The Truth Cannot Be Avoided

Here’s a question that Indiana Governor Mike Pence could not answer:  “If a florist refuses to sell flowers for a gay wedding on religious grounds, is that refusal allowed by the new law?”  He was repeatedly asked for a yes or no answer, but would not even address the hypothetical.  Doesn’t that tell you immediately he knows the true answer is “yes”?

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Adel: A Novel in Linked Stories


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The Circle Line (re-circle-ated for newcomers)

“The Circle Line,” published June 1, 2010 in Spilling Ink Review

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Why, Just Why?

We may ponder explanations for a variety of troubling facts of our lives without ever coming close to answers. Among these, let me suggest the troubling facts uppermost in my mind these days – not necessarily in the order of importance:

Why are terrorists sending children into markets with bombs strapped to their chests, blowing these children apart and killing scores of others in the process?

Why do so many Americans care more about their ownership of guns than public safety? Why are guns for them a religion?

Why does the traveling population appear increasingly rude and thoughtless? I’m thinking about drivers and bicyclists who flaunt traffic laws, jaywalkers who put their lives and those of others at risk by just walking into a busy street (not at a cross walk).

Why do so many Americans say they “disapprove of Obama care” yet, when asked about specific provisions of the Affordable Care Act, like them?

Why do so many of us expect the government to provide better services and more benefits, but then are aggrieved when revenues must be raised through taxation?

Why are so many Americans upset that undocumented people in this country might have a right to earn citizenship, when all of us – other than Native Americans – came here as immigrants or are descended from those that were?

Why has Gil Hodges not been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame? Among his many accomplishments were to hit 370 career home runs, which at the time was the career mark for a right-handed batter (as compared to only 211 home runs for the average player in the Hall of Fame), to have 1,274 lifetime RBIs (as compared to only 1,218 for the average position player in the Hall of Fame), to lead the Miracle Mets to become the 1969 World Champions, to play in seven World Series, to hit at least 30 home runs a season from 1950 to 1954, and to have over 100 RBIs from 1949 to 1955. His lifetime slugging percentage was .487, compared to .461 for the average player in the Hall of Fame. His lifetime OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) was .846 (compared to only .837 for position players in the Hall of Fame). And let’s not forget that Gil was a great fielding first baseman, with a lifetime fielding percentage of .992, and a model citizen to boot. Until Gil gets his rightful place there, that building in Cooperstown, NY, is to me the Hall of Shame.

Someone smarter than me needs to explain these things, but I doubt that any explanations will make sense.


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One More Time To Cry …

It was sadly inevitable that the inflamed rhetoric of people chanting for justice – based on supposed eyewitness accounts of the death of the so-called “unarmed teenaged” in Ferguson which were disproven by irrefutable forensic evidence – has in some way led to the assassination of two New York City police officers. That’s not to say that what just happened in Brooklyn would not have happened anyway, but clearly the perpetrator felt strongly enough to post on line his promise that two white police officers must die for every black person killed at the hands of the police. With every mentally disturbed person in our society in possession of a gun – or able to secure one quickly – the chants of “No Justice, No Peace!” can easily be interpreted as a call to retaliation or revenge. “No, no, that’s not what we meant by our slogan,” say the protesters. What then did you mean? You put the words out there, to be interpreted however the hearer wishes to interpret them.  These tragic events are nothing new. Police officers – human beings, don’t forget – have been shot and killed for years for no other reason than that they are police officers, representatives of society’s attempt to keep its populace safe and secure. No one puts on the uniform of the police without being aware that, by doing so, they have become a target to many. No one puts on the uniform of the police without being aware, as well, that there are as many handguns in the United States as people and that it takes but an instant for a gun to be pointed out them and fired.

Now, can anyone be surprised that police officers fear for their lives whenever they find themselves in confrontation with the deranged or with those who have likely committed a crime?

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Who In His Right Mind Would Want To Serve the Community?

Who In His Right Mind Would Want To Serve the Community?.

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Who In His Right Mind Would Want To Serve the Community?

(The writer served as a Trial Attorney with the United States Department of Justice 1976-1980 and conducted a number of grand jury investigations into police shootings that led to death.)

So many people – well-educated people – are misinformed about so many things regarding the grand jury investigation of Darren Wilson. One writer, typical of many, falsely attributes the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Wilson as a reflection of “the tragically low value our society places on the lives of young black men.” Yet there is no evidence that the decision not to press charges against him had anything to do with racial bias as opposed to the evidence. The same writer attributes the outcome to the way that Robert McCulloch “led the grand jury [i.e.] in a manner that seemed designed to indict the unarmed Brown.” The accusation ignores the point that Mr. McCulloch did not involve himself with the grand jury other than introduce the two assistants district attorneys.

The real complaint of those unhappy with the grand jury decision is that, instead of jurors hearing only those witnesses who would condemn Officer Wilson, regardless of the inconsistency of their testimony to the physical evidence, the grand jury actually heard all of the eyewitnesses, as many as could found and subpoenaed. Contrary to the apparent belief of these critics that the only proper function of a grand jury is to pass along indictments so that “truth” can be determined at trial, the grand jury in our country has long been an institution where crimes are investigated, and the grand jury is expected to put brakes on potential prosecutions when adequate evidence of a crime does not exist. That is certainly the situation with respect to Officer Wilson. For a crime to have been committed, there must have been credible evidence to negate his testimony that he feared for his life. The mere fact that a witness walks into a grand jury room and purports to tell the truth does not mean that the witness is credible, and witnesses whose testimony is starkly contradicted by physical evidence have no credibility. If ten witnesses swear that Officer Wilson stood over Mr. Brown’s back as he lay on the ground and fired repeatedly into his head, but the autopsy report shows that no such thing happened, a grand jury is not required to return an indictment.

The power of the grand jury to protect against arbitrary criminal prosecutions was so fundamentally important to our country that it was embodied in the Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment provides in pertinent part: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury …” The Fifth Amendment does not say that grand juries should ignore the distinction between what is credible and what is not and therefore indict regardless of the facts so that the “truth” can be determined at trial.

It further troubles me greatly that almost every account of the shooting specifies that Mr. Brown was an “unarmed teenager.” The uncontradicted testimony is that Mr. Brown assaulted Officer Wilson, punched him repeatedly, through the open window of Officer Wilson’s squad car. A fist of a 289-pound man, teenage or not, delivered from the leverage of height, is a weapon, whether or not it’s a firearm. Any law enforcement officer knows that he can be killed or incapacitated by a physical blow from the fist of an enraged man to the head.

The uncontradicted testimony is also that Mr. Brown tried to grab Officer Wilson’s gun and had in fact forced the barrel of the gun to point at Officer Wilson himself. By constantly referring to Mr. Brown as “unarmed,” commentators on this tragic story are making light of the mortal danger that Officer Wilson was in when he shot at Mr. Brown. Law enforcement officers are sadly killed time and again when their antagonists strip them of their guns. Some data indicate that between 2000 and2010, at least 51 officers were killed by alleged perpetrators who used the officer’s own gun. Four officers were thus killed in 2011, and one officer thus killed in 2013. Every police officer is aware that this is a risk every time he or she steps onto the street and is trained to guard against this risk.  So as Mr. Brown charged Officer Wilson – the physical evidence is clear that he did – Officer Wilson most reasonably feared for his own life. Anyone who says otherwise has obviously never been in that position.

In the aftermath of this affair — and in light of the comments of those who feel that justice was not done and that the only possible justice was to charge Officer Wilson with a crime – who in their right mind would want to become a police officer?

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