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Monday, October 25, 2004

Monday deer blogging

It’s time to take this blog to the Next Level!


Jamie and I travelled to Pittsburgh this weekend to meet Nick, who was on fall break; meanwhile, Janet was in Illinois, and . . . oh, never mind.  No one need bother with the byzantine logistics of this little three-quarters-family rendezvous.  What’s important is that Pittsburgh rocks.  It’s been the most pleasant surprise of our move to Pennsylvania; I’ve now been to Pittsburgh maybe half a dozen times and I always come away impressed.  Things are pretty bad financially-- the city is deep in a budget hole and everyone at USAir is now suffering through a 21 percent pay cut-- but it’s a strangely beautiful river city with steep rolling hills and lots of cool neighborhoods.  And a good zoo, which is crucial for Jamie, who collects municipal zoos the way certain baseball fanatics collect major league parks.  I love the zoo as well, though I can’t help noticing that it’s always Heterosexual Day at the zoo-- hets everywhere!  (Half price admission for breeders!) Except for the animals, of course, who are as queer as queer can be.  And as this pic suggests, Jamie is cool with that.

At one point during the Bérubé Boys’ tour of the zoo, Nick and I got into a discussion of canonization.  We don’t remember exactly why, but I think it started when we mentioned the saintly demeanor of this person or that.  So he asked me about the stages that precede official canonization by the Vatican, and kicked it off by saying, “after embalming, of course.” This cracked me up for some reason, so I parried with, “of course there’s flagellation.” “And then transmogrification,” Nick said, “followed by immolation.” By this point I was laughing too hard to keep up my end, so Nick capped it off with, “and then the entire chorus of ‘Pastime Paradise.’” Which, as you’ll recall, involves

of Revelations
World Salvation
Confirmation . . . to the peace of the world

I don’t remember everything the Jesuits taught me, but that sounds about right.  Saintation is serious business, people!

OK, so here’s to Nick, Jamie, and two kangaroos:


My next post will also involve animals.  Stay tuned.

Posted by Michael on 10/25 at 07:59 AM
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Saturday, October 23, 2004

Etymology interlude

Yesterday’s post has apparently spawned a great deal of commentary among scholars of the late Colonial period and the early Republic.  Exceptionally learned reader Jay, for instance, writes in comments to ask, “Is that Madison quote the first known use of the term ‘wing-nut?’ It sounds like an expression Ben Franklin might have coined.” Good catch, Jay! Franklin is indeed usually credited with the earliest use of the term.  In 1774, after Prime Minister Lord North had personally denounced Franklin, saying that his “radical Whiggery . . . amounted to nothing less than treason to the Crown of England,” Franklin replied that “those who defend every last Act of this arrogant King George, no matter how incompetent or intolerable these be, are very like the Wing-Nuts of a Machine of shoddy conceit, that spin so furiously as to fly cleanly off their Handles.”

Franklin’s response sparked what most scholars call the “pamphlet wars between Whiggery and Wing-Nuttery.” In fact, even for some years after the British surrender at Yorktown it was common for American patriots to speak belittlingly of the “wing-nuttery” of their opponents-- who, for their part, tended to be authoritarian believers in Divine Right, astonishingly ignorant not only of King George’s positions on the issues (as was shown by a study conducted at the time by researchers in Maryland) but also of his obvious degeneration into madness.  After the “Era of Good Feelings” during Monroe’s presidency, the term fell into disuse until it was revived by “bloggers” in the early 21st century.

This has been an Etymology Interlude!  Regularly scheduled blogging will resume sooner or later.

Posted by Michael on 10/23 at 04:35 PM
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Friday, October 22, 2004

The legitimacy of liberalism

The no-longer-nice blogger over at No More Mister Nice Blog seems to be furious that the New York Times has run a review of “Stolen Honor:  Wounds That Never Heal” by Alessandra Stanley.  The review begins,

“Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal,” the highly contested anti-Kerry documentary, should not be shown by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. It should be shown in its entirety on all the networks, cable stations and on public television.

But surely his anger, like that of the Swift Boat Veterans themselves, is misplaced.  The moral imperative to entertain and adjudicate among all points of view runs deep in the liberal tradition, and we should not betray that tradition today simply because we are offended by speech that some might find noxious-- or, as Stanley puts it, “histrionic, often specious and deeply sad.” Indeed, one is reminded here of the famous debate between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison on this question, at the very dawn of our Republic.  Who can forget Jefferson’s eloquent declaration that

There remains little Doubt among the opinions of Men, that the legitimacy of liberal Society rests on its willingness to support the Harangues of deranged and vicious Persons of the far Right, particularly if they be subsidized by media Conglomerates of vast Size.

A principle surpassed in nobility only by Madison’s equally eloquent rejoinder:

Nay, Thomas, I know of none who would doubt such a thing.  And yet these be but empty Words, if we of liberal Mind do not further seek to ensure that these well-subsidized Harangues of the “Wing-Nuts” be promulgated throughout the breadth of the Nation, by means of every Channel public and private.  For no Nation can long endure or prosper, unless it be sure to foster a mature political culture of Lying and Calumny.  Liberal citizens must lead in this as in every Respect, to undertake to promote those Means by which they might be slandered and vilified throughout the Land, preferably during prime hours of the Evening in those among our States that are most likely to “swing.”

Long may the gray lady hold aloft the banner of liberalism!

Posted by Michael on 10/22 at 09:08 AM
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Thursday, October 21, 2004

After stunning reversal, Yankees take AL pennant

In what analysts are calling a “bold” and “decisive” move, President George W. Bush today signed an executive order declaring the Boston Red Sox retroactively ineligible for post-season play, thereby awarding the American League pennant to the New York Yankees.

“I said it in 1993, and I’ll say it again today,” Bush told a group of admirers, each of whom had written a 2000-word essay on why they should be allowed to bask in the glory of his presence, “the wild card is bad for baseball.  I said that history would prove me right, and it has.  It always does.  Don’t ask me about ‘mistakes,’ young lady-- that’s a trick question, and don’t think I don’t know it.  The wild card is an exercise in folly, and it must be stopped now before it weakens our nation any further.”

Bush’s remarkable, bold, and also decisive decision came only hours after the Boston Red Sox had scrambled back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Yankees in four straight games, winning the climactic game seven in a rout.  The Sox’ dramatic rally was unprecedented in major league baseball history, as is the President’s subsequent reversal of the outcome.

“People don’t want to see a second-place team crowned ‘League Champions,’” Bush explained.  “You can’t send mixed messages.  You can’t flip flop and say, ‘well, one team won one thing but another team won another.’ It doesn’t show leadership.  It doesn’t show resolve.”

Asked by one timid, quivering supporter whether the executive order would also apply to the Florida Marlins, effectively stripping them of their 1997 and 2003 World Series victories, Bush replied that the playoff outcomes of previous years lay outside federal jurisdiction.  “I believe in freedom, and I think you have to leave those decisions up to the individual states,” said a fiercely smiling Bush, who has longstanding family connections in Florida.  The questioner was promptly led away in handcuffs and charged with criminal impertinence.

In Sacramento, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger followed Bush’s remarks with a press release stating that Republican stronghold Anaheim will be permitted to retain its World Series victory in 2002 rather than cede it to the “girlie-men” of San Francisco.

The Yankees will open the World Series on Saturday against either the St. Louis Cardinals or the Houston Astros.  The National League championship series is not affected by the executive order.

Posted by Michael on 10/21 at 01:30 AM
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Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Game 7!

Now that the Red Sox have accomplished the unthinkable (well, the unthinkable in baseball-- we hockey fans get to see teams come back from 3-0 to force a game 7 about once a generation, and the Islanders did it in back-to-back series in 1975), there’s no way they can lose this year!  I mean, I don’t want to jinx them or anything, but they are clearly a Team of Destiny on a Date with History!

Unless maybe they bring in Pedro to pitch on one day’s rest in the bottom of the 19th with the score 7-7 because there’s no one left in the bullpen and they don’t want to hand the ball to Mientkiewicz or somebody.  You never know.  It could happen.

Posted by Michael on 10/20 at 01:46 AM
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Tuesday, October 19, 2004

On the right

Yesterday this humble blog devoted its attention to the left.  Today it’s the right’s turn!

First, in national news, the GOP has officially declared October to be “Homophobia Month”!  That’s now 306 consecutive homophobia months on the official Republican calendar, dating back to the very first one in May 1979.  Check out this lovely item by the talented Michelle Goldberg in Salon on Ohio’s ballot initiative Issue 1, which stipulates that the state “shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.” So much for partner health benefits, visitation rights, and all private contracts between cohabiting gay persons!  Let freedom reign-- someplace else!

Second, it’s time to update our What do you like most about Bush? quiz.  Faithful readers of this lowly blog will remember the first version of this quiz, posted on this site in late May:

What is it you like most about the Bush administration and its policies?

___ I like the lying! It turned me on when the President spiked that EPA report on the toxic air quality around Ground Zero, thereby consigning thousands of firefighters, police, Guardsmen, rescue workers, and ordinary citizens to debilitating lifelong respiratory illness!  If people are so worried about a few tiny particles floating around, let them buy those little fiber masks, for goodness’ sake!  Every Ace Hardware sells ‘em.

___ I like the incompetence! It’s so cool the way the President and his advisors blew off legitimate CIA and DIA intelligence on Iraq, and decided instead to take the word of an Iraqi double agent who’s working together with Iranian Islamists.  The post-"Mission Accomplished” occupation of Iraq has been every bit as cool!

___ I like the torture! I came for the tax cuts, but I’m staying for the torture and humiliation of random Arabs from Gitmo to Abu Ghraib!  It’s such a pleasant surprise, and so damn long overdue!  That’ll show whoever-they-all-are that you don’t mess with the U.S.!

___ I like the cuts to veterans’ benefits! Why should a bunch of veterans get all those free medical goodies?  I support the troops, sure, but only by flying a flag from my car.  Don’t come around here asking me to pay more taxes just because some soldier comes home with the sniffles.

___ I like the attacks on overtime pay! I’m sick and tired of people freeloading off the rest of us by working ten or twelve hours a day.  And I’m sick and tired of the way Democrats pander to their special interests.  It’s about time we had a President tough enough to draw the line when it comes to outrageous labor demands!

___ I like the $500 billion deficit! Clinton made me sick with all his feelgood liberal talk about “balancing” the so-called “budget.” Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter!

___ I like the new Medicare plan! Though I wish someone would explain it to me.  What’s this about donuts being covered after two thousand dollars?

___ I like the cowboy hat! I also like the whole Crawford ranch brush-clearing thing.  I think it’s shameful that Bill Clinton left him all that brush to clear.

___ Could you repeat the question? I wasn’t really paying attention.

Back in May, of course, this abject blog had a mere 1000 readers per day, as opposed to the Atrios-fueled 14,000 we welcomed yesterday (personally, I think the whole “Duncan Black” thing is a ruse-- I still say he’s really Sidney Blumenthal, and Christopher Hitchens agrees with me).  But now we have to strike that last option, since everyone is paying attention, and we have to add some post-convention, post-debate options as well.  So:

___ I like the wisdom in the ways of science! It’s about time we had a President who will burn witches if they weigh the same as a duck!

___ I like the yelling! We haven’t had a good Zell-raising, podium-pounding President since Teddy Roosevelt rode his Bull Moose into the sunset!  When Bush starts screaming at people who ask him questions, he lets me know he’s keeping America safe-- from Americans!

___ I like the banana-republic-strongman tactics! It really pisses me off when a couple of holier-than-thou schoolteachers show up at a Bush rally wearing T-shirts that say “protect our civil liberties”! Bless the President for apprehending these loony-left Fifth Columnists and ushering their asses out the door!  Bless the Vice President for having a 54-year-old woman charged with criminal trespass for uttering the word “no” at one of his rallies!  “We chose this phrase specifically because we didn’t think it would be offensive or degrading or obscene,” said Tania Tong, 34, a special education teacher. Yeah, right!  Just like that broad who asked Bush about his “mistakes” in the second debate didn’t know that she was asking a goddamn trick question! If these government-school liberals love Saddam so much, why don’t they ask him to protect their “civil” “liberties”?

And last but not least:

___ I like the steadfastness in the face of terror! I know that President Bush will keep me safe from terrorists who want to destroy our way of life!  Every day, in my own town, I am terrorized by gays and les . . . gays and lesb . . . gays and you-know-whats who demand that I accept their “lifestyle” and give them special rights!  Only George Bush has the courage to hunt these people down and stop them-- while John Kerry wants to feed them a yes-no-maybe bowl of mush!

Remember, dear readers, somewhere between 44 and 49 percent of your fellow Americans are checking one or more of these boxes every day.  (To understand the discrepancies among recent polls, see Tom Burka’s erudite metastatistical explanation of the Gallup method.) So let’s get everyone else out to the polls, OK? 

Kerry/Edwards-- for a saner America.

Posted by Michael on 10/19 at 07:08 AM
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