Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Barack Obama as . . . The Soprano

This we may now assume: The next president of the United States won't know Shiite from Shinola.

ALL BECAUSE Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama -- obviously the innocent victim of some Looziana-style justice -- doesn't have the stones to deal with his Reverend Whack Job problem once and for all. And if how a man reacts when it all hits the fan shows us what he's made of -- and, indeed, where his convictions truly lie -- electing the doddering, ill-tempered Republican poster child for "senior moments" instead of yet another doctrinaire social-left Democrat probably will end up being a wash for the nation.

That, of course, is tragic in its own right. What can one expect, though, in a nation now politically riven between fascist-leaning, tinfoil-hat wearing GOP true believers and "progressive" Democrats who can muster true passion and outrage only when someone suggests women ought not have the "right" to murder their unborn offspring or, relatedly, suggests that f***ing is not an entitlement.

DO I UNDERSTAND this correctly?

Monday, not only did the Rev. Jeremiah Wright go before the National Press Club and defend some of the more offensive and crazy things he's said in the past, but then insinuated that Obama was disingenuous in the opprobrium he heaped upon his ex-pastor and spiritual mentor's rhetorical excesses.

And Wright couldn't leave bad enough alone, either. No, he had to stick the shiv in one of his own sheep's back as he threw Obama under the bus -- all the while clowning, mugging and mocking like some sort of ecclesiastical Huey Long in blackface. With security provided by the Nation of Islam -- that's Louis Farrakhan's Black Muslims to you and me.

Now, after all that, what you see in the above MSNBC video is all the fury Obama could muster?

Here's how The Associated Press reported the response from the junior U.S. senator from Illinois:

"I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened by the spectacle that we saw yesterday," Obama told reporters at a news conference.

After weeks of staying out of the public eye while critics lambasted his sermons, Wright made three public appearances in four days to defend himself. The former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago has been combative, providing colorful commentary and feeding the story Obama had hoped was dying down.

"This is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright," Wright told the Washington media Monday. "It has nothing to do with Senator Obama. It is an attack on the black church launched by people who know nothing about the African-American religious tradition."

Obama told reporters Tuesday that Wright's comments do not accurately portray the perspective of the black church.

"The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago," Obama said of the man who married him.

Wright criticized the U.S. government as imperialist and stood by his suggestion that the United States invented the HIV virus as a means of genocide against minorities. "Based on this Tuskegee experiment and based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything," he said.

Obama said he heard that Wright had given "a performance" and when he watched tapes, he realized that it more than just a case of the former pastor defending himself.

"What became clear to me was that he was presenting a world view that contradicts what I am and what I stand for," Obama said.

In a highly publicized speech last month, Obama sharply condemned Wright's remarks. But he did not leave the church or repudiate the minister himself, who he said was like a family member.

On Tuesday, Obama sought to distance himself further from Wright.

"I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia explaining that he's done enormous good. ... But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS. ... There are no excuses. They offended me. They rightly offend all Americans and they should be denounced."

"At a certain point if what somebody says contradicts what you believe so fundamentally and then he questions whether or not you believe it — in front of the National Press Club — then that's enough," Obama continued.

OBAMA SAID he was outraged, but his demeanor and reserve belied that notion. Instead, Obama just looked whipped.

He looked like a man who was despondent over a political setback, maybe even a fatal one. He looked like a man who'd just been "owned" in an argument. He looked like a man who just got his ass whipped.

That's the problem. His is the "outrage" of personal setback; it is not the outrage of someone who has seen something bigger than himself attacked and trashed. It is not the outrage of someone who fights for something dearer to himself than himself.

Lord knows it wasn't the righteous fury of a committed Christian who'd just seen the gospel cheapened and violated by the hateful, crazy antics of one of its ministers. Perhaps Obama might have summoned that kind of righteous anger if Rev. Wright had attacked "reproductive rights" instead.

AND ISN'T THAT just the problem with "progressives"? In what do they believe apart from "Do what thou wilt"? For what are they willing to die? For what do they live?

Sadly, for the Democrats and for America, it has come to this: Not only can't the Dems beat something with nothing, they can't even beat nothing -- and that's exactly what the Bush-McCain GOP represents -- with nothing.

It takes a Democrat to lose to this GOP

Barack Obama is going to grow a pair, right now, and deal with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright -- his posturing, egomaniac ex-pastor -- or we're going to be in Iraq until we have no army left and America is left as a broke, broken and beaten country.

And if Hillary wins, things could be even worse.

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank
weighed in Monday with a most depressing blog post:

Should it become necessary in the months from now to identify the moment that doomed Obama's presidential aspirations, attention is likely to focus on the hour between nine and ten this morning at the National Press Club. It was then that Wright, Obama's longtime pastor, reignited a controversy about race from which Obama had only recently recovered - and added lighter fuel.

Speaking before an audience that included Marion Barry, Cornel West, Malik Zulu Shabazz of the New Black Panther Party and Nation of Islam official Jamil Muhammad, Wright praised Louis Farrakhan, defended the view that Zionism is racism, accused the United States of terrorism, repeated his view that the government created the AIDS virus to cause the genocide of racial minorities, stood by other past remarks ("God damn America") and held himself out as a spokesman for the black church in America.

In front of 30 television cameras, Wright's audience cheered him on as the minister mocked the media and, at one point, did a little victory dance on the podium. It seemed as if Wright, jokingly offering himself as Obama's vice president, was actually trying to doom Obama; a member of the head table, American Urban Radio's April Ryan, confirmed that Wright's security was provided by bodyguards from Farrakhan's Nation of Islam.

Wright suggested that Obama was insincere in distancing himself from his pastor. "He didn't distance himself," Wright announced. "He had to distance himself, because he's a politician, from what the media was saying I had said, which was anti-American."

Explaining further, Wright said friends had written to him and said, "We both know that if Senator Obama did not say what he said, he would never get elected." The minister continued: "Politicians say what they say and do what they do based on electability, based on sound bites, based on polls."

Wright also argued, at least four times over the course of the hour, that he was speaking not for himself but for the black church.

"This is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright," the minister said. "It is an attack on the black church." He positioned himself as a mainstream voice of African American religious traditions. "Why am I speaking out now?" he asked. "If you think I'm going to let you talk about my mama and her religious tradition, and my daddy and his religious tradition and my grandma, you got another thing coming."

That significantly complicates Obama's job as he contemplates how to extinguish Wright's latest incendiary device. Now, he needs to do more than express disagreement with his former pastor's view; he needs to refute his former pastor's suggestion that Obama privately agrees with him.

ON THE OTHER HAND, if Obama manages to save his campaign from Wright's one-man wrecking crew -- Live! In a speaking engagement near you! -- and if he manages to survive the John McCain (expletive deleted) storm that's headed his way, he just might end up being as spectacularly bad a president as Jimmy Carter. At best, there's no way he can live up to his billing as some sort of political messiah, which will leave his delusional hordes with a bad case of disillusionment.

Color me Not Optimistic, no matter what.

If and when the Democrat presidential candidate manages to get blown out by the GOP's McCain -- The Republicans! George W. Bush's Republicans! The morally, intellectually and spiritually bankrupt Republicans! -- this election year, I'm going to try to buy up the FDR memorabilia at the Dems' estate sale.

I'll be there early.

The Post's Eugene Robinson nails another aspect of this silly, sickening and sad spectacle.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Ruh roh? Ruh rOPEC!

Why do I get the feeling that the America of 2015 won't much resemble the America of 2008?

And why do I likewise get the feeling the U.S. cities that weather the energy storm more or less intact will be the ones that get on the stick and get serious about mass transit -- particularly light rail and streetcars?

Probably, that feeling comes from having read
this Dan Dorfman column in The New York Sun:

Get ready for another economic shock of major proportions — a virtual doubling of prices at the gas pump to as much as $10 a gallon.

That's the message from a couple of analytical energy industry trackers, both of whom, based on the surging oil prices, see considerably more pain at the pump than most drivers realize.


Oil recently hit an all-time high of nearly $120 a barrel, more than double its early 2007 price of about $50 a barrel. It closed Friday at $118.52.

The forecasts calling for a jump to between $7 and $10 a gallon are based on the view that the price of crude is on its way to $200 in two to three years.

Translating this price into dollars and cents at the gas pump, one of our forecasters, the chairman of Houston-based Dune Energy, Alan Gaines, sees gas rising to $7-$8 a gallon. The other, a commodities tracker at Weiss Research in Jupiter, Fla., Sean Brodrick, projects a range of $8 to $10 a gallon.

While $7-$10 a gallon would be ground-breaking in America, these prices would not be trendsetting internationally. For example, European drivers are already shelling out $9 a gallon (which includes a $2-a-gallon tax).


Early last year, with a barrel of oil trading in the low $50s and gasoline nationally selling in a range of $2.30 to $2.50 a gallon, Mr. Gaines — in an impressive display of crystal ball gazing — accurately predicted oil was $100-bound and that gasoline would follow suit by reaching $4 a gallon.

His latest prediction of $200 oil is open to question, since it would undoubtedly create considerable global economic distress. Further, just about every energy expert I talk to cautions me to expect a sizable pullback in oil prices, maybe to between $50 and $70 a barrel, especially if there's a global economic slowdown.

While Mr. Gaines thinks there could be a temporary decline in the oil price, he's convinced an overall uptrend is unstoppable. In fact, he thinks his $200 forecast could be conservative, and that perhaps $250 could be reached. His reasoning: a combination of shrinking supply and increasing demand, especially from China, India, and America.
I'M GETTING THE FEELING, too, that there's an old, simple and reliable bicycle in my future.

Ironic, isn't it, that because the Chinese are becoming more like us -- at least in our extravagant, unsustainable way of life -- Americans ultimately will become more like the Chinese used to be until so very recently.

Living on the Death Star

Hey, Louisiana, how are you doing?

Fading fast, you say?

Yeah, I know how that goes. See, I'm from Omaha (by God) Nebraska, and we're the folks who are killing your ass. Not to mention the rest of you, too.

WE'RE THE FOLKS who brought you coastal erosion. And the Dead Zone in Gulf of Mexico, which has crippled your sport- and commercial-fishing industries.

And that little unpleasantness in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina? That was us, too.

We may look like a bunch of corn-fed hicks and earnest upper-Midwestern professionals right out of a Norman Rockwell painting, but that's just to disguise who we really are. To pull the wool over the eyes of the rustic likes of your own backward-ass selves.

But I'll let you in on a secret. I can do this because, frankly, you can't act on your newly acquired knowledge. You're economically stunted, abnormally poorly educated, unusually poverty-stricken and unhealthy as all get-out.

We can piss on your erstwhile largest city, and we can crap on your seafood industry with the tons and tons of chemical fertilizers we dump into the watershed to grow more corn that will go not into hungry people's stomachs but, instead, into more ethanol that will go into our SUVs' gas tanks.

Who are we? We are the Death Star.

Bye, suckas.

WE NORMALLY AREN'T so forthright about any of this. It's bad for bidness. But since your John M. Barry unfortunately
divulged our proprietary information on the op-ed page of the Los Angeles Times, secrecy doesn't matter anymore.

And, as I noted, what are you bunch of dumb rednecks and coonasses going to do about it, anyway?

See, here's how it works, in a nutshell, as explained by that Barry fella:

To understand the link between the High Plains and Louisiana, one has to understand the Mississippi River system -- which stretches from New York to Idaho and drains 31 states -- and the sediment load the system carries. This sediment load was so great that it changed the nation's geography. Sixty million years ago, the ocean reached north to Cape Girardeau, Mo., but as the sea level fell, the river dropped enough mud into what geologists call the Mississippi Embayment to create all the land from Cape Girardeau to the sea, a total of 35,000 square miles in seven states.

That land-building process created Louisiana's coast, along with barrier islands that provided a buffer protecting populated areas in Louisiana and part of Mississippi's coast.

Human engineering has reversed that process, causing the loss of roughly 2,000 square miles of land since World War II. If this buffer -- equivalent to the state of Delaware -- had not been destroyed, New Orleans would need little other hurricane protection.

Numerous man-made actions have caused the land loss, but the most important, yet least recognized, may be the decline of sediment in the river. Dams built to provide electricity, irrigation and flood protection in the Upper Midwest and High Plains are largely responsible for the decline; sediment level is now only 30% to 40% of the natural amount. A particular problem has been a series of dams on the upper Missouri River beginning above Bismarck, N.D., and ending above Yankton, S.D. Historically, roughly half of the total sediment load in the Mississippi River came from the upper Missouri, but the dams trapped that sediment upstream. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, since the dams' construction in the 1950s, "the discharge of sediment from the upper Missouri River basin virtually was stopped."

Without this sediment, Louisiana began losing land. Other contributors to the land loss include energy production. About 30% of the nation's domestic oil and gas production comes from Louisiana, which has benefited the entire country. But the industry dredged 10,000 miles of canals through Louisiana's marsh, bringing in saltwater, which killed it. Another factor is the manipulation of sediment for shipping; this too has benefited the national economy by turning cities such as Tulsa and Pittsburgh into ports with direct access to the ocean.
IN SHORT, because of the Missouri River dams, we get cheap electricity and Omaha doesn't have to worry about catastrophic floods on the Not-So-Muddy-Anymore Mo . . . like the one we oh-so-narrowly staved off in 1952 with miles of sandbags and the blood, sweat and tears of thousands. Likewise, we get water for irrigation to grow the corn that goes in our gas tanks and to help wash that fertilizer down the watershed to the Gulf -- to kill your fish.

We also get great fishing and watersports on all those reservoirs up here, and lots of fine camping around them. Just check out the outdoors pages of our newspapers if you don't believe me. All in all, the damming of the Missouri River -- and its sediment flow -- has been a pretty good deal for us, which is why Congress authorized it during World War II.

SO . . . what has Louisiana gotten out of the deal? Besides screwed, that is.

Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

Sucks to be you. In, oh, so many ways.
Too bad, so sad. We're doing fine here on the Death Star, though. "Bobby JIN-dalllll . . . come to the Dark Side, Bobby Jindal!"

OK, I keed, I keed. Seriously, though . . . don't send us any of those hoardes of refugees running north when their towns start to go under the waves, one by one. We can't comprende their lingo, and they're just not that well suited for our info-tech economy, capiche?

We do like your colorful musicians and baseball fans, however. They're quaint and interesting, in an anthropological kind of way.

Well, it's late and I really must run. Every day is a busy day on the Death Star, and we're not even half done blowing your state to Kingdom Come. I can't say "See you later," because -- well -- we won't.

In that light, I'll just close by wishing you well wherever you end up -- so long as it's not here -- and will simply say . . . "So long, it's been good to know 'ya!"

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The importance of seeming earnest

When a politician allows himself to be sold to the voters as a "messiah," watch out. The only thing you can be sure of is that's exactly what he ain't.

IN LOUISIANA'S gubernatorial election last fall, it seemed the biggest things Bobby Jindal had going for him were the aura of competence and relative honesty. It is starting to look as if the great tragedy of Louisiana's gubernatorial election last fall is this was the best of a sad lot from which to pick.

WAFB television in Baton Rouge
reports on what may be the latest act in the Gret Stet's ongoing tragedy -- or comedy, take your pick. Let's call it either Oedipus Dreck or The Importance of Seeming Earnest:

A few key words passed by the legislature could pull the rug out from under Governor Jindal's most important accomplishment - ethics reform. Legislators changed the standard of evidence needed to find someone unethical from "reliable, substantial" to "clear and convincing." So, what does that mean?

The change from just "reliable and substantial" evidence needed to "clear and convincing" could mean fewer people get punished for breaking state ethics laws. So, what does Governor Jindal think of all this? We had trouble getting answers. Governor Bobby Jindal's press secretary, Melissa Sellers, would not let us speak to the governor Friday for answers to our questions about ethics reform. The governor received the Golden Mic award from the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters, which is where 9NEWS tried to get comments from him. He's been called Louisiana's golden boy and he says he set the gold standard for ethics reform. "I think the legislature and the media got tired of me saying "gold standard," but it was important we did indeed set that gold standard."

However, political analyst Jim Engster says if Jindal does not speak up and help fix this crucial ethics standard of evidence change, his golden status could melt away. "Many would think it's much easier to convict somebody of ethics charges under the old standard, so instead of the gold standard, we may have something less than that," Engster says. He says starting August 15th, Louisiana's ethics laws could actually get weaker, instead of stronger. The state's legal standard for finding someone unethical would change from reliable, substantial evidence needed to "clear and convincing" unless legislators make an amendment this session. "There isn't a lot of time to address this and the governor could make it happen in a hurry if he wants to," Engster says.

And now, the suffering citizenry of Louisiana might be staring "The ethics reform that ain't" right in its smirking face. That's the problem with voting for a messiah: There's only been one of those who was worth a damn.

He came around some 2,000 years ago, and He never campaigned for the job.

Being that that's not going to happen again -- the job has been filled, and it's a permanent gig -- wishing and hoping (and voting) for an earthly messiah to fix all what ails you is the most foolish of fool's errands. And if the definition of insanity is doing the same damn thing over and over but expecting a different outcome next time, then what Louisiana is really asking for is Nurse Ratched.

Or is that Wretched?

Friday, April 25, 2008

3 Chords & the Truth: Pretty jazzy, eh?

Back during America's previous era of stagflation -- otherwise known as the Carter Administration -- I was a teen-age disc jockey at WBRH, the FM voice of Baton Rouge Magnet High.

THE BEAUTY of working at what then was the city's only "educational" station (all 20 watts of it) was we programmed pretty much everything the commercial stations didn't. Like classical. And jazz. And progressive rock. And big band.

Once in a while, you might have an airshift that began with "Jazz Set," the name of our contemporary-jazz program, then gave way to the rock show ("Leisure Landing," named for the record store just off the LSU campus, and which provided new records every month) and finally ended up with an hour of big-band music before our broadcast day came to an end at 6 p.m.

IF YOU HAD "ears to hear," spending your time down at 90.1 on the FM dial could be quite the musical and cultural education.

Rock, most of us already liked. But discovering a growing love for jazz and, likewise, big-band jazz could be an eye-opener for a teen-ager. Realizing that you liked your parents' music could do a number on one's mind . . . not to mention wreck a few perfectly good prejudices.

What do you know? "Educational radio" actually was.

So think of this week's episode of 3 Chords & the Truth as an afternoon in the life of WBRH . . . back in the day. And realize that that's cool, because it's all good.

It's the Big Show, posted fresh every week for your eclectic listening enjoyment. Be there. Aloha.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

If only Elwood and Jake were here

I hate Illinois Nazis.

But Republican congressional candidate Tony Zirkle -- who's actually running in Indiana -- would be much more open-minded than I am. That would explain his brain lying on the sidewalk, singing "Deutschland Uber Alles."

The Michigan City, Ind., News Dispatch
once again proves that truth-stranger-than-fiction thang:
If fans of Hitler held a party, and a candidate for federal office attended, would anybody notice?

Apparently, yes.

U.S. Congressional candidate Tony Zirkle is facing criticism from one of his primary opponents, and a host of people on the Internet, for speaking at an event over the weekend that celebrated Adolf Hitler's birthday.

Zirkle confirmed to The News-Dispatch on Monday he spoke Sunday in Chicago at a meeting of the Nationalist Socialist Workers Party, whose symbol is a swastika.

When asked if he was a Nazi or sympathized with Nazis or white supremacists, Zirkle replied he didn't know enough about the group to either favor it or oppose it.
"This is just a great opportunity for me to witness," he said, referring to his message and his Christian belief.

He also told WIMS radio in Michigan City that he didn't believe the event he attended included people necessarily of the Nazi mindset, pointing out the name isn't Nazi, but Nationalist Socialist Workers Party.

The Crown Point Republican spoke in front of about 56 "white activists" at an event honoring the birth of Hitler. The German leader was responsible for the genocide of millions of Jews and others during World War II.

Zirkle said the group asked him to speak to discuss the effect of pornography and prostitution on young, white women and girls.

Zirkle is running against Republican Luke Puckett of Goshen and Joseph Roush of Plymouth in the May primary. He lost twice before in primaries to former U.S. Rep. Chris Chocola and has made doing away with pornography and prostitution his top campaign plank.
MAN, WHEN I WAS in college at Louisiana State, I just thought I was engaging in snarky hyperbole when I referred to the College Republicans as the "LSU Nazis." I guess I was smarter than even I thought at the time.

But this is choice, the part of the story where der Kongresskandidaten told a local radio station "that he didn't believe the event he attended included people necessarily of the Nazi mindset, pointing out the name isn't Nazi, but Nationalist Socialist Workers Party."

How does one get through law school being that obtuse? Or, alternatively, how does one maintain a law practice by being that unartful and obvious of a liar?

Which kind of gets one back to "obtuse."

AFTER ALL, didn't Zirkle have just a leeeeetle bitty inkling that he may have been dealing with some real-life Illinois Nazis when he walked into the room and it looked like the above picture?

What? Was he waiting for Henry Gibson to meet him at the dais?

Good Lord.

A Gideon checked out, and he left it no doubt

This is my pocket Gideon's Bible that I got in December 1971. In my public school in Louisiana.

Then again, second-hand cigarette smoke was legal -- and pervasive -- back then, too.

ISN'T IT WONDERFUL how very advanced we are today? Now, the long arm of the law can grab a Gideon by the scruff of the neck and shake him until every Bible is loosed and swept out of the reach of susceptible grammar schoolers.

This, reports The (Baton Rouge) Advocate,
is how a federal court intends to bring "progress" to the Christianist holdout of Tangipahoa Parish:
The Tangipahoa Parish School Board violated the First Amendment by allowing Gideons International to pass out pocket Bibles to Loranger fifth-graders during school hours in May, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

Just hours after the decision became public, the School Board voted 8-0 to seek an appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“We are somewhat surprised, but very disappointed with the judge’s decision,” board attorney Chris Moody said after the vote.

The decision notches another legal victory for the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, which has sued the board seven times over religion-in-schools issues, including the lawsuit that led to this ruling.

Two more suits are pending.

In an 11-page order, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier wrote the practice cited in the lawsuit is unconstitutional under multiple standards of federal case law designed to test whether government and religion are too closely entangled.

The Bible distribution was “ultimately coercive” on an elementary school child, “a religious activity without a secular purpose” and “amounted to promotion of Christianity by the School Board,” Barbier wrote.

His order granted an ACLU motion for summary judgment and rejected one from the board, court records show.


On May 17, the ACLU sued the board on behalf of the unnamed Loranger Middle School fifth-grader and her father.

He was identified only as “John Roe”; the child as “Jane Roe,” records show.

The child and her parents are Roman Catholic. While both Christian, the Roman Catholic and Gideon Bibles have some differences.

Gideons International, which was not a defendant, is “an interdenominational association of Christian business and professional men,” according to its Web site.

Known for distributing free Bibles, the group this year marks its 100th year of placing Bibles in hotel and motel rooms.

The original suit alleges that on May 9, students were allowed to leave class to pick up Bibles from Gideons International representatives in front of the Principal’s Office, but were given the option to stay behind if they did not want one.

Barbier noted Principal Andre Pellerin notified fifth-grade teachers in an e-mail about the Gideons but told them to stress to students “they DO NOT have to get a (B)ible.”

Still, Barbier found the child was pressured to take a Bible, noting the special care courts have recognized schools must take with impressionable elementary schoolchildren.
WHILE I CAN appreciate the "separation of church and state," at what point does slavish devotion to that nebulous principle become a repressive state-mandated quest to separate the vast majority of people in places like Loranger, La., from their faith and from their cultural patrimony? After all, if one cannot be exposed to ideas or culture in a public school, where, pray tell, is education going to be committed?

The Gideons were handing out Bibles at Loranger Middle School, and not even in the classroom at that. No child had to take one.

Yet that is considered "coercive" by the courts. I wonder whether the American Civil Liberties Union and the federal judge would analyze the facts of the case differently if the Gideons had been handing out condoms.

I wonder, too, whether the ruling might have been different if -- as part of a world-geography lesson -- an imam had spoken to a class about Islam and what Muslims believe, then handed out pocket Korans to the children as a gift.

ALMOST 40 YEARS AGO, when I received my first Gideons Bible as a fifth grader at Villa del Rey Elementary in Baton Rouge, it truly was a learning experience for a kid who had only the most tenuous -- not to mention warped -- acquaintance with Christianity as properly understood.

For all intents and purposes, I was being raised as a pagan, though not an intentional pagan. That first Gideons Bible wasn't so much an act of proselytism as it was a broadening of a 10-year-old kid's horizons.

The next year, not only did we get another Gideons New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs, but we also got led in daily devotions by our devoutly Baptist sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Horn. What we did was read the Psalms. Out loud. In class.

Times were different then . . . obviously. And I will grant that what Mrs. Horn did was pretty blatantly unconstitutional.

Still, looking back on that political incorrectness run amok -- if only we had known what political incorrectness was in 1972 -- I'm so very happy that my teacher, a prison chaplain's wife, violated my constitutional rights.

Objectively, I learned something important about one of the foundational books of Western civilization. Subjectively, I developed a love for the Psalms.

And on an evangelistic level. those seeds planted by Mrs. Horn would begin to sprout nearly 20 years later, added as they were to the seeds sown via the quiet example of my devoutly Catholic aunt and uncle.

That education stuff, it's a dangerous thing. It takes on many forms, and you never know exactly where you're going to end up once it takes off.

UNLESS, of course, you ideologically scour all the education right out of those places it used to thrive. When our schools become intellectual, cultural and religious wastelands in the guise of some neo-Puritan "constitutional correctness," we know exactly where we -- and our children -- will be going.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Context is everything

From that magnificent Year of Our Lord 1961, this is sublime.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet (he's on piano) performing "Take Five" -- written by alto-sax man Paul Desmond -- in glorious black and white . . . and monophonic sound. (And why isn't there more good jazz on TV nowadays?):

FROM THE Year of Our Inner Barbarian 2007, Ernest Sands' "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" is not only highly derivative, to say the least, but in the context of the sacrifice of the Mass certainly brings home the concept of "pick up your cross and follow me."

Preferably to a church where there's a music-free Mass.

And this video represents this song sung as well as it ever will be:

Ooooooooh eeeeeh ooh ah ahhhh!
Ting! Tang! Wallawalla bing-bang

They're not your father's head shrinkers.

AND, ACCORDING to Reuters, Congolese men say it's not just short tempers that plague them, thanks to those dadgum sorcerers:

Police in Congo have arrested 13 suspected sorcerers accused of using black magic to steal or shrink men's penises after a wave of panic and attempted lynchings triggered by the alleged witchcraft.

Reports of so-called penis snatching are not uncommon in West Africa, where belief in traditional religions and witchcraft remains widespread, and where ritual killings to obtain blood or body parts still occur.

Rumors of penis theft began circulating last week in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo's sprawling capital of some 8 million inhabitants. They quickly dominated radio call-in shows, with listeners advised to beware of fellow passengers in communal taxis wearing gold rings.

Purported victims, 14 of whom were also detained by police, claimed that sorcerers simply touched them to make their genitals shrink or disappear, in what some residents said was an attempt to extort cash with the promise of a cure.

"You just have to be accused of that, and people come after you. We've had a number of attempted lynchings. ... You see them covered in marks after being beaten," Kinshasa's police chief, Jean-Dieudonne Oleko, told Reuters on Tuesday.

Police arrested the accused sorcerers and their victims in an effort to avoid the sort of bloodshed seen in Ghana a decade ago, when 12 suspected penis snatchers were beaten to death by angry mobs. The 27 men have since been released.

"I'm tempted to say it's one huge joke," Oleko said.

"But when you try to tell the victims that their penises are still there, they tell you that it's become tiny or that they've become impotent. To that I tell them, 'How do you know if you haven't gone home and tried it'," he said.
THERE ARE REASONS Kinshasa is not projected to become the next New York City, London or Tokyo.

Consider me alarmed

The following column from Monday's Wall Street Journal is why, boys and girls, we're about to put in the biggest garden we ever have.

Journal columnist Brett Arends doesn't want us to panic, but given that some big-box food sellers are having to ration rice and such,
the Hysteria Express already may have left the station:

I don't want to alarm anybody, but maybe it's time for Americans to start stockpiling food.

No, this is not a drill.

You've seen the TV footage of food riots in parts of the developing world. Yes, they're a long way away from the U.S. But most foodstuffs operate in a global market. When the cost of wheat soars in Asia, it will do the same here.

Reality: Food prices are already rising here much faster than the returns you are likely to get from keeping your money in a bank or money-market fund. And there are very good reasons to believe prices on the shelves are about to start rising a lot faster.

"Load up the pantry," says Manu Daftary, one of Wall Street's top investors and the manager of the Quaker Strategic Growth mutual fund. "I think prices are going higher. People are too complacent. They think it isn't going to happen here. But I don't know how the food companies can absorb higher costs." (Full disclosure: I am an investor in Quaker Strategic)


And some prices are rising even more quickly. The latest data show cereal prices rising by more than 8% a year. Both flour and rice are up more than 13%. Milk, cheese, bananas and even peanut butter: They're all up by more than 10%. Eggs have rocketed up 30% in a year. Ground beef prices are up 4.8% and chicken by 5.4%.

These are trends that have been in place for some time.

And if you are hoping they will pass, here's the bad news: They may actually accelerate.

Why do we fight?

Got 99 minutes? Then watch this and be enlightened . . . or at least, if not enlightened, be caused to think really hard about some things.

THE AWARD-WINNING 2005 documentary Why We Fight is what "this" is, and its premise is why we're in Iraq -- and all of the historical reasons that made it inevitable that we would be in Iraq, and fighting in the Middle East for God knows how long -- has a hell of a lot more to do with profit than "freedom."

The bottom line is that we had a republic, but didn't heed Ben Franklin's warning, when a group of citizens asked him at the close of the Constitutional Convention what kind of government the framers had devised.

The founder's reply from 1787 today convicts us: "A republic, if you can keep it."

It's apparent that what we have today is an empire. Empires don't fight for "freedom." Empires fight for empire.

AND WE PAY THE PRICE with our dollars and with squandered opportunities for social justice at home. We pay the price in integrity and ask "What is truth?"

We pay the price with the lives of our young men and women. Or if not our own, other people's.

We have paid the price for empire with our republic. Which we couldn't keep.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Oh, Mandy . . . well you came and you raged
without reading, so I sent you away, oh Mandy

I'm not sure how a person with an alleged college education can get out of my April 17 post on Aliza Shvarts -- Yale's "abortion artist" -- what blog bigot Amanda Marcotte got out of it . . . but OK.

WHAT, THEN, I need from you, dear reader, is a good -- well, less bad, actually -- way of breaking to my wife of 25 years that I believe women are subhuman. And what I mean by "less bad" is a way to gild the lily so that a cast-iron skillet does not make forcible contact with my skull.

Those subhuman types go right for the kill, don't you know?

Really, to be honest, I didn't know I thought women were subhuman . . . or that I had likened Ms. Shvarts to a devil . . . or that women needed to be second-class citizens, lest the devil make them do it. But if someone who had to quit the John Edwards campaign said it, then,
it must be true.

Or not:

The belief that women are subhuman. Rod Dreher called Shvarts a "monster". Mighty Favog likened her to a devil, invoking a history of belief that women need to be second class citizens because Satan has more sway.
FIRST, I did not liken Aliza Shvarts to the devil. That is sloppy reportage, and I would sue if I gave a flying fug about Amanda Marcotte's inability to keep anything straight -- including her slurs. Besides, she's gettin' me hits, baby.

And I didn't have to stoop to "creative fiction," like a certain demented Yale coed.

What I did was liken Ms. Shvarts to Nazi slimebags from the Third Reich. That's a whole rank lower in the Army of Abject Evil.

And second . . . huh????????

Really, I can't tell you what Mandy thinks, because I have yet to ascertain that she does think. But I can tell you what I think of my wife, who is both a woman and a far better human being than myself.

And I can tell you about the great tragedy of our lives -- something precious we were denied, and which monstrously deluded individuals like Shvarts and Marcotte (let's call them S&M for short) have devalued utterly.

IN THE WORLD of S&M, everything precious is regarded as dung, and dung is lovingly embraced like a pearl of great price. In the world of S&M, though, the pearl of great price is death.

Who -- or what -- in the world would want to do that . . . rejoice in doing that . . . be absolutely desperate to do that? The S&M gals would. In full cooperation with a certain someone's agenda for world domination.

All right -- ahem -- ladies. Now I've just likened you to the devil.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Oh, man! I am, like, sooooooo f***ed up!

Yes, we are.

Not only do the kiddos like their ganja at Colorado, some have decided that getting wasted is a freakin' grand cause. And someday, after reality intervenes, they'll be living in a van down by the river -- and sating their muchies with government cheese.


OH, YEAH . . . like, the Boulder Camera, which, like, isn't really a CAMERA, man . . . it's, like, this newspaper, you know, like, in Boulder, which, like, really isn't a big rock, dude, but is, like, this city by the Rockies, which, like, are these really big mountains, man -- this Boulder Camera, and like, dude, you know it's not really a CAMERA, right? They did this really sweet story on the big 4/20 bash, man! Check it out!
"Nine, eight, seven ..."

A crowd of about 10,000 people collectively began counting down on the University of Colorado's Norlin Quadrangle just before 4:20 p.m. Sunday.

Yet the massive puff of pot smoke that hovers over CU's Boulder campus every April 20 -- the date of an annual, internationally recognized celebration of marijuana -- began rising over the sea of heads earlier than normal this year.

"Oh forget it," one student said, aborting the countdown to 4:20 p.m. and lighting his pipe early. He closed his eyes, taking a deep, long drag.


Although it's become an annual and renowned event at CU, this year's 4/20 celebration was different in some ways than in many previous years: The crowd was so large it migrated from the long-traditional site of Farrand Field to the larger Norlin Quad; festivities kicked off earlier than normal with daytime concerts; and CU police handed out zero citations.

“At this point, none are anticipated,” said CU police Cmdr. Brad Wiesley.


Smoke-out participants — thousands of whom wore green or T-shirts promoting pot — climbed trees, played the bongos, snapped pictures and had miniature picnics.

That, of course, after they sparked the weed they had come to smoke.

CU freshman Emily Benson, 19, of Kansas City, said she thinks the decriminalization of marijuana will become a hot topic in the upcoming political season and said she felt part of something bigger than just a smoke-out on Sunday.

“We’re at the starting point of a movement,” she said. “This is a big part of the reason I applied here — for the weed atmosphere.”
YOU'LL BE HIGHLY GRATIFIED to know that Emily Benson's parents are paying somewhere between $26,000 and $35,000 a year for their little darling to attend the University of Colorado and smoke dope.

Weed not included.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The (almost) work of a madman!

Here we have yet another Associated Press dispatch from some average American place full of average Americans recounting yet another American atrocity or near atrocity.

Fortunately, this one -- in South Carolina -- was of the "near" variety.

It's easy for folks to say "The work of a madman!" -- as in
Walker Percy's dystopian novel, "Love in the Ruins" and then change the subject. One has to wonder, though, how many atrocities -- and near atrocities -- have to occur before we stop, scratch our collective head and ask, "What the hell is going on here? What gives?"

And now,
the latest AP filing from yet another American anteroom of Hell. What gives?

A high school senior collected enough supplies to carry out a bomb attack on his school and detailed the plot in a hate-filled diary that included maps of the building and admiring notations about the Columbine killers, authorities said Sunday.

Ryan Schallenberger, 18, was arrested Saturday after his parents called police when 10 pounds of ammonium nitrate was delivered to their home in Chesterfield and they discovered the journal, said the town's police chief, Randall Lear.

The teen planned to make several bombs and had all the supplies needed to kill dozens at Chesterfield High School, depending on where the devices were placed and whether they included shrapnel, Lear said. Ammonium nitrate was used in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 that killed 168 people.

"The only thing left was delivering the bombs," the police chief said.

Schallenberger kept a journal for more than a year that detailed his plans for a suicide attack and included maps of the school, police said. The writings did not include a specific time for the attack or the intended targets.

‘He also left an audio tape to be played after he died explaining why he wanted to bomb his school. Lear wouldn't detail what was on the tape except to say Schallenberger was an angry young man.

"He seemed to hate the world. He hated people different from him — the rich boys with good-looking girlfriends," Lear said.

Fifth column in the Fourth Estate

Eisenhower On The Military Industrial Complex - The best free videos are right here

President Dwight Eisenhower, in his farewell address to the American people in 1961, tried to warn us about a military-industrial complex with a vested interest in war unceasing.

HE TRIED TO TELL US that, unchecked, this necessary modern evil would lead to much greater evil.

Now we see what he meant.

Exhibit A: George Bush's dirty little war in Iraq, and the lengths to which his government will go to make sure we "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain." And that we will come to believe what is so plainly so . . . isn't.

It's all in today's New York Times:

The administration’s communications experts responded swiftly. Early one Friday morning, they put a group of retired military officers on one of the jets normally used by Vice President Dick Cheney and flew them to Cuba for a carefully orchestrated tour of Guantánamo.

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.

Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.

Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.

A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.

“It was them saying, ‘We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you,’ ” Robert S. Bevelacqua, a retired Green Beret and former Fox News analyst, said.

Kenneth Allard, a former NBC military analyst who has taught information warfare at the National Defense University, said the campaign amounted to a sophisticated information operation. “This was a coherent, active policy,” he said.

As conditions in Iraq deteriorated, Mr. Allard recalled, he saw a yawning gap between what analysts were told in private briefings and what subsequent inquiries and books later revealed.

“Night and day,” Mr. Allard said, “I felt we’d been hosed.”


Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions.”

Though many analysts are paid network consultants, making $500 to $1,000 per appearance, in Pentagon meetings they sometimes spoke as if they were operating behind enemy lines, interviews and transcripts show. Some offered the Pentagon tips on how to outmaneuver the networks, or as one analyst put it to Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, “the Chris Matthewses and the Wolf Blitzers of the world.” Some warned of planned stories or sent the Pentagon copies of their correspondence with network news executives. Many — although certainly not all — faithfully echoed talking points intended to counter critics.

“Good work,” Thomas G. McInerney, a retired Air Force general, consultant and Fox News analyst, wrote to the Pentagon after receiving fresh talking points in late 2006. “We will use it.”

Again and again, records show, the administration has enlisted analysts as a rapid reaction force to rebut what it viewed as critical news coverage, some of it by the networks’ own Pentagon correspondents. For example, when news articles revealed that troops in Iraq were dying because of inadequate body armor, a senior Pentagon official wrote to his colleagues: “I think our analysts — properly armed — can push back in that arena.”

NOW . . . HERE'S what Eisenhower, who knew jes' a leetle bit about the military himself, tried to tell us. Are we listening now?

Is it too late even if we are?

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific technological elite.

It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system -- ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

3 Chords & the Truth: This one's for Danny

This episode of 3 Chords & the Truth is for Danny -- Danny Federici, longtime sideman for Bruce Springsteen who lost his battle against melanoma Thursday. He was 58.

FEDERICI HAD BEEN a member of the E Street Band, playing keyboards and accordion, since 1973's "The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle" LP -- and he'd played in various bands with the Boss since the late '60s. If you've heard his accordion solo on "4th of July Asbury Park (Sandy)," you know you'll never forget it.

This episode of the Big Show, which will feature the music of Springsteen and the band, also is for the people -- the country -- he lovingly writes about. This episode of 3C&T is for the people who bust their butts chasing the promise America makes -- a promise that is looking more and more like mere national mythology -- but too often can't deliver on.

This episode is for the folks with piles of broken dreams, who wonder what went wrong as they soldier on against the odds.

This episode is for the E Street Band's America. God help us, every one.

Much happier and far less bitchy 2.1

Get over your insane notions of the sanctity of life and you'll be much happier and far less bitchy.

(Anonymous) 4:06 PM

Much happier and far less bitchy 2.0

Get over your insane notions of the sanctity of life and you'll be much happier and far less bitchy.

(Anonymous) 4:06 PM

Much happier and far less bitchy

Get over your insane notions of the sanctity of life and you'll be much happier and far less bitchy.

(Anonymous) 4:06 PM

Friday, April 18, 2008

Godwin's Law: I call bulls***

Godwin's Law is the informal combox protocol stating that the first person to call another a Nazi automatically loses the argument.

Faced with a culture
where a Yale "art student" can claim to have inseminated herself and then taken herbal abortifacients so she might smear the menstrual blood and any "products of conception" all over a cube, upon which she intended to project video of herself "miscarrying" into a cup . . . I call bulls*** on Godwin's Law.

If you can't call that evidence of a Nazilike disregard for humanity and the sanctity of human life, then you are left with no words at all to describe the horror afoot in this "culture." In fact, "Nazi" only begins to cover the degree of evil to which Yale's malevolent maven of murder art and her ilk have handed themselves over.

And whether what Aliza Shvarts, Class of '08, has committed is "merely" astoundingly sick "performance art" or, instead, some monstrous neo-Seinfeldian display of "murder about nothing," what we now face is a historical replay of the point at which Weimar debauchery and decadence intersected with the Nazi death cult. All that is required now is some appeal to the greater good beyond the freedom to rut with impunity.

Then again, for all the Aliza Shvartses of the world, I suppose rutting with impunity would be reason aplenty.

AND THERE ARE other Aliza Shvartses out there, though not all have her proclivity for blood-soaked "artistry." Take this comment left for the "Devil and Woman at Yale" post. I won't post it there, but I will put it here for all the world to behold -- and with the expletive partially deleted:

Who gives a s***? At 2 days old it's a bundle of cells and nothing more.

Get over your insane notions of the sanctity of life and you'll be much happier and far less bitchy.

(Anonymous) 4:06 PM

ALIZA SHVARTS' stated purpose of highlighting ambiguity and constructing an "artwork" entirely out of uncertainty is nothing more than a postmodern, mumbo-jumbo recasting of Pontius Pilate's "What is truth?" Likewise, mindless, callous and death-dealing comments such as the one above is just another contemporary echo of a sad and ancient tale.

Ancient Israelite idol-worshippers offered up their children to Moloch. Aztec priests cut the hearts out of virgins to appease their blood-thirsty gods. The Turks killed a million Armenians. Josef Stalin starved between 6 million and 7 million Ukrainians. Pol Pot slaughtered millions of Cambodians in the 1970s.

And we all know what Adolf Hitler did.

Obviously, none of these genocides were marked by "insane notions of the sanctity of life."

I wonder whether Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot were "much happier and far less bitchy."

Danny Federici, RIP

Terrible, terrible news this morning for those of us who, for all these years, have counted on Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band to get us through.

Danny Federici, the longtime keyboard player for Bruce Springsteen whose stylish work helped define the E Street Band’s sound on hits from “Hungry Heart” through “The Rising,” died Thursday. He was 58.

Federici, who had battled melanoma for three years, died at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. News of his death was posted late Thursday on Springsteen’s official Web site.

He last performed with Springsteen and the band last month, appearing during portions of a March 20 show in Indianapolis.

“Danny and I worked together for 40 years — he was the most wonderfully fluid keyboard player and a pure natural musician. I loved him very much ... we grew up together,” Springsteen said in a statement posted on his Web site.

Springsteen concerts scheduled for Friday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Saturday in Orlando were postponed.
AND GO to the Springsteen site and watch this video (scroll down a bit).

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The 'art' was a hoax. The depravity is real.

Oh, OK. So now Yale says that Aliza Shvarts was faking the whole thing about inseminating, then aborting, herself for an "art installation."

That it was "a creative fiction."

AND THAT is supposed to make it much less barbaric, disgusting and -- yes -- demonic?

There is no end to how, in fiction, this "art" is no less troubling than if Shvarts' hanging cube had really and truly been smeared with the cellular remains of murdered fetuses. The evidence starts
with this update in The Washington Post:
Shvarts told classmates that she had herself artificially inseminated as often as possible for much of this past year, then took legal, herbal abortifacient drugs and filmed herself in her bathtub cramping and bleeding from the miscarriages. She said her work will include video, a sculpture incorporating her blood mixed with Vaseline wrapped in plastic, and a spoken piece describing what she had done.

She declined to comment yesterday. Shvarts presented a mock-up of the project in class last week -- the final piece will go on display at the undergraduate senior art show at Yale on Tuesday -- and told the Yale Daily News that she wanted to provoke debate about the relationship between art and the human body but that the intention of the piece was not to scandalize anyone.


In a statement yesterday [Thursday -- R21], Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said: "Ms. Shvarts . . . stated to three senior Yale University officials today, including two deans, that she did not impregnate herself and that she did not induce any miscarriages. The entire project is an art piece, a creative fiction designed to draw attention to the ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman's body.

"She is an artist and has the right to express herself through performance art.

"Had these acts been real, they would have violated basic ethical standards and raised serious mental and physical health concerns."

Shvartz, an arts major, told the Yale Daily: "I believe strongly that art should be a medium for politics and ideologies, not just a commodity. I think that I'm creating a project that lives up to the standard of what art is supposed to be."
WELL, THEN. Let it be understood that, at Yale, a woman who depicts an act of unutterable evil in an approving -- and most graphic -- manner for the sole sake of stirring up s*** is considered to be an "artist" by the highest authorities. Furthermore, these university authorities consider a pseudo snuff film projected on a blood-smeared cube to be "art."

Yale officials also contend that Shvarts "has the right" to engage in "performance art" that is not only indecent -- if the final piece resembles what was advertised -- but assuredly obscene in the broad sense of the word. (And maybe debatably so in the legal sense.)

And so long as a student's "art" doesn't get you raided by federal or state authorities, more power to the little wretches, right? One is compelled to ask, when considering the modern university, who is teaching whom? And what?

Don't answer that. I think I know.

What's equally troubling is how -- before we knew Shvarts' "art" was a scam --
this was as worked up as Yale's pro-lifers could get:
CLAY member Jonathan Serrato '09 said he does not think CLAY has an official response to Schvarts' exhibition. But personally, Serrato said he found the concept of the senior art project "surprising" and unethical.

"I feel that she's manipulating life for the benefit of her art, and I definitely don't support it," Serrato said. "I think it's morally wrong."
Later, in The Washington Post, the president of Choose Life at Yale was worried about matters of taste:
Students gathered in Beinecke Plaza near the administration building to protest yesterday afternoon [Thursday -- R21], said sophomore John Behan, president of Choose Life at Yale. "CLAY and the entire Yale community, I think, are appalled at what was a serious lapse in taste on the part of the student and the Yale art department."
TO BE FAIR, it wasn't clear from the Post story whether the reporter interviewed Behan before or after the hoax became public. Nevertheless. . . .

Serious lapse in taste?

Surprising . . . unethical . . . morally wrong?

No. Janet Jackson giving God and everybody a Super Bowl peek at her ta-tas was "a serious lapse in taste."

An average day in the life of the Hillary Clinton '08 campaign might be characterized as "surprising," "unethical" or "morally wrong." As would Bill Clinton's canoodling with Monica Lewinsky in the Oral Oval Office.

ABORTING ONE'S CHILDREN for "art's sake" is monstrous on the Hitlerian end of the scale. Pretending to do so in the name of "creative fiction designed to draw attention to the ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman's body" is equally high on any moral-depravity index, with the only mitigating factor being that no human fetuses actually died in the process.

When one is "pro-life" but still unable -- or afraid -- to call evil by its rightful name, that in itself is a compelling sign that what remains of our Western "civilization" is being sucked into a politically correct vortex that ultimately defines all deviancy, no matter how glaring, down to something approaching . . . normality.

In dealing with lost souls in a fallen world, our culture needs modern-day St. Francis of Assisis.
But it needs its Jeremiahs, too:

As the thief is shamed when caught, so shall the house of Israel be shamed: They, their kings and their princes, their priests and their prophets;
They who say to a piece of wood, "You are my father," and to a stone, "You gave me birth." They turn to me their backs, not their faces; yet, in their time of trouble they cry out, "Rise up and save us!"
Where are the gods you made for yourselves? Let them rise up! Will they save you in your time of trouble? For as numerous as your cities are your gods, O Judah! And as many as the streets of Jerusalem are the altars you have set up for Baal.
How dare you still plead with me? You have all rebelled against me, says the LORD.
In vain I struck your children; the correction they did not take. Your sword devoured your prophets like a ravening lion.
You, of this generation, take note of the word of the Lord: Have I been a desert to Israel, a land of darkness? Why do my people say, "We have moved on, we will come to you no more"?
Does a virgin forget her jewelry, a bride her sash? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number.
How well you pick your way when seeking love! You who, in your wickedness, have gone by ways unclean!
You, on whose clothing there is the life-blood of the innocent, whom you found committing no burglary;
Yet withal you say, "I am innocent; at least, his anger is turned away from me." Behold, I will judge you on that word of yours, "I have not sinned."

THOSE STILL CAPABLE of seeing evil for what it is need to distinguish between St. Francis moments and Jeremiah moments in the hard slog of redeeming a culture on its death bed. It's a matter of life and death.

For the culture . . . and for us.

If you want another example of how far gone we really are -- particularly in academia -- read this. It really is possible to be so "open-minded" that your brain falls out.