The Musings of

Something full of magic, religion, bullsh*t.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Allah akbar, except when he isn't.

Why is it that rightwingnuts like myself get tagged with being anti-civil liberties? Is it because we've let the ACLU define what civil liberties are? Is it the liberal media? Is it Friday yet?

I don't have a big hook here. I haven't been accused of violating anyone's civil liberties this week. No freedom of speech repression, search and seizure abuse, or attempts to prevent interracial couples from marrying or buying furniture at IKEA. I'm actually pretty defensive of these rights, although the whole IKEA thing definitely stretches my convictions.

Anyway, I haven't been able to figure out how the Left has grabbed the high ground on this one. Is it because of the whole "women's right to privacy and get an abortion" thing? Or does it have something to do with the "gay marriage" issue? I know the Libs yell a lot about civil liberties on these issues, but let's face it, it isn't some high minded concept of freedom that's motivating them in these situations -- it's simple political and personal interest. Libs like gays. Libs like being able to have sex without repercussions. Saying that the Constitution motivates their fervor is like saying the Bill of Rights is the reason Larry Flynt publishes Hustler.

In truth, I believe that the Left is as willing to turn a blind eye to civil liberties as the Right. For every rightwingnut willing to sacrifice a little personal liberty in order to catch bad guys and ensure security, there is a liberalcommie who wants to stifle free speech in the name of not offending anyone (or, perhaps, in an attempt to chill debate). Whatever the case, most of us, as Americans, generally agree that there are some "inalienable rights" that we all possess. Generally, the above case not withstanding, we recognize freedom of speech, association and religion. This is important, because a (classical) liberal democracy depends on support and understanding of basic human rights. Without these rights, we would be unable to effectively execute our democratic duties because of viewpoint repression -- that is, without a firm support of individual rights, there is no brake to prevent the majority from doing its worst to limit opposition, which is the very backbone of authoritarian governance.

Which brings us to the Middle East. I've got to say, I have found the current "Mohammed cartoon" tempest the most interesting civil rights display since George Wallace was whipping the bussing pony. For decades now the West has been looking to the Middle East with the hope that each of the countries will quit hating and making excuses and begin working toward joining the 21st Century (or even the 19th). Listening to politicos you can practically see their dreams like they are a comic thoughtbubble: democratic societies sharing their cultural and economic benefits with the rest of the world.

What this latest brouhaha has shown, far better than any war, is the basic root differences between cultures. I use the word culture rather than "civilization" because I think if the past week has show us anything it's that the Middle East is not civilized. It's no secret that Muslim society doesn't exactly foster freedom. In some Muslim hellholes countries, women can't even show a little cleavage. (I don't wanna live like that. The whole women voting thing, however . . . well, let's stay on tangent.) The Middle East, generally, is a poor, repressed, and brutish place where human rights are a myth. Hell, if it didn't have the good fortune to sit on huge oil reserves the only reason you'd hear about the place would be every decade or so when Israel had to put down some impotent jihad every few years.

I don't want to get embroiled in a debate over Islam. Every time some nutjob over there starts talking about destroying Israel or the Great Satan, some "liberal" Muslim in NY gives a nickel quote about how the Koran doesn't support such jargon. Whatever. All I know is that a majority of the population in these sandblasted camel pits appear to spend their days dragging their knuckles and shouting "Death to _____!"

Lemme put this in perspective here. In America, if someone does something to offend the religious sensibilities of the most fundamental of our Christian brethren they will generally issue a press release calling for a boycott. Fine. In the Middle Eastern culture that's just a speedbump on the way to killing all non-Muslims. Let me simplify this: They are upset about a @#$% CARTOON! They want people KILLED! Their leaders have actually called on European governments to punish the offending papers for blasphemy, as if they didn't know that most western democracies quit putting people on the rack about the time that the Spanish Inquisition went out of style.

(This actually reminds me of a "clash of cultures" moment I had a few years ago. I was in western Oklahoma in a printshop, and the girl behind the counter had this frisbee-sized belt buckle. I said, "Nice buckle," and she responded, "Yeah, my boyfriend won it, he was NCAA barrel-riding champion." Surprised, I said out, "There are universities with rodeo teams?" She replied, "I thought they all did." It still makes me smile whenever I think of Dartmouth having a rodeo team.)

I could probably understand the backwards fundamentalism. I mean, hey, we were all there a few hundred years ago, right? What I'm having troubles with is the hypocrisy problem. Some secular Dane draws a cartoon of Mohammed, so the answer is to have a contest to draw cartoons about the Holocaust? Nice and childish. What the hell does Israel even have to do with this? Last I checked it wasn't anywhere near Denmark.

BTW, here's the most mentioned of the offending pics. Good luck finding an American paper with the cajones to print it:

Of course, the upside to all of this is we get some great headlines. My favorite was "Embassy Burned by Cartoon Rioters." I can just picture Deputy Dog lighting up a Molotov cocktail.

To finish fair, I should also point out that Europeans defending free speech is like Tara Reid promoting clean living. I did find it humorous that a French paper published the cartoons one day, and then fired their editor and printed a retraction the next. That was a pretty quick surrender even by French standards.
Centinel 7:19 AM # | |

Friday, January 20, 2006

World Ends: Minorities,Women Hit Hardest.

What is it about human nature that we have to blame others for our troubles? Maybe it's just me, but lately there seems to be a hell of a lot more whining going on. I go to lunch with people from work, and they want to bitch about petty office issues. I try to talk about a football game and the losing team's fan says it was "stolen" by bad officiating. Hell, I was even watching a show the other night where one of the characters met his much more dashing alter-ego from a parallel dimension, and on finding out that the differences between them boiled down to one small change in their otherwise identical pasts, he spends the entire show bitching that "if he'd only had the break."

It's getting ridiculous. I was listening to Howard Stern yesterday, and he was interviewing former NY Giant Roy Simmons about being a gay man in the NFL and about his fall into crack addiction and prostitution. At some point, Simmons mentions that he was raped as a child, and Howard immediately says something to the effect of "that explains why you turned to drugs."

Whaaaa? With one sentence, Stern wiped away any personal responsibility Roy Simmons may have for every bad act in his life. Simmons doesn't need to play the blame game, because others are clearly willing to do it for him. Did Roy miss a tackle? It's OK, he was raped as a child. Did Roy blow all his money on drugs and end up homeless? Raped as a child. Did Roy end up in NY bathhouses giving reacharounds to fat Italians? Raped/child, See. I'm not busting on Simmons -- he never made an excuse -- but Stern's absolution only shows how trained we've become to blame outside forces for our problems.

I thought I had seen it all, however, but this article takes the cake. According to the esteemed folks over at BET, global warming and continued pollution will only spawn more national disasters, which will somehow disproportionally harm blacks more than others. This link isn't really explained, but, hey, logic and actual reporting don't seem to really have a place in this bit of pre-hysteria.

The storyline is a simple one, but no less hackneyed:

Relatively, Blacks are environmental Good Samaritans. Per capita, we emitapproximately 20 percent less carbon dioxide than Whites . . . Yet Blacks are exposed to worse air pollution than Whites in every major metropolitan area.Some charge that the Bush administration has made matters worse by creating new policies, like the Clear Skies Act and the Healthy Forest Initiative, that allow utilities and industries to pollute more. President Bush enragedenvironmentalists when he opted out of the Kyoto protocol global warming treaty, saying it would harm the U.S. economy.

I particularly like the "some charge" part of the quote. Who need attributions? We can just make accusations and pretend it's news! WHEEEEEE! My personal favorite part is where the author states, "If global warming gets worse, many African-American communities will be more vulnerable to breathing ailments, insect-carried diseases and heat-related illness and death. But asking Black folks to give up gas-guzzling SUVs and other bling is a tough sell." Nothing advances your journalistic credibility like using the word "bling" randomly in an article.

So there you have it. The heavyweight champeeen of victimology. Now excuse me, but I have to do my part to keep the black man down by spraying some aerosol cans in the air.

Centinel 7:56 AM # | |

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Frank, you belong to your wife at home, but you're my boy from 9 to 5!

The firm has been cracking down on internet usage as of late, and I'm a tad irritated. It all started innocently enough -- the memo went out that porn and gambling were bad, unnkay? and all this porn surfing and online gambling had to stop, unnkay? Gambling bores me, and I get all of my porn at home, so I didn't really pay that much attention.

Then I started getting "flagged" at certain sites that I would call, at worst, a bit obscene. The first time was from a Google link to a news story archived on some site. Instead of my story, I got a page alerting me to a violation of the firm's internet policy. What the @#$%? I realized that the website had the word "babes" in the title and figured that the porn filter was kicking back that word. Whatever. Since then I've been flagged all over the place for crap every time.

I finally complained about a couple of obvious goofs and was told that the computer dorks were still working the bugs out of the filter. Whatever.

On Friday it became perfectly clear what "bugs" were left. Now the filter is set up to block anything with "blogger" and "typepad," among other things. Now I can't read blogs or post while at work. Now, as is obvious, I have been reading and posting less over the past few months due to the picked up pace at work. Now I'm stuck having to do both from home with my increasingly limited time.

I'm not ready to shut this bitch down, but I'm a bit discouraged about this turn of events. Actually, color me "pissed" yellow.
Centinel 8:34 PM # | |

Friday, January 13, 2006

It's so quiet up here, you could hear a mouse get a hard on.

Despite my constant watch, supplemented by the nighttime vigilance of my cats -- who only look like they're sleeping until you poke them a few times -- we have not seen shell nor hair of our man-eating armadillo. He did, however, come through and aerate my yard about six weeks ago. I'm not kidding, there was a 20' X 20' section that looks like the golf team over at the school for the blind was practicing their long irons. I don't know what the bastard was looking for, but he was pretty damn persistent in his efforts.

That does not mean my life have been wildlife-free. The babe and me were driving down a little side road about a mile from our house one night when we almost ran over a opossum who appeared to be napping the middle of the road. I just did stop in time, and I asked the babe if she saw him run off the road, or was he under the truck. She said she didn't see anything, and, like and idiot, I get out and walk around looking under the truck. I knew he had run off the road, opossums are slow, not stupid, but a couple of years ago I had a run in with a football-sized bullfrog who had sought refuge under my truck and wouldn't leave, and I've been paranoid ever since.

Then there was this morning. Since we moved in our house in August, we've had an armoire parked in the garage. A few days ago the babe decided that the armoire would look better in an upstairs bedroom, and had me wheel the monster in to the bottom of the stairs. After measuring for size, weight, and wind speed, we decided that their wasn't a snowball's chance in Houston we would be able to get the damn thing up the stairs. Actually, we were democratic and voted on it, and it was 1-1, with the person who would be doing the actual lifting voting against the proposal. Failing to reach a consensus, the armoire has remained sitting in front of the steps, which is sort of the interior equivalent to having a car on blocks in your front yard.

This morning, I was in the middle of my constitutional when I noticed that one of the cats was staring intently under the armoire. Now, this particular cat is a freak for anything that is small and moves. I can't count the number of times I've found a dead spider, cricket, or gecko on the floor where the jackass had mauled it and left. So I figure there's an insect up under the armoire that needs removal. I get down on my hands and knees and look into the small dark space and don't see anything but a toy mouse. I look up and there is, incredibly, a flashlight sitting on the end table next to me, so I grab it and shine it under. That's when I notice that the toy mouse had distinct, untoylike attributes, such as wet eyes and moving whiskers. Great.

So I go in the utility room and grab my work gloves. I come back, reach under the armoire and flush the little guy. He shoots across the room, drawing the attention of my dangerous cat that, I kid you not, has been observed catching a bird in midair. Now my den is beginning to resemble race time at the dog track with the mouse playing the part of the mechanical rabbit, my cat playing the greyhound, and me playing the fat guy who can't get off the ground fast enough to participate.

Fortunately, the mouse ran into the closet containing the water heater. The problem is that the space is so confined, I can barely see around back of the drum. I go get the mouse-catching tool (which resembles a spatula) and after several minutes I was able to flush the beast out into the neighboring bathroom. I cornered him behind the trash basket, scooped him up, and headed for the front door.

Now, I figure the best thing to do is to put him in the landscaping toward the front of my yard, like that will somehow keep him from finding the house 20 yards away. So I get up there, bend down, and open my hand expecting him to haul ass. Instead, the little bugger started casually walking up my arm, where he stopped on my bicep long enough to take a crap on the sleeve of my dress shirt. Nice. Then he continued his climb up to my shoulder, around and down my back, where he jumped off my ass and headed back toward the house! I manage to grab him again, and on the way to the bushes the little ingrate bit me -- or he would have if I wasn't wearing gloves. Next time, he's cat food.

And that, sir, is why I was late to work today.
Centinel 7:44 AM # | |

Thursday, January 12, 2006

It's something Carson Daly came up with.

As my previous post amply demonstrates, my writing skills aren't good enough to write a check, much less a blog I have a flimsy grasp on mores (pronounced "mor-ays") and tact (pronounced "Centinel is a conceited prick"). Which is why I'm always amused by the things that kick start the angel on my shoulder.

For example, yesterday I ran across this t-shirt and thought it quite amusing (although a friend of my suggested it would be funnier without the "the"). I gave some serious thought to buying the damn thing, but I couldn't get over the whole "blasphemy" thing. Do I really want to risk eternal damnation just to give Yankees fans the business? I'll admit it's a close call. It's probably my old school Southern Baptist upbringing shining through, that had me wussing out. Of course, it didn't stop me at lunch today from replying to a girl who told me she had 12 bridesmaids, "What, did you marry Jesus?" My best guess is that my conscience just didn't get the joke. (I just realized that "Losing My religion" by R.E.M. (duh) was playing in the background as I was typing this. Heh.)

Another moral quandary I'm in concerns my site counter of all things. I took some "me" time away from the blog in December, and when I came back I discovered that my hit counts were WAY up -- like quintupled. It turns out that I had linked to a pic of Johnny Cash giving the one-finger salute some time before I took my sabbatical, and evidently everyone seeking Johnny Cash is bumping up my hits. I actually feel like I'm being dishonest. Like I should either punt the pic link or explain to both my readers that they are a more elite group than my counter would indicate. What's up with that?

I also am curious as to why I'm willing to say words like "retard" and "gimp," but I have a big problem with N-bombs and such. Perhaps that's because I'm a Southerner and we have become particularly aware of the evils of racist speech. At least, those of us from states where teeth outnumber eyes do.

While we're on the subject, why is it that if you decline an alcoholic drink the person either assumes you are a raging alcoholic or deeply religious? Or both, God help you? I know, it seems like this would be something I would have NO experience with, whatsoever -- at least from the point of view of the offeree -- but believe it or not, for several years I did not have a drink (yeah, and those years were called my "toddler" years). It wasn't for religious, moral -- it was just that it was easier to score with drunk chicks when I was sober.

On the flip side, it's probably the only reason I still have a functioning liver. Anyway, it always bothered me that people I didn't know assumed I was some sort of sot or prig instead of just a big pussy. I did always find it amusing how much it bothered people that I wouldn't drink with/around them. As soon as I'd decline, they'd begin working on me by going the "oh, one won't hurt" route or heading for the unoriginal "don't be a little girl" path ("That's something chicks do. You're not a chick are you? Ok. Good talk."). It was almost like they were doing something bad and didn't trust me because I was a big goody-goody. Freaks.

All this to say, I'm beginning to think that it may be time to re-evaluate my moral laxity -- maybe set some standards, raise some bars. Yes, My Name is Earl has got me thinking about karmic import of my sinful ways. Actually, I always thought karma was just some attempt to get me to do good by appealing to the best in me, my self-interest. Brilliant, really. However, recent events have got me thinking.

I was at a bar recently (how many of my stories begin this way?), when I ran into a friend, Sarah. Sarah is an attractive wildchild who just graduated college -- and a week later took a position at a prestigious corporation, Hooters. Anywho, Sarah grabs me and points out another female across the bar, "See that girl," she says, "she drank my piss." OK, you've got my attention. "How?" sez I. "Well," she continues, "I was on the back of the bar and I dropped my pants and pissed in a shot glass while she was in the bathroom. When she came back, I told her the piss was a shot I'd bought for her and she drank it!!!" "What'd she do?" I query. "Nothing!" she says, "I asked her if the shot was good and the drunk bitch said 'yeah!'"

So, a week later I'm talking to another friend of mine, Laura, who is out with her new boyfriend. He looks at me and says, "You want to hear something funny?" "OK," I bit. "I got hammered last night and went home with Laura. In the middle of the night I got up and had to piss. I'm walking down the hallway, and instead of going into the bathroom, I walk into Laura's roommate's room. She's laying in bed, so I walk over and just piss on her. She wakes up freaking out, and I just went back to Laura's room and went to sleep."

Yep, Laura's roommate was none other than Sarah. Instant karma, man.
Centinel 2:00 PM # | |

Monday, January 09, 2006

Not funny 'ha-ha', funny queer.

OK, I haven't posted lately because I've been out of town on vacation or, perhaps, I've been doing my hair for, like, three weeks. Whatever. I owe you nothing, NOTHING.

That said, nothing has really happened to me worth ranting about. If I had talent I could take the large amount of nothing that has frequently been happening to me and turn it into an interesting, thought-provoking post or two; if I had drive and ambition, I might get out and lead an interesting life that would be worthy of writing about; and if a frog had wings it wouldn't bump its ass when it hopped. Deal with my limitations.

I do have a gripe that's on my mind. Words, man, words.

I want to reclaim a couple of words. First, I've been on a personal mission over the past few years to push the word "gay" back into acceptable usage. Sure, there is a current acceptable usage of the word, such as when you use it to describe someone's sexual orientation, but what I want to reclaim is the ability to use it in derogatory circumstances. Fer instance, when some guy starts talking about spending thousands of dollars for blue jeans, I want to be able to say, "That's about the gayest thing I've ever heard." Notice, I'm not suggesting that "gay" in this situation has anything to do with sexual orientation. I could be just implying that it is really stupid. As it happens, in this case I am also implying that the purchaser of the jeans likes other men, but that's merely incidental.

Am I stating that all gay folks are stupid or somehow bad? No. All I'm saying is that "gay" is a perfectly good descriptor for those of us with limited vocabularies, and should be tenderly preserved. So in the spirit of reclamation, let me just say that I saw Alexander the other night, and it was gayer than a male ice skater. Besides, if they didn't want us using "gay," then they shouldn't have taken it in the first place.

My second reclaimed word is "retard(ed)." Some time over the past decade or so, retarded has gone out of style. I had a acquaintance in law school excoriate me for using the word in a demeaning fashion. She had worked for a couple of years with "special needs" individuals and had a thing about the casual use of the word "retarded." I've been gunshy ever since. Why? It's not like retarded people are going to get all offended by hearing me refer to someone who buys a Nick Lachey album as "seriously retarded." I mean, they're not even going to understand -- I read Flowers for Algernon.

I think reclaiming "retard(ed)" is right and just, if only because they have stolen "special" from us. I think it's incredibly unfair that just because I don't drool on myself often, gibber incoherently, or have a degree from a Big 12 university, I can't be special.

While we're at it, can I just say that if I see someone screw up the lose/loose spelling again, I'm going to loose it.

That is all.
Centinel 11:40 PM # | |

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A real violation of the public trust

I don't care how tolerant a country we have become. We can let gays marry, make hot dogs out of turkey meat, and allow Celine Dion to continue singing, but we are still nowhere near the point where, as a country, we can accept people wearing a baseball cap with a suit.
Centinel 1:26 PM # | |

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Is it @#$% Christmas vacation yet?

I can't help but wonder if I'm the only person who graduated elementary school (barely) who laughed when they read this headline. Probably.

More headline fun: While I have no love for store clerks, I would never think to give someone a reward for killing one. That would be wrong. Mostly.
Centinel 3:23 PM # | |

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I'm ghost like Swayze

SNL has been less than good over the past few years, but I must say that this short is one of the best I've ever seen on the show. So, props.
Centinel 1:11 PM # | |

For the Record,

I wish to categorically state that I have not killed anyone recently, nor do I have any specific plans to do so.

However, if I should run into Michael Bolton, hey, target of opportunity.*

*This is meant as a joke. We here at Centinel do not condone the killing of anyone except those killed in self-defense. And, you know, capital punishment -- we don't really have a problem for sending multiple murderers to the chair/gas chamber. Of course, we also define self-defense rather broadly. Bombs dropped on Iraq, for example, would meet that broad standard. So, for that matter, would a bomb dropped on Anna Nicole Smith's house . . . I mean, have you ever watched her on anything? Despite their 15-year rehabilitation tour, I seem to recall that Commies are pretty bad, too, so it's alright to kill them. Nazis, gang members, and the ACLU are all threats to your well-being, so it's probably alright to kill them, or at least maim them. Now that I think about it, we're not so much opposed to killing per se. I think we will address these matters on a case-by-case basis in the future.**

**Killing Michael Bolton is still probably wrong. Well, if he's not singing at the time, that is.

Soylent Green is people, yo.
Centinel 12:30 PM # | |

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Congress is so strange. A man gets up to speak and says nothing. Nobody listens - and then everybody disagrees.

Rarely does Congress overflow with the milk of human kindness less than during the holiday season. With session about to close, the GOP is trying to bumrush through all the lickspittle legislation that they couldn't get passed during the normal school year. Subsidies for chinchilla farmers? Just tack 'em onto the military appropriation bill and let that boondoggle remora take a free ride to enactmentland. Meanwhile, the Dems are hollering bloody murder because the GOP is trying to enact its agenda instead of, you know, taxing the rich and giving it to the poor, or as they refer to it "Investing in Our Future," because, let's face it, when your looking to invest, you really want to put all of your resources in the non-performers.

What amused me this morning while listening to NPR, however, was the way the parties are throwing around the indignity during the debate on reaffirming the Patriot Act. Both parties were riding the Constitution like a worn-out thoroughbred all the way to the finish line in an impressive show of blowhardedness (the quality whereby legislators say pointless or untrue things in a very sanctimonious way).

Sen. Kerry, in a vain attempt to regain the limelight, first stated that he and his cronies couldn't reaffirm the Patriot Act because of certain violations of the Constitution, in their view. Well, gee, Senator, hasn't this legislation been thoroughly vetted by the U.S. Supreme Court since its passage after 9/11? Think of the money we can save now that the Senate Democrats are the final arbiters of what is or is not constitutional. Hell, we can just go ahead and get rid of the entire U.S. Supreme Court.

Not that the GOP was much better. Sen John Cornyn (TX-R) had the unenviable position of suggesting that civil liberties were unimportant if our lives are threatened by terrorists. Look, I like security as much as the next guy, but even I get a bit nervous when U.S. Senators start suggesting that civil liberties are tradable commodities.

I suppose I shouldn't complaint too much. After last week's ice storm on the East Coast, a little hot air might be welcomed.
Centinel 7:09 AM # | |