When Bozos Reign

This is what happens when bozos with tunnel vision are given even a fraction of power, as reported here by the Associated Press:

Woman faces fines for wreath peace sign

DENVER — A homeowners association in southwestern Colorado has threatened to fine a resident $25 a day until she removes a Christmas wreath with a peace sign that some say is an anti-Iraq war protest or a symbol of Satan.

Some residents who have complained have children serving in Iraq, said Bob Kearns, president of the Loma Linda Homeowners Association in Pagosa Springs. He said some residents have also believed it was a symbol of Satan. Three or four residents complained, he said.

“Somebody could put up signs that say drop bombs on Iraq. If you let one go up you have to let them all go up,” he said in a telephone interview Sunday.

Lisa Jensen said she wasn’t thinking of the war when she hung the wreath. She said, “Peace is way bigger than not being at war. This is a spiritual thing.” ….

The subdivision’s rules say no signs, billboards or advertising are permitted without the consent of the architectural control committee.

Kearns ordered the committee to require Jensen to remove the wreath, but members refused after concluding that it was merely a seasonal symbol that didn’t say anything. Kearns fired all five committee members. [full text]

Make Slavery Illegal

We can bombast about building fences on the Mexican border, but the real situation is simple supply and demand. You can be sure that there are illegal aliens in Rhode Island doing hard and dangerous work for starvation wages. Others are doing domestic work and child care, perhaps sending money back to their own children who are missing them back home.

It’s bad when people have no leverage in the labor market. It’s worse when human beings themselves are the commodity. The same economic logic that outsources jobs, that floods our discount stores with cheap imports, is the logic that drives sex as a commodity. It’s no news that prostitution is big business in R.I., as in the rest of the universe. The largest alternative paper in our state is largely funded by advertising in their ‘personals’ section. There will always be people who sell sex, as long as there is money to be made. What to do about it is a complex issue. Slavery, however, is something the world long ago agreed is wrong.

If you’ve been reading the Journal the last few years, you may have noticed a recurring story. A ‘massage parlor’ is raided, illegal women are living on the premises. We never find out what happened to them, soon it’s business as usual.

If you are tired of seeing nothing done about what appears to be a human rights crisis in our own state, there is a place to speak out. The National Council of Jewish Women are holding a forum Tuesday, November 28 at 7pm at the Providence Marriot, 1 Orms St., Providence.

In my opinion, we need to speak to our mayor if we want to address the problem of trafficking. If we don’t, what we are likely to get is another moral crusade. These moral crusades never did anything but make life more miserable for women. Our city officials are looking at the prostitution laws. They need to look at laws to make it unprofitable to transport, kidnap, coerce or threaten anyone, and laws that protect victims who testify against the international organized crime networks that are luring desperate people into indentured servitude.

Nicaragua Is the New South Dakota

The following story from the Boston Globe is not only alarming but sickening—offering further proof that public policy and religion ought not mix:

Nicaragua abortion ban called a threat to lives

Doctors and women’s groups are warning that Nicaragua’s ban on all abortions — even to save the mother — will endanger the lives of thousands of women every year.

With the new law, which imposes prison sentences of up to eight years for women and doctors , Nicaragua joins El Salvador and Chile as having the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in Latin America and among the toughest in the world.

In El Salvador, women who develop ectopic pregnancies — when a fertilized egg gets stuck in a fallopian tube, giving it no chance of survival — are kept under guard in a hospital. A prosecutor must certify that the embryo has died or the woman’s tube has ruptured before doctors can intervene.

In Chile, where abortion is punished with three to five years in prison, legislators last week rejected without debate a bill that would have permitted it in limited circumstances. Nevertheless, rich women go to private clinics where secret abortions are recorded as tumors or miscarriages while poor women obtain back-alley abortions, with an estimated 32,000 suffering serious injuries every year.

Abortion is criminalized throughout majority-Catholic Latin America, except in Cuba. Exceptions are made in most countries to save the mother’s life, a procedure known throughout the region as “therapeutic abortion.” Yet women in the region, who have poor access to contraception, have some of the highest rates of abortion in the world — with an estimated 3.9 million annually, or nearly one per woman over her lifetime.

According to the World Health Organization, South America is the continent with the highest rate of unsafe, clandestine abortions.

As many as 21 percent of maternal deaths in Latin America are associated with abortion, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a US-based research center on reproductive issues.

Colombia was the one Latin American country to liberalize its law earlier this year, allowing abortions in cases of danger to a woman’s life, rape, or severe fetal deformity — exceptions that are now being challenged by a group of abortion opponents.

In Nicaragua, Dr. Oscar Flores Mejía, of Nicaragua’s National Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said the new law has sent fear and confusion through the medical community. He said many doctors understand the ban to mean they can do nothing “to interrupt pregnancy from the moment of conception until birth.”

That rules out operations to save women with ectopic pregnancies, eclampsia, cardiac problems, or other life-threatening complications if doctors could not guarantee that the fetus would survive, Flores said.

“This law is forcing us to be delinquent in our jobs,” he said. [full text]

Accelerated Growth

Martha Irvine of the Associated Press offers an interesting, albeit somewhat unsettling, story about how children seem to be growing up faster and faster. It’s hard to know what to make of such trends. One can only hope that prosecutors don’t interpret such news as grounds to more frequently charge youth as adults…

10 is the new 15 as kids grow up faster

Zach Plante is close with his parents — he plays baseball with them and, on weekends, helps with work in the small vineyard they keep at their northern California home. Lately, though, his parents have begun to notice subtle changes in their son. Among other things, he’s announced that he wants to grow his hair longer — and sometimes greets his father with “Yo, Dad!”

“Little comments will come out of his mouth that have a bit of that teen swagger,” says Tom Plante, Zach’s dad.

Thing is, Zach isn’t a teen. He’s 10 years old — one part, a fun-loving fifth-grader who likes to watch the Animal Planet network and play with his dog and pet gecko, the other a soon-to-be middle schooler who wants an iPod.

In some ways, it’s simply part of a kid’s natural journey toward independence. But child development experts say that physical and behavioral changes that would have been typical of teenagers decades ago are now common among “tweens” — kids ages 8 to 12. [full text]

Sectarians Take Over Television Station in Iraq

The concern over civil war in Iraq is growing, as a television station was reportedly taken over on Saturday. From Mercury News:

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Followers of the militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr took over state-run television Saturday to denounce the Iraqi government, label Sunnis “terrorists” and issue what appeared to many viewers as a call to arms.

The two-hour broadcast from a community gathering in the heart of the Shiite militia stronghold of Sadr City included three members of al-Sadr’s parliamentary bloc, who took questions from outraged residents demanding revenge for a series of car bombings that killed some 200 people Thursday.

With Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki relegated to the sidelines, brazen Sunni-Shiite attacks continue unchecked despite a 24-hour curfew over Baghdad. Al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia now controls wide swaths of the capital, his politicians are the backbone of the Cabinet, and his followers deeply entrenched in the Iraqi security forces. Sectarian violence has spun so rapidly out of control since the Sadr City blasts, however, that it’s not clear whether even al-Sadr has the authority – or the will – to stop the cycle of bloodshed.

“This is live and, God willing, everyone will hear me: We are not interested in sidewalks, water services or anything else. We want safety,” an unidentified Sadr City resident said as the televised crowd cheered. “We want the officials. They say there is no sectarian war. No, it is sectarian war, and that’s the truth.”

Some are suggesting that this is a sign of big trouble, and an indicator of how little control the American occupation has been able to instill in creating and backing the new Iraqi government. What a terrible omen for our troops stuck in the middle of this.

Perspective on Immigration

These foreigners do not belong here. Whatever their reasons for coming and however valid those reasons may seem, this is not their land. They were not invited. They are not welcome. Truly, it is unfortunate that, in their home countries, they have had to suffer persecution, poverty, squalor, and the like. It is unfortunate that the economic and political opportunities they may find here are largely unavailable to them there. It is unfortunate that such circumstances have necessitated that they travel an arduous distance to seek the better life that is their due and desire as much as anyone’s. But they simply do not belong here.

And yet they come and they come, waves of foreigners with their strange customs and alien language, making themselves at home in a place that is not their home. Even worse, by virtue of their needs and numbers, they import the hardships they seemingly left behind: the crowded conditions, the drain on local resources, and the tension and incivility that arise from such. It is difficult not to feel resentful. Yet, somehow, those who have lived here for many generations are expected to acquiesce and accommodate to these interlopers. Those who may rightly call this land home must watch in growing dismay as all that is familiar and cherished is strangely transformed.

Like it or not, though, the Europeans are here to stay.

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The ironies are abundant. The interlopers of yesteryear are the aggrieved citizens of today, many of whom seem to possess memories as short as their tempers. They would do well to recall that they were neither the first here nor the first to feel put out. Indeed, however they are impacted by immigration, whatever challenges and hardships they may presently face, their collective experience pales in comparison to that of native Americans in centuries past—who were branded as savages, mistreated, forcibly displaced, and massacred. What experience now or in the foreseeable future can compare?

Immigration is admittedly a knotty issue. But please have some perspective.

Injustice for All

Justice that is administered with prejudice or without equity is not justice.

From the Charlotte Observer, an op-ed by Julian Bond:

Mental illness in black face

Convinced he was receiving signals from Oprah Winfrey and Dan Rather through his television, Guy Tobias LeGrande fired his attorneys and, wearing a Superman T-shirt, represented himself in the trial for his life. The State of North Carolina plans to execute LeGrande Dec. 1.

It is now universally acknowledged that capital defendants are entitled to competent defense lawyers. Why did North Carolina allow this seriously mentally ill man to represent himself?

In the last few years, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided that some offenders — juveniles and those with mental retardation — are less morally culpable, and for that reason should not be subjected to the death penalty.

Last August, the American Bar Association, in concert with the American Psychiatric and Psychological Associations, formally recommended that people with serious mental illness should not be eligible for execution if the illness prevents them from “exercis[ing] rational judgment in relation to conduct.” Under that standard, LeGrande should not be executed.

Unfair from the start

LeGrande’s case is the appalling story of zealous prosecutors exploiting a mentally ill man. Although I have seen progress in race relations in my lifetime, it is an undeniable fact that racism continues to play an insidious role in our criminal justice system. LeGrande’s exploitation was even more shameful because that same racism enveloped his case, creating an unfair climate from the start.LeGrande is black. The two men who planned every detail of the murder for which LeGrande faces execution are white. The central facts of the crime are not disputed. Tommy Munford harassed his wife for years and told even casual acquaintances that he wanted to “do [her] in.” He tried to recruit at least three people to kill her, offering to pay them from the proceeds of an insurance policy he had on her life. He established an alibi for himself by taking his two small children to the beach while she was killed.

Munford told the white man with whom he had planned the murder and who provided the murder weapon that he had found a “n—– from Wadesboro” to kill his wife. As a result of decisions by the prosecutors, this “n—– from Wadesboro” was the only person to face the death penalty for the murder.

Prosecutors freely acknowledged that Munford was the mastermind and driving force behind the murder. Nevertheless, they offered Munford an extraordinary deal for his testimony fingering LeGrande as the triggerman: Munford pled guilty to charges that leave him eligible for parole. The other white accomplice and co-conspirator was not even charged. [full text]