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In My Life

I think it was Thursday that I received a call from my wife. She had been talking to my mother, and had found out that my father had taken Duke and Missy to the animal shelter. The closest thing I can think of to compare with my reaction, struggling as I was not to break down in front of the whole office, was the day I learned my grandfather--my best friend--had died.

I don't really know how old I was when we got Duke. Maybe fourteen or fifteen. She’d been abandoned on the door step of Esther Maggs' farmhouse, Esther being a kindhearted old spinster who was ancient when my mother was a little girl. My plan was that if I could somehow get the dog up to our house, my mother, who loves animals but is decidedly not a dog person, could never refuse. It worked. Where we went from there is difficult to tell. The best way that I can put it is that during my constant, youthful rebellion against God and my parents, and all the shouting matches and the tears, the girls who came and went, losing friends and teenage rejection, my dog and my grandfather were the anchor points. My grandfather died about seven years ago now, and I sure wasn't ready to say goodbye. But I knew that he was and that made all the difference. Duke I thought I would have forever.

Duke, who is a female by the way (long story), is quite simply the best dog in the world, and I tell you that with all the honestly with which I would look you in the eye and tell you that my mom is the best mom in the world. Loving children, cats, and the elderly, (I never much cared if she liked regular grown-ups, but she did anyway) she craves constant society. And when she was younger, it was never very hard to come by. "She shines like the dickens," I can remember one old timer telling me as he saw her running across our lawn in the sunlight. A coal black, sawed-off runt of a half-lab, half-we-don't-know-what who flashed in the sun like a freshly waxed Mercedes. But as she aged something began to happen to her. At first we noticed increased scratching, and treated her for an assumed infestation of fleas. Things began to worsen. Her hair started falling out in clumps, leaving pale skin exposed beneath. This quickly became red and irritated, and she would scratch and bite until she bled. Her skin now began to scale over and then to flake away, and oil would ooze from her pores. There was an eye-watering stench about her, the smell of rotting flesh and musky seepage which landed her, when she could no longer be tolerated in the house, out in the garage. In the summer it wasn't so bad. We were outside most of the time and she could be with us. But in the winter she froze, having lost most of her coat long before. We would bring her in and let her sleep in the basement on cold nights, and I can still remember how she would walk from entrance to basement door: head down, tail down, sad, slow pace and look of quiet dejection, as if she somehow knew how tragically odious her own presence had become to us. We had her to vet after vet after vet. We had expensive tests and still more expensive drugs. We treated her with pills, shampoos, shots, diets...anything you can think of. Allergies, everyone said, but not one of them could improve things, and poor Duke's existence became lonelier as the years moved on.

Then I moved on. Leaving home for college, and losing myself in a haze of girls and beers and sickening sweet freedom. Whenever I would come home to visit, Duke would pick herself up from the cloud of dust and dead skin she laid in and come bounding over. A few quick pats as I entered and then left again were all I could stand, and that more to assuage my guilt than anything. My mom would sometimes say that she missed me, but I tried not to think about it. A lot of things were happening in my life then. I'd given my heart to Christ. I'd cleaned up and spent a year or two on my own, then started dating an old friend who I'd always loved from afar. We were wed two years ago. We got a couple of cats, and moved out from my rapidly shrinking apartment into our first home, a cute little two bedroom starter, the spare bedroom of which I sit in now as I type this to you. I'd begun thinking about getting a dog of my own, telling myself that Duke was really more my parents’ dog. Perhaps a greyhound or a brittany spaniel. Purebred, of course, and from a reputable breeder. That’s how things were on Thursday when I got the call and learned that I wouldn't ever see Duke or Missy again, Missy being one of two cats that my mother had, who, like Duke, had chronic health problems that seemed incurable, and poor litter box habits that were unpardonable. My parents couldn't care for them properly, and it didn't seem fair to either of them--especially Duke--to continue living in such states.

It turns out that the shelter they were taken to was a kill shelter, that is, they would euthanize the animals they couldn't find homes for. I see nothing immoral in that--it's a question of the demand for their services always being greater than their means--but that doesn't mean that I like it. My wife and I knew that we couldn't allow the animals to die, so we called the shelter that very day and instructed them that if these animals could not be placed in good homes, we were to be contacted. Under no circumstances were they to be killed. Later that evening, I called my mother to let her know what we had done. She’d been crying all day, and then cried some more while I talked to her, but I knew that she would be grateful to hear of our plan.

Friday I tried not to think about it. We’d rented some movies and then turned in. I don't know exactly what came over me as I was lying there staring up at the ceiling. Maybe it was an image of Duke alone and scared in a strange place, but I could no longer keep it bottled in. I wept like a baby, having not even shed a tear when my grandfather died--though I loved him no less. But animals, I knew, cannot be at peace with their Maker in the same way that men can. They cannot say good-byes, and I hadn't even gotten a chance to say one of my own. I was heartbroken, and disgusted with myself. That dog has outlasted literally every friend or lover I've ever had, I thought, and I've left her to rot. I couldn't kid myself: Duke, now around ten and with her affliction, had no chance of adoption. Missy, who was younger and beautiful, wouldn't have a hard time finding a home, but I couldn't bear the thought of either of them going to strangers all the same. And besides, what if the shelter forgot to call us? Over-worked and under-paid full-timers and an ever-changing staff of college student volunteers could easily, and through no fault of their own, make just such a fatal oversight. I couldn't leave the lives of what I now could admit to myself were friends to chance. My wife had been reading my mind, and snuggling up beside me she said that we could adopt them. Could we? Missy wouldn’t be much of a problem, but Duke...if we couldn't find a vet who could heal her--and we never could before--she would have simply traded a garage for a basement, living a life no less empty or miserable. It didn't matter. I couldn't let a friend die because of smell. My wife and I joined hands in the darkness, and I choked out a sheepish, tearful prayer to the Almighty, asking Him if He would bless our decision to adopt. It seemed a silly thing to trouble the Maker of the universe with. We decided to sleep on it, and make our final decision the next morning.

The next morning came, and I found myself there at the shelter, both my wife and I having felt a peace in our hearts when we awoke. I was alone because my wife went shopping with her mother, but I didn’t mind. I found Missy first, and then went off to look for Duke. I described her to one of the volunteers, who said that he knew of no dog that matched her name and description. Another volunteer took me back into the kennel to look anyway. I had come on a joyful task: I had been given the opportunity to save a friend, and as you may know there are few things in this life greater than that. But I felt a deep sadness still, as I walked past all those animals. Row after row of dog, and the cats I had seen before that. Most would spend their last hours on earth in this very place, cages and regiment like a penal institute. The volunteers loved these animals, I thought, and I knew that I hadn't the strength of heart to do their job. At one point we passed a small black lab mix who was near other highly adoptable animals in a main corridor. I had to stare at her for a good minute before convincing myself she was not my dog. Even as we walked away from her I wasn't sure, and it wasn't until we came to a lonely back corner and found Duke huddled in a small cage, wretched and alone, that I understood why I had been so confused. The other dog looked not like the half-bald mongrel who shivered before me now, gray hairs around her mouth and streaking here or there through what remained of her coat, but like the dog I knew in my youth, the one that people would pause to stare at now and then when the sun would catch her the right way. The volunteer must have thought I was insane to have made such a mistake. I called to Duke, and recognizing her name more than the one who had spoken it, she came slowly forward to the edge of the cage. As she neared, recognition dawned on her, and by the time she had caught a whiff of my scent she was bouncing, wagging, whimpering, and nipping to beat the band. A death row inmate granted a reprieve could not have, by virtue of his greater understanding, been any more jubilant.

I met the vet at the shelter, who spoke with a thick German accent and had a predictably no-nonsense attitude.

"Do you think you can cure her?"

"We cannot cure her. She is allergic to everything. But I'll give her a shot of cortisone and it will greatly reduce the symptoms in a day or two. I have a dog who had the same problem and it worked for her. You’ll see. But she cannot be cured, and you will need to give her steroid pills for the rest of her life. This special shampoo will help until her skin is healed. After that, the pills will be enough."

I don't know why I believed that woman when so many vets had already let me down, but I did. I loaded the animals and their stuff into my car, and drove them to their new home. Duke loved rides, and spent the trip bouncing from seat to seat. Missy did not and spent it howling from her car-carrier. The weather was lousy, but despite the thick, sloppy sleet that flew, I rolled down the window a bit for Duke to enjoy. Somehow she made it home without having an accident in my car. Maybe the Lord really was looking out for us...

After unloading the new animals and taking Duke for a walk that was quicker than usual, I went inside and called my parents. My dad answered, and I let him know that we had adopted Missy and Duke. He’d been afraid to ask us to care for them, not feeling right about unloading the responsibility on two young people so busily selfish, but I could tell that he was near tears with gladness anyway when I told him the news. It just so happened to be his birthday.

Duke, oddly enough, hates water. It is the only thing I have ever known her to hate, not even fire bothering her particularly much. It seemed therefore a lousy thing to do, hauling her upstairs to give her a bath on her first day and all, but the vet had been clear. Into the tub she went, and I gently poured cupfuls of warm water over her. I opened the special shampoo the vet had given me. She’d warned me about the smell of the stuff, but I hadn't paid much attention, figuring that it couldn't possibly smell worse than the dog. It did. The label prattled excitedly about this revolutionary new shampooing technology--a marvel of veterinary science--but the active ingredients, if you can believe this, were sulfur, tar, and some sort of acid. The adoption fees and medical supplies, though not unreasonable, had come to hundreds of dollars and it was near Christmas. I might just as well have bought her a pack of cigarettes as this expensive slop, I thought as I worked the shampoo onto Duke's back. It was a thick, brownish sludge that stank to high heaven and looked like liquid death.

As awful as Duke's smell was to me, the smell of the shampoo must have been to her. What’s more, her skin was open and bleeding in several places, and I knew the mixture must be stinging her terribly. But despite her hatred of the water and her hatred of the shampoo, she remained calm and endured it. I wondered why she should, being incapable of understanding that the things that I was doing, while frightening and painful, were for her benefit. Even a young child could understand in some dim way that a doctor was only trying to help, but Duke couldn’t possibly know anything more than the fact that she was in pain, and that I was causing it. Why didn't she just bite me and attempt to flee? She trusts you, I suddenly thought.

On the heels of that thought, and just as inexplicably, came the words of Job: "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." Even as a Christian, I had a hard time accepting that famous surrender as anything other than madness. God, Who holds all the secrets, Who sits in bliss tormenting us from afar, with nothing but His word to assure us that, though we may never understand our suffering, it is in the end for some good purpose. Job never got his explanation, and in fact, what he got was the hard-gained knowledge that he hadn't ever been entitled to it at all. God has the right to do with us as He pleases.

C. S. Lewis once wrote that humans are like the christs of animals. We bring them in from cold, dark places. We clean them and civilize them and make them fit for our presence. We turn them into something better. I was rinsing the shampoo from Duke now, streams of brown filth rolling off her and down the drain, and carrying away with it ages of decay. A painful process for the dog, one that she didn't understand, but one that she endured, to her great benefit, because she trusted me. I don't know if the Gospel had been more real to me before, perhaps not even at the time of my conversion: a great Adoption Fee paid to redeem a condemned, worthless wretch no one wanted, a corrupted creature whose reek was like noxious fumes to the Adopter, a love that looked past present evil, to the future restoration of a glorious past. It broke my heart to hurt my dog, but I knew it was for the good, and though she couldn't, she trusted me. My eyes watered a bit as I thought about how much God loves us--infinitely more than we could ever love a pet or even a spouse. How it must hurt Him to cause us pain, to pick up hammer and chisel and chip away at the rotten, scaly sin that hides pink, healthy skin beneath. Maybe that old lie your parents used to tell you about this hurting me more than it does you was right after all.

The bath, thankfully, was nearly over. I started to think about my dog once again. About how I had mistreated her in the past, but how she had always loved me just the same, and that's where the analogy between the Lord and I broke down. In our experience with God, it is the opposite. But how I loved my dog at that moment, when I knew how unconditionally she'd remained faithful, even through all the long, cold years. I thought about the better times before then, about breaking up with a girlfriend, but still having a girl in my life who would never leave me, who seemed to always know when I was sad. She'd stuck by me through everything, through the most painful, difficult years of my life. She had never once let me down, not through years of scorn. That dog has been a better human being than I will ever be, at least, than I ever will be in this life.

The radio had been on while I was bathing Duke, and a song broke in on my reverie. It was the Beatles from rubber soul:

There are places I'll remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

The bath was over, and Duke was rewarded with a warm, dry towel and a gentle rubdown. She loved that part. I went into the bedroom to get some clothes together--I had enough dog water and chemical residue on me following Duke's vigorous, post-bath shakes that I needed a shower of my own. The lights were out in the bedroom, and the shades were down. It was an overcast afternoon without, but even so a little light somehow found its way in. Duke sat at my heals, staring worshipfully up at me. When she turned her head to look at one of the cats, I noticed that quick glint sparking up from the remnant of her coat. There would be other chemical baths, and never-ending pills, but with each day she would grow younger and younger.




pope john paul the second should resign

cardinal bernard law, according to fox news, has offered his resignation to pope john paul the second today at the vatican. with the pope's acceptance, law will now leave the troubled archdiocese of boston behind him en route to bigger and better things: a possible criminal trial for his role in the sexual abuse scandal that has engulfed his flock. law stands accused of being an enabler, of reshuffling, rather than removing, alleged abusive priests. if one were to, on a whim, apply the bush doctrine to law's actions, one would find little distinction between the molesters and the governor that enabled them.

does this apply to the pope?

if not, why not?

a group of some 58 boston priests have called for law's resignation, and it is well for them that they did. where are the calls for john paul's resignation? how is he, as the leader of the church, not tainted by the sin that seems to stain every level of church hierarchy from lofty rome to the lowliest of backwater parishes? wasn't he aware of what was occurring in his church? how could he not be? i find it hard to believe that a scandal this pervasive could have slipped his notice.

what's that? a cover-up, you say? the aged pope cloistered away in the vatican, kept from the truth by well-meaning (and not so well-meaning) insularies? my friends, if john paul the second, as God's supposed foremost representative upon this earth, cannot or will not rule the so-called universal church, then he has no business being pope.

i will not accept the notion that the truth was kept hidden from him. "plausible deniability" is a term for crooks, cheats, and liars. i find it hard to believe that the pope's subordinates could have kept the truth long concealed even if they wanted to, but if they had somehow succeeded, then while john paul may be exonerated from the depravity he has ostensibly presided over, he is guilty of such gross incompetence as to allow wickedness that has not been seen since the dark ages to flourish in our modern world. he has utterly failed in his responsibilities. a leader who cannot control his followers, who cannot get the truth out of them, who is perceived by those followers as incapable of handling the truth, is not a leader at all. he is a figurehead. and what the church needs now isn't a kindly old grandfather smiling down from on high.

the pope may not be an enabler in the same sense as cardinal law; i honestly do not know. i do know that one way or the other, he isn't a fit pope. there are only two possibilities when it comes to john paul: he is either incapable of reigning in the chaos that surrounds him, or he is unwilling to do so. the difference, from our perspective, is largely academic; an issue better left between the man and the Maker he draws nearer to with every passing day. but in either case, it remains that john paul is a pope in name only, and the de facto power in the catholic church has been corrupt for far, far too long.

locdog calls for pope john paul the second to resign



bush's faith based initiative: government funded religious discrimination?

well, he's going to get it after all. the president is going to sign various elements of his faith based initiative (which i'll call the FBI from here on in just for the heck of it) into law by executive order, republican controlled congress be damned. i'm not exactly sure what his hurry is, by the way. the last time the FBI was in the public eye, it had gotten through the house largely unscathed, but even after numerous invasive prunings, the democrat-controlled senate couldn't get a version of the bill through. bush no longer faces any such challenge, so i'll just continue assuming what i've always assumed: this issue is most important to him as a political present from a president to the religous conservatives who largely put him into office.

so what, exactly, is the FBI? in case you've forgotten, bush is trying to create an environment in which religious organizations can compete fairly for federal dollars. presently, many religious groups are unable to suckle at the government teat due to civil rights laws which bar discrimination on the basis of religion. in other words, if i, as a roman catholic or jew, run a roman catholic or jewish soup kitchen and want to hire others of like faith exclusively, i would not be eligible for federal assistance. "good," say the various Church of the Separation of Church and State groups. "why should the federal government fund your religious bigotry?"

truth be told, the federal government already funds loads of religious bigotry through the national endowment for the arts, or ideological bigotry through national public radio, etc., but we'll pretend that isn't the case so that we may focus exclusively on hiring practices. to me, there is a load of difference between a construction company that happens to be run by a Christian who refuses to hire someone because he's an atheist, and a Christian charity that makes the same decision. on the one hand, religion is incidental, on the other, it's essential. religious organizations exist, when all is said and done, to advance the cause of their faith. intrinsic to the nature of any religious charity is that its members are representatives not only of a soup kitchen or shelter for battered women, but of their faith. in that sense, steaming soup becomes a means to an end--one that is nevertheless motivated by compassion and which provides a valuable service to the community. a similar secular organization exists only to hand out soup (and, of course, to further it's own existence). that doesn't necessarily make one better than the other, although i do see advantages to the pursuit of compassion with a religious zeal that mere social conscience may not provide. anyway, the bottom line is that for a religious group to hire a wiccan over zoroastrian is no more discriminatory than for a construction crew to hire a carpenter rather than a plumber: one happens to have the skills they need to get the job done.

a member of the Church of the Separation of Church and State might stipulate thus far "but," he will doubtless continue "why is government involved in religion at all? if these groups exist to further religious goals, then they shouldn't be eligible for federal dollars." that, i would cheerfully reply, is a perfectly valid opinion which you should probably write down and mail to your local legislator. but it is not a constitutional opinion. bush's initiative passes the test of the establishment clause as long as the cash flow resulting from it branches in all directions. some nitpickers will here ask questions about satanists or heaven's gate types, but i know of very few charitable organizations administrated by the church of satan. bush has the authority to do what he is doing, and he is infringing upon no one's civil liberties by doing so, nor has he violated any tenet of the constitution.

believe it or not, i do have an objection to the FBI, but not as a Christian or as a civil libertarian. as a conservative, this bill is pure pork. it's pork that will, i believe, be put to morally good and useful ends, but the whole thing smacks to me of politicking--a reward from bush to his loyal core supporters. do we really need this government spending? no, probably not. but then, this isn't so much an increase in spending as it is an increase in the pool of those eligible to receive such spending as there is. in the end, it may translate to the same thing.

still, locdog would rather see federal money go to a religious charity than to someone who sticks a crucifix in a jar of urine and proclaims it art

update: i'm not not much for these updates (some blogger i am, right?) but a poster over on the fray pointed out a very excellent reason for religous charities to fear the FBI: whatever the government funds, it eventually tries to take over. far from unwarranted paranoia, i perceive a legitimate threat in religious organizations accepting government money. once they are addicted to government funds, the federales can start making all sorts of interesting demands. or, what if after, say, six years of depending on federal funds through bush's FBI, a later president who knows not george w. bush or his God decides to rescind the executive order which enstated it? if caught between losing their funds and changing their hiring practices, how many religoius groups will chose to compromise?



SCOTUS to rule on virginia cross burning law

what is constitutionally protected free speech?

the supreme court will further pontificate on that very question when they hear two cases stemming from a virginia law which outlaws cross burning. now, to be crystal clear, i do not defend the practice of cross burning, nor do i defend racial intimidation, but what's at issue isn't how you or i may feel about these things, but whether or not they are linked, and, if so, to what extent.

the two cases the court will hear, while both involving cross burning, are very different in nature. in the first case, two virginia men burned (or "lit" as they would probably say) a hurriedly prepared cross on the lawn of a black neighbor who'd complained about them firing guns in their backyard. in the second case, a giant, towering cross was set ablaze high atop a privately owned hill during a KKK rally. the cross was clearly visible to surrounding neighbors--indeed, that seems to be the whole point.

first case first. how any rational person could not construe trespassing on someone else's land, erecting a structure, and igniting it in a manner consistent with racial hatred and violence for over a century now, as being something other than a threatening, intimidating gesture is beyond me. but threats, intimidation, and "fighting words" have already been ruled on by the supreme court as lying without the blanket of free speech protection, indeed, there are federal laws against such things, and while not specifically targeting cross burning, the virginia racists nonetheless violated these laws in making their despicable gesture. but if we start separating one threat from another, not on the basis of severity, but on the basis of world view of the person making the threat, then we are no longer eliminating illegal harassment, but policing types of thought.

in the second case, the KKK's gesture at the rally needn't even be construed as a threat. in fact, i see it as being more closely akin to a billboard. a giant road sign looming above the landscape with the words "I HATE YOU" emblazoned proudly upon it. they trespassed on no one's land, directly intimidated no one, and violated no one's privacy. they told every minority with a clear line of sight exactly how they felt about them, but, guess what? that's their right. i have a right, in this country, to hate you for any reason i choose. and what's more, as long as i don't cross over into some form of harassment, i have a right to tell you about it.

if ever there was a case of "i may not agree with what you say, but i'll defend to the death your right to say it" surely the second case is it. the first case was already against the law and no additional legislation is needed. whether or not someone has a right to burn a cross on someone else's lawn, to my mind, was never in dispute. the answer is clearly no because it is a type of expression which has never been considered constitutional. if penalties need to be reinforced, then so be it, but anything more than that is folly. the second case, if upheld, is censorship, plain and simple.

locdog isn't happy about it, but he believes the court should strike down the virginia cross burning ban


bush threatens to nuke saddam

both the nytimes and washpost are running stories on bush's not so veiled threat to "potential opponents" (read saddam hussein): the u.s. will "respond with all our options" if WMDs are used against us or our allies. will bush follow through on the threat?

Mr. Baker recalled in his memoirs, "The Politics of Diplomacy," that in dealing with Iraq in the period leading up to the war in January 1991, "I purposely left the impression that the use of chemical or biological agents by Iraq could invite tactical nuclear retaliation." (In fact, he said, President George H.W. Bush had decided not to retaliate with chemical or nuclear weapons if Mr. Hussein launched a chemical attack.)

that would be former secstate james a. baker from the aforementioned nytimes article. and thank you, howell raines, for letting saddam know that he has nothing to fear from the u.s. nuclear arsenal regardless of however many anthrax-laden scuds he rains down on tel aviv. i can just picture saddam sitting there sipping his morning coffee, reading his morning paper, half paying attention to the disembowelment of some supposed political foe which is being performed for his amusement. slowly the realization that he'd been duped dawns on him. "fool me twice, shame on me," he vows.

hey, it could happen. no way of knowing whether or not saddam has read baker's book, but it's for damned sure he reads the new york times because saddam always, always reads his fan mail.

meantime, a word about bush's strategy: i like it. if nuclear weapons cannot be used as a deterrent, why have them? the whole MAD thing worked brilliantly throughout the cold war, and continues to work brilliantly against the Chinese, who, for all their belligerence and u.s. missile guidance technology (thanks, wjc) wouldn't dream of launching a preemptive strike against us. the question we are now going to put to the test, however, is whether or not MAD is sane against the third world. at what point, i wonder, does the rational actor model break down? saddam is crazy in the traditional mad dictator pol pot sense, but can he be counted on to recognize and then step towards his own best interests? if he couldn't, his tanks would be rolling on one of his neighbors even now. the question, i think, is how seriously saddam takes bush's threats and how much he cares.

after all, if, as the new york times suggests, this is all a bunch of crap, then what does saddam have to fear? if we go to iraq again, it will be for saddam's head, so it's not like he's got much to lose. and if bush isn't bluffing...well, so what? why shouldn't saddam take the chance? you or i wouldn't because we wouldn't want to see tens of thousands of our citizens vaporized, but saddam has already killed that many himself. to me, it comes down to how much hussein values his own life. if he's huddled in his bunker like hitler with the sound of american artillery bursting over his head, who's to say he wouldn't just take a cyanide capsule? and if he's going down, he isn't the sort to particularly care how many go down with him, so that being the case, why not try chemical weapons? there is little difference in the final estimation between the lethality of cyanide gas or a cascading plutonium reaction.

so if saddam calls bush's bluff, what then? nuke him. use small, tactical nukes on military installations and over saddam's palaces, avoiding civilian centers if at all possible. the destructive effect would be comparable to that of our largest conventional weapons (like fuel air munitions) but the global psychological impact would be inestimable: don't screw with the americans. saddam might not care either way (we don't know yet) but there will be other governments who will. whatever the effectiveness of MAD proves to be in a post 9/11 world, it will be directly proportionate to our perceived sincerity. they need to know we mean it.

locdog considers brinkmanship meaningless if one is unwilling to look over the edge



lott should get the boot

i've never liked trent lott. the republicans selected a senior conservative from a safe, southern seat, a man who would speak of faith and the sanctity of life at the drop of a hat. i suppose that he was supposed to appeal to people like me, but for whatever reason he never did. part of it is irrational: the man just rubs me the wrong way. he just happens to look and talk and smile like the image of "sleazy politician" i formed in my head whenever it was that i first started paying attention to such things. part of my dislike for him is rational: he's not a very good leader. consider the GOP's recent windfall in the senate. with a groundswell of momentum surging behind him, bush revisits his foundering homeland security bill, but lott, who had next to nothing to do with the victory that benefited him more than anyone, bursts the bubble with some insipid remarks about waiting for the new class to come in. after bush and the rest of the senate stopped, hung a u-turn, picked up their supposed leader, and resumed course, everything turned out ok, but lott's lack of judgement and sway was underscored very publicly for perhaps the hundredth time.

that's why, in some ways, i'm grateful for the boneheaded remarks lott recently made in regards to strom thurmond's 100th birthday. i'm sure you've read them or heard them or seen them by now, but just in case...

I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either.

thurmond, of course, was a dixiecrat, a short-lived democratic splinter group founded on a rigid segregationist platform, hence the obvious parsing of lott's remarks yields an implicit endorsement of a racial segregation. "all these problems" would be, no doubt, a reference to racial tensions, riots, etc. is this what lott meant? of course not, says he.

A poor choice of words conveyed to some the impression that I embraced the discarded policies of the past. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by my statement.

was it a poor choice of words? or did lott want to carefully lay something between the lines? i find the former option rather hard to accept. consider his apology: "discarded policies". discarded policies? i discard a tube of toothpaste when it's been used up, but i don't consider it immoral or reprehensible or loathsome or contemptible or any other adjective one might fittingly apply to what thurmond stood for circa 1948--you know, all those things lott was so proud his state had voted for. the GOP needs to drop this guy like a bad habit. he needn't lose his seat, but he should definetly be stripped of his powers as majority leader.

meantime, a word about the hypocrisy of you liberals out there. not all of you, of course, but i've heard al gore, al sharpton, and jesse jackson all publicly calling for lott's head (in a surreal turn of events, tom daschle has actually come to lott's defense and is taking heat for it from members of his own party), but when ex-grand kleagle (head recruiter) of the KKK robert c. byrd dropped the n-bomb twice on national television around a year and a half ago, nary a peep was heard from any of them. said byrd

There are white niggers. I've seen a lot of white niggers in my time. I'm going to use that word. We just need to work together to make our country a better country, and I'd just as soon quit talking about it so much.

i'm not even going to pretend to be able to decipher that rubbish. the best that i could do is to say that since "nigger" is about as exclusively black as any word could possibly be, byrd must have meant something like "there are white people who act like niggers, too." this is an ex-klansman, folks. i certainly don't feel any compulsion to give him the benefit of the doubt. where was the outrage? where were the calls for resignation? where were the irate minority leaders? where was al gore with complaints over this "fundamentally racist" remark, as he has called lott's comment?

apparently they were hiding where the rest of the republican-friendly mainstream media is currently holed up, at least according to vast-right-wing-conspiracy theorists like the washington post's howard kurtz.

What, you weren't aware that the Senate majority leader was in hot water for appearing to embrace the segregationist cause?

Perhaps that's because, until this morning, most major newspapers hadn't done squat on the story.

most of the major papers except for the one you happen to work for, right, mr. kurtz? it was the washington post, after all, that broke the story--and that much to their discredit. apparently the post staffs teams of drones who do nothing but sift through piles of minutia to find anything even remotely damaging to a republican: "It was on C-SPAN, for crying out loud," whines kurtz. gee, how could we miss it? it must be a cover-up. all those jim crowe types over at the new york times, right? even andrew sullivan (who hates howell raines more than death) jumps on the bandwagon

And where's the New York Times? Howell Raines is so intent on finding Bull Connor in a tony golf club that when Bull Connor emerges as the soul of the Republican Senate Majority Leader, he doesn't notice it.

well, boys, i did a lexis-nexis full text search of major papers over the past two years for "robert byrd nigger" and got 16 hits, several of which were actually book reviews in which a section where the author mentioned the incident was quoted. there were 34 stories found for "lott thurmond" today alone, and while many of them were AP, there were also stories in the nytimes, washpost, washtimes, la times, pittsburgh post-gazette, san francisco chronicle, new york daily news, etc. a search limited to "major news papers" stretching from today back to the seventh when the washington post broke the story produced 16 results--the same number byrd got in two years.

and by the way, why is segregation the sole dominion of white supremacists? these days, segregationist impulses are as prevalent--if not more so--among militant blacks. some black student groups have gone as far as to request separate living facilities and dorms on college campuses, and if louis farrakhan had his way the separation would extend a lot further than your local university. he'd probably have stood and applauded had he been there to witness lott's gaffe.

trent lott, in my opinion, was winking slyly at the good ol' boys while attempting to leave himself enough wiggle room to squirm out of a jam in case anyone else happened to notice. when i first heard lott's remarks, what popped into my head was the time slick willy tried to not-so-subtly imply that america had 9/11 coming to her. it was the same type of thing: both were trying to whisper sweet nothings into the ears of the more embarrassing elements of their constituencies without being overheard by any eavesdroppers. whether or not lott actually believes in segregation--and i have serious doubts as to whether he does--is irrelevant. he said what he said, and the republican party can either bury its head in the sand or they can deal with the problem. they've got to be terrified at the thought of confronting the issue since it's tantamount to an admission of racism in their ranks, but so what? as a republican myself, i'll offer this bit of unsolicited advice: the republican party has everything to gain in the eyes of the american people by showing them that trent lott is just as odious to the GOP brass as he has now become to everyone else.

locdog's $0.02