Thursday, December 31, 2009

Should old acquaintance. . . .

This is how the holidays roll in my city, Omaha.

Downtown, we have the Holiday Lights Festival. But at the Durham Museum in the old Union Station, you'll find the Mother of All Christmas Trees (above).

Yes, Omaha is an old railroad and cow town. Then again, that isn't -- and wasn't -- necessarily a bad thing.

THERE WAS grandeur in old cow towns, if only you looked for it. In Omaha, a good place to start was the fabulous art-deco Union Station.

And what's great about old railroad and cow towns all grown up is that, sometimes, we remember the grandeur in our midst and preserve it . . . restore it to its full measure.

Then, especially at Christmastime, we revel in glories past -- glories restored for the present and the future.

To many Americans on the coasts, cities like mine are "flyover country," hardly worth a mention or a thought.

Their loss.

THERE ARE many reasons to visit the Durham Museum all through the year -- in January, it's wrapping up a fantastic Smithsonian exhibit of the poster art of Nashville's Hatch Show Print from the past century.

It's not a poster show; it's the cultural history of the South and the country displayed through hand-set advertisements run off one by one on the printers' old letterpresses.

Ernest Tubb. Minstrel shows. Stock-car races. Johnny Cash. Porter Wagoner. Elvis Presley at the beginning.

But I digress.

THE REAL STAR at the Durham -- at the old Omaha Union Station -- when the cold wind blows and the days grow pitifully short . . . is Christmas. The whole holiday season, where the past is present and its glories point toward the future, too.

It's grand. It's parents introducing their children to the magic, and those children introducing their children to the magic some fine day when the present has faded into the rosy glow of "when I was your age."

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne ?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
and surely I’ll buy mine !
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
Happy New Year.

Give me some peanuts and Cracker Jack

Old Rosenblatt Stadium ain't dead yet, but the family's thinking about the wake.

The wake, of course, will be the 2010 College World Series -- an oddity, being that the wake will precede the old baseball stadium's actual demise sometime in September, with the end of the Omaha Royals season.

MEANTIME, Omaha already can see the flashy downtown slickster that's going to replace the old girl in South O, starting with the 2011 CWS. At left is the view from 13th and Cuming streets of the new TD Ameritrade Park.

What's amazing -- at least to me -- is how quickly the site has gone from a Qwest Center Omaha parking lot to an excavation site . . . to this. "This thing really is gonna happen" quickly has gone from an intellectual exercise to a concrete-and-steel reality.

AND HERE'S the view from beyond what will be the right-field seats, while below is a close up of the work on the grandstands and luxury suites.

YOU KNOW, it's starting to look like a real city around these parts. Play ball!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

In the year 2025 . . . will K-Yuck
and the Daily Blab still be alive?

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The past 10 years has been the decade of "disruptive technology."

And the easier the tech is for your average clod to use, the more disruptive it has been, is and will be in the decade to come. See "search engine, Google" and "iPod, Apple."

FROM A series that began Sunday in the Omaha World-Herald:

“In the year two thousaaaaaaand!”

That cry heralded one of Conan O'Brien's recurring late-night gags in the '90s, in which he listed ludicrous predictions of how the world would change in the new millennium.

In the year 2000, O'Brien said, political correctness would dictate that the term “homo-sapiens” be changed to “alternative lifestyle-sapiens.” Also, for no apparent reason, the color green would be renamed yellowy-blue.

Who could've guessed he wasn't being absurd enough?

Just 10 years ago, we lived in a world that didn't recognize the phrase “reality TV.” A world in which, for all we knew, Paris Hilton was a French hotel. It was a time before steroids killed baseball, before iPods killed CDs.

It's not just the simple stuff that's changed. Terrorism, war, political battles and financial struggle indelibly affected every aspect of our culture, even — or especially — the parts traditionally considered entertainment.

But the question is: What cultural elements will come to define the years 2000 through 2009?


1. Google

You know what another good name for Google would be? The Internet's oxygen.

Google, the Internet search engine founded in 1998, is about as omnipresent as things get online — it's always around, it's absolutely essential, and like that odorless gas we breathe, its importance is pretty easily ignored if you're not paying attention.

Beginning with its fast, accurate and thorough search, the GooglEmpire (it's not a word, but it should be) has grown to include Google Maps, Gmail, Google Earth, Google News and endless other incarnations, innovations and creations.

Face it, it's Google's Earth. We just live on it.

2. iPod

It's a simple gadget, basically an empty — albeit pretty — hard drive and some white headphones. And yet, in just a few short years, Apple's iPod (first released in 2001) has staged a cultural coup and completely changed the way we listen to music.

As much a feat of marketing (joyous, bright musical commercials) and marketplace genius (iTunes, the most convenient music store ever) as it is beautiful hardware, the iPod forced the music industry to change its focus from albums to singles, and from CDs to online digital files. Two-hundred twenty-five million sold, and music may never be the same.

MAYBE I should revise my lede on this post. What if we only think the "noughts" have been the decade of disruptive tech? What if the first tenth of the 21st century only has set the table for the real disruption to come?

What if 2000-2009 has been high-tech's figurative working over of traditional media's midsection, with the odd jab here and there to newspaper's snout and broadcasting's swollen right eye?

And what if the next 10 years delivers the uppercut that finishes the job that started with the last 10 years of "softening up"?

Muhammad Ali, meet Steve Jobs.

Jobs, the brain behind Apple, bloodied and staggered radio and the record industry with the iPod and iTunes. And now, it looks like he's about to either save or kill off newspapers and magazines with Apple's long-rumored "tablet" computer.

Personally, I wouldn't even consider that Apple's tablet will save newspapers, but I mention the possibility because the analyst in the MSNBC video above did. He apparently has much more faith in traditional media's ability to embrace and adapt than I do.

DID I mention the age of tablet computing probably will be the death of radio, too? Just ask former radio man Jerry Del Colliano:

In my opinion when this device is debuted -- not if -- it will be the most successful consolidation of media ever -- far more successful than radio consolidation.

Apple will likely allow music, movies, email and web browsing. Some call it a potential Kindle killer because it is likely to compete in the book reader category that Amazon's Kindle has started.

This is purely out of the Apple playbook.

Let someone else test the market and they come in with a cooler, more intuitive device with a back structure that includes Apple's massive and growing iTunes store.

I've heard that the new device may also include a PDF reader making it a phenomenal choice for professional people (doctors, lawyers, disc jockeys -- sorry, I'm partial to radio djs) as well as an ideal replacement for student textbooks.

How popular do you think Apple will be if municipalities everywhere could stop ordering textbooks and have students access digital books through the iTunes store?


Let me be blunt.

If radio is not actively engaged in iPad content, it is over even sooner than the ten year life radio has left.


Older consumers will also migrate to the iPad. They showed a willingness to embrace the next generation's new tools when they adopted email, texting, Facebook and iPods to name a few. This will be no different.

The new iPad will be their own personal media device. Their bookstore. Their TV.

And radio's answer to simply stream terrestrial audio won't work here. In fact, radio needs to get video. And I'm not talking about a studio cam aimed at the morning dj (if they still have one).

The iPad is something very exciting and the only industry that has talent in place to occupy that space is the one industry that is firing all its talent.

You know who.

The iPad will be bigger than the iPod and iPhone but for radio and the music business it will be the iPlop if they don't get into the future right.


What we have today -- and what already is wreaking havoc on traditional media -- are version 1.2 devices, essentially. An Apple tablet will be cheaper than a good laptop, as capable as a netbook (and far more capable than a Kindle), easier to carry around than a newspaper and will offer a far more compelling multimedia experience than an iPhone or other "smart phone."

It will be like jumping directly to a version 3.0 device.

Unfortunately, broadcasting and newspapers -- at least those still working in broadcasting and newspapers -- by and large are partying like it's 1999.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Watch out where the huskies go. . . .

Have a houseful of dogs, especially those of the yappy variety? Has your locality just been smacked good by a blizzard?

Are the drifts in your back yard deep enough for Fido to disappear into, never to be seen again . . . at least until spring?

Well, Bucko, Revolution 21's Blog for the People and 3 Chords & the Truth have the helpful hints you needed yesterday.

Follow your host, the Mighty Favog, as he shows off the Wintertime Canine Superhighway of Bidness Doing. All you need to keep your furry friends happy, dry and . . . alive . . . is a snow shovel and the basic knowledge one can gain from listening to Frank Zappa's 1974 album Apostrophe(').

AND ALL you need to remember is "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow":

Dreamed I was an Eskimo
(Bop-bop ta-da-da bop-bop Ta-da-da)
Frozen wind began to blow
(Bop-bop ta-da-da bop-bop Ta-da-da)
Under my boots 'n around my toe
(Bop-bop ta-da-da bop-bop Ta-da-da)
Frost had bit the ground below
(Boop-boop aiee-ay-ah!)
Was a hundred degrees below zero
(Bop-bop ta-da-da bop-bop Ta-da-da)
And my momma cried:
Boo-a-hoo hoo-ooo
And my momma cried:
Nanook-a, no no (no no . . . )
Nanook-a, no no (no no . . . )
Don't be a naughty Eskimo-wo-oh
(Bop-bop ta-da-da bop-bop Ta-da-da)
Save your money: don't go to the show
Well I turned around an' I said:
Well I turned around an' I said:
Well I turned around an' I said:
An' the Northern Lites commenced t' glow
An' she said
(Bop-bop ta-da-da bop . . . )
With a tear in her eye:

WELL, THAT'S ALL your fearless leader has for you right now, my children. So, until next time, this is Mighty (Nanook) Favog signing off.

I-I-I-I'm d-d-d-d-d-d-dreaming
of a w-w-white C-C-Christmas

It's brutal out there -- a full-blown Plains blizzard.

So far, though, God's whole "Enough! Be still and be at peace" initiative through better meteorology is going OK this Christmastide. After a busy day posting the Christmas edition of 3 Chords & the Truth and shoveling the walk and driveway several times, I'm a good kind of tired and remarkably unstressed.

Maybe that's because the blizzard has taken away all the wild expectations surrounding the holiday. It has been stripped to its essentials . . . and so have our lives, for just these few days.

FOR US, at least, the rush to get presents wrapped, etcetera and so on, has been diminished. Holiday entertaining, too.

Today was a day of getting done what needed to be done, managing to get to Christmas vigil Mass while the getting was . . . possible . . . and then making a pot of our traditional Christmas Eve chicken-and-sausage gumbo for a late-night supper for two.

Even though the simple act of getting to Mass involved the driveway-shoveling equivalent of a forced march, it was all good. And the snowy drive to church, truth be told, fell under the category of Things Guys Like.

IN OTHER WORDS, a good challenge. And I don't think God minded that I showed up to Christmas Mass in snow boots and two pairs of sweatpants.

You don't shovel in finery, is what I'm saying.

But now it's really late, I'm exhausted, and it's time to go to bed. Tomorrow -- today now -- is another day, Christmas Day, when we will continue to be still as we scramble to beat back the elements howling outside the door. And suit up to shovel away enough drifts for the poor dogs to go outside and do what dogs do.

JUST CALL me Nanook of the North.

Merry Christmas from snowy, blowy Omaha, by God, Nebraska.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A blessed Christmas to all

O 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,
'Til 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.

-- John Sullivan Dwight

3 Chords & the Truth: Merry Christmas!

'Twas the day before the night before Christmas, when all through the house, the dogs were barking, which scared the dang mouse.

I've done the Big Show with the utmost of care, so at a mere click, 3 Chords & the Truth soon will be there.

The sleet and the snow are blowing, by Ned, while visions of chiropractors dance through my head.

And Bing in his sweater and Elvis in his leather, live again in tunes that fend off the weather.

I PUT ON a record and heard such a clatter . . . they're rocking around the tree, that's what's the matter! So to the hi-fi I ran like a flash, and turned the thing up for the big bash.

It's blowing outside on this white Christmas, but you can have your tropical isthmus. I'll take the cold and the wind and the snow, so long as I can just do the Big Show.

But it's time to stop with the useless chatter, it's music we need -- that's what's the matter. So I'll leave you 3 Chords & the Truth -- Yule cheer, Yule dance, Yule cry . . . just like a youth!

And as I leave you to shovel, here's a wish for 'ya -- that your Christmas is merry, and you'll "Be there. Aloha!"

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Of Christmas gumbo and 'offering it up'

EDITOR'S NOTE: We're waiting for the second round of ice to hit, the blizzard to come for Christmas Eve . . . and I'm pretty sure I have a sinus infection. So during this interlude before getting snowed in -- and then a spate of Christmas digging out from under it all -- I thought I'd rerun a "greatest Christmas hit" from Revolution 21's Blog for the People.

This originally ran early Christmas morning 2007, it's still true, and I find I have nothing more to add to it. So I'm just rerunning this reflection on Christmas gumbo and offering it up. Merry Christmas, y'all.

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"? 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.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Let it O! Let it O! Let it O!

Chances are, this time of year means downtown Omaha looks something like a winter wonderland.

That's especially so this snowy Christmastide. And it's about to get even more that way as we brace for the whitest Christmas we've had in years.

The weather service has issued a winter storm watch for most of the state for Tuesday night through Christmas eve. In central Nebraska, six to 10 inches of snow are possible. In eastern Nebraska, the storm is likely to begin with freezing rain followed by several inches of snow, the weather service said.

Wednesday “will see a whole variety of precipitation -- snow, sleet and freezing rain. It looks like a pretty ugly day,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Tom Kines.

Snow and hard winds will continue through Thursday, with some flurries and frigid wind chills on Christmas Day.

But it's a little too soon to know exactly what's coming.

That shouldn't come as a surprise, given how this year's weather has unfolded. After all, climate scientists are perplexed by autumn's odd weather.

North Platte received more snow in October than it usually sees in an entire year. Across much of Nebraska, October and December have brought near-record cold.

With December's cold came a snowstorm that blanketed much of the United States and brought the nation's midsection to a halt.

Climate scientists say a couple of factors are upending the weather lately. But they hold onto hope for higher-than-normal temperatures in January and February.

“This could turn out to be one of those years when December ends up colder than January and February — at least, I've got my fingers crossed,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Halpert said a North Atlantic weather phenomenon known as the Arctic Oscillation has been playing havoc with the end of autumn.

The jet stream, he said, has shifted farther south than it normally does at this time of year, allowing cold air from Canada and the Arctic to drift down.

“We're not sure why it's doing this,” he said, though “we have some suspicions.”

TONIGHT, the TV weatherman said freezing rain (translate: ice storm) Wednesday changing to snow the afternoon of Christmas Eve, with "several inches" of accumulation by Christmas morning. This could mean we'll be walking -- not driving -- to midnight Mass this year. Or not. It depends.

What it does mean is we'll be pretty much snowed in this Christmas.

See, in a season where we're all prone to rushing around, getting busy, getting frazzled and "Christmasing" ourselves into a state . . . well, God has His way of saying "Stop! Enough! Be still and be at peace."

And, frankly, that the Almighty can do that while dressing our landscape in the finest white garments -- and making everything so jaw-droppingly pretty, especially at Christmas -- ranks among the most fetching of the Midwest's charms.

Brainwashing America, ball by ball

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Obama's Socialist Christmas Ornament Program
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

First, Barack Hussein Obama tries to indoctrinate American schoolchildren into collectivism and "civic responsibility" with a socialistic campaign of propagandistic White House "Holiday balls."

Next, he will ban Christmas altogether and replace it with New Year's music programs, where singing socialists take to the Red Channels to give praise to the Almighty Obama. In Russian.

This is the kind of thing "traitor" Ben Nelson voted for the other day -- abortion, statism and atheism. You just watch . . . comrade.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Look at the demon, not at us

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Nebraska's senior man in the U.S. Senate got the best deal he could where the politics of abortion meets the politics of health care, leaving everybody really, really hacked off.

In fact, if you listen to the Republicans and the utterly politicized pro-life groups, you'd think poor Ben Nelson was lighting the fuse on Apocalypse Now -- the useful idiot, but an utterly devious and malevolent one, from the Great State of Nebraska who just handed Barack Hussein Antichrist Obama the keys to hundreds of millions of good Christian souls.

BUT IF you read The Associated Press' account of things, it sounds a lot less Mark of the Beast-ish:

The Senate compromise was reached after hours of intense negotiation between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and key senators on both sides of the issue.

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., who opposes abortion, had threatened to withhold a critical 60th vote for the bill unless restrictions on abortion funding were tightened. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., represented supporters of abortion rights, who wanted to preserve coverage already available.

Nelson said Saturday that the Senate bill essentially uses different means to achieve the same goals as the House bill, which included tight limits on abortion funding praised by U.S. Catholic bishops.

The health care bill would create a new stream of government subsidies to help people buy health insurance, largely through private plans. The subsidies would be available to those buying coverage through a new insurance supermarket called an exchange. Since abortion is a legal medical procedure now covered by many insurers, activists on both sides mobilized to try to shape the legislation.

The House bill includes Stupak's amendment, which bars plans operating in the exchange from paying for most abortions. The only exceptions would be those currently allowed by federal law. Women wanting coverage for abortion would have to purchase a separate policy.

Reid's bill sets up a mechanism to segregate funds used to pay for abortions from federal subsidy dollars.

No health plan would be required to offer coverage for the procedure. In plans that do cover abortion, beneficiaries would have to pay for it separately, and those funds would have to be kept in a separate account from taxpayer money.

Moreover, individual states would be able to prohibit abortion coverage in plans offered through the exchange, after but passing specific legislation to that effect. The only exceptions would be those allowed under current federal law.
YOU KNOW, I wish the language was a lot more strict, too. In fact, I wish abortion on demand was just flat illegal. And better yet, I wish no woman ever felt so out of options that she'd even consider snuffing out the life of her unborn child.

But in a move that's so shocking as to not be believable -- that is, at least, if you know me -- I'm far too subtle to ever become a professional pro-lifer. Here's what it takes to play with the big boys, as evidenced by the reaction of Nebraska Right to Life:

"There is no pro-life Nebraskan more devastated by Senator Nelson's actions than myself." said [Executive Director Julie] Schmit-Albin. "I have defended his record to Nebraskans and believed that he would stand on pro-life principles as he has on numerous occasions in the past. I have had a good relationship with Senator Nelson and his staff throughout the years . I personally met with him on healthcare in July and in mid-November and have been in frequent contact with his staff over the past six weeks. Just Wednesday afternoon, I was apprised of the Casey language by his staff and I urged them to strongly relay to him that we could not support it. When he rejected the Casey language we were bolstered by that action and believed he would hold firm to his commitment to vote against cloture if Stupak language was not included."

"Moreover, NRL Political Action Committee gave Senator Nelson a sole endorsement in his re-election race in 2006 based on his record and actions both as Governor and Senator." said Schmit-Albin. "It is a very sobering day for myself personally and for pro-lifers across Nebraska and the nation. Senator Nelson obliterated the hope of pro-life Americans who saw him as the last man standing between expansion of government funding of abortion and the Hyde Amendment."
THE CATHOLIC bishops' conference also is less than happy, according to The Washington Post:

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also said the plan was unacceptable, adding in a statement the bill "should be opposed" unless there are changes. "It does not seem to allow purchasers who exercise freedom of choice or of conscience to 'opt out' of abortion coverage in federally subsidized health plans that include such coverage," it said.
UMM HMM. But here's the deal: The "Nelson compromise" is probably the best they'll get without blowing up the whole thing. It's also the closest thing they'll get to what had been floated (not in Congress, notably) as a reasonable compromise -- requiring the purchase of a separate private "rider" policy for abortion coverage in federally-subsidized policies. [Actually, the "rider" approach is implicit in the House "Stupak Amendment" language, which Nelson offered, and was handily voted down, in the Senate.]

What the bishops and pro-lifers are demanding in health-care reform is something not one of them has agitated for in the present system, where 86 percent of all private insurance plans cover abortion. And unless you're wealthy enough to buy an individual policy of your own choosing, you can't "opt out," and your premiums will go toward paying to kill somebody's unborn baby.

Where's the outrage? Dead babies are dead babies, right? Is it any more immoral that one's premium dollars are funding abortions than one's tax dollars maybe funding abortions?

What we have here is a failure of logic.

What we also have here is a bunch of feckless guardians of society's most vulnerable members fighting a war for hearts and minds on the most unfriendly terrain possible -- Capitol Hill. Of course, that's just a distraction aimed at covering up the utter defeat of the church and the rest of our "culture warriors" in the battle for our . . . culture.

The political grows out of the cultural -- not vice versa -- and if you've lost the culture, politics is a futile pursuit. That pro-lifers and churchmen are too stupid to recognize that plain fact (and so obviously incompetent at softening hearts much less stony than your average Washington insider's) is a prime indicator why they so regularly get rolled by politicians.

The desperate tone of the next fund appeal you get will be as good an indicator as any of how that's working out for the unborn.

Friday, December 18, 2009

3 Chords & the Truth: Unwrap THIS!

It's getting closer to Christmas, and we at 3 Chords & the Truth have a present for you.

Good music.

This week, we start with a vintage Yuletide classic from Elvis Presley, and then we roll from there. Meaning that on this pre-Christmas edition of the Big Show, you'll be hearing stuff like Stepp. . . . Hey! I'm not telling you what you're getting!

SOME PEOPLE just don't care about ruining the surprise for everybody.

So, listen, Buster . . . you'll have to open your present like anybody else to find out what you got. Fortunately for you, all you have to do to open your present is start the player on click on one of the links.

It's a hunka hunka 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Bob Dylan Christmas

I've been listening to Bob Dylan's new Christmas album tonight.

Without fear of contradiction, I think I can safely say what young Bobby Zimmerman and his folk-god alter ego Mr. Dylan have been getting for Hanukkah and Christmas since about 1957.

Either that . . . or Santa just put Tom Waits under the tree.

If not for the FBI. . . .

Among the great tragedies of Louisiana is the sad fact that its moral compass is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

That is why this story -- which first came to light one year ago today in The Nation, more than three years after the fact -- is getting another of its sporadic moments of traction in New Orleans. And why is that? Because it's the focus of an FBI investigation.

What happened on Algiers Point in the days following Hurricane Katrina -- bands of white vigilantes shooting black "looters" at will and cops allegedly carrying out executions -- got some small local attention when The Nation and Pro Publica broke the story. More likely, though, you'd find far more attention paid in places like this.

TO BE FAIR, the story of Algiers Point and other instances of alleged police misconduct pops up in the Times-Picayune (most notably in a recent series) or on one TV station or another when there are fresh developments in the federal investigation.

The latest is a report on WWL-TV:
“King was yelling out the window, my brother got shot, my brother got shot,” Tanner said.

Suddenly nine or 10 officers pointed guns at them, Tanner said. He said the police immediately handcuffed all three of them, leaving Glover still bleeding in the back seat.

“We handcuffed, his brother yelling, ‘help, my brother,’ – this and that and that. He still acting hysterical,” Tanner said. “A black cop came through the ranks and slapped him so hard I felt the slap, and knocked him out.”

Tanner said the police might have assumed they were looters, but swears he had done nothing wrong and there was no evidence he had done anything wrong.
But he said they accused them of all kinds of things.

"You niggers come out there and beat up, you know, tourists and everything like that, mugging them and everything like that," Tanner said.

He said they then began beating them.

“The cop kicked me two times in the stomach around my ribs and hit me with an m-16 rifle with a laser sight, right on my cheek right here,” Tanner said. “So I was hurting.”

He said the officers threw the three of them into the back of a squad car and kept them there for hours. He said they took his toolbox, jumper cables and a gas can out of his car. Then the officer who had beat him drove off in his car, he said.

Tanner said he was afraid for his life. Then a policewoman he had met previously appeared to intervene for them, and the police released them.

“If she hadn’t did what she did, they probably would a shot us or killed us,” Tanner said.

Just days later, private investigator Michael Orsini and his partner found Tanner's charred car with human remains inside.

BUT THE POINT IS, and the fact remains, that Louisiana is perfectly happy to keep all the ugliness under wraps -- far away from both disinfecting sunlight and the judicial process -- until the national press and the FBI force its hand.

This says nothing good about the state's press corps or about the prospects for any semblance of a civic society taking root there after three centuries of entropy.

One only can hope the FBI also is investigating this as well. It's important.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

You could even say he glows

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Rudolph the Dog is as amazing as his flying, glowing-nosed reindeer namesake.

Like Santa's lead sled-puller, the Chicago canine is "different," and he faces some pretty severe challenges, too. But I guess that's why he's so perfect for teaching little kids about compassion and the intrinsic worth of all God's creation.

IT'S ALSO WHY this cutie of a dachshund was deemed worthy of a piece on and a story on the NBC Nightly News:

It's not easy to imagine a better messenger of compassion than a pup named Rudolph. Especially when the recipients of the message are elementary-age children. They're young enough to respond to floppy ears and a soft coat, and old enough to understand the life lessons they are receiving.

Rudolph is not an ordinary dog, and Marcia Fishman knew this when she decided to take him in. She already had one dachshund, named Gunther, and wanted another one. That's when an online search led Marcia to a small fawn-colored dachshund she would call Rudolph. Not only was his coloring a result of over-breeding, so too were his inability to see or hear. Marcia's favorite hobby is training dogs, but this would present a unique challenge -- how to care for a dog that is blind and deaf? She decided to find out.

He was skittish at first. No wonder. In addition to his sensory challenges, Rudolph had spent the first year of his life in a cage at a puppy mill, then in four different homes. Now in a permanent and nurturing home with Marcia and his canine brother Gunther, Rudolph burrows and hides under blankets, as dachshunds like to do. When Marcia comes home, she can call out to Gunther.

But not Rudolph. Marcia jokes: "People ask, do you call him Rudy? I say, I don't call him!" He wouldn't hear her if she did.

It's no coincidence that this dog that lives in darkness shares a name with an unlikely reindeer hero who was able to navigate through darkness too. Canine Rudolph's nose is also his guide.

That gave Marcia an idea, and she decided to write a short story coloring book with a lesson. The title: Rudolph's Nose Knows, starring a certain dachshund who was teased by other dogs. When a little chick that is too young to fly falls into a deep dark hole, it is only the dachshund named Rudolph who can save it. He is then received by the other dogs with kindness rather than taunts.

The message is tolerance and acceptance of differences. It's a message Marcia delivers compassionately to young children. And she decided to do this with Rudolph's help.

"The kids think he's darling. They just seem to want to embrace him," she said.
MAYBE WE should just elect little kids to Congress. And let them run for president.

And be governors. And doctors. And academics.

And journalists.

Perhaps then we would think Down Syndrome children were so "darling" that we wouldn't abort the vast majority of them. And maybe we wouldn't be starving "gorks" to death because, surely, theirs is not fit enough a quality of life to be worthy of . . . life.

AND MAYBE we wouldn't be having hissy fits about making sure -- as part of health-care "reform" -- the government can subsidize aborting every baby that someone feels is less worthy of life than an inbred deaf and blind dog.

Indeed, that little dog's life is precious. But to the extent that we can no longer recognize the innate preciousness of every human life, too, we are just committing slow-motion suicide as a people and a civilization.

Grace in the music with Lennons

Sometimes, grace is a lyric in a rock 'n' roll song.

At least it was for Julian Lennon, jumping back into the music industry to write, with co-author James Scott Cook, his own song about a childhood friend. Perhaps you've heard of her -- Lucy, as in "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds."

Lucy O'Donnell, the sparkly friend of the 4-year-old first-born of John Lennon, grew up, married Ross Vodden, reconnected with her preschool mate Julian in recent years . . . and died of lupus in September at 46. It was in memorializing his friend on his first album in 12 years, though, that allowed Julian to finally come to terms with his father's ghost and tend to some old, old hurts.

LE FILS LENNON explained it this way Tuesday on CBS' The Early Show:
Julian told "Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith his original drawing depicting Lucy "got lost. So how it was found or who may have taken it, I have no idea, but it's now been re-found and David Gilmour from Pink Floyd has it and kindly allowed us to use a copy of it for the art work" for "Lucy."

"The song ends up being an important bridge, because your relationship with your father had good days and good times and bad times," Smith observed.

"Indeed," Julian agreed.

"And no times at all," Smith added.

"Indeed, yeah," Julian said.

Asked if he feels "like you kind of made some peace here," Julian responded, "It's sort of come full-circle in many respects."

He told CBS News working on "Everything Changes" and on "Lucy" helped him come to grips with his relationship with his father and finally find forgiveness.

"With Dad running off and divorcing Mum," Julian said, "I had a lot of bitterness and anger I was living with. In the past, I had said I had forgiven Dad, but it was only words. It wasn't until the passing of my friend Lucy and the writing of this song that really helped me forgive my father.

"I realized if I continued to feel that anger and bitterness towards my dad, I would have a constant cloud hanging over my head my whole life.

"After recording the song "Lucy," almost by nature, it felt right to fulfill the circle, forgive dad, put the pain, anger and bitterness in the past, and focus and appreciate the good things.

"Writing is therapy for me and, for the first time in my life, I'm actually feeling it and believing it. It also has allowed me to actually embrace Dad and the Beatles."
SOMETIMES, it's about more than just being a singer in a rock 'n' roll band. And sometimes grace deserves a credit in the liner notes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Help! Help! We're being repressed!

The Mass, it is a changin'.

And all the folks who were so enthusiastic about all the changes to the central prayer of the Catholic Church four decades ago -- and indifferent to how those changes rocked the world of ordinary folks in the pews -- suddenly have become liturgical populists.

Those who never heard a prayer of the church they couldn't change at will, for political correctness' or gender equity's sake, now worry that changing the order of the Roman Mass after a mere two years of "pre-teaching" will drive Catholics right out of the church and be a stumbling block to others who might have come in from the spiritual cold.

You can read about the leader of the resistance
in The Seattle Times, or you can read his call to arms . . . er, call to wait? . . . er, declaration that Pope Benedict XVI and the American bishops are mean, mean men (and wholly undemocratic, too) in America magazine here.

BUT I WANT you to take something into account.

Folks who are convinced the bishops and Holy Father are being mean, shortsighted and authoritarian -- authoritarian, no less, in a hierarchical organization going back two millennia -- just because they're taking away familiar-but-faulty Mass language are applying the paradigm of consumerism to the paradigm of the sacred.

Consumerism has no problem with telling people all the lies their fallen nature wants to hear if that's what it takes to get them in the door and relieve them of all that cash taking up space in their wallets. What the Catholic Church is supposed to be about is something completely different. Like truth.

If the present English-language Novus Ordo (the "new order" of the Mass established by the Second Vatican Council) is further from the truth than the original Latin text of the supreme prayer of the Church, why wouldn't we want to fix it ASAP? The bottom line is that if a translation does not conform to the message intended in the original, then it -- no matter how damn popular and familiar -- is telling people something slightly off about the nature of the Mass, the nature of God and the nature of ourselves.

That is never a good thing -- particularly in a lie-dominated age such as ours.

GOD IS TRUTH. Jesus is the Word incarnate. Our supreme duty as Catholics -- and as human beings -- is to the truth. And the Truth.

"Spirit of Vatican II" people now say they're "hanging on by their fingernails" because the bishops made an executive decision -- based on scholarship and at the command of the Vicar of Christ -- about the one thing that's absolutely their responsibility and not ours? Well, I've been freakin' hanging on by my fingernails for a long time now because truth has become apocryphal in so much the Church does (and is) nowadays.

What's important now is the Almighty Dollar and getting asses in pews, so that they might offer up their Almighty Dollars. And it seems to me that ever since I've been Catholic (and for a couple of decades before that, at least) the main thing being sacrificed at the Mass is beauty, good taste and any sense that it's all about Jesus Christ crucified and risen -- as opposed to how incredibly neato keen all us white-bread suburban Catholics are.

I am sure that a lot of the people upset about the coming rejiggering of the Mass -- truly -- are holier, better people that I. Even so, they're not going to get to Heaven on their own. And what has come to pass for contemporary Catholicism ain't helping matters.

IF YOU ASK ME, everything from The Scandals to the extreme solipsism effectively encouraged among the laity is of one piece, indicating that we all hold something very, very dear . . . and that it ain't Jesus Christ. Or even our suffering brothers and sisters (see Curtiss, Elden and his Big Ass $380,000 Retired Archbishop Bachelor Pad right here in Omaha, by God, Nebraska).

I was raised entirely unchurched by People With Issues . . . chief among them that they didn't like people. My mother was raised by people who were desperately poor and found it more important to Not Be Embarrassed Further than to make sure their raggedy kids were confirmed and churched (or, for that matter, even educated).

I did not come to the Catholic Church at age 29 to be entertained or coddled. Frankly, I can entertain myself far better on Sundays than by sitting through Marty Haugen's Greatest Hits (a.k.a. Short Bus Dinner Theater) and listening to middle-aged women frantically trying to not use third-person masculine pronouns while reciting the prayers of the church. (Well, actually, that is kind of entertaining, but I digress.)

I came to the Catholic Church at age 29 because I had come to the end of myself, and it seemed a reasonable alternative to blowing my brains out . . . which itself would have been a reasonable alternative to becoming My Parents v 2.0. I came to the Catholic Church because of an aunt and uncle who managed not to fall away despite everything, because I sensed that, in some way, Catholicism was a part of who I was despite my upbringing in a church-free, pagan version of Southern Presbyterianism.

I came to the Catholic Church because it had stood since Jesus founded it, because what I needed was unvarnished truth, and because I figured that if any church would tell me straight up what the deal was -- even though it might be the last thing I wanted to hear -- that would be the one.

Twenty years later, I put up with feckless bishops, raging ecclesiastical identity crises, white-bread suburban religiosity that will tolerate letting Jesus out of the tabernacle for just about an hour a week (but no more) because I still think that's true. That's why *I'm* hanging on by *my* fingernails.

I'M HANGING ON by my fingernails because I'm a lousy, rotten, sinful son of a bitch prone to making a damned mess of things. I'm hanging on by my fingernails because I know I have nowhere else to go, and that if I do go, that's pretty much it for me.

And every time the church chooses expedience over truth, the closer I draw -- the closer we all draw -- to the abyss.

Flannery O'Connor once told a friend that if the Eucharist were just a symbol and not the true Body and Blood of Christ "then to hell with it." I am an O'Connor Catholic. And if the Mass -- the prayer of the universal church -- is just, in effect, a marketing ploy existing to attract converts and placate the regulars, then to hell with it.


Monday, December 14, 2009

America's next great West Virginia

Courtesy of WAFB television, here's another dispatch from my hometown, delusionally referred to by its mayor as "America's next great city."

There's an old "Boudreaux" joke about how Boudreaux goes to the Westerns with his podnas and bets them John Wayne won't get his horse shot out from under him. About two hours later, as Boudreaux is paying off them ol' boys, he laments that he'd seen the movie twice before.

"Dey ain't no way I thought John Wayne would fall off dat damn horse three straight times," he says ruefully.

DEY A LOT of Boudreauxs in Baton Rouge.

here's what happens when you think the city will quit looking a little more Third World every year -- and that people with brains will one day quit leaving Louisiana and start flocking to the Gret Stet -- if only they vote down yet another bond issue. If only they keep looking at the public school system as OK for black folks but nothing they'd want little Johnny anywhere near . . . or is even worth caring about.
After starting up in Baton Rouge 25 years ago, Innovative Emergency Management is leaving the capitol city. They're moving their headquarters 900-miles east to Durham, North Carolina, saying Louisiana can't lure the kind of workers they need.

IEM officials say for the past several years it's been hard to get educated technology professionals to move to Louisiana. One of the biggest issues their potential employees have with the state - education.

"Telling them they have to put their kid in private schools, this is an additional cost and these are just practical considerations," said IEM technology vice president Ted Lemcke.

Lemcke says struggling public schools are just one concern his company's potential workforce has with Louisiana. IEM workers advise federal agencies on how to manage threats to public safety and property.

"Young technology professionals are attracted to centers like Raleigh-Durham or Austin or other places, and they don't see Baton Rouge as one of those technology clusters," said Lemcke.

Lemcke says it's the main reason IEM is moving it's headquarters and about half of their 200 employees from Baton Rouge to North Carolina.

"These are perceptions these candidates have, and these perceptions have caused us some challenges with getting candidates to accept positions here," said Lemcke.

LONG GONE are the days when you could have a sixth-grade education, hire on at Standard Oil and make enough money to buy a bass boat, with enough left over to move far away from the "colored" folks. In fact, the very dream of a middle-class life with three cars and an oversized house in suburbia is all but gone -- even if Boudreaux happens to have a degree from LSU.

And Boudreaux has seen this movie over and over again the past three decades or so.

Big John Wayne keeps getting his horse shot out from under him, yet no one ever thinks that a different movie -- with a different screenplay -- might be in order.

Such is life in America's next great West Virginia.

The prez is shocked, SHOCKED. . . .

Given the appointments, actions and inactions of the Obama Administration over the last 10 months and change, the president's remarks to CBS' 60 Minutes seem to be, at a minimum, somewhat incongruous.

THIS IS the polite way of saying what a lot of people must be thinking right now, which goes something like: "You gotta be f***ing kiddin' me! He thinks anybody is f***in' buying this s***?!?"

The importance of not listening to what people say but, instead, watching what they do is highlighted by Matt Taibbi's magnum opus in the latest edition of Rolling Stone.