28 February 2006

Forty acres and a mule, more or less

Black History Month should not disappear into history this year without a discussion of reparations. While this has become a popular theme with some African-Americans (and a distinctly unpopular idea with many European-Americans), it remains a divisive issue.
The question is, do white Americans owe money (as distinct from affirmative action and other reverse-racism behaviors designed to set right the wrongs of slavery and its aftermath) to black Americans?
There is no question that blacks, newly freed at the end of the Civil War, believed that Abraham Lincoln (or the Republican Party, oh, yes, that Republican Party, or the abolitionists, or someone) had promised them the now-proverbial Forty Acres and a Mule. (Based, erroneously, on Sherman's Special Field Orders, No. 15, issued in 1865.)
The phrase lives on still, in reruns of Gone With The Wind and the name of Spike Lee’s production company, and has become the basis of the perplexing problem, okay, if we owe reparations, how much reparations do we owe?
Reparations have been, in the past, typically owed by the losers to the victors. (The entire Roman empire was based on this premise, as was the aftermath of both the First and Second World Wars. Just ask the Germans; they’re still paying reparations to the Israelis, which is why all the taxis in Jerusalem are Mercedes...)
More recently, however, reparations have become owed by the oppressor to the oppressed. (A good example is the well-deserved case of Japanese-Americans, though even they had to wait more than fifty years for the money.)
No one (except maybe Holocaust-deniers) would argue that blacks were not oppressed in this country, beginning with the importation of the first slave in 1655. Slavery, the pleasant fiction of Gone With The Wind notwithstanding, was not a good thing for those enslaved. (No one, except those rare individuals who get some sexual satisfaction from it, has ever volunteered for the job.) Even the end of the First Civil Rights War in 1865 barely diminished their oppression, and some argue that it continues unabated to this day. The Second Civil Rights War, which began in earnest in 1965, made much more rapid progress than the century of Reconstruction and Jim Crow that proceeded it, yet it is still being fought fifty years later, and there remains a deep, cold pool of racism (on both sides of the ‘color line’) in this land that affects us all.
So, reparations. Forty acres and a mule.
Much serious academic study has gone into determining the indeterminable amount that blacks contributed, without pay, to the economy of this country (both antebellum and after), and how much profit whites made from their labor. (This has even included estimating the profits that Boston insurance companies made on cargoes of humans making the Middle Passage from Africa.)
Being a cut-to-the-chase kind of guy, I wondered just what Forty Acres and a Mule gets you, these days. If that’s what we owed in June of 1865 (on “Juneteenth”, when the slaves in Texas heard of their liberation), that’s what we owe now, 150 years later. The value of that land and animal in 1865 is meaningless today, of course, but surely we can let the market revalue the same property in 21st Century dollars.
Before we jump to the bottom line, however, let’s look at who is owed and who is owing.
In the census of 1870, there were 4.88 million blacks and 33.59 million whites; the percentage of blacks was 14.5%. In the 2000 census, there were 38 million blacks and 236 million whites, giving a black population of 16%. Close enough. (We will, for ease of calculation, leave out the Native Americans and Hispanics, some of whom even owned slaves prior to the Civil War, present in both 1870 and 2000.)
But who should be included in the ‘black’ column and who might be excluded from the ‘white’ column?
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., in his recent PBS series African American Lives, discovered, to his obvious discomforture, that his heritage was fifty percent white. (He even asked “Do I only get half a reparation check?”, little realizing that his white half would also have to contribute to it...) Many African-Americans have the same mixed ancestry, in differing percentages. But do all persons who ‘self-identify’ (the term used by the Census Bureau, since they do no DNA testing to determine the proper category for a resident) as black qualify for reparations? Do black people whose ancestors (or they themselves) came to this country after 1865 qualify? How ‘black’ do you have to be to qualify, and is it, like Henry Louis Gates, proportional?
Are white people whose ancestors (or they themselves) came to this country after 1865 exempt from having to pay reparations, and is that exemption proportional? (Over ten percent of Americans claim Irish ancestry, nearly all of whom came here after the Potato Famine of 1845, and thus had little chance to profit from slavery.) What about white people (myself included) whose ancestors fought, were wounded, and died in the Union Army? Are they exempt, or do they get a deduction for their ancestral efforts? What about white people (myself included) whose ancestors fought, were wounded, and died in the Confederate Army, whether or not they ever owned slaves? (Remember, even those who fought in the Lost Cause for those mythical “States Rights” did so for the right to some day, if they were lucky, own slaves...) Do they get double-billed for the intransigence of their ancestors?

All this is why actually paying reparations may prove difficult.

But I’m willing to settle up (once that Union vs Confederate ancestor thing gets worked out) and pay my part of the debt. But the question remains, how much?
According to a recent Google search, 40 acres of wooded timberland in Choctaw County, Mississippi (remember, the original offer was always rumored to be for “forty acres of Mississippi bottomland”) is for sale for $100,000. The same search produced a mule auction at which the average price for a first-class mule was $5,000.

Forty acres and a mule? $105,000 in 2006 dollars.

Figure two decent mules (easier to plow with), and next year’s taxes (remember Gone With The Wind?), and we’ll round it off at $110,000.
Now for the hard math: Let’s assume that every black person (men, women, and children) in the 2000 census gets that amount. The total is $4,180,000,000,000. That’s 4.2 trillion dollars, which sounds like a lot of money. Divided by all the white people (men, women, and children) in the 2000 census, that’s $17,711 each. Not so bad on a per-head basis (unless you’ve got a wife and six kids, of course.) Assuming they issue bonds to pay it, I’ll sign up for a payroll deduction for my share right now.

Do reverse-racism regulations and quotas (like affirmative action) go away once the bill is paid? Do Confederate flags get outlawed, or just ignored? Do Jerry Farwell and Jesse Jackson have to go open a church together somewhere and preach on alternate Sundays? All questions for a rant on another day...

Quote for the day

"Between the negroes and the enemy it is war to the death."
"The colored troops have cheerfully accepted... (that) no quarter is to be shown. Those here have not the least idea of living after they fall into (Confederate) hands."
Thomas Morris Chester, the only black correspondent 'embedded' with the Union Army, reporting from Richmond, Virginia in 1865, in an article by David Lander in American Legacy magazine.

A man who knew something about racial and religious wars...

27 February 2006

Quote for the day

"I'm just gettin' warmed up!"
Al Pacino as Lt. Colonel Frank Slade in Scent of a Woman

Me, too...

26 February 2006

Quote for the day

"I always knew what the right path was. Without exception, I knew, but I never took it. You know why ? It was too damned hard."
Al Pacino as Lt. Colonel Frank Slade in Scent of a Woman

Me, too...

25 February 2006

Quotes for the day

"If you want a country which has Shari'a law, or is a theocratic state, then Australia is not for you."
Peter Costello, Australian Minister of the Treasury

"People who don't want to be Australians, who don't want to live by Australian values, well, then, they can basically clear off."
Brendan Nelson, Australian Minister of Education

Good on yer, mate!

Australia has a lot of great things going for it (sun, beaches, the Outback) but, alas, no Second Amendment...

24 February 2006

Quote for the day

"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming "Woo hoo what a ride!"
from the blog of Ms Pretty Green Eyes

23 February 2006

Politeness in steel

My search for a quote from Heinlein led me, in the usual inscrutable way of the Internet, to the blade in the photo, made by these folks.
Now that is a sword. No doubt about it.
If more people carried them, then Heinlein's adage ("An armed society is a polite society") would doubtless be proven true.
And if I had a spare two thousand bucks, I'd be carrying one...

Is it any wonder they don't get along?

One reason the military has trouble coordinating joint operations is that the different services don't speak the same language.
For example, if Navy personnel were told to 'secure a building', they would, following a checklist written on a clipboard, unplug the equipment, turn off the lights, lock the doors, and depart.
Given the same instructions, Army personnel would follow a checklist written in a notebook. They would occupy the building, so that no one could enter and nothing could leave.
In execution of the same instructions, and following a plan written on the palms of their hands, Marines would assault the building, capture it by close combat, and defend it with suppressive fire.
The Air Force, on the other hand, following a protocol printed on a portable computer, would 'secure a building' by taking out a three-year lease on it with an option to buy.
from the Military Terms of the Modern Era website

(There may be some sarcasm involved here...)

Quote for the day

"The air in Texas has only got air in it. Why, New York air, you can sink your teeth into it."
Tony Randall as Jonathan Forbes in Pillow Talk

22 February 2006

More unsung heroes

Watching (for the first time, I'm ashamed to admit) The Tuskegee Airmen (an excellent film starring just about every black actor working today except Denzel, including Laurence Fishburne, Allen Payne, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Andre Braugher, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Mekhi Phifer) tonight, I'm reminded of what a fucking pitiful waste racism has been in this country.
Both for the obvious loss of the incredible contribution that people of color (a phrase I don't especially like; I, too, am a color, especially when I've been out in the sun) could have made if given the chance, as well as the incredible waste of energy that white people (another phrase I don't especially like; I am not very white, even when I've been out of the sun, but sort of a low-grade pink) have allowed themselves in being racist.

I've been on three continents and more than forty of the United States and, trust me, assholes come in all colors...
As do geniuses, and heroes, and hard-working people. Trying to slice them any other way than by ability and attitude is not only ridiculous, it's useless.

(If you're queer for WW2 aircraft, especially the Mustang, like I am, that's another good reason, besides the story and the great acting, to watch this film.)

Unsung hero

Staring up, for the thousandth time, at my lobby-size poster for The Professionals (do you think I like this movie?), I finally noticed that, even though there's room, one of the major actors doesn't have his name on it.
Woody Strode (that's him at the right of the line of Professionals in the photo) was in 89 films (including his memorable role as the falsely-accused sergeant in the sadly-forgotten John Ford film Sergeant Rutledge) in his career, after he was one of the first four black men to play in the NFL. His quiet role in The Professionals was crucial to the success not only of the plot, but of the movie.

Was his absence from the Professionals poster racism? More likely Hollywood classism ("you ain't a star, you don't get your name on the poster"), but surely the fact that he was black, and that it was 1965 when the movie was made, played a part.

Truly a forgotten hero. But not by me...

Quote for the day

"I'd still rather hunt with Dick Cheney than ride with Ted Kennedy."
Peter Vadasz

21 February 2006

Needs a moniker

This photo looks like a Dick Tracy villain, or a mugshot from the early G-man era. I can see it on a Most Wanted poster pinned to the wall down at the post office...

Yes, that's a college-era John F. Kerry.
Amazing what almost became President, isn't it, versus the other JFK from Massachusetts (at about the same age)...

No remesa, no immigration?

With remittances from Mexican workers (both legal and illegal) from the United States to Mexico topping $20 billion this year, the president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, is rightly concerned about any potential drop in what is now Mexico's second largest income sector (exceeded only by oil exports) if future immigration by Mexicans to the United States is impeded by plans to 'wall off' the border between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific.

I wonder what would happen if, in the name of the "War on Immigration", the White House ordered the cutoff of money orders and bank transfers to Mexico? (We'd probably have to train cash-sniffing dogs to check the southbound mails...)

Next season on Desperate Housewives?

According to a new book about gladiators, the Roman emperor Domitian once organized nighttime games in which female gladiators fought dwarfs by torchlight.

It would do so well during Sweeps Week...

You say Katrina, I say...

During which event, the clearing of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina or the takeover of Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge, did the following scene take place?

"...a woman watched soldiers stride onto the porches of the houses and knock on the doors and ask the people who answered if they had any weapons. "We are here now to protect you," the soldiers said, "and no one has a need for a weapon any more." People who said that they kept no weapons were forced to stand aside and allow the soldiers to look for themselves..."

For an explication of this true story, see Dave Kopel's great article on the falsehoods behind attempts to use the United Nations to disarm everyone...

High time for an old idea

After the First World War (for those born too recently to know what that was, it was the first time most countries that had armies got to use them), a number of places that had been colonies of the defeated Germans were taken over by the League of Nations (for those born too recently to know what that was, it was the first time most countries that had armies agreed not to use them) and run under what was termed a mandate, a fancy word meaning "we're in charge now".
After the Second World War (for those born too recently to know what that was, it was the last time most countries that had armies got to use them), the same thing was implemented by the United Nations (the guys in the big building in New York City that took over the League of Nations franchise) for places that had been colonies of the defeated Japanese, under what was, amazingly, still called a mandate.
Given the situation in northern Uganda (and the Sudan and Somalia and many similar places around the world), where local government is either totally ineffective or actually operating a little profitable genocide program on the side, maybe it's time to reintroduce the Mandate. (Or just airdrop weapons so that the locals can defend themselves.)
We send in a bunch of NGOs (NonGovernmental Organizations, or 'do-gooders', as they used to be called) and a slew of PMOs (Private Military Organizations, or 'mercenaries', as they used to be called), both sets of hirelings armed with heavy weapons and a shit-pot (a financial term meaning, in Washingtonian terms, "more than the budget for mosquito control but less than the budget for farm subsidies") full of money.
If we can't out-source a government that runs better than the ridiculous charades that pass for governments in these places, we should give up and implement a media ban so the weak-stomach'd among us don't have to hear about the slaughter...

Quote for the day

"Never confuse movement with action."
Ernest Hemingway

20 February 2006

Quote for the day

"War is God's way of teaching Americans geography."
Ambrose Bierce

19 February 2006

Horseback Mountain

When I was exploring the 'cowboyness' of Brokeback Mountain, I had only watched the trailers and read some things about it on the Net. (Caveat: my ladyfriend had seen it, and liked it.)
But an interview with the screenwriters showed more of the movie than I'd been willing to pay to see, and I think they proved my point:

The boys of Brokeback Mountain herd sheep.

Okay, so they do it from horseback. That doesn't make them cowboys. Cowboys herd cattle. Sheepherders herd sheep. That's the Rule of the West.
And, in more than one Western, the cowboys hate the sheepherders.
Maybe McMurtry wrote a script about a far more classic theme than I suspected...

Quote for the day

"Members of the martyrdom-seeking garrisons across the world have been put on alert so that, if the Islamic Republic of Iran receives the smallest threat, the American and Israeli strategic interests will be burnt down everywhere."
By a senior commander of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps

(Now you can't say you weren't warned.)

18 February 2006


EFT stands for Electronic Funds Transfer.
It could also stand for Eternal Fucking Trouble, or Easily Fooled Twice, or Endless Foolish Transactions...

It seems that, once you've enabled a company (like my health insurance thieves, ah, I mean provider) to debit your account, it is apparently very hard to pull the plug on their ability to hit you for whatever they want.
My bank was spectacularly unhelpful with my attempt to disable their monthly raids on my account.
But there is hope, now that I have an email (in spite of this pathetic caveat on their website: "We are in the process of reorganizing our Customer Service Department and are currently experiencing technical difficulties. Please continue to try your call or email your questions to us. We apologize for any inconvenience you may be experiencing.") saying they will cease and desist...

(For those experiencing similar problems, check out this Federal site; it has some good details on what you can and can't do.)

Quote for the day

"There's always that chance that there will be people who are offended, and we want to guard against that."
Karon Skinner-Catrone, chairperson of the 10-person No Place for Hate Committee of Stoughton, Connecticut, about the decision of Stoughton's town manager to fly a Danish flag from the town flagpole.

(She's now entered in the Dhimmi of the Year contest.)

17 February 2006

Know thy enemy

Sun Tzu wrote: "Know thy enemy, know thyself, in a thousand battles, a thousand victories."

This map is an indication of where some come from. Not all in the green places, surely, not even most, not (perhaps) many, but enough.

(It shows merely the obvious homelands of the Islamofascists. They're here, too, of course, along with the Christofascists. On a map of the United States, the red ones are a clue. Know your enemies, know yourself...)

Lawyers take one in the head, yet again

via my friend Ben, who has special feelings about the species:

Attorney hunting guide
1. Any person with a valid Texas hunting license may harvest attorneys.
2. The taking of attorneys with traps or deadfalls is permitted. The use of currency as bait is prohibited.
3. The killing of attorneys with a vehicle is prohibited. If accidentally struck, remove roadkill to roadside, then proceed to nearest car wash.
4. It is unlawful to chase, herd, or harvest attorneys from a helicopter or other aircraft.
5. It shall be unlawful to shout Whiplash!, Ambulance!, or Free Liquor! for the purposes of luring attorneys.
6. It shall be unlawful to use controlled substances (single malt scotch, $100 bills, prostitutes, or vehicle accidents) to attract attorneys.
7. It shall be unlawful to hunt attorneys within 200 yards of cardiac rehab centers, ambulances, hospitals, or bars across from the courthouse.
8. If an attorney has been elected to government office, there will be a $500 bounty on the pelt.
9. Stuffed or mounted attorneys must have a state health department inspection for rabies, vermin, and contagious diseases.
10. It shall be illegal for a hunter to disguise himself as a reporter, drug dealer, pimp, female law clerk, sheep, accident victim, bookie, or tax accountant for the purposes of hunting attorneys.

Bag limits:
Silverbacked Texas Millionaire = one (in possession)
Yellowbellied Sidewinder = 5
Hairless Civil Libertarian = 7
Skinny-assed Ambulance Chaser = 12
Horse or Cattle Rustler Defender = 20
Silver-tongued Murderer Defender = 50
Jack-legged Divorce Litigator = no limit
Intellectual Property or intellectual anything = protected species (rare; report sightings)
Honest Attorney = extinct

Quote for the day

“Never forget that all the love in the world doesn’t make up for a second of inattention.”
Bill Lee, ex-baseball player (fourteen years in the majors), in the article ¡Viva los Diplomats! in the October 2000 Men’s Journal

16 February 2006

The list

Seems there's this list out there... (It puts those 'four question' memes to shame.) Here's mine; the things I've done are in bold.
(I stole it from her, but she apparently stole it from her. And so it goes, in the blogosphere.)

1. Bought everyone in the pub a drink
2. Swam with wild dolphins
3. Climbed a mountain
4. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
5. Been inside the Great Pyramid
6. Held a tarantula
7. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
8. Said 'I love you' and meant it
9. Hugged a tree
10. Done a striptease

11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Stayed up all night and watched the sun rise
15. Seen the Northern Lights
16. Gone to a huge sports game

17. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
18. Grown and eaten my own vegetables
19. Touched an iceberg
20. Slept under the stars
21. Changed a baby's diaper

22. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
23. Watched a meteor shower
24. Gotten drunk on champagne

25. Given more than I can afford to charity
26. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
27. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment

28. Had a food fight
29. Bet on a winning horse
30. Taken a sick day when I wasn't ill
31. Asked out a stranger
32. Had a snowball fight

33. Photocopied my bottom on the office photocopier
34. Screamed as loudly as I possibly can
35. Held a lamb
36. Enacted a favorite fantasy
37. Taken a midnight skinny dip
38. Taken an ice cold bath
39. Had a meaningful conversation with a beggar
40. Seen a total eclipse
41. Ridden a roller coaster
42. Hit a home run

43. Fit three weeks miraculously into three days
44. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
45. Adopted an accent for an entire day
46. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
47. Actually felt happy about my life, even for just a moment
48. Had two hard drives for my computer

49. Visited all 50 states
50. Loved my job
51. Taken care of someone who was shit-faced
52. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
53. Had amazing friends
54. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
55. Watched wild whales
56. Stolen a sign
57. Backpacked in Europe
58. Taken a road-trip
59. Gone rock climbing
60. Lied to an official of a foreign government in that country
61. Taken a midnight walk on the beach

62. Gone sky diving
63. Visited Ireland
64. Been heartbroken longer then I was actually in love
65. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger's table and had a meal with them
66. Visited Japan
67. Benchpressed my own weight
68. Milked a cow
69. Alphabetized my records
70. Pretended to be a superhero

71. Sung karaoke
72. Lounged around in bed all day
73. Posed nude in front of strangers
74. Gone scuba diving
75. Got it on to Let's Get It On by Marvin Gaye
76. Kissed in the rain
77. Played in the mud
78. Played in the rain
79. Gone to a drive-in movie
80. Done something I should regret, but don't regret it

81. Visited the Great Wall of China
82. Discovered that someone who wasn't supposed to know about my blog discovered my blog
83. Dropped Windows in favor of something better
84. Started a business
85. Fallen in love and not had my heart broken
86. Toured ancient sites
87. Taken a martial arts class
88. Swordfought for the honor of a woman

89. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
90. Gotten married
91. Been in a movie
92. Crashed a party
93. Loved someone I shouldn't have
94. Kissed someone so passionately it made them dizzy
95. Gotten divorced
96. Had sex at the office

97. Gone without food for 5 days
98. Made cookies from scratch (with help)
99. Won first prize in a costume contest
100. Ridden a gondola in Venice
101. Gotten a tattoo
102. Found that the texture of some materials can turn me on
103. Rafted the Snake River
104. Been on television news programs as an "expert"
105. Got flowers for no reason
106. Masturbated in a public place
107. Got so drunk I don't remember anything
108. Been addicted to some form of illegal drug
109. Performed on stage
110. Been to Las Vegas
111. Recorded music
112. Eaten shark
113. Had a one-night stand

114. Gone to Thailand
115. Seen Siouxsie live
116. Bought a house
117. Been in a combat zone
118. Buried one/both of your parents
119. Shaved or waxed your pubic hair off
120. Been on a cruise ship
121. Spoken more than one language fluently
122. Gotten into a fight while attempting to defend someone
123. Bounced a check

124. Performed in the Rocky Horror Picture Show mimick show
125. Read (and understood) my credit report
126. Raised children
127. Recently bought and played with a favorite childhood toy
128. Followed my favorite band/singer on tour
129. Created and named my own constellation of stars
130. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
131. Found out something significant that my ancestors did
132. Called or written my Congressperson
133. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
134. ...more than once? - More than thrice?
135. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
136. Sang loudly in the car, and didn't stop when I knew someone was looking
137. Had an abortion, or my female partner did
138. Had plastic surgery
139. Survived an accident that I shouldn't have survived
140. Wrote articles for a large publication

141. Lost over 100 pounds
142. Held someone while they were having a flashback
143. Piloted an airplane
144. Petted a stingray
145. Broken someone's heart
146. Helped an animal give birth
147. Been fired or laid off from a job

148. Won money on a T.V. game show
149. Broken a bone
150. Killed a human being
151. Gone on an African photo safari
152. Ridden a motorcycle
153. Driven any land vehicle at a speed of greater than 100mph

154. Had a body part below the neck pierced
155. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
156. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
157. Ridden a horse
158. Had major surgery
159. Had sex on a moving train

160. Had a snake as a pet
161. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
162. Slept through an entire flight (takeoff, flight, and landing)
163. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
164. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
165. Visited all seven continents
166. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
167. Eaten kangaroo meat

168. Fallen in love at an ancient Mayan burial ground
169. Been a sperm or egg donor
170. Eaten sushi
171. Had my picture in the newspaper
172. Had two (or more) healthy romantic relationships for over a year in my lifetime
173. Changed someone's mind about something I care deeply about
174. Gotten someone fired for their actions
175. Gone back to school

176. Parasailed
177. Changed my name
178. Petted a cockroach
179. Eaten fried green tomatoes
180. Read The Iliad
181. Selected one "important" author who I missed in school, and read them

182. Dined in a restaurant and stolen silverware, plates, or cups because my apartment needed them
183. ...and gotten 86'ed from the restaurant because I did it so many times, they figured out it was me
184. Taught myself an art from scratch
185. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
186. Apologized to someone years after inflicting the hurt

187. Skipped all my school reunions
188. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
189. Been elected to public office
190. Written my own computer language
191. Thought to myself that I'm living my dream
192. Had to put someone I love into hospice care
193. Built my own PC from parts
194. Sold my own artwork to someone who didn't know me
195. Had a booth at a street fair
196. Dyed my hair
197: Been a DJ
198: Found out someone was going to dump me via LiveJournal
199: Written my own role-playing game
200: Been arrested

Three-dot journalism

The reigning monarch of Three Dot Journalism, Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle is, alas, dead.
While I neither desire nor deserve his title, I have happily purloined his use of the ellipsis (those three closely-spaced dots at the end of a line).
I've long used them (starting back when I was still reading his daily column), but didn't realize until recently why they're so appropriate for my writing.
For those who never got their Telegraphy merit badge in the Boy Scouts, the Morse code symbol dot-dot-dot represents the letter 's'.
Coincidentally, that's one of my initials.
Just a little-known fact that makes life more interesting...

(Actually, this blog doesn't use ellipses, but three periods in a row, which actually look different. The Macintosh OS, with which I write, displays the symbol readily, but many Gates-OS machines don't parse it unless you type it as a clumsy Unicode string, which I have, heretofore, refused to learn.)

Quote for the day

"The fight is not going to be with the world, but with yourself."
Stephen Crane, 1896

15 February 2006

No such thing as an AD

Of course, Cheney having finally owned up to his, we should discuss the concept of 'accidental discharge'.
(No, that's not something on the sheets...)

I was taught that there's no such thing as an 'accidental' discharge of a firearm.
There may be an 'inadvertant' discharge, or an 'oops, I didn't mean to do that' discharge, but shy of a meteorite landing on your trigger finger and making the gun go off, there are no 'accidental' discharges. If the gun is in your hands and it goes off, you're responsible.

So Cheney screwed up.
Loss of hunting license? Sounds reasonable to me.
Required hunter training class? Surely.
Charged with negligent attempted homicide? Seems excessive.
Don't hunt with Cheney? Not a problem; I don't think I was invited anyway.

The last time a vice president shot someone was in Weehawken, New Jersey on July 11, 1804. (The famed Burr/Hamilton duel.)
Once every 200 years isn't so bad...

Hunting in Texas

The media (mainstream and blogosphere) is all a-twitter over Cheney's hunting accident.
Keith Olbermann of MSNBC (who I usually like) even had to correct himself last night, after he'd conflated 30 yards into 90 feet into 90 yards and was trying to get some trauma surgeon to do live forensic analysis, hoping that the shooting had been hushed up because "the wounds are inconsistent with the use of a 28-gauge shotgun at 90 yards"...
The shooting wasn't 'hushed up'.
In Texas, when you're the guest of someone who owns a spread the size of the Armstrong Ranch, they do the talking, to the press or anyone else, and they do damn little of that.
Because, in Texas, when you shoot someone accidentally while hunting, you don't make a big deal out of it.
The Armstrongs sent the guy to the hospital, they called the sheriff, they called the local paper.
In Texas, at that point, you're done...

Damn, people, the Secret Service was on the scene!
Next thing you know, they'll be implicating some 'grassy knoll' shooter...

Frantic gestures

I passed through a dead-traffic-light intersection yesterday. Four lanes each way on my street, two each way on the cross street. They had four cops out directing traffic. (Slow crime day, I guess.)
The odd part was, not a one of them had a whistle.
When I was a kid, any cop directing traffic always had a shiny chrome whistle stuck in his (in those days it was invariably his) mouth. There was even a cop in Pittsburgh (while I was in college there) whose traffic direction (aided by his whistle) frequently made those video shows; he was a treat to watch.
Police whistles, of course, are descendants of those used by the British Metropolitan Police; in the last century, before radios, that's the best method the 'bobbies' had for communicating.
Even in these days of loud car stereos and iPods, a good shrill cop whistle can cut through the urban noise like nothing else.
I'll miss 'em. Damn sure, the cops at that intersection could have used 'em...

Quote for the day

"God didn't make Rambo. I made Rambo."
Colonel Samuel Troutman in Rambo

14 February 2006

Happy VD

In case no one else said it to you today, Happy Valentine's Day.

Can't imagine why any one of a trio of long-dead, probably apocryphal celibate priests (including a priest of Rome, a bishop of Interamna, and a martyr in a Roman province in Africa) should come to stand for earthly love, but I suspect this explains why: "The creation of the feast for such dimly conceived figures may have been an attempt to supersede the pagan holiday of Lupercalia, that was still being celebrated in 5th century Rome, on February 15."

So, Happy Lupercalia.
Sounds like a lot more fun to me...

You say aytheist, I say eyetheist...

I was once accused of being an atheist by a Born Again (damn, I hate that phrase; how can you be born again with only a father and no mother?), who said it like I would say "child molester".

I had to think about that.

Since the word derives from the Greek atheos (a=without, theos=God), an atheist should merely be one without a God. (Rather than an agnostic, who just isn't sure, which seems wishywashy to me. Agnostic was coined from the Greek agnostos, a=without, gnostos=knowledge, by Professor T.H. Huxley in 1869.)

Looking it up, I rather liked this definition as well: "A person for whom the idea of god is senseless. Not to be confused with a person who hates (and neccessarily believes in the existence of) god."
But you always have to defer to the master definer, Ambrose Bierce:
Faith, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.

Does being an atheist imply the refutation of the existance of God?
If it's the cranky-old-man-in-the-sky-god of the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faiths, always smoting and damning, absolutely.

I suspect that, whatever happens after I die, I will be surprised.
I'm sure my Born Again friends fear that it will be unpleasantly so.
I suspect that, given the complexity of the universe that we know (let alone the complexity of the universe that we don't know; remember, the world was still flat only 500 years ago), we're all going to be surprised.

Until then, I remain without a nice, obvious, all-written-down-in-the-Book, personal-savior-type God.

It doesn't mean that you can't believe in one (you benighted fool), but it does mean that you can't try and jam your delusional structure down my throat, or keep me from acting or saying what I believe.
If you can't abide that, I suggest you move to a nice theocracy, like Iran or Utah...

Quote for the day

"If someone offers you drugs, you know what to do... Say 'yes', and then spit them out."
The grandmother in 800 Balas (800 Bullets)

13 February 2006

Bright or dhimmi?

"Dhimmitude is the status that Islamic law, the Shari'a, mandates for non-Muslims, primarily Jews and Christians. Dhimmis, 'protected people', are free to practice their religion in a Shari'a regime, but are made subject to a number of humiliating regulations designed to enforce the command in the Qur'an that they "feel themselves subdued" (Sura 9:29). This denial of equality of rights and dignity remains part of the Shari'a, and, as such, are part of the legal superstructure that global jihadists are laboring to restore everywhere in the Islamic world, and wish ultimately to impose on the entire human race."
from the Jihad Watch site

Br'er Rabbit, again

There's been much made of late about how Iraq is President Bush's (or America's) 'tar baby'.
For those who never got to read Joel Chandler Harris' Uncle Remus stories before they got banned by the Political Correctness Police (they were written in almost impenetrable black dialect; even though they weren't racist, they sounded like it, and went by the board anyway), Br'er Rabbit (Brother Rabbit, in dialect) is fooled by Br'er Fox using a 'baby' made out of tar and left in the rabbit's path. By hitting the tar baby (for remaining insolently silent when spoken to), Br'er Rabbit gets well stuck to it and thus, when Br'er Fox walks up triumphant, is liable to be eaten.
So far, so good, as far as the analogy goes.

But let's remember that the tale comes in two parts.

When Br'er Fox fixes to kill the rabbit, the rabbit convinces him that, of all the deaths he offers (barbequed, hanged, drowned, skinned alive), the worst is being thrown into the briar patch.
Convinced by the rabbit's pleading that it is the worst death imaginable (and "wanting to hurt Br'er Rabbit as bad as he can"), the fox unsticks the rabbit from the tar baby and flings him into the briar patch.
After awhile, of course, Br'er Rabbit sings out from the top of the hill: "Bred en bawn in a brier-patch, Brer Fox, bred en bawn in a brier-patch!"

We, like Br'er Rabbit, were born and bred 'in a briar patch'.
War, even ugly guerilla war, is something the United States is good at.

If we, as a nation, can come to understand how important this war is (and it is a war, make no mistake; it's not merely a battle or two and then 'bring the boys home by Christmas') to the future of not only the United States, but to civilization as we know it (an old phrase that fit never so well as now), and thus persevere, perhaps it will be the fox (the Islamofascists) that will be the one "stuck to the tar baby", the one pleading to be let loose, not us.

Oddly enough, if the Islamofascists had merely sat quietly by for a year, maybe less, we'd have 'brought the boys home' and there would have been little public support for sending them back to 'sort out' the Iraqis again.
But they just had to fire up that jihad and get in their licks (perhaps it was just the next generation, who hadn't been able to join the jihad against the Russians) on the stupid Americans.

Offering death and destruction to us may not be the smartest thing they've ever done. But if they ever wake up and realize that they're the ones stuck to the tar baby, I vote that we offer to throw them in the briar patch and let them go.

Another look at the war

This is yet another (different) view of the war in Iraq:

"In late 2003, two filmmakers from the Sundance-award-winning Guerrilla News Network spent three weeks on the frontlines of the simmering guerrilla war in Iraq, gathering intelligence, dodging bullets, and capturing the untold stories of what has become the world’s most covered, and misunderstood, conflict. BattleGround is an intensely emotional journey that challenges the orthodoxies of Left and Right, capturing the humanity that exists behind the headline-grabbing images of carnage and sectarian strife. Calling it a “movingly human and many-sided portrait of the war,” the New York Times Magazine singled out BattleGround from other Iraq war documentaries as “more the exception than the rule.” It a critical film for anyone who wants to understand the powerful forces that are sucking America deeper and deeper into a Middle Eastern quagmire. BattleGround won the Silver Hugo Award for documentaries at the 2004 Chicago International Film Festival. It was acquired by Showtime and HomeVision for broadcast and home video distribution, respectively."

You can see the trailer here or buy the DVD here.

Row vs wade

It was hilarious when that was a joke about George Bush's puzzlement over Mexican immigration techniques, but it's not so funny when he appoints someone to the Supreme Court whom, the Right fervently hopes, will help overturn Roe v Wade.

Was Roe v Wade a great decision? Probably not. Supreme Court decisions rarely are. (Remember the definition of The Absolute Truth: a five-to-four decision by the Supreme Court...)

Was it better than the alternative? Absolutely.

I've known several women (friends and lovers) who had abortions. (None of them because of me, I'm happy to report.) None of them did it by choice, but were driven to it by the circumstances of their lives. Would their lives have been different if they hadn't? Absolutely. Would their lives have been better? Probably not.
Is abortion a good thing? No. Especially for the fetus, though the murdered or abandoned or abused children of parents who probably should have had an abortion may need to weigh in on the subject.

But the solution to abortion is not outlawing it. (Remember: when abortions are outlawed, only outlaws will have abortions.)
It's making it unnecessary.

When every pubescent girl is offered free contraception (the implantable kind, my mother always says, that way they don't 'forget' to take it) and every pregnant woman is offered free prenatal care, a free delivery, and assistance in placing her child with childless parents who'll care for it (not foster care, not a state home, a real family), then we can think about making abortion a bad thing.
On the flip side, of course, girls shouldn't get on welfare just by getting pregnant, and they shouldn't be allowed to stay on it without turning in the male parent (I refuse to classify them as the father; that implies responsibility and caring), at the risk of losing their child if they don't; the 'father' should be required to pay or go to jail. Underage girls who turn up pregnant should be induced (by anything shy of torture, I think) to turn in the male parent, who should go to jail.
But I don't see the Christofascists adopting little crack babies at a great rate, or contributing to foundations for unwed mothers, or much of anything else besides determining that millisecond-old embryoes are 'human beings' (whom they're just as happy to see die if they're homosexual or heathen or even just 'different') and trying to deny young people access to and knowledge about contraceptives on the grounds that they promote "promiscuity". No, morons, testosterone promotes promiscuity. Try outlawing that...


I don't know the details, but the story of Dick Cheney's hunting mishap is funny as hell. (Fortunately, the guy lived.)
He will likely never live it down.
But it's an inside-the-Beltway story, for sure (even though it happened in Texas); thousands of terrorists loose in the world, and Cheney has to shoot a lawyer...

But they broke Rule Number One of hunting, which is never split up the party in the field.
They sure as hell broke Rule Number Two, which is, if you break Number One, you must, very loudly, halloo the camp (at least, that's the traditional salutation; see the Duke rule below) on your way back in until the remaining portion of the party responds.

Besides, what the hell good is your Secret Service detail if they let some 78-year-old armed lawyer get within firing range?

As for the hunt itself, I'm not much for animal-killing as a sport, as opposed to the acquisition of meat, but quail? No one can hunt quail and say, with a straight face, that he's a hunter. Shy of the salamander, quail are surely the meekest and most inoffensive animals on the planet. Sure, they're fast and agile and hard to kill, but the same could be said of six-year-olds...
(I reserve my hunting efforts to large, two-legged predators. It's more challenging, especially when they're armed, and in a truly righteous society there'd be no limit and no season.)
I do feel bad for all concerned, but inside I'm still laughing...

The John Wayne Rule comes from the cowboy shooting world, where the operative question always is: would John Wayne (in any of his cowboy roles) do it?
If not, neither should you.
In this case, of course, that is exactly what John Wayne would have done.

Under what?

I heard a great suggestion for my problem with the Pledge of Allegiance.
My problem is that I was born before the Eisenhower administration forced the "under God" phrase into the otherwise perfectly good stanza about "one nation", throwing off the meter of the whole poem.
When I say the Pledge in mixed company, I never put that phrase in, which means I either am a second ahead of everyone else all the way through, or I have to hum quietly while everyone else dutifully says it.
The suggestion?
Merely say "under dog" instead.
You stay on the beat with the rest of the group (even though it still throws off the meter), and come out even.
Of course, curmudgeon that I am, I'll occasionally be forced to say "under dog" real loud just so everyone knows what an irreligious asshole I am, but that's okay...

Quote for the day

"Smiling for no reason is considered by many in Russia as something best left to foreigners."
from Snow Square

12 February 2006

Quote for the day

"Rubenesque is not just some word for someone who likes corned beef."
from this poet's blog

As someone who likes both Rubenesque women and corned beef sandwiches, amen...

11 February 2006

Gotcha of the day

A blushing bride calling her family, or a clever advertisement?

Art for the day

This painting is available as a print (stretched on canvas) from a local (Philly region) artist. Another amazing (hey, like it or not, it is amazing) 'next blog' button find:

Address of the day

from a legal brief about the forced transfer of his eponymous URL (good on yer, Billy!), the comedian Billy Connolly's address:

Billy Connolly, The Boathouse, Crabtree Lane, London SW6 6TY, United Kingdom

Do send him something nice... (No, really, something nice. I think he's brilliant.)

No harm, no foul?

from a blog about Iraq:
"A cohort of Muslim dignitaries and organizations are calling for the enactment of an international law banning the publication of any insults to religious symbols and values. The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Arab League, the two main political bodies of the Muslim world, are seeking a UN resolution, backed by possible sanctions, to protect religions following the publication of provocative cartoons."

Seriously, cartoons? What's next? Words? Salman Rushdie got a fatwa (still not truly lifted) for writing "bad things" about Islam. Hell, there are enough anti-Islamic blogs out there right now to keep fatwa-writers (and UN bureaucrats) busy twentyfour/seven/threesixtyfive.
The Christofascists will also be ecstatic to see this law enacted, of course; imagine what they would have done to The Last Temptation of Christ.

But what are we 'protecting' religions from?
If your precious little religion can't take a cartoon or two across the bow without caving, how serious can it (and your faith) be?

But, as Lewis Black notes, we must respect the fervency of Islam, especially those willing to blow themselves (and those they despise) up; they anticipate receiving 72 virgins in Paradise for their acts, while on Earth he can't find one...

Since this blog will, from time to time, undoubtedly publish "insults to religious symbols and values" of every religion with enough followers to have their own zip code, I will just have to assume the fatwa is in the mail...

Warning: any sacriligious cartoons about the Church of Superior Firepower will be dealt with appropriately. (Remember our mantra: "Lock and load, hootchie coo!")

Quote for the day

"Things that don't exist:
Santa, Easter Bunny, and
girls who like themselves."
from Steve's blog

10 February 2006

Delusional structures, 101

I run across things like this ("We are wiring the house of the child's mind" and "Search the Scriptures for yourself then ask your husband or father for his counsel and direction") in the Christian blogs I discover in my 'next blog' reading, and my blood runs cold. They, just like the Islamofascists, truly believe that what they believe is the Truth.

As in the I will kill you because you do not believe as I believe-type truth.

These people (Christofascists, I guess) scare me.

I once (falsely) told a porch-full of Jehovah's Witnesses who'd gotten me out of bed far too early on a Saturday morning that I was a follower of Kali (one of the Hindu pantheon). When they asked me what the tenets of that faith were, I answered them (truthfully) that the highest worship of Kali was 'killing unbelievers'. (They backed slowly off the porch and said I didn't need to contribute anything for the copy of The Watch Tower they'd left behind.)

Maybe I need to rethink this whole 'belief' thing.
Maybe I need to start a religion whose entire practice consists of walking up to people at random (carrying a large caliber handgun) and asking them "Do you Believe?".
If they answer "yes", then bang... Off to whatever they Believe in, right then, right there.

(You may join the Church of Superior Firepower at any time, and perform its sacraments as you deem fit. Do not, however, attempt to use me as an alibi.)

Okay, okay, I know that that whole concept is wrong, but it's no more delusional than any of the other Great (I use the term in its historical context only) Religions...

OTT blog for the day

Oh, but sometimes you do have to wonder...
When I saw this link ("Is it loving to be yoked with Sodomite Activists in a Gospel performance?") in someone else's blog, I knew I had to go there. (Okay, okay, I'm perverse.)

Doug spends most of his time decrying the casting of a "practicing sodomite and radical homosexual rights activist" in the new Christian film End of the Spear. (Who knew? Who cared? Obviously, he does. If you want to read all about it, go here.) Actually, I disliked the film on sight, because it promotes the overrunning of both the culture (including the religious beliefs) and the environment of indigenous peoples. The Christers did a damned good job of that here, starting with Plymouth Rock and heading west, and we shouldn't encourage them to keep up the 'good' work...

By the way, this is Doug's idea of God's love: "In my view, we should reject all Buddhist priests and practicing pedophiles who hope to become featured soloists and perform Amazing Grace before thousands at the next evangelism crusade".
I can't fault him for that. I don't want to hear someone perform Amazing Grace before thousands at the next crusade, either, Buddhist priest or no.

But he does reference the sending of the last Western Union telegram ("Effective January 27, 2006, Western Union will discontinue all Telegram and Commercial Messaging services"), so you learn something new in the oddest of places...

To quote Western Union, STOP

Worth the click

Why do I find clicking the "next blog" button worthwhile?
Because, if I didn't, I would never have seen this by this American guy at this all-in-Japanese site.
Which is, whether you like random weirdness like this (or guitars, or woodcarving, or even Jerry Garcia) or not, amazing...

Quote for the day

"In theory, people should elect their leaders on the basis of who will govern them the best, and existing governments should be held accountable on that basis. But governance hardly matters in India, and large swathes of the country vote on the basis of caste dynamics and factors that have nothing to do with governance. Identity politics is still the most powerful force in elections."
from India Uncut

Just like here...

09 February 2006

More about that movie

Another thing about Brokeback Mountain...
If you cast pretty-boy actors that most people already think are gay in real life, how does that expand our sensibilities or change our prejudices?
Imagine if they'd made it years ago, with a young Tommy Lee Jones kissing a young Charles Bronson.
Now that would've been a cowboys-in-love movie!

(I'm glad Mr. Bronson is dead; odds are he wouldn't have found that notion as funny as Mr. Jones might, if I'm lucky; both remain among my favorite actors.)

But, as I finally figured out a number of years ago, when they make a chick-flick they want pretty, non-threatening, hairless young men, because that's what young women (for reasons that defy my analysis) want to see.

I can only imagine how the new James Bond will turn out...

Rant for the day

All stores in a major mall (those containing more than one national chain) should close at the same time. It's not good customer relations to force people to decide which order of stores to shop in so that you don't end up walking down the line of faceless storefronts (of a dozen national chains, including Lowe's, Target, and BedBath&Beyond in my case) only to find the automatic doors aren't opening like you expected, forcing you to navigate back across the cold and windy parking lot to wherever the hell it was you left the car.
Given that the whole range of closings doesn't cover more than an hour (do they close at nine, nine-thirty, or ten?), it's stupid...

Wardrobe malfunction

Apparently this part of the Rolling Stones act was (thankfully) censored during the Super Bowl halftime show:

Explaining sunrise to a blind man

I ran across (in a random search, honest) this post in this young overly-Christian (it's not her fault, she's from Kentucky) woman's blog:

"Yes, I am a 29-year-old virgin! Can anyone tell me why sex is the big deal it is? I admit I know nothing about it, I mean, yeah I know but I've never experienced it. What is it about this that is so interesting?"

Did I have to respond? Yup. (Besides, she was cute.)

My comment:
Let's ignore your questions for the moment and start with the name of your blog: Agape.
According to a bunch of definitions via Google, agape is defined as "the Greek word for divine, unconditional, self-sacrificing love", "a state of unconditional love for everything", "different from erotic love", "a love that stems from the ability of the initiate to see the divine spark in all life", "the Greek word for ‘love’ used to distinguish its character from ‘eros’ which has more sensual associations", and "selfless love of one person for another without sexual implications".

A hard act to follow!

But 'virgin', even in the Madonna (the singer, not the mother of Jesus) use of the word, is a tricky thing.
(As we non-virgins say, slightly nastily, "Really? Where?")
Does that mean you've never had sexualized contact (kissing, touching, hugging) with another human? Or are we limiting the use of the word to penetration of a specific area of your body with a specific part of someone else's body? (As in, I've known 'virgins' in the technical sense that they've never had a penis actually inside their vaginas, but who've had a lot of other behaviors just as sexual.)

Here's the problem:
Sex has nothing to do with marriage.

You can have good sex without marriage.
You can have good sex within a marriage.
You can have a good marriage with bad sex.
You can have a great marriage with good sex.
You can have an unbelievably great marriage with great sex.
You can have a bad marriage with bad sex.
You can have a really bad marriage with no sex.
The variations are endless.

You can even have a bad marriage with good sex, for awhile. (Can you tell I'm divorced?)

The point is, sex is a way of connecting with another person. It can be good, bad, or merely (and sadly, especially within a marriage) indifferent.
You can have it for money (oh, shocking! but a lot of marriages have sex for the rent or clothes or a nice night out, just like non-marriage relationships), for love, for companionship, for consolation, or sometimes (if you're lucky) just because it feels so good.

Why is it such a big deal?
Because it touches many incredibly important areas of life: creation, affirmation, satisfaction...

Why can't I tell you why it's a good thing?
It's like telling someone born in the middle of the Sahara desert why ice cream is good. (Children provided with bananas or oranges who've never seen one typically try and eat them without peeling them first. This is a good object lesson for your wedding night...) To really know, I guess you just gotta try it.

God, by the way, never provided instructions for sex. Even if you believe the Garden of Eden myth, sex there was as natural as breathing. Only once Eve knew shame did sex become bad. (Since a lot of preachers harp on shame, you might wonder which of the angels they work for. Lucifer, of course, was a perfectly good angel before he was Fallen...)

Why is it interesting?
Because it's never the same twice. Not even with the same person. Not even when the last time was (if you're very lucky, and young) a half hour ago.

All that was a long-winded way of saying you should have some. Whenever. If that means you wait until you're married, well, your loss.
Write and tell me how it was...

Molto estupido

I live in a target-rich environment for diet-adverse eaters (Philadelphia and its environs offering some of the best fattening cuisines on the planet, starting with the most famous local dish, the cheesesteak), so seeing a restaurant while driving on almost any roadway isn't a surprise.
Seeing one with a sign calling it an "Italian bistro" is.
Let's see, you're using an English word and a French word to describe a restaurant that purports to serve Italian food?
What about this is making me not want to eat there?

(Technically, bistro translates from the French into English as bar, so that should be Barra italiana on the sign...)

Hideously unnecessary

The highly anthropomorphized and totally unnecessary Bambi II is about to be released by Disney.
(What was wrong with the first one? Besides, the copyright doesn't run out for another fifty years or so...)
If only they'd animated it using the storyline of the delightful Gandhi II parody that ran on Saturday Night Live awhile back:
He's back, and he's pissed!
Watching a highly anthropomorphized buck drag antlers through a bunch of unrepentant redneck hunters would be worth seven or eight bucks... (Highly anthropomorphized joke, there.)

Give, you heartless bastards

A good NGO to support with actual dollars (or that old computer)?
Try the Genocide Intervention Network.

Genocide Intervention Network

Any organization willing to buy ammunition to stop genocide has my vote...

A dying breed

Here's a great inside look at what NGOs are up to in the worst places in the world, from a blog by an aid worker in Darfur. (Which, if it isn't the worst place in the world, is a pretty good placeholder until we discover what is.)
As she notes, "at the end of the day, we all just want to have a good rant"...

We won't see it coming

The next time there's a terrorist attack, it will not be as obvious as IXXI. (That's 9.11, for those challenged by Roman numerals; I just like the symbology of that form.)

This is from a blog by an English-born Muslim, reporting on his study group in Jordan:

"Anyway, regarding the other students here, the vast majority of them seem to be from the States and Canada but there are quite a few from the UK, too. In terms of new students who started with me, a very broad mix; from the brothers there's an Italian convert, an American convert, a Malayisian born and bred in Perth, Australia, an Indian born and bred in Chicago, and an Indian guy born and bred in South Africa."

So, they were right after all. Profiling won't work...

A Muslim view of things

Check out an amazingly reasonable blog from the other side, at eMullah

Quote for the day

"Lawyers are generally miserable, pathetic, perverted, slightly retarded people, usually lacking common sense, social skills, and a true perspective on the world around them."
from a lawyer

(Did I mention that I have a long-suffering cousin who's a lawyer?)

08 February 2006

No quarter

If we do not draw a line in the sand (literally, perhaps) and fight those who would gladly destroy us, there will be no one left (as Niemöller supposedly said) when they come for us.

Blog it to the max

For a trip through the weirdness that is humanity, click the "Next Blog" button in the upper right corner of your screen.
And then do it again. And again.
I've just spent the last hour or so doing that, and seen things that boggle the mind.
In multiple languages, too, from nearly every country imaginable. (Including an Inuit site that far exceeded my Mac's font capabilities.)
They range from intimate, soul-searching sites to rampant commercial pandering (literally, in the case of the porno sites).
Six billion people on the planet (not counting the aliens), and it seems like half of them have a blog.
I no longer feel weird.

Movies I wish I'd made

This one is perfect: Brokeback to the Future

Broke what?

The movie expected to sweep the Oscars (eight nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay, along with a Golden Globe for Best Song, A Love That Will Never Grow Old by Bernie Taupin, and a host of other awards) is Brokeback Mountain, which purports to be (and is marketed as, among other things) a 'cowboy' movie.

Completely ignoring the hip, ultra-politically-correct love story at the core of the film, let's look at the 'cowboy'-ness of those involved:

The movie is based on an original story by E. Annie Proulx, the screenplay was written by Larry McMurtry, it was directed by Ang Lee, and it stars Heath Ledger as Ennis Del Mar and Jake Gyllenhaal as the appropriately named Jack Twist.

Annie Proulx was born in Norwich, Connecticut, and got her BA from the University of Vermont and her Masters and Ph.D from Sir George Williams University in Montreal (in Renaissance economic history, the Canadian north, and traditional China). She says she writes about "the examination of the lives of individuals against the geography and longue duree of events, that is, that time and place are major determining factors in a human life". Her short story Brokeback Mountain was originally published in The New Yorker in 1997. (According to her bio, Proulx did move to Wyoming in 1994, and says that the story "began as an examination of country homophobia in the land of the Great Pure Noble Cowboy", but has also since admitted that "I think I did fall in love with both Ennis and Jack"...)

Larry McMurtry was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, which was still mostly a cow town in 1936. (But I don't know what he was thinking. Woodrow F. Call and Augustus McCrae are undoubtedly spinning in their fictional graves...)

Ang Lee was born in Pingtung, Taiwan (and don't think that he's two years younger than me doesn't factor into my rant). His previous films include such Western classics as Wo hu cang long (aka Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), The Ice Storm, Sense and Sensibility, Yin shi nan nu (aka Eat Drink Man Woman), Hsi yen (aka The Wedding Banquet), and Tui shou (aka Pushing Hands). What got him this job was probably Ride with the Devil (which at least had horses in it) and not the Hulk.

Heath Ledger was born in Perth, Western Australia. Which sounds exotic, but is a coastal city of over a million people that doesn't have many cows. It does, however, "have more restaurants per head (of people, not cattle) than any other city in Australia"...

Jake Gyllenhaal was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of a director and a screenwriter.

Bernie Taupin was born in Lincolnshire, England. (And had quite a career songwriting with Elton John, another famous English cowboy...)

Hell, even Randy Quaid was born in Houston, Texas. (A big cowboy hat town, but not a big town for cowboys, if you catch my drift...)

Damn, now there is some range credibility, ain't there? (Barring McMurtry, of course. Though I still shake my head, wondering what Woodrow and Gus would've said...)

Just to try and confuse the issue however, the script has the two stars exchange this feckless dialog: "You know I ain't queer." "Neither am I."
(As I recall, every prison inmate I ever knew said that when he got out...)

Friends of mine who traveled through Wyoming in the mid-Sixties merely wearing long hair damn near got lynched; I can only imagine how the locals would have reacted in 1963 to cowboys acting as oddly as Ennis and Jack. (Hell, I know cowboys in Wyoming right now who'd be more than happy to lynch them. I don't approve of that sentiment at all, mind you, but some delusions can't be overcome by rational discourse; believe me, I've tried...)

Myself, as a writer (and pretend cowboy), I think it would've been a far more interesting story if the two men were in love (as human beings, rather than specifically as men), but just not physically, yet everyone else in Wyoming thought they were. (Hell, then McMurtry could've written in a gunfight or two, and I might've even gone to see it.) But it ain't my story...

As Ennis Del Mar himself says, "If you can't fix it, you gotta stand it."

Quote for the day

"If you can't get the job done with five rounds of .45 Colt, you'd be better off to just throw it in the river and run."
Texas Ranger Captain A.Y. Allee, quoted by Sheriff Jim Wilson in Shooting Times

07 February 2006

Barbary pirates, again

"From the halls of Montezuma, To the shores of Tripoli..."

For those who've slept under a rock for the last two hundred and thirty years, that's the first line of the Marine Corps hymn.
The "shores of Tripoli" they mention were part of a previous series of wars with the Muslim world, in the early 1800s, when the merchant marine of the fledgling United States began to be preyed upon by the Barbary pirates who had tormented the Mediterranean (and as far away as Iceland) for several hundred years.
A Philadelphian, Stephen Decatur, played a prominent role in both the First and Second Barbary Wars. His life was saved (during an attempt to burn the captured American frigate Philadelphia in Tripoli harbor) by Boatswain's Mate Reuben James who, "with both of his hands already wounded, positioned himself between Lieutenant Decatur and a swordwielding pirate."
With piracy springing up as a nascent economic sport among coastal Muslims from Somalia to Indonesia, perhaps it's time for the current Reuben James to revisit the Barbary Pirates, and maybe take along a few of those Marines...

Quote for the day

"I once visited a friend at the Fundamentalist bible camp he worked at as a counselor. I sat in on one of their daily church services. Nowhere else this side of a psych ward will you see more free-floating fear, runaway guilt, out-of-control shame, unstoppable delusions, and rejection of common sense."
posted by a contributor to Susie Bright's blog

06 February 2006

Qur'an as trade document

Amidst the street riots and building-burning in Muslim countries over the 'blasphemous' cartoons of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam (PBUH), there have been calls for bans (and already outright bans by Iran) on trade with Denmark. This will, in Iran alone, mean a loss of some $280 million in annual exports for Denmark. (That requires just 255,000 ham and cheese sandwiches a day to make up for their loss, or one for every thousand adults in the United States. We can do this; we have the technology.)

But I think we should meet the Islamo-fascists more than half way.

I think we should voluntarily cut off exports to all Islamic countries of any item, material, or technology that's not specifically mentioned in the Qur'an (the Koran, for you non-Arabic speakers out there). That means no cars, no telephones, no computers, no toilet paper, no modern drugs, no airplanes, no steel objects like guns or knives (and certainly no ammunition), no plastics, no solar panels, no water pumps, no... You get the idea.
All of a sudden, it's the 8th of June, 632 BCE (Year 10 in the Islamic calendar), and the Prophet (PBUH) has just died.
We'll see how much they like 'religious purity' when it's all just coffee and dates and goats and sand and camels again...

(Why PBUH? It's the respectful salutation, Peace Be Unto Him, used when referring to Muhammad, even by infidels. I'm respectful of everyone's delusional structure. I also reserve the right to smack the shit out of them for having one.)

Why there will be no compromise

In a recent Newsweek interview with Flemming Rose (and whoever heard of a Dane with a name like that?), editor of the Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that originally commissioned the cartoons of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, that have caused such recent outrage in the Muslim world, he was asked:

You depicted Muhammad with a bomb in his turban...
These cartoons do not treat Muslims in any other way than we treat other citizens in this country. By treating them as equals, we are saying, "You are equal." We just asked Danish cartoonists to draw Muhammad as they see him. I did not ask for caricatures. I did not ask to make the prophet a laughingstock or to mock him.

Why do you think Muslims are expressing such outrage?
I think it's problematic if any religion—it doesn't matter if it's Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, any religion—tries to impose its own taboos on the public domain.
I think if any religion insists that I, as a non-Muslim, should submit to their taboos, then I don't think they're showing me respect. I think they're asking for my submission.

What does this controversy say about assimilation, or lack thereof, in Europe?
This is a clash of cultures and, in its essence, a debate about how much the receiving society should be willing to compromise its own standards in order to integrate foreigners. On the other hand, how much does the immigrant have to give up in order to be integrated?
I think that last answer was what Teddy Roosevelt had in mind about 'being American'. There is, from the Founding Fathers on down, a central tenet in defining America that requires tolerance, not just of the minority, but the majority as well. I'm sure that's what's got the religious fanatics in this country so worked up...

There are worse things

Having seen an IFC documentary on aging last night, focusing on people with Alzheimer's (which runs in my family), I'm rethinking this whole "eat right, keep fit" thing. Dying from a massive heart attack just shy of loss of mental function isn't necessarily the worst way to go out.
In addition, not having children or grandchildren to care for or about me, being left to the devices of whatever eternal care system the baby boomers haven't already filled up (I'm in the second tier of boomers) doesn't look like a good bet.
Remember, the complete bumpersticker is "eat right, keep fit, die anyway"...

Quote for the day

"The easiest person to fool is yourself."
Richard Feynman

05 February 2006

No, really wrong

To prove, early on, just how wrong I can be when I really really try, this list was sent out (via email, pre-blog) the day after Katrina struck New Orleans. Many of my predictions (especially the one about Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell) were almost immediately overrun by actual events. (I guess you can never go wrong overestimating Pat and Jerry.) While the international offers of assistance were amazing (and humbling, especially for a curmudgeon like me), we are still waiting for some of these offers... (But, yes, I did think the Bush administration was lame to turn down the kind offer of a thousand medics by the Cubans, who hadn’t even made my original list. The folks in the Superdome and the Convention Center could surely have used them and, if Bush really wanted to stick it to Castro, they should have brought all the doctors over, showed them what a Porsche looks like parked in your own personal parking space at the clinic, and counted how many defected on the spot...)

Things you won't see in the wake of Hurricane Katrina
German engineers rebuilding bridges and roads.
Bottled water from the French.
Russian submarines searching for disrupted oil production pipelines.
Donated oil and gasoline from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and Venezuela.
Jesse Jackson decrying violence in the streets (and not referring to law enforcement officers, either).
Clothing and black skin-care products donated by various African countries.
Emergency food supplies from the Sudan.
Serbian and Croatian paramilitary troops digging mass graves (and they're so good at it, too).
Medical supplies from India.
Armenians and Iranians replacing carpeting destroyed by the flood.
Donated Swedish cars being driven by emergency workers.
French children lining the Champs Elysees, collecting Euros for the relief of victims of Katrina (just those living in the French Quarter, of course).
Pakistanis repairing broken oil and water pipelines.
Diamonds sent by South Africa and rubies by Burma to be auctioned off for disaster relief.
Mexicans helping people cross the Mississippi river.
Belgians cooking waffles to feed those in shelters.
Gold and watches from Switzerland (and none of that Nazi stuff, either).
Barrels of kim chee from Korea.
Bangladeshi ferry boats carrying refugees out of the flooded areas.
Shoes from Brazil for those without any.
Czech and Irish and Australian beer being handed out to thirsty policemen.
Palestinians and Israelis blowing up damaged buildings and rebuilding walls.
Nigerians restarting the refineries.
Public baths and saunas built by the Finns.
Tobacco from the Turks.
Dutch construction companies fixing broken levees and pumps.
Thai silk sent to cloth the naked.
Sand from Mali and Niger to help reconstruct the levees and beaches.
Iraqi policemen guarding stores and hospitals.
Nurses from the Philippines (oops, they're all here already).
Poles rebuilding the shipyards.
Pastries from the Austrians.
Canadians and Greenlanders delivering shiploads of ice.
Replacement fishing boats donated by the Japanese and the Portuguese and the Greeks.
Money from the Vatican to restore the cathedral and the parish churches.
Coffee from Colombia and Jamaica.
Heavy trucks and construction equipment from China.
Aruban search and rescue squads looking for dead or missing young women (oops, not in Aruba, either).
Oil drilling platforms donated by the Norwegians.
British soldiers handing out candy to children.
Money from the Louisiana Purchase, sent back by the French.
...and Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell claiming that New Orleans was destroyed by the will of God because its citizens practiced lewd behavior during Mardi Gras...

Quote for the day

Served with me 30 years.
Cheerful in all weathers.
Never shirked a task.
Splendid behavior.

Josh Deets' epitaph in Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

I should be so lucky when I go into the ground...

04 February 2006

No habla Espanol, but I better start

The activists say that those coming across the Mexican border are merely reoccupying Aztlan, taken from them by gringos in 1836 (the revolt in Tejas), 1845-46 (the Mexican War), and again in 1849 (the revolt in Alta California). Funny, but I don’t remember maps showing Aztlan that included areas as far north as Delaware and Pennsylvania, where the Lowe’s all now hang bilingual signage in their lumber yards, and stores selling Norteno CDs and mariachi outfits are popping up in every little burg between Wilmington and Gettysburg...
They say that Fresno, California is the second-largest city in Armenia. While Los Angeles may not be the second-largest city in Mexico, it’s only a matter of time...

Quote for the day

"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."
Will Rogers

03 February 2006

More about Theodore's notion of being American

Having been taken to task by my friend Ben (see his comment to my post on 2.02.2006 of a quote by Theodore Roosevelt about “being American”), I will endeavour to explicate further what it means to me.
This is a start:

They always said that if we didn’t beat the Communists in Vietnam, there’d be a horde of Vietnamese pouring onto the beaches in California. They were right. As a matter of fact, they’ve made it as far the Delaware River. I have a house full of them right now, laying hardwood flooring. Illegals? Who knows. Phong, the boss and the only one who speaks more than a word or two of English, is 33 and has been here only a few years. But his entire family, with the exception of his father, has been in country since 1995, so he’s probably legal. His father, who trained at US Air Force bases in Pennsylvania and New York, returned to Vietnam just in time to get shot down and killed in 1975. Phong was just three at the time, but by the repatriation date of his family he was in his twenties, and was forced to stay behind and do his national service in the Vietnamese army. Now he lays flooring with a crew of other Viets, and wears two shirts and a sweatshirt because it’s a lot colder here than there, but he’s just as happy to be here rather than there, thank you.
Is he, by Teddy Roosevelt’s definition, an American? Not yet, but he’s working at it, and his kids will be, surely. Given the experiences of every other immigrant wave (the Irish, the Italians, the Russians, whoever), that’s all we can expect.
Did he underbid the ‘all-American’ firms because he hires friends and family at less than union wages, doesn’t provide enough safety equipment, and works like a dog? Sure. Did my landlord contribute to the immigration problem by hiring illegals? Probably. He didn’t ask for a show of green cards, or proof of disability or health insurance. Just like the two-income family next door, who has a nice Brazilian girl minding their child, we get what we want to pay for.
But we have set ourselves up for any number of these postwar immigrations, starting as far back as our intervention in the Phillipines during the Spanish-American War. The list now includes Koreans, Tibetans, Cubans, Guatamalans, Persians, Laotians, Cambodians, Vietnamese, Afghans, Bosnians, Kuwaitis, Somalis, and Iraqis, with more on the way. (Since we’re not liable to stop being the world’s policeman anytime soon, should we be expecting North Koreans or Iranians soon?)
Most arrived broke and speaking any number of languages (many of them more than one) other than English. Most have survived, some have thrived, and all have contributed to the spicy end of the spectrum of American cuisine.
There have been some odd juxtapositions, of course: Hmong tribesmen plunked down amidst Mormons (because someone thought hill people would be happy in the mountains of Utah, maybe?), and Somali boys fresh from the desert getting off the plane in Minnesota and wondering why the sand was so white...
Do I wish for some mythical Northern European-only America where dark skin is only acquired through expensive vacations in Third World countries and foreign languages are something you only hear on the IFC channel? Hell, no. I’ve been to Wyoming. You can’t get decent Thai food there unless you’re Ted Turner and have it flown in. (But I happen to know that the internet story about him and Jane Fonda being turned away from a Montana steak house by its Vietnam-veteran owner is true, and I was happy to have it confirmed by a local.) I’ve been to Utah, where all the help in fast food restaurants are English-speaking white kids; the whole goddamn place (with the exception of an occasional disoriented Hmong) looks like Hitler won. (Plus it’s the closest thing we have to a religious state; if you want to know the joys of dogma-based politics, try living in Salt Lake City for awhile. Try ordering a double whisky with your steak, or buying a magazine showing unclothed women to comfort you on some lonely Saturday night. Then tell me you look forward to a country run by the likes of Pat Robertson...) Monocultures, besides being ecologically unstable, are boring as hell.
But neither do I want a fragmented Ameristan, where everyone cloisters up with ‘their own kind’, sorted by language and culture and religion, and quietly seethes with ancient and festering hatred against them (which, by the way, includes you and me, depending on your point of view). I lived in North Carolina in the late fifties and early sixties, and saw ugly discrimination based on skin color and religion. I lived in Oakland, California in the nineties, and was discriminated against by my neighbors because of the color of my skin. I live near Philadelphia now, where the separation is again by skin color and ethnicity and religion (white, Italian, and Catholic in South Philly; black, African, and Baptist in West Philly; white, Russian, and Orthodox in the Northeast; white, Polish, and Jewish on the Main Line; white, German, and Amish farther west), and the discrimination is just as ugly, if subtler by law.
Being white, English-Welsh-Scots, and Zen Buddhist myself, I don’t fit into any regional slot in Philly, or almost anywhere else, either, outside of university towns like Austin, Santa Cruz, and Berkeley. I like diversity. I like diversity when I walk down the street (especially when I look at the women passing by), when I shop, and when I go out to eat. I like the resulting diversity in cultural events and political dialog. I think we should allow in legal, documented immigrants from as many different countries and cultures as we can, given appropriate growth in the economy and a reasonable rate of population increase.
On the other hand, unlike some of my friends in the People’s Republic of Berkeley, I don’t advocate “open borders”. The last time I did the math, there were approximately five billion people outside the United States. Probably four billion of them would like to be inside the United States, and would do almost anything (including dying in the attempt) to do so. Even if only twenty percent tried and made it (and if you don’t think they’d try, given half a chance, go walk the deserts of California or Arizona or Texas, or swim the waters between Haiti or Cuba and Florida for twenty four hours and count how many people already are willing to die to get in), that would force me to share my rented room with at least two more people. I don’t know about you, but that’s just a mite crowded by my standards...

Quote for the day

You might be a gun nut if...
...you can't remember the plot of the last movie you saw, but you can name the model, caliber, and finish of every firearm used in it.
(from an email)

02 February 2006

This is a system?

I've just returned from my roadtrip to try and sort out, yet again, what's happening with my checking account.
This new EFT thingie, where people get approval to draw money out of your account on a periodic basis, has gotten out of hand.
The latest defiler is, of course, my on-line health care insurance provider (Celtic, if you care). It's not that I pay a lot for pretty sketchy coverage (as a freelancer, and thus unable to pay for more, my current deductible for hospital care is ten grand), it's that they now have carte blanche to take out what they want, without so much as a by-your-leave to me. Thus what started as a almost reasonable policy, at $88 a month, has now grown into a gluttonous monster at (this month, anyway) $244 a month. Since the last time I asked them about their ridiculous rate increases, it'd gone up to $188, you can see I haven't been keeping track the way I should.
Now I'll have to tell them to fuck off and die and hope I don't...

Quote for the day

"In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American... There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."
Theodore Roosevelt 1907

In the quest to define what an American is, this is a good benchmark.
We will revisit Teddy's quote later.

01 February 2006

Quote for the day

"Well, I'm back," he said.
Sam Gamgee in The Return of the King, volume three of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

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