PUSHING THE PERSONHOOD ENVELOPE
First Posted: 1/30/2013
California activist Jonathan Frieman finally got his day in court in January, but a Marin County judge quickly rejected his argument that he is entitled to use the state’s carpool lanes accompanied only by a sheath of corporate papers in the passenger seat. (During the 2012 Republican primaries, Mitt Romney famously asserted a corporation’s general right under the law to be treated as a person.) The judge decided that the state legislature’s carpool law was intended only to reduce traffic clutter and that driving with no passenger except corporate papers was unrelated to that goal. Frieman told reporters that he had been carrying the papers around for years, hoping to be challenged.
— The U.S. Congress may suffer dismal popularity ratings (less savory than head lice, according to one survey), but it is saintly compared to India’s legislatures, which contain six accused rapists at the state level and two in the national parliament. Thirty-six local officials, as well, have been charged with sexual assault (according to India’s Association for Democratic Reforms). In fact, the association reported in December that 162 of the lower house of Parliament’s 552 members currently face criminal charges. The problem is compounded by India’s notoriously paralyzed justice system, which practically ensures that the charges will be unresolved for years, if not decades.
— Many Japanese men seem to reject smartphones in favor of a low-tech 2002 Fujitsu cellphone, according to a January Wall Street Journal dispatch — because it can help philanderers keep their affairs from lovers’ prying eyes. The phones lack sophisticated tracking features — plus, a buried privacy mode gives off only stealth signals when lovers call and leaves no trace of calls, texts or emails. A senior executive for Fujitsu said, If Tiger Woods had (this phone), he wouldn’t have gotten in trouble.
— China’s national legislature passed a law in December to establish that people have a duty to visit their aged parents periodically. China’s rapid urbanization has not developed nursing homes and similar facilities to keep pace with the population, and sponsors of the law said it would give the parents a legal right to sue their children for ignoring them.
— Redemption! Senior pastor Claude Gilliland III was forced to admit to his flock at the New Heart church in Cleburne, Texas, in January that he is a convicted sex offender and that he and his ex-wife had worked in the pornography industry. Gilliland, 54, served four years in prison in the 1990s for sexually assaulting his ex-wife, but in January was nonetheless defended by his congregation. If we believe in the redemptive work of Christ, said one parishioner, then this man is a miracle. (Gilliland believes he needs no redemption for the assault, for he was innocent of that — but that he had done other bad things during that time that did require redemption.)
— God and Shoes: (1) Prophet Cindy Jacobs said in a January Internet broadcast that God has revealed Himself to her by mysteriously removing critical shortages in her life, such as her car’s well-worn tires that just kept rolling. I remember one time that I had a pair of shoes that I wore and wore and wore and wore and wore and it just — for years, these shoes did not wear out. (2) Dublin, Ireland, inventor David Bonney recently decided to change the marketing of his new shoes to Atheist Shoes. Two years earlier, he had started the business with the idea of selling Christian shoes that contained water in the soles so that wearers could walk on water.
— Four days after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., officials at Public School 79 in New York City decided it would be a good time for a full-blown lockdown drill — with no advance warning. Though P.S. 79 is a high school and not an elementary school, it is composed of about 300 students with special needs (autism, cerebral palsy, severe emotional disorders) who, with their teachers, were startled to hear the early- morning loudspeaker blaring, Shooter (or, possibly, intruder), get out, get out, lockdown. One adult said it took her about five minutes to realize that it was only a drill. Still, said another, It was probably the worst feeling I ever had in my life.
— Neighborhood observers reported in December that the asbestos-removal crew working at the former YWCA in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, consisted merely of volunteer teenagers who are students at the local religious Buckeye Education School. State regulations require that asbestos (known to cause deadly respiratory illnesses) be handled only by certified contractors using hazardous-materials gear. Buckeye and other officials, while emphasizing that the students were volunteers, declined to say who authorized them to work.
William Michael Martin, 45, was charged in January with burglary of the East Texas Medical Center in Lufkin, Texas, where he went apparently in search of women’s underwear and employees’ personal photos, which police said he used as masturbation aids. At his home, police discovered a cache of women’s underwear and several beach balls, which officers learned from photos were so that Martin could put them under his clothing and pose as pregnant.