More Mom-Abuse by the TSA

Another outrageous account of TSA misdeeds, this time toward a mother and child flying out of Atlanta’s own Hartsfield-Jackson airport.

My son was taken from me.


My son was taken from me by the TSA agents at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport yesterday.

He was taken away from me and OUT OF MY SIGHT because his pacifier clip went off when I carried him through the metal detector.

According to the Transportation Security Administration website, “We will not ask you to do anything that will separate you from your child or children.”

Bullshit TSA.

You took my son. MY SON.

The full account is here.

It’s definitely worth a read. The sheer banal evil of these low-level security cogs — mall cops with Gestapo authority complexes — is astonishing.

(I provided video of an earlier incident and some thoughts on this stuff earlier, at this link.)

With Thanksgiving Done…

It is now acceptable to start talking about Christmas.

It is also acceptable to talk about “the holidays,” Hanukkah, the Solstice, Kwanzaa, Yule, Ashura, the New Year, December, or Thursday.

Don’t take it personally.

The Pointless Abuse of a Travelling Mother By TSA

A few thoughts before we look at the event cited in this entry’s title…

Studies indicate that roughly 30% of people have what is called an “authoritarian personality,” signified by three correlative traits:

  1. Authoritarian submission — a high degree of submissiveness to the authorities who are perceived to be established and legitimate in the society in which one lives.
  2. Authoritarian aggression — a general aggressiveness directed against deviants, outgroups, and other people that are perceived to be targets according to established authorities.
  3. Conventionalism — a high degree of adherence to the traditions and social norms that are perceived to be endorsed by society and its established authorities, and a belief that others in one’s society should also be required to adhere to these norms. (Source: The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer)

You can spot this syndrome easily enough, especially in these days when an entire “news” network is designed to cater to that personality. Lately I’ve been seeing it in some people’s comments regarding the TSA’s pointless and Draconian screening of American citizens in airports.

An author who’s one of my Facebook friends posted this as his status:

So tired of all of the body scanner bitching. Scan me. Pat me up and pat me down. I don’t care as long as I don’t get blown up. This is the world we’ve made for ourselves, and it’s not changing anytime soon. If you don’t like it, don’t fly.

That’s very much an authoritarian statement (though not evidence in itself of an authoritarian personality, I don’t know the guy well enough to pin that on him).

Someone else replied to his post:

I agree. I rather be safe. Unfortunately, this politically correct world is what it is.

Woven firmly through both statements is an assumption that what is being done is just fine because those in authority have decided it’s what must be done. Continue reading

A Tip On How To Avoid Spreading Lies (and how not to be taken in by them)

An old friend just posted this as their status on Facebook:

Dear Mr. President,

I hear you want to freeze pay rates for military
starting next year. Would you also consider cutting yours to save much
more money for our country? While you’re at it, lets cut down congress’
pay too. If the people who risk their lives don’t get a pay raise, why
…would we continue raising pay for those who send us “over there”? Copy paste if you agree

Thing is, it’s bogus. This is exactly the sort of non-factual knowledge I’ve written about here and there, lies spread passionately among millions of Americans too willing to accept any bad news about their political opponents, or just too lazy to do a few minutes’ fact-checking so they know they’re spreading truth not propaganda.

It’s tough for me to take time out of my day (or night, as it’s late, I’m tired, and I really ought to be in bed) to defend President Obama, because I’m not a huge fan myself. But if you’re going to criticise him, people, please make sure you know what the fuck you’re talking about. Otherwise you’re a pawn of liars, a liar yourself, or just a stupid sheep easily led where they want to take you.

I wasn’t previously aware of this particular lie. It took less than a minute for me to search Google (“Obama military pay freeze”), and find the truth, in detail. The first link was to a page at Snopes with everything laid out plainly for anyone to see. Snopes is a great site for checking the veracity of rumors, political and otherwise.

Taken By The Wind (A Personal History, Part 2): Bad Vibrations

A day later than planned, but here we go…

I was telling you about my father, and all the great times we had when I was a kid. And I said the next post would be one particularly entertaining anecdote. In today’s very special episode of Taken By The Wind, I’ll tell you about the day I effectively became an orphan.

Here’s the scene:

Afternoon. Me, at sixteen, reading on the sofa in the living room.

My father and his wife, my second stepmother, are in their bedroom.

Their door opens and my father steps into the living room, glaring.

“You stole something from our room,” he says. “Give it back.”

I’m at a loss, since I have not, indeed, stolen anything from their room. I say something to that effect.

“Yes you did,” he tells me. “Get it.”

“What did I steal?” I ask.

“You know,” he says. And he’s very angry.

“I have no clue what you’re talking about,” I say.

He fumes. “You know what I’m talking about,” he says. “I’m going back in the bedroom. I’ll come back out in ten minutes, and you better have it.”

And he disappears into the bedroom.

I go back to my reading. Can’t do much else.

Ten minutes later, he returns. His thick leather belt is in his hand. “Where is it?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He glares at me, looking like he’s trying to solve an algebra problem that keeps kicking him in the nuts.

“I gave Pam a gag gift,” he finally says. “You went in our room and stole it.”

And then I realize what he’s talking about.

Continue reading

Harry Potter and The Sexy Hallows (Updated)

Haven’t seen Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows yet, but have read all the books. But I had this short dialogue on Facebook with writer Alex Wells in which I shared some thoughts I’d had when I read Hallows:

Tim Byrd

Tim Byrd I hope the movie has that part where they’re in a tent for several years waiting for the plot to happen.

Friday at 9:42pm 


      Alex Wells Come on – don’t they get in some arguments and give each other dirty looks and stuff? 

      Yesterday at 8:31am ·

      Tim Byrd I’ve always suspected that Rowling meant for Harry and Hermione to sleep together while Ron has abandoned them, making for some uncomfortable subtext once he returns. But she chickened out and left the tent sequence essentially dramatically inert. 

      Yesterday at 8:40am ·

      Tim Byrd See also: Dumbledore’s homosexuality, which she didn’t have the courage to depict on the page, when it mattered most. Though kudos to her for outing him after the fact. 

      Yesterday at 8:43am ·

      Alex Wells I would have loved it if she ventured into these realms – it would have made conversations with my kids more interesting and relevant (ok they’re only 9 – not too relevant). The HP books are also the most blatant display of the changes the publishing industry has gone through – no money to pay for a kick-ass, hardcore editor, but all the money in the world for advertising the top ten popular books. 

      23 hours ago ·

      Tim Byrd 

      It’s been a while since I read them, but I remember puberty seething in the penultimate books, as the characters grew up. Then she builds this situation with them as they enter adulthood, and all that passion is pretty much gone (though I understand Emma Watson taps into it in one unreal scene in the flick). I think she was going there, and I think she had a failure of nerve.And you’re right on the editing. I love Rowling’s work, but the last two books particularly needed a strong second opinion before going to press. 

      UPDATE: More commentary added Continue reading

A Great Joke

Thanks to Sherran Lucas for this…

The Pope and Sarah Palin are on the same stage in Yankee Stadium in front of a huge crowd. The Pope leans towards Mrs. Palin and says, “Do you know that with one little wave of my hand I can make every person in this crowd go wild with joy?”

Palin replies, “I seriously doubt that with one little wave of your hand? Show me!”

So the Pope backhands her.

Taken By The Wind (A Personal History)

Okay, so here’s the deal…

I suffer from depression.

To the unenlightened out there, that means I’m moody or lazy or mopey or too sensitive or whiney. I’m none of those things. I’m not even really sad, for the most part, though after suffering this affliction pretty much all my life, there is certainly a constant hum of melancholy way back in my mind. And despair. And anger.

On the plus side, I’m 6′ tall, naturally fit, agile, and strong. The baldness that colonized my father’s head has found no home on mine. I’m blue-eyed, square-jawed, and apparently reasonably attractive. I’m highly intelligent, and can write very well. These things and others I’m grateful for.

In overwhelming opposition to those blessings, I apparently have the genetic bug that makes you vulnerable to depression. Apparently, though anyone can get depressed (usually through some sort of trauma), most people are innately capable of recovery. But when you have the gene for it, it’s harder to recover, and if you are repeatedly traumatized, the depression can settle in for good.

Kids, especially very young kids, with this neurological fuck-up are particularly susceptible. Their brains are still forming and such trauma can do permanent damage. Kids who lose a parent early or who are abused are at really high risk.

I was both. Continue reading

A Poem, Dark and Wild

I want to share with you an incredible poem by novelist/poet Francesca Lia Block, who I just met but think, somehow, I’ve always known.

In this poem, she builds a dark fairy story explicitly on the framework of Vladimir Propp’s folk tale morphology with powerful, exquisite results.

Here’s a taste, click here for the whole thing.

ABSENTATION: How could I have left them? The boy with his small, fierce body. The girl with lupine eyes. They stood weeping in the doorway between the light house and the night. Their warmth still lingered on my cold hands even after I was gone.

INTERDICTION: “Don’t go!” they wailed. “Don’t go with him.” They ran to the window and watched me get into the long black car. I saw their faces shining there, like little lights. Like stars reflected in the dark pool of the glass. He was hunched over the wheel and wore a ruffled shirt. His eyes were an interdiction, too but I did not recognize.

VIOLATION of INTERDICTION: He carried me away into the night. Trees bloomed in the fluorescence and strange electronic birds sang. He picked a flower and put it behind my ear and read me poetry. I swooned. It did not take much.

RECONNAISSANCE: We went to find my mother in a weird old restaurant that smelled of meat. She was sitting fragile in a huge red booth like a piece of garnish. She, too, was tricked by him. She took me aside and said, No other man has deserved you yet, my darling.

DELIVERY: Where is the cancer? he asked her. She told him and he laid his hands on her as if he were a healer. We gasped with gratitude and relief. How little we knew him…

The Experience of Depression

I’ve mentioned my struggles with depression before, and my intention to write further on the topic. Of course, depression itself gets in the way of that writing, just as it gets in the way of other writing (like fiction, email, even Twitter and Facebook), just as it gets in the way of everything else in life.

The past year has been one of the worst I’ve ever had, as far as the consistency of my depression is concerned. It has been vicious and unrelenting. Add in some related physical issues and we’re talking good times.

Now, lest you fret you’re keeping company with a human sinkhole, I’m not. I’m actually pretty cheerful, even in my worst moods; my ability to laugh at anything, including and especially myself, keeps me alive.

No, in my case, depression doesn’t make me a droopy sad sack, all glum and self-pitying. It just obliterates my energy to do things, and more importantly, my volition to do them. There are days I get up motivated and ready to write/exercise/clean the apartment/etc., then I shower and have breakfast and BLAM, it’s gone. There are also days I never have coffee because I can’t muster the volition to brew a pot.

The past couple of years, I’ve learned a lot about depression, its causes, its effects. I’ve had it at least since my teen years, probably longer, but for most of that time I was oblivious, and even once I found out, my understanding was shallow. Even though it took its toll on me every day, I didn’t recognize the full impact it can and does have.

My shrink told me once that patients of hers who’ve suffered both cancer and depression say they’d rather have the cancer. That’s a mind-boggling thought, but when someone has an affliction like cancer, they can still enjoy the life they have. You hear stories of people who find joy through illness because it shows them the importance of life and every moment is to be cherished and all that.

When you’re depressed, you don’t get those types of epiphanies.
Continue reading