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Saturday, April 02, 2005
Goldberg Flies Air America
Music-biz biggie pilots a new radio hit
by NIKKI FINKE
Ride, captain, ride, upon
your mystery ship!
Maybe it’s just bad static or poor reception, but isn’t the new CEO of liberal radio network Air America soundbiting like a Republican?
Sure, he thinks Al Franken is a “genius,” but he admits listening regularly to Rush Limbaugh “because I was fascinated by his ability to be so entertaining.” He says Air America won’t take its cues from the Democratic National Committee, “because I hate to see people just lockstep following a political party.” He believes people in Hollywood should be “supportive of politicians, not a replacement for politicians, unless they actually want to run for office like Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I hope we produce one of those in my lifetime.” He sees American media becoming more like “the European media now, where media is admitting who they favor, and I think that trend is not all bad because I think there was a bias anyway.” And he says his most immediate goal is to “make a lot of money for shareholders.”
Then again, 54-year-old Danny Goldberg has always defied conventional wisdom.
When the Gore-Lieberman campaign railed against rap in the 2000 presidential race, this longtime record-industry executive and bicoastal political activist accused the Democratic ticket of turning off young people with GOP-pandering tactics. (“Gore’s dramatic drop in the support of younger voters alone cost him the election. The statistics are clear.”) When lefties began writing books savaging the right wing, he wrote a book attacking the Democratic Party as too tone-deaf to popular culture. (Goldberg’s How the Left Lost Teen Spirit is coming out in paperback next month with a new introduction and additional chapters.) When the November election deeply depressed millions of John Kerry supporters, Goldberg not only wasn’t surprised, but also felt less disappointed than most because he saw “a silver lining” in the loss. (“Unlike any election in my lifetime, the campaign left an infrastructure of activists, media and organizations that have at long last begun the work of creating a true progressive electorate.”) When the music business in recent months started to return to growth mode through rising digital sales and stabilizing CD sales, this former top executive at Warner Music and Mercury Records suddenly stepped down as chairman of indie Artemis Records. (He left for what he says were “philosophical differences” with the new investors over the future of the company.)
So it’s not surprising that, just as HBO was scheduling a very warts-and-all documentary about Air America’s start-up and near bankruptcy, Goldberg last month decided to take the helm of the no-longer-struggling company, which had already burned through two CEOs. “It’s just the chance of a lifetime,” Goldberg tells the L.A. Weekly in his first interview since getting the gig. “I wasn’t miserable in the music business, but I’d done it for 30 years. And I’ve had this strong interest for the last 15 or 20 in politics, especially how it intersects with media.”
(Full disclosure: I am a regular unpaid contributor on Air America shows.)
But Goldberg won’t even get to enjoy birthday cake celebrating Air America’s first year of broadcasting nationally on Thursday. Instead, he receives that big fat pie in the face with the premiere of HBO’s Left of the Dial, which chronicles the dramedy of what happens when mayhem meets moola, or lack thereof, complete with bounced paychecks, unpaid health-insurance premiums, complaining creditors and confused staffers.
Especially riveting is the behind-the-scenes chaos as Air America was thrown off its Los Angeles and Chicago radio stations after only two weeks on the air, and the ensuing cover-up. (Then again, the documentary fails to make the point that Air America won’t go down in history as the first company to obfuscate its true economic condition. Yet we should expect better of any champion of progressive politics.)
“It covers the first six months or so, which included a period when a charlatan who said he was funding it flaked out,” sighs Goldberg. “In general, I think it demonstrates the commitment and politics of our on-air talent and reminds people that we’re there. It was an independently produced documentary, so naturally there are a few cringe-worthy moments from our point of view. But, overall, it’s a huge plus for the network.”
Well, only if you believe in the old adages that all publicity is good publicity and that it doesn’t matter what they say about you as long they spell your name right. “Somehow or other, these people got this thing off the ground,” Goldberg defends. “It defied the conventional wisdom of the radio business. It was troubled in terms of the financing issues. This is about the art of the possible, the kind of programming that nobody would have taken a year ago, because they didn’t believe there was an audience for it. This is very much a work in progress. There’s been almost a destiny to it and a dedication, not only the people on the staff but also the investors who have stuck with it.”
What Goldberg vigorously emphasizes, what the HBO broadcast only casually mentions, and what Rush Limbaugh and his echo chambers (Sean Hannity, Tony Snow, Bill O’Reilly, Michael Medved, Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham, Michael Reagan, Dennis Prager and Larry Elder, ad nauseam) purposefully ignore, is that Air America and its Bushwhacking stepsister in the radio business, Democracy Radio, are now not only on solid financial footing but also informative and — dare we say it — even fun. And not just because of the Grateful Dead bumpers.
That’s why liberal talk is the radio industry’s fastest-growing format. That success has been the catalyst for Air America’s sudden adoption by Clear Channel Communications, long despised by Democrats for hosting shows and promotions that bolster the Bush administration agenda (which is not just paranoia, since the Texas-based company CEO is a big GOP donor). For instance, the day before Dubya’s second-term inauguration, listeners tuning in to the Detroit sports station WXDX-AM were suddenly greeted by the sound of braying donkeys, according to AP reports. By the time Bush was taking the oath of office, the radio station had new call letters and a full schedule of liberal talk shows. It’s just one of 22 stations owned by Clear Channel, many of them registering mere blips in the ratings, that have switched to a liberal-talk format in the last year. “Listeners across the country are asking for more progressive talk radio,” said John Hogan, president of Clear Channel’s Radio Division, in a prepared statement on January 19. On the other hand, ABC’s sizable radio network still is bucking the trend with a near-monolithic right-wing show schedule, even though former Democratic U.S. Senator George Mitchell chairs parent company Disney.
“There’s a lot of attention to the fact that Clear Channel has done it because of the perception of Clear Channel. It’s from Texas, and some of the people there are friends with George Bush,” says Goldberg, picking his words carefully. “But it’s not just Clear Channel. The new stations in Texas — Dallas, Austin and San Antonio — are not Clear Channel stations. What simply happened is that the ratings have been good enough to demonstrate that there’s a frustrated talk-radio audience that’s not right-wing. So, faced with an underperforming AM station, this is a much better business decision for an owner than the other alternatives. And that’s where we’re getting the stations from.”
Not only is Air America now on in New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles (KTLK-AM 1150, another Clear Channel station), but it has also expanded from six to 51 stations, into 15 of the top 20 markets, into major red states like Texas, Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Alaska, and on XM and Sirius satellite radio. But will left-leaning listeners be able to hear? The truth is that many of Air America’s stations are low-wattage. For instance, in Dallas, where Air America replaced Spanish-language programming on KXEB-AM (910), static nearly drowns out the station in some areas. Even in Los Angeles, the signal can be faint, as opposed to Limbaugh showcase KFI, where the 50,000-watt blowtorch sounds more like 50 million.
Besides scoring well with women and young people, Air America currently claims 2 million listeners (and Goldberg predicts the size of its audience will double by 2006). One way the network is accomplishing this is by learning from the past mistakes of other syndicators of liberal talk who looked for national talent in all the usual — and dull — places.
Gone are the monologues and monotones of former politicians Mario Cuomo and Jim Hightower and even lawyers like Alan Dershowitz. Just as Democracy Radio sought out converted former Republican and ex–football player Ed Schultz, whose syndicated show has gone from two radio outlets to 77 in the past year, Air America also thought outside the box.
It offered gigs to liberally attuned comedians Al Franken, Janeane Garofalo and Marc Maron as well as media and politics veterans Marty Kaplan, Laura Flanders and Mark Riley. Expecting Franken to go head-to-head with Limbaugh in many markets was a huge risk for such a radio and political neophyte. Even liberals who had heard he would be the cornerstone of Air America’s programming feared Franken would make a fool of himself. But when Goldberg began listening to him, “I thought, ‘My God, Al Franken is really like a genius.’ He’s brilliant at taking complicated issues and, with a strict focus on the facts and logic, refuting conservative arguments. To be involved with somebody like that is such an honor.” And he also describes as “very good” Randi Rhodes, who, before Air America gave her a national platform, was beating Rush Limbaugh in the ratings in her Palm Beach County listening area.
Public Enemy rapper Chuck D and eight-time Grammy nominee Steve Earle have new shows. Given his background, Goldberg may want to see more confluence between music and politics, and possibly even Hollywood and politics, in Air America’s programming. “I do think that the war, and the election, brought out a level of intensity by a lot of artists that I hadn’t seen since the ’60s. A lot of those people who became politicized are still passionate. And that’s an asset that the left has, this support of a lot of very creative people in the arts and movies and television and especially in music. There ought to be some way of making those connections.”
And, on April 1, Air America will start carrying Jerry Springer’s syndicated talk-radio program. Yes, that Jerry Springer.
“As soon as I found out it was available to us, I jumped at the chance to get it,” Goldberg tells the L.A. Weekly. “I’m sure there will be some people who say that we shouldn’t run his radio show, because they don’t like his TV show. But the two shows are totally different, and I feel that Springer can reach an audience that we otherwise could not easily reach. He is a genuine celebrity in Middle America — including the so-called ‘red states’ — and has a gift for speaking in the cultural language of a wide piece of America. He is, in other words, a practitioner of exactly the kind of mass communications that I have long wished for in progressive politics. And his politics are truly progressive, on every conceivable issue. Of course, on a business level,” adds Goldberg, “it significantly strengthens us in our relations with affiliates and advertisers.”
But inside Air America, morale has been weakened by what is perceived to be a diversity problem on air and off. Even if the radio network’s management doesn’t practice what it preaches (Goldberg promises more airtime for people of color and women beyond what is currently scheduled), the fact that its programming is preaching at all is a godsend to progressives and their blood pressure. There’s something so soothing about switching from dittohead-targeted rants about “feminazis” and “godless atheists” and “the homosexual agenda” to hearing smart people make fun of all that. For the fair-minded who think National Public Radio has gone too far down the slippery slope and fallen on the side of right-wing bias, the antidote is Air America’s Morning Sedition.
And, for cable-TV-news watchers who’ve forgotten what a Democratic politician looks like, many of the network’s shows deliberately broadcast long and thoughtful excerpts (not just short soundbites that made her seem shrewish) from California Senator Barbara Boxer’s poking and prodding of Condoleezza Rice at the recent confirmation hearings. (Says Goldberg: “As someone who’s supported Boxer and her campaigns, I’ve yearned for her to play this role. I was just so moved by the way she handled herself and really stepped into a national role at a time when we really needed her.”)
But perhaps Air America’s finest moment to date came during last week’s legal wrangling over Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube. That’s because the radio network repeatedly played for listeners that audiotape of closed-door addresses by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to the culturally conservative Family Research Council on March 17 and 18. Released by the nonsectarian and nonpartisan group Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the tape shows both politicians shamelessly exploiting the Schiavo tragedy to politically suck up to the religious right.
All of this speaks very personally to Goldberg and his own progressive views.
“This is really a once-in-a-lifetime chance to run a business that’s really affecting the conversation of the country. So, for me, it’s like a no-brainer. It’s definitely something that, if they didn’t pay me for it, I would probably do it for free. But as a matter of fact, they are paying me for it. I actually think it’s a fantastic business, and those of us who are shareholders, and I’m among them now, are going to make a lot of money.
“You can do well by doing good.”
Air America is great. I especially like Randi Rhodes. She ROCKS!
Once again, Bush plays fast and loose with the facts
By GLEN JOHNSON
Apr 1, 2005, 06:36
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Out on the hustings, President Bush likes to make a case for allowing younger workers to invest some of their Social Security taxes by citing the example of the Thrift Savings Plan, private investment accounts available to members of Congress and other federal employees.
"Doesn't it make sense for members of Congress to give younger workers the opportunity to do the same thing with their money that they get to do in their retirement system?" the president asked this week in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, baiting his congressional opponents. "Frankly, if it's good enough for federal workers and elected officials - putting aside some of your own money in a personal savings account - it ought to be good enough for all workers in America."
What Bush fails to mention is that his accounts differ from Thrift Savings Plan accounts in a key way: They would be carved out of the Social Security taxes nongovernment workers pay. By contrast, federal employees get their accounts in addition to a traditional Social Security benefit check.
Democrats have said they would be much more inclined to embrace the private accounts - the signature item of the president's proposed Social Security overhaul - if they, too, were treated as an add-on to the traditional benefit check, rather than a partial replacement for it.
One Republican, Florida Rep. Clay Shaw, who oversees a House Social Security subcommittee, has filed legislation that would create the accounts as an addition to the program. But so far the broader debate over ensuring Social Security's long-term solvency has stalled over opposition to the president's "carve-out" accounts.
"It is just so unfair, misleading and fraudulent," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said of the president's references to the Thrift Savings Plan. The Nevada Democrat accused the administration of using carve-out accounts as a Trojan horse for eliminating Social Security, by siphoning off the taxes that pay benefits.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the top Democrat in the House, said: "I think what the president is demonstrating is the weakness of the argument he is out perpetuating. It's the classic case of you can put lipstick on a pig ... but it's still a sow."
White House spokesman Trent Duffy said the president does not highlight the Thrift Savings Plan because of the way it is funded but because of the investment options and risk management it affords.
"The president talks about the TSP in the context of a safeguard approach," Duffy said. "And, conceptually, it is the same thing if you - voluntarily - are given the option to set aside funds in a limited amount of investment options that might get a better return over a set period of time."
Federal employees, including members of Congress, have a retirement program that is the model of what most investment advisers suggest for any worker. Advisers liken it to a three-legged stool.
The employees pay into Social Security, qualifying them for a government retirement check. A portion of their pay also goes into a pension program, the Federal Employees' Retirement System, which pays a benefit based on their tenure. And they have the option to participate in a so-called defined contribution program, the Thrift Savings Program.
Like a private-sector 401(k), it lets workers make contributions - a portion of which the government matches - that can be invested five different ways. Those include government and corporate bond funds, plus a stock fund that tracks the S&P 500.
The stock funds performed well in the 1990s, with annual returns over 37 percent one year. But after the 2001 recession, they have posted annual losses as high as 22 percent. Over the most recent 10-year period, all the funds were profitable, according to the plan's Web site.
The private accounts the president has proposed for younger workers would be funded with up to 4 percentage points of the 12.4 percent payroll tax they now pay into Social Security.
On the stump, Bush does not mention the different manner in which the Thrift Savings Program is funded, only the example it should provide in the Social Security debate.
As Duffy suggested, the president also highlights the controls on investments in Thrift Savings: "For example, federal employees can't take their money and put it in the lottery, or you can't take it to the racetrack," Bush told the Cedar Rapids crowd.
At the Iowa event, the president was joined on stage by a retired federal worker who reveled in the benefits of having a retirement program diversified by the add-on nature of the Thrift Savings Program.
The retiree, Joe Studer of Robins, Iowa, gets a pension from the precursor to Social Security for federal workers hired before 1984, the Civil Service Retirement System. He also draws money from an Individual Retirement Account, which is available to all government and civilian employees, and has the proceeds of his Thrift Savings Plan.
"My Thrift Savings Plan is approaching $100,000," the 67-year-old told the presidential audience.
By THOMAS HARGROVE
Scripps Howard News Service
April 02, 2005
- Pope John Paul II, one of the chief architects of the 20th century who used the power of his long pontificate to help topple communist regimes worldwide and enforce his deeply traditional Catholic doctrine, died Saturday at age 84.
After months of declining health related to advanced Parkinson's disease and chronic hip ailments, John Paul II died in his Vatican City apartments overlooking Saint Peter's Square after suffering high fevers, erratic blood pressure and kidney and heart failure.
The most widely traveled pontiff in history, John Paul II journeyed more than 750,000 miles to visit nearly 200 countries - some of which no longer exist in the wake of the turbulent political reform he helped unleash.
"The claim to build a world without God has been shown to be an illusion," he said in Prague in 1990 as the last vestiges of Communism crumbled in Europe.
Few people have had as much impact on modern times as did Karol Joseph Wojtyla - the name with which John Paul II was christened after his birth in Wadowice, Poland, on May 18, 1920, to a Polish army officer and a former schoolteacher.
Wojtyla was elected pope as a compromise candidate on Oct. 16, 1978, after eight rounds of balloting in the College of Cardinals. He chose the name John Paul II to honor his predecessor - who died after only 33 days in office - and became the first Polish pope and the first non-Italian pope since Adrian VI in 1522.
"I was afraid to receive this call," the new pope said in nearly flawless Italian to a vast throng assembled at the Vatican. "But I accepted it in the spirit of obedience to God."
He went on to demonstrate a muscular, global power for the Roman Catholic Church, answering Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's famous sneer: "The Pope? How many divisions has he got?"
Within days of his ascension, the pope entered into negotiations with East German Foreign Minister Oskar Fischer - the first East German Cabinet official to visit the Vatican - to restore religious freedoms for the nearly 2 million devout Catholics living within the Soviet satellite.
John Paul II went on a tour of Poland the following year that was not even a thinly veiled assault on the Communist Party. Hundreds of thousands flocked to each of his public events.
He visited the dungeon cells of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz, kneeling in prayer at the infamous Walls of Death where hundreds of thousands of Jews perished. His remarks that followed the moving experience left no doubt that the pope believed tyranny had not yet been expunged from his homeland.
"Is it enough to put man in a different uniform and arm him with the apparatus of violence?" he asked. "Is it enough to impose on him an ideology in which human rights are subjected to the demands of the system, so as in practice not to exist at all?"
He sought many tours in communist lands, often to be rebuffed by governments well aware of his considerable power as a symbol of dissent and resistance.
His enthusiasm for travel caused him to journey to almost all of the world's nations. He often chided each country for its shortcomings. His first visit to the United States was in 1979, a seven-day, six-city whirlwind tour in which he warned of the false lure of materialism.
"Faced with today's problems and disappointments, many people will try to escape from their responsibility," the pope said then. "Escape in selfishness, escape in sexual pleasure, escape in drugs, escape in violence, escape in indifference and cynical attitudes. I propose to you the option of love, which is the opposite of escape."
John Paul II, despite his strong anticommunism, repeatedly criticized the West for its massive nuclear arms buildup, saying it threatened humanity's survival. "Disarm the engines of death," the pope implored at a 1982 meeting of the U.N. General Assembly. "Peace is possible! And because it is possible, peace is our duty, our grave duty, our supreme responsibility."
He also made peace with some of the ancient wrongs of the Catholic Church, condemning the Italian Inquisition's threat of torture in 1633 when the church convicted Galileo on a charge of heresy for proclaiming that the Earth rotates round the sun. And in 1996 John Paul II declared that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is "more than just a theory" and in no way conflicts with Christianity.
John Paul II drew increasingly strident criticisms for his deeply traditional doctrine, especially from American Catholics. Only male priests may consecrate communion bread, birth control in all of its complex forms is forbidden and Rome was firmly in control of the global church.
Some American university professors threatened revolt when the U.S. Bishops Conference, at the subtle prompting of the pope, voted to require that to teach theology, they must be licensed by their local bishops.
As the pope grew increasingly frail, he became less of a factor in the U.S. church even as American dioceses faced one of their most grievous challenges. Long-standing complaints that priests were sexually abusing children erupted sensationally into civil and criminal investigations starting in 2001.
The pope summoned American cardinals to the Vatican in April 2002 for discussions. John Paul II issued a proclamation that "there is no place in the priesthood or religious life for those who would harm the young." Nevertheless, American Catholic leaders largely had to fend for themselves amid the growing public-relations disaster.
John Paul II spent half of his life under tyranny. He was still a teenager when Adolf Hitler's armies marched into Poland.
"The very word 'freedom' now makes the heart beat faster," Wojtyla later remarked. "Deep are the wounds that remain in the human spirit from this period. Much time must yet pass before they will be completely healed."
Wojtyla considered becoming a professional actor in his youth, but had to work as a stonecutter to avoid deportation under the Nazi occupation. He joined a Christian democratic underground organization and was credited by B'nai B'rith with helping Jews find refuge from the Holocaust.
While in high school, Wojtyla showed promise both as an athlete and as a scholar. But when convalescing from an accident in 1942, he decided against a secular career and began studying for the priesthood. He was ordained on Nov. 1, 1946.
His clergyman's collar did not put an end to his worldly and political activities, though. Wojtyla often took public stands against communism, using the Catholic Church as a powerful platform for dissent against the Soviet puppet government established in Warsaw after the downfall of Hitler's Germany.
Wojtyla saw little difference between Hitler and Stalin. Both sought to contain or control humanity's religious and spiritual impulses. The future pope wrote essays and religious meditations that called upon Christians worldwide to pray for Eastern Europe, "which for many years has been sorely tried by being deprived of freedom under Nazi and communist totalitarianism."
He rose rapidly through the Catholic hierarchy, becoming auxiliary bishop of Krakow in 1958. Four years later, he was given the title of "vicar capitular," which gave him control of his diocese. Pope Paul VI elevated him to cardinal in 1967 at the remarkably young age of 47.
Wojtyla continued in the scholarly ways of his youth, writing essays and poems and learning an astonishing number of languages, almost as a hobby. Several of his works - including "Easter Vigils and Other Poems" - enjoyed commercial success.
He was elected pope in 1978, just months after Soviet allies staged a violent coup in Afghanistan ousting President Mohammed Daud and signing a 20-year trade pact with Moscow.
As the years advanced, John Paul II's remarkable health began to fail. The avid runner, swimmer and skier created an international incident when he accidentally skied from Poland across the Tatra Mountains through the Czechoslovak border - eventually needing assistance when walking or standing.
"You have to admire my loyalty," he joked in 1994 to the staff of Rome's Gemelli Hospital.
Doctors at the hospital treated John Paul II for two gunshot wounds after a 1981 assassination attempt; for pre-cancerous colon surgery; for Parkinson's disease; for a broken arm; and for a broken leg and hip following a fall in the bathroom.
As the pope's health failed, his devotion to his job never wavered. He shrugged off suggestions that he should retire, preferring to die in office like most of his predecessors. "You have to cure me," he told one of his doctors in 1994. "Because there is no room for a pope emeritus."
By late 2004 the pope's advanced Parkinson's disease and painful arthritis had confined him painfully to a wheelchair during his pilgrimage to the French shrine of Lourdes, where he drank water from a spring thought to have curative powers.
"With you, I share a time of life marked by physical suffering," he told others who went to the cave where 14-year-old Massabielle claimed to have seen visions of the Virgin Mary 150 years ago.
The pope became increasingly introspective about the fate of the world and the future of his church during the final years of his pontificate. He understood and helped mold the 20th century, but was openly less certain of what was to come in the third millennium.
"We cannot but wonder about the future. What direction will the great human family take in this new phase of its history?" the pontiff mused during a late-night homily in Rome on Jan. 1, 2000. "May the Lord grant you peace
By Leigh de Armas
"My spaceship has landed, and I'm frightened as hell."
After three hours of hanging out with the protesters in front of Terri Schiavo's nursing home in Pinellas Park March 22, that's all I can scribble in my notes. I'm sitting on the grass outside Woodside Hospice. As I write, I'm surrounded by 50 or so religious protesters who are praying, crying and shouting scripture through a bullhorn. It's day five since Terri's been without food or water, and the mood is dismal.
The woman sitting next to me is weeping, her fists clenched. I try not to stare as she punches her forehead in anguish. Behind her, five women sit in a group and pray.
Nearly 100 handmade signs color the crowd neon. "Michael, how is your other 'wife' and bastard kids?" says one. "Terri is the Sacrificial Lamb," says another. "We'll have your jobs if you don't save Terri," says a third. A man passes me holding an enormous banner that reads "Obey Jesus" in huge black and red letters. The other side of the sign says "Repent or else."
The crowd is smaller than I anticipated. Every major news organization in the country has placed the Schiavo controversy at the top of the news, yet the throngs of angry protesters have not materialized. I expected the streets to overflow with thousands of them from both sides of the argument. But there are only a few dozen people standing behind a flimsy orange plastic fence. And they're all on the same team.
AMONG THE RIGHTEOUS
A man with a shaved head and glasses walks over to where I'm sitting in the grass. For the last five minutes he's been trying his best to display his sign for the media tents across the street. He paces back and forth, making sure I see his "Repent or else" banner.
"You see that police officer over there?" he asks. "He told me he was gonna arrest my ass if I didn't move away from him." He pauses for a second and ponders. "Then outta nowhere, a bee started chasing me!"
"A bee?" I asked.
"Yes sirree. A bee," he says. "Maybe it was the good Lord tryin' to keep me outta trouble."
We giggle together. He continues talking.
"I just left the hospital. I got an aneurysm in my chest that ain't popped yet. I came straight here as soon as I got out," he says proudly.
"Did you say aneurysm?" I ask, shocked. "You have an aneurysm in your chest? I'm so sorry." I am genuinely sad for him.
He smiles. "I ain't scared. I got Jesus," he says. "And worms."
"Worms?" I ask.
"You can't see these worms everywhere? I think Mother Nature is tryin' to get me. First bees. Now worms."
I examine the grass. No worms. I look up at his sign. No worms. I'm confused, so I just stay quiet.
Suddenly, a man begins screaming into a loudspeaker positioned just a few feet away from my left ear. Startled, I jump from my seat and place my hand over my chest.
"Ichabod, Ichabod, Ichabod," screams the man. The term, I recall from my days at Christian school, is Hebrew for "inglorious." The man, dressed in a suit with a Bible in one hand, continues.
"The glory of the Lord has departed from this judicial system," he yells. "The cops told me they would arrest me if I brought Terri a glass of water. These renegade judges are murdering Terri. They have gone against Congress, and they have gone against God!"
A man behind me shouts, "Amen!" I want to fit in, so I shout "amen" too. Bad move. Another man with long curly hair and a baseball cap makes eye contact with me. He's carrying an upside-down bucket that he's using for a drum. With a wooden stick, he beats the drum twice, then pauses before he beats the drum twice again. With every pair of drumbeats, he's closer to where I sit.
"Excuse me," he says quietly as he approaches. "My friend just got arrested for trying to bring Terri water."
"Oh no, really?" I have no idea what to say.
"Yeah, they told me I can go bail him out of jail now. Will you beat my drum for me while I'm gone? It's supposed to symbolize her heartbeat," he says.
As I open my mouth to say no, a strange thing happens: I say yes. He reaches over and hangs the bucket around my neck, then passes me the drumstick. "Great! I'll be back before you know it," he says warmly.
Mistake No. 1: Never trust a man beating a homemade drum. Mistake No. 2: Never commit to beating a drum when you're supposed to be taking notes.
For two hours I pace the crowd beating the drum and snapping photos. It's 90 degrees. I have two large pools of sweat staining the armpits of my long-sleeved shirt. Newspaper photographers are stalking the crowd. One of them sees me and aims his camera in my direction, like a police officer aiming a rifle at a fugitive. "Damn, I don't want my picture in the paper," I think to myself. I'm so distracted by the thought I don't realize I've stopped beating the drum. An older woman looks at me with wide eyes. "Don't stop beating the drum! Don't stop beating the drum!" she says, almost frantically.
Shit! Heartbeat! Got it! I begin beating the drum harder and faster than before as I weave through the crowd trying to escape the photographer. Alarmed by my rapid drumbeats, another woman yells, "Slow down the heartbeat, she ain't hyperventilating." She laughs at her own joke.
I can't take the pressure of this job. I have to ditch the drum. My palms are sweaty as I search for an escape route. I'm saved (no pun intended). It's prayer time.
A woman grabs the loudspeaker and instructs all Catholics in the crowd to come forward for Holy Communion. "I'd like to remind everyone that we have very strict rules about Communion – only Catholics can partake of the body and blood of Christ," she announces. A look of resentment washes over the faces of a few men to my left. One voices his disappointment.
"Communion should be for everyone. The Lord doesn't discriminate against those who love Him," he says, frustrated.
The woman continues. "But I hope all of you will join us in prayer, so stop what you're doing." The prayer begins, eyes close and heads bow. I have to act now, so I drop the drum, throw the stick and run toward the exit. The odds are in my favor for a clean escape; Catholic prayers last forever.
As the crowd says amen, I'm almost in the clear. I only have to pass a group of three women and I'm home free. No problem, right? Wrong.
One of the women reaches her arm across the orange fence to stop me. "Excuse me, Miss? We have a question for you," she says. "Why were you beating that drum over there?"
"Oh, it's supposed to symbolize Terri's heartbeat," I say with a smile.
Her eyes narrow and she leans in closer. "Well, I hate to tell you this, but it sounded like a death march." The woman next to her shakes her head in disapproval. "Yeah, don't do that anymore, it's sending the wrong message," she says. "Gosh, nothing satisfies you people," I say, immediately regretting my choice of words. "I mean, I was just trying to do something positive." The women turn their backs on me.
Today I was one of them. Tomorrow, I'll be returning to test the waters of free speech as the voice of dissent. God help me.
Plan outrages Terri parents
BY HELEN KENNEDY
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Bobby Schindler is comforted by priest outside sister Terri Schiavo's Florida hospice yesterday.
PINELLAS PARK, Fla. - Terri Schiavo's imminent death won't end the bitter public family battle over her wishes. Indeed, it will only get worse.
Michael Schiavo has already made plans to have his wife cremated and to place her ashes in his family plot near Philadelphia, where they met and married.
Her parents are appalled: They want a wake, an open-casket Catholic funeral service and burial near them in western Florida so they can visit the grave.
"Even in death, he isn't going to allow them a shrine, a place to go talk to her," said Paul O'Donnell, a Franciscan monk designated to speak for the family. "He's taking her from them. Won't he at least give them her dead body?"
Another spokesman for Bob and Mary Schindler put it more bluntly. "He's a bastard," said abortion activist Randall Terry. "It's sheer spite. He's moved on with his life. Why can't he give them this?"
Ratcheting up the already ugly battle, the Schindlers, who have never allowed the possibility that their son-in-law could be acting in good faith, accuse him of wanting to cremate Terri to cover up evidence they say actually caused her brain damage.
Like the controversy over whether Terri would have wanted to die or not, the two sides are diametrically opposed about what she would have wished for her body.
"She never wanted to be put in the ground with bugs," Michael Schindler told The Tampa Tribune in 2002, the first time his wife's feeding tube was removed before her parents won a bid to reinsert it. "She always told me that."
The Schindlers say she was a practicing Catholic who would not want to be cremated. The cremation was okayed by the courts in 2002. Numerous appeals were denied.
In a desperate bid to overturn the court rulings, the parents sent a petition to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003, charging that Terri's catastrophic collapse was not caused by bulimia, as doctors testified, but that "Terri was possibly strangled."
"The Schindler family believes Terri's cremation is a maneuver her husband will utilize to destroy evidence of his criminal acts," the family told Bush.
George Felos, Michael Schiavo's lawyer, said that after being so thoroughly vilified by the Schindlers, Schiavo has no compunction about flouting their wishes.
"This is a man who's been called a murderer and an abuser. These are false charges, and they know they're false charges," Felos said. "Can you imagine how Mr. Schiavo feels?"
Felos said he didn't know if Michael Schiavo, who has spent the past 10 days and nights at his dying wife's bedside, was planning a private or public service. "Frankly, I don't think he's thought that far ahead," he said.
George Felos in the Twilight Zone
For Webmasters rss 2.0
Category: Political Commentary - Conservative
Posted Fri Apr 01,2005 12:46 AM Last Edited: Fri Apr 01,2005 12:50 AM
You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A dimension where attorneys simultaneously degrade the lives of brain damaged, bedridden disabled people even as they boast about communicating with said people telepathically. A dimension where attorneys outwardly appear calm cool and collected while inwardly fantasizing about bringing down jet airplanes with the power of their mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the George Felos zone.
Terri Schiavo is now dead – murdered by a bastard of a “husband” bent on killing her and aided and abetted by an arrogant, out of control judicial system. The discussion of this tragic murder at the hands of the judiciary can be left for later: But I thought I might shed some light on the guy who seems to be the driving force behind the death of Terri Schiavo.
The guy who is out there speaking up for his client, Michael Schiavo, who, although the majority of the misguided folks in this country support his efforts to kill his “wife” has been strangely absent from public view is George Felos, a full fledged, euthanasia nut on the order of good ole’ Dr. Jack. In fact, you could say that George Felos is to the vaunted legal profession what scary Jack Kevorkian is to the medical profession. One difference: Felos is out of jail getting people killed. Kevorkian is rotting in jail for having people killed.
Yes, if you thought Terri Schiavo was the first unfortunate woman Felos has tried to have killed, you’d be wrong. The man who’s said that he’s never seen Terri look more beautiful than when he and his client were in the middle of starving her to death for a final time it seems, likes pushing to have people killed. But not before he communicates with them telepathically to make really, really sure they want to be killed, or so he says in his book "Litigation as Spiritual Practice" (Blue Dolphin Publishing, 2002):
As I continued to stay beside Mrs. Browning at her nursing home bed, I felt my mind relax and my weight sink into the ground. I began to feel light-headed as I became more reposed. Although feeling like I could drift into sleep, I also experienced a sense of heightened awareness.
As Mrs. Browning lay motionless before my gaze, I suddenly heard a loud, deep moan and scream and wondered if the nursing home personnel heard it and would respond to the unfortunate resident. In the next moment, as this cry of pain and torment continued, I realized it was Mrs. Browning.
I felt the mid-section of my body open and noticed a strange quality to the light in the room. I sensed her soul in agony. As she screamed I heard her say, in confusion, 'Why am I still here Why am I here?' My soul touched hers and in some way I communicated that she was still locked in her body. I promised I would do everything in my power to gain the release her soul cried for. With that the screaming immediately stopped. I felt like I was back in my head again, the room resumed its normal appearance, and Mrs. Browning, as she had throughout this experience, lay silent (73).
For those of you who remember him, this little pontification is as nutty as some of the proclamations of Kevorkian, who liked to kill people with his homemade machine in the back of his VW Bus. I wonder if the people he killed screamed out their death wishes to him in the bond of some insane mind meld?
As I mentioned earlier, Felos also believes he’s capable of stopping jet airplanes in midair with the power of his mind:
He illustrates the truth of the spiritual principle by explaining how he once caused a plane to suddenly descend, causing chaos for the crew and passengers, when he pondered, "I wonder what it would be like to die right now?" The pilot later explained that the auto pilot computer program mysteriously quit working, resulting in the sudden descent. "At that instant a clear, distinctly independent and slightly stern voice said to me, 'Be careful what you think. You are more powerful than you realize.' In quick succession I was startled, humbled and blessed by God's admonishment" (181-182).
Don’t give yourself too much credit, there Georgie. But it's not surprising you think you can bring down a plane with your mind considering you believe I could create a Lamborghini for myself in my driveway if I just ponder on it enough:
Felos later discusses the "cosmic law of cause and effect" in which he argues that human beings create their own realities with their minds and have the power to change their reality with their minds - including causing a new, dream car to appear "out of the ether" (178-179).
And, apparently because he’s all wrapped up in this nutty little cosmic universe where everyone creates their own reality, he has a decidedly different take of the slaughter of millions of Jews during the Holocaust:
"The Jewish people, long ago in their collective consciousness, agreed to play the role of the lamb whose slaughter was necessary to shock humanity into a new moral consciousness. Their sacrifice saved humanity at the brink of extinction and propelled us into a new age." (pg 240)
"If our minds can conceive of an uplifting Holocaust, can it be so difficult to look another way at the slights and injuries and abuses we perceive were inflicted upon us?" (pg 240)
In other words, thanks Jews, for agreeing to die for all of us because your deaths were “necessary” and even “uplifting”. What a sick SOB we have here.
But of course, at the bottom of it all, Felos believes that death is a consciousness raising experience. So the deaths of millions of Jews were okay and all he’s really trying to do is raise Terri’s consciousness. How very kind of you, George.
Note: Thanks to Free Republic and James A. Smith, Executive Editor of the Florida Baptist Witness for wading through this crap and providing the quotes. I’d heard about this ridiculous book and the insanity it reveals from several sources over the past couple days, but these folks actually had the stomach to choke down this crap and synthesize it down to the quotes that best illustrate this lunatic’s warped world view.
As the horrible death of Terri Schiavo was being carried out under the Auspices of "The State", George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, the Schiavo goons, et al, we saw other famous people vying for the spotlight by hoving at death's door. The Pope of course, ALSO had a feeding tube, and the efforts expended to SAVE his life by Roman medical personnel, was in stark contrast to the efforts to KILL Terri Schiavo, by the legal system here in the US, and YES, the Pope ALSO had a feeding tube!
This was also being played out while that pie-faced goo head, Jerry Falwell, not to be outdone, was reported to be in critical condition. Now, I know that sounds mean. I don't like Jerry Falwell, never have, never will. I hope he lives and does well, but it just struck me as ironic that in two other cases, extraordinary measures were employed to try to SAVE these lives, and in Terri's case, so many extraordinary LEGAL measures were being employed to KILL HER!
"It am a bizarro world".
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