Weekend Reading

For reasons mostly unquestioned by the public, courts routinely permit wardens to intubate hunger-striking prisoners, by force if necessary. Most of these cases, decided in local courtrooms, never see the light of media. Unlike the young and vulnerable Terri Schiavo, convicted criminals are often harder to rally public sympathy around. Whatever prior court cases and their media campaigns may have done for patients’ rights, judges deciding prisoner feeding tube cases still defer to prison authority.

That’s what happened when William Coleman tried to have his forced feedings stopped.

Eventually I realized I was getting so many questions about people’s genitals that I started the recurring column What’s Up With My Penis. I also received more complicated questions about like teen pregnancy, suicide, and family issues, which lead to another recurring column, Tough Love. My mother, a doctor, would ghostwrite anything that was medical or would check anything particularly serious in nature. I wrote, edited, and produced over 1,500 articles and daily columns. I received thousands and thousands of letters, sometimes upwards of 100 a day. Occasionally a kid’s mom would write me, asking me to please answer her son because I was the only one he’d listen to.

The problems in 2012 were legion and they began before voters even made it to the polls. In New Mexico, where the Native population grew more than 11 percent in the last decade, the state ran out of voter registration forms in six counties—half of them in counties with high Native populations. In Arizona, as I’ve previously reported, just setting up polling places involves a fight. Many Navajo, or Diné, must vote in one spot for federal elections and in another for tribal elections. The distances between them, in addition to the long lines reported at several precincts, can easily take several hours to traverse. Many voters didn’t have that kind of time and were essentially forced to choose in which election they would participate.

Elsewhere, Native voters faced Bull Conner-style intimidation. The Indian Legal Clinic, based at ASU’s law school in Phoenix, headed up Native Vote Election Protection in Arizona. Law school students like Ed Hermes scattered throughout Arizona to monitor precincts with heavy Native populations. In the course of six hours, five Maricopa County Sheriff’s vehicles were observed patrolling outside the Guadalupe polling location, which mostly serves Pasqua Yaqui voters. In Pima County, border patrol agents were stopping every vehicle leaving the Tohono O’odham Nation. The agents, accompanied by German Shepherds, were asking drivers about their citizenship. In Yavapai County, a Republican poll watcher was reprimanded for speaking to voters directly.

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