Saturday, January 31, 2009

Makes sense he'd go for the water pipe

What does it sound like when the clock strikes 12 and Michael Phelps' swim career turns into a pumpkin?













SEE, IT SEEMS, in this day and age, somebody's always there with a camera when you decide to do something really stupid. If you're Joe College Student, the photos usually just end up on Facebook for your parents and potential employers to see.

If you're swim sensation Michael Phelps, the photos of you making sweet love to a bong full of "cannabis" (as the Brits say) merely end up
in a Fleet Street tabloid or three.

And by the time
this s***storm blows over, The Phelps may well want to once again indulge in something just a little stronger than Ovaltine.

Extra! Extra!
Read all about the news of the stupid in the News of the World:
THIS is the astonishing picture which could destroy the career of the greatest competitor in Olympic history.

In our exclusive photo Michael Phelps, who won a record EIGHT gold medals for swimming at the Beijing games last summer, draws from a bong.

The glass pipes are generally used to smoke cannabis.

And after sporting chiefs announced laws which mean four-year bans for drug-taking, Phelps’ dreams of adding to his overall 14 gold medal tally at the 2012 games in London could already be OVER.

Those dreams seemed the last thing on his mind when he puffed from the bong during two days of partying with students last November, a quiet time in the swimming calendar when athletes would not expect to get tested for drugs.

One party-goer who witnessed the star’s behaviour told the News of the World: “He was out of control from the moment he got there.

“If he continues to party like that I’d be amazed if he ever won any more medals again.”

Phelps’ aides went into a panic over our story and offered us a raft of extraordinary incentives not to run the bong picture.

It was on November 6, weeks after his Beijing triumph, that 23-year-old Phelps surprised students at the University Of South Carolina in Columbia by showing up unannounced at a house party.

He was visiting Jordan Matthews, a girl he was secretly seeing who was a student there.

Our source revealed: “Michael came to visit Jordan but ended up just getting wasted every night.


The US Olympics Committee, who have pledged to clamp down on drug use, refused to comment, as did USA Swimming and Phelps’ coach Bob Bowman.

More surprising still was the World Anti-Doping Agency’s refusal to comment, given that they introduced the four-year ban on sport’s drug users.

Phelps, who earned £4million last year in endorsements, has resumed training for the 2012 games.

But there were fears about his commitment when, weeks after the bong incident, he began dating former stripper Caroline Pal.

Phelps is represented by marketing giant Octagon, which works with huge brands such as Mastercard and HSBC. They admitted proven cannabis use would be “a major taint” on Phelps’ character.

Spokesman Clifford Bloxham offered us an extraordinary deal not to publish our story, saying Phelps would become our columnist for three years, host events and get his sponsors to advertise with us.

In return, he asked that we kill Phelps’ bong picture. Bloxham said: “It’s seeing if something potentially very negative for Michael could turn into something very positive for the News of the World.”
SOMETHING TELLS ME Omaha just was handed a really, really strong bargaining position for getting repeat business in 2012 as the site for the Olympic swim trials. We may be the only city interested.

So, who's U.S. swimming's next great
dope hope?

Death by a thousand paper cuts

A.H. Belo Co., owner of The Dallas Morning News and three other newspapers, plans to cut another 14 percent from its workforce -- some 500 jobs.

Los Angeles Times, a Tribune paper, announced it would be lopping 300 positions -- 70 of them in the newsroom -- while folding its California section into the main news pages.

WEEK BY WEEK, the news gets grimmer for the dying newspaper biz and the bloodlettings continue apace. Week by week, subscribers to America's newspapers -- those what remain, that is -- find a lot less newspaper in the driveway.

And there lies the rub.

To cut costs, newspapers cut back on staff and news hole, which means the subscriber gets a lot less news for
the same (or more) money. Which means more and more subscribers figure there's no percentage in subscribing to the local rag, which puts it further in the financial hole . . . which necessitates more cuts, which means less value to readers, which. . . .

You get the idea. I think the technical term is
"death spiral." And it all goes back to the simple truth that, especially in hard times, people are reluctant to spend something for nothing.

Except for video poker or the lottery.

facing traditional media in this country, journalists at the L.A.Times and The Dallas Morning News might see that one-in-a-million shot as a significantly safer bet than the one upon which they've staked their livelihoods.

God bless 'em all.

3 Chords & the Truth: Will podcast for food

Because we couldn't afford Cloud 9.

It's brutal out there. And the economy is even worse.

I guess you've figured out -- and, boy, are you sharp! -- that we're taking a musical look at the signs of the times this week on 3 Chords & the Truth. Of course, the music will be great (that's a given, he says modestly), but whether your response to it is to enjoy the aesthetics or to howl in rage at the shape we're in . . . well, that's entirely your own choice.

ME, I GO back and forth between wanting to raise the red flag and get revolutionary on Wall Street's arse . . . and thinking, "What you gonna do?" while trying to make the best of what's going to be some hard, hard times.

Perhaps there's room for a little of both responses, you know? But, ultimately, we all do have to make the best of it, no matter what "it" might be. Like the ubiquitous "they" say, the flip side of crisis is opportunity.

Perhaps, like Tony Bennett sings about on the Big Show this week, we're all being called to live "the simple life" . . . because it's good for us. There's something absolutely biblical (in the good sense, not the "of biblical proportions" sense) about that notion.

MAYBE THAT'S the question we're ultimately exploring on this week's 3 Chords & the Truth. Not just "How do we get through this colossal mess?" but, indeed, "What is life?"

A lot of baggage for one weekly music show, eh? That's why the blog is here -- on a music show, you need to have time for the, er . . . music. That we do.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. It's just like radio -- except for it doesn't suck.

Be there. Aloha.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The pending demise of Uncle (Deleted)

I think I need to call home and check on Uncle (Deleted).

Between Barack Obama becoming the 44th president of the United States -- the first African-American president of the United States -- and today's election of Michael Steele as chairman of the Republican Party -- the first African-American chairman of the GOP -- January has been a cruel metaphysical month for Uncle (Deleted).

AND HE WAS WORRIED about a black proctologist.


Michael Steele was elected Republican National Committee chairman on Friday, defeating the incumbent party chief and three other challengers over six rounds of voting to become the first black to lead the GOP.


"As a little boy growing up in this town, this is awesome," said Steele, the most moderate candidate in the field and considered an outsider because he's not a committee member.
In a brief acceptance speech, the new GOP chairman struck a tone of inclusiveness.

"We're going to say to friend and foe alike: We want you to be a part of us, we want you to with be with us, and for those who wish to obstruct, get ready to get knocked over," Steele said.
NOW, POLITICALLY, there's nowhere for someone as unreconstructed as Uncle (Deleted) to turn. For old Jim Crow, hiding out in the swamps of Louisiana, this cruelest of months must be something like the Charge of the Light Brigade:

"Forward, the White Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

N*****s to right of them,
N*****s to left of them,
N*****s in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air,
Sabring the n*****s there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Agitators and misegenators
Reel'd from the sabre stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

(Apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson)

THIS MONTH, it's just been a bitch to be racist. Then again, tomorrow is another day!

But maybe not for Uncle (Deleted). Alas.

George Bailey is dead. Mr. Potter killed him.

"And now with today's economic news, here's Noah Cash with the business report. Noah?"

"Thanks, Jim. We're f***ed. And that's our report for today. Jim?"

"Thanks, Noah . . . I think. We'll be back in 30 minutes with the 6 o'clock report, now we go live to New York
and MSNBC:

As the government advances historic measures to revive growth, the data point to an economy that is getting worse. It’s far from clear the government actions — including a massive stimulus program and major intervention in the banking system — will stem the slide and restart the economy by year-end.

But even if it does, analysts say the recovery — when it comes — will likely be weak and slow.

With home prices continuing to fall and layoffs rising, the sharp pullback in consumer spending is a powerful force driving the economic contraction. That spending pullback will continue for some time to come, according to Stephen Roach, Morgan Stanley’s Asia chairman.

“The biggest force on the demand side of the world economy — the multiyear compression of the American consumer — is going to be ongoing,” he said. “This trend has only just begun.”

The ongoing retrenchment by American consumers makes it unlikely spending will return to pre-recession levels for many years. During the height of the lending boom, consumer spending surged to roughly 71 percent of gross domestic product — up from just 66 percent in 1990.

Since much of that spending was based on unsustainable borrowing, the post-recession economy will remain smaller until that shortfall can be made up from other sources of demand. With the rest of the world also in recession, at the moment, it’s hard to see where those other sources of demand will come from, analysts say.

The root cause of the recession — the collapse of the housing industry — shows no signs of letup. Prices fell by a record 18 percent in October 2008, according to the latest Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller index, and analysts say prices could continue falling well into next year. A pickup in existing-home sales in December was due largely to homes being bought at cut-rate prices in foreclosure.

“In fact the downdraft is probably gaining steam,” said Michael Englund, chief economist with Action Economics. “We are assuming going into 2009 we may be seeing some bottom, but we certainly are not seeing any sign yet in any of the reported data.”


That deteriorating economy has also brought a massive wave of layoffs that also shows no signs of letup. The Labor Department reported Thursday that a record 4.85 million people were collecting regular unemployment benefits in the latest week. That doesn't include about 1.7 million people getting benefits through an extension passed last summer; that puts the total number of people on unemployment closer to 6.5 million. Millions more are working reduced hours or have exhausted jobless benefits.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Davos: It's all about the little people

The rich and the powerful are in Davos, Switzerland -- looking rich and important, solving all the problems of the world . . . and . . . bemoaning . . . the . . . economic . . . fate . . . of . . . schmucks . . . like . . . you . . . and . . . me.

F'RINSTANCE, that noted social activist and all-around Mother Teresa, Rupert Murdoch. These profound words from this holy man were lovingly preserved on a parchment scroll by Bloomberg News:
News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch said there’s no hiding from the worsening global economic crisis, and stressed the need for quick and “drastic action” to turn the tide.

People worldwide are “depressed and traumatized” to see their life savings, including homes and pension funds, disappearing, Murdoch said at a press briefing in Davos, Switzerland, today.

“It would be very foolish if we said here we are, we had a crisis, and how do we get out of it quickly,” he said. “The crisis is getting worse. When you get to the real economy, values are still going down.”

THEN MURDOCH, we are certain, went back up to the mountaintop to boogie oogie oogie with former presidential adviser and current cable-news talking head David Gergen, seen above getting his Deney Terrio on at last year's Davos conference. The blonde disco doll, no doubt, was laughing on the inside as hard as I was on the outside.

And none of us will ever be able to take David Gergen seriously again. If we ever did.

Wise course of action, that. I suggest we apply it to the whole bunch.

I'm sensing that you'll be broke. Soon.

What's the difference between Internet psychics and George W. Bush?

Internet psychics will cost you considerably less than $1 trillion. And they can't legally get you into a disastrous little war.

Other than that -- to point out a few similarities -- neither our former president nor Internet psychics have any idea what's going on, won't tell you anything you don't already know . . . and will leave you a lot lighter in the billfold than before you got hooked up with them.

America, what a country!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

They've only had 28 years to figure this out

Picked up your local newspaper lately? Not much to it anymore, is there?

The ink-stained wretches are wretched, indeed, these days, and a whole medium is being washed away by the Two Horsemen of the Apocalypse -- the Internet and the tanking economy. A whole way of life, and the jobs that went with it, are being swept out into the troubled financial waters.

What? Four horsemen?

No, you didn't hear. (Probably because there was no room in The Daily Blab.) Two of the horsemen got laid off.

Well, there's one thing you can do in the face of this sudden media disaster. When next you see a publisher or an editor crying crocodile tears over what has befallen his newsroom . . . punch the son of a bitch in the nose. Then hand him a handkerchief.

BECAUSE, YOU SEE, what the Internet would ultimately do to newspapers has been a long time coming. The publishers and editors saw it coming. We all saw it coming.

We for sure saw this day coming 15 years ago, back when we were marveling at the news and information you could get off of America Online and CompuServe. But it was more obvious than even that -- we saw an inkling of it with the fledgling over-the-airwaves teletext services of the mid-1980s.

And, as we see in the above 1981 news story from San Francisco's KRON television, newspapers damn well knew this day was coming. Back then, geeks and the well-heeled were playing with Apple II, TRS-80 and original IBM personal computers that set them back $1,000-plus -- and newspapers like the San Francisco Examiner were making their content (sans ads or pictures) available for download.

Still, editors felt no sense of urgency in the days when online access was expensive and it took a couple of hours to download the paper via an old-style acoustic modem.

THAT NONCHALANCE about the computer world held sway for a long time -- I remember when I was a copy editor at the defunct (of course) Baton Rouge State-Times in the mid-to-late 1980s, only a couple of privileged longtime copy editors were instructed how to use the newsroom's lone Macintosh.

I wasn't one of them.

That nonchalance never did give way to any sense of urgency, come to think of it. For the last decade-plus, most newspapers' websites have remained red-headed stepchildren. And it is the Amazing Shrinking Print Edition that sets the agenda for the Uppity Whippersnapper Online Presence.

And for every cool online effort like the New York Times' or the Las Vegas Sun's, you have sorry, unnavigable messes like . . . well, most everything else.

NOW, THOUGH, broadband ubiquity has met Great Depression II, and that ink-stained nonchalance has given way to wild-eyed panic. Well, ye guardians of the Fourth Estate, you abandoned the parapets to go smoke cigars and admire your double-digit returns on investment.

And now the barbarians are at the gate, and you're desperately trying to reinforce it with the bodies of your cast-off employees. But it's too late.

I hope our new media regime will be a benevolent one. I hope that benevolence doesn't extend to Mr. Editor and Mr. Publisher.

Jason Siffring.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Culture of (freezing to) Death

We've been legally aborting the very, very young for a third of a century now. More recently, we started aborting the profoundly disabled and the terminally ill.

Now, we've moved on to the elderly. Namely, Marvin E. Schur, 93, of Bay City, Mich. Aborted for not paying his electric bill on time.

TECHNICALLY, the coroner listed the cause of death as hypothermia, meaning Marvin Schur froze to death. In his house.

Call it cryoabortion. This is a new technique, developed because of the cost-prohibitive nature of sending giant vacuum trucks to the homes of America's elderly to suck them out of their homes and into a tank full of saline solution.

In the new cryoabortion technique -- usually performed when a utility customer's debt to municipal power and light becomes greater than the value of his or her life -- the abortionist . . . well, why don't I let The Bay City Times explain
how the procedure worked in the Schur case:
A pathologist said a 93-year-old Bay City man froze to death inside his home - his body found days after city workers said they limited electricity flowing to the house.

Marvin E. Schur suffered "a slow, painful death" inside his home at 1600 S. Chilson St. on Bay City's southwest side, said Dr. Kanu Virani, who performed an autopsy on the body.

"Hypothermia shuts the whole system down, slowly," Virani said. "It's not easy to die from hypothermia without first realizing your fingers and toes feel like they're burning."

Funeral services for Schur, a retired pattern-maker who lived alone, are at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Gephart Funeral Home, 201 W. Midland St. Schur's wife, retired elementary-school teacher Marian I. (Meisel) Schur, died several years ago, and the couple had no children.

Virani, Oakland County's deputy chief medical examiner, performs autopsies for Bay County and numerous other Michigan counties. Of about 15,000 autopsies Virani has conducted, he said Marvin Schur's autopsy "is the first one I can remember doing on someone who froze to death indoors."

Virani said the temperature inside Schur's home was less than 32 degrees when neighbors George A. Pauwels Jr. and his wife, Shannon, found Schur's body Jan. 17.

George Pauwels Jr. said Schur owed almost $1,100 in electricity bills to the city of Bay City, though Pauwels said he noticed money clipped to those bills on Schur's kitchen table the day he found Schur's body.

Bay City Manager Robert V. Belleman said a worker with Bay City Electric Light & Power placed a "limiter" device outside Schur's home, between Schur's electricity meter and electrical service, on Jan. 13.

The device restricts the amount of electricity reaching the home and if a homeowner tries to draw more electricity than the limiter allows, "it blows the limiter, just like blowing a fuse, and then you go outside and reset it," Belleman said.

Belleman said he doesn't know if a city worker made one-on-one contact with Schur to explain the limiter's operation. Virani said he doesn't know if Schur suffered from dementia, which could have interfered with his ability to know how to reset a limiter.

Pauwels said Schur couldn't hear well, and said he believed Schur "had a little bit" of dementia.
THE CITY MANAGER, by the way, doesn't think the city did anything wrong. No, in most societies, it's perfectly acceptable to turn off the electricity of 93-year-old World War II veterans in the dead of a Michigan winter.

Dead of winter. Get it? It's a joke only municipal murderers could love.

If only poor Mr. Schur had been an investment banker. It's OK for investment bankers to leave the government -- and their investors -- holding the bag. In fact, if you're a Wall Street swell, you can spend all your money on million-dollar accessorizing, $50 million corporate jets and big bonuses for your homeboys even after Uncle Sam has pulled your cojones out of the toaster oven.

If you're a poor Michigan widower, on the other hand, the government will pull the plug on your toaster oven. And your furnace. And your stove.

THERE ARE people out there who get a bad case of the trots at the very thought of Darwinism in the science classroom but never get the slightest tummy rumble when Darwinism -- natural selection . . . survival of the fittest . . . the big evolutionary cull of "life unworthy of life" -- sets up housekeeping at the heart of civic society.

Either all human life is worth a damn, or none of it is. You can learn that now, or someday end up like poor Marvin E. Schur, killed by the city fathers for not being young, useful . . . or able to pay his light bill.

By the way, the Bay City Commission
raised electric rates by 3 percent Monday. Good thing Mr. Schur died when he did.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Share Our Dumbth

Aux armes, Louisiane! Formez vos bataillions!

You could be amused when Illinois politicians made a run at the crookedest-state title. You could be mildly alarmed at the prospect of those damned Illinoisans whipping the Gret Stet something like 47 to 1 in incarcerated former governors.

BUT WHEN Illinois politicians start catching up in the sheer ignorance -- nay, dumbassery -- of their public utterances, it can only mean war. This from NBC Chicago should awaken the inner P.G.T. Beauregard of every loyal son and daughter of the bayou:
Former Illinois Lt. Gov. Judy Barr Topinka, who lost to Blagojevich in her bid for governor, said that he "lives in a delusional cocoon of his own."

"Illinois look like a bunch of buffoons," Topinka told NBC Chicago's Kim Vatis. "(Blagojevich is) B.S.-ing his way through life to get one possible juror to think they're not really sure."

"It's not Gandhi or King," Topinka said about the governor comparing himself to Gandhi, King and Mandela. "But
Huey Long, former governor of Louisiana. Long left office in disgrace."
THAT was who they had to run against Rod Blagojevich. Topinka must be pen pals with Dave Treen, doomed to be a one-term Louisiana governor the second the famously corrupt Edwin W. Edwards said of him, “He is so slow, it takes him an hour and a half to watch 60 Minutes.”

Just like that was the best Louisiana could do in the Not EWE department, it seems Treen's soul sister in slow is the best Illinois can do in the Not Blago realm.

Good grief, y'all. Everybody with a slight recall of American history knows that Huey Pierce Long didn't leave the governor's office in disgrace.
A technical point, perhaps, but still. . . .

SO, for the sake of Illinois politicians and journalists, here's the short version of Life With the Kingfish:

Huey P. Long won the 1928 gubernatorial election on a populist platform, then immediately started making life miserable for Louisiana's entrenched business interests and the politicians in their pockets. He was impeached in 1929 and survived, but it wasn't about corruption. It was about Standard Oil.

Huey may have been a crook -- Lord knows he ended up de facto dictator -- but no one ever got him on it. Indeed, he went on to be elected to the U.S. Senate in 1930, and finally took his seat there once his gubernatorial term was up in 1932.

Long went on to support, then oppose, Franklin D. Roosevelt and was running for president on his Share Our Wealth platform in 1935 when he was gunned down in a corridor of the skyscraper capitol building he built in Baton Rouge. He died two days later.

THAT'S HOW Huey Long -- the Kingfish -- left office. Dead.

And Illinoisans, now more than ever, "look like a bunch of buffoons."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I done caught the fat . . . sniffle, cough

It's not your fault you're a lard ass. It's an illness.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. Cough, cough.

AND IT'S ALL in The Daily Express, across the pond in London:
Obesity can be “caught” as easily as a common cold from other people’s coughs, sneezes and dirty hands, scientists will claim today.

Researchers believe that an airborne “adenovirus” germ could be causing the fat plague that is blighting Britain and other countries.

As many as one in three obese people may have become overweight after falling victim to the highly infectious cold-like virus, known as AD-36.
It is known to cause coughs, sore throats, diarrhoea and conjunctivitis but has now also been found to make fat cells multiply, leading to weight gain.

The shocking discovery will add to evidence that Britain’s obesity epidemic is not simply down to an unhealthy diet or lack of exercise.

Research suggests a third of UK adults will be grossly overweight within three years, with Britain even predicted to overtake the US as the most obese nation in the world.

The problem already causes 9,000 premature deaths in the UK a year and costs the NHS £1billion.

Many experts already believe that genes can make some people more susceptible to weight gain and now it seems that infections could also hold the key.

Studies have shown that chickens and mice infected with AD-36 put on weight quicker than uninfected animals, even when they were not given extra food. It has also been found to cause huge weight gain in monkeys.

Now studies on humans show that 33 per cent of obese adults had contracted AD-36 at some point in their lives, compared with only 11 per cent of lean men and women.

Professor Nikhil Dhurandhar, of Pennington Biomedical Research Centre in Louisiana, US, who led the research, said AD-36 continued to add weight gain long after those infected had seemingly recovered.

His studies indicated that the virus lingers for up to three months, during which time it multiplies fat and is contagious to others.

Dr Dhurandhar, who will make the extraordinary claims on BBC2’s Horizon tonight, said: “We now know that this virus goes to the lungs and spreads to various organs such as the liver, kidney, brain and fat tissue.

“When it goes to fat tissue it replicates, making more copies of itself and in the process increases the number of new fat cells, which may explain why people get fat when they are infected with this virus.” The findings were welcomed by some medical experts, although others sounded a note of caution.
OH . . . BY THE WAY. This stunning scientific breakthrough -- and it really is, you know -- came out of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, part of Louisiana State University.

The state has informed LSU, as well as all other Louisiana colleges and universities, to brace for a reduction in state funding of between 18 percent and 30 percent. Social services and education are two of the few areas of state spending not protected by the Louisiana constitution.

Meanwhile, amid a historic budget crisis, some nimrods in the Gret Stet want to raise the homestead exemption to $170,000 from $75,000. That way, elementary and secondary education can be in just as deep doo as higher ed.

Deeper, actually. Local schools in Louisiana ain't so hot to start with.

SO, WHEN the cuts come and the research programs wither away, just remember that you're doomed to stay fat because Louisiana doesn't value education. Or health. Or any of the stuff the rest of us suck it up and pay taxes for, just because it's the right thing to do.

Resistance is futile. KKAY will be assimilated.

In Ascension Parish, La., there's exactly one radio station, little KKAY at 1590 on the AM dial.

Now the station is being sold, and Donaldsonville is afraid it will go away -- become yet another "move in" for a larger city, like nearby Baton Rouge. Folks fear they'll lose local radio. Lose local voices on 1590 AM. Lose the "glue" of the community.

THE GOOD PEOPLE of Donaldsonville may well lose all that. But it won't be without a fight, as evidenced in the above video from WAFB television in Baton Rouge, and in this account from The Advocate:
Nearly 100 people joined in a rally and prayer vigil on Saturday to demonstrate community support for the only radio station in Ascension Parish, now in the process of being sold to a new owner.

In November, a deal to sell KKAY-AM to an incorporated partnership, Stafford & Starr LLC, was reached, and radio announcer Kirk Landry and others are worried that the group plans to relocate the station.

“Basically, we want to give the community a chance to show its support for keeping the station in Donaldsonville,” Landry said. “We are just asking to be heard by the FCC.”

The sale is pending Federal Communication Commission approval of the application, which was filed Nov. 28, to transfer the station’s license.

Harry Hoyler, station manager, said on Thursday he is concerned that the new owners are not interested in the station’s future in the community.

“All radio is to them is a commodity,” Hoyler said. “It is our love, though.”
THE STATION MANAGER can read the signs of the times. Why, though, do I come away with this whole valiant-but-doomed-resistance vibe?

Probably because I can read the signs of the times, too. Today, the "little people" -- and especially the kind of radio they love, like KKAY -- are just so many bugs to be squished by venture capitalists. And squished, they likely will be.

Also, James Starr, majority owner of Stafford & Starr LLC, domiciled in Baton Rouge, said Friday that his company does not want to move the station.

“It is not our intention and has never been our intention to move,” Starr said in a phone interview. “We will continue to broadcast from Donaldsonville and provide the kind of service that the audience in the parish deserves and demands.”

However, Don O’Bear, who has been an announcer with the station for 26 years, said he remains skeptical because station employees have not heard from the buyers.

“Most of the time, the new owners will tell us their plans,” he said. “We haven’t seen or heard from them.”

O’Bear’s colleague, Michael LeBlanc, agreed, and added that he and others who gathered Saturday want to make sure the owners and the FCC understand the value of the station.

“It is a vital part of the community. It’s the heartbeat,” said LeBlanc, who has been with KKAY for 18 years.

Starr, of Slidell, said he and his minority partner, Zach Stafford, of Baton Rouge, plan “enhanced service” for the station but are not ready to publicly discuss their strategy.
BEWARE "ENHANCED SERVICE." The money men are going to "enhance" all the local programming off of 1590 AM, and they're going to "enhance" all the traitorous DJs out of their jobs.

Because, ultimately, these guys are all about cutting costs to enhance their bank accounts.

And Donaldsonville just happens to be in the way.

So, what will it be? Yet more sports talk? The C-team of right-wing talkers? Adult standards off the satellite? Brokered religious hucksters offering autographed pictures of Jesus Christ?

Stay tuned . . . if you dare.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

When you can't find a friend . . . you're SOL

I'm a radio guy. I've loved radio since I was old enough to twiddle the knobs on the old vacuum-tube console my parents had.

FOR CLOSING IN on five decades, I've listened to the radio, been entranced by the magic of the radio and, eventually, did my bit in creating some radio magic myself. (Though, I'm sure not many people fondly remember the faux, on-air FCC raid Darryl "Cowboy" Young and I staged during the rock show on WBRH way back there then. We thought it was funny at the time.)

For these and other reasons, it breaks my heart -- and enrages me -- that what Nanci Griffith sings about in "Listen to the Radio" no longer is true -- at least the part about "when you can't find a friend, you've still got the radio." At least for the most part.

The corporate leeches have fired all your friends on the radio. Though you maybe could be friends with Data in a Star Trek world, it's not going to work out with HAL 9000 . . . hiding out in some
Cheap Channel server room.

All that's left for us to do is rage against the machine -- and the bastards who, in the name of the bottom line, thought it was a substitute for our friends on the radio.

Employees??? We're Gannett. We
don't need no stinkin' employees!

Gannett is to newspapers as Clear Channel is to radio.

Maybe worse.

This, of course, means "shareholder value" trumps "public service" every time . . . and you won't find much of either on the doorstep before you have that first cup of coffee in the morning gloam.

Oh, who the hell am I kidding? Nowadays, your morning newspaper probably is so skimpy, you'll be lucky if the slightest breeze hasn't blown it down the street long before you get out of bed.

STILL, you're the lucky one if you still have a compelling reason to get out of bed in the morning . . . like a job. That's no longer the case for a lot of folks who, until recently, were proud employees of the Daily Blab.

And nowhere is that more the case than in the moneygrubbing world of Gannett, as exemplified by the plight of The Daily Advertiser in Lafayette, La.. If you can stand it, consider, please, this account from The Independent Weekly:
The Lafayette City-Parish Council did not meet this week. The Daily Advertiser, the official journal of record that is paid more than $240,000 annually to publish public notices, failed to print the council’s agenda Friday, violating the Home Rule Charter that requires publication of the agenda within two working days of the meeting.

“It just didn’t get done,” says Janet Gianelloni, the city-parish council’s administrative assistant.

The public blunder is just one outward sign of the chaos taking place on Bertrand Drive and indicative of much bigger problems at Lafayette’s daily paper. The Advertiser has been undergoing cuts since 2005, massive ones in the past five months, all handed down by corporate media giant Gannett. The publicly traded entity has been sucking the life out of what has been one of its most lucrative papers to offset losses elsewhere and placate antsy short-term, profit-oriented shareholders.

In fact, the longtime legal clerk who handled public notices for the paper was among those laid off in a 50 percent reduction to the classified department, which appears to explain why the mistake was made.

Demoralized by the cuts, the local workforce has no one to complain to. Bean counters in McLean, Va. — who as a former Louisiana Gannett publisher says just happen to be in the newspaper business — are calling all the shots. By The Independent Weekly’s estimates, about 75 positions have been cut in the last year from Gannett’s local operations (The Advertiser’s Web site claims it has 277 employees but that likely hasn’t been updated), including longtime staffers like columnist Jim Bradshaw, whose forced retirement went unannounced in the paper. After 40 years of writing, Bradshaw just disappeared.

On Sunday, Jan. 4, Publisher Leslie Hurst announced changes to the Sunday and daily editions of the paper in a front page letter. “These changes are a response to difficult economic times,” she wrote, noting that while our community has been mostly spared by the national recession, “the challenges at the national level still affect us.” What she failed to say is that it’s Gannett’s challenges, not the nation’s, that are trickling down.

The following day the changes hit home. The Monday paper was a single section, with no page dedicated to national and world news and no classified section.

On top of the flimsy 16-pager, which weighed all of 2 ounces, The Advertiser recently spiked the cost of its paper from 50 cents to 75 cents ($1.25 on Sunday) even as it was slashing staff and drastically dropping coverage. That same Monday’s privately held Advocate, on the other hand, was twice the heft at still only 50 cents.


Out of the havoc Gannett has wreaked on Lafayette’s daily paper, however, there are stories of selflessness — poignant examples of human kindness. First, there is this one — as told to us by a former employee — involving Baton Rouge political writers John Hill and Mike Hasten, both of whom were summoned to Lafayette for a top management meeting in July 2007. Hill, Gannett Louisiana’s Baton Rouge capital bureau chief with 38 years as a reporter and columnist, was told if he did not retire Hasten would be let go. We all know how that one ended.

“The early retirement buyout came at an opportune time for me, as I had offers on the table that I was contemplating,” says Hill. “I joked with Mike that I fell on the sword for him; he shot back that it was a velvet sword.”

More recently in the classified department, which serves The Advertiser, Daily World, Times of Acadiana and Town Talk, one of two supervisors had to go. The decision was made to terminate Fils Prejean and keep longtime employee Ed Breaux. “As Fils walked around the building giving his last good-byes, Ed became upset because Fils is the sole supporter for his family [with three young children still at home], whereas Ed’s child is grown, and he only supports himself and his wife,” says an employee who witnessed the day’s events. “Before Fils could make his way to the door, Ed went to HR and volunteered to be laid off. Just that fast, Fils was back on the job, and Ed was laid off.”

Want to know what Fils Prejean got for Christmas? His walking papers.
YET ANOTHER media company is found to be totally unworthy of its employees, both the ones who have been fired . . . and the ones yet to be. That would be the rest of them.

I'm so shocked.

3 Chords & the Truth: It's getting hot in here

This week's edition of
3 Chords & the Truth is hot.

It's smokin'.

It's burning-up, smokin' hot.

On cold, gray days like one is wont to find this time of the winter, that can be a good thing. So why don't you cozy up next to your computer -- or snuggle up with your iPod -- and warm yourself in the glow of the Big Show.

It might even warm your heart. Or something.

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

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Omaha Cubs

I think we've just found a new baseball team for the new downtown Omaha Baseball Stadium TD Ameritrade Park.

And it's major league.

ACCORDING to The Chicago Tribune:

After nearly two years of intrigue, the billionaire Ricketts family has emerged as the winning bidder to purchase the Chicago Cubs from Tribune Co. for about $900 million, a source close to the winning bid said Thursday evening.

The family will now complete negotiations with Tribune Co.

The family edged out Chicago real-estate investor Hersch Klaff and New York private-equity investor Marc Utay, a Chicago native, for the chance to follow Tribune Co., the Chicago-based media conglomerate, as owners of the storied yet hard-luck franchise.

The Ricketts family effort, led by Tom Ricketts, who lives in the Chicago area, still has a number of hurdles to cross before taking ownership of the Cubs, including receiving approval from 23 of the league's 30 owners.

Cubs officials have said they hope to have sale completed by the start of the new season in April.

The deal would represent a return to family ownership for the Cubs. Before Tribune took control of the team in 1981, the Wrigley family, founders of the chewing-gum company, owned the Cubs for 65 years. The clan sold the team and Wrigley Field to the media company, which owns the Chicago Tribune, for $20.5 million.

In Chicago, the Ricketts family is hardly as well known as the Wrigleys, or any of the current owners of the city's major professional sports franchises, but certainly that would change quickly for the new custodians of one of the country's best-known teams, as well as one of its most storied stadiums. Along with the Cubs, the Ricketts are buying Wrigley Field, and a 25 percent stake in a regional cable sports network.

The family patriarch, J. Joe Ricketts, grew up in Omaha and started a discount stock brokerage. In the 1990s he transformed the company into an Internet trading powerhouse now known as TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. He is ranked among the world's billionaires, according to Forbes magazine, with an estimated net worth of $1.2 billion. Shares of the company are also owned by his wife and four children.
I THINK THE CUBS will be a perfect fit for Omaha. After all, the ol' cowtown has long experience with crappy baseball teams, most notably the Omaha Royals, Triple-A farm club of the sub-woeful Kansas City Royals.

Compared to that, it's going to look like we landed the World Series champs.

And people thought the new ball yard might sit vacant for much of the year. Heck, just to show the Windy City there's no hard feelings, we'll let the Cubs play in old Wrigley Field when our shiny new stadium is playing host to the College World Series.

After all . . . it's the World Series! Gotta hold on to that.

I mean, it's not like the Cubs will bring one home to Omaha any time soon.

If they can blow up the Trib. . . .

Journalists: Enemies of the state.

Obviously, George W. Bush and the National Security Agency figured the ink-stained wretches would do to the "homeland" what they've managed to do to newspapers.

The effectiveness of journalists' demolition training is demonstrated by MSNBC's Keith Olbermann -- and not the Times or the Post or the Tribune -- being the one to ferret out allegations that reporters were the target of America's super-secret spy agency . . . right along with al Qaida.

MEANWHILE, there's this floating around out there, as reported by the Telegraph in London:

Manfred Nowak, the UN's special rapporteur on torture, called on the US authorities to pursue the former president and his former defence secretary for the treatment of prisoners held at the Guantanamo Bay camp in Cuba.

"Judicially speaking, the United States has a clear obligation," he told German television.

He said that the US had ratified the UN convention on torture which requires "all means, particularly penal law" to be used to bring proceedings against those violating it.

"We have all these documents that are now publicly available that prove that these methods of interrogation were intentionally ordered by Rumsfeld," Mr Nowak claimed.

"But obviously the highest authorities in the United States were aware of this."

Mr Bush left office on Tuesday as Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States at his inauguration ceremony in Washington.

Asked about the prospects of legal action being brought against Mr Bush and Mr Rumsfeld, Mr Nowak said: "In principle yes. I think the evidence is on the table."

At issue, however, is whether "American law will recognise these forms of torture", he added.

A bipartisan Senate report released last month found Mr Rumsfeld and other senior Bush administration officials responsible for the abuse of Guantanamo detainees.

Gimme a T! Gimme an I! Gimme a G!
Gimme an E! Gimme an R! Gimme an S!
What's that spell? L-S-U!

Yeah, this is going to turn out well.

Why doesn't Louisiana just quit prolonging its misery and tell the Dutchtown Boy to pull his damn finger out of the levee?

Read this
from The Advocate . . . or -- after everybody gets through destroying the state's universities and community colleges -- Thee Addvokit:

The Governor’s Office is asking Louisiana colleges to prepare for potentially huge budget cuts approaching 30 percent of the state’s funding for higher education.

This worst-case scenario could mean laying off thousands of employees, adopting four-day school weeks, eliminating academic programs, tuition increases and cutting into merit-based TOPS scholarship funds, higher education leaders said Wednesday.

“It’s a sobering time,” said Sally Clausen, state commissioner of higher education, of the second round of budget cuts following mid-fiscal year slashes just weeks ago.

Plans for how the campuses make those cuts are due Jan. 30 for the 2009-2010 fiscal year that begins July 1.

LSU’s main campus alone could be in line for as much as $71 million in cuts, Chancellor Michael Martin said.

“I think it shoots a huge hole in the side of the flagship,” Martin said. “And I’m not sure we have the pumps to handle it.”

At the very worst for LSU: “Total loss of employment— faculty and nonfaculty — well over 1,000 jobs for sure,” Martin said.

Southern University is considering a four-day school week in addition to layoffs and furloughs, said Provost Mwalimu Shujaa.

The state Office of Planning and Budget presented a range of $212 million to $382 million in possible cuts to colleges for the upcoming fiscal year.

Louisiana strikes again

Everything may be up to date in Kansas City, but it didn't even take a day after the inauguration of our first black president for Louisiana to reassert itself as the closest thing this country has to a Jurassic Park for crackers.

ONE WOULD THINK it'd be hard to top political consultant Mike Bayham's dismissing the Rev. Joseph Lowery -- co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and dean of the civil-rights movement -- as a clown:
I had a ticket to go, but my attitude was “been there, done that” during President George W. Bush’s two inaugurations. I would have probably been beaten, or to use the Old Testament manner of executing non-believers, stoned to death for erupting in laughter after the circus clown…I mean preacher…delivered his benediction, but more on that latter in this column.


And then there was the money shot: not Barack HUSSEIN Obama’s inaugural address, but the closing prayer of Reverend Joseph Lowrey in which he ended it with a crude nursery rhyme that asked brown to stick around, the red man to get ahead, yellow to be mellow and, my favorite and what caused me to almost fall off the treadmill, for white to embrace what is right.

It was good to see the Reverend Jeremiah Wright was there in spirit if not in body. Nothing like spitting in the faces of white folks whose support was instrumental in putting Barack Obama in the Oval Office.
THERE'S NOTHING LIKE playing the racial-grievance game, only to prove the point to which you object. Oh . . . and it wasn't a nursery rhyme. It was the blues -- Big Bill Broonzy's "Black, Brown and White," to be exact.

And nothing says "circus clown" like the resumé of Joseph Lowery.

One of the organizers, with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. Co-founder of the SCLC with King. Organizer of the Selma-to-Montgomery march in 1965.

Yeah, what a clown.
And I guess the civil-rights movement was just a joke, right?

Republicans are such an erudite, tolerant and even-tempered bunch -- and none more so than Louisiana Republicans. I can't understand how it is they'll end up relegated to the sidelines of politics for years and years.

OF COURSE, the blog rantings of a cracker politico is jes' a warm up act in such a stet as the Gret Stet. The main "Fergit, hell" act came Wednesday in Baton Rouge, as chronicled by The Advocate:

State and federal authorities are investigating an incident in which a twine noose was found Wednesday morning on a black employee’s chair at the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

“This type of hateful behavior and hateful crime will not be tolerated,” said Mark Cooper, the agency’s director, during an afternoon news conference.

Cooper dubbed the noose a “gross violation of an individual’s right to work in a safe and positive environment.”

A female supervisor and her male coworker, both black, found the miniature noose, Cooper said.

Both were “rattled” by the discovery, he said.

State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said at the news conference two State Police detectives and an FBI agent are interviewing everyone who had access to the office on Florida Boulevard.

Cooper said Wednesday was Homeland Security employees’ first day in their new offices after moving into a two-story office building from the four-story office next door.

The noose, which measures 8 inches long and 5 to 6 inches wide, was placed sometime between late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, Edmonson said.
OFFICIALS SAY there's no evidence of a link to Obama's inauguration but, given the timing, how could there not be?

It would make just about as much sense as saying there's no evidence of a link between disproportionate numbers of crackers, a lingering antipathy to the notion that "all men are created equal" and the state's permanent residency at the bottom of everything.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We are overcoming

You know, I was watching the inauguration today and thinking about Janice Grigsby.

And I started crying. By the time the Rev. Joseph Lowery -- the old lion of the civil-rights movement -- got out of his wheelchair and up to the rostrum to deliver the benediction, the tears were streaming down my face.

GOD BLESS HIM, at this moment, President Obama's politics are irrelevant. And my quite eclectic politics are irrelevant, and the evil (grin) Republicans' politics are irrelevant.

What's relevant is that I lived to see something -- something positive, at least -- that was unthinkable even 30 years ago.

What's relevant is that Barack Obama has overcome . . . that I have overcome . . . that, God willing, we have overcome.

I found myself wishing that Janice Grigsby would knock on my door so that I could give her a big, fat kiss on the lips, pick her up and spin her around and around.

Because the bastards didn't win, after all.

Monday, January 19, 2009

1963: A tale of two cities

I know fellow pro-lifers who are so verklempt about the pro-choice Barack Obama becoming president that they're going on a "media fast" this week.

Count me out. In other words, count me in the viewing audience when Obama becomes the 44th president of the United States.

I wish the incoming president well. I am praying for him.

LIKEWISE, I am praying that Obama might come to understand that the sort of bodily "autonomy" for some that can deny others the right to be born -- the very right to exist -- is a philosophical body blow to all that made it possible for him to become the first African-American to take up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. And not only that, but a mortal blow to a political and spiritual metamorphosis that has allowed our new president even to be regarded as a human being . . . with all the rights and sanctity that accompany one's humanity.

That a black man could be regarded as a true human being wasn't always a given -- not even in my lifetime. When I was born in Baton Rouge, La., in March 1961, affording people of color all the rights and privileges of American citizenship was a flat-out ludicrous proposition.

And Louisiana, along with a host of other Southern states, went to the wall to preserve that wicked status quo.

WHAT AN AMAZING JOURNEY from then to now. To the inauguration of a black man as president -- as de facto leader of the free world. Despite our serious disagreements with soon-to-be President Obama on abortion, pro-lifers especially ought to rejoice in where that journey has taken us thus far.

We should praise the Almighty for the world of difference between Jan. 20, 2009, and the late fall of 1963, when I was not quite 4 and Barack Obama had just turned 3.

To illustrate how far that remarkable national journey has brought us -- and we're still not yet where we need to be -- it might be useful to review the tale of two cities. One would be Omaha, Neb., where I live now. The other would be my hometown, Baton Rouge.

Here's some of an article from the Dec. 17, 1963, issue of Look magazine. The headline:




Omaha, Nebr., has an easy-going temperament. The people who get along best there learned long ago that you don't ask for anything outright until you've passed the time of day. So Omaha was scarcely ready for the Negro Summer Revolt of 1963, and most folks were plumb shook when it hit.

"Why here?" many asked. Omaha has had a Negro state senator for years. One of the town's most prominent surgeons is Dr. Claude Organ, a Negro, who had no difficulty getting office space in the Medical Arts Building downtown. Negroes hold well-paying jobs in the packinghouses, Omaha's main industry. There are colored bus drivers, mail carriers and policemen. Mayor James Dworak in July set up a biracial committee of top-level white and Negro leaders to investigate and resolve alleged discrimination in housing, jobs, etc.

Why then, in the summer of 1963, did pray-ins, sit-ins, picket lines and threats of a boycott disturb the social and economic tranquillity of a solid town like Omaha?

"This town is sick, that's why," says the Rev. James T. Stewart, director of Social Action for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha. "I'm not speaking of open sores, either — nothing as simple as the ghetto on the 'Near North Side,' where all but a handful of 30,000 Omaha Negroes live. No, our sickness is in the bloodstream — in our inner posture. We are an undemocratic city."

"It's worse than that," declares a Negro, the Rev. Kelsey Jones, pastor of the Cleaves Temple (Christian Methodist Episcopal Church). "There's no place Negroes can turn without being denied right of access. No house, no school, no job opportunity —except for those in the Near North Side, or the 'Neighborhood,' as we call it."

Last May, the Rev. Mr. Jones and several other young ministers formed the 4CL, or Citizens' Coordinating Committee for Civil Liberties. "They barged into my office," angrily recalls Mayor Dworak, "with a series of outrageous demands. I offered to appoint one of them, the Rev. Rudolph McNair, to my biracial citizens' committee. Apparently, that wasn't enough, because they picketed the very first meeting of the committee. We won't stand for that here in Omaha."

Made up of Omaha's most influential citizens, the Mayor's Bi-racial Committee claims it is carefully laying the groundwork for the correction of Negro complaints. Says Morris E. Jacobs, a prosperous Omaha businessman and one of the leaders of the committee, "We're trying to set up an ideal that can serve as an example for the whole United States. And what happens? They picket! I got wind of it beforehand, and phoned Reverend McNair. I said. 'We didn't know about your grievances. Now that you've made them known, give us a chance to settle things and redeem ourselves with dignity — don't crowd us.'


A handful of men control most of Omaha's money and businesses and set the city's political, social and moral climate. Almost everyone agrees that atop this small pyramid sits Peter Kiewit, the personable, easy-going native Omahan who presides over Peter Kiewit Sons' Co., one of the nation's largest construction firms. Kiewit, with Morris Jacobs, heads the employment subcommittee of the Mayor's biracial group. "We called in the heads of Omaha's 125 largest businesses," he says. "We requested more jobs for Negroes and complete cooperation in the Mayor's project. Jobs will be coming — we already have pledges from the business community.

"As for housing, I've seen little solid proof that Negroes want to move away from their own neighborhood. I happen to know that 135 FHA-owned houses are up for grabs in Omaha; each of these medium-priced houses is available to anyone who wants it. Not one Negro has applied. In time, I feel, as their leaders prepare them for better jobs and higher educational goals, many will apply. I don't think that certain activities of the 4CL are going to help at all. These demonstrations are bound to cause resentment, and there is a real danger that harassment and intimidation of businessmen will hinder or even set back their cause."

Between the urgent militants of the 4CL and the plodding moderates of the Mayor's Bi-racial Committee stands a Negro, Dr.. Claude Organ. Texas-born Organ, 36, and the father of six, is a distinguished academic surgeon, a professor of surgery at Creighton University, president of Omaha's Urban League and on the board of the Catholic Interracial Council. Organ lives in two worlds — the white one owned and operated by Omaha's power elite, and the black one enclosed within his skin. He has managed both skillfully.

It was Dr. Organ who, early last year, suggested to members of the Negro Ministerial Alliance that the time was right for a more concerted push than either the Urban League or the Omaha branch of the NAACP was equipped to make. The result was the 4CL, which splintered off to become the most active arm of Negro leadership in town. Organ himself, as a man deeply respected by both whites and Negroes in Omaha, is a member of the Mayor's Bi-racial Committee. "I know some people say I wear two hats. I just do what I can," he says.

In Omaha, the rules of the race game are known to everyone. Alfred C. Kennedy, the city's leading realtor, has said that he would inquire about property for a Negro buyer in a white neighborhood, but would not participate in the closing of the deal or accept any commission, to protect his firm against possible reprisals.

Daniel J. Monen, chairman of the Mayor's biracial housing subcommittee, adds, "I've run into a damned lot of inflamed white people." He urges his group to avoid extremism.

Thus, the ghetto way of life goes on in Omaha, and Negroes there grow increasingly impatient.

Peter Kiewit and Morris Jacobs have become special targets of the 4CL. In early September, Kiewit's newspaper, the
Omaha World-Herald
, was silently ringed by picketing members of the group, which accused the World-Herald of employment bias and slanted reporting.

Jacobs called the demonstration "unfair," but Omaha Public Safety Director Chris Gugas, who had threatened to invoke the city ruling that prohibits unlicensed demonstrations, made no arrests.

According to Elizabeth Davis Pittman, an attractive Negro attorney. "The powers in this city are not so much angry as they are resentful because it is their consciences that are being picketed."

Those consciences are getting a workout. Though there is comparatively little social interaction between whites and Negroes in Omaha, the town's ordinary Negroes, so long docile and silent, have begun to speak out, now that the 4CL has prodded white Omahans into listening.

Last summer, when Omaha school superintendent Dr. Paul Miller cited "126 Negroes" in the school system, Mrs. Mildred Brownell challenged, "One hundred and twenty-six teachers?" As it turned out, the figure 126 included some 78 teachers; the rest were employed in custodial and other nonprofessional jobs.

Signs of change are small but promising. Sixteen Omaha clergymen of various faiths last July issued a "statement of purpose for action and a basis for involvement." Laymen, too. are beginning to see the problem as basically a moral one. A white newspaper reporter confides. "We've let ourselves be led by men who are business leaders — people who stress land values, property values, aesthetics — none of which have allowed us, so far, to see the reality of the Omaha Negro's plight. Well. we can't avoid seeing it now."

NOW, HERE'S WHAT it was like 1,000 miles to the south. From an article in Monday's edition of The (Baton Rouge) Advocate:
“When Obama takes the oath of office on Tuesday, part of Dr. King’s dream will be realized — we are finally judging a person by his character and not by the color of his skin,” said Freya Anderson Rivers.

Rivers, 62, principal of a Michigan elementary school, was one of four black students to integrate Baton Rouge’s Lee High School in 1963.

“So many people died and suffered to get Obama where he is today,” Rivers said. “What if we’d never had the bus boycott and Dr. King hadn’t come to Baton Rouge to find out how we’d been so successful, would we be where we are today? I don’t think we would.”


Now with Obama’s election, those involved in the civil rights movement say the suffering they endured to change the law of the land and to change people’s hearts and minds was worth it.

“For so many years, I didn’t think that it was,” Rivers said. “But now I know our suffering was not in vain. I have hope that the country is changing. For years I refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance, but I started saying it again the day after Obama was elected.”

In August 1963, Rivers planned to attend the March on Washington where King gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech.

“But we had to cancel the trip when the school district said I had to register for school on the same day as the march,” she said.

Rivers, who was a 16-year-old senior at the time, was one of four students — all of whom had top grades and came from stable families — to integrate Lee High School.

And that year of school was a harrowing, nightmarish experience, she said.

“The four of us were pushed and shoved when we walked down the hallways, we were called names, the other kids spit on us, and when we sat down at a desk in a classroom, all of the other students moved away,” she said.

When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, U.S. marshals, who feared for the Lee High School Four’s safety, removed the students from school that day.

“As the marshals tried to get us out of the school, a mob surrounded us. The teachers and the marshals had to encircle us to get us to the car,” Rivers said.

As they pulled away from the school, someone threw a bucket of feces and urine at the car, she said.

A first-chair clarinetist at her former school, Southern High School, Rivers had to fight to get to play in the Lee High School band.

When Rivers won a gold medal for a clarinet solo at a state competition, her name was never announced with the other winners’ names.

And Rivers brought her mother to tears during one graduation activity.

“Everyone was walking out in pairs,” the high school honor graduate said. “But no one would walk with me. So, I stood there until everyone else walked out and then I walked out alone like a bride. The crowd booed me.”

Rivers said she will attend Obama’s inauguration.

“You couldn’t keep me away,” she said. “I missed the March on Washington and I plan to make that up by going to the inauguration. There’s a lot of justice to that.”
YES, there is.