Monday, February 18, 2008

Political correctness about privacy obstructs search for killer

The search for the killer who hacked and stabbed an Upper East Side psychologist to death could move to the courtroom, with a judge deciding if the New York Police Department should be allowed access to potentially critical medical records. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly Raymond Kelly said Friday such a move might help detectives determine if any patients of Kathryn Faughey or her colleague, Dr. Kent Shinbach, played a role in the brutal Tuesday night attack that killed Faughey and badly wounded Shinbach. But DA spokeswoman Barbara Thompson said prosecutors have been working with police and detectives and have already obtained a significant amount of medical and patient information.

Kelly wouldn't say what effect the delayed access is having on solving the sensational killing, but he did say that privacy laws present an obstacle for investigators. "There is a conflict, certainly not the first time, where the issue of privacy comes up against concerns and requirements as seen by law enforcement," Kelly said.

Obtaining such an order could prove tricky -- and there's no telling if any patients might move to have their records protected. But Eugene O'Donnell, a professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, thinks it could happen fairly quickly. "She was killed in her office," O'Donnell said. "There's little question that there's a strong possibility one of her patients is responsible."

Faughey, 56, was attacked with a meat cleaver and a knife by a man who had first asked to see Shinbach, 70. A revised timeline laid out by Kelly Friday suggests that the killer may have been talking to Faughey in her office for more than 15 minutes before attacking her. The well-respected therapist was mourned Friday at Charles Peter Nagel Funeral Home on the Upper East Side. Up to 100 people streamed into the funeral home.

On Thursday, NYPD detectives in Coplay, Pa., questioned William Kunsman, 42, an acoustic musician and recently fired UPS driver who met Faughey and her husband at guitar camp six years ago. Police focused on him after checking Faughey's e-mails. A number of them discussed his need for help to obtain medication for his bipolar condition... Kelly wouldn't discuss Kunsman at length, but sources said he has not been ruled out as a potential suspect.


It's the individual that makes the difference, not government handouts

Alone on a dark gritty street, Adam Shepard searched for a homeless shelter. He had a gym bag, $25, and little else. A former college athlete with a bachelor's degree, Mr. Shepard had left a comfortable life with supportive parents in Raleigh, N.C. Now he was an outsider on the wrong side of the tracks in Charles-ton, S.C. But Shepard's descent into poverty in the summer of 2006 was no accident. Shortly after graduating from Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., he intentionally left his parents' home to test the vivacity of the American Dream. His goal: to have a furnished apartment, a car, and $2,500 in savings within a year. To make his quest even more challenging, he decided not to use any of his previous contacts or mention his education.

During his first 70 days in Charleston, Shepard lived in a shelter and received food stamps. He also made new friends, finding work as a day laborer, which led to a steady job with a moving company. Ten months into the experiment, he decided to quit after learning of an illness in his family. But by then he had moved into an apartment, bought a pickup truck, and had saved close to $5,000.

The effort, he says, was inspired after reading "Nickel and Dimed," in which author Barbara Ehrenreich takes on a series of low-paying jobs. Unlike Ms. Ehrenreich, who chronicled the difficulty of advancing beyond the ranks of the working poor, Shepard found he was able to successfully climb out of his self-imposed poverty. He tells his story in "Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream." The book, he says, is a testament to what ordinary Americans can achieve. On a recent trip to the Boston, he spoke about his experience:

Becoming a mover and living in a homeless shelter - that hadn't been part of your life before. How much did your lifestyle actually change?

Shepard: It changed dramatically. There were simple luxuries that I didn't afford myself. I had to make sacrifices to achieve the goals that I set out. One of those was eating out. I didn't have a cellphone. Especially in this day and age, that was a dramatic change for me.... I was getting by on chicken and Rice-A-Roni dinner and was happy. That's what I learned ... we lived [simply], but still we were happy.

But surely your background - you're privileged; you have an education and a family - made it much easier for you to achieve.

I didn't use my college education, credit history, or contacts [while in South Carolina]. But in real life, I had these lessons that I had learned. I don't think that played to my advantage. How much of a college education do you need to budget your money to a point that you're not spending frivolously, but you're instead putting your money in the bank? Do you need a college education? I don't think so. To be honest with you, I think I was disadvantaged, because my thinking was inside of a box. I have the way that I lived [in North Carolina] - and to enter into this totally new world and acclimate to a different lifestyle, that was the challenge for me.

Still, there was that safety net. Were you ever tempted to tap your past work, education, or family networks?

I was never tempted. I had a credit card in my back pocket in case of an emergency. The rule was if I used the credit card then, "The project's over, I'm going home."

So what did you tell people when they asked what you were doing?

That was the only touchy part of my story. I had this great back story on how I was escaping my druggy mom and going to live with my alcoholic dad. Things just fell apart, and there I was at the homeless shelter. I really embellished this fabricated story and told it to anyone who would listen. The interesting thing is that nobody really cared.... It wasn't so much as where we were coming from, it was where we were going.

Would your project have changed if you'd had child-care payments or been required to report to a probation officer? Wouldn't that have made it much harder?

The question isn't whether I would have been able to succeed. I think it's the attitude that I take in: "I've got child care. I've got a probation officer. I've got all these bills. Now what am I going to do? Am I going to continue to go out to eat and put rims on my Cadillac? Or am I going to make some things happen in my life...?" One guy, who arrived [at the shelter] on a Tuesday had been hit by a car on [the previous] Friday by a drunk driver. He was in a wheelchair. He was totally out of it. He was at the shelter. And I said, "Dude, your life is completely changed." And he said, "Yeah, you're right, but I'm getting the heck out of here." Then there was this other guy who could walk and everything was good in his life, but he was just kind of bumming around, begging on the street corner. To see the attitudes along the way, that is what my story is about.

You made it out of the shelter, got a job, and opened a bank account. Did you meet other people who had similar experiences?

Oh, absolutely. We don't need "Scratch Beginnings" to know that millions of Americans are creating a life for themselves from nothing.... Just as millions of Americans are not getting by. There are both ends of the spectrum. To meet that guy [in the wheelchair] at the shelter, [makes you wonder] 'Can he get out and go to college and become a doctor?' Maybe, maybe not. I think he can set goals..... You can use your talents. That's why, from the beginning, I set very realistic goals: $2,500, a job, car. This isn't a "rags-to-riches million-dollar" story. This is very realistic. I truly believe, based on what I saw at the shelter ...that anyone can do that.


Free Speech and Radical Islam


At a lunch last year celebrating his 25th anniversary with Jyllands-Posten, Kurt Westergaard told an anecdote. During World War II Pablo Picasso met a German officer in southern France, and they got into a conversation. When the German officer figured out whom he was talking to he said: "Oh, you are the one who created Guernica?" referring to the famous painting of the German bombing of a Basque town by that name in 1937. Picasso paused for a second, and replied, "No, it wasn't me, it was you."

For the past three months Mr. Westergaard and his wife have been on the run. Mr. Westergaard did the most famous of the 12 Muhammad cartoons published in Jyllands-Posten in September 2005 -- the one depicting the prophet with a bomb in his turban. The cartoon was a satirical comment on the fact that some Muslims are committing terrorist acts in the name of Islam and the prophet. Tragically, Mr. Westergaard's fate has proven the point of his cartoon: In the early hours of Tuesday morning Danish police arrested three men who allegedly had been plotting to kill him.

In the past few days 17 Danish newspapers have published Mr. Westergaard's cartoon, which is as truthful as Picasso's painting. My colleagues at Jyllands-Posten and I understand that the cartoon may be offensive to some people, but sometimes the truth can be very offensive. As George Orwell put it in the suppressed preface to "Animal Farm": "If liberty means anything, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."

Sadly, the plot to kill Mr. Westergaard is not an isolated story, but part of a broader trend that risks undermining free speech in Europe and around the world. Consider the following recent events: In Oslo a gallery has censored three small watercolor paintings, showing the head of the prophet Muhammad on a dog's body, by the Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has been under police protection since the fall of 2007. In Holland the municipal museum in The Hague recently refused to show photos by the Iranian-born artist Sooreh Hera of gay men wearing the masks of the prophet Muhammad and his son Ali; Ms. Hera has received several death threats and is in hiding. In Belarus an editor has been sentenced to three years in a forced labor camp after republishing some of Jyllands-Posten's Muhammad cartoons. In Egypt bloggers are in jail after having "insulted Islam." In Afghanistan the 23-year-old Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh has been sentenced to death because he distributed "blasphemous" material about the mistreatment of women in Islam. And in India the Bengal writer Taslima Nasreen is in a safe house after having been threatened by people who don't like her books.

Every one of the above cases speaks to the same problem: a global battle for the right to free speech. The cases are different, and you can't compare the legal systems in Egypt and Norway, but the justifications for censorship and self-censorship are similar in different parts of the world: Religious feelings and taboos need to be treated with a kind of sensibility and respect that other feelings and ideas cannot command.

This position boils down to a simple rule: If you respect my taboo, I'll respect yours. That was the rule of the game during the Cold War until people like Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, Andrei Sakharov and other dissenting voices behind the Iron Curtain insisted on another rule: It is not cultures, religions or political systems that enjoy rights. Human beings enjoy rights, and certain principles like the ones embedded in the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights are universal.

Unfortunately, misplaced sensitivity is being used by tyrants and fanatics to justify murder and silence criticism. Right now the Organization of Islamic Countries is conducting a successful campaign at the United Nations to rewrite international human-rights standards to curtail the right to free speech. Last year the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a resolution against "defamation of religion," calling on governments around the world to clamp down on cartoonists, writers, journalists, artists and dissidents who dare to speak up.

In the West there is a lack of clarity on these issues. People suggest that Salman Rushdie, Theo van Gogh, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Taslima Nasreen and Kurt Westergaard bear a certain amount of responsibility for their fate. They don't understand that by doing so they tacitly endorse attacks on dissenting voices in parts of the world where no one can protect them.

We need a global movement to fight blasphemy and other insult laws, and the European Union should lead the way by removing them. Europe should make it clear that democracies will protect their citizens if they say something that triggers threats and intimidation.


Would you "Adam and Eve" it?

Comment on the censorship obsession of the modern age by Prof. Stott below. See the original for links

The London Underground has just banned a stunning poster for the Royal Academy of Art's forthcoming exhibition of the works of the great German (Northern Renaissance) painter and engraver, Lucas Cranach der Aeltere (c.1472-1553) [`500-year-old painting banned from Underground for being "too racy"', The London Paper, February 13]. Why?

"... the painting in question, of Venus wearing nothing but two necklaces, a gauze slip and a jewelled headdress, has been deemed too sexual and likely to cause offence by Tube advertising bosses. She has fallen foul of guidelines set out by CBS Outdoor - the firm who vet London Underground's advertising. The rules state that ads should not `depict men, women or children in a sexual manner, or display nude or semi-nude figures in an overtly sexual context'."
Oh my goodness! One just loses the will to live! I have never heard such twaddle. And this comes at a time when the Government has just decreed that school children must engage in the arts for at least 5 hours each week.

The wonderful work in question is Venus (1532), oil and tempera on red beechwood (37.7 x 24.5 x 0.5 cm), from the Staedel Museum, Frankfurt am Main. Please, please put two fingers up to the stupid, stupid Underground, and view this masterpiece here on the RA's web site. And why not visit the Exhibition yourself [it runs from March 8 - June 8, in the Sackler Wing of the Gallery]? Then buy a big poster of Venus, and travel around the Underground unfurling it for all to see.

I am sick, sick to death of people banning things because someone somewhere might be offended. It really is time to grow up. PC-ness from `global warming' to banning fine art will be the death of our culture. I really can't "Adam and Eve" that we are letting these things happen to us.

*N.B. For non-Brits: "Adam and Eve" is Cockney rhyming-slang for "to believe". I have no doubt that this too will be banned very soon, as a problem for non-English-speaking visitors to East London.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


No comments: