Sunday, December 23, 2007

Um...What?!?

'Tis the season for all sorts of madness (not that there's a specific season set aside for madness), but small items in the back pages of the print media sometimes makes one stop, Dear Gentle Reader(s), to catch a breath.

For instance in the 12.23.07 edition of the Los Angeles Times' Real Estate section, we find this jewel of a story by Ruth Ryon: "Hip-hopping out of his Hills house." It seems Kanye West is selling his "house in the flats of Beverly Hills at $8,699,000." So? You might ask. Well, he bought it "earlier this year for about $7.2 million." In this market? A $1.2+ million profit? Hey, if it works...

Now, DGR(s), you might be wondering, yourself(selves), "Is there a point?" Yes. It turns out the property "is considered a teardown."

Teardown?!? Pay that much money to tear a house down? Madness.

'Tis the season to be jolly... but not frugal or even wise with money.

Bah! Humbug!

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

O Tannenbaum! Ave, Maria!



The winter solstice is a wonderful time of the year to decorate the house with trees and statues, isn't it?

Deck the halls!

Silent Night!

Enjoy!

Agape.

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Brachy Chronicles 2

A video showing the various stages of and treatments for prostate cancer can be bracing as well as teensily unnerving. Regardless, decisions must be made.

Early detection makes decisions somewhat easier. There's always the most invasive option--removal of the entire gland. Early detection, at least in the present context (location, location, location), gives the far less radical choices of freezing the gland or "nukeing" it.

In the end, the possible side effects really make the difference: with the freezing procedure, there's a possible side effect of losing bowel control. The radiation might cause some bladder control problems. Now there's a balancing act...temporarily walking around with a sensation of wetness, or...what?...pastiness? Hmmm. Urine or feces? Number 1 or Number 2?

Decisions Decisions Decisions. What to do? What to do? What to do?

Your chain, Dear Gentle Reader(s), is being pulled. Not for a second is any option other than nuking the little scamp considered.

There will be a "mapping" session via sonogram. Then there will be the procedure itself, the insertion of radiation seeds--the size of a grain of rice--via a small incision, and Voila!, the deed is done and the patient is back home the same day. A picnic in the park (albeit with an ant bite of some significance).

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pobrecito Andrew

Andy Sullivan, Dear Gentle Reader(s), just can't let go.

Sullie saw absolutely nothing wrong with invading a non-threatening country and inflicting horrors upon its populace, but the thought of a Hillary Clinton presidency drives him bonkers.

From a recent blog entry: "Which candidate has evoked the most adamant hostility, the largest number of people who say they would always vote against him or her? You know the answer. 53 percent of men under 40 would cast their vote against Clinton rather than in favor of anyone else. I know how they feel."

Well, DGR(s), you know how I feel: Andy might "know how they feel," but he has yet to articulate exactly why he feels that way.

Language, Andrew, is your strong point. If you can't use it to describe, clearly, why you feel a certain way, perhaps the way isn't the way, after all.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Oh, Christmas Tree...

Dear Gentle Reader(s), don't be fooled by statements such as this excerpt, taken from an editorial in The Desert Sun (published in Palm Springs), "...the Christmas tree, while rooted (no pun intended) in Christianity..."

Pun or no pun, the "Christmas" tree is a direct descendant of various winter solstice festivals ranging from the Egyptians to the Romans to the Druids. There is even a mention of tree usage for festivities in the Bible. It is not, in any event, "rooted" in Christianity.

Trees, or boughs from trees (is there a bough from any other source?), have been used as decorations for the winter solstice for more millennia than from its first Christian use.

There's a wonderful web site, religioustolerance.org, which will give you some information as well as the Biblical citation.

The editorial writer in The Desert Sun might better have written that the tree was appropriated by early Christians for their own purposes. The legend of St. Boniface is especially entertaining.

Rather than to decry the use of "Holiday" tree, the ed writer should have decried the non-use of "Solstice" tree.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Brachy Chronicles 1

A year or two prior to 1988, the specialist recommended a maintenance therapy of adding force to the orgasm ("try to strain"). The referring GP recommended "an orgasm at least every other day for the rest of your life" in order to preclude prostate cancer.

Neither of those recommendations is as easy as one might suspect.

There is a great deal of assumed contortions associated with the first--sometimes to the alarm of a partner, or, should one be somewhat adventurous, partners. The second becomes a matter of obeying a mandate whether or not one wishes to obey. (It takes a certain amount of the fun out of the activity.)

Alas, while the procedures perhaps delayed the inevitable (well over 90% of male cadavers of men over the age of retirement have prostate cancer, as indicated by post mortems), the inevitable, after all, proves to be inevitable.

Twenty-odd years later, then, the result of all this is "Pathology Report: gl 6 in 10-20% cores on left side."

Thanks, however, to a brachydactylic physician, the early prognosis is favorable.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Birthing Responsibility and Education

Here, Dear Gentle Reader(s), is a very sad story from today's Los Angeles Times.

It seems one Leticia Castro gave birth to a six pound daughter, but then stuffed it in a trash bin because "she had thought the baby was a large blood clot."

Subsequent medical attention discovered " a torn umbilical cord."

This information is part of a story of a combination of murder trials and baby dumping. Isn't it, too, part of a larger story of personal responsibility and education?

Castro's story is difficult to believe...six pound blood clot, complete with umbilical cord? But I wasn't in the jury box, so we'll let the jury's decision not to find her guilty of murder go unchallenged.

There is a challenge, though, to the rest of us to look carefully and openly about responsibilities associated with procreation and child rearing.

Having a child is a life-changing experience; one not to be entered into lightly. Those children who will shortly be in the position to father and bear children need to be given all the necessary information for the best possible experience, and a good dose of responsibility also needs to be instilled in future parents.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Insulting Islam or Insulting Islamists?

Wow! Does Gillian Gibbons have a story to tell! You remember her, she's the school teacher who was sentenced to jail for insulting Mohamed by allowing a class of elementary children to name a teddy bear "Mohamed."
Insulting the Prophet? Isn't it more logical to think that people were "insulted" because they perceived something about themselves in this brouhaha? That they were protecting themselves rather than the memory of the Prophet? That imams see even the slightest virtual questioning as a threat to their power--talk about hegemony!
Strange.
And a caution flag for Westerners.
One might posit that the reaction in Khartoum was fueled by self-preservation and self-respect more so than by true religious fervor.
The title of the linked story is 'I got more of an adventure than I bargained for'.
In the vernacular of the nearby Valley, "Fer Shur."

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

World AIDS Day

Inform yourself.

Senior citizens are at risk, too.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Television Moments to Savor 11.24.07

During yesterday's football game between Florida and Florida State, at the beginning of half time, a vapid television reporter cornered Bobby Bowden, FSU coach, whose team was losing (and lost! Go Gators!), and said something to the effect of "You're going to have to do better." To which Bowden replied, "If you tell me how, we will."

Way to GO, Bobby!

(The most insipid moments in television happen during these impromptu interviews. There oughta be a law!)

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Ah, Wordsmiths and Spin

DGR(s), you absolutely must zip over to a New York Times article, "Taking Science on Faith," by Paul Davies.

It's very interesting, it's plausible, and it's a touch sneakily "bogus" itself.

Davies' thesis is that science, itself, is a matter, ultimately, of faith. His argument is that, since science has yet to prove the ultimate moment of creation or to explain why or how scientific "laws" came into being, all scientific understanding is a matter of faith, not a matter of "scientific certainty."

Davis is slyly insinuating that monotheism has just as much claim to explaining the universe as science. And, in the way he couched his argument, there's little to debate.

The problem, Dear Gentle Reader(s), it seems to me is that science doesn't abjure a rational creator; it says with some certainty that there is no indication there is a creator possessed of the irrational personality quirks of human beings.

One of the many moments of wisdom learned from the good nuns at St. Anthony's Parochial School in Beaumont, Texas, is this little gem, "God can do the improbable, but not the impossible."

That sounds like a good riposte to Davies, but, DGR, you're welcomed to add a comment or two.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Catchy Phrasing snares Novak and China*

The citations aren't good (they'd never pass any sort of muster), so take these as you choose, Dear Gentle Reader(s).

Yesterday on "Countdown," one of Keith Olberman's guests referred to the Plame leaker Robert Novak as a "gossip columnist."

This morning on NPR's "Morning Edition," a person commenting about America's use of "Smart Power" (a combination of military might and diplomacy and exporting ideas), used the phrase, "Genocide Olympics" while referring to China's 2012 hosting of the Olympic Games (referencing China's seeming unwillingness to put sufficient pressure on the government of Sudan during the humanitarian crises occurring in Darfur).

Novak has been relegated to the penultimate trash heap of history, but the China Olympics still have some resonance. One has to wonder if the Chinese government would respond to a worldwide use of "Genocide Olympics."

Language is wonderful. Is it powerful enough to change a government's policies?

*Update The NPR speaker is Joseph Nye; podcast might be available here (* don't know how this podcasting works).

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Wish I'd Said That! 11.19.07 Updated

Arron Belkin over at Huffington Post takes the brouhaha about Ronald Reagan's Neshoba County Fair speech into a quick look at the politics of fear.

Just about anyone who pays attention will concede that politicians who play the race card are not, themselves, racists. What they are are politicians who believe that sullying oneself in the cause of a greater good is a necessary unpleasantness. Working on this agreement, Belkin shows how this "unpleasantness" tends to weaken the body politic, and how it is working to make us weaker today, especially in the run up to the presidential primaries.

It's worth a few minutes to read Belkin's piece.

Update: Paul Krugman discusses the issue in The New York Times.

Agape, Dear Gentle Reader(s)

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Don'ctcha Love Conundra?

(Is conundra a word? Another conundrum!)

Here's a hed and caption from the online The New York Times: "U.S. Secretly Aids Pakistan in Guarding Nuclear Arms By DAVID E. SANGER and WILLIAM J. BROAD With the future of Pakistan's leadership in doubt, debate is growing about whether a classified program has done enough."

Dear Gentle Reader(s), one trusts your attention immediately picked up on the logical problem--if this program is such a secret, what is it doing on the front page of The New York Times?

Someone who had knowledge of the program "leaked" the story to Sanger and Broad. Why? To foster debate? To let us know we're more "on top" of the situation in Pakistan than we'd previously known? To help Musharraf? To hurt him?

The article makes known the fact that the Times has known of the program for "...more than three years, based on interviews with a range of American officials and nuclear experts, some of whom were concerned that Pakistan’s arsenal remained vulnerable. The newspaper agreed to delay publication of the article after considering a request from the Bush administration, which argued that premature disclosure could hurt the effort to secure the weapons."

Since then elements of the program have been discussed in the Paki media, and the Administration has removed its objection to publication.

U.S. participation in this "protection" is good. It's good to know that someone, somewhere is watching the store.

So, the conundrum of the day: how far can the administration go to reassure the American public and still maintain a necessary level of secrecy when secrecy is needed in a particular situation?

Which of course, Dear Gentle Reader(s), begs the question, "Why does the public, in large part, distrust this administration?"

Agape.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Snit Continues

Dear Andrew simply cannot let it go. Today's Dish has him responding to a nicely written, and written with admiration, it would seem, tut about his fulminations regarding TipGate (did the campaign worker charged with the responsibility of leaving a tip leave the tip or not?).

Andy had posited earlier that the brouhaha is a result of Clintonian campaign perfidy. "It's an absolutely trivial story - but its triviality is what's telling."

Sullivan wraps up his post in this vein: "I covered the Clintons for eight years. The one thing I learned about them is that they lie. It's reflexive to them; after decades of the lying that tends to infect the households of addicts, they don't have a normal person's understanding of truth and falsehood. They have an average sociopath's understanding of truth and falsehood."

Strong words prompted by what could have been (or not--let's be fair!) an honest mistake by an assistant to an assistant to an assistant. And the first denial (which Sullivan calls a lie) could well have been uttered in disbelief that such a silly mistake could've been made in the first place.

Sullivan is so spot on in so many matters. What explains his blinkered vision of the Clintons?

And for heaven's sake, what demons won't let him admit that the trivial is trivial and that we should get on with figuring out how to win this ideological struggle of the century?

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Psst! Andrew! Chill!

Over at The Daily Dish Andrew Sullivan is having a little case of the tetchies. It seems that, finally, some of his loyal readers (moi meme included) are taking him to task over his comments about Senator Clinton as a possible President Clinton. Andrew is bridling a bit.

To say that Sullivan is negative towards Mrs. Clinton is to understate.

Here are a couple of quotes from The Dish from November 9, 2007, a day short of the election in a year:

"One reason I cannot stand Hillary Clinton is that I'm a feminist." (DGR, this quote follows a citation from Peggy Noonan, of all people. You must read the entry.)*

"It's worth recalling: just because their enemies were ften vile doesn't mean the Clintons did give plenty to work with - often needlessly. Another term of the two of them could well lead to the same kind of sexual scandals that distracted and near-paralyzed affairs of state in the 1990s. If you don't believe that, then you simply haven't grasped the depth of Bill Clinton's needs and compulsions and Hillary Clinton's life-long enabling of them." (link)

"I am told by my Clinton-friendly readers that I am obsessed with this matter, seized with hatred, a mouthpiece for Republican talking points, a woman-hater, etc etc. Fine. Whatever. Have your say.
But if you think we would be electing a normal presidential candidate in Hillary Clinton, as opposed to a co-dependent, scandal-drawn power-couple with almost no accountability within their marriage, let alone outside it, then you're welcome to your delusions.
I just want this on the record, ok? If you want to pick them again, do so with your eyes open
."

Notice, Dear Gentle Reader(s), what Andrew does not address? Right! Sullivan does not address any of the policies Mrs. Clinton has offered, nor anything about her effectiveness (or lack of effectiveness) as a senator.

Andrew's sole antipathy for Mrs. Clinton seems to be a Church-lady-like gut reaction to the Clinton's marriage, and he anticipates another sex scandal. Oh, tsk!

For a writer who espouses wonderful ideas about limited government, and all that that entails in its penumbra (love the word--no idea what it means, but it rolls deliciously off the tongue), Sullivan seems to be quite the harpy about some one else's private life.

Please, Andrew. Stop being facile in your criticism of Mrs. Clinton. Be specific. Leave the dirt to the Rovians and the clowns on talk radio. If you don't like her health care plan, say so, and say why.

*P.S. I, too, am a feminist. (And Thatcher, et al., didn't have to stand for a national office as a single person. That makes a difference, doesn't it?) So the score stands even. Gay Male Feminists are split on the Hillary Clinton candidacy: 1 Yes, 1 No.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A cultural question (with an update*)

Sometimes strange questions bubble up from wherever questions bubble. Without going into details, this one popped up this morning:

Do Middle East mothers complain about skid marks?

My mother complained about my father's underwear (I wonder: is it because of the cut of men's pants that there are more jokes about male skid marks than female?). Sit coms make jokes. A couple of weeks ago, the maid on "Two and a Half Men" cracked wise about using a tooth brush on the kid's skivvies. On BBC America's "My Family," the mother poo-poohed the daughter's complaint about having unwashed laundry on the kitchen table with, "It's just cloth...with skid marks."

During my Army posting in Turkey, I noticed that the homes had bidets or a faucet near the "facility," and, parenthetically, the worst kind of toilet paper (waxy) in hotels. Somewhere I got the idea that the left hand and water are used for cleaning oneself over in the Middle East.

Here in the U.S. we use absorbent paper. Sometimes the absorbency isn't up to the job; sometimes strain comes into play; sometimes the cut of pants?

What gives? Anybody out there watch the Middle Eastern equivalent of Roseanne?

Cultural observations are fun. For instance, have you noticed that Disney's Pluto has no anus?

*Here's reaction sent to me by my friend, Bea:

Now then, I have given 40 whole seconds to ponder this skid mark issue..............and I think we should take it back to basics. As in painting, it starts with the pallette and the loading of the brush. Next comes the approach to the canvas, then the application of the paint using just the right pressure, stroke direction and tecnique. The size and shape of the brush can also dictate the outcome. (I'm sure you see where this is going).

Now, in applying these priciples to said skid marks or skivvy sinners...................one best begin with the paper, whether rolled or ripped from a Sears catalog (Now you KNOW I'm from Honey Island). Is the perp a folder or crumpler? A four finger straight line slider (as in Debit card users) or a single finger wrapper dabber? Art is in the eye or crotch of the beholder and is what truly separates us from the animals. Some humans actually think thumbs do. (hm, thumbs..........along with the forefingers represent another paper grip, used mostly by the "eeeee-uuuuuu" crowd.)

Raising Sean was no problem in this arena at all. That boy stopped including underwear in his wardrobe at about age 8, and his jeans.......well,.I just burned them at the end of a month's wear. I would tell you something about Joe's but he has just enough brain cells remaining in the left side of his brain that he might find this email. He loves to read the emails (and I truly think it's great). He likes to think he does this in secret, then as I come into the room, he zips back to his Solitaire screen. All I'll say about his skids is that he has his very own little plastic caddie with a spray bottle of Shout, a couple of brushes including an old tooth brush, and a bar of soap that he keeps under the bathroom sink. We seem to have solved the brown stain syndrome..................but I still wonder what the hell do I do about that little wet spot on the lower left side of his fly.

So then, Dear Gentle Reader(s), the conversation is engaged.


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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Jacobins, Neo-Cons, and Terrorists

Words are important. Almost as important, and too often left out of a discussion, is the history of particular words. Just how important word history, etymology, is happens to be the subject of a very interesting op-ed piece in today's New York Times.

"Bush’s Dangerous Liaisons," by Francois Furstenberg, takes us back to Revolutionary France in the 1790s. At an early point in the Revolution, a "...group of politicians, journalists and citizens dedicated to advancing the principles of the Revolution..." formed and called themselves the Jacobin Club, and these people were adamant in their stance for liberty--there could be no dissent. "One was either for the Revolution or for tyranny."

Furstenberg provides a list of interesting quotes from leading theorists of the Jacobins. For instance, they believed in “a crusade for universal liberty.” If France's neighbors, monarchies, didn't like the rise of a republic in France, those neighbors must be engaged in warfare.

On the home front, the Jacobins seized control of the government and engaged in a tightly controlled media campaign, called themselves "true patriots," wore insignia distinguishing themselves from those who were not true patriots, habeas corpus was not instituted, and warrantless searches were conducted.

Jacobins shrugged off the loss of personal freedom with such pronouncements as “This severity is alarming only for the conspirators, only for the enemies of liberty," and anyone who spoke against the practices were accused of “treacherous insinuations.”

In this little story from history, it is instructive to substitute Neo-Con for Jacobin, especially when we think of Furstenberg's final point:

Though it has been a topic of much attention in recent years, the origin of the term “terrorist” has gone largely unnoticed by politicians and pundits alike. The word was an invention of the French Revolution, and it referred not to those who hate freedom, nor to non-state actors, nor of course to “Islamofascism.”

A terroriste was, in its original meaning, a Jacobin leader who ruled France during la Terreur.

While Darth Vader might be an amusing mot, "Jacobin" is much more frightening.

Perhaps Mr. Bush should stop using "terrorist" quite so often. Someone besides Furstenberg might take notice and warn of the historical precedence.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

An Hommage...with a twist

Over at Digital Fishwrap my ol' bud The G-Man has a paean to insomnia, which he calls "Burning Moonlight."

This picture was taken at 6:28 a.m. this morning. It shows the atmospherics here in the Coachella Valley as they have been affected by smoke from the recent fires on the other side of the mountain. Usually this "harvest moon" effect is visible during the early evening...and it's a lot more yellowish.


"Burning Moonlight" is an excellent metaphor. It has many applications, eh wot?

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Firestorm

Here in the Coachella Valley, we've escaped the early ravages of the California fires, but today we had a change in the wind patterns, and this is what we get...certainly not nearly the damages sustained on the westward side of the Santa Rosa Mountains. If the wind picks up, though, tomorrow might be a tough one for persons in the Palm Springs area who have breathing problems.


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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Morning (Mourning) in America

Remember Ronald Reagan's phrase, "It's morning in America"? Today is the 24th anniversary of the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut. 241 American Marines lost their lives.

A federal judge held Iran responsible in 2003. In 1983, President Reagan vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice, lobbed some shells from a nearby U.S. battleship into the hills around Beirut, declared victory, and withdrew from Beirut (more or less--check it out for yourself).

And that, Dear Gentle Reader(s), is thought by many to have been the beginning of the "terrorist" attacks which have been the hallmark of this "ideological struggle" of our century.

Poor planning on our part providing security (OK, it was the first of its kind, so some latitude can be given), and an empty gesture as an example of our determination to bring murderers to justice, and the stage is set.

There have been far too many mourning mornings in America since October 23, 1983.

Alas.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

And then there're...

...the annual visitors to Palm Springs. Here's a quickie:

It takes a looooong time to upload these. Patience!

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Samizdat

Remember that word over the next few months--as well as--heaven forfend!--the next few years if the following holds true.

The FCC is proposing to relax the rules guarding ownership of the media. Right now, owners of major media outlets, newspapers, television stations, etc., cannot own different media in the same market.

The FCC is considering allowing ownership of television and print in the same market.

That means a much tighter control of information than we currently have.

One of the ways the Soviets of the USSR kept themselves in power for as long as they did was their tight control of information. Even mimeograph machines (Remember those? You do? You don't look that old!) were controlled by the state.

Samizdat is defined in Wikipedia as: Etymologically, the word "samizdat" is made out of "sam" (Russian: сам, "self, by oneself") and "izdat" (Russian: издат, shortened "издательство", izdatel'stvo, "publisher"), thus, self published, with this interesting bit of info: Self-published and self-distributed literature has a long history, but samizdat is a unique phenomenon in the post-Stalin USSR and other countries with similar socio-economic systems. Under the grip of censorship of police state these societies used underground literature for self-analysis and self-expression.

It is devoutly to be wished that the United States doesn't fall to the point where we need to engage in our own samizdat to find out what's happening in our government.

Keep the media competitive!

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Friday, October 12, 2007

"It's baaack!!!" "Um, It never lefffft!"

Just in case, Dear Gentle Reader(s), you don't watch Keith Olberman's "Countdown" on MSNBC, I want to share something I heard him say for the first time yesterday.

I love puns. This is one of the best I've heard in a while: Coultergeist.

Perfect!

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

How far back do we go? (Updated)


A committee of the House of Representatives yesterday voted to use genocide as the descriptive word for the mass killings of Armenians in the last days of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century.


Since the government responsible for maintaining order during that terrible time no longer exists, I wonder what good can come from this exercise by an arm of the United States government at this particular time in history.


I was stationed in Turkey from the summer of 1959 to the spring of 1960. It was my only foreign posting during my Army enlistment. I made several trips to Istanbul, and I found the countryside and the people to warm and embracing. I also met several Turks of Armenian descent during my posting.


The Turkish government acknowledges the killings, but denies the genocide label.


How far back do we go to condemn genocide in the past? Aztecs and Mayans? Israelites and the people living in "the promised land?" The Cherokee "trail of tears?" Wounded Knee? Darfur?


Who benefits from this? Who, if anyone, is harmed by it?


Government warrantless wiretapping, a botched invasion of Iraq, the Constitution under attack...The House has more immediate and pressing matters at hand.


How many moons have been witness to atrocities? How about taking steps to be certain they never happen again, rather than picking at old wounds?
6:24 p.m. Congressman Tom Lantos was just on The News Hour debating, briefly, his committee's action. He was not persuasive. Actually, he sounded as though he were comfortable with playing a game of "chicken" with the Turkish government.
It was not Mr. Lantos' best moment.
How modern Turkey deals with this 8 year event in its past is of no concern to the United States. We should be minding our own business; we have enough to do.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Letters to the Editor...Who's Responsible?

This one is because of a mini-flap regarding a comment made, rather off-handedly, by Senator Clinton recently.



The original moment: Time magazine carried a story about national service which included this proposal: 1. Create a National-Service Baby Bond EVERY TIME AN AMERICAN BABY IS BORN, THE Federal Government would invest $5,000 in that child's name in a 529-type fund--the kind many Americans are already using for college savings.



The Clinton moment: At a forum hosted by The Congressional Black Caucus, Senator Clinton commented about the proposal: "I like the idea of giving every baby born in America a $5,000 account that will grow over time, so that when that young person turns 18 if they have finished high school they will be able to access it to go to college or maybe they will be able to make that downpayment on their first home."



That sounds like an idea just about anyone could "like." It would be a wonderful thing to do, if it were feasible. The Clinton campaign reminded people later that her comment did not equal commitment to the proposal.



The fact that Mrs. Clinton said she "liked" the idea was enough for spinmeisters of many stripes. The troublesome element for the purposes of this entry is this: local newspapers carry letters to the editor which do not reflect well on the Senator, mainly because the letters do not reflect, with precision, the statement of the Senator.



From The Desert Sun, published in Palm Springs, we have this from a man I know personally:

Coming to America
Just when I thought Hillary Clinton would be a good candidate for the U.S. presidency, I read that she would like the government (we, the taxpayers) to give each newborn baby $5,000.
How many more men and women would enter our country illegally than are already now?
Randy Winbigler


Cathedral City



Randy's letter also appeared in the October 5, 2007 edition of The Press-Enterprise, published in Riverside, California, along with this letter:

I can't believe it. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said recently that every child born in the United States should get a $5,000 "baby bond" from the government to help pay for future costs of college or buying a home.

Sen. Clinton has never been shy about her affinity for collectivism. Her efforts to create policy, from health-care reform to improving schools to strengthening families, always revolve around big government.
The woman is incapable of conceiving a private-sector role, save for the vital function of supplying tax dollars to fuel the bureaucracy.

Welfare can render great harm to its intended beneficiaries. Welfare recipients have been locked into dependency, removed from productive endeavors, robbed of self-esteem and shut out of the possibility of upward mobility.

Such largesse is generosity with the people's money, and it is a shameless bid to buy votes. It is also naked socialism run amok, another government boondoggle in the making.
JERRY POMEROY
Sun City

Dear Gentle Reader(s), I have given you the original situation as well as two letters to local newspapers. Has not the good Senator been maligned? "I like the idea" has been transmuted into "should get" and "would like to give."

One also wonders about the function of the editor for letters to the editor. You know, they pay good money to people to select the letters and to edit them for agreement with the individual paper's standards.

"What standards were at play in this instance,?" one asks.

We wait for an apology from those responsible.

Yeah. Right.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Few, Fewer, Fewest; Low, Lower, Lowest

Ah, Dear Gentle Reader(s), what to think with print edition headlines such as these?

From The Desert Sun, "Fewer U.S. troops die in Iraq."

From The Press-Enterprise, "U.S., Iraqi deaths lowest in a year."

It turns out that 64 American troops died in September, 2007. July, 2006, provides the "year" ago mark with 43, while 988 Iraqi civilians lost their lives in September, 2007-- a 50 percent drop from August, 2007.

(Don't forget: The Iraqis had nothing to do with the September 11, 2001, attack on New York and Washington, D.C.)
An AP story, under the byline of Stephen R. Hurst (couldn't find a link), contains this admonition from our Ambassador to Iraq, Mr. Crocker, and General Petraeus, "...We must maintain the momentum..." and then a Col. Stegen Boylan, indicates, according to Hurst, that the "increased U.S. troop strength [that ol' surge]..." is responsible for the declining deaths.

Surely, the dead must appreciate that.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Is A Euphemism Is A Euphemism Is A Euphemism?

(Apologies to Gertrude)

My good buddy over at Digital Fishwrap occasionally writes of the pitfalls of his peregrinations around the western U.S. While I can find some empathy with the relationship costs associated with wanderings, I've noticed a curious phenomenon which I think he might keep in mind as he contemplates his next move, and which trumps an adrift psyche...maybe.

The Coachella Valley in southern California is the repository for the fountain of youth! Or something.

To wit: The Desert Sun, the daily newspaper which has primary coverage for the Coachella Valley (Palm Springs, Indio, etc.) notes on September 27, that James, Jesus, Gustavo, David, Audrey, Lewis, and Jerry all "passed away." Lynn, on the other hand, "lost her long battle."

No one dies. At least not anyone on the "Lives Remembered" page. Why live anywhere else?

Lots of condos available, DigiFish, baby.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Let's Hear It For Max!!!

Good ol' Max!
Maxie, baby!
Maxie, Maxie, Maxie!

Maxwell Blecher has filed suit in a U.S. court in Los Angeles against Cable-TV companies. He seeks to end the companies' policy of not offering "a la carte" choices to subscribers.

That means, among other things, that, if Max is successful, not one red mill (remember mills from WWII days?) will go to those evangelical television shows which clog my cable service.

Imagine! No more clown makeup, bad wigs, or crocodile tears.

From Max's lips to Congress' ears.

Yeaaaaaa, Max!

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Constitution Day

The U.S. Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787.

That's the real reason we have to be careful about how we extricate ourselves from the current situation in Iraq.

(All 3 blogs deal with the Constitution today.)

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Surge...Charge...

The Charge of the Light Brigade
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
1.
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
2.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
3.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.
4.
Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.
5.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.
6.
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.
Tennyson's poem was inspired by an incident at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War 153 years ago.
On September 13, 2007, President George Bush spoke to the American people informing us that the "surge" is a success and that we must maintain our troop presence there at surge level for additional months, with the American military presence in Iraq for years to come.
(What the Light Brigade didn't know was that the blunder was an attack against the wrong target.)
Is there an analogy between the Crimean War and the U.S. invasion of Iraq?

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Who speaks? And what is said?

As a companion piece to "Who reads?", may I offer "Who speaks?"? (Sometimes one wonders about the appropriate placement of multiple punctuation marks...but not often.)

For instance, Fred Thompson, in announcing his presidential candidacy, used the phrase "lower taxes" as a selling point.

What's the point of saying he's for lower taxes? Everyone is for lower taxes. The problem is that what we need is a sense of lowest taxes possible for the job(s) which need to be done.

There should not be one nickel in taxes more than is minimally necessary to fund necessary programs. We just have to decide on the programs.

Aye, there's the rub.

Let's use the appropriate suffix. In the case of taxes, we need the superlative, not the comparative--and all the obligations which attend thereunto.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Who reads?!? (Or Listens)

"Who reads?" is a laugh line from Light Up the Sky, a play about a Broadway play just as it is about to open.

It is also a line which is applicable to the current brouhaha concerning Senator Craig. There seems to be a certain amount of surprise that Senator Craig's spokesman has said the Senator's September 30th resignation from the Senate is not yet certain. A cursory glance at the Senator's statement on September 1, though, makes it clear that no one should be surprised.

Here's part of the CNN report of the statement made by Senator Craig last Saturday: "Therefore it is with sadness and deep regret that I announce that it is my intent to resign from the Senate, effective September 30th."

Notice the word "intent."

Here's the opening clause from the CNN website: Sen. Larry Craig said Saturday he will resign...

Here's a headline from an MSNBC website: Craig resigns over airport bathroom sex sting.

Here's a phrase from a Los Angeles Times story: In announcing his resignation, Craig, 62, said...

Here's the "head" from the New York Times: Senator Quits as Republicans Try to Regroup.

Even FoxNews missed the obvious: Sen. Larry Craig — whose guilty plea related to an airport bathroom incident ended in his resignation this past weekend.

Intent left the Senator a lot of wiggle room, and the Senator seems to be wiggling.

The question of the moment, however, is why didn't any of the media catch the conditional nuance of the original statement?

"It is my intent" is not the same as "I will."

Words matter. Just ask the spinmeisters in Washington, D.C., or on Madison Avenue.

Be careful.

Who reads?

Gentle Reader(s), you and I must.

Agape.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

What's the dif?

Ah, Gentle Reader(s), what is the difference?

Although fatigued from pondering the fate of the world, my attention was piqued by this headline in the local newspaper, The Desert Sun: "City [Palm Springs] could shatter record on film shoots."

"So?" you say.

Well, this--the difference between "City could set new record on film shoots" and "City could shatter record on film shoots?"

Why don't we use more positive language whenever we are able to do so?

Actually, a record is an idea, and we simply cannot shatter an idea. We can enlarge an idea, we can debunk an idea, we can use an idea for a starting point to proceed to a new idea. There are many ways to say an idea's time has passed, if, indeed that be the case. The more positive we are in our diction, the more value the "old" idea retains, and the better we will feel about ourselves by using the positive language rather than negative language, which might very well erode our ability to see, objectively, our world.

Agape.

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

A journalist by any other name

would be...what?

On "The McLaughlin Report" this evening (9/1/07) the featured topic was journalism.

It seems ol' John has discovered the web and bloggers, and he led a discussion which, generally, tried to define those who blog, especially about matters political.

The consensus, I think, is that bloggers are not journalists, at least in the traditional sense of the word; but that within a generation the dissemination of information will be a hybrid of newsprint, and various electronic media, however that might develop.

One would have to agree, in general. The discussion, however, didn't touch at all on the history of the word. Journal is a Middle French word meaning daily. A journalist was a person who wrote daily about various matters--a diarist.

McLaughlin and his panel were actually discussing a reporter more than a diarist. Probably the crossover occurred when newspapers became widely disseminated on a daily basis (not, though, with one of the first newspapers, the Acta Diurna [Actions of the Day?] of Rome).

Hold your heads, high, Dear Reader(s) and Fellow Bloggers. We're all journalists...even if our output is not always on a daily basis, and even if we're not reporters.

(And "get with it," John, baby!)

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ah, Larry, we hardly knew ye!

Since there are only 7 or so years between Senator Craig's age and my own, I have some residual memories of the sort of urges with which the senator must deal.

If you came to age in the 50's, and your sexual proclivities were anything more than the "missionary position," you had a lot of what have come to be known as "issues." We dealt with them as best we could.

There was a joke back in the late 50's, early 60's, which went something like this: An irate queen, on her first plane ride, in high dudgeon, demands imperiously, "What do you mean, 'This plane doesn't stop at the nearest Greyhound bus station'?!?"

"Tea room" cruising, as delineated in Laud Humphrey's book, Tea Room Trade, was a rite of passage for nascent gays back then.

And there were rituals which were rigidly followed, among which were the tapping toes, and the caress of the bottom of the stall walls, followed by the come-hither-flick of the index finger.

It was exciting. Unfortunately, it was, all too often, the only way to satisfy the drive.

I would have thought we'd all grown out of it, what with the plethora of places in which we might make contact today.

I guess not.

My title is wrong, Larry. We know ye all too well.

We also know there's absolutely no excuse for tea room cruising in the 21st century.

Somehow, in some ways, Larry, you're still stuck in the 1950's. That's too bad. Look what you've accomplished in spite of your sexual drives. Imagine the heights you might've reached had our society been less puritanical.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Keeper? Who Needs a Keeper?

Well, perhaps a name tag?

Anecdote 1: Two Sundays ago, I decided at the last minute to catch a matinee of The Simpsons. I dashed to a local movie house, paid my admission, and was making my way to Theatre 6 for an 11:45 showing. It was 11:40.

As is my wont, I decided to make a pit stop, against the ol' prostate giving me some grief over the next couple of hours.

I went down a labyrinthine hallway, did my business, returned to the original hall, dashed into the theater--noted with some satisfaction that there were only 4 others in attendance, and sat down to wait for the inevitable previews to begin.

I waited. And waited. After some 10 minutes, some patrons began to trickle in. "Idiots. They almost missed the opening of the movie. If the previews had started on time, they'd've been out of luck."

More waiting. "What the heck is wrong with this theater? Can't they read a clock?" Waiting. More late patrons. Waiting.

Finally, I couldn't take it any longer. I got up, determined to confront the manager and register my complaint about not meeting published starting times. I exited the theater, looked back at the individual marquee, to see if they'd changed the start time only to discover that Theater 5, in which I had been waiting, was not the location of The Simpsons. That was being shown in Theatre 6. On time. I missed the first 5 minutes of the movie.

Anecdote 2: A couple of days later, I stepped out of the shower, dried off, put aloe vera on my face, gel in my hair, brushed my hair, and began putting aloe vera on my body (crepe-like skin, alas). After slathering my arms with the aloe vera, I discovered that somehow the hair gel bottle had substituted itself for the aloe gel bottle. Alas (again), hair gel doesn't eliminate the crinkly skin effect; it sort of concretizes it.

Anecdote 3): A day or so after the hair gel dilemma (of course I left it on--waste not, want not), I for some reason decided to change my routine for adding sweetener to my coffee. I stood over the garbage bag, tore off the tops of two packets, and proceeded to dump the sweetener into the garbage, while carefully not dropping the discardable town-off tops.

Now, I don't know if all of this means anything or not, but I have to wonder. I'd feel a lot better if I knew about what I should be wondering, though.

Where was I?

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Break (if you don't mind)

The news out of the Middle East is more unpleasant than not; the news out of Washington isn't much better.

How about a moment away from the sturm und drang (that's a phrase I learned from theatre history--it describes a time in German dramaturgy--no charge) and try for a bit of, well, if not levity, at least an amused befuddlement.

A few days ago, the Decider underwent a colonoscopy. It's a procedure most people over a certain age undergo. Another procedure which is regular for gentlemen of a certain age is the digital prostate exam. We (oops! Now you know!) should have one every year.

This year I went in for a physical, fully expecting the old finger (that's a delightful message in one of the posters for Michael Moore's Sicko--you know, where he's pulling on a rubber glove and smiling a tad evilly); but, by the end of the session, it became clear the digital exam would not be happening. Conversation ensued.

Me, "Um. Aren't you going to do a prostate exam?"

Him, "No. I don't do those. If the PSA [blood test] seems abnormal, I just refer patients to a proctologist."

Me, "Huh?"

Him, "My fingers are too short to reach the prostate. So I don't even bother. I know I won't be able to feel it anyway."

Me. "Oh...um...OK...I guess."

(Well, it's less depressing than focusing on Iraq or the Bush administration!)

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Epilogue to an Epilogue

My ol' buddy over at Digital Fishwrap has a blog posting called "Epilogue to How long does it take to get over someone completely." This, is an attempt at an answer.

Dewey Doga--grade one; Donald Savoy--grades three and four; Anthony Sala--grade ten; Dick Wilson--grades eleven and twelve; Roger Puckett--college sophomore year; Jerry Jones--college junior year; Al Parker--college senior year; Larry Brucker--1964; George Dursthoff--1965; Keith Townsley--1965 through 1974 (w/overlaps); Rex Walker--1974-75; Gavin Trowsdale--2000.

You don't "get over...completely."

What you do is go on living.

A couple of song lyrics leap to mind: "I tipped my hat and slowly rode away;" "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again."

Best advice there is.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

It can't be that easy. Can it?

My friend Nikki refuses to consider the importance of religion in the Iraqi misadventure or in the war against Islamic fundamentalists.

Nikki pishes, piffles, poshes and pshaws, "All we have to do is to drop a few million iPods over the Middle East, and it's over."

I, of course, Dear Reader, fulminate (I don't know what it means, but it looks good and sounds and feels delicious when spoken) "Boo! Organized religion! If Islam can be considered organized."

Events, however, have their way of confounding clarity. Listening to NPR's coverage and reading the print stories out of Iraq regarding yesterday's victory of the Iraqi soccer team against the Saudis, one has to concede that distraction is, indeed, a powerful tool for peace. One might also say that the religious leaders there might not be so powerful against the 21st century as I once thought.

Chagrin! And hope.

Huzzah, Lions of the Two Rivers!!! (One Kurd, one Sunni, one Shia--teamwork more important than theocracy or politics!)

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Mad Men Revived

The AMC original show, Mad Men, returns us to the late 1950's, prior to Nixon's first presidential run. If you don't watch it, Dear Reader, may I humbly (moi?) suggest you do so. It will give you a theatrical look at certain attitudes driven by the testosterone of the day; those attitudes, well, vestiges of them, could very well be the ones with which we find ourselves at odds today.

Women in the office are treated with indifference, if not disrespect. The protagonist cheats on his wife, in a retrospective moment he muses to his mistress, "I don't know if you have everything...or nothing." Not even a twinge if the question also applies to himself.

Although Alpha Male is a relatively new word of the day, the series two openers reek of it.

As a late teenager during those years, I find the memories stirred by this series to be disturbing. I couldn't understand the concept of male superiority, and I didn't care if I didn't have it. Others cared very much that they have it.

The blinkered view of the world which the WASP evinces in this series is quite similar to the view which we see the Bush administration displaying. They are correct; they have unflinching faith in themselves; anyone who disagrees will be shunted aside or destroyed. "Maybe I should stop paying you," says the 1959 protagonist to an underling who dares to engage in a second round of debate.

The equivalent exchange of 2003: "We need 500,000 troops." "You're irrelevant."

And everyone smokes. The smoking pregnant, drinking women in Hairspray were funny. The WASP wife on the shrink's couch smoking isn't funny. It's tragic.

We survived the Eisenhower years. Surely we'll survive the Bush II years. In 40 years will there be a television show which exposes the foolishness of 2007?

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Monday, July 23, 2007

July Pot Pourri

1) Noticed on a walk in the neighborhood: "Private Community." Isn't that a bit of an oxymoron?

2) If you missed Maureen Dowd yesterday (and, if you don't have Time Select, you did), you missed this great line from the end of her column:

"Mr. Gates captured the sadness we feel about American kids trapped in a desert waiting to be blown up, sent there by men who once refused to go to a warped war themselves." (Quick reference to Bob Gates tearing up at a recent Marine event and Vietnam.)

3) In TownhallToday.com (July 23, 2007), someone finally added "Islamic" as an adjective to the "war on terror." War on Islamic terrorists is certainly a more accurate description of what were engaged in than war on terror. You go! RWNSes.

4) Watching "The McLaughlin Group" on Saturday last, I noticed that Tony Blankley doesn't look at his fellow panelists while he's developing a point. He looks down (at notes?) until the end of his presentation, then he looks at others in the eye. He does this in direct response, too. McLaughlin asks him a question, Blankley glances at the host, then casts his eyes down until the end of his response. Strange. It's disconcerting in a way; it makes me feel he's being less than straightforward--rather like he can't look someone in the eye while being duplicitous...sort of like a six year old.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Alas, the conundrum of the ages...

...today in Islamabad, the Muslim cleric who was the leader of those extremists holed up in a mosque got his wish. He's dead, according to news reports.

Willa Cather ends "Paul's Case" with these words--"the immense design of things." The dead cleric, like Paul, has gone into that immense design.

As a person who simply cannot accept the validity of the anthropomorphized deity of the book religions, I find it somewhat sad that there is no real Great Satan waiting to welcome this murderer into his arms. Nor is there a carnal festival awaiting his followers.

Nothing is there, guys, except a vast indifference.

Too bad. It would be nice to know the guy was frying for eternity.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Islam's Peacefulness?

It's the same song, and it doesn't change, even the verses stay the same.

In the Riverside, California, primary newspaper, The Press-Enterprise, one Mariam Moustafa offers a letter, critical of a Michelle Malkin column (printed June 22), including this excerpt: "According to the Quran, "Allah loves those who are fair (and just)" (Quran 49:9). The Quran reflects the righteousness that a true Muslim must possess. If Islam were truly a religion of violence, then Muslims would not have been able to peacefully coexist with people of other faiths, such as Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Zoroastrians, since the 7th century."

As far as Moustafa goes, there is no problem. However, with the current tactics of the Taliban in Afghanistan using non-combatants as shields, of the Sunni and Shia extremists using suicide murderers against each other, and the continuing references (although there is some question about the accuracy of the translation) of the deity seeing to the carnal desires of the "martyrs" in Paradise, she will need to offer a little more than a single line from the Quran if she wishes to convince non-Muslims of the ability to "peacefully coexist" in the 21st century.

I hope she will do so--sooner rather than later.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Sincerely Sincere or just Sincere?

The first time someone used the line on me was back in the 1970's when the Anita Bryant brouhaha was building over in Dade County, Florida. "She's being sincere."

Maybe. The problem with that excuse for a questionable action is that most people who engage in what others might feel unthinkable behavior are sincere. Don't you think Lenin was sincere? Stalin? Hitler? Bull Connor?

Sincerity shouldn't let people off the hook.

President Bush is often said to be sincere...in his belief in his Iraqi policies...in his tax policies...in his signing statements...in his disregard for the Geneva Conventions on torture...

So what? He's wrong.

Let's not hear more about how sincerely Mr. Bush believes the jail sentence for Mr. Libby was "excessive." The president's sincerity has nothing to do with the justice of the sentence.

The real question for Republican Party sycophants as Mr. Bush enters the final 18 months of his presidency is whether or not RNC members are more sincerely dedicated to the U.S. Constitution or to the RNC.

I sincerely hope Mr. Bush finds Jesus again--this time to stop trashing our system of government, now that his liver is healing.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

She's b-a-a-a-a-ck!!!!!!

Some variation on the old Lily Tomlin Ernestine schtick--We are A T and T; we are omnipotent!--has returned to amuse and infuriate the public. She's called a supervisor for the ATT GoPhone program. Here's the situation.

My GoPhone year was set to expire on July 28, 2007. AT&T has graciously been sending me reminders that I'm about to lose my unused time if I don't renew for the $100 yearly cost.

Dutifully, like the good soldier I am, I hied myself over to Radio Shack, zipped out the ol' AmEx card, swiped, and signed. When I returned home to check the webpage to be certain the account showed the new balance, I was disturbed to note that the expiration date had become June 30, 2008, rather than July 28, 2008, which I had expected.

After all, doesn't renew your "year's" imply that the renewal will commence on the anniversary date?

A telephone call this morning to the 888 number didn't do any good at all. My first assistant, Leslie, was helpful, but powerless to change the date. The system is set up to start the year from the date of purchase, not the anniversary date. (Remember, there is no mention of this that I can recall from the email reminders.)

After assuring Leslie that I understood the details of Corporate Headquarters, I said I'd still like to have the address or the telephone number of someone with whom I could register my dissatisfaction with having "lost" a month.

Leslie connected me with Jennifer. Jennifer, after not having much luck with telling me I hadn't lost any money (Jen, hon, that wasn't the issue. What I lost was the ability to plan on how I would be spending that money. I lost flexibility.), thus assuaging my desire to complain, finally said that she could give me some information about where to send a complaint, "but that won't do you any good."

And there it was. You want to complain about AT&T? You foolish little man. Don't you know we're om-knee-po-tent?!?

Welcome back, Ernestine.

I
Now, is Judge Harold Greene still around?

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Beware (Sometimes) the Affable Politician

Waaaaay back in the nineties, some pols in the Republican party decided to push a "good ol' boy" into the national spotlight.



Gingrich was on the rise, due to his success with using C-Span (talking for hours on end to a tv audience in a virtually empty House chamber), but his style was a bit grating, and he had a wandering eye, which could come back to bite him--and the party.



So, by default, the pols decided to place their trust on the first-born of George H. W. and Barbara. He was, by all accounts, eminently electable: good looking, connected, and affable. To top it off, he was easily handled--a schmoozer who could be schmoozed.

Unfortunately, it looked for a while that their boy wouldn't make it. With a little assist from "activist" judges, however, he made it to the prize and we've been taken in with this affableness ever since.

Nice guy. And look how brave he was standing on that rubble. He's so sincere. I'd like to have a beer with him (except he doesn't drink--anymore). So what if he doesn't read the papers? So what if Jesus is his most admired politician? He's a good ol' boy--just look at him. How could you not trust him?

Fast forward. We've been screwed by "sincere" affability.

John Roberts--such a nice lookin' fella. Smart, too. Deferential. Polite to his elders. Clean cut. A real Amurrican boy. Make a fine lookin' Chief Justice. Ol' Sam Alito. Eyetalian, but a hard worker. Pulled himself up by his own bootstraps. Avuncular. Make a fine Associate Justice.

Fast forward. June, 2007. Roberts and Alito siding with the "conservatives" against the consumer, against free speech, against local attempts to fight racian discrimination.

Once more, an affable screwing.

On the other hand--this weekend before the 4th of July, Good ol' boy George will be hosting Vlad the Russian screwer. Since our schmoozer will be in fine fettle--what with using the family compound to impress the erstwhile commie KGB about the rewards of affability. This might be a chance for Gob-George to affably screw Vlad.

It'd be a nice change for us--to get something good for the country out of affability.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Plan B (Well, no one else seems to want to do it!)

Brainstorming for elements to include in Plan B (non-military efforts for the "ideological confrontation" of the century) is a worthwhile pastime; it might even be a necessary diversion--if that isn't an oxymoron.

Here's a start. Gentle Reader, feel free to add.

1) Let's develop template posters which will be placed in neighborhoods which celebrate the "martyrdom" of suicidal jihadists. Our competing posters would proclaim that there is no "Paradise" in store for anyone who murders a child in the name of Islam, nor is such a person worthy of the title of martyr.

2) On the neighborhoods of madrasas, let's drop leaflets which assert that God is not a pimp, that it is blasphemous to teach, as well as to believe, that God would provide a cohort of women to see to the after-death carnal pleasures of child-murderers.

3) Let us proclaim that dressing to express one's religious beliefs is a personal badge of honor, it loses its religiosity when it is enforced at the point of a sword, knife, or a gun barrel. Further, it is an insult to God to teach that the female is less worthy than a male. God has no gender.

4) While we are doing the above, let us not exclude any Judeo-Christian teachings or practices which are suspect--which more than likely are inspired by the inclinations of humans rather than of a deity. In other words, erase from religious teachings anything that smacks of human emotion rather than the objective balances of the universe.

5) Let us acknowledge that we do not and cannot know the nature of the Deity. All writings are, essentially, metaphorical, and that is especially true of religious writings. We speak of the unspeakable in terms which we can understand; we cannot understand something beyond our experiences; we must not continue in the error that the God of which we speak is a supra-human by necessity of the limits of our languages.

Aristotle's Prime Mover is beyond our ken. We do the best we can, but our best cannot be definitive.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Snowjob?

Dear Gentle Reader (both of you, sometime), you must go to this link for Salon.com's War Room and read the entry entitled "The good news about George W. Bush." Then you must read the comments.

The entry details a comment made by presidential spokesmouth, Tony Snow, when asked "...whether the Bush administration "feels any responsibility" for the split among Palestinians..."

I won't give away the joke. Nor will I give away the wonderful comments. You won't be disappointed.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

A Light at the end of the Ex-Gay Tunnel?

"A hit! A hit! A palpable hit!" (If you don't have to ask, thank an English teacher!)

It didn't make the national feeds yet, but the Los Angeles Times reports on an up-coming "Freedom Conference" to be held by Exodus International. (Those are the "ex-gay" people.)

Here's the on-line title as well as the subtitle: New ground in debate on 'curing' gays. Christian ministries who see homosexuality as a treatable disorder are starting to think that choice may not be a factor.

A leading proponent of tossing "ex-gay" into the trash bin of history turns out to be none other than Alan Chambers the director of Exodus. The money quote from Mr. Chambers: "By no means would we ever say change can be sudden or complete."

It seems Mr. Chambers, now a husband and father, "...has mostly conquered his own attraction to men..."

The operative word is "mostly," one presumes, which demands of Mr. Chambers more honesty than heretofore he has shown. Good personal progress. His orientation never was, never will be, a choice. It cannot be escaped; it cannot be eradicated. It can be handled, should one choose; that's the only choice.

Discarding the oxymoronic ex-gay is a good step towards eliminating cultural biases against differing sexual orientations.

Let's have more attention paid to precise language.

Good start, Mr. Chambers. Now, get the rest of your organization in line.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

An Anti-Semitic Semite?

Thomas Friedman's column in today's The New York Times deals with a proposed "boycott" of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem by Britain’s University and College Union. (It's Times Select, sorry.)

Friedman tells us of several Palestinians who received their Ph.D.s at a recent graduation ceremony, and his point is that, rather than calling for a boycott, the Brits should acknowledge the benefits to the Palestinian people which will accrue from these new doctorates. Further, the Brits should take the lead in sponsoring other Palestinian doctoral candidates world-wide.

Friedman ends his writing, however, with a version of an old song: "But just singling out Israeli universities for a boycott, in the face of all the other madness in the Middle East — that’s what anti-Semites would do."

My question is, when did anti-Semitic come to mean, in reality, anti-Hebrew or anti-Jew?

A quick reference to Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, defines semite as an umbrella term including ancient tribes including "Hebrews and Arabs," as well as descendants of those peoples, and the definition is dated 1848.

A subsequent entry for Semitism specifically refers to "policy favorable to Jews" "and predisposition in favor of Jews" (1851).

So in three short years an extension of the word lost its all-encompassing meaning.

And today, in the muddle of language, we have a word which, under scrutiny, causes some confusion. Today, we have the potential semantic disaster of having an Arab opponent of Israeli government policies being labeled an anti-Semitic semite.

Unless, of course, you have something else to do on a cool Sunday morning.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Stop! Take a Breath! Now...

The re-incarceration of Ms Paris Hilton has been given entirely too much attention. (Er...too much attention, in the first place, is given to insignificant people.)

Remember, Ms Hilton was first cited last September for DUI. Her license was suspended. In February of this year she was stopped at 11 p.m. for speeding and driving without headlights.

Subsequently, the court became aware of the suspended license (Hilton's publicist Elliot Mintz insists the star was not aware her driving permit had been suspended. Please!).

Remember: the original violation was for DUI, the second for speeding and driving at night without lights. Ms Hilton put the lives of others at risk with her behavior. She chose to do this; the responsibility is hers.

While the death of others "diminishes" me, so, too, does the humilitation of others. I am diminished by Ms Hilton's humiliation, but I am also empowered by the insistance of the court that an adult take responsibility for behavior. If you do the crime, you do the time.

Remember, before too many people tsk that the punishment of this young woman is too harsh, that her behavior was irresponsible. The social contract demands she be held accountable for that irresponsible behavior.

Hilton's celebrity should play no part in the adjudication of justice.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Happy Memorial Day?

An admired acquaintance, Cindy Uken, produces an eponymous website dedicated, primarily, to local politics.

Today Uken uses the space for a poem by CDR Kelly Strong, USCG (Ret), which is a nice use of her space on this special day.

I am struck, though, by Uken's use of the generic "Happy Memorial Day!"

Happy? Somehow that seems counterintuitive to the underlying somberness of the day. What, though, would be more appropriate? Certainly Sad wouldn't work. Sober? Is there a single word which encompasses the costs of Patriotism--as well as our acceptance of those costs?

The word-problem is certainly larger than the generic "Happy," which we use for virtually all holidays. It extends to such facile phrases as "War on Terror." One cannot, logically, war against terror. Terror is a tactic. One cannot bomb a tactic--an idea.

We need to practice more accuracy in our diction. Where, though, to start?

"It's Memorial Day."

"Ah. Memorial Day."

"Reflective Memorial Day."

?

Thank you for the poem, Cindy. Have an Appropriate Memorial Day!

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Et tu, Brute?

Mr. Bush used Gen. Petraeus' name so often during this morning's press conference that it might do the general some good to watch his back.

Come September, given the President's penchant for not accepting responsibility for the wrongness of this battlefront in the "ideological struggle," if the "surge" isn't dramatically successful, somehow the responsibility for the failure will come to roost upon the general's shoulder boards..."It was his idea; he made me do it. I just listened to the general."

God bless the troops.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Fulness of Oneself

Words and memories and metaphors, Dear Reader, make up the universe of pleasure.

Not quite a week after the death of Jerry Falwell we have another interesting bit of a rememberance. Check out Larry Flynt's piece in the Los Angeles Times today.

My favorite quote, "He was definitely selling brimstone religion and would do anything to add another member to his mailing list. But in the end, I knew what he was selling, and he knew what I was selling..."

"Selling" is the operative word in Mr. Falwell's life. He was very good at it. What he sold most was himself. He was handsomely rewarded for his efforts. Look at pictures of his early days in broadcasting. Look at pictures of his final days in life. He became a corporate fat cat--the "Rev. Ike" of the white Baptist-types.

Rev. Ike and Pastor Jer. Two American success stories.

What pleasure to be reminded of Rev. Ike at this moment in history.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Civilization? Well, I guess.

Here in central Palm Springs, we have reminders of the wonderful range of nature.

Yesterday I watched a mockingbird chase a crow across the sky. The mockingbird dive bombed the crow; the crow was reduced to looking over its shoulder (do crows have shoulders?), trying to get a bead on the location of the angry attacker in order to avoid a sharp peck.

We have hummingbirds and blackbirds in the condo area. A pair of mockingbirds have taken up residence in a bougainvilla 10 feet from my kitchen door. Ground squirrels bounce in an open space across the street. Rabbits hide out in a brushy area about a half block from here. Ducks have been chased out of the pool behind my apartment; geese regularly visit a water hazard in the golf course which abuts the association's property.

And 5 minutes ago, a relatively healthy looking coyote ambled past my office window.

How nice of all these animals to let us live in peace.

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She Didn't Say That...Did She?

Over at the local newspaper, The Desert Sun, a new editorial page "Community Conversation Editor," Angela Cortez, is learning the ropes.

An editorial page commentary on Jerry Falwell today, Falwell's views opened door for many, has an interesting clue as to the direction Ms Cortez is likely to take.

After a rather benign recitation of objective facts, the editorial writer concludes with this: For better or for worse, Falwell was a religious and political force in this country, and his views - while at times despicable and inexcusable - opened the door for a lot of like-minded people to have their voice heard.

Read into that whatever you like. I, for one, like to read that those "like-minded people" are "despicable and inexcusable."

I repeat my contention: Falwell died too soon; he didn't have a "deathbed" conversion/apology as was granted to Lee Atwater, another political operative whose main function in life was to "spin" the truth to achieve questionable ends.

I wonder what Ms Cortez, and/or the editorial writer, meant.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

"lol"?

Over at Ol' Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish, a mini-insurrection is brewing.

It has to do with Andrew's penchant for loquacity, and then some.

In an effort to cut down on the verbosity in some of his postings, Andy (I don't know him well enough to call him that, but he'll never read this, so...WTF) has decided to post a couple of paragraphs, then send his readers on to the complete posting through 'a "Continue reading ..." link to the full version.'

The response has been less than overwhelmingly positive. It seems as though most of us are too lazy to "hit the link(s)!" The complaints resulted in this from Andrew, "Screw you, guys. Seriously, I'm going to keep it but use it sparingly - when a post is more than two paragraphs long." (No doubt in my mind, the screwing is meant as a jocular metaphor.)

I sent TDD the following email under the subject of "...continue reading..." : Maybe you could be less verbose.
gene
(screw you back)
To which I appended a cutesy smiley face.

Imagine my surprise when I received this from "Andrew": "lol"

The question, dear virtually non-existant reader, is What does lol mean? Lots of luck? Lots of laughs? Look out, Loser?

And surely Andrew is too busy (at least I hope so) writing to respond to all the cutesies he receives during the day. So, did a factotum respond? Is it really Lots of luck, meaning, "Andrew, shorten? Edit? Cull? lol!"

Or not?

Keep writing, Andrew. You're a credit to us all.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A Madding Mantra...(almost)

Mantra is probably too strong. The repetition of something like "how we got here is not important anymore" by the supporters of Mr. Bush's initial invasion of Iraq and the subsequent questionable management of the occupation is certainly approaching the repetitive, soporific qualities of a mantra; but it might not yet have arrived.

A question arises, though. Why not?

Why isn't it important to keep near in our consciousness the questionable rhetoric used by the administration to lead the American public first to accept the invasion, and then to put up with the questionable policies developed to police occupied Iraq?

Trust in the administration's capabilities led us to where we are. Doesn't the administration have the responsibility to defend, aloud and publicly, its strategies at this point? Does "give it a chance" suffice?

The Islamist fundamentalists are a real threat. What, exactly, is the administration's strategy in this "ideological struggle?"

Republican defense of this president's war policies needs more than "forget" about how we got here.

We would be foolish to forget. We must remember who. We must remember why.

Fool me once...

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Sufficient Troops and Politicians

Waaay back, in 2002, the Chief of Staff for the Pentagon recommended 400,000 to 500,000 thousand U.S. troops be utilized to defeat Hussein and to sustain peace and order in an occupied Iraq.

That recommendation was shot down by a politician, the Secretary of Defense, and that negative was sustained by another politician, the Commander in Chief.

During the early occupation months, calls went out for more troops, but the Commander in Chief constantly told the American people that the generals on the ground did not ask for more troops, so none would be provided--politicians would not second guess the generals on the ground.

After the elections of 2006, after an electoral repudiation of the Commander in Chief's handling of the Iraqi occupation.

When politicians, responding to the electoral desires of the American public began to demand a re-deployment, a lessening of American troop levels in Iraq, all of a sudden the Commander in Chief, responding to a sudden "need" for more troops from the generals, discovered the solution to the problems in Iraqi occupation would be solved, in part, by more troops. This in the face of "politicians" trying to "micromanage" the occupation effort.

So, as long as the Commander in Chief had a compliant Congress, no increase in troops was needed; after a repudiation of the CiC's policies at the polls, there is a desperate need for troops.

Hubris.

America weeps.

All for a tax cut in 2000.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

You're Entitled? Really? Says Who? And to What?

What with all the fiscal brouhaha surrounding the various "entitlements" today, I'm often struck by my own lack of a sense of entitlement, or at least lowered expectations of entitlement. My mother and a now unnamed Catholic priest disabused me of "entitlement" some sixty years ago.

Mother first: I desperately wanted a toy of some sort, and I carefully planned my statement of need to my mother. I can't remember the specifics of the actual approach, but I've never forgotten the immediate result, "No. I need new shoes, and I can't afford a toy right now."

What!?!

There was no appeal.

Around that time, a couple of seconds, perhaps, in terms of the longevity of the earth, I was sitting in church with my Mother (Where was my father during all of this?), listening to a sermon about family. I remember being very pleased with myself--this was a sermon about me, since I was part of a family. All of a sudden, the priest said something to the effect of (I'll use quotes, but, really, who can remember the exact quote of a sermon decades past?), "Remember, the relationship between the husband and wife is the most important part of a family. Not the children."

What!?!

No. No. No. I am the most important part of this family!

I remember looking at my mother, shocked, and she looked back at me with the (memory may fail the exactitude, but not the message) equivalent shrug of, "What? You're surprised? Get real."

Eventually, I did.

All of this is remembered today because of the lead opinion column in today's Los Angeles Times. Dan Neil, a writer for the Times has penned a personal essay about abortion. It is engrossing.*

The Neils, for medical reasons, and, after much consultation and deliberation, underwent a medical procedure which ended the pregnancies of two male fetuses, leaving two female fetuses intact.

The reason Neil gives for the decision was simple; without the abortion, "[Her] health would have been in jeopardy, according to her doctor. The fact is, multiple pregnancies are high risk, and they can go bad very suddenly. I wasn't going to allow that, though the fires of hell might beckon."

The Neils wanted children very badly; they had been in consultation with fertility specialists. The pregnancy, however, had not been easy. He was, rightly, concerned most about the health of his wife. The fetuses were secondary.

Neil goes on to discuss the recent Supreme Court decision to allow the federal statute banning certain late term abortions to stand. He particularly mentions the comments of Justice Kennedy which, patronizingly, states this law is good for women because it protects them from "the mental and moral trauma of the procedure."

We should thank the Neils for their courage. Making their story public can't have been an easy decision. Surely it wasn't as difficult, though, as the decision to undergo the procedure.

Neil also raises other issues, such as time limitations and the macabre law in South Carolina where a woman must look at a sonogram of her fetus.

There are alarm bells ringing out there. Is anyone listening? This is an "entitlement" women really don't want to lose.

No one is pro-abortion; everyone should be pro-choice.

*The print copy is titled "And then there were two," while the on-line copy if called "The abortion debate brought home." Why does the Times do that?

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Just because the phone rings...(a modern dilemma)

A neighbor regularly walks two dogs, one a small poodle, the other a large long haired red retriever. This morning, as the retriever had just finished relieving himself (herself?) and the neighbor was 1) tugging the poodle back towards himself (and out of my way), and 2) trying to manipulate his fecal-retrieving tools and the retriever's leash, his cell phone rang.

Neighbor stood frozen for a moment--flummoxed! What to do? Call the poodle? Call the by now roaming retriever? Pick up the droppings? Answer the phone?

It sort of gives new meaning to Longfellow's line, "The world is too much with us..."

Maybe we don't need to carry phones with us 24/7.

Then again, maybe we do.

(I smiled, walked on and heard him say, loudly, "I'm with the dogs!")


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Monday, April 30, 2007

Coin in Iraq

NPR reports this morning that the Army has established a Counter Insurgency "COIN" class in Iraq. It studies the insurgency and formulates strategies to counter whatever the insurgents come up with.

Excellent. At last we begin to see a movement away from "bring 'em on" to a more subtle and, doubtless, more effective way to fight an "ideological struggle" than brute force.

We need more of that sort of thinking on many more "fronts" in this war.

We can start by encouraging our Islamic fellow U.S. citizens to begin to defuse those suras which contain verses no longer viable in the 21st centurty.

The "war" has begun to move into a more subtle and difficult phase.

The war hawks must cede their prominence in our thinking to a coalition of ideological, economic, and moral strengths all working with brute force to forge a strategy in which all humanity can thrive.



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Friday, April 20, 2007

Is "by any other name" OK?

If a group wishes to name itself, are others with whom the group might disagree obliged to call them by their chosen name? Probably so.

How about if the group chooses a phrase with which to describe itself? Are others to be content to adopt that phrase, although the phrase could easily be construed to seize a moral high ground to which the group is not clearly, totally entitled?

I think not. A "Megan," (Megan McArdle) who is one of a group substituting for Andrew Sullivan on his blog, The Daily Dish (see "States rights" April 20, 7:28am), disagrees. Here are email exchanges between Megan and myself.

Everyone is also "pro-choice"; they are just against this particular choice. Everyone is against some choices, like 45 year olds wearing miniskirts, or killing little old ladies to steal their grocery money. The delusion that the label applied to the other side is a grotesque semantic travesty is prevalent on both sides of the debate; I apply the labels the movements have chosen for themselves.
-----Original Message-----From: grtou@msn.comTo: andrew@theatlantic.comSent: Fri, 20 Apr 2007 9:27 AMSubject: For Megan
Please! Stop already with using "pro-life" as though it is the sole property of anti-abortion choice proponents. Everyone is "pro-life." There are no songs celebrating abortion. "Abortions that bloom in the spring, tra-la!" is not in anyone's songbook. Nor is the sentiment in anyone's writing.
Gene Touchet


OK. So. I question the validity of her opening sentence: Everyone is also "pro-choice"; they are just against this particular choice.

Is everyone pro-choice? Do the anti-abortion rights activists argue for a particular abortion procedure which is acceptable?

Do the anti-abortion rights activists consider "pro-choice" to be "a grotesque semantic travesty"? Certainly some of us on the pro-choice side consider "pro-life" as an apt description of the anti-choice side to be a semantic travesty, if not grotesque.

If the recognizing a semantic travesty when I see one is a "delusion," Ms McArdle and I do not agree on the definition of delusion.

Methinks Ms McArdle is too thin skinned.

What think you, Dear Reader?



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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Nappy Headed Hos

"Nappy headed hos" is a reprehensible phrase.

That being said, the brouhaha with Don Imus has a silver lining. Finally, the language of the rapster has come into the mainstream media, and is the subject of a long-overdue discussion by our melting pot of a nation.

I don't care what is "done" with Mr. Imus. I do care, though, that I do not hear enough discussion about the relationship between rapsters' use of derogatory language to describe the women in their lives.

I catch a glimpse of Jesse Jackson carrying a rainbow placard in protest against Mr. Imus; I do not hear him coming up with a Cosby-like condemnation of the language which makes such dissing of women the currency of the rap culture.

I get a sound bite of Al Sharpton (of Tawana Brawley fame, don't for one moment forget) saying that Mr. Imus' suspension of two weeks is insufficient, but I see or hear no sound bites of Mr. Sharpton condemning the virtual wholesale slurring of women in general and black women in particular in rap music.

Once again it falls to the women to take up the burden; the Rutgers women come to their own defense, and in language which shames the bloviators, say simply, "that's not me; that's not who I am."

That's not who most of the women in rapsters' lives are. These women shame them; these women shame the men who ostensibly are defending them when these men merely go after a symptom rather than the disease.

If the nation begins a conversation about propriety and respect, something good will have come of this reprehensible speech on Mr. Imus' part.

Imus should not be fired; he should be given "community service" and required to spend some time on his popular radio show discussing the ramifications of desultory language.



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Friday, March 30, 2007

Yoo Hoo, Non-Gay Cross-Dressers!

Here's a question for you: Are you happy to be included in the category of "Queer?"

According to Corey Scholibo, a respondent for The Advocate's letters, you are (well, not happy, but included). Here's the situation:

The Advocate recently ran an on-line headline which lumped Sam, the cross-dressing son on "The Riches," in with "queer" kids on television--the nephew on "Ugly Betty" had already made the pages of the print magazine (--any why is it virtually no one has commented on the great job the writers and Rami Malek are doing on The War at Home with the character of Kenny?).

I protested with an email to The Advocate: "So far nothing the character of Sam on "The Riches" has done indicates a same-sex sexual orientation. Your headline is misleading--"Queer kid on the block."

It wasn't too long before Scholibo answered, quite nicely, I thought, with:

Gene, Thank you for your response. I agree with you completely that there is nothing in the show that implies that the character is gay, as the story clearly states. Queer is a very encompassing term that often includes cross dressing, as it was forged to imply everything out of the realm of “normal,” and has been taken back by our community as a positive word. Nonetheless it was meant to be an adjective and not a noun, nor imply any sort of social group per say.

Thank you, Corey ScholiboArts & Entertainment Editor

Here's my problem (if there is a problem): when I was growing up, "queer" was not in fashion. When it was used as an adjective for someone with a "sexual perversion" (one of the terms du jour), it only meant gay men. (Remember, I'm talking years away from Christine Jorgensen.) Even lesbians weren't usually included.

When did "our community" (not to get into whoever it is who speaks for the community) expand queer to include transgenders and cross-dressers?

And how do non-gay men and women who are cross-dressers feel about that?

Or have they even noticed?

Just asking.




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