Saturday, December 24, 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 there's evil afoot. These natural disasters just don't move him much, whether foreign or in the "homeland". There's no bad guy involved. It does seem odd, though, that a man who feels called of God to fight tyranny (at least in oil-rich parts of the world) can be so indifferent to cataclysmic acts of God that dwarf his man-made crusade in Iraq.

By March of 2005, the American public and media, which we now can confirm suffers from acute Attention Deficit Disorder, had turned its attention to the plight of Terri Schiavo, whose feeding tube was finally yanked after numerous judicial appeals and a great gnashing of teeth from the Christian right - but not before a special session of Congress was called by Republican leadership as they sought to keep her brain-dead body alive for still more court appeals. President Bush, at the urging of his handlers, leaped to action this time and cut his vacation short in order to get the federal courts to deter Ms. Schiavo's natural departure from this life. Talk about skewed priorities. The Ozarks Angel spoke briefly to this issue when we reviewed an article from an Assemblies of God. Strange, we don't get mail from A/G anymore.

Pope John Paul II died in April - like Schiavo, another case of a person living too long. Not to be disrespectful, but this once vital and energetic man, who will be regarded as one of the greatest popes of modern times for helping to bring down the Soviet empire, was reduced in his final days to muttering unintelligible homilies and waving at pigeons from his balcony. Some of my best friends are Catholic, but I've never understood the appeal of this religion. I see Catholicism, from my vantage point here in the hills, as a male-dominated, authoritarian, superstition-filled holdover from medieval times. I don't think the new pope is going to do much to alter that view, but we mentioned back in July how folks here in God's Country seem to like Pope Benedict, particularly for his stand against homosexuality.

In May, we wrote about how the Springfield police had busted Mayor Carlson's son and fast-tracked the lab work in order to beat the mayoral election. Chief Rowe brought in a buddy from Miami, Florida, of all places, to oversee the internal investigation. This intense search for the facts, of course, turned up no misdeeds whatsoever by SPD. Was anybody shocked? The story was basically buried, and Carlson's son pleaded guilty a few weeks ago.

In Middle School Mind, we see a teacher trying to explain the Iraq invasion to a class of inquisitive adolescents. Some seven months later, the concluding statement still stands true.
"So, based on the newspaper day discussion in Exploratory class, one could conclude that we are at war in Iraq more out of ignorance than duty and that our busy lives won't allow us the time nor the inclination to find the truth behind the spin."
Some of the Bush spin on Iraq has come unraveled a bit since then, but even the most obvious truths become a hard sell when lies and half-truths are so persuasively marketed by those in power. Here in God's Country, Bush still gets high marks for his handling of the war - but Vlad the Impaler would get high marks around here if he was a Republican.

Probably the most frequently downloaded image from Ozarks Angel is the Hammons Field photo from May 30. I still maintain the return of real minor league baseball was the most significant event in Springfield in the last fifty years.

Another very popular download (even though I stole it from another website) is the photo of Washington girl-about-town, Jessica Cutler, whose between-the-sheets blog, The Washingtonienne, revealed the secret sex lives of certain anonymous diplomats. My favorite line: "Oh my god, I'm fucking six different men, ew." Ms. Cutler has a new blog called Jessica Cutler Online.

In July, I found myself whining about the mainstream media and wondered if the Valerie Plame scandal might finally get some people looking at the unethical and unconstitutional activities of the Bush administration. I speculated that Cheney and Rove were behind the whole thing, and that has turned out to be accurate. It looks as though Rove lied to the grand jury, and Cheney's little toady, Scooter Libby, was chosen as the one to fall on his sword to protect our stealth president from indictment.

In mid-July, we featured a story criticizing Bush's war on terror, pointing out how he and his neocon pals ignored advice from nearly every quarter in pressing for war in Iraq. One of our dictator allies in the Middle East, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who "won" re-election in a fixed vote this fall, was one of many world leaders who tried to dissuade Bush & Co. from invading Iraq. He warned that such an invasion would create 100 Bin Ladens and turn even moderate Arabs against the U. S. His warning proved to be true - the invasion of Iraq has inspired tens of thousands of young Islamic men to join the jihad against the infidel invaders from America. Our own military, however, is having trouble meeting recruitment quotas.

In late July and August we started posting some cartoons from the springfieldian, a little underground newspaper that circulated around town during the early 90's. These turned out to be some of the most frequently downloaded images from Ozarks Angel, especially SPD Blues and cartoon parodies of Charlie Brown and Garfield that had a local twist.

Another frequently visited story was the strange and twisted tale of the "Self-Abduction of Tim Carpenter", the James River Assembly associate pastor who chose to fake his own abduction rather than face up to his wife, family and church that he was carrying on with a Jezebel in Memphis. It would be funny if it weren't so sad.

In mid-August, right before the first day of school, our brilliant school board chose to roll back a much sought after tax levy, which sent all kinds of wrong signals to the community and to R-12 teachers. It was an awful start for new superintendent, Norm Ridder, but there will be much more on the education front in Ozarks Angel this year. Among other things, there's a new quality initiative being pushed by Dr. Ridder that could lead to some real changes at the administrative level and in the classroom. I'm hopeful but skeptical.

By September, we were talking about the Drowning of New Orleans and how warnings of impending disaster had been ignored for years. Of course, nothing was going to happen on that front during the Bush administration. Yer doin' a great job Bushie!

If hurricane Katrina exposed the administration's indifference to the poor, the nomination of Harriet Miers exposed Bush's blatant arrogance and ignorance when it came to high-stakes judicial appointments. Our Girl Harriet generated the most heated comments from readers - mainly because of my description of Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas as an Uncle Tom. It's never helpful to bring race into the discussion, but I've always felt it was a very cynical appointment by daddy Bush. The Miers appointment surprised everybody - and the fact that conservatives were the most vocal critics sure surprised me. She would have done anything they wanted - but the nomination seemed so cavalier and disrespectful to the court, even the faithful stepped back from this one. The emperor's clothes were starting to unravel a bit.

In October we wrote about the Community Safety Initiative that would have funded a new crime lab and, more importantly, a program aimed at providing education services to poor children in a cooperative effort with the school system. The local citizenry were predictably wary of this "big government" approach to helping poor kids. "Let the parents take care of this," they wrote in letters to the editor. "It's big government taking over the family". The sad truth is, a growing number of parents aren't taking care of their children - it's a huge problem that nobody wants to talk about. Early childhood development is simply not a major concern here in God's country. We simply invest in bigger and better prisons to later house the large segment of under-educated poor folks who end up turning to drugs and criminal behavior to get by. Who will take up the slack and help the growing number of children born into poverty? Apparently nobody. Where do we look for help in dealing with poverty-related issues like this? Jefferson City? D. C.? Nothing there but cutbacks and vaccuous rhetoric. Maybe Jesus will come and save the children, you suppose? This local initiative was relatively small, but it had the potential to pay huge dividends in lowering crime and providing early basic education for poor children in our community. I was one of the minority of Springfieldians who were willing to invest an additional penny for every four dollars spent on this plan. The CSI initiative was, of course, summarily squashed by local voters in November.

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