shannon's post about her laundry difficulties, and all of the enthusiastic comments on the topic, I'd do my best, aside from actually doing someone else's laundry, to alleviate one lucky person's problems. At least for a single day. 

Whoever has the best reason, and an XX chromosome, will receive the coupon pictured below entitling them to a free pair of Victoria's Secret panties and $10 of any bra. 

Delivery options can be worked out however you'd like to ensure your privacy.  

Bonne chance!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Nothing to lose but some chains

This one goes out to all my pals living in the District. I know you've heard me make fun some times and criticize at others, but not this time. This time I got your back.

Also, forewarned is forearmed, this post is going to contradict itself in some places, but it's all for the common good.

On Wednesday the House passed H.R. 6842, a bill that would effectively gut the District's gun laws. The vote was 266-152 in favor of this resolution (181 Rs and 85 Ds voted "aye" in case you're interested). The measure would legalize semiautomatic rifles and repeal the District's gun registration laws.

Now, don't get me wrong, I personally believe gun control means proper sight alignment and trigger control so you can hit what you're aiming at. I feel the Supremes acted correctly in striking down the District's gun ban, and the Council was being petulant in its first attempt at passing a new gun law.

That said, Tuesday the Council voted to end the District's requirement to keep guns unloaded and to permit residents to own semi auto pistols. Well and good. I have no problem with registration, a law-abiding citizen should have nothing to fear from this. There's 200 million guns in this country so even if they know where all of them are I'm pretty sure the government would have a hard time taking all of them away.

In response to the House's action, the WaPo reported Council Chairman Vincent Gray said, “I implore the Congress to give this body, this mayor and this city an opportunity to find a solution.”

Here's my solution and where I may lose some of you, but don't worry, I really do have a point.

The reason the Adams boys, a printer from Philly and a planter from Virginia, among others, rose up together was in response to exactly the same kind of thing that happened Wednesday on the Hill: A distant government voted to impose its will on a group of Americans.

What's that Foggy? A distant government you say? It's not distant, it's right here in the center of town. Think so, huh? The main sponsor of H.R. 6842 was Rep. Travis Childers, a democrat from Prentiss County, Mississippi, 842 miles away.

That's pretty damn far in my opinion (which this is). Not quite as far as London, but far enough to qualify as a distant government in my mind. What the hell does this ignorant sod-kicker think he's doing pushing laws on people who didn't vote for him.

Ah, yes, I know, Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution give Childers and every other moron with the ability to raise campaign funds, glad-hand the public and kiss babies the right to tell the almost 600,000 residents of the District, who they don't represent, what they can and can't do. Again, I'm a big fan of the Second Amendment, I'm just not a big fan of tyranny.

And that's what this is, tyranny.

So what's the District to do if this piece of shit bill passes and is signed by the president, which he said he'd do?

I say the District should respond to Congress with two words: Get. Bent.

Or, even better, Fuck. Off.

Seriously, what could the Feds do? Put Fenty and the rest of the council in jail for ignoring them? Yeah, that'd be a good move. I'm sure there's one or two people on the Hill who can spell martyr without having to look it up.

If Congress gets really annoying, I say the city not only ignore them, but make their lives as miserable as possible as well. Total passive aggressiveness. Or, as Thoreau, Gandhi and King called it, civil disobedience.

I see many, many members being pulled over by MPD for broken tail lights as they drive through the District on their way to and from work. Everyday. Single. Day.

How about not maintaining the streets, or better yet, the water mains around the Capitol and the White House. That fancy new gym of theirs might not seem so nice when they all start stinking like the fish market in July.

How many complaints do you think the State Department have to deal with if every diplomat started getting parking tickets and then had their cars booted? That could really be funny.

Embarrassment is a powerful motivator.

What the city need to do is pick a fight with the Feds, get taken to court and have Art. I, Sect. 8 nullified. It's archaic and no longer necessary and needs to go. If it takes an amendment to the Constitution, fine. This is a far, far better cause than defending marriage or the flag.

If senators can be popularly elected, everyone counted as a whole person and women given the right to vote (you go girls!), then the residents of the District of Columbia must be allowed control their own fate.

I don't know if that fate involves statehood, but it damn well should include a loud voice in the laws affecting my fellow Americans.

Finally. A show worth watching

After years in the vast and expansive wasteland of reality show after reality show...after watching countless, endless, senseless versions of American Idolatry there's a show worth watching (on network television).


It Rocks.

'Nuff said.

Can you even X-ray an Apple? Who cares? Fringe Rocks.

As good as Lost and 24 are, and as good as Alias was (Jennifer Garner=serious happiness down there), there hasn't been a show like Fringe since Millennium.

Ummmm! Snake...
Back then, Frank Black was keeping us all safe at the end of the last decade as the End of Days approached. Frank was the Man when it came to dealing with creepy things.

Alas, it was a show that ended after three seasons, well before it's time. Although, come to think of it, by ending in 1999, it was giving us two-years' notice. (And for those of you planning to write and say it was only a year, the first year of the third millennium was 2001.)

But back to Fringe. The first episode, where everyone on the plane from Germany melted, and some of the first words our heroine hears (I love you) are a lie, was like having your cheesecake before the filet. So good, and yet so baaaaaad.

Last night's episode (Interlude: A co-worker just pointed out the reason I probably enjoyed this show so much is because I don't watch J.J.'s other creation, Lost. I watched the first bunch of episodes, but missed one and that was that for that series. Same thing happened with 24.) included an instant pregnancy --why wait nine months? Get preggers now and have the baby in half an hour --serial killers, geometry and a crazy man milking a cow.

The show even tells you how long you have to get to the bathroom and back when it cuts to its rare commercials. "Fringe will return in 70 seconds" flashes on the screen with what I'm sure is some kind of clue like the apple above.

Could you really ask for more?

I think not.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Looking back, looking forward

Even though I don’t live there any longer, I still like to keep up with the news in Southeast Texas, usually by checking the headlines of my old paper, The Beaumont Enterprise, each morning.

The headlines I’ve seen during the past few days in the wake of Hurricane Ike are eerily similar to the ones we wrote just about three years in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita (my 13th hurricane). If you’d like to see some of those front pages you can go here.

In fact, just as Rita was getting ready to slam into Sabine Pass (a little town right on the Gulf of Mexico that was almost wiped off the map) this came over the wire from the NY Times News Service:
“BC-RITA-PARTNERS-ADVISORY-NYT Editors, we commend to your attention storm coverage from New York Times News Service partner news organizations, including Hearst Newspapers and Cox News Service, but especially articles from The Houston Chronicle and The Beaumont Enterprise, two Hearst papers in the path of Hurricane Rita. Their unique perspectives lend an authenticity to storm stories that cannot be matched.”

That was a big pat on the back from the folks up in NYC, but I digress.

I recommend taking a look at them and not only because I’m proud of the work the team I was a part of did during those first long, hot days after Rita. Take a look and imagine yourselves in the position of the people we wrote about three years ago and the ones who are now returning after Ike.

Turn off your computer (not right now, of course, but when you're done reading my blog) and your cell phone. Turn off the lights, TV, refrigerator, water heater and AC in your office and home. Turn off the street lights and stoplights in NoVa, the District, PG and Montgomery counties.

Now leave it that way for eight days if you live in the District. Two weeks if you live inside the Beltway. And, if you live in Fairfax, Prince William, Montgomery or Prince Georges, you can turn all your stuff back on the week before Halloween.

Imagine going a week to six weeks without electricity and you’ll get an idea what life’s like after a hurricane. Shit, this area goes back to the Stone Age if the power goes out for six hours, and totally Neanderthal if there’s even a hint of snow in the five-day forecast.

Our nearest ancestor gives a completely
different meaning to "Whole Foods"

For the most part, though, the people in Southeast Texas sucked it up, wiped their brows (it was really hot the week after Rita, unseasonably hot in fact), rolled up their sleeves and got to work.

Texans are like that: always willing to lend a hand to a neighbor in need. And if the government isn’t willing or able to help they’ll still get it done, just a bit slower that’s all. I’ve no doubt they’ll take Ike in stride and, in a year or two, be ready for the next storm that zeros in on Texas.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Little More Action...

As the saying goes, what happened in Vegas is gonna stay in Vegas.

Well, mostly, cause without a story or two to tell it really wouldn't have been a trip to Vegas, now would it?

First off, I'd like to thank J for this joke (really, it's worth reading), which led to the quote of the weekend:

"Take your blood chocolate and jelly it up your ass."

Let's just say it came at the end of a long day after we'd run through the day's gambling allowance and we had to find something else to play poker with.

As for the rest of the trip, well:
  • If money came in a liquid form, it couldn't go through your fingers faster than it does in Vegas.
  • The women are "Oh. My. God. Beautiful!" on Saturday night. Sunday morning is a whole different story. The men are the same shade of ugly all the time.
  • If you never want to go outside, you don't have to. If you do, be prepared to walk. No Metro and the Monorail doesn't go everywhere you need.
  • Free drinks are not always a good thing while you've got money on the table.
  • As Rusty said in Oceans 11, "I've got two words for you: mini bar."
  • Don't bring kids to Treasure Island's "Pirate" show. While the pirates used to battle it out with the British Navy, they now must protect themselves from the "Sexy Sirens." Not saying I didn't enjoy the show, but if you have kids they might be asking you some uncomfortable questions after the "Bull" sinks.

  • Cirque du Soleil's O is an amazing show. If you ever get a chance to see it, I highly recommend it.
  • Never get on an east-bound plane at three in the afternoon on the West Coast if you have to be at work the next morning. Trust me.
That's all I can think of (or remember) at this point. I see that while I was gone many of Americas financial institutions have decided to go bat shit crazy. Who knew 21 Red would turn out to be a better bet than Merrill?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Little Less Conversation

Heading to Vegas for a long and well deserved weekend. See ya on Monday!

For a loser, Vegas is the meanest town on earth.  ~Hunter S. Thompson

A time to laugh, a time to weep

Like any good Irishman, I'm going to get the weeping out of the way first.

With that out of the way, and a glass raised to the fallen, it's time for a laugh. A friend send me these on Tuesday and I couldn't help chuckling each time I thought of them, and thought of how much I wished I'd had the balls to use something similar on a test. For some reason my high school thought I needed to know trigonometry and the University of North Carolina had this warped impression that calculus would assist me later in life.

Here's an equation for them: (Journalist) + (calc)/time = purple (Yeah, didn't make sense to me either.)

On to the funnies. Can you imagine the teacher laughing as s/he graded this?

I wonder if this involved a chat with little Johnnie's parents about gender roles and the equality of the sexes? Of course, it is a math problem.

It could happen, sleeping with the boss' wife is definitely grounds for termination at my company. Not that I would.

Now here's a math teacher with a sense of humor.

Math is suppose to be literal. This could be a nominee for a Fields Medal.

I'm not one for the maudlin and I believe life if for the living and would rather look forward than back.

However, it doesn't hurt to take a moment to remember the secretaries, stockbrokers, janitors, flight attendants, reporters, cops, firefighters, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who went to work on a day not too different from today, expecting it to be just like any other, but never knowing someone had other plans.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Maybe? Then again, maybe not...

We see them everyday as we drive or walk or Segue around town to-and-from work or, more likely for some of you reading, bars.

Bumper stickers proudly adorning the rear windows and bumpers of our friends' and neighbors' cars. Haven't seen one on a motorcycle, though, I guess the two-wheeled crowd has more respect for their hard-earned iron.

With this being a leap year the most abundant of these mobile messages tend toward the political. One of the most popular I've seen reads "01-20-09 Bush's last day" which, I must say, is about as creative as "Monica Lewinsky's ex-boyfriend's wife for president."

Anyway, this picture is of one of my neighbor's cars:

It's pretty easy to figure out who they're voting for come Nov. 4. It would have been funny a few years ago to make fun of them for not only supporting democrats for national office, but they must really be a masochist to pull for the Sox.

What I found most interesting, however, is that all three of these bumper stickers (four counting the Sox sticker) are Scotch taped to the inside of the window. A close-up to show the detail of the fine taping job:

To me this shows a certain lack of commitment to the cause. Their cause, of course, not mine. The last bumper stickers I had on a car read "He's Not Here" and "Give Blood, Play Rugby." At the first bad turn in the campaign they can be removed in a fit of pique. Such weakness is not becoming in a campaign.

Or, should the McCain/Palin ticket prove victorious in November, they can be quickly ripped down to avoid "editing" by the Ministry of Truth.

I always kinda laugh when I see a Kerry-Edwards or Gore-Lieberman sticker, but at least they've shown a conviction of their ideals. Tattered Bush-Quayle or Dukakis-Bentsen stickers are just sad, however a Nixon-Agnew sticker is prudent. You never know when Tricky Dick may be back dead and buried or not.

I say if you're going to support someone don't hold back. Peel off the back of that sticker and slap the sucker on your bumper.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

“Illinois Nazis? I hate Illinois Nazis.”

There was a bit of a kerfuffle last Friday over at Zip’s place when the topic of folks turning the American flag into a charcoal briquette came up.

The idea proposed was that this behavior – the torching of the Stars and Stripes – be made illegal and punished by some time in the slammer.

I disagreed. Respectfully, I might add.

The debate was spirited and interesting … and was cut off when some impolite comments were made and that was that. Until now, since I’ve decided to revive this most interesting discussion.

Now, don’t get me wrong here, I’ve never burned a flag in my life. OK, there was that one time in Boy Scouts, be we did it the right way. But, I wonder, has there been a recent nationwide rash of assaults on Old Glory I haven’t hear about?

Flag burning’s a popular pastime outside of America. Hell, you can barely go a day around the world without seeing some enthusiastic young men (usually) expressing their most deeply held feelings while risking the third-degree burns that often come from mixing flammable liquids, a nylon U.S. flag and a match. The results are often most humorous. You can burn a flag, but it may take its revenge from the grave as it burns you while melting into your stupid ass.

But here in the states the issue really didn’t come up until 1984 when Gregory Lee Johnson was arrested for burning a flag outside the GOP convention in Dallas. Had to be Dallas, didn’t it? “Hey, instead of burning a flag in Texas how ‘bout you wrap yourself in a dead antelope and walk across the African veldt? You’d stand a better chance of survival.”

Johnson was charged with violating Texas’ law against vandalizing respected objects. He was convicted, sentenced to a year in jail and fined $2,000.

Believe it or not, the Texas Supreme Court let Johnson walk when it overturned his conviction. The court said, in part and according to Wikipedia, "Recognizing that the right to differ is the centerpiece of our First Amendment freedoms, a government cannot mandate by fiat a feeling of unity in its citizens. Therefore that very same government cannot carve out a symbol of unity and prescribe a set of approved messages to be associated with that symbol…"

That’s the Texas Supremes there, not no liberal Caleefornyuns or Massa…Massa…Hell, that state where Kerry’s from-yuns.

Our own Supremes here in D.C. later, in a very mixed 5-4 opinion, upheld the Texas Supremes decision.

They were right.

Shock. Gasp. Horrors.

Now I’m not saying I believe burning a flag’s my idea of fun afternoon of protesting. In fact, it’s pretty stupid (see above for possible side effects). What I don’t think it is is wrong.

I’ve been an Eagle Scout, a Marine and a journalist. (Can anyone name three famous writers who were also Marines? Excluding moi, of course.) Even when I was a Marine I thought burning a flag was dumb.

What, to me, was a more offensive use of the flag, you ask? Watching members of the Knights of the White Camellia (aka the KKK) march around the outskirts of Vidor, Texas, carrying an American flag. Jackasses.

Jake Blues had it right, “I hate Illinois Nazis.”

But I, and my fellow Marines, would have fought to the death (hopefully someone else’s) to protect *your* right to burn that flag or for those idiots to march behind one. The same flag, I will add, that covers our coffins when we take our final dirt nap.

My thoughts on this are similar to those of Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii). During the 2006 debate on a flag burning amendment in the Senate, Inouye called flag burning "obscene, painful and unpatriotic."

However, Inouye, a Medal of Honor recipient who lost an arm in Italy during World War II while fighting with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, also said, "But I believe Americans gave their lives in the many wars to make certain that all Americans have a right to express themselves – even those who harbor hateful thoughts."

The amendment, which had overwhelmingly passed the House, failed by one vote (66-34) in the Senate.

Burning a flag may annoy me and offend the Texas Supremes, the Supremes and Senator Inouye, but if you take away that right, which one is the next to go? Going to (or not going to) the church of your choice? Newspapers investigating the government? Peaceably assembling and petitioning the government for the redress of grievances?

What do you think?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Hot off the monitor

Our long national nightmare is over.

Just saw an AP news flash: Lance Armstrong is returning to the Tour de France next year to race with the Astana team. Astana includes among its members Armstrong's former (and now defunct) Discovery team members Levi Leipheimer and Alberto Contador. who won the tour in 2007, two years after Armstrong retired.

Wonder how Contador feels about this news?

Oh, Astana also has Johan Bruyneel, the guy who ramrodded Armstrong through his seven Tour victories, as the sports director (the guy in charge).

According to MSNBC, "The seven-time Tour de France winner will race in the Amgen Tour of California, Paris-Nice, the Tour de Georgia, the Dauphine-Libere and the Tour de France — for no salary or bonuses."

Yeah, that last part caught my eye. Is Lance just bored? Bored enough to punish himself for a year for free?

Well, all I can say is good luck and enjoy the ride.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A simple answer

I overheard the most interesting conversation today as I was leaving my house on the way to the Teeter to restock the old pantry. 

The conversation took place inside my building's elevator among a group of my neighbors who got on at a lower floor and went something like this:

20-something-year-old girl: "I don't like riding elevators."

Somewhat disinterested parent: "Why's that honey?"

20-syog: "They make me feel sick."

The conversation ended at this point for a simple reason: These people, who all could have used a couple trips up and down the stairs, ALL GOT ON ON THE SECOND FLOOR AND RODE DOWN TO THE LOBBY!

Really, you don't like elevators because they make you sick? How 'bout using the 12 steps leading from second floor to the lobby? You wouldn't feel sick any more and, here's the added benefit, gravity is on your side. No stressing or straining.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Are you ready for some football?

Last night heralded the start of a new era. No, I'm not talking about the GOP's little party up in St. Paul. I'm talking about the start of the 2008 NFL season.

Hooray. The long summer of our discontent is over. And, since you're all wondering, I'm a Steeler fan. Born and bread. In fact, I think my momma used to put a little Iron in the baby bottle. Of course that could have just been to shut me up.

Anyways, The season is barely begun and my least favorite player in the league, the idiot formerly known as Chad Johnson of the Cincinnati Bungles is in the news again.

Apparently the league's number 1 knucklehead has gone and legally changed his name to Chad Javon Ocho Cinco in honor of the number 85 he wears on his jersey.

Even though it falls into the category of "If this guy worked for me he'd be fired so quickly his ass wouldn't catch up for two weeks" I'm glad also for the distraction he'll continue to cause his team. Along with the countless arrests of his teammates they'll have to answer countless questions about this limelight-seeking, attention-grabbing, me-first-and-always ass.

Well, that's two wins for the boys in the Black-and-Gold.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

How to Xcel in Politics

Some quick hits on John McCain's acceptance speech. And, since we need to start somewhere, first the bad: 

He absolutely needs to remove the phrase "My friends" from any future public remarks. Way too many. Speechwriter needs to be beaten a little.

His delivery won't win any awards and the crowd's response reminded me a lot of the singing in a Catholic church. Everyone in the Xcel Center knew the words and when to sing them, but it just lacked a little...omph. 

The line "Every American is going to thank God as I thank him." Really? The same way you do John? A three on the disturb-o-meter. 

The crowd was also overwhelming white. Not a very good cross section of America.

I still don't like Sarah Palin. She represents the total whack-job demographic of the GOP. 

That said, it was a pretty good speech, especially the end. 

The speech sounded a bit like the old McCain, pushing back at the GOP and reasserting his maverick cred. We'll see how this works for him. 

He made it very clear he has more experience, "I know how the world works," than Barrack Obama. I don't think that was ever a question.

Can he stop the partisan infighting?? "I've worked with members of both parties." Probably not. The two sides hate each other too much. We need a third party in the middle to fix the problems, but that's something for another time.

McCain's recollections about his time in Hanoi were touching. 

"I wasn't my own man anymore, I was my country's." 

"My country saved me and I will fight for her as long as I draw breath. So help me God."

"Nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself."

If you want to know more about his time in a POW camp, pick up "The Nightingale's Song" by Robert Timberg. Absolutely one of the best books I've ever read.

And McCain's closing comments, "We're Americans, we never give up. We never quit and we never hide from history. We make history," was pretty inspiring. I always respected McCain, until he started running waaaayy to the right. Perhaps, this evening, he backed up a bit.  (But probably not. He can't win that way).

Ohh, also liked Cindy's pins. Especially the USMC one. Great fashion sense from the beer baroness.

Predicted here first

Almost a month ago (Aug. 6) Arjewtino commented "Hurricane Ike is going to pummel the Gulf Coast. 'cause that's what Ike does."

Well, from today's WaPo article about Virginia's state of emergency: "But Hanna was not the only worry on the horizon. A much more powerful storm, Hurricane Ike, is making its way across the Atlantic on an uncertain path."

Packing maximum sustained winds near 140 mph, "Ike is an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane" the National Hurricane Center said today.

"It is too early to determine what land areas might eventually be affected by Ike, but interests in the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands should monitor the progress of this system," the hurricane center said.

Ike always did like to get around. The only way that could have been better is if they'd said it is "weaving unpredictably across the Atlantic."

Now that would have been a perfect description for Ike.

This day, a really long time ago

As everyone was aware last week, a fact painfully drilled into our brains at every possible opportunity by the media, Barrack Obama gave his nomination acceptance speech on the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

This evening, John McCain will be giving his acceptance speech and, lo and behold, it too is also an important date in the struggle for civil rights here in America.

On this day, Sept. 4, 1957, Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus (D) called out the National Guard to prevent nine black students from entering Central High School in Little Rock.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


While I still have concerns about Sarah Palin’s actual credentials for her recent VP nod, I think I’m going to have to take exception to some of the “dirt” being dug up on her.

The five big things that have come out so far (according to MSNBC and other news reports):
  • Her unmarried 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is pregnant. Really, is this any of our business? It shows irresponsibility on the part of her daughter, and a failure of the abstinence-only programs mom’s in favor of in our schools (along with intelligent design).
  • Palin sought pork-barrel projects for her city and state, contrary to her reformist image. Yeah? So what? Every politician looks for pork. One person’s pork is another person’s vitally necessary project. It's the American way.
  • She has acknowledged smoking marijuana in the past. Aside from sex, which might explain the five kids with weird names (no nasty comments about me not liking kids, I’m one of five and I have 10 nieces and nephews) and her own daughter’s recent “condition,” it seems to me smoking pot might be the only decent way to spend the winters in Alaska. And Alaska decriminalized pot possession (up to 4 ounces) in 2003. So even if she and Todd (hubby) were toking up in the mansion two weeks ago, it's not illegal.
  • A private attorney is authorized to spend $95,000 of state money to defend her against accusations of abuse of power. I’ve heard two sides to this story, and I’m sure there’s a third, fourth and fifth out there somewhere. If she was dumb enough to actually leave a paper trail, well, she’s dumb enough to kill John McCain’s campaign in other ways.
  • Her husband once belonged to a fringe political group in Alaska, with some members supporting secession from the United States. This one kinda bothers me. Some members supported it, but did Todd? But, as Sam Seaborn said on The West Wing when Charlie Young told him he’d never advocated the violent overthrow of the U.S. government, “Why the hell not?”
The GOP defends her by citing her executive experience as a town mayor and big state governor. As for being mayor (Wasilla, pop. 8,471) and governor (Alaska, population 683,400 budget, about $9 billion) let us compare:
  • Michael Sessions, then 18, was elected mayor of Hillsdale, Mich. (pop. 8,200) in 2005
  • J.J. Raynor, University of North Carolina’s (enrollment 28,136, Go Heels!) student body president
  • Austin Mayor Will Wynn, population 690,200 (16th largest city)
Hell, the District at 68.3 square miles only has 100,000 fewer residents, but a population density 9,000 times higher, and a $9.4 billion budget. Fenty for President!! Or, Fenty for Vice President!!

Seriously, 97 percent of all statistics are made up and 53.4 percent can be made to say anything you want.

Political campaigns are suppose to be about ideas. The only requirements to be president (or vice president) are that you be 35 years old, a natural born citizen and 14 years a resident of the United States. Everything else is gravy.

(But I still don't think she's a good choice.)

To Infinity and Beyond

I get the NYT every morning in my Hotmail inbox. Along with the headlines and news of the Yankees losing more and more ground each day to the Sox and D-Rays (don’t care if they dropped the “D” I’m still gonna to use it), at the bottom of each page is a little “this day in history” thing.

You never know what’s going to pop up there, but there’s always a link to the big story and a link so you can see what the front page looked like that day.

An aside: Looking at these stories kinda reminds me of an assignment a professor once gave: In the NYT (or similar paper) go back to the day you were born and your 10th birthday, the days preceding and the days after and look at the news. Also, take someone important in your life (in my case, my dad) and do the same thing.

Looking through these 12 papers I was interested to find a common link: in each three-day period I was able to find something related to the Irish struggle for freedom from Great Britain. In one case it was an announcement of a speech by Éamon de Valera, Taoiseach (prime minister) of Ireland and in the others stories about the fighting in Ulster. End of aside.

Today’s little “this day in history” takes us back to 1976, the year of the Bicentennial (anyone remember how the Bicentennial was described in Dazed and Confused?). On Sept. 3, 1976
Viking 2 landed on Mars at Utopia Planitia and sent back its first pictures. (Viking 1 landed June 19, in case you’re interested.) By the way, anyone know what was built at Utopia Planitia?

We look at this today and many say, “Big whoop. We’ve got rovers and probes all over Mars now.” True, but shouldn’t the more important question be this: Why do we only have rovers and probes on Mars when we were able to land a probe there 32 years ago?

We, America, that is, put a man in space on May 5, 1961 and into orbit a little more than 10 months later.

We, America again, sent men to the Moon in December 1968, and landed two of them there less than seven months later on July 20, 1969.

We, yep, America once more, landed Viking 1 on Mars July 20, 1976. The Ruskies beat us on this one, but their lander, Mars 2, crashed into the planet on Nov. 27, 1971 instead of actually, you know, landing. Viking 1 sent data home for more than six years after it gently kissed the surface of Mars.

So, let’s recap:
  • 1962, Earth to orbit: 143 nautical miles. (eight minutes)
  • 1969, Earth to the moon: 238,856.95 miles (three days)
  • 1976, Earth to Mars: 36 million miles at its closest point (10 months)
So, (and if you’ve hung in this long, thank you) if it took us seven years to get from orbiting a man to sending one to the Moon 39 years ago, how is it that we don’t expect to land another man on the Moon until 2018-2020? Why will it take at least 14 years from President Bush’s January 2004 announcement that we (America) plan to go back to the Moon to actually getting there?

Seriously? Fourteen years? Minimum?

There are two things that will keep this country moving in the right direction as a world leader: energy independence and a vigorous manned spaceflight program. Both will spur innovation, something Americans are pretty good at anyway and, more importantly, inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers who will keep on inventing the things we don’t even know we need.


If you’ve ever seen the movie October Sky and the story of Homer Hickam Jr., you know what I mean. Although he grew up in a coal town in West Virginia, the first time Hickam, then 14, saw Sputnik fly overhead in 1957 he decided he wanted to be a rocket engineer. He eventually worked on the Space Shuttle program.

Like John Hirasaki, a man I once interviewed.
Hirasaki, the grandson of Japanese immigrants to Southeast Texas, was the fourth person on Earth to smell the moon.

Hirasaki was the recovery engineer who volunteered to man the Mobile Quarantine Facility, a sealed Airstream trailer where the crew of Apollo 11 was placed as soon as they returned from the Moon. Apparently, NASA was concerned they might bring back something other than rocks.

"One of the interesting things I noticed was that there was a unique scent I hadn't noticed on other Apollo capsules," Hirasaki said about opening up Columbia, Apollo 11's command module (in an article written by moi in July 2004). "I attributed it to the dust they picked up on the moon. It smelled like after you strike two pieces of flint together, or like a firecracker."

It was the kids inspired by the work of Hickam and Hirasaki and thousands more like them who went on to create the technology that is a part of our everyday lives. That cell phone you want to upgrade and so thoughtlessly toss in your purse or slide in your pocket? It has more power than the ship that took the first Americans out of our world to land on another.

Some people think any dollar spent by NASA is a dollar wasted, and everyone’s entitled to their opinion.

I’d like to think the money we spend today going to the Moon and Mars and beyond will come back to us ten- or even a hundred-fold in ways we can’t possibly imagine now, but won’t be able to imagine living without in the years to come.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Van & Jerry & Stephen & Bob by Jimmy

OK, I’ll say it: Saturday’s Jimmy Buffett concert was one of the best I’ve ever seen. Like the other 60-plus-year-old rockers still pulling the crowds in, Buffett’s “The Year of Still Here” tour didn’t disappoint.

I saw my first 12 years ago in Atlanta, my second two months later at Walnut Creek outside of Raleigh (although, I did break up with a girlfriend at the show), and even saw a triple bill of Alan Jackson, George Strait and Jimmy four years ago in Dallas. All told, I’ve probably seen 11 or 12 shows and this one is definitely in the top three.

The worst? Merriweather Post in ’98 or ‘99. The audio was out of sync and sounded like refried ass.

But enough of the bad stuff; on to the good. After years of study and experimentation, I think my friends and I have finally figured out the best way to get to the show. Two years ago we rented a camper. Not bad, especially since it came with its own bathroom and places to lie down but, at the end of the night, we had to drive it home ourselves.

Last year was a full-sized bus that, in addition to a bathroom, included a driver to get us to where we were going. The problem was it was like the daddy bear’s bed: a bit too big.

This year we nailed it: a party bus. Just the right size for 17 fans, $300 worth of beer and booze and a bag of chips (and cheeseburgers, of course). As my friend the Doc said, “This is justification for higher education.” I quite agree.

The party in the parking lot before hand was excellent. There was a bit of a preemptive buzz-kill when we pulled into a space next to a “Don’t Drink and Drive” sign, but our tail-gating neighbors had a large banner they were kind enough to throw over the offending message. (Not that we didn’t take it seriously. We just didn’t want to be reminded of it all night long.)

A couple of pictures from the tailgate:

The Doc, trying out his wife’s clip-on earring in a more, ahh…tender area…

Some guy in the parking lot. At least he’s honest…

A regulation Beer Pong table. Who knew they made these?

Even the bathrooms come with a theme…

And, finally, from inside the confines of Nissan Pavilion, Jimmy and friends on stage…

Yes, I know, Buffett falls into the love him or hate him category. Truth be told, by the end of the night sometimes all I want to listen to is some Metallica. But really, how many other concerts can you go to and hear songs by Van Morrison (Brown Eyed Girl); The Grateful Dead (Scarlet Begonias); Crosby, Stills & Nash (Southern Cross); and Bob Dylan (Rainy Day Women #12 and 35)?

For those of you interested, here’s the set list:

INTRO: "Hot Hot Hot"

Homemade Music
Tiki Bar is Open
Pencil Thin Mustache
It's Five O'clock Somewhere
Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes
Gypsies In The Palace
Jolly Mon Sing
Come Monday
Cheeseburger In Paradise
Brown Eyed Girl
One Particular Harbor


Scarlet Begonias
Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw
The Ass And The Hole (featuring Mac)
Son Of A Son Of A Sailor
Last Mango In Paris
Makin' Music For Money (featuring Nadirah)
School Boy Heart
A Pirate Looks At Forty
Far Side Of The World
Southern Cross

First Encore

Band Intros: Tina Gullickson, Nadirah Shakoor, Ralph MacDonald, Peter Mayer, Sonny Landreth, Mac McAnally, Doyle Grisham, Roger Guth, Jim Mayer, Robert Greenidge, John Lovell, Michael Utley

Rainy Day Women #12 and 35

Second Encore (just Jimmy)
Reggabilly Hill

For those of you who enjoy Buffett and missed the show, hopefully there’ll be a next year and many more to follow. For those of you who don’t, well, you’re one more person I don’t have to battle when I’m buying tickets next year.