Friday, April 28, 2006

On Crazy Cable Access Preacher Guy: This Is Your Soundtrack

Okay, so I usually try to relate my Friday Not-Even-Random Ten to something that's happened in the new lately, something that I've blogged about, occasionally something that's affecting my life. However, nothing that's happened this week really compares to something I found just this morning. Courtesy of TBogg, Shakespeare's Sister and now Hey Jenny Slater, we give you "The Spirit of Truth" (seriously, seriously NSFW).

Click it, crank it, and savor the expression on your boss's face. This Friday Not-Even-Random Ten is dedicated to Crazy Cable Access Preacher Guy; repeat it after me, bitch: I come in the name of Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Ten:

1. J.S. Bach, "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring"
2. Snoop Dogg, "What's My Name"
3. Franz Schubert, "Ave Maria"
4. Busta Rhymes, "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See"
5. J.S. Bach, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"
6. Dr. Dre, "Bitches Ain't Shit"
7. Gioacchono Rossini, "Credo in unum Deo" from Petite messe solennelle
8. AMG, "Bitch Betta Have My Money"
9. William Byrd, "Haec Dies a 6"
10. N.W.A., "A Bitch Iz a Bitch"

Your Ten, and/or your story of how you got fired for referring telling your boss you ain't following Whitey's rules, go in comments.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

On the human cost of tragedy

Okay, so I was reminded by a blogger at Daily Kos that yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. Plutonium Page points out in her post that right now, most discussion of the disaster centers around numbers, particularly how many have died and how many are expected to die. She chooses to concentrate on the human aspect, and it makes for a really striking diary. Read it through, and then read through some of the I-was-there stories left in comments.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

On offending me by your mere existence

Okay, so I know I've flogged this Laura Mallory/Harry Potter thing about as far as it can go until the Gwinnett County school board makes its final decision, but I was scrolling through the AJC blog devoted to the subject and found a disturbingly telling comment:
By red
April 20, 2006 02:32 PM | Link to this
What I am asking is not unreasonable. What you are demanding is down right pushy. You still have access to your books. It won’t affect your children at all if they are removed. I don’t want my children exposed to them at all. Not in conversation not at all. I don’t want them to feel different because they feel different about the books than your children. This can be accomplished if are just a little bit considerate what this vast number of parent and children are concerned if you would just by the books or check them out at your county library. But the majority of the people are just selfish and won’t even consider a compromise.

What I am asking is not unreasonable; I just want the entire world to conform precisely to my preferences. This has become an ever-louder refrain from a certain subsection of the religious right. Your personal choices offend me by the very fact that you make them; your immoral existence taints my own by the very fact that I know about it. The fact that gays aren't willing to stay silently in the closet like good boys and girls violates my right never to know that they exist. The fact that my religion isn't explicitly endorsed by the government violates my right to shove it down everyone else's throat. The fact that I'm allowed to make choices for myself but not for everyone else violates my right to be the boss of everyone in the whole entire world.

There's a certain toddlerish, sheltered quality about that attitude. It's the attitude of a three-year-old who has never seen a world that hasn't been straightened, padded, disinfected and painted pink by Mommy; who thinks that by hiding behind a floor lamp and closing her eyes, she disappears completely. Most children grow out of this around age three or four, when they begin learning to take turns, share, settle minor disputes with other children. This is also the stage where children begin to play pretend, have imaginary friends, and learn the difference between reality and fantasy.

Some people never really grow out of that stage. They never learn to compromise or adapt to circumstances that aren't their ideal. When, in the course of conversation, someone disagrees with them, they throw a tantrum; you're not allowed to disagree. They actively avoid anything that might challenge their established viewpoint; Europe is smelly, and the food tastes weird, and they won't talk American, so why on earth would anyone want to go? Subconsciously, they realize that their fragile, self-contained, idealized universe will collapse like a house of cards at the slightest draft, so they make an effort to sequester themselves from anything that might disturb their peace.

Unfortunately, a person can only live in a fortress for so long, so before they venture out into the real world, they work to disinfect it of anything that might threaten their pleasantly blinkered existence. Their goal is to turn the outside world into the idealized world inside their heads. Their beliefs must be espoused as law, their likes encouraged, their dislikes expunged completely. The very existence of such unpleasant ideas as homosexuality, alternate belief systems, alternate family structures, any work of fantasy or imagination, even heterosexual sex that lies outside the limited bounds of their experience, must be erased completely from record and never mentioned again. Forget drug use, violence, corruption; if we can pretend they won't exist, if we can ignore them, they'll simply cease to be.

That's why, to them, anyone who contradicts that existence is selfish. In their minds, they've already compromised enough by allowing you to exist at all. They're generous enough to not kill gays on sight, as long as the gays promise to never actually become romantically involved with someone of the same gender. They're generous enough to allow Jews to exist, as long as they pretend to be Christian when they're in public. The commenter above is generous enough to allow other parents to buy objectionable books or check them out from the public library; why does no one laud her for her generosity? All she wants is that her children never hear read, see the spine of or overhear discussed in the halls a book that she fears might disturb her carefully assembled fantasy world.

This is how a group of people who hold an 80 percent majority in this country still manage to make themselves into victims - The majority of people are just selfish. They won't let me have my way. They won't play the way I want them to play. They won't let me be the boss. These people influence legislation and have the ear of the president of the United States; they've got our country over a barrel, and they're three years old, each and every one of them.

Monday, April 24, 2006

On audience participation

Okay, so this is one of those rare moments when I ask you what you think (and one of those even rarer moments when I actually care what you think). Please get out your blue books and a blue or black pen and respond to the following prompts:

1a. Under what circumstances do you feel it would be appropriate to use nuclear weapons on Iran? Be as specific as possible; answers may (but are not required to) address one or more of the following themes: aggression toward the US, aggression toward other countries, perceived aggression, weapons capabilities, civilian casualties, damage to infrastructure, international cooperation.

1b. What do you think would be the outcome/repercussions of such an act?

2a. Under what circumstances do you feel it would be appropriate to use conventional weapons on Iran? Answers may (but are not required to) address one or more of the above themes, as well as: nature of attack (ground vs. air), subsequent occupation.

2b. What do you think would be the outcome/repercussions of such an act?

Do you feel that the majority of Americans would agree with your position? Why or why not?

Friday, April 21, 2006

On Laura Mallory: This Is Your Soundtrack

Okay, so first off, a public service announcement: if this guy, or anyone else, for that matter, comes to your door and offers to give you a free breast exam, it's actually a scam. Real doctors don't do that. Really.

This Friday Not-Even-Random Ten is dedicated to Laura Mallory, the Loganville mother of three who isn't satisfied with her kids not reading Harry Potter - she's going to make sure yours don't, either. A hearing was held yesterday by the Gwinnett County school board, who expect to have a decision by May 11.

Highlights from the hearing:

From Mallory, an adult, who is adultish, with adult reasoning capabilities and, it is assumed, the intelligence of an average adult:
""Harry Potter teaches children and adults that witchcraft is OK for children," said Laura Mallory, a Loganville mother whose complaint led to the hearing.

From Jordan Fuchs, a fifteen-year-old who apparently found the super-secret-hidden chapter where Harry Potter and friends held a seance, and who needs more supervision during gym class:
One girl, Jordan Fuchs, said she became fascinated with witchcraft after reading the first Potter book. Jordan said she and friends used to cast spells. Once, she said, they performed a seance during gym class. Jordan said she became angry and depressed as she became more enthralled with witchcraft. Jordan said she considered killing herself.

Jordan, now 15, said she has since turned her life around. But she said the books are dangerous.

"I truly believe the Harry Potter books should be banned," she said.

From Jessica Grimes, who is ten:
Jessica Grimes, 10, said the books are her favorite. She said kids understand the stories aren't true. "The books never at any time turned me into a witch or wizard," she said.

I believe that children are our future.

Every bit of faith I have in the future of our children goes to Jessica. The name of a good child and adolescent counselor, as well as the hopes that her parents start paying attention to her every once in a while, go to Jordan. But Laura, this Not-Even-Random Ten is all for you:

1. Rasputina, "Transylvanian Concubine"
2. The Rolling Stones, "Sympathy for the Devil"
3. Guster, "Demons"
4. The Charlie Daniels Band, "The Devil Came Down to Georgia"
5. Diana Krall, "Devil May Care"
6. Elvis, "(You're the) Devil in Disguise"
7. Oxide & Neutrino, "Devil's Nightmare"
8. Face to Face, "The Devil You Know (God Is a Man)"
9. Stevie Wonder, "Superstition"
10. Frank Sinatra, "Witchcraft"

plus the entirety of Orff's Carmina Burana. Your Ten, your additions to my Ten, or, like, whatever, go in comments.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

On the fundie-mentals of reading

Okay, so just when you thought they'd kicked and screamed until they tired themselves out, fundie moms are still throwing tantrums over Harry freaking Potter. Today, the Gwinnett County school board holds a hearing to decide whether or not Laura Mallory, a mother of three likely miserable and embarrassed children, gets to protect her children from breathing Harry Potter-tainted air.

Ignoring the fact that Harry Potter hysteria is so eight years ago, what is it, exactly, that these parents are afraid of? Are they afraid that their little ones will run across it in the library and actually take some interest in reading long novels? Do they fear that little Danny will hijack the chem lab with a backpack full of Mandrake root and start cursing his fellow students? Is the concern that the antics of a bunch of well-dressed, non-drug-using, non-sex-having British teenagers will tempt poor Sally into a lifestyle of Goth makeup, sluttery and emo?

Or is the real fear that their faith isn't strong enough? If you really have a strong and sincere relationship with God, should something so simple as a work of fiction be capable of dragging you into a world of witchcraft? And if you have a healthy and communicative relationship with your child, shouldn't you be able to sit down with her and talk about the themes discussed in the book, how it relates to the teachings of your religion, and how the child feels about them? Or is real parenting just too much work?

And even if you still don't want your own child reading the books, is it right for you to deprive other children of the pleasure?

Raising a child who is capable of thinking for herself and maintaining her own ideals in a world that sometimes threatens them is a whole lot of work, though. It requires actual, y'know, parenting. It would require you to actually read the books in question all the way through, which Laura Mallory admits she hasn't done. It would require talking with your children about the things they face in life that make them question their religious upbringing, which I suspect she's afraid to do. It would require being strong enough in your own beliefs to help bolster hers, and scariest of all, it would require you to stand back and allow her to make her own choices if, with all of her options laid out in front of her, she chooses a different path than you would have her choose.

Obviously, we can't let this happen. I call for an immediate campaign against all works of fiction that might tempt our little ones away from our rigid teachings. First to go? Hoo, boy. One minute, they're sitting down to watch a movie; the next, they're tempting their friends to become plucky household appliances.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

On Riverdance Dance Revolution

Okay, so you just have to see this. Because... because you just do. linky.

Hat tip to The Superficial.

On comings and goings

Okay, so Scotty "Rainman" McClellan has announced his resignation as White House press secretary, saying to President Bush, "I have given it my all sir and I have given you my all sir, and I will continue to do so as we transition to a new press secretary.”

I feel that this is the time for incisive commentary, mention Andy Card, something about how they've run out of people who are actually doing their jobs and now have to actually fire the crappy ones, suggest the names Donald Rumsfeld and Michael Chertoff for the next chopping block, but honestly, I got nothin'. There has to be some snark out there! Helen Thomas! Jeff Gannon! Come on, brain, think!


"You're asking me to comment on an ongoing investigation... I've already responded to that question... Ongoing investigation... I won't comment on an ongoing investigation... I've already responded... Already responded... Ongoing..."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

On cracked ones

Okay, so some conservatives were up in arms over plans for Teh Gays to infiltrate the White House Easter egg roll with all of their icky and threatening happy-family-being. As Americans for Truth President Peter LaBarbera said, "Turning the Easter Egg Roll into a ‘gay’ propaganda exercise represents a new low in the movement for ‘rights’ based on aberrant sex.”

Well, it's a good thing that didn't happen. Instead, our innocent children got exposed to this:

(courtesy of Pandagon)

Pandagon reader Steve, who attended the event with his child, reported the following Christlike behavior:
“The protesters were screaming nasty things over bullhorns. I was leaving when I saw them and took the pic. The straight people who were walking near me were upset at the language they were using, and the inappropriate signage. I told the one guy who looked at me, ‘You should be ashamed of yourself.’ He cursed at me as I was holding my son.”

Where is the "Won't someone think of the children?!" crowd now? Who was it who objected to the politicization of a child's innocent holiday event? Who, do you think, is doing more harm here: the families wearing rainbow leis and rolling Easter eggs, or the people holding signs declaring some child's parents "abominations"? How many parents had to sit down with their kids and explain the concept of "homo sex" who wouldn't have had to do so if all they'd seen was a rainbow lei?

This only supports a theory I've had all along: the people who are currently the most concerned with the state of our children, our culture and our souls are going to be the ones to bring them all down. The Christian Right has already smutted up organized religion by perverting the message of peace and charity. Neocons are fighting to save our children from the dangers of sex by withholding the knowledge (not to mention a vaccination) that would protect them, and they're fighting to stop abortion by withholding birth control and stripping away a woman's control over her own life. And all the while they're whining about their lack of respect and authority and vying for more influence in the legislature, the courts, and the executive branch.

Well, nice going, guys. Good to see you really do care about the kids. Stay classy.

Monday, April 17, 2006

On charming Easter traditions

With two, you get eggroll.

Okay, so depending on your source, you might get very different ideas about what went on today at the White House. If you're a fan of the Washington Post, you read this morning that "rain can't dampen [a] White House tradition" and that, despite the crappy weather, Laura Bush was happy to host the annual White House Easter egg roll and pose for pictures with the invited guests and children of White House employees.

If the New York Times is your paper of choice, you might have read last Monday that "the egg roll (again!) becomes a stage for controversy" as 200 gay and lesbian families decided to attend the egg roll, with nothing more than a rainbow-colored lei to distinguish them from the numerous heterosexual families that usually attend. Apparently outrages at the use of such garish colors at what has always been a pastel-toned event, conservatives are decrying such a political act as appearing in public with a symbol designating your sexual orientation. Mrs. Bush's press secretary did not address whether heterosexual couples would be required to check their wedding rings at that gate and refrain from public displays of affection throughout the event.

Readers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, though, read Sunday that Bush may skip egg roll, but gays won't. As of Sunday, the White House had yet to make any statement as to whether President Bush would be in attendance. The AJC speculates that "delaying the egg roll could allow the administration to get a handle on how much of a presence the gay and lesbian parents will have," but is it be irresponsible to speculate?

It would be irresponsible not to.

For instance, it may or may not be significant that, for the first time ever, ticketing procedure changed so that families waiting for days at a time to get tickets will not be allowed in for the opening ceremonies. Tickets handed out to those patient parents were stamped for 11am entry, three hours after the start of the event as quoted on the White House press release and, conveniently enough, just the exact moment that the president was scheduled to attend an event in Sterling, Va.

It also may or may not be significant that Laura Bush hung around, kicked off the ceremony, and posed for pictures, but managed to be gone before any of the riffraff - also known as the voting public, her husband's employers, human beings, and people who'd waited in line for freaking ever to get tickets - were allowed in for the party, among them a few begarlanded homosexuals and their children.

It also may or may not be significant that Bush has thrown his support behind a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, since it's in "society's interest" to define marriage "as between a man and a woman," and he's also said that "children can receive love from gay couples" but "studies have shown that the ideal is where a child is raised in a married family with a man and a woman."

My only question is this: What kind of parents are you people? You're bringing your children to roll Easter eggs with a man who thinks their parents are more of a threat to our country than Osama bin Laden? Katrina victims, you're bringing your kids to meet the man who hung out in Texas for five days playing the guitar while you stood on the roof of your house, waving a bedsheet and begging for help, whose mother saw you in the Astrodome and thought that things were "working out very well" for you? Not really making an argument for responsible parenting there.

Friday, April 14, 2006

On religion and government

Okay, so over at Firedoglake, Taylor Marsh has a really great post about religion in government and practicing the faith you profess. In honor of Good Friday (and Passover, too), I thought I'd chime in and say that I'm entirely in favor of faith in government. I'm in favor of faith in the public sphere as well. I'm pretty much in favor of faith all over the place.

Thomas Jefferson is quoted extensively on issues of separation of church and state, and that's because he put more thought into it and had more to say about it than many of the other founding fathers. His words and personal beliefs have been twisted to make points on both sides of the religious spectrum, and I think that's because he was so very moderate - and not a wishy-washy, please-everyone moderate, but a real moderate, with real, firm, reasoned beliefs that don't favor either extreme. That's rare, admirable, and noteworthy.

His feelings on religion, in a nutshell, were that everyone should be free to practice his or her own beliefs, that no one belief system should be favored over another, and that for the government to restrict or endorse any particular religion or religion in general would be to the detriment of a free country. Why that's so hard for people to comprehend these days, I'll never know. His own personal beliefs tended more toward deism, and he spoke occasionally of "Nature's God" in the sense of a higher power/Creator while, being a fan of science and engineering, rejecting what he considered to be the superstitious nature of organized religion. And yet, the government that he helped form didn't overtly endorse deism as a national philosophy on which to base laws and society. Fancy that.

The ubiquitous Jefferson quotes:
"[I]t does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." -Notes on Virginia, 1782

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State." -Letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT., Jan. 1, 1802

"He who steadily observes the moral precepts in which all religions concur, will never be questioned at the gates of heaven as to the dogmas in which they all differ." -Letter to William Canby, Sept. 18, 1813

"Religion is a subject on which I have ever been most scrupulously reserved. I have considered it as a matter between every man and his Maker in which no other, and far less the public, had a right to intermeddle." -Letter to Richard Rush, 1813

Thomas Jefferson. Not a fan of organized religion, really.

But his points were good ones. "Religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God." "I have considered it as a matter between every man and his Makes in which no other, and far less the public, had a right to intermeddle." That frees us from the interference of the government or the public, thanks much, but it also places on us the burden to be responsible for our own religious beliefs and tenets. It's time, in short, for us to start acting like grownups.

The government cannot make us be sexually responsible. If chastity is a major point for your religion, then you must, yourself, be chaste, and teach your children to be chaste, and teach them to resist the worldly temptations that would cause them to be otherwise. The world can't be expected to do anything more than accommodate your beliefs; it won't endorse them, so you have the responsibility to strengthen your own faith to make it through challenging times.

Similarly, if your religion has a specific holy day, feast, or celebration, the government cannot make everyone observe it. If that celebration is important to you, then celebrate it, and teach your children to do the same. The world can't be expected to do anything more than allow you the freedom of your celebration; it won't force others to do the same, so you have the responsibility to observe it as you see fit, even when no one around you does.

The government cannot make us adhere to the rules of a holy book. If those rules are sacred to you, then honor them, and teach your children to do the same. The world can't be expected to do anything more than accept your actions, within the bounds of civil law; it won't codify your religious beliefs as law, so you have the responsibility to live according to your own beliefs.

Religion is a very personal thing. The biggest challenge to religion and faith today is its presence in the public eye; something that should be between a person and his or her deity (or lack thereof) becomes a nationwide rallying point, a publicity op, and frequently, a Trojan horse wherein bigotry and intolerance can sneak into our system of government where it doesn't belong. Right now, it's the Christian right, but the same would hold for any religion: turning a religious system into civil law doesn't make the law sacred, it makes the religion secular. Putting on a white dress and rolling around in a mud puddle doesn't make the puddle any cleaner. The separation of church and state exists not only for the protection of the state, but also for the protection of the church.

If you profess Christianity, live by the laws of Christianity and accept civil law. Don't force your faith on other people, and don't force your faith to incorporate the secular vagaries of man-made law. If your faith endorses charity, good will, love, forgiveness, acceptance, then live by those laws. If you choose to live a life of worldly concerns, don't sully your faith by pretending that those concerns fall within the bounds of your religion. Be the best Christian that you know how to be, or don't claim to be one. From what I've read in the Bible, God has a soft spot for sinners, but he's not a big fan of hypocrites.

If you're an atheist, live your life according to civil law, logic, and the laws of basic human decency. Take pride in the fact that you've established for yourself a system of morality that doesn't rely on fear of an all-powerful parent figure, and let that satisfy you. Don't try to force it on other people, and don't criticize others for their belief in a higher power, because it's called faith and everyone has faith in something. If you have faith in, more than anything else, yourself, then be glad, and let that guide your life. Be the best person you know how to be, or don't claim to be one.

Whatever guides you, whether it's faith in one god or several gods or faith in yourself and the people around you, let that be enough for you, and then live the everliving hell out of it. Accept that no matter what your personal beliefs are, we all, as human beings, have a certain collection of kindergarten-level responsibilities to other humans, among them to be nice, to not hurt people on purpose, to try to encourage peace rather than not-peace, to help people who need help, and to leave the place pretty much as nice as we found it.

Shalom and God bless.

On the UGA Ninja: This Is Your Soundtrack

Okay, so it amazes me that Doug is able to focus on focus on something as picayune as nuclear war when the ever-present threat of ninja attack has struck so close to home. Some of us, at least, have our priorities straight, and that's why this Friday Not-Even-Random Ten is dedicated to Jeremiah Ransom, the UGA Ninja, and the brave ATF agents who saved us from his dangerous and subversive ninja activities.

The Ten:

1. Johnny Cash, "Man in Black"
2. Elvis, "Suspicious Minds"
3. Garbage, "I Think I'm Paranoid"
4. Dixie Chicks, "Ready to Run"
5. Busta Rhymes, "Put Your Hand Where My Eyes Can See"
6. Franz Ferdinand, "Take Me Out"
7. Frank Sinatra, "Ain't That a Kick in the Head"
8. Queen, "I Want to Break Free"
9. Switchfoot, "Dare You to Move"
10. Vertical Horizon, "Shackled"

As always, your Ten go in comments.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

On the very real threat of ninjas

Okay, so Doug said that after his third encounter with campus police at the G-Day game, they probably thought he was an al Qaida sleeper agent casing the campus. I say he should just be glad he isn't a ninja:
ATF rids Univ. of ninja threat
Published , April 12, 2006, 06:00:01 AM EDT

ATF agents are always on alert for anything suspicious — including ninjas.

Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm agents, on campus Tuesday for Project Safe Neighborhoods training, detained a “suspicious individual” near the Georgia Center, University Police Chief Jimmy Williamson said.

Jeremiah Ransom, a sophomore from Macon, was leaving a Wesley Foundation pirate vs. ninja event when he was detained.

After being held in investigative detention, he was found to have violated no criminal laws and was not arrested.

“It was surreal,” Ransom said. “I was jogging from Wesley to Snelling when I heard someone yell ‘freeze.’”

Ransom said he thought a friend was playing a joke before he realized officers had guns drawn and pointed at him.

ATF agents had noticed Ransom’s suspicious behavior and clothing and gave chase, apprehending him, Williamson said.

“Agents noticed someone wearing a bandanna across the face and acting in a somewhat suspicious manner, peeping around the corner,” said ATF special agent in charge Vanessa McLemore.

If you're sending your kid off to college, and you're concerned about the risk of ninja attack (and let's face it, who isn't, in these trying times?), rest assured that Athens, Georgia has the highest ninja conviction rate of any college town in the country.

I also remember hearing a lot about piracy while I was there, so you're probably safe on that front as well.

Hat tip to Jesus' General.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

On actual weapons of mass destruction

Okay, so with Iran so determined to restart their nuclear program whether the rest of the world likes it or not, rumors are flying that Bush plans to revive his policy of preemptive strike by bombing Iran. Seymour Hersh takes a rather compelling look at it in the New Yorker.

Now, the White house is denying the rumors, calling them "wild speculation" (which is a non-denial denial if I've ever heard one). Bush says that while the option of airstrikes remains on the table, a diplomatic solution will be sought. Speaking at Johns Hopkins University, he said, "[M]y first advice is, never use force until you've exhausted all diplomacy" (the transcript didn't mention any laughter in the audience at that point).

The problem with diplomacy is that diplomacy is based on trust, and the US has lost a lot of trust in the world, particularly in the Middle East. In 2003, the US told Saddam Hussein that if he'd back away from the weapons program with his hands in the air, he wouldn't be attacked. Weapons inspectors were allowed in and, upon looking around, declared that Iraq had, at that time, no WMD, and had no realistic chance of acquiring them. The inspectors left, for their own safety, only when warned that the US was about to bomb Iraq anyway.

It hasn't been entirely apparent until now exactly how wildly Bush has squandered his political capital in the rest of the world. We laughed at the idea of a "coalition of the willing," we shook our heads as our allies began withdrawing, and we rolled our eyes when Bush reminded us not to forget Poland as a supporter of our actions in Iraq. Bush corralled a group of supporters who would back his Middle Eastern policy out of fear of economic - or, for that matter, military - retribution, and he expected that group to hold strong indefinitely. Now that fear of reprisal is less of a factor, potential allies are less inclined to get involved.

It's a somewhat simplistic but nevertheless true fact that trust will keep you safer than fear; a true ally will remain an ally even when you're not holding the gun. Under a policy of UN sanctions, Saddam Hussein had been unable to produce weapons of mass destruction since 1991. Reports that he wanted or hoped to produce such a program only underscored the fact that he couldn't. With the cooperation of an international organization, a goal was reached without bloodshed. Bush's preemptive strikes, threats, and name-calling ("Axis of Evil") have failed to uncover any Iraqi WMD, failed to stop Korea from developing their program, failed to find Osama bin Laden or convince any of our reluctant allies to help us do same, and now fails to keep Iran from doing precisely what they want with their nuclear program.

At this point, if the world will rely on President Bush to act as God-appointed protector from Iranian nukes, the end result will be nuclear war, because that's the only tool he has left (there's a pertinent saying about everything looking like a nail that could be thrown in here). Condoleezza Rice said today that the UN Security Council "will need to take into consideration this move by Iran," which is true, and that it should take "strong steps to make certain that we maintain the credibility of the international community," which is snort-chuckle ironic.

The US has taken the lead on the Iran nuclear issue because Bush feels that he's the best man for the job. He's wrong. It's not the job of the US, and it's certainly not his job, to make unilateral decisions on behalf of the rest of the world. When the Security Council reconvenes at the end of this month, Bush must be willing to take a step back and allow other countries to have some say in matters that affect them just as deeply as they do us; he can take that time to begin mending international fences and gaining back some of the trust he's lost. Yes, actions by the UN could be considered the devil we don't know, but when the devil we know almost certainly involves a mushroom cloud, it's a risk we have to be willing to take.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

On things that need to be set straight

Okay, so various rumors have been going around regarding the events of Bloggerpalooza 2006, and I have to wonder where Doug and Kyle got their information. It's time to set the record straight.

First of all, I'm not surprised that Kyle would lie about the absence of sorority girls, because he's married, Travis is married, and the girls were all over them. I think there's some kind of forbidden-fruit thing going on. Anyway, Doug says that the girls were stood up by TKEs, which is ridiculous, because everyone knows that a Kappa Delta would never talk to a TKE in the first place. Some of them had been stood up by the Fijis they were supposed to tailgate with, but some of them brought their dates along, and what with Kirk Herbstreit being there and all, we all knew how that was going to turn out. The details get kind of foggy (there was rain and a lot of alcohol) but the punchline involves Kirk pulling not one, not two, but three Kappa Deltas while Doug wailed on a Fiji in the back of the RV. It was actually kind of cool, Doug's eventual black eye notwithstanding.

The weather was, as Doug and Kyle both mentioned, crappy, but that didn't actually stop the tailgate. Yes, we initially parked in the North Campus parking deck, but once we loaded up into the RV, it became a bit of a party barge and all was well. The biggest problem was the inclusion of a whole bunch of sports bloggers who'd apparently caught wind of the exercise on Doug's blog but hadn't bothered to RSVP - or bring food. I didn't catch names, but the infamous Naked Dawg Blogger showed up, and as you can guess from his name, he wasn't wearing anything but a strategically placed baseball cap and a rub-on bulldog tattoo on his left butt cheek. The RV got a whole lot more crowded when that guy got on. Doug probably didn't notice because he was too far up Kirk's butt, nagging him about blogging for ESPN, and Kirk was just trying to get some play with the Kappa Deltas.

Anyway, the weather cleared up in time for the game, thank goodness. Check out Kyle's and Doug's blogs for more analysis of the game, which, as spring scrimmages are wont to be, was largely inconclusive, from my perspective. But then, I didn't catch the whole thing (Naked Dawg Blogger, e-mail me to let me know where to send your hat).

Oh, and Kyle, I don't know which game you were attending on what day, but I want to make something absolutely clear: the birds were freaking obnoxious. Birds everywhere. It was like that movie, the one about the birds. I forget the name. But they weren't singing, no matter what Doug says; they were freaking screaming like a twelve-year-old at an N'Sync concert. It was almost scary.

Friday, April 07, 2006

On Charlie Krauthammer: This Is Your Soundtrack

Okay, so senators have finally reached a compromise on the immigration debate, which is amazing in that it a) actually seems like a reasonable plan and b) has caused Bill Frist and Ted Kennedy to appear in a photograph together, showing that it can actually be done if you're quick with a camera.

But this Not-Even-Random Ten isn't for them. No, this one is for Charles Krauthammer (a good American name if I've ever heard one), who thinks that the compromise is insufficient because it doesn't allow for a $700 million wall to be erected along our southern border. Screw employer sanctions, Charlie says. Build a barrier.

Just for Charlie, a pleasant mix of songs brought to us by filthy foreigners:

1. Richard Wagner, "Brunnhilde's Apostrophe" from Die Gotterdammerung
2. Cal Tjader, "Soul Sauce (Fila Brazillia remix)"
3. Cibo Matto, "Spoon"
4. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, "Il Catalogo e questo" from Don Giovanni
5. Tom Jones, "Sexbomb"
6. Hugh Masekela, "Mama"
7. Frederic Chopin, "Nocturne No. 13 in C minor"
8. Carmen Consoli, "Uguale a ieri"
9. Shakira, "Suerte"
10. The Beatles, "Hey Jude"

And one more:

11. The Original Broadway Cast of Avenue Q, "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist"

Your Ten, random or no, goes in comments.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

On speaking not-American

Okay, so since this country is becoming so bilingual and everything, we might as well get things right. To that end:

Cojones. C-O-J-O-N-E-S. Cojones. Spanish slang meaning testicles/nuts/balls/nads/rocks. Pronounced co-HO-ness. As in, "Bush is claiming unitary executive powers? Man, them's is some cojones right there."

Your alternative is cajones, or "drawers." Like a chest of drawers. Not quite as awe-inspiring, if you think about it.

This lesson in vulgar slang has been brought to you by letter H and the number 12.

On speaking American

Okay, so I'm just curious here - what would be so bad about a bilingual country?

One of the big complaints about Hispanic and Latino immigrants is that they come here all not speakin' American, and every time you pick up a phone you're invited to oprima el dos for espanol, and you always hear them talking Mexican on the bus and you just know they're talking about you. Over at Townhall, Kathleen Parker finds herself "increasingly annoyed" by the "unsubtle notice that the U.S. is gradually becoming a bilingual nation."

She uses her distress at the bilingualism to segue into the usual rant about Mexicans on the march, featuring the following ironic gem:
At least a segment of those protesting consider themselves to be neither immigrant nor illegal. Signs at one recent rally, for example, read "This is our country, not yours!" and "All Europeans are illegal." "Reconquista" is the word they choose to define their mission, meaning "reconquest."
The truth is, I doubt that most illegal immigrants now in the U.S. are interested in reclaiming conquered lands. Most just want a good job and a decent place to raise a family. But the sight of so many who feel entitled to a piece of the U.S., combined with a sense of encroaching bilingualism, contribute to a spirit of diminishing empathies among even the likeliest of sympathizers.

The idea of "reconquest," meanwhile, is silly. Human populations have been migrating, conquering, surrendering and ceding for 60,000 years or so. We're a rambling sort by nature, apparently, and find national borders annoying obstacles to the wanderlust with which we were, for good or bad, endowed.

to say that a) Mexicans want to reconquer American land, b) Mexicans don't want to reconquer American land, and c) humans are, by their nature, migratory, so Mexicans need to stay put.

Now, legality or illegality of immigration aside, she names "encroaching bilingualism" as a contributor to our eroding sympathies for these noble, non-conquering evil illegal immigrants. And I just don't get it. Why would our country be worse off if with a significant Spanish-speaking (or non-English-speaking in general) population?

Plenty of other countries get by with multiple official or unofficial languages. Canada (O, Canada) has gotten by with signs in English and French without having any sort of cultural or economic collapse. India is just busting with languages and dialects, one of them English, and their economy thrives as our jobs go over there. Don't even get me started on Belgium. In most major European tourist destinations, residents speak their native language and English, simply because it makes life easier if you're going to be dealing with non-natives.

Even within the US, there are pockets of bilingualism everywhere; I remember with fondness a trip to New Orleans where a few local Cajuns laughed at my college-level French, tried valiantly to teach me Creole, and failed, and then we all devolved into the international language of drunkenness. Pockets of major metropolitan areas house small communities that, within themselves, speak Italian, German, Greek, Chinese, Croatian, but no one ever shows any fear that a European language is going to overtake English as our national language.

The fear of a bilingual nation isn't about culture or economy; it's about superiority. Businesses are not likely to go under for lack of language skills; as an inbound telemarketer in college, I did learn the necessary "Lo siento, pero no hablo espanol" to turn a Spanish-speaking caller over to a Spanish-speaking associate, but the only time a translator was needed when I was there was for a Polish caller (and we did, in fact, have a Polish-speaking associate on the floor). Whether a restaurant is labeled a restaurant or a trattoria or a taqueria or something I can't even spell in Vietnamese, people are going to figure out what's being sold there. And if they have a problem buying their Mexican food from a restaurant with a Spanish name, it's for no other reason than the fact that English is, in their mind, better. American culture is better. It can't be lost, it can't be compromised, for this conquistador from the south, because it's better.

The question is, what is American culture? When a restaurant advertises American food, what is it selling? When we talk about the English language, did it spring fully-formed from the mouth of George Washington, or were there other contributions involved? Is St. Patrick's Day a nice, solid American holiday? For that matter, is Christmas? Easter?

When people say they want to protect and preserve American culture, that's not what they really want to do; they want to protect the status quo*. But American culture is evolving. It's evolved ever since the Pilgrims set their buckled shoes on Plymouth rock, since the native residents started getting slaughtered and pushed around by the invaders, since the first boatload of European immigrants made landfall, and it's not going to stop just because the current residents don't like the look of the new guys. It's human nature to fear change, but it's also human nature to change anyway. The only alternative to change is stagnation, and with stagnation, you can't have progress or improvement. As much as you might love the world you live in, it's not going to be the same five years from now, or five years after that. The only way to deal with that is to accept that, although things may be different from the way they are now, that doesn't mean that they'll be worse.

* Whoops, some Latin in there. Sorry about that. Mea culpa.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

On something you don't see every day

Okay, so this video blew my mind. It shows graduation and training exercises for the Iranian women's police force. The police force is completely segregated, with the female officers arresting women, enforcing woman-specific rules and dealing solely with "women's issues." The same position applies to other jobs, with female teachers teaching only female students and female doctors treating only female patients. Apparently (and this is something that I didn't know), the Iranian government has an attitude toward gender equality that they consider to be more progressive than that of the West: they feel that they've found a balance between women's traditional home-and-hearth roles and roles that put them in public and interacting with society (as opposed to hiding them completely from view like many other conservative religious states.

My personal opinion is that a woman's place is wherever she wants it to be. But I know that a lot of people, particularly women on the neocon side of things, feel violently different about that; their feeling (in case you've spent the past two decades in a coma and are only just now getting rid of your jackets with shoulder pads) is that a woman's only place is in the home, and that the emergence of women from said home is responsible for the decline of American society, the emasculation of our menfolk, the sexualization of our teenagers, abortion, attacks on Christianity, rising fuel prices, avian flu, and that new movie that Rob Schneider and David Spade never should have made.

- Caitlyn Flanigan thinks that women should stay home to have a hot meal ready for their husbands.
- Kate O'Beirne believes that feminists "make the world worse" and thinks that women should stay home - except for her, of course, because she's got a book tour.
- John Tierney says that women don't even really want to work outside the home.
- And there are entire forums and organizations out there busting with professional women reminding others to do as they say, not as they do.

I'm just trying to imagine the mental lockdown that has to take place when you examine your philosophy on gender roles and realize that you're ever-so-slightly to the right of the government of Iran.

Monday, April 03, 2006

On border countries (not that one, the other one)

Okay, so over at a very funny Sadly, No! post about wingnuts and Scandinavia, one of the commenters starts taking random and totally uncalled-for swings at our neighbors to the north. Now, I'll admit, I laughed my butt off at the South Park movie, I know all the words to "Blame Canada" (even though I had to Google Anne Murray to find out who she was), and I still do the "aboot" and "eh" thing even recognizing that it's not nice to tease. But I do it all with affection, because the fact is, I love Canada. I love hockey. I love snow. I love walking into a bar in Toronto and not getting a faceful of smoke. I love their vast, untapped oil reserves, and they way they cleverly sit on them in anticipation of someday becoming a world superpower. I love Diana Krall and Treble Charger. I love Douglas Coupland. I love Mike Myers and Norm MacDonald (for the most part) and William Shatner.

I feel a song coming on...

O Canada!

Our home and native land!

True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

(Come on, people, he can't be held solely responsible for Star Wars.)

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard...



On good ol' liberal guilt

Okay, so like any good liberal, I'm feeling guilty right now. But it's a new and different kind of guilt. It's the kind of guilt you feel when you know what liberals are supposed to be all over right now, and you just can't get behind it. My only real consolation is the fact that I also know what conservatives are supposed to be all over right now, and I can't get behind that, either. But it does leave me in some kind of awkward middle ground, like a Georgia fan at the ACC championships (so at least it's not an unfamiliar middle ground).

I recently linked to Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez's open letter to the media. She wrote about the stereotyping and easy assumptions made by the media regarding the immigration issue, and I wrote about the need to reframe it to accomplish what we're really trying to accomplish (which does vary from person to person, thus the need for a clear frame). Here's the part where I look at the more realistic frame and think, "Wow, I'm.... kind of a crappy liberal."

The frame in question (the real frame, as opposed to the "Ohmigod it's a brown person" frame) is whether or not undocumented Hispanic/Latino immigrants are a threat to a) national security and b) the economy. I'm fairly sure that, as a liberal, I'm supposed to say, "Woohoo! The more the merrier! Come on in; I'm a-liftin' my lamp beside the golden door!" But I'm not saying that. Or I kinda am.

Oh, screw it. Here's what I'm saying:

- I don't know why Mexican (or Honduran, or Salvadoran) immigrants should be any less palatable than their European counterparts. People (particularly conservative people) like to talk about how they're going to come over and laze around and get high and suckle at America's teat. And sure, there are people like that in any subset of society. But if you line up a Mexican woman who works 18-hour days to send money home to her kids, and either (or both) of the Hilton sisters, and I can tell you who is more likely to make worthwhile contributions to society.

- That having been said, it is important that immigrants come through proper channels. The reason that illegal immigrants are called illegal immigrants is that they're doing something that's against the law. And I'll admit, I do have problems with the idea that someone is reaping the benefits of our infrastructure without contributing to the tax base. For instance, rich people who screw the US out of $2.5 billion in tax revenues. I think it just stinks.

- That having been said, from what I've been told, gaining American citizenship is an absolute bitch. The process is lengthy and frequently expensive. It's hard enough to do it when you've got a college education and a comfortably wealthy family (I'm watching a friend prepare to get married in order to secure a green card, and she wishes there were an easier way to do it), but when you don't even have a GED, it's almost out of the question. It sometimes seems that employers are happier to employ illegal immigrants than legal ones, because the ones who can afford citizenship are the ones who aren't willing to work for the wages offered.

- And let's talk about those employers and those wages, shall we? One of the biggest complaints about undocumented immigrants is that they run down labor costs. I understand that; why should an employer pay minimum wage for a legal worker when he can pay crap wages under the table for an illegal one? But I don't hear anyone up in arms about the contractors and farmers and landscapers contributing to the problem; the only time there's a stink is when a politician gets caught with an undocumented nanny. Yes, immigrating illegally is wrong, but they wouldn't do it if there weren't something in it for them on the other side.

- In light of increased wages and benefits - realize that we're going to have to suck it up and pay more. The biggest benefit of illegal immigration is that it allows business owners to keep expenses low and, by extension, prices. If we really want to see wages rising and legal workers in every job, we're going to have to accept paying more than $1.99 a pound for oranges. It's, what do they say, the cost of doing business.

- And while we're talking about businesses, let's talk about Bush's guest worker program. Now, I think that the idea of guiding current illegal immigrants toward citizenship is a great idea. Amnesty obviously wouldn't help things, because it would offer no encouragement to immigrate through legal channels, but there's also no reason to make workers go home to start the citizenship process if they're already here and employed. Here's my problem, though: if we bring in a whole bunch of Mexican "guest workers," that doesn't solve the problem of low wages. It just gives business owners another steady supply of cheap labor and no encouragement to pay an actual living wage.

- This might come off a bit jingoistic, but - if you're going to be marching and chanting for immigrant rights and equality, you might want to do it in English. I have nothing against people who speak Spanish, I don't think that being an American means giving up any part of your heritage, and I think it's actually quite cool that you can wander around the US and hear so many languages spoken fluently. I think that the ability to incorporate a great many cultures into one country is one thing that makes America great. But "¡Si, Se Puede!" isn't going to convince the country that you really feel like Americans. As Doug put it, "That's like going to a march against profanity and shouting, 'Fuck yeah, profanity has to fucking go, dammit!'"

- Someone pointed out to me recently, and I don't remember who, that the terrorists who blew up the World Trade Center didn't creep across the border under cover of night or stow away in a container ship. They got visas, lived in apartments, paid power bills, took flying lessons - they were neither illegal or undocumented, outside of the fact that many of them overstayed their visas. A great big wall and a whole lot of razor wire will protect neither our homeland nor our economy, and I don't see why we should spend the money on it.

- Any law that prevents a hospital from providing medical care or a church from providing food just because the recipient doesn't have seine Papiere in order is unchristian. Yup! I said it. Not that I think for a minute that our legislation needs to have any significant basis in the teachings of Christianity, but if you're going to call yourself a Christian, you're going to have to do the kind of stuff that Jesus says to do. And one of his biggest things was helping the poor and downtrodden. "Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me," Jesus said. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus asks, "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" And the answer is, "The one who had mercy on him." That's because Christianity is about love and charity and mercy, not judgment of someone who just wants to feed his freaking family! Jesus! And I mean that.

So, in a nutshell: Immigration reform, totally messed up. From either party. Messed up. Totally.