Friday, December 23, 2011

Ron Paul Rant: Is Dr. Paul Racist or Just Incompetent?

Let's give Ron Paul the benefit of the doubt. Take him at his word that he didn't know these racist views were communicated in his newsletters. Ok, so maybe he really is not racist. Then he's an incompetent leader. If you're oblivious to and can't control what is written in your own political newsletter, how can you manage our great nation, Dr. Paul? It takes pretty superior communication skills to be president of the United States.

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One of my fairly liberal friends, tired of Obama's broken promises, has decided to listen to Chicken Little and vote for Ron Paul. His argument is that since civilization is on the brink of collapse, we should ignore Dr. Paul's social conservatism and jump on board his ark before we all drown.

Hold up. I'm not letting fear mongers get to me. This planet has had many civilizations collapse and yet people are still here. Since I was born in 1970 I've heard over and over that our great nation is on the verge of collapse. And yes, it really does look like it this time. But it really did look like it that time too. And that time before. And that time before that.

I'm tired of rich propagandists in both parties freaking everyone out with their extremist statements about how if we don't support their guy civilization will end. No it won't. The ability for them to live in their mansions and to pay for any material thing they want on this earth might end, but humanity will continue no matter who we vote for in November 2012. Humans are pretty good at figuring out this life on Earth thing. I might have to learn how to garden and God forbid shoot a gun, but hey, that sounds better than drinking the koolaid either party is handing out right now.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In Praise of Debate: I Miss Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens is dead and I am sad.

I never took debate in high school. I regret it. I would have been a go-getter debater. I might have actually bothered showing up to school if I had an activity to participate in as interesting as debate. Instead at school I stewed and at home I argued with my dad. Got myself kicked out of the house when I was eighteen. I wonder where I would be today if I had taken the opportunity to hone my skills for good by joining a debate team rather than for bad by yelling at my dad.

I love to argue but I hate to fight. My problem is I want everyone to like me. I've wisened up a bit as my life has evolved. At forty-one I know it's impossible to please all people. So I've decided to still try to get everyone to like me but not by pleasing them. I want them to like me even when they disagree with me.

Wow. Looking at me you wouldn't suspect I'm the type of person who is very hard on herself. My elastic waist Mom pants and my Ugg boots that are really slippers with a hard sole make me look like someone who enjoys comfort and ease. Not like someone who sets herself up for perfect failure when it comes to something as tricky as interpersonal relationships.

I was recently invited to join a secret group on Facebook. I had been invited to another secret group, which I nearly got myself kicked out of for being so argumentative, but it was easy to figure out why I was invited to that group. It's a parenting advice group and anyone within earshot of me has a pretty good idea I like to talk about my kid and what the heck I'm exactly supposed to DO with her. So that makes sense.

This other group, it took me a minute to figure it out. Lots of bickering. Lots of histrionics. Lots of polticial extremism. I see. One of my friends thinks I'm a loudmouth.

I couldn't have felt more pride. Really? Someone thinks I'm a loudmouth? I'd always admired people like Christopher Hitchens, Bill Maher, Bill Hicks, Chris Rock, Matt Taibbi. Smart, funny people who are more interested in telling the truth than making you feel comfortable. I don't always agree with any of them. Which is true with everyone. I've never known someone I always agree with. But that doesn't mean I don't want to be around them. I've learned so much and strengthened my own opinions by arguing with other passionate loudmouths.

So here's to polemicists like Christopher Hitchens. I'm sad to see him go. We need more good debaters like him. I'm evidently not the only one who thinks so.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

News You Can Trust

The Onion, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report. Satirical news outlets are among the remaining few telling the truth these days. The court jester was once the only fool in the kingdom who had sense enough to use humor to criticize the ruler.

Take a few minutes to browse The Onion's website, watch a couple clips of "The Daily Show," or "The Colbert Report" online and you'll be infinitely more informed than you'll be watching most 24/7 television news outlets.

Except for "The Rachel Maddow Show." I go to Ms. Maddow when I need a smart, well-researched, and thoughtful civics lessons. Here's one of my recent favorites.

Go, Rachel! Fox News, here's an example of how to intelligently criticize the president.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Rest in Peace, Christopher Hitchens

"Only an open conflict of ideas and principles can produce any clarity." -- Christopher Hitchens. Rest in peace. One of my favorite modern thinkers. I didn't always agree with him, but that was kind of the point.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Who Should I Vote For in 2012?

President Obama, you wanted to bring us together, to get Republicans and Democrats to somehow find agreement despite our ideological differences. Congratulations. Mission accomplished. You have brought us together, not to hold hands and sing "Kumbaya," or to solve our dire economic problems, but you've managed to unite us in distrust of you for supporting this horrible bill. I never thought I'd live to see these words, "[Senator Rand] Paul was backed by Senator Dianne Feinstein."

"It's something so radical that it would have been considered crazy had it been pushed by the Bush administration," said Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch. "It establishes precisely the kind of system that the United States has consistently urged other countries not to adopt. At a time when the United States is urging Egypt, for example, to scrap its emergency law and military courts, this is not consistent."

President Obama, it looks like you're trying not to be the next Jimmy Carter. I grew up during Carter's era. You, sir, are no Jimmy Carter. He did what was right, ignoring critics who said he was too weak, regardless of its effect on his winning another election.

President Obama, if you do not veto this bill, you have lost my vote.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Armchair Radical: First Runner Up Person of the Year 2011

Time Magazine

Born in 1970, I was too young to protest the Vietnam War, to burn my bra with fellow feminists, to lock arms with my African-American brothers and sisters during the Civil Rights Era, or to do any meaningful protesting with my LGBTQ friends, other than getting called to the principal's office when I was a sophomore for screaming, "Fuck You!" at a boy for calling my friend a fag as we walked by him in the hallway. The three of us--a nerdy/punkish/hippie girl, an artsy/androgenously dressed boy, and a semi-popular jock--sat with the principal--an African-American woman in charge of a predominately white suburban school. She let us take turns voicing our opinions, allowing us to leave only after the boy apologized to my friend for calling him a viscious name and I apologized to the principal for swearing in her school.

Other than that, I rarely ever publically voiced my opinions about things that matter to me until I joined Facebook a few years ago. I discovered an easy way for me to speak my mind without uttering a word or leaving the comfort of my chair. An introspective lazy person's dream. I took to armchair radicalism like a three-eyed fish to a poisoned pond. I even wrote an essay about it. I need to search for it in my old files so I can share it here, but I don't have time now. I need to leave to pick up my kindergartener from school.

So I'm quite happy Time Magazine has chosen "The Protester" as Person of the Year.

It makes me want to take to the streets and join them. My inner-hippie heart is stoked that radicals are once again relevent. And listened to. And taken seriously. It's no longer just our drugs mainsteam society wants, but our ideas and our practical solutions to personal, family, community, national, and global problems.

Here's what Time editor Richard Stengel thinks:

"For capturing and highlighting a global sense of restless promise, for upending governments and conventional wisdom, for combining the oldest of techniques with the newest of technologies to shine a light on human dignity and, finally, for steering the planet on a more democratic though sometimes more dangerous path for the 21st century, the Protester is Time's 2011 Person of the Year."

I don't have the time or the energy to join them, so I do what I can with my Facebook rants and blog posts. It's not as cool as actually being out there in the streets with them, but I like to think in my small way letting others know that regular people like me--kind, smart, quirky, stubborn, self-centered, empathetic, contradictory people with opinions and the love of words to share them--are not the dirty, crazy lunatics activists are sometimes sterotyped to be, but also moms with dirty houses to clean and crazy schedules to juggle, trying to get by like everyone else--helps the cause.

And I'm far from the only one. It's refreshing to see so many of my friends share their opinions and express their ideas freely. It can only make this world a better place.

We don't all have time to leave the house to join others in protest. I therefore nominate the Armchair Radical as first-runner-up Person of the Year.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Don't Go the Cry It Out Route

Just the other day I blogged about my idea for the best way to get a child to go to sleep. And prevent war. Yeah, it's kind of a stretch, but I still stand by my unsupported claims about how to achieve world peace through nurturing parenting.

Then today my friend shared this post from Psychology Today supporting my claims. Well, not the world peace part, but we'll get to that some day. The part where I suggest that leaving infants to cry it out is not the best way to get them to go to sleep at night. Actually, the author has an even more valid argument since she supports her ideas with actual research.

So yeah, what she says.

And as always, remember, whatever any so-called expert, friend, or random blogger tells you, you are the best mom for your family. Not them. Not me. You. Trust your instincts and enjoy!

Defiance: A Review

I finally saw "Defiance" last night. Really good. I hated that scene where the mob uses their rifles to bash in the German's head. I wanted to scream out, "No! No! You are the good guys! You are above vengeance!" But that's the point, isn't it? Good job, Edward Zwick.

Liev Schreiber's character Zus kicks ass in a Han Soloesque, oblivious-to-what-others-think way. It figures I'd link the two. I wanted Han Solo to be my boyfriend when I was in third grade. When I was in my twenties, I wanted Liev Schreiber's character Andrew to be my boyfriend when I saw him in "Walking and Talking," the movie I love but everyone I recommend it to seems to think is just awful. My brother used to tease me when our mom would tell me I should write movie reviews for a living that whenever I'd rave about a movie most sane people would understand that to mean they should absolutely avoid seeing the film.

It looks like my brother was right. While making sure I had the proper spelling of Schreiber's name, I checked the Wikipedia post about the film and discovered many critcs disagree with my opinion of it. Rotton tomatoes gives it only a 57%. Really?

Were those critics all in the bathroom during that scene where Zus waltzes onto the field, climbs aboard the German tank and, despite a huge rivalry between brothers that had previously caused him to abandon his family and their fellow refugees, saves them from slaughter? Did they blink during that scene where his brother Tuvia executes the family of the police officer who murdered their parents, but soon realizes revenge is not as sweet as surviving with your decent human values intact? Did they get up for popcorn during that scene where Lilka, Tuvia's love interest, appeals to his human emotions to spare the rape victim and her child from camp banishment after he discovers the hidden child despite having firmly stated that pregnancies were absolutely forbidden in the camp, even though it was completely impractical to think they could care for an infant when they could barely keep from starving and freezing themselves?

I understand after reading director Zwick's response to critcism of his film why I like it so much, "Defiance is not a simple fight between good and evil. The Bielskis weren't saints. They were flawed heroes, which is what makes them so real and so fascinating. They faced any number of difficult moral dilemmas that the movie seeks to dramatise: Does one have to become a monster to fight monsters? Does one have to sacrifice his humanity to save humanity?"

Ambiguity at its finest. Just like another war film that hasn't gotten the props it deserves.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sweet Jane Three Way

Lou Reed, live in Paris 1974

Cowboy Junkies, 1988 official video

Ian McCulloch, April 2002

So what's your favorite version of this song? Share a link to it in the comments section below.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sex is Natural, Sex is Fun: C-c-c-c-c-c-c'mon!

A friend of mine was giving me shit for being a feminist. He equates feminism with sexism. I'm sure some feminists are sexist penis-haters as he was implying, just as some African-Americans, in particular one of my ex-girlfriends, are racist Afrophobes, but please don't judge me for what some other crazy person thinks. It shocked me the first time my ex told me she'd never consider dating another black person. But I soon realized that was sadly one of the least crazy ideas floating around inside her head and so I shrugged it off as her personal quirk and not a quirk commonly shared by other six foot tall gorgeous black lesbians, and especially not by the African-American community in general.

So yes, I am a feminist. And no, I'm not a man-hater. I think my dating record has clearly shown I am an equal-opportunity annoying girlfriend. It's what comes out of your mouth that pisses me off, not what's in between your legs.

What got my friend's panties in a wad was my comment to his post about how people who can't afford to take care of their kids should stop popping out more as a way to get government handouts. I'm sure he didn't appreciate my know-it-all tone.

"People have an evolutionary imperative to copulate. Human beings are just apes with a voicebox. If we're serious that we want people to be responsible for not bringing unwanted children into the world, free condoms should be available to anyone, anytime. Don't play it like women are conniving sluts trying to rip men off. Sure, there are probably some women in the world like that, but certainly not most. If I'm wrong I guess I just hang out with decent folks. But don't go blaming women for having sex. Sex is as natural as eating, drinking, and breathing. If we don't have sex, our species dies."

He responded that he never made any gender-specific claims and countered with, "My biggest grip with feminists is that they seem to constantly look for a way to be offended."

Now wait a minute. I am constantly looking for ways to be offended, I'll give you that. But I don't think it's because I'm a card carrying feminist. I would like to think I'm socially evolved enough that I would also be an overly sensitive complainer if I were born with what in my mind is merely a very swollen clitoris and a flatter chest. Oh, and a fuzzier body, but in my case that would only be slightly. Check my medicine cabinet for my facial hair grooming implements if you like the next time you're using my john.

So I countered with, "I can't speak for all feminists, but I've always been very pro-penis. And pro-vulva. I am angry about many things in our culture, but I am not angry at men in general or at penises specifically. Penii?

I don't think feminism is equal to sexism. Feminism is not a belief that women are better than men, or deserve more rights than men (including child care laws, which I agree with you have historically been far too slanted in favor of mothers). Feminism is the belief that women, who have historically had fewer rights than men in our culture (except in the areas of child care, as you point out), deserve to have equal rights as men. Not better. Not special. Just equal.

I am a feminist, but even more so, I am a humanist. I believe all people, regardless of secondary sex characteristics, should be treated with the same regard, respect, fairness.

That said, the reason I specifically said, 'Don't play it like women are conniving sluts trying to rip men off' is because often when people blame welfare recipients for popping out babies as a means to gain free money from the government, it's women they're talking about. But you did not specifically mention women in your status update, so let me rephrase my first comment so it's less sexist sounding:

People have an evolutionary imperative to copulate. Human beings are just apes with a voicebox. If we're serious that we want people to be responsible for not bringing unwanted children into the world, free condoms should be available to anyone, anytime. Don't play it like people are conniving sluts trying to rip others off. Sure, there are probably some people in the world like that, but certainly not most. If I'm wrong I guess I just hang out with decent folks. But don't go blaming people for having sex. Sex is as natural as eating, drinking, and breathing. If we don't have sex, our species dies.

How's that?

Also, I was trying to point out that women like sex too, and there's nothing wrong with that. This is a birth control issue, not a sex issue. Often in our culture it's assumed that women just have sex to have babies, but many women have sex because it fucking feels good, not because they want to support a child. Just like men. Just like anyone. Sex is natural, sex is fun. Oh crap, now I'm quoting George Michael."

So I woke up the day after engaging in this fun argument and read these words in the book, "Spontanenous Happiness" by Dr. Andrew Weil:

"For years, oxytocin was thought of only as the hormone that stimulates dilation of the uterine cervix and uterine contractions at the onset of childbirth as well as the production of breast milk soon after. Like all endocrine hormones, however, oxytocin has a broad spectrum of action, including effects on the brain and emotions. It is now commonly referred to as the hormone of love, trust, and pair bonding. Touch promotes the release of oxytocin, which in turn causes the release of dopamine in the brain's reward center...Just as we need to eat diverse nutrients and engage in a range of physical activities, human beings need a variety of touch experiences on a regular basis. These might include friendly handshakes, hugs, physical contact with companion animals, massage sessions, and passionate sex. As long as both participants engage willingly, there are few experiences that offer human beings a more profound opportunity for improving and maintaining emotional well-being." (Pg. 123-124)

I kid George Michael, but now I see he's on to something.

Friday, December 9, 2011

I'm a Better Mom Than You Are: Getting Your Kid to Go the Fuck to Sleep

I'd like to start a new series of posts called "I'm a Better Mom Than You Are". Think Amy Sedaris gets it on with Mr. Rogers. So here we go. The first entry is about how to get your kid to go the fuck to sleep.

We'll start with an homage to the inimitable Samuel L. Jackson, whose work I blatantly stole for this post:

During a Facebook argument over which of us is the best mom, I mean sharing parenting ideas for getting our kids and ourselves to sleep well at night, a friend shared this article that explains the evolutionary reasons why many kids who live in western cultures put up such a fight at bedtime.

If you don't want to read the entire article, here's a good summary:

"When your child screams at being put to bed alone at night, your child is not trying to test your will! Your child is screaming, truly, for dear life. Your child is screaming because we are all genetically hunter-gatherers, and your child's genes contain the information that to lie alone in the dark is suicide."

I'm pleased scientists are finally supporting my hunches. If I were a sociologist and not a slacker, the hypothesis for my first study would be this: Cultures with the least amount of violence have the greatest amount of children who do not sleep alone at night. It makes perfect sense to me, but in order for most westerners to take me seriously I'd have to test it and have it published in a peer-reviewed journal. That's not going to happen. Since I am a slacker, we'll have to make do with my hunches and a haphazard blog post written during potato peeling breaks. By the way, recipes are greatly appreciated for what my family of three might do with a twenty pound sack of potatoes.

I've always thought it was odd that some people think it's odd for a child to not enjoy sleeping alone. To me, it's just common sense. People, especially vulnerable children, want to be close to other people for protection. It doesn't mean they're spoiled. It means they're smart.

We evolved from ancestors who were subject to predation. They had to fight off lions and tigers and bears - oh my - much more often than my little dorothy needs to today, living in suburban Kansas. But that fear, and that instinct to surround ourselves with kin because together we're more powerful than we are alone, is in our genes. When our tired bodies and sleepy brains get ready to go to bed at night, they don't know it's inside a securely locked house within a safe community, and that the only animal higher on the food chain than ourselves we'll probably ever encounter lives at the zoo.

I guess I was lucky that my family didn't have very much money so I shared a bedroom with one or two sisters until I was twelve. I have always slept better with another body in bed, be it sister, dog, cat, husband, kid.

So here's where my hypothesis kicks in. I have noticed I'm a radical pacifist compared to most Americans. My first grade teacher would say I'm a cry baby. I say I'm mindful of my heightened sensitivity and I enjoy expressing myself. But I've noticed whenever I'm talking to someone about violence in general and war specifically, I'm always the weaniest of us both. I guess I need to hang out with more Quakers.

I suspect the reason I'm so squeamish about violence and opposed to war has to do with my feeling of interconnectedness with all living beings. I can't remember ever not feeling connected to everyone around me. As the baby sister to five much older siblings, my mom tells me I was nearly always being held by someone. And sure, sometimes they'd drop me on my head on the concrete sidewalk outside our house, but there were rare moments when I didn't have arms around me. I shared a bedroom with two of my sisters when I was an infant. Every night when I'd wake up, my sister Kit, who is nearly eleven years older than I am, would rise, change my diaper, give me a bottle, and bring me back into her bed with her so we could both get some sleep. Without complaint. As if I were her living doll. I'm very lucky, and I know that. Who wouldn't grow up to have such warm feelings of interconnection with others being raised like that?

I've tried to raise our daughter in a similar, very physically close, affectionate way. Katie goes to sleep in her own bed because we get sleepy later than she does. Usually. But sometimes she starts out in our king sized bed. If she wakes up in the middle of the night in her own room, she comes crawling into bed with us. By us I mean her mom, dad, one of our dogs and our cat. Lots of warm bodies. Yet I often don't even wake up when she climbs in bed with us. I'll awaken in the morning to a snuggle fest. It's really quite nice. Try it.

When she was still a baby, Katie was almost always already asleep when we put her in her laundry baskinette in between us in bed, and later her crib, and then when she woke up we'd bring her to bed with us. It has worked well for us.

Of course I think my own child is God's gift, but I also try to view her personality objectively. It's more interesting to think critically of our loved ones and realize we love them just as much and even more because of the things we find to critique. So objectively speaking, I think Katie's a compassionate kid. Or let's put it this way, because I think all kids are compassionate, just some have been encouraged to express it more than others. Katie has a highly evolved sense of compassion.

For example, today I was the reading helper in her class. One of her classmates had a meltdown, screaming, crying, stomping. He was sent to the safe seat to cry it out. Which is understandable since he was disrupting the class. But what does that teach our children? Ignore the person who is hurting. Let's go about our business. We have better things to do than to be concerned about that crying kid.

Because I went to public school myself and learned to conform somewhat to social norms, I sat there quietly, waiting for him to calm himself. I wanted to rush over, throw my arms around him and tell him it would be ok. But I'm supposed to keep my hands to myself, something I've had trouble doing since it was first reflected on my first grade report card when my teacher gave me a minus in that box.

But I couldn't help but smile when Katie was reprimanded not once, not twice, but five times by the teacher. "Katie, look up here!" "Katie, quit looking at him." "Katie, eyes up here." "Katie, HERE!" "Katie..." I could see Katie champing at the bit to break from the circle and go throw her arms around her hurting classmate.

Later at home, we talked about the situation with her classmate. I asked her how she felt. "I felt sad for him. He didn't want to be in the safe seat. He's a good kid. He just make a mistake."

I see my propaganda is working on her. I felt like a soccer mom watching my kid score the winning goal, only there were no losers in the game.

I have no proof, but it just seems right that if someone is used to having arms around them they'd think hugging and loving others is the most natural thing on earth. And therefore conclude that the opposite of hugging and loving, killing and hating, is an abomination. So there you go: the least warlike cultures have the most physically held children.

Some of the moms on the Facebook forum suggested the Ferber method worked for their family to get their kids to go the fuck to sleep. I don't have it in me to let a child cry it out. I'm 41 and I certainly wouldn't want to be locked in a bed alone crying myself to sleep. I've always found that trying to think of things from my child's perspective has led me to the best answers when I'm struggling with a parenting problem. And better yet, empathy leads to kids going the fuck to sleep.

So mutha, please. I don't really think you're a shitty parent. I'm trying to provoke people with the title of this post because I like to get a rise out of people. And I desperately need to boost my pageviews. I honestly don't think I'm a better mom than anyone, just the best mom for my family. And you're the best mom for your family. Maybe you don't like little feet kicking you in the ribs at night or blowing hot stinky candy breath in your face. Maybe you've found other ways to calm your child's nighttime fears. That's great. My way is not it or the highway. But I'm sick of so-called experts like Ferber telling parents they'll spoil their children if they comfort their normal nighttime fears.

The best parenting advice I have: ignore everyone, including me, but trust your instincts. And trust your child's instincts. They're there to keep our species alive.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dog is My Co-Pilot

Katie and I were discussing what we'd like to draw on our Christmas cards. A Christmas tree! Santa! A snowman! A star!

"A baby Jesus in a manger!" I suggested.

"What's dat?"

"Jesus' mommy gave birth to him in a stable with all the animals around, and she placed him inside a box called a 'manger' which was used to store the animals' food."

"It's a good thing the animals didn't eat baby Jesus!"

I laughed. I didn't have the heart to say aloud what I thought, "Yes, but I bet Jesus ate them."

Or maybe not. I have no proof of what Jesus ate or didn't eat. I recall my mother telling me that Jesus' last meal before he was executed by the state consisted of bread and wine. Now I'm as much a fan of fresh, warm homemade bread as the next person. And a nice glass of wine among devoted friends, hells yeah. But for my last supper? I'd ask for something a little more substantial, like the veggie combo at my favorite local Ethiopian restaurant.

Although it looks like Jesus had connections since one of the Three Wise Men was probably Ethiopian, I don't think the veggie combo would travel well in the desert, so I can see why they brought gold, frankincense and myrrh instead. And why Jesus stuck with bread for his last supper. Who wants to be up all night with vomiting and diarrhea before saving humanity?

But just because he chose bread for his last meal doesn't prove Jesus was a vegetarian. Even though a big symbol of Christianity is the bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ, I'm pretty sure he dabbled in fish too, as is evident from the minivan bumpers driving around my suburban neighborhood. If nothing else, Jesus encouraged the eating of fish flesh when he fed the multitude.

I found this interesting article while I was doing some research to make sure I wasn't feeding Katie a line of bullshit about the whole baby Jesus in a manger story. It argues that Jesus probably wasn't a vegetarian. The weird thing is, Adolph Hitler probably was. Here's someone who sits at the opposite end of Jesus on the compassion spectrum, yet he followed perhaps a more compassionate diet.

Some say Hitler would wince and avert his eyes while watching movies with scenes of animal cruelty. This person who, because he viewed their cultural and religious differences to be so different from his own, oversaw the extermination of 6 million people who shared more DNA in common with him than the animals he could not bear to see suffer.

The creepy thing is I can kind of see his point. God, no. Not the murdering my fellow human beings or segregating groups of people and taking away their human rights based on prejudicial assumptions. But I find myself aghast when I encounter acts of cruelty against animals, and yet I've become rather blasé when the violence is directed against my own species. I was watching "Apocalypse: World War II" with my nephew and Will last night. It's a documentary with actual footage of the war. Gruesome, bloody, horrifying. Everything you'd expect to see.

Except for one scene which about did me in. The scene where Soviet soldiers line up and release their anti-tank dogs. These war dogs were specially trained to run under tanks, detonating the explosive devices attached to their bodies. Kamakazi dogs. Oh wait, I'm mixing up my sides. So let me get this straight? Soviet soldiers fought German tanks using German Shepherd dogs to perform suicide bombing acts similar to their Japanese Kamikaze enemies? Oh my, people are so mixed up.

But look:

Dogs are not mixed up. Which is why I love them so.

With dogs, their paws are muddy, but their morals are not. They bite their enemies, yes, but they're also loyal beyond compare. They'll lick your face and make you laugh, expecting nothing in return but to feel like they're a necessary part of your pack.

I'm a born-again dog lover, so my love for them is fierce and unswaying. I came into dog loving late in life, at age 30, when my girlfriend at the time convinced me to adopt a dog from the pound. We had a family dog when I was a kid, but he lived on a chain next to his dog house the first four years of his life. When we moved to a house with a fenced-in back yard, he at least got to run around outside, but still, rarely with us inside. People live inside. Animals live outside. Those were my dad's rules. He'd bend them slightly if I whined enough, "But Daddy it's sooooooo cold outside," I'd say with my nose pressed up to the sliding-glass door leading to our back yard. We could let the dog in the basement overnight if it was particularly cold, but never in the family room. Dogs are not family.

Yeah right. It's my house now, and when my dad visits I seldom tell them to get down when one of my dogs inevitably ends up sitting right next to Dad on the couch, leaning on him as if to say, "You may pet me now."

I love pack animals, and yet what I respect most about people like Jesus is their ability to get people to think critically and not follow the flock. A liberal Facebook friend of mine posted something about how he's sick of his conservative friends comparing President Obama to Hitler. It got us talking about Godwin's Law, which, because I had seen that documentary about anti-tank dogs, reminded me of the whole Hitler was a vegetarian thing.

As a flexitarian animal lover myself, I find it fascinating that the person modern humans tend to associate with pure evil was a flexitarian too. Actually he called himself a vegetarian, but it sounds like he liked his sausages and caviar a bit too much to abstain from meat entirely. It just baffles me that someone who so willingly promoted the genocide of fellow human beings would turn up his nose to eating animals.

This lead to another Facebook friend, a big Ron Paul supporter, asking, "What's evil?"

I personally think evil is an idea made up to control people into doing what they're told by people in power. I recommend reading Nietzsche's "Beyond Good an Evil". Very mind opening. But I'd better watch out or people will start comparing me to Hitler.

Conservative Friend went on about how US citizens who are deemed threats or sympathizers are subject to getting shot these days.

These days? Not just these days, all days. Shepherds are just as insecure as us sheep and they feel threatened when we don't blindly follow the herd. Just ask Jesus. People in power kill people for espousing radical ideas about loving your enemy.

And then my Facebook friends and I encountered Carleton's Law, the one that states that all good internet discussions must end on a k.d. lang note. In this case, I simply cannot think of herd mentality without this wonderfully goofy song getting stuck in my head. k.d. lang knows how to put it into perspective for us. Remember her? She's the one who got in trouble for her support of those pesky vegetarian proselytizers PETA.