Saturday, April 05, 2008

Time Saving Tips For Today's Young Person On the Go

Latest Newspaper Column:

You know, it's true that I have a lot on my plate these days.

Practicing law, writing books, raising a family, and of course the hours and hours I clearly put into honing this column to its rapierlike sharpness. And let's not forget, the Internet isn't goIng to surf itself.

How, people ask me, do I do it? How do I manage to cram all this living into a single 24-hour day? Friends, I tell you, it's not easy. But over the years, I've developed a number of handy, time-saving techniques, one of which I will share with you today.

This technique involves learning to recognize what can be safely and easily ignored when it comes to reading or listening to what passes for political discourse these days. It's very liberating once you realize that you really don't have to pay attention to every pundit or commentator.

But, you fret, what if I miss something important? What if someone makes an important, germane, or salient point that may very well change the way I think about an issue, or even about life in general? If I don't examine simply everything, I might miss that point!

Fret not, gentle reader. I will teach you certain key words and phrases that will indicate to the in-the-know reader or listener that the writer or speaker isn't ever going to say anything important, perceptive, salient, or even germane. These words and phrases indicate that the writers or speakers really aren't giving any thought to what they're presenting and that they may, in fact, actually be brain-dead. The pronouncements of such people can be ignored.

One clear sign is the careless use of the word "leftist" to describe people who are liberal or even moderate in their political beliefs. Hillary Clinton is not, nor has she ever been a "leftist." Neither has Barack Obama. And anyone who would refer to John McCain as a "leftist," as some far-right Republicans have actually done, needs an immediate EEG to see if there actually is any higher brain function remaining.

Another indicator is the use of the word "agenda" to mean "political belief." Example: "Mr. Jones clearly has a liberal agenda." No, Mr. Jones has political beliefs that could be described as "liberal." Describing a person's beliefs as an "agenda" is merely an intellectually lazy way to try to make perfectly legitimate convictions, held by millions of people, seem like the products of a sinister plot.

I trust it will not be necessary to tell you, O Perceptive Readers, that the use of the phrase "leftist agenda" should be translated as "Skip this part, this person is entirely too silly to be taken seriously." You may wish to put a mirror under the speakers' noses to see if they're breathing.

Anyone who's still making "definition of 'is'" jokes or chortling about Al Gore claiming to have invented the Internet obviously stopped thinking up new material at the end of the last millennium. One cannot logically expect any new insights in the rest of their communication.

Also feel free to bypass anything that repeatedly makes reference to "Barack Hussein Obama." Yes it's his actual middle name. But unless they're also using John McCain's or Mike Huckabee's middle name every time those two gentlemen are mentioned, it's very clear what the writer or speaker is trying to do, namely use Obama's Kenyan ancestry to create fear. Fear is the tool of the intellectually deficient, and the intellectually deficient are a waste of time.

Any reference to "Islamofascism" or "Islamofascists" just shows that the person is too ignorant to know what "fascism" actually means and too incurious to look it up. Again, it's just a cheap and lazy way to try to stir up fear by invoking the specters of the last century. I suspect it's also used because calling our enemies what they are -- "Radical Religious Fundamentalists" -- cuts too close to the right's own power base.

If someone feels the need to repeatedly drag out the fact that West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd was a member of the KKK before anyone in the room was even born, whether or not the discussion involves Byrd, then it is clear that that person has the intellectual wattage of a Christmas tree bulb. One will probably not risk missing anything illuminating by skipping over that person's "thoughts."

Using these simple techniques to identify the deadwood, one can skim through the average editorial page, letters page, or online weblog in a third of the time it would normally take. Learning when all useful content has gone out of the discussion on a talk show can save you literally hours of TV time that would normally be wasted and frees you up for really worthwhile intellectual pursuits. Like, say, "My Name is Earl."

You're welcome.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Yoo: For Bush, Crushing Children's Testicles Is A-OK

Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, asserting that the President can, under the right circumstances, order his people to crush children's testicles in front of the children's parents.

These are the monsters you elected, Bush voters. We tried to warn you...

And don't you DARE come around here blathering about Scary Brown People Who Want to Kill Us unless you are willing to say, in your post, these words, verbatim: "I am willing to crush children's testicles in front of the children's parents".

Oh, and I am going to find a copy of the Presidential Oath and stick it right up the nose of the next person who starts yammering to me about "the President's duty to protect America." The President takes and oath to "preserve protect, and defend THE CONSTITUTION of the United States of America. " And so far, he hasn't done much of a job of that.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Gregg Olsen: The Progressive Interview

Gregg Olsen's new one, A COLD DARK PLACE, hits the shelves today. Gregg, an upstanding member of the Hellions and of some upstart outfit called Killer Year, has already got six "true crime" books out; this is his second work of fiction. It tells the story of Emily Kenyon, a single mother and police officer whose teenage daughter gets involved in her current investigation.

In honor of the occasion, we're doing something a little off the beaten track: the "progressive interview", where a different blogger asks a different question on their blog, then after Gregg answers, tosses him like a football to the next contestant.

JD RHOADES: A COLD DARK PLACE has as two of its central characters a single mother and her teenage daughter. How do you address the challenges of writing female characters, especially younger ones?

GREGG: Good question, JD. I think the only way that I can get it right is to continue to eavesdrop on my twin daughters and their conversations with each other and their friends. Listening is the only way to get it right. My girls are 23 now, so I expect that in time I?ll lose the advantage of capturing what young women, young girls, want or say. My girls have been my own little research center, that's for sure. Morgan, my more critical twin, has told me numerous times when things I've written were stupid. She flat out says it. Not so much with a sneer, but with the kind of tone that makes me glad that she belongs to me and not some other weaker person. Marta, the sunnier of the two, thinks that I get most of it right, for sure. If I could insert a smiley face in this text, I would. I honestly, don't know how authors without kids or very close nephews or nieces can get it right. If your only view of youth is through the media, then your young characters will end up sounding like those smart aleck brats on TV.

Next up: Karen Olson delves into the question of why write a female protagonist in the first place, and how easy was it to slip into those high heels? Head for the First Offenders blog for the scoop...

And best of luck to Gregg and to A COLD DARK PLACE!

Attention, Far Right…

The Most Aggravated Independent In the Nation (aka Jim Winter) clears a few things up for y'all.
Listen up.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Words That Go CLANG!

The other day in a comment to my “Hillary Clinton, FIRST LADY” mock radio play, some anonymous troll came along and started blathering. I deleted the comment because I normally don’t care for hit and run slurs from people who don’t have the balls to post under even a persona. Later, however, I had second thoughts, because it would just be more fun to mock the craven little bitch. Unfortunately, the comment was gone and can’t be resurrected, so I’ll summarize.

Bear with me, there’s actually a point to this.

In response to the mockery of Hillary Clinton, “Anonymous” sneered from his or her dark corner something to the effect of “So because she didn’t go to a racist and anti-Semitic church for twenty years, she’s not liberal enough for you and you feel free to make fun of her.”

Well, actually, that’s not why I feel free to mock her, Anon (can I call you Anon?) I feel free to mock her because she did something stupid, namely exaggerated what a tough and connected operative she was during the Bill Clinton years, and then she got caught at it. Caught, I might add, with ridiculous ease. By, among others, Sinbad.

Oh, and by the way, Anon? It was a joke. Lighten up.

And here’s a hint, Anon….when you toss around that “she’s not liberal enough for you” malarkey, you immediately out yourself, not as a real Hillary supporter, but as a right winger. And why, one might ask , would the right wing be so supportive of Hillary Clinton? Why would the right really really really want Hillary to win? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Which leads me to the actual point of this post. There are certain words and catch phrases much beloved of the far right loons that, when used, pretty much go CLANG! That's the sound of any actual reading shutting down. These are words and phrases that make it impossible for me to take the writer seriously. When I see one of these buzzwords , I tend to stop reading that post or that article, or at least quit reading for anything other than amusement value. They include, as noted above, the careless tossing around of the word “liberal” as a pejorative. The ridiculous references to centrist or even liberal Democrats as “leftists’ likewise draws derision, when it doesn't bring on outright yawning.

Others are:

  • Any reference to “Barack Hussein Obama” . Yes it’s his actual middle name. But unless you also use John McCain’s or Mike Huckabee’s middle name every time you mention them, it’s very clear what you’re trying to do, namely use his Kenyan ancestry to create fear.
  • Dragging the fact that Robert Byrd was a member of the KKK before any of us were born into every single political discussion, whether it’s related to Robert Byrd or not. Hint: he also left before any of us were born.
  • Tiresome “Al Gore invented the Internet” and “What your definition of is, is” jokes. They’re just old and worn out. Get some new material.
  • Any reference to “Islamofascism” or “Islamofascists.” This just shows that you’re too pig-ignorant to know what “fascism” actually means. I suspect it’s also used because calling our enemies what they are-- “Radical Religious Fundamentalists”-- cuts too close to the right's own power base.

Any other words or phrases you can think of that basically cause you to quit reading?

Sunday, March 30, 2008