Thursday, August 27, 2009

Time for a sexy party

Four years old

Okay, perhaps it seems a bit premature to have a “sexy party” at age four, but Stewie Griffin is allowed to throw such fĂȘtes at age one, so let's pop the champagne!

Oops. I forgot I don't drink. But happy fourth birthday to Halfway There anyway.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Let's be Frank

A protester gets tabled

The estimable Barney Frank, U.S. Representative from Massachusetts, was recently confronted by a crazed opponent of healthcare reform. There is an element of irony in the situation: Someone in the throes of mental derangement is fighting expanded healthcare. She's a front-line example of why it's needed. Frank's constituent characterized the administration's push for healthcare reform as a “Nazi” program. Unlike some Democrats who find themselves at a loss when it comes to dealing with the loony fringe, Frank knew what to do.


Of course, not everyone agrees. It is, unfortunately, all too easy to find people who were offended by Frank's comments. Because he was supposedly being rude to a constituent? Oh, not at all. Because they think the crazy constituent is right!

This is the sort of thing that passes for “reasoning” among members of the rabid right:
The only reason the media smirks at the Hitler/Obama comparison is due to a mistake; that mistake is believing that everyone in the room has the same publik skool education they themselves do.

Hitler was a Nazi. “Nazi” comes from the German words for “national socialist”. The Obama/Hitler link is an absolute when it comes to political ideology.
This interesting label-based argument rests on two simple assumptions, both of which are simply wrong.

Assumption #1: Hitler was a socialist.

That's because he called his party the “National Socialist Party.” Can anyone see the tiny flaw in this statement? (Perhaps we remember that East Germany called itself the “German Democratic Republic” while it was under a Communist dictatorship. Or that George W. Bush proposed to weaken clean air standards by proposing something amusing named the “Clear Skies initiative.” What a joker he was!)

The label always tells you what's inside the jar! You can always judge a book by its cover!

Assumption #2: Obama is a socialist.

It certainly has gotten easier to become a socialist. You don't even have to advocate public ownership of all of the means of production anymore. No! It's quite enough, thank you, for initiating an expansion of health care with a proposal that includes a public option. Or trying to jump-start the (capitalist) economy with an infusion of Federal cash. Nowadays you can be a capitalist and a socialist at the same time!

Socialism just ain't what it used to be!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My fling with Stephen Fry

A celebration of Fry Days

I suppose it was meant to be. We were each minding our own business, never imagining how the stars were about to align. And then ... it happened.

Stephen Fry used his Twitter account to mention something that was completely and entirely unrelated to me. And promptly set off a stampede to my blog.

You will understand, I hope, that when I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less. Therefore, when I say “stampede,”, I intend it in the rather limited sense of (drum roll) a thousand hits in one day.

Let's face it. That's quite a red-letter day for an nth-tier blog. And I hardly even noticed. I was having a very nice weekend fussing over personal projects and enjoying the days just before the start of fall semester. Then I noticed that my Sitemeter widget was indicating a total of 300,000 hits (since 2005, when I launched Halfway There; my first-ever post was uploaded on August 27 of that year, so we have a birthday coming up). The run-up to 300,000 had occurred several days earlier than I had been expecting. I soon found out that Stephen Fry was responsible. It was all his doing!

So what did Stephen do that was so special? He tweeted a mildly obscure remark from the movie War Games, sparking a rush to Google UK to discover the meaning of the string CPE1704TKS. It turns out (certainly to my surprise, and probably to the surprise of anyone else who's been paying any attention), my post on War Games is the No. 1 entry for searchers on Google UK. (Well, I'll be buggered!)

The twittering hordes are still coming to Halfway There in numbers well above my usual modest rate of traffic. Nevertheless, rush hour is clearly over. The numbers are ebbing and will soon be back to normal. I know, however, that I will never forget that magical weekend that I shared with Stephen Fry.

And he doesn't even know I exist! [sob!]

Say, I wonder what Hugh Laurie is doing these days?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Looks like carelessness

Paging Oscar Wilde

I was out for a morning stroll when I could not help but observe the bright red car parked in my neighborhood. It was a shiny new Toyota Prius, glittering in the sun. I've been tempted to get a car like that, so I walked over to see it at closer quarters. It was a sharp looking automobile, but then I noticed something.

Oops! Someone made a little boo-boo. I wondered briefly how the accident had occurred, but it was just idle curiosity.

I began to move past the car to continue my walk when I noticed something else.

Double oops! Now I was really intrigued. How does one get a bumper decorated with matching smash-ins on both sides? Did the driver try to wedge the car into a space where it could not go? (Perhaps he used to drive a motorcycle and forget how wide his new car is.) I simply do not know. Is it possible that the car is the victim of two entirely separate incidents? The mind boggles.

As I walked away, I was reminded of a line from Oscar Wilde's play, The Importance of Being Earnest:
Lady Bracknell: To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.
If Mr. Worthing lives in my neighborhood, I think I would be better off Bunburying on the days when he's driving about.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Atheists believe in god?

The Creation “Museum” visit gets noticed

Not all of the right-wingers at Free Republic are creationists. Some of the “Freepers” mixed it up after an item was posted on the visit by PZ Myers and 300 other nonbelievers to Ken Ham's pseudoscientific exposition. As one of them said, “The word museum is in quotes in the title thread with good reason.” A more devout Freeper responded with a biblical quote (of course):
Same old (yawn) debate.

Atheists make a determined choice to disbelieve in God. I've studied their "evidence." It's not evidence. It's mere guesswork.

That said, I guess I'll defer to Solomon: "The fool hath said in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good." (Ps 14:1)

They're just not very good people and of necessity have chosen to reject God so as not to impede their sinful choices.

Why would we care what any such people think about God?

The truth is, they instinctively know God exists. Why else would they spend so much time trying to convince everyone He does not exist?

16 posted on Sunday, August 09, 2009 6:54:04 AM by LouAvul
What is this, exactly? Proof by contradiction? You say No, so you must mean Yes? (These guys must be great fun on a date.) He says he “studied” the evidence. Does that mean he didn't?

I think it's perfectly all right to mock something that doesn't exist. (Sarah Palin's intellect comes to mind. Or William Kristol's correct predictions.)

One additional little point, though, Mr. Freeper: Solomon does not get credit for the book of Psalms. Believers attribute the psalms to King David, Solomon's licentious father.

Of course, by saying “Solomon” maybe you meant “David.”


Saturday, August 08, 2009

Lie to the children

They'll thank you later

With us, it was snakes. Every hollow, every nook, every gopher-hole in the earthen banks of the irrigation canal was most assuredly the hiding place of snakes. Dangerous, sharp-toothed, venomous snakes who were as willing to bite you on land as in the water. So don't even stand on the banks, let alone go wading in the water. Because the snakes will get you!

I'm pleased to report that the snakes never got me, or any of my sibs. Nor did I or any of my sibs drown in the big ditch, unlike some other children I could tell you about. Strange to say, though, it still gives me a frisson whenever I walk the banks of the irrigation canal running through the family dairy farm and spot a hole in the side of the bank.


No. No snakes. Not then, not now, not ever. No snakes.

But I believed in them with a powerful faith that long outlasted Santa Claus. And I kept away from the irrigation canal till I was practically a teenager and it became necessary to drive tractors down the embankment road to run errands.

My niece Becky lives on the family dairy farm, but on a parcel conveniently distant from the canal. One less thing to worry about. She has a different problem.

There's a sump hole a mere hundred yards from her house. As far as her brood of little boys is concerned, that's practically next door. (The intervening space is all open field and dirt road.) It's fair-sized, too. I know. I've paced it off. My stride is almost a yard in length and it took more than 120 paces for me to walk its perimeter.

The boys have seen the sump hole, a fetid pool where water emerges from the drainage system and collects. And all of them know the story that goes with it.

Does the sump hole have snakes? Goodness, no. Nothing so tame as that.

It has a cow-eating monster.

Most dairies are fortunate in that they do not have cow-eating monsters on the premises. In the case of the family dairy farm, however, the monster in the sump hole has reportedly dragged off and devoured at least one cow. My niece's eldest son, who is still of pre-school age, has patiently recounted the story in detail to his great-grandmother. My mother nods her head at the little guy as he narrates how the monster grabbed the cow when it got too close to the sump hole. She confirms to her great-grandson that she's heard that same story. And the cow vanished without a trace. No doubt the monster would also gobble up little boys if they got too close. Big people, as well, no doubt. At least those of us no bigger than cows. We all purport to be afraid of the sump-hole monster.

Snakes were enough to keep my generation away from the flowing waters of the irrigation canal. The children of two generations later may be made of sterner stuff. It takes a submerged cow-eating monster to keep them away from the stagnant waters of the sump hole.

Whatever works, I guess.

I'm not satisfied with the solution, although I admire the scale and scope of the cautionary tale. For one thing, I never worried about the snakes at night although I could see the canal from my bedroom window. I knew they didn't like to wander away from the canal and, besides, they couldn't get in the house. We were safe as long as we didn't go right up to the big ditch.

Monsters are a different kettle of childhood horrors. What's to say it couldn't emerge from the sump hole at night and stalk the countryside? Will mere doors and walls suffice to keep it at bay? It certainly must be hungry by now. It dined on cow well over a year ago. The monster may be restive. And I'd prefer that we not sow the seeds of a bone-deep childhood paranoia. Or night terrors.

Uncle Zee had an idea. He got together with the boys' grandfather.

My brother and I have nearly worked it out, I believe. The sump hole will be getting a chain-link fence. The boys will think it's to keep the big monster in, but it's really to keep the little monsters out.

And safe.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Harvey Milk of human kindness

A freedom medal for a freedom fighter

Harvey Milk knew a political opportunist when he saw one. In part, it was because it takes one to know one, and Milk had a broad streak of opportunism in his makeup. Harvey, however, was a man on a mission to elevate the status of gay people everywhere in society and seized opportunities to advance his cause. Opposite him was state Sen. John Briggs, a man whose opportunism was devoted to elevating himself and his political career. Milk and Briggs were engaged in a running debate over Proposition 6 on the November 1978 general election ballot.

Briggs had created Proposition 6 to raise his political profile in the state of California and create a groundswell of support that might carry him into the governor's mansion in Sacramento. The initiative was inspired by Anita Bryant's successful campaign in Florida against Miami-Dade's gay rights ordinance. Briggs had cynically picked up on Bryant's “save the children” motto and drafted Proposition 6 to empower public school boards to fire gay teachers—or any teachers (gay or not) who supported gay rights.

The Milk vs. Briggs rolling debate jumped from venue to venue, often before audiences predisposed to cheer Briggs and jeer at the queer from San Francisco. Nevertheless, Milk fearlessly answered Briggs point by point and took the battle to the enemy. When the ballots were counted on November 7, Proposition 6 had been defeated by a margin exceeding a million votes.

Twenty days later, San Francisco County Supervisor Harvey Milk was dead, murdered in a killing spree by former supervisor Dan White, an anti-gay politician who took his vengeance against both Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone. White later killed himself, aimless and depressed at failing to put his life back together after serving an absurdly short five-year prison sentence for the double murder (he was actually convicted of manslaughter instead of murder). White died knowing he had elevated his nemesis Harvey Milk to iconic martyr status, which probably gnawed constantly at his vitals during the seven years he survived his victim.

Harvey would undoubtedly have preferred a longer life than the fifty years he was given, but he had been fatalistic about the likely price he would pay for his open political activism. Milk tape-recorded a manifesto to be played in the event of his murder, so he was as prepared as one can be for the eventuality that overtook him on November 27, 1978. “Play that tape of Briggs and I over and over again so people can know what an evil man he is. So people know what our Hitler is like. So people know that where the ideas of hate come from. So they know what the future will bring if they're not careful.” While “our Hitler” has all but vanished from the pages of California history, his quest for political power aborted by the No on 6 coalition, the most visible leader of that coalition is at least as famous today as he was twenty years ago.

On Wednesday, August 12, President Barack Obama will formally award Harvey Milk the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It's an apt choice, although I know it's also a relatively easy sop for the president to toss to those of us who are not content with his administration's extremely slow and casual approach to “Don't ask, don't tell” (which should have been suspended by executive order immediately upon his taking office) and his Justice Department's willingness to defend the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act. The recognition of Harvey Milk is a good thing, Mr. President, but it would be even better if you acted more vigorously in support of the human rights for which he gave his life. Much better.

Meanwhile, here in California, we may be able to parlay Milk's presidential honor into more support for SB 572, a legislative measure to establish Harvey Milk Day. A similar measure passed the legislature in 2008 and was vetoed by the governor. SB 572 would put the issue on his desk again. (Here's your big chance to get something right for a change, Arnold!) Harvey Milk Day would be a day of commemoration under the provisions of the legislation and not a state holiday, so it's financial impact on California would be minimal. The state's right-wingers and gay-bashers are more concerned, however, about the social impact of Harvey Milk Day. Treat gay people as human beings with equal human rights! Good Lord, no! They are desperate to—are you ready?—save our children. Yes, it's the same old song. Here's a paragraph that is urging people to include in letters demanding the defeat or veto of SB 572:
INDOCTRINATES CHILDREN AS YOUNG AS 5 YEARS OLD: Harvey Milk Day would promote the “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender” agenda of Harvey Milk to up to six million children in public schools, including kindergarteners. These kids aren’t old enough to be taught about sex, but now they’ll be taught about same-sex “marriages,” cross-dressing and same-sex desires? This is highly inappropriate.
I do believe that cross-dressing often occurs spontaneously among kindergarten-age children, but is this one of the things mandated by SB 572? Let's look at the actual language of the bill. Here is the entire text of the measure as it relates to activities on Harvey Milk Day:
On Harvey Milk Day, exercises remembering the life of Harvey Milk, recognizing his accomplishments, and familiarizing pupils with the contributions he made to this state.
Pretty explicit, isn't it? Once again, the graphic content is in the warped mind of the gay-bashing beholders, whose Freudian fascination with the details of gay sex is epitomized by their constant whining about not wanting the supposed gay rights agenda “jammed down our throats.”

These people need help.

Perhaps someone could remind them about that amusing statement (whose source I am at a loss to track down) that “Gay people are completely different from straight people—except for what they do in bed.”

One of my friends is a high school teacher who sees Harvey Milk Day as a perfect opportunity to discourage gay-bashing and bullying of all kinds, as well as the use of “that's so gay” as a casual expression of disapprobation. In language earthier than any he would use on campus, he says, “The uptight anti-gay right is ridiculously paranoid about this. They refuse to understand what it's about. We're not teaching our students about fucking assholes. We're teaching them not to be fucking assholes!”

So there.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Mahalo, Obama!

Happy birthday to you

Today is the birthday of our first Hawaiian president. Barack Hussein Obama was born on this day in Honolulu back in 1961.

We live, however, in such interesting times that a big chunk of the Republican Party's members cannot accept the simple fact of the president's island nativity. I think that perhaps John McCain is to blame.

More to the point, it may be McCain's parents who sparked the current unpleasantness. It was their fault, of course, that Mrs. John McCain, Jr., bore John McCain III in Panama. Decades later, the U.S. Senate decided that John III was indeed a “natural born citizen” in the sense required by the U.S. Constitution and adopted a resolution to put their opinion on record.

The Senate resolution did not have the force of law, but it reinforced the consensus that John Sidney McCain III was eligible to run for president. But even while the issue was being laid to rest for the presumptive Republican nominee, new attention was being paid to the birth status of the Democratic front-runner. It shouldn't have been an issue, Obama having been born in the United States, but the paranoid fringe was creative enough to theorize that perhaps he had lost his U.S. citizenship when he moved to Indonesia with his mother and adoptive father. The nuttier types began to theorize that perhaps Obama had been born in his birth father's nation of Kenya.

The Obama campaign was clever enough to have a webpage on its campaign site devoted to shooting down scurrilous rumors. Obama obtained an official birth certificate from the state of Hawaii, a legal state document sufficient for all purposes, which his staff then posted on his campaign website. Obama and company then ignored the whining of those who remained dissatisfied, which was wise, because it tamped down the level of attention and put the issue away except among those crazies (like Alan Keyes) who weren't going to vote for him anyway (or for John McCain, for that matter, since he wasn't conservative enough for them).

Now that Obama's presidency is a reality, the disaffected conservative minority (a larger group than the purely insane fringe) is susceptible to anything that might assuage their loss to a moderately liberal candidate. Even more susceptible than anyone would have suspected earlier, creating a situation that feeds on itself. The flames are being fanned by the propagandists who work for the GOP Ministry of Truth. (In difficult economic times, it's easier than making an honest living.)

Lou Dobbs: And this can be dismissed with the production of one simple little document, and that's a birth certificate.

Dustbunny: Producing the real birth certificate would solve all the questions.

TraderRob: I have always wondered why BO didn't simply produce his long form certificate and be done with it.

Douglas V. Gibbs: All he has to do is show proof, and be done with it.
No, none of these statements are true. Perhaps last year Obama could have formally requested that Hawaii dig into its vaults and publish his original “long-form” birth certificate, assuming that it still exists in the state's archives, but that would have been giving too much credence to the nutjobs. So he didn't. Good call.

If he did it now, in response to the fake controversy ginned up by right-wing crazies and those who pander to them, it would not work. It would be denounced as a forgery (no matter what) and people would claim that it simply took the Obama people a year to create a high-quality fake. (I hear it's being prepared in Canada, if you believe Free Republic—which I never do.)

We rode it out last year. We're going to have to do it again this year. There's no help for it, except perhaps for the recreational showering of contempt on the losers who embrace it.

So happy birthday, Mr. President! And if you get us national health care and a rational budget policy, the rest of us can be happy, too. (Especially if you drop the Bush-era signing statements and the notion that the president can order unlimited detention!)

Monday, August 03, 2009

The morans find their savior

Smart! Honest! Qualified!

This is too easy. But that's not reason enough to pass up the opportunity.

For several weeks it was bruited about that Sarah Palin would make her first post-gubernatorial public appearance at the Reagan Presidential Library before an appreciative audience of hero-worshiping Republican women. The Simi Valley Republican Women were doomed to be disappointed, however, when Palin seized another opportunity to quit.

Palin or her staff could have quashed the story about her planned appearance at the shrine of St. Ronnie, but for some reason they didn't address it until the week before the announced date. That's not very good public relations work, is it? One might even say that it smacks of an incompetent staff. If, on the other hand, it was a deliberate decision to keep the option open till the very last minute, it bespeaks instead a real lack of concern for the discomfiture of her fans.

There were also criticisms of Palin's choice of Facebook as a medium for distributing her statement declining the opportunity to speak to the GOP women of Simi Valley. I don't take that complaint too seriously. Facebook was an effective way to get the news out—but Palin should have used it at least a month sooner.

Facebook is also a good venue for addressing Sarah's enthusiasts, many of whom crawled out of the woodwork to defend their idol's clumsy handling of her public schedule. I excerpted some of the most delightful comments from Palin's Facebook page:
Sarah, I think you would due this country good. I am so proud of you for standing up to the Media cause they are so librel it's aweful, I only watch Fox New's!!God Bless you & your family!!
Fri at 7:16am
The Palin posse appears to have significant overlap with Mensa.
Sarah Palin is the strongest women I know. Soooo honest.
Fri at 9:02am
Like when Gov. Palin said that she told Congress “thanks, but no thanks” for the Bridge to Nowhere earmarks—even though she didn't—but which she managed to accept anyway.
Read the post ladies and gentlmen. Down at the bottom. I'm sure they put palin's name on all the invitations to pull more people into the event. And she doesn't want to sponsor something she has no intentions of being apart of. Go Sarah, do what's right in Gods eyes, screw the repubs and demos, start a real conservative party based on biblical principles, fiscal and social conservative values and morals. Thank You sarah for being unafraid of the machines that run the sheeple, go Palin!!!
Fri at 1:58pm
Now we're talking! Sarah can lead the True Believers out of the Republican ranks and into a godly new conservative third party. Sounds good to me. But who, exactly, do they think they'd be leaving behind in the GOP rump? Liberal Republicans? Unchurched Republicans? Maybe the Republican remnant would be dominated by the Log Cabin Club after the exodus of the Palinites. There's a thought.
Sarah Palin\ Michael Savage 2012!!!!!
Fri at 2:15pm
Is this the same David as the previous one? If so, Palin should make him her principal political advisor. As a Democrat, I like the way he thinks!
Sarah.........We need your leadership in helping stop this socialist nightmare currently in DC..........I know you have a plan and we are with you 100% Keep us posted......Thx
Fri at 5:39pm
Sarah has a plan? I guess it's a secret plan. Even from herself.
Govenor Palin, is no "dummy" not a negative word but come on how many women do you know that can shoot a moose and then cook it, i don't know that many women that can hunt and eat. she is my girl!! in 2012. YOU GO GIRL. ttfn zee
8 hours ago
I am uncertain when “dummy” ceased to be a term of disapprobation, but perhaps some of Palin's acolytes wear it as a badge of honor. After reading these messages, I can see where that would be simpler than having to yell “Am not!” over and over again.

Like Zoyia, I, too, am delighted that Sarah Palin can both hunt and eat. Anyone who cannot eat should be disqualified from seeking high office. It's a modest enough prerequisite, although one should avoid making too much of it. As Katharine Hepburn said in another context in The Lion in Winter, “She smiled to excess, but she chewed with real distinction.”