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Tom Wopat's worst nightmare made flesh

11/23/07 01:34 pm - Thanksgiving

I went to a kosher Thanksgiving at my aunt's house this year. It marked a big change for me, both because it was the first time I went to a thanksgiving celebration in a few years, and the first time I'd seen my cousin in a decade. He and I had a big falling out when my dad died, and I guess it took me this long to get over my resentment and see him again. We had a pleasant conversation, he quotes the Torah a lot, and I guess we've buried the hatchet. His kids are very cute and well behaved. There were things that bothered me (The daughter was expected to set the table and manage the food while the boys were free to play) but nothing worth getting worked up about. As much as I have a problem with some Orthodox values, there are much worse fates for children than to grow up in an Orthodox household. Sure there may be some sexism and a lot of rules, but their dad is kind and present in their lives, and to some degree I think the structure helps them. All the kids seemed happy.

11/2/07 10:33 am - Did not know, do not like

I did not know how leniant European sentences are.

I understand the theory behind this, but I have to say that if a family member of mine were, say, brutally raped and murdered, I would be very uncomfortable with a 15 year sentence. Do the crime at 22, get out before your 40th birthday? It's one thing to say that there's no point in keeping someone in jail once they hit their 70s and aren't a practical threat to the health and well being of their fellow citizens, it's entirely another to release murderers while they are still young enough to be dangerous (presumably there are systems in place to reduce risk, but still.)

That's not even bringing up the important concepts of retributive justice and/or deterence.

Yes the United States has sentencing guidelines that are too harsh in many cases (Drugs being the most egregious example.) Yes we still have a terrible crime rate, despite these harsh sentences. Our legal system is deeply, deeply flawed in many ways. But I have to say that for a crime as serious as slaughtering almost 200 people in a terrorist act, I think life without parole is completely appropriate, and I don't think violent criminals deserve only a decade and a half behind bars.

It is interesting, though, that Europe's crime rate isn't sky high despite these leniant sentences. Kind of puts a damper on the deterence argument for those who want every pot smoker jailed for life, and everyone else executed.

10/11/07 10:47 am

Longterm solution

On the one hand, yeah it's cruel for cops to roust the unfortunate when they're trying to get some shut eye. On the other hand, Jesus Christ this is one of the wealthiest cities in the wealthiest country in the world. I don't think "Let's let them sleep on the street" is something we should be saying. Yeah they claim it's just for now, but the fact is that politicians only pay attention to problems when they're being pressured to solve them. They're not going to implement any long-term assistance for these people. One of the compelling things Rudy Giulianni said as mayor of New York is that when you see someone passed out in the street that is a sign that that person needs help, not a 'lifestyle choice' to be 'honored.' Rudy might not have dealt with it in a way that I would have, but at least he recognized that people sleeping in the street is a BAD THING.

(Incidentally this reminds me of another L.A. story, one about how hospitals were dumping uninsured patients IN THEIR HOSPITAL GOWNS on skid-row. Oh no, we don't need any sort of national health care system. Things are working just fine.)

10/10/07 07:16 pm - CANADA!!!!

This story guaranteed to make iconoclast more Canada Friendly

My mother is dating a man who is both a Vietnam vet and an ex-hippie. Today the two of them tried to cross into Canada to attend a conference and visit some friends. They were turned away at the border.

It all started when Bill left his passport at home in New York. They're crossing from Washington state. The Canadian border patrol did a check to make sure he was a U.S. citizen, and wouldn't you know it, something showed up on the record.

It seems that Bill (that's the guy) has an arrest on his record in Arizona from 1970...and in typical hippie fashion he can't quite remember what it's for. Probably pot or a protest arrest or DUI or something. Anyway the Canadians wouldn't accept "Probably pot or a protest arrest or DUI or something" as an explanation, and they were turned away.

Apparently if you were arrested in Arizona 37 years ago you're not welcome in Canada. The funny thing is that it's probably for pot, and with Canada's recent liberalization of pot laws it's something he WOULDN'T be arrested for if he did it in Canada today. But with the loonie up to 1 for 1, the Canadians are feeling their oats, and they're looking for any excuse to screw with Americans, including pretending that an aging hippie who was arrested in 1970 is a threat to their ice cold national security.

Well listen up CANADA! The United States will rise again and when we do we will remember how you treated our hippies when you had the power. We will remember and we will exact a TERRIBLE revenge. Enjoy having your book prices jacked up even HIGHER Canada. You've earned it.

10/9/07 03:36 pm - 98% income tax, anyone?

I'm no raging conservative, but Jesus Christ can Hillary Clinton announce ANY policy initiative that doesn't involve spending tens of billions of dollars during a time of huge deficits? She's going to pay for her Government IRA program by freezing the Estate Tax? That's fine, but what about using some of that money to pay down the crushing debt?

I'm getting worried that the Democrats are starting to feel overconfident and like since the Republicans have been spending like crazy and are now unpopular, it's their turn to dip into the kitty.

Kitty's empty, folks. Whoever takes over after President Chimpington is going to have to get the budget under control, in addition to dealing with a billion other issues that will face 2008-12 America.

Healthcare's important, savings are important, etc..etc..., But Hill, DAHLING, can we get some solid spending-control plans from you?

10/7/07 08:50 am

Right Next Door to Hell

I recently heard Jim Talent from the Heritage Foundation on the radio, pushing something he called "The 4% Solution," which was basically a call for vast increases in arms spending. He claimed that America's failures in Iraq were due to outdated equipment, and that if we wanted peace and prosperity in the world we would be pumping cash into Lockheed Martin etc...

His deeper claim was that America is the world's police man, and that we needed to maintain absolute dominance over the rest of the worlds' militaries if we wanted a well-policed globe. Leaving aside the incredible arrogance behind that claim, or the fact that there's no reason to believe that America, with 5% of the world's population and a shrinking proportion of global GDP, is going to be able to maintain a higher military budget than the rest of the world indefinitely, AND the fact that we'd essentially be rewarding military contractors for rampant corruption and incompetence in Iraq with a huge infusion of government cash, there's the fact that if we're the world's policemen we're doing a piss poor job.

The women of the congo need help. They're having their insides literally ripped out by gangs of armed men. Their government can't protect them, the U.N. is 'keeping the peace' the same way the U.N. always 'keeps the peace,' by doing shit all. If the world has a policeman he should be poking his head down there to say "Hey you, boys, cut out all that rapin'." But the world doesn't have a policeman.

The United States Government and population has no taste for sending soldiers to areas like the Congo, where there aren't particular strategic gains to be made. We never have. Remember "Operation Restore Hope" in Mogadishu? We lost 18 soldiers, not even a statistical blip in a real war, and the press went apeshit. America's not going to go down to the Congo or Darfur, let alone some place like Burma where the government can keep reporters from talking about what's actually happening.

Jim Talent and the Heritage Foundation want two things. They want to funnel money to military contractors and they want America to be able to achieve STRATEGIC goals more easily in the future. They care about securing resources and bullying other countries that they can get something from. But they won't admit that. They talk about security and peace and meanwhile the women of the Congo are being ripped apart and nobody's going to do shit about it.

This isn't supposed to be happening in 2007. The Cold War is over, the evil empire has fallen, and now the Western powers are supposed to be strong enough to keep parts of the world from disintegrating into hell. But the truth is we don't care. We read our articles, shake our heads, say "That's terrible, I wish someone would do something" and if someone tries to spend some tax dollars DOING something we say "Hold on, now. Let's not get CRAZY!"

We don't have the empathy to think about the lives of these people and say "This cannot continue. They are human."

It should be the job of the U.N., but the U.N. can't do anything. It's too open to murderous repressive governments to actually act against murder and repression. What we need is a NATO like group of specific countries with the will and resources to put these situations in order. What do we have instead?

Something very close to hell on earth.

9/29/07 11:36 am

One of the things I've been able to do more as I get older is externalize unjust criticism. By this I mean I'm able to discern when someone is attacking me because of their flaws, rather than mine. It's a skill I should have cultivated at an earlier age, but that's irrelevant. Human communication is mostly phrased in terms of facts, but frequently driven by psychological forces. We cannot say "I want you to be impressed by me" so we say "I have a Porsche." We cannot say "I feel inadequate and want to demonstrate control over the situation" so instead we say "For future reference, you should ask me first."

The next step is for me to externalize my own irrational criticisms of myself, but that's more difficult because it requires delving into my own psychological motivations, which is always a thorny thicket.

9/21/07 11:17 pm - Sentimental Reasons

People at my job keep telling me how much they love me. Not as in "I want you to rock my world" but like "We really love you, and want you to do X for us after this project is over."

It creeps me out.

I don't go to work to be loved. I go to make money, and to contribute to society or the company or whatever. Praise is fine, but I'd much prefer "You did a really great job" than "We love you." I feel like I'm being judged as a person for the work I do. If I fuck up does that mean they'll start hating me? I get along with my coworkers, and I don't have a bad word to say about any of them (At least not MANY bad words) but I'm far from loving any of them. I haven't even spent any time with them outside of work. How can you love someone when your interactions with them are restricted to talking about work stuff or joking around?

The use of that word bugs me. I feel like I'm being pressured to say "I love you guys too." That would come off as creepy or insincere. Is this something about a female run environment? Are they more relationship and feeling oriented rather than results oriented? Is that a sexist theory?

In other work related news, I got two recruitment emails from a big fancy investment firm. They were both based on my college grades. The first one said they wanted me. The second one said they really wanted me, and how could I not respond to their first email when they wanted me so very badly? And did I have any friends they could also want?

I responded to the second email saying I'd be happy to interview with them, but I wasn't sure I was who they were looking for because of (X, Y, Z.)

They haven't responded. Not even to say "Yeah, you're not a great fit, good luck!"

I feel so used.

Can't we turn back the clock to a little bit of a more formal workplace, where people tell you they like your work rather than you personally, and corporations have the decency to send out form rejection notices after flooding your email inbox with recruitment letters? I'm not emotionally prepared for this kinder gentler workplace.

9/14/07 08:56 pm - Ignonimity

A few people seem to have noticed that I stopped posting in this blog. It's been about 3 month since I updated. This has not been by design. I haven't felt like updating. It's been part of my disengaging myself from the Internet thing. I was spending unhealthy amounts of time online, and I didn't want that anymore.

I'd like to say that I've still been reading your journals, but I haven't. I guess it was similar to how alcoholics need to stay away from bars. I've checked in every now and then, and of course I've missed you guys, but I haven't been following. Here's hoping I missed a lot of wonderful news, exciting developments, and tales of raunchy sex with inappropriate partners.

What have I been up to? Reading. Watching movies. Lots and lots of walking. I bought a High Def TV, and learned that crap in 1080i is just 1080 lines of crap. I've detoxed from caffeine no less than 3 times. The last 6 weeks I've been working for the sort of TV show I would never think to watch. I've learned a good deal about production. I'm probably going to apply to grad school in psych or something in November.

There are of course lots of stories and weird events and triumphs and failures I could talk about, but I'm not going to, at least not right now.

I might start blogging again, but probably not in this forum. The thing about Livejournal is that it's a community, and online communities are dangerous for me. They suck me in and eat time I should be spending in the larger world. The Internet is a big place, but the world is infinitely bigger, and features a very intuitive interface.

But I'll do a better job of keeping up with you guys, and if any of you might want to communicate with me, well, there's always email.

6/7/07 04:18 pm - Objective

CNN headlines its story about MeMe Roth "Expert calls Idol Jordin obese; fans lash back."

Calling MeMe Roth an obesity expert is like calling David Duke an expert on Judaism.
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