Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Mardi Gras Krewe in Hartsville, South Carolina

Tonight, the mystical Krewe of Muses will roll down St. Charles Avenue, and for the first time in five years, we will not be there to great them. Muses is my second favorite krewe after tomorrow night's Krewe d'Etat.

While I cannot be there in the flesh, I will be thinking of my friends in New Orleans, and wishing them all the best. We're having our own Mardi Gras party on Tuesday, complete with red beans and rice, and a king cake.

The main reason I am making this post is to declare my desire and intention to form a Mardi Gras krewe here in Hartsville. This will not be an easy task, because of three reasons:

#1 The vast majority of people think that Mardi Gras is a bacchanalia-infused hedonistic orgy. It is not. What you see on television are a few thousand drunks in the French Quarter. To call Mardi Gras inappropriate would be akin to calling Halloween evil because some adults get dressed up and get drunk at parties. The majority of kids are out trick-or-treating and having a good clean time. Same thing goes for Mardi Gras. I once saw a float rider try and get a girl to flash him, and the spectators starting hurling (with the intent to harm) big strings of beads at him as punishment. Sadly, this will be the greatest obstacle.

#2 Enthusiasm. It takes a lot of work to organize, build, and plan a parade---especially from scratch. People may not want to put in all the time needed. I was thinking of naming it the Krewe of Huitzilopochtli, thinking that perhaps we could get some Hispanics involved, but the name is too foreign to most Americans. So, maybe the Krewe of Odin, or Loki, or Amon-Ra. Anyway, the name can come later.

#3 Money. It takes thousands of dollars to roll a krewe. We'd have to rent floats, hire tractors, decorate the floats, get insurance, pay the police department, and buy all our beads and throws. As I am currently break even, the money would have to come from membership dues and corporate sponsorship of the event. There's a lot of money in this town.

Membership would not be limited to people living in the Pee Dee. Anyone who wanted to join could do so. If you're interested in forming a Hartsville Mardi Gras krewe, please post a comment to this blog with your email address.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Touching Tribute to Gordon B. Hinckley

Though I'm not a Glenn Beck fan, I found his tribute to be very nice:

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Three Things from the State of the Union Address

#1 President Bush isn't a total bastard. Somewhere in there he still has a heart.

Yet we also need to acknowledge that we will never fully secure our border until we create a lawful way for foreign workers to come here and support our economy. (Applause.) This will take pressure off the border and allow law enforcement to concentrate on those who mean us harm. We must also find a sensible and humane way to deal with people here illegally. Illegal immigration is complicated, but it can be resolved. And it must be resolved in a way that upholds both our laws and our highest ideals.

#2 I was very glad he said this:

Tonight the armies of compassion continue the march to a new day in the Gulf Coast. America honors the strength and resilience of the people of this region. We reaffirm our pledge to help them build stronger and better than before. And tonight I'm pleased to announce that in April we will host this year's North American Summit of Canada, Mexico, and the United States in the great city of New Orleans.

and finally

#3 This one needs action:

America opposes genocide in Sudan.

Well then, if we oppose it, let's do something to stop it. And while we're at it, let's prevent things like this from happening in the future!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Political Consequences for Mitt Romney vis-à-vis Gordon B. Hinckley's Funeral

So, with the passing of LDS Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley yesterday, this may cause some serious political problems for Mitt Romney's campaign.

Imagine a few scenarios:

#1 Mitt Romney chooses to attend the funeral. He takes away precious campaigning time before the Super Tuesday primaries. Also, people who wonder about the separation between the LDS Church and the Head of State might wonder why a man with no major position in the Church goes off to the funeral.

#2 Mitt Romney chooses to not attend the funeral. In doing so he eases the secular concerns about his ties to LDS leadership, yet at the same time, he might alienate a really big chunk of his loyal LDS support base.

#3 The Church, hoping to avoid the previous two worries, or to avoid doubling the media storm surrounding the funeral, chooses to not invite him to the funeral. This could be seen as a snub of Romney, even if that wasn't the intention. It could also be a good thing if he says that he'll do his mourning in private.

These are all interesting scenarios, and I imagine that somewhere someone in the Romney campaign has already planned out these contingencies before it actually happened. It doesn't matter, he won't get the nomination anyway.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Mormon World Mourns: RIP President Gordon B. Hinckley

So, my best friend Tim called me a few minutes ago to tell me that Gordon B. Hinckley has died.

He has been prophet since two weeks after I came home from Costa Rica. I have learned much about life and how to be more like Jesus Christ by listening to his sermons and heeding his counsel. He will be missed, dearly.

For all my non-Mormon friends, this is akin to our pope dying.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

One Man's Vote: The South Carolina Democratic Primary

So, today is the day. The South Carolina Democratic Primary is going on right now.I have already cast my vote. It was an easy decision; Dennis Kucinich withdrew from the race yesterday, as I had figured he would (he needs to focus on getting re-elected to Congress). With him gone from the race, I was left with only one person I consider halfway decent: John Edwards. He is now my choice for President. Should he bow out, I will probably vote for McCain. If he's gone, then I might write-in my vote for someone to be determined later. Only, there's no write-ins allowed because the voting machines are dummed-down push-button electronic types.

I would not be surprised if people complained about the voting machines here. It was confusing; like one of those video slot machines with 15 paylines, 5 rows, and 5 columns. I can easily see the elderly or the less-educated having a very difficult time completing the ballot. For example, there was only one race, but it said "Would you like to review all votes in all races?" If you go back, then it goes straight to the presidential race, and you can't escape from that page unless you click "Verify vote." Then you have to go to another page, with entirely too much text, that asks if you want to confirm your vote. Once you do this, you're done. Louisiana's voting machines are one million times easier to understand than the ones here. I should've looked at what model they were. Oh well.

About 9AM this morning, I got a recorded phone call telling me to vote for John Edwards because "he's a Carolina native and understands us" and because we "need to show Hillary Clinton that she can't ignore us or take us for granted." I'm not sure what that means exactly, but the guy's THICK accent convinced me (I'm joking of course; I hate political phone calls, especially recorded ones).

I took Marley with her so she could see how voting worked. We went at 10AM and only 16 people had voted before me. Marley thought it was cool. Before we went I explained to her what voting was, why it was important, and why I was voting for John Edwards. I held her up so she could watch me vote; they gave her a little "I voted today" sticker, which thrilled her. Mickelle doesn't vote because, quote, "I don't want to put the energy into figuring out who I like the best" and "They all lie, so why bother?" Half the time, I agree with her. Today, I felt like I could make a difference. Maybe I feel inspired that one man can make a difference, because I've been reading the remarkable works of Bartolomé de las Casas. My enthusiasm waxes and wanes.

Imagine what could've been with a man like this in the White House:

Accidental Art/Homage to Tikal

So, our nextdoor neighbor's daughter used to have a swimming pool, and since they decided to have it filled in they no longer had need of an entire pallet of paving bricks they were going to use to pave around the edge of the pool.

They gave them to us for free, provided we came and got them. It was back-breaking work; my back still hurts almost 2 weeks later (I went to the doctor yesterday about it, to no avail).

We piled them in a spur of our driveway. In doing so, we inadvertently created something that looks like something else. You decide:

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Choosing My Daughter's iPod Playlist

So, since my mom decided to give my five-year-old daughter Marley her very own iPod Shuffle for Christmas, I was faced with the challenge of choosing which songs from my music library I want my five-year-old daughter listening to.

This, by the way, is no small challenge. I'll admit that not all of the music I own is appropriate for someone her age, so I have to be careful to not pick songs that would contain something wrong for her age (no Sublime, RATM, or 311). Furthermore, some songs are beyond any hope of redemption--meaning that I really shouldn't own them, but can't quite bring myself to remove them from my collection (most of my gangsta rap). And then there's the biggest issue for me: influencing her future tastes in music. My parents gave me my love of The Beatles, the Eagles, CCR, Jimi Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac, and Crosby, Still, Nash, and Young. The first three I mentioned are still three of my top four favorite artists.

So, how to determine what's okay and what's not? I did it on a song by song basis. It took me about 3 hours. Seeing as how I named her after Bob Marley, I felt that I could put almost any Bob Marley song on the iPod (as she already digs any reggae music that I've played for her, this was easy). I gave her all the great ones from Legend, but then I put on some of my favorites "Concrete Jungle," "Burnin' and Lootin'," and "One Drop." Some of those songs are about social injustice and strife. Nothing wrong in a child realizing that not everything in the world is peachy keen everywhere. I try and explain to Marley why sometimes people do evil things that we hear about on the news. She is no dummy. Who better to teach her via song than Robert Nesta? I don't think she's quite ready to let Zack de la Rocha and Tom Morrell teach her. So reggae is generally safe. She's also got some Toots and the Maytals "54-46 Was My Number" and "Pressure Drop," a little Burning Spear, some Steel Pulse, and even some Sinead O'Connor. I even gave her Marley's "War" to listen to, so that when she's older, the mantra "Until the color of a man's skin/is of no more significance/than the color of his eyes/Me say, War!" will make sense to her.

I gave her songs by the following groups (not all are listed):

Arrested Development, Cake, Fastball, Collective Soul, Barenakes Ladies, CSNY, ELO, Fatboy Slim, Ace of Base, Edwn McCain, DNA featuring Suzanne Vega, Allison Krause, Weezer, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Queen, They Might Be Giants, R.E.M., Wyclef Jean, and every Disney Song we own.

It was really fun. She likes Weezer's "Keep Fishin,'" CCR's "Lookin' Out My Backdoor," and "What Time Is It?" from the High School Musical soundtrack.

I love my kid. Hopefully I can get her to like all the other stuff I like. I just hope she avoids some bands that I can't stand. Lucky for her, her dad and her paternal grandfather have (had) excellent tastes in rock-and-roll. And, if she inherits her maternal grandfather's love of country music, well, I guess that's alright too (as long as I don't have to hear it).

However, I did leave off Peter Tosh's "Legalize It."

My favorite music (for the record):

1. The Beatles
2. Bob Marley and the Wailers
3. The Eagles
4. CCR
5. Collective Soul
6. Maná
7. Weezer
8. Jack Johnson
9. Barenaked Ladies
10. Pearl Jam
10. The White Stripes
10. Toots and the Maytals
10. 311
10. Sublime
10. CSNY
10. Tom Petty

I, a high high, a high high, Dig a Pony, well you can celebrate anything you want/yes, you can celebrate anything you want.

I do.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The High Cost of Health Care for the Insured

So, on December 27th, I went to the emergency room at Carolina Pines Hospital here in Hartsville. I was sure it was something to do with heartburn, but I was having chest pains into my arm and jaw, so we went. It took two hours to diagnose GERD. During my time there, they took a chest x-ray which was not needed, and which I questioned (damned defensive medicine) [the doctor appeared for the first time within five minutes of the x-ray; I contend that it was not reviewed before the diagnosis was made]. They took blood to check for heart enzymes, hooked me up to an EKG, and left me on a hospital bed for two farking hours without any pain help. By the way, no doctor ever physically touched my body while I was there, not once.

I have medical insurance. The bill came to $2,000. The insurer got me a "contract discount" of $650 and paid another $630 in cash. This leaves me owing $720, for what amounted to someone giving me a $9.91 gastrointestinal cocktail, after two hours. And I have insurance damnit!

Health care is my #1 issue this election. Ain't no two ways about it.

By the way, my heart is fine. I am allergic to sesame seeds, that, and too much naproxen for gout caused me to have GERD and gastritis.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Amazing Race

Quickly, I'll say that this season's Amazing Race was my favorite one ever. I was so happy that the final three teams were all deserving of the win; it didn't matter to me or Mickelle which team won. I was kind of pulling for Nick and Don, mostly because he's almost 70, and he pole-vaulted over a canal in Holland, but I really didn't care who won (I'm sure the other contestants did).

Ultimately, the best team did win. The Amazing Race and Project Runway are the best reality shows on TV.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Half Life

It was a Sunday. Sunday January 20, 1991, exactly seventeen years ago today. Damn, it's been a long time since I had some iced tea! We drove down to the building on Ponce de Leon Ave, and I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The mission had a mission-wide baptismal service, so there were 25 people getting baptized that evening. I was first. The brother baptized right after me scared everyone when he came up out of the water shouting "Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" My dad dunked me pretty hard, hitting my head on the bottom of the font.

We were all confirmed that night too. Some ladies sang "In This Very Room." My cousins were all there. I asked if Marty could help confirm me, but he didn't have the Melchezidek Priesthood yet. I was confirmed by Elder Jason Ivan Ray; he has never tried to contact me again. I suppose that's okay. Burt Luce was there. My friend Martin Isaksen was the only person from my ward who bothered to drive down to see me get baptized. It was a good day and I made a good decision.

It was seventeen years ago today. I'm 34. I've been a member for half of my life. It has changed my life immeasurably, for the better.

Some days I miss my Dad so much it hurts.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Call for Action: Julio Cortazar's Complete Works in English

I don't know why it hasn't happened, but with the 25th anniversary of Julio Cortázar's death approaching next year, I would have hoped that someone would finally get around to publishing a Complete Works in English. I hold him in the same regard as my master, Jorge Luis Borges, and yet he doesn't seem to get the same level of academic respect and the number of academic publications as Borges.

It is because of his story "La noche boca arriba" ("Night Face Up") that I went into Latin-American Literature; it's not because of Borges. If I were a better translator, I would try and organize the project myself, but I am but a lowly Assistant Professor with no previous translations, and the sheer volume of his writings gives one pause before proceeding. So, someone please organize this. Count me in as a translator. I would love to tackle "Después del almuerzo."

We need this translation to happen. His work is that good. Read this story, "Night face up," and prepare to have your mind blown:

Halfway down the long hotel vestibule, he thought that probably he was going to be late, and hurried on into the street to get out his motorcycle from the corner where the next-door superintendent let him keep it. On the jewelry store at the corner he read that it was ten to nine; he had time to spare. The sun filtered through the tall downtown buildings, and he--because for himself, for just going along thinking, he did not have a name-he swung onto the machine, savoring the idea of the ride. The motor whirred between his legs, and a cool wind whipped his pantslegs.

He let the ministries zip past (the pink, the white), and a series of stores on the main street, their windows flash­ing. Now he was beginning the most pleasant part of the run, the real ride: a long street bordered with trees, very little traffic, with spacious villas whose gardens rambled all the way down to the sidewalks, which were barely indi­cated by low hedges. A bit inattentive perhaps, but tooling along on the right side of the street, he allowed himself to be carried away by the freshness, by the weightless con­traction of this hardly begun day. This involuntary relaxa­tion, possibly, kept him from preventing the accident. When he saw that the woman standing on the corner had rushed into the crosswalk while he still had the green light, it was already somewhat too late for a simple solu­tion. He braked hard with foot and hand, wrenching him­self to the left; he heard the woman scream, and at the collision his vision went. It was like falling asleep all at once. He came to abruptly. Four or five young men were get­ting him out from under the cycle. He felt the taste of salt and blood, one knee hurt, and when they hoisted him up he yelped, he couldn't bear the presssure on his right arm. Voices which did not seem to belong to the faces hanging above him encouraged him cheerfully with jokes and as­surances. His single solace was to hear someone else con­firm that the lights indeed had been in his favor. He asked about the woman, trying to keep down the nausea which was edging up into his throat. While they carried him face up to a nearby pharmacy, he learned that the cause of the accident had gotten only a few scrapes on the legs. "Nah, you barely got her at all, but when ya hit, the impact made the machine jump and flop on its side . . ." Opinions, recollections of other smashups, take it easy, work him in shoulders first, there, that's fine, and someone in a dust­coat giving him a swallow of something soothing in the shadowy interior of the small local pharmacy.

Within five minutes the police ambulance arrived, and they lifted him onto a cushioned stretcher. It was a relief for him to be able to lie out flat. Completely lucid, but real­izing that he was suffering the effects of a terrible shock, he gave his information to the officer riding in the am­bulance with him. The arm almost didn't hurt; blood dripped down from a cut over the eyebrow all over his face. He licked his lips once or twice to drink it. He felt pretty good, it had been an accident, tough luck; stay quiet a few weeks, nothing worse. The guard said that the motorcycle didn't seem badly racked up. "Why should it," he replied. "It all landed on top of me." They both laughed, and when they got to the hospital, the guard shook his hand and wished him luck. Now the nausea was coming back little by little; meanwhile they were pushing him on a wheeled stretcher toward a pavilion further back, rolling along under trees full of birds, he shut his eyes and wished he were asleep or chloroformed. But they kept him for a good while in a room with that hospital smell, filling out a form, getting his clothes off, and dressing him in a stiff, greyish smock. They moved his arm carefully, it didn't hurt him. The nurses were constantly making wise­cracks, and if it hadn't been for the stomach contractions he would have felt fine, almost happy.

They got him over to X-ray, and twenty minutes later, with the still-damp negative lying on his chest like a black tombstone, they pushed him into surgery. Someone tall and thin in white came over and began to look at the X­rays. A woman's hands were arranging his head, he felt that they were moving him from one stretcher to another. The man in white came over to him again, smiling, some­ thing gleamed in his right hand. He patted his cheek and made a sign to someone stationed behind.

It was unusual as a dream because it was full of smells, and he never dreamt smells. First a marshy smell, there to the left of the trail the swamps began already, the quaking bogs from which no one ever returned. But the reek lifted, and instead there came a dark, fresh composite fragrance, like the night under which he moved, in flight from the Aztecs. And it was all so natural, he had to run from the Aztecs who had set out on their manhunt, and his sole chance was to find a place to hide in the deepest part of the forest, taking care not to lose the narrow trail which only they, the Motecas, knew.

What tormented him the most was the odor, as though, notwithstanding the absolute acceptance of the dream, there was something which resisted that which was not habitual, which until that point had not participated in the game. "It smells of war," he thought, his hand going instinctively to the stone knife which was tucked at an angle into his girdle of woven wool. An unexpected sound made him crouch suddenly stock-still and shaking. To be afraid was nothing strange, there was plenty of fear in his dreams. He waited, covered by the branches of a shrub and the starless night. Far off, probably on the other side of the big lake, they'd be lighting the bivouac fires; that part of the sky had a reddish glare. The sound was not repeated. It had been like a broken limb. Maybe an animal that, like himself, was escaping from the smell of war. He stood erect slowly, sniffing the air. Not a sound could be heard, but the fear was still following, as was the smell, that cloying incense of the war of the blossom. He had to press forward, to stay out of the bogs and get to the heart of the forest. Groping uncertainly through the dark, stoop­ing every other moment to touch the packed earth of the trail, he took a few steps. He would have liked to have broken into a run, but the gurgling fens lapped on either side of him. On the path and in darkness, he took his bear­ings. Then he caught a horrible blast of that foul smell he was most afraid of, and leaped forward desperately.

"You're going to fall off the bed," said the patient next to him. "Stop bouncing around, old buddy." He opened his eyes and it was afternoon, the sun al­ready low in the oversized windows of the long ward. While trying to smile at his neighbor, he detached himself almost physically from the final scene of the nightmare. His arm, in a plaster cast, hung suspended from an appa­ratus with weights and pulleys. He felt thirsty, as though he'd been running for miles, but they didn't want to give him much water, barely enough to moisten his lips and make a mouthful. The fever was winning slowly and he would have been able to sleep again, but he was enjoying the pleasure of keeping awake, eyes half-closed, listening to the other patients' conversation, answering a question from time to time. He saw a little white pushcart come up beside the bed, a blond nurse rubbed the front of his thigh with alcohol and stuck him with a fat needle connected to a tube which ran up to a bottle filled with a milky, opales­cent liquid. A young intern arrived with some metal and leather apparatus which he adjusted to fit onto the good arm to check something or other. Night fell, and the fever went along dragging him down softly to a state in which things seemed embossed as through opera glasses, they were real and soft and, at the same time, vaguely distaste­ful; like sitting in a boring movie and thinking that, well, still, it'd be worse out in the street, and staying.

A cup of a marvelous golden broth came, smelling of leeks, celery and parsley. A small hunk of bread, more precious than a whole banquet, found itself crumbling lit­tle by little. His arm hardly hurt him at all, and only in the eyebrow where they'd taken stitches a quick, hot pain siz­zled occasionally. When the big windows across the way turned to smudges of dark blue, he thought it would not be difficult for him to sleep. Still on his back so a little un­comfortable, running his tongue out over his hot, too-dry lips, he tasted the broth still, and with a sigh of bliss, he let himself drift off.

First there was a confusion, as of one drawing all his sensations, for that moment blunted or muddled, into himself. He realized that he was running in pitch dark­ness, although, above, the sky criss-crossed with treetops was less black than the rest. "The trail," he thought, "I've gotten off the trail." His feet sank into a bed of leaves and mud, and then he couldn't take a step that the branches of shrubs did not whiplash against his ribs and legs. Out of breath, knowing despite the darkness and silence that he was surrounded, he crouched down to listen. Maybe the trail was very near, with the first daylight he would be able to see it again. Nothing now could help him to find it. The hand that had unconsciously gripped the haft of the dagger climbed like a fen scorpion up to his neck where the protecting amulet hung. Barely moving his lips, he mumbled the supplication of the corn which brings about the beneficent moons, and the prayer to Her Very High­ness, to the distributor of all Motecan possessions. At the same time he felt his ankles sinking deeper into the mud, and the waiting in the darkness of the obscure grove of live oak grew intolerable to him. The war of the blossom had started at the beginning of the moon and had been going on for three days and three nights now. If he man­aged to hide in the depths of the forest, getting off the trail further up past the marsh country, perhaps the warriors wouldn't follow his track. He thought of the many prison­ers they'd already taken. But the number didn't count,only the consecrated period. The hunt would continue until the priests gave the sign to return. Everything had its number and its limit, and it was within the sacred period, and he on the other side from the hunters.

He heard the cries and leaped up, knife in hand. As if the sky were aflame on the horizon, he saw torches mov­ing among the branches, very near him. The smell of war was unbearable, and when the first enemy jumped him, leaped at his throat, he felt an almost-pleasure in sinking the stone blade flat to the haft into his chest. The lights were already around him, the happy cries. He managed to cut the air once or twice, then a rope snared him from behind.

"It's the fever," the man in the next bed said. "The same thing happened to me when they operated on my duode­num. Take some water, you'll see, you'll sleep all right."
Laid next to the night from which he came back, the tepid shadow of the ward seemed delicious to him. A vio­let lamp kept watch high on the far wall like a guardian eye. You could hear coughing, deep breathing, once in a while a conversation in whispers. Everything was pleas­ant and secure, without the chase, no . . . But he didn't want to go on thinking about the nightmare. There were lots of things to amuse himself with. He began to look at the cast on his arm, and the pulleys that held it so com­fortably in the air. They'd left a bottle of mineral water on the night table beside him. He put the neck of the bottle to his mouth and drank it like a precious liqueur. He could now make out the different shapes in the ward, the thirty beds, the closets with glass doors. He guessed that his fever was down, his face felt cool. The cut over the eye­brow barely hurt at all, like a recollection. He saw himself leaving the hotel again, wheeling out the cycle. Who'd have thought that it would end like this? He tried to fix the moment of the accident exactly, and it got him very angry to notice that there was a void there, an emptiness he could not manage to fill. Between the impact and the mo­ment that they picked him up off the pavement, the pass­ing out or what went on, there was nothing he could see. And at the same time he had the feeling that this void, this nothingness, had lasted an eternity. No, not even time, more as if, in this void, he had passed across some­thing, or had run back immense distances. The shock, the brutal dashing against the pavement. Anyway, he had felt an immense relief in coming out of the black pit while the people were lifting him off the ground. With pain in the broken arm, blood from the split eyebrow, contusion on the knee; with all that, a relief in returning to daylight, to the day, and to feel sustained and attended. That was weird. Someday he'd ask the doctor at the office about that. Now sleep began to take over again, to pull him slowly down. The pillow was so soft, and the coolness of the mineral water in his fevered throat. The violet light of the lamp up there was beginning to get dimmer and dim­mer.

As he was sleeping on his back, the position in which he came to did not surprise him, but on the other hand the damp smell, the smell of oozing rock, blocked his throat and forced him to understand. Open the eyes and look in all directions, hopeless. He was surrounded by an absolute darkness. Tried to get up and felt ropes pinning his wrists and ankles. He was staked to the ground on a floor of dank, icy stone slabs. The cold bit into his naked back, his legs. Dully, he tried to touch the amulet with his chin and found they had stripped him of it. Now he was lost, no prayer could save him from the final . . . From afar off, as though filtering through the rock of the dungeon, he heard the great kettledrums of the feast. They had carried him to the temple, he was in the underground cells of Teo­calli itself, awaiting his turn.

He heard a yell, a hoarse yell that rocked off the walls. Another yell, ending in a moan. It was he who was screaming in the darkness, he was screaming because he was alive, his whole body with that cry fended off what was coming, the inevitable end. He thought of his friends filling up the other dungeons, and of those already walk­ing up the stairs of the sacrifice. He uttered another choked cry, he could barely open his mouth, his jaws were twisted back as if with a rope and a stick, and once in a while they would open slowly with an endless exertion, as if they were made of rubber. The creaking of the wooden latches jolted him like a whip. Rent, writhing, he fought to rid himself of the cords sinking into his flesh. His right arm, the strongest, strained until the pain became unbear­able and he had to give up. He watched the double door open, and the smell of the torches reached him before the light did. Barely girdled by the ceremonial loincloths, the priests' acolytes moved in his direction, looking at him with contempt. Lights reflected off the sweaty torsos and off the black hair dressed with feathers. The cords went slack, and in their place the grappling of hot hands, hard as bronze; he felt himself lifted, still face up, and jerked along by the four acolytes who carried him down the pas­sageway. The torchbearers went ahead, indistinctly light­ing up the corridor with its dripping walls and a ceiling so low that the acolytes had to duck their heads. Now they were taking him out, taking him out, it was the end. Face up, under a mile of living rock which, for a succession of moments, was lit up by a glimmer of torchlight. When the stars came out up there instead of the roof and the great terraced steps rose before him, on fire with cries and dances, it would be the end. The passage was never going to end, but now it was beginning to end, he would see sud­denly the open sky full of stars, but not yet, they trundled him along endlessly in the reddish shadow, hauling him roughly along and he did not want that, but how to stop it if they had torn off the amulet, his real heart, the life­center.

In a single jump he came out into the hospital night, to the high, gentle, bare ceiling, to the soft shadow wrapping him round. He thought he must have cried out, but his neighbors were peacefully snoring. The water in the bottle on the night table was somewhat bubbly, a translucent shape against the dark azure shadow of the windows. He panted, looking for some relief for his lungs, oblivion for those images still glued to his eyelids. Each time he shut his eyes he saw them take shape instantly, and he sat up, completely wrung out, but savoring at the same time the surety that now he was awake, that the night nurse would answer if he rang, that soon it would be daybreak, with the good, deep sleep he usually had at that hour, no im­ages, no nothing . . . It was difficult to keep his eyes open, the drowsiness was more powerful than he. He made one last effort, he sketched a gesture toward the bottle of water with his good hand and did not manage to reach it, his fingers closed again on a black emptiness, and the passageway went on endlessly, rock after rock, with momentary ruddy flares, and face up he choked out a dull moan because the roof was about to end, it rose, was opening like a mouth of shadow, and the acolytes straightened up, and from on high a waning moon fell on a face whose eyes wanted not to see it, were closing and opening desperately, trying to pass to the other side, to find again the bare, protecting ceiling of the ward. And every time they opened, it was night and the moon, while they climbed the great terraced steps, his head hanging down backward now, and up at the top were the bonfires, red columns of perfumed smoke, and suddenly he saw the red stone, shiny with the blood dripping off it, and the spinning arcs cut by the feet of the victim whom they pulled off to throw him rolling down the north steps. With a last hope he shut his lids tightly, moaning to wake up. For a second he thought he had gotten there, because once more he was immobile in the bed, except that his head was hanging down off it, swinging. But he smelled death, and when he opened his eyes he saw the blood-soaked fig­ure of the executioner-priest coming toward him with the stone knife in his hand. He managed to close his eyelids again, although he knew now he was not going to wake up, that he was awake, that the marvelous dream had been the other, absurd as all dreams are-a dream in which he was going through the strange avenues of an astonishing city, with green and red lights that burned without fire or smoke, on an enormous metal insect that whirred away between his legs. In the infinite he of the dream, they had also picked him up off the ground, some­one had approached him also with a knife in his hand, approached him who was lying face up, face up with his eyes closed between the bonfires on the steps.

Not sure who translated this (but thank you to the person).

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Doonesbury, Arab Exceptionalism, and Cultural Bias

Part of what I do as a professor is to inform my students about Hispanic culture. This has the double effect of showing them that there are more than one way to do/view something, and it also allows me to explain how Hispanic culture does certain things differently. We all see certain behaviors by the recent wave of immigrants in the last two decades that are different from how we do things. By explaining to my students the causes and rationale for the behavior, I try and help both parties understand one another better, and hopefully avoid misunderstandings based on ignorance.

For example, it was my experience in Costa Rica that many people could not afford a good stereo. Therefore, if you were blessed enough to be able to afford one, being neighborly, you would turn it up loud enough that all your neighbors could hear the music too. In our culture, we don't all like the same kinds of music. It was my experience that people of all ages just liked music in Costa Rica; it didn't really matter what kind. Therefore, people would put it on one radio station (the programming isn't anywhere near as segmented there either), crank up the volume, and blast it as loud as they could. Here, music that loud gets a banging on the door, a call to the police, and gossip amongst neighbors about these "Damned Mexicans and their music."

That's a cultural conflict between two peoples who generally have much in common. When we start comparing American culture to that of Iraq/Pan-Arabia/and general Islamic culture, then we run into some serious misunderstandings. Why do some Muslims seem to get so incensed over things that to us are not even offenses. It's easy to say that they are immature, insecure in their faith, etc., but I can't convince myself that it's really that simple.

On Sunday, Gary Trudeau ran a Doonesbury strip that sort of encapsulates Western incredulity at an aspect of Islamic culture that we don't appreciate: the seeming reluctance to let bygones be bygones. Here's the strip. Go read it in case my hotlink doesn't work.

That bolding of "Matter" in "What's the matter with you people?" perfectly encapsulates our concept of forgiveness and history. This could be attributed to the Christian enculturation of Western society, and its precepts, but it can't be just that. There has to be some element of Pan-Islamic, at least Pan-Arabic, culture that we just don't get.

It's not hopeless though. Egypt and Israel, Jordan and Israel: these three nations fought bloody wars with each other, but came to the peace table and made peace. Perhaps they will go to war again someday, but for now, this lasting peace seems to go against the notion of Arab Exceptionalism, that somehow the Arabs were just different, and were never going to assimilate into Western cultural (and therefore, International) mores.

I would be in favor of starting a free-ride study-abroad program for American college students to go and study in the Arabic universities and live amongst Muslims for an extended period of time (say two years). We need for more of us, other than CIA spooks and Oil Company execs, to understand truly this enigmatic (to us) people.

I like the Doonesbury comic because it reflects my personal beliefs about forgiveness and making peace, but I also recognize the cultural bias that it represents.

I wish I spoke Arabic; I imagine that Al-Jazeera and the legion Arabic blogs could give me some insights into my Arabian brothers.

What? Does She Only Have Flipflops?

So, I'd been awake this morning for about 90 seconds when my cell phone rings. I answer it, and it's one of my students. A conversation more or less verbatim happened like this:

Me: Hello
Her: Professor Williams, do we still have class?
M: Why wouldn't we?
H: It's icy outside
M: Did it snow?
H: No, but it's icy everywhere, do we still have class?
M: Has Coker canceled classes?
H: Do we still have class?
M: Well, unless Coker cancels classes, then I'm going to come
H: Do I have to come?
M: Well, if safety's a factor for you, then you need to be safe.
H: Do we still have class?
M: Again, if it's icy where you are, you need to be safe.
H: Do I still have to come?
M: Is it honestly not safe for you to drive on the roads?
H: Well, I stay on campus.
M: (incredulous) Well, since you live on campus, I think you can make it. Unless Coker cancels class, I'll be there. Check the website.

I get a call at 7:02 AM for a 8 AM class. I'm thinking that she lives out in the country somewhere, but she lives in the residence halls. This cracks me up. Mickelle overheard the whole convesation and asked me, "Does she only have flipflops?"

Man, I love my wife.


So, she didn't come to class this morning. It wasn't icy, it was actually warmer than it was yesterday, and it was raining. Last night we did get some sleet, but it changed to rain in the night. I'm sure I never did anything like this when I was a young adult (all my mentors just rolled their eyes in unison).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

My Political Endorsement: Dennis Kucinich

Now, from my younger years as a die-hard conservative until today, I have trodden a path that has led me to where I am. Especially for the sensitive Mormon set, let me explain how it is, that I, Mac Williams, could come to endorse a man that can only be described (by conservatives) as a left-wing bleeding-heart liberal.

I invite each of you to go and take this quiz, if you don't this post won't make as much sense:

I will post my answers, and reasons, to each of the questions posed.

#1 Should the United States have invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein?

I answer "No, because there were no WMDs." Now I know that we weren't sure before. Since there were no WMDs, we should not have invaded, period. We cannot be in the business of toppling dictators, because if we're to do that sort of thing, then there are scores of governments that need the boot. Are we willing to spill blood to do that sort of thing? We did nothing, repeat nothing, as the news reported that Rwanda was machete-hacking itself to pieces in 1994, as at least 500,000 people died in a month. Where was our moral outrage then?

Our rush to bring democracy to the Middle East reminds me of Juan Ginés Sepúlveda's The Second Democrates, or reasons that justify war against the Indians, when he writes the following:

The Indians of the Americas are barbarous, uncivilized, and inhuman people who are natural slaves, refusing to admit the superiority of those who are more prudent, powerful, and perfect than themselves. Their subordination would bring them tremendous benefits and would, besides, be a good thing by natural right as matter conforms to a mold, as the body to the soul, the appetite to reason, brutes to gentlemen, the wife to the husband, children to parents, the imperfect to the perfect, the worse to the better, all for the universal betterment of the whole.
(Translation by Franklin W. Knight)

Sepúlveda compares the Christianization and Hispanization of the American Indians as the benevolent act of a perfect people aiding the imperfect in becoming more like their conquerors. He calls them natural slaves. Compares them to children, brutes, and matter unorganized. It reminds me of Roman attitudes towards their conquered subjects, and it absolutely reminds me of American haughtiness (that I supported at the time) of "bringing democracy to Iraq." Compare Sepúlveda's remarks with some of our political leaders and newspaper editors from five years ago.

The world is at a critical juncture. Once again, it has a chance to eliminate an evil element from its face. Freeing Iraq of Saddam will give that nation and the rest of the Middle East a chance to taste democracy -- the freedom to speak and learn and prosper -- and nurture the hope that starves terrorism. (Joe Hallett, The Columbus Dispatch, Feb. 16, 2003)

We would undertake a solemn obligation to help the Iraqi people build a new Iraq at peace with itself and its neighbors. The Iraqi people deserve to be lifted from insecurity and tyranny, and freed to determine for themselves the future of their country. We envisage a unified Iraq with its territorial integrity respected. All the Iraqi people -- its rich mix of Sunni and Shiite Arabs, Kurds, Turkomen, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and all others -- should enjoy freedom, prosperity, and equality in a united country. We will support the Iraqi people's aspirations for a representative government that upholds human rights and the rule of law as cornerstones of democracy.
(President Bush, Tony Blair, Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar, and Portugal's Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso; March 16, 2003)

We supposed that the Iraqis would want us to come in and set up democracy. While we certainly more politically correct than Sepúlveda, the rhetoric was very similar. We, the White Man, know better than you imperfect people.

If we had heeded T.E. Lawrence, who knew the area better than almost any European, when the Ottoman Empire was partitioned, much of this tribal/religious strife might not be happening. The Kurds would've had their homeland, the Sunnis would be part of Saudi Arabia, and the Shiites part of Iran; problem solved. But, that didn't happen, and it's not going to happen. We should not have invaded; to do so was Western vanity that we know better than the Iraqis how they should be governed. Enough with Democracy by force!

#2 What should happen to US troops levels in Iraq?

I answered D, maintain current troop levels, with future levels determined by events. Now that we are there, we cannot just withdraw our troops and let the country descend into madness. We made a commitment to that country, and even if we have to pay for it with our own blood, better that a few tens of thousands should die to preserve relative peace than have millions die in a horrible and regionally destabilizing civil war. We're talking human suffering on a massive level as hordes of people flee the country seeking refugee status in Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and around the world. Millions of people will die. When we pulled out of Vietnam, the Khmer Rouge was able to run roughshod over Cambodia because we were no longer there on the ground to thwart them. I truly believe that millions will die if we just leave. The place is a nightmare of bitter feuds that go back centuries, not to mention the burning rage of revenge for recent killings that must be eating the hearts of some people. Others will want power, oil, land, what have you. It would catastrophic on so many levels for us to withdraw now. We're in this one for the long haul. No amount of decrying what Samuel Huntington might call the clash of "Arab exceptionalism" with Western democratic values can convince me that our leaving Iraq suddenly will not leave behind a shattered land, soaked in the blood of many any innocent Iraqi.

#3 Should the US government continue to fund the war in Iraq?

I answered yes, but the US should make the Iraqis reach certain benchmarks. If we need maintain current troop levels, of course we must fund the war. We should also encourage the Iraqis to reach benchmarks, so that someday we might actually be able to withdraw peacefully.

#4 What should the US government's focus be in dealing with the issue of illegal immigration?

I answered "Establish a new program for temporary workers, also known as guest workers"

As I've said en otras partes, if we made it legal for workers to come here and work, as they could for decades, then we wouldn't have the massive illegal immigration that we currently have to worry about.

#5 What should happen to illegal immigrants already in this country?

I answered "Allow illegal immigrants to remain in the country, and begin a path to citizenship that includes...."

People need to stop talking about amnesty, like these Hispanic workers that come here are criminals. We can't even get some of our citizens to get up off their asses and work for a living. These people come here seeking a better life for themselves, and are willing to work, and pay taxes, and contribute to the economy. Some candidates, namely Ron Paul, hide behind the notion that people want to curb immigration. Truth is, at every point in our history, the populace didn't like immigrants because they were different. It's ethnocentrism all over again.

Some claim that illegal immigrants overtax the medical systems, but the actual research shows that most Hispanics pay cash or have insurance when they go to the doctor. In South Carolina, the ratio of people being declared indigent is LOWEST among Hispanics than among ANY OTHER ETHNIC GROUP, including the WHITE MAJORITY. So, this constant spouting of impressions that people have because of their xenophobia is unworthy of politicians, and Americans who seek to represent a place, let alone a nation as president.

Personally, I would like to have a Western Hemisphere Union. I'd like to be able to go and work in Argentina, Barbados, or Colombia and vice versa. I would close immigration to all nations save those with close historical ties (e.g. U.K., France, Portugal, Spain, Holland, Israel, Liberia) but allow for completely free movement between anywhere in the Americas. But, that's not going to happen because of reactionary people who fear the immigrant. Undocumented workers aren't taking desirable jobs from people, they work in shit-jobs like McDonald's, cleaning hotel rooms, cooking, roofing, landscaping, and sheetrocking. Why all this fear and calling them criminals? Why are we even having a discussion about amnesty? If they come here and work and don't cause problems, where is the harm? Honestly? Don't sit their and take potshots from your privileged position by birth and tell me that if your family were poor and your government corrupt, that you wouldn't do everything to provide for your family. And this isn't American-style providing for your family with a house, two cars, vacations, etc; we're talking about sustaining life and health. This isn't a criminal matter, at best it's a civil affair.

#6 What's the best way the federal government can get more people covered by health insurance?

I answered "By establishing a national health insurance program." Our esteemed president recently vetoed the expanded children's healthcare bill. The medical care would've been paid for by an increase on the price of cigarettes. Please note, I am willing to pay substantially more from each paycheck so that I don't have to worry about healthcare for my kids. As it stands, I make $1,800 too much per year to qualify for Medicaid for my wee bairn. So, I'm left with the option of paying 25% of my income for not-so-grand insurance from my employer, or running the risk of paying out of pocket and facing some catastrophe, as my mom is now facing. I'd much rather pay 10% of my income to a fee-for-service government insurance program and not have to worry about medical care for my kids ever again. I do have intensive care supplemental coverage (for the whole family) through AFLAC. But, it isn't all that helpful without some other kind of insurance.

My father died 2 months ago on October 30th of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (confirmed by the NPRSC). He was in the hospital in a coma for six weeks. His medical bills están por allí de $250,000. Since he was self-employed, he had no medical insurance. My father paid the maximum in Social Security and Medicare taxes every year of his life. But, because he made too much last year to qualify for Medicaid, my mom now has to wipe out their savings to pay a medical bill that defines ridiculousness: A bag of iv saline solution costs $75, FOR SALT WATER!

I find it beyond hypocritical that Congress didn't overturn Bush's veto of an extension to the CHIP (children's health) bill to extend medical care to around 8 million un-insured lower middle-class children (mine included), when members of Congress have a free and universal health insurance for life that they gave themselves. If politicians don't have the courage to grant healthcare to all, in the world's wealthiest country, at least children should have it. And for all those people who claim that we have the best healthcare in the world, I DON'T GIVE A SHIT IF I CAN'T AFFORD ACCESS TO IT!

What good does it do me? And furthermore, according to this scientifically-sound study, YOU'RE WRONG!

#7 What should be the federal government's priority in reducing healthcare costs?

I answer, "Move to a single-payer, government-backed insurance system." If I am to give 1/4th of my income to something already, then why not have it go to taxes? That medical insurance companies are publicly-traded enterprises means that someone is profiting from my sacrifices. The Medicare system for the elderly is one of the most cost-effective and efficient systems around for administering healthcare. I would expect the same from a universal Medicaid system. Many of us are already paying more than we would for a universal healthcare system, and we're not getting back what we put in!

#8 What should the government do about same-sex couples who want to get married?

I answered it should be legal. Now, as a Christian, and especially as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I have my own spiritual beliefs about the morality of the homosexual act. However, let me explain.

A. Sin is sin, why single out this one sin? Are we going to not allow divorcees to marry since Jesus said it constitutes adultery to remarry? Is adultery any less worse than gay sex? Seriously?

B. The equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment applies to all citizens, and we really cannot deny one group of citizens access to a civil right without ditching the 14th Amendment, which no one wants to do.

C. I have my religious faith, but other people do not share my belief. If we have the 1st Amendment guaranteeing freedom of religion and by extension, freedom from religion, then how can we legislate morality. If we criminalize homosexual sex, then we have to criminalize all kinds of sex that some puritanical people call "unnatural acts" such as oral, anal, woman-on-top, etc. The Supreme Court has recently ruled that the government needs to stay out of the bedroom; I can see no CONSTITUTIONAL basis for denying marriage to any citizen.

D. This includes polygamy. The only argument that I haven't heard from people is that if you allow homosexual marriages, then you open the door to polygamist and polyandrist marriages. This could easily lead to group marriages, and human/animal weddings. This is the only legally defensible possible challenge, but no matter what happens, homosexuals will someday have the right to marry in this country. It's going to happen. While I do not condone lots of different types of behavior (drinking, drug-use, any sex outside of marriage), my own personal religious beliefs should not be the basis for denying someone else a civil right. Perhaps it will bring forth the calamities foretold by prophets of old, but legally we have no ground to stand on, and most conservatives agree that the Constitution is inspired, so what then?

This is thorny, but I don't think we can legislate morality.

#9 What would be the best way to improve the federal income tax system?

I answered "Scrap President Bush's tax cuts, and implement cuts for the middle class." I'm tired of oligarchical rule, in a nation where no one not a millionaire will ever be president, I don't want massive tax cuts only going to those who make more than $250k. While I recognize the need of freedom of capital to create jobs, the tax cuts went too far. The government needs more money to pay for some of the things that stimulate the economy and big industry (The Iraq War) and these people growing rich off the economic expanison of the last few years can pay more for the prosperity they enjoy. Taxes help everyone. The right balance is hard to find, but damnit we're at war, and this is the only time in our history that we haven't had a tax increase during a war. And this is a war without end. We all need to pony up. The poor can't pay anything, the lower middle-class is one layoff away from poverty, and the middle-middle class doesn't really exist anymore.

#10 What would be the best way for the federal government to deal with global warming?

"Invest in alternative energy sources" was my answer. I think that money in the right places (research universities!!!!!!) could do much to improve the energy production and efficiency of current sources. The freemarket will only seek out what can return a profit, and gas is still just too damn cheap and easy. Personally, I think it is far cheaper to try and reduce greenhouse gas via new technology and dealing with its consequences rather than trying punitive measures to stop or delay what is most likely unavoidable. I'm still pretty conservative on this issue, and I disagree with Kucinich, but a few issues aren't enough to derail my support of him.

#11 In terms of experience, what matters most to you in a presidential candidate?

Of course I say, "Has been a governor or mayor." Legislators make for shitty presidents, its confusing the two branches of power. Look at the last few legislator presidents Johnson (the worst president in US history in my opinion) and Ford (a place filler). The rest have all been governors; they've been in charge of something; they've known how to command, and have been proven successful.

Kucinich and I disagree on several issues like funding the Iraq war, gun ownership, abolishing the death penalty, his veganism, and the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. But, these things aren't my only issues. I find far more in common with him than with any other person. And I think his ideas about withdrawing from the Chinese-dominated WTO, ending the War on Drugs, legalizing marijuana, repealing the Patriot Act, and his desire to ban meat-packer livestock ownership to be in line with my own opinions.

So, according to the USA Today survey, my two most-in-common candidates are Kucinich and Huckabee. Huckabee is a religious bigot and doesn't have the foreign policy chops to be president. What I'd love is a third party in this country. One where there wasn't always a dichotomy, but where middle-of-the-road people, what used to be called Compassionate Conservatism, could actually find a platform, and a candidate--maybe someone like this man (despite his flaws).

Hate me if you must, but this is how I feel. I am but one man, one vote, and that vote will go to Kucinich in the primary.

This should end well

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I do hereby request that the media please drop the endless coverage of the fugitive marine killer. I am sick of it being the only thing that makes headlines. Enough already!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Ron Paul's Tacit Racism and Why People Who Complain About Amnesty Are Wrong (my mom included)

This is a draft, but I don't feel like editing it more right now.

So, CNN runs a story today showing a post-L.A. Riots (1992) newsletter from Ron Paul's camp that contains some tacitly racist comments, something that I first felt months ago when I read his campaign platform. I saw, and still see, racist reactionary tendencies in his attitudes towards immigration.

Congressman Paul claims that he didn't write them, and that he doesn't know who did. It doesn't follow for me that someone publishes something in your newsletter and you know nothing of it. Also, he claims to not be racist, but many of his supporters are racist, and I feel that he is cultivating the WASPy ethno-centric, at least, vote in this country. Let's analyze some of his platforms (all text in italics is verbatim from


Government as an institution is particularly ill-suited to combat bigotry. Bigotry at its essence is a problem of the heart, and we cannot change people's hearts by passing more laws and regulations.

It is the federal government that most divides us by race, class, religion, and gender. Through its taxes, restrictive regulations, corporate subsidies, racial set-asides, and welfare programs, government plays far too large a role in determining who succeeds and who fails. Government "benevolence" crowds out genuine goodwill by institutionalizing group thinking, thus making each group suspicious that others are receiving more of the government loot. This leads to resentment and hostility among us.

I certainly don't think that removing any kind of government efforts to combat the effects of racism and ethnocentrism will have the effect that he seems to envision. In fact, the free market would exacerbate the differences between races. In the case of certain minorities, the economic and educational disadvantages they face make them less marketable as employees, and the freemarket, with government incentive, will seek out the most-qualified employees. This will stratify the workforce and keep people from ever leaving their social class. There would be no more Horatio Alger stories under Dr. Paul's plan. That resentment and hostility he speaks of is just a polite way of saying racism. I think his plan would turn racism on it head and not solve anything other than letting the majority maintain its grip on power.


We must reject amnesty for illegal immigrants in any form. We cannot continue to reward lawbreakers and expect things to get better. If we reward millions who came here illegally, surely millions more will follow suit. Ten years from now we will be in the same position, with a whole new generation of lawbreakers seeking amnesty.

Amnesty also insults legal immigrants, who face years of paperwork and long waits to earn precious American citizenship.

Birthright citizenship similarly rewards lawbreaking, and must be stopped. As long as illegal immigrants know their children born here will be citizens, the perverse incentive to sneak into this country remains strong. Citizenship involves more than the mere location of one’s birth. True citizenship requires cultural connections and an allegiance to the United States. Americans are happy to welcome those who wish to come here and build a better life for themselves, but we rightfully expect immigrants to show loyalty and attempt to assimilate themselves culturally. Birthright citizenship sometimes confers the benefits of being American on people who do not truly embrace America.

People need to stop talking about amnesty, like these Hispanic workers that come here are criminals. We can't even get some of our citizens to get up off their asses and work for a living. These people come here seeking a better life for themselves, and are willing to work, and pay taxes, and contribute to the economy. He hides behind the notion that people want to curb immigration. Truth is, at every point in our history, the populace didn't like immigrants because they were different. It's ethnocentrism all over again. He claims that they overtax the medical systems, but the actual research shows that most Hispanics pay cash or have insurance when they go to the doctor. In South Carolina, the ratio of people being declared indigent is LOWEST among Hispanics than among ANY OTHER ETHNIC GROUP, including the WHITE MAJORITY. So, this constant spouting of impressions that people have because of their xenophobia is unworthy of a politician, and an American, who seeks to represent a place, let alone a nation.

Personally, I would like to have a Western Hemisphere Union. I'd like to be able to go and work in Argentina, Barbados, or Colombia and vice versa. I would close immigration to all nations save those with close historical ties (U.K., France, Portugal, Spain, Holland, Israel, Liberia) but allow for completely free movement between anywhere in the Americas. But, that's not going to happen because of reactionary people who fear the immigrant. Undocumented workers aren't taking desirable jobs from people, they work in shit-jobs like McDonald's, cleaning hotel rooms, cooking, roofing, landscaping, and sheetrocking. Why all this fear and calling them criminals? Why are we even having a discussion about amnesty? If they come here and work and don't cause problems, where is the harm? Honestly? Don't sit their from your privileged position by birth and tell me that if your family were poor and your government corrupt, that you wouldn't do everything to provide for your family. And this isn't American-style providing, we're talking about sustaining life and health. This isn't a criminal matter, at best it's a civil affair.


What is seldom discussed in the immigration debate, unfortunately, is the incentives the US government provides for people to enter the United States illegally. As we know well, when the government subsidizes something we get more of it. The government provides a myriad of federal welfare benefits to those who come to the US illegally, including food stamps and free medical care. Is this a way to discourage people from coming to the US illegally?

Ah, the old racist redoubt of "subsidizing." This is total crap. You must prove US citizenship to receive federal foodstamps, WIC, Medicaid, and welfare. You cannot get them otherwise. To get a drivers license in South Carolina, my wife had to take in her passport, marriage license, and birth certificate. Another case of his assuming something rather than verifying. He's playing to his reactionary audience, you know the kind with three Ron Paul Campaign signs in the yard, along with a flagpole flying the "Dont Tread on Me" banner and a big Support Our Troops magnet on their Ford F150.

Also, I don't buy that an open border makes it easier for terrorists to come into our country. Any border patrol agent worth his salt knows when someone isn't Mexican; a terrorist just can't drop a few "chingadas" and convince the Border Patrol agent that he's Mexican. I highly doubt that any "terrorists" would try to come in overland. I'd worry more about the sea and airports than I ever would the desert southwestern frontier. Also, if we made it legal for workers to come here and work, as they could for decades, then we wouldn't have the massive illegal immigration that we currently have to worry about.


No other wealthy, western nations grant automatic citizenship to those who simply happen to be born within their borders to non-citizens. These nations recognize that citizenship involves more than the physical location of one’s birth; it also involves some measure of cultural connection and allegiance. In most cases this means the parents must be citizens of a nation in order for their newborn children to receive automatic citizenship.

So, he wants to monkey with the 14th Amendment and take away birthright citizenship. What litmus test does he want then? Does he propose anything other than taking away one of the noblest things about our country's laws. By his measure then, could a person someday actually be a citizen of another country, but if born here, could be our president?

I just have to wonder if we had a massive illegal white Canadian immigration "problem" if Dr. Paul would have the same level of moral indignation.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Hall of Fame Predictions

Since I'll be in class when the new, if any, Baseball Hall of Fame members are announced, let me go on record as saying I predict that Goose Gossage is in for sure, and that Andrew Dawson will be elected. Jim Rice might be.

The rest will not be enshrined.

My ballot would be:

Dale Murphy
Don Mattingly
Andre Dawson
Goose Gossage
Jack Morris

Sunday, January 06, 2008

311 Stylee

So, Marley and I were working on something today, listening the jukebox on the computer, and an old 311 song came on. I was showing off to Marley, singing the really fast lyrics perfectly along with the song. The words are sung very rapidly, are complex, and have a staccato rhythm. Marley said this to me, just as fast as the lyrics I was singing:

That’s weird how they say it so fast, plus when I’m grown I want to be a superstar, so I’ve got to learn how to say it fast like that.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Supreme Court Justice William Jefferson Clinton

So, right before Bush nominated Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, I made my late father shit a brick when I told him that I thought George W. Bush should have nominated Bill Clinton to the vacancy left by Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement. While he convulsed, I mentioned that Clinton is actually a political moderate, and that it would've gone a long way to heal partisanship in our country (not just in politics).

I admitted that there were some problems, namely that he had been impeached (but not convicted) and that may have lied under oath (that's the big one). Bush could've pardoned him on that one, and then we could've had a healing choice.

I like Alito, I like a conservative court, frankly. But I also want checks and balances, just like the rest of the government. A moderate court would be ideal, but a balanced one is a must. Heaven forbid we should ever get a court that's decidedly one way or another. Moderation in all things, including the judiciary. My dad was too obtuse to realize how good a choice Clinton would be. I mean, he, a Democrat, overhauled welfare and reformed into a much better (though still tragically flawed) program. He was a great president, aside from his peccadilloes--which were many.

I guess my main point is that I can forgive the perjury, which he never admitted to have done. Therefore, I can totally support his appointment to the SCOTUS. However, I have a concern:

This article mentions that if Hillary were elected, she might appoint her husband. I don't like this. It's one thing for anyone else to do it; in this case it just seems like nepotism. That logic might not follow for yall, but something about it gives me cause for concern. One things is for certain, in the next five years, we're going to be replacing some judges. Some of them are O L D.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Translation: Pablo Neruda's "United Fruit Company" Poem

So, since I am including Neruda's masterpiece, "La United Fruit Co." in my class this semester, and since the class is being taught "in translation" I decided to translate the poem myself, as all the other ones I could find weren't that good. Poetry is terribly difficult to translate, and I'm not sure how perfect this one is.

For those of you who speak Spanish, I'd love some feedback. Here's the original:

Cuando sonó la trompeta, estuvo
todo preparado en la tierra,
y Jehova repartió el mundo
a Coca-Cola Inc., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, y otras entidades:
la Compañía Frutera Inc.
se reservó lo más jugoso,
la costa central de mi tierra,
la dulce cintura de América.

Bautizó de nuevo sus tierras
como "Repúblicas Bananas,"
y sobre los muertos dormidos,
sobre los héroes inquietos
que conquistaron la grandeza,
la libertad y las banderas,
estableció la ópera bufa:
enajenó los albedríos
regaló coronas de César,
desenvainó la envidia, atrajo
la dictadora de las moscas,
moscas Trujillos, moscas Tachos,
moscas Carías, moscas Martínez,
moscas Ubico, moscas húmedas
de sangre humilde y mermelada,
moscas borrachas que zumban
sobre las tumbas populares,
moscas de circo, sabias moscas
entendidas en tiranía.

Entre las moscas sanguinarias
la Frutera desembarca,
arrasando el café y las frutas,
en sus barcos que deslizaron como bandejas el tesoro
de nuestras tierras sumergidas.

Mientras tanto, por los abismos
azucarados de los puertos,
caían indios sepultados
en el vapor de la mañana:
un cuerpo rueda, una cosa
sin nombre, un número caído,
un racimo de fruta muerta
derramada en el pudridero.
--Pablo Neruda, 1950

Here is my translation. My html skills aren't good enough to render a side by side display. Sorry.

Pablo Neruda


When the trumpet sounded,
all was prepared on the earth
and Jehovah parceled out the world
to Coca-Cola Inc., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, and other entities:
the United Fruit Company Inc.
reserved for itself the juiciest bit,
the central coast of my land,
the gentle waist of America.

It rebaptized these lands
as "Banana Republics,"and over the sleeping dead,
over the restless heroes,
who had conquered greatness,
liberty and flags,
The Company established a comic opera,
drove all free will insane,
handed out crowns of Caesar,
unsheathed greed, and attracted
the dictatorship of the flies,
Trujillo flies, Tacho flies,
Carías flies, Martínez flies,
Ubico flies, flies moistened
by humble blood and marmalade
drunken flies buzzingover the tombs of the common people,
circus flies, wise flies
well versed in tyranny.

Among the bloody flies,
The United Fruit Company steps ashore,
devastating the coffee and the fruits,
in its ships that sail
like trays
taking away the treasure
of our drowning lands.
All the while, near the sugary deep of the harbors,
the Indians fell,
buried in the morning mists:
a corpse tumbles, a nameless thing,
a fallen number, a bunch of putrid fruit
thrown on the compost heap.

Translation by Mac Williams

The United Fruit Company steps ashore,
devastating the coffee and the fruits,

I am especially not comfortable with these two lines

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

What Does Santa Say?

Jack keeps standing up in his high chair. We want him to stay sitting down. I am constantly telling him to sit down in Spanish. My mom was in town for the holidays and likes to try and use Spanish too--she only knows formal conjugations. We've also been asking Jack, "What does Santa Say?" Something went down like this.

My mom: Jack, siéntese.
Jack: Ho ho ho


Having lived in the Mormon Mecca of Utah from 1997-2002 and in the highly tolerant New Orleans from 2002-2007, I had forgotten just how ignorant some people can be about my religion. It's not their fault. There are all kinds of lies being spread, misinformation being disseminated, rumors passed on as God's-honest-truths, and blatant bigotry manifesting itself. In the last year, either on job searches or in talking to people in my new home, I've seen that not-too-successful attempt to hide a scowl when I tell people what church I go to. I would never ever make a face about someone's religion. Most of the time, since I press the people to explain their faces or suddenly frosty attitudes towards me, it is a matter of me stating what we believe and bearing them my testimony. Afterwards the awkwardness is usually lessened. In that same hope, I write this post. To dispell myths, hints, allegations, and things left unsaid.

A few observations for those in ignorance of the beliefs of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Days Saints:

1. We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.

3. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

4. We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

5. We do not think that Joseph Smith is the Savior, only Jesus Christ can save us from our sins.

6. We are saved by grace; after we do everything that we can to obey the commandments and to repent of our sins, the Lord's grace saves us from that which we can't repay.

7. The Book of Mormon isn't the Mormon Bible. We use the King James version of the Bible. We believe that the Book of Mormon is ANOTHER TESTAMENT of Jesus Christ. And that scripture that you're all thinking about right now in Revelations is talking about the Book of Revelations, not the Bible proper. Think about it.

8. No, I don't have or want another wife. Of all the candidates for president, Mitt Romney is one of the few who has only ever had one wife.

Jesus is the Christ. Mormons are Christian. Just because someone doesn't share your belief about Jesus doesn't mean that they aren't Christian.

One thing is for certain: trying to be like Jesus is really hard.