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October 27, 2006

Here's What I'd Like To See

Let us assume that the Republicans are actually held to account on November 7 -- which is to say the Democrats are not beat by their own complacency and/or by Republican rip-offs of various elections by way of Diebold or what-all. Let us assume the Republicans are made to pay for their arrogance and the Democrats regain some power.

Eliot Spitzer is likely going to wipe the floor with his opponent in the New York State governor's race. Why? Well, we are a Democratic state, but we've had a Republican governor for the last endless number of years so partisanship will be a fairly small part of Spitzer's landslide victory. Of more relevance will be his straight-shooter, take no prisoners record of tracking down and forcing clean up of various corrupt practices on Wall Street and elsewhere.

People love public servants like that.

No slam against Democrats intended -- this is based more on my impression of human nature -- but I don't see any reason to believe that if the Democrats do regain power and keep it for a while, pretty soon they are going to find themselves in the position Republicans now find themselves: to wit, being known by the electorate as the party of corruption.

So here's what I'd like to see starting on November 8. The Democrats ought to create an office of Democratic Party Ethics and put a guy like Spitzer in charge of it. Somebody with prosecutorial instincts. Somebody who understands you've got to ride ethical herd on politicians. There ought to be an anonymous tip line that true Democratic Party loyalists can call and drop dimes on the shady practices of Democratic office holders. The idea should be to catch these practices and drag them out into the light of day before they become real problems for the Party.

For example, if such an office existed and was properly functioning, some Democratic Party loyalist might have dropped a dime on Hevesi before he got too deep into this "state employee chauffeur" mess. The Ethics Commissar of the Democratic Party would have looked into it, told him to cut it out, told him to pay back what he owed the state, and threatened him with publicity if he didn't straighten up and fly right.

Of course there are various offices supposedly riding herd on politicians, but their portfolio always seems to be more along the lines of helping politicians determine how much they can get away with. I'd like to see a Democratic Party Ethicist whose primary concern is the ethical health of the party, and who doesn't give a crap about rubber-stamping borderline practices. His job would be to help the party not only be clean, but also to appear clean.

People love this stuff. Look at Spitzer. And people should love this stuff. They feel they are entitled to it, after all.

And you know what? They are.

October 26, 2006

The Arrogance of Cat Power

Sheikh Taj el-Din al-Hilali, Australia's senior Muslim cleric, speaking of women going out in public without the veil, has stuck his fat foot in it again:

"If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside... and the cats come and eat it... whose fault is it, the cats' or the uncovered meat?" he asked.

The uncovered meat is the problem, he went on to say. 

"If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred," he added.

Oops, he says:

"I unreservedly apologise to any woman who is offended by my comments," Sheikh Hilali said in a statement on Thursday.

"I had only intended to protect women's honour, something lost in The Australian presentation of my talk."

Okay, maybe he didn't say what it sounds like he said, but it's too late to take back the glimpse we got of his political and psychological undergarments, I'm afraid.

See, because his answer to his own question, "...whose fault is it, the cats' or the uncovered meat?" is clearly not "the cat", which is to say the male, but rather the "uncovered meat", which is to say the under dressed woman. In short, the hard truth he is supposedly speaking is that men are consciousless animals and, more to the point, are blameless if they are driven to act on their animal desires.

It's that last part that interests me.

A real cat would have an excuse. I have a cat. I know what cats are like. Mine would steal my food off my plate if I didn't keep an eye on it. I maintain some semblance of civilization around my dinner table by, you know, controlling the cat because he is a dumb animal and cannot control himself.

One would like to think most men would consider themselves capable of being something better than a cat.

Cultures where men have the power to assign blame and determine punishment without considering the view of women end up being cultures dominated by the mind of a cat. Naturally, in the cat's view, this is perfectly acceptable. Whatever the cat wants to do, the cat has a right to do. Anybody who lives with a cat knows what sort of chaos ensues when the cat is allowed absolute rule. It's a nightmare. Not unlike cultures where men exercise absolute control over the rights of women.

The arrogance of cat power is not limited to the cat helping itself (blamelessly) to uncovered meat. In the unchecked catocracy, the cat may (blamelessly) shred the pages of your favorite book, sharpen its claws (blamelessly) on your favorite armchair,  draw blood (blamelessly) from visitors and friends and the occasional lover. Unchecked cat power, take my word for it if you don't have a cat, is a perfect analog for the infamous "terrorist state" of popular renown.

Any culture that regards men as the blameless cats and women as the culpable uncovered meat is a culture out of control -- as out of control as life in my own apartment would be if I let my cat run things. This sort of thing obviously isn't limited to fundamentalist Islamic cultures. There are elements in my own culture that still reserve for men the right of assigning blame and determining punishment.

I don't believe there's anything magical about women wielding power. I don't think the world would be a paradise if women ran everything (though I'd be willing to give them a chance to prove the proposition). Rather, I think it is a matter of checks and balances. Dividing the power between men and women keeps one side from running rampant over the other, which has the knock-on effect of introducing moderation and deliberation into the culture as a whole.

I think women should have the right to wear the veil (or its Western psychological equivalents) if they choose to. It's just that I don't buy the proposition that it has anything to do with making women somehow "equal to men, but in a different way". If some women want to see themselves as meat that needs to be covered in the name of forcing men to control themselves, fine, but let them at least admit that what they are contributing to is the establishment and maintenance of one more nightmare catocracy.

Like the world really needs more of those.

October 24, 2006

I Went Potty Just Like A Big Boy!

Boy, I tell ya'. This stinky little blog is really coming up in the world. Latest achievement: being linked to (somewhat approvingly, I think) by "Corruption Chronicles, A Judicial Watch Blog". (Yes, that Judicial Watch.)

Well, they did sue to get the minutes of Cheney's Energy Bake Sale Task Force, I guess. But I do wonder if they actually read down to the snark about the corruption of Republicans. I kind of think they did, actually. After all, it's not as if anybody could deny that the last six years have been an orgy of GOP malfeasance.

Orally Gay

In comments to the Barney post, Lucy (ritaxis) points to the transcript of a sort of oral history as related by a fellow named John Laird, the first openly gay mayor in this country (1983) and now, as I understand it, a State Assemblyman representing the 27th District out there in California.

It's a fascinating read, pretty much about what it was like to be discovering your own gayness at the time of the Stonewall Riots, realizing for the first time that there were others out there just like you, dawning political awareness in your early twenties, etc., etc., etc.

I love this sort of history. If I thought it would do any good to recommend this transcript to all those who think being gay is only about sex, then I would recommend it to them. Instead, I will recommend it to people who like oral histories of the relatively recent (and yet it seems so long ago) past.

As for the others, well, let them find it and appreciate it, if they will. You can lead nincompoops to water, but you can't force them to drink it, so, in fact, I don't see the point in leading them to it in the first place.

Alan Hevesi: Traitor to the Cause

Mild-mannered crook Democrat Alan Hevesi, the New York State Comptroller, has been accused by the state Ethics Panel of breaking the law by...

...using a government worker to chauffeur his wife around for more than three years - then lied and cheated about the arrangement, an ethics panel ruled yesterday.

The stunning 29-page report by the state Ethics Commission unanimously concluded that Hevesi knew he likely owed the state money, yet did nothing until he was forced to.

And when he finally made good on his debt, Hevesi still shortchanged the state.

This would all be to the tune of something over $80,000. Nobody's really sure of the precise amount because Hevesi, Accountant-in-Chief, took care to keep it all off the books.

I really can't stand this sort of treason to the party, not to mention betrayal of the people's trust. NY State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer was cruising toward election as Governor, and now he is forced to deal with this crap. Not that he won't be elected whatever he does, but let's hope he does the right thing and has his office start an investigation of Hevesi. And what sort of damage has Hevesi done to other Democrats around the state who are in closer races?

With any luck, the Democrats will be getting some power back on November 7. Eventually, there will be some Democrats caught perpetrating the sort of corruption Hevesi has been up to. It doesn't matter that Republicans do it and do it to a higher degree. It doesn't matter that the Democratic Party should not be judged on the basis of a few bad apples. Every time a Democrat pulls this kind of crap, it damages the party. It's treason to the Democratic cause. Hevesi is beneath contempt for what he has done to all Democrats.

People who behave as Hevesi has done should be kicked out of the party. Every time it happens, the Republicans get another free pass to continue their rape of the country. We should be harder on miscreants like Hevesi than the Republicans are. There should be a Hall of Shame for them.

I'm sorry, but this sort of thing really infuriates me. Don't come to me with "The Republicans are worse." I don't give a crap about the Republicans. I know they are worse. That doesn't heal the damage that behavior like Hevesi's does to the party. He should be forced by the Democrats to resign his office, and he should forced by the Democrats to withdraw from his current candidacy. I'm sorry if he can't be replaced by an honest person before the election. I'm sorry if that means an obscure Republican wins the office of State Comptroller. There has to be a penalty for this sort of thing, and the penalty has to be imposed by Democrats themselves.

I want a clean party, or, in the alternative, a party that is willing to make itself clean whenever it finds corruption in its ranks.

And any of you Democrats who are about to be elected out there... don't be an asshole. Be honest. Be scrupulous. It isn't that hard to do. If you want to be a crook, you might as well be a Republican. You'd be doing us all a favor.

Here's Another Fine Preposterous Snow Job

It's not "stay the course", you dimwits. It's "stay the course, running to and fro":

Instead, they have been emphasizing in recent weeks how adaptable the president's Iraq policy actually is. Bush remains steadfast about remaining in Iraq, they say, but constantly shifts tactics and methods in response to an adjusting enemy. "What you have is not 'stay the course' but in fact a study in constant motion by the administration," Snow said yesterday.

And I'm going to stop saying "Suck that pig's filthy dick, you evil, lying, manipulative, cynical, corrupt, murdering scumbags" inasmuch as I'm sick to death of their studies in constantly incompetent motion, to and fro.

Instead, I'm just going to shut up and go to the voting booth on November 7 and vote with most of my fellow Americans to force these incompetents to finally unstay this idiotic course.

October 23, 2006

Who's Better Than Barney Frank?

Barney on Maher's show with some fraud from the Wall Street Journal's Editorial Board:


October 22, 2006

Your Opinion Is Important To Us

(UPDATE:  Thanks to Bob for an example of Aaron pressing his stupid sex life on all of us.)

From the email bag:

A new comment has been submitted to your weblog "The Corpuscle," on the post "Night of the Republican Long Knives."


Comment From:
Name: aaron

If you are actually trying to compare the SA to the few (ah-hum) homosexual "Republicans" among the ranks of United States leaders, you're completely backwards.  Conservatives have never needed help from homosexuals or expressed the slightest desire for them to be among such ranks.    It is no secret that conservatives have an opposition to the homosexual lifestyle, hence, there is no need for a 'purge' of something we didn't want to know about in the first place.

If history plays out again it will actually be the Democrats holding the long knives my dear.  Homosexuals are the thugs of the democrat lobby system.  They are the pink shirts.  When the Democrats really achieve the power they desire and have no more use for those pink shirts, you, my friend, will wake up from your all night orgy with the Howard Dean SS ready to rid you from this cruel world.   

Seriously, most conservatives don't give a damn enough about a fag to put a knife in his back.  We're just tired of hearing about your stupid sex life. 

Hmm. I wonder if it means anything that Aaron found my post by doing a google search on "night of the long knives orgy"...?

October 19, 2006

Dry Bones

The closet bone connected to the...
trank bone.

The trank bone connected to the...
priest bone.

The priest bone connected to the...
Foley bone.

The Foley bone connected to the...
booze bone.

The booze bone connected to the...
instant messages bone.

The instant messages bone connected to the...
page bone.

The page bone connected to the...
Page Board bone.

The Page Board bone connected to the...
Republican bone.

The Republican bone connected to the...
"It's not my fault" bone.

The "It's not my fault" bone connected to the...
Bush bone.

The Bush bone connected to our...
butt bones.

Don't you hear the word of the Lord?

A World Without People

I don't think it's because I just had a two-day struggle with Verizon -- all fixed now, by the way -- but I was, um, enchanted I guess you could say by an article in the 14-October 2006 issue of NewScientist called "Earth Without Humans".

Remember that story sequence in the movie The Illustrated Man where the adults all have the same dream one night about how the world will end the next day and so they vote on what to do and they come up with... a plan? The thing I liked best about that sequence was the feeling you got that all this was taking place so far in the future that people could live in billowing tents on verdant hilltops without having to worry about storms and horseflies and mice getting into everything. My personal theory about why they thought the world was going to end was because they knew, subconsciously, that you can't so control the planet without eventually having to pay a very steep price. I imagined that all the storms, all the bugs, all the vermin they had edited out of their existences had been building up a head of steam somewhere -- another reality perhaps -- and they were on the verge of exploding back into the world.

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and did a lot of fishing and hiking and camping when I lived out there. I blasted a few of our feathered friends out of the sky as well, but I quit after a while since I didn't really enjoy it very much. I remember one camping trip I took to a meadow at the foot of Mt. Rainier. We stood outside our tent gazing straight up the side of the mountain to its gleaming white peak. It was, in the old sense of the word, awesome.

On the first page of that NewScientist article, there is a lovely and evocative image of a handsome deer buck standing on a ramp in an empty parking garage. He is gazing out a window onto a cityscape that is, presumably, devoid of human beings. (Sadly, the image is not included with the online article so you will have to take my word for it.)

The truth is that if that some alien race showed up one day with a giant Human Vacuum Cleaner and sucked all 6  billion of us off the face of the planet and spewed us out into space somewhere beyond the orbit of the moon, the Earth wouldn't hold much memory of us for very long. Some molecular traces would linger for a few hundred thousand years, but for the most part, as the Earth healed itself after our departure, it would be as if we had never existed.

I'm not exactly what your right-wingers call a tree-hugger, but I do love the great outdoors. Even more so now, I suppose, as I make my residence in what is probably the most densely populated area in the country. I like people, but apparently I love to fantasize about an Earth without human beings. We are such vile creatures in so many ways... I'm not entirely sure the Earth ever deserved such a fate as us.

Of course the fantasy necessarily requires the fiction that I am somehow still able to observe a peopleless Earth even after I (along with the rest of humanity) have gone away. If I am not there in some way observing such an Earth, what is the value of such an Earth?

There is no value, of course. It's a world in a pre-Edenic state. There is no knowledge of the beauty and grace of a humanless world without at least one being living in it possessed of the ability to contain such knowledge.

The brain stretches a bit here at this next bit, but I'll give it a go anyway.

You have to stand in awe at our self-centeredness, at our collective egoism. We ask ourselves, what would be the point of such a world? What is the point of a buck standing in a deserted parking garage?

There is no human meaning of a world without humans. And that is supposed to make the fantasy not worth having, I guess. Well, I'm going to have it anyway. I'm going to acknowledge that the fantasy requires me to lie to myself and tell myself that I still exist even in a humanless world. Perhaps I will get around the lie by imagining another race of beings gazing down upon the natural beauty of our homeworld as it heals itself from its lingering, virulent infection by human beings.

We aren't so hot. I can imagine the Earth without humans. After all, we need our planet a hell of a lot more than it needs us. One whole hell of a lot.

In fact, it doesn't need us at all. We're really no better than one of those punks who thinks His Woman belongs to him and is shocked to learn she is perfectly capable of having a life without him, and so he shoots her in the head. Only in our case, of course, the best we'll ever be able to manage is blowing out our own brains.

October 18, 2006

Verizon Sucks

Coming up on 48 hours now without phone/DSL service at home. That would be bad enough, of course, except three times now Verizon has cleared the trouble-ticket, meaning "It's fixed!" when it wasn't in fact fixed.

I wish I could think of something funny to say.

October 17, 2006

Bareback Linking

The other day (and maybe still?) Avedon was having trouble with her home phone/DSL service. I <rubber>linked</rubber> to her without wearing a condom, and now my home phone/DSL service is down as well. You know what they say:

Silence == No Phone Service.

So anyway, I guess the punishment for my carelessness is to be able to go online only at work. The love is going to be pretty scarce around here until this thing clears up.

October 15, 2006

I Am A Virtual Bigot

For the last three Sunday mornings, the NPR show "The Infinite Mind" has been devoting its broadcasts to Second Life, an online virtual community.

This post is not about Second Life. I don't know anything about Second Life except what I've heard on these broadcasts. This post is about my desire to not know anything about Second Life.

One of the subgenres of SF I have hated since its birth is what used to be called cyberpunk. I don't know if it's still called that. What I hated about it was that just about anything could happen in the virtual worlds where the stories took place. Or, better put, a lot of the obstacles I face in real life aren't necessarily obstacles in a virtual world. Universes like that do not interest me because they don't have anything to do with the physical world I actually live in.

Okay, we are talking bigotry here. If I actually knew more about cyberpunk and Second Life and all of that, I'm sure I would feel differently. Anything I say about all of this should be regarded as uninformed opinion. My intention is not to dissuade anybody from exploring The Virtual World on their own. My intention is to explore -- or at least acknowledge -- my own revulsion at the idea.

Which is an odd thing for me to say in my blog, when you think about it, inasmuch as this blog is The Virtual Me as far as most of you are concerned. Most of you don't know who I really am, what I really look like, where the day-to-day voyages of my life take me physically, psychologically, emotionally. What you are getting in here is what I choose to present to you, you are getting the Virtual Mike. There is some resemblance to Real World Mike, of course, but this is really just a self-edited shadow.

My blog self is a character based on a real person. Any and all resemblances to a real person, living -- which is to say not quite dead -- are intentional. This guy in here is a reflection of the reflections of the real guy out there. This character in here is a way for me to consider, reflect upon, what's going on with this guy out there in the real world.

I was thinking the other day: I am no poet, I will never be a poet, I will never be able to write poetry. But I do have a blog and having a blog is a bit like having a poet's awareness without having to go to all the trouble of being talented enough to write a decent poem.

Since starting this blog, I go through my day with my eyes more widely open than before. Why? Because I am looking for things to write about in here. This blog is a constant reminder to me of the importance of content. Every post that I've written that's been heavily linked to has always been heavily linked to because it had content that interested people. So... this blog inspires me to go through the day looking for interesting content, in particular, the interesting content, if any, of my own life.

Which is why I say having a blog is a bit like being a poet without having to go through all the trouble of being a poet.

I don't want to have a second life in a virtual world. I have enough trouble maintaining some sort of visceral connection to the first life I'm trying to live in the flesh and blood world. I'm sure I am missing out on all sorts of features a second virtual life might have to offer. I'm not judging other people for having second virtual lives. As I say, I don't really know anything about it, so how could I judge?

But I do know this much about myself: life in general is short and I find my own life to be, in the specific instance, in the future tense, way too short for my taste. I'm coming up against a wall with a a sign painted on it that reads: "There is a limit to how much you will be able to learn and know and experience about this world before you log off for the last time."

More and more, I have to make choices. I have started to throw things overboard if they seem to be mere ballast. Bigotry is helpful in this regard because it doesn't require me to actually think about what I'm tossing over the side. Bigotry -- at this point anyway -- is time efficient, time conservative, and so I have adopted it as another useful item in my toolbox.

And yet I just wrote this long post trying to justify to myself my own bigotry -- which tells me I have a certain amount of regret about all of this.

But! No time for regret! That goes over the side as well. The balloon is sinking. The Alps are looming. It's a maddening race inside this gondola, throwing out extra ballast as quickly as it mysteriously appears. Throw it out! Don't need it! Throw it out, throw it out, throw it out!

October 14, 2006

Final Destination 4

Some people are not meant to live in New York City.

"Plane explodes into home of woman knocked out in Macy's parade"

NEW YORK (AP) -- A Manhattan woman who was knocked into a coma by a lamppost during a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade years ago was thrust into the limelight again, when the plane of New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle crashed into her bedroom.

October 13, 2006

The Peace Bank

Almost eleven months ago now, my father unexpectedly died. One of the many tasks my sibs and I faced at that time was selecting a to which people could donate gifts in his memory.

My father had started out life -- or at least that portion of his life that came after he'd fathered my siblings and me -- being a Goldwater, no, check that... a John Birch Society conservative. By the time he'd reached the end of his life (under the influence, at least  to some degree, of a wonderful woman -- my stepmother -- whom he loved deeply and who predeceased him by a few years) my father had become an almost scarily left-wing libertarian.

One of his great interests in the last years of his life was looking for ways in which the poor of this world could make a reasonable go of life, so when I found an outfit called the Grameen Foundation, it seemed the sort of organization my dad would have really appreciated. With the consent of my sibs, Grameen became our of choice for our dad's remembrances.

As you will no doubt have heard by now, this morning the Grameen Bank and its founder Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Prize for Peace. The Grameen Foundation is the U.S. based that helps Americans donate to the Grameen's cause.

From their "What We Do" webpage:

We support microfinance programs that enable the poor, mostly women, to lift themselves out of poverty and make better lives for their families.  To do this, we partner with a worldwide network of microfinance institutions.


Microfinance helps people to escape poverty by giving them collateral-free loans and other  financial services to support income-generating businesses.  As each loan is repaid, the money is redistributed as loans to others, thereby multiplying its impact.

An astonishing 97% of the loans are made to women, a statistic that has always cracked me up because it engenders in me an image of all these men sitting around on their fat asses, smoking hashish and ordering their women to tighten up their veils a bit, meanwhile all those women are out there busting their asses to start a going concern so they can support their fat-assed husbands and all the children they've been forced by their husbands to have so all the neighbors will see what Macho Men they are.

Okay, a totally unfair and mean-spirited stereotype. Still. 97%. That's a pretty significant discrepancy.

But more than that, I've always thought that one of the most efficient ways to crow-bar some more justice and decency into this world would be to do all that we can to improve the lot of women and girls all over the planet. Not because greater social, economic and political involvement by women would necessarily make us a better species, but because, you know, it probably would.

In thinking about all this since I heard the happy news this morning (by the way, in November I will be announcing my choice for next year's Nobel Peace Prize winning organization), I recalled again the old saw about how a civilized world needs a thriving middle class. People who are working everyday to create a better life for themselves and their families are not going to be interested in blowing things up. People who work to improve their lot everyday, and who actually have the opportunity to do so, have a real stake in helping to make the world a more peaceful place.

This, of course, is what is so attractive about the idea behind the Grameen Bank. Professor Yunus grasped this simple truth about people way back in the late 1970s. I only wish more people, especially governments, especially my government, could see what he saw decades ago.

Congratulations to Professor Yunus and his organization.

And finally, I would like to express my gratitude to the members of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee for reminding me again this morning of my dad.

October 12, 2006

In Reply

My pal Avedon says I'm wrong about this. Maybe I am, but here is my argument (reposted from her comments section) why I don't think I am:

(Avedon says:) And, Mikey, you're wrong; the Democrats had power before, and they never, never, never did this stuff.

Like most lefty blogs these days, I'm in Emergency Mode w/r/t doing what I can to help the Democrats get control of one or both houses of Congress in about three weeks.

I'm a teeny blog, with a small but loyal (and pretty smart) readership, so I am unlikely to influence the National Debate. My impulse, then, is to try to help people on my side find arguments they can use themselves when trying to convince reasonable Republicans and independents in their individual districts or states (especially in toss-up races) to vote for oversight, rather than for Democrats in particular.

I know this opens me to being criticized for having "fallen prey to" the various false equivalencies being promulgated out there. I don't really care about that at the moment. I care about helping people to find ways to "clinch" in November.

In fact, in shorthand, I agree with you that I'm wrong in the way you say I am. I also understand that some people will argue that ignoring the difference between Ds and Rs on this topic does more harm than good.

I disagree.

I think, yes, ultimately the false equivalencies have to be resisted with everything we've got. Under the current circumstances, however, a lot of people we need to vote for Demos believe in those (false) equivalencies. I think you have to work with what they believe in order to get them to listen to reason.

At the moment, I think you have to get some people to vote for oversight more than for Democrats, and if that means acknowledging Demos are as liable to corruption as Repubs are, then that's a small price to pay.

If the Demos get control of one or both houses, they'll have the chance to prove to voters they won't behave the way the Repubs have behaved. But they can't do that unless and until they get some control.

Maybe I'm wrong. I don't think I am. I'm just doing the best I can.

You Must Not Have Used Illegal Drugs Within the Last Twelve Months

I just wanted to take note of the fact that tonight during one of those 7:00 p.m. rebroadcasts of the syndicated "Simpsons" series, I saw a 30 second recruitment ad for the National Clandestine Service.

On the one hand, the cut of its jib was a bit like those ads in Starship Troopers. On the other hand, I've always been in favor of more spook-boots on the ground.

So I don't know.

But I won't deny I was taken aback. I thought it was a joke-ad for a minute.

October 11, 2006

Penalty For Fame

The T.V. has been set to the news all afternoon, ever since the light plane crashed into the building up on 72nd and York. Not too long after it happened, stations started reporting that the driver's license for Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle had been found in the debris that had fallen to the street. And not too long after that, they reported that they had confirmed that Lidle was on the plane.

The only problem with all this crack reporting is that apparently Lidle's 34 year old wife and their six year old son are apparently (as I write this) on board what may be a commercial flight somewhere and so authorities have not yet been able to contact them to inform them as next of kin that Lidle has died.

The Mayor just held a news conference and even though reporters in the room were telling him that Lidle had been killed in the crash, and the banner on the screen was reporting in huge letters "Yankee Cory Lidle Killed in Crash", the Mayor refused to "release the names of the victims" because the next of kin had not yet been notified.

So, we can imagine Mrs. Lidle and her little boy getting off their flight, going through the airport and seeing that on the T.V. Okay, they probably have airline personnel at the gate waiting to intercept her and the boy and give her the news in something of a private manner. But still.

Not that you could reasonably expect the media to not report what they had found out, of course. I just find myself imagining the circumstances of the family getting the news, is all, and thinking about how this sort of thing is one of the penalties of being, or being related to, somebody in the news.

The DVD I Would Kill For

Just don't ask me who I would kill for it.

Years ago, there was a PBS broadcast of a show adapted by Lee Breuer and featuring Morgan Freeman as the Messenger and the Blind Boys of Alabama as, um, I'm not sure, Oedipus? The Chorus? Hey, it was twenty years ago.

The show was called "The Gospel at Colonus" and it was a gospel version of the story of Oedipus. Every once in a while, I check the internets to see if anybody has seen fit to issue a DVD of this broadcast. There is a videotape, I guess. Too bad I've sworn off them.

Watching this thing was what made me understand how Greek Theater works. I don't know if you've ever attended a performance of any of the Greek Tragedies, but I always find them, "Yeah, yeah, very impressive." The much bally-hooed catharsis generally seems to be absent without leave.

"The Gospel at Colonus", on the other hand, had me in tears. Literally. It was grief personified. I'm not getting at anything here. I'm just hoping that somebody in a position to turn this thing out onto a DVD finds this posting and gets busy and does it. I swear to you I will flog the thing to within an inch of its life, if you will produce and distribute it.

Holy gods, what a brilliant piece of theater this thing was.

October 10, 2006

Eek Wall Just Us

So Avedon points this morning to a report that a male contraceptive pill (patch, injection) will soon be available.

Now... if some people think it is all right for the government to interfere with a woman's reproductive freedom, how will they justify opposing the government interfering with a man's reproductive freedom by requiring him to use this male contraceptive unless and until both he and the woman agree beforehand to have a child?

The government will, of course, never require men to use a contraceptive. Interfering with a man's reproductive freedom would be too Red Chinese. But I guess it isn't too Red Chinese if the government interferes with a woman's reproductive freedom.

And if Abortion Is Murder, is a man who refuses to use a male contraceptive (and is therefore half-responsible for a fetus that is subsequently aborted) an accessory before the fact?

Sounds like at least a negligent homicide to me.

October 08, 2006

Honestly, How Hard Can This Stuff Be?

You stand up. You say what you think. If people like what you say, you get elected and go to Washington. When you get there, you do your job. You don't do anything dishonest or unethical. You pay attention. You keep an eye on the Executive branch. Maybe you go to the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials a few times. You have a couple of nice meals in a fancy restaurant (on your own dime). Then in two years if people like how you are doing, you get re-elected.

How hard can it be?

The answer is, apparently, pretty hard. On account of power corrupts, I guess. You'd think that old saw would be enough of a cliche that people would know better, but I guess not.

It's likely that when the Democrats have power for a while, they will become corrupt and need to be replaced. Nothing against the Democrats; it's just that this is the way things seem to go with human beings.

But in any case, there is no longer any question that the Republicans have become hopelessly compromised -- that's a polite way of saying corrupt -- and they really have to go. Maybe you don't like the Democrats. Maybe you think they will be just as bad. Probably you are right, but that's a ways down the road. When the Democrats get to be as bad as the Republicans are now, you can replace your Democrat with a Republican. And if you think a Third Choice will save you from all this, think again. Peoples is peoples.

And it seems that politicians in particular are like perishable goods -- you have to rotate your stock every once in a while, whether you want to or not.

So now it's time. In fact, it is way past time.

UPDATE: If you are here by way of Avedon (she says I'm wrong), I reply to her here.

Art Terrorism

I was late to Battlestar Galactica. I don't have Sci-Fi Channel and, really, I've read and seen a lot of sf in my time and so I thought, how good could it be? Eventually I was convinced by all I'd heard to finally give it a try. A few months ago I started renting all the DVDs of the first and second seasons. By the time I had burned through all of those, I was hooked.

Tonight I was over to a friend's house and we had a Tivo Event: last night's two hour season opener of BG.

Here is why they want school kids to only learn reading and writing and 'rithmetic and Regular Arts (and prayer) in school: real art scares people. Real art deals with the way human beings really are. It deals with what it means to live a genuine human life. Regular Arts gives you maxims to live by. Real Art reminds you of what it means to live a life that actually matters.

You will laugh, I'm sure, but let me just start here.

I'm not a Shakespearean scholar or anything, though I have read all of his plays and acted in some of them. I have been involved in productions of his works in various other capacities. As I say, I am not a scholar, but I do have some experience with the translation of his work "from the page to the stage" as they say.

Back in his day, the crowd pretty much expected the dialogue to come in iambic pentameter, or something close to it. It wasn't a piece of theater unless it was written as poetry. These days, for better or for worse, a play in verse strikes us -- or would strike us, if we ever actually saw one -- as pretty silly. People don't talk that way. Yes, yes, this is all supposed to be elevated or something and so it has to be in poetry. Well, we don't feel that way about it any more.

But, yes, you will probably laugh but I'm just going to say it anyway. There is something as good as Shakespeare about Battlestar Galactica. No, the language is not poetry, though it works pretty well, and operates on us in something the same way Shakespeare's language operated on his audience. No, it probably won't be around in another 500 years, but then the way things are going, we probably won't be either, so I call that a wash.

But it's about important things, and it's about those important things in important yet precisely human ways. Which is, in my feeble experience, pretty Shakespearean.

The thing about art is that you can't really argue with it while it is happening to you. You can get pissed off at it afterwards, you may even get pissed off at it while it's happening to you, but if it is Real Art, you can't really argue with it because what it is doing is showing you something that is genuinely human, and you know that while you are experiencing it. It's not as if, after all, genuinely human moments don't piss us off sometimes.

On the one hand, the pissing off is not really the point. It's simply a by-product of the art, which is why a genuine artist is not afraid of pissing off people. Which isn't to say that pissing people off guarantees, in itself, art -- if only that were true. But on the other hand, if you tell some true stuff about people and it pisses some people off, well, that's the price you pay for being a member of a species capable of producing art.

Which is, as I say, why they don't want the kids to progress beyond Homilies. People have a tendency to want to do things in response to getting pissed off. This is dangerous behaviour if you are of a conservative bent.

There is a lot of really good sf around if you have the eyes to see it, but not very much of it -- in my opinion -- constitutes genuine art.

Battlestar Galactica is genuine art.

October 07, 2006

Political Hardball, For Real

You think American politics are rough? We are pussy-cats.

In a cemetery somewhere in Moscow, in a grave not far from that of the infamous Kim Philby, lie the earthly remains of a guy -- a Hero of the Soviet People -- named Ramón Mercader.

Mercader was born in Spain to a mother deeply involved with the communists fighting on the side of the Republicans (not those Republicans) during the Spanish Civil War. Eventually he ended up in Moscow briefly, then in Paris where he met and wooed a woman who was a follower of Leon Trotsky. Trotsky had been exiled to Mexico and was pretty much at the top of Josef Stalin's hit list. The woman and Mercader traveled to Mexico where Mercader visited Trotsky a few times. The last time they met, in 1940, Mercader took an ice axe from under his coat and drove the pointy end of it into Trotsky's skull.

Trotsky screamed -- in a manner that burned the sound into Mercader's brain where it apparently remained for the rest of his life.

After the attack, a struggle ensued. Trotsky's people poured into the room. Mercader managed to survive by objecting loudly that "They have my relatives! They forced me to do it!" Trotsky survived for two or three days, then died.

Mercader spent the next 20 years in a Mexican jail. On his release, he went to the newly Communist Cuba where he eventually died of bone cancer.

I get all this from a fascinating documentary called Asaltar los Cielos, "Storm the Skies", made in Spain in 1996 and newly released in the USA on DVD.

Here's a news flash: other countries have different histories than yours. This documentary was clearly made for the Spanish who know way more than I will ever know about the Spanish Civil War and probably the story of Trotsky and his eventual assassination as well.

One of the things I learned from this movie was that during the Civil War, a number of parents on the Republican side shipped their children off to Moscow to keep them safe from the siege of Madrid conducted by Franco's forces. Obviously the intention was to return the children to Spain after a few months, but many of them (most of them?) were in the USSR for the next fifty years. Apparently some tried returning in the mid-fifties, but they were Russians by then, though clearly still fluent in Spanish, and they found it impossible to live in Franco's Spain. Many of them went back to Russia.

The filmmakers don't take the trouble (or, at least, the people who created the DVD don't) to identify many of the people telling this story. After a while you may deduce that this one is a friend of the Trotskyite woman whom Mercader loved (or purported to), and that one is a woman with whom Mercader had an affair in Barcelona. But most of the time you have no idea who these people are, which annoyed me at first, but after a while I just settled in and listened to their side of the story. Which was in Spanish, by the way, with English subtitles.

The history is fascinating. The filmmaking is odd to our eyes, I think, but that only made the whole experience of watching this film more intriguing to me.

Most of all, what draws you in is the story of Ramón Mercader. An ideological maniac? A cold-blooded assassin? A pawn of the KGB? It's a sad tale for all concerned. Trotsky was much beloved by his associates and comes across as somebody you would love to hang with (you should pardon the expression) and so the feelings of those telling this story remain strong and in some cases painfully apparent on their faces.

This is one of those DVDs that make the strongest argument possible for keeping alive your neighborhood artsy-fartsy video store. I just happened across this one on the shelf yesterday. I probably would never have seen it if there'd been no way for me to just happen across the box, pick it up and peruse the cover. Netflix does have the DVD for rent, and you can buy it online at all the usual places, but gawd knows how I would have ever found it if it hadn't caught my eye on a shelf.

October 06, 2006

Je Refuse

I was nosing around the Sludge Report and noticed that this new Robin Williams movie about a silly man being elected President is one of the things being promoted in masthead ads there. This is fortuitous.

The movie looks incredibly stupid and I had long ago decided I probably wouldn't see it nor even rent the DVD when/if it ever comes out, but now I am determined never to see it because its promoters bought ad space on Sludge.

There's just too much stuff of value out there for me to waste my time and money on inane crap, especially inane crap promoted on the website of a lying pseudo-journalist. Beyond that, one of the few existential powers I have left as a solitary human soul in this incorporated world is the power to refuse to spend.

I know this means nothing to anyone except me, but you see... that's the point. They want you to believe a thing doesn't matter if it only matters to you.

On the contrary, I believe a choice like this is important because it only matters to me.

Shadowy Hand of the Market

I have been in correspondence with a number of dead babies and a few virtuous souls who lived before Christ was born. They are understandably concerned about the Pope's pending decision to do away with Limbo under the banner of tying "up loose theological ends".

Call me cynical -- after years of Republican misrule, who wouldn't be? Nevertheless I can't help but suspect this is just another Abramoff type deal. A variety of land fraud. In the opinion of many dead babies, they are being evicted from Limbo simply to pave the way for commercial development of the property. The virtuous souls who lived before Christ was born are forming an Action Committee.

Follow the money. You won't see any of this on Drudge, I can theologically guarantee it.

A Perfect Evening

Notice I wrote "a" perfect evening. I can think of lots of perfect evenings. Tonight was but one of many possibilities.

Journey with some friends to the American Museum of Natural History for a fascinating and entertaining lecture by Sean Carroll, author of the recently released Making of the Fittest, wherein I learned we are all carrying around fossil (not junk) genes inside our DNA. Oh, and I learned about a creature called an Ice Fish that has absolutely, positively colorless blood. Honest to gawd. He showed a picture of it. It looks like lemonade.

Then a cheapo meal in a cheapo Upper West Side diner, followed by a couple of express trains back downtown (no waiting on the platform for either). And then once home switching on the radio to the very beginning of the "Organ Symphony" by Saint-Saëns.


And not a political thought in sight nor mind...

October 05, 2006

Fighting Shadows With Shadows

So Hastert thinks that the whole thing is a Democratic plot:

When asked about a groundswell of discontent among the GOP's conservative base over his handling of the issue, Hastert said: "I think the base has to realize after awhile, who knew about it? Who knew what, when? When the base finds out who's feeding this monster, they're not going to be happy. The people who want to see this thing blow up are ABC News and a lot of Democratic operatives, people funded by George Soros."

Well, you know, maybe he's right. Maybe the whole thing, or at least the timing of it, is a plot by the Democrats.

If so, what that means to me is that the Democrats have finally figured out how to play a game the Republicans have been masters at since 9/11.

You ever play Shadow Tag? Here's how:

The idea of this game is to try to tag someone by stepping on their shadow. First, have your child find his or her shadow. By changing directions and moving around, see what happens to the shadow. Try to chase the shadow -- and lose the shadow. To play tag, whoever is "it" must try to step on another's shadow. When this happens, that child or person becomes "it."

The real debate the country should be having is about ending the debacle in Iraq, but the President strives to control the debate such that all we get is Iraq's spicier shadow: terrorism. Just try to catch the real issue here. All the Republicans will let you have is terrorism, terrorism, terrorism.

But another debate we should be having concerns accountability and the incompetence and corruption of Republican controlled government. For some reason, that issue isn't fleshy enough for us, too complicated I guess, so the Democrats (if Hastert's theory is correct) have figured out how to have the accountability, incompetence and corruption debate by way of offering us its shadow: a Republican representative cyber-flirting with underage male pages, and the Republican leadership knowing about it all along.

Well, a game's a game and if the Republicans prefer Shadow Tag to real Tag, that's fine, I guess, but they've apparently made the mistake of thinking the Democrats would never learn how to beat them at their own favored game.

Frankly, I hope (and think) Hastert is right. If he is, there's an elegant justice to it. But more than that, it gives me hope that the Democrats have finally figured out how to fight shadows of Republican fire with shadows of Republican fire.

Which is one way to run a democracy, I guess.

I'll Do It

Okay, so the law enforcement shtick is gearing up:

Acting U.S. Attorney Jeff Taylor for the District of Columbia sought protection of the records in a three-page letter to House counsel Geraldine Gennet, according to a Justice official speaking on condition of anonymity.

Such letters often are followed by search warrants and subpoenas, and signal that investigators are moving closer to a criminal investigation.

The request was aimed at averting a conflict with the House similar to a standoff in May when FBI agents raided Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson’s office seeking information in a bribery investigation.

Now, the really racey Instant Messages of Foley date from, I think, 2003 or so. There's one out there that apparently indicates Foley and the boy he was chatting with were jerking off while chatting. I've had some guys (over the age of consent, of course) solicit me to engage in cybersex. Lemme just say this about that and move on:

You have to be fucking kidding.

I dunno. Maybe I haven't sufficiently fetishized my keyboard or something, but it's hard for me to understand how this is a particularly erotic experience. First of all, you're just taking the other guy's word for it that the two of you are having sex. How "the check is in the mail" is that?

I guess some people do it with webcams but not in this case apparently. And anyway, I've chatted about everyday this-n-that subjects with a friend through our web cams and

It. Wasn't. (Long freeze frame.) Exactly. (Long freeze frame.) A. Cinematic. (Frame freezes, then goes black.) Experience.

So it's hard for me to think of it as anything remotely like a pornographic experience.

But anyway, here's the point.

Those chats took place three years ago. That means the boys involved are probably over the age of consent now and so you realize, of course, that they are going to be indentified in the media, don't you? The cops are going to want to speak to them. And since the boys will now be of age, there's nothing to stop the media from identifying them.

That means that kid who (purportedly) jerked off with Foley is going to have his face plastered all over the media.

Okay, I think that stinks. The kid may or may not have been jerking off -- personally, I doubt it -- but nevertheless he's just starting out and so now he has to have this albatross hung around his neck for the rest of his life? You can bet he is right now shaking in his boxers draped boots.

So here's the deal. I have a sufficiently sordid past. And I am certainly not just starting out in life. All things considered, I could probably weather having my sleazy past plastered across the media better than this kid, or any others of these kids, so I volunteer.

Nobody is going to believe that three years ago I was 16, of course, so impersonation is out. But if all people really need or want is sordid details plastered across the media I'm happy to substitute mine for those of any of these kids.

The cops definitely need to talk to the boys. The short arm of the law needs to do its job, after all. Maybe the boys will shed light on who knew what when.

But before, during, and after all that the media should just leave them alone.

In other words, let's all just pick on somebody our own size.

UPDATE: Too late. The name of one of the IMing pages has already been released to the Web. Oh well. (Sorry, I won't link to the story, for what little that's worth.)

October 04, 2006

The Corpuscle Welcomes A New Fan

This is the estimable Clarence Page in this morning's Chicago Tribune making the same argument The Corpuscle has been making (et passim) for some time now.

The Foley fallout sadly illustrates why absolute power corrupts so absolutely. Lack of accountability makes the powerful arrogant. The best way to offset an arrogant party in a democracy is by voting more power to the opposition party. Neither party is corruption-free, but competition helps to keep bad behavior in check.

This is the most effective argument the Democrats can make leading up to the November election. There's a lot of stuff we could say -- the lying, the deceptions, an incompetently prosecuted war, attacks on the Constitution, so forth and so on -- but the argument above is the one that will resonate most with the independents and middle-of-the-roaders the Democrats need to take one or both houses of Congress.

I've been searching through my logs trying to discover the hit proving that Mr. Page has become a regular Corpusculite. Haven't found it yet, but I'm absolutely certain it must be in there somewhere...

How to Explain the Necessity for Absolute Separation of Church and State

The people who know about these things tell us that when our planet gets hit by an asteroid, depending on the size of the asteroid, all human life could be swept from the face of the Earth.

I know a lot of people think this thing about an asteroid hitting the Earth is a pretty remote deal, but the fact is there are tens or maybe even hundreds of thousands of near-Earth planet-killers out there and we've only tracked about four thousand of them. Word of the end could come tonight. It could come tomorrow. It's not a question of if. It's a question of when. Just go outside some night with a pair of binoculars and look at the pocked face of the moon if you think these guys are kidding around.

But the people who know about these things also tell us that with a little bit of forewarning and preparation, there are things we can do to save ourselves. For example, building and deploying the gravity tug.

When we do get the word that the asteroid is coming and that it's big enough to destroy us, there will be some people who will see this as a good thing. They will see this as the judgment of a jealous god, and if at that time those are the people in charge of the government and all its funds, then all the things we could do to possibly save ourselves won't get done.

Our governments will take the entire planet into the abyss, and they'll be just fine with that.

This is obviously addressed to all those who believe in God, but who are nevertheless reasonable people:

For your sake and the sake of your children, you better get busy and make sure your religion stays far away from your state.

October 03, 2006

Night of the Republican Long Knives

Well, here's something to look forward to, Chauncy:

"It's one of the worst congressional scandals ever. A top House Republican who denounced sex predators as 'animals' stands accused of acting like one," Cliff Kincaid, editor of the conservative Accuracy in Media report, wrote yesterday in an online editorial circulated by the pro-Republican Web site GOPUSA.com. His headline reflected an ire that went beyond Mr. Foley to include House Republican leaders who say they knew of complaints about him. "Who Protected the Perverted Congressman?" it read.

"I think there's more pain to come" for Republicans, says party pollster Tony Fabrizio....

Mr. Fabrizio predicted that in coming days conservatives will seek to make a bigger issue of homosexuality in the Foley matter. Indeed, Mr. Kincaid wrote that "this is the time" for conservatives "to insist that the Republican Party and the conservative movement stop protecting homosexuals in its ranks."

Ever see a movie called The Damned by Luchino Visconti? In it there is a depiction of the infamous Nazi "Night of the Long Knives" -- the purge by the Nazi Party of (the openly gay) Ernst Röhm's SA, the thugs who helped get Hitler the Chancellorship but who had become a bit too socialist for National Socialist tastes. In the Visconti (who was also openly gay) version, the events of the night of June 30/July 1 1934 start in a remote lakeside retreat where a man-flesh orgy is going on -- hot Aryan youths drinking, wandering about naked, having sex -- then the SS arrives on boats, they machine gun the place, and the evening ends with the remote lakeside lodge turned into an abattoir.

I could never quite decide what we were supposed to feel about this scene. I guess I'll get a second chance during the Republican's own approaching Night of the Long Knives. Maybe this time an overarching theme will more clearly emerge.

October 02, 2006

Hey Presto!

Oh, Jesus. Someone catch me! I'm fainting (with laughter).

Gingrich says the reason the Republicans didn't respond aggressively to Foley's emails ("Let's hear it for the boy!") is because they then would have been accused of gay bashing.

OMG. Oh my Jesus Lord in Heaven. I believe I shall surely perish from the vapors.

Well, we should have known, I guess. I mean, if the gays can cause 9/11, they must surely be capable of causing gross negligence on the part of the Republican leadership in Congress. A mere flip of a limp wrist and Hey Presto!

October 01, 2006

The American Regular Guy In Nature

I'm going to tell you some things about the American people. You don't have to believe me about these things. I believe these things but you don't have to.

I watched the "60 Minutes" interview with Woodward tonight. I recorded it so I could watch it a few times. Watching it, I started thinking about lies and the American people.

The American people hate to be lied to. They hate it so much that they will resist almost to the bitter end believing that their President has lied to them. You will recall that one of the explanations for Bush's popularity among those who like him is that he seems to be a "regular guy". One of the definitions of a regular guy, of course, is that he won't lie to you.

A regular guy will always be straight with you. A regular guy also has his "head screwed on right". A regular guy is no fool. A regular guy is no sap. A regular guy brims with common sense.

Once the American people have decided that you are a regular guy, it's very difficult to persuade them otherwise. Why? Because the American people like to think of themselves as regular guys as well. A regular guy doesn't listen to bullshit about his friends. A regular guy sticks by his friends. A regular guy is loyal. Regular guys don't lie to each other, so how could we do anything but trust the President?

To the endless frustration of Bush's opponents and much of the rest of the world, this belief of the American people in the regular guyness of their president is nearly impossible to shake. It is a rock.

The problem is... once the rock starts to shift, there is no stopping it. This is Bush's, and the Republican's, swiftly approaching problem.

See because part of the American people's definition of a regular guy, as above, is that he has his head screwed on right. He is no fool. He is not a sap. He brims with common sense. The American people will stick with you for quite a long while after hints begin to emerge that you might be a little dicey on the regular guy front. After all, it isn't just your regular guyness at stake here; it's theirs as well. So you can push it a bit. You can push it some. In some cases you can push it a whole hell of a lot as Bush and the Republicans have done.

But then all of a sudden something happens. Call it... a loss of faith in your regular guyness. And when that happens, it is irretrievably over. You do not get a second chance at regular guyness.

Now all of this drives a lot of people completely out of their minds. I know it certainly drives me crazy. A lot of us have been trying for years to convince our fellow Americans that Bush and his cronies are not regular guys. They are idiots. They are glib. They are incompetent.

But... the American people were not having any of it. Bush was a regular guy. Game over.

Look... I don't know what to tell you. I don't know that there's anything that can be done about it. And get this... despite the horrors that come with such an approach... maybe there's nothing that should be done about it. I know, I know... thousands and thousands of people have been killed or maimed because "Bush is a regular guy". Jesus God, I wish that wasn't the case. I wish it didn't have to be the case. But it is, nevertheless, the case.

I think we should always struggle against this tendency of the American people to believe in their demonstrably flawed judgment about the regular guyness of American presidents. I don't think we will ever have much success in that struggle, but we have to engage in it nevertheless.

Still... at least the flip side of it is this:

Once the opinion of the American people shifts regarding your regular guyness, you have lost your regular guyness forever. That's the healthy side of the hard-headedness, that same hard-headedness that caused the problem in the first place.

You might think this next part is silly, but that's all right. I already said you didn't have to believe any of this.

But the thing is, I believe it's precisely this "once you are dead to me, you are dead to me forever" element in all of this that will keep this country from becoming the dictatorship many people see it becoming in the future. I don't think this is American exceptionalism or anything. I just think that because we have the power to turn our governments out of power, which we do, we will do it if we decide the President and in this case his congress are not the regular guys we thought they were.

See, because your non-regular-guyness will always out, if you are the President. If you fuck up as much as Bush has fucked up... well, fucking up that badly is not actually in the generally accepted definition of what it means to be a regular guy. Regular guys are not this stupid. Regular guys are not this arrogant. Regular guys are stubborn, but not to the point of killing this many people, screwing the pooch this deeply, all the time saying that things are going to be okay. We all now know things are not going to be okay.

Correction: all of us regular guys know that. Bush does not know that. Bush is no longer a regular guy. And neither is the Republican congress.

I stand in awe of this process. It is a force of nature. Once the hillside starts to slip, there isn't a man-made force on Earth that can stop it.

I was thinking earlier... You know how weather scientists are getting better at warning people to get the hell out of the way of an approaching storm, thus saving thousands of lives? And you know how vulcanologists are getting better at warning people to get the hell away from a volcano that's getting ready to blow, thus saving thousands of lives? We listen to these people because their science is proven. It works. To not listen to them would be foolish. They are, in short, regular guys. Scientific regular guys, to be sure, but regular guys nevertheless.

Don't you wish to hell the political scientists were that good? Don't you wish we could grant them legitimate regular guy status? Don't you wish they were capable of issuing Voter Evacuation Alerts so the next time somebody like Bush comes along everybody would head for the hills?

Well, their science isn't nearly that good yet and, of course, we can probably say it never will be. They aren't just studying piffle like planetary weather systems and geologic forces. They are studying people; in this case, the American people. They might as well be interrogating the spleens of ravens.

September 30, 2006

"Do I make you a little horny?"

Uh, sorry, no.

The question, of course, comes from an IM addressed to some teen-aged boy by the recently unemployed Representative Mark Foley, Republican of Florida. The answer is (I'm guessing here) what the boy was thinking.

It used to be, in the Olde Days, that a lot of gay men could tell you a similar story of their first sexual experience with another male. I never made a study of the thing, but my impression is that in the Olde Days a great many if not most gay guys had their first teenaged sexual experience with an older man. A teacher, the director of the local community theater, a neighbor, whatever. After all, this was back before you could come out at your school, back before you could find any support -- emotional, psychological, sexual -- with any guys your own age. In short, you wanted some but you didn't know how to get any, and so when an older guy came along who seemed interested... well, he wasn't exactly what you had in mind, not exactly your dreamboat, but still... at least maybe it could turn into a regular thing...

Nowadays, of course, gay kids have various social networking sites they can turn to in order to find that emotional, psychological, sexual support of others of their kind. Not to mention support groups in their schools.

In short, I believe the teen-aged boy's erstwhile need for The Older Man as agent of their first gay sexual experience is something that has been and will be further fading into the past.

Look, the world is a big place and it is full of all sorts of people and therefore full of all sorts of relationships. I'm willing to acknowledge the possibility that there are some relationships out there between 52 year old men and 16 year old boys that might be just exactly what the two of them want -- emotionally, psychologically, and sexually. My guess, however, is that this sort of thing is much rarer than most of those older guys want to believe. My guess is that in the great majority of these relationships, something else is going on besides True and Eternal Love, at least in the opinion of the boy.

But in my old-fashioned opinion... teenaged romance ought to be, by nature, reserved for teenagers and adult romance ought to be, by nature, reserved for adults. Mentoring between adults and teens, that's great. That's an excellent thing. It should be encouraged. But let the boys be in love with the boys, and the men with the men.

I think it's great that these days gay teens can find each other and maybe even, you know, arrange to go to a movie together, go have a Starbucks afterward, walk each other home, maybe have a tentative smooch just outside the reach of the yellow bug light on the parental porch.

Of course, it is precisely that sort of thing that drives religious conservatives out of their minds. Gay teenagers dating??!! Send them to Ex-Homo Camp!!

But dating is healthy. Dating teaches you about your own strengths. You and your high-school sweetheart support each other. You gain confidence in yourself as a person who can be loved by another. This makes you stronger, less vulnerable. All of this makes you safer from online pervs like Representative Foley. Why go there when you can go to a movie with your boyfriend?

So the irony is that it isn't legislation by guys like Foley that is going to protect gay teens from online pervs like Foley...

Foley, as chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus, had introduced legislation in July to protect children from exploitation by adults over the Internet. He also sponsored other legislation designed to protect minors from abuse and neglect. (ABC News)

In fact, what's going to genuinely protect gay teenagers is gay teenagers coming out, and then going out.

And to the hapless Representative Foley, let us just say this:

Assuming you avoid felony charges resulting from a law that you, yourself, may have voted for or maybe even sponsored... just go ahead and come out of the closet. Get dressed up, put on a nice blue blazer (buy one if you don't own one for no gentleman is ever without a blue blazer), go to a nice gentlemen's bar, chat up a few of the professionals there, a nice lawyer or a dentist maybe, find something in common with one or two. Maybe the intricacies of refinancing your condos? What about the relative merits of a BMW versus a Mercedes? Who knows? Maybe you could end up marrying a handsome doctor? (In Massachusetts, of course.)

It's true we live in a culture that fetishizes Fresh Young Things -- and by the numbers this is more of a heterosexual kink than a homosexual one -- but that cultural pressure is no excuse for not eventually growing up.

So look at it this way, Representative Foley. Again, assuming you don't go to jail and have your face and name permanently pasted up on the Web, this whole thing might finally help you become a grown up. That's a good thing.

But sorry, no, since you asked you do not, in fact, make us horny. Not even a little bit. Not even older guys like me.

I mean, in the first place, if you have to ask... you are just way too lame.

September 29, 2006

Rein It In A Bit

Everybody, just ratchet it back some. I'm not saying you aren't justified in your upset, I'm just saying ratchet it back. You are freaking out those we are going to need in November.

Maybe someday we will all be able to vote for the exact person we want, but that day isn't going to be this November. What's going to be this November is taking back one or both houses of Congress. What's going to be this November, if we don't chase off all the people who wince at and then run away from ear-piercing shrieks, is the return of oversight.

People don't have to like the Democrat running in their district or state, they just have to believe that by simple virtue of the two-party system, a Democratic representative or senator will vote to put some teeth back into the oversight process.

So just dial it back and concentrate on doing what you have to do for November. You've got all the argument you need (oversight, current lack thereof) so just settle down and make it.

New York State of No Mind

Hmm. It's funny what you find out once you learn a little Spanish.

As I've mentioned before, I read for the purposes of improving my Spanish comprehension a local daily called El Diario. Yesterday I came across an article regarding a news item I saw in none of the English language papers (though I could have missed an article, I suppose).

"Minutemen acusa de racismo a La Raza"

Nueva York — Integrantes de la organización Immigration Control and Enforcement (NYICE) y del grupo Minutemen protestaron ayer frente a las oficinas del Consejo Nacional de La Raza (NCRL), la cual acusaron de apoyar a los indocumentados a través de su página electrónica y de discriminar a otros grupos minoritarios.

Durante una diminuta manifestanción en Manhattan, los manifestantes acusaron a La Raza de apoyar a los indocumentados a través de su página en Internet. “Ellos están asesorando a los indocumentados para que evadan a las autoridades”, decía uno de los activistas....

De acuerdo a los manifestantes, NCLR es una organización racista, pues se concentra en apoyar únicamente a los hispanos. “Este es un país multicultural. Ellos deberían apoyar a todas las razas”....

In short and in English, we apparently now have a local branch of the Minutemen organization here in New York City, and it is deploying its fairly pitiful resources to picket the offices of the National Council of La Raza, "the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States", accusing that organization of racism inasmuch as it concentrates solely on civil rights advocacy for Hispanics.

Ah. This must be the famous Gringo Logic and my learning Spanish has deprived me of the gift.

September 28, 2006

Return of Eyes on the Prize

If you didn't see the PBS series Eyes on the Prize when it was aired 19 years ago (and not seen since), allow me to testify.

It was the best 14 consecutive hours of American television ever broadcast.


And that is why it fills my heart with joy to tell you that the first two hours of this history of the American civil rights movement (1954-1985) is going to be rebroadcast starting this coming Monday, October 2, 2006, as part of the PBS series American Experience, subsequent episodes to be shown on following Mondays until the series has aired in its entirety. (Check your local listings.)

The reason this thing is excellent television isn't because it's about one of the most important eras in American history. And it's not because it's about Such A Noble Cause.

The reason this thing is compelling television is because it consists, almost exclusively, of regular people telling their personal stories (intercut with news footage from the time).

These are the stories of regular people who had finally had enough. These are the stories of people who faced things most of us will never have to face, all for the simple crime of standing up for themselves and for others of their kind when the powerful were telling them to sit down.

This is the personal testimony of people who lived through a time in America when it could cost you your life to stand firm and demand that your country do the right thing.

You will laugh. You will cry. You will shrink with fear. Your heart will swell with pride and inspiration. You will tremble in awe at the power of the personal testimony of these people.

I'm telling you. Don't miss this. Tivo or tape it if you have to. Pass the word. I'm not kidding: This is the best American television ever.