Al Queda crackup in the works?

Ray Robison argues that the recent German bombing plot was an act of desperation by Al Queda terrorists and that these signs of trouble for Al Queda may not be the only problems they're facing.

Read what he's thinking over at the American Thinker:


By way of correlation, you may remember that the German government recently arrested Islamic terrorists planning an attack on US targets. It turns out that those men were trained and controlled by Uzbek terror camps in Pakistan -- this time meaning actual Uzbeks. The stated purpose of the attack was to force the German military to cease operations at an Uzbekistan base which is supporting operations in Afghanistan. The German terrorists were part of the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) which is an offshoot of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Other recent reports have noted that the order to the terrorists to start the attacks stated it was crucial for them to "go now" and attack within days during early September.

So let's put this together. The Uzbeks of the IMU/IJU, a major portion of al Qaeda in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region were driven out by an impending US assault on their camps. They were at war with the local Taliban and had nowhere to go but Afghanistan. They were lured into Tora Bora and surrounded then attacked suffering brutal losses. They then activated a terror cell in Germany and urged them to attack now. Why?

To cause the German public to demand an end to operations in Afghanistan just as the Madrid train bombings caused the Spaniards to demand an end to that government's involvement in the war on terror. Since the Germans are the only western forces allowed to operate in Uzbekistan this would help al Qaeda forces trapped in Tora Bora.

Interesting thinking ...

Weekend in the Blogland: Florence Greekfest and South of the Border

It's another wild weekend in the Blogland ... not hardly.

Well, the phone didn't ring with any offers of wine, women, and song, and since an offer to help someone got blown off without so much as a phone call, me and the little one went on what turned out to be a bit of an adventure. These days, she seems to be the best and most tolerant female company I can find.

The first stop was one of my favorite BBQ joints - D&H in Manning. It is always good eating, as well as a nice relaxing country ride to get there. I hadn't made it up that way in a couple of months, so it was long past due for me to visit and chow down.

Then a tip that the Greek Orthodox parish in Florence was having it's 25th annual Greek Festival ... so away we went, 30 minutes up I-95 to check it out. Not a bad event. Certainly not as big as the ones I've been to in Charleston and Greenville, but I'm sure that has plenty to do with the size of their congregations, as well as the communities as a whole. A lot fewer Greeks in Florence and certainly a lot fewer potential attendees.

In any event, if you could have made it there, but didn't, you missed a good time. Don't miss it next year.

... and finally, another 40 minutes north up I-95 ... our annual pilgrimage to Pedro, the God of Interstate Cheese, who resides in his domain at South of the Border. If you've been there, then there's nothing else to say. If you haven't, then there's nothing that I really can say to explain the place.

Please note that Bonnie, my little one, was rehearsing for her role at infiltrating our nation's illegal Hispanic immigrant population. Excellent disguise, don't y'all think?

Now, to get some sleep, so I can spend about ten hours of my Sunday studying for another fun-filled week of graduate school, as well as getting the finishing touches on US Group's corporate website so we can go online in the next few weeks.

In any event, we hope you're having a great weekend, whereever you are, whatever you're doing!

Bloggers work on U.S. image in the Middle East

The New York Times discusses how the State Department is using bloggers to improve the image of the United States and promote discussion of democratic values among Arabs in the Middle East:

WASHINGTON — Walid Jawad was tired of all the chatter on Middle Eastern blogs and Internet forums in praise of gory attacks carried out by the “noble resistance” in Iraq.

A page from the Web site Arabs Gate, one of the sites where a State Department blog team has contributed to the debate.

So Mr. Jawad, one of two Arabic-speaking members of what the State Department called its Digital Outreach Team, posted his own question: Why was it that many in the Arab world quickly condemned civilian Palestinian deaths but were mute about the endless killing of women and children by suicide bombers in Iraq?

Among those who responded was a man named Radad, evidently a Sunni Muslim, who wrote that many of the dead in Iraq were just Shiites and describing them in derogatory terms. But others who answered Mr. Jawad said that they, too, wondered why only Palestinian dead were “martyrs.”

The discussion tacked back and forth for four days, one of many such conversations prompted by scores of postings the State Department has made on about 70 Web sites since it put its two Arab-American Web monitors to work last November.

The postings, are an effort to take a more casual, varied approach to improving America’s image in the Muslim world.


- "At State Dept., Blog Team Joins Muslim Debate", New York Times (9/22/07)

This is certainly an interesting approach, and hopefully one that will bear fruit.

Blogland set to kick off "ROCKtober"


Blogland readers can look forward to a wild October, including a reader/listener appreciation prize contest with CDs and books, concert and album reviews galore and all the loud, obnoxious opinionating that you've come to expect and more.

As usual, we're taking no prisoners, but we're taking you, our loyal fans, along with us for the ride!

So bookmark us in, ditch all those easy listening/reading blogsites, and let's get ready to rock with the one South Carolina blogsite that doesn't just TALK politics - we ROCK politics.

Stay tuned for details ... coming soon ...

Huntin' Hixon - RINO accusations in Senate special election

Someone forwarded this political mail piece to us and we thought we'd share it with our readers.

This piece was sent out by SCRG to help form voter opinions in the very-heated GOP nomination contest for Senate District 25. Clearly the piece is intended to paint Hixon, a long-time backer of Tommy Moore, a long-time Democratic State Senator and current predatory lending hustler, as a RINO extraordinaire:





OUCH!!!

No doubt the Governor's backers want to make this a referendum on the direction of the GOP, as well as get a final slap at Moore, who challenged Sanford last year, and punish Hixon for being a leading Moore backer.

What is interesting is how they even put an email address on the mailing. While they're hoping those who receive the mail will contact them for details. If so, that's a heckuva a way to stir the pot.

The focus on Hixon's past background with Democrats and his opposition to the Governor is really the first time we've seen this as a central issue in any of the five legislative special election contests that have taken place this year. We'll certainly be interested to see how the issue resonates with voters.

This race prove to be one to watch, all the way down to the last vote is counted next Tuesday, bet on it.

... in the meantime, if you're watching this race and have any more good ones like this come your way, send it along. We might even present it for discussion.

Jim DeMint: Budget fighter

Crisis has turned into opportunity for Jim Demint, as he's helping the post-2006 crusade in the Senate to fight pork spending:

At a time when the conservative base is lamenting its choice of presidential candidates as well as the priorities of the Oval Office's current occupant, the two (Demint and Coburn) are the leaders of a small group of Republican hard-liners working overtime against Democrats and Republicans alike to make a firm stand against what they view as out-of-control spending.

- The Senate's GOP bomb throwers, Time Magazine (9/19/07)

This sort of leadership is essential for Republicans seeking to reconnect their party's politics with the fiscally-conservative principles of its party faithful.

Perhaps if the Jim Demints of the world had their way a couple of years back, the Senate would still be in GOP hands right now. If his fellow Republican Senators want to return to power, they would be wise to follow his lead.

Orangeburg County: Not the poorest in America (but darn close to it)

Last Sunday's Post and Courier included an excellent article from James Scott, which discusses the dismal situation faced by Orangeburg County, ranked as the tenth-poorest county in the United States:

Robinson's struggle is mirrored by nearly one out of every three people who call Orangeburg County home. An hour west of Charleston's mushrooming suburbs, the county of 90,000 is 10th in the nation for the percentage of people living in poverty, based on the latest U.S. Census figures for counties 65,000 and larger. Poverty is defined as a family of four having an income of $20,614 or less or individuals making $10,294 or less a year.

Compounding Orangeburg's struggle is a lack of an educated work force — only one out of 7 people have at least a bachelor's degree — and a soaring unemployment rate of 10 percent, a figure higher than Argentina's rate.

... and it's also fueled, even if nobody will admit it, by community leadership which is far more concerned about their own enrichment than serving their community, as indicated by the staggering number of government figures who have been indicted and convicted in recent years, including:
  • Two members of County Council, including their last Chairman,
  • the last Sheriff,
  • a municipal Treasurer for Orangeburg, and
  • a Police Chief and Town Clerk in Santee.
That's a lot of political jailbirds from just one county.

It can't be easy to recruit good-paying jobs to a county whose last County Council Chairman pled guilty to offering a no-bid opportunity to buy the county hospital.

All the federal pork money intended to "prime the pump" won't help a community that doesn't want to clean up it's act first, and who has a number of key public officials that are out for their own benefit, instead of that of their community. We shouldn't be surprised to find that public corruption and governmental incompetence is far more prevalent in many impoverished communities.

While there are many problems confronting poor rural areas like Orangeburg County, few of them can be addressed as easily as public corruption. Working to stomp out corruption and help make sure their public servants are looking to put public service ahead of personal enrichment is a good first step.

Taking that first step is, in part a responsibility of watchful state and federal officials, who have done an admirable and patient job weeding the county of its crooked officials. But it's also the responsibility of the people of the county, who largely give incumbents a free pass at the polls in one of the state's most one-party counties (which hasn't elected a Republican to any office since 1992).

While this is not to say one party has a monopoly on virtue (we know that's not the case), the lack of effective political competition, both inside and between political parties, isn't healthy for any community. In the case of Orangeburg County, the willingness of voters to accept the status quo been a recipe for disaster.

John Drummond, a great South Carolinian

We'd like to thank Senator John Drummond for his years of service to his state and country and wish him well in his retirement.

Drummond, in spite of being a Democrat, brought a healthy sense of reality with him to the political process, influenced by his service during the Second World War, where he spent ten months in a German POW camp and was heavily decorated:

“I guess that prison camp was the best thing to ever happen to me. I saw a lot of young men die, and none of them died a Democrat or a Republican.”

While partisanship and sticking to one's principles is important, that kind of perspective should give us something to think about. But even more importantly, Drummond's dedicated service to his Palmetto State should set a standard that, regardless of partisan identity, we should all aspire to.

On many occasions, Drummond crossed party lines to work with Republicans and even supported Senator Strom Thurmond. His party was important to him in his legislative service, but so was the best interests of his native state. It's a refreshing outlook on politics that we could use more of these days.

Anyone who spends time in Greenwood would hear stories of John Drummond. Not of legislative accomplishments or even some of the comical stories one may hear about other legislators, but rather of from his service in World War II, especially when he was the senior American officer in his POW camp, defying Nazi officials seeking to intimidate him and his fellow Americans.

Like many of his generation, he went forward to defy unspeaking evil and returned home to continue to serve his state and his country. It's an example that we need to see more of these days.

Senator Drummond, we thank you and wish you the best of luck in whatever lies ahead.

Hixon's Fiction: Misleading claims in State Senate race

In the race to replace Democratic State Senator Tommy Moore, a recent “rebuttal” letter sent out by State Senate candidate Bill Hixon, attacked fellow candidate Shane Massey, accusing “ makes a number of misleading claims that we thought we’d check out and clarify for our readers, especially those who may be voting in that upcoming special GOP runoff election.

We'd like to examine some of those claims made in Hixon's letter:


CLAIM #1: ATTACKS BY OUT OF STATE GROUPS?

It has also been brought to my attention, Mr. Massey, that you have been in communication and/or cooperation with the out-of-state funded PAC that has mailed voters false and misleading information about me in an attempt to aid your campaign against me.


THE TRUTH? As shown, the mail pieces in question cited numerous sources for their information. SCRG PAC, as identified on the mail pieces, is headquartered in Columbia, South Carolina. This complies with the requirements of state law regarding campaign conduct, as defined in Section 8-13-1354.

THE TRUTH? There were six candidates in the Republican primary, not just Massey. Any damage done to Hixon could have benefitted any of the five other candidates, and no proof is presented to substantiate the claim that Massey benefitted from the mailings. In reviewing the two mail pieces in question, we saw nothing which indicated who voters should support in that race. These pieces simply discussed Hixon.

CLAIM #2: CONSULTANT MISCONDUCT?

Perhaps not coincidentally, the political consulting firm you have paid to manage your campaign has a history of using anonymous Websites to smear fellow Republicans, and just last week, national news reports revealed that your consulting firm was responsible for the anonymous site created to personally attack and spread untrue, hurtful information about Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson.


THE TRUTH? Does Mr. Hixon really want to compare the professional ethics of various campaign consultants, including his own? A lot of them have pulled some really bone-headed stunts in the past, and we're going to simply say "he who is without sin, cast the first stone," and let bygones be bygones for all concerned.

CLAIM #3: ACCUSATIONS OF COLLUSION?

So here is my proposal: Will you promise the voters that all negative attacks against Bill Hixon will cease? Will you instruct those PACs and websites which are supporting you to end their negative attacks on your behalf?

Mr. Massey, when you’re willing to add those two conditions to your pledge — thereby making it meaningful — I will gladly join you in a symbolic affirmation of my continued commitment to run a positive campaign.


THE TRUTH? Again, Hixon makes claims of collusion, but offers no proof to back those claims up, even though such collusion would be illegal and could do severe damage to a candidate’s credibility, if proven.

THE TRUTH? Contacting a political organization making independent expenditures, much less giving instructions, would be illegal collusion (Sec 8-13-1310 & 1314). To ask voters to judge Massey for that which he cannot control is highly misleading.

Further, would voters believe the claims of, much less want to elect, a candidate who acts to suppress the First Amendment freedom of speech of those who wish to examine politician's record?

BREAK THE LAW OR ANYTHING GOES?

Hixon’s vaguely worded offer of “symbolic affirmation” is a loaded phrase which lacks any sort of explicit promise or pledge as to how he’ll conduct his campaign. Instead of using vague language, he should state clearly if he's willing to sign a clean campaign pledge or not.

Hixon, who had previously refused to sign a clean campaign pledge, now offers to do so, but only if Massey consents to conditions that are legally impossible for him to do. What if Massey doesn’t break the law to meet Hixon’s challenge? Will Hixon consider that carte-blance to wage an “anything goes” campaign?

While nobody likes mud-slinging campaign tactics, some of which have been criticized on this blogsite
1 2, it’s disappointing that Hixon would make such an unfair challenge to Massey. We hope that he'll realize that ethical choices have to be made on an individual basis and choose to take the high road in his campaign, regardless of what others may do.

Shane Massey
has a detailed “Clean Campaign Pledge” to clarify his intended campaign approach on his website and take responsibility for the conduct of his campaign, to the extent that the law allows. The voters should judge Massey’s campaign by this standard, and hold him accountable for those promises, instead of being misled by the claims made in Hixon’s letter.

Risk Communication: Understanding the difference between Hazard and Outrage

An excerpt from a risk communication paper I wrote. Lundgren and McMakin's findings about Hazard and Outrage are considered key fundamental points in this field of research:

One of the challenges faced by risk communication is in how risks are perceived by target audiences. The perception of risk plays a major role in how well, or how poorly, messages which communicate risks and hazards are received by those the messages are intended for. This perception process can produce a wide range of outcomes from risk communication efforts, some of which may not have been intended by those who craft and disseminate those messages.

According to Lundgren and McMakin (2004), one approach to risk communication, known as the Hazard plus Outrage Approach, considers how messages related to risk are perceived. This process defined two separate measures of how risks are perceived and communicated:
Hazard, a technical and objective measure of risk which examined the possibility of the occurrence of a potential hazard, the potential consequences should it occur, how to manage the risk, as well as how to respond to an incident. This measure is primarily determined by experts who are knowledgeable about risks, and
Outrage, a subjective measure of risk which looks at how risks are perceived by those who are, or could be, exposed to them. While this method of assessment can involve factual information which has been presented by risk communicators, it is also influenced by more subjective measures, such as informal communication processes, social networks, and personal and cultural values.

Lundgren and McMakin (2004) believed the consideration of both was key in the effective transmission of messages related to risk communication, and that the larger the difference between hazards being communicated and outrage by the recipients of those messages, the greater the potential for controversy and ineffective communication.

One example of the disconnect between Hazard and Outrage, and its potential consequences, can be found in the examination of a fire-fighting department in the south-western United States by Scott and Tretheway (2005). They found that the perception of risk sometimes nullifies efforts to communicate objective information about the degree of risks faced by firefighters:


As might be expected of an organization situated in a high risk occupation, members often acted on attenuated notions of risk that minimized the dangers of hazards. In their attempts to resolve insecurities, members produced attenuated risk appraisals that were counterproductive to the extent that they enabled modes of risk management that ultimately heightened risks to self (p.19).


WORKS CITED

  • Lundgren, R., & McMakin, A. (2004). Understanding Risk Communication. In Risk Communication: A Handbook for Communicating Environmental Safety, and Health Risks (pp. 13-28). Columbus, OH: Batelle Press.
  • Scott, C., &. Trethewey, A. (2005, October). The Discursive Organization of Risk and Safety: How Firefighters Define and Appraise Occupational Hazards. Presented at the Carolinas Communication Association, University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

Who is to blame for phone attacks in Beaufort House race?

The last week or so of the GOP runoff for the Beaufort County House seat saw some pretty unusual stuff, with regard to a number of reports we recevied from various sources about telephone attack campaigns being waged against newly-elected Representative Erickson.

The number of these reports, and the credibility of some our sources convinces us that yes, some of this stuff, as strange as it sounded, really did happen.

Yes, we did hear about someone offering to be a drunken sailor (in a town with lots of drunken Marines, who would notice?) ...

... and we heard of the welfare queen, Shaniqua or whoever she said she was ...

... and the pro-life caller defending Bates ...

... and the email by Erickson supporters challening the calls too.

While we're sure these calling campaigns may have been intended to accomplish a certain outcome, we had to ask ourselves "what the hell was someone thinking?" Which is why we think Rod Shealy shouldn't be blamed for this attack campaign.

Sometimes telephone campaigns can be effective campaign tools. But a basic rule of campaigns cautions that if an attack doesn't seem to fit reality, it is not going to work. The calls against Erickson were too far out to left field for anyone to believe. In fact, the ears we have to the ground in that area suggested they backfired and helped Erickson rally enough voters to the polls to pull off her victory.

On the other side of the coin, they're so potentially manipulative, by motivating voters, that a campaign seeking to use them to scare their own base out would be playing with fire. If revealed, their credibility would be terribly damaged.

Races as close as that one are often decided by the one who screws up last. Deliberately waging such a phone campaign, and getting caught, would be that last, fatal mistake. Considering that, we can't see any political operative with half a brain or more, especially one with Shealy's background, orchestrating something so stupid. In fact, we at the Blogland will gladly drug test anyone (and you know we have drug test kits) we find to have been behind these efforts, because they had to be on some really good s ... tuff to think of something like this.

While crying "conspiracy" would be so tempting, we suspect those calling campaigns were the stuff of over-zealous supporters and nothing more. It certainly wouldn't be the first time we've seen a campaign blown out of the water by its own loose cannons, and it won't be the last.

However, if any of our readers have any alternative theories as to who might have been behind the calls, we're all ears ...

Congratulations, Representative Erickson

To say the very least, the race to fill Beaufort County's House Distrct 124 has been full of ... interesting moments. Last night, that race end, and the seat vacated by now-Senator Catherine Ceips will be filled by Beaufort County Republican Shannon Ericskon.

Final reports have her winning over Randy Bates by an eight-point margin. Congratulations!!!

District 124 sprawls across some of the best of the Lowcountry, starting along both sides of the Beaufort River, then running across Ladys and St. Helena Islands, down to Hunting and Fripp Islands. It's a really great place, and looks like their new Representative will be a really great lady.

We at the Blogland wish her the best of luck in the House, but before that, we'd recommend a little vacation. She's certainly earned it.

FITS gets (it right)

On the heels of pissing off a bunch of you when I defended Wesley Donehue, I'm probably going to piss off the rest of you when I say something nice about Sic Willie. But I'm going to do it anyway ... after all, I'm not on anyone's ballot tomorrow in the special elections in Aiken and Beaufort.

A couple of postings in the last couple of days on Sic Willie's blogsite hit the nail on the head about the GOP's loss of fiscal fortitude:


That’s why we were surprised to hear that the former Treasurer for Moore’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign, Bill Hixon, is running as a Republican in tomorrow’s special election to fill Moore’s vacated Senate seat.

In case any fiscal conservatives out there are wondering why their GOP-controlled government is spending money twice as fast as the rest of the country, appointing Democrats to the Supreme Court and the powerful State Budget & Control Board and presiding over the nation’s worst education system and most antiquated state government, well, here’s your answer.

This isn’t rocket science, people.

If S.C. Republicans keep electing Democrats in their GOP primaries, they shouldn’t be surprised when those Democrats turn around once they’re in office and start spending money like it’s going out of style.


- Wake Up, SCGOP

... and another:

Greenspan says he urged the Bush administration to veto wasteful spending bills passed by a GOP-controlled Congress, but got no love. Wonder what Greenspan would say about Republicans here in the Palmetto State, who have jacked state spending by 41% over the last three years? Republican legislators writing budgets for the so-called “most Republican state in the nation” have behaved ten times as badly as their Democratic predecessors, as state spending in South Carolina has doubled the national average over the last three years.

- "Alan Greenspan gets it"

Converse Chellis: The Real Killer?

Those who thought the General Assembly’s vote to appoint Converse Chellis to the Treasurer’s office meant the end of a series of criticisms and accusations were proven wrong as startling new accusations were leveled against Chellis by OJ Simpson.

In a Columbia press conference, Simpson accused Chellis of being the “real killer” who had been the focus of over a decade of what Simpson described an “intensive global search effort”. According to Simpson, this effort had taken him to “hundreds of golf courses, topless resorts, and upscale night-clubs around the world”.

Simpson appeared relieved at the press conference. “Now they can leave me alone,” he said. “But make no mistake about it, you b****es better shut up, because you know I’m not afraid to put a woman in the morg … uh, I meant her place … no, uh … dammit, forget I even said that. I’m just glad to find someone that some people love to pick on, so they might spend less time running my name into the dirt.”

Chellis’ response was brief: “Sorry I can’t talk right now, but I’m kind of busy doing my job.”

According to one legislator: “Gee, we’d like to say we’re real sorry about electing the guy, but you know, we were in a hurry to find some money for another green bean museum about that time. It’s hard to think about who you’re electing when you’re trying to buy your own re-election.”

“This is exciting news,” said one Chellis critic. “With Simpson getting into the game, it means I don’t have to spend so much time criticizing Chellis.”

Meanwhile, other unsubstantiated reports were being investigated into Chellis being the Antichrist.

Wild Weekend at the Blogland

It's another wild weekend in the Blogland, with a house full of girls here for an overnighter, while I try to get in the obligatory 8-10 hours of study time for school. We're likely going to see more amazing creations like the evil tooth fairy come out of tonight.

Yep, a single professional on Saturday night with a bunch of kids ... more proof that while I've got a million and one things to say about everything under the sun, I really don't have a darn clue ... and proof that some of my ranting anonymous critics might be more right about me being a jerk with women than they think.

In any event, whether you're doing better at love than I am, hitting the books, working on your car or yard, or just drinking 'til you drop, be good at what you're doing and make it a great weekend out there ... or else the evil tooth fairy might come see you too.

Power Phrases: Take ownership & avoid generalizations

As a professional communicator, I rely on resources to help improve what I do, as well as share with co-workers to help give them some food for thought. Today, I share some insights as to what to say, and what not to say, from Meryl Runion's SpeakStrong email newsletter:

PowerPhrase of the Week :

We have a policy of putting our patients first. I didn't follow my policy that day. Jay was frustrated when her doctor had his assistant call her rather than return her call himself. When
Jay complained to the assistant, the assistant was defensive and indignant.

Jay was on the phone with me, telling me she was ready to change doctors when call waiting signaled. It was the doctor, who said, We have a policy of putting our patients first. By having my assistant call you, I didn’t follow my policy that day. She was blaming and shaming to you, and I apologize for that. I will get you in if you’d still like to see me.

Jay is his patient for life now.


Bonus PowerPhrase:

I want a widget that lists for five pesos.

It's about how an abstract communicator made her point with a concrete one. Read it here:

Poison Phrase of the Week:

Kids can be so loud and obnoxious. Patty doesn’t like kids. That’s fine, but when most of your friends have them, there’s no point in constantly reminding everyone who has them when you get the families together.

Patty’s husband was tickling seven-year-old Daniel in the back seat of the car, and Daniel was laughing loudly. That’s when Patty said, Kids can be so loud and obnoxious.

It’s one thing to bring up an issue you want addressed. It’s another to complain about behavior that comes with the territory using a blanket condemnation.

Megadeth is coming. Just shut up and go


Megadeth is on the road, touring in support of their great new hard-rockin' album United Abominations. One of their stops will be in Myrtle Beach at the House of Blues on Friday, October 5th.

These guys ROCK, and any band with the sense enough to tell the UN off can't be all that bad (Ted Nugent must've secretly written that song).

So quit making excuses. You know you want to go. So shut up and go.

Defending Donehue

It's not every day someone you know becomes a front page national news story, even in the Blogland.

By now, far more people know the name of my friend Wesley Donehue than they did yesterday. Especially outside of South Carolina. All thanks to a parody website that he was involved with.

I've gotten to know him well over the years ... a couple of times, we butted heads on opposing campaigns, but I grew to respect the guy. I'm sure I was the last person he expected to see at his mother's funeral, but when you come to respect a person, even when you don't always agree with them, you do what has to be done.

On that day, there wasn't anywhere else I needed to be more than right there to let him know he had my prayers and my support. Today is another one of those occasions, and again, I'm standing beside the guy.

Having done my fair share of parody and satire here in the Blogland, I know all too well that one man's joke is another's "vicious, misleading attack". A lot of political satire has at least some basis in fact and reality, and that's what I saw on the site for what little time it was up there.

I could understand the position of the Thompson campaign, but just as well I could understand how he thought he was trying to make a point, and have some fun too. Come on, guys, this site was too over the top for anyone but a total moron to take as a primary source of information ... right?

My first rule of politics is simple: "If it ain't fun, I'm going home." In this, he abided by this essential rule wonderfully.

As to his being considered amatuerish in what he did, I can assure you that as easily as this website was traced, and as skilled as he and his partners are, if they'd wanted to hide the website, it could have been done easily. I remember when I did the EvacuateHodges.com website. It took a couple of weeks before they tracked it back to its original owner. One of those sites was one that took a piece out of Wesley's tail when we were supporting opposing candidates, but he got over it. It took him a couple of weeks to figure out it was me, and I had to help him figure out it was me.

The bottom line was this: if he was trying to hide who was behind the site, he could never have been found. He knows how to do it, and if he didn't, he could have asked me.

So this evening, I ask all of you to stop taking this stuff so seriously and give the guy a break. Even if the other side didn't get the joke, he trying to have a little fun ... and I'm sure before it's over, some of the Thompson people, probably without authorization, are going to have a little fun with Romney and/or other candidates.

Big deal. Those who work on campaigns often rely on these kind of stunts as a sort-of coping mechanism to relieve the boredom and the long hours that come with working in that field. I've been there, so I know what it's like. Some of the people I've played prank/counter-prank with have become good friends. Mr. Donehue is one of them.

It's going to be a long few months, so there's no point getting all bent out of shape about something so small and trival in the grand scheme of things. Let's back off the guy, refocus ourselves on the issues (and the next prank), get out there and get to work for the candidates of our choice (if we have one ... I still don't).

9/11 in the blogosphere, 2007

A short recap on some of how yesterday was remembered in the SC blogosphere ...

Thomas Burnett: A Hero of 9/11


Last year, the Blogland was one of thousands of bloggers who took part in Project 2996, to memorialize randomly-selected individuals who were lost in the terrorist attacks committed on our nation on September 11, 2001. This year, that tradition is continued with a tribute to Thomas Burnett.

Throughout our nation's history, there have been those places where our nation's enemies faced our nation's private citizens, who, armed with great courage and a determination to confront evil, courageously answered the call to duty. In places like the Alamo, Kings Mountain, and
Wake Island, private citizens, forced into action by the agression of America's enemies, made courageous stands.

On September 10, 2001, little did we know that a similar stand would soon take place in the skies over Pennsylvania, by a small group of airline passengers, including one Mr. Thomas Burnett. While much remains unknown about what happened on that plane, what is certain is that determined and fanatical terrorists with years of training met the courage of free Americans.

Thomas Burnett was husband and father of three daughters (Madison, Halley, and Anna Clare), and the senior Vice-President for a medical R&D company. A high school quarterback who led his team to state championships, he graduated from the University of Minnesota. So concerned about looking out for his family, he gave up parachuting and insisted that his wife should always fly on a separate flight, so a crash would not leave their children without both parents.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, he boarded a plane designated Flight 93 to return home from a business trip to New Jersey. For this, he was marked for death by America's enemies. But little did they know that Burnett and others would turn the tables on them.

When visitors travel to visit his company's headquarters, they will find it on Tom Burnett Lane.

President Ronald Reagan once warned "that there should be no place on Earth where terrorists can rest and train and practice their deadly skills." Thanks to Burnett and others, those terrorists found that their well-planned plot had become a trap from which they could not escape. Reagan's warning to terrorists became reality, thanks to those unprepared and untrained Americans, who armed with little more than courage and determination, fought back and prevailed.

No doubt there are hundreds, if not thousands, who were marked for death at Flight 93's ultimate destination. Thanks to Burnett and others, that murderous mission was a failure. On this day, and many others, we should remember and honor the courageous of Mr. Thomas Burnett, along with those many others we've lost on that day, and those we've lost since.

To learn more about Mr. Burnett, please visit these websites:

http://www.september11victims.com/september11victims/VictimInfo.asp?ID=213
http://www.post-gazette.com/headlines/20011028flt93burnettbiop8.asp
http://www.flight93memorialsfb.com/Heros-Of-Flight-93/pages/Thomas-Burnett_jpg.htm>

9/11: Will you remember?

On Tuesday, many will commemorate the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks upon New York City and Washington, D.C., as well as honor the heroic martyrs who answered the call to duty on Flight 93 who foiled the planned third attack, and at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

It's a date we won't forget, and we hope you won't either.

Tomorrow, we ask you to join us in remembering and honoring those lost and those they left behind, as well as those who answered the call of duty on that day.

Whether it's a few moments of silent prayer, a memorial on your own blog, or whatever works for you, please do your part to make sure they will be remembered, and that the painful lessons of that day are not forgotten.

Thomas Ravenel: Good bye and good luck

Anyone who is serious about recovering from addiction has a long and difficult road to travel. Thomas Ravenel's fall from grace may have been humbling, but we hope in the end, it leads to recovery and healing.

There is lesson in how Thomas has survived what has come at him, while remaining committed to recovery. If he can, then perhaps others in far less challenging situations can do so, and we certainly hope that others can learn from his ordeal and take on their addictions.

In walking down the long road to recovery, Thomas Ravenel, a Blogland reader, has our best wishes and prayers.

If you're reading this Thomas, good luck and godspeed.

Rock stars really do die young?

For some reason, we weren't terribly surprised at this news:

LONDON (Reuters) - Rock stars -- notorious for their "crash and burn" lifestyles -- really are more likely than other people to die before reaching old age.

A study of more than 1,000 mainly British and North American artists, spanning the era from Elvis Presley to rapper Eminem, found they were two to three times more likely to suffer a premature death than the general population.

Between 1956 and 2005 there were 100 deaths among the 1,064 musicians examined by researchers at the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University.

As well as Presley, the toll of those dying before their time included Doors singer Jim Morrison, guitar hero Jimi Hendrix, T Rex star Marc Bolan and Nirvana's Kurt Cobain.

More than a quarter of all the deaths were related to drugs or alcohol abuse, said the study in the Journal of Epidemial Community Health.

"The paper clearly describes a population of rock and pop stars who are at a disproportionate risk of alcohol and drug related deaths," said Mark Bellis, lead author of the study.

Rock stars more likely to die prematurely, Yahoo/Reuters


... in what was another NOT-shocking conclusing, Bellis "raised questions about the suitability of using rock stars for public health messages such as anti-drug campaigns when their own lifestyle was so dangerous."

We're sure all of you are absolutely amazed at this news. We know stuff like this is just soooo hard to believe, right?

Next, we'd like to see a study of death and rap stars, as well as one on death and easy listening performers.

Risk Communication and the Blogland

One of the new twists in the Blogland that you'll notice is some sharing of my research and related information in the field of risk communication. Risk communication explores how risks are communicated, and how such messages are received and understood by the intended audiences. This can include safety, public safety, hurricanes, and all sorts of risks and hazards.

Risk communication is a branch of the communication discipline which I've become drawn to. Why? Because it has direct applications in my work, and allows me to take my research from academia and use it for the direct benefit of those who work with me in the construction industry.

... and because understanding problems, and working towards solving them, is such a refreshing change from the BS that is commonly associated with the political process.

Risk communication draws from a lot of areas of communication research, including organizational communication, intercultural and interpersonal communication, as well as public relations. It goes beyond the scientific assessment of risks (much of which we already know) and asks how to promote the kind of true understanding which can help to diminish the threats posed by hazards.

In fact, not only have I enjoyed my explorations into this field, but I've gotten some attention for my research and this may be the area which I draw upon for my thesis work. For which I must thank Dr. Amanda Ruth at the college for introducing me to this area in her Risk Communication class from this spring.

Watch for me to share research and findings, both from myself and others, in this field here on this blog. For those of you who may work in hazardous occupations, you are certainly welcome to take my work and apply it to your workplace. I'll have several postings on this and related subject material over the next few Wednesdays, so please stay tuned ...

August 2007: The month in review

With summer ending and school back in, party time is over for a lot of us, but here in the Blogland, we had lots of fun with our readers. As we always do, it's time to take a look back and see what happened here in the Blogland:

Berkeley County got a new State Senator. Paul Campbell will fill the seat vacated when Senator Bill Mescher passed away in the spring. He's got some big shoes to fill, but we think he's up to the job (and we understand he's one of our readers).

South Carolina got a new State Treasurer. Converse Chellis will finish up the last three years of Thomas Ravenel's term. While my aborted bid for Treasurer did well, with me tying the Governor's candidate, it wasn't good enough. However, there were some wild rumors that I may have been paid off to quit ... no comment.

The Blogland turned two and my little one turned nine ... Ted Kennedy expressed concern that someone was left trapped, unable to escape and left for dead ... it was a strange month in the Blogland, indeed (but what month isn't?)

To make it even stranger, a review of Iron Maiden's most recent album, which I wrote in September of last year, was my third most-read posting of the month.

But the most important thing of all was that you took the time to read, and occasionally speak out, which is always appreciated. Here are the ten-most read and discussed postings of August 2007:

Ten most-discussed August postings:

1) Converse Chellis, our new State Treasurer
2) Ted Kennedy to hold hearings on those trapped and left to die
3) What kind of a weapon are you?
4) High tide for SC Senate Democrats?
5) Power Phrases: Improve your communication skills
6) Let the Crybabies work
7) State Treasurer candidate passes drug test
8) Paul Campbell for the State Senate - Vote tomorrow
9) Capps to quit Treasurer's race and endorse Chellis
10) U.S. Group - rolling in Bamberg

As always, the ten most-read August postings differed from the most-commented:

1) High tide for SC Senate Democrats?
2) State Treasurer candidate passes drug test
3) Sleaze and Payoffs in the race for Treasurer?
4) Capps to quit Treasurer's race and endorse Chellis
5) Paul Campbell for the State Senate - Vote tomorrow
6) Congratulations to Berkeley's Senator Campbell
7) Midlands Republican to seek Presidential nomination
8) Converse Chellis for State Treasurer - endorsement posting
9) Converse Chellis, our new State Treasurer - congratulatory posting
10) Simpsonizing Rick Beltram

So that's what got you tuned in or turned on this month. Stay tuned and keep speaking out!

Weekend movie watching: Reno911


If you're bored and want to watch something mindless but somewhat cheesy, then this weekend, go rent a copy of Reno911: The Movie. It's our recommended light weekend viewing in the Blogland.

Four lanes open in Newberry, two weeks early.

When several dozen people descended on a roadside in Newberry to open a newly-widened State Highway 121 on Friday, there was one problem that kept the dignitaries from taking part in opening the new lanes: the new lanes had already been opened - several weeks ahead of schedule.

Representatives from U.S. Group, the contractor in charge of the project, the SCDOT, local governments, and two statewide elected officials: Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom and Secretary of State Mark Hammond, shared praise for all involved on the project, as well as several other Newberry projects completed by U.S. Group in recent years, as well as for all the partners involved.

Once they were done speaking, guests were treated to a barbeque luncheon, with desserts provided by a resident along the highway who donated the desserts to thank the company for cooperating with the community during the course of the project.

“This is a great example of public-private partnerships,” said Eckstrom. “Government knew when to back off, and in doing so, picked an outstanding company to see the job through, for both the community and taxpayers. On this project and others, U.S. Group has set a high standard for their industry that will be hard to beat.”

Hammond, who played football when he was a student at Newberry College, joked that the widening as a “good sign that Newberry College football is really catching on. Now they need four lanes to handle the traffic to see our games.”

Newberry County Council Chairman Henry Summers pointed out that Newberry had been fortunate to receive this much in the way of construction projects, noting that while traffic had increased by forty percent in recent years, the amount of road capacity had only increased by six percent. “Anyone going through Newberry can see that this company and the SCDOT have left their mark on our community,” he said. “Our roads are safer, travel is easier, and there are more prospects for economic development.”

U.S. Group President Embree Griner thanked the community, SCDOT personnel, subcontractors, local government representatives and his own employees. “These projects didn’t succeed on their own,” he told the audience. “They succeeded because we were able to partner and keep our eye on the goal, and then make sure whatever we did would take us there.”

Special thanks goes to Paige Cooper and Sticky Fingers for prompt and quality service, and for Hugh Edwards, the Project Manager, for emceeing the event.