Soliciting Guest Bloggers

I’ve decided to take off the month of July in order to get a little work done (which you should understand to mean I’m just a smidge behind on The Ghost Brigades, and given its relatively tight release schedule, I don’t want to give the wonderful folks at Tor a major panic attack). Rather than shutter the Whatever, however, I thought I’d turn it over to some guest bloggers for the month.

So here’s the deal: I’m looking for five guest bloggers to ran rampant around here for the month of July. My plan is to assign each guest blogger a certain day of the week (weekends off); they may post here on any day, but they would have to post on the agreed-upon day. That way I know there would be something here every day. They can write whatever they want (because that’s what I do) but they have to keep the general standards I keep, i.e., I don’t want this to suddenly become a den o’ porn (sorry, guys).

The selection criteria: You have to write well. That’s pretty much it. Having said that, it will help if you already have a blog/journal so I can see examples, and while I’m not opposed to letting someone I don’t know fiddle around here, your chances are slightly better if I already sort of know who you are. I will try for a nice range of guests, but I suppose it depends on who applies. Also, of course, please don’t hate me if I don’t pick you. You know I love you.

What do you get out of it? Well, the Whatever typically clocks 8K to 10K visitors a day, which is fairly decent, so there’s some good exposure there, particularly if you already have your own blog/journal — perhaps some Whatever readers will follow you home. And as long as every entry of yours isn’t “hey, look what I’ve written over here!” I’m perfectly happy to let you self-promote. Also, you have the benefit of some of the most excellent commenters around, as the Whatever regulars are a damn sharp group. And, oh, I don’t know, maybe I’ll get you all some nice gift or something. Or maybe an Amazon gift certificate. Or a pony.

How to apply: Send me an e-mail. Put “GUEST BLOGGER: [your name here]” in the subject header. Tell me why I should let you wreck the joint. If you have a blog/journal, include a link so I can see it. If you’ve got any other writing experience (books, articles, interpretive crayon stylings), let me know, too. If you want to send a writing sample, drop it in the e-mail itself, don’t attach it. Attachments make me twitchy.

I’m out for the weekend but I’ll make my selections by next Wednesday, so be ready to hop into action. And naturally, if you have any questions, drop them in the comment thread so I can answer them once in stead of over and over again in e-mail (which means you should also read the comment thread to see if your questions have already been asked by someone else, and answered by me). Thanks!


Cracking the Flag-Burning Amendment

I’ve gone on before about why any Constitutional Amendment to ban burning or otherwise desecrating the flag of the United States of America would be cracked the very second it was passed, but apparently asking the members of the House of Representatives to read is too much to hope for. So for the members of Senate, who vote on the proposed Amendment soon, and the members of the 50 state legislatures here in the US, allow me to offer this visual primer on How to Crack the Flag Burning Amendment.

First, for reference, the American Flag:

If you want to get fiddly about it, here are the actual government specs for the flag, dictating what the standard dimensions of the flag would be, down to the Pantone colors used in the flag. As the proposed Amendment allows Congress and the states to prohibit desecration of the US Flag, let us assume — for the sake of argument — that the flag is defined by these standard dimensions. Got it? Fine. Here we go:

An American Flag? Hardly. It has only 49 stars! There’s a circle where a star should be. Certainly an American Flag had 49 stars, but it didn’t look like this (it looked like this).The true 49-star flag would likely be covered by the Amendment, but this one, not so much. Use it for kindling!

Three cheers for the Red, White and Gray? I think not — use this one to swaddle a horse. Then feed that horse lots of grain.

The 13 red and white stripes represent the original 13 colonies of the United States — but what’s this? One of the stripes has gone flaming pink! Clearly it’s the stripe for Massachusetts. But whichever former colony it represents, we don’t salute the pink, white and blue. Use this one to mop up vomit after a Socialist Party USA beer bash!

Green, white and orange. Man, that’s not even trying. Use it as a dropcloth for that goat slaughter you have planned.

The 48-star flag flew over America for nearly 50 years, the longest reign of any US flag. But this isn’t that flag. This is just some cheap and tawdry knockoff of the American flag suitable for, oh, let’s say, being torn into strips and used as emergency feminine protection.

Red, white and blue? Check. 13 stripes? Check. 50 stars? Check. Well, then it must be an Americ– hey. Wait a minute. Isn’t that the Hamburgler in the bottom right corner? I may not know much, but I do know that the great Flag of the United States of America does not feature a second-tier corporate mascot, especially one with acknowledged — indeed, celebrated — criminal tendencies. This is not the American flag. Let’s soak it in gasoline and roast weenies!

Now, aside from not being the flag of the United States of America, what else do these last six objects have in common? Well, what they have in common is that each and every one of them would fail what I like to call the “VFW Test,” which is conducted like so:

1. Go to your local VFW hall on the 4th of July.
2. Burn the flag-like object in the parking lot.
3. See if you don’t get your ass kicked.

Do you think a mob of angry veterans won’t kick your ass for burning the flag, just because one of the stars is a circle, or one of the stripes is pink, or you’ve embossed the Hamburgler into the corner? As if. You’ll get a stomping, all right, because it looks like an American flag, even if it is not, and burning it feels like you’re burning the American flag, even if you’re not.

And of course, that’s the point: by not burning the Flag of the United States but rather something excruciatingly close to it, you’re not violating a Constitutional Amendment, but engaging in free speech, which is of course covered by the First Amendment. You’re getting all the impact of burning the US flag, with none of the Constitutional risk (although you may still get your ass kicked by angry veterans). You’ve cracked the flag-burning Amendment.

Alternately, one could simply dispose of a worn and soiled American Flag in the acknowledged respectful and non-desecrating manner of burning it (see U.S. Flag Code, Section 8, subsection (k)), and, while respectfully burning that worn and soiled flag, in a public place, simultaneously and independently engage in political speech.

“Protecting” the flag with a Constitutional Amendment won’t solve the not-at-all pressing problem of people burning flags for political protest. They’ll still do it. They’ll simply do it in ways that will now additionally mock the stupidity of those who love the symbol of American freedoms more than they love actual American freedoms. And no matter how expansively Congress defines “the American Flag” there will always be something that is not the flag, but is close enough in its shape and structure to feel just like the flag. And there will be the people who will use that not-quite-flag-like object to protest.

And you know what? Good for them. They’re being better Americans than those who would pass a flag-burning Amendment. Real Americans don’t take away the freedoms of other Americans.

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