Friday, September 29, 2006

Oh, My Head

Our Lady of Perpetual Migraines.

Is it due to the Senate selling out yesterday? Maybe. Thank [insert deity of choice] for Relpax, is all I got to say.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Another Day, Another Little Death of America

Sigh. I listened to too much of the debate over the Detainee Act today and went home with a splitting headache. Far too much went on to dissect in detail here, particularly without a transcript, but a couple things stand out in my mind.

During the waning half hour or so of the debate, before the proposed amendments to the bill were brought to a vote, Lindsay Graham argued that Geneva has never applied in this war because the enemy doesn't wear a uniform or fight in conventional ways. So the enemy isn't entitled to any protections at all. Not even the most basic tenets of human decency apply, apparently; by his arguments an SS officer caught machine-gunning a roomful of civilians would be absolutely protected from torture and entitled to humane treatment by virtue of that natty black uniform with shiny insignia, while a guy in jeans plucked off the street on a tip in Baghdad or Kandahar is fair game.

The moment that made my brain utterly fold in on itself in protest came during John Warner's response to Ted Kennedy's impassioned speech in favor of the Kennedy Amendment, which would have required the US State Department to notify all the other countries in the world of exactly what interrogation methods/torture tactics would be considered war crimes if perpetrated against a captured American soldier. Warner scoffed at this because (1) we can't predict in advance precisely what methods someone's going to come up with in the future, and so shouldn't limit ourselves to a finite set of war crimes (despite having, just ten minutes before, voted against the Byrd Amendment that would have required a reassessment of the interrogation protocols after five years) and (2) congressional oversight will prevent the CIA from doing anything we wouldn't want done to our own guys anyway (despite having, just ten minutes before the Byrd Amendment, voted against the Spector Amendment that would have mandated full congressional oversight of CIA interrogation programs).

Warner assured us that aggessive interrogation tactics are not really torture but, instead, are consistent with American values. Bush has been handed the power to decide who's an enemy combatant, and to hold such people indefinitely with an explicit provision preventing them from appealing their detention to a higher court. Bush gets to decide what's torture and what's simply "aggressive interrogation," and anyone who has inflicted what the civilized world would label "torture" on detainees--even those found later to not be terrorists or insurgents--has blanket immunity. Pandora's Box has been reopened, and this time it's the license for inhumane behavior that's gotten out.

John McCain voted against the Spector Amendment (congressional oversight). John McCain voted against the Byrd Amendment (reassess the program in five years). John McCain voted against the Kennedy Amendment (define interrogation tactics and detainee treatment that the US will consider war crimes if perpetrated against US servicemembers). John McCain voted to approve the Detainee Treatment Act. John McCain, ex-POW, voted to condone torture.

I don't know the America John Warner was talking about, or the set of values torture is supposed to be consistent with. Neither one is mine.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Anti-contraception Movement... the Groundwork

On Monday I posted about the Christian Right’s coming battle against contraception (shorter version: none for anyone ever) and mentioned my grudging admiration for the morality brigades’ perseverance and dedication to to their mission, abhorrent as I personally find it. Part of the strategy has been to crank out the kids like bunnies, homeschool them, send them to evangelical colleges, and groom them to enter public life so as to influence legislation at every level, toward the ultimate goal of crafting laws reflecting conservative Christian values (or Biblical literalism, depending on how pessimistic you’re feeling at any given moment).

The articles in the Chicago Tribune and LA Times mentioned the intent to chip away at the availability of contraceptives, following the manner in which abortion access has been steadily constricted, in large part by enacting state laws giving pharmacists the right to refuse to dispense medications that violate their own personal consciences.

Four States (Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Dakota) have passed laws allowing a pharmacist to refuse to dispense emergency contraception drugs. Illinois passed an emergency rule that requires a pharmacist to dispense FDA approved contraception. Colorado, Florida, Maine and Tennesee have broad refusal clauses that do not specifically mention pharmacists.

California pharmacists have a duty to dispense prescriptions and can only refuse to dispense a prescription, including contraceptives, when their employer approves the refusal and the woman can still access her prescription in a timely manner.

Given the increasing presence of evangelicals in legislatures of all levels over the past decade or so, I wondered if they might be stacking the pharmaceutical deck as well. So it came as little surprise that the Christian Pharmacists Fellowship International has established student chapters in 30 pharmacy schools out of the 89 or so institutions granting at least a B.S. in pharmacy across the country, including at major players such as Purdue, North Carolina, and Florida.

The CPFI position on the “conscience clause” is as follows (emphases mine):

Pharmacists have the moral and legal responsibility to refuse to dispense a prescription that, in the pharmacist's judgment might be harmful to the patient, either directly or indirectly. Therefore, the Board of Directors of CPFI supports the right of all pharmacists to refuse to dispense a prescription that goes against their moral conscience.

No regulatory authority should be allowed to force a pharmacist to dispense a prescription against his/her best judgment or refer a patient to another healthcare provider. Likewise, a pharmacist should not engage in any activity that impairs a patient from seeking care from another provider.

Furthermore, the Board acknowledges the responsibility of Christian pharmacists to follow Biblical principles including the sanctity of life and life begins at the time of conception. Therefore, CPFI supports the right of Christian pharmacists, based upon Biblical principles and their moral convictions, to exercise their conscience within the realm of professional practice.

The “either directly or indirectly” phrase is quite vague, and it’s difficult to think that was unintentional. Indirect harm to a patient covers a troublingly wide expanse of territory, including that nebulous realm of the patient’s eternal soul—presumably the target of the conscience clause refusals. The insistence that pharmacists shall not be compelled to refer the patient to the other, non-evangelical pharmacist at Walgreen’s or to the CVS down the street is troubling. And the “responsibility” of Christian pharmacists to insist that life begins at conception is the grand finale, the big cake topper.

To be fair, CPFI maintains chapters at only slightly more than a third of the major pharmacy schools in the US (I did not consider associate-degree-only colleges and technical schools in this compilation), and most of these schools support a variety of student organizations. The faculty advisors don’t mention CPFI prominently in their online profiles, if at all, and there is no evidence that the organization is exerting undue influence within the respective colleges of pharmacy. Nor are hard membership numbers readily available.

In that sense, this posting may reflect more paranoia than imminent threat to freely accessible contraception in the US. However, given the numbers of students in the programs where CPFI is present*, it is an unavoidable fact that pharmacists who are very likely to invoke a conscience clause (or push for such legislation in states where it has not yet been enacted) are being churned out at a steady rate. Additionally, ample anedotal evidence exists documenting instances in which individuals have encountered absurd, near-Atwoodian barriers to acquiring emergency contraception. It is imperative that we remain vigilant as one segment of this society seeks to impose its own version of morality on all people, regardless of their personal belief systems. Find out where the candidates in your local races stand on conscience clauses and keep their asses out of office if they are even remotely conciliatory to the idea.

* sample numbers of students:

University of Arizona: 77-81 admitted annually

University of Florida (Gainesville): 450 pharmacy students plus 100 graduate/postdocs enrolled annually

University of Iowa: 108 students admitted annually to six-year program

University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill): 500 professional students and 100 graduate students, postdocs, residents, and fellows enrolled annually.

Nationwide, 7,488 professional degrees were reported awarded in 2003.

Monday, September 25, 2006

One Day, Two Hearings, Little New

Two separate congressional confabs today, although only one officially reached the level of "hearing." Naturally, that's the one I'm finding zero coverage of tonight on my first sweep through the online editions of the major papers. You know, the judiciary committee's hearings on whether it's okay to dispense with habeas corpus when dealing with suspected terrorists, unlawful combatants, shifty-lookin' Arabs acquired through dubious means... okay, after some digging I found a few stories. Interestingly, Specter's setting himself up as the anti-White House maverick on this one. It was certainly contentious.
Several witnesses told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the protections should be afforded all detainees.

Retired Adm. John Hutson says habeas corpus protects the innocent.

He says it would give "no comfort" to any terrorists who have fought the US.

But Texas Senator John Cornyn says "enemies of the US captured on the battlefield" shouldn't be afforded protections that are in the Constitution.

Never mind that an open-ended war on a noun makes the entire world a battlefield, to say nothing of the fact that I find it extremely curious that a man who has argued so vociferously that detainees should have no protections because they (1) don't wear a uniform or (2) fight out in the open in conventional ways should be so fixated on the no-rights detentions being okay because they were captured "on the battlefield" as if both sides were lining up in ranks and marching broadside into each other. As if they all actually had been captured with guns in their hands rather than being sold out by a rival warlord holding a grudge or maybe, just maybe, being grabbed under false pretenses on a layover in the States on their way home to Canada. Admiral Hutson summed it up best:

Rear Adm. John D. Hutson, a former judge advocate general of the Navy who is now the president of the Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H., told the senators they would be winning a “military victory’’ if they managed to preserve habeas corpus rights for detainees.

Terrorists “want to bring us down to their level,’’ he said. “Military doctrine says you have to hold the high ground.’’

The other event today was a Democrat-sponsored forum on the state of the war. This received considerable airplay and bandwidth, and featured three retired generals--all of whom served in Iraq--blasting the administration and Rumsfeld in particular.
"I believe that Secretary Rumsfeld and others in the administration did not tell the American people the truth for fear of losing support for the war in Iraq," retired Maj. Gen. John R. S. Batiste told a forum conducted by Senate Democrats.

A second military leader, retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, assessed Rumsfeld as "incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically."

Predictably, the Republican leadership (which was not in attendance; they were too busy whinging about the considerable costs involved in giving detainees basic judicial rights) called it a pre-election stunt (with straight faces!):
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a member of the Armed Services Committee, dismissed the Democratic-sponsored event as "an election-year smoke screen aimed at obscuring the Democrats' dismal record on national security."

"Today's stunt may rile up the liberal base, but it won't kill a single terrorist or prevent a single attack," Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement. He called Rumsfeld an "excellent secretary of defense."

No comments were forthcoming from Sen. McConnell about the recent National Intelligence Estimate that concluded the war in Iraq has actually created more terrorists and increased the likelihood of future attacks. Nor about the news today that we have, at present, no more than three combat brigades available for emergency deployment. That's 10,000 guys, tops.

Think about the billions of dollars that have been squandered in Iraq, the thousands of lives wasted for Bush's, Rumsfeld's, Cheney's lies. Think about the couple hundred who have died in Afghanistan as their troop numbers and equipment have been inexorably drawn down, down, to the point of such ineffectiveness that the Taliban are resurgent and Osama's boys have found new digs in Pakistan. These fuckwits abandoned their first war before it was over to start a new one we can never honorably end, and in the process have left this country more vulnerable and less ready to respond to a disaster than it has ever been. And still they have the gall to stand up there and defend themselves and chide those of us who are screaming that enough is enough.

Tap Tap Tap... Straight Folks? You're Next.

The evangelical wing will never be content demonizing only us urine-drinking, rectum-intromissing sodomites and the wicked, hedonistic liberals who get abortions at every opportunity. Now they're coming after anyone who uses contraception--yep, even the 91 percent of people who believe married folks should be able to decide when or if they're going to have a baby.

The new strategy, as summarized in the Chicago Tribune, was unveiled at an anti-abortion meeting in sunny Rosemont yesterday:
Experts at the gathering assailed contraception on the grounds that it devalues children, harms relationships between men and women, promotes sexual promiscuity and leads to falling birth rates, among social ills.

Oh, but this takes me back to what passed for freshman theology in high school, particularly the semester-long "Reverence for Life" curriculum that left me alternately snoring and indignant. The ability of a man and woman to have sex without fearing an unwanted pregnancy--even if they're married--somehow means they're not selflessly sharing themselves with each other. Sex for pleasure rather than brusque, businesslike reproduction means you're selfishly closing yourselves off from God's gift of life (conveniently left out of this line of reasoning is why God's additional gifts in the nether region department included the clitoris, glans penis, and G-spot).

It's the let-them-eat-cake mentality, the same one we've seen endlessly applied to the poor (you can't afford health insurance? why, go out and get a second--or third--job!), to the hurricane-smacked (you didn't have a car to evacuate with? why, you should have just walked to Texas!), to HIV-infected women in Africa (you didn't want to get sick? why, you should have stopped having sex with your husband!). Now it's being applied to people who want rational family planning (you can't afford a[nother] child? why, just don't fuck!).

Commenters in the Trib article speculate that the no-BC'ers will push not for across-the-board contraception bans, but rather another creepy war of attrition similar to that waged against abortion rights over the past decade:
What's more likely, experts suggest, is an ongoing "chipping away" at access to contraceptive services. This could entail cuts to federal programs that pay for birth control. Likely it also would involve a state-by-state push to allow pharmacists to refuse to fill birth-control prescriptions for reasons of "conscience."

You gotta hand it to these folks. They have been very patient, taking years to groom candidates for entry in local-level public office with designs on hopping up the legislative ladder one level at a time. Now that the groundwork has been laid, with various states enacting the pharmacists' right of refusal laws, how many bible colleges will start adding pharmacy programs? Nothing like a little point-of-sale control to get the practitioners of your ideology firmly entrenched in the front lines.

And if you do not personally subscribe to this particular strain of Christian thinking that teaches birth control is unacceptable under any circumstances because it befouls the couple's relationship with each other and with God? If you perhaps think you should not be subject to religiously derived moral rules about a highly personal matter that do not proceed from your own beliefs? Well, tough shit, pal.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


The UA-Portland game was okay, not as energetic as I might have hoped, but okay. The quest for photos of Boxxy was mostly successful.

I snapped maybe ten before The Boy said, "You're obsessed." Oh. I put the camera away.

Ode to the Heartbroken Mosquito

Your sweet talk in my ear came off as so much high-pitched whining
You tried and tried but never managed to get under my skin
O Anistopheles
I never liked needles
You and me, we never stood a chance.

Seriously. This entire summer and post-monsoon mosquito season, I got two, maybe three bites total. The rest of my household is red, bumpy, itchy, and wondering if it has West Nile yet. Maybe my hide is tougher than I thought; they swarm around my ankles when I work in the yard, but if they manage to get their snoots in for a sip I don't notice. I was oddly immune to poison ivy as a kid too.

Friday, September 22, 2006

What Do You Want? Candy?

Humph. Two moderately well-researched, long posts in three days and nobody cares. Nobody sticks around to read. Fine. Breaking out a pointless list ostentatiously written in the royal we-person.

Our favorite late-night snack while reading in bed: was Pringle's until last night, when we noticed Pringle's are considerably thinner and more fragile than they used to be. Look at the damn chip cross-eyed and it crumbles. The lids also are much looser-fitting on the cans than they used to be. Question: how do people with large hands get them out of the can surreptitiously? They must have to pour them out. And then, given the obvious recent lapse in quality control, they'll have the very handful of pieces those painfully bad, then-cutting-edge hip-hop-derived commercials of 15 or so years ago constantly decried.

Personal Pringle's note: The worst cut we ever had on the bottom of our foot came from the old razor-edged, metal pop-top Pringle's used before public health standards forced them into paper. Naturally, this was incurred at the age of three while we were walking around in the back of our parents' Jeep whilst barrelling down the highway. Seat belts? It's a wonder any of us survived.

Our hopes for the early evening: We are going to watch the U of A women's soccer team (young, up-and-coming) play the U of Portland (veteran-heavy, and, oh yeah, defending national champs). Shannon Boxx will be doing color commentary for Fox Sports; we are taking our camera and hope to get close enough to wave. We were shameless enough to send our son to school with a note promising the play-by-play guy's daughter to be her Best! Friend! Forever! if she could get her dad to score us Boxxy's autograph.

Our hopes for the later evening: Heh. Yeah. Well, okay, our realistic hopes involve the backyard mosquito population suffering a quick die-off, and perhaps a run to Dairy Queen. Livin' large.

Tomorrow shall be devoted to: Power tools and beer.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

107, contra

Today, a brief look at the opposition to Arizona Proposition 107...

No on Prop 107 is big on graphics, while I might question the choice of hellfire red as a background. The best contribution is a series of links explaining the deletrious effects of the proposal on all Arizonans, both gay and straight. I suppose I understand why they’ve chosen to frame their arguments in terms of straight people in unmarried relationships, senior citizens, and single parents, but I find it rather sad that people might vote this crap down only if they think it’s unfair to straight people--not simply because they might want to address civil inequalities that don't actually apply to them. GLBTQ issues finally come front and center in the fourth bullet point on the list, “Faith Communities,” but I wonder why they don’t simply make this point the centerpiece of their campaign, because it distills the issue perfectly:

What this amendment WILL do, if it passes, is take one group's definition of sin and force it on others through civil laws. The so-called "marriage protection" amendment is backed by the ultra-conservative Christian group the Center for Arizona Policy. Even within Christianity there is not agreement about the sinfulness of same-sex relationships, and yet this group seeks to define for everyone else in the state of Arizona a narrow and exclusive view of love and the will of God. Efforts and attitudes such as those behind this proposed amendment misrepresent and misuse the Christian faith in particular, and faith traditions overall.

Oddly, “LGBTQ Community” is the last on the list of potential impacts. Again, I’m thrilled for the support, but chafing mightily at the apparent attempt to underplay 107 as a gay issue. It’s completely a gay issue. Its proponents would not be attempting to force the state to disavow any recognition of unmarried couples if not for the threat of gay folks marching down the aisle; I never heard any grumblings about, for example, Arizona being forced to recognize common-law marriages (essentially, the state caving in the face of long-term unofficial heterosexual cohabitation, which I think the Bible calls “fornication, ” also, last I checked, a grievous sin) from other states. That it needs to be painted as an equal-opportunity offender in order to drum up opposition among the majority of voters is a sad irony.

Grumble. Arizona Prop 107 is a decent satire site. I wonder how many clicks it will take the True Believers to notice the SS officer’s hat in the logo, or to ask if Fred Phelps really has been booked for the victory party.

And that’s about it for dedicated websites. Arizona Stonewall Democrats are sponsoring a forum in Phoenix on September 26... the Daily Star printed a good op-ed piece on September 6 ... Arizona Together (the group sponsoring the No on Prop 107 website) is briefly profiled in the Echo, again playing up the unmarried hets angle.

Anyway. Get out the vote. Tracking the rhetoric between now and November 7 should be interesting. Hopefully it will not also be an exercise in despair.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Prop 107, round one

Here we go. Arizona is one of several states that will either put a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on their ballots for the first time in November, or will subject an amendment approved by their legislatures before the voters for ratification. Arizona's version is Proposition 107, heart-warmingly titled "Protect Marriage Arizona." Although gay marriage is already prohibited by statute here in cactus-and-canyonland, some municipalities have been forward-thinking enough to offer same-sex domestic partner benefits.

The text reads:

The second part, of course, is the kicker, inserted specifically to roll back those partner benefits and force Pima County, the City of Tucson, the City of Flagstaff, the University of Arizona, and other government agencies to rescind health insurance and family leave for folks like us. It's the mean-spirited final gob of spit to the face. No marriage, no civil unions, no benefits extended to a county worker's partner or their kids.

Lest anyone think marriage or civil unions are no big deal, that we should just cough up a couple thousand bucks, hire a lawyer, and draw up all the legal documents we will ever need, here's a little dose of reality. State-recognized marriage in this country confers 1,138 rights and responsibilities upon the couple. All the legal documents in the world won't mean shit if you find yourself in a state whose constitution explicitly forbids the recognition of same-sex relationships intended to approximate marriage. There are already hundreds of anecdotes out there about what happens when a gay couple's best intentions run afoul of some asshat who's more interested in validating his own narrow worldview by going by the book than in being a decent human being during someone's time of need. Read these for the barest glimmer of our worst nightmares come true.

Now let us run down some of the organizations supporting the Arizona legislation. The Center for Arizona Policy has supported a full roster of marriage-related legislation in Arizona, including the original gay marriage ban in 1996. They cite the support of Daddy Dobson, Crisis Pregnancy Centers, and Arizona Families for Home Education. Not surprisingly, they do battle with Planned Parenthood and the ACLU on a regular basis. Their front-page support for 107 is limited to calls for help with circulating petitions and joining in the 40-day-prayer cycle for the November elections, but links are provided to "issue briefs." Several of these are devoted to homosexuality; the "Civil Unions and Gay Marriage" brief focus on activist judges, "marriage counterfeits" (civil unions are actually intended to undermine authentic marriages), and the fact that state recognition of civil unions is nothing more than ammunition for lawsuits designed to redefine and destroy marriage once and for all.

The Protect Marriage Arizona website is decorated with photos of happy young heterosexual couples (see, they even threw in one of a white woman and a Latino man, to show how progressive they are!). Their talking points recycle--surprise!--the same tired rhetoric about activist judges and the necessity of both a mother and a father if kids are to have any chance of turning out normal, along with a giddy dose of what-will-they-allow-next hysteria, although, perhaps to their credit, they stop at polygamy and don't trot out the usual references to bestiality. These points have been refuted a thousand times over, and doing so again here would take me into the wee hours of the morning.

The argument against these people, for me, quite simply crystallizes around the notion that when perfect (and perfectly drunk) strangers can get married on a whim in Vegas, automatically accruing all 1,138 of those federal rights and responsibilities for the price of a xeroxed license and a cab ride, only to nullify the whole thing the next morning after the hangover subsides to a dull roar, rinse, repeat, as often as desired, there is little left of the institution of marriage to "protect." Believe in the sanctity of marriage? Then don't screw around, don't get divorced. Don't believe in gay marriage? Then don't marry someone of your same gender.

We are still going to find each other and fall in love (and even become a "couple," as scare-quoted by the PMA people; see the first question in the FAQ). We're going to buy houses together, raise kids together, go through everyday crises together. We will pay taxes into a Social Security system that refuses to recognize us when we are bereaved. We will raise children despite the state refusing to acknowledge our parental rights. We'll get up in the morning, go to work, come home, make dinner, and go to sleep, in order to get up in the morning and do it all over again.

In short, we're just like everybody else. Except that everybody else can go about their business without having to cart medical power of attorney papers around on vacation and then wonder if the emergency room in the middle of Kansas will pay attention to them. Everybody else can buy a house with the spouse without worrying that it will go into probate if one of them dies. Everybody else with a good pension can be confident that their spouses will inherit it tax-free. And everybody else can sleep well at night without having to worry that a hateful in-law will have sole legal claim to the child they've raised from birth, should their spouse die.

Read the posts from Republic of T listed above, and then come up with a coherent argument supporting the idea that any of those relationships somehow threaten the social fabric of our country. That they're somehow abominations not entitled to the same dignity and protections as the marriages of our straight neighbors and friends. That the extra dollop of agony those people suffered is somehow justified in the name of Jesus.

Tomorrow, links to the opposition.

All Hail Edition

I am gearing up for some Prop 107 posts--yup, it's anti-gay-marriage season again here in Arizona, in the run-up to the November elections--so before I veer off into that howling, here are some people speaking on other subjects I actually agree with.

All Hail Colin Powell:
"If you just look at how we are perceived in the world and the kind of criticism we have taken over Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and renditions," Powell said in an interview, "whether we believe it or not, people are now starting to question whether we're following our own high standards." ... "Suppose North Korea or somebody else wants to redefine or 'clarify' " Geneva Conventions provisions prohibiting "outrages against personal dignity" and "humiliating and degrading treatment" of prisoners, he said.

All Hail Anne Applebaum:
The day when the White House and Greenpeace can issue a joint statement is surely distant indeed. But if stray comments by Western leaders -- not to mention Western films, books, cartoons, traditions and values -- are going to inspire regular violence, I don't feel that it's asking too much for the West to quit saying sorry and unite, occasionally, in its own defense.

Note the crucial difference between the two lines of reasoning cited here; Powell rightly argues that action begets action, while Applebaum argues that words should beget only words--not actions that intrinsically negate the very words they're standing in for.

Excuse me, but which Afghanistan is W talking about now? Is there one with a free, democratic government that will never again be a safe haven for terrorists? One where we eliminated the Taliban? It must be different from the Afghanistan I keep reading about.

Speaking of King George, All Hail Tristero on Digby, commenting on John Yoo's imperialist sycophancy:
I remember the '70's very well thank you very much, and while the USSR was a threat, and so was the Middle East - I well remember the gas lines - the most serious threat of all to the security of the United States was the imperial presidency of Richard M. Nixon. Many of us who do recall how dangerous he was, including Krugman himself, now agree that Nixon was a piker compared to Bush. ... And these monarchy-loving assholes, these total losers who are literally smirking at the presumed ignorance of the people they dare to lead, these are populists?

Enough for today, unless, of course, W does happen to run into Ahmedinijad in the men's room at the UN and gives him a swirly.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

My Arm Is Getting Tired From All This Ironing

Moaning about your Irony Meter exploding was a clever comment once or twice, maybe five years ago, but these days it's flying fast and thick enough to give even Magneto a serious headache. Let's content ourselves with only two examples from the past week...

Item the first: Steve Irwin preached the gospel of conservation and valuing even the uglier, weirder, less-cuddly members of the animal kingdom. He dies as a result of a one-in-a-million stingray spine to the heart, and a week later some of his devotees start... mutilating stingrays in retaliation.

Item the second: the pope gives a speech exploring the historical context of Islamic-Christian relations, apparently intended to argue against religious extremism of any kind. Unfortunately, a quote he included from a 14th-century Byzantine emperor instantly found legs as this irresistible soundbite: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." Some Muslims, in retaliation for the pope portraying Islam as violent, firebombed five churches in the West Bank and Gaza Strip yesterday.

Irony Meter? Off the rails. Conclusion? People are stupid.

Friday, September 15, 2006

W Meets the Press

Ah shite. I tuned into the Bush presser toward the end and lasted a full five seconds before I screamed. In response to a question about why we aren't pursuing Osama more aggessively in Pakistan, in his best irritated, condescending, "you dumbass" voice:
Pakistan is a sovereign nation. And to send hundreds of thousands of troops into a sovereign nation, we have to be invited.

FUUUUUUUUUUCK! We have to be invited unless that sovereign nation (1) starts with "I" and (2) doesn't have nukes, that is.

Ah shite. He's starting the Third Awakening thing again. He's noticed that people he encounters along the ropes are praying for him more now than in '94. He thinks "smart people" are seeing parallels between Lincoln's presidency (the "Second Awakening") and his own. I understand why he's desperate to keep flogging the parallels; it allows him to continue to lift passages from the Gettysburg Address and waggle them around free of context ("that they shall not have died in vain" has been the big favorite for years). And somehow Lincoln's suspension of habeus corpus during a civil war fought on American soil means W gets to ignore all the other parts of the Constitution he finds inconvenient during the war-of-choice-foreign-civil-war incubator he set up in Iraq.

After taking a breath, another cup of coffee, and a gander at the transcripts as they become available, I see that he wants Geneva clarified. Well, again, trying to cut through the code, "clarified" here likely means "reinterpreted to allow 'harsh interrogations'" of terra suspects. What else... ah yes, apparently Colin Powell and John McCain are clueless about the nature of this conflict, the issues surrounding prisoners of war/enemy combatants, and likely all other things military.

Okay, that's all I can stomach for now. It's much funner watching with the sound off as he becomes increasinly agitated.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Fitz Schmitz

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The Arizona Daily Star's editorial cartoonist annoys the crap out of me sometimes. Unless today's effort is intended to be satire, he apparently doesn't recognize the difference between the Gettysburg Address (honoring the dead from America's Civil War) and Bush's September 11 speech (drumming up support for the Iraq war). The Gettysburg Address was anything but political.
The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Contrast Lincoln's words with W's.
We face an enemy determined to bring death and suffering into our homes. America did not ask for this war, and every American wishes it were over. So do I. But the war is not over - and it will not be over until either we or the extremists emerge victorious.

First sentence: death and suffering, check. Second sentence: little outright lie; America (more accurately, the American administration) very much asked for this war, and in fact wanted it so badly that it perpetrated and perpetuated a series of lies designed to make the average sound-bite citizen believe that Iraq was intimately involved in the September 11 attacks. Note to self: try to find camera footage of Dick "there absolutely was a connection" Cheney's temples threatening to explode when W stated Saddam was not involved. Third sentence: war will never be over, check. Interestingly, his closing paragraph echoed Lincoln's:
Our Nation has endured trials - and we face a difficult road ahead. Winning this war will require the determined efforts of a unified country. So we must put aside our differences, and work together to meet the test that history has given us. We will defeat our enemies ... we will protect our people ... and we will lead the 21st century into a shining age of human liberty.

Sounds lovely, although it's difficult for me not to take the cynical view that "putting aside our differences" is code for "sit down and shaddup."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Yesterday, Keith Olbermann delivered the most piercing, resonant, moving commentary on the fallout from the September 11 attacks I have yet heard. Period. Click on the link and listen, listen, listen again. The man's eloquence is beyond awesome.
When those who dissent are told time and time again — as we will be, if not tonight by the President, then tomorrow by his portable public chorus — that he is preserving our freedom, but that if we use any of it, we are somehow un-American…

When we are scolded, that if we merely question, we have "forgotten the lessons of 9/11"… look into this empty space behind me and the bi-partisanship upon which this administration also did not build, and tell me:

Who has left this hole in the ground?

We have not forgotten, Mr. President.

You have.

May this country forgive you.

Of course, since W has roughly the same relationship with the news as the Wicked Witch had with jacuzzis, it's preaching to the choir. Too bad he's unlikely to get this message directly.

Friday, September 08, 2006

CIA prisons, ABS mockumentaries, bah! It's hockeytime!

Hockey season starts in a month, and I'm almost ready. This was step one:

Step two will be the fleece Notre Dame hockey helmet hat! Isn't it the best? I will be the best-dressed fan at Icecats games this year.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Honeybee, Adieu

When I first moved here from Chicago, 12+ years ago, I had rather dewy-eyed notions of the West and its open spaces, namely, that preservation was a priority. Ha. Hoo ha ha. Honeybee Canyon was opened to development within a week of my arrival, and the stucco-and-red-tile-roofed menace has since spread over huge tracts of formerly open desert and grassland north and northwest of Tucson.

Zip forward to yesterday. One of the few remaining undeveloped parcels near Honeybee, within the boundaries of the monstrous Rancho Vistoso development, is slated for its own batch of cookie-cutter houses in the near future. The builder of these, however, finds archaeology interesting rather than simply inconvenient, and, since his parcel sits gobsmack on top of a large Hohokam village, he donated 13 acres in the center as an archaeological preserve. My company is excavating the houses and trash mounds surrounding this central area (for nice photos and descriptions of Hohokam pithouses, please read Homer's post).

Several of us toured the site yesterday. It was simultaneously fascinating and utterly depressing. Fascinating because of the hundreds of houses, some with thickly plastered floors still intact. Utterly depressing because it's going to be bladed within the year, the thousand-year-old houses replaced with as many slapdash frame-and-stucco clone houses as can be crammed into the space.

The ridgetop the site sits on overlooks a wide valley holding the main drainage from the north side of the Santa Catalina Mountains. The pithouses near the center of the site are arranged in small courtyard groups, with the entryways facing in to the common space they shared. The pithouses on the edge of the ridge, though, all face out to the breathtaking view of the valley below, with its streamcourse, rocky outcrops, and saguaros marching up the foothills toward the mountains. Of course, the view now also includes roads bladed into the sides of the foothills to reach house lots bladed onto the hilltops, footprints of the march of the rich and influential to see who can get the site the farthest up the mountain before the national forest starts and physics make construction prohibitive. All for the vacation house that's lived in a month or two out of the year, but wrecks the view year-round.

I'm a bit cynical (shocking, yes) about the future of the central preserve. It was difficult yesterday to walk without stepping on artifacts. Seriously. Potsherds and stone flakes and groundstone tools are everywhere on the ground. Our instinct, thanks to our training as archaeologists, is to step around them, looking but not touching, or, if we pick something up to examine it more closely, putting it back exactly where it was rather than stuffing our pockets. The people who will be moving into the houses to be built here will not, I'm guessing, have the same scruples. Kids are going to pick up everything they find--not that I blame them; I couldn't resist arrowheads on the ground when I was a kid either--and I'd wager that more than a few of their parents will venture into the preserve at night and take a shovel to a trash mound in search of treasure. The standing stone walls of a compound at the center of the preserve will probably be augmented by well-meaning amateur reconstructionists. Coffee tables and mantels throughout the place will end up holding people's souvenirs; even though residents will likely be strongly cautioned against spoiling the preserve, the thousands of artifacts on the ground will make it hard for people to resist taking just one or two or a dozen.

All of this gone for a rabbit warren of crap houses and lousy traffic. And none of them will give a shit about what was destroyed so they can live in a house exactly like their neighbors' and exactly like any number of houses across the way in Continental Ranch, or in the upcoming Homes At Red Rock, or in Gilbert, or in Mesa, or in Anthem. What the hell. At least they won't need to ask where the bathroom is when they visit each other.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I Guess You're Only An Appeaser If Rummy Says You Are

How fascinating. Hot on the heels of Rumsfeld's "lessons of history" speech, in which he unfavorably compared anti-war folks to Neville Chamberlain, Pakistan has one-upped all of us over here who have been pointing out that the war in Iraq might be the wrong way to go about stopping al Qaeda (and al Qaeda "types," as Cheney likes to say, you know, the ones who were emboldened when Lieberman lost in his primary). Pakistan announced today that, should he be in Pakistan after all, Osama bin Laden will not be taken into custody as long as he "lives like a peaceful person." And, oh yeah, captured al Qaeda and Taliban fighters will be released from jail. And their weapons will be given back.

This is coming from the country that was trumpeted as our Number One Ally, the key to securing a foothold in the Middle East and vanquishing the Islamofascists at their source. Now they're throwing up their hands, throwing open the cell doors, and saying they've had it with even the cursory bits of anti-terrorism actions they'd undertaken so far. Note to Rummy: this is what appeasement looks like, asshole. Questioning the proper application of American military force and foreign policy is not appeasing al Qaeda. Telling Osama to put his feet up and set a spell while you rummage through the shed to get all those AKs you took from his boys most certainly is.

Not that anyone reading this likely needs reminding, but the Pakistanis also have nukes. Where do they fall, now, on that fabled You're Either With Us Or With The Terrorists continuum the president so swaggeringly trotted out a few years ago? Think he was planning on this nifty little turn of events when he said that? Think anyone at the White House who supported Pakistan's nuclear bid is wondering now what the hell happens when this bit of Osama appeasement morphs into something more closely resembling collaboration?

I'm holding my breath for the official reaction. It's Saudi without the oil, but with bigger guns. Maybe Bush will skip around Crawford holding hands with Musharraf now.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Our Lady of Perpetual Adolescence

In a refreshing change, the drive to Flagstaff was much more of an ordeal than the visit itself. We actually had a very pleasant time with the folks. The trip up there, unfortunately, joins the annals of Travel Disasters on I-17. Several years ago--my first trip up there, in fact, after my dad had moved from Illinois--we were delayed for a few hours by a minivan hauling a trailer that flipped on the winding, windy stretch of road south of Black Canyon City. It's an unpopulated area of desert mountains with no frontage roads, alternate routes, or easy access to services, so when you're stuck there, you're stuck. It's why you never travel without a couple of gallons of water, even for a routine 4-hour-drive up the hill.

Friday, of course, was the start of the three-day weekend, so traffic sucked even before we got out of Tucson. We'd made it to north Phoenix when the interstate message boards flashed the warning that a crash at Sunset Point (near Black Canyon City) had closed both northbound lanes, backing traffic up over 20 miles to Anthem (godforsaken Pulte insta-city development just north of Phoenix). It was 6 pm at this point and still ungodly hot. I weighed the options for no more than a minute before deciding to divert to the west, approaching Flagstaff via Prescott and Sedona. Looking at the map, I guessed it might add an hour to the trip, but at least I'd be moving rather than sitting and roasting on the highway.

Note to self: sitting and roasting might be preferable to trying to drive through freaking Sun City at 6:30 on a Friday. Christ on a Triscuit. We crawled and sweated and finally made it to Surprise, then Wickenburg (alarmingly full of Len Munsil for Governor placards), and eventually Prescott. I have decided that when I publish an atlas, I will color-code the roads according to average speed limit. The reassuringly short linear distance from Prescott to Sedona to Flagstaff is, in reality, spanned by a road that twists up and down several mountains via no fewer than seven bezillion switchbacks.

I might have averaged 20 miles an hour. The clock marched along merrily; the odometer sullenly refused to budge. 9:30, 10:30, 11:00. The small patches of sky visible through the pine canopy were pitch black and occasionally illuminated by distant lightning; for the most part I was driving on an unfamiliar road in a very small bubble lit by my headlights in front and closing to nothing behind. Dark, twisting, dark, brake, dark, hairpin curve, dark, accelerate, dark, 20 minutes gone, 5 miles traveled, the litany starting in my head, fuckinfuckFUCKfuckwherethefuckarewe?

As it got later and traffic fell off to nothing but me, the constant curves provided enough stimulation to keep me awake and functional, but the weirdness of it all started to play with my brain. Maybe we were the wreck on I-17 after all, I thought, and now while my dad waits for us we're driving around in Purgatory for the next bit of forever before the universe decides whether to spit us up or down. Maybe we're driving on a giant cosmic treadmill. Maybe that isn't ponderosa pine and wood smoke I'm smelling, but incense. Are we dead? Have we really been driving forever? What the fuck?

Then a cop pulled me over outside Jerome for a busted license plate light. Apparently we weren't dead after all, or the dead bulb was a metaphor for minimal karmic transgressions, and we got to Flag alive, if tired, at 11:30.

It occurred to me on the (mercifully uneventful) drive home that these visits are somehow juvenilizing. I don't know if that's a real word. If it is, it encompasses me going to Dad's house and barely noticing that it's twice the size of my house and filled with real wood floors, fine tilework, matched furniture, lots of tools. This doesn't register with me much more than the blue sky does, because it's always been that way. He picks up the tab at the pool hall and at the restaurant because that's what dads do. We walk down to my uncle's house, which is even bigger than Dad's, and while I marvel at the new addition he's built, some part of my brain kicks in to tell me that this is the natural order of things.

I'm up there with my kid, but, for whatever reason, this doesn't make me feel like more of an adult. We sit obediently side-by-side at the counter while the folks serve up breakfast and ask if we'd like more eggs, we carry our plates to the sink and brush up our crumbs. Maybe it's because my partner's not there; her presence might have jolted me into some vague recognition that I'm not the same little kid on the same visit I've always made...

It isn't until I pull away from his house that I wonder why I don't feel any more grownup when I'm up there. It isn't a resentful thing; I don't feel like I'm being treated like a child. It's simply that our relative status hasn't changed that much. I have maybe 25 bucks in my pocket and not much more in the bank to last the week. He slips me money to pay for the new starter I had to put in the truck last week. I come home, buy groceries, figure out what I can cook to last a few days, what I can send with the kid for lunch. I wonder if I will ever feel like an equal to my father and his brothers, or if I will always be the overgrown kid waiting for full adulthood to somehow magically happen.