And I thought Our Fines Were Stiff

Overdue library book gets woman arrested:

An overdue library book called “The Freedom Writers Diary” briefly cost an Independence woman her freedom Thursday.

Jesup police arrested Shelly Koontz, 39, on a fifth-degree theft charge because she allegedly failed to return the collection of essays about the struggles of inner-city Long Beach, Calif., high school students.

The book’s retail price is $13.95.

“Theft is theft,” said Jesup Police Sgt. Chris Boos, “whether it’s a 50-cent candy bar, a $13 library book or a $200 TV.”

Koontz is free after posting a $250 bond at the Buchanan County Jail. Efforts to reach her by telephone Friday were unsuccessful.

This gets into that gray area of motivation. Stealing a TV or even just shoplifting a candy bar requires premeditation or at least a conscious decision to do something wrong. When Ms. Koontz checked the book out of the library, she was doing something legal and laudable. Forgetting to return a book is not a crime, it’s just forgetful. No one was harmed. And even if the library eventually paid for a replacement copy, this didn’t cost anything extra out of the budget because all libraries factor replacement costs into the budget. They could have just sent a bill to Ms. Koontz for the replacement fee, plus a penalty and made a little money. But going to the hassle, embarrassment and cost of running her through the legal system for what is the most insignificant of misdemeanors is stupid but all too indicative of our culture’s obsession with punishment.

We want the evil doers to pay. We demand Justice with a capitol J for the victims of theft and murder and rape, even if it means stealing property, murdering criminals or putting them in prison to be raped by other criminals. And, I guess now forgetfulness or good old fashioned sloth also demands Justice. Oh, and fornication as well, since the anti-choice freaks would like to inflict pregnancy, STDs and cancer, just so the sluts know what’s good from bad. But at least Sheriff Jim Bob in Yokal town got to flash his badge and show everyone whose a Man.

Link via Moby Lives.

No 140 Character Limit for Our POTUS

So, 3 days into his administration, Obama has made government as transparent as a window, reaffirmed Habeus Corpus, shut down GTMO and overturned the gag rule on reproductive rights. All very nice. But the really impressive news is that Obama will get to keep his blackberry.*

…in a small way, Obama’s desire to continue to use a wireless handheld for personal e-mail and other communications has become a symbol of how he sees his role. He has said repeatedly that he wants to reach beyond the policy wonks of Washington to the body politic at large.

“He has a BlackBerry through a compromise that allows him to stay in touch with senior staff and a small group of personal friends in a way that will be limited and security-enhanced to secure his ability to communicate, but to do so effectively and do so in a way that is protected,” Gibbs said. But Gibbs didn’t give many details…

In that spirit, the president surprised the White House press corps yesterday with a quick visit where he pulled a device from his coat pocket that looked like an oversized BlackBerry — or a perhaps like one of the hefty bar-code scanners used to read tickets at sporting events. It was mostly silver colored, but he was holding it screen-down, mostly covered by his hand, so it was difficult to see.

“I won the fight, but I don’t think it’s actually up and running yet,” Obama said, referring to the device, as several TV news crews recorded the moment.

To be precise, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said yesterday that the president has “a BlackBerry,” but not necessarily his previous BlackBerry.

Try and wrap your mind around the fact that neither Clinton nor Bush used email for their entire administrations. Clinton is almost understandable,a s email didn’t really become the big time sucking business imperative it is today until his term was almost done. As for Bush, well, he’s a slack jawed moron and spent the last decade being a sock puppet for fascists. If Dick Cheney feels the need to invest in a man sized safe, he sure as hell isn’t going to let Jr blab state secrets on Twitter.

But Obama is the Glass President. He wasn’t to stay in touch with people and keep up with technology, as a way to know here the world is going. We have a president who is making every effort to stay grounded, in touch and connected. It may not sound like much but it’s those little details that make the difference.

A Great Disturbance in the Force

With Bush running for the exit on Tuesday, I feel like Obi-Wan,1 shouted at by a great hollow feeling deep in the heart of the universe. For all his dissembling, outright lies and sickening sense of self-righteousness, Bush failed to destroy the world (mostly), despite his best efforts. And with his departure, there will be a hole in the landscape. No longer will we have such a sickening and concrete vision of slack jawed evil to look at and, recoiling, blame for the ills of the world. Sure, there will still be problems but we can now tackle them head on, instead of cherry picking only the problems that will grant cronies short-term financial gain. We win!

And yet, come Wednesday, we will wake to a world that seems like it’s missing something. Something that has grated on us for 8 long years. And even if Obama fails spectacularly, we will be free of a weight that has stooped our shoulders and given us scoliosis of the soul. We’ll be free! Horribly, and terribly free.

Hopefully(!) we’ll find our newfound freedom invigorating and liberating. It sure would suck to end up with Stockholm Syndrome for the Bush years. And though I find the likelihood of an Obama presidency as catastrophically wrong-headed as Bush’s was, neither did I expect Bush to be the paragon of malicious incompetence, either. So: cautious optimism, folks. Anything else would just be gaudy at this point.

I Humbly Submit My Name for the Position

I can only hope Obama takes this consideration to heart because if there is one job I was born for, it’s Secretary of the Arts:

A call for President-elect Barack Obama to give the arts and humanities a Cabinet-level post — perhaps even create a secretary of culture — is gaining momentum.

By yesterday, 76,000 people had signed an online petition, started by two New York musicians who were inspired by producer Quincy Jones. In a radio interview in November, Jones said the country needed a minister of culture, like France, Germany or Finland has. And he said he would “beg” Obama to establish the post.

One thing this country has always lacked is a national arts and culture program. Sure we have the NEA but it’s a joke. Every other nation that we compete with has a cultural post, so why not the US? And since Obama wants to create jobs, there’s nothing better thana good old fashioned WPA program to help fuel that. The old WPA produced more than a few cultural gems, and it fuled a whole raft of artistic traditions and counter-traditions whos einfluence lasted well intot he middle of the 20th cnetury. While a science and infrastructure related jobs program might be more pressing, ana rts program could also inspire us, which is just as important.

Let The Wookie Win

Sometimes, the muse is like a wookie. Allow me to explain:

One of the interesting aspects to writing a novel is how the story will take on a life of its own. Sometimes, the muse just won’t be ignored and will threaten to rip your arm off if you don’t let it have it’s way.1 A character will say something you didn’t intend or some great idea will come to you in the middle of the night when you’re in that half asleep/ half awake state and you’ll sit up and go, “of course! Paper airplanes are the answer!” and thus, your story will now have a paper airplane subplot or scene where previously there was none and having that paper airplane scene makes the story better. It’s called Serendipity, the accidental discovery of something useful you weren’t looking for.

For the book I’m currently in the development stages of, I had a lot of ideas for characters, scenes and plot elements that weren’t really connected in any way, but could be if arranged just so. My first decision, one that was almost arbitrary, was that I wanted a male protagonist. Both of my finished novels2 have female leads and I wanted to do something different. The problem was, the story didn’t work with a male protagonist. Some things just didn’t fit. So, I decided I’d expand the cast and do it as a family ensemble, with all their various plot threads playing off each other and tieing up at the end in a neat little bow. But as I started putting the story elements together, I found that one family member in particular was starting to dominate the story. She wanted to take center stage and all the other characters were obliging.

Which is how I came to realize that book 3 was also going to have a female protagonist, because that’s how all the various ideas fit together. This is hardly the end of the world, and it’s not like I’d be the first novelist in history to write almost exclusively with female leads.3

Sometimes, it’s better to just let the Wookie Win.

A 500 Lb. Gorilla, Wearing a Tutu and Marilyn Monroe Wig

OK, Palestine and Israel, we need to have a talk. I know you guys hate each others guts. It’s understandable, I’m not fond of you two, either. But you’ve managed to drag the US into your petty squabble over a worthless piece of dirt. It’s not even dirt with anything of real value on it, just some place both of you think, maybe, along time ago, some magical dude got bonked on the head by an invisible man and started gibbering like a crack fiend. And because neither of your ancestors were savvy enough to realize each of these “Holy Men” belonged in a mental hospital, you started fighting each other over whose fairy tale was better. And the rest of us care… for some reason.[1]

Now I know, Israel is our “special” friend, even though we get nothing out of the deal except hummus and olive oil. I mean sure, it’s pretty good olive oil but we gave you the Bomb for it. And since then, all you do is come bitching to us every time the Palestinians get uppity over you trying to steal their land and marginalize their role in regional politics. Can’t imagine why they’re pissed off about that.

And the Palestinians are a bunch of nogoodnicks, sure. They elected a terrorist organization as their main party! Hamas is soooo evil, their party slogan is “Death to Israel!” Which is mean. But let’s keep things in perspective. Their state is about the size of Detroit (and not really a state), plus their army is made up exclusively of pissed off clerics and men who think they can’t get laid until after they die. Yes, I know, suicide bombers and rockets, oh my. But the thing is — and this is key, so pay attention — no matter how much shit Hamas talks, they can’t actually bring about the death of Israel. So you Israelis are really overreacting to them overreacting to you steeling their fucking land because it says you have a right to in a book of poetry you wrote.

Can you see why the world is in no big hurry to pick a side in this semi-annual pig fucking contest of yours? Except for the US, for some screwed up reason.[2] Every 18 months or so, the two of you start blowing each other up for pointless reasons.

Our foreign policy is so lopsided, with the pure and righteous Israelis on the good side and those evil dirty Hamas motherfuckers on the bad, that no one who could do anything to solve this mess will. Because to do so, they’d have to admit that Israel is wrong, too.

And that’s the gorilla in the room wearing the tutu and Marilyn Monroe wig that no one wants to talk about: while Hamas’ slogan is “Death to Israel!” Israel’s slogan is “Death to Palistine!” And you can’t solve a conflict that neither side wants to end.

Eventually, even the US is going to get tired of it and stop paying attention.[3] And you know what happens when the US stops paying attention to something? It just goes away. Poof! Like it never existed. Oh sure, you two will be there blowing each other up one inch of sand at a time, but no one will care. And then one day, someone on one side or the other will set of a nuke in Gaza and there will be nothing left for you two to fight over but glass and poison. Which probably won’t stop you even then.

_________
1. The US cares about Israel due to either: A) the belief that the ghost of some magical carpenter wants these people to stay alive just long enough for him to show up and kill them all himself. Or B) because… well, mostly because we don’t want to seem antisemitic towards Israel. Except that reason A is just antisemitism extrapolated into a mythological dimension and sugar coated with the toxic goo of our foreign policy apparatus. So, yeah. Go Israel?

2. See footnote 1.

3. Now that Joe the not-Really-a-Plumber-but-I-play-one-in-a-political-campaign is headed over there as a war correspondent for some shit hole conservative wank site, I think that time is near at hand. Seriously, if that’s the level of aid and good will the US can muster, we’re just about done with this whole thing. So, enjoy your time in the Middle East there, Joe! Don’t forget your flack jacket. Or do. We really don’t care about you either.

Fuck the Jetpacks, I want my Alternative Internet Media Stream

Pulling a page from the Fox playbook, ABC has not only canceled Pushing Daisies but may not even air the last three episodes. I could go on at length about greedy douchebag executives, or idiot suits more concerned about add revenue than content or lament the artless shit that will no doubt fill the time slot. And while all these are legitimate gripes, what really pisses me off is the lack of artistic integrity. I don’t expect the salami for brains at ABC to get the show but they could at least have the common decency to let those of us who do have some bit of closure. But no. They are, yet again, going to try and leverage more money out of our pockets by forcing us to wait for the DVDs to find out how one of the most inventive, and creative shows on Television ends.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a problem if we already had an alternative media distribution network on the interent, which it being 2009 already we should have had by now. But since the execs haven’t figured out how to put a pay wall between your computer screen and eyeballs yet, no dice. So, let’s put our heads together and try and fix this problem. I’m not asking for world peace or even a long term resolution to the Isral/Palistine problem. Just make it so I don’t have to give gormless idiots my entertainment dollar if they aren’t even going to give me content.