Friday, August 11, 2006


We hear these stories on the news every day. Criminals who ought to be locked up are out in the world committing crimes - not because they escaped prison, but because the judicial system failed to protect us from them. We hear victims asking, "Why was this person on the street?" and "How could something like this happen?"

A recent case in San Francisco involves a man who should have been sent to jail a number of times, out breaking the law instead, and what we end up with is a dead police officer. The media, instead of focusing on why the criminal was still out on the street in the first place, decided to question the actions of the dead officer and the policies of the department. This prompted Gary Delagnes, fed-up President of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, to craft a statement for the media.

And, boy, it's a good one!

Check it out here as this dude tells it like it is. After the brief commercial, turn your volume up.



That's what they call my desk here at the office.

Strangely, I don't mind so much. At least not as much as everyone else here.


Thanks Feefer!


Due to recent threats to airline safety, it is recommended you arrive at the airport 3 days before your scheduled flight to allow enough time to pass through security.

Also, please be aware that no liquids will be permitted in the cabin, including bodily fluids. That means no crying, spitting, or sweating.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Last weekend I went brownwater rafting in Wisconsin. It's kind of like whitewater rafting, only the water is a murky brown color. It was the 17th year in a row I made the journey north from Chicago to eat, drink, and get very, very wet. As always, it proved the highlight of my year. I partied in a remote field with 43 fellow revelers – some veterans, some virgins - all looking forward to spending a weekend away - from something, somewhere, or someone.

I remember the first year I went: 1990. Seems like it wasn't that long ago until I think of everything that has happened in the world since then. It was 2 years before the golden economic era of Clinton/Gore began. Before the first Gulf War. A whole decade before the Y2K scare. 1990 was a fairly long time ago.

I was a lot younger back then, and didn’t know what to expect from this "rafting trip" experience. I remember I packed a pillow and sleeping bag for the long ride up. That was it. I mooched cheap cans of Clipper beer that still had the pull tab tops, leftover hot dogs from whoever had them, and slept under a tree with some girl I’d just met, which sounds like more fun than it actually was. We actually SLEPT there, without touching one another. I also had really bad asthma that night…and it rained.

The following year I brought up a tent and asthma medicine and fared much better. With the elements, that is, not the girls. I guess once word got out that I'd spent a whole night with a drunk girl and didn’t make a move, folks pegged me for light in the aquasocks. It was an embarrassment I was quick to outgrow - at least quicker than the time I was reportedly manipulating myself in my sleep by the campfire. I steadfastly denied those reports, by the way, with little success. But for some reason, when a story like that gets out, people WANT to believe it. So my nickname was Strokey the Bear for a couple years. Whatever.

In the years that followed I taught myself how to play guitar and started jamming fireside. I invented my own tunes and strummed them drunkenly in the flickering firelight, howling like a lonely coyote, eyes closed to the moon. The rafting trip has always been the one place I could play and sing in front of people without butterflies. The songs I wrote way back when have aged better than I have – they capture the spirit of an inspired young man with a lot left to learn. Singing them these days reminds me of how far I’ve come – and makes me wonder how much farther I’ll get to go.

Back in the early 90’s I was young and fearless. While most of the stretch of the Wolf River we run is pretty tame, there are a number of spots along the way where the current picks up and you can get pitched into the drink ipretty quick if you’re not smart. Or not sober – which is common. Heading for the rapids, most people strap on their life jackets and hunker down in their rafts. My partner and I, however, would take our shirts off, stand up, and wave our oars above our head. At that age, reckless was cool. These days it’s irresponsible. Most of the time we surfed our way down without incident.

MOST of the time.

Every year I've become a little less daring. For some reason, that fearless spirit has left me – I worry more now, and take fewer risks. And not only on the river, but in life. Strange how time can change you in ways you don’t even realize. Until you look back and think about the things you used to do and shudder – amazed you ever made it this far.


On late Friday afternoon, as the sun began to flirt with the pine tops, I looked around and made an interesting observation. There was laughter everywhere. I closed my eyes and just listened. It was beautiful. People were joking and laughing and sharing stories. I could hear the excitement in their voices and it made me smile. The campground was about as happy a place on earth as you could find.

When I opened my eyes I saw that every single person was grinning from ear to ear. Lobbing bean bags. Tossing footballs. Playing cards. Taking pictures. It’s not all that often in life that you see so many happy people in one place. And that’s when I realized the EXACT reason I looked forward to this trip every year. It wasn’t about the rafting or the camping or the grossly irresponsible binge drinking – it was about PEOPLE. Shiny, happy people.

And happiness is contagious.

It’s easy to forget about all of the bullshit that plagues our day-to-day existence when we’re surrounded by that much happiness. We become kids at recess – not a care in the world…and those three days every year are our 10 minutes on the schoolyard. Our time to play. Our time to stretch out our legs. Our time to scream for no reason. Our time to call each other “gay” over and over and over again. I don’t know why we do that, but we do.

17 years after I first went rafting, I have enough gear to fill a full-sized sedan. I sleep in the comfort of a large tent on an air mattress under a warm sleeping bag. I bring my own food and drinks – usually enough to share. And when it comes time to hit the rapids, I strap on a life jacket and hunker down. I’m not the same person I was back then. I’m older, wiser, and scared shitless I might get tossed out of the raft as we approach Big Smokey Falls. But I still go back every year because it's the happiest place I know.

And because the river is symbolic of my life. I wake up every day in the middle of it. I float along carelessly most of the time, knowing there will be tumultuous rapids ahead. When I was younger, I didn't know enough about the rapids to fear them, so I faced them standing up, and unprotected. But now as I float along, I have exprienced the perils firsthand and I know the dangers ahead. So when I hear the roar of the falls in the distance, I hunker down and fasten up my vest. The river is the same, but my perspective has changed. And while each day is as familiar to me as the banks of the Wolf, I look at things in a different way than I once had.

One thing has always remained true throughout it all - good friends sure do make the float down fun.


Another terror plot was foiled this morning - a joint effort between officials the UK and Pakistan. Many believe this was to be another big one involving up to 10 jet airplanes blowing up over the Atlantic en route from Britain to the U.S.

According to initial reports, the would-be bombers (who hail from the UK, but fit the terrorist mold, men of Middle Eastern descent between 17-35) planned to visit the commode in-flight to assemble hand-made explosives with materials snuck onto the plane in carry-on baggage disguised as everyday items like hair gel and hand lotion. Pretty crafty, no?

As as result, reactive airline security has been banning all forms of liquid from boarding, with the exception of prescription medication and baby formula. That seems a little over the top to me, especially when there are other ways to address the threat of in-flight bomb-building.

Security really needs to think outside of the box on this. Instead of holding up air traffic and forcing consumers to dump hundreds of thousands of dollars of products down the drain, why not just close the bathrooms? With no place to assemble their make-shift munitions, the terrorists' evil plans are essentially grounded before they ever get off the to speak.

As for passengers needing to make deposits in-flight, I recommend handing out Depends at the terminal. Each pair has a capacity well in excess of what might be required for a trans-Atlantic flight. So if you gotta go, just go. No worries.

Or hold it.

******* Controversial side-note:

What still kills me - and I always get flak from somebody for statements like this - is that simple profiling would put an end to the security madness. Just like on September 11th, we know exactly what these "evil-doers" look like. They all fit the same fucking profile. Why are we making that 12-year-old Irish girl throw away her saline solution? So that we can say we're being sensitive? Fuck sensitive. I want two lines at the airport - one for people who look like terrorists and one for everyone else. Until 75 year old Asian women start smuggling box cutters onto 767s, I think we'll be okay.

But then that wouldn't FAIR to all of the law-abiding folks who happen to share the same physical characteristics as known terrorists. Hell, that would mean some of my good friends would be forced to go through a separate, more scrutinous security checkpoint before boarding the same plane. So long as they aren't badgered, berated, or harmed in any way, I find that a completely reasonable security measure given our understanding of who these terrorists are. It's all in the interest of promoting safe, convenient air travel for the masses.

I'm so insensitive, I know. Common sense can be cruel sometimes. But I suppose it's politically safer to be politically correct - so let's stop every man, woman, and child in the terminal, strip them completely naked, give them MRIs, CAT Scans, and full cavity searches, shred their luggage with sledgehammers, dump their carry-on items into the trash, and then file them onto the plane like sheep to the shearer. If everyone is naked and there's no luggage to worry about, then we can be completely certain the only threats to passenger safety will be an occasional erection poking someone in the eye.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


For the first time ever, Americans owe more money than they make.

According to new figures released this week, household debt has surpassed household income by more than 8% - this according to the Center for American Progress. And it's getting worse. Prices keep going up, but income levels are not rising to meet them. Add to that recent rises in interest rates and you've got a lot of people owing a lot more money to financial institutions every month.

ARMS (Adjustable Rate Mortgages) have been called the biggest scams in the history of lending because borrowers are sold on low rates that are all but guaranteed to explode at the end of the adjustable term. They look attractive because the monthly payments start out nice and low - but as the price of money climbs, so do the payments. I know from personal experience how this can affect disposable income, as my rate is on the way to doubling what it was when I "locked" it in 3 years ago - for the short term, that is. I couldn't afford the place I wanted with fixed rates what they were, so I gambled on an ARM and lost. Now I'm paying a shitload more every month. Money I used to spend on and save for other things - like ME.

Most credit cards and home equity lines operate in the same way - the rates are variable, not fixed - meaning when the Fed hikes Prime, the banks pass along that courtesy to you...hiking YOUR rate Consequently, the minimum payment on your second mortgage rises, as does the amount that's tacked onto your credit card balance every month. Carry a balance, do you? It's costing you a lot more these days than it was a couple years ago.

The result? We now owe more than we earn. There's a word for that: beholden. We are essentially slaves, and our master is the Bank. Take a look around when you drive home tonight. Bank branches are popping up everywhere. Washington Mutual. Bank of America. Chase. Every strip mall and street corner has a fresh brick and mortar location. Major financial institutions are cleaning house...and here's the best part (for them). When we're struggling to make ends meet because our mortgage payments (first and second) keep rising, and we can't get to work because the price of gas is so fucking out of control, we start CHARGING shit on our credit cards, which are issued by all the same banks holding our mortgages.

They own us.

Legend has it home ownership is the way to go because of something called "equity." But that equity isn't yours - it belongs to the bank because the bank owns the property. You don't see that until you manage to sell your property, which is only worth what someone is willing to give you for it. And that, my friends, isn't a whole lot these days because interest rates are high, consumer prices are high, debt keeps getting higher, and salaries remain stagnant. We are but serfs, working the lord's manor - sending off a majority of our income to the bank every month - mortgage payments, credit card payments, student loan payments, car payments, etc.

Our standard of living is an addiction enabled by the banks. And now that they have us hooked on owning our own homes and enjoying our fancy consumer electronics and driving our nice new cars, we'll do ANYTHING to maintain this lifestyle. We'll keep buying and spending and borrowing from them, getting deeper and deeper into debt. It's not looking good. I recommend stashing extra cash under the mattress, because we're one significant terrorist strike or natural disaster away from a massive financial meltdown.

The good news? Rates didn't go up yesterday after 17 consecutive hikes. But before you jump for joy, gas prices are up again. I'm feeling squeezed to the point I can't breathe. Or is that just my asthma acting up?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Click on the header to this post and prepare to be amazed.