Plan B Available to Teens as Young as Fifteen

3 May

Just when MTV’s “Teen Mom” thought they were effectively working towards teenage pregnancy prevention, the U.S. government is jumping on board and handing out Plan B to teens as young as fifteen as though it were cough medicine. Now young teens not only can experience pre-mature sex but they don’t have to be bothered with the stress of possible pregnancy.  Even with the legal age in the United States for consenting to sex being eighteen years old, Plan B is available over-the-counter at any pharmacy to anyone who shows identification proving they are at least fifteen years of age. While it is important for America to strive towards lowering rates of teenage pregnancy, the consequences of this method heavily outweigh the benefits.

If the government was to make it illegal to drink and drive but then every night informed people of all the police checkpoints, wouldn’t that being encouraging drunk drivers to be reckless? This situation gives us the exact same results when we tell young teenagers to not only avoid having pre-mature sex but to do it responsibly by using condoms. Offering Plan B to teenagers as young as fifteen gives them one less reason for using condoms.  This will not only increase the risks of sexually transmitted diseases but it is encouraging young teens to act irresponsibly without fearing consequences of their actions. By having fear of the consequences that can come with poor decisions and actions, teenagers are less likely to be irresponsible with sex. The government making the morning after pill easily accessible will result in more of these bad choices being made. Not only does this lead to a more reckless and irresponsible generation of youth more prone to STD’s than before, but it is simply not healthy.

Plan B can have many negative effects on a women’s body by feeding it such high doses of estrogen. By making it easily accessible and not putting a cap on how many pills young women can buy and how often, the government is potentially putting their health in danger. Giving young women such an easy way out might lead to abuse of this pill that will be detrimental to their health and sometimes even the possibility of pregnancy in the future.

Teenage pregnancy is a problem that needs to be met with solutions but not with solutions that risk the health and the character of America’s youth.  Since it is already too late to fight against this new policy, the government needs to immediately think of ways to counteract its repercussions.

Syria’s Alleged Chemical Weapons Challenges Obama’s Leadership

27 Apr

After beginning his speech to the press with “we have evidence” of the chemical bombings killing Syrian civilians, President Obama ended with saying the United Nations would need further investigation before intervening. The question is if the “who, what, where, when, and why” confirms that the Syrian government is killing their civilians in the masses, will Obama hold true to his word and should he?

The international community’s responsibility to respond to crimes against humanity has obligated the United States to meet hostile actions accordingly, but at what cost? Just when Obama announced a date to take out U.S. troops from Afghanistan, this new reason for the United States intervention could result in yet another war against another Muslim country. The fear here might then be that other Muslim countries would unite with Syria in resisting American imperialism; in particular, Iran. With Iran possibly having the means for building a nuclear bomb, the United States has to walk on eggshells in order to attempt to have security for our country and possibly other countries. Protecting the Syrian people might in fact mean that we risk protecting our own people by worsening our relationship with other Muslim countries.

All this being said, the consequences of not following through with what he says might outweigh this risk of an allegiance throughout Muslim countries.  The Obama administration believes more likely than not that Syria’s President, Bashir Bashar al-Assad is using chemical bombs against the Syrian people. Obama already said the Assad regime crossed the “red-line” that changed the game and possibly will demand action from the international community. If he were to retract now, the legitimacy of his administration would be tarnished. Domestically, Obama would promote voter apathy because this would give the sense that the administration does not know which direction they are going. This would result in the American people possibly losing concern for the problem and losing respect for their President and his leadership. Internationally, it jeopardizes the validity of the leadership ability of the world’s leading country. If Obama makes threats and does not follow through, this could result in the loss of respect from other countries. The danger here would be the lack of other countries’ willingness to follow our lead in the future.

If the Syrian government is killing its own people, it is not a question as to whether it directly violates international law but a question of  how  the United Nations should respond. In the constant battle between a state’s sovereignty and defending human rights internationally, will the ends justify the means.

People v. Innocent Woman

16 Apr

Before I began working for a criminal defense attorney this past October, my aspiration was to become a federal prosecutor. This passion for the law came at a young age after seeing many people suffer in my life from the actions of a criminal who was never tried in court. The anger and resentment I had towards the situation led me to want to be in a position in life to defend people who had been wronged by putting their predators behind bars. My definition of a prosecutor was someone who would be a voice for victims and take a stand against their perpetrators. Prosecutors in my mind were the ones who at all times fought for what was right. However reality can be cruel especially, when it is so unexpected. In the few months that I have been working at a law firm in downtown Los Angeles, I have learned that the predators are not always the ones being handcuffed but instead, they can be the ones putting the handcuffs on.

After working for only a few months at the firm, I have been exposed to a case where an innocent person has been victimized by police officers and city attorneys. I have seen officers embellish their police reports, lie on the stand, and show no sympathy towards an innocent Chinese woman. They accused this foreign woman of soliciting sex at a massage parlor without bringing forth any evidence. The police officers who went under-cover, did not take any photos or recordings. When asked if they retrieved any evidence other than a “conversation” the answer was a simple “no.”  The conversation between the main under-cover officer and the defendant included the words, “sex, blowjobs, condoms, and do you do everything.” All of these words were not spoken by the defendant but rather by the officer himself. The defendant only responded with the words, “yes, massage, and lay down.” This was enough however to handcuff a forty-six year old woman who could barely speak English and, emotionally traumatize her for months. From the day of the arrest to the day she entered our office, she did not know what charges were being filed against her and why. She had been working at the massage parlor for only five days before officers came in and arrested her without warrant. When she came to our law office within minutes, two conclusions were made clear to me. One, this woman could not understand any English and needed a translator. This was obvious because she had no idea what we were talking about when we explained to her the charges and the words the officer said in the conversation asking for sex. Two, her tears of innocence were real.

Even with my belief in her innocence and the lack of evidence from the police officers, the real shock still did not come until we met with the city attorney. He said without hesitation that he did not believe the case was strong enough for him to take to trial but that his boss demanded it he do it. While the defense attorney (my boss) felt bad for the prosecutor I was disturbed to know that someone could be put through all the emotional distress that comes with trial without the city attorney even believing in the defendant’s guilt. This distress was apparent everyday she was not able to eat or sleep. She could not confide in any of her family members for fear that they would worry and stress. All of this pain for a case the prosecutor doesn’t even believe in?

Once the trial started it was clear within the first day that there was not enough evidence to find our client guilty. So what do officers do when they look incompetent because they don’t know how to gather and collect evidence? They lie. One officer that assisted the main under-cover officer the day of the arrest told the attorneys that he did not hear the defendant say one word in English. He also said that the money that was found and believed to be the defendant’s tips for sex, was never marked and that he just assumed it was hers. This was what was in the Discovery prior to going to trial and what he told the attorneys the day before he took the stand after his partner. The next morning, twenty minutes before it was time to take the stand, the police officer remembered more of the conversation that happened months ago! He remembered several words that she said in English and even how he found the money by her purse! The judge (previously a prosecutor) went against what the law demands and allowed the new Discovery to be let into court. This allowed for the officer to take the stand and then blatantly lie to the jurors about his epiphany. Despite the persistence and the determination from the People, the jury came back with the verdict of not guilty.

cartoon joke

Obviously, my issue here is not the direct outcome of the case, but my problem lies in the question of who is really safe in our society when the judges let the cops lie and the prosecutors prosecute for the sake of filling in the time. After the words “not guilty” Our client broke down and told the defense attorney he was her hero for not allowing her to be wrongly convicted. In between tears she told us how her mother died in China and how she could not fly out to see her mother for her last days or even burry her because of this trial. What this woman had to endure just for not knowing the English language and being at the wrong place at the wrong time, defines injustice.  Does this mean that people should fear the possibility that they can have their lives ruined at any time by our criminal justice system without doing anything contrary to the law? Before we point the finger at the faults of how people are governed in other countries, I suggest we work internally and look at the criminal justice system within our own communities. After all, how can one point out a speck in someone’s eye when they have a log in their own.

Jodi Arias: Too Hot to Jail?

10 Apr

After fourteen weeks, Jodi Arias still has viewers anxiously watching her trial on their big screens, Ipad minis, and Iphones. Why so much interest? Jodi Arias is not our typical villain whose appearance is enough for a jury to determine him guilty from the minute he enters the courtroom.  On the contrary, she’s a good-looking woman with a soft-spoken voice and a major sex problem. In the words of a criminal defense attorney I spoke with, “She’s so hot!” All over the news, men can see naked photos of her in sexual positions she sent to her ex boyfriend Travis Alexander. Audio is constantly aired on the news of her talking with Travis on the phone about what she wants to do to him when they meet next. Their text messages are easily accessible and very graphic when it comes to discussing different sexual positions and acts they could do to each other. As soon as I turned on CNN yesterday, the introduction to a panel of lawyers speaking on the trial said, “Was the orgasm fake or was it real?” It’s a hot sex story that men cannot resist. It’s even better than the book they cannot put down because there are pictures, audio, and a real trial to go with it.

jodi-arias2

Before trial even began, Jodi Arias was quoted to say that no jury would convict her. Her ability to go from this sex addict and dominatrix to an innocent girl with a side ponytail only girls in second grade wear, has been undoubtedly impressive.  She takes “lady in the streets, freak in the sheets” to the next level. What is the relevance of this? With her defense of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and with her appearance, there is no way that Jodi Arias will be sentenced to death! She is a good-looking woman who happens to enjoy sex but now with her conservative clothes, makeup-free face and mousy voice, it’s easy to sympathize with her. After all the photos, audio, and text messages, the claim that Travis Anderson was the one who emotionally and physically abused her is plausible. You can see a man going too far with a female sex addict right? While the evidence shows her as she a wild and crazy girlfriend, she is taking the stand as the defenseless woman. She claims the sex got out of control and she had no choice but to defend herself against her abuser.

While this might create an exciting and addicting trial with what few would dispute to be a hot girl, there is a problem. When asked a question yesterday by prosecutor Juan Martinez, Jodi Arias responded, “I think that is a compound question” with award-winning sarcasm. When there are times she deserves an Oscar for her performance in court, she slips up and in moments like these, and lets us see the real Jodi Arias. For her to have so much confidence to talk back on a murder trial shows her arrogance. Who can be arrogant when being accused of murder? Jodi’s comments made about jurors never convicting her and her having the audacity to show attitude towards the prosecutor reveal the true manipulator she is.

jodi_arias

Getting off from the death penalty is one thing but the criminal justice system in America cannot have a repeat of the Casey Anthony case. These subtle clues of Jodi’s character are enough to doubt everything she says. The fact is, if she were a male there wouldn’t be all this discussion and debate. Her being a woman makes it hard to believe that she could have so much power and manipulation over Travis. However, there is enough evidence to convict her. Her inconsistency in character discredits everything that comes out of her mouth and that’s not forgetting the evidence of her being violent during sex with Travis. Her slip-ups in her role-playing imply that she truly believes she has the courtroom in the palm of her hands. The tragedy will be if this belief proves true. Will her looks and gender be enough to let her walk free of all charges? We’ve seen it done before. What should the jurors do differently this time? Pay attention to the flaws in character. She had a plan for the jury the minute she dyed her hair from blonde to dark brown and covered up her legs and chest making herself almost unrecognizable. Its time for everyone to stop focusing on the soft porn the media is giving us daily and realize Jodi Arias can be capable of more than just “good sex.”

 

America Land of Big Brother

6 Apr

By 2020, approximately 30,000 drones will be covering the skies over American soil, making the basic civil rights of Americans nothing but a memory. When President Obama signed the Federal Aviation Administration and Reform Act in February, he gave drones the right to watch over Americans and kill them if they are suspected terrorists. The right we all once had to due process will now be stripped from us and fair trial will only be given to those considered deserving. Last year, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that approximately 176 children and between 474 and 881 civilians were killed by drones in Pakistan. These same drones have killed innocent civilians on Afghanistan soil. By permitting these drones to now patrol American skies, our once democratic society steps closer to becoming a totalitarian one.

While eating at a restaurant in 2011, sixteen-year-old Abdulrahman from Denver, Colorado was killed by US military drones. His family attempted to sue the U.S. government claiming that the murder was unjust and that Abdulrahman was not an al-Qaeda jihadist terrorist. He was denied due process and the opportunity to prove his innocence. Many politicians after the death spoke out about how the assassination was unconstituted because there was not any proof. There was never proof of his killings or of his involvement with al-Qaeda. Abdulrahman was just killed because of a bad feeling the U.S. military and the President had. This bad feeling was enough for many Americans to trust and not question the actions of the military. This naivety permits our government to claim ultimate power over the American people as we watch blindly. Allowing the President to override the law and the rights promised to each American creates a shift in power from the people to the dictator. This shift will lead us into a totalitarian society where the state eventually will hold all of the power the people once had over their own lives. 

ImageThe dangerous part is that the government attempts to pull wool over our eyes by telling us they are allowing these drones to patrol the skies for our “security.” Who is really safe and secure when innocent people can be killed without a trial? Who is really safe when our own government commits crimes against its own people? The safety that US citizens feel comes with feeling in control of their own fate and having access to basic civil rights. By being born into a Muslim family with a Muslim name and having features, one will be more likely draw unwanted attention to him or herself and be watched and possibly killed if needed. There no longer is the presumption of innocence. Instead, if President Obama thinks you are a bad guy you are killed from the sky. There no longer is a right to freedom and privacy. Instead, drones can be watching us from the skies without our knowledge.

 Our country was founded on the idea that the people would govern themselves and have the right to their privacy. What is now arising is a society where the people only get their rights if the President feels they should. Our forefathers would turn in their graves if they knew the land of the free had been turned into the land of those in power.

The government is telling us that they have no choice but to kill these suspected terrorists in order to ensure America’s safety. However let’s think about this. If the government can pinpoint the location to kill these alleged terrorists with accuracy, they can just as easily arrest them. Americans are taking the word of the government and trusting it.

 

We now become uncomfortable when thinking about an innocent black man being lynched but do not second-guess a missile instantly killing someone eating lunch from the sky. The crimes against humanity that we once abolished now just take new forms with new names.

Jonathan Swift once stated, “For in reason, all government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery.” Soon enough if the President is allowed to call hits on those he believes deserve it, we can kiss away our rights to the freedom, safety, and privacy once promised to us. 

Communion for None

23 Mar

Already within the first few weeks of his election, Pope Francis has started buzz throughout the political community. When the time came for Vice President Joe Biden and the President of Georgetown, John DeGioia to attend the two-hour installation mass for the Pope, reservations were voiced about allowing the Catholic politicians to receive communion. Pope Francis along with other high-position Catholic leaders protested against the distribution of communion to the Catholic politicians because their opinions do not align with those of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis argues, people who make public their opinions on the rights an individual has to euthanasia and abortion should not be allowed to receive communion. The Catholic Church has made clear that the crimes against life go directly against the Commandments, which help create the foundation of the Catholic Church. This argument brings about two consequences. The first being, the Catholic Church portrays itself hypocritical. This statement from Pope Francis can be interpreted to suggest that those who do not completely obey the Catholic Church should not receive communion. However the Catholic Church at the same time states that everyone sins. Not allowing Catholic Politicians to receive communion because of their “sinful” viewpoints suggest that only those who are holy and follow the Catholic Church in all of its views and standpoints should be allowed to practice the religion. The truth is that many people call themselves Catholics and go to Sunday mass regularly who do not believe that “sinners” like homosexuals are automatically condemned to hell along with other people who openly sin. The Catholic Church is the most powerful religion in the world today but by making itself seem above others creates more harm then benefit. The second consequence is the“us versus them” effect. For a religion that is known universally, more people will turn against the Church as it denies others the right to practice it. Catholic Politicians like everyone are entitled to pick what they think is right and what they think is wrong. Catholicism preaches that God is all giving, loving, and forgiving. Which of those qualities is exemplified in denying people the right to receive the blood and body of Christ? Is this privilege left to only those who act according to the Catholic bible in every way? If this were the case no one should be allowed to receive communion and everyone would be taught that God and Jesus are not all loving and accepting. The very purpose of the Catholic religion is to turn people to live out life the way Jesus Christ did but how is that taught through denying one from the Church and its holy sacraments. 

The Pot Calling the Kettle Black

6 Mar

“All I hear when I turn on the news is how we have troops in places like Iraq when nobody is caring about what we have to go through here in Compton.”

 

Once a month concerned Compton community members get together in their local school theater to address issues they feel are detrimental to their neighborhoods. The objective is for them to talk about the issues and then brainstorm on how to resolve them as a united community. The National Association for Equal Justice in America was birthed to help articulate the concerns of the Compton community and then work to promote changes. With their monthly meetings, people leave work early and push back dinner with their families in hopes that they will leave with an ounce more of hope than what they came with. This theater room was not filled to full capacity but what did fill the room were the outcries of these adults looking for help and an escape from their oppression. The above statement made by an African American man questioning the lack of care America has for its own people, becomes an issue that is often overlooked. While America is policing the world, Americans such as these Compton community members, are forgotten. The perpetuation of their community’s self-destruction is a direct result from the police wanting to keep them isolated, forgotten, and mistreated. The stories told at these meetings indicate that officers see black people in Compton as something less than equal but instead often they are treated as incompetent children. The city of Compton is proof that America has leaps to take before it can point its finger at other countries as alluded to in the statement above.  In America’s hastiness to fix the world, the problems in it’s backyard regarding the injustice shown to its own low-income communities are thrown shade and forgotten about.

SCHOOL AND EDUCATION

Living with Racism: The Black Middle-Class Experience   explores how education can replicate inequality in the United States. Schools in predominantly black communities such as Compton do not have the same quality of education as schools in predominantly white communities. Black students are then forced to relocate to white communities and schools if the want to receive a quality education. Black students are forced to conform to white culture and leave what is familiar to them in order to attempt to be at an equal playing field with white students. Relocating is nearly impossible when parents must find new jobs and families are taken away from their accustomed culture. Studies have shown white professors also have neglected to educate their students on black history. One parent talked about how she fought to get books written by African Americans or books about African Americans on her child’s reading list at school. The resistance to teach black history shows the inequality of blacks and whites in the United States. When you don’t educate people on their own history you oppress them. Knowledge is where people find power and excluding facts from being taught to African Americans about themselves handicaps them from evolving as a group. Then when blacks get the opportunity to receive a higher education in college, they are faced with white classmates and professors who are often times insensitive to their situations and their daily disadvantages. Feagin and Sikes explore how professors can come off as racist when they subconsciously treat their black students differently. Racism then continues to be seen in the educational systems which then discourages minorities to mix with white communities.

Job Opportunities and Stressors

Low-waged workers and the homeless are commonly misperceived to be lazy and uneducated. Many people believe social mobility can be achieved through hard work and persistence but the truth is far from this hope. The reality is that in cities such as Compton, jobs are not easy to find and the labor often compromises the health and well being of the workers. Nickel and Dimed was written to introduce people to the realities of those living in poverty and the middle class. Barbara Ehrenreich got her P.H.D. in Biology and wrote several books before leaving behind all of her experience and education and immersing herself in the world of poverty. Ehrenreich shows the reader how social mobility in the United States is almost impossible when one barely makes enough money to survive. She found immediately that jobs were scarce and the ones that were available were very wearing on her body and health and only providing her with minimum wage. This forced her to take two jobs without any breaks, putting her in a position to just barely get by. With two jobs, she couldn’t afford health care, one consistent place to live, nor could she afford healthy food that she needed a kitchen and time in order to prepare. People in poverty work night and day to just simply put food in their stomachs and a roof over their heads. Social mobility is not easily obtainable in the United States when one is working overtime just for his or her survival. When one “provid[es] cheap labor, the other provid[es] low wage jobs” it is impossible for “the rich and the poor can no longer coexist (172, Ehrenreich).” Education and qualifications that should be able to get people jobs over someone less educated and qualified does not matter. This means people often times take out loans so they become more educated in a field but their degrees and certificates do give them the upper hand. She also found that big chains like Von’s, Wal-Mart or even restaurants locate only in communities where they see the greatest opportunities for profit. This results in hundreds of jobs being denied to low-income communities.

Low-income communities like Compton are deprived from the nourishment they need to grow and experience the changes needed when they are hindered from experiencing social mobility due to the lack of jobs.

Lack of Positive Community Activities and Features

If you drive around Compton, the Projects, and similar cities,  parks, movie theaters, after-school programs, and school sports are not commonly seen. Community features like these keep kids, teenagers, and families putting energy towards positive activities. Schools in these low-income communities do not even provide children with sports programs. Sports programs are a good way to keep children focused in school and putting all their energy towards something positive. Without these community features, the Compton members at the conference explained how children are just left at home with the neighbors. People who are at home during the day in their neighborhoods do not have jobs and are getting into trouble. This is how at many times children are influenced by gang members and become involved in those kinds of activities. Also, the exposure to drugs is more of a possibility and the pressure to make easy and fast money by selling drugs. When parents are at work during the day trying to make ends meet and cannot afford childcare (if its available) they are left with no choice but to hope their kids stay at of trouble after school.

Even the maintenance of these communities is poor. Trashcans are scarce, leaving the streets dirty and often times smelling. This sends the message to the community members that they are not worthy of having clean streets when the government ignores their obvious inequality.  The trash on the sidewalks and in front of businesses constantly remind them they live in poverty and below the standards of other surrounding cities. Graffiti is also seen throughout the buildings and homes of Compton. Graffitti makes the city look dangerous and unattractive which by default discourages people from moving into the cities and bringing in more money. All these concerns can be easily fixed with some funding being sent over to the communities to help provide trashcans and help paint and cover up the graffiti. These problems have straightforward and reasonable solutions that are just not being done.

Government Officials Help Perpetuate Inequality

Compton residents attested the night of the meeting to experiencing unjust police brutality and harassment on almost a weekly basis. Driving while Black or Hispanic is still a disadvantage to people today even though it is thought of as a thing of the past. The members at the conference spoke about how police officers have planted evidence in the cars of their innocent friends. To this day, Blacks still fear being sent to jail or prison for crimes they did not commit. In his own words, a Compton resident expressed how he was just thankful he has never had drugs planted on him. In most communities, people are thankful to have the police protect them but in cities like Compton, people give thanks that the police do not abuse them or ruin their lives without cause.  Compton residents are always been given compensation for the maltreatment and excessive force they were shown by the police. These situations make them live in constant fear of the police. They know it is a possibility they can be arrested for no reason and taken from their families at anytime.

Compton is a city that reflects the injustice still here in America, but it is a nation-wide problem. An African American attorney last week in downtown Los Angeles spoke about how he flies to the south once a year to represent Black men facing the death penalty pro bono. In just a few years of doing this, he has saved several innocent men from the death penalty. Blacks people are more likely to face more jail time for the same crime committed by a white person and are more likely to be sentenced to death than any other race. They are more likely to be targeted, harassed, and talked to as if they are less than equal human beings by the very people who are supposed to protect them.

The time given to a black man has statistically shown to exceed the time a white man is given for the same crime. “Congress Votes To Change Crack Vs. Cocaine Sentencing Laws” addresses the controversy about the laws for carrying crack or cocaine. The crack versus cocaine issue explains how cocaine is a pure drug and should be given more time than the drug, crack that actually dilutes cocaine’s purity. Cocaine is more expensive than crack and therefore typically can only be afforded by those who make up the middle or upper classes. Those living in the lower class can only afford crack and are given more time then those in the upper or middle class who can afford the pure drug cocaine. Blacks and Hispanics make up the majority of the lower classes in America. More time is given for crack than cocaine. This means Blacks and Hispanics receive more time for carrying crack than if they could afford cocaine.

Conclusion

The fact is, America has taken leaps towards bettering itself and reducing crimes against humanity but it is far from perfect. By taking the role as the world’s police, America is insinuating that it does not have wrongs. This is disproved when we look at the treatment of our own citizens in places like Compton. Instead of promoting the failure of low-income communities, the government should lend the people of Compton a helping hand to help them prosper. Making sure that the problems are fixed within, will allow America to then have a bigger impact when helping the rest of the world.

 

Bibliography

  1. Feagin, Joe R., and Melvin P. Sikes. Living with Racism: The Black Middle-class Experience. Boston: Beacon, 1994. Print.
  2. Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed: On (not) Getting by in America. New York: Metropolitan, 2001. Print.
  3. “Congress Votes To Change Crack Vs. Cocaine Sentencing Laws.” Breaking News for Black America RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2013.