Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lookin' for Lucifer in all the wrong places

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Satan is not employed by The New York Times.

And sorry, Catholic Paranoiacs in Denial, that meeting where all of mainstream media gathered to plot the latest attack on the church took place only in your overheated imaginations.

The original Times report about how the Vatican handled the case of a pervy Wisconisin priest -- one accused of abusing more than 200 deaf children -- may or may not have assumed too much and the reporting may or may not have been sloppy (and, yes, Maureen Dowd is still Maureen Dowd), but the original all-American, all-Catholic crime remains.

The cover-up for -- and the decades-long tolerance of -- a child molester remains as a millstone around the neck of the bishops who supervised him, if not the neck of the cardinal-now-pope who got the case dumped in his lap years too late.

It is disingenuous for the anti-media church militants to yell at the Times for excessive scrutiny of Pope Benedict XVI while tolerating insufficient scrutiny of Catholic leaders closer to home -- leaders who, in effect, enabled criminal acts that cry out to heaven for redress.

BUT THINGS are better now, says the church militant. We don't let such unfortunate things happen anymore.

Bull, say those who keep track of such things.

Today's story from
National Public Radio just might dwarf the impact of the original, disputed Times piece:
In the wake of its own scandal almost a decade ago, the U.S. church says it has reformed its policies for handling sexual abuse allegations and will remove from ministry every priest who is credibly accused of abuse.

But some of those priests are now being quietly reinstated.

Juan Rocha was 12 years old when he says he was molested by his parish priest, the Rev. Eric Swearingen. He eventually brought his complaints to the bishop of Fresno, Calif., John Steinbock. When Steinbock said he didn't find the allegations credible, Rocha sued the priest and the diocese in civil court.

In 2006, the jury found 9 to 3 that Swearingen had abused Rocha. But it could not decide whether the diocese knew about it. Rather than go through a new trial, the two sides settled.

At the time, Steinbock said he thought the jury got it wrong, and that while the Catholic Church should protect children, "doing this cannot be done in such a manner as to punish innocent priests."

"Bishop Steinbock continues Swearingen in ministry to this day, choosing to believe the priest is innocent, choosing to protect the priest, and choosing to disregard entirely the judicial finding by a jury that found he had committed the crime of sexual abuse against Juan," says Rocha's attorney, Jeffrey Anderson.

Today, Swearingen serves as priest at Holy Spirit parish in Fresno, where he also oversees the youth ministry. Swearingen did not return phone calls, and Steinbock declined requests for an interview.

Swearingen's case is not an isolated one, says Anne Barrett Doyle, who works with the watchdog group She says that recently, bishops have started quietly returning to ministry priests who previously have been accused of abuse.

"I think they feel that the crisis has died down in the public mind," she says. "Therefore, they have some confidence that if they go ahead and reinstate these priests, that they'll get very little backlash."
THERE'S MORE. Oh, is there more. Go to the NPR website and read on.

And while the Catholic attack dogs throw brickbats at the devil where he ain't, the original fallen angel will be erecting the gates of hell in the middle of all those circled wagons.

A window seat in Amsterdam Dealey Plaza

There's a lot I could say about Erykah Badu's tasteless new video for her unremarkable new single, "Window Seat."

But it would just be repeating what the flabbergasted hosts of The Early Show said on CBS television this morning. I show the CBS report instead of the video itself because -- in today's music-promotion economy -- embedding her video is exactly what Badu would have me do.

When you're protesting "groupthink" by flashing your ta-tas and your booty and your noonie in Dallas -- in Dealey Plaza, no less, in front of small children as you
make some nutso-licious attempt to "telepathically" communicate your good intent to them -- well, Cap, they ain't much you can say about that that does justice to the bat-s*** craziness of it all.

SO I WILL just say this: Badu isn't an individualist so much as she's a Looney Tunes, antisocial exhibitionist.

She's the Fernwood Flasher making a political statement at the expense of a murdered president. I hope a Kennedy kicks her ass.

Until that happens, however, somebody hand the woman a trench coat.

And make sure she keeps the damned thing buttoned.

Xerox machine's 50th-anniversary (paper) jam

In 1960 -- 50 years ago this month -- a Space Age early adopter opened his checkbook, and the Haloid Xerox Co., sealed the deal for its first sale of a plain-paper copier.

"The contraption was the size of two washing machines, weighed 648 pounds and had to be turned on its side to fit through doorways," says a story on "It also occasionally caught on fire."
But it revolutionized the workplace as we know it.

"It's hard to imagine now, because we take it so much for granted. But it took human communication forward a huge step," said David Owen, author of "Copies in Seconds: Chester Carlson and the Birth of the Xerox Machine."

"It was a product no one knew they needed until they had it."

It was also a product that many loved to hate. The earliest models were so unreliable that Haloid Xerox's repair crews got emergency calls almost daily. In the cult hit movie "Office Space," three oppressed cubicle drones take a balky machine -- some say it's not a copier but a fax machine or a printer -- into a field and smash it to pieces.

In today's digital age, a machine that copies paper feels like a quaint mechanical relic. And in most offices, the traditional copier has been eclipsed by the Internet-connected, multipurpose printer.

SHORTLY AFTER that first delivery of the Xerox 914, an office jokester made the world's first photocopy of the human posterior. (Not the actual first butt-cheek xerographic reproduction.)

Neither the American office, nor the life of the average American college student,
would be the same.

Nor, several decades later, would this guy's gluteus maximus.

Tea party i-dole-atry

It looks like I picked the wrong day to quit snorting Drāno(TM).

Unless, of course, this story really wasn't in Tuesday's
New York Times and, in fact, was just the kind of hallucination you get when drain cleaner meets brain cell.

YOU DECIDE, as they say on Everybody's Favorite Cable Network:
When Tom Grimes lost his job as a financial consultant 15 months ago, he called his congressman, a Democrat, for help getting government health care.

Then he found a new full-time occupation: Tea Party activist.

In the last year, he has organized a local group and a statewide coalition, and even started a “bus czar” Web site to marshal protesters to Washington on short notice. This month, he mobilized 200 other Tea Party activists to go to the local office of the same congressman to protest what he sees as the government’s takeover of health care.

Mr. Grimes is one of many Tea Party members jolted into action by economic distress. At rallies, gatherings and training sessions in recent months, activists often tell a similar story in interviews: they had lost their jobs, or perhaps watched their homes plummet in value, and they found common cause in the Tea Party’s fight for lower taxes and smaller government.

The Great Depression, too, mobilized many middle-class people who had fallen on hard times. Though, as Michael Kazin, the author of “The Populist Persuasion,” notes, they tended to push for more government involvement. The Tea Party vehemently wants less — though a number of its members acknowledge that they are relying on government programs for help.

Mr. Grimes, who receives Social Security, has filled the back seat of his Mercury Grand Marquis with the literature of the movement, including Glenn Beck’s “Arguing With Idiots” and Frederic Bastiat’s “The Law,” which denounces public benefits as “false philanthropy.”

“If you quit giving people that stuff, they would figure out how to do it on their own,” Mr. Grimes said.

The fact that many of them joined the Tea Party after losing their jobs raises questions of whether the movement can survive an improvement in the economy, with people trading protest signs for paychecks.

But for now, some are even putting their savings into work that they argue is more important than a job — planning candidate forums and get-out-the-vote operations, researching arguments about the constitutional limits on Congress and using Facebook to attract recruits.


Jeff McQueen, 50, began organizing Tea Party groups in Michigan and Ohio after losing his job in auto parts sales. “Being unemployed and having some time, I realized I just couldn’t sit on the couch anymore,” he said. “I had the time to get involved.”

He began producing what he calls the flag of the Second American Revolution, and drove 700 miles to campaign for Mr. Brown under its banner. Flag sales, so far, are not making him much. But he sees a bigger cause.

“The founding fathers pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor,” he said. “They believed in it so much that they would sacrifice. That’s the kind of loyalty to this country that we stand for.”

He blames the government for his unemployment. “Government is absolutely responsible, not because of what they did recently with the car companies, but what they’ve done since the 1980s,” he said. “The government has allowed free trade and never set up any rules.”

He and others do not see any contradictions in their arguments for smaller government even as they argue that it should do more to prevent job loss or cuts to Medicare. After a year of angry debate, emotion outweighs fact.

“If you don’t trust the mindset or the value system of the people running the system, you can’t even look at the facts anymore,” Mr. Grimes said.
ME, I THINK this demonstrates what I've thought all along about the tea party movement -- that it's blind rage, abject fear and talking-head-fueled paranoia in search of the Other.

That "Other" might be black folk on welfare, or white folk on Wall Street, or brown folk roofing your house, or black folk in the White House, or pinko commie-lib Democrats in Congress . . . or just some poor jerk in the coffee shop (or on
Facebook) who disagrees with you. The tea party "patriots" represent free-floating rage with nowhere to go -- because that kind of rage can't go anywhere constructive.

It only can destroy . . . consume. It can't build.

Creating requires a clear head; it requires transforming anger into something that transcends itself. Building a better future for this country requires knowing what you believe and where you want to go.

UNFORTUNATELY, it's becoming clearer and clearer that America's angry tea partiers don't even know their ass from a hole in the ground. Doubly unfortunately, that hole is where their blind rage and complete confusion threatens to bury us all if we don't watch out.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Politics today

Unless you're a hermit with no media access (in which case, you wouldn't be reading this), you know that it's true.

P.O.-ing all the right people

When you hear various professional pro-lifers . . . or perpetually outraged Catholics . . . or scheming Republican operatives (and sometimes all these reside in the same person) lamenting how the new health-care reform act "is the biggest blow to the pro-life movement since Roe v. Wade," ask yourself one question.

Would any legislation that fundamentally awful from a pro-life perspective piss off Bill Moyers this badly?

HERE'S the television host's commentary from the March 5 edition of Bill Moyers Journal:
If any health care reform emerges from the bonfire of partisanship and dissembling in Washington, one thing seems certain -- it will be incorrigibly biased against a woman's freedom of conscience when it comes to abortion.

She will be ever more subject to the state's control and ever more at the mercy of religious doctrine to which she may or may not subscribe. In this respect, both reform bills in the House and Senate differ only slightly. Each is tough on women.

As you've been reading, Catholic bishops in particular have led the lobbying charge to prohibit any woman who receives insurance subsidies under the legislation from using that money to buy policies that cover abortion. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, for one, says any compromise on this would be, quote, "morally unacceptable." This, from an all-male hierarchy of clergy morally compromised themselves by the church's failure to protect the children in its care from abuse by its own priests, and by ongoing efforts to cover up the full extent of the scandal.

Nor have their own sins prevented protestant politicians and preachers from casting stones at those who would to any degree support a woman's freedom of choice being covered by the current reform bills. I would include among that pious flock many who champion family values, abstinence and homophobic bigotry while indulging in or turning a blind eye to sexual harassment, sam
pling the pleasures of brothels or heading to Argentina for more than language lessons.
IS THE public-television icon really this upset over a pro-abortion legislative riptide destined to sweep unborn babies -- and the movement dedicated to saving them -- out into the deep blue sea?

I don't think so.

And Dr. Favog thinks those whose blood pressure still is dangerously elevated should take a couple of doughnuts, wash them down with a few cans of Duff Beer, then call Homer Simpson in the morning. "Doughnuts: Is there anything they can't do?"

One more thing. For the record, I like Bill Moyers and enjoy his program greatly. I also
profoundly disagree with him on abortion rights.

I'm just saying. For whatever that is worth . . . which probably is damned little in today's divided and outraged America.

Heroism: It's as easy as ABC

he way things are today, you'd think it would be easy to sell people on the value of educating themselves.

If you were in Iberville Parish, La., you would be wrong. Apparently, selling adult education there -- in a poorer area of a poor and ill-educated state -- is the kind of losing proposition that drove Willy Loman to despair.


We don't have to, actually. It's what we do, and some do it a lot. What we need, we don't want -- have no interest in.

And what we want . . . well, oftentimes that's the last thing we need.

ENTER the Gret Stet, stage right. Acquiring skills and education never has been so popular as "being well liked." And when folks have a shot at what they need -- as opposed to what they want -- seeing things straight can be a heroic act.

Today's edition of The Advocate lifts the curtain on a little story lying somewhere between drama and farce:
Wildit Jones spends his lunch break — Monday through Wednesday — at the old North Iberville High School building finishing what he started decades ago: his education.

The school has been closed since April after Iberville Parish school system officials determined students in grades seven through 12 would be better served at Plaquemine High School, following years of low test scores and high dropout rates.

Adult education classes have been held in the old high school building since November, but Janet Tassin, the district’s adult education coordinator, said it has been a struggle to get people to attend.

A 30-year veteran of the Iberville Parish Maintenance Department, Jones, 58, of Maringouin, was prodded by an old friend to restart his education after dropping out of school in the fourth grade.

Besides the GED classes offered, the building has more than two dozen computers with Internet access available to the public for free, Tassin said.

To date, a few people have taken advantage of the computer access, and the classes have served only 25, she said.

On Monday, past the school’s deserted common areas and the empty gym, 10 adults occupied two classrooms.


Several feet away, Jones is getting one-on-one instruction as he learns the alphabet.

He said he has been in the program for three weeks.

“I’m proud of what I’m doing,” Jones said. “I’m accomplishing something I didn’t do in my younger days. I appreciate what this is doing for my life.

ILDIT JONES is a hero. Really and truly.

Really, discerning what's needed and putting it ahead of what's wanted is a heroic act in today's instant-gratification culture. Then there's the matter of
overcoming embarrassment . . . and fear . . . and then girding oneself for a long, tough journey. In Jones' case, that journey will lead to literacy.

Truly, literacy will open the door to a world of knowledge -- a world where "working with my hands" is just one skill set out of several.

Well, duh. . . .

But when "well, duh" is anything but, that's where a long and brutal cultural battle awaits a state trying to get from "oblivious" to "obvious."
Both start with the letter "O." "O" is the letter that comes between "N" and "P." . . .

Monday, March 29, 2010

The God's Own Party line

Life on the Rock is a Thursday-night program on EWTN targeted at Catholic youth and young adults.

And when, last Thursday, the topic turned toward what had happened the previous Sunday with final passage of health-care reform, it wouldn't have been unreasonable to wonder whether the program was aimed more at ginning up support for Republican politicians.

That and bashing pro-life Catholic politicians -- OK, one Catholic congressman in particular -- whose political conscience didn't line up with the bishops' entreaties to "kill the bill."

AS THEY SAY, out of the mouths of babes. . . .
FR. MARK MARY: And tonight we're joined by Jill Sanders, our producer here on Life on the Rock, she does a great job, works very hard every week -- tries to keep Doug and I on the bean, so to speak. And Jill . . . we have her on up with us because she did something special the last couple of days.

Where were you last night, Jill?

JILL SANDERS: Well, last night I was in Washington, D.C., at the Willard Hotel -- which is a very fancy, beautiful hotel – for the Susan B. Anthony List Campaign for Life Gala.

DOUG BARRY: Is that hotel nicer than a Holiday Inn Express or. . . .

JILL SANDERS: It's a little bit nicer than a Holiday Inn Express. It's a beautiful hotel.

And at this gala, I was the recipient of the Susan B. Anthony Young Leader Award, along with four other pro-life young women.

BARRY, FR. MARY: (Clapping) Woo hoo!

DOUG BARRY: And why is this award given out?

JILL SANDERS: It's for young women who are pro-life leaders in the community, trying to mobilize more young women to get active in conservative politics.

DOUG BARRY: Well, you've done so much on so many levels, but one of the key things I can speak to is all the work that you do to provide Father Mark and me, I mean the guests that have been on the show that you arrange, you set things up – a lot of people don't realize just how much work goes on behind the scenes with the producer unless they're around it or involved in it.

All the information, all the E-mails I get from you throughout the week, getting ready for a show, the research – you're directing me to different places to learn about the guests that are coming up, and I can say you do an outstanding job. Across the board, but especially in the pro-life area, so congratulations. You definitely deserve this.

JILL SANDERS: Oh, thank you. Thank you very much – thank you, I appreciate that.

FR. MARK MARY: This was the Susan B. Anthony List, we had a few of them on the show. . . .

JILL SANDERS: They were on last fall.



FR. MARK MARY: And they promote women's involvement in the pro-life movement?


FR. MARK MARY: And this was a Campaign for Life Gala. Can you tell us about the spirit in the room, just days after this health-care bill passed . . . what was it like there?

JILL SANDERS: Well, this is a tragic time in our country. Federal funding for abortion is the biggest blow to the pro-life movement since Roe v. Wade. In that room last night, there was a spirit of determination and of optimism and of hope.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann gave one of the speeches, and in it she kept saying
"We may have lost this battle but we will not lose this war. We may have lost this battle but we will not lose this war."

And I think what an inspiring thing for us to remember as we go into Holy Week, that as Jesus Christ died on the cross for us, He felt the pain of our sin – He felt the pain of the sin of abortion. You know what? But the story doesn't end there, because on the third day, He rose again, and He conquered death, and He won the victory for us.

And He will win the victory over abortion in our country as well.

FR. MARK MARY: All right. . . . So what would you say for people out there, what could they do for the pro-life cause?

JILL SANDERS: Well, I think what's great about the country that we live in is that we have the ability to change in our country. First of all, if you are a young pro-life woman who has aspirations to go into politics, visit the Susan B. Anthony List website, see how you can get involved. Their website is, so go to their website.

If you're a priest, preach the truth from the pulpit. If you're a father, if you're a mother, teach the dignity of every human life from conception to natural death to your children. Write letters to your congressman. Talk to your friends and family. Vote for pro-life leaders – get behind pro-life leaders, support them.

But most importantly, every day, brothers and sisters, we need to hit our knees and pray for an end to abortion.

DOUG BARRY: You're absolutely right; pray for the leadership. We've got situations like what happened with Congressman Stupak out there, which was a real blow to people, because he was supposed to be honored at this event as well, and Susan B. Anthony List -- very quickly when that turned – made it very clear publicly they were revoking that honor, that award they were going to give him. They felt like a real betrayal.

Was that spirit in the air last night as well?

JILL SANDERS: I think there was great disappointment in him. You know, we kind of depended on him to keep this bill from being passed, and when he turned on us, it was a sense of betrayal, you know? You're one of us, how could you do this? How could you turn your back on us?

FR. MARK MARY: I think there has been a lot of talk about what has happened, and we're not experts here – you know, we can't analyze policy so much, but the bishops have made statements about how this executive order by the president is not sufficient in this new health-care bill to protect life. And they've issued a couple of statem. . . .

DOUG BARRY: I'm sorry, but to jump in real quick for the people who may not be aware of what you mean by the executive order . . . for those who aren't keeping up on this at all, the reason Congressman Stupak turned and said he would vote for this was primarily because of this executive order that President Obama said he would sign to limit federal funding and such and so forth.

And he compared it to something as powerful as Abraham Lincoln's, you know, uh, uh, a couple of other points in the past . . . I'm not going to go into detail on that. But the point here is that the bishops do not see this as being sufficient, even though the congressman has said that it is.

So for people out there wondering why Stupak would turn in and all of a sudden vote for this, because of what President Obama said he would sign as an executive order defending life but, as you're about to say and make very clear, the bishops do not feel, feel this is good enough.

FR. MARK MARY: Right, Fr. Richard Doerflinger from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, you know, he issued a statement in the name of the bishops saying only a change in the law enacted by Congress – not an executive order – can begin to address this very serious problem in the legislation.

My understanding is in the executive order, you know, it can fill in holes in the law but, you know, if it's not in the law, it can't put into law what's not already in the law. And the bishops made a statement . . . they said they applaud the effort for health-care reform – you know, the church herself doesn't canonize a certain economic policy or instruct how government should function or run, but they applaud the effort, you know, that everybody has health care, but it says nevertheless -- the U.S. bishops said “nevertheless, whatever good this law achieves or intends, we as Catholic bishops have opposed its passage because there is compelling evidence that it would expand the role of the federal government in funding and facilitating abortion and plans that cover abortion.

“The statute appropriates billions of dollars in new funding without explicitly prohibiting the use of these funds for abortion, and it provides federal subsidies for health plans covering elective abortions.”

So, they say here that the Catholic bishops have opposed this passage of the bill, you know, as it stands with this funding in it. And the funding will make a huge difference – you're giving money that makes it easily accessible, available for people, the number of abortions to go up . . . you know, human life is. . . .

DOUG BARRY: Well, what it also does is -- you know, Jill, maybe you can comment on this – is this now forces taxpayers to a higher degree to be cooperating against our will, if we don't want to, with our tax dollars, the government can now use this to expand federal funding of abortions out there. I mean, did this come up at all – anything of this nature last night at this event?

JILL SANDERS: Right. Well how unfair that something we are so diabolically opposed to can be forced upon us. [Emphasis mine -- R21]

DOUG BARRY: All right. And that's a big part of it. And I noticed that is something the bishops had mentioned before the final vote on Sunday had come down, was they were saying that this does not provide protection of the conscience for those who clearly – even medical professionals, those people who are in the medical field – you know, the concern of them being forced into . . . to having to cooperate with abortion and with procedures that that involve this whole, this whole horrible act.

Um, you know, the threat of shutting down hospitals, of shutting down Catholic medical, uh, you know clinics and facilities due to this kind of government forcing. And you know, ladies and gentlemen, this kind of battle is going to keep going on. So, as Jill mentioned earlier, we've got to be on our knees, we've gotta be praying, we gotta be writing letters – we've gotta be a force to reckon with.

And, uhhhh, as Catholics, we're talkin' over 60 million in this country. Come on! We gotta wake up! Sleeping giant, let's go!
YES, SHE really did say "diabolically opposed."

As in . . . the devil, diabolically opposed to a "culture of life," took it upon himself to prompt the pro-life movement to climb in bed with mere politicians, then place all of their hope and faith in them. Took it upon himself to tempt professional pro-lifers --
and their useful idiots in Christian broadcasting -- to become uncritical touts for some of the wackiest, angriest and most divisive pols in recent history.

Like the Susan B. Anthony List's having Sarah "Tea Party" Palin keynote its Celebration of Life Breakfast in May. Everyone will be eating Froot Loops, no doubt.

THINK ABOUT IT. Would anybody but Satan think it a good idea for the pro-life movement to hitch up Michele Bachmann's nutwagon? Or greet poor Bart Stupak with the same sort of warm fuzzies Josef Stalin radiated toward Leon Trotsky?

Was the Susan B. Anthony List's now-withdrawn "major award" to Stupak, a Democrat, really predicated on his devotion to pro-life values, or was it more incumbent on the damage his pro-life values inflicted on his own political party? Today, "betrayal" is just political "heroism" misdirected toward you, right?

Day by day, in every way, those more than 60 million "sleeping giant" Catholics in this country are left wondering whether the "pro-life movement" is more about "pro-life" or more about being "active in conservative politics."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Louisiana: The state it's in

If only Louisiana Public Broadcasting had the rights to LSU football.

Or could get past the Federal Communications Commission's whole "indecency" hangup.

Like, if LPB could put Tiger cheerleaders on the air during fund drives, then have them expose their ta-tas in full HD for pledges instead of Mardi Gras beads . . .
well, it just wouldn't matter much what Gov. Bobby Jindal is proposing to do to the network's state funding.

BUT SINCE the FCC, I don't think, is gonna start allowing American TV stations to do the "full Janet Jackson" anytime soon, fans of educational TV in a place like the Gret Stet might find themselves s*** out of luck. The news in The Advocate isn't good:
Louisiana Public Broadcasting is warning viewers that state budget cuts may force the network to go off the air two days a week.

An alert on LPB’s Web site also warns that layoffs and the elimination of local programming are possible because of more than $2 million in potential state budget reductions.

“It’s not anything we want to do. It’s not our choice,” said Joe Traigle, chairman of the LPB Foundation, on Tuesday.

Without additional funding, the stations airing LPB across the state will fade to black on Fridays and Mondays, he said.

LPB President and CEO Beth Courtney said she plans to plead her case to lawmakers this week during budget meetings at the State Capitol.

She said a pledge drive will not resolve the problem.

“We literally raise every dime we can,” Courtney said.
NO, THE NEWS ain't good a-tall.

3 Chords & the Truth: It's crazy good

When my father died, a cousin speculated he and my late uncle were in heaven grousing because they didn't have anything to complain about.


By that token, we must be happy as clams here in the Disunited States of America. We've got lots to complain about.

It's to the point where I was trying to figure out how to make this week's episode of 3 Chords & the Truth really suck so more people might be pleased to listen to it.

FACE IT, we're mad in this country -- as in off-the-charts angry. And judging by the evening news, the morning newspaper and the food fights all over the Internet, it's looking like we've gone mad, too.

I mean, on the Big Show this go 'round, I almost feel as if I ought to smash a beer can on my head -- à la John Belushi in Animal House -- to make you laugh . . . or distract you from killing somebody. Or somebody from killing you.


Maybe, as a reasonable alternative, we'll just have a "crazy" set of music this week. OK? Will that work for you?


Please don't hurt me.

THAT WAS a joke. Gee whiz, you've been really touchy lately. You'd think people have gone around insulting your mama and calling you a godless communist.


Man, that's harsh.

OK, here's the deal. Sit back, kick your shoes off and get comfortable. I'll put some tunes on, and you can chill out. Really, I think 3 Chords & the Truth is just what the psychoanalyst ordered.

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

Friday, March 26, 2010

As feds move in, snitches get . . . sued?

If not for the tireless efforts of the U.S. Department of Justice, Louisiana would. . . .

Sorry, finishing that lede would take my imagination to places no man's imagination should have to go. The U.S. State Department would have to issue urgent "travel advisories."

So, without scaring ourselves by speculating on a Gret Stet without ongoing, massive intervention by the feds, let's just say the dance card of Justice lawyers and FBI agents just picked up one more two-step. And it all has to do with the "proactive policing" Baton Rouge cops engaged in after Hurricane Katrina.

NATURALLY, the locals have taken offense at the offense taken by New Mexico and Michigan troopers over Baton Rouge cops' "law enforcement" practices after the storm, accounts of which -- more than four years later -- have led to the federal civil-rights investigation. Today's story in The Advocate has this choice passage:
Asked why law enforcement officers from other states would lie about what they saw Baton Rouge police doing, LeDuff has said he suspects the troopers wanted to be where the action was.

“Everybody who came here wanted to be in New Orleans, where all of this was going on, to rescue, to stop the looting, to stop the people from shooting at helicopters,” he has said. “I don’t think people wanted to come to Baton Rouge. We weren’t the story.

Cpl. Cleveland Thomas, one of the officers disciplined because of the troopers’ complaints, told Police Department investigators the allegations lodged against him were false and the New Mexico officer made them because he was “scared and wanted to go home.”

Olson, the New Mexico spokesman, said Thursday he found the comments in the newspaper’s story “very disturbing” and “that clearly is not the case.”

He said his officers volunteered to leave their families and jobs to come help the people of Louisiana and that “it’s difficult when baseless accusations like that are made.”

Olson said he hopes the U.S. Justice Department has a “thorough and successful” investigation.

He added he’s heard from various Baton Rouge media outlets that the Baton Rouge Union of Police Local 237 is considering filing a lawsuit against his agency because of the complaints it filed against the Police Department.

Chris Stewart, president of the police union, said during the March 24 “Jim Engster Show” on WRKF radio that the union is “researching every possible avenue that we can pursue in order to clear the names of our officers.”

“If it involves a lawsuit, then we are going to do that,” Stewart said on the radio show. “We are waiting now for our attorneys to come back with some decisions or opinions.”

Stewart told WAFB-TV on March 23 that “to be called racist and just rogue cops and all the allegations that were made, it’s offensive to us to be called this. We needed to clear the air with the public as best we can.”
BASICALLY, what we have here is the bizarre confluence of a total breakdown in "Southern hospitality" and Baton Rouge cops internalizing the ghetto code of "snitches get stitches." Being that a) the Yankee cops went home long ago and b) the feds are watching, the locals are considering trying to, alternatively, just shake down the "snitches" in a court of law.

Or what passes for one in the Gret Stet.

After reading the Advocate piece, my wife and I were discussing our shared incredulity at Baton Rouge's official incredulity that outsiders might say awful things about how its Bubbas in blue roll down there on the bayou.

That's when it occurred to me that my wife's incredulity stems from being a native Midwesterner, and that mine stems from, after 20-plus years up here, having turned into one myself. "My God," I told her, "they think they're normal!"

OF COURSE they do. They think it's not only normal to harass and "beat down" whom they please when they please -- and, to be fair, this isn't a Louisiana-only cop pathology -- but that it's absolutely incredible that anyone would take exception, which pretty much is a Bayou State pathology.

And, hell, that might be absolutely normal--
in a Caribbean, banana republic-y kind of way -- except for that little Louisiana Purchase thing a couple of centuries back. But this ain't Haiti, and it ain't In the Heat of the Night, either.

It's the United States.
It's 2010. And, God willing, the Justice Department will be pointing out to the special-ed students of constitutional democracy -- yet again -- that's just not how we Americans roll nowadays.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Iowa's King-sized mess

Southwestern Iowa, can we talk?

Surely you've noticed lately that your guy in the U.S. House, Steve King, has been a little out of control . . . even by his own loose standards. Frankly, guys, the rest of the country is starting to think he's a little nuts.

OK, a lot nuts.

He's going around throwing rhetorical bombs. He's acts like he's trying to start something bad, trying to get people all riled up.

Frankly, if the tea partiers actually got their way and got national governance just the way the Founding Fathers served it up . . . your representative might be writing manifestos on toilet paper for his lawyer to smuggle out of jail and hand over to Glenn Beck. The Alien and Sedition Acts, as applied by President John Adams, surely would not have been kind to Steve King.

LET'S TAKE a look at Steve King's latest, greatest hits, shall we? Starting with this story today in the Omaha World-Herald:
Midlands Republicans on Capitol Hill strongly opposed health care legislation, but most showed little interest this week in repealing it now that it is the law of the land.

One man who is ready for a repeal push is Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.

“Today the work begins to repeal Obamacare and restore the principles of liberty that made America a great nation,” King said within hours of the bill's passage. “The American people must take their country back by methodically eliminating every vestige of creeping socialism, including socialized medicine.”

Of course, repeal would be a steep climb. Republicans probably would need to capture the White House, a majority in the House and 60 seats in the Senate, where they currently hold 41.
THEN, WE HAVE this from KTIV in Sioux City:

AND THIS, an account of King's Sunday night antics, courtesy of The New York Times:
“Let’s beat the other side to a pulp!” Rep. Steve King, Republican of Iowa, shouted to the last stand of Tea Partiers on Sunday night. “Let’s chase them down! There’s going to be a reckoning.”
OF COURSE, let us not forget this, as recounted by CBS News:
Conservative lawmakers and pundits already have many grievances against the Democratic health care reform plan, but Rep. Steve King of Iowa and Fox News personality Glenn Beck are adding one more to the list -- the vote scheduled for Sunday.

Democrats are scrambling to get the bill to the president before leaving for Easter recess, prompting the House to schedule a vote for the bill this Sunday.

"They intend to vote on the Sabbath, during Lent, to take away the liberty that we have right from God," King said on Beck's radio program Thursday, the Hill reports.

Beck chimed in, "Here is a group of people that have so perverted our faith and our hope and our charity, that is a -- this is an affront to God."
OR THIS, in The Huffington Post on March 16:
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) urged a smaller-than-expected crowd of Tea Party protesters on Tuesday to launch a Velvet Revolution-style uprising against the federal government, saying the parallels are striking between America's current government and Eastern European communist rule.

Speaking to the Huffington Post shortly after his speech, King declared that a peaceful uprising, a la the successful overthrowing of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia on the streets of Prague in 1989 "would be fine with me."

"Fill this city up, fill this city, jam this place full so that they can't get in, they can't get out and they will have to capitulate to the will of the American people," he said.

"So this is just like Prague under communist rule?" the Huffington Post asked.

"Oh yeah, it is very, very close," King replied. "It is the nationalization of our liberty and the federal government taking our liberty over. So there are a lot of similarities there."

Earlier, King implored the crowd to bring the nation's capital to a sort of paralysis. Warning, erroneously, that the health care bill would fund abortion and fund care for 6.1 million illegal immigrants, he demanded that concerned citizens "continue to rise up."
AND, OF COURSE, we can't overlook this "Osama bin King" moment after Joe Stack flew his plane into Internal Revenue Service offices in Austin, Texas, last month:

SOUTHWEST IOWA, let me be direct. You have a problem -- you elected a lunatic. Furthermore, considering you elected a lunatic to Congress, he's our problem, too.

And we expect you to fix our problem at your earliest possible convenience.

America's news source

A latchkey culture

Another grown-up has gone home to be with God, leaving the children to throw spitballs at one another down here on earth.

We're on our own now, down here in the public square, where decent folk dare not venture. Not at night, not during the day. No time is safe, now that the grown-ups are leaving us to our own devices, and the neighborhood is flat going to hell.

The latest grown-up to be called home was Phil Johnson. For decades, he ran the newsroom at
WWL-TV in New Orleans. He also delivered a nightly editorial, because the Jesuits who owned the station -- it was part of Loyola University back then -- "wanted the station to stand for something.”

Johnson said in that first editorial in 1962:
Good evening. Today a new voice speaks out in New Orleans. The voice – that of this station – WWL-TV. My name is Phil Johnson.

Beginning today, and every weekday hereafter, this station will present editorial opinion – a living, vigorous commentary on all things pertaining to New Orleans, its people and its future.

Commentary designed to stimulate thought, to awaken in all of us an awareness of our responsibilities, not only to our community, but to each other and to ourselves.

Commentary that will aim not to provoke but to educate. Not to offend, but to explain; not to mislead, on the contrary, to seek only truth.

We intend for it to be a vigorous commentary, strong, vibrant, full of the spirit that is New Orleans; yet, a literate commentary, cogent, sensible, fact-filled, complete.

It will not be a comfortable commentary – a voice such as this station reaches over a million people each week. Such a voice should lead, should stimulate thought, present new ideas, or remember the sound, solid old ideas. This we intend to do.

There is one question. Why? Why speak out? Why present editorial opinion?

The answer is simple enough. We think it’s necessary.

This station believes New Orleans needs another voice, another attitude, another opinion. But we further believe it should, it must be a responsible voice, a responsible attitude, a responsible opinion. This we intend to provide.

New Orleans, almost overnight, has found itself propelled to the very forefront of an incredible age of space. We need great leaders, we need men of ability, we need ideas.

Our leaders we elect, men of ability, we can train. Ideas are harder to come by.

It is the fervent prayer of this station, that the ideas we may project in our editorials can, tomorrow, next week, next month, through the years, help provide for this, our New Orleans, and you, our people, a bright, happy future.

Good evening.
AND THIS is what Phil Johnson, editorialist, said in 1963 after some hate-filled cracker in Mississippi pumped Medgar Evers' body full of lead:

THAT'S what it looked like -- long, long ago in a place far, far away . . . in oh, so many respects -- when the adults were in charge of our mass media. Well, at least for the most part.

Now, not so much. . . .

HOW IN THE WORLD did we get from Phil Johnson to this? What in the world will become of us now that the grown-ups have been called away?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nebraska to Mexican babies: Se muere

Long ago, Nebraska advertised itself as "the White Spot of the Nation," meaning the state had neither a sales tax nor an income tax.

Now, thanks to "pro-life" Gov. Dave Heineman, the state just might have to revive that slogan -- just with a somewhat different meaning.

Like, "if you're a white spot on an ultrasound," you, as a fetus, are quite all right. But if you're brown -- as in Mexican -- we don't want your kind sticking around.

That's because in Nebraska, we are so angry about illegal immigration, that ostensibly "pro-life" politicians want to punish undocumented mothers-to-be soooooo badly -- and thus reap the resulting electoral windfall -- they'd rather see brown babies dead . . . aborted . . . than be born American.

Abortions, you see, are easy. Prenatal care for the poor is not.

TRAFFICKING in deadly spite is a big part these days of what it is to be Dave Heineman: Nebraska's "white-to-life" governor. That's the practical reality, the moral reality and the political reality of at least 19 state senators standing behind (or at least not standing up to) the Republican governor's death-dealing foolishness.

Heineman and his toadies can argue motivations, but the practical reality is clear. Somehow, I don't think the political considerations would be quite so acute if Nebraska were facing being "overrun" by a wave of Scandinavian illegals. Which it isn't. This "problem" is colored brown.

Nebraska's political establishment wants little brown babies to pay for the migrational sins of their mothers so badly that it will deny them state-sponsored prenatal care even if private donors are picking up a substantial portion of the bill. That's the upshot of this
Associated Press story tonight:
Opposition to taxpayer benefits for illegal immigrants appears to have trumped anti-abortion sentiments in Nebraska, likely ending an unusual collision of the two explosive political issues.

After meeting with Gov. Dave Heineman on Wednesday night, a lawmaker said the governor opposed a compromise that would continue providing state-funded prenatal care to illegal immigrants in Nebraska. Supporters of the compromise - which included the use of money from private donors - said they don't have enough votes this year to override a Heineman veto and may not have had the votes even without the governor's outright opposition.

"The chances are very slim right now," said Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha after the meeting with Heineman. Ashford crafted the proposal, which hinged on Omaha donors pitching in about $3 million this year, so women could continue receiving state-funded prenatal care. "We took a stab at it but it's clear options now are very, very limited."

Heineman characterized the meeting as "respectful and straightforward" in a statement Wednesday night.

"I have repeatedly said that I support prenatal care for legal residents," he said. "I do not support providing state-funded benefits for illegal individuals."

Lawmakers had faced a dilemma for weeks: Was it more important to care for pregnant women and their unborn children, or prevent illegal immigrants from getting taxpayer-funded benefits?

Until early this month, Nebraska had the nation's only Medicaid policy that allowed unborn children to qualify. That meant women who weren't eligible for the government-run insurance program on their own - such as illegal immigrants - got Medicaid-covered prenatal care because their unborn children qualified.

After federal officials told Nebraska it was breaking Medicaid rules, the state tried to come up with a substitute. That effort died more than a week ago.

But reports from doctors of several women saying they will have abortions instead because they couldn't afford prenatal care reignited the issue. Until Wednesday night, there appeared to be a chance lawmakers would formally consider a proposal.


Heineman, meanwhile, has tried to stay out of the fray. Running for re-election, the Republican quietly announced his opposition to state-funded prenatal care for illegal immigrants last month in a letter to a legislative committee.

State officials say about 870 illegal immigrants and 750 legal residents including citizens lost Medicaid coverage this month when Nebraska dumped its two-decade-old Medicaid policy. More than 4,700 legal residents once considered at risk of losing coverage got to keep it because state officials found they qualified under different provisions of Medicaid.

The reports of more women seeking abortions - which some lawmakers are openly skeptical of - spurred a renewed push to create a separate, non-Medicaid program under which illegal immigrants and some legal residents would get state- and federal-funded prenatal care. Now very unlikely to be formed, it would have been created under the federal Children's Health Insurance Program, which allows unborn children to qualify for federal- and state-funded care.
DESPITE ENACTMENT this week of a landmark health-care reform law, we still live in a country -- and especially a state -- where it's much cheaper to eradicate your fetus than it is to deliver a healthy baby boy or girl. And just enough of Nebraska's "pro-life" politicians, led by the state's "pro-life" governor, are just fine with that.

Here in "the White Spot of the Nation."