18 February, 2010

What do we mean by "terrorist"?

Two things make me raise this issue for the umpteenth time.

First, there was a discussion on CNN the other day about the benefits and drawbacks of civil versus military courts in trying terror suspects. The success rates of civil courts was knocked by the CNN reporter who said it depended on how the word "terrorist" was being defined, as the court's definition included domestic terrorists, those involved in narco-terror, etc. and did not isolate Muslim terrorists. As though the successes of the courts in prosecution terrorists were a moot point without making such a differentiation. I, of course, began screaming at the T.V. (a common thing when I actually watch - my roommate likes to remind me the people behind the glass cannot hear me) that the courts obviously were defining terrorists as people who engage in acts that elicit terror, as opposed to Muslims who engage in acts that elicit terror. Quite a concept, no?

Second, and literally closer to home, today in Austin a man apparently burned down his home and then committed suicide by flying his small plane into an multi-story government office building. The latest news is that two bodies have been recovered, one the pilot and the other an IRS employee. His suicide note included a tirade against the IRS and U.S. government. Yet the local police are calling it a criminal act instead of a terrorist act. So, somebody with a grudge against the U.S. government flies a plane into a building, but it's not terrorism?

Or, as Sepia Mutiny notes, "Terrorist. For f*** sake!"

Does there have to be an organizational structure? What about more nebulous, cell-based groups with more tenuous direct linkages? Is the definition based on death tolls? What about a series of individual, isolated actions based on similar ideological beliefs? What about ETA, True IRA? Or are we just going for brown, funny name (Wait - Richard Reid? Eric Rudolph?), Muslim?

17 February, 2010

Forget Kansas! What's the Matter With Texas?

More crazy from Texas care of Governor Rick "Le Coif" Perry, who is leading in the polls going into the Republican gubernatorial primary here. Of course, in the party primary he's up against a former Republican Senator and "Washington insider," a term equated with many here with fascist/Nazi/elitist/etc. even within your own party, and another Republican candidate who made news this week by questioning U.S. involvement in the September 11th attacks.
Texans, have you people not had enough of this guy?

Of course then there's the codification of crazy in the schools here thanks to the state board of education.

I'll admit, I fervently hope Perry actually plays the secession card before I finish my graduate program. I know he won't, in part for the five bazillion logical reasons that I'm sure at least one advisor on his staff is aware of, but boy would it be fun to watch that crazy unfold.

14 February, 2010

The Mysteries of the Unisex Bathroom

Texas is not a place known for progressive views regarding gender and sexuality - though there was a recent glimmer of hope in Houston - or much else for that matter. Sorry, Austinites and all you right wing haters who claim the city is some sort of cross between Sodom and Moscow c. 1905 or Beijing c.1949, but we're not the wild liberal, socialist hotbed people claim we are. Not by miles and miles and miles.

So, when the staff at the campus gym suggested I try the unisex bathroom because there were no lockers available in the women's locker room I said, "Oh, yeah the...the WHAT?"
I've heard of them, but never seen one. I know one of the arguments in their favor is that they provide a safe space for transgendered folks, which is a good thing. They seem like a perfectly reasonable thing to me. I just never expected our uni to be progressive enough to provide such a space.

Low and behold it's a little locker room complete with showers and everything. I've had all to myself each time I had to use it. None of the staff could tell me the reasoning behind it and none were sure of the proper etiquette for using the place. I'll admit I'm not one to be bothered by public nudity and what not. Even if I'd not been raised in a family with very healthy attitudes towards the human form, working in closed quarters on boats, as I have, should cure most people of any lingering hangups or excitement about walking in on others changing. However, I do try to be somewhat respectful of other people's hangups, at least within reason. The fact that you're out in the open when changing and showering left me wondering how badly I would freak somebody out who happened to walk in not expecting to run smack into a naked lady. Hasn't happened yet, but....If you're on campus and in the gym, consider yourself warned.