Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Bizarre World of Rep. Ed Emery (R-Lamar)

In the strange, twisted world of state representative Edgar Emery (R-Lamar), there is no color gray, and he'd just as soon there were no brown either. Like many Republican legislators, he believes in the simple rule of law, right and wrong, cause and effect - there is a simple response to every action.

Emery, a staunch conservative who does little to hide his disdain for undocumented workers, currently serves, ironically enough, as chairman of the House Special Committee of Immigration Reform. At a recent hearing in Joplin, he spent the day listening to a host of Hispanic educator/advocates plead their case on behalf of immigrant workers.

During the afternoon session, several immigrant activists spoke quite eloquently about the plight of undocumented workers in the Ozarks - how Mexican agriculture collapsed after the implementation of NAFTA, how Mexican farmers were forced to look elsewhere for work in order to earn money to support their families - you know, family values.

Another immigrant advocate observed that most workers were taking on jobs that the vast majority of American workers didn't want. Yanking chicken guts eight hours a day at a Tyson plant is not considered a viable career choice for most white folks. One speaker pointed out that the human hand is the only device that can perform that particular task.

Emery, in his infinite wisdom, countered by proposing that perhaps immigrant workers were to blame for the lack of technological advances in the chicken-gutting industry - that a robotic hand may have already been invented to perform these tasks if it weren't for those pesky immigrants.

Emery and other panel members actually took up more air time than the speakers at the forum, which was unfortunate, since most who testified were far better versed in American history and economics than the panel members. Instead, Emery used the hearings as a bully pulpit for espousing his own cracker barrel ideas on American patriotism and ideals.

"You know, our immigration laws are in place to protect Americans, not Mexicans," Emery chided one speaker. "Mexico has their own immigration laws to protect their people."

And then, without provocation, an inexplicably emotional Emery spoke with quivering voice about the depth of his own patriotism, implying that immigrants were a underlying threat to America.

"I feel so strongly about maintaining our own American freedom, our love of liberty, that I would even be willing to sacrifice my own children in the defense of those ideals."

The room went silent. I wanted to ask him how many of his clan were currently serving in the military, but I was just an observer, and it would have spoiled a poignant moment. I did, however, take the opportunity to talk with Emery just after the meeting adjourned.

I asked him if he really thought that state laws would do anything to help solve a national problem. "Are you just wanting to establish some kind of state law that would push immigrants into Arkansas and Kansas?"

"Hopefully," Emery said with a smile. "And you know, this whole immigration problem would not even be an issue if it weren't for Roe vs. Wade."

"Excuse me?"

"Twenty million potential workers have been needlessly killed. We would not need any immigrant workers at all if those twenty million aborted fetuses were contributing to the economy."

So there you have it. The World According to Ed. In a perfect world, there would be no abortions and all those saved fetuses would be gleefully yanking chicken guts and picking vegetables in service to the American economy.

Please vote for a rational human to represent you in the state legislature. It's more important now than ever.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Literacy Success Story #8

Literacy Success Story #8 - from the notes of a reading teacher working with illiterate adults. The year is 1989, and Barbara Bush, like so many dutiful first ladies, is pushing a big literacy campaign.

Student #122 - Doug, construction worker, Springfield, MO.

Doug, 23, came to the program to improve his reading so he could advance in the construction trade. He was a general laborer and needed to learn how to read plans and blueprints to have any chance of promotion. Doug drank a little and had recently become separated from his wife of five years and his two children. He was living on his own for the first time and fashioned himself as a bit of a ladies' man.

The program director took him on as a student until a good volunteer could step in, but since most of the good reading tutors were young women, it took a while. After three months of twice-weekly instruction, Doug was starting to make some progress, but his late night carousing was also starting to take its toll. He began canceling appointments.

It was at this time that a new reading tutor came along that was able to take over Doug's instruction. Diana was a tough biker chick that had been in the merchant marine and now tended bar at the Silver Leaf on Republic Road. She had dropped out of high school but had worked hard to pass the GED. She wanted to do something to help somebody and give something back.

Doug and Diana had been meeting for several weeks when the program director received a phone call from Doug. He was very upset. Apparently the tutoring sessions with Diana had gotten a little off topic, and he had somehow come down with a case of gonorrhea. Doug took this hard. His doctor had recommended an AIDS test as well, which scared the hell out of Doug given the fact that he'd fucked no fewer than a dozen women in the last three months - and he had to wait an excruciating two days for the test results.

To sum up, the test was negative, and Doug subsequently moved back in with his wife and kids, gave up drinking and found Jesus as his personal savior. Despite our best effort, Doug still couldn't read worth a damn, but the literacy program had once again yielded a stirring success story.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Aunt Norma's Dark Past

I was thumbing through some old Springfieldians and came across an interesting article that delves into state senator Norma Champion's early days at KYTV as host of the Children's Hour. Champion parlayed her television notoriety into a city council seat and eventually defeated Craig Hosmer in 2002.

Her record as a legislator has been, arguably, one of the least distinguished and vacuous in southwest Missouri political history. You can read more about Aunt Norma at All About Norma.

Anyway, back to the crack investigative reporting on Aunt Norma from Issue #1 (Summer 1992) of the Springfieldian.

"Champion hosted the popular Saturday morning children's show "The Children's Hour", sharing the stage with puppets, pets and shy, embarrassed children.

". . . While Champion's service on City Council raised no question of character, a closer look at Champion's television years may reveal another side of the candidate. . . .The controversy centers around a contractual dispute between KYTV and children's entertainer Skinny McGinnis, who performed along with Champion on The Children's Hour broadcasts.

Department of Labor documents indicate that McGinnis filed a complaint against KYTV in April of 1975, a year before the show went off the air. McGinnis, a lifelong resident of Bois D'Arc, now lives in a rehabilitation center in north Springfield and is openly bitter about his relationship with Champion.

"Oh, she was all smiles while the cameras were rolling and the kids were there," said McGinnis, who insisted no pictures be taken. "I was the main draw on the show, and everybody knew it. Me and Rusty. When we asked her to go to bat for us she laughed in our faces - called us glorified prophylactics. Rusty was crushed."

Rusty Rooser, McGinnis's life-long friend and co-star, fell upon hard times with the close of the Children's Hour. After touring the midwest doing shows at libraries and county fairs, he was tragically killed and eaten by a group of transients at a north Springfield park in 1987. McGinnis does not speak of the incident.

Democrat Doug Harpool is challenging Champion for Missouri's 30th District senate seat.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

FBI Investigation Inches Closer to Roy Blunt

ABC News investigative correspondent, Brian Ross, reports that FBI investigators are taking a close look at House Speaker Dennis Hastert's letters to the Department of Interior on behalf of casino interests represented by crooked lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Ross reports that . . .

"Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with other tribes."

If I'm not mistaken, this is one of the three letters signed by the 7th District's very own moral icon, Congressman Roy Blunt. Back in January, we posted a timeline of fundraisers and letters to Interior Secretary Gale Norton that clearly linked Blunt and Hastert to Abramoff's casino interests in Louisiana. Here's a clipping:

June 1999 - Abramoff donates $5,000 to ROYB fund.
February 2000 - Abramoff donates an additional $1,500 to ROYB Fund.
March 2000 - Abramoff donates maximum amount to Matt Blunt's campaign for Missouri Secretary of State.
April 2000 - Abramoff's Mariannas Island client donates $3,000 to ROYB fund.
April 2000 - Abramoff client, Juan Franco (Puerto Rico), contributes $3,000 to ROYB fund.
August 2000 - Blunt and DeLay host Republican National Committee events sponsored in part by Abramoff client, the Mississippi Band of Choctaws.
September 2000 - Blunt requests GAO study on tribal recognition issues and simultaneously seeks a six month moratorium on further tribal recognition - protecting existing casinos from further competition.
February 2002 - GAO report on tribal recognition issued.
March 2002 - Blunt writes letter to Department of Interior citing the GAO report and expressed specific concerns about the Jenna Band of Choctaws and their status in Louisiana. The Jenna Band would have been competition for Abramoff's client with tribal recognition approval.
March 2003 - Abramoff contributes to ROYB fund.
May 2003 - Blunt sends another letter to Department of Interior Secretary Gale Norton regarding his concerns about Indian gaming and specifically the Jenna Band in Louisiana.
June 2003 - Blunt joins DeLay, House Speaker Hastert and House Majority Whip Cantor in penning yet another letter to DOI Secretary Norton regarding the opposed Jenna Band casino.

Of course, Blunt will still be re-elected in a landslide this November for a variety of reasons. One, he has more money in his ROYB PAC than the last fifty 7th District candidates combined (Gee, I wonder where it all came from?). Two, he's a Republican incumbent in Southwest Missouri. Three, he has virtually no visible opposition. It is a crying shame that the Democrats couldn't at least have put somebody out there (Hosmer, Harpool, Kreider) to at least raise some of these issues publicly for the good folks here in God's country. Four, the local news media don't possess the balls to report that our golden boy Congressman has sold out to crooked lobbyists and huge corporate interests to become Missouri's poster boy for political corruption.

If Blunt is ever held accountable for selling out his constituents here in SW Missouri, you're more likely to read about it first here in Ozarks Angel than in the News-Leader. That a sad commentary, isn't it?

Here's more on the subject of our asleep-at-the-wheel print media from The Turner Report - and still more on our man Roy from Granny.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Sunday Thread

The News-Leader was all over the power plant issue in this week's Sunday edition. Environmentalists argue against a new coal-fired plant; CU argues in favor of building the thing. Frankly, I don't know enough about this issue to say much, but it seems that, given the reality of global warming and the cost of generating power, that any viable way to create cleaner, sustainable power should be a priority.

Sara Overstreet told us of a handicapped woman who can no longer ride her motorized wheelchair to an OACAC Head Start center due to the closure of the Broadway Avenue railroad crossing. I know I sound completely insensitive, but it's yet another in a series of sad, lightly truth-tinted stories from Overstreet.

Last year, she wrote of a special needs adolescent boy who had been repeatedly turned down by Big Brothers & Big Sisters, when all he sought was a little kindness and love. I remember that kid, even though I never had him in class. I don't know what specifically was wrong with him, but I do know that he did sometimes erupt in violent outburst when things didn't go his way.

I remember seeing the security guard walking toward me with a huge bruise on his arm, vividly outlined by rows of teeth marks and blood. I remember seeing fear in the eyes of children in the hall and the image of that boy being handcuffed and escorted to the patrol car by two of SPD finest. But it's a sad story nonetheless.

And then there was the recent Overstreet story about the special education teacher who cruelly forced her handicapped student to crawl up the steps of the school building. She featured a picture of the family with that one. Given the Big Brother story, I'm wondering how well this one was researched.

Anyway . . . on with the Sunday news shows. I'm finding it harder and harder to listen to the likes of Condi Rice and Alberto Gonzalez. Tim Russert just isn't a whiz-bang interviewer, is he? Gonzalez, who has already proven he can put on a plastic face and say absolutely nothing for hours at a time, was vintage.

You only need partial quotes from Gonzalez to know when it's a waste of time to go on listening. First, he stated that "we don't engage in surveillance . . without a court order", which is a bold-faced lie as everybody knows. Once the big lie is presented, what can follow?

"We want to promote . . . first amendment rights." Of course you do. When pressed by George Stephanopoulos to explain events that would contradict that statement, Gonzalez replied with the tried and true Nixonian mantra . . . "We are engaged in an investigation . . . I'm not going to talk about specific cases."

More from the Bush administration Theater of the Absurd. An investigation by the Justice Department into NSA spying practices was halted this week. The Bush administration has, incredible as it may seem, denied itself access to it's own information.

From the Washington Post:

"The government has abruptly ended an inquiry into the warrantless eavesdropping program because the National Security Agency refused to grant Justice Department lawyers the necessary security clearance to probe the matter.

The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, or OPR, sent a fax to Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., on Wednesday saying they were closing their inquiry because without clearance their lawyers cannot examine Justice lawyers' role in the program."

If one were to personify American governance at this moment in time, he would be an incredibly rich, well-armed, drug-addicted mental patient who dredges up imaginary enemies to feed his fevered self-consumption. The drug is power, the enemies are everywhere.

On the positive side, it was great to hear John Edwards expanding the collective orifices of Cheney, Bush, et al. It seems there are a few Democrats whose testicles are beginning to descend after a cold winter of Republican malfeasance. If Edwards can stay real, he will be a strong presidential candidate.

Like most democrats, Edwards isn't backing any talk of impeaching Bush. Isn't it interesting that the Clinton impeachment actually served the Republicans very well after a passage of time. Because after that debacle, nobody has the stomach for years of investigation and litigation, even though the charges are much worse than those that would have come against Nixon, as Edwards pointed out in his interview.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Rountree Teacher & Principal Charged

The News-Leader online edition reports that misdemeanor sexual misconduct and assault charges were filed today against Rountree PE instructor Mark Washam. Washam was arrested and released in mid-March by SPD. Five girls and one boy were listed as victims. Principal Carolyn Harralson was also charged with misdemeanor violation of failing to report the abuse to the Childrens' Division.

I'm sure the offended parties feel vindicated, and if Washam did exhibit some of the alleged sexual behaviors listed, his removal from contact with children is a good thing.

Pedophiles and sexual offenders are a sneaky lot, but as one who works with adolescents on a daily basis, there are still questions in my mind about this case.

One thing you won't see in this case or others like it . . . the discipline records of the children involved. A record showing repeated instances of disrespect for authority, dishonesty and aggressive behaviors, for instance, would cast this story in an entirely different light.

I'm just trying to imagine all the elements that could be in play. The hotline caller is, of course, anonymous.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Bearing False Witness Door to Door

I hear a knock on the door last Saturday, and standing before me on my front step are two gentlemen carrying paperback books about the Ten Commandments.

The younger of the two men did all the talking while his buddy, an older man who was obviously nervous about this door-to-door thing, stood smiling throughout his partner's narrative. I was treated to a well-rehearsed story that began . . .

"Of course, you know that the ten commandments have been removed from the schools and that the pledge of allegiance is no longer recited in the classroom. There has been a concerted effort to remove prayer and God from the schools . . . "

It was somewhere about here when I interrupted the young man to tell him that I was a public school teacher.

"As far as I can remember, the ten commandments have never been in the schools - none that I've seen as a student or a teacher. Every Monday my home room and I stand as one, as do all the other 600+ students in our school, and recite the pledge of allegiance - though I doubt half of them know what it means.

Every Thursday morning, the school's FCA chapter (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) meets for prayer and a message, frequently from outside speakers - and it is very well attended. They have their own bulletin board in the main hallway with religious messages and symbols. Nobody is objecting to this. So where do you get this stuff?"

The two men were a little non-plussed, but the older guy continued nodding his head and smiling.

"Well, that's just great," he said enthusiastically. "Thank you for telling us about that."

The younger one muttered something about when he was in ROTC they didn't say the pledge at the school he attended. I didn't quite follow. I asked him where he went to school, and he told me he was from out of town. Oh.

"The thing is," I had to get the last word, "you guys are going door-to-door peddling your book, but you are telling people things that are just not true."

As they backed their way through our abrupt farewell, the older gentleman, still smiling and nodding, said "Thanks for telling us about your experiences." And they walked across the driveway to my neighbor's front porch.

They actually gave my neighbor a free copy of the book, Ten Commandments Twice Removed, by televangelists Danny Shelton and Shelley Quinn. And they didn't use the same lines on him, which I found a little gratifying - they just hawked the book. Maybe speaking up can make a small difference sometimes. Usually not, but maybe this time.

So, Matt loans me the book, and right there on the first page, line two, the public schools are introduced as evidence of our godless society's so-called war on Christianity.

"Whose agenda are we following? With prayer prohibited in public schools, Nativity scenes banned from public properties, and the Ten Commandments forcibly removed from government institutions, it makes me wonder."

Wonder, indeed. Wonder how many people will buy this load of misinformation and hyperbole.

Here's an interesting piece from the Washington Post that poses the question: "In Today's Culture, Do You See Evidence of a War on Christianity?

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Ozarks Messenger, Rountree Molestation III

Sunday Thread

Reading the Sunday News-Leader took all of eight minutes this morning. My god, you'd think we have roving bands of pit bulls on the streets tearing at the flesh of terrorized citizens. Jeezus, give the dog story a rest, please.

Maybe a new editorial page editor will help. Tony Messenger wrote his first Springfield editorial today, the obligatory glad-to-be-here-in-the-Ozarks-where-a-handshake-still-means-something-and-did-I-mention-my-love-of-gooseberry-pie routine. Your basic load of shit. Now that's out of the way, we can expect Messenger to actually say something next week. Welcome to the Bible Belt. You'll find out soon enough what it means, Tony, don't worry.

His new blog, Ozarks Messenger, just started up last week and should be an interesting addition to the local blog scene.

Rountree Alleged Molestation - Preponderance of Hearsay

Springfield R-12, seeking some kind of closure to this ugly mess, suspended the Rountree principal last week. Carolyn Harralson apparently failed to follow her mandated reporter responsibilities and is likely to face charges to that effect as soon as the prosecutor's office sorts through the DSS report.

What an odd case - the way this has played out reveals quite clearly how easily an individual's career and reputation can be smeared beyond salvaging even if there is virtually no proof of any misdeed - and as of this day, no charges filed. You gotta think there's a big lawsuit or hefty settlement brewing somewhere.

I'm also wondering if the caseworker for the Rountree episode also handled the Dominic James case (boy killed while in foster care). Even if it's not the same individual, I get the feeling the folks at DSS might be over-compensating just a bit on the this one.

One thing is certain. An experienced teacher and popular elementary principal have probably seen their careers in education come to an abrupt end due to allegations based on hearsay and notes passed on by fifth-graders. Yet the DSS claims there exists a "preponderance of evidence" that sexual abuse occurred at Rountree and that the principal neglected to respond to reports as required by law.

By the way, the principal reportedly contacted her supervisor for guidance on the matter and was told to file a report in the P.E. teacher's personnel file. So, is the administrator also going to be charged with mandated reporter violations? Or is the principal going to bear the entire responsibility for this apparent misstep?

And who leaked the descriptions of the alleged molestations to the News-Leader? None other than a parent trying to publicly justify the hotline call that set this sordid affair into motion. They asked to remain anonymous for fear of repurcussions. Repercussions? Like having your reputation destroyed and losing one's job? The N-L, of course, was all too eager to lay it all out with a front page headline - and yet, it bears repreating, neither the teacher nor the principal have been formally charged with anything. Very strange that the DSS can wield such power - and very irresponsible journalism on the part of the N-L, if you ask me.

The County Prosecutor's office has been quiet on the matter. Prosecutor Darrell Moore did little to hide his disapproval of the way R-12 and the Springfield Police handled the case from the start - with the quick arrest/release of the suspect and the closed community meeting. Moore is likely to charge the principal (and administrator?) fairly soon, but I seriously doubt the P. E. teacher will ever face formal molestation charges - unless somebody digs up some real evidence.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Lincoln on Preventive War

Here's President Lincoln's take on presidential war powers in speaking his opposition to the Mexican War in 1848. It's from a Washington Post article by Arthur Schlesinger.

"Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose - and you allow him to make war at pleasure [emphasis added]. . . . If, today, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, 'I see no probability of the British invading us'; but he will say to you, 'Be silent; I see it, if you don't.

This is essentially what has happened with Bush and his Iraq War.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Abramoff, DeLay, Blunt: A Living Museum of Corruption

If there ever were a Southwest Missouri Hall of Fame of Political Corruption, someone would be commissioned to prepare a bust of Roy Blunt for the centerpiece - or perhaps a life-size wax figure would be better, symbolizing Blunt's malleability when doing behind-the-scenes work on behalf of crooked lobbyists and big corporate contributors.

I doubt that John Q. would pony up any funds for such a place, but I'd put it right next to the Sports Hall of Fame out there by Highland Springs. It would glow behind a big glittery sign that would light up the entire James River valley below, and the architecture would be resplendent with cheezy casino motif.

Blunt's name cropped up again this week in an excellent Abramoff piece by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone entitled Meet Mr. Republican - Jack Abramoff. Here's a short excerpt that details how Blunt pulled some strings to help his buddy Jack. So discreet, nobody notices. It makes you wonder how many times things like this took place . . .

"Case in point: Abramoff's remarkable success in defeating H.R. 521, a 2001 House bill that would place the Guam Superior Court under the control of a federally controlled Supreme Court. Led by Judge Alberto Lamorena, Guam Superior Court justices hired the lobbyist to defeat the bill, which would have unseated them as the chief judicial authorities of the island. It says something for Abramoff's ability to bring out the worst in people that he managed to get a group of sitting judges to pay him $324,000 in public funds in $9,000 installments so as to avoid detection.

Despite the $324,000 fee, Abramoff could not prevent the House Resources committee from unanimously recommending H.R. 521 for passage. Would the superlobbyist finally fail? No, of course not. Given what we know about Abramoff's tactics, we'd be naive not to conclude that he could lean on DeLay and then-Whip Roy Blunt to stall the bill in the congressional machinery. On May 27th, 2002, just five days after the Resources committee made its recommendation, an Abramoff-linked PAC wrote two checks for $5,000 -- one to Blunt, one to DeLay. H.R. 521 never reached the floor.

The Guam incident certainly shows how easily the whole Congress was controlled by a small gang. The DeLay Republicans, along with Abramoff, were apparently the first to recognize the opportunities for corruption presented by the House leadership's dictatorial control over key committees, in particular the Rules committee. Now, a single call to a lone Tom DeLay could decide the fate of any piece of legislation, pushing it through to a vote or gumming it up in the works as needed. The other 430-odd congressmen were window dressing."

Add this to the list. Of course, local voters will never see this story in the News-Leader. They did finally run a piece on Midge Potts, Blunt's primary opponent, in today's paper. But did you notice it was from an AP wire story out of Kansas City? Dee Wampler was interviewed, but I'll spare you.

By the way, we were less than specific about Midge Potts in an earlier post. We used the word transexual, which I think implies that Potts changed his sex from male to female. The word transgender more accurately describes Potts' sexual status. He has chosen to portray a female identity. The person formerly known as Mitchell Potts, however, is the owner of a penis and is, therefore, a man - at least physically. Glad to clear that up.

Sadly, this will probably be the salient issue southwest Missourians will take away from the upcoming political campaign. I seriously doubt there will be any meaningful public dialogue with Blunt on any issue this election season.

I would still love to hear Blunt answer one pointed question regarding his less-than-ethical conduct in Congress while turning tricks for Jack Abramoff.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Large and Small of It

There is so much to write about, and so little time, but this amazing image of what has been called the "DNA Nebula" stopped me in my tracks. I ran across it in National Geographic News. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope captured this infrared image of a spiraling, intertwining nebula in our own Milky Way galaxy that is some 80 light-years in length and is shaped like a colossal DNA strand.

In my classroom, we sometimes talk about what we term "Big Thoughts" - questions about time, eternity, space, infinity . . . this will make for some interesting discussion tomorrow - after we take the damn MAP test, that is.

"Nobody has ever seen anything like that before in the cosmic realm," said Mark Morris, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles, and lead author of the study (appears in this week's issue of Nature).

"Most nebulae are either spiral galaxies full of stars or formless, amorphous conglomerations of dust and gas, space weather. What we see indicates a high degree of order."

On the same day, I ran across this article about some MIT researchers that are using viruses to create miniscule batteries the size of a grain of rice.

By manipulating a few genes inside these viruses, the team was able to coax the organisms to grow and self-assemble into a functional electronic device. In their research, the MIT team altered the virus's genes so they make protein coats that collect molecules of cobalt oxide, plus gold.

The viruses then align themselves on the polymer surface to form ultrathin wires. Each virus, and thus the wire, is only 6 nanometers (6 billionths of a meter) in diameter, and 880 nanometers in length. The batteries made from these special altered viruses can store two or three times more energy for its size and weight compared to previously used battery electrode materials.

A report on this work is in the April 7 issue of Science.

(Speaking of small things . . . I was going to write about Dick Cheney coming to town, but these item are so much more interesting. I heard part of Cheney's speech on KY3 - he wasn't even reading it very well. Something about defending liberty . . . blah blah blah.)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

John Dean on George Bush

I found two interesting quotes from former Nixon White House counsel John Dean. You may recall the image of Dean being sworn in at the Senate Watergate hearings that ended with Nixon's resignation. Nixon had been ordering illegal wiretaps on American citizens in the name of national security, and he faced certain impeachment.

Fast forward thirty-three years and Dean returns to testify on the proposed presidential censure motion introduced by Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin).

He told the senators:

". . . I must add that never before have I felt the slightest reason to fear our government. Nor do I frighten easily. But I do fear the Bush/Cheney government (and the precedents they are creating) because this administration is caught up in the rectitude of its own self- righteousness, and for all practical purposes this presidency has remained largely unchecked by its constitutional coequals."

Dean also published an article called "Bush's Unprecedented Arrogance" in Here's an excerpt:

"In the end, this issue is going to be resolved by the 2006 midterm election. If Republicans lose control of either the House or Senate, the investigations of the Bush/Cheney White House will begin. It won't be pretty. It will make dealing with lying about sex look like High School hazing. It will even make Richard Nixon look like a piker when it comes to staying within the law."

Of course, here in the Ozarks, we'll send Roy Blunt back to Congress with the assurance that he'll do whatever he can to obstruct any such investigations. Our man in Washington.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Bond Issue, MAP Mayhem at Springfield R-12

Sunday Thread

The Sunday News-Leader editorial page is awash with education issues today - school board endorsement, bond issue debate and numerous letters to the editor endorsing school board candidates.

Their own editorial had this curious heading:

"Our picks a tool to help in choice". At first, I thought they were describing school board candidates - well, there is Roy Holand - but they were just telling us that we didn't have to vote for their recommendations. Gee, thanks for the heads up.

Holand, the former ultra-conservative state legislator, says all the right things during interviews but strongly supports school vouchers and the further blurring of the line separating church and state. Put this guy on the school board, and we'll very likely be arguing intelligent design this time next year. He didn’t get much attention from the N-L. I guess the fact that Holand has kept these views on the down-low is encouraging - perhaps a recognition that they are not held by the majority, even in Springfield.

The SNEA supports two of the News-Leader’s favorites, Craig Hosmer and Gerry Ellis, but the N-L endorses Callen, while the local teacher group is strongly supporting long-time board member Bruce Renner, the only candidate or board member with classroom teaching experience.

The Pro-Con editorial argument centered around the school bond issue (Proposition B) that R-12 has pushed as "Building a Legacy". That should probably read "Building uh Buildings", particularly in south Springfield, the fastest growing part of the city. Volunteer mom, Lisa Langley, took the "Pro" side and spoke of the over-crowding at south-side schools and the need for updated science labs and air conditioning in the buildings.

"Academically, Springfield teachers and students have proven themselves," Langley said. "The district continues to shine, being recognized as an outstanding district at the state level."

How R-12 has handled money in the past has become an issue with many voters.

Steve Hoots writes in his "Con" Proposition B column, that the school system has not coped well with changing demographics (the system is actually losing student annually) and has misspent millions on over-budget building projects that were poorly planned.

My neighbor, who I suspect is voting against the bond issue, put it this way.

"You get the impression these board members drive around in their Escalades looking at the wonderful new schools in Nixa and Ozark, and they want their schools to look like that, a ‘keep up with the Jones’ kind of thing."

He may have a point there, but I’ll tell you what bugs the hell out of me about this bond issue. A group of teachers asked this question to one of the zone superintendents a few weeks ago . . .

"Given the fact that the school board decided to roll back the recent tax levy - explaining they didn’t actually need it all at this time - on the heels of that, you turn around and ask for a bond increase. Don’t you think this is confusing to the voter?"

The R-12 assistant superintendent politely explained that the tax levy rollback only dealt with things like teacher salaries and classroom materials. The bond issue went toward building and improving facilities. I get it. Teacher salaries and instructional material - we can put those kinds of things on the back burner.

But who is going to occupy these proposed new classrooms? I guess we can expect a roll-out of the roll-back?

Fact: Missouri ranks 45th in teacher salaries, and Springfield teachers are at the low end of the state. That would make Springfield R-12 teachers among the lowest paid teachers in the United States. Ms. Langley is right - Springfield teachers and students are out-performing the support they are given by the state and community.

MAP Testing Frenzy hits area schools. Some schools are able to put all this MAP hype in the proper perspective, but many schools are fully immersed in all things MAP leading up to the 2-3 week testing period - after school study sessions with candy rewards, complete schedule changes, test administration meetings (how to give a standardized test), warnings of violations and possible inspection by MAP police. It's MAP Mayhem!

A girl in my class said it all made her very nervous. But the most anxious individuals involved in this exercise in standardized accountability are the building principals . . . from whom it trickles down to teachers and students. No principal relishes the opportunity to stand before the school board in order to explain the how's and why's of their school's miserable test scores.

More MAP Mayhem later . . .
Rountree Quiet

There are all kinds of stories circulating around the alleged Rountree sexual molestation incident. My daughter went to Rountree K-5, and I know there are some very activist parents in that particular district. Rountree district borders the east side of Missouri State University, and probably has a higher percentage of involved parents than many Springfield schools, especially of the inner-city variety. Our own experience was very positive - excellent teachers, a very nice neighborhood school.

I haven't found any reports in the N-L or on local news about the fate of the teacher who was arrested, released and never charged with several counts of 1st degree child molestation. Dee Wampler is representing him, which doesn't bode well. Someone who knows the teacher's family was told that he was totally devastated and on suicide watch. Total hearsay, but sounds reasonable, given the nature of the non-charges.

More unsubstantiated stuff that may emerge . . . the incident at Rountree is being handled with kid gloves because many of the charges and accusations appear to have racial undertones. The teacher in question is white. If this were strictly sexual, the prosecutor and the accused would have been on camera a long time ago - and the local media would have been all over it.

I wouldn't be surprised to find that this alleged molestation incident runs much deeper than accusations about a perv PE teacher. Then again, it may just fade away to nothing . . . like the suspect's teaching career.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Blunt Faces Transexual Opponent in Primary

The same day we run a story about the politics of manliness, I run across this odd bit of news. Our own manly 7th District representative, Roy Blunt, faces a primary challenger nobody could have expected.

Ms. Midge Potts, 37, the state's first openly transgender candidate, has filed to run against Congressman Blunt in the upcoming Republican primary. I first saw this while looking through The Turner Report, which linked us to today's rather lengthy St. Louis Post-Dispatch article (another swing-and-a-miss for the News-Leader).

Potts, a Navy Gulf War veteran when her name was Mitchell Potts, chose to run as a Republican because she believes in "the party's traditional platform of financial conservatism, states' rights and a strong national defense. She is pushing for term limits, debt reduction and building up the National Guard." She is, however, opposed to the War in Iraq and has been arrested a couple of times while protesting.

But how is she on the Republican manliness thing? Somehow I don't see the GOP family values crowd embracing this candidate - or even shaking hands.

See the Potts for Congress website at:

Manliness Next to Godliness

The most interesting exchange on the Sunday morning news circuit came near the end of ABC's 'This Week', with Harvard author Harvey Mansfield squaring off against Al Gore's wardrobe consultant, Naomi Wolf, on the subject of the politics of manliness.

Wasn't it Harvard that dumped their president for saying that women weren't as scientifically wired as men? Of course, the publicity won't hurt book sales . . . here's one exchange:

Mansfield: Politics is a field of competition, and women are less interested in competition, just as they're less interested in sports. And, indeed, I think their interest in sports goes together with their interest in men more than in sports or in politics directly.

Wolf: I don't think women think about their political convictions in that kind of, you know, nitpicking way. I think they're more concerned about clean air, clean water, good schools, health care. His timing is kind of weird because in the wake of 9-11, there has been a spontaneous sort of fetishization of big, strong, powerful men who kind of kill the enemy without thinking about their human qualities.

Do you get the feeling old Harvey doesn't get out much? Or maybe he's been out too much with nice republican women. Same effect.

Sunday Thread

Is it me, or is the News-Leader editorial page just been awful since Leger left? It's just bland on bland. The same former navy guy parroting terrorism fears we've been hearing for years in supporting the Iraq war . . . a local "liberal" pastor disagrees and gives a rational and clear dissection of Bush war policy. That may be news to some N-L readers. It seems to me there is almost a resignation now among Americans that the war was a trumped up, post 9/11 reaction, sold to our manly president by opportunistic ideologues.

Ah hell, maybe I'm just pissed at the N-L editors for not printing my Roy Blunt letters. But it seems newsworthy to me that our own representative has such close ties to an indicted money-laundering swindler like Jack Abramoff. This would be a story of interest to many Ozarkers, yet the News-Leader blithely ignores widely known facts about Blunt's dalliance with political corruption.

No problem. Local media will eventually air the story this fall as revenue-producing political ads sponsored by the democratic party (if 7th District Dems can find a candidate). So the media, in effect, pushes the story into the political realm where it can be easily dismissed as party politics. In turn, the media serves themselves up as filters for truth once the story comes out as a campaign ad. This seems backwards to me - but maybe I'm expecting too much from the press. Silly me.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bush Unaware of Babylon Apocalypse Prophecy

You know, for a guy who claims to be born-again, who blatantly pandered to Christian Evangelicals in order to secure fully 20% of the presidential vote, and who holds Jesus Christ up as his favorite (ahem) philosopher, George Bush doesn't seem to know a damn thing about Bible prophecy. Maybe he just hasn't been briefed on it yet.

On Monday, Bush visited Cleveland and somehow found himself taking questions from an unscreened group of reporters, an event that rarely happens. According to an ABC news story, a woman spoke up and surprised Bush with the following question:

" . . . Some Christians see the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism as signs of the apocalypse the destruction of the world as described in the biblical book of Revelation. Do you believe this, that the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism are signs of the apocalypse? And if not, why not?" (Want a good scare? Ask the same question of John Ashcroft.)

Bush, not uncharacteristically, was completely non-plussed.

"Hmm." (I didn't see the exchange, but I think we could safely insert a presidential smirk here.) "The answer is I haven't really thought of it that way," he continued, to laughter from the audience.

"Here's how I think of it. The first I've heard of that, by the way. I guess I'm more of a practical fellow."

The first he's heard of it? Are you kidding me? Isn't this the born-again leader of the largest Christian nation on earth, and he hasn't read the book of Revelations, hasn't heard of the final battles of the end-time apocalypse along the banks of the Euphrates River in Babylon, now Iraq?

Is it possible that this president, a man so incredibly isolated from the real world, is also indifferent and ignorant of the prophesies of his espoused religion? Of course it is. This is George W. Bush we're talking about. The man is nothing if not consistent.

Anybody who has attended a fundamentalist church in the last hundred years has heard the preachers warning about the end times as predicted by Jesus in the book of Matthew and John in Revelations. In the end time there will be wars and rumors of war, famine, earthquakes and nation rising against nation . . . tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, melting ice caps, actors as presidents, professional tanning salons, fishing tournaments, Fox News, cats and dogs living together, my god in heaven . . . the list goes on.

But seriously, folks. Christian Evangelicals are flocking to book stores trying to get up to speed on our impending calamitous end. The San Francisco Chronicle published an interesting article back in 2003 that begins:

America is embarked on a battle of biblical proportions -- and in the eyes of a growing number of evangelical Christians, this long-awaited fight could actually bring about the fulfillment of ancient prophecies about the war of Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ.

The Chronicle piece also points to the astronomical sales of end-time serial novels like "Left Behind", by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, with sales surpassing 50 million copies.

Of course, the born-again among us don't tend to worry much about the seven year war called the Great Tribulation that culminates with the Battle of Armageddon and the end of the world as we know it, because they will have already been called up in the Rapture. No wonder they like reading this stuff.

The SFC article ends with an ominous quote from evangelical author Gary DeMar that reflects how many Christian evangelicals feel about the War in Iraq.

"There is no reason to bring about a peace movement because they believe all this has to take place," DeMar said. "It's prophetic inevitability."

Yet another prophetic scenario is described in a Washington Post story entitled "Direst Predictions for War in Iraq". The WP interviews the good reverend Irvin Baxter Jr., founder of Endtime magazine and pastor of Oak Park Church in Richmond, Ind. Baxter, along with his flock, firmly believes that . . .

. . . casualties will be tremendous, not only of combatants in Iraq but of people in neighboring countries hit by retaliatory missiles of mass destruction and Americans who fall victim to terrorists armed with portable nuclear weapons.
And other countries will take the opportunity to pursue their own interests -- China trying to retake Taiwan, or India making an all-out assault on Kashmir -- leading to World War III, he said. The result, Baxter concludes, could be a nuclear holocaust that takes the lives of 2 billion people, the "one-third of mankind" stated in Revelation.

But I'm a practical guy, just like George Bush. I'm thinking it might not be so bad after the Rapture. I mean, no traffic jams, no lines at Golden Corral. It might not be that bad.
. . . from the 3/24/06 Washington Post: "Happy Doomsday to You!".

Monday, March 20, 2006

Integrity, Inc. - Let the Earnings Soar!

John Ashcroft is, if nothing else, a man of integrity. If you don't believe it, just ask him. In the wake of the Abramoff lobbying scandal, the former Attorney General has set up a new K-Street firm called the Ashcroft Group, and the money is already rolling in. Since setting up shop in September, AG already boasts some twenty-one clients.

Ashcroft told the Washington Post that his experience in cracking down on corporate corruption, his keen insider experience fighting the war on terror ("I have been at the heart of the war on terror") and his personal integrity make him uniquely qualified to head up a high-powered lobbying firm in the post-9/11 era.

"Clients would call in an individual who has a reputation for the highest level of integrity," Ashcroft crowed.

In a business that charges fees as high as $900 an hour, plus raking in weekly speaking fees of $75,000, Ashcroft is feeling pretty flush since leaving the Justice Department.

WP notes that before the 9/11 attacks, there were few commercial opportunities at the Justice Department. Since then, the department has become a major clearinghouse for large contracts related to homeland security.

"I've been stunned at how good people have been to me," Ashcroft said. "And that kindness has been reflected in business opportunities. It's been gratifying, and I'm earning significant multiples of what I've ever earned before."

Yes, the war on terror has been a great economic boon to well-connected individuals associated with selected contractors and influence peddlers. Now we have two big-money lobbying links here in the Ozarks - our anointed favorite son John, and Roy Blunt's lovely wife, Abigail. I know I feel blessed.

Oh, and if you worry that our man John is forgetting his Christian roots, rest assured that he still holds the position of visiting law professor at Regent University, a Christian university founded by Pat Robertson.

As Huffington Post says, Let the Earnings Soar!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Springfield R-12 Molestation Case Big News

Or is it? If you read the News-Leader, watch local television news or listen to the aptly-named Cracker Barrel radio show, you already know about the Rountree Elementary molestation case. (Actually, I'm only guessing local talk radio is having a hayday with this one - haven't tuned in.) There was also some new information in Chatter regarding the Monday arrest of a male physical education teacher from Rountree.

The News-Leader and KSPR33 News were eager to stir the pot with this story. I understand KSPR, despite the fact that the teacher had yet to be charged, couldn't resist releasing his name and airing his mugshot to their meager audience. Meanwhile, cub reporters from the N-L newsroom were leaving messages on Rountree parent phones, begging for "any kind of information" on the case. No wonder a local teachers group, in a letter to members, has characterized the media handling of this case (and the alleged abuse case at Bissett Elementary) as a media-driven "public lynching".

The fact is, the suspect was arrested on Monday and released without charges on Tuesday, yet in that one twenty-four hour period, his teaching career hit the wall, regardless of guilt or innocence.

In a letter sent to Hickory Hills parents, where the suspect also taught elementary PE, superintendent Norm Ridder assured parents that R-12 will "make every effort to insure that students . . . are safe and that the district's personnel treat our students in a safe and appropriate manner." He referred any questions to the building principal at Hickory. It is interesting to note that a similar letter to Rountree parents referred inquiries to an administrator instead of the current building principal. My guess is that the Rountree principal is perhaps in hot water for violating the mandated reporter law.

As a school teacher, I can tell you first hand that the wrath of one irate parent can literally bring everyone - administrators, psychologists, counselors, lawyers - to the table for some excruciatingly meaningless breast-beating. Some parents will stop at nothing, short of actually caring for their children on a daily basis, to demonstrate their undying love. There isn't an experienced teacher out there who hasn't been stretched through the ringer by an irrational parent. This is the flip side of teaching that doesn't make the front page.

I once spent a ridiculously wasteful two weeks attending meetings trying to calm down the parents of a boy who claimed I had made a joke about his dog's death while he was absent (but somehow no other student in attendance heard anything). I wrote in this space last summer of the special ed teacher who was nearly run over on the sidewalk by an angry mother behind the wheel. I recently attended a parent/teacher meeting where a black mom strenuously objected to the fact that her daughter's white teacher looked at her too much during a class discussion of Black History Week. I could go on.

SPD says their investigators have identified six victims of molestation at Rountree. If that's true, it's hard to believe that many kids could be fabricating everything. Rountree parents will hold a closed meeting with police officials on Monday to learn more about the ongoing SPD investigation.

Of course, all this comes at a time when R-12 is trying to muster support for a school bond issue. Great timing.

Oh, and welcome to Springfield, Dr. Ridder.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

W's Anatomy Lesson

Mr. Fish Anatomy Lesson from

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Norton Resigns Interior - Should Blunt Be Worried?

Gale Norton, an original member of the Bush 2001 cabinet, announced her resignation Friday. Norton dutifully carried out administration policy - facilitating drilling permits, pushing sale of public lands, privatization of national parks and opening up protected areas for oil exploration - basically didn't make waves with the so-called conservative power base in Washington.

Norton also towed the line when acquiescing to GOP-favored influence peddlers like Jack Abramoff and his buddies in Congress (Blunt signed onto three letters on behalf of Abramoff) by denying reservation permits to certain Indian tribes that would have competed with Abramoff casino clients.

Here's a brief timeline from a past OA post concerning Blunt and his letters to Norton:
  • September 2000 - Blunt requests GAO study on tribal recognition issues and simultaneously seeks a six month moratorium on further tribal recognition - protecting existing casinos from further competition.
  • February 2002 - GAO report on tribal recognition issued.
  • March 2002 - Blunt writes letter to Department of Interior citing the GAO report and expressed specific concerns about the Jenna Band of Choctaws and their status in Louisiana. The Jenna Band would have been competition for Abramoff's client with tribal recognition approval.
  • March 2003 - Abramoff contributes to ROYB fund.
  • May 2003 - Blunt sends another letter to Department of Interior Secretary Gale Norton regarding his concerns about Indian gaming and specifically the Jenna Band in Louisiana.
Norton told the Washington Post that her resignation had nothing to do with the ongoing federal investigation of Abramoff, but even from our vantage point here in the hills, we can see that this is no coincidence. Like one of the privileged class on a doomed luxury liner, Norton is grabbing an early lifeboat.

Of course, the mainstream media can't seem to find an audience for Abramoff these days, despite the fact that he's beginning to lash out at all his amnesiac pals in government.

The AP merely notes that "Norton leaves at a time when a major lobbying scandal involving Indian gaming licenses that required her consent looms over her agency, but there has been no indication of possible wrongdoing on her part."

Norton is smart to get out before results from the Abramoff investigation come to full bloom. I'm wondering if Roy has any fears here? I see that Blunt is drafting a bill regarding the Dubai fiasco that would require congressional oversight as the administration reviews foreign acquisitions, so at least he's come out of his room after the leadership spanking.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Christianity and Crawdads

Missouri state representative David Sater, from Cassville's 68th District, has reportedly sponsored a bill that would make Christianity the "official majority religion" of the state of Missouri, according to a story published on the St. Louis-based website.

So, is Missouri now competing with the state of Kansas for "Dumbass Capital of the Midwest"?

I first saw the story prominently displayed on the Huffington Post this evening, and there were already several hundred comments. Here's what Sater had to say about Resolution 13 on his website:

House Concurrent Resolution (HCR 13) reflections upon the historical significance that Christianity has had in shaping our way of life, our government, and how our early leaders relied on their Christian faith in governing our first constitution. It states that the common sense that voluntary prayer in public schools and religious displays on public property are not a coalition of church and state, but rather the justified recognition of the positive role that Christianity has played in this great nation of ours, the United States of America.

I decided to take a closer look at other bills sponsored or co-sponsored by Rep. Sater. Granted, most of these bills won't come to a vote, but it's a little disturbing to think that elected officials like Sater are up there in Jeff City with nothing better to do that dream up stuff like this:
  • HCR13 Resolves that voluntary prayer in public schools, religious displays on public property, and the recognition of a Christian God are not a coalition of church and state.
  • HB983 Requires the United States and the Missouri state flags to be flown at half-staff on all government buildings on September 11 each year.
  • HB1444 Prohibits the use of public funds for health and social services programs to subsidize abortion services.
  • HB1642 Requires state agencies, public schools and colleges and political subdivisions to use the traditional names of holidays.
  • HB1833 Designates the crayfish as the official state invertebrate.
  • HB41 Requires implementation of a random drug testing program for persons who receive Medicaid.
  • HB34 Eliminates the requirement that course materials and instruction on human sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases include discussion of contraception methods.
  • HB451 Requires signs on selected highways entering Greene County to contain the message: "Welcome to Greene County - Home of Governor Matt Blunt".

What's next? Will they designate the Holy Ghost as the official state specter?

I felt compelled to email Representative Sater ( to comment on his work representing the good folks here in Southwest Missouri. Let us all join hands and pray together - petition the Lord to help this poor misguided man find another calling that would lead him to a more productive life outside of politics. Do I hear an Amen?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

War Stories from Iraq

I don't even remember how I found this site, From NYC. Freelance journalist/photographer, Brian Palmer, is embedded with the U. S. Marine Charlie Company at Al Asad Airbase in Iraq.

Every time I hear our non-com militarist leaders Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney or George Bush wax on about how democracy is taking a foothold in Iraq, how the Iraqi Army is almost ready to take over stabilization efforts, how the insurgency is in its "last throes" - I wonder how courageous these men would be, how decisive they would be about sending young men off to a pre-emptive war if they themselves were actually embedded with the Marines for just a short time. Here are some excerpts from Palmer's blog:

The shooting is loud and furious and disorienting, particularly to me. This is my first real firefight. I point my video camera at the loudest clump of shooting. I pan to my right toward Marino and his team as they fire rounds into the field at an enemy I can't see. I’m trying to concentrate on the action happening in the viewfinder while keeping my head parallel to the mud . . .

Someone spots something or someone moving in the canal among the reeds. A wounded, possibly dead, fighter is either hiding or dying.Gunfire erupts again. I peer through the swaying stalks but see nothing. Marino and the Laube spot the body. Marino puts two final bullets into the man. All I see is a spray of blood after the second shot. That’s the fourth and final “enemy KIA” . . .

I crouch behind a berm with Marino and a squad of Marines. “Thirty seconds!” Corpsman Chin shouts. Then, Boom! The Explosive Ordnance Demolition team has “blown in place” two of the dead fighters, one of whom wore the suicide vest. (The other carried a grenade with the detonation pin pulled, Marines said.) “Stand by for body parts,” shouts a grunt. I don’t hear anything hit the ground after the blast, but as I walk back to the farmhouse, I notice moist coin-size bits of pink, brown, and red glistening in the dirt. I identify one chunk as a piece of liver. Corpsman Chin corrects me. “That’s lung."

These kinds of images and stories won't be seen on NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN and certainly not Fox News, which yesterday had their neocon intellectuals speculating over the question, "All-Out Civil War in Iraq: Could It Be a Good Thing?". There are just a few degrees of detachment here in America, as we sit in our recliners watching filtered news clips from our very own war of choice.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Reluctant Meme Quartets

Doc Larry at Lost Chord (who I'd like to meet after reading his interesting work history) tagged this space. Like the Doc, I give this curmudgeonly reply:

Four Jobs I've Had
1. Janitor
2. Photographer
3. Personnel Manager
4. Teacher

Four Places I've Lived
1. Toronto, Ontario
2. North Hollywood, CA
3. Fair Grove, MO
4. Springfield, MO

Four Movies I'd Watch Again
1. As Good As It Gets
2. My Life As A Dog
3. Life of Brian
4. Off the Map

Four TV Shows I Love
1. Seinfeld
2. Bob Newhart
3. Frontline
4. Daily Show (when I had cable)

Four Places I've Vacationed
1. Negril, Jamaica
2. all over Ontario
3. Old Route 66 'tween here and points west
4. Buffalo River Cabin

Four Favorite Dishes
1. Han's Chicken w/kimchi (Korea House)
2. Casper's Chili (w/lots of crackers)
3. Burrito Enchilada Style (half order please, lots of hot sauce)
4. Sunday breakfast at home with the paper

Four Sites I Visit Daily
2. Slate
3. News-Leader online
4. Huffington Post

Four Places I'd Rather Be
1. You mean actual locales?
2. Or places, like Hammons Field?
3. Or maybe having a drink listening to a good band
4. Or on a beach somewhere warm.

Four Books I Loved
1. Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
2. Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy
3. Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow
4. Underworld by Don DeLillo

Four Video Games I Love
1. None - I'm a little behind the curve on this.

Four Tags
1. Everybody I link to has already been tagged.
2. Dick Cheney (should be tagged on his ear so he can be tracked)
3. Dee Wampler (Season's Greetings Asshole!)
4. South Dakota Legislature (real hard)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Cheney Tool Decries Media "Jihad"

Things got a little dicey on Meet the Press today as Cheney spokesperson, Mary Matalin, in a typical Bush administration maneuver, went on the attack, attempting to put the media on the defensive and dodge the persistent questions about inconsistencies in the Cheney hunting story. MTP host, Tim Russert, allowed Matalin to spin freely for half the show, which left prescious little time for rebuttals or follow-up questions.

Matalin, in an exchange with NBC White House correspondent David Gregory, decried the media "jihad" against Vice President Cheney. She then described NY Times columnist and Cheney critic, Maureen Dowd, who sat across the table, as "the diva of the smart set." Dowd's response was the clearest statement of the broadcast:

The reason this story has evoked such fascination is because the vice president is like the phantom. You know, we hear the creak of the door as he passes, but we don't really know what he's up to. We don't know his schedule. We don't always know where he is. We don't know what democratic institution he's blowing off at any given minute, and so this allowed us to see how his behavior and judgment operated pretty much in real time -- with the delay, but pretty much in real time. ... And it covered all the problems of the Bush/Cheney administration: secrecy and stonewalling, then blowing off the rules that are at the heart of our democracy, then using a filter to try and put the truth out in a way that would most suit their political needs, and then bad political judgment in bungling a crisis. I mean, if there's one thing the Republicans are great at since Reagan, it's damage control. But he is such a control freak, you know, he doesn't even care about the damage. ... Mary, it isn't only the press. He blows off the FISA courts, he blows off the Geneva Conventions, he blows off the U.N. to go to Iraq. He wants to blow off everything. He's got a fever of about presidential erosion just the way he had a fever about going into Iraq.

Granted, the whole story became an obsession with the press, but when you're as dark and secretive and powerful as Cheney, what do you expect? Characterizing the media attention as a "jihad" cleverly brings the language of the ever-present War On Terror to the table, which effectively shuts off any meaningful debate. Well done, Mary - you've proven an old adage to be true - dogs really do take on their owners' personality traits.

There's a pretty good in-depth piece on Cheney in the latest Newsweek, entitled: The Shot Heard Round the World.

But it's not that big a story, really. Two guys out hunting with two women - not their wives, just a couple of nice Republican women - not drinking anything. Well, drinking just a little. Then, one of the men is accidentally shot in the face and neck at fairly close range (They claim 30 yards, but could that many pellets land in so condensed a space and penetrate a hunting jacket, clothing and lodge in the liver and heart? I'm not a hunter, can anybody enlighten here?).

Later, it turns out that the "eyewitness", Katherine Armstrong (described as "eyewitness" no fewer than six times in the news conference), who at first said she didn't know what was going on and assumed Cheney had suffered another heart attack, is somehow, just a day later, able to recall viewing the entire event with some detail.

And what about the other woman, Pamela Willeford? She was reportedly standing right next to Cheney when he fired. Who is she? Where was Lynne? We know that Willeford is the current ambassador to Switzerland and that she is figurehead president of Pico Drilling Company (oil drilling equip).

Is Pamela Willeford Dick Cheney's lover? Were there semen stains on her camouflage? Does she, in fact, bear some responsibility for Dick's premature firing? Where is Kenneth Starr when you need him?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Cheney Shoots From the Hip Again

Dick Cheney accidentally shot his hunting partner today - or yesterday. I think the story was held 24 hours for some reason, perhaps to avoid the Sunday morning talk show circuit. This raises all kinds of questions:

1) What is a guy with all kinds of health problems doing out tromping around with a shotgun?
2) How will Bill Clinton ultimately bear the responsibility for this?
3) Why wasn't Scalia with him when it could really do the country some good?
4) Will the public finally understand that this guy hasn't been shooting straight since he took office?
5) Is this the real reason why he had five deferments during the draft?
6) Will Rove spin the blame for this on the victim for stepping in front of Cheney's target?
7) Is Elmer Fudd really a heartbeat away from the presidency?

I've got to see Leno, Letterman and Stewart tomorrow night.

Radical Fundamentalists in Education

The King Fahd Academy in Bonn, Germany is a Saudi-funded private school for the children of Islamic families in the area. A few months ago, a German television station smuggled a camera into an academy classroom and recorded a teacher inciting a holy war in the name of Allah and advocating martial-arts training for their young Islamic terrorists of the future.

According to an article in Newsweek, "the Saudi government pumps tens of millions of dollars every year into such institutions around the world, including Islamic centers, mosques and schools named for King Fahd in Los Angeles, Moscow, Edinburgh and Malaga, Spain."

After the television station aired their hidden footage, the German government vowed to shut down the Bonn school, but quickly did an about-face after conferring with Saudi government officials. The Germans eventually backed down completely, citing "foreign policy reasons". A government spokesman recently praised the Kind Fahd school as an "important cultural institution" that contributed to good Saudi-German relations. Proving once again that when push comes to shove, links to money and oil outweigh any considerations about fighting institutionalized propaganda. Didn't the 9/11 terrorists hatch their plan in Germany?

Much has been said about how radical Islamic schools have been breeding young terrorists around the world, but then I read about another fundamentalist group spreading propaganda right here in the U. S., and the Bush administration seems to be doing everything in their power to help them spread their message of ignorance and mind control.

I'm talking here about those that espouse a complete rejection of instruction regarding evolution in the science classroom in favor of creationism. This does not bode well for the future of this country, especially when you consider the Bush administration (and our own boy-governor) is pushing public funding of private schools - where they can freely teach this anti-science propaganda to impressionable children.

A piece in the LA Times called "Their Own Version of a Big Bang" tells the story of a well-financed and popular (among Christian fundamentalists) new evangelical push that teaches children to openly question their science instruction. Austrailian evangelist, Ken Ham, is just one of many who have made a good living traveling around the country propagating this new brand of backward-thinking religious propaganda on thousands of school children.

During a recent stop at a school in New Jersey, Ham encouraged a group of 2,300 elementary school children, with the help of dinosaur puppets and silly cartoons, to reject much of geology, paleontology and evolutionary biology as a sinister tangle of lies.

"Boys and girls," Ham said. If a teacher so much as mentions evolution, or the Big Bang, or an era when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, "you put your hand up and you say, 'Excuse me, were you there?' Can you remember that?" The children roared as one, "Yes!".

Then he further works them into a frenzied state by leading them in cheers.

"Who's the only one who's always been there?" Ham asked.
"God!" the boys and girls shouted.
"Who's the only one who knows everything?"
"So who should you always trust, God or the scientists?"The children answered with a thundering:

How different is this from impressionable children in radical Islamic school chanting "Allah" at the exhortations of their fundamentalist indoctrinators?

"Who will help us fight the American infidel?"
"Who will lead us in the jihad against the great Satan?"

Evangelist Ham, a former biology teacher, likes to say that he is arming his youngsters with "Christian Patriot missiles" during his seminars and Christian pep rallies. The name of his ministry is called "Answers in Genesis".

According to the Times, this kind of "creation evangelism" has become a booming industry, with churches, colleges, private schools and rotary clubs providing venues for anti-evolutionary rallies.

With pulpit-thumping passion, Ham insists the Bible be taken literally: God created the universe and all its creatures in six 24-hour days, roughly 6,000 years ago. Answers in Genesis has an annual budget of $15 million to produce DVD's and home school materials. One popular seller is an alphabet rhyme that begins, "A is for Adam, God made him from dust / He wasn't a monkey, he looked just like us."

Ham's well-publicized speaking tours are supposedly booked three years in advance, and I see he does have Missouri listed on his itinerary. If you were wanting to preach this kind of baloney to Missourians, which part of the state would you pick?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Cartoon Mohammad, Hollywood Jesus

I received an odd piece of mail last week from an organization calling itself Saint Matthew's Church of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Of course, I'm immediately suspicious of any kind of religious material emanating from Tulsa, where Oral Roberts proffered up his peculiar brand of evangelical dementia.

This mailing contained a "Church Prayer Rug" depicting a rather effeminate image of our lord and savior, Jesus Christ, with his eyes closed, wearing the obligatory crown of thorns. At the bottom of the "rug", which was really nothing more than an 11 x 17 sheet of paper printed on both sides, there were some basic instructions.

Look into Jesus' Eyes you will see they are closed. But as you continue to look you will see His eyes opening and looking back into your eyes. Then go and be alone and kneel on the Rug of Faith or touch it to both knees. Then please check your needs on our letter to you. Please return this Prayer Rug. Do not keep it.

Cool! Sort of like a Highlights Magazine optical puzzle for believers. I gazed into his eyes, and sure enough, he stared back at me, somewhat cross-eyed.

There was an addressed, pre-paid mail envelope enclosed along with a checklist of prayer request that included: My Soul, A Closer Walk With Jesus, My Health, Confusion in My Home, My Children, To Stop a Bad Habit, A New Car . . . and on.

This Saint Matthew's Church, of course, wanted some compensation for petitioning the Lord on my behalf. They call it a "seed gift". The enclosed testimonials told of a woman in Maryland who mysteriously received $46,888.20 after sending in her prayer rug. "If I may have more blessings come again, I would like to help others," she said. Another woman testified that "God blessed us with $10,700. We went out and bought us a car!."

We all know this bogus St. Matthew's Church is not mainstream Christianity, but the truth is that churches have been using images of Christ to save souls and raise revenue for centuries. Hollywood has even exploited images of "The Christ" to churn up money. This is perhaps why so many westerners find it hard to understand why Islamic true believers get so bent out of shape when somebody prints a cartoon caricature of Mohammad in a newspaper.

Which image is more obscene? The one intended to persuade the ignorant to send money in the name of God, or the one that makes a political statement about violence and the killing of innocents in the name of God?

This weekend, thousands of frothing Islamic demonstrators took to the streets in Afghanistan, the West Bank, Iraq and New Zealand, and Danish and Norwegian embassies in Syria were set on fire by mobs who charged past security barriers.
All because of a cartoon image.

I'm wondering if maybe I should try to organize a march on Tulsa.

Monday, January 30, 2006

From Our Fear Monger-In-Chief

You don't see much of the vice president these days. It used to be a joke that VP's were only visible at funerals and conventions - kept in the background. Some were actually political opponents within the party, like Lyndon Johnson. The job disarmed them, so to speak.

But Cheney came to the Bush administration fully armed and seemingly obsessed with a long-brewed neocon scheme to conquer Iraq and install an oil-rich democracy in the Mideast. To that end, he has twisted the truth and blatantly lied many times to the media - it seems to be his function in this administration. And yet nobody seems willing or able to hold him accountable for pushing blatant propaganda on the American public. The following are snips from various interviews with Tim Russert on NBC's Meet the Press.

It's now public that, in fact, [Saddam] has been seeking to acquire... the kinds of tubes that are necessary to build a centrifuge. And the centrifuge is required to take low-grade uranium and enhance it into highly enriched uranium, which is what you have to have in order to build a bomb. [9/8/02]

"We do know, with absolute certainty, that [Saddam] is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon." [9/8/02]

"Well, I think I've just given it, Tim, in terms of the combination of his development and use of chemical weapons, his development of biological weapons, his pursuit of nuclear weapons... It's only a matter of time until he acquires nuclear weapons." [3/14/03]

"We know that he has a long-standing relationship with various terrorist groups, including the al-Qaeda organization." [3/14/03]

"We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda." [9/23/03]

None of the above statements were true, and he knew full well at the time. No wonder he stays in his bunker.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Impeachment and the State of the Union

Nobody I know is seriously considering the impeachment of our stealth president, Dick Cheney, and his sidekick George Bush. But like a lot of people, I've read the list of possible offenses, and they seem pretty valid, especially when considering the human carnage and suffering they have exacerbated - and I also remember vividly the Clinton impeachment with all its sordid drama and moral outrage. It was an embarrassment. A Bush/Cheney impeachment would be incredibly ugly. I'm wondering if the American people have the stomach to expose the world to the inner workings of their crooked, corporatized executive branch.

As Gore Vidal says in his essay, President Jonah, "Not since the glory days of Watergate and Nixon's Luciferian fall has there been so much written about the dogged deceits and creative criminalities of our rulers."

I ran across this article from The Texas Observer by Ronnie Dugger, and it's better than anything I could write on the subject of a possible Bush/Cheney indictment or impeachment. He touches on crucial questions about America - the values of its leaders and the people who elected them. I think there's a little embarrassment down in Texas - that they helped grease their favorite son's ascendance to bungling leader the free world. I don't blame them.

This country has taken a path under the Bush/Cheney administration that is a radical departure from life as I knew it growing up here in god's country. Our representatives to Congress, for instance, have never been so brazenly connected to big corporations and party fundraising as is Roy Blunt.

"Our elections are bought, and our government is run by and for the major transnational corporations," Dugger writes, and our boy Roy is right there making it happen with a wink and a nod from the Bushies. Everything's cool, the money is rolling in.

On Bush's grab for unconstitutional executive power, Dugger says "Bush announced in 2002 his illegal presidential policy that the United States can and will attack other nations first, waging war on them, when he so decides. He is now waging, as if he were doing it in our names, a bloody war of aggression against Iraq . . ."

And here we are four years later with 2,200 American soldiers dead, 35,000 Iraqi's killed (give or take 5,000), a terrorist group winning election in Palestine, U. S.-run secret prisons overseas, condoned torture by the military, warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, a massive national debt, $250 billion sucked away in Iraq, an emboldened, antagonistic Iran with nuclear capability . . . and let's not even talk about solving our considerable problems here at home with perhaps the most corrupt (and certainly the most corporate) Congress in history.

I remember talking to my neighbor out in the driveway before the 2000 election. We both thought the presidential election would be close, but we figured Gore would win. And he did, but that's another issue entirely.

Remember how people used to say it didn't matter who was president? "Six of one, half dozen of the other." Right. I may be grasping for a silver lining here, but do you think it's possible the disastrous Bush presidency might persuade more people to participate in the choosing of their leaders next November? Are enough people even paying attention? If not, I guess we will continue to get the leadership we deserve.

Do you ever wonder how a Gore administration would have dealt with 9/11?

On Tuesday, George Bush will take the podium and tell us how great things are. Just Pretend It's All Okay. But there's no telling what else is coming down the pike with these guys. I understand Bush is poised to solve the health care crisis in America, and we'll hear all about it Tuesday night. "And now, from the same folks who brought you Homeland Security's Rapid Response Katrina Team, Social Security Reform and the War in Iraq . . ."
Everybody knows this will go nowhere.

Speaking of state of the union addresses, here's a link to Bill Clinton's last State of the Union speech, just a reminder of what life was like before 9/11 - before all the fear-mongering, the lies, the corruption that the Bush/Cheney team and the Republican Congress have brought to the table.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Images of the Dead

Abortion will once again be a huge distraction in coming weeks as legislators wrestle with the parental consent issue - yet another attempt by fundamentalists to strip away by layers the laws that protect the privacy of pregnant women in America. A big anti-abortion rally is scheduled tomorrow in Washington with a plan to march on Congress and the Supreme Court, placards raised high.

The politics of life and death in this country are hard to understand. How the government, political movements and media deal with the images of death reveals an odd juxtapositioning.

Christian fundamentalists, for instance, revel in the bloody images of Christ, but they also use the image of an aborted fetus to bludgeon the public into understanding what they see as the true nature of abortion.

But where is the outrage when sensitized pro-life proponents come across images of Iraqi children whose bodies have been blown apart by bombs? Why are these images considered anti-war propaganda? A dead Iraqi child is just not their issue of choice, I guess.

And how can our government protect the rights of abortion protesters foisting obscene images upon women entering clinics but steadfastly refuse to let photographers capture the pristine image of caskets containing the remains of American soldiers returning from war overseas?

Three takes on Perception Management.