the last word(tm)
Vol. 14/No. 4 - 418th issue - July 3, 2005
TEENAGER CONVICTED OF "TERRORISM" OVER SHIRT
Well, folks, we think this is it.
As diehard patriots, we hate using Fourth of July weekend exposing this nonsense, but this story can't wait any longer.
We knew that if things continued at the present rate something like this would happen sooner or later, but we were guessing maybe 2007 or so. Imagine our chagrin when we saw it happening a bit earlier than expected.
We've said it before, but this time it's truer than ever: America is now officially a police state. As far as we know, we don't think anything this fascist has happened yet in modern America with such unquestioned acceptance until now. We're wondering how much lower it can get than this.
The "uncensored" U.S. media (with the exception of a few Pennsylvania outlets) has almost completely ignored this story, but the Ottawa Citizen has covered it niftily. A 17-year-old high school student who had moved from Newfoundland to Bucks County, PA, as a preteen was convicted in a plot to bomb his school because - get this - he wore a t-shirt with the words "Joe Canadian". No real evidence. Just a shirt and a few other small things.
We swear we're not making this up. You can find the article online to corroborate us. Go ahead. Find it. See? We told you so.
Our network of friends has confirmed that Bucks County DA Diane Gibbons is a right-wing publicity-seeking nut, so that's part of the problem.
Here's what passed for "evidence" in this case: Someone wrote a bomb threat on the restroom wall at school. The student was one of many who reported it to the teachers. Those who reported it were completely brushed off. Finally, the principal found out, and the school offered a $250 reward for information about the threat.
Here's where it gets grim: The student was accused by 2 of his classmates of making the threat. This alone was enough to cause the police to raid his home. The cops found household chemicals at the teenager's house, but it was certainly no more than most other families would have. They found potassium nitrate - which shouldn't have been cause for alarm, because the chemical is perfectly legal, and is used for making fuel for model rockets, which is one of the student's favorite hobbies.
So the student was promptly arrested - all because a member of his family had a legal chemical. At the time of the takedown, he was wearing a Molson Canadian shirt that featured a lighthearted, whimsical text extolling the greatness of Canada. When he appeared in court, the fact that he was wearing this t-shirt in court was cited by prosecutors as "proof" of his criminality. The only reason he wore the shirt in court was that they didn't allow him to change his clothes during the day between his arrest and his court appearance. Gibbons told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the teen "apparently has made it clear that he does not like America and that he would prefer to be in Canada" just by wearing the garment. Saying someone is anti-American for wearing a "Joe Canadian" shirt is like saying someone hates the rest of the world for wearing a shirt with an American flag on it.
No judge is going to convict anyone over something silly like this, right?
Well, guess what? They actually got a conviction on that shitty "evidence"!
Judge Kenneth Biehn found him guilty of uttering terroristic threats and possession of incendiary devices - all because of the shirt. Nobody ever proved that the student actually spoke or wrote any words that were threatening. And the chemicals his family had were legal, so he obviously couldn't have been convicted on that. Prosecutors even flat-out admitted that nobody saw him write a threatening message on the school restroom wall.
And he wasn't even given a jury trial, despite having a right to have one! The excuse for this was that Pennsylvania doesn't allow jury trials of juveniles - but this shouldn't matter, because prosecutors and police acted like he was a hardened adult thug.
Here's where the real kicks in the asses begin: The judge ordered him held for a psychiatric evaluation for 20 days. Twenty days is fucking long for just an evaluation, don't you think? If it takes us more than a week to get a new issue out, people say we're slow, but 20 days for a damn evaluation is considered just dandy? Not like that's the real issue anyway. It's obvious that this is another case where someone gets institutionalized for having the "wrong" views.
Don't you just love living in a free country?
The youngster was then escorted out of the courtroom in handcuffs and leg irons. He is supposed to reappear for the actual sentencing - as if the 20 days isn't enough - where he may be sent to jail until he turns 21.
Through most of my lifetime, it would have seemed almost unthinkable for an American court to sentence a 17-year-old to 4 years in prison for something like this - even if they actually committed the crimes they were convicted of. Fuck, back in my day, every teenager liked getting into mischief like this every now and then, just because adults told them it was bad.
The DA effectively tried him in the media. Pennsylvania outlets that covered the story showed the teenager in his shirt, which the DA called "anti-American". Predictably, this resulted in the usual Freak Rethuglic-like contingent calling for a ruinous punishment against the high schooler. Local rightists even demanded that his family be deported to Canada.
Then what should we do with all the conservative wingnuts who thought Singapore was better than America because "liberals" like Clinton didn't run Singapore? (Not like Clinton was very liberal, but that's a whole other issue.) I suppose we should have to be their captive audience, right? If anyone should leave the country, it's the loudmouths who thought America was such a horrible nation because the 1992 election didn't go their way. It's not like we could have forced them to, but they obviously would have been happier if they did.
The teenager's family has also received threatening e-mails from the right-wing spittle crowd.
Now here's the real shocker: After the student was arrested - and wasn't at school - another bomb threat appeared on a school bathroom wall. But authorities said this wasn't worth investigating. I guess not, considering they've already caught an innocent person they've wanted to scapegoat.
There's a lot of injustice in this world, and America hasn't been perfect. We all know Leonard Peltier was framed by the FBI, and it's also pretty clear Mumia Abu-Jamal is innocent too, despite what was implied in a heavily biased 1998 televised report. But we think the Bucks County case is probably the first time in America that a juvenile faced such a long prison term for something as nebulous as what he was accused of - and had his plight almost totally unnoticed by the press, as if his situation is routine. It likely will be routine: If the trend continues, we can guarantee he won't be the last young person to face this degree of injustice at the hands of the American court system.
This is a bit like our battle with our "fine" school and gulag system a number of years back. You disagree with school officials, you get locked up. The difference was that our case didn't actually go to court and was mostly the fault of right-wing private interests. There are some similarities though - like, for instance, the fact that some people in power outright lied.
The same can happen to you. Any conservative can point at you, and within days, you'll be on the wrong side of a locked steel door, with no escape - forgotten by the world.
What can be done about it? Since you know the country's screwed, you might as well enjoy yourselves by responding in kind to every right-wing utterance the moment it is spoken. Sure, your adversary will never understand the wit and advanced logic of it, but at least they'll be humiliated.
TALIBAN COMES TO BASRA
Isn't it great having Iraq as one of "Our" "Democratic" "Allies" again? It's just like when Don Rumsfeld and Rappin' Ronnie Raygun were pals with Saddam, isn't it?
Since the fall of Saddam, in fact, Iraq has become so "democratic" that a Taliban-like religious militia has overtaken Basra, a port city that was previously regarded as a progressive stronghold.
According to the Guardian of Britain - in a story that is usually downplayed by the American media - Basra used to be a fun, liberal city but has now come under control of Islamic hard-liners. The militants have torched liquor shops and outlawed pop music (even at private parties), and they've begun enforcing a rigid public dress code that forces women to be veiled. A college student who refused to obey the dress code was found killed. The militia even visited a hospital in an effort to prevent female patients from being treated. One woman said, "Anyone who tells you there is democracy and freedom here is lying."
So Bush is lying. What else is new?
The militants claim they have a mandate from the January election - yes, the one in which the media (as part of a Bush-inspired propaganda campaign) kept showing everyone walking around with purple ink on their fingers to show they had voted.
Sheikh Assad al-Basri told an American news organization that you don't have to worry about his militia trying to mimic the government of Iran - because even Iran is much too progressive for him. Back in March, his right-wing militiamen - citing their so-called election mandate - beat several college students to death for playing music at a picnic. Another student was beaten so severely that she became blind. Police who were guarding the park allowed the militants in to attack the students. When participants of the picnic approached police, expecting to be protected from the extremists, the officer replied, "What do you expect me to do about it?" and refused to provide any help.
Al-Basri was quoted as saying, "We beat them because we are authorized by Allah to do so and that is our duty."
But wait! Iraq is free now! Isn't it?
What??? It's not???
The hard-line militia in Basra has GeeDumbya to thank for allowing it to seize the city. We'll be sure to remember which party is to blame when Iraq becomes the next Afghanistan. (Like we'd ever forget, after that Contract With America bullshit.)
In Future Ishes Of The Last Word...
We didn't have room for it in this ish, but hopefully soon we'll have room to discuss last week's trip to St. Louis! Missouri, that is. The city they call the Gateway to the West gave us a pleasant dose of the America we love, and we patriotically savored every moment of this fine city - even if no Froot Loops records got placed inside the Gideon Bible at the motel room this time.
(Copywrong 2005. Online edition created with Internet Exploder 6.)