Friday, December 30, 2011

My job interview with President Obama and Hillary Clinton

The night before last I had a dream I was at the White House and walking up and down the hallways and I wound up talking to a man and woman who were waiting there. The man was in his late 20's, dark hair, and he was obnoxious. The woman was an African-American woman in her late 20's, early 30's, she was a very nice quiet person.
Where we were talking was in a large open area, there was very nice wooden desk near where we were and an older woman sitting at it. The office behind her was where President Obama resided and his personal assistant also had her desk in there next to his. The office did not look anything like the Oval Office, in fact much different. 

We'd heard President Obama was looking for a new assistant because his was leaving. I thought it would be really neat to work for the President so I told the other two I would apply for the job. I was wearing jeans and a tee shirt though, while they were dressed up so I really couldn't expect to apply for the job at that moment. But President Obama came out of his office to get something from the outer office and he said we could interview with him. The guy in the suit went first and he came out telling me "it's a done deal" and "it's in the bag" and acting all obnoxious. I just wanted to smack him. The girl interviewed but she seemed very quiet during the interview. We could see into the office but couldn't hear much of what was going on. She came out and smiled.

I was worried because I didn't have a resume with me and wasn't dressed for an interview. But the President called me into his office. I sat across from him and the first thing I said was, "Mr. President that guy who interviewed said that it was a done deal. Is that true? Also, I'm not dressed for an interview and I don't have my resume with me so I really don't want to waste your time." He told me that it was fine and said "so he said it's a done deal eh? We'll see about that." and he seemed to move the guy's name around on the list on his computer. Apparently I interviewed well. I can't remember anything after that.

Last night I had a dream I was in my office on campus and Hillary Clinton was there. I am not sure why she was in my office but she was there. I called her Mrs. Clinton and she asked me to call her Mrs. Hillary, so I did. Apparently she wanted me to interview for a job with her. She was really nice and we got along well.

While she was visiting my office, there was some woman in another office nearby who was making a ruckus. Apparently this woman had been fired and she had a drill in her hand and was drilling holes into her desk and just ruining all her office furniture. I stood up and yelled at her and told her to get the hell out. Others in the room just looked at me, actually glad I'd done it.

Later on, a few of my students came into my office with these huge boxes, I mean HUGE boxes and they asked me if they could send them off USPS. It would have cost a fortune and I told them they were better off  using UPS.

What in hell were these dreams about?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rethinking the Death Penalty

"With age comes wisdom"

I do not know exactly when it was that I changed my mind about the death penalty; all I know is that it happened. At one time I believed we should put to death the most heinous of criminals. Of course if something of this magnitude hit close to home for me, it is possible my thoughts on this would be quite different. After all when something this tragic affects us personally, we tend to sometimes have a very different outlook. But I would hope that at some point I could get past my anger and stick to my conscience. I hope I never have to find out.


"Legal vs. Moral"

There are essentially two justifications for punishment: legal and moral. I'm not interested in the legal aspect of this at the moment because as we know just because something is legal does not make it moral. Also I believe the first step in making it illegal is to realize it's immoral. That said, there really are two good moral reasons for being against the death penalty. First, there is the issue of whether or not we human beings have the right to sentence other human beings to death and second, there is the issue of possibly executing innocent individuals.  Given that innocent individuals have been wrongly convicted and incarcerated based on what was thought to be "solid evidence", we must then assume individuals have been executed based on that same "solid evidence". It does make you wonder, doesn't it?



"But...it was good enough for our ancestors"

It has been argued that the death penalty is much less barbaric than it used to be and if it was good enough for our ancestors it should be good enough for us, after all it made society a better place when criminal behavior was not tolerated. And what a great deterrent it was. Or was it? If it had been a deterrent there would have been no crime after the first few executions, right? Our civilization has evolved a great deal since the days of the Hammurabi Code and since 7th Century BC in Athens where the death penalty was the final punishment for all crimes. We’ve come a long way since the days when the death penalty was carried out in the form of drowning, crucifixion, boiling, beheading, hanging, impalement and burning at the stake.  Gone are the days when (in most countries) people were executed for theft, marrying into the wrong faith, and adultery. As human beings moved into more modern times, they began to see punishment by death in a different light. As our society evolved, juries became wary of the death penalty because of the brutality of its execution and so were often reluctant to impose the sentence.


"Swift, Certain, Severe"

Cesare Beccaria believed in order for punishment to be effective it had to be swift, certain, and severe. It was thought that this would deter potential criminal behavior. It's well-known that in the United States there is no such thing as swift, certain, and severe, when it comes to the death penalty. Death row inmates are not executed in a timely manner in this country. They are allowed numerous appeals. Often, death row inmates are not executed for a decade or more after being sentenced. If the idea that swift, certain, and severe is to deter crime, then obviously waiting ten, twenty years to execute an offender has zero impact on deterrence. The longer the time between the offense and the punishment, the less likely it is that the punishment can be considered an effective deterrent.

Also, think about the word swift. Executing an individual who has been on death row for a decade or longer is not swift by any means. What's the point of executing someone for something they did so long ago? It seems unjust to punish someone twenty years later even if it was a heinous crime.  The judicial system would get its point across more clearly (especially when it comes to deterrence) by executing immediately after the sentence is pronounced. However...we can't do that because taking a life is pretty serious business and before doing it we better be damn sure that individual is guilty.


"If it's not for deterrence then what?"

Theoretically, the purposes of any form of punishment are to keep the person who committed a crime from committing further crimes, showing that society disapproves of the criminal acts, deterring others from committing similar crimes, and allowing the perpetrator to make amends. Given of those purposes for punishment, where does the death penalty fall in there? It doesn't seem to fit. We could assume the death penalty is a deterrent but if that were the case, the murder rate would have decreased over the years, which overall it has not. And given the death penalty is well...death, there's no chance of rehabilitation or making amends with the victims families. So, the only reason left to support execution is vengeance for one's crime(s). In a civilized society vengeance cannot be considered acceptable reasons to take a person's life, no matter how heinous their crimes.


"But it shows we're tough!" 

Unfortunately in some parts of this nation it is difficult if not downright impossible to carry out a simple discussion regarding banning the death penalty because politics tends to get in the way. Many politicians use their pro-death penalty stance as a means of getting elected. This is how they show they are tough.  Since when did executing an individual make you tough? Since when is it acceptable to brag about the number of inmates that have been executed in your state? Why is that something to be proud of?  My experience in discussing this issue has been that many who support the death penalty generally do not want to listen to the other side. I've been in arguments with people who support the death penalty, some based their support on religious views, others just wanted to see justice done. I'd ask "what kind of justice is there in killing the person?" and the general response to that usually involves "an eye for an eye".  The thing is that if we really lived in an "an eye for an eye" society, many of those individuals who use it as a basis for their pro-death penalty argument would probably be very sorry indeed.


 "The dilemma"

  "What is the difference between a criminal killing his/her victim and the state killing the criminal?" 

Hey, it's a good question. On the surface it may seem ridiculous to ask but can you answer it logically, where it makes sense? I can't. The way I see it, it is wrong for an individual to go out and commit murder (and rightly so!) but it is not wrong for the state to do it.  Is it the motive that makes the difference? What motive would the state have for killing a convicted murderer? Now if you say "ah but the state isn't murdering the criminal, he/she is simply being punished" then the next question I have is:
"If the purpose of any form of punishment is to keep the person from committing further crimes, showing that society disapproves of the criminal acts, or deters others from committing similar crimes, or allowing the perpetrator to make amends then why aren't we just sending these individuals to life in prison instead?"
That leaves once again, only one rational answer doesn't it? Vengeance. And is that really a justifiable reason for the state to kill anyone? I'm just asking you to think about it. In the end, history will judge us for our actions. I'd like to think that when the time comes we'll have evolved. We are better than this, we can do better.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Get out and do something nice for someone today.

When you have the opportunity today, why not do something nice for someone?

Stand up and be a human being, have compassion, show that you care. Just look around you, there are countless opportunities to do random acts of kindness. I don't need to give you examples because you're all grown boys and girls, I think you know how to be nice to people and I'm quite sure you can think of all sorts of really neat things you can do for others.

Don't tell me you don't have the time, that's crap. Now go forth and do good deeds. Remember don't reserve this for the holidays, do it all year round!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Despite the perfect—simply perfect—performance of Hugh Laurie as the Sherlock Holmes stand-in Dr. House, a crabby medical genius, House ran out of steam long ago"

Screencrave listed its five TV shows that should end in 2012. This is one of the best quotes so far on the direction the series has taken this season...
"Like The Office, House, M.D., has been running for eight seasons now. And, like The Office, House, M.D. ceased being relevant and excellent sometime around the end of season three. Despite the perfect—simply perfect—performance of Hugh Laurie as the Sherlock Holmes stand-in Dr. House, a crabby medical genius, House ran out of steam long ago. The problem? House essentially begins every series introducing a series of changes and plot shake-ups, only to close every season returning to the exact same status quo the showrunners seem to believe the audience demands. No matter what happens (House falling in love, House falling out of love, House losing his team, House regaining his team, House trying to change, House refusing to change, etc), the show’s writers force the show to always return to where it started, always hitting the reset button rather than allowing the show to evolve and grow. The final result? House grew stagnant sometime around season three or four, and the past four years have been nothing but replicating the model established by the first four seasons. For a show about a genius, House, M.D. sure seems dedicated to mediocrity."

The author nailed this one almost perfectly! That's what fans have been complaining about most--that House tries to change, gets an opportunity to grow just a little, and then by the next season it's all for nothing, he's right back where he started. Who wants to continue watching a show that essentially hits the reboot button at the beginning of each new season? We know House is a sarcastic, misanthropic son of a bitch but for crap's sake, let's see some growth in character here. We want to see him move forward. I've thought all along that the writers got lazy as time went on. It's so much easier to write House going downhill and getting back into his old habits than writing a tough, challenging storyline about him struggling to change and actually doing it. We know from interviews that Hugh likes a challenge in his role as House and he likes crossing the line and pushing boundaries (after all that's what separates good actors from great actors) but even as an EP for the show he's not the decision-maker. He's made it very clear that his job is to give us the "how" while TPTB give us the "what" so I don't blame him for this at all, Hugh's not the one plotting the direction of the show.

The only thing I disagree with the author on is his view that the show ran out of steam end of Season 3.  I loved House having to audition the new team in Season 4, loved the increased banter and games between House and Cuddy and thought the season finale was amazing. I also enjoyed Season 5 and how House began going downhill due to so many things happening in his life. Losing Wilson's friendship, getting it back, House's father dying, finding out for sure that John House was not his biological dad, being taken hostage, acknowledging his feelings for Cuddy, the kiss, Cuddy adopting Rachel, Kutner's suicide...all these things led to the increased use of Vicodin to numb both his physical and emotional pain, which eventually led to the hallucinations that nearly killed Chase, nearly killed a few of House's and wound up with him in a mental institution.  I loved Season 6 with House trying to really change. I liked it except for two things: the Lucas-Cuddy arc (I still can't find anyone who liked that arc) and the episode "Black Hole" in which the team used this imaging machine to show actual images of what the patient was thinking. That ep was too sci-fi and unbelievable for me.

Season 7 could have been great, it had some funny and interesting episodes early on but then the TPTB turned Cuddy into a whining bitch instead of the strong woman we've known her to be for years, not to mention during the entire season we saw relationship at the forefront instead of in the background second to the medical mysteries. Longtime fans, even those who were interested in the evolution of a House and Cuddy relationship, knew that having the relationship take center stage in every episode was a recipe for disaster. And finally, the finale, was just so incredibly unbelievable, fans are still shocked and pissed off over it. TPTB had a great thing with House and Cuddy, even when they were just colleagues, and eventually it was ruined for the sake of the "Kaboom!" factor as Greg Yaitanes likes to call it. 

I'll venture to guess the majority of fans still watching House are likely doing so because they love watching Hugh Laurie. Sure, there are probably many fans so attached to the show they will watch regardless, but I would go so far to say the majority are loyal because of Hugh. Hey, there's nothing wrong with that, after all the man is simply brilliant. However, one man should not have to carry an entire show. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

SB. 1867 National Defense Authorization Act is meant to be directed towards US citizens...

Big controversy here folks and people should be aware of what's going on.

  • Dr. Robert Chesney of the University of Texas, who is a nonpartisan expert on military detention wrote this piece a few days ago and it is MOST DEFINITELY worth reading!

  • Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley said yesterday about this bill:
“The most bedrock principle of our government, one that our nation was founded on, is that it protects the freedom and liberty of our citizens.  On this critical measure, the Defense Authorization bill falls short.  Instead, it allows the government to circumvent a host of our citizens’ constitutional rights ranging from due process to public and speedy trials. 
“This step takes us in a very dangerous direction and undermines the freedoms enshrined in our founding documents.  While I support much of the Defense Authorization bill and the programs that support our troops and our security, I cannot support a bill that strikes at the heart of our constitutional protections.”

  • Senator Lindsey Graham on the Senate floor attesting to the fact that this does apply to the American people, view this short video along with the transcript of his actual words HERE :
"And I would add that Senator Lieberman would have gone further than you, and nobody I respect more than Senator Lieberman but trying to find a balanced way. So in summary here, 1032, the military custody provision, which has waivers and a lot of flexibility, doesn't apply to American citizens.
1031, the statement of authority to detain, does apply to the American citizens and it designates the world as the battlefield, including the homeland.
Are you familiar with the Padilla case? That is a federal court case involving an American citizen captured in the United States that was held for several years as an enemy combatant. His case went to the fourth circuit. The fourth circuit court of appeals said an American citizen can be held by our military as an enemy combatant even if they're caught here in the United States because once you join the enemy forces, then you present a military threat and your citizenship is not a sort of get-out-of-jail free card.
That the law of the land is an enemy combatant that went to the fourth circuit and that as I speak is the law of the land." 

The Senator is a dangerous man as is anyone who supports this. What Graham suggests is that our Congress circumvent the Bill of Rights under the guise of national security. This idea of "once you join the enemy forces, then you present a military threat" is ludicrous. Whether or not a person or persons is a military threat or threat to national security is purely subjective. Some people think street gangs are a danger to our national security. Others think drug dealers are a threat. And there are those who think people like me, who speak out against atrocities like this, are a threat to our national security.

Who decides? What constitutes a threat and what doesn't?

By the definition of some elected officials in this country, speaking out against the American government is essentially assisting the enemy. Technically some would say that the mere act of writing this is consistent with aiding and abetting the enemy.

Do you see why this is so important? It's a slippery slope. Right now it's those affiliated with Al-Qaeda and other related forces, but really this can be expanded, all under the guise of "threat to national security."

====

For your reading pleasure, I've posted here verbatim sections 1031 and 1032. You can view the entire bill at:
 http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112s1867es/pdf/BILLS-112s1867es.pdf


Subtitle D – Detainee Matters

Sec 1031. Affirmation of Authority of the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons pursuant to the authorization  for use of military force.

In General. Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons (as defined in subsection (b)) pending disposition under the law of war.

(b) Covered Persons. – A covered person under this section is any person as follows:
(1) A person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001 or harbored those responsible for those attacks
(2) A person who was part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly support such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces
(c) Disposition under law of war. – The disposition of a person under the law of war as described in subsection (a) may include the following:
(1) Detention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force
(2) Trial under chapter 47A of titl 10, United States Code (as amended by the Military Commissions Act  of 2009 (title XVIII of Publix Lw 111-84))
(3) Transfer for trial by an alternative court or competent tribunal having lawful jurisdiction
(4) Transfer to the custody or control of the person’s country of origin, any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity
(d) Construction. – nothing in this section is intended to limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force.

(e) Authorities. – nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities, relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.


Section 1032. Requirement for Military Custody.

(a) Custody pending disposition under law of war.
(1) In General. Except as provided in paragraph (4), the armed forces of the united states shall hold a  person described in paragraph (2) who is caputred in the course of hostilities authorized by the  Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) in military custody pending disposition under the law of war.
(2) Covered Persons. – The requirement in paragraph (1) shall apply to any person whose detention is authorized under section 1031 who is determined –
(a) To be a member of, or part of, al-Qaeda or an associated ofrce thatacts in coordination with or pursuant to the direction of Al-Qadea and
(b) To have participated in the course of planning or carrying out an attack or attempted attack against the United States or its coalition partners
(3) Disposition under law of war. – For purposes of this subsection, the disposition of a person under the law of war has the meaning given in 1031©, except that no transfer otherwise described in paragraph (4) of that section shall be made unless consisten with the requriments of section 1033
(4) Waiver for National Security. – The Secretary of defense may, in consulation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, waive the requirement of paragraph (1) if the Secretary submits to Congress a certification in writing that such a waiver is in the national security interests of the United States.
(b) Applicability to United States Citizens and Lawful Resident Aliens
(1) United States Citizens. – The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.
(2) Lawful resident aliens. – The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to a lawful resident alien of the United States on the basis of conduct taking place within the United States, except to the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States.



So...what are your thoughts on this? Do you even care? You should.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

[H]ouse, M.D. Season 7 finale makes TV Guide's list: "Top TV Moments of 2011" and "Worst TV Moments of 2011"

The House Car Crash

Although we love condescending, acerbic and self-destructive House, we always felt that at heart, he was a good (if massively dysfunctional) guy. We could not, however, forgive his complete disregard for human life when he rammed his car into Cuddy's house in a jealous pique. What was that? Did we miss the shark that his car jumped over because this over-the-top action certainly felt like a cry for help — and not just from his character.

From http://www.tvguide.com/special/best-of-year-2011/PhotoGallery/Best-Year-Worst-1039971#1039978





Something many people still may not know is that Season 7, Episode #22 "After Hours" was initially supposed to be the season finale. (And what a great finale it would have been at that!) Not sure at what point it happened but Fox told House execs they wanted a 23rd episode, hence "Moving On". I do not know how early or late TPTB knew this but one thing is very clear,  there is a disconnect between episodes 22 and 23. For those who have followed the series, you can clearly see and feel it. You know the House character, you know what he's been through in his life, you know how he feels about his Wilson and Cuddy. He'd never do anything to hurt them, not intentionally, unless he was completely out of his mind and not himself. On one hand, I can see House really wanting to try and change again at end of 22 but then he "loses his mind" (so to speak) in 23. It just doesn't make sense. I remember we all thought it was a hallucination as he sat drinking on that beach in Fiji afterwards. It just wasn't believable.

As you know in "After Hours" House performs self-surgery in his bathtub to remove the tumors in his right thigh. At the end of the episode he's in the hospital and Wilson  helps him to the bathroom and tells him something's got to change and House replies, "I know". That left us all wondering what was next but it left us with a positive feeling, like House was finally going to reverse the destructive behavior which took place after the gut-wrenching, heartbreaking breakup with Cuddy in "Bombshells". We knew they wouldn't get back together but at least we thought House would be able to start all over again.


I buy that House was so hurt over losing the love of his life, the one woman he trusted more than anyone else, who he had known half his life and who he had counted on not to break his heart. It was especially difficult for him because he thought she was dying, which made his pain that much more difficult to bear when she was in the hospital. It was a given that he would go on a self-destructive binge but it was hard to stomach this one especially with all the ridiculous crap the TPTB threw into the rest of the season. And I can honestly say that nothing in the world prepared me for the finale.

I think what bothered me most was that in the past, House reacted to his hurt and pain by being self-destructive. He'd lash out verbally against people but never physically, not really. This time House takes it out on the two people he cares about most. Yes, it could be believable but also means the character has changed and we've been told from day one he can't change. So this means either we've misjudged Greg House from episode 1 of season 1 or he has changed. Your guess is as good as mine. The way it's being presented to us, the character can only get more miserable and destructive but he can never get better, at least not for long.  Nice.  Maybe the problem for me is I didn't want to believe it because it changes his character and screws with the dynamic of the show and I just don't like that. Then again, my philosophy has always been "if it ain't broke don't fix it" and "don't mess with a good thing."