Thursday, May 31, 2007

Pitch a fit, call it a civil-rights action

Pity poor Linda Carlson of San Francisco. She can't find lesbian love in the nation's gayest city, and it's all the fault of eHarmony, the online matchmaking service.

See, eHarmony, founded by an evangelical Christian, doesn't do the homosexual-dating thing. And, objectively, who the heck cares? If you turn to the classifieds of most any alternative weekly, you'll find an ad (or ads) for gay datelines, etc., etc.

I can only imagine the smorgasbord of such advertised in the gay press.

SO, IF A COMPANY chooses not to enter the men-seeking-men or women-seeking-women market, so what?

Well, it turns out a lot what when the Gaymacht is on its long march through American culture. Resistance is futile and all that.

MSNBC features
a dispatch from the front lines by an intrepid Reuters war correspondent:

Lawyers bringing the action said they believed it was the first lawsuit of its kind against eHarmony, which has long rankled the gay community with its failure to offer a “men seeking men” or “women seeking women” option.

They were seeking to make it a class action lawsuit on behalf of gays and lesbians denied access to the dating service.

eHarmony was founded in 2000 by evangelical Christian Dr. Neil Clark Warren and had strong early ties with the influential religious conservative group Focus on the Family.

It has more than 12 million registered users, and heavy television advertising has made it one of the nation’s biggest Internet dating sites.

Carlson, who lives in the San Francisco Bay area, tried to use the site’s dating services in February 2007. When she was denied access, she wrote to eHarmony explaining its anti-gay policy was discriminatory under California law but the company refused to change it, according to the lawsuit.

“Such outright discrimination is hurtful and disappointing for a business open to the public in this day and age,” she said.

eHarmony could not immediately be reached for comment. Commenting in the past on eHarmony’s gay and lesbian policy, Warren has said that he does not know the dynamics of same-sex relationships but he expects the principles to be different.

“This lawsuit is about changing the landscape and making a statement out there that gay people, just like heterosexuals, have the right and desire to meet other people with whom they can fall in love,” said Carlson lawyer Todd Schneider.
ONE QUICKLY LEARNS, when facing any fascist movement, there's absolutely no room for right of conscience -- or patience for those who claim such.

So, it matters not one whit whether eHarmony is steering clear of helping homosexuals hook up on sacred grounds or merely commercial ones. Gays demand not toleration -- which, by any benchmark, they have achieved in American society -- so much as every single American's blessing. Compelled by force of law, if need be.

It's as if we live in a giant supermarket, and every spoiled brat in the store can call 911 and get the cops to force their mean, mean mothers to buy them that damned candy bar. At gunpoint.

Ultimately -- if any semblance of corporate sanity still holds sway in the gay community -- I think they'll find this forced acceptance about as satisfying as "Heil Hitler . . . or else!" or "Convert to Islam or die!"

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

And the alternative would be . . . ?

Over at The Boar's Head Tavern, moderator Michael Spencer (a.k.a. The Internet Monk) is horrified by the doctrine of Purgatory, the place where you go if you're not spotless enough for Heaven and not despicable enough for Hell.

No disrespect to CS Lewis and others who believe it, but purgatory must be the most obnoxious belief I can imagine. The idea of spending my life on the Gospel of Christ’s perfect mediation, atonement and justification….and then spending 10,000 years in flaming punishment (i.e. “purification.”) Christ’s holiness is insufficiently given to the Christian to avoid this? And once you’re in it, Christians can pray and that will help? Gee…what a God.

If it’s true, count me out. What an amazing doctrine. How can you possibly believe it and face death with anything but horror, knowing you are headed for conscious punishment and not the Father’s House?
FUNNY HOW PERSPECTIVES can differ so wildly, eh? Me, I find the whole idea of Purgatory a great comfort.

My guess -- and I'm not being snarky here -- is that preacher Spencer is a lot holier sort than your humble Favog. I know exactly what a no-count, hypocrite, piss-poor Christian (not to mention Catholic) SOB I happen to be, and I'm counting mightily on the merciful frying pan of Purgatory to keep me out of the fires of Hell.

Amerika, Amerika, verschüttet
Gott Seine Gnade auf Ihnen. . . .

Andrew Sullivan sums up an account of what the Bush Administration has ordered -- and which American personnel carry out -- in your name, which happens to be identical to what Adolf Hitler ordered in the name of the Third Reich.

Critics will no doubt say I am accusing the Bush administration of being Hitler. I'm not. There is no comparison between the political system in Germany in 1937 and the U.S. in 2007. What I am reporting is a simple empirical fact: the interrogation methods approved and defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the past. The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn't-somehow-torture - "enhanced interrogation techniques" - is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death.
WHOA. HE'S RIGHT. Thus, I am here to advocate on President Bush's behalf.

For criminal malfeasance in ignoring -- or, at a minimum, failing to act upon -- intelligence questioning the wisdom of going to war with Iraq and predicting what would happen if we did, the president (and other key figures in his administration) deserves impeachment, removal from office, criminal prosecution and jail time.

For criminal malfeasance in failure to take serious measures -- in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001 -- against the illegal and uncontrolled flow of foreign nationals across our southern border, the president (and other key figures in his administration) deserves impeachment, removal from office, criminal prosecution and jail time.

war crimes relating to authorizing torture of select "enemy combatants" -- several of whom have died -- in defiance of domestic and international law, it at first glance seems that the president (and other key figures in his administration), according to U.S. law, would be eligible for the death penalty.

AS A CATHOLIC, HOWEVER, I do not believe in applying the death penalty when imprisonment is sufficient to remove the threat from society. So, in the name of mercy, I merely advocate impeaching George Bush, Dick Cheney and other officials as necessary, removing them from office, prosecuting them according to U.S. law and international covenant, then throwing their asses in prison long enough to make a point.

It's less, certainly, than they deserve. But, then again, aren't we betting everything, as Christians, on getting much less than we deserve.

Book him, Danno.

HAT TIP: Mark Shea.

Monday, May 28, 2007

A broken country and a mother's broken heart

Republicans hate Cindy Sheehan.

Now, Democrats hate Cindy Sheehan, too.

Republicans mock, smear and berate Cindy Sheehan.

Now, so do Democrats.

Short of some whacked-out ideologue hunting her down like a varmint and blowing her brains out, is there anything more this broken, polarized nation can take from Cindy Sheehan? Her son, Casey, is dead -- killed in George Bush's calamitous Seinfeldian (a war about nothing) misadventure in Iraq. Her heart is broken. Her marriage is gone.

AND NOW her ultimately quixotic campaign to stop our involvement in an unjust and unwinnable Middle Eastern war has cost Cindy Sheehan her faith in American democracy and any hope for our political future.

I have come to some heartbreaking conclusions this Memorial Day Morning. These are not spur of the moment reflections, but things I have been meditating on for about a year now. The conclusions that I have slowly and very reluctantly come to are very heartbreaking to me.

The first conclusion is that I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party. Of course, I was slandered and libeled by the right as a "tool" of the Democratic Party. This label was to marginalize me and my message. How could a woman have an original thought, or be working outside of our "two-party" system?

However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the "left" started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used. I guess no one paid attention to me when I said that the issue of peace and people dying for no reason is not a matter of "right or left", but "right and wrong."

I am deemed a radical because I believe that partisan politics should be left to the wayside when hundreds of thousands of people are dying for a war based on lies that is supported by Democrats and Republican alike. It amazes me that people who are sharp on the issues and can zero in like a laser beam on lies, misrepresentations, and political expediency when it comes to one party refuse to recognize it in their own party. Blind party loyalty is dangerous whatever side it occurs on. People of the world look on us Americans as jokes because we allow our political leaders so much murderous latitude and if we don’t find alternatives to this corrupt "two" party system our Representative Republic will die and be replaced with what we are rapidly descending into with nary a check or balance: a fascist corporate wasteland. I am demonized because I don’t see party affiliation or nationality when I look at a person, I see that person’s heart. If someone looks, dresses, acts, talks and votes like a Republican, then why do they deserve support just because he/she calls him/herself a Democrat?

I have also reached the conclusion that if I am doing what I am doing because I am an "attention whore" then I really need to be committed. I have invested everything I have into trying to bring peace with justice to a country that wants neither. If an individual wants both, then normally he/she is not willing to do more than walk in a protest march or sit behind his/her computer criticizing others. I have spent every available cent I got from the money a "grateful" country gave me when they killed my son and every penny that I have received in speaking or book fees since then. I have sacrificed a 29 year marriage and have traveled for extended periods of time away from Casey’s brother and sisters and my health has suffered and my hospital bills from last summer (when I almost died) are in collection because I have used all my energy trying to stop this country from slaughtering innocent human beings. I have been called every despicable name that small minds can think of and have had my life threatened many times.

The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think. I have tried every since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most.
A SANE, compassionate and just nation -- whether its inhabitants agreed or disagreed with Mrs. Sheehan -- would offer its gratitude for the sacrifice of her son. It would offer her its condolences and its compassion. It would offer her a forum where reasoned, and reasonable, debate might flourish and principled politics predominate.

It would offer its prayers on her behalf . . . and for the repose of her beloved son.

Instead, it has given a grieving mother -- a fellow citizen doing what she thought best as best she could -- the back of its hand. This is a country completely unworthy of Casey Sheehan's sacrifice -- the sacrifices of all 3,455 Casey Sheehans in this damned war -- on its behalf.

LISTEN, I THINK Cindy Sheehan was used by the Democrats and the antiwar movement. I think she was used by President Bush's Praetorian Guard as well, as a useful scapegoat and straw woman.

And now, it appears, she agrees with me on that.

But for all Mrs. Sheehan's missteps and sometimes loopy-sounding rhetoric, and despite all the ways she was a "useful dupe" for this benighted nation's unsavory political entities -- of which there are, God help us, no shortage -- she got the Big Picture exactly right. It is my sad opinion that Cindy Sheehan has the number of this country, its sick institutions and its self-centered populace.

Big time.

"Fascist corporate wasteland." I think that's a pretty damn good description of George Bush's America. And then there's this:

Our brave young men and women in Iraq have been abandoned there indefinitely by their cowardly leaders who move them around like pawns on a chessboard of destruction and the people of Iraq have been doomed to death and fates worse than death by people worried more about elections than people. However, in five, ten, or fifteen years, our troops will come limping home in another abject defeat and ten or twenty years from then, our children’s children will be seeing their loved ones die for no reason, because their grandparents also bought into this corrupt system. George Bush will never be impeached because if the Democrats dig too deeply, they may unearth a few skeletons in their own graves and the system will perpetuate itself in perpetuity.
NOW, IT'S STILL a relatively free country, and you are perfectly free to think Cindy Sheehan, and the Mighty Favog, are nuts. Wack. Fruit Loops. Looney Tunes.

A taco shy of a combination plate.

You likewise are free to believe the Administration's recycled Vietnam-era "Domino Theory" rhetoric that if the United States doesn't prevail in Iraq, al Qaida warriors and every other nutbag jihadi in the Islamic world will be streaming across our borders to turn a city a week into another Hiroshima. But if you do, then ask why our southern border is to controlled access what fishnet stockings are to water-balloon technology.

And then let me know whether that makes Bush & Co., the highest-ranking traitors since Benedict Arnold, or merely actionably incompetent.

Chew 'em up. Spit 'em out. Happy Memorial Day.

In the Age of Conglomeration, you're a commodity, I'm a commodity, and the men and women we sign up to go "make the world safe for" . . . whatever the hell we're making it safe for today, they're commodities, too.

And as that VCR you bought three years ago for $79.95 is disposable when you get that new DVD recorder, we're all disposable -- in this era of corporatization and government of, by and for "the economy" -- when our utility is at an end. In that light, you owe it to yourself to
follow the link and read The Associated Press' tale of The Disposable Soldier:

In the three months after Marine Maj. John Ruocco returned from Iraq feeling numb and depressed, he couldn’t sleep. He had lost weight. He had nightmares. He was distracted and withdrawn from his two young sons.

One night, he promised his wife, Kim, that he would get help. The next morning, he was dead. The 40-year-old Cobra helicopter pilot, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., had hanged himself.

There are others. Army reservist Joshua Omvig. Army Capt. Michael Pelkey. Marines Jonathan Schulze and Jeffrey Lucey. Each came home from tours in Iraq and committed suicide.

Veterans’ groups and families who have lost loved ones say the number of troops struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health issues is on the increase and not enough help is being provided by the Pentagon and the Veterans Affairs Department.

For some, there are long waits for appointments at the VA or at military posts. For others, the stigma of a mental health disorder keeps them from seeking help.

Paul Rieckhoff, executive director and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, says that although suicides among troops returning from the war is a significant problem, the scope is unknown.

“The problem that we face right now is that there’s no method to track veterans coming home,” said Rieckhoff, who served in Iraq as a platoon leader in the first year of the war. “There’s no system. There’s no national registry.”

More than four years into the war, the government has little information on suicides among Iraq war veterans.

“We don’t keep that data,” said Karen Fedele, a VA spokeswoman in Washington. “I’m told that somebody here is going to do an analysis, but there just is nothing right now.”

The Defense Department does track suicides, but only among troops in combat operations such as Iraq and Afghanistan and in surrounding areas. Since the war started four years ago, 107 suicides during Iraq operations have been recorded by the Defense Manpower Data Center, which collects data for the Pentagon. That number, however, usually does not include troops who return home from the war zone and then take their lives.


Earlier this month, a Pentagon task force warned that the military health care system is overburdened and not sufficient to meet the needs of troops suffering from PTSD and other psychological problems. The panel called for a fundamental shift in treatment to focus on screening and prevention instead of relying on troops to come forward on their own.

Shortcomings in mental health care were also identified in a recent report by the VA’s inspector general. It found that several of the agency’s hospitals and clinics lacked properly trained workers and had inadequate screening for mental health problems. It said this put Iraq veterans at increased risk of suicide.

Floyd “Shad” Meshad, president and founder of the California-based National Veterans Foundation, has no doubt that military suicides are a growing problem. He said he receives 2 to 3 calls each week from Iraq veterans contemplating suicide — or from their families.

A Vietnam veteran who has counseled other vets for more than 30 years, Meshad runs a toll-free support line based in Los Angeles. He was asked recently to help train counselors at the Suicide Prevention Center in Los Angeles, where a spike in calls from veterans has been reported.

One of the biggest challenges for troubled vets is the stigma of a mental health disorder, said Meshad. “It’s very, very hard for you to reach out and say ’I’m hurting.’ It’s hard for men to do it, but particularly (for) a soldier who’s endured life and death situations.”

Kim Ruocco of Newbury, Mass., said her husband, John, was a role model for the young Marines he led in war. He worried about the ramifications of seeking help, personally and professionally.

“He felt like that was the end of everything for him,” Kim Ruocco recalls. “He felt like his Marines would, you know, be let down.”

Ruocco ended his life in February 2005, a few weeks before he was to redeploy to Iraq.

Joshua Omvig, 22, a member of the Army Reserve from Grundy Center, Iowa, also took his own life. In December 2005, he shot himself in front of his mother after an 11-month tour in Iraq.

His parents, Ellen and Randy Omvig, say Joshua wouldn’t talk much about Iraq. They tried to get him help, but he worried that it would hurt his career if the Army found out, said his father.

Randy Omvig says the military and VA need to offer better readjustment counseling. There should be teams of health professionals, he said, who come to the base to talk to the troops in a comfortable setting with their comrades.

“It’s like you and I going out on that interstate and driving 65 miles an hour and then all of a sudden deciding to put it in first gear,” Omvig said. “What happens? Does the car handle it very well? Some will handle it, a lot of them are going to have problems.”


For some troops returning from Iraq, the wait for care is too long.

Army Capt. Michael Pelkey, who suffered from night sweats, anxiety, headaches and exhaustion when he returned, sought help at Fort Sill, Okla. His wife, Stefanie, said the mental health facility there was understaffed and Michael was told he’d have to wait up to two months for an appointment.

He went off-base in Nov. 2004 and a civilian counselor diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder. His wife says it came too late. He shot himself in the living room a week later.

Jonathan Schulze of New Prague, Minn., also tried to get help after he came home from Iraq. His parents say he asked to be admitted to a VA hospital but was turned away twice. The VA disputes that. The Marine hanged himself in January at the age of 25.

For Marine Jeffrey Lucey, the return home from Iraq was followed by months of emotional and mental torment, said his father, Kevin Lucey. The 23-year-old killed himself in June 2004 at his parents’ home in Belchertown, Mass. His father found him dead in the basement, hanging by a garden hose.

Don't piss off your kids; you'll need them someday

"For where your treasure is,
there also will your heart be."

-- Luke 12:34

IF PARENTS ABUSE THEIR CHILDREN, disrespect their children and abjectly refuse to meet the basic needs of their children, they'll surely "get theirs" . . . one way or another.

From a public policy perspective, that goes double for a state or locality and what happens to its children -- how they're cared for, the environment they grow up in, how they're educated.

Louisiana is in it deep, and folks -- by all appearances -- are too damn stupid to realize "payback" lies around the corner, as its next generation grows up to be dead, stupid, shiftless . . . or living somewhere else.

Here, from last fall, is one example of what that particular state thinks (for lack of a better word) about its future. In this case, its best and brightest children. From what I hear, nothing much has changed on that story.

And here's a fresh example from the world of -- such as it is -- "higher education." The (Baton Rouge) Advocate has the damning evidence:

The historic and picturesque French House at LSU is surrounded by oak and palm trees.

On the inside, however, roof leaks, broken floors, wall holes and an unusable third floor paint a different picture for the facility that houses the LSU Honors College.

One interesting juxtaposition is an old French portrait in the “living room” flanked by walls torn up from water damage.

“It’s beautiful on the outside, but really deteriorating on the inside,” said Nancy Clark, dean of the Honors College. “There’s been continuous water damage the past few years.”

That is why Clark is leading the charge to renovate the interior and expand the 72-year-old French House to modernize the facilities and create multimedia classrooms, theater space and a technology lounge for LSU’s brightest students.

But finding the money is a different matter, Clark admitted, when many private donors look to LSU sports before the honors program.

Fortunately for her, LSU System President William Jenkins said the French House is one of his top two fund-raising priorities.

“The LSU Honors College is a fantastic asset for the state,” Jenkins said.

The $6 million to $10 million project would represent part of a proposed “Honors Campus” for the 1,300 students in the Honors College, who need at least a 30 ACT score and 3.5 grade-point average to enter the program.

The nearby honors dormitories, East and West Laville, are to be renovated beginning in January.

Jenkins said he hopes the projects can be completed within three years.

This year, nearly 3,500 students applied to the Honors College, fewer than 1,000 were accepted, and about 500 enrolled, Clark said.

After Clark and some top students presented plans to the LSU Board of Supervisors last month, LSU moved the French House from 31st to sixth on its construction list.

A similar plea last week with the Louisiana Board of Regents was less successful. A day prior, the Regents had decided against placing the French House on the state’s construction list this year because the request came too late, without enough time for analysis.

Even though the Regents, who oversee the state’s higher education, did not prioritize the French House, the Honors College’s successes resulted in glowing praise from the Regents board members.

“Mike the Tiger has a $3 million habitat, but the French House is falling apart,” said Regent Mary Ellen Roy of New Orleans. “We need to focus more on challenging our best and brightest.”

Sunday, May 27, 2007

What Would Flannery Do?

IF FLANNERY O'CONNOR had lived to encounter HaugenHass at Mass every week, I wonder what she would have said. Something snarky and delicious, no doubt.

Maybe something like this:

Marty Haugen -- and too many other liturgical lounge lizards to count -- have thrown out 2,000 years of Catholic devotion and culture so they could gather around the altar and warble ditties to a God who's less than ourselves. Hell, to a God who IS ourselves!

Luddite or troglodyte . . . you decide


I popped over to the
Crunchy Con blog to see what was up in the world of the utterly unprogressive, and I found this lede to some screed or another of antimaterialist self-loathing:

Matthew finished the first grade on Friday. His school, Providence Christian School of Texas, held their end-of-year school program, which ended with all the children from the lower grades singing the hymns they'd learned that year. I had to get to work and couldn't stay for the entire program, but Julie said there were lots of un-dry eyes listening to those angelic young voices. Julie said these kids were singing with all their hearts, and they knew the words, because each month they study a hymn.
Hymns schmymns. If ever there was a sign of troglodytic antiprogressivism, some fundie academy coercing fundie tots from fundie families -- who no doubt live in fundie squalor -- into singing retrograde fundie hymnody must be pure phantasmagoric neon splendor.

Why didn't they just have little Johnny grab little Susie by the ponytail and drag her off to the Fred Flintstone residence, for Gaia's sake! Maybe Wilma could send out for Bronto Burgers as they all seek to turn back the clock on human self-realization as they pay homage to their hateful patriarchal construct of deity.

I AM A MODERN AMERICAN CATHOLIC. I believe in me. And we -- me -- don't need no stinkin' hymns.

Not when we have Marty Haugen and David Haas.

Here in this place, new light is streaming
Now is the darkness vanished away
See in this space our fears and our dreamings
Brought here to you in the light of this day
Listen, I can't see God -- whomever She might be -- but I can see Me, which Haugen so perceptively realizes in "Gather Us In." This is the modern world, and it is sick that these Texas fundies are teaching their children something as regressive as . . . hymns.

It's 2007, women have the vote and the right to choose, we're all self-actualized and it's time even for fundie kids to wake up and smell the mochacchino, Tondeleo.

We are the young our lives are a mystery
We are the old who yearn for you face
We have been sung throughout all of history
Called to be light to the whole human race
Now that's writing. A breath of fresh air when compared to bellicose Martin Luther hate speech ("A Mighty Fortress is Our God" . . . puh-leez) or ancient Pre-Vatican II cookie worship ("Pange Lingua Gloriosi" . . . yuck) or pious self-hating groveling to a tyrannical Patriarch ("Holy, Holy, Holy" . . . my ass). I mean, get this:

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!
REALLY AND TRULY, thank Gaia for contemporary spirituality musicians like Marty Haugen!

Not in the dark of buildings confining
Not in some heaven, light-years away
here in this place the new light is shining
Now is the Kingdom, now is the day

Hey, you know what paradise is?
It's a lie, a fantasy we create about people and places as we'd like them to be
But you know what truth is?
It's that little baby you're holding, it's that man you fought with this morning
The same one you're going to make love with tonight
That's truth, that's love . . .

Oh, I've been to Nice and the isle of Greece
when I sipped champagne on a yacht
I moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo
and showed them what I've got
I've been undressed by kings
and I've seen some things that a woman ain't s'pose to see
I've been to paradise but I've never been to me...

I THINK THAT'S THE GIST of the Haugen classic . . . or a song I heard on the "Super Hits of the '70s" FM station today. I forget.

But, hey! It's all good!

Whatever, that is, your construct of "good" happens to be in your reality. It is all about you, after all.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Everybody hurts sometimes, or . . .
'writing straight with crooked lines'

Been listening to a lot of Marianne Faithfull since the last installment of the Revolution 21 podcast, and it's set me to thinking.

I know, a dangerous proposition, but bear with me. And bear with this week's installment of the Revolution 21 podcast, please, because I was "thinking" when I put it together, too.

Anyway. . . .

An interesting story, Marianne's. In the early '60s, she was big pop-folk stuff in the U.K. -- to steal from a Johnny Cash classic, she was a regular "Teenage Queen, prettiest thing you've ever seen" -- and not too slouchy here, either, in Year 1 of the British Invasion.

Mick Jagger and Rolling Stones' bandmate Keith Richards wrote her first big hit, "As Tears Go By" in late 1964. It made it up to No. 22 on this side of the Atlantic Ocean and -- pensive ballad be damned -- the Stones would record it themselves in '66 and take it all the way to No. 9 on the U.S. charts.

But you knew a "But then . . . " was coming, didn't you?

Her teen-age marriage to artist John Dunbar, in 1965, had produced a son and then had fallen apart -- but not ended -- by the time she took up with Jagger in '66. In '67, police raided Keith Richards' place looking for dope and also found Jagger and Faithfull.

Richards was playing Dylan on the phonograph. Faithfull was wearing a fur rug . . . and nothing else. Couldn't tell you about Jagger.

In '68, she miscarried her and Jagger's daughter. According to published accounts, he buried himself in work; she disappeared deep into drugs. In '69, after writing "Sister Morphine," Marianne Faithfull OD'd on pills. Her words to Jagger upon awaking six days later?

"Wild horses couldn't drag me away." There's a song in that somewhere.

FROM THERE, a downward spiral. Lost her career, pretty much. Lost Jagger. Lost custody of her son. Ended up on the streets,

Still had the drugs, though.

Fast forward to 1979. Marianne Faithfull -- a world-weary, husky-throated, hard-edged, new-but-older Marianne Faithfull -- re-emerged with a successful album, Broken English. An album with some real heft, utterly unlike her earlier career -- save her released, but quickly recalled, "Sister Morphine" -- of airy folk and pop.

She was beginning to dig herself out, a process that would culminate in rehab six years later.

The "new" Marianne Faithfull that somehow survived the abyss of the late '60s and 1970s was what, today, we'd call "damaged goods." On the other hand, the "damaged" woman had become a stronger artist -- her tangibly degraded voice lending itself to the material she recorded, and lending whole new levels of depth to old material she revisited in later years.

You could say that the broken things had been made strong by their weakness. Indomitable in their vulnerability.

NOW, IF WE TURNED THIS into a talk about the Christian life, about how we're screwed-up, suffering sinners who keep trying and falling short of the saintliness we're called to . . . what can we learn? About turning our brokenness into strength? About being powerful in our weakness?

Really, who the hell would have given Marianne Faithfull much of a chance once she slipped into that druggy abyss? Certainly not the record industry.

And who would give any of us much of a chance whenever we slide into any of the various black holes of our own making? As is usually the case, chief among the naysayers would be . . . ourselves.

Is there any blacker darkness than that moment of despair we confront once we've screwed up but good? When we're convinced that, surely, there's no way out of the latest fine mess we've gotten ourselves into? That life assuredly will be utter crap from this day forward, amen?

We hope and pray those moments are few, far between and fleeting. For some folks, they aren't.

But for others -- through the unexplainable and unmerited grace of the Almighty -- there is, for lack of a better cliche, a light at the end of the tunnel. We find, if we cooperate with God's grace, that in the broken places lie our strength. In our vulnerability, power.

Or should I say Power, because it's not our own?

IF WE WORK ON IT, perhaps out of our trials, failures and fallenness can emerge new reservoirs of compassion and empathy. And maybe -- though we bear the scars, and the bruises, and though we deal with the harsh realities of "Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa" -- our cracked voice will sing out sweeter than ever.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Hope sputters at Road Home's dead end

Between George Bush and his administration of "Let them eat cake" hacks on one side, and Gov. Kathleen Blanco and her supporting cast of Mayor Teddys and "Boss" Hoggs on the other, it's no wonder that despair is the only growth industry in K-Ville today.

From The Times-Picayune:

WASHINGTON -- With New Orleans homeowners telling a Senate subcommittee Thursday that displaced residents are giving up hope because of continued delays in the state's Road Home program and projections the program is running out of money, a key Bush administration official suggested more federal funds to bail out the program are unlikely.
Donald Powell, the federal coordinator for Gulf Coast recovery, didn't completely rule out additional federal financing, telling the Senate Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery he's willing to sit down with Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and other state officials to discuss options for covering a projected $3 billion shortfall.

But he gave a strong hint that such additional funding will be a hard sell, telling the subcommittee that the overruns were caused largely by the state's decision to "unilaterally, independently and fundamentally" change the program to cover wind damage as well as flood damage.

Without the expansion to cover wind damage, Powell said, the Road Home program, based on current projections, would be showing a $600 million surplus instead of facing a substantial deficit. "We were always very clear that the federal government would not fund state housing programs to cover wind damage," he said.

Andy Kopplin, executive director of the Louisiana
Authority, sitting next to Powell at the witness table, said that the state made a decision "not to discriminate based on the kind of damage" that wasn't compensated by insurance, which generally covers wind damage from a storm. The decision, he said, was the "right thing to do."

"When the president said he would do what it takes, and stay as long as it takes, he didn't say except if you had wind damage," Kopplin said.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, chairwoman of the subcommittee, who changed the order of testimony to sit Powell and Kopplin together on the first witness panel, urged the two officials to try to work out their differences, saying the success of the state's long-term recovery efforts may well be at stake.

The hearing was at times emotional; with some New Orleans residents expressing frustration at what they describe as the inability of applicants to get even the most basic information on the status of their applications.

Walter Thomas, a resident of New Orleans Lower 9th Ward, said that he was so encouraged last October when he met with Road Home officials who told him his application seemed complete, "I felt I had a check on the way," he said.

But soon thereafter, Thomas said, he was hospitalized, and since he's gotten out, "I've called 30 or 40 times. "Every time, I call someone says we'll get back to you." But he said no one has.

"I've given up," Thomas said.

Connie Uddo, administrator of St. Paul's Beacon of Hope Organization in Lakeview, described herself as the neighborhood "encourager, the cheerleader," constantly telling people that "Your life will come back." But now, she says, "I can't look them in the eye and tell them that anymore." Based on current pace of awarding checks, she figures it will take seven years for the last applicants to get their checks.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Dear Diary: The besieged Church is agin' everthin'

EDITOR'S NOTE: Revolution 21's Blog for the People continues an occasional series of dispatches recorded some years ago in the trenches of Catholic radio. The names aren't real, nor are the places, but the stories are -- and it's a snapshot picture of what happens when "Their zeal consumes them" meets "Sinners sacrifice for the institution, not vice versa."

In other words, there has to be a better way.


Dear Diary,

I didn't get home until about nine tonight . . . we're having our semiannual "Pledge-a-Thon" at Pope FM and I've been working from 6:45 a.m. to 8:30 every night.

BTW, today my boss and the development director, during one segment, got into this incredibly self-righteous sounding feedback loop of Orthodox Catholicism Against the Infidels, cracking on the "secular media" and its distortions about the Church, Catholics who don't know their faith, that "forces" would love to stop us in our mission, yadda yadda yadda.

I was in the control room doing a slow burn. Finally, I started to ratchet up the outro music -- giving them the hint to shut up -- and put on some CDs. Then I called the development guy into the control room, shut the door, told him I was telling him this because then was neither the time nor the place to get into a s***-slinging match with my boss, and then calmly let him have it with both barrels.

BASICALLY, I told him they were demonizing the media (and that the media for the most part had the Church's number down pat in the recent scandals), that they sounded incredibly self-righteous, and that if it didn't stop I was going to walk. I told him I knew I would be in a world of hurt if I did, but that it was a matter of conscience with me.

I added that what we needed to be saying was what we were FOR, not that we were poor Catholics being persecuted by the world.

Furthermore, I told him, what we needed to show people was love and humility because we were in no position to be arrogant.

To his credit, he listened and went to the chapel to pray on the matter. He came back and told me the message he got in prayer was to speak to what we believed in as Catholics and not worry about the rest. I don't know if he had a heart-to-heart with Mary about what I said, but the rest of the day went much better, with the exception of one repeat remark Mary made about the "forces." The development honcho was standing in the control room when she did, and I told him that the remark was overly cryptic, nebulous and that, frankly, (with the exception of Satan, who would like to see all evangelism fail) we weren't on enough people's radar screen for there to be a conspiracy against us.

Really, why does Catholic media have to come to this? And why do orthodox Catholics stand for this kind of counterproductive nonsense?

THERE WAS A TIME when I might have bought a lot of this -- and perhaps did buy a lot of this -- but I've been purged of it during the last year or so. Particularly after Sept. 11, when I got to see first-hand how ugly much of the Church's initial reaction to such a trauma could be.

It was either idiotic or Pharisaical, but not Christlike, I don't think.

I listen to how many contemporary, music-oriented evangelical stations that I listen to relate to the broader culture, and I'm envious . . . comparatively. I truly envy that aspect of the broader evangelical-Protestant spirituality -- the emphasis on hope, forgiveness and love. It's not that they're soft on sin -- it's just the emphasis on there being something BETTER than sin, that there is victory over sin and the death resulting from sin.

Orthodox Catholicism in so many quarters, however, just strikes me as stinking of its own peculiar version of the Nutso College-Campus Street Preacher Syndrome. Just all tied up in apologetics and doctrine.

Am I making any sense here? It's difficult to express what is so much a deep sense within the soul and heart.

Does something look different here?

Revolution 21's Blog for the People has a bit of a new look -- a new, and occasionally changing, flag at the top of the page.

The new accoutrement sprang from my looking for something more professional- and spiffy-looking to top the blog. So I finally had the inclination to explore putting art in the Blogger layout. And I started making a flag, or that banner atop the blog page.

And then I put it up. Better, but not as slick as I wanted.

So I started playing with the scanner and a box of old photos . . . and with pulling some art off a royalty-free stock-photo site. Then with setting objects on the scanner and scanning them.

NEXT THING I KNEW, I had 20 new flags to rotate atop Revolution 21's Blog for the People. And counting, I am sure.

So, every so often, you'll see something new atop the blog. Every now and again, I might explain what it is . . . and when it was.

The flag you're looking at now shows a slice of New Orleans' St. Louis Cathedral, photographed by me in the spring of 1987. New Orleanians have worshipped on this site since 1718 under French rule, and in 1727, a new church building was completed and consecrated -- named for Saint Louis, King of France, otherwise known as Louis IX.

THEN CAME the great fire that burned much of the now Spanish-ruled city to the ground in 1788. Including the first St. Louis parish church, which had been New Orleans' first structure of brick-between-post construction. Rebuilt bigger and grander beginning in 1789, the "new" structure is the one we know today, albeit with various additions and a major renovation in the 1850s. It was dedicated as a cathedral and housed its first Mass on Christmas Eve, 1794.

Pope Paul VI named St. Louis Cathedral a minor basilica in 1964, and Pope John Paul II visited in 1987.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Free the Deity! Unshackle the Almighty!

There's a riot goin' on at The Boar's Head Tavern over the Virgin Mary. It's relatively civilized as interdenominational clashes go, but has been following the usual pattern for these things.

The lineup is the usual token Catholic guy and a couple of sympathetic non-Catholics versus 1,234,568 Protestants (approximately) who seem to think that the woman who was extraordinary enough to bear Christ couldn't have been extraordinary in any other way at all.

Ever virgin? FEH!

Queen of Heaven? IDOLATRY!


Praying to Mary because she has pull with her Son? AAIIIIEEEEEEEEE!!! DISSIN' THE ALMIGHTY! HE WANT DA PRAYAZ! HE. WANT. DA. PRAYAZ!

Here's a sample of what I'm talkin' about:

I’m coming late to this discussion (after all, some of us have to work for a living), but here goes:

How can Mary be “Mother of God” if God (YHWH), “I Am That I Am” existed before Mary? To call Mary “Mother of God” seems to me to indicate there was no God before Jesus was born.

How can one with confidence say that Mary was a perpetual virgin when, honestly, there is no way of knowing? Did she just go around talking about it and it caught the ear of Peter who passed it down to the other popes?

And I’ve heard the old rationale of praying to Mary, which seems to indicate that Jesus is such a jerk that he won’t hear your prayers and his mother has to talk him into doing anything. I find that idea rather offensive.

Don’t get me wrong. If I were a pastor I’d preach a sermon every year during Advent honoring Mary. But, as Audrey said to Ellen when she started her “eulogy” for Aunt Edna by telling the Lord that “we love this woman with all our hearts,” “Let’s not overdo it, Mom!”
I DO COMMEND the panel for keeping the debate pretty genial -- at least for these types of disputations -- but it's going to end like every other forum in which a token Catholic has to be the one guy to answer every challenge and be the lightning rod for 500 years of Reformational grievances against corrupt popery. Rhetoric will get hotter and hotter, epistemological blood will be shed, consensus will be elusive -- except when it's nonexistent -- and sooner or later the Catholic guy will say "(Expletive) this (deleted)," and that will be that.

And everyone will lament the fact that the Catholic guy was such a touchy sorehead.


Is Jesus the second person of the Holy Trinity? Yeah? Well, that makes him God. Mary gave birth to Him. Thus, Mary is the Mother of God -- the God who has existed forever and created the universe . . . and Mary.

Of course, that makes no sense . . . to us. We Catholics call that a Mystery, with a capital "M."

Just like Mary being conceived free of original sin, otherwise known as the Immaculate Conception. We Catholics believe it impossible for a sinless, perfect Savior to be born of a flawed, originally sinful woman. To us, that just doesn't make any sense. So Mary must have been the first beneficiary of Jesus' saving grace . . . at her conception.

And, frankly, Catholics are offended by the hardline Protestant notion that Jesus would be pissed off about someone asking His mother -- or any saint -- to put in a good word for us earthly schlubs.

And to continue in this frank vein, that kind of always-offended-and-looking-to-smite deity seems to me to have more in common with the Allah of Ibrahim and Ishmael than the God of Abraham, Issac and Joseph. C'mon, give God some credit for being almighty enough to not get His Divine Nose out of joint . . . and to accept our procuring lobbyists to grease the Judgment Seat!

For Pete's sake, let the Holy Trinity out of solitary confinement, already!

Or, as Flannery O'Connor once put it:

Whatever you do anyway, remember that these things are mysteries and that if they were such that we could understand them, they wouldn’t be worth understanding. A God you understood would be less than yourself.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The implications of 'screw you' as official policy

You know, I was just thinking that the precursor to nihilistic political violence -- a.k.a., jihad -- was an ongoing sociopolitical hopelessness in the Muslim, particularly Arab, world.

And you could argue that the mindset of violent Islamofascism is, in some way, objectively insane. Ingrained, institutionalized, societal insanity.

Which kind of makes the official neglect of a destroyed American city -- and the further official neglect of the despair the original neglect has bred -- every bit as nuts, doesn't it?

From New Orleans City Business:

In nine years in adult psychiatry, Stephen Menendez has never before seen a population of young psychotics resistant to all forms of anti-psychotic medication.

“We’re seeing a lot of people between the ages of 20 and 30 coming in with their first psychotic breakdown,” said Menendez, supervisor of adult psychiatry at East Jefferson General Hospital. “They’re hearing, seeing and sensing things that aren’t there. They’re paranoid and delusional and they aren’t responding to anti-psychotic medications, and we don’t know why. It seems like a new phenomenon.”

More than 20 months after Hurricane Katrina, mental health professionals say the severity of mental illness in New Orleans has reached new lows and is deteriorating.

More patients are exhibiting post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms while mental health services are nearly impossible to find, said Celeste Lewis, a staff nurse at River Oaks Hospital.

The number of adult inpatient psychiatric beds nosedived 93 percent to 17 from a pre-storm high of 234.

“It’s just a feeling of hopelessness, overwhelming sadness and that life is not going to get better any time soon,” said Lewis. “That spirit of determination that ‘we’re going to get through this and rebuild’ has really faded. It’s made people feel apathetic about their general health. The city is really suffering.”

Mayor C. Ray Nagin recently wrote to Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco demanding the state address the emergency mental health needs of New Orleans. The city lost nearly 100 psychiatric beds and a 40-bed crisis intervention unit after Charity Hospital closed following Hurricane Katrina.

Louisiana State University spokesman Marvin McGraw said the hospital division plans to establish 33 psychiatric beds at its DePaul campus in New Orleans before the end of the year. But there are no plans to recreate a crisis intervention unit.

The New Orleans Adolescent Hospital added 20 psychiatric beds but did little to solve the problem, said Alice Craft-Kerney, executive director of the Lower Ninth Ward Health Clinic, where 95 percent of patients exhibit post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

Mentally ill patients in New Orleans are either forced to wait for hours in emergency rooms ill-equipped to handle their needs, sent to hospitals in Mississippi or northern Louisiana if a bed becomes available — or they are medicated and released.

“If that happens, the best case you go to jail, the worst you get killed,” said Craft-Kerney.
FOR MORE INFO: Medical News Today

Google this!

Dear Google,

Data collection is not the same as "knowing." You attribute more worth to random infobytes and compiled online snapshots than is warranted in a world where flesh-and-blood human beings must interact and get along with other flesh-and-blood human beings. But, according to The Financial Times,
that's not going to stop you from trying, is it?

Google’s ambition to maximise the personal information it holds on users is so great that the search engine envisages a day when it can tell people what jobs to take and how they might spend their days off.

Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, said gathering more personal data was a key way for Google to expand and the company believes that is the logical extension of its stated mission to organise the world’s information.

Asked how Google might look in five years’ time, Mr Schmidt said: “We are very early in the total information we have within Google. The algorithms will get better and we will get better at personalisation.

“The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask the question such as ‘What shall I do tomorrow?’ and ‘What job shall I take?’ ”

The race to accumulate the most comprehensive database of individual information has become the new battleground for search engines as it will allow the industry to offer far more personalised advertisements. These are the holy grail for the search industry, as such advertising would command higher rates.

Mr Schmidt told journalists in London: “We cannot even answer the most basic questions because we don’t know enough about you. That is the most important aspect of Google’s expansion.”

He said Google’s newly relaunched iGoogle service, which allows users to personalise their own Google search page and publish their own content, would be a key feature.

Another service, Google personalised search, launched two years ago, allows users to give Google permission to store their web-surfing history, what they have searched and clicked on, and use this to create more personalised search results for them. Another service under development is Google Recommendations – where the search suggests products and services the user might like, based on their already established preferences. Google does not sell advertising against these services yet, but could in time use them to display more targeted ads to people.
FLESH-AND-BLOOD human beings have immortal souls and complex psychologies, of which your ever-developing algorhythms haven't a frigging clue.

Oh Google, my Google, we love you for the search engine you are. But you're going to make a hash of YouTube, and your online ad-buying business is going to be the "cure" that kills off the critically ill newspaper and radio businesses.

Google, some things are just none of your damned business. What I do with my career and how I spend my days off are among these.

Now, my friend, learn your place or bugger off!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Now, that's good eatin'!

It's funny how good blogs often lead you to other really good blogs, which oftentimes end up being more elucidating reading than a stack of newspapers and magazines.

The New Yorker's New Orleans Journal by Dan Baum -- who's living in the Crescent City until June while working on a book -- is one of those blogs I discovered because I'm a fan of Harry Shearer, who's a really big fan of Baum. Journal is indispensable reading about an indispensible place.

Here's a sample, from a post about Baum's trek to the place you go when you get a hankerin' for some fresh snappers (turtles, not game fish) or alligator, or muskrat . . . or raccoon:
He led us into a shed and opened a freezer that looked like the morgue at the Bronx Zoo. Inside, encased in plastic, were raccoons, rabbits, and muskrats, all of them flayed but easily identifiable and looking surprised in their wrapping. “How about this?” he said, holding up something about two feet long that looked exactly like a whole skinned alligator. “Whole skinned alligator,” he said. “Marinate that and put it right on the grill.”

A whole skinned alligator seemed a bit much for just the two of us, so we bought a couple of packets of alligator meat. (“Tail? Body meat? Both?” he asked, dropping the packets on the scale.) We also brought home a quartet of frozen soft-shell crabs for ten dollars, a jar of Cajun Land Fish Fry, an unlabelled bottle of homemade strawberry wine that turned out to be delicious but produced an instantaneous headache, and a stack of flyers to give to our friends.

When I asked the proprietor if I could identify him in this column, he wrinkled his nose and shook his head. “I don’t need the commotion,” he said. It may also be that he doesn’t need a visit from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. On the other hand, he was careful to tell us that his cowan are common snappers, not endangered alligator snappers. I’m pretty sure his operation is legal; he’s been in business since 1959.

Back on Dauphine Street, I pounded the alligator pieces with a rolling pin to tenderize them. Ask Louisianans how to prepare any kind of wild meat, and their answers are so alike in content and wording that I suspect they were reciting this in school when I was pledging allegiance to the flag: “Get some Wish Bone Italian dressing, and put it up in that with your spices, some onion powder, some garlic and some green onions. Serve that with hot rice and”—they clap their hands.

Yankee food snobs that we are, we didn’t have any Wishbone Italian dressing on hand, so I made a marinade with imported extra-virgin olive oil, red-wine vinegar, dried thyme, onion powder, crushed garlic, Zatarain’s Creole seasoning, and some cayenne pepper. Then I added more cayenne pepper. And then a little more. I left the alligator marinating in the refrigerator overnight, and then thought up excuses to eat out, hoping the alligator would disappear. When it didn’t, I lit the burners in our stove’s Jenn-Air grill and laid the slices atop it. “How do you like your gator?” I asked Margaret.

“I think you should cook it a very long time,” she said.

It was chewy and mild, like a cross between chicken and veal. It seemed lean and healthful, the kind of thing that will soon show up in a Jane Brody column. (No antibiotics! No trans fats!) Its flavor was faintly nutty and not fishy at all; if I had to put an adjective on it, I’d say, “Reptilian.”

I called Ronald Lewis, to see if he liked gator any more than he liked gefilte fish. “Oh, yes,” he said. “I’ve been eating it all my life. I like it fried or smothered.”

I told him I didn’t think it had much flavor.

“Well, that may be because it was frozen,” he said. “I think it probably tastes better when it’s fresh. What you really want to try, though, is coon. My mama used to boil that in seafood boil and then bake it with sweet potatoes. Now that’s good.”
AS SOMEONE who reads posts like this and sorely misses home, I can attest that alligator is good eatin' -- particularly breaded and fried like catfish. Its taste lies somewhere between fish and chicken . . . at least to me.

And I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Lewis that coon is good eatin', too. I'd like to try his mama's recipe, though it's plenty tasty just barbequed.

I strongly suspect that sometimes, in her heart of hearts, Mrs. Favog wonders just what the hell she'd been smoking the day she said "I do."

Curses! He knew she do that voodoo that he rue

File this Baton Rouge, La., TV report under "Things that just don't happen in Topeka":

A woman is stabbed more than 30 times Sunday night, and witnesses say the man stabbed her because he thought she put a voodoo spell put on him.

The stabbing happened on North 43rd Street, which is near Gus Young in north Baton Rouge. Witnesses say a woman was stabbed a few blocks down on Billops Street.

They say a man, who police identify as Courtney Thomas, took two knives and stabbed her more than 30 times.

They say the woman tried to get away by running to North 43rd Street, but witnesses say Thomas followed her and then tried to stab a man who helped the woman.

We're told the "Good Samaritan" grabbed a pipe and Thomas fled the scene. He was arrested some time later.

Paramedics rushed the woman to a local hospital. Police say her injuries are non-life threatening.

I'M NO EXPERT on voodoo, but I'm assuming that either the spell didn't work or that she forgot to do the "make myself invincible" incantation before the suspect pulled out the knives.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Uhhhh . . . we nEd 2 txt bout DIS

OMG, som rEsrchRs R worEd dat teens addiction 2 txtN iz lEdN 2 shallower relationships w othRz -- depriving dem of d nuances of mEng conveyed Thru d hUmN vox & face-to-face contak.

& d onlE certainty 4 1 shrink iz d utter uncertainty of wot it aL wiL mean 4 society.
GOin by DIS WashNtn pOs repot, itz goin 2 tAk lots of Xperts w :-l l skiLz 2 figur dat 1 out:

The explosion of this technology was inevitable, according to those who research adolescent behavior, because it provides a new tool for creating what teenagers always have wanted and needed -- distance from parents.

"It's a form of silent communication; they can do it whenever, they can do it fairly secretively," said Rob Callender, trends director for Teenage Research Unlimited. In a recent study of teens, he said, TRU found that texting is the second most popular use for cellphones, right after using them to check the time. Plus, every phone number a child calls is recorded on the family phone bill, with a time stamp. But text messages remain an anonymous, faceless lump number.

Friedland, the psychologist, says texting is different from the marathon phone calls most parents remember making as teens because it's typically done with a large group of friends. "For many of them, it is the sense of being part of a group that is really important," she said. What she worries about is that children aren't getting the "cleaner, deeper sense of friendship and relatedness" that came from talking to someone directly, even on the phone.

"We just don't know yet what the impact will be," she said.
WOT SOM PARNTS of teen-agers nEd 2 figur out, tho, iz much mo immediate. wot dey nEd 2 figur out iz how 2 pA lst mthz ceL bill.

TLK iz chEp. txtN ain't.

4 EXMPL, LETZ L%K @ a most fascinating case study n d n8tN's capital:

Sofia Rubenstein, 17, got in trouble the way a lot of teens do these days.

Her incessant text-messaging racked up a huge phone bill on the family's wireless plan.

"It's whatever pops into my head. There's no stopping it," she said. "Sometimes I'll be on the phone with someone and I get texted, and then I'm having two conversations at once."

Last month the Washington high school junior used 6,807 text messages, which, at a rate of 15 cents apiece for most of them, pushed the family's Verizon Wireless bill to more than $1,100 for the month. Sofia knew she'd been texting a lot but couldn't believe the "incredible" number she hit. "I just thought, oh my God, my life is over," she said.

Indeed. Sofia will be working in her parents' retail store this summer to pay off her debt -- but she definitely won't be the only teenager paying for text abuse. Minutes? Forget minutes. It's all about the text allowance. It needs to be supersized, now that instant messaging has leapt from the desktop to the mobile.

Families who carefully researched their wireless plans to cover calls with no extra fees are discovering, to their horror, that their thumb-tapping teens have found a new way to blow the budget. In Sofia's case, her parents' plan included only 100 free text messages a month -- fewer than half of what she was using every day "at all points of the day" -- and she racked up massive per-message fees fast.

Well, this certainly explains the last post

'I think as far as the adverse impact
on the nation around the world,
this administration has been
the worst in history'

WHEN JIMMY "HOSTAGE CRISIS" CARTER, fer cryin' out loud, has the unmitigated nerve to call George W. Bush the most incompetent president ever -- at least when it comes to foreign policy -- you know something is seriously awry at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

To say the least.

Something has to be screwy for Carter to say what he said. Because nobody has that much gall. Really.

The Associated Press offers up
all the depressing details:

Former President Carter says President Bush's administration is "the worst in history" in international relations, taking aim at the White House's policy of pre-emptive war and its Middle East diplomacy.

The criticism from Carter, which a biographer says is unprecedented for the 39th president, also took aim at Bush's environmental policies and the administration's "quite disturbing" faith-based initiative funding.

"I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history," Carter told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in a story that appeared in the newspaper's Saturday editions. "The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me."

Carter spokeswoman Deanna Congileo confirmed his comments to The Associated Press on Saturday and declined to elaborate. He spoke while promoting his new audiobook series, "Sunday Mornings in Plains," a collection of weekly Bible lessons from his hometown of Plains, Ga.

"Apparently, Sunday mornings in Plains for former President Carter includes hurling reckless accusations at your fellow man," said Amber Wilkerson, Republican National Committee spokeswoman. She said it was hard to take Carter seriously because he also "challenged Ronald Reagan's strategy for the Cold War."

Carter came down hard on the Iraq war.

"We now have endorsed the concept of pre-emptive war where we go to war with another nation militarily, even though our own security is not directly threatened, if we want to change the regime there or if we fear that some time in the future our security might be endangered," he said. "But that's been a radical departure from all previous administration policies."

Carter, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, criticized Bush for having "zero peace talks" in Israel. Carter also said the administration "abandoned or directly refuted" every negotiated nuclear arms agreement, as well as environmental efforts by other presidents.


Douglas Brinkley, a Tulane University presidential historian and Carter biographer, described Carter's comments as unprecedented.

"This is the most forceful denunciation President Carter has ever made about an American president," Brinkley said. "When you call somebody the worst president, that's volatile. Those are fighting words."

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The British are going! The British are going!

It takes a special kind of idiot to cause Great Britain to run screaming into the night. And, by gum, George W. Bush is just the man for the job.

From the Sunday Telegraph in London:

Gordon Brown is prepared to risk the future of the "special relationship" with the United States by reversing Tony Blair's support for the Iraq war, President George W Bush has been warned.

He has been briefed by White House officials to expect an announcement on British troop withdrawals from Mr Brown during his first 100 days in power. It would be designed to boost the new prime minister's popularity in the opinion polls.

The President recently discussed with a senior White House adviser how to handle the fallout from the expected loss of Washington's main ally in Iraq, The Sunday Telegraph has learned.

Details of the talks came as a close ally of Mr Brown called for a quicker withdrawal of British troops. Nigel Griffiths, a former minister, said: "We should get out of Iraq as soon as is practicable. We should consult the Iraqi government - but they cannot have a veto. This cannot be delayed."

Mr Griffiths, who resigned as deputy leader of the Commons this year over the decision to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system, spoke out as reports suggested that Mr Brown would use an early trip to Iraq to reassess Britain's role and accelerate the withdrawal. Revelation of the US fears will reinforce expectations in Westminster that Mr Brown will make a decisive break with Mr Blair's support for the war.

During a surprise "farewell trip" to Iraq yesterday, Mr Blair suggested that his successor would continue his policy. Speaking shortly after a mortar attack by insurgents on Baghdad's fortified "green zone", the Prime Minister said: "I have no doubt at all that Britain will remain steadfast in its support for Iraq, for the Iraqi people and for the Iraqi government as it tries to make sure it overcomes the threat of terrorism and continues to make progress.

"The policy I pursue is one for the whole of the Government, so even when I leave government I am sure that support will continue."

However, it can be revealed that senior figures in the National Security Council, the Pentagon and the State Department in Washington have expressed fears about Mr Brown.

They believe that cordial relations between the two leaders will be "at an end" if the incoming premier plays "gesture politics" over Iraq.