Saturday, July 31, 2004

The minutes of 9/11

The Rotten Library, a site I highly recommend for trivial and serious information alike, has a stellar timeline on the events of September 11, 2001. It offers the known facts, minute-by-minute, a pretty remarkable feat when you think about it. The timeline is the clearest documentation I've yet seen regarding the intelligence failures of that tragic day. The page also features hard-hitting and compelling pictures, including footage of Mohammed Atta boarding a plane in Maine at 5:45 a.m., the planes crashing into the World Trade Center, Bush looking busy and damage at the Pentagon.

While you're at the library, check out some of the other great stuff. If only this had been around when I was making papers in high school...

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Yes, those are real!

Does this really need a caption? Posted by Hello

What you are looking at is a very real piece of Clinton memorabilia. Sit down and let me tell you about it...

On October 27, 1992, a certain Arkansas governor named Bill Clinton came to Lafayette, LA to talk about running for some office or another. His appearance was the culmination of a Cajun-dance party known in these parts as a "fais-do-do." "Fais-do-do" is a Cajun-French term that means, literally, "go to sleep," originating from the fact that these parties went on all night and made you sleepy. The featured band was Wayne Toups and Zydecajun (or was it Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys? I always get those two confused).

Anyway, because my father was working for the local Clinton campaign here, he was one of the main coordinators for the event. This allowed my mom and I to get special passes to stand directly in front of the lectern with the most fanatical Democrats that this Republican-leaning city could muster. We were all given miniature American flags to wave; I also managed to finagle a bumper sticker from an NEA representative. Much to my surprise, only a handful of protesters were there. Many of them blew duck whistles while displaying "Clinton ducked the draft" posters. Ha freaking ha.

Night had fallen by the time the big man arrived. I don't quite remember what he said, but I remember thinking that he had a hell of a lot more stage presence than George Bush (hell, he even upstaged the band, something that's very hard to do in the Cajun heartland!). Following the speech, I nearly met an early pre-voting death as described below in the Secret Service column. After shaking Clinton's very HUGE hand (and repeatedly banging my head for not bringing a camera), I watched as a representative handed him my NEA bumper sticker to autograph. I still have it in a secure location to this day, and will post it as soon as I can figure out just where that secure location is.

As for the tag shown above, it is the security pass my dad wore for the event. On the back is the Clinton-Gore logo along with the phrase "Laissez les bon temps rouler!" ("Let the good times roll!"). My dad says he designed the tag, which I think even Clinton's people had to wear. Naturally, Dad had his tag signed by the Big Dog for posterity. The two allegedly talked for awhile, and given both men's propensities for going on and on and on, I fully believe it.

On those days when Dad and I are trying to top each other, he can always screech me to a halt by saying, "Yeah, but have you ever talked to the president?"

"Yeah, Dad, but did you talk to New Orleans Saints head coach Jim Haslett and forget to tell him your name?"

Me with Coach Haslett, 5/16/03  Posted by Hello

"And don't forget that time I sat in Knight Rider!"

Me, my brother and KITT, 1985  Posted by Hello

As if I ever had a chance...Clinton's still the king!

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The Electoral College: Disaster 101

Here's a column that I hope to publish in the Vermilion closer to the election. Oyster expressed to me his support for the Electoral College, and so I promised him a look at this. I won't keep him hanging any longer (and I'm sure he was just holding his breath waiting...ha ha...). Oh yeah, I should probably mention that this is far from done. In fact, just to give you some insight into the writing process, I wrote much of the first paragraph probably a year before the rest of it. Sometimes you have tidbits that just don't fit with anything else, you know? But once you are finally able to connect it to a larger point, you get that warm sense of accomplishment. Kind of like when you pick up something with your toes.

The United States of America is a democracy only in theory. Very few institutions reflect this mode of government; the military, corporations, bureaucracies, churches and families operate under a structure of top-down management, with a few people or offices setting the agenda and using the bottom rungs as pawns to attain these means. Parents scream with fervor to their unruly kids, “This house is NOT a democracy!” Republicans and libertarians gladly remind us that “the United States is not a democracy but a republic,” as if that somehow justifies worship of our leaders. The people at the bottom of these pyramid schemes have no choice but to follow orders and have no voice whatsoever. All that’s left in terms of democracy is elections, and even those have come under scrutiny.

Still, we talk a good game about “the will of the people.” Except for the small fact that WE DO NOT VOTE FOR PRESIDENT! You think Election Day is on Nov. 2? Guess again! It’s actually on Jan. 6. And no, this is not one of those oh-so-hysterical Republican jokes about having all of the Democrats vote on Wednesday. No, this particular joke is called the Electoral College.

You have to love the Electoral College. We, the United States of America, supposedly the hallmark for free and fair elections by, of and for the people, hold tremendous support for a system that is in fact the least democratic or republican thing imaginable.

So, you might ask, what exactly are you doing in the voting booth? Look carefully. When you pull your lever for your chosen candidate, you are actually voting for the handful of names listed in fine print underneath. These people are called “electors” and they are more or less local; in fact, you may even know one or more of them. When you vote, you are voting for them to go to Baton Rouge on Jan. 6 and vote for your candidate. Only the electors for the winning candidate in your state will cast their votes.

Nationwide, there are 538 total votes, one for each member of Congress. Want to know the best part? THE ELECTOR IS NOT AT ALL OBLIGATED TO VOTE FOR THEIR PLEDGED CANDIDATE. Granted, most of the people who choose to serve in this position are so partisan that they make me look like a swing voter; however, change has been known to happen… “One man, one vote,” indeed. More like, “One state, one vote.”

What the Electoral College succeeds in doing is heightening the drama. Us Americans, we sure do like our drama! Remember that good old Reagan Revolution in 1980, when Ronald Reagan trounced incumbent Jimmy Carter 489-49 in the Electoral College? Man, you talk about a blowout! Except that it really wasn’t—the popular-vote count was much closer; Reagan amassed 43,898,770 votes to Carter’s 35,480,948. That’s 50.8 percent to 41 percent. Hardly a landslide. And those numbers shift depending on the source.

Likewise, Reagan whipped Walter Mondale in 1984 by the largest EC margin in history, tied with Richard Nixon over George McGovern in 1972. Of 538 electoral votes, Reagan nabbed 525, while Mondale grabbed a lucky 13. Not bad for a race Reagan really won 59 percent to 41 percent (54,450,603—37,573,761)!

Defenders of the Electoral College claim that it keeps the whims of the public in check. Yeah, wouldn’t want the public to decide, now would we? So much for the old adage that people get the leaders they deserve.

As a political-science professor once pointed out to me, “If you’re a conservative and you live in New York, your vote’s never going to count!” He did have a point. This works both ways and thus is yet a further argument for abolishing the diploma mill known as the Electoral College.

Fortunately, the Founding Fathers were smart enough to leave most elections to the popular vote. We only use the Electoral College for the frivolous presidential elections. Whew! I’d hate to see it being used on something important, such as on “American Idol.”

Stories of the Secret Service

This is a working column I might put in the Vermilion sometime in the future. I wrote it some time ago but I've held back on it (mainly because it's a little me-centric, something I usually try to avoid in my columns). And yes, it's 100-percent true. What do you think?

Ah, the Secret Service. It’s not secret, and it’s only a service to a couple of people. Despite its oddly ironic name, however, the Secret Service serves as a model of personal safety and security. Its thoroughness is not to be believed. If you doubt that, consider how this often-overlooked juggernaut of security has had Ian on the brain.

In late 1996, I was a junior staff writer for the Lafayette High Parlez Vous. Then-Vice Presidential candidate Jack Kemp was coming to visit and, well, we considered that somewhat important. The Secret Service called our staff about a week before the campaign stop and inquired as to the extent of our coverage. They told us that any photographers would have to submit their cameras and all other equipment for extensive scrutiny. Their rationale: certain chemicals within camera film can conceivably be used to make a toxic and dangerous bomb. With our staff at the time, they should not have worried about anyone expressing any less than serious ass-kissing toward the man. In the end, our paper made no mention whatsoever of the event. Too much hassle. Besides, it came out a month later anyway.

More recently, Dick Cheney’s Super-Duper beef-deluxe Secret Service swept the Lafayette area in October 2002 when Cheney dropped by the City Club to pander to rich people. As part of its apparently comprehensive sweep, agents stopped by the Vermilion office to inquire about a certain writer named Ian McGibboney. Editor in chief Amanda Guidry was asked about my beliefs, my disposition and even my whereabouts. Mandy and I have been friends for years; I am fortunate that she never told the SS about my tempers throughout journalism school. Those questions were all moot anyway. Why the hell would I go see Cheney wipe Terrell’s ass while Mike Foster looks on in shame? I get enough dirty looks just biking near the City Club, much less going inside the place.

Whoops! I bet the Secret Service will schedule another Republican visit very soon just so they can cite this column and throw me in jail with Big Buns Eddy.

I do have to admit, however, that the Secret Service pretty much saved my life in 1992. On Oct. 27 of that year, then-Gov. Bill Clinton came to Lafayette. In stark contrast to “Man of the Rich People” Cheney, Clinton held his bash at Girard Park, for free, with live music and dancing.

After his speech, Clinton came to the section where mom and I stood and greeted us. I shook his massive hand just after he hugged my mother (insert Monica joke here). Because of his rapid approach, the crowd swarmed around and enveloped us. Being a skinny 12-year-old boy in a crowd of hardcore adult Democrats, I could barely breathe. I noticed the CNN camera pointed at me, imagining how my internal organs were going to look to the world and to Wolf Blitzer. The SS stepped in quickly, however, and we all lived to cast our votes two weeks later. Not me, though; I couldn’t vote yet because I was 12.

Because my father worked diligently on the local campaign, the Secret Service enlisted him to help coordinate the event. This brought about one of my dad’s favorite anecdotes; after the event, he and an agent were talking over beers. The agent remarked about the Secret Service’s constant professionalism. Even after several beers, the agent still maintained an eerily straight face, despite a barrage of dad’s very funny comedy. You gotta admire that!

These are the people who are protecting the people who are not protecting us. Rock on, secret servers!

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Kerry-Bentsen '88?

The ever-civil Republican Party was in Boston Tuesday to hand out photos of John Kerry crawling through a NASA space shuttle orbiter. The best part of this photo is--get this--he's wearing a funny outfit!

HAHAHAHAHA!!! Posted by Hello

The GOP evidently hopes that, by portraying Kerry as a bumbling buffoon out of his element, they can do to him what they did to Michael Dukakis in 1988:

NOOOOOOOO!!!! Posted by Hello

If you ask me, though, Kerry looks more like Kup from the Transformers:

Beat that Decepticon Bush!  Posted by Hello

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Words of wisdom

Here are selected bits of wisdom from the July 21 edition of The Vermilion:

"My last documentation concerning the appointing of a new head basketball coach was pretty one-sided. So, the first thing I did while preparing to write another opinion piece on this issue, was research."
(From the sports column)

"Our great nation spans from one end of the continent to the other..."
"My IQ does not go up automatically by simply being around minorities."
(Both from the conservative column)

Words to live by...

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Saturday sports link

You may have never heard of the National American Football League. Formed in 1999, the NAFL's motto is "For the love of the game." More than 90 teams play in 22 separate divisions. Who plays on all of these teams? Anyone who wants to play football at some post-school level and has the drive to do so. The league offers inexpensive Saturday-night football action and a chance to support a genuine grassroots sports league. If you have a local team (and, chances are, you do), check them out! The NAFL offers opportunities to players and coaches that wouldn't otherwise be available in the age of multi-million-dollar salaries.
My local team is the Louisiana Swamp Gators, who are in their inaugural season. They are coached by former UL Lafayette standout Keno Davis, and I am their videographer (an unbeatable combination!)
Check out the NAFL site and support community football. While you're there, stop by the discussion board. They even have a thread on Fahrenheit 9/11!
Tonight the Swamp Gators travel to New Orleans to play the Louisiana Hurricanes. See you on the field.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Repubs err on Edwards, Part 1

"Look at all these rumors, just doggin' me every day..."  Posted by Hello

The New York Post, the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid that once led its front page with John Lennon's morgue photo, reported in yesterday's issue that John Kerry had picked Richard Gephardt to be his running mate. The Post got it right, except for the whole Dick Gephardt thing. Kerry, in fact, chose John Edwards. But what else can you expect when newspapers are so desperate to scoop the competition?

I bet Murdoch's already got a cover set for Nov. 3, "BUSH DEFEATS KERRY," that Kerry can hoist above his head (a la Harry Truman) after he whips Bush.

From  Posted by Hello

Knock on serious wood.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

What liberals do on July 4

Independence Day represents the true essence of Americana. Whether it's celebrating a day off among family and friends, the excessive consumption of processed meats cooked over fossil fuels, and/or watching colorful low-level explosives rattle the night sky in our neighborhoods and Manhattan alike, July 4 is a full bucket of flag-waving nirvana!

I skipped most of that this year. True, I was technically with my family (most of us still share the same house). And I did eat hot dogs and hamburgers, being that I've been too broke lately to buy much else. But instead of seeking out a family party like I do every year, I decided to stay home and repair a flat tire on my bicycle.

I took my bike out to the driveway and laid out my toolbox and shoebox full of bike parts. Directly across the street, I noticed that my neighbor, a doctor, was having a massive get-together. Of the estimated 30 cars I saw in the big circular driveway, 28 were SUVs. The huge kind. The two other vehicles were an equally large redneck truck and a luxury car. You could smell the conservatism wafting like the barbecue aroma emanating from the backyard. I turned to glimpse my "John Kerry for president" bumper sticker, which was plainly visible to the party-goers. That would have been an enticing target for a sniper's scope. Still, I bravely hunched in the shade behind my truck to conduct the routine business of fixing a flat. The course of events that transpired made me wonder if life truly does have it in for us liberals:

1) The tire tube, despite its lack of air, exhibited a different puncture every time I tested it. 2) My patch kit was out of adhesive and I couldn't find the rubber cement that I see every day when I don't need it. 3) My sister and dad were attempting to reinstall a computer, with about the same luck I was having with my bike. They called me every five seconds to fix problems...of course I can fix other peoples' problems... 4) Once I found the cement and patched the tube, I tried to pump it with my hand pump. No dice. I tried my miniature electric air compressor, which worked the first time. When I put the tube back in the tire, however, the compressor suddenly failed to work. 5) When I finally got the compressor back to work, the cigarette-lighter plug on it suddenly and inexplicably flew apart, thus completing my descent into Lucille Ball-esque slapstick. Mission aborted. Meanwhile, the presumably GOP celebrants across the street kept on partying unabated.

Guess Bush was right--it's apparently better to wave the flag and to fire up the coals than to try to fix things and save gas. Quite a moral for our times!

Friday, July 02, 2004

The second coming of Griswold

Introducing the new 2005 Nissan Pathfinder:

2005 Nissan Pathfinder  Posted by Hello

The automobile industry is following the lead of the political realm; more and more, both are turning 1980s jokes into reality. Just like the Bush administration resurrected the horror that was Reaganomics, Nissan is resurrecting the horror that was the Wagon Queen Family Truckster:

A classic never dies Posted by Hello

Well, trend-watchers DID say that eighties retro was going to be big in this decade. With all this retro, what will this decade be remembered for? Will they remember it at all? It doesn't even have a name! In any case, I'm already trying to forget it.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Religious right gets one wrong

James Dobson of the notorious Focus on the Family is back with another call to action. A very old one, apparently, with a twist that's only a year too late! Guess it all blurs when your agenda is to turn America into a gigantic church.

Apparently we are to be allowed to watch TV programs that use every foul word in the English Language, but not the word "God."

Guess they don't watch PAX TV!

CBS discontinued "Touched by an Angel" for using the word God in every program.

"Touched by an Angel" ran for NINE YEARS, from 1994-2003. That's a lot of God for such a supposedly decadent network. What probably happened is that this rare long-running show was nearing its logical end. Or maybe it had low ratings. I doubt its cancellation had a whit to do with CBS deciding that "Hey, what this network needs is to piss off James Dobson!" Though that, I admit, would be reason enough for me.

Madeline Murray O'Hare [sic], an atheist, successfully managed to eliminate the use of Bible reading from public schools a few years ago.

Um, no. First off, religious expression has never been illegal in public school. What O'Hair and many others petitioned for was the end of FORCED prayer. A huge difference! Second, this is not some new effort. O'Hair (along with her son and granddaughter) was kidnapped and killed in 1995, and the bodies weren't found until 2002. As happy as I'm sure you guys are about that, it proves that the effort to end forced religion is not just the by-product of an athiest-fringe group.

Now her organization has been granted a Federal Hearing on the same subject by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, DC. Their petition, Number 2493, would ultimately pave the way to stop the reading of the gospel our Lord and Savior, on the airwaves of America. They got 287,000 signatures to back their stand! If this attempt is successful, all Sunday worship services being broadcast on the radio or by television will be stopped. This group is also campaigning to remove all Christmas programs and Christmas carols from public schools!!

If any one of you thousands of petition-signers bothered to do a Google-search on "Petition 2493," the first entry would tell you that it is an urban legend. This isn't even a new one; it's been around since 1975! Proof positive that the religious right relies on half-truths and hysteria to further its agenda.

Together we can make a difference in our country while creating and for the lost to know the Lord.

Lost? Hey, I'm not the one stuck in 1975!

Please do not sign jointly, such as Mr. & Mrs. Each person should sign his/her own name.

Aw, isn't that so cute? If any wife I might have EVER refers to herself as "Mrs. Me," I will immediately get a divorce!