Saturday, October 14, 2006

Put Up or Shut Up

I wrote this after a piece called "Bad News for Those who Hate 'Liberals'", because the response to that piece was to accuse me of being a "liberal"... or worse, a Democrat. This is from Saturday, October 14, 2006, and it obviously had no effect on the general populous. The links provided in the original were outdated, so I went ahead and updated them.

I've said before that we need to give the so-called "Third parties" another look, but I know without reading any of your responses to that statement that a lot of you won't. Some of you have looked at them before and decided that they were nuts, some of you bought into the ridiculous idea that NOT voting for the Donkey or the Elephant would be the same thing as not voting, and some of you were just too lazy to bother.

Well, let's address these misguided notions, shall we?

First: Those Third Parties are all full of nuts.

Okay, maybe they are. But tell me this: would you rather have a nut willing to try some new ideas, or a crook willing only to sell you out to the highest bidder sitting in that elected office? Honestly, if you are fed up with your traditional party's inability to represent you, what is the harm in giving someone else a shot? Besides, that is exactly what our system of Checks & Balances is for! If you don't like the results, you can get rid of the nut... but you have to give them a chance first.

And hold the phone -- when you say you've "looked at them" before, do you mean that you actually visited their sites, read their platforms, or done anything more than wait for someone on FOX or CNN to make snide references to them in passing? Think about how quickly you are willing to write them off and sell yourself back to the big-money boys. I'm tired of Republicans and Democrats smugly telling us that they are the only two choices, and expecting me to run to them based on the "lesser of two evils" principle.

Second: Voting for them is like throwing away my vote, because they can't win anyway.

WRONG. Voting for a guy you don't like, who will not represent you, and who won't stand up for anything you believe in is throwing away your vote. So is being too lazy to do any research, and showing up at the polls, only to pick "D" or "R" down your whole ticket. So is simply not voting, because "they won't count me anyway". Enough of that bogus, defeatist, LAZY talk!

In 1992, Ross Perot (certified nut, and "Third Party" candidate) took 17% of the Presidential vote. Some post-ballot polls showed that some 15% of those who voted for the two major parties only voted for them because they "didn't think Perot would win". In a three-way race, that could have given him more than 35%... more than 1/3 (allowing for the usual margins of error in polls). But only if people actually cast the vote according to their conscience, and not according to some misguided notion of popularity.

And last: Again, don't be lazy. I'm a very lazy procrastinator, and yet I can come up with a list of links in five minutes to find out what I feel I need to know about the candidates. Here is a handful that you might find useful:

*Write to Your Representative (search engine for finding your U.S. Rep)
*Contact your Senator
*List of Third Party Presidential Candidates
*Tweet Congress - so you can "follow" your representatives

I'd like to point out to you that I am not 100% behind any of these people myself, and I'm not campaigning for anyone (which would be a violation of the 1939 Hatch Act). But I want my friends and readers to be educated about the possibilities. I am educating myself, too. None of the candidates have fulfilled my wildest dreams, but I have emailed a few of them, and will make up my mind based on their answers. There is nothing stopping you from doing the same. Don't be ignorant; don't be complacent.

Don't be Sheep.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I Swear

"Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?"
"No, but I [bleep] her [bleep]ing [bleep] with it!"
Profanity is an endlessly interesting subject to me, probably because my lovely bride and I are so proficient at it. Some people feel that certain words should never be spoken, and go to great lengths to purge them from the language. Unfortunately, 75% of the words in the English language have a scatological or sexual connotation attached to them, so attempting to truly "purify" our vocabulary would be utterly fruitless. And if there is one thing I hate being, it is without fruit.

There is something to be said in favor of self-control, but when taken too far, it becomes a form of dishonesty. I say we need to get away from the false prudery involved in censoring certain words. Substitution, or, as in my provocative example above, a simple absence can leave too much to the imagination. What do you suppose I censored out of there? Did you consider "perform", "danc(ing)", and "music"? Or "devour", "stunn(ing)", and "spreads"? Even if you did, people with minds already twisted by exposure to the decadent pop culture of our times might derive a naughty giggle from the connotations of "perform", or "spreads".

Tee hee hee.

So you might infer that I am going to say that it is not the words, but the thoughts behind them that are evil. Sorry to have to tell you this, but even the thoughts behind the most pure of mouth will entertain the stray bit of offensiveness. For some of us, it is necessary to entertain it and send it on its way so it doesn't lurk in the background and cause an infection. We do try to avoid polluting with our expressions and ideas where it is inappropriate; girls in my wife's scout troop are occasionally mystified by her outbursts of "F-f-f-french fries!!" or "Creamed Corn on a stick!!" After all, we do try to cushion the fall into reality that young minds must all eventually make.

Fair enough; but still, why do we blame the words? Why must we edit ourselves so superficially, leading to situations and statements which are potentially just as offensive as the vulgarity itself?

Sometimes the words in question have a religious nature to them. Stubbing your toe may cause you to cry out the name of your god of choice, as if calling upon his (or her) name condemns them for allowing misfortune to befall your tiniest of digits. Most people in my experience have tried to use a "euphemism", such as "gosh" or "jeez" to cover up their lack of self control, apparently to avoid offending any passing clergy or deities. "Gosh, that hurt," or "Jeez, I should have moved that chair." I personally prefer to invoke the names of less familiar gods, which avoids offending the majority of the local population and brings a bit of culture into the neighborhood.

No one has yet complained when I have had occasion to cry out, "Four arms of Vishnu, that hurt!" or "By the eye of Odin, I wish I hadn't stepped on that!"

Often we use strong words to express aggression toward each other. Anger may inspire you to propose intriguing-but-impossible physical acts for the focus of your anger to perform. I suggest that it's better to let the words flow rather than express it physically. As in: "[Bleep] you, clown!" That could provide some awkward moments in the Big Top, my friend.

I have known people who preferred to substitute other words, such as the otherwise innocuous "fetch" or "flip"... which not only saps the strength of the statement, but gives innocent requests such as "Fetch my slippers, darling," a whole new level of meaning.

(Next time someone tells you, "Wait here while I fetch your wife," you won't wait so easily, will you?)

Does this mean that we need to purge our thoughts of evil? Maybe. But good luck defining "evil". It's easier to eliminate the words, which is why innuendo is so popular. "Why are you offended? I didn't mean to say anything offal! I mean, awful.

My lyrical example below is a classic illustration. No where does Jimmy Pop actually say any bad words (well, maybe one). Strictly speaking, most of what he does say makes no sense at all. BUT (or should I use the less rectal/more anal "however"?), when you allow your dirty mind to fill in the blanks, it becomes downright raunchy!

(He said "fill in"... huh, huh, huh.)

But if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, perhaps meaning is in the ear of the beholder. If that's the case, perhaps we should cut each other some slack. Let people blow off steam without holding the actual words against them. Maybe it will make them easier to get along with if they don't feel they have to pu... I mean to say KITTEN-foot around your imaginary sensibilities.

Some people will never be happy, though, until the rest of us have become completely neutered in our speech. Forcing us to control our speech is just the tip of the fascist ice-berg. Only when we all cease wallowing in our filth will they feel they have achieved a state of perfection; and then the world can end! I say stand up and tell those people where to go: the only place where they will be happy anyway. Tell them to "Go to Heaven!"

I, for one, will gladly help send them there... and then the rest of us can fetch and flip to our hearts' contents.

"Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo" by the Bloodhound Gang:

Vulcanize the whoopee stick
In the ham wallet

Cattle prod the oyster ditch
With the lap rocket

Batter dip the cranny ax
In the gut locker

Retrofit the pudding hatch
Ooh la la
With the boink swatter

If i get you in the loop when I make a point to be straight with you then
In lieu of the innuendo in the end know my intent though
I Brazilian wax poetic so hypothetically
I don't wanna beat around the bush

Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo
Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo

Marinate the nether rod
In the squish mitten

Power drill the yippee bog
With the dude piston

Pressure wash the quiver bone
In the bitch wrinkle

Cannonball the fiddle cove
Ooh la la
With the pork steeple

If i get you in the loop when I make a point to be straight with you then
In lieu of the innuendo in the end know my intent though
I Brazilian wax poetic so hypothetically
I don't wanna beat around the bush

Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo
Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo

Put the you know what in the you know where
Put the you know what in the you know where
Put the you know what in the you know where
Put the you know what in the you know where pronto

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Bad News for Those who Hate "Liberals"

This, with the related essay "Put Up or Shut Up", was intended as a criticism of both major parties. However, despite the angry words directed at a Democratic senate candidate, it was taken as a one-sided screed against the majority party. Majority as of Sunday, October 08, 2006, that is.

Sorry to have to climb up on the soapbox again, but with an election looming, I'm once again being involuntarily exposed to a lot of ignorant pap being uttered by wankers trying to convince me to part with my vote -- or more importantly, it seems, my money.

The most recent provocateur of my ire is Newt Gingrich, who decided to blame "liberals and Democrats" for the big flap over the moron who was sending nasty-grams to his teen-aged pages. Aside from providing more proof that anyone who voted in 2004 based on their "moral values" was suckered by cynical con-men with all the moral fiber of a box of Lucky Charms, the incident doesn't really have much bearing on anything... but of course it has been seized upon because of the election. In Jerry Springer-land, anything salacious will translate into free publicity, so of course the Democrats grabbed it and ran.

But what has me so irritated is that constant mis-use of the term "liberal". It reminds me of the "good old days" of communism, we could just call anyone we disagreed with a "commie" or a "pinko" (implying that they were only slightly communist) as the perjorative de jour, and thus win our political argument. It made a nice, simple shorthand for the sheepish masses to rally around. The old "give it a label so you can kill it" trick. Ever since Rush's ratings blitz in the early '90's, self-identified "conservatives" have begun to use "liberal" the same way. I find that disturbing because all of the conservatives that I know personally don't seem to know what "liberal" actually means.

I went looking for quick, concise definitions of "conservative" and "liberal" so I could contrast them for you, but it's hard, because there is no such thing as a quick, concise definition of "conservative". It seems that "conservatism" as such doesn't exist on its own. It doesn't have any of its own ideas or ideologies. "Conservatism" tends to uphold existing ideas or traditions, so it depends on the context of the political ideals of those who espouse it. And in asking my own conservative friends, and surfing around reading conservative bloggers, it seems that American conservatives believe they are fighting for "freedom", "limitations on government", "the law" and "free economy." That's funny, in light of this Wikipedia excerpt:

"Broadly speaking, contemporary liberalism emphasizes individual rights. It seeks a society characterized by freedom of thought for individuals, limitations on power, especially of government and religion, the rule of law, free public education, the free exchange of ideas, a market economy that supports relatively free private enterprise, and a transparent system of government in which the rights of all citizens are protected. In modern society, liberals favor a liberal democracy with open and fair elections, where all citizens have equal rights by law and an equal opportunity to succeed."

So you can see where I get confused; if the "polar opposites" of the American political debate both stand for the same ideals, then what is all the fighting about? I suggest to you now that it is all for show.

It is in the interests of those with power to keep us all polarized into two boxes; it doesn't matter that everyone in both boxes believes largely in the same things, because there are always things to argue about. And there will always be a media market for those who like to argue, be they Bill O'Reilly or Al Franken. They've all managed to convince us that we have to choose between "liberals" who want to abort your babies and force you into gay marriages, or "conservatives" who want to throw you in jail for having sex or for painting your house the wrong color. It doesn't matter which box you go into: as long as you get into a box. Baa-aa-aa...

I think it's significant that they don't ever ask for our votes anymore. They assume that they know whether you -- or at least your gerrymandered district -- will predictably go to either the "liberals" or the "conservatives". They so effectively marketed this idea, that as soon as you claim to be one or the other, all of the other sheep put the pressure on to guarantee that you line up with their ticket, and give them what they really want: cash.

And so, because there is an election, the pressure is on everyone to come up with the next big "red flag" to wave. Newt has his "liberals"; every Democrat challenger has some conservative boogeyman. I recently received a money-plea from some Democrat running in Washington state claiming that they needed my funding to beat "Karl Rove". Beat him at what? As I told the horse-flogging Senator:

"If your party plans to represent me, and the large number of voters like me who feel they are not represented by either of the major parties, then you will have to do something more impressive than wave a picture of Karl Rove in my face. Try offering solutions to our national problems first... If I see that happen, then you won't need my money, because you will have something that SHOULD be more important to an elected American official: my vote."