For A Moment, I Was Worried

Thank God, you guys. Thank God. For a minute, I was worried that Kansas, of all places, was going to eclipse Arizona in vying for the coveted “most bigoted state in the Union” award. I mean, we’ve got a reputation, you know? We’ve got Sheriff Joe and tent cities and pink underwear. Remember SB 1070? That was us! We can’t let some glorified cornfield best us in trying to single out people that don’t fit a narrow definition of what constitutes a “proper person.”

(Straight and white and preferably male, if you were wondering what defines a “proper person” in these states, but we’re willing to slide on the third one… sometimes. Depends on a lot of mitigating factors.)

Fortunately, our state government is taking steps to make sure that Kansas doesn’t surge ahead in the discriminatory law race. We’ve got our own version of the “refuse service to gays for, like, religion and stuff” law in the works.

Thank God. I mean, can you imagine having to do business with somebody who you disagreed with? What if somebody came into YOUR business and asked you to engage in commerce even though they were clearly living their lives in a way that that was offensive to your sensibilities and maybe even morally bankrupt according to your deeply held beliefs? Can you imagine the horror? It’s unthinkable!

After all, it’s not like customer service is about dealing with people and helping them even when you don’t like them or agree with them on things and even though they bother you a lot and-

Oh wait.


Guys. You guys. I forgot something really importantI feel so stupid. It’s this rule I learned somewhere about business and capitalism and how to make money and all that jazz. It’s like, Rule number one of business, or something.

As business owner/service provider/whatever, I want your money and I will do whatever I can to get your money as long as those ways are in accordance with the law because that’s how I stay in business.

Even more astoundingly, it turns out gay money spends just as well as straight money! In fact, interest rates and inflation rates and all the other rates are exactly the same! I HAD NO IDEA. I don’t even think banks or the IRS can tell the difference between gay money and straight money.

I think I might have to rethink my entire position on this issue.

Things I Learned About North Korea From Reading The Comments Section

North Korea is one of those topics that grips my attention with morbid fascination. It boggles my mind to imagine a world so removed, so disconnected, and so absolutely alien to my own human experience. My interest goes far beyond “this is a crazy dictatorship with nuclear technology,” which seems to be as far as the rabbit hole goes for most people. For me, it’s the idea of what life is like in such a place. It seems like something out of a novel and it’s chilling to know that all the books I’ve read, like Barbara Demick’s poignant Nothing to Envy are filed in the non-fiction section.

I saw a great article about a tourist’s experiences in North Korea. The author’s own reactions are the highlight of the post: a combination of empathy and shocked amusement wrapped in a witty shell. I think shocked amusement is a normal human reaction to something so strange and unsettling; humor is one of the brain’s ways of dealing with stress, after all.

I don’t think this is cruel, superficial, or insensitive. Joking about how bizarre and weird such an experience is doesn’t mean insensitivity to the very real and very horrible human rights violations (only Eritrea has a worse record of human rights violations than North Korea). When you’re faced with something like that, the mind really has only a few options: try to laugh, try to forget, or shatter.

The reason why I’m writing about this article is not because of the article itself (although it’s very good and I think you should read it), but because of the comments the article has spawned. The author wryly notes early in the post:

Before I talk about what I learned, I’d like to quickly say hi to whomever from the North Korean government is reading this. Only the highest-level officials have access to the internet in North Korea, and I learned that the job of one of them is to scour the internet for anything written about North Korea and keep tabs on what the foreign press is saying. So hi, and haha you can’t get me cause I’m back home now and I can say all the things I wasn’t allowed to say when I was in your country.

The comments section unequivocally proves this to be true. Here are a collection of some of the best gems. Most of them are posted anonymously, although a few do have rather dubious sounding “Western” names attached. I won’t be offering any commentary as I think the rebuttals are fairly self-evident.

From “Anonymous”:

Actually, it was a rather contrived article full of swearing that was meant to make Americans feel good about their own massive police state. Enjoy feeling smug about yourself and your “free” country? Get a kick out of feeling “pity” for those poor North Koreans. Pull your head out and try fixing your own broken country, namely the USA.

From “Anonymous”:

Yes, it does sound a lot like the USA since 911. Of course, its easier to see the speck in the other guy’s eye, ya know? Not that N. Korea isn’t much worse and very sad because it is. But do take heed because they are working on making the US into the same kind of place. Current attack is against free speech under the guise of protecting “real journalists” – warning, warning, warning. We all must have the same protections.

From “Anonymous”:

Funny post, but some of it sounds pretty similar to the place where I live:
1. The leaders are a really big deal…
Like the POTUS (Mr. Peace Prize Terror Tuesday, and all the others before him), and the Fed chairman?
2. Everyone lies about everything all the time…
Like saying “the recession is over!”, or “unemployment is going down!”, or “inflation is low!”, or “the FED knows what it’s doing!”, or “college is a good investment”, or “we stand for Freedom! Yeah!”, or “marijuana is bad for you! booo!”, or “the Terrorists are going to get us!”, or “our military is killing people over there so they won’t kill us over here!”, or “the government cares for your safety!”, or “fluoride is not bad for you!”, or “the Healthcare Act was written to benefit the people, not the insurance companies who wrote it!”, or “Syria bombed its own people with chemicals, so now we need to go over there and bomb their people with even more killing metals!”, or “Iraq has WMD’s”, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.
4. Propaganda is absolutely everywhere…
Like chanting “allegiance” and singing songs about how great the country is and how the country is God’s favorite, to start every school day, and at church, and before every collegiate and professional sporting event? And parading soldiers out in front of everyone all the time to be admired? Like that?
7. The details of the leader’s birth (and college career, professional career, criminal history, etc.) is not a subject you should try to gather information on…
Hmm, too much to list on this one, about every leader this country has ever had.
8. The same physical place can be fancy and shitty at the same time…
Washington D.C., New York, LA, Chicago, Houston, etc.
9. Still talk about the Wars… all the ones we had no business starting or participating in?
12. Lacking a sense of humor about the places that hold the bodies of dead leaders… See #1…

From “Kacuncica Davidovic”:

Well in many bulletpoints North Korea is not much different than modern USA.

From “Anonymous”:

True. This piece of slanted propaganda is only meant to titillate those Americans that are already brainwashed. The biggest police state in the world is the USA. Only in the US would you be informed that you are being totally spied on and everything recorded and then not to worry about it! Mindless American bootlickers unite!

Okay. I’m going to break my earlier statement about not commenting. Let’s clear something up, just in case there was any doubts.

If you are able to complain about the “lack of freedom of speech” in a public forum, you still have freedom of speech. You’ll know when free speech is gone, because nobody will be able to say anything about it. (Complaining about the erosion of free speech is still vital, however, as it safeguards against that erosion.)

The day I know we’ve slid into an actual authoritarian police state will be the day when I do not see numerous books on the shelf in a public library accusing the current President of destroying the country, being an idiot, or just being evil in general. We won’t have a news networks that are pathologically dedicated to mocking everything the government does. Those things don’t exist in a police state. You don’t get to be a talking head on a popular news network, you get to be shot in the head.

Thus, it’s paradoxical, but I actually take comfort in seeing Fox News continue to be ridiculously anti-President (or CNN during times of Republican dominance; they like to change things up like that). As long as they’re around, I can be certain that the First Amendment is alive and well.

Yeah, there’s a lot that’s going wrong. The PRISM thing comes to mind as an example of a larger problem (although for most people, the idea of privacy is completely ridiculous considering our level of social media narcissism.) This whole “let’s play chicken with the debt ceiling” is somewhat troubling, especially since the Teabag core seems hellbent on nihilistic immolation at this point.

Still. All things considered, we’ve got it pretty good. South Koreans have it pretty good. Most of us in the industrialized world have it pretty good, admittedly to varying degrees of good.

Hopefully, someday North Koreans will have it pretty good, too.

“Religious” ≠ “Christian”. OMFG.

I think the religious right is reading a different Constitution than the rest of us. It’s the only explanation for the shit I’m reading these days. If I had to guess, the conservative version of the Constitution looks something like this:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion any religion other than one specific brand of mega-church Evangelicalism, which is totes awesome . . .

Yeah. I think they also use a different dictionary and thesaurus, which I’ll get to in a moment.

Let me preface by saying that I, personally, don’t think taxpayer money should be used to fund private religious schools through vouchers; this, by the way, is coming from somebody who went to a private religious school. With that said, if you are going to fund private religious schools, it’s only fair to follow what the actual Constitution describes and fund religious schools from any religion and not just your own very specific brand of Christianity.

That’s what’s so monocle-dropping awesome about this reaction from Louisiana Republican Valarie Hodges. Upon learning that Governor Bobby Jindal’s voucher program would fund private schools from religions other than Christianity, she had this to say:

We need to insure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.”

The best part is when you consider this in context to her previous position on using public funding for private religious schools:

“I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools or private schools,” the District 64 Representative said Monday.

“I liked the idea of giving parents the option of sending their children to a public school or a Christian school,” Hodges said.

Hodges mistakenly assumed that “religious” meant “Christian.”

Holy shit, you guys, did you know that the word “religious” ≠ “Christianity?” OMFG, I can’t believe it, either.

Let’s ignore fact that she’s completely wrong about the religion of the Founding Fathers, since it’s actually Deism, which almost everybody with a working brain should know at this point. My reaction to this whole thing is pure schadenfreude and it is delicious.

We’ve watched the religious right erode the separation of church and state at every turn while complaining that Christianity is “oppressed” in this country. And now that they’ve forced the door open to allow their religion to sneak through the church/state wall, they’re pissed when other mainstream religions decide to do the same thing.

There’s a word for this sort of thing and that word is hypocrisy.

Since we evidently don’t live in a world where private schools remain funded by private tuition and private contributions, I hope all of Louisiana’s Muslims, Jews, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Taoists, and whoever I’m forgetting line up and open a shit-ton of new schools using money provided by this voucher program and I hope they do it right next door to all the Evangelical schools.

Not Feeling A Lot Of Confidence About This

Disclaimer: sarcasm incoming. I realize that travel alerts issues for citizens in the Middle East and North Africa have no (actual) bearing on my own travel across the country.

This is the kind of headline that contributes to my persistent feeling that now is always the wrong time to book a flight. A travel alert warning about possible terrorist attack, you say? That certainly makes me feel better about my decision to fly now as opposed to any other week in the previous eight months. This always seems to happen, too. Last year it wasn’t terrorists; it was hurricanes.

“But I’m not flying to a state that has hurricanes,” I said when told of this hurricane danger. “I’m flying home to Arizona.”

“Yes, but still,” the employee at the ticket counter said with an understanding nod. “Hurricanes.”

“Hurricanes?” I asked.

“Hurricanes,” she agreed dolefully.

There seems to be a certain threshold when it comes to flying. A frequent flyer should expect some of their flights to work around this sort of general anxiety, since such a person is always in the air. For me, however, who flies perhaps once a year at best, you’d think my chances of avoiding “anxiety-induction season” would be pretty good.

The fact that I still receive ominous news about hurricanes or terrorists or dangerous space-rays leads me to the conclusion that flying sucks, always and forever. It exists in a state of uniform suckitude. There is no suckier apex to which flying can aspire.

Aside from travel alerts, I’m also somewhat annoyed that I have more hours of layover than I will actually spend flying. Ah well. It will give me plenty of time to work on my grad school papers, I suppose.

Silver linings, and all that.