Thursday, April 30, 2009

On teh ghey, ghey flu

Okay, so I previously wrote about the swine-flu related hysteria, but most of that was of a public-health, sky-is-falling kind of nature. But no disaster panic would be complete without the inevitable O My God Teh Gheys reactions - now with 50 percent more O My God Teh Dirty, Dirty Messicans!
Praise Jesus! The Lord is back.

I have a confession to make. I’m not a perfect Christian. Sometimes, I lose confidence in God. I’m always apologetic to Jesus after that happens, but let’s face it: God doesn’t punish nonbelievers today to the same degree He did in the days of old. Granted, the tsunami was a fairly powerful sanction on those Orientals who worship everything from cows to obese men with feet where their hands should be. Katrina certainly taught those partiers, sodomites and Kwanzaa celebrants a valuable lesson. And as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson aptly observed, 9/11 reflected God’s fury for our tolerance of abortionists and homos. But lately, the Lord’s slaughter has been limited to the occasional flood, tornado and plane crash which involve just handfuls of nonbelieving sinners. But no more! The Lord is back with a vengeance.

Dakinikat swears this chick is for real. All I can say is that I hope so. God, do I hope so. Such a person has to exist. N.B. - Further examination suggests that such a wonder is not possible. Sigh.
One of God’s favorite conduits for extingushing evil is swine. Surely, we all remember the time that Jesus cast the devils possessing a nudist into a herd of swine which promptly drowned themselves. This time, the swine are staying alive and killing the devils, a/k/a Mexicans, a/k/a Catholics, a/k/a cultists, a/k/a idol-worshippers. Those people have always provoked the Lord with their “veneration” of Mary to the point that she has supplanted Jesus and become the Diana Ross of their religion, with Jesus relegated from THE Supreme to simply a Supreme. The cultists in the country just south claim to see Mary in everything from a stucco wall to an enchilada. They worship mortal “saints” and pray to statues. It was only a matter of time before Jesus became fed up and released the Trinity’s holy wrath on those dog-eaters.

Granted, this epidemic is starting to infect people who don’t belong to the filthy Catholic cult. But those victims had no business visiting that worthless wasteland of lazy idlers anyway. The Lord has never been good at exacting his vengeance with pinpoint accuracy. After all, the infants and unborn babies who died in the Great Flood and the fire and brimstone of Sodom and Gomorrah weren’t particularly culpable criminals, the firstborn children in Egypt couldn’t really be blamed for the Lord’s beef with the pharoah and locusts generally don’t limit themselves to the bad guys. But hey, whenever God goes on a killing spree to rid us of the wicked, it’s inevitable that there will be collateral damage. Let’s just pray that the INS strengthens its border patrols so wetbacks don’t spread the disease any further into this great nation.

Of course, there is a silver lining to every tragedy. If this disease continues to spread in Mexico, it could substantially reduce our illegal immigration problem. Perhaps that is God’s goal. The Lord does work in mysterious ways.

Let's break it down, this comprehensive lexicon of ethnic slurs: "Orientals," "sodomites," ""Kwanzaa celebrants" (is that Ubder-Fundie Dogwhistlese for "black"?), and "devils, a/k/a Mexicans, a/k/a Catholics, a/k/a cultists, a/k/a idol-worshippers," and "wetbacks." And "dog-eaters." Does that mean Mexicans, or are all Catholics meant to eat dog? I'm so confused.

And what's the thing about Jesus casting devils possessing a nudist into a herd of swine which promptly drowned themselves? I don't think they covered that particular Bible verse in my Christian-cultist-idol-worshipping Sunday school. If any Christians out there can explain that story, I'd really like to hear it.
Really like to hear it.

Not to play favorites, Dakinikat also hooks us up with the Jewish perspective:
JERUSALEM - The outbreak of swine flu should be renamed “Mexican” influenza in deference to Muslim and Jewish sensitivities over pork, said an Israeli health official Monday.

Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman said the reference to pigs is offensive to both religions and “we should call this Mexican flu and not swine flu,” he told a news conference at a hospital in central Israel.

Point the first: I just don't buy the "Muslim and Jewish sensitivities" thing, any more than I buy the "Judeo" part when someone says "Judeo-Christian." Not that I don't think Muslim sensitivities are important and worthy of some reasonable deference; I just think they were included as a PR thing.

Point the second: If you're not a pork person, if you think pork is horrible and filthy and an abomination, wouldn't you want it to be associated with something like an influenza pandemic? I mean, if somebody wanted to name this flu after my boss, I'd volunteer to write the press release myself. And when I did, I'd try my level best to find a synonym for "influenza" that carried nastier connotations.

(Just kidding, boss.)

(Kind of.)

Of course, no O My God Teh Gheys! roundup would be complete until we checked in with the last Religion of the Book. An imam in North Carolina tells us that the first chick is way off (which he could have told you anyway), because it was Allah who called down the swine flu to destroy America. But this time it's for the war on terror.
Anyone with eyes can clearly see that this new disease is a curse from Allah upon America. The Mujahideen and those who support them continue to ask Allah to destroy America. Allah responded. Today, they are being destroyed military, economically, and now they are being destroyed with a new disease that is spreading fast. May Allah protect the Muslims in the West from this disease and may this disease reach all the enemies of Allah so that the American Government can no longer move a finger against the Ummah!

Here's the problem: Praise Jesus up there doesn't say it explicitly in that particular post, but I'm sure a quick search of her blog would find a deep and abiding hatred for Muslims (or whatever she would call them. I shudder to think). Which would make the war on terror a good thing in her eyes (and, one might assume, Jesus's). According to the anti-American North Carolinian up yonder, Allah has cursed America with swine flu because of the war on terror. Obviously, it can't be both. It's got to be God or Allah. Tiff or the Good Reverend. Who's it going to be? How do we decide? I know how we decide.

Steel-cage death match.

And I will now go to sleep dreaming of a heavenly nightclub where the Blessed Virgin will appear in sequins and a big, curly wig, backed up by Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, all clad in gleaming white.

Update: Turns out they were all wrong. The real reason is, as always, the Democrats.

On jumping on the panic train

Okay, so Doug sat down in my office today while I was working to help put out our most recent fire - swine flu. Between our general institutional expertise in areas like microbiology and immunology and the recent discovery of an as-yet-undetermined flu in our Child Care Center, the phones have been blowing up, and the fact that we don't actually have a Web page addressing the pandemic has become a glaring problem. So that's what I've been up to.

Doug was able to provide a bit of a reality check. "Do you know what swine flu is?" he asked. "It's the flu. It's avian flu and the regular flu and every other kind of flu, and it's going to end up the same way that the others did. We're all going to go crazy for a couple of weeks, and then it's going to be over until the next thing comes along."

And you know what? I can't make promises that it won't be like that. From a purely epidemiological standpoint, I can't speak to the seriousness of this disease. But from a numerical one, I can, and here it is: As of today, there have been 109 confirmed cases in the U.S. As of today, one of those has died. And he was a toddler. Which is sad, and I feel for his parents. But what do we know about the flu? It hits babies and old people harder than it does the rest of us. As with the regular, seasonal flu, if we keep an eye on our babies and our grandparents, we'll probably be okay.

"As with regular, seasonal flu." Sounds like the refrain from my neck of the woods. Symptoms? Cough, headache, body aches, fever - you know, like the regular flu. Precautions? Wash your hands, try to keep your hands away from your face, stay home if you're sick - you know, like the regular flu. Treatment? One of four different kinds of antibiotics - you know, like the regular flu.

Except this one is different. This one is Mexican. Ooooh.

And I'm not saying the flu, in general isn't a big deal. Epidemiologist David Ozonoff pointed out in a column in the New York Times that even seasonal flu kills about 40,000 Americans a year, which is, like, a lot. And if swine flu ended up causing that much carnage, we'd be in extra trouble. Our economy has it tough enough without massive absenteeism and still-more-overloaded hospitals.

But that hasn't happened yet. So far, there aren't enough swine-flu patients in America to fill out a show at the Roxy. And while I'm sure it's crappy for them, the rest of us would probably be safe to go back to work and stop dousing our kids with Lysol before they come back in the house.

But do keep washing your hands.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On another shameful secret

Okay, so this is just eating me up. Eating me up.

I never fold my laundry. I know I should, and I could probably make time for it without too much hassle, but I don't bother. I pile my clean laundry up on the bed and just sift through it to find what I need. It's inefficient. Sometimes, the inefficiency drives me nuts, and then I sort it, but that's as far as it ever gets.

Whew. Oh, wow, that felt good. Wow. How about you? Anything to get off your chest?

On old news and new media

Or, You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Friends You

Okay, so they can try to take his Blackberry, but Barack Obama will be damned if they'll block Facebook in the Oval Office. The president tweets, he YouTubes, and now he keeps his constituents informed by hitting them where they live: in front of the computer, probably in sweat pants with a bag of Cheetos.

Highlights of Obama's first 100 days, as reported on his Facebook feed:
Barack Obama deleted the group I'm a Lobbyist AND I Work at the White House!


Barack Obama deleted the group Guantanamo Bay Detainees 4EVA.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed likes this.


Michael Steele created the group R to the N to the C.


Senate Finance Committee invited Tom Daschle to the event Confirmation Hearing.
Tom Daschle left the group Cabinet.


5 million people updated their Education and Work info to Unemployed.


Barack Obama sent the Queen of England an iPod.
Barack Obama sent Somali Pirates a Trio of Snipers.


Sasha Obama and Malia Obama added the Dogbook application.


Barack Obama deleted "prosecuting torturers" from Interests.
Barack Obama added "prosecuting torturers" to Interests.

I don't know what the big deal is; we're all busy. I, for instance, posted some... photos... of my dog... and I... commented... on... stuff.

Oh, shut up.

On spring inbox cleaning

Okay, so I looked over my e-mail accounts - and yes, I'm still holding on to several of them, for reasons I don't entirely understand - and realized how much of my inbox(es) is taken up with forwards that are fun, but not really the kinds of things I desperately need to hold onto forever. But they're really funny.

It's time to make some room for new forwards and funny crap that I'll view once and hold onto, only to never look at it again. So here, for your viewing pleasure, is the Practically Harmless Cavalcade of Stuff That's Worth Seeing - Once.

I'll start with a gem from August 30, 2006 (no, I'm not even kidding): Kitten vs. Powerbook

kitten vs. frontrow from mattcoats on Vimeo.

Moving on: October 30, 2007: The 10 Most Terrifyingly Inspirational 80s Songs:
Great music can inspire us to do anything: love one another, protest an unjust war, make sweet, sweet love to a large black man in the 1970s.

But in the '80s there were a series of songs that inspired us to kick ass in every way possible. None inspired more ass kicking than these.

Selections range from Europe's "The Final Countdown" and Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out for a Hero" up to a not-really-unpredictable number one that you'll have to click over to read. But don't do that quite yet, because we're only up to

November 13, 2007: Bereavement Stew
2 lbs. beef stew pieces
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can mushrooms, drained
1 cup red wine (the cheaper, the better)
1 can French onion soup

Place meat in a large casserole dish. Add all other ingredients. Bake, covered, at 325 degrees for 2 1/2 hours. Serve over wide noodles or rice, as desired.

Others might call it beef stroganoff; to us, it will always be Bereavement Stew, because it's the condolence dish of choice for any friend or family member who loses a loved one. It's easy to cook, it's easy to share, and it reheats well repeatedly when you just don't feel like cooking.

May 21, 2008: An Engineer's Guide to Cats

"Corporal cuddling" really should gain traction as a more widely accepted method of behavior modification. We have more cats on

September 23, 2008: Cat Adopts Rabbit (h/t Cute Overload):

And we'll close with teh cute that makes me think of my own sled puppy:
see more dog and puppy pictures

Okay, on second thought, the bereavement stew I'll probably hold onto. The rest? Sorry, kids.

I hope you enjoyed this randomness as much as I did. Don't try to permalink, though. Yeah, they were funny. They were definitely worth seeing - once.

Friday, April 24, 2009

On the Good, the Bad, and the Friday Random Ten

Okay, so our TGTBATFRT is fairly tech-y this week, because I've been involved in some rather tech-y involvements. It's weird; I've never really been all that computerish, nor desired to be all that computerish, but over the past few days, I've spent more time face-down in my tiny, tiny computer than I have in just about any activity. Like sleeping.

What's good (for the week ending 4/24):

- tiny, tiny computers. It's not big enough to do much more than write stuff and surf the Internet, but then, I bought it to pretty much do those two things. Anything else is gravy.
- open-sourceness. Carefully crafting a code creation, then leaving the guts of it out in the open for others to fiddle with and improve upon, usually at no cost. A community of developers who not only give their stuff away but encourage others to improve upon it and pass it along. Now, that's generous. And stupid, kind of. But generous.
- open-source stuff. I'm currently able to manipulate images on my new tiny, tiny computer through the generosity of GIMP, and while it's not quite as spiffy as Photoshop, the few missing features count for little when compared to the absolute lack of price.
- those funny e-mail forwards that promise to make you laugh out loud, but they never do, except this time, it does
- Emerald roasted walnuts

What's bad:

- conscience clauses
- this thing I can't talk about yet. But the upshot of it is that I'm HOSED.

The Ten:

1. OMD, "Electricity"
2. Etta James, "The Very Thought of You"
3. Chicane, "From Blue to Green"
4. Dean Martin, "You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You"
5. Richard Cheese, "You Oughta Know"
6. Ben Folds Five, "Brick"
7. OMD, "Secret"
8. Pet Shop Boys, "We Came From Outer Space"
9. Frank Sinatra, "The House I Live In"
10. Frederic Chopin, "No. 13 in C Minor, Op. 48-1" from Piano Works

In other news, I read a quote the other day that made - and rather summed up - my life.
When you wish upon a falling star, your dreams can come true. Unless it's really a meteorite hurtling to the earth which will destroy all life. Then you're pretty much hosed no matter what you wish for. Unless it's death by meteor.

Anyone who can tell me the attribution of that quote will win one (1) chocolate pavlova on a delicate, blown-glass plate in a large, unpadded box. Otherwise, your Ten goes in comments.

On a matter of conscience

Okay, so I've expressed my opinion (wavery as it was) on the subject of conscience clauses before, specifically that I thought they were a pretty bad idea. It certainly promised a foot in the door for fundies who feel oppressed unless they're allowed to impose their beliefs on everyone else.

Well, now the Iowa fundies are taking it a step further. Having gained the right to not-dispense medicine, the Alliance Defense Fund is now fighting for the right to not-dispense marriage licenses.
However, a letter sent to county recorders by the Alliance Defense Fund says Miller is forgetting completely about “one of the most foundational rights and liberties we enjoy as Iowans” … “the right of conscience.”

That right, the letter says, is codified in Iowa Code 146.1.

“This right is based upon the simple truth that it is wrong to force anyone to violate his or her conscience,” said the letter, also from the Iowa Family Policy Council.

It cites the motto on the seal of the state, which reads, “Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.”

“This noble motto … is emblematic of the moral sentiments of Iowans from the banks of the Missouri to the waters of the Mighty Mississippi. … As citizens of the State of Iowa and thus, the United States, we enjoy the protections of this right guaranteed in the U.S. and Iowa Constitutions. This right of conscience protects individuals against coercion by the state authority, and serves as the first line of defense against the cancer of tyranny.”

The letter suggests counties adopt policies that ensure no one will be required to “issue or process a marriage license, or to perform, assist, or participate in such procedures, against that individual’s religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

The suggested policy continues: “A person shall not discriminate against any individual in any way, including but not limited to employment, promotion, advancement, transfer, licensing, education, training, or the granting of employment privileges or conditions, because of the individual’s participation in or refusal to participate in the issuance of a marriage license.”
(emphasis mine)

Me, I'm for it. I like the idea that, if you're acting on your conscience, you can't be fired for not doing your job. I think the law should be expanded to cover all professions. Jehovah's Witness phlebotomists who won't draw blood. Anarchist IRS employees who won't process tax forms. Pacifist police officers who won't knock down a fleeing suspect. I personally think it's morally wrong to honor any client requests that would result in damage to their brand, so I reserve the right to pick and choose which projects will cross my desk. And don't think you can get away with firing me for it.

Or waaaait. This isn't one of those things where the law only applies to some people, is it?

Let's analyze. Our pharmacist, we're going to call him Stan, is asked to fill a prescription for Plan B. Stan won't fill it, because his religious belief is that Plan B kills baybeez. Our pharmacy owner, we'll call him Mike, wants to fire his ass, because Stan isn't doing the job he was hired to do.

Stan's right to not dispense medicine. Mike's right to decide who gets a paycheck from him. Via the conscience clause, the round goes to Stan.

New twist: Mike has beliefs, too. One of his beliefs is that a woman has a right to not end up with a baby just because the condom broke. So this transaction is important to him not only because it's a sale but because it supports his personal belief.

Stan's right to not dispense medicine. Mike's right to decide who gets a paycheck from him and to prevent unwanted pregnancy. We'll also throw in Mike's right to not pay for two people to do a job that one person could handle so he still has an employee on hand to pick up Stan's slack. Via the conscience clause, the round still goes to Stan.

What the fuck?!

Let's delve deeper into this festering tunnel of blechh. You're a racist asshole landlord who believes that black people will filthy up your nice apartment, so you won't rent to them. You're a fundamentalist asshole restauranteur who believes that Muslim people will call down God's wrath upon your restaurant, so you won't serve them. You're a sexist asshole college dean who believes that women are inherently stupid, so you won't hire them. Acting your conscience vs. breaking the law. My heart says them coloreds is dirty, the FHEO says I'm breaking the law... The cognitive dissonance, it burns!

You have religious beliefs. That's great. I'm happy for you. But beliefs, values, and twinges of conscience aren't solely based on religion, particularly not just Christian religion. People of other faiths have values. Agnostics and atheists have values. Playing the "value" game, valuing some values above other values... Ahem. Playing the "belief" game, where some beliefs are deemed more valuable or important than others, is a messy exercise, particularly if Belief A beats Belief B because Person A has a Jesus fish on his car.

I've used this example before, but if you have serious objections to some of the requirements of your chosen profession, choose another profession. If you're Muslim and can't touch pork, don't become a butcher (or find a halal butcher to work for). If your religion forbids touching women, don't go to work for a gynecologist. If you're a Buddhist, don't become a... hit man. Or an exterminator, for that matter. If you're lucky, you'll find a vegan-friendly grocery store that doesn't mind if you won't ring up a block of cheddar. But don't go bitching if Safeway won't let you get away with it.

I fully accept your right to act only on your conscience. As a matter of fact, I fully accept your right to do a whole lot of things (but by no means all things), even things that I don't like. But I also accept your right to accept the consequences of your actions. Jaywalk? Accept that you're probably going to get pasted by a car. Punch the bouncer? Accept that you're going to get pounded. Refuse to do your job? Accept that you're probably going to lose your job. And don't cry about it because you're supposed to be special. My mom says I'm special, too, but I'm sure as hell going to get shitcanned if I don't finish that stupid-ass brochure for our stupid-ass client. Because I have to do the job I was hired to do.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On another shameful secret

Okay, so keeping quiet is driving me slowly insane. It must out.

I've never actually watched Say Anything... all the way through. I've watched the scene with Lloyd standing outside blasting "In Your Eyes," which makes me able to conceal my ignorance, but that's the only part I've seen. And I happen to harbor a deep and abiding love for John Cusack.

Whew. Oh, wow, that felt good. Wow. How about you? Anything to get off your chest?

On literally my own "personal" Pet Peeve's

Okay, so my job involves a whole lot of editing and proofreading, and it can be really hard to leave it at the office at the end of the day. Friends and associates don't even try to conceal their eye-rolling when I, mid-sentence, roll off into a tear about whatever billboard or sign or handbill taped to a lightpost has just offended my grammatical sensibilities. But I just can't freaking help it. We all took freshman English - hell, we all took fourth-grade English - and it shouldn't take significant amounts of headspace and processing power to remember that apostrophes are used for possessives and that quotation marks go around, well, quotations.

It turns out I'm not alone in my pet peevery, that other people are similarly incensed, so suck it, friends and associates.

The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotes:

That makes me feel safe in trusting them with all of my personal financial information. Doesn't it make you feel safe? And I particularly love this one, which conveniently doubles up on the Fail:


Literally, a Web Log takes on my hatred for the word "literally" (unless it's used in a context where something is, in fact, literal):
Some of the kids crawling onto Santa Joe's lap this year have more than stuffed animals and video games on their most-wanted lists. Several times already this season, Joe Jackson has been asked to get Daddy a job or Mommy money to buy the house back.

"You see things beyond the beard that nobody else will ever see or hear. I've had children just literally tear my heart out," said Jackson, who is pulling on his red suit for a 19th season of playing Santa at private parties and festivals in the northern part of the state.

Sing after me: "It was the year without a Santa Claus..."

It calls to mind Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, except with first-graders. They learn that kind of behavior at home, you know.

The Grammar Vandal actually carries a sheet of comma stickers and a Sharpie with her around Boston, fixing ever mistake she finds. This makes her my hero. She also posts such comedic/tragic errors as this:
This is my new favorite entry on my new favorite Web site,
Today, I was flirting via text with a coworker. Things started getting heated, and I wanted to send her a sexy picture. I asked if she had any suggestions. She said, "Your nuts!" She meant, "YOU'RE nuts." I sent her a photo of my junk. I offended a co-worker with incriminating evidence. FML.

Okay. We know this guy isn't the sharpest tool in the shed. Anyone knows you don't send naked pictures to someone you barely know. And I'm going to assume that these two people are over the age of 18, because if not, that's a different issue altogether. Assuming they both are above the age of consent,

That girl got exactly what she deserved.

Now, I try not to be a correcter. Most grammatical errors aren't a huge deal, and I'm generally the only person significantly or even marginally distracted by them. I do step in with what I hope is a polite sidenote if someone says something that could cause them embarrassment in the future, but unless it's grievous, I let it slide.

That said, in a professional context, there is no excuse. Like I said, basic grammar is the kind of thing that eight-year-olds are generally able to grasp. As with addition, subtraction, and occasionally long division, grammar is something you'll need to use at least weekly. And if it's a sign or ad or brochure representing your business, you damned well better have it proofread at least a couple of times by people who know. It isn't a matter of internalizing the AP Stylebook, but it does help to have internalized McGraw-Hill Language Arts.

I'm not trying to be a Nazi here. I'm not judging your contributions in the comments section (or not out loud, anyway). I'm not even trying to save the world, one random capitalization at a time. I'm just committed to excellense.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On another shameful secret

Okay, so this has just been eating at me and eating at me, and it's time the world knew the truth.

I don't really like Indian food. I say I do, because it's the kind of thing you're supposed to like if you're cool and worldly, but I really don't. I can't stand curry. (I can tear me up some modak, though.)

Whew. Oh, wow, that felt good. Wow. How about you? Anything to get off your chest?

On teabaggery

Okay, so I usually start my day with a cup of hot tea. It makes me less jittery than coffee, and my office is so cold it's nice to have something that warm in your hands. Usually, it's Bigelow's green tea with pomegranate; today, I met a former colleague at Lucy's and discovered the wonder of the Republic of Tea's vanilla almond tea (I have never tasted a tea so smooth and fragrant. It was like the tea equivalent of hot cocoa).

This morning, I kind of wished I had skipped the tea in favor of, say, coffee, or a shot of Gentleman Jack with two maraschino cherries, or a whack upside the head with a Bible, because all anyone could talk about was damn tea parties. It's like one of those things where you stop wearing your grandmother's vintage cloche hat or listening to the Clash because it's suddenly become trendy. My consumption of tea has nothing to do with your objection to taxation.

Yeah, I know that all of these quote-tea parties-close quote have nothing to do with actual tea. Nor, however, do they have much of anything to do with the Boston Tea Party to which they owe their names. See, the Boston Tea Party took place because the colonists, taxed on various commodities like tea and without any representation in legislature with which to determine their own governance or even any real avenues through which to voice their displeasure, sacked up, physically boarded three ships, and expressed said displeasure by actually destroying more than 300 actual chests of actual tea.

Elsewhere in Boston, people gathered and shouted things and came up with catchy rhymes to shout and probably had signs and stuff with more catchy rhymes. We don't know much about these people. This is because the people who actually accomplished their goal of sending a real message to their government had the stones to be up on the damn ships.

Now, I don't actually care about your opinion on Obama's tax plan. I personally think it's great. I think that the U.S. budget is heavily weighted in the direction of useless pork and crap that won't benefit the vast majority of Americans, and I think this has left us all with an unfair tax burden, but it's my personal belief that relieving the tax burden on the lower income brackets (up to, say, $250,000) is more likely to have a real impact toward economic stimulus than lowering the taxes on executives and, God help us, corporations that never actually trickle it down, as much as they promise to, because hey, why bother, when they can just as easily not do that. I'd like to see any tax adjustments made now as a temporary fix until the budget can be trimmed such that essential infrastructure is taken care of and Bridges to Nowhere are pretty much eliminated. I loved that scene in Dave where Kevin Kline sits down and physically Sharpies up the budget to balance it out. I don't think that could actually happen, but it would be cool. And then, once the budget has been cut to reasonable levels, tax levels can be similarly adjusted to burden each bracket minimally. And some people would still bitch, because some people always do, and some people resent being asked to contribute anything to help fund the government-provided benefits that we all enjoy, but fuck 'em, because I sure like having interstate highway at various points between Birmingham and Columbus.

But whatever your beef, for the love of God, have some perspective. There's a highly organized and focused movement, and then there's a bunch of nutscrubs getting together to wear teabags on their ears and complain about... something. High taxes, I guess. Government overspending, sure. Taxation without represen--wait, no.

Come on, y'all. Remember when you wore those band-aids with the little purple hearts on them? Remember when you waved flip-flops around? Significant, world-shifting grassroots movement, or just a bunch of tools who didn't really know what they were talking about but wanted to get in on something? Remember when you painted your fingers purple?

I'm not saying there's anything wrong or without value in gathering en masse to express your displeasure with government policy or action. Things like anti-war protest, pro- and anti-choice protests, and civil rights marches do a great job of sending a message and finding strength in a group of like-minded, motivated individuals.

But y'all, at least know what you're protesting. Is it high tax rates? Is it high government spending? Is it pork? Is it folks winning Congressional races who weren't the ones you wanted to win? Is it the legitimacy of the Obama presidency? Are you standing in a square in Chicago holding a "God Hates Fags" sign and wondering why you don't see any others? Did you just e-mail your senator a photograph of a teabag and think, as you hit "send," "That'll show him"?

Maybe you just realized that you're not sure what you're actually rallying about. Maybe you just took a moment to check and see if you're actually represented in your taxation, and maybe you're now wondering if your event is really a grassroots movement with world-changing repercussions a la the actual Boston Tea Party. A quick quiz:

1. Did you come out in protest because Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin said to?
2. Did you organize your activity on Facebook?
3. Did you pre-print bumper stickers and/or sell t-shirts through CafePress?
4. Did you first figure out what you were going to call your event and then sit down and plan what you would actually do during said event?

If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, your event is probably Astroturf. Which is not to say that it's not a valid expression of opinion; it's just not the kind of enduring historical movement likely to end up as a highlight in a textbook. Have fun, enjoy your rhymes and your signs, and be sure to Twitter with your friends tomorrow about how empowering it all was. And then get on with your life. Go back to doubting the legitimacy of the Obama presidency, fantasizing about going Galt, and watching Fox News. Eventually, Sean Hannity is going to get pissed off by something else, and you'll be able to pull your "Commander in Thief" sign out of the closet and march out once again.

(UTA: Oh, Jesus God.)

On ten things I wish Ryan Hansen knew

Okay, so today, Jezebel directs us to a feature (a regular one? Dunno. Not really a Cosmo girl, m'self) in Cosmopolitan where Ryan Hansen (who appears to be on some kind of a TV show and who has kind of douche-y floppy hair) tells us women how to be more pleasing to men.

This is great! This is something I've been concerned about! I've been worrying about how to make time with floppy-haired douchebags, and I had no idea that the trick is to take off my bra, scrub my face, and pretending not to engage in perfectly natural bodily functions.

Now, I have no illusions that Ryan Hansen actually crafted that list on his own. But if I did feel inclined to enlighten both him and his Cosmo ghostwriter, I might be inclined to mention that...

1. Men talk to my boobs anyway. I don't need to take my bra off.

2. I know I'm beautiful. Thanks so much for acknowledging that I meet your standards for beauty. I would bet you money that you have no idea whether or not any given woman is wearing makeup, because patriarchal beauty standards have left men with no concept whatsoever of what women really look like. The girl you're talking to who looks beautiful without makeup? Chances are, she's wearing, at the very least, tinted moisturized, mascara, gel bronzer, and lip gloss. How can you tell if a woman isn't wearing makeup? Chances are, she's the one you just snorted at and called "lesbo" to your friends.

3. I love to laugh at jokes. I would love to laugh at your jokes. Please tell funny ones.

4. Being childlike sometimes is youthful. Being childlike all the time is immature. I'm not interested in being your mommy, and if I find myself forced into the mommy role, you will not like it. I'd be a bitch of a mom. This is why I don't have children.

5. If you have a dog, you better bathe it.

6. Oh, boy, do I ever poop. You have no idea. I can go into great detail, if you want. Will that make you go away? If so, kindly allow me to go into extensive detail.

7. Don't do dumbass shit. Don't say stupid things. I will not call you out in front of your friends if you don't do those things.

8. Oh, honey. You're assuming I want to kiss you where other people could see.

9. I'm a fairly easygoing person. Generally, if a guy is comfortable and not violating social norms too terribly, I'm going to leave him to wear what he wants. However, if he is sporting a popped collar, an oversnug t-shirt with Old Navy-style faux-retro screen prints, a man-necklace, a vest over an undershirt, and/or douche-y floppy hair, I'm going to leave him in a gas station when goes in to get Red Bull.

10. I will run for the door if a guy has ever written a feature for Cosmo.

According to Cosmo, Ryan's douche-yness (and floppy hair) make him "completely charming" in real life. And he's married. So guys, go to that link, internalize that blatant douchebaggery, and make it your life, and you, too, can get laid. Read the above list, honestly see if you recognize yourself, make any necessary changes, and you can find someone who will want to hang around you enough to lay you a lot.

And cut your fucking hair. You look like you're about to trip over those Bama Bangs.

(Also: See Amanda's douchebag-takedown at Pandagon.)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

On a good thing to remember, no matter what

Okay, so happy Easter.

"And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change..." Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

On the Good, the Not-Bad, and the Not-Even-Friday Not-Even-Random Ten: Loins of My Fruit edition


Okay, so as Doug mentions, Friday marked our mom's 60th birthday. It's an impressive accomplishment, considering the crap we've put her through for the past three decades that would have laid a weaker woman flat. But she's still here, she's still kicking, she's cooler than ever, and she's got the legs of a 20-year-old, dammit to hell.

Doug recounts some of his favorite moments from life with Mom, and I was there for all of them and remember them with great fondness. She's just a cool person and has gotten, if possible, cooler as time goes on. I thought I might take a page from his book (i.e., blatantly steal from him) and share some of my own:

1. This was something we discussed in the car just the other day. I was a heinous bitch as a young teen (no, no, don't argue; and Mom, stop nodding like that), and I gave the parents a lot more trouble than they deserved. At one point, I got myself grounded ("Rehearsal ran late," I said, when in fact I was going out after rehearsal with the cast), and my punishment was that I had to take the bus to school. I, of course, left the house on foot, walked to Kacie's house, and got a ride with her. When the parents found out, they were understandably enraged, and for the next two weeks my mom stood with me at the bus stop, waiting for the bus to high school.

2. Not that hanging out with Mom was bad. When we first moved to Columbus, I was within walking distance from my elementary school, and she and I would walk together in the morning, enjoying the weather and the chance for some good conversation. Of course, if you're 11, walking to school with your mom is the dorkiest thing evar, and as the new kid I was taking all kinds of torment on top of that, so I stopped. I still regret not having the balls to tell those kids to fuck off, because honestly, I really enjoyed walking with my mom.

3. We took a family road trip up to my grandparents' house in West Virginia to scatter my great grandmother's ashes (sounds kind of grim, but really, ashes-scattering is something that can easily be made into a party if you're up for it). After dinner on the road, we rearranged cars so that Doug and Dad were in Dad's car and Mom and I were in Mom's Miata for the duration of the evening. I can't even tell you what made that portion of the trip so specifically memorable, but we just had a great time singing along with the radio and bitching about stuff.

(Bonus memory: After my grandparents' house, Mom went to see her family in Woodford and Doug, Dad, and I drove back down together. Moving south through Virginia, we, with some trepidation, put on the soundtrack to Avenue Q and were gratified to find that Dad was nearly peeing himself with laughter at songs like "The Internet is for Porn" and "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist." Dad, too, has deeper, cooler depths.)

4. Every time I come to visit, when I first get home, we sit down at the kitchen table with a bottle of white wine and talk until we're sleepy. It's usually a matter of two hours or so and at least two glasses of wine each. It doesn't matter if we've talked on the phone that morning or if I've only been gone a couple of weeks; that's the ritual. This weekend, of course, we couldn't do it because I gave up alcohol for Lent, and I feel unfulfilled and lacking.

5. This one I can't tell you about. But trust me, it's a good one.

So here's to my mom, by far the coolest one around. I know I've mentioned this before, but I had so many friends growing up who hated, or at least purported to hate, their parents, and I never even pretended. I've been blessed with good ones, and I'd love to see Mom's current 60 matched by another 60, should medical science allow. (And at 120, she'd still have better legs than me, dammit.)

And now, a Not-Even-Random Ten of songs that Mom likes:

1. The Beatles, "I Want to Hold Your Hand"
2. Iz, "Over the Rainbow"
3. The Cranberries, "Dreams"
4. Was (Not Was), "Baby I Need Your Loving"
5. Fountains of Wayne, "... Baby, One More Time"
6. Pet Shop Boys, "I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing"
7. Andy Gibb, "I Just Want to Be Your Everything"
8. Original Broadway cast of Avenue Q, "You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You're Making Love)"
9. Nancy Griffith, "Spin on a Red Brick Floor"
10. Jeff Buckley, "Halleluja"

11. CB4, "Sweat From My Balls" (Just kidding, Mom.)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

On a shameful secret

Okay, so I've stayed silent for too long. I can't keep living with this secret inside me.

I give my dog food, and shelter, and exercise, and toys, and scratches on the tummy, but I'm still concerned that I'm not satisfying his emotional needs.

Whew. Oh, wow, that felt good. Wow. How about you? Anything to get off your chest?

On gays settlin' down - still going to ruin the world

Okay, so in the wake of recent advancements in the direction of gay equality in Vermont, Iowa, and the District of Columbia, it's crucial that we're reminded how Gays Settlin' Down is going to ruin children and the world and the environment and Christmas. And this time, they're scaring the shit out of us with green screens and ominous music.

ZOMG! Gay marriage is so scary! They might be married, and stuff, and that would... change... things, and then they'd be able to... I don't know, share bennies? And visit each other in the hospital, and that would... affect us... somehow... Hold on, I have it somewhere.
There’s a storm gathering.
The clouds are dark, the wind is strong.
And I am afraid.

That's reasonable. Storms can be scary. I recommend making a cup of tea and keeping flashlights nearby, just in case.
Some who advocate for same-sex marriage are taking the issue far beyond same-sex couples.

Hold on--is this about the box-turtle thing again? I promise, I'm not going to try to marry my dog. He's not even into me.
They want to bring the issue into my life.
My freedom will be taken away.

Sure, your freedom to... what? Your freedom to prevent gay couples from being married in Iowa, I guess. But people with that authority seems like a pretty limited subpopulation.
I’m a California doctor who must choose between my faith and my job.

Because your religion forbids, what, treating gay people who are married? Because if you let a woman make a health-care decision for her lesbian wife, you'll go to hell? Damn. That's harsh.
I’m part of a NJ church group punished by the government because we can’t support same-sex marriage.

And of course, churches would be required to perform gay weddings. Because they're already required to perform straight weddings, whether they want to or not. And because a couple simply can't have a state-sanctioned marriage if it isn't also blessed by some arbitrary church, probably Christian, probably this guy's.
I’m a Massachusetts parent helplessly watching public schools teach my son that gay marriage is OK.

Helplessly! Helplessly, as parents are certainly not allowed to push their own values on their children, like teaching creation science even when schools know it's bullshit. And this endangers all of the college credit students used to receive college credit for upper-level AP What Kinds of Marriage Are OK courses.
But some who advocate for same-sex marriage have not been content with same-sex couples living as they wish.
Those advocates want to change the way I live.

Liiiiike... making gay people move in with you?
I will have no choice.

No choice in what? When you're required to divorce your husband and marry another woman? When your church gets shut down and burned to the ground to make room for a gay, gay disco? When you're at the post office and, right in front of you, a man signs for another man's package, because they're married, and now they can do that, and you're so offended, and you can't even beat the guy with your purse for being gay, which would have been okay before gay marriage became legal but you can't now and it's changing the way you live your life and you have no choice?!!?!11!! WHAT THE HELL IS GOING TO HAPPEN WHEN GAYS SETTLE DOWN?!
The storm is coming.

But we have hope. A rainbow coalition of people of every creed and color are coming together in love to protect marriage. Visit Join us.

I like the "rainbow coalition" part--bigots of every creed and color! And once again, they want to protect marriage. By... preventing it. I guess "" was taken.

But where did they find all of those concerned straight people? How did they find such an earnest and telegenic crowd of worried homophobes? What did they--oh, open casting call.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

On zero tolerance

Or, when birth control pills are outlawed...

Okay, so the Washington Post shares with us the tale of a bold, insolent Fairfax County teenager who was brazen enough not only to bring drugs to school but to take one right there in the lunchroom.
When a Fairfax County mother got an urgent call from school last month reporting that her teenage daughter was caught popping a pill at lunchtime, she did not panic. "It was probably her birth-control pill," she thought. She was right.

Her heart dropped that afternoon in the assistant principal's office at Oakton High School when she and her daughter heard the mandatory punishment: A two-week suspension and recommendation for expulsion.

"I realize my daughter broke a rule," the mother said. But in an appeal to the school system, she reasoned, "the punishment does not fit the crime."
[my emphasis]

Yes, after consulting with her mother, boyfriend, and doctor, the girl decided to do the responsible thing and not join the ranks of the teen-ly pregnant by taking birth-control pills. She started taking them over the summer and, since you're supposed to take them at the same time every day, continued on the same schedule by popping one every day at lunchtime. Her impudence in not leaving her pills with the school nurse and taking time out of her already-short lunch period each day to trek on over and pop a pill that isn't worth stealing anyway as it has no more side effects than clearer skin and fewer menstrual cramps has landed her exactly where she deserves to be, which is to say, among the ranks of those who bring cocaine and/or handguns to school.

Had she actually come to school with meth in her bloodstream, she would have gotten a mere five-day suspension. Because she had birth-control pills in her backpack, she gets recommended for expulsion.
If she had been caught high on LSD, heroin or another illegal drug, she found, she would have been suspended for five days. Taking her prescribed birth-control pill on campus drew the same punishment as bringing a gun to school would have.

I know I've gone on the record somewhere about hating zero-tolerance rules in schools, but in case I haven't, let me make myself clear: I hate zero-tolerance rules in schools. I know they're super-convenient, and it makes it really easy to punish perceived wrongdoers without having to think about it, but it also makes it really easy to punish perceived wrongdoers without having to think about it. School administrators have plenty of jobs to do now, and schools are more overcrowded than ever, and new threats from the students themselves arise every day. But that doesn't free them of their ongoing obligation to administrate, to responsibly manage the student body and maintain order and discipline without throwing a kid with Advil into juvie next to the kid with a sawed-off shotgun and a meth cook in his bathtub. Zero-tolerance is lazy, and while this is as funny in my head as it is on the page, we don't pay our high-school administrators to be lazy.

It's lazy and it's nosy. It's schools demanding intimate knowledge of a girl's menstrual cycle because it's easier than trying to actually assess real threats to the student body. It's administrators strip-searching a 13-year-old girl on the mere suggestion that she had ibuprofen. It's a 10-year-old getting expelled for accidentally bringing a knife to school in her lunchbox--and turning it in to her teacher so she wouldn't get in trouble.

Now, you may well point out, and you'd be right, that the Fairfax County girl could have avoided this whole problem by not breaking the rule. And while that point is not offset by the fact that it's a stupid rule, the fact remains that it's a stupid rule. What purpose is served by forbidding Tylenol along with the naughtiness of Schedule II drugs? If cough drops are permitted, for consumption rather than distribution, what makes Advil so very much worse?
School officials say they can't take chances. They are concerned about liability and safety. Any pills, even nonprescription pills, could be shared with another student who has allergies. And it would be difficult to enforce rules if students were allowed to take some pills but not others.

"Most people would not know the difference between birth control or some Ritalin or Tylenol or codeine," said Clarence Jones, coordinator for the Fairfax school system's safe and drug-free youth program. "If they are just pulling something out of their pockets and sticking it in their mouths, we don't know what they are taking."

Why not stop there? Lots of kids are allergic to peanuts. Lots. So it's within the school system's best interest to make sure that no one brings any GORP for a between-class pick-me-up, since they might share it or someone might steal it and have an allergic reaction. Or strawberries, or dairy, since a lot of people are allergic to that, too. No strawberries in the lunchbox, no yogurt before band practice, definitely no strawberry yogurt anywhere, ever. And don't get me started on brownies that could be used to smuggle pot.

Or maybe just recognize that a kid who steals someone else's drugs and has an allergic reaction to them will learn not to steal someone else's freaking drugs and leave it to kids and their parents to decide who is responsible enough to wield a bottle of Midol or a Tweety Bird keychain at school. The school district says that the rules allow for appeals and hearings to address "special circumstances," but if they weren't so draconian, if they didn't treat cold pills like ecstasy because administrators can't be bothered to figure out the difference, they wouldn't have to bother. They could spend their time and energy trying to prepare these kids for college and the real world--instead of ruining their academic and conduct records with suspensions and expulsions for asthma inhalers and Aleve.

(h/t Feministe)

Friday, April 03, 2009

On the triumphant(?) return of the Good, the Bad, and the Friday Random Ten

Both are cute, but only one has ever snapped a baby's neck on purpose.

Okay, so I'm sure you've been wetting yourselves to hear what my iPod can come up with--it's probably what's kept you up at night lo these many months--but I've got the cure for your wetting.

That sounded less weird in my head.

There's been plenty of time to amass goodness and badness over the past, what, eight months or so. So consider this a mega-TGTBATFRT to account for/atone for my absence.

What's good (over the past eight months or so):

- the democratic process. Yeah, yeah, I know a lot of us disagree on politics in and of itself, but just the chance to speak our opinions and choose our own government leadership (out of a pitifully small slate of pre-vetted, pre-selected, major-party candidates) is a truly great thing.
- Barack Obama. SUCK IT!
- puppies
- freelance work. Copywriting. Feature writing. Hell, technical writing or screenwriting or skywriting or whatever you can throw my way. You know how to find me.
- honesty, within reason
- BBC America. I finally shelled out for digital cable, and now this is my favorite channel evar. Top Gear, Graham Norton, How Clean Is Your House, I will watch British people being snarky and British all day long. My three dreams in life are to be a guest-star on Doctor Who, qualifying me to be the Star in the Reasonably Priced Car on Top Gear, after which performance I would be verbally castigated by Gordon Ramsay.
- the Google G1
- Dead Like Me, until it was cancelled
- Snuggies. Yes, I know, I look like a douche, like my Snuggie should have come with $5.75 and a pair of brand-new Nikes. But it really does keep me warm whilst leaving my hands free to knit or tell a racist joke or roast my dog over an open fire.

Besides, it was a gift.
- Lemon Sugar Cookie ice cream from Publix
- relationships that last
- sympathetic mechanics
- gays settlin' down
- ponies
- high-thread-count sheets

What's bad:

- the economy. And bailouts--and I might be taking the unpopular track here, but I'm talking about all bailouts. Part of me is all about bailing out the automakers, because so many people without seven-figure paychecks are depending on them, but at the same time, come on. Realistically, what we're doing is a pinkie-finger in the dike of impending financial collapse, and the sooner that collapse comes the sooner we can start digging ourselves out of it. It's going to happen anyway; we might as well save our money, budget it for recovery efforts, and let the old girl die gracefully.
- respiratory infections. Oh, good Lord. My coworkers will be pleased to know not only that my miserable, incessant, gurgling cough is not the result of walking pneumonia but also that I will be keeping it at home today and treating it with a cocktail of antibiotics and Robitussin with codeine.
- being given responsibilities but not the authority to back them up
- the series finale of Battlestar Galactica
- sexism at home and abroad, and people who sincerely don't see why it's a big deal
- the "r-word." Blah, blah, blah, politically correct, blah, but it actually means something. People with cognitive disabilities are faced with a lot of difficulties in their lives, they're forced to try a lot harder than most of have to, and they don't deserve to be slapped into the same category with coworkers who make your life hard or people who recently vacated the White House or people who drive around everywhere with their left turn indicator on. I don't care if you don't mean it "that way"; if something is stupid or ridiculous or poorly conceived or inane, just say that. Or make up a new word. Just give the r-word a rest.

The Ten:

1. Tina Turner, "Better Be Good to Me"
2. Howie Day, "Numbness for Sound"
3. Frank Sinatra, "The Birth of the Blues"
4. Michael Bublé, "I've Got You Under My Skin"
5. Ella Fitzgerald, "Angel Eyes"
6. Hugh Maskela, "Mama (Metro Area Birthday Dub)"
7. Dean Fields, "Irish Bars"
8. Fountains of Wayne, "...Baby One More Time"
9. Morrissey, "Hairdresser on Fire"
10. Foo Fighters, "M.I.A."

And for the coming weekend, that means... Oh, who the hell cares? I'm taking my bottle of Robitussin and a straw and going back to bed. Your whatevers go in comments.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

On real progress

Okay, so one of the problems with the whole "bombing someone back to the Stone Age" concept is that they might just stay there.
Hamid Karzai has been accused of trying to win votes in Afghanistan's presidential election by backing a law the UN says legalises rape within marriage and bans wives from stepping outside their homes without their husbands' permission.

The Afghan president signed the law earlier this month, despite condemnation by human rights activists and some MPs that it flouts the constitution's equal rights provisions.

The final document has not been published, but the law is believed to contain articles that rule women cannot leave the house without their husbands' permission, that they can only seek work, education or visit the doctor with their husbands' permission, and that they cannot refuse their husband sex.

Leaders of the Hazara minority, which is regarded as the most important bloc of swing voters in the election, also demanded the new law.

Ustad Mohammad Akbari, an MP and the leader of a Hazara political party, said the president had supported the law in order to curry favour among the Hazaras. But he said the law actually protected women's rights.

"Men and women have equal rights under Islam but there are differences in the way men and women are created. Men are stronger and women are a little bit weaker; even in the west you do not see women working as firefighters."

Akbari said the law gave a woman the right to refuse sexual intercourse with her husband if she was unwell or had another reasonable "excuse". And he said a woman would not be obliged to remain in her house if an emergency forced her to leave without permission.

Well, then. We should be thanking you, Mr. Akbari! It's good that I don't have to sit inside my burning house and roast because my husband isn't around to let me out. That's very generous of you. Please let me know to whom I must petition to approve my "reasonable excuse" for not performing my wifely duties.

One member of the upper house of parliament described the law as "worse than during the Taliban." Worse than during the Taliban.

The Taliban, in case you've forgotten, and you might have, as it's been a while since anyone has given a crap about U.S. military efforts that are crumbling to dust from neglect outside of Iraq, are the fundamentalist Islamic terrorist group that governed Afghanistan until the U.S.-slash-NATO removed them from power. We/they did that because, for one, the Taliban were sheltering Osama bin Laden, who perpetrated the attacks on 9/11, which you also might have forgotten, as we haven't heard his name from the Executive Branch in quite some time.

We did our job so solidly that as soon as we turned our backs, they began a resurgence that pitted them against the new government in Afghanistan (and firmly hand-in-hand with the government in Pakistan). But it didn't matter to Hamid Karzai whether the Taliban were for him or against him, because he had it in his power to do them one better. He's not terribly popular, he's sucking up to the Shia clerics, and that means Sharia law. And Sharia law is universally bad for, among other people, women.

It can be tricky to question laws like this. It's largely a cultural thing, and it's politically dangerous for the West to come in and impose their values and traditions on these brown folks out in the desert. And it's not fair, either; just like missionaries offering medicine as long as you'll convert to Christianity, it's not fair to offer Afghanistan aid and military support as long as they conform to our Western system of values.

You know what else isn't fair? Honor killings. Female genital mutilation. Forced child marriages. Laws that restrict a woman's freedom of speech, of education, even of physical movement. When a woman is stoned to death for adultery for being raped, it's not something we can sit back and chalk up to "cultural differences." Grilled goat meat is a cultural difference. Polytheism is a cultural difference. Bollywood movies are a cultural difference. Holding a young girl down, cutting off her clitoris with a knife, and sewing her labia together so she'll be "clean" and "pure" and not turn into a slut is torture, and I don't care who's imposing whose culture on whom, it's not wrong to speak up--it's wrong not to.

So yeah, I'm questioning the hell out of this law. I'm questioning any law that makes women so beholden to their husbands that they can turn into hermits and sex slaves should their husbands so decree. And I'm questioning a parliament and a president who have received near-unequivocal support from past administrations and are now explicitly intent on imposing Islamic law on their country and reducing women to second-class (if that) citizens.

It's time for the world to start paying some damn attention. The Taliban we were so desperate to oust eight years ago have been coming back for four, and the government of Afghanistan is moving to meet them. And we're staring so intently at Iraq, trying to figure out how to fix the mess we've made, that we haven't even noticed. Well, it's time to start noticing. Because half our justification for going into Afghanistan in the first place was to make lives better. The other half was to find Osama bin Laden. If laws like this, and worse like this, continued to get passed, we will have accomplished nothing. And that's one hell of a waste.

On babies, who have it hard enough as it is

Okay, so this:

And this:

That is all.