Friday, June 29, 2007

Rewriting LeftBlog

The Daily Advertiser in Lafayette runs a pair of opposing political blogs, imaginatively titled LeftBlog and RightBlog. LeftBlog is written by Stephen Handwerk, a local businessman and member of the Lafayette Parish Democratic Party.

Full disclosure: I have never met Handwerk, but I don't doubt his sincerity and bravery in tackling progressive issues in Lafayette. He's surely a decent man as well. However, I have read much ridicule of his writing by Advertiser contributor and pal Nick Bouterie and that makes me sad. It's not that Handwerk doesn't make valid points, but his incorrect grammar and sometimes tiring prose makes him a ripe target for the kind of lowbrow attacks famous among right-wing commentators. And I hate to see that happen to good people.

I've never been the voice of a political party, and probably never will be. And no one at the Advertiser was about to let me run LeftBlog. Maybe that was a wise move. Because below is how I would have written Stephen's (better than usual) current LeftBlog.

(Note: I've rewritten only the first section, because my personal preference is to stick to one topic per piece. Then again, I don't get to publish only once a week.)

Amid much upheaval, Lafayette Parish has a new school board. And, true to their word, they’re already cracking down on the big-money issues. With so much to be done, the board has plenty of problems to choose from. Some schools have been shut down due to fire-code violations. Bathrooms lack such staples as soap dispensers. The list goes on and on, like the world’s longest and deadliest history lecture.

But never mind any of that. Of utmost urgency was the $300,000-plus outlay for what amounts to absolutely nothing. The school board has voted to buy out the contract of superintendent James Easton. And while Easton’s tenure has been pockmarked with controversy, surely there was some better, more cost-effective solution to the crisis.

Easton has exhibited a leadership style similar to George W. Bush: snap judgments, with no budging on his position out of apparent pride. And this deserves what amounts to a year’s paid vacation for the outgoing superintendent? Were the taxpayers of Lafayette Parish pining to waste more money than they already do?

Regardless of Easton’s job performance, the newly elected members of the board who prompted the buyout may have done more harm than good in the long run. With this display of financial wizardry, how likely is it that taxpayers will trust future education-tax proposals? And how likely are they to even want to renew existing school taxes? Nice job, board.

Mike Hefner had an interesting, if symbolic, idea: that the new board members forsake their salary until the cost of this buyout is covered. Though that’s never going to happen, it would go a long way toward ensuring that the school board exercise discretion with funding. If they felt that it was their own money at stake, they might make smarter decisions.

As long as the new school board occupies itself with childish reasoning, our actual children will pay the price.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Prying information with the crowbar of my curiosity

Last night I went to see Evan Almighty (moral: "Change the world one act of random kindness at a time"). On my way there, I helped a stranded motorist get gas. I then got a favor of my own when the theater people let me in even though I lost the ticket I purchased earlier in the day. Buoyed by these two events, I strode up to the concession stand, hankering for some Reese's Pieces. In the middle of the lobby, however, was an unusual sight: a long line of people, cordoned off by ropes made of film. Was this a concession line? I suppose I should ask somebody.

When needing to know information from strangers, I generally stride toward those I deem most receptive to talking to me. Or whoever's cutest. In this case, I just went for the first person I saw: a balding guy in glasses, sitting Indian-style on the carpet. Next to him were three or four college-age girls. The guy is the first to look up at me.

"Hey, is this the concession line?" I ask, casually.


"Hey, is this the concession line?" I ask, casually. Again.

Guy looks at me as if he can't see through his glasses.

"Is this the concession line?"

Beat. Another beat. "You talking to me?"

"I'm talking to anybody. Is this the concession line?"

Beat. Another beat. "No."

At this point, I'm really curious. "What line is this, then?"

Nothing. Guy diverts his attention. I feel like I'm talking to myself now. Awkward.

I begin to step away.

Finally, one of the college girls turns around and says, "It's a movie line."

"Which movie? Transformers?" I ask, not expecting an answer.

Beat. Another beat. "Live Free and Die Hard," she says.

"Ah," I mutter, marveling at how I'm adopting Missouri speech patterns.

Conversing with some southerners is like talking to a wall, but at least that wall talks back to you.

Plasma TVs aren't the only thing being stolen from Louisiana

Missouri recently adopted the crawfish as its state invertebrate. Sorry, crayfish.

Yes, I was puzzled by this. And not just because Associated Press style mandates use of the word "crawfish" over "crayfish" ("a rare exception to Webster's New World Dictionary"). But, as I said to some co-workers:

"Doesn't something like 99 percent of the world's crawfish harvest come from Louisiana?"

"Yes, but we don't suck out their heads like you guys do."

"Neither do I. But that's still a strange decision."

In retaliation, I suggest that Louisiana adopt the St. Louis Arch as its official state arch. It is in the Louisiana Purchase, after all!

By the way, did you know that some species of crawfish are actually endangered? Quite a quandary for you Cajun Al Gores out there.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A.M. lunacy of the non-talk-radio kind

Why are self-professed "morning people" so terminally smug? This letter from today's "Dear Abby" encapsulates what a lot of us night owls are forced to deal with:

Dear Abby:

You know what? I think "Too Tired" needs to suck it up and do the job assigned to her. Most jobs are based on the premise that you wake up early, go to work and get home for dinner. In college you can schedule classes to start at 3 in the afternoon if you want, sleep in and enjoy your mornings.

It's time for "Too Tired" to learn that the majority of people go to work in the morning, and she should get used to it.

For all of their perkiness, morning types are some of the most conceited people on the planet. The fact that their internal clock jibes perfectly with the American rat race is, for some reason, a major source of pride for them. There’s nothing wrong with being a morning person, but it certainly doesn’t warrant the condescending attitude that many of the lifestyle’s biggest supporters display.

Don't get me wrong; I love the morning. Nothing is quite like the piercing orange glow of a clear sunrise. But that's exactly why I like the morning: because, for me, it's a time to chill and energize. It's downtime. All those childhood weekends spent late in bed, reading a book and waiting for the biscuits to rise, had a profound effect on me.

In sixth grade my favorite teacher was, as she put it constantly, the epitome of a morning person. I liked her a lot, but that was probably because I had her in the morning. Those who had her in the afternoon hated her: "God, she’s such a morning person!" It was probably no accident that their grades always seemed to be worse than mine. It definitely wasn’t because I had some hardcore work ethic at 10 a.m.

More recently, I had a friend jolt me awake at 9 a.m. on my cell phone, only a couple of hours after I had gone to bed. She just wanted to chat. After detecting my groggy voice, she said, "You're not awake?!! I've been up for hours, so I figured everyone else was too! Wow!" Damn Bush voters.

The problem with morning people is that they've never had to see things from the night shift, whereas night people have inevitably seen it both ways. Day care centers, schools, summer camps, churches, farms...all of these things start not too far from sunrise. Every person who has evolved into a nocturnal type has grown up in the daytime. We have a respect (and occasionally a twinge of envy) for those who do their best work early in the day. We understand that everyone is not like us. If we need to make an appointment, we are the ones who lose sleep. Our social lives suffer, too, because the average person gets tired of the party just as our energy kicks in. Still, we deal with it.

So why is it so hard for morning people to do the same thing?

I think it's time that night people got a break. The nine-to-five world would completely fall apart without us nocturnal folks! After all, who staffs the bars and trendy restaurants where you eat and drink away the remnants of your workday? Who minds the grocery stores where you inevitably wind up when you need a quick item at a late hour? Who keeps you entertained, whether live or on screen? Who keeps the streets safe as you while away the evening enjoying your various spoils? Who is on call in case a loved one or pet suddenly falls ill? Who stays up half the night so you can have a morning newspaper?

Night people, that's who!

We're not lazy. We don't have insomnia or sleep apnea. We aren't where we are because we couldn't hack it at a "real" job. We aren't (all) creepy loners with no hobbies.

I sleep seven or eight hours a night, and wake up five hours before I have to go to work. It's like having a weekend every day. By the time I go to work, I am mentally relaxed and physically fit (and, yes, I work 40 hours a week). It feels a lot better than all those years I spent jumping out of bed and throwing myself straight into the grind, wolfing down a breakfast bar and hoping I wouldn’t be late. Cock-a-doodle-doo!

On second thought, maybe the morning smugness is simply veiled jealousy of us superior, relaxed night people. Ha ha! Just kidding. I’m not like that. I say, wake whenever you feel ready for the world. No one should feel punished for that at any time of day or night.

Well, that's all for now. I think I'll call it a day.

Monday, June 25, 2007

If you want to hide, you shouldn't run for office

This is a good one. Dick Cheney is so hellbent on keeping his activities a secret that he is actually making a case that the vice president does not fall under the executive branch!

The dispute stems from Cheney's refusal to file annual reports with an office of the National Archives detailing the number of documents his office either has classified or declassified.

Cheney's office has claimed his role as president of the Senate also makes him part of the legislative branch and therefore is not covered by a presidential order requiring executive branch workers to report their numbers of classified and declassified government documents.

Is this anything like when the Bush administration reclassified fast-food jobs as manufacturing jobs to beef up wilting employment numbers? Or when Reagan tried to get ketchup classified as a vegetable? Or when I tried to declare my car a skateboard so I wouldn't have to pay for insurance?

Cheney is worse than Bush when it comes to contempt for the law and not even pretending to care how he comes off to his constituents (actually, he cares a lot about what his constituents think...but the people? Not so much...).

At least one member of Congress had the steel to call him on this reversal of precedent:

Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Sunday a court should decide whether the vice president belongs to the executive or legislative branch. "The vice president needs to make a decision," he said.

Well, OK, I wouldn't call that "steel," necessarily. I can see Cheney replying to that quote with a George Carlin-esque, "Well, that's all I need to hear!"

But would Dick be a true member of the Bush administration if he didn't respond with playground petulance? Of course not!

Lea Anne McBride, a Cheney spokeswoman, said Emanuel is the one who has to decide. "He can either deal with the serious issues facing our country, or create more partisan politics," she said.

If the Cheney camp is that bitter over a milquetoast quote such as, "The vice president needs to make a decision," then how could they possibly handle someone who actually expressed resistance? What if someone said, I don't know, "Dick Cheney, you are not above the law. You do not get to rewrite the law or try to suffocate the National Archives every time you have something to hide. You do not get to play by your own rules and operate your own shadow government. Your willingness to bend revered American institutions for your own arrogant ends proves that you are more about retaining power than you are about serving your country. Your corrupt ways have no place in the Free World?" Would tongues waggle? I wish someone would help me find out on that one.

The White House, not surprisingly, has made all of this a moot point. Under the presidential order in question, all members of the executive branch have to report their classified-document numbers...except for the president and vice president!!

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Sunday that President Bush agrees with Cheney's analysis. The executive order's reporting requirements do not apply to the offices of the president or vice president, Fratto said.

Why does this White House even issue rules? They're so transparently hypocritical that one can only deduce that they're doing it to laugh in our faces. They'd save a ton of time and taxpayers' money if they just took all existing laws and taped a small tab to the end of each one that read, "Not applicable to deciders."

The best thing about this? The 2003 executive order Cheney wants to violate (er, get around on an extremely dubious technicality) requires statistics on classified documents to be sent to the Information Security Oversight Office. So is it safe to assume that even the Vice President of the United States thinks that our fight against terror is a joke? The neocons are always saying, "You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide." Chilling as such a mentality is, it seems downright decent when applied to Cheney's case. If he's going that far to hide information, then we must be at least that vigilant in ensuring he cannot.

January 20, 2009 can't come fast enough.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Looks like I already tried harder

Two days ago, I noted that this blog was rated R by the Motion Picture Association of Wildly Popular Blog Memes. Just out of curiosity, I submitted More Than Words, my collection of college columns. They ran at a particularly Puritan period in the newspaper's timeline (i.e., the "no vulgarity" era), so of course I wasn't all surprised to earn this rating:

Online Dating

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

gay (23x) kill (19x) death (18x) hell (15x) gun (12x) sex (11x) porn (10x) dead (9x) breast (8x) suck (7x) dangerous (6x) drugs (5x) pain (4x) crap (3x) rape (2x) cocks (1x)

If they counted all the times I said Bush, I'd probably be closer to NC-43.

Guess I have mellowed in my post-collegiate years. Ah, youth!

Friday, June 22, 2007

In defense of independence

My parents are seething over a report that supposedly said that Lafayette, LA is one of the most conservative cities in the United States. While looking for the report via Google, I found a site featuring Lafayette singles who tag themselves "conservative." Lots of older women, many of whom look artificially good for their age (emphasis on the "artificially"). At the top of the page was a banner ad for "He's hot...he's single...AND LOADED!!! Meet men who make over $100K..." Well, that at least explains some of the wedding/engagement pictures in the area. But I digress.

Wikipedia cites the Bay City Center for Voting Research as placing Lafayette ninth on the list of most conservative U.S. cities. That's saying a lot, though not at all surprising, considering that the Ian Center for Voting Research figured that out years ago.

Lafayette's conservative politics are peculiar because they aren't the in-your-face variety that permeates various right-wing movements across the country. Instead, the climate is one far more sinister: it's one of ubiquity. Put another way, the city runs on the understanding that everyone's conservative. What passes for debate is often framed as a perceived fringe group (Save the Horse Farm, for example, or blacks) against the decent folk (who are framed as everyone else). Which, obviously, makes it unbelievably easy to dismiss their concerns. Such movements are seen as bumps in the road rather than as an ongoing effort to make the government and city better.

Differences in politics in Louisiana are treated the way teenagers treat differences in music tastes: "Gross! I am not listening to that crap! You should be embarrassed to like that stuff. How the hell can you stand it?"

This attitude was cemented for me once I realized that newspapers in Salt Lake City, UT and Springfield, MO frequently carried very balanced letters sections. If someone wrote a right-wing rant or a report skewed rightward, someone would call them on it - and vociferously. Some of the most biting, liberal letters I've ever seen were in the Salt Lake Tribune. Despite both cities' conservative reputations, discourse thrives because enough balance exists to keep it legit on both sides. Conversely, Lafayette has the balance but very few forums where such balance can gain a foothold.

Ever seen the StoryChat forum of the Daily Advertiser's opinion section? Every post I left there was met with more angry vitriol than I’ve ever had on this blog. And that’s a big deal, because Not Right readers come from all over the world, whereas all the most furious and personal attacks came from people in my hometown who had no idea who I was. I've been blogging for more than three years now, but I lasted about a week on StoryChat before it whipped me.

Maybe people like myself are part of the problem. Aside from an Earth Day march through a questionable neighborhood with my fourth-grade class, I never participated in a single protest in Lafayette. Indeed, I participated in virtually no political movement of any kind in my 27 years there. Was it because I was lazy? No. Was it because I didn't care about current events? You tell me. The honest answer is because I felt I did more damage with one political column than I ever could have making phone calls, holding hands or devoting my time to causes that were lost decades ago. I've always felt most effective when speaking only for myself and from myself. Lafayette's tragic intolerance of dissent probably made me that way.

Local activists are often immediately dismissed as being beholden to one party or group, a charge I hoped could not be applied to me. I've never been registered to any political party. I refused endless requests to join/helm the UL College Democrats. I routinely ignore the massive amount of campaign press releases I receive daily in my e-mail. Even now, I tend to bristle when people suggest a topic for me to write about. I'm working on curbing the solipsism. It's getting easier as I am more able to be myself in mixed company.

I'll admit I have a way to go. In Lafayette, I was once introduced to my boss' widow as "that Bush hater." At his funeral. Awkward! Something like that makes you wonder what they say in less-formal situations...

Living in another state has opened up my eyes to the frustration of Louisiana even more than I ever thought it could. One minor, yet significant, example of this is the university parallel. Here in Springfield, there used to be a campus known as Southwest Missouri State University (SMSU). In 2005, the school became Missouri State University. No regional qualifiers. No "MSU at Springfield." Just, Missouri State University. And, as far as I know, the state's largest institution, the University of Missouri-Columbia (aka Mizzou), is still thriving.

LSU, are you listening? Of course you aren't.

(And, yes, most people I've met assumed I went to LSU. When I tell them otherwise, they must wonder if I couldn't hack it there. So much for UL prestige.)

And while Missouri is far from the most enlightened state vis-a-vis politics, voters do keep prognosticators on their toes. They elected far-right Gov. Matt Blunt, sure, but they also kept John Ashcroft out of the chair by voting for a dead man. And, of course, who can forget Sen. Claire McCaskill? Even Gov. Blunt can lean away from the neocons occasionally. I haven't yet heard anyone say, "Well, Missouri politics have been and always will be corrupt." Though they do say that about Louisiana. Just as Louisianians do.

When you meet someone in Missouri, you find that they speak their mind. One girl I met at a pizzeria was very candid with me about how much the local holy-rollers irritate her. This came after only a few minutes of cursory conversation. It struck me, not only because I agreed with her, but because she didn't care if I did or not. She was not about to censor her thoughts just because the person on the next stool might not like them! Telling her that I was a liberal blogger didn't ease her mind, simply because her mind needed no easing. Her attitude was that if I agreed, great; if not, then we'll just move on. I've since shared similar unfettered conversations with locals. Even if our stances didn't always cross, I didn't walk away feeling like I made a permanently bad impression. And I felt better because I was able to be myself.

And thus, I impart this nugget to those who want to make a change in Louisiana but don't quite have the juice to do so: forget what critics think about you. It is not normal for change to be regarded with such contempt and hostility. Get out for awhile and see how people in other areas effect change. And, if you can stomach a return to the corrupt politics of Louisiana, then you'll make a fantastic thorn in their side. The biggest enemy to Louisianians is the attitude that things just are they way they are. From 700 miles north, I can tell you that they aren't.

It's all up to you.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I promise to try harder

What's My Blog Rated? From Mingle2 - Online Dating

Not that I didn't expect an "R" rating, but I thought the criteria was a little unusual:

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

* dead (3x) * hell (2x) * sex (1x)

Did they not even take the nudity into consideration? I'm hurt.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Drive like the divine with the new Ten Commandments!

In what no doubt is the start of a new trend, the Catholic Church has sprung 10 new Ten Commandments on us. These new divine directives involve one's holy conduct behind the wheel.

1. You shall not kill.
2. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.
3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.
4. Be charitable and help your neighbour in need, especially victims of accidents.
5. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.
6. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.
7. Support the families of accident victims.
8. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.
9. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.
10. Feel responsible toward others.

These are very sensible regulations that every driver of any faith would be wise to heed. In that sense they're like the real Ten Commandments. Except that they all have secular wisdom, as opposed to about half of the real ones.

The Vatican has spoken its peace. Let the centuries of roadside bloodshed caused by differing interpretations begin!

For one, I have a feeling these will not fly with our religious right. They don't seem to cover all the bases of pious American motoring. No doubt that you'll see amendments like these being pushed on The 700 Club very soon:

1) Thou shalt adorn thy car with as much tacky Jesus kitsch as physics permit.
2) Thou shalt not kill with thine auto, lest you make irony of thine pro-life bumper stickers.
3) God shall always be thine co-pilot. Drive like He means it.
4) Thou must inform fellow motorists that, in case of Rapture, thine vehicle shall be unmanned.
5) Thou shalt adorn a "Real men love Jesus" decal to remind gays that they're going to Hell.
6) Thou shalt Focus on the Family...but even more so on the road in front of thou.
7) Thou shalt always stay to the right, both in politics and on the road.
8) Thou shalt always Stay the Course. Never yield to weakness, sin or stop signs.
9) Though this hath nothing to do with driving, keep abortionists on the brain.
10) If thine gets in an accident, blame it on thy ACLU. They made it happen.

Like all good religious folks, I believe in adhering to the basics. So now, I officially decree the Orthodox Ian version of the Ten Commandments of Driving:

1) Drive like you are the Lord God. Thou shalt have no other Gods before the SUV.
2) Thou shalt not make thyself an idle motor.
3) Thou shalt not take the name of the Ford in vain. Unless thou driveth a Chevy with thine Calvin decal depicting otherwise.
4) Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy with a slow, wandering drive.
5) OnStar thy Mother and Father.
6) Thou shalt not kill thine need for speed.
7) Thou shalt not commit adultery in thy backseat.
8) Thou shalt not carjack.
9) Thou shalt not bear any false witness from devilish car dealers.
10) Though shalt not covet thy neighbor's car or wife. However, thou shalt feel free to ogle the bikini-clad model sitting on a souped-up Mustang on the cover of thine "Low-Rider" magazine.

Amen. Now hit the road.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Oh, God, not again!

When debating faith, it's very easy to gauge - within the first minute or so, in fact - whether or not the debate will be worthwhile. When defending their religion, most people are able to articulate at least somewhat of a rational case. You may still find yourself in disagreement and/or scratching your head, but you are satisfied that their reasons can be reconciled with daily life to some degree. With these people, a healthy conversation can be illuminating.

Others are so wrapped up in their dogma that they literally can't see beyond it - as if the only reason you aren't exactly like them is that you have yet to hear their beatific sales pitch. For all their talk about "skeptics," "blasphemers" and the ever-popular "hellbound," these types still see most people as clean slates. The embodiment of this is a Halloween-themed Chick tract I read once where the kid asks, "Who's Jesus?" After being fed a few Bible verses, the kid is on his knees asking Jesus Christ to come into his life, and man, does he feel better! Wow, that was easy!

This mentality peppers a recent letter to the Springfield News-Leader. It is in response to a past article in which someone alleged that up to 95 percent of the Holy Bible was cribbed from ancient Sumarian and Egyptian texts. That's a pretty serious allegation, one bound to rile up those who have spent years studying the Christian religion. Armed with several advanced degrees in theology and decades of church service, this writer is brimming with facts proving that the Bible is not plagiarized. How dare they even pose such an allegation in the first place? Let the beat-down commence!

I have to say that I have never heard or read anything that would support any of the claims mentioned by the writer.

Here's the honest truth: Christianity is alive and well and our future is bright! Under the banner of Christ, we are still building many new churches each year and sending out many new missionaries to more and more countries and seeing many new converts to Christianity around the world. We invite all to join us and receive the eternal benefits of salvation and eternal life! That's what true Christianity is all about — nothing more, nothing less!

Ooh! A striking blow for truth! With that kind of rebuttal, how can you ever argue again that the Bible may not be entirely original? Hey, they're building churches and everything! Duh!

Amid little shock, I noticed that the letter comes from the vice president of the Louisiana Baptist Theological Seminary. Any wonder why people often have the wrong idea about the Bayou State?

It's as if I confronted Bill Gates about how he allegedly co-opted public-domain computer programs floating around in the 1970s and early '80s, slapped "Microsoft" labels on them and made billions, and this being his response:

"Microsoft is alive and well and our future is bright! Under the banner of Microsoft, we are still building many new products each year and seeing many new converts to Windows around the world. We invite all to join us at Comdex and receive the eternal benefits of brand loyalty! That's what Microsoft is all about - nothing less!"

Would you buy that kind of response? I wouldn't. And neither should you.

Three years ago, I received a message in a similar holy vein from a Lafayette blogger, who wasn't happy that I criticized him for saying that Satan was guiding anti-war celebrities. I asked him what was Christian about indiscriminate killing. His long, rambling response boiled down to this:

God saved me. Jesus died on the cross. Militant Islamics and liberal media types are tools of the devil. If you don't agree with me, you are an enemy of Christ. I no longer practice sin. Can I sit you down sometime and brainwash you?

Why, yes! How could you not with that power of persuasion?

As I've done before, I'll offer some advice to fervent evangelicals: if you want to persuade potential converts, don't assume that it'll be as easy as spouting a few Bible passages. We've all heard them before, and in many cases it's what drove us from the faith in the first place. It's a skeptical world out there, and today's folks need a little more reasoning and candor before they devote themselves to a cause of such magnitude. The next time you're tempted to convert a naive heathen, ask yourself if you aren't, in fact, the naive one.

What might help you are facts and an approachable outlook. That is, if you can muster them.

Friday, June 15, 2007

I'm almost sorry I vote

I've been asked a lot lately about who I support for the presidency in 2008. Good question. One without a definite answer, for sure.

--Barack Obama? In many ways, yes. He is certainly presidential material; not only is he the consummate American success story, but his platform and personality are just what America needs at this juncture. Moreover, his baggage is so thin that "ex-closet-smoker" and "middle name of Hussein" just about sums it up.

But he's been in the Senate for less than one term. Not that a little less experience in Washington would help about now, but it does give his candidacy too much of a "feel-good" vibe for my comfort. Nevertheless, I still rank Obama high on my support list. I hope he fares ridiculously well on the campaign trail. If not, there's always 2012...hell, 2016! I'm hoping for a Democratic re-election in 2012.

--Hillary Clinton? Tough call. On one hand, she carries the most loaded political capital of anyone running from any party; on the other hand, she and Bill would arguably be one of the most effective one-two tandems on the world stage. On one hand, a liberal woman president is long overdue; on the other hand, a liberal woman president who refuses to repent for her Iraq war vote comes off as a power-mongering opportunist. On one hand, it would be fantastic to have the time-tested Clintons back in the White House; on the other hand, it would be tedious to have the time-tested Clinton-bashing back in D.C. On one hand, there are several Democratic candidates I would rather have spare me this dilemma; on the other hand, I'd choose Hillary if it came down to her and any of the declared Republican candidates.

--John Edwards? He was my Barack before Barack was my Barack. Youthful spirit, touches of adversity, short-term Senator - all in all, a very likable politician. Also, Cate! Not to mention that any run of his would probably not turn up much new dirt, since he's already been tumble-dried in the previous cycle. But, like Obama, Edwards needs to build more clout. Unlike Obama, he's not currently doing that in the Roll Call sense. I hope he's soon back in D.C. in some leadership capacity so that can happen.

--Al Gore? Yes! Now here's someone who is using his time wisely, urging the world to care about a real issue that affects everyone - global warming. In doing so, he has all but rid himself of his stodgy, stiff image and his reluctance to speak his mind. And by pushing for environmental responsibility, he's effectively making many of the Democrats (and all Republicans) look goofy in their rush to debate Creationism versus science, gays, who supports the troops and who supports gay troops. In other words, he's exactly the type of person who should be running for president. But he isn't. Unless he's simply biding his time, which is also smart on his part. Also, there's the fact that he won back in 2000. And, this time, he's learned from his November mistakes. Go Gore!

--Rudy Giuliani? John McCain? Mitt Romney? Fred Thompson? Duncan Hunter? Tom Tancredo? Well, most of those guys are better than Bush. Also, Giuliani has cross-dressed and hosted Saturday Night Live. But if those are the best things I can say about any of them, then there's no point in pretending I'd consider any of them.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

My grandfather said I was funny, but he didn't mean it like THAT

What's in a name? To one angry reader of the Springfield News-Leader, apparently plenty:

Most of you have college degrees, so I'm sure you know the definition of the word, comics. Would you please explain how a list of dead American military personnel is "comical?" [...]

The next time a child is beaten to death, or a terrible car wreck, why don't you guys make up a funny cartoon about it!

The letter refers to this Doonesbury Sunday strip, one of two done for Memorial Day week 2007. If you haven't seen it, check out the link. It's tasteless and totally hilarious, just like an episode of Family Guy! Only a total Stiffly Stifferson would not find this typically uproarious Doonesbury delight just right for the comic page! Right? Anyone?

Okay. Back to Planet Earth.

First off, "comic" lost its humorous connotation a long time ago. These days, the term seems to be used almost exclusively by dead-serious, superhero-obsessed Stan Lee wannabes. Quick word association: comic book. What came to mind when you just read that? Archie or Wolverine? How about, say, Spider-Man? He's pretty popular these days. So popular, in fact, that his eponymous strip also runs on numerous comic pages, including ours. And Spider-Man is about as funny as a real spider spelunking in your nostril. Where's the outrage over that?

Second, I've seen this anti-Doonesbury sentiment before. Back in south Louisiana, readers used to complain constantly to the local paper that such a politically charged strip had no place on the comic-strip page. Curiously, none of them ever complained about Mallard Fillmore, which is the conservative equivalent of Doonesbury (albeit more amateurish, petulant and even less funny than Spidey).

Third, although conservatives typically balk whenever a list of war dead gets any play, their outrage seems awfully selective. How dare you, Garry Trudeau! How dare you, Bono! How dare you, Ted Koppel! On the other hand, a list of dead victims from 9/11 adorning an 18-wheeler? They can't get enough of that! A couple of years back, I blogged about a rig that was adorned with murals spelling out the names of all who perished in the World Trade Center attack. It seemed honorable enough, except for the exceptionally tacky "Have you forgotten?" sentiment piled atop airbrushed imagery of jingoism and warfare.

What were the right-wing reactions then to my disgust?

"Why can't the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 have a memorial that isn't criticized? If it were one of my family members listed on that truck, I'd be highly pissed at the way you demean and politicize it."

"Why is it that every time someone does something to honor those who died during 9/11 the left has to make fun of it or denigrate it? What can they not take it as it is--a memorial to honor those who died."

Off-blog, I'd hear friends say, "But it's sweet!" "Are you trying to pretend this never happened?" "So what if someone wants to pay tribute to the victims?" My problem is that it has no place on America's trailers, where I'm only in the mood to read "SAIA," "Pepsi," "Mayflower" or other icons of the road. Seriously, though, another visitor put it best, shortly before launching into a cheap personal attack on me:

"The trucker is simply showing his appreciation for those lives lost in 9/11."

As much as I don't like seeing victims' names used as a tool for rhetorical revenge, neither would I grasp for any flimsy excuse for censorship, as yesterday's letter writer seems to be doing. Also, the Doonesbury tribute is tasteful, necessary and does not add a political message one way or the other.

But who's to say that someone isn't laughing their ass off at this endless list of war casualties? Check the banks, because I believe they are on their way there now.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

My impression of the GOP presidential debate

Fish. Barrel. Obama.

On another note, if you like my blog, you'll HATE this mudbug. Among other things, learn why self-esteem is bad, guilt is good and why being incredibly judgmental is good for your human psyche. Like its namesake, The Conservative Crawfish is red-faced and easy to boil. Also, its ideas seep into newspapers like so much broth.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Failures to communicate

--What is with this supposedly new footage of the Loch Ness Monster? Weren't all those old photos revealed as a hoax several years ago? Anyway, I'm pretty sure oceanographers covered every square inch of the Loch with advanced sensory equipment and found nothing more exciting than water and fish. But, I guess people can't live without their myths. Which is why science is so out of vogue these days.

--Paris Hilton and Scooter Libby have both been sentenced to prison. But I'm sure you know all about Paris' term: why she's going, where she's going to be, for how long, the exact dimensions of the furniture in her cell, etc. CNN is in a sad state these days when, during eight hours in a newsroom, all one can see on the screen is Paris Hilton, Nancy Grace, Paris Hilton, the Loch Ness Monster and Paris Hilton again. Come on! Scooter Libby just got sentenced to 30 months in prison! Does that mean nothing?!! Maybe if they put him in Paris' cell, public interest would be piqued. But even then, it'd be for the wrong reason.

--Do Jews and Muslims christen ships? Come to think of it, why does anyone still do that? "This is a great ship! You know what it needs before its maiden voyage? Someone to smash a bottle of champagne against it!" No one does this for a car! The fragments would rip up the paint and slash the tires. And champagne? Great choice when operating heavy machinery! I once read that the champagne is a substitute for human blood. Awesome. That says a lot about our ability to end barbaric traditions.

--Talking paper. Yes, we now have talking paper. Are we entering some period of intense boredom among inventors? Let's hope the paper can tell us the cures for cancer and AIDS. Oh, wait, talking paper has a different purpose:

The team envisages that the technology could be used by advertisers, and in the future, it might even be employed for product packaging.

NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! This is, quite possibly, the worst conceivable use for this product (though the most inevitable, I guess). Though created ostensibly for the purpose of promoting tourism, you just know this is eventually going to seep into less-prestigious advertising. Because what good is junk mail if it can't scream at you literally as well as figuratively?



No thanks. I like paper precisely because it's the one communicative medium that never feels the need to talk at me. Anyway, trees aren't supposed to hug you back.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Taking on right-wing columnists kung-fu movie at a time

This column by Cal Thomas really got me thinking...

Has that phrase ever been said before? I doubt it. Moving on...

Cal Thomas got me thinking about what a horrible socialist Hillary Clinton is and how, if elected, she will steal all of Bill Gates' money and redistribute it among illegal Mexican crackheads so they can purchase more marijuana from al-Qaida. Instead, Cal argues, we should preserve our current economic miracle of riches through hard work, pluck, merit and non-illegality.

I agree. The United States of America, copyright God, should be strictly a merit-based society. No cheating involved! If I were Hillary, I'd shut down the naysayers immediately by throwing down this doozy of a plank:

1) Money earned by the sweat of your brow is not taxed.
2) Any other sources of income, be they from inheritances, investments or from welfare, are taxed 100 percent.
3) Tax monies collected from said sources are reinvested in our schools, veterans hospitals and job offices. So that all Americans can pull themselves up by their bootstraps toward the good life.

Of course, all of this would mean that George W. Bush would be working the jobs even illegal immigrants don't do and the only buzz Paris Hilton would be getting would be in her rear-view mirror in between stays at the homeless shelter. Conversely, James Brown would have been president for at least six terms. You know, because he was the Hardest Working Man in Show Business. And the richest person in the country would be someone you've never heard of. Because they're doing all they can to get by. And probably a hardworking illegal immigrant. Funny.

When a columnist quotes Karl Marx and Adam Smith in reference to any 21st-century presidential candidate, you know they have lost perspective. I don't think I've seen a single candidate yet who actually advocated throwing out our system of government. I may be no fan of Rudy, Mitt or Tancredo; but neither am I quoting Adolf Hitler and Faith Popcorn to say why they hate America. Hillary is no socialist, in disguise or otherwise. She's fighting for a fairer society where people other than conservative cronies have a voice. If that alone makes her socialist, then call me Karl Marx.

On the other hand, maybe you're right that our current economic peril is caused by the fact that we don't teach children the Ten Commandments in social studies anymore. And that people sometimes have sex before marriage. Wasn't No Child Left Behind supposed to fix all that?

Nice Calvin Coolidge quote, by the way. Was Herbert Hoover busy?

Thomas Sowell: Liberals seduce recruits through language

So liberals are more articulate than conservatives, huh? No argument there. I guess it's pretty easy to sway people with terms as, "a living wage," "social justice," "affordable housing" and "affordable health care." Because people think it isn't too much to ask to have these extremely basic rights.

But don't forget, Tom, that the Republicans cornered all the really good ambiguities: life, liberty, freedom, patriotism, heritage, faith, prosperity, American, security, morals, values and God! For all of your talk about how liberals sway voters through clever use of rhetoric, you forgot that conservatives arrived first at the garage sale of words.

I hear plenty of hot buzzwords are still available: cakewalk, timetable, liberators, coalition, impeachment, withdrawal, link, mission and accomplished. Slightly used, some need body work.

Missouri Majority Whip Brian Nieves: English bill will save the day someday

Imagine the future: Jefferson City, Missouri, 2050. The Missouri General Assembly is now 95 percent Hispanic, under-representing the state's massive immigrant population. Everyone in the state speaks Spanish as their main language.

"We must make a move to preserve our heritage and make Spanish the official language of the state of Missouri," says Gov. Carlos Guevara, in Spanish. "We shall amend the state constitution immediately. Oh wait, what's this? We can't? English only? Shucks, never mind. I guess we'll all go home now."

That plausible situation aside, Nieves isn't saying that this is an anti-immigrant measure. Or that it is an 'English-only' measure. Or that it is a partisan proclamation. Or that it exists for any reason at all other than for Missouri voters to say, "Hey, we like English." Kind of like how some people say, "I'm white and proud of it," and somehow that isn't supposed to imply racism. I think. Can somebody help me out here?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Feeling cannibalized

Man, getting a taste of your own medicine hurts.

I just ran into a blog that had a lengthy entry ridiculing some of the headlines, copy and Web site glitches of the newspaper that I help edit. And all of the cited goofs (unbeknownst to the blogger but a little too beknownst to me) were my fault. Or, should I say, my oversight.

Day in and day out we get some of the most brutal, sarcastic and furious criticism for even the smallest micro-misunderstandings. Some of it gets posted on the wall for posterity. In a way it sucks; but it's also amusing because I see a lot of myself in those people. I loathe spelling and grammatical errors, especially when they appear in professional material. Everyone knows I've let other publications have it in the past for careless mistakes. There's simply no excuse for that.

On the other hand, I've come to learn that if you see one error in an article, it's because 15 others have been corrected. Not that anyone can see that (which is, of course, the idea). And that's how life is for a lot of people - do well 99 percent of the time, nobody notices; screw up once, however, and dig a hole to bury your dead reputation.

In the case of the blog in question, all I can do is bite the bullet and try not to make those mistakes again. What makes this weird to deal with, though, is that the particular mistake is something I avert every chance I get, but missed one time. And that's all it takes to get people making fun of you. Even if they don't know who "you" are.

The funniest thing about this? All the criticism I've seen regarding my headlines and such have come from liberal writers/bloggers who demand a more accurate and concise media. I've even been accused of deliberately trivializing the war on Iraq! To quote Calvin after Susie slammed him with a snowball he'd saved until June, "The irony of this is just sickening."

News mavens sure are a hard bunch to please. But that's really the way it should be. For what it's worth, I made mistakes that should have been corrected. To critics, I'd ask that you not confuse editorial vigilance with a presumptuous assault on character. I'll try harder. So should you.