Monday, February 26, 2007

Please Strap Your Explosives Somewhere Else

I really should just devote this blog to some of the silly comments I run across online. I can’t think of a better way to ensure daily updates.

Case in point: There’s a story on today about an upcoming documentary produced by James Cameron and making the claim that construction workers in Jerusalem have uncovered a burial vault containing Jesus and his family. Yeah, that Jesus. Cameron says his evidence for this claim includes DNA tests, which is pretty silly in its own right. (“Your honor, I intend to prove that the DNA taken from the corpse’s shoulder matches the DNA taken from the same corpse’s foot.”)

Anyway. There was a comments section following the story, and I only made it about a tenth of the way through before realizing that it was just going turn into a shoving match between believers and non-believers. However, I read long enough to find this gem (quoted here verbatim, spelling and all), from a reader named John:

I’ve already advised the Discovery Channel that if they air this I will cancel my subscription....they should be lucky that I don’t strap explosives around my waste.

This gives new meaning to the phrase “a shitstorm of controversy,” doesn’t it?

Friday, February 23, 2007

A Bit of Doggerel

O sing a song of Britney Spears
Who took a pair of barber’s shears
And trimmed the hair above her ears
For reasons hard to say

With new tattoos upon her back
She launched her major hair attack
The scissor-blade went snicker-snack
And chopped it all away

We don’t know why she shaved her head
At least I’ve never heard it said
Perhaps the former Mrs Fed
Was having a bad day

But now the one-time Mouseketeer
Has only skin from ear to ear
The hair she used to hold so dear
Is selling on eBay.

* * *

I'm not sure why I was so compelled to write a poem about this non-subject. I was going to do an essay on celebrities who get to be celebrities without much in the way of discernible talent, but this came out instead.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Strike One, Mitt

The best thing I can think to say about Mitt Romney is that he’s the most prominent politician named after a piece of baseball equipment since Spikes Washington and Protective Cup Roosevelt.

I guess the next best thing would be that he’s not George W. Bush.

And I guess it doesn’t matter because I won’t be voting for a Republican presidential candidate in 2008 under any circumstances, but Romney said something this week that didn’t sit well with me. Speaking to an audience of retirees in Florida, he said “One of the great things about this land is that we have people of different faiths and different religions, but we need to have a person of faith lead the country.”

Why is that, Mitt?

Why would you say that?

I would argue that we need to have a person of intelligence lead the country: a well-read student of history with a lifelong thirst for knowledge and an understanding of cultures other than his or her own. Someone, say, with more than a cursory knowledge of economics.

I would argue that a person of compassion would also be a good leader. This person would understand the old bumper sticker message that no one is free while others are oppressed. He or she would stand up for the unfortunate and reject policies that make life worse for those who don’t have it that good to begin with.

A person of conscience would be nice, too. This leader would make thoughtful decisions and have no hidden agenda. The rest of us could feel certain that our trust in this leader wouldn’t be betrayed.

I could go on and on, substituting all sorts of positive attributes: a person of justice, a person of respect, a person of not-batshit-insanity. The point is, when I think of the qualities that make a good leader, I think of actions, not beliefs.

I think of qualities that translate into benefits for everyone.

If a person of faith has these other characteristics, fine. Be intelligent, compassionate, accountable, just, respectful, and not insane, and I won’t care who or what you worship behind closed doors.

And by the same token, Mitt Romney, don’t pretend that a person of faith automatically has those qualities, and don’t pretend that a skeptic automatically doesn’t.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Fetch, Boehner, Fetch!

Funny thing about dogs. They’ll stand by you even if you’re the most despicable person on earth. A dog doesn’t care if you’re a racist, or if you’re a pervert, or if your incompetence caused a fire at the nursing home—he’ll act like you’re the lord of the universe.

But the same kind of loyalty that’s so admirable in a dog is less so in an elected official. Yet “party before country” is the watchword for those Republican senators and representatives who either refuse to believe Bush started the nursing-home fire or are proud that he did.

Rep. John Boehner of Ohio is opposed to the nonbinding resolution expressing disapproval of the troop escalation in Iraq, and yesterday he had this to say:

“This battle is the most visible part of a global war against terrorists. If we leave, they will follow us home. It's that simple.”

Wow. That is simple. It’s simple-minded, too, though I’m not sure it’s as simple-minded as thinking you can conduct a global war on anything by committing a huge chunk of your military to a single place, especially when that place had a negligible connection to terrorism (if any) to begin with.

Boehner’s remark sure makes it sound like Bush is using American soldiers as bait for new terrorists. I find this too reprehensible for words, but maybe it’s perfectly acceptable for Boehner and Bush’s other family pets. (I can’t remember the exact quote, but Immanuel Kant, who might have been a little smarter than John Boehner, once wrote that when the old men who make the wars have to fight them too, then that would be the end of war.)

If Boehner thinks terrorists are going to follow Americans home from Iraq, then I have a solution. On the way back to America, we stop off at a rest area to go to the restroom, and then when the terrorists are over by the vending machines getting corn chips and pop and pretending not to follow us, we sneak out the back window. It’s that simple!

Sigh. Ever since the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration has been hammering us with the same two messages: “Be afraid” and “We know what’s best for you.” The good news is that more and more people are beginning to see through this horseshit. John Boehner isn’t one of them.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Not Ready For Prime Time

What do Republican presidential candidates John McCain and Rudy Giuliani have in common? No, no, rancid ideology isn’t the answer I’m looking for.

Actually, they’ve both hosted “Saturday Night Live.”

McCain’s appearance was in 2002, before the invasion of Iraq, before he became Bush’s shoeshine boy, before he started pandering to Falwell and Dobson and others of that ilk. As I recall, he was relaxed and funny on the show, but I think I’d have a tough time watching it in reruns, knowing that he’s out there beating the drums for troop escalation and the nebulous “victory in Iraq.”

I don’t remember anything at all about Giuliani’s SNL appearance, and it’s quite possible I missed it. However, the Los Angeles Times had a story today in which Giuliani seems to be auditioning for another guest-hosting gig.

How else can you explain comparing Bush to Abraham Lincoln (and favorably, to boot)? Assuming he did so with a straight face, Giuliani must surely rival Bob Newhart and Steven Wright as a master of the deadpan.

How else can you explain such wry quips as “America is very fortunate to have President Bush”?

Giuliani told a convention of California Republicans on Saturday that he wants to be the kind of president who makes decisions that move the country forward. He admires Bush’s leadership and apparently agrees that the president should be a decider.

Which is fine if the president isn’t making his deciderings unilaterally, if he’s weighing all the sides of an issue and then doing the right thing based on his sworn oath to uphold the Constitution. Right now we have a president who’s ignoring the will of his constituents, dismissing the advice of military experts, abandoning his oath, and flying in the face of common sense.

As a result, he has further destabilized the Middle East, created more terrorists, lined his cronies’ pockets, and done a pretty good impression of the angel of death.

This is Giuliani's role model?

I used to think Giuliani wasn’t a bad guy for a Republican. His reasonable stance on abortion and gay rights made him seem somewhat human. But anyone who thinks America is fortunate to have this president can only harbor a serious hatred of America.

And thus shouldn't be allowed to host SNL again.

Friday, February 09, 2007

If Only They Were Afraid To Talk To Anyone At All

I promised in an earlier post that I’d write about what those intellectual heavyweights Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck had to say about Joe Biden and his awkward semi-compliment to Barack Obama, and as you might have already guessed it was pretty entertaining—if the idea of grown men saying things that would embarrass a seventh-grader strikes you as entertaining.

As reported on the Think Progress website, in the process of leading a discussion about Biden’s remarks, O’Reilly said this to one of his guests, whose name I didn’t catch:

“Now you got to feel sorry for us white folks here, because I’m telling you now I’m afraid to say anything. You know, you’re an articulate guy, doctor, but I’m never going to say that. You’re a smart guy. Is that bad if I say you’re a smart guy? … Yes, absolutely, instead of black and white Americans coming together, white Americans are terrified. They’re terrified. Now we can’t even say you’re articulate? We can’t even give you guys compliments because they may be taken as condescension?”

Yeah, I know. Where to begin?

O’Reilly is guilty of pretend-indignation. He pretends he doesn’t understand the difference between condescension (expressing amazement that a black person is articulate) and a genuine compliment. “Is it bad if I say you’re a smart guy?”

Come on, Bill. It’s all about context, and stop acting like you don’t know it. The times when it’s okay to tell a black person he’s a smart guy are exactly the same times when it’s okay to tell anyone the same thing.

“Hey, Bob, you’re a smart guy—settle this bet for us.”

“You bought Microsoft at $5? You’re a genius!”

“Say, Ted—brilliant work on the Henderson account.”

Otherwise, the subject isn’t going to come up very often. Yet judging from his words, O’Reilly is constantly having this internal struggle: “Oh, no—this guy’s black and I’m white. Must…resist…Tourette’s Condescending Compliment Syndrome…”

Most people are just content to have normal grown-up conversation. That includes the “white people” O’Reilly presumptuously claims to speak for. (Honestly—suggesting that anyone should “feel sorry for white folks” because he's a case of arrested development?)

But let’s get Glenn Beck’s two half-cents in here, too. In the course of a similar discussion on his CNN program, he said

“I don’t have a lot of African-American friends, and I think part of it is because I’m afraid that I would be in an open conversation, and I would say something that somebody would take wrong, and then it would be a nightmare. Am I alone in feeling that?”

Well, Glenn, I’m pretty sure you’re not alone. But I don’t think there are a whole lot of mature, rational, intelligent people in the boat with you.

Cracker Barrel Isn't Sending Out $50 Gift Certificates, Either

Believe it or not, back in high school I was somewhat conservative. I mean, not in the modern-day Evil Dick Cheney sort of way, but in the sense that I tried to err on the side of what I believed to be the biblically right thing to do. I remember in senior English taking the anti-abortion side in a class debate, and later that year listing “atheist scientists” as my pet peeve in the senior edition of the school paper.

Then I grew up. Although, admittedly, it took me a while.

Anyway, a high school friend of mine died recently, a victim of breast cancer. She was the yearbook editor when I was the newspaper editor, and, like many high school friends, we didn’t keep in touch after graduation. I heard about it from one of the few friends I do keep in touch with, and because he sent his email to several of my classmates at once, I suddenly began hearing from guys I hadn’t heard from for years.

We had one of those “Reply All” mailfests going one morning. Goofy stuff, mostly, bulletin-board style wit. Then one of the guys attached that bogus Andy Rooney column that’s been floating around the internet for years, the one where all manner of reactionary right-wing horseshit is attributed to the “60 Minutes” curmudgeon. To be fair, my classmate included the line “If you don’t like this, feel free to delete it.”

Well, sure, I could have just deleted it, but I thought it’d be a good opportunity to set the record straight. I went to, found the page debunking the bogus story in about 20 seconds (I don’t know why I’m the only person capable of doing this), and sent the link out as a Reply All to my classmates.

And that was the last I’ve heard from any of them.

Could Have Been Brighter

Some people never learn, and some people learn the hard way. The lesson, of course, is that unless there’s a damn good reason to refer to a person’s race (or, more accurately, racial classification, since the concept itself is of interest mainly to compulsive categorizers), then one shouldn’t refer to it at all.

Especially if one wants to have one’s presidential campaign taken seriously.

A few weeks ago Joe Biden decided he would pay Barack Obama this bizarre compliment: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

Wow, the first one, huh? Articulate, is he? Bright, too? And clean? I expected him to follow up with “And he doesn’t wear those baggy jeans that slide halfway down his drawers.”

You don’t have to be all that articulate or bright either one to read between those lines. Either Biden doesn’t consider past presidential candidates like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to be mainstream African-Americans, or he doesn’t think much of their brightness, articulateness, and cleanliness. (Sharpton’s bemused response to Biden’s remark was “I take a bath every day.”)

This has been covered from every angle all over the blogs, but the fact is that Biden’s remark made him seem surprised that an African-American (who happens to be serving in the United States Senate) can be bright and articulate. To avoid coming off like such a doofus, he could have said something like this: “I think Barack has articulated his position on Iraq very clearly” or “I think Barack is one of the brightest young senators serving today.”

I’m not sure it’s possible to salvage the “clean” remark. Maybe “Barack never skimps on the Irish Spring” or something.

Tough lesson, Joe. But if you want to pay someone a compliment, “articulate” doesn’t cut it. Articulate is the default, the current pretend-emperor notwithstanding.

* * *

Coming soon: intellectual heavyweights and self-appointed Caucasian spokespersons Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck weigh in with their cogent insights.

Five Months Later

September 2?!

My last entry was on September 2?!

Fortunately, nothing much noteworthy has happened since then, except the Democrats took back both houses of Congress, a Republican representative from Florida got caught pursuing a young page, a woman became Speaker of the House, John Kerry flubbed a joke that GOP nutbars and the mainstream media pretended not to understand, a Colorado evangelist was forced out of the closet and then forced back in, 363 tons of our tax dollars disappeared because some genius decided to send it to Iraq in the form of cash, and George W. Bush continued to position himself as the emperor of America—a delusional, evil emperor hell-bent on turning the entire Middle East into a gigantic graveyard with oil pumps among the tombstones.

Yeah, nothing to write about there.

On the other hand, no one’s expressed any curiosity about where I’ve been, so it might be some time before anyone notices I’m back.

Shorter and more frequent entries—that’s the ticket. And with that, it’s time to relaunch the Runes.