Hooray for the Sheriff of Cook County

October 23, 2008

In Time Magazine’s October 27 issue, “Verbatim” (its regular page of quick quotations) includes this statement from Sheriff Thomas J. Dart of Cook County, Illinois:

We’re just not going to evict innocent tenants. It stops today.

According to Time, Dart said this upon “suspending foreclosure evictions in the Chicago area because renters were not being properly notified about their landlords’ financial problems.”

Without knowing much else about Dart, his stand struck me as so profoundly and simply human. Yes, let’s just stop kicking people out of their homes. It could be as simple as that. We’ve got to start somewhere.

My Google search led to a CNN article about the sheriff. Apparently, he made the statement on October 8 to protect innocent tenants who are “victimized by an uncaring, reckless system.” On October 16, he announced he would resume evictions but these would be based on specific conditions (see CNN report). Also, that he would hire a social worker to help evictees find alternative housing.

That’s heroic. Yes, one person saying “no more” CAN make a difference.

Of course, CNN also reports that the Illinois Bankers Association is critical of Dart’s actions, saying he was “elected to uphold the law and to fulfill the legal duties of his office, which include serving eviction notices.” Now THAT’s a crime.

blixity to the Illinois Bankers Association: Shut The Fuck Up.

Dart is one public official who seems to be looking out for his public. A blixity tip of the hat to a GOOD MAN in deed.

Photo of Sheriff Dart from http://www.easthazelcrest.com
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Decapitation on a Canadian Greyhound Bus

July 31, 2008

A friend just told me about this insane act of violence. BBC News reports that a 40-year-old man traveling on a Greyhound bus with a large hunting knife stabbed a fellow passenger 50+ times, severed the victim’s head, and gutted him.

The bus had 37 other passengers and was traveling from Edmonton, Alberta to Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada. It seems that when the attack began, the driver pulled over, allowing others to exit and brace the door to keep the killer inside.

The still-unidentified killer was apprehended by police after a confrontation that lasted several hours. He has not been charged.

According to BBC, the attack appeared unprovoked. The victim was a 20-year-old who had been listening to music through headphones.

What instigates such extreme yet seemingly random acts of violence, leading not only to death, but to disfiguration of another living being? When does one cross the line of civilization into madness? And what will society choose to inflict as punishment? How deeply sad for all involved.


Supreme Court Lifts Ban on Guns, Upholds Right to Bear Arms

June 26, 2008

An historic and controversial ruling this afternoon in Washington D.C.: a 5-4 vote by Supreme Court justices has lifted a ban on individual ownership of handguns by D.C. residents. This is the first time the court has ruled on the issue since 1939.

Seeking to clarify the ambiguous wording of the Second Amendment, the majority ruled that the Constitution protects an individual’s — not just the state militias’ — right to own guns for self-defense and declared the ban unconstitutional.

The Second Amendment reads:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.

The decision to lift the ban was written by Justice Antonin Scalia. He was joined by the most consistently conservative justices — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. Each was nominated by either Reagan, Bush Sr., or Bush Jr. Not surprisingly, the current administration and the NRA are thrilled.

The dissenting votes were cast by the most consistently liberal justices: John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. Each was nominated to the bench, respectively, by the following presidents: Ford, Bush, Clinton, Clinton.

The ideological divide stresses, in no uncertain terms, the importance of the next U.S. president — who may be in the crucial position to nominate 2 or even 3 new justices.

McCain, presumptive Republican nominee, makes his position clear:

I applaud this decision as well as the overturning of the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns and limitations on the ability to use firearms for self-defense.

Obama, presumptive Democratic nominee, takes a more nuanced position:

I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms, but I also identify with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets through common-sense, effective safety measures.

The NYT reports that this case has clearly “generated emotional as well as intellectual sparks at the court”. Apparently, Justice Scalia looked at “various state constitutions and the use of language in the 18th and 19th centuries to support his view…”

I wonder if he might also have looked at 21st century videogames (for starters). Since the founding “fathers” penned these inalienable rights, the media and cultural landscape have changed significantly. The impact of one individual’s actions has grown exponentially as well due to technological advances. These need to be considered seriously, particularly with regards to objects created with the exclusive function of inflicting harm or death.


India’s Female Feticide: Sexism Before Birth

June 21, 2008

As India grows into one of the world’s largest economies, it continues to exterminate one of its most crucial assets: women. BBC cites a report by a UK charity today:

…increasing numbers of female foetuses were being aborted and baby girls deliberately neglected and left to die.

Under “normal” circumstances, there should be about 950 girls for every 1,000 boys… but in three of the five [research] sites, that number was below 800.

Sadly, better technology may be a factor. Using ultrasound results, families are aborting female fetuses because females are considered economic burdens. This cultural preference for boys is so pervasive that adult women themselves consider the pre-selection “a rational choice”. Others are simply forced by family pressure.

Female feticide is banned in India. And the prejudice against women is certainly neither new nor unique to the country. But many hoped that better education, greater prosperity, and a stronger middle class would gradually shift this cultural bias. Not the case.

In a CBC article from 2004:

The opposite seems to be happening. The rate of girls to boys is lowest in the wealthiest states and neighbourhoods. In the Punjab, one of the richest states in India, there are only 793 young girls for every 1,000 boys.

The BBC article today has bleaker statistics: in one research site in Punjab, there are just 300 girls to every 1,000 boys among higher caste families.

inda childrenWhich goes to show: more money and more education aren’t always the solutions.

Equality — not wealth — is a basic human right that we need locally and globally. As Jacques Ranciere taught: equality is not a goal to be attained. It is our starting point, the very axiomatic point of departure.

Photo: New Delhi family by Trey Ratcliff or stuckincustoms on flickr

Man Arrested for Hiding in Woman’s Couch

June 20, 2008

Last month in Fukuoka, Japan, a 58-year-old woman was arrested for living in a 57-year-old man’s closet. This evening in Newburgh, NY, NYT reports that a 27-year-old man was arrested for hiding in a 22-year-old woman’s couch.

The trespasser, David Joe Limones, had cut a hole in the couch, hid in the carved-out space, and waited. When the woman came home, she sat on the couch, felt a bump, and jumped up.

Luckily, the woman had telephoned a friend who stayed on the line as she entered the apartment. Apparently, she had filed a complaint against Limones earlier and was worried he might be there. What do they say about a woman’s intuition.

The friend called the cops and Limones now faces burglary and other charges. Creepy. Is this a trend?


Republican Radio Host Calls for Murder of Media Activist

June 14, 2008

Michael Reagan, eldest son of Ronald Reagan and national radio talk show host, is calling on listeners to kill Mark Dice, political activist and founder of a Christian media watchdog called The Resistance. Reagan’s words:

How about you take Mark Dice out and put him in the middle of a firing range. Tie him to a post, don’t blindfold him, let it rip and have some fun with Mark Dice. (full audio link)

What provoked the former president’s adopted son?

Apparently, Mark Dice and his group of 3,000 Christian activists had been urging people to send letters and DVDs to U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq informing them that 9/11 was an inside job produced by the American government. In an interview with Fox News, Dice explained his motivations for “Operation Inform The Soldiers”:

I don’t want the soldiers who are risking their lives in Iraq to be used as pawns in the creation of the New World Order… We want U.S. troops to know that we care about them and are doing our best to make sure that they don’t have to risk their lives based on false pretenses.

While we do NOT agree with or endorse Dice’s platform, Reagan’s open call for murder is just plain repulsive. A transcript of the words he used on his radio program:

We ought to find the people who are doing this, take them out and shoot them. Really. You take them out, they are traitors to this country, and shoot them. You have a problem with that? Deal with it. You shoot them. You call them traitors, that’s what they are, and you shoot them dead. I’ll pay for the bullets.

Dice certainly knows how to fight back. He has filed a report with the FBI, is considering legal action, and is calling for Reagan to be fired immediately.

It’s not often that we see two right-wingers throwing fire and brimstone at each other. Perhaps a reality tv show is in the works.


Australian Authorities Drop Sex Crime Charges Against Artist… and Bust 42 Queenslanders

June 6, 2008

On Cafe Philos this morning: Australian police have decided NOT to prosecute artist Bill Henson and his gallery Roslyn Oxley9 on charges of pornography. They were following the advice of Nicholas Cowdery, NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, who felt there was no reasonable prospect of conviction, particularly in this complex and “notoriously difficult” area involving law and art.

In smh, Assistant Commissioner Catherine Burn said the police jumped into action after receiving THREE complaints, adding that they “would respond if there was one complaint from the public… It is the role of the police to respond to community concerns and investigate complaints.” Burn did not explain how or why one complaint constitutes a public. Three complaints must have felt like a national movement.

Playing politics, Social Conservative Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has both backed down and not backed down from his condemnation of Henson’s work (previously described as “revolting”). In the same smh report:

I said what my views are as a parent, I don’t budge from that. But I’m not about to go around and start dictating to the legal authorities what they should or should not do… Organisations like that are at arm’s length from politicians…

Meanwhile, in northeastern Australia, police have arrested 42 Queenslanders in one the nation’s biggest pedophile busts. The Daily Telegraph reports that Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson expects to charge 70 to 80 more people over the next fortnight as part of state and federal efforts to bust a global child pornography network.

A 59-year-old teacher charged over the bust has committed suicide. A second teacher, 48, is recovering after a failed suicide attempt. A parliamentarian declared that society would be better off if pedophiles committed suicide before they abused children.

These two near-simultaneous events in Australia (Henson’s liberation and the Queensland arrests) are fueling the fires of highly-combustible debates about rights and responsibilities in an increasingly technological, globalized, and some say (sadly) post-human, civilization.

Our societies are collective works in progress. And our individual humanities are all we have. It is absolutely crucial that we continue to negotiate both — without wishing death or violence on anyone. Life is not a zero-sum game.

See blixity’s previous post on Bill Henson’s case.