Hey magnolia blossoms! It’s been a few days; the world spins madly on. There’s more news! Some good, but let’s be honest, mostly not great.
Updates from the Police State
+ Regarding Freddie Gray’s violent death in Baltimore after his arrest, the Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation. The mayor says she welcomes the investigation; the Fraternal Order of Police is supporting the officers involved in Gray’s arrest.
+ In the wake of Eric Harris’s killing at the hands of a volunteer reserve deputy, Robert Bates, on a ridealong, there are some contradictory reports about Bates’ training and certification. Some sources reported that they were ordered to falsify records certifying that Bates had taken “active shooter training” that he did not in fact take. The sheriff’s office denied these claims, although they also could not initially produce the documentation about Bates’ training. Bates’ lawyer has since released documents that say:
…Bates had one Taser training class over a six-and-a-half-year period, took three firearms training classes and qualified 10 times, from 2009 to 2014, to use a handgun. His evaluations say he got along with other officers and related well with the public.
CNN hasn’t been able to definitively confirm the authenticity of the documentation.
+ Thaddeus McCarroll, of Jennings, Missouri, was killed after a standoff at his mother’s house. He appeared to be struggling with a crisis of mental health, and his mother called the police to have them remove her son from her house. After an hour, McCarroll exited the house allegedly holding a knife; police used a rubber bullet to try to disarm him, but claim that McCarroll charged them. There’s video of the four minutes or so leading up to the shooting.
+ Two different standoffs occurred in the same day in Ferguson; one appears to have been the result of a false police report. The second was regarding Lorenzo Foster, who sources say is schizophrenic and who family members say may have been using heroin. Foster allegedly shot his brother, who is expected to survive. Police waited for Foster outside a home they believed him to have barricaded himself into; community members later talked Foster out from inside a church. He has since been taken to a mental hospital.
Laws of the Land
+ Today a major anti-human trafficking bill, the “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act,” was cleared through the Senate. This is way more complicated than it sounds, and I’m going to try to explain what I understand about it but also admit that what I understand about it is limited and probably flawed, so I apologize for that in advance.
First of all! Laws about human trafficking are tricky because the ways in which human trafficking occurs makes it often undifferentiated from sex work performed by choice. While laws about human trafficking generally intend to rescue people who have been forced into sex work in horrific conditions they can’t escape from, in terms of real-world execution the law cannot always make a distinction between people who are trafficked and people who are not; in this way anti-human trafficking laws can sometimes function as anti-sex worker laws. Relatedly, the way that some laws are designed, the way in which it is imagined trafficking victims will be rescued is by arresting them, because the penal system can help and/or rehabilitate them, which is a whole other issue. Combined with the fact that these laws also impact sex workers by choice, this can mean a lot of people being at risk of carceral justice. I truly do not fully understand in what way this law would be conceived or executed; it’s possible these things are true of this law, it’s possible they’re not. I am going to read more to try to figure that out, and hope that you do the same! Here, Elizabeth Nolan Brown talks about why she’s skeptical of this bill, for one example.
Federal law already prohibits a wide range of conduct related to human trafficking, slavery, and child sexual exploitation… One should always be skeptical when politicians insist on new laws to target things that are already targets. At best, they may be trying to capitalize on a sympathetic issue for attention and kudos. At worst, it belies efforts to grant government agencies new powers and more money without people paying much attention. The “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act” seems to be a product of both.
Secondly, if we can adjust the lens of our inquiry to an entirely different aspect of this situation for a moment, let’s look at the reason why the JVTA took this long to get as far as it did: because abortion. The bill calls for setting up a fund for the support of rescued trafficking victims; some politicians were so worried that this fund would be used to pay for abortions (which, let’s remember, the bill imagines would be abortions as a result of repeated sexual assault these victims were forced to endure as part of their trafficking) that they stalled the entire thing. The bill only moved forward because it was adjusted such that the fund could only be used for non-medical expenses; for medical issues, rescued trafficking victims would have to be assigned an already-existing federal health plan that already doesn’t cover abortion. So that’s neat.
Thirdly, the OTHER factor in this bill’s lifespan is its association with Loretta Lynch, Obama’s pick to replace Eric Holder as US Attorney General. As far as I understand it, the Senate vote on her nomination was the to-do list item after the JVTA vote; as long as Republicans could stave off the vote on the bill, they could put off having to vote on Lynch’s nomination. Now that the bill has been voted on, the vote on her nomination will go forward, possibly as soon as today.
Off to the (Presidential) Races
+ Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard, will launch her presidential campaign as a Republican candidate on May 4. Although her camp has refused to confirm that the announcement will be made, she’s been touring several red states; coincidentally, her book, Rising to the Challenge, is launching on May 5.
+ Scott Walker, the private nightmare of the state I currently live in, is having quite the week. The Koch brothers appear to be politely distancing themselves from him, possibly because he came out as too tough on immigration, a bit of a gaffe when you’re courting big business and also when your party is courting the Latin@ vote. Even more recently, employees of the Department of Natural resources became the latest victims of Walker’s harsh budget cuts (most recent was the public education system, which Walker wants to cut by a whopping $300 million). 57 employees of the DNR were informed on Earth Day that they would likely be laid off as a result of the cuts.
Order in the Court
+ Here are two different articles about What the Deal Is for conservatives as the SCOTUS same-sex marriage decision approacheth. This one asks how Republicans are going to be able to handle the balancing act they’ve been trying to pull off for a couple years now: “how to give tacit approval with one hand, but deny legislative approval with the other.” The sticking point is that we’ve now reached a point where it’s unappealing and negative to be seen as anti-gay, or at least anti marriage equality, and so especially as the presidential nominations approach, Republicans need to figure out how to seem neutral-to-positive towards gays without actually letting them have any more rights. A quandary! Over at the New York Times, it’s speculated that a) the SCOTUS will rule in our favor and b) that the conservative focus will shift to protecting the right of individual pastors, marriage clerks, etc to avoid same-sex weddings.
+ Well this is a lot: a judge in Virginia has thrown out a “sensational” anti-abortion lawsuit. Basically, it seems that a woman went into a women’s health center possibly without knowing she was pregnant, was informed that she was, and was given an abortion. She claims that she changed her mind partway through the procedure and told the doctor to stop, but instead he forced her to finish the procedure, and also that later she went to a different hospital and they found the procedure hadn’t been completed, and there was a baby skull still inside her. The problem is that the doctor who told her this second thing and is heavily involved in the lawsuit is also heavily involved in anti-abortion campaigns, and has a history of falsified scary medical information regarding abortion, like when he publicly stated that he saw two abortion-related injuries a week, but the hospital he was working for “actually catalogued only two abortion-related complications in 2012, the year Calhoun claimed to have seen dozens.” All in all, wild, and also as Jezebel points out important to remember that “[none] of this means that West Virginia as a whole has gotten any less hostile towards abortion rights.”
+ Bill O’Reilly! So wacky! This week his shtick was that Kagan and Ginsburg should recuse themselves from the SCOTUS marriage equality case because they’ve performed same-sex marriages. This crowd doesn’t really need an explanation of why this is silly, but here’s Salon’s explanation anyway.
O’Reilly explained that “these ladies” have no choice but to recuse themselves, because “the Supreme Court is supposed to be an incorruptible institution” and Ginsburg and Kagan have performed gay weddings. He did not, however, demand that the three justice who have performed straight weddings recuse themselves, even though — by his logic — their behavior suggests they already have a strong opinion about and abiding investment in the legitimacy of straight marriage.
Well This Is Horrifying
+ This is SO awful but a Pittsburgh high school teacher allegedly singled out a student as accusing another teacher of sexual assault in front of the entire class, saying that he had had to answer questions from detectives “because of her” while pointing at her and having her walk up to the front of the class before asking her if “she would be OK regarding next week’s topic, which was ‘sexual assault.'” Aside from this reprehensible educator, there are also the two other male teachers at the school who are actually charged with grooming and initiating a relationship with two separate students. Jesus! The district attorney’s office’s take seems accurate: “at worst, it is an intentional effort to use this child’s peers and the school setting to make her uncomfortable and keep her from speaking freely about her victimization.”
+ Last week we told you about a group of high schoolers in Pennsylvania who were actively organizing an anti-gay event to combat the Day of Silence; this week, it’s a small group of nuns at Marin Catholic High who walked out of their own classrooms because they were upset that their version of Day of Silence, which was a very general prayer for “students everywhere who have the experience of being ostracized, marginalized or silenced by bullying,” was actually linked to GLSEN.
When some Marin Catholic High students began handing out Day of Silence-related stickers and flyers on campus Friday morning, the five nuns felt “felt compromised, offended and uncomfortable,” Sister Clare Marie, one of the teachers, later wrote in a lengthy e-mail to her students.
She said the sisters “do not support bigotry or any kind of prejudice,” but that they were compelled to act out against an event promoted by a group that “believes actively in promoting homosexuality in all classrooms, K-12.”
It’s unclear how this will impact students and the community in the long run, but the Principal has indicated an interest in “[bringing] authentic dialogue to the campus.”
+ Verônica Bolina, a trans woman, was arrested in São Paulo after allegedly attempting to kill her neighbor. It appears that after being taken into police custody, Bolina was very badly beaten and her head shaved as well as having her shirt removed; a photo of her after her arrest is unrecognizable as Bolina and very difficult to look at. Police claim they aren’t responsible for Bolina’s injuries; that there was an altercation with other inmates and that she attempted to attack a jailer when he entered the cell. There’s allegedly an audio tape of Bolina repeating a statement that confirms this narrative. Associates of Bolina say they don’t believe the taped confession. According to Fusion, “The Centro de Cidadania LGBT Arrouche, a city government organization that interacts with the LGBT community, and the government of the City of São Paulo released a statement on Facebook that said Bolina had suffered aggression at the hands of the police. The Secretary of Public Safety says that the São Paulo civil police is under investigation by the internal affairs division of the civil police and the public ministry.” In the meantime, Bolina remains incarcerated, and is being transferred to a men’s prison. Many worldwide are standing in solidarity with her via the hashtag #somostodasVerônica.
+ For a brief, confusing moment, two chimps appeared to have the same rights in court as human beings, at least in New York. In a case involving animal cruelty and caged research animals, a judge applied habeas corpus, the right not to be subjected to unlawful imprisonment, to Hercules and Leo, who are chimpanzees. Vice speculated that this be a “huge, watershed moment for proponents of “nonhuman personhood,” but then the judge amended the court order and the term “habeas corpus” was no longer in it, making all of this kind of moot. And that’s the end of that; I don’t have a takeaway there, really, but there you have it.