Monday, March 31, 2008


Jesus, what a blender of a half-month it's been. The middle week of March was devoted to a poster for a session at the Society for American Archaeology meetings that took place in Vancouver. I didn't go, but it sounds like my poster had a good time. Thanks to the mapping expertise of the wonderful C here at work and the graphics expertise of the girlfriend and the cultural background and presenting expertise of my co-author, the poster caught the Amerind Foundation's eye enough for them to decide it's a finalist in some public outreach contest they're holding. So the poster may get to do some more traveling, again on its own. If this keeps up much longer it's going to start asking for a beer allowance. And if that happens it's just going to have to go out and get a job.

While the poster was gallivanting around Vancouver, a couple of factions of my family came to town for intensive hiking, birding, and drinking. I survived.

Meanwhile, the world of sports has been churning on. Even though I picked Kansas for the Final Four, along with the rest of the country, I jumped up and down cursing while watching Stephen Curry dribble, diddle, and finally pick up his dribble on Davidson's last possession last night rather than either heaving up a three or finding one of the two guys standing wide open on the flanks. Following that, the Notre Dame women outrebounded Tennessee in the first half and went to the locker room riding a wave of confidence and an accompanying two-point lead, which they promptly converted to bamboozlement and a ten-point loss twenty minutes later.

Opening Day 2008 is being rained out in Chicago as we speak, with a third-inning delay coming on the heels of a start that was already pushed back two hours. Highlights have included the unveiling of an awesome Ernie Banks statue and Fukudome smoking a double over the second baseman's head in his first, and possibly only, at-bat today. The internet radio broadcast is doing a great job of conveying the rain delay atmosphere, with no announcers, but only Gary Pressey's organ playing against a backdrop of crowd chatter. It's 43 degrees and raining, making me not very wistful at all about sitting in my Cubs batting jersey here in 80 degree desert sunshine instead of freezing my ass off in the bleachers while sipping a six dollar Old Style. Still comforting to listen in on the sounds of home.

Soccer? Soccer sucks. Seriously hating on soccer right now, although, were I to be honest, it's more hating on my inability to do the things I used to be able to do. I am not aging well, and am not dealing with that gracefully. Should probably quit playing before I start punching the young speedy players as they blow past me. Speaking of young and speedy, did you see Cristiano Ronaldo's goal against Aston Villa on Saturday? Holy shit. Cheeky? This is the definition of cheeky. GodDAMN but I would like to be able to do that just once.

The rain is lifting! There may still be baseball on the North Side today after all.

Did We Say al-Maliki is Bush Jr.? Yes. Yes, We Did.

Poor Nouri. All he wanted to do was swiftly crush an ideological opponent with overwhelming military force, so he sent in the army and poof, his slam-dunk went down the shitter quicker than you can say Basra Backsplash and he was left floundering, first having to admit that he "miscalculated" the uproar his Basra offensive would create among Shiite militias in Baghdad, and then having to rely on Muqtada al-Sadr to calm things down.

Let's play Find the Ways Maliki Pretends He Is George Bush--first to four wins--but don't blink, because it's going to be a quick game:

The negotiations with Mr. Sadr were seen as a serious blow for Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who had vowed that he would see the Basra campaign through to a military victory. He has been harshly criticized even within his own coalition for the stalled assault.

Last week, Iraq’s defense minister, Abdul Kadir al-Obeidi, conceded that the government’s military efforts in Basra met with far more resistance than expected. Many Iraqi politicians say that Mr. Maliki’s political capital has been severely depleted by the Basra campaign and that he is in the curious position of having to turn to Mr. Sadr, a longtime rival, for a way out.

Such a curious position, but not unexpected to anyone who's been paying a lick of attention. As noted before, al-Sadr pulls the strings in Iraq, and he's young, and he's patient. None of that bodes particularly well for neocon dreams of a permanent US presence acting as a stabilizing force for the region.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Iraq at Defining Crossroads Corner-Turning Moment This Time, Really

Dear Leader apparently emerged from his bubble long enough to notice that the momentary very relative lull in violence in Iraq has passed, with military and civilian deaths on the uptick again this week. Nouri al-Maliki sprang into what he likely hoped would look like prime ministerial action by instituting a crackdown on Shiite militias in Basra, the militias responded by smacking the Iraqi army around while the Shiite-dominated police force ran for their lives, the Iraqi army responded by calling in US backups, Muqtada al-Sadr responded by ordering his Mahdi Army to spearhead a nationwide general strike, and militia members in Baghdad responded by lobbing rockets into the Green Zone on an hourly basis since Easter Sunday.

George Bush responded with a classic there-must-be-a-pony-in-here-somewhere statement:
Bush said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's crackdown in Basra against Shiite militias vying for control of the oil-rich region is a positive milestone in the birth of a democratic nation.

Naturally, the resurgent bombings and mortar attacks mean that the troop drawdowns (more accurately, the return to pre-surge levels) will probably have to stop. Because Bush can't seem to wrap his brain around the fact that the cooperation of al-Sadr was a necessary precondition for the surge to work at all, along with the continuing willingness of Sunni militias to sell us their loyalty, the extra boots must be kept on the ground. No matter what.

al-Maliki went with a force-based strategy in Basra, and it's blowing up in his face. Bush is bursting his buttons with pride as his protege trip-traps down the same route Bush took with Iraq as a whole. Positive milestone? Of course it is. If your name is Muqtada, it's fucking awesome.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

4,000 Redux

This morning, the day after the count ticked over to four thousand, the Daily Star ran a full-page photo piece on the men and women with southern Arizona ties who have been killed. But they don't seem to have it online. The Phoenix paper has their all-Arizona casualty list up, although the linked blurbs appear to have come from the DOD and, as such, omit the homey details that made the Tucson version such a sad read today.

All the faces in that roster of thumbnails should be pondered. I'll point out a couple that particularly grabbed me.

There's Alyssa Peterson, 27, a Flagstaff translator and interrogator with the 101st Airborne. She committed suicide seven months before Abu Ghraib broke, after repeatedly objecting to interrogation techniques she witnessed and was required to perform on prisoners at Tal Afar.

There's Alan McPeek, 20, a Tucson soldier who died in a maelstrom of converging stupidity of jaw-dropping proportions the day before his unit was scheduled to come home. The AZ Central website reports that he and another soldier succumbed to small-arms fire in Ramadi, but the DOD recently admitted it was friendly fire, a shell from a US Abrams tank that rolled out (1) undermanned because the tank crews were also due to go home soon, and their CO didn't want to put all of them in harm's way, (2) with maps three months out of date because the platoon's printer had run out of ink, preventing them from printing out a current version, (3) with insufficient amounts of machine-gun ammo because cracking open new cases would have required paperwork the tank crew was unwilling to fill out, leaving them (4) to rely in the heat of an engagement on their big gun, which (5) the tank commander allowed an unqualified soldier to shoot because he was leaving Iraq soon and had never had the chance to fire it, so (6) instead of targeting the insurgents a couple of rooftops over, the tank targeted the rooftop where McPeek and his trainee replacement were standing and attempting to call in fire on those insurgents a couple of rooftops over. They were killed instantly.

And there's Robert Unruh, 25, another Tucson soldier, another small-arms fire casualty, this one in Al Anbar. His mother viewed his body in its coffin the morning he came home. Two hours later she died from heart failure.

To commemorate the 4,000th American falling in Iraq, George Bush promises to make sure that the 3,999 who went before him will not have died in vain. Meanwhile, the blogs are all a-twitter over Hillary Clinton's repeated misstatements/flat-out lies about dodging sniper fire at a Bosnian airport, and righty commentators still have their shorts in a twist over Barack Obama's nutty preacher, and nobody pays much attention to John McCain's inexorable march forward.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Four Thousand

And counting. Four thousand lives lost. Four thousand families torn apart.

There's nothing else to say.

Oh, and Catholic Schoolgirls Against the War? Get over yourselves, kids. Wrong venue for that little bit of street theatre. Cardinal George may be a dick, but the Catholic Church's position on the war is pretty much your own. Want to squirt fake blood to protest the Church's influence on anti-abortion policy? Get on with your bad selves. But the war? Next time hit the Google first.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

In Which the Associated Press Refocuses Our Attention on What Really Matters

I'm sorry, what was the point of this, again?
Hillary Rodham Clinton was at home in the White House on a half-dozen days when her husband had sexual encounters there with intern Monica Lewinsky, according to Sen. Clinton's schedule, released Wednesday among 11,000 pages of papers from her years as first lady.

Wow. She was home when Bill was getting blown. Fucking bombshell of a revelation, that. Need we remind the breathless AP that "being home" in the White House isn't exactly the same as "being home" in an 800 square-foot duplex with paper-thin walls? Hillary's complete 8-year datebook has been released, which is the source of this amazing revelation. Maybe that in itself is newsworthy, but why the "Hillary Home During Trysts" scandal-sheet headline? Oh, right. :

It's unlikely she would be surprised at this late date to learn that the president was cheating on her while she was at home in the White House.

But the release of the documents reminds voters anew about Bill Clinton's affair and the impeachment proceedings that brought Washington to a halt for a year.

Thanks, Associated Press! Lord knows the voters have been so distracted by the endless detailed discussions amongst the candidates of their domestic economic policy plans, and plans for solving the infrastructure crisis, and plans to deal with Iraq, and environmental policies to counter global warming, and international economic policies to address the rise of the East and the tanking of the dollar, that it feels like it's been years since anyone has bothered to cast Bill Clinton in a negative light, much less mention Monica Lewinsky. Thank you for correcting this absolutely unacceptable situation and getting the campaign dialogue squarely back where it needs to be, that being Bill Clinton's pants.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Certifying Board Has Standards for Certifying, Anti-Abortion Doctors Object

Oh, nice. What a wonderful thing when listening to NPR on the way to work makes you end up feeling even more stabby than you already did. In November, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued an ethics opinion directing physicians who don't want to perform a given standard healthcare procedure to refer their patients to other physicians who will perform it. Fair enough, right? Wrong. The administration finally noticed it last Friday.
The Bush administration says new ethics guidelines written by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists may violate federal "conscience" laws.

Of course the Bush administration says that. Abortion is the obvious bone of contention, but if conscience laws are put into play, emergency contraception, standard contraception, and prenatal care for lesbians and quite possibly unmarried straight women turn into pawns in the religious conservatives' power game.

"I'm not going to refer someone to a hit man to put to death someone that's inconvenient in their life," says Joseph DeCook, a retired Ob/Gyn from Holland, Mich., and vice-president of the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. "I wouldn't do that. This is the very same thing. I'm not going to refer a pregnant woman to a physician who will purposefully terminate her pregnancy — better known as purposefully kill the unborn child. I'm just not going to do it."

The forced-birth contingent is concerned that refusing to refer their patients to other doctors so that they can obtain a legal and standard medical procedure will lead to the ACOG stripping them of their board certification, which will put them out of business. Cry me a river? The administration is doing just that.

On Friday, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt sent a letter challenging the policy to both the certifying board and ACOG.

"We had great concerns that technically competent, skilled, highly trained physicians could be denied board certification solely on the basis of refusing to refer for abortions, something that might be against their moral compass or ethical standard," says Don Wright, HHS principal deputy assistant secretary.

The entire kerfuffle may ultimately be posturing anyway, since the ethics opinion isn't part of the formal code and is nonbinding. Be that as it may, the ACOG is rightly more concerned about technically competent, skilled, highly trained physicians unilaterally denying women access to legal procedures, legal medications, and legal care that fall outside the umbrella of the physicians' personal religious beliefs. The government should share those concerns.

The ACOG should take the additional step of requiring full disclosure on the parts of the doctors. Every OB/GYN and primary care physician in the country should be required to prominently post a sign on their doors detailing the limits their religious beliefs place on the services they will provide, and the same information needs to go to the HMOs to put in their provider guides so that women don't enter into professional relationships with doctors who will, down the road, not only refuse to fulfill their legitimate medical requests but will refuse to issue the sacred referral required for them to acquire the services elsewhere. In this era of plan-specific providers and long waits to find physicians who are taking new patients, no one can afford to waste their time.

Those of us in urban areas with more doctors available--even with some who take our insurance and have openings!--are inconvenienced by these goons. Women in small towns or rural settings with one doctor per hundred square miles are facing involuntary life-changing situations if the one guy available won't refer them to the clinic in the city four hours away. If they're raped and he refuses to keep emergency contraception on hand, they're assaulted twice. Think back on every story the Bush administration has told about the Muslim oppression of women who do not conform to the religious standards of the men around them, stories used in part to justify the invasion of Iraq, and then ask why the same administration is leaping to the defense of Christian men who refuse to provide services to women whose needs do not conform to the men's religious standards. Men who, dare I say it, are asking for special rights exempting them from the standards set for their jobs.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Obama gave a speech today. It was a stunner, really another killer oratory. Did it help defuse his crazy-preacher-in-the-closet problem? That probably depends on who you talk to. It worked for me.
On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike... But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Good start, good start.

Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

The problem is that the people who are ready to support him will focus on the white grandmother line, while the ones who are convinced he's a one-man al Qaida sleeper cell will focus on the black community line, the raucous laughter and screaming and shouting, to conclude that electing him will mean the end of the world as they know it.

Whatever. Can't reason where there's no reason. Let's look at this instead:

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

I'm glad he's talking about it, daring to grab that third rail and say yes, this does hurt like a motherfucker, but if we don't talk about it constructively it will continue to silently derail and destroy our political process and we won't progress as a society but will be paralyzed by the politics of hatred, of mistrust, of ignorance.

What I wish he'd said was he'd talk about his insane preacher if the press would hold John McCain to a fraction of the same standard when it comes to his insane white preachers. Yes, Jeremiah Wright blamed 9/11 on the US treating people of color across the globe poorly. Jerry Falwell, at whose Liberty University Douchebag McCain gave a commencement address, blamed 9/11 on the US harboring gays and feminists. Jeremiah Wright castigated white people for holding black people down. John Hagee castigates men who don't hold women down. Which candidate gets the free pass by simply saying, oh, I don't agree with all of his views and which one gets his feet held to the fire? Take a guess.

We aren't done talking about race, by a long shot. Hopefully this will be a start.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Unapologetic Geekdom

68 days, 13 hours, 21 minutes.

Just in Case Your Right-Wing Relatives Have Any Lingering Misconceptions

This was released on Wednesday with the barest of ripples. That whole invading Iraq because Saddam was intimately tied to al Qaeda and was ready to nuke the Washington Monument, Talladega, and your mom's apple pie within 45 minutes thing? Yeah, uh, well... not so much.

Actually, it wasn't released at all. The Joint Forces Command's report on the run-up to the war , with its references to over 600,000 captured documents, definitively demonstrates, once and for all, that the administration's reasons for war were invalid. False. Bullshit. Pick your word.
The study, based on more than 600,000 captured documents, including audio and video files, found that while Saddam sponsored terrorism, particularly against opponents of his regime and against Israel, there was no evidence of an al Qaida link.

This is huge, right? I mean, this is beyond a non-partisan commission. This is the freaking Pentagon saying whoops, my bad. So this should be plastered all over the headlines, no?


The Pentagon on Wednesday canceled plans for broad public release of a study that found no pre-Iraq war link between late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the al Qaida terrorist network. Rather than posting the report online and making officials available to discuss it, as had been planned, the U.S. Joint Forces Command said it would mail copies of the document to reporters — if they asked for it. The report won't be posted on the Internet.

The Pentagon's burying it. No public release. You have to fill out a form to request the report, which they will snail mail to you. On a CD.

Remember the Bush-Kerry debate in which each candidate was asked to recall a mistake he had made, and what he did to rectify it? Bush was stumped. Ain't never been wrong. Still isn't. Never being wrong means never having to admit being wrong. Eat it, America.

Horton Hears a Quote-Miner

Horton Hears a Who has already been on my shit list for a couple of weeks due to (1) Jim Carrey giving me hives and (2) a relentless promotional campaign that has hijacked the college basketball coverage on Fox Sports. We're looking forward to the second half here in Charlotte. But you know what I'm also looking forward to, Jimmy? A new movie called Horton Hears a Who. Let's take a look! Seriously, let's not. There was no way I was going to see this--even with Steve Carrell, who I love--given the reprehensible version of the Grinch Carrey and company shat out several years back, so it could have just ended there.

But no. Now there's even more reason to hate this movie, and through no fault of its own. The legions of the small-minded have found their pearl of great price falling from a CGI elephant's lips, and they're brandishing it with glee.
But with a movie version of Dr. Seuss' much-loved children's book opening Friday, another Horton saying has drawn attention from activists who see a message in the movie — a message that suits their purpose.

That message: "A person's a person, no matter how small."

"Exactly," say abortion foes.

Huh? you say. That's right. Never mind that Horton's crusading to protect an entire society of independently living, breathing, sentient creatures that have built a city on a speck of dust on his puffball, which, by the way, is the biggest vindication of stoner rights to come down the mainstream entertainment pike since, well, ever. If the compulsory birth contingent has shown us anything in the past 30 years, it's that context is irrelevant. Horton says a person's a person, no matter how small, so fertilized eggs are people, and birth control is evil, QED.

When Jim Carrey, the film's Horton, said those words during the Los Angeles premiere of the film last week, demonstrators who'd slipped into the theater started to yell. It was a surprise, to say the least, for the premiere audience.

"I thought maybe there was a nut loose in the theater or something," says Karl ZoBell, an attorney [who] has represented the interests Theodor Geisel for some 40 years.

Oh, Karl, honey. You have no idea.

After the premiere, the protesters handed out anti-abortion literature. Other anti-abortion groups plan similar actions at premieres elsewhere in the country. Theodore Geisel's widow, who has never enjoyed watching her husband's material get twisted for political purposes he did not intend, is seriously pissed.

Some anti-abortion Web sites say Audrey Geisel supports Planned Parenthood. ZoBell says he's never discussed such matters with her or her late husband, and that the Geisels never wanted Dr. Seuss characters used to advance any political purpose.

That doesn't matter to the anti-abortion quote miners who heard magic words that could, after some contextual stripping and laundering, be used for their own purposes. And coming from a character guaranteed to be beloved by little kids? Little kids who can easily be convinced that the holy preborn are really fully developed, thinking, talking Whos from day one who must be preserved at all costs, even when everyone around you ridicules you as they rapaciously try to destroy them? Pure gold.

Hey, give them credit. At least they didn't need to use ellipses to make the quote work for them. How long do we have until Horton is automatically hailed as the great pro-life film of 2008? At this rate, I give us a week.

More from Slate (h/t, as always, to Top!Secret G-woman, and to anonymous officemate for the original warning).

Thursday, March 13, 2008

In Which My Messy Public Breakup With the Wombat Enters the Snarky Stage

Only the most recent incident making Hope Solo wish she were a Danish goalkeeper.

Okay, now I'm done. Goddammit. I long for the days when I could just sit back and enjoy a hawt hawt hawt picture along with the rest of red-blooded dyke America.

Keeping score at home? The US breezed through the Algarve on something like a 11-1 goal differential, though trying to follow along was made more challenging than it needed to be by US Soccer's apparent committal to cans-and-string technology (as pointed out by many commenters on BigSoccer) rather than this newfangled DSL intertubes crap. The online MatchTracker tended to freeze up and crash right after the start of the second half of each game, making for frustrated fans who got up before the crack of dawn to follow along live. USSF claimed that their server was overwhelmed by unexpected traffic.

Suggestion: Fox Soccer Channel? Or are they too busy with the U23 men's qualifying matches, which they're showing all of? Don't answer that question. I do not wish to get that pissed off this early in the day.

Anyway, by all accounts, Sundhage has installed a ball-control gameplan with a fluid roster, and Lindsay Tarpley--finally allowed to be on the field at the same time as Heather O'Reilly--has turned into a goal-scoring machine. Young players like Amy Rodriguez and Tobin Heath are seeing the field. It's a brand-new day.

Who knows. I might even be convinced to like the Wombat again sometime soon.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Why I Love Rocco's Little Chicago

Besides the excellent pizza and memorabilia from home, that is. On the sign last night:

And yes, it worth worth every last one.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

And Here We Go

Five yesterday, three today. Surge + Mahdi Army cease-fire + Sunni Awakening Councils = fewer attacks on US forces = increased foot patrols = fostering goodwill among Iraqi civilians ==> we win.

Unfortunately, increased meet 'n' greet foot patrols = increased opportunities for direct attacks on unarmored soldiers ==> get back in those up-armored HMMVs, boys ==> so much for that hearts and minds thing.

It's a vicious circle. If the soldiers don't engage civilians in these community relations-styled patrols, they'll continue to be viewed as distant, brutal occupiers looking for their next target from behind mirrored shades. But when they get out of their vehicles to chat up the locals and display their rebuilding-Iraq human side, they're terribly vulnerable to suicidal maniacs in explosive pajamas. Which will have the additional repercussion of making the men in the foot patrols even jumpier than they already are, which is going to lead to more indiscriminant targeting after--or, even worse--before an attack happens. More collateral casualties breeds more distrust and outright hatred among the civilians, and that brings more attacks, and that makes more guys more inclined to grease anyone who looks at him crosseyed, and that wins the insurgents more sympathizers, and that...

You get the picture.

It doesn't matter at this point if the attacks are being carried out by the one disgruntled Shia or Sunni or AQ operative or rogue Iranian Revolutionary Guard in a crowd of 100 people. Remember the one kid back in sixth grade gym class who kept fucking around, leading the coach to punish the entire class with 45 minutes of running laps (yes, Tom Roper, I'm talking to you)? Same deal. It only takes one suicide bomber mingling with a foot patrol to make every surviving guy in the unit deeply suspicious of every Iraqi on foot with bulky outerwear he will ever see again for the rest of his tour, whether that Iraqi is a man or a woman or a kid, make it a no-brainer for him to err on the side of caution, where "caution" here means not hesitating to pull his trigger on anyone who crosses his new, significantly lowered threat threshold. And it only takes one US soldier blowing away a woman who turns out to be carrying a bag of vegetables instead of bombs to turn every surviving member of her family into confirmed insurgents.

And so it goes.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Apropos of Nothing Friday

Maybe the fifteenth time the dogs went berserk yesterday I trudged out the front door to see if it was an actual threat, or one of the goddamn cats next door, or just the mailman (who has the temerity to put mail in the box within eyeshot of the guardian hellhounds--seriously, man, what are you thinking?), but found just a little flyer rolled up and tucked under the hose bib. Usually these are handyman ads or menus for restaurants that invariably close within two weeks of their menus showing up at my front door, but this day it was someone's anonymous statement of gratitude. I just skimmed the front material--the upshot was that someone had challenged this person to list 25 things he was grateful for, and he wound up with something like 340 before running out of space. The first one listed was an early memory from the age of 4, of initially being grateful that a neighbor had bought him a double-scoop ice cream cone, and then immediately after that being grateful to his cousin for sharing one of her scoops when he accidentally dumped his own cone on the sidewalk. And so on for most of a double-sided xerox.

I'm not sure how to pick the items that would go on my own list, since obviously any middle-class American's list should be completely filled with stuff like housing, employment, access to medical care, and that whole Constitution thing before even getting around to the juicy bits that make better flyer copy than "7.25% fixed mortgage rate." Fail to list the basic stuff you should be weepingly grateful for and karma snatches it away! Did I mention my family and my dogs? Very grateful for them, capricious universe! Very much so! No takey! Hands off!!!

That said, after this shit week I am grateful for the database guy fixing some major problems that were giving me fits. I am grateful that my company's proposal for a major excavation from an early time period that interests me greatly won the county contract. I am grateful for prehistoric people using rocks for tools in consistent ways that left identifiable signatures in the archaeological record, ensuring my continued employment.

I am grateful for the best teacher I ever had, and was remiss in not making the big TomDay birthday post I'd planned for March 1. I'm grateful that he touched so many students' lives that we sought each other out after his passing, and that as a result a couple of people I hadn't talked to in 20 years are back in my life as e-mail buddies.

Also grateful for Big Head Todd, the Santa Catalina mountains, snow in the desert, Merrell footwear, Frankie's Philadelphia Cheesesteaks and Hoagies, cool shade, streaming internet radio, cushy soccer balls, sunflowers, and geckos. Not grateful for static electricity, constant desert springtime dry winds, feral cats, olives, being pinched--fucking pinch me on St. Pat's day and you'll be picking yourself up off the floor--Will Ferrell except in Elf, cartilage tears, or John McCain, who is a douchebag.

I could go on and on.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Yeah, What She Said

The Air America stream is messed up, having been stuck on February 25 since February 26, leaving me no option for my daily Maddow fix other than sitting out in the driveway in the girlfriend's XM-equipped car. Or ponying up the seven bucks a month for the podcast, which I can't quite bring myself to do, even in these times of troubled primaries and Democratic infighting.

So for now I'm contenting myself with snippets posted on her website. This one is pure gold.

As far as I can tell, neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton gets themselves the required number of pledged delegates in the primary contest now to lock up the nomination as a certainty before the convention. They need two thousand twenty five. I don’t think either gets there before Denver. So they could fight it all the way to Denver. And if they spend that time giving John McCain a freaking pass and letting the media keep wetting themselves in delight every time Senator Bomb-Bomb says “my friends,” if they spend the months between now and Denver destroying each other and ignoring McCain, then you can kiss the White House goodbye for the Democrats for sure.

They can avoid this certainty if they stop campaigning like a pair of rabid minks in a gunnysack and instead start attacking McCain and Bush Republicanism.

Fat chance of that.

I want this to be over, like now, before either one of them manages to irreparably damage the other, before I need to hear another person insist that McCain is basically a Democrat on all the issues that matter.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Clinton on the comeback trail last night, sorta, although Obama's lead in the delegate count didn't suffer significantly. Hmmm. Rumblings about a Clinton-Obama ticket in the fall. Would I be okay with that? I think I might, should Clinton pull it out via superdelegates. I think I would be far more optimistic about that scenario had Douchebag McCain not locked up the GOP side.

The first person I talked to this morning about the returns sighed and said at least McCain is the least of the Republican evils. As the words fought with each other to jump out of my mouth first, clogging up between my teeth like the Three Stooges trying to exit an elevator simultaneously, the person continued, "well, at least he's pro-choice." The subsequent choking noise I made was enough to dislodge the three key words needed to respond to just about any media-fueled characterization of John McCain, those being No! He's! Not!

He's not? No. No matter what you think you heard he is, he's not.

No, he's absolutely not pro-choice; in fact, he's in favor of a constitutional abortion ban. He's not a straight talker when it comes to the lunatics who have come out in support of him, including not only the race-baiting talk radio host in Ohio but, now, insane apocalyptic bomb-Iran-to-bring-Jesus-back preacher John Hagee. John McCain doesn't pander to the religious right? Think again. He's in favor of teaching Intelligent Design in the schools. He's opposed to full civil rights for gay people. And he's in favor of war, war, and more war as the only diplomatic option the US will ever need for anything. Period.

But Straight-Talking Maverick has been pounded into people's heads for so long that their automatic association with McCain is agrees with my position on this, actually, until they take a moment to think about it and then, belatedly, realize that he's fully and diametrically opposed to my position, actually. Is there any issue on which he's not in lockstep with the right wing? Used to be two, but then came that grinding make the Bush-tax-cuts-permanent moment. Now the only thing left is his eminently reasonable support for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants currently living and working in the US. Hey, I'm totally there with him--that's the one thing he has managed not to be a total conservative douchebag tool about. But if I'm a one-issue voter, regrettably for Mr. McCain and probably for me, that ain't it.

So McCain has to be defeated at all costs. McCain, who just now finished up a tasty lunch and ceremonial endorsement befitting a visiting head of state with George Bush at the White House, must be defeated. I haven't seen a poll since Monday, if I recall correctly, but at that point Obama putatively defeated McCain something like 55%-45%, with Clinton and McCain polling in a dead heat. Does adding Obama to a Clinton ticket pull her numbers up closer to his, or does the presence of Clinton anywhere on the ticket sink it?

That's not a rhetorical question for me. I absolutely do not share the visceral loathing many people seem to exhibit when Clinton's name is mentioned. Policywise there hasn't been a hell of a lot of difference between Clinton's and Obama's Senate voting records, although her yes vote on the Kyl-Lieberman Iran resolution is pretty much a deal-breaker for me on its own, and more than pretty much when taken together with her original AUMF vote. Then again, Obama didn't vote on that one, so, well, what the fuck's the deal on that? Obama offers a personal magnetism she does not, and no one disputes that the man could orate the hide off a yak and come away without the slightest whiff of lanolin about him. I confess to continuing to worry that even continuing to address the notion of electability advances the meme that she doesn't have it. But I gotta address it and wonder about it. It seemed impossible four years ago that the stakes could be any higher. But they are. John McCain would be an unprecedented disaster for this country. There can be no doubt surrounding the ticket the Democrats send out to combat him. I would really prefer an utter lack of personal doubt to go along with it.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Super Two-Step Tuesday

By the time the dust settles at the end of the night, the Democratic nomination may be settled as well. Let me say again that I really don't want to have to dislike either potential Dem nominee, but godDAMmit, Hillary, your campaign's little oopsie moments are pissing me off more than Barack's have. Sunday you asserted that no, Obama's not a Muslim... "as far as I know." Yesterday you said that only you and John McCain have a lifetime of experience to bring to the White House, while Obama has only a single speech from 2002. And yesterday a campaign call from your official Ohio number, in a "slip of the tongue," referred to Obama as "Osama bin Laden." Not just "Osama" or "Barack Osama"--which would have been tasteless but, oh, what's the word... oh yeah, plausible as a slip of the tongue--but the full, stand-alone Osama bin Laden. Nice.

On the plus side, perhaps, as you're feeling the momentum inexorably swing Obama's way, you're simply doing your duty as batting practice pitcher for him, lobbing in the 50-mph-gopher balls so he can work the kinks out of his swing enough to groove the real fastballs of a presidential campaign into the left field bleachers. Either that or to improve his quicks so he can spin away from the ones that will be coming directly at his head.

The only upside is that the Democratic mutual feeding frenzy will be over soon. I hope.

And then the Republican slime machine will kick into full gear and we'll be astonished at how wistfully we're remembering the Clinton-Obama jabs that suddenly look like gentle swishes with an ostrich feather in comparison.