Quick-Fix Vanity Machine

Ego is the new rock star

Maybe it’s just a problem of definition

An open letter to Michael Steele, R.NC. Chairman,

Hello. My name is Mike. I live in Michigan, just north Toledo.

Today, while driving home, I was listening to NPR (because I’m a liberal). Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of California was on the radio program “All Things Considered”. Representative Hunter was providing his opinion on why the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy should not be repealed. During his time on air, Congressman Hunter defended Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell by saying, “… [T]here has to be a special bond (between people in the military). I think that bond is broken if you open the military up to transgendered, to hermaphrodites, to gays and lesbians…Part of this whole thing is not just gays and lesbians. It’s the whole gay, lesbian, transgendered, bisexual community. If you’re going to let anyone in no matter what sexual preference they have you’re going to get anyone.” I’m paraphrasing a little, but you can listen to the congressman’s exact words here. I think you’ll agree that I am not misrepresenting what this distinguished soldier said.

At this point, a small digression becomes necessary. When, in 2003, I first became aware of the AP interview with Senator Rick Santorum in which the senator seemed to be equating homosexuality with pedophilia, polygamy and bestiality , I shook my head and thought, ‘wow, what a jerk’.

Back to the point. When I heard Representative Hunter on “All Things Considered”, I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized that Senator Santorum was not just a lone servant of the people who had a fundamentally flawed view of homosexuality, he was, just as Congressman Hunter is, a manifestation of a larger problem: the GOP doesn’t know what homosexuality is.

Really, all most republicans seem to know is that, in general, they don’t like gay people (with the obvious exceptions of Senator Larry Craig and Congressman Mark Foley… sorry, I promise that’s the last mean-spirited partisan thing I’ll write).

On occasion, members of the Republican party have been known to accuse (with more than just a little justification) liberals of being out of touch with the average, mainstream voter. However, when it comes to homosexuality, many republicans seem not so much out of touch with the voters so much as completely oblivious to the last 30 years of scientific study, psychiatric analysis and critical thought. In short, on this issue the party seems out of touch with reality.

There is an easy solution however. Why not organize a simple, half-day panel on what homosexuality is, what it means to be homosexual and how being homosexual affects a person’s day-to-day life.

The panel could be small, done on the cheap and travel pretty lightly all over the country, ensuring that every member of the Republican Party can be brought up to speed. It will still be possible to mount opposition to gay rights and agendas, but the arguments will be coming from a sound, reality-based opposition.

I would be more than willing to put such a panel together. Although I do not have many relevant qualifications, I work cheap, travel well and have no particular affinity for my current job, so I wouldn’t feel at all conflicted about leaving it.

Please feel free to contact me at your convenience to discuss my idea in more detail.

Sincerely yours,

Mike

February 4, 2010 Posted by | Politics | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Incredible Shrinking Party

Wow. Way to Grinch up Christmas for the Democrats, Parker Griffith.

As we all know, Parker Griffith is the freshman congressman from Alabama who switched parties today and became a Republican.

In terms of what this means, a lot of voices have chimed in regarding whether Griffith is defecting for purely selfish reasons (it’ll be a lot easier for him to win re-election as a Republican in his heavily conservative district) or if he represents the beginning of a tidal wave of blue dog congresspeople leaving the Democrats.

Before I go any further, I want to go on the record as saying that I respect Mr. Griffith’s decision to switch parties. From everything I’ve read (admittedly, only short online reports that I could peruse while at work), it seems to me that Griffith’s actions are the actions of a man of principle. Even while a Democrat he has opposed pretty much every major initiative of the Obama White House. Also, I really can’t imagine that he thinks become a Republican will help him win re-election in any meaningful way. Before he was a politician, Griffith was a doctor. And as a rule, doctors are pretty smart people. As such, Griffith would realize that no matter how much they cheer his decision, the GOP is not going to embrace a man whom they’ve accused of under dosing patients for money. Plus, Tea Party* folks seem to hate him.

Besides, he’s already promised to give back contributions made to him by Democrats. This is far more than I would do. If I were in Griffith’s shoes, I would just say, “Hey, I haven’t changed. The Democratic party has. I’m not going to vote any differently just because I now identify as a Republican. You were all okay with my positions and stances when I rode a donkey. You can’t complain now about my vote now that I’m atop an elephant.”

All that said, Griffith’s switch should be deeply worrying to all right thinking liberals. We on the left have had a field day lately making fun of the Republicans for purging their rosters. Griffith’s leaving might just be proof that Democrats are susceptible to the same thing. Think about it, Griffith is a man who agreed with 85% of the Democratic platform. If someone who’s with us that frequently doesn’t feel comfortable under the liberal tent, then we’re actually worse than the other guys.

All of this is part and parcel with the disgraceful way the progressive left is treating mainstream liberals. It seems like now that we’re not worried about getting gunned down at town hall meetings, the left coalition is splintering because progressives can’t believe that they might actually have to compromise here and there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a public option and universal health care and all that. But still, we’ve tried big pushes before and it didn’t work. And it still might not work this time. Nor should it. Slow and steady, that’s how to change things. Big changes cause big problems, not all of which may be salvageable. Now, it’s entirely possible that we can radically reform healthcare in one sweeping legislative motion and there won’t be a single hiccup. But that seems like an awfully big risk. Why not make small changes, fix the problems that crop up and move forward from there? Sure, people will suffer, but people have always suffered. That’s more callous than I meant it to be, but honestly, let’s provide relief where we can while ensuring that we don’t create more misery in the process. Besides, whether you want to admit it or not, Republicans might just have something important to contribute… you know, if they ever get around to it.

* Just a quick personal aside. I’ve always been against the idea of having a multi-party system in this country. To my way of thinking run-off elections and viable third (or fourth or fifth) parties would only polarize America and lead to extremism. Ideally, two large parties would need 51% of the population to vote for them, which means that they would have to straddle a number of ideological fences and avoid staking extreme positions. Thus, political moderation. Then August 2009 happened. After watching the Tea Party in action, I’ve been forced to conclude that we need a multi-party system, if only so that lunatics can flock to the Tea Party without worrying that they’re throwing their votes away and leave the GOP for decent conservatives. So, congratulations Tea Party members, you’ve forced me to engage my critical faculties in a more substantial way than any of you have personally.

December 22, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Stupid, stupid men

Oh, Lord. The guy giving K-Fed a run for his money is still in the news. I don’t know why this bothers me. I mean, Octo-mom didn’t phase me. I don’t have it out for balloon boy’s parents. And yet, every time I hear or read something about Levi Johnston, I just want to punch the entire state of Alaska.

Seriously now, there are so many things wrong with this scenario. To start with, if Levi really thinks that he’s accomplishing anything by letting the world know that he has dirt on Sarah, but is gentleman enough to keep it to himself, then he’s apparently a little removed from reality (much like the mom-in-law). I mean, I could be wrong, but I think Palin’s a polarizing enough figure that there aren’t a lot of people on the fence about her. Think about it like this, I wouldn’t vote for Palin if she could cure cancer by hunting socialists from an airplane. My neighbor on the other hand, would vote for Palin even if it meant watching a giant, mutant seal club is granddaughter to death.
*I’d like to take a minute here to apologize for my imagery tonight. I’m not feeling on top of my game*
With that in mind, I don’t see how Levi can really think he’s gaining anything from his, “I’ve know secrets, nyah-nyah” routine. It doesn’t matter to me what horrible things he could spill about Sarah Palin, because I don’t think she’s qualified to run a Tim Horton’s franchise, let alone a government. And my neighbor isn’t going to care what Levi has to say, because he’s making himself look like an ass by pretending to hold the high ground when, in fact, he’s really just trying to tempt someone to pay him to divulge whatever “dirt” he has. Classy. Oh, and by the way, in all of this, Levi’s apparently forgotten that he has a kid.

By his own admission, Levi doesn’t have much, if any, contact with the Palin family and given that Sarah almost certainly runs that house with an Ayn Rand-ian fist, its unclear to me how his prickish behavior is at all helping his relationship with his son and his son’s family. I mean, if he were still dating Bristol or had some kind of leverage (like if he knew of some scandal Sarah was involved in… and hadn’t blown that by bragging about knowing it on television), then he’d be a little more free to tell fairly insulting, and transparent, lies about the entirely-estimatable Mrs. Palin (really, she calls her youngest child a retard? Please).

On a related note, have you ever noticed how anytime you hear about someone in Sarah Palin’s orbit, you never walk away thinking, “Wow, there’s someone who has their act together”?

This is especially true for the men in Sarah’s life. I’ve already discussed Levi, and it’s not like Todd is splitting any atoms. I mean, hell, we’re all just impressed that there aren’t any Youtube videos of the First Dude smashing empty beer cans against his head. It’s almost like getting dumb is the price you pay for sticking it in a Palin. Like in addition to flushing out your seman, you also flush out 40 IQ points. You gotta look out for that, man. That shit’s more dangerous than taking a brick to the head.

Hey, speaking of stupid men, here’s my latest and most favorite zeitgeist capturing paranoid fever-dream.  It’s an MMORPG (I think, the website isn’t overly clear in some instances).  It’s about America… after, you know, Obama tries to take over the world. Here’s my favorite line from the description: “After 7 weeks of fighting in every state, and with the refusal of most United States military branches to obey orders to fire upon American citizens, Obama’s forces are slowly whittled away.”

I like the idea that there’s someone out there who thinks that President Obama is so stupid that he’d plan a military coup and forget to involve the military in the planning stage.

Also, that they’re afraid of AmeriCorp is just sad. I mean, AmeriCorp volunteers are nothing more than Peace Corp hippies who are too pussy to risk contracting malaria overseas. If you think it’s impossible to pwn yourself, the creator(s) of this game have just proven you wrong.

October 29, 2009 Posted by | Current Events, Politics | , , | Leave a comment

Balls*

This post is about the dangly bits of a man’s junk. Not the mundane, hairy pair that every guy has. No, this post is about big, sweaty, swinging, Godzilla sized gonads.

More specifically, I’m talking about the balls that must get in the way every time Andy Schlafly tries to walk from point A to point B. For those of you who don’t know, Andy is the son of uber-conservative Phyllis Schlafly. Now, if you already know who Andy is, then you already have an idea of how monstrous his genitals must be. After all, not everyone has the testicular fortitude to create Conservapedia, aka, the wildly crazy far-right answer to Wikipedia. As just one example, Conservapedia’s entry on the French Revolution states that it culminated in, “a chaos wherein thousands were guillotined for being politically incorrect.” Admittedly, the French Revolutionaries, who started out with good intentions, quickly devolved into barbarous terrorists, but come on, it takes stones the size of Gibraltar  to side with the let-them-eat-cake crowd.

Anyway, Mr. Schlafly has recently proved himself to be in possession of Margaret Thatcher sized bollocks when he introduced his latest project, the Conservative Bible Project. In a nutshell (ha, pun!) Schlafly feels that all the modern translations of the Bible (and “modern” apparently means “all of them, regardless of age”) are corrupted by liberal heresies. Schlafly also seems to believe that the best solution is to re-translate the Bible using the collective wisdom of America’s millions of home-schooled children (seriously, who else is going to contribute?).

I find a number of things about this funny (not the least of which is the fact that the good people at Conservapedia seem to be unable to distinguish between the different definitions of the word “liberal” as evidenced by their taking issue with the, ahem, liberal use of words by former Biblical scholars). However, the best part, to me at least, is the idea that a failing with other Bible translations is that they don’t illuminate the pro-capitalist, free market orientation of Jesus’ parables.

I discussed this with my father, who is by no means a religious man, but he has spent more time studying the Bible than anyone else I know. His take on the situation is that there’s no way to read the Bible and not walk away with the conclusion that Jesus was, if not a communist, then at least a socialist.

While I respect my dad’s opinion, I do disagree with him. I admittedly don’t have a lot of in-depth knowledge about Jesus’ teachings, but from what I do know, it seems wrong to ascribe to Him labels that only make sense in the context of economic systems that didn’t exist at the time of His incarnation.

Biblical Judea was not  like the modern world (duh). Back in the day, it wasn’t like it is now, where there are some people with very little money, some people with a great deal of money, and a majority of people who fall somewhere in between**. In Jesus’ time almost everyone was starving to death and just a lucky few pooled all the available resources between themselves. When Jesus extolled the virtue of giving one of your two coats to someone who had none, he wasn’t talking to Israel’s equivalent of Middle America, he was throwing down the gauntlet against the ruling elites; they were the only ones who could afford thermal outerwear. Which means that for all intents and purposes, Jesus was not a socialist, but rather a revolutionary. In this he was not unique. Rather, what made him special was his (admittedly somewhat dodgy) committment to inclusion and his refusal to turn to violence.

Anyway, what I’m getting at is that I find this whole thing funny the same way I find it funny when closeted politicians argue against gay marriage. Which is to say I find it the kind of sad that requires one to laugh.

Also, the scariest part of the Conservative Bible Project is the thought that they might actually finish their translation (realistically they won’t, but there’s still a non-zero possibility that they will). The way I see it, James Dobson and Pat Robertson are big enough pricks as it is. Can you imagine the hights of jackass-ity they’ll reach if they get a new, more narrow-minded script to work from?

*That’s right, I’m blogging again. Why? Because I’m old school like that.

** I’m aware that if you look at the total world population the situation is more like almost everyone is broke-ass poor while a few motherfuckers are wealthy beyond the masses’ imagination. However, the sum total of wealth in the world today so dwarfs the total wealth of the Ancient World that comparisons become skewed. Realistically, if everyone in the Western World (where, by and large, the money is) were really determined to do something about global poverty, we could effect a great quantifiable change.

October 9, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | Leave a comment

It’s the little things that kill a relationship

I’ll bet you can’t guess what it is I don’t like about Sarah Palin.

It’s not the obvious stuff about her. I mean, I don’t mind her lack of experience. And anyway, what little experience she does have proves her to be an A number one democrat. For example:
Is she critical of No Child Left Behind and does she support additional funding for education? Check
Does she believe in taxing businesses and redistributing the wealth? Check
Has she shown an aptitude for corruption? Check
Is she bad at balancing a budget? Check
Does she love herself some eminent domain? Check
All of these are time honored Democratic pursuits, and as such, I think it’s great to see a candidate excell at so many of them.

What I don’t like about Sarah Palin are the little, petty things. Like when she was blessed against witches and witchcraft. I’ve heard people say that what the Keynan preacher meant by “witches” is not what we in the West traditionally think of when we hear the term. Which is great. Except that he said the word “witch” in front of the congregation of a First Assembly of God church. I don’t care what HE meant, I know what THEY heard. And what they (including Sarah Palin) heard was a man asking God to protect Palin from lesbians and pale, gothy motherfuckers  with silly names like Crow Blackrain and Wolfriver Silvermist. Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. Except that, and I’m only half joking here, isn’t there maybe a First Amendment problem with a person holding high office when they’ve been blessed against (or for that matter, for) a particular religious group? Okay, this is a wildly unfair analogy, but what if that preacher had beseeched God to protect Sarah Palin from Jews?

You know what else bugs me about Sarah Palin? The fact that abstinence-only failed Bristol is marrying good old what’s-his-name just because it was his teen-aged sperm that b&e’d her under-aged eggs. Is there anyone out there who thinks the two of them would have married if (of legal age) Mommy Palin wasn’t running on a presidential ticket? Is there anyone who thinks they should marry?
Never mind that it’s wildly unfair for these two nutty (and nut busting) kids to have such an important decision made for them (one could say that it’s downright Old Testament) simply because Sarah Palin has been selected by a shadowy cable of neocons to spice up the flagging John McCain campaign (please, McCain had never heard of her before the day before the Convention). Has anyone considered that Bristol’s little oven-baking bun has zero chance at a happy childhood? It may be true that children do better when raised by two parents rather than one, but it’s also (probably) true that a child is better off being raised by a single parent than two parents who are kept together only because of the political spotlight (not to mention a woman who is sure to be a dominating mother-in-law from hell… am I right, men?). I mean, I get it. Sure, marry off your daughter because it’s politically expedient. That goes right along with the conservative right’s general misogynistic attitude towards women, but come on. Won’t somebody please think of the child?

I’m also really not thrilled with Sarah Palin’s reason as to why it took her so long to get a passport. I love that whole Republican chestnut about how the “educated elite” are part of a different culture, as if every college kid matriculates with a diploma and French citizenship. My own feelings are that this argument is really just crypto-racism. “Oh, I’m of the people. From the heartland, you know, where real Americans live” can easily be translated as, “I’m from a farming community unpolluted by the Jews with their weird ideas and the coloreds with their low morals”. Okay, so I’m putting a lot of words in a lot of people’s mouths, but maybe it’s just that I feel a little hurt when I hear a right-wing candidate tell me that my education and my affinity for city-living (even though the largest metro I’ve inhabited was Kzoo) makes me somehow bleed a little less Red, White and Blue than Plow-Pushing, Fallow-Field-Farming Joe Iowa.
My wife likes the whole, Real Americans are dumb hicks argument about as much as I do, but she has a more stable take on the whole issue. As she says, “So, what’s the deal? I work hard and save up and send my kid to college so he can have a better life and then he automatically has to turn his back on everything I taught him. Is that really the end result of the American Dream?”

But what I really don’t like about Sarah Palin is the niggling, nagging thought in the back of my mind that her candidacy is just one giant “fuck you” from the Republican Party to the American people. Seriously, it’s as if Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and the ghost of Jerry Falwell were sitting in a smoke filled back room and brain storming on the perfect McCain running mate. Things were going poorly until Rove, in a flash of Lee Atwater like inspiration said, “Hey, let’s find a republican who perfectly fits every negative description of Obama that we’ve thrown out there. Let’s find someone with no experience, someone who doesn’t stand for anything, someone who’s all style and no substance.” And with that the shadowy Republican cabal cracked a collective smile, sacrificed a small, scared welfare mother and conjured up Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska (state motto: Where Hell froze over).
We can argue back and forth about how hypocritical it is to complain about Palin’s lack of experience when Obama is so green, but I would argue that there’s one significant difference (okay, there are a bunch of important differences, for one, Obama’s limited experience at least shows that he’s competent). The people, or at least a slim majority of Democratic voting people, chose Obama. He may be green and lacking substance, but at least the people said, “Yup, there’s our guy, the Democratic Regan.” Sarah Palin on the other hand, was picked without any consultation. She was presented as if to say, “Hey, all you fence sitting fiscal Republicans and undecided Independents, you want to vote for John “The Old Guy With Multiple Cancer Scares” McCain? Then swallow the uneducated, bitter pill that is Sarah Palin.”
Seriously, her only qualifications to be vice-president is that she consistently appeals to the worst in the Republican base.  Everything out of her mouth has either been a lie (bridge to where now?), blazingly stupid (I can see Russia from my house!) or racist. Sometimes she manages to combine all three in one statement. Like the notorious, “Obama pals around with terrorists”. Palin got her information from a NY Times article that pointed out that Obama and Ayers at one point served on some committee together. The NY Times article itself mentions that their relationship is distant at best, and yet Sarah Palin is trying to make it out like they have BBQ’s together where they roast burgers over burning American flags. Why tell such an easily disproved lie? Well, it’s either because she didn’t read all the article or it’s because the real point of the attack is to get the words “terrorist” and “Barack HUSSEIN Obama” in the same sentence. Anything to remind people that the Democrats are running a Muslim for president.
One a related note, marvel at the hypocrisy. Here is a woman claiming that Obama and his tenuous relationship to Ayers is a “palling around” with an America hater who herself has spent decades fellating a man who hates America so much he was a member of a successionst movement.

So, you know, that about sums it up.

October 16, 2008 Posted by | Politics | Leave a comment

Children are horrible

So, I was reading this thing today about how horrible nursery rhymes are. The gist of the article is that most nursery rhymes are actually political in nature. And often, those politics are horrifying. They seem mainly to deal with Queen Mary of England and her torture. So, you know, exactly the sort of thing you want to teach a toddler all about (although, to be fair, back in the day kids were getting married at age 12 and dying at age 25. Also, considering the insanely high rape, pillage, pox and murder rates found throughout pre-Industrial Revolution Europe, maybe you did want to explain the violent, evil, mean-spirited facts of life to your toilet-trainee).
Anyway, what really struck me about the nursery rhymes was not how disturbing they are (ever read an original Brothers Grim fairy tale?), but rather, how nonsensical they are to the modern reader. Even assuming that this whole notion that “Mary, Mary quite contrary = rhyming genital torture couplet” idea is bupkis, what’s fascinating (to me at least) is that there is, in fact, room for doubt about its meaning. Most of these nursery rhymes are less than 400 years old. Most of them were originally written in English and there hasn’t been any sort of cataclysmic, Earth-shaking event which would have disrupted the contextual meaning of the rhymes. In other words, there’s no reason why the meaning of these rhymes shouldn’t be clear as day.
It’s understandable that large sections of the Bible are open to interpretation. It was written millenia ago over the course of hundreds of years in archaic versions of languages which today are, at best, not widely spoken. Plus, until relatively recently, it’s care and transmission were left largely to the Jews. Now, I’m not faulting the Hebrews for anything, I’m just saying that they’ve gotten the short (and often pogrom-ish) end of the stick for pretty much as long as they’ve been around. It’s understandable that somewhere along the line they would have fumbled a little bit and sort of let slip some important contextual tidbits that were necessary for a clear and accurate understanding of the holy writs. What with all the slavery and wandering and temple sackings and persecutions and such.
Anyway, what I’m getting at is that nursery rhymes don’t have any of those problems, and yet getting to their fundamental meaning is (almost) as difficult as understanding an ancient, poorly managed, supernatural salvation how-to manual*.
I wonder if this is a trend that will continue. It’s hard to say, but it’s enough to make me think about freezing my head before I die. I would love to be thawed out in a time, say 2350 A.D. when Lil Wayne’s Lollipop is on the lips of your waddling great-great grand kids**.

* The real implication here is that 99% of everything written in this century will be effectively meaningless within 400 years. In that spirit, Guzzle red run berry hatrick SitCH fact corrupt fast 134 bladders. (That should keep them guessing.)

** I would love for 2008’s strongest contender in the “Waste of Talent, Hip-Hop Single” division to come, song bird like, out of the lungs of my progeny, but I’m not sure I’ll have any. I think, for the most part, that this entire post is really, deep down, about my David Lynch-ian feelings towards my impending fatheriness (que screaming devil-cow fetus baby)
Really, I’m sure it’s one of those things where once I just jump and do it I’ll realize that there’s really nothing to it and I’ll wonder why I was so scared and hesitant***. It’s just tip-toeing up to the edge of that particular cliff that’s difficult.

*** I guess that I would describe myself not as being in favor of Abstinence Only education so much as I’m a supporter of Protectionless Only education****. I think that everyone should have a pre-wedlock child by the time they’re 15. I mean, it makes sense. Like driving and watching the Saw franchise of movies, having a child is something you should do while you’re too young and stupid to know how terrifying it really is. That way you can practice on your little mulligan baby and then, when you’re older, wiser and more financially well-off, you can pawn the brat onto your parents and go have a new, unblemished, child. I really think that system would make everything a lot easier for baby-making adults.

**** Admitedly, my Protectionless Only education stance does clash with my Pro-Abortion stance (to paraphrase the Simpsons, “Abortions for some, more abortions for others!”). No doubt when I run for Office, this contradiction will be used by my opponents as proof that I’m wishy-washy. I prefer to think of myself as being pragmatic about the whole thing: Abortions where we can, bastard children where we must.

September 2, 2008 Posted by | Personal | 2 Comments

Today I started a scandal… and possibly a world war… the scandal thing doesn’t seem so important

I work for a newspaper. Not like a real newspaper or anything, just a small special interest (law) rag with a small circulation. It’s a small company and, as such, I wear a lot of hats around the place. One hat is the tri-cornered Colonial style hat of the feature’s editor. Another is the cheap, plastic mesh hat of the layout monkey. Today, those two hats collided (not to worry, it happens a lot).
While checking through my email this morning, I discovered that a military-oriented press service had sent me two different stories. And when I say stories, I mean pictures with absurdly long captions. One picture involved a service man from Dayton and the other a service man from Toledo. This was perfect, my employer just so happens to publish two different papers, one in Toledo and one in Dayton. I wear the trucker cap and the Founding Father hat for both papers. Then I actually examined the stories more carefully and decided not to run them.
The picture for the serviceman from Toledo was fine, it was the picture from Dayton though that was problematic. Here’s a link. A picture of an American with a gun posing a bunch of Iraqis. Yeah, that’s the sort of thing that’s never gone wrong before. I mean, seriously, even if he’s not torturing them (by all appearances he’s forcing them to dance the Y.M.C.A., which does seem like something of an Abu Ghraib move) then he’s arresting them.
The picture for the Toledo service man, while far less inflammatory (it’s just the guy talking to some members of the Chinese Army), didn’t come with a headline and I didn’t really feel like writing one myself.
Sadly, my boss (who wears the nylon stocking face-covering editor’s mask) also saw the emails and ordered me to run both.
Thanks to the Internet (and this blog post) there’s a chance that the real media might find the Dayton photo and turn it into some kind of big story. There’s also a chance that a member of the Chinese government might read the headline I  came up with for the Toledo photo (“Local soldier inspects People’s Liberation Army”) and begin pressing the red button.

P.S. My original headline was going to read: Local soldier humiliates, defeats People’s Liberation Army. So you can’t accuse me of not doing my part to avoid a nuclear holocaust.

August 6, 2008 Posted by | Personal | Leave a comment

An Army of The One

So, here’s a fairly random thought: where are the parenting books on how to prevent your kids from becoming religious nutcases? I mean, there are plenty of books out there on how to raise your kids in a manner pleasing to God, but what resources are there for making sure your kid doesn’t get caught up some semi-cult revival movement? I mean, hell, even the books on how to de-program and re-brain wash your kids are written from a Christian perspective and aim to break children of their idolization of MTV and Hollywood.
Now, please understand, I’m writing this as a person who one day will be a father and has no greater desire than to raise nice, pleasantly agnostic children. The last thing I want is for them to turn into some weird BattleCry, Christian Exodus podlings who reads Worldnetdaily for fun (latest headline: Illegal aliens are driving drunk on American roads)
I mean, I want to raise kids who are free to find their own salvation and religious meaning, but I really don’t want my children to become an active part of a faith that believes that everyone not a part of a specific church is hellbound. Maybe I’m alone on this but I don’t think that pittying every single one of your countrymen (and, indeed, fellow Earth inhabitants) is good parenting.
Now, I’m not worried about my kids going all felon as a result of their religious conversions (I mean, part of what’s great about America is how we water down our most violent faith-based impulses) but still… Even ruling out strapping a bomb to one’s self, there are still plenty of religiously inspired douche-baggy things a kid can do. Like cursing pregnant women, proudly (and loudly) boycotting rock concerts, wearing those (and I mean this literally) God-awful “This Blood’s for You” t-shirts or bookmarking Worldnetdaily (seriously, DUIllegals? Come on. Sure, points for originality, but this is the site which once warned me that Mexico was sending in soldiers dressed as Tex-Mex resturant busboys).
Besides, what if they do get all armed and dangerous? Does anyone remember the last Children’s Crusade? Look it up, a bunch of French kids in the 1200’s, clad only in their nighties and weilding nothing more threatening than their purity tried to travel to Jerusalem to reclaim the Holy Lands from the muslims. There were enough children to fill seven boats, which left France for the Middle East. Two of the boats sank and the remaining children were sold into slavery as soon as they hit dry land.
So, I ask you: where are the books to guide me guide my children towards simple, unassuming spirituality?

April 7, 2007 Posted by | Religion | 2 Comments

Why Doesn’t America Have More Killer Muslims?

So, here’s something that’s been bothering me: why aren’t there more American Muslims committing murder in the name of Allah? For the record, I have no idea how many of this country’s murders are actually committed by Muslims for religious reasons, but I’m willing to bet the percentage is negligible.
Think about it like this, France can’t seem to go a lunar season without an Islamic riot and the Dutch can’t run an editorial cartoon without ducking for cover and yet can anyone think of a similar occurrence in the U.S.A.? I can’t, and I’ve spent most of my life living (relatively) close to the largest concentration of Muslims in the country. I mean, the only thing that comes to mind was a disturbance in the 1980’s when a white college radio DJ played the Cure’s first single, ‘Killing an Arab’ (a new wave adaptation of Camus’ The Stranger) and mentioned that he thought taking out some Middle Easterners sounded like a good idea. The Arab population was outraged and their anger took the form of some harshly worded letters to the editor.
Now, I’m not saying Dearborn’s a great place to picnic after dark, but it’s hardly the most dangerous place in the country, or the world for that matter (can I get a “What! What?” from all of my London peeps?). It seems to me that if the behavior of Arab immigrants in Europe were any true indication of Arab immigrant behavior worldwide, then Detroit should be a smoking crater (well, more so). In fact though, history has proven that when it comes to domestic bred terrorism I have more to worry about from fundamentalist Christians than I do from Muslims.
Now, I’m not the sort to pose a question without answering it with a poorly-reasoned and ill-informed opinion (for the purposes of this explanation, all of my facts come from Gregg Easterbrooks The Progress Paradox, a book I read three years ago and only sort of remember… I wouldn’t take any of this as Gospel). I think the reason that America suffers so little Arab-American violence has everything to do with the fact that we are America (for the record, I know that sentence reads clunky and sounds stupid, but I honestly can’t figure out a better way to write it). As much as our immigration policies and cultural attitudes toward immigrants could benefit from some retooling, when we say that America is a melting pot, it’s more than just lip service. Like every nation on Earth, through legal or cultural pressures, America encourages immigrants to adopt the practices of their adoptive country. However, what America does better than possibly anyone else is showing tolerance towards immigrants’ native cultural patterns and a willingness to make accommodations. I think it says something that France has generations of Arabs who have never crawled out of poverty whereas in America there is no average income difference between an American who can trace his/her ancestry back to the Mayflower and an American who’s parents were born in Syria. It’s not that America is taking in all of the hard-working, industrious Middle Easterners and that France (for the rest of this, France = Europe) get only the lazy immigrants. France isolates it’s Arab immigrants. It makes it almost impossible for impoverished immigrants to assimilate. There’s no breaking in period, no training. France requires it’s immigrants to speak French fluently if they’re to receive any help from the State, there are no French as a Second Language classes for their children and expressions of the immigrants Islamic heritage is actively discouraged if not actually outlawed (didn’t I read somewhere that France was at least thinking about banning the niqab?). There’s no better way to ensure that a people will cling to their traditions than making it illegal to do so.
At least in America there’s no official language, meaning you don’t have to speak English to bring a slum lord to court. If your children don’t pick up English from their American friends (which they will*) there are ESL classes in public schools to help them. As a liberal atheist I may find the burka and niqab sort of demeaning to women, but as an American I realize it’s not my place to make Muslim women wear denim and tank-tops. The end result of all this is that for all real intents and purposes, the children of Muslim immigrants grow up to think of themselves as Arab-Americans. As opposed to the children of Muslim immigrants in France, who think of themselves as Arabs living in France. And that makes all the difference.
*Want to know why America doesn’t need to declare English as the official language of the country? It’s because any such law or amendment would be redundant. Despite whatever you may hear, children do not learn their mother tongue from their parents but from their friends. Sure, if a child grows up in a household that speaks Arabic exclusively, then yes, that child will learn to speak Arabic. However, if that child grows up surrounded by English speaking children, then that child will also naturally learn to speak English fluently. And in most cases, it’s English, the language of their peers, that the children will think of as their first language. And other than a few words and phrases, the grandchildren of Arab immigrants will speak English exclusively.
I know what you’re thinking, “but what if the children are kept from American kids by their parents?” All I can say is, “consider the Pilgrims”. Before landing on American soil, the Pilgrims fled England and settled in the Netherlands. Now, keep in mind that it’s hard to think of a more isolationist group than the Pilgrims (what other group leaves en mass to get away from a dominate culture?). In time, the Pilgrims left the Netherlands for what would become America because the Pilgrim children were growing up culturally Dutch. They spoke Dutch (even at home) and observed non-Pilgrim holidays. In fact, they were so enmeshed in the Dutch culture that many of them were even willing to have fun instead of just working until they collapsed in pain and exhaustion and then quietly dying.

March 30, 2007 Posted by | Religion, Society | 1 Comment

Things That Are Dead

1) The music album
Mp3’s, iTunes, Napster, ringtones, etc., etc. Have you heard? Recently an R&B group called Candy Hill has been signed to a two song deal. That’s right, they get to cut an entire single (with a B-side no less). Theoretically, if the two songs do well, then the band will get to renegotiate their contract and put out a full album. Not for nothing, but I can’t wait until every musical act signs contracts that only call for individual songs. Let’s be honest, most acts can only write two or three good songs. They then pad out the C.D. with ten mediocre to crappy cuts. I say, let’s restrict all musical artists to releasing only singles until they prove that they can be trusted to write an EP’s worth of music. And then, assuming that artist’s or act’s first 5 EP’s are “good” (to be decided by a consortium of average fans, hip critics [see number 4] and other, similar musical acts), a chance to record an entire LP’s worth of material.

2) Blogging
When radio was a new phenomena, the first programs on the airwaves were literally nothing more than people who were passing by the station (I’m fairly certain this was in Philadelphia) and were pulled off the street by the owner and put in the recording booth. The idea was to simply to fill air time so that early adopters (who were apparently easily impressed) would rave to all their friends about how buying that talking box wasn’t a waste of a money because, hey! Look at all the content there is. Never mind that the content was, from an artistic, aesthetic and entertainment standpoint, worthless. The point was that the purchase of a radio was justified by the fact that there was anything to listen to at all. That’s sort of how I view blogs today. As soon as it becomes reasonable to do so, some entrepreneur will find a way to make money off managing other peoples’ blogs and boom, the days where just anyone would feel entitled to have a blog will be over. Soon we’ll all pay for the privilege of reading blogs and we’ll only pay for the highest quality content.

3) Free Television
Do you know why broadcast television exists? It exists to draw your eyes and attention to corporate advertisements. Television shows are nothing more than commercials for advertisements. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, except that it seriously undercuts the entertainment potential of television programming. Since shows are designed to attract a maximum number of eyeballs towards commercials, the model they operate under forces shows to sacrifice quality and depth for mass appeal. Which isn’t to say that appealing to the lowest common denominator necessarily reduces the entertainment value of television, but come on. Don’t you think we can do better than Survivor: Race War?
Besides, aren’t you tired of having other people dictate how and when you enjoy a television show? We don’t let others tell us when to pick up and put down a book (with the exception of my 7th grade geography teacher, who took great pleasure from ripping novels out of my hand… like I ever needed to know about the three traditional Siberian dances that she read about in a dog-eared copy of National Geographic). Why do we allow commercials, programming strategies and (increasingly irrelevant) ‘seasons’ interrupt our content intake? Just because it allows television shows to be given away? I don’t know about you, but I would gladly pay to do away with all of those compromises if it meant that television might finally fulfill it’s potential.

4) Hip
It used to be that only a select few ever knew about the latest Cursive/Silver Scooter split single or where to find some obscure, Mexican horror film featuring a masked wrestler. Well, the internet has made the few the many. Anyone with even a passing interest in any formerly cult entertainer or media content can, in under 5 minutes, learn more than anyone would ever realistically need to know. What’s the point if keeping ahead of the kids if any snot-nose with a dsl line can one-up you? In a way this is liberating, I mean, the pressures off. If anyone can find the never-filmed script of Revenge of the Old Queen then what’s the point of finding it? Hip is all about knowledge scarcity and assuming you know how to do a simple Google search, then the internet has made all knowledge hyper-saturated. Of course, on the down side, what are white, virgin college kids going to do with their free time?

5) The Christian Right
Okay, this one isn’t dead yet but it might as well be. I mean, aside from leading the Republicans down an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole where fun is wrong and right is never right enough, there’s no where left to go. Let’s assume that Hell quite literally freezes over and, oh, I don’t know, Billy Graham’s angry son Frank becomes president, Ann Coulter become head justice of the Supreme Court and Pat Robertson assumes the position of Speaker of the House. So what? The worst that happens is that their collective bigotry and sex-phobia becomes law and national policy. Okay, life becomes far less fun (sorry gay people and other assorted heathens). But really, even if every person in this country (hell, let’s shoot the Moon and say in the world) were to become stark-raving fundamentalists, it wouldn’t solve our problems. Well, it might solve some of them but it would cause far more. Extremist positions never solve anything (I would say that Noam Chomsky is dead, but I would first need proof that he’s ever done anything that provided a sign of life first). And, honestly, anyone high enough in the fundy world to wield significant power knows this. They just use their extremism to jerk people around. For them, Jesus isn’t about solving problems, he’s about money and the consolidation of power in the hopes that, with money and power, these impotent (or not-so-secretly gay meth addict) men can remove from their neighborhoods all the things which make them, due to their unfortunately unhealthy minds, uncomfortable, like women and mosques.

March 28, 2007 Posted by | Society | 2 Comments