Thursday, September 22, 2011

It’s the same old story

Boy meets girl.

Boy loves girl.

Girl loves boy.

Boy marries girl.

Boy and girl move to USA.

Boy files application for girl’s Greencard.

Boy and girl wait eight months.

Boy and girl receive letter from Department of Homeland Security asking for additional fees.

Boy sends Department of Homeland Security a copy of their application instructions and a letter explaining that according to their own instructions those fees don’t apply.

Boy and girl wait two months.

Boy and girl receive a notice from Department of Homeland Security asking for a copy of her immigration medical examination and tuberculosis tests.

Boy calls Department of Homeland Security to explain that girl has already submitted proof of medical tests.

Department of Homeland Security provides no answers over the phone.

Boy sends Department of Homeland Security detailed letter along with copies of DHS instructions with relevant sections highlighted to explain that the medical tests have already been submitted and accepted as part of girl’s original visa application. Boy explains that girl being in the US is actually proof that the medical tests have been submitted and accepted.

Boy and girl wait two months.

Boy and girl receive letter from Department of Homeland Security ignoring letter from boy and reiterating request for medical tests.

Boy and girl have second set of medical tests completed and send them to Department of Homeland Security.

Boy and girl wait 3 months.

Boy and girl hear nothing.

Boy calls Department of Homeland Security, is unsatisfied with answers given over the phone, and requests appointment.

Boy and girl take time off work and drive two hours for appointment.

Boy almost punches Department of Homeland Security asshole who asks stupid question.

Girl calms down boy and boy and girl meet with knowledgeable Department of Homeland Security staff.

Girl receives Greencard in mail.

Boy and girl wait two years.

Boy files application to remove restrictions on Greencard and includes tax returns and lease agreements.

Boy and girl wait six months.

Boy and girl receive letter from Department of Homeland Security asking for tax returns and lease agreements!!!

When I first started looking into how to work with the Department of Homeland Security, I ran across a statement that said that US Immigration Services are “staffed by idiots and managed by worse.”  I laughed at the time.  I’m not laughing now.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Gods Might be Crazy, but even they know justice when they see it

As anyone who’s been there will tell you, standing in front of a judge ready to pronounce sentence on you is an experience like no other.  In my rough and tumble adolescence, I stood before several judges.  One was old and nearly senile; another was young, aggressive, and politically conscious; and one, heaven forbid, was even fair.  These differences aside, one constant strain runs through every court house in this nation and most others: ALL judges are absolute, unquestionable gods in their courtrooms.  With their pronouncements and punctuating gavel slamming they break the strongest thugs and send mothers and wives to the floor in puddles of their own grief. 

I once saw a judge—moments before I was to stand in front of him mind you—issue a string of multi-year sentences like he was ordering Chalupas at the Taco Bell drive thru. Apparently several people had been party to the same crime.  They were all standing in front of him in a row clad in EBRPP orange.  As he robotically read the law from a stack of papers on his desk, he started handing out sentences left and right:  twelve years here, fifteen there, eighteen here, and twenty-five there and there.  The panic I felt having to go in front of him, the blood from his victims still wet on the courtroom floor, sticks with me to this day.

When I heard this week that one of these assholes was finally getting his, I felt just a little warmer inside. I felt that the world was just a little bit better for it, the sun a little bit brighter, the breeze a little bit cooler, the grass just that much greener. 

Here’s the story:  Some cock judge in Pennsylvania had been sending a bunch of juveniles up the river for years at a stretch for such heinous infractions as going joyriding in mom’s car, getting in a fight at school, and making a blog post about how much they hated their principle.  And, wouldn’tyaknowit, the fucking judge was getting kickbacks from the privately-owned juvenile detention center that benefited financially by having its cells full of low-grade delinquents.  The goddamn lid was finally blown off of this insanely immoral arrangement recently. And this, and I think I’m being generous here, FUCKING piece of @#$%@#!!!! was finally convicted for it. 

Soon this ex-judge will stand in front of another black-robed thug with a god complex and hear about the lives he’s ruined and the social damage he’s wreaked.  And, for one tiny, yes-there-is-justice-in-the-world moment he’ll know exactly how small he’s made so many others feel. 

And then he’ll be put in a cell with a child molester!


Friday, January 28, 2011

State of the Union, a coupl'a joints, and a waste of money!

The Spring semester just began, and, as has happened far more often than I care to admit, I didn’t quite have my materials in order.  There was still some work left to do on the syllabus, the Blackboard menus weren’t formatted, and I hadn’t spent all that much time thinking about what I would do for the first class.  Ultimately, however, I was fortunate in that I was able to leave my day job a little early so as to make it to the college in time to do a little brainstorming and give the appearance at least that I had invested hours upon hours of time crafting this first day’s lecture and discussions.  And, as is often the case, I think things went pretty well.  Indeed, I don’t think I’m alone in saying that instructors tend to do some of their best work under a modest amount of pressure.

Leaving the college just after 9:00pm, I turned to C-span Radio to catch the first part of the President’s State of the Union address for the short drive home.  When I got home, I watched the rest on Television.  All in all, I was pleased with the speech.  Hell, I really can’t remember the last time I hadn’t enjoyed a State of the Union Speech, regardless of the person giving it.  Maybe I’m all on my own for this one, but the State of the Union is always a good ego booster; it really gives you a kind of “fuck yea’ I’m an American!” feeling.  And, I really wasn’t too surprised by the content.  Paraphrasing:

“We’re the best fucking people on the planet!!”
Thunderous applause.
“We can do any goddamn thing we put our red, white, and blue minds to!!!”
Even louder thunderous applause.
“Let’s build big shit!!”
Heavy applause!!
“Let’s train our citizens in math and science!!”
Out of their seats clapping.
“And let’s pay for it!!”
Not even a cricket.

After the speech I poured a scotch, lit a cigar, and unfolded that morning’s paper.  Once again, the headlines were all about how much people seem to hate spending: “Obama to address spending crisis,”  “Republicans to respond with cuts to wasteful spending.” Just as I was constructing my own appropriate headline in my mind, something like “Republicans suggest balancing budgets by drowning poor people in bathtubs and repealing the 13th Amendment,” I heard that old familiar song:

Bad Boys, Bad Boys, Whatcha gonna do  

Not having seen COPS in godknowshowlong, I just had to watch.  It was just like I remember.  The cop pulls up to some people sitting in front of their own house.  Yes, I know, pretty fucking suspicious.  Well, the cop runs up, they all scatter, and he eventually catches one and slugs him a few times.  He then drags him back to the car and empties his pockets. 

SCORE!!  THE FUCKING MOTHER LOAD!!!  A whole ounce of pot!  According to the cop, it was worth a gazillion, trillion fucking bucks on the street.  By this time there are about ten cops there for this hella bust.  They’re each looking around, asking questions, and being idiotic jerks. 

Needless to say, the next 15 minutes of the show proceeded just like first.  More people were suspiciously standing around, tackled to the ground, and sent to jail for a couple joints.  So I started doing the math in my head.  Seeing as how everybody in the country seems to think that we have absolutely no money, how much does it cost to pay the salaries for all these officers, the gas for their patrol cars, and the jails for these “criminals”?  But, before I could whip out the ol’ calculator I realized I was fresh out of scotch and my cigar had long since gone out. 

Oh well, I guess we’ll just have to drown poor people in their own bathtubs!  

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Christmas Showdown at the PO

This Christmas, shopping was easier than it has been for some time.  In years past, my wife has been the one in charge of the Christmas shopping.  Since she likes shopping and I could care less, I've always considered this a fair deal.  But, unfortunately for me, this means hours of standing and feet shuffling in one department store after another.  

“What do you think about this?” my wife asks.

“It looks fine.”

Back on the rack it goes.

“How about this one for your mother?” she asks again.

“Looks good.”

Back on the rack.  On to the next store.

When we lived in Massachusetts, the pain of this ritual was made slightly more tolerable by the small bar inside the mall in Springfield.  I would sit, drink, and grade final exams; my wife would return periodically for quick visits, a sip of beer, and to drop off bags. Maryland, it seems, has something against boozing it up in the mall.

This time, however, I was spared the whole tiresome ordeal.  With my wife overseas visiting her parents, I did the Christmas shopping with stunning efficiency.  Before leaving the house I hit and had two presents in the mail before my feet hit the front steps.  BING!!  I drove to the local mall and grabbed a few more.  BANG!!  And I cruised on past the Barnes and Nobles for the last few. BOOM!!!  Done!  Home in time to watch LSU loose to Arkansas.  Almost a perfect day!!

But as work picked up and my free time thinned out, those gifts sat around waiting to be mailed.  Finally, just a few days before Christmas, I managed to walk them down to the post office.  As I passed the first box over the counter, the woman glared at me and told me she couldn’t mail the box. 

“What do you mean?” I queried.

“This box had alcohol in it once.” She retorted.

She wasn't wrong.  The box was one of the many I collected from a local liquor store to use during our last move. 

“OK?” was my confused response.

“Alcohol is flammable!” she muttered in an exasperated tone.

Once again, Madame Curie was correct.  Alcohol is indeed flammable.

Normally, when confronted with problems like this, I sigh, narrow my eyes in the most condescending manner I can muster, and haughtily walk out.  Why bang my head against a brick wall?  The bricks never appreciate that kind of effort.  But this time I felt I had the time and the energy to try reasoning with the wall.

“Right” I said.  “But you can see that no wine was spilled on this box.”

“It doesn’t matter,” she shot back.

“Does it also not matter that the box itself is far, far, far more flammable than a bottle of wine?” I went on.

“No it doesn’t,” she exclaimed.

“In fact, were this box to contain the six bottles of wine it once held, it would be far less flammable because of it. Wine is over 85% water!”

“I cannot accept the box!”

Undeterred I went on. “And I guess it doesn’t matter that the gasoline in the truck that will carry the box away is far more flammable than a bottle of wine. . . .  And I guess it also is no concern of yours that the fuel in the wings of the airplane that will carry the box to Louisiana is far more flammable than that. . . .  My God!  The oxygen we’re breathing right now is more flammable than a bottle of wine!!”

Maybe I had gone a little far with that last one.  At least she thought so.  Her only reply was to gesture menacingly toward the door. 

I brought the box home, wrapped it in brown paper, walked it back to the post office, and handed it over to her silently. 

Brick wall 1, Logan Row 0

Merry Christmas!!  Happy New Year!!

Monday, September 6, 2010

"Ordinary Injustice: How America Holds Court"

I can see the inside of that courtroom just as clearly as if I had been there yesterday.  Packed with confusion, there was little room left to stand.  I arrived late, having spent a few minutes outside smoking cigarettes to cover up the pot smell.  So, when I got inside I casually leaned against the back wall, opened up my well-worn copy of Hunter S. Thompson’s The Great Shark Hunt and began reading. 

I wasn’t taking the proceedings very seriously.  Hell, I thought to myself, I wasn’t here for anything serious at all.  About a month before I had had the unfortunate experience of being issued a misdemeanor summons for taking advantage of a candy machine.  The damn machine didn’t work.  Y’see, you could put a dime in the thing and turn the knob to get your candy, or you could just turn the knob.  Either way you would get the candy.  Not having two nickels to rub together, I commonly chose the latter option. 

Well, one evening, just after a small group of friends and I had made a withdrawal, we found ourselves surrounded by a parade of cop cars.  We were all pretty young and fairly irreverent in the presence of authority figures; so I guess we caused a little more trouble than we should have.  Regardless, however, the whole event seemed absurd from the beginning.  The cops made a big scene, we made a bigger scene; but in less than two hours I was at the bar with a few friends laughing it off.

Two months later I was in that little courthouse watching it pump out “justice” like cheeseburgers.  The clerk called the name; the judge asked for the plea; and the sentence was given.  Bun, ketchup, mustard, pickle, beef and cheese!  When my turn came I was confused and high.  “Any questions?” the public defender asked me.  Not really, I responded.  “Is this all necessary?  I mean, it was about eight cents worth of candy,” I commented incredulously.  

I don’t think he was paying much attention.  He told me that I should just make it as painless as possible and plead guilty.  Fine.  Hell, I was guilty! 

“$500.00 fine and 250 hours of community service,” the old judge rattled out.  Wrap it up, add fries and a coke!

The entire experience was dizzying, and not just because I was high.  The prosecutor didn’t have my file, the arresting officer wasn’t there, the public defender seemed incompetent, and the judge clearly didn’t understand that I had been charged for taking candy from a candy machine not breaking into a vending machine.  Either way, I was fucked!  $500.00 was nearly an entire month’s salary for me at that time.  And 250 hours of community service was going to be impossible.  Any competent defense attorney could have had the frivolous charges dropped completely.  Or, at the very least, the case could have been dismissed in the absence of the arresting officer.  None of this happened.  So, I lived on very little food, clocked a lot of hours at the Salvation Army, and spent the next year and a half worrying that any run-in with the law (however small) would result in jail time—all for less than 10 cents worth of Sweet Tarts!!!!

Reading through Amy Bach’s Ordinary Injustice: How America Holds Court, I was struck by how common this predicament is.  In day-to-day criminal court, abuses happen with such regularity that they go almost unnoticed.  Defendants spend months in jail awaiting trials for offences that, if properly defended, wouldn’t result in community service.  Judges coerce guilty pleas from defendants.  Public defenders fall asleep at trial.  And prosecutors refuse to admit that they’ve convicted the wrong man even when confronted with indisputable proof.    

Anyone who’s watched a few episodes of Law and Order is familiar with the principle of our adversarial justice system.  In theory, a persuasive prosecutor argues the state’s case.  A well-prepared defense attorney challenges the case.  And a disinterested judge is present to ensure no one’s rights are violated.  What we understand to be justice, then, emerges from this process.  We accept errors (innocent men locked away for years, guilty men let loose) only because we believe so strongly in the rigorousness of the process.  All too often, however, the defense attorney is over-burdened, the prosecutor is concerned only with convictions that benefit his political career, and the judge is anything but disinterested.  In this way, the adversarial system of justice degenerates into a close-knit clan of professional colleagues (judge, prosecutor, defense attorney) conspiring to speed defendants through the system without any regard for the rights of the accused or even the presumption of innocence.   

This book made me feel ill, angry and disgusted.  I recommend it to anyone.  I don't, however, recommend fucking with a candy machine.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Yes, George; you are GLENN BECK!!!!

Holy Shit!!  I know Glenn Beck; and he lives in Korea!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Their shore is alot of wrighting errors hear

Win eye sit down and reelly think a bout it, win I really tri to reed the word’s Ive wroten, win I lock very, very, closerly, I’m shore I’ll find meany English mistakes in mine own wrighting. Hell, aye jest no that eye must write them awl the thyme. Butt, I’m knot a publisher!! And, wile eye’ve Dunn a lot of proofriding in my time, I don’t due it for a leaving.

The people that wrote this garbage (not mine above, but those below), however, do! They are not only professional publishers that claim to have hired proofreaders; but they publish books used to teach English for god’s sake! I know Korea has a race problem. I know Koreans only reluctantly and grudgingly hire English speakers to come in and teach conversational English. And, maybe Korean publishers are operating under the false assumption that Koreans are somehow better at writing and grammar than native speakers (I’ve actually had an employer in Korea make this foolish argument to me once). But, couldn’t this company hire just one of those blond-haired, blue-eyed, grudgingly-employed guys to actually read through this garbage before they print thousands of copies?

I don't know.  What are some good topics to "break an ice?"  How about cocktails?

Warning about being careful, huh?  Yes, that's exactly what I was thinking.

Well, I "considers" it a fucking shame that you're not only using the passive construction, but that you're also pretty careless about the articles.

When "w're" writing an English textbook, it might be a good idea to write in complete sentences.