Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Horsemeat and Other Indelicacies

Recently Andy Rooney started one of his 60 Minutes essays talking about spinach making people sick and ended with some observations having to do with the eating of horsemeat. I’m not actually sure what he was saying in-between because I was drowning his voice out with my screams. Later I spoke to Timothy “Perfess’r” Harris, our director, and asked him to shoot me if I ever wrote like that and he indicated that in that case I’d be shot about once every four weeks.

This may be one of those times. I’m high on NyQuil and I feel an irresistible urge to lead you all on a tour of my mind.

Speaking of tours, I was watching Rick Steves’ Europe the other day, and he was touring Turkey. While my eyes were watching, my mind was spinning with thoughts of cattle swimming the Bosporus, the cow jumping over the moon, and questions like, “If Turkey can be part of Europe, then why do we have wars, and why can’t we all have vacation property on Bora Bora?”

As my questions went unanswered I noticed that Rick Steves was playing backgammon with some Turkish people on the screen, and I listened long enough to hear him say that you can’t make a bad move in backgammon when playing the Turks, they won’t let you.

I immediately thought of Sudoku, to which I have lately become addicted. Sudoku isn’t remotely like backgammon, except that it’s a game. For the purposes of my immediate thought the only significant feature of Sudoku is that you do it by yourself. Therefore the great thing about doing Sudoku, the thing that makes it so appealing for me, is I don’t have to play it with some ego-crazed spoiled crybaby sitting across from me.

You see, I used to think that I might like to play chess. But I discovered that everyone within a radius of 3000 miles of me who was willing to join me at it was an ego-crazed spoiled crybaby. Thanks to Rick Steves I now know that I only had to move to Turkey to find people who could enjoy a friendly chess game like human beings. Provided I first hid their dice from them.

You may be wondering what any of this has to do with eating horsemeat. Well, one of Andy Rooney’s points, or pointlets, was that he was an American and Americans don’t eat horsemeat, and he, for one, wasn’t about to start.

Likewise, I would like to make a point, or pointlet, that I am an American, and that we Americans are by and large ego-crazed spoiled crybabies, and I, for one, have just about had it.

I’m not talking just about the lack of civil discourse evident during the current political campaigns, although that’s part of it. I’m talking about all the mean-spirited and uncivil and unsportsmanlike conduct that is revealing itself throughout our society at all levels, especially the highest, where it does the most monumental harm.

How can it be that I now have to write columns arguing against pre-emptive warfare and torture?

Last week George Bush signed the Military Commissions Act, which deprives almost all human rights to all non-Americans. It doesn’t prevent them from being tortured; it only requires torturers to avoid doing anything that might feel like organ failure or life threatening. So genital-electro-shock is out, thumbscrews are in.

The Act not only allows torture, it also lets the military tribunals use the evidence so obtained against the unlucky suspect. So if you are suspected of being a terrorist and they beat you or someone else into saying that you are a terrorist, then by the new rules, you’re a terrorist.

One of my former chess acquaintances made up the rule that he would always be White, because Black loses too much. I quit playing right about then. How soon before the rest of the world quits playing with America?

How long before the rest of the world catches on that our law treats them like dogs?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Insolence Abroad

Let’s talk about unmitigated effrontery or impudence!

Whether you call it gall, balls, chutzpah, or just plain bad manners, you have to admit unmitigated effrontery or impudence is continually entertaining. That’s why people watch sitcoms and the Today Show.

But we don’t have to leave Seattle to be entertained; we amuse ourselves!

A beautiful set of cojones was exhibited by convicted local lawyer A. Mark Vanderveen who cut off his court-ordered ankle bracelet 6 hours ahead of schedule “to go on a bike ride.” In admiration of his “flagrant, notorious, in-your-face attitude” toward the court the judge gave Vanderveen another 30 days of home confinement. Question: Why was I was not surprised to read that this tool was once an Assistant Seattle City Attorney? Answer: He had to learn it somewhere.

The other day a bunch of Seattle strip clubs revealed a survey they had commissioned that purported to show that strip clubs are not the magnets for crime that the city claims they are. The city then turned right around and showed they know what T-bagging is all about by saying 1) they had not studied the survey and 2) the survey is biased.

"It kind of reminds me of the tobacco industry hiring consultants to say tobacco was good for you," said Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis. “It would remind me of that too, Deputy Mayor, if I thought you had ever done any research of your own on the subject, and weren’t just repeating the prejudices of the least informed of the electorate in order to store up political points,” said me, just now.

For the record, I do not have any personal interest in seeing strip clubs overcome the four-foot rule in November. I’m a do-it-yourselfer: I do all my own stripping and lap dancing, at home. I also don’t really know what T-bagging is, I just heard John Waters say it on TV and I liked the way it sounded. Also, I don’t want strange nubile women to undulate their naked bodies in front of me and aim their private parts at my face.

How was that for ironic?

My next example is Ken Bounds. Ken Bounds is the chief of the Seattle Parks Department. That’s Seattle, as in City of. That means he works for the City of Seattle. But he doesn’t think his continued employment should be subject to review by the Seattle City Council. You might think that’s why I am going to cite him for unmitigated effrontery or impudence but it’s not. I don’t care whether the City Council can fire him or not, if they’re just going to keep on endorsing his policies regardless.

No, it’s this quote from Bounds that caught my attention: “I grew up in the segregated South, and the parks-and-recreation system was my avenue to befriending people of other races."

There you have it, folks. We can’t ever fire Mr. Emancipation!

Now I understand why Ken Bounds thinks it would be great to put fences around the City Hall Park to keep the homeless from sleeping there. Homeless people don’t belong to races, don’t you know?

The biggest and smoothest example of big-city cojones belongs to the Seattle City Council itself, in connection with its decision a few weeks ago to do without a public referendum and endorse the tunnel option to replace the Alaskan Way viaduct.

What makes this decision such a monumental case of effrontery is the fact that all involved justified it by the fact that the estimates for the cost of the tunnel option were rising precipitously.

The view was encapsulated by City Council Member Richard Conlin who said the issue would present "a moving target" to voters because the replacement design isn't complete.

To rephrase and expand upon those few words: “Dear fool voters! We on the City Council don’t know what the final costs will be, or what the tunnel plan really entails! You can’t hit a moving target and we ourselves can’t hit the side of a stationary barn! So we’ll decide for the tunnel for you!”

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Democrats’ Gift Horse

The games congressmen play. These days it’s High Horse (AKA High Horse, High Horse, Now Who’s On Their High Horse?)

I have long enjoyed games myself. Growing up as an only child in a sick, sick, sick, (pretend I wrote it 13 times), family, often living in isolation, I became adept at what you could call the Meta-Game Game, also known as Now What Might I Want to Do? The idea of this game is to invent a game, then another game, then another game, until a death in the family occurs, hopefully not your own. At no time is it necessary to play the games invented. In fact, if you play one of them, you automatically lose at the meta level, and have to start all over.

Some of the best games I came up with had no rules or instructions. For example, Figure Out How To Walk On Air pretty much says it all in the name. The game consists in spending hour after hour trying to figure out how to walk on air. One day I made the mistake of actually playing a spinoff game called Figure Out How To Bounce A Ball Off Air, and broke a window.

Having become so good at entertaining myself in isolation, I tend to take that skill for granted. So I’m always a little surprised when I discover people who are incapable of ever playing quietly by themselves. People like ex-Congressman Mark Foley, for instance. This is a guy who will never be satisfied with an imaginary friend.

Foley was playing a fantastic game of High Horse. High Horse isn’t as sophisticated a game as the Meta-Game Game, but that doesn’t mean that great play isn’t possible. Foley’s move of chairing the congressional Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus, in between exploiting underaged former pages for minor real-time titillations and jollies on the internet, was extraordinary, and will surely go down in High Horse history. For anything even close you have to go back to Dan Quayle and Murphy Brown in 1992.

Of course we’ve all been watching the entire Republican Party consistently win at High Horse for the past quarter century, ever since Reagan got even for that time Nixon fell off his. Their capture and ownership of the phrase “Family Values” continues to impress all of us, all the more so as their economic policies crush poor families.

Now the party that tried to force Clinton out of office for having extra-marital sex in the Oval Office and trying to keep it a secret is faced with charges of having a pedophile in their midst and trying to keep it a secret.

Now, I don’t know if you can necessarily say that Mark Foley is a pedophile. I mean, Jerry Lee Lewis married a thirteen-year-old girl. That was certainly something, wasn’t it? Did anyone call him a pedophile? Well, OK. But still, sixteen is practically ‘round the bend, when it comes to boys.

Anyway, for Hastert and Company to be aware that Foley was sending inappropriate emails to former pages and not call for an investigation, all the while trumpeting Family Values, that should earn them big points, and I think they deserve a lot of credit for staying on their game.

But the Republicans aren’t the only ones playing. We also have Democrats jumping onto their own Horses, pretending that if you vote Democrat next month it will be a vote for decency.

The Democrats are missing an opportunity to raise the game of High Horse to a whole new higher level. What they need to do is come right out and tell the truth, that the behavior of the Republican leadership was typical of all political leaderships in the face of such scandal, and that they, the Democrats, would have probably reacted the same way, because it isn’t the Republicans that are broke, it’s the whole system.

Then they could say, “Ha, ha, we told the truth and you didn’t.” And they’d be the new winners.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Bush Beats the Devil

George Bush is not Satan.

That was the final word on the subject from Ted Haggard of the National Association of Evangelicals, the day after Hugo Chavez claimed otherwise. Haggard was very clear about it: "NAE theologians and scholars have conducted a thorough exegetical study of the biblical texts concerning the person, disposition, and earthy manifestations of Satan (Beelzebub, Lucifer, Prince of Darkness). They have incontrovertibly concluded that, contrary to the assertion of Hugo Chavez, President Bush is not the Devil."

I totally agree. I have done my own extensive research using alternate tools, and have determined that, without question, President George W. Bush is not Beelzebub. Without going too far afield, I would like to add that he is also not Alfred E Neuman, a chimpanzee, or the latest reincarnation of the 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus.

For one thing, if he were Beelzebub, he would not have said this: “I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like a comma because there is -- my point is, there's a strong will for democracy.” Beelzebub would have had far better sense than to speak like that to Wolf Blitzer on national TV. However much you may dislike Beelzebub, you have to admit he is one shrewd personification of Evil. A chimp would have just flung his feces at Wolf. I don’t know exactly what Paleologus or Alfred would have said, but I’m sure they would have committed offenses on entirely different levels.

As usual, no one in the world really knows what George Bush meant to say. Did he mean that historians are such bad people that they would reduce to a comma the sacrifices of all the US soldiers who have fought in Iraq, including the now nearly 3000 who have died? Did he mean that he’s with these imaginary bad historians on that point? Or did he just mean to remind us that he doesn’t like to read, so if he were handed a history of the Iraq War in say, twenty years, he’d only read to the first comma?

Or maybe he has a deeper meaning in mind. What’s a comma anyway? It’s a hesitation and an interruption. Maybe he is using the word comma accurately as a metaphor for the way he has used the Iraq War and the so-called war on terror to interrupt America’s history of freedom, for the sake of creating and buttressing a sham democracy on the other side of the planet.

Maybe the comma is meant to indicate what he and Congress have together made of us.

The United States as we have known it is now hanging by a thread, with the passage last week of S. 3930. Congress was told by the Supreme Court to fix our policies on detaining and trying terror suspects, to bring them into line with the US Constitution. Congress has basically spit back in the face of the Supreme Court and said to hell with habeas corpus, to hell with the 5th Amendment, to hell with the 14th Amendment. Beelzebub can have all of them; we’ll take Bush and fear.

The thread I mean is the Supreme Court again. If the Supreme Court lets S. 3930 stand, there will be no branch of government left to preserve the constitution. Without a functioning constitution respected by any fraction of our government the United States will have essentially been comma-ed out of existence.

George Bush calls the Geneva Convention vague. I have to wonder if he has ever encountered any of his own pronouncements in print. Does he not even read himself? Not only does he not have the political acumen of Satan, he lacks the vanity, and in his case that’s not a good thing.

Satan would have a lot to teach Bush. He could show him how to google himself, teach him to take pride in his language, and how to reach new levels of competence, so he can screw us all even better than he’s doing now.