Tuesday, February 22, 2011

On a "victory" for "life"

Okay, so on Friday, your House of Representatives voted to, in the interest of protecting life, completely defund women's preventive health services. in the name of protecting life. In eliminating federal funding to Planned Parenthood, the House eliminates $330 million for services that have nothing to do with abortion and everything to do with providing essential health care to millions of women--many of whom wouldn't be able to afford any care at all otherwise.

To underscore the extent to which Planned Parenthood directs no federal funds to abortion services, allow me to note that Planned Parenthood directs no federal funds to abortion services. Regardless of your personal feelings about the Hyde Amendment and abortion funding in general, one unavoidable fact is that Planned Parenthood directs no federal funds to abortion services. So if your goal is to ensure that no federal money goes to fund abortions at Planned Parenthood, yay! You win.

But abortions account for a whopping three percent of Planned Parenthood's services. And that's one thing that bugs me about the ABC story linked above--in the first sentence, it identifies Planned Parenthood as an "abortion provider," which is like identifying McDonald's as a salad bar. It would be more accurate to identify Planned Parenthood as a provider of preventive care, cancer screenings, tests and treatments for STIs, contraception, and well-woman services, not to mention educational programs that help prevent unplanned pregnancies and promote health and wellness. But that's fairly wordy, and it lacks the dramatic punch implying an office full of white-coated Dr. Orloffs just itching to kill a baby.

On the apocalypse, nowish: 2011

Okay, so the recent unrest in Egypt has raised questions among some complete kooks about whether the End Times could be upon us. And that's always a reasonable question, which is why it's time to bring back… the Practically Harmless Apocalyptic Index! (wild applause)

Of course, as we've established in previous editions, it takes more than just civil unrest to portend the apocalypse. The book of Revelation lays down a clear…ish account of the signs that will appear to us before the battle of Christ and Antichrist and the eventual thousand-year peace. And we certainly haven't--

--oh, holy fuck, what's that?!

The explicit appearance of the Lamb's own pale horse notwithstanding, however, really we're still okay--we checked off pestilence and disease back in March of '05, so this doesn't actually move us any close to the end. We still need to account for:

- Counterfeit baptisms, bibles, Messiahs, and holy days--false prophets who possess miracle-working powers will proclaim the name of Jesus but not follow His commandments.
- The sky will roll back like a curtain.
- One-third of the sea will turn to blood, fish will die, ships will sink, and rivers will turn bitter.
- The Holy City (Jerusalem) will be trampled for 42 months.
- The Beast (the Antichrist) will emerge from the Abyss.
- Jesus will come back and throw the Antichrist a righteous beating.
- Peace will reign for a thousand years.

Sure, the Gulf of Mexico has turned to oil and the Church of Scientology is performing miracles of modern vitamin. But we're still lacking those few necessary ingredients to make a truly memorable apocalypse. Thus, despite an unannounced appearance by Death himself and his pallid pony, our Apocalyptic Index stands at 60.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

On dangerous places and bad things

Okay, so I debated over posting about the attack on Lara Logan, if only because she's asked for privacy and even mentioning her on a blog kind of feels like violating that. But a strange and awful phenomenon has arisen that I want to address before letting it go.

Journalism is important. Sometimes it's done better than others, and sometimes things waving the Journalism flag are really closer to commentary or outright shilling. But journalism, at its best, shines that disinfecting light in places that need it. The first thing Mubarak did when the protests broke out was to cut off phone and Internet access, and why? Because it's easier to do horrible things to people if there's no one there to watch, and it's easier to pull one over on the rest of the world if they don't know what you've done. Whoever controls the flow of information controls the situation. Anyone from a citizen with a cell phone to a journalist with a camera crew can have a part in reopening that communication.

Was this a very dangerous assignment? Absolutely. But so was Logan's time in Afghanistan, and so was her time embedded with the U.S. military. She's a war correspondent--CBS's chief foreign affairs correspondent, in fact, so the idea that they'd rather send in an intern rather than a seasoned reporter who happens to be blonde and attractive is laughable. She wasn't walking down a dark alley with money taped to her back--she was on the job, a job that happens to be a lot more dangerous than most. That generally attracts admiration, although I suppose when you're an attractive blonde who's just been gang-raped it's easier to criticize.

Monday, February 14, 2011

On dickitude

Okay, so currently, The Boy is celebrating the day with his fourth uninterrupted hour of WoW. My celebration was going to involve a considerable amount of fried chicken and not sharing, but some unexpected dental work this morning has left me unchewing; I might have to go the too-much-ice-cream-and-farting-under-the-covers-all-night route instead.

However you choose to observe it, Practically Harmless wishes you a very merry, very obnoxious Be a Dick Day.

Monday, February 07, 2011

On Mashup Monday: Global harmony edition

Okay, so I can't think of a time that could better use a dose of the world playing beautifully together. And nobody says it like lolcheerio33 in the comments for this video: "It's not a Youtube Symphony without a toy piano, a saw, a beat-boxer, and a storm trooper."

The whole world / Internet Symphony No. 1: Eroica

I can't decide if my favorite is the little-ittle girl behind the timpani or the en masse harp glissando at 2:50. No idea when the next open auditions are, but I figure I should start getting Abbey in shape now.

Friday, February 04, 2011

On the Good, the Bad, and the Friday Random Ten

Okay, so this week has been kind of a serious one: The posts of note were about the State of the Union and the opposition response, we faced down dumbassery from Bill O'Reilly and no fewer than 173 Representatives, and The Boy had a birthday that we'll just wasn't 29. So I invite you to take a minute and revisit this post.

See? Wasn't that nice?

What's good (for the two-week period ending 2/4):

- self-righteous unintentional hilarity. "Where do the tides come from, huh? Answer me that. See, you can't! That's bec--Oh, really? Huh. Uh… well… Where did the moon come from, Mr. Smartypants?" When you screw up, your two options are to own up to it and look humble or keep digging and look like a bigger douche with every shovelful. Quit digging. Well, not you, Mr. O'Reilly.

- home warranties

- Roger Ebert vs. a Nicholas Sparks movie starring Miley Cyrus. He's actually pretty gentle with Ms. Cyrus; the last three paragraphs are the winners.

- the source of Ebert's Cormac McCarthy comment (at the link previous). It's one of those you-laugh-or-you-cry things, and I choose to laugh, and the reason why is "'A Farewell to Arms, by Hemingway. Good stuff. That's what I write." That is the reason why.

- Bach's Toccata and Fugue on a giant foot piano

- the state of the salmon. Okay, funny/sad.

- Baby Monkey (Going Backwards On A Pig). Oh, hell, here's the embed:

- someone else who doesn't get Bieber's 'Bama Bangs. The money quote: "At my age, I have to wonder: Who the heck is this kid, and why can't he get a haircut?"

- a template for every awful Facebook discussion you've ever witnessed. I'm always The Thoughtful One, I swear.

- the Big Top Cupcake cake mold. It is (God willing) going to turn out a huge, enormous cupcake for The Boy's birthday tonight. I haven't even used it yet, but I'm calling it a Good, because even if I screw things up and the cake is horrible it's still a huge, enormous cupcake, and that's awesome.

What's bad:

On responding to the response

Okay, so I promised a note on the opposition response to the State of the Union address, but there isn't much to say. What's frustrating to me about the opposition response is that it isn't really a response--it's a pre-recorded speech that only addresses the issues raised in the SOTU if the issues raised in the SOTU are the ones predicted by the opposition in the preparation of their response. And while that's a bit annoying when the speech is predictable and/or lacking in substance, it's particularly frustrating when there's stuff I'd like to hear them actually respond to.

What we got instead was basically your standard political speech, recorded and played after the president was done speaking. And because this year's SOTU took so many rather unexpected paths, Paul Ryan's for-real response made him sound like he'd been sleeping through the speech, and Michele Bachmann's me-too speech made her sound… very much like herself.

The For-Real Response: Paul Ryan


Thursday, February 03, 2011

On the state of the state of the union

Okay, so I watched this year's SOTU the day after the event itself. We don't have standard television (and not in a snooty, Jesse Eisenberg, "I don't even have a TV" way--we watch an assload of TV, but we stream most of it), so I ended up watching it later on YouTube. That gave me the opportunity to read a lot of commentary on it beforehand, which I probably shouldn't have done but did anyway (so there), and that had me looking for undesirable things in Obama's speech: extreme socialism, extreme kowtowing, a sense of giving in and giving up.

I didn't see any of it.

Now, you all know me. You know my politics and views. You know that Barack Obama has been my pretend boyfriend since the 2004 DNC. But you also know that I tend to be (I think) fairly reasonable and discerning. And with this speech, I discerned… a pretty good speech. It was an appropriate balance of optimism (dare I even say hope?) and realism, it made solid proposals that were backed up by ways to make them happen, and it really, really showed a lot of respect for our country.

A few things that jumped out at me, briefly:

(Okay, a whole bunch of stuff that jumped out at me, at length:)

America the Beautimous