Thursday, June 30, 2005

On living like it's your last day

Okay, so a friend forwarded me the text of Steve Job's graduation address at, I dunno, some school. The e-mail didn't say. For all I know, the entire thing never took place and somebody has been sending around inspirational quotes attributed to Steve Jobs. But a lot of it was pretty solid good advice, so I read it, and one quote jumped out at me:
For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Sounds like pretty good advice, right? We don't know how much time we have left here, and it's better to live a fulfilling life than to put off fulfillment for a day we aren't sure will actually come.


I haven't discussed it with my landlord, but I'm pretty sure they won't be willing to accept fulfillment in lieu of a rent check at the first of the month. Similarly, I think that my editor would, at best, suggest therapy for me if I told her, "Yeah, the awards ceremony I was supposed to cover? Not really what I'd want to do on the last day of my life. I wrote this lovely short story instead." I can tell you for sure and for certain what I'd like to be doing on the next-to-the-last day of my life, but I can tell you with just as much certainty that doing that every day is likely to get me in more trouble than anything else.

So here 'tis: has anyone actually ever answered the above question affirmatively? Does anyone know anyone who has? And if you could say, "Yeah, I could die happy," do you actually have some profession/occupation/vocation that makes you so blissful every day, or are your standards so low that whatever you're doing is good enough for the last day of your life?

On human rights - the end, at long last

Okay, so Human Rights Month was a roaring success in the sense that no one sent me any computer viruses for wasting so much blog space on something that no one really disagrees with anyway. Thirty days hath June, and what have we learned?

- That it's best to analyze declarations with way fewer than thirty articles. Think, like, ten, maybe.

Besides that.

- That a person is a person, and it's the fact that you're a human being that grants you all of these rights and protections.
- That torture and slavery are right out, along with any other kind of degrading treatment.
- That rights can't be taken away, and if they're to be limited, those limits are subject to fair, public, and equitable due process.
- That at the very least, everyone deserves a roof over their head, food on the table, a place to call home, and the wherewithall to support their family.
- That everyone is free to speak their mind and practice their beliefs, and everyone is similarly free to shut up and not to practice beliefs that they don't support.
- That no matter who you are and what you do, some human rights are basic and necessary and can't be taken away, period.
- That human rights are guaranteed only by the benevolence of the world as a whole; that starts at home, by teaching our children tolerance and respect for others and demanding same out of the government that serves at our will.

Here's the upshot: no one disagrees with these rights. No one says, "Hey, y'know, as a rundown of basic human rights, I think the UDHR gives a lot of people way too much freedom" (or, at least, no one has yet). If that's the case, why do we have so much trouble actually honoring those rights? Why should we enjoy all of those freedoms, but object when they're extended to others? Anyone who can answer that question to my satisfaction gets guest blogging priveleges, my eternal gratitude, and a nice crisp five-dollar bill.

Thus endeth the lesson.

Part I Part II Part III Part IV Part V Part VI Part VII Part VIII Part IX Part X Part XI Part XII Part XIII

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

On bringing justice to the justice system

Okay, so apropos of the recent Kelo v. City of New London ruling and courtesy of Josh at Martians Attacking Indianapolis, we have the possibility that someone might just pave Justice Souter's house and put up a parking lot:
Justice Souter's vote in the "Kelo vs. City of New London" decision allows city governments to take land from one private owner and give it to another if the government will generate greater tax revenue or other economic benefits when the land is developed by the new owner.

On Monday June 27, Logan Darrow Clements, faxed a request to Chip Meany the code enforcement officer of the Towne of Weare, New Hampshire seeking to start the application process to build a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road. This is the present location of Mr. Souter's home.
The proposed development, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" will feature the "Just Desserts Cafe" and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon's Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged."
"This is not a prank" said Clements, "The Towne of Weare has five people on the Board of Selectmen. If three of them vote to use the power of eminent domain to take this land from Mr. Souter we can begin our hotel development."

Today's award for great big round brass cojones goes to Logan Darrow Clements, developer, former California gubernatorial candidate (but then, who isn't?), and my brand new hero.

On human rights, Part XIII: end run

Okay, so the end is totally nigh.
Article 28.

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29.

(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30.

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

But what does this mean for me?

This seems kind of tautological - everyone has the right to their rights. But it makes sense. Not only does everyone have certain rights, but among those rights is the right not to get sweated by the authorities when you try to exercise your rights. And Article 29 makes an especially important distinction - rights can be limited, but only in the interest of securing others' rights. My right to swing my fist ends at the tip of your nose, my right to practice my religion ends at the beginning of yours, and now it's all on paper.

Just answer the question already.

It means that everyone has the right to a just world. Life isn't fair, like my mama always said, but justice is something we can all get behind.

Part I: The Preamble; Part II: Articles 1 and 2; Part III: Articles 3 and 4; Part IV: Articles 5 and 6; Part V: Articles 7 and 8; Part VI: Articles 9 and 10; Part VII: Articles 11 and 12; Part VIII: Articles 13, 14 and 15; Part IX: Articles 16, 17 and 18; Part X: Articles 19, 20 and 21; Part XI: Articles 22, 23 and 24; Part XII: Articles 25, 26 and 27

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

On human rights, Part XII

Okay, so like our president, I've started something that turned out to be far more unpleasant than I'd expected. Unlike our president, however, I have an exit strategy and the determination to see it through to its proper end.
Article 25.

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26.

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27.

(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

But what does this mean for me?

Despite what the 'wingers might say, we really do all have the right to some basic standard of living. It might not be the Hummer-and-Armani standard, but it's a standard. No one should have to starve, and no one should have to die of an easily curable illness, whether they're employed or unemployed or happily unemployed, whether they're solid good citizens or make poor lifestyle choices. After all, a person who gets him/herself in trouble can hardly get out of it if he/she doesn't live that long.

Also despite some 'winger arguments, everyone has the right to an education - and it's gotta be free. So the whole voucher thing? Forget it. Anything that would require a parent to pay money out-of-pocket for their child to receive any acceptable standard of education is right out. Parents do have the right to choose the kind of education, be it secular or religious or specialized, but they may end up having to do it themselves; the government can't be expected to cater to every single tiny whim with a billion slightly different educational systems.

One caveat? Education is meant to teach respect for human rights - "understanding, tolerance, and friendship." So parents have the right to choose their children's education to the point that they start teaching hatred, intolerance, and ideals contrary to the peaceable goals of the UN. So if you don't want to teach your kid that gay is okay, that's your right, but don't turn him into a bully, either. Tolerance and intolerance each breed more of same, and raising a child full of hatred and violence isn't going to result in a peaceful world.

Just answer the question already.

It means that everyone has a right to the basic necessities of life, including healthcare, food, and education. And it means that an appreciation of human rights is, in itself, a human right.

Part I: The Preamble; Part II: Articles 1 and 2; Part III: Articles 3 and 4; Part IV: Articles 5 and 6; Part V: Articles 7 and 8; Part VI: Articles 9 and 10; Part VII: Articles 11 and 12; Part VIII: Articles 13, 14 and 15; Part IX: Articles 16, 17 and 18; Part X: Articles 19, 20 and 21; Part XI: Articles 22, 23 and 24

Monday, June 27, 2005

On looking like a duck

Okay, so my first reaction to the Supreme Court's ruling on the New London case was that it smelled seriously funky, but I didn't want to comment on it until I had looked into it a little more. I discovered, to my horror, that the ruling was, in fact, constitutionally sound. And, uh, so was the dissenting opinion. Huh?

(Untwist your panties, Steve; I do have a solid position to take on this one.)

So, yeah, I sided with Scalia on this one. I. Sided. With Scalia. It actually sounds better to say that he sided with me. See, J.P. Stevens said that the taking of private property by the state for public use falls within the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, to which I say "Meh." Only kind of. It all depends on whether or not private commercial ventures would benefit the community enough that handing an 87-year-old woman a check and knocking down her house is something we think is okay. Said clause doesn't really draw a line between the benefits from a highway overpass or a public building and the benefits from a shopping mall. Plus, not every house subject to eminent domain has an 87-year-old woman in it; it could be argued that a shopping mall would definitely benefit the community more than a crack den.

That's where I started to actually agree with the ruling a little bit, because Stevens also made the point that eminent domain covers a wide variety of cases. It wouldn't make sense to rule on the basis of an 87-year-old woman if it would hinder the progress of a town looking to get rid of a crack den. He said that state legislatures and courts were in a better position to "discern local public needs" and that it was their place to make such rulings. And that makes sense.

Except it totally doesn't, because seemingly without realizing it, Stevens did make this ruling on the basis of an 87-year-old woman. The Supreme Court didn't refuse to hear the case because it was better decided in state courts; they heard it and he ruled on it, and now there's precedent. Now, a town is free to tear down a crack den to make room for profitable economic development, which is great, but there's also judicial precedent saying that a community's power of eminent domain is basically unlimited as long as they can make it sound pretty. And that just isn't right.

I had a conversation a few months ago with a law student named Harry who admired Scalia greatly and also thought that he was kind of a dick, an opinion which I greatly respected even if I didn't happen to agree. The conversation wasn't so much about Scalia, though, as it was about O'Connor, who has a tendency to ride the fence between ruling rightly on one case and ruling rightly to set precedent. Harry made the point that sometimes, a Supreme Court justice really does have to screw over one certain party, because that ruling is going to become the law of the land. It could be that that particular party in that particular situation is completely in the right, but that to say so would be to open the door to lots of other parties whose similar situations might leave them entirely in the wrong. I'd never really thought about it that way before, and it really stuck with me.

Justice Stevens, I can give you this guy's e-mail address if you want. See, you've just laid down what amounts to a law saying that a state's rights under the Takings Clause are basically unlimited. Sure, you said that state legislatures can do what they want with it, but how long will it be before a city is knocking down a well-kept low-income neighborhood to build a mini mall and saying, "Hey, Kelo et al. v. City of New London et al. Suck it." O'Connor made the point that "[t]he specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory." You have given the state the power to steal from the poor to give to the rich, and that's not okay. Maybe in this particular case, your ruling made sense, but you can't rule on one case without considering the impact on the rest of the country years into the future. That's your burden as a Supreme Court justice.

And dude, you made me agree with Scalia.

On human rights, part XI

Okay, so is everyone else as bored with this as I am? Good gravy.

Only nine more to go. Onward!
Article 22.

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23.

(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24.

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

But what does this mean for me?

I think that these articles are kind of cool because they outline rights that aren't specifically retained for American citizens by our own foundational documents. People (usually conservatives who have an issue with any kind of social program proposed by the Democrats, but it could be anyone) often say things like, "No one is guaranteed the right to work" and "It's not the government's responsibility to take care of you if you were dumb enough to trust your retirement to a company like Enron or United" and "If women want equal pay for equal work, they need to just get rid of their ovaries like the rest of the guys." Well, folks, sit down, 'cause those are all rights that you actually do have. And they're rights that are enumerated for all nations adhering to the UDHR, not just the United States. So the next time you hear someone pulling out that right-to-work crap, you can say, "Dude, French people have the right to work. German people have the right to work. Hell, Iraqi people have the right, and so do I." And then start in about vacations, 'cause you know you need one.

Just answer the question already.

It means that you have the right to work, the right to not work sometimes, and the right to not die of starvation and/or exposure during those periods that you're unable to work.

Part I: The Preamble; Part II: Articles 1 and 2; Part III: Articles 3 and 4; Part IV: Articles 5 and 6; Part V: Articles 7 and 8; Part VI: Articles 9 and 10; Part VII: Articles 11 and 12; Part VIII: Articles 13, 14 and 15; Part IX: Articles 16, 17 and 18; Part X: Articles 19, 20 and 21

Thursday, June 23, 2005

On human rights, Part - good Lord, part X

Okay, so we're getting close to the end. Bear with me here.

Besides, think of what a handy reference you'll have when this is all over.
Article 19.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21.

(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

But what does this mean for me?

God bless Lindsay Lohan when she sings, "Don't think that you can tell me what to think / I'm the one who knows what's good for me." It's not a new idea, but she's the most recent person to put it to music. And then she dieted until her boobs went away, and the rest of us women who have boobs were, like, "What, boobs aren't cool any more?"

But that's neither here nor there. The point is, you are welcome to your own opinion, and the government can't step on that. Let it be known that other entities aren't the government - if you're an idiot and I tell you to shut the hell up, I am in no way infringing on your right to free speech, because I'm not the government, I'm just one pissed off citizen. And in terms of profanity and "fightin' words" and lies, if you can manage to get through a sentence without cussing like a sailor, Doug, or lying about people or insulting their mama, you're good to go. Similarly, you "decide / where [you] go / what [you] need / who [you] know" because of your freedom to (peacefully) assemble with whom and where you want to, within reason. Or not assemble or associate, as you see fit.

Ohhh, Article 21, how I love your rippling abs. This is the one that says you have the right to participate in government and take advantage of all the services it provides. It also says that government serves at the will of the people. The government, at the will of the people. Does this say the majority of the people? It does not. Everyone gets the right to vote, but the majority of the people are not given the right to just step on the minority. Just because most people think a certain way doesn't make it right. A majority of Germans going along with the Holocaust didn't make it okay, a majority of Americans going along with segregation didn't make it okay, and a majority of people going along with discrimination against gay people or the wholesale Conservative Christianization of the country or the invasion of Iraq while things weren't finished in Afghanistan doesn't make any of it okay (as we're seeing now, as a majority of Americans are now saying, "Hold on, we invaded Iraq? Why? I didn't vote for that").

It also means that you don't have to agree with what your leader says just because he says it. It's okay to disagree with your government, in fact, it's expected. That's why we have a legislature, and debates, and elections - because not everyone agrees. And if you happen to think that someone, say, your current president, has made some great big, huge screwups, it's okay to say so. It doesn't make you any less patriotic or any more divisive. Your government serves at your will, so if you think they've screwed up, it's not just your right but your responsibility to tell them so.

Just answer the question already.

It means that you not only have the right to your own opinion, but also the right to express it and to seek others' opinions. And it means that you tell the government what's good for you, not the other way around.

Part I: The Preamble; Part II: Articles 1 and 2; Part III: Articles 3 and 4; Part IV: Articles 5 and 6; Part V: Articles 7 and 8; Part VI: Articles 9 and 10; Part VII: Articles 11 and 12; Part VIII: Articles 13, 14 and 15; Part IX: Articles 16, 17 and 18

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

On human rights, Part IX

Okay, so interestingly enough, among your basic human rights? Not the right to party. That one you've got to fight for.
Article 16.

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17.

(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

But what does this mean for me?

Basic lifestyle stuff. Marriage. Family. Property. Freedom of thought, conscience, religion. Everyone has the right to make decisions that affect their own lives, as long as all involved parties consent and no one is harmed in the process. Re: Article 16, note that it doesn't say that any man has the right to marry any woman and vice versa; it just says that men and woman of full age have the right to marry. And that family that we're trying to protect? We're not specifying a family of Mommy, Daddy, and 2.5 kiddles. Just a family. A family is a family, and it's special and worthy of protection - even if Heather really does have two mommies.

Re: the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, I say right on. Everyone gets to pick his or her own religion, and everyone gets to practice it. If you happen to live in a nation that's populated 85 percent by shrimp worshippers, they can't demand that you worship shrimp or get out of their country; they can't hold your behavior to the standards of the Church of Shrimp; they can't insist that you say a prayer to shrimp every time you enter a government building. Conversely, you can't keep them from praying to shrimp in private or gathering to worship at the Church of Shrimp. Everyone has the freedom to their own religion and no one else's.

Just answer the question already.

It means that I can't keep you from getting married, no matter how much it creeps me out, and it means that I can't keep you from worshiping whom and how you want, no matter how much it creeps me out.

Part I: The Preamble; Part II: Articles 1 and 2; Part III: Articles 3 and 4; Part IV: Articles 5 and 6; Part V: Articles 7 and 8; Part VI: Articles 9 and 10; Part VII: Articles 11 and 12; Part VIII: Articles 13, 14 and 15

On being only as mature as is absolutely necessary

Okay, so you know it would have to be one of my Navy boys to send me this one. A FOXNews story tells us of the Glory Hole, a homeless shelter in Alaska that has stopped serving bear meat:
Some of the people served by the Glory Hole said they miss meat of any kind.

Um... Okay, then. Fly Navy.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

On human rights, Part VIII

Okay, so if you think that some people are subject to being shackled in the fetal position in a puddle of their own feces and some people aren't, you just don't know your Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Article 13.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14.

(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15.

(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.

(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

But what does this mean for me?

Now, of course these rights are subject to criminal prosecution; if you've been convicted of a felony, then your right to move around within the country is going to be somewhat hampered by the 7x10 cell that you call home; if that felony happens to be child molestation, your freedom of residence is going to be somewhat hampered by any elementary schools nearby. But as long as you're a decent, law-abiding person, you get to go pretty much where you need/want to go. It's kind of like a really understanding mother; if you behave yourself, she's likely to trust you and let you hang out with your friends and give you a late curfew.

But let's say your mother isn't so understanding, and despite your good behavior, she's going to ground you for a multitude of offenses. In that case, you also have the right to go next door to seek asylum from Mr. and Mrs. Canada, the really nice old couple that lives there. However, if it turns out you're grounded for an offense punishable by reasonable grounding, those kind old folks are likely to march you right back to your mom. Sometimes it happens that way.

And when you get there, your mom'll probably be plenty pissed off, but one thing she won't do (as an understanding mom) is disown you. You're her kid, and even when you misbehave, she loves you. Just like the US government loves you and won't call you unamerican just because you do something that pisses them off.

Wait, no, hold on...

Just answer the question already.

It means that home is home, and you're not going to get kicked out of home. And if home isn't treating you right, you've always got a place to go.

Part I: The Preamble; Part II: Articles 1 and 2; Part III: Articles 3 and 4; Part IV: Articles 5 and 6; Part V: Articles 7 and 8; Part VI: Articles 9 and 10; Part VII: Articles 11 and 12

On all of you damned uppity blue staters

Okay, so I'm with Amanda over at Pandagon here. I am so freaking tired of people ragging on the red states just because they happen to be red. I will grant you that the red staters in the red states can be a pain in the ass, but there happens to be a growing number of moderates, liberals, and progressives in those states fighting to drag their states kicking and screaming to the light side of the Force. And honestly, who's doing more good here - the Georgia Dems working from the inside to reform their state, or the Massachusetts Dems standing on the outside, pointing and saying, "Ooh, you like barbecue, you've got cooties" and then going to their committee meetings to pat each other on the back?

And Tennessee Guerilla Women really need to kiss my ass:
With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of 80 percent of the country's fresh water, more than 90 percent of the pineapple and lettuce, 92 percent of the nation's fresh fruit, 95 percent of America's quality wines (you can serve French wines at state dinners) 90 percent of all cheese, 90percent of the high tech industry, most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven Sister schools, plus Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT.

With the Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with 88 percent of all obese Americans (and their projected health care costs), 92 percent of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100 percent of the tornadoes, 90 percent of the hurricanes, 99 percent of all Southern Baptists, virtually 100 percent of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University, Clemson...

Oh, don't even...
... and the University of Georgia.

Oh. You. Bitch.

Fine, TGW. Have your blue states. You can get together and have your happy little blue state party, with all of your little self-satisfied blue state friends who can do a little blue state dance over not having to worry about mosquitos or bad weather. Just don't count on listening to any jazz music, or rock music, or, um, country music, because that's all red state. So you can hand over REM, Widespread Panic, the B-52s and Elvis whenever you're ready. Don't count on eating any barbecue, either, 'cause we came up with that.

And while you're at it, you can give back Hank Aaron and Ty Cobb and, yeah, even Peyton Manning. Oh, and Thomas Jefferson and Jimmy Carter and Martin Luther fucking King fucking Junior.

See, this is why liberals get the reputation for being so damned uppity and superior - because they act that way. They look down on anything not appropriately northern and intellectual and dismiss entire sections of the country as boondockified rubes. How exactly do you expect to gain southern votes that way, blue staters? It starts this way: by pulling your heads out of your asses and realizing that, just like with religion, just like with race, just like with sexual orientation, the fact that it's different than you doesn't make it inherently inferior. My suggestion is that you sit down on a nice front porch swing, pour yourself a glass of iced tea, listen to some Patsy Cline and get the hell over yourselves.

And while you're at it, see if you can figure out how many NCAA football national champs have come from blue states in the past fifty years (I'll give you a hint: it's between four and six).

On being this many

Okay, so it was one year ago today that I sat down and thought, "Hey, y'know, there might be someone out there interested in the inconsequential ramblings rattling around in my head." This post was the unfortunate result. Since then, we've moved on from pointless navel-gazing to even more pointless musings on life, love, politics, religion, and anything having to do with the hind end of a dog. And more than 4,000 of you have sat through the entire damn thing. Suckers.

In honor of this most hallowed of days, I give you a look back on the past twelve months: Practically Harmless, Year One: By the Numbers

6: times the f-bomb has been dropped in the past twelve months
20: times it was dropped on Hey Jenny Slater in the past three months
1: raises received
-5.76: increase in annual take-home pay (in dollars)
32: times I've seen my byline in print
32: times it's given me a little bit of a thrill
2: penpal requests from incarcerated felons
0: requests answered
15: links from other blogs
0: links from "Top 100" blogs (heeeeey…)
4: moths spent "giving it another try" with ex-fiance
2: other girls he was dating without my knowledge during that period
861: US troops lost in Iraq
0: WMD found in Iraq
200: terrorists convicted courtesy of the USA PATRIOT Act, according to the Bush administration
39: terrorists actually convicted
0: terrorist attacks on US soil
0: alien invasions on US soil
8 million: Iraqi citizens voting in January's elections
0: US Senators voting in January's elections
10: signs of impending apocalypse (out of 20)
4: New Year's Resolutions kept (out of 5)
2: Old pope, John Paul
16: New pope, Benedict
78: time spent listening to Honey's evening constitutional (in hours)
1.3: total time for Honey to actually do her business (in hours)
4,235: visitors in the past 12 months
17: visitors not looking for dog porn or dating tips

"No point in mentioning those bats, I thought. Poor bastard will see them soon enough." Hunter S. Thompson, 1937-2005

Monday, June 20, 2005

On the origin of X-Men species

Okay, so Jesse at Pandagon shares with us an e-mail proving that God is, in fact, Magneto.

On human rights, Part VII

Okay, so we've got more rights fo' that ass:
Article 11.

(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

But what does this mean for me?

Last time, we discovered that no one can detain you without cause. Today we learn that, even with cause, they can't just assume that you're guilty. We'll go back to our previous example of the convenience store holdup. The officers who arrested you can't just take you into a back room and start beating you until you crack, with the excuse that, "Hey, this kid held up a convenience store," 'cause the fact is, they just don't know. The fact that you've got your nice, shiny alibi is actually secondary to the fact that you just aren't guilty until they have reason to think otherwise. Video of you committing the crime? Catching you with loot afterwards? They might start drawing conclusions. But as long as all they've got is you sitting at Denny's with a bunch of folks, you're guilty of nothing more than picking the wrong friends. Oh, and just for the sake of argument, if robbery wasn't against the law at the time your friends did it, they'd get off, too. But, uh, for the record, robbery? Against the law.

The police (or government or whomever) can't mess with your family, either. Say they really want to get some information on your friends for the trial, so they, say, put you in a position that makes it look like you're fellating a guy and threaten to show it to your family or put it on the Internet. Nothin' doin'; they can't do that. They can't make up stories and pass them around, can't pick up your wife and threaten to rape her in front of you, nothing; your family, your privacy and your reputation are all off-limits.

Just answer the question already.

It means that they can't immediately start beating the crap out of you just because they think you're a terrorist, nor can they mess with your family or smear you publicly.

Part I: The Preamble; Part II: Articles 1 and 2; Part III: Articles 3 and 4; Part IV: Articles 5 and 6; Part V: Articles 7 and 8; Part VI: Articles 9 and 10

Friday, June 17, 2005

On nomenclature

Okay, so quick question: when a gay guy hangs around a girl for the purpose of looking straight, she's called his beard, right? So what would it be called when a straight woman carts around a gay guy for the purpose of looking not single (note: "pathetic," while accurate, doesn't fit for current purposes)? Post suggestions below.

On Friday ten, randomly

Okay, so tops on my iPod today:

1. Kay Star, "I Love Paris"
2. Oasis, "Some Might Say"
3. Abbey Lincoln, "The Nearness of You"
4. Orff, "Carmina Burana"
5. Jet, "Look What You've Done"
6. OutKast, "Bombs Over Baghdad"
7. Kay Starr, "Night Train"
8. Abbey Lincoln, "Time After Time"
9. Frank Sinatra, "Nancy (With a Laughing Face)"
10. BDF, "Diner Dans Le Dessert"

Okay, random my preternaturally toned pink behind. Seven days' worth of music on my iPod, and I get jazz, jazz, SATAN, jazz, jazz, jazz, cabaret jazz?

An experiment to try at your own office: put the Carmina Burana on your speakers at your desk and count the number of strange looks you get. I got five before mercifully hitting "skip."

Thursday, June 16, 2005

On a pharmacist's right to choose

Okay, so the controversy over the pharmacist's conscience clause has been going for a while now, and I haven't really commented because other folks have said it better and besides, I'm not really sure which position I take. I mean, on the one hand, I completely support a doctor's right not to perform an abortion; I know doctors who (rightly) feel passionately about First Doing No Harm and as such are unwilling to perform abortions and/or prescribe the Morning After pill. However, respecting the rights of their patients, they're willing to refer said patients to a doctor who will. Why shouldn't a pharmacist who feels passionately about such things be able to do the same?

At the same time, though, I'm personally the consumer of birth control pills for reasons other than birth control. Whether or not my pills are ever going to go head-on against a sperm, they're also controlling a whole lot of other things happening in that particular system, and I'll be goll-durned if some pharmacist is going to sentence me to a life of cramps and bloating - and sentence the people around me to my irritability and weepiness - because he's afraid I might use it to murder a blastocyst. And for that matter, if I do choose to murder myself a blastocyst (or prevent its creation), I'll be goll-durned if some pharmacist is going to shake his head and cluck his tongue at me.

That's why I was so amused by a comment on a thread over at Pandagon. My Ponygirl is my new friend for the following brilliant suggestions:
I work for a major hospital, where the policy is such that a male nurse, should his religion prohibit him from touching females not in his family, can be protected from doing just that without endangering his job. But the hospital has to know about it. So, I don't think that these pharmacies would be in any way out-of-line in these conscience clause states to give each and every pharmacist they employ a sheet of all the different Rxs they distribute, and ask the pharmacists to check off any medications that they wouldn't fill. Then, the pharmacy needs to post those drugs that might not be filled clearly, before the woman even enters the store.
The other way to combat, this, of course, is to beat those little assholes at their own game. ... I say we need to get some hardcore feminists into the pharmacies in these conscience clause states, and have them deny Viagra and Cialis (could be used in the rape of a woman), Propecia (a baldness drug that might cause birth defects if a woman so much as handles a pill), and any other drug consumed by men that could even be tenuously linked to birth defects. I bet if all those bald, flacid old shits suddenly found themselves driving all over town to get their drugs, they'd want that law repealed damn quick.

We have our solution. I invite all you female pharmacists out there to refuse any prescriptions for any erectile dysfunction drug that might contribute to the rape of a woman, and any other drug that could cause birth defects. And then come back to tell us all about it. I still don't have my mind entirely made up about the whole thing, but I do know that conservative Christian male pharmacists don't get to dictate everyone else's conscience.

On human rights, Part VI

Okay, so now we're starting to get to the meat of the Declaration, and the part of it that seems to stymie so many otherwise bright Americans. While all of the rights listed are crucial and inalienable, these are particularly germane to ongoing debates.
Article 9.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.

Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

But what does this mean for me?

Not all arrest and detention is arbitrary. Say you're hanging out with a bunch of your friends at Denny's, innocently scarfing down your Moons Over My Hammy and talking about how great Hayden Christensen looks with his shirt off (or, if you prefer, Angelina Jolie in a vinyl bustier) when the police bust in and arrest the lot of you for robbing a convenience store, and you have no freaking idea what's going on. When they take you back for questioning, they discover that while your friends were, in fact, robbing that convenience store, you were delivering the keynote address at a symposium on theoretical partical physics and three hundred people can attest to your whereabouts. At this point, the police have two choices: they can let you go, or they can suspect that you might have had a hand in planning the robbery and hold onto you, interrogating you throughout the night, not letting you sleep, playing loud music constantly, and handcuffing you naked in the fetal position in a freezing room in a puddle of your own feces until you crack and tell them something, anything, whether it's true or not.

Wait, no, the police can't do that last part.

Of course, international terrorism is waaaaaay more serious than knocking over a 7-11, and of course more intense interrogation methods are warranted in that case, and I'm sure that none of the detainees had an airtight alibi for whatever they're being accused of. But as for you, stuck in the interrogation room for five hours without so much as a potty break, since the police don't seem to believe that you had no involvement in the robbery, you'll probably be pleased to know that you're entitled to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal - no imprisonment without cause, no pretend trial with your arresting officer as judge, and no secret tribunal - if your rights aren't upheld during the trial or if you're sporting size 11 waffle-tread bruises, the entire country gets to know about it.

Just answer the question already.

It means that if they arrest you, they have to have a good reason for it, and that reason has to hold up in a fair and public hearing.

Part I: The Preamble; Part II: Articles 1 and 2; Part III: Articles 3 and 4; Part IV: Articles 5 and 6; Part V: Articles 7 and 8

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

On human rights, Part - Where are we now? Part V?

Okay, so I'm back! And I'm... eh, if I'm not any better, I'm fairly sure I'm no worse than ever. As the best way to shake the dust of the past week from my sandals is to jump right back in where I left off, we're going to be looking at articles 7 and 8 of the UDHR. And what a couple of articles they are:
Article 7.

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

But what does this mean for me?

These two are pretty self-explanatory. Everyone, without discrimination - that's everyone, people, as in every one, each person - has the right to protection of his rights. It seems kind of tautological, sure, but it's still important, because Article 7 is the one that keeps the state from saying, "So your human rights are being violated, huh? Meh." And Article 8 says that if your rights are violated, a competent, non-kangaroo-courty tribunal must be available to hear your complaints and appropriately punsh any guilty parties.

Just answer the question already.

It means that everyone, no matter the circumstances, has the right to equal protection of the law, and that if these rights happen to be violated, some wigs are gonna get split.

Part I: The Preamble; Part II: Articles 1 and 2; Part III: Articles 3 and 4; Part IV: Articles 5 and 6

Stay tuned for Part VI, where we look at Articles 9 and 10, wherein a couple of my favorite commenters start to get noisy (honestly, guys, I love you. I really do. Yes, you, too).

Thursday, June 09, 2005

On a mini-hiatus

Okay, so my regularly scheduled craziness at work has picked up, which will keep me out of blogging comission at least through Monday, if not Wednesday. I'll do what I can to jump on the computer every once in a while, but if I don't, it's 'cause I'm downtown trying to wring interviews out of the reluctant and inarticulate. Fun!

Oh, and I wanted to clarify something, in case anyone was confused - yes, I am, according to my college diploma and the Atlanta Press Club, a journalist, but this blog is no more a source of accurate and hard-hitting news than Cosmo is a source of fashion tips (just trust me on this one). You'll find here my opinions, written at length, and for my own amusement (although I'm always stoked by the prospect of amusing others). I try to stick pretty close to the f'real truth but have no problem easing away from that slightly if giggles can ensue. Reader bewarre.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

On Us vs. The World

Okay, so everyone who has ever wondered where the Religious Right is coming from needs to read this post over at Johnson City Forum. Brook looks at a post from DailyKos that gives a lot of insight as to why the more radical conservative Christians seem so completely out of touch with the rest of the world:
It starts with the fact that we as conservative Christians are taught to see America as our land. I mean, you guys in Europe and the loonies on the East and West Coasts think the Founding Fathers died to bring us religious freedom.

They so did not. They died to give new Christianity a place where it could flourish. And if you think that Catholicism was flourishing perfectly fine before that, thank you, then you don't understand conservative Christianity. See, I grew up being taught that Catholicism was almost-sort-of-not-quite-but-we-won't-talk-about-it cult. Really.
Conservative Christians are taught all our lives that we are constantly engaged in spiritual warfare. [...]

And I can't really explain to anybody who isn't familiar with conservative Christianity, but we are taught that this is real. Demons? Real. Angelic warfare? Real. That passage in Ephesians about putting on the full armor of God? We take that seriously. We take everything Paul said seriously, actually. Way, way, way too seriously, but the reason we take it so seriously is because Paul has this way of delineating Christianity as a practice so that you can live it out very easily. He basically teaches Christians that they are to live every day as though they are battling persecution. Paul is the classic propagator of the Us/Them mentality. Them is the World. The World is evil and sinful and wants to persecute Us. It is Our job as Conservative Christians to don our armor and wage war against the World.
How this plays out is that you begin to filter your environment as a conservative christian based on what you can easily categorize. Once you have identified, say, George Bush, as one of Us, it's much easier to disregard negative news about him because the Media is one of Them, and the two things can be easily canceled out in your mind.

Honestly, read the whole thing. It really is enlightening, and if Aja's experiences really are consistent with the rest of the Southern Conservative Christian experience, we've got a whole new way of looking at and addressing this increasingly powerful segment of society.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

On human rights, Part IV

Okay, so today we look at articles 5 and 6 of the UDHR, and it's not bad timing, considering an ongoing debate in the comments thread of my last post over at Hey Jenny Slater. I proposed that the soldiers responsible for the abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo might have been the result of poor leadership reinforcing that kind of behavior, rather than depravity and inhumanity on the part of the troops themselves. A commenter insisted that I hate America and our troops and want to poke them all in the eye with a stick, and it went back and forth like that until I got tired and went to bed.

Article 5.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

But what does this mean for me?

These articles seem fairly basic, but they've got a lot of meat to them, especially the first one. Article 5 doesn't just prohibit torture; it also prohibits cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. So if you're in captivity in any country in the world, their responsibility doesn't stop with just not beating you. They also have to take care not to strip you naked and wet you down with a fire hose, not to force you to simulate oral sex with other prisoners, not to sodomize you with anything they happen to have lying around, not to sic their dogs on you, and not to attach electrodes to your genitalia. Obviously, taking pictures with a big ol' grin on their faces is right out, if they're smart.

Article 6 is significant because it says that everyone has the right to recognition as a person before the law. It doesn't say "everyone who doesn't look like a terrorist," it doesn't say "everyone who's probably not guilty of a crime," it doesn't specify. Everyone gets to enjoy the rights included in this Declaration, and if you go to Saudi Arabia and get arrested for proseletyzing, whether you're guilty or innocent, whether they like you or not, they have to respect you as a human being, not some little chew toy that they can bat around for their own amusement. If you get picked up in Basra for hanging out with terrorists and/or cab drivers, ditto.

Just answer the question already.

It means that no matter what you've done or who you are or where you are in the world, you can't be tortured - to any reasonable definition of the word.

Part I: The Preamble
Part II: Articles 1 and 2
Part III: Articles 3 and 4

Monday, June 06, 2005

On human rights, Part III

Okay, so we return to Human Rights Month with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, articles 3 and 4:
Article 3.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

But what does this mean for me?

These are really short and pretty self-explanatory. Life. Liberty. Security of person. No slavery, no slave trade.

Just answer the question already.

It means that you're entitled to life, liberty, and security, and that you can't be forced into any form of slavery, dumbass.

Part I: The Preamble
Part II: Articles 1 and 2

On the devil beating his wife

Okay, so it's only now that I'm told that Your Washington Redskins picked up Jason Campbell in the 2005 draft?! People, this is a reason to pick up a phone. You see this and think, "Oh, I should pick up a phone."

I don't even know how I feel about this. I mean, sure, it's not Deion Sanders bad, but still - Jason Campbell? Am I supposed to feel happy that we've picked up a QB who has at least shown a little consistency, and then feel guilty about feeling happy? I just - I - Drink. I'll drink. Drink helps everything, right?


Friday, June 03, 2005

On Friday randomness

Okay, so what did Charles Graner say to Lyndie England? "Hey, it's Friday. Let's forget about human rights for a while." And then they did it. But we're not going to have icky redneck sex; we're just going to have our Friday Random Ten.

1. Howie Day, "Ghost (live)"
2. Toad the Wet Sprocket, "All I Want"
3. Hugh Masekela, "Mama"
4. Kay Starr, "Me-Too (Ho-Ho! Ha-Ha!)"
5. Bjork, "Hyperballad"
6. Elvis Presley, "A Little Less Conversation"
7. Mono, "If You Only Knew"
8. Luigi Boccherini, "Concerto in D Major (II), Larghetto"
9. Ben Folds Five, "Evaporated"
10. Frank Sinatra, "Too Marvelous for Words"

Gotta say that Boccherini kind of spoiled the mood for a minute there. Huh. Feel free to throw your own Random Ten in comments.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

On human rights, Part II

Okay, so we continue our look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with the first two articles.
Article 1.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

But what does this mean for me?

These articles establish that all human beings are equal from birth, that regardless of our differences we all share the same basic rights. It means that people who worship God and people who worship many gods and people who worship shrimp are equally valuable as human beings. It means that Democrats and Republicans and Libertarians are equally valuable as human beings. it means that native Americans and Native Americans and Mexican immigrants are equally valuable as human beings. And it also means that no matter where you are, whether you're living or visiting or squatting, the government of that state has to respect your basic rights as a valuable human being.

Just answer the question already.

It means that we can't disregard the rights of the brown folk just 'cause they're brown, and similarly they can't disregard our rights just 'cause we aren't.

Part I: The Preamble

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

On blogroll maintenance

Okay, so now that I'm back to solo blogging, I've had the chance to make some much-deserved additions to my blogroll. Be kind and welcome our newest additions No More Mister Nice Blog, whom I've been wanting to add ever since he revealed himself as not retired after all, fellow Atlantan LazyCat, old friend AngryKevin's Where've All The Good People Gone, and finally, another Atlantan with the all-time best blog name ever, ever, Josh Massey and Martians Attacking Indianapolis. Let's make them feel welcome.

On human rights, Part I

Okay, so as promised, today we look at the history of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Much thanks is given to the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which provides plenty of information worth stealing.

On December 10, 1948, in the aftermath of the second World War, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 217 A (III), commonly known as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Considered the first of its kind in an international community, the Declaration was adopted by 58 disparate Member States that agreed on at least one thing, the fair and just treatment of every person, everywhere, regardless of nationality, religion, socioeconomic status, anything.

The UN Commission on Human Rights was established in 1946 with the goal, among others, of creating just such a Declaration to guide the work of the Commission. Committee members from Australia, Chile, China, France, Lebanon, the USSR, the UK, and the US spent two years drafting the 400-page outline. It was adopted in 1948 with 48 of the 58 Member States in favor (abstaining were Byelorussian SSR, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Ukrainian SSR, Union of South Africa, USSR, and Yugoslavia; two countries were absent). Though not legally binding, it was then and is today a recognition of the value of human life and dignity across all nations and cultures. It has been followed by such legally binding documents as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Preamble reads as follows:

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

But what does this mean for me?

The Declaration was approved by 48 of the 58 Member States, among them Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and, yeah, the US. Obviously, some of those countries don't have the greatest records where human rights are concerned, and some might ask why we have to honor our commitment to human rights when they aren't. My answer to that always starts with Moron, spoken silently and only with the eyes, followed by, "Because we said we would." Because we looked at the document and the rights listed therein and said, "Yeah, those sound good. We're going with that." And because if we don't, we end up lumped in with the countries that haven't honored their commitment to the Declaration, which, if you ask me, isn't the greatest group to hang with.

Mostly, though, we have to honor our commitment because it's right. We agreed to it in the first place because it was right, and it hasn't become any less right as time goes on. And honestly, anyone who looks at the rights included in the Declaration and says, "Yeah, actually, I have a problem with those. I mean, sure, they're good for me, but why shouldn't I get to torture other people?" has some real issues.

Just answer the question already.

It means that the dignity and basic rights of every human being are the basis of freedom, justice, and peace, and that denying people those rights in the name of freedom and justice is an absolute crock.