Wednesday, April 30, 2008

What Causes This Kind of Twisted Thinking?

When I was in school (elementary, junior high, senior high, college, graduate school), never once did I ever worry for a second that a classmate might come to class one day with a bomb or with a gun and the intention to harm other students. We had bullies. They they were usually more talk than action.

Read this story below from CNN about Ryan Schallenberger and tell me what happens to a kid to make him this twisted. And, why have things changed so remarkably in the last several decades since I was a student?

FLORENCE, South Carolina (AP) -- A teen accused of plotting to blow up his high school told police that he wanted to die, go to heaven and kill Jesus, federal authorities said Tuesday.
Prosecutors argued in a federal courtroom that the statements are an indication that 18-year-old Ryan Schallenberger needs a psychological evaluation.
The straight-A Chesterfield High School senior was arrested April 19 and faces several state and federal charges, including attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. That charge carries a possible life sentence if he is convicted.
"His conduct is bizarre," prosecutor Buddy Bethea told Judge Thomas Rogers III, who did not immediately issue a ruling. "I think it screams out in his conduct that he be evaluated."
Defense attorney Bill Nettles said the request was premature, and that Schallenberger was competent to help in his defense.
Prosecutors want Schallenberger, currently at Chesterfield County jail, moved to a federal facility because they think he may try to commit suicide. His journal writings have become increasingly violent over the past year, prosecutor Rose Mary Parham said.
An agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives testified that the teen told a sheriff he wanted to die after his arrest.
"He said death was better than life," Craig Townsend said. "He told the sheriff he wanted to die and go to heaven and once he got there, he wanted to kill Jesus."
Prosecutors also played a 911 tape of the teen's mother calling police after he smashed his head into a wall two days before his arrest. On the tape, she says her son threatened to shoot police if they came.
"He's not going to do it," Laurie Sittler told the operator. "He's just got a bad temper."
The teen left but his mother was scared he would return, she said in the call. "He's planning to go to college and everything, but I don't know what to do," she said.
Schallenberger was arrested after his parents picked up at the post office a package addressed to the teen containing 20 pounds of ammonium nitrate. They got nervous and looked through his room where they found a cassette tape he wanted played after he died, which they took to the sheriff's office, the agent testified. Authorities found his journal, which lauded the Columbine killers, after searching his room.
The 50-page journal contained notes on more than 10 types of explosives that Schallenberger experimented with and evaluated a year ago, the agent testified. It had a black cover and "Pisces" written on the front, and authorities have said it contained detailed plans to bomb Chesterfield High School.
Schallenberger's parents were at the hearing but would not comment.
Townsend also testified Schallenberger's mother called police to the home in April last year, when the teen was arrested for breach of peace. He said the teen became enraged and knocked over furniture after his mother asked him to walk with his sister to a grandparent's home.
Authorities also seized a computer that shows he searched Web sites for making bombs, a shotgun, carbon dioxide canisters, "hundreds and hundreds" of matchsticks, and more cassette tapes that they have not yet heard, Townsend said.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Hoping for an Elitist

The following letter to the editor appeared in the Raleigh News and Observer several days ago. It is written by Rich Weems of Cary. I think he's on to something.

"I don't know whether Barack Obama is an elitist, but I hope so.

I'm tired of having some dumb cowboy mussing up the White House carpet with his dirty boots and ridiculous policies. I want someone who's smart and knows what he's doing in the White House.

I want the guy who's leading the strongest nation on earth to be better than the average guy. I don't care whether he bowls, but I want the next president to know the difference between Sunni and Shia; to understand the economy, and not just leave it to the "budget guy;" to speak in complete sentences with proper grammar and to be concerned about the here and now as opposed to waiting for history to judge him.

So, yeah, I want an "elitist" to be in the White House 'cause I already know what having a nonelitist in there has done for us."

Well said Rich!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It Takes a Springsteen Fan to Understand

If you are around me much, especially if you are a student in my classes, you know that I am a huge Bruce Springsteen fan. I love his music. I draw a lot of strength from his lyrics which I find in many respects to be deeply theological in some places. He is currently touring to promote his new album "Magic."

I and my oldest daughter Hannah are making the trek Friday to Atlanta to see Bruce at Phillips Arena. I suppose that I am just about as excited to be taking her to her first Springsteen show as I am attending the show myself. My wife and I will then be seeing him in Greensboro on Monday evening. I hope to see him at least once more over the summer or next fall. Friday night will be my 9th concert with Bruce over the last 20 years, not nearly as much as other die-hard fans who boast of hundreds of shows, but nevertheless a good number. I am at least not a "newbie" to his music and shows and with only a few exceptions, can sing the lyrics to most of the songs that I will hear. So, it portends to be a fun weekend.

I found this article today which really caught my attention. It shows the extent that a "true fan" will go to to spread the message of the quality of Bruce's music and concerts. Enjoy!

Style, simile and ... Springsteen?
Teacher ties in academics, fun with middle school trip to concert
By Ragan Robinson
Contact me
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Computer teacher Mike Telesca (center) bought 35 tickets (and had 15 donated) for students to see Bruce Springsteen in concert in Greensboro. To tie it in with academics, they're having three seminars to talk about language arts and Springsteen songs. ROBERT C. REED (RECORD PHOTOGRAPHER)

GRANITE FALLS - Mike Telesca might be the computer teacher at Granite Falls Middle School, but in his classroom, Bruce Springsteen is still The Boss.
Telesca plays Springsteen for background music in class. Sometimes he sings along in a gravelly Connecticut accent that’s close enough to a New Jersey brogue, at least in Caldwell County, to make his principal introduce him as a native of Springsteen’s home state.
Once, when he was at Catawba Valley High School, he taught an entire thematic unit on his favorite musician, using the songs for language arts, calculating stage square footage and area for math, figuring out the cardiovascular benefits of running around as much as Springsteen does in concert.
Telesca, who will tell you he’s going to fib about his age before he fibs about it, has seen hundreds of Bruce’s shows. His book of ticket stubs is a good 5 inches thick. He will be in Atlanta for a concert Friday, Charlotte on Sunday and Virginia on Wednesday. He would’ve gone to two shows in Florida if the death of longtime E Street Band member Danny Federici hadn’t postponed them.
To put it plainly - something his rock idol never does - Telesca loves The Boss.
He loves him so much that this year, he decided his kids needed to see a show. And they needed to see one so much that Telesca shelled out about $3,000 to buy 35 tickets before Springsteen’s management company kicked in 15 or so more. Add Greensboro to that concert list.
Mr. T, to use the student vernacular, doesn’t want to talk about the money. He all but jumps out of his chair talking about the experience his students will get.
“People ask, “How can you justify it?’” he says. “Well, the goal of art is to make you think. There is no artist of our generation who makes you think and examine your beliefs more than Springsteen.”
Then there’s the fact that a lot of his kids never get out of Caldwell County, Telesca says. He wants to show them something new, something bigger than Granite Falls.
He’s not so blinded by Springsteen’s light he can’t see that reasoning might not fly. To supplement, he and English teacher Kim “he’d better play Thunder Road” Story are holding after-school and Saturday “Socratic discussions” on the man and his music this week. They’ll talk about Springsteen’s cultural significance and use his songs for lessons on expressive language.
By the time the show starts Monday night, they’ll have a few Springsteen-themed homework assignments under their belts. They went home Tuesday looking for personification, metaphor and simile in the lyrics.
Students had to do some extra work for the privilege of going on the world’s coolest field trip. Telesca had them write letters explaining why they are deserving.
Their answers are classic middle-school genius.
“Kids once in our life need to have fun,” wrote seventh-grader Erica Haas. “We cannot be treated like animals all the time.”
From eighth-grader Jarret Walker: “I share the same love that you share, the love of rock.”
Eighth-grader Austin Sigler’s mom is a fan and the show is on her birthday. He figures his getting to go would be a great present for her.
And sixth-grader Eric Smith put a needle in his forever young teacher’s side with this one: “My nana is one of his fans and she never got to go to one of his concerts.”

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Missouri Baptist Editor and the Confederate Flag

This is so outrageous that I'm just going to copy the article from You read it for yourself. I am amazed and outraged that in 2008 there are still racist idiots like this who have prominent positions in Baptist life in the South. The article is by Brian Kaylor.

The link is:

Missouri Baptist Editor Supports Confederate FlagBrian Kaylor04-03-08

The editor of the Missouri Baptist Convention's in-house publication, "The Pathway," has strongly defended the controversial Confederate battle flag and aggressively attacked those who challenge it.
In his book Embattled Banner: A Reasonable Defense of the Confederate Battle Flag, Don Hinkle called himself "an unReconstructed Confederate" and dismissed critics of the flag as "a small group of malcontents and bigots."

MBC interim Executive Director David Tolliver, recently condemned the flag in a column in The Pathway because it "represents hate" and "depicts deep-rooted racial bigotry and hatred." As a result, Tolliver argued that Christians should not fly the flag. Meanwhile, a Web site run by his organization is promoting Hinkle's decade-old book defending that very symbol.

Hinkle argued in his book that the flag is actually a Christian symbol because it features St. Andrew's Cross and because the Confederate Constitution acknowledged God while the U.S. Constitution does not. His book even included a photo of the flag flying next to the Christian flag.

In his book, the Confederate's fight becomes a religious mission, and this fight is not yet over. He even argued that those attacking the flag should remember that Southerners "will 'draw their sabers' in a second if they feel their honor has been questioned" and pointed to Union cemeteries as proof.

After asking if the flag is a "racist relic," Hinkle declared, "Absolutely not!" He added that "the battle flag was not--nor will ever be--symbolic of slavery or racism."

Rather than seeing the Confederate battle flag as a symbol of hate, Hinkle asserted that it is the "anti-flag minority" who are trying to "bully" the South through "character assassination." He also accused critics of using "petty politics based on distortion and bigotry."

He declared the attacks to be "cultural genocide" and even argued that Missouri was among the states hurt by the attacks on the flag. Among his examples of "attacks being launched against Southern culture" is criticism of William Jewell College, which at the time was affiliated with the MBC, for not allowing the flag flown during a ceremony in the school's chapel.

Hinkle claimed that many of critics of the Confederate flag are actually also opposed to the American flag. He suggested that this movement would result in "feeding the Constitution to a shredder" and remove American historical artifacts "like what the Communists did to rewrite Russian history after the fall of the Czar."

Hinkle even compared the NAACP to the KKK and asserted that it was "closer to becoming just another hate group." He claimed the NAACP's opposition to the Confederate flag was an attempt to "whip blacks into an emotional tizzy."

African-Americans peacefully requesting a Confederate flag be taken down are called "[r]adical blacks" and a "mob" by Hinkle.

He argued that since many African-Americans fought for the Confederacy, "there is no reason why blacks shouldn't view the Confederate battle flag with as much pride as anyone if they so choose." He claimed that the slaves who fought for the Confederacy did so because most slave owners "took good care of them." He insisted that critics of slavery "wrongfully apply today's moral to a world that was vastly different."

"Many white Southerners were trying to figure out a way to end the 'peculiar institution' when the intolerant abolitionists went nuts over the issue," Hinkle wrote.

Hinkle also described slavery as "the misfortunate of blacks" and claimed that Reconstruction actually produced greater injustices than slavery or Jim Crow laws.

"The only connection I can see between Jim Crow and the war, much less the flag, is that it may have been the white Southerners' way of retaliating against some blacks who took advantage of them during the most corrupt and disgraceful period in our nation's history, Reconstruction," Hinkle asserted. "Such wrongful retaliation occurs whenever the majority regains control after the minority has abused the majority."

Dr. W. Scott Poole, assistant professor of history at the College of Charleston, offered a devastating critique of Hinkle's book. Writing a chapter in the book National Symbols, Fractured Identities, Poole argued that Hinkle's book "represents a bizarre outcropping of the 'neo-Confederate' movement."

"Hinkle's diatribe makes frequent use of class language, often couched in the vocabulary of Confederate nationalism," Poole wrote. "The tract resists easy analysis. Poorly written and edited, it is a farrago of ahistorical meandering, tendentious claims, and a disturbing number of unctuous threats. The author employs a rhetorical strategy of verbal violence against the elites who are allegedly marginalizing white southerners."

Poole also noted that that "Hinkle insists on condemning Lincoln to hellfire." Hinkle gleefully suggested that Lincoln is in Hell, which he sees as justified punishment for a man that waged war against the South.

Since working for The Pathway, Hinkle has briefly praised Confederate General Robert E. Lee. He also launched an attack on the Baptist World Alliance that included criticism of former Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a black religious leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end apartheid in South Africa and bring racial reconciliation to the nation.