Friday, December 23, 2005

In Search of N.H.

     As I've mentioned before, I use Sitemeter to keep track of the unpopularity of my blog. It's always exciting to take a look at the stats at the end of the day and see that people have visited my page. And I'm always curious about the people (that would be you) who read my blog, especially repeat visitors. I like to see what search engine results brought people here because I feel like I get to know them a little by seeing what they're looking for. (I could get you know you all even better if everyone commented, but I understand you're not all comfortable with that)
     But it's not particularly gratifying when people stop by my blog because they were looking for something unrelated and only stay for about as long as it takes to find the "Back" button. I'm especially tired of the people who, day after day, come searching for "NH" (I'm instituting a policy of not writing out her name again so I stop showing up on the first page of Google) Part of my annoyance is due to the fact that I tend to complain a bit too much. And part of it is due to my incredulity that so many people are still actively involved with this story that they are performing internet searches. Just so we're on the same page - someone comes to my blog every single day looking for news on NH.
     I just fail to understand the obsession. Last night, checking out of Publix, I saw a tabloid with her face on the front that said "[NH] Was Pregnant!" Please. But I guess this is why I'm not a tabloid reader. I do feel pretty bad for Aruba, though. State after state has called for a boycott on visits there. I somewhat understood when it was just Alabama. I mean, it's pretty stupid to hold a whole country liable for an underage drunk girl wandering around at night on her own, but NH did live in Alabama so he had to look good for her parents Jug and Beth Twitty. But then Mississippi and Arkansas and Pennsylvania made noises about boycotting Aruba. And then this week in my own state of Georgia, Governor Sonny Perdue called for a Georgia boycott of the island. I tell you, with us being last in SAT scores, trying to discredit evolution in schools, and now this, it's a little embarrassing to tell people where I'm from.
     Jay Bookman of the AJC wrote an excellent column about Perdue's spotlight-grab. (I'm a little sorry that when he stopped by my page while doing an internet search for references to his column, it was to read a negative complaint. Jay, if you come back, I'm sorry!) In it, he points out that there are 34 unsolved cases of missing children in Alabama and 68 in Georgia, some of whom have been missing since long before NH was born. (note: I only found 42, but I spent 30 seconds searching) I know that NH was pretty and all, but is she 34 times as important as a child missing in Alabama? 68 times as important as a child missing in Georgia? How can anyone trust a single word that comes out of the Governor's mouth when he so blatantly lies about his motivations? Because clearly, wanting to boycott Aruba has absolutely nothing to do with finding NH. It has everything to do with - actually I have no idea.
     So for goodness sake, stop bashing the Arubans. And if you're planning a Caribbean holiday this year, think about visiting Aruba. Because they could understandably use some support right now. And if you found this page by searching for NH, a word: Don't you ever come back here, or I will hunt you down over the internet and bash you with your own mouse.

Children currently missing in Georgia: Reyna Gabriella Avlarado-Carrera (since 5/6/05), Michael Anthony Bennett (6/21/89), Monica Renita Bennett (6/21/89), Andrew Lee Brown (7/24/87), Miranda Elaine Budman (10/31/98), Michelle L. Burdette (4/8/05), Kyle Wade Clinkscales (1/27/76), Jamaree Clarence Coleman (7/24/93), Jessica Danielle Cox (9/22/95), Teresa Melissa Dean (8/15/99), Dustin Lamar Dyer (12/13/05), Jamilahalake Oleesah Ebo (7/14/05), April Elder (8/9/05), Gabriella Larasati Elprana (7/30/03), Ashley Marie Hires (3/30/05), Catrina Renee Jackson (5/30/86), Amanda Jo Johnson(4/26/05), Courtney Paige Johnson (5/11/05), Arjang Karami (4/8/03), Mani Karami (4/8/03), Sabah Nasheed Karriem-Conner (7/17/00), Valentina Mendez-Hernandez (7/31/05), Sheila Garcia Nicasio (11/10/05), Destiny Lucero Ojeda (11/4/05), Shy'kemmia Pate (9/4/98), Valeria Grisel Sanchez (3/16/05), Yazmayra Sanjurjo Colon (1/8/05), Alisha Smiley (6/6/85), Stranterria Leatrice Smith (3/12/04), Tavish Sutton (3/9/93), Tony Yael Toledo (4/12/03), Yaribeth Toledo (4/12/03), Priscilla Trejo (8/7/03), Elyssa Marie Vasquez (1/28/03), Nichelle Launyeh Veasley (9/7/05), Brandon Lee Wade (10/14/02), Alan Perez Watson (8/3/01), and a number of unidentified children. If you even care a little about the NH case, call Governor Perdue at 404-656-1776 and tell him you would like a little more focus on your missing neighbors.

Monday, December 19, 2005

In Defense of "Merry Christmas"

     I've come to the realization that I've come across as a Christmas-hater. It's not really that - it's more of a Christmas backlash. Like everybody hating Kevin Costner for making long movies and trashing Waterworld without ever seeing it. I thought Waterworld was good! Plus, the little girl grows up to be the love interest in the counter-culture Napoleon Dynamite, so you know it can't be all bad. I would like to formally say, "Mr. O'Reilly, I am not attacking Christianity and I'm not looking to ban Christmas. I'll take my global conspiracy and go now."
     I'll admit, I have been somewhat swayed by the latest effort to keep the Angry, White Man angry. (Your regularly scheduled anti-gay marriage polemic has been moved to the next election cycle. Check back in November.) I've always been a big proponent of calling things what they are. A Christmas Tree is a Christmas Tree, not a "Holiday Tree" or a "Chanuka Bush". And students are out on Christmas Break, not Winter break. Who are we kidding? And when we talk of "Judeo-Christian" values? I know you mean "Christian Values". December Holiday Parties at your office? Not really - they're Christmas Parties. I know these things. I'm not an idiot.
     It would actually be really nice to hear other people call them these things, too. Because maybe it would finally open peoples' eyes to what the Religious Reich has been doing for the past 20 years. Americans like to think they're enlightened. And for many of the past half-century, they made great strides towards egalitarianism: feminism, anti-racism, and religious pluralism. But along the way, the forces of backwards thinking realized that they could just talk like they were being progressive and people would believe them. So now they can say, "The school calendar doesn't revolve around Christianity, it's just coincidence that Spring Break and Winter Break fall around Easter and Christmas." "It's OK to preach intolerance, as long as we preface it with 'Judeo-Christian values'." So let's get back to telling things like it is. I'm not sure the evangelicals are going to like the results.
     I do believe most Americans are reasonable people. Not necessarily good critical thinkers, but reasonable. (In large part due, IMNSHO, to crappy post-cold war education systems) So when they realize that their kids are getting a holiday for Christmas but the Jewish kids have to choose between taking an unexcused absence or attending Rosh Hashana services, maybe they'll begin to see. When they notice that their company is having de-facto mandatory Christmas parties complete with food no observant Jew or Muslim would eat, maybe they'll begin to see. Maybe they'll understand when one house on their street doesn't have Christmas light. It's easier to understand that than the one house that doesn't have Holiday lights.
     I look forward to this day of honesty that will never happen. It's ironic that it's the "religious conservatives" that are pushing this War on Christmas, because it was the religious conservatives that were the ones who renamed Christmas to start with in order to keep it in public life. Maybe once the name returns, we can start to tone down to celebration. And then maybe we can all start appreciating the real holiday a little more.

Friday, December 16, 2005

What People Want

     One of the most frustrating things about having a new job and actually being busy at work is that I had gotten so used to being able to write blog posts at my leisure. Basically, I want to write an essay on every topic that strikes my fancy. Unfortunately, I just don't have an hour or two every day to do that anymore. So here are two mini-essays. First I want to welcome new readers from the Jewish Times, which has been kind enough to mirror some of my blog posts. Feel free to click on the "Comment Globally" button and join in the conversation! (Regular blog readers - don't bother looking - the button is not for you)

Is That a Dollar Coin in Your Pocket?
     I've always been a fan of the dollar coin. At least, I was a fan of the Susan B. Anthony coin and the Sacagawea coin. Neither is used much now, and you probably can't even get your hands on one unless you're getting change from a Post Office vending machine or you specifically ask for one at a bank. Actually, last December when I tried to get 10 Sacagawea coins from the bank as a gift, they didn't even have that many in stock. I walked away with Anthony coins instead.
     I first learned to appreciate coin money when I visited Israel for a month. Walking around in a foreign country where only half the people I saw spoke my language, I appreciated not having to dig out my wallet stuffed with cash and travelers checks ever time I wanted some falafel. But here in the US, people don't want them. Or do they? It's hard to tell when they don't even get a chance to have them in the first place. I went out of my way to get Sacagawea coins when they came out. But no store ever gave them to me as change. That's where I get all my money in denominations smaller than $20. Every store handed me wrinkly dollar bills, not shiny dollar coins. I ended up having to put a $20 bill in the stamp machine at the post office to buy $2 worth of stamps. When I did spend my dollar coins, golden or silver, everybody took them without a question. Everybody gave me the correct change. Cashiers didn't act like I had just gotten off the boat. The US Mint said demand just didn't exist for the coins. But if Congress really wanted to switch to the (cheaper and more durable) dollar coins, they would stop issuing the paper bills altogether.
     In 2007, the Mint is issuing "Presidential Coins", just like they're doing with the state quarters. Unless they start printing fewer bills, I predict you'll never actually see one in circulation.

You're Not Going to Be Happy in 2008
     The latest polls are showing that people think the Democratic and Republican nominees for President in 2008 will be Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. I predict neither one will be on the ballot in November, as Prez or as VP. Hillary is no surprise. Right-wing pundits have pushed her towards this job since 1993. According to my law of politics, their "reporting" of her presidential ambitions has created reality. Giuliani isn't really surprising either, unless you remember what people thought of him on September 10, 2001. Clinton was 30 points ahead of another Democrat in the poll, but Rudy was a mere 8 points on top of John McCain, another man who won't be running for President in November (although I could see him running for VP).
     I'm not going to start a discussion of electoral votes or the order of the primaries or the fact that both Clinton and Giuliani hail from New York (at least now they do). The simple truth is that Clinton is too conservative for the Democratic primaries (yes, despite what Faux News tells you) and Giuliani is too liberal for the Republican primaries. It's a Christmas-time wishlist of an election slate. Clinton and Giuliani are so similar it would actually be a dull campaign, which is probably what 280 million Americans are hoping for.
     In a way it's a shame that the candidates Americans most want (in aggregate - I know you want someone else) they can't have. In 2004, nobody was particularly excited about John Kerry. The word most people used for him was his "electability". Not exactly someone who moves you. Personally, I would have loved to have seen Lieberman do well, although I never thought he had a prayer. I can't predict who will get the nominations in 2008. It would be pretty cool to see Clinton go up against Condoleeza Rice. That won't happen either, any more than we'll see a Michael Bloomberg v. Joe Lieberman race. Maybe Karl Rove will run, if he's not sent to jail. That would be exciting. Who do you think will get the party nods? Who do you want to get the party nods?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


     Another of my favorite blogs has bitten the dust, at least until 2032. It's once again time to take a fresh look at the links on my blogroll. It's true that I read these blogs every day - I'm not going to clutter up my screen with hundreds of links which nobody will ever click on. However, I actually read a few others just as regularly. Because I'm too indecisive (and lazy) to make this decision myself, I was hoping you all could help. After all, the links aren't there for my benefit - I read all my blogs from my Thunderbird RSS reader. (Quick note about all links, including those in my posts - they will all open a new window, so you can click on them to read them later without having to interrupt reading the post.) Here are the candidates (in no particular order):

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Nachos -- "A little insight on how the world should be experienced..." -- A political issues blog, but in a soundbite sort of way. No dry figures or philosophic ramblings here. You might recognize Otto Man, StudioDave, and Thrillhous from their comments here.

PolySciFi Blog -- "Random musings on political science, science fiction, and anything else that strikes our fancy." -- In-Depth issues discussion from people in the know. It leans libertarian, but not the kind of libertarian that's really a Republican in denial. Always an educational read. Jody lives here.

Life is a Bowl of Garlic Hummus -- "Life, Opinions, and Random Thoughts" -- Purely personal observations from an Indian Atlanta Doctor-to-be.

Comments from Left Field -- "a Progressive news and opinion blog." -- An unabashedly left-wing news blog, complete with lists and cartoons and a healthy dose of piss, vinegar, and humor.

Contrary Brin -- "An occasional online journal to handle discussions generated by "The David Brin Site" -- A very sensible commentary from a noted scientist and best-selling author. He probably leans more conservative, but skewers both the liberals and conservatives. Always a thoughtful read.

     I only have room for one right now, but if you think I should remove a current link to make room, let me know. Write-in votes are of course more than welcome, although they'll probably get put on my private blogroll and the candidate list for next time. Vote today!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Thin Blue Lie

     In the news in the last week or so, there have been two airline tragedies in which an innocent was killed. The other night, a Southwest airplane overshot the runway at Chicago-Midway and careened into a busy intersection, crushing two cars and killing a 6-year old boy. Now, I love flying. I almost always buy a window seat and I bring my camera onboard to take pictures of the landscape below. I love the feeling of taking off - the amount of power pushing me forward is exhilarating. But landing scares the bejeezus out of me. Of course, in almost every airport I've flown into, there's a hill or a lake or some other obstacle at the end of the runway which would seriously damage me if the plane didn't stop in time. I was surprised that a landing plane could just roll out to an intersection. So I pulled up Midway on Google Earth (my new favorite toy to waste time at work) and was shocked to see a small, square airfield in the middle of a neighborhood.

     This picture is probably what the pilot saw before the plane came down. The orange "X" on the top is where the plane ran off the runway and hit 2 cars. Yes, all those things around the airport are houses. I found a great picture on that shows a house right behind the nose of the plane. It's like what happens when you invite John Travolta over for Thanksgiving dinner.
     As disturbing and scary as that story was, the next one makes me feel far less safe. (As long as I'm not flying into Midway during a snowstorm, that is) Last Wednesday, Federal Air Marshals shot and killed an American citizen. Like the last case of shrunken Right to Life on the London Underground, this one raises more questions about how free we really are. As you might recall, in July, London police shot and killed a Brazilian immigrant in the subway. In fact, they shot him point blank in the head after he was on the ground. They then lied to the public, telling us that he was acting highly suspiciously, had been running through the subway station despite calls to halt, and was wearing a very heavy jacket on a very warm day. As it turns out, none of this was true, but it didn't keep wingnuts from declaring the shooting a victory in the War on Terror.
     Well, they're declaring another victory in Miami, because on December 7th, another innocent man was murdered. After claiming Rigoberto Alpizar had yelled that he had a bomb and was reaching for his pocket, federal officials have been backpedaling as it turns out it was not true. But while the wingnuts claim victory in the best case and overreaction in the worst, this is a very disturbing development in our backyard. (Your front yard, if you're reading this from South Florida) First is the fact that Alpizar was shot and killed, not in the high-risk environment of a flying plane, or even the tightly crowded environment of a landed plane, but on the embarkation ramp leading to the plane. Where shooting first and asking questions later might be good policy at 30,000 feet, American police don't (and shouldn't) operate that way. What's the police procedure for dealing with a man who may have a bomb? I have no idea. But keep in mind that this was a man who had been through at least one security clearance already. Second, why would air marshals think Alpizar even had a bomb? Not one of the passengers interviewed even recalled him saying the word "bomb". That's pretty rare, because in most stories like this, we hear conflicting stories. But not one other passenger heard "bomb". Which brings us to Third: Why are we being lied to?
     I have to say, I hate being lied to. Hate, hate, hate, hate it. I've gotten used to it, though, from this administration. I don't trust this administration. I do have to trust our police, out of necessity. But it's clear that they're as willing to lie as anyone with 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on their driver's license. Shoot an innocent man? Make up a lie about him. Smear him in the press. Make him unbelievable and unsympathetic. I actually have a lot of respect for the Air Marshals, but if someone isn't harshly punished for breaching the public's trust on this, I will have lost a lot of it. Killing people and covering it up are hallmarks of the KGB or Nazi SS. Are they now going to be tactics of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)? We all say that if we behave we'll be OK. Is it true? We may never hear the full story on Alpizar because the MSM is too scared of real controversy. But if the police are allowed to get away with shooting one innocent man mere yards from his frantic wife and then lying about it to get away with it, what's to stop them from shooting you and making up a lie? They may already have a backup lie ready, just in case. Think about that the next time you're flying with a cranky 7-year old who might decide to get back at you by telling security you're a terrorist. And just hope to God you don't look South American.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Dispatch from the War on Christmas

From Daily Kos - Read it out loud in a South'rn Accent
(Sorry for cheating, but this is too perfect)
Dear Aunt Mabel,

     I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing you from the Christmas frontlines, currently in front of Cinnabon at Twin Oaks Mall. May Jesus and Santa forgive me, but I have to say that this is the worst I've ever seen it.
     What a horrible place, the mall. The architecture of these things is all the same. Malls are the architectural scat of the biggest American colossus, corporate capitalism -- a cogs-and-bricks-and-money giant that thunders, three miles high, across the landscape, stopping and squatting occasionally to crap out one of these rectangular jumbles of cement block. May Jesus forgive them for sucking so bad.
     I have some sad news -- John has been in an accident. It was his first day here, and we were eating lunch in the food court, in front of the Peppy Peppy Pizza. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a lady carrying three bags stop in her tracks, like she saw someone she knew. She raised a hand, and shouted it, right there in the middle of the mall. "HAPPY HOLIDAYS!"
     The carnage was bad. Real bad. I'm sorry to say John wasn't prepared to hear it, and he accidentally stabbed himself repeatedly in the eye with a plastic fork.
     The doctors say he'll be fine, but he'll lose that eye. Even in his sleep he's mumbling Merry Christmas, over and over. He's a damn fighter, that one. He's one of the lucky ones, because I'm pretty sure some other people got trampled in the rush to get out.
     This whole war has been a nightmare. I was at Circuit City yesterday, looking for a cheap DVD player. Out front they had a "Happy Holidays" banner that must have been in letters three feet high. I stepped under it, may Jesus forgive me, because I knew I had to get in there, but inside was no better. Some damn wreaths, here and there, and lots of lights, but no tree. I swear to God, no Christmas tree at all -- I looked everywhere. It was like being in Iraq or something.
     I stumbled around with the rest of the shoppers. Everyone was in a daze, bumping into each other. I don't think any of us knew what to do, except just keep shopping, but I could tell everyone was thinking what I was. But I wasn't ready to see the DVD player prices, and I lost it.
     I knew then that I was among heathens, and I dropped all the DVDs and batteries and stuff that I had scooped up, and just left. I swear, some days I don't understand what this war is even about.
     Over and over it's the same. Every damn store. Some of them just say "Happy Holidays" out front, and I don't even go in. Most say Merry Christmas, but even then, it rings hollow. If they really were celebrating Jesus, they'd have more lights. The music would be louder. The giant inflatable snowmen would be bigger, and there'd be more of them. There was one place that had a little nativity scene, and that was cool, but the baby Jesus was laying in a manger and instead of straw, they had little optical fibers that glowed all sorts of different colors. But sometimes it glowed RED, because that was one of the colors in the cycle, and when that happened it looked like they were trying to barbecue the Baby Jesus and I had to leave.
     I've seen a lot of pain, on a lot of faces. I know that "Holidays" and "HolyDays" are related, but it's not the same. One has an "I", and one has a "Y". One is about the self, and one is about the Holy Mystery.
     Y. Y, indeed. These damn heathen bastards.
     They're making us forget the Y.
     I know a guy who ran right off the road, just last week. He was passing a Kentucky Fried Chicken (I know, they call themselves "KFC" now, but that's just so fucking stupid I can't even handle it) and they had on the sign out front, right under the price of a 12-piece family bucket:
     "Seasons Greetings"
     Dear sweet God. Of course, he ran right off the damn road. Even "Happy Holidays", you can sort of swallow hard and pretend you saw the Y and move on, but "Seasons Greetings?" It doesn't even sound human. It sounds like a brand of instant fucking stuffing.
     In fact, that's exactly what it sounds like. A brand of goddamn Satanic turkey stuffing. That's how far we've sunk, as Americans.
     Wal-Mart was the best and the worst. Oh sure, they said Merry Christmas. Or maybe it was the guy outside ringing the bell that said Merry Christmas, I'm not sure -- I'm pretty sure the greeter said it too. But they had the DVD player like I was looking for, and at twentyfive bucks each I got two of them so the kids don't have to share.
     I had to wait in line about a half hour, but I passed the time by talking to the person behind me in line, who was buying a bunch of clothes and stuff. I let her know which things Jesus would and wouldn't approve of, because I'm pretty good at knowing stuff like that. I thought that the Christmas Tree sweater with the little lights that light up using a teeny battery was pretty damn cool and a pretty good celebration of the Birth of Our Lord, but that I thought the socks had too much blue in them and not enough green. I also told her to make sure to check that the little snowman figurine wasn't made in a communist country, but we couldn't remember if Taiwan counted or not, so I told her it was probably OK, especially at that price.
     It was all going OK until i got to the checkout and put everything down. The guy who was checking me out looked funny -- he was polite and cheerful, sure, but something was off about him. As he turned to recheck the price on a twentyfour pack of Rudolph and Frosty paper towels, because I was pretty sure the price was supposed to be sixty cents cheaper than it said, I saw what it was -- he was wearing a yarmulke (Is that how you spell it? Wierd, but I looked it up). Seriously, I'm not kidding, right in the middle of the store. What kind of person just rubs his religion right in your face like that?
     I was prepared. My mind is always ready for these challenges, and I knew what to do. I waited for him to ring me up, and paid my money, and got my receipt.
     "Merry Christmas," I said, experimentally.
     "Merry Christmas," he replied cheerfully.
     I narrowed my eyes with a snarl, and with all my strength, I hit him as hard as I could with the twentyfour pack of Rudolph and Frosty paper towels.
     "What are you doing!?" the person behind me shrieked, lunging over the counter in a really ripping move to prevent the guy from knocking over a bin of $2.99 plastic mini flashlights. "He said Merry Christmas! He said it!"
     "But HE DIDN'T MEAN IT!", I shouted as loud as I could. "LOOK AT THE HAT! HE DIDN'T MEAN IT!"
     I gathered my bags up, but I was just getting started, and I lit into everyone in the whole store. "CHRISTMAS IS SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT PEACE ON EARTH, ALL YOU GODDAMN COMMUNIST BASTARDS! WHEN WILL YOU GET THAT? PEACE ON EARTH! YOU HAVE TO MEAN IT!" I marched out of the store, head held high. Because all the Wal-Marts in the world, all the Targets, all the Circuit Cities -- they just don't get it. They don't understand.
     How long must we be persecuted? Christmas is about Peace on Earth and Goodwill Towards All, and how dare the pagan alliance of liberals, non-Christians, hippies and multinational corporations turn this into a damn war zone, where I have to look at every damn sign, and second-guess every greeting, and measure every Christmas tree to make sure that everyone understands that like we do. This is OUR time of year, as Christians, to show the world what Christianity is, and that Peace on Earth and Goodwill Towards All isn't some hollow greeting card thing, but is the way we live our lives, and fuck them all if they can't see that. I, for one, will make sure that we understand about Peace On Earth if I have to hit every last damn greeter and fast food teenager and checkout person in America with a paper towel value pack. I'll boycott them all, until every last one of them understands that I am here in the name of Our Lord and Savior to bring PEACE ON EARTH if I have to shove it down every last throat. Especially the damn pagans.
     Anyway, I'm so damn glad our church is closed this Sunday for Christmas, I need a break. Best thing they ever did, because you know come Monday, we are all going to need that strength to return oversized sweaters, and fucking ugly placemats, and all that made in China toy crap that breaks the first day. In Jesus' name we'll come back down on those malls and return stuff to celebrate Our Lord and Savior just like in the olden days, and besides it'll be good to have that Sunday to rest and just plug the new DVD players in and stuff.
     Hope things are well there. I'll keep fighting, none of us want to leave before this job is done. Tell Uncle Bill I said hi and Merry Christmas and stuff, and that I'll be dead in the cold cold ground before I recognize the goddamn pagan "New Years".



Wednesday, December 07, 2005

More Christmas Spirit

     I saw a weird headline yesterday: Some megachurches closing on Christmas. What?? Are they going out of business? Are people actually going to stop acting like they're at a football game and join a smaller church where they practice religion and can know everyone?
     Apparently not. It seems that these megachurches are closing their doors on Christmas Day (and New Years Day) despite being Sundays, because nobody will show up. One church is so large it actually requires 500 volunteers to get it up and running on a Sunday morning. The religious reich, of course, is going nuts. Long used to just attacking liberals and athiests, they probably feel betrayed by their baptist brethren. One evangelist (he actually teaches other people to be evangelists. Does that make him a "mega-evangelist"?) said "I think what this does is feed into the individualism that is found throughout American culture, where everyone does their own thing." (underlining mine)
     Individualism? Some of these churches have 30,000 members and generally seat 8,000 of them on your average Sunday. And these members acting in unison are showing individualism? Look, I know we can argue until we turn blue about how extreme some of these people are, on abortion and sex and Sunday beer, but how extreme do you have to be to call a sheep in a 30,000 sheep pasture an individualist? And to imply that individualism is a bad thing? It's scary that these people have any power over our current government. Considering our nation has a long tradition of individualism, where one person bucks trends and becomes a hero, it's pretty frightening to think that people who think like our President believe that 30,000 people acting in unison are "too individualist".
     Maybe by "individualism" they mean "not exactly like me"?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Schrödinger's Cat

     The funny thing about politics is that everyone pretends it's a "thing" - a subject in school, a topic to be understood, a section in the newspaper. A static "thing", too - something that just is. Really, politics is THE "thing". It IS the news. (although it still remains just a subject in school, called Civics or History or Government) Nick and Jessica's breakup isn't news. Not in the sense that it is A) important B) impacts your life in any way or C) the result of something important. Of course, if you're Nick's mother, or Jessica's agent, it's all three. However, I'm willing to bet that neither Nick's mom or Jessica's agent are reading this right now. For you (gentle reader), this is just gossip. Front page AJC and CNN gossip, but gossip.
     On the other hand, most of what happens on CSPAN, boring as it might be, is news. These are the things that will impact your life in a meaningful way. Your representative government making decisions in your name are just as relevant to you as Red Hat Society meetings or even family decisions to have your 15-year old dog, Muffy euthanized. I guess it's the nature of the beast that it bores us - instead of making decisions ourselves, we hire people to do our deciding for us. Can you imagine that kind of decadence in our home life? Hiring someone to to menu planning for our families? Hiring someone to purchase a car for us? Hiring someone to choose what clothes we'll wear to work today? Basically, we've lost all competence in our ability to make decisions of national importance anymore. We've become a herd of sheep waiting to see which dog of a politician will direct us to where we will graze next.
     So that brings me to the physics I alluded to in the title. Republicans these days love to live in the two-sided world where on one hand, they denounce those who watch the polls. I believe the phrase they like to use (they probably heard it on Rush Limbaugh) is "he has no core beliefs, he sways with the wind." Actually, on the web searches I did, you can replace the "he" with a democrat of your choice. On the other hand, Republicans love to denounce the Dems as being "out of the mainstream" and love to show polls when they favor their positions. So what gives? Are they just hypocritical bastards? Well, yes. But more importantly, they understand a very fundamental concept of modern politics. This concept is the idea that the public's opinion is based on what politicians tell them what their opinion is. That is, the more they tell us that "mainstream Americans" support the war in Iraq and support restrictions on abortion and support the President, the more we believe them.
     So what is politics? Is it listening to your constituents or is it shunning them? We fight about which of these two cats is in Schrödinger's box, while the real cat is in our kitchen drinking our milk and knocking over our trash cans. The Truth is, we are politics. And the people who think they're not involved are the people most involved. Is Bush ever going to win over committed environmentalists? No. But he can marginalize them by turning the apathetic and disaffected against them. Can the religious reich make Bible stories into science? No. But they can publish polls telling you how most Americans believe God created the world. Can neoconservatives make the Iraqi war less bloody? No. But they can tell us that the Liberal Media is filtering out the good news. Are these polls and papers reporting on our "core beliefs" or are they creating them? What kind of sheep do they take us for, anyway?