A real-life Prairie Home Companion
COLUMBIA, 8/21/12 (Beat Byte) -- Why do good people get caught in the crosshairs of the battle against criminals and other Nefarious Nels and Nellies?
You can't buy cold medications over the counter anymore because meth dealers use it to cook drugs. Your city is stuffed with surveillance cameras on the lookout, not for you, but for crooks. In fact, every civil liberty you lose is almost always lost because some crook created a crisis that politicians, judges, and enforcement agencies felt compelled to bring the hammer down on.

A group of mid-Missourians believe Shakir Hamoodi, who sent money home to feed his family in Iraq in violation of US sanctions, shouldn't be harshly punished over a law designed to hammer terrorists. They've organized a potluck Wednesday, August 22 to help his family as Mr. Hamoodi serves a 3-year prison sentence -- more time than some of the most violent offenders in the country get!

Many people see the sentence -- which State Rep. Chris Kelly's wife, Federal Judge Nanette Laughrey handed down -- as a variation on the old "if a man steals a chicken to feed his family, is it a crime?" dilemma.
Nothing against Judge Laughrey. Federal sentencing guidelines tie her hands. But gosh darn it, you'd think a Judge appointed by Mr. "I feel your pain" Bill Clinton and married to a politician (and former judge) who has built part of his career on helping the little guy and gal would at least have the discretion of compassion in her hands.
"We can't have political considerations entering the courtroom," some might say. Get real, I say. From Bush-Gore 2000 to Obamacare 2012, political considerations are alive and well at the Bar of Justice, and no one can tell me that throwing the book at Mr. Hamoodi didn't have some politics behind it.

Which makes the voice of the people all the more important. There are certainly folks who believe Mr. Hamoodi should head up the river. But in our democracy, you have to get organized, get word out, raise heck, and stand in solidarity. Under that system, Hamoodi's supporters rule the day.
For my part, I don’t like the big foot of big government stomping around, and right now it's stomping all over the globe wearing $16 trillion designer heels worn by heels with designs.
What's cool is how this community is rising up in Hamoodi's defense, modeling a notion Garrison Keillor articulated about the magic of small town America. Years ago on NPR, I heard Keillor say something to the effect that the best thing about living in a small town was how people needed you, and how you needed them, more so than you might experience in a larger, more impersonal place.
It's not an exact quote, but I've always remembered how Keillor let the idea slide from his lips in his memorably mellifluent voice. Smaller populations rely on more personalized values, and it doesn't get more personal than a man breaking the law to feed his family.

Minnesota's Lake Wobegon -- Keillor's fictional hometown -- is a play on words, an ironic nod to the good and bad of small town life. For Shakir Hamoodi, "Woes Be Gone" seems to be the message Columbia is sending. We'll help take care of things when you're away, folks are saying.
For the Hamoodi family, Columbia will be a real life Prairie Home Companion.
Brochure: Hamoodi Community gathering and potluck
August 22, 6 pm
Rock Bridge Christian Church on Green Meadows