Friday, October 20, 2017

Challenging the Propaganda Machine: Sarah Huckabee Sanders Needs a Civics Lesson, Because of Course She Does

My paternal grandfather was a pilot in the Air Force during World War II. His service to our country fighting Nazis is probably the biggest point of pride in our family. I have his collection of wartime papers, photographs, and a few articles of his clothing and pins, some of which I have shared previously here. I remember looking at model airplanes in his home-office and hearing stories of his flight school training.

He was crushed when he was medically discharged from the Air Force for ulcers, and couldn’t serve abroad with his fellow fighter pilots. Had it not been for his condition, though, I likely wouldn’t be here, because nearly everyone else in his squadron was killed in action overseas.

I am proud of my family’s military background, which is at least part of why it was so disturbing to hear White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders tell a member of the American free press (referring to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly), “if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that’s something highly inappropriate.”

Actually, it’s not. Putting aside the fact that John Kelly is now a civilian, “debating” a member of the military is absolutely appropriate.

What’s not appropriate, at least in our American constitutional democracy, is a slavish fetishization of the military—be it in the White House pressroom or at a football game.

What we’ve seen developing lately is a sinister brand of blind jingoism and obsequiousness. One that tries to suppress, shame, and intimidate civilian criticism of government actors based on the specious falsehood that such criticism is tantamount to “disrespecting our troops.” 

It’s a false equivalency and it’s a very dangerous one at that.

The American Revolution was fought—and won of course—by challenging the British forces that ruled the colonies. The Founding Fathers were deeply concerned about and highly skeptical of military incursions and overreach into civilian life. Their copious writings reflect the fundamental idea that the military is ultimately accountable and subservient to a civilian democratic government—not the other way around.

This is distinct from many despotic nation-states around the world. And certainly, it’s because of that distinction that American citizens remain free to criticize their government for failing to live up to its Constitutional guarantees.

The current administration appears not to understand this principle of basic American civics, and their ignorance is to our detriment. Make no mistake: for those in power to serve up this type of autocratic propaganda—unchallenged—endangers us all.




Thursday, October 19, 2017

Alaskan Horoscopes

Aries (March 21-April 19): Your passion will ignite this month as you read the comment threads in the ADN and wonder how anyone could possibly get so worked up over service dogs and the theft of canned Spam in Hawaii. Personally, you’re much more troubled by the fact that someone seems to get run over or shot in Anchorage every single day. Time to lock and load your rifle and go shoot yourself some moose sausages to let off a little steam. KABLAM!

Taurus (April 20-May 20): Your natural inclinations toward practicality and loyalty are at odds this month as you want to patronize your local independent book store, but deep down don’t feel like leaving your couch. You’re pretty sure they won’t have what you want anyway, and Amazon Prime shipping is free, so, you’ll just have to live with the guilt of contributing to the demise of Alaska’s mom and pop retail community, asshole.

Gemini (May 21-June 20): This month, a secret admirer will finally ask you out on a date! So what if your new love interest happens to be your kid’s second grade teacher’s ex-husband. And who cares if he suggested hiking Flattop followed by the Moose’s Tooth like that shit isn’t the most unoriginal date in all of Anchorage and you haven’t been on the exact same date 1,000 times. Just go with it. God knows there’s no better prospect on the horizon!

Cancer (June 21-July 22):
Your keen intuition will serve you well this month when an adventurous-bordering-on-stupidly-careless friend suggests you venture into the glaciated backcountry for three days unprepared for the elements. Take heed of those doomed souls whom Alaska has chewed up and spat out, and decide maybe not to let peer pressure turn you into a statistic this time.

Leo (July 23-August 22): You’ll capitalize on your physical strength this month as you take advantage of the PFD sale that finally prompted you to sign up for the gym again. You’ll need it after you slip and fall on early-morning October ice right outside the front door before you can even set foot on the treadmill. Good thing your insurance covers physical therapy—for now!

Virgo (August 23-September 22): You might find yourself getting emotional this month, but not from lack of sleep. The waning daylight has you patronizing retail weed stores more than usual (yay for democracy!) and sleeping from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. and yet still waking up in pitch blackness feeling like you got into a fist fight with a grizzly bear. Take some time for self-care by crawling back into bed again.

Libra (September 23-October 22):
Your analytical side is dominant this month as you deal with that little nagging voice in the back of your mind that keeps asking, “what if oil never recovers and the state descends into an endless shit-spiral, my house winds up not being worth the dirt it sits on, and I have to start panhandling on the streets of Juneau just so I can afford to buy my child an outdated geography textbook in the hopes of cobbling together a decent public education for him/her?” Put a blue tarp over that fear, just like the one that’s been draped over the rusty snowblower in your driveway for three winters. Also watch the Monorail episode of The Simpsons and pretend the Monorail guy is Exxon. This won’t make you feel better, but it will make you laugh!

Scorpio (October 23-November 21):
It’s 10:00 p.m. in Alaska. Do you know where your children are? Unless you’re on meth right now, the answer is probably yes. Next case! 10:00 p.m. is also prime time to get on Twitter and stare into the Rectangle of Doom known as your iPhone while the rest of the country sleeps blissfully. Leverage your predilection for intimacy into creating some dank memes until you lose track of time.

Sagittarius (November 22-December 21):
You can be super temperamental, but this month your patience will be tested to the max as your Alaska Airlines jet overheads three different cities in Southeast on day five of a two day work trip. Use this unscheduled “vacation” to get familiar with a dodgy fleabag hotel and stay up all night wondering if anyone was murdered in your room as you watch re-runs of Forensic Files before you have to head back to the airport in three hours to attempt another failed departure.

Capricorn (December 22-January 19):
You can be cold, distant, and unforgiving, but this month you have to make a tray of brownies and at least five different meal train meals and potluck dishes for various neighbors with babies and numerous attempts to raise money at your kid’s school because the Legislature wants your kids to Rice Krispy-treat their way to jobs and college. Just try not to let your controlling side get the best of you when you realize the dog ate half your pan of lasagna and his hair is all over everything.

Aquarius (January 20-February 18): Don’t be shy about asking for what you need this month. For example, if the garage that changes out your snow tires says they can’t get you in for another two months, beg and plead and maybe even cry until they agree to accept your vehicle tomorrow. Nothing wrong with asserting yourself and turning your careless procrastination into someone else’s emergency every now and again. God knows someone does it to you every day of the week, and one good turn deserves another.

Pisces (February 19-March 20): Your love of water will shine this month as you stare at your enormous kayak and ask yourself why you ever bought that POS to begin with. All it is now is a decoration in your garage instead of someone else's garage. Don’t be discouraged by the fact that it takes longer to get down and loaded up than the time spent actually using it. Just look at it and smile and picture it actually on the water.




Wednesday, October 18, 2017

15 Little, Everyday Juneau GRIPES!

1. “In America, we drive on the RIGHT side of the road!”

2. “What? This place is CLOSED?! It says right here it’s supposed to be OPEN!”

3. “How is this construction project STILL going on?!”

4. “Aren’t these teenagers freezing their ASSES off?”

5. “Is there some off-gassing chemical in that Holland America poncho that makes you want to walk DIRECTLY in front of my car and almost commit suicide? Asking for a friend.”

6. “Is it raining AGAIN? Wait of course it is.”

7. “Ugh not a low ceiling! We’re NEVER gonna get outta here.”

8. “Ugh not high winds! We’re NEVER gonna see the ground again!”

9. “Wait today’s a teacher IN-SERVICE day?! Nooooo!”

10. “Why is the weed store already out of WEED?”

11. “This Costco peeled garlic is all moldy ALREADY?”

12. “OMG I can’t believe I just spent $10 on SOUP.”

13. “How do these leggies WALK in those HEELS?”

14. “Someone put THAT on Juneau buy/sell/trade?”

15. “How can one town produce SO MUCH DOG SHIT?”

BONUS GRIPES: "I DARE you to tow my car!" and "Is there ANY middle ground on the radio between Justin Bieber and Rod Stewart?"

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Newsweek Has Great Tips on Surviving Two Sociopaths Blowing Up the Planet to Prove Whose Dick is the Yoogest

It seems almost retro to say we’re in this place again, but welp, here we are, cowering under our literal and figurative desks once more. And not just to avoid an active shooter armed with 23 pieces of military-grade artillery festooned with bump-stocks and silencers dispensed as free samples at a gun show, either.

Nopers!

This time, we’re taking cover from two active sociopaths—one of whom happens to be the figure-head President of the United States—and both of whom seem bound and determined to return Planet Earth to its origins in the Milky Way just to prove whose dick is the yoogest and fairest in all the land.

The fact that no one will actually remain alive to rule definitively on this question has not deterred Fascist Senile Cantaloupe and Sentient Cabbage Patch Kid from holding humanity hostage in their global peen-measuring contest.

It's all good though, because the FAKE NEWS is here with this BOMBSHELL (pun intended) piece from Newsweek chock full o’ tips to survive a nuclear blast! Let’s break these down and see just how realistic this guidance actually is, m’kay?

“Experts recommend being on the lookout for emergency alerts that could come in the form of text messages.”

Okay, first of all, my iPhone sends me push notifications from trash-ass apps my kids download on the reg. This could easily devolve into a “boy who cried wolf” situation. Like when I hear one of those loud pings, pangs, bings, or dings, how do I know it’s not Barbie Dreamtopia Magical Hair telling me that new hair fashions are available for in-app purchase, as opposed to The Donald telling me that he finally pulled the trigger on the ultimate ragequit? Second of all, I’m sure Trump’s text will get lost among the zillions of group texts and FB messages on which I routinely find myself, despite making it clear in no uncertain terms that group texts and messages are Satan’s handiwork. This whole “nuclear-blast-text-lost-in-the-shuffle” is exactly why.
“It can take up to as little as ten minutes for a nuclear bomb to strike the U.S. giving no time to buy emergency supplies.”
The person who came up with this tip obvs doesn’t have the Amazon Dash Button. Thanks to Jeff Bezos, you can now order Charmin and Cheez-Its right from your bathroom and they will be on your doorstep immedes. I’m confident that ten minutes is MORE than enough time to procure the Nyquil, Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food frozen yogurt, Four Loko, and heirloom tomatoes (among other bare necessities) required to survive the nuclear apocalypse.
“Likely targets of a nuclear attack include strategic missile sites and bases, D.C. government centers, ports and petroleum refineries.”
D.C. is a fucking swamp in every sense of the word, and everyone who lives there should move anyway. That festering boil was officially canceled on 11/9/16. Otherwise, it sounds like you’re probably fine unless your house is in Prudhoe Bay or Cape Canaveral.
“Staying inside in the event of a nuclear blast is key. After 20 minutes of the blast, radioactive flurries and toxic matter will begin to fall. Fallout is especially dangerous during the first two weeks.”
Staying inside for two weeks is gonna be a fucking CAKE WALK, fam! My bed is already my favorite place on earth! The one teensy wrinkle is that I might be overcome by curiosity about “radioactive flurries” and be tempted to go outside with a black-light and see if we can maybe organize an end-times rave.
“If radioactive material gets on your clothing, government officials say taking off the outer layer can eliminate 90 percent of the radioactive material.”
But what happens to the other 10%? Will it give me glow-in-the-dark titties? Gawd that would be bananas, amirite? Here’s hoping!
"Get down, cover your head, don't stand there in the middle of Central Park and gawk. Get under something."
It’s too bad Harvey Weinstein had to fly to Europe for “sex addiction” treatment because his number one skill is getting on top of people. A nuclear blast would finally give that repellent, bloated sack of gelatinous hirsute donkey shit something useful to do with his “addiction” to jumping people’s bones. This is right in his wheelhouse. FREE HARVEY! The future of the planet depends on it!
“FEMA suggests camping out in underground spaces underneath large buildings before the blast. Experts also encourage hiding in a central location with no windows.”
Bruh! I love camping! Based on this description, the State of Alaska’s centralized mail room in the basement of the State Office Building in Juneau is the perfect place to pitch a tent and roast some s’mores over an open uranium fire.
“With a nuclear bomb eminent [sic.] experts warn [against] looking at the blast. Unlike the eclipse, special glasses won’t save you in the event of nuclear destruction, which causes a light so strong it's brighter than the sun and will blind you. Experts urge keeping your mouth open to keep your eardrums from bursting. If you live close enough to the blast, chances of survival are slim.”
So let’s dispense with the elephant in the room: post-nuclear winter, no one will care about the difference between “imminent” and “eminent” anymore, if they ever did. Much less will anyone know where to track down those special eclipse glasses that everyone threw out ten seconds after the eclipse was over. I’m sure when the Blinding Light of Impending Doom sears our retinas, we'll all remember to open our mouths so that our eardrums don’t burst, but also so that little specks of cosmic dust get into our lungs, presumably. But this only applies if you live far away from the blast. If you live close by, you might as well look right at that mushroom cloud with your mouth closed and your ears and eyes wide open so that all of your senses are fully engaged in your last moments on earth and you die looking like one of those little rubber stress dolls that you squeeze and the ears and tongue and eyeballs bulge out comically.
“A 2014 study published in The Royal Society found that most homes and buildings will not be able to withstand a nuclear blast.”
Actually forget everything you just read. We're all fucked and we're all gonna die! JESUS, TAKE THE WHEEL!



Monday, October 16, 2017

I Wrote a Song for All the Garys In My Life

I wrote a song for all the Garys in my life: past, present, and future!

Gary, oh Gary, you have ALWAYS been there for meeeee
Though I may have been quite wary
When you barged into the bathroom just to watch me peeeeeee (your actual name was Garyyyyyy!!!)

Gary, oh Gary, you said I should cover myself up
Even though I was only eleven
I said okay, sure, yuuuuuuuuuuuuup!

Gary, oh Gary, you said I was too faaaaat
Even though my body was 100% normal
Whadyya make of thaaaaaaaaaaat?

Gary, oh Gary, you were there on the Brooklyn-bound A
Following me insanely from car to car
Just because you had something to sayyyyyyyy

Gary, oh Gary, you told me I dressed like a slut
Never mind that I didn’t ask for your opinion
And called you a fucking nuuuuuuuuuuut

Gary, oh Gary, you made an obscene gesture at meeeee
And pretended a softball bat was a dick
And gave it a fake hand job for all to seeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Gary, oh Gary, you asked if we could “make a porn.”
My boyfriend was sitting right there
Clear as the day you were booooorrrrrn!

Gary, oh Gary, you’ve supported my careeeeer
Telling me to make eye contact and smile more
And comparing me to your wife with a sneeeeeeeeeer

Gary, oh Gary, you’re in the comment threeaaaaaaaads
Shit-posting dumb-ass memes
That make it seem like you got dropped on your heeeeeeeeeeead

Gary, oh Gary, you cat-called me on the streeeeet
And followed me with your friends aggressively
And looked at me like meeeeeeeeeeeeeeat

Gary, oh Gary, you got that crazed look in your eye
And pushed the boundaries of consent
But hey look I know you’re not that kind of guuuuyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

I’m sorry if your name is Gary and you’re really a woke-AF duuuude
I don’t mean to imply that all Garys are Beckys because that would be very ruuuuude.


LALALLALALATRALALALAFUCKINLA!

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Surprise! Mike Ditka is a Yooge Dick

Here's a non-exhaustive list of things I find more surprising than reports that Mike Ditka is a clueless, racist fucking dumbass:

1. Finding my kids' dirty socks all over the the floor and inside out.
2. Ending up on a group text against my will.
3. Trump tweeting some bullshit at 3:00 a.m.
4. Needing to take a piss when I wake up in the morning.
5. Dog shit on a trail in Juneau.

Ditka went full-on Archie Bunker in this radio interview about the NFL's #TakeAKnee movement:
I think it’s a problem. Anybody who disrespects this country and the flag. If they don’t like the country they don’t like our flag, get the hell out. My choice is, I like this country, I respect our flag, and I don’t see all the atrocities going on in this country that people say are going on,” Ditka said. “I see opportunities if people want to look for opportunity. Now, if they don’t want to look for them then you can find problems with anything, but this is the land of opportunity because you can be anything you want to be if you work. If you don’t work, that’s a different problem.
The stupid in this statement is SUPES hard to break down, but let me try one piece at a time.

I think it’s a problem.

TRANSLATION: A bigger problem than unarmed Black people being executed by the State on the spot with impunity.

Anybody who disrespects this country and the flag. 

TRANSLATION: Anybody who has the uppity complaining nerve to ask not to be executed by the State on the spot with impunity.
 
If they don’t like the country they don’t like our flag, get the hell out.  

TRANSLATION: If they don’t like being executed by the State on the spot with impunity, they should leave the country.

My choice is, I like this country, I respect our flag, and I don’t see all the atrocities going on in this country that people say are going on.  

TRANSLATION: Everything in my life has led me to this moment; this moment where I can’t possibly imagine anyone having a different life experience than me, much less consider the possibility that (a) that experience might be beyond the person’s control; and (b) similarly, not everything I am and have is simply the natural consequence of my hard work and the American meritocracy.

I see opportunities if people want to look for opportunity. Now, if they don’t want to look for them then you can find problems with anything, but this is the land of opportunity because you can be anything you want to be if you work. If you don’t work, that’s a different problem.

TRANSLATION: See above.

DA BEARS! What a dick.



Hurricane Maria Response: Trump is Garbage, My Mom is an Animal, and My Friend in the Coast Guard is a Badass

"Wait WHAT?" I asked my mom over FaceTime Friday night. 

My parents had just returned home from a play, and we were watching the end of the Yankees/Astros game when my mom casually dropped that she was headed to the U.S. Virgin Islands to do mental health/PTSD relief work for hurricane victims. 

She'd done this before. 

She spent six weeks in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan and made several trips to post-genocide Rwanda. So it's not like this doctors-without-borders routine is out of character or unexpected. It's just that each time she does it, I'm amazed, because at age 72, she is by far the oldest doctor on these missions and is only getting older with each trip. It makes me anxious, but also awed.

I'm not a fan of invidious comparison, so I try not to think about the fact that while my mom is trying to step in and do something real and compassionate for humanity--something not even our own President seems capable of doing without revealing himself for the steaming pile of hot garbage that he is--I'm on the internet writing jokes about my period and checking every ten seconds to see how many people reacted to them with a crying-laughter emoji. 

Everyone has their niche and their strengths, I suppose, and I'm not going to sit here and say my mom can "do it all." She definitely can't. Like there is a shitload of stuff she can't do. She's a terrifying driver and her idea of cooking is "foraging" for takeout at the various bodegas and farmer's markets in northern Manhattan and the Bronx. 

But when it comes to activism, she's an animal. "I'd go to jail to resist Donald Trump," she said before attending one of many post-election protests. "You have kids to raise, I don't recommend jail.” She's probably the only person I know who hates Donald Trump more than I do.

Now she's headed to a disaster zone yet again. This is why she went to medical school.

A friend of our family's--another total badass--is in the Coast Guard and stationed here in Juneau. Andy is away from his wife and two daughters for at least a month on deployment to Puerto Rico and the USVI. Here's his report from October 12, reposted from Facebook with permission:
For the last week, I've been back and forth between Miami and Puerto Rico coordinating logistics for the Coast Guard's hurricane Maria response.
I have traveled the north coast of PR; the damage is extensive, but the vast majority of buildings are made of concrete and are structurally intact. I have talked to people who were handing out relief near Humacao today (near where the eyewall made landfall), they reported that even there, though many houses were destroyed, most were not. 
The biggest issue is the devastation of the utility grid. Most of the island does not have electricity or potable water, and there are widespread landline and cell outages. The electric grid was on life support before Maria and this storm pulled the plug. We are expecting to operate on generators at our bases for 6 months+. Even the Coast Guard bases did not have reliable or sufficient backup power before the storm, and getting the right generators airlifted and installed has been a major effort. 
I have heard talk that the grid will be restored to current standards and be much more resilient that the previous version, which could be a good thing to come out of the storm. Coast Guard, National Guard, Air Force, Navy, Army and Marine aircraft are all delivering aid to the remote areas, but aid has not made it to all parts of the interior. 
Many people I have encountered in San Juan are piecing things back together and getting back to work in a city with very limited electricity. Shops and restaurants are opening back up, gas stations are open and regular commercial flights have returned to the airport (though the terminal had no air conditioning when I arrived). Leaves are growing back on many of the trees amazingly quickly. I have noticed a marked increase in green in just the past few days.  
I am flying to St. Croix and St. Thomas for the next couple days and will report what I see there.  
@ Viejo San Juan
I spoke to Andy on the phone yesterday, and he noted that the above update was mostly about the coast and not as much about the interior, which is still struggling to get aid. 

He is now on St. Croix on the east end of the island. He says the population centers are okay, but that folks in the hinterlands aren't necessarily getting services, there's no refrigeration, and it's miserably hot. 

In St. Thomas, he reported, about a third of downtown Charlotte Amalie has electricity and people are settling in to a new normal. Overall there was a mixture of hope and frustration, and I plan to share his next update separately.

I thanked Andy for his service and being a credit to our country. He responded: 

“This is why I joined the Coast Guard.”