Concern for Baby Goddesses: The Baby Beyonce Conundrum

May 13th, 2010

This post was originally published in 2006 at NJ Word.

I was checking my stats, an old habit I picked up from my cloak and dagger days back when my ex stalked me on the net. WOW! The things you learn. (I’ve since moved on. Hope he has too, but for tech ed espionage strategies, click here: Hide and go seek on the Net. No, no, young Skywalker! Come back from the dark side!)

As I was saying, someone hit my old Baby Beyonce page from a search engine yesterday. The person searched “”. I saw that and thought, How stupid of me! Of course! I do understand the concept of buying up hot domain names.

I stated in the AuthorsDen news item “Baby Beyonce?”, where I announced posting the clip that first hit the Net via email and later, why I retired it from my Cyberbottle site, that the Baby Beyonce video took on a life of its own complete with a call from the TV news show Inside Edition. If my small site got 100,000 hits in less than two months off the clip and is still getting hits, I know larger sites get more. Baby Beyonce is now a name worth having. But for what purpose? Evil or good?

That’s the question that Disney, which owns ABC that produces America’s Funniest Home Videos–the show that first introduced us to the little girl shaking her rump–but more importantly, that’s the question the little girl’s parents, should want answered. They should find out exactly who bought that domain name.

Both the .com and .net domains are gone. If not the Sony and Knowles organizations, acting in the interest of the adult singer, if not Disney, heading off a problem in the making, and if not the parents, protecting the little girl in the original video, then who’s snatched up these two potential gems?

The concern here is exploitation because while on the surface Baby Beyonce is very cute, and Knowles herself could probably look into doing a line of baby clothing or dolls, there’s an underbelly of activity around the Baby Beyonce video phenomena that’s maggot nasty. Wendy C. Thomas hit it squarely in her April 19 column in Memphis, TN, newspaper The Commercial Appeal. She titles the column “Video’s moves by toddler go overboard,” and says the following:

    Simply a child’s innocent imitation of a hot R&B star or a stripper in the making?

    After watching “Baby Beyonce,” a video clip circulating on the Internet, I fear it’s the latter. …

    This is not cute. There’s nothing to be celebrated when young girls pop it and shake it and drop it like it’s hot. These kids are either simulating sex moves or the moves that stimulate men to initiate sex.

    There was a time when if a child acted out in a sexual fashion, parents would worry that the child had been abused.

    Now proud moms and pops grab the video camera, and young girls learn that if they move their bodies, even in adult ways they don’t understand, they’ll get attention, applause and adulation.

    Nothing good can come from the sexualization of children, whether it’s Baby Beyonce videos, thongs made for preteen bodies or suggestive routines by high school cheerleaders.

After sharing her concern, Thomas holds fast to journalists’ credo and ends the column telling readers they can view the video at I went to the site and found that they’d taken the video down at Disney’s request.

I thought the video was cute when I first saw it on television, but then I’m not sexually aroused by babies. On the other hand, I do admit to posting certain videos to hear public opinion. This one amused me and I posted it before Thomas published her column. However, I did receive a note from the owner of BlackPlanet Dads expressing his distaste for the video. I didn’t get truly concerned until porn sites started linking to the Baby Beyonce page. Okay, that was enough of that for me. I retired the video.

The page is still up, but an animated rabbit has replaced the toddler. I’m sure someone out there is turned on by the rabbit. And I have a link to somebody else’s blog that’s still running the video. It’s up to Disney to tell them to “Cut that out!”

NOTE: This piece is crossover from Jersey Goddess. NJ Spoken Word also gets search engine hits for Baby Beyonce.

Tootles, y’all

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Octavia Butler, Science Fiction Pioneer, Dies After Fall in Seattle

June 5th, 2009

This post was originally published at NJ Spoken Word, Tuesday, February 28, 2006.

Octavia E. Butler, sci fi authorA dear friend, Aberjhani, shared the news of Octavia E. Butler’s death with me this morning. Known as a gifted pioneer in a genre of the industry dominated by white males, the African-American author was the first Science Fiction author to receive a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant.”

Butler, 58, died Friday, February 24, after she fell and hit her head outside her Seattle, Washington, home. You can read more details of her life and death here in the Seattle Post-Intelligence.

I first became aware of Octavia E. Butler’s work through the Seeing Ear Theatre’s website, which was at the time affiliated with the Sci Fi Channel. There I listened to an outstanding audio production of her book Kindred. Fortunately you can still listen to the book today at this link: The production stars Alfre Woodard, Lynn Whitfield, and features Ruby Dee.

Since then I’ve walked into other Butler worlds such as the Patternist series (my favorite is Mind of My Mind) and most recently her new book Fledgling. She is one of the few writers who can draw me into characters and setting and make me forget I am here on planet Earth. I still recall her people and her words in my daily life. I look forward to continuing my read through her works, and I mourn the literary world’s loss.

Additional Octavia Butler Links

  • Octavia Butler’s Voice (The Opinion Mill)
  • Steve Barnes Tribute to Octavia (Dar Kush, Barnes’ Blog)
  • An NPR Interview with Octavia Butler and an Essay by Octavia Butler at NPR (Yes, Steven Hart of The Opinion Mill, I did get this NPR link from your post. Thank you.)
  • Toni Morrison: Bordered Off!

    June 4th, 2009

    This post was previously at NJ Spoken Word and published on Saturday, January 08, 2005

    I was in a New Jersey Borders Bookstore today searching for one of my favorite authors, Toni Morrison. book cover of 'Beloved,' by Toni Morrison, for which she won the Nobel Prize in Literature, 1993 I wanted to replace my copy of her book Sula. Couldn’t find the Nobel Prize Winner in the literature section. So I went to the information desk.

    “I’m probably blind,” I said, “But I can’t seem to find Toni Morrison.”

    “Toni Morrison? Oh she’d be in our African-American Literature section.”

    “What!” My voice shot up a decibel. “Oh, so we’re all sectioned off now, huh? Okay, well, I guess that’s good. It shows how fantastically well the black book market is doing, but Toni Morrison!”

    “Well, our African-American section is very popular,” said the young man.

    I’m sure it is. But Toni Morrison, Nobel Prize winning author, shoved off to a little section? I’m sure you have white readers running around wondering Where’s Toni Morrison? because they just don’t venture into your African-American section.”

    By now the young man was nodding, probably thinking, Great, so I score the angry black woman today. However, I wasn’t glowering at him. I was nodding and smiling. You know that sort of deranged “I can’t believe this effin’ crap!” nod-and-smile.

    So, Morrison’s finally broken free of always being called a great black author to being called simply a great American author only to find herself bordered-off, segregated again.

    Of course, Morrison’s in good company in her section. I mean, some of our favorite authors are black, you know. Richard Wright and James Baldwin also share black space with her. I’m glad publishers finally understand that black people do read, and they are publishing our work. I’m glad that Borders has found black writers to be so lucrative that its marketing department has created a section just for black literature, and I’m sure the segregation makes locating black authors more convenient for readers. How shopper friendly! However, Toni Morrison is a great American writer. At the very least she should be in both sections, Literature and African-American literature.

    Now that black authors are coming into their own in the book industry, I suppose the next hurdle will be integration…again. Or perhaps book stores and publishers will begin keeping track of black authors the same way the record industry does: “Hip Hop, R&B, and oh, the lucky bastards…Crossover.”

    Tootles, y’all,

    Link to Archived Comments

    Little girl crying over Sanjaya: Teen idol and bishonen phenomena

    March 9th, 2009

    First posted at Jersey Goddess, March 2007, but had to replace video. Posting here in preparation for the 2009 American Idol, that includes at least one Bishonen.

    I know why the little girl cried.

    little girl cries american idolOkay, so the little blonde girl, Ashley Ferl (Ashley’s story), cried for Melinda Doolittle too, which proves nothing. Melinda’s good. And at the end when they brought the girl up on stage, she cried over all the American Idol contestants; well, she’s young and stricken by stars, but did you see her the first time the cameras caught her as she cried over Sanjaya Malakar tonight (<--recap)? He performed "You Really Got Me Going" by British group The Kinks.

    The girl appeared to be about 10 or 11 years old (I’ve since learned she’s 13). They asked her did she like Sanjaya. She shook her head to a definite “Yes!” (This would be a good time to read my article on child temperament. Some are more excitable than others.) The little blonde girl’s probably too young to vote for American Idol without her parents’ permission, but America has millions of teenage girls, I’m sure, who affect AI voting and who probably worship Sanjaya.

    “I’ve been saying it. I’ve been saying it. Miguel, ain’t I been saying it?” (a quote from the movie Independence Day).
    Yes, I’m going to quote myself on Sanjaya.

    sanjayaWhat I’ve been saying is that American Idol contestant Sanjaya is bishonen. While he’s not necessarily extremely capable, a trait associated with the Japanese anime concept of bishonen, he is a beautiful boy, which is a required Bishonen trait.

    And it’s not just Japanese girls that like bishonen/pretty boys. American girls have a thing for them too. My daughter tells me young girls come into her bookstore all the time to buy anime and manga about Bishonen males. When it comes to music, the bishonen appear in the form of male teen idols. When was the last time you saw a teen idol who wasn’t good-looking?

    Many teen idols are pretty, and they aren’t necessarily the best singers or performers. Sanjaya is ripe for the teen idol worshiping crowd; he appeals to young girls, period.

    I didn’t just say this tonight after I saw the little girl crying so desperately over him on AI. I also said it in my comments last week at the Elisa’s recap of AI at Blogher:

    I think Sanjaya is still there because he looks like a teen idol. As young girls in Japan adore bishonen males, American teen girls like pretty boys, and since young girls have telephones attached to their earlobes, they vote for Sanjaya. That’s all conjecture on my part. (from last week’s comments at Idol Recap)

    That little blonde girl crying tonight reminded me of young girls at concerts when their idols perform or descend to the tarmac from an arriving jet.

    We’ve seen this madness with the young Elvis, and an even younger Michael Jackson as well as with his brothers as The Jackson Five; we’ve seen it with the Beatles back in the day, and Prince also (young Prince photo), who is still pretty, plus Fabian and Donny Osmond. We’ve even seen it with David Cassidy and also his brother Shaun Cassidy, remember them? We’ve seen it more recently with little girls screaming over boy bands like NSync.

    bobby shermanAnd of course, Bobby Sherman was quite the pretty boy. I wasn’t into Bobby or the Cassidy boys much, but I had friends who were.

    An article at talks about teen idols and male beauty:

    1. Male beauty. Without these boys, we might have thought that the boys that we grew up beside in grade school & in the neighborhood were healthy & attractive kids. But once we’d seen the teen idols, with their straight white teeth, their symmetrical cheekbones and their blow-dried hair, we realized physical perfection is attainable & that we should treat any man who did not live up to those standards as if he were second-class goods. In order to deserve such beautiful men, of course, we would have to become their female equivalent. Thus, obsession with ideal standards of beauty led to self-examination and … well, girls, you know.

    2. Obsession and the cult of celebrity. Once, we actually believed that after the TV was turned off, or the song stopped playing on the radio, it was OK to stop thinking about the actor or singer. We’d already rewarded him with our attention & the transaction had been successfully completed; we should have been able to get on with our lives. We didn’t know, until trained properly, that we were supposed to keep thinking about him, that we should purchase objects with his face printed on them, that we should want to read about him, learn about his personal life. Teen idols taught us proper merchandising and consumption and People-magazine-reading habits. (Ape Culture)

    If you want to see real teen idol mania, look at the fans on this video of the Beatles singing “Twist and Shout.” (The OutKast music video “Hey Ya” spoofs this phenomena.)

    The Beatles are an exception under the teen idol mania banner, as are Elvis, Michael Jackson, and Prince: they all later transcended teen idol status to become mega-adult stars for many years beyond their youth.

    Sanjaya’s performance was much better tonight. He’s really trying to tap into the Bishonen trait of charisma, but I still don’t think he should win. Some speculate that a website called may be influencing votes and contributing to Sanjaya’s avoiding dismissal. Click this link for video at According to the video story, Howard Stern is among people encouraging people to vote for Sanjaya.


    Also click here for CelebTV video of “Sanjaya’s Sob Story” and other clips of last night’s performances on American Idol (added March 21).

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    Do You Really Think Rush Limbaugh Does Conservatives Good?

    March 7th, 2009

    This post is not a dead New Jersey blog post resurrected. It was written today, 3/07/09, in response to a conservative who’s been rattled by comments at BlogHer on a post about whether Rush Limbaugh is the leader of the GOP. It ran pretty long, and I accidentally hit the publish button when I’d meant to hit the preview button after deciding I would probably not publish the full comment at BlogHer, but still needed to get a response off my chest. It’s posted here in case anyone wanted to see what I had to say. Otherwise, I’m moving on to critical life chores.

    From BlogHer Comments

    What I’m about to say has nothing to do with whether Rush Limbaugh uses hate speech, whether he’s a racist or a homophobe. What I’m talking about now is motivation, and while you may have more to say about economics, I have more to say about people, perceptions, and the end goal of a communications strategy:

    In my opinion, Rush is doing a service by pounding on this theme. He is an entertainer…and he is an educator. Whether or not he’s “taken the bait” offered by the administration is immaterial in my mind. If by taking the bait, he is expanding his audience base…then I say good.

    I don’t know if you recall when Bill Bennett made the highly inflammatory statement that the crime rates would go down if we’d abort black babies, but if you don’t recall it, you can google it. Anyway, I wrote a post back then that is now offline but in it I asserted that Bennett, who claimed he was trying to bring pro-life issues to the forefront, was no friend of the pro-life movement if he kept talking like that.

    Why? Because his statement did not cause anyone to focus on pro-life issues. It boosted attention on him his radio show for a while, and offered the opportunity for well-known hate groups to have a field day about killing off black babies, but that was that.

    And I wasn’t the only one who thought Bennett had done a disservice to the pro-life movement. Many people in the pro-life movement were dismayed that he’d derailed the conversation for a while. Whatever reasoning Bennett gave for making the statement got lost and as a result there are some moderate people on the fence who may have listened to Bennett despite his being conservative who now think he lacks credibility.

    When Louis Farrakhan made his comment about Hitler being wickedly great, do you think that helped his cause? I could tell you what he really meant, but does it matter? Furthermore, a narrow focus on that one statement, no matter how brilliantly someone explained what he really meant by it, can be quickly expanded to broader vision by his many other statements that sound hateful because they are.

    Ironically, if you remove some of Farakhan’s bigoted, inflammatory rhetoric, he’d sound like a fiscal conservative and one that Rush Limbaugh would agree with when it comes to a view that black people should stop relying on the Federal Government for financial help:

    Farrakhan preaches the virtues of personal responsibility, especially for black men, and advocates black self-sufficiency. Farrakhan’s message has appealed primarily to urban blacks and draws on a long history of black nationalists who have called for black self-reliance in the face of economic injustice and white racism. (Encarta)

    Despite white fears that most black people follow Farrakhan, they don’t. If they did, the crime rate would be lower, black business would probably be thriving, and black people would probably ignore white people until there was a war over land or water right or something.

    Farrakan’ s not a “black” leader. He’s a Nation of Islam leader, a religious leader who makes social commentary, but since most black people are not members of the Nation of Islam, he doesn’t have the kind of influence white people think he does. BTW, Nation of Islam and traditional Islam are not the same.

    One major difference between Farrakhan and Limbaugh is motivation, however. When Farrakhan makes inflammatory statements, generally he’s not trying to boost ratings on a radio show nor is he trying to influence government policy, however, like many religious leaders he sometimes comments about government.

    So, you have Farrakan, a man preaching that black people should separate themselves from white people economically and be self-reliant, and yet you don’t see a bunch of whites, not even conservatives, applauding his work. I doubt you’ll see Jewish people applauding his work. And you have many black people who used to find him credible who have stepped away. While they agree with him about self-reliance and even on some of the points he makes about the sins of America against black people, they’ve stepped away from the Farrakhan. Why do you think that is?

    In addition, you’ll rarely hear other people who’ve been identified as black leaders quote Farrakhan or give him props on national radio or TV. They aren’t as hard on him as whites and so don’t shun him completely, but they’re doing nothing to promote him. And certainly, if one of them said something about him similar to what Michael Steele said about Rush Limbaugh, the one who said it wouldn’t have to go apologize. Why do you think that is?

    I’ll tell you why. One, Farrakhan doesn’t have that kind of power. Two, people who want genuine dialogue about race, the economy, how we can work things through, know that they sabotage that dialogue by clinging to people who make divisive statements repeatedly. In addition, unlike what I see in Rush Limbaugh discussions, people who genuinely want to work things through will allow historical facts on the table that give leeway for people to express pain and anger regarding oppression, bu that’s another topic.

    It’s been my experience that people tend to lose respect when they see anyone sabotaging a worthwhile goal for personal gain. Rush Limbaugh consistently sabotages genuine discussion because he’s found that inflammatory language rather than productive discourse earns him more money. So, we see his true allegiance. And yet conservative whites jump up and defend him constantly. I’m not talking about a few fringe people who also read KKK websites or some of the angriest people who lack education and resources defending him; I’m talking about powerful mainstream people who hold public office and ordinary, otherwise sensible, white people.

    So, my point on Rush Limbaugh is that by taking the bait, actively participating in what he knew was a strawman tactic that would throw the GOP into further disarray and a tactic that is also clearly a disctraction, Limbaugh is not doing the conservative movement a favor. It’s not about keeping eyes on what’s going on in D.C. It’s about him. You think he’s pounding issues that will move you forward, but actually he’s quite crafty, keeping all eyes on Rush.

    Case in point, what has this blog post forum become but a discusion about Rush Limbaugh?

    It’s theater, smoke and mirrors, and he is complicit:

    People keep saying let’s get back on topic. Oooh, look what they’re really doing in Washington and Obama’s administration set Rush up. If the Obama administration had a gun at Rush Limbaugh’s feet, shooting bullets to make him dance, that would indeed be a case of power slamming Rush. The truth is Rush likes the spotlight and Rush wants to dance even if his dancing and his showmanship hurts the Republican Party.

    We can argue for the next four years about whether Rush Limbaugh is the leader of the conservative movement or the GOP and Republicans can keep up the talking points that he’s not because he’s not technically been elected to anything. The reality is Rush is leader because millions of conservatives follow him, defend him, and apologize to him.

    They don’t want to give him up. Limbaugh to the Republicans is like the hot, seductive mistress that appeals to a man’s baser instincts and is helping to wreck his family but the man keeps going back because he likes the sex.

    If anyone has a complaint that Rahm Emanuel and Obama set up Limbaugh and that they did it to take the public eye off what they’re really doing in Washington, then they should also have a complaint that Limbaugh’s played along.

    Consider how differently the Steele-Limbaugh exchange would have gone if Rush had never said “I want Obama to fail,” a statement he made after knowing the Whitehouse was setting him up as the strawman, and if he had never blasted Steele for the “ugly entertainment” comment by telling Steele bascially to go back to the kitchen.

    We know Emanuel’s and the Dems’ motivation for targeting Rush, and their communications strategy was easy to implement. Rush’s ego is huge and so it’s all been like shooting fish in the barrel.

    The plan keeps eyes off how things are going in D.C. and has conservatives jumping up and down like specks on the sideline of the Rush parade saying “But we want to talk issues, we want to talk money.”

    Limbaugh is an exceptional communicator and strategist. He knows that’s what’s going on. Why is he playing along and why do you think that’s okay?

    Score: Obama administration=1, Rush Limbaugh=1, Conservative Movement=0

    The 2007 Virginia Tech Massacre

    January 23rd, 2009

    Originally published at Confessions of a Jersey Goddess, April 2007.

    April 18 Update: I’ve noticed people keep hitting this blog
    because they’re looking for the
    VT shooter’s confession. Google’s sending you to
    my blog because I have the word “confession” in
    my blog’s name, same name since 2004.
    Here’s a link at NBC, the network that received
    the gunman’s package/manifesto,
    and to the video and story: LINK.
    This post is a chronicle of the shootings
    on Monday, April 16.

    Update 11:59 p.m., April 16: Laurie at BloghHer has added a new post about how the Internet is responding to the shootings. ABC Nightline also discusses the online coverage regarding the shootings, particularly students sharing grief at FaceBook. and report similar findings.

    Reported at 6:35 p.m., April 16: The death toll at Virginia Tech is now 32, reports ABC News. In its 5:30 news, Channel 7 ABC New York reported 33 dead. Either way the shooting is considered the “worst mass murder” in U.S. History. Witnesses, according to ABC News, describe the shooter as a six-foot-tall Asian man; however, the shooter did not carry ID. Consequently, officials faced difficulty identifying the shooter’s body.

    Charles Gibson ended the ABC news tonight, 6:58 p.m., saying, “I wish I could say this has been a good day. It hasn’t.”

    You may find more in-depth information at Channel 13 News, WSET, Virginia, another ABC station. Another local station for the Virginia Tech area is WDBJ, Roanoke. Virginia Tech’s college newspaper, The Collegiate Times, currently experiences problem with its servers. Virginia Tech is located in Blacksburg, Virginia. Kim Pearson, the blogger who first notified me of this tragedy has a poignant post about the Virginia Tech shooting at this link (Link added 10:18 p.m., April 16).

    Currently people are questioning how the shooter was able to stay at large for two hours before he committed more murders and why the campus police didn’t alert the students and staff sooner. ABC reports that the shooter killed two people at dorm two hours before he began his rampage at the Norris Hall engineering building. Others want to know how did the young man get two nine millimeter guns so easily in Virginia (link added at 11:59 p.m., April 16).

    Over at BlogHer, a commenter on the story, Morra Aarons, says online support communities are popping up on on the Net. She specifically mentions one at Facebook. Another commenter from BlogHer pointed out this blog by a Virginia Tech Student at LiveJournal. The BlogHer post itself by Laurie has multiple resources.

    Update at 2:20 p.m., April 16:
    MSNBC reports that the shooter was a young male in his 20s of Asian descent. The death toll is now, as of 2:25 p.m., up to 31, which MSNBC says makes it the “deadliest” mass shooting spree/mass murder in the nation’s history.

    This story is already prompting discussions on MSNBC’s live video about whether those from Asian cultures feel alienated in European-centered cultures. In addition, they’re examining violence among alienated young males in general, understanding and recognizing the signs of rage and calls for help, and whether we have a culture that makes it easier to shoot your way out of turmoil rather than talk your way out. They’re discussing narcissistic personality disorder and other personality disorders.

    Much of the commentary about causes on MSNBC comes from former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt. Here’s a piece at North Carolina Wesleyan University on the history of profiling.

    Experts say this gunman was very methodical and planned the shooting well-ahead of time. They ask and do not answer, “How do you know the difference between someone who is just a little angry and depressed and someone who’s going to go out and take nearly three dozen lives?” As happens in such cases, people want to make sense of the tragedy.

    There was also some confusion earlier about whether another shooting may have occurred on the Virginia Tech campus separate from this shooting two hours before the massacre started. However, later reports say it is the same gunman who shot someone (two women) in a dorm prior to going to one of the engineering buildings (Norris Hall). Again, the source on this is MSNBC live video.

    One student, Trey Perkins, who was in Norris Hall when the shooting started, told MSNBC that the first thing he thought of was his mom, how devastated she would be if anything happened to him. He said when the gunman came in to his classroom, he shot the instructor first. Other reports say the gunman chained building doors to prevent victims from escaping.

    According to ABC, the first shooting of this type on a college campus happened at The University of Texas in 1966. A young man, Charles Whitman, killed fourteen back then. Wikipedia reports the death toll in 1966 as 15. Crime Library, a link used by Professor Kim, agrees with the ABC figure of 14 and is probably a more reliable source than Wikipedia.

    Pointing to incidents like Columbine and the recent shootings at the Amish schools, experts say that it’s important to reach out to people you know affected by these shootings now with shows of support. It makes a difference in deterring post-traumatic stress syndrome. After Katrina I wrote a post on coping with grief, disaster, and change. Some people may find the resources there helpful in this situation (Link).

    Reported earlier at 2:20 p.m. today: President Bush will address the nation on these shootings at 4:15 p.m.

    Reported earlier at 12:16 p.m.: This is not commentary but an FYI to readers. MSNBC reports that a gunman shot and killed 22 people at Virginia Tech University this morning and wounded others. Another blogger informed me and team members of this tragedy. MSNBC begins its report as follows:

    BLACKSBURG, Va. – At least 22 people were killed Monday in a shooting rampage on the Virginia Tech campus, police said. They said the gunman was among the dead.

    In addition to those killed, officials said at least 28 people were wounded.

    Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum said the gunman was dead, but that he didn’t know how he died.

    Read the full story with both live and static video at this link. ABC is also reporting the story at its site. Click here if you want CBS’ coverage of this story.

    Related: The Colors of Killers

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    NJ: All terrorists, all the time — The Fort Dix Six

    December 22nd, 2008

    Originally published at the dead blog, Confessions of a Jersey Goddess, Tuesday, May 08, 2007. So, some of the links may not be zombified, just dead.

    Whoa! How’s that for a sensational blog title? It’s only partly accurate, but it did pop into mind when I learned through Jersey Blogs at The Star Ledger that the Feds foiled a terrorist plot to attack Fort Dix. “Live from The Ledger” reports that “six people were arrested.”

    Federal investigators last night arrested six Islamic radicals who were planning a heavily armed attack against soldiers at Fort Dix as part of a jihad against America, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

    In a statement released this morning that confirmed an earlier report on, The Star-Ledger’s Web site, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said the men planned to “kill as many soldiers as possible.” (Live from The Ledger)

    I was out of it yesterday. Had root canal at the dentist with happy gas and missed all the excitement. However, when I read about this latest terrorist plot, one that All Spin Zone says sounds like a move, the first thing I recalled was how New Jersey had to reform its Motor Vehicles Administration procedures for drivers licenses following the 911 WTC attack when law enforcement realized how many terrorists and potential terrorists had an easy time getting fake licenses through Jersey. No, I’m not having a false memory here. Read this from a 2001 CNN report:

    NEW YORK (CNN) — During the two weeks since hijacked airliners crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, investigators have focused on New Jersey as a possible hub of terrorist activity. (CNN)

    And then there was the alleged arms deal in August 2003 where a terrorist was arrested at a hotel by the Newark International Airport. The man arrested, Hemant Lakhani, was a British citizen of Indian descent. He was later convicted, but said he was innocent and thought he was working with Russian Intelligence.

    The Fort Dix Six are not Arab

    According to “Live from The Ledger,” only one of the Fort Dix Six was born in an Arab nation, which is Jordan:

    Four are ethnic Albanians, one was born in Turkey, and a sixth was born in Jordan, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

    Turkey is considered a Eurasian nation.

    The blog at Simply Left Behind points out that the six men arrested in the Fort Dix sting were not brown-skinned and so do not fit the standard racial profiling criteria in this country for terrorists. I’ve said before that we’re all in danger because we’re focused on who looks Arab. The last time I mentioned it I talked about the suspicious Norwegian.

    Life imitates art? Not quite.

    I was watching CBS’ Numb3s Friday night. (Yes, again!) On it terrorists bought military clothing from a military supply store and also created some passable fake IDs. At first the FBI thought the terrorists intended to attack a military base, but later they realized that the terrorists intended to poison the civilian water supply with Sarin, not in Jersey but in California. They needed fake military IDs and military uniforms to fool security at a defense contractor site storing chemicals.

    I remember thinking, Would it really be that easy to infiltrate a U.S. military base? So, when I heard the news today that the Feds have thwarted a dubious terrorist plot to attack a military base in NJ, I can’t help but say, “Hmm, spoooky.” Coinkydink, I’m sure, but you can watch the Numb3rs episode at CBS’ Innertube

    I also had thoughts similar to another blogger, which are didn’t Republicans say keeping our troops in Iraq would help keep terrorists away from America?

    Republicans blasted (Democrat Harry)Reid’s comments on the House floor Thursday night. … Lawmakers responded to Reid’s comments, saying the nation cannot give up the fight in Iraq or it will face terrorists on American soil. (Source)

    Last week as Bush explained why he vetoed the war-spending bill, and war supporters declared we’ll be safe as long as troops stay in Iraq, I thought that particular argument for staying in that country didn’t make sense. I mean it seems to me that if you piss people off by blowing up their country and leaving it in worse shape than when you found it, and some of them truly believe they are in a holy war commanded by God, then wouldn’t it be likely that they and their sympathizers will mobilize to increase terrorist acts?

    Those were just my puny thoughts since I’m not war expert, but Morra Aarons at pointed out this foreign policy article by Bruce Ridel. It suggests my common sense logic may not be faulty after all.

    You know, I’m surprised Steve Hart hasn’t blogged this yet, at least he hadn’t as of 2:30 p.m., May 8. He must be busy with his book release, The Last Three Miles: Politics, Murder, and the Construction of America’s First Superhighway, full of New Jersey intrigue. It’s on my summer reading list.

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    Dental Phobia: Baby, Give Me The Gas!

    December 22nd, 2008

    Originally published at the dead blog, Confessions of a Jersey Goddess, Wednesday, March 21, 2007.

    Nitrous Oxide! Give it to me. Go on, chop my head off. I don’t care!

    I stayed away from the dentist for more than 15 years because I suffer from dental phobia. Technicians at my dentist’s office in Somerville, NJ, do not doubt this. I went into the office to see the hygienist for some deep prodding/probing last week. The young lady assigned to me was not the one normally assigned. My hygienist was off. The unknown hygienist motioned me to a room at the end of the hall. A technician passing by said, “Oh, no. You’re taking her to the wrong room, she needs gas!”

    african american dentistDamn straight, I need gas.

    The gas used in dental offices is nitrous oxide aka laughing gas. If it were not for its use in dentistry, I’d be content to have all my teeth fall out, enduring the pain on the way. That’s how deep my phobia runs. It all goes back to when I was a child of about four or five. I guess I had a cavity or something because my father took me to his dentist, an older African-American male who probably rarely worked with children. Can you say traumatic experience?

    My parents did not yet know of pedodontists, denists for children. They weren’t that common in New Orleans in the 1960s, especially not in the black community.

    Eventually about four years later, my mother found a pedodontist aka pediatric dentist for whom I’d sit still, a white male. He let me come to him for as long as I liked. I was 18 years old still looking up at Squiggly the rubber alligator that hung above the dental chair.

    somebody's teethBut then it happened. I got married, moved away from home to Virginia, and less than a year later encountered the dentist from hell. He undid all the work that my pedodontist had done to reassure and calm me. I found myself in terror of dentists again. (Never underestimate the power of childhood memory.)

    Perhaps seven years later, I braved seeing the dentist again. This time in Augusta, Ga., where I found a young African-American dentist. I didn’t even need gas. This guy, Dr. Carter, could give a shot and you wouldn’t feel a thing. Plus he was kind. But, oh no! He moved to Atlanta. Couldn’t earn enough in Augusta.

    Years later, here I am, on the gas, mouth a mess. But oh, how I love the gas. It doesn’t make me laugh, and I need more than most people to relax, but the gas definitely sends me to a land of joy so divine that I don’t even care what the dentist does to me. What does this mean? Am I weak? Who cares! Certainly not me. I’m just happy to have the needed work on my teeth done.

    Pump up the gas, put on the cool jazz, give me more until I float to the point of saying, “Needles and drills, I love you.”


    The colors of killers: More thoughts on the Virginia Tech crisis

    December 22nd, 2008

    Originally posted at the dead blog, Confessions of a Jersey Goddess, Wednesday, April 18, 2007. May contain non-zombified links.

    rainbowI was exhausted when I returned from covering a local election last night, but still surfing the web I saw this excellent post by Professor Kim Pearson at on covering tragedies like the Virginia Tech shooting. Both professional journalists and citizen journalists aka some bloggers should read it. (Link to post.)

    The post is entitled “Covering tragedy: Emerging lessons from the Virginia Tech Killings.” One aspect of covering tragedy that Professor Kim discusses is when it’s appropriate to mention an alleged perpetrator’s race/ethnic background. She gives the following advice:

    Be thoughtful about stereotypes. When the initial reporting identified the suspect as an “Asian male,” the Asian American Journalists Association felt compelled to remind journalists of the rule that race should only be included in a news story when it is clearly relevant …

    I mentioned the reported ethnicity of the Virginia Tech shooter now identified as Cho Seung-Hui on the first day of this crisis in my blog. I mentioned it once from the standpoint that MSNBC reported the shooter was Asian and “experts” were already as early as 2:20 the same day discussing Asian males in western culture and again when I heard news reports that the shooter didn’t have ID and the police were trying to figure out which body was his body.

    Both mentions are in the same post but the post is a rolling report with time stamps. Both times I mentioned ethnicity I questioned myself: Why tell this detail? I knew people would start trying to make a deal of the race of the shooter, and I also thought, Please let this young man be here legally; otherwise, folks are going to start getting nasty about illegal immigrants in the country.

    Cho Seung-Hui was in this country legally. Reports say he moved to the United States from South Korea in 1992. However, does his nationality, ethnic background, or how he got here have any baring on his crime?

    I remembered Bill O’Reilly and his shouting match with Geraldo Rivera after a drunk driving tragedy. As Rachel Sklar said in The Huffington Post, “the driver happened to be an illegal alien.” Rivera points out before the two start screaming at each other that the drunk driving tragedy is not an illegal alien story; it’s a drunk driving story.

    Race: The American Obsesion

    Almost immediately I saw hits to my blog from both America and countries in Asia. The surfers searched the string “Asian Virginia Tech” or “Asian shooter.” I figured the people were probably divided into four groups: (1.) those who were shocked that the shooter may have been of Asian descent, (2.) those who were Asian and felt a sense of shame that someone Asian may be connected to such horror, (3.) those who were checking out rumors or trying to verify information, and (4.) those who wanted to find a reason to villanize people of Asian descent.

    When people try to make sense of tragedies and find reasons for wrongdoing, it seems some folks inevitably go for the most simplistic reasons and the most divisive too. Ethnicity of the perpetrator is an easy target to some people as they look for ways to explain horror, especially if the person who is looking for targets already leans toward racist explanations.

    I also heard early that it was a “Chinese graduate student.” However, I tossed that out thinking what’s the likelihood anyone knows this soon the nationality of the shooter? They’re probably hearing this stuff from traumatized witnesses who aren’t sure yet of exactly what they saw.

    It’s possible that I was more sensitive to this type of reporting because I remember being a little girl in New Orleans and how I felt every time a news reporter mentioned a crime and seemed to make a point of sharing that the alleged perpetrator was a black man. At a young age I noticed they didn’t tell you race at all if an alleged perpetrator was white.

    Yet, I think the reason we have to be careful about reporting race and avoid mentioning ethnicity in crimes is not because it’s bad to give detailed descriptions that include ethnic background. Good writing in the traditional sense would say tell details when you have facts. We have to be careful with details like race/ethnicity because America suffers a type of insanity when it comes to race. Many still try to make sense of the world based on skin color and ethnicity.

    I say America because I know America, but I believe this is a global problem. Consider this post that involves assigning blame in Great Britain. It seems all over the world people are keeping score about which ethnic group does what, ignoring other factors for why humans do what they do.

    Race: The Pink Elephant in the Room

    The Virginia Tech story reminded me of the first time a black male was the perpetrator in a mass shooting. People reported it not the way they usually report crimes committed by black people, like “Well, it’s a black man again.” They reported it like, “Oh my God! It’s a black man. I didn’t know black men did these kinds of things. I thought only white guys did that.”

    Reporters didn’t come out and say it that way on the news with an air of obvious shock. Instead they pummeled experts with questions asking them to explain what it meant that a black man had done the deed rather than a middle-class white male, which had been the profile of spree killers for a years.

    This brings me to profiling. Profiles for types of criminals often include race. In the case of the Baton Rouge serial killer police were accused of wasting valuable time finding the possible real killer partially because they based their investigation on a serial killer profile that such killers are intelligent but psychotic white males. They ended up arresting a black man.

    There’s probably nothing wrong with considering the race of potential perpetrators when it comes to law enforcement trying to track down a certain type of crime. But when law enforcement and everyday people leap beyond that to being suspicious of all people of a certain race absent of other indicators like anti-social behavior, we place society at greater danger.

    When we look at race rather than behavior we endanger ourselves because we overlook other critical clues that suggest a threat. I worked for a while at Newark International Airport and noticed a tall, well-dressed, blond-haired, blue-eyed man shooting video of baggage handlers putting bags on planes. I stood at my kiosk and observed him for a while and the thought crossed my mind, They keep telling us to report suspicious behavior. I bet nobody’s questioning what he’s doing because he doesn’t look like he’s of Arab descent. He’s a white guy. So, I went up to him smiling and asked, “What are you doing?”

    He told me he was shooting video for a television station in his country. I listened to his accent and said, “Cool. Your accent? Icelandic?” He said he was from Norway and started to look uncomfortable. I said, “Oh, don’t worry about me. I work over there. I’m not with security. I’m in sales.” We talked a few minutes more and then I left. I went back to my kiosk and started scanning the corridor for security.

    When I told two police officers about the man they said, “It’s not illegal to shoot video.” I said I know but shooting video of how the baggage handlers put luggage on the plane seems like something someone should check out. Then one of the officers said, “I wonder if anyone’s checked his press credentials. Show us.” I turned around and looked toward my kiosk then spotted the man with his camera quickly hauling his butt down the corridor. The officers took off after him.

    I don’t know what happened and it was probably nothing. He could have been running for his flight. Nevertheless, a few days later Newark Airport was shut down for a while. Agents busted people involved in a weapons deal. The arrested were not of Arab descent. They were Europeans.

    Disturbing behavior

    virginia tech professor lucinda royDisturbing behavior should be our focus when we’re on the look out for crime. Not skin color or ethnicity. When we hear of horrible crimes like the one at Virginia Tech, we never hear anyone say of the shooter, “Oh, but he was so happy, helpful, laughing all the time.” We hear words like angry, loner, or withdrawn.

    In the VT shooters case we hear words like “stalked women.” I wonder how long some people like the Virginia Tech shooter go with no one reaching out to them. In the case of the VT shooter, a professor, Lucinda Roy, the woman pictured in this section, did reach out to the young man, but her hands were tied to help him beyond her capabilities. More unsettling is the recent revelation that a judge had ruled Cho Seung-Hui mentally ill in 2005.

    Yet even with this bit of information about mental illness we must be careful. Everyone with a mental illness is not dangerous. A mental illness could be a tendency toward light depression. Despite being associated with suicide, not all depressed people are suicidal or homicidal. Not all women who suffer bipolar disorder are attracted to young boys as some media coverage/talk show discussions suggested when child molester Debra Lafave blamed her sexual relationship with a teenage boy on mental illness.

    Not all those who suffer from schizophrenia are violent. I mention schizophrenia because an expert on Oprah today said based on Cho Seung-Hui’s writings he may have had the type of break with reality indicative of some forms of schizophrenia. Notice I said “may have had” and “some.” I’ve noticed that people tend to overlook qualifiers so they can paint those unlike themselves with the broad brush of being dangerous.

    If we want to be vigilant, we should look for symptoms not our misunderstanding about mental health diagnoses, and before we point fingers we should talk to a professional who knows about mental illness. Morra Aarons gives a list of red flag symptoms in her post about VT shootings and a possible domestic violence connection.

    Danger: Humans crossing

    I think that when it comes to crime and heinous acts we will eventually accept that ethnicity has nothing to do with our madness, that when it comes to acts of violence it’s the ugly side of our humanity that joins us: The human capacity for inhumanity to humans is the tie that binds us to deadly deeds. The human capacity for violence is the demon we must face together.

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    Jersey Guys vs. State Troopers: Bad karma, dudes, bad karma

    December 22nd, 2008

    Originally published at the dead blog, Confessions of a Jersey Goddess, Friday, May 04, 2007. So, some of the links may not be zombified, just dead.

    I sort of don’t know what to say about The Jersey Guys feud with New Jersey State Troopers and the troopers union official who publicly released one of the Jersey Guys’ personal address and contact information. I’m unsure of what to say because it’s The Jersey Guys we’re talking about of New Jersey 101.5 FM. These fellas aren’t known for being responsible when it comes to handling information or considering how the words that come out of their mouths will affect others’ lives and sometimes safety. So, maybe the release of Craig Carton’s home address is a case of karma or what goes around comes around. For you Sunday School alumni, that’s you reap what you sow.

    It seems The Jersey Guys decided to inform the public that our “wonderful” state troopers were about to go on “a ticket-writing blitz,” according to a story at The Bridgewater Courier. Divulging this information, that the story says The Jersey Guys picked off trooper message boards, pissed off the troopers’ union.

    Angered that a popular radio show drew attention to police message board posts calling for a ticket-writing blitz, the head of the state troopers’ union Thursday said the show had endangered police and showed television cameras the home address and license plate number of New Jersey 101.5 FM personality Craig Carton.

    In a blistering news conference, state police union leader David Jones said more motorists have been confrontational during traffic stops since Carton, and then Gannett New Jersey newspapers, publicized the chatter about stepped-up ticket writing, which anonymous posters discussed on a password-protected message board for union members.

    Jones opened his news conference by holding up a paper with Carton’s home information, which he held in front of him for the duration of his remarks.

    “I’m going to release the names and addresses of these people and then their sponsors, and all of the car dealerships and everybody else that sponsors that show is going to have to deal with the reality that they’re putting public servants and the public in general in harm’s way, and I’m going to make sure that everybody knows, until they get their act together, who these people are, where they live, what they do and how it is that they’re misleading the public and creating this furor,” Jones said.

    He later said he wanted to show that a host of the “Jersey Guys” lives in Pennsylvania. (From The Courier story)

    How unJersey of one of The Jersey Guys to live in Pennsylvania. But yikes! Would you want your personal address released to the public if you spent part of your day insulting people publicly?

    Before I go much farther, let me say that the state troopers deny that there’s a ticketing blitz. Jones, the guy from the union, says The Jersey Guys are exaggerating.

    Furthermore, The Star Ledger reports that state police are investigating Jones’ alleged threat against The Jersey Guys. A state police spokesman also said that Jones was speaking on behalf of the union not on behalf of New Jersey State Troopers.

    Per The Courier, Carton responded with the following:

    My safety and more importantly the safety of my family is paramount to me, and I can not and will not allow them to be put in harm’s way because of the misguided rantings of a powerful police figure.

    His safety and his family’s safety are important to him as they should be. I get that, but I wonder how much Carton considers the safety of others when he and his colleague Ray Rossi do their shock jock routine.

    I bet if a few of the people of New Jersey who are of Latino and Mexican descent could’ve handed out one or both of The Jersey Guys’ personal information a few weeks back, someone would’ve done so. After all, didn’t The Jersey Guys in essence encourage ordinary citizens to harass private citizens of Latino and Mexican descent with their “La Cucha Gotcha” game? It was their version of “find the illegal alien” game, and they encouraged their faithful listeners to play. The game’s name alone suggests which group The Jersey Guys felt should be targeted.

    The masses playing the game didn’t need to know your personal address to harass you. They just needed to notice you at work and find your skin coloring or your last name to be “unAmerican” and therefore suspect. It was okay with The Jersey Guys for people to be harassed and possibly endangered based on appearance and last name just a few weeks back.

    The Art of Reckoning and The Jersey Guys

    So, now the state troopers have a game for The Jersey Guys. We know it as “tit for tat; you kill my dog, I kill your cat.” In this case I guess we could say, “You put the troopers in danger, they put you in range of obsessed fans and psychopaths.” Ouch!

    According to a recent episode of Numb3rs on CBS called “The Art of Reckoning,” using a Tit for Tat strategy when you want to get information from a prisoner can be very effective. In game theory it’s called equivocation and has to do with rational self-interest, “the prisoner’s dilemma.” Some folks say tit for tat is what we used in the Cold War to break Russia, but it can backfire if one party is extremely stubborn or possibly nuts.

    Note for NonGeeks: “Game theory is a branch of mathematics that has many more important and far-reaching applications than the name may imply, such as in warfare and business.” (PDF source)

    The state troopers aren’t trying to get information from The Jersey Guys in this case, but apparently they do think they’re at war. They also skipped the first step of the game, which is both parties, selfish agents, mimic cooperation. (Uh, maybe the troopers feel they were cooperating by not releasing Carton’s personal data sooner.) It seems the troopers want to teach those Jersey Guys a lesson now about putting troopers’ lives in danger by putting one of The Jersey Guys in danger. I guess the troopers hope The Jersey Guys will learn that it would be in their rational self-interest to not do that again! Or maybe Jones tends to over-react. What do we know about this guy?

    Can you say lawsuit?

    I don’t know if The Jersey Guys have grounds to sue, but this is pretty hairy, scary stuff here. Again, according to The Courier story, the chief operating officer of Millennium Radio New Jersey, Andrew Santoro, called for an investigation. The article also reports that Carton and Rossi walked off their radio show after Jones’ news conference revealing Carton’s personal data.

    I agree that Jones, the union guy, is using intimidation tactics. I don’t condone what Jones did, and certainly knowing the reputation of Jersey State Troopers, that they’ve abused their power in the past, I’m not going to cheer one of their union reps on in what seems to be another example of power mania.

    What if something happens to Carton’s family? Did his family do anything to deserve having their lives in danger if some obsessed fan decides to pay them a visit or more likely some angry listener?

    Still, for The Jersey Guys this entire situation may be a case of what I already suggested, karma. As the old folks used to say, “You’ve made your bed; now lie in it!”

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