Friday, June 30, 2006

No Watching the Watchers

Bowling alley, three stores, a gas station and a restaurant—that’s at least six places where security cameras probably recorded my image today. There are definite privacy implications here, but even those of us who feel uncomfortable with the idea of cameras recording too much of the public sphere would agree that such cameras are a godsend to people who live in deteriorating neighborhoods and have already suffered from a few break-ins.

Indeed, if you’re talking about a small apartment building that’s been targeted by criminals, you could even make a case that providing cameras to record the entryways and parking areas is the sign of a responsible landlord trying to keep his tenants safe. Unfortunately this can also get the landlord arrested in New Hampshire, especially if his camera catches an image of a cop doing something wrong. Here’s the story as reported by the Nashua Telegraph:

Michael Gannon, 49, of 26 Morgan St., was arrested Tuesday night, after he brought a video to the police station to try to file a complaint against Detective Andrew Karlis, according to Gannon’s wife, Janet Gannon, and police reports filed in Nashua District Court. Police instead arrested Gannon, charging him with two felony counts of violating state eavesdropping and wiretap law by using an electronic device to record Karlis without the detective’s consent.

The last time I went to New Hampshire, I don’t recall noticing whether Ye Olde Rustick Convenience Store had security cameras or not. But I’m certain the big chain stores did. I wonder if I could get any lawsuit money by going to New Hampshire and visiting a Ye Olde Rustick Wal-Mart?

Probably not, unless I became a cop first. But if I did, good God, I could be so rich:

Janet Gannon said [police] “secured” the house, and told her and her sister-in-law they had to stay out of it from around 8:45 p.m. Tuesday until about 4 a.m. Wednesday.
Police said they were waiting to get a warrant to search the house, Janet Gannon said.“They were waiting for a warrant to seize the cameras and the tapes in my house . . . because they said having these cameras was against the law. They’re security cameras,” she said, adding, “They said they could do that. They could seize my apartment.”

An apartment building would be nice to have, but a Wal-Mart would be even better. Why do I keep saying 'Wal-Mart'? Two reasons: not only do they have a lot of money, they also sold the Gannons the tools for their crimes:

The Gannons installed a video and audio recording system at their home, a four-unit building at 22-28 Morgan St., to monitor the front door and parking areas, family members told police. They installed the cameras about two years ago, buying the system at Wal-Mart, Janet Gannon told the police, according to reports filed in court. The Gannons have owned the property, which is assessed at $382,700, for the past three years, city records show.

To be honest, I don’t think my plan to get rich suing Wal-Mart will work. There’s got to be a loophole exempting big businesses and banks from this law. Even small business owners like the Gannons would probably be forgiven if they had footage of a kid keying a cop’s car or conducting a petty drug sale. It’s just images of police malfeasance that are against the law.
A Rose For Emily

The sad beginning of a creepy tale:

Doris Hairston loved her mother so much that she would never let her go. Even years after her death.
Cleveland police went to a dilapidated house on East 116th Street Wednesday to assist city health and building inspectors. Inside, they found the skeletal remains of Alice Hairston, 98, tucked into her bed.

I’m glad the police knew enough to take the daughter to a hospital rather than jail.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

No Laughing In The Face Of Death

The brouhaha over Joshua Belile is finally dying down. Belile, you may recall, is the Marine who was stationed in Iraq when he wrote and performed a funny little song for his fellow Marines. The lyrics tell a story—guy meets girl, guy falls in love with girl, girl’s family turns out to be a tad overprotective:

So, she took me down an old dirt trail, and she pulled up to a side shanty
And she threw open the door and I hit the floor. Cause her brother and her father shouted
Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad, Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah

They pulled out their AKs so I could see
And they said

Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah
So I grabbed her little sister and pulled her in front of me.

The sister’s fate is not a pretty one.

As the bullets began to fly
The blood sprayed from between her eyes
And then I laughed maniacally
Then I hid behind the TV

And I locked and loaded my M-16
And I blew those little f***ers to eternity.
And I said
Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah

They should have known they were f***ing with a Marine

Okay, it’s not very funny when you read it. But neither is “America, fuck yeah, coming again to save the motherfuckin’ day.” In both cases you have to listen to the actual song to appreciate the fact that it’s hilarious.

Today the Marines announced that he won’t face a court-martial. Good. But he shouldn’t have even faced facing a court-martial. Besides, he’s not out of the woods yet. As the article says:

Commanders of Cpl. Joshua Belile, 23, will handle the matter administratively, which can include informal counseling about his actions, military officials said.

With any luck, his commanding officers are all gruff, no-bullshit Marines of the old school who also happened to be English majors back in the day, so their informal counseling is: “You need to tighten the lyrics so that they flow a little smoother. Get working on it, Marine.”

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Spiritual Quest For The One True Website

Today I learned that the prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) has his own website (thank you, Linguist, for pointing this out).

Jesus has one too, but it’s very disappointing. He can turn water into wine but he can't make a site more than one lousy page? Mohammed’s website totally kicks Jesus’s website’s ass. Or it would if websites had asses.

I figured the gods in India would take after their worshippers and build amazing high-tech websites that cost a lot less than American ones, but damned if I can find them. Like Krishna, for example. There is no dearth of “Krishna’s websites” on the net but they look suspiciously like the work of ordinary mortals from Asia. Ganesh has nothing but an accounting-and-audit page in progress. In all of the Hindu pantheon I can’t find even one compelling online presence.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster is no blogger either, although his followers made a site to preach his Gospel.

Word of advice for anyone trying to find God: I don’t think you will online.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Six of One. . .

The good news: the flag-burning amendment failed in the Senate.

The bad news: Sixty-six out of a hundred Senators voted in favor of this abomination. Here’s the vote breakdown.

So of the two major parties, Democrats and Republicans, which one has the better track record when it comes to defending individual rights? A casual glance makes it clear: the Democrats are much better than the Republicans.

And being raped to death by five biker scumbags is much better than being raped to death by ten. Both options still suck.

YEAs ---66
Alexander (R-TN) Allard (R-CO) Allen (R-VA) Baucus (D-MT) Bayh (D-IN) Bond (R-MO) Brownback (R-KS) Bunning (R-KY) Burns (R-MT) Burr (R-NC) Chambliss (R-GA) Coburn (R-OK) Cochran (R-MS) Coleman (R-MN) Collins (R-ME) Cornyn (R-TX) Craig (R-ID) Crapo (R-ID) Dayton (D-MN) DeMint (R-SC) DeWine (R-OH) Dole (R-NC) Domenici (R-NM) Ensign (R-NV) Enzi (R-WY) Feinstein (D-CA) Frist (R-TN) Graham (R-SC) Grassley (R-IA) Gregg (R-NH) Hagel (R-NE) Hatch (R-UT) Hutchison (R-TX) Inhofe (R-OK) Isakson (R-GA) Johnson (D-SD) Kyl (R-AZ) Landrieu (D-LA) Lincoln (D-AR) Lott (R-MS) Lugar (R-IN)Martinez (R-FL) McCain (R-AZ) Menendez (D-NJ) Murkowski (R-AK) Nelson (D-FL) Nelson (D-NE) Reid (D-NV) Roberts (R-KS) Rockefeller (D-WV) Salazar (D-CO) Santorum (R-PA) Sessions (R-AL) Shelby (R-AL) Smith (R-OR) Snowe (R-ME) Specter (R-PA) Stabenow (D-MI) Stevens (R-AK) Sununu (R-NH) Talent (R-MO) Thomas (R-WY) Thune (R-SD) Vitter (R-LA) Voinovich (R-OH) Warner (R-VA)

NAYs ---34
Akaka (D-HI) Bennett (R-UT) Biden (D-DE) Bingaman (D-NM) Boxer (D-CA) Byrd (D-WV)Cantwell (D-WA) Carper (D-DE) Chafee (R-RI) Clinton (D-NY) Conrad (D-ND) Dodd (D-CT) Dorgan (D-ND) Durbin (D-IL) Feingold (D-WI) Harkin (D-IA) Inouye (D-HI) Jeffords (I-VT) Kennedy (D-MA) Kerry (D-MA) Kohl (D-WI) Lautenberg (D-NJ) Leahy (D-VT) Levin (D-MI) Lieberman (D-CT) McConnell (R-KY) Mikulski (D-MD) Murray (D-WA) Obama (D-IL)Pryor (D-AR) Reed (D-RI) Sarbanes (D-MD) Schumer (D-NY) Wyden (D-OR)

Monday, June 26, 2006

There, There

I guarantee there is at least one social or political issue on which we disagree. One issue—at least one—where we view it from completely different angles and you think “I am right and she is wrong about this.”

Naturally, I would like to debate this topic with you. That’s what this Internet/comment board/blog business is all about, right? The lofty give and take of ideas. So here’s my opening argument:

You are a self-important jackass who misses the point so well you could be a professional knife-thrower’s target. Remember that one thing your mom did when you were a kid that you’re still pissed off about? She did it because you were such a loathsome and ugly little child. Also: your parents never loved you.

* * *

I’m kidding, of course. I don’t mean a word of that last paragraph there. Besides, if we really were debating some topic, I wouldn’t think pointless insults might persuade you to see things my way.

But suppose I did? What do you think should happen? Well, I’d certainly deserve to lose all my friends. And the debate, too. Possibly my job if I said it there. But should I face legal consequences? Are my insults so bad that I should go to jail? And should the Constitution be amended to cover that?

Yes, yes, and yes, according to some of the nation’s top Senators, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter. He thinks the Constitution should be amended in regards to my statement because, as he said:

"It is designed to hurt. It is not designed to persuade."

Point taken. In all the history of world debate, there has never been a situation where someone thought “Gee, now that my opponent has called me a jackass and said something rude about my mother, I see that she was right and will shift my worldview to be in line with hers.” No, not persuasive at all. And quite hurtful, too. Read it again: “your parents never loved you.” Ouch.

So I think that—oh. Wait a minute. Whoops. After re-reading the article I see it’s actually flag-burning that Specter and company think should be outlawed for its hurtful non-persuasiveness.

The problem with symbols is that people tend to confuse them for what they symbolize. I remember the first proposed flag-burning amendment, when Bush the Elder was in office. A guy I knew at the time supported the amendment because “our Marines fought and died to plant that flag on Iwo Jima!”

“No, they didn’t,” I said. “They fought and died to take Iwo Jima away from the Japanese. If all they wanted to do was plant the flag then I’m sure Roosevelt and Tojo could’ve reached some agreement where the Japanese got to keep the island as long as they let six guys and a Life magazine photographer take a picture first.”

I was going to tell you that anecdote and then use it to illustrate some point about how the flag-burning amendment undermines the very ideals it claims to protect, but I’m having trouble taking this seriously because whenever I think of lawmakers who talk about Constitutional amendments to safeguard the sanctity of fabric and American freedom my mind fills with images of self-important jackasses who miss the point so well they could be professional knife-thrower’s targets. And I really mean it this time.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Munchausen Thinks of the Children

I can’t actually foretell the future, of course, but sometimes I can look at a kid and just know his life’s going to suck. Like that baby I saw being pushed in a stroller a few months ago: mom’s a chain-smoking teenage Goth chick who dressed her infant child in a black T-shirt that says I SUCK TITTY. The whole scene was sickeningly funny, but still I felt bad for the kid.

And also for one in this Christian Science Monitor article about parents who use various spy programs to keep track of their children’s online activities. Now, I understand that parents these days must worry about the potential for their kids to get in trouble online, and I think it's great that the parents in the story are handling the problem themselves rather than run screaming to the government to do something.

This parent, however, deserves to have her children write nasty books about her and eventually stick her in one of those horrible nursing homes they show on earnest public-television exposés:

Carolina Aitken, a mom in Santa Rosa, Calif., took her two teenage sons on the Dr. Phil show after she exposed their Internet misuse. She had contacted them via e-mail as "Candy Sweetness," a fictitious 16-year-old girl, to see if she could get them to give up their home phone number. One did.

If you ask Mom I’m sure she’ll say she went on TV to protect America’s children. Anyway, after the show the family finagled a write-up in their local newspaper:

Carolina Aitken of Humboldt County will be on the “Dr. Phil” show later this month.
In an e-mail to the Times-Standard, her husband Don Aitken wrote: “My wife wrote a letter to the Dr. Phil show in early March and was contacted by the Dr. Phil show April 9 and invited to appear on stage with Dr. Phil as a guest. The show then sent a film crew to our home in Loleta and spent the day filming and interviewing for the show.”
The couple was then flown down to Hollywood, where Carolina Aitken and her children appeared with the show's namesake, Phil McGraw, on stage at the Paramount lot.

Flown down to Hollywood! On stage with Dr. Phil! My oh my, the girls at the Canasta Club will just be pea-green, won’t they?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Paradise Lost

I don’t mean to do two religious-silliness posts in a row, but this is worth savoring over the weekend: a cartoon called After Eden, which lets creationists enjoy a hearty chuckle about those deluded followers of “Darwinism.”

The cartoon is, I suppose, the humor-outreach ministry branch of Answers in Genesis, a creationist website dedicating to teaching creationism and “upholding the authority of the Bible from the very first verse.” This website does a better job, I think, in that it has a very impressive sciencey look to it. Creationists are big fans of science, you know.

The cartoons also cover the life of Adam and Eve after getting expelled from the garden, and Noah before and after the flood.

In case you read too many cartoons and your brain starts feeling a little scungy, here are some pictures of kittens.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Avoiding Armageddon: A Call To Action

You know what’s wrong with the world today? It doesn’t show enough signs of coming to an end.

Fortunately, we have these guys to pick up the slack:

For thousands of years, prophets have predicted the end of the world. Today, various religious groups, using the latest technology, are trying to hasten it. Their endgame is to speed the promised arrival of a messiah. For some Christians this means laying the groundwork for Armageddon.With that goal in mind, mega-church pastors recently met in Inglewood to polish strategies for using global communications and aircraft to transport missionaries to fulfill the Great Commission: to make every person on Earth aware of Jesus' message. Doing so, they believe, will bring about the end, perhaps within two decades.

The story mentions people of all religions doing things like making priestly robes or sprucing up cities in prophecies. Another way to hasten the coming of the Messiah is through cattle farming:

Then there is Clyde Lott, a Mississippi revivalist preacher and cattle rancher. He is trying to raise a unique herd of red heifers to satisfy an obscure injunction in the Book of Numbers: the sacrifice of a blemish-free red heifer for purification rituals needed to pave the way for the messiah.So far, only one of his cows has been verified by rabbis as worthy, meaning they failed to turn up even three white or black hairs on the animal's body.

Lott’s lot in life is not an easy one. Let no one tell you that raising virgin cows for Christ is easy, for they doth lie:

Facing a maze of red tape and testing involved in shipping animals overseas — and rumors of threats from Arabs and Jews alike who say the cows would only bring more trouble to the Middle East — he has given up on plans to fly planeloads of cows to Israel. For now.In the meantime, some local ranchers have expressed an interest in raising their own red heifers for Israel, and fears of hoof-and-mouth disease and blue tongue forced Lott to relocate his only verified red heifer — a female born in 1993 — to Nebraska.Cloning is out of the question, he said, because the technique "is not approved by the rabbinical council of Israel." Artificial insemination has so far failed to produce another heifer certified by rabbis."Something deep in my heart says God wants me to be a blessing to Israel," Lott said in a telephone interview. "But it's complicated. We're just not ready to send any red heifers over there."

Remember at the beginning of this post, when I was complaining about how the world’s not ending quick enough for my taste? Well, I lied. Truth is, I don’t want the world to end, especially now that I’m finally starting to get the hang of it.

So I was thinking, maybe we should all raise some heifers of our own, right? Red ones, except for those three black or white hairs. And then just before the inspection rabbis come we use electrolysis to pluck the hairs out forever! Those dead cowhair follicles will keep us safe once the pre-Armageddon sacrifice is attempted.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Finding Beauty in Decay

Here’s a strangely gorgeous photo essay by artist Lowell Boileau, who is apparently a growing name in the field of artistic urban ruins.

Boileau’s pictures highlight the ruins of Detroit. That city's name has been synonymous with “urban squalor” for longer than I’ve been alive, but until I saw Boileau’s work I had no idea just how far it had fallen.

Of course we’ve all seen plenty of ruins or at least pictures of them—Pompeii, the Acropolis, Angkor Wat—but Boileau's pictures show that such images are far more haunting when it’s pieces of your own culture and country crumbling into rubble.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A Reverse Statute of Limitations

There are schools in Hawaii fighting for the chance to continue their racist admissions policies. As this article explains, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is debating

whether some private schools in Hawaii could lawfully give admissions preference to Native Hawaiians.

The Kamehameha Schools was established under the 1883 will of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop as part of a trust now worth $6.8 billion. Part of the school's mission is to counteract historic disadvantages Native Hawaiians face in employment, education and society. The trust subsidizes tuition.

I gather that this trust is administered wholly or in part by the state, and probably receives public funding in addition to its original endowment, so the question here isn’t “Can a private institution be racist if it wants to” but “can the state be racist.” I’d say no.

Well, I probably would say no. If this were any other state in the Union. Or any racial distinction other than “Native Hawaiian.”

I think Hawaii’s kind of a special case. It never wanted to join the Union, after all. Hawaii's a state today because we invaded a sovereign nation, overthrew its leader and forced it to rearrange its culture.

I have a large collection of 19th-century stereoscope cards. Right now, in fact, I’m holding one from a “Views of the World” set made around 1900. The card shows a picture of Governor S.B. Dole “on the palace grounds in Honolulu,” and the back has this to say about Hawaiian history (note how events are not listed in chronological order):

The Hawaiian Islands, now an American territory, were discovered by Captain James Cook in 1778 … The inhabitants were semi-civilized and had a kind of feudal state organization. In 1792 Vancouver brought them cattle and taught them shipbuilding. American fur traders furnished Kamehameha I of Hawaii firearms, whereby he was enabled to conquer the other islands. His dynasty ended only when on July 4, 1894, Hawaii was declared a republic. American missionaries introduced Christianity about 1820, and in 1840 a constitution was granted. King Kalakaua, and after him his sister Liliuokalani attempted to restore heathenism and an absolute monarchy, but were defeated. The queen was dethroned in 1893 and the civilized element placed the islands under the protection of the United States.

I have a hard time criticizing pro-Hawaiian preferences among Hawaiians, because I can’t tell a group of people “since we conquered you and your land, you are not allowed to view yourselves any differently than us.”

On the other hand, I know full well that there’s not a Hawaiian alive today who actually suffered through the American takeover, nor an American alive who was responsible for it.

On the other other hand (the possibilities here symbolized by one of those multi-armed Hindu gods), doesn’t that attitude boil down to “If Country A takes over Country B, country B’s children and grandchildren aren’t allowed to resent the takeover?”

That card is just over 100 years old. There are plenty of Hawaiians whose parents or grandparents lived through the takeover and discussed it with their children and grandchildren. How long before you can morally say “Shut up and accept our rules, we conquered your country fair and square?”

Or to put it another way, if one country conquers and absorbs another, how long until that stops being a Naked Act of Aggression and becomes the legally and morally enforceable status quo?

Can collective grievances ever be justified? (Yes, I know. Collective. Collectivism. The ultimate in obscene C-words among libertarians, who happen to be the main group I hope my new blog here appeals to. So why am I using it? I don’t know, but I’ll bet it’s connected somehow with why I was so unpopular in high school.) If so, when do they stop being justifiable? Should there be a reverse statute of limitations on racism, before which a group can get away with feeling resentful but after which it can’t?

Monday, June 19, 2006

My Second Chance to Make a First Impression

Let’s start this here blog off with a nice, non-controversial topic that everyone can agree on: North Korea totally sucks. This amateur photo essay, taken by a Russian tourist and later posted into a military history discussion forum, is interesting, but not particularly surprising. Creepy scary dystopian nightmare--yeah, that's North Korea for you. The photos are in color but the country is so bleak they may as well be black and white.

The one detail which haunted me the most: all the public spaces are far too clean. If you took even the most hardcore environmentalist and made him live in that preternaturally tidy country for a year, he'd come out writing odes to the beauty of litter. Yes, it’s annoying when you see things like food wrappers lying on the ground, but at least then you know there’s food to buy.

DISCLAIMER: Thanks to Jim Henley at Unqualified Offerings,
who offered me a guest spot on his blog a couple of weeks ago; Jesse Walker of Hit and Run, who called attention to it; and Number 6 of Grylliade, who brought Jesse's post to light.

Anybody whom I might offend here should bear in mind that if not for the actions of the aforementioned men, I probably never would even have started this blog. Think about that.
Clean Your Room

It’s against the law to do drugs, because drugs are bad for you. And the law’s making it harder and harder to smoke, because smoking is bad for you. Driving without a seatbelt? Bad for you and therefore illegal. Government’s even talking about regulating things like junk food or trans fats, because those might spoil your dinner. . . I mean, they're bad. Apparently the Constitution has an in loco parentis amendment nobody told me about.

And now this: keep your room nice and neat or else you’ll be out on the street.

Sam Shipkovitz came home late one evening to the swank Waterford House high-rise condominium building on Crystal Drive, where he'd lived for eight years, to find the door to his unit bolted shut. A bright yellow fire marshal's condemnation placard was fastened over the peephole: "Unfit for Human Habitation."
That was in October. He hasn't lived there since.

Granted, since he shared a building with many other condo owners there might be justification for some regulation of his household habits:

The kitchen was unusable: The floor and counters were covered with legal documents from one of his cases. "If one were to actually use the stove or oven," the county wrote, "it would certainly [engulf] the unit in flames.". . . "We take a more aggressive approach in multi-family settings," said Rob Dejter, a Montgomery County code enforcement official and part of the county's Working Group on Hoarding. "Someone out on a two-acre parcel is very different from someone in a condominium, rental apartment or townhouse who has rotting meat, roaches, organic waste, mice, rats and bacteria that can become airborne."

Removing a fire hazard or a rat warren from a crowded apartment building. . . maybe even a libertarian can agree with such a thing in principle. But how far do you take it?

"What constitutes unlawful messiness as opposed to acceptable messiness is very much in the eye of the beholder," said Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law scholar at George Washington University. "If you end up with a Felix Unger inspector, most every college student would be declared a hoarder."

Henry St. John Fitzgerald, former assistant U.S. attorney in Virginia and a friend of Shipkovitz's, is rallying advocates of private property rights to his cause. "Sam Shipkovitz is a hoarder. . . . But that's not the county's business," he said. "Locking him out -- that's government interference."

Fairfax County Supervisor Penelope A. Gross (D-Mason) has pushed the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments to devise a regional hoarding plan. She concedes that lockouts and forced cleanups are intrusive. "This is still evolving," she said. "And it's a whole lot better than leaving it alone like it used to be, where people would die in their hoarding houses because nobody knew."

Yes, now they can die homeless because somebody found out. I wonder whatever happened to this lady from the story:

Alexandria sheriff's deputies wheeled a wailing 83-year-old hoarder out of her apartment in an office chair in 1997 and dumped her and 40 years' worth of newspapers on the side of the street.

Better off homeless than in her own apartment, no?
Rap Music is Sesame Street’s Fault

History says that the first rap song to make it as a mainstream hit was Rapper’s Delight in 1979. That always made sense to me. Not that I cared one way or the other, but if I did I had no reason to doubt this bit of conventional wisdom. Until last weekend, when I found a bunch of old Sesame Street letter-and-number cartoons.

By the way, is there a single word to describe the flashback-style memory you get when you've completely forgotten an old Sesame Street song for over a quarter of a century, but once you hear the first notes you instantly remember the whole thing? Whether or not there is, I now think the first rap song to get national notice was actually Jim Henson’s King of Eight.

Best Sesame Street song that I completely forgot about: the disembodied acid-trip guy who counts to ten.
If Only All Marines Would Write Offensive Songs

I’ve opposed the Iraq War since before it started. In fact, whenever I hear complaints about the soldiers’ behavior I generally side with the complainants. So I’m certainly no war-crime apologist, and I can say in good conscience that people need to leave Joshua Belile the hell alone.

Belile’s the Marine stationed in Iraq who wrote and sang a song called Haji Girl, which probably wouldn’t have mattered except somebody posted a tape of it on the Internet, and that might not have been such a big deal if the tape hadn’t surfaced around the time our forces in Iraq found themselves accused of things like covering up civilian massacres and murdering detainees.

Anyway, the theory is that our 'hearts and minds' campaign won’t work if Marines sing songs about being ambushed and turning the tables on their attackers. So the brass is taking this quite seriously.

I thought the song was funny. So did the Marines you can hear laughing in the video. The thing about military guys in war zones is, even if they didn’t have a dark sense of humor before they got there they probably have one now. Also, if the most evil thing a man in a war zone does is write or laugh at a rude song, he’s a good man to have on your side.
Cautionary Fable of the 72 Virgins

Poor Joshua Belile. He isn’t the only one who tried writing a funny little story and found himself accused of malevolent and bigoted thoughts. You should see some of the rejection letters I got when I tried selling this:

There once lived a man named Mohammed Abdul
who grew up in a country barbaric and cruel.
He had no idea what a female looked like
since his culture demanded they stay out of sight.

Mohammed had nothing to fill up his days
but the five times he’d drop to his knees and then pray.
His God was his life, it was all that he had
save his anger, which hid the fact that he was sad

and lonely. A young man his age needs to date!
(If he’s busy with love, he’ll have less time to hate.)
Thus he grew up in a sad scary nation
where young men have nothing but prayers and frustration.

Mohammed’s whole future looked lonesome and dim
til the day when his God did appear unto him
and said: “There’s this building I want to blow up
but it seems that I do not have power enough

to destroy it. That is why I need your help.
First I want you to strap a few bombs to yourself,
then enter the building, and set the bombs off!”
Though Mohammed knew he would be foolish to scoff,

he said, “Gracious Allah, I don’t understand
why you must do your work through a mere mortal man.
You could send a storm in to knock it all down.
You’re the Lord God of All; why you need me around?”

Then Allah said, “That is a dumb thing to say
to the God to whom you always kneel down and pray;
I know you’re unhappy. I know that you doubt
that your life has a point. Well, I have a way out!

Just blow up the building, and after you die
I will take you to live with me up in the sky.”
Mohammed said, “That’s not a very good deal.
Can’t you offer me something that I’d want for real?”

So God said, “How’s this? If you give up your life
I’ll reward you by giving you six dozen wives.”
Mohammed said: “That gift of yours sounds obscene.
I despise women, since they’re all filth! And unclean!”

And Allah said, “Dearest Mohammed, I know
you have no first-hand knowledge of women, and so
the thought of a female makes you sick with dread—
you’re afraid she’ll discover you’re lousy in bed!

Here is the way to avoid your aversion—
the wives whom I give you will be clueless virgins!
All soft, quiet women with lovely dark eyes
who’ll obey you forever. How’s that for a prize?”

Mohammed considered the bleak life he faced;
then he thought of a Paradise that would be graced
by soft, quiet women who’d all let him do
any sad, inept sex-things he’d set his mind to.

That’s when he said, “All right, Allah, I’ll do it!”
It’s easy to die once you set your mind to it.
Mohammed strapped dynamite sticks to his waist
and knelt once more toward Mecca, to say one last grace

and went to the building God said he despised
and screamed “Allah akbar!” and blew it sky-high.
Mohammed felt pain for a short endless time
and blacked out for awhile, and then woke up to find

he stood next to Allah, who smiled and said,
“The best part of your life will come now that you’re dead!
Behold all the virgins I give unto you!
Count them all—it should come out to seventy-two.”

Mohammed looked eagerly out to his prize.
Sure enough, there were six dozen pairs of dark eyes
and yards of black cloth. But he saw nothing more
because each woman hid herself in a chador.

He tore off the veil of a woman close by
and then yelped in disgust at what greeted his eyes—
her whole face was covered with red warts and bumps
like a toad who had smallpox and then caught the mumps.

The end of her nose was too far from her face
and her louse-ridden hair stuck all over the place.
Her waist and her hips were too fleshy and thick;
had Mohammed a stomach, he would have been sick.

But since he was dead, with no stomach to hurl
he just turned his attention unto the next girl.
Egad! and Gadzooks! This one looked even worse!
Nearly ten times as hideous as did the first!

The next one looked worse! And the fourth one worse still!
Then he heard Allah laughing—so evil. So shrill.
He turned to face Allah and saw that he’d changed—
all his teeth had grown sharper, his smile deranged

two pointy-sharp horns grew from out of his head
and his eyes and his skin gleamed a bright shade of red.
“Mohammed,” said Allah, “you’re really a fool.
Since your last act on earth broke the cardinal rule

against killing folks who’d committed no crime,
you should know your reward will be less than sublime.
You killed all those people who’d done nothing wrong,
and then you think that you’ll go to Heaven? Come on!

Now, here’s what eternity will be for you:
you’ll have sex with these women, all seventy-two.
You’ll do them all once. Then you’ll do them again.
And continue to do them, until time might end.”

Mohammed protested, “I did it for you!
I said no, but you said that you wanted me to!”
“You only said ‘no’ til I said you’d get laid.
If you think with your dick you’ll be one, I’m afraid.”

At last, then, Mohammed could figure it out,
and he shrieked, “Now I realize what you’re all about!
You’re not God at all! No, not even a bit!
You are Iblis! The Devil! You’re Satan, that’s it!”

“And you did my bidding! Good job! Way to go!
You killed three hundred ninety-five people there, Mo!”
This made Satan laugh ’til he looked like he’d choke,
and then he disappeared in a puff of red smoke.

The virgins surrounded Mohammed as he
turned around in a panic and started to flee.
A few of them reached out, and ripped off his clothes,
and. . . well, you figure out where the rest of this goes.
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