Thursday, May 15, 1997

A followup to my e-mail of December 3:
Secondly, a heart-warming story from the NY Times: a 14-year old girl sets fire to her house after years of physical and sexual abuse such that one could only be sorry she hadn't taken out more of her family. Her father has never visited her in jail but did send a picture of the burned-out house on her birthday. Naturally, the state of Indiana put her in a maximum-security prison ($25,000 a year) instead of the juvenile treatment center ($82k) the judge begged the state to put her in. You're waiting for the punchline, well I've got two: she has found a new mom in the joint, or "the closest thing to a mom I ever had" in another murderer, and second, she has been ordered not to talk about being abused in group therapy sessions because her fellow inmates in the special-needs unit are upset by her stories, since they all abused or killed their children.

The Indiana Court of Appeals now says incarcerating her with adults violates the state Constitution.

The British Parliament is shy 2 members, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness, elected for Sinn Fein from Ulster. They can't take an oath of loyalty to the Queen, so they can't take their seats. On a historical note, the first woman elected to Parliament was also a Sinn Feiner, and therefore was not technically the first woman MP, who was another damn foreigner, Nancy Astor. I don't know why they couldn't just take the oath with their fingers crossed; after all, Labour MP Tony Banks did...

I don't expect much from Tony Blair, although if Scotland gets its own Parliament again it may be worth it. I especially don't expect much on the civil rights front, given that the new Home Secretary Jack Straw is as rabid as the last one, about whom more anon, in the same way that Janet Reno is a worse Attorney General than whoever held that job under Bush (I know she's worse since I can't remember his name). But there might be some improvement on immigration. Amazingly, the Tories were sending 97% of Algerian asylum-seekers back. One just got killed, so that's been suspended. And everyone's favorite sob story, a Nepalese boy brought into Britain by a millionaire whose life was saved in the Himalayas by the boy's father, who died a bit later, only to be ordered out of the country years later by Michael Howard, has also been reversed.

But my favorite soap opera is the Tory leadership fight. The front-runner to replace Major was Michael Portillo, who lost a safe seat at the general election (to one of the 2 new gay MPs). The new front-runner Michael Heseltine withdrew from his hospital bed when his heart acted up again. The current front-runner may be William Hague, who is 36. The theory is that he may be too young now, but by the time his party has any chance at all of regaining power, he should be 45 or so. Or it may be Michael Howard, the ex-Home Sec. Neither is close to electable, so I'd be happy with either. Howard right now is facing charges that he misled Parliament about the circumstances in which he fired the head of the prison service a couple of years back. This used to be a serious matter when there were still standards in British public life, before sleaze or sex scandals became the Tory equivalent of a bar mitzvah, like a statutory rape charge is for a Kennedy. The charge is coming from the former Prison Minister Anne Widdecombe, so Howard's people are responding with a really offensive sexist smear campaign, suggesting that the fired guy wooed Widdecombe over to his side by sending her chocolate and flowers, the inference being that a 49-year old spinster (her term) is so starved for affection....

Finally, a quote from Jonathan Swift: "The bulk of mankind is as well qualified for flying as for thinking."

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