I Hate Halloween

Let me just say it - I hate Halloween.  I didn’t always hate it, but I do now.  Ok, I never really loved the holiday to begin with... but over time dislike turned to hate. I think it stems from when I was a student at UC Santa Barbara (back in the day).  Don’t get me wrong, I loved my days at ‘SB - but I hated specifically what the costumes did to the kids on campus.  Perhaps, I am little bah-humbug in that I hate the New Years holiday too... It’s just that big holidays like that always seem to bring out the worst in people. There are so many crazy expectations and everyone sets-up the day to be so “important.”

But, Halloween also has added the element of disguise that I really can't stand. I have always fancied myself of somewhat of a trendsetter -- but who knew that I would be thinking 10 years ago what everyone is writing about now: the disgustingness of Halloween costumes. People are obsessed with how kids as young as four-years-old are dressing up in overly sexualized, scantily clad outfits (think short skirt Britney Spears, short top Hannah Monana, low cut Barbie, or za-za gypsy costumes). Not to mention the inappropriate dress of adults who go for that look. These outfits are at best promiscuous and at worst down right offensive (for any age, but especially the younger ones). 

The thing that I crack-up about is that people are writing about this like it’s a new phenomenon. Duh, people - this is not new!! This is just the “women’s rights” version of what men have been doing for years.  For years, men have worn masks, capes, or other disguises and have used their cloaking as an excuse to act-out and go wild. 

It is this acting out business (now both by men and women) that has made me truly hate Halloween.  For whatever reason, it seems to give people a license for one night to act in ways that they normally wouldn’t every act. I am against any institutionalized day that gives permission to people for behaviors that, under “normal” circumstances, would not be acceptable.   

Whatever the excuse or justification may be, I hate what costumes do to people.  Sorry – no Happy Halloweenie message from me people! I’m just being real here!  

On a serious note: be safe out there tomorrow with your kids and with yourself.
For more of my thoughts on costumes (and Marge Simpson - ooo! preview) visit: http://womenincrimeink.blogspot.com/

Balloon Boy Busted

We all know that adding helium to a balloon makes it light, and we now know that adding a lot of helium to a big chef-hat-shaped balloon makes it take off into the skies!   But, helium is no laughing matter.
For those of you who didn’t know what I am talking about maybe you have been smoking too much of what LA is trying to ban (but more of that in the next few weeks). But, let me refresh your recollection, last Thursday there was a little six year boy, Falcon Heene, who for all intents and purposes was treated as though he was a trapped boy inside a giant alien balloon thing (that his father built) which was mysteriously un-tethered and flew up into the air.

The whole nation was captivated for two hours, with people praying and calling into various major Prime Time stations with tremendous concern. Top newsmen and women were racing to get the latest “Breaking” updates on the story, including CNN and HLN – notably, Fox News was not covering the balloon chase.  I watched as CNN got together in the Situation Room and put up the “Smart Board” to try to find where the kid could have fallen out -- setting up a tracking parameter for the miles the balloon had covered, and bringing in helium experts to assess how far the balloon could travel and what kind of injuries the boy could sustain upon impact, etc. etc. It was very serious, so serious in fact that one might think it was a PARODY of the news, not actual news.

Although I was, of course, concerned for the boy – especially if he was really in that little compartment –  I was shocked that so many news stations (almost all of them!) were covering this loose balloon chase with SO MUCH intensity.  I mean it was surreal I felt like we were watching a giant chef Boyardee cap sweeping the skies. 

Those of you who know me, know that I use humor (albeit dark and sometimes jaded humor) as a way to find levity and enjoyment in life.  It is not to uncommon for those of us in the dark world of crime to poke fun at things that we shouldn’t, laugh at inappropriate jokes, or find a way to giggle at something socially incorrect. 

So, while Operation Balloon Hoax was going on I was in the middle of posting an article to my Facebook page when one of my “friends”  popped up saying, “Robin, stop working and start praying.”   And as the child advocate I am, I immediately felt guilty for working during this national tragedy. 

Then the balloon came down, phew I was relieved.  I could go back to work again without the guilt of my Facebook “friends.”  But “uh-oh” where was the kid?  Back to panic mode.  As the talking heads were trying to figure out where Falcon was I was shocked that the whole world was mesmerized (and still is) by the giant balloon –that was built to do exactly what it was supposed to do—FLY. 
What is wrong with this picture?  So much and so much more as each day unfolds.

Now that we know the boy is fine, I think it’s ok for me to say what a lot of us were thinking during the whole “saga”: What The Heck!?!?  [And/or add in your own “!?!?” questions…you guys all know I am “f” word fan but I am trying to clean up my act]. Are you kidding me!? There is no other pressing news going on right now? Do you know how many kids go missing, are starving, are in danger of death, in this nation everyday? But they don’t go floating up in a weird silver flying machines – maybe they should, maybe then we’d pay more attention.

But I really don’t want to rant about the dangers and disasters faced by kids daily in this country (not in this post at least); nor do I want to make fun of Falcon Heene (maybe his dad) who although did not go flying through the air is probably facing something equally scary now that the nation’s eyes are upon him and his family.

I just want to say that the whole flying-chef-hat incident was hilarious as it was being covered. THERE, I said it! I actually laughed. NO, I’m not a horrible, insensitive, beyatch.  I am just being honest and open. There were some laughable moments.  And while it may not be okay to talk about them in the moment or even a few moments after the moment, I have to say that my style works for me.  Laughing keeps me sane.  Laughing keeps me from jumping of a bridge. And if Id didn’t laugh I would spend all my day crying at the sick, evil, and sadness in our society. 

And while there is no happy ending at the end of the flying chef balloon case for the Heene family, it certainly reminded me that sometimes the joke is not in the people who intended it but the real joke is on those of us who are watching and reporting this. 

I mean did you see that man on the ground racing after the chef-hat balloon as it was coming down to the ground. Why did he do a baseball dive onto the dirt ground? Why did Wolf Blitzer need an aerodynamic specialist to map out the trajectory of the balloon fall?  (I know that at the time they didn’t think it was a hoax but STILL…..how many other cases that need it get that kind of attention?????)

Since it seems the Heene’s actually did perpetrate the incident for a “show”,  I definitely have a word or two that I would like to share with the family (and the public) about EXPLOITATION.  This is not just about exploiting a child but it is also about abusing police resources and wasting public energy.   But, again, that is an article for another day. 

And while the Heene parents are surely not laughing as they are awaiting which of the potential charges are coming their way, the instant popularity of the balloon boy saga really did get me laughing (albeit with guilt).   But  really, is it okay to ever laugh at crime?  Clearly, there is a time for everything and that means a time to laugh, smile, and giggle no matter how dark things are.  So, I give you permission.  If a smile or laugh makes YOU feel better, go for it.  There is humor in everything and sometimes it’s just plain OKAY to use it.  Know that others may not find your jokes funny but know that humor can be your friend. So, ladies and gentleman, if you ever need to smile think of the flying Chef Boyardee hat and Wolf Blitzer in the “situation room.”  OY!!! 

The Obama Peace Prize Ordeal

I want to give a caveat right away: I am really not that political. Those of you who know me understand that although I am a former prosecutor, I can come down on issues in a way you wouldn’t expect. And I usually don’t weigh in strongly on current political events. But the Obama Peace Prize ordeal caught my attention.

Some background: The Peace Prize has been awarded 90 times to 120 Nobel Laureates between 1901 and 2009 – 97 times to individuals and 23 times to organizations. The receipts are as varied as humanity itself: from Yasser Arafat (a Palestinian leader who participated in Peace talks with Yitzhak Rabin, but also committed terror acts against Israelis), to Elie Wiesel (a Romanian Jew who was deported to a German concentration camp during WWII, survived the Holocaust, and went on to publish several books and speak out on human rights). Some of the most well known recipients of the Peace Prize are Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Woodrow Wilson, Al Gore, and now Barack Obama.

Most of us when we think of the NOBEL PEACE PRIZE we assume (and rightfully so) that it includes a component of MERIT.

So what about it?  In the case of the most famous recipients, the accomplishments speak for themselves: Martin Luther King didn’t just talk of civil rights, dream of it, he actually marched, rallied, inspired, and accomplished tangible changes in this country. Mother Teresa didn’t just wish for sick people to be healed, she went out in the world and nursed the ill to health – offering tangible “hands-on” help. Woodrow Wilson was a President forced to join in war, who then went on to bring about the convention on League of Nations – arguably a seminal international covenant. And Al Gore brought us “An Inconvenient Truth”, a campaign that truly changed the international conversation on global warming.  What exactly has Obama done to earn this HUMONGOUS honor? Somebody please tell me.

I’m not making any policy comments on Obama, his administration’s plans, or his rhetoric.  Trust me, I voted for him and am happy that I did!  But geez Louise…isn’t bestowing this honor a bit premature?   I mean how about giving the dude a chance to actually accomplish something.  Trust me-- I love how he talks about bringing nations together, restoring America’s place in the world, and getting us out of war… but has he actually done any of those things yet? I thought the Nobel Prize was for incredible accomplishments in peace, not just honorable aspirations for peace!

This piece of news bothers me not just as a citizen but bothers me as yet another example of inconsistent modeling and messaging to our kids.  What does bestowing this prize say to we our kids? I am disappointed that Obama won the prize NOW.  “Now” being the key word. That’s not to say that he might have EARNED it later. I just worry that kids around the country (and around the world) are getting the wrong message: you can win a prize just based on your intentions, your “celebrity factor” or because there is no one else better. What about putting in the hard work? What about recognizing the less known people who pour the hearts and souls in their work and actually accomplish what they set out to do?
In an elementary school in Hempstead, NY (renamed Barak Obama Elementary after his election) kids weighed in on Obama winning the prize:

“I was proud, because Barack Obama did a good job,” said fifth-grader Ashley, 9. “He was definitely for peace - he wanted countries at war to come together. He knows that teenagers are getting hurt.” Another fifth-grader, at the school Tiara, 10, said her uncle is serving in the Army, either in Iraq or Afghanistan. “I was excited because he's my inspiration,” she said of Obama. “He earned it, because he wants peace in Iraq for our soldiers.”

The language of these students concerns me – as I’m sure it reflects the thoughts of children in schools all across the country … that is, he “earned it” just because he wants it. I don’t give my daughter her allowance just because she wants her room to be cleaned. I give her the reward when she actually gets the work done.  (Not so often by the way.)

What was the hurry? Why couldn’t the prize have been awarded in a few years, after Obama spent a few years in office? I really don’t understand it. It seems that most of the past Peace Prize honorees have been given recognition for a lifetime of work, or participation in a truly memorable/significant event in history.

Pablo Triana made an excellent point, summarizing the issue, in his recent Huffington Post blog:
…this Nobel may be transformed into a Trojan Horse: an excuse to forever demean the award as merely a propaganda affair… It seems to me that by rushing things a bit too much, those Northern Europeans have shut themselves in the foot. Read more

I know what some of you are thinking: but Obama will bring a better, more peaceful world…! Ok! But, as a prosecutor, I just want him to prove it and DO IT!
On a lighter note, take a peak at Maureen Dowd's satirical article on the subject published in New York Times... "Gandhi Wuz Robbed" at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/11/opinion/11dowd.html?em 

Kudos to Letterman

I can no longer can call it a “bombshell” since it’s been a week since David Letterman went on national television and came clean about having sex with some of his staffers.  Perhaps the most unbelievable part of this story was not that he was extorted, not that he had sex while having a girlfriend, not that Robert Halderman actually tried to cash the 2 million dollar check.  Oh no, it was the response of his audience that intrigued me the most. 

You saw it…..his audience laughed at what they thought was a punch line, but this was no joke ….just one look at the strain and lines in Letterman’s forehead and one could easily see that this was no laughing matter.  

Despite his obvious stress, I say “kudos to Letterman” who had probably one of his most difficult appearances in his career.  To come clean before the whole nation is something that we don’t see very often.  Actually, I don’t even remember the last celeb, public figure or politician who has had the guts to do it.

Probably not even ten years ago, this type of transparency would mean the beginning to the end of a career. But honesty goes a long way today, and I immediately thought: What if more people, companies and products actually communicated this way?   Why do people think that the admission of error or bad judgment is equivalent to death?

And what if people stopped lying and stopped the cover-up? 

Everyone can learn from Letterman’s example.  He wanted to ensure that  he wasn’t going to be extorted again, so he did the right thing: he shaped the message instead  around  being a victim. Companies today should do the same. Some already have, using social media to listen and respond to them. They are transparent about what they need to improve.

Others still pretend “it never happened” and then have to lamely apologize when it’s proved that “yes, it did!”  Fact is: today, people will find out about your mistakes and talk about it. They will shape the message themselves unless you are transparent about it. And you know what? If you’re honest, just like Letterman, you will even get applause, and you won’t become a neurotic organization, government, company or city that no one can trust.

Roman Polanski: Man-Up!

It is a crazy week here in Los Angeles -- it’s not very often that LA makes headlines on every network, every day, in a whole week, about more than one case.  It’s a good thing that the Michael Jackson case has taken a momentary rest, because we are inundated with other LA crime news: Roman Polanski, Manson Murderer Susan Atkins’ death, Mitrice Richardson still missing after being released by the Lost Hills Sheriffs Department, Randy Quaid accused (again) of ripping off a hotel….and on and on!

But even with all of these stories percolating, we have to take a moment to recognize that we are in the throes of the beginning of a new FASHION season!

It’s Fall, so boots are the rage!  The “must have” this season is the flat over-the- knee boot (or high thigh boot), a feature at NYC Fashion Week. Once you decide on the right style, don’t wait – go shopping!!  To avoid buyer’s remorse, carefully consider the boots and examine the deal you’re getting. Once you purchase those On Sale/No Exchanges pair, you’re stuck with that deal.  And while those over-the-knee boots are HOT…HOT….HOT, next season they be NOT….NOT….NOT.   Moral of the story:  buyer, beware!

Speaking of deals and buyer’s remorse… What’s up with Roman Polanski deciding he didn’t like the deal he cut, so his response was to split? Folks, remember: HE cut the deal, HE agreed to a plea bargain and then HE fled the country because he had “buyer’s remorse” over his own deal!

And, by the way, don’t think for a moment that if he cut that deal today, all the yakking heads would be sitting around quietly.  Oh, no!  If he pleaded to that deal today, we would all be commenting on how he got the “celeb blue light special” --because he got a freakin’ BARGAIN!

Legal experts are quoted in an AP article today saying that “if Roman Polanski were charged with child rape today, DNA evidence, stiffer penalties, outcry over childhood sexual abuse and tougher scrutiny of celebrity justice would make prosecutors much less willing to cut the plea deal the director received more than 30 years ago.”

I was quoted in the article as well, pointing out that changes in state law since the 1970s would give prosecutors other options in pursuing charges, including a law that includes a mandatory 15 years-to-life in a state prison for rape or a lewd act with a child coupled with certain circumstances (such as the use of a controlled substance).

But it’s really about more than the facts of the case and Polanski’s offenses  (which are indeed major)… It’s about the fact that he stole time, resources, and energy from the State of California. It’s about the fact that Polanski did not accept responsibility for his actions and the deal HE decided to strike—and WON.

The best case would be for Polanski to come back and face a California judge, take his medicine, and receive the same sentence/deal he bargained for in the first place….assuming the LADA would be game for that.  So, what do I say….

I say, Polanski – MAN UP!   The return policy is long gone and you should be skipping with excitement if the deal you struck is still on the table. The time has come to accept responsibility--and no receipt is required for that, my friend!!