Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cat Stevens Totally Belonged At That Rally

As I understand it, the "Rally to Restore Fear/Sanity" was (at least the Colbert half) intended to be a parody of real right-wing rallies freaking out over gays or immigrants or other boogeymen, right? In light of that, it makes perfect sense for Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam to have been a guest of honor. I was a teenager when Ayatollah Khomeini called for a murderous fatwa against Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses; I also remember when Cat Stevens said the fatwa was justified because Rushdie did indeed disrespect Islam, and anyone who does that deserves to die. One of the local rock stations responded with a "Put the Cat Out" campaign, refusing to play any more Cat Stevens records (or pay Cat Stevens royalties).

Cat Stevens made the perfect guest because he's a right-wing propagandist's wet dream: "See, Islam's such a scary-toxic religion, it turns even a peaceful hippie musician into a murderously intolerant psycho who'd promote the death of anyone who offends him!"

Then Ann Coulter could run on stage brandishing a crucifix and screeching "I'll fix your clock! I'll kill your leaders and force you to convert to Christianity!" and Cat Stevens could respond "Morning has broken and so's your nose, bitch," and the two of them start going at it until suddenly their passionate hatred for each other morphs into regular passion and they rip off their clothes and choke on each other in flagrante soixante-neuf and the world is richer for having lost them.

In an alternate reality where the Islamic world went through a period of enlightenment and secularization, while Christendom remained the realm of theocracies, the United States of America has a predominantly Muslim population -- though its Founding Fathers did not intend it to be an officially "Muslim nation," no matter what right-wingers like to claim -- and the USA went completely, disproportionately and inappropriately bugshit in its response after a small band of Christian terrorists committed an atrocious attack nine years ago.

Now, in an attempt to get the country back on track, moderate secularized Muslim comic Stephen al-Colbert and moderate secularized Jewish comic Jon Stewart held their "Rally to Restore Fear/Sanity," and part of their message was "Seriously, not all Christians are crazy bigoted fanatics; most are just plain folks like you and me." To demonstrate this they introduced the rally's guest of honor, internationally famous Christian movie star Mel Gibson.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Plague On Both Their Houses

Advice for indifferent housekeepers seeking motivation to clean their messy abodes: one episode of "Hoarders" equals ten cups of strong coffee laced with amphetamines -- no way can you sit on your butt afterwards. Over the past couple weeks I've been watching that and other extreme-hoarding reality shows, while cleaning house and shedding possessions. I've made so many trips to the Salvation Army, the donation guy recognizes my car and prepares when he sees it coming. The shows inspire in me an odd combination of pride and defensiveness: "Yeah, 27 coffee mugs is a tad excessive for a household of two people, but you know how many dead cats I got in this apartment? Zero."

Every episode of every hoarding show has at least one "Toxic eeew" scene showing how a hoarder's dwelling got so bad, it surpassed "messy" and entered the realm of "bio-hazard": rat's nests, cat corpses, piles of animal (or even human) poop. I found nothing remotely so horrible in my own apartment but did uncover a slight mold problem in our basement, at the exact same moment I saw firsthand why cardboard boxes are spectacularly unsuitable for storing things in a moldy environment.

So anyway, I haven't blogged lately because I've been too busy clearing unwanted or unhealthy junk from my immediate surroundings. I wish cleaning house were as easy in the political realm, and stopped uncluttering my cabinets long enough to lament that it isn't, and write my latest Guardian column, explaining why I probably won't vote in the midterm election next Tuesday.

I thought it was one of my better columns of the past few weeks, with plentiful one-liners like "Republicans actively trash America, while Democrats passively refuse to stop it happening" and "It's very demoralising to know Glenn Crazypants Beck has a better grasp of legal reality than the attorney general of your state." Pithy, right? Not according to 99 percent of the commentariat; last time they hated a piece that much was when I said something nice about Ayn Rand. In retrospect, I'd've been better off (from a popularity standpoint) writing a column titled Fuck You And Everyone You Ever Loved. Don't think I wasn't tempted.

To contrast my apathy regarding the 2010 elections, check out the archives for the Feral Genius 2008 Presidential Endorsement.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lindy Matsko And Christopher McGinley Lost Their Minds But Kept Their Jobs

There's a science fiction trope where aliens do something their unearthly mindset considers virtuous, but anyone with normal human emotions finds horrifying: "Smile, Earthlings! When we release our genetically engineered virus, you'll only be troubled by the mating urge once per season – hey, why are you stopping us?" So, if someone says to a teenager's parent, "I spy on your child when he's home alone, and saw something disturbing – hey, why are you mad at me?" such confusion is understandable, coming from intergalactic reptile overlords.

But humans should know better, especially adult human school administrators paid six-figure salaries to oversee young teens, hence the huge scandal last February when Pennsylvania's Lower Merion School District admitted using remote webcams to surreptitiously observe high school students at home. From a voyeur's perspective, it was a pretty sweet setup: the webcams were in laptops issued to all students, who were required to use them for certain school obligations.
The rest of this column is over at the Guardian. Followers of modern American jurisprudence will be entirely unsurprised to learn that, as usual, government workers with tax-funded paychecks got a pass on activities which would get ordinary public-sector workers thrown in jail. Only a school administrator -- or cop -- could surreptitiously spy on hundreds of nubile young teens in their homes and bedrooms and face no criminal charges, no civic fines, no job loss, no legal consequences whatsoever as a result.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Scarlet Letter Of Sex Work

In the waning days of the last millennium, I worked as a stripper to pay for university. It requires no courage to admit this now, but had I written it a few years ago, when I taught high school, I would have been fired on the spot. My continued presence in the classroom would've set a bad example for the innocent teenagers in my charge, because we can't let "The Children" think sex-industry workers could ever be decent people or anything.

So, if any strippers or (God forbid) prostitutes are reading this, and thinking, "Someday, when I finish university, pay off my debts, or the economy improves, I'd like to quit this job and do something else," here's two words of advice: don't bother. At least, don't bother if your sordid past is public knowledge, because the public for the most part believes two things: first, sex and sexuality are inherently degrading if you make money off either one; and second, the sex work you do or did defines you as a person, and will for the rest of your life.
The rest of this piece is online at the Guardian's America blog, along with the story of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's heroic campaign to fire an elementary school art teacher after learning she'd spent four months as a prostitute four years ago, and what Bloomberg's piety shares in common with the racists of my Virginia youth.

Friday, October 08, 2010

VA Admit State Licensing Requirements Are Bogus

There's a certain TV commercial that's been in rotation over a year now, but I only became aware of it yesterday while watching some military history documentaries: the Veterans' Administration is recruiting medical personnel, and the commercials tout various benefits of working for the VA, including "I can use my current license to work for VA anywhere in the US."

So a medical license from one state works everywhere in the country. Which leads to some questions: if it's safe for a VA doctor from one state to work anywhere in the US, why does that not apply to civilian doctors? And if a doctor with an out-of-state license is somehow inferior to a doctor with an in-state license, then why is the VA going out of its way to recruit these substandard people?

Of course, I'm basing these questions on the assumption licensing requirements are all about public safety rather than any less-noble reasons.
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