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With all of the recent media reports about powerful dirtbag men assaulting and harassing women, and all of the outrage over it, a common criticism is that men only think of women as appendages to men, not as whole persons in their own right. So when a man says, “As a father of a daughter, I’m appalled [at dirtbag X’s behavior],” he is not being woke, as it were, to injustice toward women. He only cares about women if they remind him of his daughter, or his wife, or his sister, or his mother; he doesn’t view women as truly human as men.

I understand why this formulation–“If woman X were my daughter/sister/etc., I (as a man) wouldn’t want someone to treat her that way; therefore, treating women that way is wrong”–bothers some people. Men often use the women in their lives to prove a point about women in general, not acknowledging that their daughters/wives/whoever are individuals and don’t necessarily represent women in general. (I see this a lot in Mormonism. “My wife is a very strong woman, and she doesn’t want the priesthood.”) But the problem isn’t men thinking of the women in their lives who are personally important to them and concluding that women in general deserve respect, but men thinking of the women in their lives as the exception: “My women are important. Other women are not.”

I get why it troubles people, men thinking in terms of their women versus other men’s women, even if the conclusion is that all women should be treated with respect. Women are persons in their own right and should be treated with the respect due to any human, regardless of any men they might be related to. But I’m not convinced that all men who reference their daughters/wives/etc. really think in terms of “my women/their women”–not when their conclusion is that all women deserve respect. If all that mattered were the woman’s relationship with some man, the degree to which she deserved respect would depend a great deal on how much deference that man required. But I believe most men who think of their daughters when pondering the treatment of women in general actually are relating to their daughters as people, not some form of (their) property.

Imagine Donald Trump saying, “As the father of a daughter, I’m outraged.” He wouldn’t. His own daughter is the exception. He has said he’d date his daughter if she weren’t his daughter (and I think we can safely take “date” as a euphemism). She’s a person to him only because she’s his; she’s not a reminder to him that women are people.

Maybe it’s not as morally evolved to have to think of one’s daughters and wives before thinking of women in general as people. But it’s much better to have men who bother taking this extra step–“my daughter is a person and she’s a woman; therefore, women are people”–than men who never get to the place where they can empathize with women at all. And I’m not convinced that it is less evolved. Our relationships are a huge part of our humanity. It’s not just men who find their personal relationships helpful for increasing their empathy generally. As a woman, having sons has definitely helped me relate better to men and have more empathy for men in general. It’s not that women who don’t have sons can’t have empathy for men, but for me, this helped. I don’t think that makes me morally inferior. I think it means I’ve evolved as an individual.

As I said to a friend, when the subject is abuse or discrimination against the disabled, I sometimes reference my children with autism. I don’t do it because my autistic children aren’t persons in their own right; it’s only to express why this issue is personal for me. It’s not that I wouldn’t be outraged by such stories if I didn’t have a personal connection. (I mean, I know I was outraged by child abuse before I had children.) The point of mentioning my children is not to appeal to my own authority as a parent, just to express a personal stake in the story. We all have relationships of some kind, and unless we’re sociopaths, our relationships are important to us. So while referencing one’s father(of-daughter)hood can be problematic in some cases, it is not inherently problematic. What matters is the conclusions one draws from that experience.

There’s been a lot of talk about “fake news” since the election. So much talk that “fake news” no longer means “fake news” but “biased articles we don’t like.” Personally, I don’t have a problem with fake news. I can tell when news is fake, and if you can’t tell when news is fake, then I don’t have a lot of confidence in your ability to deal with real news, so I give up on that score. I have even less of a problem with biased news. I expect unbiased news reports about as much as I expect Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and Donald Trump’s spiritual advisor to walk into a bar. I assume that reporters are biased; I factor it into my analysis of their reporting. What bothers me more than fake news and biased news is crap news, i.e. “news” about stupid crap that doesn’t matter to anyone and drowns out issues that are actually relevant to people’s lives.

A prime example of crap news is whatever dumbass thing the President-Elect just tweeted about that makes no difference to anyone but only shows what a dumbass jerk he is. WE ALREADY KNOW HE’S A DUMBASS JERK. THIS ISN’T “NEWS.”

The crap news that is bugging me right now is this business about Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, saying that schools need to have guns on campus to protect students from grizzly bears. All the liberals are like, “OMG GRIZZLY BEARS THAT’S SO STUPID,” and all the conservatives are like, “OMG THAT’S A GROSS DISTORTION OF WHAT SHE SAID,” and really, both of them are correct, but the most correct response would be “OMG EVERYONE SHUT UP ABOUT GUNS AND BEARS SHE CAN’T GIVE A COHERENT RESPONSE TO A RELEVANT QUESTION ABOUT FEDERAL LAW REGARDING STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES”—but that last one is more than 140 characters, so good luck.

I have four kids, three of whom are still in public K-12 schools (the fourth is at a public community college) and two of whom have disabilities. I’m as interested in the success of my disabled children as I am in my other children’s, and I’m grateful to be living in a day and age and society in which we’ve collectively made efforts to ensure that disabled students get appropriate educations. However, I am not naïve about the limitations and drawbacks of the current system under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. I am totally open to new and different policy proposals for ensuring that disabled students have access to an appropriate education.

From what I’ve read, i.e. what I’ve managed to glean from reports that aren’t obsessed with her unnatural fear of grizzlies, Betsy DeVos’s general philosophy seems to be that the federal government should have less control over education and states and locales should have more. That is a general philosophy that I happen to share. No, I’m not some kind of wacko who thinks school districts should just hold bake sales and hope for the best. I’m neither a purist nor a fanatic, but I am skeptical that the federal government, as far removed as it is from most citizens’ lives, can effectively micro-manage the educations of all students. Just a healthy skepticism, that’s all I have, not a partisan axe to grind or a political hobby horse I want to ride.

The fact is that my family does just fine under the status quo. We’re above-average in terms of income and financial resources; my husband and I are both college-educated; one of us is a full-time caregiver. We have many advantages over other families, particularly when it comes to providing for the needs of our disabled children. We can supplement our children’s public education. We can afford to live in a good school district with good schools. We can afford private therapies for our children with disabilities. We can afford babysitters to watch our kids while we go to endless IEP meetings and fight with the school district over what services they’re going to provide. We can take time off work to go to these meetings. If push comes to shove, we can afford to hire a lawyer or advocate to help us navigate the process of getting our kids the services they’re legally entitled to. The federal government doesn’t need to change anything on our account.

Unfortunately, there are hundreds of thousands of families in this country who don’t enjoy the same advantages we have. Whatever their neighborhood school is, no matter how awful, they’re stuck with it. Whatever the school district offers in terms of services for their disabled children, no matter how inadequate, that’s what they’ll get. These are the families who aren’t being served by the current system because they don’t have the resources to navigate it. So yes, I’m very interested to learn how a “federalist” (i.e. local) approach to education would benefit students across a spectrum of needs. I’m philosophically biased toward federalism and local control to begin with, so you don’t even need to work that hard to sell it to me—but you do have to sell it. You can’t just say, “Leave it up to the states,” like it’s some Jedi mind trick. That doesn’t even work on me, let alone all the folks who think “states’ rights” is just another way of saying “slavery” or “segregation.”

I’m not super-convinced that anyone in Washington really wants to have a substantive discussion about education policy, though. I haven’t seen reports of any particularly substantive questioning of Betsy DeVos by anyone in the Senate. I see that she can’t explain what she plans to do (or not do) to improve the lot of American students, but I also see that some dumbass from Connecticut wanted to spend his five minutes asking her what she thinks about guns in schools WHEN IT’S NOT THE EDUCATION SECRETARY’S JOB TO KEEP GUNS OUT OF SCHOOLS OR PUT THEM THERE, REGARDLESS OF WHAT SHE THINKS. Honestly, does anyone think Sandy Hook could have been prevented if the Secretary of Education (whoever he/she was at the time) had just been more pro-active about keeping guns out of school? I meant that to be a rhetorical question, but just in case anyone’s raising their hand, let me just say NO GRIZZLY BEAR OR PSYCHOPATH HAS EVER BEEN STOPPED BY THE SECRETARY OF EDUCATION. Whether or not there should be guns in school or no guns in school is certainly debatable. By all means, have that debate. MAYBE IN YOUR STATES OR LOCALES, WHICH ARE IN CHARGE OF GUN LAWS.

I should probably not call the senator from Connecticut a dumbass when I’ve never met him and he’s probably a perfectly lovely person who happens to feel strongly about gun control for understandable reasons, but golly, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and not everything can be about gun control.

I should also probably note that Trump talked on the campaign trail about banning gun-free schools, as though this is something the President should even be able to do, let alone actually do. To this I can only say NO PRESIDENT HAS EVER BEEN STOPPED BY THE SECRETARY OF EDUCATION AND THIS COUNTRY REALLY NEEDS TO HAVE A COME TO JESUS ABOUT EXECUTIVE POWER. FORWARD SLASH RANT

The reality is that it probably doesn’t matter who the Secretary of Education is if this is the level of discourse we’re going to have about education policy. A meaningful discussion of the most important issues will take longer than the 45 seconds the public is willing to spend on it. SO FINE JUST TALK ABOUT BEARS.

So there’s this article on Fusion titled “Nameplate Necklaces: This s*** is for us” (alternate title: “White Girls: Stop wearing nameplate necklaces”). Obviously, I came across this article because I read Fusion all the time. Just kidding. Obviously, I came across this article because some other white person I follow on Twitter was drawing attention to how crazy it is to add nameplate necklaces to the list of things that are considered cultural appropriation. I’m not actually sure if there is a limit to what “should” be considered cultural appropriation. Being white, I can’t really understand what it’s like to have one’s culture appropriated. I suppose, as a woman who was born female, I can imagine it’s sort of like when Caitlyn Jenner wins Woman of the Year when she’s only been a woman for about 15 minutes. Actually, it’s probably even more like Bono being Woman of the Year when he’s never been a woman for any minutes. Then again, who am I to judge? I don’t know Bono’s life! So I’m back to not really understanding how horrible it is when a white girl wears s*** that’s for women of color.

For the record, I’ve never owned nor worn a nameplate necklace. On the other hand, I don’t know how many things I have worn inappropriately–things I thought I was only wearing but was actually appropriating. I’m suspecting the number is low because I’m pretty white, culturally speaking, and have very little in the way of personal style. I don’t think I’ve ever been cool enough to appropriate something. The only thing I can think of is when I attended my brother-in-law’s wedding in Japan and I wore a kimono for the traditional Shinto ceremony–but that was at the invitation of the Japanese bride. It’s not a thing I would have thought to do on my own, but when someone invites you to her traditional Shinto wedding in Japan and offers you, as a soon-to-be family member, a kimono, it seems like it would be rude to say, “No thanks.” On the other hand, if I just up and decided on my own to wear a kimono someplace, that would probably be considered cultural appropriation.

On our first trip to Japan, my husband and I were visiting a shrine, and a (Japanese) man approached us and pointed out that a nearby tree was known as the “marriage tree.” He brought us over there and showed us how to pay our respects to the tree, or how to bless our marriage via this tree ritual; I’m sorry to say that between the language barrier and my faulty memory, I can’t tell you the precise nature of what he was showing us how to do, and it’s not my intention to sound disrespectful. (Maybe the guy was just messing with us. But he seemed sincere.) To be honest, bowing to the tree felt a little weird to me—not in the sense of “this is foreign and I don’t like it” but in the sense of “I’m not Japanese and I don’t know crap about Shintoism and I feel like a fraud.” But to the man, he was just sharing his culture and inviting us to appreciate it.

So maybe that’s the “get out of jail free” card. If someone invites you to participate in their culture, that’s okay. Maybe if one of my black or Latina girlfriends gave me a nameplate necklace for my birthday, that would also be okay. (Or she could just be messing with me. But friends don’t do that to each other, do they?) The problem is that if I wear my nameplate necklace out in public, no one’s going to know that my friend of color gave it to me. They will probably assume that I am appropriating WOC’s culture, and knowing this, how can I in good conscience wear such a thing? I mean, I could say, “Actually, my friend, who happens to be a WOC, gave it to me for my birthday,” but even I know that’s just what a clueless white person would say. If I were the offended person, I’d be like, “Oh, yeah, I’m sure some of your best friends are black!”

Actually, I don’t think I have any friends of color who would give me a nameplate necklace for my birthday. This is all just hypothetical. It’s something that theoretically could happen. I mean, I never expected to be wearing a kimono to someone’s wedding either.

For the record, the kimono was very beautiful. I’m not sure I pulled it off, what with my red hair and big feet. [1] (Those shoes are the worst. I’m sorry if that’s racist, but at least I won’t be appropriating that part of the culture again if I can help it.) I can understand why someone would want to wear something from another culture because it is beautiful. I guess I can also understand why it gets on a WOC’s nerves when Carrie Bradshaw starts wearing a nameplate necklace and suddenly nameplate necklaces are cool because a popular white girl wore one, even though WOC have been wearing nameplate necklaces for years. But I also can’t help thinking it’s kind of like when hipsters sniff that they liked something before it was cool, and now that it’s cool, it’s been ruined. WOC were enjoying their nameplate necklaces before white girls ruined it for them. I hate to lump anyone in the same category as hipsters, but I just can’t think of a more pertinent example offhand. I understand why it’s different: hipsters are not historically people who have been marginalized by the larger society; they marginalize themselves, on purpose. So of course it’s not the same thing. I get that.

Here’s the thing: I enjoyed reading that Fusion piece, for the most part. I appreciated the author explaining the significance of nameplate necklaces to her and other WOC. It would never have occurred to me that nameplates were a black/WOC thing. I was unaware. I’m glad to be aware of her experience and feelings. What I don’t get is the same thing I don’t get about hipsters being miffed that their favorite band now has thousands of fans who weren’t there from the very beginning: why does it bother you that other people like what you like, even if it’s for different reasons?

I’m sure some people would say that question proves I absolutely don’t get any of the stuff I previously claimed to get, if I don’t get that last part. But I’m trying, I really am. As I said, I’m white—I’ve got the white privilege, I’m lousy with white privilege, along with tons of other privilege. I have zero experience with someone taking an aspect of my culture that is dear to me and cheapening it or whatever else one does when one culturally-appropriates. I can’t even think of a single thing on earth that I think of as belonging exclusively to my demographic group’s “culture.” My husband comes from Scandinavian stock; I can’t decide if this makes him more or less “white” than I am. I have no particular interest in genealogy—it doesn’t do anything for me—but I can trace my ancestors on both sides back about 200 years to…England. I’m neither proud nor ashamed of this, as it was an accident of birth I had nothing to do with. (It is kind of a bummer when they have those celebrate-our-diverse-cultural-heritage potlucks. You can’t eat the Magna Carta, amirite?) But to me, everything that’s great about English culture is part of the cultural heritage of every American. It’s not like I own it, as a person of English ancestry; I share it with a host of people who are not of English ancestry, racially speaking. I don’t even think of myself as a person of English ancestry, i.e. that my ancestors lived in England is not a conscious part of my identity. As a white person, I have the luxury of not thinking about my race unless I start writing crap like this.

But like I said, I’m trying. I’m trying to empathize by drawing whatever parallels or hypothetical parallels I can to my own experience. I suppose that as a woman, I am part of a historically marginalized group. Unfortunately, the closest I can get to imagining something like cultural appropriation in that context is my above Caitlyn Jenner remark, which veers uncomfortably close to anti-trans sentiment. I admit that I get a little bent out of shape when Caitlyn Jenner is named Woman of the Year for publicly wearing a dress and painting her nails. Women have been wearing dresses and painting their nails for years, but someone who used to be called Bruce does it and suddenly it’s Woman of the Year stuff. I don’t care if someone who is biologically male wants to live as a woman, regardless of whether she wears a dress or not (women can do anything!)—it’s no skin off my nose, after all. But when someone who lived as a man and enjoyed the privileges of man-living for 60 years claims she’s “just as much a woman” as I am, please forgive me for saying, “Oh, honey.” I mean, what else can I say? I’m happy you’re happy, Caitlyn Jenner, but a newly-transitioned woman winning Woman of the Year is like Barack Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize immediately upon his inauguration: you just haven’t earned it yet, baby. (Alluding to Smiths songs: just what a white girl of a certain age would do.

I say that, and I own it, but I also realize it sounds pretty mean—I reckon it sounds really mean to any trans woman (or person) who has had to suffer through things that I will never understand because I haven’t experienced them. Yet I also notice that this means 45 years of living as a woman, having experiences that a trans woman has never had, qualifies me for exactly zero pronouncements on the nature of womanhood. So trying to relate to the whole “appropriation” issue via my womanhood is a fail.

As a Mormon, I guess I qualify as a religious minority. Historically, Mormons have been marginalized. Some would argue we still are (though I would not, not really). And Mormons are definitely a culture as well as a religion. I’m not sure how one would go about appropriating our culture.[2] It’s kind of hard to nail down in the first place, not unlike our theology. But as long as we’re imagining something super-unlikely, let’s suppose that some not-Mormon person took something that was sacred to us and cheapened or commercialized it. Let’s say some non-Mormon celebrity (famous and therefore influential, sadly) started wearing Mormon temple clothes in public because they thought it looked cool. No one would ever do that, but let’s say they did. Most Mormons would instinctively call that disrespectful and gross, but that’s because it’s hard to imagine anyone doing it for reasons other than mockery. One has to imagine someone wearing Mormon temple clothes because they actually thought it did look cool. It takes a lot of imagination. (You could strain something and hurt yourself, probably.) I can only imagine that my reaction to this sort of thing would be to think a) they look as ridiculous as I do, and b) we appropriated all that temple stuff from the Masons, so they probably have first dibs on being offended.

Anyway, they already made The Book of Mormon musical, which wasn’t appropriation but satire, and plenty of Mormons got their noses out of joint over that because a) Mormons generally don’t appreciate satire and b) Mormons don’t like to be made fun of, especially not with F-words. I did not see The BofM musical, nor do I care to—I have a reasonably high tolerance for irreverent humor, but a fairly low tolerance for scatological humor, which is the same reason I don’t like to watch South Park—but I thought (and still think) that righteous indignation/outrage was a foolish response. It makes us look small, and frankly, insecure. I’m pretty sure Jesus said if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. If you’re going to trash or mock my religion, maybe you’re a jerk (or maybe you’re just misunderstood—I don’t know your life!), but that’s on you, not me. If you want to have a real conversation about my religion, I’m happy to converse with you; if you’re going to be a jerk, go be a jerk without me.

I can say these things about Mormons because I am one and I understand the Mormon experience, but I can’t say to a woman of color, “Your thing about nameplate necklaces makes you look small and insecure,” because I’m not one and I don’t know her experience. I don’t understand her feelings. Is it even possible for me to understand her feelings to the extent that I can understand why she would get bent out of shape over white girls wearing nameplate necklaces? Is there any point in trying to understand, or do I just accept that as a white girl, I have no business wearing a nameplate necklace?

So I’m back where I started, a middle-aged white lady with a free blog and no clue. Where does one draw the line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation? Is there a line between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation? [3] If so, where does one draw that? How do you know when you’re appropriating something? I’m not really looking for someone to tell me this whole “cultural appropriation” thing is ridiculous. I know some not-(completely)-ridiculous people who have very strong feelings about it, but can’t really articulate the difference between appreciation/exchange and appropriation. I’m not invested in the idea that I should be able to wear a nameplate necklace or a kimono. I’m not even a fan of any sports teams with Native American mascots. On occasion, I enjoy Vietnamese food, but then I read an essay by a Vietnamese-American who was upset that Vietnamese food was trendy now, but white people used to make fun of her lunches when she was young. My instinct is to think that person might need therapy to deal with her issues, but I’m open to the idea of that not being fair. When I was a kid, I thought bologna sandwiches were delicious. I think bologna is gross now. I still like Spam, though. Hawaiians also like Spam. Who liked it first? What does it all mean? I don’t know.


[1] Even my red hair is, technically, appropriated. I was born a brunette, but I think red hair is beautiful and I like the way I look with red hair, so I dye it red, even if it’s wrong. I have extremely fair skin and burn easily, so I almost feel as though I’ve earned it, but that’s just what a clueless fake-ginger would say.

[2] I was reading some non-Mormon person’s Twitter feed and they were saying how their son wanted to ask someone to Homecoming, but apparently, expectations have changed such that it’s no longer okay to say, “Will you come to Homecoming with me?” You have to do something creative, like with balloons or baked goods or whatever. I was, frankly, astonished. I thought only Mormons did this. (We love theatre! And arts & crafts!) Now it’s what everyone’s supposed to do? Is this the Pinterest-ization of our culture, or has Pinterest simply facilitated the widespread appropriation of Mormon culture? In either case, I don’t actually care. Do what you feel, kids.

[3] I went to a recipe exchange a million years ago, and a friend of mine, who was from Idaho, shared this recipe called “Hong Kong Chicken.” It was a dish her mother made all the time when she was growing up. It consisted of rice, chicken, and cream of mushroom soup (basically). So…where did the Hong Kong part come in, exactly? My friend said, sheepishly, “Oh. Well. You see, most of what we ate was made with potatoes. But this was made with rice. Hence—Hong Kong.” I thought this was adorable (and hilarious). I shared this story with someone recently, and they thought it was offensive, maybe borderline racist. Well, goodness—uneducated about Chinese cuisine, sure, but racist? Can’t we just be glad that we live in a world where more people are eating rice? Maybe Idahoans should be offended when other people belittle their attempts to try new things!


So apparently the Iowa caucus was on Monday, and yesterday Rand Paul dropped out of the race. That surprised me, since I understood he was expected to do well in New Hampshire. Well, now we’ll never know, will we? Rand Paul has never been my guy, despite the internet quizzes that tell me we are very much in alignment on several issues. I appreciate that Rand Paul is the only Republican candidate with a robust understanding of the Fourth Amendment, but on the other hand, well, it’s difficult to take him seriously. That might be a personal failing of mine, but that’s neither here nor there, since we won’t have Rand Paul to kick around the rest of this primary. Maybe he ran out of money. Or maybe he just has better things to do. He is a senator, after all.

And this morning I read that Rick Santorum is also calling it quits. It came as something of a shock, like when Yogi Berra died–up ’til then I’d had no idea the cat was still alive. It’s good news, though (Santorum quitting, not the demise of Mr. Berra), since we could use fewer Republicans running for president. I appreciate his contribution to this cause. If only more of them would follow suit.

I have not been paying a great deal of attention to this race because a) I haven’t been paying much attention to the world in general since 2012, and b) nothing interesting ever happens anyway. Well, with the exception of Donald Trump’s campaign, which has been not so much interesting as horrifying. But it’s too easy to sit here and make snide remarks about Donald Trump. I prefer to work on pretending he isn’t there. If I ignore him long enough, do you think he’ll go away?

Historically, I have advocated that we choose presidents based on who would win in a fistfight. I thought Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were rather evenly matched in that regard, so I can’t say this method would have served me any better than the traditional one in 2012. This year is a little easier. For the Democrats, Hillary would win, hands down. Probably with both hands tied behind her back (with handcuffs, as they probably should be). For the Republicans, it’s a much closer call. For one thing, there are about 47 of these guys in the ring (plus Carly Fiorina). I didn’t even realize Rick Santorum was there until he wasn’t anymore. One thing’s for sure: Trump would be knocked out fairly early. He acts like he’s all ruthless and crap, but push comes to shove, he’s just another multi-millionaire who probably can’t be bothered to pick up his own socks, plus he whines whenever he doesn’t get his way, and that’s when someone–probably Jeb Bush–is going to sucker punch him. Jeb Bush doesn’t look like a tough guy, but I find it hard to believe he could grow up with W and not learn how to hold his own in a brawl. But he would probably get knocked out by Chris Christie.

Speaking of Chris Christie, I remember when he was a conservative favorite and people actually wanted him to run for president. Was it only four years ago? That part I don’t remember. What I do remember was Frank J. Fleming’s assertion that Chris Christie “would eat your candidate for lunch. Then he would eat his normal lunch.” Presently, Gov. Christie does not appear to be eating anyone’s lunch, normal or otherwise, but that’s just in the real presidential race. In the hypothetical take-it-to-the-octagon presidential race, Chris Christie would acquit himself rather well. Size matters in the octagon. But I reckon we’d find him surprisingly agile for a candidate of size. He’d probably dominate for a good portion of the contest. Lost opportunities.

But that’s not actually what I meant to talk about. A couple weeks ago a friend of mine posted this thing on the Facebook. For those of you too lazy to click, it’s the Presidents of the United States ranked by hotness. Oh, sure, now you click. Anyway, I could quibble here and there–Bill Clinton is ranked way too high, and there’s no way Jimmy Carter is hotter than Gerald Ford–but it seems more or less legit. So I wondered, what if we chose presidents on the basis of hotness? It’s an interesting question because a) what is hotness, really? and b) it’s pretty slim pickings in the political realm, as far as hotness goes, so you really have to use your imagination.

Again, I think it’s easy to decide the winner of the Democratic primary: it’s Martin O’Malley. I don’t think anyone’s going to argue with me there.

I mean, come on.

Martin O’Malley

Right? I mean, before I looked him up on the internet, I would have said Hillary was a shoo-in. Because seriously.

Bernie Sanders


Hillary Clinton

Hillary looks great for 70, or whatever she is, but she’s no Martin O’Malley–sorry, girlfriend. I say he wins the primary and the general, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The Republican primary is much, much trickier to judge. It’s a shame Rand Paul dropped out because he’s probably the best looking of the Republican candidates. (Believe me, I was surprised as you.) But let’s be scientific about this, i.e. gather some data.

Jim Gilmore

Yes, Jim Gilmore is still running for president. I checked. Not a bad-looking guy, by any stretch. Definitely doing better in this poll than in others. But what’s the competition like?

John Kasich

Also still running. You know, he has decent features, but something about him reminds me of the Cigarette-Smoking Man from The X-Files. It may be clouding my judgment.

Jeb Bush

Say what you will about the Bushes, but you can’t argue with the DNA. They’re an attractive family. Jeb’s looks have improved with age, and fortunately he’s not competing with his brother here (or his father, for that matter). I see a lot of Bar in him, actually. Overall, not too shabby. Don’t count Jeb out.

Ben Carson

Ben Carson is also a reasonably handsome fellow, though the glasses give him kind of a nerdy, mild-mannered look.

But while I was looking up photos of him on the internet, I came across this younger, smoother version of Dr. Carson.

Hello, ladies! Too bad this contest wasn’t being held 30 years ago, amirite?

Chris Christie

When you’re looking for “small” images of Chris Christie, the pickings are pretty slim (no pun or particular irony intended). Gov. Christie is an imposing figure, and he does have that teddy bear thing going for him, but I can’t pretend he’s in my top three.

Ted Cruz

I have tried and tried and tried to like Ted Cruz, mainly because a) he seems to be Trump’s main competition and b) he’s Jay Nordlinger’s guy, and I love Jay Nordlinger and want to love his guy, but I find I just can’t. There’s something about him that just rubs me the wrong way. He gives the impression that he finds a significant percentage of the electorate to be morons, and at the same time he keeps pandering to said morons (cynically, and I don’t mean that in a good way). There’s something slippery, almost Clintonesque about him. I’m probably being unfair. I can’t claim to be paying the closest of attention to everything that’s gone on in this race, and to call a Republican “Clintonesque” is pretty rude. At least he’s better-looking than Clinton, but admittedly, that’s not saying much. Most of the time he looks kind of goofy to me.

But this picture I find very flattering. I like his nose. He reminds me a bit of Jeremy Northam here. If he could just always be shown from this angle, he’d make a very fine President indeed.

Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina has either an advantage or a disadvantage being the only woman in the group. Male hotness and female hotness are such different balls of string, if you know what I’m saying. (I’m not sure I do.) Carly’s an attractive woman, but can she go head-to-head with Martin O’Malley? I just don’t know.

Marco Rubio

Then there’s Marco Rubio, who is exactly eleven days younger than I am, but I always think he looks about fourteen years old. (It seems weird to vote for someone younger than me, even if it’s only by eleven days. It seems especially weird when I could probably pass for his mother.) Aesthetically, he appeals to me more than Ted Cruz does, most of the time, and unlike Ted Cruz, there is no angle or lighting that is especially beneficial to him. He pretty much always looks exactly like this. Does that make him more trustworthy, or just sort of a freak?

After eight years in the White House, he might finally look as old as I do. He will either have matured into greater handsomeness, or we will find a portrait of his withered visage in his attic. Meanwhile, I just can’t decide how I feel about him.

And then there’s this guy.

Donald Trump

Yes, that is the most flattering photograph I could find of him. I’m just going to say he looks very wealthy here.

Frankly, I just can’t decide. In the nice-guy-with-glasses category, Ben Carson and Jeb Bush are about even, with maybe a slight edge to Ben Carson because he makes that goatee look good. Personally, I have to say I’m partial to Jim Gilmore. I can’t explain why. But for someone to compete with Martin O’Malley, I may have to go with Carly Fiorina or Marco Rubio (his youth has to count for something), or possibly a cardboard cutout of Ted Cruz from that very flattering angle. But I’m not confident about any of these choices.

What do you think, gentle readers? How would you rate the presidential candidates, according to hotness? Feel free to offer your assessment of historical presidential hotness as well. Could Walter Mondale have beaten Ronald Reagan? Of course he couldn’t have. But what about Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson? That’s a much tougher call.

In the United States, there are 321 million people, and (it is estimated) about 347 million guns. In case you were wondering, that is a lot of guns. Other countries don’t have that many guns. One thing that helps a lot, if you don’t want so many guns in your country, is not to allow citizens to own guns. When it’s illegal to own guns, fewer people own them, and strangely enough, fewer guns are in circulation. (Because who’s going to buy your illegal guns? Criminals? No, the criminals will probably just steal them.) Fewer guns also translates to less gun violence, because the fewer guns there are, the harder they are to come by. You can’t use a gun if you can’t get one.

In the U.S., people are allowed to own guns. They’ve always been allowed to own guns, so this has resulted in a lot of guns being produced and sold in the U.S. (Because who’s going to buy your legal guns? Hint: not just criminals.) Although there are laws about who can buy guns and who can sell guns and where and how, etc., in many places it is relatively easy to buy a gun legally, if you want one. Regardless of where you live, however, and what the gun laws are in that jurisdiction, it is always easy to get a gun illegally because there are so many guns. All you have to do is be willing to break the law. Studies have shown that murderers are more willing to break the law than non-murderers. If there were fewer guns, it would be harder to get one, legally or illegally, and therefore harder for murderers to obtain and use guns. So murderers would definitely end up opting for different weapons–in many cases, less destructive weapons–and there would certainly be less gun violence.

So the solution to the U.S.’s gun violence problem is actually quite simple. You can’t just make guns harder to get legally. You have to make them hard to get illegally. That is, you have to make them hard to get, period. The way to do that is to reduce the number of guns in the country. I have an idea of how to do that. It’s actually here in this status update. I’ve already said it. I’m not going to bother to say it again. Suffice it to say that regardless of their personal feelings about guns, most people are reluctant to endorse this simple, obvious strategy because it will require a constitutional amendment. Constitutional amendments are non-starters, politically, but also, advocating for them makes you look like an extremist and very few people think of themselves as extremist. But is it wrong to be an extremist on the side of reducing gun violence? That’s the question Americans have to ask themselves. Not “how can we prevent mass shootings?” We already know the answer to that one. We just don’t like it.

“I think it’s also important to know that some politician put a tax of $5.85 on a pack of cigarettes. So they’ve driven cigarettes underground… But then some politician also had to direct the police to say, ‘Hey, we want you arresting people for selling a loose cigarette.'”–Rand Paul on the Eric Garner case

[If, for some strange reason, you are not familiar with the case of Eric Garner, the New Yorker who died after police used a choke hold to restrain him because he was resisting arrest, you may read about it here.]

I must tell you from the outset, Rand Paul is not my homeboy. I can’t say I have strong feelings about Rand Paul either way. Does he sometimes make libertarianism look ridiculous? Well, most libertarians do that. But I don’t think he’s particularly ridiculous in this case. Some people think his above statement was an absurd point to make, given that a man was killed. Someone dies, and you blame taxes? Sure, it sounds stupid when you say it that way. But I think it is an astute point, especially in light of Eric Garner’s last words, addressed to the police officers who were arresting him for the crime of selling untaxed cigarettes:

“Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it. It stops today. […] I’m minding my business, officer, I’m minding my business. Please just leave me alone. I told you the last time, please just leave me alone. Please. Please, don’t touch me. Do not touch me. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”

Garner was certainly breaking the law. The police had the authority to arrest him. Technically, he didn’t have the “right” to resist. Regardless of whether or not he was right to resist arrest, why were the police arresting him? Because he was selling untaxed cigarettes, quelle horreur. And why was he resisting? Because the cops had a history of hassling him (which cops have a tendency to do to people who are breaking laws), and he’d reached his breaking point. “It stops today.” If you’re going to call Rand Paul’s comments ridiculous, then Garner’s resistance was also ridiculous, by that standard. You might argue that it shouldn’t matter, given that we’re dealing with a question of excessive force by the police, but actually, it does kind of matter.

The police have fairly wide latitude when it comes to handling crime suspects, for the sake of maintaining public order. If you can’t use force, even deadly force, with an arrestee, you’re not going to be able to detain dangerous criminals. Even if a suspect doesn’t appear dangerous initially, the cops can’t predict if or when he (or she) will become dangerous. Police officers put themselves in danger when they try to apprehend and arrest people. They do it every day. They deal with the worst elements of society every day. They have a proctologist’s view of the world. It’s no wonder they tend to take a hostile stand toward the public at large. If they didn’t, probably more of them would be killed than already are every year.

I myself have mixed feelings toward the police. I understand the difficulty of their position, and I appreciate that there are people willing to risk their lives to keep the community safe. On the other hand, we are trusting these people with a crapload of power–and people with a crapload of power can’t always be trusted not to abuse it. It’s a double-edged sword! (Or something like that.) I’ve had perhaps more than my share of encounters with police officers, and no, I’m not talking about traffic tickets. They were not pleasant. (Except for maybe that K-9 officer I met at the boys’ cub scout camp.) When a cop thinks you’ve committed a crime, they approach you as they would any law-breaking scumbag. They do their best to intimidate you. Some of them are probably just jerks. (I can think of at least one incident from my personal experience that would support that hypothesis.) But I can’t ignore the fact that police officers always have to be prepared to deal with violent offenders, and being prepared also makes you a big meanie.

With all that said, here’s the point: The more things that are illegal, the more crimes will be committed. That’s just arithmetic, kids. The more crimes there are, the more people are going to be put in dangerous situations because the potential for violence is inherent in nearly every police-citizen interaction. There are people who are authorized to deprive you of your liberty, at least temporarily, and then there’s you, not particularly keen on having your liberty curtailed. Are you going to resist? Not unless you want to get hurt, I guess. Are there any circumstances under which you might resist, and risk getting hurt? How oppressive does the government have to be before you start resisting? “It stops today.”

The average law-abiding citizen doesn’t think much about the power the police wield because they don’t expect to be subject to it. And if you’re generally law-abiding and belong to a racially and economically privileged demographic, you probably won’t be (aside from the occasional traffic ticket). But the more things that are illegal, the more crimes will be committed. The more crime, the more police intervention, and the more police intervention, the more potential for violence–and the more potential for the police to overreact and to abuse their power. And the more potential for tragic misunderstandings and accidents, which do happen. So shouldn’t it stand to reason that in addition to police officers being properly trained and following the rules and not being racists and so forth, we should minimize the number of situations where a police officer has to intervene?

Cigarettes are bad for you, which I guess is why we tax them so heavily–or rather, why politicians can get away with taxing them so heavily. Never mind that cigarette taxes fall disproportionately on poor people and minorities. I mean, we’re talking about people’s health here! But Rand Paul is right–the high taxes have created a black market for cigarettes, which means they’ve created more crime. More crime–even non-violent crime–means more victims of police malfeasance. I know I keep saying it, but it keeps being true. There was no reason–that I can see–why the situation with Eric Garner should have escalated as quickly as it did. But I also think there’s no reason that a mother should be put in jail for letting her nine-year-old play at the park by herself. I’m kind of an anarchist, I guess.

Racism may have been a factor in Eric Garner’s arrest. I’m not a mind-reader, so I won’t speculate on how much the police officers in question had against black people. What I do know is that we give police officers a lot of leeway to use force on suspects because we don’t want them holding back when force is really needed; that gives a lot of cover to police officers who use excessive force. Is it possible to restrict their use of force without jeopardizing public safety? Well, I hope so, because putting a chokehold on a dude selling cigarettes is just nuts. But what do you do with someone who’s resisting arrest, even if what they’re getting arrested for is kind of trivial in the grand scheme of things? At what point are you permitted to use more forceful means of restraint? If it’s better to let them go than to risk hurting them, what’s the point of the law in the first place?

When last you tuned in to this blog, i.e. the last time I actually wrote something for this blog, I was talking about my history of camping, as a preparation for talking about my most recent, first-time-in-twenty-five-years camping experience. Unfortunately, I wrote that shortly before I had to go out of town. I got back in town about a week ago, but my kids have been monopolizing all the computers and when they haven’t been monopolizing them, I have been too tired or not in the mood to write about my camping adventure. Or about my out-of-town adventure. Maybe I will come back to those things at a later time. Or maybe I will forget all about them. But if there’s one thing I know (or remember) about blogging, it’s that it’s best to write something while you’re thinking about it, as opposed to thinking, “I should write about that sometime,” and then never actually do it (or wait so long to do it that you’re no longer sure what was so interesting about the subject in the first place). So I am not going to write about camping and going out of town today, but I am going to write about the things that are on my mind.

Princess Zurg is a feminist, so she’s plugged in to feminist issues and news stories to do with women, i.e. she sees stuff on the Facebook and whatnot. Yesterday we were talking about the controversy over the new roofie-detecting nail polish some dudes invented. A woman who has painted her fingernails with this polish can supposedly test her drink for roofies simply by discreetly dipping a fingernail in her drink. (I was going to call this invention “handy,” but then I realized that would be more punny than I wanted to sound.) Rape prevention advocates are concerned that it puts more responsibility on the woman to avoid becoming a victim, rather than stopping rapists from raping; this is the sort of thing that contributes to rape culture. I agree that it isn’t cool to hold a woman responsible for her rape. The only people responsible for rape are rapists. However, I disagree that providing a tool that might (note: might, not “definitely will”) help a woman protect herself from sexual predators contributes to rape culture.

A couple reasons:

1) Helping a woman protect herself is not the same as holding her responsible for her own safety. We don’t have any trouble telling people how to protect themselves from identity theft, even though it is the identity thief who is responsible for stealing someone’s identity. Some people will come up with reasons to blame a rape survivor for her (or his, as the case may be) attack, but those people need to figure out the difference between committing a crime and being a victim of a crime. “But she was drunk” or “But she was walking by herself at night in a bad part of town” are not valid excuses for raping someone, just as “But their password was so obvious” or “But they didn’t use PayPal” are not valid excuses for stealing someone’s financial information. Is a woman entitled to get drunk and pass out by herself in a bad part of town without getting raped? Absolutely. Just as a person is entitled to have money without getting it stolen. People are not supposed to rob or rape you. You are entitled to walk through life without being criminally molested. It’s just the criminals you have to convince of this. (Good luck, by the way.)

Now might be an appropriate time to point out that these days we expect parents to protect their children from all manner of danger, regardless of how remote. Parents are arrested for leaving their eleven-year-olds unattended in cars because anything could have happened in the five minutes they were gone. But tell a college student she should probably try not to drink herself unconscious at a party because some people like to rape unconscious women, and that is blaming the victim. Never mind that college students are much more likely to get raped after getting drunk than eleven-year-olds are to be abducted by maniacs while their parents are picking up a prescription at the Walgreens. I guess the next time someone lectures me about letting one of my kids out of my sight, I can ask why they don’t focus more on teaching strangers not to kidnap.

It is fair enough to say that it isn’t up to women not to get raped, but it’s up to men not to rape. I’m on board with that, for sure. However, the majority of men already do a pretty good job of not raping. They may not know how to share household chores equally, but they’ve got the not-raping thing down just fine. So obviously education works–both the moral and legal varieties. The problem remains, and always will, that there are men who know what rape is, know it’s wrong (and illegal), and don’t care. Just like most criminals know what’s against the law and break the law anyway. They all have their reasons. The rapist’s reasons are a) “because I can” and b) ….well, I’d say (a) pretty much covers it. We should still teach people about consent, just like we should still teach people what the traffic laws are, but there are always going to be people who think the law doesn’t (or shouldn’t) apply to them; those are the people we have to protect ourselves from.

2) Rebecca Nagle, one of the co-directors of an activist group called FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, says, “The problem isn’t that women don’t know when there are roofies in their drink; the problem is people putting roofies in their drink in the first place.”

Indeed. That is the problem. You know what else is a problem? People stealing cars. Yet no one suggests that selling car alarms is part of the problem. If someone steals your car, are you partially to blame unless you had an alarm on it? I hope not because I don’t have an alarm on my car. I also probably wouldn’t bother to wear roofie-detecting nail polish. Mainly because I don’t paint my fingernails. I paint my toenails, but dipping my toe into my drink would not be terribly discreet. Also, the roofie-detecting stuff probably costs more than regular nail polish and I like my nail polish cheap. Still, I’m not upset that people sell things like car alarms and roofie-detecting nail polish. I think it’s nice that those things exist for the people who want to use them. It’s good to have choices. Without choices, what are we? Communists.

As I just said a few paragraphs ago, there are people who will come up with reasons to blame women for their own rapes. They will say things like “She was drinking” or “She was dressed provocatively.” (Dressing “provocatively,” of course, is a lot more subjective than being incapacitated. In any case, neither is a reason to blame a person for being a victim of a crime. The perpetrator of the crime is the one to blame.) How often, though, do you hear stuff like “She wasn’t carrying a gun” or “She didn’t learn karate”? Not often, I’m betting. And that’s about how likely it is that people will blame a woman for not wearing roofie-detecting nail polish the night someone spiked her drink and raped her.

So I don’t get the hate for roofie-detecting nail polish. And neither does Princess Zurg, who is the first person to call someone out for blaming the victim. She is sincerely perplexed by people who have a problem with a product that might protect women from sexual predators, which is why we were having the conversation and why it is on my mind.


The other story I wanted to talk about is the feminist advertising campaign undertaken by underwear company Dear Kate. The ads show real life women in the tech industry, sitting at their computers while dressed in only their underwear. It includes quotes about their work. It’s a feminist campaign because it doesn’t just show sexy women posing provocatively. It shows real women (some with less model-like bodies than others) at work in a male-dominated industry. In their underwear. Which shows that they are comfortable in their female bodies, which is important. They can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan. All while wearing only their underwear. (And if they get splattered by bacon grease in the process, well, that’s hardly the issue, is it? I’m appalled that you would even bring it up.)

Some feminists have criticized the ads, though, because—well, see the above paragraph. I have to admit that I myself was dumbfounded. I’m okay with these body-positive ad campaigns that show women of different sizes and shapes. I’m also okay with ad campaigns that only show slender and well-toned women because I don’t really pay much attention to underwear ads. I’ve never kidded myself that if I wore a particular brand of underwear, I would look like the model in the ad. And looking at women with large thighs does not make me feel better about myself. What would make me feel better about myself? It’s a fair question. I suppose if I were a woman who had made a successful career for herself in the tech industry, or any industry, I would feel good about myself. I still would probably not let someone take pictures of me in my underwear and use them for a national ad campaign.

I know what you’re thinking, but it isn’t that I don’t like the way I look in my underwear. I think I look fine in my underwear, all things considered. Fine enough for anyone who’s going to see me, at least. In my worldview, that demographic does not properly include total strangers or people I interact with professionally. It just isn’t dignified. That was my first reaction to the ad. “Why on earth would anyone do that? It just isn’t dignified.” No offense to the dignity of underwear models. I mean, if that’s your job, more power to you. It’s like being an actor, in a way. That’s fine. But if your job is something not underwear-modeling-related, why would you want to be seen in public in your underwear? I just don’t get it. Maybe I don’t understand how the tech industry works. Maybe these women don’t have to go to work in the morning and look their (probably male) co-workers in the eye, knowing that these co-workers have seen them in their underwear. Maybe it just doesn’t bother them if their colleagues have pictures of them in their underwear.

Skillcrush cofounder and CEO Adda Birnir, who participated in the photo shoot (and looks great, by the way), said, “I think the thing is that all women have bodies and wear underwear and have to deal with all the mundane as well as cultural/political things that come with walking around in a female body. We aren’t either women who pose in underwear or women who code or women who are attractive or women who are unattractive or women who are sexual or women who are CEOs. We are all the things at once, and it’s confusing and messy and complicated and often annoyingly at issue, but not dealing with all those different facets isn’t a viable solution.”

So if someone decided to rip this ad out of their favorite periodical and pin it to the bulletin board in the lunch room, would they be guilty of sexual harassment? Or would they just be starting a conversation about the cultural/political things that come with walking around in a female body in the workplace? Not a joke. I am genuinely curious. Does Birnir make sense, or does she sound like an idiot?

I admit I don’t have a lot of feminist cred. I lost that when I started voting Republican. So I might be tempted to defer to the judgment of people who are better feminists than I. But I can’t help thinking that if a bunch of men in the tech industry posed for pictures in their underwear for a nationwide ad campaign, people would not think it was provocative and interesting. They would think, “There are some men who don’t have much dignity.” I think that’s what it comes down to for me. It’s not feminist or anti-feminist. It’s just not dignified. I guess I’m old-fashioned that way.

What do you all think?

(Speaking of dignity, this article made me laugh out loud, and I guess there will never be a more appropriate time to share it than now: Dating Naked contestant sues series showing her dating while naked)




So the other day I saw this story about a 10-year-old in Arkansas who refuses to say the pledge of allegiance until everyone in this country has equal rights.  Or rather, I saw the headline of this story, but I didn’t read the actual story because I’d reached my eye-rolling quota for the day.  (Another 10-year-old has discovered that America isn’t perfect!  Alert the media!)  This morning, however, I heard a clip from a CNN interview with the kid and his dad, and it piqued my interest, so I decided to go back to the article and read it, assuming I could keep my eye-rolling under control.

So this 10-year-old kid, Will Phillips, decided he wasn’t going to say the pledge along with his fifth grade class, for the above stated reasons, and the substitute teacher tried to make him stand up for it, but he refused.  This went on for a few days, and the teacher kept getting more cross with Will and started saying that his parents and grandparents would want him to stand and say the pledge, until finally young Will couldn’t take it anymore and said to the teacher, “With all due respect, ma’am, you can jump off a bridge.”

Shall I be frank?  Historically I have had mixed feelings about the pledge of allegiance, even after I became a red-blooded right-winger.  It has nothing to do with the pledge itself, which is a lovely sentiment.  It’s an ideal, an aspirational statement.  I’ve always been a fan of America, even when I was a big sissified lefty, and I’m a fan of Old Glory and I even like “The Star-Spangled Banner,” so sue me.  It’s a free country, after all.  Anyway, no, I have no problems with the words in the pledge of allegiance, but the act of standing up and reciting a pledge to a flag has at times struck me as kind of…I don’t know…weird.  Just when you really stop and think about it.  Like when you say a certain word a lot, all of a sudden it starts to sound weird, like, “Why haven’t I noticed how weird this word is before?”  Okay, maybe it’s not a shared experience.  Whatever.  I don’t have strong feelings about it, but I’m sympathetic to people who don’t want to do it.

So, fine, don’t pledge allegiance to the flag if you don’t want to.  That’s not what stands out to me in this article.  What stands out to me is that the kid told his teacher to jump off a bridge–and that’s the point where sympathy and I parted ways.  I wasn’t there, so I can’t say for sure if the teacher was really being a suckhead, or if that was just the kid’s perception, but I’m willing to stipulate for the sake of argument that the teacher was being a suckhead.  It doesn’t matter.  I’m against children mouthing off to adults, period.  That’s unacceptable behavior, even if she was ticking you off.  It’s not to be done.

Like Hillary Clinton, I believe that it does take a village to raise a child.  My children are living proof that it takes a village.  If it weren’t for the village, we’d all be screwed.  That’s why my kids, as much as I like to nurture their independence and feistiness, are not allowed to sass the village.  They’re the kids, we’re the adults, and that’s all she wrote, amigos.  Believe me, I have tangoed with teachers and principals who treated my child unfairly, but we had our words behind the scenes.  The school functions in loco parentis, which doesn’t work if kids get the message that they can talk to the teachers the same way they talk to their peers.  I got annoyed with teachers when I felt that they’d provoked Princess Zurg to anger–they were awfully dense and inflexible at times–but my consistent message to PZ was that she was not allowed to disrespect the teachers.  Even when the teachers were being suckheads, if she’d been disrespectful (or, you know, punched them), she had to apologize and take the consequences because children have to respect their elders–that’s the rule.  I’m unreasonable and unmovable on this point.

I hope it’s obvious that if a teacher is physically abusing a student, using racial slurs, or engaging in other behavior meriting termination of employment, that’s another story.  I would really hate to have to write another paragraph on this.

So yeah, I was appalled that this kid’s parents would support him telling his teacher to jump off a bridge and get the media involved so the media can fawn all over him for being such a clever little guy (he’s so smart! he wants to fight injustice!) and on top of it have the chutzpah to demand an apology from the teacher for making their little boy angry.  Jeez louise, people.  Why don’t you just homeschool him and get back to the village when he’s ready to accept his Nobel Prize?

I’m not a fan of this family.

But that’s just me.  I admit it, I’m a reactionary SOB (insofar as it’s possible for a woman to be an SOB–there’s really not a female equivalent of this yet, such are the limitations of the English language).  I’m sure some of you have a different point of view and y’all will probably share it with me–what are friends for?–but as long as we’re sharing, let me talk about the other thing I was thinking.

When I was in high school, if I recall correctly, everyone was supposed to say the pledge of allegiance at the beginning of second period.  Most of the teachers I had didn’t bother with it.  I had one who did, and he made it clear from the beginning that no one had to say the pledge and no one had to place his or her hand over his or her heart, but everyone had to stand beside his or her desk (and be silent, if they weren’t saying the pledge).  The teacher, a former Marine, did not say the pledge himself and always had one of the class members lead it, but he did put his hand over his heart, so whatever that signified, I don’t know.  His requirement for us all to stand didn’t seem outrageous to me at the time, but I don’t know how a Jehovah’s Witness would feel about it.  We didn’t have any Jehovah’s Witnesses in our class, or if we did, they were all very rebellious because everyone stood for the pledge.  Not everyone said it, but everyone stood.  Maybe they felt silly doing otherwise after the teacher had been so reasonable about the other stuff, but regardless, that was how it was.

I understand that it makes more of a statement to remain sitting during the pledge of allegiance than to stand and just not say the pledge.  If you stand, people may not notice that you’re not saying the pledge, and your little protest will be for naught.  If you sit while everyone else is standing, people will notice and really understand how much you hate injustice.  I’m not a legal scholar, so I’m not pretending I can speak authoritatively on the subject (unless you’re a child, in which case, MY WORD IS LAW WITH YOU, SUCKA!), but it seems to me that it doesn’t violate anyone’s constitutional rights to require them to stand during the pledge of allegiance.  I say this because my there’s-no-such-thing-as-an-ex-Marine civics teacher was generally one of the most laid-back cats you’d ever meet, and I would hate to think he was inadvertently being some rights-trampling Nazi guy.  Also, because I really don’t see the rights-trampling.  All you have to do is stand.  If you’re a Jehovah’s Witness, I might make an exception, because that’s your religion and I’m not an expert on what constitutes idol worship, but for people who just don’t agree that our republic aspires to provide liberty and justice for all, I really think you can stand up and have your constitutional rights remain intact.  If you don’t want to stand because you want to make a statement, fine, don’t stand, make a statement–but I don’t have much respect for a person who wants to practice civil disobedience without any consequences.  I mean, if civil disobedience is consequence-free, it’s not really civil disobedience, is it?  It’s legal, so it doesn’t make a statement.  You may as well stand up.

Or, alternatively, you could bow.  That would really get the Man’s attention.


Madhousewife is the Backtalk Czar for the Obama administration.

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I should be grocery shopping right now, but Girlfriend is entranced with a Muppet Babies video, and so what are you gonna do?

You know, I never watched the Muppet Babies as a kid.  I think it may have been a little after my time, but that’s neither here nor there.  I’m going to be straight with you all:  I really don’t like the Muppet Babies.  I can’t honestly say that I’m giving them a fair shake because have I ever in my life sat down and watched a full episode of the Muppet Babies?  No.  But why is that?

Because I really don’t like them.  They irritate me.  Also, I am troubled by the premise of Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, Rowlf and Scooter and everybody knowing each other as babies, because that’s clearly not the back story established in the original Muppet Movie.  Yes, I realize I’m not supposed to take the Muppet Movie that seriously.  I also know that Kermit and Miss Piggy didn’t really get married in The Muppets Take Manhattan or whatever it was.  It’s just that I prefer the grown-up muppets who met as grown-ups, and also Kermit’s baby voice makes me want to punch him in the face.

Also, it’s bad enough that they have all the muppets living together as babies in Barbara Billingsley’s nursery, but putting Statler and Waldorf in there as the kindly uncles or whoever was really just beyond the pale.  Also, I hate the theme song.  It’s possible that I’m dead inside, but guess what?  I don’t care.

You know, that was liberating.  I don’t think I’ve ever said it out loud before.

What else can I tell you?  Current events continue to disappoint.  I saw yesterday that Pres. Obama bowed to Emperor Akihito and now everybody’s embarrassed.  You know, I’m going to be straight with you again, kids, since that whole Muppet Babies thing felt really good for me.  I must say this story disturbed me, but not for the reason you’re probably thinking.  Surely you must know that I have bigger fish to fry with the President than whether or not he’s bowing to the emperor of Japan.  I mean, come on–Japan?  Japan is harmless.  No, what disturbs me is that Pres. Obama, for all his ideological flaws, has always struck me as a very smooth character, and I don’t really understand why he keeps doing stupid crap like this.  Honestly, I am not saying this to criticize the President because if I wanted to criticize him, I would talk about something substantive.  Also, I am not the type to kick a man while he’s down.  Not a man as nice as the President, anyway.  (Harry Reid I would probably kick.  But I don’t know.  I finally stopped kicking John Edwards, and I would never in a million years have predicted that.  So maybe I’d show mercy to Sen. Reid, too, who knows?  I’m getting off topic.)  No, I’m honestly just confused here.

And no, I don’t mean all snarky-confused like when he says stuff that is logically impossible.  I guess I’ve always thought that when you became President of the United States, it was like that montage in The Princess Diaries when Anne Hathaway learns how to pluck her eyebrows and how to wave from her royal carriage and which fork to use at a state dinner.  Aren’t there, like, advisers to tell you how to act in these various situations?  Or more specifically, people to tell you what NOT to do?  You know, “princesses don’t cross their legs,” “Presidents of the United States don’t bow to other world leaders”?  Where is Pres. Obama’s Hector Elizondo when he needs him (to tell him that you don’t give the British prime minister DVDs that won’t play on his DVD player and definitely not after you sent back the bust of Churchill, which he definitely would have stopped you from doing in the first place if he hadn’t been tangoing with Julie Andrews at the time)?

I’m not saying that Pres. Obama is like some constant embarrassment, or that he does more embarrassing things than other Presidents have done.  Surely not.  I mean, at least he hasn’t puked on anyone yet (unlike some Republicans we could mention…well, really only one).  No, I really just had higher expectations of him, in the smoothness department.  It’s not a scandal; it’s just…disappointing.  I’m not embarrassed for the country–seriously? we’re America, we’ll get over it–I’m embarrassed for him, as a fellow human being.  For someone who is definitely not a cowboy, he just doesn’t seem to be up on all his etiquette.  One can’t be expected to know everything all at once, of course, but that was my point about Hector Elizondo.  We all know our current president isn’t arrogant (unlike some, etc.) and that he isn’t too proud to take advice, so why isn’t someone taking Barack Obama under his or her wing and protecting him from these little missteps?

I’m a little concerned that someone on the inside might be trying to sabotage him.  Or maybe it’s not intentional.  I mean, I hope to hell he isn’t taking his cues from Vice-Pres. Biden, who, no offense to him, is kind of an idiot.  (And by “kind of,” I mean “very much.”)  But that seems unlikely.  Despite the fact that he chose Mr. Biden as his running mate, the President seems to know that the cat is a few tines short of a fork.  (I’m still a little puzzled by that whole strategy.  Is it some kind of Godfather thing–surround yourself with smart people and keep the morons even closer?  But I digress.)

Well, whatever.  I just hope this blows over soon and we can get back to talking about the issues that really matter.  ::::SNORE::::


Madhousewife would tell you her current Czar position, but she doesn’t want to be blamed for anything embarrassing the Obama administration has done lately.

EDIT:  Okay, I just watched this video of Richard Nixon bowing to Chairman Mao.  The bow comes at about the 1:24 mark.  Leaving aside the issue of whether or not it’s appropriate for an American president to bow to a foreign leader, and also the issue of whether or not it’s appropriate for anyone to shake Chairman Mao’s hand, let alone bow to him, I have to say that Pres. Nixon’s bow’s got nothing on Pres. Obama’s bow.  In fact, it looks downright awkward in comparison (but still friendly, which is what really disturbs me).  Pres. Obama clearly knows how to bow, whereas his predecessors just sort of faked it.  (Pres. Clinton, I understand, started to bow and then changed his mind halfway through and then later denied the whole thing, or something, but ho hum, whatever.)  I take back all my previous doubts about Barack Obama’s smoothness.  If I want someone bowed to, I’ll send Pres. Obama, by golly.  The rest are all pretenders.


Madhousewife is the new Bowing Czar for the Obama administration.

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So I’m just plumb out of things to blog about, so I decided to troll the headlines, looking for ideas (because I don’t want to do the laundry), but it was all earthquakes and tsunamis and depressing things like that.  I was really more in the mood to make fun of stuff, but there’s nothing to make fun of right now.  I had to settle for something to make annoyed sounds about.

From the AP:

IRVING TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Each day before the school bus comes to pick up the neighborhood’s children, Lisa Snyder did a favor for three of her fellow moms, welcoming their children into her home for about an hour before they left for school.

Regulators who oversee child care, however, don’t see it as charity. Days after the start of the new school year, Snyder received a letter from the Michigan Department of Human Services warning her that if she continued, she’d be violating a law aimed at the operators of unlicensed day care centers.

I know.  Outrageous, right?  Well, don’t get too upset because the article goes on to indicate that just about everyone agrees this is the dumbest thing ever, and in fact even the representatives of the totally-overprotective-nanny-state seem to be saying, “Yeah, this is a really dumb law, huh?  Oops.”  So whatever.  I’m not going to get out my lame lame lame lame LAME! stick for this one, since no one seems to be confused about the lameness of the situation and therefore there’s no one to metaphorically beat in the head.  I was just thinking as I read the story, “How on earth did they find out she was watching her neighbors’ kids in the first place?  Someone had to have narced on her, and if so, what was this person’s motivation?”

Well, indeed, DHS was acting on a tip from “a neighbor.”  But that’s all it says.  “A neighbor.”  Which neighbor was this?  The vindictive neighbor whose kids didn’t get invited to Snyder’s pre-bus play group?  The crotchety neighbor who doesn’t appreciate the extra pitter-patter of little feet on Snyder’s driveway at seven in the morning?  (I’m guessing about the time, but it doesn’t really matter as crotchety people never seem to be able to get enough sleep anyway.)  The vengeful neighbor who never forgave Snyder for having his dog put down by the county after it mauled Snyder’s then-three-year-old and got ruled a danger to the community?  A vengeful neighbor with a sense of dramatic irony–the victim of government power manipulates this same power to win justice for his wrongfully-executed pet!

Note:  I made that last thing up out of whole cloth.  I’m grasping at straws here because the newspaper isn’t telling me what I want to know–which is, namely, what kind of jerk turns in a neighbor for babysitting other people’s kids?

As the article pointed out, many people rely on friendly offers such as Snyder’s to “help them balance work and family.”

“The worst part of this whole thing, with the state of the economy … two parents have to work,” said Cowan, a corporate sales representative with a 5-year-old son and 11-month-old daughter. “When you throw in the fact that the state is getting involved, it gives women a hard time for going back to work.”

So maybe–maybe–the neighbor was some kind of crazed traditionalist (probably Republican) who disapproved of Snyder enabling her friends’ unseemly pursuit of a paycheck when they should have been barefoot and pregnant and watching their own damn kids–in the kitchen!

That seems as likely an explanation as any.  It’s a crazy world, amigos.

Madhousewife is the new Free Childcare That Is Not Technically Childcare Czar for the Obama administration.


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