Friday, February 25, 2005

Speaking of the Pope... 

He's now had a tracheotomy in an advanced stage of Parkinson's. By way of comparison, I offer you my paternal grandmother. Healthy as a horse and active way into her senior years -- she built a house with a second husband when they were both well into their 60s. She was even fine early in Parkinson's. She made it into her 80's -- in fact, well past the age of 86. But... despite her health, her strength and all the like (she'd have made the Pope of ten years ago seem like a lazy bum), a couple of weeks after the doctors gave her a tracheotomy because she could no longer swallow properly... pfffft. She died. She was eighty-six years, eight months, three weeks and three days old.

I just bring this up by way of example and warning. (And ironic that this happened on the Protestant side of my family. (Protestant side -- strokes or Parkinson's way past 80. Catholic side -- diabetes or liver failure well before 70. You do the math)). I'm just saying that, despite the good news coming out of the Vatican, don't expect JP Jr. to be around much longer. Sticking a hole in someone's throat so they can breath isn't like putting on a bandaid. It's major trauma, and really old, really sick people don't deal well with trauma. He's circling the drain.

The same operation most likely accellerated the death of my previously vital grandmother. And, while the Vatican Docs probably think they're helping to keep the Pope going for a while, they've probably just hastened the end. Or maybe that was their intent all along.

But don't be surprised, and for fuck's sake don't think I care. Close to thirty years is a good run. And, if they're going to insist on electing another Pope, may they accidentally pick a social liberal who will a) loosen up Church dogma on birth control, women priests and the like and b) do something about all those pedophile priests.

Amen, sistah.

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Yearbook Nadir of the Year... 

Welcome to Jebbush Land. A high school bans a senior from putting her photo in the yearbook because... she's wearing a tux instead of a "drape and pearls." Yes, the student in question is a very out lesbian. But... so what?

When it comes to school stupidity, yearbooks and proms seem to take the cake. These are two areas where adults insist on exerting their authority, and yet, more then anything, these two things belong to the kids in general and the graduating seniors specifically. Twenty years from now, it's going to be Tammy Faye Smith, Class of '05, who looks back at that yearbook -- not Principal Asshat, who will probably long since be dead or in a resthome. If Jane wants to wear a tux and Doc Martens or Johnny wants to wear a little black dress, so effing what?

The school administrators insist it has nothing to do with sexual preference and everything to do with "yearbook standards." You know what? Bullshit. I'll bet if the girl in question were as straight as a stick (and fucking every football player in sight) they wouldn't have cared what she wore in the photo. But because she's making (a very, very subtle) statement -- and because she's been openly living a life -- that says, "Yeah, I'm gay," they have to make an issue of it, they have to try to quash her self-expression. They have to be total assholes.

Ironic, because I thought these kids were the generation ruined by the "self esteem above all" mythos. In that case, it would be wrong to tell her she couldn't wear a tux in the photo. Right?


Yeah, I guess it's right, until you admit you're queer in the land of Jebbush and Anita Bryant. Then, it becomes of paramount importance to protect some people's kids from a photo of (gasp!) a drag king dyke.

Oh, horseshit...

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Thursday, February 24, 2005

Papal Bull 

Not to be insensitive or crude or anything... but let's stop the handwringing over the Pope's condition, m'kay? He's old. He's very old. He's too old to get elected Pope now. He's also ill. Very ill. I can't help but think that the Vatican medics are propping him up with every trick in their book just so they don't have to deal with puffing that white smoke up the chimney any sooner than they have to. Or, in other words, I suspect an old man's life is being sustained for the sake of politics. There isn't one faction that feels sufficiently secure in getting their guy on the throne yet, so they aren't ready for the Pope to give notice.

But, honestly, why do we still have a papacy, anyway? It's a concept that ceased to become relevant to the world at least since the time of Martin Luther and, given all the sex scandals among the rank and file clergy, I really don't think the head of that church deserves the status of world leader. (Likewise, the English monarchy hasn't been relevant since Queen Victoria kicked off, but at least they seem to get the concept of figurehead.)

Radical idea -- when John Paul II buys the farm (I'm betting it'll be before this Easter), let's not hire a replacement. The Catholic church has done it without a Pope (or with multiple Popes) before. Or, if they insist on installing another Pope, let them at least admit that the man has no real political importance outside of that New York apartment sized principality called Vatican City. (To all of you who are going to start kvetching about how John Paul Jr. personally ended Communism and brought down the Berlin wall, blah blah blah -- bullshit. He had about as much to do with it as Reagan did, which is... not much. Actually, Communism was brought down by... Marx, Lenin and Stalin. Or, in other words, the tide of history was always against the Soviet Union. That Capitalist cannibal action, you know. The USSR was split up by Western Style consumerism.)

But, I do digress...

And perhaps I do wish John Paul II many more years of life. It'll save us from the endless TV news wailing and whining, as if something important is actually happening while they brick those Cardinals up and wait for that puff of smoke.

Jesus. You think they'd have finally evolved to giving notice by instant message or something. "d00ds - hv nu pope. brk dwn door."

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Right on the Nose... 

From ThinkProgress, a very cogent and utterly true explanation of why W in his second term has turned into everything the wingnuts thought that Kerry would be.

Hm. What's that sound? Oh, yeah. It's the sound of W's ultraconservative base melting away. "Wh-wh-wh-whaaaaat? Tax increase?!"

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Tuesday, February 22, 2005


I don't know whether this story is true -- Bush White House won't host Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, because both have been divorced, but...

Alberto R. Gonzales, Attorney General, Divorced 1985

Mike Johanns, Secretary of Agriculture, Divorced 1985

Roderick R. Paige, former Secretary of Education, Divorced

Not to mention that W cheerleader Rush Limbaugh has been divorced multiple times -- I think it's at least three. Along with the President's little brother, Neil. There may be more in the cabinet, but I couldn't help but feel slimy just reading bios of these people. Readers, feel free to share anyone I've missed.

Ain't hypocrisy a pretty thing? "Well... um... okay, those cabinet members may be divorced, but they're our divorcees..."

And to think -- the Bush campaign tried to make such a big deal out of John Kerry's divorce papers. Where were the Senate Dems to bring up this issue when they were bending over backwards to confirm Mr. Torture himself, Gonzales?

Incidentally, Ari Fleischer, former press secretary, didn't marry until the age of 42, after he became press secretary. His bride was an OMB employee. And we still don't know whether he was involved in l'affair Guckert/Gannon. I'm not implying anything, I'm just sayin'... Family values 'n all, you know...

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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Somebody Needs to Get Some... 

Yes, apparently porn is a bigger threat to the US than terrorism. Alberto Gonzales, the torture-happy new AG, is appealing a case against a pair for obscenity.

Now, someone explain to me again why the First Amendment hasn't been interpreted to include adult entertainment? And why these asshats seem to have time to go after people who are harming no one, when there are so many bigger problems to deal with?

Gonzales just needs to get laid.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

And Sausage, Too... 

"Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made." - Otto von Bismarck

You probably don't often think about where laws come from, and yet they effect you every day -- park in the wrong spot, get caught by a traffic cam, fail to file your taxes, you'll feel the proverbial long arm of the law. Every time you buy something, someone collects sales tax, which is prescribed by law. And, technically, if you buy something in a state you don't live in and don't pay the sales tax when you bring it home, you break the law.

Of course, every one of us probably breaks a dozen laws a day without knowing it. That's part of life with a bureaucracy. As Robert Anton Wilson describes it in the Illuminatus! Trilogy, whatever is not prohibited is compulsory. Fasten your seatbelts and put on your helmets.

But, really, where do laws come from? The short answer is that they are a shared hallucination. Laws are just words on paper and, ultimately, are only as effective as the people's willingness to follow them. The longer answer is that the hallucination is enforced by threat -- threat of confiscation, threat of encarceration, threat of harm. Laws may be created by those people we call lawmakers, but without an enforcement arm -- i.e., the police -- the laws would be meaningless. And without the people's fear of that enforcement, the whole system would fall apart.

But... who are the lawmakers, anyway? That's the question people don't ask themselves nearly enough. The answer is simple. They are our employees. We "hire" them (via election) and we pay them (via taxes). But, as bosses, we abrogate our duty, because we rarely discipline them for passing stupid laws.

It's kind of funny, because if things worked in the private sector the same way they did between the people and the government, we'd scream bloody murder. Imagine this scenario...

You're hired by a company for which five people make such decisions. Two of them really like you, two of them hate you, and the fifth doesn't really like you but hates the other applicant. Then, once you get the job, instead of doing the job you were hired for, you take it on yourself to start changing company policies. You decide that the hiring powers can't have their own parking places, they have to pay you when they get to work late, and so forth. Then, you show up for work when you want to, miss important meetings, don't follow your bosses' directives at all. In the real world, how long would such an employee last? Not long at all.

And yet... in the world of government, this is exactly how elected officials behave once they're hired by us. The recent to-do over Virginia's "No Saggy Pants" law is a perfect example. Some legislator got a wild hair up his ass and mananged to pass a law that would fine people whose underwear was showing. Luckily, cooler heads in the state Senate prevailed, and the bill did not become a law. But, in theory, a legislator could get any stupid idea in their head and get a law passed and, thanks to the public not doing their job, not have to worry about job security.

People love to complain about the law, but seem to hate to do anything about it. And yet, the grassroots have real power. The Virginia No-Sag law did not pass the Senate precisely because there was such an uproar over it in the online community. By he time it got to the upper house, they realized they'd look really stupid if they allowed it to become law, and so they killed it.

And yet... where was the uproar when this administration (and yes, the President is your employee, too) lied us into a war? Where is the uproar as they start to plant their fake excuses for wars against Iran ("They have nukes!") and Syria ("They killed the prime minister of Lebanon!")? Despite anything Der Propogandasminister Karl Rove tries to tell you, the President is bound by law, and the law says that only Congress can declare war. Therefore, at the next hint of war, the outcry should be so shrill that no elected official in their right mind would vote for it. All it takes is phone calls and letters. Cheap, quick and easy.

Remember that when W starts pushing for an invasion of Iran. Or Syria. Or North Korea. And remind yourself -- stopping another imperialistic invasion, another mass slaughter, another quagmire, is much more important than letting the youth of Virginia show off their underwear.

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VA Senate Drops Pants... 

...sagging initiative. As well-put in this article, the upper house of the legislature managed to save the state from the embarrassment of the lower house's actions.

Of course, I don't think it hurt that there was immediate outrage all across the internet over this stupidity. Whew. Saved from a would-be American Taliban. 'Cause, after all, isn't telling people how they can dress something they do in all the countries full o' them terra-ists?

Still -- I think the youth of VA should salute the idiots who tried to pass this law by gathering in front of the statehouse and giving them a good ol' fashioned group moon...

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Thursday, February 10, 2005

V-Chip, Biatches... 

Short version: another asshat in Congress has decided that all the evils of the world come from indecency on broadcast media, and there's a bill in the works (all but a done deal now) to hike the fines to half a mill a pop. You can read about it here, but beyond the stupidity and abundant paradox of Congress somehow not getting that the First Amendment applies to the FCC as well, there's one more thing this schmuck, Joe Barton (R-Texas) wants to do.

Read carefully.

He wants to extend FCC control over "indecency" to pay services -- cable, satellite TV and radio.

Let me say that again.

Joe Barton wants to censor private, for-pay, non-broadcast services. Joe Barton wants to control what you're even allowed to see in your home, all in the name of preserving "decency".

Well, Joey, fuck your decency. It should be up to the viewers and consumers to decide. See, there's this wonderful little invention called the V-Chip that, if lazy parents bothered to use it, would eliminate 99% of the complaints over so-called indecency. That and the TV ratings system should be more than enough so that parents and people with squeamish sensibilities (like elected officials from Texas) can either protect their children or shove their heads up their asses in an Ostrich-like manner and not see grown-up content. And it should leave the rest of us free to see what we want to, when we want to and where.

What really angers me the most is that a blithering shithead like Barton is even able to bring this sort of crap to serious consideration without more elected reps growing some balls and telling him to shove it. The government has no place in regulating broadcast content. Conversely, the type of content that should be regulated (partisan distortions on alleged newscasts, for example) is blithely ignored.

Real indecency has nothing to do with profanity or Janet Jackson's booby. Real indecency is misguided legislators trying to sanitize the real world for the consumption of five year olds, to the detriment of all.

Under Barton's proposal, anyone who says or does something indecent on broadcast TV would be subject to a $500,000 fine, along with the station carrying it. But the definition of indecency is entirely in the hands of the FCC.

And he wants to extend this to non-broadcast, pay media. No doubt, he'd also love to extend it to the Internet as well.

Call your representatives. Tell them you oppose this unnecessary measure. And give Barton a call or a letter as well. He's the moron behind this, and his office numbers are 202.225.2002 in DC and 817.543.1000 in Arlington, Texas; fax him at 202.225.3052 or 817.548.7029.

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If You Don't Like the Results... 

Gee. Wouldn't it be nice if we delayed election results here for a recount if we thought there was a problem?

If the Shiites hadn't won, this wouldn't be happening...

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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Plus ca change... 

"It became necessary to destroy the town to save it." -- U.S. Army Major, regarding the village of Ben Tre, Vietnam, in an AP dispatch, February 7, 1968.

Gosh. Haven't we heard this about Falluhjah?

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I find it juicily ironic that the winners in Iraq's recent elections were Islamic fundamentalists. Or haven't you heard, among all the hype about what a success they were, that we've managed to turn Saddam Hussein's secular country into a theocracy, and their theology doesn't put Jesus in the number one slot?

Democracy is a great idea, but it has one flaw. There's a brilliant quote which, best as I can determine, comes from Ron Tavel: "Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner."

And, he added: "Liberty is two wolves attempting to have a sheep for dinner and finding a well informed, well armed sheep."

The problem is, while Democracy is a wonderful, wondeful idea, it relies on a society that values three things in order to succeed: education, creativity and tolerance.

Democracy without liberty is useless; liberty without democracy is anarchy. Not that anarchy is a bad thing, but its charms would die for most people the first time the DSL or cable went out and they realized they'd have to fix it themselves.

That statement is only partly facetious.

Somewhere over the past two hundred twenty-nine years, something has happened in this country. The populace has become increasingly stupid, less cultured and intolerant.

Pop quiz: How many senators are there? How many states? How many branches of government, and what are they? For what is the Judiciary responsible, and who are they? The Executive, and who are they? The Legislature, and who are they? How often are presidential elections held, and for whom do you vote in such elections? Who are your senators? Your state senators? Your governor? Your local representative? What is the name for the first ten amendments to the Constitution? How many amendments are there? Who published the general and special theories of Relativity? In what year did a man first walk on the moon? How many presidents have been impeached, and who were they? What was the Fairness Doctrine and when did it end? What was significant about the Brown vs. The Board of Education decision? Who was Rosa Parks? What happened at the event commonly known as Stonewall, and in what year did it happen? Who won American Idol last year? In what year did the Korean War end? True or False: Lincoln freed the slaves. True or False: America was founded as a Christian Republic. True or False: "One Nation Under God" and "In God We Trust" have always been part of, respectively, the Pledge of Allegiance and American Currency.

That's part one on why Democracy in America is failing, more to follow. My point in this installment: Democracy is not possible when the voters are ignorant. Oh, sure -- they can go to the polls and vote. But if they don't have the intelligence or information in order to make an informed decision, does it matter? Might as well give monkeys darts and let them toss away.

We couldn't get worse results than we did last November...

Answers: 100. 50. 3: Executive, Judicial, Legislative. Interpretation of the law; the Supreme Court. Enacting the law; the President and his cabinet. Writing the law; the Congress, made up of the Senate and House of Representatives. Every four years; you vote for electors from your state, who vote for the president and vice president. Your answers will vary; mine are Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein. Mine is Arnold Schwarzenegger. Cindy Gruehl; again, your answers will vary. The Bill of Rights. 27, the last one passed in 1992. Albert Einstein. Three: Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton -- although Nixon weenied out of it by resigning. It stated that, for any political viewpoint presented on network TV, free and equal time had to be given to the opposition; it was phased out under Ronald Reagan. It ended school segregation based on race. She was a black woman who refused to move to the back of the bus, leading to the Montgomery Transit strikes and, ultimately, the success of the civil rights movement. Patrons of a New York City gay bar refused to submit to police blackmail anymore, and started a riot that began the modern gay rights movement; the year was 1969. I have no fucking idea, and I don't care. The Korean War has yet to end. Mostly false: Lincoln only freed the slaves in the states that succeeded; slavery remained in effect in the Union. False; George Washington himself said, "In no way is the United States founded as a Christian Republic." False; the former was added to the pledge in the 50s, the latter to the money in the 30s, around the time the Gold Standard ended.

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You may not think that American news engages in propaganda, but it does. Constantly.

One example: Iraqi insurgents.

What does this phrase mean?

Sounds like sneaky enemies lurking in the night trying to blow up bridges and sabotage the good guys, doesn't it? It has a hint of the word rebels, but of course you can't really call them rebels, since they're not rebelling against Saddam.

But you can't call them insurgents, either.

There was a term for exactly what these people are, and they used it in World War II. Perhaps you've seen films about these people, who tended to be French or sometimes German. They were called the Resistance, and their job was to try to repel the foreign power that had invaded their nation.

Say that word with me. Resistance. Puts a whole different spin on the situation, doesn't it?

In World War II, Charles Degaulle worked for the resistance. Some other guy, named Vichy, let himself be appointed leader by the invaders. Now, which one of them is better remembered by history?

And before you start to say, "But they're foreign fighters. They're Iranian. They're terrorists!!!", let me say two things.

One: Bullshit. They're Iraqis. They're fighting for their homeland.

Two: If you insist that they're foreign fighters who've come in since the war started, then you have to ask yourself this: if we're doing so well, why are the borders of Iraq so unsecured, then?

And, anyway, think of all those heroic images from WW II movies, with the British or American soldier parachuting onto French soil in a noble effort to help... the Resistance.

History is written by the victors... but given the way our government is botching and mishandling a war started on a lie, I think future history books will identify these Iraqi opponents properly.

Oh... one other thing. Look back to the 80s, when there were Contras and Sandanistas. One group were rebels, the other were freedom fighters. I'll leave it to you to look them up and see which were called which by Reagan and his lackeys -- but while the actions of the two groups were equivalent, their identification by us and our media depended entirely on their politics. "Wanting freedom is okay, as long as you don't want freedom from our puppet."

Read about events in Central America in the 80s some time if you want to get a hint of the mess that is festering in Iraq. Then look at modern Vietnam or North Korea to see the fruits of failed imperialism.

Whether you oppose or support the war in Iraq, you have to admit one thing. Stripped of all semantics or emotional baggage, the people who are setting bombs against us right now are residents of the country who are embittered and angry that a foreign army is there. You may think their actions are right or wrong -- but at least describe them as what they are; pissed off locals trying to do something about a situation they feel is wrong.

If people in America were to do the same thing after, say, Canada decided to invade us, the Red State masses would call them Patriots and Heroes.

The Toronto Sun would call them Yankee insurgents...

Vive la resistance...

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Asshats Gone Wild! 

More from the "we don't have anything better to do with our time or your tax dollars department..." The Asshats... er, legislators in VA have just passed a law that levies a $50 fine for people wearing sagging pants that show their underwear. (Note: this story says the law is pending, but according to the evening news, they subsequently passed it.)

My response: get fucked. If the worst thing going on in Virginia (sounds a lot like Vagina, doesn't it?) is people sagging their baggies, then wow, must be a paradise. But hey, lets not waste the valuable time of cops over such trivial shit, okay? I could give a damn whether some skateboarder has his pants fastened around his knees. I do care if he's tagging my apartment building or stealing my car radio. And telling him to pull his pants up isn't going to stop him from doing either of the above.

In fact, think about it. What better way to slow down young felons than to encourage them to droop them drawers? After all, how fast can they run if their belt is wrapped around their knees? But, to the legislature of Virginia -- get the hell out of young Virginians' pants, okay? If the sight of their underwear offends you, it's probably for only one reason -- each and every one of you just wishes you could get away with dressing like that without having your ass or love handles sag farther than your pants.

Sigh. It's as if every generation fails to learn (and forgets to remember) the lessons of the past. I'll bet that every damn one of the people who voted for this law would have been the first to have screamed and bitched if, when they were in high school, someone tried to tell them they had to cut their hair or couldn't wear their (insert controversial band name here) T-shirt.

Then again, maybe they never were rebels. Maybe they were always mindless, stupid sheep. And sometimes, the voters get exactly what they deserve.

But, honestly, folks, these people work for us, not the other way around. And when they pass stupid laws like this, it's our job to call them on the carpet for it, tell them to pull their heads out of their asses and de-elect them. But I'll save my diatribe on the true source of law for another time...

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Compassionateness in Action 

From an exchange between Dubya and Mary Mornin, a divorced mother of three (including one mentally challenged son), while Monkey Boy was trying to hype his efforts to destroy... er, "fix" Social Security:

MS. MORNIN: That's good, because I work three jobs and I feel like I contribute.

THE PRESIDENT: You work three jobs?

MS. MORNIN: Three jobs, yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that. (Applause.) Get any sleep? (Laughter.)

Yes, a human being describes a very real and difficult plight, and pReznit Flightsuit cracks a joke about it. What an asshole. One can only imagine President Clinton's reaction to a single mother of three telling him she worked three jobs.

And no, I did not miss the irony of a man who's barely ever been able to work one job thinking a single mother of three working three jobs is supposed to be a good thing.

Translation for morons: She's working three jobs because she'd wind up living in her car with her three kids if she didn't, you intolerable asshat.

End translation...

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Monday, February 07, 2005

Army of Guppies... 

Because Wal-Mart is evil. Go here, check the facts, then proceed to annoy the hell out of them...

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