Sunday, November 25, 2007


A study by the Rand Corporation released this week of over half a million on-the-street stops conducted by New York City police found "Whites and members of minorities have a roughly equal chance of being stopped by police officers and questioned on the street in New York City. But officers are more likely to frisk, search, arrest or give summonses to black or Hispanic people — or to use force against them."

The study also found "The pattern of whites and minorities being stopped equally, but the minorities being frisked more often, held up in white and black neighborhoods, but was most pronounced on Staten Island" and "Fifteen of those 2,756 officers — six of whom are assigned to precincts in the southern part of Queens — were disproportionately more likely to stop blacks and Hispanics."

Don't hold your breath when it comes to reform or disciplinary action about these findings. But I'm sure it will show up in a Law and Order episode.

This week, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled unanimously that the killing of a fetus by another can be prosecuted as murder, but this does not apply to abortion because that action is not against the mother's will.

The decision was prompted by the appeal of Terence Lawrence who was sentenced to life for two murders when he killed his girlfriend, Antwonyia Smith, and their first trimester fetus, after finding out Smith was pregnant and telling another girlfriend he was going to "take care of the problem". Lawrence claimed his right to due process was violated in the prosecution for the fetus because it was not viable.

According to KXAN News, Austin, "The court ruled that state laws declaring a fetus an individual with protections do not conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling that protects a woman's right to an abortion. 'The Supreme Court has emphasized that states may protect human life, not only once the fetus has reached viability, but 'from the outset of the pregnancy. The Legislature is free to protect the lives of those whom it considers to be human beings.'"

We'll see how this plays out in future cases. Clearly the murderer was grasping at legal straws, not actually concerned with the right to choice for a pregnant woman (that ship had sailed). Possibly the acknowledgement that a woman's will supercedes the intervention or prosecution of others with regard to her body will strengthen the right of sexual self-determination for women.

As a historian commented in the recent PBS documentary Athens: The Dawn of Democracy, "It is easy to give power to the people. But once given, you can't take it back." The genie is out of the bottle, folks, when it comes to women controlling their reproductive lives. How's about getting health insurance for the kids who are already here?

Joss Whedon, a god among feminists and writers of every persuasion, has a post up at his blog that deserves your reading (thanks to Jane Hamsher at FireDogLake for the reco). I'm going to excerpt just a couple of bits that especially sparked my brainpan:

Why writing is such hard work: "Because every good story needs to be completely personal (so there are no guidelines) and completely universal (so it’s all been done). It’s just never simple."

Why it's necessary, though: "We’re talking about story-telling, the most basic human need. Food? That’s an animal need. Shelter? That’s a luxury item that leads to social grouping, which leads directly to fancy scarves. But human awareness is all about story-telling. The selective narrative of your memory. The story of why the Sky Bully throws lightning at you. From the first, stories, even unspoken, separated us from the other, cooler beasts. And now we’re talking about the stories that define our nation’s popular culture – a huge part of its identity. These are the people that think those up. Working writers."

And, while I have your attention, this is another chance for me to promote Joss's speech upon accepting his tribute from Equality Now (go here to see the video and read the full transcript):

"Equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity, we need it to stand on this earth as men and women, and the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and women who’s confronted with it. We need equality, kinda now."


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