THE DRESDEN FILES Reading Challenge



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Thursday, July 28, 2011

OBITUARY FOR AN ADDICT

Hello. My name is Wilma, and I’m an alcoholic.

Simple words, aren’t they? And yet, they are the hardest words in the world to imagine, let alone say. There are, literally, millions of people that say those words every day. Some are new, in their first 30 days of sobriety. Some, like myself, are coming up to their 30th anniversary. Most are in between these two extremes. All of them came to the realization that they and they alone are the ones responsible for their addiction, be it alcohol, drugs, food, whatever. They all took responsibility for their addiction, and they sought help for it. Many, again like myself, have stumbled and fallen off the path of sobriety. Many, again like myself, have crawled (in my case literally, and more than once) back to an AA or NA meeting.

Most of us are sober now, and are working hard, every day, to remain that way. It’s a constant struggle, every day. It’s been almost 30 years for me, and I still remember how wonderful that first sip of Scotch was, how great it tasted, how much I enjoyed getting buzzed, how much I hated the next-day hangover headache, and how much I enjoyed that first sip of Scotch that would cure the hangover and make it possible to go forward with that particular day’s chores. I am what is now called a periodic drunk. I could go for months without drinking, but I was always saving it up for the time when the pain and boredom of my life got to be too much for me. I drank because I hurt, mentally. I drank because it felt good to be one step removed from my life. I drank because I felt like a failure. I drank because it was raining, or the sun was shining, or . . . well, think of an excuse. An addict can always find an excuse.

There are three stages of addiction. A Stage One addict has the same lines: “I drink (take drugs, eat too much, whatEVER) but it’s not my fault. (FILL IN THE BLANK) is to blame for my problems, I didn’t cause them. IT’S NOT MY FAULT. Besides, I can control it. I can stop ANY time I really want to. I just don’t want to at this point.” That’s all very well and good, but there are just two types of folks that are addicts that can claim that they were turned into addicts without either their knowledge or consent. These are Fetal Alcohol Syndrome babies, and Heroin Syndrome babies. These are the ONLY people on the face of the earth that can make this claim, and they are the only ones that have the right to make this claim.

Stage Two addicts have the same lines: “Well, I’ll admit that I MIGHT have had something to do with my problems, but it’s STILL NOT ENTIRELY MY FAULT that I’m a (drunk, drug addict, fill in the blank). Society, my parents, the doctor, the next-door neighbor’s cat (again, fill in the blank here) is the biggest contributing factor to my addiction. I can control it, I’m not really an addict. I can quit any time I really want to. I just don’t see any need to.”

A Stage Three addict has hit rock bottom. A Stage Three addict also has the same lines, with this critical difference: “I caused this problem that I’m suffering with. I am the only one that’s victimizing myself with this addiction. I can’t fix the problem by myself. I need help. Please help me.” If a Stage Three addict is really lucky, she/he still has one or two family members or friends that are willing to help. Most addicts have hurt their families financially, emotionally, physically – or any combination of the three, usually all three. I hit rock bottom when I backhanded a child 25’ into a wall because she jumped onto my bed while I was taking my first drink of the day, knocked the bottle out of my hand and broke it. No more booze in the house, either, which of course was the child’s fault too. She needed food, you see, and I couldn’t buy booze and food. So, I bought enough junk food to keep her alive, just barely, and I bought booze. And she broke my bottle.

I was lucky. I didn’t kill the kiddo. Didn’t break her jaw, or her back, or her ribs. I was also very unlucky. She has never, from that day to this, ever willingly come near me again. I’ve seen her maybe twice a year until she was 21, and not at all since then. Her father took custody away from me. Fair enough, I wasn’t to be trusted. Not while I was drinking and whining about how unfair my life was.


Losing my kiddo was my wake-up call. I took a good, long, hard look at my life, and I literally, physically crawled into my first AA meeting. I got sober, I stayed sober (fell off the wagon twice, but I always crawled back ON, and kept on trying) and I have done my best, over the years, to make amends to those that I hurt with my alcoholism and my irresponsible behaviour. There are family members that will never believe me or trust me again and I deserve that. My selfishness and my refusal to face up to the harm that I caused them deserve nothing less. Do I blame them? No, I don’t. I blame myself.

Self-inflicted addiction, regardless of how it starts, always winds up in one of two ways. Either the addict admits that she/he is the cause of her/his problems and seriously applies her/himself to fixing the root causes of those problems, or she/he dies. There’s no middle ground in this one, gangers. You’re never NOT an addict or a drunk. You have a chronic disease that you handle in the same way that all chronic diseases are handled: you work your program, you follow the path that you set for yourself every day, you discipline yourself to put the blame where it belongs, and you stay away from the people and the situations that allowed you to indulge yourself in the first place.

Which, inevitably, brings me to Amy Winehouse and her death earlier this week. I love her music, and I celebrate the genius that produced it. Unfortunately, like almost all genius, the person in whom the genius resided was insane. She started off with youthful rebellion, progressed into social activism, devolved into an alcoholic, and degenerated into a drug addict. In 2005, she went through a period of drinking, heavy drug use, violent mood swings and weight loss. People who saw her during the end of that year and early 2006 reported a rebound that coincided with the writing of Back to Black. Her family believes that the mid-2006 death of her grandmother, who was a stabilizing influence, set her off into addiction. This was, in essence, the triggering event that spiraled her drug addiction out of control. In August 2007, Ms. Winehouse cancelled a number of shows in the UK and Europe, citing exhaustion and ill health. She was hospitalized during this period for what was reported as an overdose of heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, ketamine and alcohol.

Ms. Winehouse told a magazine that the drugs were to blame for her hospitalization and that "I really thought that it was over for me then." Soon after, Ms. Winehouse's father commented that when he had made public statements regarding her problems, he was using the media because it seemed the only way to get through to her. Public shaming never works. It didn’t work in this case, either. In an interview released in June 2009, Ms. Winehouse's father said the singer was in a drug replacement program. He said she was gradually recovering but that heavy drinking was causing "slight backward steps". A documentary shot early in 2009 shows Ms. Winehouse apparently intoxicated according to a newspaper report. Pictures published by a magazine in July 2009 upon her return to the United Kingdom from her extended stay in Saint Lucia appeared to show that Ms. Winehouse had gained weight and that her complexion was improved. In an October 2010 interview, Ms. Winehouse said she had been drug-free for three years, saying "I literally woke up one day and was like, 'I don’t want to do this anymore.'” Unfortunately, while she had - apparently - kicked hard drugs, she was still drinking. Heavily. Ms. Winehouse entered the Priory Clinic on 25 May 2011, where she stayed for one week. She was there for an assessment, and wasn't required to stick around. 

Pity, that. Of course, if an addict doesn't WANT to get sober and straight, no power on earth is going to force said addict to stay in treatment. Ultimately, it's the addict's choice: get clean, stay clean or die. 

She also was being treated at the time of her death for early-stage emphysema, which her father claimed was cause by both her chain-smoking of cigarettes and her crack cocaine smoking. British Lung Foundation spokesman Keith Prowse noted this type of condition could be managed with treatment. Prowse also said the condition was not normal for a person her age but "heavy smoking and inhaling other substances like drugs can age the lungs prematurely". By 2008, her continued drug problems threatened her career. Even as Nick Gatfield, the president of Island Records, toyed with the idea of releasing Ms. Winehouse "to deal with her problems", he remarked on her talent, saying, "It’s a reflection of her status [in the U.S.] that when you flick through the TV coverage [of the Grammys] it’s her image they use."

British singer and songwriter Lily Allen was quoted in a Scottish newspaper as saying: “I know Amy Winehouse very well. And she is very different to what people portray her as being. Yes, she does get out of her mind on drugs sometimes, but she is also a very clever, intelligent, witty, funny person who can hold it together. You just don't see that side.”

At 3:54 pm BST on 23 July 2011, two ambulances were called to Ms. Winehouse's home in Camden, London. Ms. Winehouse was pronounced dead at the scene. The clever, witty and intelligent person that Ms. Allen remembers so fondly died. The drugs that she loved beyond all reason killed her. In the end, like all addicts that refuse to take responsibility for their own addiction and work HARD to correct the problems, she killed herself. What a real pity, and a real tragedy, that so talented a woman would make such fundamentally bad choices - and die of them.

She was a victim of herself, not anybody or anything else.



Wednesday, July 20, 2011

WEASELS ON PARADE, SOME REDUX, SOME NOT

I am getting tired of all the weasels that I’ve been seeing lately. (SIGH) so many, MANY weasels, so little time – and the weasels are getting a lot nastier. You’d think that an intelligence test would be something that could be taken for granted with people that are elected to serve in Congress and the Senate, or people that are running for President, but I’m sure not seeing any such thing lately. I’m actually thinking that maybe an UNintelligence test is something that the Republicans and the Tea Partiers take before they run, judging from what I’m reading now.

So, without further ado: WEASELS ON PARADE

WEASEL OF THE WEEK, #1: Lt. Col. Allen West, who has a real problem with both reality and the truth. The two of them started a war of words on this stupid, pointless Ryan-Budget-Plan-on-Steroids also known as “Cut, Cap and Balance”. Rep. Wasserman Schultz (along with a lot of her Democratic colleagues) characterized the plan as "duck, dodge and dismantle." She further pointed out in the comment aimed at West: "Incredulously, the gentleman from Florida, who represents thousands of Medicare beneficiaries, as do I, is supportive of this plan that would increase costs for Medicare beneficiaries. Unbelievable for a member from South Florida." WELL! Obviously, Rep. Wasserman Schultz was being a green meanie! Lt. Col. West fired back with this response: an e-mail to Wasserman Schultz, along with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi with the subject line: "Unprofessional and Inappropriate Sophomoric Behavior from Wasserman-Schultz." So, who’s the adult here? (read more here: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sfl-allen-west-debbie-wasserman-schultz-link,0,5743536.story?track=rss) Interesting, that he chose to resign after 20 years over an investigation into his conduct during the “rigorous” interrogation of a detainee in Iraq. Once a bully, always a bully. Too bad he decided to pick on a woman that is both intelligent and a fighter. GO, DEBBIE!

WEASEL OF THE WEEK, #2: Herman Caine. You’d think that a businessman with his depth and breath of experience would at least have his head screwed on straight, and would also have the good sense to keep his mouth shut regarding his prejudices and his religious intolerance, but, NO. Not Herman Caine! He’s a declared Tea Party darling, just like Allen West – and, like Allen West, he’s loud and proud about his opinions. I’ve said I don’t know how many times that the Tea Party is a racist organization, with a few token African-Americans and Hispanics for show; I didn’t realize until this past weekend that the Tea Party tokens were also chosen, deliberately, for their outrageous and egregious opinions regarding religion and “family values”. Mr. Caine doesn’t like Mormons, and he very much does not like Muslims. He has stated that he was "uncomfortable" when he found that the surgeon operating on his liver and colon cancer was Muslim, later explaining "based upon the little knowledge that I have of the Muslim religion, you know, they have an objective to convert all infidels or kill them". Wonder how he’d feel if he had a Muslim dentist.

WEASEL OF THE MONTH (so far) – a tie: John “MR. I-CRY-AT-THE-DROP-OF-WHATEVER” Boehner and Eric “IWANNABEKING” Cantor. These two are sharing the honours for a couple of reasons. First, John Boehner is supposed to be the leader of his party and his caucus. He isn’t. He’s stated that he’s on board with Senator McConnell’s plan, then he’s stated that he isn’t, then he’s said, well, maybe I should be, and so on ad nauseum. The one thing that he is NOT, is a leader. Eric Cantor is a slimy little toad who is gleefully undermining everything that Mr. Boehner does, in the hopes that he’ll be able to so discredit both the President and the Speaker that he’ll be the ONLY person that will be seen as a voice of “reason” (Tea Party “reason”, that is) and that he’ll be able to run Mr. Boehner off as Speaker and take his place. To wit, both of them are willing to allow the United States to go into default to accomplish their aims. I wish that there was some way that this could all be stopped, and before we as a country prove to the rest of the world that we’ve not better than, and a lot worse than, the 2nd tier countries that have already defaulted and are being bailed out in Europe. O'course, *THEY* don't have to care what happens to the rest of us, do they?

WEASEL OF THE MONTH, #3: Ron Paul. He’s always been a Libertarian, and now he’s being open about it. Libertarianism, as I’m sure that everybody in the world knows by now, is based upon and informed by the “philosophies” schlock novelist Ayn Rand. Miss Rand was not just a schlock novelist; she was also the progenitor of a sweeping “moral philosophy” that justified the privilege of the wealthy and demonizes not only what she personally considered the lazy, undeserving poor but also the do-very-little (and only when forced) middle-classes as well. Basically, that means that if you’re rich, you deserve everything that you have regardless of how you got it and who you crushed getting there, and, if you’re not, well, tough shit. It’s ironic that Ms. Rand finally had to cave in and TAKE Social Security and Medicare when she got cancer.

WEASEL OF THE MONTH, #4: Paul Ryan. The Ryan Budget Plan. Any questions? Cut, Cap & Balance. Again, any questions?

WEASELS OF THE CENTURY: Anybody that belongs to the Tea Party. Anybody that espouses Tea Party rhetoric. ANYBODY that thinks that plunging the entire world into a depression that would last a minimum of 30 years and incidentally kill a good 2/3rds of the world’s population is a good thing. I’m talking now of the weasels that I’ve already identified, and I am condemning all the rest of their followers as being exactly what they are: blood-drinkers. The degree to which Ayn Rand has become a touchstone for the modern conservative movement is striking. She was a sexual libertine, and, according to writer Mark Ames, she modeled her heroic characters on one of the most despicable sociopaths of her time. Ames’ conclusion is important for understanding today’s political economy. “Whenever you hear politicians or Tea Partiers dividing up the world between ‘producers’ and ‘collectivism,’” he wrote, “just know that those ideas and words more likely than not are derived from the deranged mind of a serial-killer groupie....And when you see them taking their razor blades to the last remaining programs protecting the middle class from total abject destitution—Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—and bragging about how they are slashing these programs for ‘moral’ reasons, just remember Rand’s morality and who inspired her.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A LITTLE OFF TOPIC - FOR ME AT LEAST!

Hi, all:

I've got a Twitter friend named Sam Gilmour, who has written a wonderful book that's the first in an ongoing series that he's self-publishing, and I wanted to share what I thought about it with y'all. I love to read, and this book is a wonderful romp. I really enjoy finding new authors, and Sam is a real prize. Please take a minute to go over to Smashwords and download a copy. It's well worth the money that you'll spend for it. My review is also posted at Amazon, by the way.

Enjoy!
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ENTIRELY DELIGHTFUL

I just got finished reading GOLDEN MANE: BOOK I OF THE ADVENTURES OF SARAH COPPERNICK, and I have to say, for a first effort, this is a real winner.

Brief synopsis: Sarah Coppernick is having a very bad day. She has been in a fight with the school bully which resulted in the bully being very badly bitten, and Sarah being sent first to the principal’s office and then home. You see, Sarah isn’t a native Australian; she’s from Romania. She’s also 11 years old, flat-chested, skinny, has, in her own words “funny coloured eyes” (brown eyes are so light that they appear to be yellow), and also has a literal mane of frizzy hair that is yellow. Not blonde, yellow. She’s growing up in a culture that worships both beauty and conformity to a societal norm that she can’t fit into.

The teen years are horrid periods for almost everybody; this is the time of life when a teen is desperate to fit in and belong. In Sarah’s case, not only does she not fit the societal norm of “pretty teenaged girl”, she’s also got a name – Coppernick – that simply screams to a bully that it’s something to be made into a hurtful, hateful label. Never mind that it’s an Anglization of Copernicus and a famous, historically important name, it’s still something that bullies can make a whip out of. Of course, the teasing and the bullying never stops – until one day, when Sarah bites the biggest bully in the school.

When she gets home, she is talked to (and at, which is an adult aversion technique) about her troubles in school. Her Uncle Benjamin tells her that he’ll fix the problem (which he does, with hilarious results) and arranges for her to be taught out of his offices. He’s a book publisher that publishes educational books, so his offering to teach her and incidentally get her OUT of the nasty situation that she’s currently in is acceptable to the school principal.

After all this is settled, Uncle Robert, Aunt Roberta, Uncle Benjamin and Sarah all walk to a nearby park, where Sarah is acquainted with the true facts of her history: She’s a born werewolf, her werewolf group (the Golden Manes) is the rarest and most powerful of the groups, the two uncles and one aunt can all both transform into werewolves and still manage to talk as if they were in human form, and, basically, everything that she THOUGHT she knew was at complete right angles to the way things really are in her new world.

Her parents aren’t dead, just missing. Mandy Kelly, the bully that Sarah bit, is missing as well, and, since she’s been bitten, is going to turn into a half werewolf/half human monster unless the bunch of them can find her and take her to the werewolf world, Wolfenvald. There’s an evil force in the world that wants to either take her over, or, failing that, kill her so she can’t fulfill her destiny.

Uncle Benjamin’s offices are just as eccentric as he is, and Sarah’s school companion is a witch that’s in training to be a sorcerer. During the course of her schooling, Sarah discovers that every single magical creature that is supposedly mythological in our world actually has a world of its own. Instead of them being time continuums, the habitats for these folks are actually planets with doorways into our world and onto our planet. Sarah is especially a special person because she was not born on the werewolf world, but on our world and thus can move more freely between the two worlds.

There is a lot more, including the ending, which I have no intention of revealing here. Suffice it to say that the ending is predictable within the context of the storyline, makes sense while setting up the storyline for the next book, and is reasonably satisfactory.

Mr. Gilmour’s first effort, as I said, is entirely delightful. There are places where the pacing is a bit slower than I like, but that’s because it takes time to set up his story-telling universe which is always a slow process. There are a few rough edges, and an overdependence on exclamation points to make the plot points. Overuse of any sort of punctuation is annoying (to me at least) because it interrupts the flow of the story; when there are so many exclamation points, or commas, or lines between sentences separating thoughts, I find myself starting to count and write down just how many times it happens. That’s something that I myself struggle with, and I think that every new writer does the same thing. It’s all part of learning your craft.

This is, as I said to begin with, a completely delightful, fun book. The characters are well-written and well-presented, and, while the storyline is an old one (out-of-water misfit on a quest) it’s been given a new and interesting twist. The plot points are cogent, well-realized and logically presented. This is the first of what I anticipate being a wonderfully rewarding series of books as Sarah Coppernick learns how to be herself within the context of both our planet and her other planet. Now, Mr. Gilmour, hurry up and get the next one written. I have GOT to find out what happens next.

Over all, I give this novel 4½ stars out of 5.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

THE TOPIC LATELY SEEMS TO BE ALL ABOUT JUSTICE

I know that it seems that lately all I’ve done is talk about justice. Justice delayed, justice served, justice publicly perceived to not have been done. This tale is a little bit different.

During the summer of 1991, things were starting to look up, relatively speaking, for the GLBT community in Houston. While we were still pretty much sticking to the Montrose area for clubbing and so on, we were able to do it in relative safety. Other places in Houston, as in most big cities, we weren’t as welcome. Sometimes, it literally was as much as your life was worth to go into some of the other neighborhoods. That hot night in July, July 4th, 1991, we all found out just how very dangerous even our relatively safe club venue was.

Paul Broussard, a 27 year-old Houston-area banker and Texas A&M alumnus, was beaten and stabbed to death in a gay-bashing outside a Houston nightclub on July 4, 1991 by ten teenaged boys. The youths had driven from the northern Houston suburb of The Woodlands to the heavily gay area of Montrose solely to "beat up some queers," in the words of one of the convicted teens. All 10 of the young men (Jaime Aguirre, Javier Aguirre, Derrick Attard, Jon Buice, Chance Paul Dillon, Rafael Gonzales, Gayland Randle, Leandro Ramirez, Brian Spake, and Jeffrey Valentine) were the children of privilege. All but three of the attackers were under 17, and the eldest of them (Chance Dillon) was 22. All except Dillon attended McCullough High School in The Woodlands. The Woodland Ten, as they became known, had spent the two days prior to the attack binging on alcohol. Hours before the attack, they piled into two cars and cruised Montrose harassing men they presumed to be gay. They identified their targets by asking directions to Heaven, a popular area gay bar and threw rocks at men who answered with directions.

Paul and his two friends, Cary Anderson and Richard Delaunay, were just blocks away from home when the attackers asked them for directions to Heaven. When the kids got the directions, the 10 attackers jumped out of their cars, attacking all three men with their fists, with steel-toed boots,  with nail-studded two-by-fours, and a knife wielded by Jon Buice. Anderson and Delaunay escaped down a busy street, while Broussard headed down a dead end street where he was wound up cornered by the 10 attackers. Delaunay said the ten young men were cheering and yelling as they attacked Broussard, who suffered abrasions, puncture wounds, a broken rib, bruised testicles, and three stab wounds. As he lay on the ground, almost unconscious, two of his attackers rifled through his pockets and took a comb as a souvenir.

A pocket comb. As a souvenir. Wasn't that a classy thing to do?

He died in St. Joseph’s Hospital 8 ½ hours later. All ten of these young men were arrested, tried and convicted of murder. It was determined by the Harris County Medical Examiner that John Buice had fatally stabbed Paul Broussard. He received a 45 year sentence. The others, with the exception of Paul Dillon, who received a 20 year sentence, were sentenced to 15 years-and-a-day. All of them, with the exception of John Buice, have been paroled, and in a couple of cases, deported.

Now John Buice is going to be paroled. He’ll be out sometime in October after serving 19 years of his 45 year sentence. NINETEEN YEARS. He hasn't even been in prison for as long as Paur Broussard was alive. Biggest surprize yet, Buice's chief advocate is GLBT activist Ray Hill, who has reversed his opinion of both the crime and the young man since Paul Broussard’s murder. Hill, who is also an ex-convict and host of "The Prison Show" on KPFT (Pacifica) radio in Houston, has been strongly advocating for Buice’s release. Hill developed empathy for Buice, he said, after he contacted the killers in an effort to assuage the prejudice I thought they had. "This was not a hate crime," Hill said when asked about the parole. "We had a bunch of kids drunk and stoned and disappointed they couldn't get into a gay bar. They drove around looking for trouble. It had more to do with immaturity. . . There never was any intent to hurt or kill gay people."

WhatEVER, Ray. Whether there was conscious intent or not, that’s what happened, isn’t it?

Buice has said on numerous occasions that he is not homophobic, was not a homophobe on the night of the attack and has close friends and relatives who are gay. Buice also said that the attack had less to do with Broussard's sexual orientation than with thrill-seeking, male-bonding, peer pressure, and the influence of drugs and alcohol. Almost all of the Woodlands Ten were intoxicated that night. Some, including Jon Buice, had also used marijuana and taken LSD. Buice claimed to have "blacked out" on the night of the attack, and only remembers riding home with Broussard's blood on his clothes.

WhatEVER, John.

It’s almost always an excuse of some sort for all sorts of atrocious behaviours, from theft to rape to murder: I was immature, I was drunk, I was high, I was bonding, I was (fill in the blank here). Paul Broussard did not die an easy death. His death was horrendous, and he died in terrible pain. This bunch of “immature” kids drove from The Woodlands specifically to beat up, in their own words, “a bunch of queers”. They were organized, they deliberately set out to do exactly what they did – kill a queer – and it’s only because Paul Broussard deliberately ran away from his friends that the two of them are alive right now. The horror of Paul Broussard’s death still lingers in the GLBT community, and there is still a lot of fear, even if it mostly remains unspoken.

I moved to the southwest Houston subdivision where I still live in 1995, and, for a good 10 years, the Camp Fire girls selling candy and the Girl Scouts selling cookies only came to our door on the weekend, in broad daylight, with an adult with them. Now, if one of the moms in the neighborhood can’t find their kiddo/kiddos, they call me and WonderWife first, because the kids are usually here, and, if they aren’t, we usually know exactly where they are – and it is NOT in our beds, either. That’s what they were all afraid of: that we, as out lesbians, were lurking in the bushes, just SLAVERING to debauch their children.

Does John Buice deserve to be paroled after serving less than ½ his sentence? I don’t think so. Yes, I believe in redemption, and I also believe that, given the right impetus, a person IN prison can learn, grow, and change for the better. The "want-to" has to be there, but, yes, I do believe that a person can effect positive changes in their own lives, in or out of prison. O'course, being IN prison does have the wonderful faculty of truly concentrating one's attention. Do I think John Buice, who is a confessed murderer, has changed and grown and learned? Yes, I do. He’s earned several degrees, including a bachelor’s in psychology. He’s currently classified as a State Approved Trustee, which is a pretty hard thing to earn. He wrote an open letter to the GLBT community when Matthew Shepard was murdered, apologizing for what he did, and seeking forgiveness. Still, I have real reservations about this particular person and this particular case that go beyond the case itself.

Murders like Paul Broussard’s, and Caylee Anthony’s, and the family in Somerville that Anthony Graves was arrested, tried and wrongfully convicted of, leave wounds in a community’s psyche that never really heal. So, do I think that John Buice should be denied parole? Absolutely. Do I think that his only serving 19 years is an abomination? Absolutely. Did the justice system work in this particular case? Both yes and no.

 In my own, personal opinion, John Buice’s 19 years is not nearly enough.

A BOMBSHELL, ALL RIGHT – AND JUSTICE WAS SERVED, MOSTLY

Im just like everybody else in the country, in that I followed the Casey Anthony murder trial just as thoroughly as I and the rest of us - followed the O. J. Simpson murder trial in 1995. Geez, it had ALL the elements that we all love to slobber over, right? Cute little dead 2 year old, slutty-appearing young mom, clueless parents, body thrown out like so much trash, claims of sexual abuse by the young mom, allegations of an accidental drowning and a cover-up, twaddle-dee-dee, twaddle-dee-dum. It was the same kind of situation that makes us all slow down, stop and gawk at accident scenes. And, oh BOY, did the press and all the rest of us WALLOW in it.

Well, today Casey Anthony was acquitted of all charges except 4 misdemeanor counts of making false statements to the police. The jury of five men and seven women, who heard testimony in the month-long trial and deliberated  for nearly 11 hours, had a differing viewpoint than the prosecution’s. The relatively quick not guilty verdicts are, to all outward appearances, a rebuke of the government's case, which lacked any direct evidence of Anthony's involvement in the death of her daughter, Caylee. In other words, the prosecutors couldn’t prove their case.

Defense Attorney Jose Baez called it a bittersweet victory. “We are happy for Casey; there are no winners in this case. Caylee has passed on far too soon,” he said, referring to Ms. Anthony’s daughter. He’s done his job, which was to create enough reasonable doubt in the juror’s minds that a lesser charge or even an acquittal was possible. He added: “Casey did not murder Caylee. It is that simple, and today our system of justice has not dishonored her memory by a false conviction.”

So, was justice served? Well, yes and no.

There can be no justice for Caylee, just as there really isn’t any justice for Casey. Yes, I know – she was acquitted of all of the major charges, and she’ll probably serve a minimum sentence with the time she’s already been in jail taken into account and deducted from the sentence that she’s going to get for lying to the police. The criminal justice system got this one right, in my NON-lawyer opinion. Yes, the child is dead, and somebody ought to pay for that. However, there really wasn’t any way to make anybody pay for it because the cause of death could never be established. Did Casey Anthony chloroform her kid so she could go out and play? Probably. Did the chloroform cause her death? Again, probably. Was the prosecution able to prove that? Nope. Was the prosecution able to pin the crime on anybody? Again, nope.

The wild accusations of molestation, of accidental drowning, of Grandpa scaring Casey into going along with disposing of the dead child in a garbage bag in a swamp, the wilder insinuations that maybe her brother was really the father of the child, or maybe Grandpa was, or maybe the next-door neighbor’s Martian cellar-dweller – all were laid out for the public’s view. The dueling experts were stunningly stupid, and obviously jealous of their own territories. The parents and the brother were obviously devastated by the death of the baby, their daughter’s arrest for that death, this very public trial, and absolutely flattened by their daughter’s wild accusations against them all. This is, of course, the collateral damage that this sort of circus engenders. This family will never be the same again. All of their lives ended the day that Caylee died, no matter how it happened, or who actually did it. The cover-up and their daughter’s willful lies ended that.

The standards of proof in a felony death penalty case are, as is necessary, high. There can be no i not dotted, no t not crossed, there must be proof far beyond a reasonable doubt, and that was not attained in this case. The prosecution, due to decomposition of the body, couldn’t even prove how Caylee died, just that she was dead and dumped like garbage. The jury had a very tough job to do, and they did it well. Whether or not I personally agree with the verdict has nothing to do with whether or not it was the right one. The state couldn’t prove its case, and the jury obviously agreed with Mr. Baez. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have voted to acquit.

This brings me to another point, one that everybody seems to have forgotten about. Yes, it’s a tragedy when a child – ANY child – is murdered, whether by the parent(s) or by persons unknown. Yes, when this happens, just about every caring, responsible parent in the world wants the state to find and PUNISH the bastard, preferably by removing body parts as painfully as is possible. That’s where all the death penalty hysteria comes in. As I’ve said before and doubtless will say again, I am NOT an advocate of the death penalty. Once upon a time, a LONG time ago, I was; I was a real devotee of “KILL THEM ALL, and let *their* version of god sort them out.”

Well, that’s murder too, isn’t it? And where is the justice in an eye for an eye, if you profess to be any sort of Christian?

The point is that Casey Anthony is now living in a prison that is tighter and more restrictive than anything that the worst nightmares of mankind could ever devise. Regardless of whether or not she actually did kill her child, that child is still dead, and she was still accused of the murder. Remember, “acquittal” is NOT the same thing as “innocent”, and the world around her has already, rightly or wrongly, judged and condemned her as guilty. She’s going to have to live with that for the rest of her life. She’s going to have to live with the knowledge that her child is dead. No matter how many other children she may or may not have, her first-born is dead. No matter how much any of the rest of us might wish for it, there is no justice for either Caylee or her mother – or the rest of the Anthony family. The system worked right this time. Justice was served, this time.

Poor little girls.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

WEASELS ON PARADE

WOW, gangers, it’s been an interesting week – AGAIN. I started to title this as “STUPID IS AS STUPID DOES”, but that would be an insult to stupid people. So, once again, here is an installment of an ongoing series.

WEASEL OF THE WEEK, #1: Mark Halperin, who made a remark that he knew in advance he shouldn’t, based on Joe Scarborough’s assurance that the 7 second delay was on. Now, calling the President a body part isn’t all that unusual, except that Mr. Halperin is a highly-regarded political analyst who ought – who REALLY ought – to know better. There ain’t no sich thing as a dead microphone, as Jesse Jackson Sr. (and various others) have found out to their cost.

WEASEL OF THE WEEK, #2: Joe Scarborough, who, for whatever reason, assured Mr. Halperin that, yes, the 7 second delay was in force. I guess that both of them were expecting Mr. Halperin’s remark to be bleeped – and, when it wasn’t, eek. Don’t know what Mr. Scarborough is up to, but this wasn’t a good thing. What he should have said was, yes, the 7 second delay is in effect, but if you think you’re going to be bleeped, DON’T SAY IT. Silence, after all, is almost always golden – plus, keeping your mouth shut doesn’t out you as a fool to the general public.

WEASEL OF THE MONTH, #1: Eric Cantor, who is the (Republican) House Majority leader, for walking away from the debt ceiling talks. According to him, he quit the negotiations because he couldn't agree to tax increases Democrats were pushing despite both parties agreeing on $2 trillion in spending cuts. I don’t get it, I really, REALLY don’t. HOW can you cut spending without RAISING revenues somewhere? What President Obama wants to do is let the Bu$hit regime’s tax cuts expire, and the rates go back to what they were: 35% all the way up to (GASP!) 39%. The Gipper’s rates were about 20 points higher than that, and he’s the Patron Saint of the Republican Party, fer cry-yi-yi!

WEASEL OF THE MONTH, #2: John “I CRY IN PUBLIC BECAUSE I LIKE THE ATTENTION” Boehner, who is not in control of either his caucus or his minions. Unfortunately, he’s just as much of a bottom feeder as Mr. Cantor is, and he’s now “in a relationship” with Mitch McConnell, the minority leader of the Senate. This is really pretty creepy. Ordinarily, the two of them hate each other not-so-cordially, so I’ve got to wonder just what the two of them are up to, given that they’re both afraid of the Tea Party “Patriots”. Fear and politics DOES make for some pretty strange bedfellows.

WEASEL OF THE MONTH, #3: Dr. Marcus Bachman, who is Presidential candidate Michele Bachman’s husband. Apparently, he’s calling himself her “strategist”, and he doesn’t like queers. Of any kind. Dr. Marcus Bachmann runs a Christian-based counseling center in Minnesota that has been rumored to offer reparative treatment for those looking to “ungay” themselves. Last summer, Dr. Bachmann explained his position on homosexuality while offering theoretical advice to parents concerned that one of their children was gay. You can find the rest of his rant here: http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2011/06/29/257646/bachmanns-husband-calls-homosexuals-barbarians-who-need-to-be-educated-and-disciplined/
Barf bags are optional, and are NOT provided by this writer.

WEASEL OF THE YEAR, #1: Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas. Obviously, he’s not a Federalist, and equally obviously he hates women. Kansas has gone from being the only abortion provider in the US before ROE v WADE, and now they’re one of the states with some of the worst and the stupidest prohibitions on abortions in the nation. Is there really any doubt in anybody’s minds that womens’ rights – ALL womens’ rights – are under attacks that are actually being successful? First Planned Parenthood, and now gynecologists that also do abortions are under attack. Also included in these bills was this nasty little nugget: ANYBODY in the government that wants to can review the medical records of any woman that goes to a gynecologist OR an abortionist. Isn’t that just SWELL?

WEASEL OF THE YEAR, #2: Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. So far, he’s cut funding for all sorts of women’s health initiatives. 7.5 million dollars worth. And this is the second year in a row that he’s done this. I’m not even going to address all the other things that he’s cut, such as education. Mental health services, assistance for the blind, The Children’s Health programs – all of them have come under the knife. Yes, I know that everybody has problems paying their bills – but cutting programs like these is just plain stupid. O'course, Gov. Christie can afford terrific health care for his family, so what does he care if other folks and their families don't get it?

WEASEL OF THE YEAR, #3: Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser. THIS silly bastard has lost his temper several times, cursing out the Chief Justice, getting a chokehold on one of his colleagues, and violently grabbed a microphone from a local TV reporter seeking to interview him about the prior incident. Funniest damn thing: ALL of them are women. Clearly, this man is deranged and he really, REALLY needs to be removed from the bench. Preferably in a straitjacket.

Y’all have a happy holiday weekend.