Sunday, January 30, 2005

Caption Contest

Historic "Iraqi Election" Edition

--Dilbert voted for a larger cubicle
--Mahmoud's science-fair project (on the effects of Iraqi democracy on nearby walls) won first prize
--"I vote America off the island"
--How secret can the ballot be if an AP photographer can get all up in his face like that?
--The final toll: 56 percent for spackle, 42 percent for putty, 2 percent for "new coat of paint"
--The final toll: 18 percent democracy, 78 percent insurgency, 4 percent undecided/dead
--Blinders courtesy of the Bush administration
--Chads aren't the only thing hanging on Iraq's election day
--Unfortunately for the Iraqis, Rumsfeld printed out the ballots in English only
--Surprisingly, not a single Iraqi wrote in "George W. Bush" as their vote
--"Well, Cheney and Scalia did say it would be a lot like duck hunting!"
--Unbeknownst to his commissioner, he had secretly written the answers on his other hand
--"Democracy? Hell no, I'm Republican!"
--A truly Sunni day for democracy
--"Damn these choices! It's just the lesser of thirty evils!"

Putting the "die" in "Diebold"

Today was the first free Iraqi election!

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Life at the Looniversity

Last night I discovered, to my horror, that I had missed what was apparently an important deadline in order to graduate. An obscure section buried in The Vermilion brought it to my attention...a week too late. Basically, the things I needed broke down into this:

1) Degree application--Huh? Didn't I fill this out when I applied for school here? Or has my identity completely changed?

2) List of classes--I presume this is so the university knows which classes I've taken. I couldn't remember them all, so I went downstairs in the same building to get my transcript. Yes, this was every bit as absurd as it sounds.

3) $45 "Diploma Fee"--Just when you think colleges couldn't wring any more fees out of your long-dehydrated carcass, they come up with a "diploma fee." Too stupid to explain. Even the girl at the payment window said it was a dumb thing to have to pay.

I've often wondered why some people, such as celebrities, dropped out of school right at the finish line. Now I think I see why!

File under "No Shit!"

You all know I'm not one to post things like this, but I found this too amusing not to post. I guess I really do act my age:

You Are 24 Years Old

What Age Do You Act?

I once took the more far-more-scientific age test at RealAge. I was at 16 until the family-illness and stress section, which added six years to my age all by itself. Hey, at least I was still only 22 there!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Jury Rigged

Please forgive the double post. Not that this really is one, being that this is a refined version of the post below. It's the finished Vermilion column that I hope will appear in the Feb. 2 issue. This post and its predecessor make for an interesting comparison as to what can be left in and what I choose to leave out.

Usually when I want $25, I just write another column for The Vermilion. Other days, I decide to earn it by getting randomly called to jury duty. On the pleasant Monday morning of Jan. 24, I spent the day gloriously exercising my Constitutional muscle as a prospective juror. Blind justice, indeed!

After entering the airport-like waiting room, I joined hundreds of other jury hopefuls (and not-so-hopefuls) in filling out the standard form. Hmmm....Age: 24...never been children...have never been convicted of a crime...have never served on a jury...Man, am I perfect for jury duty or what? Crud...

While waiting, I rummaged for a good magazine to read, gravitating toward the Newsweek on the table. While waiting to be sworn in by the justice, I got to bone up on the latest issues of the week, such as the second presidential debate. I'll say this: if John Kerry wants to win the election, he's going to have to relax his personality and continue to hammer Bush on the issues.

When I got bored with that, I did what I always do in a room full of people: scoped out the babes! Now, keep one thing in mind: this is jury duty. Not exactly Venice Beach (or even the Mall formerly known as Acadiana). Still, I managed to find three or four really good-looking young women. But what are you going to say to them? "Come here often?" "Gee! I'm also not a felon!"?

After the 11 a.m. orientation and swear-in, we were allowed to leave for lunch and had to report back by 1:15 p.m. "Not enough time to do anything and too much time to do nothing," I thought to myself. Of course, this was no mass dismissal; we were asked to line up as the letters of our last names were called so that we could receive juror badges on our way out.

"Z-Y-X-W-V..." "U-T-S-R-Q-P..." After 30 very slow minutes of that, I geared up to grab my badge. Then, as if to taunt me, they flip-flopped: "A-B-C-D-E..." Nooo!! Several naps later I finally heard, "All right, last but not least, M-N-O!" “M”s are by far the most screwed alphabetical section. “A”s are usually at the front, except when “Z”s are cut a break and allowed to go first. But no one, and I mean no one, ever starts with “M.” But sometimes they finish with it!

After I got back from my considerably narrowed lunch break (which I spent at the nearby public library), I walked through the metal detector at the courthouse entrance. I languished behind somebody for several seconds before the security woman told me step back behind the detector: "I'm sorry," she said. "I wasn't paying attention." Yes, she actually said that!

After more waiting in the jury-pool room, the justice announced that 35 Chosen Ones would potentially decide justice for one of two cases on the docket this week. Yes, friends, I beat the odds: Juror 285 moved on up!

The next four hours were a presumably top-secret affair. Throughout the questioning process, I found myself hypnotized by the court reporter, trying to figure out how she cranks out an entire sentence with seven keystrokes. Intimidating. Now I know how people feel when I interview them with a tape recorder.

Ultimately, 10 out of the 35 made the cut. Not me. I did myself in by knowing three of the witnesses, admitting that I am more sympathetic to individuals over corporations, and basically by being myself. I think a fellow reject said it best in the elevator on the way down: "That's what you get for having an opinion."

Guilty as charged.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Jury duty!

I had jury duty yesterday. Do you wanna hear about it? Of course you do!

Prior to this morning, I was a jury-duty virgin. So imagine my extreme delight when I walked into the jury-pool room in the Lafayette Parish Courthouse to see...hundreds of people, all there for the same reason. Usually when I want $25, I just write another column for The Vermilion; but on this day, I knew I was actually going to have to earn it.

Once I found a seat in the very airport-like waiting room, I picked up a form which I was required to complete. Remember that scene in Men in Black where Will Smith is in that egg-shaped chair and the MIB brass is looking to see who's going to move the table over to complete the test? Well, this room was very similar. I had to forsake my seat to crouch over at a table. Like an Escalade left running in Compton, my seat was gone in a hurry.

Now to the form...hmmm....Age: 24...never been children...never been convicted of a crime...never been a victim of a crime...been injured twice, head and back (huh?)...never served on a jury...not a felon...I'm perfect for this! Crud...

I began rummaging for a good magazine to read. As often happens, I gravitated to the Newsweek on the table. While waiting to be sworn in en masse by the Justice, I got to bone up on the latest issues of the week, like the second presidential debate. I'll say this; if John Kerry wants to win the election, he's going to have to relax his personality and continue to hammer Bush on the issues.

When I got bored with that, I did what I always do in a room full of people: scoped out the babes! Now, keep one thing in mind: this is jury duty. Somehow, the jury pool skews decidedly towards those of the "average old Joe/Jane" persuasion. I managed to find three or four really good-looking young women, though, and they seemed hopelessly out of reach. What are you going to say to them? "Come here often?" "Gee! I'm also not a felon?"

One thing that got conversations going all over was mutual complaining about jury duty. Now I understand that jury duty is a lot of trouble for practically everybody. I don't really need several people around me complaining about it to know that. And what is the deal with that, anyway? Judging by their conversation, the people at the table next to me must have signed up as a clique. What is their deal? Or are am I just bitter that the ones complaining are in a position to where they can complain about making "only" $25 a day?

One woman even brought her kid. HER KID! And he warbled the whole time. Poor bastard probably thought he was waiting to get a shot. That, combined with his attractive mom, is probably going to cause that kid serious psychological damage for years to come.

After the orientation and the swear-in, we were allowed to leave for lunch beginning at about 11 a.m. We had to report back by 1:15 p.m. "Not enough time to do anything and too much time to do nothing," I thought to myself. Of course, this was no mass dismissal; we were asked to line up as the letters of our last names were called so that we could receive juror badges on our way out.

"Z-Y-X-W-V..." "U-T-S-R-Q-P..." After 30 very slow minutes of that, I geared up to grab my badge. "A-B-C-D-E..." Shit!!

"F-G-H..." "I-J-K-L"...that one took a real long time... "All right, last but not least, M-N-O!" Of course we're not least! But "M"s are by far the most screwed alphabetical section. ABCs are usually at the front, except when ZYXs are cut a break and allowed to go first. But no one, and I mean no one, ever starts with M. But they sometimes get picked last.

With bestowment of my badge, I officially became Juror 285. Kind of like a gang, but with only me as a member. Can you imagine the turf battles? That elevator ride down was a particular bitch.

After I got back from the considerably narrowed lunch break (which I spent at the nearby public library), I walked through the metal detector at the courthouse entrance. I stood behind the guy in front of me for several seconds before the security woman told me step back behind the detector: "I'm sorry," she said. "I wasn't paying attention." No shit. She actually said that!

After more waiting in the jury-pool room, the justice announced that 35 Chosen Ones would potentially decide justice for one of two cases on the docket this week. Yes, friends, I beat the odds. Lottery time!

The next four hours were a presumably top-secret affair. Suffice to say, seeing that many people in suits in one place reminded me of a Young Republicans meeting. Yikes. I was sat in the very front, right in the direct parallel spot to the attorneys. They always stared straight at me. Double yikes. I kid, actually. They were quite nice people.

Highlight questions: "Does anyone here drive a car on business?" "Does anyone have a problem with the law as currently in effect?" "What do you do all day?" "Have you ever suffered a concussion or a hurt back?" "What is your biggest gripe about lawyers?"

Ultimately, 10 out of the 35 made the cut. Not me. I did myself in by knowing three of the witnesses, admitting that I am always more sympathetic to an individual than a corporation, and basically reversing that position when grilled about it by every authority figure in the room.

Perhaps the spookiest thing about all of this? At no point in the day, even with a dozen people pronouncing it at different times, did anyone say my name wrong. Scary thought.

I think a fellow reject said it best in the elevator on the way down: "That's what you get for having an opinion." A fun experience overall, and one I hope to repeat in two years when I am eligible for it again.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Caustic captioning

Need some wood? Posted by Hello

--Bush gets on his knees for commercial developers
--"Ah felled these here power lines m'self!"
--"Doin' great, Gale!"
--"Yes, ladies, ah am happy to see ya"
--"Oh, look, frost! You triple-dog-dare me?"
--Bush promised to save the rain forest...from itself
--Bush wasn't kidding when he said he liked to clear brush
--Who ya gonna call? Postbusters!
--The GOP environmental platform gets lower every year
--"Gorgeous! This new mall's gonna be so cool!"
--"Damn! Ah finally find Dick's undisclosed location and ah forgit the secret knock!"
--If Bush speaks in the woods and no one's there to hear him, has he still lied?
--Bush makes a cameo in the climax of Deliverance Redux
--Bush puts the finishing touches on the latest Clear Channel propaganda billboard
--Ever notice Bush's compulsion to be photographed around devastation?
--Well whaddaya know? Bush really is a wood business!
--Now there's a man who can't see the forest for the trees

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Inaugural Gall

[Editors’ note: The Vermilion sent an embedded reporter along with top SGA members to witness the 2005 Inaugural Ceremony firsthand. The following is a transcript of a live exchange between on-the-scene reporter Ian McGibboney and Vermilion Editor-In-Chief Dan Murphy on Jan. 20.]

“This is Ian McGibboney reporting live from the 55th Presidential Inauguration. Dan, the pomp and circumstance here are unbelievable. They spared no expense. This is a ceremony fit for a king!”

“What are some of the perks of this year’s inauguration, Ian?”

“The festivities have been raging all week. Notable highlights included the youth concert organized by Jenna and Barbara Bush, featuring Hilary Duff and JoJo. Their sugary and inoffensive sets went over well with this crowd. And today’s swearing-in ceremony was a huge deal, though they renamed it the ‘oathing-in’ ceremony because they don’t like to use the word ‘swear’ around the children. Lots of activities filled the spaces in between, but they were open only to those with specific credentials.”

“Like what?”

“Oil lobbyists, for example, got to participate in the sack race and peasant-shooting competition. There were events of this magnitude all week. At a cost of $40 million, this ceremony is easily the most expensive of its kind in American history.”

“What did Bush speak about in his address, Ian?”

“The importance of making sure we have enough funding for our troops and for Homeland Security.”

“Indeed, his inauguration has been in the headlines for its strict security and its lack of tolerance for protesters.”

“Absolutely, Dan. Event organizers have taken every possible measure to ensure the utmost protection for the president, his staff, members of Congress and visiting dignitaries.”

“What kind of protection does that entail?”

“I can’t really tell. From here, it’s pretty tough to see anything.”

“Where are you right now, Ian?”

“Fairfax, Virginia.”

“Fairfax? Shouldn’t you be somewhere closer to D.C.?”

“This is the designated ‘free-speech zone.’ The people here are those who have been determined by the Secret Service to be a threat of disturbance to the conduction of the festivities. I have one here beside me at this moment, Jennifer Sanders. Jennifer, how do you feel about watching the inauguration from this far away?”

“It’s kind of sad, really. I’m just glad they put a TV out here with a live Fox News feed so that we can watch the whole thing! I really dig that Dubya.”

“Wait a minute…you LIKE him? So how come they herded you way out here?”

“I think it was because I publicly questioned his tax cuts to the rich. I thought he should have given them even more. So they deemed me a threat and placed me out here.”

“They really jump on administration critics, don’t they?”

“Well, it’s all for the best. I feel so much safer after everything that’s happened in the past four years!”

“Ian, if I may cut in, where are the liberals? Surely they would turn out in force today.”

“They’re all in Massachusetts, Dan. On order of the Democratic Party.”

“Massachusetts? Why would the Democrats agree to such a spineless arrangement?”

“Actually, it was a compassionate deal brokered by the Republicans. The Democrats had offered to stand in California, as penance for losing in 2004.”

“So Ian, what is the Democrats’ plan for the next four years?”

“No official word yet, Dan. But I would speculate that the fetal position is heavily involved.”

“That’s all the time we have for today. Thanks, Ian.”

“God bless you, Dan. It’s the law!”

This report has been cleared for release by the Committee for Republican Accuracy and Partisanship, Jan. 26, 2005.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Today is Inauguration Day

You know what to do.

Teach your children hell

Whether it's God, Santa or the tooth fairy, the method is the same

Check out this lovely article from MSN: "How to Raise a Spiritual Child!"

Usually, MSN articles (even the ones with which I disagree) are pretty upbeat and positive in doling out tips for life. This one barely differs from that mold, except that most of the tips outlined below could just as easily be used for robot programming as for teaching children about the outside world:

Though preschoolers are too young to grasp many of the abstract concepts that go hand-in-hand with spiritual life, they have other skills that will serve them well on the road to spirituality: They have no problem believing in things they can't see, and they live almost entirely in the moment.

So start them young, while they're stupid and have no grasp of reality!

This is the perfect age to begin nurturing your child's spiritual side -- as sustenance for her soul, as a way of answering her cosmic questions, and as a means of strengthening her interpersonal skills. Every religion has some kind of belief embedded in it about loving your neighbor.

So why not just teach your kid to love their neighbor?

And giving your child a foundation in faith will also give her something to fall back on in trying times later in life. "As recent events have shown us," says Neifert, "in times of crisis, people turn to their faith. It's a way to ground ourselves, and a way to interpret events that we don't understand."

So we're really admitting here that religion is a comforting mythology? Why would we want to teach that to our children? Aren't there better coping mechanisms?

Clarify your own beliefs. Whether or not you practice an organized religion, you'll need to decide what you believe in order to foster spirituality in your child.

In other words, bone up on your own indoctrination so that you know what to indoctrinate into your children.

If you and your partner have different religions it's wise to decide how you'll approach spirituality with your child now, before she's old enough to get confused by your differing opinions.

In other words, fix that rift now before your child notices that rifts exist and makes a decision on their own!

Introduce spirituality early on.

It's like crack; you gotta get them young.

"Young children don't understand who God is, but they don't really understand who a grandparent is either," says Neifert. "Still, you want them to know Grandma, so you start talking about her from day one. It's the same thing with the idea of God." Just as your child takes your word for it that Grandma is an important person in her life (even if she rarely sees her), so she'll take your word for it that God is, too.

And play down the fact that the child will actually see and interact with Grandma once in a while.

And by introducing spiritual practices early on -- such as lighting candles or singing hymns together -- your child will view them as a natural part of life, and you'll have a spiritual influence on her before other people do.

Which thus shows how unnatural all of this really is.

Even if you don't believe in God or see God as a single all-powerful being, it's worth talking to your child about it. "Kids are going to hear about God all over," says Neifert. "If you don't put your own spin on it, with your own values, they'll absorb someone else's."

This seems to be the thrust of the whole article: ensnare your kids now, before someone else does. It's capitalism, really.

Don't pretend to have all the answers.

This is a good one. More parents should cop to this.

Use daily events to teach spirituality....Instill an appreciation of nature. Nature is a great place to find a tangible manifestation of the divine. "Kids learn with all their senses -- they love to pick up a rock or jump in a puddle or chase a butterfly," says Neifert. Help your child see nature as something sacred by demonstrating your own love and respect for it... Introduce her to the idea that the Earth is a gift, and that our survival depends upon the survival of the planet.

Well, sure. Nature itself is the best religion.

Tell stories. The world's spiritual traditions are full of stories designed to explain everything from how the world was created to why people sometimes do bad things. Introduce your child to the notion that different people have different ideas about God by drawing on this wealth of literature... Reading such stories will give your child the opportunity to ask questions.

Just make sure that they are clear that every other religion is a cute manifestation of mythology while only yours is the light and the way.

Build on family traditions.

Family love and activities are wonderful things. But combined with religion, they are great ways to instill guilt in those who choose later in life to make dissenting decisions.

Make it fun. Religion and spirituality should be more joyful than somber and serious.

I'll bet the Lutherans are already pissed at this one.

Encourage your preschooler to paint a picture of God, make up her own story about how the world came to be, or simply imagine what heaven looks like. Together, act out plays or put on a puppet show based on creation stories or your own spiritual themes.

I honestly cannot believe that this made it into this feature. What a fantastic idea! It's a fun, intellectual activity that can take a child (or an adult) anywhere they want to go. It also shows how easy such a thing is, and just might cause a young and impressionable child to realize how many creation myths exist all over the world. I highly recommend this.

Above all, do what spiritual people have done for centuries -- sing and dance! If you don't know any traditional tunes, a wealth of CDs and cassettes of religious music is available. Don't forget to explore songs and chants from other cultures or traditions as well.

Unless you're Baptist, of course!

Practice silence. Once a day or once a week, take a minute to sit quietly with your child, encouraging her to be silent and listen to her inner voice. Your moment of silence needn't be introduced as some lofty practice of meditation, but simply as a calming break in a noisy day. Whether your child uses this time to commune with the divine or simply to rest and recharge, it'll help put her in touch with the "big" picture.

More people need to do this. I think it would help all of us to have some kind of mental break every so often. And anything that shuts up holy rollers for a while is beautiful.

Introduce a simple form of prayer. Let your child know that prayer isn't something that's saved up just for Sunday morning, or for times when she needs help with something. It's a tool for communicating with a higher power anytime... A simple prayer of thanks before or after meals can be an easy and effective way to instill appreciation for the basics of life. If your child is too young to make up her own prayers, help her along with what Neifert calls "ping-pong" prayers: You suggest a simple phrase such as, "Thank you, God, for..." and she fills in the blanks. The idea is to let your child know that God, or the divine spirit, is always available. "If the being who created the whole universe can listen to you, that's pretty good," says Neifert.

Well, if it helps you, it helps you. I no longer pray myself, but I have no problem with people who do. I've never been a fan of forced prayer, though, like some people really really want.

Stress the spiritual side of holidays. Try to balance the commercialism of the holiday season with activities that underscore its deeper meaning. Volunteer at a local charity. Donate food, clothing, or toys to a shelter, and have your child do the same by choosing a few items she no longer plays with... On the fun side, share some holiday crafts with your child...

Good things all. Again, though, do we really need religion to stress these values?

Consider joining a faith community. By regularly attending services and social events at a place of worship, your child will come to see that spirituality plays a central role in the life of the community. She'll also grow up more comfortable with the liturgy and rituals of your faith and come to see a house of worship as a place where she can feel comfortable and secure. "Kids thrive on predictability," says Neifert. "Whether it's a Catholic child seeing the communion bread and wine, a Jewish child hearing the Hebrew prayers, or a Hindu child smelling the incense in the temple, by experiencing rituals kids come to appreciate the predictability of a religious service, if not the deeper meaning."

Whatever happened to the personal relationship with God? I am of two minds on the community issue: on one hand, I think it's awesome to be with people who make you comfortable. On the other hand, do we really need more groups of people who are united under a questionable idea?

Follow your child's lead. Let your child ask the questions, and give her plenty of opportunities to discuss her own notions of issues such as who God is, what heaven looks like, or what happens to people after they die. Try not to dictate the answers to big questions. If she asks you where God lives, begin your answer by asking her what she thinks. Or ask her to draw a picture and tell you about it. Spirituality is a two-way street: If you listen carefully to your preschooler, you might discover something you never thought of before.

This is a smart idea, because if your preschooler can cause you to challenge your faith, then it's best to get out, now!

Overall, this article seems to have been pieced together by two very different people, being that some of the points are pretty cool while the others resemble cult tricks. Many of the principles outlined here seem to concern themselves more with how to get your kid to conform than actually getting a kid to believe in or otherwise see the merits of their parents' chosen beliefs. In my mind, the latter should be the real goal.

Now you can read my paper!

If any of you read The Vermilion, then tell me that paper can be improved.

And with its site actually functioning once again, that can now include everyone. Don't miss my article from last week, with my out-of proportion picture that makes my face look shorter, rounder and more cockeyed than it really is. Hey, at least the site looks great. Much more style there than, say, the actual newspaper. Bookmark and revisit it every Wednesday, and see the world as my fellow students do!

Monday, January 17, 2005

Caption Contest

Special cheap-shot and sex-joke edition

Economy! Jobs! Growth! Opportunity! Ha ha ha!! Posted by Hello

--The state of the economy: in the redhead
--"Isn't my gold ring just fabulous?"
--Bush is such a snob, even his tie wags its tongue at you
--(Note her left hand) "This is what I think of your economic policies, Mr. 'President.'"
--"Is that your tie, George, or are you just happy to see me?"
--"Is that your microphone, George, or are you just happy to see me?"
--"The economy! Man oh man, do I love jokes!"
--"Want me to jumpstart your economy? Meet me at 10 in the presidential suite."
--"Ah give up, Drew...what's so funny on the green screen behind me?"
--Women tend to laugh when looking at Bush's pants
--The backdrop and Bush's microphone were actually photoshopped in after the GOP realized that "Lessons in Wife Beating" would not go over well with non-conservatives
--"A blonde, a brunette and a redhead walk into a bar..."

For another caption fix, check out this gem at Blog Reload

Sunday, January 16, 2005

What’s the Counterpoint? (Deluxe Edition)

My latest column has what none of the others have had before it: bonus material!

What you're about to see is what you get when you add one part columnist with two parts MacGyver. To wit: I really needed a column for next Wednesday's Vermilion, and time was running out. One problem: I was in Baton Rouge at a track gig all day without access to a computer or even decent paper (yes, I was at LSU). Solution: Inspired by this post on Strong and Right, I scrawled all I could on napkins I had gotten with my frozen strawberry lemonade:

Hey, it worked for the Bible and the Constitution! Posted by Hello

Receipts I had from the night before (Azteca's Mexican Cafe and Starbucks) also came in handy.

One day, this receipt will be worth money, and I'll be able to buy another hot chocolate Posted by Hello

Compare the notes with the final product and you can see my tendency to spontaneously change entire portions. Writing is funny business. Anyway, here's the column:

What's the Counterpoint?

Throughout three years of writing this column, I’ve been accused of having a liberal bias. So in an attempt to be more Fair and Balanced™, I’ve prepared a handy reference guide for the conservative who needs quick rebuttals to common liberal talking points. These responses, which I’ve culled from years of personal experience, are guaranteed to leave liberals absolutely speechless!

For the most realistic effect, I have arranged this guide in the form of a standard political dialogue in the year 2005, minus the screaming and bloodletting. And now, How to Rebut a Liberal (If You Must):

Liberal: “In order to have peace, America must pursue a less-aggressive foreign policy, embrace its allies and favor diplomacy as a means of negotiation.”

You: “You must really hate America, don’t you?”

Liberal: “No, I love America. But we must honestly appraise ourselves. For example, we should address the glaring lack of adequate resources for our soldiers overseas, who already face pay cuts and unexpected extensions in deployments.”

You: “And just what do you have against our soldiers?”

Liberal: “Nothing, but our nation must reevaluate its new policy of preemptive strikes on sovereign nations. We can’t just attack other countries because we don’t like their policies.”

You: “Sure! Blame America first, traitor!”

Liberal: “Well, we DID attack Iraq, even though they had nothing to do with 9/11.”

You: “But obviously they did. Why else would we have attacked them?”

Ouch. At this point, you’re already on your way to thrashing your opponent’s arguments like shrapnel on a dead terrorist. But there’s still so much damage to be done!

Liberal: “Why did the 9/11 Commission take so long to investigate the largest intelligence failure in history, when the FCC took less than 24 hours to launch a full-throttle investigation into Janet Jackson’s ‘wardrobe malfunction’ at the Super Bowl?”

You: “Won’t anyone think of the children?”

Liberal: “I think of everyone who is alive and whose lives can be made better. Stem-cell research, for example, promises to open up treatments for catastrophic ailments such as Alzheimer’s and paralysis.”

You: “Fixing lives with stem cells? That’s not pro-life!”

Liberal: “I fully believe in the ability of women to make their own decisions on pregnancy, based on their own conditions of life and their personal beliefs.”

You: “Choices are for school vouchers! Life is sacred!”

Liberal: “But I bet you favor the death penalty.”

You: “Kill the bastards! If they broke the law, then they deserve to be punished to its fullest extent!”

Liberal: “That’s not what you said when Rush Limbaugh got busted for drugs.”

You: “The man was sick! Everyone deserves a second chance!”

Liberal: “ESPN didn’t think so after firing him for his racist remark about black quarterbacks.”

You: “The media always dumps on conservative types.”

Liberal: “The media is full of conservatives parroting false news.”

You: “Dan Rather! Dan Rather! Dan Rather!”

Liberal: “Though Rather did get the memos wrong, his question about George W. Bush’s military records still remains.”

You: “You’re just out to get the president at any cost!”

Take particular note of that last statement. It is the “I love you” of conservative discourse. It can elicit sympathy and guilt or can end a difficult conversation on a high note. It is particularly useful when rebutting critics of any aspect of the Bush presidency:

Liberal: “The Crawford ranch could use a paint job.”

You: “You’re just out to get the president at any cost!”

Remember this guide and you will survive any liberal-elite wine party or college class. Arguing a conservative viewpoint really is easier than you might imagine; you could even say that it’s quite…simple.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Not Right gets one wrong

Last night I received an e-mail from Daily Advertiser reporter Jan Risher. I had gotten to know her earlier last year through a mutual friend. As a fellow (albeit wider-read) columnist, she introduced me to the National Society for Newspaper Columnists (NSNC!) and thanks to her efforts I was almost able to attend a national columnist convention with her, had a personal financial crisis not hit me right at fee time. I enjoyed the rapport with someone who knew the ins and outs of my chosen aspiration. It was good to know someone who had written all over the country. We hadn't corresponded in quite some time, so I was surprised and happy to hear from her. She took issue with what she said was my misquoting her in my Dec. 5 post. The relevant portion of the e-mail (subject: not right) follows:

I was curious to see why my name would be in your blog. So I clicked, scrolled down and was surprised to find that you had attempted to quote me, but it didn't appear that you chose to quote me correctly. I didn't write that Northside was "a poor black school" and STM...

What I wrote was "One school is seen as poor and black. The other is seen as rich and white." The point of the story that I wrote was supposed to have been that there was more to both schools than the stereotypes. I'll be the first to admit that my story didn't accomplish that. If I had it to do over again, I think I would have written it differently. Not because I don't think the story had merit, but because the point of it was lost.

But anyway, the reason I decided to write you is that I'm confused why a journalist prescribing to your high ethical standards would try to sway any of the facts, even the minor ones like what you attributed to me....

I have to agree; I was wrong for misquoting, and I see how just two words deleted can completely alter the meaning of already-loaded words. I imagine that happens all the time on Fox News, and I certainly don't want to be the purveyor of the same news-slanting that they do over there.

But I also want to stress that at no point was I trying to place the blame for the rivalry or racial tension on Jan Risher or any other individual. My point was that, intended or not, the article's unfortunate phrasing stoked the rivalry at a particularly potent time. News outlets across the area, as well as people at large, quoted the article in a similarly incorrect manner. I hope that those who read the post understand that I was trying to provide some background on the rivalry, not to discredit a legitimate journalist. She's taken enough flak about it, so I apologize. Not for the observation I was making, but for misquoting her. I hope this clarifies things.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Is Strong and Right...actually right?

Something seriously weird has happened at our old hangout Strong and Right. After mysteriously being offline for several days, the site has returned with a vengeance and a whole new attitude! I think it's a scary thing, personally. Let me put it this way: after reading its latest content, I almost considered nodding my head. Heavy stuff.

Whatever epiphany Carl P has undergone, I applaud his courage to embrace it. It must be seen to be believed. Personally, I think it has a lot to do with his recent well-written and thoughtful treatise on why evolutionists are mistaken. Something in that series of posts must have triggered the new style inherent in the blog. One thing's for sure: bloggery will never be the same again!

It's baaaack!

As you will see below, yesterday's hyper-controversial post has been restored. For you regulars who missed it, I posted the first of an upcoming series of business articles covering industries that are thriving under the economic policies of the Bush administration. The hook is that (as if I have to tell anyone) they are satirical pieces conceived and written entirely by myself.

Inspired by a certain bumper sticker on the "Tainted Threads" post, I decided to make the first business piece about abortion clinics. With this article, I hoped to point out several ironies and misconceptions surrounding the issue of abortion, including (but not limited to) pro-life activists, the effects of Bush administration policies, abortion surgeons and their patients.

Just in case you're wondering how well it went over, the first nine comments say it all. Combined with some personal stress ongoing at the moment, it was just too much for me to take. I deleted the article about 12 hours later and replaced it with an angry note. And some even angrier comments. Most of the time I can and do accept criticism; when I set up this blog, I had no intentions whatsoever of limiting my audience to the choir. What really frustrated me, however, was something too frightening for comfort. I found that the critics' points actually made some sense, particularly with Nick's comment. Yikes!

After brooding for a while (and ingesting a considerable quantity of fresh air), I decided that I would continue with the series, and possibly even retool the infamous abortion article. But a couple of comments, both on and off site, have reminded me what controversial political discourse is all about. Because let's face it: who in their right mind should have to hide from something they've written? If it's bad, it's bad. If it's tasteless, it's tasteless. If it's offensive, then it's offensive. But what's even more tasteless and offensive is when a writer lets someone else dictate for them what they should write and think. I fall into that trap sometimes, as I'm sure everyone does from time to time. I have never removed completed content from this site for any reason, and I don't plan to start now. I write; therefore I accept the responsibility. Kudos to all of you who have the courage to do so in a public forum on a daily basis.

Before you proceed, here are some things you should know:

1) I manipulated the photos. The bottom two were innocent snapshots taken at a Christmas party in 2002, with elements (gore) added to suit the story. The Crossfire picture comes from the 2003 auto spread of a back issue of Maxim Magazine, with my picture inset and a couple of other modifications. The people in the pictures (aside from myself) are in no way attached to this project and would probably really hate seeing themselves in this context. But their poses were so perfect! And perhaps it would be smart to note that the "aborted" baby is actually my sister sitting at a table. She's a teenager now, and thus was not aborted.

2) Names and institutions are entirely fictitious. The WCA jacket, however, comes from Westminster Christian Academy, an ironic reference caught by everybody from the area.

3) I do not drive a Chrysler Crossfire; I do, however, read Maxim articles on them.

Sometimes we need reminders on the good and the bad inherent in free speech. To those who encouraged me (and you know who you are), thank you. And keep being brutally honest.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Profiles in Business 2005

Local abortion clinic offers safe, fun environment

Dr. Crane (inset) drives to work in his 2003 Chrysler Crossfire, a really cool car he purchased "with the warm blood of countless unborn children."

LAFAYETTE, LA--In this age of the unreliable economy, reports abound of unemployment, stock-market crashes, business closings and personal economic wipeouts. Within the sweeping tide of bad news, however, pockets of positive business forecasts often get overlooked. In an attempt to bring good news back to the business page, this report focuses on one business that has weathered the storm of economic upheaval: abortion.

To what can the ever-strong profession of pregnancy termination be credited? Matthew Crane, head physician at the Lafayette-based Wade Center for Abortion, attributed the steady rate of business to numerous factors.

"Historically, the termination of undesired embryos has transcended the state of the economy, simply because accidental fertilization can happen at any time," Crane said. "Because of this, abortionists are pretty much guaranteed brisk business. Very few industries can make this claim. When was the last time you ever heard of a bunch of abortion doctors getting laid off, huh? I have to admit, it's a pretty sweet deal. "

Another primary factor in the thriving trade at the Wade Center for Abortions, Crane said, is the comfortable business environment in which he has worked hard to foster. Crane, a 1983 graduate of McCorvey Abortion College, established WCA in 1995 as “a haven for safe, clean and family-friendly abortion fun.” Since then, his efforts have rocketed WCA to the top of the termination charts.

"Abortion is not always the most pleasant of experiences, even for the most hardcore termination aficionados," Crane explained. "What we try to do here at WCA is set up a comfortable environment in which a woman can end undesired gestation in comfort and peace. Our feedback record reflects our success in this area. Indeed, our clients often tell us that their toughest question is, 'Should I carry through this pregnancy or should I take advantage of all of the awesome amenities WCA offers?' Such is a tough choice for even the strongest woman. But in the end, the choice is clear."

Above: Crane and junior intern Michael Lassiter of Wade Center for Abortion celebrate another awesome procedure.

Crane credited favorable political conditions for his improved service and increased clientele. He offered unconditional praise for George W. Bush, calling him "an abortionist's best friend." The president's policies, he said, have contributed greatly to the continued clout of WCA.

"It's true that a lot of businesses are struggling, what with the wars overseas and outsourcing all around," Crane said. "But in every dark cloud lies a silver lining, right? For example, President Bush's tax cuts have not only helped my business grow, but have apparently helped a lot of young parents. Ever since those tax cuts took effect, I have had more requests for abortions than ever."

Additionally, Crane thanked Bush for not supporting gay marriage, which he called "an affront to everything that I hold dear, both as an American and as an abortion provider."

Crane’s passion for his job—and his country—extends to his patients. Several WCA clients credited Crane with helping make a difficult decision easier. Danielle Townley, now a 24-year-old college sophomore, admitted that she was initially frightened about the situation she found herself in at the tender age of 19.

"When my boyfriend Brad knocked me up, I didn't know if I'd be able to support myself, much less a child," Townley recalled. "Brad had left town as fast as his ATV would carry him, making the decision all that much harder. After speaking with my parents, my doctor and my priest, I came to the conclusion that what I needed was to have the baby. I also deserved to hate myself.

"But then I saw an ad in the newspaper for 'Christian pregnancy counseling.' Here in Louisiana, that's often code for an abortion clinic. But I went anyway, and from that moment Dr. Crane made me feel like I was the most important pregnant woman in the room. After touring his fabulous facility and meeting the helpful and eager staff, I was just dying for an abortion!"

Townley added that she had so much fun at WCA that she got pregnant four more times just so she could return to the clinic. "I think every woman should have at least one abortion," she said. "Abortions are so much fun! It's such a bonding experience to share something so life-changing with a professional who cares about you. Sometimes, that's all that someone like me needs."

Despite the utopian atmosphere of WCA, Crane concedes that he is not immune from criticism. “Not a day goes by when I catch heat from someone for my choice of career,” he said. “They allege that I’m in the killing business. My reply to them is always, ‘So what did you eat for lunch today? Whatever it is, I’m sure it was dead.’ That usually takes the words right out of their mouth. I derive daily happiness from giving women the ultimate pleasure: abortion. What’s so wrong with someone enjoying their job? Isn’t that the American dream?”

One of Crane’s most outspoken critics is pro-life advocate Derrick Yates. Along with their 17 children, the Yates family pickets WCA each day, holding aloft signs reading “It’s a child, not a career” and “Crane enjoys his job way too much.”

“From the very first moment we saw this death center, we knew that it was a travesty in the eyes of the Almighty God,” Yates said. “But the last straw was watching Crane seemingly enjoy the job. I mean, I’m all for free-market capitalism and all, but some people are just too good at business to understand the meaning of life.” He then paused to tousle the hair of one of his many sons and to command his wife, April, to approach him. “Crane would be so much happier if he would partake in the holy and sacred act of breeding himself. What is more beautiful in life than bringing a new baby into this world? I can’t think of anything.”

After pausing for a moment, Yates added, “Did I mention that I’m a total pimp?”

But Crane is not deterred by such criticism. "I always say that if someone has something bad to say about you, then you must be doing something right. I deal in choice, and what is more American than being in control of your own destiny? I’m sure in control of mine. And business is booming!”

Friday, January 07, 2005

Tainted threads

What the distinguished conservative will be wearing, if any exist

This post comes with my first-ever warning:

So conservative equals profane? Posted by Hello

You guessed it! Time to take another shopping trip to Right Wing Stuff, that famous repository of uncensored conservative thought that you can wear on your sleeve!

Heading off this exciting new clothes rack are the standard shirts that you can wear when constantly screaming your deepest beliefs to startled passers-by makes you too hoarse:

Eeny, meeny, miney, moe... Posted by Hello

Like the cola, it's best enjoyed with cocaine Posted by Hello

We could even start a war over it! Posted by Hello

The GOP way to say: "I got laid...nine months ago!" Posted by Hello

And you know how the GOP loves industry... Posted by Hello

Bush, 9/11, never stops! Posted by Hello

Too bad it's 2005! Posted by Hello

Of course, the Republicans have steamrolled all branches of the federal government for the next few years. So what's at the top of a conservative's agenda these days? Arming oneself against a tyrannical encroaching government, of course!

My gun, that is...still looking for my penis Posted by Hello

So why isn't the second the FIRST? Posted by Hello

One nation, under Gun... Posted by Hello

Then there's the oh-so-always-hilarious France bashing, serving the dual purpose of equating France with terrorism and equating terrorism with (shudder!) France:

Then France has nothing to worry about Posted by Hello

Under the influence of the drugs I sold him! Posted by Hello

Then there's the "wit and humor" section, which is heavy on irony (because most of it is neither witty nor funny):

That's not a nice thing to say about the Bush daughters! Posted by Hello

Is this really a good comparison for Repubs? Posted by Hello

But Osama shirts are as hard to find as Osama Posted by Hello

Um...don't we already have that? Posted by Hello penises being that small Posted by Hello

I'm gonna fist that Bush pussy! Posted by Hello

Hannitized=Contaminated? Posted by Hello

Help prevent spousal abuse...kill the bitch! Posted by Hello

Held up to a black light, you can see the "not" Posted by Hello

If he did the Dixie Chicks first, it'd take his mind off the first four Posted by Hello

I did, however, find one thing rather amusing: Right Wing Stuff presents us with some self-depreciating humor in the form of a major flip-flop! Can you spot it?

That's right! They can't decide whether Red Heat or Terminator is their favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger movie! Losers!

There's also that famous conservative emphasis on edumacation:

And so is my spelling of "closed-minded" Posted by Hello

A-ha! So they DO think the Earth is flat!! Posted by Hello

Speaking of edumacation, how's this for a Young Republican button?

You VILL vork vor uz! Posted by Hello

Some of the shirts just defy captioning or commentary, even from my snide fingertips:

Even here in south Louisiana, I have yet to see any of these shirts worn. I guess even Republicans have some degree of tact. However minuscule.