Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dear RIAA: You Custer. Us Crazy Horse.

Thanks, RIAA! Now what the people are doing with your labels' music isn't stealing anymore. It's a political protest.

And I say
"Power to the People!"

When the recording industry resorts to treating its customers like common criminals for ripping CDs they've bought onto the hard drives of computers they own, as detailed in this Washington Post story, it's time to engage in political acts aimed at bringing down those corporate tyrants:

Despite more than 20,000 lawsuits filed against music fans in the years since they started finding free tunes online rather than buying CDs from record companies, the recording industry has utterly failed to halt the decline of the record album or the rise of digital music sharing.

Still, hardly a month goes by without a news release from the industry's lobby, the Recording Industry Association of America, touting a new wave of letters to college students and others demanding a settlement payment and threatening a legal battle.

Now, in an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry's lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are "unauthorized copies" of copyrighted recordings.

"I couldn't believe it when I read that," says Ray Beckerman, a New York lawyer who represents six clients who have been sued by the RIAA. "The basic principle in the law is that you have to distribute actual physical copies to be guilty of violating copyright. But recently, the industry has been going around saying that even a personal copy on your computer is a violation."

RIAA's hard-line position seems clear. Its Web site says: "If you make unauthorized copies of copyrighted music recordings, you're stealing. You're breaking the law and you could be held legally liable for thousands of dollars in damages."

They're not kidding. In October, after a trial in Minnesota -- the first time the industry has made its case before a federal jury -- Jammie Thomas was ordered to pay $220,000 to the big record companies. That's $9,250 for each of 24 songs she was accused of sharing online.

WHAT I WOULD LIKE to know is this: How many people use iTunes software? How many have used it to rip their CDs onto their computers? How many people have music on their iPods that originally was on a CD they bought?

Now, does the RIAA think it can lock us all up? It might get some of us, but the ones it doesn't -- and that number will be legion --
will kill the record labels dead.

Book it.

You act like you're George Armstrong Custer. We
are Crazy Horse. And we buy WhoopAss by the case.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Patti Smith makes sense of this week


Um hmm. Yes, she does.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Reason 23,498,211 why Haugen ditties
have no place before the altar of God



Young people are spiritually and culturally impoverished today because they don't know hymn singin' like this from squat. They have been cheated because this is not part of their patrimony.

They lack intangible but sweet knowledge of the reality of God because they do not hear -- in their heads and in their DNA -- Odetta and Tennessee Ernie Ford singing praises to Jesus, and they do not know how even the hardest hearts can crumble before the power of beautiful voices singing old hymns.


MY PARENTS never darkened the doors of a church unless there was a coffin in the center aisle. But they had a copy of Tennessee Ernie's "Hymns," and his voice echoes in the head of this son of the South, and he is singing "Softly and Tenderly" and "The Old Rugged Cross."

God works in mysterious ways, and you didn't have to spend much time in church to know there was majesty and truth in the grooves of that old LP.

Today, I worship in the modern-day Catholic Church in modern-day America. More or less, that church in this country has s***canned 2,000 years of culture, art and musical majesty in favor of liturgical lounge lizardry by hack composers with disproportionate egos.

NEVERTHELESS, at the altar, the bread and wine still become Jesus Christ's Body and Blood. And in my head and in my heart, I still hear Tennessee Ernie singing to a God Who is still greater than ourselves.

Amen.

Gathering cobwebs


Just checking in long enough to enunciate the obvious . . . that posting is light this week. The world might have taken down the Christmas tree and gone back to work and put away the holiday feast like that really ugly-ass tie you got from Aunt Hortense, but we haven't.

Because Christmas is 12 days long, you know. And Mrs. Favog has the week off.

Also, the next couple of days partially will be spent attending a wake and a funeral. And hugging old friends because I still can, you know?

Sooooooo . . .
put another nickel in the Revolution 21 jukebox and listen to the Christmas show one more time this week for New Year's.
Epiphany's a ways off yet.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Of Christmas gumbo and 'offering it up'


It's the wee hours of Christmas morning. The Christmas Eve chicken -and-andouille gumbo is in the fridge, the Christmas Eve guests are long gone and Midnight Mass is long over.

Christmas music plays on a Canadian station on our old Zenith, and I've just polished off a bottle of Cabernet. So I'm sitting at the computer, pretty much alone with my thoughts. And my memories.


THIS CHRISTMAS has been strange, to say the least. From the Omaha mall massacre to the passing of a young friend, it's been impossible to shake the specter of death looming over this season of joy. For so many here this holiday season, it has been a time of profound loss.

And in the dark and quiet of this Christmas morn, we take time to mourn, to recall those who live now only in our hearts and memories. . . .

Once again as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Will be near to us once more
EVERY CHRISTMAS EVE I make a huge pot of gumbo and we throw open the doors to whomever wants to share in the largesse. It's my attempt to keep alive a tradition from my mother's side of the family in Louisiana, when my grandma -- and later my Aunt Sybil -- would cook up mass quantities of chicken gumbo and put out trays of sandwiches, relish, fruit cake and bourbon balls.

It seems like Aunt Sybil used to cram something like 100 relatives into her and Uncle Jimmy's tiny house in north Baton Rouge. I come from a family of loud, argumentative people -- it's a Gallic thing -- and opening the door to that caffeine, nicotine and highball-fueled yuletide maelstrom was more than a little like
having front-row seats at a Who concert.

Without earplugs.

WHEN AUNT SYBIL and Uncle Jimmy moved out to the east side of town after my grandmother died, they gained some square footage. I'd like to think, though, that what the holiday gatherings lost in regards to that sardine je ne sais quoi, they made up for in "only in Louisiana" weirdness.

Like in 1983, when my brand-new Yankee bride learned first-hand that William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor weren't making that s*** up.

Everything started out normal enough, ah reckon -- taking into account, however, that this was south Louisiana. You know, 87 quintillion relatives (the identities of some of whom, I had only the fuzziest of notions about) all talking at the same time. Loudly.

Of course, Mama assumed my bride had received full knowledge of all these people along with the marriage license. My bride, for her part, may well have been wondering whether she could get an annulment and a refund on the marriage license.


And then Aunt Joyce -- second wife of Mama's baby brother, Delry, whose first wife was mentioned only after spitting on the ground (or so it seemed) -- had a "spell."

IF WE HADN'T FIGURED this out by the trancelike appearance, the eyes rolled back into her head,
and full knowledge of her bad heart, we would have been tipped off by everybody running around the house yelling "Joyce is havin' a SPEYUL!"

There could have been a fire, resulting in great carnage -- or something like that -- if Cousin Clayton hadn't been there to grab Joyce's burning cigarette.

Ever hear the song "Merry Christmas From the Family"? (And you would have if you'd listened to the Christmas edition of the Revolution 21 podcast.) Robert Earl Keen ain't
making that s*** up, either.

Anyway, 20 people crowding around her announcing that Joyce was havin' a spell brought my aunt around after a fashion . . . and the show went on. At least until Aunt Sybil died some years back.

The sane one in my family, Aunt Sybil was the ringmaster of family togetherness, probably because she believed in "Baby, you got to offer it up." Everybody else . . . well . . . didn't.

TWENTY-FOUR YEARS after Aunt Joyce had a spell and Mrs. Favog got a masters in Southern Gothic, almost all of my aunts and uncles are gone. And I make my Christmas Eve gumbo up here in the frozen Nawth for friends who like exotic fare and funny stories about Growing Up Louisiana.

Then we go to Midnight Mass, being that Mrs. Favog and I are Catholic now, in no small measure because of Aunt Sybil and Uncle Jimmy, wild gumbo Christmases and "Baby, you got to offer it up."

After we were confirmed in 1990, the wife and I got a package from Aunt Sybil and Uncle Jimmy -- a Bible, his and her Rosary beads, and a crucifix. The biggest gift, though, was one they never knew they were giving.

Someday soon, we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then, well have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Big Show's Xmas song list

Here's the lineup for this year's Christmas extravaganza on the Revolution 21 podcast.

The holidays: They're, uh, different here. Enjoy.


Bing Crosby & Judy Garland
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
1950 radio program

Bing Crosby & the Andrews Sisters
Jingle Bells
1943

Bing Crosby
Adeste Fideles
1942

Aaron Neville
O Holy Night
1993

Alison Moyet
The Coventry Carol
1987

Campbell Brothers
Silent Night
2001

Dodie Stevens
Merry Merry Christmas Baby
1959

Lou Rawls
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
1957

Elvis Presley
Blue Christmas
1957

Joss Stone
All I Want for Christmas
2007

U2
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
1989

Stan Freberg
Christmas Dragnet
1953

Jackson 5
Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town
1970

Bruce Springsteen
Merry Christmas Baby
1986

Ohio Players
Happy Holidays Pt. 1
1975

Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions
Amen
1964


Harry Connick, Jr.
I Pray on Christmas
1993

Joan Baez
Oh Happy Day
1976

John Lennon
Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
1971

Robert Earl Keen
Merry Christmas From the Family
1994

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas. Here's the show.

Here's the Christmas 2007 episode of the Revolution 21 podcast. Just when you think you know where this show is going, it's going to humble you bad.

Just my Christmas gift to you.
Tee hee hee!

IN ALL SERIOUSNESS, a blessed Christmas season to you all . . .
may your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white.

Thanks, Mr. Berlin.

Oh, and here's something to hold close this Christmas. It's probably the most beautiful and profound carol ever written -- O Holy Night by Adolphe Adam, to the French poem, Minuit, chrétiens by Placide Cappeau:

Oh holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angels' voices!
Oh night divine, Oh night when Christ was born;
Oh night divine, Oh night, Oh night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Behold your King.

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Au revoir, pas adieu


Our young friend, Chris Rudloff, lost his fight last night, about the time I was uploading that last post.

Chris was a special young man with a gleaming future ahead of him . . . ahead of them, Chris and the love of his life, Abby. It was just in May that we attended their wedding, then partied through the night in celebration of their future together.


WE JUST DIDN'T KNOW -- couldn't have even believed -- that future would be this damned short. It's not right, and it's not fair. Of course, not a damned thing about life is fair. Death, either.

I write this through my tears this cruel Christmastime, and nothing breaks my heart more than to think that, at such a young age, Abby is living the worst nightmare of any woman who looks upon her husband and sees the love of her life.
And of any man who desperately loves his wife and knows -- absolutely knows -- that it's all true when he calls her his "better half."

Likewise, it goes without saying how devastatingly wrong it is for any parent to bury a child.

This week before Christmas, I don't feel like decorating the tree. I don't want to do a Christmas edition of the Revolution 21 podcast. Particularly for us in Omaha, this season of good tidings and joy has brought in a harvest of death.

And now this for those of us who knew Chris and loved him.

WE WILL, however, decorate the tree. I will now get to work on putting together a Christmas podcast, though it may be a little late. It is necessary to celebrate the baby who came into the world to conquer death.

It is because of that first Christmas, that joyous day so long ago when God became man, that we now tell our friend Chris au revoir. Not adieu.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

It's not supposed to be this way

In all of my wife's and my years of helping out with youth group at our Catholic parish here in Omaha, there was one band of brothers who were absolute stalwarts in "Connections."

That would be Justin, Chris and Joel. Teen-agers aren't supposed to be that dependable . . . or universally good-natured . . . or selfless . . . or faith-filled, for that matter. It gets your attention when you run across the likes of Justin, Chris and Joel.

Mrs. Favog and I had the pleasure of watching this trio of eventual Eagle Scouts come into the high-school group as 14-year-old kids -- first Justin, then Chris a couple of years later, then Joel a couple of years after that. More than anything, you remember two things. First, that they were always there, and you could always count on them. Each of the three even worked in the church office.

Second, you remember knowing from the first time you saw them that they were going to grow up to be good men. God knows that's not nothing, not today. It's a lot.

OVER THE YEARS, amid the teen-age hustling mob, we watched Justin fall in love with Annie, then stand beside her right after graduation as she fought cancer. We always knew they'd get married, and they did -- we rushed to make it to a hurried ceremony at church, hours before Justin shipped off to Iraq.

He came back in one piece, finished his hitch, and then we watched as yesterday's high-school kids became parents of a dear little girl.

Likewise, we watched Chris grow into a fine young man and fall in love with Abby. I think "Connections," in some mystical Catholic way, must be some kind of institutional Yenta.

And this summer, after Chris' graduation from college, we all gathered for Chris and Abby's wedding. Of course, Joel -- the youngest sibling, now a newly minted paramedic -- was the life of the party.

A couple of us old farts reminded Joel that we
would blackmail him, just as soon as his future children were old enough to hear stories about their old man.

And after the honeymoon, Chris was off to optometry school in Philadelphia, where his bride would join him this winter after her graduation.

NOW CHRIS lies in grave condition in a Philly hospital, having fallen victim to something they call Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome. Today, the updates have gone from
so-so to catastrophic.

It's not supposed to be this way: Chris and Abby have their whole lives together before them.
Bright futures, successful careers, perfect children.

Grave illness is for middle-aged fat men like me. It's for those of us who have the luxury of thanking God for the grace of a life well lived, or mourning over roads not taken and opportunities squandered.

It's not fair that hopes and dreams, future years of marital love and generations to come should teeter upon some existential precipice, shakily tethered to this world by IV drips and a ventilator. There's something horribly and frighteningly wrong with this picture.

It's one of those mysteries we Catholics keep talking about. I've faced them before, real close to home. Now we face another.

And I hate it.

Please, if you have a moment, say a prayer for Chris and Abby. They need them so much, and life is so unfair.

Barbarians at the gate



With friends like this, as this Times-Picayune video demonstrates, poor folks in New Orleans are SOL.

These aren't "activists," and they aren't "progressives." What they are . . . are barbarians.
At the gate.

The fear of being associated in any way with uncivilized, anarchistic trash such as this is why I'll never call myself "progressive." I prefer last New Deal Democrat standing, myself.

In the case of New Orleans' homegrown idiots and professional
mau-mauers -- not to mention Slacker Nation that showed up in "solidarity" with them -- "progressive" couldn't be more ironic a moniker.

I'd say these fools are positively
regressive. Regressive all the way back to Attila the Hun at the gates of Rome.

Martin died for fools like this?

I guess the TV lady's stories weren't on today.

Instead, Sharon Jasper was at the New Orleans City Council meeting screaming "racist" at a white man who favored demolishing four of the city's housing projects in favor of mixed-income developments.


LATER, Jasper complained to the council that opponents were being treated "inhuman" and that she liked to have nice things, like anyone else.

She said she grew up in the projects, and her family always had nice things, because they wanted live well. She said that, in her now-abandoned apartment in the projects, she had a side-by-side refrigerator-freezer.

Because she likes nice things. Like her 60-inch TV. Inside the publicly funded apartment she occupies. Because she doesn't have the money to actually pay rent herself.

I guess it's racist to suggest that if you don't have the money to pay rent, you don't have the money to be buying big-screen televisions.

Hell, I would like a big-screen TV. Unfortunately, we have this thing called a "house payment." Unlike Sharon Jasper, the unwitting spokesmodel for What the Hell is Wrong With New Orleans. Well, at least a sizable chunk of what's wrong with New Orleans -- and a big, big part of why the rest of America has had it up the wazoo with the Crescent City.

You don't believe this ex-Louisianian who now lives in the Midwest? Check out the comboxes for any story having anything to do with Katrina and federal aid for New Orleans.

Can anyone say "extreme sense of entitlement"? How about "extreme outlook-reality disconnect"?

Then again, we're all just racists. Unlike the saintly souls engaging in a near-riot outside City Hall and the ones inside the council chamber shouting down council members and brawling with police.

Attacking police officers. At the city council meeting.

HERE'S A BIT of The Times-Picayune's liveblogging on the contentious council meeting way down yonder . . . in America's Chechnya:

11 a.m.: Meeting begins after several people ousted from chambers

The council finally opens the meeting, with the customary pledge to allegiance and the playing of the national anthem. At this time, several people have been removed by police, including rapper Sess 4-5, who when asked for his real name by a reporter, replies, "F---- off."

The chamber is filled and quiet, after the fracas that broke out in the center of the chamber near the podium.

10:54 a.m.: Protesters scream as they are forcibly ejected

Protester Krystal Muhammad is carried out of the chamber by a group of police and deputies. She screams repeatedly. "I'm not a slave!" she shouts. A second woman is also forcibly removed, as Fielkow calls the meeting to order, one hour late.

"Next time you'll be asked to leave," an officer tells the remaining crowd. "Plain and simple."

The Rev. James Smith gives the invocation: "May we never be lazy in our work for peace. May we honor those who have died in defense of our ideals....Help all of us to appreciate one another."

10:50 a.m.: Fights break out, police struggle to maintain order

A struggle breaks out in council chambers. Police officers race to break it up. At least three people are ejected, as shouting fills the chamber. A woman slaps at a cameraman's lens, drawing his ire.

"Security, security," Council President Arnie Fielkow says into the microphone. "If you do not obey the rules, you must leave."

Krystal Muhammad shouts out, "I'm not going nowhere."

10:42 a.m.: Protesters boo council members

Several protesters greet the council members with boos and slurs. Krystal Muhammad calls Council Member Stacy Head a racist. Head responds by blowing a kiss and waving to her.

Muhammad keeps shouting. "Stacy Head, she's the real devil in charge!"

Jay Arena shouts, "Jackie Clarkson, you're a sell-out."

10:37 a.m.: Council finally enters to howls from audience

Council members begin entering the chamber.

"Bring your coward selves out here!" Krystal Muhammad shouts. "Let the people in here. We've got plenty of seats in here."

Muhammad, who says she is with the New Black Panther Party, calls out to the council members: "You no good sell outs. I bet your house is still standing!"

10:30 a.m.:Lawyer criticizes council for limiting audience

City Hall officials stick by their earlier statement that they are limiting the crowd to 278 for safety reasons. Council members still haven't entered the room. The meeting was set for 10 a.m.

Attorney Tracie Washington accused officials of changing the rules for the public housing crowd.

"That's retarded," Washington says to Peggy Lewis, clerk of council. "You have to let these people in. You've got 800,000 police here. Ain't nobody going to do anything in here."


10:22 a.m.: Both sides wait for meeting to start, words exchanged

"I'm for the demolition and rebuilding," says John Ales, 42, a cook who lives in Mid-City. He is the man seated behind Sharon Sears Jasper, who minutes earlier had called him a "racist white man."

Meanwhile, the council members have yet to enter the chamber. A man is shouting in front of a bevy of video cameras about the homeless problem and how he is from public housing. "All of us are getting screwed," he shouts.

10:15 a.m.: Audience told they must take a seat, tempers flare

The meeting hasn't started yet. Council members haven't entered the chamber.

Civil sheriff's deputies continue to try and keep order, telling the people inside that they may not stand during the meeting and that everyone must have a seat. Tempers flare in one section of the chamber.

"You're a racist white man," Sharon Sears Jasper, a former St. Bernard complex resident shouts at a man seated behind her.

"Ma'am, the color of my skin isn't the issue," the man replies.

"Stop the demolition! Stop the demolition!" several people start chanting.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My television is a 33-year-old Sony

UPDATE: I humbly thank Michelle Malkin and other bloggers who have linked to my little takedown of the TV Lady. It's been a big 24 hours for the Revolution 21 website. Geez, I'm not even a conservative . . . except when it comes to social issues.

But while you're visiting Revolution 21's Blog for the People
, I beg you to read this and this -- a pair of entries far more consequential than anything I might have to say about someone so petty and, ultimately, unimportant as the TV Lady. Until and unless the TV Lady comes to love Jesus more than she hates whitey, there's not much that can be done for her.

LIKEWISE, until and unless all those in New Orleans like the TV Lady get a clue and get some perspective -- and this goes double for all those who use the TV Lady as cover for hating the poor, African-Americans or both -- there isn't much hope for a beautiful and once-great city. In that case, history will take care of them all. And all our outrage and witty takedowns of ungrateful morons really won't change anything and, thus, are unimportant.

In the grand scheme of things, for each one of us and for the good society we wish to build, what's important is
this. And this.

We need to encourage young men and women to be like what I write about
here. And here.

And we must mourn when the good die young. What once were important pieces of our hope suddenly aren't there anymore.

While cutting loose on scoundrels like the TV Lady can be important and instructive, cursing the darkness isn't nearly so important as lighting candles. Before you read my post about the TV Lady, I beg you . . . go
here. And here.

Help people -- especially young people of every color, gender, class and ethnicity -- become good men and good women. Celebrate them.

And, as I do now, weep bitter tears when we lose them. God bless you, and merry Christmas.



This is rich. The public-housing Don Quixotistas down in New Orleans are chaining themselves to buildings scheduled for demolition and blockading federal offices to keep The Man from tearing down any more housing projects.


THEY CITE the need for affordable low-income housing post-Katrina but, the thing is, hundreds of rehabbed public units are going begging for tenants, according to local housing authorities. And the poverty petri dishes scheduled to come down got that kiss of death long before New Orleans got swamped.

From The Times-Picayune:

As housing activists continued to protest the proposed demolition of four public housing complexes, federal housing officials provided new details Tuesday about hundreds of public housing units available across New Orleans, with dozens of units ready for occupants in the B.W. Cooper, the former Desire and the Guste developments.

Housing officials said hundreds of private apartments where disaster or Section 8 vouchers can be used are also available to help meet the needs of displaced public housing residents, both in the short and long term.

Meanwhile, activists staged a protest on the steps of City Hall, saying procedural snags, as well as extra costs for utilities and security deposits, put those options out of reach for many poor people. Furthermore, some alleged "slum" conditions at those properties, and they have said they don't trust housing officials to make good on promises of mixed-income redevelopments that will welcome the poor.

Federal Department of Housing and Development officials said the local public housing supply outstrips demand. Currently, 1,762 public housing units are occupied and nearly 300 are available or within weeks of being ready at eight Housing Authority of New Orleans complexes and at scattered housing authority sites.

Another 802 public housing units across the city are being repaired and will be put to use in the coming year, housing officials said.

(snip)

If the council approves demolition, mixed-income developments would open at the St. Bernard, B.W. Cooper, C.J. Peete and Lafitte sites within months. In addition to the total of 900 public housing units, the three complexes would include 900 market-rate rental units and 900 homes for sale at the four long-standing public housing sites, according to current proposals. Many of the homes for sale would be reserved for first-time home buyers, with financial subsidies designed to allow former public housing families to become property owners.

But the target of 3,343 public housing units in New Orleans is a flashpoint because it represents a drop of about one-third from the 5,100 units occupied before Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

As the city repopulates, housing officials say, other demands for housing can be met through use of vouchers that can be used for private apartments, the quality of which is in dispute. HANO officials say they inspect private units, more than 500 of which are listed on the housing authority's Web site, but activists say poor conditions in many units deter renters.

SO WHAT GIVES? Apart, of course, from the existential angst of spoiled white kids for whom wearing Che Guevara T-shirts is not enough.

Beats me. It must be a New Orleans thang. Poor folks up here in Omaha want the projects gone.

Then again, maybe the core of lifelong public-housing tenants the Don Quixotistas seem to be advocating for have developed a taste for dungheaps, and they demand to live in dungheaps in the old 'hood, and they further demand that taxpayers pay for them to live in dungheaps in the old 'hood.

Or else.

If this woman interviewed in the
Picayune is any indication, affordable housing is not the biggest problem here:

Sharon Jasper, a former St. Bernard complex resident presented by activists Tuesday as a victim of changing public housing policies, took a moment before the start of the City Hall protest to complain about her subsidized private apartment, which she called a "slum." A HANO voucher covers her rent on a unit in an old Faubourg St. John home, but she said she faced several hundred dollars in deposit charges and now faces a steep utility bill.

"I'm tired of the slum landlords, and I'm tired of the slum houses," she said.

Pointing across the street to an encampment of homeless people at Duncan Plaza, Jasper said, "I might do better out here with one of these tents."

Jasper, who later allowed a photographer to tour the subsidized apartment, also complained about missing window screens, a slow leak in a sink, a warped back door and a few other details of a residence that otherwise appeared to have been recently renovated.

At the City Hall protest, a crowd of people railed against "privatization and gentrification of the city," saying it would be a mistake to raze well-built public housing at a time when so many people need affordable housing. One of their leaders, Loyola University law professor Bill Quigley, said it's appropriate that advocates for the poor from across the country have gathered in New Orleans to help fight the demolitions.

"This is a national scandal," he said.

THESE ACTIVISTS ARE NUTS. See the picture above this post? Sharon Jasper sitting in her "slum house."

With her 60-inch, high-definition TV.

I think that apartment looks pretty good. I wish
my house looked that good. I wish I had a 60-inch HDTV, too.

This is a picture of a TV just like the one we have in our living room, a 1974 Sony KV-1203:


I MUST ADMIT, this is our small television. The "big" television in the basement family room is a 1984 Sony 19-inch stereo model. We were so proud that we had the scratch to buy such a nice TV back in the day.

Maybe we ought to have demanded that the citizens of Springfield, Mo., (where we lived then) just buy a fuggin' Sony stereo television for us. And pay for our apartment --
which was NOT as nice as Sharon Jasper's -- while they were at it.

I'll tell you what. If the "slum lady" really thinks she'd be better off living in a van down by the river -- or in a tent across from City Hall . . . whatever -- don't let your slum apartment's warped door hit you in the ass as you hightail it to Nirvana.

And I'll take your "slum house." I'll even fix the faucet and hang a new door.

ALL I NEED is for somebody in New Orleans to hire me and my mad language and radio-production skillz for a fair wage -- enough to make rent, eat food and pay my bills.

Oh . . .
while I'm thinking of it, Sharon, could you leave the big-ass TV for the wife and me? I mean, after all, there ain't no electricity down there at the homeless encampment.

You wouldn't even be able to watch your stories.

Mother of the Year

Pity poor Lynne Spears. She might have to work for a living now that one showbiz kid is a chemical-dependency spokesmodel -- so whacked out that she neither can hang on to her kids nor her drawers -- and the other gravy train is with child.

At 16.


And on top of all that, the hootchie-mama mama has seen the Thomas Nelson publishing house, which used to be known for Bibles, shelve her guide to good parenting,
Pop Culture Mum.

Yes, all
this is true. Even Brit Brit doesn't have big enough of a stash for me to go on that wild a flight of fancy. Ditto for the news sources cranking out the stories on what happens when you move a south Louisiana trailer park to Malibu.

Actually, it's pretty much the same thing that happens when the trailer park stays down on the bayou. Only with more paparazzi and fewer pickup trucks.

THIS SOUNDS MEAN, I know. Thing is, though, having grown up in Britneyland, I've seen this tired act for as long as I can remember from people different only in that nobody wants to buy their CDs or watch them on TV --
unless, of course, they turn up on an episode of COPS.

And just to what,
pray tell, do you liken such as this:

Jamie Lynn is the star of Nickelodeon’s hugely successful “Zoey 101,” and her future there — and income — are up in the air. Nickelodeon issued a statement to TMZ on Tuesday saying, “We respect Jamie Lynn’s decision to take responsibility in this sensitive and personal situation. We know this is a very difficult time for her and her family, and our primary concern right now is for Jamie Lynn’s well being.”

As for whether she’ll return to the show, Jamie Lynn told OK!, “I don’t know, I don’t know.”

“I don’t know how she can go back,” said the family friend. “And, what’s worse for the Spears is Britney doesn’t want to be a part of that Spears gravy train any more. That’s part of why Britney is freaking right now. With Jamie Lynn to focus on, she [Britney] was no longer the family’s only focus, and their only hope for income."

At the end of the day it also doesn’t help the Spears image that the father of the baby is Casey Aldridge, 19, who met Jamie Lynn in church and started dating her when she was only 13½. “Lots of people have been worried that this relationship was moving too fast. I guess there was a good reason to worry,” said a friend of the Spears family.
LET'S SEE. Not only did Lynne Spears let her 13-year-old daughter date -- a recipe for trouble right there, and I don't give a damn that they met in church. No, she let her barely-teen-age daughter go out with a 16-year-old.

Who had Jamie Lynn good and knocked up less than three years later.

If the pattern holds once Jamie Lynn moves back to Louisiana for a "normal life'' -- read: "I want me a pickup and a pack of Marlboro Reds" -- the girl could be one hot grandmama at age 32.


She could fellowship after church with all the other grammaws and complain about "the niggers down in New Orleans." Irony often is lost on the folks back home.

YES, AS SOME PEOPLE much holier than I am have said, it's good Jamie Lynn isn't going to kill her baby. Then again, there are lots of ways to kill a kid -- only a few of which actually involve physical death.

Maybe that's one way Thomas Nelson can retool that book by their Mother of the Year. Package it with a carton of hot-pink WWJD condoms.

Trust me, it'll be big.

Ah reckon it runs in the fambly

I just went to confession Monday. I must be Christian about this.

This happens all the time, and I must take the beam out of my own eye before I. . . .


AW, HELL! I just can't hep it! I gotta post this. And, alas, I must note that it would appear that the Bud Light empties don't fall far from the double wide.

KnowwhatImean, Vern?

At least according to the MSNBC story:

Another Spears baby is reportedly on the way — and it’s not Britney’s.

Jamie Lynn Spears, the 16-year-old “Zoey 101” star and sister of Britney, told OK! magazine that she’s pregnant and that the father is her boyfriend, Casey Aldridge.

“It was a shock for both of us, so unexpected,” she said. “I was in complete and total shock and so was he.”

Spears is 12 weeks along and initially kept the news to herself when she learned of the pregnancy from an at-home test and subsequent doctor visit, she told the celebrity magazine, which hits stands in New York on Wednesday and the rest of the country by Friday.

What message does she want to send to other teens about premarital sex? “I definitely don’t think it’s something you should do; it’s better to wait,” she told the magazine. “But I can’t be judgmental because it’s a position I put myself in.”

(snip)

Another person who might not be so thrilled by the news? Britney. A source close to the pop princess told TMZ.com that Jamie Lynn’s older sister is “frantic” over the news. The Web site reports that Britney may not have been aware of the news until today.

Jamie Lynn plans to raise the baby in her home state of Louisiana — “so it can have a normal family life.”

A republic . . . if you can keep it.


From the New York Times, which the usual suspects will trash as being partisan and unreliable, somehow working the name Jason Blair into the rant no more than three sentences in:

At least four top White House lawyers took part in discussions with the Central Intelligence Agency between 2003 and 2005 about whether to destroy videotapes showing the secret interrogations of two operatives from Al Qaeda, according to current and former administration and intelligence officials.

The accounts indicate that the involvement of White House officials in the discussions before the destruction of the tapes in November 2005 was more extensive than Bush administration officials have acknowledged.

Those who took part, the officials said, included Alberto R. Gonzales, who served as White House counsel until early 2005; David S. Addington, who was the counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney and is now his chief of staff; John B. Bellinger III, who until January 2005 was the senior lawyer at the National Security Council; and Harriet E. Miers, who succeeded Mr. Gonzales as White House counsel.

It was previously reported that some administration officials had advised against destroying the tapes, but the emerging picture of White House involvement is more complex. In interviews, several administration and intelligence officials provided conflicting accounts as to whether anyone at the White House expressed support for the idea that the tapes should be destroyed.

One former senior intelligence official with direct knowledge of the matter said there had been “vigorous sentiment” among some top White House officials to destroy the tapes. The former official did not specify which White House officials took this position, but he said that some believed in 2005 that any disclosure of the tapes could have been particularly damaging after revelations a year earlier of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Some other officials assert that no one at the White House advocated destroying the tapes. Those officials acknowledged, however, that no White House lawyer gave a direct order to preserve the tapes or advised that destroying them would be illegal.

The destruction of the tapes is being investigated by the Justice Department, and the officials would not agree to be quoted by name while that inquiry is under way.

Spokesmen for the White House, the vice president’s office and the C.I.A. declined to comment for this article, also citing the inquiry.

The new information came to light as a federal judge on Tuesday ordered a hearing into whether the tapes’ destruction violated an order to preserve evidence in a lawsuit brought on behalf of 16 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The tapes documented harsh interrogation methods used in 2002 on Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, two Qaeda suspects in C.I.A. custody.



Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Which do you like better?


OK, I'm mad at the insensitive and unresponsive technocrats who run my blog host. But I don't have to take it anymore.

As I said in the last post, I was able to hack the code to make things display more or less like they're supposed to. Then again, the resolution of the headers now is much degraded, which -- to me, at least -- looks unprofessional and bush league.

On the other hand, I am still able to embed the Revolution 21 podcast on the blog.

So, the question is put to the jury of y'all readers; Which do you like better? This version of Revolution 21's Blog for the People on Blogger . . . or this version on WordPress?

At least one inquiring mind wants to know.

Technoslaves

Why is it that, amid all the "ease" and "freedom" I'm afforded by modern technology, I've spent massive chunks of the past three days trying to make this blog look like I want it to?

The way it used to look.

HOW COME after Blogger allegedly made a change to how you post blog headers -- making it so simple that anyone can do it -- I can't do it? Because when you try, the header no longer spans the width of the layout.

And that's where the "ease" technology brings to our lives led me to get comfortable enough with CSS to try to figure out where -- and how -- to hack the design template of this blog. If you were wondering about the non-existent posting Monday, that explains it.

Now the header looks like a JPEG blown up just too dang big, even though it's not. But at least it's the right size.

Of course, this being the age of customer antiservice, Blogger never notified anyone about the pending change. We all found out when our blogs started looking funny.

Saturday, folks thought it was a glitch. By Sunday, word leaked out on the "help group" that it wasn't a glitch, it was policy.

To screw over God-knows-how-many blogs out there on the "Internets."

Research, tinker, repeat. Then learn to live with less than what you had. That's "progress" for you.

IT WASN'T THIS WAY in 1979. Back then, if you were a "Jack of all trades, master of none," you were doing pretty good.

Twenty-odd years ago, all I needed to be "expert" at was writing and editing. To achieve a measure of expertise in that, I went to college and got a journalism degree. Then I got a job being an "expert" doing that at which I was . . . expert.

Now I'm doing this. And while I can cover the writing, and the editing, and the audio production and the talkin' into a microphone and playin' tunes . . . I don't know squat about CSS coding when Blogger clobbers the blog half of the Revolution 21 media empire.

Just another thing to learn to fake your way through in an age where customer support -- or even caring about the customer at all -- is just me standing high above Long-Ago Acres, taking in the wistful vista. Now I will add my dubiously mad coding skillz to my computer-networking skillz and computer-retooling skillz.

How life gets complicateder and complicateder the further away I get from 1979 . . . when you didn't even have to know how to use a computer if you didn't want to.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

What the hell did you think he meant?


These people didn't have to die.

But they did, because this story in the Omaha World-Herald today proves we've learned absolutely, positively nothing in the wake of Virginia Tech.

AND THAT staggering stupidity -- at least on the part of one Bellevue, Neb., houseful of nimrods -- meant there would be . . . had to be an Omaha massacre. Godamighty, I hope there's something the cops can charge these fools with.

Read the following by Lynn Safranek and Paul Hammel and weep:
Robert Hawkins spoke about shooting people in large places before he did just that, killing eight people and wounding three more at Von Maur, according to police documents filed Friday in Douglas County District Court.

The family that took in Hawkins was concerned about the threat and discussed kicking Hawkins out of their home, the documents state.

Those details were released Friday in a search warrant affidavit. Two other search warrants were made public Thursday.

Omaha police executed the most recently released search warrant on Hawkins' 1995 Jeep on Dec. 5 — the same day as the Von Maur shootings.

The affidavit, written Dec. 5 by Omaha Police Officer William Fell, shows for the first time that Hawkins may have expressed homicidal thoughts involving strangers before the rampage.

According to the affidavit, Kraig Kovac, 17, told officers of Hawkins' statements. Kovac is the son of Debora Maruca, who had let Hawkins, 19, live in a bedroom in their home for the past year.

A man who answered the phone Friday at Maruca's home in the Quail Creek neighborhood west of Bellevue said that what police wrote in the affidavit was not true.

"This allegation — I don't know where it's coming from," he said. The man declined to comment further and did not give his name.

Omaha police presented the affidavit — a written report explaining the grounds for a search warrant — to Douglas County District Judge Gregory Schatz, who then authorized investigators' search of Hawkins' vehicle.

Lt. Alex Hayes, the Omaha police detective directing the Westroads investigation day to day, said that in the days before Hawkins went to the mall, the teen talked about having "a standoff." Hayes said Hawkins had talked often about suicide and about shooting people in large places.

"At this point in the investigation, we can't say anyone specifically knew something they could have acted on," Hayes said.

According to the search warrant affidavit:

While Omaha police were investigating the shooting on Dec. 5, Kovac approached officers at Westroads Mall and said he had information about what had happened.

Kovac told Omaha Detective Doug Herout that Hawkins lived at his home with his mother, Debora Maruca, and older brother.

Kovac said he had seen some of Hawkins' writings that described committing suicide "in a place with a large number of people."

In the last couple of days, Hawkins also had been "acting strange" and spoke of "going out and shooting people in large places."

Scared, Kovac told his mother what he had seen and heard. The family began considering kicking Hawkins out of the home.

Blogger stinks . . . oh yeah, here's the show

We've been preoccupied with Blogger's suddenly not seeing fit to let folks design their blogs the way they like, so the show didn't exactly get posted. Until now.


Still preoccupied. Show . . . oh, yeah . . . psychedelic stuff to start, an eclectic set in there.
Commodores. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Punk punk punk. Tractor punk from Omaha, Sit-on-This-Here-John Deere-and-Spin, Yuppie Boy, Nebraska.

Stuff like that. Yeah. Listen or else.

I'm outta here.

Whatever.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Friends don't let friends elect dopes


In my hometown, there's a school system that let one high school get so run down over the past couple of decades that it -- quite literally -- is falling down around the students within. That these students are among the best in the state only makes an embarrassing situation even more so.

A COUPLE OF MILES AWAY, this school system has let another high school become such a run-down dump that it had been scheduled for demolition and reconstruction. But now, in order to save the first school, the second school just might have to be put out of its misery altogether.

Did I mention that School No. 2 serves a predominantly underprivileged student body? And already has had its music and drama programs gutted?

What a mess. Which makes it just another day in the slow death of public education in Baton Rouge, La.

There are 300,000 stories in the Stupid City. Unfortunately, The Advocate's Koran Addo has
yet another one of them:
One school’s potential closing begets another school’s reawakening, some students protesting outside of Lee High School indicated Thursday.

Wearing red “Save Our Schools” T-shirts, dozens of Lee High students and faculty assembled outside the school, rallying against a school district panel’s proposal to renovate Baton Rouge Magnet High School and temporarily house its 1,250 students at Lee High. Under that proposal, the Lee High student body would be absorbed into other schools — a proposition that had Lee High student protesters saying they feel like renters facing eviction.

Wayne Alexander, 17, a Lee High senior, described his years at the school as “sensational.” He said Lee High’s distinctiveness — including students from 37 countries — could not be duplicated should the proposal take effect.

“You won’t find another school with this kind of diversity or with the programs we have,” he said. “I’m not knocking any other school, but why close Lee? It’s like taking us from our home.”

One of the rally’s organizers, Lee High social studies teacher Brandon Levatino, said rumors and misinformation about the school’s possible closure fueled anxiety from students who decided they wanted to demonstrate.

“A month ago, we were told Lee was going to be rebuilt; two weeks ago, we heard we were being closed,” Levatino said.

“Now we’re working on a deadline, trying to have our voices heard before the School Board has a final vote.”

The proposal was discussed Nov. 29 at an East Baton Rouge Parish School Board presentation on possible school construction. If approved by voters, construction would be funded by a renewal of a 1-cent sales tax plan. The School Board is expected to finalize construction plans by Jan. 4 — the last date to safely get the proposal on the March 8 ballot.

Lee High alumna Tiffany Theriot, who has two children enrolled at the school, said she attended Thursday’s rally to represent the parents who would have liked to have been there but had to work instead.

Theriot said the proposal pits children from low-income families against more-affluent children. As evidence the school system plays favorites, Theriot cited Lee High’s loss of band, choir and drama programs in recent years while similar programs flourish at other schools.

“The School Board looks at test scores and they look at parents’ incomes and they think we’re disposable,” she said. “As parents, we’re like silent partners: They want us to be seen and not heard.”

WELL, MS. THERIOT can take small consolation that her kids aren't much more disposable than the "smart kids" at my alma mater, Baton Rouge High. The school board is nothing if not an aggregation of equal-opportunity screw-ups.

Then again, that's how what passes for public policy gets accomplished in my home state. Neglect, dismiss, ignore . . . then panic and create unnecessary conflict when ignoring no longer works.

And no one has quite figured out, anyway, how BRMHS' 1,300 students are going to fit in 800-capacity Lee High. That, however, is the best option all the board's horses and all the board's men can come up with for putting Baton Rouge High back together again.

UNTIL THE PROPOSAL to screw over Patriots to save Bulldogs, however, the best plan Superintendent Charlotte Placide could come up with was a lame impression of a bad door-to-door encyclopedia salesman:
"You wouldn't want to donate a building for a temporary school, would you? I didn't think so."

Or, as an earlier Advocate story put it:

Placide said her biggest problem remains unsolved: Finding an alternative place for more than 1,200 students to go to school for two or more years while the high school is being renovated. Placide put out a call in July for help finding such a place.

“We need you to help us find a location that is not cost prohibitive,” Placide said.

WHOA! Now that's inspiring. I can't understand why people aren't rushing to help.

Actually, what I can't understand is why the school board and the city-parish aren't working in tandem on this issue. Why Placide and Mayor-President Kip Holden aren't taking the initiative and not only finding temporary quarters, but talking area businesses and civic leaders into helping pay for it -- for the greater good of Baton Rouge.

Oh, sorry. That's what would happen here in Omaha, where there actually is a functioning civic culture and some concept of "the common good," as opposed to my hometown's perpetually fragmented, disorganized, disgruntled and warring neighborhoods, interest groups and racial mau-mauers of all hues.

Here's a news flash, Smiley: If your state sucks, there's generally a good reason -- or good reasons -- why.