June 2005

I don’t know why I didn’t see this one coming, as it seems just too
obvious now that I know about it, but it still stunned me:  The
Left Behind series of apocalyptic-trashy-fundamentalist novels is being
turned into a Real-Time Strategy game.

I’m not kidding.  At least, not as far as I know:

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–June 29, 2005–Fans of the Left Behind
Series books will soon be able to join the Tribulation Forces and
participate actively in the battle of good versus evil with the launch
of the real-time-strategy (RTS) title, Left Behind: Eternal Forces, the
first PC game based on the blockbuster apocalyptic series by Tim LaHaye
and Jerry B. Jenkins.

Scheduled for release between Christmas 2005 and Easter 2006, Left
Behind: Eternal Forces will put players in command of the apocalyptic
battles raging in the streets of New York City between the angelic
Tribulation Forces and the demonic Global Community Peacekeepers during
the End of Days. Gamers will participate in events from the Left Behind
book series in single player mode and battle to capture territory from
other players in the multi-player online game mode.

The Left
Behind game series will allow play in the same End of Days fictional
world as the bestselling Left Behind(R) novels, which use the
prophecies of the Book of Revelation as a framework. The first title,
Left Behind: Eternal Forces, is set in the future when the faithful
have been gathered up and ascended to Heaven during the Rapture. In the
chaos that follows, the Antichrist has taken the reigns of power at the
United Nations and is gathering the countries of the world under his
banner. But a small resistance, the Tribulation Forces, have formed to
oppose Satan’s legions.

The challenge of converting
secular/neutral units to fight on the side of light or darkness is sure
to present gamers with a deeper level of game play than in other
real-time-strategy titles. The company says the scenery will also be
the most realistic representation of New York City ever seen in a game.
Left Behind Games photographed nearly 500 blocks of the city to create
maps and 3D environments in the first title.

OK, so converting units is not exactly something new.  There are a
boatload of RTS games where you can steal unit factories and the like
from the enemies.  Stealing the units themselves is just one step
further along that path, not something that really leaps light-years
ahead in the depth-of-play category, but now I’m just being snarky.

This game is going to either be a huge hit or a huge bomb.  If it is a huge hit, I’m willing to bet that it’s not because
players are out there preaching the word to the unwashed masses – at
least, not unless “preaching the word” is somehow code for “mowing down
the heathens with the BFG,” which frankly, in today’s climate…

Someone posted this to a *group I read on LambdaMOO, and I had to respond.  Here’s what I posted:

To:      *nextgen (#42483)

Oh my.

In the waning days of my rural-bred fundamentalism, way up in the
mountains, I read the first of the “Left Behind” books, absolute
trash.  It actually contributed to my desire to escape religion

Given that the books state that values such as concern for the
environment and giving a shit about other people are bad, and anything
you can do to fuck with Satan’s Kum-Bah-Yah Kommandos – insidious
hippies who just want to get in the way of YOU saving YOUR soul, a task
you must accomplish no matter how many demon-inspired, UN-flag-clad,
egg-head False Christians try to throw themselves and their egalitarian
ideals under the bald but sacred tires of your rust-eaten ’79 Ford
F-100 (the Peeing Calvin sticker is a shield of faith, my friend) – it
should be perfect for the RTS genre.

I might have to figure out how to pirate games from the interwebs and
give it a try, ’cause I sure ain’t gonna give ’em my money.


So, this week has been busy, busy.  Things I have learned this week:

Bruce really does just flat-out hate dogs.

Bruce lives up to his name (Bruce Banner, for the Incredible Hulk) by growing to twice his size when he gets angry.

Bruce will consent to me petting him even when in such a state.

Converting 2nd Edition AD&D characters who were bards to 3.5E
D&D as Rogue/Sorcerers is a huge pain in my ass.  Why yes, I have been up until 3am two nights in a row just trying to spend skill points.  Ack.  But now I’m done.

Bruce now completely owns the doghouse left over from the previous
owners of our home.  He naps in it, hangs out in it when it gets
hot and he’s outside, generally looks upon it as entirely his.  It
was built for a much larger dog than he is cat, so it’s really like a
whole house for him, and he frequently employs it when he’s
outside.  I now get to say, officially and truthfully, that
there’s a cathouse in my yard.  Pictures forthcoming, when I have
my camera and we’re outside and I get lucky with the timing.

Paranoia Agent is a deeply disturbing show.

12 oz. Mouse is a deeply annoying show and I am glad it has no website because I would not inflict it on anyone.

Samurai Champloo is a great show, but it’s tanking in the ratings (which surprised me).

While some of the art for the new The Batman
animated series is good, I find it dissatisfying.  I should give
it another chance, I guess, but it’s just not the same without Kevin Conroy voicing Batman.

Wow, I sound real busy, don’t I? (more…)

So, the Pentagon has started working with a “marketing” firm to collect
private data on the country’s 16 to 18 year olds in order to build
profiles of candidates for aggressive recruitment. 

Aggressive recruitment!” you say.  “Such biased language!” 

Yeah.  And?  Check this:  under the No Child Left Behind
Act, military recruiters can get access to – in fact, have prepared for
them – tons of data on kids in high school.  And they have gotten
aggressive in their recruitment to the point of calling kids at home,
sometimes repeatedly, angering kids and parents.  If you don’t
think the military adopting the tactics of telemarketers is aggressive,
you are a moron.

From the Washington Post story (via MSNBC):

WASHINGTON – The Defense Department began working yesterday with a
private marketing firm to create a database of high school students
ages 16 to 18 and all college students to help the military identify
potential recruits in a time of dwindling enlistment in some branches.

The program is provoking a furor among privacy
advocates. The new database will include personal information including
birth dates, Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses, grade-point
averages, ethnicity and what subjects the students are studying.

data will be managed by BeNow Inc. of Wakefield, Mass., one of many
marketing firms that use computers to analyze large amounts of data to
target potential customers based on their personal profiles and habits.

purpose of the system . . . is to provide a single central facility
within the Department of Defense to compile, process and distribute
files of individuals who meet age and minimum school requirements for
military service,” according to the official notice of the program.

Privacy advocates said the plan appeared to be
an effort to circumvent laws that restrict the government’s right to
collect or hold citizen information by turning to private firms to do
the work.

Some information on high school
students already is given to military recruiters in a separate program
under provisions of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act. Recruiters have
been using the information to contact students at home, angering some
parents and school districts around the country.

systems that fail to provide that information risk losing federal
funds, although individual parents or students can withhold information
that would be transferred to the military by their districts. John
Moriarty, president of the PTA at Walter Johnson High School in
Bethesda, said the issue has “generated a great deal of angst” among
many parents participating in an e-mail discussion group.

the new system, additional data will be collected from commercial data
brokers, state drivers’ license records and other sources, including
information already held by the military.

multiple sources allows the compilation of a more complete list of
eligible candidates to join the military,” according to written
statements provided by Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke in
response to questions. “This program is important because it helps
bolster the effectiveness of all the services’ recruiting and retention

Translation:  we’re having trouble duping
enough people into getting all blowed up in some blasted, sandy
wasteland to further fuel our hubris, and thus we need to start really going after them.

To be fair, the article does say that parents
can choose to withhold information sent to recruiters already, but what
about the new program?  Can they ask the DMV not to send
their kids’ driving records to the military?  The credit
bureaus?  Their frequent shopper programs at GameStop, or
whatever?  And
how many schools go out of their way to piss off their campus recruiter
by sending home frequent notes regarding the parents’ rights to
withhold information?

The truth is, I see an argument for including the military as an option
for future careers when preparing students for their lives as
adults.  That’s why we have career fairs at schools, after all,
right?  And vocational training classes?  But…

The difference here is that your shop teacher never called you
at home and said, “Hey, you want to run a metal shop, right?  What
do I have to do to get you in some overalls today?  What bonus do
I have to offer you?  What lies do we need to tell to get you on the business end of a band saw for the next two years (at least – heck, we might just keep you there if we feel like it)
with as little discussion as possible of the maiming and mutilation
rates among returning woodworkers?”  It’s just not the same.

Should the military have access to high school students?  I say
yes – the same access anyone else has.  If they want to recruit,
great – they can come to campus and present their sales pitch just like
anybody else.  What that doesn’t include is the kind of
personal information the federal government is requiring schools to
give them, and calling them at home, and encouraging them to make up
fake credentials and break every rule in the book just to get a warm
body on the sand.  Hell, I come from a military family – my father
was in the Navy, as was an uncle, as were several of my grandparents’
siblings during WWII, and my oldest nephew wants to be an Army
Ranger.  But the deal here is that my nephew has made that choice.  Once schools are required to hand over the store and the Pentagon can get around the letter of a law limiting its profiling abilities in order to build a huge and highly invasive database that encompasses every 16 to 18 year old in the country, including your kids, your siblings and your friends, it stops being such a matter of choice.

After all, if my oldest nephew enlists, what are the odds his younger, philosophical brother won’t come up on their radar as a good potential recruit? (more…)

A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Saturday was moving out of La Casa de Pan de Jengibre
and held up an old, dead IBM 600X laptop.  “It doesn’t work,” he
said.  “It won’t boot, the battery is dead, I don’t have the AC
adapter for it anymore and god only knows what else is wrong with
it.  Do you want it?”

Of course, I said yes.  It’s unloved technology, and if nothing else I could use it build my nest.

When asked what he wanted for it, Mr. Saturday said, “You’ve saved me from carrying it to my car.  It is yours.” 

So, I started hitting eBay.  The 600X is an old machine, and parts for it are cheap.  So far, I’ve gotten:

–a new power adapter
–a new hard drive
–128 MB of RAM for it
–a floppy-drive insert to swap for the CD when needed

Since then, I’ve installed Libranet 2.8.1
on the new drive, installed the new RAM, and turned it into a working,
fast-booting Linux laptop.   I’m probably going to go ahead
and pick up a new battery for it and then?  I was going to donate
it to NaNoWriMo, as they maintain a small collection of dead-and-dying
laptops to lend to NaNoers who have no computer at home.  I mean,
I could just donate a few bucks to NPR or something, but charity feels
better when you actually do it yourself, you know?  This is a
lesson I learned in high school when I worked on a Habitat for Humanity
house in Asheville.  There’s nothing like putting that insulation
in the wall yourself and saying, Holy shit, I just made someone warm this winter

I wanted that same feeling with NaNo, but, well… they don’t need more laptops.

How’s that for a success story?

So now, I’ve got this laptop that’s just kind of sitting there. 
The battery is dead, but it can be replaced off eBay for around $35,
and Libranet supports a few of the wireless cards (especially USB
wireless devices, of which I have a random Linksys sitting in a
box).  So… suggestions? 

Farm it out to a friend? 

Donate it to the Durham public schools (if they take such donations –
it might be too old and slow for them to be interested, to be honest,
or they might not take donations of random computer equipment)? 

Just reBay it?

Other? (more…)

Courtesy of The Onion.  An example:

Roddenberry (April 22—May 13)
You’ve never encountered a problem that can’t be solved by the combined
mental and spiritual resources of the enlightened people of the galaxy
or by swinging from the doorframe and kicking people in the gut.

Beautiful… (more…)

I called my dad last night for Father’s Day and it turns out he was at work.

My father has retired.  Four times.  He just can’t
give up.  Every now and then he goes back to see the folks at his
old job, just to say hi, and they invariably ask him if he’d be
interested in covering a shift or two in the near future, and he says
yes, and this time he said yes to Father’s Day.

We had a great conversation – I asked him for advice about a
troublesome colleague and explained some of what I’d done so far to try
to deal with the situation.  My dad’s comment:  I hope I’m never on the wrong side of you in something

If you’re from the mountains, you grasp already that this is possibly our highest and most extravagant compliment.

As we’re talking about this co-worker – who likes to be jovial and
amicable in all ways, and loves to be the center of social attention,
but does zero tangible work – my dad says, “Just like Bush,
that…”  Now, my father (if you’ll recall from a post in
November) does not discuss politics.  He considers one’s views to
be deeply personal.  If asked, he will provide his, but he hates
the idea of one person telling another what to think.  He paused
for a moment and said, “I apologize if I’m insulting anyone you hold in
high regard,” and I simply died laughing.  In case you hadn’t guessed, my parents are not yet on the intertrons.

“Um, I think he’s an idiot,” I say. 

“Good,” says my dad.  “Because he is.”

We talked a little about Bush and about the Republican Party (I was
shocked last year – pleasantly – to learn that my father is a
registered Democrat) and about the soullessness of the oil-grabbing
charade that serves as Bush’s foreign policy.  We agreed that it
should come as no surprise that an oil man would make things up in
order to invade the Middle East.

A few weeks ago I signed up as a member of a fellow Durhamite’s blog-group.  She and some of her peers wanted to put together a continually-growing list of people who just wouldn’t shut up about the Downing Street Memo
I’ve barely done a thing – I think I mentioned it in a two-sentence
throw-away post – because mainly I figured if nothing else I’d be one
more person they could say had signed up.  I figured if my one
little line break in their list could help push them past some
milestone it would be something, and I knew I just didn’t have the
policy chops to have anything substantive to say on a regular
basis.  (This is about as close as it gets, sadly.)  The
problem with the Downing Street Memo non-story, or at least the way it
seemed a week or two ago, was that no one was reporting on it because
the idea that Bush had lied to get us into war was considered such old
news.  We all knew, didn’t we, that he was lying?  But
doesn’t the fact we all knew, already, deep down, make the
documentation of it all the worse? 

The 101st Flying Keyboardists
of the New Right, or whatever, can sit around saying HE FORGOT POLAND^H^H^HSPREADING FREEDOM!!1!*
all they want, but dudes, seriously.  If it’s about spreading
freedom, we’re gonna be some busy motherfuckers.  You’d better
start seeing if they make jumpsuit patterns in tot sizes and praying
for a sale on camo fabric at Wal-Mart, because your kids are going to
be some drafted motherfuckers and if the current example of how to
administer a war is any indication it’s going to be a bring-your-own-fucking-everything
affair.  We are going to never see the end of war if “spreading
fucking freedom” is a now-acceptable justification for invading people
who don’t present a threat to us but who do really get under
the skin of a schizophrenic rich-kid/yahoo from Texas.  That there
are people in the world who see absolutely no lack of dignity in
sitting there going, “Hey, man, we’re spreading freedom, here,”
as a justification for war – a justification supplied with all the
depth and repetition allowed in the brief span before the next PvP
session of America’s Army gets cranked up – is simply a commentary on how unbelievably far we have sunk as a species.

This is why I get almost all my news through the Daily Show, to be
honest.  Real news isn’t funny.  Real news just makes me mad.

* The ^H^H^H thing is an old Unix joke.  Just forget about it. (more…)

Forgot to add the other picture of some of the hostas:


As well as another of Bruce as he navigates the greenery:


And, of course, the first of the tomatoes!


Also, the base of the ashtray on the front porch.  I find it extremely nifty:

[[image:horse.jpg::center:0]] (more…)

The Boyf and I are switching cellular carriers, what
with the demise of our current provider and all, and so today I went
and got our service set up (note to friends – our numbers stayed the
same) and get new phones and all that jazz.  Brought ’em home and
then, immediately, had to play with the camera.

Bruce, amongst the tall grasses:


The hosta KJ gave us a year ago – at the time, a tiny little plant in a small, purple pot – is now nearly three feet wide:


Meanwhile, the hostas I bought for $2/per on KJ’s mom’s advice are
doing well!  Two of them are sprouting blossoms already, most
impressively this one:


And who can forget the garden?  I’ve got pumpkin vine (first
picture) and a squash vine (second picture) that’s monstrous.  The
zucchini is bigger, but no blossoms yet.



Woot! (more…)

(The title of the post is something I frequently say to The Boyf when I’m just about to launch into something seemingly – seemingly – deeply tangential to the current topic when, in fact, there is a complex and surely highly respectable whole series of thoughts that led me there.  At any rate…)

So today I read a post by apostropher which links to the latest Steve, Don’t Eat It!, which is volume 8, which is about “prison hooch.”  It’s a hilarious post, and you should go read it. 

In this particular example of gustatory error, though, he mentions having gotten the, er, recipe from a book called You Are Going to Prison,
a sort of prison-life-for-dummies book about how to spot the gangs,
avoid being murdered and, obviously, make illicit alcohol in a trashbag
concealed in your prison cell.  I, being the descendant of some of
the first settlers of what was then a penal colony,
was immediately fascinated and had to go check out the book’s
description on Amazon.  The whole concept seemed amusing enough
that I scrolled right on down to the user reviews section and found
this gem:

You’ve Got Jail!, December 23, 2002

Reviewer:    Charles Henry Higgensworth III (Boston, Massachusetts) – See all my reviews

This detailed and eye-opening guide makes the perfect gift for any
prison-bound friend or colleague. Street-dumb executives caught up in
white-collar crime sweeps will find the sections on surviving prison
riots and identifying deadly prison gangs to be particularly
illuminating. I came across this remarkable book shortly after our
family was served a notice of expulsion from our social & athletic
club. Although our ancestors were amongst its founding luminaries,
circumstances had sadly caused us to fall several years behind on our
dues, and in the face of our record-setting delinquency the Membership
Board surely had no other option. Despite that, I was overcome by an
urge to take some sort of petty revenge, and this book proved to be an
ideal avenue to that. Our club – one of New England’s oldest and
grandest – now has a truly national membership, and many of the
best-publicized players in the current corporate crime wave are
affiliates based in Philadelphia, New York, and (especially) Houston.
Since many of these new celebrities are indeed amongst the potentates
of the Membership and Steering Committees, I decided to make an
anonymous gift of “You Are Going to Prison” to several of them, with
appropriate passages highlighted or flagged with Post-It notes. Readers
with similar aims will find Chapter Six (“Don’t Drop the Soap – Sex in
the Slammer”) and Chapter Nine (“Blood In and Blood Out – Prison Gangs
and Violence”) to be particularly rich in opportunities to draw
attention to poignant passages (e.g. “saw this bit on chain gangs and
thought of you!”).

This… this is art.  If you go to his page (just click on
his name up there), you’ll be treated to some of the most amusing
short-form, subdued humor you’ve seen in a while.  Check his other reviews.  They’re worth it. (more…)

In case you hadn’t heard, the Ohio state government decided it would be a good idea to invest $50,000,000
– that’s fifty million dollars – in rare coins.  I’m not making
that up.  I wish I could make that up.  And then, perhaps
unsurprisingly, a bunch of the coins turned up missing
But now, a bunch of the stuff that was tagged as evidence in the home
of one of the employees of the guy responsible for the disposition of
the coins in question has, uh, turned up missing:

COLUMBUS — The suburban Denver home of a former
employee of Tom Noe was burglarized over the weekend, with thieves
making off with artwork, guns, jewelry, cars, and $300,000 in wine —
possibly purchased with money from the state of Ohio.

Storeim, a suspect in a Colorado criminal probe into Ohio’s missing
coins, reported Monday night the valuables had been taken from his
Evergreen, Colo., home while he was vacationing with his wife.

from the Jefferson County, Colo., Sheriff’s Office on June 3 took
custody of 3,500 bottles of wine valued at $500,000, and seized
hundreds of rare coins, 265 Cuban cigars, computers, and documents from
Mr. Storeim’s home and office as part of a criminal investigation.

Sheriff’s investigators are looking into the disappearance of 121
missing rare coins worth about $400,000 from the Colorado office of Mr.
Noe’s $50 million Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation rare-coin fund.
Mr. Storeim ran the office until he left late last year.

Mr. Noe’s attorneys have also told Ohio officials that up to $12 million is missing from the state’s coin funds.

fraud investigators have seized assets of Mr. Noe’s coin funds in
Colorado, Delaware, Florida, and at his headquarters in Monclova

Chris Nelson, an investigator with the Colorado
sheriff’s office, said several officers and lab technicians spent the
entire night at Mr. Storeim’s home after the burglary was reported.

were immediately some red flags when you have a house of a suspect in a
high profile case getting burglarized,” he said. “We are very
aggressively pursuing this in light of the other ongoing

On Monday night, Mr. Storeim and his wife told
police they were returning from a two-day vacation when they first
noticed that two of their cars — a Toyota Sequoia and Lexus G300 were

Then, they noted items missing throughout their home,
including weapons, 10 boxes of 12-gauge ammunition, four tubs of
rock-climbing gear, several lithographs and paintings, stereos, and
jewelry. Additionally, guitars — one autographed by B.B. King and
another by Stevie Ray Vaughan — were reported stolen, police said.

I can just hear him now:  “Yes, officer, I realize the tragedy of all this evidence being gone, and I assure you my insurance agent is taking it terribly.” 

It also really takes the wind out of that whole “they’ll take my gun
when…” thing.  “They’ll take my gun when I’m out of town for a couple of days” just doesn’t carry the oomph of its predecessor as a gun-rights slogan. 

Of course, he says it’s all the media’s fault.  No, really:

The Storeims told police that they believed the
reported break-in was a result of media reports, which made public the
fact that Mr. Storeim is a coin dealer and that there was a valuable
wine collection in the home.

The mind merely gapes before it.

I keep seeing indicators in the media that Batman Begins is
actually a good movie.  There is no way you can understand the
trepidation this causes me.  I love Batman.  I have loved
Batman for many years.  I used to watch the old ’60s show in
reruns as a kid.  As a freshman in college I watched the
painted-on-black, ’50s-esque WB cartoon.  I loved the Michael
Keaton movies.  I really, really dig on some Batman. 
There’ve been about eighty Robins, and I don’t really give a shit about
them.  It’s all about Batman.  And then here’s this
movie, and it’s got Christian Bale who’s hot and can act, and it’s got
Michael Caine, and it’s got all kinds of good people in it.  I
really want it to be good.  A part of me needs it to be good, in
the way I expect there are people in the world who needed Episode I to be good and whose whole lives fell
apart when they saw Episode I and were left with nothing but gnawing, empty space where their liver used to be.

And it’s getting mostly good reviews (82% on Rotten Tomatoes) and MSNBC.com likes it (their reviewer refers to Schumacher as having “contaminated” the Batman franchise with Batman & Robin, so we’re on the same page from the first sentence).  I have to see it, I know this.  I am required by law.  If it involved vampires and Batman, I’d have to pre-order the DVD from Amazon before it had hit the big screen.  I’d have to install a BitTorrent client and set an Automator script just to search for the movie online two days ahead of time.  Seriously, that sort of combo might actually break me as a person.

Fortunately, that hasn’t happened.  Yet.

So here I am.  I’m all knotted up over my desire for the movie to
be good but my automatic assumption that it will in fact be
manufactured from the slaughtered, rendered and manufactured scraps of
my fondest childhood dreams.

I think I just need to relax. (more…)

Saw this today:  Things He And His Girlfriend Have Fought About.  It’s hilarious. 

It’s also really, really long. (more…)

I’ve seen a fair bit of rumbling in the corners of Blogistan about
Robert Stout, a sargeant in the Army who was wounded in Iraq (shrapnel
to the face – try slapping a Purple Heart Band-Aid over your withered
and dessicated hearts over that one, wingnut jackasses) and who says no
one in his unit cared that he was openly gay but has, now that he’s
been wounded and decorated, been kicked out.  What I didn’t know
was that his story was being heard in other places and that there may be momentum building to repeal the ban:

NEW YORK – Critics of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy are
gaining new allies, including a few conservative members of Congress
and a West Point professor, as they press on multiple fronts to
overturn the ban on out-of-the-closet gays and lesbians in the armed

As part of their strategy, opponents of the policy are now highlighting
the ongoing struggles of Army and Marine recruiters. The Servicemembers
Legal Defense Network says in a new report that many highly trained
specialists — including combat engineers and linguists — are being
discharged involuntarily while the Pentagon “is facing extreme
challenges in recruiting and retaining troops.”

“Extreme challenges” ain’t a show on ESPN2, folks – it’s the military
falling short of their own recruitment goals after having slashed those
goals once already to try not to have to admit they’d fallen short of
their goals.  The Boyf pointed out that when the media were
reporting the Army was 25% short on their goals so far this year they
weren’t mentioning that the goals had already been cut once, so really
they’re about 40% short of where they’d sai they’d be by this point in
the year.  Bush’s disastrous war is keeping people away from the

So, ironically, we may end up having BushCo to thank for the end to the
ban.  In his need for more human fuel to feed the war machine, he
may have to suck it up and stop kicking people out for being gay.

I hope that popping noise was James Dobson’s head exploding.

Of course, it’s only sort of good news.  The up-side is that it’s
going to knock down some big cultural barriers.  The down-side is
that even more of our people get to go off and fight a war we shouldn’t
have started in the first place.

In genuinely good news, though, there’s this, from the same article:

In Congress, four Republicans — including stalwart conservatives Wayne
Gilchrest of Maryland and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida — have joined
81 Democrats co-sponsoring a bill to repeal the policy. Gilchrest, a
former supporter of the ban, said he changed his view partly out of
respect for gay Marines he served with in Vietnam and for his brother,
who is gay.

Wow – a wingnut who changes his ways based on experience.  He’s
dangerously close to living in consensual reality, which as we all
know, hates America and God’s President. (more…)

Quick thing:  did anyone else catch Colin Powell on the Daily Show
last night?  Is it me, or was he the one who brought up the Downing Street Memo
– you know, the minutes from a meeting in which it was discussed that
our government was seeing to it that evidence was “fixed” to make the
case for war against Iraq?  Stewart (bless him, he’s so afraid to
make powerful people angry to their faces) sure didn’t bring it
up.  It was Powell all on his own with that one.  If you have
access to a TiVo with the episode from last night on it, watch
it.  If you’re unfamiliar with the Downing Street Memo, check it – and efforts to get it more time in the spotlight – out. (more…)

Oh, I said it, alright.

So Jesse Helms is out, on record, as saying he feels bad for having
spent a large part of his career specifically trying to block, mock and
all-around clock people with AIDS.  Now, he says, Franklin Graham
and Bono (one’s the intolerant, fundamentalist, coat-tail-riding son of
a well-known evangelist, the other is a leftist rocker with big
sunglasses – together they fight crime) convinced him he was wrong and
he’s sorry.  He’s just so, so sorry.

Here’s the tiniest golf-clap in the world, Jesse.

For years I reveled in knowing he lived right down the street from the only theatre in the Triangle that shows Rocky Horror Picture Show every Friday.

Of course, the big issue for Jesse – race – is still a non-starter as mea culpas go.  There’s this zinger, apparently, from his upcoming memoirs:

We will never know how integration might have been achieved in
neighborhoods across our land, because the opportunity was snatched
away by outside agitators who had their own agendas to advance. We
certainly do know the price paid by the stirring of hatred, the
encouragement of violence, the suspicion and distrust. We do know that
too many lives were lost, businesses were destroyed, millions of
dollars were diverted from books and teachers to support the cost of
buses and gasoline. We do know that turning our public schools into
social laboratories almost destroyed them.

Here’s the thing:  that’s bullshit.  Say it loud, say it proud, my friends:  it’s B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T bullshit.  You know what the subtext of that statement is:  we shouldn’t have been made to integrate because we and the black people liked it better the old way.

Seriously.  Tell me how that statement doesn’t carry that
implication.  I’ll give you a couple of minutes.  I’m gonna
go downstairs and have a smoke while you work on that one, should you
care to do so.

OK, I’m back.  As an aside, I just broke up a MAC vs. WINDOWS
argument amongst co-workers.  Jesus H., people, how many flavors
of OS do there need to be in the world before we can all just choose
the one we like and shut up?  OS choices carry remarkably few moral imperatives, last I checked.  OK.  I’m better now.

So anyway, yeah.  What Helms is implying is that it all would have
worked itself out anyway – an argument strangely like those frequently
used by people who claim the South should have simply been allowed to
secede since everyone knew abolition was coming on its own and thus the
Civil War was a hugely unnecessary endeavor.  Claiming that
equality could just be left to happen of its own accord is both
historically inaccurate (see Plessy v. Ferguson for more on the sort of “equality” that came about of its own accord after emancipation) and purposefully misleading. 

The lack of a need to “hurry” integration suggests the lack of a
problem in the first place.  When Helms points the finger at
“outside agitators” he’s making it sound like equality was some foreign
concept imported solely by voting rights activisits bussed in from some
nebulous Other Place.  He conveniently ignores that luminaries
such as Dr. King came from the very heart of the South itself and that
heroes such as The Greensboro Four were pure locals – students from NC
A&T, a college right there in town.  These were not people
breezing in on a bus to make a demand and then breezing back out again
before they could suffer any real heat for it (you know, like
Called2Action when they showed up in Chapel Hill a few months back),
they were people who cared, who took action, because the issue was
something they faced in their everyday life.  These people risked everything they had to protect everything they had and work toward everything they deserved.

To say that integration was some outsider imposition and that “communities” (to abuse the shit out of that word by his simple use of
it) were going to sort things out on their own ignores that huge
segments of those “communities” were routinely being denied work,
denied voting rights, denied marriage rights, intimidated, beaten and
killed for being a part of those “communities.”  It makes
it sound as though change was already under way and that progress was
already being made during the very time of the same oppressions that led to the Civil Rights movement.  It’s not just doublespeak or misdirection, it’s a lie.  L-I-E lie
Helms is trying to make it sound as if being treated like less than a
human being wasn’t so bad, that it could be sorted out over some
glasses of sweet tea and a game of football.  It’s right next door
to the stupid BS the occasional fundamentalist white supremacists (such
as a school in Cary, NC) try to push:  namely, that slavery wasn’t so bad after all and, hey, some slaves even enjoyed it! 

Yes, the Cary Christian School really used that booklet in class.  I’ll give everyone a moment to barf over that one.

We all back now?

So anyway, there you have it.  There’s Jesse Helms’ position in
what will likely be his last opportunity to apologize for building his
career on bigotry and hate.  There’s what he has to say in his
(hopefully) last turn on the soapbox:  sorry about the AIDS thing, and by the way, what’s with all these uppity black people, anyway? 
His gift to history is a complete lack of understanding of the issue
and a complete unwillingness to admit that he himself – in his turn as
Raleigh’s very own Ur-Limbaugh in his WRAL days – was surely at least a
part of the motivations for violence against African-Americans as they
struggled for simple equality.  No apologies for that one, oh no,
no apologies at all for the easy-reach political levers of hate and
fear that propelled him into office over and over and over again.

I have two Jesse Helms stories for you.

First, when I was a student at UNC I was part of a performance troupe
that partnered with an off-campus troupe (acting, dancing, singing –
the works) that consisted entirely of people past retirement age. 
My partner in that performance group had worked in television
production and had ample opportunity to get to know Helms.  “That
man is a puppet,” he told me.  “He always has been.  He’s
never had a sincere conviction in his life.  He just said what he
was told to say and got paid for it, sucking up the whole time, always
gravitating to someone that could give him another lift to greater
power.”  Weighing that against what I heard about him so many
times as I grew up in Helms’ North Carolina (that people voted for him
because at least they knew what he believed), I found it
shocking.  Now, a few years and a little more experience later, I
have no idea why it surprised me to hear that Helms’ whole persona
might be a sham.

Second, when we ran for co-student body presidents, KJ and
I had as part of our platform that if Jesse died while we were in
office we would throw a huge party in the middle of the campus quad.

We didn’t win.  But KJ reminded me a while back that the offer
still stands.  And when Jesse dies, and with him any future
opportunities for him to get up and say things like this, things that
boil down to if the Yankees had just left us alone we’d still be
, things that continue to spread his agenda of hate and fear and
the supremacy and obedience of a white, Christian class, then I will
dance.  I will drink and dance and have gay sex and throw my hat
into the air.

That’s a bad thing to say, I know.  But fuck him. 
Fuck him for not being able to say he’s sorry for having propagated and
perhaps even inspired more than his fair share of hate and
inequality.  Fuck him for thinking he was never in the wrong to
start with.  Fuck him for pretending the problem was blown all out
of proportion by “outside agitators,” or that it wasn’t a real problem
to begin with, or that things would have just worked themselves out if
everyone clapped their hands together and really believed.  He deserves whatever bad things I can think of to say about him.  I am reminded, again, of my drunken statement to Mr. Pink Eyes that we liberals are too willing to forgive.  I can’t forgive Jesse Helms, and I’m not sure anyone should. (more…)

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