Sunday, June 9, 2013

Cunningham's out of prison... look out, Arkansas and/or Florida!!

This past week, my former Congressman, Randall 'Duke' Cunningham, was released from Federal prison after serving an eight year, four month sentence for bribery, with about a year cut off the sentence for good behavior while in prison. It was the longest prison sentence ever handed out to a Congressperson up to that time.

"The Dukester" was a fighter pilot in Vietnam. Cunningham is credited with five victories in an F4 Phantom jet, including shooting down North Vietnam's own top ace. Cunningham earned two Navy Crosses, a Purple Heart, and "Flying Ace" status. He was the highest-scoring American pilot in the war with five victories and was (and is) the last American "ace." There will never be another, because American drones and "smart" bombs will target and destroy any opposing air force before the fighter pilots on either side have even had a chance to preflight their planes. Some day, laser weapons will beam down from satellites and high-altitude platforms more efficiently and more effectively. So Cunningham is America's last ace. Too bad he turned criminal.

At the time of his sentencing, Cunningham was called the nation's "most crooked" Congressman (and there are always soooo many contenders for that title!). Cunningham was a bribe-taker, a liar, a paranoid people-controller, an arrogant trouble-maker who was elected to represent my district for more than a decade, and who made millions of dollars letting the government pay extra money -- hundreds of millions of dollars -- for shoddy work on no-bid contracts, or even for no work at all. And oh yes, he supported San Onofre, the biggest mistake in southern California's history.

Cunningham is now free for what he has called his "last flight into the wild blue yonder" (SD U-T). Cunningham intends to live either in Arkansas or Florida. Cunningham will: "be on probation or supervised release at least for the next three years" (Fox-5).

The Dukester has beaten the system once again. Along with him, his co-conspirators have also continued to get away with their crimes and cover-ups. The terms of Cunningham's original sentencing included that he must "confess to all crimes committed while in office" or words to that effect. All kinds of things popped out once Cunningham was convinced to talk,but one thing didn't come out: An attempted murder/suicide in his final days in office.

My wife and I were the victims of his most evil plan of all.

On November 25th, 2005 at about 8:35 pm in San Marcos, California, Congressional Representative Randall "Duke" Cunningham attempted to commit suicide by smashing the car he was driving (a 2004 Chevy Tracker, a model which was originally known as a Suzuki Samurai) head-on at high speed into the one I was driving (a 2000 Honda Passport SUV). Cunningham almost succeeded, but ended up hitting the rear of my car.

The Honda Passport is bigger and slower than the Chevy Tracker, but I had a five-speed manual transmission and about 206 horsepower to work with, and knew from reading the owner's manual years ago that the "power range" for the engine is around 4,500 RPM. Always read your owner's manual.

At first, I observed Cunningham's car swerving wildly in front of us, and pointed him out to my wife and slowed down. Next thing I know, the oncoming car had straightened out -- but in my lane! I started to make a quick lane change to my right (it was a five-lane road, with two going his way, a turn lane in the middle, and two lanes going my way -- I started in the left lane, next to the turn lane in the middle).

Cunningham was about two football fields away at this point. I got about half way into the next lane over when I realized he was tracking my maneuver and still gaining speed. "Okay, buddy, if you want THAT lane you can have it!" I said, or thought, and maneuvered to the left into the lane I was originally in.

He followed me back to the original lane. We were now barely a single football field apart and he was already traveling about 50 miles an hour and continuing to gain speed.

In a head-on collision, if either car or the cumulative closing speed of both cars is more than about 50 miles per hour, air bags will not have time to inflate.

I could not out-maneuver Cunningham. I could not turn anywhere: There were no side streets, and various things blocked a complete exit off-road (a berm or wall on one side and, as I recall, a fence on the other side).

At this point, I was going very slowly. He was gaining speed and closing the distance rapidly. I felt a sense of hopelessness as I ran out of options. I said, "Oh Jesus."

Okay, maybe I said, "Oh Geez..."

But somehow the call got through. Suddenly I was calm and knew exactly what to do.

I could still outwit the old drunk.

Training made the difference: He wasn't using all of his, and just a few months earlier I had learned how to avoid this exact sort of event. As lucky as it seems, that August my local cable channel had aired a locally-made driver training video, by a comedy driving school instructor (Steve Verret, who also does comedy for our troops). I had kept a scrap of paper with his name and phone number from when I watched his videos, and although I couldn't find him or remember his name, when I found the scrap of paper about six months after the accident I knew exactly what it was right away, although it had no label. I called the number and thanked him for saving my life, my wife's life, and, "the life of an unnamed assailant named Randall Cunningham." We've been friends ever since. I've (voluntarily, so far...) taken his drivers' ed classes -- as well as his "Bible for Dummies" classes, which he also gives. Again a stroke of luck (or providence): When I was a kid my grandmother, deeply religious, had brought me to a Billy Graham revival, and I recall thinking, at about the age of eight, "If there's a God, I want him to be Jesus." I didn't give the matter much thought after that and didn't go to church (and still seldom do). But my gasp -- my prayer -- was answered, and I've been thankful for every day ever since.

I had bladder cancer about 5 years ago, but the surgery was successful, it hasn't recurred. I've been fighting to shut down the San Onofre nuclear power plant, spending thousands of hours every year for many years, and have written countless essays about nuclear power. We've just won that battle -- it was announced two days ago that San Onofre is being decommissioned. Now we need to solve the waste problem. That's much harder that closing a nuke.

Since Cunningham's failed suicide/murder attempt, the most wonderful things have happened in my life. I found, and lost, a boy who is, nevertheless, like a son to me. He made me realize how enjoyable children are, and I've straightened out other "troubled" youths since meeting him. To work with children seems to be a calling now, and it's certainly the most wonderful experience I could ever have lived for. The letter shown below is about one such youth, and by now I have received dozens of letters and comments about kids who have been influenced by my book about nuclear energy, or by my presentations, videos or conversations. I love kids, but until one called ME "dad" and wanted to outsmart me in everything (and succeeded), I was unaware of how much fun they are. I now run a non-profit which seeks to prevent bullying -- by adults, parents, or other children -- of weaker children, of geeks, of anyone "different." The different ones are, of course, often the most gifted ones, too, but in any case, they deserve our protection.

A few years after "The Cunningham Affair," I was punched in karate school improperly right between the eyes and just above the nose, by a trainee with dangerous and illegal equipment. He actually meant no harm; it was just an amateur wrong decision, but it cost me dearly. His rock-solid punch during a belt "test" a few months into training gave me headaches for six weeks, made my eyes hurt, and now they hurt when I cry -- and I do cry sometimes. But the "good news" is that it seems to have also altered my personality in ways everybody prefers to the "old" me.

I changed my name to "Ace" from "Russell David" Hoffman because Cunnningham, that old fool, was an "Ace" in Vietnam, and as one veteran said to me about the incident shortly after it happened, he must have been "back in 'Nam" at the time -- and high on about a dozen mood-altering drugs the Capital psychiatrist had prescribed for him (yes, they really did have such a person back then, and perhaps they still do). Every time I jinked, he jinked. Every time I jagged, he jagged. What he couldn't do was out-maneuver a driver who had seen what Cunningham was driving and knew its capabilities, and who was willing to wait until Cunningham had gained enough speed and was close enough that I had a maneuverability advantage. I had to wait and do nothing, or he would know my intent and win. Then I gunned it straight for him, and at the last moment turned to one side (I chose to go towards his side of the road).

Cunningham's front passenger side corner hit my rear passenger side corner -- as I had planned, as much as anyone could plan such things. The impact tore off a piece of his car (which I collected off the road).

I saw the other driver briefly as he flashed by. The following Monday, I recognized him on TV, as he resigned from Congress on other charges. I told my wife who I thought the attacker was. Suddenly watching him resign on live television, we "understood" why the 911 call had failed to produce any response.

At the last possible moment it was his choice, he could have easily turned his car away, but he chose to hit the rear of my car, which was exactly what I expected and wanted, so that he wouldn't go do the same thing to the next car he encountered, which was some way back.

Had he not collided at all, there would be no record of the incident but with the two paints intermingled, he could (theoretically, with police help) be tracked down. But police help was not forthcoming. We went back to the police station a number of times, and worked our way up and down ladder of responsibility, writing letters to the Attorney General, the U. S. Attorney, the judge in the case, etc.., but Cunningham was always given a free pass for this crime. However, it is interesting that U.S.A. Carol Lam was fired shortly thereafter on flimsy excuses. (She now has a cushy job as an executive of a large local company.)

Her role in this matter is not small. The incident occurred the Friday night after Thanksgiving. It turned out Cunningham had cut a deal with Lam to resign from Congress the following Monday, but he had decided to try to kill himself -- and take out two of his own constituents with him -- instead. Cunningham was almost surely being followed by the FBI at the time of the incident. The car was found abandoned about a mile away.

Cunningham still hasn't admitted the incident happened, or said who helped him home that night. I believe the federal government is ultimately culpable for Cunningham's behavior, since, among other reasons, he was under treatment by the Capital psychiatrist. There should be a whole scandal about how psychiatrists handle patients who tell them they are suicidal -- in this case, it was handled by giving him more drugs that were known and are still known to induce suicidal thoughts in some patients!

I made an animation of Cunningham's "final" (WE HOPE!) attack, which is available at my web site under the "links" button, viewable on any computer that can run Adobe Flash. It's called "Seven Seconds in San Marcos" (URL below).

It's too bad Cunningham has been let out without fulfilling the terms of his agreement to confess to ALL his various crimes. He's asked for permission to have a gun, but was refused. Will he be given a driver's license? I hope not! I also hope he's not allowed to come to California for the rest of his life, or associate with any police or FBI agents that were involved in his evasion of responsibility. Lastly, his refusal to confess to his involvement in this incident makes me wonder what other crimes he might be holding back from mentioning to the feds, even after promising to cooperate.

Someone mentioned that I had beaten an ace in a (two-dimensional) dogfight. My mom and dad, who have now passed, both agreed that I had earned the new name and were happy with the change. My step mom's cool with it, too. My dad was a veteran of combat in the European theater during World War II (his unit took part in the relief of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge). He helped me uncover Carol Lam's agreement with Cunningham that they had made earlier in the same week that Cunningham attacked my wife and I.

So far, the media have considered the story "too hot to handle." They're all itching to interview Cunningham -- the least they could do is ask him about it (again and again until he lets something slip).

Now that San Onofre is closed and all we have is an enormous pile of deadly waste to handle, it's time to start finding the people that supported this mistake in government, as well as the corporate executives who chose nuclear energy over wind power, conservation, and solar energy. It's time to hold them accountable for the radioactive waste problem their decisions created.

Meanwhile, the media should be asking Cunningham who helped him get away with attempted murder of two of his constituents in a failed and foolish suicide attempt. Was he back over the skies of Saigon in his mind? Does he plan to go THERE again? What medications is he on now? What foolish and impulsive things did he do in prison? Why is he out when he hasn't confessed to all his crimes while in office, as promised?

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

URL for "The Cunningham Affair" documents and animation (instructions on how to avoid a suicidal driver intent on killing you are included in the animation):


The world's most rewarding experience is turning a kid around:

Ace -- just want to send you a sincere thanks. Before you started interacting with ....., he was having serious problems in school; he was getting mostly D's on his report card and I was getting called frequently about missing assignments and bad behavior. Since you lent him the bike books and got him interested in the mechanics of bikes, his grades have risen to all A's and B's. he uses the books for everything; essays about favorite books, science essays, book reports -- you name it! You have had a great impact on a young man who really needed it. Even though these words are inadequate -- thank you.