Friday, November 11, 2011

Penn State: my school, my perspectives

I have been fielding questions and participating in countless discussions on the Penn State sex scandal that is currently commandeering the headlines.  As I have been sorting out my feelings on the issue, I have been paying close attention to the news, listening to my law school peers, and asking questions to my professors.  In my evaluation, I have approached the situation from several different angles, as follow:

I have been working at the PSU Dickinson School of Law’s Children’s Advocacy Clinic for nearly a year and have served many kids in the contexts of both guardian ad litem and attorney.  Looking at the scandal from this perspective, several facets of the issue disturb me.

1) A bogus email sent by one of our deans.  Disclaimer: this particular dean and I are not on exactly friendly terms.  I find him disrespectful, avoidant, and I feel that he single-handedly makes decisions that impact everyone but him while behind closed doors with no transparency.  Putting my personal vendetta aside, this particular dean wrote ALL of the law school faculty a letter stating that if their class members start talking about the scandal, then they need to re-focus the attention of the conversation on the fact that the law school has a Children’s Advocacy Clinic.  And…so?  I guess that he is saying that we should not be blamed for this because we have a handful of students who regularly work with abused kids, myself included.  He then made some OVERLY generous statements about the Clinic.  

 I don’t have a problem with the trumped up praise, really, but I do have a problem with this forced effort to not let students express their feelings in favor of discussing the Clinic exclusively.  This scandal has affected the students greatly.  At one moment we are wondering if our degree has lost all value, then realizing that ALL subsequent interviews will begin with the question “So what do you think about Joe Paterno?”, then wondering if we should be ashamed based on our PSU affiliation.  It has been nerve-wracking, to say the least, for us students and we have the right to discuss whatever aspects of this issue we find relevant and therapeutic without administrative interference.

2) A lack of focus on the victims.  With all of the media hype surrounding JoPa, you would thing that HE was the one molesting kids!  Not only has the perpetrator nearly disappeared from the media’s eye, but the victims are equally scarce.  I am disappointed with the coverage of this tragedy focusing on the sensational firing of prominent PSU employees, not on the REAL issue, which is harm to children.

3) Mandatory reporting requirements.  The current law in Pennsylvania setting forth the people who are statutorily required to report suspected child abuse is 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6311.  This statute contains a list of people who are considered “mandatory reporters” including doctors, nurses, school teachers, social services providers, and so forth.  Coach is not a part of that list.  Of course, the list is not exclusive, but arguably JoPa is not covered by the statute at all because his position as head football coach of a university does NOT put him into regular contact with children, as the statute requires.  As far as I know, JoPa was not coaching the Second Mile program where the victims were taken advantage of; therefore, he is arguably excluded from the statute.  This is perhaps why he is not being criminally prosecuted like his superiors (who would be managing both PSU and the Second Mile program) are. 

Additionally, the version of this statute at the time of the incidents in question included additional language which stated that a child must actually “come before” you (ie, if you were a teacher you would see the kid at school with bruises or if you were a therapist the child would disclose abuse to you during a session) OR you had to see the abuse being committed.  If the court applies the statute as it appeared at the time of many of the incidents, I believe that even JoPa’s superiors will be guiltless because they never saw any kids or any foul play.  BUT the graduate assistant (now assistant coach) McQueary who DID see abuse occur likely WOULD be in trouble.  Much to me and my peers’ confusion, McQueary has currently not been charged with anything and not been fired like anyone else.  Only today was he asked to not attend this week’s football game, and that only after a public outcry.  And rumor has it that McQueary’s dad and the perpetrator are very good friends…fishy.

I also have a heart for public defense.  I hope to be a public defender and I spent this past summer working near DC for a wonderful PD’s office.  From this side of the table, several different red flags are raised.

1) Joe Paterno.  I was relieved to hear that he hired a prominent defense attorney— he needs one.  He is a very old man (no offense, Joe) and when I think about him needing to handle these extremely sensitive issues, I think about my own grandfather and how he would feel about handling huge press conferences and having everyone glaring at him, thinking he is pure evil.  It makes me ill.  In Joe’s time, the world was not so educated about sexual abuse and I’m sure this is a difficult concept for him to grasp and understand how to approach.  I think he has been given far more blame than he deserves and I cannot agree that he honestly believed the reports he was receiving about his right-hand man.  I cannot imagine he took the allegations seriously and as such, he did his duty of reporting to his superiors and then left it there, thinking it was all a hoax anyway and not wanting to bury his close friend alive in what he likely believed were unfounded allegations.

So when Joe makes a statement to the press like “In hindsight, I wish I had done more,” I again think of my own grandfather.  I feel that Joe was just trying to do the right thing and make an honest, seemingly sensitive statement like my grandfather would.  He would not be familiar with the legal ramifications of that statement; he would only want to say what he thought was appropriate.  Unfortunately, the defense attorney in my head shouts, “SHUT UP! THEY WILL USE THAT AGAINST YOU!  THAT’S BASICALLY AN ADMISSION OF GUILT!”  But how would he know that?  I think people need to get off his case until more facts become available about what he actually knew and believed.

Additionally, casually calling a prominent coach of nearly 50 years who was literally the face of the university on the phone and just saying “Uhhh…well…you’re fired” is unacceptable.  Completely disrespectful of a great man and I am embarrassed that the Board would think that was okay.

2) Lastly, the perpetrator, Sandusky.  I’m gonna get rotten tomatoes thrown at me for this, but whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?  When before a grand jury, the prosecutor has an EXTREMELY low amount of evidentiary procedures to follow to prevent false information from coming into the court.  A grand jury is NOT a regular jury.  It is a pre-jury and the prosecution basically ALWAYS wins; thats just the way the system works.  It's just a step that always happens before a regular trial- he has NOT been found guilty!  So I feel that people who jump to the conclusion that Sandusky's guilt has already been proven are uninformed.  I am shocked at the media’s absence of the word “alleged.”  There has been NO genuine judicial fact finding that these events have occurred, so as of now these are only alleged events and alleged victims.  The way the media is treating this as won and done before trial has even begun, coupled with the way they are blasting this on all stations, means that Sandusky will NEVER have the opportunity to be tried before an unbiased jury, as is his Constitutional right.

1) First of all, I’m getting VERY tired of all of the emails from our (new) administration.  Enough is enough.  I respect them trying to keep us in the know, but the recurring theme dominating all of these emails is to guilt trip us into being as honorable as we can since now its apparently our sole responsibility to restore credibility to the university.  Great.  Thanks.  So how about a tuition cut for my stress and trouble?  Emails with words such as these…
Through your conduct every day, you can play a role in restoring the integrity, honor, and pride that have always characterized Penn State…always remember that your actions reflect on the entire Penn State community. Please set an example that will make us all proud.
                                    …don’t exactly inspire confidence.

2) Joe Paterno.  I have no real loyalties to PSU football, but I was sad to see this legendary man go.  I have conspiracy theories that pulling Joe into this was all a scheme to get him out of the way so the school can get into a more profitable conference, but I have really no evidence to substantiate that. 

3) Westboro Baptist Church.  You know times are tough with WBC decides to protest at your school.  These are the deplorable people who protest the funerals of our honorable military heroes with signs like “God Hates Fags” and do forth—absolutely despicable.  Well, apparently we made their godless list too.  I can’t wait to hear them screaming garbage like ‘God hates Penn State because it hires homosexuals and those boys got what they deserved as punishment from God for attending a PSU affiliated program.’  Outrageous.  I’m offended already.  Seriously.

To counter this, law student groups have already decided to organize a peaceful assembly to censor the WBC at Beaver Stadium tomorrow.  Good luck to my fellow students; may God grant you patience and calmness in order to prevent yourself from being sued for punching a WBC member.

4) The riots.  Yet another example of media sensationalism, these “riots” were blown way out of proportion.  The VAST majority of students peacefully gathered at the football stadium and at JoPa’s home, expressing support of him and literally holding hands and singing our school song.  Only a handful of (stupid) students were responsible for tipping a news truck, attempting to light a tree on fire, and so forth.  These kids were probably already drunk and just wanted an excuse to run around town.  Honestly, there’s not too much else to do in State College…  I’d like to think they intentionally chose to tip a news van because they want to protest the media’s skewed coverage of this issue, but I honestly can’t give them that much credit.  This handful of students truly embarrassed the rest of us and, unfortunately, have become the face of all of us across the country.

In sum, I hope that justice and right prevails.  I hope that the (alleged) victims receive all the help and support they need and deserve.  I hope the media figures out that there is SO much more going on in the world than this.  I hope that people will recognize how graciously most of us students are trying to handle this stressful situation.  And I sincerely hope that Tom Ridge is our new university president!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Problem with "Christians"

The problem with Christians is that sometimes they're not.  They're not Christian, ie, they don't act in Christ-like ways and they don't legitimately follow the parameter's of Christ's teachings.  If you recall, I discussed this when we had the embarrassing Hitler-esque burning of the Quran in the south a year or so ago.  Yet again it comes up, and of all places, at a Conservative Christian voter's summit.


Case in point:

Pastor Robert Jeffress announced at this summit that Mormonism is a "cult" and that its followers, ie Mitt Romney, are not Christian.  He claims they are not Christian because they don't embrace "historical christianity."  Actually, if he did a little research, he would discover that the Mormon church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) is actually based on the church that Christ himself organized while he lived.  This church has 12 apostles (like historical christianity) and a top leadership of 3 apostles (think Peter, James, and John- like historical christianity) who lead the church with the priesthood of God (like historical christianity), along with missionaries sent abroad (think Saint Paul in historical christianity), etc.  They are an extension of historical christianity, hence their name- the church of JESUS CHRIST of LATTER-DAY SAINTS- meaning the Church that Christ historically organized as re-instated in these modern times, since the foundation's of Christ's original church have since become corrupted by man and the historical christianity has been lost.

Oh and by the way, they worship Christ as their Savior and redeemer and as the son of God.

The only part of "historical christianity" that the Latter-day Saints do not embrace is the Nicene Creed, which is what these modern christian sects seem to be so stuck on.  But guess what, the Nicene Creed is not the Bible, it is the product of men, hundreds of years after Christ when christians could no longer agree on what historical christianity was anymore.  Christ's teachings and foundations were being altered and the simple basic principle of who and what are God and Jesus were already being modified.  This principle was the subject of heated debate, argument, and lobbying.  It was a very political convention and finally common ground was found just to have something to unite them (can you say Congress??).  Religious truth comes from revelation, not debate, which is why the Latter-day Saints do not jump to embrace the Nicene Creed.  It's not because Latter-day Saints are not Christian, it's because the Nicene Creed didn't come from Christ, it came from scholars.  It's not doctrine or revelation, it's a compromise; therefore it should not preclude an honest group of sincere worshipers and followers of Christ from being considered christian.

But one thing that IS doctrine and DID come from Christ is the Christian value of "love one another", repeated by Christ again and again throughout the New Testament.  Christ's agonizing atonement was made because he loves us and wants to save us ALL from sin, even if we are sinners and even if He does not agree with our politics, and so forth.  As such, I just cannot see how name-calling and labeling people's sincerely religious beliefs, in order to gain one's one political advantage, is something that any real Christian would think is okay for them to do and within their doctrinal parameters.

Looks like that rock star newsman Anderson Cooper thought the same way and he TOTALLY called out Pastor Jeffress in the following news clip:

So maybe being in a cult is not so bad since Pastor Jeffress seems to classify everyone but himself and his followers as being in a cult, he even has some doubts about Catholicism.  Oh, and even if you are not in a cult, he will probably not accept your claim as being a Christian anyway, so there's really no point trying to please this bigot.

I'm sorry, but cult is a VERY derogatory term.  Cult= drinking poisoned purple Kool Aid because some guy you worship told you to.  Yearning for Zion polygamist group in Texas?  Maybe a cult, but I would still say that word is too strong.  Buddism and Islam?  No.  You can't just make these huge offensive claims, and calling something only a "theological cult" does not make it any better.  After all, to outsiders, evangelical christianity is also based on a man starting a social following, that man being Jesus Christ.  It's only their belief in Christ's divinity that takes them, in their view, out of cult status.  But in all these other religions' views, Joseph Smith, Mohammed, Buddah, and so forth where all chosen prophets inspired by a higher power, they are not just "men" trying to make money, gain power and influence, and control people's minds. 

It comes right down to my friend John Skaggs' life motto: think before you speak!

And if you're going to be broadcast on national television, I would not only think, but I would think VERY hard and research before I speak.  I have very little respect for intentionally infecting others with self-imposed ignorance.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Turkey Recall & Why it's all Pharma's Fault

And here comes yet another reason for me to hate the Big Pharmaceutical companies.  Corruption in the inhumane meat-packing industry is encouraged by the evil empire I collectively call "Pharma" who provides US farmers with FOUR TIMES the amount of antibiotics than are consumed and prescribed by humans in the US so that they can keep raising their animals in nasty environments full of other animals that have died from disease and their own animal feces teeming with viruses.  Meanwhile the industrial "farmers" are feeding their animals foods that make them ill (CORN!) because it's cheaper to buy subsidized grain and subsidized antibiotics and pack animals into unhealthy environments than to raise and feed animals the right way.  (see The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan for more details- an EXCELLENT and highly informative book).  And then those corn farmers are encouraged by the government through subsidies to perpetuate the problematic feeding of animals and at the end of the day we are all fat and sick with salmonella from eating diseased animals and high fructose corn syrup all day.  But I digress...

Cargill is pretty much the embodiment of the Evil Empire and so when I heard that this week they recalled 36 MILLION POUNDS of ground turkey, I went right to their website to see what they had to say about it.  So after one death and a whopping 76 people coming down with salmonella (not fun at all), they released the following statements from their president of turkey processing, Steve Willardsen:

“Eliminating food borne illness is always our goal.”

==> Oh, really?!  Then how do you explain the DISGUSTING living conditions of your animals?!  How do you explain the fact that you are intentionally feeding your turkeys grains when they were biologically designed to eat grass and grubs and that the grains make them ill to the point that you MUST prescribe them antibiotics?  If you REALLY were interested in preventing disease, you would feed your animals properly in the first place and give them a -shocking!- sanitary place to live.

Our man, Steve, goes on:

"Cargill is contacting its customers to make certain they know which of their ground turkey products are affected by this recall…Cargill is working closely with its U.S. customers to make certain as much of the product is retrieved as possible"

==> Oh, right.  I'm expecting a phone call from Cargill any minute now, I'm sure they are VERY concerned about me and Mabel next door...

And finally:
“We all need to remember bacteria is everywhere..."

==>  In other words, get over it America!  Someone died?  Meh- people die everyday, its just germs!  Not our fault.  


I then looked to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service and they had some interesting things to say:

'No hormones have been approved for use in turkeys. Antibiotics may be given to prevent disease and increase feed efficiency. In approving drugs for use in livestock and poultry, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) work together. FDA sets legal limits for drug residues in meat and poultry. FSIS enforces the limits FDA sets for drug residues.

A "withdrawal" period is required from the time antibiotics are administered before the bird can be slaughtered. This [arguably] assures that no residues are present in the bird's system. FSIS randomly samples poultry at slaughter and tests for residues. Under the Federal meat and poultry inspection laws, any raw meat or poultry shown to contain residues above established tolerance levels is considered adulterated and must be condemned.'

[NOTE: SALMONELLA IS NOT CURRENTLY CONSIDERED AN ADULTERANT UNTIL IT ACTUALLY MAKES SOMEONE SICK!] the FDA and FSIS says its okay to give antibiotics not ONLY to prevent disease (interesting that it is used to PREVENT disease, not TREAT disease, since they already know that disease is inevitable in their improperly treated animals!) but antibiotics can also be used to "increase feed efficiency."  So this is their license to give animals bad food because its cheaper.  AND I read this as meaning its also okay to give animals antibiotics to help them fatten up quicker, which it does.  And for Cargill, the less time an industrial farmer needs to be feedings their turkey before the slaughterhouse, the better...or at least the cheaper.  And yet again, Cargill the evil empire of food robs the consumer and makes us ill all at the same time.

And clearly this "withdrawal period" is not really working out so well if people are STILL getting sick and STILL showing resistance to common antibiotics as a result of over-exposure via permissible drug residue in our food. 

And then there was NPR to shed some additional light on the issue:

'In 2008, the government found that 78 percent of turkeys testing positive for salmonella were contaminated with strains resistant to at least one type of antibiotics. The USDA says antibiotics may be given to turkeys "to prevent disease and increase feed efficiency."        [so you'll get sick and then your own antibiotics won't work!]

The size of the latest outbreak has renewed calls for the government to take action against the use of antibiotics in healthy food animals.'

Let's hope the outcries can even make a tiny dent this time in the major structural problem our food system has.  But I'm sure Pharma won't let than happen any time soon, so don't count on it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Legit Tagging

Many DC hooligans, I have noticed, tend to be a tad more historically and politically aware than your average graffiti-painter:

Yep.  That's a Benjamin Frankin quote.  Impressive.

"Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither."

Monday, June 13, 2011

Old News: Old Borders

This isn't the most current news, but considering the Obama Administration works pretty's probably still number 1 on their agenda; therefore, still relevant :)

Here is an article regarding the speech Obama made last month that I listened to at the laundromat- hey, I dont have a TV, so my Presidential speech-hearing is limited almost exclusively to the gym and laundromat if I want to see it live!  Anyway, when I listened, my jaw totally dropped and I SWEAR Obama MUST read my blog because I could not have said anything better myself!

He focused on two issues that go hand-in-hand: (1) Israel and Palestine's shared borders, and (2) Security.

The I/P border has been a SERIOUS issue for a very long time, note the illustration below.  We used these same maps in my Near Eastern Studies class at the BYU Jerusalem Center:

As we all know, the Jewish people have called Jerusalem and thereabouts home for centuries and they were scattered and re-gathered there over the course of history and, in recognition of this being their historical homeland, part of Palestine was officially given as a religious state to the Jewish people after the atrocities they collectively endured during the second World War.  Unfortunately for them, this part of the world was also the historic home of other groups of people who did not take the news too well that their ancestor's enemies would be taking back their most prized land that they have been fighting for since, well, forever.  As the influx of Jewish refugees and immigrants swelled, so did the tempers of their now-displaced neighbors, generally known as Palestinians.  The state of Israel was created at the sign of a piece of paper and Israel had the whole western world at their back post-WWII as they struggled for prominence and power in the area.  Meanwhile, Palestine floated along as a bitter, under-developed quasi-nation with little or no international respect or even recognition. 

As a result, as Israel gained power and resources, Palestine lost power and land holdings accordingly.  When I was in Jerusalem, I heard about an employee at my school who had to lose her job there because the Israelis built a wall that shut off her neighborhood from accessing Jerusalem regularly.  The worst part about it was that her neighborhood wasn't even on a border!  The wall was built such that it bisected a Palestinian neighborhood in the West Bank, thereby increasing the Israeli holdings in the West Bank (since now its within the wall and considered "Israel", and Palestine can't very well change that!) and simultaneously cutting off people from crossing into the city on the whim of border patrol.

This is not an uncommon occurrence.

So you can see just how Israel has been able to carve into Palestine over time (note the porous West Bank map on the far right).  Of course this leads to anger and annoyance by the Palestinians- and what can they do about it? NOTHING besides throw molotov cocktails over these hated walls because they have an unrecognized and weak government, continually being toppled and and overthrown and infiltrated, which can do nothing for them.

Back to President Obama, so he wants to go back to the pre-1967 borders which would get rid of the recent wall-building shananagins that we have just been talking about.  He also wants Palestine to work toward being a recognized state, which would hold them to higher standards and give them more power to both (a) protect their people, and to (b) stop them from un-sanctioned hate crimes against their Israeli neighbors.  It's a win-win.

Israel is mad of course, they have been succeeding at their sneak attack land ciphoning game and they see Palestine as a threat whether a recognized state or not, and this is probably the first time that a US President has appeared to present a plan that is easily interpreted as pro-Palestinian, so they are fuming!  But I do think that, in the end, having honest, clear-cut borders and a Palestine that is accountable to the world will be in everyone's best interests.

PS, support this nonprofit: Middle East Children's Alliance-

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hearsay and Israel

In law school, I spent about 2+ months of my life trying to wrap my head around the federal "hearsay" rules that apply to evidence admitted into court.  Basically, anything asserting to be the truth that is not stated in front of the fact-finder cannot be used.  You would think that a similar principle would apply in the world of journalism, specifically, that you don't report on something without an eyewitness or some other indicia of reliability.  It's common sense that you should not report gossip or half-truths as the facts. Right??  Unfortunately, sometimes the (American) media likes to use partial truths when reporting something negative to soften the blow, only to quietly release the truth later when no one is really paying attention or when people have already formed their opinions anyway.

When bin Laden's death was intially reported, the military correspondent on NPR that I listened to decidedly said "bin Laden was armed with a gun at the time of the attack."  Later, it was said that, "bin Laden may or may not have been armed, but he certainly put up a fight."  And finally, "bin Laden was not armed."  Well...?  Is there really any excuse for that?
I have been moderately following the recent Nakba Day Israeli/Palestinian clash- I still consider both of those peoples my friends and I hate when I hear these things.  The line that was the biggest hearsay offender from a recent NYT article said:
    "Commentary in newspapers and on airwaves in both Israel and the Palestinian areas suggested that what took place Sunday might serve as a dress rehearsal for the coming year, posing a serious challenge to Israel."

A. Note that they generically said "commentary" not ____ newspaper or _____news station or Near Eastern Studies Expert John Doe stated...  For all we know, some dude on the street called into their local radio and made an out -of-the-blue accusation that is now considered an expert prophesy thanks to the New York Times.

B. It's the Palestinian "area" not actually Palestine.  That whole area of the world can be called "the Palestine area" but phrasing it like this makes it sound like Palestinians are admitting that they are planning some mass attack on Israel within the year.  That is clearly misleading.

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post is talking about how the Egyptian Foreign Minister Elaraby was instrumental in creating the alliance between the Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah, because he believes that together these groups could help Palestine become a recognized state which would have more responsibility and be held to the standards set by the UN, thereby helping to promote peace for Israel in the future. (I happen to agree)  But of course you don't see this on US headlines because the Obama Administration considers Egypt their baby and does not want it out that Egypt may have a different agenda relating to Israeli/Palestinian relations than the US has because it will make all of our (pathetic) efforts to promote reform in Egypt look wasteful!

And may I just say how disappointed I am in the Israeli army?  Seeing a bunch of frustrated Palestinians marching was honestly just a convenient excuse to shoot a few of them.  What were the Palestinians armed with? Rocks?!  If they really believed this to be a military offensive, its time for the Israeli military to re-think their training methods.

My Hero! :(

I remember a VERY long time ago at a friend's birthday party in elementary school thinking about my heroes.  We had been watching the high-quality film "Spice World" featuring the Spice Girls- admittedly my favorite singing group at the time- and my friend's mom commented to my mom about how it was nice to have such good role models for us girls...meaning the Spice Girls were good role models!  This launched my mom into a lecture our whole drive home about how most famous people, the Spice Girls included, are NOT to be idealized and made into heroes, and that they usually have really immoral personal lives, etc.

I distinctly remember feeling like I had no heroes.  This whole situation made me realize that there really wasn't anyone famous that I actually wanted to be like (so my mom was actually preaching to the choir, though she made a valid point).  This was true until I became the nerdy little President of the high school club Junior Statesmen of America and I become obsessed with Arnold :)

He effectively staged an unprecedented coup of the California governorship (which was awesome, and SO true to our democratic roots!) AND he was in photographs all over the walls of our high school weightroom demonstrating proper form in a Speedo!  How much cooler could this guy get?!

I recall him presenting initiatives to the public to vote on and then even when the voters shot all of them down, he would graciously make a statement to the effect of "Well, I guess it's a good thing I asked!"  I felt that he really respected the democratic process and that he was very mindful of not abusing the power he had been entrusted with by the people.  I respect him a lot!  (And don't you just love him on those Visit California commercials?!)

So when I heard that he and his wife had separated, I was sad (even though she truly is scary looking...a little plastic surgery goes a long way...) And then when the news about his so-called "love child" surfaced I was EXTREMELY disappointed in my homeboy Arnold :(  But I will say this, given the extensive custody work that I have done as a law student, I give props to any man who is current on his child support! haha  But seriously, I am very disheartened.  I guess my mom was right, the people in the media that we idolize often have pretty messed up personal lives and their morality has often been thrown out the window long ago.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

Secretly, I'm holding onto the theory that the baby mama was payed to seduce him by political rivals who want to make sure that there is NO way that he would ever be able to run for President ;)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Justice for Osama

A monumentous day.   A time for much–needed closure.  When I found out that Osama Bin Laden, the heart and soul of an evil entity known as al Qaeda, had been killed in a US military strike it brought me to tears.  I intently listened on the news to the wife of the pilot on one of the airplanes hijacked on 9/11 who attended one of many Sunday night patriotic rallies across the nation (including one right here in my very own Carlisle, PA!)- she spoke of how that the rally she attended was where she and her son needed to be.  That their hearts belonged among those celebrating the end of the man who had formulated the plan that took the lives so many innocent people, including her husband.   The plan that shook the United States forever and covered the world with fear. 

The father of a US soldier killed in Afghanistan also attended a rally with an American flag and a photograph of his son in uniform, expressing that he finally has closure, he feels like his son did not give his life in vain.

For out nation, this has been a long time coming.  When I was in high school (which is starting to become a long time ago…) student wore shirts with this on it:

10 years we have been waiting for justice.  Even though I have strong beliefs about the rights of the accused and I feel that even the most heinous of people deserve due process of law so that justice can be served, there is something very comforting about knowing that now, on the other side, this man is facing God’s perfect justice and every terrible think that he ever did and contributed to is known to his Omnipotent Judge.


(Okay, okay, so I just finished book-on-taping Dante’s Inferno and I can’t get the image out of my head of Osama’s feet dangling out of the mouth of a demon…)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dont Judge Me: The Royal Wedding!

Confession: I LOVED IT!  And yes, this counts as world news- they are now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, for goodness sake!  My observations:

1) The Archbishop of Canterbury- awesome!  Not only does he have incredible eyebrows (!) but I actually really enjoyed his mini sermon during the ceremony.  Nothing wishy-washy there.  I admire England for being true to their roots by keeping Anglicanism an integral part of the monarchy.  It is interesting that they have made no concessions regarding their faith, even in modern times when the going trend is to separate church and state as far as they can go.  And although religion has a tendency to muddle politics when done to an extreme (think Taliban-run Islamist societies), I find it amazing that England has been able to strike this balance by having a completely secular Parliament, while allowing the monarchy (which, admittedly, doesnt actually do THAT much politically) to operate based on its religious ideology in a way that does not oppress the non-religious in any way.

2) Prince Harry...true to his name, apparently did not find it necessary to comb his hair for the big day...

3) Prince William- I admit, I had a HUGE crush on him growing up!  But that in no way inhibited my ability to enjoy the wedding anyway :)  No jealousies least none that I can't deal with.  One British news commentator characterized Prince William as an "incredible hunk in uniform"- haha, loved that!  The commentator went on to talk about how William having Diana's good looks was "a boon to the royal line" which I think was her polite way of saying that since Prince Charles is so ugly, England is thrilled that William turned out alright.

4) On the balcony of Buckingham Palace, it occurred to me that the young couple could have used some "scooping the peach" instruction to allow for more graceful waving.  But they did kiss a record number of twice, so I guess I'll cut them a break.

5) And of course, the DRESS!  Loved it.  It was perfect.  Perfect for the occasion and the venue.  I talked to some strangers in a store about it afterwards and one commented that she heard (she hadnt actually seen it) that the dress was boring.  By boring, she probably meant not sexy enough.  But I told her that was WRONG!  That if you are getting married in the Westminster Abbey, or any church for that matter, you ought to be dressed appropriately and not look like a floozy.  Here is what one blogger said about it:
"While almost every bride in America beelines to the strapless numbers during her Kleinfeld appointment, Kate’s dress was quintessentially royal, with long lace sleeves and a modern, narrow v-neckline. The fullness of the bottom perfectly flattered her tiny frame (could we be more jealous?), and the train was appropriate for the venue without overpowering the entire look."

I agree 100%.  It was appropriate, regal, dramatic, and SO not frumpy.  Many people have been commenting on the monarchy's recently demonstrated ability to maintain their dignified and classy ways, while becoming tastefully more modern.  I think this dress is an example.  It had sleeves, but not puffy sleeves.  It didnt show cleavage, but it had a dramatic neckline.  It think it was gorgeous and truly fit for a Queen (or Duchess).

Another impressive thing about this couple, showcasing their modern-mindedness, was their request for charitable donations in lieu of wedding gifts.  Here is a couple with high-powered, deep-pocketed connections, and they selflessly led them to various nonprofit organizations in a time of universal financial need.  Yet again, LOVE it!

Overall, I was very impressed.  Classy and traditional without being over-the-top or wasteful.  When I saw the royal procession, I even teared up.  I think I'm a Loyalist at heart :)

And hooray for another way to give fascinators more publicity in the US!  I feel in love with these in Australia, and they NEED to catch on out here!!

PS- how much do you LOVE the Queen!  Adoreable!

And watch out Alyce's Bridal in Provo- dresses like this will surely be ALL OVER the place in no time!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Oh, Barry...

 I don't think that sports counts as news.  But I've been in court a lot lately, so just in case that wasn't enough judicial fun, I decided to read up on Barry Bonds' trial.

And hey, I've actually seen the guy outside of a baseball game (it was at Disneyland), so he's pretty much like a buddy of mine that I feel compelled to keep tabs on :)

My boy Barry was charged with 4 separate counts, only one of which the jury was able to reach a decision on, which was that he IS guilty of obstruction of justice.  Somehow, the jury was unable to even decide whether or not Barry knowingly used steroids in his career.

For me, the evidence is clear. 

1) He has a big fat head and a tiny little girly voice...therefore, he uses (or at least used) steroids.

2) Barry denies that he knew that the shots his trainer injected him with were steroids.  So he is honestly saying that a grown man who's entire career relies on his physical health didn't stop and figure out what he was being shot up with?  He just let that little fact slide for years?!  If someone was trying to stick needles in most people, they would want to know why, what, etc.  Especially if one's body has earned them millions and has the potential to earn them millions more if they treat it right.  But no, of course not, Barry just closed his eyes and didn't care what was being shot into his veins while meanwhile his muscles get huge, his head gets fat, and his voice reverts to pre-puberty levels.  Yeah, he had no idea.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Nice Work, Egyptians- You're Just Not Finished Yet

I have been hesitating to write about Egypt for a few reasons, but primarily because there is not too much to report because so-called news networks have really been lagging.  In their classic sensationalist fashion headlines and screen banners read “Huge Protests!” “Egypt in Uproar!” and so forth without really giving any facts or political/historical context.  Dead body counts apparently attract more attention that they actual reason why there are dead bodies in the first place, so that’s what we get- the bright lights and exclamation points that are the media.  I say more Anderson Cooper and less ShowBiz!  But this is a huge pet peeve of mine that will have to wait for another day.

So, Egypt.  I was not at all surprised to hear that the citizens of Egypt have finally had enough of their government.  They have been a police state for some 30 years and their pompous President (when I was in Egypt there were huge posters of him EVERYWHERE) has allowed himself to slip into the role of dictator.  In the name of freedom, he has outlawed, among other things, a political party known as the Islamic Brotherhood.  Yes, in this country I think we would characterize that as state action targeting a specific religion and, therefore, unconstitutional.  In my opinion, President Mubarak did this to show the US that he was cool enough to join our anti-Jihadist campaign, despite the fact that Islam is probably the dominant religion in the area.  I don’t doubt that radical Islam is a bad thing, it is.  It really is.  But the Islamic Brotherhood, although conservative on the spectrum of Islam, stands for the fact that they are not trying to push their values on all citizens, but they will try to use the political process the promote Islamic ideals.  I see NO DIFFERENCE between this and conservative Christians saying we want to use the political process to vote-in Republicans who oppose abortion because it furthers our Christian ideals.  Banning religious groups from political activity like this in our country would be an outrage!  So you can see why this is equally problematic in Egypt.  To support the Brotherhood further, they are not even visible leaders in the current upheaval (although that is likely for a strategic reason), but the point is that they have demonstrated that they know how to control themselves and that they want to try to gain power in a democratic, organized way.

So if the Islamic Brotherhood is not completely to blame for the protests, then who is?  A large proportion of the protesters are young unemployed or underemployed men who are frustrated with their dead-end lives and the police oppression that has been going for as long as they have been alive.  Basically, they have nothing to lose, so they are risking their lives to try to implement democracy and greater freedoms for themselves and their posterity.  They don’t want to wait for a peaceful transition of leadership, they are working for change NOW.  Seems noble, and it probably is, but there are some problems the people need to address, in my humble opinion:

  1)  Anti-American Sentiments.  Along with the anti-Mubarak cries of the masses, you can hear anti-US and anti-Obama statements as well.  And it is hard to blame them after all the big talk that Obama made when he gave a worldwide address in Egypt about spreading freedom and democracy to the Near/Middle East and yet he still takes the side of the allegedly freedom-sucking Mubarak.  Of course they are frustrated!  However, I really don’t think that if these people are trying to start a democracy in the Near East that they really want to be making enemies with the US.  With our experience, albeit far from perfect, in training civilians to lead and helping to foster elections that the US Armed Forces has had for the last several years in the Middle East, plus all of Obama’s big promises, they may be knocking at our door very soon for some help and support and, since we have made ourselves out to be the Great Diplomats of Democracy it is extremely unlikely that the US will turn down a request for assistance in rebuilding the political infrastructure of Egypt.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that I see the US going in and educating the leaders and people of Egypt in the practical workings of democracy and it will be a very awkward experience if this relationship is begun with anti-American protests.  The Egyptian people likely will lose the support of the American people that they would have had if they had said “Oh, US- we are trying to be more like you, please help us!”  As narcissistic as we are, we would not be able to refuse, and Egypt would become the next Haiti with every spare dollar and fleece blanket being sent overseas.  And who doesn’t like a blanket in time of crisis? :) So although I don't advocate begging and feet-kissing, a little humility and buddy-buddyness would help their cause greatly.

2)  The Police Problem.  So the police are under the direction of the government, it’s a police state- think Marshal Law.  Unfortunately, they have vanished.  Many feel that its because the current administration is trying to show that without them, there is chaos.  This has almost worked, since looting and rioting has become rampant.  But it really hasn’t accomplished much since civilians have teamed with the military to create their own checkpoints and neighborhood watch units.  This is pretty cool.  Contrast the image of tanks rolling over civilians at Tiananmen Square and then look at how civilians in Egypt have been, with permission, painting revolutionary slogans on the military tanks, taking photos on them, and hanging out around them.  However, last I heard, the police are back.  And this could mean the clash of the Titans in the next few days.  I fear that the police are going to infiltrate the rioters in plain clothes and we could very quickly have a massacre on our hands.

3)  Time.  Most of these people only know the oppressive police-run state of Egypt.  It has been this way so long that it is going to take some extreme effort to truly turn from this type of regime, especially when their geographical neighbors aren’t exactly the best examples of freedom and peace.  This is a lofty goal, and it is going to be a long, long transition that needs an action plan and some bright, humble, young leaders ready to fight the odds for the rest of their lives.
4)  The looting.  I’ve already mentioned it, but this kind of behavior is just playing into the hands of the police- showing that chaos land lawlessness ensue in the absence of a restrictive government.  And what REALLY made me upset was to hear that at least 2 mummies in the Cairo Museum have been destroyed in the chaos.  WHAT?!?  So you destroy priceless artifacts from the premier museum in that whole corner of the world and, with it, vandalize your own rich culture and heritage in an effort to show your angst against the current administration.  Come on, guys- get your act together.
(NOTE: sure, when I went to the Cairo Museum I had Nile Belly and I was beginning to suffer from heatstroke and the museum wasn't even air conditioned and I got left behind being sick in the bathroom...but still!  DO NOT mess with the artifacts!)

5) Communication.  Phone service was somehow shut off for a time by the government to prevent things like Twittering where the next riot would be and the internet has also been largely disabled, making it extremely difficult for the citizens to make any sort of effective plans.  However, there are tech savvy people all over the world and rebels are already finding way around the internet ban and they are making progress towards information sharing that will greatly assist them in their reform efforts.

In sum, good idea- but it is far from over and I fear that if there is not greater organization and practical planning on the part of the rebels, that little or no permanent change will be made.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Warning for the Mamas: NUTMEG!

Leave it to our bored teenagers to find something more stupid than glue and aerosol to get high on...that's right...nutmeg, the new cheap and legal recreational drug of choice. (rolling eyes)

I heard about this on the news, and did a little extra research on my own.  As one who likes to study about brains, neurotransmitters, and the like, I actually found it kinda interesting and wanted to share.

 Nutmeg's narcotic agent, myristic acid, is an MAO inhibitor.  MAO stands for MonoAmine Oxidase, an enzyme that breaks down some amines in the brain, thereby rendering them ineffective.   The specific effect of nutmeg on the brain is that it blocks parasympathetic nerve impulses, with the end effect being hallucinations and a warming sensation in the limbs after ingesting 1-8 tablespoons worth of ground nutmeg.

Furthermore, it is dangerous to combine MAO inhibitors, which can be found in things like sedatives, antihistimines, and even other spices and herbs (like dill) which leads to great a hazard of side effects from mixing drugs inadvertently as well as overdose since the side effects of nutmeg are not actually felt for about 5-6 HOURS after ingestion!

But you may not need to lock the cupboards yet, because even if your kid decides this is a fun thing to try,  apparently its not something that people typically do twice.  The high itself is lacking in the typical euphoric nature offered by other drugs and the hangover is notoriously miserable.  One user wrote that it feels like a supreme being "taking a dump on your soul."  hahaha, sorry, highly inappropriate, but I just had to share that quote.

Well, at any rate, knowledge is power and I figure its better to know what to look for rather than being oblivious in case a problem comes your way. I work with kids and teens in the legal system now so I have to be up on these things :)

Moral of the story: kids and teens are BORED!!  They are so bored that they turn to activities that leave them feeling like death is imminent, just because they can't think of anything better to do.  Growing bodies need healthy physical activities like sports and mentally stimulating activities they enjoy so that they don't end up doing the stimulating themselves via spice cupboard shananagans.  So subtly steer them towards some positive activities- they may grumble and sigh at first, but they'll get over it and their bodies and brains will be better off because of it.  If they want to start a band, support them.  If they dont want to be on the chess club, but are interested in wrestling- that's okay!  Be there for them!  Kids need hobbies and need to realize that they have talents and abilities that they can be proud of so they don't have to seek happiness from sources that leave them feeling worse than before.