November 14, 2003

Part of the fall-out from the THG drug lab scandal has been renewed emphasis on major league baseball's steroid policy, which underwent a change yesterday when more than 5% of the players tested positive. According to the last collective bargaining agreement, baseball may now levy a variety of punishments against players who test positive for performance-enhancing drugs, similar to the treatment-oriented sanctions it imposes on recreational drug use. As with Sammy Sosa and the corked bat, the thinking behind such a policy is that putting public shame on the cheater will be a far better deterrent than suspension; if, as rumored, one of the cheaters turns out to be Barry Bonds, it will have a devastating impact on his reputation as an all-time great.

That may not be enough for some hysterics in the international sports mafia. Dick Pound, a Canadian lawyer who is a self-proclaimed scold over the issue of performance-enhancing drugs, is outraged that baseball will not be banning for life steroid-users, and another "expert" in the field called yesterday's announcement "probably the blackest day in the history of sports". Well, that's a tough call: baseball adopting a two-strikes policy before suspension, or the '72 Munich Massacre.

November 13, 2003

The now-legendary cartoon by Tom Tomorrow has taken on a life of its own. Feeling defensive, many of "Desert Freedom's" cheerleaders in the blogosphere have attempted to justify their seeming lack of commitment to the Cause by making a number of flaky assertions about what it means to be a "chickenblogger":
1. The Anti-Veteran Argument One of the earlier attacks, made by LT Smash, a reservist who spent time in Iraq, was that TT is defaming those bloggers who support The Cause and who have also served in the military. This was clearly mistaken, since the whole point of the cartoon was to ridicule those whose idea of sacrifice was to go an hour without CheezyPoofs while they sat at their terminal. LT Smash ended up in an e-mail war with TT, and, much like our country's ill-conceived war in Southeast Asia forty years ago, was unable to extricate himself without terrible damage.

2. The Liberals are the real Fascists Argument As with those who claim that civil rights advocates are the real racists, since they focus their attention disproportionately on race, there is the claim that the "chickenblogger" meme is an attempt to silence non-veterans from speaking out on political issues, and is itself fascist. Since this chestnut gets trotted out by people who are usually big fans of the Patriot Act (I and II), I happen to like its sheer brazenness. Again, the whole point of the cartoon was to tweak the noses of warbloggers, not to censor their opinions. If shame and embarassment haven't silenced them by now, a cartoon won't either.

3. The Mercenary Argument Some armchair warriors assert that the military isn't for everyone; those who lead cheers on the sidelines serve just as important a role as those who face bullets. This is perhaps the strongest evidence of how anti-veteran the Right has become in this country, besides their support for a President who wants to stick soldiers with a bill for their own medical care. At one point in our history, serving in a state militia or in the military was an almost universal experience for young men; the question wasn't whether the military was for everyone, since the country didn't want a military consisting only of people who "felt comfortable" being warriors. Uncle Sam wanted civilians, people from all walks of life; it was through the forced integration of the WWII battlefield that real integration occured in our society. When there was too great a discrepancy between those who "belonged" in the military, and those who didn't (ie., the draft riots during the Civil War), the country suffered. The all-volunteer military, by and large, has been a good thing, but not in the way it created separate classes of citizens, those who fight and die for their country, and those who rally support for them on the sidelines.

4. The ChickenDove Argument Well, what about other issues? Would any supporter of peace who didn't act as a human shield in Baghdad be a "chickendove" (yeah, that phrase has been trotted out)? Do supporters of choice have to perform abortions as well? Are opponents of the Brady Bill obligated to shoot children? Thankfully, there are very few issues where simply having an opinion on a subject isn't enough. War (and peace), civil rights, the DH Rule, some environmental issues...everything else, like whether the estate tax cut should be permanent, or whether the American Rule should be revoked in civil litigation, or whether non-citizens should have drivers licenses, can be politely argued on weblogs, without any need to justify any action on your part further than clicking the "Post&Publish" key. As unfair as it sounds, doves deserve to get treated easier than hawks; Bill Clinton opposed the Vietnam War, and never changed his view, so the fact that he did whatever he could to avoid the draft isn't hypocritical. People who support war, on the other hand, better have a good excuse as to why they aren't serving (or didn't serve) their country on the frontlines, either in a civilian or military capacity, if they desire others to go in their place.

And finally...5. The Modified Liston Argument This argument, named after the late heavyweight champ, famous for having opted out of a trip to Birmingham to help MLK, et al., with the reason, "cause I don't have a dog-proof ass", is given to all who believe that their writing is just as important to The Cause as taking up arms. To those who say, I'm a writer, not a fighter, why should I have to do more?, the appropriate retort is: Well, I dunno, why should anyone have to die for your words. TT points out that among things chickenbloggers have supported since Bush's war began has been the Flypaper Strategy, in which our men and women serve as bait for the world's terrorists, in an attempt to draw them into more favorable terrain (remember what another chickenhawk said: "Bring 'em on"?) Words are not simply units of language that get farted out into the blogosphere; they have consequence, and anyone who uses them should be prepared to act on them as well.
And if you have an anal cyst, or flat feet, or some other ailment that keeps you out of the military, or if you are just too damned old, perhaps you should consider a civilian task; there are plenty of those opening up now in Iraq, where non-military people are needed to assist in the transition to democracy. But don't pretend that you believe this is the most important battle facing our society unless you are prepared to fight it yourself. Words without action is like sex without a partner.

November 11, 2003

The soft bigotry of low expectations: After eight years of a presidency where the economy created 240,000 jobs per month, right wingers now celebrate a mere quarter where employment grew less than half that amount as "a big job turnaround".

November 10, 2003

We didn't qualify for the 2004 Olympics, but the U.S. stands a better than even chance of winning a possible baseball World Cup, tentatively scheduled for March 2005. Leaders of both the Players' Union and Major League Baseball are negotiating for just such an event as we speak.
What's a Little Green Eyed Monster? A George Chuvalo? Are you a Stepford Democrat, or a mere Zellout? Find out, in the Wingnut Debate Dictionary (ed.-my contribution is under the N's).
A year ago last October, I invented what I thought was a more appropriate term for people who speak eloquently about fighting wars against militant Islam, or whatever, but who somehow avoided serving in our military: the Sonny Liston Brigade. I felt that the term "chickenhawks", with its unsubtle relationship to pedophilia, was too disparaging; I did not think it was hypocritical that someone back in the day would have opposed the war in Vietnam, did whatever he could to avoid being drafted, but now believes that the aftermath of 9/11 requires a more aggressive foreign policy. Liston's famous quote about why he wasn't marching in Birmingham summed up what I thought was the principal motivating factor behind a select group of hawks, who supported the Vietnam War in college but were unwilling to put their lives on the line.

Well, that meme went nowhere, "chickenhawk" remains the preferred term of derogation, and most of their time is now spent debating whether the President ever used the term "imminent" to describe the alleged threat to America by Saddam. Tom Tomorrow has a cartoon out describing that fascinating internet creation, the chickenblogger, who talks a good argument about the clash of civilizations but whose sincerity must be questioned due to the fact that they are here, manning their computers, rather than there, opening schools and bringing electricity to the frontlines in the "war on terra".

UPDATE: For further evidence that conservative bloggers are humorless twits, check out this post and this post, and the accompanying discussion. Any time a cartoonist can generate this much discussion, he should be handed a Pulitzer.