Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Different Merry Christmas! "Empty Nest Syndrome" in Reverse: Grandma Went Over the River and Through The Woods to My House!

First and foremost I'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, in the truest meaning of the phrase. This year, in fact, as of this past Monday, Christmas in my household took a somewhat unexpected twist.

A few columns back I wrote about the death of my Uncle Bob earlier this month at the age of 104. The death of Bob Mandeville at such an advanced age was neither tragic nor unexpected, but that doesn't mean there weren't consequences.

It was a tremendous blow to my mother, who will turn 92 in a couple of weeks. Even though she has lived long past the average American life expectancy, my mother was and still is the baby of her family.

Her late brother and older sister are gone; my Mom and one older brother who is 95 are still with us. But Uncle Bob was the emotional rock of the family and for the rest of us who were junior in age to him, which means all of us, he had always been around.

His health wasn't bad and even though he died a few days after his 104th birthday, there had been a sense among some of us that he might yet live to see 110. As I wrote earlier, I think he reached the point in his life where he didn't need another milestone. Yet his death was still a shock.

The impact of his death put my mother into a temporary bout of what appears to be depression, and her diet dropped off for a few days, which is not good when you are 92. No one noticed because she lived alone, in an apartment about 120 miles from my house, and a mile or so from other family members. The day before my uncle's funeral I received a phone call alerting me that my mother was in the hospital.

As it turned out, she had become dehydrated, which led to other complications and for a few days it appeared Mom would be placed in an extended care facility. But once her bodily fluids and electrolytes were back in order she rebounded quickly, and I suggested that putting her in any kind of facility would do more harm to her than good.

My wife and I have been discussing this issue for a long time as our families have aged. We had already concluded that we could put an addition onto our house, a mini inlaw apartment if you will, and care for our elderly parents ourselves should it become necessary.

It has become necessary. I offered to take my mother in at my home, and my siblings quickly agreed. On Monday, Mom and a bunch of her belongings were bundled into my brother-in-law's car for the 120 mile journey from her home to mine.

As the plans were being made for her trip, my home office was torn asunder. It had been my son's bedroom when he was young, and has been my office since he moved out nearly two decades ago. Now my computer, phone and assorted paraphernalia have formed the inner ring of my bedroom castle.

The outer ring consists of those things that belong in a bedroom. The inner ring forms a second layer of defenses against unwanted intruders, and inside the inner ring you will find ... me. Typing away, checking out the latest news, reading political diatribes from those who agree with me, and from those who don't, trying to maintain a semblance of normality in what has quickly turned abnormal.

The room that had been my son's bedroom, then my office, now is back to being a bedroom. We took everything out, and replaced it with a bureau, bed, recliner, television, nightstand, end table, and telephone. A Christmas arrangement, prepared by my wife and daughter, with holly, pine boughs, pine cones, and candy canes in a silver sleigh was waiting for Mom as a welcome home present.

When she first entered she was pleasantly surprised, which is a good thing.

It should be obvious to even the most casual observer that there is a serious readjustment underway. My mother was opposed to moving into any type of facility that isn't her home, but she still is undergoing a major upheaval in her life.

In the meantime, we will be providing 24-hour care for her, and in the spring I will be adding a bedroom, sitting room and specially outfitted bathroom to my house. This will enable my mother to maintain a sense of independence, and to keep many of her belongings, especially those that mean the most to her.

She will have family as near or as far as she wants, since the addition I have planned will include unfettered access to the rest of the house. She will be able to look out a slider at my wife's flower beds and the vegetable garden from spring to fall, and she will be encouraged to do her own gardening if she wants.

We will be able to monitor her food and fluid intakes, and since I still maintain my personal trainer certification she has asked that I establish an exercise regimen for her. That should help offset the muscle atrophy that has resulted from her spending far too much time alone and idle.

Mostly what is required here is attention. There will be no leaving her for hours on end with no one to look after her. In fact there will be no leaving her alone period. Someone will always be here.

This could become tiresome, I am well aware of that, but there also are programs available where we can get some help if we need it. There are six hospitals within a half-hour of my home, and there is a 24-hour emergency room facility, complete with helipad, only 7 minutes away.

We have a very active senior center in my town, vans to take the elderly shopping, or to medical appointments, or even to get their hair done. There are events at the center where she can meet other people, and we have good neighbors who are sure to stop in every so often to say hello.

Basically she has an opportunity to live her final years with a semblance of independence and dignity, and have some fun along the way.

The only fly in the ointment came from a friend who mentioned to me the bumper sticker that tells senior citizens to "Live Long Enough To Be A Burden To Your Children."

I got to thinking about that and I couldn't help but wonder if Mom still remembers the stunts I pulled when I was a teenager. I mean, her short term memory has lapses but she is crystal clear on long term remembrances.

Do you think she would remember that time I raided the liquor cabinet when I was 16? She and Dad went out for the evening and I made two discoveries that night. The first was that blue label Smirnoff vodka tastes really, really good when mixed with Hawaiian Punch. (Kids don't try this at home.)

The other was that anyone who has never had Scotch Whisky previously should never try it out by taking a full shot all at once. Talk about making a beeline for the sink to spit it out! Wow. It's amazing I ever developed a taste for single malts.

I'm not sure if Mom figured out what went on that night, but I do know that my parents kept close tabs on the booze in our house. She probably knew something was up but couldn't prove exactly what it was.

Then there was the time my girlfriend MaryJane came over for the evening. That was the night I experienced my first ... cigar. Hah, thought I was going to say something else didn't you?

MaryJane was pretty much my first real girlfriend. I was a faithful member of the Methodist Youth Fellowship back then, which is where I met MaryJane ... and learned how to kiss. At the same time actually.

But the night I am talking about - it was winter, it had snowed, and we sneaked away to my neighbor's driveway which was lined with huge evergreen trees and really private.

We probably smooched a few times, but the real big surprise was when MaryJane drew two White Owl Tiparillo cigars out of her jacket pocket. She showed me how to light them and how to smoke them. What a night!

We must have smelled like chimneys when we returned to my parent's house and I got some really strange looks from my folks. But they never said anything.

You don't suppose my mother has been harboring that memory all these years do you? Would she really wait this long for payback? I still smooch girls, my wife anyway, and I still smoke an occasional cigar, but after all, I've been an adult for several decades now.

I drink single malt scotch, in addition to some nice blends, and a cigar company in Ybor City, Tampa, sends me a batch of very smooth Coronas every so often. There is nothing in that to warrant payback is there?

Kissing MaryJane on a snowy night under the fir trees, smoking cigars, and sneaking liquor when the folks were away. What kind of punishment do you suppose a modern-day mother would consider appropriate for those offenses?

What did she consider an appropriate form of punishment way back then?

Oh, I remember! Grounding me and forbidding me to see my girlfriend!

Uh-oh! My wife is not going to pleased if my childhood comes up again in this fashion. This could get very ... interesting.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ellen DeGeneres, Britney Spears and Mike Christy; Christmas in Hollywood

Mike Christy and I exchange emails and occasionally talk on the telephone, but we live on opposite coasts and have never met.

Mike served as an enlisted man in the Marines in the late 50s, then went back to college and afterward joined the Army where he rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel before retiring. He is a highly decorated multi-tour Vietnam veteran, and Mike also is my "brother" on the Together We Served website that I refer to occasionally in my blog columns and feature on my home page.

Beyond his service in the military Mike is a Hollywood veteran who has been a technical adviser, actor, writer, director and producer for more than 25 years. He was featured both onscreen as Major Duncan, and behind the scenes in numerous capacities, on the Tour of Duty television series on the Vietnam war. (If you Google Mike Christy you'll find a ton of information about him.)

So, you must be asking yourself by now, what does this have to do with Ellen DeGeneres and Britney Spears? Well, today Mike will be featured on the Ellen DeGeneres show as the somewhat bemused homeowner who opens his front door in Hollywood to find Ellen and Brittney Spears ready to do a holiday song and dance on his front porch.

I don't usually write about the things going on in Hollywood. Nonetheless I enjoy good movies immensely and use them for reference quite often as regular readers of this column are aware.

I also enjoy the theater and once upon a time in a prior existence wrote theater reviews. Although I rarely comment on the private lives of the people who act in these productions, there are a lot of reasons why I think it is important to note that a friend whom I have never met in person, got a surprise Christmas gift and is sharing that gift with us.

Not the least of the reasons is that Mike's "gift" will be featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show today. You can see a preview of their dance here:

Just copy and paste that web address into your browser field. I don't know how long it will last before it is taken down so it is probably best to do it now.

Also, as anyone who reads or watches television news is probably aware, Britney Spears has had her share of troubles over the past few years. She has been a near constant presence in the headlines, and not for the right reasons.

But lately she has been making what we can only hope is a serious effort to turn her life around. If Ellen DeGeneres is willing to help out and guide a fellow entertainer in a better direction, teach her that good times don't have to involve the entertainment industry's usual definition of "fun," then I say, let's lend a hand.

One of the things Mike told me in an email that really caught my attention was that even though he lives in Hollywood, surrounded by entertainment industry people, and sees stars all the time, he was still somewhat amazed when he opened his door to find Ellen, Britney and the film crews on his lawn. Here, let him tell you in his own words:

Living in the land of movie making, we are accustomed to seeing movie and television stars, well-known actors, and the men and women whose faces we know but not their names. They are at grocery stores, restaurants and at the park near our house. We even have a number of actors living in the neighborhood.

Zachary Levy, star of "Chuck" lives the next street over with the same house address as ours. Leslie Bibb, featured in "Iron Man" and "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," lives two doors down. Until a year ago Jon Cryer of "Two and a Half Men" lived directly across the street.

We encounter celebrities often. But what happen yesterday was totally different.

My wife took our new dog to the vet's. I am home alone with Lady Bird, our older dog. Birdie loves to bark when people walk past the house, especially if the person has a dog on the end of a leash. I look out the front window to see what the barking is all about and I see maybe 20 people outside. Some have film cameras. Some carry clipboards. They are on my lawn, others are on the sidewalk and even more are standing in the street.

Then two blonde women walk past the window and one knocks on the door. I open it and standing before me is Ellen DeGeneres who asks if she and her friend can sing me a Christmas song. I look at the other blonde and it is Britney Spears! I must admit I was taken aback.

So the two chat between themselves to determine what to sing and they decide it will be "Jingle Bells." Ellen will take the low harmony with Britney taking the high. It is really good. I applaud! Then Ellen, always the spokeswoman, asks if they could dance for me. "Sure," I say. They turn their backs to me to play to the cameras and I watch.

Now keep in mind the cameras are on them and I suspect me for my reaction. Naturally, I look at Britney gyrating. They finish and Ellen asks what I thought of it all and I all I can say is "Great!" Ellen then asks if I would like a Christmas tree and when I said yes, a guy dressed as an elf, presents me with a perfectly formed table-top tree.

Ellen then asks who else I think they should sing and dance for. I send them up the street to Leslie's house. I applaud once more and off to Leslie's house goes the whole crowd.

I have been in the entertainment industry for nearly 25 years yet I am always somewhat thrilled when I see celebrities. This moment, however, was somewhat bigger. Only in Hollywood (or anywhere near)?!

So guess what I am doing this afternoon at 3 p.m.? Yes, I am tuning in to the Ellen DeGeneres Show to watch my Internet friend and Marine brother watch Ellen and Britney Spears dancing and singing for him.

I think next week we should shoot for an appearance on Oprah. Maybe she'd like to read my book!
Saturday, December 13, 2008

Classy Cussing for Disgraced Democrats: Rod and Patti Blagojevich Read This!

An example of just how difficult it is to be a woman in politics these days surfaced late this week when the Democrat Attack Machine, known here as the American Terrorist Media, ATM, went after Patti Blagojevich, wife of the embattled Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich.

Aside from the rampant misogynism that also launched the attacks on Hillary Clinton, and the ongoing character assassination on Sarah Palin, the reasoning behind the attacks on Mrs. Blagojevich is that she swears!

The government has wiretapped tape recordings of her husband allegedly trying to sell Barack Obama's now vacant Illinois Senate seat to the highest bidder, and in the background a woman who allegedly is Patti Blagojevich is yelling obscenities. How dare she?

What gives with this woman? Swearing!?

I know what you're thinking and you're right. Back in the 60s one of the premier identity factors for the new, liberal, liberated, feminist-type woman was taking the shackles off their mouths, and cursing word-for-word, obscenity-for-obscenity with the guys. And not just any guys, because most educated and refined guys didn't use four letter words and related curses, especially in the presence of women.

No, the sign of the liberated woman was using the worst type of gutter language in the presence of anyone, anywhere, to show that aged social conventions were no longer in vogue. But obviously times have changed and it no longer is a sign of the ultimate feminist to stand toe to toe with any man in the room and swear him under the table.

Considering that no one has claimed she has Tourette's Syndrome, Patti Blagojevich apparently didn't get the memo. Or maybe she was a journalist in a previous incarnation and is just trying to conserve words and get her point across in as few as possible. Interesting isn't it that the only time a Democratic woman's use of the King's English becomes an issue is when the ATM decides she is no longer a useful tool for the prevailing political agenda.

If you ever wonder if the ATM conspires before "reporting" the "news" in unison you only have to listen to a Rush Limbaugh montage of the Democratic National Committee's daily talking points. He does this every so often, and on Thursday it was obvious that the word for the day was "delusional" when talking about Gov. Blagojevich.

Some really, really clever Democrat talking heads tried to use other words to cloak the origin of the copy they were reading - like "crazy" in place of delusional - but it didn't work. We all know where it came from. Obviously the Governor of Illinois is being thrown under the bus and the ATM is in place and doing the DNC's bidding.

But then the heads focused their venom on Patti Blagojevich. Common phrases were: "She swears like a sailor - my apologies to sailors." Or, a variation on that theme "She swears like a truck driver - my apologies to truck drivers." I also noted that no one said she cusses like "a politician." That would have been the lowest form of insult, too low even for the ATM.

A close associate told me, "No one said 'She swears like a Marine,' because in that case no apologies would have been necessary." Ha. Ha. Ha.

Anyway, I don't like to see these vile attacks on women just because they get involved in politics. They can fight just as hard and just as dirty as the men without being low-browed gutter snipes.

I have been around the world in the service of my country, drinking and fighting and swearing in some of the most illustrious stateside service town bars, and some of the best international dives on three continents.

There was a time when I could tell you if someone was saying "F' Off" in Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese and even the Filipino dialect of the Spanish language. A Scotsman who was nearby when I was sipping a Glen Morangie in a pub in Glengyle a few years back translated the phrase "Grreat Soft Tarrrt," which one denizen of the pub said to another during an argument, as an insult based on sexual preference. But we won't go there in this column.

Thus, I hereby offer my services as an astute observer of international profanity who just happens to hold a Bachelor's Degree in English, to all women politicians who want to cuss out the competition without incurring the wrath of the ATM.

Nearly everyone who was badmouthing Patti Blagojevich the other day was saying that she and her husband regularly drop "the F-Bomb," as well as its vile expansion, the "MF-Bomb," so let's start there.

We shouldn't say the F-word in polite company. It's not polite. Let's work on a few alternatives shall we? Everyone, I want your full attention now. Put down your I-pods, turn off your cell phones and Blackberrys, and for crying out loud STOP TEXTING!

OK. Rather than referring to someone as an MFer, let's say they're an "Oedipally Orientated copulator!" That's Ed-eh-pully for currently serving Democratic members of Congress.

Practice that a few times just to make sure you have it down. Good, good, you're all doing quite nicely.

Many English language swear words involve various bodily excretions, in addition to the always popular sexual actions, positions and preferences.

One of the 'excretion' swears is to say that a person who doesn't "get it," is a S**t For Brains. Once again, you are stuck in a situation where you really want the target of your cussing to understand the extent of your dissatisfaction, but you don't want to resort to commonality in formal social situations.

So rather that getting caught calling someone a S**t For Brains, I suggest that, especially in the case of women, you smile nicely and refer to the offending individual, either directly on in the abstract, as possessing a "Fecal-level Intellect."

Similarly, when people want to really disparage the intellectual abilities of their enemies they are prone to calling them a D**k Head. Again, there is a better way without wallowing in the gutter. Merely tell everyone in earshot that the person is really named Richard Cranium - my apologies to the Cranium family, especially anyone whose Christian name is Richard.

Then we have the age-old B**w J*b, as in "He or she is a ... ." I am well aware that students of recent political history have been referring to this as "A Monica" due to some well publicized activities during the Clinton Administration. But I think that having gone through eight years of the Bush Administration and all the figures who came and went, rose and fell - so to speak - in that time, we should move on.

It just so happens that the incoming president-elect has a close friend and advisor who has shown an affinity for making things go BOOM!; Blowing them up in other words. So I think it is time to retire the phrase A Monica and reintroduce it as An Ayers! What do you think? Help me out here if you want. Suggestions are always welcome, although not always heeded.

Then, straight from the gutter we have the following: A$$hole - which becomes Anal Cavity - pretty straightforward I know, but it works; F'ing A**hole - which can be redefined as Rectum Copulator; while F' Yourself is translated as Self-applied copulation;

There are other possibilities for some well known offensive insults, such as "Put a Lip lock on my love muscle;" or if you prefer "Land a hurricane on my member." But let's try to keep this at least on the sidewalk.

Kiss My A** is really pretty base, so I suggest "Rim Job my rectum," in its place. But it should be used sparingly.

There undoubtedly are many, many more combinations of classy words that can be used in classless situations. But I don't want to overload anyone's gray matter in the first lesson.

Let's just take what we have learned today and consider that it is preferable to hear a governor's wife say "Tell that Oedipally Orientated Copulator, Richard Cranium, that he can rim job my rectum if he thinks this Senate seat is going 'on account.'"

That is so much classier than what was contained in some of the federal wiretaps.

Next week we'll tackle Knee-walking, snot-slinging, knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing, bottom-feeding, unibrow, Neanderthal wannabes.

For today, however, here endeth the lesson.
Friday, December 12, 2008

The Deacon's Masterpiece - Uncle Bob - Rest In Peace at 104

Have you heard of the wonderful one-hoss-shay,
That was built in such a logical way
It ran a hundred years to a day,
And then, of a sudden, it - ah, but stay
I'll tell you what happened without delay
The Deacon's Masterpiece, by Oliver Wendell Holmes

My Uncle Bob died on Monday, Dec. 8, 2008, after living on this earth for 104 years and four days.

Some might say that age aside my uncle lived an entirely normal life. He spent his working career in one place, attended the same Methodist church for nearly 90 years, lived in the same house nearly all that time, raised his family, voted conservative Republican, and volunteered in his church and community.

But I would say that in addition to his advanced age, my uncle was a unique individual who touched many people in his long life, virtually all of them positively.

For the first phase of my life my family lived next door to Bob, and I saw him virtually every day for nearly 10 years. At that time I lived in a two-family farmhouse that was owned by my grandparents in Center Brunswick, New York.

The land that surrounded our houses was the remaining acreage of what had been my grandfather's farm, and I grew up on a 10 acre natural playground - fields that were bordered by a small stream - The Crick - in upstate New York dialect. Across the road that bordered our property was a marshy area where the crick occasionally overflowed, and in the spring and summer we would awaken to the liquid trill of red-winged blackbirds that gathered among the cattails and rushes.

On the hill behind our house wild strawberries flourished in the summer, and an apple orchard provided blooms in spring, fruit in fall, and endless play possibilities all year long. Wild honeysuckle could be found in abundance, and nearby woods made for countless adventures. Uncle Bob had chosen well when he decided to live there permanently.

Uncle Bob was born in Sayre, Pennsylvania, but his Dad, Robert Mandeville, for whom he was named, died when Bob was very young. His mom, my grandmother, eventually remarried. She had been Maude Clarke when she came to America from Ireland, alone, when she was 16 - then she became Maude Clarke Mandeville, then Maude Clarke Brimmer when she married my grandfather.

The family, which by then included my Uncle Vic, my Aunt Olive, and my mother, had lived in Waverly, New York, and moved to Center Brunswick around 1921 a couple of years after World War I ended. When Uncle Bob turned 100 he was feted by the Center Brunswick United Methodist Church, of which he had been a member for some 86 years, so he apparently arrived there around the time he was 14.

Originally the house that became the focal point of his life wasn't even a house; it was an outbuilding on my grandfather's farm. The main house sat on a slight knoll, and about 100 feet away was a farm building, a small barn according to my mother, that was falling into disrepair.

Uncle Bob, a carpenter, set about turning the barn into a house. I'm not sure exactly when he began living there, but it was sometime in the late 1940s after World War II ended and his family needed the room. Ultimately the old barn took on an entirely new look, in the Cape style. It was Bob's residence for about six decades and still stands there in excellent condition. Quality work or what?

When we were living up the hill from him, I remember Uncle Bob expanding the second floor of his house, then building a garage for his car, then adding onto the garage to provide storage for farm equipment, primarily my cousin Paul's tractor. He built an all-weather porch on the back, where the whole family would often gather on summer evenings to enjoy the breeze and watch the moon rise - without the inconvenience of mosquitoes.

I enjoyed the smell of fresh cut lumber and the shavings from his carpenter's plane when Bob was working, and I hung around as much as I could when he was on a project.

The house and surrounding yard and gardens were always well kept. Bob was "a stickler" as he used to say, about keeping things in good working order. His tools were stored in the basement, and he had peg boards on the walls above his workbench with the outline of every hand tool he owned indelibly drawn on them so he knew where everything was supposed to go, and if anything was missing.

If I was to give you one adjective to best describe my uncle I would have to say "cheerful." He always seemed happy to see us, and greeted everyone with an exuberance that seems to be missing in modern society. In all the years I knew him I don't ever remember my Uncle Bob saying a bad word about anyone.

It was common to see Uncle Bob working outside, regardless of the season. But one of my fondest memories was of a summer day when he was washing his car in his driveway. My younger brother, Larry, who was maybe two years old, picked up Bob's garden hose and squirted our uncle, but also pointed it straight up, thus squirting himself as well, which caused him to drop it and run away laughing.

Bob picked up the hose and squirted him right back, adding to the fun. I was reminded of that scene at a family gathering a few years ago. My grandson, who was about two at that time, started picking apart his hamburger and throwing pieces at Uncle Bob, who picked them up and threw them right back.

Remember, this guy was now 100, but it didn't stop him from engaging in a mini-food fight with an opponent who was nearly a century his junior.

I don't want to give the impression that Bob's life was all wine and roses. It wasn't. In fact, he bore more than his share of burdens.

His only son, my cousin Paul, could give his father fits at times. Once Paul stuck an apple in the exhaust pipe of the school system's travelling music teacher's car. When she finished her class and started her car, the apple flew out of the tailpipe and right through a windowpane in the schoolhouse.

On another occasion Paul spent part of one Saturday afternoon lying under his dad's car with a hammer and screwdriver, poking holes in the muffler so the car sounded like a race car. I think that was listed among the "Things That Cause Parents To Look Skyward and Mumble."

But Paul was born with diabetes, and although he was immensely strong as a teenager, more than holding his own with farm chores - he also could put his back against the front of his tractor and lift it off the ground - the disease ultimately took his eyesight and then his life.

Bob was not a classic strongman, but he was an emotional rock. When my aunt Irene collapsed at Paul's funeral, no one was surprised that Bob was there to support her. He must have been enduring unimaginable pain himself, but his primary concern then was for his wife.

Bob's life away from home revolved around his work, his church and the Center Brunswick Volunteer Fire Department. Bob went to work for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, RPI, in Troy, as a carpenter in 1926 and stayed there for 47 years before retiring.

As a charter member of the volunteer fire department he not only worked in his community, but just around the time I was born he accompanied our neighbor Milo Hyde Sr., out of town to spend several days helping flood victims. Uncle Bob was a member of the Fire Police, and he directed traffic at emergencies until he was 99. He founded the local Boy Scouts chapter and was the first scoutmaster. I can still see him teaching my brother how to tie a square knot.

Bob was a member of the Methodist Church literally from the time he arrived in Center Brunswick until he died. He was a member of the church's Men's Club and bowled with his friends from that organization for decades.

But you know what I liked best about him with regards to religion? He was devout, but not pious. By that I mean, Bob was the guy who always said Grace at family gatherings, and it was always heartfelt and meaningful.

However, he never portrayed himself as "Holier Than Thou." He never looked down his nose at the less fortunate or the less reliable, and he never pushed his faith on others.

If you watched his actions though, you would be impressed by him as a man of quiet faith, and you would be inspired.

Even though he was rooted to his home and community, Bob travelled when the urge hit. He spent enough time in St. Petersburg, Florida, known irreverently as God's Waiting Room, to know that he couldn't wait that long, so he returned north.

He and my aunt Irene once showed up unannounced at my home in Connecticut. Seems they had been driving Rt. 44 from point to point, just to see what was there. They stayed for a chat and some lemonade, then were off to finish their adventure.

On his 90th birthday, as family members gathered to throw him a surprise party, Uncle Bob suffered a heart attack. But he didn't tell anyone until the next day when he finally called for an ambulance. He spent a couple of days in the hospital, and then went home, picking up his life as if nothing unusual had occurred.

Over time, Uncle Bob saw his son die, his wife die, his friends and other family members die. In recent years he lost his daughter.

Two decades ago, a few years after my aunt Irene died, Bob met and became close friends with a lady named Margaret Busby, and though they never married, and kept their own houses, they were virtually inseparable. She was a quiet and kind woman, a decade younger than Bob.

But earlier this year when visiting Bob's house, Margaret suffered a stroke and died.

I think that was the beginning of the end for Uncle Bob. He said he only had two remaining wishes, to see his 104th birthday and to die in his own home.

Bob spent Thanksgiving with family, but didn't appear to be feeling well. On Sunday, Nov. 30, he was taken to the Samaritan Hospital in Troy, with shortness of breath and an overall feeling of malaise. The doctors said he was dehydrated.

My cousin Bob, whose Mom, like my mother, was Uncle Bob's half-sister, lives to this day in the house on the knoll where I spent my early years, just up the hill from Uncle Bob's house. My cousin reported that he, his brother and his sister-in-law were able to hold a small but enthusiastic birthday party for Uncle Bob in the hospital - cake and candles, and hospital staff joining in.

My uncle's spirits appeared better he said, and my cousin and I discussed whether Uncle Bob might just need a better diet and a little more company. Bob lived with only a cat for companionship now, my cousin told me.

But he also reported that doctors were saying Uncle Bob could never go home again and would have to be placed in a convalescent home. Family members were already talking about placing the cat with someone else.

But Uncle Bob would have none of that. I had called to talk with him and he told me that 104 was going to be his last birthday. I was surprised, and saddened to hear him talk like that. But he said it matter of factly, not with animosity or even regret.

My cousin told me that Uncle Bob was adamant about going home, just as others who wanted him in a care facility were unyielding, and he said it looked like a showdown was looming.

So, four days after he turned 104, having survived more than a century of good times and bad, maladies and celebration, during which he never lost his faith or his composure, Uncle Bob did the only thing he could do to avoid being sent to a care facility instead of back to the home he had built with his own hands. He up and died before anyone could place him elsewhere.

I guess he got the last word on that argument.

My mother said it best. He wanted to die in his own home, but he was being told he couldn't go back. It took the heart out of life for Uncle Bob.

He had built that house out of a barn on his stepfather's farm and it has stood as a home since then with little change. It was his home and it was a reflection of his values. It was where he wanted to lay his head down one last time.

Uncle Bob never craved the spotlight, yet his actions spoke volumes more than words, and through his steadfastness and faith made very real contributions to humanity. To the very end he was in full command of his faculties, and as I see it, he pretty much decided it was time to die, so he did.

I doubt it was mild dehydration, nor even the shortness of breath that brought the end. Bob made it clear in our last conversation that he still cared very much about his remaining family and friends. But if you look at his life objectively, it is not hurtful to conclude that the people who were the closest to him over the years are gone.

Sometimes death comes when a person believes there is no longer a good reason to stay alive. And it is quite likely that Uncle Bob believed there is a better place waiting for him, and there was no reason to delay going there.

If we are lucky, and deserving, he will be right, and waiting for us.

You see, of course, if you're not a dunce,
How it went to pieces all at once.
All at once, and nothing first,
Just as bubbles do when they burst.

The Deacon's Masterpiece, by Oliver Wendell Holmes
Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Whatever Happened to the Stutz Bearcat, Cord, and Duesenberg? CATO Institute Asks Why We Need a BIG THREE?

There was nothing wrong with many of the automobiles produced from pre-World War I through the 1920s and into the 1930s. In fact many were far superior to other models of their day, and would surpass many autos made today.

Ram Air, hydraulic brakes, turbocharging? Check out the Duesenberg! Hand built luxury, all the rage with the high society types of the time. But gone now, done in not by unions, ho-hum cookie cutter designs or excessive corporate salaries, but simply by a business model that could not survive hard financial times.

No one got a bailout. So why do we need one now? Please click on the You Tube video above produced by the CATO Institute that puts the question succinctly on the line, and then take a few minutes to ask yourselves the same question.

Barney Frank is throwing around the word "billion" as if we all had a few in our pockets. But can these billions really change anything? Or is this just Washington D.C.'s way of letting their union backers and corporate sponsors down easy? Will they all fold in the next year anyway if hard financial times continue?

But then, the politicians will be able to claim they did all they could to "rescue" the industry won't they?

I bet we'll still be able to buy a new car five years from now, even if it doesn't have an old familiar name. It probably will be something we want, that satisfies our sense of good workmanship, modern design and cutting edge technology too.
Sunday, December 07, 2008

Let's Talk About Tina Turner, Single Malt Scotch, and Meeting New People

When you consistently write about politics and war you run the risk of being typecast as writing only about war and politics.

To avoid that pitfall, today we are going to discuss a few issues that are close to my heart - good scotch, good music, and meeting new people.

In the good music category Tina Turner took the stage in Hartford, Connecticut Saturday night, in a place that used to be called the Civic Center but now has a corporate name that I'm not using because they don't pay me to advertise here.

The concert was one of the best I have seen ever - bar none, and the really great thing about it was that Tina put on as much of a show, if not more, during the encore as she did during regular performance. She ranged from her own classics including Nutbush City Limits, performed during the encore from a mobile stage platform that took her out and over the crowd, to her famous cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's Proud Mary, then on to What's Love Got To Do With It, with major audience participation, and a full program of hard driving rock and roll.

She had a great blues set including Undercover Agent For The Blues which I really, really liked. What a beat, what a sound! What dancers - the Flowers - backing up the singing. Whoa!

But it wasn't just about music, it was about performance, and stage presence, a multi-media production that included videos of Tina's past performances with groups including the Rolling Stones, in movies such as Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome with Mel Gibson - in which Tina was costumed similar to the role she played. Tina mixed modern dance with martial arts, had plenty of pyrotechnics, dancing - on stage and in the audience - and most important, she put on a show that at once entertained and sealed a connection with her fans that goes back decades.

Tina still has her voice, she still has her moves, she still has unsurpassed abilities and best of all, she has a work ethic that is sadly lacking in so many younger performers' productions who think the sizzle really is the steak. At a Tina Turner concert you get the sizzle, the steak and a wide range of side orders too.

What made the night even better, was the place my wife and I found for a pre-conference drink, and the people we met there. We haven't been wandering around downtown Hartford in quite a while and had no idea where to find a bite to eat.

But a half-block from the former Civic Center that now has a name I won't use here because ... well you know ... we found McKinnon's Irish Pub. It was jammed to standing room only, the music was nearly as loud as what we would hear in the concert, the beer was cold and the food was hot.

My wife, who is a world class weaseler - by that I mean she can navigate the densest crowd with the skill of a, well, a world class weaseler - soon had blazed a path right to the bar, where we met Colleen Ryan and her daughter Elizabeth, who had actually scored seats and food! Elizabeth had purchased concert tickets for her Mom and they were about to get their money's worth.

But here is where it got really nice. Colleen saw us trying to catch the bartender's attention and volunteered to help, making contact far faster than we would have otherwise. Then as fate would have it two seats opened up right next to the Ryans and we were in.

Colleen noticed that I had ordered a scotch, a well known bar blend, and asked if I ever drank single malts. Hah! You betcha.

I responded that I usually order the blend when I go out because so few places carry the singles that I like best, starting with Glen Morangie - 10 year old is very, very nice; the 12-year-old finished in Madeira wood is a favorite.

That got us going on single malts and what we like and don't like. Peat based brands are way down the list. Glenlivet was mentioned, and I brought up Taliskers which I haven't tried but is on my Christmas list. (It was featured in the movie Charlie Wilson's War starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Ned Beatty. I AM mentioning here not because they are paying me to advertise it, they aren't, but because I like it - the movie.)

I told Colleen I had recently sampled 15-year-old BruichLaddich, brought to me by a close associate who has another friend who makes an avocation of finding rare Single Malts.

I neglected to tell her that as I write these columns the calendar right next to my computer screen, given to me last year by my wife as a Christmas present, features month-by-month Single Malts, a picture of a representative bottle with a history of where it is distilled, how long it has been around, and sundry bits of relevant information.

This month it features The Dalmore, aged 21 years, distilled on the north shore of the Cromarty Firth, an inlet off the Moray Firth. It is north of Inverness but south of Tain where the 16 Men produce Glen Morangie.

While Colleen and I were talking Scotch I was passing tidbits of the speech I give to my college classes, What Every College Student Should Know About Drinking, to her daughter Elizabeth. Meanwhile, my wife ordered a corned beef Ruben that not only was well prepared and delicious itself, but came with two of the best pickle slices I have tasted in a long time.

Time passes quickly in these circumstances and soon the clock on the cell phone said it was time to go. Imagine, we had what otherwise would be considered a really enjoyable evening BEFORE we attended the concert.

It was a pretty good night all the way around. We found a decent pub, we had good food, good drinks, good conversation and made a couple of new friends along the way. Then we got to see a concert that reminded me of why I have spent a lifetime loving Rock 'n' Roll.

I suppose this being a political column and all I should make one last semi-political point. Many of the supporters and media outlets who comment on our current president-elect claim that he is bringing racial harmony to America.

Obviously, these people have never been to a Tina Turner concert. Tina has been bringing harmony of all types, racial and otherwise, to the world music scene since before the president-elect was born.

From what I saw Saturday night in Hartford Connecticut, we can only hope she will still be doing it long after his 15 minutes have passed, and that if the president-elect is really interested in leaving a legacy of a better America, he can look to Tina Turner for lessons on human relations.
Saturday, December 06, 2008

Auto Industry "Bailout" Just Another Freebie; I Won't Drive a VOLT! It's A Fraud On The Public!

For most of my early driving years I was a Chevy man. I liked big-block Chevelles both for their engines and their back seats, I thought the 454 was a technological breakthrough, and I wanted a 1963 Corvette convertible, powder blue, with a fuel-injected 327 with a near religious fervor.

But in the mid-1980s I bought a four-on-the-floor, V-8 Chevy pickup from what I thought was a reputable dealership. Truth was, it was a piece of junk. Among other issues it had a problem in the rear end gearing and every time I shifted it made a thump no matter how gently I engaged the clutch.

I must have made a half-dozen trips to the original dealer in upstate New York, and it turned out the guy talked a lot, telling me at various times that I was hearing things, which really endeared me to him and his company, and even padding the vehicle's tailgate once, which did nothing but further infuriate me. Ultimately I found another dealer who took my business more seriously and after only two trips to the service department they discovered a defective gear, replaced it, and the thump ended.

That also ended my love affair with Chevy. The next vehicle I bought was a 1988 Lincoln Town Car, Cartier model with all the bells and whistles that I drove for 15 years and 230,000 miles. We also purchased a 1997 Ford Ranger pickup that my wife drove for something well in excess of 100,000 miles with no major problems.

I traded that in for a Ford Explorer, V-6 SUV that I drive to this day, again with no major problems. It is roomy, gets relatively decent mileage - about 24 mpg on the highway - and is the most comfortable vehicle I have ever owned.

The moral of this story is that if a car manufacturer makes a vehicle that I need, can rely on, that doesn't give me non-stop headaches or thumps in the rear end, then I will probably buy from that manufacturer. I will continue to be a good customer as long as I believe my concerns are paramount all the way from the plant to the dealership service department.

But even though I have been very happy with Ford Motor products and will look to Ford before I go to any other domestic or foreign models when I am car shopping again, I do not support the so-called "bailout" of the auto industry using taxpayer dollars.

I believe this is a form of corporate welfare that constitutes a gross fraud on the taxpayers. I think Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank and his coterie of Congressional inquisitors should be investigated, and the Big Three should be told to get back to Detroit and work this out with a pencil, not by taking a free ride on my dime.

During the day Friday the headlines were saying that chances for a bailout of the US auto industry looked pretty slim. For a few hours I was hopeful that we taxpayers would be dodging another bailout bullet.

The Big Three - Chevy, Ford and Chrysler - had sent their top execs to DC again, this time holding their hats in their hands, driving instead of flying in private jets - only the president-elect and his family are allowed to do that - and taking unwarranted abuse from Barney Frank, to beg like street urchins for a few billion taxpayer dollars to get them through Christmas.

After all there is jewelry to buy, new airplane orders to place, luxury vacations to be taken, expensive clothes just waiting to be handmade to order, and of course top shelf booze and imported cigars that need temporary residence in Michigan mansions.

But overnight the headlines changed to a much more positive view - for certain Congressmen and auto industry executives - who are now saying a deal is in the works. Which means there probably will be a bailout and Congress will give the taxpayers a good screwing for Christmas, but the taxpayers won't enjoy it.

The latest proposal won't be for the $25 billion everyone was talking about two weeks ago, nor the $34 billion the auto industry was claiming it needed just last week. Oh No, it will only be for $15 to $17 billion.

I have a proposal for Barney Frank. How about you front me one percent of the difference between 15 billion and 17 billion? I can use that money to start up a couple of businesses in my community that will put good people to work in productive occupations and generate business and sales revenues that will help ease the property tax burden on homeowners.

What do you say, Barney? To sweeten the pot, I'll even write another column about you that won't be anywhere near as harsh as this one. I probably could be convinced to say a couple of good things about how you have had a change of heart and are actually helping America get out of this recession instead of just feathering your own boa, er, nest.

Think about it. This offer is only good through midnight.

Maybe I'm being overly harsh here, but Frankly, I was sick and tired of the US Congress back when it was just the occasional Republican using the Congressional Page system as a recruiting ground for homosexual dates with underage teens. That was a few years back and things have just gotten worse with the Democrats in charge.

Every time someone brings up Term Limits, some buffoon in Congress does something that proves the point. Then you get Barney Frank hiking up his skirts, screwing up his face and telling us all to go to hell, but not before he skims a few more billions out of the federal treasury to keep the United Auto Workers happy and sending him plenty of campaign contributions every two years.

I am against the bailout because I think the combination of union excesses and corporate greed have driven the price and the quality of the average American automobile right out of the market. Foreign manufacturers have come in to fill the void, and while I am strongly leaning toward another Ford next year, you can bet I'll take a look at some of the foreign models before I make a final decision.

I saw a video the other day about a new Ford plant in Brazil that uses cutting edge technology to meld assembly line robotics with appropriately applied human input, and also incorporates the primary manufacturing process - the chassis, engine, and transmission assembly - under the same roof as secondary parts such as exhaust, dashboards and interiors.

So the people who make the seats are making those seats in the same building where the rest of the vehicle is manufactured, cutting transportation and assembly costs dramatically. The plant also is ecologically sound - except that it was built where a rain forest used to be - and is seen as a model of cooperation between management and labor, without union threats and pressures.

So why don't we have a Ford plant like that in the US? Excessive built-in labor costs, and excessive government regulations. Our country has forced our original car manufacturer, the one named for the guy who invented the assembly line, to head south to do business because it is too expensive here.

The result is the circus we saw in Congress last week with Barney Frank holding hearings and treating the auto execs like recalcitrant children. Of course that was just another example of the Congress losing sight of its pronouns - meaning Congressmen think they are Lords over the people, instead of representatives working for the people.

Then in the middle of all this sound and fury, Chevrolet comes out with a new model electric car that should be no more than a prototype, but we are told it will save the industry, the nation, and end pollution - even though it can only go 40 miles before it needs to be recharged.

Excuse me. What happened to the electric cars that were all the rage in California a couple of years ago that could go a couple hundred miles on one charge? Oh, right, they were recalled and shredded. Hmmmmm.

I have a question. If Chevy can build an electric car that goes 40 miles, and then can do it again when the battery is recharged at some basic electrical outlet like the one in most people's garages, why can't it be recharged as it is moving?

Gasoline powered cars do that all the time and they have been doing it as long as there have been batteries and moving parts. This technological breakthrough, called the generator, or alternatively the alternator - pun intended, occurred a century ago.

It works like this. The battery provides the initial electricity to engage the starter with the flywheel, which turns over the engine, and simultaneously provides the spark to the spark plugs in the proper order as determined by the distributor - which distributes electricity to the plugs.

The engine catches, and as long as the electricity keeps flowing to the spark plugs, and as long as there is fuel, the engine continues to run. The crankshaft spins, and from that motion we power the water pump to keep the engine cool, the air conditioner to keep the driver and passengers cool, and the generator/alternator which keeps the battery charged so there will continue to be electricity for the spark plugs, and around it goes.

So why does the new Chevy Volt not have an alternator that will continue to recharge the battery as long as the electric motor is powering the vehicle, thus extending its range? There still are moving parts, so why not?

Need a bigger alternator to recharge a bigger battery? Come on, we have the ingenuity to solve that little issue.

It appears that Chevy is well aware of the recharging issue. Just check out the advertising from Chevy's website:
The Extended-Range Electric Vehicle that is redefining the automotive world is no longer just a rumor. In fact, its propulsion system is so revolutionary, it's unlike any other vehicle or electric car that's ever been introduced.

Chevy Volt is designed to move more than 75 percent of America's daily commuters without a single drop of gas. That means for someone who drives less than 40 miles a day, Chevy Volt will use zero gasoline and produce zero emissions.

Unlike traditional electric cars, Chevy Volt has a revolutionary propulsion system that takes you beyond the power of the battery. It will use a lithium-ion battery with a gasoline-powered, range-extending engine that drives a generator to provide electric power when you drive beyond the 40-mile battery range.

Are these guys serious? The Volt has a hybrid engine that uses a generator the same way generators have been used for a century - but only after the battery is too low to power the electric motor? So you get 40 miles gasoline free, but after that you revert to the same old, same old?

Why can't the lithium-ion battery be recharged by this generator as the car is being propelled by the electric motor? If you can do it at home every night you should be able to do it on the road. And they want 15 billion taxpayer dollars to push this on the public?

I'm not buying a Volt. There is superior technology available and we should be using it instead of trying to fool the motoring public yet again. I bet the guy who sold me that defective truck will have a lot full of these, if he is still in business.

I guess today's auto execs are too young to remember the Edsel. Look it up guys, you may learn something.

I want hydrogen. I want to use the technology now available on US Navy submarines that employs electrolysis to separate hydrogen from oxygen in sea water, allowing them to stay submerged for extended periods. But instead of using the oxygen and venting the hydrogen, I want to use the hydrogen - which creates water as a byproduct of burning - to power the internal combustion engine, and vent the oxygen to the atmosphere.

We don't need a hydrogen infrastructure to do this either. The "fuel tank" can be filled with water, which can provide hydrogen on demand. And yes, it would have a generator that would provide power for the electrolysis.

That is what I want and I absolutely believe it is doable because in a slightly altered form it already is being done. And I don't want to hear another word about junk science posing as a new breakthrough in automobile technology.

While we're on the subject, give me my money back! Christmas is just around the corner and I have to save the economy.
Friday, December 05, 2008

Connecticut Legislature Attempts to Stifle Rob Simmons! Fat Chance! Media Working for Rell and Dodd?

The Connecticut Legislature has eliminated the post of state Business Advocate - in a sense - claiming it will save the state money. Right.

What the state legislature actually has done is a blatant attempt to force the person who holds that post, former US Congressman Rob Simmons, into cold storage, by merging his position with the state Department of Economic and Community Development. There, Simmons can be moved inch by inch, step by step, into political obscurity - or so the theory goes.

Simmons lost his seat in Congress by 83 votes two years ago, and didn't run again this year, preferring to help his state dig itself out of the economic morass the Legislature has guided it into over the past decade. As the Business Advocate, Simmons was visible, transparent, energetic and probably far more effective as a one-man show than the entrenched bureaucracy that is failing miserably at keeping Connecticut economically viable.

There are myriad reasons for taking Simmons out of the public eye, but two come to mind immediately - Jodi Rell and Chris Dodd.

Republican Governor M. Jodi Rell is halfway through her four-year term, and within another year will be in a new race in which she will be trying to keep her job while the Democrats pull out all of the stops to take it away from her.

But before the classic showdown begins Rell still must win her own party's nomination. At the moment Rell's favorability rating is very high - not as high as Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's which the press falsely claims is in a nosedive ever since the media declared Jihad against moose hunting - but high nonetheless.

Until recently Rell enjoyed balmy relations with the media, and according to the media polls, which are tied directly to media stories and how naughty or nice those stories may be, she is still well liked by Connecticut voters, at least those contacted by the media.

But within the past week one Connecticut newspaper did a story alleging that Rell is merely a figurehead governor who spends her mornings calling in to drive time talk radio shows, and then fills the rest of her mostly empty schedule with groundbreakings, ribbon cuttings, and speeches. The media report, which also is circulating on the Internet, says the actual work of the governor's office is left to Rell's office staff.

The article quoted liberally from potential Democratic challengers, thus it is fair to deduce that it likely was the opening salvo in a long-range effort to bring Rell's approval ratings out of the stratosphere and into the vulnerability range.

Which is why Simmons needs to be kept on ice, at least as far as Democrat strategists are concerned. Because should Rell falter, Simmons is one Republican who could challenge her for the nomination and give any Democrat in the state a good race should he win the nomination - if he is even interested that is.

The media love fest with Rell could be over, but that isn't her only problem. Rell's support within the GOP often is a matter of what you hear in public versus what is said in private, and easily could evaporate if there is a serious challenge for the nomination. That in turn depends on what the media does with her approval ratings, since a year of negativity will certainly create a downburst in her popularity.

But bashing Rell in an effort to bring down her poll numbers could have the opposite affect of boosting Simmons' popularity, which is the last thing the Democrats want to do.

Then, there is US Senator Chris Dodd who is watching his popularity drop like a rock over his financial dealings. Dodd has a bit more time to bury voter resentment over his actions before he faces reelection, but that presumes he does something to erase the current resentment toward him. He will have to make some dramatic improvements in his favorability rating if he is to remain untouchable in 2010.

Dodd has been given a free ride by the media on his sweetheart mortgage deal, his complicity in the collapse of the credit and housing markets through support of the Community Reinvestment Act, and the subsequent Wall Street bailout.

But one needs only to listen to Connecticut conservative talk radio such as Jim Vicevich's "Sound off Connecticut" morning show, to understand that the media is completely out of touch, but the voters are not. (I listen Jim on the Internet which also has blog postings, forums and live chat that provide even more opportunities to see what voters are saying about Dodd and others.)

Vicevich's callers and forum posters aren't fooled one bit by the media running interference for Dodd. They are angry and it may well take a lot longer than three years to dig his ratings out of the cellar, if it can be done.

(Full disclosure required here: Rob Simmons is my friend. For those of you who have already purchased the paperback version of Masters of the Art, A Fighting Marine's Memoir of Vietnam, you know that Rob gave me a great endorsement on the outside back cover. I also have met Sen. Dodd, and he has an autographed copy of Masters of the Art, if he hasn't sold it on eBay. I also have known at least one staffer in Dodd's office for many years and hold that person in high regard.)

All that aside, trying to minimize Simmons by hiding him away in a cubicle deep inside a state office building is like trying to contain a cyclone. Simmons is energetic, highly intelligent, and has deep support from veterans - a major voting bloc in Connecticut - both because he is a Vietnam Veteran and because he stayed in the reserves for a full career. Simmons is a former CIA agent, leaving in the Carter era, and has been a senior staff member for intelligence issues in the US Senate, as well as serving in Congress.

Simmons can sit at a constituent's kitchen table sipping coffee and discussing the intricacies of state and federal economic issues, and seamlessly slip into fluent Chinese when discussing why he knows what he knows about intelligence matters.

People who know Simmons, and a lot of people know him, also know that he he calls things as he sees them, genuinely likes people, and he is genuinely liked in return.

Trying to stifle Simmons for political purposes, under the guise of saving money when the state is headed into a $6 billion deficit, not only is classic politics, it is a classic misunderstanding of Simmons, and the voting public. In fact, it is an insult to the voting public.

It really doesn't matter what the Legislature does in the next year. If Rob Simmons is awake he is moving, working, analyzing, getting things done. When he walks into a room or a meeting the place lights up.

If the press is anywhere near, Simmons will be interviewed for the simple reason that he tells the truth and gives understandable answers to reporters' questions. That could be another reason why the Democratic Legislature - and possibly some Republicans - want Simmons on ice; he gets far more favorable press than they do.

But burying him inside the state bureaucracy won't do anything to keep Simmons out of the public eye. And even if he is buried deep inside the state bureaucracy, he has plenty of friends on the outside who will be only too happy to drop a trail of pebbles for the media to follow - straight to his desk.

After all, Simmons is an honest man, and when you are reporting on government you need quotes from at least one person who is telling the truth - to give the appearance of fairness and balance off all the other quotes in the story.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Chambliss Praises Palin as He Trounces Dems; Polls Off - Again

Isn't this interesting? Take President Bush out of the election, bring the issues down to the state level and suddenly the vaunted invincible Democrat machine falters, sputters and dies!

Saxby Chambliss, Republican senator from Georgia, who was supposed to be in a nail-biting, cliff-hanging runoff after failing to receive 50 percent of the vote in the general election Nov. 4, emerged on top of a landslide Tuesday, as his Democrat challenger was swallowed up in a quagmire.

The general election had featured several candidates for the Georgia Senate seat and although Chambliss was the favorite, he didn't receive the requisite 50 percent of the vote to be declared the winner. That necessitated the runoff against the next highest candidate, Democrat Jim Martin.

(Too bad we can't have Georgia's election laws transplanted to Minnesota, where a recount is underway that has all the earmarks of a stolen election - if Al Franken can generate enough new votes to overcome his current deficit.

An independent candidate took 15 percent of the Minnesota vote, leaving Franken in second place. Ever since Election Day uncounted votes for Franken have been springing up all over Minnesota, in dumpsters, in backyards, in election officials' car trunks, in morgues, in cemeteries, in crypts, but mostly in Al Franken's warped mind. I'd love to see Franken have to go through a runoff instead of a highly questionable "recount.")

Back in Georgia, Chambliss crushed Martin by approximately 57 percent to 43 percent. It could be closer to 60-40 when the final votes are counted. The polls had the race within the margin of error at 3.0 percent. Well, someone's margin of error anyway, but not the one that matters the most, the one imposed by the voters. Their margin was much, much wider.

Those polls provide subject matter for lots of talk by people who should know better, but when the votes are cast, it all just adds up to hot air.

Chambliss was effusive in his praise for Sarah Palin, who had injected so much energy into the John McCain campaign as his running mate that the Democrats and the Democrat infiltrators running McCain's campaign fell all over themselves attacking her. Nonetheless, Palin was one of many Republican individuals and organizations who went to Georgia to campaign for Chambliss, who said that the crowds "exploded" when she showed up.

There was an avalanche of personal attacks on Palin from inside the McCain campaign, not to mention the president-elect's campaign and the media, before and after Election Day. The attacks continue from the Democrats, as they will as long as she remains on the national scene. Thus, I have a question for my Democrat friends.

If it is true, as many of you claim, that the Republicans are the originators of the ad hominem attacks that comprise so much of modern politics, then why was Sarah Palin swarmed over by the Democrat attack machine literally from the instant she appeared on the national stage? She hadn't said a single critical word about the Democrats, other than she disagreed with their positions and was going to work to put a GOP team in the White House.

But every single aspect of her public and private life was ripped into with the ferocity of a rabid pack of jackals. Nothing was too personal, nothing was off limits, and much of what was said about her was flat out untrue. Her family life was scrutinized, her comments were taken apart, reconstructed and then mocked even though she hadn't said what was claimed.

I don't agree with her on every single point. But I do take a step back and determine exactly which of her personal beliefs she can transform into public policy and which she can't. If she can't make national changes on issues with which I disagree with Gov. Palin, I dismiss that as people agreeing to disagree, not something that qualifies as permission to rip into every facet of her being.

I am glad to see that Gov. Palin was such a positive factor in the Georgia race, and I am happy that crowds came out to cheer for her. She has had an opportunity to emerge from John McCain's shadow and let the voters see her as an individual, and they responded very favorably.

I believe that if the media, the Democrats and renegades from her own party didn't crush her in the presidential race just passed, they won't do it in the next four or even eight years. I'd like to see her running on her own ticket.

In the meantime, Democracy has worked as it should. The voters have thrown one hell of a lot of Republicans out of office in the last four years. Not all of them deserved it by any means, although some of them certainly did.

But yesterday in Georgia, the voters made sure that no one, especially the incoming administration, will have free rein to change the basic nature of our government while the minority party stands by helplessly wringing its hands, outraged but impotent.

At least there are enough people in Congress of differing minds that major legislation will have to be decided on with input from all sides, and nothing can just be rammed through.

I see that as a good thing.
Friday, November 28, 2008

Terrorist Attacks in Mumbai, India Reveal Tactical Shift in War on Terror; Look To Scottish History to Solve Afghanistan, Pakistan Dilemma

The death toll is still climbing in Mumbai, India where Islamo-fascist terrorists struck Wednesday, targeting American and British citizens, Jews and police. News reports say the carnage and chaos were well planned, and the targets were pre-selected.

Among the dead in the initial moments of the assault were police officials who would have been in a position to direct a coordinated counter-assault. As a result the terrorists roamed freely, killing, taking hostages, and digging in for a protracted battle.

The attacks in India point out tragically just how simple it is to turn normal life into unthinkable horror. And they underscore the extent to which free societies must exert themselves if they are to deliver a death blow to terrorism.

Although security officials believe the attackers were members of an extreme Islamo-fascist organization based in Pakistan, and presumably had terrorist dollars and organizational capabilities backing them up, their weaponry was mostly small arms, grenades, and assault rifles. Mumbai, formerly Bombay, sits on the shore of the Arabian Sea and the attackers arrived aboard motorized rubber rafts.

Depending on the point of origin and the route taken, it is about 600-800 nautical miles from the shore of Pakistan to the water's edge in Mumbai, far too long and uncertain for a voyage entirely by motorized rafts. Thus, Indian security officials surmise that the rafts were launched from a larger ship.

But even arranging for sea transportation is not that difficult in areas of the world where pirates roam. In short, although there was significant pre-planning and intelligence gathering to launch the assault on Mumbai, the level of organization necessary to do it was not that complicated.

With US forces victorious in Iraq, and the Iraqi parliament approving an agreement outlining responsibility for its own security, it is obvious that worldwide terrorist organizations are looking for softer targets. They also need some form of "victory" to draw attention away from their overwhelming losses in Iraq.

As the assault continued into its third day, international news organizations reported on the possible identity of the attackers.

Foremost among the organizations blamed was Lashkar-e-Taiba - which in the depth of hypocrisy means Army of the Righteous. Attempts were made to shift the blame to a heretofore unheard of domestic (Indian) terror group, calling itself Deccan Mujahideen, but evidence indicates that the attacks originated with Pakistan/Afghanistan based "traditional" terrorists.

Although the terrorists claimed to be citizens of India, analyses of tape recordings between the attackers and the media indicated they were speaking with Pakistani accents.

Lashkar-e-Taiba reportedly originated in Kunar, Afghanistan, on the border with Pakistan, adjacent to the wild and Taliban/Al Qaeda friendly Tribal Areas. Regardless of which splinter group actually did the shooting, it is obvious that with Al Qaeda defeated in Iraq, there is a shift in emphasis to targets closer to its last remaining stronghold on the Afghan/Pakistan border.

Herein lies the reference to Scotland. One of the saddest chapters in Scottish history is the brutal end of the clan system by which the Scottish Highlands were emptied of inhabitants, their way of life, the homes, their language, and their culture.

Scotland and England ceased to be separate countries beginning with the Union of the Crowns in 1603 - which actually placed a Scottish king on the throne of England - and their Parliaments united in 1707. Nonetheless, there was still animosity between and within both countries, based to a large degree on religious issues as well as politics and nationalism. Catholicism was favored by some, opposed by others, and wars were fought and monarchs toppled over the question of whether Scotland would accept Catholicism as its state religion.

(To this day the National Church of Scotland is Presbyterian, although it is not considered the "state" church.)

This animosity, and efforts to restore a Scottish monarch, led ultimately to the Battle of Culloden in 1746, in which the pro-government forces (backed by England) brutally defeated the outnumbered and significantly outgunned Scottish Jacobites. The loss on the battlefield was only the beginning, and the real impact came in the following years during the Highland Clearances, more than a century of unchecked brutality.

During this time land speculators from England, backed by the English Army, invaded traditional Scottish Clan lands, threw the inhabitants out of their homes and communities, shot many, hanged many, and forced others to the coasts where they lived in abject penury. Tens of thousands were forced onto ships heading anywhere else in the world.

To accomplish this the Highland Scots were ordered to disarm, a violation of which brought instant death. To facilitate the army's access to the highland clans, many located in inaccessible areas where they had thrived for centuries, the English built roads and bridges to enhance the movement of troops.

But one of the most effective tactics used by the English in the Highland Clearances was not the brutality, which often has the affect of uniting the afflicted, but the practice of separating the clan chiefs from the clans.

The English did this by inviting the highest and most powerful chieftains to London, where they were assimilated into the English society. Their children, especially those born in England, were educated in English schools, taught English customs and within one generation any attachment to the Highlands was removed from their collective consciousness.

Today, if you travel north along Scotland's east coast, and then inland from the town of Helmsdale, to the lands once populated by the most northern clans you will find ... next to nothing.

If you go to the Helmsdale home page on the Internet you will find references to the emptiness of the land between the coast and the next inland settlement. Where the clans once thrived, now there are only scattered domiciles, and little to remind travellers of what once existed there.

I am not advocating using these tactics on the inhabitants of the Tribal Areas on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. I don't advocate ripping people away from their homes, their families and their heritage.

But if the leaders of those tribes are going to conspire with extremists seeking world domination, then I do advocate separating the head from the body. One way or another, the leaders of these vicious attacks have to be separated from the people they are recruiting for their dirty work.

The Highland Clearances are a historical blot on the history of England, and a devastating era in Scottish history. But, from the standpoint of English rulers who wanted to ensure that they were never again threatened with invasion from the wild clansman of the Scottish Highlands, they were devastatingly effective.

The attacks in Mumbai have shown that no one in the free world is safe from terrorist attacks, launched by zealots who use murder, torture and mayhem as a means of imposing their will on everyone else.

But if free world forces can figure out a way to achieve the same level of effectiveness as the Highland Clearance, separating the head from the body and redirecting the energies of those doing the fighting - without brutalizing innocent civilians - there may still be some hope for the human race.
Thursday, November 27, 2008

Somewhere a Veteran is Hungry on Thanksgiving

Michelle Malkin ran an article on her blog the other day about the National Park Police hassling a Vietnam veteran for handing out Buddy Poppies on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The veteran, John Miska, served in Vietnam and is active to say the least in his Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Arlington, VA. But the park police say that because he accepts donations from some people who take a poppy, even if he doesn't ask for them, he is thus a panhandler, and that makes him a lawbreaker.

You can read the entire article at Michelle's blog here:

I'm certain I met John on one of my many trips to DC in the past few years and there is a good reason why I remember the encounter.

John was distributing the Buddy Poppies, which are little paper imitation flowers that that VFW uses to remind people of the blood shed in war. On that particular day I was looking to see how many people were wearing VFW or American Legion garb. We were standing up to the pro-terrorist coalition ANSWER, and there were damn few representatives from the major veterans organizations standing with the thousands of veterans who took it personally that the pro-terrorism crowd wanted to deface our memorials.

So when I saw a guy wearing a VFW hat and offering the poppies I took note. I also am the Buddy Poppy chairman for my local VFW post and organize our annual vigils in my town on the weekend before Memorial Day. My community, unlike the National Park Police, has an abundance of generous people who appreciate and support veterans and we thus are able to help the less fortunate among us - which is the sole purpose of the Buddy Poppy program in the first place.

The poppies harken back to World War I and specifically the poem On Flanders Fields, which talks of the horror of war and the need to remember veterans who fought in those far off battles.

I guess all that is lost in the government bureaucracies that are running our country right down the sewer.

But, John has friends like Michelle Malkin and she isn't one to let an issue like this go unchallenged.

From her blog: Now the Charlottesville-based Rutherford Institute has stepped in and filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the National Park Police.

John Miska enjoys volunteering and spends most of his time helping injured veterans and distributing "Buddy Poppies."

"They're handed out as a remembrance of veterans' sacrifice. The poppies are red, representing the blood the soldiers shed and it's a reminder and it gives people pause to think," said Miska.

"People see me standing there and they approach me and ask 'may I have a Poppy' and I give them a Poppy. If people are moved to offer a donation we accept the donations," said Miska.

According to president of the Rutherford Institute Miska hasn't done anything wrong, he has only expressed his First Amendment rights.

"People occasionally give him money. There's a statute, it's a D.C. law, that says you can't aggressively solicit money, but he doesn't do any of that. We feel it's a violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution which guarantees you the right to assemble or guarantees you the right to free speech to hand out Buddy Poppies," said John Whitehead, President, Rutherford Institute.

Miska says this experience isn't going to stop him from his mission and that it will only encourage him to do more.

"I took an oath to the constitution to preserve, protect and defend and I feel if you don't stand up for you rights you will lose those rights," said Miska.

I took the same oath as John and I feel the same way. And as I normally do on Thanksgiving I would like to call your attention to the fact that millions of American servicemen and women are not at home today. Many are in combat zones, facing enemies who not only don't celebrate our national holiday, they would spit on it if they had the chance.

These defenders of our country, our freedoms and our way of life are not here to speak out for themselves so it is up to people like John Miska to do it for them.

Think for a moment if you will, that right now there is a soldier standing a lonely watch in a desert outpost. He might be thinking of turkey, but even if he gets it, he won't really be able to enjoy it as he would at home.

Elsewhere a Marine is pulling his field jacket closer as he braces against a bitter mountain wind, looking for signs that terrorists are about to launch an attack. He is keeping one eye on the sky, hoping a resupply helicopter will be coming to his area, possibly loaded with hot meals for the grunts.

Across the world American sailors are standing watch on vast oceans, while airmen are refueling patrol aircraft in distant and lonely airfields, and coast guardsmen are intercepting drug runners, terrorists, or saving the lives of those in peril.

Right here in America, veterans who have served their country honorably are hoping for a crumb, or a warm place to spend the night, not even daring to think of sitting down to a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner. Except those who have found John Miska or been found by him.

He helps organize dinners at his VFW post, and makes certain that wounded hospitalized vets are not forgotten. That's a big, big job but Miska does it, and only asks that he not be hassled.

I don't think that's too much to ask. Somewhere today a veteran will go hungry because there aren't enough John Miska's in this world. But somewhere else a veteran will have an opportunity for a meal and a few hours away from the cares and woes of daily life, thanks to people like John.

Do you think the Park Police bureaucrats who don't understand the meaning of Buddy Poppies could take a few minutes to look them up on the Internet and for just once try to lighten up? Maybe at the same time, if it isn't too taxing mentally, they could reflect on the fact that 93 percent of all living Americans are free to live their lives because a mere 7 percent have served in the military - going all the way back to WWII and earlier.

If that 7 percent hadn't sacrificed, and continue to sacrifice to this very minute, the bureaucrats who are stuffing themselves today just might understand the true meaning of hunger and want.

Maybe, for a change, they could go to John Miska's VFW post and help serve meals to deserving veterans this holiday season. Maybe they could accompany him to a hospital when he visits the wounded and disabled.

Maybe then they would get an idea of the real meaning of Thanksgiving.
Monday, November 24, 2008

Victory in Iraq! But Mookie is Back!

Told you I did. Smack him I said. Muqtada Al Sadr. He has been a pain in the ass of progress in Iraq since before we invaded, and he is a pain in the ass til this very day.

But did the US government do what should have been done to insure that the single most divisive, destabilizing force in Iraqi politics was sent to meet Allah? Nope. Didn't do it. Worried about what people would say. Worried about the reaction.

So, now that we are a few steps away from having a workable agreement with the Iraqi parliament that would include a timetable for withdrawal of US troops in an orderly fashion, who is jumping up and down, stomping his feet and holding his breath until he turns blue? Who is threatening to trash the agreement, rip it up and throw it away? Good Ol' Mookie, that's who.

Our troops, when they were allowed to take the gloves off and do their job without overbearing oversight from the Judge Advocate's office and sleazeball Congressmen, did exactly what they are trained to do, did it well and have done it successfully. Victory in Iraq is at hand and many of my friends in the veterans' community believe we should be preparing a huge welcome home parade for our victorious troops.

Today, the bulk of Iraq is free of terrorism, the Iraqi Parliament is functioning as it should in a free society, and the local economy is enjoying a major comeback.

The Marines are shutting down Camp Fallujah, once the symbol of all that was wrong and violent in Iraq. Local markets, where car bombs kept the populace shut up inside only a year ago, now are thriving, the infrastructure has a long way to go but is being rebuilt, and victory is at hand.

Typical of career Marines, there even have been reports that they are bored with their peacekeeping duties and are asking for assignment to Afghanistan where there still is some action and a war to be won.

(Frankly, I never could stand garrison duty either. I shine my boots when they need it and I can create a spit-and-polish look with the best of them. But I thrived in the combat environment where attention to detail meant whacking bad guys instead of looking for loose threads on my uniform. What I'm saying here is I understand the mindset of the Marines who want to move on.)

But right in the middle of what should be joyous celebrations over our victory, and the emergence of a stable American ally in the most unstable section of the world, we have Muqtada Al Sadr. As usual, he is threatening to unleash his militia forces, depleted though they may be after taking the brunt of The Surge, and spending the last 18 months getting whacked.

That doesn't stop the wannabe blowhard from making threats though. And of course the American Terrorist Media jumps all over them and gives them credence they don't deserve. But thanks to his shadow buildup in the media, Al Sadr is given a status that is far beyond his capabilities and far beyond what he deserves.

The US had the opportunity to blow him to smithereens back in 2003, but the politically correct manipulators of the American military built an impenetrable shield around The Rotund One, and prevented US troops from doing their jobs. Thus, he was able to build an army of a few hundred disaffected anti-Saddam locals into a a force of ten thousand plus, supplementing it with terrorist extremists who wanted the US out of Iraq so they could plunder the populace unhindered.

When his militia went head to head with US forces and found out that good public relations doesn't translate into effective tactics and strategies, Al Sadr lit out for Iran where he conspired with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to find new ways to kill Americans.

Did we take him out when Al Sadr snuck back into Iraq to try to rally his defeated forces? Nope. We let him go. Did we work with the Iranian resistance forces to whack him in his Tehran sanctuary? Nope. We let him go.

So now, when the bulk of Iraqi people and their duly elected representatives in the Iraqi Parliament are finding ways to cooperate and move Iraq forward as a united country, who is running his mouth once again, saber rattling once again, and threatening to derail the entire process once again? You guessed it.

I have been watching the media tiptoe around the issue of the George W. Bush legacy for several months now. What will Americans think of his presidency, what will historians say?

Well, if you listen to the Democrat National Committee and its propaganda machine, the American media, it is all negative. "Eight years of failed Bush policies."

But when you ask the talking airheads on the news shows exactly what policies they are talking about, and debate them with facts instead of soundbites and talking points, they start sounding like robots stuck on replay. Meaning these ignoramuses can't think independently and they really don't have anything of substance to talk about.

George Bush actually has many good things he accomplished and history will reflect that. But if the Iraqi government unravels in the years after US forces leave, and the Iraqi countryside reverts to factionalism and terrorism, you can bet that Muqtada Al Sadr will be a major cause.

In that case, the George Bush presidency will be held up as the sole reason that the perpetrator of the destability was allowed to live, thrive and conspire to create chaos out of order. If you have looked up Al Sadr you will see that everything he does is done for his own greater glory, not for his religion and certainly not for his country.

If he is allowed to survive, and continues to be a destabilizing force in Iraq, there is only one person who will be held up to blame - the President of the United States who had myriad opportunities to neutralize Al Sadr, and screwed it up every single time.
Sunday, November 23, 2008

Palin "Pardon" Shows Media Bias Will Continue - For Ever!

I read recently about a turkey farm where the birds are dispatched for Thanksgiving meals "humanely" - which apparently makes the birds taste better, or at least eases the guilt to the consumer, and coincidentally drives the price of the birds way, way up.

I have worked with game birds in the past, and know how to "dispatch" them. Frankly, I don't see how giving the bird a well meaning hug before it is killed changes anything for the bird. It is still dead, and its death is still just one step on the way to someone's dinner table.

Just goes to show you I guess.

I was thinking of this the other day when I saw the video of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin "pardoning" a lucky Alaskan turkey. Unlike a similar ceremony that takes place each year at the White House, Gov. Palin went directly to the turkey farm, walked right into the holding pen among dozens of domestic turkeys, and took it upon herself to select the lucky bird. It is obvious that she does not delegate responsibility for her actions to others.

Afterward, when the governor emerged from the holding pen where she had read an official State of Alaska proclamation freeing the turkey, she held a press conference for the local media. As she was answering questions one of the local film crews walked behind the Governor, and began shooting a scene some yards to her left, where the turkey farm workers were going about the business of slaughtering birds that hadn't been pardoned.

As is to be expected, the national media immediately jumped on this obvious act of duplicity and began spreading a story about a another "bizarre" incident involving Governor Palin. But when you actually see the film, you realize the governor had nothing to do with the turkey farm workers going about their jobs, and nothing she did or said - about how her family celebrates the upcoming holidays, and her son's service in Iraq - was in any way bizarre or connected to the workers.

In fact, it was apparent that she wasn't even aware of what was happening. And the action wasn't behind her, as I said, it was off to her left, some yards away.

But this incident merely highlights the depths to which the media, both in Alaska and nationally, will go in its non-stop effort to discredit Sarah Palin. It is equally obvious that this reprehensible, unprofessional propaganda will continue as long as she is on the national scene.

There is no doubt in my mind that the continued attacks on Sarah Palin, including lies being spread by former workers in the John McCain campaign, are a deliberate attack designed to keep her from coming back on the presidential campaign trail in time for the 2012 election.

It seems that McCain's handlers, who have to be the all-time incompetents in the campaign strategy profession, were involved in a deliberate effort to sabotage McCain's campaign, either with or without his knowledge. It also seems that the decision to pick Sarah Palin as his running mate was not intended to enhance his campaign, but to drive it even deeper into the negative.

Anyone who has dealt with the inside the DC beltway or Manhattan Island elitists knows that they consider anyone who is not them to somehow be less. That means less intelligent, less sophisticated, less capable and certainly less worthy.

When Sarah Palin emerged from the wilds of Alaska you can bet that McCain's "strategists" figured she was a back country hick who would quickly become an even bigger embarrassment to the McCain campaign than he was. But she surprised them.

Sarah Palin burst on the scene as a straight talking, straight shooting, knowledgeable and capable chief executive who suddenly energized not just the Republican base, but also a big chunk of the crucial independent vote. What a shock that must have been to the McCain team!

Based on statements in the media that have continued after the election - from anonymous campaign "insiders" of course - Sarah Palin was chosen so these insiders could make a mockery of her and the McCain campaign. If the vote had been the landslide that nearly every media outlet was predicting, it would have been very convenient to make her the scapegoat, so conservative voters wouldn't spend much time questioning how McCain became the GOP nominee in the first place.

But Sarah Palin upset the apple cart and endeared herself to the America public. Only dolts, dupes, idiots and lamebrained nincompoops accept the garbage said about her at face value - especially when the media reports that the source of this slander invariably is "anonymous insiders."

I don't think this is a post-election cover-your-ass strategy at work. I think it is part of an ongoing effort to keep Sarah Palin in Alaska for the next twenty years.

To obtain a classic example of how the media has been lying and distorting Gov. Palin's comments, any American voter who takes any pride in their pre-election selection efforts need only find a tape of what she said about Russia - "you can see it from some of Alaska's islands" and compare it to what was said about her on Saturday Night Live - "you can see it from my house."

Sarah Palin is back in Alaska now, going about the business of being governor, including pardoning turkeys. McCain is out of the picture and the president elect is reneging on his campaign promises on a nearly daily basis - first Iraq, then Guantanamo, today the rollback on President Bush's tax policies.

However, the media is paying scant attention to McCain, the president-elect, or even President Bush. Yet it still is hounding Sarah Palin and deliberately producing contrived propaganda and calling it news. Why? You'd think she'd be yesterday's news.

Gov. Palin should take some time to think about her future and her options. If she is going to return to the campaign trail, she must give serious consideration to how she intends to deal with the media.

The American media - whether it is the treasonous New York Times, or Fox News reporter Carl Cameron who has no qualms about passing vicious rumors with no attribution or attempt to verify them - is compromised as far as political coverage is concerned. There is not a single news outlet on the national scene, print or electronic, that can be trusted to tell the truth.

Thus, Sarah Palin and any other national candidate will have to determine how to communicate their messages directly to the voters without the media filter. There are ways to minimize the impact of the media, and there must be a sea change in the way the candidates treat the media, including how much access is permitted.

Face it. Sarah Palin got no votes from what people saw on television, network or cable, and no votes from the print media. When she was speaking at live events such as the GOP convention, she scored big with the public, but when her comments went through the media filter, she suffered.

Changes are required. But as has been made clear by McCain's advisers and the ongoing media efforts to demonize her, Gov. Palin can not get her advice from establishment media or inside-the-beltway strategists. That truly would be hiring the fox to guard the henhouse.


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