Friday, July 30, 2010

Toddler Used to Interrogate Guantanamo Detainees

The unlikely face of an elite government operative

(Another Onion-inspired entry, again, fiction, people)

Government sources, who decline to be named due to the sensitivity of the information they are providing, have confirmed the existence of a top secret program that employs a two-year-old to help interrogate terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay. According to the sources, a Virginia toddler named Charlotte has been helping officials at the detention facility for the past month, wearing down alleged terrorists with incessant whining.

The program has thus far been highly successful. Charlotte has reportedly broken 9 out of the 10 detainees with whom she has assisted (the 10th detainee is deaf). Sources say after hours of listening Charlotte beg, scream, yell, cry, and prostrate herself on the ground for various items, including goldfish crackers, raisins, Elmo, and the Wonder Pets--even after the items were given to her--the detainees revealed the details of plots to attack the US Capitol, the White House, the New York subway system, and Heidi Montag, who reportedly paid to be blown up for the publicity (Her publicist says she will launch a media tour this week to deny the allegations). They also gave up the exact location of Osama bin Laden, but sources say the government has not yet acted on the information because he is allegedly co-located with several bongo, a highly endangered antelope species from East Africa.

The Charlotte Project was reportedly launched in 2009 in the context of the Obama administration's strict prohibitions on interrogation techniques that border on torture, such as water boarding. "We really had to think creatively," recalls one of the sources, a military interrogator. "We held numerous brainstorming sessions, in which we asked ourselves, What is the psychological equivalent of a physically excruciating technique like electrocution?" The officials, several of whom are parents of small children, eventually came to the conclusion that the maddening behavior of toddlers, particularly the over-indulged American kind, held the key to breaking the world's most dangerous criminals.

The next step was finding the perfect toddler. Government officials secretly observed parks, playgrounds, and daycares in the DC metro in search of a child with elite skills in psychological warfare. On a visit to the National Zoo, they found their man, or in this case, a blonde, blue-eyed, dimpled, 30-pound package of mental torture. "Whatever Charlotte's mom was doing, it wasn't acceptable. She wanted crackers until she had them. She wanted to walk when she was in the stroller and wanted in the stroller when she was out of it. She wanted to see the cheetah when she was viewing the lion and the lion once she was at the cheetahs. We watched her mother slowly lose her mind." She finally buckled Charlotte in the stroller and walked numbly into the woods, Charlotte screaming at her. The officials actually had to intervene to get her safely back to her vehicle. Charlotte's mother's cooperation with the project was not difficult to obtain. "She basically had two questions: Will my child be harmed in any way? and Can I be on a government-funded cruise while all this is going on?"

Leaks about the program have aroused the ire of human rights activists, who claim the technique subjects the detainees to inhumane treatment and is indeed torture. Charlotte's mother reportedly agrees (but is enjoying her cruise too much to formally complain). The Justice Department is investigating.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Help me, Oprah

Yesterday I was watching Oprah, because I am an American housewife and this is my obligation. The show was, once again, on a topic "that could save your life," in this case abusive relationships, and she had some expert on there with his questionaire/survey that could tell you how much danger you are in. Not to make light of a serious subject, but it got me thinking, Can your relationship be considered abusive if the abuser is 2? If so, then, yes, Oprah and your expert, I need help.

Let us go through some of the classic warning signs of an abusive relationship that appear in all of these surveys and you'll see what I mean:

Does the person control your activities? Has he/she ever stalked you?
Yes. I cannot even go to the bathroom without her following me. If I attempt to close the door, hell is unleashed. In fact, she insists I stay within 5 feet of her at all times. If that isn't stalking, I don't know what is.

Is she jealous of your friends and family? Have you lost friends because of her?
Check. She will not even let me speak to another person in her presence. And I have definitely lost friends because of her. I hear from/see about 2 of the friends I had before she was born. Fortunately, my parents and in-laws find her strangely charming, so I've managed to maintain relationships with them.

Does she blame you for her problems?
While she has never said so explicitly, I am definitely the target of her rage and frustration in any situation. If she tries and fails to fit herself into her Little People School Bus, I am the one who pays, not the laws of physics.

Does she get angry so easily you feel you are walking on eggshells?
Just today she screamed for 10 minutes just because I would not open a bag of chocolate chips we had bought at the store. She also becomes enraged if I sing the wrong song at the wrong time or pick the wrong outfit for her to wear.

Does she drink or use drugs?
Not to my knowledge, but sometimes I wonder.

Does she insist you drink or use drugs with her?
That might help, actually.

Does she go through your purse or personal things?
OMG. It's like her favorite thing.

Does she keep you in debt?
She's certainly trying.

Has she caused you to lose a job?
Again, she's working on it. I went to work about 2 days in June due to her illnesses.

Does she threaten to kill herself if you leave?
Not explicitly, but she gives the impression of dying, even if I just walk into the next room.

Does she act one way in front of other and another way with you? Is her behavior erratic?
She definitely puts on a good show for others, who tell me what a sweet child she is. With me, she is the love child of Hitler and Mussolini. And her behavior is completely erratic and unpredictable. How was I to know that just because she ate a plate full of cucumbers yesterday does not mean she won't find them morally offensive today? We have many conversations that go like this: "I want water!" "OK, here is some water" "No, I don't want water!!!!" "OK, don't drink it." "I want water!!!!"

Given the facts, I think this relationship is abusive by anyone's standards. Basically the only thing I have going for me is that she weighs 30 lbs and I weigh...more than that. And I can drive. Like a real car, not the Little Tykes one in our living room. And she doesn't own any firearms. So I think my chances of survival are pretty good. Survival with dignity? That I can't say.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


As one of my ongoing "nesting" activities--which, this time, I intend to accomplish BEFORE I qualify as a body double for Free Willy 8 and have to scoot along the floor to pull up my pants--is culling through all the baby and kid crap that has bred like rabbits in this house and getting rid of things that did not live up to hype. That pretty much describes about 90% of it. Honestly, if you want to get rich quick, forget the lottery, forget Amway, forget flipping real estate during the next housing bubble, forget becoming a Kenyan Member of Parliament. All you really need to do is think up a baby product, then--and this is the key--market it as something that will buy the parent sleep/time/peace/quiet/sanity. The product can honestly be a piece of plastic you found on the floor of your Beijing hotel, and the marketing has to be only slightly more convincing than Michael Jackson's nose job. The most desperate people in the world are parents, and desperate people make very very stupid consumers. Look at the weight loss industry. Does anyone really believe that 5 minutes per day with a vibrating dumbbell will turn your George Wendt body into a George Clooney one? The answer is YES, times like a billion.

The same goes for the baby industry. Just as an obese person does not want to believe that they will have to stop eating ding dongs and amputate the sofa from their buttocks, so parents cannot face the hard facts of their jobs, such as they will not get a decent night's sleep perhaps ever again, their toddler will not play with a single toy for more than 30 seconds, extended travel with a small child will be more painful than birthing breech triplets without an epidural, and dirty diapers will smell like, well, poop stored in a plastic bucket for several days no matter how many genies, filters, vacuums or other patented pending "disposal systems" are involved. It's a hard truth, but parenting, like obesity, isn't pretty and requires many years of hard labor to remedy.

But I am in no position to judge. If parents, and particularly mothers, are desperate folk, Phobic Moms are the most desperate of the desperate, the equivalent of Joan Rivers at her plastic surgeon's funeral. Certainly I have fallen prey to many many baby product pitches. After months of therapy, I am only now able to immediately throw away the One Leap Forward (name changed to prevent lawsuit) catalog upon its near weekly arrival. This catalog is a virtual Encyclopedia Britannica of Baby Crap with marketing so slick, televangelists study it in seminary. Here's just a few of their products I have eagerly purchased (do NOT judge):

1) Two or three versions of a foam wedge/mother's heartbeat simulator designed to improve digestion and soothe the newborn for a good night's sleep. After using each one, while trying to keep all other variables uniform, we spent hours analyzing, with charts, which one produced more sleep. The answer: none of them.

2) Diaper storage system with carbon filter. Powered by D batteries, a set of which the "system" runs through in a few days, this contraption supposedly circulates air through the pail. The carbon does something scientific. I still use the pail, but have long since given up on the battery-powered carbon filters. I don't have anywhere to store all those D batteries.

3) Mesh food bags that allow the baby to sucK on real food without the risk of choking. Charlotte's assessment was that they made everything taste like mesh, and she would rather choke to death, thanks.

4) Shampoo visor that kids just love to wear and that keeps soap and water out of their eyes. I bought this because Charlotte practically has a seizure every time I wash her hair, and despite being quite communicative, she cannot grasp that leaning her head back will allow the water to run away from her face. Physics is apparently not her best subject. She greeted the shampoo visor, which did not fit her head snugly enough to prevent a waterfall anyway, with another seizure.

5) Portable placemat that suctions onto "any table" and has a little trough that catches stray food. Minor problem: It actually suctions to "no table."

6) Baby toothbrush that babies just can't get enough of. Except that they can. And it only takes 5 seconds for them to get enough. Then they want it out of their sight forever.

7) Stroller shade extender that supposedly you can shape and turn to fully shade your child in any sunlight. Maybe I am just not good at shade-shaping but I never could get it to do anything other than look like a massive black duck bill that shaded nothing, as duck bills typically don't.

That's just a sampling. This isn't even counting the hundreds of toys I've bought, each one pinned with the hope that Charlotte would finally leave me alone for a few minutes. I've also bought every kind of sippy cup, plate, bowl, and utensil you can imagine in a determined quest to prevent messes at mealtimes (SUCKER!!!) I came this close to buying this hands-free breast pump holster before I decided it was better to just quit pumping. There are easier and cheaper ways to look and feel like a cow.

There is exactly one baby product (beyond the obvious needful things, like car seats and formula. oh yes, formula!) that actually did save my bacon. I will go against the expressed aim of this blog, which is not to educate anyone, and share it with you here. My friends, I give you the Kiddopotamus Swaddleme:

You haven't lived until you have seen two Ph.D.s on 3 hours' sleep huddled over a newborn baby and a regular swaddle blanket frantically trying to make the necessary folds and tucks to achieve the perfect swaddle. It isn't pretty. Fortunately, some genius that is deservedly rich somewhere invented this miraculous, life-saving device, which ranks right up there with the polio vaccine. I guarantee that anyone, no matter how phobic and/or over-educated they are or how little sleep they are on, can successfully swaddle any newborn, no matter how fat and squirmy, in less than 10 seconds. Seriously, find the inventor and give them a Nobel Prize, because I love him/her more than Bono. OK, maybe the same as Bono.

So to recap: Buy the swaddle blanket. Then STOP.