“Body Shaming”

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This is ridiculous.  My body is not as nice as this woman’s, nor would I ever post such scantly-clad pictures of myself online, but do I feel the least bit threatened by her postpartum body?  OF COURSE NOT!  Her beauty has in no way been achieved at the expense of mine, nor at anyone else’s expense.

Any woman who feels threatened by another woman’s beauty clearly lacks self esteem, and that isn’t something that’s going to be fixed by blasting some poor stranger over the Internet.  These women ought to be ashamed of their reactions.  Last time I checked, beauty was still a thing to be valued.

Wrongful Conviction and Imprisonment

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Nothing, and I do mean nothing infuriates me more that wrongful convictions.  Whether we’re talking about false allegations of child abuse, murder, or rape, innocent people are being locked away for years — sometimes decades — for crimes they did not commit.  Families are severed, lives are destroyed, and people are being hung out to dry by the very system that was supposed to protect them.  There can be no greater injustice than that.

While the American code of justice demands that the accused be considered innocent unless (or “until”) proven guilty (the presumption of innocence is inherently flawed, but I’ll leave that alone for now), criminal cases involving children and/or highly sensitive issues (such as sexual assault) become so emotionally charged that it is virtually impossible for the accused to receive a fair trial.  As I’ve said before, moral outrage interferes with justice.  And crimes against women and children never fail to evoke a powerful emotional response which threatens to overshadow all evidence and objectivity.  Feelings are substituted for facts, and the burden of proof shifts away from the Prosecution and onto the Defense.  Justice is sacrificed for the sake of vengeance.  In a nutshell, if the crime of which someone is accused involves children and/or rape, they are virtually guaranteed to be denied their right to fair trial.

Yes, I would rather see ten possible baby rapists go free than a single innocent person convicted.

The question is, who should ultimately be held liable for wrongful convictions?  I think the answer to that is quite obvious: whichever parties were responsible for the miscarriage of justice.

A Virginia man spent 27 years behind bars for multiple rapes he did not commit.  These convictions were based solely on eye-witness testimony — that of his alleged victims.  It all began when a woman who claimed to have been raped days before spotted him at a grocery store and alerted police that she recognized her assailant.  Police brought him in, and he was soon “identified” as the attacker of four other women.  (Another of his alleged victims realized she was mistaken after the conviction.)  Now, by no means am I suggesting that rape victims ought to bear the burden of proving their own cases in a court of law, but given the horrific consequences of false rape accusations, they do bear the responsibility of being certain whom they are accusing.  Also, as The Forensic Examiner points out, “Although it may not be ‘politically correct’ to question the veracity of a women’s complaint of rape, failing to consider the accuser may be intentionally lying effectively eradicates the presumption of innocence.”  In this case, the witnesses are clearly responsible — along with the juries which convicted him on the basis of their testimony.  What it ultimately came down to was Mr. Haynesworth’s word against each of theirs, and the juries chose to convict an 18-year-old black man on the legal basis of he-said-she-said.  Unfortunately, you cannot actually sue a jury, and I’m going to assume that it’s faux pas to sue a rape victim, because it appears this gentleman has yet to file any litigation.  (Instead, he settled for a mail-room job from Cuccinelli .)

Just last year, Alton Logan ended up settling with the Chicago Police Department for $10.2 million after having spent 26 years behind bars for a murder.  While it’s difficult to put a monetary value on half a life spent behind bars, I’d say Logan’s lawsuit was appropriate, considering the Chicago Police had concealed evidence which would have exonerated him.  But far more reprehensible was the conduct of defense attorneys Dale Coventry and Jamie Kunz, who knew their client was the real murderer, yet kept this knowledge a secret for 26 years.  Why, then, were they not also sued?  Because they were “legally bound” to do so.

More and more cases of Shaken Baby Syndrome are being re-opened as the integrity of this “condition” is called into question.  (One blogger has liken this “legal diagnosis” to the Satantic daycare sex-abuse scandal mentioned above.)  It’s a valid comparison, really — in both cases, convictions have been based on dubious medical evidence from poorly qualified professionals, as well as on the moral outrage of the jury.  And whatever happened to the “reasonable doubt” clause?  When key witnesses are discredited, diagnoses are questioned, and medical professionals are called to testify outside their area of expertise, you have to wonder whether the jury fully grasps its own purpose.  In wrongful convictions of Shaken Baby Syndrome, as with the ritual Satanic abuse case, I would hold the juries squarely at fault.  But again, you cannot actually sue a jury.

Look, I get that there are reasons for judicial immunity.  It protects both judges and juries from harassment by way of frivolous lawsuit and is intended to keep them objective in their rulings.  At the same time, however, judicial immunity protects them from being held accountable for the ill consequences of their decisions.  When a practice designed to promote objectivity is having the opposite effect, the question of, “Why are we still doing this?” must necessarily be raised.

It’s one thing for circuit judges to be protected by judicial immunity; as professional jurors, they are held accountable by other measures, such re-election or the potential for impeachment and removal from office.  Juries, on the other hand, enjoy their immunity without any of these safeguards in place.  True, they are only there to serve for a single trial, but if anything, I would expect this to make them even more flippant in their decisions.  Compared to judges, juries demonstrate far less foresight and concern over the consequences of their verdicts — and what they might mean for the defendant.  At the end of the day, they’ll go home to their crockpots and ESPN, while the defendant rots in prison for the rest of his life for a crime he appears to have committed.  (The judge, at least, is back on the bench by Monday morning.)

Am I rallying against the use of juries in our judicial system? HELL, no — I’m rallying against irresponsible jurors.

I stand in favor of abolishing judicial immunity for both juries and judges in cases of wrongful conviction — but with some limitations.  Obviously, the “wrongfulness” would first need to be established and the conviction reversed (I mean, how many people in prison are claiming to be innocent?) and another hearing would have to be held (hopefully at the bench!) to determine whether in fact the jury and/or judge were liable, and if so, by what degree.  Then, and only then, would this open them up to civil litigation and/or penalties.

I also want there to be stiffer penalties for false accusation.  When you have women like Crystal Magum being spared charges of filing a false police report, perjury, and obstruction of justice, what kind of message does this send out to would-be accusers?

There also needs to be better accountability for the individual investigators and their superiors.  While I like to think that police corruption is a statistical rarity, it does happen, and not enough appropriate measures (emphasis on ‘appropriate’) are taken.  For instance, it took the city of Chicago nearly thirty years and $56.25 million to finally do something about former police commander Jon Burge.

Convictions based on expert or medical testimony (such as Shaken Baby Syndrome or rape/molestation claims) need to re-examine both the source of the evidence (e.g., a doctor’s credentials and credibility), as well as the integrity of the evidence itself.  Has the doctor who examined the child been trained in pediatrics?  Did the emergency room doctor fully explain “Shaken Baby Syndrome” to the jury or even consider alternative diagnoses?  Is he accustomed to establishing other modi operandi besides SBS?

Now obviously, this isn’t a one-stop, cure-all solution to preventing any new wrongful convictions, nor does this offer sufficient recompense to those who have suffered wrongful imprisonment.  (How can that be compensated?)  But it does provide a starting point for judicial improvement.  Ultimately though, what it comes down to is better accountability within the justice system.  Because even in light of the vast improvements in forensics and genetic technology, it is left to the police to collect the evidence, the DA to make the case, and the judge and jury to determine the defendant’s future.  Objectivity must be paramount, a guilty verdict should not be presumed, and someone needs to be watching the Watchmen.

Fired for Reporting a Customer?

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Had I been the manager of this establishment and witnessed a woman consuming “drink after drink” while breastfeeding, I would have asked her to leave the restaurant on the grounds that she was upsetting the other customers. (NOT because she was breastfeeding.)  Depending upon the circumstances, I may or may not have alerted police.  But regardless, what bothers me is the assumption that the server — one Jackie Conners — was fired in retaliation for reporting this woman.

How do we know she wasn’t fired for something completely unrelated?  The answer is, we don’t.  The fact that Conners may have none a noble deed does not necessarily mean she was a model employee.  I’m not saying her claim should be discounted, just that it needs to be verified.  This story was reported by a local news source which took the time to question the manager.  They couldn’t have tried to verify her story with an ex-coworker?  Surely, she could have put reporters in contact with someone who could lend some credibility to her claim.  It’s not as if she were fired on the spot; according to the news outlet which originally broke the story, Conners’s employment was not terminated until a number of days later.

 (You’d think the media might have learned a thing or two after the Dayna Morales fiasco.)

Aggravated Vehicular Homicide… Over NEWBORNS??

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A woman who was allegedly driving recklessly (i.e. she may or may not have been speeding) lost control of her car and is being charge with two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide over the deaths of a couple of newborns — her own newborns.  Oh, and one count (?) of child endangerment.   Can I get a “what the fuck?!”

First of all, despite what media outlets such as The Daily Mail are alleging, investigators have not yet determined whether excessive speed was a factor in the accident.  Considering that the speed limit for the area was 55 mph and the woman was driving over train tracks when she flipped her car, it’s entirely possible that she may not have even been speeding.  (Common sense would tell you to proceed with caution over train tracks.)

Second, in spite of further dishonest statements from both The Daily Mail and sites like NorthwestOhio.com, investigators have not yet said whether the babies were securely fastened into their seats.  Daily Mail is claiming that they were, but that the appropriate (newborn) car seats were not being used; Northwest Ohio claims that “officials have confirmed seatbelts had not been secured.”  Both publications claim to have received their “special information” from authorities, yet according to multiple local news sources, the babies were in car seats, but police have yet to say whether they were properly restrained and the correct car seats were being used.  Ah, the media at its finest.  (The fact that there are dead babies involved means this woman will most likely be found as guilty by a jury as she has been by the press.)

It’s not clear why there has only been one child endangerment charge, but a second charge is pending.  But regardless of the details — which may seem trivial now, though I guarantee they’ll matter come the time of her trial — the fact remains that this woman was responsible for the deaths of her own babies.  Isn’t that enough?  It ought to be.

What right does society have to punish her over the deaths of her own babies?  After nine months of pregnancy and six weeks top-side, this woman has most likely made a pretty hefty investment of time, effort, money, and emotion into these babies — and now all of it is gone in a flash over something she did. To punish her any further would be both excessive and cruel.  To slap this woman with two counts of vehicular homicide (and uno child endangerment) isn’t justice — it’s revenge.

But the core of the issue here is whether or not it is ethical to charge someone with vehicular homicide in the motor vehicle death of an infant.  The answer is a flat-out NO.  Homicide — vehicular or otherwise — entails the killing of a person.  A six-week-old has no more claim to personhood than a human fetus; it fact, it essentially is a human fetus.  To charge this woman with homicide over the deaths of either one or both of these babies is tantamount to saying that a person’s life is of equal (or lesser) value to a non-person’s.  It’s like saying her rights to life and liberty are worth no more than a chiwawas — less even, because even chiwawas (unlike six-week-old humans) have personalities.  It’s evil and it’s insulting.  You may as well claim that a fetus is a person and begin criminalizing “fetal homicide,” with penalties as severe as life imprisonment.  Oh, wait… *facepalm*

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; we need infanticide laws in this country.  But that’s never going to happen so long as abortion is being threatened by ignorance and religiousity — and by those fucking innane feticide laws.

Woman Fired for Being Sexy Claims Permenant Nerve Damage

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“The same lawsuit, filed in March, names a Queens driver who rear-ended her in a car accident in Long Island City in December 2012.

Panetta said both were named because his client developed more severe nerve damage after the car accident, and “we’re not 100% sure which incident caused the injury.”


That quote really cracked me up.  “Not 100% sure, so we’re suing both of them?”  STFU!  Odds are she saw a physical therapist to cash in on the car accident, had difficulty performing one of the exercises, and was inspired to claims of nerve damage.

That being said, nerves getting bumped during a draw isn’t all that uncommon.  When it happens, it’s one of the worst feelings in the world, though it’s over quickly and the aftereffects seldom last more than a couple minutes.  I’ve had it happen a few times.  The worst was when I had to get a PICC line, and it took the idiot doctor four tries (and a second arm) to snake it in.  On the third try, he banged a nerve with a fucking catheter.  The pain / intensity of sensation was excruciating, and I would not let them touch me again for a good 25-30 minutes, which was how long it took to regain semi-normal feeling in my arm.

One time, I had a bumped nerve during a draw AND the idiot technician used too much alcohol.  I almost went to the ER, thinking I must have suffered some lasting injury, but I thankfully decided to wait it out.  By the next morning, I was fine.

Permanent nerve damage is almost unheard of. Injured nerves (emphasis on ‘injured’) heal just like any other part of the body.  For the nerve damage to be permanent, the nerves would have had to have been severed beyond repair.  In the event that a nerve injury leads to muscular atrophy (and it generally has to be a pretty damned serious nerve injury, such as brachial neuritis), the muscle tissue is able to recover once the nerves begin functioning property.  It isn’t easy, and it can certainly be debilitating, but it isn’t overly-painful and can almost always be corrected with physical therapy.

Whether or not this woman has any nerve damage can *easily* be established by an NCS or EMG performed by a qualified neurologist.  This is isn’t fibromyalgia she’s alleging.

Specifications for Packing My Child’s Lunch

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My son’s grandmother did me the favor packing his lunch the other day.  (In a nutshell, I’m sick.)  All she required of me was his Monsters University lunch bag/box/whatever you want to call it (it’s one of those insulated softies), and I ended up throwing in a box of V8 Fusion.  My mother was doing me a favor, so I wasn’t about to lecture her on the specifications of packing my preschooler’s lunch.

I go all out with my kid’s lunches.  I like to be creative and make things fun.  Bagged lunches can be boring, so I like to include variety.  I also like to zazz things up with fun character or holiday-themed paper products (plate and napkin), colorful zip-lock bags (available at Target), and character-themed tupperware containers.  I’ll periodically rotate in special food themes –– “China food” or “Mexico food,” or even “spooky food,” and on the rare occasions that I throw it a dessert, I’ll find some way to make it literacy based.  (This used to be a major hobby of mine.)

I also make a point of including “love notes” in his lunches.   Even on the day that Grandma packed it for me, I made a point of slipping a little heart-shaped sticky note into his lunch box with an excuse explanation as to why everything looked so dull different.  (Wasn’t it NICE of Grandma to pack your lunch today?)

I’ll scribble down a few sentences worth of well-wishes, interesting facts, useful information, or suggest social prompts.  Some notes will have it all.  And every note contains an integrated “sight word”, which I also make a point of S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G O-U-T. It sounds crazy, but the kid loves it, and his teachers find it adorable.  (There are only six other kids in his classroom, so they can afford to give him a little extra attention.)

So this got me thinking… what if I had left my mother an exacting set of instructions on how to prepare and pack my child’s lunch?  There are plenty of parents out there who obsess over what they feed their kids, and god help you if you accidentally feed them inorganic produce.  Some insist artificial dyes were responsible for their children’s behavior problems; others seek to “cure” their kids of autism Jenny McCarthy style (which evidently involves removing gluten and casein from their diets).  More still have taken it upon themselves to “diagnose” their poor kids with multiple food allergies and intolerances before subjecting them to rigorous dietary restrictions.  I can only imagine the enormity of the written instructions these parents must leave their child care providers, who may not even be able to make the distinction between quinoa and couscous.

Grandma ended up sending the boy in with beans, spaghetti, and the V8 juice I’d given her.  Not quite the lunch I would have packed, but certainly delicious and nutritious enough to keep my child satiated and content.

But if I had left her a list of specifications for packing my kid’s lunch, here’s what it would have looked like:

1. THE LUNCHBOX: Dimensions of lunch pack should be approximately 7.5 inches in height, 9.25 inches in width, and 3.5 inches thick.  Must come fully insulated with zipper closure, top-carry handle, and suitable for children ages three and up.  Acceptable designs include Monsters Inc, Mickey Mouse, Toy Story, and Dora the Explorer.

2. PAPER PRODUCTS: One (1) round or square dessert-sized plate to be placed beneath one (1) full-sized paper luncheon napkin.  Plate and napkin should coordinate, thought the designs need not necessarily be identical.  For instance, a Minnie Mouse napkin may be paired with a Mickey Mouse plate, provided they are similar enough in coloring.  Solid-colored napkins may also utilized, so long as they are appropriately matched with a character plate.  For example, a red napkin may be paired with a Lightning McQueen plate.  Under some circumstances, it may be permissible for a solid-colored plate may be utilized, but in these rare instances, the corresponding napkin had better be pretty spectacular.  Under no circumstances may a solid-colored plate be used with a solid-colored napkin.

3. PLASTICWARE: If plastic spoons and/or forks are needed, it is essential that they not be permitted to violate the integrity of the plate-napkin color coordination.  Due in part to the vast under-representation of forks and knives in children’s lunches, it is not always economically feasible to have all plasticware match the paperware.  Still, a diligent effort should still be made to ensure that the colors do not clash.  If a suitable green or yellow spoon cannot be located for my kid’s yogurt, a black or white spoon may be substituted in its place.  (Note: metallic-looking plasticware should only be used with space/futuristic character themes, and clear only goes with winter themes.)

4. THE DRINK: Include 6.75 and 8 fl. oz of organic whole milk or V8 Fusion.  MIlk must contain at least 32 mg of DHA per serving.   Acceptable brands of milk include Horizon Organics and Stonyfield Farm.  The preferable flavor of V8 Fusion is pomegranate-blueberry, but strawberry-banana is also acceptable.  Kefir is also an appropriate beverage.  Milk and juice must be contained within an appropriate air-tight sports bottle (suggested design: Monsters University) and twice tested before being placed into the lunch pack.  Kefir is best stored within 8-oz plastic tumblers, preferably clear to make the flavor more readily identifiable.  Due to the thick nature of this beverage and its potential to ruin and entire lunch, tumblers filled with Kefer are required to be check thrice.

5. THE DAIRY: If milk or Kefir have been packed, move on to the next step.  Otherwise, a Dora the Explorer (strawberry) or Cars (vanilla) yogurt cup should be included in the lunch.  Alternatively, you may substitute a quarter cup of shredded cheese for the yogurt, but only if the meal is Mexico or Italian-themed.  Monterey jack or a cheddar-jack mix would be an appropriate accompaniment to a Mexican lunch, while parmesean, romano, and asiago cheeses may be paired with pasta, either independently or as a mixture.

6. THE FRUIT: A fresh banana (neither too green nor too brown) or a packet of ascorbic acid-treated apples will fulfill this requirement, as would half a cup of seedless, tricolored (red, green, & black) grapes.  Grapes should be washed with a special fruit & vegetable rinse (available in most produce sections) and cut in half the morning of school.  Dried fruit (such as craisins and raisins) are also acceptable, as are “monkey chips” (i.e., plantain chips).  It is important to observe that my child DOES NOT eat banana chips.  If V8 Splash has been packed (see Step 4), a full serving or fruit may not be necessary.  A few grapes may suffice, or a vegetable (such as corn on-or-off-the-cob), or perhaps even a small dessert as a stand-in.  (See Step 9.)

7. THE ENTREE: The entree should ensure my child a balance of all three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and quality fats.  (Whole grains whenever possible/tolerated.)  Acceptable entrees include but are not limited to a turkey “sandwich” (the low-sodium turkey breast must be packaged separately from the whole-grain potato bread, as they are not actually consumed as a single unit), Spanish rice (Uncle Ben’s brand) and beans, spaghetti with tomato sauce and a TON of cheese (which would also fulful the dairy requirement — see Step 5), rice and “Mexico” cheese (ditto on the dairy), lo-mein noodles (be certain to supplement with milk), and turkey sausage or meatballs with a whole-grain potato roll on the side.  There needn’t necessarily be a discernible entree, so long as reasonable protein and caloric requirements have been met.  For instance, a lunch consisting of V8, rice cakes, yogurt, craisins, and shelled sunflower aka “sunny” seeds would be perfectly acceptable — and is a great favorite.

8. GOOD FATS: Seeds and seed oils are some of the best sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids available.  (Please note that my child has a nut allergy.)  Every lunch should help ensure that he is getting sufficient amounts of these in his diet.  Sunny seeds and/or sesame oil (over noodles) are a great supplement to any meal, but chips cooked in certain oils — such as sunflower, safflower, or canola — may also suffice.  My son eats both yellow corn chip and “monkey chips,” and he has never met a potato chip he hasn’t liked.  Also, as discussed in Step 4, all milk should contain at least 32 mg of DHA per 8 oz serving.

9. THE DESSERT: Desserts are optional and should appear sporadically.  They should be small, preferably free of artificial dyes and ingredients (my reputation with his teachers is at stake here), and serve to both educate and entertain.  Trader Joe’s Cinnamon School Book Cookies are ideally suited to this purpose, although it is crucial to take the time to securely wrap each individual word in aluminum foil so that my child is not forced to deal with a jumble of letters.  Also, the word must plainly match the word-of-the-day in the note.  (See Step 10.)  Fortune cookies make great accompaniments to “China food.”

10. THE NOTE: To be penned on a single heart-shaped sticky note, preferably red, though pink would also be acceptable.  Holiday-themed sticky pads may be substituted whenever appropriate.  Due the inherently unreliable stickiness of Post-It notes (as well as the cheap knockoffs), the note should be secured with tape to another lunch item — preferably a container, but a ziplock bag will also suffice.  Note the note should never be attached to cold item due to the risk of condensation-related water damage.)

The lunchtime love note should begin with a formal greeting (either ‘dear’ or ‘hi’ will do) followed by my child’s name, and end with a ‘<3 [lunch packer’s name].’  Black or blue ink.  If the sticky note is a color other than red, the heart should be shaded in with red ink.

The body of the note MUST contain a three or four-letter sight word suitable to the content of the message.  This sight word should highlighted (either underlined or all in capitals) and then S-P-E-L-L-E-D out, either immediately following the sentence which includes the sight word (i.e., “have a good day today!”  D-A-Y) or just before the signature.  As mentioned above, the body of these love notes should include well-wishes, interesting facts, information, and/or social prompts.

The love note is — and ought to be recognized as — the most essential component of my child’s lunch.  Because without the inclusion of that red (or pink) heart-shaped (or Christmas tree-shaped) sticky note in my son’s lunch bag (or box), my child will feel as if he’s been abandoned, his teachers will assume he is being neglected, I will have failed in my duties as a mother, and Child Protective Services will undoubtedly crucify me.  Which is why I make a point of being the BEST. LUNCH-PACK. EVER.

Here’s an idea: what if I were in charge of setting a state-mandated school lunch policy for ALL preschool children, and given unilateral discretion to determine what parents are required to send in with their kids — regulations which, if violated in the least, would end in confiscation, weighty fines, public humilation, suspension, and possibly even loss of custody for repeat offenders.  (Note to self: I’ve found my calling!)