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Showing posts from 2005

The 2005 Ozarks Angel

I started this blog back in May when I had a couple of days off from work due to a swollen nut. That healed up nicely, in case you were wondering, but I'm still paying the $800 bill. Gotta love our healthcare system - oh, and my wonderful school health insurance covered a whopping $82. Anyway, that was an unlikely topic to start a blog, but there it is. Now, some 3,400 clicks later, we're still plugging away. Here's a review of the year 2005 sifted through some of the Ozarks Angel posts.

Of course, the really huge story that christened this crazy year of 2005 was the slow discovery of the devastation incurred by the killer tsunami that swept away some quarter of a million lives in Asia. Here at home, president Bush was characteristically distant and, despite daily briefings, seemingly uninformed about the magnitude of this disaster - a foreshadowing of his lackadaisical response to the Katrina disaster seven months later. It seems Bush can only get himself worked up if ther…

Merry Christmas, Yada, Yada

I gave all my classes a test on the last day before Christmas break. Humbug! One kid asked why I was such a Scrooge, and my answer went something like this:

The original cause for celebration was suppose to be the birth of a spiritual being whose life and teachings changed the entire world and inspired countless millions of followers to love their neighbors as themselves, pursue peace over war and violence, protect the innocent, take care of the poor and sick and to spread love and understanding among all people, regardless of their social standing.

And what do we now do to celebrate this spiritual being's birth? We get out our credit cards and shop like madmen . . . we measure the season's success by keeping a close eye on consumer spending, credit card debt and whether or not massive department stores match their earnings estimates. We erect quaint little prop-up manger scenes outside fast food restaurants - I saw one manger scene in front of a Baptist church that had Santa Cl…

Oral Arguments for Impeachment

No Surprise From Gov. Blunt

As if on cue, the morning after yesterday's Ozarks Angel post about how a Washington, D. C. political action group is supplying talking points for Republican politicians on education "reform", our esteemed boy-governor Blunt stepped right up and submits a News-Leader guest editorial that parrots virtually every point we wrote about last night. How wonderful it must be to have other people do your thinking for you.

As predicted, Blunt spoke of supplying 65% of funding "directly to the classrooms", and then went to bat for raising teacher salaries, which he called, presumably with a straight face, "the most important part of any school district's budget". Blunt then went on to describe how appalled he was that Missouri teacher salaries are ranked 44th in the U. S.. (If you can find a Republican governor or legislator who has called for teacher salary increases in the last 25 years, I'll buy you lunch.)

Last night I wrote that this 65% solution aim…

65% Solution Media Blitz Coming Soon

Be prepared for the next big thing in politically-motivated, GOP-backed bullshit regarding public education - the much-heralded and very controversial "65% Solution". It's coming to you via our esteemed boy-governor, Matt Blunt, in the form of a statewide referendum which is tentatively schedule for next November. I can almost hear the television commercials already.

This new educational shell game comes to us by way of a Washington, D. C. lobbying group called "First Class Education"(FCE) - an organization founded by millionaire entrepreneur Patrick M. Byrne, president of online shopping spot Overstock.com. Byrne, who is into martial arts and is a former boxer, fashions himself as the Robin Hood of public education. The 65% plan would supposedly improve classroom instruction by guaranteeing that 65% of all education revenue be directly targeted to teachers and students in the classroom. Sounds simple enough. This should play well here in God's country.

The…

Busch Stadium Going Down

I was in St. Louis a couple of weeks ago for a conference. I hadn't been to any such event in a long while - not since library days. Now that's a whole 'nother story, partying librarians. More on that later.

I shared a room with another teacher from a school across town. We got along just fine except for the fact that I had trouble sleeping both nights - probably due to the fact that it was just a strange place, and I'm a light sleeper.

Anyway, I was wide awake both mornings at the crack of dawn, and proceeded to explore downtown St. Louis before the city was awake. It was surprising how few cars and pedestrians were out and about at 6:00 a.m. I swear I saw a coyote walking around down by the arch, and several rabbits hopping around the hotel grounds.

No matter what direction I walked, I was always drawn toward Busch Stadium. Crews were working around the clock wrecking the historic landmark. Though I have never been a big Cardinals fan, I have spent many an hour watching…

CIA Provided Bush Accurate Intel on 9/21/01

On September 21, 2001 - ten days after the 9/11 attacks - president Bush received a highly classified report from the CIA regarding possible links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. I read about this interesting bit of pre-war intelligence in a piece written by Murray Waas for the National Journal.

While the CIA and FBI took a lot of heat for not doing a better job of tracking the 9/11 terrorists before the attack, the CIA did provide what turned out to be very accurate information regarding the absence of a Saddam/Al Qaeda conspiracy leading up to the 9/11 attack.

It is becoming clear that the Bush administration was intent on cherry-picking their intelligence reports to back up their call for war. When the largest intelligence organization in the world didn't give them what they wanted, Cheney and Co. took their sources from wherever they could. Their groping around for threads from foreign spy networks led them to base some important pieces of their pro-war propaganda campaign …

Words of Wisdom from Jimmy Carter

I remember when this guy was president. He was basically run out of town by his own party when he tried to buck party traditions - sort of backfired on the dems when Ronald Reagan swept to power in 1980. Carter came to Springfield on that election day, and I went to see him at the airport. Not many people showed up, of course. Everybody knew he was going to lose, including Carter himself.

I've always respected old Jimmy. He was a knowledgeable and thoughtful man - an honest man. He was ridiculed for his beliefs at a time when politicians didn't wear their religion on their sleeve. Now, he is starting to speak out about the mixing of religion and politics and the lack of moral and ethical leadership from the GOP and the Bush administration. Here's a link to his editorial in the L. A. Times entitled: This Isn't the Real America.

State of the Union

A friend at work who happens to be a Republican said an odd thing to me the other day.
"I guess you're feeling pretty good about all the trouble Bush is in right now," he said. I felt a little insulted, since he was attributing what I consider a Republican character trait to me - petty political vindictiveness. It always seemed to me that the GOP was the party that would stop at nothing to destroy political opponents - ala Bill Clinton, whose own "scandals" (Whitewater - in which he was accused of losing several thousand dollars in a screwed up land deal; Travelgate, where Clinton appointed friends to White House travel office positions, gasp!); somehow evolved, through the office of special prosecutor Kenneth Starr via office gossip Linda Tripp, to a case that eventually had the leader of the free world lying about blow jobs in the Oval Office. The result: for only the second time in American history, a president was impeached. Over what? Tell me again how many…

Exxon Profits At Unprecedented High

Still more evidence that it pays to have friends in high places . . . the Associated Press reported today that oil giant Exxon's third-quarter profits were a new record for any company ever. Third quarter profits were almost 75% higher than a year ago - up to $9.92 billion - and their $100 billion in total quarterly sales was also an all-time record for any company in history.

I really don't have much more to say about this . . . it's distressing but not surprising. I guess my conservative friends out there would argue that the free market is working its magic on the American public once again. So, the American public should just smile and get out the KY-Jelly, which is another fine petroleum derivative - while oil execs shop for more multi-million dollar homes and corporate tax shelters.

I'm wondering why such a huge, profitable industry couldn't invest some of their vast profits into some research and development toward creating more efficient ways to fuel our m…

County Commissioners and Nov. 8 Election

I attended a teacher meeting this week in which two of the three County Commissioners and the Springfield police chief spoke about an upcoming November 8 ballot issue called the Community Safety Initiative (CSI). County Commissioners Dave Coonrod and Harold Bengsch and SPD chief Lynn Rowe took turns talking about why they support the proposed 1/4 cent sales tax.

The proposed tax would ante up about a nickel on a $20 purchase and would raise about $10 million in year one for various crime prevention and law enforcement programs.

Did I hear a yawn? I know. This is usually the kind of thing that I have trouble supporting - yes, they want to build a new crime lab and provide funding for more police officers, blah, blah. But the part that caught my attention, and the primary reason they were pitching this to a group of school teachers, was the $3 million that was to be spent on a proactive early childhood program that was linked to 50 elementary schools in Springfield. It would also create a…

Still More Evidence of Cronyism in Bushland

I was trying to find a link to one of my favorite news shows when I ran across this article posted on Media Matters for America. The New York Times article explores how Harriet Miers worked a dual role after being appointed by Bush to head the Texas Lottery Commission, which was supposedly suspected of shady dealings. It looks as though some of the questionable activity centered around an employee who had information about Bush's own shady National Guard experience. Here's a clip:

"Allegations about political favors playing a role in Bush's National Guard career first arose in the midst of a lawsuit filed by Lawrence Littwin, the former executive director of the lottery commission who was both hired and fired during Miers's tenure. Littwin had reportedly been investigating what he considered improper political contributions made by Gtech, a company which had a contract to run the Texas lottery. In his lawsuit, Littwin claimed that Gtech pressured the commission to …

Our Girl Harriet

President Bush managed to piss everybody off with this one. The Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination has been roundly panned by pundits from virtually the entire political spectrum. I can almost see GW smirking after he and his trusty advisors came up with this one. This ought to throw everybody for a loop, yuk, yuk. One thing I've got to hand GW, he has shown an uncanny ability to top his daddy when it comes to boneheaded presidential moves. The elder Bush at least had the good sense to avoid a protracted war in Iraq after Desert Storm, while Boy George boldly ventures forth on a misguided crusade to build a democratic state in the heart of the Middle East. Is that conservative? Seems like I remember W criticizing the Clinton/Gore administration for their "nation building" in Bosnia. You don't hear much about Bosnia these days. I guess it depends on your point of view about this nation building concept - if a Democrat is doing it, it's nation building, if a R…

Bad Boys, School Superintendents & Wal-Mart

Last night, I ran into two of my former students outside the movie store. Brandon and Ricky were always in trouble for one thing or another during their three years in middle school. Both of them flunked almost every class but were passed on year after year, as is the habit in most middle schools. Ricky had a violent streak and was finally placed in an alternative school for much of his 7th grade year. It was mostly 7th grade macho stuff that got him in trouble. Like so many other lost boys and girls we see in middle school halls every year, he had virtually zero parental supervision. Brandon's mom tried to become more involved, but her son was soft and lazy, a follower who seemed hell bent on being cool above all else. Brandon had a good sense of humor and was one of the few in my class who understood my jokes, but he hadn't learned much academically since the third or fourth grade.

They saw me first as I pulled into the parking lot. "Hey, Mr. Smith." It's always…

Where's the Love?

The following is in response to Kevin Elmer's commentary in the News-Leader.

Kevin Elmer's one-sided and utterly simplistic commentary in Sunday's paper left me wondering when so-called "conservative Christians" will ever cut the rhetoric, take off the blinders and view the world around them.

Elmer builds a flimsy argument that Islamic radicals love death over life, while we in the U.S. prefer the inverse - and then neatly concludes that this Islamic fatalism is the big difference between them and us. They love death; we love life.

I would argue that many Americans, even devout Christians like Rev. Pat Robbertson, are quite selective about their love of life. It depends on whose life it is - or the stage of development. From conception to birth, we're all about the sanctity of life - but for babies being born into abject poverty, like many of those left behind in New Orleans, well, they're on their own. We build bigger and better prisons to house those kinds…

Used Syringes

Today was a first. I've lived in this neighborhood for 14 years, and although there are a few shady characters renting houses a few blocks east of here, it's always been a quiet neighborhood of dog-walkers and kids on bikes. Sure we have our share of teenagers in their baggy pants and slightly askew ball caps trying to look tough, but they're just kids. Right?

I was cleaning up some stuff in the yard today, picking up what people typically throw out of their cars - a couple of fast food cups, a plastic grocery bag. But the grocery bag had something in it. I opened it up and looked down on somebody's discarded meth kit . . . three syringes, one still had a few cc's left in it, and a couple of spoons.

After thinking about all the little kids that live next door and across the street, I decided to call the police. I didn't really think they could do much, but I figured it might confirm what they already suspected about a certain house - maybe a red flag that might g…

The Drowning of New Orleans

The following snip is from Scientific American, October 2001:

New Orleans is a disaster waiting to happen. The city lies below sea level, in a bowl bordered by levees that fend off Lake Pontchartrain to the north and the Mississippi River to the south and west. And because of a damning confluence of factors, the city is sinking further, putting it at increasing flood risk after even minor storms. The low-lying Mississippi Delta, which buffers the city from the gulf, is also rapidly disappearing. A year from now another 25 to 30 square miles of delta marsh--an area the size of Manhattan--will have vanished. An acre disappears every 24 minutes. Each loss gives a storm surge a clearer path to wash over the delta and pour into the bowl, trapping one million people inside and another million in surrounding communities. Extensive evacuation would be impossible because the surging water would cut off the few escape routes. Scientists at Louisiana State University (L.S.U.), who have modeled hu…

Blogging from Iraq

So much of the news about the war in Iraq is filtered through corporate-owned media that have their own political connections to protect, it's hard to know if you're getting a "fair and balanced" account of what's really going on in this hellish endeavor. In today's America, that's just the way it is, as Walter Cronkite would say.

Michael Yon: Online Magazineis definitely worth a read if you'd like to get a truly unbiased glimpse of what daily life is like for the soldiers risking their lives doing the dirty work in Iraq - helping the Iraqis gain freedom from tyranny, or whatever the Bush administration rationale is this week.

Jesus Addressing a Republican Fund Raiser

Now that the Republicans have co-opted Christianity in this country, they have re-created Jesus in their own image. Here's a funny excerpt from an article in Slate Magazine entitled "The Parable of Jesus and the Rubber Chicken". This is our Lord and Savior addressing a Repubican fundraiser:

"In My youth, I made certain ill-advised statements that I now regret. If I offended anyone, I apologize. I want to clarify that it is easy for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. (CHEERS, WILD APPLAUSE)
"I'd like to apologize specifically to the money-changers. It is My sincere hope that you will come back into the Temple free of charge as My guests." (WILD APPLAUSE, CHANT OF "U.S.A! U.S.A!")
Finally—and this is Me speaking for Myself now—I want to say to the meek: Once we finally get rid of the death tax, you're not inheriting anything. Not while you're meek, so buck up. (CHEERS) And that goes double for you peacemakers. (LAUGHTER) Good nig…

Springfield School Board Rolls Back, Rolls Over

I'm not even going to justify this little speil with a link to the Gnews-Leader or quotations from proud school board members. After finally selling a tax levy increase to the voters of Springfield - with a great deal of help from teachers seeking smaller class sizes, I might add - the Springfield School Board has elected to rollback the levy in order to save voters $27 a year on property taxes.

It's a gesture of good will, I guess, aimed at placating those in the community who don't support public education. Seems like an odd stance for a school board, if you ask me. But it also is a complete rollover onto an already burdened teaching staff, and stiffs the kids as well. The board's action further creates the impression that the initial levy campaign, with its threats of program curtailments, was over-stating the problems in our schools. The critics and naysayers were right, they tacitly acknowledge. What an ingratiating and inauspicious start for the new superintendent…

Bongs for Burgers! (from the springfieldian #6)

Click to enlarge.

More Precious Mutants

"He Ain't Heavy, He's My Parasitic Brother"

Precious Mutants (from The Springfieldian #5)

My Little Antichrist From the Book of Revelations, it's "My Little Antichrist," archnemesis of all humankind. Exclusive Mark of the Beast-style eyes say "666", but his arms say, "Hold me!" With flames of retribution pedestal. Hurry, available only until the Apocalypse for just $39.99.

In 1977, artist Sam Butcher received a divine inspiration: Create a line of collectible figurines aimed at the lucrative Christian market; have them manufactured by unwitting non-Christians in Asia; slap on enormous price tags; build a (Sistine-inspired) chapel/retail outlet in the Ozarks to promote the figurines; and become very, very rich.

Inspiration paid off. Today, the world-famous Precious Moments line of products generates half a billion dollars in sales yearly. Key to the popularity of the winsome moppets are their unusual stylized features. Each character is blessed an impossibly oversized cranium - and never has encephalitis been so appealing. The trademark teardr…

Downtown Saturday Night

Downtown Saturday night in Springfield, Missouri is not what it used to be. Music from a dozen different venues fills the air. There are misplaced teens everywhere, riding skateboards, beating on worn out guitars. A local prophet of god stands at a street corner, tonight with his son along, warning people about the wages of sin and sex.
The crowd at Ernie Biggs is singing very loudly and another smaller crowd hovers at the door, trying to figure if there's actually enough room to enter the place. They were singing Neil Diamond songs. It was awful. A woman with huge propped up breasts and cleavage about the size of my ass, raised her arms and danced up by the stage. The crowd was way more interesting than the music, believe me.
On the corner of Walnut and South, we ran into what has become a downtown fixture - our own placard prophet. There were two tonight, father and son. When we passed the first time, they stood alone. Most passers by politely ignore them, but when I came back wi…

Novak a Little Testy (or little testes?)

Conservative columnist Robert Novak must be feeling the heat of the CIA leak investigation. The normally cool and urbane man-about-Washington stormed off the set of CNN's "Inside Politics" on Friday after what seemed like a mild ribbing from Democratic consultant James Carville.

Novak sat next to Carville while host Ed Henry was asking them about the Florida senate primary coming up. Former Florida Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, is one of the Republican candidates, and Carville was saying how this would be a great boon to late night comedy shows like Jay Leno. Harris, among other things, has recently asserted that the media purposely doctored photos to alter her makeup, which set Carville off. Novak, predictably, spoke in support of Harris's makeup claim and was commenting on her chances of winning the primary when Carville interrupted.

"I'll tell you this, you know, you've got to show these right-wingers that you've got backbone. The Wall Stree…

Psychogenically Fugued Up

Here's part of Carpenter's long-distance phone conversation with Detective Hamilton on Christmas Eve :

TC: How did you get this number?
SPD: Tim, we need to talk to you.
TC: How did you find me?
SPD: We spoke with Melisa.

At this point, Hamilton noted a crack in Carpenter's voice (farewell sweet Melisa), and he paused for several seconds.

TC: Oh.
SPD: Tim, where have you been?
SPD: Tim, are you okay?
TC: I, uh . . . I, uh, don't remember.
SPD: You don't remember?
TC: No.

One needn't ask Tim Carpenter for his definition of hell. It began when he finally opened his apartment door to allow wife Carol and pastor Lindell into his secret refuge. According to Lindell, he "cowered like a wounded dog" and refused to recognize anyone. And then there was that long, dark drive back home to Springfield from Memphis during the wee hours of Christmas morning. Could that have been anything but hell on earth?

When Carpenter found out he was being taken to Cox North, he became very…

The Self-Abduction of Tim Carpenter

It was right before Christmas back in 1998. If I remember correctly, the word character was being tossed around a lot by folks here in God's country. President Clinton was being skewered by a GOP-led special prosecutor about cum stains on a woman's dress, and Osama Bin Laden was establishing a nice foothold in Afghanistan. Locally, the George Revelle murder trial was going on, and police were working to find out who shot a local man five times and dumped his body in the downtown quarry.

That was the backdrop for a strange case of abduction on Springfield's south side. Tim Carpenter, associate pastor at James River Assembly, loving husband and father of two teenage girls, had come up missing. The founder of Christian Publishers Outlet and owner of Heir Press had failed to return home after a late night visit his Heir Press offices on south Campbell.

Police were sent to Heir Press the next morning only to find mysterious blood smatterings, a tan left shoe that belonged to Car…

The Return of The Springfieldian

Back in 1992, a little underground newspaper called The Springfieldian started circulating around town. It had a small but loyal following that included some elected officials, city employees, media folks and interested ne'r-do-wells about town.

The Springfieldian was published somewhat irregularly for a few years before stopping with the infamous "Hammons Attacks" issue #9. A tenth issue was almost finished but never came to fruition.

Ozarks Angel has managed to come up with the entire collection of old Springfieldians and will publish some of our favorite pieces in upcoming weeks. The cartoons were some of the best ever published in this town. These cartoons are from issue #4.

Just Pretend It's All Okay

Just pretend the world is safer since this grand incursion. Just pretend this will all end soon. Just pretend 23,000 Iraqi civilians aren't dead. Just pretend this war hasn't aided the cause of Islamic fanaticism worldwide. Go buy a fucking ribbon. Maybe that'll help.

The Frakes, Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks & Gin

It's Saturday morning - 10:49 - and I'm already feeling ready for a big gin and tonic, extra lime, please. It's going to be another hot one today. Yesterday was 102 they say. Dog days. Days that are so hot, a person could come down with a bad case of the frakes.

It was in Donald Harington's wonderful novel "Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks" where I first heard about the frakes. It's been years since I read the book, but I do recall that frakes almost always strike during the hottest days of summer. And they can strike a grown man down where he sits, rendering him nearly motionless for hours at a time. Some kind of nervous system shut down, I'm guessing. I've found gin and tonics helpful.

Back to the book. Architecture covers the growth of human habitation of the Ozarks region from the very first Indian dwellings to, well, rusted out mobile homes. The setting is near the town of Stay More, Arkansas.

Here's a snippet from the book. In this excha…