On Monsters

He’s a monster; he’s not human—
He’s the devil in disguise!
The embodiment of evil;
You can see it in his eyes!
No iota of morality
No evidence of soul
Where a man should have a human heart
This demon has a hole.

His behavior was horrific—
Inexcusable, in fact;
No real human could have done it
It’s a horrid, beastly act
If he’d had the slightest conscience
He’d be overcome with shame…
So let’s sentence him to torture;
We can treat him just the same!

Let’s imprison him with Bubba
Where he never will escape
Take his time, to learn the lesson
On the other side of rape
We can chain him; we can whip him,
We can break a rib or two…
Cos he has to learn, these things are not
What moral people do.

Wow. Now that God finally saved those three women in Cleveland, it’s become downright unpleasant to read through the comment sections on news sites. The argument seems to be “nobody should ever treat another human being like this man treated those women, therefore we should treat this man like he treated those women.” Or “he’s a depraved monster for doing what he did; we should do the same to him.” Or “what kind of sick fuck is capable of such behavior, he ought to be flayed alive in the town square, suspended by his testicles over a hornet nest and beaten with hot pokers.” Because we are more moral than he is.

I have seen a handful of people calling out the would-be official torturers and those calling for prison rape as a reasonable sentence. They are accused of taking the rapist’s side, of course–because if you don’t want the skin peeled off of his face with a garden trowel, you are soft on crime and a liberal communist.

No sentence we could give him could ever pay back what he took from those women. That would be impossible. That cannot, and should not, be the standard we hold ourselves to. But we should not allow him to take our humanity from us as well. If what he did is detestable (and it is), it should be detestable for anyone to do it (and it is). The internet commenters calling for such treatment should take a good hard look at who they are choosing as their role model.

Miracle In Cleveland

Thank god! Our prayers are answered!
It’s a miracle, you know!
We are celebrating, crying joyful tears!
God decided, in his wisdom,
That he’d let these poor girls go
After keeping them imprisoned ten full years.

It’s a proof that god is mighty
It’s a proof that god is good
God will make this bastard suffer for his crime
It’s a proof that god will always
Make things come out as they should
Though He seems to have a different view of time

Wonderful news out of Cleveland; three women, missing for 10 years, have been found alive, having been held captive in a house, remarkably close to where they disappeared.

I’ve already heard it described as a miracle, as an answer to prayers, as something that restores one’s faith in god. And my goodness, it is astonishingly good news for everyone. But as always, it strikes me odd to give an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent entity credit for today’s events and let that entity off the hook for the last 10 years.

But hey, come to think of it, it does have all the hallmarks of one of god’s miracles.

The Real Tragedy Is In The Timing

“No one is more highly trained”,
And yet, he did it wrong
And so, instead,
A kid is dead
So runs the world along

Police Chief Wade is charged today—
His gun was unsecured,
Atop his vault—
He’s still at fault;
Or so we are assured

The boy who found it shot himself
Fifteen years old, he died.
Let’s make it clear:
Just one more year
And no crime could be tried

If someone wants to kill himself,
You know he’ll find a way…
But charge the chief?
Beyond belief!
So runs the world away

(Ok, I didn’t know until today that “so runs the world away” was anything other than a line from Hamlet. I’m a little bit pissed off at Josh Ritter for stealing Shakespeare’s google spotlight.)

Along the lines of Oh-so-close-to-responsible ownership, there’s a story today out of New Hampshire, in which a police chief will be charged with one count of negligent storage of a firearm (maximum penalty: $1000) in the death of a 15-yr-old boy who found the chief’s service weapon sitting on top of a safe in a closet.

Through the investigation, [County Attorney James] Reams said it was determined that Parsons set the gun down on a safe in a closet.

“The chief left to go run errands and didn’t secure his weapon,” said Reams, whose office will prosecute the case.

While Parsons was gone, the 15-year-old, who lived at the residence but wasn’t the chief’s son, went into the closet and grabbed the gun, according to Reams.

Tragic and horrible, I hope you will all agree. What grabbed me from the article, though, was the reaction of a selectman, Shawn O’Neil. Let me set up his statement, first. What Parson will be charged with is defined as follows (also from the article):

The statute states: “Any person who stores or leaves on premises under that person’s control a loaded firearm, and who knows or reasonably should know that a child (under the age of 16) is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the child’s parent or guardian, is guilty of a violation if a child gains access to a firearm and the firearm is used in a reckless or threatening manner; the firearm is used during the commission of any misdemeanor or felony; or the firearm is negligently or recklessly discharged.”

So, O’Neil’s reaction is, for the most part, completely understandable:

Danville Selectman Shawn O’Neil, board chairman, said Parsons informed him about the charge.
“He told me what transpired and that he was going to be charged with this. It’s a sad situation,” O’Neil said.
O’Neil said the board plans to take no action against Parsons in light of the charge.
“It’s an elected position. The board can’t do anything, but on a personal note, I will vote for Wade in the next election,” O’Neil said.
O’Neil questioned whether such a charge would have been brought if Parsons were not a police chief. He said he feels the county attorney’s office faced public pressure.
“I know Wade is personally hurting and this is going to live with him for the rest of his life. This is just one more sad component added on top of this. This is not going to bring Jacob back,” O’Neil said.
O’Neil said he still has confidence in Parsons.
“Deep down he’s a really good man. I have the utmost respect for this man. We all err as part of human life. Charging him with this is not going to make anything change,” he said.

And I do feel for the Chief. This is going to rip him apart. Of course, the “responsible gun owners don’t have these accidents” crowd would have to blame the Chief. I mean, really, the only other option is to put all of the responsibility on a 15 year old boy. And who would do that?

O’Neil added that anyone looking to harm themselves will find a way.
“If this kid was 16 years old this would not be an issue,” O’Neil said.


Yeah, a 16 year old dead kid would not be an issue, like a 15 year old dead kid is. I almost wish there was a bit more ambiguity in what O’Neil sees as the real issue.

In the comments, it is suggested that it would be just as easy to commit suicide with a steak knife. Thing is, I know someone who tried to commit suicide with a steak knife. I have seen the oozing wounds on her wrists. The only reason I can say this is, it is damned difficult to cut your wrists open with a steak knife. But pulling a trigger? Bullets, it would seem, travel much faster than the speed of regret.

Oh, and along the lines of Tuesday’s “He took all the precautions, he’s a trained law enforcement officer, trains with weapons all the time”, I give you today’s “”Nobody is probably more highly trained than a police officer,” Reams said.”

Responsible Ownership–99.9999% Of The Time

He’s a best-case scenario, doing it right;
He knows it’s a gun, not a toy
The most dangerous thing in his bedroom that night
Was a visiting 4-year-old boy

You mustn’t be tempted to regulate arms
Which the second amendment forbids
It can’t shoot itself, so a gun never harms
But it’s clear—we must regulate kids.

Whenever the news tells us of an incident where a kid shoots someone, the comment sections are reliably filled with people noting the idiocy of whoever allowed that kid access to firearms. Such irresponsible people make responsible gun owners look bad–and the vast majority of gun owners are responsible.

Mind you, we don’t actually know some of the numbers it would take to make that claim–you might recall, the CDC is expressly forbidden from gathering and analyzing gun death information. Seems the NRA got to write the legislation. But in those comment threads, gun accidents happen only to irresponsible idiots, and normal, responsible gun ownership makes your family safer.

But this time, the gun owner is a well-trained Sheriff’s Deputy. And he wants to set things straight:

“I would like the viewers to know that officers of Wilson County do not make a habit of leaving loaded guns simply lying around,” he wrote.
“The door to the room the accident happened in stays locked unless we were sleeping or we were in it,” Fanning wrote. “This was the only loaded gun in the house other than my duty weapon, which was locked away.”
Wilson County Sheriff Robert Bryan said Fanning had been showing “another person that was there at the house some of his weapons he had locked in a secure gun safe,” reported CNN affiliate WTVF.
No one saw the boy enter the room, WTVF quoted Bryan as saying.
“Split second,” Bryan said. “We’re talking about seconds for that kid to walk in that room unbeknownst to them, grab that gun and it goes off.”
“He took all the precautions, he’s a trained law enforcement officer, trains with weapons all the time.”

This guy did everything right. And his wife is dead.

I can guarantee you one thing. His claims of gun safety and training will amount to utterly nothing in the comment threads; guns are safe in responsible hands, ergo he was irresponsible.

Public Cross Chucked In Duck Pond

A cross was seen
On the village green
As we’re nearing the Easter season
They’ve done it for years
As spring appears—
It’s a beautiful symbol, they reason—
Though they think it’s fine
There’s a civil line
They have taken a few steps beyond
And so, one man
Took the matter in hand
And he chucked the cross into a pond.

He admitted his act
As a matter of fact
And he said that he’d do it again
If the church put it back
That’s a form of attack
Treating non-Christian folk with disdain
If they put back the cross
He’ll just give it a toss
Till it’s floating again with the ducks
I’d suggest that they pray
On the matter, all day…
But the gentleman won’t give two fucks.

Here’s another link to another paper’s coverage, as well. Basically, an 82-yr-old former solicitor saw the cross erected in the village green, as it has been for years each Easter-time, and decided to remove the unwanted litter from public property. He chucked it into a nearby duck pond.

Reaction has been… mixed. The first story notes that “an angry parishioner and her husband” sent out an email to village residents, and that 82 yr old Alan Pickard replied, owning up to the act and stating outright that if the church replaced the cross, he would re-dunk it. Six others expressed objections to the cross’s placement on the green, while 21 reported it did not bother them. Some of the quotes are just delightful. From the second link:

“To fling it into the pond is an unacceptable, wanton act of violence. It’s tantamount to religious hatred in my book. It must have been quite heavy though, so it’s not bad going for an 82-year-old.”

Hey, respect given where it is earned.

Colony Of Penguins Discovered, Thanks To Poop Visible From Space

Some scientists have figured out
A means of penguin-snooping;
A camera, beamed from outer space
Can see where they’ve been pooping.

The penguins stay on floes of ice,
For months in just one place
Which leaves a stain of shit so big
It’s visible from space.

The guano—smelly, reddish-brown,
Corrosive, salty goo—
Leaves such a stain, ten colonies
Were found when they were through.

Of course, the waste we humans leave
Is seen from space as well—
The lights by night, the smoke by day
(At least, in space, no smell)

I wonder, once we’ve run our course
And disappeared for good
Will, someday, trails of human waste
Be seen and understood?

Will future beings study us—
As findings will permit—
And learn how humans went extinct
By studying our shit?

In a follow-up to a story from 4 years ago, a colony of some 9,000 penguins was recently discovered in Antarctica.

Until last month, this group of 9,000 Emperor penguins had never seen a human being before. And no human knew about their existence either — until a satellite picked up images of their poop from space. That’s right. These penguins are so populous that their waste is visible from orbit. Though they were discovered in 2009, humans were not able to visit them in person until December 2012.

Of course, the waste from our own human colonies is also visible from space. As I wrote back in 2009, I wonder if some future species will ever learn about us this way. Seems only fitting.

In Support Of Marriage Equality In Maine

So I got another donation very recently (thank you!), from a name which seemed familiar. I have learned never to trust my memory, but I think this was someone with whom I used to argue, years ago. He or she (I know, but hey) was opposed to same-sex marriage (though the host of that site was far more irrationally opposed–but then everything about that person was irrational), but was honest and open in xir arguing, and did listen to opposing views.

Anyway, I think this recent donation was from this person. That being the case, I am hopeful that it signals a change of mind. So, having de-godded the amount of the donation (plus my own contribution), this money is being donated in support of Maine’s ballot question 1, in support of same sex marriage. (edited to add–Rodney Nelson, in a comment below, proudly foils my attempts at de-godding ALL the coins, by noting Mainers United For Marriage‘s website, where you can donate directly. Curses! Foiled again!) Of course, disclosure of support is in the news today, with the opponents of question 1 refusing to disclose their donors, in direct opposition to Maine’s election laws.

Maine’s campaign disclosure law requires groups that raise or spend more than $5,000 to influence elections to register and disclose donors. NOM has argued that releasing the donor list would stymie free speech and subject donors to harassment, but the lower court refused to throw out the law.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear NOM’s appeal, leaving the state law intact. But the ethics commission is still investigating, and NOM is fighting subpoenas in state court.

This gives me the opportunity to repost something from 4 years ago, when a previous set of politicians was traipsing around New England trying to stir up voter outrage. Two years ago, the Republicans promised they would repeal, but having watched the weathervanes, have chosen not to.

I had insufficient warning
When I stumbled out this morning
Past a half a dozen candidates, each stumping for my vote;
When I looked, the morning paper
Had a headline of some caper
Or the record-breaking snowfall—really, nothing there of note.

So I grabbed my trusty shovel
To plow out my “home sweet hovel”
When I noticed something different—something didn’t quite feel right.
There was snow, and politicians,
But some change in the conditions
Made me wonder if my marriage had the sanctity it might.

So I checked the sanctitometer
And struggled not to vomit—her
“Conventional morality in danger” light was on!
Now a grim new dawn was breaking
And I couldn’t stop my shaking
‘Cos the morally upstanding world I trusted now was gone!

I considered seeking shelter
As I watched the helter-skelter
Of the politicians canvassing the noble Granite State;
I heard one of them disparage
Civil Unions, or Gay Marriage
As the reason for the panic—then I thought, more clearly, “wait!”

All this rattling of sabers
Is about my friends and neighbors;
These are people whom I know, and who have lived here all along
If these folks are who they’re blaming
It’s just pre-election gaming
And between the politicians and my friends, I know who’s wrong.

If our morals are declining
As the candidates keep whining
I propose a different theory to explain why this is so:
An invasive mass of liars
With their speeches, signs, and flyers,
Slinging mud and kissing babies in a dog-and-pony show.

Soon the voting will be over
And the state, from Keene to Dover,
And from Lancaster to Nashua, will heave a weary sigh;
With the moral issue buried
Now my neighbors can get married
And the Granite State will mean it when it says “Live Free or Die!”

Now it’s Maine’s turn.

Boy Scouts Kept Molestation Records Confidential

He’s admitted to molesting boys, while working for the Scouts
Though the records aren’t available to search;
If the case had been made public, there are few if any doubts
It’d be difficult to face the folks at church.

The L.A.Times has a substantial story, well worth reading, on the paper’s review of two decades worth of confidential Boy Scouts files–the “perversion files” intended to internally police molestation cases.

Of 1,600 reports, over 2/3 were discovered not by the Scouts, but by police or other authorities. However, some 500 cases were first discovered by the Scouts.

In about 400 of those cases — 80% — there is no record of Scouting officials reporting the allegations to police. In more than 100 of the cases, officials actively sought to conceal the alleged abuse or allowed the suspects to hide it, The Times found.

The story reports case after case in which the primary concern of the BSA appears to have been their reputation. Like some other ostensible moral authorities we know, quietly doing the least possible was preferred to publicly doing the right thing.

As I say, the whole thing is worth reading, if you’ve got the stomach. Today’s verse comes from the last story, in which the coverup of a man’s actions allowed him to continue to work with kids for another 14 years. It has now been 25 years since his particular coverup began; he was interviewed for the story:

“The topic has not come up until your phone call today,” he said. “Had that been publicized, I would have been out of business, reputation destroyed, and I don’t know how I would have faced people at church.”