Apology necessary? The Strong Do What They Want, The Weak What They Must.

And it is certain that those who do not yield to their equals, who keep terms with their superiors, and are moderate towards their inferiors, on the whole succeed best.

– Thucydides, Book V, 5.111

Yesterday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke before the United Nations General Assembly and stated that the United States uses “… unilateralism, application of double standards, and the impositions of wars, instability and occupations to ensure economic interests.” I would argue he is an astute observer of the constant condition of geopolitics… and definitely aware of the current condition of geopolitics in the Middle East. Ahmadinejad may have been attempting to state an opinion, he may have been attempting to provide insight into what some call his delusional views.  Erin Pelton, the U.S. Mission to the UN’s spokeswoman responded to Ahmadinejad’s speech with:

Over the past couple of days, we’ve seen Mr. Ahmadinejad once again use his trip to the UN not to address the legitimate aspirations of the Iranian people but to instead spout paranoid theories and repulsive slurs against Israel.[1]

I would argue that Ahmadinejad, his attacks against Israel aside, sounded more as if he was expressing angst at the reality in which Iran, and similar nations, face when dealing with more powerful nations. Thucydides understood Ahmadinejad’s (and Iran’s) reality when Thucydides wrote “… right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” [2]

What nations do, regardless of size, stature, or power (both in economic and military), is attempt to achieve their national interests. Terry L. Deibel identifies four overarching national interests that may be considered universal: physical security, economic prosperity, value preservation at home, and value projection abroad. [3]

To understand the Iran’s and Ahmadinejad’s view, it is compelling to understand why the U.S. holds these national interests dear and how the U.S. attempts secure these national interests. It is especially telling when one looks at U.S. national interests through the prism of homeland security. In the context of this discussion it easy to interchange the words “national” and “homeland” when discussing security. It is also interesting to note the importance of homeland security when considering the fact that Iran is a known state sponsor of terrorism.

Physical Security

Arguably, physical security of the nation’s people, infrastructure, and key resources is the prime security interest due to its prominence in national security documents. This is also a direct result of the United States being physically attacked on September 11, 2001. These terrorist attacks altered the nation’s concept of terrorism. In turn, terrorism went from being an issue affecting the international community to being an issue for the U.S. at home. It has been argued that these terrorist attacks were a shock, but not a surprise with the growing intelligence that indicated al Qaeda was planning some “event.” [4] The analysis of this intelligence, however, suggested that this event would be outside the U.S. and this interpretation was consistent with other international terrorist attacks on U.S. interests in the 1990s. [5]

Examples of this physical security are the establishment of the Transportation Security Administration, enhanced physical security measures at federal facilities, [6] and law enforcement operations at National Special Security Events. [7] Physical security is the most vital of U.S. interests, not only due to its intrinsic value and its importance to the achievement of other interests, but also because of the continuing terrorism threat to the U.S. [8]

Economic Prosperity

Economic prosperity is a national and homeland security interest due to the globalized world markets and the U.S. reliance on trade. With an estimated gross world product of $62.2 trillion, [9] global trade and economics take on increasing importance. U.S. percentage of this globalized market is approximately 28%. [10] It has been argued there will be lasting effects of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. As a result of the security paradigm shift (a shift that, arguably, followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks), large amounts of resources are and will be committed to ensure production, distribution, finance, and communication systems are more secure. [11] Additionally, there is and will be money used to fund the security apparatus to ensure the security of the nation’s and world’s economy.

The U.S. economic prosperity is tied to its physical security because of, among other things, critical infrastructure, such as ports, are part of the economic transportation of both imports and exports. Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. economy experienced an estimated -1% growth rate in gross domestic product. [12] It is important to note that 80% of the nation’s critical infrastructure, an important part of the U.S. economic system, is privately owned. [13] Critical infrastructure is defined as systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the U.S. that the incapacitation or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters. [14]

Value Protection at Home

Value protection at home is both related to security and economic prosperity and the ideals that are generally accepted as the “American way of life.” Additionally, this interest is traditionally framed as an issue of balancing security with privacy and civil liberty. This issue is basically seen as an attempt to ensure that the securing the homeland does not restrict, or limit, the values and freedoms it is meant to preserve. This debate has resulted in Congress requiring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to report annually on its activities and how it affects civil liberties. The 2009 DHS report states that its reviews such departmental activities as enforcing immigration laws, collecting and sharing of domestic intelligence, and conducting civil rights and liberties impact assessments. [15] As homeland security continues to be part of the new security paradigm, balancing security with freedoms will be constantly debated and managed among federal, state, and local governments with the public and civil liberties organizations.

The interest of value protection at home is about balance. The balance is to ensure that the terrorism threat is kept in perspective so that Americans do not compromise their civil liberties in an impossible effort to become completely secure. [16]

Value Projection Abroad

Finally, value protection abroad is a national homeland security interest that may be overlooked while considering national homeland security interests. U.S. relationships with allies and other nations, however, are an important aspect of the 21st Century security paradigm. These relationships are also important due to the globalized economic system. Economic and political freedom is a foundation of America’s value projection. The exportation of democracy and capitalism is a significant aspect of U.S. projection of values and how homeland security is executed affects this exportation. One significant aspect of U.S. relationships with its allies is the coordination of intelligence collection and sharing. Intelligence collection and sharing include such activities as coordinating no-fly lists and the sharing of intelligence on global terrorist organizations, plans, and actions.

Arguably, the U.S. has a desire for a world that is governed more effectively with fewer and less destructive man-made disasters. [17] Like balancing security with civil liberties, the U.S. must balance its desire for a global movement toward liberal democracy with a more effectively governed world. One possible global end-state would be less of an American market economy and more, and simply, good governance. Liberal democracy may be the key to good governance, but liberal autocracy is certainly preferable to illiberal democracy.[18]

President Ahmadinejad is not irrational, regardless of any media report, or regardless of any crazy utterances he may state while providing “insight” into Iranian policy or thoughts. Rational actions by nations can only be evaluated through the reality in which that nation finds itself. Ahmadinejad stated the obvious when he complained about the way in which the U.S. attempts to achieve its national interests and secure its homeland. If the U.S. acts in this manner, why would anyone be surprised that Iran would take similar actions, or at least similar actions that are available to Iran. In the end, Ahmadinejad’s perspective isn’t really “news”… really it is a statement of the obvious.

 
[1] Colum Lynch, “At U.N., Ahmadinjad denounces military threats to Iran,” Washington Post, September 27, 2012, p. A2.
 
[2] Thucydides, Book V. 5.69.

[3] Terry L. Deibel, Foreign Affairs Strategy: Logic for American Statecraft (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 126.

[4] The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, The 9/11 Commission Report, Washington, DC, July 2004, pp. 9-11.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Enhanced physical security measures at federal facilities include the emplacement of vehicular barrier material, close-circuit television cameras, and security guards.

[7] For information on National Special Security Events, see CRS Report RS22754, National Special Security Events, by Shawn Reese.

[8] Terry L. Deibel, Foreign Affairs Strategy: Logic for American Statecraft (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 383.

[9] Central Intelligence Agency, World Fact Book, Washington, DC, 2011, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/xx.html.

[10] Robert J. Samuelson, “New Economic Order: Rich Nations Must Sell to the Poor,” Newsweek Online, April 30, 2010, http://www.newsweek.com/2020/04/30/a-new-economic-order.html.

[11] CRS Report RL31617, The Economic Effects of 9/11: A Retrospective Assessment, by Gail E. Makinen.

[12] Evan F. Koenig, Down But Not Out: The U.S. Economy After September 11, U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, presentation to the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Dallas, TX, November 2001, p. 4.

[13] U.S. General Accounting Office, Challenges for Critical Infrastructure Protection, GAO-03-233-1, February 28, 2003, p. 1.

[14] 42 U.S.C. 5195c.

[15] U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Fiscal Year 2009 Report to Congress, Washington, DC, 2009, p. 7.

[16] Terry L. Deibel, Foreign Affairs Strategy: Logic for American Statecraft (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 390.

[17] Ibid., p. 391.

[18] Fareed Zakaria, “The Rise of Illiberal Democracy,” Foreign Affairs, vol. 76 (Winter 1997), pp. 22-43.

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Why are they booing… Nationals baseball

“BOOOO”… “BOOOO”… was what one might think they heard at the top of the ninth on September 20th during the home game between the LA Dodgers and the DC Nationals. Actually, the DC home crowd was chanting “DREWWW”… “DREWWW”… Drew Storen, the platooning fireballing closer was trotting to the mound to finish off the 4-1 lead over the Dodgers. The giant jumbotron/scoreboard focussed on Storen’s face… I swear there was a grimace of determination. Storen knew how important his outing was about to be.

DC Nationals have never made it to the postseason… the last DC baseball team to make it to the postseason was the Senators in 1933… it was now 79 years later and DC was on the cusp of getting a playoff berth… big moment. From my seat in section 205, it looked as if a giant wave of Nationals’ red was standing and holding its breath… the moment was 3 outs away. No one feared there wouldn’t be a playoff berth… but everyone was ready for the moment to happen now… Thursday, September 20, 2012.

Storen took the mound… and with efficiency he sat down the side. Matt Kemp stood dumbfounded when strike 3 was called with him looking. Adrian Gonzalez swung haphazardly at strike 3… his shoe laces may have broken in his attempt to hit the fastball. Finally, Hanley Ramirez swatted air for the third time. Three very good batters went down in order. Storen and the Nats jumped in elation… the crowd went wild… I was there and I felt tears welling in my eyes… the Nats were playoff bound.

Now, I (and countless Nats’ fans) count the magic number of games combining Nats’ wins and Braves’ losses to see if the Nats finish the season as the NLE’s number one team and enjoy the position of skipping a wildcard game. Additionally, Nats’ fans count the Nats’ wins compared to the Reds’ wins and hope that the Nats’ maintain the top position of the whole National League. As of today, the Nats not only sit on top of the National League, but here at the end of September, the Nats have the best record in baseball.

Back on April 14, 2005, I was sitting in the crowd at the Nationals first home game… its inaugural opener. President George W. Bush threw the ceremonial first pitch to a mix crowd both booing and cheering. Livan Hernandez threw the actual first pitch minutes later. The following morning Hernandez’s pitch made the front of the Washington Post. Baseball had returned to the nation’s capital. Seven years later, the Nationals are postseason bound.

What a ride it has been… definitely ugly… definitely the type of baseball that only true baseball fans could appreciate. In 2005, the Nats finished the season 81-81… this season included Brad Wilkerson getting the first Nats’ hit, Terrmel Sledge hit the first Nats’ home run. Later in the season Wilkerson hit for the cycle (a home run, a single, a double, and a triple). At the end of the 2005 season, Ryan Zimmerman was called up and has been the face of the franchise ever since. It wasn’t perfect baseball… but it was decent baseball. From there it skidded downhill. Baseball gods frowned on the once Montreal Expos that became a vagabond team with no home. Following group MLB ownership and controversy over the stadium design and location… the DC Nationals were given a home in DC.

From 2006-2011, the Nats saw nothing but losing seasons. 2006: 71-91; 2007: 73-89; 2008: 59-102; 2009: 59-103; 2010: 69-93; and 2011: 80-81. Through it all I sat at both RFK stadium… a terribly old concrete stadium that bounced when fans jumped and stunk of mildew… it had character but it also sat in a blighted neighborhood and really fit more for 1960s NFL games than 2000’s baseball… and at the present Nationals stadium on the banks of the Anacostia River. As of today, the Nats are 93-60.

I originally began my Nats’ ticket holder status as a member of a group that bought a full season package. A group of 10 people split 81 games… game selection was done through the very scientific method of picking a playing card that designated your selection slot… from there one had to pick date and game… an economist ran the whole show. It was a group of 10 people who had faith. Once the Nats moved to their brand new… and very environmentally green… stadium, I had branched out on my own and bought my own partial season plan… 20 games that usually turned into 25-30 with the special ticket buys and friends who needed company… beer-drinking and Nats-cheering company. I now have two aisle seats in section 205 with no aisle to my right… so no “I’m-really-not-a-fan” person walking by during an at-bat and ruining my view. Baseball viewing etiquette seems to be lost on some of my fellow DC baseball fans… sit your ass down until at least the at-bat is over… better yet… wait until the inning is over.

All the years of sitting there watching bad baseball (2006-2011) made me repeat a mantra… almost Zen-like… “bad baseball is better than no baseball, bad base is better than no baseball.” The faithful will be rewarded… the meek shall inherit the Earth… accept your lot in life and you shall be made abundant in your patience. I watched suck-ass baseball and never got discouraged… I was happy to be in my seat drinking beer, eating hot dogs, and watching the Boys of Summer go about their glorious play. Cold opening day games led to sweltering (and swampy) DC July day games… and now it has led to cool and crisp Fall baseball.

Let Teddy Win” is possibly coming to fruition. Baseball is a game of optimism… every team is number 1 before the first pitch of the first opening day game. Every fan truly believes this year is the year. Some fans and teams are spoiled… yes you Yankee fans… some teams and fans are constantly disappointed… yes you Cubs. Regardless, baseball is a sport and passion that is a long and sometimes torturous event. April to October. 162 games, day-in and day-out… the games seem to pile on to one another, and before the 2012 season… the losses seemed to pile on and pile on.

Now I sit here with my postseason tickets and count games… will the Nats finish with just the right amount of wins, and will the Braves finish with just the right amount of losses to ensure our clinching of the NLE? Will the Reds stay just a few wins behind allowing the Nats to maintain their dominance in the NL? Really… I’m grateful that the season has been as splendid as it has been. If in April you had told me that the Nats would be sitting at the end of September with 93 wins I would have replied that I would be happy and content… and content I am. I have been a faithful and loyal fan. I have seen the Nats lose games in the cold and heat… I have sat through rainouts… I have been a faithful member of the Church of Baseball. I have tithed every year… I have paid my penance. Win or lose, I am a Nats fan. Now I am ready for the playoffs.

Let’s Go Nats!

All Southern Rock Tour T-Shirts Are Sleeveless

Dropped acid, Blue Oyster Cult concert, fourteen years old

And I thought them lasers were a spider chasing me

On my way home, got pulled over in Rogersville, Alabama With a half-ounce of weed and case of Sterling Big Mouth

My buddy Gene was driving, he just barely turned sixteen

And I’d like to say, “I’m sorry” but we lived to tell about it

And we lived to do a whole bunch more crazy, stupid shit

And I never saw Lynyrd Skynyrd

But I sure saw Molly Hatchet with 38 Special

and the Johnny Van Zant Band

– Drive-by Truckers “Let There Be Rock

Growing up with parents who listened to the Country Outlaws (Willie, Waylon, and Johnny) meant that I had a roots in a very Southern yet rough brand of music. My parents also listened to Conway Twitty and Charlie Pride. To say they were strict country music fundamentalists would be inaccurate. They didn’t smoke weed… but they love themselves some weed and whiskey country music. Unfortunately, when they were in their prime music listening years they were subjected to late 1960s and early 1970s radio country. Their ability to branch out and hear things that were on the musical edges was hampered by the lack of iTunes and social media. My parents’ musical tastes were governed by what they were exposed to. Fortunately, they did sprinkle their album collection (and 8 tracks too) with Taj Mahal, Freddie Fender, and that swampy Texas sound. Today my mom listens to Vern Gosdin and my dad kicks his boots to Texas swing… like all of us, they have allowed themselves to mature in their musical tastes.

While my parents were rocking (without the whiskey and weed) to the Outlaws, I was listening to Motley Crue, Slayer, Anthrax, Ratt, Metallica, Megadeath, and an assorted mix of hair metal bands. Thrown in for a good mix was a collection of rock bands that fell outside the standard “metal” definition such as AC/DC and Van Halen. I was also a closet New Wave listener… but my tastes and imagined style were of the Metal Head genre… I fancied myself in leather and spikes… I worshipped at the altar of Judas Priest… even before it dawned on me that all their S&M attire was gay-related. I just knew I wanted to rock like Twisted Sister encouraged. Some used Southern rock as a gateway drug to metal… I used metal as a gateway drug to Southern rock… first I was turned on to the Crue… Allman Brothers followed later.

As Chuck Klosterman said in Fargo Rock City, no self-respecting Metal Head would admit to listening to Duran Duran… but you could admit to owning Lynryd Skynyrd, .38 Special, and Black Oak Arkansas cassettes. Time-Warner even sold a collection it referred to as “Country Fried Rock” during the commercial breaks of Friday Night Videos… on the cover of these albums and cassettes was the picture of a fried egg resting on… oozing between… electric guitar strings. “Country Fried Rock” gave you bands and songs that were deep, guitar heavy songs about voodoo priests and deadly highways. Metal Heads could, and did, listen to the Allman Brothers Band… you just couldn’t let the majority of your cassette collection be of this genre… if you did, then you were country stoner and not a Metal Head. How one classified yourself musically was an important part as a teen in the 80s. Metal had sprouted its wings (Phoenix-like) from Zeppelin and other 1970s bands such as Thin Lizzy… metal had moved from leather to lace with bands like Poison. Metal had matured and given a voice to the angst that rested in rural, and in some cases Southern rural, boys. Because of the unwritten but accepted… and known… rules of musical identification, one could be a Metal Head and listen to Southern Rock.

Later, when Motley Crue got fat and Guns N’ Roses kicked everybody else’s asses… I branched out and started listening to more Southern rock. I couldn’t stomach radio country then or now. Nirvana drove the final nail in 80s Metal’s coffin… yet I still rocked to my cassettes… but I started buying CDs of bands that were definitely not metal… in college I didn’t consider myself a Metal Head. In college, lonely masturbation and angry metal was replaced with poppy rock like R.E.M. and grunging Southern rock like Molly Hatchet and Government Mule coupled with rendezvouses with drunken college chicks.

There was no major Southern rock movement in the early 90s… but the throwback sound of the 70s and 80s that these bands represented fit in well with my alcoholic over-indulgence and tang-chasing activities. Like my parents, my musical tastes evolved… and with Southern rock, they devolved toward a sound that was more guitar and less look or attitude.

Years later and nearly a decade of military service, saw my musical collection dwindle in the metal category… and explode in classic-sounding rock music. I no longer identified myself with a certain sound, genre, or look. I no longer needed a type of music or collection of big-hair bands to represent my anger and misguided youthful outbursts. I stopped being closed-minded and opened my ears. While in Texas I was introduced to a world of strumming steel guitars and two-stepping bands. Jimmy Buffettt and college were forgotten, and Robert Earl Keen and Shiner beer were discovered. Non-radio ZZ Top songs were discovered… Tito and the Tarantula were glorified… I had found that I had always been prone to like the edgy, and sometimes swampy, sound and feel to good rock… prone to a sound that had been planted with my parents’ listening to the Outlaws.

Categorizing, or pigeon-holing, a certain sound or musical genre is difficult. In the mid-90s, Americana bands (children bands of 70s Southern rock) made themselves known to listeners like me… they included Uncle Tupelo, Whiskeytown, Old 97s, and their offshoots like Son Volt, Wilco, and Ryan Adams and the Cardinals. Rootsy Rock, American Roots Rock, Americana, Southern Rock… on and on the categories go… on and on they inaccurately describe the growing sound of American rock music. Some of these bands harkened back to rockabilly, some attempted to sound like bluegrass and gospel… in the end all of them attempted to sound American. How these bands and their early ancestors like Lynyrd Skynyrd differed from their British and Australian cousins was the fact that these American bands heavily referenced place and history. Songs about trains, rivers, and geographical regions in the tone of Faulkner can only be American. AC/DC would have been a Southern Rock band if they hadn’t been Australian and recorded at least one song about the Mississippi River… everything else they covered was pure Southern Rock… alcohol and pussy.

Supposedly, this is the list of the top 100 Southern Rock Songs. Music nerds like to track, reference, and reveal the history of Southern rock by describing it as a subgenre of rock, and a genre within the fairly new category of Americana. They like to say it is a mix of rock, country, and blues focussed on the electric guitar and vocals. Its roots are supposedly fixed in the soil of the Delta and cotton fields with names such as Bo Diddley and Jerry Lee Lewis. The 1970s is considered the apex of Southern rock with bands such as the Allman Brothers, Charlie Daniels, ZZ Top, .38 Special, Molly Hatchet, and the Edgar Winter Group being the well-known names. Interestingly, along with the Southern rock title… there are also related musical subgenres such as Blues Rock, Country Rock, Heartland Rock, Swamp Rock, and the Tulsa Sound… basically all of them are rock-oriented genres that focus on the electric guitar, vocals, American geographical locations, alcohol, cars/highways, and pussy.

My parents weren’t rock enthusiasts by any measure… but they did like a good down-home… yet honky-tonking… edge to their country music. I have seen my mom sing along with swamp blues and Tex-Mex musicians. I have played Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt songs for my dad… and he has agreed that their sound is both reminiscent and familiar to the beer-drinking songs of his youth. I have to agree… if you are going to drink beer, Southern-feeling electric guitar songs about muddy waters and angry women are far better than Duran Duran. Musical genres and required attire is no longer important… but… you have to admit that any genre music that encourages sleeveless t-shirts is a type of music that is meant to be listened to while drinking and driving a Chevy Nova.

Who’s the Boss? Springsteen at Nationals’ Stadium

Rock and roll music, if you like it, if you feel it, you can’t help but move to it. That’s what happens to me. I can’t help it.  – Elvis Presley

June 1984 was when I was introduced to the Boss. Bruce Springsteen has been recording music since the early 1970s and turns 63 next week… I pray to the little plastic baby Jesus I look as good as he does at 63. It wasn’t until his album Born in the USA, however, that I heard of Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen had been around… but I hadn’t heard him and the E Street Band until the summer of 1984. Competing at this time for my musical attention was Van Halen’s 1984 album… rocking guitar riffs was what I was interested in… not songs about the American condition. After Born in the USA, I began to get exposed to his early stuff… it never grabbed me, but I didn’t dislike him… my tastes were a little less Jersey working class rock and more Jersey hair metal… Bon Jovi had my interest… Bruce had a non-famous Courtney Cox appeal. It was way later in life that I started seeing the connection between New Jersey and rock-n-roll… Hell it was later in life when I realized the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton didn’t want to be rock-n-rollers… they wanted to be bluesmen.

Later, after years of not understanding the angst of “Born in the USA,” I discovered Nebraska and Born to Run. Then I realized I had heard of the Boss prior to 1984… he was the guy who talked about young ladies strapping their hands around his engine. The Boss is the quintessential American rock star… it isn’t that he has used the American flag as cover art… it isn’t that he is constantly seen in Levis… it isn’t that his E Street Band is so American in its melting pot line-up that you get it confused with a Benneton ad. It is the fact that the Boss is all about arena rock… arena rock is quintessentially American. When European bands stage concerts in an arena… they have sold themselves as an American band. AC/DC is Australian… but when they rock Madrid in a soccer stadium they are emulating the American ideal of rock-n-roll. Loud… big… unadulterated rockin’ and rollin’ to masses of people.

Rock-n-Roll is American… other nation’s musicians perform it… Americans like the Boss perfect it… represent it. The flaming lighter and screams of “Free Bird” are universal in their appeal… but we all know that neither is part of rock-n-roll without Zippos (American brand) and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Numerous British musicians dream of the day when they go platinum in America and play to sold out American audiences. Yes, one can make it in the music industry without ever being a household name in America… but by being recognized and loved in America is the difference between being rich and being filthy rich AND famous.

Springsteen passed that moment of filthy rich and famous around 1984. Born in the USA was wildly popular… and thus, it should be of no surprise that it is probably his worst and most generic-sounding album. No matter how many songs you sing about steel mills and their imminent closure… a crappy and woefully commercialized album like Born in the USA is going to sell well… and be a small portion of your catalog that you wished you hadn’t recorded.

On Friday, September 14, 2012, I saw the Boss perform. He and the E Street Band are on their Wrecking Ball tour and they are playing baseball stadiums. This combination of a new but familar-sounding album and baseball stadiums provides a bit more to the Americana legend that is the Boss. My experience at my first Springsteen concert was coupled with my first time to “walk” on my favorite MLB team’s field of dreams. Fittingly, a stadium and field that houses an American past time was the location of a true American rock-n-roller’s concert.

On the way to my seats on the “field,” I got to saunter past the Nationals’ dug out, I got to walk on the clay that my favorite ball players walk across as the enter and exit their place of work. My seats were roughly in the spot were Jason Werth (an overpaid right fielder) broke his wrist while snagging a drooping fly ball. I immediately announced to the digital world that I was taking a piss in the Nationals’ bullpen when I realized that the nearest porta-johns were, in fact, located within the fence that houses, on game day, a wonderful pitching staff. The center right outfield fence was mere steps away… a beautiful and large white curly W graced it. I took no pictures of the Boss… I did get pictures of me “standing” in the outfield… the fence and W were the perfect backdrop. I was on holy ground… anyone could have come out on stage and I would have been happy… I was on sanctified ground.

A Springsteen concert seems to be a mix of good time rock-n-roll and a reflection of time and place. Holy moments of silence and thoughts punctuated the evening. The Boss made no attempts to hide his age nor his graceful arc in the older years of reflection. Music and artistic expression through a dominating stage presence is how the Boss attacked the performance.

If you have seen Springsteen and the E Street Band, you know exactly what I saw. [Insert new Springsteen album name here] songs were mixed with “Thunder Road,” “Dancing in the Dark,” and “Born to Run.” Obviously he ended with the Detroit medley and “Twist and Shout.” Clarence’s nephew featured prominently on sax… the crowd roared for him… one wonders if it was more for Clarence than the young sax player.

There were no fireworks, no smoke machines… no Judas Priest extravaganza. Simple, but large, stage with two large screens and a muted but appropriate light setting was the Boss’ backdrop. Springsteen mixed with the crowd and then sweated on stage. He made appropriate references to America and the latest political feel of those that assume a multimillionaire can feel their economic pain. I was not surprised what I saw or heard… I was surprised, however, of how an American rock-n-roll icon could perform in such a typical and expected concert that invigorated the crowd. There were no attempts to conceal or dress-up the music… instead it felt as if the Boss was bluntly plain and obvious. One expects the Boss to rock… and rock is what the Boss did. It didn’t feel tired or worn… it felt exactly what rock-n-roll was supposed to feel like… hard, American, and sort of angry.

I danced with friends… I watched official concert staff members dance… I watched two young red-headed twins… dressed in horns and blue dresses… shuffle and shimmy when Springsteen played “Devil with Blue Dress On.” These were no Buffett Parrot Heads… but every other person was wearing a [insert Springsteen album title here] tour t-shirt with jeans. Like the Boss, the hardcore fans seemed understated… but definitely not sedate.

A good preacher will provide you with a daily dose of religion before you realize you have been provided a lesson in salvation… Springsteen provided a dose of ol’time Rock-n-Roll and entertained you before you even knew it was happening. I and my date were bouncing and moving to new and old Springsteen songs without realizing our response. Feet tapped and hips swayed. No need to know the words, no need to be a member of the Boss’ cult… all that was needed was an appreciation of rock-n-roll. Even as we age, we know we can “come back baby, rock-n-roll never forgets.”

Remember the Maine! To Hell with Spain!

It’s 9/11 again… US Capitol Police patrol the “beacon on the hill” and roust homeless guys from their slumber. Seems a hedge in the Senate park isn’t the place to sleep on the 11th anniversary of 9/11. Maybe some digital coder can find some meaning to the numbers 1191112… I know that I can find no meaning in having to sprint across a cross walk due to the oncoming… and speeding… Capitol Police armored car. Yes, once again we celebrate… remember… terrorist attacks.

While a great many have spent the last year going about their daily lives, I have spent the last year… like the last ten years writing the following phrase over and over:

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks,

Approximately, 50% of the reports I write have this phrase in the first paragraph, and 25% of my reports start out with this phrase. “9/11” is number that flows from my typing fingers like a smooth liquid. Easy numbers that are so simple, yet contain so much visceral reaction.

I have spent the last year writing and testifying before Congress on the lack of a coherent and unified homeland security strategy. I have researched and written on how the federal government communicates during national and homeland security crises, how the Department of Homeland Security may want to address criticisms of its 2010 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review prior to the upcoming issuance of the 2nd version in 2014, and how the federal government… the US Secret Service specifically… intends to secure the January 2013 presidential inauguration. When it comes to thinking about securing the nation… I spend a great deal of mental energy going “what the fuck does this mean?” and “how exactly do we secure the nation?”

The 9/11 anniversary, however, is when others take a moment and ponder the actions of a few Saudis and the resulting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a time to wonder how the world became so small, and how the United States joined the ranks of countries affected by significant international terrorist attacks. Granted, the United States has always had to deal with terrorism, but it had been of the domestic flavor… white supremacists, abortion clinic bombings, and anti-Zionism.

“Remembering 9/11” has joined the long list of political propaganda. I would argue that at the turn of the 22nd Century, “Remembering 9/11” will be as significant as “Remember the Maine! To Hell with Spain” is now. On February 15, 1898 the USS Maine exploded in Havana’s harbor. The US Navy ship was there to protect US interests during the Cuban War of Independence. US newspapers, especially newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst, exaggerated and distorted information concerning the explosion and gave us a fantastic phrase… which is now used as a prime example of “yellow press.” Yellow press is a type of journalism that uses little research or facts, instead uses great headlines to sell more newspapers. This rally call of “Remember the Maine! To Hell with Spain” assisted in galvanizing the American public in supporting a war between the US and Spain. Later investigations into the explosion determined that the USS Maine was not sunk by a Spanish mine, but probably the result of a fire near its ammunition.

“Remembering 9/11” and “Remember the Maine! To Hell with Spain” may not be exact replicas, they are, however, very similar in the fact that both were used to rally the American public in reacting to events that led to war. Political language, goals, and ideas get coupled with calls for war.

It’s another day, another anniversary, another moment in collective memory that is both personal and public. Another event that the cable news channels will run information on remembering 9/11 over and over. Talking heads… wonks and former military officers… will discuss how security has changed… how much safer we may or may not be… the sound will be a loud roar for the next 12-18 hours. Then the anniversary of 9/11 will silently slip away replaced by something new tomorrow. It will be resurrected next year.

I imagine the 15th anniversary of 9/11 will see a spike in “remembering” followed by the 20th and maybe the 25th… eventually, though, “Remembering 9/11” will become like “Remember the Maine! To Hell with Spain”… a phrase and incident remembered by academics, nerds, and military buffs. That is the future of all catch phrases and events that “rock” nations and galvanize them for war. We… we Americans… will move forward.

President Nixon said on July 4, 1970 “We Americans are known throughout the world as a forward-looking people. The United States of America is in fact a symbol of progress, of hope, and of just and orderly growth.” In other words… this too shall pass.

Monumental Hangovers, Monumental Drunks, and the lessons I have learned

Supposedly, I did the ol’bump and grind with the groom’s mother. Supposedly, I attempted to go swimming in a pool that was closed for the season. Supposedly, I attempted to use a corner in my hotel room as a toilet. The only truth, and really the only memory I do have, is that the bride and groom fed us pumpkin sorbet as a dessert during the wedding reception… and supposedly I voiced my angst over being served pumpkin sorbet.

I had begun drinking early afternoon prior to the outdoor wedding. It was a nice fall day in eastern Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay was a few miles away… touched by the river that was state of the wedding. Perfect bourbon weather… perfect bourbon event. I was liquidly smooth during the wedding… bride and groom escaped to have pictures taken and the bar opened… the open bar opened wide… I fell into the neck of a Jim Beam bottle. The groom is my best friend and he ensured there was plenty of bourbon. While bride and groom posed and smiled, me and other bourbon drinking friends began to imbibe. I remember very little following the first steps to the open bar and getting my first bourbon.

This was a monumental drunk and I know this because I don’t remember it. There are photos of me dancing very seductively with the groom’s mother… so I guess I did rub my parts on her. In the pictures I am wearing a red bandana on my head like a crazy pirate while I am soaked in alcoholic sweat. I have to trust what other people tell me about my drunk. Monumental drunks are not remembered, they are told to us… but the hangovers are remembered. I rode two hours back to DC the following morning curled up in a fetal position in the back of a car vomiting in a trash bag and wondering WTF I had done. The bride and groom were embarked on their honeymoon… it would be a week before I could apologize… this monumental hangover informed me that I needed to apologize.

When people tell you stories about how drunk you were on certain occasions… realize they are only stories… there is no way to ensure the truth. What they are really telling you are stories. Friends and victims recount the drunk escapade. It is not the traditional sense of lying, because when there is a monumental drunk there are monumental stories… however, those stories have to come from others. Monumental drunks are actually remembered through monumental hangovers. If someone says they don’t have hangovers… that person has never had a monumental drunk. Hollywood got this right with The Hangover and Hangover II… putting the puzzle pieces back together the next morning is the sign of a monumental drunk. I am, however, saddened by the fact that I have never had a Hangover type drunk.

What good drinking story isn’t related to college or military service… at least mine are usually from these periods. In a quick succession, I would like to recount the hangover and then provide what I think happened, or what I was told happened… and the lesson I learned.

Never Trust a Fart.

Advise from older men should never be discounted. The Duke of Wellington once supposedly told a soldier “piss when you can,” and an older colleague of mine once told me that as you get older “never waste an erection, piss when you can, and never trust a fart.”… wise, very wise advice. In high school, I trusted a fart. I do not remember the drinking on the farm… around a campfire under beautiful and crystal clear stars. I do remember waking with the scary knowledge that sometime during my drunken sleep that I trusted a fart. Thankfully it was not an explosion and more of splat… I drew mud.  I remember the evening beginning with some friends, an underage purchase of a case of Bud, and an attempt to burn as much as possible as quickly as possible. Small burn marks on my face, clothes, and sleeping bag coupled with the remnants of a ruptured cans of pork-n-beans also informed me that we placed said can on the fire… and said can exploded. I believe we also threw a single and bound square bale of hay on the fire… my drunken memories seem hazy with a whoosh and an immediate blazing of hay. The hangover was intense, pain of headache and scorched skin… muddy underwear… monumental headache that could only happen from a monumental drunk.

Never Consume Fruity Alcoholic Drinks to Excess.

It seems my fraternity had a propensity to have what we called “Chicken Blood.” Chicken Blood was the result of the brothers and pledges bringing a pint of any clear alcohol… any clear alcohol… I shiver thinking of it now… and mixing large 5 gallon metal trash cans full of these clear alcohol pints with cherry Kool-Aid and bags and bags of sugar… then thrown in for good measure was old apples and oranges. I remember pouring in my pint of clear alcohol, I remember assisting in the stirring and serving. From there on there is no memory… the story goes that is that I went home with a female guest. This must be true because I did awaken in an unknown apartment beside a young lady. As she slumbered beside me in her own awful cherry Kool-Aid nightmare, I stumbled to her bathroom to rid my system of red-stained alcohol. The horror in her bathroom made me beat feet as quickly as possible. The bathroom had been wallpapered by her, me, or both of us in red and chunks of fruit. There was no inch of that bathroom that had not been painted in red vomit. No matter the pain I felt at the time… I knew I could not remain. This young lady and I never looked each other in the eye ever again. Monumental hangover, monumental drunk.

You Can Trust Hungarian Waiters.

After six months of a deployment to Bosnia, I rated a 48 hour R&R trip to Budapest, Hungary. A long… multiple hours… bus ride from Tuzla, Bosnia, to Budapest, Hungary, ended with me leaving muddy Balkan fields behind and changing into clean civilian clothes in a grand European city. Quickly I found a bar, a strip club, and multiple restaurants that were more than happy to provide as much alcohol as I could consume. After the first bar and plenty of female Hungarian attention… American soldiers always have money, American soldiers always spend it loosely. After the bar and the female attention that always ended in their disappointment… I left alone… I moved to a strip club with a bunch of other American soldiers. Here is where the drunken evening gets hazy. I remember being amazed at the beautiful Hungarian strippers, I remember being amazed at their attempts to fondle me as I sat there drinking Hungarian beers… then I remember waking up in my hotel room. I quickly searched my wallet and saw that I had not spent or lost all of my money. I was alone and I did not stink of cheap Hungarian perfume… so I know that I went to the hotel alone… thankfully. What I do know is that my head felt like it was going to explode, I felt like my stomach was hijacking all my senses. I made my way down for my free breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant… but when I entered it the smell of cooking eggs and meat immediately made my bowels churn. I ran as fast as I could to the nearest restroom. Inside a Hungarian waiter was washing his hands, and I was leaned over a clean sink trying to rid myself of poison. I don’t speak Hungarian… I have a passable conversational German ability. The waiter immediately realized my situation and began to provide immediate advise. I had no idea what he was telling me… but I know I began to suspect I was about to become the victim of a robbery or a rape… or a combination. I was defenseless… this waiter could have done anything he wanted and I was powerless to stop him. Fortunately, this was an angel of Hungarian persuasion. After he realized my inability to comprehend his words, he grabbed my wrist and stuck it under an icy blast of cold water from a faucet… immediately my nausea subsided and the sweating stopped. Within minutes I felt refreshed and ready to begin day two of drinking. I still use this hangover remedy. Monumental hangover, monumental drunk.

Remove Your Shoes Prior to Attempting to Removing Your Pants.

When you change jobs in the Army, your colleagues and subordinates feel the need to celebrate. As the single lieutenant in charge of 40 enlisted soldiers, I was fortunate to have a great platoon led by a great number of NCOs. As a farewell to Lieutenant Sublimemonkey, my sergeants decided to do a “I quit drinking party.” A “I quit drinking party” is when you gather all the alcohol in your home and gather with your friends… then all of you consume the gathered alcohol regardless of type or brand. Me and my 5 sergeants consumed an ungodly amount of gin, vodka, cognac, whiskey, bourbon, and wine. Glass after glass led to picture after picture of us in different states of intoxication. These pictures are the only memory I have of the I quit drinking party that began immediately after the work day (5pm) until I was driven back to my home. Since the drinking began immediately after work, I spent the evening in my camouflaged uniform and boots. The next morning at 5:30am, I found myself on my couch with my uniform pants around my ankles and my boots still tightly laced to my feet. I pulled the pants up, grabbed my physical fitness uniform (shorts, t-shirt, and running shoes) and headed to work. My head was pounding… but a quick wrist under a cold tap fixed enough for me to get to work. I have no idea when I got driven home, I don’t know who drove me home, I don’t know how I got to my couch, and I don’t know if I tried to take my pants off or if someone else did. Whomever de-pantsed me decided the boots were a bridge too far though. Monumental hangover, monumental drunk.

Now I am older and wiser. I rarely drink to excess. I have learned how to consume alcohol over a long period without careening into the unknown territory of drunken stupor. I have learned to watch alcohol, water, and food intake. I have learned to maintain a buzz without becoming stupid. I, however, know that I am capable of getting a monumental hangover and I have drinking partners that are capable of filling in the gaps… or at least lie to me in a manner that lets me know that I had a good time.