Monday, June 08, 2009

Soapbox: Prison, and "cruel and unusual punishment"

OK, it's time for me to vent about something that doesn't have anything to do with any particular current event, or something in my own life lately, or anything like that. In fact, that might be part of the problem with it, for prison rape pretty much never gets a mention in the news media. It seems to be accepted in U.S. society as just a constant in the background, something we pretty well know is going on, hence the surfeit of jokes and other alleged humour about it, but out-of-sight, out-of-mind, it never makes the papers.

For a rather unpleasant sample, there's a song by some Bob and Tom team called "Prison Bitch" (tasteless, disturbing YouTube video warning).

What I really loathe is how society as a whole seems to just accept this state of things in prisons, and treat prison rape as though it were merely part of a just and deserved punishment for the inmates. As Ezra Klein wrote a few years ago:

We've decided to tacitly accept rape in our prisons because we believe deeply and firmly in the guilt of all who enter -- this is just further punishment. Better yet, we're not the executors -- that such barbarism occurs behind bars is further confirmation that those we incarcerate are monsters. The assaults make us feel better, they vindicate our sentencing. And we can countenance them because we never face their horrors:...
However, we do, after all, have that pesky 8th Amendment "cruel and unusual punishment" clause, after all. And, if one considered this part of the punishment, I'm pretty sure it would qualify on both counts.

I don't take much stock in playing which-is-worse oneupmanship, but if I had to pick the more vile between this and waterboarding alleged Al-Qaeda-linked persons, I just might call the prison rape system worse, largely because the "punishment" is completely uncorrelated to the crime for which they've been convicted. Indeed, the HRW report linked below suggests that the worse offenders (prior to incarceration) tend more often to be the rapists, and the victims tend to be those who've committed lesser crimes, along with a few other factors unrelated to the severity of their crime.

Related sites and articles:

Saturday, June 06, 2009

A Little Something More Serious

In reading on Dr. Tiller's death, a good and compassionate man murdered by a zealot, I wonder if these forced pregnancy people have any kind of empathy at all. Birth defects and fetal deaths are not uncommon, even in this day and age. Miscarriages aren't rare either, come to think of it. I really wonder what these people think...on second thought, no, no I don't. I wouldn't want to be in their soulless minds, picking on strangers to make themselves feel better, faking compassion and concern trolling abortion clinics so that they can prop up their fragile egos for a few more minutes.

People can think that abortion is murder. That is their opinion; they are entitled to their own opinions on things, though they may disagree with me. We will just agree to disagree. People can even be uncomfortable with the idea of abortion. What cannot be done, however, is curtail the rights of other people to obtain legal medical care. If we go down that road, there is nothing to stop your doctor from not treating you because you're overweight or obese, smoke, eat an occasional hamburger, or drink. Had a heart attack? Well, you rarely exercised and your primary care physician recommended it, so why should you get that bypass surgery or angioplasty? You should have thought of that before it became serious enough that you had the heart attack. Oh? You haven't had a check up in years? Well, tough for you. Maybe your doctor could have warned you that your blood pressure and cholesterol were high. Didn't think of that, now did you? Well, if you don't die, then you're just going to have to live with the consequences. Too late for you now.

And it's not just that part of it. The other part is medical costs. Abortion costs far less than pregnancy and delivery, in terms of medical care, even at later stages. And if we talk about high risk pregnancy, and throw in a very ill baby, then the costs can be huge. Let's say that abortion is outlawed. It's not cheap to keep a premature baby alive. And many, many things can go wrong during a pregnancy. What if the mother has a complication of pregnancy that led to a stroke and she's still carrying the child? They have to keep her on life support in the hospital. But then they notice something wrong with the baby and they have to do an emergency c-section...and the baby is premature. And they have the baby on life support as well, because the child is alive but just barely. If you think that all of this medical care for both mother and child is cheap, you're delusional. Oh, maybe they have insurance, even just catastrophic coverage, and with this scenario, they've pretty much blown through their deductible (if they had one) if not on the first day then at least in the first few days. And what happens if they don't have insurance and can't pay? If mother and child are in the hospital for a month, I'd expect that the claims for it would be very high. One high claim will not necessarily hurt a large group. But we are talking about forcing all women to go through complications (leaving out the emotional turmoil of fathers for a moment), regardless of insurance or ability to pay. If you have several women, even in a small group plan, and this happens every few years or so, the premiums will be astronomical. Actuaries calculate premiums based on the likelihood of particular diseases in classes of individuals/groups; one claim may not affect premiums greatly but repeated claims will. And that's not even counting the struggle that dad has - both baby and wife are confined to the hospital, and that's really heartbreaking. Worse, even if they live, they now have a lot of medical bills to pay, not just the hospitalization but also follow-up appointments, surgeries, durable medical equipment that may be needed (like oxygen tanks or monitors).

I may be a liberal but I'm not heartless bastard. Oh, yes, it's a tragic situation, but it would also cost more than angioplasty. Now, if the woman in question had aborted the child when it was necessary (even if the child is wanted and it's late in the trimester), if the doctor and the patient came to this very hard decision, the woman would not have the stroke and be hospitalized, dad would not have to go through the possibility of losing everyone he loved, and the expenses to them would be less. The insurance may not pick up all of the costs but remember - claims totaling $1 million are different than claims totaling $6000, especially for smaller groups.

The thing is, forced birthers don't care. They don't care about costs, they don't care about lives, they don't care about suffering, they just don't care. They have no knowledge of how anything works - medical care, pregnancy, insurance, compassion - and they think that they're morally superior. Which is the other thing that gets me angry about the forced birthers...

Dr. Tiller was murdered in church. A man who was compelled to help women in the most difficult time of their lives, a man of compassion and dignity, murdered in a house of worship. A person who went to work every single day knowing it could be his last day on earth, all because he felt it necessary to provide the best care he could to expectant parents facing such a tragedy. And he was killed in church. In my opinion, Dr. Tiller was more of a Christian than his murderer.

Forced birthers don't even care about their own religion. Their bible must be pretty thin, what with leaving out the words of the Jesus.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Who Let The Dogs In?

While I understand the drive for creating something, I do at least recognize that I can't do everything.

I had this inspiration of doing like a youtube/podcast thing playing a demon who works in Hell. I'm still thinking about it, and how I would go about doing this as to make it pretty believable (still working on the script!).

However, I at least have enough sense not to be a conservative rapper. Case in point:

I damn near died laughing. They should have a warning on this, like "May laugh yourself to death" or something. The lyrics? Totally awesome. I'm glad that "the youngins" are trying to uplift the very same party that stands for sexism, racism, homophobia, robber barons, and rapid depletion of natural resources as well as religious domination and war. Because what's cooler than bombing some brown people? Torture! And Jesus!

The lyrics are a laughfest. Really. I think that they need a little help.

Thank you Miss Cali for reminding us of marriage
Can't support abortion, and call yourself a Christian
I support life, you're a puzzled politician

Translation: I like to keep the bitches down, yo. That's where they belong.

So, since I'm feeling generous today, perhaps they could use this as a guideline:

I keep down the the bitches and hos
kickin’ liberal hippies in the nose
chilin wit’ my bros
pressin’ red buttons
blasting them desert hos
straight into the sun
you know you wanna join the fun
of being a Young Con
not “convict” son
conservative man
worshiping Ayn Rand
savin’ precious fetuses
for the Lord Savior Jesus.

See? Not that hard to take awful rap and elevate it to half-assed. Yo.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Bitter commentary

Much of the response to the recent assassination of late-term abortion provider Dr. Tiller puts me in mind of this bit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I particularly have in mind the response from the likes of Michelle Malkin, about how we can't hold anti-choicers responsible for the act of this single lone gunman, and shouldn't take measures against future violence in the heat of the moment.

Please, please! This is supposed to be a happy occasion! Let's not bicker and argue about who killed who.

(Relevant section starts at about 5:04, key phrases at 5:48)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Meanwhile, back at the ranch....

Just a little note that I'm finally active again over at my other associated blog, Class Wargames. I'm taking a macroeconomics class, and blogging on subjects that come up during it over there.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

On Means and Ends: Still Torture

In the midst of this also-otherwise-fine item from Juliet Lapidos of Slate, "There Are Four Lights! Revisiting Star Trek: The Next Generation's eerily prescient torture episode," is this key paragraph, as far as my own little obsession with means & ends goes:

The extended torture sessions take a toll not just on Picard but on his interrogator as well. The more time the Cardassian spends with Picard, the more he becomes fixated on breaking his prisoner. And so the supposed goal of torture—information—is sidelined, while the means by which the goal will theoretically be achieved—mental submission—becomes an end in itself. As Picard puts it, "Torture has never been a reliable means of extracting information. It is ultimately self-defeating as a means of control. One wonders it is still practiced."

Cf. On Means and Ends: Torture

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Best Email Ever

So I'm going through my email and cleaning out the junk box. For some reason, I'm on an email list for the Rev. Lou Sheldon at The Traditional Values Coalition. Most of the time I skip over those emails, as well as the ones from Wisconsin Right To Life (Right to Be Forcibly Pregnant, is more like it), but then this headline caught my eye:
Obamunist Nominee Gave U.S. Port To Communists
I had to see this article. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. There's only one line that address this issue. The first half or so of the article reminds us that Panetta worked for Clinton, and CLINTON HAD A BLOWJOB! DID WE MENTION THAT HE HAD A BLOWJOB? BECAUSE HE DID. No loony theories that China was going to take over the U.S., no speculation that Islamomarxofacist hoards are going to infiltrate the country. I really expected better.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Clark's Coincidence

OK, I usually steer clear of posting this kind of post, but it's time for some speculation, theorizing, hypothesizing, and rank rumourmonging.

It should come as no surprise to long-time readers of this blog (if any) that I'm a fan of the idea of retired General Wesley Clark as Secretary of Defense, but knowing that retired military can't serve as SoD too soon after their military time, I certainly wouldn't mind seeing him in any of various other Cabinet positions. (He does have a degree in economics from Oxford, after all; potentially useful in these times.)

Then, there was that overblown dust-up about his remarks that McCain's Vietnam service & POW-hood were not alone enough to qualify him for the Presidency.

Well, I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.

After which, the Obama campaign Largely disavowed him and his words. After that, I had pretty much abandoned any such hopes for him.

However, a couple of recent news items have me rethinking that. The first one that caught my attention in this regard was the appointment of Samantha Power to Obama's transition team. As you may recall, back in March, she was reported to have said:

[Hillary Clinton] is a monster, too — that is off the record — she is stooping to anything.

(A brief aside: I find it interesting that reporters will grant off-recordness by default to Bush administration officials, but report things from Obama advisors that are stated as off-the-record in midsentence.)

After this came out, Power resigned from the Obama campaign. However, it was recently announced that she would be part of his transition team for the Department of State, after Hillary Clinton was leaked as the likely (since official) choice for Obama's Secretary of State. This seemed like an unsubtle enough way of provoking those who were jumping on his campaign for misstatements and inartful phrasing that it got me thinking that there might be room for forgiveness for Gen. Clark, as well.

However, there was the talk of current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates staying on for at least a time with the Obama administration, also since confirmed. Apparently, Obama wants to keep him around while we withdraw our forces from Iraq, preferably within that 16 month time period that Obama had described during his campaign.

At this point, I thought to myself, "hmm, 16 months after inauguration, that would be in May 2010. I wonder when Clark would be eligible for an appointment to Secretary of Defense?" So I double-checked my recollection that it was a ten-year waiting period (10 U.S.C, Subtitle A, Part I, Chapter 2, § 113, "A person may not be appointed as Secretary of Defense within 10 years after relief from active duty as a commissioned officer of a regular component of an armed force."), and went to look up when Clark had resigned his commission. And what did I find?

Clark retired May 2, 2000; ergo, eligible May 2, 2010. The very same month that that 16 month period comes to an end. It could certainly be purest coincidence. But, as a famous presidential speechwriter once said, "Would it be irresponsible to speculate? It would be irresponsible not to!"

Friday, November 07, 2008

Light at the End of the Crazy Tunnel

You know, I'm getting kind of sick of the "bipartisan" call on behalf of Republicans and the Beltway.

Face it, suckers, you lost.

Real America voted for the Black Man as President because he was speaking our language: change from the status quo, infrastructure rebuilding, bringing back our civil liberties, not to mention fixing our communities. I was talking to someone the other day who admitted that he voted Republican, but was glad that Obama won. I was walking down the street to the mall, and there was a group of people just walking around yelling "Obama won!" and cheering for the sheer joy of it.

That's Real America, motherfuckers. Get over yourselves. You lost.

Even if the Presidental Limo gets outfitted with spinners and those air-freshener crowns in the back, I don't give a fuck as long as I get my tax cut and we get alternative energy spending. Spinners on a car have never bothered me one bit, some are actually cool, and as for those crowns, well, my 60 year old mother thought they were awesome. And we're white. So suck on it losers, we won.

This election was a referendum on Republican policy, and America bitchslapped it with a resounding "Hell, NO!" at the polls. If George Bush had a mandate in 2004 with a few thousand votes, Obama's got a SUPERMANDATE, and doesn't have to be bipartisan, bitches. Go on, grab at those straws, but it's still not going to erase the EPIC FAIL that is the Republican party, take your motherfucking ball and just go home. Your game was good for a bit, but someone who knew what they were doing came to the court and wiped your ass with it. Now you're just being whiny about it. You've lost your power, at our hands. And you damn well deserve that, what with all the destroying of our country you've done. And I will do what my parents did for me, and remind the youngsters of this time, so that they grow up and never vote for you depraved motherfuckers.

Young people voted, and do you think that they voted just for themselves? They see what trouble their parents are in, their grandparents, aunts, uncles...and they voted for someone who would make a reasonable stab at change, so that the hardships they see for their family members might ease up. Why on earth do people think that only old people vote for "the children"? Do you think those young adults are totally incapable of voting for a candidate that would make Mom and Dad's life better? Apparently, there are some people out there who don't know any young people.

We're all in this together, us and the whole fucking world. You can take your isolationism and and exceptionalism and shove it straight up your ass.

And your bipartisanship? Launch that into motherfucking space - I don't want to see that shit again, unless you're talking bipartisanship with socialists and progressives. You lost, fair and square, America has spoken, and we resoundingly said that we don't want to listen to YOU.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Election night prep

This is just a collection of links to the CNN election results pages for the races that seem to be of special interest, mostly for my own benefit, but feel free to follow along. Note that I'm extrapolating the likely URLs based on their 2004 results pages, so there likely will be dead links until the day, and might be even then; I'll update them if I find different URLs. And I'm publishing before all the names are filled in; I'll be completing it as time goes by.

Update: Their URLs are inconsistent, and my predictions were wrong. Updating as I find what's where.
Senate races should all be updated now.
All links should be working now. Results are starting to come in.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Ayers, or ???

I just want to point out another overlooked but significant point about the alleged Obama/Ayers best-friendsness/acquaintance/heard-of-the-guy. What was the alternative, from Obama's point of view? Just ditch the committee, in effect saying, "well, fuck the poor, I can't work with this guy, so they're just going to have to suck it up?" What kind of character would have behaved that way?

On an unrelated note, I'd just like to say that one of the greater trivial annoyances (isn't that like "jumbo shrimp"?) of the past few days has been repeatedly having my nose rubbed in the fact that the English language consigns the verbs "pall" and "pal" (if you can even tolerate its having been verbed) to share identically spelled gerund forms. Curse them!!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lipstick, pigs, & female dogs: Redux

They've gone and made the connection explicitly now. (Via Digby)

[Karl] Rove said he believed that Obama's "lipstick on a pig" comment was a "deliberate slap at Governor Palin," saying it came too soon after the Alaska governor's pitbull comment not to be.

Like I was saying, especially now that they're making the connection to the pitbull remark, this really points out that she went there first. Just because she's a woman, doesn't mean she couldn't be sexist, or make sexist remarks. (I'm not seriously suggesting that hers was a sexist remark, but it was at least as much so as Obama's.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Lipstick, pigs, & female dogs

And just a quick note about the lipstick thing: If it is supposed that Obama's comparison of McCain's economic policies to a pig with lipstick was somehow really about Palin, shouldn't somebody be bringing up Palin's insult to hockey moms, when she essentially called them pit bulls with lipstick? And you know what they call a female dog, after all.... Is this really the line of reasoning (if I may take liberties with the term) that they want to follow?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Yet Another Alternative

Another unfounded assumption I've noticed in the discussion of Sarah Palin. Everybody seems to assume she's lying now about having "said thanks but no thanks" about the "Bridge to Nowhere". But could she not have been lying when she claimed to support the bridge while running for Governor, instead? She might be completely honest about her position on the bridge, now!

Take that, liberal media!

Friday, September 05, 2008

How about a Greek middle school? Would that work?

OK, this is a bit of a puzzle yet, and explanations are entirely speculative so far, so I'm going with the one that seems fairly likely for the purposes of this post. Whatever the actual explanation, though, it can hardly be favorable to the McCain campaign, except inasmuch as everything is.

So, apparently, Candidate McCain chose to (or at least ended up) give his big acceptance speech, the highlight of the Republican Convention, in front of an image of a ritzy, dare-we-say elitist, North Hollywood middle school (not entirely dissimilar to an expensive McMansion, for that matter). Going with the reasoning of the Republicans and their pet pundits, that Obama's backdrop of Greek columns (much like George Bush's background when addressing the RNC, incidentally) was supposed to present him as a Greek god (so what was Bush going for? Roman emperor?), the only reasonable conclusion is that the McCain campaign chose a middle school backdrop to make McCain seem younger.

Kidding aside, it seems likely that it was a mixup due to the middle school sharing a namesake with Walter Reed Army Medical Center. I think it says something about the staffers of the McCain campaign that they would think it reasonable that Reed looks that beautifully kept up. It would seem to fit well with delusions that the Army's medical services are keeping things completely shipshape for our wounded veterans, not a speck of mold or anything, and no expense has been spared in keeping it lovely. If anything, it looks like we might have spent altogether too much on fancy architecture and groundskeeping! Except, of course, that it isn't. Just another notion based on fantasy.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

There's a mavericky madness to his method

I have it on good authority from a senior adviser to the McCain campaign* that the Maverick's choice for a running mate was sealed last Thursday morning, when he found Sarah Palin's face in his sunny-side up eggs for breakfast.

*What? I can't help it if one of the ferrets claims to be a senior adviser!