Sakhina, 15, was sold into marriage to pay off her father’s debts when she was 12 or 13. She is one of four fugitive child brides at a shelter in a secret Kabul location.
By ROD NORDLAND and ALISSA J. RUBIN
May 30, 2010
KABUL, Afghanistan — The two Afghan girls had every reason to expect the law would be on their side when a policeman at a checkpoint stopped the bus they were in. Disguised in boys’ clothes, the girls, ages 13 and 14, had been fleeing for two days along rutted roads and over mountain passes to escape their illegal, forced marriages to much older men, and now they had made it to relatively liberal Herat Province.
Instead, the police officer spotted them as girls, ignored their pleas and promptly sent them back to their remote village in Ghor Province. There they were publicly and viciously flogged for daring to run away from their husbands.
Their tormentors, who videotaped the abuse, were not the Taliban, but local mullahs and the former warlord, now a pro-government figure who largely rules the district where the girls live.
Neither girl flinched visibly at the beatings, and afterward both walked away with their heads unbowed. Sympathizers of the victims smuggled out two video recordings of the floggings to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, which released them on Saturday after unsuccessfully lobbying for government action.
The ordeal of Afghanistan’s child brides illustrates an uncomfortable truth. What in most countries would be considered a criminal offense is in many parts of Afghanistan a cultural norm, one which the government has been either unable or unwilling to challenge effectively.
According to a Unicef study, from 2000 to 2008, the brides in 43 percent of Afghan marriages were under 18. Although the Afghan Constitution forbids the marriage of girls under the age of 16, tribal customs often condone marriage once puberty is reached, or even earlier.
Flogging is also illegal.
The case of Khadija Rasoul, 13, and Basgol Sakhi, 14, from the village of Gardan-i-Top, in the Dulina district of Ghor Province, central Afghanistan, was notable for the failure of the authorities to do anything to protect the girls, despite opportunities to do so.
Forced into a so-called marriage exchange, where each girl was given to an elderly man in the other’s family, Khadija and Basgol later complained that their husbands beat them when they tried to resist consummating the unions. Dressed as boys, they escaped and got as far as western Herat Province, where their bus was stopped at a checkpoint and they were arrested.
Although Herat has shelters for battered and runaway women and girls, the police instead contacted the former warlord, Fazil Ahad Khan, whom Human Rights Commission workers describe as the self-appointed commander and morals enforcer in his district in Ghor Province, and returned the girls to his custody.
After a kangaroo trial by Mr. Khan and local religious leaders, according to the commission’s report on the episode, the girls were sentenced to 40 lashes each and flogged on Jan. 12.
In the video, the mullah, under Mr. Khan’s approving eye, administers the punishment with a leather strap, which he appears to wield with as much force as possible, striking each girl in turn on her legs and buttocks with a loud crack each time. Their heavy red winter chadors are pulled over their heads so only their skirts protect them from the blows.
The spectators are mostly armed men wearing camouflage uniforms, and at least three of them openly videotape the floggings. No women are present.
The mullah, whose name is not known, strikes the girls so hard that at one point he appears to have hurt his wrist and hands the strap to another man.
“Hold still,” the mullah admonishes the victims, who stand straight throughout. One of them can be seen in tears when her face is briefly exposed to view, but they remain silent.
When the second girl is flogged, an elderly man fills in for the mullah, but his blows appear less forceful and the mullah soon takes the strap back.
The spectators count the lashes out loud but several times seem to lose count and have to start over, or possibly they cannot count very high.
“Good job, mullah sir,” one of the men says as Mr. Khan leads them in prayer afterward.
“I was shocked when I watched the video,” said Mohammed Munir Khashi, an investigator with the commission. “I thought in the 21st century such a criminal incident could not happen in our country. It’s inhuman, anti-Islam and illegal.”
Fawzia Kofi, a prominent female member of Parliament, said the case may be shocking but is far from the only one. “I’m sure there are worse cases we don’t even know about,” she said. “Early marriage and forced marriage are the two most common forms of violent behavior against women and girls.”
The Human Rights Commission took the videotapes and the results of its investigation to the governor of Ghor Province, Sayed Iqbal Munib, who formed a commission to investigate it but took no action, saying the district was too insecure to send police there. A coalition of civic groups in the province called for his dismissal over the matter.
Nor has Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry replied to demands from the commission to take action in the case, according to the commission’s chairwoman, Sima Samar. A spokesman for the ministry did not respond to requests for comment.
Forced marriage of Afghan girls is not limited to remote rural areas. In Herat city, a Unicef-financed women’s shelter run by an Afghan group, the Voice of Women Organization, shelters as many as 60 girls who have fled child marriages.
A group called Women for Afghan Women runs shelters in the capital, Kabul, as well as in nearby Kapisa Province and in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, all relatively liberal areas as Afghanistan goes, which have taken in 108 escaped child brides just since January, according to Executive Director Manizha Naderi.
Poverty is the motivation for many child marriages, either because a wealthy husband pays a large bride-price, or just because the father of the bride then has one less child to support. “Most of the time they are sold,” Ms. Naderi said. “And most of the time it’s a case where the husband is much, much older.”
She said it was also common practice among police officers who apprehend runaway child brides to return them to their families. “Most police don’t understand what’s in the law, or they’re just against it,” she said.
On Saturday, at the Women for Afghan Women shelter, at a secret location in Kabul, there were four fugitive child brides. All had been beaten, and most wept as they recounted their experiences.
Sakhina, a 15-year-old Hazara girl from Bamian, was sold into marriage to pay off her father’s debts when she was 12 or 13.
Her husband’s family used her as a domestic servant. “Every time they could, they found an excuse to beat me,” she said. “My brother-in-law, my sister-in-law, my husband, all of them beat me.”
Sumbol, 17, a Pashtun girl, said she was kidnapped and taken to Jalalabad, then given a choice: marry her tormentor, or become a suicide bomber. “He said, ‘If you don’t marry me I will put a bomb on your body and send you to the police station,’ ” Sumbol said.
Roshana, a Tajik who is now 18, does not even know why her family gave her in marriage to an older man in Parwan when she was 14. The beatings were bad enough, but finally, she said, her husband tried to feed her rat poison.
In some ways, the two girls from Ghor were among the luckier child brides. After the floggings, the mullah declared them divorced and returned them to their own families.
Two years earlier, in nearby Murhab district, two girls who had been sold into marriage to the same family fled after being abused, according to a report by the Human Rights Commission. But they lost their way, were captured and forcibly returned. Their fathers — one the village mullah — took them up the mountain and killed them.
May 9, 2010
By Chris Hedges
It is hard to muster much sympathy over the implosion of the Catholic Church, traditional Protestant denominations or Jewish synagogues. These institutions were passive as the Christian right, which peddles magical thinking and a Jesus-as-warrior philosophy, hijacked the language and iconography of traditional Christianity.
They have busied themselves with the boutique activism of the culture wars. They have failed to unequivocally denounce unfettered capitalism, globalization and pre-emptive war. The obsession with personal piety and “How-is-it-with-me?” spirituality that permeates most congregations is narcissism.
And while the Protestant church and reformed Judaism have not replicated the perfidiousness of the Catholic bishops, who protect child-molesting priests, they have little to say in an age when we desperately need moral guidance.
I grew up in the church and graduated from a seminary. It is an institution whose cruelty, inflicted on my father, who was a Presbyterian minister, I know intimately. I do not attend church. The cloying, feel-your-pain language of the average clergy member makes me run for the door. The debates in most churches—whether revolving around homosexuality or biblical interpretation—are a waste of energy.
I have no desire to belong to any organization, religious or otherwise, which discriminates, nor will I spend my time trying to convince someone that the raw anti-Semitism in the Gospel of John might not be the word of God. It makes no difference to me if Jesus existed or not. There is no historical evidence that he did.
Fairy tales about heaven and hell, angels, miracles, saints, divine intervention and God’s beneficent plan for us are repeatedly mocked in the brutality and indiscriminate killing in war zones, where I witnessed children murdered for sport and psychopathic gangsters elevated to demigods. The Bible works only as metaphor.
The institutional church, when it does speak, mutters pious non-statements that mean nothing. “Given the complexity of factors involved, many of which understandably remain confidential, it is altogether appropriate for members of our armed forces to presume the integrity of our leadership and its judgments, and therefore to carry out their military duties in good conscience,” Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, head of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, wrote about the Iraq war. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, on the eve of the invasion, told believers that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was a menace, and that reasonable people could disagree about the necessity of using force to overthrow him.
It assured those who supported the war that God would not object. B’nai B’rith supported a congressional resolution to authorize the 2003 attack on Iraq. The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, which represents Reform Judaism, agreed it would back unilateral action, as long as Congress approved and the president sought support from other nations.
The National Council of Churches, which represents 36 different faith groups, in a typical bromide, urged President George W. Bush to “do all possible” to avoid war with Iraq and to stop “demonizing adversaries or enemies” with good-versus-evil rhetoric, but, like the other liberal religious institutions, did not condemn the war.
A Gallup poll in 2006 found that “the more frequently an American attends church, the less likely he or she is to say the war was a mistake.” Given that Jesus was a pacifist, and given that all of us who graduated from seminary rigorously studied Just War doctrine, which was flagrantly violated by the invasion of Iraq, this is a rather startling statistic.
But I cannot rejoice in the collapse of these institutions. We are not going to be saved by faith in reason, science and technology, which the dead zone of oil forming in the Gulf of Mexico and our production of costly and redundant weapons systems illustrate. Frederick Nietzsche’s Übermensch, or “Superman”—our secular religion—is as fantasy-driven as religious magical thinking.
There remain, in spite of the leaders of these institutions, religiously motivated people toiling in the inner city and the slums of the developing world. They remain true to the core religious and moral values ignored by these institutions. The essential teachings of the monotheistic traditions are now lost in the muck of church dogma, hollow creeds and the banal bureaucracy of institutional religion.
These teachings helped create the concept of the individual. The belief that we can exist as distinct beings from the tribe, or the crowd, and that we are called on as individuals to make moral decisions that can defy the clamor of the nation is one of the gifts of religious thought. This call for individual responsibility is coupled with the constant injunctions in Islam, Judaism and Christianity for compassion, especially for the weak, the impoverished, the sick and the outcast.
We are rapidly losing the capacity for the moral life. We reject the anxiety of individual responsibility that laid the foundations for the open society. We are enjoined, after all, to love our neighbor, not our tribe. This empowerment of individual conscience was the starting point of the great ethical systems of all civilizations.
Those who championed this radical individualism, from Confucius to Socrates to Jesus, fostered not obedience and conformity, but dissent and self-criticism. They initiated the separation of individual responsibility from the demands of the state. They taught that culture and society were not the sole prerogative of the powerful, that freedom and indeed the religious and moral life required us to often oppose and challenge those in authority, even at great personal cost.
Immanuel Kant built his ethics upon this radical individualism. And Kant’s injunction to “always recognize that human individuals are ends, and do not use them as mere means” runs in a direct line from the Socratic ideal and the Christian Gospels.
The great religions set free the critical powers of humankind. They broke with the older Greek and Roman traditions that gods and Destiny ruled human fate—a belief that, when challenged by Socrates, saw him condemned to death. They challenged the power of the tribe, the closed society.
They offered up the possibility that human beings, although limited by circumstance and human weakness, could shape and give direction to society and their own lives. These religious thinkers were our first ethicists. And it is perhaps not accidental that the current pope, as well as the last one, drove out of the Catholic Church thousands of clergy and religious leaders who embodied these qualities, elevating the dregs to positions of leadership and leaving the pedophiles to run the Sunday schools.
These religious institutions are in irreversible decline. They are ruled by moral and intellectual trolls. They have become arrogant and self-absorbed. Their sins are many. They protected criminals. They pandered to the lowest common denominator and illusions of personal fulfillment and surrendered their moral authority. They did not fight the corporate tyrants who have impoverished us.
They refused to denounce a caste of Christian heretics embodied by the Christian right and have, for their cowardice, been usurped by bizarre proto-fascists clutching the Christian cross. They have nothing left to say. And their aging congregants, who are fleeing the church in droves, know it. But don’t think the world will be a better place for their demise.
As we devolve into a commodity culture, in which celebrity, power and money reign, the older, dimming values of another era are being replaced. We are becoming objects, consumer products and marketable commodities. We have no intrinsic value. We are obsessed with self-presentation. We must remain youthful. We must achieve notoriety and money or the illusion of it.
And it does not matter what we do to get there. Success, as Goldman Sachs illustrates, is its own morality. Other people’s humiliation, pain and weakness become the fodder for popular entertainment. Education, building community, honesty, transparency and sharing see contestants disappeared from any reality television show or laughed out of any Wall Street firm.
We live in the age of the Übermensch who rejects the sentimental tenets of traditional religion. The Übermensch creates his own morality based on human instincts, drive and will. We worship the “will to power” and think we have gone “beyond good and evil.”
We spurn virtue. We think we have the moral fortitude and wisdom to create our own moral code. The high priests of our new religion run Wall Street, the Pentagon and the corporate state. They flood our airwaves with the tawdry and the salacious. They, too, promise a utopia. They redefine truth, beauty, morality, desire and goodness. And we imbibe their poison as blind followers once imbibed the poison of the medieval church.
Nietzsche had his doubts. He suspected that this new secular faith might prefigure an endless middle-class charade. Nietzsche feared the deadening effects of the constant search for material possessions and personal hedonism.
Science and technology might rather bring about a new, distorted character Nietzsche called “the Last Man.” The Last Man, Nietzsche feared, would engage in the worst kinds of provincialism, believing he had nothing to learn from history.
The Last Man would wallow and revel in his ignorance and quest for personal fulfillment. He would be satisfied with everything that he had done and become, and would seek to become nothing more. He would be intellectually and morally stagnant, incapable of growth, and become part of an easily manipulated herd.
The Last Man would mistake cynicism for knowledge.
“The time is coming when man will give birth to no more stars,” Nietzsche wrote about the Last Man in the prologue of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra.” “Alas! The time of the most contemptible man is coming, the man who can no longer despise himself.”
“They are clever and know everything that has ever happened: so there is no end to their mockery.” The Last Men indulge in “their little pleasure for the day, and their little pleasure for the night.”
The consumer culture, as Nietzsche feared, has turned us into what Chalmers Johnson calls a “consumerist Sparta.” The immigrants and the poor, all but invisible to us, work as serfs in this new temple of greed and imperialism. Curtis White in “The Middle Mind” argues that most Americans are aware of the brutality and injustice used to maintain the excesses of their consumer society and empire. He suspects they do not care.
They don’t want to see what is done in their name. They do not want to look at the rows of flag-draped coffins or the horribly maimed bodies and faces of veterans or the human suffering in the blighted and deserted former manufacturing centers. It is too upsetting.
Government and corporate censorship is welcomed and appreciated. It ensures that we remain Last Men. And the death of religious institutions will only cement into place the new secular religion of the Last Man, the one that worships military power, personal advancement, hedonism and greed, the one that justifies our callousness toward the weak and the poor.
William Melvin “Bill” Hicks (December 16, 1961 – February 26, 1994) was an American stand-up comedian and satirist. His humor challenged mainstream beliefs, aiming to “enlighten people to think for themselves.” Hicks used a ribald approach to express his material, describing himself as “Chomsky with dick jokes.” His jokes included general discussions about society, religion, politics, philosophy and personal issues. Hicks’ material was often deliberately controversial and steeped in dark comedy. In both his stand-up performances, and during interviews, he often criticized consumerism, superficiality, mediocrity and banality within the media and popular culture, describing them as oppressive tools of the ruling class, meant to “keep people stupid and apathetic.”
Hicks died of pancreatic cancer, which had spread to his liver, in 1994 at the age of 32. In the years after his death, his work and legacy achieved significant admiration and acclaim, of numerous comedians, writers, actors and musicians alike. He was listed as the 19th greatest stand-up comedian of all time by Comedy Central in 2004, and 6th greatest in 2007 and 4th greatest in 2010 by Channel 4.
Born in Valdosta, Georgia, Bill Hicks was the son of Jim and Mary (Reese) Hicks, and had two elder siblings, Steve and Lynn. The family lived in Florida, Alabama and New Jersey, before settling in Houston, Texas, when Hicks was seven. He was raised in the Southern Baptist faith, where he first began performing as a comedian to other children at Sunday School.
He was drawn to comedy at an early age, emulating Woody Allen and Richard Pryor, and writing routines with his friend Dwight Slade. Worried about his behavior, his parents took him to a psychoanalyst at age 17 but, according to Hicks, after one session the psychoanalyst informed him that “…it’s them, not you.”
In 1978, Hicks, along with friends Slade, Ben Dunn, John S. and Kevin Booth, began performing at the Comedy Workshop in Houston. At first, Hicks was unable to drive to venues independently and was so young that he needed a special work permit to perform. By the autumn of 1978 he had worked his way up to performing once every Tuesday night, while still attending Stratford High School. He was well-received and started developing his improvisational skills, although his act at the time was limited.
In 1986, Hicks found himself broke, but his career received another upturn as he appeared on Rodney Dangerfield’s Young Comedians Special, in 1987. The same year, he moved to New York City, and for the next five years he did about 300 performances a year. On the album Relentless, he jokes that he quit using drugs because “once you’ve been taken aboard a UFO, it’s kind of hard to top that”, although in his performances, he continued to extol the virtues of LSD, marijuana, and psychedelic mushrooms. He fell back to chain-smoking, a theme that would figure heavily in his performances from then on.
In 1988 Hicks signed on with his first professional business manager, Jack Mondrus. Throughout 1989, Mondrus worked to convince many clubs to book Hicks, promising that the wild drug- and alcohol-induced behavior was behind him. Among the club managers hiring the newly sober Hicks was Colleen McGarr, who would become his girlfriend and fiancée in later years.
In 1989 he released his first video, Sane Man. It was reissued in 2006.
In 1990, Hicks released his first album, Dangerous, performed on the HBO special One Night Stand, and performed at Montreal’s Just for Laughs festival. He was also part of a group of American stand-up comedians performing in London’s West End in November (or December). Hicks was a huge hit in the UK and Ireland and continued touring there throughout 1991. That year, he returned to the Just for Laughs festival and recorded his second album, Relentless.
Hicks made a brief detour into musical recording with the Marble Head Johnson album in 1992. In November (or December), he toured the UK, where he recorded the Revelations video for Channel 4. He closed the show with “It’s Just a Ride”, one of his most famous and life-affirming philosophies. Also in that tour he recorded the stand-up performance released in its entirety on a double CD titled Salvation. Hicks was voted “Hot Standup Comic” by Rolling Stone magazine. He moved to Los Angeles in early 1993.
Censorship and aftermath
Hicks was constantly facing problems with censorship. In 1984, Hicks was invited to appear on Late Night with David Letterman for the first time. He had a joke that he used frequently in comedy clubs about how he accidentally caused a fellow class-mate to become wheelchair bound. NBC had a policy that no handicapped jokes could be aired on the show, making his stand-up routine difficult to perform without mentioning words such as “wheelchair”. Hicks was disappointed that the TV audience didn’t get to experience the uncensored Bill Hicks that people saw in clubs.
On October 1, 1993, about five months before his death, Hicks was scheduled to appear on Late Show with David Letterman, his twelfth appearance on a Letterman late night show but his entire performance was removed from the broadcast — then the only occasion where a comedian’s entire routine was cut after taping. Hicks’ stand-up routine was removed from the show allegedly because Letterman and his producer were nervous about Hicks’ religious jokes. Hicks said he believed it was due to a pro-life commercial aired during a commercial break. Both the show’s producers and CBS denied responsibility. Hicks expressed his feelings of betrayal in a letter to John Lahr of The New Yorker. Although Letterman later expressed regret at the way Hicks had been handled, Hicks did not appear on the show again. The full account of this incident was featured in a New Yorker profile by Lahr, which was later published as a chapter in Lahr’s book, Light Fantastic.
Hicks’ mother, Mary, appeared on the January 30, 2009, episode of Late Show. Letterman played Hicks’ routine in its entirety. Letterman took full responsibility for the original censorship and apologized to Mrs. Hicks. Letterman also declared he did not know what he was thinking when he pulled the routine from the original show in 1993. Letterman said, “It says more about me as a guy than it says about Bill because there was absolutely nothing wrong with it.”
Cancer diagnosis and death
In April 1993, while touring in Australia, Hicks started complaining of pains in his side, and on June 16 of that year, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that had spread to his liver. He started receiving weekly chemotherapy, while still touring and also recording his album, Arizona Bay, with Kevin Booth. He was also working with comedian Fallon Woodland on a pilot episode of a new talk show, titled Counts of the Netherworld for Channel 4 at the time of his death. The budget and concept had been approved, and a pilot was filmed. The Counts of the Netherworld pilot was shown at the various Tenth Anniversary Tribute Night events around the world on February 26, 2004.
After being diagnosed with cancer, Hicks would often joke openly at performances exclaiming it would be his last. Hicks performed the actual final show of his career at Caroline’s in New York on January 6, 1994. He moved back to his parents’ house in Little Rock, Arkansas, shortly thereafter. He called his friends to say goodbye, before he stopped speaking on February 14, and re-read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring. He spent time with his parents, playing them the music he loved and showing them documentaries about his interests. He died of cancer in the presence of his parents at 11:20 p.m. on February 26, 1994. He was 32 years old. Hicks was buried in the family plot in Leakesville, Mississippi.
On February 7, 1994, after his diagnosis with cancer, Hicks authored a short statement on his perspective, wishes and thanks of his of life, to be released after his death as his “last word”, ending with the words:
“I left in love, in laughter, and in truth and wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit.”
Hicks’s style was a play on his audience’s emotions. He expressed anger, disgust and apathy while addressing the audience in a casual and personal manner, which he likened to merely conversing with his friends, often making eye contact with individual audience members in smaller venues.
Hicks’s material was less focused on the everyday banalities of life and placed greater emphasis on philosophical themes of existence. He would invite his audiences to challenge authority and the existential nature of “accepted truth.” One such message, which he often used in his shows, was delivered in the style of a news report:
Today, a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration — that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death; life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves… Here’s Tom with the weather! 
Another of Hicks’s most famous quotes was delivered during a gig in Chicago in 1989 (later released as the bootleg I’m Sorry, Folks). After a heckler repeatedly shouted “Free Bird”, Hicks screamed that “Hitler had the right idea, he was just an underachiever!” Hicks followed this remark with a misanthropic tirade calling for unbiased genocide against the whole of humanity.
Much of Hicks’s routine involved direct attacks on mainstream society, religion, politics, and consumerism. Asked in a BBC interview why he cannot do a routine that appeals “to everyone”, he said that such an act was impossible. He responded by repeating a comment an audience member once made to him, “We don’t come to comedy to think!”, to which he replied, “Gee! Where do you go to think? I’ll meet you there!” In the same interview, he also said: “My way is half-way between: this is a night-club, and these are adults.” 
Hicks often discussed conspiracy theories in his performances, most notably the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He mocked the Warren Report and the official version of Lee Harvey Oswald as a “lone nut assassin.” He also questioned the guilt of David Koresh and the Branch Davidian compound during the Waco Siege.
Hicks would end some of his shows — and especially those being recorded in front of larger audiences as albums — with a mock “assassination” of himself on stage, making gunshot sound effects into the microphone and falling to the ground.
Arizona Bay and Rant in E-Minor were released posthumously in 1997 on the Voices imprint of the Rykodisc label. Dangerous and Relentless were also re-released by Rykodisc on the same date.
In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian’s Comedian, fellow comedians and comedy insiders voted Hicks #13 on their list of “The Top 20 Greatest Comedy Acts Ever”. Likewise, in “Comedy Central Presents: 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time” (2004), Hicks was ranked at #19. In March 2007, Channel 4 ran a poll, “The Top 100 Stand-Up Comedians of All Time,” in which Hicks was voted #6. Channel 4 renewed this list in April 2010, which saw Hicks move up 2 places to #4.
Devotees of Hicks have incorporated his words, image, and attitude into their own creations. Because of audio sampling, fragments of Hicks’ rants, diatribes, social criticisms, and philosophies have found their way into many musical works, such as the live version of Super Furry Animals’ “Man Don’t Give A Fuck”. His influence on Tool is well documented; he “appears” on the Fila Brazillia album Maim That Tune (1996) and on SPA’s self titled album SPA (1997), which are both dedicated to Hicks; the British band Radiohead’s second album The Bends (1995) is also dedicated to his memory. Singer/songwriter Tom Waits listed Rant in E Minor as one of his 20 most cherished albums of all time. The UK band Shack released an album in August 2003 quoting a Bill Hicks routine in the title: Here’s Tom With the Weather. The album also included other Bill Hicks quotes in the liner notes. English breakbeat artist Adam Freeland sampled Revelations for his track “We Want Your Soul.” Welsh punk rock band Mclusky reference a Hicks routine in the lyrics to their song “To Hell With Good Intentions”. Punk cabaret musician Amanda Palmer says, “I have my new Bill Hicks CD” in the song “Another Year” on her 2008 album Who Killed Amanda Palmer. The Swedish indie pop singer/songwriter Jens Lekman has written a song called “People who Hate People Come Together” after the same Hicks quote. The last track of The Kleptones album Yoshimi Battles the Hip-Hop Robots, Last Words (A Tribute), includes his “It’s just a ride” in its entirety.
Hamell on Trial’s 1999 album Choochtown includes the song “Bill Hicks,” featuring the lyric “I wish Billl Hicks was alive/I wish Bill Hicks had survived,” as well at the instrumental tribute “Bill Hicks (Ascension).”
Rappers Adil Omar and Vinnie Paz have also cited Hicks as an influence to their work; contemporary comedians David Cross and Russell Brand have stated that they were inspired by Hicks. Irish Independent columnist Ian O’Doherty is also a great admirer of Hicks.
On their 2009 album There Is No Enemy, Built To Spill released the song “Planting Seeds” with the lyrics “I’ve heard that they’ll sell anything and I think they might…I think Bill Hicks was right…about what they should do.” referring to his stand up routine which asks marketers to kill themselves. The song title refers to a bit in the same routine when Bill explains, “Just planting seeds here, folks.”.
The British film Human Traffic referred to him as the “late prophet Bill Hicks,” and portrays the main character, Jip, watching Hicks’ stand-up before going out to “remind me not to take life too seriously”. Hicks even appears in the comic book Preacher, in which he is an important influence on the protagonist, Rev. Jesse Custer. His opening voice-over to the 1991 Revelations live show is also quoted in Preacher‘s last issue.
The British actor Chas Early portrayed Hicks in the one-man stage show Bill Hicks: Slight Return, which premiered in 2005.
On February 25, 2004, British MP Stephen Pound tabled an early day motion titled “Anniversary of the Death of Bill Hicks” (EDM 678 of the 2003-04 session), the text of which was as follows:
|“||That this House notes with sadness the 10th anniversary of the death of Bill Hicks, on 26th February 1994, at the age of 32; recalls his assertion that his words would be a bullet in the heart of consumerism, capitalism and the American Dream; and mourns the passing of one of the few people who may be mentioned as being worth [sic] of inclusion with Lenny Bruce and George Carlin in any list of unflinching and painfully honest political philosophers.||”|
Film and documentary
A film about Hicks’ life and career, rumored to be directed by Ron Howard, is said to be in pre-production. Russell Crowe has been mentioned as one of the producers and may portray Hicks as well.
A documentary entitled American: The Bill Hicks Story, based on interviews with his family and friends, premiered on March 12, 2010, at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. The film has gone on to screen at multiple festivals including SxSW, London Film Festival and Sheffield Doc/Fest.
To Sinead O’Connor, the pope’s apology for sex abuse in Ireland seems hollow
By Sinead O’Connor
Sunday, March 28, 2010
When I was a child, Ireland was a Catholic theocracy. If a bishop came walking down the street, people would move to make a path for him. If a bishop attended a national sporting event, the team would kneel to kiss his ring. If someone made a mistake, instead of saying, “Nobody’s perfect,” we said, “Ah sure, it could happen to a bishop.”
The expression was more accurate than we knew. This month, Pope Benedict XVI wrote a pastoral letter of apology — of sorts — to Ireland to atone for decades of sexual abuse of minors by priests whom those children were supposed to trust. To many people in my homeland, the pope’s letter is an insult not only to our intelligence, but to our faith and to our country. To understand why, one must realize that we Irish endured a brutal brand of Catholicism that revolved around the humiliation of children.
I experienced this personally. When I was a young girl, my mother — an abusive, less-than-perfect parent — encouraged me to shoplift. After being caught once too often, I spent 18 months in An Grianán Training Centre, an institution in Dublin for girls with behavioral problems, at the recommendation of a social worker. An Grianán was one of the now-infamous church-sponsored “Magdalene laundries,” which housed pregnant teenagers and uncooperative young women. We worked in the basement, washing priests’ clothes in sinks with cold water and bars of soap. We studied math and typing. We had limited contact with our families. We earned no wages. One of the nuns, at least, was kind to me and gave me my first guitar.
An Grianán was a product of the Irish government’s relationship with the Vatican — the church had a “special position” codified in our constitution until 1972. As recently as 2007, 98 percent of Irish schools were run by the Catholic Church. But schools for troubled youth have been rife with barbaric corporal punishments, psychological abuse and sexual abuse. In October 2005, a report sponsored by the Irish government identified more than 100 allegations of sexual abuse by priests in Ferns, a small town 70 miles south of Dublin, between 1962 and 2002. Accused priests weren’t investigated by police; they were deemed to be suffering a “moral” problem. In 2009, a similar report implicated Dublin archbishops in hiding sexual abuse scandals between 1975 and 2004.
Why was such criminal behavior tolerated? The “very prominent role which the Church has played in Irish life is the very reason why abuses by a minority of its members were allowed to go unchecked,” the 2009 report said.
Despite the church’s long entanglement with the Irish government, Pope Benedict’s so-called apology takes no responsibility for the transgressions of Irish priests. His letter states that “the Church in Ireland must first acknowledge before the Lord and before others the serious sins committed against defenceless children.” What about the Vatican’s complicity in those sins?
Benedict’s apology gives the impression that he heard about abuse only recently, and it presents him as a fellow victim: “I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them.” But Benedict’s infamous 2001 letter to bishops around the world ordered them to keep sexual abuse allegations secret under threat of excommunication — updating a noxious church policy, expressed in a 1962 document, that both priests accused of sex crimes and their victims “observe the strictest secret” and be “restrained by a perpetual silence.”
Benedict, then known as Joseph Ratzinger, was a cardinal when he wrote that letter. Now that he sits in Saint Peter’s chair, are we to believe that his position has changed? And are we to take comfort in last week’s revelations that, in 1996, he declined to defrock a priest who may have molested as many as 200 deaf boys in Wisconsin?
Benedict’s apology states that his concern is “above all, to bring healing to the victims.” Yet he denies them the one thing that might bring them healing — a full confession from the Vatican that it has covered up abuse and is now trying to cover up the cover up. Astonishingly, he invites Catholics “to offer up your fasting, your prayer, your reading of Scripture and your works of mercy in order to obtain the grace of healing and renewal for the Church in Ireland.” Even more astonishing, he suggests that Ireland’s victims can find healing by getting closer to the church — the same church that has demanded oaths of silence from molested children, as occurred in 1975 in the case of Father Brendan Smyth, an Irish priest later jailed for repeated sexual offenses. After we stopped laughing, many of us in Ireland recognized the idea that we needed the church to get closer to Jesus as blasphemy.
To Irish Catholics, Benedict’s implication — Irish sexual abuse is an Irish problem — is both arrogant and blasphemous. The Vatican is acting as though it doesn’t believe in a God who watches. The very people who say they are the keepers of the Holy Spirit are stamping all over everything the Holy Spirit truly is. Benedict criminally misrepresents the God we adore. We all know in our bones that the Holy Spirit is truth. That’s how we can tell that Christ is not with these people who so frequently invoke Him.
Irish Catholics are in a dysfunctional relationship with an abusive organization. The pope must take responsibility for the actions of his subordinates. If Catholic priests are abusing children, it is Rome, not Dublin, that must answer for it with a full confession and in a criminal investigation. Until it does, all good Catholics — even little old ladies who go to church every Sunday, not just protest singers like me whom the Vatican can easily ignore — should avoid Mass. In Ireland, it is time we separated our God from our religion, and our faith from its alleged leaders.
Almost 18 years ago, I tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II on an episode of “Saturday Night Live.” Many people did not understand the protest — the next week, the show’s guest host, actor Joe Pesci, commented that, had he been there, “I would have gave her such a smack.” I knew my action would cause trouble, but I wanted to force a conversation where there was a need for one; that is part of being an artist. All I regretted was that people assumed I didn’t believe in God. That’s not the case at all. I’m Catholic by birth and culture and would be the first at the church door if the Vatican offered sincere reconciliation.
As Ireland withstands Rome’s offensive apology while an Irish bishop resigns, I ask Americans to understand why an Irish Catholic woman who survived child abuse would want to rip up the pope’s picture. And whether Irish Catholics, because we daren’t say “we deserve better,” should be treated as though we deserve less.
Sinead O’Connor, a musician and mother of four, lives in Dublin.
Judge slams door on killer dad
Jamar Pinkney Sr. to 37-82 years in prison on Thursday for fatally shooting his teenage son in a Highland Park vacant lot. (Clarence Tabb, Jr./ The Detroit News)
The Detroit News
APRIL 15, 2010
Detroit — A father, who admitted beating, stripping and marching his naked teenage son into an empty lot in Highland Park where he executed the kneeling youth with a bullet to the face, was ordered today to serve 37 to 82 years behind bars.
Wayne County Circuit Judge Brian Sullivan issued the guideline-busting sentence to Jamar Pinkney Sr. because the judge said the complete horror of the case couldn’t be taken into consideration by the rules used to determine sentences under state law.
“This is the kind of a situation that before this time would not have emerged except in some great tragedy,” Sullivan said. “No one has the right to deprive a person of life because of anger.”
Pinkney, 37, was found guilty of second-degree murder earlier this month after admitting on the witness stand that he shot 15-year-old Jamar Pinkney Jr. on Nov. 16.
Pinkney testified that he had an “out-of-body experience” and uncontrolled rage when during a long family gathering over allegations that the teenager had rubbed a 3-year-old half-sister in a sexual way — the boy, Pinkney said, admitted he had sex with the toddler. All other family members who witnessed the confrontation said the boy never admitted more than inappropriate sexual touching.
Members of the family had gathered to discuss what to do — seek counseling or criminal charges. The son and daughter have different mothers who also differed on the course to pursue.
Witnesses testified the teen at first denied any contact but eventually begged for his father’s forgiveness. They testified that Pinkney erupted in homicidal rage, cursing his son, beating him and ordering him to strip. Pinkney said he didn’t realize what he was doing despite pleas from his son and others to stop.
Jurors had deadlocked 10-2 on convicting Pinkney of first-degree murder, which would have sent him to prison for life without chance of parole, but the majority compromised on the lesser charge, according to the jury’s forewoman.
Pinkney addressed the judge today before being sentenced, explaining he showed little emotion during the trial because he was trying to “hold my head up high.” He assured the judge today he loved his son.
“I am truly sorry for what I did,” he said before apologizing to family members who crowded the courtroom wearing T-shirts emblazoned with photos of Jamar Pinkney Jr. “I’m sad about losing my son … I am horrified by what I did. … I hope one day I could be a responsible parent again, a responsible citizen.”
But the judge, who said there was never any established proof the teenager actually raped the girl, explained the son had admitted his wrongdoing and turned to his trusted role models for guidance. Sullivan concluded, “Instead of giving the type of parental conduct and guidance designed to be for Jamar Pinkney Jr.’s good, he carried an anger with him.”
With the sentence issued today, Pinkney’s lawyer, Corbett Edge O’Meara, said he will be eligible for parole on Nov. 15, 2046, when he is 75 years old.
“I’m glad with the sentence,” the boy’s mother, Lazette Cherry, said while holding a football-uniformed teddy bear that played a recording of her son’s voice copied from his cell phone voicemail.
“This is all I have of my son,” Cherry said, squeezing the bear and listening to the bright voice say, “This is Jamar.”
The judge said the guidelines, which originally called for a sentence of 19 to 31 years, didn’t account for the horror the mother witnessed and for Pinkney ignoring pleas of the mother and other relatives to stop and consider what he was doing.
Pinkney also was convicted of three counts of assault for threatening the others with his the handgun, which he had a license to carry. Sentences of two to four years are to be served concurrently with the sentence for second-degree murder and use of a firearm during the commission of a felony crime.
He also was ordered to pay $6,600 for his son’s funeral expenses.
Pinkney’s other lawyer, David Draper, said he expects an appeal of the sentence will be filed on behalf of Pinkney, who has been in jail since turning himself in hours after the slaying.
Assistant Prosecutor Christine Kowal said Pinkney has been remorseless even in recorded jailhouse telephone conversations in which she said he never asked about his son’s funeral and referred to the slaying as “the situation that happened.” Jurors never heard the recordings.
“He doesn’t have any remorse,” Cherry said after the sentencing. “He only said those things because he thought he had to in front of the judge. If you love your son, you don’t kill him.”
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone is the Vatican’s Secretary of State
(AFP) – April 14, 2009
VATICAN CITY — Condemnation from gay groups and the French government forced the Vatican into damage control Wednesday over remarks by the pope’s right-hand man linking paedophilia to homosexuality.
The Vatican issued what spokesman Federico Lombardi called a “clarification” of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone’s assertion Monday that homosexuality — not celibacy — is the “problem” that causes Catholic priests to molest children.
In the highly unusual statement, the Vatican said Roman Catholic Church officials were not “competent” to speak on psychological issues concerning general society.
Lombardi told AFP the statement was aimed at “clarifying” Bertone’s remarks and should not be seen as the Holy See “distancing” itself from them.
Bertone’s comment that “many” psychologists and psychiatrists had demonstrated a link between paedophilia and homosexuality, but not the vow of celibacy, drew official ire from France on Wednesday.
“This is an unacceptable linkage and we condemn this,” said foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero, joining a chorus of criticism from gay rights groups and editorial writers.
An Italian group Tuesday led gay fury over the remarks, which came as the Church battles paedophile priest scandals in Europe and the United States and allegations that the hierarchy has helped to cover up for abusers.
“The truth is that Bertone is clumsily trying to shift attention to homosexuality and away from the focus on new crimes against children that emerge every day,” said Aurelio Mancuso, former president of gay rights association Arcigay.
“This faux pas by the Vatican demonstrates one thing only: great desperation and great impotence,” a Spanish gay rights group, COLEGAS, added Wednesday.
A Catholic gay association in Portugal, Novos Rumos, said remarks such as Bertone’s “deepen the gulf between the Church as a community of believers and a certain hierarchy.”
Wednesday’s Vatican statement added more fuel to the fire with a reference to Church statistics defining paedophilia in the “strict sense” as applying to pre-adolescent children.
“That’s a ridiculous and unfounded hair-splitting distinction that many American bishops initially tried as well,” said David Clohessy, executive director of the US pressure group SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests).
“It’s grossly inaccurate, totally insensitive and frankly totally wrong,” Clohessy told AFP.
According to the statistics, made public last month, 10 percent of some 3,000 cases reported to Vatican authorities in the past decade concerned paedophilia in the “strict sense” and the other 90 percent concerned sex between priests and adolescents.
Sixty percent of the cases involved adolescent boys and 30 percent concerned adolescent girls.
Vatican expert Bruno Bartoloni said Church officials were “piling up the gaffes without realising their impact.”
Lombardi and other Vatican officials have suggested that the Church is unfairly singled out for paedophilia, noting that it is a widespread social phenomenon.
“All objective and informed people know that the issue is much wider, and to focus accusations only on the Church leads to a skewed perspective,” Lombardi said last month.
But Clohessy said: “If eight percent of plumbers molest and seven percent of priests molest, it’s still a horrific crisis.
“And plumbers who molest don’t have a powerful worldwide monarchy behind them to help them get away with their crime.”
He added: “There are many priests who have been caught molesting 75, 100, 150 kids. Find me the schoolteacher or scout leader who have been caught doing that. You can’t, because in other institutions, predators get caught and are ousted more quickly than they are in the Church.”
Vandals have weighed in with anonymous fury, daubing a foot-high offensive slogan over the door to the pope’s childhood home in Germany, and spray-painting the word “paedophile” on a billboard advertising the pope’s upcoming weekend visit to Malta.
Joseph Brean, National Post Published: Monday, April 12, 2010
Pope Benedict XVI waves during Sunday Angelus prayer at his residence of Castelgandolfo, south of Rome, April 11, 2010
A movement to arrest Pope Benedict XVI for international crimes against humanity when he arrives in Britain later this year went noisily public on Sunday, as celebrity atheist Richard Dawkins denied a report that he personally vowed to make the arrest.
Just as former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was arrested at a London hospital on a Spanish warrant under the novel legal concept of “universal jurisdiction,” lawyers are assembling the case that Pope Benedict could be held on charges of crimes against humanity, specifically child sexual slavery.
The Sunday Times called it a planned “ambush” that could embarrass the British government and force an awkward confrontation with the courts over diplomatic immunity. Internationally, the Vatican is treated as a sovereign state for many purposes, including the signing of treaties, but its legal status is uncertain, and it sits at the United Nations only as an observer.
On his blog on Sunday, Prof. Dawkins denied telling The Sunday Times anything so “personally grandiloquent” as wanting to slap the cuffs on the pontiff himself, but he expressed wholehearted support for the idea, which he credits to fellow deity slayer Christopher Hitchens.
Prof. Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist who has described the Roman Catholic Church as a “profiteering, woman-fearing, guilt-gorging, truth-hating, child-raping institution,” wrote on his blog that he was “especially intrigued” by the challenge of the Pope’s presumed diplomatic immunity as a sovereign head of state.
Likewise, Mr. Hitchens, the British-born American writer, was quoted in news reports as saying the Pope “is not above or outside the law. The institutionalized concealment of child rape is a crime under any law and demands not private ceremonies of repentance or church-funded payoffs, but justice and punishment.”
The Pope plans to visit Britain in September, visiting London, Glasgow and Coventry.
Prof. Dawkins wrote that Mr. Hitchens took the proposal last month to Geoffrey Robertson, a top human rights lawyer who once represented Salman Rushdie and served as appeal judge with the United Nations Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Mr. Robertson, an occasional columnist for the left-wing Guardian newspaper, first proposed it last week in a column, saying the Pope’s claim to sovereign immunity “could be challenged successfully in the U.K. and in the European Court of Human Rights.”
He phrased it as a provocative conditional, that if child sex abuse by priests was “part of a wide practice both known to and unpunished by” the Catholic Church, then it falls within the crimes against humanity law of the International Criminal Court.
In some cases, such as the ICC’s warrant against Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, heads of state can be ordered to surrender for trial. But in practice, the legal principle of sovereign immunity is the highest hurdle for the “arrest the Pope” movement.
If it can succeed anywhere, though, Britain seems as good a prospect as any, with a judiciary that is famously willing to issue controversial warrants.
For example, last year, a court heard arguments over a war crimes warrant against Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak, which was never executed. Soon after, a low-level magistrate issued a warrant for former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, only to see it quashed when it emerged she had cancelled her visit.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown promised to tighten the laws to prevent politically motivated abuses, but with an election looming in May, immediate legislative action is unlikely.
“The Pope is certainly a head of state, who has the same juridical status as all heads of state,” said Giuseppe Dalla Torre, head of the Vatican’s legal tribunal, in a recent interview with Italy’s Corriere Della Sera.
In a 2005 sex abuse civil case against the Pope and a Texas archdiocese, a judge took the advice of the U.S. Justice Department and ruled the Pope is immune as “head of a foreign state, the Holy See.”
In an interview with the Associated Press, Mr. Robertson said that, unlike in the United States, British courts do not simply accept the legal opinions of their political leaders.
“The Vatican is not a state. It was a construct of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini,” Mr. Robertson said.
Legally, the Vatican was created in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty, which settled disputes between the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See, the Church’s worldly power structure.
It is regarded by many countries as a state, and maintains diplomatic relations in traditional ways with ambassadors and papal nuncios, but it is too small to host embassies.
In a recent Los Angeles Times article, two law professors evaluated the Vatican’s claim to statehood based on four criteria in international law. They argue that it has neither significant territory nor a permanent population. It has a functioning government, but no justice or education system, and only ceremonial defence.
As to the fourth criterion, an ability to engage in international relations, the authors write this is “decided by whether other states treat it like one.”
When the Bishop of Rome goes to London, more than mere etiquette will hang on that question.