Congratulations, Chris!

Today's good news ... Chris, a high school dropout who grew up in Woodruff, S.C. went back for his GED and passed with some of the highest scores in the nation:

Wearing a maroon cap and gown in June 2005, Chris not only finished at the top of his graduating class, he also earned the highest GED exam score in the state last year.

With a score of 3,710 out of a possible 4,000, Chris' score ranks him in the top 1 percent of all GED test takers in the nation, according to David Stout, South Carolina's GED testing director.

And the GED is not an easy test, Stout said. It's considered more difficult than the state's high school exit exam, and only about 40 percent of high school seniors would pass the GED on their first attempt if they took it, he said.

The American Council on Education, which oversees the GED testing service, recognizes the individual with the highest annual score in each state. Chris will be honored on Monday in Columbia by state Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum.

-Spartanburg Herald-Journal, 9/30/2006

As someone who went from a gifted and talented student to high school dropout, then graduated from high school via the GED and am now working on my Master's Degree, I can relate to how some fall through the cracks in the present education system. I also know how hard it is swallow some pride and muster the effort to go back ... and how vitally important it is that we do it.

It's never too late to get back on track. The only thing that can hold you back or set you free ... is you.

PR motives in 7-11 split with Citgo?

Was the split between 7-11 and Citgo at least motivated in part by the continual verbal bombshells being cast by Venezuelan strongman Chavez?

The folks at Bulldog Reporter, a PR trade e-journal, seems to think that could have contributed to the split:

Representatives from Citgo however claim that it was a mutual understanding and was in no way a direct result of Chavez’s statements. But media critics across the board are deciphering 7-Eleven’s move as a PR-influenced jump to gain public support for the company in the wake of Bush’s name being dragged through the mud.

Bootlickers ... ummm ... Citgo talking heads claim the move had been planned all along:

Earlier this year and after many months of deliberation, CITGO Petroleum Corporation decided to allow its gasoline-supply contract with 7-Eleven to expire at the end of Sept. 2006. This decision was announced last July.

The 7-Eleven contract did not fit within CITGO’s strategy to balance sales with refinery production after the sale of its interest in a Houston area refinery.

“7-Eleven has been a valued customer for many years and we wish them the best,” stated Alan Flagg, general manager light oils marketing.

As Chavez pumps up the "crying wolf" rhetorical campaign, as well as strong-arming his nation, expect more controversy.

7-11 to Chavez: Goodbye

It appears that a twenty-year relationship between the 7-11 convenience store chain and Citgo, a subsidiary of the Venezuelan government's oil company, is coming to an end.

Long ago, I stopped buying Citgo brand gas, because I was appalled at Chavez' subversion of his country, and didn't want to subsidize a man who oppresses his own people. I don't boycott the stores, just the gas pumps, because inside merchandise sales don't benefit Citgo petroleum.

According to 7-Eleven spokesman Margaret Chabris: "Regardless of politics, we sympathize with many Americans' concern over derogatory comments about our country and its leadership recently made by Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez."

There are concerns that the increase in oil prices that is undoubtedly creating soaring revenue for Citgo's parent company is being lost through corruption, presumably by the Chavez regime:

Even Citgo, the U.S. refiner and gas retailer wholly owned by Pdvsa, earlier this year paid off all its debt and stopped the routine practice of reporting data to Moody's financial service -- thus ending all outside scrutiny of the company's books.

What's more, much of Venezuela's oil revenue now stays outside the government's budgetary channels. In recent years, Congress has set each year's government budget by setting Pdvsa's tax payments artificially low. This year, for example, Pdvsa's taxes are pegged to a price of $26 per barrel for Venezuela's blend of heavy crudes -- which currently sells for $58. The $32 per barrel difference remains largely off-budget, with no legislative supervision or disclosure of line-item details.

If Chavez thinks America is so terrible, then we should do him the courtesy of not spending our money on his regime. 7-11 did the right thing.

This follow's Chavez' outrageous scene at the United Nations, which even drew the scorn of congressional Democrats:

"You don't come into my country, you don't come into my congressional district, and you don't condemn my president. If there's any criticism of President Bush, it should be restricted to Americans - whether we voted for him or not."
- Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY)

"Hugo Chavez fancies himself a modern day Simon Bolivar but all he is, is an everyday thug ... he demeaned himself and he demeaned Venezuela."
- Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

"His differences with United States policies are well-known, and the United Nations is a forum for airing such policy concerns. But his personal attacks and ridicule directed at the President of the United States are unacceptable."
- Rep. Chakka Fattah (D-PA)

We need to choke off dictators and demogogues like this loudmouth, who, like Hitler, began their political rise to power with a failed attempt to overthrow his government and then used heavy-handed efforts to consolidate power once in office, are real threats to peace in our region. The sooner the better.

Mike Reino: Missing in Action

The search is on for Mike Reino, a Republican blogger who has been missing for over two weeks since his last blog posting.

"We don't know where he could be," said Moye Graham, a GOP activist and Reino ally who lives near Lake Marion. "I'm afraid that he may have pushed ol' Jim too hard this time."

Reports have it that Reino may be held at a special secret detention facility near Lake Marion by Congressman Jim Clyburn, who is furious over Reino's continued opposition to his Lake Marion bridge project. When completed, it is alleged the new bridge will triple the state's per capita income, usher in a new era of prosperity and harmony ... and bear Clyburn's name.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Clyburn, at a special hearing, pounded the table with his fist, declaring: "we categorically deny ... there are ... no ... Mike Reinos ... in captivity in the People's Republic of the Sixth District."

Clyburn staffers were concerned about the insistence in holding Reino until he signs a confession which admits his guilt and apologizes for his crimes against humanity in opposing the bridge, as well as admitting he only acted as a pawn of the Bush administration. Among their concerns was the possibililty that he might escape and wage a hit-and-run one-man guerilla war in the swamps and deeply-forested regions of the Sixth District, killing dozens of low-paid extras, and then go on to make three or four sequels, possibly with the help of Chuck Norris.

Family Feudin': The religious divide within the GOP

While Protestants make up the bulk of GOP voters and party activists, there are growing numbers of Catholics who vote for the GOP, not to mention the strong support from Mormons, which has much to do with Utah being one of the most Republican states in the nation.

There exists a usually-quiet divide among GOP ranks between evangelical Protestant Christian activists and non-Protestant Christians. Some of it is theologically based, as Catholics and Mormons and Evangelicals are about as far apart as any two groups can be while still calling themselves Christian. Some of it is political, as many Catholics are more politically moderate than evangelicals.

These tensions get drug into the political realm, often by attacks from evangelicals seeking to split hairs and attempt to drive away support for opponents. One such attempt to drag religion into the 2008 Presidential race was reported on by Lee Bandy of
The State, who writes about Saturday's stunt by Cyndi Mosteller, the chair of the Charleston County Republican Party, and long-time social conservative activist, in the middle of a visit to the state GOP's monthly executive committee meeting:

Romney, a possible Republican candidate for president in 2008, was in town to address the state executive committee.

Cyndi Mosteller, chairwoman of the Charleston County Republican Party, one of the largest GOP organizations in the state, came armed with a bunch of material — and questions — about the Mormon church.

The incident only underlines what could become an uncomfortable debate over Romney’s faith if he runs for the White House. The issue will be on the table in South Carolina’s early primary contest, where roughly 35 percent of GOP voters are evangelical Christians, many of whom view Mormonism with skepticism.

Welcome to the GOP's hidden family feud: Evangelicals versus non-Protestant Christians.

This divide is also pointed out in recent coverage over the immigation reform issue, in the Honolulu Advertiser and Boston Globe. The Honolulu Advertiser reports:

While Catholic bishops and many Republican politicians share opposition to abortion, they're often split over the specifics of immigration reform. Church leaders are challenging — and in some cases even vowing to defy — the tougher enforcement proposals by GOP lawmakers.

The issue highlights the roadblocks that the Catholic worldview creates for Republicans and Democrats. Catholics generally are conservative on personal issues such as marriage, but they tend to be liberal on social-justice issues, limiting the appeal of both major parties and leaving Catholics "politically homeless."
That's something to think about, for Republicans and Democrats alike: don't court the votes unless you want the voters.

Personally, I doubt the McCain campaign had anything to do with the attack by Mosteller, who was a McCain backer in 2000, and according to one person I talked to who there, had McCain materials at the meeting (take that report for what it's worth, but I take this person at his word). However, they should reconsider having the active support of loose cannons who drag religious differences into the political arena, as any campaign should.

How Romney's faith is attacked, or respected, will say a lot about how much the GOP base really welcomes non-Protestants into the fold. If the GOP really wants them on board, and is not just paying lip service to win their votes, then their Presidential candidates had better avoid incidents like the one that took place Saturday.

If you'd like to know what others think ... there's more discussion of this issue by Faith in the South, Laurin Line, and Palmetto Republican.

"A Matter of Life & Death": Iron Maiden's hard rockin' new album

Fresh on the racks at your favorite music store is the great new album from Iron Maiden: A Matter of Life and Death. For those of you who appreciate great music (heavy metal, of course), your life-or-death weekend assignment is to go out and BUY THIS ALBUM!!!

This album is everything Maiden (and many other metal bands of the era) has ever been, with Dickinson’s powerful siren voice, complex lyrics that make strong moral critiques or tell tales from history, as well as the tight orchestration that few bands in the metal scene have ever been able to pull off.

I’d rank this as their best release since Somewhere in Time, back in the 80s, and one of their best ever.

Amazingly, this album has been one of the best received of their entire career, reaching #1 on VH1’s European album chart upon its release, as well as debuting at NUMBER NINE in the U.S. album charts (their first ever top 10 debut in the United States) and number two on the Canadian album charts. Already, over one million albums have been shipped.

If you've been one of those lamers who thought metal pre-grunge was out-of-date and not relevant to today's metal scene, think again. The success of this album says "think again".

The themes of war and religion are present through much of the album, as well as their approach to telling many of these stories from a first-person perspective. The Longest Day presents the experience of D-Day from the perspective of a fictional soldier on the beach, facing determined German opposition. The song paints war as what it is for the individual soldier –something less noble and more horrific than it is often portrayed:

All summers long the drills to build the machine
To turn men from flesh and blood to steel
From paper soldiers to bodies on the beach
From summer sands to armageddon's reach

Overlord, your master not your god
The enemy coast dawning grey with scud
These wretched souls puking, shaking fear
To take a bullet for those who sent them here

The world's alight, the cliffs erupt in flame
No escape, remorseless shrapnel rains
Drowning men no chance for a warrior's fate
A choking death enter hell's gate

Sliding we go, only fear on our side
To the edge of the wire,
and we rush with the tide
Oh the water is red,
with the blood of the dead
But I'm still alive, pray to God I survive

How long on this longest day
'Til we finally make it through
How long on this longest day
'Til we finally make it through

My favorite, hardest rocking and ass-kicking song on this album is The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg, an tale of a man condemned to endless re-incarnations. In the song, Breeg tells of how he experiences not only his own life and the torment of living with the guilt of his own wrongdoings, but also the experiences of those lives he lived before this one:

Let me tell you 'bout my life,
Let me tell you 'bout my dreams,
Let me tell you 'bout the things that happen, all is real to me.

Let me tell you of my hope, of my need to reach the sky,
Let me take you on an awkward journey, let me tell you why.
Let me tell you why

Why should these curses be laid upon me?
I won't be forgiven 'til I can break free
What did I do to deserve all this guilt?
Paid for my sins, for the sale of my soul.

Demons are trapped all inside of my head,
My hopes are gone, reach for heaven from hell,
My sins are many, my guilt is too heavy,
The pressure of knowing of hiding what I know

I'm able to see things, things I don't want to see,
The lives of a thousand souls weigh heavy down on me

I know they're crying for help
reaching out
The burden of them will take me down as well
The sin of a thousand souls not died in vain
Reincarnate still in me live again

Someone to save me,
Something to save me from myself
To bring salvation
To exorcise this hell
But who is Benjamin Breeg? While the band ain’t saying, speculation by fans abounds, and one fan site deals specifically with this question. The video for this album, which is included on a DVD with the deluxe edition, is like the song, rather introspective, with clips from past videos and concert performances from across the length of their career.

Who else has something to say about this album in the blogosphere ... Metal Mark ... Metal Reviews ... Heavy Metal Addiction ... Kurt's Krap ... Blind Summit ... Metal Hall ... Call me Mickey ... heck, you get the point. Lots of people have a lot to say about the album.

There's a lot more to this album, and so much so that the finished product even surprised band member at what they accomplished. Everyone who has this album has their own favorites, but we all agree that this album is well worth your twenty bucks, so go get it.

A Thurmond son seeks political office

An interesting race is taking place down in Charleston County.

In a year where we’ve seen statewide candidates with famous fathers – Mike Campbell and Drew Theodore – who decided to “start at the top” by seeking statewide office, there’s another candidate with famous family who decided to take a different approach to entering politics.

Paul Thurmond, a Charleston attorney and son of the late Senator Strom Thurmond, is running for a seat on Charleston County Council. The seat is presently held by Democrat Leon Stavrinakis, who is running for the state House seat being vacated by John Graham Altman.

With a district that sprawls across West Ashley and James Island, and one-ninth of Charleston County’s population of over 320,000 people, it’s a much larger political base than your ordinary County Council seat. That’s between 35 and 40 thousand people – bigger than a state House seat, and a nice chunk of a state Senate seat.

If Thurmond wins, proves himself in office and uses this to build a political base in the Lowcountry, don’t be surprised if this guy has a political future that reaches far beyond and above serving in this office.

Stay tuned ...

Editors Note: Stavrinakis had previously been elected when council seats were elected at-large, prior to a court ruling which ordered the creation of single-member districts. He was one of three council members who were drawn into districts with heavy majorities of voters of the opposite party. The other two seats, then held by Republicans, went to Democrats in the 2004 elections, due to the staggering of council seats.

There had been speculation that with the chances of winning that seat slim, he had nothing to lose and hoped Altman’s negatives would aid his campaign.

Blogs in the News: LaurinLine and Faith in the Sound

As part of my ongoing effort to recognize occasions when “traditional” media “gets it” about “new” media outlets, such as the blogsites of South Carolina’s political culture, I try to speak up, to give praise or criticism as needed, and make sure the bloggers in question get the credit they deserve.

Today, my hat is off to the fellow blogsites Faith in the South and LaurinLine, whose comments made the Monday edition of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, as well as Robert Dalton of the Herald-Journal.

Here is the excerpt from the SH-J:

Will Folks, a former spokesman for Sanford and now president and CEO of political consulting firm Viewpolitik and a voucher supporter, wrote on his Web log ( that Floyd's remarks left many "wondering whether she is running to the center in an effort to avoid heat on the issue."

At the other end of the spectrum, Laurin Manning ( accused Floyd of waffling and wrote that "If I were a rabid school-choicer, I would be demanding answers."

The answer is that Floyd hasn't wavered. In a position paper posted on her Web site in December, Floyd wrote that she supports giving money back to parents and letting them choose a public or private school.

"Her position has not changed," Gidley said. "She strongly supports school choice and believes that all parents should be given the opportunity to select the school that best fits the needs of their children."

But Folks said that Floyd hasn't emphasized choice in the general election the way she did in the primary. He chalked up the difference to campaign strategy.

"When I was in the governor's office, we obviously emphasized certain things when it was convenient and de-emphasized others," Folks said. "At the end of the day, it's all spin."

It’s great to see traditional media looking to the blogosphere for knowledgeable insights about current issues of any kind.

Congrats again to Laurin and Will for making the news, and of course, for coming up with the keen and insightful opinions that were considered worthy of coverage. Just more proof that if you want to know what is going on, especially behind the issues, come see us – we’ve got plenty to say.

But PLEASE be sure to drop Mr. Dalton an email and thank him for including voices from the blogosphere. It never hurts to let them know we’re here, appreciative, and eager to help them whenever needed.

Radio SLack: More e-firing

Meet the real bozos.

A few weeks ago, I discussed a case of firing via text message in Great Britain. That was a small business concern, with a younger and more wired workforce, so I figured it was just an isolated case of a clueless, slacker "dude" type of manager who had no clue about HR management.

But apparently this kind of logic doesn't just apply to small, non-traditional business outfits.
According to this article from the AP wire, our friends at Radio Shack recently cut loose over 400 hundred workers via email notifications:

Employees at the Fort Worth headquarters got messages Tuesday morning saying: "The work force reduction notification is currently in progress. Unfortunately, your position is one that has been eliminated."

Company officials had told employees in a series of meetings that layoff notices would be delivered electronically, spokeswoman Kay Jackson said. She said employees were invited to ask questions before Tuesday's notification on a company intranet site. This follows the company's decision to hire "former Kmart executive, Julian Day, as chief executive, replacing an interim leader who stepped in when the previous CEO quit after admitting lying on his resume."

How utterly pathetic can one get?

First they hire a liar for a CEO, and then replace them with someone who brought us Kmart - the walking dead of American retail. Now, if that's not a path to success, I don't know what is.

But at least the Kmart guy is familiar with closing stores. They've been closing a lot of them. In that way, his experience should be very valuable to a company which is sinking and doesn't want to change its ways.

I'd say I'd boycott their stores, but it's not like I shop there much anyway.

Elizabeth Moffly endorses Jim Rex

For some time, I've received complaints that I've had an agenda of wanting to help elect Karen Floyd in the Superintendent of Education race. Granted I've written several blog postings that haven't been very flattering to the campaign of Mr. Rex, but I just called it like I saw it.

But I guess my coverage has been somewhat unbalanced in Floyd's favor, so I thought I would undertake the effort to look high and low for something of interest to say about Jim Rex and his campaign. For those of ya'll who missed it when it first took place, long before Floyd announced her Democratic supporters, here it is ...


"The first high profile Republican to endorse Rex" has stepped out in what was the first crack in the once-solid GOP wall of support for Karen Floyd.

Former GOP education candidate Elizabeth Moffly announced her support for Jim Rex, the Democratic candidate for Superintendent of Education.

This endorsement came about six weeks after her amazing performance in the GOP primary, where she stunned election observers, who mostly predicted her to garner about five percent of the vote by getting only FOUR POINT SIX percent of the vote.

With her campaign signs (many still up in and around Wal-Mart parking lots around the state) proclaiming "your ONLY choice for real change", Moffly proclaimed that "the right candidate to be our next State Superintendent of Education" was not her, but rather Jim Rex.

who sends two of her four children to private schools and supported private school choice, as hailed by Rex as a supporter of "increasing choice within South Carolina's public school system". Her candidacy in the GOP primary was motivated in part by her concern that "schools are giving children too much homework, which she says is taking away from family time at home".

Moffly, who for months during her campaign did not have voice mail and did not return phone calls (I spent months chasing her for a speaking appearance, so I know), was for once available for comment to the media.

Congratulations to the Jim Rex campaign for landing this endorsement.

200 postings later ...

... and there are probably plenty of you wondering when I'll shut the hell up.

I want to thank all of my readers, especially those of you who take a few minutes to post a comment (even in disagreement - those are important too), email me directly, or stop me at various locations and occasions to let me know what you think.

Even that one lady who wouldn't stop screaming at me at that cookout.

Some people take this stuff more personally than I ever intended it to be, but the rest of you take it as you should, with an open mind, active wit, sense of humor, and hopefully, more than a grain of salt. For which I continue to be truly grateful.

Stay tuned and thanks again for sharing your time and thoughts with me, and allowing me to share mine with you.

Dying for the World: WASP fires at 9/11

The last couple of days, I paid tribute to those murdered on 9/11. Now, it's time for a metal album review ... but with a bit of a twist.

I want to share some of the perspectives of those who've had the guts to call a spade a spade. Today, it's Blackie Lawless and WASP, whose "Dying for the World" album was their first post 9/11 release:

Its been said that New York is the Capitol of the World, but growing up there, for me, it was just home. I could look out of my bedroom window and see the Statue of Liberty and beyond that were the World Trade Centers. My family was in construction and we had friends and family who helped build those great structures.

W.A.S.P. were on tour in America in August and September . I was in Manhattan August 31st to do a day of press interviews prior to a show in New Jersey later that evening. As I was leaving Manhattan (New York City) route to the show I looked over to the skyline of the city. Leaving that place always made me sad. The further away you get from the city, the only thing you could see were the World Trade Centers (as they were the tallest buildings there) and I said to myself "Take a good look, its gonna be a while before you see them again". Little did I know.

September 11th changed all that.

Even as I write this, the hurt is still overwhelming. I feel like crying but I'm numb at the same time. I guess the numbness is a self-defense mechanism.

I did a lot of thinking about what happened on that day (as we all have I'm sure) and tried to figure out not so much why this happened (I know why!) but what does it indicate. Specifically where is all this leading us, and when I say "us" it's not just an abbreviation for the United States, I mean the whole "World". I'll come back to this thought later.

In the Gulf war in the early 90's W.A.S.P. got a lot of mail from the United Nations Forces (American, British, European and others) telling us that they would blast metal music from the loud speakers of the armored tanks when they would go into battle. The sound could project two miles away and when the Iraq troops would hear the music they knew "death" was on its way and they would run like the cowardly mother fuckers they really are. What a vision!

So thinking about that takes me back to what I was saying before about where is this leading all of us. Sooner or later this problem in the middle east is going to have to be dealt with. It's not "if" it's "when". It's not just about America and Israel, it's equally about Europe and the rest of the civilized world. "They" are coming after us and will not stop. You ask who is "they?" (See Bible - "seed of Cain"). The names don't matter, whether it's Bin Laden, Hussein or whoever it's all the same. They are all "Antichrist wannabes" and we're going to deal with them either now or later. So based on the idea of the letters we got from the soldiers in the 90's I thought: ok, why not give our guys (United Nations Forces), a fresh batch of new songs to go onto battle with.. Something that will inspire us and scare the fuck out of them. Think of this album largely as a collection of songs to "go kill people with".

Fuck political correctness:

That went down with the Trade Centers.

As the line says in the song "Stone Cold Killers": "my God will kill your god".

When I look back at how I felt that day, and how I feel when I look at the memorials for those we lost that day ... well, I can't help but feel like his attitude is my attitude - hunt the bastards down and exterminate them ... before they exterminate us.

This album hits you with all the power of a WASP album, and with lyrics that are often deeper than the uninformed music listener will notice. Blackie's rage and anger can be felt on the songs about 9/11, felt deep to the bone, with no doubt that he wants to lead the tank charge, all guns blazing, with the blood and bones of the murderers splattered across the front of the tank. His anger, his rage, and his hurt ... it is real, both for him and many others out there.

It is all too clear that this band wants revenge, but then go beyond revenge, to take the evil and the fear they sought to put on us, and shove it deep inside of them and watch them feel the deepest terror a man can feel - hell on earth.

These songs speak for what many of us felt that day, and in those that followed, and what we still feel. But enough talk - let's look at some of these song lyrics ...

Hell for Eternity:

Where ya gonna run
Ya never should have come
But welcome to the ball

My hands on the trigger
My guns getting bigger
I'll introduce you all

Won't you say
Hello to my little friend
Won't you pray
Get on your knees
And pray to die
Oh-you're gonna burn tonight

Nothing's gonna save ya
oh ya better pray - to
Whatever God you want

Revengeance (not just revenge or vengeance):

Oh your God's got you dying to be
Oh your martyr's in the sand
I'll hunt you down like the dogs that you be
Your Armageddon's in my hands
Come to me I'll set you free
Come to me will you die for me

Stone Cold Killers:

I'm gonna murder supeman
Murder superman
Stone cold killer's what I am
Your widowmaking ones come
You can't hide
I'm gonna murder superman
Murder superman
I got a heart breaker in my hands
Yeah here I come
Oh - You're gonna die

Your lying messiah you know isn't real
How will you die fo the one that you kneel
Better get your guns
I'm gonna
kill your god
My God will kill your god

Last, but not least ... Hallowed Ground:
Come and take me down
The dark beyond
And take me there
Where I come from

Take me down
To the place where I'll kneel
And let me lay
my shadow down
In though the eyes
Of a child's inner me
No pain to heal my bloodied brow

There is no rain
To save this silent town
There is no rain to save at all
There is no place
To save this silent ground
There is no place to save at all

Oh father take me
Unto where I'll lay me down
Oh Hallowed Ground

Oh the sky is falling
And I don't know where my home is now
My Hallowed Ground

Oh and can you take me
For I have tasted Hallowed Ground
Oh all around

Father - oh do you hear me
This pain I will not cry aloud

Father - I know you hear me
My head is bludgeoned but unbowed

I've mourned, told some stories, vented my rage, and shared some of my deep feelings about what happened. Thank those of you who read, listened, and shared. I'm ready to move forward again.

May peace be with those who lost loved ones that day, or since, and may the hand of American Justice land hard on the asses of the bad guys we have yet to catch.

How long will it take?

"It took about 30 years for this terrorism to develop. It's going to take more than five years to deconstruct them."
-Rudy Giuliani, World Trade Center
September 10, 2006
... until then, we can't afford to quit or let our guard down. Those we remember this week deserve that much from us.

Father Mychal: The Saint of 9/11?

Five years ago today, four hijacked airliners brought mass terrorism, which has plagued the rest of the world for decades, to our nation. It was a day of atrocity, which changed us forever.

As I did yesterday with my posting about Benito Valentin, I feel it more appropriate to share some thoughts about someone else whose role that day was far more important and whose sacrifice was far greater - the first official casualty of the World Trade Center attack, Father Mychal Judge.

In both Catholic and Orthodox traditions, there are many times one becomes a saint through a mass grass-roots movement.

It would surprise few that there is a large grassroots effort to canonize Mother Theresa. There is a popular movement to recognize Yevgeny Rodinov, a Russian solider martyred in Chechnaya, as a saint, and many Russian Orthodox faithful already consider him to be one.

Those who support Rodinov for sainthood do so not just because he was murdered because he refused to renounce his faith when captured by terrorists, but in part because he was a fallen hero in the nation's war against the Chechen terrorists.

Which brings us to the effort to seek sainthood for Roman Catholic priest Father Mychal Judge, the NYFD chaplain who died at the World Trade Center on 9/11. His death certificate is listed as Number 0001, the first official casualty of the terrorist attacks upon the city.

I keep thinking about Father Mychal Judge who I passed quickly as I was going to the Police Department command center and he was going toward the Fire Department command center. And I shook his hand, and I asked him to pray for us. I said, "Father, pray for us," because I knew how terrible it was. And he looked at me, smiled and said, "I always do," and then moved on.

And he was the first person that we lost at the World Trade Center.
He was noted as a very humble priest, who faced his own challenges, including a lifelong battle with alcoholism. However, the most controversial issue was that he was openly gay (but presumably celibate, as is required of all Roman Catholic clergy, regardless of sexual orientation), and some feel this is a barrier to his canonization.

Controversial to some, but not me.

While I will not claim to know all the issues that should be considered for his canonization, nor can I say if he meets the criteria, I hope that his canonization receives the fairest and fullest consideration. His humble and selfless works, as well as his martyrdom on 9/11, are worthy of consideration, and certainly of rememberance.

Regardless of any "official" determiniation, like Rodinov, it should be considered that he has already become a de-facto saint through the adoration of many who remember him for his good works and tragic martyrdom, as depicted in the icon above. In such a situation, canonization may already be recognizing what is already commonly believed, and it would hopefully be difficult not to canonize him without good reason.

As we remember those we lost that day, and as we reflect upon how that terrible day has affected us as individuals and as a nation, let us consider the example of faith set by Father Mychal, whose prayer is carried on by those who remember and honor his life:
Lord, take me where you want me to go;
Let me meet who you want me to meet;
Tell me what you want me to say;
And keep me out of your way.

Today, let us remember those we lost that day, as well as those who have fallen since in our nation's continuing efforts against terror, both at home and abroad, and let us be thankful for their sacrifices.

Benito Valentin and Father Mychal Judge are just two of nearly three thousand people who were callously murdered by the terrorist atrocities committed in the United States on September 11, 2001. May their memories be eternal ...

Benito Valentin: Father, Husband, and victim of terrorist atrocity

Tomorrow, many of us will remember and reflect upon the terrorist atrocities committed upon thousands of people in the United States on September 11, 2001. While many of us will share our personal experiences to mark this occasion, I've chosen to step out of the limelight a bit and put it upon those who deserve it more: the innocent victims of these attacks.

I am one of the thousands of bloggers who are part of Project 2996, the effort in which bloggers will pay tributes to individual victims of the terrorist atrocities that we remember today (and every day) in New York, Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennslyvania. While the intent was for 2,996 bloggers to each remember one who died that day, the number of bloggers has far exceeded that mark - which is a great thing.

Here's my memorial:

Benito Valentin, age 33, was murdered on September 11, 2001 by Al-Queda terrorists at the World Trade Center, while working as a travel consultant for American Express. He left behind his wife Grisell, and three daughters, Danyelle, Jailene, and Alyssa.

A fun-loving native of the Bronx, he was often quick with jokes, poking fun at anyone and everyone. His fun spirit was the life of the party in the lives of his friends, family, and co-workers.

On that day in September, the light of his life may have been taken away from us, but not his memory. It will be carried forward by those who know him, and people like myself, who have come to know him since.

You can visit his online memorial book at

If you'd like to learn more about him and his family, I invite you to
check out these links:

Thomas Ravenel's "Play of the Week"

In the closing weeks of the GOP primary for Governor, incumbent Mark Sanford refused to debate Oscar Lovelace, his primary opponent. Observers credit this as one of the reasons Lovelace’s numbers began moving up late in the campaign.

In a hotly-contested race, it is often considered a bad move to refuse a debate. It helps create the impression that an incumbent, or a challenger, has something to hide. In such races, the race is often close because the challenger is gaining on the incumbent.

Such a situation is developing in the race for State Treasurer, where Thomas Ravenel rolled out of a strong win in the runoff for the GOP nomination, and has begun an aggressive challenge of incumbent State Treasurer Grady Patterson. While his recent debate with fellow Republican John Rainey received mixed reviews from observers, his campaign seems to have hit the mark dead-on with Patterson’s refusal to participate in a debate.

According to Patterson:
Until Thomas is serious about being state treasurer, I will not be a part in his bid for the U.S. Senate. My opponent needs to stand before the public and state that he will serve four years and not challenge Sen. Graham.

My integrity, character and the trust I have built with the people of South Carolina should not be recklessly attacked by Mr. Ravenel in his bid for the U.S. Senate. The Office of State Treasurer deserves better. The people of South Carolina deserve better.

Greenville News (Friday, 9/8/06)

If Patterson wants to hit Ravenel hard over that question, as has been part of their overall strategy thus far, it would seem as if a debate would be a great opportunity to do so. However, if Ravenel were to commit to serving his term in the debate, which he has already done in the media, then Patterson’s trump card is gone.

According to Patterson's campaign manager, as a first pre-condition for a debate, Ravenel is expected to send
"a press release or stands up in public and says it."

Isn't it enough to say it in a published news story?

As an additional pre-condition, Patterson's campaign expected Ravenel to disclaim statements he has made about the state's pension system, which is managed by the Treasurer's office.

Again I ask, if Ravenel is misleading the public, isn't it better to hit him with this stuff in a public debate, live for the home audience?

This refusal has generated plenty of media coverage, and least one event on a Florence television station will go on as scheduled without Patterson and essentially become thirty minutes of free advertising for Ravenel.

In a race which observers expect to be close, any wrong move could decide the outcome. A wrong move like this could make the difference between winning and losing in November.

After getting sidetracked with the Rainey debate, Ravenel needed something noteworthy to get his candidacy moving forward again. In this week’s “Play of the Week”, Ravenel was willing to face Patterson in a debate, while Patterson chose to duck the debate by hiding behind a wall of pre-conditions. His willingess to propose the debate, as well as Patterson's refusal, have helped to get his "roll" back.

Up in York?

Hey man, according to those dudes on WIS-TV, Cheech Marin will be coming to York County to make a movie.

But dude, where's Chong?

Cheech Marin to star in film being shot in York County

(Rock Hill-AP) September 7, 2006 - A second film will be shot in the Rock Hill area this fall.

A casting call for extras is set Saturday for the film, "The Third Miracle," based on a group of boys from Mexico who became the first team from outside the United States to win the Little League World Series.

Casting director Marty Siu says Cheech Marin will play one of the lead roles.

Baseball fields in Rock Hill and Charlotte are being reviewed. Siu says some filming will be done at Duncan Field in Spartanburg.

Shooting will also be done in Mexico and Texas.

A casting call is set Friday in Spartanburg and one is planned in Charlotte later. Extras are being sought to serve as fans in the stands.

A horror picture, "Asylum," is also being filmed in the Rock Hill area starting this month.

The "UN-play of the Week"; Jim Rex or Wayne's World?

Over on The Body Politic, Josh expresses his thoughts about why he feels last week had been a very bad week for the statewide Democratic candidates:
So there we were, last week, all worried that this might be the year that the wave broke and South Carolina Republicans lost some statewide offices...

Then came this week. I feel much better now. From the top down...
Last week started out with a significant endorsement of GOP education candidate Karen Floyd by black community leaders, including a Democratic legislator and former Democratic education candidate. My recent posting on this endorsement stirred up a considerable amount of discussion (thank you to all those who participated in the discussion!).

Ironically, the week ended with, you guessed it, more developments from the Superintendent of Education race, with revelations of a free beer college event put on by Democratic education candidate Jim Rex.

Just whose bright idea what that?

Now, I think I know why it takes so long to visit 46 counties.

The example of Howard Dean should serve as a strong warning for candidates of what happens when one relies too heavily on the college "dude" base for political support.

As a non-traditional college student during the run-up to the 2004 Presidential primaries, I watched the "Generation Dean" troops march around campus, preaching to the choir, but doing very little to reach actual voters, and with no real organized method to the madness.

At first, I thought they might be a problem, but as I watched them go from organizing meetings ... to more organizing meetings, but never to leave campus to actually campaign for votes, I started to realize they were going nowhere, and in the end, so would their candidate.

When I talked to one who railed about Dean and his causes, and then praised Mark Sanford, that's when I really knew this bunch didn't have a clue.

If Jim Rex wants to run an effective campaign, this event isn't just bad image management, but it's a total waste of time and resources. But hey, if Mr. Rex wants to tap this demographic segment for their support, might I suggest he bone up on classic dude lingo from our friends at Wayne's World?

"If you're gonna spew, spew into this."
"Party on, Wayne." "Party on, Garth."
Schwing!" (an onomatopoeic representation of a male achieving an erection)
"We're not worthy!" (repeated, while bowing, to guests who the two deem themselves unworthy to interview)
"Shyeah, right."
"No Way." "Way."
"Fished in!"
"I think I'm gonna hurl!" (Garth, when he gets over-excited)
"Wayne's World, Wayne's World, party time, excellent!"
"Ex-squeeze me? A-baking powder?" (Instead of, "Excuse me,
I beg your pardon?")
"Yeah, and monkeys might fly out of my butt." (A response to a doubtful scenario)
"Are you mental?"
"Game on!"

Last week, I awarded the Karen Floyd campaign a "Play of the Week". This week, I confer the "UN-play of the Week" to the Jim Rex campaign. Better luck next time!

One more thing ... if I came with my student ID, seeing as how I am currently a graduate student at CofC, could I get in free too? Well, after this and last week's posting, I'm sure the only thing free I'd get from that crowd is a boot in the tail.

Everyone have a most excellent and way cool week! Party on, dudes ...

Gatekeeping and South Carolina media

Last Friday, our friends over at Faith in the Sound reported that the much-talked about Scarborough and Ceips relationship, which burst into the public eye after Scarborough's altercation with SCE&G workers while "housesitting" at his parents' house, would soon show up in the "traditional" news media.

Yesterday, that's exactly what happened, when our traditional media friends at The State ran a story on Scarborough’s re-election campaign, in light of the recent bad publicity he has received.

One of my lectures to undergraduate Communication classes at the College of Charleston examines how the media is moving away from its traditional role as "gatekeepers", channeling information and weeding out "trash" in an effort to come across as both credible and thoughtful. I’ve also discussed this subject in several past blog postings:

This trend is demonstrated by the shift in how the national media handled the string of accusations of sexual conduct by Bill Clinton during his Presidential administration. News media outlets, hesitant to publish the lurid accusations related to Gennifer Flowers in 1992, for fear of damaging their image and credibility, became increasingly willing to cross the line, culminating in their often-explicit coverage of the Monica Lewinsky accusations six years later.

This shift in what news media felt was proper to examine and present to their audiences was examined by communication professors Michael Delli Carpini and Bruce Williams in their 2004 paper entitled "Monica and Bill All the Time and Everywhere".

Columbia insider talk has long been full of lurid tales of wine, women (and men), and song involving legislators and other officials, both past and present, including arrests, divorces, and prosecutions a’plenty. However, South Carolina media in this state seemed reluctant to follow the path blazed by the national media in dragging the mud out for their viewers.

When things have surfaced, they generally didn't stick around long. Allegations of an affair by former Governor David Beasley in his 1998 re-election campaign faded quickly with little media attention, and the lurid accusations that turned up in the Lost Trust investigation in the early 90s barely received a passing mention, except in reports of courtroom testimony.

While it remains to be seen if this is part of a larger trend away from the gatekeeper role normally performed by South Carolina media and towards the “run it before someone else does” mindset that is now the norm in many national media outlets, it is certainly a good opportunity to ask if that is where we are headed, and if this is the direction which we want to see our media going.

Is this apporach presenting valid information that is relevant and important, or just pushing the trash? Your thoughts on the subject are certainly welcome. Fire away ...

Meeting my readers at the Lowcountry GOP Unity Rally

Today, I attended the regional Lowcountry GOP "Unity Rally" down in Goose Creek.

In attendance were five of the nine GOP statewide candidates, Henry Brown, and about two dozen local candidates (state House, county, and school boards) and legislators. The turnout matched the 250 who turned out at the 2004 rally, quite impressive for an off-year election cycle.

In its second election year, this event drew candidates, elected officials and GOP faithful (not counting the statewide candidates) from far away places such as Orangeburg and Florence Counties, for what is probably the single biggest political event in the Lowcountry, outside of presidential campaign events.

While there, I had the opportunity to speak with several of my blog readers (who will remain nameless) and was really flattered to know ya'll tune in. I'm really flattered that ya'll are reading what I put out there, and appreciate your interest in my ramblings.

Thanks, keep coming back, and feel free to share some thoughts!

Dirty Politics: A good look at negative political advertising

I've been doing some reading lately, trying to get back in school mode. That means that once in a while, you can expect some serious scholarly (and boring) discussion again.

The last week or so, I've been reading "Dirty Politics" by Kathleen Jamieson. This book examines the history of negative political campaigns, with a focus on television advertising and on the presidential level, up to the 1992 Presidential primaries.

Jamieson is the director of the Annenberg Policy Center and former Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, and has written and lectured extensively on political campaign advertising.

Annenberg Policy Center is best known for, which does a really good job of examining political advertising at the national level, both by campaigns and independent groups. I highly recommend signing up for their list-serv. In the fall of 2002, I had the opportunity to sit in a lecture she gave while visiting the College of Charleston.

In spite of a rather big focus on the Bush 1988 campaign in the book, she does a good job of examing how negative political TV advertising works and what makes it effective.

Please note that my use of the term "effective" does not necessarily mean it is an appropriate or informative tool.

Jamieson argued that television campaign advertising has "dumbed" down campaigns, allowing them to avoid complex issues and use imagery to create perceptions of issue positions that might not quite square with the real candidate.

She also points out that negative political advertising is often intended to "short circuit" the political process by motivating people to react without considering both sides of an issue or avoid greater scrutiny of a candidate's undisclosed record or agenda greater consideration.

The news media is taken to task for not being more critical of the claims made in political advertising, and in some cases, for buying into the language and messages promoted by campaign advertising. She points out examples of where the news media even began to address issues from the perspective of the campaign, creating an unintended reinforcing effect.

In recent years, we have seen the media take on more active and effective role in that regard, but there is still much more they can do.

Another issues examined was the role played by indepedent groups. Again, the focus is on those groups allied with GOP campaigns, including Democrats for Nixon and NCPAC, and Democratic constitency groups get a pass. These groups, whose roles have long been controversial, have continued to grow, and her observations about these roles were solid.

While I fault this book for a lack of broader, more bi-partisan focus, the informed reader should be able to overlook this bias and understand that she "gets it" about what negative campaigning is and how it works. By reading this book, the reader should"get it" too, and in doing so, become a smarter consumer of political advertising.

In spite of its age, readers should still find this book insightful, thoughtful, and in some cases, an excellent forecaster of things and trends which would follow.

If you want to become more informed about how negative political advertising seeks to put control over the true dialogue essential to our democratic society, this is a book I'd recommend getting.