Since the North American Aerospace Defense Command was locked down to the public in April 1999 -- when NORAD brass decided that allowing the great unwashed into the top-secret base in Cheyenne Mountain posed a security threat -- only military personnel have been permitted beyond the three-foot-thick steel doors. Military personnel, and Aaron Carter.
Although older brother Nick Carter, one-fifth of the Backstreet Boys, recently released a solo album, the "Little Prince of Pop" finally one-upped his bro when the fifteen-year-old was invited to tour the base and then selected as the first "official" celebrity voice of NORAD Tracks Santa.
Starting early every Christmas Eve, NORAD turns over its operations to charting Santa's gift-delivery progress. Expert NORAD technicians use radar and satellite to pinpoint the jolly old soul's exact location, updating it constantly on the Tracks Santa Web site (www.noradsanta.org). Once the sleigh pulls into a country, SantaCams are positioned to capture images of Rudolph and the rest of the reindeer on their route. "The most fun is when our fighter pilots get to intercept Santa and escort him," says Canadian army major Douglas Martin, deputy director of NORAD public affairs. "He goes so fast."
But this year, Santa will have some help: Carter will give live Web updates as images from the SantaCams are downloaded.
"I wanted to add an interesting novelty of having a celebrity be a part of NORAD Tracks Santa," explains Major Martin. "I'd heard a rumor that years ago, big names had helped out with voices. I was told Ronald Reagan's voice was once used, but I've never been able to confirm it."
And the natural leap from the former president was to...a towheaded singer who once left a band at age seven, saying, "They wanted to do alternative music, and I wanted to do more pop." Since then, Aaron has seen his albums go gold overseas, been included on the 1999 Pokeman soundtrack and even opened a Britney Spears show.
Screaming fans the world over can thank Major Martin's thirteen-year-old daughter for bringing Carter's voice to NORAD. "Aaron was not on my radar scope for who I would pick," Martin admits. But it didn't take much to convince Dad that Aaron was a "good kid with lots of CDs" known in the United States and Canada. (The Martins left Canada for Dad's NORAD post on Canada Day -- July 1, 2001 -- and arrived in Colorado on July 4, 2001. On purpose.)
So, how is Honorary Lieutenant Carter at tracking Santa? "He does have basic skills -- not like some of our seasoned veterans, but he could pick out Rudolph's nose on the radar," Martin says. Aaron also happens to be a "pretty patriotic young fellow," he adds. "My joy of joy was when I met him and found that he was a nice kid. I was concerned -- I mean, you don't know how fame goes to a person's head."
To Nick Carter's, for example, who was arrested for resisting arrest after a fight last January. Or to Carter sisters Billie Jean and Angel (Aaron's twin), who were also arrested after a nightclub fight. Hey, kids, remember: Santa knows if you've been naughty or nice.
And so does Aaron.
Season's bleatings: When last we heard from Rick Stanley, Libertarian candidate for Colorado's contested U.S. Senate seat, he was promising to start a super third party -- drawing on this state's Libertarian, Green, Constitutional, Natural Law and Reform parties, as well as anyone else who wanted to sign up -- right after the November 5 election. That is, if he didn't pull off a surprise upset victory over incumbent Wayne Allard and Democratic challenger Tom Strickland.
But four weeks -- one of them spent in Maui -- after the election in which he snagged less than 2 percent of the vote, Stanley's adjusted his aim (and his title, since he now bills himself as "Colorado Constitutional Liberty Activist/Organizer"). Rather than organize a giant third party, he's going for an "unaffiliated voters' bloc" -- the better to avoid "government intervention" in the project. "After further review, I decided this would be a smarter move for us," he explains. "It unties our hands. We're going to help unaffiliated and third-party candidates get elected. We're going to help them through the whole process."
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So far, about 75 people have expressed interest in getting involved -- and Stanley's hoping to stir up more support at a Colorado Coalition of Independent Political Parties gathering on December 8 at the Auraria campus. The closeness of the 7th Congressional District race -- where Republican Bob Beauprez narrowly edged out Democrat Mike Feeley, with those results still subject to a mandatory recount -- shows the important role that Colorado's nearly one million unaffiliated voters can play. "They don't know the power they have," says Stanley.
But Stanley knows that one voice can make a difference -- and he was back shooting off his mouth this past Tuesday in Thornton Municipal Court, where he appeared for a third time on weapons-violations charges. Thornton police had arrested him on September 7, when Stanley was campaigning at the Thornton Harvest Festival, his .357 Smith & Wesson at his side. Stanley is contending that Judge Charles Rose has no jurisdiction over him, and he'll be back in Thornton January 29 to say why.
In the meantime, Stanley's gun-ordinance conviction in Denver is on appeal. He'd been sentenced to six months in jail on that charge, with the sentence postponed first for his campaign and now for the appeal. But Stanley isn't waiting around: He's planning to file lawsuits in both cases in federal district court. And in his spare time, he's also planning the Million Gun March for Washington, D.C., on either July 4, 2003, or July 4, 2004. (He's not setting a firm date until he's sure that a million march supporters have signed up -- which they can do on his Web site, www.stanley2002.org.)
"I'm very active as a constitutional activist," Stanley says. "But you probably figured that out already."