Main » Current Affairs
July 05, 2006
If Karma Is a Boomerang
You know, it's not that I find this funny, per se, because I don't. It just seems ... it just makes sense, in a way. Alanis Morrisette would find it ironic.
Big Brother starts tomorrow, so expect my posting - which has been infrequent at best - to become even more scarce. Unless Satchel does something exceptionally cute, and then I'll just have to post about it.
Feline Detente Update: This morning, Caygeon licked Satchel's head. In a nice way - it wasn't a death lick or something malevolent like that.
In other news, I am thisclose to spontaneously buying a plane ticket to New Mexico. Neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeds. I have neeeeeeeeeeeeeeds!
April 04, 2006
Happy Days Are Here A-gain
From the It's About Damn Time files: Tom DeLay Quits House
Is today a wonderful day or what? Do we dare to dream that Bill Frist might follow in DeLay's footsteps sometime soon?
Turning Water Into Whining - Bill Maher takes on paranoid Christians (the opening bit about Andy Card stepping down is also a hoot).
In Savannah recently a children's book about a baby penguin, who's raised by two male penguins (*gasp*), was removed from the library for its homosexual overtones. 'Cause you know penguins, with those tuxedos, and the dreamy eyes ... huge fags.
Now I know George Bush says Jesus Christ changed his heart, but believe me - Dick Cheney changed it back. The only thing Bush has in common with Jesus is that they both went into their father's business and got crucified for it.
Thomas Jefferson called the type of Christian who trumpets his own belief in the divinity of Jesus rather than the morality of Jesus "pseudo-Christians," and that's who's running our country today. And since they thrive so much on turning water into whining, and get off on their endless pretend persecution, this Easter season let's give them what they want - let's go to the zoo, get some lions, and feed them Tom DeLay."
March 28, 2006
How I love to watch the morn,
With golden sun that shines,
Up above to nicely warm
These frosty toes of mine.
The wind doth taste of bittersweet,
Like jasper wine and sugar,
I bet it’s blown through others’ feet,
Like those of Caspar Weinberger.
February 21, 2006
Stupid People Suck
I've been reading off and on for a year or so about the dumb fake reverend guy - I think his name is Fart Phelps? - who is going to military funerals and staging anti-gay protests. Because funerals are the perfect place for public dissent, naturally.
(Public displays of affection, too - but that might just be if you're either Tom Cruise or Katie Holmes. And if you are, I feel really sorry for you. Oh, and you're insane.)
Anyway, the most reverend Fart Phelps and his merry band of brain-dead, hypocritical, bile-inducing followers are going to have to stop picking on dead soldiers and take on their new nemesis - the Patriot Guard Riders. No word on whether or not any of the Patriot Guard Riders are gay, but statistically speaking, there's a good chance.
So you might be asking - Why, in America in the 21st century, is anyone protesting gay people? It defies belief that a society as tolerant and accepting as ours would judge others based upon their sexual preference, I know.
Well, it seems that Fart believes that "American deaths in Iraq are divine punishment for a country that he says harbors homosexuals. His protesters carry signs thanking God for so-called IEDs -- explosives that are a major killer of soldiers in Iraq."
Now, let's just overlook the philosophical inconsistencies inherent in believing that the Almighty is actively cheering - with pom-poms and high leg kicks - the death of His children. What I want to know is - when did God start making IEDs? And did he pass those mad skillz on to the insurgents? Because if so, that's just bad form.
The bikers, though, try to ameliorate the damage the protesters are attempting to inflict by "shield(ing) the families of dead soldiers from the protesters, and overshadow(ing) the jeers with patriotic chants and a sea of red, white and blue flags." Fourteen states are considering legislation aimed at the funeral protestors.
I don't know if that's going to go anywhere. You can't legislate stupidity (unfortunately).
Amen, brother. I can't think of a more lovely sentiment than that. But over on the other end of the spectrum we have one Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of Fart and an attorney for the "church" who yammers on that God killed the soldiers because the U.S. - and therefore by extention the military, I guess - embraces homosexuality.
OK, first? The U.S. doesn't embrace homosexuality. Only a total nimrod would believe that, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Second, the military doesn't ask and doesn't want you to tell (much like God, apparently), so targeting people who have died while serving in a historically gay-unfriendly occupation is really kind of pointless.
Male hairdressers die ALL THE TIME - go protest at their funerals!
The SCRIPTURES are "CRYSTAL CLEAR"??? I think my brain just exploded. I've read the Bible, but it was a long time ago, yet I don't recall any passages that described God going apeshit on anyone using a sword. Locusts, yes. Festering boils, sure. Even death of the firstborn (and this begs the question - is Shirley Phelps-Roper the oldest of her siblings?).
God might be able to smite Monaco all by himself with just a sword, but a country as large and diverse (not to mention violent) as the United States? He'd need to employ the services of the KISS Army.
And an IED is not "just a broken-up sword," you twit. Nails, screws, glass, and other small, sharp projectiles (along with explosives), but probably not chopped up pieces of sword. Chopping up a sword would take too much work, and today's extremist just doesn't have time for such frivolities.
I don't know. I'm all for letting stupid people show how stupid they are (the devil you know, as it were), but it just seems that at some point the stupidity reaches maximum saturation and then all you're left with is ... the sword.
February 16, 2006
Dinner At Mike's
Rufus, a colored bull terrier, stands over a table at Mike's house in Arizona on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2006. Rufus became America's top dog Tuesday night by winning Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club. The dinner menu consisted of salmon roasted over a cedar plank, wild rice, and Chardonnay. (AP Photo/Shiho Fukada).
Rufus: The Scourge
SEE??!? You people didn't believe me when I said Rufus, a colored bull terrier, was negatively impacting the other dogs at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show earlier this week, but HERE IS YOUR PROOF:
"NEW YORK - A canine contender from this week's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is missing after escaping from a travel cage at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, authorities said."
Now, why do you think that poor whippet was in such a frenzy to get out of her cage? I'll tell you why - RUFUS. I have it on good authority that Rufus, a colored bull terrier, was nearby at the time. This is the same whippet I posted about yesterday, who was driven to flee the dog show crying acid tears after looking too long at the strange and offputting visage of Rufus, a colored bull terrier.
They managed to find the whippet after that and had her long enough to get her into a crate and attempt to send her home. I'm hoping they're able to find her again, but this begs the question:
How long will we allow the reign of terror of Rufus, a colored bull terrier, to go on?
February 15, 2006
Go Pug Yourself
I'm bummed. The pug didn't win the Westminter Kennel Club Dog Show. Look at this dog and tell me HOW it didn't win:
Dermot, a pug, waits for his turn to be judged during the Best in Show competition at the 130th annual Westminster Kennel Club dog show , Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2006, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
That is the cutest dog EVER. Especially when compared to the thing that actually did win. Let us look at some photos...
This is a cute dog:
Owner/handler Ken Matthews parades Andy, a golden retriever, in the ring during the Best in Show competition. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
This is also a cute dog:
Boomer, a Dalmatian, trots into the ring for the Best in Show competition. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
This is not a cute dog. This ... is an alien:
Rufus, a colored bull terrier, holds his pose in the ring after winning Best in Show. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Just when I start to think Mike is McDreamy, he tries to tell me that this monstrosity is "cuuuuuuuuuuuute":
Rufus, a colored bull terrier, poses with his trophy after winning Best in Show. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
IT LOOKS LIKE A PERSON!
The only reason Dermot the Pug didn't win was because he uncharacteristically flinched during the judge's examination:
Dermot, a Pug, pulls away from the judge, James Reynolds, while handler, Barry Clothier, looks on in the ring during the judging for Best in Show. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
If not for that, we wouldn't have been subjected to the abomination that was crowned Best In Show. I mean, seriously, even the other dogs have issues with Rufus:
Bear, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, is rendered mute and blind after seeing Rufus, a colored bull terrier, in the ring. Minutes later, Bear bled tears of vomit out of his eyes and was rushed backstage for emergency veterinary services. Despite looking upon so heinous a creature, Bear is expected to make a full recovery. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
A whippet makes the mistake of looking directly at Rufus, a colored bull terrier, and is momentarily shocked into stunned silence after catching a glimpse of the monstrosity before the judging for Best in Show. After a terror-filled three seconds where the whippet was, effectively, turned to stone, the dog managed to flee the building while barking "MY EYES! MY EYES! IT BURNS!" to the shocked crowd. The whippet's whereabouts are currently unknown. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
February 14, 2006
God Loves a Terrier
LOOK AT THIS FACE!!
How freakin' cute is THAT? A pug won the Toy Group at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show last night, which means that it will be competing for Best In Show tonight - TONIGHT - at 8 p.m. ET on the USA Network.
DO NOT MISS IT.
Some other photos from yesterday's opening day of competition:
Coco, left, a Norfolk Terrier, is presented by her handler in the ring during competition at the 130th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Monday, Feb. 13, 2006 in New York's Madison Square Garden. Coco won best in breed. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
I love this bitch so much, I'm bummed that she only managed runner-up in the Terrier Group (missing the Best In Show competition).
Jody Paquette, of Sudbrury, Ontario, grooms Colin, a Shih Tzu, for competition. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Interesting that they're now breeding EYELESS DOGS. What's next, a puggle?
February 09, 2006
Barbara Bush, reincarnated:
A cat is inspected at an international feline beauty contest in Brussels, February 5, 2006. The contest took place with an exhibition of the cutest cats from all over Europe. REUTERS/Yves Herman
December 21, 2005
Despite the fact that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is Satan himself, there are times when I am in awe of our judicial system. Good awe. Sometimes a judge manages to wade through a sea of rhetoric and emerge with a decision that makes such logical sense that all you can really do is give them a (virtual) pat on the back and say, "Well done."
So "Well done," U.S. District Judge John Jones. Yesterday you ruled against the teaching of so-called "intelligent design" in science classes in a Pennsylvania school system. At some point I plan on reading the full decision (PDF), but for now I'm enjoying the image of Jones sitting back and saying, "What do they think I am, STUPID? This is just creationism masquerading as science. DUH."
(Yes, District Court judges say "DUH" every now and then.)
From the ruling:
|Judge John Jones, smart guy|
... wait for it ...
... "breathtaking inanity."
*swoon* U.S. District Judge John Jones, you have your first groupie.
I love it when the judiciary gets bitchy.
It is a great day, people. A great day indeed.
Additionally, a hearty "Well done" to the voters of Dover, PA, who cast out (yes, Biblical reference there) in the November election eight of the nine school board members who started this dumb thing.
December 02, 2005
Condoms and a Crab (Nebula)
The Obelisk of Buenos Aires is covered with a giant condom to commemorate World AIDS Day December 1, 2005. According to a report issued by ONUSIDA (UN AIDS), the number of people infected with the HIV virus in Latin America had risen over the last year from 1.6 to 1.8 million. REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian
This image of the Crab Nebula, released by NASA and ESA (the European Space Agency) on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2005, is one of the largest ever produced with the Hubble Space Telescope, the Earth-orbiting observatory. It gives the most detailed view so far of the entire nebula. The space agencies say the Crab Nebula is one of the most intricately structured and dynamic objects ever observed. (AP Photo/NASA, ESA and Jeff Hester)
November 16, 2005
Gimme an O!
Sometimes I just love the cosmic righteousness of the world. As in ...
The first reaction I had to that headline was, "That probably wasn't much of a battle, depending on who the otters are going up against." And I was right because they were going up against MAN. Or rather, man's folly in believing that he can shape the world to his liking.
When Sanders, a biologist, finally captured the critter at Southern California's Anacapa Island, he shipped Phoky north to Monterey under an ambitious federal program to preserve otters while protecting shellfish divers from natural competition.
But within six months, Phoky was back in forbidden waters. He was one of dozens of otters that surprised government biologists at almost every turn. Now, it seems, officials are throwing in the towel.
In an admission that the slick-furred creatures refuse to respect boundaries imposed by man, authorities want to officially abandon their otter-relocation policy.
If the government's battle of wits is at an end, the otters have won.
Goooooooooooooooooo OTTERS! *shakes pom-pons*
Seriously, look at this face:
Would you try and remove that cute widdle creature from its natural habitat and force it to live in a cold scary place that it doesn't know? NO! And no one puts Baby in a corner!
"We flew 'em out there," Sanders said, "although we didn't blindfold them."
The otters didn't play along. Some swam up to 200 miles to return to native habitat along the Central Coast.
Just like how sea turtles return to the beaches where they hatched to lay their own eggs. Just like how the swallows return to San Juan Capistrano every year on March 19th (also known as my birthday).
There's a lesson to be learned here: don't f*ck with the otters, man.
"It comes down to a philosophy of, what do you believe in? Do you believe in animals or do you believe in human beings?" said Robert S. Juntz Jr., president of the Sea Urchin Processors Association and owner of a processing plant in Mendocino County that employs about 45 people.
And that lesson goes double for you, Mr. Robert S. Juntz Jr.! Last I checked, human beings don't NEED to eat urchins, and in fact, urchins are not a staple of a human being's diet. Unlike, oh, OTTERS. So I guess I believe in animals.
I believe in the sweet spot, soft core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve, and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days. Goodnight.
October 20, 2005
Ball of Confusion
True story: Up until two years ago, my friend Trina's driver's license showed a photo taken of her in 1986. Ever since then, she's been able to automatically renew through the mail. And that's just a PHOTO - forget testing eyesight or the ability to drive safely.
September 02, 2005
July 26, 2005
I have been both busy and uninspired lately. Excuses, excuses.
There was a very interesting op-ed column in the New York Times yesterday - The Best Army We Can Buy, by Stanford professor David M. Kennedy. I know quite a few people serving in the military right now, so I found the column especially interesting.
It talks about the chasm that currently exists between the people who serve in the military and civilians, and then contrasts this with the way society and the military were interwoven in the past, especially during World War II:
Many African-Americans understood that link in the Civil War, and again in World Wars I and II, when they clamored for combat roles, which they saw as stepping stones to equal rights. From Aristotle's Athens to Machiavelli's Florence to Thomas Jefferson's Virginia and Robert Gould Shaw's Boston and beyond, the tradition of the citizen-soldier has served the indispensable purposes of sustaining civic engagement, protecting individual liberty - and guaranteeing political accountability.
That tradition has now been all but abandoned. A comparison with a prior generation's war illuminates the point. In World War II, the United States put some 16 million men and women into uniform. What's more, it mobilized the economic, social and psychological resources of the society down to the last factory, rail car, classroom and victory garden. World War II was a "total war." Waging it compelled the participation of all citizens and an enormous commitment of society's energies.
...The implications are deeply unsettling: history's most potent military force can now be put into the field by a society that scarcely breaks a sweat when it does so. We can now wage war while putting at risk very few of our sons and daughters, none of whom is obliged to serve. Modern warfare lays no significant burdens on the larger body of citizens in whose name war is being waged.
That last paragraph rings especially true for me. I'm asked to sacrifice nothing - literally nothing - when my country wages war on others. If I didn't read the newspaper, watch television, or surf the internet I could conceivably know nothing about the armed conflict in Iraq. I'm not asked to give, because others are giving for me.
This isn't to say that I think there's something inherently romantic or, by definition, noble and honorable about serving in the military. For most people, it is a career choice. One that is far more risky and for obscenely lower pay (given that risk) in comparison to other occupations, but still - it's a choice. However, it is certainly a choice I'm not willing to make myself – I'm not willing to die so that people in Iraq may be free – so it is for that reason that I respect those who do.
I think, though, that if civilians were asked to make sacrifices in order to support and defend the interests of the country, that most of us would. But I can't imagine a scenario where modern U.S. society functions as a unit to support foreign policy. Well, I can - world war.
It's easy enough to say, "Well I don't agree with the policies of _insert name of President HERE_, so I'm not going to give up anything to support them." On the whole, I agree with that point of view. How else is a citizen supposed to make their views known, if not through the willingness to vocalize and act on dissent?
However, if it became plain that our own safety and way of life were threatened - not in oblique terms, like Iraq, but in concrete, quantifiable terms like 9/11 - I think people would pull together in ways that would rival the society back in the 1940s. But situations that are devoid of political jockeying (which is the P.R. problem that shadows Iraq) are few and far between.
I can't say that Saddam Hussein being ripped from power in Iraq makes me feel like it's less likely there will be another terrorist attack in the U.S. at some point. The U.S. military has done some wonderful things in Iraq on a humanitarian level, but the currency offered for progress there has been the blood and limbs of thousands of servicepeople. It's not for me to decide whether or not that sacrifice has been worth it, but I can't help but think that we should have gotten more in return for our tributes.
Instead, we're helping to build a country where the proposed constitution strips women of the right to choose their own husbands. How does that honor, especially, the female soldiers who have given their lives?
Perhaps we missed an opportunity after 9/11 to do something socially meaningful and revolutionary. I haven't given up anything, even though I'm willing to (although that sentiment doesn't extend to the Patriot Act, which is so flawed on its face that I have trouble understanding why it's able to pass into legislation). There is no uniform sacrifice in this country, not on any level.
Should there be?
June 13, 2005
First Do No Harm
There's something about this story of the girl whose parents had opposed radiation treatment for her cancer that just annoys me.
The parents, Michele and Edward Wernecke, lost custody of their daughter Katie a week ago, after opposing radiation therapy as unnecessary. When the new test results were announced at a hearing in juvenile court, the parents quickly complied and agreed through their lawyers to let doctors set the course of treatment, which could resume in days.
"The Werneckes are devastated," said Daniel F. Horne, a lawyer for the couple. Mr. Horne said they were too distraught to comment.
Mrs. Wernecke went with a doctor to tell Katie the news before a family gathering under state supervision to celebrate her birthday. She will turn 13 on Saturday.
The agreement on treatment appeared to douse another hot spot in the field of patients' rights. Coming on the heels of the polarizing right-to-die case of Terri Schiavo, Katie's case raised the provocative question of when parents lose their rights to control a child's medical treatment. Under Texas law, parents may withhold medical treatment from a terminally ill child, but not in lesser situations.
"If the benefits of treatment are clear and clear harm can result from withholding care, ethically the state has the right to step in," Dr. Robert Klitzman, co-director of the Center for Bioethics at Columbia University, said.
Allowing a disease to inflict harm, Dr. Klitzman said, "is a form of child abuse."
I know it's an utterly tragic situation; now that tests have shown that Katie Wernecke's disease has returned - possibly during the intervening time when the parents sought to block radiation treatment - I'm sure her parents are second-guessing the decisions that they made. Everyone suffers in this situation.
I guess what annoys me is the apparent hubris of the parents in thinking they knew what was medically best for their child, rather than accepting the knowledge and expertise of three oncologists who were all prescribing the same treatment - chemotherapy followed by radiation.
This treatment is standard for the mid-range stages of Hodgkin's - an early stage (Stage I) is typically treated solely with radiation because the disease is so localized. The latest stage, Stage IV, does not usually include treatment with radiation due to the extent (spread) of disease - people at Stage IV typically have disease both above and below the diaphragm, or they have disease that has spread to their organs and/or bone marrow. In Stage IV the person would need full-body irradiation, which is usually seen as being too high-risk when compared to possible benefits.
So Katie's oncologists recommending chemo followed by radiation was in no way experimental or "out there" - it's the gold standard for treatment. After four months of chemo, the girl's scans showed the disease to be in remission. At this point, her parents decided that was good enough. She didn't need radiation because her disease had been eliminated; adding the radiation treatment would only harm a "healthy girl."
I hope that the oncologists in question adequately explained the treatment of Hodgkin's disease and what it entails. But maybe they had poor communication skills and never explained - in a way the parents and the girl could understand - the treatments and potential side effects.
A CT or PET scan is no guarantee of remission. The only true indicator of remission is a lymph node biopsy, and even then, it's possible that the cancer in the lymph nodes in a secondary site was not as responsive to treatment as the node that was biopsied.
A scan is used to measure the difference in size of the affected lymph nodes. A decrease in size is seen as an indication that the treatment (either chemo or radiation) is having an effect. But it is by no means an exact science. It cannot measure on a microscopic level whether or not there are any active cancer cells in those tissues.
Just one active cell left behind means your cancer regrows. Recurrent disease is more difficult to treat than the initial disease.
This is why it is important to do everything possible to treat cancer the first time. I was diagnosed as a Stage IIA - this meant that I had disease on just one side of the diaphragm (in my case, above the diaphragm), with no poor-prognosis indicators (night sweats, weight loss, bulky disease). However, I had enlarged lymph nodes all over my chest (under both arms, both collarbones, and between my lungs), which meant that the disease was definitely on the move.
I did research and learned that the standard treatment for my stage was either chemotherapy alone, or chemotherapy plus radiation. The disease-free rates (the percentage of people who are still in remission five years after finishing treatment) didn't seem all that different - I believe it was 80% with chemo and around 87% with radiation. Both very good numbers, all things considering.
I decided early on that I only wanted to deal with Hodgkin's disease one time, so I sought out an oncologist who would treat me with both chemo and radiation. Fortunately my oncologist was a cowboy who told me that he was going to "pump (me) full of drugs until (I) turn green."
Strangely enough, that was exactly what I wanted to hear.
I had six cycles of chemo (I think Katie only had four because of her age; the patient gets sicker and weaker the more cycles of chemo they have), followed by a CT scan. MY scan showed that my lymph nodes were still enlarged - the opposite of Katie's situation. This was taken to mean that I still had active cancer cells; the chemotherapy had been partially effective, but not fully. I had disease over too big an area to risk radiation, so my only recourse at that point was a stem cell transplant.
So I had another lymph node biopsy, which showed that my nodes were enlarged due to scar tissue, not active cancer. I went on to have three weeks of daily radiation treatments, and I've been in remission for almost nine years.
It's impossible to say if I would have done equally well with just chemo. There are certain risk factors and side effects from radiation treatment (thyroid problems, soft-tissue tumors, breast cancer), but fortunately I'm past the point when any of those things are likely to happen.
Chemotherapy, which the girl's parents approved of, is also not without risks. First, you're much more likely to have a fatal reaction to a chemotherapy drug than you are to a treatment of radiation. I actually DO have long-term side effects from chemo (scar tissue in my lungs). I'm past the point where I'm much at risk for secondary leukemia or other blood disorders. Chemo can also cause heart damage, nerve damage, or sterility, depending upon the drugs you are given.
So this idea that the potential side effects of radiation was the breaking point for the parents is just ... odd. You're already taking a huge risk by agreeing to chemotherapy.
I sincerely hope that this girl's disease is able to be treated successfully with radiation and/or additional chemotherapy, and that the time fighting against the advice of her oncologists doesn't end up negatively impacting her survival.
There's one quote from the many news stories that sticks out for me. The parents rationalized their decision by saying that Katie herself didn't want to have radiation therapy; she talked about having kids, and that she'd rather risk getting cancer again than have radiation treatment.
I'm sorry, but that kid was 12 years old and scared. This is when parents step up and make more level-headed decisions than "I'd rather risk getting cancer again." Because if her cancer had returned, chances were going to be that the treatment would not be more chemo (although they might have tried that first), it would be a stem cell transplant.
A stem cell transplant has much greater long-term risk than radiation, AND there is a greatly increased chance of dying from the treatment itself than there is with radiation. It's not even close. The short-term AND long-term side effects are much more grave when you choose the path of "I'd rather risk getting cancer again" rather than choosing radiation treatment.
I don't know anyone who died from radiation treatment for cancer; I know at least six people who died from a stem cell transplant.
April 27, 2005
You know how I have that 101 in 1,001 list of things I want to do? Well I'm putting it on a brief hiatus, because the next thing - the absolute NEXT THING I am going to do - is not on that list.
It is time:
I am going to buy a gun.
I figure, why not? I live in Florida. The governor of my fine state just signed legislation that allows me to use deadly force, in public, in circumstances where I feel in imminent danger of great bodily harm.
(What I love about that story is the first sentence, and how Gov. Jeb Bush had a lobbyist from the N.R.A. standing right beside him as he signed the new law into effect. Bush doesn't even attempt to hide the lengths to which the gun lobby influences the laws in this state. That's pretty ballsy, Jeb!
Or, you're a clueless halfwit.)
Forget that my definitions of "imminent," "danger," and "great bodily harm" might be different than most. I'm taking this to mean that if some random person menaces me with a ... fork ... while I'm walking through the food court at the mall, then I have carte blanche to shoot them in the head.
I also have the state-sanctioned right to shoot someone in the head if I feel that YOU are in imminent danger of great bodily harm.
Two words: Vigilante. Justice.
*puts on spurs and cowboy hat*
I guess I can't blame Bush completely for this horrible law. It passed the Florida senate 39-0. Which just defies explanation as far as I'm concerned. Did no one think this law was a collosally bad idea?
I also want to get the opposite of a concealed weapons permit. I don't want to be legally allowed to hide my gun. I want to be able to wave my gun around with impunity. I want to be packin', and I want everyone to know it.
Look at me askance and no longer will you be getting a boot to the chest - you'll be getting hot! bullet! action! to the head.
I'm also going to need to perfect the ability to simultaneously point both a flashlight and my gun at someone, just like Mulder and Scully do.
Hey. I wonder if this means I can legally carry a flamethrower in public? Because that's always been my dream. Screw guns - no one is going to mess with an angry chick wielding a lit flamethrower.
April 15, 2005
I believe I dislike Frist, the cat killer/doctor who believes in diagnosis by VIDEO, even more than I dislike Tom DeLay. I mean, really - how clueless do you have to be to say that Democrats are "against people of faith" for blocking President Bush's judicial nominees?
And somehow, I don't think "faith" refers to those who are Muslim or Jewish.
I really liked this part: "The Democratic minority has blocked confirmation of 10 of President Bush's judicial nominees by preventing Republicans from gaining the 60 votes needed to close debate ... Dr. Frist has threatened that the Republican majority might change the rules to require only a majority vote on nominees...."
Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) is on record as saying he would vote against that measure. Which is why I LOVE HIM.
I used to love the X-Files. As much as I hate to admit it, the show started going downhill fast when David Duchovny left. I really loved Gillian Anderson, too, but the whole point of the series was the dynamic between Mulder and Scully, so once Duchnovy jumped ship the show lost its center.
However, I could have done without Duchovny being such a monumental ass about things. He left to pursue fame and fortune in the movies and gave all the world the impression that television - and Mulder - were beneath him. OK, can't really blame him for that. He's an ACTOR (say that with a flourish and a dramatic wave of the hand), that's what they do.
But it's kind of nice - schadenfreudelicious, if you will - that Duchovny has done a whole bunch of nothing since blowing off the X-Files. The New York Times sums up his new movie, "The House of D", thusly:
"The reasons to avoid David Duchovny's unwatchable coming-of-age drama can best be summarized in a simple declarative sentence. Robin Williams plays a retarded janitor."
My favorite Nascar driver is Kasey Kahne, and it's solely because he's dreeeeeeeamy. Apparently I'm not the only one to fall for the good-looks-as-marketing-ploy (nice photo of Kasey in that story, too).
*waves Kasey Kahne foam finger*
April 07, 2005
Here Comes the Sun
I'm just not understanding this - Congress wants to pass a bill to extend daylight-saving time.
Theoretically, Congress can pass a bill for just about anything. They can reschedule New Year's Day for July 17 and say that A.M. and P.M. are now switched.
But as far as I know, they can't do anything about the amount of time it takes the Earth to orbit the sun, the degree of planetary tilt, the rotation of the planets, etc.
Of course, Tom "Screw Ethics" DeLay might have something to say about that.
I know I'm missing something basic here. What is it?
"The more daylight we have, the less electricity we use," said Markey.
Well, yeah, that I do understand, but - Congress can't mandate how much daylight we actually have. Right?
March 21, 2005
No Such Thing As Justice
I live in the same county as Terri Schiavo. I know exactly where her hospice is located, I've seen the protesters, I've seen people driving around with SAVE TERRI shoe-polished onto their cars, and I've been inundated over the last three years (since I moved back to this area) with the latest news in her case.
I've mostly become able to ignore it all. I can see both sides of the issue - I don't believe this woman is truly living (her husband's position), but it's difficult to rationalize starving someone to death when they can breathe on their own (her parents' position).
There are so many questions that go beyond her specific case - What does it really mean to be alive? What about other mentally or physically handicapped people who cannot live without assistance? How long do you wait for signs that someone with a debilitating brain injury can recover? I honestly don't know which side here is "right" (although I lean towards thinking that the parents are in denial about their daughter's ability ever to recover in a meaningful way).
But here's what I do know - Tom DeLay is a moron. Tom DeLay, one of the most ethically-challenged congressmen in recent memory, someone who never met a travel or fundraising rule that he didn't feel like he was entitled to break, is a moron. Tom DeLay believes that Terri Schiavo is just as alive as the rest of us.
Really? I don't see anyone, Tom DeLay included, offering to trade places with this woman. I don't see DeLay offering that he would be happy to "live" the rest of his life in a bed, not moving, not speaking, not doing anything for himself, unaware of his surroundings, oblivious in every meaningful way to the world around him.
She's just as alive as the rest of us? I don't think so.
Unless the definition of alive is simply the ability to breathe on one's own. I don't think it is.
Congress needs to stay out of this. I find it really troubling that they think they have any right to get involved in what is a personal, private matter between the husband and the parents, one that has been weaving its way through the court system for years now.
My family knows two things about me when it comes to death and dying - I want to be cremated, and I don't want to be on life support for an extended period of time. Once it becomes obvious I won't recover - that I won't retain my essential Julieness - then pull the plug.
If I'm not me, if they can't recognize me as ME, then I'm just a body with no soul. I don't want to end like that.
February 14, 2005
Caged 'Roid Rage
Apparently Jose Canseco is going around bragging about his steroid usage during his days as a Major League Baseball player. Whatever. He is also outting other players as being steroid users. Again, whatever. None of this is shocking.
What's shocking, at least to me, is that Jose Canseco has the balls - because after all, steroids shrink your testicles - to say that Jason Giambi has the most obvious "steroid user" body he has ever seen.
Well, I guess Jose Canseco never looked in the mirror - an amusing thought for such a narcissist, isn't it? - because I've had the great pleasure (!!!) of seeing the man without his shirt on and he had, without doubt, the biggest, broadest chest I have ever seen.
EVER. Bar none.
I walked behind him, following him into the Toronto Blue Jays locker room after batting practice one day, and his shoulders were so broad that I was not at all sure he'd be able to fit through the door. His last name, emblazoned across the back, barely spanned the distance between his shoulderblades.
I was in the locker room when he took off his shirt, and my first thought was, "If this guy were to punch me in the face, he'd probably kill me." He was that huge.
So he needs to shut up now. A lot.
January 31, 2005
A Different Kind of Pineapple
The new weapon of mass destruction in Afghanistan:
January 14, 2005
You Still Don't Complete Me
Whoa. I just read Maureen O'Dowd's column in today's New York Times and now I know the reason why I'm not married! (Other than the fact that I don't want to be married.)
I'd been noticing a trend along these lines, as famous and powerful men took up with the young women whose job it was to tend to them and care for them in some way: their secretaries, assistants, nannies, caterers, flight attendants, researchers and fact-checkers.
Women in staff support are the new sirens because, as a guy I know put it, they look upon the men they work for as "the moon, the sun and the stars." It's all about orbiting, serving and salaaming their Sun Gods.
In all those great Tracy/Hepburn movies more than a half-century ago, it was the snap and crackle of a romance between equals that was so exciting. Moviemakers these days seem far more interested in the soothing aura of romances between unequals.
I have experienced this twice. For some men, there's this idea that, as a woman, if I don't consider them the sun around which I orbit that it means I'm not into the relationship. I've had male friends who prefer to be with women who make them and the relationship the focus of their entire life.
Which I've never fully understood; I understand the desire to be loved and appreciated, but I don't quite get the desire - beyond pure egotism - to be worshipped. It sets up the relationship in a grotesquely unequal way, and I don't imagine those kinds of relationships last very long (or are ultimately very fulfilling).
BUT, that's just me. I've always been one of those people who is attracted to men that I feel are my equal, especially intellectually. If that equality isn't there, he doesn't hold my interest for very long.
As John Schwartz of The New York Times wrote recently, "Men would rather marry their secretaries than their bosses, and evolution may be to blame."
A new study by psychology researchers at the University of Michigan, using college undergraduates, suggests that men going for long-term relationships would rather marry women in subordinate jobs than women who are supervisors.
As Dr. Stephanie Brown, the lead author of the study, summed it up for reporters: "Powerful women are at a disadvantage in the marriage market because men may prefer to marry less-accomplished women." Men think that women with important jobs are more likely to cheat on them.
A second study, which was by researchers at four British universities and reported last week, suggested that smart men with demanding jobs would rather have old-fashioned wives, like their mums, than equals. The study found that a high I.Q. hampers a woman's chance to get married, while it is a plus for men. The prospect for marriage increased by 35 percent for guys for each 16-point increase in I.Q.; for women, there is a 40 percent drop for each 16-point rise.
I'm screwed. So, so screwed (if that's true. I refuse to believe it is, or that it makes pairing up impossible).
I just thought of something - what if the glitch in the study results is that men who are attracted to women who are their equals don't necessarily seek out marriage? And vice versa. Maybe those types of people are more likely to eschew a "traditional" institution such as marriage?
This part makes me sad, because I really like Carrie Fisher and think she's wonderfully smart and talented:
"I haven't dated in 12 million years," she said drily. "I gave up on dating powerful men because they wanted to date women in the service professions. So I decided to date guys in the service professions. But then I found out that kings want to be treated like kings, and consorts want to be treated like kings, too."
January 07, 2005
Letters From Home
I've been getting some really nice e-mails in response to those packages I sent out to the military a few weeks ago, including this one:
Greetings from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. On behalf of all of us here, I would like to thank you for your care package received today. We are very grateful to you for your generosity. The DVD you sent us will become part of our Camp DVD library.
It is people like you who in their generosity make it so evident that we live in the greatest nation in the world. We are proud to serve you, to protect your way of life, and to ensure the hope of a better day tomorrow.
I will be posting your letter on the bulletin board so others can respond to your letter.
Nice, eh? I thought that was very kind of him. Especially when I realized that his return address is one assigned for Special Forces soldiers, so I'm sure he's probably extremely busy at all times.
That letter really made me introspective for some reason. I wrote him back, including the following:
I've been thinking a lot about the U.S. military since I found the anysoldier.com website. I realized that you and the other soldiers are willing to make sacrifices for our country that I don't honestly know I am willing to make myself. I know that I'd be willing to risk my life and/or health for my family and friends, but whether or not I could extend that willingness to people I don't know, or a cause, or an ideal ... I just don't know.
So I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for being willing to do the things that most of your countrymen are not willing to do. I want you to know that your sacrifices have not gone unnoticed, or unappreciated.
No matter what I think about our presence in Iraq from a political standpoint - and I'm pretty sure my opinion about that is obvious to anyone who reads my site for any length of time - I really do admire the soldiers, sailors and Marines who are over there. It can't be any easy life, even if they volunteered for it.
December 08, 2004
Today's PAOTD (Petty Annoyance of the Day): Donald Rumsfeld
"You go to war with the Army you have," he said in a rare public airing of rank-and-file concerns among the troops.
So if the Army you have is armed with rusty spoons and kneepads, well, sucks to be them.
The bigger thing that irks me about that statement is that it implies some sort of deficit in the soldiers themselves, not the equipment. The fact that they're not properly equipped is something that is well within the U.S. government's control, and it's comical that Rumsfeld would suggest otherwise.
What's not comical is how badly I want to slap him.
NICE, Rummy. Such macho posturing, "win the test of wills." Because we're all petulant 3-year-olds who don't want to compromise no way screw that we just want what we want and we want it now. NOW! And now I'm having a flashback to Woody Allen explaining his affair with his stepdaughter by saying "the heart wants what it wants." As if that makes it okay. Jesus.
Army Spc. Thomas Wilson, for example, of the 278th Regimental Combat Team that is comprised mainly of citizen soldiers of the Tennessee Army National Guard, asked Rumsfeld in a question-and-answer session why vehicle armor is still in short supply, nearly two years after the start of the war that ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?" Wilson asked. A big cheer arose from the approximately 2,300 soldiers in the cavernous hangar who assembled to see and hear the secretary of defense.
Specialist Wilson gets the gold star of the day. I understand the need for command integrity and unit cohesion and all that, but it's about damn time that these issues started being aired publically. Statistics are not esoteric when you're talking about KIA and WIA. Those are - were - real people. If they're going to risk their lives for this country's policies, the very least this country can do is give them the tools necessary to protect themselves as best they can.
Unfortunately, nothing gets the Pentagon's attention quite like a public airing of dirty laundry. Makes me want to be a reporter again.
And, the defense chief added, armor is not always a savior in the kind of combat U.S. troops face in Iraq, where the insurgents' weapon of choice is the roadside bomb, an improvised explosive device that has killed and maimed hundreds, if not thousands, of American troops since the summer of 2003.
"You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can (still) be blown up," Rumsfeld said.
Well, gee, if that's the case, why bother with tanks at all? Just send 'em out in beat up Pintos retrofitted with chain link fence and fire hoses. Trick out a few with flame throwers and glare-resistant windshields and be done with it.
Maybe the better idea would be to send the soldiers into the fray already equipped, rather than handing them that rusty spoon and telling them they'll get their M-16 as "fast as humanly possible. But until then, make the best of the conditions, you poor bastard. Now I'm off to get my flu shot. Smell ya later!"
December 07, 2004
Put Me In, Coach
Man, Major League Baseball is cocked up something fierce.
Denny Neagle's off soliciting a prostitute for oral sex, and that seems downright quaint compared to the news that there's a veritable pharmacy of controlled substances floating through locker rooms these days. I don't do drugs, but I'm getting in the mood by listening to Britney Spears' "Toxic." I can feel myself getting angrier by the second, so maybe Jason Giambi needs to get ahold of some Bit-Bit, and put the syringe back in the medicine cabinet.
What kind of lame joke is it that Sammy Sosa can get a seven-game suspension for corking his bat, but a player needs to test positive for drugs TWICE before they're riding the pine?
Where have you gone, Bart Giamatti? I'd even take frankfurter-fingered Fay Vincent over Bud Selig, who has always made me want to rip his face off, even back when he was just the owner of the Brewers.
This is making me wax nostalgic for my years as a sportswriter, when the biggest scandals were drunk driving (stupid), spouse abuse (creepy and stupid), and speculation of who may or may not be gay (the Anita Bryant Brigade). I'm sure some of the players were juiced, but needle parties weren't as rampant as they apparently are today.
Oh, for the gentler times of the 90's, when a spring training scandal consisted of walking in on a pitcher (Exhibit A: Green, Tyl*r)(suck it, Google search!) watching porn in the press room. I think he was more embarrassed than I was, if his overly-chivalrous treatment of me for the rest of spring training was any indication.
I wouldn't want to be covering sports today. Players have always been physically imposing – Jose Canseco had the biggest upper body I had ever seen on a human being when he played for the Blue Jays – but I really wouldn't dig hanging with these big musclebound horses if they're amped up on steroids. They already look like they could beat me within an inch of my life if provoked; I don't need to be around them if they're on a hair trigger.
Because it doesn't take much to get their attention, at least if you're a female writer. I remember one afternoon, during my first spring covering the Phillies, I was in the locker room with the rest of the Philly beat writers waiting to talk to players. I always moved with the pack; there was safety in numbers. I was barely 22 years old, so I hung out behind the professionals and tried to be as inconspicuous as possible.
So I'm just standing there and players are walking around in various states of undress. But they're mostly nude, and mostly strutting. I spent a lot of time that spring checking out my shoes, and the footwear of everyone else around me.
I hear yelling and look up to see W*s Ch*mb*rl*in (I'm too smart for you, Google) swaggering around the locker room, freshly showered and naked as a mole rat (and just as hairless). I do everything in my power to avoid eye contact – Hey, look! The ceiling is really pretty today! – but he makes a beeline in my direction, hips a'shaking, flapping the middle finger around to and fro like a spastic, suffocating fish. I don't know who told him to audition for the Clearwater Community Players' production of Free Willy (including the bent fin), but it certainly wasn't me.
Then he hugged me. While wet. And asked me if I liked what I saw.
But you know, I'd already seen plenty of male genitals by that point (purely in a professional capacity, of course), and well, this guy was nothing special. I'm pretty sure that there's some weird survival of the fittest throwdown going on in professional locker rooms that weeds out the underendowed guys – nay, even the averagely endowed – from those with oversized equipment. Skewing the sample size, as it were.
The poor average guys were probably subjected to mental torture until they cracked, suffering a breakdown in their play and earning a ticket out of the majors (Exhibit B: Beech, M*tth*w). By the end of spring training there was a Bataan death march of small-knobbed men filtering single-file out of the locker room.
I guess they got their revenge, though. Don't steroids shrink the testicles?
November 18, 2004
I'm all for the bad, bad, evil, law-breaking, won't-someone-think-of-the-children pot smokers going to jail and everything. Even more so when they're dealing the drug. But doesn't it seem that a 55-year sentence for selling marijuana is just a little bit harsh?
This leads into my problem with these mandatory minimums. You can have situations where someone committing a relatively (in comparison) minor crime can get a vastly longer prison term than someone who committed, say, murder or rape. It's all the letter of the law, true. But mandatory minimums eliminate the need for context when it comes to determining prison sentences.
One crime is worse than another, and we should let the judges, you know, judge.
November 09, 2004
The Cobb County (Ga.) School Board is being sued over the use of stickers in biology textbooks that refute the idea that evolution is a fact (calling it, instead, a "theory"). This is the part that stands out for me:
I'm just not sure that the place for this is a biology textbook. Biology is a science, not a religion, and therefore it's not surprising that the text would speak about scientific principles rather than religious ones. I also don't think that protecting feelings is a good enough reason to alter a textbook.
But maybe the school board should leave those stickers in the textbooks, seeing as how the recent discovery of miniature humans is apparently bursting the bubble of evolutionary thought (at least as it currently stands).
I'm starting to think that, in addition to English, math, science and history, high school students should be required to take a class on world religions. No emphasis on Christianity, but rather a balanced course that outlines the major world religions, their origins/histories, basic beliefs, etc. I know that understanding religious doctrines isn't really necessary, but isn't the point of education to prepare young people to be successful in the world? To be of the world, and in the world, it helps to understand the world around you ... and I don't think anyone can deny that religious beliefs play a huge role in various global issues.
In other words, how much math does a person really need to know in order to get by? Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, for the most part. Your average high school freshman already knows all of those concepts (hopefully), but we still require those students to take an additional 3+ years of math. Why? Because we believe that further knowledge of things like geometry and trigonometry and calculus (if you're a masochist) - even if they're not used on a daily basis - will give people additional skills with which to succeed.
How much history do you need to know? Is it really important to know what happened before the Industrial Revolution? We memorize historical facts, but can they be applied to modern life? I know that Christopher Columbus discovered America - but so what? What does knowing that do for me, other than elevate me (in a horribly classist way) above people who haven't memorized that fact?
Maybe another value of education - beyond basic living skills - is in giving people the means to place themselves, and the world, in context. It's for that reason that I think high school students would benefit from being required to learn about different religious beliefs.
To Hell They Will Go
I've been reading various news reports over the last two days regarding the new assault on Falluja, and there was one exchange reported by various media outlets that has really stuck with me.
"Your job is to arrest the killers but if you kill them then let it be," he said, according to a pool report.
"May they go to hell," shouted the soldiers. "To hell they will go," Allawi replied.
TO HELL THEY WILL GO. It seems like such a surreal statement to me, and yet inescapably media-friendly. How long will it be before we see a book released with that title, either written by Allawi or someone else? What about a movie (although it might be a little long for a movie title - that's a lot of type to fit on a poster).
Or maybe we'll see "Grand Theft Auto: To Hell They Will Go" in Target next Christmas.
I keep trying to picture the exchange, with the soldiers shouting and Allawi - who takes on a very John Wayne persona - responding, and it seems almost ... life-affirming, in a weird way. There's something inherently attractive (not physically, but mentally) about people who are that passionate about something. Within limits, of course. Maybe it's because I'm not personally religious that I find other people's beliefs - and how they're manifested - so interesting.
November 02, 2004
Touch Me, I'm Sick
I don't know why that song title just popped into my head. Was that a Green River song, or was it Mudhoney? I don't care enough to look it up. Seattle grunge, at any rate.
11:52 p.m. – Well, it has happened; I want sleep more than I want to find out who won the election. Sleep always wins with me.
11:34 p.m. – My NBC network has been on local coverage for the last 20 minutes and I don't care. I'm giving this horrible, horrible thing until midnight to resolve itself, and then I'm going to bed and denying the existence of this apparent reality.
11:02 p.m. – Bush leads 197-188 with CNN calling California for Kerry and Idaho for Un Petite Tyrant.
10:58 p.m. – Hope springs eternal, as Kerry pulls within 193-133 by winning Pennsylvania. California, which is solidly Democrat, carries 55 electoral votes, so ... I guess it's not over yet. But Florida is going Bush, I can just feel it. *crosses fingers for Ohio pulling through for Kerry*
10:47 p.m. – God, whatever. I'm going to wake up tomorrow morning and the sky will be black and the air will be filled with ash and brimstone and the sun will be in eclipse and birds will be speaking in tongues and time will move in reverse and and and ... *cries*
10:07 p.m. – Even Jon Stewart isn't making this better. A guy whom I haven't talked to in a few years, Eric, messaged me and now we're talking about how many gay guys he knows support Bush. That defies logic. But he does live in Texas, so maybe that explains everything.
9:44 p.m. – Kerry comes back a bit in Florida; the popular vote is now 52-47% for Bush. Pennsylvania is tracking heavily for Kerry; Ohio might be our last great hope for regime change. Nausea Level is at DEFCON 3.
9:27 p.m. – I've just opened my fourth Diet Sunkist of the night and have resigned myself to feeling like hell, stomach-wise, tomorrow.
HWG: 156-112, Bush
HWG: the key states still not reporting
Teem: *sits on pins and needles*
HWG: I'm not sure whether or not I'd like to have Bush just barely beat Kerry, or kick his ass
Teem: barely beat him
Teem: noooooooooooo, Ohio is leaning to Bush!
HWG: I hate Florida
HWG: I hate Ohio, too
Teem: you die, Ohio! You die and you go to HELL!
9:00 p.m. – Teem is online, so we're commiserating. Florida is still too close to call, but exit polls (bad for Bush) don't appear to match actual vote tallies (good for Bush). Which is BAD. Very bad. And I'm eating hummus again.
8:44 p.m. – South Carolina and Virginia go to Bush. *glares*
8:22 p.m. – Bush takes the lead, 81-77, after taking North Carolina. Russert chants "OhioOhioOhio" and "FloridaFloridaFlorida" because, apparently, NO OTHER STATE MATTERS!! Woo!! Doesn't that mean my vote for Kerry should count, say, 25 times? And Brokaw just said he didn't want to leave other states out. Oh Tom, quit trying to be so inclusionary.
8:15 p.m. – Bush leads Kerry in Florida in the popular vote, 55-45%. C'mon you Wangers! Don't vote for your spiritual leader! Only one-fifth of the precincts are reporting, so there's still plenty of room for Floridians, as a whole, to wise up. Ooh! Tom Brokaw is now going to Tampa - ewww, he's throwing it over to Ralph Reed, who is blessedly having mic issues and so I have avoided Satan, Jr. for the moment. Brokaw starts talking to my crush, Tim Russert, and I celebrate by consuming Edy's Whole Fruit Strawberry Banana sorbet.
8:00 p.m. – John Kerry leads in the electoral votes, 77-66. For the moment. I'm trying not to eat more roasted garlic hummus, but I feel stressed right now, and it makes me feel all warm and happy inside. Much in the same way drinking napalm might.
Raise Your Voice
Happy Election Day!
You say you want a revolution
Well you know
We all want to change the world
Finally, it is Time. Hopefully a new day is dawning. A day when I can turn on my television and not see a political advertisement. A day when I can come home from work and not have messages on my answering machine from celebrities encouraging me to vote.
A day that, I fear, will live in infamy.
I was living in North Carolina for the 2000 election, working at Total Sports. I voted for Gore, dammit. I remember that I was working the night shift (6 p.m. to whenever) on Election Night, and it was quite the exciting time watching the returns come in on the networks.
Of course, that led to both confusion and abject depression. But still exciting!
You tell me that it's evolution
Well you know
We all want to change the world
I forgot my Who To Vote For cheat sheet at the office (I've got all the major players covered, but when it comes to referendums and amendments and school board openings, I can't keep it all straight), so I won't be able to vote before work this morning. Which means I'll be queueing up to vote after work.
I know my rights, though - if I'm in line before 7 p.m., you have to let me vote no matter how long it takes. So I will not be denied! Wraugh!
Anyway, I hope you all get out there and vote, no matter which candidate you support. As nasty as this election has become in some ways, I think it's wonderful that so many people plan to be involved in the process.
Don't you know it's gonna be alright...
October 13, 2004
You Say Potato
I'd forgotten how interesting Dr. Deborah Tannen's theories on male vs. female communication styles are to me. She wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times yesterday that talks about Bush's reluctance to admit mistakes, what this might mean to female voters, and places it in the greater context of differences in how each gender communicates.
...Most women don't regard admitting fault as a liability. Instead, they value it as a sign of caring - and a necessary prerequisite to maintain credibility.
I have Dr. Tannen's book, You Just Don't Understand. I read it when it was first published - it was a gift from my father - but I should probably read it again.
Other assorted interesting reads:
Paul Krugman outlines the lies Bush will probably try to spin in tonight's debate, and rebukes them out of hand.
The Supreme Court is reviewing the constitutionality of the execution of juvenile offenders. The NYTimes steps up with a good editorial on the subject, basically asserting that lower courts have ruled that the execution of juveniles under 18 "no longer reflect(s) the nation's thinking." I also think it's fascinating that the justices have explicitly stated that they will be taking international opinion on the issue into account.
The Federal Trade Commission has begun to bitchslap Spyware purveyors. As someone who spent hours dealing with that god forsaken "begin2search.com" toolbar that took over my browser a few weeks ago, I can only say that it's about freaking time.
You suck, Sanford Wallace!
Speaking of sucking ... here's hoping Bush goes down in tonight's final campaign debate.
September 10, 2004
From the It's About Goddamn Time file - Powell Says Rapes and Killings in Sudan Are Genocide. I guess better late than never. Oh who am I kidding? ARE YOU PEOPLE DEAF, DUMB AND BLIND?!?!? Nothing has changed in the Sudan over the last few months and just now ... just NOW ... the U.S. goverment has decided it constitutes genocide?!?
Was there some threshhold as to the body count that we needed to go over before we were willing to call this situation what it is ... what is has been all along? The Bush Administration should be ashamed of themselves for taking so damn long on this. And if they're not ashamed of themselves, I'll be ashamed of them myself.
*slams head on desk repeatedly*
Why does it appear to be so damn difficult for some politicians to do the right thing?
Anyway ... in news that doesn't make me want to RAGE, I read this on NYTimes.com this morning - The Duel Between Body and Soul. Do you believe in the concept of a soul? If so, do you believe that the soul is a separate entity from the body? According to this op-ed piece by Paul Gross, a professor of psychology at Yale, it is this dualism that will shape the scientific and religious thinking in the future.
Because your soul? Inextricably linked to your brain. Which means your soul is, in fact, corporeal.
The conclusion that our souls are flesh is profoundly troubling to many, as it clashes with the notion that the soul survives the death of the body. It is a much harder pill to swallow than evolution, then, and might be impossible to reconcile with many religious views. Pope John Paul II was clear about this, conceding our bodies may have evolved, but that theories which "consider the spirit as emerging from the forces of living matter, or as a mere epiphenomenon of this matter, are incompatible with the truth about man."
Really thought-provoking stuff. It's enough to make your brain go ...
Nah, I won't say it.
By the way, comments appear to be wonky this morning.
September 09, 2004
Where the Heart Is
Judge Irene Sullivan is my new hero.
Denying a motion that could have moved the girls away, Sullivan said the state owes the two men "a debt of gratitude" for the way they took in two troubled foster children, now ages 6 and 7, and transformed their lives.
"I'm going to personally thank Dad and Daddy here, for in their way, stopping the cycle of abuse," Sullivan said. She even suggested the state use the men to train other foster parents.
What a wonderful story. For once, the judicial system in Florida gets something right. And the State Attorney's office needs to shut up and leave this ruling alone.
How could anyone read that story and not believe that the foster children in question aren't better off with these men, no matter what their sexual orientation is? Seventeen different foster homes in two months. And the Department of Children and Families wants to argue that these sisters might be adoptable, and so if there's even the slightest possibility of that - and it isn't proven, it's just someone's optimism at work - then we shouldn't allow the gay guys to care for these kids? Despite the fact that it's the gay guys who, at least for one of the girls, have shown themselves to be the only people to have given her the stability she needs to grow up mentally and emotionally healthy.
I just wish that people could get over their biases when it comes to homosexuality and make decisions that are in the best interests of the children in question. It almost never happens. Fortunately it appears that there's at least one judge sitting on the Pinellas-Pasco Circuit that has both compassion and a clue.
June 23, 2004
Calling It What It Is
From The Washington Post - It's Happening Again.
And another excellent, moving column by Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times about the same subject as the WP story – the genocide that is poised to occur in Sudan. A couple of months ago I wrote about the situation in the Sudan and how it didn't seem as if the U.S. - and other countries - had really learned anything from the massacre that occured in Rwanda in the early 1990s. I continue to be ... well, dumbfounded, really ... at the unwillingness to call this situation what it is.
I can't help but think that the only reason the U.S. government hasn't called it as such is because the Bush Administration is too busy fighting failing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to get involved (militarily or humanitarily) anywhere else.
At this point, I really think our efforts are better used elsewhere. Not that I'm advocating a "cut and run" out of the Middle East, it's just ... it's just a shame that as a country we've overextended ourselves to the point that we are unwilling to get involved where we are desperately needed.
But maybe that's also because Sudan doesn't have anything we want, or need, and therefore we don't much care to concern ourselves with their internal struggles. Survival of the fittest, baby. The meek shall inherit the dearth.
There's an online petition being created that will be sent to Secretary of State Colin Powell that urges him and the U.S. government to acknowledge the actions in Sudan as genocide. The petition contains some very good background information about what is happening there, as does the Human Rights Watch website.
June 18, 2004
What's Goin' On?
You know what scares me? This isn't eliciting a feeling of anger from me. I'm not sure why, because it certainly is something to be angry about. Mostly I feel sick to my stomach, unable to breathe, and incredibly sad. Sad and ... resigned to the fact that this is just the way things are going to be over in the Middle East for a long, long time to come.
I'm not assigning blame. I think the causes are too complicated, and too numerous. It's not one thing; it's everything, taken together.
Everybody thinks we're wrong
Oh, but who are they to judge us?
Simply 'cause our hair is long
Oh, you know we've got to find a way
To bring some understanding here today
I hope Mr. Johnson wasn't too afraid when the time came. Thinking about that is what brings me close to tears.
ETA: Karma in action.
May 02, 2004
We Are the Dead
I can't wait to visit the World War II memorial. Watching the Band of Brothers miniseries has really made me curious about what stories my grandfather, a WWII bomber pilot, might have had to share with me had he not been killed in a plane crash before the Korean War.
April 23, 2004
Souls For Sale
It seems to be the week of wondering aloud about the morality of mankind. A few days ago I was thinking about how countries treat their own citizens (the Holocaust), and how countries act towards people in need in other countries (Rwanda, the Sudan). Now I'm thinking about how we as individuals treat others.
Specifically, I'm thinking about Kevin Carter.
Kevin Carter was a photojournalist from South Africa who made a career of being right in the middle of suffering and strife. He took amazing photos documenting the atrocities in various African countries, as well as Kosovo. He took one amazing photo in particular:
This is a photo of a starving child. The child is trying to make its way to a feeding station in the distance, out of frame, in the hamlet of Ayod, in southern Sudan, during a time of widespread famine in the area. A vulture is shadowing the child, waiting for it to die so that it may feed.
It is a powerful, unsettling photo. There are specific instances when I believe images convey a story more precisely than words ever can, and that is one of those instances. Sometimes a concept - starvation, mass wartime casualties, etc. - is so abstract that merely reporting the facts doesn't really make a connection with a reader. We read the headlines - "Firefight Kills 25 Marines In Fallujah" - and we understand that a lot of people died, but the true realization of what that means is often not fully felt just by reading the words. As much as I love words, they can at times be antiseptic, especially if you do not have a preexisting, personal connection to the subject. This is especially true in hard news reporting (as opposed to feature writing).
But show us an image depicting starvation, or an image showing the flag-draped caskets of those 25 marines who were killed in action, and we often then have a much fuller understanding of the concept.
So for that reason, I think Carter's photo is an important one. The world agreed - the image won Carter the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography in 1994.
All Carter had to give up for it was his soul.
He watched this child pull her body along the ground for TWENTY MINUTES in a desperate effort to get to the feeding station, but he did nothing. He did nothing. He was waiting for the vulture to spread its wings so that he might get "the perfect shot." How disappointed he must have been that the vulture wouldn't cooperate.
I understand full well that journalists are supposed to be fair, impartial observers to the events they are documenting. I lived that life for almost 10 years; I know what it means. I know we aren't supposed to become participants, no matter how much we want to.
But Carter got his shot. He had finished being the observer. And yet he still did nothing. Oh, I guess he should be given some modicum of credit for chasing the vulture away. Good show. But then he ran off instead of helping the child reach the feeding station. He could have picked her up and taken her there himself. And if that seemed too much like participating - a line he didn't want to cross - he could have gone to the feeding station and directed them to the child.
But he did nothing.
Where was his soul?
How could he just leave the child there to die?
I could understand his behavior if he was in a position where he was forced to make a decision between getting the photo - an image that would "make the world weep" and do a great public service by helping people better understand what starvation looks like - and helping the child. But he didn't have to choose one or the other; he could have done both. I will never understand why he chose not to.
Carter committed suicide two months after receiving the Pulitzer Prize.
April 21, 2004
Again and Again
As I said a few days ago, I've been watching Band of Brothers on the History Channel, and it's been terrific. I'm down to the final episode (thank you, TiVo!), and the penultimate episode, "Why We Fight," depicted Easy Company's entrance into Germany and the company's discovery of one of the Jewish prison camps.
Not an easy thing to depict, of course, but it was done beautifully. It made me feel so many different things - revulsion balanced with empathy, anger offset by despair. The acting in these scenes was incredible - you could see all these different feelings flashing across the soldiers' faces as they began to understand what had happened in this camp. I think the prevalent feeling was shock - shock at what people can do to each other. Shock at how inhuman it is possible for humans to become, under certain circumstances.
There was a scene, after the discovery of the camp (and the ensuing realization of what had happened to these Polish Jews), where soldiers go back into the nearby town to get any food and water they can get their hands on. They go into a bakery and start taking all the bread, to which the baker protests vociferously.
One soldier, Webster, speaks German and translates what the baker is yelling to his fellow paratroopers. "He says he didn't know about the camp," Webster tells them. Then Webster grabs the baker and angrily asks how it was possible that the baker couldn't smell the burning and rotting flesh permeating the town. "You KNEW!" Webster shouts. The baker continues protesting, and another soldier says, "C'mon, Web. He says he didn't know."
"He didn't know?" Webster replies, looking at the baker with contempt. "BULLSHIT."
At the end of the episode, statistics were quoted - during what would become known as the Holocaust, Hitler's Germany oversaw the slaughter of six million Jews, and two million other ethnic minorities. Which is genocide, a term created in 1944 specifically to define what happened during the Holocaust. Ordinary citizens had knowledge of what was happening and did nothing.
I'm not sure it's fair to blame them for that, though. Perhaps they feared for their own lives, if they spoke out? Perhaps they just didn't think that their voice would make any difference?
But it got me thinking about genocide, and what our moral imperative is when we know that genocide is happening. Both myself as an individual, and the United States as a country. I don't think that, as individual citizens, we can do very much to prevent or stop the government-sanctioned slaughter of an entire race, religion or ethnic class of people. But I do think that the United States government does have a moral imperative to do whatever is necessary to stop genocide from occuring, even if we have nothing specifically to gain from it ourselves. We should do it because it's the right thing to do.
We're willing to fight over oil rights and our way of life. We're willing to fight to maintain or national safety and integrity. None of which I seriously disagree with. Why aren't we willing to fight simply because fighting is the right thing to do?
Because genocides are still occuring (if you click on only one link in this piece, please make it this one), even after we've documented the horrors of the Holocaust. Do you think that the United States would stand around, willfully ignorant, if millions of Jews were still being executed in Europe? Absolutely not. So why did we stand around while almost one million people were slaughtered during ethnic cleansing in Rwanda in 1994?
I guess we were too busy with Vietnam to really care about how Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge were in the process of killing 2 million Cambodians (30% of the country's population).
One of the things that infuriates me is the fact that national governments won't call the mass slaughter of hundreds of thousands - based on ethnicity, religion or race - exactly what it is: genocide. Because if they do, according to United Nations resolutions, they are required to act. If the term is used, the U.N. is legally obliged to act to "prevent and punish" the perpetrators.
But we don't want to get involved, so we run around saying that we "condemn these actions and ... call on all parties to cease any such actions immediately." Thanks, President Clinton! I'm sure the Hutus and Tutsis cared a whole hell of a lot that you asked them nicely to stop hacking each other to bits with machetes. Jesus.
And it's still happening. The Arab Janjaweed militia, armed by Sudan's government, are systematically killing and displacing black Sudanese citizens. According to Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, 1,000 black Sudanese are killed every week.
Last week, Kristof used his column to talk about what is being done - or not done - to prevent the situation in the Sudan from reaching Rwanda-like proportions. There is a tentative cease-fire in place, but this statement couldn't be more true – "It's a fallacy to think that just because we can't do everything to stop genocide, we shouldn't do anything."
March 31, 2004
Man's Inhumanity To Man
Today the news was filled with reports of four American civilian contractors who were murdered in Iraq. Their cars were set on fire, and then their dead, charred bodies were dragged through Fallujah, dismembered, and finally hung on display from a bridge.
All of this happened to the cheers of Iraqi men, women and children alike. Children.
Obviously, you cannot judge an entire country by the acts of a handful of people. But I just cannot fathom how a person ... or even a group of people operating with a mob mentality ... could ever believe that such horrific, inhuman acts were reasonable. Even if you believed your country had been invaded, even if you believed that innocent countrymen had been killed by the invaders, even if you had been raised to believe that Americans are "evil" – how, how do you get to the point where you think it's acceptable to commit such vile, reprehensible acts?
But maybe that's just it. Maybe these are people who were raised in such a way, in such an environment, that ripping a dead person's body apart, beating it with poles, and hanging it like so much meat in a butcher shop isn't a deplorable act – it's just Wednesday.
It's that possibility, amidst all of the horror of this day, that truly breaks my heart.
March 22, 2004
To Heaven, You Martyr
I'm afraid that something really, really bad is going to come from this.
March 17, 2004
I Owe You Pain
There's a special place in hell for this woman. That story makes me want to cry.
February 07, 2004
The two-headed baby died after surgery. Poor little thing. She never really had much of a chance.
I've decided that even though I object to the death penalty for practical, rather than moral, reasons (it is applied unfairly to poor people who are in the racial minority), I hope the guy who killed Carlie Brucia gets a needle in the arm for his troubles. Although I guess in Florida, it'll be getting strapped into the electric chair.
"Needle in the arm" sounds much more poetic.
February 04, 2004
Two Heads Are Better Than One
*buries face in hands*
(And yes I know the title of this entry is probably in really poor taste and puts me on the express train to Hell, but it was the only thing I could think of. Feel free to chastise me accordingly.)
January 29, 2004
Wind Beneath My Wings
I'm quite impressed by Dr. David Kay, the former Iraq Survey Group head inspector who stepped down recently. It takes a lot of courage to stand up for what you believe is right in the face of overwhelming opposition, but the man keeps talking plainly about what he sees as unmitigated failures in the U.S. intelligence-gathering process as it relates to Iraq. I admire that. Sometimes a person - or a nation - has to admit they were wrong before they can get back on the path to being right.
Incidentally, President Bush's gross mishandling of l'affaire Iraq is but one of many, many reasons I think he's been a horrible "leader" for this country. Absolutely horrible. The fact that he's done a handful of positive things doesn't make amends for all of the many negative things that he is responsible for making come to pass.
If my child or spouse had been sent to Iraq to give their life for their country's interests based on some bright shining lie, I would be enraged. And I don't feel safer after 9/11 at all. More foreign interests dislike us now than before that day, and the ones that already had it in for the United States are even more vociferous in their abject hatred. Most of the good will that the global community felt for the U.S. after 9/11 dissipated when Bush sent us headlong into Iraq without reasonable justification.
Oh, and as for where I stand on the whole "supporting the troops" thing, my stepdad is a Vietnam Veteran, I took two dissertation-level classes as an undergrad at FSU on the Vietnam War (because it interests me), and my grandfather was a World War II B-17 pilot who later became a training instructor and died in a plane crash at MacDill AFB right before the Korean War. I have been wearing his Army Air Force ID bracelet since I was 18 and can count on one hand the times I've ever taken it off (you can see it in this photo, taken during crew training before he was sent overseas for his tour of duty in WW2. My grandfather is in the front row, second from the left, and the bracelet is on his right wrist.).
Although Iraq is certainly the issue that has the biggest international impact for the United States, I'm actually more angered by what President Bush's policies have done nationally. Since he's taken office, millions of people have lost their jobs, more people are below the poverty level, more people do not have health coverage, and more people are being marginalized by his continued insistence on kowtowing to the financial elite.
It deeply embarrasses me that the man wants to go so far as to amend the Constitution of the United States in order to make his own soi-disant moral and religious beliefs a mandate. Homosexual couples don't jeopardize the sanctity of heterosexual marriage. Heterosexuals do.
There's this little thing called "separation of Church and State" that this country needs to go back to embracing. And whatever happened to the unalienable right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"?
(Incidentally, Thomas Jefferson cribbed a lot of his ideas from my favorite philosopher, John Locke.)
January 28, 2004
Eighteen years ago today, the space shuttle Challenger exploded, killing six astronauts and schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe. Overg and I were talking about how we both know exactly where we were when we found out that the Challenger had exploded – I had first (early) lunch that day and had just arrived at my English class when the teacher came into the room in tears, having watched the whole event on the television in the teacher's lounge.
This prompted a whole discussion about flashbulb memories, and what ours were for significant events in history. In addition to the Challenger disaster, I can distinctly recall where I was and what I was doing when I heard about the following things:
Elvis found dead – I was in my parents' bedroom with my mom, and we were making the bed with the nightly national news playing on a small television on the dresser. We were putting on the last thing - an off-white crocheted bedspread - when the newscaster announced that Elvis was dead.
Persian Gulf War begins – I was in college at Florida State and was corresponding with several servicemen who were stationed in the Gulf (I can remember the names of two - DeWayne Johnson, a Marine, and Patrick Mahoney, an Army captain). Every morning during that time I would wake up and immediately turn on CNN to check and see what was going on. One time I turned it on and there were reports of bombing in Baghdad, and CNN's Bernard Shaw was hiding under a desk.
Oklahoma City bombing – I was at my desk in Chesapeake, Virginia, at my job working for the Virginian-Pilot. Someone in the main newsroom in Norfolk sent out a message - the kind that would appear at the top of your Atex terminal if you were logged on - telling us there had been a catastrophic bombing in Oklahoma. From then on, we all tracked the news updates by constantly checking the Associate Press newswire. This was one of the only times when I haven't been near a television ("Teacher, mother ... secret lover") when a major event unfolded.
September 11, 2001 – I was unemployed and still living up in Raleigh, NC. My mom called and left me a message (I was still asleep) in a hoarse voice telling me to turn on the television. The call woke me up enough that I went out to check my answering machine immediately, so I turned on CNN right away. At first I just saw frantic shots of people running and covered with dust and crying, so I called my mom to ask what had happened.
"The World Trade Center collapsed."
"What do you mean it collapsed? It can't collapse."
"A plane flew right into it and later it collapsed."
"It collapsed? You mean it's just ... gone?"
"They think it was a terrorist. A plane flew into the other building, too, and now it's on fire."
"It's ... gone?"
And then I started sobbing. Damn, I'm getting teary-eyed just remembering this. I don't know what I was feeling that made me start sobbing - certainly I was stunned and shellshocked, but why that led me to cry I don't really know. I think maybe I was just so horrified by the implications of what had happened that the only thing to do was sob.
My mom and I stayed on the phone talking for a little bit, because I still just could not wrap my brain around the idea that one of the World Trade Center towers had collapsed. Even when I saw footage of the rubble I still couldn't comprehend it.
Then the second tower fell, live. Neither of us could really handle that, so we said our goodbyes and hung up the phone so we could deal with our anguish and disbelief on our own.
All the News That's Fit to Print
And some that, really, is not. Lots of good stuff in the New York Times today. Like the story about how President Bush will no longer repeat his adamant assertation that biological/chemical weapons will eventually be found in Iraq. I very much agree with the final point in that story:
Moreover, international law has been far more forgiving of "pre-emptive war" against a country about to begin a strike of its own than it is of "preventive war" against a country that may, some day, pose a challenge to another state. That is seen more as an act of raw power than of self-defense.
"Absolute power corrupts absolutely." I just looked up the origin of that phrase (thank you, Google!). In 1887 Lord Acton, a renowned British historian, in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, wrote: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."
Speaking of great men/bad men – when should I be getting on the John Kerry Express Train to Eventual Disappointment? Or maybe ... just maybe ... someone like Kerry has a chance of defeating Bush in an election?
In slightly less important news - your kitchen is filthy! And how much do I want to spray a bunch of stuff with Glo Germ, just because? Pay special attention to the last sentence in this excerpt:
Also, apparently, God is God. Good to know. And columnist Nicholas Kristof has wrapped up his four-part series on his experience liberating two Cambodian girls from the sex-slave trade.
January 20, 2004
State of the Union
Lots of interesting articles in the New York Times today leading up to tonight's State of the Union address. I am cringing in anticipation. I am afeared that the only thing that could make this speech by Bush more painful for me would be for Antonin Scalia to be sitting right beside him, knitting a sweater.
I'm very intrigued by the article on extending health care benefits to the uninsured by cutting back on the benefits that are currently covered under existing plans. The article mentions repeated attempts at in-vitro fertilization as a benefit that could be cut, and I have to say, I agree with that (just based on the fact that it's not a matter of life or death for a woman to be able to have a biological child).
Next up, we have a terrific op-ed piece by Paul Krugman, Going For Broke," which previews Bush's likely focus in tonight's SOTU address. The second paragraph nearly made my head shoot up off my neck and spin around a few dozen times:
Mr. Bush may not understand this; indeed, he still seems to think that he's another Lincoln or F.D.R. "No president has done more for human rights than I have," he told Ken Auletta.
I am, literally, nauseated by even the slightest comparison of Bush to Lincoln. And that quote from Bush is just comical. Bush wouldn't know human rights if they walked up and bit him on the ass (but not in a homosexual way, mind you. Never that).
There's also a new computer virus replicating it's way around the globe. I've already received this one twice. I'm sure you all know this, but it bears repeating - never click on an email attachment that is an EXE file.