In Sort-Of Defense of Christine O'Donnell (A Special One-Time-Only Event)

I’m no fan of Christine O’Donnell (the Tea Party sweetheart, anti-masturbation crusader,Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate from Delaware, not to mention the recipient of some damn fine auto-tuning--more on that later). But I come to her defense because I think she is being unfairly lambasted for not knowing anything about the First Amendment. During a debate with her opponent she made some comments that would appear on their face as if she did not know that the separation of church and state was rooted in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. This is what was said (you can watch video here, starting at the 2:37 mark):

"Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?" O'Donnell asked. Upon hearing her words, the audience in the room burst into laughter.

"I also think you just heard, in the answers from my opponent, and in her attempt at saying 'where is the separation of church and state in the constitution' reveals her fundamental misunderstanding of what our Constitution is, how it is amended and how it evolved. The First Amendment establishes the separation, the fact that the federal government shall not establish any religion, and decisional law by the Supreme Court over many, many decades --"

O' Donnell then interrupted. "The First Amendment does?" she asked, skeptically.

Coons continued his explanation, and O'Donnell interrupted again. "So you're telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?"

Coons went on to cite cases the Supreme Court had decided that backed up the position of a wall between church and state.

"Let me just clarify," O'Donnell pressed. "You're telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?"

"The government shall make no establishment of religion," Coons said, summarizing the gist of the specific words in the First Amendment's establishment clause.

"That's in the First Amendment?" O'Donnell asked again, eliciting further laughter from the room.

I think it is pretty clear that what O’Donnell was getting at was that the words “separation of church and state” themselves do not literally appear in the First Amendment.  But she didn't do a very good job of articulating that point.  Instead, her comments, coupled with her stated lack of knowledge about the 14th Amendment (which provides due process and establishes that everyone born in the United States is a citizen; go to the 2:13 mark here) make her sound nothing like the semi-constitutional scholar that she purports to be (she claims to have a "graduate fellowship from the Claremont Institute in Constitutional Government." Whatever that means.)

On the narrow topic of the separation of church and state, Ms. O'Donnell is correct:  those words do not appear in the Constitution. The First Amendment provides, in relevant part:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

But that does not mean that the concept of the separation of church and state does not live in the First Amendment. It certainly does; that sentence limits the government's ability to become excessively involved in religious matters.

While the Constitution may not specifically mention the term "separation of church and state," the United States Supreme Court has repeatedly relied on historical examples of religious persecution and intolerance toward minority religions to support the separation of church and state perspective. In fact, in the 1947 case Everson vs. Board of Education of Ewing Township, the Court specifically referred to a "wall of separation between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.” The metaphor itself was first used by Thomas Jefferson over 200 years ago.

O’Donnell does not capitulate to the fact that the Establishment Clause = separation of church and state. And that her opponent did not clarify that the exact phrasing “separation of church and state” was not in the Constitution will, I’m sure, be used against him. In the meantime, Christine O’Donnell may not be a constitutional scholar (duh), but she isn’t the joke that everyone is making her out to be, at least with respect to this issue. But this matter raises a larger issue: saying you are an expert or an authority on something does not make it so. We have to look beyond the literal words and ask what they mean. If Christine O'Donnell says she is a constitutional expert, she must be taken to task on that.  Then if she doesn't know what the 14th Amendment does, that should be broadcast loud and clear and she must own up to it. Anything less is dishonest.

Other Tea Party candidates like Joe Miller make a lot of noise about a literal interpretation of the Constitution, making the separation of church and state argument, railing against the right to privacy (code for saying the Constitution does not protect reproductive choice), claiming that almost any government action not specifically laid out in the Constitution is unconstitutional. But critics like Miller pick and choose their spots. The Constitution does not mention the Internet, but I doubt Mr. Miller would claim that the right to free speech does not exist in this medium. Or would he?

To some, the Constitution may appear to be just a bunch of words on a piece of paper that can be disregarded as the political winds shift. Or re-interpreted to pursue an agenda. But the Constitution is really a pact--a social contract between the government and the governed. Interpretation of its terms and amendments to its provisions are not undertaken lightly. So when people disregard years of judicial interpretation and talk in sound bites about how the phrase "separation of church and state" is not in the First Amendment and therefore it should be okay to teach biblical creationism alongside evolutionary science in public schools, it offends me.

The value of the Constitution is derived from the meaning and respect we give to the very specific words chosen to create it. And we now have 200+ years of judicial interpretation to guide us and to tell us what those words mean. What the Tea Party is advocating is a crabbed interpretation and a disregard for constitutional history. But they can get away with this because they cloak themselves in words and images that evoke the American Revolution and a return to fundamental ideals. Beyond that, there is little substance to their message. Unlike this awesome Autotuned version of one of Christine O'Donnell's campaign ads:


Brief Interviews With Clueless People

NewLeftMedia did some interviews at the Glenn Beck revival rally in DC last week.  Never has such a collection of the uninformed and clueless gathered in one place to spew such ignorant drivel.


Overheard in Anchorage: Shorts Weather Edition*

*I'm a little behind: This is from June, when it was sunny and warm every day.

Overheard In An Office (not mine)
-“I've had that candy in my desk and I've been resisting it for weeks. I think I am sketched out because it is made in China. I think I can taste the lack of safety and environmental regulations and the child labor.”

Modern Love
-Bridal Party Member: "Is she your plus-one for the wedding?"
-Groomsman: "No. She's my it's complicated."

Modern Family
-35ish SWM: "I got into a fight with my mom because she didn't know you could cut-and-paste into an email."

Modern Sports
-"I take ambien and then try to fold my laundry. It’s like some kind of urban olympic event."

Modern Work
-Him: I already work 6 days a week. If I take this other part time job then I won't have time to work on my website or blog, which will bring more traffic to my business.
-Her: Then work seven days. Make the seventh day the day you blog.
-Him: I need to rest at some point, like God--God rested on the seventh day.
-Her: That's because God didn't have the internet. If he did, he'd be blogging on Sundays.

Latin Lovers
-Friend of Hers: "He totally missed his chance to make a move on her. He didn't seize the moment."
-Friend of His: "He carpe didn't."

Overhearing People Who Are Getting Old
-Woman at Breakfast: "I feel like shit today; I feel hungover."
-Her Breakfast Companion: "Did you go out last night?"
-Woman at Breakfast: "No. I just stayed up too late drinking tea and making Powerpoints."
Life is Tougher Up Here
-Woman in Suit 1: "You have to go Outside if you want to get good medical care."
-Woman in Suit 2: "Yeah, it's just like shopping for shoes. There's nothing good here."

Overheard in the corner of a party: "I just don't like him. I'm sure that if he was my friend I would like him. But we're not friends, so I don't like him."

Oh, Would That Facebook Were
-Someone Too Old To Be On Facebook: “Facebook should have more options than just accept or reject for friend requests. They should have an "are you serious?" or "No, I still haven't forgotten what you did" or “I don't fucking think so.”

-Hipster Boy in Coffee Shop: “It would be cool if when you deleted friends on Facebook you didn't have to see them in real life anymore."
-Hipster Girl in Coffee Shop: "Or if you could just ignore someone and hide the stories from people who are boring and want to tell you things when you run into them."

Overheard in a Bar
-Consoling Friend: "Don’t be like that--that’s nothing but revenge and spite."
-Depressed Guy: "Empires were built on revenge and spite."

Takes One to Know One
-Anti-Hipster #1: "How come t-shirts are the only acceptable clothing to put funny things on? I'm going to start making ironic turtlenecks."
-Anti-Hipster #2: "Dude, that is the most hipstery shit I've ever heard."

SPECIAL BONUS: OVERHEARD IN PRISON (from a friend with a source on the inside)

- "Butter makes good chapstick."

-inmate 1: " You guys wanna do a mad-lib?"
-inmate 2: "A meth lab?"
-inmate 1: "A mad-lib"
-inmate 1: "Gimme a noun."
-inmate 2: "Running!"

- "You ever tried injecting straight alcohol? That shit will FUCK YOU UP!"

- "He works for a Senator? What's that?"

- "I got TBI, PTSD, OCD, AND a 20 year old boyfriend!" (she was 49 -- and NASTY)

- "Just stuff your chicken in your pocket."

- "I called this old dude whose digits was in the phone book. He's coming to pick me up today. My husband AND boyfriend don't trust him. What do you think?"

- Inmate 1: "Vin Diesel's LAME."
- Inmate 2: "He's GAY???"
- Inmate 1: "No! his twin brother is though!"

"I don't know why my daughter won't give [her younger son] corndogs.  I mean, they are easy to chew.  He has, like, 16 teeth." 

"You know somethin'? We lost 52 seconds of day light already from Monday (Solstice). I mean, I thought I noticed, but I wasn't sure, so today I counted. Sure enough--52 seconds!"


Sights Set On Higher Education

A few days ago I received an odd e-mail that was sent to the UAA community at large:

You may have heard that at the recent Board of Regents' meeting, an individual spoke against the University's policy regulating firearms. The individual suggested people will protest the policy by carrying firearms on campus in the near future. The intent of this e-mail is to share information with you about what to do should you see someone on University property with a firearm.

The University of Alaska has regulated the possession of firearms on University property since 1995. Except for students living in University housing or individuals storing firearms in a locked vehicle, University Regulations (Chapter 02.09) prohibit individuals from carrying a firearm on University property, or in offices, classrooms, or meeting space controlled by the university. Students living on campus may store firearms in University-owned secured storage maintained by University Police. Incidents of unauthorized firearms possession on property have been rare.

Really? Someone has a problem with the no guns on campus policy? Are things really that dangerous? Is the dining hall food that bad that people need to be able to hunt for lunch on campus?

Today we received notice that the protest is imminent:

Please be advised that UAA students as well as individuals not affiliated with UAA plan to gather in the Cuddy Quad this morning to peacefully protest the University of Alaska Board of Regents’ policy and University Regulation prohibiting the carrying of firearms on University of Alaska campuses. Individuals may decide to carry a firearm in violation of our policies and regulations. The University Police Department (UPD) and Campus Response Team are monitoring the situation and will respond appropriately to ensure that the demonstration is minimally disruptive.
If you see an individual—or a group of individuals—with firearms, or any other weapon on campus, please alert UPD immediately by calling 786-1120. If you feel unsafe, please contact UPD.
So, thanks, Second Amendment Task Force, for taking the time to tackle serious issues like whether students should be able to bring assault rifles to class and distracting the campus from silly little things like final examinations and concern for grades.

Update:  (1) Apologies to the Second Amendment Task Force, who don't seem to be involved with this protest. Rather, it was a concerned student (who gets activist points from me, however misguided his activism is). (2) The rally was attended by four protesters and twenty journalists and echoed the tone of all of the recent Tea Party action: other than the Second Amendment rhetoric, there was a lot of discussion about  "constitutional rights being taken away," but no concrete examples of the specific rights at issue or how said rights are being infringed.


Strangest Cross-Promotion Ever?

On the heels of announcing the revolutionary breadless fried chicken and bacon sandwich (in which two pieces of fried chicken replace the bread, and which is surprisingly (and shamefully) healthier than some fast food salads), KFC née Kentucky Fried Chicken has announced Buckets for the Cure, a promotion whereby 50 cents from the purchase of each special pink bucket of fried chicken will be donated to help fight breast cancer.  

There seems to be something inconsistent about encouraging people to go out and eat lots of fried chicken in order to help prevent breast cancer. I don't think there is any definitive link between breast cancer and fried chicken (breast jokes purposely omitted), but I'm fairly certain that eating lots of fried chicken can't possibly help the overall cancer rate in our country, nor is it going to do anything positive about our national tubbiness.  But kudos to KFC for trying to do something positive and if you are going to go out and eat a bucket of fried chicken, this gives you more reason to go to KFC than one of its competitors.  Ball's in your court, Popeye's.


Best (Only?) Politics/Knicks Analogy Ever

"George W. Bush is to Barack Obama as Isiah Thomas is to Donnie Walsh."

Thank Dan Klores for that one. And check out his documentary on the mid-90's Knicks/Reggie Miller/Spike Lee rivalry. It's awesome.


Overheard in Anchorage: Early Spring 2010 Edition

Two Dudes Talking in a Bar
-"She’s really hot, but I don’t miss her.  Just dating someone who is hot isn’t enough for me anymore. Why do I need more than that all of a sudden?"
-"Because you’re not on the cast of Jersey Shore."

Two Chicks Talking in a Bar
-"Did I tell you I know someone who dated Derek Jeter?"
-"You know Mariah Carey?"

Sign of the Times
-Teen #1: "I’m not buying that cell phone--it can’t do anything, it’s just a phone."
-Teen #2: "Why would anyone want a phone that’s just a phone?"

Overheard at an Office-Warming Party
-Hipster Guy: "My band is making a video.  It’s on our website now. We were trying to do it MTV-style, but, you know, a little better and more refined."
-Non-hipster Guy:  "You mean like VH1?"

Only in Alaska: Overheard on a Dog Walk
-"Watch out, there’s a moose in the rose garden."

The Iron Horse
-Typical Anchorage Guy #1: "When was the last time you missed a First Tap at the Bear Tooth?"
-Typical Anchorage Guy #2: "It’s been a while."
-Typical Anchorage Guy #1: "You’re like the Lou Gehrig of First Tap."

Overheard in a Hallway at UAA
-Woman on cell phone: “The reason why cursive is awesome is that it's a faster way to write words.”

Two Other Dudes Talking at a Bar
-"There's an at sign [@] in this text I just got! How do you do that?! I have to press like option, shift, and go through 4 menus to get to the symbols on my phone!"
-"That's because your phone is so old.  You have a rotary cell phone."

Catching Up
-"How was your weekend?"
-"I don’t know. Talkeetna is like Vegas. I never remember what happens there."

Hanging Out With Too Many Lawyers
-"Did you hear about that ridiculous defense her attorney tried to use?"
-"Yeah, I knew all about it. I saw it on Law and Order once.  You can’t let a little thing like jurisdiction get in the way of a good courtroom drama."

Overheard during the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics
-"Who is that, the Prime Minister of Canada?"
-"No that's Wayne Gretzky."
-"He’s not the Prime Minister?"

-Short Woman at Coffee Shop: "Would your friend be interested in a short-haired girl who used to be into women but now thinks she is into men?"
-Tall Man at Coffee Shop: "Is he her type?"
-Short Woman at Coffee Shop: "I don't know, her type is women."

Overheard Political Discussion 
-Bald Guy With Giant Sideburns:  "I would have voted for 2000 John McCain, or JM2K as I like to call him."

How to Get Away With It
-"I purge my texts constantly. I've been doing that for a long time. Even before Tiger Woods."

Not Overheard, But Said Directly to Me by Someone Who Really Wants to Be In One of These
-Emma:  "I’m done with the ACLU. I’m going to rely on someone else to protect my civil liberties. Like me and my gun."


Take That, Creationism!

I had my wisdom teeth removed last week.  Yes, for the past 15 years or so I have been wandering around with extra teeth in my mouth.

Also, I'm kind of hairy.  Why do I mention this?  Because I just settled the debate:  my extra teeth + my back hair = pretty concrete proof of evolution.


My Alaska, Too

Several years ago I finished second in the Anchorage Press's haiku contest for best haiku about the PFD. (For those of you that live in America, that's the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend. More commonly known as the program by which the State pays people for living in Alaska--though as my friend Malcolm can attest, it's way more complicated than that.)  This was the haiku:

Plasma Screen TV
Brand New Refrigerator
Glad We Have Eight Kids

A few weeks ago an artist from Philadelphia contacted me.  He wanted permission to use my haiku as part of a display he was installing at an office building in Alaska.  The installation included revolving digital images of life in Alaska and text from locals and tourists (I'm a local now).  More info on the display, called My Alaska, Too, is on the artist's website. I haven't been to see it in person yet, but it looks pretty cool. My haiku is circled, er, squared, in the picture below.

Rule 11

Lindsay Lohan is suing E-Trade over a commercial featuring a baby "milkaholic" named Lindsay.

This is probably the most baseless lawsuit I have ever heard of. Some other competent attorneys agree. Lohan's lawyer should be sanctioned.  And not just because she still uses AOL. Seriously, there are a lot of bad lawyers out there. Some clues that yours might not be the best: she's still using AOL and has shitty clip art on her website. And she files baseless lawsuits that provide legitimate reasons for people to hate lawyers.


One Corey

Thoughts on the passing of Corey Haim:
  1. License to Drive was an awesome movie. But in retrospect, it seems odd that a huge part of the story involved driving to a remote roughneck burger joint. 
  2. I watched Dream A Little Dream many times; it confused the hell out of me.  Still does. And it had a  great soundtrack. I had it on cassette. This movie was also notable because it came out during the height of Corey Feldman's Michael Jackson obsession, which was really weird but didn't seem so at the time. He does a whole MJ dance sequence in the movie while dressed exactly like early 90s Michael. Oddly, in the movie, no one gave his character shit for going to high school every day dressed like Michael Jackson. No one noticed. Totally unrealistic. In my school, he would have been the Michael Jackson Guy. As I was in 4th grade when I wore my brand new Michael Jackson Thriller jacket on the first day at my new school. I'm still scarred from the teasing.  Oh, and my mom got on the bus with me to try to help. More on that saga another time.
  3. I remember being bummed that the Coreys' Blown Away (a 1992 "erotic thriller" with a very naked and slutty Nicole Eggert at the height of her hotness that I watched over and over on HBO) was overshadowed by this Blown Away, a 1994 movie about bombs and the IRA starring Jeff Bridges and Tommy Lee Jones. Back then I thought the Coreys and Nicole got shafted by those two old guys who stole the name of their movie.


It's About Time

They have finally redesigned ketchup packets. Took long enough. Introducing the Heinz Dip & Squeeze (though, technically it should be the Dip &/or Squeeze).

In other news, you can finally buy a space shuttle! Just $28 mil. I want one. I'm not too concerned about the cost, I'm more worried about where I would put it.


Quick Hits

Taking a cue from McGeez, these are things I would be blogging about if I were a better blogger:

The Palins:  They are the gift that keeps on giving; they are endlessly entertaining. Kind of like the Osbornes during the first season of their relaity show, before they got annoying and scary. Here's what's happened in just the past few days:
  1. It was revealed that the Palins have consistently failed to pay property taxes on their family cabin.
  2. MSNBC finally received a response to the FOIA request they filed seeking Todd Palin's emails.  There are over 3,000 pages of documents (awesome comprehensive searchable database here). MSNBC's conclusion (via The Ear):  The e-mails "draw a picture of a Palin administration where the governor's husband got involved in a judicial appointment, monitored contract negotiations with public employee unions, received background checks on a corporate CEO, added his approval or disapproval to state board appointments and passed financial information marked 'confidential' from his oil company employer to a state attorney."
  3. Sarah writes notes on her hands to prep for prominent speeches.
The New York Mess Mets:  The Mets are almost as much of a soap opera as the Palins at this point.  Case in point: Last summer a team executive, Tony Bernazard, took off his shirt in the locker room and and threatened to fight a bunch of minor leaguers.  Then General Manager Omar Minaya accused the writer who broke the story of only writing it because he was after Bernazard's job. That season ended with 92 losses.  This offseason hasn't been much better.  Sure, the Mets signed slugging free agent outfielder Jason Bay, but there is concern that his contract may become an albatross.  Tim Marchman's reaction to the Bay signing was probably a little over the top...but just a little. The San Francisco Chronicle had a more realistic take.  From an article discussing the Giants' signing of Mark DeRosa: "In other words, he [DeRosa] isn't Jason Bay, and he isn't going to be. In fact, now that he's a Met, Jason Bay isn't going to be Jason Bay, either." Sigh.

The Bay signing should have been the highlight of the offseason. A nice piece to build around. Instead, we will all remember the public airing of grievances over all-star centerfielder Carlos Beltran's knee surgery. It wasn't bad enough that he needed emergency surgery. No, because this is the Mets, it had to get all dramatic with the Mets accusing Beltran of having surgery without the team's permission and Beltran saying he personally received the go-ahead from Minaya directly. He said/he said. Such drama.

Pitchers and catchers report in less than two weeks and the Mets still don't have a starting catcher or a legit first baseman, no legitimate reliable starting pitchers after Johan Santana, and are still stuck with a second baseman they hate and can't seem to trade.  On top of that, the team's official day-by-day calendar contains pointed reminders of some of the worst moments in team history.  Thanks. Such is the life of a Mets fan.

The Jersey Shore:  Let's just say that every time I hear the word "situation" I start giggling. It's a problem. Especially in meetings with serious adults who don't know anything about Snooki, Ron Ron Juice, or J-Woww.

Jon Stewart on O'Reilly:  Love Jon Stewart. Love love love him. The best part of this interview is when he tells O'Reilly that he has "become the voice of sanity at Fox News, which is like being the thinnest kid at fat camp." O'Reilly also kind of bashes Glen Beck without realizing it.  Good stuff all around.


Rare Ink

There are lots of unique folks up here in the AK.  But perhaps none more so than Diana Tillion.  Known mostly for her pioneering use of octopus ink in her paintings, she was also a writer, teacher, and an active community leader.  She died a few days ago. You should read the ADN article about her. As a friend of mine put it, "That might be the best obituary I ever read."

I met her once in 2007 on a trip to Homer.  I wrote about that trip and included a snippet of our conversation:
    Diana: I'm surprised the art community hasn't embraced octopus ink more; I wish more artists would use it.
    Me: Is it expensive?
    Diana: Yes.
    Me: Is it hard to get?
    Diana: Yes.
    Me: (Thinking, "That explains it.") Um...
    Diana: But you don't even have to kill the octopus. You can remove the ink with a hypodermic needle.
    Me: Do you catch them yourself?
    Diana: Yes.
    Me: Are they hard to catch?
    Diana: Yes.
    Me: Is it hard to extract the ink?
    Diana: Yes.
    Me: Um, well, maybe all of those reasons are why more people don't use it.
    Diana: Yeah, and I'm kind of crazy.
    Me: Well, you do live in Halibut Cove and paint with octopus ink...
    Diana: (smiles and laughs) Yeah. 


    For Reals?

    At first I thought this was a joke. Apparently it's real. Sigh.


    Early January Overheard In Anchorage

    -Hipster Guy at Coffee Shop to Other Hipster Guy at Coffee Shop: "At least your cyberstalking is paying off by bringing you closer to people."

    -Woman at Party Describing One of Her Favorite Writers: "She's big on the internet, but in a good way--not in a nipple slip sort of way."


    Dontcha Think

    I've been really busy and haven't had much time to blog. I've been meaning to write a post explaining why I've been so busy, but I've been too busy.  Isn't that ironic?* I don't really know. What I do know is that it is most certainly not a Catch-22.**

    *I've always wondered why that Alanis Morisette/Dave Coulier (funny Uncle Joey from Full House) thing isn't a bigger deal. It should be one of the biggest celebrity scandals of all time, right?  Think about it : Uncle Joey was the guy that broke Alanis' heart. Unlce Joey! He was the guy from the song! And that song was HUGE when it first came out. HUGE! At the time, would anyone have guessed that she was singing about going down on Uncle Joey in a theatre? No way. Maaaaybe, we would have believed it was about Uncle Jesse. Maybe. But Uncle Joey was not even in the realm of possibility. I can't think of a bigger surprise. Yet, we still don't care. Maybe it's because they are Canadian.

    **Inside joke.

    Sadly, my excuse is not exciting in the least. I have a new job, and blogging from there doesn't seem appropriate--it wasn't technically appropriate at my last job either, but I felt like I could make a much stronger free expression argument under those circumstances.  I'm also teaching again this semester, so most of my free time is spent preparing for the two classes I'm responsible for. That leaves me with not a lot of time for my little internet writing hobby.  Still, I post more frequently than Myster does, and I feel pretty good about that.*  McGeez has also slowed down.  What is it? Are we getting too old to blog? I don't know if that's the reason for this writing downturn, but I definitely feel much older these days. Case in point: I now prefer shirts with a button-down collar.  Sigh.

    *But she has a better excuse



    Nothing's Shocking

    McGwire did steroids; Palin does Fox. Too bad those aren't reversed, because that would be awesome.