I Didn’t Realize Pigs and Dogs Were Mortal Enemies.

Eating dinner with my mother often results in me catching Inside Edition, since she normally watches it after the CBS evening national news.  Sometimes the CBS news and their insistence on sticking with the “both sides are equally at fault” narrative of US politics sends me on an after dinner “anger dampening”walk with my Chow Chow.  If CBS happens to be unobjectionable that particular evening, it normally ends up being an eye-roll worthy story on Inside Edition that peels me off the couch.  As much as I try to focus, something about “in depth” reports on how to protect yourself from hotel peepers combined with fawning reports of Hugh Jackman rescuing children from Wolverine’s oldest foe, Riptide, tends to distract me from my reading, and any attempt at post-dinner conversation would result in an angry “shush!”  Sop instead, Princess gets her evening walk.

The other night, however, a story on Inside Edition caught my eye and doomed Princess to an extra 30 minutes of waiting before her nightly constitutional.  Here, have a watch.  It is safe for work, although probably not safe for humanity.

Stomach sufficiently turned?  Any explanations for the officers’ reactions?  I mean that one dog was already in a catch-pole.  It wasn’t a threat to that officer.  And yet he still felt the need to shoot the poor dog five times?  And how frightening is it that most of those cases began when the officer went to the wrong address to begin with?  How do you protect against that?

My dog, Princess Lyanna Sarella, is a Chow Chow mix.

Digital Image

Whatever you have heard about Chow behavior, toss it when dealing with Princess.  Well, she is incredibly stubborn, so there is that.  But while she is definitely my dog, she bonded almost as strongly with my mother.  On our morning walks we stop at bus stops so the kids can play with her most mornings.  She loves kids and other dogs.  She’s had a 5 year old pull her tail and jump on top of her (my exes kids.  Sigh.) and the most she would do is walk away.  As soon as we let someone in the house, she accepts them.  (She’ll still sit right by my mother or me until she gets used to them.  She’s protective, but not off-putting about it.)   The only way Princess is going to be a danger to anyone is if that person is attacking me or my mother.

But if the cops come into our yard or home aggressively, she is going to bark.  She wouldn’t attack the cops unless they were physically assaulting my mom or me, but this video, as well as countless (okay, about a hundred thousand) others you can find all over Youtube, tell me she has no better than a coin flips shot of surviving the incident.  Given the Chow Chow’s reputation, the truth is probably much worse than that.

Understand me here please.  I am not saying #doglivesmatter.  I am not suggesting this is in anyway the equal to the systematic racism that both consciously and unconsciously results in the violation of the rights of, and far too often the death of, non-white humans.    I am not saying we should be outraged over this instead of the way some cops seem to think African Americans exist for target practice.  But we can care about more than one thing at a time.

This also adds evidence to the idea that there is something wrong in the mindset of some officers for some reason that obviously goes beyond “a few bad eggs.”  I have always heard/read/thought that officers were taught to use force only when necessary, as a last resort.  Yet so many of the videos that launched #Blacklivesmatter, as well as these dog shooting videos, show police officers using force as the default solution.  Indeed, some seem eager to escalate to lethal force.   It is easy to see how itchy trigger fingers added to existing racial bias, once again, conscious and unconscious, results in dead black men.

It is not a “few bad apples.”  It is not a couple of racist officers dragging everyone’s reputations down.  Something is rotten in our criminal justice system, and I fear that until my fellow white people stop looking at the police through our white privilege colored glasses nothing is going to change.  In fact, with the nation’s recent swing towards authoritarianism, along with the now ever present fear of terrorism, things could get far worse before they get any better.  More illegal searches.  More illegal seizures. More stop and frisk.  More illegal surveillance.  More police militarization.  More SWAT raids for minor offenses.  More innocents dead from SWAT raids. More wrong houses.  More dead dogs.  More flashbanged babies. What 4th Amendment?  More black teens body slammed. And of course, many more dead black people.

Apathy is acceptance.  And I fear far too many of us accept the status quo.

It is our shame.

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Plans for Saturday….

Well I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow: (From the Altoona Mirror, and it is behind a pay wall.  Sorry.)

Three groups will lead a demonstration Saturday in support of a Bedford County teenager who faces charges of desecration of a statue of Jesus.

The event, coordinated by Truth Wins Out: Center Against Religious Extremism, American Atheists and Pennsylvania Nonbelievers, will feature a slate of speakers who will discuss why some believe the 14-year-old’s rights to free speech were violated by the charges. The protest is set to begin at noon near the county courthouse, 200 S. Juliana St.

Some organizers wanted to make it clear that the law is a problem, whether or not you support the specific actions of the teen in question.

Evan Hurst, associate director of Truth Wins Out, said that although the organization doesn’t necessarily support the boy’s alleged actions, there are large implications for his prosecution.

“Regardless of whether the kid’s actions were polite – I think we can all agree that what he did was rude – there is a larger issue here, and it has to do with free speech,” Hurst said.

The teen was charged with desecration after he posted photos of himself on his Facebook page that show him standing over a statue of a kneeling Jesus and mimicking a sex act. A number of national groups have taken interest in the case, including the American Civil Liberties Union, and the story has gone viral online.

The press this story has received has me overjoyed.  For those not following along at home, I jumped all over the story on September 10th when my local paper first covered it, blogging about it first and then reaching out to the ACLU and The Friendly Atheist, amongst others.  Hermant Mehta then wrote about it at The Friendly Atheist, and the next thing I knew it had exploded.* ( For my readers who missed my coverage of the story,  you can find the original piece here, and the two update articles here and here. )  While I knew the ACLU had taken an interest in the case, seeing a coalition form around Truth Wins Out to organize a demonstration really brought a smile to my face.  (And yes, I am pretty much going to find a reason to quote the whole article since The Altoona Mirror made the decision to stick their entire fishwrap behind a pay wall.)

Hurst said Truth Wins Out reached out to Pennsylvania groups about putting together a rally for the boy and received positive response from the Pennsylvania Nonbelievers.

American Atheists asked to get involved shortly after, he said.

The leaders of all three groups – Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen, American Atheists President David Silverman and Pennsylvania Nonbelievers President Brian Fields – will speak at the demonstration.

Hurst said that Truth Wins Out is not an atheist organization but works with religious groups to protect freedoms. According to its website, the organization “works to demolish the very foundation of anti-gay prejudice” by debunking myths about the LGBT community.

“If my right to speak out and criticize whatever I want to criticize is being infringed upon, then that is an issue for everybody, and that includes conservative Christians,” Hurst said. “The fact of the matter is that this 14-year-old kid is not a sticking point in the culture; he’s a kid who did something stupid. It really quickly just spiraled out of control.”

The District Attorney in Bedford County is Bill Higgins, a far right conservative Christian in an area that practically requires those religious beliefs in order to get elected.  He is openly antagonistic to anyone who holds a different opinion than him on the issue of church and state separation, and since he displays practically zero Constitutional literacy, that group includes just about everyone.  Remember this comment he posted on Facebook when the story was just beginning to catch fire?

“I guess I should take solace in the fact that the liberals are mad at me – again,” Higgins said Thursday on his Facebook page. “As for this case, this troubled young man offended the sensibilities and morals of OUR community. … His actions constitute a violation of the law, and he will be prosecuted accordingly. If that tends to upset the ‘anti-Christian, ban-school-prayer, war-on-Christmas, oppose-display-of-Ten-Commandments’ crowd, I make no apologies.”

I don’t know about you, but for me, the instant someone mentions “the war on Christmas” in a non-sarcastic way, I know I am dealing with a true winged nut.  Adding in support for school prayer is just a bonus.  Predictably, DA Higgins does not disappoint now that this story has hit the rally at the courthouse stage.

Bedford County District Attorney Bill Higgins said that concerns with the case are blown out proportion and were made worse by exaggerated media reports that suggested the teen would serve multiple years in jail or in juvenile detention.

Higgins said that by filing charges, the case can be handled in the appropriate way – through the courts.

“The place to dispute it is in a courtroom,” he said. “I don’t want to stand on a street corner and protest, though they’re welcome to do that.”

He said the teenager is going to likely do some community service for his actions but will not face jail time or juvenile placement.

“The kid did something stupid. He’s 14 years old,” Higgins said. “It’s obvious this kid needs some help, and we’re going to get him the help that he needs.”

Sigh.  He really doesn’t get it, does he?  Reading his Facebook comment about all the horrible anti-Christians he loves to upset unfortunately doesn’t really reveal much about his own personal beliefs or opinions.  He could truly believe each word in that post, believe me, I know people who do.  But at the same time, he could just be pandering to the local GOP base, knowing that by posting that knuckle-dragging screed he just earned a bunch of votes the next time he comes up for reelection.  His most recent comments, however, reek of just plain missing the point.  Sure, some articles covering this story have stressed the range of punishments this teen could face if convicted in court, and while two years in a juvenile facility is indeed the maximum punishment, he would almost certainly receive a less severe sentence.  The severity of the punishment is a red herring in this case.  I would be writing about it, as I believe others would be as well, if the maximum penalty was a 5 dollar fine.  The point is this: Taking a picture is not a crime.

The problem isn’t the punishment, it is the law itself.  Remember, the teen did no actual damage to the statue.  He took a picture so that it looked like the statue was performing oral sex on him.  That’s it.  The statue is still there, on its knees, wantonly luring those with immature, blasphemous senses of humor to violate it.  In fact, this could be the only time in history that the phrase “asking for it” could be used legitimately.  For this statue of Jesus is, without a doubt, asking for it.  This teen was arrested because someone saw his pictures on Facebook.   Period.  Full stop.  He didn’t slide a copy under every door in the community.  He didn’t send one to the statue’s owners with a note demanding the removal of the statue, or the next time he would give Jesus a facial.  He took a picture of questionable taste and posted it on Facebook.  Strangely enough, teenagers are known for having questionable taste.  They are fucking teenagers!  His pictures were not the first pictures taken of that statue, I will guarantee it.  We live in the age of smart phones.  Half of his school probably has pictures of themselves and the statue.  Some probably have their arms around it.  Some probably show acts much more perverse than oral sex with statue Jesus.

This is the second time I have seen DA Higgins make a comment that “it’s obvious this kid needs some help…”  Obvious?  To who?  Other than DA Higgins, I mean.  He’s a teen who took a picture.  He isn’t naked in the picture.  He isn’t shoving his bare junk in statue Jesus’ face.  He took a picture that I am willing to bet 50 people took before him.  But DA Higgins thinks it is obvious that he needs help, and that, not the possible punishments, is the real problem here.

You see, as much as many of my fellow central Pennsylvanians want it to be, not believing in Jesus is not a crime.  DA Higgins may indeed think that anyone who would pose for this picture “needs help,” but that thought requires a belief in Jesus, and the belief that posing for the picture constitutes blasphemy or desecration.  But for non-believers, including those who just believe in other faiths than Christianity, it is just a statue of a man on his knees.  Sure, most realize that it is a statue of Jesus, but Jesus, as much as it offends your delicate sensibilities, doesn’t mean anything to them.  This area may indeed be overwhelmingly Christian, but no matter how large of a percentage the Christians may be locally, you can not force non-Christians to hold your statue in reverence.  The United States, no matter how many David Barton’s the right vomits up, is decidedly not a Christian nation.  We are a product of the Enlightenment, with freedom to believe, or not to believe, enshrined in the First Amendment to our Constitution.  We have no religious test to hold national office.  Our founding documents avoid God and religion.  Our founding fathers left libraries full of documents and letters explaining the wall of separation.  Blasphemy is not illegal.

DA Higgins “said that by filing charges, the case can be handled in the appropriate way”.  The only “appropriate way” to handle this case is to dismiss all charges and then repeal the law.  Either the police and the DA are overreaching by charging this teen under the law, or the law is unconstitutional.  Period.  There is really no other way to look at it.  Charge him with trespassing if you really must extract your pound of flesh, although I am not aware of any “No Trespassing” signs in the vicinity of kneeling Jesus.  This law is going to cost Bedford County money; this teen and his parents may just want it all to go away, quietly pleading guilty and moving on, but now that the law is well known, someone will push the issue in order to get it into the courts.  Hell, I’ll snap the picture if I must.

I realize that some people may read this and wonder why people are so concerned about this issue.  Here is my answer to them:

A blogger found guilty of insulting the Prophet Mohammad in his postings on Facebook has been sentenced to death.

You should go and read that story, but that is the only part that I need to post here.  Don’t even try throwing any “slippery slope” fallacy claims at me either.  I realize the difference between Iran and the United States.  I also realize that there is a nice portion of Christians who are actively working towards turning the United States into a Christian theocracy.  American Christians routinely shame their country by working on things like Uganda’s “kill the gays” law, and praising things like Russia’s laws against homosexual tolerance and activism.

That blogger, Soheil Arabi, faces death for what he posted on Facebook.  This teen faces up to 2 years in a juvenile facility for what he posted to Facebook.  Yes, the two possible punishments are worlds apart, especially since the teen, if found guilty, will likely only suffer community service and a fine.  But as I said earlier in this post, the actual punishment does not matter.

Right now in Pennsylvania, part of the United States of America, they can arrest you for posting a picture on Facebook that offends their religious sensibilities.  Just like in Iran.

If this stands, how long until some town or county, also with a super majority of conservative Christians, decides they don’t need the picture, just a post on Facebook that offends their religious sensibilities?  How many of you practice no religion, or religions that are not the majority religion, and write about similar issues on the internet?  How long til you offend the majority?

Blasphemy laws are anti-freedom, anti-liberty,anti-Christian, and anti-American.  Make no mistake about it, this is, as currently being enforced in the Facebook photo case, a blasphemy law.  Those in the Christian majority would do well to remember the early days of Christianity, when it was a minority religion that dealt with real persecution.  There are areas of the world right now where Christians are persecuted over their religion, real persecution, not the false “persecution of the majority” Fox News and other outlets wants you to believe takes place in the United States.  How sad, how quickly the once persecuted flip the script once they find themselves in power.

While I am aware that prohibitions against representations of the prophet preclude this example, ignore that fact for argument’s sake.  The very Christians who support this law, this case in particular, and who will be making up the counter protest I totally expect to see tomorrow would be rioting in the streets if the teen in question would have been charged for taking the same picture with a statue of Muhammad.

Though I doubt it will do any good, I’ll urge supporters of this law and the arrest of this teen to do the same thing I ask of supporters of school prayer, prayer before council meetings, displays of the Ten Commandments, crosses on public land, or any similar dismantling of the wall of separation.  Imagine you are the minority.  Imagine your child is led in a prayer to Allah every morning before class.  Imagine having to swear to tell the truth on a Koran before testifying in court.  Imagine your tax dollars paying to erect and light a huge pentagram for Winter Solstice each year.  Imagine entering a courthouse, seeking justice on either side of a case, and first passing by a stone slab carved with the Purusharthas.  And imagine that it is you, or your child, being arrested because the police decided something you posted on Facebook insulted the Prophet.

You won’t, or if you do, you will quickly justify the law and your support with a quick “but we’re the majority, not those heathen Satanistic mooslembuddhishindiwiccatheists.”  Cause if logic and rational thought worked, we wouldn’t need the sections of our nation’s laws that are intended to protect the minority from oppression by the majority.  And I’m sure the GOP never even thought about the demographics of the nation changing enough that whites would be a minority when they were developing their inherently racist “Southern Strategy.”  Things can change.

Okay, I have signs to make.  Hope to see some of you tomorrow!

Fact Box

If you go

What: Protest in support of Bedford teen

When: Noon Saturday

Where: Downtown Bedford, near the courthouse

I’ll be back with pictures from the rally tomorrow.  I really hope that I can write a story of an inspiring, peaceful event.  Knowing the area as I do, I just worry that some of the more fringe “Christians” may get a bit drunk and drive into Bedford to go bash them some atheists.  I doubt it, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a bit worried about it.

*Once again, I am not claiming that Foster Disbelief is the reason the story got covered.   The story more than likely would have gotten picked up no matter what I did, and I have no idea if other sites were covering it before Foster Disbelief and The Friendly Atheist posted our articles.  No horn blowing here, just going over the timeline I’m aware of.

Cartoonish DA Tells ACLU: “Come Get Some!”

After reading yesterday about the local teenager being charged with “desecration” for taking an idiotic picture then sharing it with his friends on Facebook, I immediately knew what I would be posting here at Foster Disbelief.  Just writing about it and expressing my fears and outrage didn’t seem like enough though.  This was in my backyard and being covered in my local fishwrap.  I’ve seen the statue before, and I’ve spent time in the teen’s hometown.  When I was in high school, I actually had several friends from down his way.  In addition to the close proximity to me of the events, the story also scared the hell out of me.  While I don’t routinely pose for pictures with Jesus statues, taken so it appears the Son of God is about to receive a shot of my holy spirit right in the face, I do post much that many in my area would consider blasphemous.  With this teen being charged for offending the religious feelings of locals, since he did no actual damage to the statue at all, and the evidence against him being pictures he posted on Facebook, I started to wonder how long it would be until one of my posts “offended local sensibilities.”  Yes, there is a First Amendment in this nation that supposedly protects my speech, but then again, this teen is being charged with a misdemeanor, publicly shamed, and exposed to threats of Christian violence.  Some people think that I blog under a nom de guerre due to my past status as a heroin addict, but to be completely honest, with the depth of the heroin problem Altoona has been struggling with since the 1990’s and the law enforcement strategy of gleefully targeting addicts by using fellow addicts*  as a weapon in the war on drugs, having a non-violent drug felony on your record is pretty common around here.  I am rather sloppy in protecting my actual name; to be honest, I really do not care if it gets out.  I am open about both my felony and my atheism to those who know me.  The only reason I don’t use my real name here is that I do not want the less grounded local fundamentalists to be able to tie my name to my posts with no effort at all.  My last name is extremely uncommon, and my home phone and address are listed.  I would rather not have threats delivered to my home because after I offended an unhinged person, all they had to do was grab the phone book to find out where I lived.  And then a story like this comes out, and I start to wonder if I should be more careful in protecting my identity.

Once I decided that just blogging about the story wasn’t enough, I tried to figure out what else I could do.  First off, for what I believe to be only the second time in the history of Foster Disbelief, I asked my readers to share the story.  Then I wrote a message to The Friendly Atheist and sent him the details.  Hermant Mehta wrote a post about the story and exposed a huge audience to the story.  (He also linked to and quoted from my blog post, which I didn’t ask for but greatly appreciated.)  I have a few more messages out to atheist bloggers and podcasters, and after being covered on The Friendly Atheist, I am sure it will draw attention from many in our community.  My final e-mail then went to the ACLU, and while I do not suffer from delusions and have no doubt others contacted them as well, the Altoona Mirror this morning brought a smile to my face and once again proved that we can all make a difference, as long as we make ourselves heard.  (The story is behind a pay wall, so I will be quoting most of it here.)

The American Civil Liberties Union is expressing interest in the case of an Everett 14-year-old charged with “desecrating” a statue of Jesus.

On Thursday, a Pittsburgh-based ACLU attorney said the state law cited in the case – a rarely invoked ban on “defacing, damaging, polluting or … mistreating” venerated symbols – poses constitutional problems. State police charged the teen Tuesday, several weeks after he posted photographs online of a simulated sex act with the Everett statue.

“There are some serious First Amendment issues with this statute” if merely gesturing next to an image is enough to be charged, said Sara Rose, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

The case has been debated nationally, with news websites and bloggers on both sides of the issue discussing the charge. An ACLU media representative said several people have sent her office copies of the article.

“Bloggers on both sides….several people have sent her office copies of the article.”  That’s me!  And a whole bunch of other people, but me as well!  Unfortunately, any good feelings from making a difference and having my voice be heard quickly faded when I read the reaction of the Bedford County District Attorney, a man who clearly has vastly different ideas of religious freedom from those not basing their understanding of the Bill of Rights on their religious beliefs.

Bedford County District Attorney Bill Higgins, who is in Puerto Rico for a Lions Club gathering, did not return a message seeking comment.

“I guess I should take solace in the fact that the liberals are mad at me – again,” Higgins said Thursday on his Facebook page. “As for this case, this troubled young man offended the sensibilities and morals of OUR community. … His actions constitute a violation of the law, and he will be prosecuted accordingly. If that tends to upset the ‘anti-Christian, ban-school-prayer, war-on-Christmas, oppose-display-of-Ten-Commandments’ crowd, I make no apologies.”

Let’s take a break here for a second, and see what Wikipedia has to say about  District Attorneys: (bolding mine, as always)

The district attorney (DA), in many jurisdictions in the United States, represents the government in the prosecution of criminal offenses. The district attorney – an elected or appointed official – is the highest officeholder in the legal department of the jurisdiction – generally the county in the U.S. – and supervises a staff of assistant (ADA) or deputy district attorneys. Depending on the system in place, district attorneys may be appointed by the chief executive of the region or elected by the voters of the jurisdiction.

In a moment, we will talk more about whether or not this “troubled” young man actually broke the law, and if that law is even constitutional.  But right now I want to dwell on an elected official who “represents the government, the highest officeholder in the legal department” of Bedford County, a man who’s job is to, without bias or malice, prosecute criminal offenses, making the following statement: ” If that tends to upset the ‘anti-Christian, ban-school-prayer, war-on-Christmas, oppose-display-of-Ten-Commandments’ crowd, I make no apologies.”

Last election, Blair County filled a vacant spot on the bench with an election for Judge.  When the Republican candidate (eventual winner, Wade Kagarise) came to my door during his campaign, I couldn’t help but notice that the most prominent statement on his handouts, other than his name and the office he was running for, was the statement pledging his firm opposition to abortion.  Out of all types of political pandering, this is perhaps the type that annoys me the most.  There is absolutely no reason anyone in Blair County needed to know the candidates stance on abortion to cast an informed ballot in November.  He was running to be a Judge on the Blair County Court of Common Pleas.  Roe V. Wade is not likely to come in front of his bench to be challenged.  He presides over criminal trials, child support and custody cases, and a myriad of other types of cases, none of which his stance on abortion rights has any bearing on.  He stressed his opposition to abortion rights because he knew it would get him votes from the overwhelmingly conservative local majority, not because that information was relevant on his qualifications to be a judge.  I bring this sort of political pandering up because Bill Higgins is using Facebook and this case to win himself votes the next time he is up for re-election.  He sounds like a host on Fox News, not a representative of our criminal justice system.  Either he actually believes the insanity he is spewing, in which case it terrifies me that he has the power to prosecute, or he is parroting right wing talking points to score points with the rabid local far right.

Either way, how can any non-Christian accused of a crime read that statement and not worry about malicious prosecution, or prosecutorial misconduct?  Let me be clear that I am not accusing DA Bill Higgins of either act, merely pointing out questions that may arise in the minds of non-Christians who find themselves prosecuted by his office because of idiotic, antagonistic, bigoted, prejudicial, unprofessional, inflammatory statements of his that make it clear that as the highest ranking official in the Bedford County legal department, he only represents the Christian majority.  Statements like that word salad of Christian far right delusions should cause him to have to recuse himself from every case where the defendant is not a member of the Christian religion.  I know that if I found myself on the wrong side of court opposing him,  I would wonder how much of his prosecution was due to the law, and how much was due to my beliefs.

Okay, let’s get back to the ACLU and the story, shall we?  Once again, you can find the pay wall here:

Rose said the state law is cited rarely enough that she had never researched it until this week. News accounts indicate a Wilkes-Barre college student was charged under the law in 2010 for urinating on a Nativity scene; in the 1980s, Pittsburgh authorities threatened a charge against an unnamed vandal who daubed pro-Palestinian graffiti on a public Hanukkah decoration.

At the root of the issue, Rose said, is the law’s distinction between “objects of veneration” and other items. While the Wilkes-Barre student could have been charged with urinating in public and the Everett teen could arguably be charged with public lewdness, she said, a special law protecting religious items from that violation is harder to justify.

And while not all symbolic speech is protected, the fact that the boy took photographs, posted them publicly and commented on them with friends is enough to be considered “expressive” and therefore legally protected, she said.

It’s an issue she said ACLU attorneys have faced in the past: The courts have repeatedly ruled that flipping a middle finger, while offensive, is a matter of free speech and not a criminal act, Rose noted.

Prosecutors have faced similar difficulty enforcing flag-protection laws, which also punished “desecration” of revered items until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional in 1989.

Once again, he did no damage to the statue.  DA Bill Higgins is claiming that taking a picture he finds offensive is criminal.  Until the pictures were seen online, no one even knew a “crime” had been committed.  There was no public nudity, no defacing or vandalism of property, nothing.  Just a picture some people find offensive.

That is not criminal.

As the ACLU seeks to contact the teenager, it could take at least several weeks for a hearing on the misdemeanor charge to be held. Bedford County President Judge Thomas S. Ling said the next set of juvenile court hearings is scheduled for Oct. 3.

I believe that if the ACLU represents this young man, the law will be ruled unconstitutional.  I think it is a rather open and shut case, to be honest.  No matter how much it offends you, I can flip you off and you can not arrest me for it.  We have a right to our own religious beliefs, and a right to freedom of speech, what we do not have is a right to not be offended.  The statements DA Bill Higgins made on Facebook sure the hell offend me, yet I do not think he should be arrested for it.  And as much as I question such statements being said by a representative of the government, and feel it reflects poorly on his ability to prosecute non-Christians without bias, I do not claim that he doesn’t have the right to make nonsensical statements.  What worries me the most is that the parents of the teen deciding that they just want their son to plead guilty to the misdemeanor and put this all behind them.  Perhaps they even feel that he broke the law, but even if they are just as outraged over the charges as I am, I could understand why they would want it all to just quietly go away.  The teen is already facing threats of violence over the issue.  Hopefully, those threats as well as the statements of DA Bill Higgins lets my readers understand that I am not exaggerating how insanely conservative the central part of Pennsylvania is for a state that votes blue in most national elections.  Our electoral votes may go Democratic, but the center of the state is as scary for atheists as any part of Georgia, Mississippi, or Texas.  I think it would be worth the backlash to fight this unconstitutional law because I am an atheist who sees how tightly the Christian religion is wrapped around local government in my state, and because of the gerrymandering of districts, races in areas such as mine are over after the primary with the only question being how conservative will the winner be this time.  I look at the words of DA Bill Higgins and then wonder if I will ever hear a knock at my door, resulting in my arrest for something I wrote, or for a picture that I posted, not of Jesus giving me a scrubby, but something that offended the wrong people with the right powers.  While it would be worth it for me, perhaps this teen and his family will have a different result to the equation.  His name is already out in the public domain (Thank you, Bedford County Free Press).  I have no doubt that if he fights it and his family stays in the area he will be ostracized at school and his family will face the type of Christian love reserved for those who dare have a different religion, no religion, or merely just a different understanding of Jesus and ask that their rights be respected as well. (Ed Brayton over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars specializes in telling the stories of the retaliation faced by those who take part in church/state separation cases.  Unless things changed since I last heard, he is even writing a book on the subject.)

If the teen and his family are not willing to fight this law, maybe it is time for me to get myself arrested again.  *sigh*

 

*The use of “addicts as weapons” in the war on drugs.  The Drug Task Forces in the Altoona area and surrounding counties claims that they are going after drug dealers.  And during one of the bimonthly drug round ups, one or two (up to five in a especially good month) dealers are included in the thirty or so people arrested and charged with selling drugs.  How does this happen you ask?  By targeting addicts, and using addicts as weapons.  It is standard operating procedure to try to turn arrested addicts into confidential informants (C.I.s).  In exchange for a reduced sentence, or withdrawal of charges, these C.I.s are given task force money to buy drugs, thereby setting up the seller for arrest.  There are many reasons this is a shady practice.  From discussions with C.I.s and situations I witnessed, C.I.’s are allowed to use some of the drugs they bought with no punishment.  Some C.I.s are then rewarded with money for their actions, money law enforcement is very aware is going to be used to purchase drugs.  Otherwise, in exchange for performing observed buys, the task force enables an addict to continue their addiction.  Sooooo ethical.  Perhaps it would be a tolerable (perhaps not, but I’m trying) practice if it took dealers off of the streets.  But as I said,  actual dealers make up a very small percentage of those arrested and charged with these methods.  The vast majority of the time the C.I. calls up one of their fellow addicts, someone who uses with them and therefor trusts them, and tells them that they have 100 dollars or so but can’t find anything.  Of course, if the person they called could somehow find some, they would be more than willing to share with them.  Which results in the target taking the money and buying dope for the two of them and then both of them getting high.  The target will even be thankful that the C.I. thought of them, and helped them out, until the day of the raid comes and the target finds out he is now somehow a drug dealer, even though he never sold a bag of dope in his life.  You may think this is all sour grapes; you may think it is justified to get users off the street; you may think we should all rot in a cell for ever experimenting with drugs in the first place.  You are free to hold your opinions, just do not delude yourself that drug task forces outside the larger cities are sweeping up truckloads of drug dealers.  Actual dealers use drug runners and other techniques to insulate themselves from shady tactics such as these.  Meanwhile your tax dollars are being used to shove your neighbors through the system for being addicts on trumped up charges for crimes that would never be prosecuted in a large city.  But regardless of the human cost, it sounds like they’re making progress in the War on Drugs, so fight on.

 

 

The Fall of Governor Ultrasound

Strange.  It seems that throwing your wife under the bus is not the key to acquittal.  I’d say that the ex-Governor should ask his lawyers for his money back, but who am I kidding?  McDonnell’s lawyer was probably another “gift.”

It seems like it was only yesterday that Virginian Governor Bob McDonnell was dominating the news cycle, insisting that Republican lawmakers such as himself knew better than medical doctors.  He was the elected Governor of the State of Virginia, a position that gave him the knowledge and the expertise to realize that what women truly needed before having an abortion was an ultrasound wand slammed inside of them as part of a medically unneeded procedure.  When the medical professionals opposed him, arguing that the ultrasound was unnecessary and invasive, he argued that forcing women to undergo a procedure that they did not want was in their best interest.  “What gives these smug medical doctors the right to disagree with me?,” I am sure he thought to himself during the controversy. “Sure, they went to medical school, and did all of that outrageous work it takes to become a doctor,” he almost certainly continued, talking to himself out loud as he walked through his house, “but I am the one who got elected Governor, and more important than that, I went to Regent!”

In spite of his M.A./J.D. from Christian Broadcasting Network University (which changed its name to Regent University for some unknown reason), doctors still claimed the invasive ultrasounds were medically unnecessary. Thanks to pundits such as Rachel Maddow nicknaming him “Governor Ultrasound” and refusing to shut up like good little media lapdogs and let the elected men run this country like God intended,  this was starting to threaten his national political aspirations.  Insisting that sluts have wands shoved inside them for no relevant reason may play in parts of Virginia and other southern states, but so would stoning white women who take part in interracial relationships, removing the right to vote from non-whites and those not in possession of a penis, and “fixing” income inequality through a complicated system of forced servitude.  On a national platform, legislating the forced entry of any object into vaginas is not a political winner.  So Governor Bob backed off a bit.  The sluts would still have to pay for a medically unnecessary ultrasound, but they would be spared the insertion of the wand into their body.  Whether or not each procedure was to be witnessed by a clinic protester, with sign, pulled into the office off the street to shout hellfire at the patient by Government order is unknown.  Yet even with this concession to the evil Satan sexting women, they would not let poor Bob alone: (When he went on national talk shows to talk about his policies.)

The host asked the governor a pretty straightforward question: “You backed an abortion bill initially that included a very invasive procedure as part of an ultrasound that the state would have required and then you backed off of that. Were you wrong to support that initially or did you simply back off because the political heat got turned up the way it did?”

What a vile smear-disguised-as-a-question  by noted left wing attack hound David Gregory!*  The way the press went after Governor McDonnell, you would think that he publicly endorsed a proposal to require women, against the wishes of physicians, to undergo an invasive, medically-unnecessary procedure, because some right-wing culture warriors wanted to shame patients, and when that became politically toxic, ended up signing an only-slightly-less outrageous measure that still requires Virginians to undergo state-mandated, medically-unnecessary ultrasounds, to satisfy the demands of far-right activists.  What slander.  Let’s look at the facts:

He publicly endorsed a proposal to require women, against the wishes of physicians, to undergo an invasive, medically-unnecessary procedure, because some right-wing culture warriors want to shame patients. McDonnell ended up signing an only-slightly-less outrageous measure that still requires Virginians to undergo state-mandated, medically-unnecessary ultrasounds, to satisfy the demands of far-right activists.

See?!?  Oh, the things poor Governor Ultrasound had to deal with.  And after all his maneuvering to be the obvious choice for Vice President, Mitt went ahead and picked equally-insane-but-much-more-attractive Paul Ryan to add “failed Vice Presidential candidate” to his CV.  While stewing over not being chosen, Governor Ultrasound almost certainly sat at his desk, stroking a black cat with white ears.  I totally believe that he then said, “You will regret this, Romney.”   “Sure, one or two homosexuals may ignore your policies and vote for you because of Paul’s sculpted abs, his bulging biceps, his stylish hair, and his hypnotic eyes,” he would have said if I was writing a script for a gay porn film with this plot, as he tried to ignore his engorged member.  “But I am a culture warrior, Mitt.  I was going to make doctors give it to those sluts, no matter what their medical opinion was,” he more than likely shouted to the empty office, before turning on the intercom and asking the secretary to send in Steven, the new intern with the deep blue eyes and lips that made you wonder.  “Tell him to lock the door behind him, Stella, and you can go home for the rest of the day as well,” he finished telling the secretary, in this fantasy version of the Governor’s Mansion as he undid his belt.  “I was a culture warrior,” he could have sighed.

It seemed like only yesterday.  I am sure the former Governor of Virginia longs for those yesterdays, no matter how disappointing it was to be passed over for an office taken so seriously that Sarah Palin was the previous candidate for his party, no matter how annoying it was to be called “Governor Ultrasound” by openly sinning homosexuals, no matter how disgusting it was to have to spend time talking about that icky pit of sin that women have between their legs, for now Governor Ultrasound is facing years spent with convicts who feel he should have to submit to forced internal ultrasounds**, if he is unfortunate enough to drop the soap.

Yes, the mighty Governor is guilty.

Jurors in the public corruption trial of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, have found the couple guilty of several corruption counts. The McDonnells faced a 14-count indictment that alleged that they lent the prestige of the governor’s office to a Richmond area businessman and that, in exchange, the businessman lavished them with gifts and money.

….

the verdict — Robert McDonnell guilty of 11 charges; Maureen McDonnell guilty of nine, we will have to wait until the couple’s sentencing Jan. 6 to know what their fate will be. The couple could face decades in federal prison, though their actual sentence could fall well short of that.

The jury of seven men and five women spent nearly three days deliberating before announcing a verdict that left members of the McDonnell family in tears. The verdict, writes The Post’s Matt Zapotosky and Rosalind S. Helderman, sends a message that jurors, ” . . . believed the couple sold the office once occupied by Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson to a free spending Richmond businessman for golf outings, lavish vacations and $120,000 in sweetheart loans.”

Note: the jury did acquit the couple of several charges pending against them — both were acquitted of lying on loan documents — but the verdict means, jurors thought the McDonnell’s lent the prestige of the governor’s office to former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie R. Williams Sr. in a nefarious exchange for his largesse.

Poor Gov. Ultrasound.  He just wanted to be Vice President and to force doctors to shove things into dirty, slutty vaginas.  After all, it was the only way to make those stupid sinning seductresses realize that a pregnancy resulted in a baby being born, and abortion is the murder of babies, not a cosmetic procedure that removes body fat, firms up the breasts, tones the buttocks and thighs, and is a feel good milestone in a woman’s life, one that all women should experience as much as possible, like Planned Parenthood teaches.

I bet his wife snuck in to the jury room and cast a feminist spell on the jury, forcing them to convict the innocent McDonnell.  Before you even say it, she had to let herself get convicted as well, otherwise the conspiracy would have been exposed.  Don’t worry, Obama will pardon her.  Just you wait and see.  Planned Parenthood got to her, and told her that they wouldn’t let her have anymore abortions if she didn’t get him in trouble with the law.  Planned Parenthood is like that; the first abortion is free, and after that they got you hooked.  Next thing you know they have you accusing some poor man of rape to get your next abortion fix.

Our doomed nation.

 

*It physically hurt to write that sentence, even as satire.

**I apologize for that.  With rape culture as bad as it is, I probably shouldn’t be making a rape joke, even a prison rape joke.  But this is Gov. Ultrasound, who was trying to make women who wanted an abortion submit to having another person insert an object into their vagina for no medical reason, no matter what the woman herself or her doctor thought, which is veering quite near to state-sponsored rape, so I couldn’t resist one prison rape jab.  And he was enough of a bastard to try to get off by blaming his wife and painting her as a crazy, vindictive bitch, so fuck that guy.

Gov. Bob McDonnell Acquitted!!! Take that, Dems.

It is official.  After a disgusting campaign to smear and tarnish the reputation of former Virginian Governor Bob McDonnell, the jury has returned and vindicated the Republican, acquitting him and his wife of ludicrous charges of falsifying loan documents.  Public apologies to the defendants should be required from both the prosecutors office and the liberal media.  He should sue them for defamation of character.

Both were acquitted on charges of falsifying loan documents.

See?  Just ignore the part that came before that:

A Virginia jury has found former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, guilty of numerous counts of corruption during their time in the executive mansion. Bob McDonnell was found guilty on 11 corruption charges while Maureen was found guilty of eight corruption charges and one obstruction of justice charge.

Who cares?  He is innocent!  Of 3 out of 14 charges!

Schedule the parade.  Book him on The Factor!  Have Rush clear an hour of his imbecilic ravings.  He’s as innocent as O.J.

See?! Rich People Really Do Go to Jail Sometimes.

Finally, some justice!

After CNN reported back in April that the heirs to massive fortunes can literally rape toddlers and not go to prison, perhaps you had some worrying thoughts about our justice system and the influence of money on the outcomes of criminal trials.  Well now…  What is that?  That isn’t the proper usage of the word “literally” you say?  When exaggerating for affect I should use the word “figuratively” in my sentence?

I see the problem.  I wasn’t exaggerating in the previous sentence.  He actually raped a toddler.  Seriously.  And got a suspended sentence.  Proof:

Though Robert H. Richards IV was convicted of rape, the wealthy heir to the du Pont family fortune was spared prison by a Delaware court in 2009 because he would “not fare well” behind bars, according to court documents CNN obtained Tuesday.

Richards is a great-grandson of the chemical magnate Irenee du Pont.

He received an eight-year prison sentence in 2009 for raping his toddler daughter, but the sentencing order signed by a Delaware judge said “defendant will not fare well” in prison and the eight years were suspended.

Richards was placed on eight years’ probation and ordered to get treatment and register as a sex offender, the documents show. He was also prohibited from having contact with children under 16, including his own children.

The documents were never sealed, yet the ruling managed to go unnoticed until March, when Richards’ former wife, Tracy Richards, filed a lawsuit in Delaware Superior Court on behalf of their children alleging “personal injuries arising from the childhood sexual abuse.” The 11-page suit alleges that not only was their daughter abused, but Richards abused their son, too. The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages.

Believe me, you are forgiven for assuming I was exaggerating.  Now what was I saying there….  Oh, that’s it.

Fear not, furious readers!  The justice system once again faced down a similar situation, and this time, justice was served.  Turning to Ed Brayton for the story, over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars:

And now we have a similar case, an heir to the Johnson and Johnson fortune getting only 4 months in jail (likely only two) for molesting his 12 year old stepdaughter.

The billionaire heir to the SC Johnson company’s fortune — who confessed to repeatedly sexually assaulting his teenage stepdaughter — received a four-month jail sentence on Friday from a Racine, WI judge who cited the Johnson family’s importance in the community.

Milwaukee’s Channel 4 News reported that Circuit Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz told 59-year-old defendant Samuel Curtis Johnson III that “you could not grow up in this community and not know some of the people involved in this case.”

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Johnson plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of fourth-degree sexual assault and disorderly conduct rather than the felony sexual assault on a minor child charges he originally faced in 2011.

The reality is that we don’t have a criminal justice system in this country, we have two of them — one for rich people and one for the rest of us. If you have money, you can get away with almost anything — except, of course, stealing from other rich people.

Mr. Brayton, you should watch that attitude.  Two months, and possibly 4!!!! months in prison in Rich White People Time?  Hell, that is like 10 years in poor people time.  25(!) in black people time.  He’s doing the Rich White People equivalent of hard time.  Have mercy, it is almost capital punishment.

 

…….

Silly Rabbit, Jail isn’t for Rich People.

 

Once I Found Items Like This Amusing….

It is sad, really.

I am a political junkie.  I have been for as long as I can remember.  I believe it was in 7th grade where I received my first detention hall punishment for turning my yellow “Support Our Troops” ribbon into an anti-war message.  That was during the first Gulf War, and my interest never waned.  At 16 I handed out campaign literature at a polling location in Martinsburg, PA, supporting soon to be President Clinton and other Democratic candidates while doing volunteer work for the AFL-CIO.  Martinsburg is a farming community of about two thousand a short drive away from Altoona.  It is a beautiful rural area, and like the vast majority of rural Pennsylvania, it is very conservative.  Still, people were polite to my fellow volunteer and I, with a fair number of Republican voters striking up conversations with the two of us, not to debate politics, but rather just to say it was nice to see young people taking an interest in the nations system of government.

Even after I started to fill my veins with poison, I held onto my interest in politics.  For those of you who have never seen the inside of a cell, believe me when I say you die a million little deaths when you are locked up.  One such death that I will never forget was the re-election of King George the W.  It haunted me, with my mind overwhelmed with unrealistic “what-if” scenarios; would the result have been the same if I would have been working the phones, going door to door, handing out literature, putting up signs, casting my ballot instead of being locked away?   Rationally, of course I realized that one more person working against Bush wouldn’t have swung the election; that Kerry was a flawed candidate who wasn’t prepared to deal with the dirty tactics perfected by Karl Rove’s merry men with the character assassination of John McCain during the previous election cycle.  And of course, perhaps most importantly, I didn’t live in Ohio anyway.

It is a subject that I love.  It fascinates me, the strategy, the tactics, the struggle for a majority of votes for the honor of representing a portion of the population, in order to work for the good of the nation.

So what went so wrong?

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