Category Archives: in what crazy world does this make sense?

At least call them what they are

ImageI don’t normally pay attention to Facebook ads. Usually Facebook has me pegged entirely wrong and advertises services I don’t need… like parenting services or a dating site for gay men. Sometimes Facebook offers clothing and accessories for someone way skinnier than I am. Honestly, Facebook, do you not pay attention to the photos I upload?

Today, however, I saw a product that I really couldn’t wrap my brain around. “Above the Knuckle Rings.” These are small rings that you wear around the first knuckle of your finger. Or as they should be called, “Rings That Are Too Small For You To Wear.”

Tell me, what is the purpose of these rings? To show off your manicure? If you have a good manicure, shouldn’t that speak for itself? And I don’t know about many of you, but I would spend the whole day trying to push those damn little rings down my fingers for fear they’d fall off.

Are we running out of body parts to dress up? Do our knuckles really need bedazzling? Do people actually buy this stuff?

Maybe I’m just out of touch with today’s fashion trends.

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What happened to liberty and justice for all?

Recently, a group of 10 unarmed volunteers on a humanitarian mission to Afghanistan were brutally gunned down by members of the Taliban, who accused the group of spying for the West and proselytizing. When I heard the news, I thought, “My god. How barbaric.” Too bad I couldn’t also add, “Thank god that kind of religious intolerance doesn’t happen here.”

Sane Americans gathered recently in Murfreesboro in support of a local mosque. (Photo courtesy of Middle Tennessee for Religious Freedom)

The recent outrage over the proposed “Ground Zero Mosque” (that’s neither at Ground Zero or a mosque—but hey, why bother with facts?) has made me come to hate my country just a little bit more. I thought we were the land of the free, where people were allowed to practice (or not) the religion of their choice. Wasn’t that one of the reasons why this country was founded — by religious groups seeking haven from persecution?

But apparently, that doesn’t apply anymore.

The proposed Cordoba House, which would be located not AT Ground Zero, but two and a half blocks away, and would be more of a community center than an actual mosque, has met with heavy opposition by people saying it’s an insult to build a mosque so close to where so many people died on that tragic day on Sept. 11, 2001.

OK. Um. How, exactly?

It wasn’t Islam that hijacked those planes that brought down the Twin Towers. It was 19 fanatical extremists aided by an equally fanatical sect. And since that date, Islamophobia has shamefully grown exponentially in this country.

I’m not that good with words. So many people have said it better than I have about how banning this house of worship would be so wrong. But I can’t understand why people, who claim to love this country and its Constitution, could even begin to think about not allowing a religious group to build a house of worship. I just can’t wrap my brain around it.

I’ve heard the “We’ll let you build a mosque at Ground Zero when churches are allowed to be build in Saudi Arabia” crap. Apparently, Christian churches are forbidden in Saudi Arabia. That sucks.

But we’re not Saudi Arabia. How do two wrongs make a right?

There’s also been major outcry over a mosque planned in Murfreesboro, just a couple of hours from here. And other protests around the country about similar planned mosques.

Do we want to become Saudi Arabia? Should we just scrap the Bill of Rights and become a theistic society? Which theistic society? Catholic? Baptist? Methodist? Certainly not Islamic or Jewish.

I used to believe America was a land of “us.” But I now realize, we live in a society of “us” verses “them.” I guess “love thy neighbor” only applies if you agree with your neighbor’s lifestyle.

How will we ever gain peace between peoples of faith if we allow fear and hate to fester and spread?

The world cried out when those four planes were hijacked by extremists on Sept. 11. Will we now sit by while our own home-grown extremists hijack this tragedy to suppress the rights of others?

Some seem to have forgotten that many American and non-American Muslims also died on Sept. 11. Many American Muslims have died in the years since fighting for the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan. How do we honor their sacrifices? By not allowing the Cordoba House to be built in its present location?

Not in my America.

But I’m starting to fear this isn’t my America any more.

(I wrote this before I saw last night’s episode of ‘The Daily Show.’ Jon Stewart says everything I wish I could say, and then some.)

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Filed under in what crazy world does this make sense?, incredulous, politics, Ranty McRantypants

How I infiltrated the Republican Party

My heart pounds as I pull onto Main Street. Not so much because of the voting scandal that has rocked our little community, but because I see the gauntlet of candidate supporters on the courthouse lawn and I’m terrified I’ll run over one when they jump into the street to wave their little signs. I try to avoid eye contact as I search for a parking space. Preferably one where I don’t have to parallel park.

Vote early. Vote often.

When my Dad ran for tax assessor a couple of years ago on the Democratic ticket, our neighbors, who had recently moved here from Florida, lamented the fact that they wouldn’t be able to support him in the county primary, since they had been registered Republicans in their home state. Dad explained that being a Republican didn’t matter, as Tennessee had an open primary. Even though my neighbor was affiliated with the Republican Party, all he had to do was ask to vote in the Democratic primary on election day.

Having lived in Tennessee all my life, I never really though about how our process of voting was different to that of other states. I honestly did not know that in some states, only registered Republicans and Democrats could vote in their respective primaries. Until the 2008 presidential election, I wasn’t really into politics at a national level, so I was not aware of how other states handled things. I remember thinking that, finally, Tennessee didn’t seem so backwards compared to the rest of the country. A person could choose which primary to vote in on election day, and not be confined to the party line.

I get out of my car and lock the door, thanking whatever gods are looking out for me that I managed to find one on the opposite side of the street from the gauntlet, and I didn’t have to parallel park. I make my way down the street to the election commission building, hoping I look Republican enough to not warrant notice from the poll watchers. Head down, avoiding eye contact, I suddenly realize that if I really wanted to appear to be a non-Democrat, maybe I shouldn’t have dressed all in blue this morning. Hindsight will get you every time.

I freely admit to being a member of the national Democratic Party. I can’t ever foresee myself voting for a Republican at the national level because my beliefs conflict too much with that of the national Republican Party. But at the state and local level, it’s different. At the local level, you have a much better chance at actually knowing the person running for office. Party doesn’t really matter locally.

I have always voted in the Democratic primaries in the past, not only because I come from a large family of Democrats, but also because many times, someone I’m related to has run on the Democratic ticket, like my Dad. But in a general election, I have voted for the Republican candidate, because I think that person would do a better job than the challenger. And that’s the right of every American citizen eligible to vote.

I make it into the building without notice. Whew! The next step is to sign in and declare my intention to vote in the Republican primary. So many people in such a tiny space! But the line moves quickly, and pretty soon I’m called up by a poll worker to present my identification. I dig around in my purse and promptly hand her my Kroger card. Oops. For a moment I suspect my vote might be challenged after all, not because I’m a Democrat in Republican clothing, but because they might think I’m nuts. But I nervously laugh it off and hand over my driver’s license. The poll worker types in my information and verifies my address.

For several years, our district has been represented by an incumbent who puts party politics ahead of the concerns of his constituents. Just to name a few, he introduced a bill in the Tennessee legislature to ban the sale of sex toys, joined legal action challenging the citizenship status of President Obama and fired the county election administrator simply because she had voted in Democratic primaries in the past (despite coming from a family of die-hard Republicans).

This last asinine move was the last straw for many voters in the county, Democrats and Republicans alike. His challenger in the Republican primary came on strong, and many of us Democrats said we’d cross party lines to vote for the challenger, because we all agree our district needs new blood, someone who will put the will of the people ahead of politics. The Democratic candidate had no challenger in the primary. And, quite frankly, I’ve liked what the challenger has had to say.

“Would you like to vote in the Democratic or Republican primary today?” the election official asks.

“Republican,” I reply.

She prints off my voting paper and highlights two lines. “Sign there, please.” I do so.

Crossing party lines to vote in the other party’s primary has never, ever been an issue in the history of our county, perhaps even in the state. But when one high-profile, long-standing Democrat came in Monday morning, asking to vote in the Republican primary, someone inside the election commission office notified a relative of the incumbent, who immediately came inside to challenge her right to vote Republican. Nearly everyone was surprised to discover that, despite Tennessee being an open primary state, anyone can challenge the legitimacy another voter’s vote on the following grounds:

  • He/She is not a registered voter at the polling place.
  • He/She is not the registered voter under whose name he/she has applied to vote.
  • He/She has already voted in the election (previously issued a ballot).
  • He/She has become ineligible to vote in the election being conducted (for example, he/she has moved outside the district/state or has been convicted of a felony.
  • He/She is not qualified under TCA 2-7-126 (meaning he/she is not a bona fide member of the political party in whose primary they seek to vote).

The woman was challenged on the basis that she was not a legitimate member of the Republican party. And she’s not. But again, this has never been enforced. Many, many people have crossed party lines in the past. Why now, when an incumbent is in danger of losing his seat, is this little-known statute suddenly being put into play?

I’m quickly escorted past the long line of people waiting to cast their ballot, since the booths for those living in districts 6-9 are in a separate area. I totally feel like I’m cutting line, as I have to say “excuse me” to get by people standing in doorways. A few of them give me a funny look. But another poll worker notices me standing in the hall and tells me I’m OK where I’m at. Still no sign of a challenge.

After having her vote challenged, the woman took an oath to support the Republican party in front of a panel of three election judges. According to the challenge procedure, “The voter is required to be permitted to vote in a primary if he declares his allegiance to the political party in whose primary he seeks to vote and states that he intends to affiliate with that party. … It would be extremely rare to deny a citizen the right to vote in a primary he wished to vote in because Tennessee has no registration by party.”

After taking the oath in front of the election judges, all of whom were appointed by a crony of the incumbent, they decided she was not Republican enough to vote in the primary. Her vote was sealed in an envelope and marked “REJECTED.” Her vote for her candidate of choice was denied.

I’m beckoned to an empty voting machine. The poll worker takes my paper, queues up the machine, and pulls up the Republican primary ballot. Moment of truth. He tells me that if I have any questions about the ballot, just ask. Then he steps away. I am left alone to cast my vote in private.

TCA (Tennessee Code Annotated) 2-7-115(b)(2) states, “A registered voter is entitled to vote in a primary election for offices for which the voter is qualified to vote at the polling place where the voter is registered if: (1)  The voter is a bona fide member of and affiliated with the political party in whose primary the voter seeks to vote; or (2)  At the time the voter seeks to vote, the voter declares allegiance to the political party in whose primary the voter seeks to vote and states that the voter intends to affiliate with that party.”

Even though the woman took her oath, declaring her allegiance to the Republican party, regardless for how long, her vote was still denied. And it has opened up a floodgate of outrage, on both sides of the issue.

I scroll through the pages of the ballot, making my choices with care. I double check everything when I get to the end, then press the red button. My vote has been cast.

“All done?” the poll worker asks, as he hands me a sticker that reads, “My vote counted!”

“Yes,” I reply, attaching it to my shirt. “Thank you.”

So the questions remains. Does Tennessee have an open primary or not? Why was this one woman singled out and denied a right to vote for her candidate, when so many others, myself included, were allowed to vote without challenge? Why would a candidate in danger of losing his seat — a Republican candidate who has voted in Democratic primaries in the past — urge friends and relatives to challenge the legitimacy of other voters?

This is a clear-cut case of voter intimidation and discrimination. Which, hopefully, appears to be back-firing. I do believe we shall see the result of this disastrous action after the polls close on election day, Aug. 5.

I hurry out the door, exit the building, walking past the gauntlet to my car, feeling a sense of accomplishment. I had successfully infiltrated the Republican party to vote for my candidate of choice, without challenge.

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Giants of Pomona

Telling tales of your workplace isn’t a very professional thing to do, I know. But sometimes there’s a work-related story that’s just so … funny … that it can’t not be shared.

This happened about two years ago, but I was reminded of it the other night while watching television. When my coworker mentioned the incident out of the blue the next day, I decided to share the story. Because it’s just too wacky not to be shared.

Working at a newspaper, we sometimes hear all kinds of strange conspiracy theories about things going on in town. Most of the time there’s not much to them. Sometimes they do turn out to be true. In every case though, we are will to listen politely, in case there is a story there.

This guy though…

He came in on a Wednesday, which is a relatively slow day for us. Most of us were type-type-typing away, trying to get everything in order for the Friday paper. Heather, our assistant editor, brought him to her desk so he could tell her his story. None of us were paying much attention… until he mentioned UFOs.

All the typing in the office stopped simultaneously.

We tried not to look to obvious, straining to hear this tale. (We were also trying hard not to do anything to make Heather laugh. Even in the face of insane crack-pot stories, we must remain professional.)

There be giants in them thar hills!

The guy wanted Heather to do a story on gravesites he found out in the Pomona community that he had found that were older mankind. They contained the bodies of a race of giants. He wasn’t sure if they were alien beings, a race that predated mankind or the bodies of angels. He said that he had found similar gravesites in the Great Smoky Mountains, along with holy relics of some kind.

He said that if we could study these graves, we could learn about who we are and why we’re here. But there was a caveat. The graves caused cancer. Or rather, what we called cancer is some kind of disease that emanates from these graves, so anyone trying to study them would die. He had some really fuzzy pictures of the gravesites (and, according to Heather, one of the giants’ toilet). Heather, to her credit, managed to keep a straight face when she asked if he’d contact archaeologists about the site. He said he had, but that since he was the one to make the discovery, they told him that he could do what he wanted to it. Riiiight.

I do feel sorry for the guy, but … wow. I had no idea giant alien angels had once lived in the area, let alone so close to home! Too bad we didn’t follow up on it. We could have upped the tourism in this county and maybe even been featured on an episode of “Destination Truth.”

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Speak Amuriken!

Tennessee has problems. The state ranks fourth worst in the nation for adult hypertension and adolescent obesity. Nashville is still trying to recover from the devastating floods that caused over $1 billion in damage and killed more than 30 people. And to top it off, we were recently ranked as the No. 1 most corrupt state in the union.

But what are our lawmakers worried about? Not our health. Not rebuilding our capital city. Certainly not our schools.

Grammatically correct English not necessary.

Nope, our lawmakers are busy making “important” laws, such as bills SB2753/HB2685, which would let companies require that their employees speak English.

Typical right-wing politics, pandering to the loud vocal majority instead of concentrating on issues that could make a difference.

This is a nonsensical, unneeded law. If you want your employees to speak English, then why are you hiring people who don’t speak English? And if you didn’t do the hiring and find out one of your employees can’t speak English, then let that employee go. Not the ethical thing to do, to be sure, but if you’re that concerned about the language barrier and employee safety, fire them. Tennessee is a right-to-work state. You don’t need a reason to fire them.

Just what is this law supposed to accomplish? Once passed, do employers magically expect their non-English-speaking employees to suddenly speak “American”? I’ve said it before, but some people apparently have a hard time realizing that learning a new language is not instant potatoes. A non-English speaker may have the desire to learn English, but it takes time.

But that doesn’t really matter. Again I ask, why are you hiring non-English speakers if you want your employees to speak English?

So while the legislature tackles such hard issues as language in the workplace, guns in bars and banning sex toys, Tennesseans are still trying to find jobs, educate their kids, clean up flood damage and hope they don’t get sick along the way.

Stay classy, Tennessee.

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Just another headdesk moment

Every so often an obituary will come in for a person who shares a name with someone famous. Everyone who sees it will gasp in mock surprise over the “death” of an icon. Today, it was James Brown. Cue the faux-shock from several of my coworkers.

As I was typing it up, I noticed that one of Mr. Brown’s pallbearers was John Williams. I remarked on this. “Hey, one of James Brown’s pallbearers was John Williams, har har.”

Williams' spell of choice: Expecto Melodium!

I got crickets.

“John Williams was a pallbearers for James Brown, get it?”

Blank stares.

“You know? James Brown was a musician. John Williams was a musician…”

“Oh. Who’s John William? What did he sing?”

It was my turn for the blank stare.

My coworkers, who are only a couple of years younger than me, do not know who John Williams is. And one of them was in band.

“You know, the composer? He did Indiana Jones? Star Wars? Harry Potter? Freakin’ Jaws?”

They did not know they had all been written by the same Academy Award-winning composer. A five-time Academy Award-winning composer.

I do realize I live in a world where people have not seen Star Wars, incomprehensible as that may be. My coworkers are intelligent, lovely people. But today I wanted to smack them on the head with a piece of rolled-up sheet music from E.T.

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Mistakes on a plane

If you follow Kevin Smith on Twitter (or know someone who does), you’ve probably heard what happened to the Clerks director on a Southwest flight from Oakland to Burbank this past weekend. Smith, who had purchased two tickets for a later flight, found himself getting to the airport early and wanted to see if he could get onto an earlier flight home. The earlier flight was full up, but one seat remained, so Smith boarded the flight, found his seat, stowed his bag, and before he could put his seatbelt on, was told he’d have to leave the plane because of his weight.

Cue the outrage on Twitter.

You can listen to the entire story on Smith’s latest SModcast, and as a “person of size” myself, I can completely sympathize with the situation, but I doubt I would have handled it as gracefully as Smith or the woman he sat next to on the later flight home, who was also chastised for not also purchasing an extra seat.

Boy, did Southwest Air pick the wrong chubby guy to mess with.

I can understand that sitting next to a bigger person on a plane isn’t comfortable. Hell, it’s not comfortable for me either. I’ve been flying since I was six months old — and all but two flights were trans-Pacific — and I can tell you that the problem isn’t only with Americans getting bigger. Airline seats have been getting smaller. And smaller. Like Smith, I can fit into an airline seat, with the arm rest down, and not need a seatbelt extender. But only just barely. On my last trip to Sydney, the seats were so small, I couldn’t get out of my aisle seat because the skinny jerk in front of me kept his reclined for the whole trip, and the arm rest wouldn’t raise up so I could slide out. I had to call over a flight attendant for help, which was absolutely mortifying.

What really gets my goat about Smith’s story though are the comments on the news stories about this whole fiasco. People were leaving comments like, “He should’ve bought two tickets, or lose some weight” or “If this guy wants to shorten his own life by being morbidly obese well good luck to him but overweight people who take up two seats on a plane should pay for two seats and not make life miserable for passengers who may have to sit next to them.” Right. Because obviously, Mr. Smith and I WANT to be obese. Because we love food so much we just can’t stop eating.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t always eat healthily. But I do not overeat. Most of my skinnier friends eat more than I do. I have the unfortunate luck to be born into a family who were all big. Plus, I am on eight different medications (none of which are weight-related I might add). I am frequently put on steroids for my asthma. I have to take birth control pills to manage the effects of polycystic ovary syndrome, which not only makes me incapable of having children, but affects my weight as well. I have managed to lose 50 pounds from my top weight ever, but it took five years of trying to do so.

So if you’re ever stuck on a plane in a seat next to me, I apologize. While I can fit into the seat, it’s still a bit claustrophobic. But to the people leaving unkind, rude comments about this situation, remember this. You may not like sitting next to me, but if you have a kid, I don’t want to sit next to you. If you like to chat, I don’t want to sit next to you. If you snore, I don’t want to sit next to you. If you’re a smoker or wear really heavy perfume, then I really don’t want to sit next to you, and you won’t like sitting next to me because I’ll be sneezing the whole trip.

I paid for my seat, as did Smith, and I can fit in it. If you think I need to buy a second, unnecessary seat so I won’t “crowd” you, perhaps you should take it up with the airline who is more concerned with cramming as many people into their planes as possible, regardless of their patrons’ comfort.

As I see it, Smith was perfectly justified in his anger at Southwest. He broke no rules or regulations and he has not (thus far) been offered an acceptable apology. He fit in his seat and the two women sitting next to him didn’t have a problem with it. Even if Southwest had been justified in removing Smith from the plane, they sure as hell could have been more apologetic and sympathetic instead of the shitty customer service that was given not only to Smith, but to the poor woman sitting next to him on the later flight, who was also berated for not buying two seats, even though that flight wasn’t nearly as full as the first one.

I’m not as thick-skinned as Smith. Thanks to making this situation public, I have possibly spared myself a situation which would have killed my fragile self-esteem.

Though, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kevin Smith’s next movie is titled “Too Fat to Fly: Mistakes on a Plane.” I’ll be first in line to see it.

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