Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Dead Pool

250px-RosaparksarrestedAs everyone should know by now, Rosa Parks passed away this week at the age of 92. A seamstress and department store worker, Parks served as secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP and sparked the year-long bus boycott that inaugurated the modern civil rights movement. Although everyone remembers Parks' arrest and the subsequent emergence of Martin Luther King as the spiritual leader of the boycott, few Americans recall that the Montgomery protest was made possible only by the extraordinary efforts of working class women like Parks. In the end, the boycott succeeded only because thousands of African Americans -- mostly women working as domestic laborers and in light manufacturing jobs -- refused to ride a public bus system that degraded them utterly. Few Americans also recall that while the bus boycott succeeded, both Rosa Parks and her husband lost their jobs as a consequence; after dozens of death threats, and fearing the ubiquitous firebombings endured by civil rights activists across the country during the 1950s and 1960s, Parks and her family left Montgomery in 1957 and relocated to Detroit, where she lived until her death earlier this week.

To my enduring shame, I wagered $1 that Parks would die before January 1.

Casting my lot with one of the thousands of "dead pools" organized each year by karma-defying Americans, I recovered $10 in change from the seat cushions in my car and submitted a list of ten people whose time I believed was near. My particular pool -- organized by house-sitter extraordinaire and occasional Axis co-conspirator DBM -- consists of thirteen (yes, yes, I know, I know) people, most of whom are fellow academics who should, one would think, have better things to do than this. As of this writing, I am the unofficial occupier of second place, having predicted that George Kennan, Pope John Paul II, and William Rehnquist would be plucking harps as well by the end of the year. At the moment, the as-yet blank tombstones of John Wooden, Lady Bird Johnson, Eugene McCarthy, Augusto Pinochet and Charlton Heston await further clarification. As the year descends into its final two months, I am one croak behind the leader, whose fireplace mantle currently boasts the mounted heads of Rehnquist, Luther Vandross, Hank Stram, Gene Scott, and Max Schmelling.

In my own defense, I should note that my list is considerably more humane than what some of my colleagues have submitted. While most participants have enumerated reasonably safe lists -- e.g., Stephen Hawking, Claude Levi-Strauss, Courtney Love -- other folks have clearly stepped beyond the faint, thin line that divides expectation from desire, distinguishing those who predict death from those who hope for it. How else might we explain the degraded inclusion of Christian Slater and Tiffany Amber-Thiessen on the same list? Or Mary Kate Olsen? 50 Cent?

Perhaps I'm snipping hairs here. As the dear departed Curtis Mayfield once cried out, "If there's a Hell below, we're all gonna go."

With Mayfield's terrifying prophecy in mind, I hereby announce that if by some bizarre stroke of fortune I win my pool's $130 bounty, I will donate my wretched gains to the Rosa Parks Library and Museum at Troy University-Montgomery.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Terrorists Are Right To Hate Our Freedom


(image purloined from Artsmear)

Rob at Lawyers, Guns and Money recoils in slack-jawed horror as Burger King unveils its newest "fried chicken delivery system," the Chicken Fry. It's at least refreshing to see that the fast food companies are announcing -- quite directly and unambiguously in this case -- their intention to kill us all. No further evidence is required than Burger King's other new iteration, the "Meat'Normous" breakfast sandwich, described thusly by the Houston Chronicle:
Here's the blueprint for the Meat'normous Omelet Sandwich: two eggs, a sausage patty, two slices of smoky ham, three slices of bacon and two slices of American cheese on a specialty toasted bun.

Any way you slice it, that's a lot of meat.

Total calories: 770; fat: 47 grams; dietary fiber: 3 grams; carbs: 45 grams. Manufacturer's suggested retail price: $3.49.

Basically, the Meat'normous Omelet Sandwich is two ham slices and 40 calories bigger 'n' better than the Enormous Omelet Sandwich.

This bit of grostesquery calls to mind last year's Hardee's Monster Thickburger, the 1400-calorie blob of gristle which inspired an ill-advised holiday eating contest between several of my siblings and/or their spouses. Held the morning that retired Green Bay Packer Reggie White died of a massive post-Christmas heart attack, our repellant act was documented here, complete with visual evidence. Evidently, my youngest brother -- the vegetarian who finished in second place (ahead of yours truly) -- has now produced a half-hour documentary film of the obscenity, soon to be broadcast across the internet like an underground snuff film.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Sunday High School Reunion Blogging

The latest e-mail from my sister, who has always spoken truth to power:

So this about sums up my experience at the N-------- High School Class of 1990 Reunion:

Cheap red wine: $4.75/glass

Buffet dinner for two at Hotel XXXX: $140.00

Calling the Prom Queen a bitch: Priceless

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Hi. I'm John C. Calhoun, and I Approved
This Stupid Historical Analogy.

calhounIt's open mic night at The Weekly Standard, and this week's prize for beatnik-style incoherence goes to Michael Brandon McClellan. Grabbing liberal internationalism by the throat, McClellan explains that Americans "reflexively reject the values of the United Nations" because the United Nations stands for the political philosophy last seen propping up the racist feudalism of the Old South. As McClellan understands it:
Prior to the American Civil War, John Calhoun and Abraham Lincoln articulated two very different ideas of equality. Each idea was powerful, and if followed, would lead to radically different outcomes. Calhoun's organizing principle can be boiled down to two words: state sovereignty. He believed in the equality of sovereign political states. In contrast, Lincoln's organizing principle of equality was the idea of individual natural rights. While Lincoln's idea of individual rights triumphed in the United States with the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Constitutional Amendments and the success of the civil rights movement a century later, the Calhoun / Lincoln debate is, in a sense, still blazing in the arena of international law and in the dilemma of the United Nations.

From a perspective of organizing political principles, it is fair to say that above all else, John Calhoun stood for the idea of "entity equality." [snip] For Calhoun, this idea of state equality was the only rational basis of organizing a free society in a stable federal system. No state could infringe upon the rights of another state. For, if state equality was not held sacrosanct and inviolable, then the people of a state could tyrannically infringe upon the rights of the people of another state. There would be no legal principle to stop, for example, the people of Massachusetts from imposing their will upon the people of South Carolina. All that would remain to prevent such imposition would be political and martial power.

Aside from making up fancy sounding terms to describe the rationalizations of states rights -- "entity equality" is a meaningless neologism -- McClellan offers up such a profoundly monstrous historical analogy that it's difficult to know where to begin euthanizing it.

For starters, it's worth pointing out that Calhoun, at least as he viewed the matter, was not merely defending the sovereignty of individual states like South Carolina but was instead making a clear plea on behalf of a federal Constitution that he and his ilk regarded (and not entirely incorrectly) as a pro-slavery compact. Calhoun's anxiety, then, had little to do with an irrational fear of what "the people of Massachusetts" might accomplish to destroy the liberty of slaveholders; nothing in the Constitution would enable such preposterous scenario. He was, however, distressed by what he believed to be a federal conspiracy, abetted by the mis-named "free states," to pervert the "plain" meaning Constitution and deprive slaveholders of their natural rights to extend slavery into the newly acquired territories of the Southwest. This may sound like a niggling point, but it's not. To claim, stupidly, that the issue of "popular sovereignty" had merely to do with South Carolina (or any other existing, slaveholding state) is to miss the entire meaning of the Civil War, which was in many respects a struggle over how to fill what was believed to be "empty" Western land.

Calhoun's grossly inadequate conception of federalism did not, in any event, pretend that states were "equal," or that the sovereignty of all states was "sacrosanct" or "inviolable." He merely promoted the inviolable, sacrosanct rights of those states who boasted a morally superior way of life, which Calhoun saw represented in the "organic," agrarian realm of the plantation; when the collective framework embodied in the Constitution of the United States failed to properly defend the sacred rights of plantation masters to hold (and extend) the right of "property in persons," the fire-eaters merely asserted their right to unilaterally withdraw from the entire governing system.

Now, if I were Michael McClellan, I would insist at this point that the real heirs of Calhoun's belligerent, chauvinistic nationalism are currently warming chairs throughout the White House and at the American Enterprise Institute, massaging their groins as they dream of new ways to drown the internationalism of the United Nations in Richard Viguerie's dirty bathtub. Moreover, I would point out that far from treating the sovereignty of nations as "inviolable," the United Nations has numerous instruments for chastising, however ineffectively, those states that abuse the human rights and liberties of their people. Among these instruments is the use of general resolutions, the violation of which may be used as a rationale for war (in Iraq) or silence (in Morocco, Indonesia or Israel), depending rather arbitrarily on the disposition of the most powerful nation in the world to act. Furthermore, we need not be reminded that (theoretically) the most important device for bringing nations into line with the values McClellan assigns to Lincoln -- that device being the UN Convention on Genocide -- took the United States a half century to ratify, and then only with the sorts of qualifications and exemptions that a hegemonic power sees fit to demand.

Yes, I could make these arguments, but even I'm not sufficiently boneheaded to reduce the complexity of international relations to competing, 19th century views of American federalism. Evidently, The Weekly Standard observes no such self-restraint.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Thank Christ We've Cleared That Up

birthMinister of Information Jonah Goldberg bravely defends his Soul Brother Bill Bennett:
Of course, no one knows what the real repercussions would be if you aborted every black baby in America. One repercussion would probably be civil war or revolution, as nearly the entire black population of the United States, along with large majorities of white pro-lifers and pro-choicers, righteously and legitimately took up arms to prevent the government from committing genocide. And, I should add, one of the guys shouting "Lock and load!" would undoubtedly be Bennett himself.

As proof of Brother Bennett's revolutionary credentials, I offer you the above photo of Bennett, dressed in blackface -- his own ironic, post-modern commentary on the dissolution of "whiteness" itself -- being sentenced to death for race treason by the Mississippi Klavern of the KKK.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Tool Time

b2_fencin tool bibleOn Thursday, the White House added a little mayo and mustard to the Dagwood Bumstead-sized shit sandwich they've been trying to sell since Monday:

Shorter Ken Mehlman: The President knows Harriet Miers real good, and he knows she believes in them there "judicial restraints" [sic]. She helped out in the pickin' of Janice Rogers Brown and "Priscilla Owens" [sic] and Bill Pryor, and she's kept a diary of all the restraintful things those judges believe in, so we know she's got some good ideas all ready to be used. You just can't doubt the President on this one; it's like saying "you know, the president has the right position on the war or terror but we don't know if Donald Rumsfeld does" [sic]. And everyone knows Rumsfelt isn't a fuck-up. Besides, we need a judge who will uphold the values of Bizarro World, in which "judicial restraints" means that judges restrain themselves -- see how this works? -- from thinking they can prevent us here in the executive branch from doing whatever we want in the war on terror. After all, "judicial restraint" doesn't mean that we'll be restrained. Keep that in mind. We desperately need a tool on the court, not someone who will "grow in the office."

Shorter Chuck Colson: I agree. I had lunch once with Harriet Miers, and I learned that "tool" is just a different word for "humble."

Shorter James Dobson: Pardon me for a moment while I string together a bunch of non sequitur clichés about Abraham Lincoln, the corrputing influences of power, and a few other things. Now I'd like to point out that putting Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court will be like putting George W. Bush himself on the Supreme Court. And we all know that's what the Baby Jesus wants.

Shorter Sarah Taylor: Agreed. The laws of Presidential Infallibility apply here. Harriet Miers=George W. Bush. And unlike other Supreme Court justices, Miers will issue opinions that reflect not only the Constitution, but her Christian beliefs as well. And I think we all know what that means.

Shorter Jay Seculo: With all due respect, I don't give a fuck about the long term consequences here. I just want someone on the Court who will uphold the ban on partial-birth abortion.

Shorter Leonard Leo: And persecute gay people. Founding fathers, yadda yadda yadda.

Shorter Richard Land: Let's not forget that she's a Texan. And when people from Texas think about stuff and change their views over time . . . well, let's just say we have ways of "correcting" those problems.

Shorter Greek Chorus: Praise Jesus! Praise Jesus!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

An Heir to My Vast Misfortune

I've been a neglectful blogger for the past two weeks, for reasons I'll clarify in a moment. Meantime, I'll offer a programming note and mention that a recent epidemic of comment-spamming has led me down the royal road to Haloscan, so for all you people who have deposited thoughtful, paragraph-long observations over the past six months of this blog's pathetic existence, your thought crimes have been officially purged from the historical record, instantaneously diminishing the quality of this blog by 75%. I'm so terribly sorry. In the very least, though, by liquidating the offending spam forever, I've deprived these guys of potentially lucrative internet foot traffic they might otherwise have received. Oh, wait. Never mind.

1246-heirIn any case, the joyous news around these parts — and the major reason I've not posted anything for a while — is that the wife and I are going to be contributing another ravenous American mouth to a world already splintering beneath the weight of our irresponsible, epic, anti-social devotion to the most brainless varieties of consumption. At long last, after 35 years of relentless, abject failure, I can anticipate a better life, experienced vicariously through someone who shares only half of my bogus DNA. (I doubt the birth announcement will be phrased quite so ineloquently.)

The baby isn't due until April, but my duties as Head Foot Rubber and Saltine Fetcher have escalated sharply over the past month, interfering with my usual selfish responsibilities as Head Loafter, Idle Crank and Yankee-Hater. Although the first trimester nausea has subsided considerably, my wife has developed a series of food aversions that can only be described as pre-modern. Not only can we not eat certain foods, but there are certain foods that cannot be mentioned aloud because the distance between word and thing, signifier and signified, has evidently collapsed into a swirl of confusion. To speak the words "cucumber," for example, or "bell pepper," instantateously reduces my wife to helpless gagging and furious hand-waving, as if a piñata stuffed with the offending vegetables has suddenly exploded above her head. Although I am not used to wielding such power in this marriage, this is not, I should point out, a privilege I intend to abuse.

So far, we know very little about the little beast. Like John Roberts, it has failed to submit acceptable answers to our most probing questions. On Monday, though, the doctor was able to detect the kid's heartbeat for the first time, which — and there's really no other way to describe this — was just really fucking cool. At 170 beats per minute, the fetal heart is a frenzied tube of meat, offering its owner a perpetual, meth-like euphoria that probably goes a long way toward soothing its uterine boredom. By the end of this month, we are told, our orange-sized progeny will be able to do somersaults in the womb and will be capable of hearing the trashcan of foul language flowing from my mouth as I grade yet another mound of illiterate student essays. All this, I repeat, is really fucking cool.

But it also means that big changes are afoot. Soon, I will no longer be able to belch obscenities, or lounge about the house in a drunken stupor, or weaken the morale of my child by questioning the prevailing social order and its corporate-military dominance. So over the next seven months, as the fetus slouches toward Bethlehem, I will be slowly cultivating an attitude of devout smugness as I join the raft of conservative, pro-natal, Dobsonesque organizations who promote the family values that a soon-to-be father such as myself must cherish. I'm going to crouch at the feet of the Christian Right and learn what it means to be the Lord of my household, the exemplar of righteous morality for the next generation.