Saturday :: Jan 14, 2006

No Wealth, No Worth


by pessimist

There is a belief in the world that a person's worth is proportional to his monetary value. Thus, if one follows this thought to the letter, Bill Gates, world's wealthiest man, is more worthy than an impoverished homeless person. Infinitely more, for as those of us who remember our Algebra can attest, anything divided by nothing equals infinity.

But what if one is Gates' polar opposite? Of what value is a penniless person? To some - nothing more than the source of amusement of a deadly sort:


Police continue search for attackers of homeless men

Fort Lauderdale police are seeking the public's help in finding the young people who beat three homeless men on Thursday morning. One of the men was killed, and two were hospitalized, all within a couple hours of each other before dawn, police said. Police are investigating the likelihood that all three crimes are connected. The brazenness of the attacks has rattled the city's homeless community, and advocates were reaching out to them Thursday night, encouraging them to go into shelters.
"It's senseless. If you look at these kids, it was almost like it was fun and games for them," Officer Scott Russell said.

"It looked like they were going for the head," said Fort Lauderdale police detective Katherine Collins.

Four teenagers pleaded guilty last month to fatally beating a 53-year-old homeless man in Daytona Beach in May. They will be sentenced Feb. 21. A fifth teen still faces still faces an aggravated battery charge and is free on $50,000 bail.
Young men in their teens and early 20s are more likely to attack homeless men, according to a national homelessness expert. It's a growing and disturbing trend.

And deadly. Just what does this sort of animalistic behavior on the part of young American males say about us?

In 1999, 60 homeless individuals were attacked. In 2004, 105 were attacked. Since 1999, 386 homeless individuals have been attacked nationwide, resulting in 156 deaths, according to the Washington-based National Coalition for the Homeless.

More incidents seem to occur during the summer, when kids are out of school and many homeless shelters are closed, said Michael Stoops, the coalition's acting executive director. "I think the reason why people pick on homeless people is that they think they can get away with it, and it is easy to attack someone who is not physically or mentally able," Stoops said.

"What I wonder is: Would they decide to go beat up a middle-class person with baseball bats?"
The coalition's data shows that the majority of people who attack homeless people are white men in their teens or early 20s. But the attackers can range in age from 11 to 65 and straddle ethnic lines. It's not surprising if alcohol and drugs are involved, Stoops said.

Dr. Scott Poland, a psychologist at Nova Southeastern University's Center for Psychological Studies, said although the victim is likely chosen at random, the actions of the attackers are not necessarily impulsive. "This is something they thought about -- they planned," Poland said.

Parents need to pay attention and talk to their children about consequences, Poland said. Kids need to be in organized activities such as sports and clubs. "Can you think of any reason why adolescents should be out on the street between 2 and 4 a.m.?" Poland asked. "They should be home. They should be asleep, getting ready for school the next day."

But, as this example of youth violence against the homeless attests, some adolescents have 'other priorities' by which they are to be judged:


Teens plead innocent in 'bum hunting' assault case
January 4, 2006

TOMS RIVER, N.J. (AP) _ Three teenagers charged with assaulting homeless people while what they called "bum hunting" say they are innocent. The three were indicted in November, accused of attacking homeless people who had been living in tents off Route 37 West in Dover Township. The incidents occurred between June 28, 2004 and Oct. 22. 2004 when the defendants were seniors at Toms River High School North.

Ocean County Prosecutor Thomas F. Kelaher decided they should stand trial as adults because of the seriousness of the alleged crimes. Authorities said the youths attacked people with pipes, baseball bats, bricks and a golf club. One victim suffered broken ribs, a punctured lung and a fractured arm.

But these poor darlings of suburbia are innocent! After all, they are performing a public service by encouraging the worthless to move somewhere else! It's what their governments do!


The Increase in Hate Crimes and Homeless Murders Is a Warning Sign

Cities all over America are escalating the scope and severity of anti-homeless legislation. When politicians, merchants, the media and the police vilify homeless people and champion draconian laws aimed at banishing them, they are fanning the flames of hatred, fear and prejudice that eventually erupt into hate crimes.

The National Coalition for the Homeless has documented a close parallel between laws that criminalize the homeless and hate crimes committed against people living on the streets. In this climate, the political officials who trumpet a message of intolerance are crucial contributors to our current national epidemic of hate crimes against the most poor and persecuted Americans.

With growing fervor, government officials, merchants and the media have broadcast a message of intolerance that labels homeless people as unwanted outcasts. When the pillars of society vilify homeless people as a subhuman minority synonymous with urban blight, and when city officials pass laws aimed at banishing people living on the street, an extremely dangerous message is sent out that this is one hated minority that it is safe to attack.

The general public is largely unaware of the extent of this growing wave of brutal crimes and murders committed against homeless people across the country. One of the most disturbing aspects of these hate crimes is that none of them -- no matter how shocking or cruel -- have ever sparked the kind of high-level public awareness and outrage that hate crimes against other minorities have evoked. Homeless people are often attacked in dark alleys or desolate areas -- and this alarming rise in hate crimes remains hidden in that same darkness.

Our society has done something even worse than allow countless human beings to live in horrible conditions of neglect and poverty on city streets. It also has forced them to live a life of real and constant danger, exposed and vulnerable to the threat of deadly assaults and deliberate hate crimes, 24 hours a day.

In fact, many communities are making poverty a crime:


Outlawing Homelessness

[C]ities have increasingly moved toward enacting and enforcing laws that specifically criminalize homelessness in response to their concern about the use of public space. Cities enact and enforce these criminal laws as "quick-fix" solutions to remove homeless people from sight, rather than addressing the underlying causes of homelessness. This criminalization trend has been documented in reports by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty since 1991.
86 percent of the cities surveyed had laws that prohibited or restricted begging, while 73 percent prohibited or restricted sleeping and/or camping. Over one-third of the cities surveyed have initiated crackdowns on homeless people, according to the survey respondents, and almost half of the cities have engaged in police "sweeps" in the past two years.
Adoption of laws and policies that punish homeless people rather than addressing the problems that cause homelessness is an ineffective approach. Penalizing people for engaging in innocent behavior – such as sleeping in public, sitting on the sidewalk, or begging – will not reduce the occurrence of these activities or keep homeless people out of public spaces when they have no alternative place to sleep or sit or no other means of subsistence. With insufficient resources for shelter and services for homeless people, imposing punishment for unavoidable activities is not only futile, it is inhumane.

Even "The People's Republic Of Santa Monica" (see: B-1 Bob Dornan) has in the past come under fire for its homeless-hostile enactments:


Taylor's Campaign Documents Anti-Homeless Mood

The current atmosphere of hostility toward the homeless is laid bare in Taylor's Campaign, a 74-minute documentary from the perspective of the targets of that hostility. Released in 1998, the film uses homeless former truck driver Ron Taylor's 1994 campaign for the Santa Monica, California, City Council as a centerpiece to document the blame-the-victim mentality prevalent even in Santa Monica, a poignant setting given the city's liberal reputation.

Filmmaker Richard Cohen captures the extremes of anti-homeless sentiment. Taylor's running commentary in support of compassion and assistance for the homeless is juxtaposed with the remarks of the incumbent candidate who advocates a hard-line approach. In a street interview, one young man, when asked whether he favors programs to feed the homeless, answers emphatically:

"If you can't feed yourself through working in this society, then maybe you shouldn't exist and starve."

Is this the sort of 'thinking' that goes on between the ears of those who see themselves as superior to those who have nothing? Is this sort of abuse of the neglected supposed to be fun?

It sure looks that way!


Down And Out, Shouldn’t Mean Getting Bashed With A Baseball Bat
August 17, 2005

Many media outlets, including The Los Angeles Times, report today on two teens who were arrested for attempted murder — they watched the DVD “Bumfights”, and decided to do their own “bum bashing” in Los Angeles. So they took a baseball bat and bashed a couple of homeless people sleeping on the sidewalks in downtown Los Angeles.

At a news conference in downtown Los Angeles, after the bashing, Chief Bratton said, “This happened to one of our most helpless communities because they’re not only homeless but often mentally ill. These dehumanizing crimes will not be tolerated.”

Mayor Villaraigosa added, “Why anyone would want to attack anyone who’s sleeping in the street is inconceivable to me.”

After getting over the outrage of these dehumanizing crimes, we (the community) must continue to ask ourselves why are we allowing people to sleep on our streets? The streets are just not safe or healthy for anyone.

We should also be saying, “Having people sleep on our streets will not be tolerated.”

L.A. Police Say Video Inspired Teens Arrested For Homeless Attacks
August 17th, 2005

Police arrested a pair of 19-year-old men Tuesday for investigation of attempted murder in connection with a baseball bat attack on two homeless men allegedly inspired by a video, 'Bumfights', which features homeless people fighting each other, and wanted to do some 'bum bashing' of their own, said police spokesman Officer Jason Lee.

Two Las Vegas residents who produced the 'Bumfights' videos were sentenced to 180 days in jail in February for failing to complete community service. They pleaded guilty in June 2003 to misdemeanor charges of conspiracy to stage an illegal fight for their videos. Two other 'Bumfights' producers also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges and were sentenced to community service.

Police Chief William Bratton called the producers of the DVD 'mental midgets'. "That's the shame of it ... that we as a society allow these kinds of things be promulgated," Bratton said.

What sort of mind could conceive of such a thing? We'll let the mental midgets express themselves for your edification:

Bumfights

Las Vegas filmmakers Ray Laticia and Ty Beeson say that in only three weeks they've sold nearly 10,000 copies of their video, "Bumfights: Cause for Concern, Volume 1," some to viewers as far away as Europe. The recent graduates of the film schools of the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Southern California have marketed the work they describe as a "hilariously shocking" look at "drunk bums fighting" and "bum stunts", using only the Internet and posters around Las Vegas.
"Society has a fascination with homeless people, people living on the streets, almost a perverse fascination," Laticia said. "People don't get a chance to see much of that. We thought it would be exciting to get a glimpse of that kind of life."

Exciting??? If these arrogant assholes want excitement, they should try living on the street as their abuse victims have to!


Homeless learn to live with danger in the night

Frank Jarrell chooses his spot carefully. It has to be well-lit, but secluded. Usually he lies next to other homeless people he doesn't even know. But it's safer than being alone. "You get threats all the time," Jarrell said Thursday afternoon while waiting for a free meatloaf dinner at St. Andrews United Methodist Church in Fort Lauderdale. He repeats Ephesians 6:9-18, which talks about using the armor of God to protect against evil, before he sleeps at night. That's how he survives the dark streets of Broward County when everybody else is tucked comfortably in bed.

[H]e and other homeless men say it's a threat they face every day. They know what it's like to have teenagers throwing rocks at them as they sleep near railroad tracks, to be mugged just after the first of the month when the Social Security checks come in, to be taunted and beaten down by predators who see them as something less than human beings.

Jarrell remembers a beating he took a couple of years ago from two children, ages 10 and 11. "I woke up hours later and didn't know what happened," he said. "I had to get stitches."

Jarrell and another man knew the Fort Lauderdale man whose murder was posted above. They had this to say:

He said he got a sick feeling Thursday morning, and began walking the streets out of restlessness. He knew something bad had happened, but he didn't know what. That's when a police officer told him that some homeless men had been attacked and he should be careful. Since then, he's been nervous, wondering where he will lay his head at night.

One man, who identified himself as Randy, said he had seen Gaynor only three days ago. The two were at the park at the New River where Gaynor was attacked. He could only imagine the pain that his friend experienced when he died. "Poor Norris, I knew that he was probably out cold and he didn't have enough to strike back," he said.

Would that not be enough excitement for out Las Vegas losers? Maybe they would also find the pain of a victim's sister humerous as well:


Sister Outraged at Beating Death

A homeless man who was beaten to death by at least two young men in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is the brother of a DeKalb County School Board Member, 11Alive News has learned.

Simone Manning-Moon said she is outraged that her brother was savagely brutalized by what she called 'animals'. "Norris was minding his own business two nights ago. He was sleeping. It was the only time he had any peace. I hope Norris didn't feel any pain when they bashed his brains in.

"I hope that what the (emergency room) doctor said was true: the head injuries were so massive that he just slipped right way," said a statement by Manning-Moon.

Sometimes, while a homeless person might not have reletives, they did have friends. One man attacked by the LA 'Bumfight' viewers certainly did:


Homeless Attacks In L.A. Lead To Community Reflection
August 18, 2005

Ernest Adams always sat at the 3rd Street Tunnel greeting people going to work. Downtown Center Business Improvement District had an outreach worker try to get him into transitional housing. But Adams was content sitting and sleeping on the streets.
Even an Associate Justice of the U.S. Court of Appeal knew Adams.
Justice Robert Mallano has seen Adams sitting there for the last five years, “He would talk to people and smile. He was always polite and smiling.”


The Murder of a Homeless Man in Oakland
June 2004

The savage and senseless torture and murder of a homeless man in Oakland by a group of young men on July 18 is a warning sign of the grave dangers homeless people face due to a rising wave of shocking hate crimes. Such appalling acts of violence have been made nearly inevitable in a climate where politicians, merchants and the media constantly fan the flames of hatred, fear and prejudice against homeless people.

Dalrus Joseph Brown, 52 was viciously murdered in the middle of the night by a group of young men, ages 15-16, which attacked him while he was sleeping along the railroad tracks in West Oakland. The teenagers repeatedly kicked Brown, shot him with a BB gun, and beat him to death with metal pipes and boards, then tore apart his little shelter.

The brutal murder of Brown was only the latest in a series of violent assaults on homeless people in West Oakland, apparently by groups of young men who singled out their victims for attack simply because they were homeless. In a previous attack in early July, three teenagers were arrested after assaulting a homeless man with a piece of lumber in West Oakland. Even though the police have arrested three teenagers for the murder, a larger group of accomplices are just as responsible for the tragic death of Dalrus Joseph Brown.

Homeless advocates all over the country have been warning local, state and federal legislators that homeless people urgently need protection from a new epidemic of hate crimes and murders. These hate crimes have been directly fueled by the constant vilification and scapegoating of homeless people by politicians, merchants and the media.

Homeless people are deliberately sought out, denounced as bums and drug addicts, then attacked, beaten, set on fire, slashed with knives and murdered with guns. Many of the attacks are committed by impressionable young people who are influenced by the media, by reactionary pundits on talk radio and by public defamation of homeless people in newspapers.

Not all newspapers are unaware of the plight of the homeless:


Who is going to help America's homeless people?

The issue of the homeless people has recently become very serious in all American cities. The current situation with homeless people in America has only become more intense. There is some information that says their number totals two to three million people, but as it seems, the American government is not really concerned about that.

So much for compassionate conservativism. To do anything about America's homeless would cost money - lots of it. In 2002, San Francisco spent more than $100 million helping its huge homeless population. With King George's tax cuts for the home-full, and cutbacks in welfare funding that began under Bill Clinton, there is little available for helping those who have little enough. In fact, given Republican attitudes toward those who aren't enriched materially, I'm surprised that we aren't seeing more American well-to-do taking the sort of action that this Brit did:


Millionaire 'thug' beat homeless
Millionaire 'preyed on the weak'

John Damon Gizzi, a millionaire builder from St Asaph, lived in a £1.75m mansion in St Asaph and drove a £100,000 Bentley car. Gizzi was caught for one attack after a listening device was installed in his Bentley. Gizzi, 34, previously admitted two charges of grievous bodily harm and one of actual bodily harm.
He beat up two homeless people with wooden staves, the court was told.
Simon Medland, prosecuting, told of an assault on a homeless man, at a boarded up cafe, owned by Gizzi, in Rhyl. On 23 March last year, Leslie Owen, was sleeping in the café when he was woken by Gizzi. "He recalls being woken up by what he describes as a blow to his head," said Mr Medland. "He could see that Mr Gizzi had a weapon. Mr Gizzi was under no conceivable threat from Mr Owen. The assault went on for quite a while."

Police during their investigation found the blood of another homeless man, who they discovered had been attacked by Gizzi two years before. Supt Barry Jones, said: "Both Gizzi and Fontenot were regarded as bullies, who felt they were above the law and almost untouchable. As they serve their prison sentences the clear message is no-one is untouchable, especially in north Wales."

These acts weren't his only qualifications to be a Republican Pioneer crimes:

Gizzi and Fontenot [the accomplice] also admitted assaulting a third man in November 2004, who claimed he had been attacked with a baseball bat. This case was discovered after police listened into telephone conversations Gizzi made in his Bentley. He also admitted conspiracy to sell contraband cigarettes and customs and excise tax evasion worth up to £750,000. Twenty two offences of mortgage fraud totalling £1.4m were also taken into consideration.

Judge Elgan Edwards, said: "This kind of conduct - in your case, Gizzi, using violence towards people who may be a nuisance - is quite unacceptable. You should be making your livelihood not from crime, you have the intelligence to do it".

But intelligence is not a requisite to be a heartless thug, as this report from Spain demonstrates:


Teen film fans set woman on fire for fun

BARCELONA: Three Spanish teenagers fascinated by the film Clockwork Orange burnt a homeless woman to death for kicks. Maria Rosario Endrinal Petite, 50, who had been sleeping in a Barcelona doorway, was attacked and set on fire with solvent. She died in hospital.
It is believed to be the culmination of months of attacks on homeless people by the gang, who had become obsessed with the Stanley Kubrick film and with violent videogames.
The day after the murder police overheard a conversation in an Internet cafe about three regular customers who had boasted of killing a homeless person. One person who knew the alleged attackers told El Mundo that the three were "proud" of these attacks. [I]t has been reported that the youths filmed attacks on their mobile phones and exchanged pictures with others at the Internet cafe. "It was how they amused themselves, attacking the homeless at night," one unnamed friend said.

They were also fixated with a violent videogame called Counterstrike, giving themselves code names. The three were also fans of the Spanish pop group Estirpe (Lineage), whose songs about extreme nationalism, violence and hatred for immigrants are popular among neo-Nazi gangs.

This year a government report highlighted a serious rise in the number of neo-Nazi and Latin American gangs in Spain, centred on Madrid and Barcelona. The neo-Nazi gangs had committed 91 crimes, although violence between Latin gangs was said to be more extreme.

There are other current cases of homeless abuse being reported. Prague homeless face rising abuse from "young people, often drunk, who do it to alleviate boredom; older people struggling with work or relationships, who 'ventilate their own problems in this way'; and other people described as 'brutal and sadistic'."

And in Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city:

10 homeless people were attacked while sleeping in various, high-profile spots in the downtown area.

Three of the attack victims died. [J]ust three days later, four more street people were attacked while sleeping, two of them women. Two of the victims died, including one of the women.

In a joint statement, 21 charities and religious groups that work with homeless people said history was repeating itself. They referred to the high profile Candelaria massacre of 1993 in Rio de Janeiro when eight street kids were killed near the city cathedral - shot point-blank by off-duty policemen while they slept.

[T]he media fed the story picking out similar incidents elsewhere in Brazil that normally would have gone unnoticed. News of violent deaths involving street people began to pop up from all over the country, in places hundreds of kilometres apart. Within three weeks of the initial attack, the violent death toll among the nation's homeless had risen to 22.

There was news of three homeless men each shot in the face while they slept, not in Sao Paulo, but in the north-eastern city of Recife, some 1,500 kilometres away.

Two days later it was a homeless man in Belo Horizonte, another major city north of Sao Paulo. His bound and gagged body with several broken bones was found in a bag. He had been beaten to death.

Ugly and violent as they were in a strange way, those two nights of gratuitous violence in August served a purpose. They exposed a routine of discrimination, lack of respect, crime and deadly violence against those members of society least able to fight back - the homeless.

Not only are these problems not going unnoticed any more, the federal government is promising to conduct a census to find out exactly how many Brazilians call city streets home. The government says this information will help them provide better assistance for the most in need.

At least it's a start. An even bigger accomplishment for the homeless will be to stay visible.

I wish them luck. Here in America, the homeless have already disappeared.


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