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Saturday, August 27, 2005

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 Magazine is 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.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

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 night and Dad bless America. (CHEERS, WILD APPLAUSE)

The whole article can be found at: http://www.slate.com/id/2124768/

Thursday, August 18, 2005

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.

There is a big myth floating around Springfield. The myth is that the citizenry here care about improving education and investing in a good future for the children. The school board's caving on the levy in order to create better PR with the community is disingenuous at best and deceitful at worst.

Who will end up enduring even longer delays on basic improvements to the system? The students and teachers - the people in the classrooms trying to get it done. Are there any teachers out there celebrating this decision? Find one. I remember the leadership meeting I attended last summer. The day the tax levy passed there was a room full of 500 celebrants, cheering, even dancing. But that was an abberation. Nothing has changed.

Last year, this math teacher had 138 middle school math students divided into four classes. You do the math, and it adds up to 34.5 students per class - and this is in a core subject that students are tested over and over and over. The school is ultimately rated over these test scores and then publicly labeled as successful or failing.

If the school board had any inkling or inclination to significantly help the system perform better, they would put as much money as they possibly could into hiring more good teachers and shrinking class sizes. It's interesting that the R-12 school board feels compelled to raise the superintendant's salary "to be competitive" but gets all squeamish when it comes to using that same rationale when hiring teachers. Makes you wonder about priorities.

Am I the only one who thinks this school board is just slightly out of touch with reality? And I'd still like to hear the reasoning behind moving all the R-12 administrative employees to a separate pay scale from other professional staff (teachers). It almost seems like a "class" thing. Surely not. No wonder so many third-year PE teachers opt for getting that administrative certificate, thus utilizing their wealth of teaching experience as building principals. Next step . . . superintendent at Sparta or Ava or Bumfuck . . . who cares? It's great money!

By the way, did you know that the new superintendent's salary schedule was given a sweet $45,000 boost this year? Now it's up to $190,000 for yet another migrant administrator to fly in and utter the same tired platitudes about "ownership", "leadership" and "community". Hell, he just moved here, and he's leading cheers about the community already. Have you ever wondered why they don't promote from within Springfield? If this is such a great community, why is it we can't find any leadership from within? Is it some kind of civic inferiority complex, or what?

But let's get back to the pay scale. The R-12 superintendent's pay raise alone - let me say that again - the superintendent's raise alone, makes up more than 150% of a starting teacher's full salary in Springfield. Just his raise. You want to talk about rollbacks?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

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 teardrop eyes are equally malformed - yet magnetic, pulling at your heart - and purse strings. It's all held up by freakish swollen ankles. Elephantiasis.


Adorable, yes, but not enough for the notoriously voracious Precious Moments devotees. Snapping up the collections as fast as they could be made, insatiable fans demanded more - bigger heads; more pathetic eyes.


And so, we proudly announce the arrival of Precious Mutants: an exciting new series of figurines incorporating these fan-inspired changes . . . and more! We're sure you'll find them the most irresistible additions to your collection yet. With Precious Mutants, genetic innovations are taken to new heights - and now, with the announcement that a toxic waste facility has moved in next door to the Precious Moments Chapel, the possibilities for further mutations appear to be unlimited.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

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 with my camera, there was a crowd of revelers milling around the placards - asking questions, pointing fingers. The prophets usually have four double-sided placards to aim at passing cars and pedestrians. There was one message that really had a group of young halter-topped girls in a tizzy - something about lustful dressing.

The elder prophet calmly tried to explain - the younger one was obviously intimidated by these loud females, who were, by the way, lustfully attired by anyone's standard.
I told my friend, "They're probably rubbing themselves through their pockets right now." It was an awful thing to say. I apologize. Anyway, things got very volatile a little later, as I tried to maneuver to get a good shot of the younger prophet's sign.

"I'm going to take your picture. I hope you don't mind," I said.
"I'd rather you wouldn't," he said, turning away so I couldn't get the shot.
"Well, you're out here on a public street corner, are you too shy to get your picture taken?" I asked. He turned sideways, so the sign was not visible to me. I walked around him. He turned. It was like a weird magnetic effect I had on this guy. We danced like that for a couple of rotations before I gave up and we crossed the street.

One sign, held by the elder man, warned that marrying after divorce was adultery, which I took to mean that you might as well live in sin and save the paper work. Another sign, held by the younger, caused a little ruckus. It read: "True Christians Do Not Go To War". (He's holding this sign in the picture above.) As we reached the other side of Walnut Street, a couple of young men, maybe a little drunk, accosted the two sign holders.

"What do you mean true Christians don't go to war," one of the men shouted, obviously a good Christian patriot. "My brother is over there fighting for your freedom, you fucking coward." He stopped and menacingly pointed a finger, while his friend tried to lure him away. "You don't know a goddamn thing about war, you fucking pussy."

And just like that, the elder prophet interrupted his proselytizing, and screamed back at the man. "YOU DO NOT TAKE THE LORD'S NAME IN VAIN!" (He didn't react at all as his son was being publicly berated as a coward and, worse, a pussy. Does this imply tacit agreement?)

At exactly this time, the police came roaring in. Two cars, and officers quickly calmed the drunk Christian patriot guy, as he earnestly tried to explain and justify his outburst. "My brother's over there," he said.
Things calmed down from that point, but it seemed like the younger prophet apprentice was a bit shaken. He might put the war sign away for a while and stick to safer topics - sex, lust, divorce and adultery. The standards.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

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 Street Journal editorial page is watching. Show them you're tough." To which, Novak turned to Carville and said,
"I think that's bullshit, and I hate that." He then stood up, unhooked his mic and walked off the set while Henry and Carville continued talking without a hitch. (video clip)

Novak had already been informed by host Ed Henry that he would be asked about the CIA leak investigation, but the topic never came up. Did Novak purposely walk off to escape further questioning on the matter? We'll never know, but his little tantrum got him suspended by CNN. "Bob Novak's behavior today was inexcusable and unacceptable," a spokesperson for CNN said on Friday. "We've asked Mr. Novak to take some time off."

As far as air time goes, Novak may have finally shot himself in the foot. He was formerly a regular on Crossfire and The Capital Gang, but both shows have been cancelled. His next big media appearance, however, may be on all the networks, as the CIA leak investigation comes to an end. Novak, who started the whole thing, has been less than forthcoming on the subject to fellow reporters. But it now seems very possible that some indictments will be coming down - and the smug little bastard probably knows he'll be in the vortex when the shit finally hits the fan.

Here's a little background and commentary from a previous Ozarks Angel.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

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 upset. He became downright angry when he found out Pastor Lindell had already completed the necessary forms to have him admitted for mental evaluation, but at this point, he really didn't have much say in the matter. "We don't think Tim is in a situation where he is capable of making rational decisions," Lindell said.

Police were eager to interview Carpenter, but they had not been notified of his arrival. Nurses at Cox North were even told not to tell SPD that Carpenter had been admitted. A clever detective found out his location only by leaning over the nurses' station desk and viewing the computer monitor while the nurse was away asking superiors what to do.

On Christmas Day, Lindell issued a news release to the public that stayed with the line about the head injury and lost memory. Here's an excerpt:

"Thankfully, Tim has been found in Memphis, Tennessee. Unfortunately, Tim is not well. He has suffered a head injury apparently from one or more blows to the head. He has lost his memory, and he is disoriented. He does not know his wife, his children or his friends, including me . . .
There are so many unanswered questions concerning Tim's current condition, the circumstances surrounding his disappearance, and what has occurred since he's been gone. Tim is totally disoriented."

Lindell suggested that Carpenter may have to go out of state for treatment and then added:

"Those of us who have gone to Memphis to bring Tim home would be willing to hold a news conference to share the information that we have gathered, our personal observations, and to field questions . . . Requests for further information or a news conference should be faxed to . . . "

Springfield Police were notified by Carpenter's attorney, Larry Bratvold, that same morning. Bratvold asked that no interviews with Carpenter should occur except in his presence. But when police asked on several occasions for an interview, Bratvold repeatedly contended that Carpenter's doctors advised against any "police interrogation".

Exactly who Tim's doctors were was a mystery. There was some mention of a psychiatrist from Bolivar, but no doctor contributed anything publicly regarding Carpenter's mental condition. Lindell later notified the media that Carpenter had been diagnosed with Psychogenic Fugue, a dissociative disorder in which a person forgets who they are and leaves home to create a new life. During the fugue, there is no memory of the former life. After recovery, there is no memory for events during the dissociative state.

This almost sounds like the perfect description of Carpenter's behavior except for the fact that the "fugue" state didn't seem to begin until he realized, while talking on the phone to a Springfield detective, that his little relocation caper had come to an abrupt end. Our best guess is that he continued the ruse of failed memory to avoid talking during his second "abduction" back to Springfield.

Police never did get to question Tim Carpenter, and the story died a merciful death in the media. By the first week of January, he had been checked out of the hospital and, once again, his whereabouts were unknown. It's interesting that during questioning by police after Carpenter's hospital release, Rev. Lindell admitted that his tormented associate pastor had repeatedly asked to be allowed to contact Springfield police and submit to an interview and tell police the real story. One could assume that Lindell, who had invested a good amount of air time rallying media and prayer groups, didn't want the truth told so quickly. Carpenter also told Lindell that he had planned to contact his wife and explain the situation but had decided to wait a few days.

So where are they now? The last we heard, Tim Carpenter was living in Tulsa and working for a home security company. He laid out a $10,000 check to local authorities for his official transgression, filing a false police report. The Carpenters never worked it out and were divorced a couple of years after the incident. Oklahoma authorities tried to serve the divorce papers to Carpenter at home, but there was no such address in Tulsa. They finally located him at work.

Pastor Lindell is still working God's agenda down highway 65 at James River Assembly. Our attempt for an interview a few years ago ended abruptly, though it did reveal Lindell's off-the-record grasp of what truly happened. "What he did was reprehensible," Lindell said over the phone. And then he uttered the ultimate Christian blow-off, "We're praying for him." Click.

Emergencies, Evangelicals & Saluting the Troops

A child was kidnapped in St. Charles, Missouri last week. St. Charles is 200 miles away, but my phone went off like a damn fire alarm. S...