Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Road Trip

Summer road trip, or traintrack trip, as the case may be, starts tomorrow morning. Posting may be sporadic for the next three weeks or so while I am frolicking in my native Illinois environment, since I will likely be too delirious with black-dirt, deciduous-forest, balmy firefly-evening joy to spend much time hammering away at the laptop, but you never know.

The House

The house is big. You get a sense of its size from the street, but can’t feel the full impact until you walk in the oversized front door and pass through a long, low-ceilinged entryway and go around a corner to where the great room in the middle suddenly soars up to a twenty foot ceiling and you realize you are standing in a single room that on its own is nearly as large as your entire house.

The house is old when I stop and think about it for a moment, although it’s not of the century-and-a-half-old vintage and Union architectural style of the upper Midwest that is usually required to make me categorize a place as an old house. It was probably built in the early 1950s, maybe the late ‘40s, in the mold of California faux-Mediterranean mansions you might see in Glendale or Bel Air, sprawling horizontally under a red tile roof with draping trees and a few interesting angles thrown in for relief, the oval pool in the back yard growing green with algae, its central fountain long dry and its water splashed only by the once-a-week hose and the pool guy who doesn’t seem to clean it as well when the old lady isn’t there to watch him.

The house is stuffy and empty, despite being crammed with furniture and fifty years’ worth of stuff, smelling of old people and their artifacts. I wonder if my house will smell like that when I’m 80, if aging offgasses some weird blend of camphor and stale air you’d never voluntarily elect when you’re young. The girlfriend goes there to water the plants a few times a week. I have only come with her twice, poking around the ancient volumes in the immense library while she fights the overgrown catclaw in the back, able to view the compiled pair of lifetimes stored in the empty house dispassionately since I never knew the old people very well, didn’t spend half my life with them in the background of my mind like she has.

Aside from major differences in building scale and style, it’s not so different from my grandma’s house back in Illinois. Houses whose size has outlasted the needs of the occupants other than as a repository of what they had to keep and what they refused to throw away, the material correlates of choices, behaviors, beliefs, lofty values and mundane requirements of daily living, the entire human experience distilled into silent rooms and musty closets and hot attics full of now-forgotten things that persist there because they were once too valuable to discard. The old woman looks at them and says this is my life. Her grown children look and mutter how the hell are we going to get rid of all this crap?

The watering done, the girlfriend sets the alarm and locks the door. We drive off to our busy, shiny new lives, leaving the house and its history to the catclaw and the dust.

Welcome Back, With Fine Print

Headline on the front page of the Tucson/Region section of the Daily Star on Sunday:

Bishop Says Gays Welcomed At Church

"Oh, look," says the girlfriend, who is reading the paper across the breakfast table from me, "you can go back to church now."

Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas says he wants homosexual worshippers to know they are welcome in his Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson.

Kicanas writes in this month's edition of The New Vision, the diocese's newspaper: "I am very sensitive to the concerns I have heard from people of same-sex orientation that they feel they have no place in our parishes or in the household of faith.

"We need to consider how we as a diocese or how I as bishop may be generating such misunderstanding."

Golly. How indeed might our favorite vegan bishop be generating misunderstanding where gay folk are concerned? We thought about that one for all of half a second. Could it be his recent refusal to allow retired Detroit bishop Thomas Gumbleton to speak in the diocese on the behalf of Call to Action, a lay group that is trying to drag the church out of the Middle Ages on topics such as priestly celibacy, ordination of women, and acceptance of homosexuality? Maybe it's not that. Maybe it was Kicanas' eager glomming on to a pastoral letter with Arizona's other two bishops supporting Proposition 107, Arizona's proposed (and failed) constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, a letter in which he said

So-called "same-sex unions" lack both natural complementarity and the ability to generate new human life naturally. They have a different meaning entirely.
Societally, the implications of equating so-called "same-sex unions" and marriage are profound and unsettling.

This is indeed an annoying and insulting position, but it isn't confusing--it's actually about as straightforward as you can get. The confusion comes when he follows those statements, full of scare quotes and assertions of how unsettling we are, with this:

At the same time, we reiterate the Church's teaching that people of whatever orientation must always be treated with compassion and respect and that their civil liberties must be protected. The Catechism of the Catholic Church further elaborates in reference to people of homosexual orientation that "[e]very sign of unjust discrimination in this regard should be avoided."

Hmm. Most of us notice the cognitive dissonance.

[Call to Action vice president Laurie] Olson also wondered how Kicanas will be able to reconcile his outreach efforts with church teaching that gay sex acts are contrary to natural law and that gays and lesbians should remain chaste. The church says "homosexual inclinations" are "objectively disordered," a phrase it defines as "an inclination that predisposes one toward what is truly not good for the human person."

Of course, there are three sides to every coin, and this guy has the edge covered (I am not sure why he is quoted in the Daily Star story; maybe the writer couldn't find enough grumpy old men in Tucson to interview):

Joel Fago, a retired Catholic who lives in Sierra Vista, is also concerned about how Kicanas is reconciling church teachings, which Fago says were missing from Kicanas' New Vision article.

Fago understands same-sex relations to be "intrinsically evil," a phrase that has been used in some church documents.

"The misunderstanding Bishop Kicanas is generating is in not stating the Catholic position on homosexuality. … How he is doing this is not in keeping with our faith," Fago said. "We do not hate the homosexuals. On the contrary, we do try to reach out to them and explain the Catholic position. But we do love the sinner, hate the sin."

There's the crux of it for most of us, Gerry. You, your church, and too many of your followers behave as though an elegantly worded statement about justice, respect, and compassion negate blatant actions that reveal the true motivations beneath. You actively work to deny us equal rights and protections under the law and then act astonished--astonished-- when your flowery statements about avoiding unjust discrimination ring more than a little hollow for us. Mr. Fago, it's easy for you to spout your mindless "love the sinner" pap. It's far easier for us to see through it.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

In Which We Surrender to Steve Jobs and Fret Over Large Insects

Finally did it this afternoon. I have this trip to Chicago coming up, you see, and the girlfriend offered to go halves on an iPod as a bon voyage (or bon choo choo, as it were) present. I'm not a total irresponsible materialistic git; I went with the nano.

Shiny. Black. New!

The shiny black 8G nano, that is, which I'm busily loading music and photos onto as I type. The photos take up next to no room and you can set them up as a slideshow to whatever music you want. Swoon. My only previous experience with iPodLand has been with the minor suburb called Shuffle, which I use at the gym and dig mightily, but the track selection and playlist capabilities of the full-feature babies, including those cute little photos, has won me over. Add in DRM-free music and I am very, very happy indeed.

In other road trip news, the 17-year cicadas have begun emerging in Chicagoland. I must remember to pack my wellies. Fuck, fuck. 17 years ago this month a spent a horrific afternoon trying to walk from a church in Wilmette to the Linden el stop, for which I had stupidly worn shorts and Tevas, meaning I spent the couple of miles in the middle of the street trying not to step on the fucking cicadas that were crawling, flopping, dying, and otherwise occupying every other square inch of ground when they weren't careening into my ankles as they flew a couple of inches above the street in their death throes. Hate. Cicadas.

Comes up from under the ground + glowing red eyes = spawn of Satan

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Cave-in on Aisle 7

So midterm elections are pointless unless the opposition party gains a bombproof veto-override majority.
Democrats gave up their demand for troop-withdrawal deadlines in an Iraq war spending package yesterday, abandoning their top goal of bringing U.S. troops home and handing President Bush a victory in a debate that has roiled Congress for months.

Full funding, no demand for a withdrawal timetable, no requirement of progress reports, no accountability for the Iraqi government or military. But hey, at least the Dems managed to sneak the minimum wage hike in there among the $20B of non-war-related spending provisions (along with increased healthcare funding for both currently enlisted personnel and veterans).

That last little ray of sunshine, however, does nothing to mitigate the capitulation to a lame-duck president with a 28% approval rating. W gets clear sailing to continue dumping money and American lives into Iraq with, four years after the start of the war, absolutely no plan for achieving either a victory in World War II terms or a favorable outcome in the complex language of the modern Middle East.

The administration this week also quietly implemented plans to increase troop levels in Iraq far beyond the numbers initially reported as "the surge," possibly putting 200,000 boots on the ground by extending combat tours an additional three months and falling back on the tried-and-true tactic of rotating combat brigades back into the theater far more rapidly than standard guidelines allow, ensuring troop and equipment fatigue by shortening the recovery periods needed for rest, repair, additional training, and physical and mental recuperation.

So the plan it for additional security and just a little more patience and just a little more time for the Iraqi government to get on its feet and the Iraqi security forces to decide to show up for work and the Iraqi people to choose democracy over tribal and religious sectarianism. In other words, the plan is for more of the same, to keep throwing cash and bodies at the wall hoping something eventually sticks, and the Democrats are terrified of looking like they don't support the troops. Instead of forcing Bush to take the onus of continually vetoing bills designed to take our guys out the the fire and force the Iraqi government to stand on its own feet, two goals the majority of Americans support, they bluster and bark and then skitter out of the way, tails between legs. And today more soldiers and marines will be blown to kingdom come, advancing nothing but death.

Monday, May 21, 2007

100 Books Meme; a Lovely Way to Kill Half an Hour

Hey, it's officially summertime and my brain is distracted with impending travel and god-awful Tucson temperatures. I finally sat down and scrawled out a list of things to take on the trip to Chicago, and picked the books that get to go on the train ride. Then I stumbled across this meme on GrrlScientist's blog and thought, well, what the hell. This isn't the list of 100 interesting books I would have compiled (each separate Harry Potter? I likey, I likey, but they take up six spots on the list), but it's a summer reading start. Forthwith:

Look at the list of books below:

  • Bold the ones you've read

  • Italicize the ones you want to read

  • Leave unaltered the ones that you aren't interested in or haven't heard of

  • My addition: add shame level and snarky comments in brackets after the author name.

  1. The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown) [shame level high! I know it was stupid! But it was fun!]

  2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) [liked it okay. liked the Keira Knightley film adaptation okay too.]

  3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee) [as with most of the other classics I had to read in school, I liked this better the second time around as an adult, reading it because I wanted to, not because I had to.]

  4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell) [haven't even seen the movie all the way through. I do want to read The Wind Done Gone (Alice Randall) sometime.

  5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (JRR Tolkien) [saw the movie. does that count?]

  6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (JRR Tolkien)

  7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (JRR Tolkien) [got halfway through before getting severely creeped out by the Ringwraiths, which I found much scarier in print than on the screen.]

  8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery) [I associate this with the white-and-green Yearling edition binding that always made me think old book that was probably required reading for young ladies when my mom was in school.]

  9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon) [no idea what this is]

  10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry) [another fine mess?]

  11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (JK Rowling)

  12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown) [I know, I know. It was fun!]

  13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (JK Rowling)

  14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving) [hated this; don't do well with stories where somebody's mom gets killed; sorry if I just spoiled it for you]

  15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)

  16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (JK Rowling)

  17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)

  18. The Stand (Stephen King) [aw HELL NO. no vampires, thanks.]

  19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (JK Rowling)

  20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) [one of the classics that's much more enjoyable if you read the Thursday Next novels first]

  21. The Hobbit (JRR Tolkien)

  22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger) [recently read this for the first time since sophomore high school English, liked it much better without freaky Mrs. Syburg (god rest her soul, even though she gave me severe willies) reading it out loud and cackling.]

  23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) [it's on the shelf; my only experience with the title is as a card in the Authors game I played as a tad with my parents.]

  24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold) [another one I have never heard of]

  25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel) [heard it is deadly dull, but am open to arguments in favor]

  26. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams) [have read the entire series several times]

  27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte) [if you haven't read it yet, totally read the Thursday Next novels first and it becomes hilarious. Heathcliff and all the other characters are far more enjoyable when framed as unwilling participants in anger management therapy.]

  28. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis) [read it as a middle schooler; seem to remember liking The Phantom Tollbooth much better]

  29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck) [eh]

  30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom) [no, fuck no.]

  31. Dune (Frank Herbert) [read it in high school and didn't understand a lick of it; should probably pick it up again]

  32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks) [was that a movie? no idea]

  33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand) [it's on the shelf but I don't see it anywhere in the queue in the immediate future]

  34. 1984 (George Orwell) [yup, in high school, and keep meaning to re-read it to get thoroughly disillusioned with the Bush administration]

  35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley) [shame factor high! makes me feel all SCA-ish!]

  36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)

  37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay) [?]

  38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb) [meh]

  39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant) [picked it up, put it down, picked it up, put it down, didn't end up buying it]

  40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho) [sounds creepy. if creepy, not reading.]

  41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel) [Jean Auel is Gary Jennings' spiritual twin, apparently trying to cram as many sex scenes into a prehistoric setting as possible, with Auel beating Jennings by a nose by virtue of her cringe-inducing flowery prehistoric vernacular. Read this if you want to feel slightly stupid about sex for the next, oh, large bit of forever.]

  42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini) [own it, not sure if it's worth the depression]

  43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella) [already read Bridget Jones; have I not suffered enough?]

  44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom) [aw FUCK NO. what the hell is the fascination with Albom? He's an okay sportswriter, but the pap level of his fiction is more than I can take.]

  45. The Bible [bits and pieces, but I haven't sat down with it since I got out of my required high school theology classes, which, being set in a Catholic school, were not exactly heavy on the Bible.]

  46. Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy) [own it, have yet to find a Russian author I can enjoy enough to actually finish a book; Anna Banana is not a likely candidate.]

  47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas) [own it, liked the movie, very much like swordfighting in a platonic non-SCA way]

  48. Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt) [believe the hype]

  49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck) [Christ, how depressing. read it in high school and got depressed; reading it as an adult would probably make me flirt with the pilot light.]

  50. She's Come Undone (Wally Lamb) [who is this Lamb guy? can anyone recommend?]

  51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver) [good stuff]

  52. A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens) [oh, Jeeves? put this one on the list of stuff you hate because you were forced to read it in high school before you had half the life experience necessary to appreciate great literature, but if you read after 30 you'll probably like it. a lot.]

  53. Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card) [sounds vaguely familiar]

  54. Great Expectations (Charles Dickens) [be that as it may, I will always want to throttle Pip]

  55. The Great Gatsby (F Scott Fitzgerald) [gaping hole in my literary enculturation]

  56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence) [Kate says Laurence is good, so I'll give it a go]

  57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (JK Rowling)

  58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough) [shame level high! enjoyed the early '80s miniseries with Richard Chamberlain: shame level even higher!]

  59. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood) [should be required for every female of reproductive age]

  60. The Time Traveller's Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)

  61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky) [again with the Russian thing]

  62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)

  63. War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy) [long winded Russian writers]

  64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice) [HELL NO. NO VAMPIRES.]

  65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)

  66. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)

  67. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

  68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)

  69. Les Miserables (Victor Hugo)

  70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery) [I seem to remember many middle school classmates loving this book. I never got past the first couple pages.]

  71. Bridget Jones' Diary (Fielding) [shame!]

  72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

  73. Shogun (James Clavell)

  74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)

  75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)

  76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)

  77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)

  78. The World According to Garp (John Irving) [John Irving is bent.]

  79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)

  80. Charlotte's Web (E.B. White) [fucking book made me cry when I was seven.]

  81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)

  82. Of Mice And Men (John Steinbeck) [apparently I am not a Steinbeck fan. ignorance or good instincts? you decide.]

  83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)

  84. Wizard's First Rule (Terry Goodkind)

  85. Emma (Jane Austen) [I have this but don't remember if I finished it; thus the half-bolded title.]

  86. Watership Down (Richard Adams) [bunnies, a fun bunny language dictionary in the back, a bittersweet ending that made me cry but not in the bad way fucking Charlotte's Web did; maybe my soft spot for pigs is bigger than the one for bunnies.]

  87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley) [read it in high school; don't remember a whit about it.]

  88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)

  89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)

  90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)

  91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)

  92. Lord of the Flies (William Golding) [goodness how disturbing; I remember thinking as a kid, shit, did they really kill him?]

  93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck) [also depressing as hell, at least at the time]

  94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)

  95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum) [pretty cool]

  96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)

  97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch) [liked it a lot, worth re-reading]

  98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)

  99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield) [HELL NO]

  100. Ulysses (James Joyce) [ah, I keep trying, and will keep trying until I get through it]

Sunday, May 20, 2007

At the Movies

People who bring infants to the movie theater suck. Toddlers too, as well as any kid who is incapable of sitting quietly for the entire film. Do you have a baby? There's a whole list of activities you don't get to participate in for a few years if you can't find a sitter. You don't get to go to karaoke night at your favorite country bar. You don't get to go to the Gold Room at Westward Look. And you don't get to go the movies. Want to see Shrek the Third? Get a sitter or wait for it to come out on DVD.

I didn't want to go late this afternoon, mainly because both breakfast and lunch included floor shows courtesy of dumbfuck families who apparently have no concept of how to handle their children, or, more specifically, how to teach their children to behave properly in a public setting. Given that track record and the undeniable kid appeal of the movie we wanted to see, I knew it was doomed from the start. Sure enough, withing two minutes of sitting down in beautiful Century El Con theater #10, in walked dumbfuck family number one, complete with a toddler and an infant in a car seat. Dumbfuck family two, with an almost-toddler and barely-post-toddling kid, followed shortly. The infant lasted ten minutes into the movie before it started squawking; the toddlers chattered intermittently through the whole thing.

You know, I really don't pay nine fucking bucks to walk into a theater, shoes sticking to the floor all the way, kicking aside a complete movie's worth of trash the cleaning crew apparently watched spawn mold instead of picking up after the previous showing, only to have your baby wail into my ear and your toddler crinkle an empty water bottle for most of the movie. When did people start thinking this was a great idea? It's a mystery to me.

In any event, I'm done with theaters. It's fun to watch films on a full-sized screen and have actual popcorn, but when I spend the entire time fantasizing about strangling people, it can't be all that healthy. For the record, El Con is a certifiable dump now. I remember when it opened, all those years ago, to great fanfare for the soaring ceilings and cafe tables in the lobby, the great variety of food options, the stadium seating with alternating rows of loveseats and rocking chairs. Now the tables are gone and the lobby is dingy from a constant haze of smoke from the popcorn machines. Trash pickup is sketchy, the floors are sticky, the bathrooms hit or miss.

And people are dipshits. CasaVideo, here I come.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Oh No You Di'n't

Sam Brownback. What a guy. A guy with, it appears, a uterus, so he feels it--really, really feels it--when the subject of abortion is raised. Please, he pleads, this time thankfully without the child-drawn poster of embryos shrieking don't kill me, but with unfortunate repeated embracing-hands gestures toward his midsection, please don't allow rape/incest exceptions to abortion prohibitions!
We talk about abortion, but abortion is a procedure. This is a life that we’re talking about. And it’s a terrible situation where there’s a rape that’s involved or incest. But it nonetheless remains that this is a child that we’re talking about doing this to, of ending the life of this child.

This is callous enough toward women who are pregnant as the result of sexual violence. But when the rape or incest victim is a child herself (see Angry Black Bitch for an infuriating example), it is completely beyond the pale. Because here a week-old cluster of cells is not merely equated to the established, breathing woman who is its unwilling host; the embryo is raised up to a position superior to that of the woman. Of the child who has been raped. Brownback, for all his sanctimonious carping about the lives of innocent children, would gleefully destroy the life of the existing child in favor of the blastocyst stuck to her uterine wall, forcing her to carry the product of her rape to term and deliver it. Emotional and psychological devastation aside, she's expected to welcome this baby and care for it for the next 18 years, raising it up to be a productive citizen despite having been violated in the most basic, soul-shattering way possible. Despite maybe living in poverty herself and, oh yeah, being fourteen fucking years old and utterly unprepared for either the physical or emotional demands of parenthood.

He'd do that to a child because of the twinges he gets in his pretend uterus when he thinks about a precious pink perfectly-formed baby being aborted. The fact that daddy is also grandpa and mommy is still a child don't ameliorate his twinges, and Sam Brownback feels it here, in the womb, goddammit.

This is beyond the bizarre apparent fundamentalist desire to punish women for having sex outside of marriage, or for any reason other than procreation. This is the absolute elevation of the fertilized egg over any other state of human existence. This is the mindset that brings us conscience clauses for fundamentalist pharmacists and emergency room doctors who refuse to inform rape victims about emergency contraception. It brings us politicians who repeat that emergency contraception causes abortions, and repeat that over and over and over until the slack-jawed public accepts it as reality and newspapers don't bother to counter such statements with the truth. It brings us an entire new generation seeing men make the definitive pronouncements and laws regarding women's lives and bodies. It makes me sick.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Hot Wombat Action

The amazing and studly Abby Wambach. Photo property of Andy Mead/Yellow Card Journalism.

Well, this makes me feel much better.

In Which We Blow Our Cover as a Hip Observer of the Human Condition

Jaysis. The war, the constitutional shenanigans, the attorney firings, the daily doses of anti-gay crap flung from the right--all these chap my ass, as you may have noticed. What has me near the snapping point this week? The mundane minutiae of middle class semi-urban motherhood. Which no amount of biking down to Epic Cafe for a cup of hipster coffee while posing as a too-cool happenin' dyke can dilute.

The boy sustained a knee injury in a soccer game back at the end of April, finally diagnosed as a bone bruise only this week after prodding by a couple of docs, x-rays, and an MRI. We were initially looking at an ACL tear, which would have sucked major, major ass, so this was good news. It still means excruciating pain, however--the periosteum around the entire lateral epicondyle was crushed, resulting in pooling blood in the joint--so I have to drag him through rehab stints on a stationary bike and in the weight room. I've been in that position myself three times before, twice recovering from having each meniscus scoped and once from a dandy bone bruise of my own, so I fully understand the difficulty of working through sharp pain and, worse, disconcerting catches, pops, and cracks as scar tissue breaks up and muscles that had the temerity to atrophy in only a week or two are coaxed back into stretching and working.

Naturally, tryouts for next season happened last week, so he watched from the sideline. I have known the coach for a couple of years and got his assurance that the boy would get to stay with the team, and despite this man never having given me reason to doubt his word, I will still not be able to relax until I see the boy out there at full speed, playing time uncompromised. Oh, I'm not a psycho soccer parent who is convinced the sun rises and sets in her kid's cleats. You'll rarely hear me say anything at a game other than woohoo. The boy is a solid middle-of-the-pack player on an upper level team. He isn't superstar material and has never been interested in being one, preferring a low-key approach of playing, contributing, taking out the occasional shit-talking opponent, and having fun doing it. I have seen too many kids in youth soccer get screwed out of something they enjoy, though, either by unscrupulous coaches or hard-luck injuries that set them back into more catch-up time than the team is willing to accomodate. I simply don't want my son to be one of those kids who has to stop playing before he wants to, and I want his knee to stop hurting him now.

The boy is fine through it all, of course. If there's a gene for rolling with the flow, he must have inherited it from my maternal grandfather. I'm still waiting for that particular protein switch to get thrown to the "on" position in my own DNA. God forbid anything really bad ever happens to him; watching and pushing him through this painful process rips at me. How the parents of boys coming home from Iraq missing entire parts of their bodies keep a happy face on for their sons is beyond me.

So with that little dose of perspective, which truly should be enough to keep from complaining about anything again ever ever ever, I acknowledge that my personal shit really doesn't merit a blip on the radar of the universe. Be that as it may, my shit is still my own. It's finals week at the boy's high school, so the daily schedule is completely out the window, meaning I've only gotten to the gym twice, and when I'm there I can't do as much lifting as I would like because my twice-partially-separated shoulder has decided to celebrate its looming 40th birthday with full-blown arthritis, which does actually hurt as much as the Celebrex commercials say, and the girlfriend's daughter graduates this weekend, meaning 50+ people are descending on the house Saturday night, which will be fun, but where are all the fucking folding chairs and where did all this dog shit come from, and oh yeah, I'm spending June in Chicago, which means I have exactly two weeks to finish work projects that are due while I'm gone and two weeks to... save money for the trip? Shite.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Is Someone Gravely Ill? Is It Late at Night? Here Come the Bushies!

Well, at least this time the subject of the middle-of-the-night signature quest wasn't Terri Schiavo. But when John Ashcroft comes off as a paragon of virtue, you know it's bad news anyway.

Back in 2004, then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and Chief of Staff Andy Card paid a late-night visit to AG Ashcroft to try to persuade him to sign off on the warrantless wiretapping program. When he was in a hospital bed. Barely conscious. To his credit, Ashcroft told them to piss off and threatened to resign (as did Deputy AG James Comey, who broke this story to the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, his entire staff, and possibly FBI Director Robert Mueller as well) if they managed to ram the program through as it was presented to him.

So we got the current version, and if that one was watered down enough for Ashcroft to approve, I really don't want to know the rack-and thumbscrews details of the original.

Gonzo and Card, pushing a gravely ill man to sign off on the White House's end run around the Constitution and general rule of law, and then pressuring the acting AG to do so against Ashcroft's clearly stated objections.

Later, Card ordered an 11 p.m. meeting at the White House. But Comey said he told Card that he would not go on his own, pulling then-Solicitor General Theodore Olson from a dinner party to serve as witness to anything Card or Gonzales told him. "After the conduct I had just witnessed, I would not meet with him without a witness present," Comey testified. "He replied, 'What conduct? We were just there to wish him well.'"

The next day, as terrorist bombs killed more than 200 commuters on rail lines in Madrid, the White House approved the executive order without any signature from the Justice Department certifying its legality.

This was the administration that went to great pains to assert it was going to restore dignity to the White House. Instead, it has demonstrated utter contempt for any pesky laws standing between it and its empire. It's the fucking X-Files, but the malevolent force being served by government officials is not alien. It's the enormous collective neocon ego.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Long-Distance Dedication

A big pierdole cie going out to Poland tonight! For a while in the '90s, Poland was among the most up-and-coming of the former Soviet bloc countries, second only to Czechoslovakia (before the split), attracting Western investment and tourism by the bushel. This pleased me immensely; although I am not Polish and have never been to Poland, my closest friends in high school were from relatively traditional 2nd- and 3rd-generation Polish-American families, so I spent a lot of time eating Polish food and dancing to Polish music down at the American Legion on Friday nights. Mowimy po Polsku? Zwa pivo! It was all good.

Recently, however, Poland has taken a rather hard turn to the right, and now is led by the Kaczinski twins--one the president, one the prime minister, both gay-hating thugs. Taking a page out of Robert Mugabe's playbook, the Polish government

...announced it was planning to pass a sweeping bill that, under the guise of interdicting "the promotion of homosexuality," would ban discussion of, or teaching about, homosexuality in the schools. The move came just it was announced that President Kaczynski would deliver the opening address at a World Congress of Families organized this coming May in Poland by gay-hating U.S. Christian right groups.

The schools bill is sponsored by the Kaczynskis' Minister of Education, notorious anti-gay demagogue Roman Giertych, who is also Deputy Prime Minister. Giertych is the leader of the Catholic nationalist, anti-Semitic League of Polish Families party, the Kaczynskis coalition partner in government. Vice Minister of Education Miroslaw Orzechowski told reporters that the main goal of the law is to "punish whomever promotes homosexuality or any other deviance of a sexual nature in educational establishments," and that any teacher who violated the law could be fired, fined, and even imprisoned.

So very interestingly, terrible twin Jaroslaw Kaczinski (the prime minister) appears to be living up to the stereotype of the most virulent gay-bashers being closet cases themselves:

"Now all Poland knows that the Polish Secret Service was looking for Jaroslaw Kaczynski's boyfriend," a noted gay activist, Lukasz Palucki, one of the organizers of this year's successful Warsaw Gay Pride March, told Gay City News from Warsaw.

The Secret Service documents discussing the current prime minister's homosexuality were later published by the country's leading daily, Wyborcza Gazeta, as well. TVN24, a commercial TV network, also ran a report.

Charming. Thoroughly charming. Despite the PM's orientation, or maybe because of it, the government promotes a virulently anti-gay atmosphere that leads to official gay-bashing we've come to expect from places like Nigeria and Iran. It shouldn't be that surprising. "Inevitable" is probably a more accurate word when a strongly Catholic country begins to officially express the anti-gay beliefs of Pope Benedict (nee Jozef Ratzinger).

In 1992, Ratzinger upped the ante. In an analysis of Legislative Proposals on the Non-discrimination of Homosexual Persons, the [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF)] repeated that "the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder" and extended this principle to civil law. " 'Sexual orientation' does not constitute a quality comparable to race, ethnic background, etc. in respect to non-discrimination," said the document. "There are areas in which it is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account." The obvious areas were adoption and education, but the CDF sought broader precedents for antigay legislation in housing and employment, noting that "the state may restrict the exercise of rights, for example, in the case of contagious or mentally ill persons." If homosexual orientation was sick and infectious, why should purification stop at the priesthood?

...The facile defense of Ratzinger's campaign against gay inclinations in the clergy is that the Catholic sex-abuse scandal proved these inclinations were too dangerous to tolerate. But even if you buy the argument that the abuse stemmed from homosexuality rather than pedophilia and sexual segregation—I don't—it doesn't explain why he targeted gay inclinations in 1986, long before the scandal exploded. Nor is it comforting that his Instruction applies only to priests. As he made clear 13 years ago, if homosexual tendencies are a contagious disease, the infection—and the purge—will go on.

Maybe fundamentalists have a good reason for refusing to consider European precedent when crafting United States law. If we focus too hard on Poland (to its credit, the EU is pissed), we get a big fat object lesson on the human costs incurred when religious dogma steers civil policy, and are unable to shrug it off as those crazy Muslims or nutty animist Zimbabweans failing to act as civilized as we normal Christian white people would. The average Polish government official looks pretty much like the average guy from Iowa and most likely worships the same god he does. It didn't take much approbation from the Vatican to embolden Poland in its gay-baiting spree, no more than a few beers and a few buddies might encourage the farm boy to beat the shit out of the too-skinny guy on the next barstool who brushes against him the wrong way. More of us over here need to start paying attention.

An Open Letter

Dear Mr. Guy on a Mountain Bike Eastbound on Grant at 3:00 Monday Afternoon:

It wasn't your shirtlessness or lack of a helmet that bothered me so much. Neither is a particularly wise choice when biking anywhere in Tucson, much less on one of the busiest east-west thoroughfares in the city, but that bad choice isn't what got to me. It wasn't even the near-heart attack I got as a result of glancing in my mirror and thinking you were sitting in the bed of my pickup. What pissed me off was the second glance at the mirror, the one that told me you were not actually in the truck but right beside it, and then the third look, a hard stare that confirmed you were fucking hanging on to the back corner of my truck, closer by a couple of feet to the back wheel than a trailer would be, at 40 mph in heavy traffic.

No, it wasn't exactly a Jackass-caliber stunt, but it would have taken a chunk out of my insurance and traumatized the hell out of my kid if you had hit a pothole or a rock, or if I'd had to slam on my brakes or swerve suddenly to the right, or if anything else had happened to turn your stupid unhelmeted ass into a shirtless skid mark as a result of you hitching a ride on my tailgate.

Next time you're competing hard for a Darwin Award, do it without involving other people, you stupid motherfucker.


Oh yeah. I clutched and gunned the engine, he got the hint and let go, and I moved over into the left lane. Really gotta remember not to leave the house without my camera any more.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


The elusive deltoid.

My first recollection of any kind of body awareness beyond the ow, that hurt of scraped knees was during the 1976 Summer Olympics. I was almost nine years old and hadn't seen gymnastics before--our tiny southern Illinois town must have failed to notice the '72 Games--so I was fascinated by the people flinging themselves through the air and whipping their bodies around bars and rings and pommel horses. Tellingly, I suppose, I didn't think much of the female gymnasts; even though they were actual physically mature women back in those ancient days rather than the perpetually pre-pubescent pixies we have now, the leotards and makeup must have put me off. Yes, I know the women were incredibly fit, limber, and strong, but they still looked like the kind of prim lady my grandmothers had been stubbornly trying to mold me into since I started to walk and discovered I liked jeans and train engineer caps much more than lacy dresses and patent leather Mary Janes.

The strength and power exhibited by the guy gymnasts, though, just fascinated me without any guilt-embossed baggage. Specifically, I was completely taken with their deltoids, especially when they were on the rings, hanging there motionless in that T position. Hey, I played on the rings at the playground all the time and knew how hard that was, even as a 60-pound wisp of a kid. They made it look easy. Right then I decided I must someday get a set of deltoids myself. Which proved to be not easy at all with body fat that actually registers in the double digits. Hmm. So I put it aside for decades.

This morning at the gym, thirty years later, I glanced in the mirror as I toiled away on the elliptical machine, and there the deltoids were, perched on the sides of my shoulders and playing it cool like they had always been there. Six months of concerted effort in the weight room has finally paid off. They'll certainly evaporate in a poof of mesquite pollen the next time I sneeze, but today I am basking in the knowledge that I managed to achieve at least one of my completely meaningless childhood dreams.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Inbox Fun

The week is never complete without another bullshit e-mail forward from my brother. This week's installment was bafflingly cobbled together from a few different things that have been bouncing around the internets for a few years, combining 2004's "A Letter from a Vietnam Vet" with Howard Metzenbaum's stupid 1974 (!) senate race "You Never Had a Job" attack on John Glenn and some hand-wringing about how tired our president is looking lately. The upshot of the new Frankenstein product is that we liberals simply don't understand how hard it is to win a war and should quit bitching about George Bush's grand adventure in Iraq because of several facts people just don't think about clearly enough.

Let's jump right in, shall we?

Last January, there were 39 combat-related killings in Iraq. In the city of Detroit there were 35 murders in the same month. That's just one American city -- about as deadly as the entire war-torn country of Iraq.

This is one of my favorites, frequently used to prove the point that since Iraq is just as safe as Detroit, we shouldn't be clamoring to get our guys out, or that we should invade Detroit. Given that this e-mail is obviously still circulating and serving as Truth in the brains of the folks who so eagerly keep hitting their "forward" buttons, the cited "last January" figure could use some serious correction. In reality, the cited death toll is not accurate for January of any year since the invasion; the monthly count has been below forty in only seven of the 49 months of the war to date, with an average of more than 67 US deaths per. Actual casualties from January 2007: 90 killed in combat; 44 in Baghdad, 56 elsewhere in Iraq (primarily Al Anbar province, Ninewa province, Karbala). Homicide data from Detroit during the same month are surprisingly difficult to come by; a blog tracking murders reported in Detroit media lists 15 homicides in January. The Iraqi civilian body count, which may be a more accurate proxy for the Detroit murder rate, is substantial: 1,568 people were killed in January 2007 in Baghdad alone, which works out to one murder per 63,400 Detroit residents (population ~951,000), compared to one per 4,719 Baghdad residents (pop. ~7.4 million)--a 1300% greater murder rate in Baghdad, which again does not count the rest of that war-torn country.

Okay, what's next? How about this one:

When some claim President Bush shouldn't have started this war because Iraq never threatened America, it could be recalled that in 1941 President Franklin Roosevelt went to war with Germany, which never attacked America. Japan did.

Why, yes, you are correct there; Germany did not pre-emptively attack the United States. Germany did, however, declare war on the US (another quaint concept, much like the Geneva Conventions, no?) on December 11, 1941; the US immediately responded with its own war declaration. The key distinction between Germany and Iraq should be fairly obvious here, but if it needs clearing up, the fact that Germany declared war on American means it was threatening America, and its very recent history of rolling into other countries (say Poland, for the history-impaired) backed that war declaration with a very real and immediate threat.


John Kennedy started the Vietnam conflict in 1962. Vietnam never attacked. President Lyndon Johnson turned Vietnam into a quagmire. From 1965-1975, 58,000 lives were lost -- an average of 5,800 per year.

Yes. We recognize that Vietnam was a monumental mistake that turned into a quagmire. No one rationally disputes that, not even us liberals, despite our hero Kennedy's culpability. We remember that history and use it to argue against getting embroiled in a modern quagmire in Iraq. The fact that Democrats fucked up forty years ago does not justify the current adminstration's refusal to learn the lessons of history.

This is getting tiring, but:

In the two years since terrorists attacked us President Bush has ... liberated two countries, crushed the Taliban, crippled al-Qaida, put nuclear inspectors in Libya, Iran and North Korea without firing a shot, and captured a terrorist who slaughtered 300,000 of his own people.

Afghanistan indeed has a rudimentary democracy going, and the invasion of that country was fully justified because the people who plotted and planned 9/11 did the plotting and planning there. Great. The problem came when the dogs were largely called off and sent to Iraq, which had exactly jack shit to do with 9/11. You may have noticed the resurgence of the Taliban in the last year. You may have noticed today that the Afghan government is demanding a cease-fire in the wake of mounting civilian casualties. And yes, we caught Saddam, who killed thousands of his own people... using chemical weapons the US was happy to sell him during the Iraq-Iran war.

Hmm, something key is missing here. Wait for it... waaaaiiiit for it...

We've been looking for evidence of chemical weapons in Iraq for less time that it took Hillary Clinton to find the Rose law firm billing records.

Ah, there we go. Compulsory Clinton reference absolving the current administration of any blame or fault. Well, hell, we'd been looking (in 2004, the time this e-mail originally surfaced) for less time that Dubya spent AWOL from his National Guard unit. We've been looking for less time than he's spent clearing brush in Crawford. What's your point? If Dear Leader is looking worn out, it's sure as hell not because he's losing sleep over Iraq.

That's all I can take for now. Note to my brother and people like him: develop some critical thinking skills before sending this crap winging through the ether. Your arguments would have much more substance if they weren't backed in such large measure by out-of-date information, distortions, and outright lies.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Jesus' Blog

Sometimes you stumble across smack-yourself-in-the-forehead brilliant things you wish you'd done yourself, but didn't, and they're obscure enough you figure you can just skive them and do 'em up as if it had been your idea in the first place. But you don't because you're not that kind of person*. Anyway. I so totally wish I had thought to do this myself, but since I didn't, I will link to it like mad.

Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ

And My Lamb, "Karen"

*And on the off chance it is the real Jesus H.'s blog, I don't want to step on His toes.

Christian Expression via Broken Beer Bottle

Hysteria from fundamentalist Christians over the proposed addition of anti-GLBT bias to the federal hate crimes statutes, originally noted at Pam's House Blend:
Now that the House has approved a bill that includes crimes against homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender individuals in federal hate crimes statutes, pro-family groups are attempting to prevent a similar measure from passing the Senate. Representatives from groups like the Southern Baptist Convention, Concerned Women for America, Vision America, and Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation held a press conference in Washington, DC, to voice their displeasure with what they view as an attack on Christian expression.

"Christian expression" includes assaulting and murdering gay people? What was that verse, again, ah, it's right here somewhere... oh yes. Jesus wept.

The first spectre always trotted out so eagerly is the gay bogeyman who hits on innocent straight guys who are just trying to watch the football game.

Janet Folger of the ministry Faith 2 Action says the hate crimes bill passed by the House is aimed at pastors or anyone else who has the "audacity" to disagree with the homosexual agenda. "Mike is standing at a football bar, or he's standing at a restaurant, watching a game," she posits; "Bruce comes out of the restroom, and he's touching up his makeup. He's a cross-dresser with red-nail polish and a five o'clock shadow. He comes out and hits on Mike. Maybe he puts his arm around him or maybe he brushes or puts his hand through his hair."

The average man would "maybe want to push off such unwelcome advances," Folger observes. However, she warns, "That, if you touch him, is a hate crime."

Again, always, and forever, the fact that this argument continues to be made and eagerly lapped up by the fundie masses speaks volumes more about these people's conceptions of heterosexuality--specifically, about straight male sexuality--than about gay sexuality or hate crimes. If straight men are not allowed to beat gay men to a pulp, the reasoning goes, then gay men will start behaving toward straight men like straight men do toward women. That is, with a sense of entitlement to the straight man as a commodity that exists solely to arouse and fulfill the gay man's pleasure, and the straight man will have no recourse but to stand there and take it just like a woman should.

If any other formulation of male-female dynamics existed in Janet Folger's mind, it might occur to her that uninvited physical contact is inappropriate for anyone to initiate, even if the anyone is male, and that anyone who is the subject of the unwanted bad touch is allowed to rebuff it (although "rebuffing" someone's hand brushing through your hair generally doesn't extend to "bash face in with barstool"). Even when the toucher is male. Her message and mindset are clear. If a woman has the misfortune to be attractive to a man (and especially if she deliberately makes herself attractive), the man can't help but hit on her, and she's gotta take it. If a gay man sees a straight man, he is both automatically attracted to him and powerless to resist the impulse to hit on him. What's worse, the straight man is automatically feminized by being the object of male attraction, and now the government is trying to complete that emasculation by preventing him from killing his would-be suitor--which, of course, is the only possible straight male response to the power-sapping experience of being hit on by a man, regardless of whether it involved physical contact, a verbal proposition, or simply the perception that the gay guy was eyeing him funny.

It's telling that the gay panic defense and the Christians desperate to preserve it invariably focus on the mythical gay male transvestite trying to grab a straight guy's nuts. I have yet to see any handwringing over the drag kings and PE teachers who will come out of the woodwork looking to grope the straight gals or at least rotate their tires should anti-gay hate crimes be officially frowned upon.

Beyond that, of course, the thing that annoys me to no end about this crap is its deliberate dishonesty about the nature of the hate crimes statutes--you'll be fined up if you say homosexuality is wrong, you'll be locked up if you push a guy away who's running his hands through your hair (is that really how gay men say hello to strangers? I hadn't noticed). None of the statutes can be construed as banning people from reasonably defending themselves against unwanted physical intrusions, and none of the proscribed behaviors come anywhere close to First Amendment territory. You're free to spend your days preaching about Leviticus and making straw Bruce after straw Bruce dressed up however you want. However, beating the crap out of a guy, shooting him several times, and dumping his body in a field because he asked if you wanted a blow job is not okay. Understand that distinction? I think Jesus might have.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

This Is So Wrong

The trend of using tiny yap dogs as disposable fashion accessories was bad enough (yes, Paris and Britney, I am talking about you). Now we have this:
First came the dogs. Teeny-weeny little things, smaller than a cat or even a rat, so little they could fit in your purse.

Convenient, sort of. But consider the mayhem that a dog, no matter how tiny, can cause inside your pocketbook. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to figure out that you do not want all that mixing it up with your cell phone and lip gloss.

...That brings us to the present and the latest chapter in the annals of hound-hauling... In this contraption the dog actually becomes the purse. The $89.95 Twinkletoes Traveler has adjustable straps to convert your dog from handbag to shoulder bag and back again.

Do I really need to explain how wrong this is? Did the women who will snap up these dog-to-purse conversion kits not get the pre-puppy lecture from mom and dad? You know, the one that goes something like a puppy is a big responsibility and it's a living creature, not a toy? That lecture?

Maybe this is the inevitable offshoot of the stuffed animal backpacks that first made their appearance maybe ten years ago. I'm thinking the ladies who sport Fluffy-as-handbag will pretty quickly have the desire to permanently convert Fluffy to an actual handbag when they realize that no matter how cute it might look to certain twisted people at first, Fluffy is still an actual dog who may not be content to be slung over her owner's shoulder for extended periods of time, who will need drinks of water and bathroom breaks, and who really can't be conveniently set on the table or stashed under a chair during lunch. A dog that might, horror of horrors, act like a real dog and bark or snap or otherwise behave in a non-purselike manner, demonstrating exactly zero understanding or gratefulness at the ninety bucks owner-lady dropped to convert her into a Gucci poochie.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Back Yard Drama

It wasn't even much of a battle, in the end. The big fat Drosophila got careless near the edge of the trash can, the spider pounced, and that was that. I confess a lack of anything but a rudimentary ability to identify spiders. This guy is about 1/4" long and has nifty little blue feet. Did I mention rudimentary?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

80s Attack

What better way to spend a beautiful, unseasonably cool Tucson morning than... sitting in the office finishing a report for unnamed taskmasters? Since this part of the process is fairly brainless (making pretty pictures of projectile points), and since nobody else is in here, I took the opportunity to finally listen to some CDs sent by a friend: five hours of the music from the years we were in high school.

Hohokam projectile point (A.D. 950-1100).

Unfortunately, we went to high school during the musically dark years of 1982-1985, in a rather socially conservative town where no one we knew had heard of Violent Femmes or Echo and the Bunnymen. Some of the stoners had a reggae band, but that was as far outside the mainstream as we ever ventured. So I popped the first disc in and promptly hopped on the 1982 Top 40 Nostalgia Express.

Who knew I was carrying so many Journey lyrics in some heretofore unaccessed part of my brain?All the words to "Gloria?" And Jenny 867-5309? Jaysis. You should hear how she talks about you you should hear what she says! Fuck! I can't get out of the house with my lunch and the right set of keys most days, but I can bloody well sing along with Huey Lewis and the News 25 years after the fact. Fuck, fuck.

Amazingly, there are some tracks on here I would still listen to. Joan Jett is still a righteous babe (even my 14-year-old son thinks she kicks ass enough for his band to cover her songs). I did once hear the bassist from Squirrel Bait (a Louisville band following the footsteps of Big Black and Husker Du that almost made it big) say that Huey Lewis at least never sold out and always played hard-driving rock 'n' roll.

Then there's the stuff that makes me say oh fuck even when no one is around to know I'm listening to it. Kenny Rogers? Did I really own his albums? That must have been someone else. Tainted Love? And I'm only halfway through the 1982 disc, giddily wondering what awaits on the next three.

UPDATED: Wow, 1983 was a really rough year musically.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Frankie's, Finally.

Jaysis, but that took long enough. Our all-time favorite lunch spot, Frankie's Cheesesteaks, is re-opened now, having taken three-plus weeks to move to the old Le Bistro location down the street at Campbell and Copper. The dining area is a little bigger than in the old place up by India Oven, with the addition of another big 8-top table and a longer counter running along the windows. An utterly bizarre but cute, in a you-gotta-know-Frankie way, is the Liberty Room, a little annex done up like a tiny Liberty Hall from an HO-scale Philadelphia, with replicated historical documents on the deep red walls, black Colonial chairs around little tables, faux wood flooring, and even a couple of clay pub pipes mounted on the wall. He is very proud of his Liberty Room.

The drill is the same no matter where you sit--order at the counter, get your RC, and wait for someone to yell your name. We went on opening day, this past Monday, and it was sheer bedlam even at 1:30. The only people I recognized were Frankie and the counter girl; all the grill guys looked new. I worry that some of his old guard couldn't swing the three-week layoff and are now wasting their talents at Arby's.

Anyway, once the sandwiches showed up, I was relieved to see that the shiny new setting hasn't diminished the Philly-dive goodness of the food. The beef was as tender and juicy as always, the onions and provolone dumped on by the yard. My only quibbles were a roll that was a bit dry at the ends, as if it was the last one out of a bag that had been left open a titch too long, and onions that could have used more salt and a little more time on the grill. Then again, the onions were always pretty variable at the old location, so I'll reserve judgment until the next time.

And the beauty of it is that if the onions suck again, all I gotta do is tell Frankie and he will beat someone's ass until they get it right on the grill.

Frankie's! Bliss on a bun.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Connect the Dots

Please go to Salon right now and read Glenn Greenwald's latest, on the disturbing trend of right-wingers and members of the executive branch to transform the presidency into an unlimited monarchy. Which would be the D-word, now, wouldn't it?

I like to think I am not given to histrionics, at least where Notre Dame football and Cubs baseball are not concerned. I like to think Greenwald isn't, either. His article is a response to a Wall Street Journal piece written by Harvard Government Professor Harvey Mansfield, arguing for the president's inherent power to operate above the rule of law (emphases Greenwald's):

In that article, Mansfield claimed, among other things, that our "enemies, being extra-legal, need to be faced with extra-legal force"; that the "Office of President" is "larger than the law"; that "the rule of law is not enough to run a government"; that "ordinary power needs to be supplemented or corrected by the extraordinary power of a prince, using wise discretion"; that "with one person in charge we can have both secrecy and responsibility"; and most of all:

Much present-day thinking puts civil liberties and the rule of law to the fore and forgets to consider emergencies when liberties are dangerous and law does not apply.

The kicker, in my view, is this:

In the course of explaining how the rule of law applies only in "quiet times," Mansfield also argues that "civil liberties are subject to circumstances," not inalienable, and that "in time of war the greater dangers may be to the majority from a minority." Thus, he explains --in what might be my favorite sentence -- "A free government should show its respect for freedom even when it has to take it away."

Mr Orwell to the white courtesy phone, please.

Meanwhile, President Bush reminded us yesterday that he is more than just the decider.

By the way, in the report it said, it is -- the government may have to put in more troops to be able to get to that position. And that's what we do. We put in more troops to get to a position where we can be in some other place. The question is, who ought to make that decision? The Congress or the commanders? And as you know, my position is clear -- I'm the commander guy.

His position is as clear and simple as his grasp of his job description. Fuck Congress. He's the commander. He is America. And he's surrounded by people who believe that too.

On my way home yesterday, I saw that the semi-regular pro-war protestors had set up shop again in front of the neighborhood recruiting center, although the anti-war contingent that usually assembles across the street was absent. The centerpiece, in a sea of flags, was a large sign proclaiming

* The troops
* The mission
* The president
I wasn't even tempted to stop and offer my views, which would be yes on one, so long as they're not committing war crimes or raping their female colleagues, no on three, and please explain two to me in fifty words or less. It's too difficult to debate when no shades of gray are permitted. The military, the desire to dominate the Middle East, and the Supreme Executive are all rolled into one conflated ball labeled "America," all necessary components of a single mindset, simultaneously (if paradoxically) interchangeable and inseparable.

Decider, commander guy, emperor. Take your pick. Single branch of tripartite government, equal to and checked by the other two? That's so pre-9/11.
We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality--judiciously, as you will--we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors...and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.

Bite It, eHarmony!

Oh, my, I do love this.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Confession Time

So George Tenet admits in his new book that the rushup to war was never seriously debated, and Dick Durbin makes a bizarro confession on the floor of the Senate that he knew the administration was lying about prewar intelligence but wasn't allowed to say anything due to his Intelligence Committee double-dog secrecy oath.

Someone clue me in on the true nature of oversight, because I'm clearly not understanding the concept if this is how it's operationalized.

Why is Tenet only now deciding it's time to clear the air? Maybe the $4 million advance had something to do with it. Or maybe four years was the limit on how long he could stare at his framed Medal of Freedom before his conscience finally kicked its way out of that dark corner where it had been walled up since 2003.

Or, as Durbin's performance suggests, maybe it's getting down to serious CYA time. The delivery of classified information to the Senate Intelligence Committee sounds like nothing so much as the closed loop of the confessional, where the priest is bound by vows to listen, absolve, and then keep his mouth shut. The senate is supposed to provide oversight on the executive's use of military force, so State keeps the senate informed... by talking to the sixteen senators on the committee, who are sworn to secrecy and, as such, can't actually do anything with the information they're given, even when it directly contradicts the president's stated reasons for taking the nation into a war. Even when it directly leads to thousands of dead and maimed Americans. And tens of thousands of dead and maimed and displaced Iraqis. Oh, and the draining of the treasury. And the forfeiture of America's moral authority. Ethically, there was nothing the members of the committee could do. Ethically.
The information we had in the intelligence committee was not the same information being given to the American people. I couldn’t believe it. I was angry about it," Durbin said. "[But] frankly, I couldn’t do much about it because, in the intelligence committee, we are sworn to secrecy. We can’t walk outside the door and say the statement made yesterday by the White House is in direct contradiction to classified information that is being given to this Congress.
You know, because that would just be wrong.

Amazingly, the allegedly liberal-biased mainsteam media have been a little slow to pick up on this one. Olbermann was all over it, of course, but the Google can only come up with a Fox (!) story to complement the People's Voice and Pacific Free Press (also picked up by an Iraqi-Italian website) sources.

What does this admission do to John Edwards, who was also on the Intelligence Committee and thus, if he was paying attention, knew the war he voted for was a sham? Does his apology for his yea vote still absolve him, now that we know he knew it was bullshit all along? How can we forgive any of those 16 senators? Absolution is for the confessional box. And ain't none of us priests.