On Not Loving ND Anymore

I’ve watched Notre Dame football my whole life. My dad went there, my mom’s dad went there. We watched all the games when I was growing up. I went to the stadium once – finally – when I was 20 years old, and had an amazing time. While I’m not as much of a football fan as I was as a kid, it’s still emotionally vibrant for me to see the team achieve glory, as they did last year with an undefeated regular season and a trip to the championship game.

Unfortunately, that’s not true anymore.

Back in January, when everyone was preparing for Alabama to crush the Irish in the national championship, I first learned the story of Lizzy Seeberg. Lizzy was a student at St. Mary’s College, a women’s school that has a longstanding “brother-sister” relationship with Notre Dame. The campuses are across the street from each other in South Bend, Indiana. My mom went to St. Mary’s, and that’s where my parents met.

If you don’t know the story of Lizzy Seeberg, you really need to read the full account by Melinda Henneberger in the National Catholic Reporter. On September 1, 2010, Lizzy reported to campus police that she had been sexually assaulted by a member of the ND football team the previous night. Ten days later, after having received intimidating text messages from her attacker’s friends, and with the authorities not having even bothered to interview the accused, she killed herself.

The player’s identity was never revealed. With his accuser dead, there was no way to charge him with a crime. He was on the field in the championship game last January, and it’s possible he’s still on the team today.

Henneberger published a shorter version of Lizzy’s story in the Washington Post in the lead-up to the game last year, in which she also describes the case of another woman who was raped by an ND football player. The university’s handling of both cases makes it clear how important they consider the safety and wellbeing of women on campus, as compared to the almighty pigskin dollar.

After Lizzy died, the university did conduct an investigation. The accused player was cleared of any wrongdoing and never missed so much as a practice, but Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John Jenkins, refused to meet with Lizzy’s family on the advice of counsel, and the school stonewalled journalists. University officials, to their everlasting shame, began a whisper campaign blaming Lizzy for what happened.

“A longtime ND donor I interviewed said a top university official told him straight up that Lizzy had been sexually aggressive with the player rather than the other way around: ‘She was all over the boy.'”

This kind of thing is not just a Notre Dame problem – it’s not even just a college problem; it’s a culture problem. As I’ve learned from listening to Citizen Radio and other sources, rape culture – where rape, sexual assault and harassment are condoned because “she was asking for it” or “she was drinking” or “she was all over the boy” is a potent and destructive force in our society. Essentially, rape culture boils down to simple, ignorant victim-blaming. When rape culture combines with football culture, men become infallible golden heroes while the women they abuse are considered deserving of subhuman treatment on account of their own behavior.

We’ve seen a few striking examples in the last year. The infamous case of Steubenville, Ohio, involved a completely inebriated high school girl being carried from party to party like a rag doll, by a bunch of football bros who violated her repeatedly while other kids posting videos and photos of it online. These guys were going to get away with it because the town authorities cared more about football than about girls’ human rights. Fortunately, a strong case of online activism prevented that tragic outcome, and two boys did face some punishment. But even then the media often focused on how terrible it was that these promising young men had their lives ruined by the incident. Well, uh, maybe they shouldn’t have raped anyone?

A similar situation happened in Marysville, Maryland, to a young girl named Daisy Coleman, who has received no justice to date. Her story is equally horrific, and she nearly died, but now she is speaking out and helping to fight rape culture.

The norm – insane as it is – seems to be that everyone blames the women, tries to forget about it, and goes back to cheering for the football team. We learn it in high school, and continue doing it our whole lives. Any victim who speaks up gets further harassed, intimidated, and publicly  shamed by the whole group – shouted down, in effect.

This is wrong, and awful, and the only way it will change is for more of us to step up and say it’s wrong and awful and it needs to stop.

Don’t victim-blame. Don’t ask what a girl was wearing when she was raped. Don’t put your bullshit PR and football dollars ahead of truth and justice and expect us to take it in stride.

As Lizzy’s father, Tom Seeberg, put it: “When tragedy rocks you to your core, all the little stuff is stripped away.”

Mayor of Hoboken Arrested

Peter Cammarano arrested

Oops! Just 23 days into his term, 31-year-old Peter Cammarano was arrested by the FBI as part of a long investigation into money-laundering and corruption in New Jersey and New York. Apparently, when he wasn’t posing with his wife and toddler daughter for campaign posters, Cammarano was meeting with a Hudson County official and a real estate developer, picking up envelopes stuffed with cash – five grand at a time, five times. The meetings took place at the Malibu Diner on 14th St, which is hands-down the worst diner I’ve ever been too, and I love diners. The place is a disgrace to the culinary traditions of New Jersey, and hopefully this bit of free press is not going to increase their business…

…but I digress. Continue reading Mayor of Hoboken Arrested

Swine Flu

Pigs are seen at a swine farm in Rio Negro, outkirts of Medellin, Colombia on April 28,2009. An outbreak of deadly swine flu in Mexico and the United States has raised the specter of a new virus against which much of humanity would have little or no immunity. The outbreak of the new multi-strain swine flu virus transmitted from human to human that has killed up to 149 people in Mexico is a 'serious situation' with a 'pandemic potential', the head of the World Health Organization said Saturday. By Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images.

Meanwhile, an April 28, 2009 CNN article stated, “There had been no confirmed deaths in the United States related to swine flu as of Tuesday afternoon. But another virus had killed thousands of people since January and is expected to keep killing hundreds of people every week for the rest of the year. That one? The regular flu… No fewer than 800 flu-related deaths were reported in any week between January 1 and April 18, the most recent week for which figures were available.”[84]

No Beer Here

Last month a great crime was finally paid for by yours truly. Over the summer, way back in June, a group of friends were having a late-Friday-afternoon get together in Central Park. My friend Charlie S was soon to embark back to Beijing for an open-ended assignment, and this was a small gathering for goodbye. Four of us sat on top of the big rocks up by 62nd and Fifth drinking canned beer. Soon we were approached by four men in t-shirts and gym shorts, who looked like they were about to go on a run. Something about them looked bad to me, and a second later I knew what it was: they pulled badges out from under their shirts on necklaces and identified themselves as the police. Continue reading No Beer Here

State vs Almerindo G Portfolio

Yesterday was my day in court.

I appeared before Judge Scott Bennion of the Clifton Municipal Court, and I should say, I think he’s a fine judge. He would get my vote, had I one in Clifton, Passaic Count. His manner of churning through case after case to get the job done appealed to me – after all, the majority of his cases that morning were traffic violations. There are apparently a number of things he must say, a procedure he must go through, legally (one assumes), before allowing one to plea-bargain, say, an “80 in a 55” to a “69 in a 55.”

Which is what I did, saving myself about $30 and two points on my license. Not much, but it was worth it to see how democracy, justice and Western Society At Large were playing out on this particular day in this particular community. Continue reading State vs Almerindo G Portfolio

Lawyered Up

Last week I was driving a bit fast on the Parkway and got zapped by a State Trooper – 80 in a 55 = a $220 fine and four points, apparently. Which is not too cool. After getting some free advice from one of the guys at Hackensack, I’m going to show up in court and try to pay down the points.

So I got over to mom’s to pick up some mail and say hi – and I find I have no fewer than nine letters from lawyers offering their assistance in the case. It seems that the “Open Public Records Act (NJSA 47:1A-1) shows that [I] have been charged for violating NJSA 39:4-98.29 (Exceeding By 25-29mph) in the Clifton County Municipal Court.” These guys obviously troll the public records looking for new clients, which, in my humble opinion, doesn’t exactly recommend them as outstanding lawyers.

All these attorneys offer free consultations, but also make it clear that they accept ALL MAJOR CREDIT CARDS. Thanks, but I don’t think so.

Surgery Called For

“When people ask if I have health insurance, I say, ‘Yes, a plane ticket back to China and pocket full of change.'”

“Bike Mike” Sutherland

Truer words hath never been spake.

Meniscus MRI

I went back to the hospital and spoke with the doctor. Turns out I’m going to need surgery on my knee, I suppose to remove some loose cartiledge or something. With not enough time to operate before my upcoming trip to the States, I’m probably going to have the surgery when I get back to China.

I called my dad to talk about options. He said the surgery would cost around $15,000 in the States! Meanwhile, here it costs RMB10,000 (about $1,250). Having no insurance, it’s well decided where I’ll have the operation.

Some have raised the issue of safety. The argument runs basically like this: how could you consider having surgery in China, a backwards, third-world nation? This argument doesn’t hold much water as far as I’m concerned, as the hospital I’m going to is one of the best in China and from everything I’ve seen, doesn’t differ much from my hometown hospital. The procedure, meanwhile, is minimally invasive and routine. It’s not like open-heart surgery, here. If I was going to do something serious, I’d want the best doctor in the world. But this thing is probably less dangerous than, say, getting your tonsils out.

The other option is to begin a physical therapy regimen, which may be able to “cure” me eventually. However, the amount of work and time involved is prohibitive, probably more so than just spending the money. Supposedly the healing time after the surgery is quick and relatively easy. So it’s just a matter of ponying up the cash, which hurts a lot more than my leg right now.