Monday :: Jan 16, 2006

The Check's Imbalanced

by pessimist

I know more people will be interested in Al Gore's speech than this, but today is the most appropriate day to put this post up on the blog.

Today is Martin Luther King Day. King said this about America back in 1963:

When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."
- Martin Luther King, Jr., "I Have a Dream"

Here's the latest bounced 'check':

Norris Gaynor, Murder Victim

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.”

The Crime In Progress:

This episode of a long and ugly series is ended:

Teens surrender in beating of homeless

Two South Florida teens suspected in the beatings of three homeless men turned themselves in to police Sunday, authorities said. Family attorneys negotiated the surrender of Brian Hooks, 18, and Thomas S. Daugherty, 17. They will face murder charges in the death of Norris Gaynor and aggravated battery charges in the videotaped beating of Jacques Pierre.

One of the arrested suspects:

The Face of Teen-aged Race Hate

Images: Surveillance Video Shows Attack
Warning: Contains graphic images, video

More on the flip side.

There are times when a crime is so disgusting, the public rises out of its torpor and takes action against those who would prey upon them. The following articles follow that process:

Two men brutally beat a homeless person with baseball bats in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. very early on Thursday, January 12.

Tape of Beating Helped Police Nab Suspects

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A surveillance video that captured images of a homeless man being savagely beaten helped police track down the two South Florida teenage suspects, officials said. More than 100 tips were generated from the video and photographs of the Thursday beating, and investigators and made contact with the families of the suspects within a day, investigators said.

Video and still pictures showing two males chasing and beating him with what appeared to be baseball bats were broadcast and published nationally.

[P]olice were investigating whether the teens were involved in other beatings and if they had accomplices.

This is the most chilling fact presented in this article:

There were 105 attacks on homeless in 2004, including 25 deaths, according to the Washington, D.C.-based National Coalition for the Homeless. The majority of attackers were young men between the ages of 16 and 25.

This is always the first question people ask when something heinous happens. It's no different in this instance, as this next article attests:

Acquaintances of teens baffled and shocked by attack allegations

Just a fun kid. That's how one friend described Brian Arthur Hooks, the 18-year-old Plantation teen arrested in connection with the slaying of one homeless man and the beating of another. Some described Thomas S. "Tommy" Daugherty, 17, as a nice kid who got caught up with the wrong crowd. The two teens are suspects in an attack on a third homeless man Thursday morning.

Hooks and Daugherty were arrested Sunday and expected to be charged in the four-hour beating spree in Fort Lauderdale.

Hooks, who graduated last year from South Plantation High, was part of the school's "horticulture crew," said Amanda Flutie, a senior. "They like to go out to the Everglades a lot, build bonfires, go to car shows … wear cammies [camouflage]. Normal redneck stuff."

Like beating defenseless and sleeping poor men to death?

Hooks and Daugherty live within a few minutes of each other in the Plantation Isles subdivision, a well-kept neighborhood surrounded by canals. Knocks on both doors went unanswered Sunday. Neighbors young and old stood in their yards, talking about the teens and the serious charges they face. Some, including Flutie, were baffled. Others said they were shocked. "You almost wonder if the accusations are true," Bob Perez said. Perez and his wife, Phyllis, live across the street from Daugherty. They described him as polite, courteous and mannerly.

This must be a Republican neighborhood. Nothing this terrible ever happens in their world. It only happens in New York when foreigners attack. No one they know could even think of such a thing!

Hooks was the "kind of person who walks around acting all big, rough and tough," said Kristin Bjornsen, 17, editor of South Plantation's school paper. "He seemed like the kind of guy who had that edge to him. Maybe. But not to kill someone."

This murder is hardly an isolated incident in Fort Lauderdale, as this article attests:

Fort Lauderdale police hunt young men in murder, beatings of homeless

South Florida has had at least five cases of homeless-related killings by teens or young adults in the past two decades.
In 1986, in West Palm Beach, four teens decided, as a police report put it: to "roust some bums" for fun and beat a homeless man to death. In 1996, a 40-year-old homeless man was punched, kicked and stomped to death by a gang of teens in Pompano Beach.
"It's one of the shameful secrets we have, the beating of homeless for sport," said Marti Forman, CEO of the Cooperative Feeding Program in Fort Lauderdale.
"It's a recreation thing, it's an initiation for gangs and fraternities. I see it in the kitchen in the mornings, people coming in with their black eyes and broken teeth."
The National Coalition for the Homeless, which tracks random violence against the homeless using news and police reports, notes that in 2004, 25 homeless people were killed and 80 non-lethal attacks reported. That's a jump of 67 percent since 2002. Most of those accused were in their teens or early 20s.
"People think that homeless people are not human beings and that it's OK to hurt them. [M]ost importantly, they think they can get away with it," said acting executive director Michael Stoops.
Stoops also points to the popularity of a series of videos and Internet clips known as "Bum Fights" that show homeless people being beaten up as a form of entertainment. "When young people see that, they say, `I do can do that!'" Stoops said.
"It's a copy-cat kind of thing."
Sean Cononie, who runs a homeless shelter in downtown Hollywood, was worried. "If they don't catch these guys, it's probably going to happen again," he said.
"The sad part is they reason they do it, `For kicks, for fun.' How does society address that?"
Ron Slaby, a developmental psychologist at the Center for Media and Child Heath at Children's Hospital Boston, said violence in the media, home and community are likely contributing factors. He said the attackers are likely to have developed a superiority-inferiority complex that led them to believe the homeless are less than human. And, while in a group, Slaby said they likely experienced heightened excitement, and diminished responsibility and inhibitions.

"There could be a certain level of gang mentality," he said, "a certain type of superiority ... where others who are `inferior' deserve to be done away with."

He said they are likely to have been exposed to media that reinforced this, as well as video games that "trained" them to kill without emotion.

Another expert weighs in:

Doctor: Attacks On Homeless Men 'Humanity At Its Worst'

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The man who is supervising the medical treatment of two homeless men who were attacked spoke out Friday ....

"This is tragic. It's humanity at its worst, and it's hard to believe," said Dr. Nabil Elsanadi, of Broward General Medical Center.

"They're easier targets because they don't have a shelter. They don't have someplace to live. If you have, and this is my big fear, in the community there may be a ritual gang, something where there are people out there to prove themselves, as far as passage rites or to belong to the gang they would have to do something like that. So, I'm worried. I'm concerned for our community."
Steve Werthman, of the Broward Homeless Initiative, said he is trying to make sure that the homeless outreach programs are increasing right now. "We've seen random acts of violence before, but nothing this organized. I've been working in this since the mid-80s and we haven't seen anything like this," Werthman said.

He should read the article I cited above.

But I digress.

One of the two men who survived the attacks, Raymond Perez, authorized nurses to speak for him.
"He is actually very emotional about the whole situation. He wanted to speak himself, but he just was not feeling well this afternoon. What he really requested that we share with everyone is that this type of abuse of an individual should never be sanctioned. It should never be permitted," said Suzette Tyler-Ball, the trauma manager.
Park Ranger Ismael Trilo said his heart sank when he watched on TV a man he called his friend being beaten by bats on FAU's downtown campus. "He's very quiet. He's always very polite to the people," Trilo said.

Efforts to protect the homeless outside the hospital are also under way in Broward County. The Salvation is opening emergency shelters. The Guardian Angels are also helping to patrol the streets, along with Fort Lauderdale police. The Homeless Voice organization is also passing out used cell phones for homeless people to use.

But these steps may not be enough, as Perez declares:

He's scared, but refuses to go to shelter

On Saturday, Perez was recuperating from head and arm wounds at Broward General Medical Center. He said that even though he is afraid of leaving the hospital before the suspects are caught, he will not go to a shelter after his release. "I'm scared of getting out of here," Perez said.

Perez said that once the beating stopped Thursday morning, he uncovered his wounded face and saw three men, who looked like they were under the age of 20, running to the church parking lot toward a white, unmarked van. "I don't know how I was able to get up," said Perez, who walked to the sidewalk and flagged down a crew of firefighters.

Now, he's just grateful to be alive. "It's not easy trying to survive on the streets," he said.

"But I refuse to go to a shelter. On the street I feel like I can move and at least there, if someone talks to me and I don't want to talk, I can just leave. In a shelter, I'd feel cornered."
Sean Cononie, director of the nonprofit Cosac Foundation in Hollywood, said it's common for homeless hate crime victims to refuse to go to shelters. "Some of them don't like shelters and will go right back onto the street," said Cononie, adding that hospitals and police agencies typically will try to get homeless patients to a shelter before releasing them to the street.

Despite all the happy talk from Bu$hCo about how well the economy is doing, few of us are far from living like these victims as this next report illustrates. But the good news is that someone is trying to do something about the problem - and is showing great success:

One crisis away from the street

Kathy Yancy was on her way home from cashing her disability check when she got robbed on a Chicago street.

Pamela Ransom slipped on the ice and injured her back so badly that she ended up losing her job and, faced with steep medical bills, the home she owned. As she prepared to file for bankruptcy, she fell a month behind in paying her rent.

Yancy and Ransom lived from one monthly check to the next.

And both would have been homeless had it not been for a one-time grant that helped them weather a temporary life crisis.
The grant money came from a state and federal program to prevent people from becoming homeless. The Illinois Homeless Prevention Fund last year issued grants to 8,314 Illinois households. The average grant was $591.

Chicago and federal officials are engaged in campaigns to end homelessness by 2010. One of their strategies is to build up the nation's stock of what's called supportive housing, or housing with a variety of services built in that help the homeless get back on their feet. According to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, more than 80 percent of the recipients were still living in their homes six months after getting the help.

To qualify, the families must demonstrate they will be able to cover their rent and bills from that point forward. They also must show evidence of a crisis--such as hospital bills, death certificates or divorce papers. Most of those who apply are turned down, because not everyone qualifies and because there's simply not enough money.

The 62 agencies around the state that distribute the funds also evaluate the families and try to assess whether the source of the problem can be addressed by other services available in the community, such as mental health treatment. "For a lot of them, this is really all it takes," said Julie Dworkin, policy director for the Coalition for the Homeless.

"The program is careful to select those who will really have their problem solved by this, not those who would just continually keep coming back."
The Homeless Prevention Fund works to help people from ever reaching that point. Sometimes their only problem is bad luck, or bad weather, or a sudden tragedy that hits families that don't have a support network. Illinois spends $5 million a year to prevent such families from becoming homeless.

The Crusade for Crude $177 million A DAY.

But I digress.

That funding has remained level for the last three years, but expenses such as rent and utility bills have increased in that time. As a result, the number of households served by the fund fell 23 percent from 2004 to 2005. Gov. Rod Blagojevich currently is working on his next budget, to be presented to the legislature in February. Here's an effective and relatively low-cost program that deserves a more significant share of it.

While King George squanders America's wealth in his insane pursuit of world domination and spends even more money that may never be made due to his ridiculous policies aiding the offshoring of American jobs and cutting taxes for the rich, programs that follow the admonition of Jesus to care for those who are in need beg and plead for a few dollars more.

I guess it's more profitable for the Topper$ to kill than it is to heal.

Besides - it's a lot more fun to bash in the brains of the unworthy!

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pessimist :: 10:24 AM :: Comments (29) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!