Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Welcome to the Citizen-Monitored Police State. Also, Korean Nukes and Women Drivers

Okay, long Newser shift to digest, but here are the highlights:

-> Hey, who do you trust more, the US and Israel or Syria and North Korea? Is it bad that I had to think about this for couple minutes? Note to Syria, I'd have an easier time believing your angry denial via state-run newspaper, except that I suddenly remembered you have a state-run newspaper. Moving on...

-> If you don't think you care about women's rights in the Middle East, try reading up on their latest quest for the right to drive. The part where my head explodes is:

"Conservatives argue that if women were allowed to drive, they would be able to mix freely with men."

It's reading something like that that makes you go, "Hold on, what's wrong with that? Wait a second... you people really have some crazy belief that women are not equal to men, don't you? We are absolutely never going to understand each other, are we?"

-> Did you know Iraqis really hate private mercenaries running loose over their country with no legal standing? I didn't know that. I wasn't sure how to feel about this story, until I found that last link in the "Related Links" section. Blackwater, apparently is Bush's secret, unregulated mercenary Christian army. I don't know how accurate that assessment is. But I think I'm going to hate them, just in case.

-> And finally, I didn't cover it, but have you seen this video from a recent John Kerry event in Florida? The student got up, and asked some admittedly sort of paranoid questions, like "If there was so much voter fraud in 2004, how come you didn't protest it," and "Isn't it true that you were in the same secret society as President Bush in college?" And then look what fucking happened!



Like I said, the questions were a little paranoid, but nothing you or I wouldn't talk about in private. Reading the AP report, you'd think he brought it on himself. But watch the video! As soon as his time is up, the kid waves his hand in resignation, he looks about ready to sit down and the cops pounce on him.

Watch the whole thing. See if your blood doesn't curdle. You can hear him tell the cops, "I'll walk out of here." You can hear him beg them not to tazer him. But they do anyway, even though he's clearly on the ground and not a threat anyway.

And they want to charge the poor bastard with a felony! For what? As he asks, loudly, the entire time, "What did I do? What are you arresting me for?" Watching this video, it's sort of hard to believe what's happening in front of your eyes.

Here's the part I find fascinating though. As the cops go to arrest him, the incredulous student asks, "Is anybody watching this?" And the answer is, yes. A lot of people were. Swing over to YouTube, and you can find umpteen angles of this confrontation. This is the society we live in. Whenever something interesting looks like it's happening 100 cell phone cameras come out. I've seen a lot of people on the internet complaining that everyone just sat around, but come on, what would you have done, started a riot? In the 21st century, what concerned observers do is bear witness. We record, and we broadcast, so that shit like the AP story with it's official version of events aren't all we have.

We live in a police state, except the citizenry has the police under constant surveillance. Think about that for a minute.

Friday, September 14, 2007

One. Fucking. Million.

Maybe you're wondering to yourself, "Self, just how bad is this war in Iraq anyway?"

I've got a number for an answer. The number is 1,000,000.

Seriously? This bummed me out to a degree I can't even explain.

This war, which anyone should have known was stupid, which I knew was stupid when I was fucking eighteen, has been responsible for the deaths of one million people. I don't care how bad things were under Sadam. One. Million. People.

Already we knew that more Americans have died in Iraq than on 9-11. But this... this is staggering.

And when you match this up against a military that plays such utter games with the death tolls, it's sickening. Did you know people shot in the front of the head aren't victims of sectarian violence? Same thing for car bombs.

The whole thing sickens me. And it's going to get no coverage.

Sorry for being such a downer. I'll do something funny soon, really.

Understanding Our Enemies is Bad

This drives me up. the. fucking. wall.

I didn't cover this story, for the record. But damn am I pissed off about it.

Summary: The Pentagon is releasing tapes from the trial of the alleged 9-11 mastermind, but they're censored. The part they cut out? The part where he explains why he hates America.

"Why do they hate us?" Remember when that was the big question, after 9-11? Why do those wascally terrorists hate us so damn much?

Well, they're happy to tell us. In the AFP's words, in the suspect's explanation, "he sounds calm and collected, arguing with the panel on points of evidence in a soft, clear voice." So, nothing we could learn anything from, in other words.

Predictably the Pentagon's justification for censoring this testimony is that "could be used by our enemies in a way that could recruit terrorists." Bull. Shit.

The terrorists are not exactly having problems recruiting guys. The US handed them all the tools they need to do so when they invaded Iraq.

No, this was censored because the people in charge don't want us to, you know, understand our enemies. Bush would rather just tell us that they hate our freedoms. But they sure want us to fear our enemies, so the rest of the tape, that's fine.

It all speaks to a profound condescension to and mistrust of an American people that Bush and Co. have always felt are the real threat. In a free society, the public is supposed to be as informed as possible, but apparently, Americans just can't handle hearing this stuff, or they might go crazy and become terrorists. Or, you know, question the government or something, which is the same thing, right?

When Ron Paul suggested in the Republican debates that maybe, just maybe, we should look at the reasons the terrorists might have attacked us on 9-11, he was decried as crazy. Guiliani told him to take it back, and was lauded as a hero. This is the world we live in.

I guess it's too unreasonable and crazy to talk honestly about America's image in the Middle East. I guess it's too unreasonable and crazy for the public to discuss this stuff. Maybe they'd stop supporting the war in Iraq or something.

And that would definitely give comfort to our enemies.

Right?

I Defend a Polygamist Son of a Bitch

So, first post of the blog's new direction.

The topic today? This charming piece about the trial of son of a bitch Warren Jeffs.

To summarize: Son of a bitch Warren Jeffs is a son of a bitch. He is the so-called "prophet" of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He likes to do things like tell 14-year old girls to marry their 19-year old cousins, and then submit to them "body mind and soul." Also his church glorifies and promotes polygamy, which is a felony in some places. The government sort of frowns on behavior, so now he is on trial for rape as an accessory. Oops.

So how am I defending this guy? Well, let me start out by re-iterating that Warren Jeffs is a son of a bitch. The bitch in this case being his father, the previous prophet of the church. Apparently, it's a hereditary thing, that kind of stern moral leadership.

But you know what? He's not doing a damn thing that's illegal, and he's not doing a damn thing that should be illegal.

First there's the polygamy business. For some reason people in this country can't deal with polygamy. Even people who support gay marriage can't put their arms around it. And this baffles the hell out of me.

If you're not a person who's okay with polygamy, imagine if one of your friends was into it. I'm serious. I think this gets skewed a little because it's something practiced by those weirdo people in Utah, and also maybe Sultans and Blackbeard. But if you had a friend who said, "Yeah, I'm polyamorous, and I think I want to marry two people, and they're both into that," what would you say to them? You'd say "Uh, good for you." That's what you'd say. I know that's what I'd say, because I've had polyamorous friends.

And yeah, that argument ain't gonna fly for the religious people who aren't down with gay marriage but... honestly, fuck them. If you can't deal with the fact that morally speaking we live in a post-religious culture, and that that's how it's supposed to be in a nation with freedom of religion, then you're not a serious person. Honestly, if you think your religious beliefs are grounds for law in a country with freedom of religion, you are an asshat, and we will never agree on anything.

As far as I can see, polygamy, if it is between consenting adults, should be perfectly moral. The only possible argument against it would be tax related, which is a massive cop out. Just fix the tax code for crying out loud.

But Kev, I hear you saying, what about the non-consensual part of all this? What about telling a -GASP! - 14-year old to get married to some guy she doesn't want to get married to?

Look, telling a confused 14-year old to get married is a pretty reprehensible thing to do. There's just one problem...

...The legal marriage age in Utah is 14.

Yup.

Legal.

So, all you can pin this guy on is telling someone to get married. You know, giving them advice.

And I'm sorry, but that's not rape. Advice ≠ Rape.

What Jeffs told this girl to do was creepy. It was wrong. It was probably evil. But guess what? People say creepy, wrong and probably evil stuff all the time. They say it to kids all the time. And we have to let them do it, because otherwise, we have not even the thinnest pretense of freedom in this country.

I know what you're thinking. You're saying, "Come on, Kev. We, as a society, can agree that this guy is a dirtbag. Can't we just lock him up and worry about the pretext later?"

And the answer is no, we can't. Not if the rule of law means anything. Because who exactly speaks for "we as a society"? You? Me? The government? The religious asshats? The prophets who are like as gods?

To a lesser extent, every 14-year old in the nation has had some adult tell them some fucked up thing. Questioning authority is a survival skill, and everyone has to learn it.

And we have to learn it, in the case of the State of Utah vs. The Son of a Bitch, Warren Jeffs.

The Spak Report Gets a Point!

Okay, the prophesied day has come! Sort of!

I've always said I intended to eventually spin this blog off into a blog or blogs that has a point.

Well, I've come up with one. See, recently it became my job to write condense and rewrite news stories for Newser.com. You should go check it out, because it's a pretty nifty site, and also because every hit puts off the day when it goes under and I become unemployed.

Anyway, it occurred to me that I am now a lot more informed than I used to be on a whole lot of stories, many of which I wouldn't have followed or even known to follow if I wasn't being paid to. The thing about the internet era of news is that you very often don't pay attention to anything you don't already know about.

So my theory is that researching, understanding and writing three news stories a day might just transform me into someone with something interesting to say about the news. That's where The Spak Report comes in. Every day, I cover stories for Newser. Some interesting, some not. But my guess is that most days, I'll have something interesting to share, comment on, or vent about.

So that's what The Spak Report will be from now on - my news related blog, with something like daily posts (yeah right) about stories I've covered for Newser.

But wait! There's more!

I'll also be starting a comic book blog called Five Comic Draw. It will be for all things comic book, and maybe the occasional movie or book review every so often.

Those'll be it for now. The other main topics this blog has covered are Poetry and Baseball. Poetry is pretty fun to write about, but subjects are sort of intermittent and I don't want to run the risk of pissing people off every week. Baseball, as it turns out, is something that I love reading about, but don't actually have all that much to say about.

I will miss random whatever-the-hell-I-want Spak Report. I may still do some random posts like that. But tonight, I feel like doing something crazy, and it might as well be fucking with my blog.

Yes.

That's my idea of crazy.

Time to question the ol' lifestyle again...

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