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Archive for October, 2013

Sometimes we just have to accept the fact that there is evil in this world. There is also any number of folks who don’t believe that statement, even when they see pure evil, an event such as 911, or people such as Jeffrey Dahmer, the BTK killer, Ted Bundy, or even the kids who beat the 87-year old man to death in Mississippi. There is no such thing as rehabilitation for these people and there is no reason why the federal government should spend $30,000 per year to keep these people alive.

“Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord,” and “We must all answer only to God for our sins,” and ‘What right does man have to judge the sins of others?” You will have to pardon me if I take all of that with a grain of salt. I just don’t see the good, common horse sense in spending more than 45 billion dollars a year to keep prisoners in jail. The recidivism rate in this country is inexcusable, but – and this is a very big BUT – why are so many of these people going back into prison. Since this is an opinion piece, I’m just going to guess (a) that these people couldn’t find jobs because they were ex-cons; (b) they didn’t learn any kind of usable trade while in prison; (c) they had difficulty losing the “prison mindset;” and (d) when you’re in prison, you get clothing to wear, a place to sleep, tolerable food, and a 6’ x 8’ that is your own space. Since so many of our prisons are overcrowded these days, that last isn’t always the case, but if you already know how to play the “go along to get along” game, you manage to survive, and sometimes, you just give up completely and almost wish someone with a shank would come along to put you out of your misery.

There are enough people in prison who can never be allowed release into society. Why are we keeping them alive? What is wrong with us? People who commit truly heinous crimes should be put down in exactly the way we do with animals that attack people. For the most part, these really aren’t homosapiens as we understand them to be; they are animals and should be killed just as we would kill an animal. We are really just sending their souls to God to allow him to determine which ring of the inferno in which they will spend eternity.

“Where do you get off, being the judge, jury, and executioner, Bishop?” you might ask. I don’t get off on much of anything anymore. However, I look at some of the criminals who are being sentenced and ask myself, “Why are they bothering to put that son-of-a-bitch in prison? He kidnapped, raped ‘x’ number of children, and then killed them. What do we owe this person, a opportunity to reflect on the horrific nature of his crime? That’s bullshit. He’s not sorry that he did it; he’s sorry he got caught! Why should we take the law into our own hands and punish him by extinguishing his life? To send a message to other would-be-rapists that this is what will happen when you try to do this crime. Please don’t tell me it’s not civilized behavior. What these people do is uncivilized and therefore we’re just practicing the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. They have shown what they believe they can do unto others; we’re just returning the favor…with a bit of interest.

I don’t like killers; I don’t like robbers; I don’t like rapists; I don’t care for criminals who hurt other people whether it’s physical, mental, or any other kind of pain. I don’t like the Bernie Madoffs of this world; they hurt others. All the average man or woman wants to do is get a job, work their asses off, take some vacation time; build up a good retirement plan, rise as high as they can in whatever they’re doing, and not have to worry about where the next meal is coming from. If they’re really ambitious, they want to take some risks, go with the idea they have that may make them a multi-millionaire – the next Fred Smith, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Ray Kroc, or whoever you like – and people deserve the opportunity to do these things without having to worry about getting robbed, defrauded, or possibly even murdered. It’s not all that much to ask. Unfortunately, there is evil out there that just doesn’t give a damn about anyone but him or herself. They want theirs and they don’t care how they get it. Well, if they don’t care how they get it, why should the rest of the population care what happens to them when they get arrested for a crime?

I’m ranting here; I know it; this is Dick being pissed at the world because he’s had trouble with his gut all day. That doesn’t make any difference. I keep thinking about some of the crimes that a prosecutor friend of mine has told me about. I ask, “Why don’t we just kill the bastard who beat his wife with a hammer until her face was unrecognizable? Why don’t we just kill the son-of-a-bitch who took an axe to his girlfriend and permanently marred her appearance? Why should she have to worry about his being paroled to come after her again? There are hundreds of thousands of examples like this, but there are also hundreds of thousands of people who just don’t believe that man has the right to kill man, no matter what he has done. He doesn’t have the answers. Like me, I’m certain he wishes that he did have them.

Perhaps I taught too many police officers and developed an attitude that is not cynical but realistic. Perhaps my thinking is just not as liberal as it once was. Who knows, maybe my attitude will put me on one of those nine rings of Dante’s Inferno.

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Barney’s of New York is not racial profiling. Macy’s isn’t racial profiling. And obviously, Wendy’s isn’t racial profiling when they allow Phillip Chism to walk in with Colleen Ritzer’s credit card to buy whatever the hell he bought.

Don’t get me wrong; racial profiling isn’t the proper thing to do. However, when I look at the statistics of who is in prison and why; when I look at who is in the headlines every night on television; when I look at the race of the four – to be fair, one was a Black female – assholes who beat to death an 87-year old white WWII veteran, I get pretty pissed off when someone says, “Oh that’s racial profiling.” Bullshit; it certainly appears to me that the bulk of the crime in this country is now being committed by other-than-white criminals.

If you want to go somewhere like lily-white Grosse Point, Michigan, Beaver Creek, Ohio, or – most assuredly – Missoula, Montana, crimes will be committed by white folks, and if you go someplace like Detroit or Cleveland, or even Boston, you’ll find exactly the opposite. New York is so cosmopolitan that you’re likely to find people of any race shopping in any store or crime involving ethnicity of any type. Perhaps, however, Barney’s and Macy’s and other stores have had experiences of stolen and forged credit cards being used by Black people to the extent that they are just a wee bit cautious.

It appears that racial profiling has many meanings. If you’ve ever been lost and wound up in a minority neighborhood, try asking directions to where you really want to go. I’ve been there…on more than one occasion, and I can tell you that it hasn’t always been a very pleasant experience. Try walking into a Black bar in the Mission Hill section of Boston or in a minority section of Mashpee, Massachusetts. You are not welcome and you will learn that almost immediately. You are being profiled. You are white and you are not supposed to be there. You are “the man,” whatever the hell that means. I’m not there to cause problems; I dropped into the bar for a drink or I stopped because I was lost and needed directions. From experience I will tell you that Blacks profile whites in the very same way that whites profile Blacks.

Why does all of this profiling take place? It takes place because too many people and too many places have been ‘burned’ on too many occasions. Whenever a Black ‘leader’ talks about the minority community policing itself, he or she is accused of being an Uncle Tom or an Oreo. That’s not true; they are not. They are trying to get some of these little gang bangers to own up to some responsibility. This nonsense of “They didn’t hire me because I’m Black,” is, for the most part, bullshit. You weren’t hired because you weren’t qualified. You weren’t hired because you showed attitude and there are enough workers of every race who are looking to work without attitude. Get over yourself.

I worked with a young Black woman several years ago. She had every reason in the world to have a chip on her should. Hers was a single mom, trying to raise two kids, one of whom was an addict. Mom’s boyfriend turned out to be abusive. This kid had more damned adversity than I’ve ever seen. Her best friend committed suicide when this girl was a college sophomore. Her mother had to get out of the state to avoid the boyfriend and this kid wound up taking care of her brother as well as studying. She graduated from college and went on to get an advanced degree. She came from crap, but she didn’t have any chips on her shoulder except the ones the burned her desire to improve herself. Whitey wasn’t responsible; whitey had nothing to do with her troubles. In fact, it appears that every white person she came across, from administrators to faculty to friends on campus did everything they could to ensure that she was going to graduate. Those who were trying to hold her back were all Black classmates. She came to me one day and complained of not being able to get work done because her ‘friends’ wanted to party every night. I told her that those ‘friends’ probably wouldn’t be in school next year and if she wished to remain a student, she’d better change friends. The result? Those friends were gone by the end of the year, and while she found herself on academic probation for a while, she also developed new friends and new study habits.

I cannot and I will not find fault with any organization such as Barney’s or Macy’s. The Black people who want Jay-zee to back out of a multi-million dollar deal with Barney’s are jealous. He’s rich; they aren’t; “he’s never been profiled,” is nonsense. He didn’t miraculously appear from heaven as a rich rapper. He’s seen the tougher side. Are you going to say he’s bad and Tupac was good, just because Tupac got gunned down? What the hell is the mentality here? How do you think a Black copy feels when he or she is chasing a hood who is Black? Don’t you think they feel something? Don’t you understand that they recognize that anytime a Black man or woman is captured for a crime that it also reflects negatively on them?

Let me offer you a quote: “…Though the colored man is no longer subject to barter and sale, he is surrounded by an adverse settlement which fetters all his movements. In his downward course, he meets with no resistance, but his course upward is resented and resisted at every step of his progress. “If he comes in ignorance, rags and wretchedness… he conforms to the popular belief of his character, and in that character he is welcome; but if he shall come as a gentleman, a scholar and a statesman, he is hailed as a contradiction to the national faith concerning his race, and his coming is resented as impudence. In one case he may provoke contempt and derision, but in the other he is an affront to pride and provokes malice.” This is what the Black community must face because it’s just as true today as it was when Frederick Douglass spoke those words on September 25th, 1883. Why? Because in the intervening period between 1883 and 2013, too many members of the Black community thought they were ‘owed;’ that the white man would always hold the Black man down…what unadulterated nonsense!

I offer this gem to the Black community about the white man. There will always be white people like George Wallace, Haley Barbour, George Lincoln Rockwell, and other white supremacists, just as there will always be people like Louis Farrakhan, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and other Black racists who try to set members of the Black community against whites. Folks, let me tell you something: It is not us against you or you against us…and I’ll give you the choice to pick which ‘you” you want to be. It all begins with one Black person and one White person saying, “You’re my friend and I’m there for you.” Then let them multiply and let them never, under any circumstances, let the other down…in any way. Can it be done overnight? Are you nuts? Of course it can’t, but somewhere, somehow, that’s what has to happen. Just ask the Black and White Marines, the Black and White Soldiers, Naval Personnel, and Airmen. Most of them are the most colorblind people in the United States. They are brothers and sisters. If they can be, why can’t we?

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  • Everyone in Washington needs a ‘bitch slap.’  Can you imagine IBM, Apple, Samsung, or any other large organization that would rush a product to market without first test marketing it? Can you imagine that you would not pull it from the market and advise the clients that you’ve found a glitch that would cause more problems than you want for them? Washington is supposed to be home to the spin masters. All one has to do is look inside the halls of Congress; look at 1600; look anywhere in that city and you can find people who are able to turn disaster into a positive miracle. When it comes to the Affordable Care Act, however, the new game is ‘duck and cover.’ It sounds like something out of the 1950s when the ‘red menace was at its height. For those of you who are too young to remember, that was when, in the event of an atom bomb attack by the nasty red menace, you were to duck under your wooden and steel desk in the classroom. They forgot to tell you to stick your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye for all the good duck and cover would have done you. Today, it’s the fallout from the computer glitches that came with enrolling for health care insurance under Obama care.
  • Here’s another bit of charming information for you to put in the back of your mind and stew on it: Angela Merkle, David Cameron, and a number of other US allies are now saying that their phones have been tapped by the NSA. Where does this information come from? Where else? It’s coming from Edward Snowden, the analyst who, I guess, we can call a defector to Russia…at least they’ve granted him ‘asylum.’ Is there any reason not to suspect that Snowden is releasing what he has been told to release or what is being released in his name in order to piss off our allies? Whose phone will the NSA next be accused of tapping, Baron Waqa of Nauru? Have we become so bloody paranoid that we’re resorting to tapping the phones of our friends? If that is so, it’s despicable behavior and those who authorized it should be fired immediately. God only knows we have few enough friends left in this world. Why should we go about pissing them off?
  • So Congress in its wisdom manages to shutdown the federal government. Nearly 10,000 workers are furloughed. Now Congress has passed a bill which President Obama will sign that gives those workers their back pay. Whoopee, freakin’ do…they received a two-week vacation with pay. Is there no such thing as accountability? Why should the workers be irritated with Congress for their stupidity? Congress gave them their back pay! If Congress, which by the way, was getting paid and claiming they were going to do all sorts of charitable giving with their paychecks – can you say, “Bullshit” – but if they hadn’t gotten back pay for the workers who were furloughed, those workers would have been justifiably, royally pissed.
  • It’s difficult to imagine the amount of truly important legislation is laying in someone’s out box while Congress has been trying to undo a law that they passed. I know that they have failed to fund the embassies across the world to allow those embassies to tighten security. I know that the 1,000 US Marines who are supposed to be protecting those embassies can’t be sent to them because there’s a lack of housing and money to pay for the Marine protection. However, Congress, in its wisdom, would rather shut down the government over a bill they have passed and now tried to repeal 40+ times without success. How many other bills are there that could have the potential to save American lives or make lives easier for Americans here at home? Congress doesn’t really care about Americans; they care about embarrassing the first Black President of the United States of America. I am one hundred percent convinced that racism and bigotry are a major part of the agenda for this 113th Congress. Anyone who uses the excuse that the Latino Congressmen can’t be prejudiced because they’ve also had a tough time is lying through their teeth. I feel badly for John Boehner. He is trying to be a single leader when he doesn’t have a single party. His job is as difficult as herding cats or nailing Jello to a tree. If Ted Cruz and some of his Tea Party cronies had tried to pull their stunts when Sam Rayburn or Lyndon Johnson were in power, they might have been found floating in the Potomac.
  • Yes, Washington needs a ‘bitch slap.’ Unfortunately, there’s no one left in America with the courage to do it. If this country doesn’t come to its senses in the next election and throw out every Tea Party member, I fear that America will become ripe for a takeover. And everyone will be wandering around, asking, “What happened?”

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Would you believe that thirty-two percent of the seniors in your town’s high school have considered suicide? Would you believe that fifteen percent actually tried? These are shocking figures and yet that’s what we learned when we took a poll at one local high school in Massachusetts. This was not a suicide questionnaire but covered a much broader area of student concerns. To be brutally frank, it scared the crap out of the high school principal, health officials, and the school resource officer to name but a few.

Candidly, we don’t know what causes high school kids to kill themselves. Yes, there have been a number of highly visible cases where actual- as well as cyber-bullying has been considered to be the major factor, but that seems to be just a part of the story. Those of us who have never experienced teen suicide ‘up close and personal’ don’t have a bloody clue what goes through the mind of a teenager that permits them to believe that life is no longer worth living. As the third leading cause of death among adolescents, suicide is not something that we should hide as we did the subject of bullying for so many years.

Please don’t get me wrong; when our kids were growing up, I was so busy trying to make a living that I’m now convinced that I didn’t put the time in to truly help make a family life. Yeah, I coached Little League when our son wanted to play baseball…the girls weren’t interested. Yeah, the kids began competitive swimming when the youngest was only six, and we took them to practice and meets and learned how to officiate, but being more deeply involved in their lives was not something that we considered. We didn’t pry; we might ask how school was going, but we could see that on their report cards. Now that they are all adults, married, and have kids of their own, we’ve learned a few things that I for one am happy we never learned when they were young. Looking back, I’d have to say that we were pretty damned lucky compared to some other parents. Rarely did a week pass when Joan didn’t have one or more of the children’s friends in the kitchen without our own being present. She would inform me at some point if there was a problem she considered serious, and we’d attempt to decide whether or not the children’s parents should be notified. Most of the time it was concluded that the parents were probably better off being kept in the dark. One of Joan’s questions, however, was always, “They just want a friendly ear. How come they don’t have that at home?” It’s an interesting question.

There is no question that the pressures of today are far more severe than the pressures on me or even my children. Today’s teenagers are bombarded by emotional, social, and family issues that we didn’t have to face. Social media, television, having the newest, the brightest, the best of whatever can strain a child’s emotional well-being beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Recently, a high school classmate of mine – that’s Class of 1952 – recalled coming over to our house to watch television; he also remembered my mother’s brownies. I don’t remember any of this, but here it is, over 60 years later, and her still remembers. Pressures? Hell, we didn’t have a clue about social or emotional pressures. Family issues: What family issues? Every family we knew had a mom, a dad, and kids. There may well have been issues behind the closed doors, but we certainly never heard about them. Were there single parents? I never knew of any. Today, I hear nothing but stories of single parents, gay parents, dope-dealing parents, and yes, even a parent who has murdered. And we wonder why these kids commit suicide?

There are few if any teenagers who kill themselves who do not send out warning signals of some kind, directly to their parents; to their friends; to their teachers; or even to complete strangers. One of the problems is that everyone is too busy to take notice of them. When a child’s grades begin to fall inexplicably; when he or she loses interest in a social activity or sport that three weeks ago was their world; when things go missing from their room and the excuse is, “Oh, I was tired of that old thing and gave it to so-and-so,” there’s a problem brewing that needs to be discussed. Perhaps the child begins to abuse alcohol or drugs – not always the easiest thing to detect, but if you suspect it and work at it, you’ll find the signs; if they begin to act up or become bored with “just everything;” If they withdraw from family activities; change their eating or sleep habits, perhaps neglect personal hygiene, these are signs that there is a serious problem. You can find other signals and signs merely by going online and checking out various teen suicide sites…if you have the time…if you care about your kid…if you don’t want tragedy entering your life when you least expect it. No, I’m not really trying to lay a guilt trip on anyone. However, we brought them into this world. Along with the help of God, we created something more precious than anything we have ever owned. Don’t we deserve to see them reach adulthood…whether they want to or not?

There’s an old adage that goes, “A son is a son ‘til he takes him a wife; a daughter’s a daughter the rest of her life.” My personal philosophy is that their mother and I saw, interfered, and tried to influence their lives through high school. When they went to college, they entered an environment where they were to become semi-adult. Upon graduation, their life was their own. For us, it worked. Will it work for everyone? It most assuredly will not and once again we come back to the pressures of today being completely different from the pressures or the environment in which we raised our children. I don’t envy my kids or my grandkids. I cannot conceive of the pitfalls they will face.

Encourage openness and candor with your kids. You don’t have to get ‘into their face,’ but you do have to be aware of what is going on in their lives. I’ve searched through pages and pages of quotations with which to end this essay.  Since I can’t relate to Justin Timberlake, Snookie, or any of the other characters who seem to populate the teenagers quotes, I guess I’ll just have to settle for the late Erma Bombeck who said, “Never lend your car keys to anyone to whom you gave birth.”

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There was a time…many moons ago…when I was a commuter…a single passenger commuter. I would drive to and from work via back roads and never, in any part of my professional life, did I worry about traffic jams or, to be politically correct, commuter traffic.

Today, my trips in the car consist of a 4:30 am trip to the gym that generally gets me home before traffic begins to get heavy. If we’re doing our shopping, it’s in the middle of the day, ie, no traffic…until last Thursday and the entire bloody weekend; yes, Saturday and Sunday also!

If you wish to hear the rest of the story, gather round kids, ‘cause it’s a beaut!

Once upon a time…no, no, no, scratch that. We have had dogs in our house since 1961. Our first came four years after our marriage and about three months after we moved into our first house. What’s a house without a pet, right? From that time forward there has always been a pet – in our case,  dogs – in our homes. We’ve had as many as three at one time, and they have ranged from “Sooners” [sooner crap on the floor than outside] to “Americans“ [mother was a slut and dad was a horehound] to purebreds with championship lineage [I’m not allowed to brag here}. As you may have read in another piece, our last dog, a Cairn terrier, and she – Vikki – actually was the first to know that my late wife, Joan, was ill. In April 2013, Vikki went blind; two weeks later she suffered a stroke; and two days after that she was euthanized.

When your pet dies, you vow on a stack of Holy Bibles that you will never get another. Pets don’t live as long as human beings and the pain one feels at having to put the pet down is the equivalent to losing a child. Pets are as much a member of the family as any human. I don’t know this for a fact when it comes to cats or fish or even guinea pigs, but I certainly know what it’s like with dogs so they become my point of reference. Juli, my partner was with me in the vet’s office; she cried; I cried; the vet, who had cared for Vikki for over a decade, was crying as she administered Vikki’s final injection. And just like before, I swore that I would never own another dog. Let’s see now, that was last April. By September, both Juli and I were in what might be called “doggie depression.” The house was too quiet. We love each other, but there is a certain ambience that dogs emit; that fill the house with an essence that two humans, together yet alone, just cannot duplicate.

Sneakily and somewhat discreetly, I inquired of a breeder friend regarding the availability of another Cairn being available. Yes, we could have gone to an animal shelter, but my love for the last two dogs – both Cairns – was so great that I wanted a third member of the breed. “We have nothing,” Arlene said, “but we’re going to a show in a couple of weeks. I’ll ask around.” When she came back, I received an e-mail indicating that there might be a puppy available in Maryland. Contacting the breeder at tintopcairns, I learned that there was one puppy left. You now know why and how I have become familiar with commuter traffic.

We left for Leonardtown, Maryland on a Thursday. We consulted with AAA and received a ‘Triptik’ that indicated we would be traveling to the western tip of the state. When I say western tip, it means that Leonardtown is damn near the last town at the southern tip of the western tip. I mean, it is down there! In 2010, the population was almost 3,000 people…my graduating class from college were more than the entire population of this town! However, getting there was not half the fun. Some idiot once said something to the effect that it’s not the destination but the journey that’s important. I’d like to meet that person…so I could beat him to a pulp, reconstitute the pulp and beat him to a pulp again! Morning traffic moving along a freeway into and out of Hartford, Connecticut, going 75 miles per hour in the right lane, with less than a car length between you and the car in front of you and certainly not that much difference from the car behind you is…is…is…indescribable. I am not a Roman Catholic, but you never heard so many Hail Mary’s in a car in your life! If I had to do that each and every day, I would not be able to handle it. People in the left and center lanes were doing 80 mph and above…one handed…drinking coffee…talking on the phone. To draw a poor analogy, I was in the undergrad lane; the middle lane was reserved for those earning their master’s degree, and in the left lane were the Ph.D’s and above. One glitch would be enough; one glitch and every hospital in Hartford would fill up in an instant, at least for those who survived. I was tempted to take off my seat belt so that when the crash happened, I could fly out the windshield, arms extended, screaming as my last words, “Up, up, and away!”

As if heart attack Hartford wasn’t enough, the next day we repeated the exercise with traffic going into and out of Baltimore. To bypass the City of Baltimore, there is a thing called the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel. I had driven through the tunnel on a regular basis when I was stationed at the Pentagon. I remembered the tunnel as a nice respite from the highways which had been narrow, cramped at crazy. That’s how I remembered the tunnel. Over the years, I can now safely say, some bureaucrats have shrunk the tunnel. It’s either that or cars are wider…or maybe both. The tunnel was dark, dreary, dank, and although the speed limit was 50 mph, we wound up doing our usual 75 just to keep up!

I kid a great deal about the traffic…but it’s not kidding. We Americans are in on hell of a hurry to get wherever it is we’re going. The speeds are frightening; the distance between cars is frightening; and you cannot help but become a part of it. I don’t mind being passed by another car most of the time, but when a Smart car and several Mini Coopers go by me like I’m standing still, that’s a bit discouraging.

Leonardtown is beautiful. Its small town America but the next town over, California, comes equipped with a three-mile stretch of every store, restaurant, and shop imaginable. All of them are set back and not crowding the main highway. It’s intelligently design, partially hidden by a frontage road and trees and bushes. Leonardtown is American history, with plaques and maps providing a wealth of education about early America, the War of 1812, and the town’s efforts for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Meeting with the breeder was another educational experience. We spent nearly four hours with her, learning things we never knew despite having owned Cairns in the past. We met ‘Widget’ who would become our new family member, although the streaking she did around the room in which we met her tempted me to call her ‘Red Blaze’ because that’s about the speed with which she ran around from end to end of the room…a born class clown if ever there was one.

Driving home on Sunday, I was hoping for a bit of peace and quiet. Between the church goers trying to get home for Sunday afternoon football – they do love their Washington Redskins down there – and the other crazies, we again prayed our way to the Motel in New Jersey where we would spend the night. I will not tell you about Monday morning except to say that we bypassed Hartford, but were forced to hit every other major city in Connecticut with the same results. We have been home now for the better part of two days. I still have the shakes and my nightmares all regard cars and traffic. As I said earlier, the State of Maryland is a beautiful place to visit. If you decide to make the trip, avoid every single highway that you can. Fly, if you will; take a train; hop a skateboard; take half a year to get there, but don’t drive 75. Oh, and don’t forget to bring back a puppy!

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“I would love to see your wheelchair!” the note read. “I’m guessing male 25-35 years professional who thinks he’s got the world by the ass. But I could be wrong.”

“The note-writer was wrong. Matt Milstead, the owner of the car parked in the spot, has been paralyzed for over twenty years. He had parked his BMW in a handicap spot at a YMCA in Grand Rapids, Mich. to participate in a wheelchair rugby game. When he returned to his car he found the note jammed into his door handle.”

That’s part of a press release I was reading on AOL today. It bothered me because ignorant and cowardly people are the kinds who leave these notes. They are ignorant because, unless they see the handicapped person, they don’t have a clue regarding the problem afflicting the person with the handicapped placard. They are cowardly because they don’t bother to wait around to see who is in the space that is reserved for those with physical limitations.

I have a handicapped placard. I don’t like to use it…and don’t whenever possible. You see, I’ve had three heart attacks; I have five stents in my heart. That’s not really the reason for the handicapped placard; I also have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema from smoking…way back when smoking was cool and damn near everyone did it. I haven’t smoked in years but that doesn’t matter. The damage has been done and now I’m paying the price. Oh, and did I mention that I also have an abdominal aortic stent and wear a brace on my right knee on a fairly regular basis. I’m still not crazy about using my placard, particularly if I can find an open space that’s not too far from my destination.

At the end of these AOL stories, there are always comments. All of the comments supported Mr. Milstead and decried the words of the idiot who left the note. Many went on to share one of my personal pet gripes about the abuse of the handicapped placard…people who have “borrowed” – wink, wink – or outright stolen a placard and bound out of their vehicles like they’re shot from guns and run like hell into the nearest store. It’s one thing if there is a handicapped person in the car, perhaps even waiting for whatever the athletic one went after, but when the driver is alone and behaving like an Olympic track star, one does have to wonder.

I’m no actually looking to pick a fight but I have confronted both men and women who have been illegally parked in handicapped spots. Usually, I’ll just say, “Excuse me, I don’t see a handicapped plate or placard on your car. Are you handicapped?” The bulk of the time, if they are not handicapped, they will admit it and move their car. Others have said, “I’m just going to be a minute.” With them, I ask, “What about the handicapped person who pulls in during that minute?” If I really get sass, I’ll walk to the back of the car and write down their plate. That really pisses them off. “Whachoo doin’? You can’t do dat,” is generally the response. I’ve also been threatened. I just figure, “Screw it; you want to add assault; hey, that’s your problem!”  On one occasion…and on one occasion only, tell a cop to get out of a handicapped space; he did. You see, I take this handicapped parking situation very seriously.

Very few people go out of their way to look for confrontation. I don’t like confrontation. However, there are certain things that drive me nuts. “May I take the next person over here?” the cashier will ask, and there’s a mad stampede to that register. It’s one of the reasons I like the manner in which many banks now have an aisle setup so that the ‘next person’ is always the right person. It’s not hard to do the right thing. When it comes to handicapped parking, it becomes even easier.

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Domestic violence appears to have lost media popularity over the past few years. Today, the rank and file of media outlets, when they’re searching for sensationalism have enough of it with school violence, drug deals gone bad and two or three people get ‘taken out.’ Beyond that, quite frankly, people don’t want to hear about domestic violence. This puzzles me, not because I came from a domestic violence household; not because I was ever in any kind of an abusive relationship, and not because any of my children are in domestic violence situations. No, domestic violence is a subject in which I’ve had an interest for well over 20 years. I’ve researched the topic to the point of crying over its horrors. I’ve written cases on the subject going back to the early to mid-nineties. It is a subject that makes my stomach turn, and it’s just about time we began to address it with the same effort that we are addressing other forms of violence in our country.

What, exactly, qualifies as domestic violence?  Family or domestic violence is any act or threat of an act of physical aggression that causes physical harm or any statement or action that reasonably could be perceived as demonstrating intent to cause physical or serious emotional harm. In truth, how common is it? Every 9 seconds in the United States a person is assaulted or beaten. Take a minute and think about that. Since few people wear wristwatches anymore, find a clock with a second hand and time that out over the course of a single minute…that’s right, somewhere in the United States, a person – we can no longer say “a woman” although they are the majority of the victims – is beaten a minimum of six times…different people; different cities or towns; different states…but it’s in our civilized nation that we call America. Here’s another fact for you: “Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime, and most often, the abuser is a member of her own family. Remember, in some societies, women are still considered chattel.

Statistics are wonderful and I can throw them at you until the cows come home. However, it’s not until you actually see or are a part of a domestic violence situation that you will begin to understand just how appallingly horrible this problem is. For example, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women – more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. Every day in the United States, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. If you don’t believe that sounds like many, do the math and see what a year looks like. Nearly one in five teenage girls, my oldest daughter included, has been in a relationship where there was a threat or actual violence. Before I could act, our son resolved the problem, thank you very much!

For years I watched as a husband drove his wife to work. On more than one occasion, I reported to human resources the bruises that I saw on this woman’s face and arms. The husband was a hulk of a man and, quite frankly, was a scary guy. To the best of my knowledge, human resources did little. When I retired, the woman was still working at the school and still being driven to work. That was one episode. Today, more and more employers are joining an organization known as Employers Against Domestic Violence. HR officers are being educated to look for problems and address them in the best way possible. Obviously, there are still problems out there, but steps are being taken.

If you know of someone in a domestic violence situation, please don’t be accusatory and tell them to ‘get out.’ You may be completely ignorant of what is going on in the household. The best way to help is to let them know that you’re there if they want to talk. Many women feel helpless, trapped in an untenable situation. They are not. There are organizations galore, which can help stop the abuse and start a victim on a new road, one that does not include abuse. It should be noted that the average victim attempts to leave eight times before she is successful. One warning: restraining orders don’t stop guns or knives in the hands of a violent abuser.

While I could go on ad nauseum about this topic, let me give you a case to ponder…yep, just like the bullying piece. I hope it makes you think.

THE CASE

Introduction

Some of the characters in this case study are fictitious. The problem of domestic violence is not, unfortunately, fiction in any sense. As most readers of this case are aware, domestic violence is, perhaps, the number one problem facing law enforcement in the majority of cities and towns in the United States today. What makes it so insidious is the number of facets to it in addition to the enforcement side. This case has been prepared for those who have seen the problem of domestic violence, either as victims, law enforcement officials, social workers, or anyone else, and who have been as saddened, revolted, and disgusted by what he or she has seen as the author was in doing research for the case. The solution to domestic violence will tax the creative minds of many, but without solutions, this war will only escalate.

The First Time

“It must have been something that I did,” Paula thought. “David loves me, I know that. He always says so. Maybe it was the beer and something I said.”

Rita Ribeiro was barely in high school then. She didn’t know either of them. She didn’t even know she was going to become a cop.

The Next Time

Fast-forward fifteen years to nine days before Christmas. The phone rings in the police department’s Domestic Violence Unit. Now police Sergeant Rita Ribeiro, in charge of the domestic violence unit, answers and the speaker phone instantly fills the room with the shouts, sobs, swears, and threats of a man demanding the police keep their noses out of his domestic affairs.

“I’m not a bum! I’m not a bum,” the man shouts, nearly sobbing with rage and indignation. “I don’t beat her. I only hit her three times. It’s not like I put black and blues on her every day like those other crazies.”

Sgt. Ribeiro switches off the speakerphone and continues the call without broadcasting the man’s vitriolic ravings. But even half the conversation is enough to illustrate the chaotic dynamics of an abusive relationship — a bizarre tangle of emotions that often causes the abuser and his victim to team up against the authorities.

Dave is 32; his wife is 30. They have been together 13 years, married for four. This is the fifth time police have been called in to referee.

What follows is Sgt. Ribeiro’s end of the call — each new paragraph indicating when she pauses to listen to either the abuser or his wife on the other end of the line.

“No Dave, this is not happening because of O.J. Simpson,” says Sgt. Ribeiro.

There is a long pause while Dave (not his real name) yells. His voice is loud enough to be heard through the receiver, but his words are not discernible.

“Yes, it IS a big deal, Dave,” says Sgt. Ribeiro, interrupting his diatribe.

“Did you break down the door to the apartment last night?” she asks.

Dave has apparently handed the phone to his wife, who is now trying to convince Sgt. Ribeiro that the incident was nothing.

“So then why did you call 911?”

“Nobody dials 911 accidentally.”

“You say you only dialed 911 to threaten him, but that’s not what we use 911 for here.”

“Yes, I understand that, but after he kicked the door in, you told your son to go into the bedroom and call 911.”

Sgt. Ribeiro then reads from the police report on last night’s incident as she listens.

“Didn’t he say to you last night that if he goes to jail for this, you are going to be a fucking dead bitch?”

Sgt. Ribeiro listens to her response.

“I realize it was just an argument,” she says. “But the police have been to your house four times in the last three months.”

“What’s that? He says he’s only violated the restraining order three times?”

“Okay, you say you were off the wall yourself — that he’s not a bad person. But you told your son to call 911. We’re very worried about you and your son.”

A pause. Dave gets back on the phone. Sgt. Ribeiro lifts the receiver away from her ear and says he’s crying and yelling hysterically.

“Dave, are you going to listen to me?”

“Will you listen?”

“Will you listen?”

“Dave, listen to me.”

“I see — the cops are the problem.”

Dave apparently hands the phone back to his wife and she is telling Sgt. Ribeiro she intends to drop the restraining order.

“You have a 14-year-old boy at home in a very violent situation.”

“Yes, it IS violent. You have people kicking down doors and threatening to murder you. That’s a violent situation.”

Dave is back on the phone again.

“Maybe you didn’t hit her this time Dave, but abuse is not just black and blue eyes. You’re abusing me the way you’re talking to me right now. If you say to her: ‘You’re going to be dead if I go to jail,’ that is an arrestable offense.”

Sgt. Ribeiro uses another telephone line to send a patrol car over to the apartment.

Dave’s wife is back on the phone, but Dave continues to shout in the background.

“And how long have you been going to marriage counseling?” Sgt. Ribeiro asks the wife.

“You haven’t been yet, but you’re going to start Tuesday.”

“I understand you want to try to work it out, but in the meantime, you have a 14-year-old boy in the house who’s listening to all this.”

“He IS involved,” she says. “You had your son call 911.”

“You can’t convince me that your son sleeps through your fights after what I’ve heard today,” says Sgt. Ribeiro. “I can hear Dave yelling at you in the background right now.

“No, we are not going to drop the charges. We’re going to protect you and protect your son.”

A pause.

“You say he’s not verbally abusive? I could hear him in the background just now. You don’t consider that a violent temper?”

The patrol car has arrived at the woman’s apartment but Dave has already left. Rather than try to find him, the police issue a summons for him to appear in court for violating his restraining order.

In the meantime, Sgt. Ribeiro continues to talk to the woman. She tries to impress upon her the importance of using the legal system to force her husband into batterers’ treatment.

“You have to protect yourself — if not for yourself, then for your son,” says Sgt. Ribeiro. “If you have problems again and you don’t call 911, you’re failing to protect your son.”

Sgt. Ribeiro hangs up the phone, frustrated and emotionally spent. Getting men like Dave into batterers’ treatment is essential she says, not just to prevent abuse to his wife, but also to prevent these couples from producing another generation of batterers.

“If we don’t stop this now, we’re going to see junior in here in five years doing the same thing,” said Sgt. Ribeiro.1

The Last Time

Outside of Dave and Paula’s apartment, the red and blues are flashing. In the back of one of the cars sits a sullen 15-year old, his hands cuffed behind his back. Inside, a hysterical Paula tries to explain to Sgt. Ribeiro what happened.

“He was…he was…in…his…room, doin’ homework,” she sobs. David comes to the door and just kicks it in. He was drunk, like usual. He was loud, and he started beatin’ on me. Danny must of heard it and he…he….he just snapped. He came outta his room with that bat and just started swingin’. He got him in the head with the first swing and it sounded like a melon got dropped. David went down and…” she kept sobbing, trying to catch her breath, “and the he pushed me outta the way. That’s when I called 911. Danny just lost it.  He just kept saying, ‘No more, you mother, no more.’ Oh, poor David, my poor David.”

“Poor David” was, in fact, the late poor David. Like so many young boys who witness abuse over a period of time, Danny finally took his rage out on his mother’s abuser, and, like so many, he too, was unable or unwilling to stop until the abuser was dead. He, too, has become another statistic of domestic violence. According to one study in Oregon, 63 percent of males between the ages of 11 and 20, incarcerated for murder, were convicted of killing their mother’s abuser.

The Future

Ask any cop. This case is not unusual. The outcome is, but not the case. A man who beats up a woman will do it again. And again.  Women in abusive relationships believe that their abuser loves them, and perhaps at the basest level, they are correct; this does not prevent women from dying daily at the hands of those who “love” them…to death.

What Are The Issues

  • Who might all of the victims be in a domestic violence situation?
  • If what is being done is a crime and not a ‘domestic dispute,’ why aren’t more abusers in jail or serving longer sentences?
  • How must the laws change to reduce this problem?
  • How must the courts change to reduce this problem?
  • How can the media apply its might to helping reduce domestic violence?
  • What can and should employers do to help reduce domestic violence?
  • What role can and should schools play in helping children in a domestic violence situation?
  • What penalties, other than jail time, might help to reduce the threat of domestic violence?
  • It has been said that victims will sometimes torment the abuser into a situation or falsely accuse him merely for the enjoyment of seeing him arrested. How can that be reduced?
  • Write a comprehensive “zero tolerance” plan for handling domestic violence crimes in your community.

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