Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Get ready to take a shower. A story in Huffington Post Latino Voices about the high high school dropout rate among Latino students, garnered a lot of hateful comments, primarily against Latinos. Let’s see, the reason we have so many uneducated people in our community is because we don’t value education and don’t want to learn English. First, I want to give these commenters the middle finger. I also want to comment on the latter: I bet many of these students don’t speak or read Spanish well either. Heck, I’ve encountered many Americans who don’t speak English well — and that’s the only language they speak! Let’s have a serious conversation in this country about the root causes for these abhorrent statistics: poverty and illiteracy. It has nothing to do with the language spoken at home, which if I had to guess, the kids probably prefer English.

Don’t you love research that tries to justify prejudice? MSN Health covered some research out of Canada that voters prefer male voices — in other words, male politicians. Ick.

The Boston Globe ran a sad story about parents of mentally ill kids having to call the police. It also highlighted the complexity of our mental health system that can incarcerate anyone a danger to himself or society, but not force him to take medication. Also in the Boston Globe: the brains of autistic children appear to be heavier due to more neurons that developed while the children were in the womb.  

In celebrity gossip: Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher have called it quits after six years of marriage, according to MSN Wonderwall.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Child Predator or Police Entrapment?

Vanity Fair had a fascinating and sad article about the overblown public hysteria over online predators.

While VF writer Mark Bowden made sure to point out that there are some real sickos online, he also had these numbers:

Yet the more numerous aggressors may be the police. Three researchers at the University of  New Hampshire reported earlier this year that during the period between 2000 and 2006, when Internet use by juveniles grew between 73 and 93 percent, the number of people arrested for soliciting sex online from them grew only 21 percent, from 508 to 615. The number of people arrested for soliciting sex from undercover police like Deery, however, rose 381 percent during the same period. In other words, alleged child-molesters like J are many, many times more likely to be locked up for approaching detectives than children. And despite this full-court press on Internet child predation, those arrested for it represent only 1 percent of all arrests for sex crimes against children and adolescents.

Bowden also published the online chat between “J” and the Detective Deery, who posed as a mother with two small children. Throughout most of the thread, it appears that J only wanted to sleep with Deery, but she kept bringing up the the two girls. Thinking that he could not get the mom without the daughters, he created a fantasy that involved the two girls and was unpublishable — even for Vanity Fair. He has never molested a child, but still had to serve a one-year prison sentence plus probation and was listed as a sex offender for what he wrote in the chat. In the article, which is not online, Bowden seemed to suggest this was “entrapment” by police. Here is what he had to say about the detective and J in a follow-up interview with Vanity Fair.

Detective Michele Deery seemed to have some vigilante sensibilities.

Well, she has a worldview, and it’s not unlike that of many police, which is: they are protecting society from bad guys. And very often the technical rules that bind them get in their way.

Are the police damaging to society?

It leads to innocent people going to jail. In the case of J., we’re not talking about a person who’s innocent in a larger sense—he’s a troubled person, and he would agree, I think. But is he guilty of being a child molester? No. I think the story makes plain that not only did he not molest any children, but he had no intention of ever doing so. What struck me most about the detective’s approach was that she was less interested in determining whether J. was a threat to children than she was in getting the conviction.

While I could see how this threat would be overblown like kidnapping — children are most likely to be kidnapped by people they know rather than complete strangers — it is devastating when it does happen.  Also, I was disturbed — although not surprised — by VF editor Graydon Carter’s take on filmmaker Roman Polanski’s crime of child rape. Here is what he had to say about it:

In a funny way, opinion on the matter divides along the line between people  who know Polanski and those who don’t. The former group wants him free; the latter group wants him punished. I am the father of five, including two young daughters, and his crime upsets me terribly. But I have huge admiration for him as a man who has worked valiantly to re-assemble a life and reputation and to become a good husband and father. Even during the trial in London, my affection for him never flagged. Perhaps many of his supporters are correct. Perhaps he should be treated differently. Perhaps, in this case, the punishment should fit the criminal rather than the crime. Perhaps the act of penance that would do the greatest amount of lasting good would be for Polanski not to go to jail but instead to spend the next period of his life — perhaps the rest of his life — using his protean talents as a filmmaker to create an anti-rape feature, one that would show the brutality and consequences of his heinous act.

While I admit to swaying between forgiveness and utter disgust myself, I can’t help but think of the message it would send to his 13-year-old victim who has been changed for the rest of her life. That because he is famous, she is not allowed to receive justice? Sure, Polanski has had his share of tragedies in his life and he is very talented, but this doesn’t mean it is okay to give him a pass on such a heinous crime. I can’t help but think there is a tint of classism here as I am not sure how many of his supporters would easily forgive a low-income and no-name stranger raping their own daughters.

Then again, the magazine did compassionately cover the case of J, an anonymous working class and church-going man who must atone for his sins the rest of his life even though he did not actually rape anyone.

Anyways, these articles are worth a read.


What Would YOU Do?

At about 4:30pm today our daughter told my dh and I that her friend had just been in a car accident close by our house, and that she was ok, but needed help.  It seems that the other driver had been at a stop sign on a side street to the main street that my dd’s friend was on .  My dd’s friend was just passing the side street when the other driver (a 16 year old girl) pulled out and side swiped dd’s friend’s car (let’s call her Robin), causing Robin’s car to spin around a full revolution and come to rest in the middle of the road.  

When my dd got the call, Robin had pulled off the main road and parked her car on the side road.  She had gotten some information from the other driver who had also made a call to her Dad.  When the other driver’s Dad arrived, he began yelling at Robin, accusing her of causing the accident, accusing her of possibly being drunk, asking her repeatedly how fast she was going and then taunting her with goading questions like “did you say you were going 45?”  “oh did you say 55?”  on and on.  He then was repeatedly rude, would not give his name when he was asked by Robin, and told his daughter whose car was not damaged much, to leave the scene along with him which they did.  They left Robin, both of whose parents work far enough away to not be available, standing in the middle of the road with her car which had a fair amount of damage….I’d say easily $4-5,000 worth.  

We immediately drove to the scene which was just around the corner from us.  On the way, when we were making a left hand turn out of our road, two police cars passed us going in the wrong direction from the accident, although they showed up a while later.

When we arrived at the scene, Robin was visibly upset, her eyes red and puffy.  She explained what had happened and that the other girl’s father had in fact screamed at her and said several very rude comments.  At one point, Robin had her Mom on the cell phone and handed the phone to the man whereupon he basically yelled at Robin’s Mom and was completely rude to her as well.


Two officers finally arrived and listened to what had happened.  One of the officers took the phone number that had been given to Robin and called it from his patrol car.  When he finished the call, he said he was going to make a full report since the father had been rude to him as well on the phone and he felt he would pay him a visit at his house.  Shout out for that for sure.   After a few more minutes of discussing what had happened, the officer said Robin could get the full report within a couple of days but it was his opinion that it was obvious it was not her fault and that the insurance companies would work it out in terms of repair.

We all left the scene.  My dh drove Robin’s car and I took the girls back up to Robin’s house where my DD stayed with her friend until her Mom came home from work.

I was so wound up afterwards I wanted to have my own confrontation with this adult male.   Wow.  I still can’t quite believe how inexcusable that interchange was.   And frankly it frightens me a lot.  I am  thankful we were home so that we could be adults on the scene for Robin’s support.  I wonder how the situation would have unfolded had Robin not had any adults present.  I think our being there helped the officer treat the situation with more regard than if it had just been Robin.   In the last couple of hours, I’ve learned that both Robin’s Dad and the officer have had contact with the man.  He was rude and confrontational to both….but less so with the Officer after a discussion of some length.  

It turns out that I know exactly who this man is — I do not know him personally, but I know who he is exactly.  His daughter used to attend the local public high school and now doesn’t.   I see him from time to time around town and have never been introduced but I am aware of him because a while back someone I know dated him.    I am flabbergasted….and I guess cannot DO anything….but something inside of me wants him to know that he is not anonymous in his behavior and that it is absolutely not acceptable and in fact is abusive.   He was the epitome of a bully and knowing this particular incidence about him makes me think he is a ticking human bomb.   He is about 53 years old, over 6 feet tall and could be of intimidating size.  Never mind that he was confrontational to an 18 year old young woman.  This makes me crazy.

But….what to do?   What would you do?   I’m afraid there’s nothing I CAN actually do, but swallow my feelings of outrage….what do you all think?


“Talk to the officers, Mr. Obama-hatin’ Supremacist.”

It’s the rush hour, and I’m muddling my way through traffic in my Subaru to pick up my son from his child care provider. Nobody’s loving their commute, really… especially the guy in the big SUV next to me as we exit the highway off-ramp. He speeds up to reach me, honking angrily.

So I roll down my window to figure out what he’s trying to tell me. This guy is quite angry! At me! He rolls down his window, waves a sign at me that reads OBAMA IS A SOCIALIST.

Okay, I abuptly end my cell phone conversation. This guy’s SCREAMING at me. Yes, all caps. “F— you, you voted for a f–ing socialist! You F—ing b—!” His middle finger is waving wildly at me. “F– you and your F—–ING OBAMA BUMPER STICKER!!!! Good job!! Ain’t that great, you F—ing B—-! Farakahn! FARAKAHN!! White supremacy!!!”

This guy is really unhappy about my bumper sticker! My mass-distributed faded Obama bumper sticker!

I catch his license plate, call 911, and am idling next to the guy now at the stop light. He’s a big guy, wearing a University of Michigan sweatshirt. He’s screaming at me some more…I’m intrigued by his level of rage, really. 911 connects me to the local police, who I must say always seem a bit bored and looking for action. I put them on speakerphone so that they can enjoy this guy’s angry rant at me.

Angry Man assumes it’s my “husband” I’ve called. He waves a pen at me.
“Yeah, that’s right, you b—-! Call your husband! Nice NOSE RING!!!!” And on and on. Yes, sporting the Obama bumper sticker on a Subaru and wearing a nose ring do help build the case that I am indeed from the dark side.

Before the light turns green, we have not one police car, not two, but THREE police pulling over Angry Man. I pull over a good distance from the guy, two police cars between us. Flashing lights, gawkers, show us your license, give us the story, the whole bit! It doesn’t take too long before the angry man has suddenly had a CHANGE OF HEART and tells the officers he’s SO SORRY and wants to apologize to me. WTF?!? Um, no thank you, I tell my three officers. No, I don’t want to press charges or make any official complaint, just give him some grief and put that behavior on his record, thank you very much.

So glad my 5-year old wasn’t in the car to witness.


Child Endangerment?

I slather my child in sunscreen. Strap a helmet onto her head when she rides her tricycle. Buy organic foods and avoid high fructose corn syrup like the plague.

But if I lived in Illinois, I could potentially be charged with child endangerment, like Treffly Coyne was.

Coyne is a suburban mother of three who buckled her kids into the car last Christmas for a quick jaunt to Wal-Mart. The goal: to give $8.29 in coins collected by her daughters to a Salvation Army bell ringer, take a couple of pictures, and leave.

Her 2-year-old daughter was sleeping and it was sleeting out; Coyne opted to park in a loading zone in front of the store, turn on her hazard lights, lock the car and run to the kettle with her other kids rather than wake the sleeping toddler.

Coyne was 10 yards away, she says, and her car was within sight at all times. But trouble was coming:

She snapped a few pictures of the girls donating money and headed back to the car. But a community service officer blocked her way.

“She was on a tirade, she was yelling at me,” Coyne said. The officer, Coyne said, didn’t want to hear about how close Coyne was, how she never set foot inside the store and was just there to let the kids donate money, or how she could always see her car.

Coyne telephoned her husband, Tim Janecyk, who advised her not to say anything else to police until he arrived. So Coyne declined to talk further, refusing even to tell police her child’s name.

When Janecyk pulled up, his wife already was handcuffed, sitting in a patrol car.

And the woman’s other children? Were later found sitting alone inside the store, huddled together in fear. Way to protect these kids’ safety, coppers!

While Illinois state law makes it illegal to leave a child unattended in a car for more than 10 minutes, I think most would agree that common sense should apply to each individual case, and the Crestwood Police overreacted in this one. But they are digging in their heels, and Coyne will stand trial today on a misdemeanor charge of child endangerment and obstructing a police officer:

Crestwood Police Chief Timothy Sulikowski declined to comment about the case. But he did not dispute the contention that Coyne parked nearby or was away from her car for just a few minutes.

He did, however, suggest Coyne put her child at risk.

“A minute or two, that’s when things can happen,” he said.

Oy. So it turns out that those times when I have left Maya buckled in her car seat while I pumped gas, grabbed cash from the ATM or ran back in the house to fetch something I forgot, I was endangering her safety. OK then.

I don’t think Coyne endangered her child in this case. It wasn’t hot out, nor does this rise to the level of
the Arizona woman who left her toddler in a hot car while she took her lapdog shopping at Neiman Marcus. But apparently life in Crestwood is so idyllic that police are free to spend their time focusing on moms who take their eyes off their kids for a couple of minutes.

What do you all think? Did this mom endanger her child? Is it ever OK to leave your kid sitting in a car? Could this whole mess have been avoided with a stern lecture or a small fine? Who should take more blame in this case, the stubborn police or the indignant mom? And what would YOU have done in Coyne’s situation?

UPDATE: Prosecutors just annouced that all charges against Coyne will be dropped.