Showing posts with label News. Show all posts
Showing posts with label News. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Early Adoption of Mississippi Conflict and Change

Private schools take little interest in controversial text

Clarion Ledger Thursday, January 22, 1981


Jackson's private high schools have taken little interest in the controversial text "Mississippi: Conflict and Change" since the book first appeared in 1974. "Conflict and Change" was added to the state's list of approved textbooks last month after a five-year court battle. Out of 13 private high schools in the city, only one - St. Andrew's Episcopal School uses the ninth-grade history book written by Charles Sallis and James E. Loewen.

St. Andrew's has used the book ever since it came out, said Headmaster David Hicks. The book was chosen by history teachers at St. Andrew's after it was approved by an academic affairs committee made up of department chairmen, Hicks said. "We selected 'Conflict and Change' because it gives a more comprehensive and a more thematic study than 'Your Mississippi' by John K. Bettersworth," Hicks said. "It is clear from reading that book ('Your Mississippi') that it is your Mississippi so long as you're white. It just doesn't deal with the conflict between the races." " 

Hicks said "Conflict and Change" uses the theme of the conflict between races rather than simply presenting Mississippi's chronological history. "It ('Conflict and Change') is thought provoking," Hicks said. "We've had some great discussions by using the book." "Conflict and Change" is not perfect, Hicks admitted.

"If whatever you want to talk about doesn't fit into the theme, it gets minimized or left out," Hicks said. " 'Your Mississippi" leaves out a lot, but it has no excuse for doing that.' " No parents or students at St. Andrew's have complained about using the controversial textbook since Hicks' term as headmaster. "The students seem to like the book," Hicks said. "It's not very difficult." Steven Bass, a Mississippi history teacher at Mississippi Baptist High School, said he uses "Conflict and Change" as a reference guide for his classes.

Students use Bettersworth's "Mississippi Yesterday and Today" as their textbook, he said. "Students are very interested in looking at the book ('Conflict and Change')," Bass said. "It gives a side of Mississippi we aren't used to seeing. It covers civil rights and modern writers very well." Bass said "Conflict and Change" was written at a fifth-grade reading level. "Ninth-graders could take the book and we'd be finished in a month," he said.

Students at Jackson Preparatory School won't find "Conflict and Change" used as a textbook, said Jesse L. Howell Jr., headmaster. The controversial book, however, is in the school's library for use as a reference guide. "We've had no mention by teachers or parents about the book," Howell said. Jackson Prep is free to use books from any source as textbooks, Howell said.

Unlike public schools, the school does not have to choose books on the state's approved list, Howell said. Robert Luckett, principal at St. Joseph High School, expects ninth-graders at the Catholic school to begin using "Conflict and Change" as soon as possible. The students currently use Betters-worth's "Mississippi Yesterday and Today." Luckett said textbooks for the school are chosen strictly from the state approved list because the school receives federal funding. "If we're thinking about changing texts, we'll get the teachers in the subject area together to look at the books available and then consult our school board members." Luckett said a few parents were concerned about "Conflict and Change" when it was banned by the Mississippi Textbook Purchasing Board's Rating Commmittee in 1974.

The seven-member rating committee said the book was too advanced for ninth-graders and over-emphasized race. The textbook was ordered to be added to the list of approved school books by U.S. District Judge Orma R. Smith last April. At Woodland Hills Baptist Academy ninth-graders use "Mississippi Yesterday and Today." "We haven't found a textbook better than Betterworth's," Woodland Hills Headmaster David Derrick said, adding that he believed Bettersworth's book lacked continuity between where the author stopped writing and the events of modern history.

"We don't feel like another book is better written or covers the material better." Derrick said neither parents nor teachers had suggested "Conflict and Change" be used. When the school changes textbooks, a committee of teachers examine the books available in regard to the reading levels and "what's best for the student," Derrick said. At Manhattan Academy, which uses Bettersworth's "Your Mississippi," there has been no inquiry by parents or students about changing Mississippi history textbooks, Headmaster Ray Wooten said. A committee of Manhattan teachers choose the school's textbooks, using the state approved list as a guide. Because the school is private, textbooks chosen do not have to come from the approved list, Wooten said.

Jackson Academy ninth-graders use Bettersworth's "Mississippi Yesterday and Today." Glenn A. Cam, headmaster at Jackson Academy, said the school was not ready to consider changing books because it purchased new Mississippi history books about three years ago. Because Mississippi history is taught only for half a year, the textbooks are used a little longer than those for courses taught the entire year, Cain said. Cain has received no mention of using "Conflict and Change" from parents or salesmen, he said. "Conflict and Change" will be evaluated when the school is in the market for new books, he said.

Cain said he had not read "Conflict and Change." Students at Madison-Ridgeland Academy use Bettersworth's "Mississippi Yesterday and Today." Dominic A. Bevalaque, headmaster at MRA, said the school buys new books every five years, depending on inflation and the condition of the books. MRA uses the state adoption list as a guide but is free to obtain books not on the list, Bevalaque said. Bevalaque said the school's teachers consider all books on the market when choosing a textbook. ' At Natchez Trace Academy, the use of Bettersworth's "Mississippi Yesterday and Today" is an economic matter, Administrator Margaret Beal said.

The school, now in its first year of operation, uses texts formally used by Jackson Christian Academy. Natchez Trace Academy has received no comments about using its Mississippi history book, Mrs. Beal said. "No one has said, 'If you use that book ('Conflict and Change') I'll take my child out,' " Mrs. Beal said.

Mrs. Beal said "Conflict and Change" would probably be introduced in the ninth-grade classes as a reference book available in the library. At Capital City Baptist School, Bettersworth's "Mississippi Yesterday and Today" is the only book on the state approved list that is used, James Johnson, principal, said. All other textbooks come from the Accelerated Christian Education Curriculum in Texas, Johnson said. Johnson, in his fourth year as principal, said he had received no mention of using "Conflict and Change." Johnson remembered some of the controversy "Conflict and Change" caused when it was first published but was not familiar with the book's contents.

McCluer Academy uses Bettersworth's "Mississippi Yesterday and Today." "Right now, the reason we're using it is that we've had it a long time and we have plenty of copies," said McCluer Headmaster Bobby Jones. "We just haven't updated the Mississippi history books and looked at any other books." Jones said. Jones said he was familiar with the book. Jones, in his second week as headmaster at the South Jackson school, knew of no one asking to use "Conflict and Change" as a textbook or requesting the book for a relerence guide in the school's library. Ninth-graders at Central Hinds Academy use Bettersworth's "Mississippi Yesterday and Today," Headmaster Wade Hammack said.

"I do not know anything about the book ('Conflict and Change') other than what I have read in the paper," Hammack said. No teachers or parents have requested "Conflict and Change" be used, he said. William S. Purvis, headmaster at Magnolia Academy, said the school was using Bettersworth's "Mississippi Yesterday and Today" before this one ( Conflict and Change') was in print and saw no reason to change." Purvis said Magnolia Academy had just purchased new editions of Betters-worth's book and he had had no parents or students suggest using "Conflict and Change." Purvis said he was not familiar with the contents of "Conflict and Change" but had heard about the controversy it sparked. 

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer

 I saw Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer at the Capri Theater and dined on the fried catfish plate that was delicious and finished with the apple cobbler.  In a lifetime of going to movies, the Capri offers the nicest, most complete experience yet.  Even better than when I saw Silent Running and Escape From The Planet of the Apes there.

I’ve always felt a great deal of existential tension about the work of J. Robert Oppenheimer.  As a teenager, I read that a 13-year-old boy built a working atomic bomb for a science fair project.  It was even the subject of an episode of Barney Miller.  I took this to mean that I should learn to build one.  Along the way, I learned that the story about the 13-year-old boy was greatly exaggerated.  He lacked not only the plutonium but also the shaped-charged explosives to make his model work.  

The segments of a California orange inspired Oppenheimer’s team to create shaped charged explosives in such a way that it created an implosion into a small container of plutonium with sufficient force to break apart the atomic bonds in the plutonium.  They made a bomb powerful enough to use the fingers of God to split apart the basic structure of the universe, making an even bigger bomb.

My knowledge of this never settled well with me.  To excise it, I made a folded paper model of Fatman and Littleboy; the devices dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  There’s a sequence in Nolan’s film where they crate up Fatman and Littleboy and drive them away on the back of trucks, leaving Los Alamos, through Jornada del Muerto, in correspondingly large and small crates, out of the laboratory out into the history books: fame and Infamy.  Seeing them, I thought: “Hello, old friend.”

I’ve made excruciatingly detailed scale models of these devices in folded paper, then destroyed them when it began to concern me that keeping them around was an imperfect reflection of my mental state.  Maybe it was.  When I met some of the worst people I’ve ever known on the internet, I imported those files into Blender and made a .obj file out of them, which I then imported into a virtual world filled with truly objectionable people.  I’m not sure what my point was other than to say this exists, and you exist, and I can’t really break it down further than that.

There have been several films about the creation of the bomb; this one goes from Oppenheimer’s early years in Europe through the trinity device test and ends with Oppeheimer’s confrontation with the McCarthy era insanity.

Like many turn-of-the-century Jews, Oppenheimer once entertained the possibility that communism might provide his people with the safe and beneficial environment they desperately wanted.  You saw this sort of worker’s philosophy working its way through art and literature, and science in an era when men believed in the concept of a better world.  Many intellectuals saw the Russian experience with communism as a deformation of the optimism felt in the early worker’s movement.  Oppenheimer, like many turn-of-the-century Jews, felt a great sense of betrayal when Russian communism became what it became.  

There have been many historical investigations into Oppenheimer’s history with communism, and no one has ever been able to come up with more than that.  Like many intellectuals, he would be criticized for his involvement in the Spanish Civil War and the communists there.  There was a strong sense of antisemitism in the McCarthy era persecution of pre-war communists.  In the theater where I saw the movie, a woman cackled anytime communists were mentioned.  I’m not sure what that portends, but it’s been my observation that the communist witch hunts have returned.  

Nolan used his trademark cinematic style to portray the guilt Oppenheimer felt about what his creation became.  This was clearly the strongest of all the themes explored in the film.  The effect is really very strong in a Dolby-enabled theater.  I doubt it will have the same emotional impact on a home system.

Clearly, Barbie will be the most successful film this year.  Oppenheimer might be the most important.  Like a lot of important films, some people won’t enjoy it.  The intensity of it becomes a different sort of entertainment from what some people pursue.  Murphy as Oppenheimer and Downey as Strauss are standouts.  Much has been said about the performance of Florence Pugh and Tom Conti as Einstein.

It’s a movie about people much smarter than anyone you know discussing the basic structure of the universe and how to unlock the awesome destructive forces of God himself.  The sequence covering the trinity test itself comes at the end of the third act.  It’s powerful and effective at putting you into that scene, that moment in human development.

In the bible, it talks about God’s power to smite entire cultures, and he did. Before Oppenheimer, that ability was reserved for God.  Based on the book, The American Prometheus, Oppenheimer stole the fire from Olympus and gave it to men.   I’ve never lived in a world where this power didn’t exist.  The year before I was born, the Russians sent missiles with atomic weapons to the island nation of Cuba.  Mississippi was well within striking distance.  

As a physicist, Oppenheimer pondered the death of stars; as a leader, he gave us the means to bring about the death of humanity.  Only a physicist could do that.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

A Solution to the Gun Violence Epidemic

Ok, here's another tough one.  Before you get mad, hear me out.  These are just my observations and ideas.  Maybe they have merit, perhaps they don't, but I feel like we should discuss this.

Today, the leading cause of death for men under the age of twenty-one is gun violence.  It's been gun violence before, but only during times of war.  Only recently did gun violence surpass automobile accidents as a cause of death in peacetime.

Let's define gun violence as any time the projectile from any gun enters human flesh, causing injury or death.  In ascending order, the types of gun violence are accident, suicide, murder, and assault.  Let's focus on the last two as they cause the most problems.  I do believe my proposal would decrease all four, though.

Our constitution provides us with the right to keep and bear arms.  I believe in this.  I take advantage of it personally as a gun owner.  However, the constitution does not address the issue of how we make people responsible gun owners.  There is no policy or law designed to make novice gun users into responsible gun users.  I believe this is why we have the problem with guns now.  People who posess guns, but don't have the necessary skills to use them properly are incredibly dangerous and a threat to the safety of all. 

Let me present this: when was the last time you heard of a person who committed assault or murder with a gun who was a regular hunter?  It almost never happens.  Hunters know guns are only tools.  Powerful tools that demand respect or disaster results.  You sometimes hear of hunters having gun accidents, but it's pretty rare, and I've never heard of a case where the hunter didn't know exactly what he did wrong and regretted it and knew or learned how to prevent it the next time.

Automobiles are tools too.  To make it safe for young people to use automobiles, we make them take tests and get licenses, and where possible, we have them take driving education classes.  We're tested on automobive laws and safe operation before we're liscensed to operate them.  That model works pretty well with automobiles. What if we tried it with guns?

Every state and municipality in this country has gun problems, and every state and city in this country has an education system.  Maybe we can use the schools to improve or resolve the situation of gun violence.  We make kids learn algebra in school, why not gun safety?  

I propose we include gun education as part of our national educational objectives, just like math or language.  We could do this at three levels, elementary, middle, and high school.  Curricula objectives would be gun safety, gun function, gun storage, gun maintenance, and finally (for the older kids) gun use.

We'd have to find funding for it but let the schools manage the program.  As the second amendment is the law of the land, I feel like we have the political will to seek and find funding for a gun education program.  

Keep the NRA out of it, though.  When Oliver North, who used to work for the NRA, says it's corrupt, there's a problem.  It's Oliver North, for god's sake.   We can do this without the NRA trying to take the reins.  (Which they would,)

Think of gun teachers like you would driving teachers.  Their purposes are the same.  Automobiles are dangerous machines if misused, and so are guns.  We should address gun use the same way we do automobile use.

Young car owners must procure a learner's permit and a license to operate an automobile.  Through this, the state helps decrease injury and death by automobiles.  It would do the same for guns.  We also rely heavily on automobile insurance to help us cope with whatever injuries the misuse of cars may cause. Gun-owners insurance to help cover the cost of accidental discharges and lapses in judgment.

We have to do something.  Getting tough and building more prisons won't solve the issue.  Our society cannot function with so many in prison.  I believe gun education is a better solution than gun control.  We don't have a lot of luck with prohibiting things.  I see no reason to believe gun prohibition would work any better than marijuana or alcohol prohibition did.

A responsible, educated gun owner, no matter what type of gun they have, is far less likely to commit gun violence. In a nation where everyone has the constitutionally granted right to a gun, it's our responsibility to make sure they know how to use them safely.  I believe gun education would decrease people using the threat of a gun to commit robbery too.

Let's at least try this before we start talking about outlawing guns.  Those of you who profess the "good guy with a gun" philosophy, imagine how much stronger your argument would be if all these good guys were equipped with the best available gun education.


Wednesday, May 11, 2022

The Kidnapping of Annie Laurie Hearin

 This story is pretty hard for me to tell.  Those are the stories worth telling though, so bear with me.

July 1988.  I still worked for my dad at Missco and lived at Pebble Creek Apartments in Jackson.  I opened the mail with my dad at six-thirty that morning.  He was uncharacteristically silent. It was the busy season, and the company was doing well.  Usually, I'd have coffee and chat with Mrs. Jeffreys, Mrs. Noel, and him after finishing the mail until eight am when the workday started, but he went straight to his office that day.  I began to suspect something was up.

Three or four times during the day, he asked his secretary to close the door to his office.  That rarely happened.    I knew something was up, but what?  That night, I brought laundry to my mom's house.  There were machines at Pebble Creek, but I had a bad feeling, so I used hers.  My brothers were at their homes, and my sister was with her college friends.  

My dad watched television in the den without making a sound.  I made a fried egg sandwich in the kitchen while my laundry cycled.  Mom sat in the kitchen, watching her little television and drinking her scotch and tab (I know that sounds gross, but it was her drink of choice).  She held the plastic glass in her hand but didn't sip it while the ice melted.  She didn't want a sandwich.  My dad didn't either.  

The doorbell rang.  It was Leon Lewis.  Leon Lewis in the middle of the night, without Mrs. Lewis.  Something was up.  Dad and Mr. Lewis retired to the living room, not the den.  The living room we never used. They spoke quietly.  I began to worry in earnest.  Dad came to the kitchen and gave me a ten-dollar bill.  "Get me a couple packs of Viceroy, buddy."  My dad wanted two packs of cigarettes in the middle of the night.  That had never happened before.

I went to the gas station next door to what used to be the Tote-Sum at Maywood Mart, now converted into one of Jackson's first Subway franchises.  I got the two packs of Viceroy and added one pack of Merit Ultra Lights and a pickle in a napkin for me.  I put his smokes in a bag with the change and ate my pickle on the drive home.

Brum Day joined dad and Mr. Lewis in the living room when I got home. Whatever was going on, Trustmark was involved.  I loved Brum, but his appearances carried weight.  I was very worried and gave my mother a look.  She said she'd tell me later.  After delivering the bag with the Viceroys, all three men left silently but together.  I still don't know where they went.  They looked horrible.

That night, Mayor Dale Danks went on television to say that Annie Laurie Hearin, wife of Bob Hearin, Trustmark Chairman, had been kidnapped the day before.  Danks was a pretty good lawyer in his own right and often took a leading role in bigger police affairs.   The FBI took over the case from JPD.  It was that big of a deal. 

The press agreed to a 24-hour news blackout while the FBI began its investigation.  My dad agreed to a 24-hour don't-tell-Boyd blackout for reasons I completely understood.  That's why he behaved so strangely at work.  After the news, my Mom went to bed.  I waited for daddy to come home.  "Can I do anything for you?" I asked.  "There's really nothing you can do," he said, "I wish there were," and went to bed.   Seeing my dad that sad and that powerless shifted the foundations of the universe for me.  

Bob Hearin was my dad's mentor, and my dad loved him.  He was the principal stockholder for Trustmark National Bank, Mississippi Valley Gas, Lamar Life insurance company, and Yazoo Big Wheel Mower Company.  As I understand it, Yazoo made the best mowers in the world but couldn't compete with the less expensive Snapper versions.  Besides Trustmark, Mr. Hearin got my dad involved in MP&L, Bell South, Lamar Life, and The PineyWoods Country Life School.   He also could tell you about every barbeque place in central Mississippi.  For Mr. Hearin, the best was near Pocahontas, where he had a farm.  He was friendly and spoke kindly, but he still terrified me.

The first time I ever met Bob Hearin was at the Trustmark/Deposit Guarantee joint Christmas party.  Every business person in Jackson filed through these parties as a strictly held tradition.  We started at Trustmark, then used a (semi) secret passage between The Trustmark building and the new Deposit Guarantee building (now Regions).  I wonder if it's still there.

In his office, Mr. Hearin smoked a cigar the size of a big carrot.  His still dark hair was arranged neatly with pomade.  Everyone else was doing Christmas party things, but he was working.  I was nineteen at best, maybe eighteen.  "You were named for somebody," he said to me.  I'd heard that about a million times before.  By "somebody," he meant my Uncle Boyd.  I was flattered but dumbfounded.  He knew who I was.  Twenty years before, my uncle died at the Walthal Hotel across the street.  They used to say, "the only thing separating Trustmark from Lamar Life was Capitol street.  Eventually, the feds stepped in and made Trustmark divest most of its Lamar Life stock, but the boards were still tangled as a bird's nest.  

Some Saturdays, Mr. Hearin came by Missco to visit with my dad.  "Tell Mr. Hearin the story about the gorilla," My dad said.  I honestly cannot tell you the story about the gorilla here.  It was filthy, and I stole it from a Redd Foxx album.  Pretty funny, though.  Mr. Hearin laughed, my dad laughed, and the pattern was set.  From then on, I had to have an equally inappropriate joke for Mr. Hearin every time he visited.

Mrs. Hearin was in her seventies.  She was very involved in Jackson becoming a vital patron of the arts, especially the symphony.  The Hearins lived humbly but well in Woodland Hills.  Despite their vast wealth, the Hearin's never led what you would call a flashy life.  They maintained their membership at their Capitol Street church long after everyone else in town moved to the one on North State Street.  He was a fan of West Capitol Street, maintaining the Mississippi Vally Gas offices there long after everyone else moved northeast.

Everyone loved Mrs. Hearin; she was friendly and very much a lady.  The day she disappeared, she had a bridge party at her house.  The idea that anyone might do her any harm that way is still disturbing.  

In the late sixties, Mr. Hearin purchased a company called School Pictures Inc.  They sold franchises to photographers who took student portraits and then sold the prints to the parents.  If you're my age from the South East, you probably had your pictures taken by a School Pictures franchise.  I still think it was a pretty good business model.  Considering how much gross profit they made on the photos, it should have made a mint.  My dad had stock; lots of people in Jackson did.  The franchisees took the photos, School Pictures developed the negatives, made the prints, and packaged them for parents.  It was slick.

The company ran into problems when some of the franchisees weren't paying the company their processing fees.  Hearin sued the franchisees that were in arrears.  That proved fatal.  The ransom note for Mrs. Hearin demanded Mr. Hearin repay the people he sued.  

The FBI soon made a case that Newton Alfred Winn, a School Pictures franchisee in Florida, conspired to kidnap Mrs. Hearon.  Two of his co-conspirators made a deal to testify against him.  At trial, he was convicted of conspiracy, but not murder.  Mrs. Hearin's body was never found, and Winn never confessed or gave any information on what happened to her.  Winn left prison in 2006 and died six years later.  After the kidnapping, School Pictures collapsed in on itself.

Before the kidnapping, Mr. Hearin seemed like Agamemnon, vital and legendary to me.  After the abduction, he was a broken man.  He continued to visit some Saturdays.  I continued to tell questionable jokes, but it wasn't the same.  He lost weight, making his suits hang on him.  His eyes lost that fire that paralyzed me on our first meeting.  

Two years after the kidnapping, Robert Hearin died, never knowing what ultimately befell his beloved wife.  The courts declared her legally dead the next year to help settle his estate.  Her fate is still a mystery and an FBI open case.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Karl Marx Was An Asshole

Recently I wrote about how conservatives in these troubled times are returning to their roots and re-reading Ayn Rand. In the interest of fairness, I'd like to also point out that liberals are showing a renewed interest in Karl Marx.

If you don't know, Marx was the evil genius behind communism and he was a real asshole. Despite his reputation as a humanitarian, the people who actually tried communism would tell you there wasn't much improvement between having the state own everything and the old system where the king owned everything.

Like Rand, Marx had no practical experience in any of the subjects he wrote about. He idolized Darwin but decided to forgo Darwin's extensive fieldwork and based his economic and political theories entirely on stuff he read in books.

It's not like people never gave Marxism a chance. Russia and China both tried Marxism, but the only way they could keep order was by killing tens of millions of people. Even hippies were barely able to eek out a medieval subsistence using Marxism, only made bearable by copious amounts of cannabis and lots of sex with hairy women. Marx called religion "the opiate of the people", never realizing how much actual narcotics his own system required.

Professional English asshole, Christopher Hitchens recently waxed nostalgic about Marx in his Atlantic Monthly article: The Revenge of Karl Marx. I could write a whole article on how Hitchens is an arrogant ass and pretty much wrong about everything.

To bring things full circle, I hear a lot of buzz among the republican zombies about how President Obama is trashing the constitution and ushering in an era of communism in America.

First off, Obama isn't trashing the constitution any more than any of his twenty predecessors. Compared to George W Bush, he's John Adams himself. The office of the president is far more powerful than the founding fathers ever intended, but that started some time before Lincoln and growing ever since.

Secondly, Obama isn't introducing communism. Communists take over successful, going companies to expand their power and install their social plans. Obama is taking over decidedly unsuccessful companies in what one could best describe as something of a super-power bankruptcy action for companies "too big to fail".

These companies could easily avoid any government aggression by simply getting their act together and not taking any government bailout money. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Obama's actions with these companies is an effort to calm people's concerns about the bailout process. People want to know this money is well spent so the government is getting involved to make sure these companies do fairly logical things like reducing salaries, which, by some twisted logic, they weren't doing on their own.

Most of these companies probably won't exist in ten years, no matter what the government does. The Obama administration is trying to engineer some sort of soft landing for the rest of the economy as these really big companies implode. Obama may be liberal, but he's no communist.

To be quite honest, incendiary political speech like this really chaps my ass. I realize it's people's preferred way to play the game these days, both on the left and the right, but it's simply not helpful in any way. You have to accurately describe what's going on before you can understand it and deal with it. Otherwise, you might as well just say George Bush is Godzilla and Obama is Gamera and cheer them on from the rubble like a Japanese school kid.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I'm as Mad as Hell and I'm Not Going To Take This Anymore!

This is one of my favorite performances in the history of cinema. If you've never seen Network, I encourage you to see it as soon as you can. I'm not kidding. Many people consider it the greatest film of that decade, better than the Godfather films.

Peter Finch won an oscar for this performance, probably for this very scene, and he deserved it.

Howard Beale: I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job.

The dollar buys a nickel's work, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it.

We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV's while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be.

We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.

Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad!

I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad.

You've got to say, 'I'm a HUMAN BEING, Goddamnit! My life has VALUE!

So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!

I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!'

Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!

You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!
Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it:


Jon Stewart Vs CNBC

Much has been made of the battle between the staff at CNBC and Jon Stewart over a bit Stewart did criticizing CNBC for their bullish comments before the bear market kicked in.

Business news makers, commentators and journalists are used to operating in their own little sphere, hardly noticed by the rest of the world, but when the economy became the biggest story in the world, they found themselves suddenly thrust into a much larger spotlight and they're not at all comfortable there.

These guys are just going to have to butch up about it though, because the market crash and the credit freeze and the housing bubble happened on their watch. It was their job to warn us about this disaster before it hit and most of them didn't.

There's going to be a lot more uncomfortable comments thrown their way in the days ahead, so they'd better get used to it.

Jon Stewart's initial Volly

Jim Cramer at CNBC Responds

Stewart responds to Cramer's Response

Oh yeah, by the way, Cramer's advice to sell everything at the bottom of a Bear Market? Not a good idea.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Video of Nadya Suleman, (Octomom) Giving Birth

Video of Nadya Suleman, (Octomom) Giving Birth

Link: You Tube

Putting off Melton's Re-Trial

It's probably not possible, but part of me would like federal authorities to put off Frank Melton's retrial until after we elect a new mayor.

The city's been through so much the past few years, it might help if we put off the turmoil of a new trial until a time when Melton's no longer mayor. Of course, that assumes he won't win re-election, and with a field of as many as fifteen candidates anything is possible.

A lot of people were upset when Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon to spare the country the damage of a presidential trial and conviction, but I've always thought his decision was wise. As much as I despise the crap Melton pulled while in office, a re-trial, conviction, and the turmoil of pulling him out of office leaving us with a gap of six months or more with no mayor or an acting mayor might be worse.

If possible, it might be better to see him somehow constrained from further illegal acts, but still in office until the natural end of his term, and once he's no longer mayor, I don't much care what happens to him.

The Next Mayor
So far I don't see a really outstanding choice among the contenders for Melton's seat. There's still time before the election for one of these guys to really distinguish himself though, so I'm holding out hope.

Whoever becomes our next mayor faces all the same challenges in place when Melton was elected, plus having to deal with the gang-like management structure Melton put in power. It's going to take some time and a lot of effort for the new mayor to clean that particular mess up and get some of these jokers out of power in the city's systems.

Jackson's next mayor will probably be black, but it could be a different experience than before. Electing a third black mayor is a very different from the first or second. For one thing, his race isn't nearly as big a deal as it once was and there won't be as many people who cast their vote or lend their support based just on the candidates race. There should be a feeling among the voters that getting the job done is now more important than race.

I'm holding out hope that the Obama presidency can provide a model to cities like Jackson of what a black-lead administration can be like. At the very least, a successful black president should give any newly-elected black mayor confidence none of his predecessors had.

There will still be conflicts over whether to spend money on the white side of town or the black side of town, but those definitions are changing to be more about class and income than race, and, although that's still not an ideal situation, it is improvement.

The nation is changing and Jackson is changing. I, for one, am hopeful, but we still have to shed ourselves of some of the mistakes of the past, and that's going to be difficult.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

How to Smoke a Cat

For many years, scientists have argued whether or not marijuana smoking has any detrimental effects on the brain, particularly in the areas of logic and cognitive functions. Recently a story out of Nebraska provided evidence to support the argument that pot can really fuck up your mind.

Police sought Twenty-year-old Acea Schomaker of Lincoln Nebraska on marijuana charges. When they found him, he was smoking a home-made bong made of plexiglas and rubber tubing, with a six-month-old kitten duct-taped inside.

Schomaker said he put the kitten inside the bong because it was high-strung and needed the marijuana smoke to calm down. Police incarcerated Schomaker, seized the bong and took custody of the cat who was turned over to an animal shelter to be checked out by a vet to see if the experience damaged its health.

Schomaker said he had smoked the cat several times before. Police charged him with animal cruelty and possession of marijuana. So far, the kitten seems to be recovering.

Link: KETV Omaha Nebraska

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Evolution and the Obama Chimp

Even though they've issued an apology, people are still simmering over the New York Post's Obama-Chimp cartoon.

It's offensive, we're told, because there's a history of people comparing Africans to apes and monkeys. What people may not realize is that it wasn't just random rednecks making this comparison, but legitimate anthropologists as well.

It started with Darwin's theory of evolution. People theorized that African apes evolved into African humans, who evolved into European humans, making African people more closely related to apes than Europeans.

There's two problems with that theory, both arising from a basic misunderstanding of how evolution works. First, evolution never operated with the development of European humans as an ultimate goal, that's just our own vanity pushing its way into the theory.

Secondly, evolution isn't linear. It starts from a pretty identifiable point, but then grows from that point into an ever expanding sphere of chain-reaction consequence. African apes are further into the sphere than humans, but African and European humans are more-or-less on the same level emanating from that point.

In other words, we're equally related to apes. You could say they are our grandparents, but African and European humans are cousins. Examining the three at a genetic level yields basically the same conclusion.

Stephen Jay Gould's most significant scientific work was probably his theory of punctuated equilibrium, but many will remember him most for his later work deconstructing the history of using race in evolutionary studies.

Most people don't spend much time considering the nuances of the evolutionary model and most white people spend very little time considering the influence of race and racism on it and the consequences.

I suspect this is how Sean Delonas came to draw the Obama-chimp cartoon in the first place. He might have had "comparing black people to monkeys is bad" stored somewhere in his brain, but he didn't consider the thought often enough for it to surface when he drew the cartoon, so he stepped in it big time.

There are going to be lots of land mines like this for people criticizing Obama over the next few years, because the experience of racism is so different for white people than it is for black people. I think we're just going to have to get used to it though, because it's unreasonable to expect people to lay off criticizing the current president, just because he's black. If it's any consolation to black people, it'll take an awful lot of racist comments to balance out the fact that the president himself is black, at the end of the day, he's still president.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What the hell is a "progressive"?

What the hell is a "progressive"?

As best I can tell, it's some sort of modern liberal, only they don't use that word lest anyone confuse them with the kind of liberals Regan made Persona non grata in the 80's, back in the days when opponents of abortion tried to scoop the opposition by labeling themselves "pro-life", only to have the proponents of abortion come back with "pro-choice". Have you ever met anybody who was willing to say they were either "anti-choice" or "anti-life"?

I really hate when people try to jockey for position by labeling and re-labeling themselves and the competition, trying to gain some slight advantage by whatever adjective they currently use as a noun. Sometimes I wish we'd just assign people to either the red team or the blue team with no other euphemisms or labels allowed.

If you're liberal, say you're liberal. To hell with what Reagan thought about liberals. He was wrong about a lot of stuff anyway. Don't try to co-opt a new word just because you want a change of style. Besides the Uni-Bomber, who the hell isn't for progress anyway?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

Woman Becomes Mermaid

Reposted from: Constant Monster

Weta workshop, the company who produced such films as King Kong and The Lord of the Rings, have granted a woman's wish and made her a mermaid.

Nadya Vessey lost her legs below the knee due to a childhood illness. She told a child once she had no legs because she was a mermaid and the idea stuck with her so she asked the New Zeland effects studio if they could make her dream a reality.

Working between films, Weta constructed the mermaid suit from plastic molds and wetsuit fabric, Vessey's mermaid tail looks and works much like the real thing.

Story Link:

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Lack of Faith

I'm beginning to worry that we're losing faith in everything, especially ourselves. From politics to the economy to culture and religion, nobody seems willing to trust anyone anymore.

The flagging economy and the falling stock market has a basis in tangible matters, but most of it is just a massive lack of faith in the system and its ability to correct itself. Recently on another blog, people were discussing a possible local criminal case and someone commented "forget about it: it's Mississippi", as if it were a forgone conclusion that justice can't be done here.

They say it started with the Kennedy assignation, then the Johnson era credibility gap and finally Watergate just blew everything out of the water. Whatever "innocent" trust we ever had in ourselves is just gone now. I think this might fuel a lot of the anger and inflexibility between the parties. Nobody is willing to trust the "other guys" to be anything but corrupt.

If I could do one thing for this country, it would be to get people to believe in each other again. "The other guy" acts an awful lot like you would in the same situation, and that's really all you need to know to understand him. Yes, there are people who abuse the system, but most of them get caught and the system always works to correct itself. Eventually, the system flushed out even "untouchables" like Scruggs and Abramoff and corrected itself.

Life's never been simple or easy, but even though the system breaks down from time to time, it always pulls itself back together because it's our nature to make things work and do the right thing. Things have been tough for a while now and they're liable to be tough for a while longer, but we will right ourselves again and we will do it because, in the end, we can trust each other: we have to.

You don't have to believe in God to understand what Jesus meant when he said "consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin...yet even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these..."

Things will fall into their right place because they are meant to; that's how the system works. Certainly we have to be vigilant and mindful of what we are doing, but we can do that, we do it every day.

Have faith in God, but have faith in each other too because we are all just lilies of the field.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Odd Man Out

I can't really tell where the republicans are coming from anymore. They used to be very pro-business, but their fight against the economic stimulus bill makes me think there must be something else motivating them.

It can't be that they're motivated by a desire to balance the budget, because for the last seven years they let military spending throw the budget as far out of balance as it's ever been. It can't be that they desire a smaller government either because the patriot act certainly grew government in some unusual ways.

I think they're just against domestic spending. They think it's bad for us if anyone gets aid from the government. I can't tell if there's anything to that philosophy or not. Certainly there are scenarios where people take advantage of government aid or get used to relying on it to get by rather than their own initiative, but there are also times when people use it as a stepping stone toward moving themselves into the working or middle class.

Another issue might be that after suffering such a huge electoral defeat, the republicans might feel they lack identity and are doing whatever they can to distinguish themselves from Obama's new democrats. The republicans left in Washington come from very solidly republican districts and might fear how any cooperation with the democrats plays to their home constituency.

As the economy improves, the republican point of view might gain relevance, but for the time being they're just going to have to get used to being the odd man out.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Paul Minor Back in the News

I hate to use a phrase like "liberal media" because it's so cliche', but some folks don't mind the label and some of them have recently published articles about Paul Minor. (see links below) Nominally these stories focus on Karl Rove, but they spend much more ink in an effort to exonerate Minor.

Both articles I list and half a dozen blog posts from around the country paint Minor as an innocent man who became the victim of Karl Rove's shenanigans. Now that a Democrat is president, I'm assuming all of this is in preparation of some effort to get Minor at least out of prison, if not exonerated.

Minor bribed that judge. There's no question of that. They may call it a loan or a contribution or any number of other things, but it was a bribe and everybody involved knows it. So, he is guilty, but he may not have broken any laws.

The state cleaned up these laws a lot over the past forty years, but there are still many ways an interested person can bribe an official from any of the three branches of Mississippi government and not break any laws. Minor's defense, both in court and before the public, admits he threw great bags of money at judges, but insists he did it legally.

So what? If Minor found enough loop-holes in the law to conduct his bribery without breaking the law does that mean he gets a "get out of jail free" card?

Yeah, I guess it does. We live by the rule of law, and even if somebody does something really, really wrong, they still get to walk if they didn't break the law. It's our responsibility as citizens to elect people who will close up these loop-holes before someone exploits them, not afterwards.

I'm deeply concerned about the sheer bulk of money Minor and others gave judges over the years. Our law-makers simply must take the necessary steps to make sure nobody ever manipulates the system like Minor and Scrugs and others did ever again.

How's this for starters? Nobody admitted to the Mississippi bar has any business making loan guarantees to any judge, appointed or elected, under any circumstances. That's just begging for trouble.

Judges and lawyers are far too chummy in Mississippi. Many people would be shocked if they knew just how close they sometimes are. It's time for that to end. They shouldn't socialize and they especially shouldn't pass money back and forth. There should be an imaginary, but impenetrable wall between Mississippi judges and anyone who might practice before their bar.


Pro Minor:
Harpers Magazine
Jackson Free Press
Anti Minor:
Ya'll Politics Blog

There's a lot more about this in the Blogosphere. If I left anybody out, I apologize.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Getting The News Online in 1981

I'm a news junkie, and I get most of my news online.

For the moment, you can access just about any newspaper, magazine, television or radio station in the world through the web. Using RSS feeds I aggregate the news I read most often and access it through a program called a news reader. (I use Google's version, but there are many others.)

So what, Boyd? The whole world gets their news that way now. This is true, but I've been getting much of my news online for almost thirty years now.

It all started in the 1980's when I joined Compuserve. Compuserve wasn't the first online service I'd used, but it was the first to offer and AP news feed. They also experimented with including other online news services.

Below is a 1981 television report on the early stages of Compuserve's news services

The services available on Compuserve expanded quickly as modem and PC technology evolved. Below is a 1991 TV ad for Compuserve

So for those of you who are just now learning all you can do online, welcome to the party! We've been around for almost 30 years now.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Really Upsetting Video

In case you've been living under a rock, the latest in viral videos features Aston Kutcher and Demi Moore and about two-dozen other celebrities talking about things they promise to do to help the Obama administration achieve their goals.

Most of the stuff they pledge to do is fairly innocuous, but useful stuff, like pledging to buy a more fuel efficient car, but at the end of the video, the tone changes to something really chilling. At the end of the video they pledge "to be a servant to our president."

The entire point of the American presidency is that he is not a king we serve, but a man who serves us. Inverting that relationship is very, very dangerous.

For all the really crazy and really stupid things the Republicans did over the years, they never did anything like this. Can you imagine anyone pledging to be "a servant" to George Bush or Ronald Reagan?

I don't see any indication that the president himself was involved in the making of this video, but you know who was? Oprah Winfrey. At the end of the video you see that her company Harpo Productions owns the copyright to it.

Who the hell puts their name on a thing like this to say she owns it? Is Oprah bucking to be the power behind the throne by making Obama king?

As her popularity grows, Oprah becomes more and more the victim of common hubris. Let's hope our new president has the presence of mind to avoid this for himself.

There's enough going on right now that threatens to move us into fascism, we do not need a Fuhrer as well.

Below are Penn Jilette's sometimes rambling comments on this issue from his Video Blog:

I include this video because Penn sums up the situation so precisely when he says "Fuck! To be a servant to our president? Somebody explain it to me, please."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

World's Largest Snake

Scientists have uncovered the fossilized remains of the largest snake that ever lived.

In life Titanoboa cerrejonensis was some forty-three feet long and possibly weighed as much as 2,500 lbs. (that's a big snake)

It lived in South America some sixty million years ago and probably lived mostly in the water.

Artist's Conception of Titanoboa

Read more at Live Science and Popular Science

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bert Case Kicks Dogs Ass

Many people remember the now infamous incident where former governor Kirk Fordice threatened to kick the ass of Jackson reporter, Bert Case for revealing the home Fordice bought for his girlfriend. (Why the heck can't I find video of this?)
Link: Weekly

It turns out Fordice might have made a mistake threatening Case, because Bert's a bad-ass.

Below is video of Bert getting attacked by a pair of Pitt bull terriers while investigating another story. Looks like the pit-bulls picked on the wrong dude and Bert emerges victorious.

My favorite part is that Bert ends the scuffle with the command "You GO!" gesturing with is free hand, and the dog does!

Official Ted Lasso