Careful! A Scout looks for the bright side of things. He cheerfully does tasks that come his way. He tries to make others happy.Summer inevitably brings with it a new batch of horrible menaces for the news media to warn us about in an orgy of over-reporting that makes every heat wave feel like a dramatic reading of the Book of Revelations. In a given summer no day will pass without reports of some unspeakable calamity waiting to befall each and every unwitting citizen. Some of these menaces appear every year like clockwork. During most summers the entire Western half of the United States is consumed by a giant forest fire that rages unchecked across all of our national parks to consume multi-million dollar houses in Beverly Hills. The coastal waters surrounding our beaches will seethe as millions of sharks converge to rend pulsating hunks of meat from the thighs and backs of our precious nubile teens. As temperatures soar the elderly and homeless will plummet to pavement that some goofball reporter will literally fry an egg on.

This year we have had all of those along with the nail-biting search for that idiot girl who disappeared in Aruba. Much has already been written about Natalie Holloway here on Something Awful but I would just like to take a moment to mention that a few days ago I saw a ten minute report on CNN about a search team finding a barrel off the coast of Aruba. They interviewed this old dude who was helping and showed intense footage of incompetent volunteers struggling to haul the barrel out of the water. It took them hours and when they finally got it out they discovered that the barrel was full of…dun dun dun…concrete!

Not only did they find a whole lot of nothing, but the national news media actually lavished attention on the event of them finding nothing. This wasn't even happening live, CNN knew the barrel was full of concrete when they decided to go to air with the interview of the dude who led the valiant search and rescue effort for the concrete barrel. At this rate I expect to be reading New York Times op-eds from fishermen who catch boots and loops of fishing line.

Natalie Holloway, shark season, and wildfires aside, this is fast becoming the summer of the Boy Scout. Five Boy Scout troop leaders, a volunteer, and a Boy Scout have been killed in the past week. Four troop leaders died when they were erecting a tent and dropped a metal pole onto a power line. Later a volunteer at the jamboree died from a heat-related heart attack. The other troop leader and the Boy Scout died during a lightning storm.

Doin' my duty to God and country.Most of these deaths occurred at the annual national scout Jamboree being held in Virginia. After the incidents President Bush scheduled a trip to visit and console the Boy Scouts. This did not go as planned.

More than 300 Boy Scouts were sickened by the heat Wednesday while waiting for President Bush to arrive at a memorial service for four Scout leaders.

Soldiers carried Scouts on stretchers to the base hospital, and others were airlifted from the event.

Although that article doesn't mention it, Bush cancelled the visit due to a possible thunderstorm in the area while the Boy Scouts dropped like flies from the heat because of Secret Service orders to be seated and waiting two full hours before Bush's arrival. That's not really Bush's fault, but it sure adds insult (and more injury) to injury for the long suffering Boy Scouts. When Bush finally showed up he gave a solemn speech to the increasingly depopulated Jamboree.

``As Scout leaders, they devoted themselves to helping young men develop the character and skills they need to realize their dreams. These men will always be remembered for their leadership and kindness, and you Scouts honor them by living up to the ideals of the Scouting they served.''

Only, not really. I admit to being a Boy Scout for several years growing up and the leadership, at least in my area, consisted of the following types of people:

Proud Father of a Boy Scout (AKA the only kind of troop leader you can somewhat trust)

This guy has a son in your troop and he's just there because they either needed a troop leader or because he's a buttinsky and didn't think the existing troop leaders were doing a good job. He will spend 75% of the time coaching his son and the rest of it will be devoted to leading the troop in activities at which his son excels. If you're lucky his kid will be good at normal stuff and if not get ready to spend six troop meetings learning how to stitch a civil war uniform from a pattern. The good side to the father troop leader is that he's probably not that creepy or only marginally creepier than the average adult male who obsesses over his son and has to see him succeed where he previously failed in life.

The Survivalist

The survivalist just loves to go camping. He knows how to kill, skin, and cook wild animals with his pocket knife and he tries to impart woodsy wisdom in the troop. He seems awesome until you realize that being a troop leader is his only job and he makes troop meetings run extra long in the winter because otherwise he's sleeping on the street. Whenever you go on a campout any good survival gear the Scouts bring will end up disappearing and this guy is probably to blame.

Great work guys. Hop in there and see how itThe Sexual Predator

Hey, guess what, we're going swimming again! Again? Yetttttthhhhhh! I was fortunate enough to never have a sexual predator in my troop but in the small town I grew up in two different troops had troop leaders kicked out of the Boy Scouts for sexual impropriety. I don't think any charges were filed which means they probably bribed a bunch of Proud Fathers with piles of merit badges for their kids.

The Loser Enthusiast

Similar to the Survivalist, the Loser Enthusiast is probably gainfully employed at a gas station or house of pancakes and spends his off hours earning extra scratch at the Boy Scouts to keep his unfinished basement fully stocked with model trains. Often the Loser Enthusiasts will take the Boy Scouts much more seriously than any of the kids do and without providing them with any motivation to take it seriously other than his veiled threats and wooden encouragement. He will probably spend almost all of the time organizing dubious "fundraisers" where the kids have awesome life-shaping tasks like "selling soda" or "begging for money."

Mr. Meltdown

The most exciting troop leader is Mr. Meltdown. He will seem like one of the few good troop leaders until suddenly he gets a phone call from his wife and he spends an hour screaming obscenities into the phone. Mr. Meltdown's personal life is in absolute shambles and you will quickly learn that he became a troop leader for no other reason than to vent his frustrations on a gaggle of adolescent boys. Some times he will simply lecture on why his wife is a whore and others he will be ridiculously short-tempered, screeching the f-word over and over when Johnny Slowlearner doesn't immediately pick up on a square knot. Mr. Meltdown inevitably only appears as troop leader for a year or so before he either gets thrown out for hitting one of the Scouts or he disappears only to have his wife come and ask if anyone has seen him in the past few days. Then later you read in the paper that he shot himself out in the woods that he loved to scream at you about so much.

Cretins and the dregs of society leading America's youth. Maybe the Boy Scouts have changed for the better over the past ten years, but I seriously doubt it. I can't fault the President for speaking about the dead troop leaders being remembered for "their leadership and kindness." I didn't expect him to get up on the stage and say "I bet these guys were giant tools who died because they weren't following the detailed rules they spend weeks uselessly yelling at a bunch of apathetic kids about."

Speaking of apathetic kids, my troop was no MENSA meeting either. We had the kid who got arrested for eating ice cream out of the container at the grocery store. We had the kid who was walleyed and kept his head moving all the time trying to find some unattainable pinnacle of equilibrium. We had the kid who never washed his uniform and smelled like pickles. We had these and many others, but we were all united in our Boy Scout ideology: the burning hatred of the Eagle Scout.

If you're not familiar with Boy Scouts the Eagle Scout is like the king Boy Scout. He's older than everyone else, probably a junior or senior in high school, which means he's already creepy because no normal high school kid is in the Boy Scouts. He is also arrogant and exceedingly lazy. Our Eagle Scout was this immensely fat kid named Chet with a uniform covered with merit badges who sat in this separate air conditioned room watching TV and eating Pop Tarts while we had our troop meetings. Occasionally our troop leaders would pry his bulk out of the separate room to serve as a shining example for what we would become if we just put our mind to it.

Almost every single troop meeting that involved our Eagle Scout degenerated into one of the rest of us making fun of Chet until he screeched and summoned the troop leader to punish us. Citizenship badges were hard won no thanks to our antagonistic relationship with Chet. Our troop leaders were extremely disinterested in organizing troop outings. They were obsessed with our participation in fundraising events but when it came time to plan a camping trip we usually spent six weeks vaguely talking about it before anything actually happened. The rest of the time was spent learning hellishly inane by-the-book Boy Scout bullshit about how to erect a tent (don't drop a tent pole on power lines) or how to identify edible berries in the woods. The thing is we never left our ramshackle troop meeting spot except on campouts, so we didn't ever learn anything unless we were on a campout. And we almost never went on campouts.

I only attended one of the national Jamborees but it was an orgy of failure. The troop leaders I met were all creepy, the kids were all disinterested, but we were by far the least motivated and least educated of the bunch. We were like the Boy Scout equivalent of a penal battalion. We erected our camp site next to a lake and on our first hike we returned to find all but one of our tents floating in the lake. It was well after dark by the time we were almost done fishing them out of the lake and about then the three kids who had disappeared in the woods during our hike showed up, thanklessly saving our troop leaders from criminal prosecution. One of the kids in our troop managed to ignite his hand during a bonfire and he spent the whole Jamboree moaning in pain and oozing into bandages when he probably should have been at a hospital getting skin grafts. Our Eagle Scout contracted dysentery somehow and ended up sobbing in front of the entire troop without his pants on because he had shit himself. We never saw Chet again. By the end of it I think our fundraiser-addicted troop leaders would have welcomed a freak lightning storm.

This summer of deadly electricity menacing the Boy Scouts of America should serve as two lessons. The first is that the Boy Scouts need to get their shit together and start following their own elaborate safety rules. The second is that you probably shouldn't become a Boy Scout or encourage your children to become Boy Scouts because they're going to be chaperoned in dangerous situations by a bunch of lazy goobers who are prone to killing themselves.

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