Banks & Steelz, "Giant"

>> Friday, October 21, 2016

Have I shared this before?  I don't think I've shared this.  Maybe I don't need to--it's been out a few months now.  But I'm a sucker for this kind of collaboration, and it's that kind of day with me being a bit under the weather and a little down, so here you go.

This would be, if you didn't already know, didn't already figure it out from the screencap for the video above, couldn't tell from the voices, etc., Wu-Tang's The RZA and Interpol's Paul Banks.  So all kinds of awesome, obviously.

Interesting bit of trivia I picked up in pulling this up to post: apparently RZA initially considered the collaboration "buddies playing chess," which I naturally assumed was a cool metaphor for two guys sending mix tapes and demos back and forth, but turns out to be, no, literal, RZA and Banks were actually just hanging out and playing chess, which seems supercool for some reason.  I guess because you'd assume a couple of well-regarded professional musicians hanging out would just music together, instead of, you know, being chums and just hanging out and doing pal stuff together.  A bit like if, I dunno, The Traveling Wilburys had started out as Bob Dylan's weekly poker night and it was only after they'd been exchanging money for several months that Tom Petty said, "Why haven't we ever made a record together?" and Jeff Lynne said, "That's stupid and are you going to ante up or what?" and George Harrison was, like, "No, he could be on to something," and Roy Orbison said, "Well, if you guys are going to talk about this instead of playing, I need to take a leak; anybody need anything out of the fridge while I'm up?"

I am possibly slightly feverish.  Just in case you wondered.  I haven't checked.  But it's possible.

So, anyway: "Giant"!  Banks & Steelz!  Awesomity incarnated!  Enjoy!


Death Cab For Cutie, "Million Dollar Loan"

>> Monday, October 17, 2016

I have absolutely no idea what this song is about, but it has a nice beat to it.


A vocabulary test

>> Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Let me just pose a simple, obvious question in two parts; two questions, really, but they are opposite sides of the same coin and I think you might be able to respond with one answer.

First, do you think it would have been more appropriate if Donald Trump had said to Billy Bush:

I approached a woman and tried to initiate intimate sexual relations with her.  I took her furniture shopping and then attempted to get her to perform the act of coitus with me, but she was married and I was unable to pressure her into knowing me in the Biblical sense.  Later, I saw her and she had undergone breast augmentation surgery, which is relevant to this anecdote.

The actress who just entered the room is very attractive and I should use some brand of breath freshener in case I walk over and put my mouth on her mouth without asking or having any kind of ongoing, existing relationship where spontaneous, unsolicited intimate contacts are received romantically.  I do not hesitate to touch that woman in personal, physically intimate ways, because when you are rich and powerful, women will not say, "No."  You can even extend your hand attempting to make physical contact with their genitalia, you can do anything.

Wait, there's more.  Second, do you think there would be as much criticism, very much criticism at all, had Donald Trump said:

Women are fucking amazing.  When my son was born, his head was the size of a goddamn bowling ball and my wife pushed it right through her pussy and, my hand to God, I shit you not, she was up and doing light aerobics in her hospital room three, four days later.  Whereas I, on the other hand, was once laid up for four fucking weeks because I had a kidney stone smaller than my pinkie fingernail get stuck in my cock because I wasn't drinking enough fucking water or something.  I cried for days like a goddamn baby over a little bitty rock in my dick and she pushed a ten pound kid through her twat and basically walked it off like she was Wonder Woman or something.  Seriously, I don't know how the hell chicks do it, girls are just tough, just really fucking amazing.

Sure, okay, a few moral scolds wagging their fingers over all the "un-Presidential" language (I guess nobody's listened to the LBJ or Nixon Oval Office tapes), and I purposefully chose "girls" and "chicks" in my hypothetical knowing those words applied to adult women annoy some people, but d'ya think there'd be the outrage?
Let me just ask--okay, so it's a third question, or a third part, I changed it up somewhere between the first paragraph and this one, sue me--let me ask, do you really think vulgarity is the fucking problem with the Trump tape?


One of these things is still not like the other

>> Monday, October 10, 2016

This sort of rhetoric is hardly without precedent. Nineteenth-century American politics was a rough-and-tumble affair, with speakers frequently employing rhetoric that might shock contemporary audiences. And the rhetoric was often a prelude to violence. Brawls and duels were not uncommon, and lynchings not unheard of.

In more recent decades, impassioned partisans have called for the use of criminal sanctions, or even violence, against their political opponents. In 1993, readers of National Review found an ad offering anti-Clinton bumper stickers: “Impeach him hell—get a rope.” In the wake of the Iraq War, many on the left and the libertarian right suggested that George W. Bush be charged with war crimes. At a Sarah Palin rally in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in October of 2008, a Scranton Times-Tribune reporter heard a man shout, “Kill him!” (The Secret Service investigated the report, interviewing 20 witnesses, but was unable to corroborate it.)

On occasion, such rhetorical attacks have seemed to inspire actual violence. There were 5,000 "Wanted for Treason" flyers distributed in Dallas ahead of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
The Atlantic, October 10th, 2016.

I get irritable about this, you know.  Oh, you know: the second paragraph, up there, that kind of thing.  The kind of lazy writing that compares violent right-wing rhetoric like "Get A Rope" and "Kill him!" (speaking of lazy writing: kill who, G.W. Bush?) to "many on the left and the libertarian right suggest[ing] that George W. Bush be charged with war crimes" as examples of "Both Sides Do It!" rhetorical excess.

The difference, not to keep flogging a horse that President Obama has made it clear he'd like to stay dead, is that there are legitimate, actual legal questions surrounding (1) whether the interrogation procedures used by Americans against foreign prisoners at Gitmo and other locales constituted torture and/or other violations of treaties we are signatory to and/or have enacted enabling legislation to forbid; (2) if so, who is accountable and how far does accountability extend (i.e. is accountability limited, say, to CIA operatives who tortured a prisoner, or does accountability extend to lawyers who may have advised those operatives, and/or to Executive Branch officials who may have or should have been aware of the torture and either authorized it or failed to act to prevent it); (3) what should the nature of that accountability be, if any; and (4) what are the responsibilities of the sitting Executive or subsequent Executive Branch officials in dealing with the first three points (there is a colorable legal argument that President Obama has violated American and international law by not launching a full criminal investigation and prosecuting wrongdoers if probable cause exists to believe they committed criminal acts)?

That shouldn't be a partisan issue.  It isn't about playing politics with the law, it's merely about following it.  Indeed, perversely enough, the President has arguably been playing politics with the law by not exercising his legal and moral obligations in this area in an attempt to avoid a partisan backlash in which he's wrongly accused by Republicans of indulging in some kind of witch hunt.

In a bizarre way, this is actually what's troubling about both Trump's comments and the uncomfortable political reality coiled and slumbering beneath it: Trump's threat to prosecute Hillary Clinton if he's elected is a repudiation of a tradition that dates back at least as far as 1974 of gamely pardoning or ignoring alleged criminal activity when the political fallout of a prosecution might trigger a Constitutional crisis.  And the uncomfortable reality coiled and slumbering, of course, is that the political pragmatists are probably right that the state of the Republic is indeed so precarious and unstable that prosecuting Nixon, or Reagan, or George H.W. Bush, or Bill Clinton, or George W. Bush would trigger a Constitutional crisis and jeopardize the frail and unhealthy--but barely stable--status quo.

I ought to be clear that I haven't seen any particular evidence at this point that Hillary Clinton ought to be prosecuted, and that there is an undeniably un-American tint to a Presidential candidate treating the outcome of a hypothetical criminal investigation as a foregone conclusion.  (I should underscore that, too, by adding that I don't presume that a criminal investigation of torture allegations during the Bush Administration would lead to an indictment of G.W. Bush; indeed, I don't presume that a criminal investigation is necessarily our only response to torture allegations under treaty, though the Executive's hands may be tied by Federal statute--I think it's possible, or at least arguable, that a Truth and Reconciliation Committee on Torture could satisfy our treaty obligations.)  But supposing for argument's sake that the FBI conclusion that there's no criminal liability on Clinton's part for the e-mail scandal is incorrect and that criminal laws were violated: it seems self-evident that prosecuting her wouldn't necessarily be a partisan act, though it might have horribly partisan consequences.

I feel like I should give this piece more time and more links, but, frankly, I find the subject a bit fatiguing and frankly I burned out my ire at the President's decision to sit on his hands re: American torture of Iraqi, Afghan, and suspected terrorist prisoners several years ago.  It's not that the issue became any less pressing or horrifying, only that it became completely obvious that it wasn't going to change and any further spouting off on my part was only going to make me sick to my stomach again.

Oh, and there is one more thing that irritates me: that third paragraph I excerpted up there.  Lately it's been a bit fashionable to remind everyone of the "Wanted For Treason" posters that circulated in Dallas in November, 1963, as a parallel to some of the more violent political rhetoric these days, particularly from Trump and his supporters.  Which isn't wholly unfair, except it seems to me a bit more honest to point out that there's no evidence I can think of that Lee Harvey Oswald ever saw those posters or that they had any influence on his thinking; indeed, if anything, their obvious right-wing origin (sometimes traced to General Edwin Walker, Oswald's previous assassination target!) might have given him a moment's pause.

That's not to say John Kennedy's assassination has no relevance to modern political problems: what killed Kennedy wasn't an offensive and threatening poster, it was the fact that a mentally-ill man with a history of erratic (and, at times, criminal) behavior had absolutely no problem mail-ordering a surplus military rifle under a fictitious name and having it sent to a post office box.  As it happens, there was a time when responsible gun owners and gun control advocates and Republicans and Democrats and right-wingers and left-wingers could all come together and agree that maybe letting just anyone have a gun was a problematic idea, and legislation was passed after JFK's death that made it just that much harder to get a firearm--you at least couldn't just call yourself "Hidell" and have a weapon sent to a P.O. box registered in yet another name.  But it's still too easy for sad, violent men who want to be famous to get their hands on lethal weapons, and there are other soft spots in the system that get exploited by people aiming to do harm.  The lesson to be drawn from Dallas '63, then, isn't that rhetoric kills, but that guns do.


Why we're doing any of it at all?

>> Friday, September 16, 2016

I have been grappling with punishment lately.  Criminal punishment, I mean.  I've been having a bit of existential angst over it.  Part of it has been the result of a couple of cases I've had over the past year where I really wondered what we--the criminal justice system, I mean--thought we were really accomplishing.  And part of it has been watching some of the ongoing publicity surrounding the Adnan Syed case that was covered by Sarah Koenig's Serial podcast last year (for those who have already been distracted by the Internet's most-recently unveiled shiny thing, a judge has ordered that Syed get a new trial and the State of Maryland is currently appealing that order).

Syed's as good a place as any to start, maybe.  I'm thinking about this case, a teenager who was convicted of murdering his teenage ex-girlfriend.  And I'll tell you that I'm thinking he's very probably guilty, that although there are issues (surprisingly typical issues, I'll tell you) with the police investigation and prosecutorial presentation, and while I think Syed's codefendant, Jay Wilds, lied about a lot of things, I get stuck on Hae Min Lee's car and it leads me to think Syed probably strangled her in it.1

And so I find myself conflicted about Syed's appeals process and results.  On the one hand, I have to confess, I find myself feeling irritated and resentful that Syed is able (in my opinion) to game the system by garnering positive news coverage by taking advantage of a journalist's naiveté and lack of foresight.2  There seems to me something vaguely unfair and dissatisfying about getting an undeserved do-over of your murder trial just because your case became a seven-day wonder on the Internet years after all the evidence that might have been used to prosecute you has been effectively scattered on the winds.

And yet--and yet I have a weird question and misgiving about this on the other hand: what's the point of leaving Adnan Syed in jail even if he did do it?  If my suspicion that murdering Lee was a spontaneous crime of passion enacted by an immature man-child is correct, it seems improbable that Syed is now still a danger to anybody, or that he's in need of further rehabilitation (if he ever really was in need of any to begin with, oddly enough), or that you could hope to deter other possible crimes committed by other mentally and emotionally immature children who aren't particularly thinking about laws and consequences when in thrall to rage and insecurity.

Maybe we do it to even the scale for the loss Hae Min Lee's family and the world lost when her life ended.  Except... how is a lifetime enough?  Or if we're just going for crude tits-for-tats, why don't we just let a member of Lee's family, or their appointed representative if no one has the stomach for it, strangle Syed?3  In no way will it ever bring her back, of course.

Assuming he's guilty, do we leave him in prison because it makes us feel better about ourselves?

Or do we do it simply to announce that we don't approve, as a society, of strangling ex-girlfriends?  Something one might have thought we already knew, though I understand a lot of people will point to the poor treatment of domestic violence victims as the counter-argument.  More importantly, does it do any good to send a message that remains obscure to the point of secrecy until a This American Life reporter has a fluke smash hit with a podcast about it, a podcast that leans heavily towards doubting whether he did it at all and has fostered a popular sentiment that someone else surely must have done the deed?

In short, is there any useful reason to keep Syed locked up even if he's guilty?  Or is the sole reason part of me really hopes he loses his appeal a kind of petty vindictiveness that my clients aren't featured in podcasts, my clients aren't fought over in Reddit forums, some of my clients will do more time than Adnan Syed might and for less-grotesque things than choking a girl to death?

And those clients of mine?  What are we doing with some of them?  And I'm talking about the ones who are legitimately guilty, guilty as hell, guilty as guilty can be, as sullied as the old half-melted snow freezing and thawing in a steel mill's employee parking lot.  People who are starting their criminal records because we don't know what to do with them, and repeat offenders who we don't know what else to do at all.  People who, I guess, have to be punished somehow, and we have this proscribed list of socially-sanctified options for doing so set forth in the books of law, but what is the goal, what is the endgame?

It's not always obscure, understand?  Sometimes, you know, we go through that list above and options stand out.  Hey, put this guy on probation, so there's someone goading him through rehabilitation.  Send this lady to prison, because she's proven she can't get along anywhere else and she just needs to be removed from the world, even if it's merely a few months or years we're protected from one another.

But a few months ago, I had a woman who ended up with a felony criminal record following her first offense and failure to comply with a deferred prosecution agreement.  And there was nothing in the list of reasons you can come up with to justify the conviction--the victim was at peace, the woman has had no further offenses and is unlikely to ever be a danger to anyone, she's in no obvious need of rehabilitation, there's no grand statement of social condemnation that seems called for.  And yet I can't fault anyone in the system for doing what the system required once certain switches were thrown and the system ground to life; consequences arise from action and inaction and the whole thing has an inevitable inertia that will keep things moving just as forcefully as they were immobile when the machine was at rest.  Something had to be done.  It was done.

I just can't really get my head around why.  Other than, "because," I mean.

I thought about writing this months ago, really, and then decided not to.  I mean, what's the point, and I'm sure it can only cause trouble if it's noticed at all?

But then a lot of friends--liberal fellow travelers, I think, most or all of them--began posting and reposting to Facebook an article about a teenager accused and convicted of rape who, a liberal website claims in summary fashion, is being inadequately punished.

They suggest his punishment is inadequate because he's white, and not because there's a gap between our gut-level horror of the allegations against him and the vague and intangible consequences our instinctive vengeance demands.  And they suggest the punishment is too light because we live in a misogynistic society that doesn't take sex crimes seriously enough, and not because of any facts or context that may be hidden from all of us who aren't a part of the case and really have no idea what the dimensions of the story might be.

And it's true that our society is racist and sexist, which means that our legal system--a manifestation and reflection of our society--is, too.

But I just resolved a case for a juvenile, a child, who was accused of something horrific, and who could have been tried as an adult and might have been if I hadn't worked out an arrangement with the State where he goes to a Youth Development Center--kiddie prison--instead of facing a jury of adults two and three times his age, and perhaps being sent to an adult prison, to reside with adults much older than he (although the prison system would try to keep him apart from them until he was a little older), with the minimum, the minimum he could have been sent off for as an adult being 12 years for a first-time offender.  He is, for whatever it may be worth, an African-American child.  His maximum confinement in a Youth Development Center will be his 21st birthday.

And when I argued with the Assistant District Attorney prosecuting this case, who I believe did the right thing in allowing the case to remain in juvenile court--not just because the decision is a positive outcome for my client, but because I think it was a moral decision--the argument I kept coming back to was that there is, or ought to be, in my mind at least, a bright-line rule that you don't send children to prison.  You.  Simply.  Don't.

A sentiment that is factually incorrect, because all the time across this great land of ours we send children to live behind stone walls, in narrow cells, simultaneously with and apart from adult felons, to get whatever education the Department of Corrections can offer and come out,4 eventually, sometime, eventually, as convicted felons who are branded with the scarlet letters of their convictions.  But a moral sentiment.  A faith that is blind and foolish.

Is there some greater good that would have been served sending this kid to living hell for grown-ups?  It wasn't going to make the victim feel better; I'm afraid you'll have to take my word for that, since I don't think I can say more than I already have about the facts of the case.  It wasn't going to undo anything terrible that had been done.  It wasn't going to prevent anything that couldn't be prevented in less-cruel ways.  It wasn't going to rehabilitate in any way that couldn't be done in a less-intolerable way.  It wasn't going to send a message to anyone who didn't already know what the message would be.  The most it would do is send a strong message of societal condemnation by breaking people more than they were already broken.

And had the Assistant District Attorney and I reached an impasse, if we hadn't found a middle ground that leaves people with some slim prospect of healing and reconciliation?  What else could I have done but tried this awful case, the victim getting up on the stand to tell a courtroom populated by strangers what had happened while the alleged offender sat twenty, thirty feet almost directly in front of her next to the mean man forced to ask cruel questions?  This is a fact the ADA took very much into consideration: forcing the victim to testify, a right accorded to the accused by our Constitution (a response to the evils of secret tribunals and witch hunts), would have been a re-victimization, would have been an unkind and terrible thing.  (Hence, again, why I believe the ADA made a moral decision.)

A fact, I find, that seems to be frequently overlooked by critics of the handling of various crimes.  We have, for better and worse, an adversarial system in which the accused has a fundamental right to confront their accusers.  A system that, again for better and worse, has rules--some of them almost ancient--that are intended to ensure fairness and regularity; rules of admissibility, of hearsay, of impeachment, just for instance off the top of the head.  A system of justice that has, for better and worse, established a high burden of proof before liberty or life can be taken away from somebody (taking their property is generally easier).

So that it is not enough for a police officer to take the stand and say that somebody told him something happened; proof of guilt must be established by non-hearsay evidence.5  And the proffered, would-be proofs will be tested in court, prodded and poked and gone over and questioned.  It is frustrating to read complaints about police officers "doubting" a victim by asking her hard questions about an offense when the complainants hardly seem to realize that one of the things an officer needs to do if she's going to present a case to the District Attorney for prosecution is present the strongest possible prosecutable case, and the questions the officer asked are the questions that the DA will ask, that the Grand Jury will ask, that a competent defense attorney will ask, that the petit jury hearing the case will ask themselves behind closed doors, and it's best to have the answer ready (or, frankly, if the answer is so dissatisfactory, perhaps save a lot of people the humiliation and/or wasted effort that may come from attempting to prosecute an unwinnable case).

I digress.

To get back on track--

There is a now-famous experiment in which two Capuchin monkeys are given different rewards for the same task (I know, this sounds like I am still digressing), and the monkey that receives the lesser treat will totally lose her shit when she sees what has happened, sees that she's being treated differently from her peer one cage over.  And I mention this because fairness, apparently, is very possibly an instinct that we have inherited from way back along the primate branch of the family tree.  And so I get it, I really get it, when I read a story in which a terrible action has repercussions for the perpetrator seem vaguely unfair.  I think this is very possibly some very old monkey section of my brain losing its shit; and the fact this may be an instinctive, reflexive reaction doesn't mean its wholly wrong, either.

But.  But I see these comments about these rape cases by folks, friends--good people, friends, people who I share so many principles and morals with--and while I know what they want and have an inarticulate sympathy for why, well... I also don't know what they want, or why.  If they are highlighting racial disparities in sentencing, for instance, are they saying that minorities should also receive lighter sentences for convictions?  Would that resolve the unfairness?  Or, if they're saying (what I think most of them probably are saying) that a sentence was too lenient, and the fairness issue is that it should have been much worse for the defendant--what is it they hope that will accomplish?  I don't ask rhetorically; well, not exactly.  I ask because, as I said a lot of words ago, I'm not sure I understand what we, what I (to the extent I have a professional part as a cog in this terrible grinding machine) am doing anymore.

Will a longer sentence undo the crime?  Deter anybody?  Rehabilitate anyone?  Neutralize an actual threat?  Send a "message" that we don't put up with that with which we will not put up with?  Just make us feel better, at least until the perpetrator gets out and now we have to figure out what to do with someone who has already been completely rejected by society at least once when we forcibly removed him for so many years and months?

Do we actually have a goal, or are we just screaming through the bars of our own cages?

And do you know, there's so much about the case that my friends are angry about that I don't know, and that I doubt they know, either?  I know the perpetrator in that one was seventeen when he committed the crime (this is not apparent in the article my friends link to, but can be learned by clicking through to the upriver source of the source).  I know that he was in Iowa, where this story happened.  I know that there was another "man" involved, which I put in quotes because I don't actually know if this was another teenager--another child, also being treated as an adult in this context and no other--or if this was a much older male (therefore suggesting, perhaps, the involvement of a more culpable party).  I know that, interestingly, a person who helped police catch the kid described the situation and the defendant as, "It's sad, he is such a young kid"; and suggested something known by those of us who deal with these situations too often (once being too often), that others may be overlooking--that frequently sex offenders were themselves victims, and are repeating learned behaviors.  I know the article mentions the defendant having had at least two psychiatric evaluations in the past two years, though the story doesn't say whether these were for the purposes of determining competency to proceed to trial, capacity to be culpable for the offense, for the purposes of sentencing, or for some other forensic purpose.

The story doesn't say--and its author probably doesn't know--anything about the convicted defendant's mental health diagnoses, if any.  His education, his intellectual capacity, his emotional development.  Whether the victim was a family member or a stranger.  What the victim's family's wishes are, if any.  Whether there are further arrangements between the state and defendant regarding his testimony against his codefendant.  Whether there are evidentiary issues that might make a conviction at trial less than certain even with video of the offense.  And while the point-of-view that the sentence is somehow unfair comes through very clearly, what isn't even touched is why another sentence might be better, more fair, more whatever.

If the author's feeling is that death would be too good for the defendant, he's entitled to that and might as well come out and say so; he just needs to recall that that isn't actually how we sentence people in this country.

Maybe it should be?  Though I have a feeling that's not really how people feel about it, considering that we--like most of the countries we like to identify ourselves with even when we publicly mock them (you know, France, Britain, European countries--as opposed to North Korea or Yemen)--have actually abolished the death penalty for rape.

We could reinstate it, like a lot of the punishments we've abandoned.  If the purpose of what we're doing here, if the end game is simply to send a strong condemnatory message to the universe that we don't like things, nothing speaks louder than drawing-and-quartering.  You might think I'm joking, that I'm being sarcastic.  I'm not.  I'm being sad and ironic, I'm being forlorn and angsty.

If there's a reason we're not drawing-and-quartering people, maybe we should be wondering why we're sending them to prison.  Why we're giving them permanent marks that will make them pariahs and outcasts the rest of their lives?  Why we're taking away chunks of their lives that will make them alien and useless when their lives are given back to them?

Why we're doing any of it?

1Wilds apparently led police to Lee's car.  This could mean a lot of things, but the Occam's Razorest would be that Wilds knew where the car was because he was involved in the crime somehow.  Wilds has maintained--in multiple conflicting stories--that his involvement was confined to helping Syed dispose of the body.

One strong possibility, of course, is that Wilds killed Lee and pinned it on Syed.  There are problems with this scenario, though.  For one thing, it doesn't appear that Lee and Wilds had much connection besides being close to Syed.  For another, if this is the scenario, then it seems more than a little odd that in neither of his two trials nor in any of the interviews that Koenig used in Serial has Syed come out and accused Wilds of killing her.  Neither of these points is conclusive, but I find them suggestive.

Another possibility would be that a yet-unknown third party murdered Lee, and... and what?  They know Wilds and roped him into helping?  Wilds is covering for them by pointing at someone who for some reason doesn't seem to be pointing back?  This, of course, is the big problem with all the "Maybe it was a random serial killer!" proposals that have been floated hither and yon since Serial aired; if Lee was killed by a Phantom Stranger, how is it Wilds knew where her car was?

The possibility that resonates most with me (and I will admit that it may be because it lines up with my own confirmation biases) is that the spine of Wilds' story is true--Syed contacted him and needed help covering up what I suspect was an impulsive criminal act--and that the variations in Wilds' story are largely the product of the kind of embellishment you frequently (in my experience, at least) see in accessory statements: a suspect inevitably gets the sense that making a story "good" will help him even if nothing is explicitly promised, and the kinds of questions investigators ask him point towards what constitutes "good."  In this case, I think you have Wilds realizing that an account in which Syed has planned things out and he (Wilds) is a minimal participant (because suspects almost always minimize their participation anyway--that's just human nature, really) is the story that the police want to hear.  They don't want to charge someone with an unpremeditated Second Degree Murder if they can collar someone for a planned-and-schemed First Degree, so they're hinting (perhaps even unwittingly) that surely, surely Syed talked about killing her on other occasions and had his day planned out.  And Wilds, he's not dumb and he doesn't want to go to prison, so he's game.

That's my hypothesis, anyway.  What do I know?  I wasn't there.

2I think Koenig wasn't really prepared to deal with a charismatic, somewhat bullying interview subject, first of all.  And second, I think she really thought that once Serial was underway, additional sources would emerge, eager to be heard; instead, additional sources remained hidden away or refused comment.  Not all of them, certainly; but key sources like Lee's family, Baltimore police investigators, the prosecutor, and Jay Wilds refused comment or dodged her, leaving her pretty much with Syed and his most ardent defender, a family friend named Rabia Chaudry who provided Koenig with documents that either weren't public records or that would have taken months to get through public record requests.  Which left her, in turn, with a dilemma: if she concluded Syed was guilty, should she tell him and risk losing practically her only source, or not tell him and risk becoming another case study in journalistic ethics and maybe even risk a lawsuit?

Or, she could be supportive and sort of agnostic, repeatedly expressing her inability to say for sure whether he really did it....

3Ah, but this is why we have the death penalty, yes?  Well... but not exactly.  Because while we talk about the death penalty as being an "eye-for-an-eye" kind of thing, it isn't, is it?  We don't kill convicts the way they killed their victims.  We insist on doing it "humanely," whatever that means, even if the convicted killer terrorized and brutalized a victim.  And we impose all kinds of other rules.

I am a staunch opponent of the death penalty for a lot of reasons that are an entirely separate thing from this, and that are beside the point I'm really trying to make here; that point being, even if we, for argument's sake, condone death, we don't really do it in a way that "balances the scales" even if this scale could be balanced by foolish and ignorant mortals such as we.  We don't actually take an eye for an eye, even if you find such trades acceptable.  And I don't really think we have the stomach to make such trades, despite the fact that a lot of death penalty advocates will talk big about it: we try, instead, to have it both ways when we kill in this context, congratulating ourselves for showing mercy to an "undeserving" killer by killing him in what we hope is a painless way, behind impenetrable walls and closed doors, in hidden chambers, at lonely and forbidden hours, as if we're ashamed of the things we boast of and have trouble bringing ourselves to commit an act we otherwise claim is overdue.

4We have decided, you know, that people come out of prison, eventually, for most offenses.  We are down to First Degree Murder and (in some states, anyway) certain sex offenses as being the only offenses for which there is officially life without parole; and then there are the effective life sentences we give to certain habitual felons whose sentences will exceed the lifespans of anybody who isn't an Old Testament character; and also the fake life sentences we give for those who our laws allow to be indefinitely "civilly" committed after they've run out their prison sentences and "done their time".

And we are moving away from giving children these sentences, when we try and convict children as adults.  We are doubting whether it's humane to give a teenager a life sentence, which means we are considering the possibility it's cruel, and cruelty is supposed to be forbidden by the Eighth Amendment to our Constitution.  (None of this applies, natch, if you're reading this in Canada or some other enlightened place.  I know there are a few of you.  Hi.)

Which means, you know, people will be released from prison.  Something that gets forgotten, except when someone is trying to instill fear while arguing for a longer sentence.  But you realize, of course, that even with the longer sentence, the defendant will eventually get out?  Unless it's life, of course, or the equivalent Methuselah-ean span of years.  But most people in prison, you see, will eventually get out.

And we ought, perhaps, just maybe, remember that point?  And ask ourselves, maybe, just perhaps, if that ought to affect how and where and why and for how long they're to be in prison?  Maybe?  To think that sending a person who has done horrible things off to serve five or ten or twenty years may be satisfying right now, while we're pissed and bitter, but is it going to still seem like a good idea when this person is gently pushed through the prison doors with thirty dollars and ill-fitting clothes and no possibility of employment and a screwy education and the only living people they still know are parole officers and other convicts?

Because, I dunno, maybe we ought to think about whether we're just pushing somebody under a rug so we can pat ourselves on the back for the housecleaning we've just done, with no regard to what kind of mess will reappear when the rug is lifted some time from now.

5Or, if you want to be technical, non-hearsay testimony and/or hearsay testimony that satisfies one of the many exceptions to the hearsay rules.


Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam - "A 1000 Times"

>> Thursday, September 01, 2016

The former lead singer of The Walkmen (R.I.P.) has a new earworm out.  Someone in the comments section at YouTube said this song hurt their heart in a good way, which seems about right.  Me?  I haven't had the chance to slow dance to it with my baby yet, but it seems like it would be a good song for it.  In fact, I'm planning on giving it a shot.

I'd suggest you maybe clear a space and find four minutes to do the same?


How to talk to a woman who is performing some kind of complicated surgery

>> Tuesday, August 30, 2016

These days, many women have graduated from high school, attended (and completed!) college, have gone on to accredited medical schools, completed internships, and have been licensed by state medical boards to be doctors, allowing them to perform surgery in hospitals.

Yet that doesn't mean you can't talk to them.

Of course, not all surgeons with breasts and vaginas* are open to being approached, because not all surgeons with breasts and vaginas are single and looking.

However, if a woman performing intensive, life-saving surgery in a hospital operating room is single and hoping to meet a boyfriend (or even a fuckbuddy for one glorious night in heaven), she will usually be happy to stop in the middle of her heroic medical efforts to save a patient to give you an opportunity to put your penis** in her.

Her putting down her scalpel doesn't always mean she's interested and wants you to ask for her number or drop your pants and jerk off in front of her or anything.  It may mean that she needs somebody to sponge up excess fluid around an incision, or it's time to sew the patient back up, or that the patient has died.  But it's possible she wants to see where the conversation will go.  Especially if the patient has died, and her afternoon just cleared up once she signs the death certificate and tells an administrator that it's probably the anesthesiologist's fault, somehow.

What to do to get her attention

1.  Stand in front of her.  I mean, not right in front of her.  You'll probably have to stand on the opposite side of the operating table.  And there may be other people--you know, like nurses and other doctors and possibly an angry cop clasping a loose surgical mask against his mouth and nose while he demands a chance to interrogate the patient as soon as he wakes up, people like that--who also need to be there.  You could maybe stand next to one of the machines that has a squiggy thing in it that goes up and down with the patient's breath, or the one that tells you whether the patient's heart has stopped or if his brain is working.  No, not by that one.  A little over.  Well now you're in the way.  Watch your feet.  Oh, good grief--now you're not supposed to stand on that.  Try backing up, and now a little to the left--my left.  Your other left.  There.  No, wait.  No.  Can you maybe--okay, yeah, that's good.  That'll work.  I think.  Yeah, that's fine.

2.  Have a confident, easy-going smile.  Oh God, no.  Not like that.  That's a little frightening.  I said easy-going.  Not squeamish.  Relax.  Okay, that's alright.  No, I get it, you probably shouldn't have glanced down at the table when the nurse moved that tray--yeah, that was a lot of blood, alright.  Just relax.  Smile.  Confidence.  Chicks love confidence.  There you are.

3.  If she hasn't noticed you, get her attention.  No, she didn't see you.  Try coughing.  Wave your hand a bit.  There you go, I think--no.  Sorry.  Try moving up a little and sticking your hand directly in front of her face, that'll get her atte--oh God!  Shit!  Shitshitshit!  Back up!  Clear!  What the hell, man, what the hell?  I didn't say do it while she was cutting the dude!  Oh shit!  Fuck!  Fuck, fuck!  Just--back up, back up, guy!  Okay!  Okay!  It's all going to be okay!  I think she's got it under control.  Jesus fucking Christ did you see that?  Shit!  All over the goddamn ceiling, dude!

4.  When she looks at you and yells who the hell let you in and get that guy out of here and why the fuck isn't he in scrubs and why doesn't he have a mask, point to her scalpel and confidently ask, "Can you stop operating on this dude for a minute?" as you pretend to not be sickened by all the blood soaking into her surgical scrubs and dripping from the ceiling tiles.

If she doesn't understand what you're trying to convey, it's possible she's a little slow because, you know, women menstruate*** and it causes them to not get enough blood in their brains.

If she calls hospital security and insists that you should be escorted from the premises immediately and possibly ought to be charged with trespassing, try speaking slowly.  Really exaggerate the words with your mouth, like you're talking to a deaf person or a Mexican.  "Arrrrre!  Yoooooou!  Bizzzzzzz-ieeeeee!"  Point at her when you enunciate "you" and make other big gestures, but try not to knock any expensive-looking electronic equipment off any racks, because that stuff is hard to replace and is the reason healthcare is so expensive these days.

If she starts shouting at you, calling you a "fucking moron" and telling you to "get the hell" out of "her" surgery, remember that some girls are shy.  Try showing her how manly you are by lifting up something large in the room.  Probably not the patient, because he's got gross stuff sticking out of him right now.  Maybe one of those machines, but--again--not one of the expensive ones, because God only knows you probably can't pay for it on a telemarketer's commission.

5.  If she actually puts down her scalpel and starts talking to you--possibly very slowly, mirroring your own slowed-down conversation ("Are.  You.  Some.  Kind.  Of.  Goddamn.  Idiot?"), do what we call, "Acknowledging the Awkwardness" by quickly acknowledging the awkwardness, to demonstrate that you acknowledge that approaching a woman this way is pretty darn awkward.

For example:

You:  "Hi.  Wow.  Are you a doctor?"

Her:  "What the f--seriously?"

You:  "You have doctor pajamas on."

Her:  "Oh my God.  This is not happening."

You:  "This guy is full of guts.  Is everybody full of guts?"

Her:  "Where is that goddamn rent-a-cop?  Somebody call fucking 911.  Oh my God."

You:  "If you cut me open, would you see lots of guts?  That's weird.  Being full of guts, I mean.  I mean, I guess if bugs have guts, people have guts, right?  And I guess our guts are bigger.  Do dogs and cats have guts, too?  What about rocks?  I guess rocks probably don't have guts.  Or maybe they just have some guts, but they aren't all guts.  You're pretty.  Do you always wear that mask?  It makes you look like a bank robber.  Did this man rob a bank, is that why his guts are all over, because the cops had to shoot him--kapow!  Kapow!"

Her:  "Oh thank God, where the fuck were you guys?  Him.  Over there next to the EKG monitor.  Get him the hell out of here.  Right now."

You:  "Remember when I put my hand in front of your face and then sploosh! there was, like, blood all over, and I almost ralphed.  That was gross.  I kinda peed myself.  But only a little."

If it's clear that the people grabbing you by the arms and frog-marching you out of the building have Tasers, you probably shouldn't wriggle too much.  Remember that "Don't Tase me, Bro!" video on YouTube?  Yeah, that looked like it hurt, didn't it?  Owwie!

Common Mistakes That Guys Make When Approaching Women Who Are Performing Some Kind of Complicated Surgery:

1.  Knocking over an expensive piece of important medical equipment 

That stuff is totes expensive, dude.  And if you knocked it down and then plugged it back in wrong, I'll bet it could turn somebody into a Frankenstein, and that would be, like, bad, probably.

2.  Giving up too easily

She's probably wearing that mask because she's shy, not because she's ugly.  And I know that it's hard to tell when she's wearing doctor pajamas (or "scrubs") whether her breasts**** are Damn Fine or Just Okay, but I'm just going to let you in on a little secret and point out that doctors are always concerned about physical fitness and good diet and shit like that, so you know she's got to be fit under those jammies, right?  Plus she knows how to talk dirty in doctor-talk.  And she can hook you up with some good pills.

So you gotta work on it, okay.

3.  Not giving up easily enough

On the other hand, she's got a knife, dude.  And she probably learned how to do use it when she was at doctor school.  Maybe you ought to let this one pass and head back to Hooters.

I mean, come on: it's not like you were actually going to get laid.  Seriously?  You didn't think...? 


*These parts of the body are more commonly known as tits and pussies, but if you want to impress a woman who is also a doctor, you should probably get used to using the professional doctor words for tit and pussy, hence we will be using the proper doctor terms for them.

**This is the word a doctor will use instead of "cock".  Again, proper medical terms are important if you want to have a chance to put your penis near enough a vagina to prematurely ejaculate around it.

***You know, "go on the rag," "that time of the month," "me and the guys will be down at Hooters," but pro-doctor talk it's called "menstruation."

****See previous note about medical terminology.

Photo credit: By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Valcarcel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Another proud member of the UCF...

Another proud member of the UCF...
UCF logo ©2008 Michelle Klishis international gang of... international gang of...
смерть шпионам!

...Frank Gorshin-obsessed bikers.

...Frank Gorshin-obsessed bikers.
GorshOn! ©2009 Jeff Hentosz

  © Blogger template Werd by 2009

Back to TOP