Tuesday, January 27, 2004

F*ck*ng C*ns*rs

“Stupid, Stupid Ads!” dissects ads that try to do something underhanded or just plain stupid.

I buy most of my comic books online, preordering them 2–3 months ahead of time from Westfield Comics.  I get a small discount (more for higher dollar orders) which more than offsets the postage charges, with a net effect of maybe 5-10% discount on titles ordered ahead of time.

For April 2004, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is offering a shirt with art by Erik Larsen, featuring his Savage Dragon character and your choice of “Fuck Censorship” or “Fight Censorship” slogans.  To the right is the image on the Westfield site for the first of those designs; the second design blots out only the finger, not the word.

In other words, an anti-censorship product is being censored in order to sell it.  (I assume it is Westfield adding the black boxes, but it could be wherever they get their images from.)

Updated on December 2, 2010

Selection 2004: New Hampshire

Some thoughts based on the New Hampshire results:
  • Electability” is this campaign’s version of “gravitas”.  It seems to be used a minimum of once per newscast.
  • There have been record (or near-record) turnouts for the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary.  Primaries are often plagued by low voter turnout: when one party is a shoe-in, that party’s voters don’t bother, and in states without open primaries, people not registered to vote in the “interesting” race (Democrats, this time around) don’t get to participate in the main part of the vote, so they often don’t vote at all.  This time, though, voters are turning out in “droves” (whatever those are).  This implies two things: (1) people are interested in who wins the Democratic nomination, and (2) regardless of what the approval rating polls say, people want “regime change”.  Assuming these turnouts carry forward throughout the election season, the Republicans should be worried: if Democrats turn out in record numbers for the general election in November and Republicans don’t, Bush will be in real trouble.
  • NPR was carrying the election returns (plus commentary) live last night.  The conservative talk shows seem to be almost going out of their way to avoid any mention of the Democratic primaries.  Maybe that’s because their main whipping dog (Dean) isn’t so prominent any more and they haven’t decided if they need to replace him.  Or maybe they fear that “any publicity is good publicity,” and covering things at all would be akin to aiding the enemy.  Me, I just find it interesting what seems to constitute a “big” story and what does not.
  • Unless he wins at least two states on Tuesday — wins, not comes in third after removing candidates from neighboring states — Lieberman will drop out.  [He did on February 3.]
  • Unless he wins South Carolina, Sharpton will also drop out on Tuesday evening.  [He didn’t drop out until March.]
And some predictions:

Updated on December 3, 2010
Added a lot of links to how things played out.

Selection 2004: Jumping the Gun

Last night — Monday the 26th — at 10:00 pm, the news came on the radio that Wesley Clark was in the lead in New Hampshire!

Mind you, the New Hampshire primary doesn’t start until Tuesday the 27th.

This was 10:00 pm on the West Coast, so it was 1:00 am in New Hampshire.  Apparently some podunk little town out there hustles everyone out of bed at midnight on primary day every four years and gets them to vote, just so they can say they were first.  Must be the only way the town’s name ever gets into the news.  Sad, really.

So yes, Wesley Clark was in the lead, and not just barely but with a whopping 50% of the vote!  Wow!  Practically a mandate!  Kerry and Edwards were tied with about 19% each, and Dean and Lieberman had 6% each.

How many votes total?  16.

Can we get some real news one of these days?  Please.

Updated on December 1, 2010
The town is Dixville Notch, population about 75 with a whopping 26 registered voters in the 2004 general election.

Radio Killed the Newspaper Star

I was on the radio today, at about 9:20 am.

Rusty Humphries’ local show on the large local right-wing station, KVI (in the slot vacated by Rush Limbaugh’ trip to rehab), was focusing on Tuesday, January 27th’s big story.  No, not the New Hampshire primary.  What would they care about that for?  Bush is pretty much a shoe-in to win the Republican side there, don’t you think?

It was today’s other big story: the myDoom virus.  There was no particular political angle to the show today (unless you believe that liberals/progressives are more apt to use Macs than conservatives are, which is probably true).

Nothing too exciting beyond that.  When I was on the air, I told him that I get e-mails with viruses in them all the time, probably a couple dozen with/from myDoom in the last day alone.  But I never worry about them for two reasons: I use a Macintosh, while most viruses are written for Windows, and I don’t use Microsoft Outlook, which most viruses take advantage of.  I noted that while I use a Mac, it isn’t just because of virus issues.

Rusty wanted to know if I thought viruses like this were targeted at Microsoft and Bill Gates, but I affirmed that was unlikely.  When Windows has 95% or so of the computers out there, it is simply the biggest target.  (I didn’t mention that Macs are probably somewhat less vulnerable in general.)

He also expressed that he had had troubles in the past simply using a Mac.  I said that Mac and Windows are really pretty much the same — maybe 90% or so — but whichever one someone learns to use first is the one they will tend to prefer.

This was the first time I had been on a radio talk show.  I called on my cell phone (and once I got through, promptly plugged in the headset I have for it, so I could drive safely, thanks very much!) and they put me on after about 5 minutes.  While I was waiting, I could hear the radio show through the phone.  Once they put me on (I was the second person on after I called), though, all the background radio noise was gone, giving me no feedback to indicate that I was still connected, not even any breathing from the host.  I had to just start talking and go until I got to a point where Rusty would respond.  Very odd sensation.

[Weblog title reference: “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles was the first video to be shown on MTV, back in 1981.]

Monday, January 26, 2004

Gay Marriage: What Are They Scared Of (Part 2)?

Continuing the previous entry, but taking a different angle.

Consider again the idea (promoted by opponents) that same-sex marriage does not merely extend marriage, making it accessible to more people and thus “larger”, but that instead it creates a separate institution.  (Something certainly not equal in the eyes of same-sex marriage foes, and probably not even equivalent to them.)

That is, same-sex marriage creates an alternative.  An option.

Options are the last thing that same-sex marriage opponents want there to be.  There is only one God-approved form of coupling.  Homosexuality bad.  Pre-marital sex bad.  Adultery bad.  Polygamy bad.  Divorce bad.  (Well, maybe they’ll let that one slide.)

They have a monopoly and by God (ahem), they want to keep it.

(What is the value of a monopoly?  In the real world, while it all seemingly boils down to money — and there’s probably a facet of that here — the real purpose of a monopoly is power.  In the marriage arena, due to the religious sacrament angle, that’s spiritual power, but power nonetheless.)

(As an exercise for the reader: comparison resistance to the “option” of other forms of marriage to the resistance to the “choice” of abortion.)

So where lies the real “threat” to marriage?  My boyfriend, Rusty, who was raised in semi-rural Kentucky (no jokes, please), gave me some insight into this.  With my own upbringing as a preacher’s kid in small town Washington, I could see the point.

Things can be vastly different when you live in an urban setting, with great access to variety in everything (food, technology, new, religion, etc.) than when you live in the country.  Consider more rural locations: small schools where everyone knows everyone in the class, where there may be only a handful of churches in town (all Christian and several likely Fundamentalist), where there are fewer bars than churches.  (Check out the song “My Town” from country duo Montgomery Gentry for a good picture of this.)

In a scenario such as this, the idea of alternate lifestyles of any sort is frowned upon.  You go to school, you go to church, you grow up, you go to church, maybe you go to college (if you’re a good student; as little as 10% of my graduating class went right on to college), you get married (probably to your high school sweetheart), you go to church, you have kids, you take the kids to church, and the cycle continues.  There are no “options” conceived of, and there certainly are none offered.  This is why many gay men and lesbians come out in their 30s and later, having to divorce an opposite-sex spouse and deal with kids: they only had one option to choose from in the beginning.  It’s not that they thought they were straight, it’s that they had never been taught to conceive of other options for their lives.

So when people who aren’t opponents of same-sex marriage laughingly say “What are they afraid of?  That suddenly men will leave their wives and get married to other guys?”, that is exactly what opponents are afraid of.  That, given government-approved options, people will opt out of the cycle, even in small-town America.  That existing married couples will “wake up and smell the coffee,” realize that their existing marriages are shams, divorce, and pursue same-sex relationships.  And more, that people will opt out of “traditional” marriage ahead of time, before they get sucked in, with the result that the cycle breaks early.  And thus not only is the monopoly of marriage imperiled, but the future population of church attendance is all at risk, with the spiritual and temporal power that accompanies that.

(Oh, and with the money that accompanies it, too.  Never forget the money.)

So in a very real way, same-sex marriage opponents do believe that their limited version of marriage is “threatened” by other options.  If other options are available, there may genuinely end up being fewer people who pursue “traditional” marriage, with all the changes which would result from that.

Updated on November 29, 2010

Gay Marriage: What Are They Scared Of (Part 1)?

One of the points that same-sex marriage foes have made is that such marriages “threaten” traditional marriage, without any explanation of the term.  In this era of high divorce rates, serial marriages, and celebrity stunts like Britney Spears’ recent 55-hour marriage, it’s hard to picture just what they mean.

(Do they drop that term in as a little distraction bomb, never intending there to be an answer?  Or is the meaning so self-evident to them that the need to explain it never occurs to them, much like we might say “click on the link” without saying what “click” and “link” are?)

The Advocate columnist Richard Goldstein points to what may be at the core of this “threat” in his February 3 [2004] column (not available online; archives only go back to 2008), “Civil unions: the radical choice”.  Here is the pertinent sentence:
Such [civil union] statutes point to a future in which couples will have many options, from “covenant marriage,” in which both parties sign a contract pledging not to divorce, to a number of less binding choices.
That is, same-sex marriage (and civil unions) “threaten” the idea that there is one and only one possible answer for becoming a couple: marriage (of the “traditional”, heterosexual bent).  Same sex marriage is thus, to them [same-sex marriage foes], not an expansion of existing marriage but an alternative, a way of selecting something that isn’t “regular” marriage.

There’s a concept I learned years ago to explain the opposition to gay rights: some people see “civil rights” as a bucket holding a limited amount of stuff, and thus the “creation” of new “rights” for one group causes a reduction in the amount of rights everyone else has.  (This is without any factual or statistical basis, of course.)  Extending this to the marriage question, then, you see that the addition of alternate marriage equivalents results in the belief that the amount of “real” marriage in the bucket left for everyone else is made less, and thus traditional marriage is “threatened”.

Updated on November 23, 2010

The “L” Word

Based on the print ads (like the one above, although this image comes from the show’s web site), “L” is for “lipstick”.  Not a butch dyke to be seen.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Selection 2004: Iowa

Quoted from the January 22 issue of The Stranger:
I run across [Howard Dean-supporter Ray] Minchew, who is wearing a jacket and tie.  “It’s the triumph of the bullshit media,” is the first thing out of his mouth.  “It’s fucking bullshit.”  Minchew is referring to negative coverage Dean encountered in the last few weeks.  As he was sailing toward the nomination, the media became increasingly critical, pumping out a series of “gotcha” stories, from Dean’s support for a wife-beating security chief to Newsweek and Time’s recent cover stories about Dean’s temperament.
I agree.  On Monday evening (when I had been on a plane most of the day), when my mother told me about the Dean upset, it’s the first thing I thought.

For the past few months, Dean has been pretty much the only candidate getting any significant coverage from the media.  (And this includes the right-wing media: they have nothing good to say about any of the Democratic candidates, but 95% of their negativity has been aimed at Dean, marking him clearly as the one they fear the most.)  How imbalanced has that coverage been?  Well, I would certainly be able to identify Kerry and Dean and Lieberman in pictures; I might be able to pick Gephardt and Kucinich out of a police line-up; I can only identify Braun, Sharpton, and Clark after seeing pictures in the last week (Clark on the cover of The Advocate); but I couldn’t begin to tell you what Edwards looks like.  (I’m pretty sure he’s a white guy with no facial hair, though.)

For the past couple weeks, it’s like “Tally ho!” and the hounds are after Dean the Fox, ready to tear him to bits.  They are aided by a couple negative things Dean had thrown to them, but the appearance is totally that of a need to chop the legs out from under the one they’ve been carrying thus far.  The media realized that he was the front-runner because of them.

In Iowa itself, and elsewhere, I doubt that the negative stories really had much effect on the people already dedicated to Dean, or to the other candidates.  What I see is probably 50,00 caucus-goers who had made up their minds a month ago, and 75,000 who paid as little attention to what was going on as possible until the week before they had to vote.  At that point, they looked around, saw massive negativity about Dean, and a little positive coverage of Kerry and Edwards, and they made their decision based on the headlines and little else.  (Much though we would like it to be otherwise, I think that’s exactly how half or more of the country votes: negligible forethought, and then vote for who their party or newspaper suggests, or even just the name they recognize the easiest.)

What happened to Gephardt, who won a previous caucus in Iowa, I don’t know.  (Sure I do: no coverage at all = no votes at all from the “pay no attention” segment.)

We’ll see what happens in New Hampshire, and then for Super Tuesday.  Will the Media Hounds keep chasing Dean?  Or will they catch the scent of Kerry as the new quarry, letting Dean catch his breath?

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Here’s Mud Pie in Your Eye

(Mis)adventures in eating food.  These might be funny if they happened to someone else.
  • When I was home for the summer from college (years ago), my parents took me out to a local restaurant.  My father bit into a pepperoncini, which squirted spicy brine right into his eye.
  • I learned long ago to be cautious when eating donuts.  I tend to inhale when taking a bite.  One quick breath with the white ones and I’m on the floor, coughing out puffs of powdered sugar.
  • Not that I’ve ever learned the lesson above.  Today I was eating a Thai dish, inhaled at the wrong time, and a few inches of rice noodle went through the back of my throat and into my sinuses.  Wriggly noodles slurping back out are bad enough, but this was coated with 3-star spicy chili flakes.
  • I occasionally get a cold (or the like) which blocks my salivary glands.  As a home remedy, I’ll drink a spoonful of lemon juice or white vinegar; the result is a major squeeze of the glands which seems to help unblock them.  But one time I sneezed just as I sipped, sending a tablespoon of vinegar (acetic acid) into my sinuses and out through my nose.

Letter of Comment
    — Spousal Equivalent

My latest letter to the editor leads off the January 22, 2004 issue of The Stranger, titled in their Letters column as “TOM’S CHEW TOY”:
I found the multiple references to City Councilman Tom Rasmussen’s “boyfriend” in the most recent issue curious.

Obviously, he and his company seem to have had an effect on Rasmussen’s campaign beyond that of other candidates’ spouses, and may warrant calling out for that.  And in this era of societal changes regarding gay and lesbian relationships, noting that a gay man is in a relationship is probably a good thing.  [Next sentence edited out of published letter: (But might it maybe have a counter-effect?  Any gay man whose partner isn’t mentioned may get inadvertently tagged as a stereotypical bar-hopping, promiscuous slutboy simply because he isn’t in a relationship “worthy” of mention.)]

I’m most curious, though, about the choice of term: “boyfriend”.  It tends to carry with it a notion of “short term” (months rather than years) and youth vs. adult, and perhaps a “they don’t live together” impermanence.  Is “boyfriend” the term the couple uses for themselves?  [Edited out: (In which case it is unquestionably the best on to use!)]  Or is it part of
The Stranger’s editorial style guide when referring to same-sex couples, preferred to terms like husband, [Edited out: fiancé (which would be a man pledged to marry at some future point, even if it’s not possible [not legal] at the current time),] partner, life partner, longterm companion, fuck buddy, sugar daddy, chew toy,… the list goes on.

[Edited out: (Oh well, “boyfriend” is certainly better than the dreaded “roommate”.)]
And the response:
ERICA C. BARNETT RESPONDS: The issue of what to call a gay partner can be a confusing one.  As Rasmussen himself notes, “boy-friend” is often interpreted as “boyfriend du jour,” whereas “‘partner’ tends to convey permanency.”  Nonetheless, Rasmussen says he uses the terms “boyfriend” and “partner” interchangeably when referring to his significant other (and presumably, chew toy), Clayton Lewis, whom he’s been with for 12 years.
Hopefully needless to say, I’m thrilled by any reasonable term being used, and my letter was aimed more to poke fun than to criticize.  And I voted for Rasmussen, too.

Gay Marriage: State of the Union of Two People

For those who missed it, the entire 2004 State of the Union speech is transcripted here.

Here’s the “gay marriage” portion:
A strong America must also value the institution of marriage.  I believe we should respect individuals as we take a principled stand for one of the most fundamental, enduring institutions of our civilization.  Congress has already taken a stand on this issue by passing the Defense of Marriage Act, signed in 1996 by President Clinton.  That statute protects marriage under federal law as a union of a man and a woman, and declares that one state may not redefine marriage for other states.

Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives.  On an issue of such great consequence, the people’s voice must be heard.  If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process.  Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.  (Applause.)

The outcome of this debate is important — and so is the way we conduct it.  The same moral tradition that defines marriage also teaches that each individual has dignity and value in God’s sight.  (Applause.)
Items of note:
  • Nowhere does he say what the issue is.  You have to know what he is talking about to know what he is talking about.  Certainly can’t mention gays and lesbians!
  • This is the only place Clinton was mentioned in the speech.  Implication: “Look, Dems!  Even your hero was against this!”
  • Technically, the Defense of Marriage Act just says that State A doesn’t have to respect what State B says about same-sex marriage-type stuff.  That’s a bit different from State B is not allowed to redefine what marriage means for other states.
  • I’m sure there are people who believe DOMA is constitutionally valid simply because it hasn’t been challenged in the courts.  When there’s been nothing to enforce (until Massachusetts), there’s been nothing to challenge.
  • “Activist judges” are anyone who doesn’t decide in the way you want.  As opposed to, say, judges who decide that votes don’t really have to be counted.

Updated on November 12, 2010