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July 30, 2004

Friday Cat Blogging

Here's a story of another lucky cat named Lucky. She was found with an arrow stuck through her back and abdomen. The woman who found her took her to the vet and was willing to pay over $1,000 to save her life - a cat she doesn't own. The community pitched in and paid the fee for her in less than eight hours. Area residents also sent cards and cat toys as well as donations. Now that's a sweet story, except for the arrow.

This is Lucky about an hour ago, snoozing in his favorite cat tree. He was awake a little while ago for about fifteen minutes, staring out the window and looking for juicy flies to eat, and now he's slouched in the cat tree again. Now, that's a leisurely life!


Posted on July 30, 2004 at 11:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Don't Say I Didn't Warn You

You read it here first.

I posted on July 8 about the July Surprise, in which the Bush administration had put pressure on General Pervez Musharraf's government in Pakistan to deliver Osama bin Laden during the last week in July, to take the glory away from the Democratic National Convention.

Well, looks like they tried, but they didn't succeed in taking the limelight away from John Kerry.

Pakistan didn't deliver Osama. The suspect may be "ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian who is on the FBI's most wanted 'terrorists' list for his alleged role in the 1998 bombings by al Qaeda of the U. S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania." The man captured is a "senior al Qaeda figure with a bounty of up to $25 million on his head."

I guess most people missed that while the balloons were dropping after Kerry's speech.

But wait! There's more!

The FBI has warned police in California and New Mexico of possible terrorist activity. "State Department Of Public Safety spokesman Peter Olson said there have been reports of possible al-Qaida elements existing in New Mexico and California." There are "no specifics" and "no information on why the warning was issued now."

Gee, I can't imagine why...

Here's another conspiracy theory for you to wrap your tinfoil hat around. I've read (sorry, don't have the link anymore) that the so-called terrorism scare during the elections will actually be trumped up alerts made by the Bush administration on the day of the elections. These alerts will be set in motion if the race is too close to call or if Kerry is ahead. They will be red alerts made about 8 pm EST, and will affect mostly California and Washington state, two states with big-time electoral votes. The alerts will cause people out west to panic and head home rather than go to the polls. Plus, the alerts will jam up traffic on the highways, making it impossible for voters to make it to the polls before they close. The idea was that those who are more financially well-off and more likely to vote for Bush would be able to take some time off work and vote earlier in the day. The "common man" would be more likely to put off voting until after work - and get smacked with the Rush Hour From Hell. Those more likely to vote Democratic would not vote, and the election is handed over to Bush. We'd be stuck with him for four more years. All because of trumped-up terrorism alerts the day of the elections.

So, keep an eye on California the day of the elections! Is it an accident that we suddenly have a vague "terrorist warning" involving California at the height of the Democratic National Convention? Tinfoil hat wearers want to know!

Posted on July 30, 2004 at 11:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Know Any Good Teamster Jokes?

Apparently, convention center director Don Mischer wasn't happy that the balloons that were supposed to be released after Kerry's speech didn't fall fast enough. CNN accidentally broadcast the guy saying, "Jesus, we need more balloons. I want all balloons to go, goddamn. All balloons - where the hell - there's nothing falling ... what the f**k are you guys doing up there?"

Boy did that bring back memories of the gaffer (lighting) work I used to do at concert halls. We got yelled at all the time. I can almost see the boss standing there, holding his coffee and donut, and looking like he's about to have a coronary.

Union stage crew joke time:

Q: What's the difference between a grip and a gaffer?

A: A gaffer takes the dishes out of the sink before he pees in it.

Posted on July 30, 2004 at 10:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 29, 2004

Was Jeri Ryan Abused?

Walker Wells from Irritant #4 and Brad from UChicago Law School are having an interesting discussion regarding whether or not Jeri Ryan was abused in the legal sense. Walker asked for my opinion.

Ms. Ryan had described two incidences involving sex clubs after-the-fact in a divorce setting, which you may read at The Smoking Gun. My opinion would hold for many victims of abuse. Those kinds of incidents don't happen in a vacuum. No one treats his wife like a wonderful human being and suddenly switches to that kind of behavior out of the blue. None of us are privy to what other incidents and day-to-day behaviors he had subjected her to, but whatever it was it was enough for her to seek divorce. That's the problem - we don't have all the facts. Even some of the documentation at The Smoking Gun has been blacked out. However, we do have enough to have a well-formed debate. My main issue isn't so much whether or not she was abused - I believe she was and I believe she may have had legal standing. My main issue is whether or not she would have been taken seriously if she had chosen to press charges. Most victims of abuse wrestle with that possibility every day.

I don't know if she would have been taken seriously by the authorities, since to my knowledge she was not physically abused. Courts and police are notorious for not taking emotional, psychological, mental, and sexual abuse seriously, although they can be much more damaging than physical abuse. Abusive relationships can go on for years without one incident of physical abuse, but all physically abusive relationships have some other form of abuse going on, such as psychological abuse. Even women who are victims of physical abuse may not be taken seriously because the police and courts did not believe the women were beaten up enough.

Abusive actions such as humiliating your wife by taking her to sex clubs after she had expressly told her how horrible that made her feel could be viewed as harassment in Illinois, which I believe had jurisdiction in their case. California was the other possibility.

In Illinois, "harassment" is defined as "knowing conduct which is not necessary to accomplish a purpose that is reasonable under the circumstances; would cause a reasonable person emotional distress; and does cause emotional distress to the petitioner." It is not isolated to the several examples cited below the main definition. Here is the text of the law, verbatim, from the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence Legal Information web site

(7) "Harassment" means knowing conduct which is not necessary to accomplish a purpose that is reasonable under the circumstances; would cause a reasonable person emotional distress; and does cause emotional distress to the petitioner. Unless the presumption is rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence, the following types of conduct shall be presumed to cause emotional distress:

(i) creating a disturbance at petitioner's place of employment or school;

(ii) repeatedly telephoning petitioner's place of employment, home or residence;

(iii) repeatedly following petitioner about in a public place or places;

(iv) repeatedly keeping petitioner under surveillance by remaining present outside his or her home, school, place of employment, vehicle or other place occupied by petitioner or by peering in petitioner's windows;

(v) improperly concealing a minor child from petitioner, repeatedly threatening to improperly remove a? minor child of petitioner's from the jurisdiction or from the physical care of petitioner, repeatedly threatening to conceal a minor child from petitioner, or making a single such threat following an actual or attempted improper removal or concealment, unless respondent was fleeing an incident or pattern of domestic violence; or

(vi) threatening physical force, confinement or restraint on one or more occasions.

Number 9 - "Interference with personal liberty" (same link as above) also applies. To interference with her personal liberty means "committing or threatening physical abuse, harassment, intimidation or willful deprivation so as to compel another to engage in conduct from which she or he has a right to abstain or to refrain from conduct in which she or he has a right to engage." He was unsuccessful at compelling her via harassment to engage in acts at the sex clubs, but he had committed harassment in order to, in his mind, convince her to abide by his demands despite her making it clear to him on previous occasions that she did not want to be placed in such a position as to have to refuse his advances at sex clubs. What he did could easily be viewed as harassment. He humiliated and embarrassed her repeatedly, in public, against her previously expressed wishes.

It is helpful to remember that abusers don't consider their behavior abusive. A man who beats his wife or screams at her for six hours when she doesn't have dinner cooked when he arrives home doesn't think he's being abusive. He's doing it "for her own good." He says if she'd just do what he says when he says to do it he'd have no reason to smack her around or yell at her. It is NEVER about him. The blame is always on her - she won't listen, so he has to pop her one or give her a good dressing-down to put her in her place. Remember that Ms. Ryan wrote that her husband said it was not a "turn on" for her to cry. He inflicted emotional distress upon her after she made it clear what he had done previously had upset her greatly. He had done this on more than one occasion. After she told him to knock it off. This is more than a guy just being an insensitive jerk. He not only wanted her to join him at sex clubs, he wanted to parade her around in public and have her join in group sex. Remember that this is Jeri Ryan, who wore cat suits on "Star Trek: Voyager" and played a provocative character on "Boston Public." That's another problem she would have had to deal with - her image. She was and is a public figure who capitalized on her attractiveness and provocativeness. She was a high-ranking male Internet wet dream for a very long time. Her husband knew that and was likely getting off on it. Lots of guys dream of "doing" Jeri Ryan. He goes home with her every night, and he would like to share her - with you, hence the public begging for group sex at clubs. That attitude is demeaning to her. She knew it. She felt "physically ill" when he took her to one of those places. She was mortified and embarrassed. His behavior was abusive.

One question I have is would filing a restraining order have been the best way for her to handle her situation? There are plenty of abused women who never once file a restraining order against their husbands or lovers. They have many reasons. I don't believe that Walker's cited reason - that Jack Ryan's "behavior was not repetitive enough to warrant that sort of action on Jeri's behalf" - was the likely reason she didn't file. As I have written, we know only of those two incidences. We don't know what else was going on. As I have also written, she might have been afraid no one would take her seriously. She also might not have believed she was abused enough because as far as I can tell there was no physical abuse. In fact, she might not have believed she had been abused at all. Too many people equate domestic violence with physical abuse, including victims of every form of abuse except for physical abuse. There is also the real possibility that a judge would not have granted the restraining order, especially if the abuse is not physical in nature. That happens, even when it would have been warrented to issue one. Rather than risk a judge rejecting a restraining order and having to go back home to face her abuser's wrath, lots of women won't seek them. I also think that in the end she took the most appropriate steps to deal with her situation - she filed for divorce. She got away, and is able to get her life back on track now. Good for her.

There is something that neither Walker nor Brad have considered, regarding California at least. Domestic violence workers are telling abused women in California to not mention abuse when they go through mediation. I believe mediation is now required in California. There was a recent study released about mediation in California that had shown that women received worse mediation if they revealed that they were being or had been abused. Even when restraining orders were brought out, they fared worse than if they had not mentioned the abuse at all. This is a very troubling finding. Women get better treatment if they don't mention abuse. Plus, abusers are gaining unsupervised visitation and sometimes partial custody even when abuse is revealed. The only thing that seems to put a damper on this practice is evidence of documented police presence at any time in the abusive relationship.

California's mediation system is supposedly superior to mediation in other states. This study shows that it isn't superior in any sense of the word.

You may find more information at StaySafe.org.

Posted on July 29, 2004 at 05:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

Ashcroft Terms "Al-Gebra" A Fearsome Cult

[A little geek humor for you. I just got this in e-mail and thought it was cute.]

Ashcroft terms "Al-Gebra" a fearsome cult

At Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport today, an individual later discovered to be a public school teacher was arrested trying to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a setsquare, a slide rule, and a calculator. At a morning press conference, Attorney General John Ashcroft said he believes the man is a member of the notorious al-gebra movement. He is being charged by the FBI with carrying weapons of math instruction.

"Al-gebra is a fearsome cult," Ashcroft said. "They desire average solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in a search for absolute value. They use secret code names like 'x' and 'y' and refer to themselves as 'unknowns', but we have determined they belong to a common denominator of the axis of medieval with coordinates in every country. As the Greek philanderer Isosceles used to say, 'there are 3 sides to every triangle'."

When asked to comment on the arrest, President Bush said, "If God had wanted us to have better weapons of math instruction, he would have given us more fingers and toes."

Posted on July 29, 2004 at 01:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Most Women Do Not Feel Distress After Their Abortions

Forget the nonsense about "post abortion syndrome," which is yet another form of junk science meant to portray women as damaged goods. The fact is that most women do not feel regret or distress after undergoing an abortion.

The majority of women who choose to have legal abortions do not experience regret or long-term negative emotional effects from their decision to undergo the procedure, according to a study published in the June issue of the journal Social Science & Medicine, NewsRx.com/Mental Health Weekly Digest reports. Dr. A. Kero and colleagues in the Department of Clinical Sciences, Obstetrics and Gynecology at University Hospital in Umea, Sweden, interviewed 58 women at periods of four months and 12 months after the women's abortions. The women also answered a questionnaire prior to their abortions that asked about their living conditions, decision-making processes and general attitudes toward the pregnancy and the abortion. According to the study, most women "did not experience any emotional distress post-abortion"; however, 12 of the women said they experienced severe distress immediately after the procedure. Almost all of the women said they felt little distress at the one-year follow-up interview. The women who said they experienced no post-abortion distress had indicated prior to the procedure that they opted not to give birth because they "prioritized work, studies, and/or existing children," according to the study. According to the researchers, "almost all" of the women said the abortion was a "relief or a form of taking responsibility," and more than half of the women said they experienced positive emotional experiences after the abortion such as "mental growth and maturity of the abortion process" (NewsRx.com/Mental Health Weekly Digest, 7/12).

Yes, women have abortions because they "prioritize work, studies, and/or existing children." I don't believe that those life decisions can be condemned as being selfish or insensitive, nor do I believe that a "good" abortion is one where other people approve of the reasons or the woman's way of discussing the issue, if she chooses to discuss it at all. I certainly don't like the idea of pathologizing women and forcing guilt on them the way those who approve of junk science such as "post abortion syndrome" tend to do.

Posted on July 29, 2004 at 01:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (62)

U. K. Rejects 50/50 Custody

I've noticed a pattern between U. S., Australian, and U. K. fathers' rights activists when it comes to lobbying for their demands. In each instance, fathers' rights activists loudly demand a presumption for joint physical custody, and in each case they are not given what they demand. Australian activists have been very disappointed that the Australian government has not given them the joint physical custody (50/50) that they wanted in late 2003. In fact, they were quite livid about it.

Now, the U. K. has rejected fathers' rights demands for presumptive joint physical custody, chastising fathers' rights groups that treat children as if they are property.

Lord Falconer, the constitutional affairs secretary, said: "There cannot and will not be an automatic presumption of 50-50 contact. Children cannot be divided like the furniture or the CD collection."

It looks like activists, especially those from Fathers 4 Justice, who scaled construction sites dressed as superheroes and had thrown a condom filled with purple powder at Prime Minister Tony Blair (during an anthrax scare, no less) didn't get what they wanted. It remains to be seen what changes will be implemented in the U. K. and in Australia. The proposed Australian tribunal is dead in the water. The tribunal was proposed last December as "the establishment of a national, statute-based families tribunal with the power to decide disputes over shared parenting." It was deemed too costly. A tribunal would have created the same sort of cottage industries revolving around divorce that we are stuck with in the states.

If Australia and the U. K. are able to avoid the skyrocketing costs of divorce that U. S. fathers' rights groups helped to usher in that would be a wonderful thing to behold. U. S. fathers' rights lobbying for "equal rights" and "children needing both parents" caught the attention of the Association for Family and Conciliation Courts. Members of AFCC include attorneys and especially psychologists who have jumped on the divorce/custody bandwagon to make lots of money via mandatory mediation, custody evaluations, psychological evaluations, appointments of guardians ad litem, and the rise of the use of parenting coordinators - all very costly requirements designed to help parents "get along." If your divorce ends up costing you thousands and thousands of dollars because of all these ad-ons, thank a fathers' rights activist.

Posted on July 29, 2004 at 12:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

I Bet They Had Some Cool Happy Hours

An ancient brewery has been discovered on a mountaintop in Peru. The brewery, which is more than 1,000 years old, was used to make chicha, "a fermented beverage similar to beer that played an important role in ritual feasting and drinking during Peru's first empire."

Posted on July 29, 2004 at 12:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Update on Annie Jacobson's "Terror In The Skies"

By now, plenty of people know about Annie Jacobson's article Terror In The Skies. I thought the woman had overreacted from the start. It looks like I'm not alone. Snopes (the Urban Legends web site) has the scoop:

Undercover federal air marshals on board a June 29 Northwest airlines flight from Detroit to LAX identified themselves after a passenger, "overreacted," to a group of middle-eastern men on board, federal officials and sources have told KFI NEWS.

The passenger, later identified as Annie Jacobsen, was in danger of panicking other passengers and creating a larger problem on the plane, according to a source close to the secretive federal protective service.
"The lady was overreacting," said the source. "A flight attendant was told to tell the passenger to calm down; that there were air marshals on the plane."


The source said the air marshals on the flight were partially concerned Jacobsen’s actions could have been an effort by terrorists or attackers to create a disturbance on the plane to force the agents to identify themselves.

Air marshals' only tactical advantage on a flight is their anonymity, the source said, and Jacobsen could have put the entire flight in danger.
"They have to be very cognizant of their surroundings," spokesman Adams confirmed, "to make sure it isn't a ruse to try and pull them out of their cover."

One of the Syrian musicians is likely to be Nour Mehana, the "Syrian Wayne Newton."

Yeah, he sounds like a threat to national security. ;)

Posted on July 29, 2004 at 11:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 26, 2004

Open Thread

I arrived home from Mysterium (Toronto) yesterday afternoon. I'm not quite ready to begin posting yet. Still tired.

Note for Myst/Uru fans: I had a fantastic time and met many of the you I knew from Uru Live as well as the Ubisoft and Uru Obsession forums. I just joined the Guild of Greeters forums. I had an absolute blast at the convention and I will definitely go to next year's Mysterium.

I found out that there is going to be another Mysterium in Australia in March. I have lots of work colleagues Down Under, too. If I can wing Australia, I'll definitely be there. Right now, all I want to do is sit back and relax because I strained both of my knees from two much walking. My right one hurts like hell.

I've never before had "open thread" posts because I haven't needed them. It seems I do now, so here is the first one. I would prefer that commenters who want to discuss Bush, Canada, politics, and whatnot please use the open threads rather than unrelated posts. I'll post a new open thread once or twice a week so all of you have a comfortable place to chat.

I'm glad everyone had fun while I was gone. I'm still reading my mountains of e-mail. I'm going to be at that for awhile. ;)

Posted on July 26, 2004 at 04:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)