Posts Tagged ‘law’

harris paintingA brisk debate is taking place in Australia as to what is to be done, if anything, with artworks associated with the convicted child molester and serial assaulter Rolf Harris, who as we write is facing a custodial sentencing hearing tonight. (Later: Harris was jailed for five years, to serve approximately three with good behaviour. Another 12 women are reputedly reporting alleged offences against him. The British Government’s legal officers are already considering a complaint that the sentence was inadequate.

In one town, Warrnambool, a rather attractive landscape mural painted by Harris on a loading dock has been covered up at the command of the town mayor while Councillors take the public pulse and work out whether it should be kept, covered up, or destroyed. A similar debate is occurring in the Queensland town of Bundaberg.

Meanwhile, The City of Perth says it is likely to tear up a footpath plaque in its central business district dedicated to Rolf Harris. “The boy from Bassendean” is among more than 150 notable West Australians celebrated with a plaque inlaid in the footpath of Perth’s St Georges Terrace.

Rolf Harris heads back to court today to face an almost certain custodial sentence.

Rolf Harris heads back to court today to face an almost certain custodial sentence.

What to do with the legacy of people that fall foul of the law is a vexed issue.

The calls for Rolf Harris to be expunged from art history is founded in the belief, which must be respected, that reminding victims of sexual abuse, whether children or adults, of his existence and role in society before his fall from grace, would be distressing and traumatic. This is a point of view that must be respected, coming as it does from people who are specifically experienced in the area, such as psychologists and victims of sexual assault organisations.

But at what point do we confront two awkward facts?

First, the elephant in the room is that the treatment of wrongdoers in the arts (and their output) varies enormously and for no apparent reason, and secondly the idea that the art from such people assumes a “life of its own” once it has left their mind, pen or brush, and becomes something which despite their crimes can still enrich or enliven society.

Let us tackle the first point first.

What about, for example, the case of politician and author Jeffrey Archer, whose books still sell in the millions worldwide? Should all his books be withdrawn from sale, or pulped, because he was clearly an adulterer, a perjurer who went to jail for his crime, and according to the internet allegedly involved in various other dubious matters?

Of course, it can be argued that Jeffrey Archer’s run-ins with the law were less contemptible than that of Rolf Harris, and so they may have been. Nevertheless, they seem to have put hardly a crimp in the veneer of his literary career.

And then what about the case of movie director Roman Polanski?

On March 10, 1977, Polanski, then aged 43, became embroiled in a scandal involving 13-year-old Samantha Gailey (now Samantha Geimer). A grand jury charged Polanski with rape by use of drugs, perversion, sodomy, lewd and lascivious act upon a child under fourteen, and furnishing a controlled substance to a minor, which ultimately led to Polanski’s guilty plea to the charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor as part of a plea deal agreed to by Polanski, the prosecutor, the judge, and the Gailey family.

According to Geimer’s testimony to the grand jury, Polanski had asked Geimer’s mother (a television actress and model) if he could photograph the girl as part of his work for the French edition of Vogue, which Polanski had been invited to guest-edit. Her mother allowed a private photo shoot.

Samantha Geimer as a teenager.

Samantha Geimer as a teenager.

Geimer testified that she felt uncomfortable during the first session, in which she posed topless at Polanski’s request, and initially did not wish to take part in a second, but nevertheless agreed to another shoot. This took place on 10 March 1977, at the home of actor Jack Nicholson in the Mulholland area of Los Angeles. At the time the crime was committed, Nicholson was on a ski-ing trip in Colorado, and his live-in girlfriend Anjelica Huston who was there, left, but later returned while Polanski and Geimer were there.

Geimer was quoted in a later article as saying that Huston became suspicious of what was going on behind the closed bedroom door and began banging on it, but left when Polanski insisted they were finishing up the photo shoot. “We did photos with me drinking champagne,” Geimer says. “Toward the end it got a little scary, and I realised he had other intentions and I knew I was not where I should be. I just didn’t quite know how to get myself out of there.”

In a 2003 interview, she recalled that she began to feel uncomfortable after he asked her to lie down on a bed, and described how she attempted to resist. “I said, ‘No, no. I don’t want to go in there. No, I don’t want to do this. No!’, and then I didn’t know what else to do,” she stated, adding: “We were alone and I didn’t know what else would happen if I made a scene. So I was just scared, and after giving some resistance, I figured well, I guess I’ll get to come home after this”.

Geimer testified that Polanski provided champagne that they shared as well as part of a quaalude, and despite her protests, he performed oral, vaginal, and anal sex acts upon her, each time after being told ‘no’ and being asked to stop. Although Geimer has insisted that the sex was non-consensual, Polanski has disputed this. Nevertheless, under California law, a person under 18 cannot legally consent to sexual intercourse with anyone who is not their spouse, and Polanski has since settled a civil case with Geimer in her favour and even written to her apologising for the effect he had on her life.

So let’s just get this clear.

Roman Polanski had anal sex with an entirely innocent and allegedly non-compliant 13 year old.

Butromanpolanski have you seen and enjoyed any of his movies since? Tess? Frantic? Bitter Moon? The Ninth Gate? The Pianist? (For which he was awarded an Oscar which he could not receive because he would have been arrested.) The Ghost Writer? Carnage? Venus in Fur?

Polanski today is lauded throughout the world as a leading artist, and people regularly troop to the microphone to argue that he should be forgiven and his crime expunged.

Others will fulminate on the evil or otherwise of the people involved in these trials, but that is not the purpose of this article. It is not our place to condemn. And we are certainly not about to deny the role of forgiveness or the concept that people do bad things and then improve themselves. And it should also be said that the judge in Polanski’s original trial may well have unsatisfactorily reneged on a deal not to give him further jail time, and that Polanski therefore considered flight the only option rather than staying and facing the music. It may also be that being forced to live in Europe rather than America has caused him some hardship: inconvenience, at least.

Yet for all that he was a convicted sexual offender, at exactly the same time as many of those now being exposed in the United Kingdom and elsewhere were abusing children, and the subsequent treatment of Polanski’s art and the man himself has been markedly different to that meted out to Rolf Harris, TV personality Stuart Hall, and a number of others.

We stress that we make no judgement either way on any of these cases … we merely note the apparent double standard. Or, if you prefer, the lack of a standard.

The second issue is even more complex. To what extent does a work of art acquire a life of its own after it has left its creator? Should it not be allowed to exist, unencumbered by the travails of its creator, and judged entirely on its merits?

Those shoes look very uncomfortable.

Those shoes look very uncomfortable.

For example, Joe Shuster co-created Superman with Jerry Siegel, but then years later the world discovered that he was also the artist behind a range of extremely offensive Bondage/BDSM comics sold “under the counter” in America.

These comics were so nasty they were banned by the Supreme Court. Their publisher, a mobster turned porn peddler, was sentenced to prison because of them.

The only reason Shuster wasn’t arrested too is that no one knew who drew these books until recently, when they were accidentally discovered in a used bookstore by a comics historian.

But would anyone seriously argue that kids shouldn’t be allowed to watch Superman, or that the world would have been a better place if we’d never heard of the Man of Steel?

Moving on: Poet Lord Byron had at least two children out of wedlock, and one of them incestuously with his half-sister Augusta. He was also well-known as an enthusiastic adulterer.

Lord Byron - mad, bad, and dangerous to know. But should we ban his poetry?

Lord Byron – mad, bad, and dangerous to know. But should we ban his poetry?

Does that mean no jilted lover today should ever read his most exquisitely powerful words in When we two parted :? That would surely be a shame.

In secret we met
In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget,
Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?
With silence and tears.

That worried look that says, "They know. They all know. I know they do."

That worried look that says, “They know. They all know. I know they do.”

Famous authors F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Hardy, Victor Hugo, Goethe, Pushkin, and Dostoevsky all engaged in obsessive foot fetishes. Hardly illegal, but definitely peculiar.

For instance, when he wasn’t busy writing Faust, Goethe managed to find a woman named Christiane von Vulpis who shared his interest and would send him pairs of her “danced-out shoes,” which is like mailing a guy your dirty underwear, only much more unsettling on a deeper level.

Von Vulpis also nicknamed Goethe’s penis “Herr Schonfuss,” or “Mr. Nicefoot,” which we assume indicates that he either put toenail polish on his private parts and/or he habitually kept them bunched up in her wingtip loafers.

No, not illegal. But definitely strange. But should it affect our view of his lyric and epic poetry, his prose, his literary criticism, his learned works on botany, anatomy, and colour?

The list of artistic behavioural peculiarities rolls on, some mere peccadilloes, some extremely disturbing.

As the BBC reported, a victim of a paedophile teacher asked for his music textbooks for children to be banned. The BBC used the debate to ask, does the work, or the art, of someone who has committed such a crime have to be condemned as well?

Brian Davey

Brian Davey

To some within the music fraternity, there were two Brian Daveys. One a devious paedophile jailed for sexually abusing girls as young as four. The other was a respected music teacher who wrote books on the recorder that many tutors regard as among the best textbooks of their kind for children.

To his step-daughter Antoinette Lyons, now 33, the two are inseparable. She waived the anonymity accorded to victims of sexual abuse to call for his books to be withdrawn: “In my opinion they were written with one aim – to get to children.” This echoes an age-old conundrum from the world of art. Can you value work produced by someone whose private life and acts you find appalling? Do the proclivities of those responsible for artistic or intellectual works have to be taken into account in their appreciation?

It seems a shame that children should be denied access to excellent teaching materials because their author was a dangerous pervert.

As the BBC explained, similar stories keep popping up: for example, Fiona MacCarthy wrote a biography of the sculptor and typographer Eric Gill in 1989 that dropped a small bomb on the art world.

Gill's work remains popular despite his bizarre and illegal sexual behaviour.

Gill’s work remains popular despite his bizarre and illegal sexual behaviour.

Gill was one of the most respected artists of the 20th Century. His statue Prospero and Ariel adorns the BBC’s Broadcasting House and the Creation of Adam is in the lobby of the Palais des Nations, now the European HQ of the United Nations in Geneva.

But MacCarthy’s book revealed that he regularly had sex with two of his daughters, his sisters and even the family dog. These encounters he recorded in his diary.

Once the allegations were known, for some of Gill’s fans, even looking at his work became impossible. Most problematically, he was a Catholic convert who created some of the most popular devotional art of his era, such as the Stations of the Cross in Westminster Cathedral, where worshippers pray at each panel depicting the suffering of Jesus.

But the Catholic Church would not budge an inch. The former Westminster Cathedral administrator, Bishop George Stack, retains an unequivocal view.

In 1998, spurred on by a cardinal’s praise for Gill, Margaret Kennedy, who campaigns for Ministers and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors, called for the works to be removed.

“Survivors couldn’t pray at the Stations of the Cross. They were done by a paedophile. The very hands that carved the stations were the hands that abused. He abused his maids, his prostitutes, animals, he was having sex with everything that moved – a very deranged man sexually.”

But Stack commented: “There was no consideration given to taking these down. A work of art stands in its own right. Once it has been created it takes on a life of its own.”

Does it though? It might be easier to make this argument for the Stations of the Cross than for nude sketches of Gill’s teenage daughter. But should we therefore stop using the clean, neat typeface Gill Sans, created by Gill? That would make life exceptionally tricky for millions of people worldwide who rely on it as the core of their corporate style guide.

gesualdoPopular Italian medieval composer Carlo Gesualdo
brutally murdered his unfaithful wife, her lover, his child, yet weGesualdo Cera still listen to his music enraptured. He is remembered for writing intensely expressive madrigals and sacred music that use a chromatic language not heard again until the late 19th century.

No one remembers him for slaughtering the lovers in a frenzied attack, swinging his infant son around until he died, and so forth. Perhaps the passage of time confers some form of forgetfulness, but nevertheless. One has to wonder.

At the Wellthisiswhatithink College of Ethics we do not propose that we know the answer to this conundrum.

If we had to express a view, it would probably be that we want the work preserved, just as we wish the names of such criminals expunged from consciousness. (Unless, perhaps, some extraordinary and meaningful act of contrition has been accepted by their victims.) Both cannot be achieved, of course.

We do have one small idea. Maybe a partial answer to Warrnambool’s problem is simply to grab a brush and paint over Harris’s signature. Over time, the genesis of the work will be forgotten, as will it’s thoroughly obnoxious and destructive author, and we will all be left with what it is now.

A nice painting.

A sign near Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook

We are on record as saying that we think there are far too many guns in circulation in America, and that the very prevalence of them both encourages and creates the appalling gun death and injury statistics that the country endures on a daily basis.

To us, the logical conclusion of the pro-gun National Rifle Associations’s position is very simple: it is that every American should carry a firearm, in almost every conceivable situation.

And to us, that’s as sensible as arguing that every state in the world should have nuclear weapons, on the basis that Mutual Assured Destruction appears to have kept the USA and Russia from going to war. (Which is an arguable issue in itself, but one for another day.)

Or to put it another way, in our opinion, “The right to bear arms is about as sensible as the right to arm bears.”

But we do welcome those on all sides of the debate who believe it should be conducted with civility, with deep thought, and with respect.

Which is why we find this article so encouraging. It questions the current pro-gun environment in America, but in a gentle, thoughtful way, and from the perspective of a pro-gun individual.

We recommend it. Do yourself a favour, and click the link.

Joseph Wilcox, with his mother, who died attempt to stop Jared Miller in the recent shooting in the USA. He was shot in the back by Amanda Miller. A hero? Very possibly. But what is also certain is that he is dead.

Joseph Wilcox, with his mother, who died attempt to stop Jared Miller in the recent shooting in the USA. He was shot in the back by Amanda Miller. A hero? Very possibly. But what is also certain is that he is dead.

http://gawker.com/its-really-hard-to-be-a-good-guy-with-a-gun-1588660306

There. aren’t you glad you did?

Whatever the solution to the situation with guns in America, one thing that should enrage us all is that facts so rarely seem to get produced in the debate.

And whatever the solution might be, the facts in the infographic below need dealing with.

Urgently.

gun related deaths

Why care? Why care about what happens in Georgia or Illinois or California from our neat suburban homes in Australia? Why get involved? Why stick our noses in, uninvited?

Well that’d be because we have many great friends in America, many of whom have had a close shave with gun-related violence.

And because national borders should not stop us from providing advice to friends. Especially when the price of the situation not being dealt with is the same ghastly roll call of dead innocents, and so many of them innocent women and children gunned down in family violence, or in what seems to be the uniquely bizarre and tragic “school shootings” that plague the country. Should we care less about a kid shot down in Sandy Hook that we would if it were down the road from us in Australia, France, Russia, Britain, Korea, Japan or anywhere else? No, we should not. A kid is a kid.

JohnDonneAs John Donne wrote in 1624:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Five Christians were arrested after their group held a prayer vigil in reaction to what they described as Australia’s “cruel treatment” of asylum seekers on March 21.

Christians released

Commonsense prevails. They look like dangerous violent radicals, don’t they?

A spokeswoman for the group has said the charges were dismissed after they pled guilty to trespass in Sutherland Local Court this afternoon.

She said the magistrate noted that the protest was peaceful. “This was the other end of the scale to the Cronulla Riots,” she said.

Earlwood resident Justin Whelan, 38, was one of those who faced court over the protest he described as an appeal to Mr Morrison to “rediscover the ideals of his maiden speech”.

“I have witnessed first-hand the conflict and suffering in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine I feel compelled to take action to draw attention to the plight of asylum seekers,” he said.

He was joined in court by Blue Mountains resident Donna Mulhearn, 45, Zetland resident Jaxon Jennings, 21, and Woolloomooloo resident Jody Lightfoot, 28. The fifth member of the group, 33-year-old Midland resident Jarrod McKenna, did not appear in court.

The group was supported by approximately two dozen protesters who gathered outside the court to hold another “asylum seeker prayer vigil”.

Protest spokesman Matt Anslow said the vigil participants had come from different Christian denominations, including Catholic and Uniting Church, as well as non-Christians.

Mr Anslow said his group had not had any contact with Mr Morrison since the March 21 protest.

“We recognise that we’ve been a party to allowing our government to continue these policies,” he said. “Today is less about an outcome, it’s about support”.

He had told the media that the March protest was not intended to target Mr Morrison in a negative way.

If ever a man needed praying for, it's this guy.

If ever a man needed praying for, it’s this guy.

“We were praying also for Mr Morrison, not in a way that was condemning or judgemental,” he said. “We were actually praying that Mr Morrison might have a change of heart. In his maiden speech for Federal Parliament, Mr Morrison gave a really amazing outline of his vision that included justice and compassion for vulnerable people. For us, we were hoping Mr Morrison might have a change of heart and join us.”

Wellthisiswhatithink has another and less gentle point to raise. What on earth were police officers doing wasting their taxpayer-funded time arresting these people in the first place? And once arrested, why on earth were they taken to court and not simply released? Who took that ludicrous decision?

I am reasonably sure the Christians who “invaded” Morrison’s precious little office would have left quietly if asked to do so, or would have allowed themselves to be moved outside, even if resisting passively. That should have been an end to the matter.

In a free country, people are free to say what they like, where they like, even if that causes minor inconvenience. What an utter nonsense this all was. Will the police in charge at this and other protests be counseled to show a little more restraint, and commonsense? Like hell they will. Will the prosecutorial authorities get dragged over the coals for wasted time, money and effort. No, they won’t.

Ridiculous.

The accused

The accused

Why? Because the post-traumatic disorder being experienced by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is real. Combat, especially in wars with unclear goals, inadequate planning, lack of resources, and hopeless re-integration back into society, f**** with people’s minds, and it’s not their fault. And we argue it would be counterproductive to jail him because the treatment for such trauma in US prisons is woeful. Tens of thousands of veterans currently languish in American jails, forgotten and unaided.

They didn’t ask to go to war, and many US service people are simply desperate refugees from poverty and unemployment anyway.

In a civilised society, this man should be diverted into intensive psychological care and properly rehabilitated. At least given the opportunity to be rehabilitated. He is clearly suffering from trauma in his current life, not just when serving.

The quality of mercy is measured by how we treat those who think, say or do things we would find unconscionable, but whose responsibility is diminished by their mental state.

When that mental state is directly related to their efforts on behalf of the rest of us, for which they are inadequately rewarded, then we should be doubly careful in how we respond when they go off the rails.

The issues raised in the case apply equally to Australia, the United Kingdom, and many other countries …

From Raw Story:

kkk

 

An Alabama man is asking a judge for mercy after pleading guilty to hiring a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) hitman to murder his black neighbor.

Defense attorneys for Allen Wayne Morgan told U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre that their client — a veteran of over 175 combat missions in Iraq who struggled with post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and drug addiction — should not spend more than five years in prison. Judge Bowdre referred the matter to a government expert, who will review the report on Morgan’s mental health submitted by the defense.

On August 29, 2013, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrested Morgan at an Econo Lodge in Oxford, Alabama. He thought he was speaking with the KKK hitman he had hired to kill his neighbor, Clifford Maurice Mosley, a black man he believed had raped his wife.

He allegedly told an undercover agent that “I want this man hung from a tree like he is an animal. I want his penis cut off and I want him cut. You’re a hunting man right? I want him hung from a tree and gutted.”

Morgan is also alleged to have told the agent that he had recently confronted Mosley outside his house, firing several shots in his direction, but that he did not intend to kill him that day because there would be witnesses. He also said that he was certain Mosley had raped his wife, because when confronted, he did not attempt to stand his ground or reason with him.

He planned to check himself into a Veterans Administration hospital in order to provide himself with an alibi.

After being taken into custody, Morgan confessed to having tried to hire the hitman.

The previous year, Morgan had been profiled in a Birmingham News piece on Iraq veterans dealing with post traumatic stress disorder and depression via music.

“During times of my deepest abuse, I would try to cancel myself out chemically,” he said. “But even if we’re just jamming, it’s like time stands still. I’m not saying like all of my problems go away. But for that little bit of a moment, everything is OK. If it can make me feel like that, I know it can make others feel like that.”

He also said that when unexpected people arrive at his house, “I usually pull out a gun and run them off.”

[Image via Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed]

Read more of what we have to say on the appalling treatment of Veterans here: http://wellthisiswhatithink.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/the-country-who-failed-its-vets/

Prison

 

 

Words fail us. We will simply re-report this story without much additional comment, except to say, something is deeply wrong with the country of my birth.

In our opinion, privately-run prisons – in the UK, America and Australia – are an abrogation of the State’s duty of care and an ongoing blight on humanity. Let us just say this. This woman is clearly a highly needful and unwell person. She shouldn’t be in prison at all, she should be receiving social support and be in a rehabilitation and redirection program. This is typical of Britain in 2013, and it’s a damn disgrace. A civlised, so-called Christian society is measured by how it treats its weakest and most damaged individuals.

For shame, Britain, for shame.

Story begins:

A woman who had a miscarriage at a private prison was left to clean up after herself while the foetus remained in her cell, it has been alleged.

Although a nurse was present when remand prisoner Nadine Wright, 37, lost her baby, she says the foetus was left with her afterwards and that she had to clean up the blood.

Her barrister, Philip Gibbs, told Leicester Crown Court: “There was blood everywhere and she was made to clean it up.

“The baby was not removed from the cell. It was quite appalling. It was very traumatic. She only received health care three days later, after the governor intervened.”

The incident allegedly took place the day after Wright was taken into custody at HMP Peterborough on 23 November. It was not revealed in court how many months pregnant she was.

Mr Gibbs told the court that Wright had landed in prison after she stole £13.94 worth of food out of desperate hunger as she did not have the money to pay for it because she had not been given benefit payments she was entitled to.

The alleged incident came to light when Wright appeared for sentencing for breach of two court orders in place following previous offences by shoplifting the items and failing to attend appointments with the probation service.

Wright pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 months’ jail.

Mr Gibbs also attacked the probation service, accusing it of failure to help Wright to receive any benefit payments during the 11 months she was under its supervision.

Wright has mental health issues, had been battling long term heroin addiction and had recently lost her mother, as well as being pregnant when she was arrested, Mr Gibbs explained.

He said an investigation into Ms Wright’s alleged mistreatment would now be carried out by her legal representatives.

HMP Peterborough is a category B privately-run prison managed by Sodexo Justice Services.

The company was contacted for a comment but a spokesperson said it “cannot comment publicly on individual cases”, and would not reveal whether an inquiry following the alleged incident is being carried out.

“A prisoner received medical treatment on the day of her arrival in prison and was seen by a GP the following day,” the spokesperson said.

“We have a duty of care to all prisoners that we hold. As part of that, we ensure that all prisoners have access to the same level of NHS services as those in the community.”

A case where the punishment uniquely and perfectly fits the crime.

A case where the punishment uniquely and perfectly fits the crime.

Judge Mark A. Ciavarella, 63, serves as an example of why the private prison industry can do more harm than good.

Ciavarella worked alongside owners of private juvenile facilities to ensure that the prison remained occupied. More prisoners equated to more profits for the owners of the prison.

As a result, Ciavarella would sentence offenders with small offenses to months and, at times, years behind bars. He once sentenced a teen to three months in jail for creating a MySpace page that mocked her school’s assistant principal. Ciavarella also sentenced another teen to 90 days in jail after a simple schoolyard fight.

But after a federal investigation, it was discovered that Ciavarella and his colleague, Judge Michael Conahan, received more than $2.6 million from privately run youth centers owned by PA Child Care. In 2011, Ciavarella was convicted of racketeering and sentenced to 28 years in prison. He was also forced to pay $1 million in restitution.

Once Ciavarella was convicted, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed out an astonishing 4,000 convictions issued by the judge.

Ciavarella appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia to have his 28-year sentence overturned. But on July 25, the court denied his request.

Ciavarella’s attorneys may attempt to appeal the case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Whilst we have frequently railed against “justice denied”, we frankly wouldn’t be distressed if it took a long, long time to consider any such appeal.

Is it not unfathomable that people can be this wicked? But the facts show that human depravity frequently knows no bounds. Can one imagine the grief and distress caused, not only to the non-criminals thus sentenced, but also to the shocked families and friends?

It hardly bears thinking about.

ass21

Sometimes a story come wandering across the Wellthisiswhatithink desk that make us righteously angry, squirming with embarrassment, and gets us shaking our heads in disbelief, all at the same time.

Toni Shelton, who lives in Sugar Creek, Missouri, has been repainting old tires to turn them into flower planters.

“I was just really interested in recycling and I’m really big on self-sufficiency,” she told KCTV news.

Dangerous radical seeks to make world more beautiful: authorities act

Dangerous radical seeks to make world more beautiful: authorities act decisively

Not only is Shelton using the tires decoratively, as painted flower planters, but also to grow fresh vegetables for her family.

Sounds like a great idea, right?

After all, recycling is one of the most important things we can do to preserve our planet for future generations.

Apparently, the authorities in Sugar Creek do not agree.

They have issued Shelton a citation, but she is refusing to pay the fine on principle. Instead, she is prepared to go to jail after she was threatened by authorities in her home town.

Why are these tires such a threat to Sugar Creek? Well, apparently the number of tires she was storing could attract mosquitoes and lower property values.

Oh no! What could be more important than property values?

Well, let’s even concede the town has a point. Citing her, and threatening to prosecute her, is ludicrous. Even though the police department said they don’t have a problem with her using the tires as planters, they told her to get rid of her unused supply and fined her before she had a chance to move them.

From rawstory:

“We’d asked her to put them somewhere else because there were quite a number of them,” Sugar Creek Chief Herb Soule insisted.”We try to keep people from accumulating tires because they retain water and they attract mosquitos. They detract from property values in the neighborhood too.”

She looks dangerous to us.

She looks dangerous to us.

In response, Shelton has now moved most of the old tires and is storing some of them inside of an old truck.

Still, she said she won’t get rid of all the tires because she said it would send the wrong message to her children. And to other environmentally aware people, presumably.

“I don’t want my kids to see me back down and not follow my heart,” she explained.

Anyhow, unless pressure not to do so can be brought to bear, the case will be heard in municipal court in Sugar Creek next week.

Missouri officials don’t seem to be aware, but here are some of the benefits of recycling:

•    Recycling protects and expands US manufacturing jobs and increases US competitiveness;
•    Recycling reduces the need for landfilling and incineration;
•    Recycling prevents pollution caused by the manufacturing of products from virgin materials;
•    Recycling saves energy;
•    Recycling decreases emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change;
•    Recycling conserves natural resources such as timber, water, and minerals;
•    Recycling helps sustain the environment for future generations.

Shelton’s way of recycling these ugly objects should be applauded rather than punished. Shelton has moved her unused supply of tires to an enclosed space, but she says she’d rather go to jail than pay a citation for trying to set a good example for her kids.

Tell Sugar Creek recycling tires isn’t a crime.

If you agree that Toni Shelton is improving the environment by recycling old tires and that, far from being punished, she should be applauded, please sign the petition demanding that all charges against her be dropped immediately. They have 238 signatures already, (after I have just added mine), and are seeking at least 5,000. Let’s get it done, people.

Fellow bloggers, please PRESS THIS.

FUN FACTMr.Bumble_thumb

The phrase “the law is an ass” was popularized by Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, when the character Mr. Bumble is informed that “The law supposes that your wife acts under your direction”.

Mr. Bumble grumpily replies “If the law supposes that … the law is a [sic] ass — a idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is that his eye may be opened by experience — by experience.”

Azaria Chamberlain disappearance

After 30 years, finally, the truth. Lindy and Azaria before their world was savaged and taken from them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many people have passed on since Lindy Chamberlain was wrongly convicted of the murder of her daughter, Azaria. Young people born since then will hardly begin to comprehend the obsessive interest in the case that swept Australia and, indeed, the English-speaking world. The nine-week-old baby’s disappearance from a campground at Uluru more than 30 years ago became one of Australia’s most sensational legal cases and saturated the media for years. It also spawned a popular movie, called Evil Angels (also called “A cry in the dark”) with Lindy played memorably by Meryl Streep.

It was the most horrifying examples of a miscarriage of justice, because of the complicity of the whole society in its perpetration – a grieving and bereaved pair of parents, robbed of their baby daughter in awful circumstances, clearly with no motive for such an act, were convicted and punished in an atmosphere of a public lynching. It was a riotous circus of botched forensic evidence, the refusal of authorities to consider alternate explanations other than the fact that the baby had been murdered, and the constant howl of a public scenting blood. “Surely she did it, look at her face, she doesn’t care –  doesn’t Azaria mean something about “sacrifice” – they belong to a weird religion, you know.” And so it went on, endlessly.

What is most terrifying about the case is that it was conducted in full view of the so-called impartial media, and despite the manifest failings of the case, that media largely failed to apply any intellectual rigour to the Chamberlain’s defence. Instead they were swept along by the lust of the public for a neat, sensationalist conclusion.

Canis lupus dingo Fraser Island Queensland, Au...

Canis lupus – the “Wolf Dog” – not a pet, not a friendly toy, a wild animal.

Well now the Northern Territory coroner finally found that Azaria Chamberlain was attacked or taken by a dingo in 1980. There were emotional scenes in court on Tuesday as the findings were handed down, with even the coroner’s voice quivering as she delivered what is likely to be the final chapter in a bitter legal battle.

Coroner Elizabeth Morris told a Darwin inquest on Tuesday morning that all of the evidence indicates a dingo was responsible for Azaria’s death.

“Azaria Chamberlain died at Uluru, then known as Ayers Rock, on the 17th of August 1980,” she said. “The cause of her death was as the result of being attacked and taken by a dingo. It is clear that there is evidence that a dingo is capable of attacking, taking and causing the death of young children.”

There have been four coronal inquiries, a murder trial and a royal commission into the case.

Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton was jailed for murder despite an initial inquest ruling that a dingo had killed her daughter.

The conviction was overturned in 1988 after Azaria’s mangled and torn jacket was found near a known dingo lair. What would have happened if that jacket had never been found hardly bears consideration, and yet we must consider it, because only happenstance saved Lindy from spending decades in prison, just as only happenstance – and the ignorance of justice conducted as a blood sport – saw her in there in the first place.

“Please accept my sincere sympathy on the death of your special and loved daughter and sister, Azaria,” the coroner told the family after handing down her finding. “I’m so sorry for your loss. Time does not remove the pain and sadness of the death of a child.”

Outside the court, Ms Chamberlain-Creighton fought back tears but said she was “relieved and delighted to come to the end of this saga. No longer will Australians be able to say that dingoes are not dangerous, and that they only attack if provoked. The truth is out,” Mr Chamberlain added, saying that the family welcomed “a chance to put our daughter’s spirit to rest.”

Ms Chamberlain Creighton and former husband Michael Chamberlain were applauded outside the Darwin Magistrates Court by a large media contingent and members of the public. Mr Chamberlain said the coroner’s ruling was a triumph of justice. “This battle to get to the legal truth has taken too long,” he said. “However, I am here to tell you that you can get justice even when you think that all is lost.”

Some, it appears, though, will never be convinced. At 2.38 pm on 13th June, a Yahoo poll of so-far 3,000 people (a statistically significant figure) was showing this result.

Does Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton deserve an official apology?

  • Yes (1969) 65%
  • No (1051) 35%

One can only shake one’s head sadly and wonder what, if anything, the state can do to an innocent family that does deserve an apology.

(With Yahoo, ABC and others)

I don’t often simply reproduce other people’s work, but I think this story from CutDC.com is not only well-written but it raises vital questions about freedom in America. We need to remember that freedom is rarely lost in dramatic moments, but in innumerable little restrictions on freedom to organise, free assembly, free speech, and freedom of thought.

Goodbye, First Amendment: ‘Trespass Bill’ will make protest illegal

Published: 29 February, 2012, 02:13

White house activist arrested

Washington: US park police detains a Christian religious activist during a pro-life demonstration in front of the White House in Washington on February 16, 2012. (AFP Photo/Jewel Samad). I hate what she's campaigning for, but I will defend to the death her right to say what she thinks somewhere she can actually be heard.

Just when you thought the government couldn’t ruin the First Amendment any further, the House of Representatives approved a bill on Monday that outlaws protests in instances where some government officials are nearby, whether or not you even know it.

The US House of Representatives voted 388-to-3 in favor of H.R. 347 late Monday, a bill which is being dubbed the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011. In the bill, Congress officially makes it illegal to trespass on the grounds of the White House, which, on the surface, seems not just harmless and necessary, but somewhat shocking that such a rule isn’t already on the books.

The wording in the bill, however, extends to allow the government to go after much more than tourists that transverse the wrought iron White House fence.

Under the act, the government is also given the power to bring charges against Americans engaged in political protest anywhere in the country.

Under current law, White House trespassers are prosecuted under a local ordinance, Washington, DC legislation that can bring misdemeanor charges for anyone trying to get close to the president without authorization. Under H.R. 347, a federal law will formally be applied to such instances, but will also allow the government to bring charges to protesters, demonstrators and activists at political events and other outings across America.

The new legislation allows prosecutors to charge anyone who enters a building without permission or with the intent to disrupt a government function with a federal offense if Secret Service is on the scene, but the law stretches to include not just the president’s palatial Pennsylvania Avenue home. Under the law, any building or grounds where the president is visiting — even temporarily — is covered, as is any building or grounds “restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance.”

It’s not just the president who would be spared from protesters.

Covered under the bill is any person protected by the Secret Service. Although such protection isn’t extended to just everybody, making it a federal offense to even accidentally disrupt an event attended by a person with such status essentially crushes whatever currently remains of the right to assemble and peacefully protest.

Hours after the act passed, for example, presidential candidate Rick Santorum was granted Secret Service protection. For the American protester, this indeed means that glitter-bombing the former Pennsylvania senator is officially a very big no-no, but it doesn’t stop with just him. Santorum’s coverage under the Secret Service began on Tuesday, but fellow GOP hopeful Mitt Romney has already been receiving such security. A campaign aide who asked not to be identified confirmed last week to CBS News that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has sought Secret Service protection as well. Even former contender Herman Cain received the armed protection treatment when he was still in the running for the Republican Party nod.

In the text of the act, the law is allowed to be used against anyone who knowingly enters or remains in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so, but those grounds are considered any area where someone — rather it’s President Obama, Senator Santorum or Governor Romney — will be temporarily visiting, whether or not the public is even made aware. Entering such a facility is thus outlawed, as is disrupting the orderly conduct of “official functions,” engaging in disorderly conduct “within such proximity to” the event or acting violent to anyone, anywhere near the premises. Under that verbiage, that means a peaceful protest outside a candidate’s concession speech would be a federal offence, but those occurrences covered as special event of national significance don’t just stop there, either. And neither does the list of covered persons that receive protection.

Outside of the current presidential race, the Secret Service is responsible for guarding an array of politicians, even those from outside America. George W Bush is granted protection until ten years after his administration ended, or 2019, and every living president before him is eligible for life-time, federally funded coverage. Visiting heads of state are extended an offer too, and the events sanctioned as those of national significance — a decision that is left up to the US Department of Homeland Security — extends to more than the obvious.

While presidential inaugurations and meeting of foreign dignitaries are awarded the title, nearly three dozen events in all have been considered a National Special Security Event (NSSE) since the term was created under President Clinton. Among past events on the DHS-sanctioned NSSE list are Super Bowl XXXVI, the funerals of Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, most State of the Union addresses and the 2008 Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

With Secret Service protection awarded to visiting dignitaries, this also means, for instance, that the federal government could consider a demonstration against any foreign president on American soil as a violation of federal law, as long as it could be considered disruptive to whatever function is occurring. (My note – what would disruptive be – too noisy?)

When thousands of protesters are expected to descend on Chicago this spring for the 2012 G8 and NATO summits, they will also be approaching the grounds of a National Special Security Event. That means disruptive activity, to whichever court has to consider it, will be a federal offence under the act.

And don’t forget if you intend on fighting such charges, you might not be able to rely on evidence of your own. In the state of Illinois, videotaping the police, under current law, brings criminals charges. Don’t fret. It’s not like the country will really try to enforce it — right?

On the bright side, does this mean that the law could apply to law enforcement officers reprimanded for using excessive force on protesters at political events? Probably. Of course, some fear that the act is being created just to keep those demonstrations from ever occurring, and given the vague language on par with the loose definition of a “terrorist” under the NDAA, if passed this act is expected to do a lot more harm to the First Amendment than good.

United States Representative Justin Amash (MI-03) was one of only three lawmakers to vote against the act when it appeared in the House late Monday. Explaining his take on the act through his official Facebook account on Tuesday, Rep. Amash writes, “The bill expands current law to make it a crime to enter or remain in an area where an official is visiting even if the person does not know it’s illegal to be in that area and has no reason to suspect it’s illegal.”

“Some government officials may need extraordinary protection to ensure their safety. But criminalizing legitimate First Amendment activity — even if that activity is annoying to those government officials — violates our rights,” adds the representative.

Now that the act has overwhelmingly made it through the House, the next set of hands to sift through its pages could very well be President Barack Obama; the US Senate had already passed the bill back on February 6. Less than two months ago, the president approved the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, essentially suspending habeas corpus from American citizens. Could the next order out of the Executive Branch be revoking some of the Bill of Rights? Only if you consider the part about being able to assemble a staple of the First Amendment, really. Don’t worry, though. Obama was, after all, a constitutional law professor. When he signed the NDAA on December 31, he accompanied his signature with a signing statement that let Americans know that, just because he authorized the indefinite detention of Americans didn’t mean he thought it was right.

Should President Obama suspend the right to assemble, Americans might expect another apology to accompany it in which the commander-in-chief condemns the very act he authorizes. If you disagree with such a decision, however, don’t take it to the White House. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the vicinity is, of course, covered under this act.