Friday, September 30, 2011

3 Chords & the Truth: 'Round and around

You want to know where 3 Chords & the Truth started?

Right here . . . or there, in that old snapshot. In Baton Rouge, La., deep in the troubled, segregated South, during a time we called the Space Age.

On the picture, it says "Christmas 1963." And that's me, doing at age 2½ pretty much what I'm doing now. Now, I do it on the Internet.

Then, it was an adventure, watching the records spin while the music boomed out. "The music goes 'round and around, whoa-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho . . . and it comes out here."

3 Chords & the Truth. It comes out here, the latest link in an unbroken chain from 1963 and my parents 45 r.p.m. records, and LP albums, and old 78s.

ALMOST 48 years later, I'm still playing those same records. Wonderful 45s from the 1950s -- Jerry Lee Lewis . . . Ivory Joe Hunter . . . Elvis Presley . . . the Everly Brothers . . . Ferlin Husky . . . the Kingston Trio . . . you name it. Now, you get to listen along with me.

This week on the Big Show, I've dug through the old 45s from a lifetime ago, and you get to hear a couple more of them. You get to hear lots more stuff this (and every) week, but the old 45s are what's nearest and dearest to my heart -- they helped to make me who I am. Maybe some similar old records, nearly lost to time and fading memories, helped to make you who you are, too.

Perhaps you can listen to this and think of that, and we'll both enjoy the journey.

You know, it's not like I haven't written about this stuff before . . . or dug into the vaults of old vinyl and old memories for a weekly episode of 3 Chords & the Truth. Then again, who goes to a favorite restaurant only once? Listens to a favorite song only once? Revisits what made you you only once?

IF I QUIT doing that, going there, I die. And a whole world dies.

No longer would the music go 'round and around. Or come out here.

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

A long, long time ago. . . .

Did you write the book of love,
And do you have faith in God above,
If the Bible tells you so?
Do you believe in rock ’n roll,
Can music save your mortal soul,
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?

-- Don McLean,

'American Pie'

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Death comes for the archbishop

Sooner or later, death comes for us all. We all must meet our Maker.

Probably, no one knew this better than New Orleans' retired Archbishop Phillip Hannan, who died early Thursday at 98. In World War II, he was a paratrooper chaplain on the front lines in bloody Europe, administering last rites of the Catholic Church to American GIs and German soldiers alike amid the chaos of the battlefield.

Think about that one for a moment. If you dare.

In 1963, as an auxiliary bishop in Washington, he delivered the eulogy for his slain friend John F. Kennedy. In 1968, as archbishop of New Orleans, he did the same for Bobby Kennedy.

Hannan came to New Orleans in the devastating wake of Hurricane Betsy in 1965 and, at 92, rode out the fury of Katrina in 2005. The archbishop knew death better than most.

THIS, as recounted in The Times-Picayune, is how the old archbishop, his body finally spent, began his journey home a few days ago:

On Saturday, with the end apparently near, the few people around the archbishop's bed included his brother, Jerry Hannan, 89, who had flown in from Bethesda, Md.; the archbishop’s nephew, Tom; his oldest and closest New Orleans friend, Alden “Doc” Laborde, the oil-field entrepreneur; Saints owner Tom Benson and his wife, Gayle; restaurateur Klara Cvitanovich, who for years sent Hannan a daily take-out lunch from Drago’s; and a few others.

“It was an emotional time for all of us there,” Aymond said Thursday. “It was clear he knew some of what was going on.

“I gave no homily,” Aymond said. “I simply pointed at him and said he IS the living homily.

“He taught us in many ways how to live, but I think he taught us how to grow old gracefully.

“For a man who was independent, he became totally dependent on others, and never, ever complained about it.”

'Sounds good to me.'

Aymond said Hannan had already been anointed several times with the Sacrament of the Sick. This final Mass, the last of uncounted thousands in Hannan’s life, would be his last reception of the Eucharist.

In the early part of the ritual, Aymond and the others jointly confessed their sins in prayer, and as part of the rite, Aymond said he granted Hannan absolution from his sins in the name of Jesus.

Though weak and perhaps not entirely alert, Aymond said Hannan whispered a response.

They are what so far are his last recorded words:

He said: “Sounds good to me.”

“He was reassured, and knew God was forgiving him,” Aymond said.

American unexceptionalism

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

-- Declaration of Independence,
July 4, 1776

Throughout its 235 years as a nation-state, the United States of America has done many remarkable things.

Amid that exceptionality stands the glaring absence of something that would be exceptional, indeed. Living up to our foundational principles . . . and our advertising.

From the scourge of slavery to the near-genocide of the American Indian, from Jim Crow to the Japanese internment, from the excesses of the Gilded Age of the late 19th century to the excesses of the Jazz Age of the 1920s . . . and now the massive societal inequality and Wall Street thievery of today, one thing we Americans have been remarkably consistent about is our rank hypocrisy. And that's not exceptional at all -- that's remarkably ordinary.

IN FACT, those who govern the affairs of the United States -- unelected capitalists and the elected officials they rent -- have come to resemble more a "Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant" than they do the rebellious colonials of 1776.

Today's tea partiers have considered this and decided, in the name of "liberty," that somebody "is unfit to be the ruler of a free people." Unfortunately, their ill-willed and often grammatically challenged rebellion takes dead aim at the "life" and "the pursuit of happiness" of a supermajority of Americans.

I hold these truths to be self-evident. If you do not, you might yet if you look at the data and past the self-delusion of American exceptionalism, a Hypocrite's Gospel preached by some for all they're worth and believed by others because it's less challenging than the one preached long ago by some pinko Nazarean hippie freak.

Simply '70s: All I want for Christmas

Santa: Click on ad for better resolution!

Dear Santa,

I know I'm jumping the gun a little bit, this being just the end of September, but I figured you'll need a little lead time to get this for me.

I don't know how many Spotmaster 5300 Multi-Deck broadcast cart machines there are out there anymore. I enclosed a 1976 ad for one from Broadcasting magazine so you can see what it looks like. If you find a Spotmaster 5300 Multi-Deck broadcast cart machine, you probably will have to have your elves fix it up some so I can play with it.

It's like a great big 8-track tape deck, only with six fewer tracks and more better sound quality!

I used to use a deck just like this a lifetime ago at WBRH, 90.1 FM, the booming 10-watt radio voice of Baton Rouge High School. Since it's probably too much of a job even for Santa to transport me back 35 years (and many more than 35 pounds), this, I suppose, will have to do.

I hope you can find me one of these, Santa . . . that would be really swell!

Oh, the fun I could have!

Please give the reindeer some apples for me.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Of pipelines, poseurs and posturing putzes

On a continent 100-percent wrested from native Americans by the white man, and in a state where the United States Army rounded up the Ponca and forcibly delivered them into starvation in the Indian Territory, you have to have a lot of damned nerve to start whining about "not from here" and "carpetbaggers."

Of course, that doesn't stop some Nebraskans if there are political points to be scored.

Enter Jane Fleming Kleeb, who had the unmitigated nerve to have been born in Florida. But it gets worse. She also had the gall to have married a "Nebraskan" raised overseas . . . who has a Ph.D. from Yale. Yale!

But it gets worse than that. The Kleebs are Democrats, and they run for office -- he for the U.S. House and Senate, she for the Hastings school board.

But it gets worse than even that. Jane started something called BOLD Nebraska. We hear that it's full of lib'ruls and "radical enviro cronies" and stuff.

Furthermore, BOLD Nebraska is against the Keystone XL pipeline, through which TransCanada wants to pump Canadian "tar sands" oil trans-Nebraska on the way to Gulf Coast refineries. Kleeb had the gall to suggest it might really screw up the Nebraska Sandhills -- and the massive aquifer below them -- if this new project started belching the corrosive gunk across one of America's most environmentally sensitive regions.

Tuesday in Lincoln, Kleeb and her "radical enviro cronies" were brazen enough to pack a U.S. State Department hearing on the pipeline.

But --
Dare I say it? Can you stand it? -- it gets even worse than that. Take a nitroglycerine pill. Please.

OK, I'm just going to come out with it. In the course of her carpetbagging opposition to controversial Canadian toxic-sludge pipelines traversing much of Nebraska's water supply, Jane Kleeb. . . .

Jane Kleeb . . . .

The outsider, the carpetbagger Jane Kleeb. . . .

I CAN'T even say it, it's so horrible. The Leavenworth St. blog, as loyal and authentic a Nebraska institution as there is -- it's Republican! -- is made of sturdier stuff than I, so I'll just let it break the awful news:
Jane Kleeb likes to stick out like whenever she is out protesting or marching or generally putting on the pouty face with hands on hips.

Well she was making herself “be seen” at Pershing Auditorium in Lincoln yesterday during the State Department hearings on the Keystone XL Pipeline.

But what was she wearing? Take a look.

Yes folks, that is a “Future Farmers of America” jacket.


We are sure Jane will say she was “urged” to wear it, or she didn’t know the rules, or she was trying to represent or some other breathless retort.

But we get it Jane. We get it with the jeans tucked into your boots and the giant belt buckle and now the FFA jacket:

You’re a poser. You are pretending to be something you are not.

You know, like pretending to care about the Sandhills or aquifer, when you’re really just trying to stop the the Canadian oil at the behest of your radical enviro cronies and sugar daddies.

NO, THOSE engaging in the fine art of American politics never pretend to be something they're not. Absolutely unheard of.

Can you imagine Mitt Romney in blue jeans? George H.W. Bush in a supermarket checkout line? Michael Dukakis in a tank? Hillary Clinton speaking with a Southern drawl in a black Baptist church?

Michele Bachmann pretending like she's not six kinds of crazy?

Deal we must, though, with Jane Kleeb in cowboy boots . . . and a Future Farmers of America jacket.

Apparently, you're not supposed to wear cowboy boots unless your day job involves trudging through cow patties. And you're not supposed to wear an FFA jacket if you're not actually a member. It's kind of like present-day tea partiers -- who live in suburban comfort and only make vague threats about revolting against "tyrants" -- dressing up like it's 1775 and waving Gadsden flags.

Only worser.

In a comment, the state Republican Party Chairman Mark Fahleson explains how much worse:
Wow–that’s not really Jane Kleeb wearing an FFA jacket, is it? As the former president of the Waverly FFA Chapter who remains proud of and thankful for his FFA experience, I can assure you that the hallowed blue corduroy is sacrosanct. A non-member (even a former member like me) wearing the jacket is like a non-Catholic taking communion at Mass. Whether it’s non-physicians wearing white coats at pressers or faux cowboys posing as Nebraska ranchers, apparently what matters to Nebraska’s leftists is the visual, not the truth.
MIGHTY BIG TALK for someone from Kansas City, Mo., doing his level best to tar an "outsider" who stands against Canadian carpetbaggers (ones with a long history of leaky pipelines) cutting through the Nebraska Sandhills with a toxic-sludge superhighway.

Of course, I am not surprised that the head of the Nebraska GOP hails from Missouri. I'm from Louisiana, myself, and we Southerners know a thing or two about Republican carpetbaggers.

What really concerns me, though, is that someone can be so warped by politics and partisanship that he can compare an FFA jacket to the Holy Eucharist.

Catholics believe that the consecrated bread and wine has become the actual body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. If you don't believe that, you have no business partaking of it, and you have real problems in calling yourself Catholic.

We call it "communion" for a reason -- it is both sign and cause of our unity as Catholics and of God within us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this about Holy Communion:

The Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life."136 "The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch."137

"The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God's action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit."138

Finally, by the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all.139

In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: "Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking."140
AND THE Nebraska Republicans' secular sacrament of the day, the Holy FFA Jacket? It's just a jacket.

Granted, it means a lot to a lot of FFA members who earned one, but when you unstick yourself from stupid and gain a little perspective, you realize that blue corduroy jacket is a lot like the faux outrage of political hacks -- you can get along just fine without it. And them.

One of these things is not like the other

I write to you from a time near the end of our world.

I write to you from a time close to the tortured end of our ability to play both the Id and the superego against the middle --
and by "we," I mean Western civilization, for whatever that label is worth anymore. The hour is late, our world is crumbling, and the time has come for us to choose.

I suppose I could go on world without end about this, but I doubt I could shed much more light on the subject than I'm fixing to do very simply. You see, I am not a sophisticated man. Then again, our choice is not a sophisticated one.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

BASICALLY, we can choose to submit -- to God, to grace, to love and to each other. We can choose to live in truth and the light. We can choose to die to ourselves and to live for something -- Someone -- much greater.

This story (above) from the
NBC Nightly News is kind of what that looks like.

ALTERNATIVELY, we can choose the way of non servium -- I will not serve . . . you. Or God. Or truth. Or the light.

We can choose to serve only ourselves. And when my serving myself conflicts with you serving yourself, the law of the jungle must prevail. In a "top of the food chain" kind of world, he who belches last, belches best.

This interview from the BBC is kind of what that looks like.

When morality is fluid, God is Self and love has conditions, our fate is left to lawyers, guns and money.
For the s*** has hit the fan.

Choose wisely.

Monday, September 26, 2011

With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps

The above video contains not-so-adult language. NSFW.

Apparently, this video was the big thing on the Internets last week.

Today, the big thing on the Internets is a debate on whether last week's big thing on the Internets was all a big set-up for the benefit of Bristol Palin's reality-TV show. That's TMZ's and the Today show website's story, and Bristol's co-star is sticking to it.

Today's blog, The Clicker, posts the above video and warns "The following video contains adult language." Trust me, there's nothing adult about any of it.

There's nothing adult about Bristol Palin cashing in on being an unwed-mother daughter of a flaky Alaska politician with national pretensions. There's nothing adult about doing the above clad in an "Empowered" sweatshirt (Phil. 4:13) with a "lightning" cross.

There's nothing adult about a half-drunk guy yelling whether Bristol rode baby-daddy Levi Johnson like the mechanical bull she was on. Or adding that "Your mother's a f***ing whore! She's the devil!"

THERE'S NOT a thing adult about Bristol -- wrapped in the cross Jesus Christ hung and died on -- getting in the guy's face and asking "Is it because you're a homosexual?" (Oddly enough, she apparently jumped to the correct conclusion.)

And there's nothing adult about this confrontation going on and on, with a camera crew to record the whole thing and put it on the Internet . . . and later, television.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

NOPE. Nothing adult to be found in TMZ tracking down the profane heckler to get the "scoop" on whether it was all a put-up deal, and nothing adult in Stephen Hanks justifying his bad behavior with his passion for politics. There, however, was plenty ironic about his saying he was originally from Louisiana and, therefore, knew white trash when he saw it.

Probably in the mirror every day. Just a wild guess on my part.

Finally, I wonder whether there's anything adult about my giving all these people an extension on their 15 minutes of fame. I wonder whether there's anything adult about adding to our nation's cultural and media dysfunction by highlighting all this bad behavior going on in the name of ratings and revenue.

I tell myself it's because it's all so metaphorical. That it somehow sums up who and what we've become as Americans today.

I fancy myself as being the "adult" here. The adult pointing and yelling
"Look at the freaks! Look at the freaks!"

Lord have mercy, I think we all may be "the freaks" here. May someday we be "Empowered"
(ZAP!) to just stop.

After all, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."

Simply '70s: Avant le Food Network

I am so old, I remember when cooking shows were fun.

You see, you little whippersnappers, back in the prehistory of the 1970s -- when we had no Internets and had to push AMC Pacers uphill both ways to get to and from school -- cooking programs were on regular television and actually were about cooking, more or less, as opposed to whatever the hell the Food Network is about. Gastronomic pornography?

Me, I don't know.

BACK THEN, Justin Wilson ruled the public-TV airwaves in Louisiana -- and across the country -- teaching folks how to cook like a good Cajun, with a funny story or three thrown in as lagniappe. And the best part was that I actually knew (or knew of) some of the people in his tall tales.

Which made them just plausible enough to be hilarious.

I remember that ol' Zhoo-STAHN would measure salt or whatever into his hand and then throw it in the pot. Then, just to show off, he'd measure some more into his hand, grab a measuring spoon, and fill it exactly with what lay in his palm.

To this day, more than three decades later, I do the same thing.
And when my Yankee wife yells at me, I take a measuring spoon. . . .

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Never mind the bollocks

Because we Americans seem to be, at heart, a most unserious people, we have outraged national campaigns over this.

A naughtily named new flavor of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, "Schweddy Balls," has inspired a national boycott call and hungry curiosity in Omaha, as elsewhere.

Members of want the ice cream company to stop making the flavor.

The limited-edition flavor, launched this month, is a tribute to "Saturday Night Live." The name refers to a 1998 sketch in which Alec Baldwin played holiday goodie baker Pete Schweddy.

Monica Cole, director of the online activist campaign, said she's seen the skit, but she's not laughing at it or its namesake dairy treat.

"We find it vulgar, not what we would like our children to be seeing or asking for at the supermarket or a Ben & Jerry's outlet," Cole said from the group's headquarters in Tupelo, Miss.

-- Omaha World-Herald,
Sept. 24, 2011
But not this.
Black babies are dying in Omaha.

That's the simple, straightforward message the group of about 40 people — most of them black women — had to work with. Their assignment was to take 10 minutes to come up with a way of spreading that message to the people who need to hear it.

The fact that the infant mortality rate is high among blacks in Omaha was no surprise to many of those at a community forum earlier this week at the Turning Point campus in north Omaha. That for every 1,000 black babies born in Douglas County, more than 14 will die in their first 12 months.

Or that the rate is three times higher than the county's white infant mortality rate: 4.7 deaths per 1,000 babies.

But a Douglas County Health Department map showing that the highest concentration of baby deaths was near 33rd and Lake Streets, in the area around Salem Baptist Church, surprised Thelma Sims, director of the Salem Children's Center.

Sims first saw the map about a month and a half ago.

"I was really devastated and sad," she said.

She lives and works in the area but hadn't known that from 2005 through 2009 the neighborhood's infant mortality rate was 27 to 33 deaths per 1,000 births — in the range of the rates seen in Indonesia, Zimbabwe and Kyrgyzstan.

Rates are harder to grasp than actual numbers, so when looking at the state's vital statistics for 2005-2010, for example, you find that 113 black infants died in Douglas County during that period.

Of those, the leading causes of death were listed as sudden infant death syndrome, 21; maternal complications of pregnancy, 20; prematurity, 16; and birth defect, 14.
-- Omaha World-Herald,
Sept. 24, 2011
Really, America?


On this ship of fools, steerage is a dangerous place to book passage. Obviously.

Friday, September 23, 2011

3 Chords & the Truth: Warm . . . and cool

Fall. Finally and fully.

That sums up the weather here in Omaha, by God, Nebraska, and that kind of sums up the vibe on this week's edition of 3 Chords & the Truth. Not too hot . . . stretches where it's pretty cool.

Then again, if cool music is the criteria, maybe every edition of the Big Show is fall-like, then.

This week, we start off with the extremely cool jazz stylings of Mr. Tony Bennett, and we go from there, making regular stops at rhythm and blues, doo-wop, rock, alternative, avant-garde jazz and country.

AND WE TAKE a look back at the fathers of alt, R.E.M., upon the occasion of their hanging up the guitars and drum sticks after a 31-year run across the modern-rock charts. It's a tribute; it's cool . . . and it's going to blow you away when you least expect it.

Did I mention this week's edition of the Big Show is cool, just like a sublime fall night on the Plains? I may have.

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

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

. . . and I don't feel fine

"To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening." R.E.M.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Who needs killin'?

When you get right down to it, the United States is really just a great big Texas. We're pretty sure that some people just need killin'.

Cop killers need killin'. They're at the top of the killin' list. They need killin' even if we're only pretty sure they actually killed a cop.

Troy Davis, down in Georgia, needs killin' bad. The convicted cop killer needs killin' so bad that the state parole board looked past seven of nine original witnesses recanting all or a portion of their testimony, as well as a dearth of physical evidence, to make it so come Wednesday night.

HERE IS the latest from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
A landmark Georgia case brought about the abolition of capital punishment in the United States, and another landmark Georgia case reinstated it. But even with those monumental precedents on the books, no Georgia death sentence has drawn as much international attention and controversy as the one scheduled Wednesday night for Troy Anthony Davis.

If Davis is put to death as scheduled, the legacy of this bitterly fought case could be the persistence of unyielding prosecutors -- and the victim's family -- who stared down worldwide criticism and innocence claims to see his execution carried out. It will also leave many wondering if the state executed an innocent man.

"Justice will be done and that's what we were fighting for," said Anneliese MacPhail, whose son was a 27-year-old Savannah police officer when he was gunned down 22 years ago. When asked if she thinks Davis killed her son, she answered, "There is no doubt in my mind."

Davis sits on death row for the 1989 killing of Savannah Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail, a former Army Ranger who was moonlighting on a security detail when he was shot three times before he could draw his handgun. Today marks the fourth execution date for Davis; on the three prior occasions, he was granted a stay.

A decision early Tuesday by the state Board of Pardons and Paroles rejecting pleas to halt Davis' execution appears to have all but sealed his fate. The board has the sole authority in Georgia to grant clemency to a condemned inmate.

Still, Davis' lawyers said they plan to file last-ditch appeals today claiming there remains new evidence that shows Davis was convicted and sentenced to death based on misleading evidence and testimony. "I am utterly shocked and disappointed at the failure of our justice system at all levels to correct a miscarriage of justice," Brian Kammer, one of Davis' attorneys, said.

Davis' supporters said they would ask Chatham County prosecutors to void the execution warrant. "This is a civil rights violation, a human rights violation in the worst way," the Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, said at a Tuesday press conference.

The five-member parole board did not disclose the breakdown of its vote. It also did not address questions involving Davis' innocence claims or say it was convinced beyond any doubt he is guilty.

Instead, in a statement, the board said its members "have not taken their responsibility lightly and certainly understand the emotions attached to a death-penalty case." The board said it considered all the information and "deliberated thoroughly" before reaching its decision.

I DON'T KNOW that anything will change how in love with death -- and the death penalty -- we Americans are. Some people just need killin'. That's it. Period. End of discussion.

We kill crooks because they done killed somebody. We kill fetuses because they done inconvenienced somebody -- or their presence done scared somebody to death . . . or they might be born deformed . . . or Mama and Daddy are dead broke . . . or something.

In foreign lands, we kill foreigners -- with bombs and tanks and assault rifles. We get pissed off, and they get in the way.

That's just the way we are. There is no problem so daunting that we can't fix it with somebody's premature demise.

What part of "end of discussion" do you not understand?

Then again, since we're stuck with our penchant for "the final solution," it seems to me that we can at least be sporting about it. Take executions, for example. The Georgia parole board is dead-set (pun intended) on executing Troy Davis no matter the doubts, no matter the protests . . . and no matter getting seriously on the wrong side of the pope.

Fine. Obviously the members are sure enough to stake a man's life on their findings.

But are they sure enough to stake their own lives on it? It would only be sporting if they weren't as sure as they ought to have been -- screw up and kill an innocent man, give up your own lives as retribution. It's the American Way, and we Americans are about nothing if not retribution.

If we are to have the death penalty, that is the only fair way to implement it . . . and to make sure we're not killing innocent people for others' sins. If a parole board orders an unjust execution, and it's carried out, and the error is uncovered, the members should be given just enough time to get their affairs in order before their case is forwarded to the Court of Heavenly Appeals.

The same should apply to sentencing judges, condemning jurors and clemency-denying governors. After all, fair is fair.

And we Americans are about nothing if not fairness, right?


Pick a peck o' decked tech

Welcome to the Museum of Obsolete Objects.

Welcome to the online mausoleum where lies an ever-increasing collection of the stuff of my life. Well, maybe not the quill pen.

But I do possess a fountain pen!

Add the fountain pen to several turntables, a couple of 1950s record changers, typewriters of both the electric and manual varieties, tape decks (cassette and reel-to-reel) and various ancient drip coffee pots you won't find in the store anymore . . . and you've pretty much summed up my life. I am an obsolete object.

Right down to my journalism degree and mad radio-production skillz.

Guess what else made the museum.


HAT TIP: The Creators Project.

The 'Party of Life'

Pro-lifers associate themselves with this bunch -- pols like Mitch McConnell and his ilk --at their own cultural, political and spiritual peril.

There is a big difference between anti-abortion and pro-life. Anti-abortionites have no problem with cheering for executions and demanding that society let people die for lack of health insurance; pro-lifers, on the other hand, are deeply troubled by the former and absolutely horrified by the latter.

The Republican Party is nominally anti-abortion, and the "pro-life" establishment is just fine with making that particular deal with the devil.

Even more distressing is how many Catholics have bought into such a limited vision of defending human life.

The church
teaches that the sanctity of human life begins at conception and continues until natural death.
It's therefore unacceptable to accept a vision of "pro-life" that ends the moment an infant emerges from the birth canal and gets a sharp slap on the buttocks. In a "pro-life" world, there is no room for "Let 'em die!" or wild applause for the death penalty.

THERE IS plenty of room for that under the banner of "anti-abortion," and plenty of lemmings to march beneath it.

Anti-abortion is what Republican presidential candidates like Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the nation's fastest and loosest executioner, really mean when they talk about the GOP being "the party of life." Pro-life is a bridge too far, as evidenced by the indifference toward "the least of these" who make it out of the womb.

For America's highly politicized "pro-life" operatives, letting vulnerable humanity shift for itself after the first nine months is "good enough for government work." Unfortunately for them, I suspect the Almighty doesn't grade on a curve.

HAT TIP: Think Progress.

Monday, September 19, 2011

So, you say you want a revolution?

Two years ago, the tea-party meme was "Barack Hussein Obama is a socialist." And a "Muslin."

Protesters walked around with handguns on their hips and assault rifles slung over their shoulders. Amid the "Don't Tread on Me" flags was an occasional "It is time to water the tree of liberty" sign. Right-thinking Americans were to "water the tree," as it were, "with the blood of patriots and tyrants," according to the original Thomas Jefferson quote.

A year and a half ago, the tea-party meme was "Barack Hussein Obama is a socialist, Marxist Nazi who, with his liberal henchmen, wants to fundamentally subvert constitutional rule."

And "ObamaCare" was as Marxist as it got. Or as Nazi as it gets, what with all the "death panels." Even though it was modeled on a Massachusetts plan championed by a Republican governor.

SINCE, we've had Republicans in the U.S. House hold the government hostage with the threat of default. We've had Republican presidential candidates hyperventilating about "government injections." We've had another GOP presidential candidate speculatively accusing the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of "almost treason" and suggesting Ben Bernanke's reception in Texas, were he so unwise as to venture there, would get "ugly."

The United States has lived through other eras as divided, rancorous and nasty as the present one. A century and a half ago, one such era ended with the deaths of between 600,000 and 700,000 Americans. A third of the country lay in ruins.

Having been to the abyss once and fallen in, Americans since have been gun shy when it comes to civil war. No more, not in this present Era of Bat-S*** Crazy.

Today, it's a death match between right-thinking, right-wing Americans of the tea-party persuasion and the evil liberals, whose communist plot has succeeded in subverting our culture. That's what conservative Internet mogul Andrew Breitbart told a Boston-area tea-party gathering Friday, adding that in his less-clear moments he thinks
"Fire the first shot. Bring it on."

"We outnumber them, and we have the guns."

JUST IN CASE you think you heard him wrong, Breitbart makes it perfectly clear.

"I'm talking about if they want to take it to the point of a civil war and it goes to the streets, we're the guys that have the guns," he said. "The people in the military, who are not supposed to be political -- when push comes to shove, they're going to be on our side. That's what I'm talking about."

What was just a nasty political undercurrent (and ill-tempered words on misspelled protest signs) now has come out into the open. A conservative media entrepreneur and provocateur now has named That Which Must Not Be Named, and he did so in the context of:
* "Bring it on."

* "We outnumber them, and we have the guns."

* "
The people in the military who are not supposed to be political -- when push comes to shove, they're going to be on our side."

CONSIDER, TOO, what is obvious but unsaid by Breitbart. Who is the present-day leader of the "liberal subversion" of all that was right and good about America? Who is at the top of the "subversive" food chain?

It can be none other than Barack Hussein Obama -- President Obama.

What Breitbart rhapsodizes about is a civil war that
, given who now sits as its chief executive, would result in the violent overthrow of the U.S. government. And he suggests that it would occur with the backing of the military -- a coup. (See Title 18, United States Code, Section 2385.)

Tea-party "patriots" and those who egg them on, like Breitbart, think it's cute to wink and nod at the violent end of the United States as we've known it since the last attempt at bringing about the violent end of the United States. They think they're being conservative and culturally responsible by seeing the evil of the "subversives" (and in some specific cases, they're correct about cultural trends) . . . and then raising it.

Likewise, they think they're being "constitutional" -- law-abiding -- by walking to the edge of what could earn them up to 20 years in federal prison, toeing at that legal line in the sand and then running off to hide behind the First Amendment.

They do all this so cavalierly, so glibly. So enthusiastically.

THIS IS HOW most people condemn themselves to hell, thinking the whole time that God is on their side. This is how a small cadre of nuts, louts and fools can cast entire peoples into hell on earth. Gavrilo Princip, after all, was just trying to free Bosnia from the shackles of Austro-Hungarian tyranny, right?

He was a patriot. And as a result of his patriotic -- and successful -- double-assassination attempt, "trees of liberty" all over the world got watered with the blood of some 17 million dead and 20 million wounded.

Self-styled "patriots" usually cast us all into an earthly "lake of fire" with years of murderous rhetoric that culminate with a single stupid individual doing a single stupid -- and deadly -- thing. Then comes a harsh reaction. And an even more violent counterreaction.

Then a yet harsher counter-counterreaction . . . a whole self-perpetuating vortex of hate and violence sucking whole societies down into the netherworld.

WE LIVE, in our tenderbox society, during what the Chinese curse would refer to as "interesting times." It is here that tea-party "patriots" strike their matches and wantonly discard lit cigarettes. And it is here that "conservative" radicals such as Andrew Breitbart throw bombs at "the enemy within."

If sanity does not reassert itself -- and soon -- the bombs Americans throw won't be rhetorical ones. And the "tree of liberty" just might drown amid a crimson tide.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Old man, get off of that stage

People try to put us d-down
(Talkin' 'bout my generation)

Just because we get around

(Talkin' 'bout my generation)

Things they do look awful c-c-cold
(Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old

(Talkin' 'bout my generation)

-- The Who,
My Generation

When you're 20, a song can be profound because it captures -- perfectly -- your fear and loathing of the Establishment.

When you're somewhere on the far side of 50, that same song can be profound because it captures -- perfectly -- your fear and loathing of the Establishment. Which now is you.

I'm talkin' 'bout my generation. Or, in this case, the one immediately before mine -- not that my Baby Boom generation is any better.

Above, from 2009, we see Gary Puckett singing his 1968 hit "Young Girl" at The Villages, a massive central Florida retirement community. Now it's creepy enough when you have a 26-year-old warbling an ode to age-inappropriate relationships which, back in high school, we used to call "15 will get you 20."

TODAY, the same dynamic will get you nabbed in a police Internet sting. You know, like when the pretty young thing posing as a 14-year-old asks you if you brought the "protection," goes to the back of the house to "freshen up" and then Chris Hansen walks in and says "Why don't you have a seat right over there?"

When the guy who can't get that young girl out of his mind -- or his set list -- is 67 years old, we suddenly have reached the second act in the profundity of "Hope I die before I get old."

Failing that, perhaps I just can claw my eyes out before watching this again.

It's almost as if Pete Townshend, when he wrote "My Generation," subconsciously saw what was coming in a mere four decades. Like old men singing young men's songs about jail bait to an audience of aging hipsters in a Florida retirement village. Needless to say,
I don't think we'll see The Who performing "Young Girl."

Sometimes, I wonder why don't we all f-fade away.

Talkin' 'bout my generation.