Saturday, December 27, 2008

Southern California, part 2

OK, so when I said "tomorrow" on that last post, I was taking for granted that you people understand that time is relative. So... yeah, that's what I meant.

Yeah, that's the ticket.

Actually, I've been in negotiations with the wife to figure out what I should and shouldn't say about various parts of this trip (hey, I have to live with the woman - you don't! Don't judge me!!)

So, Luke had his little ceremony with 455 of his newest, closest friends, and we picked up his bag and loaded it in the trunk. Then, we did the one thing that is closest to a marine's heart - we went for a meal.

Specifically, we went to a little Italian place near the base which I won't name, for reasons that might just become apparent.

We went in, and were greeted by a relatively attractive Turkish woman who turned out to be our waitress (OK, technically, I thought she was relatively attractive; Luke, who'd been stuck in close quarters for twelve weeks with 76 other guys, thought she was gorgeous). Our waitress, upon hearing we were celebrating my son's release from Boot Camp, asked us if we wanted to celebrate with a bottle of wine. We settled on a modestly-priced bottle of red, which she promptly served us. Without checking ID's on anyone. We didn't feel that we should embarrass her when she poured a glass for my other, 18-year-old son, Christopher. (Admittedly, he's well over six feet and remarkably hairy, but still...)

We then wandered around the San Diego wharfs for a while, checking out some old sailing ships in the San Diego Maritime Museum, including the HMS Surprise, which was abused for the movie Master and Commander.

Then we did something remarkably foolish. We drove from San Diego to my sister's apartment in North Hollywood. On the freeway. During rush hour. This should have taken about 2 hours. It took five.

In my defense, I didn't know any way to get there that didn't take the freeway. Plus, living in Albuquerque, it's been a while since I was in a real traffic jam. On top of which, I'm a congenital idiot.

My sister lives in LA with a man who I like a lot, but we didn't get to see him this trip because she'd just sent him to New York for his health and general welfare (apparently, LA wasn't agreeing with him).

But we saw Lilli, and the next day headed back to Albuquerque. We took a more southerly route getting back, to avoid Flagstaff, where they were anticipating snow. (My wife lived in Flagstaff - she knows their snow.)

We used pretty much the same system as we did on the way up. I took over a little earlier, because Annette, for various reasons, didn't get as much sleep as she'd hoped. Luke and I (and then Luke and Chris) crashed in the back seat, leaning on Luke's duffel bag, which was too big to fit in the trunk.

On the way, we kept seeing billboards for "The Thing!" in Dragoon, Arizona. We saw these billboards roughly once every five miles, for about two to three hundred miles, as soon as we crossed into Arizona. (And, to be entirely honest, we had no idea that "the Thing!" was in Dragoon, since that thriving metropolis is about 4 miles further off the road. But "the Thing!" was right off the highway, at a good location to stretch our legs, and we pulled over.

It was an otherwise normal truckstop, with all the usual money-making opportunities: a cafe, with (if I remember right, a Dairy Queen attached), gas, T-shirts, 900 different types of souvenirs, and "the Thing!" (They wouldn't tell you what it was, and neither will I. Hey, the American entrepreneurial spirit lives on, right?)

So, anyway, the entry fee into "the Thing!" was a whole dollar (seventy-five cents for kids). And as I was stretching my legs, Chris asked if we were going in. So I handed him a dollar and said "Tell me about it when you're done."

And then a miracle happened. You see, I'm the father, right? I make the decisions. What I say goes; it's a law of nature. It's how things have been for millions of years. (Or six thousand years, if you're a fundamentalist Christian...)

So I stop looking at the t-shirts and ceramic outhouses, and wander into the men's room, wondering if the Dairy Queen dipped cones are any better than I remember (and what I remember is dark brown paraffin over cold sweetened lard). And as I came out, wiping my hands on my pants (yeah, I sometimes wash my hands - I just don't always dry them well), my son wanders over, to tell me that everybody was waiting for me. So that we could all go into "the Thing!!"

Somewhere along the line, I'd lost control of things. I had been under the impression that I wasn't going to be wasting any time on this roadside "attraction," and that I was only wasting a buck on my son's unending curiosity. But my sons and my wife had apparently started making decisions without me, and we were apparently all going in together. (This was made much more palatable by my older son, the newly-minted marine, who was willing to pay for everybody else to go in.)

The only other memorable part of this trip, really, involved something that occurred a few seconds later, when we were standing by the counter waiting to go in. You see, I noticed that the cutoff for the children's entrance was age 18. So when my older son told the lady that we needed four tickets to get in, I piped up with "That's three adults, and one child."

That statement threw the lady behind the counter for a moment. She looked at us, and I motioned to my youngest and said "He's only 18." Which led her to ask to see some kind of ID.

Yes, that's right. You can look at this incident in one of two ways. Either we charged her a quarter to see his ID, or (my preferred version) Chris was carded to get into a cheap roadside attraction, but not to get a glass of wine.

Take it however you want.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Our little trip to Southern California

OK, so last week, my son graduated from Boot Camp. I've already talked about my feelings on the subject, so let's move past that. He did a hell of a job, and I'm proud of him.

My wife has a few physical issues. Between the Polycystic Kidney Disease (learn about it here, if you want) and the arthritis, she can't comfortably drive for more than a few hours; sitting is easier, but after a few hours in the car, there's no way she could take over the driving duties. So obviously, she had to either drive first, or not at all.

She has another issue, but it's one we thought we could exploit. If she goes to bed too early, she wakes up at about two in the morning and can't get back to sleep. It doesn't matter how tired she is, she wakes up. So, we packed the car the night before, she went to bed around six in the evening, and got up around one or two. (All times are approximate.) She got her bath, woke me up, and I stumbled my semi-comatose ass out to the car, curled up in the back seat and went back to sleep. And my other son, who at eighteen years old, feels that staying up all night is the natural way to live your life, climbed in the front seat to keep her awake.

You don't get the best sleep in the world in a car. OK, I don't: I know that some people have no problem with that, and I know from experience that when babies are cranky and refuse to sleep, strapping them in the car and going for a drive can work like a charm. But, by staying up until eleven or midnight, I was still groggy enough that I was out like a light shortly after we got on the highway.

Four or five hours later, we pulled into Flagstaff, Arizona, and swapped seats. My son, now seriously ready to sleep, got in the back seat. My wife, who sleeps in a car even worse than I do, stiffly climbed into the passenger seat, and I cracked open a coke and took over as pilot.

(One thing: my wife, stiff as she was, promptly crossed her legs under her, in what they used to call "tailor-fashion" - how do women do that? Especially when she's already said that she needed to trade because she was too stiff to drive. It's one of those mysteries of life, I guess.)

On the way to San Diego from Flagstaff, we hit one agricultural checkpoint (at the California border), and two illegal alien checkpoints. Admittedly, we were within spitting distance of Mexico for part of the drive, but it seems strange that we're expending so many resources on checking for illegal immigrants - the one thing that Bush has succeeded in doing is reducing the influx of undocumented aliens. Admittedly, he did this by ass-raping the economy, so that they have less incentive to come here, but he did manage it. So big props there; incompetence has an upside, after all.

We got to the motel at around three - one benefit of setting out early was that we had time to get settled in, and not just stagger groggily to bed. We also had time to consult the map, figure out the best way to get to the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot (or MCRD), and scout out the path ahead of time. (Where, incidentally, we discovered that gas was twenty cents per gallon cheaper than off-base prices. Score!)

Thursday morning, we wandered down to the MCRD, because it was "Family Day" (i.e., "We'll let you see your newly-hatched recruit, but you can't take him off-base."). And we found ourselves listening to a Drill Instructor (or DI) who sounded remarkably like Cheech Marin (imagine Cheech from the '70's, telling us that the next morning, we should get to the parade grounds two and a half hours early, to be sure that we got a seat: "So you chould get there at 7:30, with a little cafecito, a little pastry...").

Then the recruits had their "motivational run" (apparently, marines are motivated by the chance to run in formation), and then shuffled off to the barracks while we, their families, went to the Base Theater, where we first got to see a film about their training (which sounded remarkably like cult indoctrination, but with guns), and then got to sit there while a couple of marines speechified at us.

One of the speeches, from the MCRD Commanding General, BG Salinas (surprisingly short woman), included the statement "Now, when the formation breaks and you get the chance to hug your Little Johnnie, and you rush up to him and you look and realize that this isn't your Little Johnnie, hug him anyway. Because somewhere over there, somebody else's parents are hugging your Little Johnnie."

Her point, of course, was that all the marines, with their freshly-shaved heads, looked alike. Which may have been relatively true with some of these beetle-browed hydrocephalics, but we'd already seen Luke in formation, and he wasn't quite as Neanderthalic as the rest. (Is "Neanderthalic" a word? Hmmm... Well, it is now...)

And shortly after that, the new marines all fell in, yelled a little bit, got spoken to sternly, and we got to spend the afternoon with Luke.

He looked about the same: the hair was a little shorter, the muscles actually less than when we'd seen him last, but in uniform instead of jeans and a tee-shirt. He walks a little taller, but overall, he's still my son.

And apparently, he was already a marine. The graduation ceremony the next day was a complete formality: apparently, they're called marines as soon as they finish this grueling, three-day hazing called "the Crucible," where, in the course of this three days, they get a total of eight hours of sleep and two MRE's (that's "Meal, Ready to Eat," if you don't know), and then they have a four or five hour march through the hills of San Diego. Mostly uphill.

The next morning, 455 new marines marched onto the big old blactop football field that they call the "parade deck," yelled a little more, the band played, there was more speechifying (this time including a talk by the Secretary of the Navy), and they were done.

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Just drink your damned eggnog and stop making up "wars"

November has turned to December, the white meat from the turkey has slowly turned grey, and the War on Christmas has begun.

In Olympia, Washington, the first shot of the annual "war" has to do with an atheist group putting up a sign opposite a "holiday tree" and a nativity scene. A sign reading, in part, "There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds." And with this simple sign, they caused Bill O'Reilly to have a brain aneurysm.

There's a long history of tension in Washington State. It seems that, in 2005, state Rep. John Ahern (R-Unsurprisingly) took umbrage at the politically-correct "Holiday Tree" in the state capitol, donated by the Association of Washington Businesses.
Ahern objected, saying the thing was clearly a Christmas tree. In protest, he gathered with a few dozen supporters on the steps of the Capitol to sing carols that year. Then he tucked a little "Merry Christmas" sign at the base of the tree, along with a shiny cardboard cutout of a Jewish menorah.

And so it began. The next year, bearded orthodox rabbis gathered with Gov. Chris Gregoire to light a large menorah in the rotunda. That triggered a request by Olympia real-estate agent Ron Wesselius to erect the Nativity scene.

State officials balked. Wesselius sued. The state settled, and Wesselius last year was allowed to prop up the figures on the Capitol's third floor. As a result, Capitol officials now say they'll honor virtually any request for a religious or political display. As long as it's not disruptive, costs taxpayers nothing and is not seen as the state endorsing any viewpoint, "it's pretty much wide open," said Steve Valandra, spokesman for General Administration, the state agency that issues the permits. "It's free expression."
As a concept, the War on Christmas is primarily a 21st century construct, promoted by right-wing pundits in an effort to provoke feigned outrage. A similar term ("Kulturkampf against Christmas") was used in 1999 against Housing and Urban Development Secretary Anthony Cuomo (he had ruled that HUD would use multicultural references in a 4-floor holiday celebration - it should probably be noted that the group using this term, VDARE, is opposed to immigration and multiculturalism, and the Southern Poverty Law Center has called them a hate group composed of "racial nationalists").

But that isn't the only shot being fired this year. A member of the Utah State Senate (and, imagine that, also a Republican) is sponsoring a nonbinding resolution encouraging retailers to use "Christmas" instead of "holidays" in their advertising. (Apparently, the Mormon church has successfully solved every other problem in Utah, and they can afford to spend their time and money on this kind of thing.)

Many point to Bill O'Reilly as the leading General in the War on Christmas. He is one of the biggest names to rant against the issue every year, along with other right-wing luminaries (luminarias?) such as Sean Hannity. In 2004, O'Reilly and Hannity worked together to pubicize several examples of "Christmas Under Siege." (The earliest reference I'm finding for this current spate of stupidity is December 10, 2004, although I've found references saying that it was December 3, 2004 when Bill O'Reilly launched his first assault on the subject, as far as I can tell.)

Other right-wing pundits were quick to join in: John Gibson of Fox News actually went so far as to publish a book in 2005 titled "The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought."

(We should probably ignore that Bill O'Reilly published a "holiday reading list" .this year - it doesn't mean that he's given up the fight. After all, Fox News annually holds a "holiday party" instead of a Christmas party. Strangely, Bill O hasn't complained about that so far.)

There are even websites devoted to listing every shot fired in this War, and several published "Naughty Lists" of retailers who aren't sufficiently Christmassy.

But this culture of repression is an ongoing theme among some Christians. In 2002, a family in Queens, NY, backed by the Catholic League, filed suit against the City of New York and the Department of Education, saying that their policy allowing secular holiday decoration discriminated against Roman Catholics.

Of course, times change, as does the battlefront in the War. As far back as 1921, in an antisemitic 4-volume set entitled "The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem," Henry Ford complained about "Jewish opposition to Christmas," and even listed several of their attacks on Christmas.

Almost forty years later, the John Birch Society" decided that the villain wasn't Jews, but Communists.
In 1959, the recently formed John Birch Society issued an urgent alert: Christmas was under attack. In a JBS pamphlet titled "There Goes Christmas?!" a writer named Hubert Kregeloh warned, "One of the techniques now being applied by the Reds to weaken the pillar of religion in our country is the drive to take Christ out of Christmas -- to denude the event of its religious meaning." The central front in this perfidious assault was American department stores, where the "Godless UN" was scheming to replace religious decorations with internationalist celebrations of universal brotherhood.

"The UN fanatics launched their assault on Christmas in 1958, but too late to get very far before the holy day was at hand," the pamphlet explained. "They are already busy, however, at this very moment, on efforts to poison the 1959 Christmas season with their high-pressure propaganda. What they now want to put over on the American people is simply this: Department stores throughout the country are to utilize UN symbols and emblems as Christmas decorations."
With one in four Americans no longer identifying themselves as Christian, you'd think that it would be time to include everybody else in Christmas.

But that isn't how the game is played. The "War on Christmas" isn't about peace and goodwill at all. It's a celebration of victimization, more than anything else. It's a continuation of the drumbeat of "Fear the latest enemy!" that's worked so effectively for Bush and company. A former radio news director explains it best.
To begin with, talk show hosts such as Charlie Sykes – one of the best in the business – are popular and powerful because they appeal to a segment of the population that feels disenfranchised and even victimized by the media. These people believe the media are predominantly staffed by and consistently reflect the views of social liberals. This view is by now so long-held and deep-rooted, it has evolved into part of virtually every conservative’s DNA.

To succeed, a talk show host must perpetuate the notion that his or her listeners are victims, and the host is the vehicle by which they can become empowered. The host frames virtually every issue in us-versus-them terms. There has to be a bad guy against whom the host will emphatically defend those loyal listeners.
So if you run across somebody decrying the War on Christmas, just ask them, "If this is really a season of peace and joy, shouldn't you be trying to spread some?"

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Why would a black woman try to justify slavery?

Oh, look, Lord. Here's somebody with practically no understanding of history. Why would a black woman try to justify slavery? Is this like the wife of an alcoholic saying "he just needs it to relax" or something?

Her name, Lord, is Jean Gasho-Musuka, and she apparently hasn't read Your book all that closely, has she?

"With the issue of Slavery Christians are often put in a corner because they are trying to defend God and at the same time the bible nowhere directly attacks slavery. The bible does not condemn slavery."

Actually, Jean, the Bible not only "does not condemn slavery," it actively supports it. It's filled with wholesome examples of how slaves should behave.
All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God's name and our teaching may not be slandered. (1 Timothy 6:1)
(For clarity, I'll be using the NIV here.)

Of course, while you tried to justify your argument with statements (in your "Responses" section) like "What you have to understand is that slavery in Biblical times was very different from the slavery that was practiced in the past few centuries in many parts of the world," it shows that you still don't have a full understanding of the Bible.

(Oh, by the way, you and your friends need to stop feeding from the same trough. I smell plagiarism when another one of your commenters, "michael," repeats your arguments pretty much word-for-word.)

Well, of course racial slavery was less common. Different races are found in different parts of the world, and they didn't have much long-distance travel back then. Very little contact between different races. Does that really make it better?

Regardless of that, slavery was very similar in ancient times and more recently. And if you'd truly read your Old Testament, you'd know that. Slaveowners, for example, were allowed to beat their slaves, as long as they survived the ordeal.
When a slave owner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner's property. (Exodus 21:20-21)
And, of course, the slave is just supposed to take the abuse.
Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. (1 Peter 2:18-21)
Of course, there were other interesting rules for slaves back then.
If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free. But if the servant declares, "I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free," then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life. (Exodus 21:2-6)
See, you lose your investment in six years, unless you hold his wife and child hostage. Then you can make him yours for life. That's family values for you!

Of course, selling your daughters as sex slaves is even a better example of family values, isn't it?
If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as menservants do. If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money. (Exodus 21:7-11)
And see? You're even allowed to cast your sex-slave aside, and it doesn't cost you a thing (past your initial investment, anyway)! What a great way to keep peace with your new wife!

Let us pray - Lord, please allow this woman to read and truly understand your Book. And if she does so, and still feels that it has any relevance in the modern world, please make her stop misquoting it.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

How can God be wrong?

In 1972, a man named Harry McCall was attending Bob Jones University; in the bookstore, they sold a 32 page pamphlet called "Is Segregation Scriptural," written (you probaly guessed this) by Bob Jones, Sr. It was based on a message he'd sent out in 1960, in response to a little ruling called Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka (for those of you not up on your legal rulings, Brown declared that segregated schools, and therefore segregation, were unconstitutional).

Now, this little booklet (which Mr. McCall excerpts in a blog called Debunking Christianity) gets right to the point. In the words of Dr Jones (pater):
Now, we folks at Bob Jones University believe that whatever the Bible says is so; and we believe it says certain fundamental things that all Bible-believing Christians accept; but when the Bible speaks clearly about any subject, that settles it. Men do not always agree, because some are dumb-some people are spiritually dumb; but when the Bible is clear, there is not any reason why everybody should not accept it.
Straightforward, isn't it? Keep that thought in mind. "The Bible is always right."

Dr. Jones then points out the following bit of Scripture (Acts 17:26): "And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation."

He seems to base his entire argument on that point: God set up each race in the place He felt that they needed to be. Or to put it more bluntly,
God never meant to have one race. It was not His purpose at all. God has a purpose for each race. God Almighty may have overruled and permitted the slaves to come over to America so that the colored people could be the great missionaries to the Africans. They could have been. The white people in America would have helped pay their way over there. By the hundreds and hundreds they could have gone back to Africa and got the Africans converted after the slavery days were over...

All men, to whatever race they may belong, have immortal souls; but all men have mortal bodies, and God fixed the boundaries of the races of the world. Let me repeat that it is no accident that most of the Chinese live in China. It is not an accident that most Japanese live in Japan; and the Africans should have been left in Africa, and the Gospel should have been taken to them as God command His people to do.
Now is where the logic gets spectacularly twisted.
Now, you colored people listen to me. If you had not been bought over here and if your grandparents in slavery days had not heard that great preaching, you might not even be a Christian, You might be over there in the jungles of Africa today, unsaved. Bt you are here in America where you have your own schools and your own churches and your own liberties and your own rights, with certain restrictions that God Almighty put about you - restrictions that are in line with the Word of God.
See, that's the important point - as far as Dr Jones is concerned (definitely Jones pater - and probably fils, considering that he wouldn't allow the flag flown at half-staff when Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot), God wants the races kept separate. It's pretty plain in his closing prayer.
Our heavenly Father, bless our country. We thank Thee for our ancestors. We thank Thee for the good, Christian people - white and black. We thank Thee for the ties that have bound these Christian white people and Christian colored people together throughout the years, and we thank Thee that white people who had a little more money helped them build their churches and stood by them and when they got sick, they helped them. No nation has ever prospered or been blessed like the colored people in the South. Help these colored Christians not to get swept away by all the propaganda that is being put out now. Help us to see this thing and to understand God’s established order and to be one in Christ and to understand that God has fixed the boundaries of the nations so we would not have trouble and misunderstanding. Keep us by Thy power and use us for Thy glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
So, as you can see, segregation wasn't just the official policy of Bob Jones University: as far as the founders were concerned, it was the unerring word of God. (Keep that phrase in mind, too. "The unerring word of God.")

Let's move up a couple of decades, to the present day. Bob Jones University has reversed their former policies on race. On their website, they've posted the following statement:
On national television in March 2000, Bob Jones III, who was the university’s president until 2005, stated that BJU was wrong in not admitting African-American students before 1971, which sadly was a common practice of both public and private universities in the years prior to that time. On the same program, he announced the lifting of the University’s policy against interracial dating.

Our sincere desire is to exhibit a truly Christlike spirit and biblical position in these areas. Today, Bob Jones University enrolls students from all 50 states and nearly 50 countries, representing various ethnicities and cultures. The University solicits financial support for two scholarship funds for minority applicants, and the administration is committed to maintaining on the campus the racial and cultural diversity and harmony characteristic of the true Church of Jesus Christ throughout the world.
Remember those two important phrases? "The unerring word of God"? "The Bible is always right." It really doesn't matter whether you subscribe to them. The point is, BJU based a policy on their interpretation of a Biblical passage. Which they now admit was wrong.

Maybe, people's interpretation of the Bible aren't always right.

Now, let's tie this into current events. (Current events other than the recent racist resurrgence, that is.) In the middle of this pamphlet on segregation (which they now admit was wrong), you find the following statement.
A Christian relationship does not mean a marriage relationship. You can be a Christian and have fellowship with people that you would not marry and that God does not want you to marry and that if you should marry you would be marrying outside the will of God. Why can’t you see that? Why can’t good, solid, substantial people who do not have any hatred and do not have any bitterness see that?
Does anybody remember a little thing in California recently called Proposition 8?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Black President - White Power

Presidents-elect typically get hate-mail after they win an election. And disgruntled members of a losing political party are known for making inappropriate comments about their new, unwanted Commander-in-Chief. But Barack Obama is facing something that no other president has had to deal with: racial backlash.
The Secret Service would not comment or provide the number of cases they are investigating. But since the Nov. 4 election, law enforcement officials have seen more potentially threatening writings, Internet postings and other activity directed at Obama than has been seen with any past president-elect, said officials aware of the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity because the issue of a president's security is so sensitive.
Incidents of racist graffiti have been cropping up around the country; nooses have been found in several locations; and internet threats have all increased in numbers which have caused concern (and significantly increased workload) among Secret Service agents.
One of the most popular white supremacist Web sites got more than 2,000 new members the day after the election, compared with 91 new members on Election Day, according to an AP count. The site,, was temporarily off-line Nov. 5 because of the overwhelming amount of activity it received after Election Day. On Saturday, one Stormfront poster, identified as Dalderian Germanicus, of North Las Vegas, said, "I want the SOB laid out in a box to see how 'messiahs' come to rest. God has abandoned us, this country is doomed."
More than merely strong upticks traffic on white supremacist sites, the Southern Poverty Law Center and police departments across the country have documented hundreds of race-related incidents since election day, from both individuals and groups like the Ku Klux Klan and other supremacist organizations. Two different assassination plots against Barack Obama have been foiled so far; admittedly, in both cases, these were low-end, inbred mouthbreathers without a chance of success (the second pair thought that they could kill 144 blacks before they got killed in a suicide attack on Obama: this isn't a plan; it's the plot of a direct-to-cable movie), but these are just the ones they've broken up so far.

All of the various racist organizations are hoping that Obama's election will increase their membership more than any other single incident in recent years. And they're certainly trying to take advantage of it by stepping up their recruiting drives. Flyers have been found in several places around the country, and they're even moving into digital recruiting.

There has been some judicial pushback, though. One teen who was beaten by Klan members just got a $2.5 million judgment, and the state appeals court has agreed to review an overturned conviction of a Klansman for the 1964 abduction of two murdered black teens.

And just because I find irony in it: aside from admitting that Obama's election will be an outstanding recruiting tool, Thomas Robb, the Klan's national director, was struggling to put a brave face on the election of a black man.
"I know that you have been hearing that Obama would be the first black president," Mr. Robb writes. "However, you and I both know this is not true. Obama is only half black. Not only is he only half black — he was not raised in a black environment. He was raised by his single mother," who was white, and abandoned by his African father, something "so common with black men that there are jokes about it."
Of course, that logic doesn't explain why Obama has been married to his wife Michelle for sixteen years, but we'll move past that.

My favorite Klan story recently would have to be this one: a lady takes a bus from Oklahoma to Louisiana to join the Klan, and after they shave her head and make her run around in the woods for several hours with a torch, she decides she wants to go home. So the "Grand Lordship" shot and killed her. (I'm not sure if that qualifies as Darwin at work, or justifiable homicide. Of course, since it was another racist who shot her, the "justifiable" excuse kind of goes away, doesn't it?)

Yes, by the way, he called himself "the Grand Lordship" - apparently, he didn't think Wizards or Dragons were serious enough for an important title like his.

Then his Lordship pulled out a knife and tried to dig out the bullet, figuring that he'd be able to cover up his dastardly deed. (I guess that they don't know much about forensics in the backwoods of Louisiana.) Then he has two other guys hide the body under some brush.
Sheriff's investigators said they received the initial tip from a convenience store clerk. Two of the group members went into the store and asked the clerk whether he knew how to get bloodstains out of their clothes, Strain said. The clerk told them no and called the sheriff after they left.
Now, if you're going to run around the woods in white robes, shouldn't you already be pretty good at stain removal? It seems to me like you'd be getting a lot of practice at it already. But this is the high quality of racist we have to deal with for the next eight years.

We can only hope that having a visible black man as President of the United States will provide the children of racists with a role model - a better role model than the toothless hatemonger in charge of their family. I actually don't have much hope that this will happen, but it's always possible.

But it means that we have one more reason that Barack Obama needs to succeed.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Time for our annual Health Assessment

OK, since our health plan costs less if I fill out some health assessment, I decided that it made sense to do that. Once I finally found the assessment (not easy, since they gave me the wrong location for it at first), I started noticing some problems right away.

Under my personal information, it asked if I was Latino or not. I can accept that – it's an ethnicity, not a race. But then, the next question did want to know my race, followed by "answer yes or no for each." And the choices were White, "Black or African American," Asian, Pacific Islander, or "Native American or Native Alaskan."

I could easily have marked each one "yes," which seems a little excessive. Most people settle on one or another of those choices and stick with it. Sometimes, like with Tiger Woods, people can’t accept a black man playing golf, so they parse his background a little harder, to show that he’s not a "normal" black man. But, unless you’re fixated on the "one drop" rule of the Old South, most of us stick with a single-word descriptor. I'm white, but I pretty sure that if you go back far enough you'll dig up black and Native American DNA. I don't know of any specific Asian or Pacific Islander DNA, but that's always a possibility. We're mutts. Welcome to America.

Now, I then find that they want to know about my nutritional habits, using the following questions:
• Do you eat at least 2 cups of fruit each day?
• Do you eat at least 2.5 cups of vegetables each day?
• Do you eat at least 3 ounces of whole-grain products (cereals, breads, crackers, rice, or pasta) each day? One ounce is about 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of breakfast cereal, or 1/2 cups of cooked rice or pasta.
• Do you consume at least 3 cups of low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, or cheese each day?
• Do you regularly eat foods that are high in cholesterol or fat such as fatty meat, cheese, fried foods, eggs, or baked goods?
Feel free to do that math on your own. I guarantee that I don't eat seven and a half cups of food every day, not to mention the three slices of bread I'd be cramming in on top of it. You'd have to wheel me into work with a forklift. (Oh, by the way, bread qualifies as a "baked good" – I know what they mean, but they needed to think a little harder about that wording.)

We'll skip the questions about my physical activity – I know I'm a slug. But at least I don't smoke.

Then we hit the following question: "In a given week, on how many days do you typically have one or more alcoholic drink? (one drink = one 12 oz beer, 5 oz of wine, one shot of liquor or one mixed drink)"

I have a bad feeling about this. Are they paying attention to the studies that indicate that two glasses of wine per day is good for your heart, or to the Alcoholics Anonymous-type determination that one drink a day makes you an alcoholic? The source of their data needs to be considered, after all.

Which is followed by "In the last 30 days, how often did you use drugs or medicine (including prescription drugs) to affect your mood or to help you relax?"

I think that qualifies under the heading Stupid Questions. Because you have two choices. If somebody is on anti-depressants, they’d need to answer "daily," which is probably a really bad answer. And everybody else will answer "Never". Even if they’re "self-medicating," they’re going to lie anyway - they already got past the drug test, so they aren't going to screw things up now. So what good does that question do? Does it help to throw in questions where you're requiring a percentage of your employees to lie?

Skip a few, and it gets to "During the past 4 weeks, how often have you been bothered by any of the following problems? (Never, Seldom, Sometimes, Often, Always)" And the choices include:
• Breathing problems
• Backaches
• Chest pains
• Dizzy spells, tiredness, or fatigue
• Frequent headache
• Joint pain
• Trouble sleeping
• Trouble urinating
On Friday night, when the guys down the street decided to have that party and it spilled out into the street, do I count that as "trouble sleeping?" And you can see where that would lead directly to "tiredness or fatigue," right?

So I decided to self-medicate a little at that point, with about 2.5 ounces of medicinal alcohol. In rum form, if you're curious. Which led to a dizzy spell (and, incidentally, a certain amount of trouble urinating, but I don't think that they want to know about that one – it was more of an aim issue.)

And headaches? Not until I started this quiz.

So how screwed am I by that question?

"In the last year, how many times did you visit a doctor's office or clinic?" was followed by "In the last year, how many times have you gone to the emergency room?" Uhh... "daily?" I work in a freaking hospital!!!

"In the last year, how many times have you stayed overnight in a hospital as a patient?" Finally, "as a patient." Thank you.

"In the last year, how often did doctors or other health providers explain things in a way you could understand?" I'm an admin guy - over the course of a three month period, there are 14 different meetings I go to (between one and three times each, depending on the meeting), and I take the minutes for all of them. Do you know how often I have no idea what the hell it is I'm typing? I just throw the words down on the paper and everybody's happy.

"Has anyone in your family (brother, sister, mother, father, grandparents) ever had heart problems?" My dad graduated West Point, and then spent 24 years in the Army. There's a question whether he actually had a heart. Does that count as a problem?

"On average, how close to the speed limit do you usually drive?" And why is it that they think people are going to admit to breaking a law? Again, why do they insist on throwing in questions that everybody's going to lie about?

"During the past 4 weeks, would you say that you experienced a lot of stress, a moderate amount of stress, or relatively little stress?" Well, are we including this quiz in that answer?

Then we come to one of the worst questions on this thing.
Compared to others like me, my overall risk of developing illness or disease is:
• Much higher
• Higher
• About the same
• Lower
• Much lower
• Don't know/Not sure
Let’s go over that again. First five words: "Compared to others like me."

The answer is "exactly the same!" Every time!! Even if you're an overweight, cancer-riddled, two-pack-a-day smoker, your chances of getting sick are exactly the same as every other overweight, cancer-riddled, two-pack-a-day smoker. Are they just trying to weed out hypochondriacs and people who think they're immortal?

Then they gave me a list of changes where I could improve my health (exercise, quit smoking, all the usual things), and asked "What keeps you from doing more to improve your health?" followed by a list of choices. Unfortunately, "sheer laziness" wasn’t one of the choices. They could have at least given me "Other," to cover things like "I'm a masochist and enjoy the occasional heart attack."

"What is the main reason you want to maintain or increase healthy habits and activities?" Uhh… so I don't have to take tests like this any more?

Then it went back over the choices, and asks "Do you think you’ll be able to make this change?" Am I actually getting nagged by a multiple-choice test? Can I go back and include this in those "how much stress" questions?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go find a deep-fried Snickers bar and a shot of vodka.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Take the bad with the good

This has not been the best week for my part-time job.

See, I got called by the security company I moonlight with this weekend. It wasn't to work the Joe Satriani concert, which was depressing. But it was two nights of work, not just one; so that was cool. But it was a monster truck show, which was kind of depressing. I'm just not a monster truck show kind of guy, I guess.

This was serious low-rent entertainment. It's possible that there were more people in the audience than teeth. It was in Tingley Colliseum, which seems a little strange (you know, cars, indoor events - just seems a little weird); the Friday night show was about 3/4 full, but Saturday was a capacity crowd - all 13,000 seats. The headliner was, of course, Gravedigger (he even has his own website:; he's one of the only monster trucks I've heard of besides the legendary (?) Bigfoot. If anybody cares (and I'm sure that somebody must), the other performers were el Matador (who happens to be extremely caucasian), the Pitbull (an Albuquerque native), King Krush, and the Ninja Turtle truck.

So no, before you ask, I didn't get to see Robosaurus or anybody like that. There were the monster trucks, some quadrunner racing, and the "street warriors" (time trials with modified street trucks).

The driver for Pitbull is apparently really into charity work - according to the announcer, he's going to sign his entire paycheck over to the Carrie Tingley hospital after the event, and he's going to spend the week with his truck and pit crew at the children's cancer ward at Carrie Tingley, too. So that's kind of cool. He also has hair down to the middle of his back, and (according to the announcer), cuts 10" of it off every year for Locks of Love.

Which would be easier to believe if I had 5" of hair right now, since I shaved my head six months ago. I'm thinking that he might cut off 10" whenever he gets it, but it takes a little longer than 12 months to get there. Unless he's just some kind of mutant freak.

The announcer was reasonably good - during the "Party in the Pit" on Saturday (where the trucks and drivers were all parked down there for a meet-and-greet with anybody who paid extra for their ticket), he lost his temper with kids climbing on the 5' tall tires, or on the brand new trucks that one of the local Ford dealerships had on display, but he had a steady supply of jokes and trivia for the crowd. (He did repeat the line "his truck runs on two squirrels and a mad cat" three times in two nights, but he didn't do too bad overall.)

I guess mechanical breakdowns are a pretty common part of the show - among the monster trucks, Matador's right rear wheel snapped off in a turn, and on Friday night, Pitbull misjudged a hill and ended up on his roof. One of the "street warriors" lost his driveshaft in a jump, and when they brought the front-loader to drag him out the blade punched into the right rear tire and punctured it. (That's what they use instead of tow-trucks: one big front-loader and one small one.)

The quadrunners were two teams of four riders: "Team Albuquerque" and "Team Las Vegas." And they tried to drum up enthusiasm by having a little wrestling drama going on. Team Las Vegas was, of course, the bad guys: they wore black jerseys, "rode dirty" (trying to drive the other team into the wall on the turns) and the team leader came out both nights and talked about how much he hated Albuquerque ("it smells," "this place sucks," all kinds of generic insults) and couldn't wait to take his money for winning and leave.

(Amazingly enough, Team Albuquerque won both nights - I couldn't have guessed that was going to happen. I wonder if Team Las Vegas ever gets to win. I guess they were doing too good Saturday night, because the team captain disqualified himself by cutting across the middle of the track to put himself in first place again. Crowd seemed to enjoy it, though.)

The crowd was reasonably easy to handle, especially when compared to, say, the crowd at Crue Fest. There was really only one issue: at the end of the show, part of the crowd decided to make their own way out of the arena, which would have put them too close to the trucks (insurance reasons - the people can't go close when the trucks are moving). So I had to drive them back and then keep them off those stairs. And, just to make things perfect, there's this drunk lady with her kids sitting nearby, and the son tells me proudly that he has a flag and waves it at me. I congratulated him and went back to dealing with the idiots. Apparently, the lady decided that I was supposed to give her son my entire attention, and starts screaming at me, "He was just trying to show you his flag! This is supposed to be all about the kids! Mr. Big Shot! Mr. Minimum Wage!"

So that was fun.

In the interest of keeping this crappy (and yes, minimum wage) job, I didn't bother to explain to her that, if I were doing it for the money, I would find another job. I do this because they pay me to see shows (admittedly, not one I particularly wanted to see, this weekend, but some of the concerts have been spectacular).

I also didn't ask (and I actually worked this speech up in my head, but held it back) whether, if this show actually was all about the kids, if this was how she wanted her particular kid to remember her, spewing drunken invective against people just trying to do their jobs. (Yes, the actual job that I was being paid for: in this case, her son was reasonably well-behaved, so I was allowed to ignore him; she, however, was falling into the "drunk and disorderly" category. Which meant that, in order to do this job that she was so dismissive of, she was the one I was supposed to pay attention to. There's probably irony in that.)

Next week, I'll be doing security for Method Man, and I'm not a big fan of rap, either. However, the next night, if our company gets the contract, I'll work security for a midget wrestling event.

I didn't even know they still had those.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Dear President Obama,

I only have one request. Please live up to the hype.

Any woman will be happy to explain this: you're going to have to do a great job just to be considered "good." And as you're probably aware, you have nothing but roadblocks ahead of you now; you get to face bigotry on a scale you've never seen, blatantly insane right-wing viewpoints, and the disappointment of some of your most ardent supporters, who won't accept that you failed to turn water into wine in your first hundred days in office.

You have the unenviable task of reuniting a country splintered by years of divisiveness and Fox News. You get to rebuild the reputation of an America now scorned by countries that used to be our closest allies.

If the attacks of September 11, 2001 had not happened, George W. Bush would have gone down in history as a vaguely ineffectual president. But sadly, he has now left a legacy that you are going to have to spend most of your first term reversing.

On the other hand, merely by existing, you've given hope to a generation of young black men who didn't see any chance of getting ahead. (It's a shame you aren't a woman – that would be two glass ceilings to burst through.)

But there's your choice: do a good job, and be remembered as an inadequate excuse for a president. Or do a magnificent job, and be considered "OK."

Good luck with that.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A brief reflection on the 2008 election

I'd like to just say, as the results pour in from around the country:


Incidentally, I'd also like to say that I have nothing but support for Barack Obama in this time of tragedy. His grandmother has died prior to his election. That has to be hard for him. If I weren't drunk, I would be a lot more sympathetic. On the other hand, if Barack Obama hadn't won, I wouldn't be quite so drunk.

No, that's not true: if Barack Obama hadn't won, I'd be even drunker. To the point that, if I wasn't drunk now, I'd be seriously drunk about 15 minutes from now.

In fact, I can't see a result of this election that doesn't result in me being extremely drunk at the moment.

Oh, to hell with it. I'm going to go in search of the McCain concession speech, to revel in a little shadenfreude. (And if I wasn't, as I've pointed out, already drunk, I'd give you a link to tell you what "schadenfreude" means. But I am, so I won't - hell, I'm just happy that I can spell "schadenfreude" right now.)

Oh, and by the way...


Monday, November 03, 2008

Madelyn Dunham, 1922-2008

Madelyn Dunham, the grandmother of Barack Obama, died of cancer between 4 and 5 a.m. Eastern time at her home in Honolulu, the day before the polls open for the 2008 presidential election.

The Barack Obama presidential campaign issued a statement under his name and that of his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng:
It is with great sadness that we announce that our grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has died peacefully after a battle with cancer. She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility. She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances. She was proud of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and left this world with the knowledge that her impact on all of us was meaningful and enduring. Our debt to her is beyond measure.

Our family wants to thank all of those who sent flowers, cards, well-wishes, and prayers during this difficult time. It brought our grandmother and us great comfort. Our grandmother was a private woman, and we will respect her wish for a small private ceremony to be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, we ask that you make a donation to any worthy organization in search of a cure for cancer.
The woman Obama called "Toot" helped raise him during his childhood in Hawaii, and was a strong feminist in 1970's Honolulu, managed to become one of Bank of Hawaii's first female vice presidents, despite facing both sexism and racial discrimination.
Obama and Soetoro-Ng lived with their grandparents Stanley and Madelyn Dunham, and later with their mother, Ann Dunham, in 1970s Honolulu, where white people were routinely the target of discrimination.

Sam Slom, a Bank of Hawaii economist then, who is now a Republican state senator in Hawaii, recalls that as a part of the white — or "haole" — minority in Hawaii, he would regularly see housing ads that made no effort to hide racial preferences. He says he remembers ads that read, "No haoles" or "AJAs (Americans of Japanese ancestry) Only" or "No Japanese."

"That's the way it was," Slom said. "Did people talk about race? We had local jokes … like that 'pake' (Chinese) guy or the 'yobo' (Korean) who did this or that. I certainly got my share of haole jokes."
Her health had been declining for some time, and Senator Obama had suspended his campaign two weeks ago to fly back to Hawaii to be with her.

Whether this will have any effect on the campaign has yet to be determined, but it may be a critical loss of focus in the final hours before the election.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What are they accusing Obama of this week?

Well, we all knew it was coming. Obama's a socialist, he's a Muslim, he's an illegal alien - they're struggling for whatever they can find on him. And some of us knew it was all they had left. And Fox News finally went there.

Fox News wants you to know that Barack Obama is a Satanist!!!

Actually, it's like they're travelling backwards in time with their smears. "He's a terrorist!" - that's the latest boogieman. Then "he's a socialist!" - which is like something out of 1950's McCarthyism. And then where to they end up? "He's a witch! Burn him!" - straight out of the Middle Ages. (I'm not sure where to file "He's a Muslim!" - that's not only the current most-scary-guy-on-the-block, it's also a fear straight out of the Crusades. So that one covers both ends of the temporal spectrum.)

It's not like there wasn't some very strong foreshadowing on this. The antichrist email is still floating around out there, after all, despite its obvious stupidity.

The columnist, James Pinkerton, dives straight into it, so you know the thrust of his article.
Could Lucifer play a role in this presidential election? It may sound crazy, but one of the candidates in this race has publicly praised, even emulated, a writer-activist who himself paid tribute to Lucifer. That's right, Lucifer, also known as the Devil, Satan, Beelzebub—you get the idea.
So you can probably guess that he's got some strong evidence, right? I mean, you don't want to just make unsubstantiated allegations under your own byline, do you? Not if you've got any self-respect. Or ethics. But of course, he works for Fox, so what do you expect?
OK, you might be asking, where is this Lucifer stuff coming from? It comes from a man named Saul Alinsky, who devoted his life to left-wing agitation in Chicago. He also wrote two seminal books, "Reveille for Radicals" and "Rules for Radicals," still regarded as key how-to manuals for left-wing activists.

But Alinsky was more than just a leftist; he was a genuine out-there crazy, someone who loved to shock and stun, just for the helluvit. And so in the first edition of "Rules for Radicals," published in 1971, he offered this astounding dedication: "Lest we forget at least an over the shoulder acknowledgement of the very first radical, from all our legends, mythology, and history … the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom—Lucifer."

This dedication is no secret. David Freddoso wrote about it in his book, "The Case Against Barack Obama: The Unlikely Rise and Unexamined Agenda of the Media's Favorite Candidate;" and the inimitable Ann Coulter noted it, too, just last month.

And the connection between Alinsky and Barack Obama—and Alinsky and the left in general—is real enough. As John Fund, author of a newly revised book, "Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy," observes, Alinsky, who died in 1972, was a sort of godfather to all the activist groups that emerged in the 60s and 70s, the most famous (or, if you prefer, notorious) of which today is ACORN.

Fund notes that young Hillary Rodham was such a fan of Alinsky that she traveled to Chicago, four times, to interview him for an adulatory school thesis she was writing. And Obama is an on-the-record fan too: Fund quotes The Washington Post's Peter Slevin, writing in 2007, "Obama embraced many of Alinsky's tactics and recently said his years as an organizer gave him the best education of his life." Slevin further noted that Obama’s and Hillary Rodham Clinton's "common connection to Alinsky is one of the striking aspects of their biographies."

OK, so the Alinsky-Obama connection is real.
Please note that there are no ellipses there. That's uncut from the article; I'm taking nothing out of context. That's also the entirety of his "proof"

So, to summarize:
1. There once was a radical in Chicago.
2. He made a weird dedication in a book.
3. Barack may have read that book.
4. Therefore, Barack worshipped at the feet of Saul Alinsky, known Satanist.

Is it just me, or are there a few steps missing from that equation?

I couldn't help myself. I read the "response" pages to this wonderful exercise in illogic, and posted. Several times. (You'll find my stuff under "Bill M" - but it links here, so you'll know it's mine. Probably.) But you know what? It's really not satisfying. For one thing, the garbage they're spewing is so easy to cut down - to mix my metaphors further, it's like shooting fish in a wading pool.

(Come on -- who owns barrels anymore? Get real.)

And there's no real feedback. I like a good argument, but with Fox, if they don't agree with you, they just ignore you. I mean, I debunked, I questioned, I even called one guy an idiot. And nothing. There were bits of humor. For example, there was this one guy, who posted 3 comments in a row. No breaks, just the following:
Comment by M
October 28th, 2008 at 9:06 pm
Prayer to Our Lady is far mightier than the devil's power!

Comment by M
October 28th, 2008 at 9:01 pm
Ever notice how an Obama supporter cackles (like the devil) then proceeds to go ad hominem against you?

Comment by M
October 28th, 2008 at 8:59 pm
People that vote for Obama, God preserve them, are committed to the devil.
So, having read all the scary-religious stuff that came before, I wrote:
Comment by Bill M
October 28th, 2008 at 10:40 pm

Hey… uh, "M" (no relation, incidentally)… you know that as a Catholic, several of the people who posted here think that you're an idol-worshipper and a papist, and that you're going to hell too, right? (That "prayer to Our Lady" thing? It’s kind of a clue.) I just thought I’d point this out, in case you missed it.

Personally, I've got no problem with you, but this is a discussion I've been in already. I thought I'd warn you that there are those, especially the ones who go all overboard about "end times" or "Rapture" (or maybe the ones who've been blessed by the Kenyan Inquisition against witches) - yeah, if you let them get in charge, your life won't get any better.
And sure enough, four posts later, just to prove my point, we get this:
Comment by ohplease
October 29th, 2008 at 12:07 am
argggggggggggh … I totally cringe reading this "prayer to our lady" stuff !!!!!!!!!

The bible clearly states that NONE OTHER THAN GOD ONLY IS TO BE WORSHIPPED !
get off the blasphemies ! Mary was a jewish girl who conceived, carried and birthed Jesus … that was her quest !!! Nowhere does the bible write, teach, suggest or insist that she be "worshipped" !
Irony is a wonderful thing.

So anyway, I thought I'd write Mr Pinkerton directly.
From: [me]
Sent: Monday, October 27, 2008 11:45 AM
To: [him]
Subject: The Devil Is In the Details: Another Obama...

Dear Mr. Pinkerton,

I read your article regarding Barack Obama's connection to Saul Alinsky, and I have a couple of questions.

Are you serious about this article? Really? Because it's a long way from April Fools Day. And you actually put your name on this drivel?

Give me a break. "A guy who died when Obama was 11 put a weird dedication in a book, and Obama might or might not have read it!" Are you at least a little bit ashamed of this kind of bottom-feeding?

I'm just curious. Thank you for your time,

Bill M (Albuquerque, NM)
And surprisingly enough, he actually responded.
From: [him]
Sent: Monday, October 27, 2008 11:32 AM
To: [me]
Subject: re: The Devil Is In the Details: Another Obama...

Dear Bill:

What did I write in the article that was not true?

I think that if the McCain campaign had highlighted Obama’s Alinsky connection, Obama would then have lost votes. Do you disagree?


Jim Pinkerton
So, dutiful seeker after truth that I am, I responded to that.
Re: The Devil Is In the Details: Another Obama...
Sent:Tue 10/28/08 1:17 AM
To: [him]


Well, let's see. Your entire argument for a connection is "There's this radical and organizer. It doesn't matter if he died when Obama was 11, they were both in Chicago at some point during their lives. They never met, but Obama might have read one of his books. Books which have nothing to do with Satanism, but one of which has an odd dedication to Lucifer, in his role as dissident. Therefore, Obama knew a Satan-worshipper."

Admittedly, that was not stated explicitly in your article, but that is exactly what you want to imply. That Obama is responsible for the personal lives of every person he's ever met, or in this case, someone who worked in a similar field, in the same approximate geographic location.

To answer the second of your questions, yes, I disagree. Obama would not have lost votes, because anyone who would believe that drivel would already not be voting for him. And McCain would have looked like a fool.

To quote your article:

And Obama is an on-the-record fan too: Fund quotes The Washington Post's Peter Slevin, writing in 2007, "Obama embraced many of Alinsky's tactics and recently said his years as an organizer gave him the best education of his life." Slevin further noted that Obama's and Hillary Rodham Clinton's "common connection to Alinsky is one of the striking aspects of their biographies."

If you're paying attention, you note that at no point has Obama met Alinsky, nor is there even evidence that he read any of Alinsky's books. "Embraced many of Alinsky's tactics"? They were in similar fields (a community organizer versus a community disorganizer, essentially), and getting a lot of people to work together, regardless of the outcome, will always have similar tactics.

I think that my argument with you boils down to two simple questions (and I'll even give each a subsidiary question).

1. Was Alinsky a Satanist?
a. Do you really believe that?

2. What evidence do you have that Obama has studied Alinsky, knew Alinsky, or did anything but walk down the same street twenty years later? (And you'd probably have to dig to figure that out, anyway.)
a. Do you believe that the spirit of Alinsky has possessed Barack Obama?

You have taken the most tenuous of connections, and attempted to conflate them in such a way as to inflame the under-educated and unthinking. And so, to answer your first question (in my roundabout way) the basic thesis of your article was a lie. And if you want me to point out a specific falsehood, I'll probably have to go with your statement "OK, so the Alinsky-Obama connection is real." Because you have shown no real evidence that it was.

Thank you for your time,

But it's been two days, and no further response.

Sadly, a lot of my correspondence seems to end that way.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

More on Concerts

I've been to two concerts this week: on Thursday, I worked security at Tingley Colliseum for Metallica's Death Metallic tour (you know they put out a new album, right? They had to make up for St Anger somehow...), and then, last night, I actually went to a concert as an audience member, for B.B. King's One Kind Favor tour.

(I don't know what I should call my daughter in this format - Nicole? Jane? So I'm just going to call her Fred.)

Anyway, Fred bought me tickets to B.B. King for my birthday, because apparently she loves me more than the rest of my family put together. (She's now officially my favorite daughter. Not that the bar is particularly high in that area, but still...)

The two concerts were complete opposites of each other.

Metallica had two opening acts, Down and The Sword. It's a shame about them. I wouldn't say that either one sucked more than the other one - they were about equal. I'm sure that there are people out there who like them; I just wasn't impressed.

Sword has released two albums and gets called crap like "doom metal." One of their songs ("Freya") was covered in Guitar Hero II, (what, one of the most popular video game franchises in America couldn't afford the original band? You take that as a loss leader, guys, just for the extra advertising); they get compared to early Black Sabbath a lot, and that might be relatively true. They put a lot of Norse mythology in their songs, which would be cool, if I was still 17 and playing D&D.

Down has been around for almost 20 years now. You'd think they'd be better. After three albums, with a group made up of former members from all over the heavy metal scene, it would be nice if these guys didn't sound like every other metal band out there.

Metallica, however, did their usual incredible job. I was posted at the top of the colliseum, guarding a bunch of doors that led backstage, and for once, I had a perfect view of the stage. Tingley is built so you can see from anywhere, and my perch looked right down on everything.

Tingley also has the usual crappy plastic chairs, except for the cheap seats, which are plain wooden benches with numbers painted on them (to show what piece of real estate you paid to plant your butt on). I was right above the cheap seats, but like I said, there really aren't any bad seats for a view in Tingley - you have to admire the builders for that.

I had earplugs (you have to if you're going to a concert every week, unless you want to go deaf - and then I couldn't hear the bands, and what would be the point of working security? It isn't like they pay me that much), and I was up against the back wall, and I could still feel the music in my bones. The walls were literally vibrating - whenever I leaned back, I could feel the steel putting out sympathetic vibrations. And Metallica was down there on stage kicking ass: they had lasers, they had these huge, coffin-shaped light setups hanging above the stage, and they had a bank of flame jets under the floor (and you could feel the heat all the way back where I was when those went off).

The crowd was the usual tats-and-piercings metal crowd, mostly drunk (or otherwise chemically-enhanced): there was a group of four chubby drunks near me who insisted on waving their arms around - I was told that they hit a couple of the people around them, so I had to warn them that they were going to get kicked out if it happened again. But they'd pretty much worn themselves out on the opening acts; two of them disappeared, and the other two fell asleep on the benches during Metallica's set. (And how the hell do you sleep through Metallica? Hetfield should have them kicked out of the fan club or something...)

Kids these days - no endurance. You have to learn to pace yourself.

But then last night, my son and I went to the Route 66 Casino to see B.B. King. Now, to get to the casino, you get on the highway and drive west. Then, when you think that you've gone too far, you drive a little farther west. Mapquest thinks it's about five miles out of town, because Mapquest is kind of stupid sometimes. About four miles away from the casino, you can see it. And last night, about two miles away from the casino, we got in line with all the other cars, and crept along the shoulder of the road at between five and 15 miles an hour, until we gradually pulled up to the casino.

Here's a hint - if you're going to a reasonably popular concert at Route 66, there's a frontage road about thirty yards away from the highway, and the guys on that do full speed. Plus, the exit from the highway at the casino empties on that very same frontage road after a stop sign; so, when you take the frontage road, you miss all the traffic, you have the right of way, and you get to feel all superior to the fools on the highway. There's all kinds of benefits to figuring out which exit would get you to that chunk of pavement - maybe someday I'll figure that one out.

Here's how the concert last night was different from every other concert I've been to recently.

First, nobody got searched going in; apparently, the B.B. King crowd isn't likely to pull knives and start cutting each other. Then there's the chairs - instead of crappy plastic stadium seats or benches, you've got stuffed, comfortable chairs wide enough for a chubby gambler to have plenty of room for his doublewide ass cheeks. The temperature was comfortable, the sound quality was great, and it was just generally the right way to see a show.

Now, B.B. travels with his band (called, weirdly enough, the "B.B. King Blues Band") and they're just awe-inspiring. They came out on stage first: bass guitar, keyboardist, drummer, guitarist, and a three-man horn section (the trumpeter was also the band leader). They were as close to an opening act as Mr. King has - hey, at 83, you don't want to be up until midnight. (Hell, at half his age, I can understand the feeling...) They played a song or two, and then B.B. took the stage.

The first thing you notice is the jacket. Everybody on stage was wearing black tuxedos, but B.B. had a silver snake-skin suit coat to go with his. But at 83, battling diabetes and bad knees, I guess he can dress however he wants to.

I have to admit, I was a little worried at first. With the horn section and everybody, it sounded kind of like his band might be covering for him. And the other guitarist had a very similar playing style. But then, after a bunch of songs (including a tarted-up version of "When Love Comes To Town" that he did with U2), the horns left the stage, and they did the second set. And that's where B.B. let Lucille really cut loose.

(Lucille, in case you don't know, is the name of B.B.'s guitar. During the 1950's, B.B. was playing a show where two men got in a fight, knocked over a kerosene stove, and set fire to the place. B.B. realized that he'd left his guitar inside, and ran back into the burning building to get it. "Lucille," it turned out, was the name of the woman the men had been fighting over. Since then, B.B. has named every one of his guitars Lucille, to remind him never to fight over a woman.)

The show was a lot more relaxed than, say, a Metallica concert. B.B. sat up there on stage cracking jokes, telling stories, and playing some of the most amazing blues music in the world. He did all of his old songs, he did some old blues standards, and he even threw in an extended audience singalong to "You Are My Sunshine." And he did stuff off his new album; at one point, he explained that his children didn't like the title of his new album, which is taken from an old Blind Lemon Jefferson song that he covers in it: "One kind favor that I'll ask of you: see that my grave is kept clean."

I don't know how many years B.B. has left, but his playing is still sharp. I'm damned grateful I got the chance to see him this year.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

This Election? The Choices Are Black and White...

There's a dark cloud rolling over the Right Wing, and forecasters suggest storms may be brewing.

Sarah Palin, with her support of creationism, her populist rhetoric and her continued references to "Joe Sixpack" is appealing to a continuing strain of anti-intellectualism that can be found very strongly in a certain class of American citizen: lower income, poorly educated, racist white people.

Sarah Palin speaks before crowds and whips them into a frenzy. Not by being inspiring, but by promoting hate:
Barack Obama, she told 8,000 fans at a rally here Monday afternoon, "launched his political career in the living room of a domestic terrorist!" This followed her earlier accusation that the Democrat pals around with terrorists. "This is not a man who sees America the way you and I see America," she told the Clearwater crowd. "I'm afraid this is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to work with a former domestic terrorist who had targeted his own country." The crowd replied with boos.
As she launches these attacks, the Republican campaign is trying to limit the access of reporters to Palin's followers.
Constantly under the watchful eyes of security, the media wasn't permitted to wander around inside Coachman Park to talk to Sarah Palin supporters. When reporters tried to leave the designated press area... an escort would dart out of nowhere and confront him or her and say, "Can I help you?" and turn the person around.
But even with these efforts, the reaction of Palin's followers is becoming public.
In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric's questions for her "less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media." At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, "Sit down, boy."
Veiled racism has a long history in Republican election tactics.
Race was the blueprint for the Dixiecrats, Strom Thurmond, Richard Nixon and Lee Atwater. They used it to create the “Southern Strategy” employed by neoconservatives and neo-Confederates today.

It's why presidential candidate Ronald Reagan spoke in 1980 about "states’ rights" in Philadelphia, Miss. — the place where civil rights activists Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman were killed and buried in the ’60s.

It’s why then-Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and campaign strategist Dick Morris ran in 1990 their notorious ad with the white hands of an actor crumpling up an application for a job that he lost because of “racial quotas.”

It’s what then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott was conveying in 2002 when he told a Thurmond birthday gathering, “When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years, either.”
And the racist meme has spread widely thoughout the Republican party during this election as well. GOP politicians keep using racially loaded words like “uppity,” whether referring to Obama and his wife, or a black reporter. (The first recorded use of “uppity,” incidentally, is found in Uncle Remus, in case you were wondering.) And the direct line between “elitist” and uppity isn't hard to draw at all.

The racially loaded terms are everywhere: a Palin ad talked about Obama not being “respectful” enough to her; Geoff Davis (R-Kentucky) saying of Obama “That boy's finger does not need to be on the button.” A College Republican leader had to quit after saying that Obama has“a pair of lips so large he could float half of Cuba to the shores of Miami (and probably would).” At a conservative political forum, boxes of “Obama Waffles” were sold with a caricature of Obama obviously referencing Aunt Jemima.

People working for the Obama campaign report repeated racist comments and threats. There have long been reports of vandalism, but obervers are now fearing outbreaks of violence.

And now, it seems that McCain has lost control of his own followers. McCain and Palin are both interrupted when they mention Obama by cries of “terrorist,” and occasionally, “kill him!” And in one of his own town hall rallies, as people kept asking about Obama being a terrorist, a Muslim or an “Arab,” McCain found himself being booed simply for suggesting that Obama was an honorable man with whom McCain disagreed (video for that here).

Andrew Sullivan, in the Atlantic, put it this way:
McCain and Palin have decided to stoke this rage, to foment it, to encourage paranoid notions that somehow Obama is a "secret" terrorist or Islamist or foreigner. These are base emotions in both sense of the word.

But they are also very very dangerous. This is a moment of maximal physical danger for the young Democratic nominee. And McCain is playing with fire. If he really wants to put country first, he will attack Obama on his policies - not on these inflammatory, personal, creepy grounds. This is getting close to the atmosphere stoked by the Israeli far right before the assassination of Rabin.
As Obama said in an Ohio rally, “nothing's easier than riling up a crowd by stoking anger and division.” But it seems that anger and divisiveness are the only weapons that the Republican campaign has left.


Update: And as if someone were trying to support my charges of racism in the Palin camp, we find this:
As the crowd cheered at a Sarah Palin rally this morning in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a man in the audience grinned as he held up a stuffed monkey doll with a Barack Obama bumper sticker wrapped across its forehead...

After Palin finished her remarks this morning, the man holding the stuffed monkey seemed to notice that a video camera was pointed at him, at which point he removed the Obama sticker from the doll’s head and crumpling it up in his hand. He then handed the doll to a young boy who was watching the rally from his father’s shoulders. The boy’s parents later told CBS News that they weren’t acquainted with the man who gave their son the stuffed monkey.
Check out the link - they even have video. Of course, you could probably have seen this coming months ago, if you'd looked. This is simply a mirror of the Obama sock monkeys.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Semper Fi

My son joined the Marines. I don't know what to think about that, except that I don't like it.

That feels almost hypocritical, but there it is. My father was in the Army, and his father before him. I spent 21 years in the Air Force. I carried a gun for the entire time (except for the last year, when I got a nice cushy office job). I was in the Security Forces, which are, to the Air Force, what the infantry is to the Army. We guard planes, we guard nukes, and we train to kill people.

I helped set up an elite Terrorist Response Force, using specialized weapons and tactics to kill anyone who might take control of one of the missile silos, or a nuclear convoy rolling between them. I went to various ground combat schools, and learned entertaining ways to make people stop living. I spent two tours in the Middle East, waiting to kill someone before they tried to kill us.

I never had to shoot anyone anyone, although I spent long periods looking through my sites, waiting to see if I was going to be gunning down somebody. And I trained to kill. I waited for the opportunity, thought about doing it, and knew that I could when the opportunity came up. "Deadly force" (the nice, clean military euphemism for putting a bullet into another human) is supposed to be the last option, but it always needs to be an option. If you think about what you're doing (and I did), you have to make peace with that.

I think that the problem is a matter of motive and opportunity, more than anything else. I trained to keep people from stealing our engines of war. To keep terrorists from getting a nuclear weapon. To defend lives. I trained to kill for a reason.

But if my son, the boy whose diapers I changed, who I helped through skinned knees and broken bones, gets sent to Iraq or Afghanistan as a Marine, he will be there because George Bush invaded a country on false pretenses. Took us to war on a lie, and made people hate us enough to want to kill us.

There were terrorists before – 9/11 was proof of that. But there weren't as many as there are now, and they weren't as well trained, and they didn't have this hot, burning hatred of us that comes from the people of a land looking at their invaders.

Some of them wanted to kill us for our religion, some because of various reasons, but when George Bush lied to us and we invaded Iraq, he created a whole new game. He created people who wanted to kill us because we invaded their land, killed and tortured their people, threw their lives into chaos, and destroyed everything that they had built up over their lifetimes.

They don't hate us for our freedoms, as he so incoherently said; they hate us because we took away theirs. Their way of life may have been different from ours; their government may not have mirrored ours; but it was their life, their government, their civilization, and we destroyed it.

George Bush has bred generations of people who will want to kill us, not for any tenuous, inchoate philosophy, but because of what we did to them. They want to kill us in exactly the same way that I would want to kill them if they invaded my country, destroyed my life, tore down my government (flawed though it may be).

And now my son, if John McCain wins this next election, is going to have a good chance of being sent to a country where he will have to kill people, who are doing exactly what I would be doing in their place.

Luke explained that he “wanted to make a difference,” and felt that the Marines would allow him to do just that.

He's always been pigheaded that way. He gets a thought into his brain, and you can't get it out with a crowbar. I thought I'd taught him about the world, but apparently I didn't teach him enough.

I didn't teach him that if there was one thing he didn't want to do right now, it was join the Marines.

I didn't teach him (I thought I did) that evil people have taken over our government, and have done evil things for worthless reasons.

I never pressed him on how he thought he was going to “make a difference.” I should have. I should have yelled at him. I should have screamed. I should have talked to him until I was blue in the face. It wouldn't have made any difference, but that's what I should have done.

He's 22. I couldn't stop him.

I have another son. Somehow, that doesn't help; I don't feel better that I have a spare in case the first one blows out (or in this case, up).

Luke may easily be killed. He may be injured in ways I don't want to contemplate. He may only have to do things that will haunt his dreams for the rest of his life, like gunning down children who might be carrying bombs, or women who hope for a better life for their children (having given up on getting one for themselves).

He might not. He might easily spend his entire enlistment far away from any danger. But he might just as easily be sent right into the worst part of the world. And if John McCain is elected, with his mindless worldview and neocon advisors, the “worst part of the world” could easily expand to include Iran, or Syria, or the entire Middle East.

Don't get me wrong. I'm amazingly proud of my son. He's doing what he thinks is right. But I hate that he will be doing it for the wrong people and the wrong reasons. That he's going into a tunnel that he might never come out of, or might never walk upright again if he does.

Apparently, I have very strong feelings about ambivalence.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Flame Wars IV: the junk mail continues (updated)

This stuff is mind-boggling. You never know what floodgates you're going to open up with something simple like the use of the "Reply all" button. (The whole saga starts here.) The maroons are coming out of the closet a lot faster than Larry Craig, and they're relentless. I continue repeating my mantra that if they don't want to hear it, they don't have to. ("Hey, you guys call me. All I'm going to do is reply. I don't start anything, I just respond to you.")

Kyle, of course, having started all this, is salivating like some kind of caged puma, stalking back and forth, yelling about what a badass he is. And his friends get angry and jump up and down in stampy-feet anger, and I get to keep pointing out where they've been drinking the Kool-aid for too long.

If this goes on much longer, I'm going to have to open a sub-blog just for this stuff.

Anyway, I opened my email yesterday, and find a series of five emails, each one hitting "reply all" in some kind of incestuous daisy chain of support. (Considering that most of these guys are from North Carolina, Louisiana and Alabama, there's a lot of irony in the phrase "incestuous," actually...) Which means that the easiest way to reprint it is just go with the most current one. Here's what I saw.

(Again, I'm not going to correct anything except the unusual spacing and fondness for changing font sizes - always larger. And actually, this correction makes Garrett look a lot more literate than he actually comes across, if you ignore the blatant racism, but that's fine with me; I also cut out this weird habit he has of punctuating with between two and six sets of ellipses - you know, three periods each. I have no idea why he'd think that was cool, but for the interests of space, I'm replacing them all with double dashes.)
From: Mac A---
It sounds to me like you are on the wrong bandwagon. The last time a checked from this e-mail list it is Senator McCain10 Barack 0.
From: kimmel
And I’ll second this one!
From: Kyle
I tried to tell you Billy (you dumbass) YOU MESS WITH THE BULL, YOU GET THE HORNS. You are a waste of taxpayers money you Barney Fife Wanna Be BITCH!!!!!!!!
From: Garett G
I would like to apologize for not joining this debate earlier. Time has not been on my side these last few weeks. I do believe that it is my American responsibility to keep boneheads like you from spreading their political BS. I’m obviously not for the clown --.nor for the principles he promotes.

I own my company -- I employ people -- I pay my fair share of taxes -- I vote in every election -- And the bottom line is that this election has 2 sticking points for me:
1. National Security
2. Money(Taxes & Economy)

While I would love to put up numerous points about our national security -- I have to go to work-- Billy Boy -- please just do acknowledge one thing for me -- The US has enemies -- Can we agree on this? Would you agree that North Korea, Iran, etc-- that we have enemies?

Do you realize that -- a nuclear bomb that can fit inside of a suitcase -- if blown up on the steps of the White House would kill approximately 400,000 people? Do you not see the threat from these raghead boneheads? Not to mention -- it’s the same boneheads that get a enormous chunk of our money(about 700,000,000,000 Billion -- “in doctor evil voice”) that is sent overseas every year for energy imports -- thanks to the boneheads back in the states that support the tree huggers from keeping the US from exploring our own natural resources.

Energy Security: Sorry -- another good topic I’ll debate you into the ground -- but not enough time -- I will however attach a interesting article.
Uh, actually, he didn't.

It’s sad to see -- that Obama plays on people who are LAZY -- Billy Boy are you lazy? I saw you said you were a cop -- now I think cops are a real respectable guys -- other than the “Small Man Syndrome-Donut Eating-Bitichin Cause he doesn’t make enough money.” Are you one of those? Hope not -- hope you were a cop for the right reasons -- to serve your people -- to make your neighborhood a safer place and to continue this great country the way it should be.
He's not entirely clear on the "military" portion of "military police," but I figured I could let that go.
Back to my lazy point -- Obama’s biggest pitch is to tax the rich and redistribute to the poor -- well I’m sorry but that pisses me off!!!! Why do I have to work my ass off to redistribute that money to the dead weight of society -- I don’t mind helping people in need -- BUT I CAN’T STAND HELPING THOSE WHO DON’T HELP THEMSELVES.

Here’s an excerpt from the Tax Policy Center:
He reprinted the entire chart. I'll cut it for space. I'm guessing that he misread it, too.
It was also found on

So billy boy--how do you expect me to vote for someone that is for raising my taxes and redistributing my money? How is the economy going to do better -- if everyone has less money after uncle sam takes his?

Did you take economics? Do you understand the principles of capitalism? If you do -- you should enlighten your candidate. And that my friend--in why I will vote and support: John McCain for President 2008

sign up -- order your yard sign -- and lets beat down the opponent!!!!!!!!
So, being a big old pain in the ass, I replied.
Well, I suppose I should start from the top.

I can't be on the wrong bandwagon. I didn't join this little email group on my own. Kyle felt I needed to get emails full of lies, and I debunked them for him. Kyle isn't real bright, and isn't real original, but at least he's stubborn. If you'll look, you'll notice that I never instigated a single email, I just hit "reply."

If you don't want me to tell the truth about these urban legends you send out, don't include me. But if you do, then when you lie, I'll call you on it.

Yeah, speaking of bandwagons...

Jesus, but you're a moron. I've already explained this to you. You aren’t a bull, you're a steer. Learn the difference. And tighten your helmet - I'm telling you, you keep hitting your head, you're going to start wetting yourself more often.

Well, thank God for you. I may disagree with you on just about every point, but at least you seem to think about things a little.

Let's consider your two "sticking points."

National Security:
- Yes, I agree that the US has enemies. More now than we had eight years ago, for that matter. (By the way, only an idiot is going to be unwilling to try negotiations with other countries, even an "enemy." Why do you people seem to think that "no" isn't a possible answer for a negotiation?)

- How is an army supposed to stop terrorists, who, by definition are small groups? It takes police work - look it up, that's how every recent "victory" has been earned.

- Try looking at Iraq from the opposite point of view for a second. What would you do if America was invaded? What if a foreign army came in, blew the crap out of everything, and then set up camp. Would you fight? Would you do everything in your power to kick those bastards out? Well, that's how the Iraqi's feel. Consider it for a few seconds, and then tell me how you ever expect us to "win" there. They won't stop any faster than you would.

- Keep that last point in mind when you start thinking about invading any other country. Pakistan, North Korea, doesn't matter. They'll all react the same way.

- By the way, how the hell are we supposed to afford to invade anywhere? Have you looked at the stock market lately?

- Incidentally, do you remember two years ago, when the United Arab Emirates were going to buy our ports? Bush wanted to let it happen, and Congress finally got together on something and kept him from doing it. Yeah, the point you're forgetting is that McCain thought that it was a good idea for "those raghead boneheads" (your words) to have control of our ports? And Barack Obama spoke out against it. His statement at the time:

"Over four years after the worst terrorist attack in our history, not only are we failing to inspect 95% of the cargo that arrives at U.S. ports, but now we're allowing our port security to be outsourced to foreign governments. Clearly, more time should have been spent investigating this deal and consulting with homeland security experts and local officials. I support my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who are seeking a full review of this deal."

So who is it who shows better judgment on national security again?

- "Energy Security" - How many times do we need to go over this? Offshore drilling is, at best, a microscopic solution for the far future. According to Department of Energy analysis, offshore drilling would:

~~ Lead to a 1.2 cent reduction in gasoline prices.
~~ Provide 1 percent of today’s US oil demand and 0.25 percent of global demand (about 200,000 barrels per day of production compared to 20 million barrels/day of US demand and 80 million barrels/day of global demand)
~~ And it would do this by 2030.

How does this help us again?

OK. You bring up the same tax table that I showed Kyle. I'm guessing that you know that 95% of Americans will do better under the Obama tax plan than under the McCain plan.

Are you making over $200,000 a year? IRS data shows that 97% of filers make less than that. Are you in that top 3%?

Well, if you are, I have a question for you. You have to know that we're in a war, right? I mean, you brought it up, so you probably understand the concept. Well, are you aware that, in every other war in history, all of America gave up a little cash to support the war effort? I mean, let's be real. In WWII, people were scrounging tin cans for the war effort, buying bonds, and accepting higher taxes, all to defeat the Enemy. George Bush is the first president to try to run a war on credit cards and bad debt. And McCain admits that he voted with Bush 90% of the time.

In fact, let's go one better. First of all, let's break one quick myth - a lot of people are trying to blame the failure of the housing market on bad loans that were made because of the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977. Business Week explained that this was a lie. (Please, try to tell me that Business Week is part of the "liberal media" - I dare you.)

Now, the experts are telling us that the stock market is failing because of deregulation - because George Bush made sure that there weren't any rules that lenders had to follow, lenders took advantage of the situation, and everything went to hell. (That's the short version. Doesn't make it any less true.)

OK, despite what he wants to claim these days, McCain has always favored less regulation in the market. He'll lie about it now, but he's always supported deregulation. That's not the worst of it, though. Do you remember the S&L scandals in the 80's and early 90's? Do you remember Charles Keating? He was one of the worst offenders in the Savings and Loan scandals in the 80's, which were caused by deregulation in the Savings and Loan business. And he had five congressmen who were indicted with him - they were even called the "Keating 5."

One of them was a man named John McCain.

Now, McCain only got a slap on the wrist, and then he went on to become a "reformer." But he never tried to reform the banking industry. He never tried to support better consumer protection. All he did was to try and reform election financing. (In fact, he became known for creating a set of laws called "McCain-Feingold," which, by the way, he couldn't even follow during this election. Just so you know.)

So, McCain was involved in the S&L scandal, which was caused by the same philosophy that caused the current crisis. And he never did a damned thing to fix those problems.

How did he show better financial judgment again? I'm just curious.

But, hey, take care of yourself.


Update: So, it's been three days, and the yapping Republican corgis and chihuahuas seemed to have sullenly backed off. So, what have we learned?

Well, I didn't learn much. I'm just the stubborn type of asshole who'll be happy to do it again. As for Kyle, I doubt he learned a damned thing. The rest of them? Probably not - except maybe to be more careful who they include in their email chains. So overall, there was a net result of zero here.

However, on the same day that I posted this last bit, a right-wing shill at the Washington Post discovered just how toxic and evil the partisanship has gotten on the right. She begins:
Allow me to introduce myself. I am a traitor and an idiot. Also, my mother should have aborted me and left me in a dumpster, but since she didn't, I should "off" myself.

Those are a few nuggets randomly selected from thousands of e-mails written in response to my column suggesting that Sarah Palin is out of her league and should step down.

Who says public discourse hasn't deteriorated?

The fierce reaction to my column has been both bracing and enlightening. After 20 years of column writing, I'm familiar with angry mail. But the past few days have produced responses of a different order. Not just angry, but vicious and threatening.
Hey, welcome to the club, lady. This is something that some of us have known about for some time. And it's a problem that is almost entirely one-sided, from the Right. (I heard left-wing talk-show host Randi Rhodes try to say that she'd gotten the same treatment from the Left, but she got fired because, in the words of the president of Air America, Mark Green, "her abusive, obscene comments obviously crossed the line of what talent at a media company could say." Not quite the same thing at all. (I love Randi Rhodes, but she's wrong here.)

Our friends the Republicans possess a vast well of untapped hate, and they're happy to drop a bucket into it and spray you with the results. I'm not sure why - maybe it's the result of buying into Bush's constant stream of fear politics, or maybe it's some weird artifact left over from the Vietnam era. But the Right is busy drowning in hate, fear and ignorance. Their party needs a massive makeover and soon, or they're likely to implode.