The Hostel Life is run by cowards

I recently read an excellent article by Shambling After about her time in a bathhouse in Istanbul. Take a look. The event clearly represents a significant moment for her, and I think it obviously deserves a bit of respect. As such, when I saw it reposted on The Hostel Life I wanted to leave a quick comment of praise. I did, but then I thought about it a little more. The title. It’s…it’s awful:

Rub-a-Dub-Dub in a Hamam Tub

The article is the same, but this really does it a disservice. This wasn’t some trite throwaway piece meant to bring about a quick chuckle from the audience. Anyone who reads the article – and you should – won’t be able to avoid realizing it has clear emotional gravity to the writer. I think she conveys that fact admirably, which is why she gave it an intelligent title on her blog. Unfortunately, the yellow rubber ducky image The Hostel Life implants in the reader’s mind is misleading and a poor way to start any serious writing. I had to leave a second comment to voice my opinion:

Incidentally, while this article is absolutely wonderful, I think the title is misleading. “Rub-a-Dub-Dub” implies a light-hearted, whimsical piece. It sounds to me like this was a significant experience for the writer, something which carries with it striking weight for her even today. It would be nice if the title reflected that.

I actually went ahead and made it a point to save that because I had my suspicions. The Hostel Life is one of those sites that moderates all comments. That tells me they aren’t very interesting in discussion they can’t control, and when they do have control, they’re going to be censor-happy. Even though my comment could only be described as respectful constructive criticism, I got the distinct sense that some coward wasn’t going to approve it.

It looks like I was right.

It has now been a full week since I attempted to comment on the unrepresentative title and nothing has appeared. The first comment I left praising the piece showed up within hours. It’s hard to tell if anyone else has commented in the News section since my second attempt because there are no time stamps on comments, but I find it difficult to believe no administrator has looked at the submitted reader posts since January 14th. It seems that the most reasonable conclusion is that there is some censorious asshat over at The Hostel Life that can’t deal with a little well-intended criticism.

It’s too bad, too. Bathing in Istanbul is a great article – with a great title to boot.

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Haiti

As I have mentioned in the past, I will be visiting Haiti this March as part of a course I am taking at my university. The focus of our study is global health, and Haiti will be used to illustrate many of the things we will be learning. Here is an excellent video by Hans Rosling that should give a good idea of what the class is all about:

In addition to possibly seeing awful things such as kwashiorkor first hand, we will be conducting programs for local children and volunteering at the village health center in Casale. (Spellings of the place vary, but this version can be found in Google Earth.) We will also bring a number of donations, including clothes and cash. The average annual income for Haitians is roughly $1,000, so the straight cash they get (which will be more than that) will serve as a big boost to the local economy. The other supplies will clearly also go a long way. Of course, we only have a troupe of 10 people, so what we can do is somewhat limited, especially whereas 9 of us are students. More donations are welcomed:

Ways you can support the Team by:

  • Donate craft items and school supplies (paper, stickers, colored pencils, school pencils, pencil sharpeners, glue sticks, beads, ….)
  • Donate supplies for the Health Center (disposable diapers, children’s vitamins, pre-natal vitamins, ibuprofen, aspirin, hydrocortisone cream, antibiotic ointment…)
  • Donate items for the On-line Silent Auction in support of the trip and then participate in the auction. Auction begins 2/1/12. Details can be found at http://faculty.uma.edu/SBaker/
  • Send a donation in support of the Team to: Office of University Advancement, UMA, 46 University Drive, Augusta, ME, 04330 (checks payable to UMA with Team Haiti noted on the check).

I am not the point-person for all this, but I obviously am not going to turn away anything anyone wants to give. I don’t want cash (use the information listed above for that), but I will be more than happy to take any of the other listed items (this is mostly for people who read this and personally know me or live in central Maine). I will also update things as the online auction gets closer.

My plan is to invest in a number of Mountain House meals since we have to supply some of our own food. They’re light and easy to crush without any real consequences, so they will save a bunch in weight and space for our bags, freeing things up for other supplies (which, obviously, will also see an investment from me). Of course, I can only buy so many $6 meals – plus we need to be able to easily share our food with our hosts – so there are logistical issues here, but I’m sure it will all work out.

If you can donate, please do.

Where Scalia and Thomas are plainly moral monsters

The Supreme Court recently made a 7-2 ruling which favored convicted murderer Cory Maples. Here are the basics. Maples was represented by a prominent firm, Sullivan and Cromwell, following his murder conviction. He and his current lawyers contend that the lawyers who represented him during his trial were incompetent (and underpaid) and as such he should be able to appeal his sentence of death. (He is not contesting his guilt.) Unfortunately, a series of terrible events made him miss a filing deadline. His first pro bono lawyers left Sullivan and Cromwell without informing their client. Then crucial letters he had sent off were marked returned to sender instead of being passed on to other lawyers. His local counsel, needed for formality reasons, took no action because the other lawyers were suppose to take the lead. A clerk also did nothing. Maples found out about everything about a month after the deadline. State and federal courts then said they could not waive the deadlines, largely because the actions of one’s lawyers is seen to also be the actions of the client.

Clearly we have a whole bunch of horseshit going on here. Maples is the victim of circumstances beyond his control from his prison cell. He did everything within his own power to meet the deadline for appealing. Justice Ginsburg, noting that deadlines usually are not touched by the courts, said this situation was unique because Maples “lacked any clue that he had better fend for himself.” It’s obvious that Maples deserves better than this, regardless of his crime.

What makes this all especially egregious is that Maples has a pretty good claim that had he been adequately represented he probably would have avoided the death penalty. The jury vote for murder-by-committee was 10-2, the minimum required under Alabama law. Had his trial lawyers not “appear to be stumbling around in the dark”, as one of them actually said in court, then it seems perfectly plausible that the man could have convinced at least one more person that he doesn’t deserve to be murdered.

Political figure Antonin Scalia and Chester the Terrier avatar Clarence Thomas saw things differently. They believed Maples was represented just fine through the whole process. After all, Scalia notes, once Sullivan and Cromwell were informed of the error their former employees made, they took action. This makes sense. I mean, who wouldn’t want a system where post hoc representation is the norm? “Sure, your lawyer was snorting blow and banging hookers while paying alley bums to get into fist fights, but his firm took action and fired him 8 years after your conviction. I don’t see what you’re whining about, pussy.”

Scalia then takes things one stupid step further and makes this terrible argument:

“The trick will be to allege,” Justice Scalia wrote, “not that counsel was ineffective, but rather that the counsel’s ineffectiveness demonstrates that he was not a genuinely representative agent.”

In other words, this decision may open up better legal avenues for defendants, thus we shouldn’t allow it. This is why I hate this purely political piece of shit. He is more concerned with closing off doors to fair trials than making the right decision. Justice Ginsburg notes that this situation is quite specific and unique, so Scalia’s argument is moot, but I don’t see what it matters even if he is right. So what if clients can argue that they never had genuine representation? Let the courts decide if that’s the case or not – just as they did here.

This is the M.O. for Scalia. He looks down the road at results he would personally dislike and sacrifices doing what is legally right as a result. Take Lawrence v Texas. He was perfectly happy to allow anti-sodomy laws because he feared the decision would open the road to gay marriage. It wasn’t that he thought there was any real legitimacy to the government criminalizing private acts of sex. Nope, he just doesn’t want them there gays to be gettin’ married. Just the same, he doesn’t want to see Maples get a fair shake at the system if it means a lot of other people will have more options; the man wants to keep doors closed. It’s such insane logic that I can’t help but condemn this shitbag for being a moral monster. He forsakes the law and tries to bring harm to people on illegitimate grounds. I really won’t be in the least bit upset when he dies. (The same goes for the pube guy.) I just hope it happens while we have a Democrat in office.