Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Don't Worry, These Rulese Are Here To Protect You...

Right here in VSS's backyard of Harrisburg, PA, comes the latest example of why we should simply trust our government to protect us with the raft of new laws and regulations which came about in the GWB administration's GWOT. You know, the new reality and so forth.

(One day, historians will analyze why the world became a different place on 9/11/01, when almost every other free nation on the planet had been dealing with "terrorism" for many decades...)

Erich Scherfen, age 37, born and raised in New Jersey, Gulf War veteran, commercial pilot...and suspected terrorist.

That's a fair interpretation of the government's opinion of you if you are on the HSA terrorits watch list, isn't it? If you are on the watch list, they suspect you of something related to GWOT. Right?

Otherwise, the list might be considered arbitrary and perhaps improperly influenced.

And of course, the government won't tell us how names get on the list, or even if a particular name is on the list. For our own protection, of course.

So how did
Erich Scherfen come to find out he was on the list? When his employer suspended him - for being on the list.

Scherfen converted to Islam in 1994. His wife was born in Pakistan. The government says that religious (as well as political) affiliation do not get a person placed on the list.

That leaves the Pakistani wife. The government will not comment on what the reason is.

Scherfen is nearly out of a job and a career, and nobody will tell him why.

We just thought you ought to know.

From the AP, via the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

This Is The Real Terror...

I have never been a big fan of the phrase "War On Terror", which I believe misues both terms. However, it cannot be denied that there is a terror in the world, and it is religious intolerance and ignorance. In other words, it is the use of religion to scare people to act in ways that are not in their best interest, through fear, coercion and outright abuse.

Never has this been made more vivid to me than in an AP story posted today on Yahoo.

Read it and see for yourself.

Child beggar's father fights abusive teacher

I am stunned and somewhat hopeful that the boy's father dared to bring charges. In his culture he has committed a sacrilege, but at least it was at the behest of the police.

Still, a long-standing "tradition" is being threatened, and as a result they are blaming "the west". I'm not entirely sure what their view of "the west" is, but it should at least occur to them that "the west" has the resource to set up a presence in Senegal, and the dignity to fight for the rights of children to be free from such insane abuse.

This, indeed, is the real "long war", this fight to separate religion from any sort of official doctrine determining the way people live. Humans must be free to choose their own religion - or no religion at all - and to be free from abuse based on that choice.

What's particularly coercive about this practice, as revealed in the AP article, is that the family receives food in exchange for sending their son to the religious school. So, the choice becomes: send my son to school like every other family does, and receive food so the rest of us can eat...or...or what, exactly? Where would a family stand in the social order if they directly opposed this practice? What abuse would be heaped upon all of them?

For all that the United States - and the west in general - gets wrong in international affairs, at least we live in a place where these choices are ours to make, and where such abuse would be unthinkable. At least I do not live in fear that I will be jailed for writing this blog. That's a big deal. Every day in some country where religious leaders rule, somebody gets carted off to jail for daring to suggest that there are some things wrong with the practice, for daring to suggest that perhaps people ought to be free to express themselves, ought to be free to challenge doctrine and question authority, ought to be free to organize and assemble with like-minded people.

It goes without saying that we live under such freedoms in the U.S., and while I refuse to be "thankful" that I am "allowed" to be free (which is, after all, my birthright), I am at least appreciative that fate saw to it that I was born here, where I do not live in the fear that those rights do not exist, or that they can be taken from me suddenly and for the flimsiest of reasons.

I am grateful for that.

Friday, August 15, 2008

You're A King Somewhere Now, But Your Parents Aren't Doing Quite As Well...

Who cannot sympathize with parents who lose a child to violence? And when that child is a 15 year old boy, perhaps gay, certainly confused, seeking forms of expression which would allow him to feel good about himself and his life...and when that life is snuffed out by an equally young child with two bullets to the brain...

...certainly the parents' heads are swirling.

Which must serve as the only explanation for what they've done: they have sued the school district, not for allowing a student to bring a gun to school and shoot their son, but for allowing their son to come to school wearing makeup and jewelry.

Somewhere, Larry King is observing this scene from a distance, saying to himself, "You two still don't get it. You never did, you never will. This is who I am. I died for being who I am, not because somebody "let me" be who I am. I died because of intolerance. I died because somebody did not understand and felt threatened. Now you want to blame the school for allowing me to be me. As if not allowing me to be me would have been a solution."

How dare I speak for the dead? I apologize. I'm trying to make a point. Surely Larry King would have been a bit upset to find that his parents were expecting the school to stand in for them. Where their influence and their guidance was missing, they expected a school system to intervene?

I won't laugh at this absurdity, because I know it is rooted in deep pain. But in my view, better to celebrate the boy, to cherish his "different-ness", to rise above the intolerance which ended his life so soon, so abruptly.

I mean, it won't necessarily solve anything, but it would stand in the right place. And if enough people stand in the right place, well, now we are changing things.

That's where I would be with this, I believe. I hope I never have to find out, but I don't get to control that.

I comment on this story because many others will, and some of them will be very cruel in their mockery of the parents. And of course, the parents open themselves up to scrutiny when they do something such as this. And of course there will be that scrutiny.

There is another issue in this case: the shooter is being tried as an adult, for homicide and a hate crime. He will do at least 50 years if convicted on those charges, and there is no lesser charge being offered.

One act of depravity is all it takes to make us toss a human being away for life. I don't know about you, but that doesn't add up for me. Not at age 14. My son is 14. If this was him, I would of course be horrified and completely confused. But I can't help thinking that I would also dread the machinery my son was now caught up in, where the desire for revenge is so strong that it blinds all those who could, if they saw things more clearly, prevent a tragedy from compounding a tragedy.

If I was Larry King's parents I would drop this lawsuit and publicly forgive Brandon McInerney, and beseech the criminal justice system to treat him as the child he is.

If Brandon McInerney can learn from his mistake, he might help others to learn from theirs.

The Ventura County Star has been following this story from the beginning.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Remember That Thing You Did 12 Years Ago? Yeah, We've Decided That's a Problem

This blog has been dormant for too long. There's too much going on out there that needs to be confronted. Here's one:

In 1996 Kathryn Ingleson, age 18 and a single mother, did something stupid. As a clerk at a store, she had access to customer credit card information, which she used to make $300 worth of purchases. She wanted what she wanted, no excuse, she stole.

She paid back the money and was convicted of a felony, for which she served probation.

What's the big deal? Well, Kathryn Ingleson was not an American. She was a British immigrant, here since age 7. She wasn't deported for this offense, however.

Not at first.

Not for a year, in fact.

Wait, that's not true: not for two years.

OK, that's not right either. Let's see it is. They did not come after Kathryn Ingleson until onetwothreefourfiveSIX years later.

By then, Kathryn Ingleson was married and a mother of a second child.

Seems she had been flagged by ICE while traveling, and a 1997 law made it possible ("legal") to deport people for such an offense. Because her conviction occurred in 1997, she was grandfathered in, meaning they could come after her.

Yes, OK, they CAN, they're ALLOWED, the law says they have the RIGHT...but let's just think about this. The woman has been in America for 24 of her 31 years, this offense is now 12 years old, she's been clean since then, and she has an AMERICAN FAMILY. Which ICE, in all its wisdom, has determined is to be split up. Sure, they could all move to England, where they have no home, no immediate family and no job prospects. Not to mention, everybody in the family except Kathryn would be foreigners.

Sure, she wishes she had become a citizen in the intervening period, which she could have done. But the larger question is: why now? Why after all this time? Why, when there has been nothing, not a thing to flag this woman as undesirable in the 12 years since this episode of bad judgment?

Why? Because they can. Because they want you to be scared. Scared of them, scared of each other, scared of Kathryn Ingleson.

The governor of Virginia is considering a pardon, which still might not be enough. She is scheduled to be deported on August 14. We will wait and see.

Here is a good overview:

Immigration: Old Crimes Return to Haunt Legal Immigrants


The Washington Post reports that Ingleson was granted a final-day reprieve. The governor of Virginia has pardoned her, the trial judge has changed her crime to one that is non-deportable, and ICE has granted a one-year stay to allow Ingleson to petition for a revocation of the deportation order.

Seems that lots of people get the simple point that this was a bad idea, poorly executed. Now it's a matter of ICE getting the point. Perhaps under a new Administration, that won't be considered such a long shot.