Wednesday, September 25, 2002

John wrote:

Roger's blog has lots of chatter about the Toogood case, but he fails to mention its most interesting feature: The Toogoods are Travelers, i.e., they belong to an Irish clan of itinerant scam-artists similar to Gypsies. See South Bend Tribune, Sun Times, MSNBC.

I mention that under Sunday, below. Perhaps the whole reason she was videotaped was because of ethnic profiling. John's links tell about completely unrelated crimes by other Travelers. O'Reilly and others have tried to make a big deal about it, and argued that Toogood should be presumed guilty because of her ethnicity.

All these arguments just make me more convinced that she is the unfair victim of a witchhunt. What if someone made similar arguments about blacks or some other ethnic group? Since when do Irish Travelers have fewer rights than other citizens?

Suppose the Toogoods are indeed guilty of shoplifting or similar offenses. The statutory penalties for shoplifting do not include confiscating the defendants' kids.

O'Reilly had an Indiana Superior Court judge on TV today, and he said that he didn't have the facts, but he would take away all three kids anyway. I saw a prosecutor on another show argue that the Toogood felony battery charge would not get the leniency that is usually given to a first-time offender because a child is involved and Mrs. Toogood probably beats her kids all the time. I thought that O'Reilly was bordering on libel. He claims to have proof that the Toogoods are involved in some sort of criminal enterprise.

This sloppy reasoning is shocking. Felony battery is a charge that would usually only occur if the kids had broken bones from a beating, or something like that. There is no evidence that the Toogood kid was harmed at all, or that there were any other incidents. There is no reason to believe that putting the kids in a foster home will be a better situation for the kids. If I were on the Toogood jury, I wouldn't hesitate to acquit. There is no proof of any crime against the kids.

John writes:

I didn't see O'Reilly on this, but he is absolutely right: the Toogoods are involved in some sort of criminal enterprise. The Travelers are a criminal enterprise, like the Mafia or al Qaeda.

I agree with O'Reilly that the Toogoods' membership in a criminal enterprise should be taken into account by the judge in determining the fate of the little girl.

In addition to their membership in a criminal enterprise, there is plenty of evidence of individual guilt by the Toogoods in a variety of crimes. I circulated a news story on this; didn't anybody read it?

I don't follow this argument. Accused murderers do not even lose their kids. Maybe 20% of black men are convicted felons, and yet no one says that they are ineligible to raise kids.

Our whole legal system is based on proving guilt in court, and punishing the guilty based on prior statutes. Taking someone's kid away is not a punishment for anything.

They only take kids away when there is extreme abuse, and some court finds it to be in the best interests of the child. Even still, most kids who are put into foster homes because of child abuse end up getting abused more in the foster homes.

The accusations against the Travelers just aren't relevant to the child custody issue. Even if they are all true, they don't make the Toogoods unfit parents under any standards that are normally applied in our society.

The Toogoods are being made scapegoats because of presumptions and stereotypes about what kind of people they are. Yes, there were various allegations of petty crimes. None involved violence or child abuse or neglect.

Andy writes:

Concerning Toogood, I find the position of O'Reilly, John and the articles he cited to be irrational and offensive. Toogood is linked to a poor ethnic group, accused of irrelevant crimes, etc., all for the purpose of taking her little girl away from her. Roger rebuts all this well.

If government can take someone's kid away from them based on politically correct racial smears or allegations of irrelevant crimes, and conservatives don't oppose that, then it looks grim on other issues concerning defense of the family. Looks like Hillary's view of family has prevailed.

There is no parental autonomy for anyone if Toogood's family can be dismantled so easily.

Gumma writes, "Did you all see the video? I don't think it proved anything."

Yes. I think it is clear that the Mom spanked the kid. The other assertions that the Mom looked around to see if anyone was watching; that the Mom punched the girl in the face with a closed fist; that the Mom violently shook the girl; that the Mom was angry or out of control; and that the sister witnessed the events; are all not provable from the tape, and probably not true. The Mom's admissions after turning herself in do not make me think that any of these are any more likely to be true.

John writes:

Membership in a criminal enterprise is a crime, in and of itself, even if all members of the enterprise belong to the same ethnic group.

I did not say that the Toogoods should lose their kids based solely on the conduct shown on the video. I did not say the conduct shown on the video was sufficiently abusive to warrant taking away the kids.

But the incident opens a window into the Toogoods' lifestyle. That lifestyle raises serious questions that should be looked into.

I see no evidence the Toogoods are being punished for incorrect or inappropriate stereotypes. In this case, the stereotypes are all too true. "What kind of people they are" is indeed the issue.

I think it could well be child abuse to raise a child in a family where the "family business" is a criminal enterprise.

At least in the Mafia, if "The Godfather" and "The Sopranos" can be believed, children are generally insulated from the "business" until they are mature adults.

In Traveler and Gypsy families, children are groomed for a criminal life from infancy and begin their lives of crime as young children. What could be more abusive than that?

Again, we are not talking about an ethnic group or irrelevant crimes. This extended family is a corrupt criminal enterprise.

I thought "politically correct" meant to oppose profiling and to play the race card. That is what Andy is doing - attacking the rational profiling of a crime family as a "racial smear."

Here is another current example of a perverted family where a child was being raised for a life of crime. Society has properly intervened to rescue the child.

No. Mafia members are defined by organized crime activities. Travelers are a cohesive ethnic group that dates back 100s of years. A child of a Traveler is a Traveler. They are like Gypsies. Sure, a lot of Gypsies are crooks, but crooked activities do not define Gypsies.

There is info on Travelers is here and here.

What kind of criminal enterprise? The Mafia is an enterprise because members have to pay kickbacks to the bosses. Are there Travelers bosses who make all the others pay money? Not that I've heard of.

Where is John going with this? You want gubmnt authorities to go around looking into various ethnic lifestyles, and seizing the kids when you don't approve?

So they are being punished for matching the stereotypes? Your argument is essentially: They look like white trash; they act like white trash; big media investigation has shown that they really are white trash; so take their kids away.

Here are some other things someone might disapprove of:

  • Parents smoke cigarettes.
  • Parents are couch potatoes who watch TV all the time.
  • Kids raised by a single parent.
  • Parent is on parole for shoplifting.
  • Parents do not speak English at home.
  • Parent gets drunk on a regular basis.
  • Parents are atheists who sneer at anything religious.
  • Parents belong to some goofy sect like Pentecostalists.
  • Parent is a tennis fanatic who makes the kid take many hours of lessons.
  • Parents smoke marijuana.
  • Parents have eccentric sexual practices.
  • Parents cheer news of suicide bombers.
  • Parents who use corporal punishment.
  • Parents who are strict vegans.
  • Parent who is a convicted felon.

I could go on and on. For each of these, there are people whose disapproval exceeds your disapproval of the Travelers. Do you want to take all their kids away? Who is going to be left to raise the kids?

It is possible that the store spied on Toogood because of ethnic profiling -- they spotted her as a Traveler and were suspicious that she was going to cheat the store. If so, no one has objected to that (altho a store that went around videotaping black customers might get some criticism). But I object to this presumption that they are unfit parents because they are Travelers. It would be easier to make the case that blacks are unfit parents.

Andy writes:

Mrs. Toogood's child should not be taken from her and raised by the State. Sure, the State is piling on charges against Mrs. Toogood -- that's SOP (standard operating procedure). Now they claim she's given false addresses. As though that's justification for taking someone's child from them!

I'm sure most people would disagree with the Toogoods about how they raise children. Most people wouldn't use a "stun gun" to scare a child, which has been alleged against someone in Toogood's family (other than her). But the child is hers, and she'll do a better job raising her than the State. Already the State has given the kid the flu and probably caused severe psychological problems. Do you really think the kid is better off now? I don't.

Like Roger, I see this as an important and superb opportunity to criticize State interference with a family. So much for all that "family values" talk! What meaning is there to "family values" if the State can take an infant [toddler] from her mother?

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