Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the child protective services, gay ballers and fancy racists edition

There is SO much in the news right now that pisses me right off. I had to cut the list down out of necessity because otherwise, I'd be drafting a dissertation here...and I get the sense that nobody ain't got time for that.

Seriously, what did we do before Sweet Brown?

Please tell me you know who Sweet Brown is. If you don't, go watch this real quick.

Okay. Now that we got that out of the way, let's get on with the business of the day.

Child Protective Services
There is something very wrong with the way that we handle suspected child abuse and neglect in this country when one set of parents has their child taken just because they sought a second opinion, but another couple is permitted to let their second child die because they refused to seek medical treatment.

Then there is the matter of the hundreds or thousands of kids that slip through the cracks and continue to be abused even though they are in the system.  Or the issue of the legal barriers in some states that make it impossible for kids to get protective orders against abusive family members unless they can afford $3,000 for a lawyer.

Do NOT even get me started on that last one. I cannot wrap my head around the idea that there are no attorneys in the area willing to take on pro bono cases to protect kids, when all that is required is filing a motion and showing up for maybe one appearance. I am fired up. FIRED UP.

Gay Ballers
If you think Jason Collins is the first gay NBA player, I've got some swampland you might be interested in buying. He isn't, he's just the first one who had the cajones to come out publicly. Something like 10% of the population is gay....and that includes people who happen to be good at sports too.

Our society isn't the most open and accepting for homosexual people in the first place, but the world of professional sports is probably one of the areas with the most glaring problem of outright homophobia. These are, after all, the manliest of men, right?  So what if they routinely shower together and congratulate each other for a job well done with a nice slap on the ass?  There's nothing gay about that at all....


The environment in professional sports is one of the most intolerant in the world when it comes to sexual orientation, easily one of the most homophobic, and I commend Jason for coming out. He's one ridiculously brave guy.

The thing that bothered me the most when the news broke yesterday, aside from the fact that most sports news outlets were covering Tebow's release from the Jets as the lead story when it's clearly not (I mean, come on....the guy isn't good enough to play QB in the NFL, and it has nothing to do with all the personality traits he possesses that gain him fans and enemies. He got released because he's not good enough. Move on.), was the fact that people immediately started jumping all over the coverage claiming that it's not news.

Really??? It's not news when one guy stands up to an entire culture and declares who he is in the face of decades of accepted, institutionalized oppression?  That's pretty much the definition of news.

Fancy Racists
A while back, a reader asked me to write about the notion of white privilege. I haven't, primarily because I'm pretty sure that it wasn't going to go down the way the person who asked was hoping. White privilege very much exists in our society, and stories like the one that broke this week in Georgia are glaring evidence of that.

This year, a school in Georgia sponsored the first integrated prom.  What the what????  It's 2013. Schools were desegregated generations ago. To combat the illegality of segregated proms, the schools down south solved the problem by just making them private, invitation only events that weren't affiliated officially with the school. The white parents happily went on planning their segregated proms.  For almost 60 years.

The white parents still planned their own prom this year.

Oh, and in case you didn't know, Mississippi didn't ratify the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery until this year.

Don't try and tell me that discrimination is a thing of the past, that the races are equal and that we are all supposed to labor under an illusion of fairness.

Monday, April 29, 2013

A to Z Music Challenge - P is for P!nk, Pearl Jam, Public Enemy, Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Pat Benetar, Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Puff Daddy, Paramore and Prince

This is one of those letters that could go on forever. I know that I'm probably leaving out a ton of people, but it is what it is. These posts can't be book length.

I love this chick. Hard. She is one of the most all-around talented performers out there these days. Plus, she's angry and she doesn't give a damn what people think about her...so you know I love that. This is from the Grammy's a few years ago, and the only proof you'll ever need about her talent.

Pearl Jam
The garage band that refused to give in to the man, you have to appreciate their resolute stubbornness, even if it backfired and lost them a ton of fans. Ten will forever remain in my archives of favorite albums, and this song. Oh, this damn song. It'll always be the one that replays the last days of my father's life in my head.

Public Enemy
One of the original hip hop groups, one of the best, one of those that everyone now points to as inspiration. They did it early, they did it well. 

Elvis Presley
I know. I had to include him, even if I'm not a huge fan myself. I actually like old, fat, drugged out Elvis the best. I know. I didn't say it made sense. This remix is by far my favorite of everything he did...and it didn't come out until decades after he died.

Dolly Parton
You can't help but love her. I don't even need to tell you why, because you already do.

Pat Benetar
Another bad ass hard rocking chick, she sang female rage better than anyone else for a long time.

Pink Floyd
I don't care who you are, where you're at, how old you are. This song comes on the radio, you crank that shit up and listen through to the end. 

Peter Gabriel
This is me pandering to him, begging forgiveness for forgetting him in the G's. My all time favorite song is one of his. 

Puff Daddy
He's changed his name so damn many times I didn't even know where to put him, so here we go.

Hayley Williams was way too young to be as good as she was when they first hit the music scene. Love them.

I've been weirdly fascinated by this tiny little sexy man forever.

The post where I confess that I am irrationally attached to inanimate objects

When I was a kid, I learned quickly that if something wasn't being used, if something was outgrown, if something was broken beyond repair or if it wasn't put away where it was supposed to be, it was expendable, and would just disappear one day if I didn't do whatever I was supposed to with it, whatever it was.

My dad really liked to throw things away, to get rid of them. He loved nothing more than loading up the car and dropping stuff off at Goodwill. My childhood is full of fond memories of trips to the dump.

True story.

He hated clutter and taught me to hate it as well. If something isn't needed, or someone else needs it more, give it up. Let it go.

My childhood makes living in a house with five other people, at least three of which are pack rats, difficult to say the least.

I have to admit that I have nonsensical attachments to things too.

My things are bigger.

I'll tell you about three of them today.

First up, his car. Yep. My dad's car. 
It's been sitting in front of my house, hardly ever driven, for over two years. It's not a classic car, it's not anything we could reasonably be hanging on to for collector purposes. It's depreciating with every month that it sits, and yet it sits.

It's not practical for us here. It's a gas guzzler, it's heavy as hell, it's expensive to insure. It's impractical, and it's rapidly approaching the point where major work will need to be done because of the number of miles on it.

We intended all along to sell it. But then I couldn't. I know that if he was here, he'd be annoyed with me for keeping something so huge for no good reason other than sentimentality. I know that if he was here, he would tell me to take the license plates off, clean out the few things left inside that belonged to him, and let it go. I know this.

I know that someday soon, I will do it. For now, though, it's my twisted way of hanging on to him just a little bit longer.

It's just a car. I know. I didn't say it made sense.

Second, a planter box in the yard, just built yesterday.
It's early for me to have such an attachment to something so odd, I know, but I can't help it. I've wanted one for too many years. I've wanted to grow our own food, to teach my children the value in the work, to have a good reason to get my hands dirty on a regular basis.

For too many years, though, the investment wasn't there. The attention to detail wasn't around. The ears that needed to hear me weren't listening. The hands that built it didn't want to put in the effort for something like this.

Now, the time and the energy and the effort is there again. This planter box isn't just a planter box, as crazy as that sounds. It's so much more than that to me, to our family.

It's just some wood and some screws. I know. I didn't say it made sense.

Last, the pile of baby stuff in the basement.
It's sat there for years. Some has been given away to friends and family, some has been thrown away if it was broken. A lot of it is still down there.

I've carried it up the stairs more than once, intending to donate the rest of it. Then I carried it back down because I couldn't.

I know that there is no reason to keep it.

I know that even though I would love to have another baby, it probably will never happen.

I know that even if it did, all this stuff is old and would need replaced anyway.

Yesterday, friends of ours came over to pick up the play structure our kids outgrew. With them, their infant son. My kids swarmed around him like a moth to a flame. One by one, they took trips to the basement and brought that baby stuff up to play with him. Some of it went home with the friends. They can use it, I told myself. It's okay to let it go, even if it's just one piece at a time.

I let some of it go, I put the rest of it back down there.

Then I cried.

It's just old stuff that no one here uses. I know. I didn't say it made sense.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A to Z Music Challenge - O is for Ozzy Osbourne, Offspring, Roy Orbison, Sinead O'Connor, Of Monsters and Men, OMD, Oasis and Joan Osborne

I'm falling further and further behind on this challenge, which was intended to be a daily series...but we'll get to the end of the alphabet eventually.

Oh yes, we will.

Up today, O. Off we go.

Ozzy Osbourne
The prince of darkness, the evil one, the vilified one. The causer of teen angst and depression, the reason for anarchy and disruption, maybe the most hated musician ever, he is. Does he care? Nope.
Not at all.  The lead singer of Black Sabbath, his solo career ended up being a lot longer. He's known to the younger generations as a grumpy dad on MTV, but he's been around for a very long time. Sober and less controversial these days, I've always thought it was so interesting that it's easier to understand him when he sings than it is when he talks.

They're getting up there in age these days to still be irreverent punks, but they're determined to stretch that out as long as possible. Seems to work just fine. I love that they incorporate so many different styles of music, and love even more the fact that their lyrics clearly show that they don't give a damn what anyone thinks about them. Then there is the matter of this song....and the million reasons why it is one of my all time favorites.

Roy Orbison
His songs are some of the most easily recognized in pop culture and have worked their way into film and television for decades without sacrificing their relevance at all. He was truly a gift to the world of music, and I'm glad that his music has lived on long after his passing.

Sinead O'Connor
She was angry. She was beautiful. She was unpredictable. She was unexpected and no one knew what the hell to do with her.  Though she's never stopped making music, she will forever be known for this song.

Of Monsters and Men
They are brand spanking new, only together for a few years. From Iceland, the land of some of the most mysterious and intriguing figures in music, they have such an original sound that you can't help but love them. The music pulls you in, but the lyrics make you stay. I hope they stay around a good long time. Though the truth may vary, this ship will carry our bodies safe to shore.

This one made the list for one reason...my college roommate was completely obsessed with them, and drilled this stuff into my head. I can't tell you much about them other than they will always remind me of living in the dorms with her.

I didn't want to include them. Really. But they just have this way of clinging to relevance even when it doesn't seem like they should. I liked them well enough, just like everyone did, until their constant infighting turned everyone away. They're back together, last I heard. The thing about them...they were good. Really good. But being good isn't enough when you act the way they did.

Joan Osborne
She's been singing for decades, staying true to her musical style. Best known for this one, which is one of my favorite songs and a good thought provoking dialogue that I think most people in this country need to really listen to every so often.

Friday, April 26, 2013

In other developments...

This week hasn't been the greatest, I'll give you that.

I've been so wrapped up in the stuff going on under my own roof that I haven't even talked about a lot of the current event stuff happening.

Like the fact that elected representatives want poor kids pulled out of class to work for their food.

Like the fact that we've killed over 4,700 people with drones, many of which are innocent bystanders, some of which happen to be kids, and no one here seems to understand why there are entire regions of the world pissed off at us. We decry terrorism when it happens on our soil, but aren't we really doing the same thing? Oh, right....the media doesn't really cover that kind of stuff, so it must not be true.

Like the fact that the government discredits Iraq veterans claims about health problems resulting from radiation, chemicals and who knows what else that they were exposed to. As if that's not enough, we've left a toxic wasteland over there and they are seeing birth defects skyrocket. Good thing we went to war over weapons of mass destruction....oh....never mind...

Like the fact that two guys kill three people with a bomb and we immediately call it an act of terror, but more people than that are killed every single day by guns and no one flinches. Legal gun owners were responsible for loaded guns getting into the hands of kids, who used them to accidentally shoot other kids this week...but that's not a lead story on the news because we're too preoccupied with pressure cookers and hyped religion wars.

Like the fact that there are idiots in the world who hold up signs that say things like you deserve to be raped, and there are other idiots who agree. Even though all these people are collective idiots who buy wholly into the flawed reasoning of rape culture, I'll still defend this asshole's right to hold up that sign (even if I secretly hope he gets his ass kicked).

Yeah, I'm mad about all that stuff.  Peripherally. I just don't have much energy to devote to it right now.

It's been a long week, but it's almost over.

The sun is shining, the grass is turning green again. There is a nest of baby birds in one of my trees and I can hear them chirping all day long. My son has a crush on a girl, my oldest daughter pulled out her own tooth last night with no tears. Mini-me gave me a huge hug this morning and told me she loves me. Tiny ninja boy is doing flips on the trampoline while singing Lady Gaga songs.

For now at least, I'm going to take that and keep that and do my best to ignore all the rest. Just for a little while.

I can be pissed off tomorrow.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Floating, Sinking and Treading Water - a day in the life

This week has been one that I'd rather forget if I'm being honest. A week full of realization and revelation, of seeking answers to questions no one wants to ask, of wondering when or if things will ever be different.

The truth is that my family unit, the six of us, we've had a rough few years.

There are things that have happened that altered the course of our lives. Some within the control of people, others not. Each with their own set of consequences.

There are times that I know that it's overwhelming to me and I know that I can barely handle it all. The panic attacks make that pretty obvious. The insomnia. The fact that I didn't eat at all yesterday until dinner and the familiar pains in my stomach were comforting.

I'm afraid to admit that last one, because it means that I know I'm feeling that desperate, that powerless. That I'm trying to regain control of the one thing that I know I can. The anorexia that lingers in the back of my head when everything else spirals out of control is taunting me. Again.

I'm not in a good place.

We're not in a good place.

As the consequences weigh heavier on us, combined with the wonders of genetics, we struggle.

We all struggle.

I feel like I'm sinking right now no matter how hard I fight. Like I'm not doing enough, like I can't do enough, like it will never be enough. It's dragging me down, down, down.

I know that I'm trying. I know that I'm doing everything within my power. I know that none of that matters because so much of this is beyond my control now.

Most days I can tread water just fine. I can roll with the tides. I can keep my head above water. I can get it all done. I can put my feet on the ground in shallow water, stand and feel the warmth of the sun even sometimes.

What I need right now is a good float. A chance to lay my head back and relax and trust that the water won't drag me down again. A moment to close my eyes and find some quiet. Peace.

We all could use a good float.

Especially the one who is most like me.

What is it they say about hope?

It floats.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How Did I Get Here?

The older I get, the more I realize how messed up we all are.

Our friends. Our families. The parents of the kids your kids are friends with. The neighbors. Even the people who totally look like they have it all together. Yep, them too.

We've all got issues.

I remember being young and naive, not having any awareness at all that someday I wouldn't be young or naive anymore. I remember thinking that mid life crises were just things that people wrote about or talked about in abstract, or that they were the things that happened to the people in my parent's generation and that we wouldn't do things like that because we would know better when we were that old.

Not that we ever would be that old, because we wouldn't.

We would stay young and happy and optimistic and flexible. Things would work themselves out. It would all be okay, whatever it was, because we willed it to be.

Then suddenly we ended up here. In whatever version of mid-life we're in.

I think that most of us at this age are just getting along, just getting through. No one is really happy, no one is doing what they want, no one feels in control of everything in their lives. We all question what we're doing, and yet we all want everyone else to believe that we're fine.

Because we want to believe that we're fine.

When you first get married, we are fine. Usually. What no one ever tells you is that it doesn't stay that way. No one tells you that someday life will be complicated and hard and ugly. Or that someday being married won't have anything to do with being in love anymore. Or that marriage will be hard, awful work. Or that your partner might not be willing to do that work and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

Or we assume everything will come easily, but then you can't get pregnant. Or you do, but then you lose the baby. Or you do, but there are serious complications and it's not fun at all. Or you do, but then you get postpartum depression. Or you get past all that, then have to deal with chronic health problems or sudden illnesses or kids who rage at you. You question if you're cut out for this at all.

Or things are all great for a while. You get married and you have the kids easily and everything goes according to plan until you find yourself sitting in an empty house while the kids are off at school wondering who the hell you are anymore. Your entire identity is wrapped up in someone else. More than one someone, and you don't even remember what you want or who you were. Except you're not that person anymore, you're this one. So now what?

Or you made decisions in the past, and at the time you made them for reasons. Good reasons. Important reasons. Then time passes and you're at the mercy of those decisions wondering what the hell you did. Wondering how much you sacrificed. Wondering how different things would be. Wishing you had it back, knowing that you never will.

Or you are working in a job in a field you never thought you would be. Out of necessity. Out of convenience.  Out of laziness. You aren't doing what you wanted. You're never doing what you wanted. You're doing what you have to just to make it to the next paycheck. Then doing it again for the next two weeks. You aren't fulfilled, but that doesn't matter anymore because it hasn't mattered in so long that you don't even remember what it looks like.

Or you start to feel the imposing weight of time. You start to sense you are running out of it. You try to cling to your youth desperately.

Or you find yourself staying up late or getting up early just to be alone, just to have three seconds when someone else doesn't need you. Or you find yourself trying to fill voids, try to figure out how to be happy again. You buy things you don't need, then you feel guilty about it. You still aren't happy.

Or you start acting selfishly. You decide you aren't happy anymore and decide that's all that matters. You cling to whatever you think will make you happy, even if it's just temporary. Even if it's destructive. Even if it hurts other people. Even if it chips away at your soul.

Or you find yourself torn between generations. Trying to care for the people you're supposed to, the ones you signed up for, then trying to care for your parents. And you can't do both right. And you're always letting someone down. And it's never enough. Maybe they're in the same town, maybe they're on the other side of the country or the world, and it's never enough.

Or someday you find yourself wandering life without those parents. You second guess the things you said and did. You contemplate your own mortality. You miss them. You know that you're floating around in this world without a safety net anymore. You realize all that in one second. You aren't anyone's child anymore. You alone have to be responsible. You wish for second chances. You wish for one more moment.

Or you're in one of those places and refuse to see it. You try to tell yourself that everything is fine. You convince yourself that you are happy. That this, whatever this is, is enough. You want to be fine. You want other people to believe that everything is fine.

But it's not.

We all have issues. We all collect them like souvenirs as we age. Some of us have steamer trunks full of them. We reevaluate. We question. We wonder.

Is this it? Is this the best it gets?

You hear all the time about how adolescence is the hardest time in life, with the most changes. I don't think that's accurate at all. I think middle age is harder because the stakes are higher. The further I get into it, the more I see it. The more personal tragedies I experience, the more I know it. In some ways I envy the people who aren't there yet.

I'd love to go back to being young and naive.

Middle age sucks.

Kids are testing us, pushing our buttons, straining our resources.
We are getting older. We develop health problems. We get gray hair and wrinkles.
Parents are aging, sick, dying.
Careers are stagnating, not what we thought they would be.
Marriages around us are falling apart, maybe even ours is.

Most of us can weather it and come out on the other side. We can walk right up to the ledge of crazy but step back. We can reevaluate everything in our lives and still find peace with the choices we made and where we are. We can be grateful for what we have and let go of what we don't.

Not everyone can.

Some of us start reevaluating things, walk up to the edge and jump. Some of us ruin our lives. Some of us have affairs. Some of us quit our jobs and try to reinvent ourselves. Some of us declare we aren't happy and decide we will do whatever it takes to be happy, even if it destroys our families. Some of us buy fast cars.

I was talking about this with a friend a few days ago, someone who's gone through a lot of life stuff lately too, someone who's trying her hardest to weather it all and not lose her mind, someone who understands me in a way few people do, and she asked me to smack her if she buys a fast car.

I promised I would...unless she buys a Camaro. She does that, I'm driving.

And yeah, we're totally going to Vegas.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A to Z Music Challenge - N is for New Edition, Nate Dogg, Nelly, Naughty by Nature, NIN, No Doubt, NKOTB, New Edition

N is a shorter letter than M, and for that I am grateful today. Off we go.

New Edition
My all time favorite boy band, hands down, no questions asked. When people were concerned about dance routines and matchy outfits and making sure that everyone had different hair styles, New Edition was singing circles around everyone else. They all went on to have successful solo careers, unlike most boy bands. And yes, you're damn right I dragged my husband to the reunion tour concert. Yes I did.

Nate Dogg
A rapper who was known mostly for his collaborations, he worked with just about everyone in the business at the peak of his career.  Well, at least the ones from the West Coast. ;) And year, Warren G is coming up in the challenge and I'll probably post this one again because it is that good.

He's what I tend to refer to as a happy rapper. More upbeat, less bad boy. His collaboration with Tim McGraw will stand as proof that rap and country can combine, even if Brad Paisley and LL should never ever attempt it again. I love this damn song.

Naughty by Nature
One of the oldest and most successful rap trios, there's really only one question. You down with O.P.P.?

Dark and mysterious, I cannot get enough of them. The lyrics are disturbing and the videos often more so, but I love it. LOVE IT. If you haven't had the pleasure of listening to the NIN/Carly Rae Jepsen mashup, I included it too. MASTERFUL. And wrong. So freaking wrong. They're pissed about it, so hurry and watch it before it disappears from the internet forever.

No Doubt
The girl led ska punk band from Orange County, they've had a long career based almost entirely on being different. Gwen Stefani kicks ass.

I KNOW!  I know.

I know.

I loved them. I saw them in concert and screamed my teenage head off along with a few thousand other girls. Total guilty pleasure that's socially acceptable because almost everyone liked them. Can I get a shout out for grown up Donnie???

The angry, dirty rage of my adolescence, they came along just at the time in my life that I needed them. I've written about them more than once, and truly adore Dave Grohl. Oh, Kurt....why'd you have to go?

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the I wonder why I keep doing this edition

I'm sure there are people who wonder if I am really this pissed off all the time. I'm not, really.

In fact, I'm a walking contradiction, because I'm actually one of the most positive people out there. I may be the most optimistic cynic in the world. Or the only one.

Either way.

I have been wondering the last few weeks why I keep doing this. Why I write about the controversial topics I do. Why I try to get people to pay attention to the subtle nuances in legal cases that the media often doesn't report on. Why I bother doing all this when I catch hell from people for it almost constantly.
Then I wonder why I write about the personal stuff I do. My experiences and personal observations. The things that have happened to me and to the people around me. Inevitably, I catch even more hell for that.  I get accused of lying and worse.

Truth is, I don't have to lie. I'm not one to do that. Never have been. I don't need to.

Hell, I have so much personal integrity that I've been fired because of it.

Doesn't stop people from questioning it though.

Here's the thing.

I write about what I write because it is important. Talking about legal issues that might someday affect people who have no idea about them is important. Writing about the government's attempts to circumvent the Constitution is important. Questioning the media's coverage of international news is important. Sharing my stories of rape and depression and loss and everything else I share is important because there's a good chance someone out there needs to read something that tells them they aren't alone right now. Uncovering the ugly things that happen and exposing them to the light is important because I want my children to grow up in a world that holds itself up to a mirror, sees it's flaws and does better the next time, even if only because I talked about it.

There are so many times that I'm this close to throwing in the towel. That I promise myself I will go back to writing boring recipes and anecdotal stories about the kids. That I'll walk the center line of the world and do whatever it takes to avoid offending someone. That I'll give up the subjects I am passionate about to save my own sanity.

Then I get a message from someone.

Someone who is struggling with an eating disorder and who wants to get better. Someone who wants help.

Someone who was raped and never told anyone.

Someone who was a patient of the monster abortionist, who almost died, who never told anyone. Someone who thanked me for giving the women in this story a voice.

Someone who is battling depression and needed to feel like they weren't alone today.

Someone who misses her dad too.

Someone who lost a baby the same way I did and finally feels like someone understands.

Someone who is at their wit's end with chronic health conditions and needs support from another mom who gets it.

Someone who is afraid to share their outrage about something on their personal Facebook pages because of the backlash and comes to my page because it's the safe place where they can do that.

Someone who was disowned by their family because of their sexual orientation and now sees that there are people who will fight for them to the ends of the earth even if we've never met.

At every moment when I've been close to stopping, I've received one of these messages. Some of them have brought me to my knees. The more I open up myself, the more I take risks with these topics, the more people I am connecting with on a real level.

They are why I keep doing this, they are why I will keep doing this. They are why I won't stay silent in the face of injustice. They are why I will put a face with a story. They are why I will keep telling the ugly stories and exposing truths. They are why I will seek out those subtle nuances. They are why I will keep throwing myself under the bus, why I will keep opening myself up for criticism, why I will keep making enemies in real life.

I'm not just writing for me anymore. I'm writing for them, and I will keep doing it even when there is a price attached.

They are why I will.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A to Z Music Challenge - M is for Madonna, Alanis Morissette, Bruno Mars, Maroon 5, Matchbox 20, Marilyn Manson, John Mayer, Muse, Mumford & Sons, Michael Buble, M.C. Hammer & Miguel

M. This is a loaded letter. I'm thinking I should have capped the number of entries per letter or something. Sigh.

Oh, Madge. I'd take you a whole lot more seriously if you'd drop that fake British accent and start to maybe have some sort of awareness of your age. I mean, don't get me wrong, she's in phenomenal shape, but I was nervous for her when she was trying to dance on the stairs at the Superbowl halftime last year. Watch out now, don't go breaking a hip. You know...at your age. Seriously though, I miss music like this. When she sang about controversy and social awareness instead of repetitive dance music.

Alanis Morissette
She's one crazy, vindictive chick, and I love her for it. Mental note: don't piss this one off. Like ever.

Bruno Mars
I'll be the first to admit that I didn't love him for a long time. He was almost too polished to be real. But then this song came out and this tiny little man weaseled his way into my heart.

Maroon 5
Adam Levine. There really isn't much else that I need to say here. So there's this. He should do all the things without a shirt.

Matchbox 20
Rob Thomas is a pretty talented dude. I love most of their music, even though it all kinda starts to sound the same eventually. As long as it starts out good, it ends that way.

Marilyn Manson
For as crazy as Alanis is, he takes it up a notch, slaps some black makeup on it, dresses it in patent leather and whips the hell out of it. He disturbs far more people than most musicians, but that just makes me like him more. The thing that all those people who are convinced he is evil can't seem to comprehend is that it's all an act, done to make a point, and they're all falling for it. Insert maniacal laugh.

John Mayer
He's a pretty boy, but he's a bad one too. He takes it to another level, and has earned himself one of the worst reputations in the industry when it comes to being a womanizer. Seems to be working so far. Oh, and he can play a wicked acoustic guitar, so there's that.

Easily one of the most musically talented bands of this generation, they never stop surprising me. They are a more familiar name now because of Madness, but I like this one better.

Mumford & Sons
My Irish brothers, I couldn't be happier that this genre of Celtic bar rock has finally made it to the mainstream. Banjos are sexy. Oh yes they are.

Michael Buble
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. He screams lounge singer/adult contemporary, but he's also adorable and insanely talented. I'm not sharing one of my favorite songs because you seriously need to love him for the SNL skit he did with Fallon.

M.C. Hammer
Who doesn't love Hammer???  No.One.

I had to put him last so that I could go take a cold shower after I put this up here into the internets. Thank you, dear sweet baby jesus, that music execs are finally bringing acts like this back. Mama loves her some old school sexy r&b.

The Boy Scouts and The Gays

Last week, the executive committee of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) issued a public statement about a proposed policy change regarding homosexual members.  Though the organization has excluded openly gay members for as long as it's been in existence, it faces increasing public pressure to change that policy.

After a long period of reflection, the committee is recommending that homosexual youths be permitted to join BSA and participate as active members, but is not recommending changes to the policy regarding adult leaders.

In 2000, the case Boy Scouts of America et al. v. Dale went all the way to the Supreme Court, where the court sided with BSA.  Since it is a private organization, they are free to set their own membership rules. The First Amendment's freedom of association protects that right, and the court narrowly held that the organization's opposition to homosexuality was protected as expressive language.

More recent legal challenges have come in regards to the organization's use of public lands.  The argument goes this way: if they are a private organization that actively discriminates and excludes people, then they cannot be permitted to use public lands, which are paid for by taxpayers.  One such case has gone on for well over a decade in San Diego.  The ACLU said last month that they are giving up the fight on this one after a federal appeals case ruled that the lease terms don't violate the law even though the organization discriminates. In that case, gays are included with atheists and agnostics, two other groups routinely excluded by BSA policies.  BSA leases a portion of Balboa Park (a very high rent area) for $1 a year. The tenuous argument BSA has relied on (and won with), is that they are paying for the land, so that's enough. $1 a year is hardly fair market rent, but the court sided with BSA.

This issue has been a contentious one for many years, and tends to be a very polarizing one. I've written about our personal experience with it before, as we are an active Scouting family and unabashed supporters of equality.

I feel like I'm a hypocrite.


This proposed policy change has given some people optimism that the organization is ready to evolve, but it has angered many others. Even if the change is adopted, sponsoring organizations would still have the option to decline membership to gay youths if they chose. Many churches who act as sponsoring organizations have said in the past that they oppose such changes.

As for my reaction, I'm trying to find the reasoning. I'm trying to rationalize this, because that's how my mind operates. I'm trying to make sense of what they are thinking here. It's not working.

I'm sure that in their minds, this is a enormous step. I'm sure they think that this is a huge concession and that allowing kids in but not adults is a sufficient compromise.

Then I think about the rationales for keeping the adults out. None of them are good. Many of them are based on incorrect assumptions about pedophilia. Some on the notion that gay leaders would force their sexuality on children. Others about how parents want their children protected and want to be able to dictate the sexuality of the leaders. I've seen people who say they don't want their kids being influenced by gay adults, as if it's somehow contagious or as if sex is something that any scout leader, regardless of their sexuality should be discussing with kids.

No leader, straight, gay or purple, should be talking about sex with a child. End of discussion.

You don't have to be straight to teach a boy to make a fire or row a canoe or shoot an arrow. The skills taught in scouting have nothing to do with sexuality.

This isn't a straight map.
Gay people can read it too.

Most of the adult leaders in my son's troop were members when they were children. If any of them were gay, those years of experience would mean nothing and they would be forbidden from passing on that knowledge.

I have no idea how many Eagle Scouts have returned their badges, but this site is some indication.  They are choosing to willfully exclude all these men, who've all achieved the highest rank in Scouting, from ever helping boys in the organization.

BSA is openly admitting that they intend to continue discriminating against homosexual adults. I wonder how gay youths would actually be treated in an environment that rejects them just by definition once they turn 18. I question whether the gay boys would actually be welcomed at all, or if this is just lip service by the organization.

I wonder what they intend to do when teenagers who have been active members for their entire childhoods approach adulthood and wish to help lead. Is it really a matter of total acceptance until the day someone turns 18, then the door will be shut in their face?

Do they honestly think that there is something about gay men becomes an unacceptable threat the day they reach adulthood? Do they honestly think that they can protect boys by limiting leadership when BSA has as sordid a history as they do when it comes to abuse?

It seems terribly arbitrary to me, and it sends a message not of tolerance and acceptance but of half-hearted, forced, temporary compromise.

Whether the policy change will be adopted or not remains to be seen. The issue is set to be voted on next month.

I honestly don't know what to make of it all. From where I stand, trying to make sense of it, this recommendation fails miserably. It is not one of openness and acceptance, it's limited by age. Now they want to discriminate based on sexuality and age. Adding another layer to discrimination doesn't make it okay. It doesn't speak to the gay youth of this country and inform them that they are truly welcome. It says that they can come in, but only for a little while.

That's not good enough.

Truly, I expected them to just stick to their guns here and refuse to change the policy at all. If they truly believed in the strength of their convictions, this would not be the end result. They would have held firm and refused to recommend change. Conversely, if they truly believed in acceptance, it would have been all inclusive.

This says to me, more than anything else, that the BSA is confused about it's identity.

Now, isn't that ironic?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Miranda, Exceptions and an Accused Terrorist

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the last living suspect in the bombings of the Boston Marathon, is currently in the hospital and under armed guard. Though he appears to be unable to speak because of his injuries, federal officials have stated that they intend to question him as soon as possible without reading him his Miranda rights, claiming the public safety exception applies.  

The Fifth Amendment
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
~ text of the 5th Amendment

In this country, we take our personal rights and liberties pretty seriously. In many ways, they are the foundation of our nation, the bedrock of what makes us who we are. The Fifth Amendment, just one in the original Bill of Rights, protects us from double jeopardy. It ensures we have the right to a trial, and it guarantees that we cannot be compelled to testify against ourselves in a court of law.

Though the Amendment makes that guarantee, over time it became obvious that defendants in criminal trials may not have been aware of it. They were often questioned without ever being told that they didn't have to answer the questions being asked. 

In Miranda v. Arizona, the United States Supreme Court held that admissions made during questioning when the suspect in police custody was not informed of their right to remain silent could not be admissible during trial. From that case comes the commonly recognized Miranda Warning.  It usually includes the following:

  • You have the right to remain silent.
  • Anything you say or do may be used against you in a court of law.
  • You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future.
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning, if you wish.
  • If you decide to answer any questions now, without an attorney present, you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney.
  • Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney present?

Essentially, anything the person says when they are in police custody can be found inadmissible if they aren't properly warned of their rights prior to questioning.

The Public Safety Exception
The case of New York v. Quarles created one exception from the requirement that Miranda warnings be given prior to questioning a suspect in police custody - the public safety exception.  In that case, the suspect in a rape entered a nearby store. The rape victim told police he was armed and had entered the building. When police found him and arrested him, they realized he had an empty gun holster. They asked him where the gun was prior to reading him his rights, which led to it's location on a shelf.  The court ruled that his answers were admissible because the question was an important one regarding the immediate safety of the public. The presence of a loaded gun in a public store was deemed to be enough of a threat to grant the police the right to ask that question prior to advising him of his rights.

This exception is a narrow one, usually only for immediate threats to the public. Extensive questioning and interrogation is not permitted under the exception. The police are allowed only to ask questions which provide the information necessary to discharge immediate threats.

In this case, Tsarnaev is currently in serious condition. He is not posing an immediate threat to anyone, and is under heavily armed guard, connected to machines currently keeping him alive. Police have said confidently that this was a small scale operation and that the two brothers appear to have been working alone. Since one is dead and the other in custody, the threat is discharged.

About the only question that could fit within this narrow exception would be to ask him if there were other live devices placed that could still be posing a threat to the public. Any other questioning about motive, planning, or the involvement of other people does not fall within that narrow exception.

FBI Memo
In 2010, the FBI issued a memo saying that the public safety exception to Miranda includes interrogation of suspected terrorists, allowing for detailed questioning prior to reading the suspect their rights.

The memo came about after Republicans in Congress criticized the Obama administration as being "soft on terrorism"  in 2009 because the suspect in a failed airplane bombing was read his rights prior to questioning.

It is worth pointing out here that the FBI can write all the policies and procedures it wants, and it can claim it has the right to interrogate suspects however it chooses. What the FBI lacks, however, is the authority to say that those decisions are Constitutional as applied to suspects that challenge the admissibility of any evidence attained through these interrogations. Just because they declare that they have the right to question suspects without informing them of their rights doesn't mean they actually have the authority to do so.  It also does not mean that any information they receive will be held admissible in court.

Why the Patriot Act doesn't apply
One of the most controversial provisions of the Patriot Act is the one that permits US investigators to indefinitely detain and question foreign terror suspects. It allows for the unchallenged deportation of such suspects. I've seen a few people try to allege that the Patriot Act applies to the Boston marathon bombing suspect, but the simple truth is that it doesn't.

He is a United States citizen, naturalized last year. As such, his Constitutional rights would directly conflict with any attempt to interrogate him indefinitely prior to advising him of his rights.

His citizenship is also the reason that the claims issued by Senators Lindsay Graham and John McCain that he should be treated as an enemy combatant should be dismissed.  He is not an enemy combatant. Last week, he was partying on the campus of his university here. He is a US citizen, his victims were on US soil. The fact that he is Muslim is not a reason. The fact that he is originally from Chechnya is not a reason. Any speculations about his motivation is not a reason.

Why should any of us care about his rights?
This man is suspected in the deaths of four people now, and the injury of hundreds. If he's not guilty, he's going to have a hell of a time proving that now after the events that took place in Watertown. The fastest way to appear guilty is to go out in a blaze of glory the way he and his brother did.

He may not even survive his injuries at this point, and some are saying now that he may never be able to speak because of the damage to his throat.

If and when the government officials are able to question him, he should be read his rights first. There is a boatload of evidence in the case already.

He should be read his rights because he is an American citizen just like you and I, and regardless of what he is accused of, he deserves the same protection of the Constitution as anyone else does.

The gravity of a crime doesn't negate the Constitution.

The seriousness of a week long manhunt doesn't strip someone of their rights.

We should all care about him being read his most basic rights because of the ramifications this could have for anyone accused of a crime. If we begin to allow erosion of those rights in cases like this, it's a slippery slope. One reason expands to another, to another, to another, until the right itself is stripped of meaning.

I am sure there are people out there who will accuse me of being anti-American or a terrorist sympathizer.

I am not.

I am a defender of the Constitution.

It applies to everyone, even those accused of the most heinous crimes.

I am sure there are those who will say that I'm feeding into the media frenzy, giving this guy what he wants by giving him attention.

I am not.

I am pointing out the fact that we cannot allow fear or terror to alter the way our legal system operates. We cannot allow people like him to force us to lower our standards. We cannot treat suspects differently because we think they might be somehow connected to religious fundamentalists. We cannot be blinded to the fact that this public safety exception wasn't employed in other cases where there were actual threats to the public, and application of it only when the accused is Muslim reeks of discrimination.

If we allow the acts of a terrorist to fundamentally change law enforcement and legal proceedings, isn't that letting them win?

We have to be better than this.

We have to hold fast to the rights we fought for.

We need to have the integrity here, refuse to be rattled by fear.

The United States has long held that we won't negotiate with terrorists. Let's not lower our interrogation standards or legal standards for them either.

If we do so and give in to the desire to treat them differently, they are changing us, which is exactly what they want.

"The difference between us and the enemy is how we treat the enemy."
-Rear. Adm. John Hutson, former Navy lawyer

Friday, April 19, 2013

A to Z Music Challenge - L is for Led Zeppelin, LL Cool J, Lady Gaga, Linkin Park, Lumineers, Avril Lavigne, Lita Ford, Lady Antebellum & Jerry Lee Lewis

L is for coughing up a lung, which is what I'm doing today. I made the mistake of thinking I could walk upright in the out of doors with the people today. I, clearly, was wrong. Here's L.

Led Zeppelin
Of course they are first. This is why. I'm not even going to say anything else.

LL Cool J
We aren't going to talk about that song you just released with Brad Paisley. No, we aren't. Let's pretend that never happened. Let's just imagine a world where you rapped in the 80s and 90s then stopped, mmmkay? Let's.

Lady Gaga
My youngest child is a little bit obsessed with her. Okay, more than a little. She's an all around performer, and considers her body to be part of the canvas she paints with. I appreciate her originality and love her relentless fight for equality. Even if she wears meat dresses and hatches from eggs sometimes. Put your paws up, baby.

Linkin Park
A rock band that came up just over the hill from where I was raised, they've been pretty consistent for over a decade now. I still laugh because every.single.time. this song comes on, one of the boys has to remind me that it was in Transformers. Yes, I know.

Yeah, they are new and no one has any idea if they'll stand the test of time. Yeah, they had that other song that was way more popular, but this one is better.

Avril Lavigne
She was young and edgy, dark and angry when she first hit the scene, barely a teenager. She spoke for all the girls who were pissed at the way boys treated them, at how fickle friends are, at being held back by other people, at the expectations society put on them. She is the punky pop princess, pink hair streaks and all.

Lita Ford
Singer, songwriter, front woman, and kickass guitar player. She proves that women can rock just as hard as men, and with better hair.

Lady Antebellum
One of the most popular country crossover groups, they've proven that country can definitely go mainstream. Just don't play that song ever again. I've only heard it a bajillion times. Just don't.

Jerry Lee Lewis
Though he's always had a fairly controversial personal life, his impact on music can't be denied.

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