Tuesday, February 28, 2006

On moral "absolutism": legality vs. morality

Okay, so recently, we've been looking at morality, and on Friday, we even went so far to look at the arbitrary morality of the anti-choice crowd, and then what to my wondering eyes should appear but a post at Pandagon" (huge shock) about abortion and morality. This one, though, was aimed at that reproductive rights middle ground, the I-don't-like-it-but-I'll-defend-your-right-to-do-it crowd.

Y'know, people like me.

The discussion got started under a post on third-trimester abortion and apparently got heated enough to warrant front-paging. And it was in that front-page post that jedmunds posed the following question:
If you are indeed sincere in your proclamations that you are pro-choice: what exactly is the problem other than that, rhetorically and philosophically, abortion rights extremists are not all like “god the voices in my head tell me that killing fetuses is bad, but I still think it should be legal”?

Now, I'm not the only person who found that question completely incomprehensible from a grammatical standpoint, but he was kind enough to clarify, and I'll do my best to do the same:
If you are indeed sincere in your proclamations that you are pro-choice, then why do you think that abortion rights extremists should be more apologetic in their stance, to the extent of saying, "God/voices in my head say that abortion is wrong, but I still think it should be legal?"

Better? Great.

Personally, I don't have a lot of problems with anyone's stance on abortion, as long as the endpoint is that a woman should have the right to make decisions concerning her own body, life and quality of life. But jedmunds seems to have a problem with mine, saying that non-extremists hurt the cause with their ambiguity on the subject. The opinion from his side seems to (and I'm just giving my impression, so anyone feel free to correct me if I'm getting it wrong) that seeing abortion as anything besides a medical procedure to remove an unpleasant growth weakens any advocacy for a woman's unfettered access to abortion.

I don't buy it. I don't buy it for a lot of reasons. One is the simple fact (as expressed by several people in the comments thread) that there are plenty of things that I don't agree with that I don't think should be illegal. Adultery, for instance; I think it's a bad idea, but I think that it's not my business to send someone to jail for it. I'm not a big fan of pot, myself, and I can't see myself using it even if it were legal, but I know several people who think it's the cat's pajamas and continue to live as fully functioning and contributing members of society.

Another objection I have to the "all or nothing at all" take is the argument for safe, legal, and rare abortions. Most pro-choicers, extreme or not, take that approach, but equating abortion with your average outpatient cystectomy trivializes something that is, in fact, not trivial. With the regulation that legality allows, abortions (when performed by physicians in sterilized procedure rooms rather than back-alley butchers with coat hangers) are medically safe, but they're also frequently hard on the mother physically and emotionally. Simply having an unwanted pregnancy (or a wanted one, for that matter) is hard on a woman, physically and emotionally. This isn't a reason to ban abortion, but it is a reason to have a little bit of respect for the gravity of the procedure. When I think "safe, legal, and rare," I think about a friend of my mother's whose husband had a life-saving liver transplant; both husband and wife are currently in therapy dealing with the aftermath. In general, you'd rather not go through an ordeal like that if you can possibly avoid it, but if you need it, then nothing should stand between you and access to safe medical care.

That sort of leads in to my third objection: seeing abortion as a basic outpatient procedure is a cop-out. Not a moral cop-out, because I like to leave morals up to the individual, but a cop-out in terms of societal responsibility. If getting an abortion is no more significant than getting a cyst removed, then we, as a society, have no responsibility to provide any kind of related services. No one ever worries about counseling for a woman who's just had a cyst removed, alternatives for a woman who doesn't want her cyst removed but can't see any other way, support for a woman before, during, and after the cystectomy, and education to help women avoid getting cysts in the first place.

I think that all of those things are our societal responsibility where pregnancy is concerned. I think that any woman who wants an abortion should be able to get one, and if it's hard on her, she should be able to find helpful and nonjudgmental counselors to help. I think that any woman who is ambiguous about getting an abortion should have easy knowledge of and access to all of her options, and I think that every effort possible should be made to reduce the incidence of unwanted pregnancy in the first place. And I think that all of this should happen within the framework of a woman's right to determine the fate of her own body.

I call myself pro-choice, not pro-abortion, because I, personally, don't like abortion, but I'm all about choice. I think that nothing should be able to stop a woman from making her own choices about her body. I also think that nothing should stop a woman from getting any information and/or help she might want in making that choice. It should be her choice to seek or not seek more information, her choice to know or not know her options, and her choice, in the end, to end or not end the pregnancy - not her parents, not her partner, certainly not a bunch of guys in suits in Washington. As pro-choicers, it's our responsibility to protect all of her available options, and I don't think we do that when, in our efforts to cleanly separate ourselves from the rabid anti-choicers, we trivialize the procedure itself.

In the end, it comes down to an important distinction: moral versus legal. They're two different things, although they're frequently confused these days, most often by the people who want to enshrine their personal religious beliefs as law. What's legal isn't always moral, what's illegal isn't always immoral, and what's legal and moral isn't always right. Pro-choice moderates and extremists may not agree on the moral ambiguity of abortion, but we do agree that what's right is to recognize a woman as an independent entity capable of making her own decisions, and to defend that right as law.

Friday, February 24, 2006

On Friday Not-Even-Random Ten

Okay, so with the Olympic closing ceremonies coming up Sunday night, we prepare to put this whole mess behind us and return to yet another crappy episode of "Will & Grace." In honor of special Olympic coverage and regular NBC programming, I give you today's Not-Even-Random Ten, The Biggest Loser: Overrated Olympic Athletes Edition.

Bode Miller:

1. INXS, "Elegantly Wasted"
2. Serge Gainsbourg, "Intoxicated Man"
3. American Hi-Fi, "Flavor of the Week"
4. Beck, "Jack-Ass"
5. Tina Turner, "Typical Male"
6. Joss Stone, "Chokin' Kind"
7. Kent, "Unprofessional"
8. Shania Twain, "That Don't Impress Me Much"
9. Dave Matthews Band, "Proudest Monkey"
10. Dashboard Prophets, "Dismissing the Myth"

Lindsey Jacobellis:

1. Basement Jaxx, "Where's Your Head At"
2. Queen, "Another One Bites the Dust"
3. Josie and the Pussycats, "Real Wild Child"
4. Jet, "Look What You've Done"
5. Lit, "My Own Worst Enemy"
6. Jessica Riddle, "Even Angels Fall"
7. Alicia Keys, "Fallin'"
8. The Surfaris, "Wipe Out"
9. Diana Krall, "Pick Yourself Up"
10. Dave Matthews Band, "Too Much"

Michelle Kwan:

1. Dexter Freebish, "Leaving Town"
2. Diana Krall, "The Night We Called It a Day"
3. Hepburn, "I Quit"
4. OMD, "If You Leave"
5. The Beatles, "Hello, Goodbye"
6. The Smiths, "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish"
7. Shirley Bassey, "The Party's Over"
8. The La's, "There She Goes"
9. Athenaeum, "If Baby's Gone"
10. Staind, "So Far Away"

Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick:

1. The Beatles, "I Want to Hold Your Hand"
2. Dido, "Take My Hand"
3. Garbage, "I Think I'm Paranoid"
4. Evis, "Suspicious Minds"
5. The Beatles, "We Can Work It Out"
6. Tina Turner, "It Takes Two"
7. Guster, "Getting Even"
8. Cake, "Friend Is a Four-Letter Word"
9. Garbage, "When I Grow Up"
10. Diana Krall, "I Get Along Without You Very Well"

Johnny Weir:

1. Billie Holiday, "Strange Fruit"
2. Guster, "Center of Attention"
3. Original Broadway Cast of Avenue Q, "If You Were Gay"
4. Josie and the Pussycats, "Spin Around"
5. Björk, "Venus As A Boy"
6. Barenaked Ladies, "I'll Be That Girl"
7. Dave Matthews Band, "Dancing Nancies"
8. Dope, "Debonaire"
9. Phats & Small, 'Turn Around"
10. Dave Matthews Band, "So Much To Say"

On moral "absolutism": arbitrary morality

Okay, so I posted Wednesday about moral absolutism and how it’s really just a conservative religious way of saying “I know it when I see it.” This embrace of arbitrary moralism and the far-right’s attempts to inject it into our legal system have the potential to screw up our country in so many ways. Currently at risk? Your uterus.

(Um, not you, sir. Next to you. Her. Right.)

Recall yesterday’s ridiculously protracted definition of the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” Religious conservatives are able to come up with plenty of reasons to justify the killing that they support while staying within the bounds of “thou shalt not deprive a person of life (by our definition of killing).” However, abortion never seems to make it onto the list, even if continuing the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother, who apparently doesn’t qualify as a life as long as she’s housing a fetus.

A February 21 post at Feministing talks about the Supreme Court’s review of the federal law banning what opponents call partial-birth abortion and the medical community doesn’t because that’s not what it’s called. In 2000, with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor acting as swing vote, the SCOTUS put down a state ban because it didn’t include a provision for the woman’s health. The 2003 federal law to the same effect was passed by Congress but never put into effect for that same reason. Now, with conservative justice Samuel Alito replacing O’Connor, the court has agreed to review the case.

What got to me about that post, though, wasn’t the post itself but the first comment. A woman named Cecily wrote that the very procedure under discussion saved her life. Twenty-two weeks into a very much planned and wanted pregnancy, she suffered from sever preeclampsia that put her in danger of life-threatening strokes, seizures and coma. Her doctor performed the procedure, she lost twin boys that she very much wanted, and she survived. Now, pregnant again with a single baby at 21 weeks, she hopes that she won’t have the same problem, or that it happens after viability. That’s a lovely concern to deal with while you’re basking in the happy glow of potential life within you.

Anti-choicers out there (and I hate to use that term, but there isn’t really a better one around) would characterize Cecily as a monster for terminating her pregnancy (and if you continue scrolling down the comments thread, you’ll see on of them). From their unyielding moralistic stance, her only option was to give up her life for her two fetuses, one of whom was already dead and the other of whom was too small to be viable. They feel that their sense of arbitrary morality qualifies them, more than the woman herself and her doctor, to make decisions about her future and her body.

I guess we can update our take on “thou shalt not kill”:
Thou shall not deprive a person of life
  • - unless he/she has been found guilty of a crime by a lawful court
    • - and none of the members of said court have committed any kind of misconduct or malpractice affecting the outcome of the trial
    • - and all appeals have been exhausted
    • - and all evidence available has been properly processed and presented to the jury
    • - and the jury is comprised of reasonably intelligent individuals who are able to process the evidence shown to them
    • - and the defendant is competent enough to contribute to his/her own defense
  • - or unless thou do so in self-defense (or defense of another)
    • - and thou art in immediate danger thyself
      • - and that danger is not the result of a pregnancy
        • - intended or otherwise
        • - wanted or otherwise
        • - through rape, incest, or consensual sex
        • - even if the mother is twelve years old
    • - and thou hast no other way of escaping and/or attaining personal safety through non-lethal means
  • - or unless thou art involved in a military conflict in a time of war
    • - and thou (and thy troops) art in immediate danger
    • - and/or a crucial target cannot be eliminated without some calculated collateral damage
    • - and/or it is unavoidable in the heat of combat

That’s right, choose life.

Choose life, that is, unless it sets a bad example. Like Michelle McCusker, a preschool teacher at St. Rose of Lima Catholic school in Queens. She found herself single and pregnant, and the school and the Diocese of Brooklyn, in their great wisdom and Christlike compassion, booted her. By having out-of-wedlock sex, she failed to “convey the teachings of the Catholic faith by his or her words and actions.”

Her case has been taken up by the ACLU, who claim sex discrimination because she was subject to a policy that obviously doesn’t apply to men. Her other unlikely ally? Feminists for Life.
"It is not pro-life to take away the resources and support that women need and deserve to bring children into this world," Feminists for Life President Serrin Foster says. "The appropriate response for the employer when they found out she was pregnant, is to say, 'Congratulations,' and, 'How can I help?' "

And here’s the weird part where I find myself agreeing with Feminists For Life.

And that’s where real, sincere concern for life comes into play. If you’re going to condemn the use of contraceptives and the teaching of sex education in schools, you’re going to have to be prepared for the swarm of unintended pregnancies that these things would have prevented. And if you want to discourage abortion, you’re going to have to be prepared for women to carry their pregnancies to term, whether or not you approve of their circumstances. Sure, the school had every right to fire McCusker for violating policy, but when they did so, the message they sent wasn’t, “We’re all for Biblical teachings,” it was, “We care more for our arbitrary morality than we do for life.”

So here’s to arbitrary moralists, the kings of your vagina, making decisions for you that a legal system based in logic, fact and cause and effect would leave up to you and your doctor. The next time you go in for a Pap smear, be sure to consult your Repblican senator beforehand, because he might just have plans for those cervical cells.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

On homeless crackwhore chic (we're giving away this hot look to 10 lucky readers!)

Okay, so for your reading pleasure, an open letter to the editor and publishers of Jane magazine.

Dear Jane people,

I used to be a huge fan. Not being much the Cosmo girl myself, I appreciated a magazine for women like me, one that didn't push the unrealistic beauty and fashion tips, dumb quizzes, advice on How to Make Him Moan All Night (Without Breaking a Nail Or a Sweat), and references to my “’rents” or a beach “vacay.” The writing was kicky without being vapid, and the articles were interesting and fun to read without losing a certain level of cultural significance. I remember picking up one issue to find an article on a day in the life of a Cambodian mine sweeper and thinking, “Damn, this is an awesome magazine.”

Why did you have to start sucking?

I got my March issue yesterday, and y’all, please. Your editor’s letter (and while we’re on the subject – “Brandon Holley”? You’re not fooling anyone. You were born Holly Brandon, and it just wasn’t edgy enough for a hip New York magazine, so you flipped it around; come clean) talks about “lovely fashion and beauty that won’t make you look like a victim” and how your readers would “like to get [their] money situation figured out.” You respond with fashion spreads with what I can only guess are the hippest, chicest homeless people on the streets of Manhattan (that pose on page 102? What in God’s name made that photo printworthy to you? Is the Paris-Hilton-on-a-three-day-bender look the hautest in haute couture?) and non-victimy beauty tips like greasing your hair back and flipping your ponytail over your forehead or putting your eyeshadow on under your eyes for a look that’ll make him go, “Wow! She doesn’t look like she put on her makeup in a speeding cab even a little bit!” I won’t even go into the bloody hideous $650 Celine ankle boots on page 53 – I’m guessing those are what you’re referring to with “sometimes you buy things that are beyond your budget, and then you eat ramen to make your rent.”

You’ve turned a really awesome magazine for real women – not the aspirational blow-the-rent-money-at-Nieman’s girls who all want to be Carrie from Sex and the City, but real women with real budgets and some kind of social consciousness - into some kind of Cosmo-for-girls-too-ironic-for-Cosmo. You have singlehandedly created a new kind of fashion victim – the anti-victim-victim, the one who’s too cool for Britney Spears-type cabbie caps and Ugg boots and who, instead, drops $1,500 on a Prada dress that looks like your grandmother’s nightgown and wears it with cowboy boots and a vintage belt because it’s so hip and retro!!11!!one!!! Instead of pushing the limits by publishing what other women’s magazines don’t, you struggle valiantly against non-limits, taking the same old played-out fashions and once-kinky sex tips, adding a Derelicte twist and pretending that they’re Brand New and Hot!

Sorry, Janers, but this emperor is butt-ass naked. You have become the Hummer H2 of the magazine world: a pathetic, uber-trendy interpretation of a once-serviceable vehicle. I’m not going to cancel or anything, but I don’t see myself renewing my subscription when the time comes. When I need news on reproductive rights, hot new albums, intriguing reading material and women who make the world a better place, I’ll hit the blogs. When I need fashion tips for looking homeless, I’ll check under the bridge at the Grady curve downtown; they’ve got the look down pat.

Much love,

On incidental association

Okay, so if I may take a moment for some administrative... administration: Checking my referral log as I so frequently and narcissistically do, I found that I've been linked by a blog called Global Terrorist Go Back. It says it is "the space to provide the links of the blogs that are being put up opposing the GlobalTerrorist's visit to India," and has on its blogroll (among others) me, both Doug's old and new blogs, Benji's blog, and a lot of the blogs on my blogroll.

I really hate to harsh this guy's (girl's?) buzz, but I do feel the need to make it clear: I'm not associated with his program. I wasn't consulted before being added to his blogroll, and I've sent him an e-mail asking that I be removed. Obviously, anyone is welcome to link me, and I appreciate the appreciation (and the traffic). But I don't want people getting the idea that what he's doing is what I stand for.

Because you know what? I don't hate Bush. Contrary to popular opinion, most Dems I know don't. Hate is counterproductive, and it's bad for the soul (and the complexion; I get all flushed and blotchy). I oppose most of his foreign policy and much of his domestic policy, and to be honest, if you asked me to name a policy of his that I do support, it would take me a minute. But the way to fix that isn't to protest Bush, The Man; it's to protest his policies, fight government corruption, and using the resources available to us, our lobbyists and representatives and elected officials, work to put a more responsible administration in power in 2008. It is that, and not rising up and calling him a "Global Terrorist," that (in my opinion) will help influence the changes that need to be made in our government.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

On moral "absolutism"

Okay, so you’re a moral relativist. You say you aren’t, but you are. Look at the person to your left and your right; if neither of them is a moral relativist, you are. Oh, and they’re lying, because they’re moral relativists, too.

The problem with moral absolutism is that it doesn’t actually exist except in rare cases that generally involve some kind of psychosis. Most people who claim to be moral absolutists are more than willing to make exceptions for certain specific circumstances; they avoid the “relativist” label by classifying their exception as a new rule unto itself. This results in a long list of meticulously defined rules that, taken as a whole, add up to one thing: moral relativism.

Take, f’rinstance, killing. Most Christians can tell you that the sixth commandment says “thou shalt not kill.” The pertinent definition of the verb “kill” given by Merriam-Webster (which will be our reference today, just for convenience’s sake) is to deprive of life. And God knows we do plenty of that, as a country if not as individuals.

Some Christians get around that by translating the sixth commandment as “thou shalt not murder.” Then our definition becomes to kill (a human being) unlawfully and with premeditated malice or to slay wantonly. The problem there is that defining murder as “unlawful” killing moves it out of the religious arena and into the world of secular laws, unless you’re talking about God’s law, in which case you’re saying that God’s law says it’s a sin to disobey God’s law, which is a tautology, and I’m exhausted already.

So a simple commandment, which a statistical majority of Americans are meant to use as a moral guideline, quickly moves from “don’t kill” to “don’t kill, unless the government says it’s legal.” Then you have to define the situations in which killing is legal; pretty much undisputed are court-ordered execution, self-defense, often in defense of other people, and when during military operations.

The new definition of “thou shalt not kill”:
Thou shall not deprive a person of life
- unless he/she has been found guilty of a crime by a lawful court
- or unless thou do so in self-defense (or defense of another)
- or unless thou art involved in a military conflict in a time of war
Just a bit wordy, but okay.

Except wait, no, hold on, what is “self-defense,” really? A woman who stabs her husband as he tries to strangle her will probably get off, but the Menendez brothers, who claimed that they killed their parents after years of abuse, went to prison. So we’re going to have to define it down a little further:
Thou shall not deprive a person of life
- unless he/she has been found guilty of a crime by a lawful court
- or unless thou do so in self-defense (or defense of another)
- and thou art in immediate danger thyself
- and thou hast no other way of escaping and/or attaining personal safety through non-lethal means
- or unless thou art involved in a military conflict in a time of war

Yikes. At least we’re done, though.

Except wait, hold on again. Killing is usually necessary in times of war, but that doesn’t give our troops free rein to go around killing indiscriminately, right? We do our best to spare civilians, and we have certain rules concerning the treatment of prisoners. So let’s refine that one down just a bit, too:
Thou shall not deprive a person of life
- unless he/she has been found guilty of a crime by a lawful court
- or unless thou do so in self-defense (or defense of another)
- and thou art in immediate danger thyself
- and thou hast no other way of escaping and/or attaining personal safety through non-lethal means
- or unless thou art involved in a military conflict in a time of war
- and thou (and thy troops) art in immediate danger
- and/or a crucial target cannot be eliminated without some calculated collateral damage
- and/or it is unavoidable in the heat of combat

Crap. Well, that’s all –

Crap. What about capital punishment? With so much light shining on mistakes made in administering the death penalty, is it really moral to execute criminals? Or, I suppose, alleged criminals, in cases where the evidence is in question?

Thou shall not deprive a person of life
- unless he/she has been found guilty of a crime by a lawful court
- and none of the members of said court have committed any kind of misconduct or malpractice affecting the outcome of the trial
- and all appeals have been exhausted
- and all evidence available has been properly processed and presented to the jury
- and the jury is comprised of reasonably intelligent individuals who are able to process the evidence shown to them
- and the defendant is competent enough to contribute to his/her own defense
- or unless thou do so in self-defense (or defense of another)
- and thou art in immediate danger thyself
- and thou hast no other way of escaping and/or attaining personal safety through non-lethal means
- or unless thou art involved in a military conflict in a time of war
- and thou (and thy troops) art in immediate danger
- and/or a crucial target cannot be eliminated without some calculated collateral damage
- and/or it is unavoidable in the heat of combat

If that’s what your “absolute” moral code looks like, if that's your "absolute" definition of "thou shalt not kill"? You’re a relativist. “Absolute” moral codes like that are the reason that our laws aren’t based on morals, which vary from person to person, but on logic and facts and precedent and cause and effect. There’s a difference between a biblical “thou shalt not kill” and a legal “murder is illegal,” because “murder is illegal” has to come with ten bajillion footnotes like the “absolute” code above. And because people who are “moral absolutists” are kidding themselves.

Watch this space for more news on how so-called moral absolutists are screwing up your life, your girlfriend’s life, your mom’s life, and the lives of our troops in Iraq, among others.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

On dreaming big

Okay, so I'm a busy girl. Busy, busy, busy.

So watch this.

And look at this.

And then read this.

And then come back when I have time to entertain you.

Monday, February 20, 2006

On obscure teams and underappreciated sports

Idete! Zapasite! Vyhrete! Pijeme!

Okay, so I have to give a big blahoželám and veľa štastia to Team Slovakia. Not to be completely disloyal or anything, but you know I was rooting for the motherland in the Olympic hockey matchup between Slovakia and the US. Sure enough, the Fightin' Pirohys beat the US 2-1 on Saturday, and then they took Kazakhstan on Sunday 2-1.

Now 4-0, Team Slovakia is up against 3-1 Sweden in the last of their prelim games on Tuesday. I wish them all the best. And if anyone can get me a good price on a Team Slovakia hockey sweater, I'll be all over that.

Friday, February 17, 2006

On Friday Not-Even-Random Ten

Okay, so I've had this song running through my head all weekend. I can't get it out. I keep humming and humming.

When I was just a baby
My mama told me, Son,
Always be a good boy,
Don´t ever play with guns.
But I shot a man in Reno
Just to watch him die...

That's why this week's Friday Not-Even-Random Ten is dedicated to Vice President Dick Cheney.

1. Dido, "Hunter"
2. Guster, "Barrel of a Gun"
3. Saliva, "Click Click Boom"
4. Marcy Playground, "Comin' Up From Behind"
5. Benny Cassette, "Watch Your Back"
6. Rammstein, "Feuer Frei"
7. Hutt, "Hole In My Soul"
8. Jet, "Look What You've Done"
9. Diane Schuur, "Do Nothin' Til You Hear From Me"
10. Howie Day, "Sorry So Sorry"

Thursday, February 16, 2006

On lemmingness

Okay, so birds do it, bees do it, Doug and Ian and even Josh do it, and I'm nothing if not an obedient follower.

It's the iTunes survey.

How many songs: 2,144

Sort by song
First song: "...Baby One More Time," Fountains of Wayne
Last song: "Zoot Suit Riot," Cherry Poppin' Daddies

Sort by artist
First artist: 3 Doors Down
Last artist: ZZ Top

Sort by time
Shortest song: "Raisins and Motown," Candace Bergen, 0:07
Longest song: "Meet the Press" podcast from December 11, 2005, 48:50; the longest track that's an actual song is "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis," Ralph Vaughan Williams, 16:35 (thank you, Simon)

Sort by album
First album: "(What's The Story) Morning Glory," Oasis
Last Album: "Zoot Suit Riot," Cherry Poppin' Daddies

Top Three Most Played Songs
1. "Collide," Howie Day (45)
2. "I Wish You Well," Josie and the Pussycats (35)
3. "Crash Into Me," Dave Matthews Band (34)

Song That First Comes Up On Shuffle
"Why," Annie Lennox

Search . . .
by "sex," how many songs come up? 4
by "death," how many songs come up? 2
by "love," how many songs come up? 133
by "you," how many songs come up? 251

On unintentionally naughty language

Okay, so I looked at my calendar today, as I tend to do, and I realized that I'm scheduled to drop dead tomorrow. How disappointing.

Obviously, I'm not actually making any suicide arrangements; it's just a reminder that tomorrow is the absolute last day to file materials for our March issue. But it got me thinking about the things we say in everyday life that, to an outsider, might seem just the slightest bit questionable, the conversations that maybe we shouldn't have in airports or in front of armed federal agents. F'rinstance, recently:

My editor in New York: We're running really short this month. I think we're going to have to kill Ben Sherman.
Me: Oh, that sucks. I really like Ben Sherman. What's our kill fee?
Her: I'll have to check on that. I think it's $200.
Me: Good to know.
Her: While I've got you on the phone, I wanted to ask: did you guys shoot Sue Wong?
Me: You'd have to ask Jennifer, but I think we did, yeah.
Her: Was that for me?
Me: No, I think that was for Holly. We shoot Dallas, too, sometimes.

Luckily, for poor Ben, he's not getting killed after all; he's just going to be held until March - without food or water.

It's not just journalists, either. Everyone does it. Imagine two producers talking about a movie they've just released:

Guy: How was New York?
Other Guy: Oh, God, we killed in New York. Knocked 'em dead. I've never seen anything like it.
Guy: When are you going to Los Angeles?
Other Guy: Tomorrow morning. I'm kind of worried about it.
Guy: Yeah?
Other Guy: Well, the west coast can be tricky. I have a feeling we might end up bombing in L.A.

Now just imagine if every conversation like that gets red-flagged, recorded, and parsed by government agents to make sure it doesn't have coded terroristic threats. Is it any wonder that Osama bin Laden and his Number Twos are still wandering around [insert Middle Eastern country here] and making home movies? They're probably calling back and forth about how the guests are in place and the wedding will go as planned and they registered at Target, so I got them the toaster, while the NSA is poring over a conversation between two record execs about how a concert in Toronto "brought down the house."

Government sources say that as many as 5,000 Americans have had their phone calls recorded and/or their e-mails read in the past year, and that fewer than ten of those have delivered enough probable cause to get a warrant for domestic wiretapping. Far be it from me to present myself as an intelligence expert, but it seems to me that there has to be a more efficient use of government resources than the warranntless surveillance of 4,990 surprise birthday parties - "I'm taking him out. Am I ever taking him out. He won't know what hit him."

NB: If blogging is light for the next couple of days, it'll be because the NSA has taken me into custody and is questioning me about my plot against Los Angeles and Ben Sherman. Call my lawyer, call my parents, and call a masseuse. That extraordinary rendition can be hell on the lower back.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

On the upside of soul-sucking bitterness

Okay, so I was going to skip the Valentine's Day post. Universally, any single person who isn't a fan of Valentine's Day is filed away as a bitter, loveless hag. And I've never pretended to be anything else. But after a few conversations with women I know - women who have boyfriends or husbands (or both) and who did get flowers (and y'all, it's not too late; I like alstroemeria, and I'm pretty sure Delta DASH will take flower arrangements) - who feel the same way that I do. So here it is, for all you women who are too timid to say it and you men who have been waiting to hear it:

Screw Valentine's Day. Sideways. With a brick.

My problem (and it's not just my problem) with Valentine's Day is that it perpetuates the myth that people only have to be thoughtful and romantic one day a year. Guys make reservations (or fail to) at swanky restaurants and buy (or forget to) chocolates and sparkly things, girls buy cuddly pink stuffed animals and red boxer shorts with hearts on them and then give them to guys, and the next day, she's not bothering to shave her legs and he's laughing hysterically because he thinks a "Dutch oven" is an appropriate sign of affection for a 25-year-old. What's the point of a 24-hour romance-a-palooza if you're going to be a crappy partner the other 21,855 hours of the year?

My proposal - and one seconded by Holly and Mary and Georgia and just about any other woman you ask, if she'll be honest - is to scotch the entire Valentines experience and replace it with Be A Dick Day. You heard me. Every February 14th from now on should be celebrated with some of the lousiest, most obnoxious, most relationship-negative behavior imaginable. Men? This is where the aforementioned Dutch oven comes into play. Ladies? If you've got a stack of DVDs starring men far hotter than he is, today's the day to watch them. Table manners, and pants, should go right out the window. On the off chance that you do go out for a meal, both of you need to forget your wallet.

The tradeoff, though, involves not Being A Dick the other 364 days. That means Being Considerate. She doesn't like to touch the icky food on the plate? You load the dishwasher. He loaded the dishwasher for you? You unload it. Buy her underwear based on what she'd wear rather than what you'd like to see. Rent a movie that he's been wanting to watch - and then don't talk through it. If you know she's worried about her weight, take her to a restaurant that offers healthy menu options. If you know he's worried about his hairline, find him a nickname that doesn't include the word "Baldy-bear."

Being Considerate is a tricky concept, though. It's deceptive. Sometimes, you do what you think is considerate, but it turns out you're actually Being A Dick. Here's the litmus test: Ask yourself who will be most impressed by what you've done. If the answer is "his/her friends," sorry, you're Being A Dick. Being Considerate means impressing your significant other, not the rest of the world. If the ring is two carats of blindingly sparkly VVS1 oval-cut diamond, but she likes smaller stones and emerald cuts? You're thinking about you, not her; you're Being A Dick. If the shirt is a gorgeous shade of teal silk that really brings out the color of his eyes and makes him feel like a male figure skater? You're thinking about him, not you; you're Being A Dick.

I can't speak for every woman, but I know I can speak for a few of them, and they would give Valentine's Day a miss for the rest of their lives if it meant having that little extra bit of consideration the rest of the year. Whether or not you did something Valentine-esque today, you can always do something considerate tomorrow. Don't bitch at him about his clothes. Wake her up without the use of a trombone. And then, when February 14, 2007 rolls around? Be A Dick. It's the romantic thing to do.

Friday, February 10, 2006

On TGIFriday Random Ten

Okay, so have you ever had one of those weeks where Friday comes and you could just kiss it on the mouth for being so glorious, and then you look back and realize that you didn't actually do anything that week? I think that says a lot about the unproductive things we do that take up just as much energy as anything productive: goofing off, worrying, drinking heavily, wigging out violently about cartoons. It really makes you appreciate the weekend, when you sit back, relax, and not even pretend to do anything productive.


1. Sixpence None the Richer, "Breathe"
2. Kay Starr, "All of You"
3. Dinah Washington, "You Go to My Head"
4. Gioachino Rossini, "Crucifixus" (from Petit messe solennelle)
5. Tina Turner, "Nutbush City Limits (The 90's Version)"
6. The Beatles, "Can't Buy Me Love"
7. Linkin Park, "One Step Closer"
8. Remy Zero, "I'm Not Afraid"
9. The Original Broadway Cast of Avenue Q, "The Avenue Q Theme"
10. The Killers, "Somebody Told Me"

Incidentally, which song is worse to have stuck in your head for two whole days: Lionel Richie's "Dancing on the Ceiling," or the Beatles' "Hey Jude"? It seems like an easy question to answer, but remember that we're talking about a song on loop for forty-eight straight hours, including several awkward dream cameos. Your answer, and your Ten, below.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

On things to do that aren't my job

Okay, so when things start piling up at work and I start to feel overwhelmed, nothing calms my nerves like a little bit of procrastinating, lollygagging, shaking down the stove, and wandering around at Go Fug Yourself.

Finish reading this, count to five, and then go right over there to find out why:

So what I'm saying is: I'm glad to be out of the house, I wish I had worn pants, and I'm pretty sure that I'm going to fire everyone even my mom.

On inflammatory inkblots - Part Two of Two

Okay, so when something really gets to me, I tend to write. This has the positive effect of getting my thoughts out of my head and into the real world where I can smack ‘em around a little bit, and the negative effect of accomplishing absolutely nothing else.

Srinivas Aravamudan writes, too, and even finds a venue that doesn’t have “blogspot.com” after its name. His guest column in yesterday’s AJC made some really good points about the current controversy and violence. Perhaps I find them so insightful because they, well, agree with what I said yesterday, and what I’m planning to say today:
[…] I think some of these cartoons are actually interesting, as they are not all the same, and they don't all mean the same thing. (You can easily find them on the Internet.)

One portrays a rather ominous-looking Muhammad almost hidden behind his mustache and facial hair with a lit fuse for his bomb-shaped turban. This is clearly racist, playing into the stereotype of the Muslim as a terrorist. It recalls the hook-nosed Jews of anti-Semitic portraiture.

Another cartoon shows the prophet, arms outstretched, telling a line of burned-out suicide bombers approaching heaven: "Stop, stop. We ran out of virgins!"

This cartoon could obviously be read as anti-Islamic, as it suggests that suicide bombing is essentially Muslim. However, there are subtler possibilities.

The prophet's reaction implicitly criticizes the bombers who take the mythical idea of virgins in paradise too literally. It ridicules suicide bombers for committing their acts for something as ridiculous as sex in the hereafter. These readings might suggest that Muhammad (and Islam) is not directly responsible for the phenomenon of suicide bombing.

If we find these cartoons funny, it tells us more about ourselves — our prejudices and our fears — than it necessarily tells us about Muslims or the prophet.

The significant point there is that, being little more than single-panel cartoons chock full of often-vague metaphors, editorial cartoons often serve as more of a Rorschach test than anything else. We project our own meaning onto the cartoons, and we come back with an interpretation based on that meaning. When I saw those cartoons, I didn’t interpret them the way Aravamudan did; I just thought they were, well, not particularly clever.

Recently, the Washington Post ran an editorial cartoon by Tom Toles that showed a quadruple-amputee soldier sitting in a hospital bed as "Dr. Rumsfeld" proclaimed him to be "battle-hardened." It was based on a recent statement that Rumsfeld made, arguing that the military is "battle-hardened" rather than overextended. Some took the cartoon that way; some took it as a jab at the military, a jab at injured vets themselves or a criticism of the government's care of injured vets. Readers up to and including the Joint Chiefs of Staff wrote letters to the editor, some angry, some supportive, and each one of those was based on a unique interpretation.

Another thing to keep in mind is that editorial cartoons aren’t “Nancy.” They aren’t even “Doonesbury” or “The Boondocks,” although both of those frequently offer some kind of political or societal commentary. Editorial cartoons aren’t supposed to be funny. If you look at a Tom Toles cartoon and say, “Ha! Look at that silly donkey! Everyone knows that donkeys don’t wear top hats,” you’re missing the point.

Editorial cartoons are meant to incite that most feared of all reactions - thought. They use allegory, metaphor and symbolism to invite the reader’s personal interpretation. But that interpretation is just as reflective of the reader’s own thoughts and views as it is of the cartoonists'. An irate response to a cartoon – and do read that phrase over again, because we are talking about irate responses and cartoons - is often a sign of someone just looking for something to be pissed off about. And that's why a line drawing in a newspaper is such a pathetic reason to riot - because the cartoon itself doesn't hold any meaning at all until you put some in.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

On inflammatory inkblots - Part One of Two

Okay, so Muslims in the Middle East have been rioting over the publication of several editorial cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten that showed likenesses of the prophet Mohammed, which is forbidden in Islam. Most recently, grenades were thrown and three Afghans were killed while marching on the NATO base in Kabul, and violent protests have occurred in India, Egypt, Iran, Nigeria and the Philippines. An Iranian newspaper, Hamshahri, asked for submissions of cartoons satirizing the Holocaust, to see exactly how far Western newspapers are willing to go to defend freedom of expression. Notably, while Danish Muslims protested peacefully when the cartoons were originally published last fall, the violent protests didn't start until they were republished in European newspapers - in the name of freedom of speech.

It might surprise you to know that I think that is the absolute stupidest reason to do something. Toddlers, overindulged teenagers and dictators use the because I can excuse. Exercising your rights simply because you have them is perfectly legal, but that doesn't make it a good idea. Nose cut; face spited.

I think this hits particularly close to home for me because of my love of and respect for my First Amendment rights. They make it possible to do my job during the day and then go home and blog at night (or during the day when I'm supposed to be doing my job). My freedom of expression is what allows me to post as I do, to be as critical of the president as I want to be, to be shocking or outrageous or un-PC as it serves my purpose. I really, really like that.

When you have something that you truly respect and appreciate, you neither leave it unused in the box or throw it around like a baseball. When I post something inflammatory or controversial, whether I'm being sincere or sarcastic or being a Devil's Advocate, I have a reason for doing what I do and a message I'm trying to get across. I don't post controversial messages for the hell of it, because I know that pushing at the boundaries of my rights just for the sake of pushing is a lousy way to treat something I love. It's an infantile, "I'm-not-touching-you-I'm-not-touching-you" approach to freedom of expression.

When the Danish newspaper originally published the controversial cartoons, the question was of taste and judgment. They had every right to publish what they did, they had a message to convey, and they made the choice to publish the cartoons with the knowledge that some people would object. And people did object - peacefully. That’s the purpose of editorial cartoons, to incite thought and thoughtful response.

The problems came when European papers decided to do the same, not for the sake of the message but in defense of free speech. Thus the message changed from a commentary on Islam to a "fuck you" to Muslims.

People don't generally respond well to "fuck you."

Don't think for a moment that I'm defending the rioters who are killing people and burning down buildings. Just as I think that it's stupid to riot after a sporting event or get into a shooting over east-coast vs. west-coast rappers, I think that rioting over a cartoon is a bad way to express your disapproval. But while I can't condone their methods, I can understand their anger. I've seen various cartoons, articles and TV shows satirizing the Catholic church; the only ones that have really pissed me off were the ones that expressed true ignorance of and hatred toward the Catholic church. The difference? I write letters and blog postings; I don't set things on fire.

So the rioters don’t have the right to do what they’re doing, and the newspapers had every right to do what they did. Does that make it a good idea? I’m going with “no.” I will support any publication’s decision to print a controversial or inflammatory editorial, as long as there’s a reason for it. Expose government corruption? Make people think? Espouse a cause? Reveal a lie? That’s what editorials are there for. But the editorial section of a paper has never been there for “fuck you,” and that’s what these papers did. They were well within their rights to do so, but it wasn’t terribly smart.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

On tin-can-and-string surveillance

Okay, so there are a lot of things that bother me about Alberto Gonzales's statements to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the NSA domestic spying program. One is that the committee voted along party lines to not swear Gonzales in, even though he said he was willing to be sworn and even though (to my knowledge) lying to Congress is a crime anyway. Another is that if he himself admitted that the Authorization to Use Military Force was just that, and not a declaration of war, whence comes the implication that the president has free reign for domestic spying under his "inherent authority as commander in chief in a time of war"? And while we're at it, when they marched out the grieving sister of the 9/11 pilot, did that have any purpose whatsoever than to justify a unitary executive with the sacred name of September 11? And why do the al Qaida operatives bother speaking in code if it takes a newspaper article to remind them they're being surveilled?


In that bizarre way that random things stick in your mind, I can't get past the revelation that, among others, President Washington "authorized electronic surveillance on a far broader scale."

And I say good on him. Our country might not be here today if Washington hadn't put down the Cyber Rebellion of 1790 on the basis of one e-mail from a Joseph A. Goodchild: "OMG. this n00 c0un7ry is teh sux0rs!!1!!one!!eleven! NE1 want 2 bl0w up s0m3 sh1pz, m337 m3 at B0st0n H@rb0r 2nite."

Sidenote: Gonzales makes repeated reference to "Fourth Amendment analysis as to whether or not these are reasonable searches," satisfying "the requirements of the Fourth Amendment," blah blah "probable cause" blah blah "reasonable" blah. However, a recent report from knowledgeable sources says that of the 5,000 or so people who have been surveilled by this program, fewer than ten a year have generated the probable cause necessary for a warrant for domestic wiretapping. For the mathematically challenged, that's less than two tenths of a percent of leads that pan out, throwing a little bit of schmutz onto the idea of "reaonableness" and probable cause. Just a little something to ponder when the point is raised that "like, if you're not talking to al Qaida and stuff, you totally won't be eavesdropped on."

Friday, February 03, 2006

On secondhand dating

Okay, so Amanda over at Pandagon mentions (in passing) an article at AskMen.com by a guy who, we can assume, has only dated characters on network sitcoms between 8:00 and 9:00:
If you think men bond over beer and sports, flatulence, and the ability to work two curse words into every sentence, you're off the mark. The ties that really bind men are the varied idiosyncrasies belonging to their girlfriends and wives. The habits we struggle to comprehend are what make women, women.

Here's a list of 17 of the most annoying and endearing of them all. And don't kid yourself: When she gets together with her friends to compare bikini waxes, a good chunk of that time is spent talking smack about little old you.

Don't kid yourself; we do have things to talk about that are more important than you. And if any smack talk is going on, it's generally because you're a schmuck. But don't take my word for it; read the rest of the article.
1. Bathroom crap
Loofahs, potpourri and peppermint foot scrub exfoliant spiked with Shea butter are among the products the fairer sex like to stick in their bathrooms to the detriment of the world's water supply. Give us a toothbrush and some soap and we're good. It's a woman's need for excess that drives us to the brink.

Guys, have you ever snuggled up to a girl and said, "Mmm, you smell great"? Ever run your hands through her hair and not gotten your fingers snarled? Ever enjoyed the benefits of assorted hairless body parts? Do you think all of that happens by itself? Not to spoil the sense of mystery, but women's skin doesn't automatically exude the scent of vanilla. "A woman's need for excess"? Just about everything you like about your girlfriend's body is a result of that "bathroom crap," and if she didn't use it, you'd be bitching.
4. Sleepovers
Nothing puts a smile on her face quite like the prospect of warming your bed like a Dutch oven. They snore, squirm and generally rob you of an otherwise perfectly good night's sleep. Love's so not the point when they wake up rested and you wake up red-eyed and groggy.

This one is easily solved, although something tells me that this guy isn't getting a whole lot of sleepovers anyway. If any of you men are offended by the presence of a warm female body in your bed, I truly apologize.
7. Shoes
Women place so much stock in footwear, but with so much else to look at, when was the last time you took a gander at a woman's feet? In fact, unless you're ready for your big debut on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy , the first time you'll notice her Manolo Blahniks is when they're at the foot of your bed. Sneakers and dress shoes have always done us right, so why do women have to go and complicate things?

Hey, we rarely look at your feet, but we do notice when you're wearing crappy, scuffed, ten-year-old Bass loafers to Nikolai's Roof. If your girlfriend went out in a strapless minidress and scuffed Pumas, you'd sure as hell notice, and don't pretend you wouldn't.
9. Fad workouts
Before pilates there was Tae Bo and before Tae Bo there was yoga. Women hop from fad workout to fad workout like J.Lo hops to and from husbands. Here's to hoping your woman is more loyal to you than she is to the ever-changing world of "hot today; not tomorrow" exercise regimens.

For the record, we do notice that beer gut; we're just too polite to mention it. We know we can't trust you to do the same, though, thus the Tae Bo, the yoga, the Pilates, the kickboxing, and whatever else we do to look good in the aforementioned minidress. If you'd really prefer that your girlfriend not exercise, give her a couple of weeks and see what you think. Hopefully, she'll lose about 180 pounds of ugly fat right away.
10. Gay guys
On NBC's popular sitcom, Will & Grace , as well as other TV shows, prominent gay characters are popping up and garnering impressive female followings. Where we're indifferent, women are fascinated.

His number 2 complaint is shopping, and now he's griping about gay guys? He should be singing their praises. What sane woman takes her boyfriend shopping? What does he know about fashion? The gay guys are the ones saving you breeders from the indignities of a two-hour Banana Republic shopping spree.
16. Carrie Bradshaw
Sarah Jessica Parker's on-screen character seems to be every urban woman's idol. She's witty, cool and impeccably dressed. She's also a bed-hopping, chain-smoking, self-obsessed megalomaniac. Great role model.

I've never actually been a fan of Sex and the City, probably because I manage to have Carrie's job without having her income. But one thing that can be said for the show is that, in the very beginning, it launched a mini-sexual revolution of sorts among women who wished that they could be Samantha-promiscuous and ended up closer to Carrie-experimental. For better or worse, a certain subsection of women have become more uninhibited as a result of that show; if you don't really like that in a woman, I suppose you're welcome to your opinion.
17. Cosmopolitans
The drink that refuses to go out of style (mostly because millions of women refuse to let it) is really just a fancy way of making a Cape Codder (cranberry and vodka). The only addition is a splash of Triple Sec and lime juice, in case you want to shake her the perfect one yourself. It's worth noting that overpriced coffee-based beverages featuring the word "mochaccino" are the daytime version of the famed "Cosmo." Why women aren't satisfied with a simple concoction -- vodka on the rocks, a cup of coffee -- is beyond us, and the root of much aggravation.

Considering the amount of alcohol this guy probably needs to get a woman in bed, he should be glad she's got a favorite cocktail at all.
men vs. women
Our relationship with female characteristics is love-hate. Their inane little habits may drive you to the brink, but if your woman doesn't display at least some affection for former boy band members and scented candles, it might be time to take another look under the hood.

So men, don't forget: women are, to a one, shopaholic, blabbering, over-emotional, and superficial, obsessed with boy bands, soap operas, Cosmo magazine, girl drinks and trendy religions. And if we're not like this, there's something wrong with us. I hereby apologize to every guy I've ever dated for the sins of shaving my legs, working out, enjoying football, smelling good, and knowing more about cars than you. Allow me to introduce my replacement:

Yes. you, honey.

On Friday Random Ten, and some random items

Okay, so here's a bit of stream-of-consciousness for a nice Free Association Friday.

Item: I was a few minutes late this morning because Michael Bublé was performing on the Today Show, showing that even a blind Katie Couric can find a hot, delicious, smoky-voiced Canadian truffle once in a while. What is it about Canada? Is it the water up there? Does socialized health care result in smokin' hot menfolk? Studies should be performed.

Item: Erin pointed me to this gem, another faceoff between feminist Kate Michelman and Sister F***er Kate O'Beirne. I would seriously love to know which women, exactly, are getting so castigated for choosing family over career. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but I'm not going to give credence to that argument until someone can show me an example. Oh, and late-term abortions account for less than one percent of all abortions performed, so if you want to be up in arms over something, try the fact that Congress is cutting money from programs providing prenatal care and vaccine research so that guys can get a Medicare-sponsored boner.

Item: I did something unethical today. A bunch of guys on the elevator this morning were picking on one of their friends for wearing a (not unattractive) button-down shirt with a few pink stripes on it. They were ragging on him hard, asking if it was from the "Brokeback Collection" (okay, so that was pretty funny), and although he was shooting back at them, it was obvious that it really bothered him. So as I got off the elevator, I mentioned that I'm a fashion writer, and that pink on men is "totally hot," a statement which, I'm proud to say, shut them up fairly effectively and made the poor guy smile. The problem? I hate pink on men, and it's not "totally hot." Coral, maybe, in the summer, but pink, even alongside gray and black, is just wrong. The lesson you should take from this is that men shouldn't wear pink so I don't have to tell lies in elevators, and that when you pick on your friends it only makes you look like a jerk.

The Ten:

1. Jump, Little Children, "Violent Dreams"
2. Hepburn, "I Quit"
3. Athenaeum, "Different Situation"
4. The Beatles, "She Loves You"
5. Evanescence, "Where Will You Go"
6. Cake, "The Distance"
7. Jewel, "Standing Still"
8. Snoop Dogg, "What's My Name"
9. Cibo Matto, "Moonchild"
10. Dinah Washington, "Alone Together"

Granola rock, pop, granola rock, brit pop, goth pop, alt rock, sugar pop... Snoop Dogg. I feel like putting my hair up in pigtails and knocking over a liquor store.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

On mice and mice-men

Okay, so during last night's SOTU, Bush took the enormous, undirected, Six-Degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon random-ass Quantum Leap from genetic research and stem cell research to... human-animal hybrids. As wacky as it sounds, it does have some basis in reality - some scientists have been experimenting with human cells spliced with animal cells in an effort to make, say, a more human-friendly pig heart valves for transplantation purposes, and the President's Council on Bioethics has laid down a 'no-chimera" policy as a universal baseline.

That having been said, the comment came completely out of left field and stymied more than a couple of people. It also got me to thinking: since the thinking person immediately questions every single thing that comes out of Bush's mouth, doesn't that make human-aninmal hybridization something that we might want to look into? I mean, just consider the possibilities:

1. The FBI Obviously not doing their jobs. The one we have apparently missed a couple of 9/11 highjackers who were on terror watchlists and still managed to buy tickets under their own names. Slackers. Who can we count on to really do the job if not...

You damn right.

2. The Department of Homeland Security Our resources are stretched way too thin, and the people in charge are buddy appointments who are inexperienced and unqualified. We need a team with useful experience and technological knowhow. Someone like...

Can you dig it?

3. The CIA What good is having any intelligence if you can't trust it? After the fiasco with WMD intel, anything coming out of Iran is bound to be questionable, and you can't base a solid operation on shaky intel. What we need is someone who can slip right in, blend in with the scenery, get first-person information, and then slip away unnoticed. I dunno, maybe...

Right on!

4. The NSA Who needs warrantless wiretaps when you've got a sixth sense to tell you when danger's near? J'accuse...

We can dig it!

5.The TSA Air marshals are great, but what we really need is someone who can keep the peace on an airplane without having to carry a firearm. Perhaps...

... who probably wouldn't be able to get past the metal detectors. Okay, that one was just another cheap excuse to post a picture of Hugh Jackman in a wifebeater. Needs to call me.