Friday, October 31, 2014

Lucky's Best Day

Look at this adorable face!

This is "Lucky" on his way to Benton Animal Hospital yesterday.  He was found by a former student of mine after being starved and abandoned.  Now, Lucky is at BAH getting the veterinary care that he needs.

Lucky breaks my heart because as soon as we got him to the vet yesterday, we learned that he was definitely used as a "bait dog."  You can see on his tail where he had been repeatedly tied to a stake and therefore unable to defend himself.  His ears are chewed away at the edges and he has defensive wounds on his legs.

Lucky is about a year old and has probably never known proper nutrition; his feet are flat because he never had the proper amount of calcium and nutrients for them to grow properly; this can be remedied with vitamins, supplements, and good nutrition.

My mission here is two-fold.  First, we have got to have tougher laws against animal abuse.  We have got to do a better job educating people about the existence of this kind of behavior and somehow make a change.  How in the world anyone could tie a puppy to a stake and use him as bait in training
fighting dogs is beyond me.  There must be tougher penalties for this!

Second:  Lucky needs some financial donations.  The good people at Benton Animal Hospital are taking care of him.  Steve and I took him in yesterday afternoon and by the end of the day he had been examined (no heartworms!  no parasites!) and given a round of vaccinations.  He's got to be neutered when he is healthy enough and he's got to have a strong nutritional program.  If we can get some donations phoned into Benton Animal Hospital for Lucky, he can get the care he needs.  And when it's time for him to go to a foster or a rescue, having donations tagged to him will help make him a more attractive candidate.

Lucky has never known love until my friend found him last week.  All he has known is abuse.  I believe we can do better for him.  No more abuse.  He deserves to know love.  He deserves a safe, warm bed at night and to be a loyal companion for someone.  This is the friendliest dog I've ever seen.  After everything he's been through he is totally people-friendly and dog-friendly.

He is still offering unconditional love.

We can help him/  Please call Benton Animal Hospital at 318-965-2371 and tell them you want to make a donation to Lucky.  Even if it's just $5.00, it will help him./

He's a good dog!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Shreveport Police Storm the Wrong House and Draw Down on Innocent Citizen

UPDATE:  The Shreveport police administration is actively responding to this investigation in a positive manner and have been in contact with us.  I'll update with what I can when I can, but please know that we do support the Shreveport police department and the officers on the job.  This was a bad situation and hopefully an isolated one.  Thank you for your support.

As the wife of a retired police officer, I appreciate more than most people the dangers that police officers face on a daily basis.  It's a dangerous job and most people wouldn't do it.

That being said, I had my first encounter with an over-zealous police officer last night and it scared the ever living hell out of me.

Scene:  Saturday night, about 8:30.  Steve and I are sitting in our living room with the World Series on television.  Kansas City was leading the Giants 4 - 1.  Steve can't stand listening to Joe Buck so the sound was turned way down.  He was working on his computer and I was reading a book on my iPad, and all three dogs were sleeping around us.

We have relatively new neighbors in the house directly behind us and these people have small children.  Lately the weather has been cool, turning to fall, and the evenings pleasant so the children are often playing out in the backyard, squealing and screaming as kids will do.  Yesterday their father was out there with them doing some home repair because I heard saws going and some hammering.   The kids don't bother me; I'm glad kids play outside and are not stuck in front of video games.

As Steve and I are watching the game, we can hear the kids playing and screaming; he asked me if I heard that because he wasn't sure what he was hearing; it could have been on the TV, which as I said, was turned way down.  I confirmed that I heard the kids screaming and we went on about our business.

About 15 minutes later, about 8:45, Steve looks up from his computer and says, "Hey, there are police outside, I mean RIGHT outside."  He could see the lights flashing through the blinds.  He got up and peeked out the blinds and saw patrol cars, and he saw officers with flashlights running down the driveway that cuts between my house and the neighbor's house: it's a wide double driveway that we share.

I stood up from the couch to look and as I crossed my living room I saw officers with flashlights running between my house and the neighbor's house on the other side.  One was shouting "It's back here, it's back here!"

I said, "Steve, they're over here now," and pointed to the window.  About that time there is a fierce pounding on my front door and lights pointed at my house.  "Open up!  Open up right now!"  Pounding, pounding on the door.

Steve tells me to grab the dog (the Lab who is very protective, but not barking) opened the front door and starts to ask what in the world is going on when this cop with his gun drawn and aimed at Steve's chest starts screaming "Get back!  Get back!  Who is screaming in this house?  Who is screaming!"  The cop props one foot on the threshold-step and continues screaming at us.

Steve raises his hands in an open gesture, the way you do when a cop is aiming a gun at you, and said, "What are you talking about?  Nobody is screaming in here!"

The cop, with the gun still aimed at Steve, looks at me and yells:  "Who else is in this house, who is doing that screaming?!"

I said, "Nobody is screaming in here!  It's those children behind us!  We have kids living behind us and they play in their backyard!"  And Steve is saying "We're just sitting here watching the baseball game!"  And the dog is standing there, who I've never managed to grab because this happened so fast, but he isn't barking or charging at the cop, thank goodness.

Steve tells him, "I'm a police officer, I'm a retired Bossier City police officer; we are just sitting here watching baseball!"

At that point the cop turns his gun so he's no longer aiming it at Steve but still has it in a firing grip, he turns to the officers standing behind him and in the driveway, and says "It's the house behind, on the other street!"  and takes off running.

Steve hollers after him, "What's your name!" and the officer gives it to him.

We closed the door in stunned silence.

We stared at each other, in silence, and then the fear and adrenaline hit me.  I started shaking and trembling and could not stop.  I sat back down on the couch, got back up, Steve is dumbfounded and then furious.  He gets on his cell phone and calls to speak to a supervisor and I walked outside on the back deck to see if I could hear anything.

I saw flashing police lights and the neighbor's back flood light was still on.  I heard a stereo playing, maybe from their house, maybe another house.

I went back inside and Steve was still on the phone demanding to speak to a supervisor.  He finally got a lieutenant to come to the house to talk to us; he came within about thirty minutes and he had Mr. Over-Zealous Cop with him.  We had the door open, watching through the storm door for the lieutenant to show up and we saw Mr. Over-Zealous walking the supervisor through the run down the driveway and down the other side of the house, explaining what they did.  Then Mr. Over-Zealous walks back to the street, crosses his arms, and leans against his patrol car watching us as we speak to the supervisor.

In the end, the whole thing was terrifying.  I know it could have been much worse; I kept thinking what if my dog had jumped at the cop?  He would have shot him.  What if the cop thought Steve was making a threatening move?  Would he have shot him?  He was definitely drawn down on him.  What if my 22-year old son had come out of his room, walked around the corner into this scene - would he have shot him?  What if Steve and I had gone out and my son was home alone to face this craziness?

The what-ifs kept me up all night long and haunt me.

Like I said, I know it could have been worse, because no shots were fired in this case, and you certainly read about incidents that have gone wrong all the time.

I blame all this on the over-militarization of the police force.  Officers dress like SWAT teams now in all black or in riot gear with cargo pockets all over them.  What happened to first assessing the scene before you draw down on a civilian?  What happened to knocking on the door and saying, "Hey, we've got a noise complaint and just need to be sure everything is OK in here."   And if he really thought someone was in mortal danger, why just take our word for it before running off to terrorize someone else?  When they were running between the houses, we had open windows (actually OPEN windows, as well as open blinds and curtains) and any officer could have looked inside or listened to see what was going on before drawing down on us.

I know police work is dangerous and I know that domestic calls are often the most dangerous.  I appreciate the difficulty of their job.  But with any job, your first responsibility is to do no harm, to avoid making any situation worse, and to act responsibly.

It is my own personal opinion that this officer is a menace and should not be on the street.  He very easily could have done something very, very bad last night.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

In the Weeds

I am beginning to see why this book hasn't been written by anyone else in the past.  I think I'm also beginning to see why OCD people can not write books.  Or maybe they write the best books.  I'm not sure yet.

It drives me insane when none of my sources agree on the most basic of dates - dates you think should be able to be confirmed rather easily, like say, a marriage, or a death.  A newspaper article says one thing, a wedding announcement another, and a family genealogical chart says still another.  I can't even get a clear consensus on the name of a parish where someone was born - Assumption or Ascension?  My subject herself has said both in her own handwritten notes.

Even sources you think would be reliable do not even agree on the correct number of children - that one, however, I have nailed down.

Yet still, I spend all my time in the weeds, confirming each tiny fact with multiple, as-reliable-as-possible sources.  Checking, cross-checking and re-checking.

I'm going to drive myself crazy.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Bill Bush: A Shreveport Legend

Shreveport has lost a music legend.

Local legend Bill Bush died yesterday.  You can go to the very nice Shreveport Times article for the official write-up, courtesy of the talented John Andrew Prime.  In fact, I'll copy/paste some of it here because it won't be there forever:

Bush was elected to represent Council District D in 1982 and was unopposed in a re-election bid in 1986. He chose not to run for re-election for a third term in 1990, opting instead to run for Shreveport mayor in a 12-candidate field. He placed third in that primary, which wound up pitting Hazel Beard against Dr. C.O. Simpkins. He ran unsuccessfully for state Senate District 38 in 1987.
Bush’s first race was in 1978 against local attorney John B. Hussey, who praised his one-time opponent.
“We were both Democrats,” recalled Hussey, who served as mayor from 1982 to 1990. “It was kind of an open primary. There were four of us running, and Bill and I got into the runoff. I beat him in the runoff. But unlike a lot of political campaigns, we got to be friends.”

And:

A Byrd High School and Centenary College graduate, Bush was involved with alumni associations, the Progressive Men’s Club, Local 116 of the American Federation of Musicians, Holy Cross Episcopal Church, the Shreveport Regional Arts Council, Downtown Shreveport Unlimited, Historical Preservation of Shreveport, the Louisiana Restaurant Association, the Shriners and the Elks.
He was known for his work with the Bill Bush Combo, an entity he first formed after being asked, as a football player at Byrd High School, to perform at a pep squad talent show his senior year.
“Before each Byrd game,” a Times profile of Bush in 1968 read, “the football coach warned players ‘Don’t step on Bush’s fingers,’ because he played for the post-game dances.”
He also encouraged younger musicians, taking them under his wing for stints in his combo, or hiring them for gigs at his downtown nightclub, Bill Bush’s Moulin Rouge, which he owned and operated from 1971 to 1990.

I, along with hundreds of others, called Bill a friend.  Of course we all knew Bill from his days as owner of the Moulin Rouge on Common Street in Shreveport, and his political days, and for the past few years Steve and I have been going to The Anvil restaurant on Tuesdays to hear Bill play.  I'm going to have to change my Anvil night - I don't think I can do Tuesdays anymore.

There are so many stories and reminiscences about Bill that people have shared in the past 24 hours.  Mine are trivial in comparison, I suppose.  Honestly, there was never, ever, ever a time that he didn't come sit at our table with us and visit about something.  We talked about baseball, politics, music, travel, just about every subject under the sun.

I was always amazed at Bill's memory: he could tell you who wrote nearly every song you threw at him and who recorded it and what year.  And more than likely, he could play it.  He had the kindest heart I've ever seen in a human - for both adults and children.  Many nights we saw him sing "The Wheels on the Bus" for a kid at the restaurant or he might pull a child up and hand him a cowbell or a tambourine to play along with him.

One night his mother was in town from Texas and he had her come up to the keyboard and play.  They did a couple of songs together and it was the sweetest thing I've ever seen.  And Bill's sister Becky, who worked at The Anvil, stood by smiling from ear to ear.


And Bill laughed: he had the funniest stories.  One night he told us about a trip he made to France when he was on the City Council.  He was trying to set up a "sister city" deal and was in a club one night; in visiting with the staff he told them that he lived in the US and that he was the owner of The Moulin Rouge.  Language barriers being what they are, they thought he meant the Moulin Rouge in Paris.  They questioned him and he produced his AmEx business card which said, "Bill Bush Moulin Rouge" and he said he got the best service of his life after that!

Bill loved his trips to Mexico and he had a song he always played for me; he said he wasn't sure of the name, that a friend had played it for him, but he thought it was "La Bochina."  I've never been able to find the same song recorded anywhere, but I have a recording of Bill playing it for me on my iPhone.

I listened to it last night and cried.

I can't believe I'll never hear him do that song again.

He always played Route 66 for Steve and me because he knew we loved taking that trip in the summers.

He was such fun; one night last December his friend Jeri brought him a Santa hat to wear while he did his Anvil gig and of course he wore it all night:



One night he slid into our booth, scotch in hand, and we got into a discussion about politics.  Well, you know that Bill and I were polar opposites on politics, but it just didn't matter to him.  He was so good natured about hearing differing opinions.  This was shortly after Obamacare had passed and of course Bill was all for it.  He simply couldn't understand what we all thought was bad about it and genuinely listened to our position.  And then he began to explain his position, and my jaw dropped.  I said, "You really believe that?"  and he looked at me as innocently and intelligently as anyone I've ever seen and said, "Well, yes, I do."

If ever a liberal made any sense at all to me, Bill could.  He so whole-heartedly believed what he believed but he would always, always listen to the other side without animosity or hostility.

He was as good a man as I have ever known and I will miss him every single day.  He was, by all definitions, a gentleman.

I know that Bill missed his wife Judy deeply after she died earlier this year.  He grieved for her.  When she was in the hospital he took her dinner and held her hand before coming to his gig at the restaurant.

I like to think that now they are sipping a cocktail together and he is singing love songs to her once again.

Rest in peace, my friend Bill.  I miss you.



(Top photo courtesy of The Shreveport Times)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Birthdays Aren't So Bad...

This has been a simply fab birthday, so far!

I'm not much for birthdays, really; the older I get...well, I actually had to do the math today to double check how old I am today and to my pleasure discovered I'm a year younger than I thought.

That was good news.

Anyway.

Since there's no rule about NOT having to work on your birthday, I went to work.  I'm having a good semester and my kids are working hard, doing everything I ask of them, and doing it without complaint.  What more can I ask?

When my first block found out it was my birthday today they were at first a little irritated that I hadn't told them; as we transitioned into our last activity of the morning I noticed Timmothy was out of his seat and walking around to other groups with his paper in hand.  Ever diligent, I directed him to sit back down and he complied.  Then (head-smack!) I figured out what he was up to.



They'd made me a card!

My heart melted.  And Timmothy forgot to sign it!  So he made me a bookmark that noted "This was Timmothy's idea!" and he drew a picture of a Jolly Rancher.    Well, I just love it.

My daughter sent me these gorgeous flowers:



And my 22-year old son, for the first time ever, went out to a store and bought me a gift and two cards (one from the cats!).



I cried.

Steve and I will go out to dinner tomorrow with friends and so the festivities will continue for another day.  I'm looking forward to that!

Birthdays aren't so bad, really!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Grande Vente Wrong

Please don't try to justify this by showing me all the times any other president didn't do a snappy salute:



This is just insulting.

Period.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

On Writing

I was searching for something online last week and came across this Atlantic interview with author Stephen King.  It's been nagging at my subconscious ever since.

I've been frustrated lately because I can't find the time I need to write.  You see, I have a real job -- one that pays the bills and one that requires lots of time and energy.

And Stephen King cuts to the root of my dilemma:

Lahey: You paint a pretty bleak picture of teachers as professional writers. Teaching is, after all, a “consumptive profession,” as a friend of mine puts it, and it can be a real challenge to find the juice for our own creative endeavors after a day at school. Do you still feel that teaching full time while pursuing the writing life is a doomed proposition? 
King: Many writers have to teach in order to put bread on the table. But I have no doubt teaching sucks away the creative juices and slows production. “Doomed proposition” is too strong, but it’s hard, Jessica. Even when you have the time, it’s hard to find the old N-R-G.

I am reminded of Harper Lee and her wonderful friends who gave her a year's salary so she could take a break from her job and concentrate on her novel.  And she wasn't even a teacher; she was a clerk at an airline counter at the time.

But he is correct.

I love teaching; I truly do.  But in all honesty, to be a good teacher you have to re-dedicate yourself to it every single year.  I've never been one of those teachers that can use the same lesson plans every single year.  Yes, I teach the same short stories, usually.  I may add or subtract from the repertoire but basically I'm covering the same stories.  But I can never do them the same way.  It changes with the group.  It also changes with your own experience and training; I went to Pre-AP training this summer which was absolutely great, but it totally changed how I teach my classes.  I'm re-writing every single lesson plan once again.  (It seems to be working, by the way -- my students have much, much higher grades and are much more engaged than in the previous sixteen years which makes me wonder why such training isn't part of the teacher education curriculum in the first place, but that's another blog for another day.)

At any rate, my writing project isn't moving at the brisk clip that I might wish.  I wake up on Saturday or Sunday and for a brief moment am full of inspiration; I'm composing sentences, paragraphs, chapters in my head!  It's rolling fluidly and beautifully just the way I want to tell it!

But then I have to do the laundry and vacuum the carpet, run to the store, dust the furniture and pick up the dry cleaning.  Then it's time to plan supper, and well, heck, it's already 2 or 3 o'clock and the inspiration is gone.

How do real writers do this?

Must I wait until I retire to write this book?  I can certainly do research for the next seven years -- there's plenty of research to be done.  That doesn't really take any creativity or inspiration, so I'm really good at the research part.

I want to be able to drop everything and run down to NOLA and sit in the Tulane archives for a couple of weeks.  (A hotel for two weeks?!  Ha!  Yeah, that's not happening.)

I want to sit in the archives in Natchitoches at NSU for days on end until I've read every single thing that could possibly pertain to my book.  Will they let me pitch a tent and a sleeping bag in the back room?  Doubtful.

But, oh, I really want days of uninterrupted silence where I can put it all my research together and tell the story.

It will come.  I know I have to be patient.  I need to learn to enjoy the journey and to take my time so that I get it right.

But I do wish I knew how to burn the candle at both ends, teaching all day and writing all night.  What's the secret?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Never Forget

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Natural

I stand corrected; I said last week that Obama has no cajones, but I was wrong.  He's got to have some huge stones to say this:
"Part of this job is also the theater of it," Obama said, adding that "it's not something that always comes naturally to me. " 
Seriously?

Legal Insurrection nailed it:




Nope, he's not into theater or stagecraft at all:



Remember, he's not interested in photo ops.



Nope, he's got no sense of theater whatsoever,  All those doctors rushed right over to the Rose Garden in their lab coats, right?



Good grief.

He's so delusional it's just dangerous.



Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Steven Sotloff: Reaction Around the Web

ISIL takes another one.

This just depresses me no end.

This should not have happened.

They've got more hostages so you can expect this sort of thing from now on -- at least until we get a president with the cajones to do something about it.

And 9/11 is coming.

Reaction around the web:

Aaron Goldstein:
There's not much I can say at this moment other than to ask a single question. How many more Americans does ISIS have to behead before President Obama develops a strategy on ISIS? 
Independent Journal Review:
As ISIS still has Americans in its blood-stained hands and are willing to butcher more innocents in the name of its perverted cause, the world can no longer turn a blind eye. Whether or not the Commander-in-Chief leaves these terrorists alone, it is high time to form a strategy to defeat them.
Andrew Rosenthal:
Clearly, ISIS intends to go on kidnapping and murdering people and displaying the bloodshed to the world, and the United States is going to have to take an active, leadership role in the civilized world’s response. 
 The Twitchy Team:
Following reports that American journalist Steven Sotloff was beheaded by ISIS, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki held a press conference … and promptly confirmed that the Obama administration is made up of spineless clowns:
Sister Toldjah:
At the end of the video of Sotloff’s beheading, ISIS shows another captive, Briton David Cawthorne Haines. The implication is clear: unless the US stops its airstrikes, Mr. Haines will be slaughtered like James Foley and Mr. Sotloff.
Fox News:
Congressional lawmakers urged the Obama administration to crank up the offensive against the Islamic State after another video surfaced purporting to show the graphic execution of an American journalist.
CNN:
On Friday, Obama said it was too soon to discuss what steps the U.S. would take against the militant group inside Syria. On how to deal with the group in Syria -- where it was born and has a haven, mostly in the city of Raqqa -- the President said: "We don't have a strategy yet."

It's all terrible.

And so while Obama figures out his "strategy," presumably on the golf course, other hostages wait their turn.

Would this be an inappropriate time to ask, "What would Reagan do?"  Because, I mean, I can't see Ronald Reagan, or even George W. Bush for that matter, picking up his clubs and going to the green.  That's what Obama did after the Foley murder, so why would this be different?

This is coming to America next, people.  It's here.  The time to develop a strategy is long overdue.

The jihadists are just taunting us now; it's a shame we don't have a leader up to the task.


Added:

Allahpundit:

Serious question: How many dead Americans does it take to create a casus belli against a terrorist group? Certainly no more than 3,000, per 9/11. Hezbollah killed many more Marines in the 1983 barracks bombing than ISIS has killed journalists, although I suppose you can draw a distinction there between acts of war between military (or paramilitary) forces and outright murder of civilian combatants. Then again, the murder of Daniel Pearl wouldn’t have triggered an AUMF against Al Qaeda had 9/11 not preceded it. If a new AUMF is coming against ISIS, it’ll be because of the strategic terrorist threat the group poses to Americans domestically, not because of what it did to Sotloff and James Foley — although those murders, being so barbaric, will do wonders to build American resolve in smashing these degenerates to pieces.

More at Memeorandum.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Shreveport Has a Rubbish Pick-up Problem

Time for a little local trash ordinance complaint.

This summer, the trash pick-up policy changed in Shreveport in July.  It was pretty well publicized and even I, who never read the local "newspaper" or turns on the local news more than once a week, knew about the ordinance.

This is the ordinance from the city's website:

Bulky Item CollectionBeginning Monday, July 14, 2014 residents can begin to schedule appointments for our new program which will assist us in keeping our beautiful city clean.   If you have furniture, tree limbs, applicances, [sic] and / or tires that you need to dispose of you can do so by setting up an appointment.  Items for our Bulk Collection Program will be picked up by appointment only and each resident will be responsible for setting that appintment[sic] up by calling our Public Worrks [sic] Department @ 318-673-6300 and press 2 for a Customer Service Agent. These items will be collected separately from the regular garbage / recycling services but will be scheduled on one of your future trash days.  All items will need to follow the guidelines below
 1 pile per appointment and the pile must not be larger than (L) 15ft x (W) 6ft x (H) 6ft
Bulky items must be 5ft away from garbage carts, mailboxes, fences, telephone poles, parked cars or away from low hanging tree limbs or power lines.
Furniture, appliances, and tires may be placed curbside 24 hours before your scheduled appointment.
Tires - only 4 tires per appointment
Limbs / Brush may be placed curbside 7 days before your scheduled appointment.
Limbs / Brush must not be larger than 8 inches diameter or 6ft in length.
Items not collected are as follows:
No Building materials, i.e., flooring, tile, countertops, cabinets, concrete, rocks, stones, etc.
No Gasoline powered tools, auto parts
No Pianos, organs, swing or gym sets, trampolines, swimming pools and covers.
No Stumps / roots


Yet somehow, people seem to have missed the word.

The picture above left was taken this afternoon right across the street from me.  Not that it should matter, but I don't live in the ghetto nor do I live in the most upscale neighborhood.  Wherever you live this should not be a problem.  And that little pile is nothing compared to this one right next door to it:



Both piles of junk have been sitting there for at least three weeks.

On Youree Drive extension, headed north, a green couch has been sitting on the curb in front of the car museum place for two weeks.

We are starting to look like a third world country.

Obviously people should follow the guidelines and these two piles clearly do not.  Although at least in this one, there are some bagged items which have been ignored for the entire three weeks.

My neighbors and I have called to notify the city about this eyesore and we've filed complaints on the city website to no avail.

I understand the city's need to restrict bulky item pickup and reorganize how that is done.  And without a doubt our sanitation workers have had a rough haul -- no AC in many trucks and no pay raise in nine years.  I don't blame them for this.

But there has got to be a better plan.

I am assuming what happens here is that the property owner will "get a notice" and maybe "a fine" but in the meantime, this is a rat trap and brings down property values.

I'd hate for us to have to go to the kind of system Europe has...



...but right now it's starting to make a lot of sense.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Irony Alert: Braveheart's Abuser Goes to Court on National Dog Day

Today was National Dog Day.

National Dog Day was founded in 2004...
...to show our deep appreciation for the historical connection of companionship with one another - for their endearing patience, unquestioning loyalty, for their work protecting our streets, homes and families as Police K-9’s, Military Working Dogs, Guide Dogs and Therapy Dogs. 
In addition, the day is meant to call attention to ...
...the number of dogs that need to be rescued each year, and acknowledges family dogs and dogs that work selflessly each day to save lives, keep us safe and bring comfort. Dogs put their lives on the line every day - for their law enforcement partner, for their blind companion, for a child who is disabled, for our freedom and safety by detecting bombs and drugs and pulling victims of tragedy from wreckage.
And ironically, today was an important court date for Braveheart, our local now-ambassador dog who was found almost one year ago chained to a Cadillac Escalade in a storage building in over 100-degree heat.

Today, Braveheart's supporters were praying for justice as yet another court date rolled around.
Team Braveheart at the Caddo Courthouse today.

Over 20,000 people have signed the online petition so far demanding the maximum penalty for Braveheart's abuser; every state in the country is represented in that petition as well as 76 countries worldwide.  There is little doubt that this petition will carry some influence with the judge when sentencing finally comes around. Please sign it if you feel so inclined.

You can go here and here to read the backstory on Braveheart.  The short version is that he was found on September 11 last year, in a storage locker, in Louisiana where the heat was over 100-degrees for several days, chained to a car with no food and water, left to die.  He was found literally hours away from death, completely unable to even lift his head, and was taken to the 24-hour emergency vet clinic.

At that point, euthanasia would have been an option totally on the table.  He was that close to death.

But, the veterinarian who first saw him said "human hands caused this and human hands will fix it."

Today Braveheart is an ambassador for animal rights, animal rescue, and will be the Grand Marshall in the 2015 Barkus and Meoux parade!

Regardless of how the justice system ultimately deals with Brave's abuser, it's a happy ending for him.  He's healthy, happy, and in a loving home.

Just look at him then and now!

Braveheart when he was found 9/11/13 and now.
I know it's hard to believe, but it really is the same dog.

Today Bo and Ronda Spataro, along with a legion of friends and supporters, attended yet another court proceeding in the search for justice against the man who chained Brave to that car, closed the door and walked away, leaving the animal without food or water in that storage locker.  There was no bedding, no padding, no bowls, no nothing in that locker.  Just an empty building and an oily floor, heat, and silence.  All he could do was wait to starve to death or die of dehydration.

The court proceedings so far have consisted of the arraignment, various delays and proceedings, motions, and finally today a court date was set.  In November there will be a proceeding for more discovery and finally a trial by jury in January 2015.  A jury trial!

I talked to Bo Spataro today, who with his wife Ronda now own Braveheart;  he told me they are pleased and encouraged by the idea of a jury trial.  He has confidence that the evidence they have, and the horrible, horrible pictures, will convince any jury that Mr. Lee left Brave to die.  He has confidence that the community won't accept this kind of abuse.

It's hard to fathom what the defense will have to offer; the man who owned Braveheart (Bo and Ronda named him Braveheart) admitted the dog was his when he signed papers relinquishing his ownership so Bo and Ronda could legally adopt him.  So, "the dog wasn't mine" isn't an option.

He can't say he didn't know the dog was in the locker he rented because he's already admitted he knew.  In the police report he said he'd left the dog there for two days -- (it was obviously much longer than that).

His only defense might be that he was trying to find a home for the dog, but if that's the case, you've got to wonder why he chained the dog to a car with a very heavy chain, closed him up in a locker with no food or water, and went away; why the heavy chain?  Where was he going to go?

That man went to sleep in his bed every night knowing that dog was in that locker dying.  Godless.

By the time Brave was found, as I said, he could not lift his head off the oily concrete to drink water, much less eat; he was literally hours away from death.  His organs were shutting down.  He looked like a carcass. He was taken to the 24-hour emergency vet clinic where he was given 2 or 3 transfusions, IV fluids, and had his blood work checked every eight hours for the first few days and then every single day for a month after that.  The effort to stabilize and save him was heroic.

Then, of course, there was the awful battle with Caddo Animal Control who seized Braveheart from the Spataros who were fostering him; they said they had to keep Brave as "evidence" until the proceedings were over.  Seriously?  By the time this finally reaches the jury it will be one year and four months; there's no way that dog, as sick and unvaccinated as he was, would have survived that.  Naturally there was a great deal of protest and outrage and in the face of a protest outside the gates of the facility, Animal Control finally released Brave back to Bo and Ronda.  It was about that time that Gabriel Lee signed papers relinquishing his ownership of the dog.

Brave was adopted by Bo and Ronda: Ronda made a promise to Braveheart the day he was seized that she would get him back -- and she did.  Promise kept.

And now we still wait for justice.

If you ask Bo what would be a fitting punishment for Gabriel Lee, he has been a bit reticent to pass judgment.  Bo is a kind, forgiving soul and had Mr. Lee ever once admitted responsibility or apologized for what he did, Bo would have accepted that; instead, Mr. Lee has said Brave is "just a dog" and has denied responsibility.  He's plead "not guilty" in court, been late for appearances, pushed reporters, and shown no remorse.  At this point, the entire animal rescue community wants the maximum penalty for Mr. Lee who is now charged with felony cruelty to animals ...
In addition to any other penalty imposed for a violation of this Subsection, the offender shall
be ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation and subsequently recommended psychological treatment and shall be banned by court order from owning or keeping animals for a period of time deemed appropriate by the court. Any costs associated with any evaluation or treatment ordered by the court shall be borne by the defendant. 
Whoever commits the crime of aggravated cruelty to animals shall be fined not less than five
thousand dollars nor more than twenty-five thousand dollars or imprisoned, with or without hard labor, for not less than one year nor more than ten years, or both.
And that's not really enough for leaving a helpless creature to die.  The laws need to be tougher.

What else can be done to prevent this from happening again?  Bo Spataro thinks an Animal Abuse Registry might be an option, which would work sort of like a sex-offender registry.  Gabriel Lee should never be allowed to own another animal.  A registry would just add some fines, revocation of probation, or even jail time to anyone who was in violation.  It might make it just a little more difficult for an abuser to slip through the system.

I would suggest also that Mr. Lee should have to pay restitution for the veterinarian care Braveheart has had to receive.  The community has donated tenfold to Brave's care, but Mr. Lee should still be held financially accountable.

In the end, as I said, it's a happy ending for Braveheart; it's by the grace of God that the owners of that storage building found him before he died.  And it seems providential that he ended up with the Spataros:  Bo and Brave visit schools and teach children about animal welfare; Ronda is a vet tech who has been able to help care for Brave's medical needs.  Being in the spotlight makes them both somewhat uncomfortable but if, in the end, just one more dog is saved or if ultimately laws are strengthened against animal abusers, then it's worth it.

When you have the attention of over 20,000 people around the world, you're doing something right.  There is some good that will come out of this.

And just look at that happy family!



Keep up with Braveheart's journey here.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Poverty Pimp Paints Picture of Racial Tension and Division

I don't think there is a more divisive person on the planet fostering racial hate and tension than Rev. Jesse Jackson.

The Reverend was on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace today in full poverty-pimp mode, stirring up hate and fanning the flames of Ferguson even as things begin to settle down.  You see, if things settle down and a community is left to heal its own wounds then people like Jackson become irrelevant and he can't stand that idea.

Jesse Jackson isn't alone in this race-baiting game; he is always joined by Al Sharpton and the media usually joins in as well.  Nobody wants to be irrelevant.

Consider this headline from The New York Times...

Timeline for a Body:  4 Hours in the Middle of a Ferguson Street

...as if nobody cared enough about Michael Brown to pick his body up out of the road.  It would seem obvious to most of us that this was a crime scene and anyone with an iota of sense knows that crime scenes must be documented, photographed, and investigated.  Yet there is the New York Times, fanning the flames against the police:
For about four hours, in the unrelenting summer sun, his body remained where he fell. 
The lengthy article ends with:
Mr. Brown’s body was checked into the morgue at 4:37 p.m., more than four and a half hours after he was shot.
You can just hear the writer tsk-tsking as he shakes his head in wonder.

I turned my television off a few weeks ago and seldom have it on anymore, yet one evening this week I tuned in to Fox to see what was going on while I ate supper.  Greta van Susteren was on and she was talking to some young reporter in hipster glasses and a plaid shirt.  The reporter, I forget his name, went on to air on-the-street interviews he had conducted with protesters in Ferguson.

One guy said that officer Wilson "should be arrested and convicted of first-degree murder!"

Ignorant.  Does he even know what the criteria for first-degree murder entails?  And the guy that said that made more sense than anybody else in the hip reporter's montage.  Sickening.

Why would a network air such garbage if not to fan the flames?  I was outraged, but even more so when the reporter cuts back to Greta who shakes her head and proclaims how we don't know the facts of this case yet but....let me just air this bullshit anyway because I don't want to be irrelevant and sensational television has always been my ticket to fame (see:  Natalie Holloway).

But back to the good Reverend Jesse Jackson today who was the guest of Chris Wallace along with Dr. Ben Carson on Fox News Sunday.  Dr. Carson, a man who is always calm and reasonable, offered solutions and sound advice on the situation while Jackson just did his usual smug shtick.

Consider this exchange between Wallace and Jackson:
WALLACE: Well, there has been a contention, the only point that I'd make, that he hit the officer in the face. And there are various unconfirmed reports about how severe that was. There is another report that he was charging at the officer. I mean I guess the question is, if we don't know, why are we declaring a verdict? 
JACKSON: Well, it seems to me that the police acted as judge, jury, and executioner. And even on the worst scenario, if he had hit him in the face, does that require at a distance, I was there where he'd been shot, about 20 feet, does that mean you shoot him six times, four times at point blank range? I don't think so.
One has to wonder how it is that Jackson has lived all these years without realizing that  it is at least possible that a person with adrenaline coursing through his system, as Brown must have been, can be almost superhuman.  It's at least possible that Wilson actually needed six shots to stop Michael Brown as medical experts have suggested based on the autopsy results and order of the shots.

The fact is that still nobody knows.

Yet Jackson has to incite hate against police in general by saying that they "acted as judge, jury, and executioner."

In response, Dr. Ben Carson:
You know, anger issues get in the way. And if you take race out of the issue altogether, and you take a group of young men and you raise them with no respect for authority, not learning to take on personal responsibility, having easy access to drugs and alcohol, they're very likely to end up as victims of violence or incarceration. It has nothing to do with race. So, yes, is there racism? Are there problems? Yes. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. But we need to start looking at bigger issues here. We only have 320 million people in this country. We're on a global stage where we are competing with countries with over 1 billion people. We have to save all of our people. They are all precious. And we have to develop our resources appropriately.
Sounds like pretty good advice to me.

Jackson:
...it seems to me that when blacks kill whites, which is rare, it's swift justice. When whites kill blacks, it's rebellion (ph), when it's black on black, there's a shrug of the shoulders as a kind of (inaudible). Guns in, drugs in, jobs out. Racial disparity and alienation and mistrust are very combustible formulas, factors.
What?  I can't really decipher that in whole, but I do wonder why Jackson isn't in Chicago trying to stop all the killing there?

In the end, I think Victor Davis Hanson said it best this week:
What will save us are not more elite and self-serving “conversations” about racial difference, but a new classically liberal effort to consider race irrelevant in our shared American culture. Perhaps if we started treating people as unique individuals and not as hyphenated and anonymous groups, we could deal with these tragic shootings as individual tragedies rather than collective conspiracies.
It's time for people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to quit race-baiting and pitting us against each other and start working to solve problems.  If the two poverty-pimps need a tutorial on how to do that, I would recommend they watch this video which is full of people of all races who have chosen not to be a victim.

(H/T:  Memeorandum)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Maness Needs to Pull Out of Senate Race

I've been working on a post for DaTechGuy on Mary Landrieu and "Flight-Gate"; be sure to click over there Monday afternoon and check it out.  She's having a pretty bad week.

In the course of doing some research for that post, I've been looking at the poll numbers for the November U.S. Senate race.  No offense to Col. Maness or his supporters, but he needs to follow the lead of Rep. Paul Hollis and get out of this race.  I know that Sarah Palin has endorsed Maness, and I know that the Tea Party loves him, and he's probably the best man for the job in all honesty.  I like his credentials a lot.

But.

He's not getting the numbers.  

True, Maness has picked up some important endorsements lately:

The remaining Republican opponent for Cassidy is Colonel Rob Maness, a 32-year Air Force veteran. Maness has been endorsed by leading Tea Party and conservative organizations. He received a major boost when he was endorsed by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who frequently tangles with the establishment wing of the Republican Party. He has also picked up support from the Senate Conservative Fund and the Tea Party Express. Today, he was endorsed by the Family Research Council and their PAC Chairman Tony Perkins, former Louisiana State Representative. Perkins is a leader in the social conservative movement in Louisiana and is closely associated with pro-life and pro-family organizations in the state. 
This endorsement should end the discussion of Maness dropping out of the Senate race. Many Cassidy supporters have been pushing for Maness to end his campaign, so Republicans can “unite” behind the Congressman. This endorsement is the latest sign that the Colonel is not going anywhere as Perkins surely would not have endorsed a candidate who is not fully committed to the race until the end.

And maybe this will spike Maness's numbers but I'm not seeing it.  Rep. Cassidy might be a RINO, as evidenced by his support for Obamacare, but it seems to me that he's the only person that's going to beat Landrieu and if we don't do ANYTHING else, we have to defeat Landrieu.  

To nobly stand behind a candidate that can't win won't help us in the long run.

This goes against everything I know:  I usually vote for the conservative candidate no matter what the establishment GOP says. The establishment GOP usually picks RINOS (see Crist v. Rubio).   But drastic times call for drastic measures.  There are still about 2.5 months in the campaign, and with Flight-Gate now in the news cycle Landrieu's numbers can be expected to dip slightly.  I don't think it will cause a major drop in her numbers because the general public doesn't follow this sort of thing much.  

While one would have hoped that the conservative Maness could have pulled this one off, the numbers don't show any possibility, the race is too close, and the stakes for the future and continued existence of our country are too high.  

It makes me sad, but reality bites.



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

We Are Learning!

We are working hard in my classes!

The English IV kids are working on research papers already, the Creative Writing kids have joined our online private writing group through Figment and are learning all about writing dialogue, and the English II kids have spent the past three days learning to analyze characterization through diction and syntax.

I'm so grateful for the donations you've sent!  Sarah sent an Amazon card today that will just about give me the balance of a class set of the Rick Bragg books for Creative Writing.  I could still use a couple of extras in case I get another student added to the class.

The Creative Writing kids all got SmashBooks thanks to leftovers from a great donation last year and some new funds received this year.  I had four left over from last year.

We still have a few needs and my Donors Choose project is not yet fully funded.  If it doesn't reach its "goal" and doesn't get fully funded, my class doesn't get any of the donated funds - they are returned to the donors.  So I really need that one to reach its goal!

This is my Adopt my Classroom site and as always, my Amazon links are below which can be shipped directly to my classroom:  Mrs. Becker, Bossier High School, 777 Bearkat Drive, Bossier City, LA , 71111.

My students are working so hard and are so excited by all the new things we are doing this year.  Thanks again and again to you who have given.  I just can't tell you how much it means to my kids when they get Smashbooks, notebooks, flashdrives, or even hi-lighters to facilitate their learning and progress.

Means a lot to me, too.  So thank you!




Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I Got a Book!

It was sitting in my box at school today! I've got no idea who sent it, but thank you so much!

This book is on my wish list (see below) for my Creative Writing class. I only need 7 more to reach my goal!

Thanks again to my angel who sent this one!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Take a Trip to Miss Cammie's Dinner Table

Steve and I went to Natchitoches yesterday to see the Cammie Henry exhibit at Lemee House:  Miss Cammie's Dinner table.  It was a nicely done presentation and I got to see one of the famous tablecloths that Cammie did.  On special occasions she would break out the tablecloth and everyone would sign it.  She would go back later and embroider the names in colored thread.

I'm sure there were several of these tablecloths and the one we saw yesterday had dates after her death which was puzzling.  Another mystery to solve.  Someone else must have picked up the tradition.  Some of the names are family members, some friends, some writers and artists that visited her.


There was a descendant of Cammie's at the exhibit with (I presume) his son.  I wanted to try to talk with him, but so did everyone else, so I didn't get a chance before he made his exit.  Wish I knew who it was.  I'd like to ask him a few questions!

It was too hot to walk around much.  Front Street still had plenty of shoppers but it was light traffic.



We parked down by the river and walked up to Lasyone's for meat pies, then walked down to Lemee House for the exhibit.  Even though it was hot, I love walking around the Historic District.  It's just beautiful.


Even when it's hot.

We passed Bayou Amulet and we thought the marker was interesting.



After the exhibit we went back up Front Street and dipped into an antique shop (thank goodness for air conditioning).  I bought a vintage glass doorknob strictly for practical purposes -- that's what I have in my house and I needed one.  At Kaffie-Frederick I bought two reproduction/modern glass doorknobs (I have a doorknob problem) that are not nearly as cool, or as heavy, but are functional.  Doors without knobs are difficult.

We wanted to eat alligator at The Pioneer Pub for dinner but they don't open until four (although as it turned out later, they were closed up for vacation and we missed out altogether) so we got into the Jeep and headed down the river road to Melrose.  I needed the inspiration.

Steve sat on the back porch of the Bindery and I walked around the grounds.  He likes to sit there and listen to the cows, but even the cows were quiet and still in that heat.



I headed over to Lyle Saxon's cabin - the Yucca House.



It's so peaceful there...


...who couldn't write a book there?



I'd hang a swing at the end of this gallery...



...and watch the horse in the pasture just beyond the fence.


You see him?

I sat there for a few minutes pondering Lyle, Cammie, Ada, Carrie, and all the others that had come to Melrose in the 1920s and 30s for inspiration and camaraderie.  They had a wonderful time!  And part of the lure, or charm, was the isolation.  Even though Melrose looks a little different now, the grounds I mean, the aura or mystique is still there.  When Cammie lived there the place was a riot of color and blooms with something planted or growing just about everywhere.  The grounds are meticulously kept now and are certainly beautiful, but I suspect Cammie would want to sink her spade into the dirt and plant something.  I can just hear her calling Carrie Dormon:  "Bring me some of that yaupon!"

I wandered up to the Big House and went up on the front gallery where Mother Garrett, Cammie's mother, would often sit and visit with callers.


You can't see the river from up there anymore because of all the growth, but back then you could.  The river is on the other side of that road, although it's not really a river anymore.  Now it's Cane River Lake.

I sat up on the gallery for a bit listening to voices gathering below for the next tour through the grounds and house.  There are still remnants of bygone days here, too.


I looked over at "the pit" where Leudivine used to put her geraniums in the winter and where Cammie would store plants to protect them from the cold.  I wondered what was growing in all that open area when Cammie was alive.  There are pictures but the ones I've seen so far are all black and white, so it's hard to tell what was where.


There were a few dirt daubers up there with me catching the breeze, and I don't know if they sting or not, so I went on back downstairs.

I walked around a little more, I walked up to the road and the fence and looked at the house.  I wandered around the cabin Cammie moved to Melrose in 1934 for the purpose of storing her looms.  Cammie would escape the bustle of the guests and tourists and come over to her cabin and practice the lost arts of spinning and weaving.  She made beautiful fabrics, blankets, and upholstery.

Steve and I walked over to the barn and looked for the cat, but we didn't see her.  She was probably asleep in the cool shadows underneath.

We drove back to town, found the Pub still closed, so we headed back to Shreveport.

When I was falling asleep last night I was thinking about Lyle and the cabin.  How hot was it trying to sleep out there in the summer, cicadas singing, mosquitoes, gnats and who knows what other critters trying to get at you.  We saw a fox crossing the road out there and Cammie often wrote about skunks getting under the cabin until she rectified that by modifying the floor.  Malaria was a common malady for the Melrose folks.  But it was apparently worth it for the inspiration and peace that could be found there.

There's still a mystique in the air when you go to Melrose; I'm not sure I can explain what it is, but it's something.  Not ghosts.  Atmosphere, maybe.  I can see exactly why writers and artists longed to be there.

 Like Lyle Saxon said the first time he saw Yucca House, "I could write a book here."

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation