Archives April 2008

Movie Critique: “88 Minutes”

Seeing as I’ve been an avid movie fan and lover of music since my crawling days in the crib, I thought I’d add a lighter side to my blog site. I’d be happy to hear what readers have to say.

If it weren’t for the presence of mega star and fine actor, Al Pacino, 88 Minutes would probably make most of it’s money being sold at Wal-mart in one of the $1 bins.

Good movies are tough to find these days, as the motion picture market caters mainly to children and young adults which feature gore, extreme violence, terror, plethora of smashed cars and buildings, million-bullet shoot-em-ups, raw sex, garbage humor and animated stories. Such is where the money is. Once in a while, a fine drama emerges, wins an Academy Award, then flops at the box office.

The problem with 88 Minutes is not action, drama or suspense. It has plenty of that. It’s the sheer absence of plausibility to the point of being absurd.

In a nutshell: Al Pacino is a Forensic psychiatrist whose testimony helped put a sadistic killer on Death Row nine years earlier. Naturally, the killer professes his innocence as his date with death nears. Suddenly new murders begin to emerge throughout the city using the same modus operandi; young women hoisted upside down, raped, tortured and then killed. Pacino is brought into the scene immediately by the FBI to help investigate. That’s when he receives a phone threat by a garbled voice telling him, he has 88 minutes to live.

From there, Pacino runs around in a panic as a number of other women are found killed, including his girl friend, and gives orders to police, FBI and other resource agencies to check this and that. The suspense comes, trying to figure out if the guy in prison is actually innocent, and who is behind the new onslaught of murders. The FBI begins to think Pacino, himself, may be the guilty party.

Sure, I was a thirty-year cop and I tend to see the flaws in a police-thriller movie. But I’m also a fiction writer, and I can live with a few non-sensible coincidences and some unlikely scenes, because folks…it’s fiction. But not this.

First, In my sixteen years working murder cases in Miami, I know of no detectives that ever consulted with a forensic psychiatrist during a murder case, yet work side by side with him in the streets. It just doesn’t happen. Lawyers may use them at trial, usually the defense type, for their expert opinion. Second, if and when a private psychiatrist is involved in an investigation, he certainly is not privileged to bark orders at police supervisors as though he were in command of the field. Third, other than crimes that cross state lines or where the murder occurred on federal property, the FBI is not in charge of any city/county murder case. They are handled by the local police agencies. So, why is the FBI there at all? (Head shaking)

But this is the kicker. Nine years earlier, the first victim is found hanging as her twin sister abruptly stumbles on the killing scene. Ah, a witness. She tells the police that the room was dark, and she didn’t get a good look at the subject. In legal terms, that usually means: No I.D.

As it turns out, the evidence upon which this man was convicted, was — of all things — the twin sister’s identification (who didn’t get a good look him in the dark) and,(get this) the expert opinion of the psychiatrist who said he was positive this guy did the killing, though he had no other evidence other than a personality profile. Well, that’s pushing it. If any defendant was put on trial based on personality profiles and poor visibility identifications, he’d be freed on a directed verdict by the judge in a New York minute.

There were other stupidities in the picture, but I think you get the idea.

So, friends, if you just want some suspenseful entertainment that makes no sense, but you’re an addict for Al Pacino’s acting, go for it. If you still seek a smidgen of authenticity in a police story, don’t waste your money on 88 Minutes.

JUDGING JC: JIMMY CARTER OR JESUS CHRIST

I bristled watching the news clip of former president Jimmy Carter as he lay a wreath at the grave site of Yasser Arafat. When I learned that the former president had traveled to the mid-east — illegally – to meet with Hamas leaders, and then give a hug to senior Hamas leader, Nasser Shaer, the hair rose on my arm.

In essence, an American statesman took it upon himself to pay homage to one of the most notorious terrorists in modern history, and then embrace a man who endorses hate, murder and genocide. Are we supposed to feel warm and fuzzy about that?

Now he is about to meet the leader of Hamas in a so-called “peace mission.” The terror group must be laughing their butts off.

In fact, by disregarding the wishes of the State Department and commiserating with a terrorist organization, Mr. Carter has violated the law.

I always considered Jimmy Carter a well-meaning, peace-loving man who would have never been president had it not been for the Nixon scandals. Moral as he may be, his presidency was considered incompetent by many, rife with blunder after blunder, not to mention an economy in the dumps. The Shah of Iran, the rise of the Ayatollah, the hostage crisis, the Mariel boatlift, and runaway inflation. Now, he blunders again.

His recent writings along with his book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, revealed some disappointing views about his anti-Israeli and/or anti-Semitic leanings. That may have some bearing on his recent travails with Israel’s sworn enemy.

Some of my readers will draw the usual comparisons to George W. Bush, which is apples to oranges. Whether we like Bush or not, this country is still engaged in an armed conflict and fighting international terrorism. There are issues and processes going on every day which Mr. Carter is not privy to, and which he could very well screw up…a risk which can affect every man woman and child in the free world, including Palestine and Israel.

For those readers who have any doubts about the evil of Hamas, here are a few tid-bits:

* Hamas refuses to recognize the existence of Israel and is dedicated to one end: Its virtual elimination. That goal has never wavered. According to the Washington Institute For Near East Policy, Hamas views the Arab-Israeli conflict as a religious struggle between Islam and Judaism that can only be resolved by the destruction of the Jewish state.

* Hamas is united and determined. Example: A sermon was delivered last week by a Hamas Member of Parliament, Yunis al-Astal, and aired on Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV in which he predicted that Rome would become “an advanced post for the Islamic conquests, which will spread though Europe in its entirety, and then will turn to the two Americas, even Eastern Europe.” Further, he declared, “Very soon, Allah willing, Rome will be conquered just like Constantinople, as was prophesized by our prophet Muhammad.” Click here: » Hamas Cleric

(Anyone think Mr. Carter can single-handedly undo the prophesy of Muhammad?)

* Hamas is listed as a terrorist organization by Canada, Israel, Japan and the United States and is banned in Jordan. The European Union lists Hamas as a group known to be involved in terrorist attacks.

* Within days after Israel pulled thousands of citizens from Gaza, Hamas began firing rockets into Israel with no other intent but to murder innocent civilians. The assault continues.

By his actions, Jimmy Carter has dignified radical Islamic extremists who exist for the purpose of killing under the banner of a “resistence movement.” To some, his actions would be considered traitorous. There is no negotiating with a terrorist organization whose only purpose to exist is to annihilate a people.

Then, there is the despicable act of honoring Yasser Arafat. Here are a few accomplishments of the former PLO under Arafat’s leadership:

* Feb. 21, 1970: SwissAir flight 330, bound for Tel Aviv, is bombed in mid-flight by PFLP, a PLO member group. 47 people are killed.

* May 8, 1970: PLO terrorists attack an Israeli schoolbus with bazooka fire, killing nine pupils and three teachers from Moshav Avivim

* Sept. 6, 1970: TWA, Pan-Am, and BOAC airplanes are hijacked by PLO terrorists.

* May 1972: PFLP, part of the PLO, dispatches members of the Japanese Red Army to attack Lod Airport in Tel Aviv, killing 27 people.

* Sept. 5, 1972: Munich Massacre —11 Israeli athletes are murdered at the Munich Olympics by a group calling themselves “Black September,” an arm of Fatah, operating under Arafat’s direct command.

* March 1, 1973: Palestinian terrorists take over Saudi embassy in Khartoum. The next day, two Americans –including the United States’ ambassador to Sudan, Cleo Noel – and a Belgian were shot and killed.

* April 11, 1974: 11 people are killed by Palestinian terrorists who attack apartment building in Kiryat Shmona.

* May 15, 1974: PLO terrorists infiltrating from Lebanon hold children hostage in Ma’alot school. 26 people, 21 of them children, are killed.

How is that for a Start? The actual list would consume hundreds of pages, with thousands dead and thousands more terrorized. That’s not to mention the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro that was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists in 1985, when wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer was shot and thrown overboard. Instructions originated from Arafat’s headquarters in Tunis.

Yasser Arafat personified murder and terror, yet — in an era of international terror and Islamic extremism — our American statesman bestows honor upon the hero of terror.

I am a severe critic of G.W. Bush in many ways. Yet, as an American, I am not only angry, I am embarrassed by the actions of Jimmy Carter.

In a rare diplomatic snub, Carter was rightfully shunned by Israel this week by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who refused to meet with him.

Emboldened by his Nobel Peace Prize, Mr. Carter may be sensing a mission, that he will be the one person in the world who will end the conflicts between Israel and her neighbors. Never mind, that Israel has been under attack since the first day of its existence in 1948 by Arab nations dedicated to its destruction.

Perhaps, he sees himself as a Messiah of sorts, impervious to criticism and on the road to sainthood. To my mind, Jimmy Carter is utterly naive if he believes Israel has any chance of survival if and when there is any capitulation to Hamas. It’s what they are waiting for.

Meanwhile, Carter is an American citizen who has snubbed State Department policy and broken the law by traveling, meeting and hugging a certified terrorist organization. Any other American would, and should, be prosecuted. Is Mr. Carter above the law?

Calling 9-1-1: Staying Calm Can Be Hazardous

Sometimes it pays to lose your cool.

Take the case of Lenona Suggs, age thirteen. Lenona was raised as a single child by a single parent who worked by day and mothered by night. She dreamt one day of becoming a lawyer and prayed that she would makes grades that would earn a scholarship. She was an attractive child, wire thin, with smooth chocolate skin and slanted eyes which suggested a hint of Asia somewhere in her bloodline.

Mama had been married once but her man vanished one day after a night out with the boys when Lenona was only a year old. Mama worked the next twelve years cleaning white people’s homes in upscale neighborhoods. A devoted mother, indeed, Mama would make sure her daughter would never suffer the same foolish fate, marrying a loser, then having no other skills than scrubbing toilets and floors on bended knees. She read stories to Lenona at night, helped her with homework and spoke openly about sex, drugs and violence and the rigors of life.

She often left Lenona home alone during late afternoons while she worked beyond rush hour. She covered those bases also. “If you’re ever real sick or you’re hurt, or you’re afraid, be sure and call 9-1-1,” she said. “They will be at the house in seconds. And whenever you talk to the police, try and be real calm and speak clearly so they can understand you.”

“Okay, Mama.”

One bright Thursday afternoon, while Lenona was working on her algebra homework, she heard a rap at the window. There was Darryl Ray Stiles, a 15 year-old boy she knew from school, a boy who had often made advances for her attention to no avail, a boy who had failed the seventh grade and then the eighth. Lenona waved him off. “Go away!”

But Darryl was persistent. He beat on the window, then went to the front door. “Let me in,” he shouted.

“Go away! Please.” Lenona scampered from door to door making sure bolts and latches were in place. Then she peered out the windows following his motion as he circled the house. She could see that he was wired, intense, determined.

As he pounded on the door, she was afraid he’d break the locks. Petrified, she lifted the phone and called 9-1-1. Her mother’s words echoed through her brain. “When you talk to the police, try to be real calm….”

     Lenona: “Hello, my name is Lenona Suggs. I’m thirteen, and I’m alone, and there is a boy trying to break into my house. He’s outside right now, please send someone.”

     Officer: “I see. Give me your address young lady.”

     Lenona: “It’s 3640 Northwest 77th street. Please, he trying to get inside.”

     Officer: “I see. Do you know this boy?”

     Lenona: “Yes, his name is Darryl. I know him.”

     Officer: “Uh huh. And how do you know this boy, Miss Suggs?”

    Lenona: “He be after me all the time in school. Please, could you send someone out here. He’s trying to get into my house.”

     Officer: “Sure. Just stay right there, and we’ll get someone out there as soon as we can.”

And so it went. Judging by her quiet and deliberate manner, the complaint officer logged the call as a domestic dispute between schoolmates and lay it in the “non-emergency” stack. Police would be dispatched only after other more pressing calls were answered.

A two-man cruiser arrived thirty-five minutes later where they found the rear kitchen door ajar and windows broken with shards of glass strewn about the floor. Inside, Lenona Suggs lay on the bedroom carpet agaze at the ceiling in a pool of crimson blood, her clothes ripped from her body and a screwdriver impaled into her heart. Lenona’s dream of becoming a lawyer was forever terminated by a young lunatic and his rock of crack cocaine.

No one will ever know, for certain, if Lenona’s life would have been saved had the police rushed there in emergency mode. But we do know that these split-second decisions are often guided by the emotional pitch of the moment. In this case, Mama’s good advice backfired.

Sure, Darryl Ray Stiles was arrested, tried as an adult, and sentenced to life in prison. But so what? Nothing could bring Lenona back.

Unconsoled by good detective work and a fine prosecution, Mama went into depression and ultimately disappeared from the face of the earth, just like Lenona’s father.

The Complaint Officer? Handicapped and wheelchair bound, this congenial old man simply thought it was a domestic squabble and no emergency, because the girl didn’t sound like she was in peril. He wished the caller had been more hysterical.

No discipline was administered to the gentleman, but it didn’t matter. He’ll live with it for a lifetime.

Yes, this is a true story…from the annals of Miami-Dade P.D. It could happen anywhere.

WHY OBAMA MUST NOT BE ELECTED

Like most cops, I spent the majority of my career discerning truth from fiction. After a while, you get pretty good at it. Folks who work in the field of criminal justice deal with liars every day and develop a strong scent for deceit. It’s part of the job.

Such provides, in my opinion, an advantage in deciding who to vote for in a major election. Those of us in career law enforcement and other justice jobs, tend to weigh evidence, and not be guided by impressions and eloquent oratory. What’s most important is the sum of evidence, not one or two items by themselves, but the whole.

We live in a time of hype and idolatry spawned by media sensationalism. It trumps common sense. Evidence meant nothing in the O.J. Simpson trial. The jury was swayed by the aura of celebrity and charisma, not by an amalgamation of facts which pointed toward his guilt. Five months of listening to testimony took a back seat to sound bytes, like, “If the glove don’t fit, you gotta acquit.” Blinded by awe, the jury disregarded solid evidence and voted in favor of the killer.

Mind boggling.

The mayor of Washington D.C. was caught on a surveillance camera in 1990 smoking crack cocaine and sent to prison. The citizens didn’t care. When released, he ran for office again and — unbelievably — the people re-elected him. Talk about chutzpah. Marion Barry, a criminal, was a confirmed addict and tested positive for cocaine. Yet, voters turned a blind eye to evidence and elected this charismatic man to be in charge of Washington’s governmental service, including law enforcement.

All politicians either exaggerate, skew facts or downright lie, so there’s no sense in arguing who’s the most prolific liar. What’s more important, is the consequence of their lies. When Americans are lied to, how will that affect our standards of living, the economy, the saving of lives around the world and the future for our grandchildren?

Bill Clinton lied about receiving sex from an office employee. Consequence? The citizenry was not affected very much, other than the squandering of taxpayer’s money trying to prosecute the president.

The Gulf of Tonkin was a lie, and as a result, 58,000 Americans were killed in Viet Nam over eleven years. That’s consequence!

There’s many more, of course.

What would be the consequences of electing Obama versus Clinton versus McCain…given that they will all stretch the truth to one extent or another?

I fear the blind eye syndrome is happening in today’s presidential campaign.

To my mind, there are five essential issues:

* That we elect a president who will always put the best interests of the country ahead of any other interests.

* That we elect a president who will care about all Americans, and not impose favoritism to one group over another, whether along religious, racial, economic or ethnic lines.

* That we elect a president who has displayed a sense of patriotism and love of country.

* That we elect a president who will ensure the security of our nation, including the maintenance of a ready defense.

* That we elect a president who has established a history of accomplishments from which to weigh these factors.

In the opinion of this former career cop, electing Barack Obama would be an utter catastrophe from which the future of this great nation will suffer greatly. He certainly fits none of the above. Yet, people, en masse, are responding in support of this political rock star while ignoring all the evidence. No, he’s not a killer, but it all reminds me of the O.J. case as well-meaning people totally disregard facts and evidence and allow themselves to be sucked into celebrity euphoria.

In a nutshell:

* Obama is obsessed with race. Here we are in a society that works toward being color blind, and we continue to be reminded of this man’s race. One only has to read both his books and get beyond the rhetoric to see that they are both written by a angry man overwhelmed with racial issues. The books are totally infused with matters of color, and far from the issues of what is right for the nation’s future. I cannot imagine a Colin Powell or a Condi Rice hammering the racial issue as their primary identity.

* When Obama gave his now-famous speech in defense of his association with Reverend Wright, he pulled off the ultimate coup, diverting the issue to another subject. In truth, he was being questioned about his relationship for twenty years with a church that espouses racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism and Louis Farrakhan. Instead, America sat agog as he gave a speech about the history of racial divide and his own colorful background. And we fell for it.

* Anyone who researches that church — which Obama has had his family attend for twenty years — cannot ignore the evidence that its leader is an angry, anti-American, Jew-hating bigot that has embraced the Nation of Islam’s leader, for twenty years as well. No one, especially someone as prominent as Obama, would be a part of that environment, unless they feel a part of it. Certainly, Obama will distance himself in 2007 and 2008, because he wants to be president. But there is no denying the anti-American association since 1988.

* Obama’s camp has employed members of the Nation of Islam in his campaign rooms, including his campaign treasurer. Those who belongs to the Nation of Islam are devout followers of the race-baiting, Jew-hating, anti-American, Louis Farrakhan.

* Until recently, some of Obama’s campaign offices have proudly displayed pictures of Che Gueverra, communist rebel who, under Fidel Castro, is responsible for his own number of terrorist killing.Click here: BARACK.htm

* Obama’s attachment to his African kin is more than worrisome, and tells us more about this presidential candidate that some people wish wasn’t true. Obama’s Luo cousin, Raila Odinga, received Obama’s support when he traveled to Africa in 2006. That support has helped Odinga in his quest to seize power. And in doing so, Odinga has pledged — in writing — that within six months of assuming power, he will impose strict Sharia law in Kenya and turn it into an Islamic nation. What does that say about the priorities of our near-future president? Click here: pdf

* Michele Obama – the future first lady – said much in very few words. “For the first time, I’m proud to be an American.” First time? This is the woman with whom the possible president sleeps and shares the most private thoughts and feelings. Are we to believe this is another one of those comments/thoughts where he wasn’t around at the time? Thus, we are about to embrace a first lady for the U.S. that was never proud of being an American until her husband ran for president. Doesn’t that make us feel warm and fuzzy?

* Then there is the allegiance Obama may have toward the Muslim community in a time when Jihadists are overrunning Europe and threatening to replace the U.S. Constitution with the Koran before the end of this century. There is no evidence that Obama is a Muslim, but there is evidence — considering his family background and other associations — that he would be soft on Islamic issues, and capitulate to their demands as they intensify. (And they will) Meanwhile, the number of Wahhabi mosques in the U.S. are doubling every five years. It’s also a stinging red flag that Obama is the choice candidate of American Muslims. Click here: Muslims for Barack Obama ’08

* Obama would weaken the defense status of the Unites States, as indicated by his own words during a recent video, by cutting back on missiles, weapons and the nuclear arsenal. I’m sure the international enemies of America will jump for joy when and if Obama is elected, including al Qaeda.

Click here: YouTube –

While I could extend the length of this article, I must keep it within a reasonable word count.

Suffice to say that the evidence — in sum — is pretty strong that:

* Obama has no history of accomplishments from which to measure his competence and sincerity of purpose.

* Obama’s sense of patriotism toward the U.S. is suspect, at the least.

* Obama would put the interests of radicals, discontents, racists and anti-Americans ahead of the best interests for all Americans.

* The issue of race — here and abroad – will weigh heavily on any decision he makes as president. Just read his books. Listen to his speeches. Attend his church.

* Obama would weaken the defenses of our country.

Eloquent words mean nothing. Candidates will say whatever is politically correct and advantageous to get elected. Some say it better than others. What is most important is to follow the evidence.

Will America turn a blind eye? Let’s hope not.

Never Too Late To Say Thanks

You never know.

Small gestures of the past may resurface one day and bring gratitude when you least expect it.

Library booktalks have brought me through five states, from Knoxville, Tennessee to Key West, Florida, and hundreds of meeting rooms and auditoriums. As they say in show biz — it’s my schtick, a fun gig that has paid off in more ways than one.

On occasion, I will spot a face in the audience from an early era of my life, an old police crony, a high school chum, an old girl friend, a former adversary, or some obscure soul upon whom I made a mark and never knew it. Last year, a long lost relative showed up at an Asheville library, one who I had never met.

Clearwater, Florida. 2004. The crowd was disappointingly small. As folks ambled in, they were surprised to see an older curly-haired fellow playing gypsy songs on a violin as he wandered around the room. “Are we in the wrong place?” a woman asked of the host.

“Oh, no. That’s the author. Have a seat,” replied the librarian.

The audience was attentive and lively as I embarked on my dissertation. One fellow sitting in the front row seemed intense, taciturn. He never took his eyes off me. In his forties, he reminded me of movie actor, John Malkovich, balding, eyebrows arched, lips pursed.

After more than an hour, the man raised his hand. “Mr. Frank. My father was Lee Paris. Do you remember him?” Oh oh. Thoughts scrambled into high gear. Who is this guy? Did I arrest his father? Was this a set-up, or some angry adversary here to exact revenge or humiliation? Lee Paris? The name was familiar, but I couldn’t place the face. So, I lied, “Yeah. Sure.”

“Can I speak with you after the talk?” he asked.

“Yes.” What does this guy want?

The man waited patiently as I signed books at the table. Then he approached with an extended hand. That was a relief. “You changed my life,” he said.

“I did?”

“Don’t you remember? My father owned a bar on Collins Avenue, some 30 or 40 years ago.”

Then it struck me. Of course, Lee Paris, a small, stocky, gentle man who shot a wicked game of billiards. Always complaining about bad business, wishing for legalized gambling in the state which would never come. A good man.

The fellow could see the confusion in my eyes.

“Excuse me?” Then I asked, “You say I changed your life? How?”

His eyes were deep and sincere. “When I was seventeen, I was going nowhere. My life was drugs, getting into trouble, no direction. My dad called you and asked if you would come and talk to me.”

“I don’t remember that,” I replied.

“You came. I’ll never forget it. You scared the heck out of me and left an impression I’ll never forget. You let me know where I was heading unless I changed my ways, and that I better do something, even if it meant joining the service. Being a cop and all, you knew what you were talking about. So I joined the navy, and it straightened my life from certain disaster.”

I was stunned. “I remember your mom and dad, but I don’t remember that.”

“Doesn’t matter, ” he said, eyes welling. “Your appearance here was advertised and I just wanted to come and thank you.” With that, came a gentle bear hug transferring the warmth of his feelings to me. I turned my head as tears started to flow from my own eyes.

“Thank you,” I said. ” I wish I could remember.”
 

Wow.

Off duty or on, police officers are often called upon in the troubled lives of friends, neighbors and acquaintances, to intervene, or offer advice, consolation, or counsel a troubled kid. It is the unofficial part of the job. Most cops don’t give it a second thought.

As I drove across Interstate 4 that afternoon, my mind swarmed, wondering about those had made a difference in my life, yet I never took the time to say thanks.

Sergeant Paul Rosenthal came to mind first. A tall, bulky man, shot multiple times in World War II, he had become a career cop running the extraditions desk in Warrants Bureau. He not only showed me the ropes, he had been there for me when I was shot, and again when I suffered the loss of my mother, both times above and beyond the call of duty.

So I made a special journey to Miami to have lunch with the crusty old retiree. It had been more than 40 years. Walking laboriously with a cane, he asked why I arranged this rendezvous, out of the blue. I told him about my encounter with Lee Paris’ son. It had taught me an important lesson. “I learned that there are some people in this world I still owe a debt of gratitude, and never said thanks. And you’re one of them.” The old sarge welled up with tears, and I felt good. He felt good. We hugged. We smiled.

Good deeds, however small, will come back around when they are least expected. But it’s also a reminder that time runs short, and we need to thank all those who have cared, loved, sacrificed and stood up for us when we needed them the most… while we still can.

You just never know.