Thursday, November 30, 2006


James Kim, his wife, Kati, and their two children were last seen on Saturday, Nov. 25, according to a CNET report. San Francisco police are investigating the disappearances.


The two men known locally as the CU cat killers have their defenders, though we do not know why this should be so.

Someone with an obvious shouting problem left this comment on a News-Leader editorial that called for criminal prosecution of the men:
Words are cutting through the hearts of the cat killers? They feel extremely bad for what they've done? Good.


Ain't technology grand? Though there is this unsettling graf in the Reuters story:
(Jan Vinzenz) Krause's team ( is developing a type of spray can into which the man inserts his penis first. At the push of a button it is then coated in a rubber condom. "It works by spraying on latex from nozzles on all sides," he said. "We call it the '360 degree procedure' -- once round and from top to bottom. It's a bit like a car wash."
No hot-wax finish, please.


If the saying is true, then the ears of Norm Ridder, superintendent for the Springfield Public Schools, were ablaze on Thursday. Ridder's decision not to cancel school because of a wicked winter storm did not endear him to many (if any) people.

Most schools across the Ozarks were closed on Thursday. By 8:30 a.m., Springfield police had issued a warning about deteriorating road conditions. by 9:50 a.m., city officials had announced the closing of Doling and Northview Family Centers because of power failures. By 10:30 a.m., Greene County had decided to close most of its offices at noon.

Springfield Public Schools waited until early afternoon before pulling the plug on the rest of the school day.

By late Thursday afternoon, enough sleet has fallen to convince Ridder to cancel Friday classes and rethink his decision to stay open on Thursday. The News-Leader reports:
"It's my screw up," said Ridder, who previously headed up a district in Colorado Springs. "I think the reason we fell apart is I didn't understand the Ozarks."

Ridder said he and several school leaders were out driving the roads around 3 and 4 in the morning. Around 7 a.m., he was not finding ice. By 8 a.m. in the northern part of the district he saw some ice on trees, and the roads were wet, but he didn’t think they were dangerous.

"I didn't understand how the ice comes in. We don't have equipment to deal with it like they do in Colorado. From my perspective it wasn't bad, but people in the Ozarks aren't used to ice, and I need to keep that in mind ... And the power outage was a nightmare. I’ve never had that before," he said.
Ridder's apology was nice. The admission that he "didn't understand the Ozarks" is sobering on several levels:

•Ridder has been here since Fall 2005, so the "new guy" excuse is over.

•The National Weather Service reported freezing rain starting at 12:52 a.m. Thursday, at least two hours before Ridder reportedly drove the streets with "several school leaders" and decided school was a go.

•Speaking of those leaders, didn't any of them warn Ridder that the Ozarks has had its share of nasty ice storms? Oldsters remember one in December 1987 that paralyzed much of the city for up to a week. Surely someone on the R-12 staff had a clue that the weather was turning bad.

Hey, Norm Ridder: Your comments to the contrary, people in the Ozarks are used to ice. You're the one who skidded out of control on Thursday.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


We're the first to admit that Chris Hansen's "To Catch a Predator" reports on Dateline are compelling television (good TV! good TV!). But do they accurately reflect the size and scope of the predator population in the United States?

No. Check out this Skeptical Inquirer report on the hyping of sexual predators in America. A couple excerpts:
According to a May 3, 2006, ABC News report, "One in five children is now approached by online predators.” This alarming statistic is commonly cited in news stories about prevalence of Internet predators, but the factoid is simply wrong. The “one in five statistic" can be traced back to a 2001 Department of Justice study issued by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children ("The Youth Internet Safety Survey") that asked 1,501 American teens between 10 and 17 about their online experiences. Anyone bothering to actually read the report will find a very different picture. Among the study’s conclusions: "Almost one in five (19 percent) . . . received an unwanted sexual solicitation in the past year.” (A "sexual solicitation" is defined as a "request to engage in sexual activities or sexual talk or give personal sexual information that were unwanted or, whether wanted or not, made by an adult." Using this definition, one teen asking another teen if her or she is a virgin—or got lucky with a recent date—could be considered "sexual solicitation.")

Not a single one of the reported solicitations led to any actual sexual contact or assault. Furthermore, almost half of the “sexual solicitations" came not from "predators" or adults but from other teens—in many cases the equivalent of teen flirting. When the study examined the type of Internet "solicitation" parents are most concerned about (e.g., someone who asked to meet the teen somewhere, called the teen on the telephone, or sent gifts), the number drops from "one in five" to just 3 percent.
The report also tackles exaggerated claims that sex offenders are incurable recidivists:
The high recidivism rate among sex offenders is repeated so often that it is accepted as truth, but in fact recent studies show that the recidivism rates for sex offenses is not unusually high. According to a U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics study ("Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994"), just five percent of sex offenders followed for three years after their release from prison in 1994 were arrested for another sex crime. A study released in 2003 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that within three years, 3.3 percent of the released child molesters were arrested again for committing another sex crime against a child. Three to five percent is hardly a high repeat offender rate.

In the largest and most comprehensive study ever done of prison recidivism, the Justice Department found that sex offenders were in fact less likely to reoffend than other criminals. The 2003 study of nearly 10,000 men convicted of rape, sexual assault, and child molestation found that sex offenders had a re-arrest rate 25 percent lower than for all other criminals.
We've believed for a long time that the sex-offender list provide false comfort to scared parents. Most child molesters and abusers are known to their victims; the real dangers are within the victims' families, not on a list of strangers.

The odds of being burglarized in your lifetime are much greater than the odds of falling victim to an unknown sex predator. A list of burglars in your neighborhood? That would be useful information.


Conor Hammes met his girlfriend's parents. Later, cops say, he beat up his girlfriend's father. The Journal Times in Racine reports:
Hammes came to the area to meet his girlfriend’s parents, who live in the Town of Buchanan. They all went out for dinner, after which Hammes began acting strangely, and his girlfriend’s parents told him he should go home. His girlfriend and her mother went inside to get their things, and when they came back out they found Hammes and the father yelling. The mother asked Hammes to leave, and he swore at her. When Hammes’ girlfriend tried to step between her boyfriend and father, Hammes grabbed her by the hair and threw her to the ground.

The mother then went inside to call 911, but looked back and saw Hammes stomping and kicking her husband’s head and face. She tried to intercede and Hammes knocked her down and pulled on her hair, pulling some of it out. Hammes’ girlfriend said he became upset when her father told him he could not stay at their residence. She said she thought Hammes was going to kill her father.

When Sheriff’s Department officers arrived at the home, they found two women tending a man lying on the ground. He had a large cut on the back of his head and had lost a considerable amount of blood. He was somewhat alert, but did not respond to all of an officer’s questions. An ambulance was called to take him to the hospital. The Fire Department was called to clean up the man’s blood from the road.
Cops say Hammes also grabbed his girlfriend by the hair and threw her to the ground, before complaining that he'd hurt his hand while punching out her father.

Hammes used to be a sports star. Acording to the Journal Times, Hammes "earned an athletic appointment to play baseball for the Air Force Academy. More recently, he was an extra in 'Mr. 3000,' the baseball movie filmed at Miller Park in 2003." Now he faces five years in prison.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


If these were kids we would insist on plenty of counseling to figure out the roots of their sick-bastard behavior. But because they're adults, two employees of Springfield's City Utilities will instead lose some pay and do 80 hours of community service for stoning a cat at work. They will not have to publicly answer the question: What in hell were you thinking?

According to a report in the News-Leader, one worker got a 30-day suspension and a demotion. The other can't be promoted for a year.

From the story:
Last Tuesday, CU launched an inquiry into allegations that its employees had stoned a cat to death. ...

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 753, the union that represents the two employees, conducted its own investigation last week and "two members stepped forward (to note) that they probably did something that was inappropriate," said Brad Stokes, IBEW Local 753's business manager.

"(The local union) has a code of excellence and we expect members to (live up to it)," Stokes said. "They have stepped up and apologized for that. They'll suffer the consequences as a result of that."
They apparently will not suffer any sort of criminal prosecution for stoning a cat to death. Neither will their names be released; a CU spokesman referred to a "personnel situation like this" in refusing to divulge the names. An earlier brief in the paper said the killing took place "at a CU facility." Where?

Monday, November 27, 2006

VHS, 30

The format was supposed to live until at least January. but retailers decided to open shelf space for other things. Variety reports:
After its youthful Betamax battles, the longer-playing VHS tapes eventually became the format of choice for millions of consumers. VHS enjoyed a lucrative career, transforming the way people watched movies and changing the economics of the film biz. VHS hit its peak with "The Lion King," which sold more than 30 million vidcassettes Stateside.

The format flourished until DVDs launched in 1997. After a fruitful career, VHS tapes started to retire from center stage in 2003 when DVDs became more popular for the first time.

Since their retirement, VHS tapes have made occasional appearances in children's entertainment and as a format for collectors seeking titles not released on DVD. VHS continued to make as much as $300 million a year until this year, when studios stopped manufacturing the tapes.
Buy a few for the holidays, hand 'em out as stocking stuffers.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


We made note last week of a Kearny, N.J., teacher who apparently believes his history class is a good place to do some fundamentalist preaching.

David Paszkiewicz, who also serves as a minister in a conservative Baptist church, denied the allegations made by student Matthew LaClair -- flat-out denied them during a meeting he and LaClair had with the principal. That's when LaClair revealed that he had recorded the remarks.

Paszkiewicz, the teacher, reportedly replied: "You got the big fish ... you got the big Christian guy who is a teacher!" Then he said he wouldn't say anything else until he'd talked to his union representative.

Despite proof that Paszkiewicz has violated the Establishment Clause, he's still teaching -- and his defenders seem determined to blame the student for the teacher's mistake.

The Arlington Observer, a weekly New Jersey newspaper, has published excerpts from the Paszkiewicz recording. Priceless gems, these.

Asked what should happen to a kid who doesn't have faith in Jesus Christ, Paszkiewicz replied:
"Until you're 18 years old, you have to. At 18, I'll still love you, but I won't agree with you. If a kid is 12 and says 'Dad, I don't want to go to church with you,' after I break his backside, we'll look to have a little attitude adjustment, you know?"
Yeah, sadly, we know.

During a discussion of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and comments made about the mainstream media being Nazi supporters, Paszkiewicz said:
"I agree with him. Members of the media are (Nazi supporters). I mean, just look at Geraldo Rivera, and Alan Colmes."
And just in case there's any sliver of a doubt whether Paszkiewicz belongs in a public-school classroom, check out this history-class statement on whether public schools should teach Scripture:
"It’s not about teaching my point of view. It's not about teaching religion. These issues will come up when we get to the 1920s (in class). The public schools shouldn't teach a religion, but the scriptures aren't a religion. (Instead), the scriptures are the foundation of the world’s religions. And yes, the Bible. We should be able to bring the Bible into the classroom and read it."
We suspect he does not feel such affection for the Koran or the Tripitaka being brought to school. We're not surprised; Paszkiewicz also believes (or at least said in class) that the generation prior to 1962 "did not have terrorism, did not have race aggression and all of that."

Blogger Jim Lippard has aggressively reported the story from the get-go, and in doing so has riled up many Paszkiewicz defenders, including some Kearny High School students. Most disturbing is the method of defense being used by these alleged Christians; they condemn LaClair, the student, for making a big deal out of what they insist is nothing (as one put it, "f--k the little bitch ass who recorded this s--t").

The teacher's supporters also show off an appalling, almost-complete ignorance of why it's wrong for a high-school history teacher to be spouting religious fundamentalism in school. He may be a minister, a righteous man, a decent fella, but when he's at Kearny High School, he's an employee and representative of the school district.

Tip of the pinhead to Lippard and his blog. Check out the mayhem yourself, and remember -- this is happening in the 21st century.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Michael Richards, the actor who played Kramer on "Seinfeld," went on "The Late Show" on Monday to spew an apology for his weekend explosion at a comedy club in California.

The skinny: Richards was heckled by a couple dudes who happen to be black. Richards freaked and dropped more than a few N-bombs (and the "N" doesn't stand for Newman, either). Someone in the audience shot vid on a cell phone. The rest is sordid pop history.

Painful as it was to watch, Richards' apology -- the act of it, at least -- was mandatory. Had he not apologized he would have been killed, gutted, roasted at 325 degrees and served up in lieu of turkey on Thursday. Andy Kaufman would have risen from the dead and smacked Richards for losing his cool. But now that he has issued his very public mea maxima culpa, Richards is free to continue his post-"Seinfeld" life. Free of the threat of a boycott, the 7th season of "Seinfeld" is cleared for huge sales. The country is safe from white men other than Quentin Tarantino dropping N-bombs, safe from bombing comedians, safer than it has been since Feb. 1, 2004, when the U.S. was attacked by Janet Jackson's right nipple.

But it is a short-lived safety; in the long run we are screwed, destined to choke on our own conniptions. We are being outraged to death. Offended to extinction.

If something offends us today we righteously insist on immediate reparations or the offensive thing must be banished, no thoughts given, no questions asked.

Fox boss Rupert Murdoch on Monday dropped the O.J. Simpson project and apologized profusely to the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. Murdoch said the O.J. book and TV special were "ill considered." He took pains to make sure everyone knows he was offended. He did not mention feeling this way until it became clear that his network would probably lose money on the project. No matter; having shown his outrage, Murdoch is now a Good Guy. Our nation is safe from O.J. and ready to repel any future ugliness.

Don't like the idea of a book? Scream until the publisher gives up. Don't like a planned TV special? Yell until the network surrenders. Don't like what a performer says? Complain until the person is forced to capitulate.

If we had followed this catechism in 1975, pop culture would have been saved from "News for the Hard of Hearing" on "Saturday Night Live." Another SNL skit from that year -- "Racist Word Association Interview" -- would have died in the writer's room. That year's great movie, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," would have been condemned for its insensitive portrayal of Native Americans (not to mention the mentally ill). Judith Guest's novel, Ordinary People, may have been boycotted, instead of praised, for its brutal honesty about teen suicide and emotionally distant mothers.

Change the channel? Ignore the offensive? Don't buy the book?

Your suggestion is outrageous. Don't be offensive.


The film director was 81. He made "M-A-S-H," "Nashville," "Short Cuts," "Prêt-à-Porter" and "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean." He also directed "Popeye," but now that he's dead, we forgive him.

Fat Jack gets the scoop and the point.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Rep. Roy Blunt on Friday was elected as minority whip by House Republicans, who repudiated a call from their radical base to jettison every GOP House leader in the wake of the Nov. 7 election.

The Associated Press reports:
Blunt won a new term as party whip, defeating Arizona Rep. John Shadegg on a vote of 137-57. "You know, it's not our job to defend business as usual, not our job to try to define the federal government in the biggest possible way," Blunt said.
The New York Times notes that Blunt and incoming Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio are ready to fight:
Mr. Blunt ... called on Republicans to challenge the Democrats. “We ought to be out there really with alternatives that define who they are and frankly give us a chance to once again get back to our roots,” he said.
"They" being the Democrats, of course. Why work with them on solutions when dissing is so much easier?


Kid has cell phone. It rings at school. Teacher confiscates phone. All hell breaks loose. KTEN reports:
Charges of larceny against two Carter County school officials have been sent to the district attorney's office for consideration of prosecution. Parents of a Lone Grove High School student say the superintendent and the high school principal will not release property that belongs to them. ...

The cell phone was confiscated from the student last week after it rang in the middle of class. The teacher thought the ringing of the phone interrupted the classwork, and took the phone to the principal's office. When the student's parents went to the school to get it back, they were told it was school policy to hold the phone for five days. The mother of the student, Yvonne Walker, was upset because she says the phone is used in case of an emergency.

"He's 16, he's got a new job and I worry about him on the road," said Walker. "His father worries about him on the road, he's supposed to contact us." ...

Walker says she was treated with disrespect by the principal and the superintendent. She contacted the Lone Grove police department, who sent an officer to the school. Captain Scott Lang said, "I attempted to get the situation resolved, couldn't reach a resolution to it. I ended up having to do a report on it."

That report was sent to the District Attorney's office for consideration of larceny charges against the school officials. The student's parents say the situation could have been resolved much easier.

"I understand that they need to discipline the kids and he was wrong, and he understands that he was wrong and he should be disciplined at home, and we will do that," said Ms. Walker.

"I want the policy changed for any student, any parent," said Mr. Walker. "They should have the right to come pick up their cell phone. The superintendent says he's just following school policy."
Yeah, he's "just" following school policy. No big. Nice lesson to teach the kid.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Rep. Roy Blunt will learn on Friday whether he keeps any power in Congress. The majority whip, soon to become a member of the minority party, wants to be minority whip. The Republicans vote on Friday. Blunt says he has the votes to win.

But supposedly friendly voices, like Human Events, want Blunt gone. The Freepers have turned against him. The Richmond Times-Dispatch brings up a possible spoiler role for Eric Cantor, the deputy whip brought to power by Blunt.

Blunt's outward confidence means little. He knew he'd be majority leader last February, and he lost that vote to John Boehner. Now many conservatives want Boehner and Blunt banished to the back benches.

Blunt will be lucky if he wins on Friday.

MAY 10, 2807 B.C.

An environmental archaeologist thinks that's when something big fell from the sky and created a flood that became legend.

Bruce Masse works at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. What he thinks is becoming more important right now, because some scientists believe they've uncovered evidence pointing to a massive cosmic impact in the Indian Ocean. Massive, and recent -- about 4,800 years ago.

This report in The New York Times has a killer lede:
At the southern end of Madagascar lie four enormous wedge-shaped sediment deposits, called chevrons, that are composed of material from the ocean floor. Each covers twice the area of Manhattan with sediment as deep as the Chrysler Building is high.

On close inspection, the chevron deposits contain deep ocean microfossils that are fused with a medley of metals typically formed by cosmic impacts. And all of them point in the same direction — toward the middle of the Indian Ocean where a newly discovered crater, 18 miles in diameter, lies 12,500 feet below the surface.

The explanation is obvious to some scientists. A large asteroid or comet, the kind that could kill a quarter of the world's population, smashed into the Indian Ocean 4,800 years ago, producing a tsunami at least 600 feet high, about 13 times as big as the one that inundated Indonesia nearly two years ago. The wave carried the huge deposits of sediment to land.

Most astronomers doubt that any large comets or asteroids have crashed into the Earth in the last 10,000 years. But the self-described "band of misfits" that make up the two-year-old Holocene Impact Working Group say that astronomers simply have not known how or where to look for evidence of such impacts along the world's shorelines and in the deep ocean.

Scientists in the working group say the evidence for such impacts during the last 10,000 years, known as the Holocene epoch, is strong enough to overturn current estimates of how often the Earth suffers a violent impact on the order of a 10-megaton explosion. Instead of once in 500,000 to one million years, as astronomers now calculate, catastrophic impacts could happen every 1,000 years. ...

Dr. Masse analyzed 175 flood myths from around the world, and tried to relate them to known and accurately dated natural events like solar eclipses and volcanic eruptions. Among other evidence, he said, 14 flood myths specifically mention a full solar eclipse, which could have been the one that occurred in May 2807 B.C.
More recent are two possible craters north of Australia, "the likely source of megastsunami waves responsible for the Holocene aged chevron dunes" found four miles inland, near Carpentaria. Those are estimated to be about 1,200 years old.


The faster-than-we-are Granny Geek gets the point for the economist and libertarian.

The New York Times story that GG referenced has a howler of a second graf:
Friedman died in San Francisco, said Robert Fanger, a spokesman for the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation in Indianapolis. He did not know the cause of death.
Hello -- 94? We're not even halfway there and we're always tired.


Jim Stevenson stands accused of killing a cat with his .22-caliber rifle. The Galveston, Texas, resident isn't some sick, punk-ass kid. He's a bird lover and a published author, founder of the Galveston Ornithological Society.

But even if he isn't good for the Nov. 8 shooting with which he's charged, Stevenson is a cat killer. The Houston Chronicle reports that Stevenson admits to shooting two dozen cats on his property.

He also insists he does not hate cats. From the story:
"It has come across in articles that I hate cats and that's just not true," Stevenson said in an interview at his home today. "I actually like cats in the house. I have friends I visit and I play with their cats in my lap."
Feral cats, however, are another matter. Stevenson told the newspaper that it's not illegal to shoot feral cats, and if they're on his property, they're fair game.

But the Nov. 8 shooting happened this way, according to the Chronicle:
Stevenson was arrested last week after a toll booth worker at the San Luis Pass Bridge said he heard two shots and saw Stevenson driving away in a white van.

The bridge employee, John Newland, said he and other toll-takers feed the cats that gather around the bridge and consider them pets. Newland said he found the cat, which already had a limp from an earlier shooting, dead after he heard shots.

Police arrested Stevenson several miles from the bridge as he drove toward his home.
Problem for Stevenson: A pet cat isn't considered feral.

Stevenson loves his birds. Understood. But how'd you like to have an outdoor cat and be this guy's neighbor?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Last June, U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) showed one of the downsides to thinking old (as opposed to being old, an entirely different experience) -- it's too hard to keep up with the technology. A few of our peers got stuck in the 8-Track Tar Pit. Others were waylaid by VHS. More can't get their heads around the whole iPod thing. Even more will never podcast and never wonder why they didn't.

Comfort over current. Known over unknown. Stevens showed how cold comfort can be when the lawmaker said this about the Internet:
"I just the other day got... an Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday, I got it yesterday. Why? [...] They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the Internet. And again, the Internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes. And if you don't understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material."
This week, the talk-show host Larry King had his Stevens moment, when he confessed that he doesn't do the Internet, telling Roseanne Barr:
"I’ve never done it, never gone searching ... The wife loves it. I wouldn’t love it. What do you punch little buttons and things?"
Our own Stevens moment has arrived. This map shows what the Internet looks like -- how packets of info travel around the world. Accompanying the map is this fact:
The United States owns 74 percent of the 4 billion available Internet protocol (IP) addresses. China's stake amounts to little more than that of an American university. Not surprisingly, China is championing the next wave of the Internet, which would accommodate 340 trillion trillion trillion IP addresses.
BLAM. Our head goes back and to the left, spilling our online life: The TRS-80 running AA batteries, uploading stories at 300 baud. Rubber cups over the phone's mouthpiece and earpiece when the acoustic modem chirped. Up to 1200, then 9600, 14.4, 56k. Broadband. Pics. Vid. Streaming vid.

Now it's all tubes and buttons and things. No trucks allowed.


Tommy Thompson, the former Health and Human Services Secretary in the Bush Administration, wants to be president. The Associated Press reports that Thompson "intends to form a committee to explore a possible run for the White House in 2008."

When he was governor of Wisconsin, Thompson became known as the guy who reformed welfare in his state. But we remember him more fondly for his absolutely worthless leadership during the 2001 anthrax killings. Of special note is this quote from Thompson's Oct. 4, 2001 press briefing, as he discussed how tabloid photo editor Robert Stevens contracted inhalation anthrax:
"We do know that he drank water out of a stream when he was traveling to North Carolina last week."
We also know that White House staff were given the antibiotic Cipro starting the night of Sept. 11, 2001, three weeks before the first reported anthrax attack. Maybe they'd been drinking water from a stream in North Carolina, too.


In Indianapolis! Holy mamba! The Associated Press reports:
Conservation officers who entered the home of a man who sought treatment for a poisonous snake bite found 15 venomous vipers, including cobras and rattlesnakes, inside.

Michael Fillenwarth, 47, was taken into custody but later released after Monday night's raid on his home due to medical issues related to his snake bite, officials said.

Authorities learned of the snakes after Fillenwarth sought treatment over the weekend for a bite from the highly venomous green mamba, native to Africa.

Sgt. Dean Shadley, an Indiana Conservation Officer, said Fillenwarth did not have the proper permits to keep the snakes, which Shadley described as "extremely poisonous." He is charged with possession of a dangerous reptile without a permit. ...

Officers confiscated five types of rattlesnakes, three types of cobras, along with gaboon vipers, copperheads, a puff adder, and two green mambas from Fillenwarth's duplex on Indianapolis' east side. They also seized caged quail Fillenwarth was using as food for the reptiles.
As Fat Jack might say, it's a good thing the mamba didn't bite him in the flanderdoodle.


David Paszkiewicz is a history teacher at Kearney High School in New Jersey. His version of history, however, is distinctly different.

Chew on this riff of his:
"He (God) did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sin on his own body, suffered your pains for you and he's saying, 'Please accept me, believe me.'"

"If you reject that, you belong in hell. The outcome is your prerogative. But the way I see it, God himself sent his only son to die for David Paszkiewicz on that cross ... And if you reject that, then it really is to hell with you."
What the hell? The Star-Ledger reports that Paszkiewicz is still teaching, despite audio recordings that seem to prove the teacher is a liar and a hypocrite.

Matthew LaClair, the 16-year-old student, taped Paszkiewicz. The teacher said the theories of evolution and the "Big Bang" were bogus, and that dinosaurs were hanging out on Noah's ark.

The student complained to the school principal. The teacher denied every allegation. The student unveiled his audio proof.

Paszkiewicz is also a Baptist preacher. He should stick with that calling and leave the teaching of history to others.


Great holiday programming from Fox later this month, according to The Associated Press:
Fox plans to broadcast an interview with O.J. Simpson in which the former football star discusses "how he would have committed" the slayings of his ex-wife and her friend, for which he was acquitted, the network said.

The two-part interview, titled "O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here’s How It Happened," will air Nov. 27 and Nov. 29, the TV network said.
Glove didn't fit, jury did acquit, but O.J. still killed them.

Monday, November 13, 2006


Social conservatives made a lot of noise about this last year. They're going to make an even bigger racket this year.

Already, Wal-Mart has announced it will use "Merry Christmas" in its advertising. The heathens at Best Buy, however, will use the generic:
"We are going to continue to use the term holiday because there are several holidays throughout that time period, and we certainly need to be respectful of all of them," said Dawn Bryant, spokeswoman at Best Buy Co. Inc.
Note to social cons: If you're serious about waging war, there are real ones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Madison, Wisconsin is the scene of the radio crime. The Wisconsin State Journal reports:
Just three days after Madison's left celebrated wins by the Democrats, broadcasting behemoth Clear Channel Radio delivered a stunning right hook Friday, announcing it would silence Air America in the Madison market and replace the liberal talk-show format on WXXM-FM (92.1) The Mic with an all-sports format from Fox Radio Sports.

So long, political debate and comment. Hello, serve, set, spike and point.

"I find it puzzling as to the timing given the election results," said Terry Kelly, one of the founding members of the Air America network and a longtime Madison businessman. "There is no business reason that is apparent to me (for the change), therefore, one wonders what the real reasons may be."

The move by Clear Channel, which operates 1,140 radio stations in the United States, comes after the radio station posted a solid gain in the Arbitron ratings, going from a 2.3 share in the summer of 2005 to 3.7 this summer, placing 11th in the market for listeners 12 and older. It also means that beginning on Jan. 1, one of the most liberal cities in the country will be without a commercial radio network of the same tilt.
In a perfect world, this would be followed by Springfield flushing the local talk-radio venereal disease out of its system.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Death comes in threes, they say. Why they made the rule -- and who "they" are -- is besides the point. It's the Second Law of The Game of Mortality, neither new nor from Milton-Bradley, that chunk of steak wholly owned and currently residing in the intestines of Hasbro.

The First Law of The Game of Mortality, of course, is that everyone eventually plays.

Ed Bradley did. So did Jack Palance. Now the gang of playas -- MIT and Smitty, Mayor Dan and Brother Richard, Doc and JJ and Marmot -- can speculate on the identity of lucky number three. But now the game gets murky. Is it Basil Poledouris, composer, best known for scoring the Conan movies? Yes, we know, Arnold Schwarzenegger did a lot of scoring on the Conan movies, too. But Poledouris also scored "Robocop" and won an Emmy for his work on the miniseries "Lonesome Dove." And he was born in Kansas City.

Or does the prize go to Gerald Levert, the R&B singer? He will swear no more; he was 40 when he died Friday in Cleveland. Son of Eddie Levert Sr. of the O'Jays. Had a group in the 1980s, Levert, with his brother and a friend. Did LSG in the late 1990s with Johnny Gill and Keith Sweat.

We consult the Fourth Law of The Game of Mortality: When playing the home edition, the name of the departed, or the work they've done, must be immediately recognizable. "Robocop" was cool, but we can't hum the theme. Levert makes us think of that deodorant soap, Lever 2000. Which makes us think of André 3000 from Outkast, and now the space madness descends. No points.


A flurry of contestants for this one in our continuing game of mortality. Jack Palance is dead. Wikipedia's bio info:
Jack Palance, (born Volodymyr Palanyuk on February 18, 1919, in Hazle Township, Pennsylvania), an Academy Award-winning American actor, died November 10, 2006.

With his rugged facial features and gravelly voice, Palance is best known to modern movie audiences as both the characters of Curly and Duke in the City Slickers movies, but his career has spanned half a century of film and television appearances.

Palance had recently placed his Butler Township, Pennsylvania, Holly-Brooke Farm up for sale and its contents, his personal lifetime collection, up for auction.

As of Friday afternoon, November 10, 2006, the Associated Press is reporting that Jack has passed away at his home in Motecito, CA.
MIT rang with the news around 4:15 p.m. Brother Richard e-mailed at 4:35. JJ brought in the listing at 4:07 p.m. We didn't know Jack, literally, until MIT called.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Twenty-five people have died in wrecks in Springfield this year, according to police. The latest two deaths happened Thursday on Interstate 44 at the Kearney Street overpass and involved four vehicles, including a school bus. According to a police news release:
The crash occurred in a marked and designated work zone, established by the Missouri Department of Transportation. The exact sequence of events is still being determined, but at this time it appears that traffic had slowed and was traveling in the outside lane, as the inside lane was closed. The lead truck, a 1999 Freightliner was struck in the rear by a 2007 Bluebird school bus from the Weaubleau R-3 school district. The school bus had been struck in the rear by a 2005 Buick which had been struck in the rear by 2004 Freightliner. The impact of the 2004 Freightliner striking the Buick apparently caused an intense fire which engulfed and completed burned the Buick and the cab of the 2004 Freightliner.

The two occupants of the Buick were determined to be deceased at the scene. The driver of 2004 Freightliner was able to exit his truck and he was taken to a hospital with injuries not believed to be serious. The school bus contained 15 boys and girls, ages 12 and 13, and an adult attendant and the driver. All the children were transported by ambulance to St. John’s and Cox, with it later being determined that 9 children were actually injured. None of the children had injuries that are believed to be serious.
Names of the dead haven't yet been released. The wreck turned the eastbound lanes of I-44 into a parking lot.


We wonder:

•Now that Roy Blunt is a member of the minority party in Congress, will he bug out while he can? The soon-to-be ousted majority whip probably won't succeed in a leadership post with the minority GOP; he's not trusted by his own colleagues, and enough of them already think the current leaders (Blunt, Dennis Hastert) are the reason they've been relegated to the back benches.

So what can Blunt do? Lobbying seems a little farfetched right now. With the GOP in the minority, who needs Republican lobbyists anymore? It's more likely that Blunt will fade into the background, emerging only when the coast is clear and he can run for U.S. Senate.

He won't stay in Congress for long, however. That much is certain. Look for Blunt to make this his last term in the House. After taking a pass at challenging Blunt in the 2006 election, southwest Missouri Democrats may actually get a second bite at the 7th District apple. Their chances are improved if, as expected, Matt Blunt packs it in, decides not to run for another term as governor and makes a bid for Congress (after all, he already lives in Springfield). A Matt Blunt vs. moderate Democrat race for Congress would be competitive.

•If the social conservatives of the GOP don't screw it for him, Rudy Giuliani will be the next Republican candidate for president. This AOL poll shows the former NYC mayor running ahead of John McCain, Condoleezza Rice and dark horse Newt Gingrich for the 2008 GOP nomination.

If the social cons don't screw it. Big if there. Because:

•The war for the guts of the GOP is in full fire. Old-line Republicans (the small government/Low taxes kind) say their party lost Congress because it was too focused on pleasing the theocrats. Social cons, meanwhile, say the party lost power because it wasn't conservative enough on issues like abortion and gay rights (and stem cells, dammit, stem cells).

The social cons despise Giuliani and his pro-choice, gay-rights-loving ways. Ditto for the way they feel about McCain. If they have their way, Jeb Bush will be their standard-bearer. Or Mitt Romney. A Dem can only hope.


The CBS "60 Minutes" correspondent died of leukemia, according to CNN.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


In Missouri's U.S. Senate race, at least, especially here in the 7th Congressional District of southwest Missouri. First, the statewide numbers:

Talent WON in 2002 with 49.8 percent of the vote, to Jean Carnahan's 48.7 percent.

Talent LOST in 2006 with 47.4 percent of the vote, to McCaskill's 49.4 percent.

The Dem gains .7 percent; Talent loses 2.4 percent.

A glaring difference: The Libertarian candidate went from 1 percent in 2002 to 2.3 percent in 2006.

Libertarian gains were more pronounced in Missouri's 7th District:

•In Lawrence County, McCaskill pulled 35.2 percent -- exactly as much as Carnahan in 2002. But Talent's share dwindled from 62.2 percent to 59.7 percent. The Libertarian candidate received 1.9 percent in 2002 and 3.9 percent in 2006.

•In Polk County (home to Southwest Baptist University), Talent defeated Carnahan in 2002, 62.4-35.5 percent. This year, Talent was held to under 60 percent -- 58.7-36.5, with the Libertarian share growing from 1.4 to 3.8 percent.

•In Taney County, Talent went from a 64.3-33.9 split in 2002 to a 60.6-34.8 victory in 2006. The Libertarian vote grew to 3.4 percent, from 1.3 percent in 2002.

•In Christian County, Talent lost more than 3 percent of his support (63.6 in 2002, 60.5 in 2006). The Democratic share grew only slightly, from 34.6 to 35.3 percent. But the Libertarian vote more than doubled, from 1.2 to 3.1 percent.

•In Barry County, Talent was held under 60 percent (59.2, from a high of 63.3 percent in 2002). Dems inched up from 34.8 to 35.5 percent. Libertarians increased their share from 1.4 to 3.9 percent.

In all five counties, Democrats didn't grow their share by more than a point. That's not to say the Democrats didn't do their fair share of damage to Talent in the 7th District. The senator suffered a significant setback in Greene County, where he won 59 percent of the vote in his 2002 race against Carnahan.

Talent's vote share was 49,164 to Carnahan's 33,144.

This year, about 17,500 more people voted in Greene County than in 2002. Talent gained about 4,000 votes. McCaskill piled 10,000 more votes on top of Carnahan's mark.

Percentages: 58.6-39.5 in 2002; 53.6-42.6 in 2006. Claire breaks 40 percent in the county.


The latest casuality in the midterm elections. Just breaking on The Associated Press.

This is a surprisingly tone-deaf side of the Bush Administration. Just last week President Bush reaffirmed his support of Rumsfeld and said he would stay on through the end of Bush's term. Now, in his news conference, Bush admits the change was already being planned when he misled reporters. Had Bush been able to get out the word that Rumsfeld was on his way out, the midterm elections outcome could have been much different -- and much better -- for the GOP.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


2:20 a.m.
Stem-cell has cracked a million and is up by more than 25,000 votes (about 10,000 more people voted against stem-cell initiative than voted for Talent). Tobacco tax is dead. Minimum-wage increase has 76-percent approval. McCaskill and Montee both crack the million-vote mark.

2:00 a.m.
At this rate it looks like Democrats may well retake the U.S. Senate (McCaskill wins, Webb holds on in Virginia, Tester wins in Montana). Freepers get angry while DUers gloat about McCaskill.

Susan Montee, the new Missouri auditor, is quite the fresh deal. She's outdrawing McCaskill by more than 35,000 votes.

One more thing about the Greene County statehouse races. Each state rep's district in Missouri covers about 34,000 people. The two districts now belonging to Democrats -- Sara Lampe's 138th and Charlie Norr's 137th -- had the two lowest vote tallies in the county.

In the 137th, a total of 8,166 votes were cast.

In the 135th, Charlie Denison got 9,864 votes. In the 139th, Shane Schoeller got 8,379 votes. In the 140th, Bob Dixon tallied 8,952 votes.

The good side for Greene County Democrats: Three of their four defeated candidates for the Missouri House still earned more than 40 percent of the vote.

The problem for local Democrats: Their strongholds ain't so strong when it comes to voting. A devoted campaign worker was walking the northside late Tuesday, knocking on doors to get people out to vote before the polls closed at 7 p.m. A surprising, and disheartening, number of people said thanks, but no. On their lawns were signs for Democratic candidates.

1:30 a.m.
McCaskill wins.

1:15 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 8
McCaskill is ahead by about 35,000 votes now. More than 3,300 reporting precincts, with another 400 to go. Stem-cell initiative has pulled ahead by more than 10,000 votes.

Roy Blunt has to look at Tuesday with pause. Two years ago, local Dems spend a quarter-million dollars and ran a credible "name" candidate in Jim Newberry. Blunt won Greene County, 65-33. This time out, Jack Truman ran (despite the wishes of official Dems). Truman dabbles in porn production and lives in Lamar. Randy Turner at The Turner Report has been following this story since since last March, and it's a hoot.

With virtually no funding and absolutely no credibility, Truman bested Newberry's high-water mark in Greene County by a point-and-a-half. Truman didn't matter; it was Blunt's weakness. He was held to 62 percent in Greene County. A buttload of votes, sure, but:

•In 1998 he got 71 percent of the vote.
•In 2000 it was 70 percent.
•In 2002, 72 percent.
•Being held to 65 percent in 2004 was considered a remarkable accomplishment for Democrats.

The three-point drop in Greene County that Blunt experienced on Tuesday shows the fervency of anti-GOP sentiment across the country. A red-drenched county like Greene had a significant drop in support for a powerful, popular Republican congressman. In a more moderate political environment, a guy like Blunt could have been red meat for hungry Democrats.

The 7th District numbers are equally blunt for Blunt. Two years ago he trounced Newberry, 70-28. This time out, a no-name gained three while Blunt lost four (66-31). He also lost his majority whip's job. Blunt has never served in the minority, having come to Congress in 1997. His mentor, Tom DeLay, is gone, and the Dems have captured DeLay's old seat. Does Blunt bide his time and hope the Missouri GOP dream scenario comes true? It goes this way: Reliable but aging warhorse Kit Bond retires. Gov. Matt Blunt appoints Roy "Dad" Blunt as Senator. Governor leaves his icky Jeff City job and runs for Dad's old seat in Congress. A dynasty is preserved.

Observation: The national Republicans may have taken a smacking on Tuesday, but the Missouri GOP is a machine like few others, especially when it comes to last-minute negative mailings.

11:50 p.m.
At this late stage, Claire McCaskill is still behind by 45,000 votes, but Jim Talent's lead is shrinking. McCaskill drew 42.5 percent of the vote in Greene County -- a full two points better than expected, and above the alleged threshold for keeping Republicans safe in statewide elections.

Locally, Democrats did not do as well as expected. While Sara Lampoe easily trounced Steve Helms, Doug Harpool lost to Norma Champion in the state senate race. An aside about that senate race: It is a testament to the GOP's ability to churn out the vote. Four years ago, Champion garnered 25,900 votes to defeat Craig Hosmer (he drew 24,400 votes). This time out, Harpool earned almost 27,000 votes -- but Champion increased her vote total from 2004 by more than 8,000.

In local state rep races, Jamie Schoolcraft and James Owen did not win. Nancy Hagan ran a better-than-expected showing but still lost by 10 points.

Charlie Norr won a northside state rep's seat, but let's put it in perspective. Norr won with about 4,600 votes. By comparison, Tonya Cunningham suffered the greatest defeat among Dems in other state rep races -- and she drew 4,800 votes. The Democrats own north Springfield, but turnout there was terrible, less than half of the Hagan-Charlie Denison dust-up.

Of course, Dems did pick up one state representative's seat in Springfield, and that's better than a total blank.

Off to crunch some numbers and analyze. Statewide, stem cell looks like it's squeaking back. The tobacco tax looks less likely to resurrect. Minimum wage will probably pass with 80 percent of the vote.

6:30 p.m.
Early returns from Kentucky and Indiana offer a mixed bag, but signs are clear that there will be no cakewalk, especially for Republicans. In Indiana, incumbent Republican congressman John Hostettler (waltzed in during the 1994 GOP takeover) is getting crushed, 70-30. His sister was his campaign manager. Nice job, kids.

This afternoon, CNN broke programming in "The Situation Room" to let us know that Britney Spears has kicked her husband to the curb. Nothing more needs to be said about the states of American politics and media.

Local Dems are holding their watch party at the Clarion Hotel. We were there in 2002, when the party quickly became a wake. A changed atmosphere seems to be in the air.

Local bloggers are gathered at the Patton Alley Pub, churning out analysis and otherwise typing the good fight. Find the stuff on Rhetorica's Springfield Citizen-Press site.


Voted earlier and not often. Heavy turnout in Greene County. The county clerk says turnout could top 50 percent, maybe even hit 55 percent before the polls close at 7 p.m. Translation, please.

Off-year elections are the equivalent of the opening act at a concert. Could be good, could knock your socks off, but the crowd is there for the headliner -- in this case, the presidential election cycle.

In November 2004, 68.5 percent of registered voters in Greene County -- 126,258 people -- cast ballots. That's the power of a presidential election.

Two years before that, in November 2002, turnout was 47.74 percent. That's 84,548 voters. And that was a strong off-year showing.

The off-year election of 1998 -- the Clinton scandal was all the buzz -- drew only 41.57 percent of registered voters, or 67,598 people.

Are people more interested in politics this year than in 2002 or 1998? Yes. Lingering wars tend to draw out the activist in many otherwise docile people.

Does that mean Democrats are free and clear to celebrate? No more than they were in 2004, when so many were certain that John Kerry would win the White House.

As of August 2006, there were 180,071 registered voters in Greene County. Leaving that number static, a 55-percent turnout means more than 99,000 voters -- more than triple the primary turnout.

Monday, November 06, 2006


How many seats will Democrats pick up in the U.S. House of Representatives?

How many new Democrats will be in the U.S. Senate? Enough to regain control of that club?

Our best guesses, based on too much reading:

•House goes to the Dems, 235-200.

•Senate splits 50-50. Claire McCaskill wins, 51-48. She gets 40.2 percent of the vote in Greene County.

In state issues:

•Missouri's Amendment 2 -- the stem-cell issue -- passes, 54-46.

•Amendment 3, the smoking tax, wins approval with a similar margin.

•The minimum-wage increase passes with 63 percent of the vote.

Your turn.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


No time and all the time in the world left before Tuesday's election. We chatted/debated with a Nancy Hagan door-knocker on Saturday. Her counterparts in both major parties were doing likewise all weekend. Lit drops. Phone banks. Official work.

The mailbox is full of literature. Republicans have a clear money advantage; how else to explain the six lit cards we've received from the Missouri Republican Party? Every piece claimed Democrats would raise taxes and go nutballs on spending.

(The funniest GOP card said taxes and spending are out of control. Pardon us, but who's running the government these days? When one party rules the house, senate and executive on both the state and national level, that party owns the cake.)

An automated phone call comes from John Ashcroft, who insists Jim Talent is the pro-life candidate. Glad to hear the former Missouri governor and U.S. attorney general is adjusting to life as a telemarketer.

Official busywork leading to Monday, when the calls and cards will increase. Expect amplified cussing and cordless phone destruction in some households.

But plenty of unofficial tasks are being done on behalf of candidates for public office.

Granny Geek confirms that Hagan, a candidate for state representative, has hired private security because of "disturbing" phone calls.

•Someone ran over the signs in our yard for Doug Harpool and Dave Coonrod.

•Others report having signs stolen or uprooted from their yards.

No one can, or should, be surprised by the hoodlums. Punks like them are a dime a dozen. And that's suggested retail.


The school district in Hope, Calif., wants to quit using paper and pen to figure out how many students eat lunch in the cafeteria. The Associated Press reports:
The Hope Elementary School District has notified parents that, beginning this month, students at Monte Vista, Vieja Valley and Hope elementary schools will press an index finger to a scanner before buying cafeteria food.

The scan will call up the student's name and student ID, teacher's name and how much the student owes, since some receive government assistance for food.

It is meant to speed up cafeteria lines. ...

Currently, the information is written on paper and transferred to computer so reports can be compiled and sent to the state and federal governments, which reimburse school districts for the subsidized lunches served.
If this came to your school district, would you let your kid participate?


Got an extra $200,000 stuffed in the mattress? Samsung has something for you. TechEBlog explains:
Samsung has partnered with Korea University to develop a machine-gun equipped sentry robot, which consists of "two cameras: one for day-time and one for infrared night vision, zooming capabilities, a speaker for notifying the intruder, sophisticated pattern recognition to detect the difference between humans/trees, and a 5.5mm machine-gun."
The 'bot will be available in late 2007, according to Samsung. Scary part: South Korea is reportedly planning to deploy the machines along its border with North Korea. Deep kimchi.

Friday, November 03, 2006


Our cousin Tess -- such a lovely one -- celebrated a birthday on Friday. A highlight for her, for sure, and also for us. It doesn't have anything to do with politics. Like time-addled punks on goofballs we careen, eschewing the "years" part to shout: "Four more days!" Not even that, anymore. Three more days in 12 more minutes.

Happy Saturday to you. TV and radio will be awash in political ads; we've heard more than one story about candidates and causes outbidding each other to buy what little prime eyeball time remains on the network affiliates. Some will spend more than $250 a second to get their message out. And they say drugs are overpriced.

It shouldn't be this way, of course, but our not-so-inner cynic is in bloom. For American politics, it's SNAFU. The only possible repair is a mighty vote. The cynic shouts: Never happen. His Polyanna yin replies: A girl can dream, can't she?