As I pulled into the grocery store parking lot the caller on the talk radio show had worked himself up into such a rant you expected spittle to start flying from the speakers. The show’s guest had written an editorial suggesting that the United States was close to becoming a Soviet-style state, a wretched gray land of domestic oppression. It made me think of a story I’d read in the paper that morning - the state is considering dropping a program that sends nurses to the homes of new parents, giving them valuable hints on childrearing such as “feed your baby” and “hold the child from time to time.” How we raised generations without this program, I’ve no idea, but the need is clearly there - one woman quoted in the article said that without the nurse’s words, she would have had no idea when to feed her baby. (Hint: when they cry.) Compare that with a passage in “Gulag,” reviewed in the Weekly Standard:

In a particularly disconcerting section, Applebaum explains how millions of children were either imprisoned with their mothers, or were born in the Gulag. Babies were taken from their mothers to be watched in batches of dozens by rough-mannered nurses. The nurses "took off their nightclothes and washed them in ice-cold water. The babies didn't even dare cry. They made little sniffing noises like old men and let out low hoots. This awful hooting noise would come from the cots for days at a time," wrote political dissident Hava Volovich. Of her own baby, Volovich wrote: "Little Eleanora, who was now fifteen months old, soon realized that her pleas for 'home' were in vain. She stopped reaching out for me when I visited her; she would turn away in silence. On the last day of her life, when I picked her up (they allowed me to breast-feed her) she stared wide-eyed somewhere off into the distance, then started to beat her weak little fists on my face. . . . Then she pointed down at her bed. In the evening, when I came back with my bundle of firewood, . . . I found her lying naked in the morgue among the corpses of the adult prisoners."

How far are we from these horrors? Oh, six weeks, maybe seven. Anyway. The guest was rational, if nuts. The caller was just plain nuts, and insisted that the show’s host was “a Nazi Pig.” (The show’s host is Jewish. So many lovely people out there in radioland, eh?) The caller said we already! lived!in! a totalitarian! state! He could not express his antiwar sentiments without fear of being beaten by thugs whose thuggishness had been emboldened by the words of Chief Thuggee Bush, etc. As I parked my car I saw a woman get out of a nice VW stationwagon next to my vehicle.

Her shirt had a picture of Bush. WILL KILL FOR GAS it said.

Ohmigod ohmigod. I sat paralyzed, wondering what I would do when she was jumped in the parking lot by the roving Charlie Daniels Shock Brigade we’ve been hearing about in Southwest Minneapolis. (The other day they burned a Wagreens Drug store because the candy aisle had Pixie Stix. Why, you ask? Because they rhyme with Dixie Chicks! That’s how bad it’s gotten!) But she made inside alright. We passed her a few times in the store, and she didn’t seem bloodied; it’s possible someone yanked her into the backroom and worked over her kidneys with phone books, but she had a cheerful smile.

Maybe the brutes were chastened by the tiny infant she had in a carseat. The infant that kept its little eyes on President Bush, whose face was right over her starboard mammary, and whose face would soon be yanked up to reveal the Most Blessed Spout.

That kid’s going to grow up loving George Bush, and never realizing that his face was imprinted from birth. Uncle Milk! It’s Happy Uncle Milk!

Perhaps it’s a gender issue. Maybe it’s a personality quirk distributed randomly across the sexes, age groups, intelligence capability, place of birth. Maybe it’s just one of those things. All I know is that some people regard standing at the door for 17 minutes an essential component of the goodbye process, and that I am not one of them. If I’m at the door, I want one of two things to happen: you go or I go. If I’m the guest, I’m off. If you’re the guest, rest assured I did not bring you to the threshold to start an entirely new conversation.

It’s not a big thing, and it’s actually a source of amusement around here. My wife knows I’m not a doorway-lingerer like she is, and it does make for some awkward moments. Someone stands and puts on their coat, and I believe that the evening has come to a conclusion. I head for the door. Then an entirely new conversation front opens up, and all movement towards the door stops. What do I do? I’ve now passed the guest and am en route to the door; if I keep moving towards the door, it’ll seem like I want him out, but if I stop and go back, we’ll all stand here for six minutes. And those six minutes will not be subtracted from the 8 minutes we will spend at the door, where we will talk about people I saw six years ago in a Christmas photo card set in front of a fireplace.

I would rather spend an additional half an hour seated at the table, enjoying a beverage, letting the conversation unspool at a civilized pace. Then there’s a lull; people stare into their empty glasses, then pat the table with open palms and put a period to our merry night. We rise and part, warmly. Briskly. Good to see you; off you go.

Or we all move towards the door at a pace that suggests everyone has their leg in an alligator’s mouth, up to the thigh. Am I wrong? Probably. All I know is that we were standing at the front door forever, and Gnat was being an imp, and Jasper was whining for his walk, and every fiber of my being cried out for finality. Eventually goodbyes were tendered once more; wife and child went inside. I walked our guest to his car. And spent five minutes in the driveway talking about investments and real estate.

Oh, shut up. That’s different.

I was fascinated by this, related via lgf & MEMRI and other sites. It’s a new Saudi site that spells out the World According to the Saudi Vice Police. Some piquant excerpts:

"First of all, there is no such thing as 'personal freedom.' It is a lie. We would like to ask those who argue in this matter: Have you found personal freedom in the east of the land or in its west? In Eastern or Western regimes? None whatsoever, neither here nor there. Man is required to obey rules and regulations against his will everywhere. Is a man permitted, in the East or the West, to cross the street at a red light? In the West, is a man permitted to build a house with his own money ... without observing the municipality's regulations? In the East, the situation is even more clear, and he has no right to own a house at all."

It is just me, or do these pronouncements from all the learned mullahs strike you as the logic you’d expect from a 14 year old?
For one thing, we are free to cross the street at a red light. If a cop spots us and gives us a ticket, it’s because we broke a law. But we’re free to break a law. And that’s the crucial point. They don’t believe we are free to break a law, because they have internalized the concept of submission at a molecular level. The idea that we can freely act in contravention of LAW makes them flail their arms like Robbie the Robot and shout DOES NOT COMPUTE.

"The verse 'There is no coercion in religion' does not mean that everyone can do what they want and refrain from doing what they don't want, or that no one is entitled to require them to do the good that they have abandoned or to refrain from the evil that they do.”


<ralphwiggums voice>

My cat’s breath smells like cat food!

</ralphwiggums voice>

Another section of the website, the "Exhibit of Violations," displays confiscated items from the "permanent collection of violations of Islamic law at Authority headquarters in Al-Madina." The section shows photos of perfume bottles shaped like a woman's torso, with text reading: "Perfume, but...! Examples of perfumes with good fragrances for women and evil bottles that harm the honor of the woman and undermine her morality. We must beware. The Prophet Muhammad said, 'Any woman who wears perfume and passes by people so they can smell it is a whore ...'"

I think I know that perfume - it’s a Jean-Paul Gaultier fragrance that featured voluptuous dame-shapes attired in various JPG outfits, some of which had those poke-your-yolks-out cones Madonna once sported. (And the fact that she’s still alive proves that God does not honor requests for indoor lightning strikes.) The ad campaign didn’t fit the hubba-hubba bottle, if I recall - it had grinning French-type gay-flavor sailors fresh from a Paul Cadmus painting, so I don’t know quite what they were trying to accomplish. But I’m not their target market.

I can however testify that this evil bottle did not harm the honor of my wife or undermine her morality. I can also note that I passed the bottle, gave it six seconds of thought, and forgot about it until I read this entry. And I am reasonably sure that the author of these remarks has the bottle in his possession, in a closet where he keeps these poisonous forbidden objects, and that many nights he takes it out, holds it in his hands, stares at it, puts it on the desk and writes about it long into the night. Me, I'm so debased I don't worry myself with headless glass torsos I saw in a store 5 years ago. Shows how low I've sunk.

As for the Muhammad quote - it trails off, so I don’t know if there’s more to it. I don’t know if it’s from the Qu’ran or something someone wrote later and attributed to him. But if that’s the entirely of the judgment, and it is one of the undisputed quotes of Muhammad, it’s an interesting detail. The Jesus of the New Testament would start with the observation that a whore was indeed a whore, but that she should be treated as you would treat your sister. The quote on the Saudi site starts with the presumpition that your sister is a whore if other men catch the fragrance she daubed on her neck a few minutes ago. It's the difference between a revolving door and a bricked-up window.

Gnat likes to apply scented lotion she finds in the bathroom while her Mommy showers - some mornings I’m amused to catch a whiff of some carefully concocted Aveda aroma drifting from my daughter, who usually smells like milk or Play-Doh or pamper-spackle. I can imagine precisely my reaction to the Religious Police if they accosted me in the grocery store and said my toddler smelled like a whore. Oh, I’m sorry. Trick knee. It spasms up quite uncontrollably, and I tend to boot people in the yarbles by accident. Hope you can stand erect by the next new moon.

Also shown is a photo of several Barbie dolls, along with the text: "The enemies of Islam want to invade us with all possible means, and therefore they have circulated among us this doll, which spreads deterioration of values and moral degeneracy among our girls." On the photo, under the heading "The Jewish Doll," is a story titled "The Strange Request." The story reads: "One girl said to her mother: 'Mother, I want jeans and a shirt open at the top, like Barbie's!!' The dolls of the Jewish Barbie in her naked garb [sic], their disgraceful appearance, and their various accessories are a symbol of the dissolution of values in the West. We must fully comprehend the danger in them."

Note to Mattel: put out a Barbie that said “Math is hard, but martyrdom is harder” and you will irritate 79% of the world’s easily-irritated population. Might be worth it. Just for fun.