Thursday, March 27, 2008

X Marks The Scot

Not often, but occasionally, I get someone who acknowledges the front plate on my vehicle. About 1/3 of the time I get someone who actually knows what my plate is. Another third gives me a blank stare and asks “What’s that on your plate?”

The final third just thinks they have a clue; they ask me where I found the “cool blue Confederate flag”.

Spare me.

For the past five years my front plate has been a Saint Andrews Cross with a Lion Rampant in the center. For those uninitiated, that means I have a plate with the Scottish national flag on it, superimposed with the royal lion. Surely you’ve seen these plates before?

According to legend, in 832 A.D. King Angus led the Picts and Scots in battle against the Angles and their King Athelstan near modern-day Athelstaneford in East Lothian. King Angus and his men were surrounded and he prayed for deliverance. During the night Saint Andrew, who was martyred on a saltire cross (an x-shaped cross) appeared to Angus and assured him of victory. On the following morning a white saltire against the background of a blue sky appeared to both sides. The Picts and Scots were heartened by this, but the Angles lost confidence and were defeated. This saltire design has been the Scottish flag ever since.

Material evidence of the saltire's use dates from somewhat later. In 1385 the Parliament of Scotland decreed that Scottish soldiers should wear the saltire as a distinguishing mark. The earliest surviving Scottish flag consisting solely of the saltire dates from 1503: a white cross on a red background. By 1540 the legend of King Angus had been altered to include the vision of the saltire cross against a blue sky. Thereafter, this saltire design in its present form became the national flag of Scotland.

The first official flag of the Confederacy, called the "Stars and Bars," was flown from March 5, 1861 to May 26, 1863.

The very first national flag of the Confederacy was designed by Prussian artist Nicola Marschall in Marion, Alabama. The Stars and Bars flag was adopted March 4, 1861 in Montgomery, Alabama and raised over the dome of that first Confederate Capitol. Marschall also designed the Confederate uniform.

One of the first acts of the Provisional Confederate Congress was to create the Committee on the Flag and Seal, chaired by William Porcher Miles of South Carolina. The committee asked the public to submit thoughts and ideas on the topic, and the committee was overwhelmed by requests not to abandon the 'old flag' of the United States. Miles had already designed a flag that would later become the Confederate battle flag, and he favored his flag over the "Stars and Bars" proposal. But given the popular support for a flag similar to the U.S. flag ("the Stars and Stripes"), the Stars and Bars design was approved by the committee. When war broke out, the Stars and Bars caused confusion on the battlefield because of its similarity to the U.S. flag of the U.S. Army.

The Stars and Bars, the first national flag of the CSA

At the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) the similarity between the Stars and Bars and the Stars and Stripes caused confusion and military problems. Regiments carried flags to help commanders observe and assess battles in the warfare of the era. At a distance, the two national flags were hard to tell apart. In addition, Confederate regiments carried many other flags, which added to the possibility of confusion.

After the battle, Confederate General Beauregard wrote that he was "resolved then to have [our flag] changed if possible, or to adopt for my command a 'Battle flag', which would be Entirely different from any State or Federal flag." He turned to his aide, who happened to be the aforementioned William Porcher Miles, the former chair of Committee on the Flag and Seal. Miles described his rejected national flag design to Beauregard; Miles also told the Committee about the general's complaints and request for the national flag to be changed. The committee rejected this idea by a four to one vote, after which Beauregard proposed the idea of having two flags. He described the idea in a letter to his commander General Joseph E. Johnston: "I wrote to [Miles] that we should have two flags — a peace or parade flag, and a war flag to be used only on the field of battle — but congress having adjourned no action will be taken on the matter — How would it do us to address the War Department on the subject of Regimental or badge flags made of red with two blue bars crossing each other diagonally on which shall be introduced the stars, ... We would then on the field of battle know our friends from our Enemies."

The flag that Miles had favored when he was chair of the Committee on the Flag and Seal eventually became the battle flag and, ultimately, the most popular flag of the Confederacy.

In 1863, during the session in which the Confederate Congress was voting on a second design for the National Flag, Willaim G. Swan of Tennessee's second congressional district wished to substitute the following language:
"That the flag of the Confederate States shall be as follows:
A red field with a Saint Andrew's cross of blue edged with white and emblazoned with stars."

What is now often called "The Confederate Flag" or "The Confederate Battle Flag" is actually a combination of the Battle Flag's colors with the design of the Confederate Navy’s second Jack flag (a jack is a naval ensign) Despite its never having historically represented the CSA as a nation, it has become a widely recognized symbol of the South. It is also called the "rebel" or "Dixie" flag, and is often incorrectly referred to as the "Stars and Bars" (the actual "Stars and Bars" being the First National Flag, an entirely different design).

The states of the southern USA have always been heavily populated with citizens of Scottish and Irish ancestry. Many of the wild and wooly Clansmen from the Scottish Highlands settled in the hill country of Appalachia and the Smoky Mountains after leaving oppressive British rule and became the original hillbillies. Here in the Carolinas I’m constantly running into fellow Celts. Many of my own ancestral forebears of the Clan Davidson settled in North Carolina above Charlotte (think Davidson College and the fact that the Loch Norman Pipe Band wears the kilt of Clan Davidson). I guess it was just natural for the rebels of the Confederacy to look to their past as rebels against the English for the idea for their flag.

It’s interesting though to note that in Vermont, New Hampshire, and my former home state of Maine, the percentage of Scots is even higher than it is here in the south, and during the Civil War, the 79th New York Volunteer Infantry gave itself the monicker of The Cameron Highlanders (after the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlander Regiment of the British Army) and outfitted itself in full Scottish regalia complete with kilts of the Cameron tartan and marched off to war with a bagpiper.

Here in South Carolina, several towns and county names harken back to those misty, thistle-strewn fields of heather back in Scotland: Andrews, the St. Andrews area of Charleston, Cameron, Carlisle, Johnston, Livingston, Anderson, Calhoun, and Scotia, which is a Latin form of Scotland.

I must say, though, that I am not a native Southerner and do not fly any Confederate flags of any design. I am, however, pretty big on displaying my Scottish ancestry with both my front plate and with the “Carolina Scots” sticker on my back window. The Carolina Scots design is the palmetto and crescent moon superimposed on the Scottish saltire flag. I also have a Carolina Scots t-shirt in blue with two rampant lions in white on either side of the white palmetto and moon design.

So, the next time you see a blue front plate with a white X on it, you no longer have to wonder what it means or confuse it with a Confederate flag. It’s just another crazed descendant of the kilt-wearing, bagpipe-playing, haggis-eating Highlanders.

We don't get the cool holiday every year to celebrate our patron saint on Saint Andrew's Day (November 30th) the way our Irish cousins do every March 17th, and no one ever seems to wear a button proclaiming, "Kiss Me, I'm Scottish", but somehow no one can seem to hold a Saint Patrick's Day parade without Scottish kilts and Scottish bagpipes. And sure, everyone may love a leprechaun....but Shrek has a Scots accent, and then there's that whole Braveheart thing to top it all off. You can keep the green beer; I'll have a wee dram of Scotch instead. Cheers!

The National Flag of Scotland

The Royal Flag of Scotland (the Lion Rampant)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ye Olde Peep Joust 2008

Peep jousting in my kitchen. Really...

Being that today is Easter, I figured I would participate in that age-old competition that surfaces around this holiday every year, the ancient sport of Peep Jousting.

You’re all familiar with Peeps, those nasty, somewhat tasteless yet sickly sweet marshmallow bundles shaped like baby chickens and rolled in sugar crystals that clog store shelves every Easter time. Now there’s a variety of Peeps. The chicks come in yellow, lavender, pink, blue, and green. There’s bunnies in yellow, pink, lavender, and blue. There’s Cocoa Bunnies, Peep tulips, orange crème eggs, and now they sell a Peep chick nestled inside a chocolate egg. (They also make Peeps in various shapes, colors, and flavors for Valentine’s, Halloween, and Christmas, too). The chicks have been around since about 1953.

Peep Jousting is generally done by the terminally bored or just the inebriated. I fall into the former and not the latter. Two Peeps are fitted with toothpicks and placed facing each other in a microwave. The microwave is then turned on High and the joust begins. The Peeps expand as they heat up. As they expand, the toothpick lances thrust toward each opponent, and the winner is the one that does not pop and deflate (or fizzle and die).

Generally, you’re left with a couple of globs of gooey mess that quickly become even more inedible than they were before. Personally, I never liked Peeps. I’m not really a marshmallow kind of guy. I also don’t particularly care for those Cadbury Crème Eggs either. Just thinking about a Crème Egg makes my teeth hurt. Instead, I like the Cadbury chocolate eggs and the caramel eggs. My Easter Treat of Choice really would be to have some extra dark chocolate and a small jar of peanut butter to dip it in, or maybe one of the big chocolate oranges that you whack on the table to split apart. Gawd, but I love me some dark chocolate.

Easter’s not the same anymore now that I’m an adult. You walk through WalMart and all you see are the pre-packaged Easter Baskets for $20.00 or so, already filled with some candy and super-cheap toys from China laced with lead-based paint. It’s a gift that takes approximately zero thought and pretty much no effort. When I was a kid, your family MADE you an Easter basket. You had to find a suitable basket, fill the bottom with that annoying Easter Grass which is almost as big a nuisance as Christmas tinsel, and then you got goodies like a hollow chocolate bunny, some solid chocolate eggs, maybe a Reese’s or some other brand-name treat, and mayhaps a trinket toy or two. It was simpler, but at the same time, there was effort and thought that went into it. Nowadays, you just go buy some crappy pre-made basket, ironically put together by some overworked sweatshop slave in a polluted Chinese city who has no idea just what Easter is or why the Christian world celebrates it.

Actually, I think half the Christian world has no idea what Easter is about. As a kid, it was all Easter Bunny this and Easter Bunny that, and decorating eggs with those crappy kits from Paas that required smelly vinegar and color pellets that left your fingers dyed for a week. It took awhile till I figured out the whole Jesus resurrection deal. Easter, like most Christian religious holidays, has been watered down to a commercialized caricature of itself.

As I write this, I can smell the roast in the oven cooking up nicely, and it has me thinking of Easter dinners. I find it amusing how often people serve ham at Easter, and also at Christmas. Nothing says “celebrating the birth/resurrection of a Jew” quite like a nice salty slab of pork. As a kid we often did lamb at Easter, which is a bit off the beaten path and at least something Jesus would have eaten. Lamb remains a typical dish in that part of the world, whereas ham…..not so much.

So…enjoy the time with your family and if you’re a churchgoer, have fun there, too. And if you have nothing better to do, I’m sure you have a couple spare toothpicks left over from Christmas to stick into those last couple Peeps that no one wants to eat. Peep jousting is a great way to kill a Sunday night.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Give blood, unless you're me.

The past few days I’ve been seeing a lot of posters for blood drives and hearing a lot of notices on the radio promoting various blood drives around the greater Charleston area and felt a little bit sad. One of the things that I used to pride myself on was that for several years I was a pretty regular blood donor. It was something that I could do on a volunteer basis that helped my community, and it wasn’t a strain on my time or any other resources. At the time I started donating, I wanted to do something to volunteer in the community but lacked a lot of free time to offer up to a volunteer service organization. Donating blood was perfect, since it took less than 2 hours of my time about every 56 days or so. It also helped that I have a blood type that is always in high demand; only about 3% of the population shares my AB+ blood type.

I’d get a call from the local donor center about a week before my due-date for being able to donate again, and I’d go ahead & schedule a donation. On average it was about every 56-60 days that I’d donate. They all knew me there and were always glad to see me and that pint of prime AB positive walk in the door. We used to joke that my blood would be tagged and shipped out so quickly that it would leave the building before I did.

Anyways, that’s all changed, since I’m no longer allowed to donate.

What’s this, you say?

My last time for donating blood was on September 12, 2001. That was the day after the 9-11 attacks. Feeling that I had to do something to help, I lined up with hundreds of people at the old Red Cross donor center in West Ashley and spent a total of ten hours waiting to complete my donation, between the time I stood in line in 90-plus degree heat and the actual donation itself. Not long after that, I heard some disturbing news: I would soon no longer be eligible to donate.

The guidelines for donating blood are simple but pretty restrictive, to ensure the safety of the blood supply. This is perfectly understandable. But imagine my dismay when I learned that one of the new restrictions to be implemented was a ban on donations from people who lived more than 6 months in certain sectors of Europe, like me. This is direct from the American Red Cross website:

You are not eligible to donate if:
From January 1, 1980, through December 31, 1996, you spent (visited or lived) a cumulative time of 3 months or more, in the United Kingdom (UK), or

You were a member of the of the U.S. military, a civilian military employee, or a dependent of a member of the U.S. military who spent a total time of 6 months on or associated with a military base in any of the following areas during the specified time frames

•From 1980 through 1990 - Belgium, the Netherlands (Holland), or Germany
•From 1980 through 1996 - Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Italy or Greece.

You spent (visited or lived) a cumulative time of 5 years or more from January 1, 1980, to present, in any combination of country(ies) in Europe, including

•in the UK from 1980 through 1996
•on or associated with military bases as described above, and in other countries in Europe as listed below:

o Albania
o Austria
o Montenegro (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia)
o Belgium
o Bosnia/Herzegovina
o Bulgaria
o Croatia
o Norway
o Poland
o Czech Republic
o Denmark
o Romania
o Finland
o France
o Slovak Republic (Slovakia)
o Germany
o Greece
o Spain
o Hungary
o Ireland (Republic of)
o Italy
o Kosovo (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia)
o Liechtenstein
o Luxembourg
o Macedonia
o Netherlands (Holland)
o Portugal
o Serbia (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia)
o Slovenia
o Sweden
o Switzerland
o Turkey
o Yugoslavia (Federal Republic includes Kosovo, Montenegro, and Serbia)

But why are we excluded? Because the ARC is concerned that we may be carriers for vCJD, Variant Cruetzfeld-Jakob Disease, or Mad Cow. Not sure what Mad Cow Disease is? Google it.

So, my last donation was over 6 ½ years ago and there is no sign that the exclusion will ever be lifted. Never mind the fact that I did all my donating after returning from my two years in Germany with the US Army (1988-1990) and that I had donated a couple gallons of blood to the blood supply. My five tattoos carry less weight as an exclusion than does my service overseas. If I had donated every 60 days during the last 6 ½ years, I would have donated an additional 39 times. Thirty nine pints is almost 5 gallons of AB+ that wasn’t available for people who desperately needed it. And since about 1 in 7 people entering the hospital need blood, with about 43,000 pints of blood being used each day through the US and Canada, I shudder to think about the people I wasn’t able to help because of my exclusion.

I understand the reasoning for exclusionary rules. The ARC needs to safeguard the available blood supply. Statistics show that only 37% of the general population is even eligible to donate and that only 10% or so actually donates, so every donation is precious. But jeez, what about the dozens of people who received the blood I had already donated in the eleven years since I had returned from Germany to when I was excluded? A little late now, is it not?

One of the things that I noticed while in the donor centers and talking to my fellow donors was that a rather large percentage of us were military veterans. There’s just something about a veteran that’s hard wired into the circuits that says, “I should donate to help my fellow man.” We served the country and continued to find a way to be of service until being cut off from doing so. That exclusion for vCJD cuts a pretty wide swath by excluding millions and millions of potential donors who were stationed overseas with the military throughout their terms of service. Additionally, I’ve become aware that the ARC is excluding veterans of the first Gulf War and the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Unfortunately there is currently no way to test donated blood for vCJD so there’s no end in sight yet for my exclusion. Perhaps they can develop a test for the donors themselves to see if we are carriers?

For the rest of you who are eligible, I urge you all to seriously consider donating. It’s painless and only takes about 90 minutes. You even get some tasty snacks afterwards. Regardless of your blood type, it’s needed. The rarest blood type is the one that’s not on the shelf when a patient needs it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fighting the Snivel War

Further evidence of why I hate people:

In the early months of the U.S. Civil War, the city of Tampa needed ammunition and other supplies to defend against attack but the city was financially strapped and was short on cash, so it issued a promissory note for $299.58 to storekeeper Thomas Pugh Kennedy on June 21, 1861.

Kennedy's great-granddaughter says the city never made good on its loan. Now, Joan Kennedy Biddle and her family are suing to collect the payment, adjusted for inflation, plus 8 percent annual interest.

The total bill: $22.7-million. I kid you not. This lady wants over 22 and a half MILLION clams over a 147-year-old IOU. Biddle’s attorney, James Purdy, filed the suit in the Hillsborough Circuit Court last week. He did not return calls for comment from local papers, oddly enough.

Biddle wouldn't give specifics on why she decided to sue now, using as evidence a piece of paper that has been handed down as an heirloom for generations. “This thing has been in the family since the date on the note, and it has never been repaid," said Biddle, aged 77. "My daddy told me, and I certainly believe him."

Well, hell, Granny…if Daddy said it then it HAS to be true! I hope Daddy never said the moon was made of green cheese. Did Daddy also blame Alabama Barking Spiders for the funny noise when you pulled his finger, too?

In legal documents, Purdy argues that the statute of limitations doesn't apply in the case because at the time the note was issued, the state had no such statute on such documents. Spoken like a true ambulance-chaser who smells blood in the water and a payoff around the corner.

Biddle also pointed out that in the 1990s the federal government agreed to pay the Seminole tribe for land illegally taken in the 1820s. Well, I guess forcing indigenous peoples off their land and onto reservations, stripping them of their rights and claims, introducing great stuff like smallpox and syphilis, and destroying their entire culture is pretty much the same as 300 bucks, isn’t it?

But Tampa area attorney John Grandoff said the city can defend against the case using the "doctrine of laches," which prevents claims from being made after an extraordinary passage of time. "It's kind of how the court feels about whether it's been too long or not," Grandoff said. "It's total discretion on the judge's part." Tampa City Attorney David Smith said he doesn't consider the claim valid.

Rodney Kite-Powell, curator at the Tampa Bay History Center, noted that the Tampa of 1861 is not the same city that exists today, quite literally.

Tampa was originally incorporated in 1855, and was abolished in 1869 in part because residents had no money to pay taxes, and the city had no money to pay its bills; it was reincorporated in 1887. At the time the IOU was issued, Tampa was a tiny town with about 800 residents, and city limits that included just a portion of today’s modern downtown. It also was home to Fort Brooke where Confederate soldiers were stationed, hence the need for ammunition, to defend against the dreaded Yankee Scourge.

Biddle said she's known about the note since she was a little girl. "I showed it to the attorney, and he said it looked very interesting," she said. "It's strange that the thing has never been collected." Yeah, pretty strange, Nana. How about the complete and utter upheaval in the former Confederacy following the war, and the ensuing Reconstruction? And lest we forget that by war’s end, there was 6000% inflation in the Confederacy.

And if you think that the U.S. government is responsible for the debt of the Confederate government, you would be ever-so-slightly mistaken. As written in the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution: “But neither the United States nor any state shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.” The loan was definitely to aid the insurrection that was the Confederacy and its war against the United States. That note was issued over five months after Florida seceded from the Union.

Sounds to me like some little old lady who needed some cash got an earful of crap from a shyster who wanted a cut of the profits.

Tell you what. I say we pay the lady back. I say as a gesture of good faith, the City of Tampa can give Mrs. Biddle her $300.00. That’s all that was promised, it seems, so that’s really all that’s owed. Besides, that promissory note was issued in Confederate dollars by a city that ceased to exist a few years later in a country that also no longer exists. So, if she wants 22.7 million dollars, pay her back in Confederate money. I’m sure there are oodles of it lying around somewhere in a Mason jar behind the still. If not, Xerox some. Or just hand her Monopoly money, since they’d be worth about the same.

Or…give her a gallon of gasoline. By year’s end it’ll be at about 22 million dollars a gallon anyways.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I love me some Schadenfruede

My dear readers, I am a guilty man. I am guilty of what the Germans call Schadenfreude. The word has no direct translational equivalent in English, but the best way to describe it is taking pleasure in the misfortune of others. So yes, I am guilty. I often take perverse glee in other people’s misery, but I‘m not a total cad; there’s a caveat to my glee. I only take pleasure when the high and mighty, the privileged, the people who look down their noses at us poor working class slobs fall on their faces. And I’ll admit that it’s especially amusing when the fallen is exposed as a hypocrite.

Which brings us to our latest fallen Great Man, Elliot Spitzer. As the Attorney General for the State of New York, Spitzer was a force to be reckoned with, a one-man crusade against unethical behavior and vice. He took on corruption on Wall Street, and prosecuted a couple of very high-profile prostitution rings. And then he went on to become the Governor of New York.

So imagine my reaction this week when Spitzer was brought down by revelations that he was implicated as a customer for a very expensive prostitution ring known as The Emperor’s Club. The hookers from the Emperor’s Club are in several cities nationwide and are rated on a 3-7 Diamond scale, with a 7-Diamond “escort” going for up to $5500.00 an hour. It’s reported that Spitzer has been buying hookers for anywhere from six to ten years, and has spent upwards of $80,000.00 on prostitutes.

Needless to say, I laughed till I cried.

However, I’m left a tad perplexed.

I’ve been around the block a couple times, and I’ve bounced this off a few of my male friends too just to see if I’m wrong, but I have yet to find the sexual encounter that was worth FIFTY FIVE HUNDRED BUCKS for an hour’s worth of action. I’m sorry, ladies. I’m sure ya’ll think it’s made of gold & what not, but that’s over 91 dollars a minute, and I’m sure that hour’s worth of time was not 60 full minutes of non-stop sex. Out of that 60 minutes, possibly 20-30 minutes might have been sexual, but the other 30-40 were spent with drinks and getting comfortable.

I really don’t think the act has been invented yet that I’d pay 5500 bucks an hour for. I’m sorry. I hate to say it. You could bring me the Pope, two Korean midgets, a talking donkey, and the Swedish Bikini Team, throw in a Cleveland Steamer, and I’m still not dropping 5500 bucks on it. That’s insane.

Oh wait….Spitzer bargained the price down to something like $3400.00 an hour, I think. It was something like that, less than the standard going rate. But still…..I have yet to find anything I’d pay 3400 clams for either.

So yeah, I’m guilty of Schadenfruede. But I’d rather be guilty of schadenfreude than be guilty of being a salacious hypocritical turd.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Writer's Strike yields a winner...kinda...

Now that the writer’s strike is over, many people are rejoicing, namely several hundred unemployed writers and several thousand others who got laid off because of the strike. Now, instead of the mindless new crap that was aired to fill in the time slots we can go back to the familiarity of the mindless old crap we saw 3 months ago.

By & large, the strike didn’t really seem to affect most people, as they just found new stuff to watch. Speaking for my own household, we were hit by the lack of new episodes of House, Gray’s Anatomy, and CSI, and the ruination of Heroes by shortening the season to just a few episodes and trying to hastily fill in the blanks in the storylines. Other than those four shows, there’s not much episodic first-run stuff that’s deemed Must See TV in our house. Two other shows that I watch, Rescue Me and Army Wives, air during the off-season and their startup dates have yet to be announced.

On the plus side, the strike forced people to explore the other 175 channels on their TV’s that they never bother with. I know that I’m guilty of only watching maybe 25 of my 200 available channels. Of course, take away the 20 shopping channels (I shop in stores), 10 religious channels (I’m not religious), 15 Spanish-language channels, and all the mutations of Nickelodeon (I’m 38, not 8) and that pares down the list a bit.

And while in no way do I make a habit of watching CMT (Country Music Television), I have managed to come upon a new show on CMT that is yet another televised train-wreck that I can’t seem to stop watching. Every Friday night for the past few weeks, I’ve been guilty of watching “My Big Redneck Wedding”. Please, stop laughing.

Each week, the show chronicles another redneck couple in some exotic rustic backwater of America as they struggle to put together their supposed dream wedding in true redneck fashion. Most of the weddings take place outside, sometimes in mud, many involve animals, and most involve the wearing of camouflage and boots.

One couple took their vows standing on top of demolition-derby cars in a mud pit next to a railroad track, while another did theirs on horseback. There’s been mud-wrestling at the receptions, wild hog hunting, the removal of a dip of Skoal prior to the kiss, decorations ranging from shotgun shells to beer cans to hay bales to a cake made in the shape of a stable, complete with two plates of cake in the shape of horse turds for the bride & groom to feed each other. Wedding gifts have ranged from a Wrangler logo tattoo on the groom’s ass, naked pictures on horseback for the groom, a lizard, a pink squirrel-hunting rifle, and an antique tricycle in the shape of a horse rescued from a Dumpster.

The host of the show is none other than Tom Arnold, who pops up now & again to deliver snarky commentary and comic relief. He’s actually pretty funny in this role, in that he’s by far smarter than the people he’s narrating over. By the end of the show you’re left with a grateful feeling that your own wedding was nothing like this, and wondering when the next episode is coming on.

So if you’re a redneck, or just like to watch in slack-jawed amazement as rednecks get hitched, tune in to CMT. The Writer’s Strike produced at least one clear winner. It could be worse…I could be watching Flavor of Love 3, That’s Amore, and Rock of Love II. Oh, shit, I already am…

And I just gotta include this picture of a famous landmark back in Maine. We have rednecks galore up North, believe it or not. The South does not own the manopoly, despite what folks may think. This is the sign that's out front of Hussey's General Store in Windsor, Maine.

Still more Sharia Law crapola

This sorta continues with the can of worms opened with this blog:

Well, kids, it would seem that in my hiatus away from blogging that the Mutaween, and other Islamic Morality Police groups, have been busy relieving people of the tremendous burden of human rights.

Where to begin?

A university professor allegedly caught in a Saudi-style honey trap has been sentenced to 180 lashes and eight months in jail for having coffee with a girl. The man, a prominent and well-respected teacher of psychology at Umm al-Qra University in the holy city of Mecca, was framed by the religious police after he angered some of their members at a training course, his lawyer said.

The professor has not been named by the local media, which have given his case wide coverage, but one senior Saudi journalist told The Times of London that he was Dr. Abu Ruzaiz, a married man in his late 50s with children.

“He is highly respected and above-board. Nobody believes the religious police’s version of what happened. The whole of Jeddah (the main city near Mecca) is in uproar about this. Everyone believes he is innocent and was set up,” the journalist said.

Abdullah Al-Sanousi, the man’s lawyer, told local newspapers that his client had drawn the ire of some of the Mutaween’s staffers for speaking at length during a training session about how important it was for them to be polite to the public. Some of the trainees also wanted revenge because they had failed the course while others were not happy with their examination results.

Ruzaiz is said to have received a call from a girl purporting to be one of his students who asked to meet to discuss a problem that she did not want to talk about over the phone. The professor agreed to meet at a family cafe, provided she brought her brother along as a chaperone. When he arrived, he was surprised to find the girl alone, and was promptly surrounded by the ubiquitous robe-wearing, beared, cane-weilding religious policemen who handcuffed him and hauled him into custody. He was accused of being in a state of khulwa — seclusion — with an unrelated woman.

The lawyer insisted that because the two met in a public place frequented by hundreds of families, the question of khulwa never arose. However, the commission insists that the family sections at coffee shops and restaurants are meant only for families and close relatives. The professor is said to have taped a later conversation with the girl in which she admitted that she had been sent to the cafe by the religious police. The professor is relying on an appeals court to overturn the verdict. His lawyer has urged local human rights associations to back his plea for reviewing the case.

A spokesman for the commission in Mecca denied that his officials had conspired against the professor. “They are honorable people and would not create such a trap for any kind of personal revenge,” Ahmad Kasim Al-Ghamdi, told Arab News, a local paper.

Sounds like crap to me, Ahmad.

In other news, an illiterate Saudi woman is hoping that King Abdullah will spare her life after she was condemned to death for “witchcraft.” Her accusers included a man who claimed that the woman, Fawzi Falih, had made him impotent with her sorcery.
An international human rights group said Falih, who faces being publicly beheaded was allegedly beaten by religious police and forced into fingerprinting a false confession.
Another excellent example of progressive Islam…a man can’t get it up and a woman gets her head cut off because of it.

However, all is not lost

Women in Saudi Arabia can now stay in a hotel or a furnished apartment without a male guardian according to decision by the Ministry of Trade, according to a local Saudi press report. The daily paper Al-Watan, which is deemed close to the Saudi government, said the ministry issued a circular to the hotels asking them to accept women in their rooms even if they were alone, provided that all their information immediately is sent to a police station in the area.

The decision was adopted after a study conducted by the Interior Ministry, the Supreme Commission of Tourism, and or friends the Mutaween.

The paper interviewed some Saudi women who complained that they had been severely inconvenienced by the rules banning them from staying in the hotels alone. It quoted a woman identified as saying that she once arrived late at night at King Fahd airport on a flight and was denied a hotel room because she was alone. Another woman, Fatima Ibrahim, said her son-in-law quarreled with his wife and daughters and threw them out of the house. When they tried to get a hotel room, they were asked to get a permission from the police.

So, progress is being made. Soon we’ll see Islam reach the Dark Ages. And just think, back in August the Mutaween had insisted that authorities of Medina, one of Islam’s holiest cities, should build separate sidewalks for women, stating men and women should not be allowed to mix on the streets of the Islam’s second holiest place, where the Prophet Mohammed is buried.

And for the sake of equality, a man is being persecuted for a change, and this time in Iran instead of Saudi Arabia. (Oh, wait…an Iranian is being persecuted? This is news?)

A 70-year-old Iranian man was arrested and sentenced to four months in jail and 30 lashes for walking his dog. Police caught the man on the street with his dog in Shahr Rey, a suburb of Tehran. Owners of domestic animals are forbidden from taking them on the streets of the city because Islam considers dogs to be impure. An Islamic judge later charged the man for "disturbing the public order,” it was reported.

Despite repeated warnings by the police, dog owners continue to defy authorities by taking their dogs outside their homes. Typical punishment for people caught with dogs outside is a fine or the "detention" of their animals in a pound. So instead of just outlawing dogs, they claim to be tolerant of your right to own one, provided you keep it locked inside and let it crap on the floor.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently provoked debate in Iran about dog ownership when he took possession of four guard dogs, bought in Germany for approximately $161,040 each. Wow, you mean to tell me that Uncle Mahmoud can own dogs but the average Iranian can’t? No surprise there. Oh, wait, those are for security reasons. They aren’t really dogs, per se, but guard weapons. And who the bloody hell pays $644,160 for four dogs? They better be some pretty damned talented dogs.

So, as usual, the Islamic world once again leaves me scratching my head and wondering why everyone is pushing so hard for acceptance of Sharia Law and strict Wahhabism. I think I’ll go walk my dog now.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Humble Apologies on my Absence

Sorry that I haven't written much the past couple weeks, kids. I've been kept in a pit by a homicidal serial killer putting lotion in a basket.

No, seriously...I had surgery last week and the few days leading up to it were hectic. I'm doing much better now and will probably write all about it soon.

As always, thanks for reading!