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Saturday, December 10, 2016

My Right Is Your Left -- Ambidextrous Human Rights

The first human rights organization was established in the United States in 1776 when the Thirteen Colonies declared their independence from England. The second sentence of the Declaration of Independence, the foundation of American human rights, reads …

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

What a wonderful, all-inclusive statement of rights it was! Or was it?

Let's consider the fact that the Declaration made no provisions of equality for races such as African slaves and Native-American “savages,” for women, for the disabled, for the young, or for those of other gender identities. In truth, the statement of rights extended only to a segment of the privileged white population of the time.

Over the last 240 years a multitude has given their time, effort, and even their lives to defend, refine, and re-define American human rights – human rights intended for all, not just for some. Early on, the Constitution (1787) and the Bill of Rights (1791) helped establish a broader interpretation of equality in the United States. And, the struggle in pursuit of unalienable rights continues.

Because the attainment of rights is ongoing, the struggle for life, liberty, and happiness in America is perpetual. By its very nature, independence requires the utmost attention and nurturing from those charged to strive toward its lofty ideals. As long as even a few people are oppressed in America, no one lives in a state of equality. “All created equal” are words unshackled by limitation.

How difficult is it to guarantee human rights?

Consider that specific human rights include the following:

* The right to personal liberty,
* The right to due process of law, 
* The rights to freedom of thought, expression, religion, organization, and movement,
* The right to freedom from discrimination on the basis of race, religion, age, language, and sex,
* The right to basic education,
* The right to employment, and
* The right to property.

Are these human rights guaranteed to all in the United States? Presumably, yes. Are they given freely to all? I think not. Consider the poor, the aged, the LGBT community, racial minorities, refugees.

People can be quick to criticize less-fortunate individuals. Some bristle about “politically correct” language as being too sensitive. Some claim the government and courts extend too many privileges to those who don't deserve them – for example, they despise those who receive welfare or similar state assistance. These people argue that certain minorities – races, ages, economic groups – should not be protected as equals because they do not “do their fair share.” There are those who even defame and maliciously stereotype struggling people as criminals.

Lately it seems there are more and more of those who think that taking away liberty and equality from those unlike themselves is in order. They feel empowered to judge others who hold different opinions as “unworthy.” They even wish to impose restrictions upon the “bad” people because they are disgusted at their own lack of privilege or because they think single interpretations of “moral behavior” and “religious belief” must be mandatory for all people.

Conservative evangelicals now represent one of the most vocal groups in judgment. The vast majority of them wish to take away rights to abortion, to gender identities, to gay marriage, and to separation of church and state. Many have a narrow view of accepted “family life,” immigration, and substance use. Although this group claims they are being persecuted for their beliefs, they lobby for governmental restrictions on those they deem incorrect. They see anything opposing them as lawless and Godless.

The amazing irony of the religious right is that by voting for a conservative ideological agenda, they have actually hurt the poor, resisted immigration reform, promoted endless foreign wars, and neglected the environment. How can their efforts to marginalize and demonize others extend equality in America?

God bless the masses of gullible, poor people in the Evangelical movement who are so frustrated in their efforts to be recognized that they have become unhinged and turned toward idolizing rich, privileged, controlling interests … but … it is time for truly “good” folks to wash from their eyes the anger and resentment of others and to join movements to advance human rights for all.

If enough people follow certain narrow interests, I fear a stagnant, ultra-right nation will develop; it will then be a place where the privileged choke any and all hopes of unalienable rights from dissenters. Right now so many struggle every day for their share of life, liberty, and happiness. Shouldn't it be our mission to uplift those in need instead of attempting to mold them into forms that fulfill our own visions of independence? No one wants to strive toward an American delusion, rather they wish to fulfill their birthright of an American Dream. 


Friday, December 9, 2016

Heartbeats and Abortion in Ohio -- Essential Information About the Law


It's called the “heartbeat” bill. It has passed the state House and Senate in Ohio. The bill will now go to Republican Governor John Kasich to either sign into law or veto within 10 days. If he signs it and it takes effect, this would be the shortest window for abortions to be performed in the United States.

This proposed law is known as the “heartbeat” legislation because it bans abortion once a heartbeat can be detected in a fetus. Senate President Keith Faber said the bill has been defeated twice in the past in the Senate but was revived after Donald Trump's presidential victory.

The passage came this time as a last-minute attachment to a child abuse-related bill being considered in the lame duck session. That’s what angered Democratic State Senator for the 15th District and Assistant Democratic Leader Charleta Tavares. She said,“It bastardizes the child abuse and neglect bill because it is taking away the safety and security of children.”

(Jo Ingles. “Ohio Legislature Passes Controversial Heartbeat Bill.” Ohio Public Radio. December 07, 2016.)

Medical experts say the bill affects a fetus on average around six weeks gestation into a pregnancy. The bill has no exception for cases of rape or incest.

The Supreme Court has held for over forty years that states cannot ban abortion before a fetus is viable, around 24 weeks. And, similar measures have already been struck by federal courts in two other states: North Dakota and Arkansas.

"We've been fighting this for about five years now," said Kellie Copeland, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. "We've always been able to bottle it up in the Senate." Not this time.

(Emily Willingham. “Ohio 'Fetal Heartbeat' Law Fails On Science And Humanity.” Forbes. December 07, 2016.)
Two Pieces of Legislation

On December 9, Ohio lawmakers also sent a second anti-abortion measure to Governor John Kasich. The Ohio legislature voted 64-29, mostly along party lines, to advance Senate Bill 127, legislation that would ban abortions after 20 weeks.

President of Ohio Right to Life Mike Gonidakis said, "I know everyone is swept up in Trump mania, but we have to be realistic. When you overreach, you lose. The courts can be very vicious to you."
Ohio Right to Life's preferred vehicle for chipping away at Roe v. Wade is a ban on abortion at 20 weeks, mirroring the priorities of the National Right to Life Committee, which has championed such a ban at the federal level.

While Ohio Right to Life is officially neutral on the heartbeat bill, having outright opposed it in the past, Gonidakis said of Ohio Governor John Kasich, "I know we hope he signs the 20 week ban because we think it'll be a game changer for the pro-life movement."

Nationally, Kasich has sought to present himself as a moderate. He has previously voiced concerns about whether such a move as the “heartbeat” law is constitutional. He reportedly told CNN in August, referring to abortion, that Republicans "focus too much on just one issue." Many believe if Kasich vetoes the heartbeat bill while quietly signing a 20 week ban into law, he would seemingly take the more measured path.

(Irin Carmon. “Is Ohio 'Heartbeat' Bill a Feint Before More Successful Blow to Women's Rights?” NBC News. December 08 2016.)

Concerns About the Heartbeat Law

Emily Willingham, author and Forbes contributor, explains the penalties under the “heartbeat” law ...

If a physician fails to check for a fetal heartbeat or performs an abortion when a heartbeat is clearly heard, the doctor would be 'guilty of a fifth-degree felony.' This felony, according to The Columbus Dispatch, would be punishable by up to one year in prison and the physician could face a civil lawsuit from the mother as well as disciplinary action.

Under the law, abortions would be allowed only if the woman is at risk of death or 'substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function' (does personal autonomy fall under that?). Women would have to sign a form confirming an understanding that the embryo or fetus (called the 'unborn human individual' in the language) has a fetal heartbeat.”

(Emily Willingham. “Ohio 'Fetal Heartbeat' Law Fails On Science And Humanity.” Forbes. December 07, 2016.)

Willingham believes the law redefines terms for its own purposes. It claims that a fetus is "the human offspring developing during pregnancy from the moment of conception and includes the embryonic stage of development," which would conflict with views of developmental biologists and obstetricians.

And, gestational age is defined as “the age of an unborn human individual as calculated from the first day of the last menstrual period of a pregnant woman.” Willingham contends that since this way of measuring pregnancy starts two weeks before conception, this law essentially says that "an unborn human individual" can be minus two weeks old, existing before even the first cell does.

Christy Osler of USA Today speaks of some major concerns for pregnant women under the “heartbeat” bill.

Osler acknowledges the ban would likely take effect before many women even know they are pregnant. Since for many women, it takes a missed period — or even two — to realize they could be pregnant, that could place them about six to eight weeks into their pregnancies, which is too late to get an abortion under the “heartbeat” bill.

Osler also points out ...

Even if some women with unwanted pregnancies discover they are pregnant before the six weeks, they still might not be able to schedule an abortion for one of two major reasons: there are very few abortion clinics in Ohio – nine, currently – so women may have to wait for appointments, and state laws require women in Ohio to first have an informational meeting with a physician about the abortion – and then wait 24 hours after that appointment to have the actual procedure done.”

(Christy Osler. “7 things to know about the Ohio 'heartbeat bill.'” USA Today. December 08, 2016.)

Law Under the Supreme Court

In the light of Ohio considering passage of the “heartbeat” bill, it is important to consider the Supreme Court's rulings on abortion. It is imperative that both proponents and opponents of any legislation restricting a woman's right to an abortion understanding the legality. The Court ruled 7–2 that a right to privacy under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman's decision to have an abortion, but this right must be balanced against the state's two legitimate interests in regulating abortions: protecting women's health and protecting the potentiality of human life.

Roe v. Wade (1973) ruled unconstitutional a state law that banned abortions except to save the life of the mother. The Court ruled that the states were forbidden from outlawing or regulating any aspect of abortion performed during the first trimester of pregnancy, could only enact abortion regulations reasonably related to maternal health in the second and third trimesters, and could enact abortion laws protecting the life of the fetus only in the third trimester. Even then, an exception had to be made to protect the life of the mother.

Because abortions lie within a pregnant woman's "zone of privacy," the abortion decision "and its effectuation" are fundamental rights that are protected by the Constitution from regulation by the states, so laws regulating abortion must be sufficiently "important."

The Court ruled that narrower state laws regulating abortion might be sufficiently important to be constitutional. For example, because the medical community finds that the human fetus might be "viable" ("capable of meaningful life") outside the mother's womb after six months of growth, a state might constitutionally protect a fetus from abortions in the third trimester of pregnancy, as long as it permitted an exception to save the life of the mother.

Additionally, because second- and third-trimester abortions present more health risks to the mother, the state might regulate certain aspects of abortions related to maternal health after three months of pregnancy. In the first trimester, however, a state's interests in regulating abortions can never be found "important" enough. Such abortions are thus exclusively for the patient and her doctor to govern.

(Alex McBride. “Roe v. Wade (1973).” The Supreme Court: Landmark Cases. Public Broadcasting System. 2006.)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

John Lennon -- Gone for 36 Years But Still Active

 Yoko Ono, John Lennon and their immigration attorney, Michael Wildes (right), leave the Immigration and Naturalization Service in New York City on March 16, 1972.

Every December 8 we mourn the loss of John Lennon. This year marks the 36th anniversary of his assassination. Lennon was fatally shot by Mark David Chapman while walking into a New York City apartment on December 8, 1980.

People in my generation find this senseless act so despicable. We understand that Chapman took away the man most responsible for the soundtrack of our lives. Lennon was the musical and cultural icon who exemplified the love and peace movements. His music, more than that of any other popular performer, changed our world. For no reason, we lost him much too soon.

We should remember John Lennon was much more than a talented musician.

Lennon was an activist who spoke his mind about many political issues including the Vietnam War, civil rights, and the struggles of the working class. Thrust into the spotlight as a member of the Beatles, he soon recognized that he could use his celebrity status to not only communicate his own ideas about the world but also to change the way people thought about issues of the day.

Today it is appropriate to speak about a fight waged by John Lennon. It is lesser known than many of his other political exploits; however, it marks an important decision for United States immigration. Considering the times and the leaders, how important it is.

Elizabeth Mitchell of the New York Daily News speaks of Lennon's fight for freedom in America ...

“Who knows what Strom Thurmond had against the Beatles, but the senator from South Carolina certainly knew how to make John Lennon’s life miserable. On Feb. 4, 1972, the 69-year-old, anti–Civil Rights agitator wrote a few lines to Attorney General John Mitchell and President Richard Nixon’s aide, William Timmons, which would end up threatening Lennon with deportation and entangling him in legal limbo for almost four years.

“'This appears to me to be an important matter, and I think it would be well for it to be considered at the highest level,' Thurmond wrote. 'As I can see, many headaches might be avoided if appropriate action can be taken in time.'”

(Elizabeth Mitchell. “How this hastily shot image of John Lennon became an enduring symbol of freedom. New York Daily News. June 11, 2016.)

Thurmond attached a one-page Senate Internal Security Subcommittee report explaining that Lennon appeared to be a threat to Republican interests, particularly their desire to re-nominate Nixon at the San Diego convention that coming summer. The report explained that Lennon was friendly with various left-leaning political activists, including Yippie leader Jerry Rubin.

Word had it that leftists had gathered in New York and discussed the possibility of Lennon appearing at concerts on college campuses to promote voter registration, marijuana legalization, and bus trips to the Republican convention for throngs of willing protesters.

Lennon's friend, photographer Bob Gruen, said the reality was that Lennon felt he shouldn’t endorse or attack individual U.S. candidates. Grune claims Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono strove never to be negative. “They weren’t anti-war. They were pro-peace,” Gruen says. “They weren’t against a politician; they were for voting.”

Yet, despite Lennon's positive intentions, Thurman's letter reached sympathetic ears, and by the end of February, John and Yoko received a letter from the Immigration and Naturalization Service telling them they had until March 15 to leave the country. John was found to be an “excludable alien.”

Mitchell explained the charges ...

“In 1968, a police drug squad had conducted a warrantless search of his London flat and found a half ounce of hashish. Lennon claimed he hadn’t known the hash was there and, in fact, had swept the apartment three weeks earlier on a tipoff that the squad would be coming. (Since Jimi Hendrix had been a previous tenant he left nothing to chance.) He and Ono had even gotten a friend in the police force to pre-search the place to make sure they were clear. But the raiding officers discovered the stash in a pair of binoculars, found in an untouched box of possessions that had been moved from his previous residence. Lennon pleaded guilty and paid a 150-pound fine. The charge, he thought, was behind him.”

John Lennon eventually spent tremendous money, time, and words battling to remain in New York City. And, unlike most migrants who have problems with their legal status, Lennon and Ono had powerful friends who petitioned the Immigration and Naturalization Service on their behalf.
Bob Dylan wrote a letter on Lennon's behalf. Do did Joan Baez. Others also wrote letters to the service: beat poet Gregory Corso, novelists John Updike and Joyce Carol Oates, painter Jasper Johns, composer John Cage, Leonard Bernstein of "West Side Story," and Joseph Heller of "Catch-22."

On October 30, 1974, John Lennon and Gruen created an image that would make his case succinctly.

On Tom Snyder’s talk show in April 1975, Lennon said, “I love the place. I like to be here. I’ve got a lot of friends here, and it’s where I want to be, Statue of Liberty…welcome.”

Lennon's attorney Leon Wilde said John “understood that what was being done to him was wrong. It was an abuse of the law, and he was willing to stand up and shine the big light on it.”

(Dave Swanson. “The Day John Lennon's Deportation Order Was Reversed. December 07, 2015.)

After years of struggle. Lennon finally received a green card, which allowed him to stay in the U.S. But, most importantly, the files discovered in Lennon's case led U.S. immigration officials to publicize a secret policy.

New York State Supreme Court Judge Irving Kaufman said, “The courts will not condone selective deportation based upon secret political grounds.” He added, “Lennon's four-year battle to remain in our country is testimony to his faith in this American dream.”

"Before the work of Mr. Wildes, deferred action was a complete mystery because there wasn't even a guideline for attorneys and noncitizens," says Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, who teaches immigration law at Penn State University and wrote Beyond Deportation: The Role of Prosecutorial Discretion in Immigration Cases.

(Hansi Lo Wang. John Lennon's Deportation Fight Paved Way For Obama's Deferred Action Policy. National Public Radio. August 23, 2016.)

The files showed that for decades, the government had shielded some immigrants living in the U.S. illegally from deportation because of their sympathetic cases.

In fighting the system and exposing the files, John Lennon had effectively changed American immigration policy. It remains pertinent today.

The Obama administration used that policy to create the original Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

"Eligible individuals who do not present a risk to national security or public safety will be able to request temporary relief from deportation proceedings and apply for work authorization," said President Obama in a 2012 announcement.

An expansion of the program, as well as the creation of a similar program called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, is currently on hold because of legal challenges.

Now, the original DACA program covers more than 700,000 young people brought to the U.S. as children — all in part because of John Lennon.

Today we once more remember John Lennon – musician, song-writer, cultural icon, and revered political activist. Thank you, you dreamer. You truly changed our lives.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Brian Jones, Rolling Stone, Ghostly Concert Photo

"If Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were the mind and body of the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones, standing most of the time in the shadows, was clearly the soul.

Brian, in with Keith and Mick from the earliest – when the Stones were still largely an R&B discussion group meeting in a Soho pub – was labeled the quietest, the moodiest of the group. But he was in fact the most vocal to the press, angrily and sharply defending the Stones' then-radical style of music, their appearance, their politics, and their whole style of life.”

Brian Jones: Sympathy for the Devil,” Rolling Stone, August 09, 1969

Brian Jones, legendary musician and founding member of the Rolling Stones died July 3, 1969 at the age of 27. He was pulled from a swimming pool at his Cotchford Farm estate (formerly owned by A.A. Milne, author of the Winnie the Pooh books) in Hartfield, East Sussex.

Jones developed a serious drug problem over the years, and his role in the band had steadily diminished. The band asked Jones to leave the Rolling Stones in June 1969. His drinking and drug-taking had reportedly taken a toll on his health.

On June 8, Jones announced he was leaving the Stones permanently due to a difference in music policy. He revealed nothing about his own future further than: "I want to play my own kind of music." Jones was replaced in the group by guitarist Mick Taylor.

An inquest in Jones' death returned a verdict of death by misadventure, despite post mortem results showing Jones had not taken illegal drugs and had only consumed the alcoholic equivalent of three and a half pints of beer. He was also reported to be asthmatic.


Conspiracy theorists insist he was murdered – and police reviewed the case as recently as 2010 but did not reopen inquiries.

One theory was that Jones was killed in a scuffle or perhaps during horseplay with his disgruntled minder Frank Thorogood. Thorogood had previously been employed by The Rolling Stones to do some work on Keith Richard's house, so he was trusted. Jones had employed a team of three builders at Cotchford, and Thorogood was staying there in the room over the garage to oversee the renovations and to keep an eye on Jones.

The validity of the witnesses to the Thorogood conspiracy is questionable, especially since none had identified themselves or come forward until several years later when rumors of ill-deeds became rife.

One report does say while Thorogood was in a hospital dying of cancer, he confessed to Tom Keylock, Rolling Stones tour manager, that he had killed Brian Jones.

(“Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones dies in his swimming pool.” July 02, 1969.)

Thorogood, Janet Lawson, and Swedish dancer Anna Wohlin were at the house at the time of Jones' death. She was Jones' lover and the person who reportedly dragged his lifeless body from the swimming pool and tried in vain to revive him.

 Anna Wohlin

Wohlin says she and Brian had planned to go to a Rolling Stones Hyde Park concert together where the Stones would introduce Taylor, Jones' replacement, so Brian could publicly show he had no hard feelings about leaving the Rolling Stones. Jones died just two days prior to the concert.
The Stones, although grief-stricken, decided they would go ahead with the gig and dedicate their performance to him. What was supposed to be a party turned out to be a memorial. Keith Richards later wrote:
The all-important thing for us was it was our first appearance for a long time, and with a change of personnel. It was Mick Taylor's first gig. We were going to do it anyway. Obviously a statement had to be made of one kind or another, so we turned it into a memorial for Brian. We wanted to see him off in grand style. The ups and downs with the guy are one thing, but when his time's over, release the doves, or in this case the sackfuls of white butterflies (butterflies released in tribute at the concert)."
(Keith Richards. Life. 2011.)

Before the Stones kicked off their set on July 5, Jagger addressed the crowd, asking them to be quiet so he could read a tribute to Jones. He then read two stanzas of Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem on John Keats's death, Adonais:

Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep —
He hath awakened from the dream of life —
Tis we, who lost in stormy visions, keep
With phantoms an unprofitable strife,
And in mad trance, strike with our spirit’s knife
Invulnerable nothings. — We decay
Like corpses in a charnel; fear and grief
Convulse us and consume us day by day,
And cold hopes swarm like worms within our living clay.

The One remains, the many change and pass;
Heaven’s light forever shines, Earth’s shadows fly;
Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,
Stains the white radiance of Eternity,
Until Death tramples it to fragments. — Die,
If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek!
Follow where all is fled! ….

27” and the Memorial Concert at Hyde Park

It seems that only the good and troubled die young, so let's add to the mysterious tale of the death of Brian Jones.

The “27 Club” is a term that refers to the belief that an unusually high number of popular musicians and other artists have died at age 27, often as a result of drug and alcohol abuse, or violent means such as homicide or suicide. Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse are said to be the “Big Six” in the club. Some people think death at this age haunts celebrities and some pretty weird things surround the tragedies.

(Howard Sounes. 27: A History of the 27 Club. November 12, 2013.)

To add to the intrigue, consider it was reported that prior to buying Cotchford Farm, Brian Jones went on holiday to Ceylon and while there, he visited an astrologer. The astrologer supposedly told him, “Be careful swimming in the coming year. Don’t go into the water without a friend.”

In addition, in the immediate aftermath of Jones' death, Anna Wohlin suffered terrible depression and a miscarriage of the child she and Jones did not even know they were expecting.

(“The Real Brian Jones. Independent UK. November 15, 2005.)

And, for my own addition to the Brian Jones legend and mystique, I want to reveal my reason for writing this entry today. I just happened to be reading about Jones this morning when this photo really took me by surprise. Yes, this is a photo taken of the Rolling Stones playing the memorial concert on July 5, 1969, at Hyde Park. Look at it carefully.

Who or what is the figure on the left of the stage?


Is it simply a weirdly unfamiliar photographic depiction of Rolling Stone guitarist, Mick Taylor?

Or, is it a shot of another person on the stage?

Or, is it Brian Jones making one last appearance onstage as a newly departed guest of the band? Is anyone besides me hearing the strange strains of a mellotron and a theremin in flight?

Sun turnin' 'round with graceful motion
We're setting off with soft explosion
Bound for a star with fiery oceans
It's so very lonely, you're a hundred light years from home

Freezing red deserts turn to dark
Energy here in every part

It's so very lonely, you're six hundred light years from home

It's so very lonely, you're a thousand light years from home

2000 Light Years From Home” The Rolling Stones


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Learning About Child Abuse and Child Neglect -- Reporting and Child Protective Services


A person who abuses a child deserves a special place in hell. Nothing is as evil as victimizing a young person. When we hear about these appalling crimes, we often assume Child-Protective Services intervenes immediately to stop those criminals who beat or sexually abuse children in their care, or to prevent other horrific abuses.

But, that is not so.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported in 2012 …

“Child Protective Services had a staggering 3.4 million referrals alleging maltreatment. Of those, 62% were screened in. (38% of referrals were screened out.)

“Of these screened in, 2.4 million received a response – either by professional report services (58.7%), nonprofessional report services (18%), or unclassified report services (23.3%).

“3.2 million unique children (Counting a child once, regardless of the number times he or she was a subject of a report.)and 3.8 million duplicate children (counting a child each time he or she was a subject of a report.) received a CPS response in the form of an investigation or an alternative response.

“686,000 children were deemed victims. (That includes 1,640 fatalities.) In more than 80 percent of cases one or both parents were the perpetrators. Among the victimized children, 18 percent were physically abused, 9 percent were sexually abused, and 8.5 percent were psychologically maltreated.
“2,498,000 were found to be unique nonvictims – 10.7% alternative response nonvictims, 58.0% unsubstantiated, 0.2% intentionally false, 1.5% closed with no finding, 9.7% no alleged maltreatment, and 0.7% other.

“The vast majority, 78.3 percent of victims, suffered mere 'neglect' without physical, sexual, or psychological abuse. The degree and harmfulness of neglect can vary tremendously, but in many cases would seem to lend itself to interventions short of taking the child and charging the parent–an approach that is only attempted in some states – especially given how many neglect cases are due largely to poverty.”

(Kurt Heisler. “Child Maltreatment 2012.” Children’s Bureau (Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Administration for Children and Families) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2012.)

Of the estimated 1,640 children who died in 2012 as a result of abuse or neglect, most died at the hands of parents. "Some children who died from abuse and neglect were already known to CPS agencies," the report states.

"In 30 reporting states, 8.5 percent of child fatalities involved families who had received family preservation services in the past 5 years. In 35 reporting states, 2.2 percent of child fatalities involved children who had been in foster care and were reunited with their families in the past 5 years."  
(Conor Friedersdorf. “In a Year, Child-Protective Services Checked Up on 3.2 Million Children.” The Atlantic. July 22, 2014.)

Nearly 59 percent of abuse and neglect reports were made by "professionals" who have contact with the child in question as part of their job, often in a field with some sort of mandatory reporting requirement. "This term includes teachers, police officers, lawyers, and social services staff," the report states. "Nonprofessionals – including friends, neighbors, and relatives – submitted one-fifth of reports (18.0 percent). Unclassified sources submitted the remainder of reports (23.3 percent). Unclassified includes anonymous, 'other,' and unknown report sources."

State policy usually establishes guidelines or requirements for initiating a CPS response to a report. High-priority responses are often stipulated to occur within 24 hours; lower priority responses may occur within several days. Based on data from 34 states, the FFY 2012 average response time was 69 hours or 2.9 days; the median response time was 58 hours or 2.4 days. The response time data have fluctuated over the past 5 years, due in part to the number of states that reported data for each year. 

Ohio reports for 2012

Total Referrals: 160,293

Screened-In Referrals (Reports): 81,036
Screened-Out Referrals: 79,257

Screened-In Referrals (Reports): 50.6%
Screened-Out Referrals: 49.4%

Rate Per 1,000 Children Total Referrals 60.2

Children Who Received a CPS Response: 102,734
Children Who Received a CPS Response (Rate Per 1,000 Children): 38.6

Children Who Were Subjects of a Report By Disposition: Substantiated – 20,024, Unsubstantiated – 63,777, Alternate Response Non-victim – 24,784 

Child Victims: 29,250
Child Victims Per 1,000 Children: 11

Ohio Average Response Time 42 hours in 2010, 21 hours in 2011, 11 hours in 2012

What Does All This Suggest?

We abhor extreme child abuse. Yet, what about the overwhelming number of children suffering from neglect “without physical, sexual, or psychological abuse”? These young people suffer with severe conditions such as insufficient housing, inadequate health care, poor nutrition, and lack of supervision. As evidenced by research, child neglect is the most frequent form of child abuse, with children born to young mothers at a substantial risk for neglect.

Neglect is difficult to define, since there are no clear, cross-cultural standards for desirable or minimally adequate child-rearing practices. Research shows that neglect often coexists with other forms of abuse and adversity.

Child neglect can take many forms, some blatant, some so subtle as to be nearly undetectable. The American Medical Association (AMA) defines it as "an act or failure to act that results in serious harm or imminent risk of harm."

Studies point out that society as a whole is "ambivalent" to address how problems such as poverty, limited education, substance abuse, poor social skills, maternal depressive symptoms, aggressive or destructive child behaviors, and unemployment contribute to child abuse. These modifiable risk factors need immediate attention. Too often we react to abuse that has has already occurred and ignore instilling proactive measures that prevent the crimes.

In addition to addressing the basic risk factors of neglect, I believe, vigilant citizens must continue to report any signs of abuse. Despite the large number of referrals Child Protective Services screens-out, our duty allegiance lies with those innocent victims of maltreatment. We can rail at the inadequacy of the system and bemoan those children who fall “in the cracks,” but we must continue to be their voice. Whether a child is a victim of abuse or neglect or both, that child needs an advocate.

Do we need Child Protective Services reform? I strongly believe we do. But, perhaps the biggest problem in the system is to delineate correctly those things which we should not allow our government to ignore from those things we should not allow our parents to ignore. It is time to stop pointing fingers and, instead, begin acting like we care for all children – no matter how poor, no matter why deprived.

I can already hear the hard-line conservatives calling me a “bleeding liberal heart.” I hear them deriding welfare and social assistance while telling those less fortunate to “get a job.” I hear their epithets of “dirty bums” and “worthless addicts” and “ghetto ho's.”

I call the hardliners' attention to conditions that perpetuate a needy existence. I ask them to look into the longing eyes of children caught in traps of deplorable conditions. I ask them to consider helping these kids escape the pain that they endure. Provide them an education, a home, and a fighting chance. In the United States, our government must help those in need.

Report the individuals who abuse their children, please. But, also help insure that everyone lives in a society where opportunities flow – a society in which equality at least entails meeting basic needs and providing our children a brighter future. Lift up American families with resources that make all the difference.


Monday, December 5, 2016

Evil In Our Midst -- Louis, Pack, and Sanchez


Basic notions of offense and punishment, of transgression and forgiveness, seem to lose their grip in the face of profound, far reaching consecrations of the human.”
Peter Dews, The Idea of Evil, 2007 
Evil – the profound wickedness of psychopaths. Some believe it is caused by possession of a satanic force. Other believe depraved people are born with it. Still others believe it is unthinkable sin birthed in insanity.

Free-lance journalist Rollo Romig writes …

Evil has become the word we apply to perpetrators who we’re both unable and unwilling to do anything to repair, and for whom all of our mechanisms of justice seem unequal: it describes the limits of what malevolence we’re able to bear. In the end, it’s a word that says more about the helplessness of the accuser than it does the transgressor... For those kinds of crimes, 'evil' is still the only word we’ve got.” 
(Rollo Romig. “What Do We Mean By 'Evil'?” The New Yorker. July 25, 2012.)

It is inconceivable that evil exists in our own communities. Yet, no matter how much we like to believe that everyone shares our loving values and virtues, they do not. The most wicked perpetrators of evil live close to us in relative obscurity. We know that we live with that frightening reality -- as well as with the possibility of the awful complicity of those who commit evil.

A Case In Point

Edwina Louis, Bobbi Sue Pack, and Juan Sanchez of Wheelersburg, Ohio, are described by Judge William T. Marshall as the most evil people he has ever seen. In April 20114, a grand jury issued a 23-count superseding indictment against this local trio.

Louis, her daughter Pack, and her daughter’s live-in boyfriend Sanchez had been arrested in February 2014 when authorities removed four children, all younger than 12, from the family's rented Wheelersburg home. Detectives said that three of the children had been beaten, tied, chained and starved, and two of them had been raped.

The horrendous charges included 16 counts of rape, 3 counts of endangering children, 2 counts kidnapping, along with a single count of tampering with evidence. There was also a sexually violent predator specification on the rape counts, due to the young age of the victims. All of the children involved were under age 13.

One defendant was tried. And, after less than six hours of deliberation, a jury found Edwina Louis, 52, guilty on four counts of rape, three counts of child endangerment, and one count of tampering with evidence. Louis was found not guilty on the remaining counts against her.

The judge then sentenced Louis to the of four consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole, plus an additional consecutive 37 years

Co-defendents Bobbi Sue Pack, 31 – the children's biological mother – and Juan Sanchez, 44, accepted plea deals. Each pleaded guilty to two counts of rape. Sanchez also pleaded guilty to one count of endangering children.

Sanchez was then sentenced 20 years to life on each rape count to run consecutively, and 5 years sentence on one endangerment count to run concurrent with the rape charge.

Pack was sentenced to 10 years to life on the rape counts to run consecutively. Both will have to register as sex offenders if they are released from prison.

Louis will spend the rest of her life in jail after being found guilty of the rape of her own grandchildren. She portrayed herself as a “failed grandmother.” Her defense attorney Matthew Loesch told jurors that if there was any abuse at all — and he said he wasn't sure there was — his client didn’t do it. Louis, he said, was too sick and too frail. She has emphysema and diabetes and needed an oxygen tank and a wheelchair in the courtroom.

Loesch said Louis was afraid of Sanchez and, even after the children had told her in 2013 that the man was abusing them, she didn’t act on those suspicions, because she couldn’t live on her own and felt trapped: “She had nowhere else to go.”

Assistant Scioto County Prosecutor Pat Apel portrayed her as a woman who defrauded the government welfare system, used six aliases, and made no effort to get help for her two granddaughters when they reported they had been raped by Juan Carlos Sanchez. He said that Louis had been a guardian for the children for years and had collected a total of nearly $2,000 in government benefits each month for herself and on behalf of them. None of the adults in the home had worked in years.

During the trial, two girls, then 10 and 12, testified from an adjacent room and told horror stories of being raped and beaten by Sanchez and being tied up in both ropes and chains and being beaten by Louis. One told about how the man she called “Dad” touched her and raped her, sometimes every day.

And when Assistant Scioto County Prosecutor Jamie Hutchinson asked the girl whether she had ever told anyone that she was being raped, the girl said “yes.”

“My grandma (Louis),” she said.

“What did she do?” Hutchinson asked the girl.

“She got mad.”

And later, after authorities visited their family’s Wheelersburg home a year ago and started asking questions, Hutchinson asked, what did Grandma do then?

“She said if we told a lie (to police) we’d get to go out to eat,” the girl said. “If we didn’t, we’d be dead before they came back to get us.”

The two girls and one boy described how Louis had tied them up for long periods of time, even weeks, being untied only long enough to attend online classes and to go to the bathroom.  Both girls testified how they had been chained to the wooden frames of their beds.

Along with the stories, images of the kids scarred and skinny bodies were presented for the jury to view.

Jodi Conkel, a detective with the Scioto County sheriff’s office, showed photos of crisscrossed scars on the children’s backs and shoulders and what she said were binding markings on their necks, stomachs and waists.

Detective Conkel testified: “They’ve been locked up like dogs, worse than dogs, tied up and chained and sexually assaulted. They’ve been living in pure hell.”

The children said they were rarely fed, and medical authorities told the court they were underweight. It was reported that the refrigerator and the freezer in the house had locks on them with only the adults wearing the keys around their necks.

Two girls also said they were made to stand against the wall for punishment with their arms outstretched holding cans or books for hours , and if they let their hands down or dropped the objects, they were beaten and slapped.

One of the young girls matter-of-factly told how her grandmother would wet down the leather belt she used for whippings because she knew that made it hurt worse with every snap.

Discovery – Here, But Long Ignored

Loesch and Louis took the jury through her history of being born in Portsmouth, moving to Florida, then to the Virgin Islands, and to several places back in Scioto County. The family reportedly moved back to the southern Ohio community in August 2011 from the Virgin Islands. Along the way, Louis encountered Sanchez, who had a relationship with Pack, producing a child. It is believed the abuse has happened since at least then.

Authorities had their suspicions that the children were being mistreated for years; however, complaints were never followed up with any home visits.

When the story broke in February of 2014, Lorra Fuller, the executive director of Scioto County Children Services, told The Columbus Dispatch that her agency had had no contact with the family until the teacher from the online school called authorities.

But Children Services records provided as evidence at the trial showed that wasn’t true. Assistant Prosecutor Julie Hutchinson subpoenaed the Children Services records for the trial and the records showed on at least four separate occasions throughout much of 2012 and early 2013, complaints were made to Children Services.

Time and again, Children Services of Scioto County had failed to follow up the calls and make the necessary checks.

A February 27, 2012, complaint about neglect and physical abuse based on bruises and scratches on the children’s backs.

A June 25, 2012, complaint that the children were being locked in their bedrooms and not being fed.

A Nov. 27, 2012, complaint of neglect and that the children were being beaten savagely with a belt and that the food in the house was kept locked away.

And a March 22, 2013, complaint of physical and emotional abuse.

Children Services workers took every call and talked to the children at school, but through their screening process, decided to never follow up with any home visits, Hutchinson said.

Scioto County Prosecutor Apel said the message was clear: “Children Services failed these children.”

To hide the abuse from prying eyes, Bobbi Sue Pack had enrolled at least one of her daughters in the Ohio Virtual Academy.

The teachers don’t see their students in person daily in that sort of school. Bobbi Sue Pack probably thought she was being clever. She hadn’t counted on the bravery of her daughter.

Suspicions were aroused after the nine-year-old girl sent a message to her teacher at her virtual school saying that she and her brothers and sisters were being starved, tied up, and beaten.

Almost every word in the online chat was spelled wrong, but the messages the girl sent a year ago, if corrected, would read like this: I need your help. I need you to call 911. They are not feeding us. Please do it. They are tying us to our beds and beating us. Just call now. They need to hurry. My sister is hurt. She’s badly swollen. Don’t tell my family.

The teacher immediately called the police along with child protective services.

When police arrived, those in the house scrambled to cut the ropes from the children and threw the chains into a plastic bag and then into a garbage can.

All four children who were under 12 were removed from the house by emergency court order six days later.

A therapist said the kids were so un-socialized, so uneducated and deprived that they were nearly feral. When the children first were interviewed by detectives, they were unsocial, terrified, and the two middle children could barely speak. When the children were finally questioned, the only boy in the group of four was violent and angry.For weeks he would only say “I hate you!” to anyone who came near.


Prosecutor Apel repeatedly told the jurors that he didn’t have to prove that Louis raped anyone. He didn't even have to prove that she tied any of the ropes or handed out any of the beatings herself. She allowed it all, and that is bad enough, he said.

“The person who holds the ladder is as guilty as the burglar who climbs up and goes in the window,” Apel said. “This is a disturbing and horrific case, and Edwina Louis is at the center of it all.”

When Edwina Louis took the witness stand, she looked at the jurors and said her grandchildren are liars. “None of them,” she said, “none of them has told the truth.”

“Why?” Assistant Scioto County Prosecutor Pat Apel asked Louis as he cross-examined her during her trial in Scioto County Common Pleas Court. “Why would they lie on you?”

“I wish I knew,” Louis answered.

Louis testified that she never hurt the children. The chains in the house? They were for the dog. And those bruises and scars they had? She’d seen them, she said, but knew they came from when the kids used ropes to play “cops and robbers.”

“Why didn’t you take them to the hospital? Why didn’t you call the sheriff? Why didn’t you even kick Juan Sanchez out? Why didn’t you run out the front door and call a neighbor for help?” Apel asked Louis, and then he offered his own an answer. “The reason is because ... they were your paycheck.”

All she had ever done, Louis said, was to spank them with an open hand and to make them face the wall as punishment. On the stand, she spread her arms out wide to show how they had been forced to stand, but said they didn’t have to do it for very long and she denied making the children hold cans or books in their hands as the girls testified had happened regularly.

Louis appeared fairly unemotional throughout her testimony, except to roll her eyes occasionally and to alternately seem exasperated or exhausted.

Louis said she did have some regrets. “I failed my grandchildren,” she said. “I should have done more. I beat myself up for that every day. I’m sorry.”

'This woman, who never shed a tear or showed even an ounce of remorse, will never get out of prison,' Scioto County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Pat Apel said.

After the children told their awful, sad stories, to the jurors, the women with them kissed the tops of their heads. They wrapped their arms around the children and they hugged them. And the kids hugged back.

“If there is a bright spot in all of this, it is the transformation we have seen from the kids,” Apel said. “Maybe now, they have a chance.”

The children are now with a new foster family who is able to give them the love and attention they require and deserve.

(Holly Zachariah. “Trial of Scioto County woman accused of grandchildren's abuse underway.” The Columbus Dispatch. March 9, 2015.)

(Holly Zachariah. “Children testify that grandmother failed to stop abuse. The Columbus Dispatch. March 10, 2015.)

(Holly Zachariah. “Grandmother says children are lying about rape, abuse.” The Columbus Dispatch. March 11, 2015.)

(Holly Zachariah. “Grandmother sentenced to four life terms in children's rapes.” The Columbus Dispatch. March 12, 2015.)

Evil – is it due to some extreme malfunction in the brains of people like Edwina Louis, Bobbi Sue Pack, and Juan Sanchez? I don't know. All I know is that evil is real. Evil exists in every culture, in every neighborhood. The late British biographer of Adoph Hitler, Alan Bullock, said of Hitler: "If he isn't evil, then who is? ... If he isn't evil the word has no meaning." The same can be said of the evil incarnate in Louis, Pack, and Sanchez.

You may ask why a just and loving God permits such evil and terrible suffering to exist. He even frequently allows this darkness to prevail. Surely God gave humans the free will to sin. And, armed with many sinful motives, many people continue to serve the dark side.

That puts finding justice for these evildoers directly in the hands of other humans.

Philosopher Edmund Burke is credited with saying, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." God must have empowered the heads and hearts of these terribly abused children in Wheelersburg with Almighty abilities as they mustered the courage to report their grandmother, their mother, and their “dad” for their unspeakable, evil crimes.

Now, it will take a village to mend the wrong that has been done. Let us pray that good will always triumph over evil and that even the very young may always find strong voices to speak out.


Friday, December 2, 2016

Free Speech and Bigotry -- Rights and Interpretations


Let's take a look at the clash of free speech and unprotected speech.

In a report today (December 2, 2016), the Denver Post said University of Colorado’s School of Medicine is cutting ties with a faculty member who made a racist remark about First Lady Michelle Obama on Facebook.

Dr. Michelle Herren, who works at Denver Health Medical Center, holds a non-paid faculty appointment at the CU School of Medicine, and a medical staff appointment at Children’s Hospital, where Denver Health physicians supervise residents and other medical practitioners in training.

“We are beginning the process to terminate Dr. Herren’s faculty appointment,” Mark Couch, spokesman for the school, said Thursday. “She has expressed values that are at odds with ours, and she has compromised her ability to meet the teaching and patient care mission of the School of Medicine.”

As previously reported on The Root – which calls itself “the premier news, opinion and culture site for African-American influencers”Herren posted a photo of Michelle Obama yelling on Facebook. Under the photo, Herren wrote:

Doesn’t seem to be speaking too eloquently here, thank god we can’t hear her! Harvard??? That’s a place for 'entitled' folks said all the liberals! Monkey face and poor ebonic English!!! There! I feel better and am still not racist!!! Just calling it like it is!”

It is unclear whether Denver Health will take a similar action against her.

(Monique Judge. “Doctor Who Made Racist Comments About Michelle Obama to Lose Faculty Appointment.” The Root. December 02, 2016.)

Let's contrast this with an incident that took place in March 2015.

In this 2015 incident, members of a fraternity at the University of Oklahoma were filmed chanting that they’d rather see a black student lynched than as a member of their clan. Though the words are not all intelligible, the chant appears to be:

There will never be a n—– SAE/There will never be a n—– SAE/You can hang ’em from a tree, but it will never start with me/There will never be a n—– SAE.” 
University president David Boren announced the expulsion of two students leading the chants on the grounds they “created a hostile learning environment for others.” The chant, which he called “exclusionary,” was not only “heard by those on a bus, but also impacted the entire university community as it was also distributed through social media.”

Yet, afterward, prominent legal scholars from the right and the left came to their defense. The university is a public institution, they say, and punishing the students for what they said – no matter how vile – violates the First Amendment’s commitment to “uninhibited, robust, and wide-open” discourse.

The belief is the First Amendment must protect the odious because we cannot trust the government to make choices about content on our behalf.

(Kent Greenfield. “The Limits of Free Speech.” The Atlantic. March 13, 2015.)

Is there a difference between the speech used by Herren and by the Oklahoma fraternity members?

Both of these incidents involve people using hateful, discriminatory words. In both, the parties intend malicious defamation of racial groups. Under the First Amendment, should we simply bear the affronts, ignore them, or speak out against them instead of punish them?

Greenfield attempts to delineate the difference between hate speech that targets groups and hate speech that targets individuals …

The First Amendment tells us that threats are punishable, but only if they are targeted at specific individuals. Burning a cross on the front lawn of a family’s home can be a threat; burning one in a field outside of town is not. The latter is protected; the former is not. The secret of converting threats into protected speech, says the First Amendment, is to aim them at more people. 
The First Amendment asks African American students at the University of Oklahoma to set aside their fear that a bus of white men cheerfully singing about lynching might end badly for someone, somewhere. No one in particular was the focus of the threat; it was a generalized threat of violence, receiving full constitutional protection. 
The First Amendment tells us that the fear of those being targeted, no matter how reasonable, counts hardly at all. What matters is whether drunken frat boys intend to whip themselves into a murderous frenzy then and there, or whether they could wait awhile. The First Amendment tells us we may not punish them for expressing glee that someone, someday, would kill a 'nigger.' That would risk a slide down the slippery slope to tyranny.

Yet is the slippery slope so slick that we cannot fathom any restrictions on the worst speech? Is the slope so steep that we cannot recognize the harms flowing from assertions of privileged hatred subjecting whole populations to fear of violence? Does it really risk tyranny to expel a couple of racist punks?

If that is what the First Amendment means, I dissent.”

(Kent Greenfield. “The Limits of Free Speech.” The Atlantic. March 13, 2015.)

And, even if the Oklahoma students didn't target specific individuals while Dr. Herren did, both are members of institutions that chose not to tolerate such behavior. Indeed, both the students and Dr. Herren purposely compromised the integrity of their schools.

In the case of Herren, the hospital is exercising the right to an employer’s obligation to protect against a hostile workplace environment, especially since Herren's missions as a doctor and a teachers are to care for all patients and faculty.

In the case of the fraternity members, although they attended a public institution, the University of Oklahoma lists “abusive conduct” under “prohibited conduct” in its 2015 Student Rights and Responsibilities Code. So, Boren was saying that the students are being expelled not for their opinions per se, but because their speech was a form of discriminatory conduct that would create a hostile educational environment for black students.

I believe the lesson here is that many people consider all speech as free based on their understandings of an inalienable right under the Constitution. Making this false assumption, they do not care about the long-reaching effects of their racist words. They believe they are fully protected to make bigoted utterances without worry of the consequences. And, in many cases, the legal justice system does leave the “dirty work” of laundering social inequality to the private sector. Thus, most interpretation of unprotected speech is often left up to institutions like schools and employers.

Free speech is not an excuse for bigoted comments – even in America, the land of freedom and liberty. After all, we still live in a country where privilege is not equal. We still live in a society that views color as a difference maker. And, unfortunately, we still live in neighborhoods suffering from racial injustice.

Although most people in the U.S. claim they are not prejudiced, under the stress of conflicting emotions or within the relative safety of peer groups, these same individuals can spew hateful, biased speech. And, the irony is that after they do, they say like Dr. Herren, “I am still not racist.”