Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Snow in Seattle!

Ooh, snow on Sunday! Hooray, snow!

It's so pretty! It's so magical!

Oh, no, snow on Monday!

Oh, no, the commute's a disaster! (It took me 1 1/2 hours to get home - usually I have a 40 minute bus ride.)

Oh, no, let's cancel school for the entire Puget Sound region!

Looking out my window, the streets are bare and dry. No ice, no snow (except on the sidewalks.) The skies are blue. So much for Snow Apocalypse 2006.

To be fair, last night was a disaster on the roads. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of cars were stranded on the icy roads. Buses were stuck in snow and ice. I saw some people on the morning news who had been on the highway for six hours trying to get home after the Seahawks game.

Mrs. B's home today - her school is southeast of Seattle, and they've probably got treacherous roads down there. But thousands of Seattleites called it a snow day today and stayed home.
Anyone who doesn't live in Seattle will laugh at this, because you can barely tell it even snowed. But honestly, I've seen these people drive in snow, and I'm grateful that they're staying off the roads. Better safe than sorry upside down in a ditch, holding your latte between your feet.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A place of humiliation

I saw the video of Michael Richards losing his mind in that comedy club last week, and I can't think of anything that didn't involve actual violence that was as jarring. It's disturbing for the language, but more than that, he seems completely unhinged. I can imagine that the audience was frightened as well as just plain horrified.

It's an unbelievable sight. Apparently, there's more that didn't make the video. According to reports, Richards first called out members of audience by calling them "dumb Mexicans and blacks" who were interrupting his show. Then commenced the rant that you've undoubtedly seen. (If not, you can see it here.) There was more that wasn't captured on video. According to one report, lines not seen on the video include "I have enough money I could have you put in jail," and "When I wake up tomorrow, I'll be rich, and you'll still be a nigger!"

So now he's hitting the airwaves to defend himself. And proclaim his deepest sorrows for "this thing" - not for screaming racist insults and threatening people, but just for "this thing," which apparently rose up and spat out of his mouth like something out of an "Alien" movie. He sputtered out an apology on Letterman, but never seemed remorseful so much as tongue-tied. Then he went on Jesse Jackson's show and proclaimed not only that he had never used such language and images before. (Let's try and remember how well that defense worked for George Allen.) In fact, says the shocked Richards, he's not a racist at all! Why, he grew up in a black neighborhood! His best friend was a ni ... a black person!

But he was humiliated. Or rather, he was in "a place of humiliation." (Sorry, I had to stop for a minute. I was in a place of laughter.)

Let's talk about this for a second. He's saying that he was lashing out because he was humiliated. But he pulled out the worst possible thing he could say to a black patron - the one word for which there is no response. He pulled out the n-word as a weapon to defend himself from humiliation, even though (he says) he had NEVER used that word before. NEVER used it before. Never. I'm going to call bullshit on that. He had the word in his vocabulary - whether he said it every day or once a year, it was there. And when he need something big, he reached into his bag of weapons and pulled it out. People do instinctive things when they feel threatened, as a comic does when he's bombing on stage. They don't think, they just act. Somehow, the word was enough of an ingrained part of him that it came out in his most vulnerable moment. That says to me that the word wasn't new to him, it was something that was used regularly.

Look, I grew up in a suburb of Detroit with black friends and classmates. I used that word, when I was younger, when I didn't realize the impact it had. I knew the word was bad, but white kids used it pretty regularly. I haven't used it in twenty years, but I know that word exists somewhere, back in the recesses of my mind. I can't imagine any circumstance - any - where I would pull that word out and throw it at someone. Can't even fathom it. It's the atom bomb of slurs. So in my opinion, something was going on in Richard's head for him to start calling out "black people" and then escalate it to the N-word. Somehow, that insult was prepared in his mind and was waiting for use. Is he a racist? Who knows? But for him to say that it was about anger, that's only part true.

I'd like for him to come clean and say that, sure, he might have some racist tendencies, maybe some racist beliefs. Like large portions of America. And that, unlike the people whose racism lies dormant, his inner racist came spilling out in anger, and then got splattered all over the internets. Instead, what I've heard is him trying to change the subject. More than once, his apologies have turned into social critiques on use of "that word" in the entertainment industry (read: "Soul Plane" and rap music).

"I fear that young whites will think it's cool to go around and use that word because they see very cool people in the show business using that word so freely. Perhaps that's what came through in that ... the vernacular is so accessible."

He's not looking inside. He's trying to find an enemy, a scapegoat, something else he can blame. I could really give a damn about Michael Richards' soul being saved, or his conscience being mollified. What I care about is his attempt to change the subject by turning it into a discussion on how other people (read: black folks) use the n-word with each other. That's not the issue. The issue is a 57-year-old man who makes his living (or not) in the public eye. He should have known better. For someone in the entertainment industry, he should have known, better than most, the power of words as weapons. This was about power, this was about an arrogant celebrity, and this was about a tv comedian outing himself as having some kind of racist thoughts in his head. Nobody knows how much of this was racism and how much was anger, but both were undeniably present in that room.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Holy Grail of Triangulation

What's the real reason that illegal immigration can't be stopped? Why, it's legalized abortion.

Bad logic, you say? Too bad. A panel in Missouri just came to that very conclusion. According to the loonybird who put the connection in the final report, "We hear a lot of arguments today that the reason that we can't get serious about our borders is that we are desperate for all these workers. You don't have to think too long. If you kill 44 million of your potential workers, it's not too surprising we would be desperate for workers."

Oh, and you can also blame our "liberal social welfare" programs. I can't believe he couldn't find a way to personally blame Bill Clinton for letting immigrants over the border.

None of the six Democrats would sign off on this bizarre report. More here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/13/AR2006111300924.html

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

If Only Marilyn Musgrave had lost...

Then my joy would be complete. As it stands, I'm giddy.

Initiative 920, to eliminate the estate tax for the poor suffering 250 multimillionaire families in Washington state, went down in flames. Voters across the state rejected this initiative.

Initiative 933, which would have gutted our land-use laws, suffered resounding defeat.

Seattle passed Initiative 91, which prohibits the city from subsidizing sports stadiums unless they get a reasonable return on their investment.

Oh, and lapdancing is still safe in our fair city. (I couldn't care less about this issue, not being a customer of the business affected, but I thought the anti-referendum campaign was run brilliantly. They essentially mocked the referendum - which would have mandated a four-foot space between dancers and customers, created light requirements, and other stripper minutiae - as being prudish and ridiculous. One postcard showed a black-and-white photo of a police officer measuring the length of a woman's skirt, with the caption "Remember the last time the police had to carry rulers?")

Other initiatives across the country were signs for hope. A ban on same-sex marriage went down to defeat, the first time one of these bans has lost. Stem cell research was supported in Missouri. Minimum wage increases were supported across the country. An onerous parental notification initiative was defeated in California.

The Dems have won the House by a comfortable margin, and with the victories of Jon Tester in Montana and Jim Webb in Virginia, have taken the Senate. The House seemed a distant possibility at this time last year, and the Dems were hoping to steal one Republican's seat. They took six.

Across the map, common sense and hope won out over fearmongering and lies. This was a good election. A very good night indeed.

Thank you, Howard Dean

Dean made it happen. He was the one who pushed a 50-state strategy, giving insiders heart attacks and frightening the geniuses who crafted Kerry's surgical-strike victory in 2004. (Oh, wait. He lost.)

Dean was the one who said that we had to go for victories everywhere - not just in the key battleground states. Dean funneled money out into small legislative battles and forgotten districts. And today, we have new Democratic Senators in places like Montana and Missouri. They won 28 seats when they only needed 15. They could have poured money into just those 15 seats that looked like sure wins. But they ran a 50-state strategy. The Repubs were forced to play defense in areas they never expected (Idaho! Florida! Eastern Washington!) Dean spread them thin and took the battle.

At first, they said he was crazy. Now the label of "genius" belongs not to Karl Rove, but Howard Dean.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


It's Election Day.

I'm nauseous with anxiety. And fear. And hope. All of that, bouncing around my stomach, and I'm a little queasy right now from it all.

The top elections official in Missouri was asked (illegally) for ID at her polling place. Jean Schmidt couldn't cast her vote in Ohio. Voting machines are malfunctioning in Indiana, Ohio and Florida, and it's only 10 am on the West Coast. How many more Election Day nightmare stories are we going to see before the day is out?

The Dems need a net gain of 15 seats to take control of the House, and 6 seats to take the Senate. People are forecasting anywhere between 10 and 40 seats gained for the Dems in the House, and anywhere between 0 (thanks, Karl) and 7 seats in the Senate.

There are truly evil initiatives on the ballot in Washington state (to repeal the estate tax and to essentially do away with land use regulations). Bad things could happen today, or good things could happen and renew my faith in this country's voters.

My nails are bitten down to the quick, and my fingers are starting to bleed.

Still, I voted. My wife voted. It's what we can do. We can fret about the Diebold machines, the torrential rain in Seattle, the dirty tricks, the lies and slander thrown at good candidates. But when Election Day comes, all you can do is show up at the polls.

Get your ass out there and vote. If you encounter any problems, call 1-866-OUR-VOTE. Then call the Secretary of State. Then call the tv stations. Don't let anything stop you from voting the bastards out. The Republicans are all talking about how they'll crawl over broken glass to cast their votes for their crooks and their thieves. Let's show them what it looks like when the public is screaming for change.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Magic in the Heart

Above all remember this: that magic belongs as much to the heart as to the head and everything which is done, should be done from love or joy or righteous anger.

I am in possession of the new collection of short stories by Susanna Clarke.

Susanna Clarke is one of the few writers who genuinely excites me. Her first epic novel, "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell," was one of those rare books that not only creates a whole new world, but it did so out of the familiar surrounds of England and the British Isles. Napoleon, Lord Byron, the Duke of Wellington, and other historical figures were swept into Clarke's world of magic gone underground and brought back to use in spectacular fashion. It is a book I intend to read again and again, once a year as the need presents itself.

(Susanna Clarke also inspires a person to say things like "I am in possession of ..." rather than "I bought the new book down at the Costco, in between the chicken breasts and the Brita water filters.")

I'll let you know my verdict after I've read the entire thing. Don't be too anxious. I intend to savor this little book of magical tales. Now that I have another gateway into Clarke's world, I'm looking forward to settling down in it for a while.