Friday, March 31, 2006

On George W. Bush: This Is Your Soundtrack

Okay, so it turns out that puppysitting a dog with kennel cough is not unlike babysitting an eighteen-month-old. The only difference is that instead of getting viscous, unidentifiable goo down the back of your shoulder, you're getting it down your pant leg. I'm trying to convince myself I'm getting the better deal.

None of which has anything to do with our president's warrantless surveillance program, currently under examination and debate as the Senate tries to decide if it's totally naughty or just kinda naughty. That's why this Friday Not-Even-Random Ten is dedicated to said program, which may well be listening in on me right this very second.

Unless they're listening to you...

1. Guster, "I Spy"
2. Elvis, "A Little Less Converation"
3. Vertical Horizon, "You Say"
4. Madonna, "Don't Tell Me"
5. Take 6, "Like the Whole World's Watching"
6. No Doubt, "Don't Speak"
7. El Bosco, "Satellite"
8. Kent, "Things She Said"
9. Dave Matthews Band, "So Much to Say"
10. Gladys Knight & The Pipps, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine"

Thursday, March 30, 2006

On women in bathing suits

Okay, so popular opinion seems to be that this blog needs more skin, and while it kind of goes against my own principles, my readers' wish is my command.

No need to thank me.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

On more arbitrary milestones

Okay, so I must congratulate and welcome the visitor who got to see (if s/he was looking) this blog turn over 15,000. Lucky Visitor Number 15,000 comes to us from the University of Toledo (Ohio, not Spain) and got here by googling inappropriate smiling, which to me seems rather unfortunate. We're all about smiling here at Practically Harmless, particularly the inappropriate kind.

Again, welcome to the UofT Smile Googler, and thanks to all of my regular reader who has made this blog entirely unprofitable and an occasional source of stress. Keep checking back for more of same in the future. Mazel, mazel. Good things.

On a melting pot

Okay, so I'll admit to bearing some guilt in the current immigration controversy. Whenever the topic comes up, and I'm doing my well-intentioned best to support policies aimed at helping immigrants in the US, in my head, I'm helping the guys lined up at the Chevron on Roswell Road waiting to get picked up for a day of construction work. I'm thinking of the women (and kids, sometimes) picking onions in Vidalia. And I think that, in thinking that way, I'm making things better, but (hat tip to Rox Populi) Alisa Valdes-Rodriquez shows me the error of my ways.

She writes an open letter to the media, correcting them (vigorously, at times) on their framing of the immigration debate. The entire thing is worth a read, but a couple of things jumped out at me and made me reconsider the way I see it.

1. The vast majority of Hispanics/Latinos in the U.S. (75 percent of us) were born and raised here, including many of us who have roots here that predate the arrival of the pilgrims.

2. "Immigrant" is not synonymous with "Latino" and the media should stop pretending they mean the same thing.

3. The CNN analyst who said today "Keep in mind, Latino voters are LEGAL immigrants, not illegal immigrants" should be FIRED for sloppy thinking. MOST LATINOS ARE NOT IMMIGRANTS AT ALL, PINCHE CABRON.

4. Immigrants to contemporary USA come from EVERYWHERE. There are, for instance, 100,000 Nigerians in Houston, and tens of thousands of ILLEGAL Irish in Boston. If this debate is truly about immigration, as opposed to racist portrayals of Latinos, please curb your coverage to be more responsible.

Mea culpa. As the descendant of (relatively recent) Slovak immigrants, I should remember that a tan doesn't immediately imply immigrant status, nor vice versa.
6. You can be a Mexican American and never have had an ancestor come over the US border; vast portions of the United States of today USED TO BE MEXICO or SPAIN. If you failed to learn this in high school, your teachers should be fired.

Oops again. Yo no cruce la frontera; la frontera me cruzo. I know that came up at least once in history class.
8. The US has TWO international borders, not ONE. To date, not a single terrorist has gotten to the US through Mexico; to date, at least two suspected terrorists have arrived here through Canada. In fact, I would not be surprised if, while the media and xenophobes are focused on the Mexican border, terrorists figure out that it might be a good idea to walk over from Vancouver to Seattle for a latte.

This is actually something that I haven't missed, but I know a lot of people have. Although my understanding is that Vancouver to Seattle is a bit of a hike.

Regardless of your feelings on immigration/illegal immigration/guest worker programs/amnesty/etc., you have to admit (now, at least, because I'm fairly sure I didn't before) that the current debate isn't about that. The current debate isn't about border security or American jobs or healthcare. It's about people who feel uncomfortable around Mexicans unless they're watching their kids or weeding their gardens.

If we're going to make this square, we're going to have to reframe the debate to address immigration of all people, for all reasons, through all borders. Otherwise, we're going to have to rename the current frame to better reflect its real underlying concerns.

Something tells me that the "That Tan Guy Stole My Job Picking Onions" debate isn't going to be the barn-burner they expect.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

On things that can be purchased for five dollars

Okay, so over at Daily Kos, Bill in Portland Maine shares a letter from the Maine Sunday Telegram. And I agree with him, it's a damn good question:
I would like to ask Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe to please help my family understand why my son, Pfc. Matthew Deister of the Maine Army National Guard's 172nd Mountain Co., has to pay for basic services while in Iraq and Kuwait.

Matthew has been deployed for 18 months and left home Feb. 1 with his unit.
Matthew and our family understand the reason for the deployment, as he enlisted during this war. But I, his father, can't understand why we are charging our soldiers for Internet and telephone services, food and even haircuts!

Did we not ask these fine men and women to go? And yet, we continue to charge them for simple services that should be provided at no cost.

Matthew has to pay $5 per hour for Internet service. Anyone who knows about the pay structure of the service can understand why this is such an outrage. Matthew makes Pfc. wages while overseas.

If you deduct what he pays for the Internet, telephone and haircuts, you can see the reason I am very angry right now. I have never been so angry about any situation. We require them to go overseas and yet continue to allow people to profit off their needs.

Richard Deister
Buxton, Maine

And what's better, BiPM wants to do something about it. E-mail him at bipm04103 (at) yahoo (dot) com to find out how your $5 donation can help Matthew and his company get in touch with their families.

And just to put things in perspective, forgoing any one of these things can save enough money to give a soldier in the 172nd an hour of Internet access:

- a Starbucks grande latte and a maple scone
- a six-pack of Warsteiner
- two gallons of regular gas in metro Atlanta
- a Wendy's value meal and medium Frosty
- a matinee of V for Vendetta
- half an hour with this chick
- one Old Navy flip-flop
- the cover charge at Scruffy Murphy's on a Friday

And remember: lighting a candle does not preclude your right to curse the damn darkness anyway.

Monday, March 27, 2006

On bringing legal things under the law

Okay, so to his credit, Joe Lieberman has come out and said publicly that Bush's warrantless wiretapping program is, in fact, outside the law. To his detriment, he's still a putz:
"This is an important program," said Lieberman, who is seeking a fourth term this year. "I don't find anybody in Congress who thinks we ought not to be listening to the phone conversations and reading the e-mails of people that we think are involved in and we have reason to believe are involved in terrorist groups. But it has to be done in America in my opinion pursuant to the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. It has to be done with a court order."

Lieberman, who has been criticized by liberals for supporting Bush's war policy, faulted a censure move against the president that was proposed last week by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis.

"My own opinion, and it seems to be shared by most Democratic senators, is that it would be an unproductive use of our time," Lieberman said. "Again, it's looking backward. It would be divisive. The best thing we could do about this program is to bring it under the law and I'd prefer to spend my time and the Senate's time figuring out how we can adopt a law that allows the administration to continue this program but force them to go to court to get a warrant before they do."
(my emphasis)

Now, I might be missing something here, 'cause I've been off caffeine for about two weeks now. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is what I'm getting:
1. It's important that we're able to wiretap and otherwise surveil terrorists who are inside our country, planning to do bad things to us.
Does this sound fair to everyone? It sounds fair to me.
2. If the government can prove to the FISA courts that a person probably is a terrorist (or connected to a terrorist), they're likely to get a warrant for surveillance.
Again, am I okay here? I know that a whole five warrants have been rejected since FISA was enacted in 1978, but you still have a pretty good chance of getting a warrant if you can prove that a character is, in fact, shady, right?
3. If you get a warrant before (or within three days after) you tap the phone, you don't violate FISA or the Fourth Amendment.
Stop me if I'm moving too fast here.

So, taking into account points 1, 2, and 3, it looks like Bush's warrantless wiretapping program would no longer be "outside the law" if he... got warrants.

And if he got warrants, it would be... just a regular wiretapping program.

Carry the two, bring it all down, divide by the remainder, and we get... Hold on... Hmm.

It looks like we wouldn't even have to bring Bush's program under the law if he would stop freaking breaking the law already.

I am such a legal scholar.

Friday, March 24, 2006

On Candi, Brandi, Mandi, and Mysti: This Is Your Soundtrack

Okay, so I love it when David Gregory hosts the Today show. I love his regular White House coverage, of course, and I think he's a decent broadcast journalist. But when he goes on the Today show, he seems to have just about as much contempt for it as I do (and yet, I watch every morning...) and just refuses to take himself seriously, goofing around, throwing in occasionally risque ad-libs and, at one memorable concert on the plaza, getting down with his bad self.

I just wanted to mention that, regardless of the fact that he didn't even host the segment that I'm about to talk about. Campbell Brown did (and, for the record, I think she's fairly cool as well, and a pleasant relief from Katie Couric). The question was whether or not women felt comfortable with their boyfriends/husbands/significant others going to strip clubs. I choose to rephrase the question this way: would I rather my theoretical boyfriend go to the Pink Pony, surrounded by his guy friends, watching naked, unavailable girls dance around as ginormous bouncers make sure nobody touches them; or go to Compound, surrounded by near-naked, available and usually rather easy girls who are all about touching all over him?

For me, it comes down to trust. If you can't trust your boyfriend to keep his hands to himself when he goes out with his buddies, you don't have a strip club issue; you have a boyfriend issue. I do recognize that the issue of objectification does come up when strip clubs are involved, but if you're really honest with yourself, you'll recognize that it's something we all do to some extent. Every time we lust after a celebrity we've never met, it's objectification. I know I'm not attracted to Colin Farrell for his manners, fidelity, and hygiene (note: this is pre-Britney Colin Farrell. You couldn't pay me to touch Britney's leavings).

If your boyfriend is going out with the guys, and they're going to a strip club, and you have a problem with it, that's the opportunity to sit down with him and talk about why you feel the way you do. If he's really a worthwhile guy, he'll take your feelings into consideration (although this doesn't necessarily mean he won't go; he's a grownup and can make his own evening plans). You might even ask if you can go along some night, get a look at what really goes on there. I can remember one night after a football game at UGA where the whole crowd ended up at Topper's, and Kristin and I sat to the side, drinking our beers and saying, "My, she's flexible. That's very, very impressive. And look at that - all the way up the pole without using her hands! Do you think she's a dance major? She has to be a dance major."

Incidentally, this raises the question in my mind about whether it goes the same way for guys. Do guys worry when their girlfriends/wives go to strip clubs? See, with me, it's a non-issue, because I really don't enjoy male strippers. There's just a lack of subtlety there, and a lack of context that might actually make it sexy. I've said it before: my ideal beefcake calendar would have a guy on the cover in a t-shirt and low-slung jeans... washing my car. A friend of mine took me to Swinging Richards a couple of months ago, and my first thought, as the muscley young blond onstage started to unbutton his pants, was, "Oh, God, he's going to ask me to iron those."

Anyway, this Friday Not-Even-Random Ten is for all of those dedicated male and female strippers out there, taking it off and shaking it for money. Ten tracks to strip to or, if you prefer, three sets with a bonus track at the end:

1. Lenny Kravitz, "American Woman"
2. The Smiths, "How Soon Is Now?"
3. Lo-Fidelity Allstars, "Battle Flag"
4. Marilyn Manson, "Tainted Love"
5. Portishead, "Glory Box"
6. Cibo Matto, "Spoon"
7. Pussycat Dolls, "Don't Cha"
8. INXS, "Elegantly Wasted"
9. Jamiroquai, "Deeper Underground"
10. Shaggy, "Oh Carolina" (hey, why not?)

Which raises another question, one that always seems to come up at three in the morning over souvlaki at the Landmark Diner: if you were a stripper, what three songs, out of all the songs in the entire world, would be in your set? Mine are the first three tracks up there. Yours go in comments, or your Random Ten, or your favorite barbecue recipe, or nothing at all, if you want. I'm not the boss of you.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

On what happens after justice

Okay, so following the sentencing of the OC gang rapists, defense attorney Joe Cavallo shows that he really does have no soul. That is, in case anyone was really wondering, after his behavior during the trial.

Courtesy of Pinko Feminist Hellcat,
"Only 10 to 20% of what we had on Jane Doe and her family came out during the criminal case," Cavallo said. "They're going to rue the day they brought me into this case."

Now, I do understand someone who is the subject of a lawsuit wanting to defend himself as effectively as possible. But this? This is hatred. This is anger and rage. This is a guy who, after everything his client did to Jane Doe, and after everything he himself did to her during the trial, wants so badly to continue hurting her that he doesn't even care how he looks to the non-bastard public.

Cavallo is still at it because he truly believes, at the bottom of his heart, that Jane Doe was just some teenage slut, and his client and his friends were just boys being boys. He believes, as so many other people inexplicably do, that the victim was to blame for her victimization and that rather than trying to seek justice, she should have been hiding herself in shame, like any other slut who's gotten what she deserved. He went after a sixteen-year-old girl and her family, he stalked, harassed and slandered her, he coerced and bribed witnesses not because he felt his client deserved a thorough defense but because he was going to put that slut in her place. And now that said slut brazenly refuses to stay in her place, he's going to put her there again.

There's a certain very fine but very persistent vein of that mentality running through society, and things aren't going to get any better until it's we've managed to work through or past it. It's the thought, beyond just the idea of women as second-class citizens, of women as dirt, as Jezebels, as temptresses just lying in wait to give a man an apple. Beyond seeing womanhood as a handicap to overcome, men like Cavallo see it as a character flaw to be punished so that she can obediently return to her intended life as chattel, vapor, a walking sex toy that happens to cook. A diluted version of this mentality can be found in some hateful men as a foundation for the basest of misogyny; Cavallo has it running through his veins in its purest form.

The things that those boys did to her were horrible, and I don't think the sentences they received were anywhere sufficient to be called "justice," but then, what could be? Legal justice can only be served by a fitting and appropriate punishment as determined by a judge and a jury of their peers. Beyond that, we're moving from justice and into revenge, which is initially satisfying but has no constructive effect. At this point, the best we can do is rely on karma, eventual judgment by a higher power (if you go for that) and the knowledge that, even in a state prison, rapists are considered the lowest of the low and these boys will not have an easy time of it.

But what those boys did, they did because they were cruel and unfeeling. What Cavallo has done and is doing, he does because he's something far worse. He's vicious, calculating, hateful, and very angry. He's not a boy with poor home-training and an inexcusable streak of cruelty; he's a grown man who, as a defense attorney, has probably seen the worst of the worst in his life and has chosen to join them. When I walk downtown at night, I'm not afraid of men lurking in dark alleys. I'm afraid that, should I encounter a man in an alley, he's going to be backed up by someone like Joseph Cavallo. A civil case can wring the money out of him until he hurts, but as with his client, karma is looking like the most satisfying prospect.

Monday, March 20, 2006

On men (manly men!)

Okay, so it's been a while since we've dropped in on the AJC's weekly "Woman to Woman" column. I'm so glad we did, because this week's topic is whether or not out culture "devalues manliness." And just as you'd expect, Shaunti Feldhahn blames it all on the feminazis. You see, she got followed around by a bunch of buff church security-guard types at a recent speaking engagement, and that reminded her of how important it is for women to play helpless so men can feel all important.

No, I'm serious. That's pretty much her argument.

But don't take it from me:
I’ll bet that resonates with most men reading this – but for years our quasi-feminist culture has made them feel that its illegitimate. In the media and real life, the manly desire to be a risk-taker, a protector, a provider is often mocked or criticized – or said to be non-existent. We don’t need a man to rescue us, we women sniff, we can take care of ourselves. Well, okay, sure we can – but what is so wrong with appreciating his manly desire to take care of and sacrifice for us?

As Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield notes in his recent attention-getting book, “Manliness,” if we criticize and devalue something that is so built into men – and so beneficial to women – we may not like what we get.

Today as I was shadowed for eight hours by the large men in black, I realized that I liked the sense of being protected just as much as those guys probably like being the protector. And it’s telling of how far our culture has gone in the wrong direction, that I’m almost embarrassed to admit that. High time that the healthy ideals of manliness were again encouraged instead of being made politically incorrect.

What bugs me most about this - and even about Diane Glass's somewhat fluffy response - is that no one actually bothers to define "manliness." It's always kind of thrown out there as a self-defining proper noun, Manliness, and everyone knows what you're talking about, so there's no point in outlining precisely which Manly traits are being squelched.

My perspective is that of an independent woman (throw your hands up at me). I've lived on my own, for the most part, since I was 18, and I'm able to make a balanced budget, do my own taxes, do minor automotive and household repair, and even squish bugs (and I really, really hate that). I bake; I'm not good at cooking. I knit; I'm not good at sewing. I do what I can for myself, but I'm not afraid to pass a job off to someone else if it's beyond my abilities; that's why God invented mechanics and gave them hydraulic lifts and impact wrenches.

My view of manliness, then, is somewhat tempered by my circumstances and my history. It's tempered by the guys I've known, particularly the ex-boyfriends. For me, a manly guy is one who's able to take care of himself - he can buy clothes and not look like he was dressed by blind circus clowns, he can feed himself on a diet of more than cold pizza, his apartment lacks any kind of scum that might be considered a health hazard. Part of him being able to take care of himself also means that he can take responsiblity for his own emotional state; psychologists like to say that saying, "You make me angry" is like saying, "You make me 5'7"," and I think a guy saying, "You make me feel less manly" falls along those same lines.

Oh, and he's willing and able to squish bugs, because I really, really hate that.

My definition of manliness is my own; your mileage may vary. But then, my defintion of womanliness may be kind of different than most, again tempered by my status as an independent woman (girl, I didn't know you could get down like that). I think that womanliness means being able to take care of yourself - being able to buy clothes, feed yourself, and keep a reasonably hygienic apartment. And it also means taking responsibility for your own emotional state, realizing that your status as a woman starts with you and isn't influenced by some guy's (or girl's) opinion of you.

When we start throwing around undefined ideas of Manliness and Womanliness, all we do is reinforce useless gender stereotypes without encouraging any constructive character traits. Manliness, otherwise undefined, usually ends up meaning huntin' and fishin' and fartin' and beer drinkin' and wearing lots of plaid and watching lots of football with his feet on the coffee table as the little woman bustles around refilling his cheese puffs. Womanliness, otherwise undefined, ends up as cooking and cleaning and reproducing, wearing shirtwaist dresses and pearls and listening to her soaps on the radio because hubby has monopolized the TV with his football games.

If you're into that, of course, go for it. I happen to think that a properly cut shirtwaist can be immensely flattering and pretty. But those stereotypes leave no room for anyone who voluntarily seeks something more in his or her life. The woman who would rather watch football than soap operas is no longer Womanly and finds herself in some kind of genderless void. The man who not only enjoys cooking, but is really good at it, is similarly not Manly, for the simple sin of not conforming to the un-definition.

And that's what Shaunti and Diana both miss - gender roles aren't just a matter of social conditioning. No one is forcing men to be Manly or not Manly; men are choosing it. Men who stay home and raise kids are usually doing it because they want to stay home and raise kids. Men who talk about their feelings do it because they've got feelings that they want to talk about. Men who use a little bit of hair product (and let's not go overboard, guys) do it because they prefer to look like they didn't just walk out of a wind tunnel (although sometimes that's exactly the look they're going for). And men who really want to "feel like a risk-taker, a protector, a provider" can do that - independent of or in conjunction with other roles.

The most emasculating idea of all is the thought that these men are the way they are because they've been forced into it by some overwhelming man-hating feminist conspiracy. The concept of feminism is women's equality, not women's superiority, and by liberating women from traditional forced gender roles, they've done the same to men. We're now all free to act as full partners in our relationships and full owners in our own lives, doing things because we enjoy them and we're good at them rather than because our genitalia tells us we're supposed to.

In closing, I want y'all to know that I took out a daddy longlegs the size of a Boeing 7E7 on my bathroom ceiling the other day. By myself. With a minimum of squealing and squirming (on my part). I did, however, wait a full 24 hours before picking him up, just to make sure he wasn't going to start any of those twitchy death spasms they do sometimes. I really, really hate that.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

On road rage

Okay, so I love podcasts for a road trip. It's like watching TV, except without the "watching" part that would make driving rather dangerous. Unfortunately, one of the downsides of podcasts is that all of the things you're tempted to do while watching TV - getting up for snacks, taking a pee, screaming irately at the idiots on the show, are still present. Road trips aren't quite as relaxing when you're yelling the entire time.

Friday's trip to Mississippi started with standstill traffic in Atlanta and last Sunday's "This Week with George Stephanopolous." Drivers pulling alongside me would have seen a woman apopleptic with rage, but the Cabrio's seven-layer insulated top would have prevented them from hearing the colorful, if not entirely creative, insults flying at the radio.

I stand by each and every one of them. Bill Frist is a doodyhead.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You heard Senator Feingold there. He wants Democrats and Republicans to come together on the censure resolution he's going to introduce tomorrow.

I can't imagine you're going to support that.

FRIST: George, what was interesting in listening to my good friend, Russ, is that he mentioned protecting the American people only one time.

And although you went to politics a little bit later, I think it's a crazy political move.

And I think it, in part, is a political move because here we are, the Republican Party, the leadership in the Congress, supporting the president of the United States as commander in chief who is out there fighting Al Qaida and the Taliban and Osama bin Laden and the people who have sworn -- have sworn -- to destroy Western civilization and all the families listening to us; and they're out now attacking -- at least today through this proposed censure vote -- out attacking our commander in chief.

It doesn't make sense.

ME: Oh, yeah, he's out there fighting al Qaida, fighting the Taliban, fighting Osama bin Laden. That's why we're bashing around Iraq, and why the Taliban is freaking returning in Afghanistan, and why we have no freaking idea where Osama bin Laden is and he's still sending out videos! You idiot!
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're saying that censure resolution actually weakens America abroad?

FRIST: Yes. Well, I think it does because we are right now at a war, in an unprecedented war, where we do have people who really want to take us down. And we think back to 9/11 and that war on terror is out there.

So the signal that it sends that there is in any way a lack of support for our commander in chief who is leading us with a bold vision in a way that we know is making our homeland safer is wrong. And it sends a perception around the world.

And, again, that's why I'm saying -- as leader at least of the Republican side of this equation -- that it's wrong, because leadership around the world of our sworn enemies are going to say, "Well, now we have a little crack there."

There is no crack. The American people are solidly behind this president in conducting this war on terror.

ME: Oh, right, solidly behind. That's why his approval rating is sitting solidly at 37 percent, and why a solid 60 percent of Americans think that going into Iraq in the first place was a mistake. You stupid, stupid, stupid, STUPID idiot. There is crack, and it is in the crack pipe that you are smoking crack out of, you stupid idiot crackhead!

And while we're on the subject, how exactly is censure of Bush for violating the freaking Constitution going to send any kind of signal to our enemies abroad? "Ha-ha, the Americans want to hold their president accountable for violations of their civil liberties! They're playing right into our hands! If he taps phones with a warrant, instead of without a warrant, we're bound to win! Pop the champagne, we're as good as there!" You stupid, stupid, crackheaded idiot.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, let's go to that Dubai Ports deal, because you broke with President Bush early on that. You said the deal raises serious questions about homeland security.

But about a week after that, you seemed to change your tune. And I want to show our viewers something written in the Lexington Herald- Leader on February 25th:

"Frist said last night that, after recent briefings, he is now comfortable with an Arab-owned company running port security for six American cities, and backed off a pledge to pass legislation to stop the deal.

"'My comfort level is good. The Senate is behind the president 100 percent. We believe the decision, in all likelihood, is absolutely the right one'."

So was this deal bad for national security or not?

FRIST: You know, we don't know yet -- and that's the problem. And that is: the review process, this Committee on Foreign Investment, is a broken process -- the process by which we review these foreign investments is a process that needs to be fixed.

We will fix it in the United States Senate. It lacks full transparency. It does not have any congressional oversight.

And the fact that the law is written that way today means that I don't know -- United States senators don't know because we don't have access to the information of the deal.

Thus what I did -- I said, to the administration, let's go back, let's re-review, let's make available the information and data that you put forward and then let's make a decision.

ME: If the Senate was behind him 100 percent, then he wouldn't have had to threaten the freaking veto to get the deal to go through. "We" don't believe it's the right one, obviously, or "we" wouldn't be legislating to block it. As I recall, the Senate was delaying it in the first place so that the 45-day investigation could take place, and that's what was cheesing Bush off so much! But I understand that it's hard to be completely accurate when you're smoking so much crack, you stupid, crackheaded idiot!
STEPHANOPOULOS: But that's what I'm asking, though. If they can't find a buyer, will you vote to kill the deal?

FRIST: Well, it depends on the outcome of the investigation. If everything that the president, the administration has said, and that is that there is absolutely no threatening or jeopardy to our security and safety of the American people and they tell us and they prove that to our satisfaction and we go to the American people and they understand, I don't see how the deal would have to be canceled.

But we don't have that information yet because that process is broken. And it's a process that we will fix.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I understand. I'm surprised here, Senator. You're saying it's still possible that Dubai Ports World will end up managing six American ports.

FRIST: Well, what I'm saying, under your hypothetical, is that they don't have a buyer and they can't sell it. I'm not agreeing with that presumption at all.

All I know is that right now, they said they are going to sell; they're looking for a buyer. That's what I expect them to do.

And if that's what happened to me, the deal is over with. There is no issue except that we need to fix the process that caused it in the first place, number one, and, number two, we need to tighten up our port security.

ME: Yeah, you're all 'bout it now that you don't think it can possibly go through! You're "100 percent behind it" when you don't think it'll actually happen! You are a flip-flopper! You are Flip-Flop Frist! You are a flip-flopper and a lip-flapper and a backflipper, you stupid, stupid, backflipping crackheaded idiot!

At that point, I made it to the Perimeter, traffic sped up, and I put on Howie Day, because I didn't think that red-faced rage and speeds in excess of 70 miles an hour were a good mix.

So, to recap: Bill Frist, stupid, stupid, backflipping, crackheaded idiot. For president. 2008.

Anyone for posters?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

On this guy (you know who you are): This Is Your Soundtrack

Okay, so this is going to be a very rare and very personal Friday Not-Even-Random Ten; this one will make sense to probably - nay, precisely - seven people in the entire world. But for you seven: No, seriously, totally. Whenever. Give me a call; I'll throw together some SkyMiles or something. Not even kidding.

1. Elvis, "(You're the) Devil In Disguise"
2. Big City Sunrise, "Take a Ride"
3. Limp Bizkit, "Break Stuff"
4. Mandy Moore, "Crush"
5. Joss Stone, "Chokin' Kind"
6. Saliva, "Click Click Boom"
7. Jump, Little Children, "Body Parts"
8. Ohio Players, "Fire"
9. Guster, "Getting Even"
10. Benny Cassette, "Watch Your Back"

Everyone else, your Ten, Random or no, goes below.

On democracy

Okay, so somewhere in Baghdad...

IRAQI is sitting in a recliner, reading a newspaper, when the lights go out.

IRAQI. Aww, man.

IRAQI puts his paper down and is heading for the breaker box on the wall when a flashlight comes on, illuminating the grinning, bearded face of UNCLE SAM.

UNCLE SAM. Democracy!

IRAQI. Oh, my God, what are you doing in my house?

UNCLE SAM. Democracy!

IRAQI. You're in my house.

UNCLE SAM just grins. IRAQI sighs and shakes his head.

IRAQI. Whatever. You're standing in front of the breaker box.

UNCLE SAM. I brought you democracy!

IRAQI. Listen, whatever that is, I'm having a hard enough time feeding my family. I appreciate it, but I really don't have room for another -

The front door opens and OTHER IRAQI enters, along with the sound of shouting on the street, which is muffled when the door closes.

OTHER IRAQI. Dude, the guy across the street is beating up your next-door neighbor.

UNCLE SAM. Democracy!


IRAQI. I don't know. He keeps saying that. Do you have any power at your house?

OTHER IRAQI. No, power's out all the way down the block. It's freaking my kids out; they think Saddam's coming back.

UNCLE SAM. Democracy!

IRAQI. Dude, you keep saying that.

OTHER IRAQI. Dude, your house is way darker than mine.

UNCLE SAM. You've got democracy!

IRAQI and OTHER IRAQI share a blank look.

OTHER IRAQI. Is there, like, a cream for that?

UNCLE SAM. Um, it's democracy.

IRAQI. Yeah, you mentioned. What exactly is that?


UNCLE SAM. Democracy.

IRAQI. Right.

UNCLE SAM. It's the vote.

IRAQI. We've got the vote?


IRAQI. The vote on what?

UNCLE SAM. I'm sorry?

IRAQI. The vote on what? What are we voting on?

UNCLE SAM. On... on everything.

OTHER IRAQI. Can I vote on lights?

IRAQI. Who's doing the voting?

UNCLE SAM. Come again?

IRAQI. Who gets to vote? Do we all get to vote, or only some of us? There are a lot of people -

UNCLE SAM. You get purple fingers!

IRAQI. Yeah, that's great. What if we can't agree?

OTHER IRAQI. Like, a flashlight or something?

UNCLE SAM. Agree...

IRAQI. Well, just, there are, like, three big ethnic groups, and a bunch of other little groups, and we don't always, y'know, agree. What if we can't agree on something?

UNCLE SAM. You... you vote.

OTHER IRAQI. What about a candle? I'd vote on a candle.

IRAQI. Dude, shut up. What if we vote, and we can't agree?

Silence. Outside, a dog howls. UNCLE SAM flips open his cell phone and puts it to his ear.

UNCLE SAM. Oh, yeah, hi, there.

IRAQI. Dude, that didn't even ring.

UNCLE SAM. (Mouths, "Vibrate.") Oh, wow, no way, nukes in Iran? That is - that is not good. Yeah, I'll be right there. Gotta take care of that right away. Sure thing.

UNCLE SAM flips the phone shut and heads for the door.

IRAQI. Your phone didn't even ring.

UNCLE SAM. Listen, I gotta get going. There's this thing in Iran, and - well, anyway, enjoy the democracy, and if you need anything, you just - you just give my people a shout.

IRAQI. Wait -

UNCLE SAM. Democracy!

The sounds of shouting return as UNCLE SAM opens the door, slips through, and slams it again, leaving the room in darkness.

OTHER IRAQI. So, did he, like, leave a cream or something?

IRAQI. I really, really hate you.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

On the closest thing to justice available

Okay, so the three defendants in the Orange County rape case have been sentenced to six years each in state prison. They're likely to serve twenty-one months, also known as "less than two years for raping and sodomizing an unconscious 16-year-old girl and putting lit cigarettes in her vagina." I'm giving you the gentle version, for the record. More thorough descriptions, as well as a transcript of the video, can be found at Pandagon. I considered quoting them here, but I just couldn't manage it; they're not for the faint of heart.

Neither is the description of what the victim went through as a result of the rape and subsequent trial. She was stalked by private investigators, had her name exposed by the rapists' families, had her privacy violated just as her body had been - and then had to sit in court as defense attorneys accused her of being a little slut who asked to be raped, degraded and videotaped, nay demanded it, nay faked unconsciousness so that she could rape the boys herself.

During sentencing, the rapists tried to explain, if not excuse, what they'd done. Greg Haidl:
“It was never my intention to cause you pain,” he said. She sat in the front row, looking away. “If there’s anything I can do . . . .” he said, and then trailed off. “What happened that night was not planned or plotted,” he continued. “It was a miniscule piece of what I was. I wake up everyday and feel bad about the people I hurt. Someone was hurt because of my acts.”

Kyle Nachreiner:
He too apologized for his “repugnant actions,” said “I accept full responsibility” and assured the court that his time in jail “gave him time to reflect on his life.” He summed it up: “I was leading a self-destructive life.”

Keith Spann didn't say anything. His mother said he wasn't a good public speaker.

All of that is fairly pathetic, consider what they did, but it can be argued that nothing could possibly be said that would be an adequate answer to such a crime. However, what is unarguable is that fact that trying to excuse their actions would be unconscionable, and is exactly what their attorneys tried to do.
In the morning, we heard the defendants and their supporters protest their remorse. That changed after lunch, when Haidl’s attorney, Al Stokke, went after Jane Doe, denying that her emotional stress could be positively linked to the attack. He criticized a prosecutor’s request that the three not be segregated from the general prison population as “without question, the most outrageous position I have ever seen.” It was tantamount, he said, to “calling for their murder.”
But Keith Spann’s attorney, Peter Morreale, pulled out the sharpest knife. He called Judge Briseno’s sentence “a bit excessive,” then called him an excellent judge and took aim at District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. It was not Spann who should be ashamed, he said, but the DA. “The way the prosecutor’s office pursued this matter was unconscionable,” Morreale said. “There was a political agenda that drove this case. A lot of politics were involved. It should have been handled professionally.” In answer to a reporter’s question, he called the prosecution “a witch hunt.” He blamed the DA for “dragging everyone through the mud, including the victim.”

It was Morreale who, in court, famously asked Jane Doe if she liked to swallow after oral sex.

This will never be over for Jane Doe. She'll have to live the rest of her life with the rape and the further violation at trial. Horrible, horrible things were done to her body, and then her lifestyle and her quality of life got the same treatment.

What shocks me even more than Doe's continued victimization by the defense attorneys is the attitude shown by some of the commenters at the blogs I've linked:
Teenagers have been making youthful indiscretions forever. It will never change.

Life goes on.

My hope for all concerned in this mess, is that everyone moves forward with their life and can reach a point where they move past it.

The gal will get a considerable amount of money from the civil suit, and hopefully, get into a zone of foregiveness. And, the gentlemen will get on with their lives with these mistakes becoming nothing but distant memories, if that.

Everybody move on and let these youthful indiscretions that we all make, be in the past.

Forgive and forget!
- Maxine

You people are all so manipulated by what society tells you to think and not reality. What these boys did happens every day throughout the US. This girl had slept with all 3 in the previous week, so she was easy, and we have all known that girl in high school. She came over that night expecting to get fucked by one if not all three. Wasn’t that her comment to her girlfriend that she probably would have fucked all three if they wanted to. [...] Had the video never come out no one would have been destroyed as have all of the players forever. These poor boys are going to be sacrificed in prison and forever irreprebaly damaged as is Jane Doe if not already. But ask yourself, a 16 yo girl that is sexually active? Bad parenting is the blame. The boys were presented with a forbidden opportunity and they did not grasp the seriousness of their action. I doubt they even considered they were breaking a law. Ever high school class has a low self esteem slut that will fuck anybody. - Steve

Luckily, the vast majority of the comments were in support of Jane Doe, some of them even taking Steve and Maxine to task for their absolute idiocy. But the fact remains that some people out there still think that way: that boys will be boys. That any sexually active girl is just asking to be violated. That if a girl has ever consented to anything, she always consents to everything. That boys can't be held responsible for their actions if we place the irresistible temptation of an unconscious girl in front of them.

I've run out of things to say. I really can't think of anything else; I don't know what to say to the idea that you can know what happened to her, what was shown on video, and still find a way to excuse it away, blame the victim, wonder why we can't just be friends. Forgiveness is precious, but this one isn't mine to forgive, and if I'm a worse person for it, then so be it: I couldn't care less what happens to these boys in prison. I won't wish harm on them, but if they end up someone's woman, if their lives are ruined, if they never get married or can't get a job, I don't care even a little bit. They did this, and then in the name of their defense, they and their lawyers kept doing this, and after it's all said and done, other people keep doing it. And I've just run out of things to say.

I'll let Amanda say it:
They called Jane Doe “trash”, followed her around, smeared her name all over town and otherwise let it be known how most of society feels about women who speak out against sexual assault. Well, I’m going to adamantly disagree.

Jane Doe is a hero.

She got these pigs off the street so they don’t do it to someone else. She put up with a lot for that sliver of a hope that her pursuit of justice would mean something. And something so small, really–to be free. To be able to have friends you can visit. To be able to go to a party, like a man can, without fear of being brutally raped. To be considered human. It’s a fucking tiny little thing and for some reason, in the 21st century we still have rapists being set free, basic medical care denied to women because they have conditions only women get, and for some butt fuck reason, some people worry that a guy might be paying a little more in child support than he’d really rather while women in some places are worrying if they can get treated if they go to the ER after getting raped.

For daring to assert that she wasn’t a sex toy for teenage boys to work out their sick fantasies, a totem for them to show each other that they can be crueler than the last, but in fact a human being, Jane Doe has seen her life turn to shit, her name dragged through the mud. But to some of us, she’s a hero and I really, really hope she knows that, small comfort that it may be.

Monday, March 13, 2006

On people who need to freaking get over themselves already (part one of six billion)

Okay, so this might make me uncool, but I've only known Ben Stein as that guy from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I don't know if he ever did anything before that, and I don't know if he's done anything since then outside of "Win Ben Stein's Money" and some Republican stuff; my hipster cred just doesn't run that deep. So I can say sincerely that I always thought Ben Stein was pretty cool because of that "Bueller? ... Bueller?" thing. Deadpan is awesome.

And then a friend lobs me a link from the American Spectator, which should have told me something to begin with, and I read it, and I thought, "Ben Stein, you're such a freaking tool." Because he's up in arms over the lack of overt patriotism at the Oscars.
I did not see every second of it, but my wife did, and she joins me in noting that there was not one word of tribute, not one breath, to our fighting men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan or to their families or their widows or orphans. There were pitifully dishonest calls for peace -- as if the people we are fighting were interested in any peace for us but the peace of the grave. But not one word for the hundreds of thousands who have served and are serving, not one prayer or moment of silence for the dead and maimed.

No. Not a single word. Yes, there were plenty of dishonest calls for peace from people who, like, made some crappy movie about gangs in South Africa, and from some chick in some dumb movie about gardening that I didn't even see, because who cares about gardening; I mean, what do they know? And, more importantly, how dare they speak their own minds without giving equal time to alternative viewpoints in the middle of their acceptance speeches? Hardly fair and balanced, y'all. Stupid liberal Hollywood elite.
Basically, the sad truth is that Hollywood does not think of itself as part of America, and so, to Hollywood, the war to save freedom from Islamic terrorists is happening to someone else. It does not concern them except insofar as it offers occasion to mock or criticize George Bush. They live in dreamland and cannot be gracious enough to thank the men and women who pay with their lives for the stars' ability to live in dreamland. This is shameful.

I can't even tell you how much these people cheese me off. After everything that our troops have done for them, and they didn't even take a single sudden and completely arbitrary moment of their completely military-unrelated self-congratulatory ceremony for a moment of random patriotism? What gives?

You know who else ticks me off? Sesame Street. When was the last time Big Bird stopped mid-sentence and said, "And while I have you all here, let me take a moment to thank our brave men and women in uniform, who make it possible for me to teach children about the letter R." Big Bird? Big chicken, more like.
The brave guy in Hollywood will be the one who says that this is a fabulously great country where we treat gays, blacks, and everyone else as equal. The courageous writer in Hollywood will be the one who says the oil companies do their best in a very hostile world to bring us energy cheaply and efficiently and with a minimum of corruption. The producer who really has guts will be the one who says that Wall Street, despite its flaws, has done the best job of democratizing wealth ever in the history of mankind.

You tell 'em, Ben Stein! You tell those elite Hollywood 'mos out there that we have achieved complete and total equality in this country. And as for the little flukes like the gay guy who died because a cop prevented anyone from doing CPR on him, and this chick here who thinks that blacks should be grateful that slavery gave them the opportunity to come to America, and these kids,. and pretty much all of these guys, and the whole thing with record oil profits as gas prices continue to climb, what do you think this is, a freaking Utopia? America, love it or leave it, fags.

Hollywood is above all about self: self-congratulation, self-promotion, and above all, self-protection. This is human and basic, but let's not kid ourselves. There is no greatness there in the Kodak theater. The greatness is on patrol in Kirkuk. The greatness lies unable to sleep worrying about her man in Mosul. The greatness sleeps at Arlington National Cemetery and lies waiting for death in VA Hospitals. God help us that we have sunk so low as to confuse foolish and petty boasting with the real courage that keeps this nation and the many fools in it alive and flourishing on national TV.

You're so right, Ben Stein. I knew I nearly fell over in my outrage when, at the Vanity Fair after party, George Clooney announced, "Y'know, I know that it's hot in Iraq and everything, but I'm pretty sure that Syriana did just as much for the cause of democracy as anything our troops do. Who's the hero tonight? Who is? That's right." How self-gratifying! When everyone knows that no conservative would ever claim that his own opinionated blathering is equal in value to military service.

I think it's time for all of us to take up Ben Stein's call to have a random tribute to our troops at every single gathering of ten or more people. Does your grocery store not keep "I'm Proud to Be an American" on constant loop? Boycott. Did you wait through the entire Senators vs. Maple Leafs game for the playing of the American national anthem, only to go home without your patriotism itch unscratched? Bomb Canada. Did your daughter's ballet recital not include a pas de deux dedicated to President Bush and Condi Rice? Hippy communist scum.

The important thing to remember is that the empty displays of patriotism and support far outweigh any actual respect for our country and support for our troops you might personally hold. A yellow ribbon magnet may only be worth its weight in real support, but veterans' benefits, adequate care for injured troops and measured disengagement from a poorly conceived and poorly executed war don't weigh anything at all.

Friday, March 10, 2006

On Wild Bill Napoli: This Is Your Soundtrack

Okay, so there was no missing and no ignoring the perverse sexual fantasies of South Dakota State Senator Bill Napoli as he descibed, in creepy and excruciating detail, the horrible things that would have to happen to a (Christian, virginal) girl in order to earn her an abortion. Kind of makes you wonder how many anti-choicers wander around thinking like that all the time, and are just bright enough not to say it in front of a TV camera.

Somebody has to be that stupid that publicly, or else who would we talk about the next day? Thank you, Creepy Bill Napoli, for giving us a topic of discussion and a prolonged, unifying, Ewwww!" Your reward? Today's Friday Not-Even-Random Ten:

1. Richard Cheese, "Creep (originally recorded by Radiohead)"
2. Jump, Little Children, "Violent Dreams"
3. K's Choice, "Virgin State of Mind"
4. Paul Oakenfold, "What It Feels Like for a Girl"
5. Four Star Mary, "Pain"
6. Lauryn Hill, "When It Hurts So Bad"
7. Average White Band, "Pick Up the Pieces"
8. Guster, "Scars and Stitches"
9. Shirley Bassey, "The Lady Is a Tramp"
10. Michelle Branch, "Are You Happy Now?"

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

On a your uterus and your bank account (not necessarily in that order)

Okay, so I think it's time for children and the elderly to grab their uteruses, civil liberties and crank-powered flashlights and head down to the storm cellar. Tornadoes have not yet touched down, but the wind is definitely starting to kick up. I've been blogging some things and missing some other things, so here's a nice Government In Your Uterus Roundup.

Steve Bartin tells us what happens when you try to pay off your credit card bill any faster than the government thinks you oughta:
The balance on their JCPenney Platinum MasterCard had gotten to an unhealthy level. So they sent in a large payment, a check for $6,522.

And an alarm went off. A red flag went up. The Soehnges' behavior was found questionable.
They both learned the same astounding piece of information about the little things that can set the threat sensors to beeping and blinking.

They were told, as they moved up the managerial ladder at the call center, that the amount they had sent in was much larger than their normal monthly payment. And if the increase hits a certain percentage higher than that normal payment, Homeland Security has to be notified. And the money doesn't move until the threat alert is lifted.

Have you ever said, to yourself or aloud, "Who cares if they spy on me? I've got nothing to hide"? Good for you. Hope that works out for you.

In other news (or not-so-news; this is actually from Friday), Digby (and no one has said it yet) nails it. S/he brings to our attention South Dakota State Senator Bill Napoli's kinky rape fantasies, which he outlines as he describes The Perfect Virgin who might escape with an abortion under the new state law:
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Napoli says most abortions are performed for what he calls "convenience." He insists that exceptions can be made for rape or incest under the provision that protects the mother's life. I asked him for a scenario in which an exception may be invoked.

BILL NAPOLI: A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.

Ooh, Bill, tell me more. Whisper it in my ear.

And since you apparently didn't now, it's not the sodomy, even sodomy "as bad as you can possibly make it," that got her pregnant.

Thanks to EKO at Daily Kos for South Dakota's new tourism logo:

I know I'm relieved that the government can tell me when to pay off my credit card and when to be pregnant. Self-determination is such a freaking burden.

Update: Courtesy of Crooks and Liars, we have dear Mr. Napoli on video. The rape fantasies, which seem to me even creepier when he's saying them out loud, start about two-thirds of the way through; hold on 'til the very end to hear his nostalgia for the shotgun weddings of the "Wild West."

On dreaming a little dream

Okay, so I'm all about the dream interpretation thing. I don't dream a whole lot (let's face it, I don't sleep a whole lot), and when I do, I always love to know what my dreams mean, or at least what other people think they mean. This is usually interesting, frequently fun, but occasionally kind of frustrating.

F'rinstance: Does anyone know of a dream dictionary that has an interpretation of "fankles"?

Monday, March 06, 2006

On obligatory Oscar blogging

Okay, so I just realized that it's after COB already and I still haven't blogged anything about the Oscars, which all bloggers are required, by federal law, to do. So here's an Oscar picture:

And a quote from a past Oscar winner:

"Oh, golly, gee, damn." - Holly Golightly, Breakfast at Tiffany's

Seriously, what's 20 years or so when a man looks that hot in a tux? Or, I'm guessing, out of one; Jon Stewart's "dream" from the opening bit was pretty much the dream I've been having since ER debuted in 1994. And I'm not talkin' 'bout hosting the Oscars, for the record.

On a lighter note

Okay, so this made my Friday afternoon.

And then this made my Saturday night.

And then this made my Sunday around lunchtime.

It was a good weekend.

On the Second Amendment, new and improved

Okay, so I'll read just about anything you send me, within reason. The Book of Mormon? Sure; they were kind enough to come all the way to my house to bring it to me. The most recent Watchtower? What's the harm? I just plain enjoy reading, and I enjoy learning about things, and I don't really feel equipped to debate anyone on any one subject until I understand where they're coming from. I also believe that a person can be exposed to different and controversial ideas without being contaminated by them; if you're secure in your sexuality, you won't be sullied by watching Brokeback Mountain or listening to the sinful tunes of Clay Aiken.

Anyway, my openness to new reading material is how I found myself flipping through a copy of Death by "Gun Control": The Human Cost of Victim Disarmament (and what is it with these lengthy book titles?), on loan from a dear friend and firearms enthusiast. Written by Aaron Zelman and Richard W. Stevens, it's a look a the history of gun control (they like the scare quotes; I'm not a fan) legislation, concentrating on its use a first step toward further government oppression, as in Nazi Germany, Rwanda and Turkey.

The main idea of the book is that governments exist at the consent of the governed, making the people a kind of fourth branch of government with the right to contradict their own elected officials when they feel they're being governed improperly. The authors, of course, are looking at it from a standpoint of physical self-defense, in which the right to bear arms is necessary to prevent government oppression. They quote Noah Webster's 1787 "An Examination in the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution":
The American Founders knew it well from earlier world history. As just one example, Noah Webster, an influential Federalist who argued for adoption of the US Constitution, explained how government can oppress only when it can overwhelm the people:
Another source of power in government is a military force. But this, to be efficient, must be superior to any force that exists among the people, or which they can command; for otherwise this force would be annihilated, on the first exercise of acts of oppression.
By design of the Constitution, an armed civilian population stops tyranny in America, as Webster concluded:
A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive.

Basically, Webster was saying that even if people are unsatisfied by legislation passed by their elected officials, they still have the means to protest against government oppression. And I dig.

The thing is, it isn't 1787, and we can't take on our government militarily. Look at Waco and Ruby Ridge - even with the most expansive arsenal known to civilianhood, your best effort would still be just making a great big mess before going down in a hail of gunfire and a blaze of infamy. The American Revolution took place during a time where the militias had comparable firepower and a better lay of the land; all those days, as they say, are gone.

None of that nullifies the Second Amendment. Americans still have every right to defend themselves when they feel that the government isn't governing at their consent. The difference in technology just makes it all the more important to maintain nonviolent methods of defending ourselves against governmental overreaching.

Gun nuts out there (and I don't mean all firearms enthusiasts, I mean the "cold dead hands" nutsy nuts) are so desperate to keep their guns and defend their Second Amendment that they're willing to sacrifice the fundamental concept behind it - the people's right to defend themselves when they feel that they're being wronged by the government. They're willing to give up their rights voluntarily and accept warrantless government surveillance, unlimited powers under the Patriot Act, government control over a woman's uterus, curtailed freedom of speech in the name of patriotism - things that give the government control over their lives - but then go crazy about their guns, which would be ultimately useless in a face-off with the government.

The authors of Death by "Gun Control" blame victim disarmament for much of the oppression that has been imposed on citizens by their own governments. I don't think that we in the US are anywhere close to being oppressed, I don't think we have genocide in our future (the US is hardly Nazi Germany, so don't go talking tinfoil hats or calling Godwin on me) - but I also don't think we do ourselves any favors by giving up our rights, voluntarily disarming ourselves.

As far as Death by "Gun Control" is concerned, I don't agree with much (okay, most) of its reasoning, but I can't disagree with its facts. Personal rights and civil liberties are what stand between the citizens and a fascist state. We, as Americans, tell the government what we need to keep us safe, rather than letting them tell us to let them handle it, 'cause they got five on us and we can trust them. It's bad enough to have someone take away your only means of self-defense; to give it up entirely is just asking to be abused and taken advantage of.

Freedom of speech, public dissent and a right to privacy aren't just acceptable but necessary to a free and healthy nation. Which is cool, 'cause in case y'all hadn't noticed, I love me some dissent.

Friday, March 03, 2006

On Glad tidings

Okay, so in case you needed a reason to go out to Gwinnett Arena Sunday (like the Gladiators hockey isn't reason enough), you've got one, but you'd better get there early. The first 1,000 fans into the arena will receive one of these:

Did I say I was kidnapped? Oh, I meant to say... I was napping! Yeah! On the bus. Slept right through my stop, ended up in Albuquerque. My bad.

Now, before you get any ideas, this is not a Jennifer Wilbanks bobblehead (the eyes would be way more buggy). No, this is a "Runaway Bride (Any Similarity to Actual Persons is Unintended and Purely Coincidental) Bobblehead Doll," complete with veil, bouquet, tennis shoes, and ticket stamped "ABQ."

Again, not Jennifer Wilbanks. Just a bride. In running shoes. Not her. Because that would be mean.

On the Claymates: This Is Your Soundtrack

Okay, so today's Not-Even-Random Ten is dedicated to those poor, disillusioned Claymates. Aw, cheer up, girls! You'll find a new pop idol before you know it. I hear George Michael is always looks for groupies.

Hey, there, cutie. I love those shoes. Prada?

1. Nina Simone, "Sinnerman"
2. Original Broadway Cast of Avenue Q, "If You Were Gay"
3. Carmen McRae, "How Long Has This Been Going On (MJ Cole remix)"
4. Dashboard Prophets, "Dismissing the Myth"
5. Soft Cell, "Tainted Love"
6. Shirley Bassey, "The Party's Over"
7. Lauryn Hill, "I Used to Love Him"
8. Harry Connick, Jr., "But Not For Me"
9. Annie Lennox, "No More I Love Yous"
10. The Smiths, "What Difference Does It Make?"

Thursday, March 02, 2006

On moral "absolutism": Aw, don't feel bad. Don't feel bad! I said stop!

Okay, so a couple of months ago, I was a passenger in a car that was in an accident on the highway. I didn't even see much of it; I was reading in the back seat, I heard a loud bang, felt a hard jolt and looked up to see our car swinging into oncoming traffic. Not fun stuff, but the driver was skilled and level-headed and no one came out of it with anything more than a little bit of whiplash (me).

The thing is, after that, I was shaky. Seriously shaky. When I was driving and another car would change lanes into the one next to mine, I'd find myself white-knuckled and sweating, waiting for impact. I stuck to the right hand lane and became that annoying person who always drives the speed limit. And one memorable evening, as I shopped for bathroom fixtures, someone banged their shopping cart into the corner of the metal shelves and I. Hit. The floor. I found myself crouched on the floor of the Buckhead Target, waiting for it to all happen again. And this was from a car accident.

Now imagine that you've just spent two tours in a row in Iraq, or even in Vietnam all those years ago, and you saw things far worse than a car accident. Imagine that you've seen people blown up, seen people shot, maybe been shot or blown up yourself. You've probably seen dead women, children, the taxi driver who just parked in front of the wrong hotel at the wrong time. No matter how much infrastructure has been repaired and how many schools have been repainted, our men and women in Iraq are dealing with things every day that we in our comfy little air-conditioned personal bubbles can't begin to imagine.

Now imagine that you're back in the States, you're trying to get on with your life, but your brain is still in Iraq. According to the VA inspector general, the VA is paying out compensation for PTSD to nearly twice as many veterans as it was six years ago, many from Vietnam veterans who are only now coming to grips with the psychological scars of their service.

Now imagine that, with all that you're going through and all that your family is dealing with, some idiot on the New York Times op-ed page and another one on the Internet are questioning whether vets actually need such treatment for PTSD, or if maybe they're just looking for a little bit of financial security.

Amanda at Pandagon takes them on quite nicely, and a lot of her commenters make a lot of good points. For anyone to question (a) that our returning troops have seen some really horrible things and (b) that seeing horrible things can mess a person up if s/he doesn't have access to appropriate mental health support is ridiculous. And to claim to support the troops and then deny them the support they really do need - and question whether they might be faking it anyway - is reprehensible.

Charlotte Hays goes so far as to blame the comparatively high rate of PTSD for Iraq war veterans on... well, you. And me. And the evil liberal media:
The profession of arms is an honorable one—but down deep, most of American society no longer believes this. Could this be an added reason for soldiers’ needing psychiatric help? This is not to downplay the very real ordeal of war, but you’ll note that the Iraq war, shunned by the nation’s elite media, has generated “more psychic stress” than Kosovo.

Now, the relatively low rate of PTSD in veterans of the war in Kosovo might have something to with the fact that it was fought largely as an air conflict without a single American casualty. And the number of yellow ribbons shining patriotically from the back of SUVs seems to indicate that Americans do find the profession of arms to be an honorable one - if you believe that yellow ribbons = troop support, which I don't.

I'm far from a licensed therapist, but I daresay that a lot of the emotional stress that Iraq war vets are going through is, in fact, a result of America's insistence that everything is hunky-freaking-dory. People like Charlotte Hays think that if we can all just declare a military career honorable, and tell these folks that they did a super-duper job, and maybe throw them a parade or two, they'll feel great about the whole thing and not have to worry at all or tax our government with their wussy little medical concerns. They did a good thing in Iraq, and if they can't find satisfaction in a job well done, what can the government do for them?

The catch, of course, comes down to the common confusion of what's good and what's right. The Bush administration made a point early on to characterize our enemies not just as bad or wrong, but as evil; that turned our war efforts from a military act toward homeland security into a crusade against the forces of darkness. The problem, though, is that our men and women in uniform aren't fighting against the forces of darkness; they're fighting against human beings, and sometimes they're fighting against the people they're simultaneously trying to protect, and that will mess a person up.

I posted earlier about how people get around "thou shalt not kill" by defining "murder" down to pinpoint specificity. What that overshadows, however, is the fact that killing is always bad. Killing never comes because of good things. Murder is bad, of course, but killing in self-defense is bad, because it means that you were put in a situation where the only right thing to do was to take the life of a person who was alive. Execution is bad because it means that a life (or several) has been taken through horrible acts and that the only suitable punishment that society could muster was to take the life of a person who was alive. Whether the victim is a good person or a bad person, deserves it or doesn't, killing takes a life, and there are usually people left behind to be upset about it. Killing is never good.

But good isn't the same thing as wrong. Killing in self-defense, for instance, isn't wrong. Much of society feels that execution isn't wrong. A Marine in Iraq who sees an eight-year-old running at him in a suicide vest is likely to shoot him, to protect himself, his fellow Marines and everyone else around them. What he did wasn't wrong; it was right. So why does he come home feeling bad about it? Because killing is always bad.

And that's what we're doing to our returning veterans. We're sending them into combat to see and do things that are often right but not always good. Things happen to them, and they see things happen to others, that can't be erased by a painted school or a repaired sewer line or a happy Iraqi kid. And then, when they come home, we say, "Why the long face? You did great over there! You should be proud of the things you did!"

Well, screw us. Of course they've done plenty of good, and most of what they've done is right. But by telling them to buck up and be proud of themselves, we're basically telling them that what they know in their hearts, that they've seen bad things and done some of them, is wrong. We're saddling them with the biggest mental disconnect since A Clockwork Orange and then acting surprised when they "just aren't themselves anymore." It's like bringing a person back from a foreign country and telling him that the US has gone black-and-white in their absence; people keep telling him the world is shades of gray, but he knows he's seeing color.

What our troops is recognition of what is actually going on over there. They don't need platitudes, they don't need empty comforts. What they need is respect, and gratitude, and recognition that war is just as much hell as it was back when Sherman first said it. And they don't need some 101st Fighting Keyboarder telling them that they're not feeling what they're feeling, they don't need the help they need, and it'll all be better after a cup of milk and a nice nap.

On obeying the meme: part deux

Okay, so you know I love a good meme. Will I jump on any opportunity to join in the artificial camaraderie of a blink-and-you'll-miss-it blogging trend? It is undeniably so.

So when Doug popped up with a list of things he hates, i did an uninhibited Snoopy dance of joy at my desk. A meme that also indulged my passion for negativity? Sign me up!

1. What is the worst DVD/video you own?

2 Fast 2 Furious, and the most embarrassing thing is just how quickly I was able to come up with that answer. Lack of disposable income has kept my movie library fairly groaner-free, but this was one of my little self-indulgences, purchased during my gearhead phase when I was dating a guy with a tricked-out Eclipse (which would have been raceworthy had he actually let a professional mechanic do the mods; for God's sake, an engineering degree and Mitsubishi's hottest new mistake don't turn you into Carroll Shelby). Anyway, the real reason for the purchase was the fact that it starred Paul Walker, who is seriously, seriously hot, especially when he isn't trying to act.

2. What is the worst concert you've ever seen in person?

This one is a bit tougher, because I make it a point to not see a lot of bad concerts. The concert with the worst music was probably in March of 2000, when Lokomotiv opened for Train at the 40Watt in Athens. I'm willing to accept that Scandinavian pop-rock is an acquired taste, but the fact that the best description Flagpole could come up with was "sharply-dressed" should have told me something. From an emotional standpoint, the worst ever was Jump, Little Children at Eddie's Attic in December of 2003, for reasons that you don't care to hear and I don't care to relive.

3. What is the worst experience you've ever had at a restaurant?

The only really spectacularly bad experience I can remember was actually made better by the fact that it was so bad; it got to that point where you can either laugh or cry, so we chose to laugh. That was the evening that my aunt, uncle, cousin and I spent at an Applebee's in Fernandina Beach, Florida that was comical in its crappiness. If I recall correctly, Aunt B ordered the garlic steak, medium, with smothered mashed potatoes; Josh ordered the Cajun steak; Uncle Whitey ordered the sirloin; and I ordered the shrimp skewers (saving myself for tailgating the next day). Well, first they came out with two garlic steaks, a sirloin, and no mashed potatoes. They left one garlic steak and the sirloin. A few minutes later, they brought Josh's Cajun steak, and again no mashed potatoes, which appeared ten minutes later after much prodding. At this point, Whitey's steak was getting cold and my shrimp skewers hadn't arrived, so he called the manager over for a polite but sincere come-to-Jesus. My meal arrived a few minutes later...

... except it was steak skewers. When we pointed this out, the poor waitress looked like she'd been punched in the stomach. Starving hungry at that point, and just a little bit tipsy from two G&Ts on an empty stomach, I offered to eat what was in front of me. I had just settled in to address my almost-order when a crowd of waitpersons swarmed in to wish a happy-happy-birthday to Daniel at the table behind us. There was much fanfare and clapping, and then as the waitswarm dispersed, a woman at the table whispered to their waitress that birthday girl was, in fact, named Elizabeth.

It's really hard to eat steak skewers when you can't stop laughing.

4. What is the worst movie you've ever seen in the theatre? Self-explanatory.

Kill Bill, Vol. 1 I'm sorry, the emperor was flat naked. I have this fantasy of Quentin Tarantino sitting down to write it, thinking, "I'm going to do everything in my power to write the lousiest movie known to man - the dialogue will suck, the action scenes will suck, the acting will really suck, and it's going to be boring as hell and covered in fakey magenta stage blood - and I'm going to call it an homage, and people are going to eat it up." And then he laughed all the way to the bank.

5. What is the worst book you've actually finished? You can't say "I read a few pages and it sucked so bad I put it down . . . " You have to have finished the book.

It's hard to say, but I think I'm going to have to go with The Genesis Code by John Case. I remember reading it and reading it and, with every turn of the page, thinking, "This guy is kind of well-known. This has to get better. It's just taking a while to warm up, but eventually, it will get better." And then I ran out of pages.

6. Who is the worst looking or least appealing celebrity you would have intimate relations with "just to tell the story"? Assume marital or other obligations did not exist. Assume no consequences arise therefrom. Here's where we find out just how disgusting my readers are. The person must be a celebrity though -- as in needs no introduction or explanation. The opposite gender is not required.

I have a confession to make. At one point a few years ago, a guy friend of mine got his heart seriously stepped on by a girl, and he was out for revenge. So of course, he came to me. He wanted to know the most hurtful thing he could possibly do to her to get back at her. And I'm ashamed to say it, but I was willing to help out. My advice? "Take her out, give her a fantastic, romantic evening, and take her back to her place. Pour her a glass of wine, give her a massage, and then proceed to do the kinkiest stuff you can convince her to consent to. We're talking stuff that would make Jenna Jameson cringe, stuff that wouldn't even make it to video, stuff that is deserving of nothing less than Khachaturian's "Sabre Dance" as a soundtrack. And then sneak out while she's asleep. When she calls to find out what happened, say to her, 'Oh, well, see, I'm into nice girls.'"

And that's why I choose Rick Santorum.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

On things that shouldn't need a neon sign

Okay, so this has been reported around already, but I thought I'd take a swing at it because it's just that good. Needing little introduction, courtesy of Pandagon, it is... the lawsuit heard round the world:
LATEST: Nine former fans of AMERICAN IDOL star CLAY AIKEN are forging ahead with threats to sue his record label bosses for false advertising.

The one-time devotees have been shocked by recent US tabloid claims the wholesome pop singer is gay and they’ve filed a Federal Trade Commission complain against executives at RCA and Sony/BMG, alleging they were duped in marketing and promotional campaigns…..

The angry ladies go on to state, “This is tantamount to a manufacturer concealing information about a defective product. Therefore these actions were both unfair and deceptive to consumers.”

A spokeswoman for the group says, “As consumers, we feel ripped off. It is obvious now that the private Clay is very different from the manufactured packaged public Clay that was marketed to us.”

I won't go into the sheer and unabashed homophobia involved in declaring your favorite prepackaged pop star "defective" because he's gay; Amanda covers that quite nicely. And I won't go into the wastefulness involved in yet another spurious lawsuit or the willful blindness involved in not being able to tell that he makes Elton John look butch, because Doug covers that quite nicely. Myself, I really found three significant implications of the lawsuit:

1. These women were too dumb to tell that he was gay. Untrained gaydar, perhaps, or maybe just hope springing eternal. But they didn't know.

2. When they did find out, they weren't smart enough to know that filing a lawsuit would reveal to the world exactly how dumb they were, and

3. At least nine women in the universe have had sexual fantasies about Clay Aiken.

Now, don't get me wrong; I have nothing against Clay Aiken. He looks like a nice, pleasant boy, like the ginger-haired seventh-grader next door who mows your lawn for ten dollars to save up for a four-wheeler, and he does a lousy job but you always let him do it because he's just so polite and cute and it's nice to see young people being industrious. But you don't exactly fantasize about said seventh-grader stripping to the waist before starting the job; no, you save that for the hot twenty-something you hire to clean up the job the seventh-grader did, and sure, he does a lousy job, too, but there's something about those rippling back muscles...

Aherm. Sorry, where was I?

Anyway, can you imagine a Clay Aiken-based sexual fantasy? The fantasy life of a girl who watches American Idol and hears him singing about being invisible and watching you in your room, and thinks, Mmm, break me off a nice big chunk of that?

Slowly, he unbuttoned his shirt, his pale, freckled, concave chest glistening with sweat.

"I've wanted you ever since our eyes met across the crowded floor at the Ricky Martin concert," he whispered. "I'm so glad my mom drove me over here tonight, because you are beyond hot."

He slipped down his Superman Underoos...