Thursday, March 31, 2005

On stupid, stupid, stupid people driving

Okay, so it's raining like a mofe here in beautiful Atlanta. I happen to love mofe-like rainy days, as long as I get to be inside a sturdy building, looking out. Of course, getting from one sturdy building to the next often requires driving, and that's how I found myself just about plastered against the side of a Flowers truck by a gold Kia.

No actual contact was made, and thus no damage - the car got really close, I cursed in a very unladylike manner, and my car peed herself in fear. But the encounter made me wonder about Kia drivers and the fact that, to a one, they drive like Lizzie-Grubman-meets-Mark-Martin-meets-Ozzy-Osbourne-on-a-bender.

Expound? Why not.

On a sunny, lovely day in February, I found myself tooling along toward Decatur, top down and wind in my hair, toward Decatur in search of buffalo chicken quesadillas at the U Joint. Suddenly and without warning, the asshat in the right lane decides to defy the laws of physics by occupying the same space that I'm occupying at the same time, to the tune of a big ol' dent along my passenger side and (eventually) more than $4,000 in auto repair. All of that wouldn't have been such a hassle if the dude had actually had car insurance, but since he didn't, I got to deal with the fun of coaxing my insurance company into classifying it as an uninsured driver claim, getting me a rental, fixing my car, etc. etc. The guy, though, had more problems than just my car damage; he also had an expired tag and and an invalid driver's license. Oh, and he was deaf, which isn't illegal but seems kind of unsafe where driving is concerned; if you're going to drive around uninsured, you'll want all five senses available and alert just in case you decide to change lanes into the side of an unsuspecting Cabrio.

Anyway, dude was driving a Kia.

So here's my question: do bad drivers tend to pick Kias, or do Kias make people bad drivers? Are Kias built so that they're hard to turn and harder to stop and covered in blind spots? Or does the DMV just issue you a Kia after your fourth car accident? Speak up, Kia drivers. At the very least, let me know how to avoid you.

Friday, March 25, 2005

On the apocalypse, nowish

Okay, so I know I'm not the only person who saw pictures of the two-headed Egyptian baby and came to the conclusion that the end is pretty much nigh. Upon further research, however, I discovered that two-headed babies of any nationality aren't, in fact, apocalyptic prophecy; they're not mentioned in Revelations at all. And that got me thinking: how will we really know when the end is upon us?

As best as I can figure, we can look out for twenty signs:

Signs from the seven seals of the apocalypse:
1. Counterfeit baptisms, bibles, messiahs and holy days; false prophets who possess miracle-working powers will proclaim the name of Jesus but not follow His commandments.

2. War, bloodshed and revolution; world wars will involve many nations might annihiliate "all flesh" from the planet.
3. Famine; prices for life's necessities will spiral to unbelievable levels.

4. Pestilence, disease
5. Persecution of God's chosen people

Celestial signs:
6. Great earthquake
7. Sun turning black (coming March 2006)
8. Moon turning red
9. Stars falling from the sky
10. Sky rolling back like a curtain
11. God's servants being sealed on their foreheads

Destruction of the earth:
12. One-third of the earth, trees and grass will burn.
13. One-third of the sea will turn to blood, fish will die, ships will sink, and rivers will turn bitter.
14. One-third of the sun, moon and stars will go dark.
15. An evil host led by Abaddon the King will emerge from the Abyss to torture mankind for five months.

16. One-third of mankind will be killed.
17. The Holy City (Jerusalem) will be trampled for 42 months.
18. The Beast (the Antichrist) will emerge from the Abyss.
19. Jesus will come back and throw an unholy beating down on the Antichrist.
20. Peace will reign for a thousand years.

All of which puts us at a solid 10 out of 20 signs of an impending apocalypse. Obviously, we don't need to be running out to confession all at once, but it wouldn't be a bad thing to keep our eyes open for moons turning red, rivers turning bitter and Jesus returning to lay the smackdown on Ann Coulter.

Today's Apocalyptic Index: 50

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

On control

Okay, so I had decided that I was done with the Terri Schiavo thing. Court after court has denied her parents' appeals, and although our bulldog-esque Congress refuses to let it all go, it's likely that the Supreme Court (should the case end up there) will uphold the rulings of the lower courts. It's also my understanding that Terri is starting to show the effects of her deprivation and could really go at any time, which, in my mind, is a blessing.

But before I let the whole thing lie, I wanted to address a comment that I keep hearing. I've noticed several people noting that Terri, a bulimic, is now being kept alive through the forced introduction of food, and isn't that ironic. My reponse to that? You have no idea.

The thing about bulimia is that it's way bigger than food and way bigger than skinny (although those both play a major part in it). For many (most?) bulimics, the disorder is about control as much as anything else - in a world full of chaos, when you can control nothing else, you can control the food that goes in (and out) of your body. Life is miserable, and I'm lonely, and the only thing that will make me feel better is a chicken finger basket from Guthrie's. And I'll eat it and eat it, but you can't make me digest it. Watch this - I can eat an entire pint of Rocky Road and not gain an ounce. Life is jerking me around, my boss is ordering me around, all of my professors have scheduled exams at the same time - but at least I get to say what goes into my body, and I get to say how long it stays there.

The control is a joke, of course; the disorder is in charge. No sane, "in-control" person would voluntarily gorge herself to the point of discomfort on fried chicken and then purposely unswallow it. The bulimia is that little evil voice in the back of your head saying, "Look at you! Look at the power you have!" And it's a seriously convincing voice, convincing enough to drown out the concern of loved ones and good medical advice - and your own conscience telling you that you know better. Bulimia is ultimately about a complete loss of control - you're miserable, your body is suffering from the malnutrition and the constant purging, you know that what you're doing is wrong, but you can't stop it.

Now consider that this is how Terri lived the last few years of her conscious life. Prior to her heart attack, she had been drinking nothing but iced tea for weeks. By all accounts, this was a woman whose control had been usurped by an eating disorder. But she had made one decision on her own - her husband and several of her friends testified to the satisfaction of numerous courts that she didn't want her body to be maintained through life-prolonging measures if she ended up in a vegetative state.

And now the world wants to take that one final decision away from her. That one last bit of sane, rational, genuine control - the choice of life or death - is being stripped by her well-meaning parents and our bastard Congress. A woman who spent so much time being jerked around by an eating disorder is now being jerked around by people who are supposed to love her (her parents) and protect her rights (the government). That is, if the courts allow it, which doesn't seem to be happening. At long last, Terri Schiavo is finally getting to make one crucial decision for herself.

Friday, March 18, 2005

On the sanctity of life

Okay, so the controversy surrounding Terry Schiavo has been going on for quite some time now (arguably, for the 15 years that she's been in a persistent vegitative state). In theory, it could be close to an end; courts have ordered that the feeding tube be removed as of 1:00 p.m. today.

However, Congress, doing what Congress does best, seems to be doing its level best to keep her body alive as long as is humanly possible by way of completely stripping her of any remaining dignity. Pandagon tells us how Congress objects to the removal of her feeding tube - because she's supposed to testify before them regarding the issue later this month.

I'm not even kidding. If only I were. But no, Congress has asked that the body formerly occupied by Terri Schiavo be brought before them for - for what? For nothing more than a delaying tactic, truth be told, but according to an attorney for her parents, they're "prayerfully excited about their daughter going before the United States Congress for the whole world to see how alive she is."

I have nothing but sympathy for Terri Schiavo's parents. I don't know what it's like, having to go through what they've gone through; I can only imagine the grief and desperation. What mother wouldn't want to believe that her daughter is still there, able to speak and smile and react to her touch and her voice? To see someone go so quickly from a vibrant, active person to an unresponsive body must be heartbreaking; the idea of losing even that last little bit must be unthinkable.

But Terri's just not there anymore. Doctors have testified that in addition to the initial damage caused by the chemical imbalance and subsequent heart attack, her brain has deteriorated to the point that it's not there anymore; her cerebral cortex is gone, replaced by nothing but spinal fluid, and any movements or sounds that she makes are just involuntary reflexes, the result of nothing but brain stem activity. Short of divine intervention, she's never going to get better.

The argument that Terri should be allowed to die in order to relieve her suffering is fallacious; the parts of her brain that would allow her to feel pain are, by doctor's accounts, long gone. But there's something to be said for preserving her dignity, even if she's no longer there to enjoy it. According to her husband, Terri made perfectly clear her desire not to be kept alive by extraordinary measures; it's not an uncommon request. And it's a request that should be honored for every person who makes it. The most important decision that we can ever make is simply to live or not to; to have that decision taken away from us is unspeakably cruel.

From Terri's parents, it's understandable; they don't want to lose their daughter and don't realize that they already have. For Congress to do so is unthinkable and disgusting. They've taken a family's suffering and a woman's life and used them to push their own agenda that perverts the sanctity of life by preserving it beyond any reasonable extent. Human life is precious not because of a beating heart or brain waves but because of the person inside; the human soul can't possibly be reduced to somethign so base and crude as an act of Congress.

Human life is absolutely sacred. It's not something that can be legislated or argued or thrown around or decided in the news. Human life should start and end with nothing more than love and dignity.

Update: The presiding judge in the case has ruled that her feeding tube must be removed, despite the Congressional subpoena. I pray that Terri Schiavo is finally allowed to rest in peace.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

On overt covert non-propaganda propaganda

Okay, so on February 17, the GAO decided that the Bush administration's little faux-news videos (not to be confused with Fox News videos, which serve the same purpose) violate a law banning covert government propaganda. The videos, which are sent to TV stations to be broadcast without any editing, are designed to look like independent news broadcasts and give no indication that Karl Rove is actually standing behind the camera signaling the "news anchors" to smile more.

Last week, the Bush administration released its response: "Pbbbbbbth":
The Bush administration, rejecting an opinion from the Government Accountability Office, said last week that it is legal for federal agencies to feed TV stations prepackaged news stories that do not disclose the government's role in producing them.

Steven Bradbury at the Justice department had the following arguments:
The legal counsel's office "does not agree with GAO that the covert propaganda prohibition applies simply because an agency's role in producing and disseminating information is undisclosed or 'covert,' regardless of whether the content of the message is 'propaganda,"

...which means, "Just because we covertly produce this propaganda doesn't mean that it's covert propaganda that should be prohibited by a law against covert propaganda," and...
"Our view is that the prohibition does not apply where there is no advocacy of a particular viewpoint, and therefore it does not apply to the legitimate provision of information concerning the programs administered by an agency."

... even though the videos have addressed such contraversial subjects as the administration's position on Medicare drug benefits.

Two things seriously frost my cookies about this whole deal. The first thing, of course, is the fact that TV stations are actually running these videos with no indication that they're just shilling for the administration. Print ads designed to look like editorial content are required to say "Advertisement" at the top, and children's TV shows are required to have a "We'll be right back!" buffer at the beginning and ending of each segment so kids can know when they're being entertained and when they're being advertised at. Yet the government can disguise their propaganda as news and slide it into our newscasts without warning? If Bush is that desperate to promote his policy, fine. I won't even get into the fact that his policy tends to be so shoddy that he can't even discuss it outright but has to sneak it in so the people don't even know they're being pandered to. But the viewing public deserves at least the courtesy of a "We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor."

The other thing can be summed up by the WaPo headline - Administration Rejects Ruling On PR Videos. Administration rejects ruling. There's that mandate again. Screw the established system of checks and balances, 'cause Bush gets what he wants. His budget, his religious beliefs, his position on Socia Security, on homeland security, his cabinet nominations - he gets what he wants, 'cause 51 percent is all the mandate he needs. So if a governmental agency tells him that he can't play the way he wants to play, who cares? He rejects it. The GAO can't tell him what to do, 'cause they aren't the boss of him.

If my dad told me to do something and I looked him in they eye and said, "Nuh-uh," I would get popped. I'm not saying that's what needs to happen with Bush. Y'know, I'm not sayin'. I'm just sayin'.

Hat tip to The Regular Staple for the link.

Monday, March 14, 2005

On tough questions that are really pretty simple.

Okay, so the random Yahoo! search of the day is "how to Tell if he's interested in you romantically or sexually."

Oh, honey.

Here's how you tell: if he's carting around a penis, he's interested in you sexually. As for the rest of it - anybody's guess, really. Some women never know. And if anyone would like to publish a definitive list of signs that a guy's interested romantically, I will personally send him/her a fruit basket.

Friday, March 11, 2005

On laziness and Friday uber-meta-blogging

Okay, so it's a gorgeous, sunny Friday, and it's lunchtime, and I'm just fiending for a cup of vegetable soup from Jason's Deli and a warm seat in the sunshine. So I'm going to sit back and let someone else do the work here. Or, as the case may be, sit back and let someone else let someone else let someone else do the work.

First, head over to Wonkette as she liveblogs CNN's "Inside Politics" Blog Report, which covers, among other things, Kos blogging Senator Russ Feingold's blog - four degrees of blog separation.

And if you have a moment, check out Fishbowl DC and a corresponding item at ABC Online which covers FishbowlDC blogging the White House press pool covering Fishbowl DC blogging the White House press pool for an exhausting five degrees of blog separation and this week's prize, a copy of Mervin Block's seminal Writing Network News - Shorter, Sharper, Stronger.

While you're there, take a beat to follow Garrett Graff's quest to secure a White House press gaggle day pass, just like the one that JimJeff GannonGuckert claims to have secured so easily.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

On a kid saying the darndest things

Okay, so Tuesday's AJC just proves what I've always suspected, that our legislators are about as bright as your average fifth-grader. Because a "New Attitudes" column by a Dekalb County middle-schooler puts them to
shame - and the rest of us, too:
What do you think when you think of gay people? Most people would answer that question with sounds of disgust. But why? What did gay people do that was so bad? Why do so many people hate gay people?

Is there a reason? Well, most people would say, "It says so in the Bible." Who wrote the Bible? Men. Men who feared. Men who had to be in control. Men who also said women should have no rights.

Gay people are just like everyone else. They love. They have arguments. They want children. They have to eat to live. They die at old ages. So what makes them so different?

Gay people are adopting children because they can't have children of their own. Trust me, I would know.

I am one of those children who were adopted by two gay men. They are the best family I've ever had. And they love.

They don't care that I'm black and they're white, they don't care that I look, sound or am different. They love. And who could understand that more than a child who had never been loved, and is finally loved by people whom other people hate?

I don't think that I could ever hate because I'm surrounded by real love.

Out of the mouths of babes. Good Lord.

Of course, some people won't be satisfied. Some people can't stand to not be right, and some people bristle at being put in their place by a seventh-grader. So of course, some people are going to writea letter to the editor:
So what do her two "daddies" say when Mary Manganello asks them about sex, menstruation, birth control, marriage, masturbation, childbearing or any number of questions that reflect the special, warm, personal, intimate, inimitable, unmatchable and irreplaceable feelings a daughter gets from talking and sharing her feelings with her mom?

Well, I'm not there, so I can't answer that with any certainty. But I'm gonna guess they'll do a lot of the same things that my friend's dad did. Her mother died when she was eight, leaving her father to raise three daughters by himself. When she got her period, he bought tampons. When she got boobs, he took her to JC Penney for a bra fitting. When she had questions about sex, he answered them, and when she started dating, he started cleaning his gun every weekend (this is the south, after all). He did better as father and mother than a lot of two-member parenting teams that I know. And thusly raised, she has grown into a smart, beautiful, capable young woman, nonetheless feminine for having a man in charge of her upbringing.

I was lucky enough to have both parents around the entire way. My father and I, of course, have that special daddy-daughter relationship when we're alternately rapt with mutual adoration and at each other's throats; it's our way. My mother and I have had our rough spots (think the entirety of middle school), but at this point we're at the best-buds stage, and it's great. Each relationship is full of "special, warm, personal, intimate, inimitable, unmatchable and irreplaceable feelings" that come not from our respective plumbing setups but from the people that we are. Mom, as a guy, would still be wonderfully sympathetic and kind and smart and funny - now that I think about it, she'd probably be my best friend Jacob; that explains a lot about my relationship with him. Daddy, as a woman, would be, well, me; that we're pretty much exactly alike explains both the closeness and the contentiousness (I've been lucky enough to escape without his mustache).

It's one of the early basics that we're taught as children: I'm okay, you're okay. Color, gender, socioeconomic status, disability, or, yeah, sexual orientation - that's all demographics; we're defined by the people we are inside. How tragic is it that grown men and women can so easily forget their kindergarten lessons. And if it takes a little black girl and her two gay daddies to remind us, then I'm all for it.  We've still got a long way to go, and a little child shall lead us.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

On caving to peer pressure

Okay, so I got an e-mail today from our friend Doug of the late, not bad GWBWYPGN?! He has the following to say:
Now link my new blog before I come over to Buckhead and slap you.

I want it to be known that we here at Practically Harmless do not respond to threats, and that I'd link to him anyway, 'cause he gave me this cute little model of a red and black Mini Cooper for my birthday. He personalized the license plate and everything.

Anyway, be sure to bookmark his new not-entirely political blog at It turns out that Doug can be funny even when he's not talking about politics. Oh, and dig the pictures of his new puppy, 'cause they don't come any cuter than that. No, they don't. No, they don't. Yes, you're the cutest-wutest little puppy-wuppy... Ahem.

As you were.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

On, like, totally questionable nominations

Okay, so we all pretended to be surprised when Bush announced that he was bringing in none other than Condoleezza Rice to fill the SecState position gladly vacated by Colin Powell. This is the woman who was able to stare down the barrel of a memo titled "Bin Laden determined to Attack Inside the United States" and come to the conclusion that, hey, bin Laden wasn't going to, like, attack or anything, certainly not inside the United States. And then she had the balls to lie about it under oath, and while I'm normally all about (rhetorical) balls on a woman, they are a power that should be used for good and not evil. But we only really feigned surprise about her nomination, 'cause we'd already had one term with Bush in office and this seemed like exactly the kind of thing that he'd do.

Then came the announcement that the proposed replacement for John "All Your Ovary Are Belong to Us" Ashcroft would be Alberto "Big Al" Gonzales, the former Bush advisor who told him that the whole torture thing was, like, totally legal and ethical and is now giving us the faaaaaar more palatable option of exporting our prisoners so we don't have to torture them our ownselves. This was more of a shock because it came at a time when, hello, we were under fire for our treatment of detainess, and hello, scrutiny hasn't exactly let up since the initial wackiness at Abu Ghraib. And while I must admit that his confirmation came as a bit of a surprise to me, it is just par for the course with Bush (who surrounds himself with people who tell him he's right) and the Republican-heavy Congress (who, as wel all know, are so far up his behind that they can't see daylight).

Then came the nomination of John R. Bolton as US ambassador to the UN. This is, of course, similar to appointing Bill O'Reilly to head the ACLU; this is the guy who once said that "if the UN secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference." And am I surprised? I am not! And not just because this is par for the course.

This is merely one more aspect of Bush's groundbreaking strategy of destroying all of these villages in order to save them. At first, it was just Iraq, which he bombed to hell and back in order to bring peace and democracy and purple fingers and cuddly puppies. We all know that he's intent on destroying Social Security in order to save it - so intent, in fact, that he's taking 60 days off of his president gig (which, in his defense, was more of a part-time deal anyway) to tour the country convincing the American people to give Social Security a nice pimp slap as he brought it down. And he spends so much time clearing brush in Crawford that he's got to have designs on clearcutting the family ranch.

But this one, this is more ambitious. This is obviously the next phase in his plan to bring democracy and fluffy clouds to the whole world - and what better way to save the world than to destroy it, bit by bit, starting with the UN? This presidency is going to go down in history. Assuming, y'know, that there actually is history when he gets done with it.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

On the end of an era

Okay, so as much as I hate to say it, it's time for us all to bid a fond adieu to George W. Bush, Would You Please Go Now?! I seriously do hate to see him go - not just because he's funny (I happen to be related to the dude, so I can get the snark at home), and not just because I gank his material all the time (there are other, not nearly as funny blogs that have just as much news and commentary), and not because most of my traffic comes from his links (come on, people, isn't it about time to throw a girl some blogroll love?). I hate to see him go because the world benefits from the folks who are absolutely passionate about... something. GWBWYPGN?! ranges from the snarky to the wholly profane, frequently insulting, always with feeling, and while sometimes he does more harm than good with his approach, it's good to be reminded that, in this day when it seems like the entire world is going to hell in the same handbasket, some things are still worth getting excited about.

Anyway, RIP, GWBWYPGN?! We hardly knew ye. It's good to know that Doug will be coming back, eventually, in all of his snarky goodness, with a slightly broader target. Until then, Practically Harmless isn't going anywhere, at least as long as I can continue to find superior blogs to rob of their content.