We’ve Left ‘Outrageous’ and Entered ‘Unrecognizable’

I’d like to say something intelligent about this, but I’ve tried now three times and I’m reduced to incoherent rage.

MR. LEHRER: First, the New York Times story this morning that says that you authorized secret wiretaps by the National Security Agency of thousands of Americans. Is that true?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Jim, we do not discuss ongoing intelligence operations to protect the country, and the reason why is that there’s an enemy that lurks, that would like to know exactly what we’re trying to do to stop them. I will make this point. That whatever I do to protect the American people, and I have an obligation to do so, that we will uphold the law, and decisions made are made understanding we have an obligation to protect the civil liberties of the American people.

MR. LEHRER: So if, in fact, these things did occur, they were done legally and properly?

PRESIDENT BUSH: So you’re trying to get me to talk about a program–


PRESIDENT BUSH: –that’s important not to talk about, and the reason why is that we’re at a war with an enemy that still wants to attack. I, uh–after 9/11, I told the American people I would do everything in my power to protect the country, within the law, and that’s exactly how I conduct my presidency.

MR. LEHRER: Well, Mr. President, with all due respect, wouldn’t you think–don’t you believe that answer is going to lead people to believe that you’re confirming that in fact you did this?

PRESIDENT BUSH: We don’t talk about sources and methods. Don’t talk about ongoing intelligence operations. I know there’s speculation. But it’s important for the American people to understand that we will do–or I will use my powers to protect us, and I will do so under the law, and that’s important for our citizens to understand.

The Philadelphia Daily News has more about how the New York Times (that supposed bastion of the liberal elite) sold us all out by declining to report this story back when we voters could have done something about it.

Or maybe we just are all fine with the federal government wiretapping us and spying on us. Who the fuck knows any more? Maybe this is all fine and I’m the crazy one. Let’s hope to god that’s so.

12/18/05–edited to add: We’ve clearly entered crazy land when Bob Fucking Barr and I are in agreement. Preach on, Brother Bob:

BOB BARR, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: What’s wrong with it is several-fold. One, it’s bad policy for our government to be spying on American citizens through the National Security Agency. Secondly, it’s bad to be spying on Americans without court oversight. And thirdly, it’s bad to be spying on Americans apparently in violation of federal laws against doing it without court order.


BARR: Well, the fact of the matter is that the Constitution is the Constitution, and I took an oath to abide by it. My good friend, my former colleague, Dana Rohrabacher, did and the president did. And I don’t really care very much whether or not it can be justified based on some hypothetical. The fact of the matter is that, if you have any government official who deliberately orders that federal law be violated despite the best of motives, that certainly ought to be of concern to us.


BARR: Well, gee, I guess then the president should be able to ignore whatever provision in the Constitution as long as there’s something after the fact that justifies it.

ROHRABACHER: Bob, during wartime, you give some powers to the presidency you wouldn’t give in peace time.

BARR: Do we have a declaration of war, Dana?

ROHRABACHER: You don’t have to do that.

BARR: We don’t? That makes it even much easier for a president.


BARR: Here again, this is absolutely a bizarre conversation where you have a member of Congress saying that it’s okay for the president of the United States to ignore U.S. law, to ignore the Constitution, simply because we are in an undeclared war.

The fact of the matter is the law prohibits — specificallyprohibits — what apparently was done in this case, and for a member of Congress to say, oh, that doesn’t matter, I’m proud that the president violated the law is absolutely astounding, Wolf.


Universal Salvation

When I was in grad school, it wasn’t just Miss J and I in the cute house on Polo Road. There was also our roommate, who we shall just call Missy.

Missy was from a strain of Christianity that talked in tongues and anointed each other and their houses and believed that the end of the world was rapidly approaching. She also believed that most of the people around her would rue the end of the world, because they’d not be as happy as she would with how things turned out.

I was not aware of how literally she took her beliefs until the most uncomfortable evening of my whole grad school career*. Miss J was housesitting for a professor so Missy and I living in the house on Polo Road without her. But we’d all been together that evening getting shit-faced and, I assume, though I don’t remember, acting like wild heathens. Still, nothing too outrageous, I don’t think**.

But when we got back to the house on Polo Road, I sat down on the futon and Missy sat across from me on the loveseat by the window, and she started sobbing. I was really alarmed, because nothing had happened that evening that would lead one to cry. But there she was.

And so I was drunkenly trying to console her.

“My god,” I said, “What’s wrong?”

“I just love you and Miss J so much.”

“Well, we love you, too.”

“I mean it. I just love you and Miss J so much. I don’t ever want to be where you aren’t.”

“What do you mean? Are you going to start stalking us?”

“No, I mean when you go to Hell.”

Now, here’s the point when your dear aunt, had she not been drinking, would have probably gotten very angry and quiet and walked away. But I had been drinking and, in general, when I’ve been drinking, I love everyone and want them to feel good.

And so I became distraught because, drunkenly, I thought her beliefs deserved respect and a kind response. So, I did not punch her or sit her down and ask her about universal salvation, I just asked her this question:

“Do you think you love me more than God does?”

“Oh, no. Of course not. God is love.”

“Okay, and if you’re this upset about me not getting into Heaven, how upset do you think God is?”

“That’s why you and Miss J have got to repent.”

“No, listen. You like me, even unrepentant. I’m sure He does, too.”

She didn’t get it. Fine.

Here’s another way to get at it. My uncle B.–the oldest one–was a motherfucker. I’m not going to get into all the ways he was a motherfucker, but the dude made my mom cry and that is enough for me. I sat there in the driver’s seat of the van listening to her tell me about how she’d taken him to the store because he claimed he couldn’t drive and he grabbed her leg and her arm and tried to pull her on top of him because, as he explained, it was his right as the oldest member of the family. And she fought him off and drove him home and then sat there next to me, begging me not to tell my dad, because she didn’t want to upset him and I was like, “Fuck telling Dad. We’re going over to that motherfucker’s house and you’ll lure him out and I’ll run his fat ass over.” And she smiled a little bit and said it wasn’t worth damaging the van.

And when he died, I laughed. I laughed for days. Good riddance.

But my grandma, who I love dearly, was devastated. I don’t think she expected that my awesome Uncle B. would outlive her, but she thought for sure that her other four children would. And so the death of her oldest son hit her hard.

And I know that, if that son of a bitch is not there in Heaven with her, she’s miserable.

Which leads me to universal salvation and how I first knew I wasn’t going to make a very good Christian. I just don’t believe in Hell as a place where bad people go to be punished after they die. If we can love each other so much that we would be miserable being separated from each other for too long, why would the Christian God arrange the world in a way that would make him miserable–guaranteeing His separation, for eternity, from some of the people He loves. It makes no sense to me.

I might buy that Heaven and Hell are the same place and that, if we are made completely aware of the implications of our lives–fully aware of the joy we’ve spread and the pain we’ve caused–that some folks might be very happy with eternity and others might be miserable.

But I keep thinking of my grandma, who, bless her heart, would be miserable watching my uncle suffer in all the ways he so richly deserves.

I just never could get past that. My grandma was a good person, faithful to her god. How could her god have the afterlife set up in such a way that my grandma would be unhappy?

[Thanks to Miss Kitty for getting me thinking about all this.]

*And I think we remember that my grad school career included the incompetent man who bit me, hard, on the elbow, so that’s saying something.
**Do you recall, Miss J?

Walmart, How I Hate You

Let me count the ways:

  1. The jackass in the Cavalier who came speeding the wrong way down the row and tried to swing around in some suave manner into the parking spot right in front of me. A., Ha, ha, fucker. A Cavalier can’t maneuver that suavely. B. That was the last parking spot in the row. You were in a hurry to get to that?
  2. The jackass in the cream Toyota truck also speeding the wrong way up the row.
  3. I had to park one million miles away and hitch a ride on the back of a distracted, overworked mother.
  4. Old people on those motorized scooters blocking up the aisles like they think they’re fucking semi-trucks keeping jackasses from cutting in line. We’re in an aisle. Just because you need to stop and compare prices on pot holders doesn’t oblige the rest of us to wait for you.
  5. Teenagers using Walmart as some kind of dating service. “I need some service, Darnell.” No, sweetie, you need a better pickup line, because Darnell is walking quickly in the other direction.
  6. No, I don’t want your Barbie crap. You don’t have to grab onto it like fucking Gollum and glare at me when I go by.

On a happier note, my cashier was utterly competent and got me checked out quickly. And I thought Darnell’s hair was cute as hell. A lot of the kids seem to be wearing their hair like Sean Paul, but it looks much better on them, because they’re tall and lanky and those long braids look better on tall lanky kids.