Asta, Emit, and Why I Fear the Near Future (Book Review)

Once a week, I write “Asta” and “emit” in the Washington Post’s daily crossword.1 Asta is the name of Nick and Nora’s dog from The Thin Man movie series. If you are completely ignorant of Nick, Nora, and Asta, then you have missed out on some of the best noir/comedy of the 1930s. These movies, their dialogue, and subject matter are borderline risqué and extremely funny. Intelligent script writing is good regardless of the day, or age. “Emit” is A) to throw or give off or out; B) to send out, eject. Both of these words are common answers to crossword puzzle questions. I am no long surprised when I see crossword questions asking for these two words. Either these two words are not common to most people (thus perfect for a crossword), or crossword puzzle designers are really lazy and keep repeating themselves. For the record, I do the crossword puzzle everyday and these are the only two words I see repeated almost weekly. I no longer fear questions about canine actors from the 1930s or verbs associated with the way light is projected from its source.

I do, however, have a fear of the near future. I don’t fear the future in general because I don’t think “future” really means anything when your time living is such a short time.2 There is no offspring from my loins, so as far as I am concerned all the ice caps can melt and flood every beach front condo. I don’t give a shit about what the world may be like in a 100 years. But the near future absolutely horrifies me. I am talking about the period of time that has yet to happen, but will if I continue to live and age. The future that may be my old age renders me into sloppy mess of shaking tears. When I am shitting myself, drooling, and unable to remember where I put the TV remote3 is not a time that I want the world to be going to Hell in a handbasket. It doesn’t help when I read books like After the Apocalypse by Maureen McHugh.4

ATA is a collection of short stories that imagine what the near future could be like. Yes there are zombies,5 but there is also stories about a mad bird disease, a harmless computer AI, climate change, and economic collapse. Maureen McHugh6 covers a lot of apocalypse bases, and each story seems to start and finish very quickly. The collection, itself, also seems to start and finish just as quickly.

Maureen McHugh is described as a literary Sci-Fi writer, and I have to take other reviewers’ opinions on this because I have not read anything else from her. However, the terms “literary” and “science fiction” may not be completely accurate based on my reading of ATA. “Literary” is meant to denote a piece of work that is more art-like and less vernacular or pop culture-like. McHugh’s writing is well-done, and her topics in these short stories are interesting, I don’t know if I would call them, or her, “literary.” “Science” and “fiction” are definitely appropriate considering these stories are fiction and there is a significant amount of science referenced and described in them. There isn’t an overabundance of science though, so it isn’t straight-up science nerd reading. Interestingly, literary is not a common word to associate with science fiction… and that may be why other reviewers have decided to describe her work as thus. This is not pulp reading, but it isn’t classical reading either.

Like music CD/records, the order in which the stories are arranged in a collection is as much a story as the individual pieces. Initially, I thought the stories couldn’t get much better after reading the first one (with zombies), but then the following pieces seem to flow from one apocalyptic theme to another. The ending to the final story truly disturbed me and made me realize that the collection’s arrangement was perfectly done. I finished this book disturbed and sorry it ended. Finishing the book also made me wonder if the transition from the first to last story was intentional. 

There wasn’t any true transition, and short story collections do not have to transition smoothly, yet there seemed to be a commonality to the stories. That commonality was how each story focused on how the main characters were everyday people,7 and how these apocalypses affect the lives of these people.

The title is a slight misnomer though. Not every story is actually after the apocalypse, some of them are a telling of imagined happenings during the apocalypse. In some cases the apocalypse doesn’t seem that important or world-changing. In the story about the discovery of a computer AI the reader is left sort of feeling “so what?”… but further reflection makes me think that was the author’s intent. The unanswered questions of “so what?” or “what’s next?” are reasonable considering the nature of predicting the future and the inexplicable fear some may have when pondering what’s next in their lives.8 Some of the apocalypse scenarios feel like slow burns. Slow burns can be far more scary that immediate flashes.

Popular apocalypse fiction likes to imagine a singular and profound event that drastically changes life quickly. ATA doesn’t offer quick disasters, nor do the scenarios feel like a quick end to life as we know it. Instead ATA provides more realistic apocalypse scenarios that show everyday people coping (or not) with a world that is slowly changing, or has changed but the characters are unable to comprehend that a change has occurred.

This, in the end, is the root of my personal fear of the near future… having to wonder which I would prefer: knowing a change has occurred and being bothered; or being unable to comprehend the significance of the change. Personally, death is a better option than having to live through either of these situations. But when I am old and sitting there in my adult diapers (while the world burns around me), I will know the four-letter word for “Cowardly dog owned by Nick and Nora?”

1. This may be an exaggeration, however, it happens enough for me to see a pattern.

2. However, I am pissed that flying cars are not common. I was promised flying cars, and damn it, I want flying cars. Blade Runner where are you?

3. I possibly do these sorts of things now, but I am not admitting it to you or myself.

4. Yep, another damn blog post that will include the word “apocalypse” numerous times. Like crossword puzzle designers, I too can be redundant.

5. Not enough zombies for my tastes. 

6. Maureen McHugh is the author of China Mountain Zhang and Nekropolis… I have read neither.

7. Primarily women, but of course that makes sense, the author is a woman.

8. One of my favorite “I-have-had-a-few-bourbons-so-let-me-ask-you-a-question” questions is “if the apocalypse happens, will refugees in Somali give a shit?”

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Terrorism Defined

Recently, I participated in a discussion about the definition of terrorism. Actually, the discussion was based on an uninformed opinion that terrorism is ill-defined and subject to personal interpretation.1 Specifically, the common saying of “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”2 was invoked to counter any factual information regarding the legal definition of terrorism. This post is an attempt to provide information on the United States’ legal definition of terrorism, why an international definition doesn’t exist, how nation-states become legitimate (thus their “rebel” leaders and fighters are not terrorists), and the evolution of terrorism.

United States’ Legal Definition of Terrorism

22 United States Code, Chapter 28, paragraph 2656f (d) defines “terrorism” as: (1) the term international terrorism means terrorism involving citizens or the territory of more than 1 country; and (2) the term terrorism means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents. Furthermore, 18 United States Code, Part 1, Chapter 113B (Terrorism), section 2331 states that “international terrorism” activities mean (A) involve acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State; (B) appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and (C) occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum. Terrorism is not an ill-defined term, and even if you don’t have a basic understanding of law, you can still comprehend that there is a legal definition of “terrorism.”

Equating the Founding Fathers to Terrorists, and How Nation-States Become Legitimate
 
Arguably, the Founding Fathers were a government in rebellion that requisitioned, funded, and directed an army (led by General George Washington) that may be considered a guerilla force. However, the majority of Continental Army forces were uniformed, thus one of the defining terms for “guerilla” is that they don’t wear recognizable uniforms, and often blend into the environment or population, does not fit the Continental Army.3 While guerilla forces may violate a specific historical era’s “rules of war,” they do strike legitimate military targets. The Continental Army not only engaged British forces,4 but the Continental Army (in most instances) wore recognizable uniforms, and the Founding Fathers executed their command of this army in a manner that fell within the “rules of war.” This idea that the Founding Fathers and their army were terrorists is further repudiated by the international recognition of America as a legitimate Nation-State at the end of the American Revolution.
 
The crux of the legitimate Nation-State lies within the idea of “political legitimacy.”5 Some sources of political legitimacy are consent, beneficial consequences, and public reason and democratic approval. Christian political philosophy of “consent” was replaced in the 17th century with a different view of “consent.”  Hugo Grotius, in On the Law of War and Peace, stated that “But as there are several Ways of Living, some better than others, and every one may chuse which he pleases of all those sorts; so a People may chuse what Form of Government they please.” Beneficial consequences is the idea that legitimate political authority is founded on the principle of utility. Finally, public reason (Kant in the house!) and democratic approval are supposedly the third source. Those who willingly submit have to approve (through reasoning) of the political legitimacy of their government. This third source may be forced, however, through governmental coercion and force.
 
Once political legitimacy has been established, a sovereign state exists. The definition of a sovereign state is “a specialized type of political organization characterized by a full-time, specialized, professional work force of tax-collectors, soldiers, policemen, bureaucrats, and the like that exercises supreme political authority over a defined territory with a permanent population, independent from any enduring external political control and possessing a local predominance of coercive power great enough to maintain general obedience to its laws or commands within its territorial borders.”6 Truly, legitimate sovereign Nation-States are not only internally recognized, but the international community of Nation-States recognizes them.
 
International Legal Definition of Terrorism
 
International organizations such as the United Nations are voluntary, however, there is significant incentive for sovereign Nation-States to seek not only recognition from these organizations, but to utilize the international organizations in a manner that benefits the Nation-State. Like international organizations, there is the concept of international law and “while there is no one, specific body of international law, the term is taken to mean the collection of treaties, customs, and multilateral agreements governing the interaction of nations and multinational businesses or nongovernmental organizations.”7 All of these treaties, customs, and multilateral agreements are voluntary (with benefits). As with these voluntary agreements, there has been an identification for a need for defining “terrorism.” For example, the United Nation has identified that an “agreed definition of term ‘terrorism’ said to be needed for consensus on completing comprehensive convention against it.” However, Nation-States do individually define “terrorism” as shown with the above U.S. legal definition.
 
Evolution of Modern Terrorism
 
Regardless of the absence of an international legal “terrorism” definition, the United States does define it, and international terrorism has evolved. While clean categories are impossible, it is easy to identify an evolution of modern terrorism categories (political and religious) that appears to grow from the independence-driven terrorism, to political terrorism, to the modern idea of radicalized Islamic terrorism. These categories apply to international terrorism, American domestic terrorism8 is not being discussed.
 
Independence-driven and political terrorism are part of a historical era that saw the rise of former colonies seeking, and gaining, independence. The Algerian War (1954-1962) is a prime example of independence-driven terrorism. Algerian nationalists conducted a bombing campaign against France that ultimately led to Algerian independence. Political, or ideological terrorism was primarily seen during the late 1960s, 1970s, and the 1980s, and was seen, at times, as a proxy war between the West and the Soviets. Specifically, the use of surrogates such as the Red Army Factions in Europe. Additionally, during this time there was politically-motivated terrorism relating to Palestine, Israel, and other Middle Eastern countries. Arguably, this was also religiously-motivated terrorism, but the foundational argument, or issue, was the engagement of State-sponsored terrorism. Terrorists and terrorist organizations were used as “tools” to satisfy, or implement, political policy of individual states.
 
The rise of religious and radicalized terrorism was an outgrowth of the political terrorism of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, such as the Islamic fighters in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Radicalized Islamic terrorism is a modern phenomenon that engages non-state actors with no clear political agenda other than punishing “non believers” and the “West.” Terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda claim to seek a new caliphate, however, there seems to be no real political purpose behind their attacks other than a desire to respond to what al-Qaeda (and its loosely-organized partners) see as an assault on the world’s Muslim population (“Body of Believers”).
 
Unlike pornography, one doesn’t have to wait to see terrorism to know if it exists or not. Nor does the legal definitions of terrorism (based on sovereign Nation-State law) leave much room for personal interpretation. Finally, the idea of political legitimacy and the idea of sovereignty do not necessarily lend themselves to an argument of “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” International consensus doesn’t have to exist for sovereign Nation-States to act in accordance to their laws. Terrorism is defined. 
 

1. This uninformed individual attempted to compare how personal views on “beauty” with personal views on what is “terrorism.” It was basically an argument full of tangents and unconnected points.

2. Boaz Ganor, Executive Director, International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, states “The statement, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter,” has become not only a cliché, but also one of the most difficult obstacles in coping with terrorism. The matter of definition and conceptualization is usually a purely theoretical issue—a mechanism for scholars to work out the appropriate set of parameters for the research they intend to undertake. However, when dealing with terrorism and guerrilla warfare, implications of defining our terms tend to transcend the boundaries of theoretical discussions. In the struggle against terrorism, the problem of definition is a crucial element in the attempt to coordinate international collaboration, based on the currently accepted rules of traditional warfare.”

3. Exceptions to this would be that wily Swamp Fox Francis Marion.

4. And their Hessian mercenaries… again different historical era and the its “rules of war.”

5. Go here for a fantastically detailed discussion of “political legitimacy.”

6. Source. Interestingly, a territory or Nation-State built by conquest in which one culture, one set of ideals and one set of laws have been imposed by force or threat over diverse nations by a civilian and military bureaucracy may not be enduring. Nation-States are ephemeral and originate and disappear with the stroke of a pen (e.g. the end of the USSR, Dec. 25, 1991).

7. Source. Traditionally, international law consisted of rules and principles governing the relations and dealings of nations with each other, though recently, the scope of international law has been redefined to include relations between states and individuals, and relations between international organizations.

8. For example, bombings of abortion and Planned Parenthood clinics, white supremacy attacks on religious and ethnic minorities, and anti-state/tax activities. However, one could argue that these types of domestic terrorism follow into the categories of religion (extremist Christianity activities) and political.

Purple Tutus and Sweater Vests

Yeah, that’s me in a purple tutu, running shoes, lime green race t-shirt, hot pink leg compression socks, and running shoes. I think I look good… no, I know I look good. This is the outfit I wore for the Galveston (Tx) half-marathon. My BFF Rob and his wife also ran it in purple tutus.1 Yeah, we looked good. Rob, today, wrote a blog on meeting his goal in this race and the comments other runners make when you wear a purple tutu. Even though it wasn’t written in a defensive tone, one may assume a man has to explain why he would wear a tutu for a race.

Running a half-marathon in a tutu does cause comments and reactions. By-standers and spectators seemed to thoroughly enjoy our fashion statement.2 Other runners, as Rob points out, seemed to have different reactions at different points in the 13.1 mile race. Women runners, regardless of the mile marker, were overwhelming supportive. Confident men seem to be a huge turn on. Dudes, on the other hand, seemed to bounce between disbelief and disdain, especially later in the race (somewhere between miles 9-13). Their disdain was always magnified when you passed them. Running in general is about making yourself happy, and running in a tutu is about making yourself extremely happy. If I pass you in a tutu, and you’re a dude, you have two choices: accept it or pick up your pace. Male tutu runners basically tell other dudes to nut up or shut up.

Friends and family, who obviously don’t know me very well, were amazed by this tutu-wearing event. I don’t really need to explain or defend myself. I am EXACTLY the kind of guy who would wear a tutu. If you know me, you will recognize this. I don’t need you to defend me or my masculinity. It’s all good, it’s all good.

However, I am amazed by how no one seems to be standing up and defending sweater vest-wearing douche bags. Yes, this is a reference to Rick Santorum. In unofficial (and very non scientific) Facebook polls and observations, it seems no one is standing up for Rick. During Herman “the Perv” Cain’s train derailment, there were still people defending him.3 There were “friends” of mine on Facebook that refused to believe that Herman Cain was guilty of anything other than being overly friendly and a black Republican. J.C. Watts didn’t get this kind of friendly reception, and he fantasizes about being Herman Cain. But nobody, and I mean nobody, seems to be defending Rick Santorum.

Numerous news articles from both the “Balanced and Fair” Fox to the crazy liberal Huffington Post have all been astonished by Santorum’s run (and comments). There is no need for me to provide a link to HuffPost… cause you know it has nothing nice to say about Santorum, but when FoxNews runs a piece about your “mistake” then you know you are fucked. Again, this reference to media pieces definitely does not constitute a scientific (it’s not even political science) study, nor does the comments of Facebook friends constitute a fair assessment. With all the Republican and social conservative family and friends in my Facebook world, you would think someone would step forward and say “hey, no Santorum has it right.” Another friend even commented on this, and she has a number of true conservatives as friends… again no one stepped forward to defend the sweater-vested one.

This trend of astonishment and constant harping on stupid shit Santorum says goes very deep. In yesterday’s Washington Post, numerous Republican and Democratic campaign strategists opined on Santurom and his chances at being President. No one, Republican or Democratic, gave him any hope. All this dialogue about Santorum is about how it is amazing that he can continue to garner votes and move forward in the GOP nomination process. However, one Democratic strategist did state that Santorum has always been known for tenacity and how he doesn’t make it a habit of backing down on his stupid comments and this actually draws in some voters.

Voters and their votes are the only polls that matter. Somebody has to be giving him money and votes. The whole social conservative thing really gives him an edge with the rose-colored glasses-wearing crowd. Amazingly, there is a significant minority in this country that actually think women don’t deserve equality and extremist religious beliefs do have a place in modern America. This minority, however, doesn’t seem to be capable of letting anyone know the reasons for their continuing support for Santorum. It makes me wonder if they feel like Mitt Romney is too Mormon, or too rich, for them and thus they throw their support to Santorum… but they are secretly ashamed.

Listen, if you support Rick Santorum… stand up and be proud. Explain to us (me especially) why this guy is the one who will get your vote. I don’t get it. Nut up or shut up. I feel no shame in my tutu-wearing experiences and you shouldn’t be ashamed of your support for a man who is more politically aligned with the theocratic rulers of Iran than the average American. For the record, I own two sweater vests, I wear them proudly and… yeah, I look good in them too.

1. Dana is a former ballerina, so wearing a tutu for this race wasn’t her first experience. It wasn’t my first experience either, but you aren’t old enough to hear about my first time. However, this may have been a first for Rob.

2. Three young ladies in a Toyota Camry seemed to thoroughly enjoy my mock flash of a tutu at mile 11… that took pictures but I didn’t get any beads even though it was a Mardi Gras race.

3. Seems the “Women for Herman Cain” site won’t open, but here is a link talking about it.

Politics of the Pill

This incubator is overused because you’ve kept it filled,

The feeling good time’s easy now since I’ve got the pill,

It’s gettin’ dark it’s roostin’ time and that’s too good to be real,

Oh daddy don’t you worry now cause momma’s got the pill – Loretta Lynn, “The Pill

In 1972, Loretta Lynn became controversial when she recorded “The Pill.” Yeah, it’s an empowerment song, and I really like the way she drawls over the word “incubator.” Discussion of birth control was considered risqué at the time. It was crazy wild especially in country music.Significant numbers of country music radio stations refused to play it. Regardless,this song became her highest-ranking pop song peaking at number 70 on the Top 100. Loretta Lynn stated in a Playgirl Magazine interview2 that numerous rural doctors told her how “The Pill” had done more to educate women in isolated rural areas on birth control than any literature that the doctors had provided. This was 40 years ago, and yet birth control is still controversial.

Today, there are three participants in this controversy. Religious organizations such as the Catholic Church and Evangelical gaggles, politicians, and women. The first two of these participants seem to be heavily into the policy debate (well their belief on what the policy debate is), whereas women seem to bitching on Facebook and on blogs.

Christianity’s (and gaggle’s) view on birth control is based on two biblical references:

8And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.

9And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.

10And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also. – Genesis 38

and

He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD. Deuteronomy 23:1

I’m not sure about the whole “privy member cut off” thing, but that sounds painful. Additionally, one cannot dismiss God’s commandment of be “fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). Interestingly, these are books of the Old Testament and not part of the New Testament (which is the basis of Christianity). Personal religious views are guide posts, but they are not legitimate foundations of public policy. This is not a new issue for religious organizations or their businesses.

Twelve years ago (2000), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that companies that provided prescription drugs to their employees but didn’t provide birth control were in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex. That opinion, which the President George W. Bush’s administration did nothing to alter or withdraw when it took office the next month, is still in effect today—and because it relies on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it applies to all employers with 15 or more employees. Employers that don’t offer prescription coverage or don’t offer insurance at all are exempt, because they treat men and women equally—but under the EEOC’s interpretation of the law, you can’t offer other preventative care coverage without offering birth control coverage, too.3

Federal law, and its protection of all members of society, trumps personal religious views when those views, or beliefs, affects the rights of others. Even if the majority of Americans disagreed with this mandate, the federal government is obligated to ensure the rights of the minority are protected.

Politicians are opportunists. Catholic Church outcry against the birth control mandate transformed into Evangelical outrage… which then moved into the arena of GOP soundbites. This is not about birth control, this is about disliking President Obama. I am prone to say that this is racism, however, I also think that it is a visceral reaction to what some believe is a true progressive President. In the end, I don’t think the color the President’s skin is what completely causes these reactions; it is the divisive nature of politics and the incorrect belief that there is an assault on traditions and Christianity.4

I almost feel like I don’t have a dog in this fight. I’m not Catholic, I’m not an Evangelical, and I’m not a woman. But the focal point of this debate is missing a voice. That voice is women. Oddly, the GOP presidential nomination process has turned into a discussion on women, their roles in society (like military service), and their health. Honestly, I don’t think the Catholic Church, the Evangelicals, and politicians really give a shit about women. Well, they give a shit as in they want women in their place, but they really aren’t worried about birth control. These three male dominated groups are interested in maintaining and their power, and they are happy to throw women (and their reproductive organs) under the bus. Hopefully, women will quit bitching and actually reply with votes come this November.

1. To the chagrin of their rock-n-roll counter parts, country and western artists like Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash were toking and snorting as much as anyone. The country music industry was attempting to maintain an image that ensure sales but did not accurately reflect the artists’ actual lifestyles. Probably going on today in the Nashville scene.

2. Holy shit, Loretta Lynn gave a Playgirl Magazine interview! LL is my new country music heroine! 

3. Here is the source for this paragraph.

4. I will agree there is an assault on Christianity the day the Federal government no longer recognizes Christmas as a holiday and makes me work on it. Until then, Christianity will be the only religion that gets a Federal holiday.

Social Media as an Advocacy Tool or What is an Anti-Censorship Advocate To Do? (Warning Contains Graphic Image, SERIOUSLY… I’m not bullshitting)

Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime – Potter Stewart (U.S. Supreme Court Justice 1958-1981)

In a CNNMoney tech blog,1 Othman Laraki discusses how social media played a role in spreading dissent among individuals during the Arab Awakening.2 Laraki states that social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have impact on what he calls the “revolutionary equation,” and include:

  • Fungible Identity: Online identity is fungible. People can appear as themselves, but can also impersonate others or invent new identities.
  • Speed: Messages and information can propagate much faster than ever before. Entire conversations happen in the fraction of the time they have in the past.
  • Global Connectivity: People can trivially connect to others down the street or across the world.
  • Global Audience: A Tweet by one person can reach the entire world and be rebroadcast over CNN in a matter of minutes.
  • Global Standards: Global and local opinions have become almost impossible to discern. Raising international outrage reverberates internally as well. Isolation of opinion has become almost impossible.
  • Scale: The Internet is very very big. Billions of people are on it. Getting millions to hop onto any bandwagon has become almost trivial.
  • Flattening: We are no longer in a world where governments have the biggest loud speaker. Individuals can sometimes have a reach that is broader and more global than entire governments.

Social media sites, and these common factors, are not only impacting the Middle East’s “revolutionary equation,” they are also affecting the way people advocate3 their opinions and express thoughts on these sites. These opinions and thoughts range from the political,4 religious,5 and personal.6 I am so guilty of this that the mere exercise of writing this blog post makes me question my ability to accurately think this post through to the end. I am almost driven to the point of doing a little self-censorship. And I hate censorship.

Censorship in the form of banning books is totalitarian. No one has the right to tell me  what I can or cannot read. Here is a list of books that have been banned in America at one time or another. Nazi Germany banned books and I refuse to be quiet in a society that bans books. Banning of books is the same as censoring thoughts and ideas.

Censoring thoughts and ideas is akin to someone believing that they have a monopoly on correct behavior and feel they have the authority to inflict their beliefs and views on others.7 Yes, I am talking to you social conservatives. Social conservatism is a political, and usually morally influenced, ideology that focuses on the preservation of what are seen as traditional values. Social conservatism is a form of authoritarianism often associated with the position that the national government, or the state, should have a greater role in the social and moral affairs of its citizens, generally supporting whatever it sees as morally correct choices and discouraging or outright forbidding those it considers morally wrong ones.8

A recent picture (posted at the end of this blog) being shared on Facebook, however, has brought out my inner-Joseph Goebbles. This picture is of a bloody and well-developed fetus. There is no proof that this fetus is the result of a miscarriage or an abortion.9 This picture is highly disturbing.This picture is being used as a way to advocate against abortion. One may argue that this picture is a form of dissent against the legality of abortion. Regardless of my views on the abortion issue, I want to wipe this picture from Facebook.

And that is the rub. I am anti-censorship and I am all for people spouting their opinions, but I have a visceral reaction to this picture that makes me want to scream at FB friends that have decided to “share” it on their wall … and thus it shows up in my FB feed. With a bit of intestinal fortitude, I refrain from even commenting on the picture. This picture doesn’t affect my views one way or another on abortion.10  What this picture does: it makes me think about my views on social media, censorship, and the idea of sharing one’s opinion.

Social media sites like Facebook are a time-suck. Facebook can be extremely stupid, however, Facebook has allowed me to enhance my relationship with my sister and other family members. Facebook has been a tool that cousins and other family members have used to notified one another upon a death in the family. Facebook has allowed me to organize a camping trip that was originally meant to be a few cousins that turned into a full-blown family reunion. For all its potential ills, Facebook has actually enriched my life through a reconnection with family and old friends.

Facebook censorship exists. I cannot post pictures that shows a woman’s breast (nipples showing) or anyone’s genitalia. This sort of censorship indicates to me that Facebook has a definition for “pornography.” I am fine with that, I want to play on Facebook …I have to play by Facebook’s rules. Facebook (to its credit), however, doesn’t censor opinions or thoughts in a manner that I have been able to discern. If you think I am a douche, Facebook does not care if you express those feelings to me and others. If I think your views on Islam, and Muslims, are ignorant, Facebook will not stop me from educating you. Facebook censorship exists but it is limited and pretty much the product of its self-policing attitude toward its content.

Finally, Facebook allows you to express your opinion in whatever manner you are capable of. Grammar, punctuation, and well-constructed arguments are not a requirement. Whether or not you express your opinion on social media sites like Facebook is totally up to you. You and I are free to stomp into the digital world of Facebook and shout relentlessly and others are free to listen (read/view) or not.

I have no well-developed thoughts on how social media sites like Facebook are affecting society. I have no idea if Facebook is even responsible for its content, or at a minimum, governing the content more than it already does. I do know that I do not like this fetus picture being shared. I also know that I won’t de-friend anyone because of it. I have stopped de-friending people on Facebook, I figure I am not in a place to censor other people’s opinions, thus I allow them to voice their views and opinions regardless of my agreement or disagreement with these views and opinions.

What I do know is that someone (or some organization) realized that this picture would be a great way to advocate against abortion on Facebook. This picture is used specifically because of Laraki’s factors as identified early. Facebook is a useful tool to quickly advocate (with or without personal identification) to your friends, family, their friends and family, and ultimately a much larger (and possibly global) audience.

Social media, specifically Facebook, affects my life. I have to choose how to respond (if at all) when confronted with something that disturbs me. I am not participating in any revolutionary dissent, I’m not even asking for your prayers. And I am not going to censor you when you post pictures like this:

I am just going to be disgusted and wonder why so many of my FB friends don’t seem to be playing Farmville as much as they used to.

1. Othman Laraki, “Economics of dissent: How Twitter and Facebook tipped the revolutionary equation,” CNNMoney, March 17, 2001.

2. He uses some pretty sweet graphs, which indicates the brother has put some thought into this. My blog posts never have graphs.

3. Advocate as in spout their opinions while bullshitting themselves and others. I am extremely guilty of this not only on Facebook but also within the digital pages of this blog. I fantasize (and call myself) that I am the Internet police’s “Most Wanted Bullshitter.”

4. Examples: President Obama is the anti-Christ, the government is coming for your guns, Santorum is not only the name of a GOP presidential nominee but also a disgusting anal sex froth, and New Jersey Governor Christie is da bomb.

5. Examples: Pray for me, pray for my parents, pray for my kids, pray for my dog, God is dead, God is great, and Welch’s grape juice tastes like redemption.

6. Examples: My kid is smarter than your kid, I just ate a bologna sandwich, I need coffee, My [insert body part] hurts, look at these photos and be jealous of my exciting life, and hey! quit calling me a bitch/asshole… you bitch/asshole. Dirty laundry reeks so sweetly on FB.

7. Yes, I have a monopoly on correct behavior, however, I don’t assume to have any authority in forcing you to listen to me. You have free choice in reading this blog post or not.

8. Thanks Wikipedia and Zafirovski, Milan (2008), Modern Free Society and Its Nemesis: Democracy, economy, and conservatism, Lexington Books, p. 27, and Stenner, Karen (2005),The authoritarian dynamic, Cambridge University Press, p. 86.

9. Either the result of choice or because of life-threatening conditions to the mother.

10. Again I see no proof it is even a picture of an aborted fetus.

Sometimes Parental Love Is Meant To Hurt

It behooves a father to be blameless if he expects his child to be.  ~Homer

Today is my third favorite religious holiday (behind Labor Day and Halloween).1 Today2 is a perfect time to talk about love. There are five types of love:

– Eros (ἔρως érōs) is passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. The Modern Greek word “erotas” means “(romantic) love”. However, eros does not have to be sexual in nature.

– Philia (φιλία philía), which means friendship in modern Greek, a dispassionate virtuous love, was a concept developed by Aristotle. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity.

– Agapē (ἀγάπη agápē) means “love” in modern-day Greek, such as in the term s’agapo (Σ’αγαπώ), which means”I love you”. In Ancient Greek it often refers to a general affection rather than the attraction suggested by “eros”; agape is used in ancient texts to denote feelings for a good meal, one’s children, and the feelings for a spouse.

– Storge (στοργή storgē) means “affection” in modern Greek; it is natural affection, like that felt by parents for offspring. Rarely used in ancient works, and then almost exclusively as a descriptor of relationships within the family.

– Thelema (θέλημα thélēma) means “desire” in modern Greek; it is the desire to do something, to be occupied, to be in prominence.

I want to focus on Storge (στοργή storgē) and how parents “love” their children. Specifically, I want to focus on parental love through discipline. Aish.com, which is a Jewish content website, describes “discipline” as thus:

Discipline is a process of setting limits on our children’s behavior and enforcing those limits in a loving and consistent way. It is a way of letting children know there are rules that need to be followed and ways of correct behavior that need to be learned. Discipline also teaches our children to accept authority.

This acceptance of authority is the important part, especially if you contemplate the role the governments’ and law enforcements’ response to the Occupy movement recently. The authorities want the Occupy protestors to know that repressive responses to protests are a sign of their love, and the discipline shown by law enforcement is a sign of this love.

This parental love, as expressed by the authorities and law enforcement, has gone viral with the following picture:

David Harris Gershon argues in the Daily Kos that this image has gone viral because it “visually” represents a “growing unease” of Americans with the government’s and law enforcement’s “anti-democratic” and “totalitarian-esk” actions against the Occupy movement. Additionally, Gershon argues that this image hasn’t gone viral because Americans are naive to the reality of Russian (Putin) “politically-motivated, large-scale and repressive police crackdowns.” The Russian protesters in this picture were arrested and were participating in protests that were violently stopped by Russian riot police. Instead, Gershon argues that this picture represents “the repressive police tactics many Americans have come to expect from regimes such as Putin’s are now showing up on our own public streets and in our public squares, and that fact is revelatory.”

This analysis, however, is short-sighted. Repressive police tactics, authorized by American governments, is not “now showing up on our own public streets and in our public squares.” This sort of action is actually an American historical legacy.

– Haymarket Riot: In May 1884, Chicago police officers killed four McCormick Harvesting Machine Company striking workers. The day after, a peaceful demonstration in Chicago’s Haymarket Square became violent when a bomb exploded and killed eight police officers. In a similar vein, in July 1934, San Francisco police used extreme tactics that involved attacking picketing longshoremen. Two picketers were killed in this event and the word “police riot” was coined following the criticism of this 1934 police action against strikers.3

– Tompkins Square Park Riot: In August 1988, a riot erupted in Tompkins Square Park in the Lower East Side New York when police, some mounted on horseback, attempted to enforce a newly passed curfew for the park. Bystanders, artists, residents, homeless people, reporters, and political activists were caught up in the police action that took place during the night of August 6–7. Videotape evidence, provided by onlookers and participants, showed seemingly unprovoked violent acts by the police, as well as a number of officers having covered up or removed their names and badge numbers from their uniforms.4

– World Trade Organization Conference Riot: In 1999, Seattle riot police used clubs, tear gas and projectiles to violently disperse groups of protesters, anarchists, and anti-capitalists. Interestingly, the New York Times erroneously reported that the protesters threw Molotov cocktails at Seattle police officers, and had to make a correction. However, the original error persisted in mainstream media accounts.5

Storge(στοργή storgē), parental love, and love through discipline is about showing who is in charge. On this day as you are passing out little candy hearts be sure to remember that there is a cop out there (with a ton of history behind them) waiting to show you a little love. Personally, I like how phallic billy clubs are.

1. Numerous early Christian martyrs were named Valentine. The Valentines honored on February 14 are Valentine of Rome (Valentinus presb. m. Romae) and Valentine of Terni (Valentinus ep. Interamnensis m. Romae). Google their names to get their histories. No romantic elements are present in the original early medieval biographies of either of these martyrs. By the time a Saint Valentine became linked to romance in the 14th century, distinctions between Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni were utterly lost. (Thanks Wikipedia for making my research so easy on this sorta holy of sorta holy days.)

2. Today is when Hallmark and other companies are making an ass-load of money by providing dudes with a supposed surefire way in getting laid.

3. Source and Walker, Samuel (1977). A Critical History of Police Reform: The Emergence of Professionalism. Lexington, Massachusetts: Lexington Books. p. 147,  Walker Report summary, The Chicago Seven Conspiracy Trial Historical Documents Federal Judicial Center.

4. Source and  “Yes, a Police Riot,” editorial of The New York Times, August 26, 1988, Section A; Page 30, Column 1; Editorial Desk.

5. Source 1 and source 2.

Why it may to suck to be an independent voter come November

In April 2009, I attended baseball’s Opening Day at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Two things made this day really suck (no it wasn’t because the Cardinals lost).1 One was the weather: 34 degrees and it snowed. The other was the beer selection. Anheuser-Busch owns the stadium rights, so Anheuser-Busch has a monopoly on the beer served. There was really no beer choice, you either got one shitty AB beer or a different shitty AB beer. I ended up drinking two Budweiser Selects, which has an odd banana aftertaste that coats the tongue in a very disgusting manner. I don’t mind beer with a fruity hint, I really love lambic fruit beers2… but a beer with a banana aftertaste is horrible. Unfortunately, Budweiser Select is not a lambic fruit beer, it is just shitty beer. I had no real choice, so I kept the beer consumption to a bare minimum.

It looks like this November will be when Independent voters will have no recognizable choice in presidential candidates. In part one of this series of blog posts,3 I argued:

Reason 3: Mitt Romney seems a lot like President Obama

Don’t take my word for it. Go here, here, and here. I mean, if Santorum, Rush, and Newt say he is like President Obama… then it must be true. Actually, the unfortunate thing about a bloody nominating process is that the early attack ads and unfavorable comparisons stick around. When there are candidates, with a significant (but a minority) number of supporters, attacking one candidate then there may be a lot of voter angst come November. This might even loop back to Reason 1, and result in an even lower GOP voter turnout. Voters may not want to put Romney in if they view the President as strong on defense (which they do) and getting the economy on track (which may be happening). Change for change’s sake doesn’t get one elected. If GOP voters think Romney and President Obama are essentially the same, then why would they care enough to vote (see Reason 1). 

And in the second part of this series,4 I argued:

Reason 1: Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

Republicans think he is a Kenyan born anti-christ, and Democrats think he is a closet Republican… or at a minimum, a man who promises the moon and then doesn’t deliver. Terrorists are still incarcerated in GITMO (which seems as alien or foreign as the moon), American unilateral military actions abound, and the economy still doesn’t feel right. Finally, once again – for a fourth year in a row – the President (like his Republican predecessor) will request a lot of money that isn’t present, now or in the future, in the federal treasury. The President’s FY2013 budget requests government funding that is $901 billion over federal intakes, and is another $1 trillion-plus deficit. Democratic or Republican, every President wants to spend money without having to raise taxes in a manner that actually aligns, more closely, outlays with intakes. Voters of all flavors are getting really tired of seeing government spending that continues to push the nation further and further into the red. Everyone believes they know what is necessary government spending, and everyone thinks they know what should be cut. Come November, voters may decide they have gotten tired of President Obama’s spending priorities.

Presidents, regardless of their political party identification, are all about empowering the Office of the President. Calls for limiting or reducing judicial power is a direct example of this. A horse of different color is still a horse. If both presidential candidates look the same, then independent voters will feel like they have no real choice. I understand this conundrum personally. I am a strong national security/anti-defense contractor gay-loving liberalican. My views on taxation is very split with me supporting the idea of higher tax rates for the wealthy but detesting tax for “sinful” activities.5 My vote in a presidential election, one of the few that matters as a District of Columbia resident, is one where I have to prioritize my views on education, defense, separation of church and state, same-sex marriage, etc. My head hurts already.

Independent voters may feel they have no choice in November. I do not suggest, however, picking a presidential candidate with a bad aftertaste. In the end, I may consume a couple of good beers and walk into the voting booth blindly… and randomly pushing buttons on the voting machine.

1. I was in St. Louis attending the Women’s NCAA Final Four. Another thing that sucked about this trip… downtown St. Louis rolls up its streets at night. I find it disconcerting to be in a large urban center that has no inhabitants. As much as I enjoy a good apocalypse movie or book, I do not like feeling like I am an extra in one. Empty urban areas at night give me this creepy everyone-is-dead feeling.

2. Lambic beer is a type of beer brewed only in Pajottenland region of Belgium. It has a distinctive taste that is dry, vinous, cidery, and has a sour aftertaste. Lambic fruit beers are usually of the raspberry (framboise), peach, blackcurrant, grape, or strawberry flavors.

3. Entitled “3 Reasons Why It May Suck To Be A Republican Voter Come November,” Feb. 9, 2012.

4. Entitled, “3 Reasons Why It May Suck To Be A Democratic Voter Come November,” Feb. 13, 2012.

5. Alcohol, tobacco, fatty foods, and sugar laden products. If people want to get fat and nasty… let ’em. They just shouldn’t expect decent health care.