Wednesday, May 04, 2005

On Runaway Brides and the Psychobable Legion...
I have refrained from writing anything about this until now because I originally divined that something about the story of Jennifer Wilbanks did not add up. I also didn't give a rat's behind about the story either, since I've become immune to all this news about missing women and little girls. Sad truth to tell, it's becoming easier to ignore since it seems to be an everday occurrance here in the south. It's Man Bites Dog.

However, in the case of Ms. Wilbanks, what makes the story even more annyoing is because the media considers it sexy: pretty woman, girl next door, seems about to get everything a woman could want from the nice-guy husband from a prominent family to the Cindarella-600-guest-wedding. And then she just dropped off the face of the planet.

I figured out that someting wasn't right just as soon as the fiance got on TV to make his appeal to the public for help.

Jennifer Wilbanks represents a sizeable minority here in the south. One that is easy to find in just about every town. They're so common as to outnumber kudzu, in some parts.

Jennifer is a victim (God, how I wish I didn't need to say that) of that segment of Southern Society that still believes in appearances, and that appearances trump everything.

Okay, her fiance is obviously a nice guy, but he's also about as interesting as toast. There's nothing about him that doesn't smell of church and "Aw-shucks-golly-gee" Opie-Taylor-ism.

Guys like him, from prominent families who have to keep up appearances, have two major issues just simmering under the surface: a) they're sexually repressed, and b) check everything they do with their pastor before they do it. He's a dweeb. He also seems the type to invite the pastor over from dinner every goddamned night, seemingly attached to the hip to his spiritual leader. Her life would be a daily hell of pollyanna husband and the microscope of his pastor and family.

Okay, she was going to have the spectacular wedding, but that was more of a display for the family than it was for her. Once one reaches a certain stratum of polite south'ren society, one is expected to throw elegant galas at weddings and such. Complete with lawn jockeys and mint julips. Tradition dies hard, even the more ridiculous ones. And it would have been more of a trophy wedding for her husband than it was for her. Such events are intended to reinforce someone's social status here, letting everyone know that so-and-so is a player. The purpose was not to join two people in holy wedlock, but to give the who's-who of Georgia society an excuse to get together and play Tara.

Okay, she was wrong for doing what she did. After all, she could have easily spoken up and let someone know how she felt. Then again, women here are not especially encouraged to speak up. I can easily see how peer pressure, the pressure from her family and her fiance, could have driven this woman to accept the ring and then conspired to keep her from expressing her doubts. Here again, once you reach a certain stratum of society a woman is expected to be a dutiful wife, in all respects, and then shut the heck up.

So, I can see why Jennifer Wilbanks escaped a fate worse than death: she was about to be sentenced to life as a dilligent southern wife, deferential to her dweeby-but-wealthy husband, to spit out children and sit on the church board, the PTA and the Executive Committe of the Daughters of the Confederacy. Doors would be opened for her by her social-climbing new family, whether she wanted them opened or not, and she would be pushed through them against her will. Her image would have to be spotless and squeaky clean in order to protect her husband's reputation. Her reputation means diddly squat in those circles so long as none of the dirt gets on hubby. And she would be expected to do all of this when she wasn't flinging fried chicken and grits or secretly buying sex toys or having an illicit online affair because her husband is a dead fish in the sack.

Just look at how the family closed ranks around her. Yes, I know that is expected, but these people built a veritible fortress around her. She hasn't spoken or issued a statement that I'm aware of and it's almost as if they're all perfectly capable and willing to speak for her. The poor child ain't right, ya know. They call this "protection"; what it really is, is "damage control". God forbid she gets close to a TV Camera or microphone and tells her story. They'd all be mortified.

Trust me, I actually know women like this.

So yes, despite the guilded cage, I would have run off too. What makes it newsworthy is that she's done this before which leads me to believe that she either has a serious problem or her family has been pushing this woman off on every man in town. I know women that's happened to as well. The impulse to have your daughters married off around here is every bit as powerful as the survival instinct. Occasionally parents go off the deep end. It's almost as if you are considered a failure as a parent if your daughter hasn't found herself a husband the day after high-school graduation. Again, it's all about perception.

So, in the end, if Jennifer broke any laws, then by all means prosecute her to the fullest extent.

But I can see why she did it.

Now, as for the psychobabble, which started just a soon as Jennifer turned herself in (I'm still wondering where Fox News gets a psychiatrist at 4 am to make a pat diagnosis without knowing the subject's complete medical history) the dissection began. There has been endless speculation on her motives, her state of mind, whether or not there was premeditation, the endless angst of the why's and wherefore's. There are psychic scabs to be picked at on television, you know.

My theory is just that, a theory, but I've seen the situation enough to know it exists. I don't particularly care whether or not I'm right about it either, nor do I care to have it explained to me why I should care. All I know is that what I saw on TV would cause me to run screaming into the night, too. I also think it's in pretty poor taste to do the things she did in the manner that she did, but it ain't my business. I do know that if I was Mr. Mason, I wouldn't touch the woman with a 10' pole now. I also know that Mr. Mason is so high on God that prayer and forgiveness will make everything A-fuckin'-Okay. He's mental, too. Wouldn't surprise me if he sits on her 24/7 now and then stalks her afterwards. The church-going ones are always creepy like that.
Defeat From the Jaws of Victory...
Why is it that everytime Republicans actually win something they immediately find a way to toss that victory away? It seems to me that my party has a tendency to melt down, usually in the second term of a President's reign, no less, and make it impossible to advance the agenda. In this case, it's simple overreach.

Vis-a-vis the case of the filibustered Judges, when you get 90% of what you want and the other side asks for nothing in return, you've done pretty well. In the words of the immortal Bob Dole, "Half a loaf is better than none". Especially when the loaf was free. Give it up and redirect your energy to something else --- like keeping illegal immigrants out of the country. These 10 judges may be top quality individuals, worthy appointments to the courts, but,there are at least two Supreme Court Justices who, in an act of poetic justice, are close to having their feeding tubes yanked. If you think an appointment to the Appellate Court was tough because of a stand on abortion, wait until you have to put someone forward to the Supreme Court.

The difference, though, between these 10 judicial nominees and a Supreme Court appointment is tha he public would REALLY not stand any delay in choosing a replacement SC Judge. Yes, the fanatics of the death factorty (kill 'em before they're born, kill 'em before they die on their own, let murderers and rapists roam free) will screech anyway, no matter who you appoint. But, and this is the point, you can bring heavier artillery to bear with public opinion and perception. Right now, you're getting clobbered on perception.

It also seems to me that if the democrats learned the wrong lessons about religion in the 2004 campaign, so did conservatives. I have no doubt that evangelical Christians, conservative Catholics, et. al. exist in legions and they vote. I also have no doubt that they also overwhelmingly vote republican. However, it seems that some republicans (especially De Lay and Frist) have embraced that constituencies platform to the detriment of the rest of us. Yes, we do want a more just, more civilized society. Yes, we belive in God (although in varying degrees...I went to Catholic school all my life, remember?), and keep the moral code outlined in the Commandments. But whether or not those Commandments hang in a public place is a minor issue when a tin pot Korean dictator and a Persian Daffy Duck-like character with a too-tight turban threaten to turn my home into a smoking pile of self-lighting rubble.

I guess what I'm saying here is, basically, pick your fights. Right now we're doing a very bad job of it.

Social Security reform could use a boost. We have an energy plan that requires action. We've practically defanged the trial attorneys, now let's find another obstacle to progress, like the Treehuggers and EcoTerrorists (re: Sierra Club and PETA). How about getting back to cutting that budget instead of expending energy on Senate Rules changes? How about sending the Estate Tax back to the infernal abyss it crept from permanently?

There are other things you could be doing. Perhaps if you did them, when the midterm elections come in 2006 you'd have those 60 senators you need and there wouldn't be an argument over filibusters or a few judges.
National ID Cards...
There's been quite a lot of talk recently about tightening up the requirements for many forms of identification in this country, in particular, driver's licenses. The reasons for tougher requirements are easy enough to list; identity theft is becoming a major problem in this cyber age, in this day and age, the 9/11 hijackers had 64 drivers licenses between them, illegal aliens often use various forms of state identification as they keys to the kingdom, to unlock state and federal largesse. Nowadays, tnaks to digital scanning and printing technologies, just laying on the shelf and waiting to be abused, counterfeiting identification documents is a boomng business.

Congress is seriously considering adding federal requirements to the acquisition of what, until now, has been an exclusive preserve of the states: the issuing of driver's licenses.
Now, hold on to your hats, because I'm about to say something you would never, ever expect me to say:

It's about good goddamn time the Fed'ral Gubmint actually got involved in this issue.

Normally, I'm not one for giving Leviathan a license (pardon the pun) to stick his nose any further under my tent flap than necessary. I feel this way about federal intrusion into my life in the same way one would regard a proctoloscope; a very distateful thing, but still one of life's minor tragedies, and very often required for practical reasons.

Now as to whether or not the feds have any standing to do this, I haven't a clue. I'm not a Constitutional lawyer, but it would seem to me that if the Feds can regulate interstate commerce, and if it can be reasonably assumed that everyone issued a drivers license will eventually hit the interstate system, or drive on a road paid for or maintained by federal funds, then it stands to reason that the feds have the right to attach a new requirement to a license. Makes sense to me, anyways.

There are, of course, who decry such a thing as yet one more example of the creeping tyranny about to overtake the country. These same people also decry the creeping theocracy, the crawling advance of Big Business, the wriggling insinuation of Big Brother and the impending selling out of the country to the Rothchilds. In other words, these folks are usually nuts.
Yes, I'm willing to admit that if you gave people with the wrong intentions any information that could be used against you in any way, then we do have a serious problem. If and when that ever happens, and the government now has a list of "undesirables" they need to eliminate before turning the reigns over to Kofi Annan or Hillary or the Great International Communist Conspiracy, then in hindsight it would have been a bad idea to allow the feds to get into the driver's license game. However, let's first admit that people who take this line of thought to bed with them a) probably do have something to hide to begin with and b) are really telling you what they would do with that information if they had both it and a dose of power behind them. I remind you that to date, not one person has been prosecuted under the Patriot Act. Anyways...

When it comes to the concerns of "privacy advocates" I wonder just what it is they want to keep secret, and how important it is when compared with the problems of security and illegal immigration. Opponents of a national ID system forget that we already have one: the Social Security Number, which follows you from cradle to grave and which invades every aspect of you daily life. Thanks the SSN, the government already knows where you work, probably where you live, how much money you make, how to tax you, how to withhold for your retirement. Business uses the SSN when you apply for a loan, open an account somewhere, apply for a mortgage, when you buy insurance. One day, your SSN number will appear on your tombstone in place of your name. This way, when your banker, ISP, gas company representative, insurance agent, etc, etc, happen to be passing through the cemetary, they can comment to the other mourners just what a terrific customer you were, even if they didn't know your name. They just recognized the account number.

If it were up to democrats, your SSN would be tattooed on your forearm like a concentration camp inmate. Just to remind you of your place in the coming reign of Hillary, the Queen of Darkness, and the order of your execution.

Some of us have passports, so the government knows where you're going, where you've been and when. Having travelled through Europe extensively, I can tell you that everytime I've ever checked into a hotel, I'm immediately asked for my passport, the information on it taken down, and my presance recorded and reported to the local authorities. Now even foreigners know where I'm at and when I come and go.

And, of course, when the government is not busy hoarding our private info, and business is not busy using it for mailing lists and cross-selling opportunities, we're doing our level best to give it away anyhow.I wonder how many of you get spam, and then wonder how you got on the mailing list in the first place? Well, if your ISP isn't selling you screenname, then you're leaving electronic fingerprints behind everytime you log into the Lillian Vernon website. Or when you read the NY Times online. Or even when you buy those concert or airline tickets online. The electronic identification revolution is almost 30 years old now, and now that all of this data has been collected, at great expense, don't expect someone to just throw it away for the sake of your privacy. Maybe you should think twice about handing your credit cards over to a waiter or a cashier. Perhaps you should stop signing pettitions, cease voting, stop registering for classes at the local university.

The fact is that, right now, complete strangers already know you better than you know yourself. They know your habits, likes and dislikes, income, spending habits, musical tastes, TV viewing habits, what medications you take. Don't get mad --- you gave most of that info away by taking surveys, answering questions from telemarketers, filling in rebate coupons, taking the Pepsi Challenge. When people can be so passionately protective of their privacy when it comes to the government and then be stupid enough to voluntarily offer information thay wouldn't give to their parish priest, they have no right to complain about creeping tyranny. Creeping Marketing is every bit as pernicious.

So, at this point, when so much data is available on everyone (and much of it on the open market), and the genie canot be put back in the bottle, what's the opposition to a national ID card or a federal identity requirement for a driver's license? I mean, at least this surrender of our personal information would serve some purpose, right?

That purpose is, of course, making sure you are who you say you are. Especially if you're a young, Middle-eastern or Mexican-looking person who fits the appropriate profile: bomb-throwing religious nutcase, or alternately, blood-sucking leach.

The Feds say they want to do this to increase security and to preven these documents from falling into the hands of those who mean us harm, and quite frankly, I'm sure they mean it. Quite frankly, I'm also pretty positive that once the feds get through figuring out what they want to do (that's after the 62 lawsuits by the ACLU, the assinine descisions from at least 12 state courts, two Supreme Court Cases and the de rigeur demostrations, the thing will be so incredibly screwe up that it will a) have to be done all over again or b) fufill the worst predictions of the conspiracy nuts.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Git On With Yer Bad Selves... Proving once again that we all just simply take up space on this planet, blowing hot air from our rectal cavities, I submit a collection of links to various news stories, with typically witty repartee attached. For your reading pleasure:
This little blurb about Muslim reaction to Pope Benedict's Inauguration speech:
Yes, God forbid that the Pope fail to mention Muslims in a speech to Catholics. The angst over the mention of Jews in the speech once again proves what an inferiority complex Muslims still have vis-a-vis Jews. In fact, a careful examination of Islam would lead one to believe that it is basically just Judaism for the disaffected, no matter how much the Imams might protest to the contrary.
After all, don't Muslims consider themselves descended from Abraham too? Did Muslims not wholly subsume the kosher laws into their system? Did Muslims not build their holy sites in some of the same places the Jews built theirs? Don't Muslims consider themselves the chosen people as well? Get over it, Muhammed, you're Jews in everything but name but are in denial. I sugest therapy and massive doses of prozac.
Also in the "I need serious mental help" department, I give you this:
John Kerry proves that he still lives in an alternate universe because a) he believes he'll get another shot at the brass ring and b) he's still fixated on Ohio. Then again, democrats are still fixated on Florida. And Mc Carthyism. And on the vast right-wing conspiracy. And the threat of conservative theocracy doing to America what it did to Iran.
Two things to bear in mind: a) the democratic primaries in 2007-8 will be a repeat of 2004 (i.e. the candidates will fall all over themsleves to "reasssure" voters that they are not George Bush, even though Bush won't be running) and b) all the contenders will be tripping over the contradiction that while they believe in a secular vision of the United States, they're all good bible thumpers, too. These people keep focusing on minutiae and missing the big picture. you didn't lose because of your lack of religion, nor did you lose because the democratic process failed in Florida and Ohio. You lost because your platform is dated, your ideology is stale and because you can't advance a candidate that is electable.
I look forward to seeing President Rice inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2009.
From the "It must be a conspiracy" department, I submit this:
Yes Virginia, there is a massive conspiracy to put God back into government! I mean, just the reference to Jonestown proves it! This line of resoning reminds me of those scenes from the Silence of the Lambs movies where Hannibal Lecter can ask a series of seemingly random questions and pontificate on a variety of subjects before he can answer the question: what would this killer have for lunch?
Yes there are religious fanatics in the world. Just ask Mohammed Atta or David Koresh. And certainly, every so often the religious becomes the political, which is pretty much the history of Christianity in it's entirety. But when you scream about "extremism" and the people you (carefully) select to prove it are batier than Patrick Leahy (Communist - Vermont), you're not making your point. Then again, pardon the pun, the people who engage in this kind of nosense are preaching to the chior.
And finally, in the "Salem witch hunts did not end in the 1700's" category:
Wow, imagine people actually having the gall to insist that "unpopular" and "out of the mainstream" views have a fair hearing at a university, of all places, should happen in our day and age. It's amazing how people who scream like stuck pigs when their radical, narrowly-held views are questioned in academia and demand equal (or rather special) protection, get even louder when it's speech they don't agree with. Perhaps now that the shoe is on the other foot, and the country as a whole is becoming more conservative (a trend of the last 40 years, btw) we might actually have something approaching fair debate on a campus somewhere. That thought scares the professoriate more than anything else, people.
After all, where can an "intellectual" get paid to churn out nonsense and invent areas of educational endeavor such as gender studies, ghetto culture, the politics of the genitals, porn for extra credit, naked archeology and such and not answer to the public, the students, or the concerned citizenry? Could it be that perhaps these tiny minds are just frightened enough that their world, which revolves more around their feelings and lunatic ideas rather than the exchange of information, are afraid that someone might actually shine a light into their actvities? Could it be [ossible that he consumers of what passes for higher education might actually want to know what they're paying for? One shudders to think what might happen if people were to actually question why they're paying 40K a year for Junior and Sally to get "edumacated" and then wonder why they aren't...