This is the place to contribute jokes, lines, and humorous anecdotes that really or supposedly happened.

Dehumanizing your opponent

Conservative commentator Michael Gerson draws some lines that cut through both existing parties and potentially every ideology:

One of the most significant divisions in American public life is not between the Democrats and the Republicans; it is between the Ugly Party and the Grown-Up Party.

This distinction came to mind in the case of Washington Post blogger David Weigel, who resigned last week after the leak of messages he wrote disparaging figures he covered. Weigel is, by most accounts, a bright, hardworking young man whose private communications should have been kept private. But the tone of the e-mails he posted on a liberal e-mail list is instructive. When Rush Limbaugh went to the hospital with chest pain, Weigel wrote, “I hope he fails.” Matt Drudge is an “amoral shut-in” who should “set himself on fire.” Opponents are referred to as “ratf — -ers” and “[expletive] moronic.”

This type of discourse is an odd combination between the snideness of the cool, mean kids in high school and the pettiness of Richard Nixon rambling on his tapes. Weigel did not intend his words to be public. But they display the defining characteristic of ugly politics — the dehumanization of political opponents.

Unlike Weigel, most members of the Ugly Party — liberal and conservative — have little interest in keeping their views private. “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh,” Ann Coulter once said, “is he did not go to the New York Times building.” Radio host Mike Malloy suggested that Glenn Beck “do the honorable thing and blow his brains out.” Conservatives carry signs at Obama rallies: “We Came Unarmed (This Time).” Liberals carried signs at Bush rallies: “Save Mother Earth, Kill Bush.” Says John Avlon, author of “Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America,” “If you only take offense when the president of your party is compared to Hitler, then you’re part of the problem.”

The rhetoric of the Ugly Party shares some common themes: urging the death or sexual humiliation of opponents or comparing a political enemy to vermin or diseases. It is not merely an adolescent form of political discourse; it encourages a certain political philosophy — a belief that rivals are somehow less than human, which undermines the idea of equality and the possibility of common purposes.

via Michael Gerson – The Ugly Party vs. the Grown-Up Party.

Wanting your opponents dead or sexually humiliated and comparing them to vermin or diseases is, indeed, a long-standing trope of the vilest rhetoric.  It was a commonplace of Nazi propaganda, comparing the Jews, for example, to vermin, who thus need to be exterminated.  OK, maybe you can find examples of Luther talking this way about the pope, but that hardly excuses it.  The key point is that such rhetoric dehumanizes your opponents, and if you do not consider them human, then it is, in fact, easy to kill them, sexually humiliate them, exterminate them like vermin, or wipe them out like diseases.

I think you can be an extremely militant and argumentative conservative or liberal while still avoiding this fault.  Can we agree that it is wrong to dehumanize our opponents?

The savior of country music?

As many of you know, I’m a fan of country music. I’ve even written a now out of print book about it. But lately, I’ve stopped listening to it. What’s on the radio is too painful for me to handle. Maybe I am missing some good songs and artists. If so, let me know, since, as I have said, I have basically stopped following the genre. I’m not alone in lamenting the state of country music. There is a website devoted to the subject entitled Saving Country Music.

But the guy running it, Kyle ‘The Triggerman’ Coroneos, has identified a new savior of country music. And it’s Ruby Jane, the classically-Christian-educated home schooled 15 year old who is one of my daughter’s prize on-line Latin student! (Remember? I blogged about her.) Here is part of the Triggerman’s review of one of her live performances, which he illustrates with videos (including one of her singing by herself):

I’m convinced. Ruby Jane was sent to earth by God to save country music.

All accolades I lapped on the 15-year-old fiddle-playing fenom when I said You Need Ruby Jane In Your Life were validated, if not proved to be too tempered after seeing her live at Dallas’s historic Kessler Theater on Friday.

Really, I don’t know what to say. There are no words to express Ruby Jane’s talent level, because it is nothing like I have ever seen before, in a musician of any age. And I’m not just talking about her fiddle playing, I’m talking about all of it: songwriting, showmanship, singing, even her guitar playing. And overriding all of this effusive talent is a passion for the music second to none.

Ruby Jane is filled with the Holy Ghost of country music my friends. Its the only explanation. This is evidenced by Ruby’s tendency to shout out wildly on stage. Her music mixes jazz elements with country, giving it a very Western Swing feel, and these shouts work similar to the sighs and such you hear on old Bob Wills recordings. I’d seen Ruby do this in videos, but watching her live, you catch on that these shouts are involuntary, not a stage bit to emphasize the music. Something bigger is at play in her when she plays, and her shouting is an ecstatic reflex to her euphoria for the vibrations that create sound to the human ear.

Ruby Jane makes hokey songs cool, like Willie Nelson’s “Valentine.” She makes heady songs accessible, like Django Reinhardt’s “Minor Swing.” Her music is transcendent. Put a 10-year-old girl, or an 80-year-old man, a pop country devotee or a gutter punk in a Ruby Jane show, and they will all be mesmerized.

Recently Ruby has added a new wrinkle to her show, which is just taking the acoustic guitar and singing alone. If her other attributes weren’t enough, she’s added a unique, beautiful, vintage, and heartbreakingly soulful singing style.

Ruby Jane is a fighter. When she slung her guitar behind her back and grabbed her fiddle to take a blazing solo, she looked like a warrior. She’s fearless. Anything she wants to do, she does. I’d hate to be in a position to have to say “no” to her about anything. She’s principled, and refreshingly straightforward and honest. She’s hardworking. What I’m saying is Ruby Jane has character, keeping watch over this ridiculous amount of talent.

I truly am speechless about this girl. I’m tongue tied and vacant for eloquent ways to explain how I feel about her music. But I will say this: And if you’re reading this with one eye or have the TV on in the background, stop whatever else your doing, I need you’re undivided attention.

Ruby Jane needs us, and we need Ruby Jane. I am not asking you, I am not pleading with you. I am ordering you to rise up in support of this young girl. We are the grass roots. The shattered pieces of the heart of country music are sheltered in each one of our souls, waiting for the day when the pieces can be united again as one. It is a long fall from the top of the high-rises on Music Row. But where the grass grows there’s a strong foundation, that weathers the fads of popular culture, and nurtures artists from the bottom up.

This is one of those instances when the situation transcends silly arguments about preference in music style, and it becomes about life, and about the principles we all hold dear. Ruby Jane is 15-years-old, with young fans. As adults, we look our children, our grandchildren, our nieces and nephews straight in the eyes and tell them that they can be whatever they want to be with talent and hard work, and that heartfelt genuineness is rewarded.

But in the music world, mediocrity is rewarded more often than not. Imagine a world where the worst scientists were rewarded just because they were the most physically attractive, or where a middle-of-the-road football team was given the Super Bowl trophy because they were the most popular. This is the world of music these days. But the tide is turning.

But we can’t let this happen to Ruby Jane, and all the other top talents that we are so blessed with. So tell a friend. And then tell another about Ruby Jane. They may have the radio and the record labels, but we have each other.

In the long term, I like our odds.

But really, watch and listen to this video, as well as the others posted at the link. What she is doing is fusing jazz and country music, to the benefit of both. Jazz can be abstract and cerebral; country music can bring it down to earth and keep it melodic. Country music can be simplistic and cornpone; jazz can make it complex and sophisticated. Bringing these two genres together is a strikingly good combination. At any rate, the girl can just play:

HT: Joanna Hensley

The BBQ Song

Speaking of road food, as we did the other day, the very best regional cuisine in my opinion is BBQ. It exists in an exuberant variety of styles and sauces and meats that are distinct to each region of the South. Rich Shipe sent me this video of a song that just about says and shows it all, including the important point that BBQ is not a verb but a noun!

(If the video isn’t coming up on your browser, hit “comments” and it will.)

Realizing that this will really stir up a controversy, what, in your experience, are the best BBQ joints?

I’ll go first: BEST CHAINS: Famous Dave’s (ribs); Rudy’s (brisket); BEST RIBS: Big Dawg’s, in Vinita, OK; BEST BRISKET: Head Country, in Ponca City, OK

Supremes say college Christian groups must admit non-Christians

A strange ruling from the Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a public university can refuse to officially recognize a Christian student group that bars membership to those who violate its beliefs.

In a 5-4 decision split along ideological lines, the high court agreed with a decision by the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco to refuse to grant a campus chapter of the Christian Legal Society because it expressly barred gays and non-Christians.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, John Paul Stevens and Anthony M. Kennedy, the court’s frequent swing vote, agreed with the school. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas sided with the Christian group.

The school said the group’s membership requirements violated the university’s anti-discrimination policies, which require groups on campus to allow members regardless of sexual orientation or religion. The group claimed that the school’s policies violated its First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of religion.

A federal district court and federal appeals court previously sided with the school against the Christian students.

Writing for the majority, Justice Ginsburg said the First Amendment shielded the Christian Legal Society from discrimination at the hands of the state-run university, but it did not give the Christian group the right to exclude people while receiving the benefits of the university’s resources.

“Exclusion, after all, has two sides,” she wrote. “Hastings, caught in the crossfire between a groups desire to exclude and students demand for equal access, may reasonably draw a line in the sand permitting all organizations to express what they wish but no group to discriminate in membership.”

via Supreme Court rules against group that bans gays – Washington Times.

Set aside the gay issue.  A Christian group must admit non-Christians?  Does that mean a liberal group must admit conservatives?  Do Marxist groups have to admit Capitalists who in sufficient numbers might then vote to change the group’s mission?  What does “group” mean if it has no collective identity or membership boundaries?

(The solution for affected Christian groups:  Don’t take college money.)

We are now accepting foreign aid

Now we know how Third World countries feel.  We should be grateful, though isn’t it kind of humiliating, a sign of our decline in the world?

US accepts international assistance for Gulf spill – Yahoo! Finance.