Archives December 2012

NO NEED TO BE CHRISTIAN TO LOVE CHRISTMAS

     You don’t have to be Christian to love Christmas.

     We all know the origins of the much-commercialized holiday and how the stories about the birth of Christ evolved from biblical scripture. They are preached in Christian churches and homes everywhere. Regardless of personal beliefs, everyone must admit it is a wonderful story about struggle, beauty and love. After all, who doesn’t rejoice in the birth of a newborn, divine or not?  

     For devout Christians, it provides a time of year to celebrate a momentous event. Non-Christians can, and often do, unite with Christians in celebrating one time of year as a holiday to join families, express love, to exchange symbols of friendship and devotion and to excite children.

     I was raised an only child by a secular mother named Vivien who never read from a bible or preached religion to me. Yet, she was as spiritual as anyone without a label assigned. A table-top Christmas tree adorned our small apartment every December with traditional decorations and an ample supply of presents wrapped below. Dollar values mattered not.

     She included me in the holiday spirit that abounded in schools, shopping places, playgrounds and the homes of friends. I was part of the festivities, parties and the spirit of giving. I learned to sing and play carols, which is some of the most beautiful music on planet Earth.

     She taught, not by her words, but by her actions how important it is to love those who deserve being loved, no matter their religion.

     She taught me the art of giving, to send cards and gifts, however small, to friends and family, whether they be Christians, Jews, atheists, or Hindu, black, white, boy or girl, young and old.

     She taught me it didn’t matter if they sent cards and presents back.

     She taught me the value of love messages, about respect, honor and forgiveness, and that if there was no other time to bestow these things, there always was Christmas.

     Those who choose to openly vilify Christmas fail to understand they serve themselves no useful purpose, for it is not the religion that is derided, it is a spirit of harmony and love, regardless of the origin. And that’s not going away. I am particularly disappointed when company employees are admonished from publicly using the term “ Merry Christmas” and must greet people with “Happy Holiday.” Since when does political correctness apply to a celebration of love?

     Christmas is a time to party, to express joy, to join with others and to share. Whether we realize it or not, we all do it because it is a holiday sanctioned by our government, not because our government is Christian, but because our elected leaders, under President Ulysses S. Grant in 1870, recognized the need for acknowledging a time every year to set aside for sharing love.

     Many cultures celebrate the Christmas holiday, even those with Christian minorities, including Japan where Christianity is small but Christmas trees are decorated and gifts and plentiful.

     I am not Christian, yet I care less if people want to erect displays of the birth of Christ. I see it as a symbol of love and peace, not necessarily of divine spirit. It’s not there to be challenged. We would all do well to listen to the primary message which transcends all peoples of the earth regardless of beliefs: Peace on earth, good will toward man.

     Everyone can learn from that woman named Vivien who did in 1966. After all, Christmas is a holiday of love – and that’s worth celebrating by everyone.  

     Merry Christmas!

THE ROOT OF MASS SHOOTINGS: MENTAL ILLNESS

 

     Gun Control!

     Our government leaders, any many others, would have us believe that putting the kibosh to the 2nd Amendment is the answer to rampant violence in the United States, particularly in the wake of recent shootings where innocent children and adult citizens have been killed. It would seem that way.

     But it’s really not the answer. If stronger gun control measures were in place, it would have had no effect on the twenty children and seven adults who were killed in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14th of this year. The mother’s guns were legal and the shooter purchased no weapons himself. Perhaps the guns should have been better secured, but that’s hindsight. We’ll learn more down the road.

     If we lived in a strict fascist government and the 2nd Amendment was repealed whereby no citizens were allowed to purchase and own firearms, it might make a difference, but then we would be living in a state-controlled society reminiscent of WWII Germany and Communist China. That also opens the floodgates to other freedoms we hold so dear.

     The 2nd Amendment is here to stay. Just like the freedoms of speech, assembly and religion, there are guidelines, rules and regulations for protecting people and maintaining order. Perhaps we could do better with firearms without infringing on the right to bear arms. That’s up for debate.

     As I see it, the problem with these mass public shootings is threefold:

  1. The easy accessibility to firearms by disturbed individuals
  2. Glamorizing extreme violence via motion pictures and video games
  3. A poor system for dealing with mental illness inAmerica.

     In my opinion, number 3 – mental health treatment/system deficiencies, is the major problem.

     I could relate numerous examples of people I’ve known who were seriously mentally unbalanced whereby little help was available to family members other than medication and strict supervision. It has also struck my life on a personal level.

     I know of a vaudeville comic in the late 1930’s who became a serious schizophrenic, imagining enemies everywhere. His wife finally called the men with the white coats and had him safely institutionalized. He died two years later. That was then. It can’t happen today.

     The school massacre in Newtown,Connecticut is sure to raise political and public safety issues in which gun control will be top the list. But when we learned of the psychotic condition of mass killers like Seung-Hui Cho (Virginia Tech), James Holmes (Aurora, Colorado) and Jared Loughner (Tucson, Arizona) it’s obvious they were greatly disturbed and should have been treated and/or institutionalized long before they acquired guns. People closest to them certainly knew they were mad, but were powerless to do anything.

     Most of the multiple shootings that have occurred in America since Columbine were committed by young adults with severe mental illness. That includes the Newtown school murders. Such tragedies have the stamp of schizophrenia or symptoms of mental depravity. People closest to the killers were witness to out-of-touch behavior, but nothing could be done until crimes were committed. Then it was too late. In some cases, psychiatrists prescribe medication but that’s only workable if a patient voluntarily complies.

     In the last fifty years, jails and prisons have morphed into the sole processing and holding institution for the severe mentally ill. According to most recent statistics, 10 to 24 percent of prison inmates suffer from mental illness. In days of yore, mental health laws allowed for close family members and/or three citizens to sign someone into a mental health facility for evaluation or commitment. Such facilities were plentiful in the 1950’s and 60’s, until medication was developed as a substitute for in-house treatment. Mental health institutions were phased out leaving care and treatment to the jails, after crimes were committed.

    Florida’s Baker Act is only a temporary measure which allows a spouse or family member to be placed into evaluation for 72 hours and then released.

     One of my first jobs in plain clothes was to investigate applicants for gun permits. That entailed working the streets and personally interviewing employers, neighbors, family and friends. If applicants had ever displayed bizarre behavior or habitually abused alcohol or drugs, permits were denied. That was effective, but non-existent any more. Budget cuts and other crime priorities removed this function from police departments and have relegated background investigations to a simple FBI computer check. Applicants without a documented criminal record are awarded permits.

     Signs of schizophrenia usually emerge in the late teens and early twenties. Victims are generally detached and avoid social circles, often suffering from delusions and hallucinations.

     According to current mental health statistics, about two million Americans suffer from schizophrenia. That doesn’t appear on any gun check when making a purchase, unless they’ve been arrested. Plenty of crazy people are at liberty to purchase guns at will, because there is no record of their mental health. That is a problem that can be changed.

     Before knee-jerking into the gun control arena, states should reevaluate their laws and systems for identifying and treating people with severe mental illness before violent crimes are committed.

     That schizophrenic vaudeville comic never hurt anyone, including himself, or me, thanks to an effective mental health system which was available to my mother in 1939.

NOBEL PEACE PRIZE A SHAM

     Bishop Desmond Tutu and two other former winners of the Nobel Peace Prize have rightfully criticized the Oslo foundation for giving the 2012 award to the European Union. This is an example of the diminishing esteem for the coveted prize. In awarding the EU, the foundation passed over many deserving nominees, including Bill Clinton who, in his post-presidency, has created a number of foundations to help poor and needy people around the world.

     This was not an award for recognizing agents of peace. Rather, it has evolved into a political entity.

     Since 1901, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to 99 individuals and twenty-three times to organizations, including the well-deserving Red Cross three times. But somewhere a long the line, the prize system has gone astray.

     Gone are the days of George Marshall, Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Teresa and Elie Wiesel.

     Consider 1994’s co-winner: Yasser Arafat, terrorist leader. The award may as well have been given to Adolf Hitler. People then began doubting the validity of the once-prestigious award. Arafat led the Jew-hating, Jihad-based Palestinian Liberation Organization in terror activities throughout his mission, including the murder of fourteen Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. The Oslo foundation cannot justify such a travesty.

     While no peacenik, Arafat actually did accomplish deeds in his life, however nefarious.

     Not so with the 2009 winner, Barack Obama, who was voted the award before he barely settled in to the Oval Office. While Mr. Obama never spread Arafat-like malevolence, neither was there any evidence – as of award time – that he had accomplished anything significant in his life other than organize people to raise money to get himself elected. He had no history of self-sacrifice or of blood sweat and tears curing and saving the downtrodden. During his stints as a junior state senator from Illinois then two years as a U.S. Senator, he had no record of accomplishments other than assembling followers because of oratory skills. The Oslo committee was so impressed that America could elect a black man as president, it ignored other many other deserving candidates who had sacrificed much of their lives helping others around the world. The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded for political acknowledgements, not peace.

     There is nothing more peaceful in Europe today because of the union. Out-of-control immigration and birth rates of non-assimilating Islamists have fractured social systems in several European countries where radicals are taking to the streets flexing their muscles, promising Islamic majorities in another generation. Sharia law is creeping into many legal systems. So intimidated are the French government, they have allowed the formation of more than 750 “No-Go” zones, Islamic neighborhoods that are off-limits to authorities, unless invited. Greece, England, Germany, Italy and other places in Europe are experiencing an increase in civil disturbances, mostly brought about by massive unemployment.

     Peace Prize?

     More deserving individuals and caring organizations who have accomplished so much aid and assistance to the needy were overlooked. The Nobel Peace Prize system has sadly morphed from recognizing real accomplishments in the name of humanity to a shallow political sham.

     Past winners, Bishop Tutu, Mairead Maguire of Ireland and Adolfo Esquivel of Argentina have written a letter to the Nobel Foundation demanding the 2012 prize money of $1.2 million be withheld. And so it should.

     You’re welcome to send your voice via this article to the Nobel Foundation if you wish.

     Click here: 2012 Nobel Peace Prize Goes to the European Union Amid Opposition from Three Former Laureates

 Click here: Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize Win Leads to Formal Investigation of Award | TheBlaze.com

 Click here: Protest of Nobel Peace Prize for E.U. Gets Local – NYTimes.com

 Click here: Anti-Strib: Nobel Peace Prize, Political Sham

 

 

TIME FOR CHANGE IN MARIJUANA LAWS

Now that the voters of two states (Colorado and Washington) have opted for the legalization of marijuana, it’s time for other states to examine their laws and for federal lawmakers to do the same.

First, a caveat. I do not advocate for marijuana, other than medical benefits. Contrary to arguments, I believe there can be harmful effects particularly with individuals with a predisposition toward addiction. But it’s here and it’s part of every day life in America, laws or no laws. Up to twenty million people have used marijuana, which means each one of those are technically “criminals” including the current president of the United States. So, let’s stop the hypocrisy.

Many youngsters who went to jail for possessing pot was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They ended up with criminal records, while others went on to become politicians, journalists, educators, sports and music idols and more. One bust for possessing marijuana at age nineteen can alter the future for any kid who might otherwise have landed a government job.

In some instances, thoughtful cops kick butt and send kids home with a stern warning, saving him/her a criminal record. Other cops won’t do that, because it’s not for them to judge but to merely enforce.

Over forty years of a lost war on drugs have proven that strict laws, aggressive enforcement and harsh penalties are not going to put a dent into the amount of illegal drugs in our society, especially marijuana, which is the largest cash crop of the state of California. Rather, the black market thrives on draconian laws which bring associated murder and mayhem that would vanish the moment of legalization. No black market equals no associated crime, no corruption, no need for more jail space.  Simple as that. The twenty-five thousand-plus murders in Mexico these past years would not never have occurred if pot was legal, licensed and controlled.

So, let’s stop wasting tax dollars on enforcement and punishing people which accomplish nothing other than attaching criminal records to youngsters who bear the burden for a lifetime. We can reverse the negatives by controlling the trade which would turn a tax burden into a tax plus.

According to the latest studies, taxpayers spend more than $14 billion a year enforcing marijuana laws.

More than 80,000 people a year die, directly and indirectly, from the use of alcohol.

More than 440,000 people a year die from using tobacco products.

No records exist that attribute deaths to marijuana.

Yet, because of a continuing “war on drugs,” we incarcerate nearly one million people a year for marijuana charges, 88 percent of which for mere possession.

Meanwhile, the black market thrives on laws that – let’s be honest – cannot be effectively enforced. Besides criminal behavior, they spawn public corruption. Cartel criminals support lawmakers who ensure that their underworld businesses remain profitiable. Without those laws, there would be no cartel.

The taxpayer not only wastes $14 million annually in law enforcement and incarceration activity, many more billions of incalculable dollars are spent on welfare, health care and residual costs of people going to jail unnecessarily. When a man or woman goes to jail, there is a ripple effect on the rest of their families, which often includes children. The taxpayer often assumes those responsibilities. Thus, the cost to the taxpayer is probably double the official figures.

Besides saving multi-billions in criminal justice costs and relieving overwhelmed dockets in the courtroom, another $10 billion could be converted to tax revenue if marijuana was legal and available with restrictions, much like alcohol. A portion of those funds could be redirected toward improved treatment and rehabilitation programs and most importantly, educating the young much like we do with anti-cigarette campaigns.

We tried the prohibition in the 1920s. Crime soared after its inception, and crime plummeted after prohibition was repealed. We never learn.

This losing game plan has been deployed since 1971. If a football coach sent in losing plays game after game, there would be a demand for change.

We’re still sending in the same losing plays. Let’s make a change.

Click here: Legal Marijuana Is Good for Children and Other Living Things | Alternet

 Click here: Pot is called biggest cash crop – Los Angeles Times

Click here: Mexico: Drug war leaves 25,000 missing

THE BILL DILLON STORY: WEIGHING CAPITAL PUNISHMENT AND THE FRAGILE SYSTEM OF JUSTICE

 

Before reading this article, please enjoy this short musical video:

Click here: MyStudio Video – BLACK ROBES AND LAWYERS

William Dillon was convicted of a 1981 bludgeoning murder in Brevard County which he did not commit. Had he been sentenced to death – which was entirely feasible – he would have lived about fifteen to twenty years in prison before being terminated by the state. His only legacy would have been: Killer executed.

Instead, he was sentenced to life. As the years passed, he struggled for recognition in a system where so many prisoners lie and deny guilt, that he was ignored as just another inmate trying to beat the system. All he wanted was a chance to prove his innocence.

Finally, after drafting his own legal papers and then with the help of the Innocence Project, and despite numerous objections from the State Attorney of jurisdiction, Dillon’s DNA was compared to the killer’s tee shirt, armpits, blood and sweat and they did not match. Still, with the objection of the state, the judge released Dillon as a free man in 2008 after twenty-seven years of Hell on earth.

This was not a case of a killer beating the rap. Bill Dillon really did not kill that man on the beach in 1981. I am a former Miami-Dade homicide detective with many investigations under my belt both as detective and as supervisor. This investigation was a sham. Police supervisors and the prosecutor’s office should have seen all the red flags, but they were ignored. That’s not hindsight being 20/20, that’s an accusation which I stand by.

* That night, a truck driver gave a lift to the alleged killer whose shirt was covered in blood. The killer was described as 5′ 8″ to 6′. Dillon was 6’4.” That size doesn’t go unnoticed.

* The killer’s bloody shirt was deposited into a dumpster and recovered by police. It was a size medium. Dillon wore a size large.

* A dog handler was called to check out Dillon’s scent using a crumpled piece of paper, which the handler claimed the dog alerted to as being the same as the shirt. That dog handler was discredited in several ensuing cases as incompetent, resulting in the overturn of many other criminal convictions around the nation.

* A female witness claimed she spotted Dillon standing over the body. The same female witness had a different story when first questioned and later, recanted her testimony after trial. But nothing was done. As it turns out, the female was having an affair with the lead detective.

* A jailhouse snitch testified at trial claiming that Dillon confessed to him in the local jail. Twenty-seven years later, that same man admitted under oath to a Tallahassee committee, that he bribed into lying by one of the detectives in exchange for favors concerning his own criminal charges. He apologized to Dillon’s face. Where I come from, jailhouse snitches were always ordered to be polygraphed for veracity, but this was not done in the Dillon case.

This could be a very long article, but readers will get the point.

After his release, Bill Dillon managed a settlement with the state of Florida for over 1.3 million dollars, but it took three years of objections, delays and haggling. Finally, in 2012, Governor Rick Scott apologized to Dillon on behalf of the State of Florida.

In a recent interview on Fox and Friends, Bill Dillon said he held no grudges. His life is moving on by writing and recording music and sharing life with a woman of his dreams. Dillon has written a number of songs, one of which titles his new album, Black Robes and Lawyers. It is linked at the beginning of this article. 

I do hold a grudge. I bothers me that incompetence and failure to pursue all avenues to determine guilt and/or innocence was not taken by the cops and by the prosecutors in this case. It’s a reflection upon my profession. As a result, an innocent man lost twenty-seven of his prime years of life. Seems someone, besides the taxpayer, should pay for that.

As a professional cop and former homicide investigator, it bothers me that such as stain can still be attached even if it’s only a tiny number of cases. When we are dealing with the life of a human being, there should be no mistakes, there should be no incompetency.

But there’s always that one percent. That’s why the death penalty must be abolished in the United States, not because we’re bleeding hearts, it is the only way to guarantee that an innocent man or woman will never be wrongly executed.

Today, there are 3170 inmates on Death Row. If only one-half of one percent were innocent, that means our system will be executing 16 innocent people. How can we rationalize that?

There are other compelling reasons to abolish capital punishment in America, but none are as important as precluding – ever – the execution of any innocent people. Unfortunately, not every investigation is going to be perfect, nor will every detective, prosecutor or judge.

It’s time America. Sure there are some nasty criminals out there who deserve the worst we have to offer. But we can’t justify sacrificing a few innocents by executing the majority who are guilty.

It was a close jury vote in 1981 that saved Bill Dillon from the Death Chamber. Had he been wrongly executed, there would never have been a song recorded called, Black Robes and Lawyers. And he would never have sung the Star Spangled Banner at a professional baseball game. He would never have fallen in love and been loved so dearly. And he would never have been deeply valued as my friend.

Watch Discovery Channel at 9 p.m., December 10th, when a one-hour special will air about the Dillon case.

Bill Dillon recently appeared on Fox And Friends, here is the 9-minute video.

Click here: Exonerated after 27 years behind bars | Fox News Video

Click here: William Dillon, Wrongly Jailed For 27 Years, Sings National Anthem At Tampa Bay Rays Baseball Game

The William Dillon Freedom Foundation has been formed with the goal to assist those convicted who may be innocent of crimes and to hold the justice system more accountable.  Please visit his web page:   Click here: HOME

Click here: Justice 27 Years Too Late: The William Dillon Story « Promega Connections