law, Police, slut shamers

Woman takes pill on live television to de-stigmatize abortion…

Things continue to get weirder and weirder in the United States. A few months ago, Texas lawmakers passed a draconian bill that practically bans all abortions after six weeks’ gestation. Others states have jumped on the anti-abortion bandwagon, doing their best to outlaw what many women consider an important and fundamental right to have dominion over their own bodies. And yet, 49 years after Roe v. Wade allowed pregnant women to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction, some people are still trying so very hard to rescind that right.

I have never made it a secret that I am pro-choice. I’m grateful that I’ve never been in a situation in which I’ve needed to consider having an abortion. At this point in my life, my need to be concerned about abortion on a personal level is pretty much over. I won’t ever be pregnant. I doubt I would have chosen to have an abortion, but I can’t say for certain that I wouldn’t have. I know women who are wonderful, loving mothers who have made that choice. I don’t think any less of them for choosing abortion. It’s none of my business. And as someone who has often felt unwanted and unwelcome, I might even say that given a choice, I might have even preferred it if my mom had made that decision when she was pregnant with me. I do know for a fact that I wouldn’t have been any the wiser. I simply would not have existed.

This morning over breakfast, Bill and I were talking about a news story that made national headlines yesterday— it was about a woman who took an abortion pill as she was debating abortion on Fox News. I suddenly realized that not only am I “pro-choice”… I could say that I’m actually rabidly pro-choice. I feel like it’s a personal decision that should always and only be made by the one “already born” person who will be directly affected by the pregnancy in question.

Pro-choice activist, Jex Blackmore, stuns when she takes a mail order abortion pill during a debate.

Detroit area pro-choice activist and former Satanic Temple spokesperson, Jex Blackmore, was squaring off with pro-life activist and attorney, Rebecca Kiessling, on Fox News 2’s segment, Let it Rip, when she took the little white pill that she said would “end a pregnancy.” Blackmore said, as she was arguing for the safety of mail order abortion pills, “I want to show you how easy it is, how safe it is, by taking it myself.” She held up the small white pill– mifepristone– which, when combined with a second pill– misoprostol– is used to end pregnancies before ten weeks’ gestation.

Blackmore stammered a little bit as she explained the pill to the host of the show, Charlie Langton, telling him that the pill is very safe and allows people to end their pregnancies in private. Then, Blackmore casually took the pill on live television, swallowing it with water.

Langton looked shocked and bewildered as he asked, “You’re not pregnant, are you?”

To that, Blackmore said, “I would say that this is going to end a pregnancy. This would be my third abortion.”

Take that, Rebecca.

The camera then panned to lawyer and pro-life activist, Rebecca Kiessling, whose eyebrows raised and face registered shock and disgust. Then, Rebecca started talking… her part of the video is not very clear, like she didn’t have a good Internet connection. It’s funny to me that Kiessling’s part of the debate was muddled, while Jex Blackmore’s part came through clear as a bell. It’s almost as if there was a divine intervention. Then, at the end of the debate on Fox News, Blackmore shared a Web site where viewers can access the abortion pills, which were recently and permanently approved for mail order by the Food and Drug Administration.

Blackmore later said that she decided to take the pill on television to help de-stigmatize abortion. Frankly, given that this was her third abortion, it’s clear that she doesn’t want to be a mother right now. I think that forcing someone like Blackmore to give birth would be ill advised. She is very nonchalant about taking the pill on television, which tells me that if she got pregnant, and was forced to remain pregnant, she would likely be just as cavalier about safeguarding the health of the developing fetus. And what would pro-lifers choose to do about that? Is it humane to a developing fetus to force it to grow in the womb of an unwilling person? Especially since the personal choices pregnant people make have a direct and potentially disastrous effect on the development of the fetus?

We can’t even offer affordable and accessible healthcare to people who have already been born. How can we force people like Jex Blackmore to take care of themselves in support of a developing baby? The answer is, we can’t… at least not without depriving them of their civil rights. I truly hope the United States doesn’t go down that dark, dystopian, Handmaid’s Tale road. What would stop Jex Blackmore from doing things that would harm the developing fetus? And do we really want to live in a country where people who are pregnant have different civil rights than everybody else does?

I’ll be honest. It does disturb me a little bit to hear that this was Blackmore’s third abortion. Personally, I would be trying not to get pregnant in the first place. Obviously, she doesn’t see pregnancy the way I might see it. Given that she is so relaxed about the process of taking the abortion pill, I think it’s best that she doesn’t gestate against her will. I also want to make it very clear that I’m not judging her, either. I don’t know anything about her or what her life is like. This absolutely should be her choice, and it should not be anyone else’s business. When I look at the outrage and disgust on Rebecca Kiessling’s face as another woman makes a personal choice with which she disagrees, I wonder if she even cares about Jex Blackmore as a person, rather than just a vessel for a developing fetus. Below is a screenshot of Kiessling’s public Facebook post:

Except it wasn’t yet a “baby”, Rebecca. At under ten weeks gestation, it was still an embryo… and it was not at a stage where it looked like a baby. And given your clear distaste for Jex’s “satanic” proclivities, why would you want to force her to bring a baby into the world? You obviously find her disgusting.

Let’s be real. The “abortion pill” is a hell of a lot safer than a coat hanger is in ending pregnancies. If people are really “pro-life”, they should absolutely care about the health, safety, and well-being of already born people ahead of potentially born people. And they should consider the potential consequences of trying to force someone who doesn’t want to be pregnant to gestate that fetus that they pretend to care so much about. I think it’s much more humane for everyone involved to allow safe and early pregnancy terminations, than deny abortions to those who want them and will stop at nothing to get them.

I care more about people who have already been born and are living outside of the womb. Of course, I would prefer it if people who don’t want to get pregnant could just avoid getting pregnant. But that’s not always possible. Sometimes people get pregnant against their wills. Sometimes people want to be pregnant, but need to have an abortion for medical reasons. Sometimes the developing fetus has a condition that would make being born cruel. There are so many life situations that people find themselves in that would make them consider terminating a pregnancy. None of those situations are my business, since I am not directly affected by them. I don’t think it’s right to judge people for making such a personal decision.

So, while I don’t think I’m like Jex Blackmore, and I don’t think I would make the choices she’s made, I stand for her to be able to safely end her pregnancies if she chooses. And while taking the “abortion” pill on live television may seem callous and cavalier to many people, when it comes right down to it, all she did was take a pill. She might as well have been taking aspirin. It’s a non-issue. I’d much rather see her do that, than throw herself down a flight of stairs, or see some back alley butcher, or have someone punch her in the stomach a few times… or use a coat hanger.

I do think it’s interesting, though, that so many people who are against abortion are Republicans. Do they not realize that Romania, a notoriously communist country banned abortions during the Ceausescu era? The end result of that campaign was a lot of sick babies, horribly neglected in orphanages, tragically some of whom could not bond with other people because they were not properly cared for when they were infants. The babies grew up to be adults who, if they were lucky, simply couldn’t love others. If they weren’t lucky, they ended up criminals. It also resulted in very high maternal mortality rates, and people facing prison sentences if they dared to even try to get an abortion or aided and abetted in someone getting one.

So many Republicans are totally against paying for social welfare safety nets. Do they not realize that forcing people to give birth will contribute to poverty? Would they really like to see more people needing government assistance? Or are they thinking that a woman who is poor should be forced to give up her baby to a more affluent, cisgender adoptive couple, again, a la Handmaid’s Tale? Who gets to decide that for them? I thought Republicans were for smaller government and more personal freedom. Apparently they don’t necessarily like less government interference if the person wanting freedom is a woman in her childbearing years.

Also… what should we do with pregnant people who either can’t or refuse to properly take care of themselves? Arrest them and put them in jail? Have Republicans considered how jail and prison affect the health and welfare of pregnant women and their developing fetuses? For those who wonder what it’s like to be pregnant while locked up– in the South, no less– have a look at Jessica Kent’s video below.

Prison is not a safe place to be pregnant.

Or this shorter video about a woman in Minnesota who had to give birth while incarcerated…

Jeez… this is so sad. But at least she got out of jail sixteen days later.

Granted, these two women were not incarcerated because they were wanting abortions. But if we criminalize abortion, their stories could become a lot more common.

So… count me among those who is in favor of the abortion pill, and allowing people to make these choices safely and uninhibited by “big brother” governments run by anti-women politicians. And while I might not necessarily agree with someone’s choice to have an abortion, I also realize that it should be the pregnant individual’s decision alone, since it’s their body, and they will be the one who is most affected by the choice they make. I think Jex Blackmore showed tremendous chutzpah, taking that pill on live television… especially given that it was Fox News. And the savage part of me delights in watching Rebecca Kiessling figuratively clutching her pearls over that decision, as she asks people to “pray”. Obviously, her opinions are mostly formed by religion, which is yet another thing that not everyone embraces. And thank God for that. 😉

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documentaries, law, money, Police, true crime, YouTube

America really ain’t so great, is it? A French documentary leads me down another path of true crime discovery…

There are so many things I could write about this morning. Like, for instance, I read that Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s former girlfriend and fellow sex pest, has been convicted. She was facing six charges, and was convicted of five of them, including: sex trafficking of a minor, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and three related counts of conspiracy. She now faces up to 65 years in prison. Her sentencing date has not yet been announced, and her attorneys vow to appeal. That’s what they all say, of course…

I don’t take any particular delight when anyone gets convicted of a crime and faces a long stint in prison, but I do think justice has been served in this case, just as I did when Josh Duggar was found guilty. People who endanger others, particularly when there’s violence or coercion involved, and particularly when the crimes involve preying on vulnerable people, should go to prison. They should be removed from society so that law abiding citizens are less at risk. But, of course, that’s not saying a whole lot in the United States these days.

Anyway, suffice to say, I think it’s right that Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty. I think she should be treated humanely, as I hope all prisoners are, but I believe it’s correct to send her to prison for what she did. I hope Donald Trump is next.

MOVING ON…

Yesterday afternoon, I watched America’s Broken Dream, a 2012 French documentary that was posted on YouTube. The documentary, which was presented in English, was about homeless people in the United States as of about ten years ago. It was a bit depressing, on many levels, to watch it, especially given what has happened since 2012. Several families were interviewed– people who were homeless or “half homeless”, living in cheap motels. All of the stories were compelling, although it was the last family that really caught my attention.

This was a sad, but interesting, documentary done by the French filmmakers, Java Films. There is also a French version.

Toward the end of this documentary, a young couple with two adorable little daughters is profiled. The mom, Amber Carter, is in California with her girls, presumably because California, as a “blue” state, offers better social safety nets for poor people. Dad, Daniel Carter, is in Kentucky, working manual jobs to support his young family.

At one point, Daniel comes to California to see his wife and their little girls. I am struck by how much he seems to love the kids, and his wife. Amber is shown trying to fill out job applications, but finds it impossible because she has two tiny kids to look after. I was wondering what she would do with the girls if she did get hired. I know from my days as a MSW student that decent child care is not cheap, always available, or widely accessible to everyone.

It looked like things might be improving for the young family. I had some hope that they might recover. But then Daniel Carter is arrested in Kentucky for striking and killing his neighbor, a man named Christopher Mitchell, with a hatchet. Carter maintains that Mitchell was drunk and had attacked him. He claims that he hit the guy in the head with a hatchet in self-defense.

Carter did plead guilty to fleeing and evading the police, and resisting arrest. But somehow, there wasn’t enough evidence to try Carter for the murder of Christopher Mitchell. He was released after serving 135 days in jail, time he was already credited for when he faced the judge. Another blog, titled Liar Catchers, has this article about Daniel Carter. Christopher Mitchell’s family was “furious” that Carter got away with killing their relative, especially since it wasn’t the first time he had killed someone.

I don’t believe it was mentioned in the documentary that Daniel Carter also did some time as a juvenile in Florida for killing his Uncle Jack Carter with a knife, back in the early 00s. Carter spent 19 months locked up in jail, but was later acquitted of first degree murder charges stemming from the July 2002 stabbing death of his uncle. In that case, Carter also claimed self-defense, as his uncle reportedly had come to his home to help discipline him. Daniel Carter, who was fifteen years old at the time, claimed his uncle had gone into a rage, and he had attacked him with a rusty knife to protect himself. Jack Carter was stabbed ten times, with one wound to the neck that proved to be fatal.

Many people found it hard to believe that Carter got off in that case, too. One witness said that she’d never seen Jack Carter behave in a violent way and people were shocked that his nephew, Daniel Carter, wasn’t convicted. I’m sure that prior case could not be considered when Daniel Carter fatally wounded another man in Kentucky, but it does seem eerie that he killed two men in similar ways and got away with it both times.

I found the below 2015 post on Pensacola’s Community Bulletin Board:

Public Service Announcement

This is Daniel Carter. Pensacola natives might remember him as the boy who murdered his Uncle Jack Carter back in 2002. Though he stabbed his uncle over 10 times with a machete, cutting his throat and nearly severing one of his arms in the process, he was found not guilty of the crime. Why? I’ll never know. Jack’s sister, (Daniel’s mother), had called Jack over to the house that night to help her discipline Daniel, a troubled teen, whom she was unable to control. After the brutal murder of Jack Carter, members of the community, led by his mother Cindy, rallied around Daniel, who was only 15 at the time. Community members even held a fundraiser for Daniel’s defense at Bamboo Willie’s. They got him a renowned child advocacy attorney, who went on to paint a picture of a poor, abused teen, who feared for his life when he took a machete and stabbed his uncle over 10 times that night. When Daniel was release from jail after the trial, people rejoiced that he had won his freedom back. After all, poor Daniel didn’t mean to kill his uncle when he stabbed him repeatedly.  

Let’s fast forward to 2012. Daniel now lives in Kentucky. And in Kentucky, after a dispute with his landlord, (who apparently had a pointed stick in his hand), Daniel proceeded to take a hatchet, (yes, a HATCHET) and plant in right in the center of his landlord’s forehead, killing him. Believe it or not, Daniel was released from jail. Self defense again. In any case, the reason I am posting this is because Daniel is a Pensacola native, and I have no idea where he is now, but it’s defintely possible that he could be back here. If you ever happen to see him and have a disagreement with him, I would advise you to RUN. Whatever you do, DO NOT confront this man. He obvioulsy has a temper, and his history shows he is very dangerous!  

On a side note, the last time I saw Jack was about a week before he passed away. I hadn’t seen him in a while, so we exchanged hugs, and sat down to catch up over a drink. He was beaming. Smiling ear to ear. He told me he was in love. He told me he never thought “this kind of happiness was possible”. And he told me that for the first time in a long time, he was excited about the future, not just going through the motions of the day to day routine. He was happy to be alive ❤

And a few days later, he was gone.  
Rest in Peace, Jack.  
You are not forgotten.

One woman commented that she had been married to Daniel Carter. She wrote that he had conned her and her mother, and he was a very violent person. She expressed gratitude that they didn’t manage to have children together. I guess she must have been married to him before he was married to Amber, the woman who was portrayed as his wife in the documentary, as well as the mother to his two adorable little girls. If you click on the link directly above, you can read the comments about Daniel Carter and people who know him.

I didn’t know anything at all about this couple or the true crimes that were connected with them when I was watching the documentary. From what I could see on the video, Amber Carter was a good and attentive mom, even though she and her girls were living in their old car. It’s certainly not a crime to be poor. I was also struck by Daniel. He seemed to be a friendly, charismatic person. I could see how he charmed people, as he was well-spoken and seemed to work hard, and loved his daughters very much.

It just goes to show you that friendly, charming, well-spoken people really can be hiding monstrous characteristics under the surface. In the documentary, his boss says that Daniel Carter has an “amazing work ethic” and that his little girls are all he talks about. To hear him tell it, Daniel is a fine young man and dedicated provider to his family. I truly enjoyed watching him interact with his daughters, who really seemed to love him. He seemed to love them right back. I was genuinely saddened when the announcer in the documentary talked about Daniel’s arrest. The Carters seemed like they might somehow make it– or, at least it seemed like they were trying to get out of the hole they were in.

I got curious about Amber Carter, so I looked her up. Sadly, it appears that she might also have some serious legal problems. In September 2021, a woman named Amber Carter, who roughly matches the age and description of the Amber Carter in the documentary, was wanted by the police in Jones County, Mississippi. She was accused of “giving birth to a child who tested positive for methamphetamine” and was to face one count of felony child abuse. According to this article, Amber Carter was captured about a week after the news reported about her. She is, at this writing, listed on the inmate roster in Jones County, Mississippi.

As I was searching for more information about the recent charges against Amber Carter, I also ran across another item from May 2018, which appeared to involve the same woman– again, for giving birth to a baby who tested positive for cocaine and meth. If this is the same Amber, that means she’s had at least two more children who have been born into deplorable circumstances and are likely in foster care now.

A screen shot of a news brief about Amber Carter. Sure looks like the same person.

While it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if the Amber Carter who was wanted in Mississippi is the same Amber Carter in the documentary, it does make me sad that it could be, and probably is, her. The Amber in the documentary genuinely seemed to be a good mom, although it could be she was only like that when the cameras were rolling. I suppose I can understand how a person in the situation Amber and the other people profiled in the documentary might fall into drug abuse, but it really does seem like a terrible shame.

Although there seems to be an age discrepancy between the documentary Amber and the Amber in the above mug shot, I do think they are one and the same. The documentary was released in 2012, but 2008 was when the recession was really bad. I think it’s very likely that the footage was filmed in the years prior to 2012, and if that’s the case, then the ages for Amber in the documentary and Amber in the mug shot line up perfectly. Also, there is a very strong physical resemblance.

After I finished watching the documentary, I happened across a guest opinion essay in The New York Times about a woman who had once owned a home and horses. She was raised in Palo Alto, California by successful parents, and went to college and studied journalism. Lori Teresa Yearwood once had it all– including her own business. But a series of misfortunes and subsequent mental health challenges plunged her into homelessness. She spent two years on the streets, where she was sexually assaulted multiple times.

Yearwood went to several hospitals via ambulance after the assaults. She was so traumatized that she couldn’t speak, so hospital administrators did not know she was homeless– or, so they claim. As she was getting back on her feet again, with the help of Utah-based non-profit organization, Journey of Hope and an accountant she knew from her days as a business owner, Yearwood discovered just how outrageously expensive being homeless is. People don’t realize that homeless people often incur debts because they get arrested and fined. Yearwood also had huge hospital and ambulance bills, due to visiting the facilities after she was assaulted and locked in a storage shed for two days.

Fortunately, once she was functioning again, Yearwood was able to advocate for herself. She’s now back to working as a reporter. She got the huge medical bills dismissed, after she explained to the hospital administrators that she would be reporting about how they treated her. From the opinion piece, Yearwood wrote:

A public relations official responded that while in the hospital’s care, I refused to speak, so staff members didn’t know I was homeless. I explained that I had not refused to speak; I had been traumatized and had gone essentially mute for two years. By this time in my renewed journalism career, I had obtained my medical records, so I showed the hospital administrators some of the doctors’ notes about me. The next email from the hospital was swift: “Upon reviewing your account, we have decided to honor your claim of being homeless at the time of service and wrote off the remaining balance.”

I asked the hospital administrators if they were going to respond to the harm they had caused by ruining my credit: the stress and sleepless nights, the fact that I could no longer qualify for low interest rates on mortgages. The spokesman apologized but said, “All I can do is make it right going forward.”

Lori Teresa Yearwood is one of the lucky ones. I know it’s hard to climb out of poverty. I remember when Bill and I were first married, we weren’t impoverished, but it sure felt that way. I seriously thought we’d never get out of debt. It took years to do it, but I had my eye on the prize, and we were very fortunate in many ways. Moving to Germany, for instance, was a great move for our finances. But not everyone can do what we did… and many people are burdened by having children to raise.

I look at Amber Carter and I suspect that years of living as she was depicted in the America’s Broken Dream documentary wore her down on many levels. I’m sure that using drugs and having unprotected sex were two escapes for her that made life temporarily more pleasant. But those decisions ultimately made her personal situation much worse, and they also made things worse for her innocent children. She joins so many Americans who are incarcerated, and will find it so much harder to function once they are released.

As for Yearwood, I think she makes an excellent point that Americans need to pay more attention to treating mental health issues. Yearwood was doing great until the 2008 recession hit, she had credit problems that led to foreclosure, the Oregon house she was renting burned down, her dog died, and then, in 2014, she had a mental health breakdown that made it impossible to continue operating her business. When she was slowly recovering in 2017, she was fortunate enough to run into people who coaxed her toward rejoining society. She writes:

Nonprofit employees who work with the homeless should be trained in how to interact with people who have experienced trauma. Otherwise, they may inadvertently shame their clients for being hesitant to return to an economic system that has already penalized and punished them. A classic symptom of trauma is avoiding the source of that trauma.

As I was emerging from homelessness, I trusted very few people. I needed what advocates call a soft handoff. I would never have considered going to a group trying to help me unless someone I trusted had referred me and would go with me. My initial soft handoff was arranged by Shannon Cox, a former police officer and the founder of Journey of Hope. She took me to lunch and drove me to the hospitals to pick up all the records that I had no idea I was going to need to later protect myself financially.

Now, Yearwood is able to advocate for herself and others, but if not for people who cared enough to help her, she might still be on the street. She might still be at risk of sexual assault and falling into illegal drug use to escape the despair. Maybe she might be in a position similar to Amber Carter’s, although thankfully, there probably wouldn’t be any innocent children involved.

The America’s Broken Dream documentary also profiles other families– people who had jobs and homes, and their children, who were forced to live in cheap motels and worry about being picked up by child protective services. I might have to see if any of those people managed to pull themselves out of homelessness. I know it’s hard, though, because as Yearwood points out, it’s very expensive to be poor. A lot of people have no idea. And there but by the grace of God go any of us, unfortunately.

Documentaries like America’s Broken Dream scare the hell out of me, and make me so grateful for what I have… and for Bill, who works so hard to provide for us. But, I swear, every time I read a news article about financial ruin– something that Bill has already survived when he was with his ex wife– I want to start another bank account. It really is hard getting by in America if you don’t have the right skills, enough support, and luck.

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communication, law, Police, travel

Damned if you do… damned if you don’t…

I still have a ton of travel blogging to do, and I’ll be getting to that in a little while. First, I want to write about a situation I read about this morning.

Last month, white mom, Mary MacCarthy, was traveling with her ten year old biracial daughter, Moira. They were on their way to a funeral in Denver, Colorado. Ms. MacCarthy’s brother died suddenly in October, so MacCarthy had to take a last minute flight from her home in California. MacCarthy is a single mom, and her brother was like a father to Moira. The girl was crying when she was boarding the flight, and the two were initially not able to sit together. MacCarthy asked other passengers if someone would be willing to move so that she and her daughter could be next to each other.

Another passenger was kind enough to oblige, and the pair arrived safely in Denver, where they were met on the jet bridge by a couple of Denver police officers. MacCarthy was shocked to be confronted by the cops. She worried that they were there to deliver more bad news. But, it turned out that they wanted to talk to her because someone had called them, suspicious about their behavior. Moira had been crying because her uncle died. Then, afterwards, she was confronted by the police, and terrified because of all of the news coverage about people of color being abused or even killed by the police.

After talking to MacCarthy and her daughter, Denver police cleared them of any wrongdoing, and they were free to go. MacCarthy recorded the incident on her phone. The initial police report indicated that a Southwest flight attendant had reported the duo for “suspicious behavior”.

Two weeks later, MacCarthy got a phone call from the Denver Police Human Trafficking unit. The caller said the unit was following up on MacCarthy’s case. It was only then that MacCarthy realized she had been suspected of human trafficking.

MacCarthy sent an email to Southwest Airlines about this incident and, she says, so far they have not apologized. Instead, she claims she has only received two brief automated responses. MacCarthy has retained an attorney and is accusing Southwest Airlines of “racial profiling”. She now wants “a written apology from the airline, immediate reimbursement of the full price of their tickets, and “additional compensation to account for the trauma imposed on an innocent family, and especially on a grieving ten year-old Black girl.”

Southwest Airlines has said it’s “disheartened” by MacCarthy’s story of the events and has “plans to reach out to her.” In a statement to CNN, Southwest Airlines spokesperson Dan Landson said:

“We are conducting a review of the situation internally, and we will be reaching out to the Customer to address her concerns and offer our apologies for her experience traveling with us. Our Employees undergo robust training on Human Trafficking. Above all, Southwest Airlines prides itself on providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for the millions of Customers who travel with us each year,”

I can’t blame Mary MacCarthy and her daughter for being very upset and traumatized by what happened to them last month. On the other hand, I also have some empathy for the flight attendant who called the police. It sounds like the flight attendant was following protocol based on training. And while it’s certainly possible that the call was based on the flight attendant’s racial biases, I can’t conclude for certain that it was, based on the information I’ve read about this case so far.

Just yesterday, I read another story about a sixteen year old girl who was abducted by a 61 year old man. The girl had seen a hand gesture on Tik Tok called the Signal for Help. She used it while riding in the car with her kidnapper, hoping someone in another car would notice her signal of distress. Fortunately, someone did notice, and called 911. The motorist who made the emergency call also stayed behind the car and updated the police to the kidnapper’s location. That’s how the Laurel County sheriff’s department in Kentucky managed to arrest James Herbert Brick and bring the teenager he’d abducted to safety.

Brick has been charged with two felonies: unlawful imprisonment and possession of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor. He was locked up in the Laurel County Correctional Center in London, Ky., on a $10,000 bond.

In both of these scenarios, people saw something and said something, which is the advice often given to those who are concerned about something that is amiss. I’ve heard that advice given in situations involving potential crimes, as well as in situations that involve potential medical issues. Yes, it’s possible that a person is making much ado about nothing, but, as they say, “better safe than sorry”, especially when children are involved.

My heart goes out to Mary MacCarthy and Moira. They were already upset and anxious on that flight to Denver, given the terrible and sudden loss of MacCarthy’s brother, who was only 46 years old. Ms. MacCarthy also says that Moira is only ten, but she looks much older than ten. And it’s almost always scary to be confronted by the police, particularly in this era during which Black people have been injured or killed by American cops.

But… unfortunately, there are people out there who traffic children. Not all traffickers are scary looking men. Sometimes women are involved with trafficking children, and they get away with it, because they don’t fit the stereotypical profile of a trafficker. And flight attendants are trained to look for the signs of people who might be harming children. The flight attendant who called the police reported that Ms. MacCarthy and Moira were among the last to board the flight and the last to buy tickets. And they didn’t speak during the flight. Of course, the flight attendant had no way of knowing the circumstances of why the duo were behaving as they were, and she had many other passengers to look after on the flight. It might not have been possible for her to find out more about the situation before she made her judgment call.

It seems to me that Ms. MacCarthy is legitimately upset because she’s offended. I don’t blame her for being offended. But I would also hate to see people being discouraged from calling for help when they see something that doesn’t look right. I understand that calling the police on matters involving people of color can lead to tragic consequences. It shouldn’t be that way, though. People should feel free to call for help if they think help is needed. And I think in this case, the flight attendant was obviously concerned and felt that the situation merited calling the police. It turned out that she was wrong, but what if she hadn’t been wrong?

Over the past couple of days, I’ve noticed several people hitting a post I wrote earlier this year about how the “Karen” stigma can actually be deadly. That post was about a column I read in The Atlantic magazine, about a woman who was concerned that her pharmacy wasn’t requiring people to wear face masks at the drive in pickup station. But she didn’t want to be a “Karen”, so she didn’t say anything about it.

That post was written in late January of this year, before a lot of people had been vaccinated against COVID-19. The incident the article it was based on occurred even earlier than that. The point I made in that post is that being overly concerned about being labeled a “Karen” or a “BBQ Becky” or “Permit Patty” could actually cause harm to people. If there is a situation that is potentially dangerous, a person should feel okay about asking for help from people who have the ability to investigate. In a perfect world, making such a call would be perfectly safe, and would not result in someone being hurt, killed, or even humiliated.

Ms. MacCarthy assumes that she and her daughter were questioned because they don’t look alike. And it’s possible that racism played a part in the reason the flight attendant noticed them and called the cops. On the other hand, it’s also possible that the flight attendant was legitimately concerned and believed the duo were throwing up major red flags. The end result was that Mary MacCarthy and her daughter were cleared and allowed to go on their way. Yes, it was traumatic, embarrassing, and scary, but in the end, no one was hurt or killed, and no one actually was being trafficked. Those are good things, even if Southwest Airlines hasn’t apologized for the mistake.

For the record, yes, I do think the airline owes Ms. MacCarthy and her daughter a sincere apology. I’m sure that Southwest Airlines will eventually settle with Ms. MacCarthy. Hopefully, the settlement will be appropriate and make the situation less horrifying for MacCarthy and her daughter. According to NBC news:

“At this point they can speak with my attorneys,” MacCarthy said.

She says it’s about more than an apology.

“I travel with my daughter’s birth certificate because I’m ready to answer any questions if necessary,” she said. “The fact that we’re mother and daughter, the fact that I’m a single parent traveling with my daughter. It’s the right of TSA to ask those questions, I’m open to that. But the way this was handled was so unprofessional.

“I will do whatever it takes to speak out against the type of ignorant behavior and policies that lead to families being treated this way.”

I think people involved with serving and protecting the public have a tough and often thankless job. But I also think that these kinds of situations, where an offended person pursues legal remedies against those who act out of caution– especially when it involves children— could have a chilling effect that might lead to more children being harmed or killed. If someone sees something that raises a red flag, but they decide not to act because of the danger of being sued or even just being called a “Karen”, there could be even more tragedies. I’m sure the young lady who gave the Signal for Help while being driven through multiple states with her 61 year old captor is happy that someone acted and called the police.

But… in Mary MacCarthy’s defense, I also think that once the Denver Police cleared her and her daughter, that should have been the end of it. The human trafficking department should not have called her to “follow up”. I think if that hadn’t have happened, this story would have a different trajectory. And I do believe her when she says that Moira is traumatized by what happened.

I hope someday, the police situation in the United States will be overhauled, so that officers can actually be thought of as good people to call for help, rather than just threatening and potentially deadly. It probably won’t happen in my lifetime. And… on another note, flying has gotten to be pretty terrible these days. Stories like these make me want to avoid flying even more than ever.

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communication, Police, true crime

Waiting for “contact”…

There are a couple of hot news items I could write about today. Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict, while not at all surprising, is a story that begs to be written about. I’m sure a lot of people will write about him, but I won’t be among them today, except to state that I’m glad he got convicted. It doesn’t bring me pleasure to see anyone get handcuffed and led to prison, but I do think it was entirely justified in Chauvin’s case.

I could also write about the infuriating story I read yesterday about Karen Garner, an 80 pound 73 year old woman with dementia who, last June, tried to walk out of a Walmart in Loveland, Colorado with about $14 worth of unpaid for merchandise. She was stopped by store employees, forced back into the store where the items were recovered, and not allowed to pay for them. Then, as she was picking purple wildflowers in a nearby field, walking to her nearby home, she was stopped by police. They arrested her, breaking her arm and dislocating her shoulder as they violently cuffed the confused, elderly woman. She sat cuffed in a cell for hours before she was taken to jail, crying and terrified. Thankfully, the district attorney immediately dropped the charges against Karen Garner. Her family has sued.

Absolutely INFURIATING! And neither of these cops were fired or disciplined.

Yes… I could definitely write about that case, as I watched the infuriating body cam coverage. I’m so tired of reading about violent cops who hurt and kill people instead of helping them. I know it can be done, too, because I’ve seen it in action here in Europe. I get that cops never know what they’re going to encounter when they go on patrol, particularly in the United States, where so many people are armed. But this poor lady is going to suffer for the rest of her life because of the incompetent and, frankly, cruel treatment she received from the police officers who manhandled her last summer. I may write about Karen Garner later today or even tomorrow… or maybe not. This case really upset me.

Or, I could write about how, as Derek Chauvin’s verdict was being read yesterday, a teenaged Black girl in Columbus, Ohio was fatally shot by the police. I don’t know too much about that story yet, as I was going to bed as Chauvin’s fate was delivered yesterday. Evidently, the 15 (or 16– I’ve seen both ages listed) year old who was killed by the police was brandishing a knife and threatening another girl in the community. She was living in foster care and had evidently gotten into a fight with someone at her foster home. Supposedly, she had dropped the knife before a police officer killed her. Someone in the video footage said that she’d been shot four times, which does seem excessive to me. Seems like one shot should have been enough to incapacitate her, if the weapon was needed at all.

Or, I could write about Kimberly Potter, the cop who, inexplicably, confused her Glock service revolver for a Taser and fatally shot 20 year old Daunte Wright. How Potter confused a Taser for a gun, I will never know. I don’t make it a habit of using either device. At least, in her case, she was unpleasantly shocked at what she did and exclaimed, “Holy shit! I just shot him!” From those words, I can at least surmise that she hadn’t intended to shoot the man, but was obviously caught up in the tension of the moment. It doesn’t change the fact that a man is dead because of her negligent actions, but I don’t see her as cold-blooded as I do Derek Chauvin, who showed no mercy toward George Floyd as he knelt on the man’s neck and killed him in front of bystanders.

But… what I really want to write about today has nothing to do with police brutality. Regular readers of my blog probably know that I pay close attention to who is reading and what people find interesting. I do this because I’m genuinely curious about my readership, but also to see what subjects people enjoy. Sometimes, I write posts that are more for me or people who know me offline than the strangers who come across my blog. I enjoy writing the personal stories more than I do rants about current events. If I’m honest, writing about current events often makes me nervous. Why? Because I notice many people hitting my “contact” page.

Sometimes people hit the contact page multiple times after reading and re-reading some of my posts. I can see that they go to the page, probably looking for information about the person who shares these opinions… and wonder what kind of person I am. Or maybe they actually do feel like contacting me. The thought of that makes me kind of nervous, since you never know what people are going to write.

So far, the few people who have contacted me for reasons other than spam have been very nice. One guy, a German, wrote to ask me to make available a post I wrote about Erin McCay George I wrote for my Blogspot version of The Overeducated Housewife. For some reason, her case has attracted many readers from around the world. I’m surprised I haven’t seen her case profiled on Snapped, although I don’t think she snapped as much as she became overcome by greed. So I reposted that article, as well as a lot of other articles I’ve written over the years.

I heard from Adam Barrows, author of the controversial New York Times love story involving his wife, who had anorexia nervosa. Barrows wrote about how he didn’t try to encourage his wife to seek treatment. I didn’t like all of the horrible negative appraisals of Barrows’ character, so I decided to write about his story. Barrows wrote to thank me. Even two months later, that post still gets a lot of hits. Barrows’ story really resonated with a lot of people, and obviously, people wanted to know how others felt about it. I’m not known for my conventional approaches to all matters. I often go against the grain of public opinion, which is why it makes me nervous when people haunt the contact page. I’m always afraid of getting a ton of hate mail. But, aside from one somewhat irate commenter who wanted to “correct” my opinions, the discussion on that post has been blessedly respectful, and I really appreciate that.

I also heard from a guy in Virginia who was interested in my post about weird murder stories in Farmville, which is the town where I went to college. Farmville is a town that, at least in the 1990s, felt kind of like it was about 30 years behind the rest of Virginia. And yet, there have been some really fascinating true crime cases in that place. Maybe, in another life, I would have been like Ann Rule or Kathryn Casey, and become a true crime writer. I really do find the stories fascinating… better than any novelist could dream up, in a lot of cases.

And finally, I got a note from a lawyer in New Zealand who read my review of Jocelyn Zichterman’s controversial book, I Fired God, and hoped I would also write about Gloriavale Christian Community in New Zealand. I did recently read and review a book about that community, and I am currently reading another book about it.

For the first year, since I moved my blog to WordPress, it took a long time to re-establish a following. Now that this version of my blog is two years old, I’m getting more readers. So far, because I moderate comments, I get fewer flames from drive by readers who don’t like my opinions. But I also have lots of lurkers who haunt my contact page. They go back to it repeatedly. I’m sure curiosity is what takes them there. Maybe some of them would like to rip me a new one because they think I’ve gotten something “wrong”. I always remind people, though, that this blog is just a collection of my opinions and observations. I realize that not everyone agrees with me. I don’t expect everyone to agree, although it’s not very often that my mind is changed by an irate comment. I won’t say it never happens, though.

I remember a few years ago, I read a story about a woman who was murdered by her ex boyfriend, who had also killed three of the woman’s four children. It was a horrific case out of Newport News, Virginia detailing how the police had completely failed to protect the woman, who had just gotten a restraining order that hadn’t been served to her killer. I wrote a post about the story based only on what I read in the news. A relative of the victim wrote to me and asked me to revisit the story with more context thrown in. She was initially upset by my observations, but when I pointed out to her that I was only reacting to the news story and not trying to judge her, she calmed down and told me more about what happened. I was outraged by her account and wrote another post about it. She ended up thanking me. I still look back on that and really feel good that I was able to get more of the story out. In fact, since that story is coming up today, I will repost it after I’m finished writing this entry.

For some reason, true crime posts are the ones that really capture people’s interest the most. I’m always willing to hear from people who want more of the story explained. I’m sure there are some people who read my posts and are actually involved in the cases. Maybe they want to say something to me… or maybe they’re just curious. I don’t know. But I will admit, the contact page lurkers who repeatedly hit that page are a curiosity of mine, too. What are they looking for? There’s nothing on that page but a form, powered by WordPress. I can only think that they’re deliberating sending me a comment. I can’t blame them for that. I’m famous for turning comments into content. 😉

Well… here’s hoping the news gets better today. I am glad Derek Chauvin, at least, has gotten some well-deserved justice delivered to him. It doesn’t bring me joy to see anyone locked up, but I do think he got exactly what he asked for when he made the decision to brutalize and kill George Floyd, who was helpless and crying for his mother as he was dying. I’m sorry for all of Chauvin’s friends and loved ones, as well as his other victims. I also feel much for Floyd’s family, but am specifically mentioning Chauvin’s family and friends because they probably won’t get much sympathy. People never think about the perpetrator’s loved ones when something like this happens. They are suffering, too, and deserve some regard… although Floyd’s family rightfully deserves more attention right now.

It’s time for Chauvin to pay the piper and do his time. And, I will go on record now to state that I fervently hope the two cops who hurt Karen Garner are also made to answer for their brutality toward that poor woman. Watching that video and listening to those cops, seeing how they manhandled a frail and obviously confused lady, was horrifying to me. But even so, I try to keep in mind that cops have a tough job these days. I wish more of them had common sense and more humanity, though.

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bad TV, obits, Police, true crime

A veritable smorgasbord of topics today…

Where do I even start? I kind of hate it when I wake up in the morning with a bunch of different things I want to discuss. I could write multiple posts, and I may very well do that, not that people will read more than one. Or I could try to cover everything in less depth in this one post. Well, I guess I’ll just get started and see where my fingers and brain take me.

First off, I was saddened but not terribly surprised to read about the death of Dustin Diamond, who famously played Screech on Saved By The Bell. Diamond was recently in the news because he’d been admitted to a Florida hospital, having been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. I read yesterday that the lung cancer was actually secondary to a different, undisclosed cancer that had metastasized.

Cancer sucks. It can strike with incredible speed and cruelty. We lost our dog, Zane, a week after he was diagnosed with lymphoma. My cousin, Karen, died very quickly after a relapse of cancer. So did another cousin’s spouse, who announced that he had stage four liver cancer in September of last year and was gone by October. I suppose the one kindness that comes out of something like this happening is that the suffering that comes from being so sick is somewhat curtailed.

CNN’s take on Dustin Diamond’s demise.

I never cared much for the Screech character on SBTB. Even though that show was a guilty pleasure for me, it wasn’t the most impressive showcase of anyone’s talents. I read Dustin’s book, Behind the Bell, years ago. I remember I read it because I was writing book reviews on Epinions.com and took great pleasure in reading certain bad books so others wouldn’t have to. I didn’t like the book and distinctly remember getting rid of it right after I reviewed it. I also remember seeing Dustin on Celebrity Fit Club back in 2007, while Bill was deployed to Iraq. I thought he was a massive jerk on that show, although the featured pic today came in handy when some random dick on Facebook asked me for a photo.

That all being said, at 44, Dustin Diamond was much too young to die, and I wouldn’t wish cancer on almost anyone. I think I can understand why Dustin seemed to be such a jerk as he aged out of childhood roles. He probably hated being Screech, the butt of everyone’s jokes. I mean, Saved By The Bell was kind of a shitty show, anyway. The character, Zack Morris (played by Mark Paul Gosselaar) was depicted as “cool”, but he was actually a massive jackass who was constantly looking for ways to screw over other people.

And poor Dustin, who was well paid for his work, was always the one getting dumped on. The writers on that show never let him be “normal”. He was always the one being made into a fool, while the other characters were “cool” and kind of “slumming” by being his friend. I wouldn’t say they really treated the Screech character like a friend. It’s not easy to always be the asshole.

I think having to play Screech would give anyone a complex. He was like a teenaged Weird Al Yankovic, but once that show was done, life got real. I think Dustin never really had a chance to be a normal person during his developmental years, and that probably made it much harder for him when he was an adult. Anyway… he’s out of pain now. I hope he’s in a better place. My good thoughts go out to his friends and loved ones.

Moving on…

Like a lot of other people, I happened to see the videos of the Rochester Police Department handcuffing and pepper spraying a nine year old child who was freaking out during a snowstorm. I certainly think what happened to that child is reprehensible. It looks to me like she was failed by many people, particularly her mom. I watched both body cam videos, which were included in the Washington Post article I linked. In the first one, you see the cop just trying to talk to the girl, who is running away from him. He seems to be trying to keep his cool, but she isn’t respecting his authority.

Then the mom comes out and starts yelling at the girl, using very abusive language which makes me think that things must be especially rough when the cops aren’t around. The girl starts to melt down, screaming. Next thing you know, she’s in handcuffs and the cops are trying to force her into the backseat of police cruiser. She finally gets pepper sprayed by a cop who has just had it with her and seems exasperated and impatient. I guess I can understand why the cop was impatient. It was freezing cold outside, and the girl was not cooperating. But if one of her parents or teachers had sprayed her with pepper spray, there would absolutely be hell to pay.

I’m not totally sure what led up to these events. There was something about the girl saying her mom stabbed her father. Her mom says the blood she saw was her blood, not her dad’s. And she refuses to cooperate with the police because she insists on seeing her dad. In the first video, her mom screams that she has custody and she is HER child and she will carry her ass into the house and deal with whatever’s coming. I felt very sad for that girl… especially when the cop tells her she’s acting like a child and she quite correctly points out that she IS a child!

I was impressed by how articulate and this girl was as she was screaming at the cop. She was also courageous. When I was her age, I know I would not have spoken to a cop the way she did. I would not have thought to demand anything, nor do I think I would have thought to tell the cop that I was a child when he accused me of “acting like a child”. I think I would have been scared out of my wits, not just because of the cop, but because I know my dad would have probably knocked the hell out of me for getting in trouble. Also, she appeared to be quite big for a nine year old. But, I will admit, it’s been a long time since I’ve been around children. Maybe nine year olds aren’t as small or shy as they were in my day.

This really went bad quickly. This is the second of two videos. I recommend watching both. Personally, I think the mother should have been arrested, but I base that only on what I saw in the videos.

Anyway, I hope that girl gets the help she clearly needs. I wish the police hadn’t treated her the way they did, although something did have to be done. I think there should definitely be some reform. However, I also realize that being a police officer isn’t easy. They never know what they’re going to face on any shift. And sadly, people can be very dangerous, even when they’re super young. That doesn’t mean I think she should have been pepper sprayed, though. I think she needs some real, competent, support from someone who knows how to help kids like her. Many people were calling for social workers. Maybe a social worker could have helped, but again, speaking from experience, I will say that just like cops, social workers can be a mixed bag. No matter what, she needs some adults in her life who won’t fail her again.

The final topic I’m kind of inspired to address this morning is one that probably deserves its own post, as well as my undivided attention. Maybe I’ll get to it today. Maybe I won’t. For now, I just hope the weather gets better soon. This gray, cold, depressing rainy shit we have is beyond a drag.

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