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For the Love of God, People, READ TO YOUR KIDS!

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Reading stats over at Reach Out & Read and am saddened (but not shocked) to learn that Louisiana ranks last (as in #50) in % of children read to every day by their parents and (no doubt as a small result of that, among other factors, of course - mainly our shitty & dismal excuse for "education" in this state) we are ranked #49 in "% Students at or above Proficient in reading, Grade 4" and #50 in "% Children age 6-17 who have repeated at least one grade".

Damn.  That is sobering and depressing, eh?

In other words, Louisianian parents, please read to your goddamn kids! Please?

Reading and books were so important in my home.  My Mom always read to us, always had us excited about books and stories, took us to the library, etc.  She made the world of books magical - she loved reading so much (inherited from my grandfather) that it just came natural to her to immerse us in the wonderful, imaginative world of stories.

The result?  Three smart kids that - as adults - have a passion for books and one that became a writer (that would be me).

It isn't uncommon for us to give gift certificates to Amazon as birthday/Xmas gifts; we all read, all the time, and we love books.  If we read a really good one, we tell each other to check it out, loan books to one another, etc.  It's awesome, really.  I can't imagine a life without books - without words and stories and all of the neat worlds I've experienced and characters I've met through reading.  The love of books and reading is one of the most precious gifts our mother gave to us and I am forever thankful for it.

Please, parents, take some time away from your busy schedules to read to your kids - it's more important than you know and you will be opening up so many wonderful, creative worlds for them by doing so.  Read to your kids.  Both of you will benefit from it and you just can't beat that precious time spent together.

The Katrina Myth

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

...the truth about a thoroughly unnatural disaster

Please watch, rate, and share this very important, factual video.

For so long I have been saying much of this to people. I have argued that the irritation many Americans have about giving aid to "just rebuild a city that is below sea level" is misinformed and wrong; most of the city is NOT below sea level.

Furthermore, the idea that rebuilding NOLA is a waste is just plain ignorance and couldn't be more erroneous. Our New Orleans boasts an international airport and is the location of the one of the most important waterways and ports in the world. It is integral to the United States as just about anything that comes into this country via ship begins its journey into the U.S. from the Port of New Orleans.

That doesn't even begin to cover the musical, artistic, literary, and all around rich cultural atmosphere that has inspired and spawned countless artists, architects, writers, musicians, etc.

To say that New Orleans is not important - nay, integral - to this country simply could not be further from the truth.

The truth is - and many people throughout this country do not realize - that it was not Hurricane Katrina (only a Cat 3 at landfall in the city, causing mostly wind damage) that drowned New Orleans - it was the failings of the levee systems, which were the failings of the Army Corp of Engineers. Nature did not wreck havoc on this city and kill thousands - our government and the Corps did.

Please watch this video to learn more and help spread the truth.

You can also visit levees.org for more information and read up on the "Katrina whistle-blower" Professor Ivor van Heerden, the disaster-science expert who was fired from Louisiana State University (LSU) for speaking out against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their responsibility in the post-Katrina flooding that nearly destroyed New Orleans and killed thousands.

Also, for more fact-based information debunking many of the commonly-held myths, misinformation, and careless ignorance that is often bantered about concerning New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, and the tragic events that unfolded in the hours after the levees broke and our beloved city drowned, I point you to an October 2005 post of my own.  In George Carlin Isn't This Ignorant, I minced few words as I - my wounds still fresh and raw  - took on a particularly nasty email that was making its way around inboxes at the time.

Whatever you do, please continue to learn more and educate others about what happened to New Orleans due to the failings of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  As the video above states, there are 120 levees in 28 states that may be vulnerable; sadly, what happened here could happen elsewhere, too.  That is why getting the truth out and seeing justice done is so very important.

Thank you.

Interracial Couple Denied – Story Hits International Headlines

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

Yesterday I covered the story of interracial (and newly married) couple Beth Humphrey McKay and Terence McKay, JOP Keith Bardwell Denies Racism Claim, His Black Friends Use His Potty.  Today I learned the story has not only spread nationally (I first read about it over on Huffington Post), but internationally.  Local news station, WAFB, reports that the McKays have been getting so many calls, their phones are blocking up.  Some of those calls have come in from international news agencies such as the BBC.

As of yet, Justice of the Peace Keith Bardwell has remained mum after initially addressing the issue with conflicting statements.  He maintains he is "not racist" but that he "does not believe in mixing the races that way" and that, as JOP, he has the right to decide who he metes his duties out to.

Not so, says local attorney Jill Croft:

"This is plain, straight up Constitutional law.  You cannot make those decisions on the basis of race."

To date, JOP Bardwell has not been sanctioned.  An investigation will first have to be launched, but there is no doubt that one will take place.  Governor Bobby Jindal issued a statement calling for disciplinary action against Bardwell as well as the revoking of his license.  President Barack Obama, WAFB says, was even informed of the situation aboard Air Force One yesterday.

In his initial statements, Bardwell admitted that the state attorney general had warned him he would someday get in trouble for his refusal to marry interracial couples.  He seemed unfazed, and stated he would simply resign if it ever came to be a problem.  However, it is doubtful Bardwell ever imagined his moral objection would land him in hot water with the Governor himself; much less the President of the United States.  Even the McKays are shocked that their story has reached international headlines.

"I thought it'd be local. We thought just be around this area. It went international," Terence McKay states.  Beth McKay says, regardless, they are not going to let the issue die:

"We just wanted to stand up to that justice of the peace. What he did was completely illegal and wrong. We didn't want to have to take that."

Mrs. McKay is right.  She and her husband have become overnight champions of the rights of interracial couples and a symbol of standing up to racism.  Hopefully their fight will help other couples who are faced with the same ignorant prejudices and bigotry.

Louisiana’s Next Serial Killer

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

The shadowy figure that had authorities stumped and local women emptying stores shelves of mace in 2003 is the man we all now know as serial killer Derrick Todd Lee.  To live in southern Louisiana at the time and be a woman was to live in fear.  People across the nation watched as Louisiana attempted, and repeatedly bungled, its attempts to find the killer. The unnamed terror eventually came to have a face after Lee's arrest in May 2003.  With it brought the more startling revelation that we'd had reason to fear for far longer; Lee had been on a murderous rampage for years - his first (officially recognized) victim was Randi Mebruer, who was murdered in 1998.  It would not be until 2002, with the deaths of Gina Green, Geralyn DeSoto, and Murray Pace before the rash of brutal deaths were linked to one person and the authorities began a manhunt for a serial killer.

Not long after Lee's arrest, and with much less fanfare, Sean Vincent Gillis, was arrested in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for multiple murders.  Evidence and his own confession linked him to at least eight slayings; the first being 82 year-old Ann Bryan in 1994.

Between 1994 and 2003 there were two serial killers on the loose in southern Louisiana.  More frightening than this actuality is the fact that the fifteen murders attributed to these two men account for only a small percentage of the unsolved murders of women in the area.

Crime profiler John Philpin, in his piece Red Stick by the Numbers: The Baton Rouge Serial Murders, states:

In the decade of the nineties, the Baton Rouge area recorded thirty-plus unsolved cases of missing and/or murdered women. In the first two-and-one-half years of this decade, there have already been thirty-plus.

If the numbers are reduced by those cases which demonstrate no similarities to the official five [Author's Note - "official five" meaning the cases initially linked to Lee by DNA evidence], instead of sixty-plus victims, the total for the thirteen-and-one-half years is between thirty and forty.

Putting the monsters known as Derrick Todd Lee and Sean Vincent Gillis behinds bars has not - unfortunately - stemmed the tide of women being killed in southern Louisiana; nor the capture of their killers.  In the late 90's and early 00's there were apparently two men going about the business of being serial killers; all to the ignorance of the general public.  We had no reason to fear or be on extra alert - as we were during the "hunt" for the Baton Rouge Serial Killer.  The probability of being watched, stalked, and especially taken was not - to our knowledge - any more than it ever was.  We were ignorant to the sinister evil that lived around and among us, and that ignorance cost many women their lives.

Simply because Lee and Gillis are off the streets does not mean we should ever let our guard down.  There are still unsolved murders not attributed to either of them, and there is much evidence that they were not - are not - the only murderers living in the surrounding areas.  Just as one example:  It is common, local knowledge that the murder of numerous black prostitutes in Baton Rouge's rundown "Mall City" area has been going on for years now.  No one has been arrested for the slayings.

Sadly, such an ugly truth is being brought to light again.

The story of a young girl who has been missing since November 2 from Jennings, Louisiana reveals much more than just her disappearance.  It is believed that 17 year-old Brittany Ann Gary may have become the latest victim of Louisiana's next realized serial killer.

Over the past three years, it has been revealed, the bodies of six women have been recovered in and around the area.  Brittany knew most of them, was friends with one, and the cousin of another; a fact that authorities believe may have made her a viable target.

It began on May 20, 2005 when the body of 28 year-old Loretta Lynn Chaisson was found in a canal.  Ernestine Marie Daniel Patterson, 29, was found 6 miles away in another canal just seventeen days later.  The cases remained cold until the bodies of Kristen Gary Lopez, 21, and Whitnei Charlene Dubois, 26, were found in March and May, respectively, in 2007.  In May of this year, Laconia Shontel Brown, 23, was found on a rural road in Jennings and the decomposed body of Crystal Shay Benoit Zeno, 23, was found on September 11 in Jefferson Davis Parish.

While I hope and pray for Brittany and her family that she will be found alive and well, it is hard not to assume the worst.

It would appear that Louisiana has ferreted out another serial killer from its apparently endless supply.  Let us hope the efforts to catch this bastard can come to a positive resolution before any other women have to die needlessly.

Local Woman Accuses Babydoll of Trying to Convert Kids to Islam

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

When a Zachary, Louisiana woman purchased a "Little Mommy" doll for her five year-old daughter on the morning of October 24 at a local Wal-Mart she had no way of knowing that she would soon be propelled into a self-declared crusade to have the corrupt doll removed from store shelves.

The dolls - made by Mattel - are, no doubt, creepy-sounding.  So much so that I made this short video of them at the Super Target in Baton Rouge back in May of this year.  Other than simply sounding eerie, especially as a chorus, I can't say I found any nefarious intent in their peculiar warbling.

Johnette Dunaway, however, heard something more come out of the battery-operated babies.  A message so evil that this Zachary mother claims it threatens not only our children's Christian souls, but the very country in which we live.

To Johnette's excitable ears, the words "Islam is the light" are heard as the third "phrase" coming out of the Little Mommy's plastic lips.  Possibly because she has nothing better to do with her time, or maybe because she's an oblivious Bible-beating fanatic, Johnette feels it is her duty to not only warn the media about this travesty, but to travel to all local stores and demand an explanation and removal of the dolls from their shelves.

The article at the local WAFB website was disturbing enough, but perhaps worse was the further display of ignorance Johnette gave in the Comments section as some of us more rationally-minded individuals attempted to share our disbelief and alarm at Johnette's ignorant claims.  She had this to remark to we naysayers:

You people are missing the point.do you not care what your kids are being subjected to in LIFE.If you did a little research about ISLAM you would understand their beliefs and what they teach.i dont know about you but thats not how i want my children growing up.And NO most children won't understand the meaning of the phrase "ISALM is the LIGHT" but,they also don't really understand the meaning of most nursery rhymes either.But as they grow up and they remember that doll and the phrase it was saying,they then will remember.people lets all remember 911.Is that not enough to put a stop to this.Or do you really want to bring this kind of behavior to our country.Not me and that is why i stood up to let the people know what is very suddle being brought into the stores for our CHILDREN to have.If you really care about your children then do something.Don't just waste your time arguing about the subject.And to those of you that say it's not a big deal then that just shows how much you really care about your KIDS and COUNTRY.

To which I felt compelled to respond:

Johnette, if you are honestly ignorant enough to equate the entirety of the Islamic religion and all Muslims with 9/11 then there is little hope that any of us here are going to be able to convince you of the ridiculousness of this entire affair.

Mattel denies - as well - that the dolls are saying anything untoward:

The only scripted word the doll says is mama. There is a sound that may resemble something close to the word night, right, or light...Actual sounds may be imprecise or distorted.

And let's be frank - even if the dolls were proclaiming that Islam is the light, what gives this woman the right to cry foul because a doll calls out a religion other than her own?  Oh, that's right, Islam = Muslim = 9/11.  How could I forget?  As one astute commenter said:

Please Johnette, enlighten us as to what Islam stands for. I really doubt an ignorant person such as yourself has any knowledge of the religion other than what your fundamentalist "christian" ministers and popular television have told you.

I would love the chance to ask Johnette Dunaway how she would feel if the dolls proclaimed, "Jesus is the light" or "Christianity is the light" and why - to her mind - that would be any different?  What does she feel about the Islamic mothers that, every day, have to shop through aisles of toys that do say or sing exclusively Christian phrases?

The truth is, had this woman the ability to think for herself (instead of swallowing everything her preacher throws at her as gospel) she wouldn't be starting this big stink in the first place.

I have to admit that I am a bit ashamed of WAFB for promoting this tripe.  Why even give airtime to such blatant, bigoted ignorance?  This woman's racist ideals - fueled by fanatical religion - should not be promulgated by anyone.  As if there isn't already enough hate, racism, and inequality in this world, we certainly don't need anything further igniting such fires!

Sadly, in her heart of hearts, Johnette Dunaway believes what she is carting out here.  She believes it so fervently that she has taken her battlecry to the local media and is doing her part by going store to store to demand answers and - as always - eradication of anything that goes against the reality and religion she has been led to believe in.  That, my friends, is even scarier than creepy dolls.

Aftermath

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

I'm tired.  I would like a shower.  I would like a full meal.  I miss my home and I miss my cats.

Unable to stand the humid, sticky heat, I have opted to spend my 12 hours off the clock here in my office - where there is a/c and Internet.  Baret goes home; we don't get to see much of each other as we both go into work - in separate buildings - at 6pm for 12 hour shifts.

There is a lot of damage here in Baton Rouge - worse than Katrina, even worse than Andrew back in 1992.  Millions are without power.  Some parishes may not have power again for 4-6 weeks.  Can you imagine?

I yearn for life to go back to semi-normal, and yet I see the threat of Ike out there in the ocean waters and fear for the worst.

Thank you for all your support, thought, and prayers.  We are safe, our loved ones are safe, and no one has suffered any property loss.  Now we are just trying to survive without power and basic necessities in the grueling, miserable August Louisian heat.

Windy, Rainy, but Still Here

Monday, September 1st, 2008

We've lost power twice so far, but luckily it's come back on.  We're seeing strong winds and some stronger gusts and lots of rain.  Other than that, not much else to report.

Gustav made landfall about 45 minutes ago and we're expecting things to get stronger in the next hour or two.  I'm good as long as we have power (and Internet!).

If able, I'll post more as the storm's eye heads on toward us.