Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The lame duck quacks

Finally, George W. Bush gives his last-ever State of the Union address. And, as always with this administration, my visceral reaction to the SOTU was, "STFU." Still, after eight of these babies, I may grow to miss the sheer morbidity of watching America's least-articulate president this side of Calvin Coolidge spout unconvincing lies year after year.

As with every major Bush speech, I inevitably took page upon page of notes for this blog. I tried not to do it; but mere minutes into Bush's spiel, I found myself instinctively reaching for the pen and pad. Call it a compulsion; such idiocy deserves intricate documentation/derision. Here now is my State of the Union notebook:

--Dick Cheney's undisclosed location apparently contains one hell of a tanning bed. And when did Carol Burnett become Speaker of the House?

--Bush just came thisclose to saying, "Git-R-Done." It seemed deliberate.

--Did he really say he still had "a charge to keep?" I wasn't aware that it was 2000 again. No wonder it feels like my concussion came back.

--CNN sure is partial to panning across the right side of the gallery. Guess there's nothing to see on the left, what with them staying seated and stone silent and all.

--Bush blames "151 bloated social programs" for the economic nosedive, saying that such programs cost billions and allow the government to overstep their authoritative bounds. A few minutes later, he calls for Congress to fully fund the Iraq war. And No Child Left Behind. He also wants to double funding for scientists, as long as they research stem cells in a way that pleases Jesus. Another boondoggle in the burner includes a greater push for "charitable choice," so "armies of compassion can march" (presumably to the "front lines of need"). Well, thank God for all that! I'd hate to see a kid not go hungry while Blackwater holds a bake sale to buy a Hummer.

--Health care. Keep it confusing. Applause.

--He's also calling for the funding of "Pell grants for kids," which he says will help poor students get away from "ailing public schools." Because actually fixing our public schools is too much to ask of the government.

--Bush calls Colombia "a friend of America." He would know.

--In an indirect swipe at Bill Clinton, Bush says that anyone who wants to pay more taxes is welcome to do so, and that "The IRS accepts both checks and money orders." This is a good tip to remember for next year, when we all have to pay back the so-called "economic stimulus."

--Ah, the economic stimulus. Bush talks it up as the most important thing he'll do all year, and is something that needs to be passed RIGHT NOW, for the sake of our economic survival. Unless Congress even thinks about adding a single earmark, in which case he'll veto it. And, presumably, spank the Democrats and send them to bed without supper.

--Boy, is Bush pissed at Congress! This isn't so much a State of the Union address as it is a passive-aggressive father fussing at his son. He's admonishing the body for blocking his wretched judicial appointments; for inadequate funding of troops; for running "crippling deficits" (that's rich); and for not wanting to renew that wonderful wiretapping thing. When he warned them that the monitoring law was about to lapse, a single person clapped. Why the hell didn't everyone else?

--Dubya's main pet peeve is that Congress didn't jump on his two favorite bugaboos: entitlement spending (meaning, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) and immigration. He didn't outline any plan for saving Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - and I don't blame him - but he did ask Congress to save them somehow. OK, then.

--At least Bush gave the government credit for one thing: not allowing any terrorist attacks since 9/11. That was nice of them.

--He says the U.S. can note a surplus as soon as 2012, if only we accelerate the tax policies that gave us a record deficit in the first place. What's that old saying about the definition of insanity?

--Fortunately, this speech wasn't held at Pee Wee's Playhouse. If Congress had to scream and ring bells every time Bush said "empower," they'd have been there all night.

--Wow! He just mentioned New Orleans! Woo-hoo! Sure, it was only to announce that some unrelated meeting's going to be there (and to score some cheap applause), but it's still one more reference than he made last year. Experts now predict that Bush could pay lip service to New Orleans as early as 2011.

--Even in his most petulant moments, Bush has been about as animated as Keanu Reeves under anesthesia. Then again, how many times can he get excited about a pledge to study alternative fuels? That must get old after the first few years. The audience was just as jaded, greeting the declaration with total silence. Bush then called for more coal and "nucular" power, which we can only hope was a desperate ad-lib.

--Of course, as soon as the topic turns to immigration and foreign policy, Bush lights up like...well, like he used to. He brags about how we've ended "catch and release," which I'd always assumed was more humane for the fish. Can't we just coexist peacefully?

--I'm pretty sure he just said, "building a prosperous future for our citizen." Which makes sense, if you think about it. "Terra...refuse to live in terra-ny" is a good one too. Mad malaprops to Bush! He's as bad at talking as Barack Obama isn't.

--"9/11...evil men...stay on the offense...deliver justice to our enemies..." So that's what it takes to get Cheney to rise!

--Why is Bush spouting off a bunch of Middle Eastern country names? That's confusing! Oh, right...

--Remember that whole "Stay the Course" thing? Well, Bush credits last year's turnaround (such as it was) to "a changed course." And by changed course, he means "work[ing] with the Iraqi forces to protect the Iraqi people." Which begs the question: what the hell were we doing before?

--"High profile" killings are down. But no word on "killings."

--More good news! Because of our success in Iraq, 20,000 troops are coming home! Of course, that's offset by the 3,200 Marines heading to Afghanistan. And the 140,000 troops not going anywhere. But, still, wheee!

--When issuing thanks to the troops and promising full funding for everything they need to get the undefined job done, Bush sounds about as sincere as an Extenze infomercial. But when talk turns to "De-Baathification" and telling the troops to "expect tough fighting ahead," Boy George can barely contain his enthusiasm. When he isn't doing his best Ronald Reagan-in-Berlin impression ("THIS ENEMY WILL BE DEFEATED!"), he's smirking and stifling laughs. The Republicans also get in on the act, yelling what sounds like, "HOO-AH!" It's like 2003 all over again. Which may explain why Bush suddenly segues into Iran and makes virtually the same case for war there as he did with Iraq. Well, anything to scare up some patriotism, right?

--Of course, Bush tells the people of Iran, "we have no quarrel with you." Just the government. Which the people of Iran would never rally around in the event of invasion. Naah. After all, everyone knows we're always right!

--If nothing else, making a shady case for war with Iran gives Bush an opportunity to remind us how well he can't say "nuclear." And that we're always ready to "defend our vital interests in the Persian Gulf." Like a well-oiled machine!

--Sudan. Cuba. Zimbabwe. Belarus. Burma. Bush's speechwriter wants us to know he's aware these places exist.

--Allowing the transfer of soldiers' education credits to spouses and children sounds like a good idea, except for the obvious.

--Bush closes his swan SOTU by saying that "The Miracle of America" lies not with the government, but with "the spirit and determination of our people." After hearing this turd of a speech tonight, I'm convinced of that more than ever.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Celebrating celebrities who chose to be alive...or something

I just saw a video that really irritated me. Wanna watch?



Yes, I'm well aware that whoever created this video didn't mean it to be irritating. Well, probably not. But as I watched it, several questions tore through my head:

1) What does it mean to say, "The following chose life?" It isn't clear whether these celebrities have spoken out against abortion, chose not to have an abortion when the opportunity presented itself, or simply mentioned once in passing that they were Christians (which obviously makes them anti-abortion activists). The video depicts an interesting amalgam of personalities. Whereas I expected the typical list of right-wing celebrities and athletes (many of whom make it), names of people I genuinely respect and admire also appeared. Which compelled me to wonder when George Washington and that guy with the nail in his head in Happy Gilmore picketed Planned Parenthood. Bono and Martin Luther King Jr. are also curious choices, given that their idea of Christianity is actually helping people and advocating for peace, as opposed to saying "Jesus" and "abstinence" a lot. Would they be honored to be nominated?

2) What does it mean to be "pro-life"? Several people on the video aren't exactly known for respecting life once it's born. George W. Bush is an interesting choice, given how many births his presidency has canceled out. Some appear to get the "pro-life" label based mainly on ability to generate children and/or hurl anti-gay invective. Others, like Mel Gibson, Duane "The Dog" Chapman, Gary Busey and Oliver North, are just embarrassing to the cause. Dan Quayle is the clincher. Was a good picture of Ted Nugent not available?

3) Who are they to judge? I'll leave that answer to the video's lively comment thread. But I will say this: whether or not these public figures represent the Christian principles of humanity, the video can't do justice to the billions of people on this planet who make a difference regardless of their publicly stated faith (or lack thereof). Good people are good people regardless of politics, religion or level of fame. Conversely, not even the glossiest presentation can vindicate those who represent the worst about "life."

Seeing this video reminded me of a puzzler I saw in some church magazine years ago: "Virtually every member of this pro football team is pro-life." The answer: Washington Redskins. Is that presumptuous or what? Are any of you ever asked this at work? Can such a thing even be measured?

In any case, this video is the most misguided roll call since the Top 50 Conservative Rock Songs rocked nobody's world back in '06. Let's hope it says everything about its creator and little about the people included within.

Friday, January 25, 2008

10-year reunions are funny!

Yesterday I got an invitation to my 10-year high school reunion, and with it a refreshing degree of flexibility:

SAVE THE DATE

Friday the 3rd - Football game
Saturday the 4th - appetizers, drinks, DJ
Sunday the 5th - dessert and drinks (koolaid that is, this is a time to bring the kids) at Girard Park (bring your own bag lunch)

Mark your calendars for October 3-5, 2008 for the LHS 10 yr h.s. reunion!
(formal invitation to follow)
The cost is $35 for singles and $65 for couples.

Please let us know ASAP if you plan on attending so that the details can be finalized.

ONE MORE THING - ALL OF THIS IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE.

Well, OK then... I hope they don't get tired and decide to do it the next weekend, like one of my Lafayette friends did with his party last summer when I came down. Oops!

All noncommittal date-saving aside, the very prospect of a 10-year reunion is amusing to me. I've always seen it as one of those things that happens to other people, like bills and belly fat. Well, just bills. Ha ha!

Let's just say that I probably didn't mature as much as my classmates. I haven't married, I don't have kids and I live alone in an apartment along a dead-end street. Which, on paper, sounds like I should be legally barred from the park outing with the kids. On the other hand, the reunion's nine months from now, so I still have time if I want to jump on the baby bandwagon...

Naah. I'm just hiding the fact that I'm as likely to play with the kids as I am with the adults. Because I've always had a soft spot for running around outside. In the few times I've seen my classmates in recent years, the conversation has inevitably steered toward how OLD we are. But I don't feel old, in the sense of "Let me settle down and connect the dots for the rest of my life while my pants get progressively bigger." I'm more like a sports car with way too much mileage and baggage in the trunk (so to speak). And like with most trips, once you've arrived, you can't always recall details of the drive.

Shortly before graduation, our school's newspaper asked seniors where they thought they'd find themselves in 10 years. Even in high school, I hated this question. It fails for two reasons:

1) You don't know what you want at 18. Most people don't know well past that age. You have no idea what tastes, influences, inclinations and circumstances are going to change in that time frame. Being single-minded on that front is more likely to disappoint you than not. Which sounds real authoritative coming from someone who currently makes a living doing the same duties he did for his high school paper, huh? Then again, I did want to be in the Olympics. So there! I'm a failure. You can now soak up my wisdom.

2) Even if you know what you want, isn't connecting the dots boring? Even in middle school, people would be really specific about this: "I am going to marry John Boudreaux and we are going to have three kids, two boys and a girl. I will work as a psychologist in a corner office on Kaliste Saloom, near that farmer's market on South Beadle. We'll live in a split-level on Richland Drive and I'll drive a 6-series BMW with the optional trim-leather package and vanity plates that say, 'HAPP-E'." Sweet Jesus, that's a commitment! I don't know what I'm having for lunch.

To me, 10 years seemed like an unfathomable amount of time. I'm certainly not heading into 2018 with any feasible game plan. And I can't recall what I wrote on the high school questionnaire (though I did save most of them for some reason). But that's just fine with me, because it was definitely wrong on some level. No matter how far along you get in life, you should never live with a sense of complacency. Happiness is good, but so is a sense of adventure. And that's something you should never lose, regardless of how many decades you're removed from high school.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Something I learned today

Saying you're feeling like Heath Ledger is not a good way to engender sympathy, and in fact is a good way to get everyone mad at you. Even if the description is highly accurate.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Tom Brady as I like to see him


"Ow! No teeth, Sports Illustrated!"

As often as I find parallels between sports and politics, even I'm surprised by how perfect the analogies are flowing this week. Between the recent Nevada ballot results and Sunday's NFC Championship Game, I may have to toss aside my distaste for dynasties (Clinton, Manning) in the interest of going against much greater foes (Republicans, Patriots).

For now, Hillary Clinton's nomination is still far from a given. In fact, Barack Obama still edges her in official delegates. But there's no question now who's going to Super Bowl XLII. And, as usual, not a single team I preferred won throughout the entire playoffs. I was really counting on Brett Favre to take on my current Least Favorite Person In The World Not In The White House, Tom Brady. Alas, us Patri-Haters now have to hope Eli Manning will rise up to be the 2008 equivalent of 2003 Tom Brady.

Brady and the New England Patriots are hardly on par with Osama bin Laden or George W. Bush, but in their own way they fill the same role: they are the overpowering tyrants of the National Football League, liked by few outside their immediate clique, perfect despite a system designed to prevent such one-sided concentration of power. In that sense, they're the Wal-Mart of the NFL, and every other team is Pop's General Store. But even in an age where everything seems destined to fall only as the Powers That Be allow it, we should still be able to watch a football game with some degree of suspense.

Enter Tom Brady. He was great back in his Ram-slaughtering, SNL-and-Family Guy days. But this year's 18-0 and the "Path to Perfection" crap is a bit much. I can't trust anyone who never loses. Everyone needs some kind of balance in their lives. Call it karma. I'm already dry enough in that department, being that everything seems to be out of balance. These days, it seems like you're either always a winner or always a loser. And randomly, at that.

What is it about the Patriots that makes them so special? Their talent? It's great, but so are lots of other teams' nuclei. Their alleged cheating ways? They're probably not alone. Is it their ability to buy the best players? The New Orleans Saints have the highest payroll in the league. So what is it, exactly? No one really knows. And that's perhaps the most depressing reminder that this NFL season has been about life: merit matters, but luck and other uncontrollable factors often matter more.

Which is why, come Super Bowl Sunday, I hope karma does a total 180 and causes the New York Giants' Michael Strahan, through pure merit, to uncontrollably grab Tom Brady by the balls for four quarters. Then all will be right with the world. For one day, anyway.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A petition not worth signing

Yesterday, while heading into my local public library, I passed an activist-looking guy with a big stack of papers. A voter-registration drive, I thought. As a hippie-looking girl signed one of the guy's papers, he yelled out to me:

"Hi! Are you registered to vote in Greene County?"

"Yeah," I replied.

"Good. We're looking to get college students registered," the guy said. He looked my age. Apparently, I don't look mine. I nodded approvingly and began to walk away. But he wasn't done.

"We have a petition to get this measure on the next ballot."

I'm game. These people don't look evil. In fact, maybe we could chat politics and--

"It would outlaw special preferences based on race."

Wait, what?

"We want to put an amendment on the ballot getting rid of race-based preferential treatment in Missouri. Access should be tailored only to financial need. We went equal rights for all, special rights for none."

Up to that point, I had been reading the petition (which boasted numerous signatures). But then my eyes froze. "Racial preference" is a term in the "pro-death" mold of making things sound much worse than they are. Moreover, "Equal rights for all, special rights for none" is the mantra for those who wish to deny gays and minorities rights that everyone else has. This was getting sicker by the second. I handed him back his tablet, unsigned.

"Thanks, but I personally don't agree with this." I didn't go into detail about friends of mine who benefited from these programs; nor did I tell him that I grew up in the south and know how much the deck is still stacked against perfectly qualified minorities who face lingering prejudice from some employers. I certainly didn't bring up New Orleans and the ongoing national indifference to the plight of exiled Ninth Ward residents.

"Are you sure? Do you want uneducated African-Americans performing surgery on you?" he asked, sweeping his fingertips down his chest for dramatic effect. "Channeling G. Gordon Liddy almost word-for-word now," I thought as I walked off.

"Do you know who Ward Connerly is?" he called back to me.

"Yes, I know about Ward Connerly." Not a huge fan.

"He's the black man who started this movement! Google Ward Connerly! Have a nice day!"

Too late for that now.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

We have nothing to fear but fear-mongering candidates

While I'm not at all surprised that the Democratic presidential race is as close as it is, I am frankly shocked at the parity of its Republican counterpart. From day one, I figured Rudy Giuliani was the shoo-in. Maybe he still is; his campaign hasn't yet kicked into Super Tuesday mode. But, surprisingly, these past few weeks have been entertaining, with Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney seeming like very plausible candidates. Wait, did I say "entertaining?" I meant, "frightening."

On one hand, it's hilarious to hear these two lead the GOP pack in out-Jesusing each other. It's like Fred Phelps and Jed Smock having a sword fight with their Bibles, arguing over who hates the most in the name of God. Except that enough voters sway to the religious right for this bickering to occur on a national stage. And that's cause for genuine concern.

Mitt Romney, in particular, is the catalyst for everything that's wrong with the Republican Party. He is everything the GOP likes in a candidate: a handsome, clean-cut, hyper-religious white businessman who compares the campaign trail to the Iraq war and whose only hangups about war and torture are that we don't do enough of either. On the other hand, he's a Mormon and used to be governor of Massachusetts, which to them means he doesn't worship a real god or live in a real state. And that rift is likely to do him in. Not that I'll lose any sleep over it; but such fickleness does mean that the eventual GOP nominee will have to fit into some uncompromising standards. And he will be everything we expect.

Enter Mike Huckabee. My prediction is that Huckabee will be the Republican nominee, or at least will take a close second to Giuliani. Both Rudy and Mike are defiantly neocon in an age when everyone expects the party to kowtow to more sane elements. And given conservatives' natural aversion to sweeping change, don't expect any different in 2008 than we saw in 2004 or 2000. The only real question remaining is which aspect of neoconservatism GOP primary voters will value the most: religion or fear? Religious voters will align with Huckabee, while 9/11 ultra-security obsessives will pick Giuliani.

"But," you say, "What about John McCain, Fred Thompson and the RON PAUL REVOLUTION? Aren't they going to be wild cards?" Well, of course they are. And of these wild cards, McCain could very well be an ace in the hole among undecided voters. But a McCain victory would be less of a vindication of his previous losses than it would be an admission by voters that they were hoodwinked by George W. Bush's smearing tactics in 2000. That would require a concession of weakness by conservative voters, which won't happen. So McCain's out.

As for the other two candidates, here's why they will eventually fizzle:

Fred Thompson: Strong following based largely on his proficiency in quoting Ronald Reagan. Said following consists mostly of TV devotees, who'd rather raid a refrigerator than the polls.

THE RON PAUL REVOLUTION: It's a revolution, which by definition involves the overthrowing of the status quo. It also apparently involves ending the war in Iraq while still espousing right-wing principles of government and economy. No thanks. It's surprising enough the Republicans even let him in the race with forcing him to change his slogan to "THE RON PAUL RECREATIONISM."

Given the party's current trajectory, I'd say we have nothing to fear from the Republicans this time around. But in the immortal words of Indiana Jones, "That's what scares me."

Monday, January 14, 2008

Caption doubleheader

"Burning Bush" edition

--Talk about preaching to the choir!
--Now we know where an American soldier isn't buried...
--Worst Bennigan's birthday cupcake. Ever.
--"Here lies the world's respect for the U.S. I will now deliver the u-google-y."
--As if everyone didn't already know that Bush is full of hot air
--That yarmulke may alienate religious-right voters when Bush runs in '08
--Religion always seems to light a fire in Bush's ass
--"Any Pabst under this blue ribbon?"
--So Bush actually is steering us into the ground!
--Dubya thought he saw his soul reflected in the memorial, but it was just granite
--"Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere..."
--A true metaphor for...well, everything
--"Whatever happens, don't look at it. Shut your eyes, Marion."
--One can only imagine what inhumane training prepares Marines for this sort of spectacle
--As Bush would soon learn the hard way, lifting the lid off Pandora's Box is murder on the back
--The closest Dubya is likely to get to an eternal flame...for the time being, anyway

"Jindal makes a swear" edition

--Typically, Louisiana governors swear only after taking office
--"I have to wait this many years to get another job? Deep breath..."
--Bobby Jindal introduces the gesture that will end all corruption in Louisiana
--"I vow to exorcise constitutional rights..."
--With his inauguration, Jindal vows not to repeat the mistakes of the Blanco regime, such as letting Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and occasionally acknowledging the existence of universities other than LSU
--Those bad decisions in 2003 just keep haunting us, don't they?
--Wow, the Democrats must have really screwed up...
--"Judge! We must combine our powers to beat Superman!"
--Boy, is this administration gonna hurt when Bush gets out of office...
--"Whoa, stop! I'm doing what?!!"
--A bunch of white Republicans watch America's first Indian-American governor get sworn in. Yeah, that's not funny, but it's definitely something to think about...

More captions

RETRACTION

Yesterday I said I hated the New England Patriots worse than the terrorists.

That was atypically non-pacifist of me, and I apologize for losing my perspective and saying it.

I still mean it, though.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hey, Massachusetts! Was Mitt not enough?

I just saw something on the Colts-Chargers game that made me laugh.

Just before the fourth quarter, the NFL announced the winners of its annual Punt, Pass and Kick Competition for children and teenagers. Each winner represents their favorite team. When the champion in the oldest female bracket was introduced, representing the New England Patriots, the entire RCA Dome booed. In response, the girl nervously laughed. I laughed too, but not nervously. More like, belly.

Sweet lord of all that is mom and apple pie, I hate the New England Patriots. I hate them more than I hate terrorists. Why? Because terrorists occasionally get their asses kicked. This team should go to Iraq; they'd solve our little problem there in no time. But then again, the White House would rather stay in a quagmire than admit that Massachusetts had anything to offer. Besides Mitt Romney, I mean.

As I've said before, the New England Patriots represent everything that is wrong with the U.S., and the world, today: a sharp class divide; perfection via dubious means such as illegal extraction of information (in this case, by videotaping); unblinking media support; a dour, brusque leader seemingly dripping with contempt for anyone outside his tight-knit circle; several showboating, fight-picking players who drag down the class of the rest of the team; and a pervasive sentiment of ill will that transcends typical rivalries, generated by the sheer anti-climactic nature of this NFL season.

Now I understand it's just football; but it's all too easy for me to relate this to all the unlikable people and parties who have gained unparalleled (and undeserved) heights of power and glory. I say this not because I want these things for myself and my teams, but because such achievements are a startling challenge to the accepted order of the universe. At what point is karma supposed to kick in?

All I'm saying is, a little parity wouldn't hurt.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

You know how you know election season has begun?

You get your first astonishingly, breathtakingly stupid personal attack chain letter regarding your favorite candidate. Yesterday, I got one that's apparently spread like manure as of late about Barack Obama:

Who is Barack Obama? Probable U. S. presidential candidate, Barack Hussein Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., a black MUSLIM from Nyangoma-Kogel, Kenya and Ann Dunham, a white ATHEIST from Wichita, Kansas.

[Snipped a bunch of speculation about his education]

Barack Hussein Obama will NOT recite the Pledge of Allegiance nor will he show any reverence for our flag. While others place their hands over their hearts, Obama turns his back to the flag and slouches.

Let us all remain alert concerning Obama's expected presidential candidacy.

The Muslims have said they plan on destroying the US from the inside out, what better way to start than at the highest level - through the President of the United States, one of their own!!!!

Please forward to everyone you know. Would you want this man leading our country?...... NOT ME!!!

And lest you disbelieve a word of it...

We checked this out on "snopes.com". It is factual. Check for yourself.

I did. On snopes.com. It isn't. Oops.

Now, I can understand why more conservative elements of this nation's electorate dislike Barack Obama as a presidential candidate. It's fair that some think he lacks the experience, gravitas or ideas to lead this nation into greener pastures. I can even somewhat tolerate the fact that many people aren't ready to vote a black man into the Oval Office. And I tend the let the nail-bitingly ignorant rant about his middle name slide by because it isn't worth debating.

But there is just no excuse to assert that something is correct when two seconds of research will prove the complete polar opposite of your stated point. If you're going to try this incredibly weak defense, at least don't specifically cite the site that tells you you're full of crap. Even O.J. Simpson wouldn't refer you to the LAPD - he'll tell you himself if he did it.

If you're trying to bring people around to the threat to these awesome times that is Barack Obama, then you're better off talking about him as a leader, or questioning his stand on the issues. You only hurt your cause by race- and religion-baiting and equating an American with terrorism on account of his name and ignorant assumptions as to what his father believed.

On the other hand, I guess that's a good way to stoke the fires of hatred and fear - the only language people like this understand.

I can only hope this message serves as a testament to how disgusting humanity can be, and that everyone unfortunate enough to receive this garbage loses some respect for the person who sends it. Sadly, I've lost respect for a few already.

Yes, I am an unabashed Barack Obama fan. I support him for president and am encouraged by his consistently strong showing in the primaries so far. But just like everyone else, he isn't perfect. I know that. And I respect anyone who doesn't endorse his candidacy, as long as they have educated reasons for doing so. But if blind bigotry is what drives you against Barack or anyone else, or otherwise drives your beliefs, then you deserve ridicule. And the more you send tripe like the anti-Obama screed, the more you'll get it.

Monday, January 07, 2008

If this is good news, what could possibly be the bad?

"This is why I don't live in Lafayette anymore."

Lately, that is my response to almost every article I read about my hometown. It's not the most reasoned or intellectual response in the world, but neither is it knee-jerk. And, man, is it a versatile phrase! Whether the subject is speed vans, rose-colored glasses on the unemployment rate, the continued lows hit by the school board, the anointment of Bobby Jindal or any other of myriad idiotic issues, "This is why I don't live in Lafayette anymore" is an increasingly unrivaled catch-all.

Take this recent jewel, for instance. Oil prices hit $100 per barrel, which everyone knows is just fantastic news! YAY! Everyone is just dancing in the streets over this awesome development. You know, because they can't afford to do anything else on the road.

Back in 1998-99, when oil and gas prices dipped to $11 per barrel and finding gas as low as 76 cents was no road trip, the economy was killer. Of course, many in Lafayette thought it was the death knell for the area, because its still-monolithic economy relies on high gas costs. A killer economy, it seems, really kills the area.

This is why I don't live in Lafayette anymore.

Lest the above article doesn't spell it out succinctly enough, we have another one: "Oil prices good for Louisiana: Louisiana's economy usually the opposite of nation's." Figures I'd be gone now, as opposed to the supposed "good" years when Lafayette couldn't keep pace. Yet things are just totally tubular now, dude! But don't take my word for it:

"The good news is, the country might be in a recession, but you live in the best 200 miles in the world," Cloutier told a Rotary Club gathering in Lafayette on Wednesday.

Let's parse that statement: 1) a financier 2) told area executives that 3) the misery of the American working stiff will butter their bread and that 4) the area's ability to milk a bad economy, rather than any cultural or intellectual uniqueness, is what defines "the best 200 miles in the world."

I don't know what's in the water in south Louisiana (besides pollutants), but there's a pervasive attitude that what's good for the upper echelons of big business is good for everyone. I'd call shenanigans, but I don't think the sentiment is anything but sincere. Idiotic, yes, but sincere.

I've lost count of how many friends of mine either dropped out of college to work offshore, or graduated from college (in any given major) and went to work in the oilfields. And that's no knock on the dedicated people who do that work; but it is a damning indictment on the opportunities available for those who train for more intellectual pursuits.

This is why I don't live in Lafayette anymore.

And, of course, there is this forum, the ultimate repository for opinions that locals would never dare use their real name to express (which is saying something). Every vicious personal attack, flawed analysis and unquestioned acceptance of Big Brother finds its way into some of the most fascinating (yet morbid) reading this side of Catcher in the Rye. But those sentiments long predate the technology that gives them such an amplified voice and the ability to drown out any reasonable dialogue.

And that is why I don't live in Lafayette anymore.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Iowa caucuses: a reason to party!

Whenever I hope something produces a certain result, the exact opposite typically occurs. That didn't happen last night at the Iowa caucuses.

Barack Obama has been my pick throughout the campaign, and last night reminded me why. As much as he and his issues stand out on his own, CNN analysts made a crucial point last night defining a major part of his appeal: actual appeal. Whereas most of the candidates offered stump speeches or otherwise dry statements, Obama's speech was passionate and inspiring. Granted, he didn't say a whole lot regarding specific policy issues. No one typically does at this point. But Obama's rhetoric speaks well of the man he is: a quick thinker, optimistic and youthfully energetic. He also possesses a fervor largely absent from the Democratic Party. Even as the Iraq war reaches its nadir, it's surprising to hear a mainstream candidate say outright, as Obama did last night, that the war needs to end now. Some call it naivete, a testament to his lack of political experience. But as Obama himself pointed out on The Daily Show, the poster boy for experience was Dick Cheney. And electing a president with relatively little national experience - present idiotic company notwithstanding - has given us such luminaries as Abraham Lincoln and Bill Clinton.

And that is precisely what Obama has going for him at the moment: he's every bit the nimble, intelligent and passionate leader that America (and the world) needs at this juncture. Most importantly, he's everything he is without the baggage of establishment. Hillary Clinton placed a dismal third in the Iowa caucus, voters apparently unimpressed with her veneer of inevitability. Though Clinton is hardly a terrible choice, her bronze finish behind Obama and John Edwards may reflect the same kind of generational shift we saw in 1992 and need now.

Of course, Iowa is only one state out of 50, and much lies ahead. In most recent cycles, the winner of Iowa did not ultimately win their party's nomination. Still, this wide-open race seems truly indicative of trends to come. I expect Hillary to gain ground over time, but Obama can take it all. If he wins in New Hampshire, count on it. A CNN analyst surmised that twin wins in Iowa and New Hampshire would energize southern voters, who would otherwise vote for Clinton or Edwards as a safety, to vote for Obama. Indeed, last night's results showed that not only can he win in the literal heartland, he can do with by more than a touchdown's worth of percentage points.

On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee accelerated to victory. I didn't pick this to happen, but I wanted it. The popularity of Huckabee, along with Mitt Romney at silver, shows a certain regression within the GOP. Both candidates have bickered over religious issues, something I'm surprised the party is still touching after recent years. Rudy Giuliani's rise suggested to me that the Republicans would divert from the faux righteousness and stick with simple fear as their main issue. Apparently GOP voters would prefer a religious right race, which (on top of being entertaining) is almost certain to sink them if it continues. At least, I hope so.

Much campaigning and ugliness lies ahead. For now, though, wheeeeeee!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Presenting my best of 2007!


What a year this was, huh? And by "What a year," I mean, "What a bad year." Even though I now burn the bulk of my creative energy on more fruitful pursuits, I still managed to tick off quite a few gems here on Not Right About Anything. Below, enjoy some of my favorite pieces from the year 2007, along with some never-before-seen material. Eat all you want; I'll make more! Happy New Year!

NEW ORLEANS
Hate New Orleans? Read this! (1/25/07)
This was probably the best thing I wrote all year, so it figures I wrote it in January.

FOOTBALL
Kicking football footage off the air (1/18/07)
The NFL made YouTube jettison all of its fan videos. I throw a flag.
I'm not a Patriot (11/26/07)
Even the most perfect examples of America are so, so wrong.

NEW ORLEANS FOOTBALL
The N-word, the F-word and the C-word (1/22/07)
A breakdown of my breakdown following the Saints' loss to the Bears in the NFC Championship Game.
My run-in with Bowl-bound Bears fans (2/4/07)
While in the Atlanta airport, I found myself sharing a transit train with some Bears fans flying to the Super Bowl. There was a lot less bloodshed than there could have been.
Joe Horn joins Falcons, FEMA, Army Corps of Engineers (3/10/07)
Reeling from the news of Joe Horn's release from the Saints, I wrote an Onion-style article about how much he was willing to turn his back on New Orleans. To his credit, Horn's still campaigning for the Big Easy, which means I probably should have done this instead for Aaron "I put New Orleans out of my mind" Brooks.
Doodles inspired by the Saints (10/8/07)
Cartoons that are, unfortunately, still prevalent.
Now appearing on clipboards across the NFL (11/19/07)
Ditto the above.

UNPUBLISHED! From an 11/30/07 draft on the murder of Redskins safety Sean Taylor:

How can you gauge a killer's motivations when you don't even know who that person is? Oh, I know how: Rich, flamboyant black man gets shot in his house. Well, that's all anyone needs to know, isn't it? It's obviously the degrading influences of hip-hop and too much money in a black man's uppity hands!

Hip-hop music did not kill Sean Taylor. If you want to talk about violence among black males in America, fine. It's a very relevant, valid topic. Too valid, in fact, to be reduced to scapegoating a form of entertainment, regardless of how profane self-righteous people find it.

MC Hammer devoted most of the liner notes in "Too Legit to Quit" to saying, "The white man isn't killing us anymore. We're killing each other." Seems to me that that message would have resonated, given that the album was a major seller at the time and hip-hop is apparently a music strong enough to move mountains. Guess not.

Black-on-black violence is caused by poverty, feelings of hopelessness and decades of conditioning. That existed well before Wu-Tang and would continue to exist if the censors among us permanently shut up all "objectionable" artists.

HOW I FEEL ABOUT THINGS
Musings on age, nostalgia and, uh, size (3/5/07)
Why are the oldest and biggest things always considered the best? I say they aren't.
In defense of independence (6/22/07)
Louisiana vs. Missouri! And the winner is...education!
Uniforms are for teams and gangs (8/13/07)
Probably my best essay yet against school uniforms. Hey, I've been practicing for years.
Human monkeys and talking snakes have it out (8/15/07)
Did you know I don't believe in evolution? Nope. Because it's a theory, not a belief.
Thoughts spurred by random discussion boards (9/18/07)
The two cents I would given on several then-active opinion threads if I was a glutton for unnecessary punishment.
Front-running is making America wheeze (9/27/07)
Success can be a good thing, but it shouldn't be the only thing. Especially since its fans are mostly fair-weather.
The power of perseverance (cynical edition) (10/9/07)
Inspired by the Saints' 0-4 record, this post is really about how unrelated success often is to merit. Or so it seems much of the time.
Serve with pride...er, fear of jail time (10/30/07)
My argument against mandatory national service. I'm surprised there even was one, but it turned out to be a strong one.
Give this word up (11/5/07)
An African-American friend asked me how I felt about the N-word. This post is my answer. He approved heartily.
How I feel about certain things (12/1/07)
This entry explains how I feel about certain things.

UNPUBLISHED! From a 12/4/07 draft on the meaning of Christmas:

The materialism of Christmas gets on my nerves. As non-religious as I am, I am just about ready to join the chorus of, "Jesus is the reason for the season!"

I'll admit that, as a child (and even into my teens), Christmas was my favorite holiday because of the toys. At least, that's what I thought at the time. But even then, I slowly began to realize that the family gatherings, the meals, the sights and the smells were also a tremendous part. So tremendous, in fact, that I can distinctly remember at least one sensory aspect of every Christmas as far back as 1981, when I was one. Think I'm kidding? I'm not.

In some cases, the presents are almost incidental. Even my most fond gifts - such as a pedal-powered Corvette I got in 1984 - didn't last through the next summer. But I can still remember exactly where the tree was positioned in my house that year, that it had twinkling lights and that a star was on top of it. I also remember a bevy of relatives visiting my house and myself waking up in the middle of the night for the first time in my life (rebel).

1983 - Got a Fisher-Price gas pump. You cranked it up and the numbers would fly by at rapid speed. Just like today!

I mention all of this because I'm sick of the blitz of jewelry and Lexus-esque ads that seem to grow like Kudzu every year. At this point, I'm ready to petition for the word "Kiss" to no longer begin with Kay.

STUFF THAT GNAWS AT ME
Stuff that gnaws at me (7/9/07)
As if you didn't see THAT coming...
Ooh, that spell... (1/29/07)
Please! "Enough" with the incorrect spelling's and unnece'ssary apostrophe's!
God! The radio! And diamonds! (4/9/07)
I talk about the radio, God and diamonds. Not necessarily in that order.
Top 10 trends that deserve assisted suicide (5/26/07)
I could probably think of 20 more by now.
A.M. lunacy of the non-talk-radio kind (6/26/07)
My inspired rant against morning people.

UNPUBLISHED! From a 11/12/07 list of stuff that also gnaws at me:

People who take the time to answer and send Internet memes, but who answer every other question with "dk."

Phil Hartman's wife. What she did was so evil that, even though she killed herself too, she should still have her ashes thrown in jail.

Sarkozy in every headline. So this guy was elected president in France. Does that mean he has to lead tributes to Norman Mailer in addition to fellating Bush at every opportunity? I think Mailer himself would probably have not liked that.

Blogs that require invitation. An art opening in a Manhattan hipster's loft is less elitist than this shit. Isn't the whole point of having a blog to whore out your views because no one wants to listen to or pay for them? So I'm told? No famous blog I'm aware of feels the need to do this. If your secrets are that secret, then maybe you should spill them someplace else...

Republicans. Because you know they'd be exactly the same without terrorism.

Guys who refer to their spouse as "the wife." What is this, 1945?

SICK, SAD WORLD
Triggering a frenzy for guns (4/17/07)
One good thing about the V-Tech shooting (4/20/07)
Paying attention is easier than paying with your life (4/23/07)
These posts examine the Virginia Tech shooting in April, the first two arguing against more guns in school and how heroism is overrated, respectively. The third also takes into account the shooting at NASA and how each of the killers' profiles were over-analyzed in a way that unnecessarily stigmatizes single men.
Sarkasm (5/10/07)
Despite everything that's happened in the past few years, French voters still saw fit to elect a relentlessly pro-U.S. (meaning, pro-Bush and pro-idiocy) president. How?
Now that Jerry Falwell is dead... (5/16/07)
An unloving obituary for a real piece of work.
Drive like the divine (6/20/07)
After the Catholic Church issued a new Ten Commandments for drivers, I revised them...twice. Can't wait to see the Protestant and Jewish versions!
Plausible alibis for David Vitter (7/11/07)
Oops! I crapped my pants!
Thoughts on the YouTube debate (7/24/07)
After watching the first Democrat YouTube debate and taking notes, I carefully weighed the pros and cons of each candidate. Obama wins.
Clinton would have been impeached over the initials alone (10/22/07)
Republican Bobby Jindal became the first-ever Indian-American to win a governor's seat. He did it in Louisiana, which says a lot about the man's beliefs.
My WGA strike video (11/13/07):

A video in which I said nothing, which explains its popularity on YouTube.

UNPUBLISHED! From the 9/20/07 draft, "An open letter to Jena, Louisiana":

Many Louisiana towns are like your grandmother's closet: you can find some unbelievable touchstones of past eras that you didn't even know existed anymore, but there also might be those racist blackface figurines. You see these things and don't want to equate them to your sweet, beloved relative, dismissing such thought as a product of its time. At the same time, however, you're afraid to ask her how she feels about them now, knowing that she might not have changed her opinion that much.

Now you have the attention of the whole world on you in 2007, for something straight out of 1957. Al Sharpton is marching in Alexandria. David Bowie donated $100,000 to the Jena Six legal fund. And in what has to be a sadly ironic twist, Jesse Jackson is decrying Barack Obama for perceived lack of action regarding the case. Race issues tear everyone apart.

STORIES FROM MY OWN LIFE
My train of thought at Chili's (2/27/07)
A mental transcript for a bad night out.
Erin go blahhhh (3/17/07)
Why St. Patrick's Day is not my cup of ale.
"I was addicted to oxygen" (3/20/07)
A satirical article I wrote in 1999 as part of a pagination project.
This one's for the girls (3/25/07)
Three not-at-all sarcastic odes to people who made my day difficult.
"A little off the top and sides, and stab me in the back" (5/3/07)
More fun with people who would prefer I was out of town.
Watching Paint Dry (10/5/07)
One of my friends said that she'd probably be riveted if I wrote about watching paint dry. I took her up on her dare. She loved it.
How to bury the language barrier (10/15/07)
A true story of the effects of linguistic hurdles. That was one long and awkward trip to the supermarket!
Things I learned (or recalled) during my week in Louisiana (12/19/07)
Would you believe this post has nothing to do with its title? Well, you'd be wrong.
This is what I get for trying to be Al Gore (12/20/07)
My heating bill doubled, because I was cold. A losing fight with the utility from the beginning.

UNPUBLISHED! From the 12/19/07 draft, "Proof I'm not hip, part 8,185":

Out of Rolling Stone's Top 100 songs of 2007, I've only heard of six. And of those six, I've actually heard maybe four.

Factor into this that I had subscriptions to both Rolling Stone and Blender this year, and listened to several pop/rock radio stations. Not that I'm ever on the cutting edge of music - my taste gelled permanently in about 1995 or so - but this year leaves me genuinely confused.

And finally, to top off this annual compendium of literary flamethrowing, here's a video of a fire I saw while driving in Louisiana:

Happy 2008!