healthcare, law, politicians, politics, slut shamers

Pro life activist makes a dumb comment about ten year old rape victim and abortion recipient…

Mornin’ folks. I’m sad to report that I’m sick again. I have a sore throat, slight hoarseness, cough, and congestion, and I’ve had several near misses with the urge to hurl. Some may recall that I was sick a month ago, too. That time, it appeared to be a garden variety cold. I did two COVID tests and both were very negative. Like, there wasn’t even a hint that I might have the virus. This time, I think my luck might have finally run out, since I read this morning that COVID is now initially presenting with a sore throat, and not with a fever and loss of smell and taste.

I actually feel significantly better now than I did a couple of hours ago. Once I ate breakfast, did some coughing and clearing of my throat, and drank some fluids, the pain in my throat lessened. I still feel kind of icky, but it’s not too bad. I haven’t tested for COVID, because I don’t have any tests at home. Hopefully, this won’t linger. What sucks the most is that right now, there’s a heat wave in Europe. There’s nothing worse than being sick when it’s hot as Hell outside.

Yesterday, I mentioned a satire story that’s been rattling in my head. I told Bill about it, and he was enthusiastic and was adding ideas. Last night, when Bill came home, we brainstormed some more. It was surprisingly fun. Maybe I’ll actually get down to writing it… especially if it turns out I need to be housebound. I think it could be a good story.

Now to get on with today’s topic. I hate to write about abortion again, but I just have to… I happened to see a video yesterday that blew my mind. A few days ago, MSNBC posted the below video to YouTube.

They sure are denying reality, aren’t they? The featured photo is a picture of Eric Swalwell’s visible reaction to Catherine Glenn Foster’s lunacy.

By now, many people have heard about the ten year old Ohio girl who was raped, resulting in a pregnancy. By the time her pregnancy was revealed, she was six weeks and three days beyond conception. Since Ohio currently bans almost all abortions beyond six weeks, the girl could not get the healthcare she needed in her home state. Her doctor called Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an OB-GYN in Indiana, where abortions are currently permitted until the 22nd week of gestation. Dr. Bernard agreed to help the girl. This poor ten year old CHILD had to travel from Ohio to Indiana to get her abortion.

Meanwhile, Republicans were quick to discount and try to debunk the story about the pregnant ten year old rape victim. They dismissed the story as “liberal talking points”. Many people were saying that it couldn’t be true, that a ten year old baby girl got pregnant. Some were even “slut shaming” the girl, saying she needed to keep her legs closed. 😮 Indiana Attorney General, Todd Rokita, went on the offensive, claiming that Dr. Bernard didn’t properly report the abortion, when actually, she did. Dr. Bernard’s lawyer has since sent Mr. Rokita a “cease and desist” letter, threatening litigation to defend against his malicious and defamatory statements regarding the doctor’s work. Rokita may also face disciplinary action for the false and unverified statements he’s made regarding this case.

Ohio’s attorney general, Dave Yost, likewise scoffed at the story and cast doubt on its veracity. Yost said that he had not heard anything about a ten year old rape victim. I guess it doesn’t occur to him that not only do Americans have healthcare privacy, but minors’ and sexual assault victims’ privacy is especially protected, and for good reason. Yost, nevertheless, went on Fox News and said:

“We have regular contact with prosecutors and local police and sheriffs — not a whisper anywhere,”

He continued:

“I know the cops and prosecutors in this state… There’s not one of them that wouldn’t be turning over every rock, looking for this guy and they would have charged him. They wouldn’t leave him loose on the streets … I’m not saying it could not have happened. What I’m saying to you is there is not a damn scintilla of evidence.”

It is true that this ten year old girl was raped at least twice. One of those assaults led to her conceiving with her rapist, a 27 year old man who has since been arrested. It’s absolutely terrible that this crime happened to the girl. We mustn’t forget that this happens to other girls around the world. She’s not the first ten year old to get pregnant. Any ten year old who has sex is a victim of rape. Ten year olds CANNOT consent to having sex. When that news came out, Dave Yost’s only comment was “We rejoice anytime a child rapist is taken off the streets.” He later added, he’s “absolutely delighted that this monster has been taken off the street. If convicted, he should spend the rest of his life in prison.” No apology for casting doubt on the girl’s story, which turns out to be true. No reconsideration of the dumb comments he made regarding this case.

I think a lot of Republicans were jubilant about the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and it never occurred to them that the horrifying repercussions of that disastrous decision would so quickly become apparent. The rape case was reported just three days after Roe v. Wade was overturned, and Ohio’s abortion trigger ban went into effect. I guess I can understand why Republicans thought this was political game playing, since elections are coming up soon, and there’s about to be a desperate fight for power. But, the fact remains that this child was raped, and did get pregnant. Some people, amazingly, think this kid should have been forced to birth, even though pregnancy and childbirth are stressful, painful and traumatic, even for grown women.

Attorney Jim Bopp, who authored model legislation in Indiana in advance of the Supreme Court’s decision, said of the ten year old under his law, “She would have had the baby, and as many women who have had babies as a result of rape, we would hope that she would understand the reason and ultimately the benefit of having the child.” Figures this is an old white guy saying this. Bopp was born in 1948, and is clearly out of touch with reality. Shame on him! Doesn’t he remember what it was like to be a ten year old child?

I suppose all of this crap shouldn’t have surprised me at all, but then I saw the video I posted above. In that video, at about the three minute mark, Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) questioned a pro-life activist named Catherine Glenn Foster, asking her if she thought a ten year old would “choose to carry”. The activist stammered, hemmed, and hawed, clearly trying to evade making an exception in this case, and not answering “yes or no” to a simple question. Swalwell doubled down, demanding that she simply answer “yes or no”, which she obviously wasn’t willing to do. I was truly flabbergasted when she said:

“I believe it would probably impact her life, and so, therefore, it would fall under any exception and would not be an abortion.”

Swalwell reacted with shock and confusion, saying “Wait. It would not be an abortion if a 10-year-old with her parents made the decision not to have a baby that was the result of a rape?

Amazingly, Catherine Glenn Foster continued with her bizarre rationale, apparently changing the definition of an abortion, saying “If a 10-year-old became pregnant as a result of rape and it was threatening her life, then that’s not an abortion.

Say what?! Of course it’s an abortion, you twit!

Um… excuse me? YOU believe it would PROBABLY impact her life? Wouldn’t that be true of anyone who wanted or needed an abortion? And because YOU believe it would PROBABLY impact her life, it’s NOT an abortion? That is truly mind boggling! I wonder at which point Catherine Glenn Foster would determine that an unintended pregnancy would not impact the “host’s” life in some way? When is it permissible to force someone to stay pregnant? Would she want to force a 14 or 15 year old to give birth? I have actually known some very mature teenagers, some of whom did give birth. I’ve also known some 25 year olds who probably still shouldn’t be allowed to cross the street by themselves!

Obviously, yes, the girl had an abortion. An abortion is a medical procedure, and there really should not be any shame attached to it, especially in a case like this one. But one of the main reasons why I am so staunchly pro-choice is because I think if you’re going to assign personhood to a developing fetus, abortion has to be wrong in all circumstances, to include cases like this one. Obviously, I don’t think ten year olds should be forced to stay pregnant. If I feel that way about a ten year old, how can I not feel that way about everyone? I don’t like situational ethics applied in selective circumstances. Abortion is either always wrong, like murder is, or there are times when it’s acceptable. And how can we determine for another person whether or not their situation merits being allowed to have an abortion? Especially when we make it so very difficult and expensive to raise children? Why is it anyone else’s business?

I guess Catherine Glenn Foster was trying to say that abortion is a dirty thing that only irresponsible and immoral sluts do. Obviously, a ten year old child isn’t an irresponsible slut… at least not yet. So in her mind, yes, it’s permissible to terminate the pregnancy. We just won’t call that an abortion. Except that’s exactly what it was! And why does she think that she, or any other uninvolved party, should have any say whatsoever in a case like this? In his opinion piece about this event, journalist Steve Benen wrote:

In other words, the head of Americans United for Life believes a 10-year-old impregnated by a rapist should be allowed to get an abortion — because under her preferred definition, that abortion wouldn’t really count as an abortion.

If terminating a girl’s unwanted pregnancy isn’t an abortion, what is it? Is there a preferred word that conservatives would like us to use?

Let’s not miss the forest for the trees. Republicans and their allies have created a situation in which raped children will — in at least one instance, has — cross state lines in order to receive medical care. Unable to defend the legal conditions they’re responsible for, many on the right deny the legitimacy of real stories, while others on the right decide to redefine words for the sake of political convenience.

No one should be fooled. Abortions don’t become non-abortions when the impregnated Americans are sympathetic figures.

Right on, Steve Benen.

As long as I’m complaining about this, let me also add that I read an article in the Washington Post about the slim prospects of an increase of adoptable babies if abortion becomes totally outlawed in the United States. In that article, which I have linked and unlocked for the interested, journalist Sydney Trent included some of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s opinion regarding overturning Roe v. Wade. It made my blood run cold.

“… A woman who puts her newborn up for adoption today has little reason to fear that the baby will not find a suitable home,” Alito said, writing for the majority and summarizing the views of many Americans who oppose abortion. In a footnote, he cited a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report juxtaposing the tiny “domestic supply of infants” in 2002 with the nearly 1 million Americans waiting to adopt.

So basically, Republicans are hoping that forcing women to birth will provide a bumper crop of domestically produced babies for people to adopt. Where is it written that people who get pregnant unintentionally must give up their babies to fertility challenged people, or people who choose not to carry their own babies, for whatever reason? This is disgusting. There are over 400,000 children languishing in foster care today. In 2019, only about 15 percent of the children in foster care were adopted, mostly by their relatives. We certainly don’t need more babies for people to adopt. People who wish to adopt a child should take one that has already been born and needs a home NOW! Foster care is no place for kids to come of age.

I’d also like to add that babies aren’t like puppies and kittens, looking to be rehomed. They grow up to be people who will experience the trauma of losing their birth families. Yes, I know that many adoptees have great experiences with the people who adopt them. But that’s not always true. Case in point, Bill’s ex wife. Moreover, even when the experience is good, the adopted child still wonders about their origins. There’s trauma for them, and most likely, for their birth parents– at least the mother. Do people really think that’s not absolutely horrifying for the birth mom, giving up a baby that she bonded with for nine months? Especially since a lot of people will look down on her for making that choice, and/or getting pregnant in the first place.

I think we’re going to see a lot more children being neglected and abused if this situation isn’t fixed soon. There will be a lot more poverty, and more incarcerations. A lot of women will die, as they are forced to be pregnant when it isn’t safe for them, medically or psychologically. That’s not how things should be in a civilized country, like the United States used to be, before this bizarre bastardization of the Republican Party got into power and fucked up everything.

Well… I think I’ve about had my say on this… at least for today. It’s time to close this post and practice guitar for a bit. Hopefully, I’ll feel better soon, and this won’t turn out to be a really bad sickness. Or I won’t hear more ludicrous nonsense from the likes of Catherine Glenn Foster, who is apparently hoping to change the definition of abortion when the person needing to have one is a sympathetic figure, like a ten year old BABY.

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Ex, social media, Twitter

The art of “talking a good game”…

July 9th is now kind of a day of infamy for me. Today is the anniversary of my father’s death, eight years ago. Since that day in 2014, the world has changed in so many ways. I’ve also lost a lot more relatives and turned 50 myself. I’m getting old… and cranky, like the proverbial old bat screaming about people on her lawn.

I’ve watched things change so much, ever since I was a young person. Nowadays, there’s so much confusion about things that used to be so simple. There was a time when I wouldn’t think twice about referring to someone as a man or a woman. Nowadays, it’s not so clear. If you say or write the “wrong” thing, you can quickly find yourself at odds with someone you don’t even know, and they might be labeling you as an “ist”.

Take, for instance a crazy Twitter feed happening on Mark Hamill’s page right now. Last week, people were sharing the “We Will Adopt Your Baby” photos. I wrote about that myself, a lengthy essay about how adoption isn’t a panacea against the need for safe and legal abortions. Pretty soon, celebrities began tweeting joke “we will adopt your baby” photos. Mark Hamill was among them. I only know this because of Ex, who is a Mark Hamill fan, and I enjoy watching her antics. I have never even seen Star Wars in its entirety, but you can’t really be an American child of the 70s and not have heard of Star Wars.

Mark Hamill’s tweet that fathered so many more tweets of shame and outrage.

Anyway, some people are pointing out to Mark Hamill that his son, Nathan, supposedly pressured an ex girlfriend to have an abortion. The girlfriend, name of Maegen Chen, refused to have an abortion and had the baby in 2016, a girl she named Autumn. That information spawned all sorts of emotional responses from strangers who seemingly had only one thing in common– interest in Mark Hamill. And before too long, people were being called “racist”, “sexist”, “classist”, and “ableist”, just to name a few.

Someone brought up that adoptive couples just want white, healthy babies. Someone else responded by asking what the first commenter thought of white couples adopting babies from Asia, and whether or not they’d call them racist. The person responded that that was more of an “ableist” move, than a racist one. And here I sit, bewildered at the preponderance of strangers judging each other and their life choices– hurling pejoratives with “ist” at each other. There’s just so much negativity and hatred. Half of them think more babies being born are the answer to making the world a better place. Half of them have completely lost their senses of humor. And just about all of them are guilty of harshly passing judgment on people they don’t know, simply because their opinions differ. Everybody has a story that colors their worldviews and informs their decisions. One person’s life choices might not be the right choices for the next person.

I wasn’t surprised to see Ex had weighed in on this controversy. She’s not one to shy away from drama, which makes her strangely entertaining to watch. Once again, I shake my head as I see her posting things that are perfectly reasonable to anyone who doesn’t know about her. Like– if I were to only meet her online, I’d probably have a pretty good impression of her. On the surface, she and I seem to agree on a lot of things. But I know what is beneath the surface, and I’ve watched people I love be badly hurt because of her. While I like to try to give strangers the benefit of the doubt, unless they give me reason not to, in her case, I know better. It’s a reminder that people are rarely exactly who they seem to be. See below.

Ex’s responses are the ones with the name redacted.

I did kind of chuckle when someone referred to her as a “heartless dipshit”. He doesn’t know how accurate that name is. It’s true, you know. She writes about what it takes to raise a child, and seems to be very compassionate and loving. Yet this is the same person who forced her three eldest kids to disown their fathers when her marriages to her two ex husbands failed. This is the same woman who made her older daughters drop out of high school, take out student loans, and give her the “change” from whatever wasn’t used on tuition. The daughters then had to pay back the loans themselves. Or, at least younger daughter did. This is the same woman who hangs out on Twitter and other social media outlets while my husband’s 31 year old daughter looks after her mother’s “severely autistic” son. Ex definitely talks a good game, but the reality is, she’s full of crap.

This is the same woman who allegedly attempted suicide to force one of her children to stay home. When did she get to be so “reasonable” and sane?

Yep… Ex really does talk a good game. She’s very good at it. That’s probably how so many people have been charmed into her sphere, only to get burned. I wrote yesterday about how I find Twitter to be a cesspool of nasty people hurling insults at each other. I find such an environment to be frustrating, because being mean to other people is not the way to change anything. At best, all it does is temporarily relieve some angst. Maybe there’s a brief surge of satisfaction when someone lobs a verbal barb that stings. But in the end, the person who is insulting is still the same miserable person with the same selfish, mean-spirited personality that eventually comes out and turns off the best people.

I see her tweeting all of these social consciousness memes and comments that make her look progressive, kind, and thoughtful. But then I remember the way she treated my husband, his family, and her own children. And I realize that if Ex can be like that, so can a lot of people. She’s not particularly special… although I would say that the fact that she gets away with the things she does is pretty extraordinary. But that doesn’t make her special, per se. It just makes her very lucky. I look forward to the day when her luck finally ends.

Anyway, Bill just called me to breakfast. We’re having cheese souffles. So I’d better end this post and get on with the day… with the valuable reminder that no matter what people say or write, good or bad, chances are that they’re just “talking a good game.” And underneath, it’s entirely likely that they are completely different people from what shows on that exterior facade. That works both ways, too. That person who called me a “fucking idiot” for being”too liberal” might actually be a pretty decent person once you get to know them. And a supposed mensch like Ex, tweeting positive platitudes and kindly thoughts about the plight of special needs children and adoptees, can be a complete monster. So keep that in mind, fellow life warriors.

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complaints, controversies, healthcare, law, modern problems

Well… most of us knew this sad and scary day was coming…

I wasn’t surprised yesterday when I read the news about Roe v. Wade, and how six out of nine Supreme Court Justices voted to overturn the landmark decision that has allowed American women to legally access abortions since 1973. I was about to include the word “safely” in my previous sentence, but decided against it. Because truthfully, accessing abortion in the United States hasn’t been safe in years.

I can remember as far back as the 1990s, hearing and reading about doctors who provided abortions being murdered by gun toting, right wing zealots. I can remember hearing and reading about women having to face throngs of protesters when they visited Planned Parenthood, even if their visit was simply to get gynecological care or treatment for a yeast infection. I’ve read more than a few stories about parents who bravely sought late term abortions of their very much wanted developing fetuses due to a medical catastrophe, only to be confronted by some intrusive asshole holding up a sign and pictures of mutilated fetuses, screaming at them for “murdering” their child.

So many times, the people who presume to tell strangers what reproductive choices are appropriate for their lives have no ideas about how to care for babies that are born to people who aren’t ready to be parents. Their usual stock answer is to put the baby up for adoption… but that conveniently ignores the fact that there are many thousands of older children languishing in foster care, waiting for some pro-life person to give them a home. Those who want to adopt, often prefer to adopt babies… preferably babies that are completely healthy. They also don’t pay any mind to the fact that giving up a baby is very traumatic, and many times, the baby is given up only because of finances.

People who regularly read my blog may know that I like to read advice columns. Recently, I read a post written by a mother whose daughter gave up her baby girl for adoption. Years later, the daughter who “chose life” yearned to have a relationship with her long, lost child. The young woman wanted nothing to do with her birth mother, and this was crushing to her– as well as her mom, who had written for advice. I remember reading the comments left, most of which were pretty shaming toward the birth mom. People wrote things like, “What did she expect?” and “This is what happens when you abandon your baby and give it up for adoption!” and “Birth mom is just going to have to suck it up.” With that kind of judgment from the masses, is it any wonder that so many pregnant folks who don’t want to be pregnant would opt for abortion? At least with an abortion, there’s no wondering… and no one has to know or judge.

People who are against abortion also tend to be against welfare, and they never hesitate to condemn anyone who seeks help when they need it. They are usually against universal healthcare, mandatory leave for new parents, and requiring birth control to be covered by health insurance. Hell, they are also against having to have health insurance! And by God, many of them are just fine with people owning as many weapons as they want to own, no matter how deadly they are.

Then there’s the other side of the abortion spectrum. What about all of the developing embryos that were created by people who dearly want to be parents? Those embryos, which to most of the pro-lifers should be considered full fledged babies, are usually discarded when people have had as many babies as they want to have. But now that states can determine what constitutes personhood, there could be a real issue with procedures such as IVF. I’ve often thought about the many children who have been killed in schools by crazed young men with guns. How many of those children were conceived with help from a reproductive specialist? How many of them represented years of dashed hopes, massive money spent, and dramatic upheavals, only to be gunned down in a classroom? We can’t seem to do anything about the gun nuts, but we can sure as shit force people to gestate, even if it might threaten their well-being… or even their lives.

I saw many people opining about this decision. Most of the people I know are heartbroken, angry, and vowing to vote blue. Some of my friends still have friends who are happy that women are now going to be forced to gestate. A lot of the people who don’t have a problem with the Supreme Court’s decision are men, or women who are beyond their reproductive years. It always makes me cringe when I read a comment from a conservative white man who has no empathy for women. It usually doesn’t take long before they make a comment about women’s “personal responsibility” and birth control. They’re often pretty clueless about how to access birth control and what it takes to get it– and afford it. They don’t ever think about the number of rape and incest cases that never get reported, and assume that people who are pregnant and don’t want to be got that way because they were “irresponsible”. I often see and hear them saying things like, “She made her bed. She needs to lie in it.” Really… they think babies ought to be punishment! Like– if a woman has a baby she isn’t ready to raise, that will teach her to keep her legs closed. Well… isn’t that disgusting?

They never think about the times females are in situations in which they are pressured to have sex. The female might not have wanted sex, but she likes the guy she’s with… and HE wants sex. But he doesn’t want to bother with a condom… or the one he’s had in his wallet for over two years has a tiny hole in it. The types of people who blame women and want to “teach them a lesson” by forcing them to birth never think about that scenario. And if you point out to them that all pregnancies are caused by men, they want to argue about it and slut shame.

And then there are the people who say that this ruling hasn’t made abortion illegal, it’s only put the decision back into domain of the states. That conveniently ignores the fact that there are many states that have had trigger laws on the books for ages, just waiting for Roe v. Wade to be overturned so abortion can be made illegal immediately. And there will be other states that will rush to push through legislation that stops abortion, forcing the women with means to go to other places to get what they need (or want), overloading those states’ or countries’ systems. And the women without means will suffer and possibly even die.

Yesterday, I commented to a man who made a statement about how this decision hadn’t made abortion illegal, and was only shifting the responsibility to the states. A woman responded that those who want abortion can “always go to another state”. As if that’s the easiest thing in the world for a teenager with no money or transportation to do… But then she ended her comment by asking me if I wasn’t glad my mom hadn’t aborted me. I had to laugh at that, and I took great joy in telling her in very blunt terms that no, I AM NOT GLAD my mom didn’t abort me. I explained that if she had aborted me, I would not have been any the wiser. Developing embryos are oblivious. They have no concept of life or death, right or wrong, heaven or hell, or anything else. And if she had aborted me, we both would have been spared significant pain.

I was born in 1972, and abortion wasn’t legal everywhere at that time. Even if it had been legal in Virginia in 1972, I doubt my mom would have had one. My father wouldn’t have wanted her to do that because he was a conservative, white, southern male, and I think he liked the idea of being the father of four. But he wasn’t the one doing most of the work of child raising, and to be frank, my mom was not very good at the job. I had to hear many times about how upset she was about being pregnant with me, how obnoxious I was, and how her friends didn’t want to go anywhere with her because of me. And you know, all of that might have been true… but it’s not the sort of thing any parent should be telling a child. I heard it repeatedly, not just from her, but also from my siblings. In fact, when she’d get annoyed with me, my mom would even say “Where did you come from?!”

I grew up feeling resented and put up with… and although I had most of everything I needed or even wanted, in terms of material goods, I wasn’t cherished much. I have often felt rejected by the people who are responsible for my being here in the first place. It’s not so bad now. I’m 50, and don’t rely on my mom anymore. My dad died 8 years ago. We clashed a lot, and I think he was often ashamed of me. There are worse things that not being born… or even dying. Anyway, whenever someone thinks they’ve burned me by asking if I’m not glad to be here myself, I always delight in telling them “no.” I think babies should be wanted and deeply cherished by their parents. I also think that ideally, babies should be raised by the people who birthed them, because even the best adoptive parents can’t erase the biological connection that children have with their parents. People want to know where they came from; if they didn’t, DNA tests wouldn’t be so wildly popular.

I noticed this morning that my response got a few likes, as well as a comment from the woman who asked me if I was not glad to be born (which I didn’t bother to read). It also got at least one angry reaction. I want to ask the angry reactor if she would have preferred it if I’d lied. People who ask such personal questions of perfect strangers should be prepared to handle the truth. I don’t feel ashamed of myself for feeling the way I do. My life hasn’t amounted to that much, in spite of my best efforts when I was younger. If I died tomorrow, my husband would be devastated… but I don’t have any descendants, and my family of origin mostly feels alienated. I live in country that isn’t really my home, and my home country is becoming a place I don’t recognize anymore. I don’t look forward to the process of dying, but I would be lying if I said that dying wouldn’t probably be a relief. Because it means I no longer have to worry about anything at all… or engage with clueless idiots who don’t understand why people are so very upset about this ruling, and what it will mean for all Americans.

Well… I probably ought to close out this rant… because I suspect some people might not like it very much and may feel the need to “correct my opinions”. And while I think that writers should be brave enough to be truthful and tackle the rough subjects, this feels pretty raw and painful. I’m glad I’m 50 now, and this ruling will have no bearing on me, personally. And I’m also glad I don’t have any children to worry about. The United States is quickly turning into a dystopian hell.

But… on the positive side, at least I’m feeling somewhat better. Second COVID test was also negative. Of course, some people want to insist that it might still be COVID, and I should test again in a week. If I’m still sick, I’ll do that. But this really feels like every cold I’ve ever had… and I have no doubt that colds still exist. I don’t understand why people seem to want me to have COVID. What difference does it make, as long as I get well? It’s not like I ever interact with people, anyway.

ETA: I forgot to add that just yesterday, Germany’s leaders struck Hitler era legislation that forbade physicians from “encouraging” abortions. Doctors were being fined thousands of euros simply for providing factual information about abortion. And it was a brainchild of Hitler and is only just now being stricken from the books. The USA needs to take a lesson from more civilized countries.

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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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book reviews, mental health

A belated review of The Hospital: How I survived the secret child experiments at Aston Hall…

Apologies in advance for this book review. I purchased The Hospital: How I survived the secret child experiments at Aston Hall in 2017 and read it sometime in the last couple of years. I was astonished by this book about Barbara O’Hare and ghost written by Veronica Clark. But somehow, I never got around to writing a review. I can’t believe it, actually, because this book was one that was hard to put down. I remember gliding through it with ease, which is more than I can say for a lot of the books I’ve been reading lately.

The Hospital is not a good book because it’s a happy story, although I do think it has kind of a happy ending, in that the person it’s written about managed to survive her long and arduous ordeal at Aston Hall in England. Aston Hall, thankfully, is no longer. However, this story takes place in the not to distant past, as O’Hare was a patient in the Laburnum Ward at the now defunct hospital for about eight months in the early 1970s.

From the outside, pictures of Aston Hall make the hospital look like a respectable place– solidly brick with big, white framed windows. And yet, what went on behind those imposing brick walls was truly horrifying. The hospital was led by Dr. Kenneth Milner, who, according to some of his former charges, was horrifically abusive and performed sick experiments on children. O’Hare’s account alleges that she was frequently drugged and abused by the staff at Aston Hall.

Although Aston Hall was a psychiatric facility, Barbara O’Hare was there, basically because she was abandoned by her family– first by her mother when she was a baby, and then by her father, who was a drunk and a “tinker”. Barbara’s father used to denigrate her all the time, calling her a “tinker’s daughter”. He couldn’t look after her, or her brother, Stephen, who was born to one of Barbara’s father’s many girlfriends. Barbara’s father eventually placed his daughter in foster care, where the maltreatment got even worse.

Barbara’s first foster mom was abusive and cruel, so Barbara ran away and was later put in a children’s home. She ran away from the children’s home, on a quest to find her long, lost mother, who had left her when she was eleven months old. Deemed a “difficult” child, Barbara was then put in The Cedars, which was a home for challenging or troubled foster children. While she was at The Cedars, she was visited by Dr. Kenneth Milner, who wore tweed, stroked Barbara’s hands, and asked her if she would like to come to the hospital. He had treated her with sympathy, and led her to believe that if she went into the hospital, she would be taken care of and would get “better”. That’s how, at age 12, Barbara became a pediatric mental patient at the hands of an abusive mad man.

I don’t know how or why I didn’t write about this book when I first read it (edited to add: I have since found my original review, written in January 2017– this review is not a repost, though). I do remember being blown away by Barbara O’Hare’s horrific story, which is well handled by ghost writer, Veronica Clark. I was born in 1972, which I know was a long time ago… but it doesn’t seem like it was that long ago. It’s crazy to think that someone my sister’s age was locked in a mental hospital in England, being tortured by people who were supposed to be qualified to provide medical care. Barbara had been lured into cooperating with Dr. Milner with the prospect of being a patient. She had visions of wearing slippers and comfortable nightgowns, being cosseted by nurses and comforted by a kindly physician instead of being locked up in the glorified children’s jail that was The Cedars. Instead, what she experienced at Aston Hall turned out to be way worse than the remand center.

While Barbara was at Aston Hall, she was allowed visits with her father. She tried to tell him about the abuses that were going on there, some of which were of a sexual nature. Unfortunately, Barbara’s father didn’t believe her, so the abuse continued until one day, while she was at home on a furlough, Barbara told her father’s girlfriend about what had been happening to her. The girlfriend managed to convince Barbara’s dad not to send her back to Aston Hall. But the damage was done, and Barbara was left with many lingering psychological effects of the terrifying and extreme child abuse delivered by supposed caregivers.  Barbara later went to a Catholic home, where she was subjected to more abuse, although none as bad as what she endured at Aston Hall.

Aston Hall closed in 2004, having been used as a hospital since 1926. Many people, besides Barbara O’Hare, have come forward to speak about the horrific abuses that went on in the facility at the hands of Dr. Milner, who died in 1975. It’s been alleged that Milner used barbaric methods to study his subjects, including stripping them naked, restraining them with bandages or strait jackets, and drugging them with sodium amytal, sometimes known as “truth serum”, a drug that was frequently used in World War II.  It had a sedating effect, which was augmented by Milner’s use of ether.  Aside from being drugged, Barbara was also sexually abused.

While The Hospital sounds like a lurid account, and it kind of is, the story is true and absolutely horrifying. The victims who have come forward to complain about their “treatment” at Aston Hall have received compensation, and I’m sure the money is useful to them. But I wonder if any amount of money is enough to compensate for the mental, physical, sexual, and emotional abuses these children faced in the name of “mental health” treatment. That kind of abuse doesn’t just affect people who have endured it; I’m sure that people close to Barbara O’Hare have also suffered tremendously.

I would recommend The Hospital to anyone who is curious about this story. I don’t know why it took me so long to write about it. All I can think is that I was totally shocked by this account and blown away that it was going on in the 60s and 70s. It sounds like a story from the Dark Ages. If you do decide to read this book, be prepared to be triggered. It’s not an easy story to handle, especially if you have abuse issues of your own.

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