Monday, October 30, 2006

Look what they've done to my school, Ma

Forgive me, please, for a point of personal privilege.

On Oct. 9, I wrote fondly of my alma mater, Baton Rouge (La.) Magnet High School, here. I loved Baton Rouge High then, and I love it still. I owe more than I can repay to my teachers there -- and to the school's very existence.

For all I know, I might owe Baton Rouge High my life.

When I walked through the doors of that grand old school as a sophomore in 1976 -- its first year as a magnet school -- it was the first time I didn't have to worry about being looked on as a freak for doing well academically. For the first time, school was a place to be cherished instead of endured.

And, for the first time, I was among classmates who all wanted to be there.

For me, Baton Rouge High will always be the anteroom for a world of wonder and opportunity. I wonder for how many kids 30 years ago -- and for how many kids today -- 2825 Government Street has been the portal to an alternate universe completely beyond their experience and largely beyond their dreams.

That is, largely beyond their dreams until they got there.

Eureka! Life beyond learning a trade or hiring on at the Exxon refinery or Exxon Chemicals!

For me, Baton Rouge High was a Eureka! three years. Just like, some years before, popular TV shows like Room 222 had brought this child of the segregated South his first Eureka! glimpses of an exotic and largely tolerant society.

Speaking of tolerance and the segregated South, Baton Rouge High was the first opportunity I ever had to attend a school where racial integration was anything beyond token. And where friendships were routinely and easily formed across racial divides.

At Baton Rouge High, I got a first-rate college-prep education.

At Baton Rouge High, love of learning was the norm. Hiding one's light under a bushel basket for fear of an assaultive redneck culture was not.

I am Catholic, and I believe in grace -- defined as "a supernatural gift of God to intellectual creatures for their eternal salvation." You want to know what grace looks like?

For me, it looked a lot like Baton Rouge Magnet High School.

From what I understand, Baton Rouge Magnet High still is a great school. From what I read nowadays, kids there still love to learn, and teachers there still work their magic.

How, I do not know, given official neglect such as this:

And this (note the gym floor and the bucket to catch leaking rainwater):

And this (remember, this is where somebody's children EAT):

And this (See the puke-green paint -- the bottom layer of the peeling globs? It predates my arrival at BRHS in 1976. That, I'm fairly sure, would make it globs of peeling LEAD-BASED PAINT. In the lunchroom. Niiiiice . . .):

And this, the boys locker room (Don't worry about athlete's foot; worry more about tetanus.):

And this, the girls locker room (Want your daughter dressing in there?):

And this . . . need water? Oh, wait, it doesn't work:

And this . . . (At least the kids still can do some weightlifting. Then again, maybe not.):

This is what East Baton Rouge Parish school administrators apparently think of the best high school they have -- perhaps the best the state of Louisiana has. Given that Louisiana languishes on the bottom of all the good rankings and at the top of all the bad ones, perhaps what has become of my school is just a big, fat metaphor for the whole damned state.

Not to mention a big, fat warning sign for any company stupid enough to consider locating in a city -- in a state -- where this is how much the civic culture supports public education. Remember, this is the creme de la creme in the Bayou State, and it looks like a Third World s***hole.

Kind of makes one wonder what the humdrum, run-of-the-mill schools look like in Baton Rouge, doesn't it?

Have you no shame, Baton Rouge? Have you no shame, Louisiana?

At long last, have you no shame?

(Visit the BRHS Alumni Association here.)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Smart Catholic at LSU. Silly secularist at LSU.

Go read this great column by Emily Byers in Louisiana State University's Daily Reveille. Here's the clincher:

If you advocate abortion, you must be willing to admit that your mother had the right to "terminate" your life should she have chosen to do so. You must be willing to admit that your mother had the right to take a drug to expel your tiny body from her womb or to ask an abortionist to poison you, dismember you or by some other device end your life before you were born.

You're free of course to stand with the nihilists and cynics to say your mother could have aborted you, but it doesn't matter. You're free to cite reasons why "abortion should be legal but rare," such as pregnancies resulting from rape or incest or pregnancies which endanger the life of the mother.

On the other hand, you might acknowledge that abortion always means ending the life of a child in the womb and is therefore neither acceptable nor justifiable. This is why abortion is especially tragic for us: at least one-fifth of our generation was denied the right to life thanks to the "safe and legal medical procedure" of abortion.

We have no way of knowing what those killed in the womb could have
contributed to society. What if abortion murdered someone who could have
discovered the cure for AIDS? Or the next great saint of our times, the next
John Paul II or Mother Teresa? Or a future president of the United States?
Abortion has sent millions of our generation to an untimely death. Should your
mother or mine have chosen to "terminate" us, we would be victims not survivors
of the American holocaust.

Here's the exceedingly lame response, also in The Daily Reveille:

American statesman and reformer Carl Schurz said, "If you are to be free, there is but one way; it is to guarantee an equally full measure of liberty to all your neighbors, there is no other.

"This month's back and forth dialogue about women's reproductive rights has taken a repulsive turn for the worse. For some, our arguments have become irrational and unsubstantiated and for others we have not made clear the exact implication of our line of reasoning. Regardless, we cannot explicitly make evaluations impertinent and offensive and expect to be respected or even taken seriously.

It is my belief that college is a place to unearth your identity; a cultured encounter of how to deal with others' convictions that may vary from your own, a chance to teach and be taught and an opportunity to holistically become a well-rounded individual who is willing to compromise and sacrifice even if it is just a small piece of ourselves for the
betterment of humanity.

Have we become so meddling and uncompromising that we think it's our responsibility to interfere in other people's private matters and condemn them according to our limited knowledge of their way of life? We can voice our opinions generously, giving out as much advice as is welcomed or not welcomed in some cases, but we cannot forget that ultimately it is the entitlement of a single person to choose what is best for their lives. No matter what amount of philosophy, ethics or logic we doctor our opinions up with it is merely a judgment, it does not suffice to merit complete certainty, nor does it make us experts on any matter vital or dismissive.

Here's my first impression: ??????????????????????

ALL RIGHT, here's my second take: As a former Reveille reporter, editor and columnist, I am -- to say the least -- disappointed not only with Shanelle Matthews' fatuous reasoning but also with her slipshod execution (pun unintended). Even wrongheaded opinions deserve a better airing than this, so that they might be more clearly understood . . . and clearly rejected.

Here is my brief response to the central premise of "none of your business." I respond as a Catholic, and as someone who sees radical individualism as a dead end . . . and a lonely one at that.

If you seek to kill your child in the womb, it IS my business -- as an American concerned for the impact your individual choice has on our collective existence, and as a human being grieved that you want to kill my brother or sister. A fellow child of God.

That. Makes. It. My. Business.

Not only is that baby's life not yours to take, your life is not yours to use or misuse as you please. You see, Christ bought and paid for it at Calvary almost 2,000 years ago.

Now, let's look at Ms. Matthews' lede:

American statesman and reformer Carl Schurz said, "If you are to be free, there is but one way; it is to guarantee an equally full measure of liberty to all your neighbors, there is no other.

And if you are to be free, there is but one starting point; it is to have the inalienable right to exist. If the smallest, and weakest, members of the human race -- and biology tells us those would be children in their mothers' wombs -- haven't the liberty to even be born, we are utterly incapable of guaranteeing any measure of liberty to any of our other neighbors.

So . . . let's talk about neighbors for a second. From Mark, Chapter 12:

5 One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, "Which is the first of all the commandments?"
Jesus replied, "The first is this: 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.'
The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

And, for a pregnant woman, who is her neighbor? Without a doubt, her closest and most intimate neighbor is her unborn child.

Burning your neighbor to death with saline solution; dislodging him with RU-486; dismembering him and then vacuuming him up with a suction tube; or partially delivering him breech then puncturing his skull and sucking his brains out is not love. No matter how one tries to obscure the truth inside a semantic fog.

One does not free people by killing them. And one does not guarantee basic human rights through extermination . . . either in gas chambers or in millions of individual wombs.

Furthermore, if I have the fundamental "right" to kill my closest neighbor, by what twisted logic may society or its governors prevent me from killing whomever else I damn well please?

Which leaves the rest of Ms. Matthews' whining rant rather superfluous, doesn't it? I sincerely hope, during her LSU experience, she "unearths" an "identity" that does not confuse "individual freedom" with a license to kill.

The questions, my friend, are Blowin' in the Wind

It's been 43 years since Bob Dylan made this, his first national TV appearance on Westinghouse Broadcasting's Folk Songs, and More Folk Songs in May 1963.

The program -- videotaped in New York for Westinghouse's owned-and-operated stations across the country -- was hosted by humorist and radio personality John Henry Faulk, who was emerging from his "Red Scare" blacklisting. And on that program, we see Dylan performing -- perhaps for the first time in public -- "Blowin' in the Wind."

Funny, isn't it, that the questions Dylan asked of us at the beginning of his decades-long career are just as pertinent (maybe even more so) nearly four-and-a-half decades down the road.

How will we answer, then?

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, 'n' how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, 'n' how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

How many years can a mountain exist
Before it's washed to the sea?
Yes, 'n' how many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?
Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn't see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Copyright © 1962;
renewed 1990 Special Rider Music

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Selective outrage, Senator. Selective outrage.

John Kerry is horrified, horrified at Dick Cheney's inadvertant honesty about being a torture lover. From AP via MSNBC:

“Is the White House that was for torture
before it was against it, now for torture again?” tweaked Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. Kerry, in his unsuccessful campaign for the presidency, had been skewered by Bush for saying he had voted for war funds before he voted against them.

The Mighty Favog -- and a lot of people like the Mighty Favog -- would feel a lot better if "Democrats for Human Rights" actually shed as many tears over innocent children murdered in their mothers' wombs (killing sanctioned by American law and revered as a secular sacrament by the Democratic Party leadership, I might add) as they do over alleged terrorists tortured by American goons.

Face it, a country that has no problem offing its own future looks just a bit silly getting its knickers in a twist over poor Mohammed getting waterboarded by the CIA.

I have a radical proposal: How about we get our knickers in a twist about BOTH? How about we outlaw the torture of Mohammed and the premeditated murder of defenseless American babies in utero.

Until you can manage to do that, Sen. Kerry, don't expect Catholics like me to look at you as anything more than possibly -- and I stress "possibly" -- a potential lesser of two evils (and a VERY MARGINAL one at that, even considering the full-blown catastrophe that is the Bush Administration).

A little moral seriousness, people.


1971: It was a different world then

OK, I admit it. The Carpenters are a guilty pleasure of mine. So sue me.

But you have to admit -- Karen Carpenter could sing like an angel. As demonstrated by this clip, from the Carpenters' 1971 network summer series.

That's right boys and girls . . . the networks used to have new series that ran during the summer, when the regular shows' seasons had finished. And then, with much fanfare and plenty of buildup, the new TV season would begin in the middle of September.

Why is it that some days I have trouble remembering my name, age and phone number, but I can come up with much of the 1971 ABC promotional jingle? Thanks to TV for filling in the gaps in my aging memory.

And here's another memorable TV ditty, back from the days waaaaay before AIDS. I remembered this public-service spot clearly but, alas, Mrs. Favog was convinced your fearless potentate merely had had a bad reaction to penicillin.

HA!!!!!!!!!!! There you go, dear!!!!! The proof!!! I will graciously accept your apology now.

The Mighty Favog is a merciful and benevolent Favog.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The miracles of modern medicine

Isn't it amazing how just three years of reconstructive surgery can completely transform one's identity? You'd never guess that the guy above (now known as "Tony Snow" in his White House flack job) used to be Baghdad Bob, pictured beneath.

Good on the former Iraqi information minister for getting a whole new start in life (and a much higher paying job). Ah, the miracles of modern medicine!

Hello! Nothing for to see at here. Moving along, please!

You know Mr. Conservative Local Radio Dude was talking about waterboarding. I know Mr. Conservative Local Radio Dude was talking about waterboarding. Dick Cheney knew Mr. Conservative Local Radio Dude was talking about waterboarding.

So whom do these people think they are fooling? How stupid do they think we are?

OK, stupid enough to elect Bush/Cheney twice, but that's beside the point. Anyway, a two-election run of stupid is one thing (and, hey, the Mighty Favog is calling himself stupid here) but buying this load is entirely another. From The Associated Press via MSNBC:

WASHINGTON - The White House said Friday that Vice President Dick Cheney was not talking about a torture technique known as "water boarding" when he said dunking terrorism suspects in water during questioning was a "no-brainer."

Human rights groups said Cheney's comments amounted to an endorsement of water boarding, in which the victim believes he is about to drown.

"You know as a matter of common sense that the vice president of the United States is not going to be talking about water boarding. Never would, never does, never will," presidential spokesman Tony Snow said. "You think Dick Cheney's going to slip up on something like this? No, come on."

And my children, once again we learn the truth of that wisdom from the ages: "There's liars, damn liars . . . and then you have politicians."

Y'all have heard about "yelling Uncle," right? I don't know about you, but I'm almost ready to yell "NIXON!"

I passed the stage of yelling "CLINTON!" a while back.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Tojo hearts Cheney

For those with lingering questions about whether our government has gone all Mussolini and Tojo on us, here's the latest from Vice-President Dick Cheney, courtesy of MSNBC and the Financial Times:

WASHINGTON - Dick Cheney, US vice-president, has endorsed the use of "water boarding" for terror suspects and confirmed that the controversial interrogation technique was used on Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, the senior al-Qaeda operative now being held at Guantánamo Bay.

Cheney was responding to a radio interviewer from North Dakota station WDAY who asked whether water boarding, which involves simulated drowning, was a "no-brainer" if the information it yielded would save American lives. "It's a no-brainer for me," Cheney replied.

The comments by the vice-president, who has been one of the leading advocates of reducing limitations on what interrogation techniques can be used in the war on terror, are the first public confirmation that water boarding has been used on suspects held in US custody.

"For a while there, I was criticized as being the 'vice-president for torture'," Cheney added. "We don't torture ... We live up to our obligations in international treaties that we're party to and so forth.

"But the fact is, you can have a fairly robust interrogation program without torture and we need to be able to do that."

Cheney said recent legislation passed by Congress allowed the White House to continue its aggressive interrogation program.

But his remarks appear to stand at odds with the views of three key Republican senators who helped draft the recently passed Military Commission Act, and who argue that water boarding is not permitted according to that law.
"SO," YOU SAY, "Cheney approves of waterboarding terrorist scumbags. So what?"

This what (from The Washington Post):

On Jan. 21, 1968, The Washington Post published a front-page photograph of a U.S. soldier supervising the questioning of a captured North Vietnamese soldier who is being held down as water was poured on his face while his nose and mouth were covered by a cloth. The picture, taken four days earlier near Da Nang, had a caption that said the technique induced "a flooding sense of suffocation and drowning, meant to make him talk."

The article said the practice was "fairly common" in part because "those who practice it say it combines the advantages of being unpleasant enough to make people talk while still not causing permanent injury."

The picture reportedly led to an Army investigation.

Twenty-one years earlier, in 1947, the United States charged a Japanese officer, Yukio Asano, with war crimes for carrying out another form of waterboarding on a U.S. civilian. The subject was strapped on a stretcher that was tilted so that his feet were in the air and head near the floor, and small amounts of water were poured over his face, leaving him gasping for air until he agreed to talk.

"Asano was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor,"
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) told his colleagues last Thursday during the debate on military commissions legislation. "We punished people with 15 years of hard labor when waterboarding was used against Americans in World War II," he said.

BUT WHY TAKE TED KENNEDY'S WORD FOR IT? OK, there is more detail and documentation in this column by Robyn Blumner:

Bush was strident in asserting that the CIA chamber of horrors or ''program'' could be open for business again. But at the same time, the president gravely assured us: ''The United States does not torture.''

Interestingly, we weren't nearly as blithe to water-boarding when it happened to our own guys during World War II. Then, we considered it a war crime and a form of torture.

In Drop by Drop: Forgetting the History of Water Torture in U.S. Courts, Judge Evan Wallach of the U.S. Court of International Trade, has documented the trials in which the United States used evidence of water-boarding as a basis for prosecutions. The article, still in draft form, will be published soon by the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law.

Among the numerous examples, Wallach cites one involving four Japanese defendants who were tried before a U.S. military commission at Yokohama, Japan, in 1947 for their treatment of American and Allied prisoners. Wallach writes, in the case of United States of America vs. Hideji Nakamura, Yukio Asano, Seitara Hata, and Takeo Kita, ''water torture was among the acts alleged in the specifications . . . and it loomed large in the
evidence presented against them.''

Hata, the camp doctor, was charged with war crimes stemming from the brutal mistreatment and torture of Morris Killough, ''by beating and kicking him (and) by fastening him on a stretcher and pouring water up his nostrils.'' Other American prisoners, including Thomas Armitage, received similar treatment, according to the allegations.

Armitage described his ordeal: ''They would lash me to a stretcher then prop me up against a table with my head down. They would then pour about two gallons of water from a pitcher into my nose and mouth until I lost consciousness.''

Hata was sentenced to 25 years at hard labor and the other defendants were convicted and given long stints at hard labor as well.

Wallach also found a 1983 case out of San Jacinto County, Texas, in which James Parker, the county sheriff, and three deputies were criminally charged for handcuffing suspects to chairs, draping towels over their faces and pouring water over the towel until a confession was elicited.

One victim described the experience this way: ''I thought I was going to be strangled to death. . . . I couldn't breathe.''

The sheriff pleaded guilty and his deputies went to trial where they were convicted of civil rights violations. All received long prison sentences. U.S. District Judge James DeAnda told the former sheriff at sentencing, ''The operation down there would embarrass the dictator of a country.''

But, obviously, not Dick Cheney . . . or George Bush.

It is not my place, on this non-partisan blog, to proclaim that we have voted ourselves over to a fascist -- or neofascist, as it were -- regime. It may or may not be the case and, at any rate, we shall have our answer soon enough.

That determination lies with you, dear reader. Listen to what the administration says, then look at what it is doing in our name and, finally, look at how we have dealt with enemies who have done the same.

Look at how torture is defined. Here's a definition.

And here's what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about torture:

2297 Kidnapping and hostage taking bring on a reign of terror; by means of threats they subject their victims to intolerable pressures. They are morally wrong. Terrorism threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately; it is gravely against justice and charity. Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity. Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law. 90

2298 In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture. Regrettable as these facts are, the Church always taught the duty of clemency and mercy. She forbade clerics to shed blood. In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person. On the contrary, these practices led to ones even more degrading. It is necessary to work for their abolition. We must pray for the victims and their tormentors.

What you, as a Christian and an American, are willing to tolerate is up to you. Free will and all that, don't you know?

Christ will judge George Bush and Dick Cheney, whether or not the American people get to them first. As He will judge us all.

Just remember that we all are accountable to God for what we do, what we fail to do, and for what we put up with. Lord, have mercy.

Borat is funny for greatest moving film of year

Documentary of glorious Kazakh reporter journalist Borat Sagdiyev is for opening now in great moving film houses of Great Britain.

Borat great reporter is, and he has most perfect report done today of state of America. It is called Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

Borat make saying about movie film on Ministry of Information page of homing. I quoting now:

The movie film is a government assigned project to broaden and enlight people and glory of nation. Cultural learning is emportant to follow on global basis. Wemake our nation a better and more convenient place for house and living.

Kazakhs are progressive and asstonishing people that with conclusion of project will have new optimistic approach in daily life in world of same people.

Our film will bring the US & A closer to us. We help with needs of kazakh knowledge and Us&a culture is positive step for future of our glorious nation.

That does say all of it, it does not? I thought it so.

Englander paper of newses has story report of Borat first premiere playing of documentary movie film here.

Naw, I just couldn't. It's way too easy.

Nope. Nope. Not gonna do it.

WAAAAAAAAAAAYY too easy a joke here. Jokes, that is. All of them juvenile, and all have been done before.

Nooooooooope, not gonna take the bait.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! No, not that one, either.

Them wacky Koreans . . . determined to go out with a . . . NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Nope. Not gonna take the bait.

Noooooooope. Nonononononononono, no siree, Bob! That would be wrong.

And, once again, too easy.

Just read the story. Come up with your own jokes.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

SOP for GOP looks KKK, IMHO

Just when you think politicians have stooped as low as they can go . . . .

And in the Tennessee race for U.S. Senate, the Republicans had to stoop to a time-worn dirty trick to better their own contemporary lows. When I was growing up in the Deep South, there was a term for what the Republican National Committee has done to U.S. Rep. Harold Ford, the Democrats' candidate for the open Senate seat of Bill Frist, who's retiring.

Decorum prevents me from telling you outright what that term is. The polite modern term, however, is "race baiting" -- playing upon the electorate's most vicious and deeply held racial prejudices to get one candidate elected while sinking the other one . . . but good.

Race baiting is vicious, ugly and evil beyond all telling. But that's the road the Republican National Committee has taken -- all in the name of saving American from the eeeevvillll Democrats. From MSNBC (get the whole story here):

The Republican National Committee said Wednesday it was taking off the air an attack ad that critics said was a racial slur against Democratic Tennessee Senate candidate
Harold Ford Jr., one day after the party’s chairman said he saw nothing wrong with

The ad -- in which a young, white actress talks about meeting
Ford, a 36-year-old bachelor who is black, “at the Playboy party” and invites him to “call me” -- was denounced as a race-baiting tactic by the Ford campaign, the NAACP and Republican former Sen. Bill Cohen.

Bob Corker, Ford’s Republican opponent for the seat being vacated by Senate Republican leader Bill Frist, also called it “tacky” and asked that it be pulled.
The black man having his way with a white woman is one of the oldest and most pernicious racist hot buttons in the South. The racist imagery -- and racist passions -- that notion dredges up from the fetid muck of the fallen human heart (at least in fallen Southern human hearts of recent history) does not get any more stark or malevolent.

That particular racial hot button got Emmitt Till murdered in 1955. Here is what that looked like (right). The brutality of what happened to Emmitt Till at the hands of "Big" Milam and J.W. Bryant shocked the nation and was one of the events triggering the civil-rights movement of the 1950s and '60s.

A Mississippi jury found the two not guilty. They later confessed their crime -- which they, of course, didn't see as a crime -- to Look magazine.

THOSE ARE THE KINDS OF DEMONS the Republican National Committee thinks are legitimate to call upon to win a lousy election.

I know something of what I speak. I was born in 1961 in Baton Rouge, La. Was raised and educated there.

At that time, in that place, "separate but equal" would have been a step up from the Jim Crow reality, which many white folk -- like my parents, like my kinfolk, like most white folk -- saw as ordained by God Almighty Himself.

Not only was a white, working-class child taught to be racist, he steeped in it. It was the air he breathed, the water he drank, the food he ate. It infested all of the society that socialized him (in a manner of speaking).

You know what saved me, showed me a different and better way of viewing the world?

Oddly enough, television. Walter Cronkite and The Huntley-Brinkley Report. Room 222. Good Times. Sanford and Son. Julia. The Mod Squad. American Bandstand. Ed Sullivan. Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In (when I could manage to watch such "communist" fare). Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.

There was a whole universe out there, beyond the Deep South -- beyond those bigoted enclaves in every state and every American city -- where black folks were pretty much like me. And nobody called them nigger.

It was an epiphany. I began to learn to rebel against the Rebels. It has been a lifelong process -- fight to the death, actually -- and it will never end.

I say "lifelong" and "fight to the death" for a reason -- simple conditioning. Pavlov's Dog type stuff.

Thing is, you can change your heart and change your mind, but I don't know whether you can ever change your early conditioning -- that reflexive, fleeting Pavlovian first response you have to various stimuli.

F'rinstance, here's a test to see whether you were raised white and Southern in the '60s or earlier: What's the first, non-rational thought that pops into your head -- that split second before reason and morality kicks in -- when you see a white woman "with" a black man?


And that's why RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman and whoever else had anything to do with the race-baiting of Harold Ford need to be tarred, feathered and ridden out of American politics on a rail.

At. A. Minimum.

What they have done is evil. Hateful, actually. Fortunately for us -- and unfortunately for them -- God reigns over Heaven and Earth.

And God don't sleep.

More on the ad here.

We who hate good and love evil

If a kid walks into religious-ed class or youth group wearing a Hollister tee while drinking a "Cocaine" energy drink, I swear I am gonna do a full Micah. If not a full Jeremiah.

Cocaine the energy drink. Funny. Heh heh heh.


Hollister and Abercrombie. Just as bad: "Buy our $#!* while we tell the world it's cool to act like pimps, hos and sundry oversexed ignoramuses!"


I figure if you combined cocaine -- the deadly drug glorified by the energy drink -- with some of the crap sold at Hollister, you'd probably end up with something like the picture at right.

Lights off, please. And then run screaming into the night.

And who, pray tell, is this Micah person?

Chapter 3

And I said: Hear, you leaders of Jacob, rulers of the house of Israel! Is it not your duty to know what is right,
you who hate what is good, and love evil? You who tear their skin from them, and their flesh from their bones!
They eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from them, and break their bones. They chop them in pieces like flesh in a kettle, and like meat in a caldron.
When they cry to the LORD, he shall not answer them; Rather shall he hide his face from them at that time, because of the evil they have done.
Thus says the LORD regarding the prophets who lead my people astray; Who, when their teeth have something to bite, announce peace, But when one fails to put something in their mouth, proclaim war against him.
Therefore you shall have night, not vision, darkness, not divination; The sun shall go down upon the prophets, and the day shall be dark for them.
Then shall the seers be put to shame, and the diviners confounded; They shall cover their lips, all of them, because there is no answer from God.
But as for me, I am filled with power, with the spirit of the LORD, with authority and with might; To declare to Jacob his crimes and to Israel his sins.
Hear this, you leaders of the house of Jacob, you rulers of the house of Israel! You who abhor what is just, and pervert all that is right;
Who build up Zion with bloodshed, and Jerusalem with wickedness!
Her leaders render judgment for a bribe, her priests give decisions for a salary, her prophets divine for money, While they rely on the LORD, saying, "Is not the LORD in the
midst of us? No evil can come upon us!"
Therefore, because of you, Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem reduced to rubble, And the mount of the temple to a forest ridge.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

You ever see a brain scan of him just now? Whew!

John Spencer, who's running against Sen. Hillary Clinton this fall, sometimes references being a recovering alcoholic. After reading Monday's account in the New York Daily News, it wouldn't be unreasonable to ask whether the Republican challenger took up crack when he gave up booze.

Hillary Clinton's Republican challenger is getting personal and it's not pretty: He says the senator used to be ugly -- and speculates she got "millions of dollars" in plastic surgery.

"You ever see a picture of her back then? Whew," said John Spencer of Clinton's younger days.

"I don't know why Bill married her," he said of the Clintons, who celebrated their 31st anniversary this month.

Noting Hillary Clinton looks much different now, he chalked it up to "millions of dollars" of "work" -- plastic surgery.

"She looks good now," he said.

Spencer's bizarre comments came during a conversation with a reporter seated beside him and his wife, Kathy, on the 10:30 a.m. JetBlue flight Friday to Rochester, the site of the race's first debate.
You have to wonder how Mrs. Spencer feels about her husband's overarching criteria for women as marrying material -- that they incontrovertibly be a "hottie," to make plain what the GOP Senate wannabe really meant.

Bet that'll go over really well with "values voters."

That said, above is a picture of Hillary Rodham, the future first lady and U.S. senator, at Wellesley College in 1967. She looks all right to me, and obviously she looked all right to Bill, whom I defer to as a far greater expert than myself in such matters.

I've never been a particular fan of either Clinton politically (though I'd like to imagine I'd have a perfectly pleasant time knocking back a beer or two -- or a breve or two -- with either as we solved the problems of the world). But Spencer's remarks not only were gobstopperingly idiotic, they were cruel and unworthy of a grade-school playground, much less a candidate for United States Senate.

But, hell.
I'm sure Spencer has the "stuff" to fit right in among the past greats of the institution. Like Gary Hart and Wilbur Mills.

Monday, October 23, 2006


What Would Jesus Camp Do? Apparently, nothing that has much to do with what Jesus actually told us to do.

You see, one of the directors of the controversial documentary Jesus Camp has some interesting things to say about the making of the film. Look here, but I'll give you a taste right now from the Catholic News Service article:

"My one disturbing encounter was at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs (Colo.) with Pastor Ted Haggard," head of the National Association of Evangelicals, who is "the senior minister of the church," [co-director Heidi] Ewing said.

"I was in the service, and we had three cameras rolling, and there were 3,000 people in the church, and my cameraman was on the stage shooting him, and Pastor Ted started teasing the cameraman: 'Where are you from? England? Do you go to church?'" she recounted.

When the cameraman told Rev. Haggard that he goes to church when he's in England, the minister said, "So you're in the Church of England." The cameraman replied, "No, I'm Catholic," according to Ewing. "Pastor Ted turned to the congregation -- and I have this on tape -- in a very mocking tone, he said, 'Oh, we l-o-o-o-ve the Catholics, don't we?' and people started laughing.

"Why would he whack another religion?" she asked. "There was a disparaging way about how everyone reacted. As the leader of the National Association of Evangelicals, he is a representative of 30 million people and a religiously respected person in the movement. For him to joke like that, I was pretty alarmed.

"In a statement on the group's Web site, Rev. Haggard said, "This movie manipulates facts like a Michael Moore film and works the camera like 'The Blair Witch Project.' It's one more 'documentary' that seems to miss the point intentionally.

"Moore has produced a number of documentaries including the controversial 2004 film "Fahrenheit 9/11." "The Blair Witch Project" was a 1999 low-budget horror movie presented as documentary.

Ewing said she was also disturbed by the comic-book tracts published by Jack Chick Publications in Chino, Calif., which have been a staple among some strains of Protestant proselytizers for decades.

"I did start reading the little Bible tracts the kids would pass out. and we ordered a bunch because the kids always passed them out," Ewing told
Catholic News Service
in a telephone interview.

"There were like 30 of them that described the pope as the anti-Christ," she said. "I was struck by that. I called Becky Fischer and I asked her about that. She said, 'I have no idea why' (they would be so anti-Catholic). I called Levi's father and Rachael's father, and they said they had no idea, and they would stop ordering Chick tracts.
[They] were extremely upset and apologetic about that."

We Catholics l-o-o-o-ve you, too, Pastor Ted. This Catholic thinks you're an egotistical, posturing, vapid Pharisee, but that can be fixed.

"Repent and believe in the Gospel." There's a nice commentary on doing so here, Pastor Ted.

Read it. You won't catch cooties; I promise.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sandy West, 1959-2006

Sad news today. Sandy West, drummer of the seminal all-girl punk group The Runaways, died Saturday after a long fight with cancer.

If you're a woman in rock 'n' roll, or if you're in a punk band -- or if you're a punk fan -- you owe this lady. Big time. You owe all The Runaways -- Sandy West, Lita Ford, Joan Jett and Cherie Currie.

They were, indeed, the Queens of Noise. Rest in peace, Sandy.

From the website:

Sandy West, drummer for the influential 70s band The Runaways, has died after a long battle with lung cancer. She left an indelible mark on rock music as a founding member of The Runaways, which featured fellow rockers Joan Jett, Lita Ford and Cherie Currie, and as a leading inspiration for a number of notable musicians, both male and female. Many young musicians can trace their inspiration directly to the first time they heard "Cherry Bomb." She will be remembered by more than one generation of fans as a strong part of their musical landscape. But Sandy's impact was felt far outside of the music industry as a loyal friend, loving confidante and strong defender of those she loved most. Her strength as a player, passion as a person, and dedication as a friend will be remembered always by friends, fans and fellow musicians alike.

Runaways vocalist and life-long friend, Cherie Currie had this to say, "Sandy
West was by far, the greatest female drummer in the history of rock and roll. No
one could compete or even come close to her, but the most important was her
heart. Sandy West loved her fans, her friends and family almost to a fault. She
would do absolutely anything for the people she loved. It will never be the same
for me again to step on a stage, because Sandy West was the best and I will miss
her forever."

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Pat Tillman's brother has something to say

Now out of the service, former Army Ranger Kevin Tillman -- whose brother, former NFL player Pat Tillman, was killed by friendly fire as they served together in Afghanistan -- has something to say about the war in Iraq . . . and about what we've become as a nation. Agree with him or not, it's worthwhile reading.

And, Lord knows, he's earned the right to say it. As loudly as he wants.

Here is the money passage, from

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy
through active ignorance.

Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.

Somehow this is tolerated.

Somehow nobody is accountable for this.

In a democracy, the policy of the leaders is the policy of the people. So don’t be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity. Most likely, they will come to know that “somehow” was nurtured by fear, insecurity and indifference, leaving the country vulnerable to unchecked, unchallenged parasites.

'Fallen' defined . . . in a land far east of Eden

I don't want this to seem like the "all Louisiana, all the time" blog (but, dammit, there are so many oddball and interesting stories there), but try as I might, I keep getting sucked back by stories like this one. It has haunted me all week.

In a society, in an age so horribly fallen -- so far from the long-lost earthly paradise of the Garden of Eden -- it is ironically difficult to get the concept of "fallenness" across to a people so unconvinced of things such as "wrong" and "right," "sin" and "holiness."

People. Look. The painful and tragic (somehow, "tragic" just doesn't seem to cover what happened here a-tall) saga of Zackery Bowen and "Addie" Hall is what fallenness looks like, albeit in extremis.

Strangling your on-again, off-again live-in girlfriend, committing necrophilia, butchering her corpse and cooking the body parts, then living it up for a week or so before taking a flying leap into eternity is undoubtedly extreme. And it is extremely fallen . . . extremely far from any sane definition of paradise. Or even imperfect normality.

But what is fascinating , in its own grim way, is how they got to the abyss. There lies the story. There lie the little stories that illustrate the big story of what The Fall has meant for humanity -- the tragedy of free will, when freedom means the ability to freely choose evil. To be the victim of others' willing embrace of darkness. To wander rudderless through an out-of-whack world that sometimes drives us to spectacular descents into madness.

From the New Orleans Times-Picayune's website,

From the suicide note found on Bowen’s body....

“This is not accidental. I had to take my own life to pay for the one I took. If you send a patrol to 826 N. Rampart, you will find the dismembered corpse of my girlfriend Addie in the oven, on the stove, and in the fridge along with full documentation on the both of us and a full signed confession from myself.... Zack Bowen.”

From a five-page letter left by Bowen in the couple’s residence on Rampart Street...

“I scared myself not by the action of calmly strangling the woman I’ve loved for one and a half years, and then (decimating) her body but by my entire lack of remorse. I’ve known for ever how horrible of a person I am — ask anyone — and decided to quit my jobs and spend the 1,500 dollars cash I had being happy until I killed myself. So, that’s what I did: good food, good drugs, good strippers, good friends and any loose ends I may have had. I didn’t contact any of my family. So that’ll explain the shock. And had a fantastic time living out my days...It’s just about time now.”

May God have mercy on their souls . . . the bruised and battered souls of Zack Bowen and Addie Hall. Requiescent in pace.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I shot the toilet, but I did not shoot the urinal

1. File this under "Some people are not bright."

2. P.S.: I am not making this up. You CAN'T make this stuff up.

3. Did I mention to file this under "Some people are not bright"?

4. Dat's Louisiana for you.

From The (Baton Rouge) Advocate:

East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Deputies arrested a 16-year-old male student Wednesday in connection with the loaded gun found at Woodlawn High School on Tuesday, according to Fred Raiford of the Sheriff’s Office.

The student was charged with illegal use of a firearm in a firearm-free zone and aggravated assault.

The 16-year-old was in the boys’ restroom trying to flush a .22 automatic handgun down the toilet when another student entered and saw him. The gun discharged during the attempted flushing, and the other student reported to the school principal what had happened, Raiford said.

The arrested juvenile was taken to the Juvenile Detention Center, Raiford said.

Ain't it funny how one bad flush can shoot your whole day to . . . ah, never mind.

Just remember this simple safety tip from the Mighty Favog: ALWAYS make sure your handgun is unloaded before trying to flush it down the toilet. Then, flush your ammo separately.

This public service announcement is brought to you by the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office and Revolution 21.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

AOL to 1,300 employees: Goodbye!

The Associated Press reports the ax is falling at AOL:

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- AOL announced Wednesday it will lay off 1,300 employees by closing call centers in New Mexico and Arizona as part of a previously announced restructuring plan.

AOL, the Time Warner Inc. online unit formerly known as America Online, also plans to sell its call center in Ogden, Utah.

The cuts include 900 layoffs at the Albuquerque call center and 400 jobs at the center in Tucson, Ariz., AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham said. The Arizona and New Mexico call centers each have operated for 10 years.

Now, let me get this straight. The powers that be at AOL are trying to get rid of their customer-service people. Well . . . good luck to them on that (snicker, snort, guffaw).

AOL manager: Cory, I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but we're letting you go.

Customer-service guy: Now, may I ask why you're considering letting me go? We have some excellent incentive packages in place if you keep me on.

AOL manager: Cory, you're not understanding, here. The center is closing. You're fired. Your job is gone in two weeks. The decision has been made.

Customer-service guy: Is there a specific reason why you're dissatisfied with my service today? Let me just renew my contract for another six months right now, and I think we have a one-month free offer in place if you keep me on.

AOL manager: Listen! Cut the bait-and-switch crap! You. Are. Out. Of. Here. Fired. Canned. Gesphincto. Toast. Disconnected. Done dealin'. We will be giving you two weeks' severance pay upon your separation.

Customer-service guy: Let's not be hasty. You've had my service, according to our records, for three years now. Obviously you have received some value from that association. So, let's see what we can work out. Now, at what point did you become dissatisfied with the association. I'm sure this matter is easily rectifiable.

AOL manager: Get out! You are fired! Get out! GET OUT, DAMN YOU! BE GONE! SECURITY! SECURITY!

Customer-sevice guy: I understand that you may be upset . . . .

AOL manager: Get . . . the . . . &*%$ . . . outta here!!! SECURITY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Security guard: Yes sir?

AOL manager: This man has been laid off but won't leave. Could you please remove him from the premises immediately?

Security guard: May I ask what the nature of your complaint is? I understand Cory has an excellent incentive package in place . . . .

War on Terror ends; Terror wins

Didn't my old man fight in a war against this kind of thing?


I want to start by asking you about a specific part of this act that lists one of the definitions of an unlawful enemy combatant as, quote, “a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a combatant status review tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the president or the secretary of defense.”

Does that not basically mean that if Mr. Bush or Mr. Rumsfeld say so, anybody in this country, citizen or not, innocent or not, can end up being an unlawful enemy combatant?

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR: It certainly does. In fact, later on, it says that if you even give material support to an organization that the president deems connected to one of these groups, you too can be an enemy combatant.

And the fact that he appoints this tribunal is meaningless. You know, standing behind him at the signing ceremony was his attorney general, who signed a memo that said that you could torture people, that you could do harm to them to the point of organ failure or death.

So if he appoints someone like that to be attorney general, you can imagine who he’s going be putting on this board.

IF, FOR EXAMPLE, someone were to say a hypothetical U.S. president were doing a frighteningly good impression of Il Duce, it would seem that whether that someone went to Guantanamo or not would be entirely dependent on how mad that hypothetical U.S. president was over being compared to Benito Mussolini.

So we must channel our inner cowering peasant and not be unduly critical of our betters. It could get real fatal, real fast.

I'm just sayin' that we appear to have pretty much become what we profess to hate. God help us.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Cheap grace for politicians

From the Omaha World-Herald (free registration required):

The Omaha City Council voted 4-2 today to pass Councilman Frank Brown's resolution asking radio station KFAB to apologize for a 30-second parody that
satirizes violence in north Omaha.

Talk show host Tom Becka had produced the spot, which no longer is running.

Voting to pass the resolution were city councilmen Franklin Thompson, Jim Vokal, Frank Brown and Chuck Sigerson. Voting against it were Garry Gernandt and Dan Welch. Gernandt had been a sponsor of the resolution. Councilman Jim Suttle was absent.

The council debated for nearly an hour over whether it was proper for the council to ask a private business to apologize. A number of north Omaha residents spoke out against the apology and in support of KFAB.

Tom Becka's spot, the chief mau-mau'ers say, was "insensitive" and in "poor taste." It showed the North O community "in a bad light."

Hmmmmmmm . . . let's examine what the parody said:

Discover miles of mayhem. Discover drive-bys. Discover gang violence.

Discover North Omaha.

We've got a real sense of community here. When there's a shooting, we all stick together and don't rat on the suspects.

I'm a police officer and north Omaha was nice enough to give me plenty of extra overtime.

Arson, abductions, assaults. Everything that makes a community exciting.

Discover North Omaha. After all, it's safer than Baghdad.

Gang violence. Check.

Drive-by shootings. Check.

Arson. Check. Abductions. Check. Assaults. Check.

And it IS safer than Baghdad.

Councilman Frank Brown sponsored the resolution. From KETV:

Brown said he introduced the resolution because the spoof paints all residents
of north Omaha as criminals. He said the parody hurt the good people of north
Omaha. He also said the council was already working with police to crack down on
violence in north Omaha.

"This shed a light on nothing new. One month ago, the council went to Chief (Tom) Warren and asked for something to happen, and it did. Violence occurs everywhere, but you don't hear parodies on other parts of the city," Brown said.

So Brown admits the substance of the parody is true. Becka's crime was just in the saying, then.

And the "good people" of North O spoke in favor of Becka at the council meeting. They seemed to be happy that the talk-show host was capable of getting the city's attention, when years of anguished pleas from the "good people" had gotten scant results from city fathers.

But finally aroused from their slumber, the leaders of fair Omaha have stood tall to defend the honor of our brothers and sisters in the 'hood. Tom Becka must repent!

And now that that's done, we can return to our regularly scheduled program of throwing Omaha Public Schools to the wolves and making it as easy as possible for well-to-do white Omahans to become well-to-do white Extreme West Omahans, well-to-do white Elkhorn residents and upper-crust white Gretnans.

We can continue not providing effective job-training programs. We can keep on "doing a heckuva job" (in the full Brownie sense of the word) providing cheap and accessible mass transit to the north side.

We can continue letting the cops blow off inner-city parents when they report their kids missing. And we can continue to go all Tabloid TV when the next Amber Harris never does come home . . . at least come home alive, that is.

We can rest easy in our self-satisfaction as folks on the near north side continue to lack decent grocery stores with fresh produce and reasonable prices. Let them eat Cheetos. Or walk to West Omaha.

And hope the cops don't harrass them too much for Walking While Black While in White Area.

We can continue not doing all kinds of stuff, because we have proven our righteousness. We have spoken. We have forever, and forcefully, labeled Tom Becka a mean, nasty, insensitive, racist smart-ass.

Hallelujah! Praise Warren Buffett! Condomania be thy name!

Cheap. Effing. Grace. For everyone except the suffering souls in North Omaha.