Presidents Battle

The fight over medical marijuana is a battle with several fronts. Many states and local governments have chosen to legalize the drug’s use to help alleviate pain associated with disease, and as treatment for cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, and other conditions. The federal government, however, has classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug, in the same category as heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, Ecstacy, and Methaqualone (Quaaludes)—drugs having no medical value—and, as a result, do not recognize local authority to legalize pot use and sale.

To say the local governments and the feds have butt heads over the issue would be putting it mildly. Instead, the two are basically at war, with local officials giving their stamp of approval on medical marijuana stores, only to find the feds (the three-letter law enforcement agencies) kicking in the doors of those very same businesses.

Well, those three-letter agencies, backed by the U.S. Attorney General, have armed themselves with a very subtle “bomb.” Now, in addition to “door-kicking” raids, the feds are targeting the landlords who own the buildings where medical marijuana businesses are housed.

Federal law enforcement officials are putting the squeeze on those property owners to evict their pot-selling tenants or face losing their real estate through a civil asset-forfeiture program. As recently as this month (June, 2012) federal prosecutors have filed to seize three such buildings in Santa Fe Springs, California. Which three businesses is not clear since the selection there is many. For example, a quick online search turned up these medical marijuana dispensaries in the Santa Fe Springs area.

420 Go Green Dispensary

• 12145 Slauson Ave # B

Santa Fe Springs

(562) 696-6500

AP Natural Solutions

9841 Alburtis Avenue

Santa Fe Springs

(562) 991-9393

Tri-City Patients Association

13844 Rosecrans Avenue

Santa Fe Springs

(562) 921-8300

Deeply Rooted

8807 Pioneer Boulevard

Santa Fe Springs

(562) 699-6800

Humboldt Wholesale

12513 Shoemaker Avenue

Santa Fe Springs

(562) 946-7744

Santa Fe Compasionate Health Center

13128 Telegraph Road

Santa Fe Springs

(562) 941-1111

California Alternative Healing Center

10802 Norwalk Boulevard

Santa Fe Springs

(562) 237-7638

Whittier Hop Collective

8116 Byron Road

Whittier

(562) 945-2420

Federal prosecutors have also sent out hundreds of letters to other property owners giving them the option of booting their tenants or face losing their property in civil proceedings (civil-forfeiture statute allows the government to seize any property used to commit or facilitate drug trafficking).

This method of enforcing federal law (mailing property-seizure notices) is far less expensive than sending a raid team over to each location to kick in their doors, bag and tag all evidence, haul it away, store it, and then have officers and agents, prosecutors, judges, jurors, clerks, bailiffs, and defendants in court for weeks at a time. So far, over 200 landlords have complied with the notices by evicting their pot-selling tenants.

Another tactic used by the feds is to scare banks into not doing business with medical marijuana outfits. By threatening those institutions with civil actions, many marijuana companies have been forced to operate on a “cash-only” basis, much like street dealers.

And all this comes just a few short years after presidential candidate Obama promised he would respect state laws regarding medical marijuana. Well, not only is he targeting medical marijuana dispensaries and the people who own the property, his administration has:

– denied a petition to re-classify/reschedule marijuana despite evidence that the drug does indeed have medical value.
– issued a statement that says medical marijuana patients may not purchase firearms.
– the IRS is going after pot providers based on obscure drug trafficking laws.
– prosecutors have threatened to arrest state employees for enforcing state laws regarding medical marijuana.
– threatened to target newspapers that run ads for medical marijuana businesses.

I’m not saying that I’m for or against the legalization of marijuana. What I am asking, is…why not? Why the big push against something that over half the citizens in this country want to see legalized, especially for medical use when it can help a dying cancer patient live pain free during his last days on this earth.

What are your thoughts? Legalize pot use, or not?

*DEA photos. Information source – HuffPo/Scott Morgan – Obama Must Explain His Broken Promise on Medical Marijuana, and Soon…and, of course, my brain and experience, for what that’s worth.

Rodney King: The Irony

In 1991, law enforcement in the United States would forever be changed thanks to two unsuspecting people, a 25-year-old black man named Rodney King, and a bystander with a video camera.

King, intoxicated to a point over twice the legal limit, was driving home from a friend’s house when police officers attempted to pull him over for traffic violations. Already on probation for a previous DUI and a robbery conviction, King did as many do who fear repeated incarceration…he tried to outrun the police. The pursuit involving several marked police cars and a helicopter, wound through Los Angeles neighborhoods until King finally decided to call it quits. He pulled over.

Two passengers in King’s car were arrested without incident. King, as we all know, was not. An incident definitely ensued. Officers attempted to arrest and handcuff Mr. King, who refused. The next tactic was to deploy a Taser. It was somewhere around this time when a witness to the increasing commotion, George Holliday, decided to switch on his video recorder, and the scene he captured would soon rock the nation.

Five officers, Sgt. Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno and Rolando Solano, used their batons to strike King at least 56 times. And if that wasn’t enough, sometime during the brutal beating, King also received six kicks to his body.

According to a subsequent lawsuit, King’s injuries amounted to nearly a dozen skull fractures, permanent brain damage, broken bones and teeth, kidney damage, and severe emotional trauma. King almost died as a result of his injuries.

The incident (and acquittal of the fives officers) prompted the L.A. riots where fifty-five people were killed and over 2,000 more were injured.

At some point during the riot King spoke via a news conference, stating his now famous words, “Can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it horrible for the older people and the kids?” The rioting stopped.

King sued the city of L.A. and won a 3.8 million-dollar settlement, most of which King said he lost in bad investments.

During the years after the 1991 incident, King seemed to struggle with alcohol and drug abuse, and continued to have run-in’s with police (11 arrests for domestic violence, threatening to kill his daughter and his daughter’s mother, DUI, reckless driving, and drug offenses). In 2007, he was shot in the face and torso.

After all he had endured (most of it of his own accord), King, an extremely troubled man, still seemed to find a light at the end of every tunnel. He had this to say in an interview earlier this year, “America’s been good to me after I paid the price and stayed alive through it all. This part of my life is the easy part now.”

It remains to be seen if substance abuse contributed to the events of this week, when Mr. King was found dead at the bottom of the swimming pool in his back yard.

Cynthia Kelly, King’s girlfriend, who was also a jury member in “the trial” that awarded the 3.8 million-dollars to King, called police after hearing what she said sounded like a fall (a table, or something) and a splash. Kelly told police that she ran outside and saw Rodney King at the bottom of the pool, so she threw a shovel in the water to hopefully wake him. Kelly cannot swim.

Kelly made a point to tell the police dispatcher that it was Rodney King, the man who police had beaten, therefore the responding officers knew exactly what to expect when they arrived. They knew it was Rodney King, THE Rodney King, at the bottom of the pool.

Still, the first officers on the scene did what all officers are supposed to do…whatever it takes to save a life. They dove into the pool, in uniform, and pulled out the lifeless body of the man whose unfortunate interaction with police in 1991 sparked the worst riot in L.A. history. They knew the man at the bottom of that pool was the man who, for over two decades, has sat alone at the dividing line between black citizens and white police officers.

Then those officers did the unthinkable…the unexpected as many would like to believe. They performed CPR on King, giving their all to revive THE Rodney King, the black man who many thought was hated by nearly all law-enforcement officers.

Yes, those police officers, the first responders, attempted to save Rodney King’s life.

Yes, this week, the ragged ends of a tragic circle finally met, when officers wearing the same uniforms as the men who so badly beat that 25-year-old black man back in 1991, did their best to save THE Rodney King. But it was too late. There was no saving King. Not this time. At 47, he died, leaving a world that’s probably not in any better shape than it was the night he decided to lead police on a high-speed pursuit through dimly-lit back streets of L.A.

Unfortunately, history tells us there will be other “Rodney Kings” in the news…Trayvon Martin is possibly the latest, and the country is currently waiting to see and hear if there’s indeed a message mired somewhere in that convoluted tragedy.

And, unfortunately, I doubt we’ll ever see the day when Rodney King’s hope that we all get along will ever come to fruition. But wouldn’t it be nice if someday there was peace throughout the world?

Wouldn’t it?

Well, fortunately, there are no officer deaths to report this week, and that’s the good news among all the other—Jerry Sandusky, another naked cannibal/zombie, butcher dismembers drug dealer using work knives, freeway beatings, man shoots at lawyer, woman starves teen daughter to death, strangled baby found in freezer, and mother injects daughter with heroin over 200 times.

Seriously, what’s wrong with people?

Why can’t we all get along?

*Justin Hoch photo – file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Police officers: More than meets the eye

Sure, you break a law and you’ll soon find out what it is that cops do best. But, the men and women who patrol your streets do more than arrest bad guys. For starters (and this list is FAR from being complete):

1. Cops Helping Kids – police officers host an annual fishing tournament to raise money for the Garth House, a children’s advocacy center that provides a safe have for children who’ve been subjected to severe physical or mental abuse.

2. Cops For Kids With Cancer – officers from several departments don ice skates for a tournament and raffle to help kids suffering from cancer.

3. Shop With a Cop – Local cops raise money to buy Christmas presents for kids who otherwise wouldn’t receive gifts. The officers actually take the kids shopping to pick out the items they’d most enjoy.

4. Cops Helping Unique Kids (C.H.U.K.) – Officers host a day of fun and games followed by a 5K run. Proceeds benefit children with cerebral palsy.

5. Philadelphia Police Athletic League Cop Helping Kids – The PPAL supervises 26 kid centers across the city. Each of the centers is directly supervised by an officer (on their own time). Programs feature sports, cultural, and educational opportunities. 100’s of volunteers make this a unique and wonderful experience for the youth of Philadelphia.

6. Cops Helping Kids Succeed – The National Police Athletic League is recognized as the largest juvenile crime prevention program in the nation. PAL provides safe, healthy alternatives for children from high risk neighborhoods.

7. Vouchers – Cops in Kitsap, Washington pass out vouchers to families with kids in need. The vouchers are redeemable at local businesses for items such as clothes, food and school supplies.

8. PAL NYC – is New York City’s largest independent youth development not-for-profit organization that operates head start/day care, after-school, evening teen, summer day camp, youth employment, truancy prevention, juvenile justice and re-entry, city-wide sports, play streets and part-time centers, food service, and adventure learning programs for pre-school kids, children and adolescents ages 3 to 19. It’s in its 95th year of service (excerpt from the PAL NYC site).

9. Badges For Baseball – Cal Ripkin, Sr. and the Justice Department partnered to form this organization that pairs police and kids together by playing softball and baseball, building a bond between the youth and the officers.

10. Cops Helping Kids Block Party – Sponsored by police, this all day block party features food, music, and fun. Proceeds benefit children in need.

11. California Police Youth Charities – Focusing on “at risk” kids between the ages of 6 and 18 years of age, the CPYU offers fun activities run by positive role models (uniformed police officers and professional athletes from various California pro teams). The CPYU stresses education and respect for others.

12. Law Enforcement Torch Run – the Torch Run is a running event in which officers and athletes carry the Flame of Hope to the Opening Ceremony of local Special Olympics competitions. In 2011, the Torch Run raised more than $42 million for the Special Olympics.

More than 85,000 police officers participate in the Torch Run.

* These twelve causes I’ve listed are a mere drop in the bucket to the multitude of good deeds performed by law enforcement officers all across the country, on their own time, without pay. And I haven’t mentioned all the instances where officers performed CPR on strangers, risked their lives to pull victims from burning buildings and cars, step in the way of danger to save others, rush into gunfire while others are running away, and listen to verbal abuse from people who simply just don’t get it.

* Top photo is of Capt. Ted Carter, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), handing off the Special Olympics Torch to Virginia State Police Sgt. Michelle Cotton.

Zombie Alerts

Thanks to video games, movies, TV, and some books, I’ve had to spend a fair amount of time over the past few years convincing my grandson that zombies aren’t real. My words, although not always totally satisfying, seemed to at least put the issue at bay…until the next TV show or video game featuring the living dead. Finally, as he got older, zombie fear died away (no pun intended).

Well, my grandson’s zombie alert system sounded the alarm again on May 26, 2012. It came without warning, too. No advance notice. And no chance to prepare. Besides, the little fellow is too young to possess explosives and machetes (for head-lopping). He doesn’t drive (everyone knows that running over a zombie will “kill” it). His mother won’t allow him to play with matches. And, at 10, he’s not quite strong enough to bludgeon the walking dead to its second death.

So, desperate to implement the ultimate protection against the latest wave of zombie attacks, my grandson’s first choice was to call me. Sure, good ‘ol grandpa would know what to do. And to show you just how smooth and all-knowing I am, here’s how the call went.

“I thought you said zombies aren’t real.”

“They’re not.”

“Yes they are.”

“No they’re not.”

“Uh, huh.”

“No, they’re not.”

“Well, the man on the news just said there’s a naked man eating another man’s face.”

“He was probably kidding.”

“He wasn’t kidding. They showed it on the news. A man is eating the guy’s face. And he growled at the cop who tried to stop him, and the cop shot him, but he kept eating, and the cop shot him again, and he still kept eating, and the cop kept shooting.” The excited boy took a deep breath… “And you know why the guy kept eating after the cop shot him?”

Having not seen the daily news and expecting a punch line, I asked, “No, why?”

“CAUSE HE”S A ZOMBIE!”

So, it was time to start the “no-such-thing-as-zombies” speech all over again. This time, however, I had a few major hurdles to overcome. Yes, a totally nude man (Rudy Eugene) had indeed chowed-down on another man’s face. And he’d growled like a starving beast when the officer approached. Hmm…

You know, it did take six shots to stop the feeding frenzy. Suddenly, I was beginning to wonder…had my grandson been right all along? Were zombies real after all?

Then, more zombie-esque stories began to pop up.

– Alexander Kinyua, a 21-year-old Morgan State University student, killed his roommate and then ate his heart and part of his brains.

– A Swedish medical university employee became suspicious that his wife was having an affair so he cut off her lips and ate them.

– Luka Rocco Magnotta packaged dismembered body parts and then mailed them to various people.

And then, to top it all off, Mao Sugiyama, a self-described “asexual” chef from Tokyo, had surgery to remove his genitals, and then cooked and served them to five PAYING dinner guests (refined zombies who prefer a piping hot meal that includes button mushrooms?).

Oh, we mustn’t forget the New Jersey man who, just last week, stabbed himself 50 times and threw bits of his own intestines and flesh at police.

Well, until the internet and cellphone cameras, the general public rarely saw the side of society that’s now and always has been fairly commonplace—murder and real-life macabre. Police officers, though, see those things as part of their everyday, run-of-the-mill, work day. People kill. They dismember. They bite of ears, fingers, toes, and even penises. And cops see it all, including cannibalism. That’s right, cannibalism is nothing new to humans (have you forgotten about Dahmer and Albert Fish?).

But growling at police officers while consuming the face of a still-living human being? Or restaurant patrons settling down to a plate of fresh chef parts?

Me? Well, I’ll pass on the lip linguine and the genital stir-fry. But you can bet your last dollar that I’m stocking up on matches and machetes. And my car is full of gas in case I need to make speed bumps out of a couple of brain-hungry, mindless “gotta’ eat flesh” zombies.

I think my grandson may have been right after all. So I’m now on high “Zombie Alert.” I’m watching everyone closely for that “telltale look.” Who knows, they could be anywhere…the bank teller, the guy in the hardware store, or the grocery store clerk.

I think I’ll make a nice sturdy hat to protect my brain.

Now where did I put that aluminum foil?

 

Cops: They did...What?

Good or bad, sometimes the stories are almost unbelievable. Such as…

Dorset police save words of blind author who wrote 26 pages after pen ran out. Police officers used forensic techniques to recover the words. The process took a whopping five months to complete, and all during their lunch hours.

Richlands, N.C. – The chief of the Richlands police department has lost his police certification because he failed the required annual firearms qualification. Now, the police chief can no longer carry a gun, nor is he allowed to wear a badge. And what’s a cop without a badge and gun? Normally, we call them…unemployed. City officials have urged the bad shooter to try again.

Suffolk, Va. – Thanks to a certain firefighter, motorists in and around Suffolk better start asking for ID when they’re stopped for traffic violations. Yep, one of the local fire marshal inspectors decided a woman wasn’t driving well enough to suit him, so he conducted a traffic stop using the emergency lights on his fire-department-issued Chevy Impala. He was, however, kind enough to let the woman go after giving her a stern warning for the erratic driving and for not wearing her seat belt. After all, what else could he do, he had no traffic tickets to issue, no badge, no gun, no…anything. Well, that’s not quite correct. He did have his young son riding with him at the time. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that it was also the firefighter’s day off.

Philadelphia – Police arrested a man for possession of marijuana. No big news there, right? Well…not so fast. The arresting officer, who, like all cops, was quite observant and noticed an unusually large bulge in the front of the suspect’s pants. Although flattered, I’m sure, the officer was a bit suspicious and had the man remove his pants at the police station. Seems the flattery was misplaced. The bulge turned out to be 89 bags of drugs that had been tied to the man’s_____ (you fill in the blank). An inventory of the drugs tallied 26 bags of suspected cocaine, 41 bags of suspected heroin, and 22 other assorted baggies in various colors. Now that’s a hefty package.

Portage, Wi. – Local police received a thumbs up from a 62-year-old woman. Normally, a hearty thumbs up would have been greatly appreciated, especially during these trying times for officers. However, this woman was driving drunk, heading the wrong way on a one-way highway, and each time she passed an approaching police car she offered a very energetic “thumbs up.” The intoxicated woman later told officers that she was tired of living. It was her 5th arrest for drunk diving.

Delaware, Ohio – Remember the kissing cop, the female officer whose image was captured on the police in-car during a few intimate acts with her married boss, the police chief? Well, she’s back in the headlines again, this time with her new boss, the county sheriff. The two were “coincidentally” attending training at the FBI headquarters in Quantico, Va. Reports suggest the also-married sheriff may have been spending a bit of county money to entertain Deputy Janine Senanayake (formerly Janine England). At least Deputy Senanayake is ambitious. She starts at the top. What she does after that is…well, heck, some of it is on camera (click the link to see the in-car video).

Los Angeles – Actress Amanda Bynes is a big hit with local sheriff’s deputies, especially the deputy whose car she sideswiped while driving under the influence at 3 a.m. Bynes was promptly arrested and held on a $5,000 bond.

Hoodies: Intimate or intimidating

Hoodies—today’s word for a sweatshirt with a hood. They’re comfortable. They’re warm. They keep the rain off your head. And the hood keeps your ears from freezing into tiny blocks of ice. Hoodies have also become a fashion of the times, like bell bottom pants of the 60’s, mini skirts, etc. They’re cool. They’re stylish. And they’re a must-have these days. You know, if you want to “be someone.” And I’m all for kids being kids. I know I was my father’s personal nightmare, with that “hippie” long hair and rock and roll bands I played in. I get it, believe me. Ya’ gotta be cool!

Okay, I admit it. I’m a hoodie fan. An addict. They’re my jackets of choice, and I own and wear several. But I don’t wear them to be cool. Instead, I wear them because they’re comfortable and they keep my head warm without leaving behind the dreaded “hat hair.” Besides, they have those fantastic and easily accessible “glove-pockets” in front. Yes, I love my hoodies.

Unfortunately, those pull-tight hoods are also great for helping bad guys conceal their identities. And they’re absolutely fantastic for covering immediately recognizable characteristics, such as hair style, length, and color. Hoodies are the perfect accessory for hiding scars, marks, and tattoos. They’re also worn to intimidate others. I once dealt with a particular group of juvenile gang members who, when they were about to “beat down” a rival, immediately pulled their hoods up over their heads. It was a sign to other gangs that trouble was brewing. When the leader of the gang covered his head with the hood, well, it was game on—a sign to his followers that it was time to go to war.

Before I go any further I feel I must address the Treyvon Martin situation. Yes, I’ve received hundreds of messages asking my opinion, and until now I’ve remained silent on the issue. And there’s a good reason for my silence…I simply cannot offer a reasonable opinion about a situation I know nothing about. I wasn’t there. I haven’t seen the actual evidence. I haven’t spoken to witnesses. And I absolutely refuse to jump to any conclusions based on media reports and family statements. You see, family members in nearly all criminal cases defend their loved ones, and the media is always trying to sell something. So those are two opinionated sources to avoid like the plague when searching for solid evidence that can be used in a court of law. And isn’t that where we’re supposed to try cases…in court? Not on TV or in the street.

Also, the police and attorneys have jobs to do. So I choose to allow them to do those jobs. If they fail, which I have not seen because I’m not involved in their investigation, and neither is anyone else on the outside, then it would be time to complain. But not now. Investigations take time, often lots of time. I sort of believe in the theory “where there’s smoke there’s fire.” Sometimes blowing a lot of hot air around that smoke doesn’t allow it to drift into the right place at the right time. Instead, stand back, let the investigators investigate, and soon the source of the fire comes plainly into view. Remember, an arrest that occurs before its time often ends in  a not-guilty verdict (Casey Anthony, anyone?). No one wants a bad guy to go free, right?

Sure, my heart goes out to the parents of Treyvon. He was their son. Their child. They loved him. And they would love him no matter what.

Same thing with George Zimmerman. His family loves him and will continue to do so no matter what.

But my blog isn’t about the person inside that particular hoodie. Nor is it about the man who shot the wearer of that hoodie.

No, this piece is about THE hoodie. Sure, everyone has a right to wear one, or any other article of clothing, without being judged, profiled, or stereotyped. But it happens, and it happens sometimes, unfortunately, for good reason. And that reason is…lots and lots of bad guys wear hoodies too, and they wear them for a specific purpose. They’re either trying to send a message—to intimidate someone, or they’re wearing one to conceal their identity. I assure you, their motives for wearing hoodies have nothing to do with fashion.

For example:

Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor

Boston

Illinois

Jacksonville

Kansas City

London Rioter

Seattle

Virginia (notice the date)

Vermont

The Unabomber

See what I mean? These for-real bad guys, and woman, all wore hoodies as part of their disguise to commit robberies, murder, or in the case of the protester, destruction of property. Hoodies are indeed associated with bad guys. There’s no way around that statement either. It is what is it is. I cannot begin to count the number of times I’ve responded to reports of hoodie-wearing prowlers, burglars, robbers, rapists, attackers, carjackers, home invaders, etc.

Even I’ve been approached by the police because I was wearing a hoodie. Last winter while staying at our home in N.C. during the Christmas holidays, I went outside at midnight, in a snowstorm, to brush heavy snow off the branches of some newly planted trees. I had the hood of my sweatshirt (I know, I’m old-fashioned), pulled tight to keep out the bitterly cold air, and, well, a neighbor saw me out there with a flashlight and called the police. Two deputies responded and said they’d received a report of a large hoodie-wearing man prowling around our yard.

I’m telling you, it’s the hoodie, people! There’s definitely a perception that they’re associated with crime!

Even the next two images give two starkly different impressions.

Sure goes to show that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, huh? But some people do give us reason to judge, like the robbers in the photos above. Well, except for Taylor Swift. The only thing she’s guilty of stealing is hearts…

Life after the crown vic

It’s official. I’m getting old, and I’m positive this is happening because everything I know and love is rapidly disappearing right before my eyes. The aging process alone is distressing enough as it is. But add to it receiving that first letter from AARP, new-fangled gadgets such as the “I” everything’s (I-Phone, I-Pad, I-Pod), weird music that really doesn’t resemble music, and the “F” word spewing from the mouths of nearly every kid in the 4th grade, well, it’s beyond distressing. Downright anxiety-inducing, if you ask me.

Yes, I know aging is a natural process, and with it comes (or goes) a lot of things we’ve held dear for our entire lives—hair, a trim waistline, memory, eyesight, strong backs, good knees, finger dexterity, speedy reaction time, soft skin, and well, you get the idea.

And getting older shoves all the good things aside, replacing them with odd little ugly things, such as:

– that once wavy mane of 80’s rock-band hair morphs into a peculiar-shaped hairless orb

– eyeglasses with super-thick lenses replace $200 super-cool sunglasses

– sports cars replaced by minivans

– comfortable tennis shoes replace dress shoes, even when going out

– going out is a trip to the grocery store, or a visit to the proctologist

– a quiet evening at home means turning down the volume on your hearing aids, not an intimate dinner party of six

– rolling a joint means to massage the pain from your knees, fingers, and feet

– listening to music no longer means turning on the radio to hear people sing beautiful melodies. Instead, we now turn on the radio to hear some guy using bad grammar to rapidly recite nonsensical, profanity-laced rhymes to the beat of a computerized, artificial bass guitar and drums (at least by listening to this crap on the radio we’re spared seeing the constant crotch-grabbing and dance-partner-humping).

– singers don’t sing. Singers don’t even have to be able to sing. Instead, a “gadget” harnesses their out-of-tune lyrics and mechanically brings the screeching tones into pitch. Anyone can become a singer these days. I won’t name names, but anyone, anyone, anyone ~ subliminal message here…Taylor Swift, Black Eyes Peas ~ can have a top-selling record.

– awards presented to actors and musicians used to mean something. Not anymore. Nowadays there’s at least one for everybody, sometimes more. And yes, even the fast-talking rhyming folks get them for “singing.”

– even the people who can’t sing but use the auto-tuners to dupe us into thinking they can sing win awards for “singing.”

What ever happened to folks who had real singing talent? Folks like Frank, Bing, Dean, Robert Plant, Aretha, Dionne, Barbara, and Paul McCartney?

Speaking of Paul McCartney, did you see the Twitter boards light up in response to Sir Paul’s performance on the recent “award” show? Most of the trending tweets were something like, “Who the hell is this Paul McCartney dude?” “Who’s the old white guy?”

Yes, it’s definitely a sign that times are changing when people don’t have a clue about Paul McCartney and his contribution to music and to the world as a musician.

I know. These are all signs that I’m getting old.

But the Geritol really hit the spoon when I learned of the plans to phase out the old standard police car, Ford’s Crown Victoria.

I drove a Chevrolet Caprice for several years. Mine was midnight blue with dark-tinted windows in the rear. The tint was installed so people couldn’t see who, if anyone, was in the backseat. That way I could drive an informant through a neighborhood so he could point out all the hotspots without anyone knowing what I was up to. And, the CI’s identity could remain anonymous. Plus, the darkened windows added a bit of mystery to me and the car. Kept the bad guys guessing.

My old “Blue Ghost” reached it’s top speed of 80mph, or so, when we were rolling downhill with my foot squashing the accelerator to the floor (all my successful pursuits terminated on the downhill side of the city). It was a tough old car and I loved it, passing up a couple of new rides in favor of keeping the car with a seat that was perfectly molded to the shape of my own downhill side of town.

I also drove a Crown Vic for a while, and that was one tough, beefy car. I used it on a few pit maneuvers and to chase down murder suspects, bank robbers, and escaped convicts. It was a great car. Actually, I drove a few Crown Vic’s during my career. A couple of them were take-home cars that also served as my office. In fact, I’d used the car to ferry my daughter to sporting events, driven it in several parades, and took it to various school events as show and tell for kids.

The Vic and The Ghost often served as safe sanctuaries for victims of abuse, rape, attempted murder, and assault, where they’d wait with the doors locked while I dealt with their attacker(s). The car’s heater warmed the tiny legs and arms of abused children whose homes had no heat when I found them inside, alone and shivering. I kept treats in the console for the younger folks who had nothing. The trunk held my riot gear, a shotgun, and other tools of the trade. But it was also home to several stuffed animals I ‘d bought for the kids who simply needed to hug something after mommy or daddy had used them as punching bags.

Driving slowly through neighborhoods with my windows down was just something I did. I’d pass by kids and old folks who all knew my first name. They’d wave and I’d wave back, and I’d often stop to speak or to get out and sit on someone’s front porch to talk about whatever was on their mind. Children knew The Vic and The Ghost, and they knew it meant someone was there to keep them safe, or to toss them a football.

Now, sadly, the Vic’s are gone. Replaced by big powerful cars with huge thunderous engines. Cars that can easily reach 150mph and beyond.

I see them zoom by on the highways, thinking back to the days when I wore a badge and drove the highways traveling to and from calls. And I can’t help wondering if there’s a teddy bear in the trunk of that passing Charger or Impala.

I certainly hope that’s a part of police work that never grows old.

Jail visits: pros and cons

He stands at a tiny window watching and waiting for her car to round the bend.

Any minute now.

The drive is long. Four hours, one way.

The little ones, five and seven now, will have on their Sunday best.

The boy’s hair’ll be slicked down. The girl’s in springy curls.

She, the red “company” dress.

She’s always looked stunning in red.

Heart pounding.

Can’t wait.

It’s been six long weeks.

They’re all he has.

No one else.

She’s late.

One hour, then two.

Other wives have come and gone.

Three hours and four pass.

He’d been up at dawn, ironing his best shirt and pants.

The creases sharp and crisp.

A shave and a fresh haircut.

Five hours.

No answer at home.

Only a message.

“The number you’ve reached is no longer…”

A broken heart.

Nothing new.

Story of his life.

No hope, no dream.

No where to go.

A change of clothing.

Bare skin.

Tattoos exposed.

Metal mirror.

Reflection.

Gang.

They’ll be there.

Always.

Prison life is tough. It’s definitely no picnic. Sure, some people choose to live the life and will always live the life, serving sentence after sentence. They live their lives on the streets committing crime after crime. Let’s face it, it’s the only life many people know. And when they end up in prison surrounded by career criminals, well, things only grow worse. Surround yourself with successful people and you, too, will become successful, right? Yes, that sentiment is also true among the bad guys. Being around successful criminals all the time will almost certainly spawn another success.

There are many programs to help inmates with various problems—AA, NA, religious services, anger management, psychiatric treatment, counseling, and even sports programs to help to relieve stress and anxiety. But, according to a study by researchers with the Minnesota Department of Corrections, the thing that helps prisoners the most and, reduces the rate of recidivism, is a simple visit from a family member.

Researchers studied 1,6000 inmates for five years and learned that prisoners who received at least one personal visit at any time during their incarceration were 13 percent less likely to commit another felony and 25 percent less likely to end up back in prison on a parole violation. And the more visits they received the less likely their chances of re-offending after their release from prison.

There are problems, though, with prison visits. They’re not mandatory (you can’t force family members to visit), and prison and jail officials see visitation as a privilege, not as a tool to help reduce recidivism and to assist the inmate with a successful crime-free return to society. Instead, officials in some areas have reduced the number of visits as cost-saving measures. Others have even begun charging a visitation fee. That’s right, family members must pay Arizona prisons a one-time $25 fee to visit their incarcerated loved ones. Again, another barrier between prisoners and their families. It’s tough enough to pay the exorbitant charges for inmate phone calls ($4 – $5 per minute at some institutions). The visitation fees in Arizona are used to help pay for the maintenance of the prisons in their state. The families, the people who are already struggling to make ends meet, are the ones most likely to suffer the burden of paying these fees if they want to see their sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, etc.

A return trip to prison by single parole violator will cost the state no less than $9,000. A visit by a family member doesn’t cost the state a penny, with the exception of salaries of the staff members who oversee the weekend visitations, something they’re already doing.

Prisons should encourage family visits. If not for the reduction in recidivism, then for their own peace of mind. I’m almost certain that prison violence is at it’s lowest point on visitation days, especially among those inmates who receive a visit from a family member.

Interestingly, though, inmates who receive visits from ex-spouses…well, those prisoners have a tendency to commit more crimes after their release.

What do you think, lock ’em and throw away the key? Or, do something positive and try to reduce the rate of recidivism?

*Reference HuffPo

Is pepper spray really the issue?

Pepper spray (Oleoresin Capsicum) is made from the fruit of plants, such as chili peppers. The chemical is basically a simple concoction—a high concentration of ground pepper suspended in pressurized water. Sometimes a dye is added to the mixture which marks a suspect for easy identification (as if the coughing, crying, and drooling aren’t enough).

The effects of the spray are: an immediate closing of the eyes (the person is able to open them but the burning sensation causes a strong desire to close them), burning sensation in the throat, breathing is uncomfortable, runny nose, hot itchy skin, and coughing. These effects of the spray normally last less than an hour. Sometimes the spray has no effect on the suspect.

However, people who suffer from asthma could suffer severe side effects, including death. And this is the side effect that made me re-think my position on pepper-spraying seated, peaceful protesters. A non-violent person, even people who are clearly breaking the law with their non-violent acts, should not be sprayed because there’s no way of knowing who has asthma or other medical problems, and who doesn’t. BUT, in the case of protesters who choose to toss a rock, push, shove, or strike a cop (or anyone else), well, they should be prepared for instant arrest using whatever means it takes for the officer to gain control. No time to check medic alert bracelets when someone comes charging with a sword.

So, I guess the only option for removing non-violent lawbreakers would be to return to the old standby—pain compliance, using wrist locks, arm bars, come-a-long techniques, riot batons, and sheer muscle to move people who break the law by blocking sidewalks, streets, bridges, and other public passageways and buildings.

San Diego protesters… “a peaceful resistance”

NYC protester “passively” ATTACKS a police officer. The crowd of peaceful protesters cheered as the man attempted to choke the officer.

Unless, of course, public opinion is to allow the occupiers to take over any place they desire, disrupting anything they want, all in the name of their peaceful movement (Please don’t misunderstand me, I agree with much of what the level-headed occupiers are saying. I just don’t agree with breaking the law to get the message across).

Seriously, should protesters be left alone to do whatever they want, anywhere they want? Is it okay for a hundred people to show up to camp in someone’s yard or place of business because the squatters don’t agree with how that particular citizen conducts his/her affairs.

NYC occupy camp

Is it okay for people to sit down at the entrance to someone’s personal driveway, blocking them from coming and going? How about camping in someone’s yard, running generators and using the flower garden as a public restroom? Is that okay because the campers don’t agree with the homeowner’s position regarding PTA matters?

NYC occupier

I guess the police can simply do nothing and just wait and see what happens. I’m positive everything would be fine. Sure, everyone will play nice and no bad would come of doing nothing to keep order. They won’t block city streets. They’ll stop burning cars and breaking out store windows. They’ll make the public parks a pleasant place to take your kids on a Saturday afternoon. Stepping across or around them to do your banking won’t be an inconvenience. Taking a one-hour detour around blocked streets and bridges will suit everyone just fine. Losing income due to damages to the store you’ve worked all your life to build from the ground up…no problem as long as the protesters have what they want.

Yes, there are protesters out there who are peaceful and truly want to make a difference. But police officers have no way of knowing the difference between the good and the people like those in the photo above who are using the movement as an excuse and cover to do damage. Therefore, officers have no choice other than to err on the side of caution, assuming everyone is out to do harm, until they see something to the contrary. Safety first.

Think about it, if the assaults, vandalism, car fires, etc, would go away, then so would the riot gear.

LA occupy camp outside City Hall

I think I like L.A.’s approach to the problem. Give the protesters an old office building (for a $1 per year rent) and shelter for the large group of homeless people who’ve joined their ranks. At least they’d be somewhere legally, unlike their counterparts in Oakland who’ve set up camp on a privately-owned lot that’s in foreclosure (sure, that land will be easy to sell now).

Back to the L.A. group, though…isn’t the offer of an office building a good idea for the group? There, they’d have a center of operations to conduct their activist work, instead of sitting in a public park or in the middle of public street where much of their focus is now on surviving the elements and dodging the police and local government officials. But the group hasn’t made a decision yet, not really wanting to give up their camp at City Hall, a condition that comes with $1 access to the office building.

By the way, the antidote for a dose of pepper spray is clear, cool water or milk. Not to drink, though. Turn the face sideways and slowly pour the liquid over the affected area(s). Another way to avoid the burn is to obey the law by not resisting arrest or assaulting police officers…

Pepper Spraying

Liz Nichols, at five-foot-nothing, is hardly a physical threat to big, burly, well-armed police officers. But add Ms. Nichol’s tiny body and soft-spoken voice to a herd of angry protesters and suddenly she’s ten-feet-tall and bulletproof. And that’s exactly what she tried to become (unstoppable by police and other officials) when she and her fellow Occupy Portland protesters “sat down” inside a Chase Bank, refusing to move. Admittedly, her goal was to be arrested. Yes, it was her intention to break the law and, when officers entered the bank to remove Nichols and her group, she asked to be arrested.

However, officers did not arrest Ms. Nichols or her fellow protesters. Instead, the officers herded the group out onto the sidewalk where a large crowd of protesters were already refusing orders to disperse and vacate the street (they were impeding the flow of traffic on the street and sidewalks and blocking and interfering with business-as-usual in public places). Not only was this crowd of protesters refusing to obey the police order to disperse and vacate, they had begun to push back and throw items at the officers. By the way, announcements to disperse and vacate were continuously broadcasted via loudspeaker. The message also clearly stated that those who didn’t comply would be arrested. There was plenty of advance notice regarding impending arrests if orders were not obeyed. Everyone had the opportunity to leave. MORE than amply opportunity. The mob chose to ignore the continuous warnings.

Well, Ms. Nichol’s once tiny presence had grown significantly and had now become a huge threat to the safety of the definitely-outnumbered police officers and citizens who were attempting to conduct that business-as-usual. So what options were available to police? Actually, there weren’t many. They could do nothing and allow the protesters to take control of public places and businesses, such as parks, banks, city streets and sidewalks. Obviously, that would be the wrong thing to do.

Protesters attempt to occupy Steelbridge in Portland

Or,  the protesters could do what’s legal and leave those public places, obtain the proper permits, and then conduct their protests and have their voices heard in an appropriate venue.

A great example of having a message heard, without breaking the law, took place on August 28, 1963, when someone announced his “dream” to over 200,000 people.

In the case of Liz Nichols (receiving the mouthful of pepper spray in top photo), she and her fellow protesters across the country may have a valid point to make. But, and I’m speaking from the point of view of the police officers, there’s a better way to make that point. Why poke a stick into a hornet’s nest full of officers who have a job to do (remember, they’re acting on orders given from their bosses), and who simply want to do that job without getting hurt or hurting anyone else. Besides, the Occupier’s points are being overshadowed by all the negativity.

Believe me, it’s no fun to squirt pepper spray into the faces of unarmed people, especially tiny women like Liz Nichols. Actually, it’s a bit demeaning to do so. There’s always a feeling inside tugging at your emotions because you’ve hurt someone, even though that hurt is normally temporary and minor.

Please, everyone, place yourself in the officer’s shoes for a moment. You’re outnumbered 50 or 100 to one. The mob is angry. They’re throwing rocks and bottles at you. You have no way of knowing who’s armed and who isn’t. Cops get shot and killed almost every day. These folks are breaking the law. They will not listen to reason, or your commands to move out of the street. And they start pushing back. Harder and harder. Any sign of hesitation and weakness on your part and they push even harder.

City Press Image

Or, protesters have filled the lobby of your bank and won’t leave, turning your customers away. Hundreds of them have camped out on your property, using your shrubbery as a bathroom.

City Press image

They litter the ground with waste and feces. Tents fill your once beautiful landscape. Your friends and family can no longer visit. Generators hum all day and night. Assaults and rapes take place during the dark hours. And the protesters will not leave, so you call the police.

As a police officer, what would you do, tuck your tail and run? Certainly not. You do your job, using whatever it takes to enforce the law. I’m truly sorry Ms. Nichols got a face full of O.C. spray, but the officers didn’t know her. All they know in those mob-type situations is…

AP photo

…if walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, then it must be out to hurt me. After all, a little woman can be as violent as well as any big man. There’s no time in these situations to take a “who’s violent and who’s not” survey. So please, Occupy Folks, sit down and have a meeting. Discuss things. Iron out the details. And for goodness sake, use your heads. There’s got to be a better way. This plan is definitely not working.

* Ms. Nichols has been charged with three counts of interfering with a police officer.

Businesses in Oakland are suffering due to the Occupy movement – KFI radio image

* So far, the Occupy movement has cost cities in excess of $10 million ($6 million in NYC). And who’s footing those huge bills? Yep, the taxpayers. People whose backs are already breaking from the state of the economy.

Portland has shelled out approximately $100,000 just to fix damages caused to public parks by the Occupy protesters. Another $750,000 has been spent in police overtime.

* Top image – Huffington Post