Friday, June 29, 2007

On Friday Random Ten

Okay, so it's been a week of innovations, announcements, new releases, and anticipation. We've got a lot to look forward to, and at the same time, not entirely that much. A breakdown of stuff to come:

What thrills me but, by all logic, really shouldn't:

so, which spice girl are YOU?

I honestly don't know why I'm so entirely chuffed at the idea of a Spice Girls reunion tour, but I totally am. Maybe it's the part of me that still dances to 80's music in my living room on a Wednesday night. Maybe it's the sad, lonely part of me that publicly eschews all things cool while secretly wishing it could be a part of them. Maybe it's the part of me that's really been yearning to zig-a-zig-aah for so long but doesn't really know what that is. Regardless, I'm all for it, even if Posh has gotten all skinny and Ginger has gotten all hippie and Sporty has bangs and Baby is having a baby and Scary has had carnal knowledge of Eddie Murphy.

What really doesn't thrill me but, by all logic, really should:

It's an incredible piece of technology, and I'll admit, I lust after it. One of my favorite cartoons when I was growing up was Inspector Gadget, and it was largely because Penny had that notebook computer, and oh I wanted that notebook computer so bad. And now, not only is a WiFi-enabled notepad computer available, such technology is old news, because you can get a movie player, a music player, a photo viewer, a computer with Internet access, an address book, and, oh, yeah, a phone, all in one adorably tiny package.

Of course, if you don't have $500-600 to spend on a phone, and/or if AT&T isn't your cell service provider, you're SOL. Making the iPhone ever-so-slightly less attractive than it might otherwise be.

What really, really thrills the hell out of me that, by all logic, is absolutely right in doing so:

Hells yeah, I say. Hells yeah. Y'all know where I'm gonna be at 12:01 Wednesday morning.

And a Friday Random Ten:

1. Evanescence, "Eternal"
2. Richard Cheese, "Guerilla Radio"
3. Richard Cheese, "Welcome to the Jungle"
4. The Temptations, "Get Ready"
5. Serge Gainsbourg, "Some Small Change"
6. Chris Brann, "Slo Motion"
7. Annie Sellick, "Just Your Smile"
8. Tears for Fears (feat. Oleta Adams), "Woman in Chains"
9. Sarah McLachlan, "Do What You Have to Do"
10. The Streets, "It Was Supposed to Be So Easy"

Your Ten, and your expectations for old music and new technology and the full-on awesomest movie of all time, go in comments.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

On the power of the president

Okay, so today, President Clinton is still facing down the consequences of her decision to pull the US out of Iraq two years before. Congress, in the course of their relentless investigation into completely unfounded allegations of government intimidation of opponents to her withdrawal plan, has subpoened a number of documents from aides and advisors, and the president has, rightly, told them exactly where they can stick it.
WASHINGTON - President Clinton, moving toward a constitutional showdown with Congress, asserted executive privilege Thursday and rejected lawmakers' demands for documents that could shed light on the intimidation of Iraq war proponents.

Clinton's attorney told Congress the White House would not turn over subpoenaed documents for former presidential counsel Gary Ginsberg and former political director Leecia Eve. Congressional panels want the documents for their investigations of Attorney General Sheila Anthony's stewardship of the Justice Department, including complaints of undue political influence.


In his letter, [White House counsel David] Kendall explained Clinton's position on executive privilege this way: "For the President to perform her constitutional duties, it is imperative that she receive candid and unfettered advice and that free and open discussions and deliberations occur among her advisors and between those advisors and others within and outside the Executive Branch."

Clinton insists that the arrest and six-month detention of two staffers to Iran war hawk Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) were a result of mistaken identity following more than 18 months of warrantless surveillance, wiretapping, and searches of electronic communications. She has already apologized, through a spokesperson, for the mixup, but she insists that the surveillance and detention were well within her powers as president under Article I of the Constitution.

Scandal - or is it just CDS? - has plagued Clinton throughout her presidency. Her numerous signing statements, most recently on the recently passed Southern Border Security Act, have had detractors accusing her of attempts at unitary executive power, claiming that she considers herself above the law.

And only a year into the administration, Vice President Obama was voraciously questioned about undue influence from and preferential contracts to Clinton supporters. He, too, cited executive privilege on the subject before finally agreeing to testify off the record, in a private meeting with a single member of his choosing from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Recent requests for information about classified documents from the Information Security Oversight Office have had him pointing out, accurately, that as President of the Senate, the Vice President fall sunder the legislative, not executive, branch and is thus exempt from that particular rule.

Clinton press secretary Philippe Reines puts it better than I ever could when he said that no statute passed by Congress "can place any limits on the president's determinations as to any terrorist threat, the amount of military force to be used in response, or the method, timing and nature of the response." Under Article I of the Constitution, the president has the responsibility to protect Americans from attack doing absolutely whatever is necessary.

And moreover, why the hell should she have to answer to us on questions of national security? If she does something that we don't really understand, and then she tells us that she can't explain it because that would reveal information that would endanger national security, well, then, just maybe it would endanger national security.

Listen, we elected Hillary Clinton president because we knew that she would be the best person to manage our country and protect our freedoms within our own best interest. She can't do that if we're going to ask her questions and tell her what to do all the damn time. If we really think she's good enough and trustworthy enough to protect our security, we need to stop worrying about things like rights and separations of power and stuff and just sit back, stop asking questions, and freaking trust her to lead. If she's not the kind of person we can trust to do that, why the hell did we elect her?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

On what you, too, can do to deserve a good murderin'

Okay, so I've seen this in a couple of different places, and somehow, it doesn't get any less indefensible the more I read it. From Dan Riehl, who'll get a link from me right after I'm finished flossing with razor wire:
Crime In The Heart-”Sick” Land

Apparently Fox doesn’t want to acknowledge it as they, in an attempted ratings grab, report the murder of Jessie Davis as the second coming of Laci Peterson meets Natalee Holloway, but is anyone else scratching their head as they click past the coverage wondering, what’s wrong with this picture?

You mean, aside from the murdered woman? Wronger than murder?
Any murder is tragic; the murder of a pregnant woman is even more so. And nothing should distract from an expedient investigation and prosecution, or fail to appreciate the family's profound suffering because of this crime. Unfortunately, if this is what constitutes crime in the heartland of America, that heart is very sick and we can only expect more of the same.

"Unfortunately"? Uh-huh. It really sucks, in a most unfortunate way, that... um... murder constitutes crime in the heartland? That's... sick? I'm confused.
From news accounts, Bobby Cutts should not have remained a police officer after providing a firearm to a convicted felon / relative. Only an arbitration proceeding put him back on the force. Ms. Davis was nine months pregnant with a second out of wedlock child from a married man with another family and another child from a third woman who, I suspect, is being generous with the terms model / actress from her now California home. And now apparently there's a girlfriend involved, as well.

So the murderer was a bad guy with questionable character. I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked.
If the news of this crime is of any national significance, it should be because of how it illustrates the decline of our culture and the willingness of some to accept the definition of Father as anyone who manages to send out an occasional support payment, and the definition of lover as anyone who happens to have impregnated someone.

I've no desire to insult the victim or her family and no one should.

Then you might want to stop right there, Danny Boy.
But the sad reality is that Jessie Davis was either the victim of poor self, or impulse control and poor decision-making, perhaps both, long before she became a murder victim. And to suggest that one isn't in any way related to another only endorses the notion that values don't matter. They do. And while Ms. Davis certainly isn't in any way directly responsible for her own death, had she been a bit more responsible with her life, it likely wouldn't have ended in such a tragic crime.

That's right! She made poor decisions, and the result of poor decisions is always a violent death. Jessie Davis was a slut! She had sex, and she wasn't married! Going and getting herself pregnant all by herself without any male assistance whatsoever, she's lucky she didn't get murdered long before now. If only she'd gotten involved with a good, trustworthy man, like a police officer or... something.
Now, her remaining child and all of the other children linked to this crime are victims of a crime far more significant than any one or two murders. They are victims of a culture where nothing much seems to matter anymore, so long as people are free to act or behave on impulse as they wish, with no regard for the consequences. And all Americans suffer as a result of that tragedy.

For shame, Jessie Davis, you shameless whore! Look what you've done to your son by making his father murder you! I mean, the most common cause of death for pregnant women is homicide; you should have known what an irresponsible move you were making when you got pregnant. You owe a debt, The Late Jessie Davis, not just to your son and to his father but to society.

I hope you're happy.
Unfortunately for Ms. Davis and her friends and family, it is the crime beneath the crime we shouldn't simply ignore in this instance.

Of course. I mean, the actual murderer might get punished, or something, but, like, whatever. What we shouldn't forget is that Jessie Davis was a filthy whore who got herself murdered, and that is something that we can never, ever, ever forgive.

Note: More to see over at Sadly, No!, but bring your gag reflex and a bucket, 'cause they've got comments from Emperor Misha's similarly disgusting take on the incident. Jeff at Shakespeare's Sister also bravely waded into that muck heap and came out with a few gagworthy morsels.

Friday, June 22, 2007

On Friday Random Ten

Okay, so this bit of David Blaine humor comes to us courtesy of Feministe, courtesy of someone else. If you're at work, you might want to listen with headphones.

And on the "unintentional humor" side of things, this was my favorite comment from the YouTube page:
this isnt really david blaine retard

Noooo?! Well, you could have knocked me right over with a feather.

And now for the Ten:

1. Pet Shop Boys, "Left to My Own Devices"
2. Sarah Vaughan, "What Is This Thing Called Love"
3. Travis, "Side"
4. Garbage, "The Trick Is to Keep Breathing"
5. Black Masses, "Wonderful Person"
6. Pet Shop Boys, "Losing My Mind"
7. Avril Lavigne, "My Happy Ending"
8. U2, "Love Rescue Me"
9. Pet Shop Boys, "KDX 125"
10. Jet, "Look What You've Done"

Josh over at Martians Attacking Indianapolis (and have I mentioned that that's the best blog name ever?) has a theory that one's Friday Random Ten can predict the quality and activities of one's weekend. This weekend, I'll be going to a friend's wedding in Baton Rouge. Judging from my Ten, it looks like I'll be swarmed with adoring guys. Judging from the number of Pet Shop Boys songs, those guys will each and every one of them be gay.

In other words, par for my weekend course.

Your Ten and your weekend plans go in comment.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

On a worrisome obsession

Okay, so I think no one in the entire world - including Monica Lewinsky, including Hillary Clinton, including Bill Clinton himself - cares more about the Clenis than Ann Althouse. Her take on Hillary's new video spoofing the Sopranos finale?
Bill says "No onion rings?" and Hillary responds "I'm looking out for ya." Now, the script says onion rings, because that's what the Sopranos were eating in that final scene, but I doubt if any blogger will disagree with my assertion that, coming from Bill Clinton, the "O" of an onion ring is a vagina symbol. Hillary says no to that, driving the symbolism home. She's "looking out" all right, vigilant over her husband, denying him the sustenance he craves. What does she have for him? Carrot sticks! The one closest to the camera has a rather disgusting greasy sheen to it. Here, Bill, in retaliation for all of your excessive "O" consumption, you may have a large bowl of phallic symbols! When we hear him say "No onion rings?," the camera is on her, and Bill is off-screen, but at the bottom of the screen we see the carrot/phallus he's holding toward her. Oh, yes, I know that Hillary supplying carrots is supposed to remind that Hillary will provide us with health care, that she's "looking out for" us, but come on, they're carrots! Everyone knows carrots are phallic symbols. But they're cut up into little carrot sticks, you say? Just listen to yourself! I'm not going to point out everything.

Wow. That's - I mean, wow.

Sometimes an onion ring is just an onion ring, Annie.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

On these rackin'-frackin' kids these days who don't know how good they've got it

Okay, so Doug and the parents and I managed to get in an entire weekend of quality family time over Father's Day weekend. That we were able to spend the entire weekend together without killing each other was, I think, an accomplishment, not because our family doesn't get along with each other but because a lot of families don't. I say this not because I think my family is better than other people's, but because I have plenty of friends who don't enjoy spending time with their families, who try to avoid it, who dread holidays and weddings and family reunions because their families just plain don't get along.

That was a topic of conversation over lunch. Also discussed were our younger days and the things our parents did in the name of good parenting that we just plain hated. We were expected to have jobs - not just summer entertainment, but paying jobs that we were expected to stay at whether we found them entertaining or not. We were expected to budget our money, and if we blew our allowances on an impulse buy and then lacked money for a future purpose, we weren't getting an advance. We were expected to take responsibility for our own academic progress, and while both parents were willing to offer as much help as they could and arrange for extra help as necessary, there would be no school visit from Mom insisting that the teacher was unfairly harsh and demanding opportunities for extra credit - or that the grade be changed outright.

That discussion was prompted by a story the parents had heard on NPR during their drive over. The story (links to which I'm hunting down) talked about parents who, beyond intervening in their children's high school and even college careers, go so far as to help their children through their professional careers. Parents will storm into bosses' offices demanding to know why Mr. Burrows is so hard on little Ricky when he's just trying his best, and those miserable dues-paying all-nighters are sometimes interrupted by Mom showing up to help Miranda get her work done in time.

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

My parents, at least, know better than to try and pull that stuff, even if they were so inclined, which they unequivocally aren't. But that story got me to wondering when the role of a parent shifted from preparing a child for adult life to shielding the child from all adversity. When I was growing up, which wasn't so very long ago, a bad grade or a difficult professor was meant to be a challenge to overcome, and to bring that grade up or impress the teacher was the kind of victory I could carry around for weeks. Now, parents lobby away bad grades, beat up coaches on the playing field, and browbeat their way through their children's disciplinary problems, resulting in a generation of kids unable to fight their own battles and win their own victories even in their adult life.

I blame video games.

We live in a generation where video game technology is rapidly approaching lifelike qualities. Graphics are incredibly realistic. Points of view are first-person-shooter, first-person-driver, first-person-fighter with realistic blood spatters and bone-crunch sound effects. The Nintendo Wii even eliminates the need for buttons and joysticks to accomplish it all. But the one thing video games can't, or don't, reproduce is the fact that in real life, actions have consequences.

Not so in video games. In video games, cheats are so prized and so prevalent that entire publications are devoted solely to the art of getting around the rules. Find enough hidden mushrooms, and you can "die" an infinite number of times without actually being dead. Getting your ass kicked in Zombie Nation? Up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right-A-B-Start, and you're on top again. Secret passages and unlock codes allow players to skip entire levels. And if worse really comes to worse, you can always, in a fit of rage, hold down the "reset" button until the game resets and your opponent throws down his controller, calls you a baby, and goes home.

Kids are so unused to facing consequences that can't be secret-coded or hidden-passagewayed away that when they face real adversity, they don't know how to handle it. There isn't a button to push to go back and study for that test instead of going out with friends. There isn't a code to enter to skip from "college" level all the way up to "CEO" without going through "mail room" and "second assistant" first. And so Mom and Dad have to come in, browbeating the teacher to make him raise the grade, browbeating the boss about being so difficult, decrying the unfairness of life so that their kid never has to experience it for himself.

And that, we decided over lunch, was one of the most valuable lessons our parents could have taught us: You got your ass into this, you're getting your ass out. When, in the summer after my freshman year in college, I asked my dad for a loan to pay off my (considerable) credit card bill - because then I wouldn't have to pay interest, which would be great, right? - he laughed at me. Because I knew when I signed for the credit card that I'd be charged interest, and I knew when I made the purchase that I'd have to pay it off eventually, and if I was going to pay it off I'd have to get a job. And I did. And I did customer service for AT&T calling cards, and it sucked every day, and nobody stormed into my boss's office demanding better hours or told irate customers to be nicer to me.

It didn't, at the time, seem like an unreasonable expectation that I should clean up my own mess, or that I should deal with my boss myself if I wanted better hours. It doesn't, now, seem unreasonable that I should all-night my own all-nighter if I put off my work until the last minute, or that I should talk to my director myself if I want a raise. The thought that there's an entire generation of kids about to enter the workforce who find such things entirely unreasonable scares me. The thought that that generation will, eventually, be responsible for things like legislation, law enforcement, and public policy scares me even more.

Parents, do the world and your kids a favor: Let the kid swing. Take the D-. Let the kid ride the bench. Make the kid get a job, and make her stay at the job even if it's not super-fun. Tell him that if he wanted a car to drive, he shoudn't have wrapped the last one around a tree. Because someday, your kid will be reforming policy on my Social Security, and I'm not going to take, "Well, what was I supposed to do? Balance the federal budget?" for an answer.

On the Way of the Ninjabi

Okay, so as an alumna of self-defense and karate classes that have included, at the students' request, discussions of effective self-defense in high-heeled shoes (stilettos to the instep and/or shin being quite effective), I was chuffed to find this article via a link from Feministe:
Way of the Ninjabi!

In a grim part of east London a powerful Somalian teen is giving me a beating while a friend eggs her on - they are both clearly enjoying themselves. As the blows rain down, I curse myself for responding to the advert for this unusual self-defence class at a Newham sports centre. "From the mean streets of London," it had read, "where Islamophobic attacks from chavs, hoodies and pervy so-called Muslim men have become increasingly common ... it's time our sisters stood up and defended their honour! Enter the Ninjabi."

Ninjabi is a play on the word hijabis - women who wear hijab. This six-week self-defence course for Muslim women was set up by a community group, Islamic Circles, in response to a growing demand for women-only classes and has attracted attention throughout the Muslim world. There are plans for follow-up courses, most titled in homage to Bruce Lee: Return of the Ninjabi, Way of the Ninjabi and (more Newham than Hong Kong) Ninjabi vs Minicabi.


The instructor, Dee Terret, talks us cheerfully through knee strikes to the groin and how to respond if an attacker grabs your headscarf - essentially, give it up. (She also advises that, on this basis, Velcro is a better bet than safety pins). At the end of the two-hour session we line up, cadet-style, put the moves together in sequence and shout in sync. It feels pretty good.


A straw poll I took of young British women wearing niqab and hijab in Brick Lane suggests the market for these classes could be huge. Most of the women were interested in taking them up, with only three exceptions. One said, "I don't need classes, I'd just give anyone who tries to give me any nonsense a good wallop - that's the way to deal with that!" A woman in niqab pushing a buggy had already done taekwondo so didn't feel the need. And the third, a 20-year-old student, had seven years of Shotokan karate under her purple belt - her main concern was simply to find a more advanced class.

While the need for these classes in the first place is unfortunate - the article notes that after the London subway bombings, police recorded 269 Islamophobic crimes, compared with 40 in the same period of 2004, and that verbal abuse, spitting, and pulling women's hijabs off were common - I always love to hear about women taking the initiative and learning how to kick ass. As long as these lessons don't take the place of necessary actions to eliminate Islamophobic violence in the first place (the way women's self-defense courses are so frequently offered in response to attacks on women, as opposed to, say, trying to stop the attacks), I'm all for them and declare them awesome.

Monday, June 18, 2007

On the importance of precise definitions

Okay, so I just got an e-mail from a friend of mine, and in the name of OPSEC I'll refrain from sharing his branch of service or current location, but suffice it to say that it's very, very hot where he is, it's quite far away, and that he would have far more opportunities to buy Christmas presents in Dubai than anyone currently in their offices in Washington.

Because he's, y'know, there, and not here where I can sit him down and talk with him, I haven't had the opportunity to ask his opinion on this:
Q: Are there any members of the Bush family or this administration in this war?
SNOW: Yeah, the President. The President is in the war every day.
Q: Come on, that isn’t my question –
SNOW: Well, no, if you ask any president who is a commander in chief –
Q: On the frontlines, wherever…
SNOW: The President.

Yeah, I understand that this has been a challenge not only for the president but for the 101st Fighting Keyboarders and their Cheeto-Dust Coated Typing Fingers of Patriotism (and may God preserve them from carpal tunnel syndrome), but I thought this would be a great opportunity for some clarification.

1. Is the daytime temperature at your current location under 100 degrees?
2. Are you fewer than four time zones away from your spouse/the majority of your loved ones?
3. Is your nighttime sleep uninterrupted by jet engines, gunshots, and/or mortar fire?
4. Can you walk outside of your home without a flak vest?
5. Are you allowed to go home at the end of the workday?
6. Do you share at least one language with the majority of the people in your city?
7. Do you feel comfortable that very few of those people want you dead?
8. When your boss gives you an assignment, does s/he also give you the financial, physical, and human resources necessary to complete the job?

If you answered "yes" to two or more of the above questions, you're not actually on the front lines. You're in a place commonly known as "home." The front lines are somewhere else. It's rather far away and identifiable through extreme heat and humidity, gunfire and explosions, and lots of death. I'll try to dig up a map for you. Don't worry, though; it's a mistake anyone could make.

On DoD R&D: This Is Your Soundtrack

Okay, so I'm horribly ashamed that I didn't get my Ten in this week, especially considering that I had this little tidbit to kick it all off:
Berkeley watchdog organization that tracks military spending said it uncovered a strange U.S. military proposal to create a hormone bomb that could purportedly turn enemy soldiers into homosexuals and make them more interested in sex than fighting.

Pentagon officials on Friday confirmed to CBS 5 that military leaders had considered, and then subsquently rejected, building the so-called "Gay Bomb."

Now, the story is actually several years old; the report on the use of such nonlethal chemical weapons was written in 1994, and the story first became public sometime in 2005. But now we have actual confirmation from the Pentagon that our best hope for victory in Iraq involves making their d00ds super ghey.

Other options?
- a spray to inflict “severe and lasting halitosis”
- a chemical that would make their skin very sensitive to sunlight
- a chemical that would make them irresistable to bees and/or rats

The provided classification for these nontraditional chemical weapons? "Harassing, annoying and 'bad guy'-identifying chemicals." And that's why this Not-Even-Friday, Not-Even-Random Ten goes out to our guys at the Pentagon: Annoying the hell out of the enemy over there so we don't have to annoy them over here.

The Ten:

1. Paul Oakenfold, "Sex Drive"
2. Banx de France, "Sex In a Machine"
3. Marvin Gaye, "Let's Get It On"
4. Original Broadway Cast of Avenue Q, "If You Were Gay"
5. The Police, "Every Breath You Take"
6. Hot Chocolate, "You Sexy Thing"
7. Aqualung, "Brighter Than Sunshine"
8. Robert Palmer, "Simply Irresistable"
9. OMD, "Enola Gay"

And, of course,

10. Tom Jones, "Sexbomb"

Your whatever goes wherever; it's Monday, y'all.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

On liking and/or not liking children

Okay, so one of the most impassioned and heated discussions I've witnessed is in progress right now at Feministe, and it's on the topic of hating children.

It does seem to be trendy right now to not like kids. Perhaps because the country is so damn natalist, because "family values" is such a watchword, the natural backlash involves a disillusioned and cynical view of reproduction. I, myself, have referred to friends "gestating" and referred to their children as "spawn" from either a sincere or affected (I haven't decided yet) unromantic view of childrearing, but then, many of my friends who actually have kids do the same thing. It's also trendy to like kids, to coo over kids, to buy overpriced designer baby clothes and SUV-looking strollers and dress your kids like Angelina Jolie does hers. Commenters on the Feministe post seem to be divided pretty evenly into two camps: folks who have kids and don't understand why others aren't more understanding, and folks who don't have kids and don't understand why they should have to endure others' children.

They're both pretty much right.

I don't know that I've ever said that I hate kids, but I know I've said I don't like them. And even that's not entirely true. There are plenty of kids that I like. I can't say that I "like kids" in the way that a lot of people like kids; some people (my brother, for instance) genuinely like being around children and are able to interact with them and have a great time, whereas I'm usually hard-pressed to find a child to whom I can really relate. I'm fairly sure I want to have kids of my own someday, but I'm not yet at the point where I can hang out with babies for more than about twenty minutes without getting bored or with kids for more than twenty minutes without getting annoyed. But I don't dislike all kids, even most kids, to the point that I'll make a blanket statement like "I don't like kids" and really mean it.

I don't like parents.

Oh, that's not true, either. I don't like negligent parents. Is it okay to say that? I don't like parents who don't bother to parent. Or to be even more precise, I don't like certain sensory experiences:

- The sound of high-pitched shrieking and/or banging
- The sensations of stickiness, clamminess, and/or sliminess
- The smell of bubblegum, Goofy Grape Kool-Aid, old French fries, and/or poop

And the problem with kids is that they're frequently accompanied by or responsible for those sensory experiences. But it's not their fault. Kids aren't really people yet; they're people in training, and it's the responsibility of their parents to teach them how to be people so that they can interact with adult people (and each other) in society. A kid doesn't know not to scream in a store, bang on the table in a restaurant, or not soil himself in church until his parents impart this wisdom on him. Thus, if my peaceful Saturday afternoon is disturbed by those things, it's not the kid I'm blaming.

Don't think I don't do my part. Recognizing that the aforementioned sensory experiences are ones that I don't enjoy, I do my best to avoid locations and activities where I'm likely to encounter them. I don't go to Chuck E. Cheese. I don't eat in at Wendy's. I generally go to movies rated PG-13 or higher, and when I see movies like A Bug's Life in theatres, I tend to do it in the evenings when most kids are in bed - and if a kid happens to be in attendance and happens to be noisy, I cut him some slack. And if I'm at the park, and a bunch of kids are going apeshit and running around and shrieking and rolling in the dirt, I'm not going to say a word; I might even smile. Because that's where kids are supposed to be doing that.

Not so much when I'm in the grocery store and somebody's mom is doing her weekly shopping while I enjoy the Doppler effect of a screaming child rolling slowly up and down the aisles.

I do, however, take issue with this comment from magickitty:
I think hater-people are jealous of children, because they’re living lives without the “filters” that adults have. They are completely impulse-driven, until we hammer that out of them. My three-year old pitching a fit because the science centre’s closing and we have to go home? Well fuck, I’d pitch a fit too, if I didn’t have the behavioural training not to. I envy him his total, uninhibited expression of emotions.

When people complain about children’s behaviour, I think they’re just resenting the fact that they themselves can’t run around like idiots/be themselves/etc. When I think of the free child I used to be, and all the restrictions and changes made to my personality as I had to become an adult, I’m pretty damned resentful too. But I don’t blame kids for it.

Um, no, magickitty, no. I don't hate your kid's hysterical shrieking because I'm jealous that he gets to shriek and I don't - I hate his hysterical shrieking because it makes my back teeth vibrate painfully in my jaw and my left eardrum do this spasm-y thing that sounds like a helicopter in a Vietnam War movie. Your job as a parent isn't to kill your kid's spirit by "hammer"ing that "impulse-driven" nature out of him; it's to teach him to behave in public so that he doesn't annoy the crap out of everyone else. When I'm frustrated and want to throw a temper tantrum, I have no inhibitions about doing it - I just do it alone in my car or in my office with the door closed, because no one else should have to hear that crap.

So there you go, parents. Raise your kids to be themselves. Let them enjoy their impulses. But also realize that society has certain basic rules of behavior, and that your biggest and most important role as a parent is to raise your child to perform as a member of society. And that means that sometimes, you have to put that job, which includes not letting your kid impose on other people, ahead of your own pleasure.

You're sitting in a restaurant and your kid starts banging on the plate with a spoon? Kids will do that, but you've got to teach your kid that you don't bang on the plate with a spoon in a restaurant, and if the kid won't understand that, you've got to remove the child, because the other diners didn't come to the restaurant for your kid's plate-banging. You're sitting in church and your kid starts wailing? Kids will do that, but you've got to make that kid not wail, and if he won't stop, you've got to remove the child, because other worshipers didn't come to church to hear your kid's wailing. You're walking placidly through Target and your kid loses his shit because you won't buy him a toy? Kids will do that, but you've got to teach your kid that you don't throw a tantrum when you're disappointed, and if the kid won't understand that, you've got to remove the child, because the other shoppers didn't come to Target to enjoy your kid's tantrum.

Now, a couple of commenters in the above discussion mentioned the challenges of raising a disabled child, and I completely sympathize. I've volunteered with autistic, mentally retarded, Downs syndrome, traumatically injured, and otherwise disabled children for several years now, and I appreciate that sometimes the most random things can set a kid off, and that it's not the kid's fault. Hell, I'm fairly functional myself, and there are times when I want to break down at the sheer overstimulus of a crowded shopping mall at Christmas. But as understanding as I am of those children and their parents, I also didn't come to the mall to be a witness to your child's breakdown. I will be as sympathetic as anything, and if there's anything I can do to help calm your child, I will, but if it's going to take longer than a minute, you have to remove that child from that situation. Because whether a child's tantrum results from crankiness, spoiledness, or a genuine physiological problem, it's still unpleasant for your fellow shoppers to endure.

This, then, is my contract with the childbearing world:
I, a single, childless, not-terribly-good-with-children individual, do solemnly swear
- to, in those cases when I wish not to be around children, only go those places where children will not normally be found, such as bars, clubs, coffee shops, nicer restaurants, non-children's sections of the library, movies rated PG-13 and up, museums (children's exhibits excepted), art galleries, and concerts;
- to, in those cases when children are not unavoidable, be as patient as is humanly possible as children learn to behave in polite society through trial and error;
- to appreciate and savor wild, awesome, childlike behavior in those locations where wild, childlike behavior is appropriate;
- to comment sincerely and approvingly when a child is behaving well, particularly in those situations where most children would not be so appropriately behaved;
- and to accept the sincere apologies of a mother or father as s/he tries to quiet a squalling munchkin, and moreover to accept with abundant praise the apologies of a child following his/her tantrum, because apologies should always be met with positive reinforcement.

In return, you, a parent of a child, will promise:
- to only take your children to those spots where they are mature/conditioned enough to behave appropriately;
- to engage some manner of home child care when you have plans within which your child is not mature/conditioned enough to behave appropriately;
- to understand that what you find cute in your child may not be the slightest bit cute to those with whom s/he does not share genetic material;
- to forego said plans if said child care is not available (sorry, but them's the breaks);
- to act promptly to deter any tantrumlike behavior as soon as it occurs;
- and to remove your child promptly if said tantrumlike behavior cannot be stopped within a reasonable amount of time.

I think it's only fair. We all live together, and we all have to be considerate of others to participate in society. Parents, realize that the world is not your child's playground, that you have a responsibility to your child to teach him/her how to be a good citizen, and that you have a responsibility to everyone around you to spare them from the noises and smells produced by your child. Non-parents, realize that kids have to learn good behavior somewhere, that sometimes a sitter can't be found but groceries need to be purchased anyway, and that sometimes a kid can't help but be overwhelmed.

If we can all just be a little more patient and understanding, we can all, the young and the old, the short and the not-so-short, somehow coexist. It's been going on for centuries now. We can all get along, even if, like me, you don't really like kids.
oslyn, my coworker Holly's adorable little girl, is two feet tall, has light brown hair in a little Dorothy Hamill cut, and is four days shy of one year old. Her only word so far is "Uh-oh," which she finds applicable to all circumstances. Any music at all, be it a commercial jingle or a children's song or a cell phone ringtone, makes her drop it like it's hot. And today, she threw one of those little squishy stress balls to me, and I rolled it back to her, and it hit the bottom of her foot, and she lost her shit. She laughed and laughed like I was Dave Chappelle and she was the drunk chick in the front row. And then she said, "Uh-oh!" and threw the ball back to me, and I rolled it, and it hit her foot, and for whatever reason it was even funnier than the first time.

I am convinced that nothing in my life will ever be as satisfying or fulfilling as making that baby laugh. It's a new and interesting development in my life.

Oops. Busted.

On (non-celebrity) criminals walking

Okay, so I toldja, I toldja, I toldja I toldja I toldja. And I wish I could get some kind of pleasure out of "I told you so," but it sucks being right in this political climate.

My bitter tea comes courtesy of reader Duff, who points us to this:
The Bush administration cannot legally detain a U.S. resident it believes is an al-Qaida sleeper agent without charging him, a divided federal appeals court ruled Monday. The court said sanctioning the indefinite detention of civilians would have "disastrous consequences for the constitution—and the country."

In the 2-1 decision, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel found that the federal Military Commissions Act doesn't strip Ali al-Marri, a legal U.S. resident, of his constitutional rights to challenge his accusers in court.

It ruled the government must allow al-Marri to be released from military detention."

Born in Qatar, al-Marri lived with his wife and children in Peoria, Illinois, where he was pursuing a master's degree and where he was arrested in 2001 as a"material witness" and al-Qaeda collaborator with Khalid Sheik Mohammed. He has been held without charges in various locations since then, most recently a brig in Charleston, South Carolina. Though he never personally took action against the United States, it's arguable that he participated in and assisted actions threatening to national security.

But because our president has declared himself above and untouched by the Constitution, Ali al-Marri may get to walk.

Al-Marri could be a real threat. He has been in government custody. It's probably better for everyone that he remain in government custody. The United States has numerous legal, ethical, constitutionally sound mechanisms by which he could remain in custody, if only George Bush hadn't gotten all "I'm the decider," declared him an "enemy combatant," and held him outside of those legal options.
"To sanction such presidential authority to order the military to seize and indefinitely detain civilians . . . would have disastrous consequences for the constitution -- and the country," U.S. Circuit Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote for the majority.

The next steps will, most likely, be those legal, ethical, constitutionally sound mechanisms. With the civilian trial of Jose Padilla currently underway, we have proof that we can, in fact, bring terrorists to justice and keep our country safe without violating the Constitution that defends the rights of every U.S. citizen and legal resident. We can protect our country from terrorists and protect civil liberties at the same time. It just makes you wonder why, if those mechanisms are in place, our own president - who took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution - continues to insist on using unconstitutional, illegal tactics that only endanger national security and give Americans reason to fear their own government.

And that, really, is what makes the ruling from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals so valuable. With this ruling, we have evidence that someone out there, some branch of the government, is interested in protecting Americans from being rounded up by the government and held without trial. If our president isn't going to do it, someone has to.

Friday, June 08, 2007

On Paris "Prison Break" Hilton: This Is Your Soundtrack

Okay, so when Paris Hilton said she appreciated being treated "fairly and professionally" (for all values where [fair and professional]=[like a whiny little biznitch who won't ever take responsibility for her actions]) by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in their decision to release her to house arrest because she really, really didn't like being in jail.

She shouldn't get too used to the smell of free air, though, because she goes back to court today to see whether the original judge's direct order that she not be eligible for house arrest might mean that she is not, in fact, eligible for house arrest.

And that's why this all-new Friday Not-Even-Random Ten goes out to Paris Hilton, the cutest little nipper in Ad Seg, whether she wants to be or not.

The Ten:

1. Remy Zero, "Belong"
2. A Tribe Called Quest, "The Pressure"
3. Avril Lavigne, "Losing Grip"
4. Queen, "I Want to Break Free"
5. Guster, "Great Escape"
6. Kelly Clarkson, "Breakaway"
7. OMD, "If You Leave"
8. Staind, "Outside"
9. Dave Matthews Band, "Where Are You Going"
10. The Crystal Method, "Comin' Back"

Your Ten goes in comments. And while you're at it, here's a special Practically Harmless Jailbird Challenge: What other songs could make it onto the list that haven't already been used to celebrate her prior offenses, crimes, and incarcerations?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

On harsher penalties for parole violators, Stan

Go to your room, young lady!

Okay, so Paris Hilton has been released from jail after serving less than five days of her 23- (down from 45-)day sentence because of "undisclosed medical reasons." Those medical reasons? Not liking jail. She will, instead, be serving her time confined to her $3.1 million Hollywood Hills home with a monitoring ankle bracelet that totally doesn't go with her shoes.

New penalty for driving drunk, driving without a valid license, and violating probation? Getting grounded.


On a great time to stick with tried-and-true methods

Okay, so I've observed in the past, with regard to both the treatment of detainees in Guantanamo Bay and to the warrantless wiretapping program, that one of the dangers of breaking the rules in those ways is that when it comes to pursuing actual justice, we may find ourselves painted into a corner. It happened with Mohammed al-Qahtani, it nearly happened with Jose Padilla, and now it's happened again:
The government’s new system for trying Guantánamo detainees was thrown into turmoil Monday, when military judges in separate decisions dismissed war crimes charges against two of the detainees.

The rulings, the latest legal setbacks for the government’s effort to bring war crimes charges against detainees, could stall the military’s prosecutions here.

The decisions did not turn on the guilt or innocence of the detainees, but rather made essentially the same determination that the military had not followed procedures to declare the detainees “unlawful enemy combatants,” which is required for the military commission to hear the cases.

Pentagon officials described the rulings as raising technical and semantic issues, and said that they were considering appeals. If appeals failed, they said, they could go through the process of redesignating the detainees.

But military lawyers said the rulings exposed a flaw that would affect every other potential war-crimes case here. And the rulings brought immediate calls, including from some on Capitol Hill, for Congress to re-examine the system it set up last year for military commission trials and, perhaps, to consider other changes in the legal treatment of Guantánamo detainees.

The problem they ran into? The Military Commissions Act specifically applies to "unlawful enemy combatants." Bush's Combatant Status Review tribunals? Only classified the Guantanamo detainees as "enemy combatants" - without specifying "lawful" or "unlawful." And while the administration obviously felt that, since the commissions and tribunals were creations entirely of their own imaginations to begin with, specific laws were immaterial, the military judges obviously felt otherwise and dismissed the cases, without prejudice, citing lack of jurisdiction.

The question of military tribunals and commissions was raised in the first place because of the Bush administration's assertion that the US lacked a judicial system equipped for dealing with the "irregular circumstances" of terrorism and conflict such as we've seen in Iraq. ACLU blog Find Habeas points out that that's not necessarily the case:
In February 2003, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, known more ominously by the Spanish acronym FARC (a moniker outdone in being scary-sounding only by the Haitian Tonton Macoute), kidnapped three American counter-narcotics contractors, which it then attempted to exchange for prisoners and a chunk of Columbian territory. All three remain captive.

Though FARC’s involvement in the drug trade has traditionally been its claim to infamy, recent administrations have increasingly focused on its use of terrorism (as well as its recruitment of child soldiers). It is currently designated a terrorist organization by both the State Department here and the European Union.


Notably, the parameters of the [senior leader Ricardo] Palmera case look a heck of a lot like the parameters of your mine run al-Qaeda criminal indictment. Most folks are going to be charged with material support, or some other catch-all-esque charge. Most are not going to face conspiracy, attempted murder or murder charges. The government has successfully prosecuted cases where training camp attendance alone constituted “material support” under the statute.

Contrary to [Pentagon deputy general counsel Daniel] Dell’Orto’s talking points, the civilian justice system is well equipped to handle these types of cases, which make up the vast majority of the alleged misconduct of the Gitmo detainees. The FARC trial underscores this point.

At the very least, it's comforting to know that there are judges out there who respect the rule of law, even if our own president won't.

So what's next for our intrepid administration? Plenty. The DoD does plan to appeal the dismissal, but since at this point, a court does not exist to which they can appeal, they'll have to wait for the Pentagon to establish a Court of Military Commission Review, as authorized by Congress. In the meantime, further Combatant Status Review tribunals may be held to re-classify the fourteen "high-value" detainees currently at Guantanamo, among them suspected 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

My advice to the government (and IANAL)? Just stick with what you know, y'all. They're a little bit trickier and pickier, since provisions would have to be made to keep top-secret information top-secret and prosecutors would have to make efforts to, like, follow the Constitution and stuff, but regular ol' trials within the current justice system are demonstrably suitable for terrorism suspects. They're not as fancy or Tom-Clancy-sexy as military tribunals, but they have the advantage of being constitutionally sound and being a tool with which the government has considerable experience. And trials like these are just too important to screw up.

In other habeas corpus news,
The Senate Judiciary Committee just voted for the Specter/Leahy habeas restoration bill. The committee sent it to the floor with no amendments, no debate and on almost a party line vote (with the GOP sponsor, Senator Arlen Specter from Pennsylvania voting in favor).

The Habeus Corpus Restoration Act of 2007, a bill "to restore habeas corpus for those detained by the United States," is expected to see a floor vote within the month.

Feel free to give your senator a call and encourage him/her to vote for this very important measure. Remember that it's not just foreign nationals who are affected by this bill - under the Military Commissions Act, the next "unlawful combatant" could be you.

The Capital Switchboard:
1 (800) 828 - 0498
1 (800) 459 - 1887
1 (800) 614 - 2803
1 (866) 340 - 9281
1 (866) 338 - 1015
1 (877) 851 - 6437

Monday, June 04, 2007

On another side effect of torture

Okay, so I've had some interesting discussions with some interesting people about this article.
In Iraq, when Tony Lagouranis interrogated suspects, fear was his friend, his weapon. He saw it seep, dark and shameful, through the crotch of a man's pants as a dog closed in, barking. He smelled it in prisoners' sweat, a smoky odor, like a pot of lentils burning. He had touched fear, too, felt it in their fingers, their chilled skin trembling.

But on this evening, Lagouranis was back in Illinois, taking the train to a bar. His girlfriend thought he was a hero. His best friend hung out with him, watching reruns of "Hawaii Five-O." And yet he felt afraid.

"I tortured people," said Lagouranis, 37, who was a military intelligence specialist in Iraq from January 2004 until January 2005. "You have to twist your mind up so much to justify doing that."

Being an interrogator, Lagouranis discovered, can be torture. At first, he was eager to try coercive techniques. In training at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., instructors stressed the Geneva Conventions, he recalled, while classmates privately admired Israeli and British methods. "The British were tough," Lagouranis said. "They seemed like real interrogators."

But interrogators for countries that pride themselves on adhering to the rule of law, such as Britain, the United States and Israel, operate in a moral war zone. They are on the front lines in fighting terrorism, crucial for intelligence-gathering. Yet they use methods that conflict with their societies' values.

Reactions have been varied. There have been the, "Those monsters! They deserve to suffer for all of the pain they've inflicted!" There have been the, "Look at what we're doing to our own troops! Look at what we make them do!" And then there have been more than a couple responses like this one:
Maybe we should let him get captured by the Iraqis so he can see what real torture is and maybe he'll realize that what he did was baby shit.

I hate how this civilization has been pussified to a level where everything is exaggerated far from what it really is.

And that made me wonder when we started equating general humanity with "pussification."

As a society, as a civilization, we have rules. You don't hurt people on purpose. You don't kill people. You don't take other people's things. We also have established exceptions to those rules; we've laid out circumstances in which it's okay to bypass those rules if it's absolutely necessary. If a guy's bearing down on you with an AK-47, you're allowed a waiver on the "don't kill people" rule. If a detainee has information that you need, information that could save lives, and he's not giving it up voluntarily, you get a waiver (to some extent) on the "don't hurt people on purpose" rule. But that doesn't mean that those rules don't go away, or that they aren't still important; it just means that, in some extreme circumstances, other rules are more important.

When people say things like "This civilization has been pussified," they act like it's a bad thing to recognize that yes, on the whole, you don't hurt people on purpose. That hurting people on purpose is the necessary exception, not the rule. Do we want to raise a generation of men who are so very, very manly that they don't recognize "don't hurt people on purpose" as a basic rule of society?

These guys are coming home and dealing with the conflict between what's necessary to complete the job there and what is societally acceptable here. That conflict is to be expected and shouldn't really surprise anyone. Instead of calling them pussies and telling them that they shouldn't feel bad for hurting/killing people, ("Hey, man, he was a terrorist! He hates your freedoms! What're you all broken up about, you pussy?") maybe we, who are sitting at home on our asses and not out there, could be a little more understanding.

I don't wish that kind of emotional turmoil on anyone. And, while a definite baseline of human behavior must be maintained, the fact is that we also don't benefit from interrogators who are so soft that they're not willing to invoke that "lives are at stake" exception and do what needs to be done. But nor do we benefit from someone who's willing to pretend that those basic rules don't exist at all and say, "Hey, he's not even human, so it really doesn't matter what I do." There is a middle ground, and these guys are the ones who have to walk on it.

I don't want to live in a society where mistreatment of anyone - even suspected terrorists, even confirmed terrorists - becomes a matter of course, nothing to worry about, something that's perfectly acceptable and not worthy of a second thought. I also don't want to live in a society where our troops come home miserable and fearful and guilt-ridden about the things they saw and did in the name of our safety and freedom. The solution there is to live in a society where we don't ask our troops to do things that they can't be proud of, things that most human beings know, deep in our hearts, are wrong. And the solution to that is to get our troops the hell out of Iraq.

On a matter of time

Okay, so there's been a lot of discussion about whether or not Bush has an exit strategy. He swears he has a plan (and what reason would we have not to trust him?), and that we just need to give it time to work.

And of course I wouldn't be so foolish as to insist on an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. It's a big deal, and things need to be planned. How quickly can you get Iraqi troops trained to take over (if, in fact, that's something you sincerely plan on doing)? How soon can the Iraqi government get the militias under control (if, in fact, that's something they sincerely plan on doing). At what rate should you start redeploying troops, and over what period of time, until the Iraqi people have regained control of their country?

If, in fact, that's, y'know, something you sincerely plan on doing.

The man says, "Give it time," and it's true that time can change a lot of things. F'rinstance, not too long ago, you were promising reports showing magnficient progress by September, and now you're saying that you were "way too optimistic." And just last year, Maliki was all, "Hey, pack your bags, y'all, 'cause Iraqi troops are taking over as of June 2007," and now he's fearful of a military coup. Things change when you give it time.

So maybe we just need to go ahead and give Bush's plans time to work. Maybe a couple of years. Maybe more than a couple; maybe fifty. Maybe we need to build an embassy the size of the Vatican, with a 16,000-square-foot house for the ambassador, while the rest of Baghdad is getting less than five hours of electricty a day.

And maybe, supplemental spending bill notwithstanding,
SEC. 3301. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this or any other Act shall be obligated or expended by the United States Government for a purpose as follows:

(1) To establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq.

(2) To exercise United States control over any oil resource of Iraq.

we need to gladly embrace the big ol' middle finger that our president is flicking us as he makes plans to maintain three or four bases throughout the country, and he'll stay there until he's good and ready to leave, because leaving is quitting and quitting is losing, and screw us for suspecting that he has no idea what he's doing and is only counting down the days until he's out of office and this whole mess is someone else's problem.

It's just a matter of time.

Friday, June 01, 2007

On a parting shot on a Friday

Okay, so what better way to lead in to the weekend than some political haiku?

strategic stuff is
hard no try it some time you
might mess it up too

Haiku courtesy of Paul Wolfowitz's MySpace page.

On Friday Random Ten

Okay, so I've pretty much always paid attention to commercials. Since I was a kid, I've always dissected ads and noticed tiny details; that's why I was an advertising major in the first place, it's why I have the job that I do, and it's why Suzuki Man bugs the everliving crap out of me.

The most recent thing that's been bugging me ever-so-slightly is the ad for FemCon, the chewable birth control pill. Now, the average BCP is about half the size of your pinky fingernail, and I've never had trouble dry-swallowing mine when there isn't a cup of coffee or glass of water around, but I appreciate the idea of a pill that you can just chew right up like a Flintstones vitamin. And it's minty!

There's just something about the ad that bugs me, though:

And the third or fourth time it interrupted my morning news, I realized what was bothering me.

Far be it from me to tell another company how to do their advertising, but if your unique selling proposition centers on the fact that you can take Femcon without a beverage close at hand, you might not want to simultaneously demonstrate the fact that, no matter where you are, you're likely to have some kind of beverage close at hand.

Lean on the "mint" angle a little more. That's pretty cool.

Oh, I need a hobby. Here's a Friday Random Ten for you:

1. Les Nubians, "Demain"
2. Patti Labelle, "Lady Marmalade"
3. Bon Jovi, "You Give Love a Bad Name"
4. Franz Schubert, "Standchen" from Schwanengesang
5. Dido, "Aria (Trance 2000 Remix)"
6. Diana Krall, "Popsicle Toes"
7. Franz Schubert, "Lebensmut" from Schwanengesang
8. Dixie Chicks, "Ready to Run"
9. Dave Brubeck, "One Song"
10. Remy Zero, "Belong"

Well, the multiple Schuberts kind of throw the whole "random" thing into question. Your Ten, and the ads that you love (or the ones that bug the crap out of you) go in comments.