Monday, October 30, 2006

Note to Delaware: You Are Not The South

Apparently some folks in Lower Delaware (which a few Wilmington-area folks refer to as "Slower Delaware" - who knew that a state the size of my fingernail could have a north-south rivalry?) are taking some cues from people down here in the Bible Belt. In all the wrong ways.

Some of the scarier moments from the article:

"The Dobrich and Doe legal complaint portrays a district in which children were given special privileges for being in Bible club, Bibles were distributed in 2003 at an elementary school, Christian prayer was routine at school functions and teachers evangelized."

"Mrs. Dobrich, who is Orthodox, said that when she was a girl, Christians here had treated her faith with respectful interest. Now, she said, her son was ridiculed in school for wearing his yarmulke. She described a classmate of his drawing a picture of a pathway to heaven for everyone except “Alex the Jew.”"

"A homemaker active in her children’s schools, Mrs. Dobrich said she had asked the board to develop policies that would leave no one feeling excluded because of faith. People booed and rattled signs that read 'Jesus Saves,' she recalled. Her son had written a short statement, but he felt so intimidated that his sister read it for him. In his statement, Alex, who was 11 then, said: 'I feel bad when kids in my class call me "Jew boy." I do not want to move away from the house I have lived in forever.'

Later, another speaker turned to Mrs. Dobrich and said, according to several witnesses, 'If you want people to stop calling him "Jew boy," you tell him to give his heart to Jesus.'"

In response, I have an open letter to the people of Delaware:

Dear Delaware,

Congratulations; you have now made Mississippi look tolerant. Psychotic disrespect for the religion of others is not a good thing. Please go back to doing what you do best - pumpkin chunkin'. Seriously, you don't need to be embarrassed more.


And while we're on the subject of douchebaggery disguising itself as religion, check this out. The entire idea of the Antichrist smacks of cynicism in the first place (someone unites people and brings peace, and that's a bad thing?), but it's a legit, relatively harmless religious belief, so whatever. But thinking someone is the Antichrist just because they're likable? That's insanity.

So let's add Barack Obama to the list of people accused of being the Antichrist:

- Javier Solana
- Ronald Reagan
- Hillary Clinton
- George W. Bush (thanks Leah)
- all Jews
- this guy who seems to aspire to the job

Anyone with any more fun Antichrist accusations, let me know.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

College Football Made Interesting

...and cue the chaos.

I kind of figured that USC would lose at some point. They had Oregon, Cal, and UCLA still left on their schedule. But Oregon State? The Trojans couldn't deal with the Beavers? (Which is amusing on far too many levels.)

So now there are six undefeateds. Two will face off later in the season (Ohio State, Michigan). Three share another conference and will all play each other later (Louisville, Rutgers, West Virginia - incidentally, how many of you thought you would ever be seeing Rutgers as one of the last six undefeated teams in the nation?). One gets absolutely no respect (Boise State). Should the Big East teams beat each other up (possible) or get screwed by the BCS (likely), there are eleven one-loss teams that could lay claim to a spot too (BC, Wake, Texas, Texas A&M, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Tulsa, Cal, USC, Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Auburn). That's seventeen teams still somewhat alive in the title race. That should narrow a bit as BC and Wake play, USC plays Cal and ND, Texas and A&M play, the four SEC teams go through that meat-grinder, and Tulsa continues to play in Conference USA. Even so, we could end this season like 2004, where eight teams had legitimate arguments for title game consideration. Ah, but who needs a playoff?

Oh, and Duke? Good job making Chris Nickson look like Michael Vick. Seriously, there are high school teams that could keep a freshman Vandy quarterback from getting five touchdowns (two passing, three running). Incidentally, Vandy only needs two more wins to become bowl eligible. Unfortunately, its remaining three games are against Florida, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Tennessee Confuses Me

The RNC has been running ads in Tennessee against Harold Ford, Jr. Their most controversial spot is apparently one that involves a young actress saying she met Harold Ford at the Playboy party and asking him to call her. (Ford is single.)

So the acme of the RNC's attack machine has accused the Democrat in the race of... being attractive? Exactly how is this a negative ad? Harold Ford. Women find him sexy. Is this who we want representing us?

They've since pulled the ad, since it apparently fueled outrage. I haven't seen it, so maybe there's more to it than that. Anyway, they've replaced it with accusations that Ford has taken money from porn moguls and wants to force-feed abortion pills to teenagers. (Aside: what kind of complete moron actually believes this? Seriously, if you take that ad at face value, you ought to lose your voting rights. Permanently.)

I'd rather have the ad with the woman saying I'm hot, personally. This latest one makes Vernon "Fiesta" Robinson look sane.

Instant Update: The Post's Chris Cillizza discusses the ad, revealing that the party girl was a part of a series of satirical "man on the street" interviews. The ad's actually pretty clever, if disingenuous and factually challenged. Cillizza posts the ad, but I don't have a video connection here so I can't see it. Tell me what you think, especially about the Playboy woman's appearance. I'm still not seeing how a woman insinuating that she has the hots for Harold Ford is supposed to be negative.

Even More Update Goodness: Harold Ford scored points with the "call me" chick, but in the race for the all important horny-man demographic, Bob Corker pulls ahead with these pics of his partying daughter making out with another chick. This has to be the weirdest Senate race in recent memory. Kinda makes me sad I don't live in Tennessee anymore.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sorry, Sir, It Was Subconscious

Apparently two Israeli warplanes attacked a German ship that was charged with preventing weapons trafficking in the area.

Talk about fighting the last war. Except in Israel's case it was, like, eight wars ago. Something tells me that some Israeli pilot has a deep-seated revenge complex. I'm picturing Ehud Olmert coming out on TV saying something like "uh... we forgot the Germans were the good guys now... oopsie."

Update: ...or not, according to Amir Peretz. I lean towards believing Peretz - the Israeli military is famous for overreaching, but not for stupidity. So you can all go on to the next post, now... nothing more to see here.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Midterms 2006: The Good, the Bad, and the WTF?

Not necessarily in that order.

We start off in Arizona's 1st Congressional district, where Republican Rick Renzi faces challenger Democrat Ellen Simon. The R thing is not a mistake, folks - he is married to a woman named Roberta and twelve of his children have "R" names. (I didn't even know there were 12 R names.) But he gets on my "jackass" list for a TV attack ad he ran against his opponent accusing her of being - gasp! - an ACLU member. I was kind of half watching in a groggy just-waking-up state while in Tempe, so I'm not sure exactly what he said and a quick online search doesn't turn up any video of the ad. But he made being an ACLU member sound like an action slightly worse than selling your soul to the devil. (Simon led the Cleveland, OH chapter of the ACLU for a time.)

What's even more frustrating is that in my brief foray into the Renzi-Simon blogosphere, one of the commenters trashing Simon says that Simon is a "freedom destroying commie type." Because we all know that the best way to destroy freedom is to dedicate yourself to an organization whose sole aim is the preservation of freedom. Incidentally, this is probably the nastiest Congressional race I've come across, with both candidates accusing each other of having the approximate moral fiber of a jelly doughnut.

I would rant about this, but that has already been done to perfection, so I'll just quote: "For the record: yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU. But the more important question is why aren't you, Bob? Now, this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question: Why would a senator, his party's most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the Constitution?" For that matter, why would Rick Renzi and so much of the American right choose to reject upholding the Constitution? I seriously have to physically restrain myself when someone badmouths the ACLU. You may not agree with everything they do, but you can't take someone who spends their time protecting your Constitutional rights and call them un-American.

Renzi may be an ass, but he might not even be the biggest douchebag in his state. For that, we move to Scottsdale, where Congressman J.D. Hayworth (watch out - the web page talks) is running against former Tempe mayor Harry Mitchell.

Caution: what follows hasn’t been verified by a mainstream news source, so beware – this may be one of those blogosphere rumors.

Update: The Arizona Republic confirms, at least in part.

Two of Hayworth's staffers suffered a severe meltdown (from the deliciously snarky Wonkette) at a Jewish synagogue in Scottsdale, apparently lecturing the crowd for several minutes and calling Hayworth - a conservative Christian - a "more observant Jew" than everyone there. When that comment was met with predictable derision, a staffer commented: "No wonder there are anti-Semites." The speakers, Jonathan and Irit Tratt, were Jewish - as some folks at The American Prospect point out, Irit is a modern Hebrew name. (Best comment on that string: "Jesus was a Jew? Then how come he's got a Mexican name?")

This is probably the biggest "what the fuck" campaign moment in recent memory (narrowly edging out Macacagate). I have two possible explanations:

1) Jonathan and Irit Tratt are modern-day Isaiahs. Sick of what they see as the empty rituals of modern Judaism, the Tratts have begun exhorting their fellow Jews to live their lives morally and not just follow the laws for the sake of their laws. Thus, saying that Hayworth was "more observant" is a comment about morality - i.e. that Hayworth's morality is closer to what God wants from the Chosen People than is the perceived moral emptiness of the Scottsdale Jewish community.

2) Jonathan and Irit Tratt are morons.

Given that their boss gone on the record as supporting Henry Ford's "Americanization" plan - an immigrant assimilation plan so brilliant that it was praised by Hitler - and given that the “no wonder there are anti-Semites” comment doesn’t get covered by option 1, I'm going to go way out on a limb and assume the latter.

Update: The Republic article states that the comments were made in the context of abortion, lending a little bit of credence to option 1. Interestingly, Jewish law has traditionally allowed abortion until the 40th day (when it is assumed that the heart starts beating). Still, it’s kind of dumb to call a proud Baptist a better Jew than actual Jews.

Here's another account of the event that supports option 2. This account makes it seem like the Tratts are an Israel-obsessed couple who tried to slam Mitchell for - shocking! - associating with the A-rabs. (Guess that makes me a "fake Jew" since I talk to my Palestinian and Jordanian neighbors.)

I really wish someone had got this on tape since it would make for excellent television.

Note: I've slammed Hayworth on this blog before for his hawkish anti-immigrant stances. Sadly, Mitchell isn't much better in that regard.

For sheer dipshittery, it's tough to beat this one: Kansas Senator Sam Brownback - one of the many decrying Democrats' "obstructionist" tactics on judges - has put a hold on one of Bush's judicial nominees for a court in Michigan. His excuse? She hangs out with lesbians. Dear Kansas: Your elected officials already tried enforcing this "intelligent design" crap. Now this. Please stop electing idiots - you're embarrassing yourselves. At least you had the good sense to elect Kathleen Sebelius as your governor.

In the even-more-WTF department, Nevada Rep. Jim Gibbons is involved in one of the most bizarre scandals I've ever heard of (two Wonkette links here). Gibbons is running for Governor and had his race won... until he either groped a cocktail waitress or helped her stand up while she was drunk. Gibbons was obliterated as well. He was also with several women who were not his wife at the time.

Foley's Follies. Macacagate. The Great Scottsdale Staffer Meltdown. What Happened in Vegas. There are usually scandals in an election cycle, but damn, there have been some frickin' hilarious ones this year. Jon Stewart must be shitting his pants right now.

And finally, the award for "best negative advertisement" goes to this mailer from New Hampshire Congressional candidate Paul Hodes attacking his opponent, incumbent Charlie Bass. This is the kind of brilliant idea that could only have arrived in the heads of the campaign staff at about 1 A.M. after several beers. Anyone whose campaign can pun that prolifically gets my vote.

(The campaign I'm working on is running against a guy named Dollar. Sadly, we have yet to take advantage of the numerous pun possibilities that lie therein.)

I Didn't Know I Could Pitch Like That

So what the hell was on Kenny Rogers' hand? And if it was illegal, why couldn't the Cardinals hit him even after he got rid of it? Did he switch to the clear pine tar? Or was it a Tootsie roll (like Andy Van Slyke suggests)?


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Homestretch

So how, exactly, did I end up completely drenched in the men's bathroom of a women's college dining hall wringing out my clothes and trying desperately to dry myself off? The answer follows.

Yesterday I woke up late (the result of a trip to Phoenix over the weekend). It was kind of a dreary, Seattle-sunshine kind of day. After getting some work done, I decided I needed to go pay my rent (it was a little bit late since I was out of town on the 15th, but my landlady is nice about such things). Unfortunately, to do so I had to ride my bike some 10 miles to her house on Lake Wheeler Road in far south Raleigh. This went without incident, though the entire trip was made on country roads without sidewalks (or really even shoulders) and was a bit nervewracking. After leaving my landlady's, I rode straight up Lake Wheeler to Centennial Campus, where I work. I had almost reached my office when it started to rain. Not a particularly hard rain, mind you - just a few drops here and there. I was moderately soaked when I walked into the office, but within twenty minutes I had dried off.

Then Noah, who coordinates volunteer stuff for my State House candidate, called me and wanted me to man a booth at Meredith College's candidates' meet and greet, since neither he nor Greer could be there. Meredith is only about two miles away from State and three from Centennial, so I sighed and said I'd be there at 5:30.

Little did I know that by 5:30, I would have a driving rainstorm on my hands.

It's roughly a 15-minute ride from Centennial to Meredith. By the time I reached Meredith, there wasn't a dry spot on my body. I locked up my bike in front of the dining hall and dodged into the men's bathroom (the existence of which I wasn't expecting, Meredith being an all-girl school). After a brief and futile attempt to dry myself, I wandered into the dining hall.

There was Noah, dress shirt and tie. And me, drenched T-shirt and cargo shorts. At that point I informed Noah of his impending debt to me of several tasty beverages, to be cashed in at a later date. At which point Noah left. As it was, Meredith students were mostly unfazed by my waterlogged clothing, and I got eight volunteers out of my crowd-cruising.

Of course then I had to get home. I wasn't relishing the ride back to Cary in the rain at night. Fortunately, I made an offhand comment about someone having a pickup truck to take my bike home - and a friend of mine ended up having a pickup truck and time to take me back, thus saving me from getting drenched a third time. Sweet.

I return to four wheels on Friday. I'll give you a nice little summation blog then.

Also, I'd like to call your attention to this delicious tidbit of information. Samuel L. Jackson as God...

"I've had it with these muthafuckin' snakes in this muthafuckin' garden!"

Update: steals my joke.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Il Communication

So North Korea just detonated an explosive device that may or may not have been a miniature nuclear weapon. I've heard radiation test results that both confirm and deny the existence of a nuclear bomb. I've also heard that the bomb tested was approximately one kiloton - roughly 1/60 the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It can still do some damage, but it's hardly apocalyptic.

Anyway, this is another Kim-Jong-Il-wants-attention moment. I guess no one hugged him when he was a kid. I'm glad to see China and Japan start punishing North Korea for the test (there's very little we can do since we don't actually have any sort of relationship with the Hermit Kingdom). I wonder, however, how much closing NK off will actually help the situation. Kim seems perfectly happy torturing his own people with hunger and poverty as long as he gets his self-aggrandizing sideshow taken care of. Any economic activity that ceases because of sanctions will probably not hurt Kim at all.

So what is to be done? Opening ourselves up to NK makes it look like we tacitly approve of nuclear proliferation (not a good message to be sending right now, especially with Iran waiting in the wings). Threats of warfare don't work - I'm sure the entire world knows that we won't be as eager to invade the Korean Peninsula as we were to invade Iraq. (Hell, if Bush applied the same standard to the two countries North Korea would be a parking lot right now.) Some people want to deploy nukes to South Korea - fortunately, Condi thinks that this is a bad idea given our goal of denuclearizing the peninsula.

Is being open to the North and trying to convince them to enter the global marketplace the best idea? Increased openness broke down the Soviet Union as citizens there discovered what they were missing. But NK's propaganda machine is so good that their people might not respond as expected to the discovery of the fruits of prosperity in other places. Hell, they've been living next to booming South Korea for fifty years (though SK only started booming a couple of decades ago). What may be needed is a massive human intelligence program aimed at undermining Kim's propaganda machine and popular support, and once an opposition forms, we'd have something of an opening to work with. But what do I know about foreign policy?

Also: Congress may have failed to address immigration reform, health care, the minimum wage, the tax laws, or much of anything for that matter. But they've banned Internet gambling. The opponents want to ban Internet gambling because it's addictive and because it's populated with dishonest bookies. The dishonest bookies, of course, would be taken care of by legalizing Internet gambling and regulating it - such criminals are only encouraged by making the whole shebang illegal. As for its addictiveness - aren't the supporters of this bill (conservative Republicans) the same people who vote against smoking bans? I hear there are other other addictive Internet games out there, too - are we banning them? Or coffee - I hear that's addictive?

At least the bill the ban was attached to did something good - procured more money and resources for port security. It's probably the best thing the 109th has done, and it's a shame that the news of this got lost in the douchebaggery of the gambling ban.

The Washington Post reveals the real reason Democrats will retake Congress in November - we're way hotter than the Republicans. Think about it. Hillary or Condi? Maria Cantwell or Liddy Dole? Ladies, Barack Obama or John McCain? It's an easy call. Because obviously we should be casting our votes based on physical attractiveness.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Something To Keep Your Mind Occupied For A While

In my Spanish class, I was mild-manneredly taking an exam. The exam asked us to describe the weather in January in Argentina (answer: rather nice). A student piped up: "Where's Argentina?"

Keep in mind that this is a college student. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Well, now you can find out just how much of a geography idiot you are by going to this online geography game. It's how map geeks like me who can keep the capitals of Kazakhstan and Eritrea straight. And if you understood the joke without me having to tell you that the cities I just referred to are the easily confusable Astana and Asmara respectively, this game is for you.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Happy Jeffrey Maier Day

Yes, folks, it was ten years ago today that young Yankees fan Jeffrey Maier reached over the wall in right field and scooped Derek Jeter's long fly-out away from Orioles right fielder Tony Tarasco, allowing Game 1 of the ALCS to go to extra innings and eventually be won by the Yanks. The Pinstriped Ones went on to win ten AL East titles and four World Series titles. The Orioles won the AL East the next year but have been in search of a winning season ever since.

So in memory of that fateful day, I give you a random sports post.

- If anyone so much as thinks about placing the blame for the Yankees' ALDS loss to the Detroit Tigers on A-Rod, there will be consequences. The entire Yankees offense - Damon straight down to Cano - took a holiday for three games. Whiffing on a bunch of Justin Verlander 103-mph heat is understandable, but they couldn't even hit Kenny Rogers. Oh, and it's hard to win when your pitching is giving up eight runs a game to the normally light-hitting Tigers.

- College football teams that desperately need a little respect: Missouri, Rutgers, Boise State, Navy. The former three are undefeated, the latter a one-point heartbreaker (against fellow one-loss team Tulsa) from being undefeated. Mizzou is the only unbeaten left in the Big 12, has a legitimate shot at winning the conference... and they're ranked nineteenth? Either way, there are so many unbeatens left that I'm really looking forward to the BCS clusterfuck this year.

- The A's are damn good. That was one heck of a manhandling of the rather impressive Twins (who, granted, had a total of one and a half pitchers since Radke was without a throwing shoulder). If anyone left can challenge the Mets, they're the team to do it.

- The 'Skins are not. What the hell was that against the Giants? Were we suddenly playing the '85 Bears?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Olbermann Deals A Smack-Down

I just thought I'd post the text of MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann's show-ending special comment last night. It's a brilliant smack-down aimed at a President who likes to make up things about what his critics are saying and proceed to compare them to terrorists and traitors. Olbermann's pissed, and most of the rest of us are too. You go, KO.

Also, I'm now 25. Woo.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Congressional Year In Review

There's not a whole lot, unfortunately, to review here. Most major legislation got bogged down in disagreement and never made it to the President's desk. Immigration reform, the estate tax/minimum wage bill... yeah, didn't happen. Hell, I don't even think we have a budget yet. Fortunately, the Stupid Constitutional Amendment Brigade crashed and burned as well. Here's what did pass, to the best of my recollection:

- The Patriot Act got renewed. I don't remember significant changes being made to it.

- Lots of pork got through - the 109th will be remembered as the least kosher Congress in history.

- Congress approved a big-ass fence to go on the Arizona border. Often in places that are unreachable by vehicle, so God only knows how it's gonna get built. Also, there's no appropriation for the necessary manpower to patrol the fence, so any idiot with a shovel can dig under it. And I think Boeing was involved somehow, though I'm not sure how. Either way, I'm sure that this fence will go up as the most expensive proof of Woodhead's Fourth Law (build a better wall, someone will build a better ladder) ever devised. Note to Congress: illegal immigration won't stop until you take away the disincentives to legal immigration.

(Also, there are apparently some people who believe that Hispanics want to vote the Southwest back to Mexico, Pat "Florida Jews Love Me" Buchanan among them. This currently holds the lead in my contest for Most Outrageous Conspiracy Theory, right above the Bush-planned-9/11 yarn.)

- Congress attempted to limit the CIA interrogation program and failed miserably. They eliminated detainees' rights to challenge their detention in court (ah, but can detainees challenge the lack of a right to a court challenge in court?). They decided that any non-US citizen can be picked up and declared an "enemy combatant" - a label that's all too often misused, as this CNN commentator pointed out a couple of years ago. (He makes the excellent point that Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh, shoe-bomber Richard Reid, and "20th hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui were all tried under the civilian justice system with full habeas rights. If the justice system is good enough for them, why isn't it good enough for others?) Most laughably, they told the President that he had to obey the Geneva Conventions, but they give him the power to define what the Geneva Conventions say about torture. I guess Congress only wants to look like they're doing their job while still abdicating even more power to a President who has a fearsomely large amount of it already.

The Republican Congress' refusal to limit the Republican President's power is one of the most disgustingly partisan, unprincipled, and cowardly actions of the past decade (certain Senators excepted). You know they'd be screaming their heads off if a Democratic President tried even a quarter of what Bush has tried. I would say this is the best reason for us all to vote Democrat in November. But that's assuming that the Democrats grow a spine between now and November. Right now, the political will to challenge the President's power simply isn't there in the Democratic Party - the best we could hope for is a Senate Judiciary Committee with Feingold (probably the most outspoken civil libertarian of them all) at the helm.

And finally, I want to share with you the most unsurprising, yet interesting, media study I've seen: Indiana University researchers have shown that The Daily Show contains as much substance as broadcast news programs. Which is less of an endorsement of The Daily Show than a condemnation of so-called "real" news programs.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Random Silliness

I'll blog about something important later on. Don't worry.

In the meantime, consider the hell that it must be to be this woman's child. Imagine getting crap from all your classmates for being the kid whose mommy wants to ban Harry Potter. I bet when her kids all go into therapy in their 20s, she'll blame witchcraft.