A moment of silence for the loud

Ben Miller, vocalist for Gruntruck and Skin Yard, died Monday of diabetes-related complications. He was 46.

Date: January 28, 2008
Seattle, WA USA

Subject: Seattle Rock Singer Ben McMillan Loses Battle With Diabetes

After an eight-year battle with diabetes, Ben Scott McMillan, legendary vocalist for Gruntruck and Skin Yard died in his hometown of Seattle, Washington, U.S.A. at age 46.

Complications from a related blood-clotting disease are said to have worsened his diabetic condition, which was severe.

The survivng members of Gruntruck, as well as other Seattle rock luminaries are planning an assortment of tributes and memorial projects in his name; details to follow.

The above from the band’s MySpace page.

Travis Hay shares his memories of Gruntruck at Ear Candy.

A hard proposition to swallow

Sometimes I’ll poke fun at the firearms advocates by making a porn joke. After all, it is not uncommon when gun control debates flare up in the public discourse to hear the claim that a gun will protect all our other rights. And while I often disagree with those people about what the Second Amendment actually says, that argument is not my point here.

Adults Only ...?Rather, I’ll point out that the First Amendment is constantly violated. I cannot show, say Deep Throat on broadcast television, say, on a Saturday morning. Well, I can’t show it anytime, but it helps the joke, I think, to try to inject the pornography into hours when there might be lots of children watching television. Or maybe on a Sunday, alongside the plethora of church sermons.

So come on, I’ll say. Where are the gun owners defending our rights? Don’t take me wrongly: I really don’t think running Deep Throat on CBS should be something to start a shooting war over. I just think it’s a fun way of making the point that the only right the firearms people are interested in protecting is their right to shoot things. Cans, animals, other people. Whatever.

It’s an argument best left for another day, I suppose. Or maybe not. Rob Kievit notes for Radio Netherlands:

A stale old porn movie is at the centre of a political row involving Dutch public television. Public broadcasting corporations VPRO and BNN are planning to screen Deep Throat, a 1972 vintage production, as part of a themed night on the history of pornographic films. Although the film will be aired after midnight and be embedded in a discussion programme, political parties are clamouring for steps to be taken.

I admit, though, I don’t recall ever making the joke about PBS. Score one for the Dutch. And it’s not like these networks are strangers to comedy. Kievit points out that VPRO was the first Dutch network to show a naked woman during prime time, apparently during the 1960s. BNN pioneered a controversial reality show last year, in which contestants competed for a donor kidney. Amid a predictable uproar, the show played out and revealed itself to be a hoax intended to start a public dialogue about organ donation.

The controversy over Deep Throat includes some rhetoric familiar to Americans—

In online discussion groups, participants suggest that the Christian Union had better turn its attention to the excessive amount of violence shown on TV. They also say that people who do not want to watch explicit sex can always reach for the off button, or change channels.

—and also some notions we might envy:

Dutch public television – government-funded, but editorially independent – is trying desperately to win back younger viewers who generally prefer the commercial channels. If broadcasters break laws in doing so, the government can only intervene afterwards. Trying to stop a show before it has been aired is seen as preventive censorship, and that is anathema to Dutch political culture. Most politicians, the likes of Arie Slob possibly excepted, would rather be seen dead than censor the media.

And I’m not saying a goddamned thing about … er … well, right. At any rate, what the hell ever happened to our First Amendment? And where the hell is Charlton Heston?

(A tip o’the hat and much appreciation to Kit at Words, Words, Words.)

But … that … just … doesn’t make sense!

Okay, I’m going to run a sentence by you: A father has been sentenced to forty-six months in prison for using a stun gun on his eighteen month old child.

Yes, you read that correctly. No, it is not some twisted joke of mine. Although it might have been some twisted joke of his. The Associated Press reports:

A former Albany man has been sentenced to 46 months in prison for using a high-voltage stun gun on his 18-month-old son.

Rian Wittman was arrested in February and agreed to a plea bargain last year. The sentence was imposed Friday.

Prosecutor Reed Dinsmore said the stun gun delivered 30,000 volts during testing.

“This is a case of a father torturing his 18-month-old son,” prosecutor Reed Dinsmore said. “Why? We can’t tell.”

He said it’s not yet known whether the child will suffer long-term nerve or neurological damage.

The prosecution said the child’s mother saw marks on the boy in January 2007 and, thinking it was a rash, wanted to take him to a doctor.

But Wittman talked her out of it, Dinsmore said.

He described to her that he used the stun gun to play peekaboo with the child,” Dinsmore said. “The mother did not report the incident, and that was a mistake on her part.”

Peekaboo? But … but …. I mean, come on. That doesn’t even begin to make sense.

Nonetheless, it took a second incident before the mother removed the child to her sister’s home and contacted the police. Now, if you’ve ever lived in Oregon, perhaps you will understand why I’m not surprised that Mr. Wittman and his attorney are arguing that the mother caused the injuries. Which is, of course, the best reason under the sun to plead out.

(With thanks, I think, to Mr. Savage.)

Transcript: “Anonymous” threatens Scientology

Transcript of the Project Chanology threat by Anonymous against the Church of Scientology, Inc.:

Hello, leaders of Scientology. We are Anonymous.

Over the years, we have been watching you: your campaigns of misinformation, your suppression of dissent, your litigious nature; all of these things have caught our eye. With the leakage of your latest propaganda video into mainstream circulation, the extent of your malign influence over those who have come to trust you as leaders has been made clear to us. Anonymous has therefore decided that your organization should be destroyed. For the good of your followers, for the good of mankind, and for our own enjoyment, we shall proceed to expel you from the internet, and systematically dismantle the Church of Scientology in its present form.

We recognize you as serious opponents, and do not expect our campaign to be completed in a short time frame. However, you will not prevail forever against the angry masses of the body politic. Your choice of methods, your hypocrisy, and the general lawlessness of your organization have sounded its death knell. You have nowhere to hide, because we are everywhere. You have no recourse in attack, because for each of us that falls, ten more will take his place.

We are cognizant of the many who may decry our methods as parallel to those of the Church of Scientology, those who espouse the obvious truth that your organization will use the actions of Anonymous as an example of the persecution of which you have, for so long, warned your followers—this is acceptable to Anonymous. In fact, it is encouraged. We are your SPs.

Over time, as we begin to merge our pulse with that of your church, the suppression of your followers will become increasingly difficult to maintain. Believers will become aware that salvation needn’t come at the expense of their livelihood. They will become aware that the stress and the frustration that they feel is not due to us, but a source much closer to them. Yes, we are SPs, but the sum of suppression we could ever muster is eclipsed by that of your own RTC.

Knowledge is free.

We are Anonymous.

We are legion.

We do not forgive.

We do not forget.

Expect us.

Hordes of evil dwarves?

God, I wish I was high.

I mean … there are so many things wrong with what comes next:

Dwarves zipped in suitcases steal from Swedes“, by Lucy Cockcroft

Let me state clearly that I did not make that up.

Criminal gangs are using dwarves in a ruse to steal from the luggage holds of long-distance coaches, by hiding them inside suitcases, according to police.

The bizarre crime is on the rise in Sweden and officers say thieves have got away with thousands of pounds in cash, jewellery and other valuables in recent months.

Gangs are said to sneak the dwarves into the luggage hold, hidden inside baggage.

Then, once the journey has begun, the stowaways are free to rifle through the bags of other passengers without fear of being apprehended.

Before the coach arrives at its destination the dwarves take their loot back into their suitcase, zip themselves inside and wait to be collected by their partners in crime.

And I learned something from this article, too. I mean, there is a theoretical purpose to political correctness, but sometimes it’s just a bit too much. Like the police spokesman in Stockholm, who said, “We are looking at our records to identify criminals of limited stature.”

Well, that does better than “vertically challenged”. Although I don’t see what would be so impolite about actually saying that they are looking through their records to identify “criminals who would fit in a suitcase”.

I won’t even start on Mulch Diggums and Mini-Me.

Headline of the Day

Not often you get to read one like this: “WA man sentenced for theft of 93 pounds of women’s undergarments


No, seriously, what the hell am I supposed to do with that?

A man who pleaded guilty to stealing 93 pounds of women’s undergarments in Pullman has been given a 45-day sentence.

Garth Flaherty, 24, may serve 30 days of his term in community service under the sentence he was given Friday in Whitman County Superior Court.

He pleaded guilty in an agreement with prosecutors after being charged with first-degree theft and burglary in the stealing of 1,613 pairs of panties, bras and other women’s underwear from laundry rooms.

Okay, I admit, a couple of obscure jokes come to mind, but one actually qualifies as a cliché, and who here would understand a crack about George, the news agent on the corner?

Art is …. (redux)

If, just to throw a random dart, art is a testament to futility, perhaps Graziano Cecchini wins the prize. Described by RadarOnline as a “right-wing Italian art prankster”, Cecchini gained some notoriety last year when he dyed the waters of Rome’s historic Trevi Fountain red as a protest against the costs of the city’s film festival. While Cecchini is said to be under police surveillance in the wake of that stunt, nobody stopped him from sending a half-million colored plastic balls down the famed Spanish Steps. Radar’s Michael Dougherty reports that Cecchini was quoted as saying that each of the balls “represented a lie told by a politician”. The Associated Press said that Cecchini told TG5, an Italian newscast, that he creates “art—if we want to call it art—to stress our malaise”.

Image by Reuters (Remo Casilli)

The question arises, as indeed it is invited by Cecchini himself, as to whether or not such demonstrations qualify as art. While an act of minor and apparently harmless vandalism, like the Trevi Fountain stunt, might have a hard time achieving proper artistic status, there is, in dumping a half-million balls down what has been dubbed the longest and widest staircase in Europe, some aspect of performance art. To the other, though, such art does seem futile. While leaflets distributed at the scene asserted, “Italians’ balls are broken“, it could be that the number is insufficient.  Rome is, after all, among the most venerable cities in the world, and while the world has witnessed much turmoil and corruption in modern Italian politics, we can only speculate at the real number of lies told over the millennia.

For the record, some of the balls that were recovered by passers-by turned up on eBay within a few hours of the demonstration.

Washington State Patrol: Above the law?

For most people, it is illegal to take the license plates off one car and drive around with them affixed to another. Of course, Washington State Patrol troopers aren’t most people.

Perhaps it seems a small thing, but the actions of Trooper Bradford A. Moon serve as a reminder that police officers are not subject to the law. Motorist Dave Milbrandt raised the issue after he received a $247 ticket for speeding on Highway 4 near Longview, Washington. Trooper Moon, who wrote the ticket, was driving an unmarked Dodge Charger with Oregon plates taken from a car he owned. Moon’s superiors have expressed concern:

Moon, who removed the Oregon plates after the incident came to light, was trying to be creative in catching speeders but should have told his superiors, State Patrol Sgt. Randy Hullinger said Monday.

“It’s not typically something that is done,” Hullinger said.

We encourage our troopers to look at innovative ways to catch people,” he said, “but it’s always good to run innovative ideas past somebody else so we can consider all possible outcomes.

“He went out on his own. He was attempting to use some initiative to solve a problem, which is our job, but in this case it looks like maybe judgmentwise he should have run it by somebody else.”

Moon failed to consider that “the first thing the motoring public might think is, ‘Is this a police impersonator?’ ” Hullinger said.

When they see a nonstandard police car, we want people to understand that when all the lights go on … this is for real — but if there are Oregon plates on the car, there’s just that much more concern in the public’s eye it might not be a police car.”

Apparently, the thought of state patrol troopers breaking the law in the line of duty is not an issue for concern. According to the Associated Press, Trooper Moon will not face disciplinary action, and Washington State Patrol officials think the ticket should stand.

There are circumstances under which the police are within their right to break laws, or appear to break laws. Operating as a buyer for illegal gun sales or large quantities of cocaine, for instance. But Trooper Moon’s ploy, while it certainly seems minor, is important. That it is a minor offense suggests that it’s not really so important to calculate such a deception. If Moon stopped Milbrandt right where the speed zone occurs, that’s a fairly petty stop, anyway; the kind of thing that gets people muttering about cops who have to fill monthly quotas. To the other, if Milbrandt sped along without regard for the changing speed limit, it seems rather silly that the State Patrol would even need such deceptive measures to catch him.

An analogy would be prostitution stings. Busting a hooker is one thing, and, in the end, a debatable—at best—priority in many jurisdictions. But it would seem rather silly and untoward to actually bang the hooker first, and then arrest her.  Such behavior, to judge by the State Patrol’s regard for its officers breaking the law, would be just dandy.

Perhaps such a presumption is inappropriate, but the Washington State Patrol website does not seem to offer any information for public consumption regarding the standards of conduct or ethics required of its troopers. There is no mention of such information in the site map, and apparently question does not come up very frequently.

Legal notes: Two counts of, “You’re kidding, right?”

Really, I didn’t see this coming:

In an effort to help Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, the American Civil Liberties Union is arguing that people who have sex in public bathrooms have an expectation of privacy ….

…. The ACLU wrote that a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling 38 years ago found that people who have sex in closed stalls in public restrooms “have a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

That means the state cannot prove Craig was inviting the undercover officer to have sex in public, the ACLU wrote ….

…. The ACLU argued that even if Craig was inviting the officer to have sex, that wouldn’t be illegal …..

…. The ACLU also pointed out that Craig was originally charged with interference with privacy. The ACLU said that was an admission by the state that people in the bathroom stall expect privacy.

Strangely, it kind of makes sense. I suppose it’s a Minnesota thing, and I can’t guarantee the same principle holds in Washington state. So I don’t know if it will help anyone who gets kicked out of the Showbox for smoking pot in the bathroom. Nonetheless, stay tuned.

• • •

Neither did I expect this:

The domestic-violence charge against Seattle City Councilman Richard McIver has been dropped by King County prosecutors a day before the case was set to go to trial ….

…. King County District Court Judge Linda Thompson ruled Tuesday that the 911 calls and statements McIver’s wife made to police after an altercation Oct. 10 would not be admissible as evidence in the trial, which was scheduled to start Wednesday. The ruling was based, in large part, on Marlaina Kiner-McIver’s demeanor when she spoke with police and a 911 dispatcher.

Because Kiner-McIver was calm and had time to reflect on her comments, her statements are not considered “excited utterances” and therefore are hearsay and cannot be used to support the charges, Thompson said. Excited utterances are generally considered admissible because it’s assumed someone under the stress of an upsetting incident could not spontaneously lie.

Citing the same reason, Thompson also ruled that prosecutors could not question the Seattle police officer who responded to the McIver home just after midnight on Oct. 10 about what Kiner-McIver told him.

Okay, now, there is more to this story. On the one hand, McIver had claimed his innocence, but has also expressed that he’s angry with the judicial system, saying that people had no right to delve into his private life. Apparently, when his wife calls the police to report a domestic violence incident, McIver considers that part of his private life.

To the other, McIver’s wife—at least, according to the councilman’s attorney—has recanted the accusation, claiming that she made up the story because she was upset with he husband. There is no word, as yet, whether Ms. Kiner-McIver will be charged with any wrongdoing for filing a false police report.

But I find the argument that a woman who reports domestic violence is unreliable if she is not blithering upset to be rather chilling. The suggestion that a calm, coherent narrative of events in question makes a witness unreliable seems somehow … well … wrong.

Consider old episodes of COPS. Or the sordid 911 tapes of this or that scandal. A police officer or 911 operator might be heard to say, “Ma’am, you need to calm down. I can’t understand you. Can you please calm down?” And think of those enraged, bawling women we saw on COPS, shouting about how her (bleep) husband (bleep)ing (bleep) and (bleep-bleep-bleep). Perhaps it makes me a horrible person, but someone so infuriated just might be prone to exaggeration. They are, in theory, at least as unreliable as Judge Thompson would imagine someone calm enough to calculate a lie.

The presumption of calculation, I think, is what seems so difficult. It suggests an unfortunate circumstance for our police officers that, in domestic violence cases, they are apparently obliged to disbelieve the person who can give them a calm, coherent account of whatever events have transpired.

Perhaps, then, it is simply best to wonder what Seattle Times reporters Natalie Singer and Jennifer Sullivan have left out of their report. Because, frankly, something just doesn’t add up.