Wednesday, July 28, 2004

On the evils of bad poetry

Okay, so Landover Baptist Church has long been a beacon of hope for we the fallen and/or lapsed who seek to abandon our current flawed faiths in favor of something a little more judgmental. General J.C. Christian, Patriot has been kind enough to warn us of a group attacking the good works that Landover does. But Jim Carlson of Objective: Christian Ministries warns his flock of potential impostors writing comment-thread naughtiness in his name:
Any message you read claiming to be from Jim Carlson or any other OBJECTIVE: Ministries member that contains vulgarities, sexual innuendo, bad poetry, or other un-Christian sentiments is to be considered a FRAUD and ignored. [Emphasis mine]
Yes, of course. God forbid Our holy name should be attached to limericks with no perceptible meter. Or worse - haiku.

Note: Could this all be an elaborate parody? Jesus, God, I hope so. The question is, though: Can we take that chance?

On my new boyfriend

Hey, honey.

Okay, so anyone unfortunate enough to miss Barack Obama's keynote address to the DNC last night really, really missed out. I honestly don't know that I've ever heard anyone so sincere and passionate about what he was saying. He said all of the things that Democrats have needed to say, have been trying to say for months now but haven't known how - and he meant every word. I really can't describe what it felt like to just sit there and listen to him speak - and I'm starting to gush, so I'll just leave you with some of the high points. Thanks, by the way, to GWBWYPGN?! for the link, and to the Daily Kos for pointing out that maybe the Republicans want Obama as much as I do.

On with the show:
Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation — not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy. Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’

That is the true genius of America — a faith in simple dreams,, an insistence on small miracles. That we can tuck in our children at night and know that they are fed and clothed and safe from harm. That we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door. That we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe. That we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will be counted at least, most of the time.

This year, in this election, we are called to reaffirm our values and our commitments, to hold them against a hard reality and see how we are measuring up, to the legacy of our forbearers, and the promise of future generations.
Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.
We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America. In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or do we participate in a politics of hope?

John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope.

I’m not talking about blind optimism here - the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don’t think about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about something more substantial. It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs. The hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores. The hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta. The hope of a millworker’s son who dares to defy the odds. The hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.

Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope! In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation. A belief in things not seen. A belief that there are better days ahead.

I believe that we can give our middle class relief and provide working families with a road to opportunity. I believe we can provide jobs to the jobless, homes to the homeless, and reclaim young people in cities across America from violence and despair. I believe that we have a righteous wind at our backs and that as we stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices, and meet the challenges that face us.
Barack? Call me. Yeah. Hey, there.

On more sick, sick bastards

Okay, so now we have to deal with Altavista searches for "raped by dogs"? Masturbating dogs weren't enough? What the hell.

I think someone needs to tell Basket Full of Puppies; this might be worthy of invesigation for his Official Right Wing Dog Injury Counter.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

On caring enough to care

Okay, so in District 5 of the Muscogee County School Board, the wrong guy got elected. It's happened before. This time, it hits a little closer to home simply because the right guy happened to be my own dad. But there's no crying in baseball, and rubbin' is racin'; there will be no Florida-style recount, and to concentrate on the fifty-one percent who voted for the wrong guy would a) be sour-grapey and b) completely ignore the most important fact, which is that my dad ran in the first place.

Words can't describe how proud I am of my dad. Ever since the family moved to Columbus in 1991, he (we all, really) recognized that the school board left some room for improvement. There was a lot of Columbus-society "old money" flying around, a lot of politics, a lot of big egos, none of which contributed anything positive to the education of kids in Muscogee County. But instead of just sitting around bitching about it, like ninety-nine percent of the people in Columbus, my dad decided to do something about it and run for public office.

Honestly, Dad has so many other responsibilities, it's a wonder he had time. He's a family physician and the kind of doctor who really, sincerely cares about his patients - each of them gets as much time with him as they need, he'll answer a call at any time of the day or night, and with the number of low-income patients he sees every day, this is not a job that's keeping him in Mercedes convertibles. He honestly cares about his patients. And he cares about his family, too, his wife and two kids. You'd think that he'd be just about cared out.

But that doesn't happen with people like my dad. He has an infinite capacity for that kind of caring, and that extends to the kids in Columbus, Georgia. He cared enough to further extend himself and put himself out in the hopes that he could make a difference in the lives of all of those kids. That, in the end, voters chose the incumbent over the challenger, is to me far less significant than the fact that forty-nine percent of voters thought that my dad was the person in District 5 who would make their schools better, and the fact that he cared enough to run at all. The fact that he saw room for improvement and instead of bitching about it, instead of just sitting around and griping to his friends or starting a blog, he stepped up to the plate for his try at changing the world. Would that we all had the guts to do what he did.

More on this from my parents' other kid at GWBWYPGN?!.

Monday, July 19, 2004

On little bits of history repeating

Okay, so it took all of seventeen months in Afghanistan for George W. to get bored and jog off to find himself a new party in Iraq. We shouldn't be surprised, then, that, sixteen months after we headed into Baghdad with all kinds of shock and awe, his attention is starting to drift:

WASHINGTON -- President Bush said Monday the United States is exploring whether Iran had any role in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a scenario discounted by the CIA.
Well, great.

Flashback to September of 2001, when Richard Clarke was telling Bush that all of the 9/11 hijackers had been Saudi, and Bush told him to find a connection to Iraq. Why? Because "there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan" - Iraq would make a much better war.

I guess we're running out of good targets in Iraq.

Or maybe President Bush just isn't feeling terribly comfortable with poll numbers that indicate Americans aren't entirely pleased with the job he's doing in Iraq. It's finally getting through to him that his "Mission Accomplished" banner was just a bit premature and that the ticker-tape parade he was expecting won't be forthcoming, and rather than trying to fix what's probably broken beyond repair, he's decided to scrap it all and try again with a new bunch of Arabs. He's desperate to get one good war in before Americans go to the polls in November.

God help Iran. And God help whoever is in line after Iran (North Korea, maybe?). And if He's still willing, God help America.

Mad props to Atrios for the link.

On the noble euphonium

Okay, so thanks to Basket Full of Puppies for a giggle first thing in the morning.

"Tactical field tuba." Hee hee.

Friday, July 16, 2004

On the re-Iraqification of Iraq

Okay, so it looks like all of our progress in Iraq (which is debatable anyway, but for the sake of argument, we're gonna go with it) has come to a screeching halt and slammed into reverse as Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, according to witnesses, pulls out a gun and goes all Saddam on six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Granted, right now we're just working with allegations. So far, the story has only been picked up by the Australian media, and there are holes to be filled in - we don't know the names of the two people who witnessed the act, and Allawi claims that he's never been to the prison and doesn't carry a gun. But if there's any kernel of truth to this it all, it means bad, bad things for the American war effort.

Let's look at the scorecard, shall we? Executions... check. Torture... check. Rape rooms - does it still count if the victims are little boys instead of women? Yeah? Then check.

If substantiated, this means that we've been in Iraq for over a year to accomplish pretty much jack. It means that we've come in promising to save the Iraqi people and bring them the joys of freedom and democracy, and then we've given them more of same, but this time with their houses blown up and their families maimed. It means that over 1,000 coalition troops, nearly 900 of them American, have lost their lives so that we could leave Iraq just about as bad as it was before we got there.

Bad, bad things.

On the Iraqification of America

Okay, so anyone with a little bit of sense was concerned when the USA PATRIOT Act passed with such ease - in addition to a lengthy, horribly contrived acronym, the act went to great lengths to threaten and/or suspend our basic civil liberties.

Well, this guy can tell us what it's like to be hassled by not only the police but by the Department of Homeland Security - for taking pictures of a bridge for a photography class. For taking pictures of a bridge for a photography class.

Now, I don't doubt that part of the problem was that small-town police officers and security officials can have a tendency to get a little bit of attitude, let their position of authority go to their heads, get a bit swell-chested, especially when confronted with individuals who are... a bit more tan than others. But there comes a point when it's just post-9/11 paranoia, pure and simple, and it encourages those in positions of power to completely and totally step all over the Constitutional rights of those they're supposed to be protecting. And what sucks even more is that given the opportunity to take a much-needed whack at USA PATRIOT that would give us out rights back, the House decided that things are fine the way they are, thanks.

When are we going to get pissed off enough to do something about this? For that matter, is there really anything that we can do anyway? I'm not willing to sit back and watch John Ashcroft sift through my e-mail for fun, but I honestly don't know where to start.

Much thanks to Sadly, No! for the link.

Monday, July 12, 2004

On sick, sick bastards

Okay, so whoever got here via a Yahoo search for "masturbation dogs"? You are a sick, sick, sick, sick individual. I pity your mother.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

On the passage of time

Okay, so there are dozens of reasons given as to why Bush invaded Iraq. And except for the fact that not a one of them holds water better than a cheese grater, they all sound really nice. But what has struck me recently is actually the timing of it all; how did the invasion get so urgent, so suddenly? Where did it all come from?

Let's go down the list. Iraq was threatening the no-fly zone and violating UN resolutions. Saddam Hussein was a tyrannical leader who terrorized his own people. Hussein wouldn't let UN inspectors in because he had weapons of mass destruction. There were all kinds of connections between Iraq and al Qaeda and September 11. The Iraq threat was "grave and growing."

Let's, for a moment, ignore the fact that no weapons of mass destruction were ever found. That we actually never got any farther than "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities." That no connection was ever found between Iraq and September 11, and that the Bush administration is now denying that such a connection was ever implied. Let's concentrate, just for now, on the fact that the above justifications for war have all been going on since 1991.

It's certainly something Bush couldn't have missed - his dad was president at the time, and in light of everything Saddam was doing in the Middle East, Bush Senior decided not to invade Iraq. But Bush Junior decided to go ahead and do it, at the risk of hundreds of thousands of lives, both American and Iraqi. Why? I mean, sure, I know why he's said, I know the reasons given, but why now? What made him such a threat that he had to be invaded then, when nothing has changed in the eleven years since it was last decided that Iraq wasn't worth invading? If he has been such an ongoing threat, why didn't we hear about him when the second Bush took office in 2001?

In 1991, Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons. We knew that because he was using them against his own people, and against the people of Kuwait. At that point, the UN told him to disarm, and he didn't, and they told him to get out of Kuwait, and he didn't. So the US went in and kicked him out of Kuwait, but decided not to go into Iraq while they had the chance, because that just wasn't our objective. Since then, Saddam hasn't made a single credible threat against the United States. Allegations of his involvement with al Qaeda and September 11 have been dismissed as political posturing. And UN weapons inspectors poking around Iraq found... nothing. He wasn't invasion-worthy in 1991, he wasn't invasion-worthy in 2001 - since then, what has changed?

Usually, at this point, I'd get all pithy, and you dear readers would discover that, hey, I had answers to those questions all along. See, sometimes, I ask rhetorical questions - just for effect, you know. But at this point, I don't have any answers for the questions above, pithy or no. I don't have any answers that would condemn Bush, or any that would vindicate him. That's the thing: I just don't freaking know. And I hate the feeling of not knowing. I hate the idea that between 11,000 and 13,000 Iraqi civilians and over 1,000 coalition troops have died in the conflict. I hate the idea that the Taliban is making a comeback in Afghanistan and and al Qaeda is flourishing again because Bush got distracted and didn't finish the job because he just had to invade Iraq when he did.

In his TV address 48 hours before he blasted the everliving crap out of a country that had never threatened the US, Bush said that "we are now acting because the risks of inaction would be far greater. In one year, or five years, the power of Iraq to inflict harm on all free nations would be multiplied many times over." Well, Mr. President, if that was the case, wouldn't we have been even better off invading three years ago, when Iraq's capacity for harm would have been even less? Or did it really take you this long to find a good excuse to settle an old grudge?

Friday, July 09, 2004

On gay marriage

Okay, so maybe we’re going a little bit crazy with this whole “war” thing. First there was a war on drugs, and then a war on poverty (or was poverty first?). The big news lately has been, of course, Bush’s War on Terra. But it looks like Dubya’s going to have to take a back seat for a while, because the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Shaunti Feldhahn wants us to wage war on gay marriage:
[A]lthough you can't see the battle to protect marriage as you can a military war, its cultural ramifications may be just as radical. In his new book, "Marriage Under Fire," James Dobson notes that, "This struggle is not being fought with guns and bombs, but with ideas, with creative uses of the law ... It is a battle for the very soul of the nation."
Shaunti, in her infinite wisdom, warns us that we must learn our lesson from pre-World War II Europe. See, when they saw Hitler coming up, they were all, like, “it’s none of my business.” And you saw what happened to them. We must nip the scourge of homosexual marriage in the bud – the alternative, apparently, is genocide.

As we speak, evil activist judges are trying to “rewrit[e] the will of the people” to the end of – gasp! – equal rights for all. Gay couples everywhere could soon be joining in committed, monogamous unions, setting up households in which innocent children might be raised in an environment of open affection and coordinating chintzes.

Congress is currently discussing legislation to help save American society from the evil gays. Apparently, the world will be a better place if, in the interest of traditional heterosexual marriage, we can deprive gays of domestic partner benefits, rights of survivorship, and pretty ceremonies with big tall white cakes with two tuxedoed guys on top.

From what I can tell, objections to gay marriage take three forms: the protecting-traditional-marriage argument, the how’s-about-civil-union argument, and the what-about-the-children argument.

We must protect traditional marriage: Well, okay, then, do that. You can start with Elizabeth Taylor and Jennifer Lopez; they’ve had, like, eleven traditional marriages between them, so they’re probably experts by now. Then you can talk to Britney Spears, who has the dual indignities of a 55-hour Vegas marriage (just for poops and grins) and an engagement to a guy who just knocked up his ex-girlfriend for the second time. It could all be worse, though; they could be – clutch the pearls! – gay.

How’s about, in the interest of preventing broken homes, looking at divorce instead of marriage? These days, an uncontested divorce is as easy (and almost as cheap) to get as a food processor. Far be it from me to insist that a woman stay with her abusive husband simply to maintain the union. But if you’re ready to break up your family because you’re bored, or because you just know you’ve met your soulmate, or because this whole marriage thing is, like, hard – you’re a selfish, selfish bitch/bastard and don’t deserve an easy divorce.

Or even better, how’s about looking at the marriage before it gets all permanent? The Catholic church requires three months of counseling before the marriage can take place; I think it’s a splendid idea. You want a threat to marriage, try two folks who met three weeks ago in their creative writing class and think that their shared love of modernist poetry is a sign from above. Try two teenagers who have no idea what they’re looking for in a life partner but are, like, totally in love. Hell, try two adults who disagree on everything from money management to child rearing to decorating color schemes but figure that when they’re hungry, love will keep them alive. Honestly, who’s more likely to put together a lasting relationship, two compatible gay men or a man and a woman who met in a bar and have never actually seen each other in daylight yet?

Well, what about, like, civil unions and stuff: Here’s my thing about marriage: every marriage is a civil union. Shut up, it is. See, every marriage has a government part and a church part. A couple can get married in a church, and God smiles on their union, but if they don’t have a marriage license issued by the state, the government isn’t going to smile on their joint tax return. And the state doesn’t mind if you get married by a justice of the peace – but many churches won’t recognize the marriage unless you have it done by a cleric.

That being the case, whose business is it to tell gays they can’t get married? Civil unions are only fair; that’s completely nonreligious, just a matter of two committed individuals sharing insurance policies and being recognized as next of kin. If a gay couple can’t find a church to perform the religious part of their wedding, that sucks; if they can, what’s it to you?

What about the poor children: First of all, see above re: Britney as responsible stepmom. When you’re done shuddering at the thought, ask yourself if a child raised by an abusive straight couple is any better off than a child raised by a nurturing gay couple. Rejecting outright the characterization of all gays as pedophiles, why would a gay couple be inherently bad at raising kids? Would a gay couple not actually be more likely to raise a child who is open-minded and accepting, who isn’t limited by traditional gender roles, who (not to embrace an absolute stereotype) is clean and clean-cut and well-dressed to boot? Most women dream of a guy who can cook, clean, pick out a bottle of wine, buy thoughtful gifts, give compliments and dress himself; in Midtown Atlanta, those guys travel in packs.

Shaunti, you can have your war on gay marriages. I understand if homosexuality makes you a little squeamish. But if your marriage is endangered by a couple of guys getting married and having a family, maybe you’re the one who needs to be examining your relationship. As for me, I’m going to be at Mike and Troy’s wedding with bells on, ‘cause honey, the cake will be to-die-for and I know there’ll be someone willing to dance.

Friday, July 02, 2004

On patriotism

Okay, so I’ve gotten used to being called an unpatriotic, America-hating traitor by many loveable puffballs of the Wacko Right. It doesn’t bother me because, let’s face it, I know for a fact it’s not true. But in honor of July 4th and Independence Day and fireworks and apple pie, let’s talk about the patriotism thing.

I heart my country. America is a wonderful place to be. In my country, I can vote, live on my own, choose whom I want to marry, dye my hair all crazy-like, acquire birth control without hassle, watch soap operas in two languages, surf the Internet for porn, express my political views, travel freely, listen to punk rock, adopt a child, read books with naughty words in them, wear tank tops, join the military – or choose not to do any of these things. I can’t think of a single other country that offers so many freedoms while also providing the security of a kick-ass military and a government structure that, as long as we don’t screw it up like we’ve been doing lately, protects the rights of the people.

And all of that means that America is absolutely perfect and nothing should be changed – except wait, no, that’s not what it means at all. Because nothing is perfect; there are always steps that can be taken to improve upon the status quo. America is great – I happen to think it would be even greater if homosexual marriages and/or civil unions were recognized by the federal government. America is swell – and would be sweller still if the Religious Right would stop trying to break down the barrier separating church and state and forcing a particular form of religion on folks who have their own way, thanks. There could be more money spent on education and less on corporate safety nets. John Ashcroft still stands way too close to our civil rights for my comfort. And I just plain don’t think we should have invaded Iraq the way we did.

But don’t you think I’m leaving. Because I love America.

Most people know that there are all kinds of love; that’s nothing new. For some, patriotism is love like the second month of a new relationship. It’s not infatuation, you’ve had time to actually get to know a person and love him for the qualities that make him who he is, but when he pisses you off, you don’t say anything because you don’t want to rock the boat. Yeah, you wish he wouldn’t smoke so much, and he drives way too fast, but in the interest of domestic tranquility, you’re going to leave it be.

For me, patriotism is the love a mother feels for her child. It’s deep and sincere and absolutely unconditional. She’ll do anything, give anything, even her life, for her kid. She protects and defends and supports her kid and does her best to guide him to become the best adult he can possibly be. And part of that love involves correcting him when he goes wrong. Sometimes it’s benign, helping him with his homework or changing his grip on the football. Sometimes, it’s a lot more serious. Sometimes, a child runs into the street in front of a car, and when Mom snatches him back, he’s getting a whack on the behind that will remind him not to do it again. Does it mean that she doesn’t love him? Of course not. She loves him enough that she doesn’t want to see him dead, and if takes a little sting to get the message across, so be it. He smokes, and he drives way too fast, and she’s going to put a stop to that before he hurts himself.

When I see America running out into the street, you can be damn sure I’m going to snatch her back. When I see our leaders abusing their powers and infringing on the rights given to us by the Constitution and all those institutions that support it, I’m going to speak up. To not speak against the USA PATRIOT act or the invasion of Iraq or the abuse of our environment by industry or the coddling of corporations by legislators getting kickbacks, to see all of that and stay quiet, would be criminally negligent. I’m not about to let my country head in the wrong direction – I love America, so by God I’m holding her to a higher standard.

Conservatives out there love to throw around the phrase “America, right or wrong.” Works for me. It’s a great quote. It’s by a Navy commander named Stephen Decatur, and the entire quote says, “America, right or wrong. When right, to keep right. When wrong, to make right.” Anyone who really loves America wants her to be right. And if you think she’s already as perfect as she can be, I’m happy for you. I happen to see room for improvement. And because I love her so very, very much, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to see her reach her full potential. Anything less would be unpatriotic.