Thursday, November 30, 2006

On sincere sympathy and concern

Okay, so reading is awesome! There are so many way to read things!

The lines:
Jim Webb, Democratic senator-elect from Virginia, has become a pompous poseur and an abuser of the English language before actually becoming a senator.

Wednesday's Washington Post reported that at a White House reception for newly elected members of Congress, Webb "tried to avoid President Bush," refusing to pass through the reception line or have his picture taken with the president. When Bush asked Webb, whose son is a Marine in Iraq, "How's your boy?" Webb replied, "I'd like to get them (sic) out of Iraq." When the president again asked, "How's your boy?" Webb replied, "That's between me and my boy." ...

(Come on, Jim, be polite!) The entire lines:
“How’s your boy?” Bush asked, referring to Webb’s son, a Marine serving in Iraq.

“I’d like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President,” Webb responded, echoing a campaign theme.

“That’s not what I asked you,” Bush said. “How’s your boy?”

“That’s between me and my boy, Mr. President,” Webb said coldly, ending the conversation on the State Floor of the East Wing of the White House.

(A bit snippy there, Mr. President.) And between the lines:
As President Bush is well aware, a couple of weeks before this dinner the tank riding next to Jimmy's in Iraq was under fire and three marines died.

(Ahem. Well, he was - Look, a unicorn!)

On neocon chickenhawk war porn

Okay, so there are things in life that you hate to do, but you know they have to be done. This really hurts me - but not as much as it'll hurt you, Duff. When it all gets to be too much, just read through Ender's Game again and remember the good times.

Orson Scott Card's got another one, and it's enough to make you want to put on your camoflage parka and yell, "Wolverines!":
Of course, the enemy were firing back. Captain Malich himself was hit, but his body armor easily dealt with a weapon fired at such long range. And as the enemy fire slackened, Malich counted the enemy dead and compared it to the number he had seen in the village, moving from building to building. He gave the hand signal that told the rest of his team that he was going in, and they shot at anyone who seemed to be getting into position to kill him as he descended the slope.

In only a few minutes, he was among the small buildings of the village. These walls would not stop bullets, and there were people cowering inside. So he did not expect to do a lot of shooting. This would be knife work.

He was good at knife work. He hadn't known until now how easy it was to kill another man. The adrenalin coursing through him pushed aside the part of his mind that might be bothered by the killing. All he thought of at this moment was what he needed to do, and what the enemy might do to stop him, and the knife merely released the tension for a moment, until he started looking for the next target.

By now his men were also in the village, doing their own variations on the same work. One of the soldiers encountered a terrorist who was holding a child as a hostage. There was no thought of negotiation. The American took aim instantly, fired, and the terrorist dropped dead with a bullet through his eye.

At the end, the sole surviving terrorist panicked. He ran to the center of the square, where many of the villagers were still cowering, and leveled his automatic weapon to mow them down.

The old man still had one last spring in his ancient legs, and he threw himself onto the automatic weapon as it went off.

Captain Malich was nearest to the terrorist and shot him dead. But the old man had taken a mortal wound. By the time Malich got to him, the old man gave one last shudder and died in a puddle of the blood that had poured from his abdomen where two bullets tore him open.

Reuben Malich knelt over the body and cried out in the keening wail of deep grief, the anguish of a soul on fire. He tore open the shirt of his uniform and struck himself repeatedly on the chest. This was not part of his training. He had never seen anyone do such a thing, in any culture. Striking himself looked to his fellow soldiers like a kind of madness. But the surviving villagers joined him in grief, or watched him in awe.

We know it's fiction, because the main character has adequate body armor.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

On racism, sexism, and reclamation

Okay, so pretty much everyone has heard, or at least heard about, Michael Richards's racist rant at the Laugh Factory (video here, but consider it NentirelySFW), and he's made his apologies. A lot of debate has surrounded the incident, particularly over whether a person who uses racist language in such circumstances is necesssarily a racist him/herself. Allow me to weigh in on that particular point: Yes. No matter what triggered his rant, he wouldn't have used the language he did had it not been top-of-mind already. He went on a tirade because he was angry, and it was a racist tirade because he's racist.

Jesse Jackson, backed by other black leaders, has called on the entertainment industry to stop using the word that got Richards in so much trouble, saying that its casual use by black entertainers makes it seem more acceptable to everyone else. And he's got a point; just about every apologist who tried to excuse Richard's racist tirade chose to go with, "Hey, nig - uh, black people use that word all the time!"

Also in the "Sticks and Stones" category, although in a somewhat less publicized way, is a recent stir at liberal blog Firedoglake, where blogger Pachacutec compared Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher to a prostitute in graphic, specific, and painfully verbose detail and blogger TRex used the word "cunt" to insult a commenter who disagreed with his use of, well, that word. And again, same argument. "Women use that word all the time! Gay men use that word all the time!"

Over at Feministe, piny gives a much better and more concise explanation of the situation than I ever could. It center around the concept of reclamation, the idea that a word, so embedded in our cultural psyche as a painful epithet, can be taken back and redefined by those against whom it has been used. He gives the example of Dykes on Bikes, who have reclaimed an insult implying that lesbians are wrong and unnatural and turned it into a word for a fearless, strong woman; and of Bitch magazine, which has taken a similar slur against women implying pettiness, sluttiness, shrewishness, and a host of other negative qualities, and using it to show strength and solidarity and demand respect. Margaret Cho, similarly, talks about reclaiming the term "fag hag," taking two really unpleasant words and using them to describe what is frequently a really beautiful platonic relationship.

But the trick about reclamation is that it's more than just pounding a culture with a word until it's no longer shocking. That's not blunting the knife as much as it is numbing the skin. Michael Richards using the n-word over and over and over again didn't make it any less of a slur; the intent behind it was to wound, and it worked. Using "cunt" in casual conversation doesn't make it any less powerful when it's directed at you with the force of rage behind it.

As piny says:
When you reclaim an epithet, you take it and use it against its meaning in order to deflate its meaning. You are practicing verbal civil disobedience. You are refusing to maintain the original, hateful sense of the word and attempting to force the word to carry a new meaning, your meaning. Reclamation is the name given to this strategy because it is so frequently practiced by the original targets of the hatred. In fact, they are in the best possible position to practice this kind of reverse engineering, because they often have difficulty taking the place of the original users without destabilizing the hater/hated dichotomy that makes epithets valid in the first place. They are also in a better position to recognize the difference–which can be fine in a society where hatred is transparent–between ironic and earnest use.

And that's the difference. A woman who proudly self-identifies as a bitch is reclaiming the word and making it into a good thing; a woman who calls another woman a bitch for stealing her boyfriend is not reclaiming it, because she's giving it the same hurtful meaning it's always had. A member of Dykes on Bikes is reclaiming; the man who calls her a dyke because she's a butch lesbian, and obviously that's disgusting and wrong, is giving it the same hurtful meaning it's always had.

Which is where words like Michael Richards's favorite come in. As piny points out in his post, it has been used to mean every horrible thing that could be said to imply that black people are sub-human. And he even provides examples of how that word has been used - reclaimed - to indicate exactly the opposite. But here's the thing: When Chris Rock stands on stage and talks about the difference between "black people" and (that word)s? That's not reclamation. When a rapper talks about (that word)s selling drugs, pimping, and shooting people? That's not reclamation. That's using a word in its traditional sense to mean what it's always meant, and it does nothing to defuse it or prevent it from being used as a weapon in the future.

I'm against censorship. I think that people should be allowed to say what they think. I also think, however, that when we wander into fragile territory like race and gender, we have to be conscious of the impact our words might have. Michael Richards had every right to stand up on stage and say horrible things; the result he must accept is that he's been (rightly) branded a racist and may never work again. Chris Rock has every right to stand up on stage and call black people (that word)s; the result he must accept is that he's working counter to the idea of reclamation by reinforcing the traditional meaning of that word.

Reclamation works (if it works, which is debatable) by turning something into the opposite of what it is; it takes a sharp knife and turns it into a pillow. Done properly, it takes the power out of an insult by making it something that anyone would be proud to be. Done improperly, it turns a sharp knife into a submachine gun, and hurts more people than it ever intended.

I consider myself both a bitch and a fag hag, and I think they're wonderful things to be. I feel bad for women who aren't. Maybe someday, I'll be proud to call myself a cunt, too. But right now, when Dave Attell David Cross uses it to refer to worthless airheads like Paris Hilton and TRex uses it to call people hypersensitive wimps and whiners, I don't want it. And if you throw it at me, that doesn't make you a comedian or a rebel, it makes you a misogynist asshole.

Unless you want to start reclaiming "misogynist asshole." I guess that's up to you.

Monday, November 27, 2006

On gratitude

Okay, so obviously, this past week was the one for giving thanks, and I'm not going to bother going through all of the traditional dinner-table I'm-thankful-for stuff; nobody particularly cares, and anyone who does care just has to ask. But there were definitely a couple or three standouts over the long holiday weekend, and I wanted to shine a thankful spotlight on them.

Reggie Ball. Yeah, you saw that coming. Or, as we were chanting Saturday night, "Reggie Ball, Reggie Ball, Reggie Ball." Or, as 90,000-some-odd Georgia fans were chanting, "Reg-gie! Reg-gie! Reg-gie!" Or, as many of our fellow tailgaters were chanting, "Thank you Reg-gie!" (clap, clap, clap-clap). And for that variety in available cheers, I am also grateful.

Honestly, the sixth win in a row felt just as good as the first five (a fact on which I was meditating as I swung wildly from the Victory Bell following the game), but the whipped cream and sprinkles were added by the fact that, Georgia's own performance aside, we had the game handed to us by one of the biggest dickwads in the ACC. Yes, the victory was hard-won, and it was a nail-biter right down to the last thirty seconds, but after hearing so much crap about Reggie Ball and Calvin Johnson and the all-'round superiority of Tech's football program and the inevitable pounding we should have been preparing to receive, watching Paul Oliver make the entire Tech offense into his bitchez was unspeakably satisfying. Doug likes to say that this is a reminder of why we're Georgia and they're Georgia Tech.

(Concept blatantly ganked from Doug)

Daniel Craig's chest. I'll freely admit that I had my reservations about Casino Royale, particularly about Daniel Craig as the newest incarnation of James Bond. He was just so rough. So unrefined. So blond. But I am one to freely admit my mistakes, and I became eminently confident in his ability to fill those shoes the moment he emerged, glistening, from the ocean in nothing more than the briefest of swim trunks. And with Craig starring as the rough, raw, new-to-the-double-oh Bond, the movie rocked as hard as any I've seen. Stylistically, it was somewhat set aside from other Bond films, but it made for an excellent prequel and answered a lot of burning Bond questions. How did he get his start? What's up with the martinis? Where'd the Aston Martin come from? Why is he such a pimp? All will be answered.

My only complaint was that the title sequence lacked the writhing mudflap silhouettes so emblematic of the Bond oeuvre (not that the silhouettes themselves do anything for me, but c'mon, y'all, what would Nike be without the swoosh?) and that the theme song was the worst Bond theme evah. That's just personal preference, though; I think that any Bond theme that you can't imagine as sung by Shirley Bassey is inadequate. "The World Is Not Enough"? Sure. This'n? Not so much.

In a tux, out of a tux, I'm not picky

Mom's cheese grits. Recipe here. I have a fiery, passionate love affair with those grits, but it's also bittersweet, because every time I eat them, I think about the millions of people in the world who will go through life never knowing the joy of those grits. Make up a batch yourself and see if they aren't just the cat's pajamas; the trick is to let the grits thicken sufficiently before stirring in the rest of the ingredients and throwing the whole thing in the oven.

The watchful eye of the Almighty. That whubbada-whubbada-whubbada sound as headed north out of Montgomery was, in fact, a portent of things to come. There's actually a lot of gratitude here:
1. That the tire blew Sunday afternoon, not Saturday night in the cold and the pitch dark on the side of I-85.
2. That the car didn't flip over like, well, the Aston Martin in the most recent Bond flick when the tire shredded like George Allen's presidential hopes at 70 mph.
3. That Volkswagen equips its Jettas with full-sized spare tires, saving us the hassle of puttering 80 miles to Birmingham doing 55 in post-holiday traffic.
4. That I wasn't dragging said spare out of the trunk in my lovely, handmade, gleaming white boatneck sweater - oh, wait, check that; this massive smear of brake dust, grease, and assorted automotive filth on my sleeves seems to indicate otherwise.
5. That Jenna didn't pee herself waiting for Doug and me to get the tire changed.
6. That I didn't pee myself during that same time period.

Thou couldst also use an oil change, prolly, when thou gets the chance

The Washington Redskins. 17-13 over the Carolina Panthers, with n00b QB Jason Campbell calling his own play in the fourth quarter for 66 yards and a touchdown. I still don't know if I like him, but I sure love him.


I hope everyone had an equally lovely weekend. Tuesday night's at my place for Nip/Tuck and plenty of Thanksgiving leftovers; everyone's welcome, but anyone showing up with that crappy canned cranberry sauce isn't coming through the door.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

On workout etiquette

Okay, so I know what a struggle it can be to keep warm on a morning run when the weather is getting colder. But I must make an impassioned plea to all of the men out there making the inevitable seasonal costume change from shorts to running tights: Please cover your package.

It's perfectly natural to want fabric over all parts of your body when the temperature starts dipping toward freezing. It's a matter not only of comfort but of health and safety. But, to quote the Fug Girls, tights are not pants, and while a betighted Lindsay Lohan is just another Saturday night at Hyde, she is not (to our knowledge) smuggling the kind of kit up front that causes female joggers to fall off the curb.

As with the Speedo, no man's physique is firm or cut enough to justify running tights au naturel. And like unveiling a Speedo at a public beach, the undraped running tight places only the barest layer of spandex/Polartec blend between your bits n' pieces and the general populace. Such exposure can cause night terrors in children unfortunate enough to be waiting at nearby bus stops, and many times has an unsecured tackle box resulted in a sprained ankle - or worse - as fellow runners are driven to unpleasant distraction.

There are many ways to sufficiently cover Mr. Big and the Boys without losing the warmth of running tights. Layering, for instance, carries your summer shorts comfortably into the fall and offers modesty to boot. Alternately, track pants, particularly those with comfort lining, keep your legs warm, your twig n' berries well-hidden, and your neighbors much relieved. Those men who are so devoted to their tights that no other item of apparel can cover nor replace them are more than welcome to explore the many options available for the home gym. But for the physical and emotional health of all around you, be a good citizen and keep Pinky and the Brain under wraps.

Cover your package. Do it for the children.

Monday, November 20, 2006

On a joke that went too far

Okay, so on Saturday, Katie Holmes's parents were unable to wrest her from the tenacious grasp of the Church of Scientology, and Operation Unconvincing Beard was completed with Tom (the "man")'s vow to provide her with "clothes and food and tender happiness and frills, a pan, a comb, perhaps a cat."

Katie (the "girl") was, in turn, was told that "young men are free and may forget" their promises.

On Right-Wing Alkie Watch

Okay, so when the weather gets cold and the holidays approach, a lot of us are more prone to tip a measure of Jameson's into our nighttime cocoa, and there's nothing wrong with that. As we saw last week, President Bush and Atlas Pam are both fans of the bottle. But that nightly tipple may cause problems when it gets out of hand, and that makes me worry about John McCain.

Periods of memory loss:
In 1999, the “moderate” version of John McCain said that overturning Roe v. Wade would be dangerous for women and he would not support it, even in “the long term.” Here’s McCain in the San Francisco Chronicle:
I’d love to see a point where it is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary. But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations.

This morning on ABC, McCain — now aggressively courting the likes of Jerry Falwell — expressed his unequivocal support for overturning Roe v. Wade.
MCCAIN: I don’t think a constitutional amendment is probably going to take place, but I do believe that it’s very likely or possible that the Supreme Court should — could overturn Roe v. Wade, which would then return these decisions to the states, which I support.

Noticeable personality changes:
His caving to Bush on the detainee bill: McCain made his opposition to torture a centerpiece of his image, but by signing on to Bush’s bill, he signed away his credibility. The Democratic candidate must trumpet the fact that McCain allowed habeas corpus to be suspended at presidential will. Rather than allowing McCain to shield himself with his own former POW status, make that part of the question, as in “How could you support such a bill, having endured what you have endured?”


His unabashed embracing of George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, after Bush inexcusably tore him apart in the 2000 primaries. Point out how he let Bush push him around, all to gain favor with the extreme base of the GOP. (Depending on the political climate, point out how he also betrayed his friend John Kerry, failing to come to his defense in the aftermath of the infamous botched joke, and instead pretending to believe an interpretation he clearly knew was false. All that after Kerry had offered him a place on the presidential ticket!) On both of these last two points, McCain says there's no point in "holding grudges," but it's not about grudges. The issue should be McCain's kowtowing to those who denigrate everything he purports to stand for.

Carelessness regarding those for whom he is responsible:
MCCAIN: I notice that several retired generals, Gen. Zinni recently, Gen. Batiste, many others have said the same thing I said. Many other observers are in agreement with me. Would it put a terrible strain on the Army and Marine Corps? Absolutely, it would be terrible. We’re going to be asking people to go back again and again, maybe even extend their tours. But there’s only one thing worse, and that is defeat. I saw a broken Army in 1973, and I don’t want to see this Army and military — [Stephanopoulos interrupts.]

Turning to inferior companions:
In 2000, John McCain called Jerry Falwell an “agent of intolerance.” Now, he has hired the debate coach from Falwell’s Liberty University, Brett O’Donnell, to advise him on his communications strategy. O’Donnell has been executing Falwell’s strategy to train scores of debaters to confront “the culture on moral default.”

Now, I'm not saying that John McCain is an alcoholic. These could all be caused by any number of things - drug abuse, for instance. Or bipolar disorder. Or possibly, as he comes up on his 70th birthday, senile dementia. But what's important here is one thing: If Senator John McCain is campaigning that hard for the in-denial dry-drunk loony fringe vote, he's got to know something we don't. Democratic candidates are going to have to start hitting the pipe hard if they're going to make a showing in 2008.

Friday, November 17, 2006

On Jack Daniel: This Is Your Soundtrack

Okay, so courtesy of Sadly, No! and Glenn Greenwald, our own favorite shrieking harpy may well be hitting the bottle again. Why else would she suggest, on her own blog, under her own name, that American diplomats really ought to be murdered?
Back to terror funding our enemy. Do they really believe by feeding the crocodile, they won't get eaten?
While those have been the Israeli and American demands of the Palestinian Arabs since Hamas won legislative elections in January, two diplomatic sources yesterday who requested anonymity said the State Department would be willing to accept a government that included some Hamas members if a majority of the cabinet agreed to the terms laid out in the 2003 road map document signed by both sides as well as America, Europe, Russia and the United Nations.

Accepting Hamas? Perhaps Hamas will blow up State. Someone has to.
“We are looking at creative ways to get around this,” one diplomat said. “I would not call this ‘Hamas lite,’ but if we could get a government of negotiators instead of terrorists we’d take it.”

First, kill all the diplomats (before they get us killed.)

Emphasis hers. Booze-soaked insanity also hers.

In other beer-addled news, observant Americans who suspect that our president may be off the wagon have more reason to be concerned. Craig Ferguson presents:

Somebody get that man a cup of coffee.

Anyway, that's why this Friday Not Even Random Ten is dedicated to that fine Tennessean, Jack Daniel, and his sweet, sweet nectar. Thanks for keeping us warm on cold, rainy days and always, always giving us someone to laugh at.


drink responsibly.

The Ten:

1. Barenaked Ladies, "Alcohol"
2. INXS, "Elegantly Wasted"
3. 311, "Homebrew"
4. The Dead Kennedys, "Too Drunk to Fuck"
5. Dean Fields, "Irish Bars"
6. The Gourds, "Gin and Juice"
7. Caia, "Afterwards @ The Bar"
8. Jimmy Buffett, "Why Don't We Get Drunk"
9. Christina Aguilera, "Genie In a Bottle"
10. Big City Sunrise, "Whiskey River"

Your Ten, and/or favorite drink recipes, go below.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

On happy gray areas

Okay, so following the spectacular drubbing of the Republican party in this year's midterm elections, all of the commentators who'd been calling it for the neocons since back in August are now falling all over themselves to assure us that Democratic voters weren't really voting for Democrats - they were voting for the center, and that's just where the Dems happened to be. See, the Dems knew that they could never win on their own merits, so they all moved right, which pushed the Republicans even more right, and the Republicans got pushed out of the center and the Democrats took their place and that's where all the voters were and... what? What?

The Repubs are having a hard time accepting the fact that the Democrats won because they ran better candidates. And when I call them better candidates, I do mean by their constituents' standards, because I don't know if I'd consider a candidate "better" who voted for the Military Commission Act, Sherrod Brown. But, speaking of Brown, that one vote notwithstanding, he tends to fall under the umbrella of "progressive," as do John Hall and John Conyers.

Voters gave Congress to the Democrats because they were sick of the way the Republicans were handling things and didn't feel that Republican values, if I may borrow that word, were really in line with their own personal values. They put Bush in the White House and the 190th Congress in the Capitol because they were willing to be convinced that that was the way to keep America safe and strong in the wake of terror attacks and the midst of war. This year, they showed that they don't believe that anymore - and that they don't trust the neocons. The Democrats didn't have to get more conservative; they just had to show the voters that they were more liberal than they'd ever thought.

I will give the centrist-ists some credit, though; although a vote for a Dem wasn't necessarily a vote for the center, it was a vote for moderation. Because that's what the Democratic party is about. And don't think that Dems haven't gotten the short end of the stick for it, either. John Kerry took a beating for his use of the word "nuance" in the 2004 presidential elections. Liberal positions on things like abortion and gay marriage aren't nearly as succinct as the bumper-sticker talking points the Republicans favor ("stay the course," anyone?). The convenient model for pundits and news media is to view the country as evenly divided along political lines, with Dems to the left and Republicans to the right. But a more accurate model shows how the Republicans like their extremes, while the Democrats favor the moderate view embraced by most Americans.

Never has the Republican party been as binary as it is now. Neocons love extremes because they're clear and simple; you're either with us and our good things, or you're with them and their baaaaad things. They're the party of false dichotomies. Either you support a total abortion ban, or you want to kill babies. Either you support a border fence, or you want the borders wide open. Either you support warrantless wiretapping, or you want to give rights to terrorists. Either you support the war, or you hate America. Either you support a Christian foundation for our government, or you want to ban Christianity. Either you oppose gay marriage, or you want everyone to be gay. Either you stay the course, or you cut and run.

It's nice. It's simple and convenient. But anyone who hasn't grown up in a hermetically-sealed bubble knows that life is rarely either of those things. And why should politics be unrepresentative of real life? Life has middle ground and gray areas, and so does liberal policy. No one wants to kill babies; we just support a woman's right to determine what happens to her own body. No one wants open and unregulated borders; we just don't think that xenophobia and a 700-mile fence will solve the problem of illegal immigration as effectively as a guest-worker program. No one wants to give rights to terrorists; we just want the government to get a warrant before tapping an American's phone.

And that's what voters recognized on November 7. They recognized that their own feelings on issues like national security and terrorism and domestic policy fell into gray areas, and that this clear, neatly delineated policy concept that the neocons were trying to sell them wasn't representative of their reality. I think that in coming months, the 110th Congress will reflect the realism that voters are looking for. Not giving free rein to terrorists, but not giving untrammeled authority to the president, either. Not pulling troops out of Iraq all at once, but not laying our hopes of victory in Iraq on a plan that isn't working. Not thinking in terms of liberal or conservative, red or blue, but in terms of what will work, what is realistic, and what is best for America.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

On something that really does matter, in a time when things rarely matter as much as we think they do

Okay, so I know the holidays are fast approaching, and what money we have, we're stockpiling in preparation for The Great November Turkey Nap and gift-giving holidays to follow. But honestly, we're a nation of fatties, no one really needs four side dishes alongside a turkey, and half of those toys are going to be broken by New Year's anyway.

This is Leola Kinchen. She has Neurofibromatosis-1, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves and produces abnormalities in skin and bone tissue. Manifestations of NF1 range from mild to debilitating; Lee's are severely so, and it's only through her own determination and the generous help of her caretaker Susan that she's been able to keep her job in retail (although she's becoming physically unable to do so) and stay clothed and fed.

The NF1, which can be a heartless bitch of a disease, has resulted in a brain tumor that is pressing down on eight of the 15 major nerve branches in Lee's brain and causing blockages and constriction in most of the major blood vessels. Lee needs surgery, and she doesn't have insurance, and the state of Louisiana, in their wisdom, has decided that she isn't eligible for SSI/SDI or Medicaid. The necessary series of life-saving operations will cost in the neighborhood of $200,000, which she simply can't afford. The only remaining charity hospital in Louisiana won't be able to take her until March or April, at which she'd probably be dead.

We must not live in a country where people die from lack of access to adequate healthcare.

One of Lee's most passionate advocates, who goes by the charming nom de blog Anntichrist S. Coulter, has started a blog in the hopes of raising enough money to offset surgery costs or, barring that, at least make Lee's life a little more comfortable. An account has been set up in Lee's name, and donations can be mailed to

Fund For Leola Kinchen
Bank Of St. Francisville
P.O. Drawer 818
St. Francisville, LA 70775

or go to For Lee and click on the Paypal button to make an online donation.

As of this post, over $1,000 has been raised. If you have any money that's been sitting around, waiting for a good cause, or that's been earmarked for a pair of peep-toe platform Louboutins you don't really need, or that would normally go toward making your house more of a strobe-lit Christmastime monstrosity than your next door neighbor's, consider donating. Rarely are we given the opportunity to do something that actually makes a difference in someone's life. Don't miss this one.

On a story too bizarre for The Onion

Okay, so November 27 and 29, those illustrious and oh-so-classy execs at Fox will be airing a two-part special with OJ Simpson titled, "O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here’s How It Happened."

I'm serious.

No, really, I'm serious.

Seriously, OJ Simpson, former football star and center of a lengthy trial in 1994 after which he was acquitted for the death of his ex-wife and her friend, is now coming forward to say that no, he still totally didn't kill them, but if he had killed them, this is how he would have killed his children's mother.

Stop it, I'm serious.

The TV appearance coincides with the November 30 release of his book, If I Did It, which "hypothetically describes how the murders would have been committed.” Which he totally didn't, he swears. If he had done it, why would he spend so much time looking for the real killers at golf courses and all-inclusive resort spas across the country? He's just saying that if he had committed the murders, which he categorically denies, he knows exactly how he would have done it. If he'd done it. Which he didn't.

Really, y'all, I'm serious.

I give up.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

On religious persecution

Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help, help, I'm being repressed!

Okay, so even though we're barely past Halloween, persecution complexes know no calendar, and folks are already getting their Pampers in a bunch over the words "Merry Christmas." As our men and women in uniform fight and die overseas to bring peace and democracy to two countries where women are forced to cover themselves from head to toe, girls aren't allowed to go to school, and people are blowing other people up not even because of their religion, but because of a sect of their religion, Christian volunteer martyrs in the US show solidarity with their despised Muslamofascist brethren by boldly and unashamedly wishing people Merry Christmas! (Gasp! Where are my pearls? Oh, there they are!)

Yes, once again, it's "onward, Christian soldiers," marching as to Best Buy, armed with their "Just Say Merry Christmas" jelly bracelets that unarguably answer the question, "What Cheap-Ass Piece of Rubber Crap Would Jesus Buy?" Because remember: It's not enough for you to practice your faith. Everyone else has to practice your faith, too, so if the greeter at Wal-Mart wishes you happy holidays, you're being oppressed.

Speaking of oppression, how 'bout it? Much chatter for the past few years has centered around the influence of the Christian religious, particularly evangelicals, in American government; they're either a crucial and growing segment of the electorate, or they're "nuts," "ridiculous," and "out-of-control," or they're shifting left, or they're not really shifting at all. For a country founded on freedom of religion; settled by a people trying to escape religious persecution; fathered by a bunch of guys who were mostly deists (including the guy who wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom); and that protects an individual's right to practice their religion more fully than just about any other country in the world; the US, it seems, is full of the whiniest little titty-babies imaginable when it comes to their right to cram their religion down other people's throats.

And that's what it comes down to, in the end. In the past five years or so, or as I like to call them, "The Great Endarkenment," the vast majority of "religious persecution" against Christians has consisted of the state not insisting that everyone be Christian. A Christian kid will be told not to witness at show-and-tell, or a Christian mom will be told not to bake Bible verses into the cupcakes for her kid's second-grade class, or a Christian organization won't be allowed to hang the Ten Commandments in the courthouse, or the school system will identify the Christmas holiday as "Winter Break," or a middle school will throw a "holiday party" for its students, or somebody's water bill will come with "Season's Greetings!" stamped cheerfully across the bottom, and some Christian will throw a very public nuclear shit fit. "They're taking Jesus out of the schools!" they moan. "There is no freedom of religion! They won't allow me to practice my faith!" Because, as Chapter 5 in the Book of Matthew states, "How blessed are they who set up a lighted, animatronic creche with authentic animal sound effects on the front lawn of city hall, for all others shall suffer eternal damnation."

Christians, and I say this is an observant Catholic, love persecution. They love it. They worship a guy who did good deeds and was rewarded by getting stripped, beaten, nailed to a cross, fed vinegar, stabbed, and featured in a Mel Gibson snuff flick. The Bible tells them that they will be hated because of Jesus' name, and they. Can't. Wait. And if no one is going to persecute them on their own, they're going to go out and find it. They're going to stand on a street corner and condemn everyone to hell, and then when someone points out how obnoxious they are? Jackpot. "You hate me because of Jesus!" No, asshat, they hate you because you're an asshat.

So here's my question, and this is where you come in: To what extent is Christian persecution still a problem? And I'm talking about real persecution here, not "the state won't endorse my religion and make everyone else practice it, too" faux-persecution. Not "I'm free to put my religious displays on private property, but I want to put them on public property" faux-persecution. Not "that store owner, in the interest of catering to his multicultural clientele, made a business decision to wish me 'happy holidays'" faux-persecution. The real thing.

We live in a country where you can build a church anywhere that's zoned for churches, you can pray wherever and whenever you want (provided that you do so in a way that doesn't disturb people or obstruct traffic), build a compound where only other members of your faith can live, start a school just for your religion, use that school to teach the precepts of your religion as fact, wear funky clothes that your religion tells you to wear, read books and listen to music and watch movies that cater specifically to members of your faith, purchase those items at stores that deal in nothing but items specific to your faith, and eat or not eat just about any plant or nonhuman animal according to your religious precepts. What the hell does a person of faith have to do to get a beat-down for Jesus?

Have you (or someone you know) ever been persecuted for your religion? I want to hear from everyone of every faith, and I want details. Who was doing the persecuting? Was it a representative of the state or a private citizen? What was it that you wanted to do (or not do)? What actions did you take as a result of it? I'm not saying it never happens. In fact, I'm very interested to hear about situations where it truly does happen, because those situations have been entirely overshadowed by seven-year-olds who aren't allowed to read aloud from Leviticus during First Grade Story Time.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

On - on - but I - with the - I didn't...

Okay, so Saturday, everyone was all - and me, too, I was - but - and - there was - and, oh, so cold - rain, oh, my gosh - but - and I wasn't even going to, but - I did - and - and -

and we were all

and our D was all

and oh, my gosh, you know? And then Tra Battle was all

and we were all, "Aaaaaaugh!" And Kregg was all

and then Matt Stafford - Matt Stafford - was all



and they were all

and we were all

and Mark Richt was all

and it was all

and oh, my gosh, it was awesome.

Friday, November 10, 2006

On Nancy Pelosi: This Is Your Soundtrack

Okay, so I promise this'll be the last time I do any kind of actual, overt gloating (in the future, I'll keep it to little hoots of joy when no one's around, and maybe crack that bottle of cheap spumante that's been hiding in the back of my fridge). Three days of celebrating are plenty, after which it's time to pop an Advil, drink a couple of bottles of water, and get down to the real business of governing once again. So this is the last of it.

Woohoo! And, of course, when I say, "Woohoo," I mean "Suck it." Suck it, Ken Mehlman and your predictions; suck it, Karl Rove and your math; suck it, President Bush and your "bipartisanship." That's why this Friday Not-Even-Random Ten goes out, along with a big "Woohoo," to Nancy Pelosi, the first-ever woman Speaker of the House, who knows what needs to be done and wants to do what needs to be done and, moreover, is just a wayward pretzel and a heartbeat away from the presidency. Let's save the country now, shall we?

The Ten:

1. Lenny Kravitz, "American Woman"
2. Velvet Chain, "Strong"
3. Naughty By Nature, "Hip Hop Hooray"
4. The Isley Brothers, "It's Your Thing"
5. Blossom Dearie, "Wait Till You See Her"
6. Kaiser Chiefs, "I Predict a Riot"
7. Gorillaz, "Rock the House"
8. Jeff Buckley, "Hallelujah"
9. The Farm, "All Together Now"
10. Shakira, "Ready for the Good Times"

Aaaaand I'm done. Your Ten (or, as appropriate, Two and a Half) go below.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

On Practically Harmless: now all-Britney, all the time

Okay, so I was going to let the poor kids alone for a while, but then Amanda at Pandagon pointed me at this Salon interview with Kevin Federline just days before Brit gave him the heave-ho, and all I could think about was worthless, talentless, platinum-level turd he is. But don't take my word for it. Here's the interview, along with a few comments that were edited out at the request of KFed's publicist.
So the reviews were pretty harsh.
I expected that. That's what they do. That's what they've been doing to me from the beginning, and eventually my spirit will shine through that. People will see my passion for this. It's slow and it's not an easy road, but I don't like taking the easy road. I'm all about hard work and really proving myself -- especially to the hip-hop community.

Dude, marrying rich, spending your wife's money on shoes, and sitting on your ass nine days out of ten is a tough damn road. You don't see a lot of men doin' it, 'cause not a lot of men can handle it.
Would it have been easier if you weren't famous?
Probably. I think it definitely could've been. If people didn't know who I was, a couple of the records that I've thrown out would've probably blown up huge by now. It would've just come out of nowhere -- people wouldn't know what to expect.

I think the fact that I got a lot of stuff built up behind me, you know, I gotta kinda battle that. But at the same time I'm really learning that I don't have to battle that. What I gotta do is get my ass out and go walk around these streets and talk to people because that's what's gonna get it done.

She's just holding me back! If my superstar wife weren't famous enough to have given me a job as a backup dancer in the first place, and if she weren't rich enough to fund my talentless hip-hop-ish blatherings, I'd have blown up a long time ago! I'd be the superstar, yo!
[You expect your album to succeed t]hrough word of mouth?
Very much so. It's good. I just went to the radio with [radio DJ] DJ Clue and gave him the record -- he hasn't heard any of the music at all -- so I think he's really gonna be inspired. That's what it is -- I need to get with artists on that level. I need to get with people in the industry and let it be heard, because radio ain't really trying to play it too much. It's gonna be about word of mouth, man. It's gonna be about people picking it up, listening to it, talking about it, going to their friends and telling them, "You know what?" And it's already happening. Yeah, the critics and whoever -- who is a critic? You know what I'm saying? Who deserves to be a critic?

Shit, y'all, my album is so awesome, radio stations won't even play it, it's so awesome. Them critics are just jealous, 'cause you know they want a rich wife to support them while they record "Popozao."
To a certain extent you invite questions about your family by talking about it so much on the record.
Not really. I spoke on there because it's been out there so much; because I don't have a choice. If I had a choice I would keep my family just completely away from everything. But that's not the way it is. My family is talked about, and my family is judged, and people in my family are judged, and I'm judged. It's not right, but at the same time it's fine because it's the ammunition that I used for this album. This is my foot in the door in telling people that I'm standing up for myself, I'm standing up for my wife, I'm standing up for my kids. Go ahead and keep messing with us, and that's fine. This is my shot at you. I'm not going to do it too much anymore. The rest of my music is going the universal route. I think that's where I'm going to win.

[Editor's Note: I... I got nothing here. Feel free to submit your own translation. Otherwise... Nothing. I've got nothing. Moving on.]
Why do you think it is that a lot of people have a negative reaction to you?
I think the media played a big part of that. I think the beginning of my introduction to the world was not the greatest. When people first saw me and first heard about it, and it became global news ... within one week almost the whole world knew who I was. Within one week. So, you really have to look at that and take into perspective that the first light that you're shown is like them judging a book by a cover. That's all they've seen -- the cover of the book. They haven't really thought past that or tried to look past that.

All they saw was this guy who was a marginally skilled dancer who was determined to be a rapper even though he sucked at it and who had one kid already and had knocked his girlfriend up again and she was actually pregnant when he started boning Britney Spears and then stopped working. And they judge me for that, and that's wrong, yo.
You said it yourself, in the space of one week your life changed. How did that affect you?
At the time it was great, because I didn't pay attention to it. It helped me out all the way through to where I am right now, because I didn't pay any attention to it, because I was falling in love with this girl. I didn't see her as Britney Spears. People look at her and there's fans and there's "Oh my god, celebrity" and all that. I was never the guy that was star-struck. I've never been that person. I've never been the person that was, "Oh let me have your autograph and let me have your picture." That's not me. Not since I moved to L.A. eight years ago and started dancing for all these artists. I've never been that way. I brought the real dude and she fell in love with that, and I fell in love with her for the country girl that she is. I look past all the other stuff. I don't care about your money. I don't care about your fame. I don't care about any of that,

I didn't see her as a celebrity or nothing. I saw her as a hot piece of ass. And a meal ticket! And that's love, right there.
The watch you're wearing is worth more money than I've made in the last five years.
That's my baby. Whenever I made some money that's the first thing I went and bought.

I call it my baby 'cause Britney sent me out to buy diapers for the first kid, what's his name, and I got this watch instead. It's fly.
How many shoes do you have?
Probably like 80 to 100 pairs. My watch game is ridiculous -- just jewelry in general. It's an investment. I bought this [points to his watch], and it's already gone up in value. All the jewelry I'm wearing has already gone up in value.

The dude who sells this stuff to me on the corner of South Market and La Brea, he says that all this shit'll double in value in two, three weeks. My shoes might triple.
You're not planning on selling it anytime soon are you?
Hell no. I ain't getting rid of it. I'm going to go out and get some more. It's great to be able to go and do that stuff, but you really sit back and think about it ... You could have all the money in the world and within two months of having that ... Say you hit the lotto, right? Two months of having that money, you go and buy a mansion, you buy a big-ass boat, you travel all around the world, you do everything in two months. That's not gonna buy you happiness. That's not gonna define who I am. It only goes so far. There's something way beyond that that's deep that I have with my wife that nobody will ever understand.

And, see, that's why I say Britney's not like a celebrity to me. She's like a lotto ticket. What we got is deep, so deep that I can go out and spend all her money on watches and shit, and if I throw the receipt away, I can tell her, "No, baby, this ain't new, this is somethin' I had already." We're deep like that, and nobody will ever understand.
What's the last book you read?
Last book I read was either -- man, somebody just asked me this shit today -- it was either Russell Simmons' or Puffy's book. I'm really studying people who have been in this business and people who have really made themselves into a business from nothing because basically that's ... you see the watch and you see the jewelry and even though, yeah, I do have money, in a sense, I act like I really don't. Right now the way I look at it is that I'm broke and I'm struggling to get this shit off.

Even, like, just when I was leavin' the house today, Britney was all, "Kevin," she calls me Kevin, she said, "Kevin, you need to quit acting like you're rich. You need to act like you're broke and struggling. Because you are. I'm skinny again and I'm hot and going on Letterman, and your ass is broke and all alone." And I was like, "That's deep, Britney. That's way deep." And people don't understand.

On a plan for victory

Okay, so in his Wednesday press conference, President George "The W Stands For Bipartisanship" Bush announced that he was disappointed that the Democrats won and that the our enemies shouldn't take comfort just because the Party of "Terrorists Win, America Loses" has taken Congress. Obviously prepared for a term of bipartisan cooperation, Bush also said,
See, if the goal is success, then we can work together. If the goal is, get out now regardless, then that's going to be hard to work together.

or, in English, "It'll be easy to compromise as long as they always want to do what I want."

Bush also said, several times, that he's committed to "victory" in Iraq, that we aren't going to pull out until we "win." Conveniently, the administration's definition of "victory" is just as nebulous as their motivation for going into Iraq in the first place. Just as Bush has never been able to truly define his job as President, he's never really been able to say why we're in Iraq at all, which may lead one to wonder if he even really knows.

I'll admit up front, in case anyone has been misled by my expert grasp of military strategy: I'm not a military strategist. I don't know military campaign from an advertising campaign. Except - wait! That's one thing I do know. It may be the only thing, but I do know advertising campaigns.

ADPR 3110: Never, ever, ever try to go into an advertising campaign without knowing your target market and establishing an explicit plan to reach them effectively. Many execs like the GOST model for account planning: goal, objective, strategy, tactics.

You always, always, always start at the top and work down. Your goal is simply what you want to accomplish. Your objectives are specific, measurable, time-sensitive benchmarks that will ensure your goal is met; you have to know who you're trying to reach, how many of them you're trying to reach, and in what time frame, or else you'll never know when that objective has been met. Strategy is the methods you'll use to meet that objective, and tactics are the specific actions you'll take as part of that strategy.

I can't speak for the guys at the Pentagon, and I certainly can't speak for the guys on the ground, but President Bush hasn't gotten past the G.

Granted, it's a nice goal. "Make peace in Iraq." Or, at least, I think that's his goal; in his presser, he says that "victory" is "a country that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself." Fair enough. So what are his objectives? Reducing the number of insurgency- and civil-war-related civilian deaths by 70 percent by March of 2007? Equipping 250,000 Iraqi police officers to stand up by June 2007 (and that means 250,000 actual, working officers, not just 250,000 guys who put on the uniform, punch their time cards, and then go back home)? Disarming 40 percent of regional militias by the end of December?

Bush doesn't like numbers. He says that numbers and deadlines just tell our enemies what we're doing so that they can plan around it and take a terrorism minibreak until the US is out of the country. But to be suspicious of "Oh, I totally know what I'm doing; I just can't tell you 'cause of the terrorists" brands you as an anti-American terrorist-lover. So instead, we're just given "Victory! Victory! Victory in Iraq!" and expected to believe that the administration knows what that is and how to get there.

Everyone wants to know what the Democrats' plan is for Iraq. I want to know what Bush's plan is for Iraq, and here's how I want to know it: The administration has already shown that they have no problem with putting sensitive information online to let bloggers look at it. Now I want my piece. I want Bush and Rumsfeld and The New Guy and General Abizaid and General Casey and maybe Michael Hayden to get together in a nice, quiet conference room with a bottomless pot of coffee and a bunch of legal pads and pens, and I don't want them coming out until they've got a GOST plan that they can post on the Internet.

I'm not looking for classified information or anything that might put our troops in danger (any more than instructions on how to make sarin gas and an atomic bomb would, at the very least). Particularly where tactics are concerned, I'd be perfectly satisfied to know that the generals in charge knew what steps they needed to take without them actually telling me (and any Internet-equipped terrorist types) knowing what those steps will be. But the Bush administration is using our tax dollars and the authority conferred by our elected representatives to wage a war that kills our sons/daughters/fathers/mothers/neighbors/best friends, and we deserve to know precisely what they're fighting for.

And you know what? It might be an awesome plan. It might be the best plan known to man. It might be the kind of plan that would blow the pumps and pantyhose right off of Nancy Pelosi, making her say, "Wow, this is a great plan. We underestimated you before, because there are truly no plans that could match this plan." And then she would dramatically pick up her own plan, which Congressional Dems had been working on while Bush and pals were in the conference room with the coffee, and fling it with great force into the nearest garbage can, declaring, "There goes a vastly inferior plan."

But first, there needs to be a plan. And not just, "Oh, we're going to make the Shias and the Sunnis stop blowing each other up, and we're going to train up some cops and Army d00ds, aaaand we can probably get some kind of a consensus in Parliament," because that's not a plan. That's a musing scribbled on a cocktail napkin. GOST. Specific, measurable, time-sensitive. And on the Internet. We don't need anyone to pass along any crucial military secrets. But we do deserve to know that our government has thought this through beyond the point of "collect underpants."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

On the very best kind of riddance

Na-na-na-na. Na-na-na-na. Hey, hey, hey. Goodbye...

Okay, so on Tuesday, I said that a Democratic majority in Congress wouldn't be some kind of magic wand that would fix everything and make the world bright and happy and safe again. But I'm a big enough person to admit when I'm wrong.

Cue the rainbows and the gold-coin-showering unicorns, because Donald Rumsfeld is stepping down as Secretary of Defense.

It would be petty of me to suggest that Rummy is probably doing this at the peak of a post-midterm-election snit, or, alternately, out of some fear that a more authoritative Congress is going to start calling him on the lousy job he's done as defense secretary lo these six years. But I choose not to look a gift horse in the mouth. Bush has nominated as his replacement Robert Gates, a former Director of Central Intelligence who served on the National Security Council under no fewer than four presidents from both parties. He faces confirmation by the newly-Democratic (w00t!) Senate, and while there have been rational arguments for and against him for previous nominations (particularly in re: his involvement in Iran/contra), I choose to suspend judgment until his confirmation hearings. I don't trust Dubya not to put forward a complete lunatic/incompetent/corrupt sociopath, but I do trust a Dem-heavy Senate Armed Services Committee to weed his ass out if he did.

As for Rumsfeld - whatever. Go. Find a hobby or something. Vaya con Dios. Don't let the door hit you where the good Lord split you. And remember that you march back on home to "spend more time with the family" with the retirement plan you have, not the retirement plan you want or would like to have.

On a new hope

Help me, House Speaker Pelosi, you're my only hope.

Okay, so tonight, the Democrats took the House, surprising no one but Ken Mehlman (suck it, Ken!). More surprising is the cliffhanger in the Senate, which could go either way pending recounts for too-close-to-call races in Virginia and Montana (advantage Democrats, w00t). Obviously, I think the new House leadership is a good thing, and not just in a "change for change's sake" way. I have actual hopes and even expectations for our newly Democratic Congress. Since the beginning of October, Nancy Pelosi has been not for her first 100 days as Speaker of the House, but her first 100 hours, looking to address the deficit, enact the recommendations of the 9/11 commission, raise the minimum wage, cut the interest rate on student loans, lower drug prices for Medicare patients, and roll back Bush's tax cuts for the rich as soon as the new Democratic majority takes its place.

And that's what's exciting to me - that there are plans for the future. That this isn't just gettin' rid of the Republicans 'cause they suck; it's a matter of replacing a do-nothing, rubber-stamp Congress with one that actually sets realistic goals, acts independently, and takes seriously the responsibility of representing the American people. That's exciting. And if Cthulhu is truly smiling upon us, we'll have an actual bipartisan effort to get those goals accomplished, and we'll have a cooperative president who realizes that, divisive campaign speeches notwithstanding, he must now play nice with the majority party to get things accomplished.

I know there are things I'm forgetting to say, but I'm just in a really great place now. I'm relieved. I'm excited. I'm hopeful. I'm energized for the next few years. I'm realistic about what can/will/should be accomplished, certainly, but it's a hopeful realism. It's new. It feels good.

And so, in the interest of bipartisan cooperation, I have a few personal notes for our newly empowered senators and our new Republican partners.

(The following personal notes are rated M for language and mature subject matter.)

Dear President George W. Bush,

I realize that you had your heart set on a continued Republican majority; you probably wouldn't have spent the entire campaign season slagging off the Democrats if you'd thought for a second you'd have to be working with them for the next two years. That staggering lack of foresight aside, it's time to sack. The hell. Up. Good Lord - you're so intent on pouting a-'cause you didn't get your way that you can't even bother to call the new Speaker Elect and say, "Hey, congrats on the election, I hope we can work together in the best interest of the American people." I don't care how hurt your fee-fees are that voters have roundly rejected your sockpuppet Congress; you're the president of the damn United States, and it's time to put on your big boy pants and start acting presidential. Don't look more like a joke than you have to.

Dear Ken Mehlman,

Here's a bit of advice for starting fresh with the new Congress: try not lying. As a matter of fact, that's pretty good advice for all GOP leadership and administration officials: Try not fucking lying. Try telling the truth. Not sure what that is? I'll give you a hint: Whatever you're tempted to say to national news media, the truth is the opposite of that. Good Lord. In honor of this fresh majority and this new opportunity, let's get into a new habit and try telling the truth.

Dear news media, Evil Liberal and otherwise,

That goes for y'all, too. Tell the truth, and moreover, call folks on it when they aren't telling the truth. Y'all are the fourth fucking estate; you're supposed to be holding the government accountable for whatever they try to pull. Instead, you just, for some reason, assume that no politician would ever try to use your medium as a sounding board for their own propaganda and that they'd never say something on your show if it wasn't the truth. Huh?! When the hardest-hitting, most insightful half-hour of evening news is the fucking Daily Show, you aren't doing your job. Stop being such a bunch of pussies, stop worrying about losing access, and start worrying about being complicit in the royal fucking over of an entire country by the people who are sworn to protect it. Go ahead and ask the tough questions; President Bush has been told to be a big boy and answer like a grownup.

Dear House Speaker Elect Nancy Pelosi,

Do not let me down. Do not. Let. Me down. I'm watching you. The entire country is watching you, and, no pressure or anything, but if you fuck this up, the Democrats will have lost all credibility for decades to come. And, as the first woman ever to be third in line for the presidency, you've now got every feminist and anti-feminist watching your every move, secretly praying that you'll either a) bring new life, liveliness, and accountability to the role of Speaker of the House, or b) screw it up and prove that women are icky. You've got the entire Democratic party, the entire female gender, and, hell, the nation as a whole riding on your smartly-suited shoulders, so do not let us down. But have fun with it. Best of luck! Love the scarf.

Dear Vice President Dick Cheney,

Just - just try to smile more.

Bleh. Don't smile.

Dear y'all,

These midterms have been tougher than some presidential elections; there was an awful lot at stake. It's going to keep being tough, too, because we need big change, and big change doesn't happen overnight. We can see this new Congress as the great liberal threat that will weaken our morals and embolden the enemy, or we can see it an effective alternative to our current strategy of "keep doin' what you're doin', keep gettin' what you're gettin'." We can see it as a new set of eyes on an old set of problems, and a new opportunity to solve those problems using resources and initiatives we haven't had before. In other words: Step back, take a breath, and give it some time. We deserve to go into the next two years with the government we want, not the government we're forced to have.

Haha. Y'all thought you were going to get yelled at, didn't you.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

On being stronger than yesterday

Her loneliness ain't killing her no more.

Okay, so it's a good thing I got my Pregnant and Trashy Britney costume in while I could. Two reasons: One, she's cute again. Two, she's gotten smart.*

Lost weight, got a great new hairdo, remembered how to dress again... and kicked K-Fed to the curb? I'm sure the one has nothing to do with the other. Nooooo. Complete coincidence.

We are speaking in relative terms, here.

On why to bother voting Democratic (and you really, really, really should)

Okay, so this is a big week for what's next. Today, as you might have noticed, is Election Day (and anyone eligible to vote who chooses not to will get nothing but derisive and mean-spirited ribbing from this blog). Ever-tightening polls seem to indicate that the Dems may well be able to at least retake the House of Representatives (God willing and the creek don't rise, knock on wood). In international news, on Sunday Saddam Hussein was (shock) convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death by hanging. Both of these milestones call up the inevitable question: So?

What if the Democrats do gain a majority in the House (or, by the grace of God, Congress as a whole)? One thing to remember is that they wouldn't suddenly be in charge of the government. In fact, they'd be riding shotgun to a president who, despite his protestations of bipartisanship and his self-identification as "a uniter, not a divider," has so much contempt for the Democrats that he'd probably sooner set Nancy Pelosi on fire than negotiate a compromise on any anti-terror or Iraq War legislation. Unless the Dems can somehow acquire a veto-proof majority (and it's a slim chance, but it's a chance), they'd be fighting an uphill battle against a man who is entirely uninterested in being their ally.

It may sound like I'm making excuses for a potential do-nothing Democratic Congress, but that's not it. Congress should always do something. It's been a major sin of the current Congress that they haven't done anything, haven't accomplished anything, haven't used a red pen when they've got a rubber stamp handy. I'm just trying to keep expectations realistic. The sky would not open up into a beautiful rainbow as unicorns fly down and shower gold coins on the grateful people of America simply because the party of accountability was back in power. But marking the bubble next to "D" instead of "R" isn't some fruitless action resulting in "new boss, same as the old boss;" it is worth it, and it can make a difference. Even without a majority in the Senate, and/or without the cooperation of our toddler of a president, there's a lot that the Democrats could accomplish:

Money. When Bush took office, he had a projected 10-year surplus of $5.6 trillion at his disposal. Today, we're looking at a deficit of $2.9 trillion for that same period. Even taking into account the ever-mounting costs of the Struggle to Halt International Terrorism, that's a lot of Junior Bacon Cheeseburgers lost to no-bid government contracts and tax cuts for the ridiculously wealthy. With the Republican rubber stamp well and truly retired, Bush's Paris-Hilton-esque government shopping sprees would have to come to an end. Taxes are going up, people, and you're going to have to suck it up; that's how the government gets money to run things. But with Bush's tax cuts redistributed to actually benefit the middle class, and with fat-trimming on irresponsible government spending, that necessary tax increase could have a lot less impact on your standard of living. Hello to fiscal responsibility.

Oversight. Does anybody wonder anymore exactly how we ended up in Iraq? How the administration got all of this intelligence, and some of it said, "Saddam is coming to get you!" and some of it said, "Chill out and think this through," and we ended up at war anyway? Does anyone wonder exactly what Bush is doing/has been doing/plans to do with his newly-legalized imperial authority to detain and wiretap and torture at will? Does anyone else wonder exactly how many Republican Congressmen have lascivious interest in the pages, and how they've gotten away with it? Does anyone else wonder how Halliburton has squeezed so much money out of the government and the Iraqi police have poo dripping through the ceiling? No? Just me? Moving on.

Domestic policy. Faced with the idea that most Americans aren't nearly as chuffed with our progress in Iraq as he is, Bush has recently pulled out the old, rusty saw of Social Security reform. Majority Dems could get to work on legislation that'll actually help the people they represent. They could wrestle energy policy away from the oil companies. They could wrestle Medicare prescription drug coverage out of the hands of the pharmaceutical companies. They could wrestle a minimum wage increase out of the pockets of big business. And maybe they could shut some folks the hell up about "protecting traditional marriages." Y'all, get over it.

But what about Iraq? Isn't Saddam's conviction supposed to be some shining beacon of hope in the Middle East? Does that make our efforts in Iraq worthwhile? Does Saddam Hussein swinging from a rope stop civil war in Iraq? Will it make his Sunni supporters and his Shiite detractors hug and go get an ice-cream cone? Are an estimate 400,000-600,000 Iraqi civilian deaths since the initial US invasion now justified by his execution? Death squads, torture, women in burqas, no electricity? Weren't things supposed to become hunky-dory as soon as we pulled him out of a spider hole in his grungy BVDs?

The aforementioned unicorns say no, and that's why foreign policy would still have to be the Democrats' steadiest focus. And it'd be more of a challenge, to boot, since it could only happen with the cooperation of The Boy Who Would Be King. But he's at least gotten as far as abandoning "stay the course," so we can give him that much credit. What Democrats need to do is chart a new course - and fast. It has to be with the input of the analysts and civilian and military leadership Rumsfeld and Bush have been so quick to push aside, and it has to include verifiable benchmarks and deadlines both for our military and for the Iraqi government. And as much as it pains me to say it, the US has to put its daddy pants back on; the Iraqi government is obviously not ready to govern on its own, but if US troops are going to remain in harm's way, the US government has to have some measure of authority over the country they're fighting for. Maliki can either accept both the help and the guidance and oversight of US forces, or he can accept none of it and we'll pull back to the borders. But our troops aren't beat cops in Los Angeles, and it's not fair to treat them that way when the enemy has IEDs and American-made firearms.

Congress, even with a veto-proof Democratic majority, can't make Bush change his foreign policy. In fact, contrary little squid that he is, he'd be more likely to brush off any Democratic suggestion and take the diametrically opposite tack just to remind them that he's still in charge. In that respect, the important thing to remember is that Bush would rather save face than save lives. If Dems could negotiate a settlement and, swallowing their pride, convince Bush that he'll come out the flight-suited hero once again, he may just give in. It's a pathetic way to do business, but you do what you have to when lives are on the line.

It won't happen right away. It might not happen by 2008, but even then, signs of progress should be apparent; the point of having a strategic plan with explicit benchmarks is that you're able to clearly chart progress. But it'll be a slow progress, because there's a lot to address, and it absolutely has to be done right. As unfair as it is, a Democratic Congress would have the reponsibility of fixing every damn thing that the Republicans have so royally screwed up for the past six years, and that'll take time. A whole lot of precious time. It's gonna take patience and time. To do it right.

Monday, November 06, 2006

On last-minute advice

Okay, so vote, y'all. Tomorrow. Vote. And vote smart, because God knows that wasn't a priority in 2004. But for God's sake, vote.

On a cookbook that Betty Crocker wouldn't touch

Or, The W Stands For "Whoopsy!"

Okay, so say your country is at war. There isn't so much a cohesive enemy as a whole bunch of groups that would love to see you dead, dead, dead. Some of them are pissed off that you're in their country, some of them are pissed off that you're on the planet, and some of them are pissed off at other people and you just happen to be in the way. A lot of them would like to get their hands on the kind of weapon that would not blow people up so much as vaporize them and cause their neighborhood to fluoresce under a black light.

Say that you've got a whole lot - like, a whole whole lot - of information from these guys. You've got documents and notes and diagrams out the wazoo. Unfortunately, they're all in Arabic, and since you keep firing your Arabic linguists for taking it up the wazoo, you're kind of short on translating power at the moment. Whatever will you do?

Suddenly, salvation comes in the form of a few brave, patriotic bloggers. "Put them on teh Internets," they said. "With the entire world having untrammeled access to sensitive intelligence, those documents'll get translated in a jiffy! It's an Army of Davids!"

"Brilliant!" Pete Hoekstra cries. "We'll do it right away!"

And John Negroponte is all, "Guys, I don't know."

And George W. Bush is all, "Do it!"

And thus documents, in Arabic, providing specific and explicit instructions on making atomic bombs and processing chemical and biological weapons, become available to any Tom, Dick, or Mahmoud with a Compaq and a cable modem.

These are the people who promised to protect us. "My job is to protect you," Bush says. Don't you just feel protected? Don't you just?

Wasn't that a great idea?

(Hat tip to Hullabaloo and Sadly, No!)

Friday, November 03, 2006

On blogpimping

Okay, so if "blogwhoring" is gratuitously linking to your own blog, then I need to charge Doug 60 percent of the night's take, plus expenses, for what I'm doing now - and I will cut a bitch if he tries to short me.

As a single gal living alone, I generally make some effort to keep my picture off teh Internets, but let's face it: There was no Knocked-Up Britney Spears in all of Southside cuter than me. And Doug made a pretty good Magnum, P.I. (even growing a mustache purely for that purpose; now that's devotion). So shoot on over to Hey Jenny Slater and check out the pictures from our Halloween Trick-or-Drink outing. And before you even ask, yes, Kela has a boyfriend.

On Donald Rumsfeld: This Is Your Soundtrack

Okay, so here's to job security. As a government employee, I really like the idea that you can screw things up to the point where people are actually, physically dead and still have your job guaranteed for the next two years at least. That's why this Friday Not-Even-Random Ten goes out to Donald Rumsfeld, who could eat a Jewish baby on live, national television while backing over a kitten in his SUV and wash it down with French wine, and George W. Bush would give him a big, manly, back-slapping hug for striking fear into the hearts of the terr'ists.

The Ten:

1. Shakira, "The One"
2. Sting, "Big Lie, Small World"
3. Kim Ferron, "Nothing But You"
4. Shania Twain, "You're Still the One"
5. Aimee Mann, "You Could Make a Killing"
6. Dirty Vegas, "Days Go By"
7. Jet, "Look What You've Done"
8. Queen, "Don't Stop Me Now"
9. Lenny Kravitz, "God Save Us All"
10. The Smiths, "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore"

Your Ten go below.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

On - well, not on staying the course, obviously, but on, y'know, not doing anything differently, because, I mean, why do that?

Okay, so President Constantly-Adjusting-to-Tactics has announced that no matter what, Donald Rumsfeld has a guaranteed job as Secretary of Defense as long as Bush is in office. Bush is, after all, the decider, and we get to live with it. So no matter what he does, no matter what lousy calls he makes, no matter who he listens to or chooses not to listen to, no matter the results of his actions, Rummy is in. Not enough troops to get the job done? Rummy's in. Conflict moving in the direction of chaos? He's in. America actually less, not more, safe from terrorism? In! Pull out of Sadr City with a kidnapped soldier still in the hands of the enemy? In, I said in, son!

I mean, after all, the generals on the ground are in charge.
Rumsfeld is a dick
Won't flow the forces we need
We will be too light.
--Col. Steve Rotkoff

Largely unrelated sidenote: President Bush told Sean Hannity that the worst thing about being President is that the "tone" in Washington "has gotten ugly." He went on to add, "I really don’t think it’s fitting for the president to drag the presidency into that kind of a mudslinging."

Classy. Classy, classy guy.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

On poking and owning

Okay, so all my readers in Maryland and Maryland-adjacent areas, take heed: If you let him fuck you, you're fucked.

A Maryland appellate court has ruled that a woman can't withdraw her consent after the start of sex, throwing the entire "no means no" concept out on its ear. Per a 1980 rape ruling, once it's in, it's in, and if a woman consents and then changes her mind mid-coitus, she can just lie there until he's done. That ruling was based on common law definitions of rape, wherein:
But, to be sure, it was the act of penetration that was the essence of the crime of rape; after this initial infringement upon the responsible male's interest in a woman's sexual and reproductive functions, any further injury was considered to be less consequential. The damage was done. It was this view that the moment of penetration was the point in time, after which a woman could never be "re-flowered," that gave rise to the principle that, if a woman consents prior to penetration and withdraws consent following penetration, there is no rape.

Basically, once you've gone and sullied her precious flower, she's pretty much rurnt, so anything that happens thereafter is incidental. (See The Happy Feminist for more history on the law and elucidation as to how the real crime is that the rapist is defiling your father's property.)

Mind you this isn't an issue of retroactive consent. This isn't an issue of a woman sleeping with a regrettable man and suffering from boinker's remorse afterward. This is about a woman's right to say, "Ouch, you're hurting me." Or, "Stop, I told you I didn't want to do that." Or even, "I'm sorry, this just doesn't feel right." This is about a woman's right to have a penis in her body and then, should she not want it there anymore, have it removed.

Consent can be a tricky issue. Different states have different laws, and situations where alcohol and/or drugs are involved blur it even more. What if I'm drunk? What if we're both drunk? What if I'm asleep, but I don't mind? What if I don't wake up until the middle of it, but then I do mind? But one blindingly clarifying question has always been asked in rape cases: Did she say no?

There is no clearer sign of nonconsent than a woman saying, "No, stop having sex with me." But this ruling turns it on its head. This ruling makes an acceptable response out of "I'll stop when I'm good and done." Because once he pokes her, she's his until he's done with her.

(Hat tip, Feministing)

On people who really shouldn't try to talk

Okay, so we had the privilege, in the 2004 presidential election, of voting on two men who really should try to aviod public speaking at all costs. The winner was a man incapable of assembling a cohesive sentence without a kit from Ikea and parental supervision. His opponent was a man whose lengthy, lofty, narcolepsy-inducing prose made for marginally effective speeches and should never have been translated into comedy.

But never one to say "never," Kerry gave it a try, resulting in this colossal stinker:
“You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”


Yeah, it sounds a whole lot like he's saying that our troops are idiots who are only where they are because they didn't study hard enough to get real jobs.

Although the media don't report it that way, there is actually context to be had. What isn't shown in the video making its way through TV reports and the Internet is the runup to that comment, which was a string of one-liners aimed at Bush. As he explained long after the damage had been done, the joke was meant to play off of Bush's own failure to study and do his homework on the Middle East, the direct result of which is US troops being stuck in Iraq. The omitted punchline was to have been "Just ask President Bush."

Does that excuse what he said? No. Why not? Because it was stupid. Because he should have known better. Because he's not an Everyman, a Just-Us-Folks, and every time he tries to turn into one he steps in it. He meant to say something funny, and instead, it came out really, really, really insulting. And then, when people started saying, "Hey, that was really, really, really insulting," his response was, "Screw y'all, you know what I meant."

Here's something I learned from my parents: When you hurt someone, you apologize. Even if you didn't mean to hurt them, you apologize. Because "I didn't mean to hurt you" doesn't make the hurt any less. "I misspoke" doesn't make the words that you did speak any less insulting. And so, when you mean to say something and you say something else instead and someone is rightfully offended by what you said, you don't tell them that they shouldn't be offended. You acknowledge that what you said was insulting, assure them that it's not what you intended to say, and sincerely apologize.

I think Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog put it best:
It doesn't matter what he meant. It doesn't matter how a Republican would have been treated if he or she had said the same thing. It doesn't matter, in other words, whether this is fair. All that matters is what's actually happening. Kerry has to grit his teeth and accept it, then deal with it, for the good of the party. And if you can name a hundred more outrageous -- and deliberately outrageous -- things Republicans have said that passed without incident, well, reversing that imbalance is a long-term project. For now, Kerry has to show some contrition, in a conspicuous way that will put an end to this.

Kerry went on Imus this morning and did a reasonably good job of apologizing. He said that it was a botched joke, which is true, and that the Bush administration needs to apologize for getting our troops stuck in Iraq, which is also true. He also said,
Look, this is a great volunteer army. And the word "volunteer" army means you have to be smart to get in it. They know that. Everybody knows. You can’t get in the military today if you're not capable and not smart.

This comment couldn’t have been directed at them, because you can't get into the military by doing badly in school. This was directed at the people who didn't do their homework, didn't listen to history, didn't listen to their own advice, and they owe the American people an apology....

Which is a good start. But I think that in cases like these, a sincere and direct apology is always in order, and I'd like to see a press release or even press conference to this effect:
"I screwed up. I tried to tell a joke, and I screwed it up. I really shouldn't try to tell jokes, because I'm no good at them, and I know that I really, really insulted people. I didn't mean to. I wasn't trying to say that our troops are stupid; I was trying to say that Bush didn't do his homework, and like I said, I screwed it up. I have nothing but respect for our men and women in uniform, and it really bothers me that I've offended them so badly. I completely understand why they would take offense at what I said. I humbly apologize for it. I hope that our troops will accept my apology and that we can get back to the all-important job of resolving the conflict in Iraq and bringing them home. Furthermore, in the interest of avoiding such problems in the future, I solemnly vow never to try and tell a joke ever, ever, ever again.

Again, my deepest and sincerest apologies. Thank you."

Incidentally, that's a pretty good template for any sincere apology. Admit that you've screwed up, admit that the other party has a right to be hurt/offended, give any explanation (but not excuses) applicable, swallow your pride, and apologize. And promise not to do it again. And then actually try not to do it again.

Only then can you get down to the job of taking the Bush administration to task for their multitudinous screwups, because there's a man who needs to do some apologizing.