Wednesday, June 30, 2004

John Kerry vs. Non-Kerry

This column will be in the 7-and-7 issue of The Vermilion:

An interesting anecdote in a book about the Beatles (named, appropriately enough, “The Beatle Book”) tells about one of Paul McCartney’s childhood quirks. A left-hander, McCartney lived in a culture and age where being left-handed was some kind of stigma (this was before they were discovered to be far-superior people, of course). For the most part, McCartney adapted well enough, except when it came time for him to learn to ride a bicycle. See, young Paul insisted on pedaling backward.

Even in the face of numerous wipeouts and the frustrating lack of locomotion, McCartney was not deterred from his unique method of cycling. In fact, he went so far as to declare that everyone else was doing it wrong. Finally his father asked him why, if everyone else was pedaling wrong, they were staying on their bikes while he kept falling on his head. Paul got the message and changed his ways.

What compels a person to insist that what they are doing is correct even as common sense and physics prove them wrong? Is there never even a thought in the back of their minds that maybe they should question the wisdom of their actions? Fortunately for the Bush-Cheney campaign, the answer to that second question seems to be, “Yes, there is a thought!”

How will the Bush administration’s apparent admission of its errors be visible? Can we expect the beginning of the end of operations in Iraq? Will we see the end of a lopsided tax code? Will all Americans be guaranteed decent health care? Are big corporations finally going to pay a fraction of the taxes they should have been paying all these years?

Just joking! Actually, none of that has or will happen. So why do I think that Team Bush has seen the error of its ways? The answer is in the nature of the Republicans’ new campaign materials. Because Bush’s term has been such a disaster, even they can’t sell themselves anymore.

Instead of focusing on the pertinent issues and on its man, the Bush “re”-election campaign has turned into “anybody but Kerry.” Look at “The Kerry Gas-Tax Calculator...The Kerry Travel Tracker...Kerry on the Patriot Act...Kerry: the Raw Deal...Kerry: Wacky...” I guess those third-party advocates were right after all; there really isn’t much difference between these two. Both are obsessed with the same candidate!

In debating numerous conservatives and libertarians over the past several months, I notice that one point comes up with regularity: that John Kerry is a man without a concrete message. Bush, they say, stands tall and firm on his principles. But they forget that there’s a line between being adamant in your views and just being damn hardheaded. Kerry showed that he is able to change his mind about Iraq in the face of revelations that the information was misleading in early 2003. For that he is being called a flip-flopper.

But that’s beside the point. The Bush apologists spend their debate energy harping on liberals liking Kerry only because they hate Bush. Because of the ongoing rift between liberals and moderate Democrats, this little anti-Kerry negativity works for conservatives in debates. The Bush campaign has caught onto this tactic and is now hoping that voters will pick Bush simply because, well, he’s not Kerry.

Like with everything else, Bush is steering the never-civil-to-start-with realm of campaigning (and, in turn, the national discourse) in a poisonous direction. Until we, as a nation, can garner the courage to stand up to Bush and say, “You’re doing it all wrong,” then Bush will continue to pedal us—backward—right into the ground.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Bush: hot or not?

Dammit! Lost my golf ball!  Posted by Hello

I have a year-end Lafayette High school newspaper from 1993 that has a story on the top 10 local events of 1992-93. One of these events was then-president George Bush visiting archrival Acadiana High School that October, complete with picture. Looking at the picture of the haggard Bush, with his hair disheveled and his face droopy, it's easy to see the defeat that he knew was imminent.

This picture is fresh from Bush's troubled NATO meeting this weekend. Judging by his facial expression, I'd say that NATO rejected his plan to launch a space-based incinerator to nuke all non-Americans. Bush sure looks like his daddy did in October 1992, except about 100 times worse. Pretty soon, flames will be shooting right out of his horns. Historically, presidents have aged considerably during their terms in office. If Bush Deuce is this stressed now, I'd hate to see how much worse he gets if we actually elect him president.

How desperational

This cover just reeks of journalistic integrity!  Posted by Hello

Check out this AP dispatch on the anti-"Fahrenheit 9/11" criticism. The pattern that seems to be emerging is the same one that is currently pervading the presidential campaign: the right, faced with a lot of bad situations of its own and lacking answers, is turning its energy to discrediting the left. Specifically, conservatives are endlessly fixated on John Kerry, Michael Moore, et al. and trying to discredit them in ways that a middle-school bully would find lame (see cover, above). Whereas Al Franken did the same thing with Rush Limbaugh in 1995-96, his book was a meticulously researched volume with a lot of serious and verified information. Based on the above article, I don't foresee the likelihood of the same coming from the other side. (Excerpts from the AP article are in italics.)

On Tuesday, David T. Hardy and Jason Clarke will publish "Michael Moore Is a Big Fat Stupid White Man," in which the authors accuse Moore of "serial mendacity." The book is published by Regan Books, which also printed Moore's "Stupid White Men." Hardy and Clarke take issue with such matters as the timeline of economic events Moore presents surrounding General Motors plant closings in his home turf of Flint, Mich., in "Roger & Me"; the parallels Moore draws between the Ku Klux Klan and the National Rifle Association in "Bowling for Columbine"; and Moore's refutation in his book "Dude, Where's My Country?" of potential ties between Iraq and Osama bin Laden.

"Taking issue" with what Moore says is not the same thing as charging that he is a liar. They could simply object because they disagree. Many conservative books and videos (such as the obviously fake "Clinton Chronicles" from Pat Robertson) employ this rhetorical method to wink-wink-nudge-nudge readers into accepting things that are false. Meanwhile, they offer little of substance to prove that what Moore says is, in fact, false.

"He creates a false impression without ever uttering a word that is untrue," said Hardy, a former U.S. Interior Department attorney who runs the Web site "Moore is a master of that."

As a former U.S. Interior Department attorney, Hardy would certainly know about splicing bits and pieces of half-facts together to make a case. As is noted at the end of this article, "Fahrenheit 9/11" underwent some of the most rigorous fact-checking audits undertaken this side of Watergate. Moore has a lot to lose by taking his work to such a massive level without making his case airtight.

Filmmaker Michael Wilson hopes to have his documentary "Michael Moore Hates America" in theaters late this summer as a rebuttal to "Fahrenheit 9/11." Wilson said he admired "Roger & Me" but found "Bowling for Columbine" troublesome.

Wilson's documentary, of course, will expertly rebut each and every untrue claim that Moore has allegedly made. With a title like "Michael Moore Hates America," how could it be anything else but a scholarly debate?

Moore's handling of a 6-year-old girl shot to death by a classmate in Flint particularly bothered Wilson. "Bowling for Columbine" implies welfare reform was to blame, detailing how the shooter's mother had to work two jobs and take a bus to another town to work, so she could not properly tend to her children, Wilson said. The mother had left her son at his uncle's home, which prosecutors described as a flophouse where occupants traded guns and drugs. The boy found the gun there and took it to school. "All this stuff added up to her being a lousy mother. It had nothing to do with her having to work two jobs," Wilson said. "My mom had to work two jobs to make our lives better and guess what? I didn't shoot anybody. It felt like a slap in the face to all these people out there trying to make their lives better and live out the American dream."

What a smug prick! He missed Moore's point altogether. Moore was not implying that the boy shot and killed the girl because his mother worked two jobs; the segment in "Bowling for Columbine" shows that, because the mother had to work the two jobs, both of which required hours of commute, she had no choice but to leave her son in her uncle's house. Had she been able to work for anything more than welfare wages, and not had to spend so many hours in transit twice a day, maybe she could have stopped her naturally curious boy from making such a tragic mistake. But Wilson does use an interesting right-wing tactic: he resorts to using the old "slap-in-the-face-of-the-American-Dream" that's so popular among the haves of society. Besides...since when has welfare-to-work become the American dream?

Wilson, Hardy and Clarke, who say they are moderates with no political agenda against left-winger Moore, take a cue from Moore's approach, aiming to package their criticism in satiric humor.

In order for satiric humor to work, it must contain at least some kernel of truth. Clearly, the AP reporter was not impressed, having offered little example of this brilliant wit beyond an examination of the cover (likening it to the far-superior work of Terry Gilliam).

Moore declined an interview for this article, although he's previously said the film is "an op-ed piece," and not a work of journalism...

Moore only says this because he knows he will be crucified if he refers to any of his work as "journalism." His many critics will seize upon the first insignificant rift in anything he says and will try to discredit him forever. But, speaking from experience as both a journalist and an op-ed writer, I assert that Moore has done far more fact-checking and research than do most so-called "legit" reporters.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Back from what?

I guess we gave up on Jerusalem, then?  Posted by Hello

Ever notice how the groups who always claim to "want to take America back" are never the ones who had it in the first place?

Thursday, June 24, 2004

The (prayer) finger!

I have a good friend who likes to forward prayers in her e-mail. She and I hang out a lot and have a lot of laughs, even if we are on nearly opposite ends of the whole religion thing. This excerpt is from her latest release; it's a prayer about what your five fingers remind you of and somesuch (insert your own joke here). I'm not a big prayer man, but I found this one compelling. The Five-Finger Prayer starts with the thumb and index finger, then goes to the middle finger:

3) The next finger is the tallest finger. It reminds us of our leaders. Pray for the president, leaders in business and industry, and administrators...These people shape our nation and guide public opinion...

Yes, whenever I see George W. Bush or any of his crew, my middle finger definitely comes into the equation. It's such an automatic reflex that the revival crowd would surely be impressed.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

All the news not fit to print

This entry and the one underneath it are two columns that I never published. They are rough drafts, often written in a single go. From time to time, I will write something long and at least halfway decent, but ultimately decide not to use it. This can happen for several reasons: the time might not be right or has passed, I can't finish it for whatever reason, I'll save bits and pieces for later columns, etc. My computer is packed with such loose ends, many of which have portions that will eventually see the light of day. I picked these two to share with my reader (not plural!) for two reasons: 1) they offer light into a writer's process and 2) they're as spent as they're going to be. This one is a distant forerunner to the 9/10/03 column "How to date like a Democrat." I wrote this draft between 8/30/03 and 9/1/03. Note the blunt language and sexual innuendo, two things that would have been instantly blanked from the Vermilion (motto: "The only family college newspaper in the United States"):

If you still harbor any doubt about how far we still have to go, think back to the 2000 “election.” If you had asked anyone then why they voted for Gore or Nader, they would say things like “I like his economic policies” or “The environment is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.” Perhaps they would refer to their chosen candidate as “the best candidate for protecting not just my rights, but the rights of all.”

Ask a Bush voter the same question and you’ll hear, “Bush is for beefing up the military, and I’m in the military.” Or, “I play the stock market and he’ll be good for my stocks.” Or even, “No reason except that Al Gore is such an asshole.” But most Bush supporters stick to the officially approved platitudes such as “he’ll make the economy grow” and “he’ll make America stand tall again.”

Standing tall. What is that shit all about? You hear it all the time from conservatives. “We need to stand tall. Candidate Blapadap will make America stand tall once again. Enough with this sitting down!” But what does it mean for a country to “stand tall?” The answer you might get from the standers will always be something along the lines of “Someone who gets things done.”

In my last year of high school, our school district got a new superintendent. He was an old-school Nazi straight from the Texas School of Stereotypes. One of my new classmates had fled from his school district only to find him right at her new school, a whole state away. The first thing he did was cut off funds for overseas abortion providers—whoops, wrong Nazi. Actually, he instituted rules about boys’ hair length that were so draconian that you’d get disciplined if a strand of hair fell out of your head and onto your shoulder.

TEACHER: Bobby, your hair is touching your shoulders. I’m going to have to write you up.
BOBBY: Sorry. Smoking weed makes my hair fall out.

For girls, skirts couldn’t be six inches above the knee in a kneeling position. Why high school girls should ever be in a kneeling position in front of a school administrator is beyond me:

MALE TEACHER: Amanda, your skirt looks kind of short on you. On your knees! (GRABS ODDLY STICKY TAPE MEASURE) Hmm…five inches. That’s okay. I had a feeling it was long enough, just wanted to double check, you know? Don’t want chaos in this school. Anything over six inches can be hard to handle, if you know what I mean. (WINKS AT AMANDA, WHO BOLTS INTO THE HALLWAY)

And this was public school! I’d hate to know how the Catholic schools handled this.

In terms of real educational measures, however, the superintendent didn’t really do all that much. Still, he was praised because he was a man who “got things done.” Didn’t matter which things. I get things done in the bathroom. He did too, I’m sure. Maybe that’s what they meant.

A parable for modern warfare

This wasn't so much a column as it was a skit; then again, I try to be unpredictable in print, so this may very well have been a column. It was written on 5/16/03, soon after Bush Deuce stuffed a sock in his fake flight suit and declared "mission accomplished" on an aircraft carrier near San Diego. Natch, it's all about the Iraq War. It may very well be the most naked satire ever written; but since when is nudity bad?

What if the War on Iraq was a typical gas-station holdup?

(Setting: A FUEL-N-FUN franchise, somewhere in America. A ROBBER storms in and guns down all but two of the store’s customers. The CLERK is an Arab-American male.)

ROBBER: All right, stick ’em up!

CLERK: Is this a robbery?

ROBBER: No, it’s a liberation.

CLERK: What?

ROBBER: A liberation! You know, I’m a liberator.

CLERK: And just what the hell are you liberating?

ROBBER: I’m liberating all of the food and beverages that have been held hostage here under your capitalistic tyranny! (Pause.) Now empty the register!

CLERK: You’re liberating the money too now?

ROBBER: Just do it! (CLERK swiftly empties money into bag and hands it to robber.) Now fill me up on pump one, please.

CLERK: You got it, buddy. (Pushes buttons on master pump board.) Thank you, and have a nice night.

ROBBER: You too. Appreciate it. (Runs out to car and begins pumping gas. CLERK stands stunned for a moment. ROBBER reenters store.) I almost forgot. One pack of Marlboro menthols, please. (CLERK hands over a carton of cigarettes. ROBBER heads toward door.)

CLERK: Hey, wait a minute…

ROBBER: (Turns head.) What?

CLERK: Didn’t you say you were here to liberate the merchandise?

ROBBER: Yeah, that’s what I’m here for.

CLERK: Well, then, how come you didn’t take any of that stuff? (Long silent pause. Then, in an accusatory voice:) It’s all about the gas, isn’t it?

ROBBER: No, the gas is just gravy. I’m really here because I care about the people who have to pay to get their food from you!

CLERK: Is that why you shot them all dead?

ROBBER: For their own good! But hey, you saw that one guy hug me and kiss me on the cheek. He’s happy that I have expelled you from the store!

CLERK: He only thanked you because you have a gun and you let him loot the store, dumbass!

ROBBER: Well, I’d love to stay and chat, but this store is sufficiently liberated. This store is now free to select a new clerk in a fully democratic job-application process.


ROBBER: Now it’s time to concentrate on Stop-N-Rob across the street. They need some serious upheaval. I mean, did you see the prices in that joint? Not only that, but they probably harbor the people that fled from here when I barreled in! Have a nice day.

CLERK: Well, hold on…I mean, you haven’t actually caught me. You just pushed me away from the register. Shouldn’t you nab me before you go across the street?

ROBBER: Nah! I got my gas, didn’t I? You’re irrelevant now.

CLERK: Gotcha. I’ll go call the police.

ROBBER: I already did.

CLERK: What?

ROBBER: I asked them for their help in this robbery to begin with, figuring they’d help me since they always have whenever I needed them. But when I want to commit one simple crime, they have the nerve to tell me no? Hah! Well, who’s the loser now? Ha ha ha! When you do see the police, tell them that sometimes you gotta act alone.

(Saddam Hussein portrayed the clerk. George W. Bush portrayed the robber. That Iraqi guy who shows up in every kissing-the-troops picture played one of the two store survivors. The United Nations performed as the police.)

Monday, June 14, 2004

Yay! It's Flag Day!

All hail the red, white and blue!
And brown, orange, purple, teal...  Posted by Hello

In their endless quest to return America to the days of fictitious yore, the Religious Right has done everything short of replacing Old Glory. Well, at least until now. This new flag received national attention when it was the focus of a segment on The 700 Club, a national TV program that is always on the forefront of today's trends.

"Our LORD's flag" was designed by Marcia Thompson Eldreth, who also calls her creation "The United States National Christian Flag 2003." This modern-day Betsy Ross wannabe is nothing if not an artist of the people; conscious of the fact that Joe Communion-Wafer might not be able to afford the flag, Eldreth has designed a cheaper one for us common folk. How nice of her! (Click link, then go to "description," cheapie.)

There's even a special pledge that our public-school kids can say every morning before learning about the Constitution in social-studies class. Click the link and read it, but only if you have an iron stomach, pilgrim.

As long as we're going to change the American flag, then we're going to need some affectionate nicknames. Here are some possible options:

"Old Testament Glory"
"The Stars and Stigmata"
"The Union Jesus"
"Passion of the Eagle"
"The Cruciflag"
"The North-Star-Spangled Banner"

Before I'm stoned to death, I just want to say that this is a free country; if you want to fly this flag, go for it. Part of what makes America great is that we can accommodate all theological leanings. But that also means that we aren't going to adopt a new national flag anytime soon. And if we do decide to adopt a theological banner, then I'll adopt a new flag as well--one with a maple leaf.

Ease your pain at And for the love of God, please don't tell them I sent you!

Another UL gripe

From a blurb in the June 9 Times of Acadiana:

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette launched its "Support Ragin' Cajuns" campaign with a bang last week...Hebert, athletic coordinator for UL, will be in charge of the campaign, which is accepting donations, though the signs are free.

"ALL MONIES DONATED WILL GO TO MAKING MORE SIGNS," Hebert says. "We believe that if the university thrives, the community will benefit."

Okay, so let me get this straight: we're launching a huge campaign to print signs to give away, and we're using the donations we do get to make more signs? How exactly is that supposed to raise money for us?

Oh, right. "It's good for business." My bad.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Bush's favorite John

Who's negative here? Posted by Hello

You have to love

The Kerry Gas-Tax Calculator...The John Kerry Travel Tracker...John Kerry on the Patriot Act...John Kerry: Wacky...John Kerry: the Raw Deal...Kerry Media Center...Kerry this, Kerry that...and that's just the home page!

And they say that Kerry is the one with no message of his own?

Friday, June 11, 2004

Jesus for President

"I'm Jesus, and I approved this message" Posted by Hello

The rise of the religious right has brought with it a disturbing notion: that the President of the United States, in addition to being the political and economic leader of the free world, must also be morally infallible. The roots of this belief are not entirely unmerited; any good president should have some moral compass that prevents them, for example, from acting out fantasies of a warmongering dictatorship. But in the eyes of the fanatics, presidents must also have an impossibly perfect personal record. In other words, they must be Jesus.

The Jesus in question is not the historical one revered by Christians, Muslims and Jews alike as a paragon of love, peace and tolerance. I’d vote for that man in a heartbeat. Instead, they refer to the divine messiah Jesus Christ, the omnipresent son of God, who can create and destroy universes with a wave of his hand. Their version of Jesus reads Jack Chick pamphlets and nods with ecstatic agreement. He is the artist of Armageddon who will wipe out Israel and those filthy pagans at midnight next Friday. Yes, the Jesus they believe in holds no bones about destroying the entire human race in the name of love.

Jesus for president! Wouldn’t he be such a perfect fit for this “Christian” country?

Not according to our laws! Isn’t it amazing how, theo-smackers’ arguments to the contrary, Jesus could not be the president under our Constitutional law? For one thing, the Constitution mandates that a President must be at least 35 years old. Legend has it that Jesus was 33 when he got double-crossed. Also, the president must be an American-born citizen and have lived on U.S. soil for a minimum of 14 years. Where was Jesus from, Bethlehem? Galilee? Nazareth? Steppenwolf? The Promised Land was somewhere east of America. It certainly was not in, say, Utah.

But let’s assume we did the Christian thing and gave Jesus a divine break from Constitutional law to allow him to run for president. Would he? Given his advocacy of humility, I doubt it. Assuming he did, however, his platform—peace on earth, good will toward men, love thy neighbor, don’t do bad things—would NEVER fly with the conservative theocrats. They’d just accuse him of being a long-haired, hippie peacenik Jew who bucked the godly ideals of the United States of America. Imagine the top story on The 700 Club: “Jesus: is he the anti-Christ?” Not even Jesus would be perfect enough for his most fervent followers to be President of the United States. No wonder they’ve settled for such guys as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Gary Bauer.

Again, I wouldn’t mind seeing Jesus as president. The religious right wants moral absolutes and Jesus is the perfect person to give it to them. Only, I think, Jesus would be (bad pun alert) a hell of a lot more forgiving than his self-proclaimed lobbying group. His tolerance for religions would be much closer to the ideals espoused by the Bill of Rights than the hellfire and damnation often preached in his name. And, as he notes in Matthew 22:21, he clearly supports the separation of church and state. Jesus is my kind of leader for sure!

On the other hand, I wonder if he could even grasp the idea of democracy, a concept completely absent from the Bible. Religion, in general, tends to favor an autocratic deity who rules with an iron fist over a terrified and appeasing populace. Then again, our current leadership has no grasp of democracy either, so why not give him a try? Jesus for President!

America's lust affair with Reagan

All right now...I know that one of the most popular presidents in American history has died. And that we've had more than 10 years to prepare for this moment. But even I'm surprised at the unabashed worshiping of Ronald Reagan that's all over the media.

And as it often does, The Daily Advertiser is leading the pack with its tackiness. Check out the opinion section of today's issue:

"Reagan was responsible for setting Louisiana on a conservative path" --And of course they are treating this like it's some kind of accomplishment! They trace the late 20th-century Republican torch as being handed off from Barry Goldwater to Reagan, conveniently leaving out a certain not-a-crook in between.

The always-frightening Kathleen Parker asserts in her column that "Ronald Reagan gave nation a spirit of optimism, courage"...not to mention a quadrupled deficit, a decimated environment, feed-the-rich economics and too many other things that can't be listed here without employing mind-altering drugs.

Rounding off this lovefest are two cartoons--one with a weeping, suit-clad elephant holding his hat to his heart with a button announcing Reagan's passing. The other one illustrates a cowboy-hat-clad Reagan wearing a pin that says, "Heaven is now Reagan country." Yikes. I find it funny that so many religious people are going ga-ga over the man as if he were Jesus incarnate when Reagan himself used religion and faith mainly as political tools. Oh well, none of that matters anymore. The man is dead. No one can ever criticize Reagan ever again.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The all-new Vermilion

June 9 marks the first issue of the UL Lafayette Vermilion for the Summer semester 2004. The issue is the first of four that will come out this semester, being that it comes out every other Wednesday rather than weekly as it does during the year.

The paper is currently under new management, and the newly coronated dudes in charge are open to suggestions. Here are mine. Throughout the new issue, witty space fillers acknowledge the ongoing layout shifts. One I especially like says, "Please be patient while we edit our staff. Thanks, Vermilion." Which sounds eerily ominous of a series of layoffs, but I know that the excellent, highly competent and godlike editors of the paper would not do such a horrible thing to its most faithful sycophants, er, writers. Anyway, on with The List:


1) The cover-- Kind of a compromise between the old newspaper layout and a tabloid. Once they get the flag fixed--way too much empty space, guys--and possibly a lettering that does the name justice, the cover will look tight.

2) The cover story-- Extremely sad though it is that the cover story had to be about a mother's grief over a recently murdered student, it is good to see the Verm tackle something weighty. To my knowledge, this is the first pilot issue of a semester in years that didn't use the front page to honor the previous semester's outstanding graduate. The shift toward the controversial can only improve the content (not that they forgot the outstanding graduate--that's on page three). This content seems stronger throughout the paper.

3) The masthead-- I have always strongly opposed the move by the Verm several years ago to eliminate staff writers' names from the masthead. When I started at the Vermilion back in 1998 (when gas was cheap and we walked to school in the snow), the masthead had the names of literally every person involved. This included the editors, staff writers, photographers, cartoonists, circulation people and business associates. Before I got to UL, I wanted to be on the Verm just to join that community of names. It gave me pride to belong to it. Then, for some bizarre reason, they just quit doing that and put only the editors' names in. This was the beginning of the editor-centric policy that has often caused friction. But I'm happy to say that this is now being reversed, bit by bit. Good. I like knowing who writes for the paper.

4) More room for comics-- Does justice to the intricate strips.


1) I think that everyone involved with the paper deserves to be in the masthead. Yes, this is possible, and in much smaller space than is now being allotted for it. At least it would make us columnists and cartoonists feel less like lepers. As far as I can tell, those are the only two groups not listed. The outgoing editor-in-chief made us feel bad enough when she left us (and only us) out of her farewell letter.

2) The layout itself looks like it's going through growing pains. Headings look disjointed and are sometimes illegible. I don't think anyone's to blame for this; it appears to me that the printing plant's computer was missing the font for bylines and headings (which was a common occurrence when I ran my high school paper). Work on that and you're golden. Hopefully you'll choose a thicker font too.

3) One of the guys' names in "Sounding Off!" is what is known in journalistic terms as "not there." That section, additionally, looks like it was cut and pasted. Nas-tee.

4) We aren't world famous yet.

Overall, I think the Vermilion is moving in the direction in which it needs to move. I commend the new brass for its willingness to take a chance, as well as for putting up with my exceptionally picky ass. Thanks peeps! Can't wait for June 23!

Word Up!

Since the advent of the Internet, users have faced a lingering problem: "Sure, this site is great and all. But wouldn't it be better through the eyes of Snoop Dogg?"

Well, worry no more! Take ya ass to and rezead that bitch like ya suppose ta!

Highlights from Snoop's reading of this sizite: "Big Baby Bush" and "Fox Informative Shiznit." Hours of fun fa you and tha shortiez!

Monday, June 07, 2004

The new face of conservatism

"Alex P. Keaton is my hero!"Posted by Hello

Meet Nick Bouterie. He was the Vermilion's conservative columnist from April to November 2003 and has been a friend of mine for years. He's just as passionate about politics as I am, except that he's completely wrong about everything. The Conservative Cajun gives an honest, unabashed, no-holds-barred view of conservatism. That's the last thing it needs.

Join the fun at

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Ronald Reagan 1911-2004

Ronald Reagan Posted by Hello

Ronald "Dutch" Reagan, the 40th President of the United States (1981-89), died Saturday from complications of Alzheimer's-related pneumonia. Reagan, both the oldest president and the longest-living ex-prez in U.S. history, was 93. Or as Reagan himself would have said, "The 54th anniversary of my 39th birthday."

Reagan's death shows the true spirit of American politics; leaders from all sides are praising Reagan for his life as a visionary and as a positive role model. In a way, those praises are true; even I found Reagan to be genuinely hip and hilarious in his lighter moments.

For all his wit and charm, however, Reagan was a terrible president. Before Bush Deuce took the all-time title, Reagan set the standard for cluelessness in the Oval Office. The same positive qualities that he had refined as an actor (and had endeared him to so many average Americans) were the perfect front for a right-wing, feed-the-rich administration controlled by people who Reagan unfortunately trusted in that cheerful way of his. Poor people, the working class, the middle class, minorities, women and even most Republicans suffered considerably under his economic policies. Most of the time with a smile on their faces. Reagan gave us all something to take pride in, even if it was all bullshit. We wanted to BELIEVE. Many of us still do.

For all of our political differences, Reagan was a human being. Anyone dying is a tragedy, no matter who they are. And I will honor the dead just like I know the conservatives will when Bill Clinton dies. Reagan was a tough man who cheated death many, many times. He was also very open-minded; from his flirtation with the American Communist Party in the 1930s and his days as a liberal movie star to his McCarthyism and his eventual total shift to the right, Reagan never left a political stone unturned.

For a thorough account of the Ronald Reagan presidency and the 1980s, check out "The Clothes Have No Emperor" by Paul Slansky. It's a day-by-day account of the decade that brought us, well, the eighties.

Rest in Peace, Gipper. At least you weren't Nixon.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Proper dress and ID required

My sister recently finished eighth grade. This is a yearbook picture of her school's 4-H Club. My sister's not in the club (and, fittingly, not in the picture). Still, this picture struck me for the students' appearances. Notice that every single one of them dutifully wears their uniform and ID as if they were in the deepest levels of NORAD. Guess there's much more going on at those livestock shows than I thought...

test shot 2 Posted by Hello

I don't understand the point of having to wear ID cards and school uniforms. Administrators say that it's to foster a sense of security and to ease anxiety over clothing choices. Come on, does anyone really doubt that these kids are bona fide students and are not, in fact, criminals? Would keeping non-students out (the purpose of wearing IDs) have affected a thing at Columbine High School in 1999? As for the idea that uniforms equalize fashion, I have four words: jackets, shoes and jewelry.

The sad irony of all of this is that none of it works; having to pick up my sister early one day, I got lost on campus and walked through what turned out to be the girls' gym locker room. Between classes. When all the students were milling about. With no duty teachers asking me, a grown man, if I needed help. The solution to school security, I think, is simpler and more cost-effective: the use of intuition among teachers and personnel.

I never had to wear a school uniform and I didn't have to wear my ID until 10th grade. But I turned out fine!

test shot 1 Posted by Hello

School officials should quit drooling over discipline and focus on the really important aspects of education, such as, uh, education.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

How pathmetic!

Nothing is lamer than a protest by the religious right. Except, perhaps, a guy who misspells "arithmetic" on a sign about education. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

I saw the future (and ran back!)

Next Wednesday's column, today...

Could anyone have imagined three years ago that we’d be where we are now? Well, just me and about 200 million other Americans. This year’s election cycle looks to be just as predictable. As crusty old Aunt Gertrude used to say to the Hardy Boys, “Mark my words!”

June 2004—Turncoat Democrats Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman form a group called Baffled Americans Concerned Kerry’s Status Takes Away Believability. BACKSTAB is a coalition of Democrats who not only oppose John Kerry, but also actively seek out his death so that the Republicans win for at least the next 16 years. They intend to do this, Lieberman says, “For the health of the Democratic Party.”

July 2004--Amid much infighting, the Democratic National Convention kicks off in Boston. Final toll: 26 dead, 164 injured. Kerry, the last one standing, accepts the nomination.

August 2004—A Kerry advocacy group begins selling t-shirts with the infamous Abu Ghraib prison snapshots with “BUSH 2004—FOUR MORE WARS!” superimposed over them. The shirts, intended for Kerry supporters, nevertheless sell out with Republicans who are even prouder to wear them.

September 2004—The Republican National Convention commences at Ground Zero in New York City. Toby Keith’s rousing opening performance of his new song, “Real Americans Ain’t Liberal or Brown,” brings down the house. John Ashcroft leads in the Pledge of Allegiance, repeating “Under God” 60 times before continuing with the rest of it.

Keynote speaker Karl Rove, standing at a lectern made from beams of the World Trade Center and with several New York firemen standing beside him, decries the Democrats for politicizing 9/11.

George W. Bush wins the nomination in a unanimous delegate vote. In his acceptance speech, he speaks of wanting “the world to come together in the ever-lasting crusade against terror,” though the words don’t necessarily come out in that order.

October 2004—The third and final presidential debate pits a knowledgeable and relaxed Kerry against a smirking, hysterical Bush. Though Bush’s comments consist almost entirely of creative combinations of the words “terror,” “nuclear,” “fear,” “tax” and “cut,” he is considered to have won the debate. Analysts say Bush’s down-home folksy demeanor was a refreshing contrast to Kerry’s “superior intelligence and snobbishly correct pronunciations.”

10/28/04—Simultaneous poll results from Gallup, Zogby, the Associated Press, the New York Times and ABC show Kerry ahead of Bush by between 85 and 90 percentage points.

10/29/04—Matt Drudge reports that sources close to the janitors at the Pentagon might have heard something about them saying that Donald Rumsfeld is hinting that rebels supposedly caught Osama bin Laden. But he isn’t sure if that’s what he heard.

Ten minutes later—Fox News crawl: “DRUDGE REPORTS BIN LADEN CAUGHT! PRAISE BUSH!”

10/30/04—October surprise! As it turns out, bin Laden’s been in custody of the Israeli Army since October 2001, but Cheney ordered them to hold him until the election. When this is discovered, Cheney is praised for his tough leadership.

10/31/04—God pays a surprise visit to “The O’Reilly Factor,” telling host Bill O’Reilly that under no circumstances should anyone vote for Bush. Viewers take this as a test of faith, and Bush climbs in popularity.

11/1/04—After months of careful and thoughtful consideration, Fox News endorses Bush for president.

11/2/04—George W. Bush wins the election with 17 percent of the popular vote. Kerry comes in second with 81 percent. The steep spike in Bush’s votes is credited to the capture of bin Laden and God’s non-endorsement.

11/3/04—Bush declares a permanent state of Armageddon, offsetting the need for his second inauguration or any future inaugurations.

The Mechanics of Chicken

The following is from a book I've been writing for about five years. Not that you would know it from reading it...

My family hates grocery shopping with me. Hell, everyone does. This is totally understandable, for I am the biggest label freak alive. I’m not so much referring to the Nutrition Facts as I am to the list of ingredients. Personally, however, I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t be. I mean, has anyone really thought about what goes into processed food? I didn’t until I was in college and had a food budget somewhere between starvation and the gross national product of Antarctica. Go figure. But the fact remains that processed food is infinitely bizarre. As a picky eater, I can’t imagine what I’d do in a country without a Food and Drug Administration. Because even in a place where the content of food is heavily regulated, we still eat a hell of a lot of trash. Take a look at just one example, chicken. Look how many different varieties exist!

BONELESS CHICKEN BREAST—The best, in my experience. Having this in the ingredient list assures you that the meat will be thick, juicy and—most importantly—identifiable.

CHICKEN BREAST WITH RIB MEAT—One step down from the above, this is superior chicken meat mixed with rib meat. Rib meat can best be described as wannabe breast meat. If chicken meat were Toyota cars, chicken breast would be the Corolla, whereas rib meat would be the Camry. Advice: just pretend rib meat is breast meat. That’s what the rib meat wants you to think anyway.

CHICKEN MEAT—So far we have looked at the high end of processed chicken. This is where the other end starts. Any time an ingredient list says “meat,” you are probably in deep shit. Not literal shit, of course—that’s further down the list. What you have with “chicken meat” is the politician’s answer to a turd: polish it. “Chicken meat” can be found most frequently in soups, frozen dinners and cheap cutlets. This is strictly chicken for those who don’t bother to read ingredient lists. Which is just as well, since this broad definition doesn’t rule out neck meat and other equally enticing nether regions. When you see “Chicken Meat” on your label, you know you’re in Toyota Tercel territory.

CHICKEN—This isn’t quite as specific as “chicken meat,” simply because this apparently doesn’t contain meat. For all we know, it could be nutria meat that got scared on its way to get stabbed.

CHICKEN BROTH—I have to say upfront that I enjoy chicken broth. This is a good thing, too, because do I really have a choice? It’s in damn near everything with chicken in it. When I was a kid, I asked my mom what chicken broth was; she assured me that it was just the stuff that drips from dead chickens. I would later find out that this was not true; what they do is take the unused parts of the chicken, MASH THEM TOGETHER and THEN collect the drippings. Cup of soup, anyone?

While we’re at it, who in the world decided that we had to use EVERY PART of the animal in the first place? Is this some kind of conservation measure? Out of respect for nature, you know, after killing the poor thing? Vultures don’t do that shit. They leave the rest for the food chain. It’s called fertilizer and mulch! Bury the beaks and noses and eyes and feet and spleens! Grow some vegetables so we can eat those too! But nooooo…we like to use everything when it comes to carcasses. We are nothing if not resourceful. Human ingenuity, then, is to thank for the chicken categories below:

CHICKEN FLAVOR—Not sure what this is, but it always seems to be accompanied by enough MSG to choke China, so I’m assuming it comes from chickens that ate a lot of Ramen noodles.

CHICKEN FAT—Literally, fat from the chicken. For some reason, found most often in processed food that already contains chicken meat and chicken broth. Somehow this flies in America. But for processed food supremacy, it’s hard to top the all-time, undisputed, underrated champion of bad nutrition:

MECHANICALLY SEPARATED CHICKEN—If chicken broth is the collective dripping of inedible chicken mashings, then mechanically separated chicken must BE the inedible chicken mashings. Found in hot dogs, vienna sausages, cheap jerky, chicken noodle soup and other fun foodstuffs we’d rather not associate with it. Were it not for that other Great American Made-Up Food, Artificial Coloring™, heaven only knows what color this “food” would be.

End excerpt...

Stupid Useless Vehicles

Can anyone explain to me what is so appealing about SUVs?

Is it the lousy gas mileage? Is it that it gives the driver the feeling that, not only are they invincible, but that they must also actively hunt down every smaller car on the road? Is it the massive hugeness that surely must compensate for some personal shortcoming? Surely there must be a reason that Excursions and Escalades still sell in the era of $2 gasoline! Help me out here...

Summer Reading List

Some people have asked me about the Web sites I visit. Because these people tend to not wear badges (at least not where I can see them), I assume it's safe to give away my trade secrets. For offbeat news and opinions, you cannot beat the following sites that I visit daily: (liberal opinions with legit links) (REALLY offbeat news and daily history) (self-explanatory) (photo toons with hilarious captions from a top comic letterer)

I also recommend Yahoo! and MSN, because they (and a few of the other mainstream Net sources) generally play it straight.

If you're conservative, you'll like Free Republic--the distant, inbred cousin of Democratic Underground. You'll also like Newsmax and The Drudge Report, sources that get one right once in a blue moon. These three outlets put the "crap" in "crapshoot."
Hey, just trying to be balanced just like Fox News! Oh wait...

Just a Gigolo

This is the picture that, when I'm old, they'll look back at and say, "Man, look how young he was!" Posted by Hello