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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Heiress Watching: Paris Hilton

Can she act? No. Can she sing? No. Does she commit both pathetically and still make a fortune from it? Yes. So what is the fascination with the newly emancipated Paris Hilton?
I’ve actually watched numerous people attempt to answer this question – and fail. And they fail because there isn’t a good answer. Simply put – I think it’s a new form of sport-entertainment hybrid called “Heiress Watching.”

And to be perfectly honest here – I like it too. Why? Because she’s the closest thing to royalty that we Americans have and we’ve grown to admire and like her for whom she really is – an attractive young rich kid with no moral compass or purpose. The Brits have William and Harry… We get Paris.

Sure they are Princes – but have they had their own popular reality TV show, a homemade porn film, a successful pop record or a jailhouse tale? No.

Heck, about the only thing Paris hasn’t accomplished yet is to get elected to Congress – and it’s early in her career. So in the proverbial game of royalty, I’d argue Paris is actually winning by a landslide.

So whether you’re fascinated by her or not – when Barbara Walters calls you in jail or NBC toys with the idea of paying you a million bucks to talk to them, it’s safe to say you have arrived – and without really doing anything more than being born. That’s royalty in my book, fellow commoners.

And luckily for you – if you haven’t yet come to terms with your Paris-Phobia but are still interested to see what happens in the highly anticipated first interview since getting out of jail – I will watch the easily confused Larry King tonight so you don’t have to.
After all, what would Paris say about it? Look no further than her trademark saying…
“That’s HOT!”

I can be reached for questions, comments or personal notes from Paris at

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"Surf's Up" Dude!

In the midst of a very busy work schedule – devoting the majority of my time to covering important news events like the $54 Million Pants Suit, I actually managed on Sunday to have a life.

And I will confess that I was dead tired and not really up for much more than trying to get in a few extra hours of sleep on Sunday – but thankfully my wife rousting me up to take our daughter to the movies.

We went to see the new animated film Surf’s Up.

It’s the story of a young penguin named Cody Maverick who finds his way from the frozen Antarctic waters of Shiverpool to the annual championship contest held in honor of the legendary “The Big Z Memorial Surf Off” somewhere in tropical paradise.

Big Z is Cody’s childhood surf Idol who disappeared after the final wave of the contest 10 years earlier never to be seen again. In Cody’s mind, if he can just manage to win the trophy of the Big Z then all of life’s joys will be instantly realized.

Without giving away spoilers here, suffice it to say that Cody finds himself in the isolated company of a mysterious older Penguin named Geek who saves his life after a terrible surf accident just days before the big contest.

During the course of the movie – and Cody’s rehabilitation – many lessons are learned. For instance, when Cody believes what he needs most is a teacher in the water; Geek makes him learn the patience of building his own board. And is often the case with those of us who focus on the end result rather than what goes into the journey, a greater lesson is learned.
Geek continues to refuse to take Cody into the surf until he passes “the test” – which is learning to have FUN. Once Cody begins to have fun and lets go of trying to force the situation, he realizes his life is much happier… and his surfing is much better.

I have often written here that for me surfing is life’s metaphor. I could write tomes on this theory – and maybe someday I actually will. But for this cute film, I took away this comparison: Surfing requires skill and strength – but what is most needed comes from the heart and soul.
So even if you don’t have a 5-year old to take with you, go see it soon. It just might change your outlook on what really matters in life… Surf’s Up!

I can be reached for questions, comments or surf reports at

Friday, June 22, 2007

Presidential Candidates Let Their Guard Down

I’ve always thought you can learn a lot about someone by the way they act when their guard is down… And I dare say that I may have found something out about Presidential candidates this week as I subjected them to friendly ambushes in a public setting.

At the beginning of the week, nearly all of the Democratic Presidential Hopefuls – Hillary, Obama, Edwards and Richardson – made appearances at the left-leaning Progressives’ annual gathering known as “Take Back America.”

Even Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi graced the group with her presence – which struck me as odd because she already took it back last year.

Anyways, O’Reilly “Factor” producer Nate Fredman and I set about with a camera crew with a simple task: engage the candidates and invite them on the show with Bill. Mission Accomplished… or sort of accomplished. We got them all on camera – but not all took us up on our offer.

Let’s begin with the Man of Two Americas, John Edwards. We met Edwards at the front door (he does not travel with a security detail) much to his chagrin. Immediately after announcing that I was with FOX News, he turned away in disgust and tried to walk away. But not being one to give up easily, I simply walked away with him in hot pursuit attempting unsuccessfully to get him to even acknowledge my presence. I guess I should expect such treatment from a trial lawyer, but his reaction was really childish and I think for the 11 supporters who were there to cheer him on; it was almost embarrassing for him. So perhaps the saying holds true after all – If he can’t face me, how the heck can he face a terrorist who would seek to do America harm?

We caught Gov Bill Richardson at the door as well. He was just as surprised to see us as Edwards, but Richardson had at least the simple savvy of a politician to stop, collect himself and offer a legitimate answer. Surprisingly, he told me he thought O’Reilly was fair and balanced and he said he’d be delighted to come on the show. Therefore, I think we can safely deduce from his congenial response that he may be a man running for Vice President at this point.
Senator Barrack Obama was by far the best sport of them all. After all, Barack (Code Name: Renegade) Obama now travels with a Secret Service detail so it was a much bigger challenge getting to him.

[Note: The conference took place at the historic Washington Hilton Hotel where after Reagan’s assassination attempt, protected dignitaries enter through a closed garage door entrance.]
But the special protected entrance didn’t stop us – we simply learned the lay of the land and found a weak spot in the route. When we burst through the doors where Obama was doing a VIP handshake line, Renegade smiled, shook my hand and said, “Okay, you guys did this to me once before.” And he even turned to the cameras and said, “Hi Bill.”

Then came our toughest challenge – Sen. Hillary Clinton. Not only does Sen. Clinton travel with a more seasoned security detail, she’s also got the best organizational team of any campaign I’ve ever encountered. And to be quite honest, we weren’t terribly optimistic of our chances for success with her.

Yet the stars aligned and with some sheer dumb luck, we found ourselves back stage in an unsuspecting area just before she walked off stage. Clinton was shocked to say the least when I introduced myself with the cameras rolling and offered her an O’Reilly Factor baseball hat and invited her on the show.

She didn’t take the hat or the offer to come on the show. And she didn’t hang around long to chat either as her security detail quickly got her out of the situation. But she didn’t give me the Edwards treatment either and I actually got a handshake from her. So she gets a middle of the road grade from me.

The only other person we encountered – a guy who ran for President once before – Howard Dean was predictable and honest. When we ambushed him, he simply said “No,” and walked away despite my repeated attempts. And I’ll give him credit; Dean can really walk away fast even when his handlers have no clue where he is supposed to be going.

And oddly enough, Rep. Jack Murtha ran into us because he was lost and looking for directions to the Green Room. When Nate asked him if he wanted to come on the show, Murtha asked back, “Have I been invited?”

To which Nate replied, “Oh, yes sir, many times.” And gathering from the response from the press aide, this did not go over well.

In the end, Obama won the conference’s Straw Poll conducted by and I’d say that’s pretty much on par with the Unofficial O’Reilly Ambush Index as well.
We’ll see where that stands a few months from now.

I can be reached for questions or comments or even friendly ambushes at

Friday, June 15, 2007

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in a Johnboat

In our family, my father has always been known as “the Counselor.” Technically, he is actually an attorney – having received his law degree from NYU on a Fulbright scholarship – but the title refers more to the infinite wisdom bestowed on my sister, brother and I over the course of our lives. At every turn of the journey, “Joe” as I renamed him years ago for no particular reason (his real name is Lee), has always had an answer to the difficult questions of life. He is my hero – along with my mother – because everything I have become is a direct result of what they instilled in me – love, patience, confidence and contentment.

As a father today, I am constantly marveled by the challenges of being a parent. I think if I could have just one wish come true in my lifetime, it’d be to become the father that my dad is to me.

Dad should have had a sign on his desk that read: The Buck Stops Here. It would have been next to the Mont blanc dual mounted pen set that I used as a WWI Ace fighter plane chasing the Red Baron in my childhood fantasies. Despite knowing that it was wrong, I could never resist the temptation to twist and turn those pens time after time, and yet my father always found a way to forgive me somehow for forever ruining a gift given to him personally by the world’s foremost elegant pen maker. That was the true love of a father and it guides me in my relationship with my own daughters.

This Father’s day, I’ll be remembering a simple Sunday tradition many years ago at place called Herb Parson’s Lake.

Sometimes after church, my dad and I would change clothes and head out to the lake with our Evinrude 7.5 outboard motor in the trunk. Once we got there, we rented one of the green aluminum Johnboats, connected our outboard motor and off we went. A state law required the driver of the boats be of legal driving age (which I certainly wasn’t), but once we rounded the bend and were out of sight, dad always let me take the helm.

I can still remember the magic of driving those boats – the calm of the lake, the sound and smell of that little engine running and the tiny wake it left behind. I also recall the gentle rocking of the boat when I let off the throttle before we switched seats again so he could drive back to the boat launch when the day was done.

The fishing was always good and I am warmed by the memories of learning to cast, learning to jig the lure slowly but steadily and most of all learning to handle your catch without getting stuck by the fins and removing the fish from the hook.

Some years later, my father made several shark fishing forays in the Gulf of Mexico that were the result of a hell-bent teenager fascinated with the movie “Jaws.” Yet ever the fisherman father that he is, we always went out when I asked and now an 8 foot mounted Tiger shark hangs in my parents’ guesthouse as tribute to those great adventures. (It’s also painted in neon colors and zebra stripes – but that story is for another day!)

This past weekend, I was in Florida visiting my parents and my nephew who just recently received his Captain’s License to take people charter fishing was buttering my dad up to become his first customer. And knowing Joe, he’ll oblige and be the finest customer my nephew will ever have.

But what my nephew may not realize for years to come is that there’ll be more important things to catch than fish when you go out on the water with the World’s Greatest Fisherman.
And if I ever write a book about fatherhood, the title is going to be: Everything I Need to Know I Learned in a Johnboat on Herb Parson’s Lake.

Happy Father’s Day!

I can be reached for questions, comments and father’s day stories at

Friday, June 8, 2007

Fancy Pants: $54 Million

Well, he’s dropped his pants but the very real lawsuit abuse continues… and it all kicks off on Monday - or so it was supposed to... it appears the trial has been moved to Tuesday/
DC Judge Roy L. Pearson Jr. who originally brought his outrageous $67 million lawsuit against a Korean family-owned dry cleaners has dropped his claim to $54 million and trial starts at 9:15a on Tuesday morning – and I will be there at the DC Superior Court.

According to Pearson, he has decided to drop the actual loss of the pants themselves (the Chung family was prepared to present a pair of pants that they believe are the actual lost pair) and focus on the “false advertising” aspect of the case – which is apparently worth $54 million.
So now, we at least know that the Judge valued his pants at $13 million!

Under the DC Consumer Protection Act, Judge Pearson believes the Chungs committed fraud and falsely advertised their services based on two signs that were in the shop at the time of the original transaction: “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and “Same Day Service.”

I spoke yesterday with Chung family attorney Chris Manning who told me that he felt Judge Pearson seems to be determined in harassing his clients who have suffered legal costs in the “upper tens of thousands of dollars.”

As a sidebar to this case, Judge Pearson (who is on administrative leave) is being considered for re-appointment to a 10-year term as an administrative hearing judge. No word on that from the tight-lipped court officials. And my calls and emails to Pearson have not been returned.

So get ready for the circus coming to DC – to which I have procured an outrageous pair of pants to wear at the trial myself as a social commentary on the frivolous nature of the case.

But it’s important to remember that there is a serious side to this case as well – the Chungs moved here in pursuit of the American dream many years ago and opened up a successful dry cleaners only to see their small fortunes evaporate at the hands of a vindictive legal official.
If you interested in helping – there is a website set up to help the Chungs offset legal costs with donations from the public. (

I can be reached for questions or comments at

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

DC City Council: Over 75? Re-Take Driving Tests!

This morning I read the news that the DC City Council was scheduled to vote on a measure that decides whether or not the DMV will continue enforcing a law that requires elderly drivers (75 and up) to pass written and field tests to maintain their driver’s licenses. Apparently, sometime last year the DMV began this enforcement that lead to an outcry of complaints from the District’s seniors and the AARP and ultimately resulted in the Mayor’s suspending of the tests.

Upon reading the news, I was taken back to a scene of one of the great Clint Eastwood movies from my childhood Every Which Way But Loose. (It was actually the sequel Every Which Way You Can.) In the scene, Eastwood’s cantankerous mother “Ma Boggs” (played by Ruth Gordon) is being driven to the DMV to retake her driver’s test (she never seems to pass it) by her other son, Orville in his towing truck. Here’s how the conversation went:

Ma: I shoulda remembered my wig! Think it’ll make any difference?
Orville: I don’t know, ma? I don’t expect that’s all they’re gonna be looking at… I sure hope you pass it this time, Ma. There ain’t too many more of these places you can go – they all know you!

Ma: Don’t know how I drive – Don’t none of them know how GOOD I drive… Been driving since before them sons of ******* were born!!

The scene perfectly captures the essence of the emotional part of this debate: losing one’s independence. And I can only imagine that as liberating of a moment it was in your life when you finally reached the driving age, the opposite is true of the day when it is taken away.

But arguably, there is a serious and legitimate public safety concern. According to data from AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety, drivers between the ages of 75-84, the rate of deaths were about 3 per 100 million miles driven – a figure pretty much equal to that of teenage drivers. But for drivers 85 and older, the fatality rate is nearly four times the teenagers. Figures for 2005 show that 11% of fatal crashes involved drivers in the 85+ group, but with the baby boomers there is a prediction that we can expect an increase to almost 25% by 2030.

According to a USA Today article, “twenty-three states require drivers of a certain age to appear periodically at a department of motor vehicles office to renew their license.” And after researching the topic, it would appear that most seniors actually choose to stop driving on their own generally speaking.

And at the risk of upsetting our wisest members of society, the Washington Post wrote in an editorial today in reference to the District’s case, “It may not be what they want, but the best interests of seniors as well as everyone else lie in the council not doing their bidding and leaving a good policy alone.”

I spoke with AARP’s Spokeswoman Eleanor Ginzler who told me that on a national level, the AARP would like to see “all states identify effective methods to address at-risk drivers at the time of renewal.” The AARP also offers information and details about their “Driver Safety Program” that one can find on their website at

Both of my parents are in their seventies and are good drivers. In fact, my dad has 20-10 vision and I wear glasses – so what does that tell you?! But I think just about all of us have encountered the proverbial “little ol’ lady” driving with little recognition of the rest of us on the road.

I support – at the risk of being admonished by my elders – the idea of screening for at-risk drivers at the time of renewal. And I am reminded of some advice given to me by a fine law enforcement officer at my very first speeding ticket some twenty years ago: Driving is a privilege, not a right.

And to steal the old drinking and driving saying, “know when to say when.”

I can be reached for questions, comments and verbal abuse at

Monday, June 4, 2007

Rep. William Jefferson Charged with Cold Hard Cash & More

A federal grand jury returned a 94-page indictment on 16 counts against Rep. William Jefferson, D-La. You may recall raids last year – which were challenged by Jefferson – on his Capitol office and Washington, DC home where $90,000 cash was discovered in his freezer. The charges today include:

Solicitation of bribes, racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice, violations of the foreign corrupt practices act and conspiracy.

If convicted on all counts, Bribing Bill Jefferson could be looking at 235 years in the slammer.
At a press conference today at the Justice Dept, as many as “11 different bribe schemes” were used to “enrich himself and other family members.” Jefferson’s primary scheme involved his securing business deals in Nigeria and Ghana.

Already, two Jefferson associates – a telecom executive Vernon Jackson and Jefferson aide Brett Pfeffer – have plead guilty in participating in the bribery schemes.
“This case is about greed, power and arrogance and everyone is entitled to ethical behavior,” said FBI’s Washington Field Office Asst Dir Joe Persichini.

That’s a very interesting statement considering that the congressman was once on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. And more than that, he was easily re-elected (57%) to a 9th term last year despite the raids and an ongoing bribery investigation.

New Orleans bemoans its reputation as a “corrupt” city. But when they re-elect shining pillars of integrity who stash $90,000 of an FBI Informant’s cash in their freezer next to the Ben and Jerry’s, they end up getting what they ask for: corrupt officials.

This is pure speculation on my part, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mayor Ray Nagin come to Jefferson’s defense before the trial concludes. After all, Nagin and Jefferson supported each other’s successful re-election bids last year. But I will be shocked – although not necessarily surprised – if Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton comes to Jefferson’s aid too.

But this is nothing new to Washington. Another case of Potomac Fever infects another weak civil servant who sought to make a mockery of our government…

What really gets me is this: whether it’s Jim Trafficant or Duke Cunningham or even Mark Foley, when are we going to learn to quit sending these guys to work in Washington?

In fairness to Jefferson, he has been indicted – not convicted. That may or may not come in the not too distant future. Either way – the guy doesn’t deserve to remain in office.

House Minority Leader John Boehner is already leading the charge to force a House vote to expel Jefferson while Speaker Nancy Pelosi rides the fence in this statement:

"The charges in the indictment against Congressman Jefferson are extremely serious. While Mr. Jefferson, just as any other citizen, must be considered innocent until proven guilty, if these charges are proven true, they constitute an egregious and unacceptable abuse of public trust and power. "As we have demonstrated in implementing tough ethics reforms and passing tough lobbying reforms already this year, Democrats are committed to upholding a high ethical standardand eliminating corruption and unethical behavior from the Congress.”

I hope they do the right thing. Jefferson himself could do us all a favor too – and resign for the preservation of the House’s integrity.

I can be reached for questions or comments at

Friday, June 1, 2007

My Favorite Word: Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis – the Latin or Medical term for the lung condition a.k.a. “Black Lung” most commonly associated with coal miners. It also happens to be the longest word in the English language.

That mouthful of a word (please do not even attempt to pronounce this as you will only embarrass yourself) was the zinger that a 14-year old Spelling Bee girl gave me to try to spell correctly at yesterday’s 80th Annual Scripts National Spelling Bee. Suffice it to say… I struggled.

Little wordsmith geniuses came from all over the country – and Canada – to Washington this week to determine the Master Speller. They began with 286 contenders on Wednesday of which 59 remained by Thursday morning. Only 15 took the stage in last night’s final rounds. And one was crowned king – Evan O’Dorney, a homeschooler from California.

O’Dorney correctly spelled “Serrefine” to beat out Canadian whiz Nate Gartke in the final showdown. And the best part of it all – O’Dorney admitted that he doesn’t really even like spelling that much because he prefers math (his first love) and music (he’s a concert pianist).

Here were the words that made it into the final round between O’Dorney and Gartke respectively:

Zoilus, Vituline, Pappardelle, Videlicet, Yosenabe, Coryza (misspelled) and Serrefine.

I can only spell one of those words correctly – Pappardelle – and that’s on account of my love of pasta rather than my three-and-half-decade old vocabulary.

For anyone who thinks the National Spelling Bee isn’t worthy of a prime-time national audience… For anyone who thinks the National Spelling Bee is nothing more than a bunch of geeky, boring, smart kids… And for anyone who thinks the Super Bowl is more exciting that watching the National Spelling Bee… I got news for you: The National Spelling Bee is the most exciting event I have been to in years.

First off, let’s get something straight: this is not a simple game of Scrabble with your family. There is enormous pressure put on these kids in front of the bright lights and big audience to basically do something that most of cannot. If we could, we wouldn’t have a need for the “spell-check” feature on our computers – my most frequently used tool.

I sat just feet from contestants who stood at the microphone drawing a blank not knowing a word and many times never having seen or heard it in the countless thousands of hours spent memorizing dictionaries.

One such contestant, Sameer Mishra, who I thought might go the distance but came up short on “myoclonos,” told me about that terrifying moment of darkness:
“First you hear the word and then you feel the big impact of not knowing the word, and you’re like ‘OH SNAP’ – You don’t know the word!”

Actually watching the kids working their way through the challenge (while all of us in the audience are jumping out of our skin with nervousness and tension) is an amazing thing. They seek the origin of language, ask for definitions and alternate definitions, ask for the word to be used in a sentence and if there are multiple pronunciations. And when they spell it correctly after the cliffhanging eternity of 90 seconds, it is an A-W-E-S-O-M-E sight.
Perhaps my favorite irony of the Bee is that no one actually knows why we call it a “Spelling Bee.” There is no known official origin and the National Spelling Bee Guide discloses this interesting tidbit:

“One of those language puzzles that has never been satisfactorily accounted for” is how they put it. Although there is an acknowledgement that it refers to a community social gathering in which friends and family gather for a single activity. The similarity to a beehive community seems to be secondary but obvious.

So if you missed your chance to watch this year – take my word for it and don’t miss it next year. It’s worthy of your time and you won’t be disappointed.

And by the way, FOX News had the Spelling Champ O’Dorney on the air today. Want to know what he did to show off…

Spell difficult words? Solve daunting math problems? Play piano concertos?

Nope. He juggled balls in the air perfectly on live television!