Tuesday, March 31, 2009


One of the more interesting features of getting older is that you get to exercise your mental acumen with the near-constant query “Am I having a heart attack?”

Because nearly everything feels like a heart attack. Today, while sitting at my desk, I bent over to pick something up off the floor, and I felt a stabbing pain in my chest like I wouldn’t wish on worst enemy. I was on the phone with a vendor at the time, so I had to suppress the urge to say:


Instead I went “Uh-huh. And how much is it?”

Because god forbid I should be unprofessional, even as my last breath escapes my body.

I later got the same pain when I bent over in the same way again, and so I figured it was not a heart attack, but instead one of those creaky you-can’t-do-that-anymore-without-it-hurting things that you get when you’re orbiting the half-century mark and preparing to land on it in what I’m sure I will perceive as the wink of an eye. And I responded by conceding mentally that if I could no longer sit in my desk chair and bend over at the waist stretching my right arm down and backward and to the right, then, well, I would just have to make due somehow.

I think this never-ending parade of minor concessions are there as a warning that the diminishment and crumbling of the human body is a humiliating process. The body will fail, eventually, and so will the mind. For most people, the body fails first, and I think that is probably the easier way. No one wants to be a vegetable inside a still fully functioning body, unless, of course, Fox News has decided to renew your contract.

Bang! Still got it.

Honestly, though, as I have watched adults get older and turn to the politics of fear and defensiveness, I have resolved to keep an open heart, and to stay liberal, even when those around me are clutching their pocketbooks to their chests and driving 15 mph in a Chrysler Lebaron.

Jesus, speaking of Chrysler, who else laughed out loud when they heard that Chrysler was thinking, by way of recovery from the brink of oblivion, of teaming with Fiat? Because I’m pretty sure Fiat is like the Chrysler of Europe. I mean, Chrysler teaming with Fiat is like American Idol teaming up with the Eurovision Song Contest; they’d just be expanding the geographic area over which they suck ass.

Anyways, in politics, pandering to the fear constituency continues to pay off. Right now, the fear is all about big government. Yes, the big government boogie man is back, big time, as conservatives scramble for a message that will lull the American people into the kind of retarded stupor that favors the election of candidates like George W. Bush and his intellectual broham, Sarah Palin.

Palin recently got up on her high special needs horse when she responded with ill-disguised glee to Obama’s awful joke on Leno about his bowling being worthy of the Special Olympics.

Although, to be fair, the Special Olympics is really the worst event name ever. It’s kinda like they want to be made fun of.

But because Palin has a child who is saddled not only with parents who have some pretty fucked-up ideas about the monikering of their offspring, but also with a mental deficiency called Down syndrome, Palin was given a platform from which to declare that she hoped that the leader of the free world didn’t really mean to degrade special needs children.

And my problem is not with her remarks, which were completely reasonable. My problem is, as usual, with her hypocrisy.

Because that very same day she made a big show about “turning down” stimulus dollars for her state, including $170 million earmarked for education, including…wait for it…

Programs for special needs children.

She justifies this decision by saying that she doesn’t want to “grow government” by endowing projects at a level that will leave them high and dry when the Federal dollars are gone.

Which makes no sense. Because even if she never intends to sufficiently fund education in her state, and I would hope that would not be her aspiration, it’s not as if the Fed dollars she would have gotten would not have done permanent good. It’s like refusing to wash dishes today because next year you might have half as much soap.

Not that her position matters much, because she, like our U.S. Congressional Republicans, will be saved by those in the legislature who labor under the idea that they are there to, you know, serve the fucking people. And in the end, Alaska is too good at getting Federal dollars not to get those federal dollars. Palin’s nonsensical Reaganesque stance about the size of government is designed purely as an action she can point to in 2012 and go “See? I did that.” And because our nation has a sizable population of morons who never really figured out that Reagan was a charlatan with really bad ideas about governing, including, but not limited to, the notion that deregulation is always good, and that national debt and budget deficits don’t matter, there will be citizens of this great country of ours who will be taken in by her.

And most of them will be old. And a-scared of something called “big government,” even though it’s the same entity that buys their FDA-approved meds, and sends them a social security check that it turns out they really need after all, and makes sure that they have electricity to charge their Medicare-funded mobility scooters. Yes, they’ll mark their ballots for Palin, or whoever is standing in her place, because they’re afraid of big government, big government, big government - completely forgetting, in the fog of age, that at one time they were smart enough to realize that government is an engine designed to help, and especially help the time-addled and the infirm.

I promise not to be one of them. If I’m even still alive by then. I might be having a heart attack.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Government cheese

One of the more depressing jobs I’ve ever had was working in a customer service department in a large quasi-governmental entity in Chicago. The women who worked in the department (all of whom were considered part-time temporary employees, and as such were poorly paid and not eligible for any benefits), would, in the course of their duties, stab at various keypads with pencils so as not to ruin their long, curved acrylic tips, and they would talk trash about anyone who was not within earshot. The now ubiquitous French manicure had not yet been invented, and I remember that among the black women from project-adjacent neighborhoods, the preferred nail color was fuchsia, while amongst the women from so-called “white ethnic” neighborhoods, fluorescent orange was de rigeur. Because it makes you look more tan, I was once told. I was the sole woman with natural hand-chewed nails, and I also dressed in a style that flummoxed both sides of the customer service culture. I was constantly being asked where I got my “crazy clothes,” and once, in a bad mood, I wondered aloud whether fashion magazines were sold in Chicago south of 22nd Street, and that put a stop to most of the comments on that particular topic. Mostly, though, I kept my head down and my eyes on my own work.

One of the main topics of conversation that I would overhear was “things that people on food stamps buy that they have no business buying.” According to the wisdom of the customer service ladies, bitches on food stamps have no business buying:


Jay’s Potato Chips


Soda pop, even super-cheap Canfield’s

Ice cream, all flavors


The cheese thing kinda baffled me, but I found out that it was because if you are on food stamps then you should be getting government cheese instead of buying it.

Hey, I never said their reasoning was logical. Or even accurate. Although I have to say it did strike me as funny when many years later I would hear Tracy Morgan joke “I grew up on government cheese. I prefer it.”

And the ice cream thing. I was actually sitting right next to the customer service lady who went off one day about the woman she saw at her neighborhood grocery store buying ice cream with food stamps.

“Aw, come on,” I said, venturing, against my own best instincts, into the fray, “I don’t see what’s so bad about ice cream, every once in a while. Why can’t people on food stamps treat themselves a little bit? It’s only ice cream.”

“My kids don’t get ice cream,” she replied emphatically. “We can’t afford it.”

“Well, that sucks,” I said. “But so no one can have ice cream?”

“I work two jobs,” she said. “My husband works twelve house a day. And we have to pay for that woman’s food stamps? So she can buy ice cream for her kids when I can’t buy ice cream for mine? Hell no.”

I saw her point. I did. But I also saw, among the customer service ladies, both black and white, a remarkable resistance to seeing life from another person’s point of view.

And I resisted the urge to ask how much her manicure cost. I had learned my lesson in that area several months before, when another woman complained about the bunions that her high heels gave her, and I suggested that she could wear some cute flat shoes instead. I received a look back from her as if I had just suggested that she pick cotton or eat fried chicken for a living. And I realized that as awful as they all looked with their ridiculous weaves or their permed lank oily locks with crispy high bangs, and their bright talons and their stirrup pants and their embellished sweatshirts, as awful as it all was, they took a tremendous amount of pride in how they looked. To look put together, to look their own version of “professional,” was everything to them.

And as glad as I was to escape my acrylic-tipped hell, I wouldn’t mind going back for just an hour and ask the customer service ladies what they think about this whole financial mess. What they think of those AIG dudes and their “retention” bonuses, given at a time when it was my impression that the job market was flooded with talented professionals who would be happy to have a job at all, and wouldn’t need to be bribed to stay working at one.

I also wonder what they’d think about those auto executives who drove their companies under by consistently making what Americans didn’t need, and then had the nerve to take private jets to their appointment to beg us for money. Detroit resisted fuel efficiency, resisted hybrids, killed the electric car, kept churning out crappy low-efficiency dinosaurs against all industry market predictions, and yet they want us to save them with our borrowed cash, because why, exactly? So we can finance the shipping of more jobs to Mexico? I bet you most every one of those ladies had a husband, a cousin, or a brother-in-law who once upon a time used to work for a decent wage in the Motor City. I doubt those executives would get much sympathy from them.

Speaking of private jets, what of JP Morgan Chase, recipient of 25 billion taxpayer dollars, and their plans to upgrade their private fleet and hanger? How on earth can they remain so inexplicably tone deaf to our demands to at least pretend like they give a fuck?

It’s because they know, that if one of them gives in, then more of them might have to give in, and then the whole scam will be shot to hell, and they’ll have to admit that, given what they actually do, they are the most obscenely overpaid individuals to ever walk the earth, and yes, I am including Manny Ramirez in that comparison. Ballplayers might make crazy money, but at least they have the good grace to be one of a handful of people in the world who can do what they do. CEOs don’t do much. I’ve known a few in my day, and their dirty little secret is that they, collectively, ain’t all that.

How many of us were told by our employers that there would be no annual bonuses, or raises, this year? I know I’m not the only one with my hand in the air. I think I said, during the meeting where the action was announced, that if our sacrifice would signal to our stakeholders that we were committed to making it through these hard times, then it would be worth it.

Now I feel like a sucker. Because how many of those upper-level guys would’ve done the same? You think they’re going bonus-less this year? No way. They’ll be getting their money all right. Their bonus will be based on the excellent job they did getting you to give up yours.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spoiler Alert!

First of all, Oregon? Really?

Secondly, what's with the third spoiler support in the middle? Am I supposed to believe that your spoiler is so massive and important that the normal two spoiler supports were simply insufficient for the majesty of your spoiler?

You know, that shit may fly in Oregon, where people are generally confused (I think maybe by the dampness and the abundance of meth) about what's awesome and what's lame, but this is Los Angeles, and you're driving a Hyundai coupe to the bank. You're not a racecar driver, okay? You're from Oregon. Learn your place.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hell's Sculpture Garden

And now, let's lighten the mood a bit from the previous post, shall we?

One of my pet peeves is bad public sculpture. Usually really bad art is representational, but sometimes it's abstract as well.

This sculpture outside the Police and Fire Department HQ in Burbank commemorates their fallen brothers, who apparently became entrapped in a large cardboard box from which they could not escape.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Chapter 48: In which I unburden myself

Somehow, I never thought I would write about this. But recent events in the news have brought some of this shit to the forefront of my mind again, and I dunno, I guess I’ve carried this secret around for a good many years now, and I’m tired of it.

I would say that one of the toughest things about being a woman is dealing with the many ways in which we are judged. I appreciate that being a man comes with a unique bundle of expectations as well, but I think that even though I have spent my life trying to be good, trying never to disappoint anyone, I have also spent that life chafing against the expectations that are unique to my sex.

And man, I thought I was different. A designer I worked with once said to me “How did a girl with such cute tits get such big balls?” I laughed so loud at that. Yeah, that was me, I thought. I was special. I was tough.

It was 1983, and I was newly married, and we were both in grad school. My husband and I lived in a studio apartment in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh. If we had no rehearsal after class, I would make us dinner in the tiny kitchen of the apartment. We lived on little money. We had been together since we started dating in undergraduate school the previous year.

It started small. He was smart. He was older than me. He didn’t suffer fools gladly, shall we say. He was demanding. But it started small.

At first, I found myself apologizing at parties when he would become confrontational over some perceived slight. Gradually, he became more demanding of me, always insisting that his love for me was greater than mine for him, and according to him, the many small ways that I failed him was proof of this.

It started before we were married, and so you might ask yourself why I married him.

I have no real answer for that. I just thought…I guess I thought it was what I was supposed to do. I know that’s inadequate. He loved me ferociously, and I guess I thought it was my one chance to have that. And I wanted that. Oh, I wanted it.

Still, I remember sitting in my wedding dress. Alone, in the room where I was waiting for my Dad to come and walk me down the aisle. I remember wishing it weren’t happening. I wished for someone to come in the room and tell me I didn’t have to do it if I didn’t want to. But no one said that. And I just couldn’t stop it on my own. I just couldn’t. I wasn’t important enough, somehow, to cause so much trouble.

Gradually, my failings, as far as my husband was concerned, had become a long list indeed, and I regularly suffered through its recitation. Gradually, he stopped me from going out with the girls I had made friends with in the department where we were both students. We couldn’t afford it, he said, and besides, I shouldn’t be telling other people about our personal lives. Specifically, I shouldn’t talk to other people about him. He began to criticize my personality as well, telling me that taking twenty minutes to pick an outfit in the morning meant that I was irretrievably vain. He told me it was disgusting to him to watch me do it. By then, such language had become commonplace to me. You may not believe it, but I had come to believe that it was love to say such things. I had come to believe that he was right. When his temper would explode and he would yell and stamp about and slam the door, I thought it was probably my fault.

I know you’ve heard that before, about other women. And I know that if you’ve never experienced it yourself, it’s pretty much impossible to understand how someone comes to think things like that.

I also know that you can tell where this is going. I could tell, too. If you remember nothing else about this story, I want you to remember that I knew where it was going, too. I knew it every waking minute.

And so it happened one day, starting, of course, in a laughably innocuous way.

I was making dinner. He came home. He stood in the doorway of the kitchen and asked me what I was making. A spinach salad, I said. There was a pause. He stared at me. And I felt my heart sink. I knew that pause. I knew it very well. There was nothing to do now but to batten down, hold on, and try to weather the oncoming shitstorm.

He didn’t like spinach, not raw spinach. How could I not remember that? How could I feel so little for him that I could forget it?

I hung my head. But inside, something wasn’t normal. There were words inside of me that wanted out. It was like a match had been struck. I felt my teeth clenching, to keep whatever it was down, but I couldn’t keep it down.

“There are so many things you don’t like,” I said quietly, “it’s hard to remember them all.”

Yes, that was it. That was the sum total of my protest. I hadn’t even looked at him when I said it.

But it didn’t matter. He was canny enough to smell a rebellion. He thundered at me, “What did you just say?!”

And that, dear readers, is when I lost my shit. I wheeled on him and screamed. Screamed! All about how he was a child and he was so unfair and how I tried so hard and it wasn’t me who was at fault, it was him, it was him, it was him.

Then he picked up the salad bowl and dumped it on my head.

And I stood there, with a bowl on my head and that traitorous raw spinach lay on my shoulders and in my hair and at my feet. He looked at me triumphantly. And in the depths of that unprecedented humiliation, I saw really clearly, for the first time, into my future. And knew I needed out.

“I hate you!” I yelled, still with the bowl on my head. “I fucking HATE YOU!!!”

And that, dear readers, is when he lost his shit.

He picked me up by my sweatshirt and threw me into the bookcase.

Then he picked me up again and threw me against the wall. And then onto the floor, and then into the table. I lost count of how many times he dragged me to my feet and threw me against whatever obstacle was nearby. I was sort of stunned at that point and mostly trying to manage the extent of my injuries by covering my head or turning my face away. I remember being terrified at one point, when he threw me on the bed, that he might rape me. Anything was possible at that point. He had, in the course of throwing me around the room, ripped my sweatshirt to ribbons, and I was not wearing anything underneath. It was somehow more horrifying to be exposed in the midst of that violence.

He did not rape me. Whatever he was, he was not that.

He dragged me into the bathroom and pulled my wedding ring off my finger and threw it in the toilet. That’s how much I cared about the marriage, he told me.

Then he left.

The apartment was quiet. It occurred to me that someone might come to the door now, now that it was over. But no one did.

Readers, I am ashamed to say that the first thing I did was fish my ring out of the toilet. And put it back on. That is the only thing that I look back on with any real regret. I should have flushed it down. I should've let him pay that one small price for what he did. For what he did, he should have at least paid for one very thin gold band.

Gradually I made my way out of the bathroom. I was bruised but not seriously hurt.

He would later that evening of course return. He had bought me candy. Candy! And he no doubt intended to apologize, except that he was angered that I was watching television. I was supposed to be devastated, not sitting numbly in front of the television.

Didn’t I realize our marriage was in crisis?

It was, I remember thinking, except not for the reason you think.

And so we split up, not right away like what happens in the movies, but a month or so later. I know he continued to believe that I was deficient in some vital way, and he may still think so, if he ever bothers to think about us at all, which I doubt. I suppose I should be grateful that I was an insufficiently engaged sparring partner for him. It might have saved my life.

After he left I quickly went from being devastated to feeling incredibly light and free and young – all the things a twenty-three year old woman should feel. The enormity of my mistake began to sink in. I vowed to never make it again, and I have not.

I have never let a man control me again.

I experienced the joy of realizing that I did not have to make excuses for his behavior any more.

Even after we split, people would ask me to explain or excuse him. I refused. He blew up at some professor and they got into a screaming match. I was there and saw it. The department head called me in and asked me what I thought of what had happened. I just laughed. I laughed a little too loud. I could not stop laughing. The department head looked like he wanted to call security on my crazy ass. “What’s so goddamn funny about it?” he said. “I’m sorry,” I said, laughing. “I’m sorry for laughing,” I said, laughing some more. “It’s just that…” I stifled a laugh. “It’s just that…it’s not my problem anymore. Do you understand? It’s not my problem anymore.”

He stared at me, and I smiled, maybe a little sadly that time, and I saw a wave of understanding pass his face. And then astonishment. And then pity. He looked at me, and I could tell my history was at that moment writ large upon my face.

And I didn’t care. I was free. I hadn’t even realized the multitude of freedoms that I had given up along the way, but it didn’t matter. I had them all back.

He would later that year lose his mother to a horrible illness. His mother had basically killed herself in a variety of slow ways after marrying and divorcing a series of men all very much like his father, which is to say: violent and controlling. He hated his father, he hated them all, and yet he ended up so like them. I guess he could not justify emulating his mother, and so having no other model, he emulated his mother’s torturers instead.

He would later ask me to come back to him. I would refuse.

He would later disappear into the throng of aspiring whatevers that clog the freeways of Los Angeles. Just one more clueless asshole among many.

I would later pawn my wedding ring for train fare.

I would later say, when the subject was upon the table and people were saying those things that they say about women who are victims that way, “You’re talking about me, you know. It happened to me.” And they would say “No, not you. You’re not…” And I would say “I’m not what? What am I lacking, that it can’t be me?”

Listen. I am that woman. Because I was that woman. Tell me why it happened to me. Tell me what I am, that it happened to me. Tell me what’s wrong with me. And remember, the next time you open your mouth to talk about someone else - you’re talking about me.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Making the silk purse

John McCain is an idiot.

When he’s not grumpily confronting the Obama over military equipment ordered by the previous administration, he’s tweeting from the Senate floor about earmarks. Yeah, that’s right, McCain is using technology, everyone! Clearly his campaign promise that he would learn how to get online by himself “fairly soon” was not an idle threat.

Which means that my grandfather only bested him by twelve years.

The thing is, I’m not sure he understands what earmarks really are.

First of all, “earmarks” and “pork” are not the same thing. That’s like saying “movies” and “Battlefield Earth” are the same thing. True, you cannot have the latter without the former, but would we consider ridding our country of what is our only truly American art form, and arguably the most stunning art form of all time, in order to avoid the possibility of having to endure another god-awful Scientology-based Travolting science “fiction” celluloid turd?

Okay, bad example.

See, I have some experience with earmarks. A company I used to work for received federal funding via earmark.

Yes, we were one of those horrific wastes of taxpayer money, just like what McCain was chirping about!

Except we weren’t. We were a good use of taxpayer money. We were advancing technology in a much-needed area. We had enormous potential for good in the world. In fact, whenever I would tell people where I worked, and what we were attempting to do, they would inevitably say “Wow! Cool!”

But we could not get blood from the federal stone. For one thing, we couldn’t qualify for dollars under the pertinent agency’s crazy-ass, antiquated, say what?, pre-computer-age, red-tape-bound rules. Plus, our technology was in an area of science that BushCo didn’t quite, ah, believe in, shall we say? To say nothing of the fact that the administration was not a big fan of “science” in general. And so, because the executive branch dictates to the various agencies what kind of projects will get funded and which ones won’t, we wandered in the no-federal-dollar-havin’ wilderness for six long years.

It’s interesting to me that the Republicans, so hot against earmarks now that they aren’t (mostly) the ones who get to make them anymore, have decided that it’s the agency employees, the bureaucrats, who should decide where our dollars go, rather than our elected representatives. Because weren’t they just saying the other day that bureaucrats = bad?

In the case of my former company, we finally managed to convince our congressperson that we were worthy of a few bucks. And our congressperson managed to convince enough colleagues likewise. We were under some scrutiny for a while, but everyone eventually walked away saying “Okay. We get it. Set aside a few dollars of this agency’s budget specifically for these fucking dudes and their goddamn hippy idea.”

In other words, the system worked.

Now, don’t fill up my comments section with examples of pork, readers. I know what pork is, and I know we gots lots. Yes, the Democrats and the Republicans both are guilty of being influenced by contributions, and being motivated to bring home the bacon. Pork is bad. It is very, very bad. Pork is, much like its namesake, threatening to clog our arteries and stop our heart from beating.

But you know how you stop pork? Ban private contributions for candidates to elected office. Yup, make every candidate taxpayer-funded.

What’s that you say? You don’t want to fund some stupid redneck moron whose only achievement in the entire span of his years on earth is that he managed to collect the signatures of 10,000 mall zombies to get on the ballot?

Tough shit. If you don’t pay for the moron’s campaign, you pay for the people that paid for the campaign. And guess what? They’re about 410 billion times more expensive, fools.

So why, if earmarks are not really the problem, is McCain ceaselessly telling us that they are?

I dunno. Maybe because, after his post-Keating 5 “reformer” makeover, this is the one, simple, tangible thing he can explain to his legions of simple-minded fans. Maybe he thinks “Earmarks, bad!” is as complicated a concept as a dude like Joe the Pretend Plumber can grasp.

Or maybe, like he admitted to us over a year ago, the “issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should.”

All I can say is, even if you think Obama is bad, even if you think he is out-and-out EVIL, you must now, really, no kidding anymore, finally, finally admit that as far as the last election goes, he was, hands down, the lesser evil.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The koan of silence

I didn’t expect that conservatives would cooperate with the Obama administration, and so I am not surprised or disappointed that they do not. If the US is divided into liberal and conservative schools of thought, and both sides want to have their way, and will go to some lengths to get it, then what I wonder is, are the lengths important?

All during BushCo, conservatives kept telling us that lengths were terribly important, and that even criticizing the president’s policies was tantamount to treason. To say such a thing now sounds like hyperbole, but of course it wasn’t. Democrats were frequently accused of wanting the terrorists to “win,” of wanting the US to fail in Iraq, or to fail in the “war on terror,” whatever the fuck that is.

Now it's okay to hope for the failure of the president, as evidenced during the recent CPAC convention. Media commentators keep telling us that CPAC does not represent most conservatives, that it is a hard-core right wing organization. And indeed, plenty of its sponsors are fringe lunatic groups like the Eagle Forum and Concerned Women for America, but they were also sponsored by AT&T and Google.

In the case of AT&T, it might’ve been payback. AT&T has mostly conservatives (but also many Democrats, including our current president) to thank for saving it from thousands of lawsuits brought by Americans whose privacy was invaded by illegal government wiretapping carried out secretly with the illegal aid of AT&T. Not that the lawsuits would’ve resulted in anything but thousands of cases thrown out of court due to failure to demonstrate damages, but still.

Google is a bit tougher to fathom. Perhaps they have decided to change their motto from “Don’t be evil,” to “Don’t be afraid to sponsor evil.”

But I’m not really going to talk about CPAC, because of the whole wrestling with a pig thing. Robert Bolton got some laughs when he suggested that Obama might take the threat from Iran more seriously if the US city that they decided to take out was Chicago. And it’s okay if you make jokes about people in Chicago dying, because they are only liberals. Coulter already proved this conservative theorem when she joked about how she wished it was the headquarters of the New York Times that Timothy McVeigh had bombed, and Ari Fleisher did not subsequently tell her to “watch what you say.” Yeah, Obama has really put Chicago on the liberal map. Not only is the city not part of that “real” America that Sarah Palin was always flappin her jaw about, but they might be the new Massachusetts.

Also in his speech, Bolton admitted that BushCo made some mistakes. Anyone want to guess what the biggest one was?

Not invading Iran.

Yeah, he was our ambassador to the U.N.

Okay, I guess I got a few more things to say about CPAC after all, and it’s not about that little twerp who wowed the convention with a 2 minute speech about how “conservative” means, you know, “conservative,” because I don’t like making fun of kids who don’t realize that as a Republican, they have taken an already dicey probability of sexual gratification before the age of 30 and sent their chances plummeting by displaying a public hard-on for the party of no sex, no drugs, and no rock-n-roll.

It’s like that kid with the anti-swearing campaign. I wonder, did his parents explain to him that he is, at some point, going to want to touch naughty bits with a person of his choosing, and that being known across American as “the little twat who doesn’t like bad words” is not going to help?

Because they should have explained that. It’s about parenting, readers. It’s about the children.

But what I was going to say about CPAC is too bad it ended before Obama rescinded BushCo’s restrictions on stem cell research, because then we’d really have some depths of misinformation to plumb. Even on NPR, reporters today made several references to the fact that the process of harvesting stem cells kills the embryo, without also stating that the embryos are donated by the people that created them, through their fertility clinics, and that the embryos are slated to be destroyed anyway.

But you’ll never hear the GOP suggest that fertility clinics be firebombed, or that their doctors should be shot, or that couples who authorize the destruction of their extra embryos are murderers. I wonder why.

Could it be because the circumstances of mostly well-off married mixed-gender couples attempting to conceive are more conducive to the Republican ideal than an assumedly single woman making a decision to dispose of an embryo on her own?

In other words, if a Republican couple offs an embryo at a clinic, and no Democrats are around exercising their right to choose, does the GOP make a sound?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The dark horse

In Genesis it says that man has dominion over all the animals on earth.

It’s quite the convenient belief. And it’s been used to argue against everything from Earth Day to laws preventing the beaks of live chickens from being cut off in order that more of them can be crammed into a cage. Personally, I believe that man makes his gods in his own image, and so it’s no surprise that the god of most Christians is pretty much an misanthropic critter-shootin’ asshole.

Don’t get me wrong, though, I don’t anthropomorphize animals. Not like that woman who claims that her dog told her she had cancer.

Apparently there is a legitimate medical basis for dogs detecting cancer by smelling cancerous cells in urine or even possibly in human respiration. But this woman believes that her dog let her know she had breast cancer by smelling her breath, looking sad, and then nudging the infected breast. But how did the dog know it was breast cancer, and how did he know where the lump was, by rubbing up against her? If that’s how dogs indicate cancer, then there must be something really horribly wrong with my right leg.

The nurse who broke the cancerous news to the woman in the story told her that it was not uncommon for her patients to tell her that they had already been diagnosed by their dogs. What the nurse doesn’t say, however, is how many patients react to the news that they do NOT have cancer by saying “that’s strange, because my asshole dog told me that I DID!

And speaking of asshole dogs, the woman also had a 2nd dog who was completely oblivious to her ordeal. Now, if you think that dogs know when you have cancer, how can you continue to live with a pooch who knows you have it, and yet doesn’t give a shit? I mean, what a douchebag, right?

I’m not sure that dogs are any good at medicine, but I know there’s one thing dogs are really, really, good at, and that is getting humans to think whatever we need to think about them in order for us to want to give them more biscuits.

Another thing they’re good at, is bearing the suffering that humans inflict upon them. All animals are. Horses are being affected by our current economic woes more seriously than other animals because they are expensive to care for. Consequently, more and more of them are being criminally neglected. More and more of them are being sent to auctions where they are purchased by “killer buyers” and shipped, under horrific conditions, to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada.

Horse meat is not eaten in the United States, but until recently, horses were slaughtered here, and their meat was exported. In 2007, the last slaughterhouse in this country was shut down, but pressure from foreign importers on legislators has increased, and there have been several attempts to revive equine slaughterhouses in the US. And now, a Republican state rep from Montana, Ed Butcher (I know), has introduced new legislation in his state under the guise of pretending to give a shit about the suffering of horses.

Yes, that’s right, he says that slaughtering old, sick & neglected horses is the “humane” way to dispose of them.

If there’s anyone out there who isn’t informed enough to know that even the best slaughterhouse makes a mockery of the word “humane,” then there are plenty of places you can go online to be disposed of your ignorance.

In fact, if you ask me, we should come up with a new word for “humane,” one that isn’t based on “human,” because we have no right to claim that concern for suffering, or sympathy for the conditions of other species, are qualities that we collectively possess.

But if you do care about horses, and think they are beautiful, and can’t imagine them receiving the kind of treatment we usually reserve for cows, pigs, chickens, and goats, then you should support H.R. 503, which would end not only the slaughter, but also the export for slaughter, of horses in the United States. Horse owners would be encouraged to put down their animals humanely, like dogs and cats are. When you think about the lifetime of service they give to us, it is almost literally the least we can do.

Also, think about eating less meat. You don’t have to stop. It’s not about being perfect. None of us is perfect.*

Go one day a week without eating meat. If you already do that, go one more day. You don’t have to feel deprived about it, either. There are plenty of meat substitutes out there, and you can use them to make all those comfort foods that you love. You can buy awesome breakfast or ground sausage, and a great substitute for ground beef, and tasty fake chicken breasts. This weekend, I made Emeril’s recipe for classic jambalya, using vegetable stock, vegan shrimp, and vegetarian Italian sausage. You wouldn’t believe how freakin good it was, and it’s about a bazillion times better for the environment, and…it’s not chock full of the flesh of suffering animals.

That’s better than even odds, readers, it's a win-win. Think about it.

*except Gwyneth Paltrow