Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Damn Statistics 

And, speaking of Robert Anton Wilson (a member of the Committee for Surrealist Investigation of Claims of the Normal, an incredible writer, and one of my mentors), thanks to his article about the patapsychology of Timothy F. X. Finnegan, a fascinating yet true statement: "The average American has one testicle."

Now, I imagine American readers, at least those of the male persuasion, quickly reaching for their crotches to count the boys, and then declaiming, "It's not true!" Likewise, I'd imagine the more feministically inclined American readers are grabbing their vaginas and claiming, "Male chauvinist plot."

And yet -- do the math, and you'll see that the statement is true. Along with this one: "The average American has half a vagina."

So, if you're an average American, you have one testicle and half a vagina. Thanks to breast cancer, I haven't calculated the average number of tits. Although, considering the rarity of colostomies, you've probably got 99.95% of an asshole.

And remember, "President Dwight Eisenhower express[ed] astonishment and alarm on discovering that fully half of all Americans have below average intelligence." Yet he seemed to have no problem that fully half of all Americans have above average intelligence.

Ah yes. Lies, damn lies and statistics.

"Balls!" said the King.

"If I had 'em, I'd be King," said the Queen.

Yet the average King and Queen only have one ball. Just like Hitler, apparently. Meaning -- Hitler was more average than you or I?

Oh yeah -- for the dog owners out there -- the average fixed dog has no balls and one vagina. Sucks to be you, dude...


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How Security Works 

I'm not a larcenous person -- but if I were, I could rob my local supermarket blind, based on one simple assumption. Honest people obey the rules and criminals don't. And I wonder how many criminals have figured that one out and broken the system anyway.

I probably don't have to explain it if you shop in supermarkets with those theft detection sensors at the exits, but I will anyway. The concept is that high-ticket items, particularly small ones, are tagged with RFID tags. This usually means that liquor, DVDs, Nicotine gum, razor blades, and other over-priced but small things are marked to set off the alarms if you try to exit with them having not been passed over the de-mag sensors at the check-out. All well and good, with the further assumption that honest customers will stop and give that "What now?" look, while criminals will run.

The problem is, at the several branches of the same name brand market I regularly go to, the clerks are too lazy to de-mag marked products. The end result is this: whenever I go to any of these markets, the alarms are going off every minute. And, I see the same thing happen every time: honest shopper goes past sensor. Alarm sounds. Honest shopper stops, looks back at clerk. Clerks wave at them, "No problem." Honest shopper continues onward.

And a dishonest shopper could walk out the door with a couple hundred dollars worth of stuff in their underwear by doing one simple thing. That's right -- alarm goes off. Stop, look dumbfounded, get waved on. All you've really got to do is buy one known-to-be tagged product. If even that.

Because... any security system comes down to its weakest link, and the weakest link is always the human element. Granted, grocery store theft is small beans compared to terrorism. But it's the same idea. If anything is getting past airport screening, for example, it isn't because the machinery is screwing up.

The solution to this is to improve the technology. Use science. And, as our current Administration has shown, they seem to hate science. Which, given the War on (Some) Terror, is a paradox. The grocery sensor example shows that we really can't trust our fellow humans to protect us. Put the money in the right place -- in the hands of private researchers -- and we could have working, fool-proof bomb and weapon detectors that would create no delays in lines within a year.

Put the money in the wrong place, and, well -- you get people that make less than your typical grocery checker and, no doubt, acting in similar fashion when an "honest" person (read: old or white) trips the system.

It's a paradigm based on a fallacy: criminals will run when attention is drawn to them. However, smart and determined criminals will not. And, like any con game, the strongest weapon and weakest link is psychology.

Going back to the grocery store sensor question, I've seen a partial solution. A local home improvement store has a self-checkout option, where you scan your own items and pay with cash or ATM card, no clerk involved. Now, you'd think this system would be rife for fraud, but it seems pretty secure, because you have to place scanned items on a scale, and the whole thing is set up to crosscheck weight against UPC code and prices. It's also pretty picky -- set an item at the wrong angle so its full weight isn't on the scale, and you'll get a warning.

I'm sure there's a way to adapt that to grocery stores, although it would require putting RFID chips on everything. And before you bitch about your loss of privacy there, remember this: every item scanned at the checkout is identified on the receipt and in the store records. Use a store discount card, and you've just given them a record of your shopping habits. Contrary to popular belief, product RFIDs aren't really useful once they've left the store and, if you're that paranoid about the Feds figuring out how much Ramen you have on hand, you can always get rid of them.

But, it's the typical spiral. New anti-crime system invented, criminals figure out a way around it. Trouble is, in the case of both store sensors and metal detectors, the basic technology hasn't changed in a long time. It didn't take long after the store sensors, for example, for shoplifters to figure out that foil-lined bags would defeat them. And, again, it comes back to psychology: if you don't fit the criminal profile, you're more likely to be able to get around it.

Literary example, from Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea's must-read The Illuminatus! Trilogy: a rich, middle-aged man talks to a hippy. The hippy drives a day-glo painted VW mini-bus, but isn't into drugs. The rich man drives a Mercedes limo with gold-plated hubcaps. The rich man asks the hippy how many times a week he gets pulled over in his mini-bus (answer: a lot), then reveals that he smuggles large amounts of heroin and pot in the hubcaps on his car, and never gets pulled over. It's all in appearances.

Humans are fooled by appearances. Machines are not.

Feel more secure now? fnord

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Talking (Down) Points 

AMERICAblog does a great job at puncturing the stupidity of the following statement by Dubya spokesman Trent Duffy, regarding the Administration's illegal, warrantless eavesdropping on American citizens:
"This is not about monitoring phone calls designed to arrange Little League practice or what to bring to a potluck dinner," he told reporters. "These are designed to monitor calls from very bad people to very bad people who have a history of blowing up commuter trains, weddings, and churches."
I'm with AMERICAblog here -- if these people have a history of blowing those things up, then hell yeah; wire-tap 'em, follow them, spy on them, then arrest them for the crimes they committed -- after getting the proper warrants and following procedure so that your case doesn't blow itself up in Federal Court, leaving you with nothing.

Beyond that, though, look at Duffy's language. As if his references to Little League and potluck dinner weren't condescending enough (more on which below), something about the phrase "very bad people" just makes my ass itch. That's what you tell a five year-old after one of her parents was shot and killed in an armed robbery. It's not how you explain yourself to the American public. Or should we now call it The War on Very Bad People?

As for the Little League, etc., part of the comments, that's just bullshit. It's pap designed to assuage the Red Staters and Soccer Moms. But, in its patronizing tone, it also leaves out a denial that would probably be untrue were it made. Duffy did not deny that they were spying on people who happen to go to a certain Church (er, Mosque), or who attend certain legal meetings of political groups, or who stand on street corners protesting the war, or blog against the administration, etc., etc.

That's part of what they don't get in the outcry over this whole thing. You say you're only spying on terrorists? Fine. Then do it legally. Get the warrants within your 72 hour time frame. Release the lists to key members of Congressional Intelligence Committees, who can vet them in secret for any patterns of abuse. I can understand the concept of having to keep investigations in secret. That's a no-brainer. If Suspect A finds out he's being watched, then he can tell Suspect B, who passes it along and destroys the chain to Big Guy Z before anything can be done. But -- those conditions of secrecy could have been met by following the FISA laws.

And the Administration's breaking of those laws is what should make the alarm bells go off everywhere. Again, if they're only investigating known terrorists, people "who have a history of blowing up commuter trains, weddings, and churches", then people outside the Administration with the proper security clearances have a right to know. The fact that they're trying to keep it so secret makes me think that they're taking a page from Nixon's book, and using the government to monitor and harrass political enemies.

By the way, is the Administration only concerned with trains, weddings and churches? What about Synagogues? Office buildings? Abortion clinics? University professors? Or do they not want to go after genuine American bred terrorists like Randall Terry, and only focus on the brown ones from overseas?

As long as the Administration stomps its widdle foot and holds its widdle bweaf and won't tell us who those very bad people on its naughty list are, we can only assume that it's everyone not on their list. And we should only treat them like the children they are -- no supper, and straight to bed. That's what you get when you break the rules.

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Friday, December 23, 2005

Suck It, Sam Walton 

This is related to New York's brief transit strike, and nice to see that a jury of their peers decided the right thing -- but Wal-Mart was just bitch-slapped for treating their employees like cattle, ordered to pay $172 million for violating the law and screwing their workers out of lunch breaks.

The law on this is clear: employees who work more than six hours are entitled to a half-hour, unpaid lunch break. (I'm not so happy with that unpaid-part, since they're most likely still going to be stuck on company property in that short a time, but whatever.) Anyway, if said employees don't get that half hour, then they get paid for an extra hour of work. Yes, there's a "waive their rights" clause in the law, but you can bet employees were intimidated and browbeaten into the "accept the waiver or lose your job, asswipe" option.

Y'know what? Here's the money paragraph, and why I hope that Wal-Mart loses every single one of the many labor lawsuits they're facing:
The class-action lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court is one of about 40 nationwide alleging workplace violations by Wal-Mart, and the first to go to trial. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer, which earned $10 billion last year, settled a similar lawsuit in Colorado for $50 million.
Hm. Earned $10 billion. And to whom did that money go? Sam Walton and the stockholders and board members of Wal-Mart. And who did all the work that earned that money? Not Sam Walton, nor the stockholders nor board members of Wal-Mart. Nope. That money was earned by the underpaid employees who bothered to show their asses up at the big box stores every day, fake their smiles for the customers and keep everything running... all the while selling products produced by under-age slave laborers in Asia.

Perspective, folks. Ten billion annual profit is $27,397,260.27 per day. Meaning that the jury award above will cost the fuckers who hold the strings just under a week worth of filthy lucre. Screwing employees out of a half hour lunch means that, assuming a five day week, every Wal-Mart employee lost 3 1/4 weeks of wages. Meaning that the jury award should have been at least triple what it was.

It gets back to the modern robber-baron theory: the sense of entitlement that the owners have, the ones who make all their money for doing nothing but sitting back and racking in the beans. No, worse. They make all their money by figuring out ways to fuck over the workers while protecting their stock options and bonuses and golden parachutes -- and having arranged with the powers that be a much lower tax bracket for interest income (i.e., money for nothing) than for wage income.

Sigh. I really don't know what keeps the American people from revolting, and putting their corporate leaders' heads on pitchforks. We need a Robspiere. We need a guillotine in the public square -- and very few capitalists would redeem themselves. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet might get off because of their charitable acts (men who took Andrew Carnegie's words to heart: a man should spend the first half of his life earning his fortune, and the second half giving it away.) But the rest of these assholes in suits? Hang them from the highest gibbet, kick the shit out of their corpses, and split up the profit equally. Perspective: WalMart employs 1.1 million people -- meaning that every single staffer should get a bonus of about $9,000, were things divided up equitably.

But, if you're working for WalMart, I'll bet that your bonus was not getting laid off on December 24th. And not being fired for daring to mention to your supervisor something as trivial as Federal employment law.

Fuck Wal-Mart. I won't shop there. I'd hope that more and more people would wake up and realize that trafficking with them is worse than buying crack. After all, paying money to your local crack dealer at least feeds someone. Paying it to Wal-Mart just makes Sam Walton and his cronies richer and richer.

Damn, I'd love to lock then in a room and drop their annual profits on them -- in pennies. Slowly. Laughing all the while. That's a trillion pennies. I'm not sure what a penny weights, but a trillion of anything has got to weigh... well, a lot.

And Sam Walton and Company deserve to die under the weight of that blood money.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

But, Dammit, Now You're Safer... 

Someone explain to me again why porn is illegal, and of any interest at all to the Federal government? And why a porn producer was just sentenced to five years in prison for obscenity.

The prosecution used the old "community standards" canard again -- to try a Florida resident in Billings, Montana. Given that the internet has effectively made the "community" in "community standards" the world, does this mean that Britney Spears can be convicted in Iran?

And, again, where's the real crime here? Provided that the acts depicted in the porn in question were a) consented to by all parties involved and b) performed by legal adults, what's the problem? According to the article, the porn in question depicted "bestiality, gang rapes and sex involving urination, defecation and sadistic and masochistic conduct." And, except for the bestiality bit, what's wrong with the rest? I've seen mainstream Hollywood movies that have simulated everything on that list, and avoided an indie Hollywood movie that showed an actual blowjob. Again, where is the line between Hollywood fare and porn? Why is a work of art somehow lessened just because the participants have real erections and real orgasms?

Properly, if the films depicted bestiality that was actually performed, then yes, charges should have been brought -- but not for obscenity. Otherwise, as long as the performers could come before the court and say, "I made the film, I did it willingly, and I agreed to everything I did in it", then there should be no charges filed.

The trouble with most obscenity charges is that they're usually set-ups. Someone who wouldn't normally seek out the material in question intentionally buys the product, then complains. "I am shocked -- SHOCKED -- that there is porn here." Well, gosh. What did you expect when you ordered Physically Raped, Anything Goes or Rape and Sodomize online? (Those are the actual titles.) Yeah, sure. You thought you were ordering a family-friendly, Christian musical. My ass...

Anyway... I still can't understand how any kind of obscenity charges can stand, given the First Amendment. It's kind of simple: showing acts performed by consenting adults and providing them to consenting adults who want to see them should never be a crime. As long as the actions that were performed in real-life to create them didn't violate any laws, then the government should just bugger off. Sure, the average person may find some of these films disgusting. Personally, I'd avoid any film that involved water sports or scat like the plague -- but that doesn't mean I have the right to begrudge them to somebody who's into watching that sort of thing.

Meanwhile, corporate executives who've defrauded old people out of their life savings and pensions get slaps on the wrist, and short sentences in Federal "Country Club" prisons. But who's done more damage? The guy who provides orgasm material for his customers, or the guy who screws over those who can't afford it?

And, given the whole Patriot Act brouhaha, what would you rather have your Federal Prosecutors spend their time on -- the alleged al Qaeda sleeper cells hiding in this country, or a guy who makes whack movies? One of those two isn't going to kill anyone. And you know which one it is.

To paraphrase Lenny Bruce, given the choice of taking his child to a War Movie or a Stag Film, he'd pick the latter every time. And to quote Larry Flynt, "Relax. It's just sex."

Anyway, Sanford Wasserman has been railroaded and screwed, and the man should serve no time at all, unless he's convicted for subborning bestiality. Otherwise, he's just providing entertainment for people who want it. And, y'know what? If you don't want this kind of porn, it's pretty damn easy to avoid it. You just don't search for it on the Net, and you don't order it.

After all, it's not like pornographers are running door to door, shoving DVDs in your mail box and running away. Why would they? That would cut into their profits.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Heh, heh, heh... 

Even considering how stacked they've made each question, to appeal to the most extreme emotions of voters in each category...
Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Yes, it's unscientific, not an accurate sample, etc., etc. But still, numbers like that indicate that either a) Only Liberals use the internet, or b) Bush really is in deep shit with the electorate. Hint: five minutes in a Fark forum on any hot-button subject will prove possibility "a" to be untrue. Ergo...

If you want to vote in the poll yourself, or tell your friends, it's here. That is, until MSNBC sees the results and quickly yanks it.

(Thanks to Atrios at Eschaton for the lead on this poll.)

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Transit Strike 

I feel for the people of New York right now, seeing as how their city has been crippled by a transit strike. But I also feel for the striking workers, who are fighting for their pensions and health care; taking a stand to not being treated like shit by our corporate overlords.

Once upon a time in America, corporations treated their employees like assets. There was an unspoken contract -- the peons would give their time and loyalty to the corporation for their entire working life. In return, the company would take care of them, with benefits, vacations, overtime, bonses, health care, and so on. Corporate culture somehow understood one important fact: without their employees, they would be nothing. All those quarterly profits that they had to report to the shareholders came from the workers, not management.

Along the way, corporations lost sight of this fact. They began to worship their income, not their workers. And, in a Looking-Glass world, they started to think of their employees as liabilities. Forgetting that their workers were the ones who created their bottom line, the suits upstairs fell into an "Us vs. Them" mindset. And, slowly, all those employee benefits eroded. Benefits. Vacations. Overtime. Bonuses. Health Care. I've heard horror stories of companies that have manipulated their workers' status in order to squeeze fifty or sixty hours a week out of them for the same rate of pay that they got at forty hours; companies that have pulled the "flex-time/freelance" BS in order to eliminate benefits; companies that have decided vacations should not be paid. And on and on and on. The end result is that employees have absolutely no loyalty to their employers -- and why should they? The overlords haven't earned it.

A particularly bitter pill when the executives (who do exactly nothing) get six-figure bonuses, while the peons are lucky to not be laid off at year end.

Which brings me back to the transit strike in New York. Does it suck for the average New Yorker that the subways and buses aren't running? Hell yes. But, instead of bitching about the strikers, they should think of this: Yes, life in New York sucks without these workers working. Meaning -- aren't these workers very valuable? In a single gesture, the Transit Workers have shown New York and the world exactly how important they are.

Every Transit Company executive could call in sick tomorrow, and no one would notice. But the subway operators, bus drivers, token sellers, etc. ad infinitum, take a day off, and suddenly life is hell.

Meaning... Michael Bloomberg can go fuck himself. People of New York... show your blue collar roots. Suck it up and understand. It's the transit workers who are important in your lives. And, daily, New York city handles 1/3rd of the public transit traffic in the country.

Translation: the Transit companies are making billions off your daily commute. But the people who actually get you from Point A to Point B are getting screwed. All they want is a piece of the pie. Give them that. Give them their pensions, and their fair retirement age. That's all they're asking.

As for stikes... in California a couple years back, grocery workers struck against the big three Supermarket chains. The stike lasted five months. Now, being a union-boy, I couldn't cross a picket line, so I shopped at a market that didn't have union employees -- but which, oddly enough, treated their workers far, far better than those at the union shops. And still do. Yeah, sure, it sucked for a week to have to shop at a different market --- but during the second week, I was rooting for the non-union checkers, who were, frankly, much better than the asshats at my former store.

Anyway... the short version is this. Your transit operators deserve benefits. They've proven that in a single act. And the bigwig fucknuts who own the system can just suck it up and pay out. As you climb across the Brooklyn Bridge, know this: You're climbing not because of the transit workers, but because of the Richer than God asshats who won't give them their due. Hey, don't believe me? Check out the P/L statements for the Transit Companies in January. Taking a header here, but I'll bet that "P" wins out big time over "L".


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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

In Heaven, Everything Is Fine... 

Cue Radiator Woman with big cheeks...

So, Baba Wawa ran some special tonight on ABC about Heaven. Missed it (gosh, darn), but ran across this poll, which basically says that most Americans believe in Heaven and think they're going there, regardless of religion or non-religion.

And, sorry to bust your bubble, kids, but "heaven" or the "afterlife" is one of the most destructive concepts ever invented by humankind. (See my "Moral Compass Going South" post for related comments.) Belief in heaven is what leads the religious to do stupid things in the here and now; Christians will be intolerant and hateful, because they think it earns them admission. Muslims will suicide bomb themselves to Kingdom Come because they're expecting their 72 Virgins. Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses really won't give a flying fuck about anyone else, because they got theirs and/or will be a deity in the afterlife. And so on...

But here's something I never hear mentioned in any discussion of the afterlife: What do you remember of the four billion or so years the universe has been around before you were born? Uh, not much, right? Chances are, your earliest memory involves stumbling around on your bedroom floor chasing after a colorful toy. (Sidebar: In my case, my earliest memory is actually a false one. I distinctly remember, before the age of two, helping my mother move my crib out of my room so we could give it to my much older sister, who'd just had a baby of her own. Trouble is, at that age, I was neither tall enough nor ambulatory enough to do the moving. And my brain wasn't developed enough to distinguish between being either in the crib or carried on my father's shoulder. The former possibility is the most likely; where better to put the tot while doing heavy lifting than in the crib, so he won't stumble underfoot at the wrong time?)

But, I do digress...

My short question to people who believe in heaven is this: if the soul is eternal, then why don't you remember anything from before you were born? You should, if the soul is eternal and it doesn't rely upon a physical body to know the universe. If you don't, well then, what does that say about the possibility of some magical after life?

Better to live in the here and now, as if there's nothing to come after we die. Make everything of every moment here, because you won't be getting any second chances or do-overs. And, as per my comments on Towing Jehovah, Heaven is really just an alibi for your behavior here. Your morality will be much stronger if you figure it out without relying on an afterlife.

Here's a hint: If death really is the final exit, then murder should be the ultimate, unthinkable crime -- no heavenly prohibition necessary to make it icky.

Discuss among yourselves.

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Damn You, Carl's Jr. 

An apt headline for so many reasons, but only one of which I'll write now. And let me preface this one for the marketing geniuses at Carl's -- I had to go online to look up exactly which company the ad in question is shilling for. How's that for effective, huh?

Anyway, this commercial is apparently running in both Carl's and Hardee's markets. It's the one with the guy shaking the cow to the tune of Sean Paul's Get Busy --
Yo, shake that thing
Miss kana kana shake that thing
Yo, annabella shake that thing
Miss donna donna
Yo miss jodi yu’r di one and rebecca shake that thing

Yo shake that thing
Yo joanna shake that thing
Yo annabella shake that think
Miss kana kana
It's a catchy tune and a funny image but, goddammit, it's an uhrworm. That is, a song that gets into your head and then won't go away.

So, the upshot of all this is that I've had that tune running through my head on and off for days, along with the image of the cow guy, with no idea what product it was selling. But it certainly doesn't make me want to run out and buy a shake at Carl's. Why should I, when a better, cheaper milkshake is as close as my fridge and blender?

Anyway, memo to Hardee's: your ad is only effective at annoying people and promoting mild cow abuse. Then again, given your main product line, I suppose that's better than having set the thing in an abbatoir.

I can't wait for this ad campaign to be retired...

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Support Censure-ship 

Finally, it's starting to happen...
Ranking House Judiciary Democrat Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has introduced a motion to censure President Bush and Vice President Cheney for providing misleading information to Congress in advance of the Iraq war, failing to respond to written questions and potential violations of international law, RAW STORY has learned.
The resolutions also seek to determine whether Bush has committed impeachable offenses. About damn time. And, incidentally, check out the anchor tag that Raw Story put into the link -- an appropriate hidden message to the Red States.

For lying to Congress to start a war, W. should be impeached. For spying on Americans and violating the Constitution, then claiming it was his right to do it, W. should be impeached. For building secret prisons and torturing people, for bobbling the ball on Katrina, for the corruption in his Cabinet, for the Plame scandal, for all of it, W. should be impeached.

And, finally perhaps, Congress is moving that way. Now, let's do our job, and give them a Democratic majority in 2006, so we can make this process a slamdunk.

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Monday, December 19, 2005

Moral Compass, Due South 

Surprisingly, not a political post. Or, well, maybe...

I'm about halfway through an amazing book called Towing Jehovah, by James Morrow, a belated birthday present from a good friend. (Thanks, Pat!) Now, the premise of the book sort of grated my atheist sensibilites strictly in a... well, a premise sense. in Towing Jehovah, we begin just after the death of Jehovah, aka JHWH, aka the god of Abraham and Isaac, Big Daddy as in "Big Daddy, JC and the Spook." The body has plummeted to Earth, landing at 0°N, 0°W -- where the prime meridian and equator meet, to paraphrase how the book poetically puts it.

The story starts as several dying Archangels contact two men on Earth to help them -- one a disgraced former oil tanker captain (think Exxon Valdez fictionalized) the other a Jesuit priest who has made a career writing about quantuum physics and its application to theology. The two are charged with using the captain's former tanker (sailing under the Vatican flag) to tow the holy corpse to the Arctic Circle, where it will be entmobed and preserved from rotting forever in a hollowed-out iceberg provided by the mourning angels.

Like I said, that the book takes literally and factually the existence of god (especially in the bearded old white guy in the clouds form) gave me slight pause at the beginning. But only slight. It's clear that Morrow is dealing in satire-land here, and with big philosophical issues. I'll leave that as my recommendation. It's a good read, and he seems to have done his research, so that all the details of life on a Supertanker (along with several other places and occupations) ring true but are accesible to laymen. It's also dark and funny, frequently at the same time.

What I wanted to bring up is one of the interesting things that Morrow does with the concept of a deceased deity, the Corpus Dei of the novel. If you're already intrigued and want to read the book, you might want to skip the rest of this post, although I don't think I'm giving too much away, and I'll be as non-specific as possible. It's more the concept than the plot that intrigues me. If you don't mind kind of having something that happens in the book given away, read on.

I'll give you a space or two to think about it...


Okay. Here it is. One of the intriguing things Morrow deals with is what happens when the faithful are suddenly hit with the realization that god is, in fact, dead. Bereft of life, he rests in peace... pushing up the daisies! His metabolic processes are now history! He's off the twig! He's kicked the bucket, he's shuffled off his mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! (Thank you, Monty Python Realizing that no one is watching them, they proceed to behave in the most immoral ways. It's up to the Jesuit and a Carmelite nun to try to persuade them that man does have an inborn Kantian morality -- and, oddly enough, one of the book's atheist characters never even thinks about being naughty just because there's no one watching from the sky anymore.

Which brings me to my point... and one which I think Morrow makes, or at least which I infer. Which is the stronger morality? That derived from the fear that someone is watching you and will catch you? Or one derived from just knowing or feeling that a particular action is plain wrong?

Secular example: one can chose not to break into someone's house and steal their TV for one of two reasons. One: "I won't do it, because I could get caught by the police, and go to jail." Two: "I won't do it, because it isn't my TV, and taking something that belongs to someone else is wrong, and it'll really screw with the other person's life."

Selfishness vs. empathy.

Now, here's the funny thing. Christian morality (and religious morality in general) is of Type One. "I won't do (X) because I'll go to hell". Atheist/agnostic morality is of Type Two. "I won't do (X) because it's not a nice thing to do to my fellow being(s)." (Note that Type Two can also apply to things like harming animals or defacing property, the former being fellow beings, and the latter belonging to fellow beings. Apparently, Type One morality really says nothing about slaughtering animals or wrecking stuff. Except that, in the case of enemies of your tribe, you should do it so god will be pleased.)

If you're religious, ask yourself this question: how would you behave if god's corpse crash-landed in front of the TV cameras tomorrow? If the Pope, Pat Robertson, the Chief Rabbi, Dalai Lama, Grand Imam, and every priest, pastor, deacon, elder, etc., etc., etc., on the planet sadly announced, "God is truly dead." How would you behave the day after that? Same as you do now? Or would you feel that twinge that you'd missed something somehow, and it no longer mattered what you did?

Perhaps it's a bit of a mind game, something impossible to even wrap your head around whether you're a believer or not. Just as god can't vanish from my world tomorrow because god isn't there now, I'm sure your god can't vanish from your world tomorrow because, well... because. (Unless, of course, you open your eyes to Atheism -- but that would hopefully bring you to Type Two morality instead of wanton amorality.)

Anyway... my morality in no way derives from religion, but is as strong as that of the most pious individual. No, perhaps it's stronger, because my morality derives from things I absolutely will not do.

The point Morrow makes, I think, is that belief in god is frequently an excuse, or, as he puts it, "an alibi." I am not bad, 'cause I'll get busted.

Now... who thinks like that? Children. The very young, who haven't quite gotten the grasp of right or wrong, but have a vague idea of what will piss off Mom and/or Dad and/or whatever parental or authority figure they have. And, often, when they get caught, they lie their asses off.

(I said this wouldn't be a political post, but the above paragraph seems a perfect description of someone in the public eye right now. Um... damn, the name is on the tip of my tongue, just can't quite think of it at the moment...)

Religion largely serves to keep the faithful as children, unable to decide right and wrong for themselves because they don't need to. They just read the rule book for their particular sect, then try to behave as instructed -- although it can frequently be a selective reading. But Catholics seem big on committing adultery; Mormons, on homosexuality; and Fundamentalist Protestants on bearing false witness, assault and murder -- the latter two whether by act (Operation Rescue) or by outloud wishing (Pat Robertson).

I'm looking forward to the rest of Towing Jehovah, but it's nice to see someone express what I've believed for a long time. Morality based on set-in-stone rules and enforced by some invisible threat is not morality at all.

The only true morality comes from within us, born of tolerance and respect for all others. Anything else is just a load of crap.

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Battling Quotes 

From Bush's press conference today:
"To say 'unchecked power' basically is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the president, which I strongly reject."
And, from five years and a day earlier, December 18th, 2000 -- Bush meets with Congressional leaders prior to taking office:
I told all four that there were going to be some times where we don't agree with each other. But that's OK. If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator.
(Emphasis added.)

Flip... flop... flip...

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Civics Lesson 

Here's a Bush quote, courtesy of Eschaton:
"The legislature's job is to write law. It's the executive branch's job to interpret law."
Kind of sad when an elected official needs to go read the Civics for Dummies book again.Pathetic, isn't it? Oh yeah, just for W.: Legislative means Congress, Judicial means Supreme Court, Executive means President and Cabinet. I typed that real slow for you, too, just so you'd get it.

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Thanks a Lot, OJ... 

Once upon a time, right before OJ Simpson was arrested, he went on an inexplicable low-speed chase in his white Ford Bronco, and the news media followed with their helicopters -- at least the ones that had them. And the rest of the news directors said to themselves, "Hey, we need a chopper so we can follow stuff like this live." And most local news stations traded their bureaus in the State Capitals for the shiny new toys.

Hey, who needs to report the important but boring news about what your State government is trying to do to you when you can get a neat aerial shot of something?

Last week, here in LA, someone on an airplane at Burbank airport said the word "bomb", and the plane was evacuated. I happened to be Christmas shopping right near the airport and saw all five local media choppers hovering. I wondered whether something had blown up. Nope. Just a bunch of people getting off a plane. Oh, wow. Yeah, that image is really worthy of the attention.

The helicopter thing is getting ridiculous, as silly as the "Reporting LIVE! from..." stand-up where the reporter is in front of a building at 10 p.m., talking about something that happened six hours earlier. What's the point of the live shot? There is none. Of late, we've been treated to aerial shots of accident scenes after the clean-up, high schools after the evacuation, broken fire hydrants. I expect to see a kitten in a tree any day now. Fluffy, meaningless, unimportant crapola.

This morning, though, KABC-7, LA's local ABC affiliate, really went way over the line. I've already fired off an angry missive to them about it, but anyone else in the neighborhood who went through the same should complain as well, and tell the asshats to cool it with the shiny toys unless they're really necessary.

Here's what happened. At about 5:30 this morning, I'm rudely awakened by the sound of a helicopter that sounds like it's right outside my window. This thing is loud, louder than usual, and the rotors seem aimed for maximum noise. I try to go back to sleep with no success. When it's still hovering about forty minutes later, I figure, "Okay, it must be the apocalypse." I get up, turn on the TV and flip the channels until, finally, there's a traffic report on Channel 7. Overturned car on the Hollywood Freeway, and yes we've got to show it to you well before the buttcrack of dawn (it's not even the chode of dawn yet). Ohmygawd! Traffic in LA! Two lanes closed! STOP THE FUCKING PRESSES!!!

Except, right after the four seconds of oh-so-important aerial footage, traffic guy cuts to a map that (wait for it) GIVES US EXACTLY THE SAME INFORMATION. Sorry for the screaming. But I was sorely tempted, were it not a felony, to go outside at that moment with the laser level or a large throwin' rock or... something. Anything to make the roaring, hovering assclown just go away.

So... nothing important at all. Nobody's life is in danger, the neighborhood isn't being evacuated, there aren't armed and dangerous felons hopping through backyards. It's an absolute non-story, but that doesn't make any difference to the moron who demanded, "Get a chopper on it, now!"

For what it's worth, I could tell by the sound that there was only one helicopter in the area. That, and KABC-7 was the only channel showing news (er, "news") at that hour.

So, an open letter to all news directors and chopper dispatchers at TV stations everywhere: ask yourself, "Would it be worth having a droning, thrumming noise-machine parked over my house at fuck-all a.m. to see this story?" Hell, forget about the time, even. If no one is in imminent danger, if there's no reason people need the eye-in-the-sky view, then stop it.

Otherwise, you can just sit on your whirlybirds and spin. The whole lot of you useless twats. And, special message for KABC-7, from the LA Noise Ordinance:
(a)Between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. of the following day, no person shall operate any lawn mower, backpack blower, lawn edger, riding tractor, or any other machinery, equipment, or other mechanical or electrical device, or any hand tool which creates a loud, raucous or impulsive sound, within any residential zone or within 500 feet of a residence...

(I)t shall be unlawful for any person to willfully make or continue, or cause to be made or continued, any loud, unnecessary, and unusual noise which disturbs the peace or quiet of any neighborhood or which causes discomfort or annoyance to any reasonable person of normal sensitiveness residing in the area. The standard which may be considered in determining whether a violation of the provisions of this section exists may include, but not be limited to, the following:
(a) The level of noise;
(b) Whether the nature of the noise is usual or unusual;
(c) Whether the origin of the noise is natural or unnatural;
(d) The level and intensity of the background noise, if any;
(e) The proximity of the noise to residential sleeping facilities;
(f) The nature and zoning of the area within which the noise emanates;
(g) The density of the inhabitation of the area within which the noise emanates;
(h) The time of the day and night the noise occurs;
(i) The duration of the noise;
(j) Whether the noise is recurrent, intermittent, or constant; and
(k) Whether the noise is produced by a commercial or noncommercial activity.
This morning's little helicopter adventure went on for damn near an hour, with a repeat performance just before seven a.m.. And no doubt there are police witnesses, since the thing would have been just as audible from the police station down the street.

'Cause, it's the police who handle complaints of this nature.

Suck on that, ABC...

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Unclear on the Concept 

I guess W. is still sending those alimony checks to reality.

His tirades about getting caught doing something illegal have been pathetic. Despite his repeated insistence that he was allowed to spy on Americans by an act of war, he's half wrong. Yes, warrantless wiretaps are authorized, provided a warrant is obtained within seventy-two hours of the tap being put in place. The warrants are provided by a secret court; it's not a public process -- so seeking the warrants will not reveal to anyone outside of a select few whom the targets of the wiretaps are. To follow the law would not have harmed "national security" or the "war on (some) terrorists" or any of the other shibboleths this Administration loves to toss around so freely.

Makes it seem like the real goal in not following the law and seeking warrants was to keep the identity of the targets secret from... well, everyone but W. and his inner circle. It makes me wonder whether the list of targets wasn't limited to people in America with known or suspected connections to al Qaeda, but may have included political opponents, the media, anybody placed on a no-fly list. We just don't know.

And it's pathetic that our President is stomping his little foot and complaining that the release of this information to the public is helping "the enemy". Is that why the New York Times held the story for a year?

Here's an interesting experiment. Take any post 9/11 speech by W., and replace the words "the enemy" or "evil doers" with "the Jews". Then ask yourself, "Hm. Who does that sound like?"

Moustache and screaming optional, although we're getting close to the latter the more self-righteous and obstinate W. becomes.

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Friday, December 16, 2005


Morning news: Senate blocks renewal of the Patriot Act. Hoo-ray for them. Afternoon news: Al Qaeda in Iraq releases a new video. Booga-booga, look at the terra-ists, support mah plans.

Except, if you actually read a description of the video, instead of just look at the scary pictures and listen to the disingenuous description on the TV news, it isn't exactly that at all. The video is described as what insurgents had planned to do when they attacked Abu Ghraib prison last April. So, a planning manual for something that happened in Iraq eight months ago and, to compare the plans in the video with what really happened, not successfully at all.

Now, in seeing the images, I had my doubts on the origin of the video, especially when images of Abu Ghraib torture scrolled along the bottom of the video -- from left to right.

Getting my drift here? If not, pick up any book in Arabic and look for the title page. Hey, guess what, you're holding the book "backwards."

Seems odd to me that a right-to-left reading culture would video edit scrolling images left to right.

In any case, it really strikes me as a case of somebody somewhere panicking as things don't go well for the Patriot Act in the Senate, and pulling any old bit of captured footage out of their ass, claiming it's some brand new fear-mongering. But that ol' terror alert color hasn't changed, has it? I can't even remember the last time it changed.

So, move along here folks, nothing to see. Just the Boogeyman in the corner, but pay no attention to that arm in its back. I was going to say Karl Rove's arm, then Dick Cheney's, or maybe W's -- but, hell, which one of them is in charge nowadays? It's hard to tell, although it seems like W is paddling the Ship of State all by himself lately, and has no idea which way he wants it to go.

Too bad the way he's got it headed is straight for those falls up there...

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Thursday, December 15, 2005


Pardon my French. Or is it Anglo-Saxon? But that's the only way to describe the 251 members of Congress who voted to extend the Patriot Act. This ill-advised law, rushed onto the books in the days after 9/11 mostly unread, is unnecessary and unconstitutional. Period. The fact that its authors managed to give it a title that would acronymize to PATRIOT is a travesty; a slap in the face of all those patriots who died in the American Revolution.

Luckily, we still have the Senate to hold back this shredding of our rights and our very heritage as Americans. I've already contacted mine to demand that they oppose the Patriot Act. If you love the freedom and liberty upon which this country was founded and made great -- if, in short, you're a patriotic American -- you'll do the same.

Spying on Americans, harassing them, throwing people in prison without charge, creating secret no-fly lists (shades of Soviet-era travel passes), shipping folk off to foreign prisons to torture them will not and will never keep us safer. The only thing the Patriot Act does is turn America into a police state, destroying the very freedom we supposedly value so much.

Every single Congressperson who voted for this act today should be kicked out of office at the next election, if not sooner, regardless of party -- and replaced with someone who will actually do what elected members of Congress are supposed to do: Defend the Constitution.

And, of course, there's the biggest irony of all. BushCo. loves to trumpet that bullshit meme that terrorists attack us because "they hate our freedom." First off, no, that's not why. They hate our imperialistic incursions into their lands, and our support of Israel over all Muslim nations. Second, with its support of the Patriot Act, it would seem that Bush and his Administration hate freedom more than any terrorists. The Patriot Act itself is a terrorist act against our Constitution. We had the mechanisms in place to stop terrorism in 2001. We also had a government that didn't do their job. If they had, and would, then we would be safe, and we wouldn't need to spin Orwell in his grave to do it.

To the Senate: do whatever you can to kill this law. We, the People (remember -- your bosses?) will be watching. And any Senator who gives their "Aye" vote to the rape of the ideals which created America had best watch their back in the next election.

Remember -- it looks like Diebold is imploding. Their CEO has resigned in the wake of investigations, and Florida has outlawed their machines. Republicans won't be stealing the next election like they have the last two. Which means -- fair fight.

If you're a true patriot, then the Patriot Act has no place in America whatsoever.

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Quit While You're Ahead... 

Oops. Too late for that. W hasn't been ahead since Setember 12, 2001.

Just heard him on the news today, saying that "maybe 30,000" Iraqis had died in his little misguided war.

Yeah, that's like Hitler claiming "maybe 100,000 Jews died in the Holocaust."

Pardon my Godwin. Numbers for you wingnuts; this is like Stalin saying, "maybe I killed a million people or so."

I wonder if W is paying alimony to reality. Because their divorce was obviously granted a long, long time ago.

Next thing you know, W will be claiming that we've only lost 500 American soldiers in Iraq.

"Now watch this drive..."

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Saturday, December 10, 2005


Comedy Heaven gained a superstar today...

Richard Pryor was a true pioneer, following in the footsteps of Lenny Bruce and Redd Foxx; a man not afraid to tell it like it was. He may have had his personal demons, but he was a comedic genius, and arguably one of the big influences on most currently working comedians.

I salute you, Mr. Pryor. I don't believe in an afterlife but, if I did, I'd have no doubt that you're doing a sold-out command performance somewhere up there right now -- and knocking them re-dead.

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It's Impeachin' Time 

If the statement sourced to several witnesses in this story is true, then it's time to impeach George W. Bush, for reasons as noted below.

According to the story, when certain GOP leaders pointed out to W that provisions in the Patriot Act could undermine the Constitution, W replied:
“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”
I remind you of the Oath of Office that every president takes:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Said oath is dictated by the Constitution itself, Article II, Section 1. Welp, in one simple statement, Dubya has failed to preseve, protect and defend the Constitution. By calling it "just a goddamned piece of paper," President Numbnuts has done two things: 1) definitely failed to defend the Constitution; 2) demonstrated his lack of any sort of historical education, since the Constitution is a) not written on paper, and b) takes up more than one piece of parchment. (They were scrawling things on the hides of dead lambs back then, dipshit. And there were at least 13 copies of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, since they were ratified by the colonies. But that's probably too much history for your tiny fucking brain, in any case. Might want to find a fourth grader from a non-ID state to help you out here...)

According to the original source, there were at least three witnesses to W's outburst. And I totally agree with the sentiments expressed here.

By openly defying his oath of office, W has lied to America in ways far, far worse than anything Ken Starr could have imagined in his wettest dream about Bill Clinton. What if Abe Lincoln had said that the Constitution was "just a goddamn piece of paper?" What if Nixon had done this? Or, for you conservative mouth-breathers, FDR or Clinton?

Sorry, kids, but it's game over. Time for a special prosecutor endowed with one simple power: find those three witnesses and, if two of them verify the story and quote above, it's time to kick W's sorry ass out of office.

The Constitution, just a goddamned piece of paper? That, my friends, is the single most un-American statement that anyone, anywhere, can make. If, in fact, W made this statement, it's time for him to go. Not just out of office via impeachment, but straight to Gitmo. If the reports are true, then the true hater of freedom is President Numbnuts, and none of us.

BTW, about twenty years ago, I visited a museum exhibition which presented the original Declaration of Independence. The document (despite what you'd be led to believe by seeing "National Treasure") was presented for about thirty seconds at a time, locked behind really, really thick pieces of glass. And seeing it brought tears to my eyes.

Here was a document which declared that people did not have some special right to rule just because of their parentage. A document which declared that all men were created equal...

A document that a certain asshole seems to have ignored. Because, were he to heed it, he'd realize two things. First, "You have no right to rule just because your father had this job first." And, second, "You especially have no right to rule if you hold the Constitution itself in such contempt."

So, what's it to be, W? Will you uphold your oath of office, or suffer the penalty of lying to the American People on two particular January 20th's?

Hm. Blow Job. Trashing the Constition.

Which is the greater crime, again?

A true patriot cries when their supposed leader tramples the Constitution. A true patriot realizes who the real enemy is in such a situation. Advice to my right-wing bretheren: without the Constitution, this country would not exist. And, apparently, W would prefer a country without a Constitution.

Stick that in your pipes and smoke it, will you?

Because, after all, a mountain of lies about a blow job do nothing to defy the oath of office. No president is sworn to "Protect and defend the truth about what happens to my crotch."

But every last fucking one of them is sworn to protect and defend the Constitution.

And, until W, every one of them has.

It is far, far, far beyond time to kick this motherfucker out of office. And January 20th, 2009 is far, far too late. If you love America, if you love this country, if you're truly a patriot -- if you want to make a patriot(ic) act, then, Congresscritters, the only wise, valid, sane choice is this. Impeachment.

Now. Yesterday. Tomorrow. Good-bye to the Nazis in our midst. Good-bye to the ones who truly hate our freedoms. Hint: their names don't start with Al or Hassan or Amir. They begin with George, Dick and Dick.

If you love this country, truly love this country -- then you must protect and defend the Constitution. You must kick these people out of power now.

If you don't, then don't be surprised when the people do it themselves.

After all, that's the true power given us by both the Constitution and the Declaration of Indepence. If you truly love America, then these are the words you must follow:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
The causes? Our current elected and/or appointed rulers have totally fucked up. One people -- the people of the United States of America -- should find it necessary to dissolve the political bands, and assume the separate and equal station.

If you're a true patriot, this is not sedition. This is freedom. This is what George Washington fought for, and what Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin perpetuated. This is America.

Anything else is... well, it's bullshit. Anything else is...

Say it with me: "The Constitution is just a goddamned piece of paper."

Anybody who utters such a phrase not only shouldn't rule, but should be deported, to a country where they "don't love our freedoms." Hm. Perhaps Iran?

Yeah, that's the ticket. Find W in contempt of his Oath of office, then send his sorry ass off to Iran, and let him enjoy some Islamic Justice. He doesn't deserve the American form. Nor does anyone in his cabinet.

You want to find the true enemies of Democracy and Freedom? Look no further than the White House.

And... do you sense a hint of anger in my tirade above? Good. You fucking well should. Because I love this country. I love the ideals upon which it was founded. And my heart fucking tears in two every single time the assholes who've seized power trample on the sacred documents that have, for nearly two hundred and thirty years, made us the best fucking country on the planet. I may be a raving liberal, but cut me open and I bleed red, white and blue.

Despite what the wingnuts would believe, I love our soldiers, in every war from the Revolution to Enduring Freedom (or whatever this week's bullshit euphemism is), and that includes Viet Nam. Why? Because they wear our uniforms and fight for our side, whether or not the people who sent them there knew what they were doing. Although I'm a pacifist, I greatly admire anyone who takes up arms to defend this country. And that's kind of the key concept -- takes up arms to defend this country. Not to defend the wealth of a few rich bastards, or turns into cannon fodder to defend the misguided principals of a few greedy morons; the joke on the morons in power being this: the very brave men and women fighting your battles overseas aren't there for you. They're there for us. I'm sure that there were tons of Clinton haters in Bosnia -- but not a one of them that would have set down their gun and said "fuck it" because Clinton was the president. Likewise, I'm sure there are plenty of Bush haters in Iraq who are staying the course because they believe they're fighting for us. Us being -- not you rich assholes in D.C., but Us being... well, does anyone in Washington remember the phrase "We, the people?"

Our soldiers do. Our soldiers always do. And, memo to all soldiers -- I was far too young to hate you for Viet Nam. Blame the greedy Baby Boomers for that crap. And remember that, for the most part, it's Baby Boomers who never served in the military who have stuck your asses in Iraq right now. I believe the term is "Chickenhawks." But, like many people of my generation, we've learned the meaning of the phrase, "Hate the war, but love the warrior."

Again, this reminder -- Love of Country is the true determinant here. And, whether you Love your Country by thinking that government shouldn't be too big, and shouldn't be nosing into your life (a Conservative ideal until it comes to the bedroom), or by thinking that government should serve its people by helping them, without dictating their behavior (the Liberal version of the same), it still comes down to the same thing...

The government is not made up of the people in office. The government is, first, last and always, the People. When the folk in the Executive, Legislative or Judicial branches have abrogated their responsibility to the Constitution, then it's the People's job to dump their asses.

To be a true Patriot is to remember that the folk in those branches work for us, not the other way around. And, to be true to the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, when they fail us, it is within our power, and no one elses', to fire their sorry asses.

"The Constitution is just a goddamn piece of paper..."

Them's fighting words. And anybody who truly loves America (and our freedoms) should want nothing more than to get rid of whoever said that -- Democrat, Republican or Independent.

I'll say it again -- the statement quoted above is as un-American as anything, anything -- anything -- Osama bin Laden could do.

That statement is treason and sedition.

Impeachment for a blow job? If you supported that, you're a hypocrite if you can't support it for a goddamn piece of paper.

After all, Clinton only stained a dress. W. has stained... well, he's stained all of American history back to July 4, 1776.

And I'd call that the highest of treason. If you can't -- then you're not an American, and you hate our freedom. Don't you?

I love my country. I love America. I still have some hope, thanks to the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, that we are the best country in the world. And I will kick the shit out of anyone who does not respect those two documents more than anything else.

I was lucky enough to be born here, but, by virtue of that fact, I consider this to be the oath I took when I popped out of my momma's womb on American soil:
"I do solemnly affirm that I will... to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Just a piece of paper?

Anyone who thinks that can kiss my red, white and blue ass. And that includes you know who. 'Cause, every April 15th, I remember exactly who that asshole works for. And, were it up to me, I'd be telling him to his sorry, gin-blossomed face, "You're fired."

If you love this country, you'd say exactly the same.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Update: Well, you all know by now. Der Governator has pulled a Pontius Pilate, the SCOTUS has said no, and Tookie Williams will probably be dead in just under two hours. There are your conservative family values, folks. In honor of the holidays, let's kill a man. Which makes me wonder -- are the wingnuts' screams of 'War on Christmas' whenever anyone tries to be inclusive by saying "Happy Holidays" really just a cover-up for their own agenda, which seems to be the "War on Black People"? Hell, if they really want to express their "Christian" values, why don't they just crucify Tookie, instead of give him the needle? You know they all want to, and they'd be fighting over the whip to deliver those thirty-nine lashes.

Now, Tookie may not be exactly the best person to use as an anti-death penalty poster-child -- but cheerleading for his death is just as heinous as the crime for which he's soon going to be murdered.

And let's call it what it is. The State may be doing it, but the death penalty is still murder. And if you can oppose abortion while not believing the previous statement, then you are a raving hypocrite.

The death penalty mystifies me, especially because the folks who seem to be the biggest proponents largely overlap with the anti-abortion crowd. Now, explain that one -- people who get their panties in a wad over what they consider the "murder" of innocent fetuses have no problem pulling the switch or pushing the plunger on full-grown adults.

Don't get me wrong; I do think that there are certain people who do deserve the death penalty. Serial killers, for example, should be snuffed out. But... I don't make the mistake of thinking that the death penalty is any kind of deterrent for future criminals. It isn't, because your typical criminal operates under the "I won't ever get caught" mindset. In reality, the death penalty is nothing more than society's vengeance. The trouble is, it isn't dealt with as such honestly. If it were, we wouldn't have the ol' lethal injection thing, a method of execution that pretends to do everything possible to not make the condemned suffer. No -- if we were honest about the death penalty, then every such felon to be dispatched would be killed in the same way they killed their victims, in public, on TV, by the surviving friends and family of the victim. And we would admit, out-loud, that the killing of convicts has nothing to do with deterrence or justice, and everything to do with naked, raving, pissed-off revenge.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, in certain cases. As an atheist, I think that murder is the absolute worst crime that any human being can commit, because there ain't no afterlife to which the victim goes. And, if you take away another person's life, you've taken everything from them, and deserve the same fate yourself. Mostly.


And then, there's Stanley "Tookie" Williams, and a case I have a lot of conflict over. Now, honestly, I haven't dug into the minutiae of things, so (like most every person commenting on the situation) I'm talking out of my ass. But... on the one hand, he was convicted for killing four people, and there seems to be no doubt there. Also, he founded the Crips, a gang that has plagued LA and the US for years. That action alone should merit death, by firing squad. With Uzis. Lots of Uzis. Like, the penultimate scene in Scarface Uzis.

And yet... and yet... here is a man who seems to have truly shown remorse for his actions. He's won the Nobel Peace Prize from prison, and has been nominated again. He's tried to tell young people, "Don't do the gang thing. It's bad."

And there's the rub. The conflict I can't resolve. Do we judge him for what he did way back when, or for what he's done since? To quote Richard III: "Plead what I will be, not what I have been; not my desserts, but what I shall deserve..."

If the death penalty is truly a deterrant to crime, then Arnold Schwarzenegger should commute Tookie Williams's sentence to life without possibility of parole. Let him, like Charles Manson, rot in prison, at least with the hope that he will use his position to convince another generation not to be like he was early in life.

But, if the death penalty is nothing more than revenge disguised, then Tookie Williams should fry for the four people whose lives he ended.

Honestly, if I were the governor, I'd be delivering that clemency. It's the old two wrongs don't make a right theory. And honestly, ask yourself this: which is more of a punishment to a criminal? A quick end, exit stage left, party over? Or, a life wasted behind bars, locked up like an animal until nature (or a pissed off inmate with a shiv) takes its course?

Truly, if the prison system were about justice (and not revenge), the latter option would be the far worse punishment.

I say let Tookie live, only because, that way, he will not live the unexamined life. And, apparently, he's been doing a lot of examining behind bars.

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