HAS ANYTHING CHANGED?

Harvey Weinstein got caught. Everybody has dumped all over him, which I’m sure he thoroughly deserved. They even tossed him out of the Hollywood Important People Club, ignoring all the other sexual predators who have been operating there since Hollywood became Hollywood.

Sexual predators are everywhere. They are in our homes, our churches, our schools, our sports teams. The number of adults and children raped by family members, boyfriends (or girlfriends) of family members is astronomical. Add to that the kids hit on by coaches, teachers, scout leaders, priests, pastors, bosses, dates, and total strangers … well … Hell, we even have one in the White House.

This was an ongoing horror show when I was a kid with a pedophile father. It has not gotten better. Men and women still can’t discuss it. The weak laws and pathetic prosecution of those laws make it highly unlikely a child who tries to report an adult will be believed. We automatically assume a middle class person in a middle class suburb with no criminal record can’t really be a criminal — and is surely not a risk.

Not true. Never was true.

Woody Allen and Harvey Weinstein

No criminal record often means “never caught in the act.”

Is this likely to change anytime soon? It’s nice that Weinstein got whacked, but all the other Hollywood guys who do the same thing and have since … forever? I couldn’t believe everyone was so “shocked.”

SHOCKED?

SERIOUSLY?

REALLY?

Aw, c’mon. You’re kidding, right? Not only do laws need changing, but attitudes need changing. Given the state of the world, not to mention judges who are determined to not ruin that poor young lad’s life by making him do time for rape? Call me cynical, but I don’t see it happening. I don’t see a hint of it happening anytime in this life. Especially not in this bizarre world in which we now live.

I do not see a single substantial change in the way unwanted sexual advances and/or rape are dealt with today than they were 50 years ago. We have supposedly better “laws” … but we don’t observe them. We don’t even pretend to follow them. The courts don’t follow them, the police and prosecutors ignore them.

Women know it. And that’s why we don’t report problems. We don’t report date rape and we don’t report rapist fathers or mom’s boyfriend who can’t keep his hands off us. Or the boss who turns our working life into a living hell.

Why bother? It won’t change anything and we aren’t going to save other women from the same fate.

The beat goes on.

WE GOT RID OF ALCOHOL IN 1920 – NO ONE HAS HAD A DRINK SINCE

Our so-called president has decided the answer to the opioid epidemic is to up the ante. Send out more cops. Arrest everyone. Imprison millions! We’ve done it before and it worked perfectly, so let’s do it again!


Once upon a time, Americans had national fit of self-righteousness and decided alcohol was the root of all evil.  To rectify the perceived problem, the nation rose up on its collective hind legs and passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment established a legal prohibition of recreational alcoholic beverages in the United States.

The separate (but closely related)  Volstead Act specified how authorities would actually enforce Prohibition, including the definition of “intoxicating liquor” — for anyone who needed an explanation.

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Prohibition headline

The folks who needed an explanation were not your average Jill or Joe. Jill and Joe knew how to get drunk just fine, but apparently lawmakers, politicians and gangsters-to-be needed clarification. The gangsters needed to know what they had to do to cash in on this opportunity and the others, how to persecute people in the name of the law. Many beverages were excluded for medical and religious purposes. It was okay to get drunk as long it was accompanied by an appropriate degree of religious fervor. Or you could get a doctor’s note.

That left a lot of room through which an entire generation strolled. Many people began drinking during Prohibition. Those who had never imbibed before were so titillated by the idea, they had their first booze illegally. Whereas previously, alcoholism had no social cachet, during prohibition it became fashionable. As with most things, making it more difficult, expensive, and illegal made it more desirable and sexy.

Regular folks, society leaders, and criminals all basked in the glow of joyous illegality. A whole criminal class was born as a result of prohibition. If that isn’t clear proof that legislating morality doesn’t work, I don’t know what is. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. Whether the issue is booze, drugs, abortion, prayer, same-sex marriage, or term limits … law and morality don’t mix.

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Passing a law limiting how many times you can elect a candidate rather than letting you vote for any candidate you want isn’t going to improve the quality of legislators. You’ll just wind up voting for a bunch of clowns and opportunists who don’t give a rat’s ass about government while dedicated potential candidates won’t bother to run because there’s no future in it. Making drugs illegal, especially marijuana, has created an entire drug culture — exactly the way making booze illegal created the underworld of crime.

There are no fewer gay people because we make their lives difficult, any more than segregation made the world safer for stupid white people. Illegal abortions kill not only fetuses, but their mothers, too. You may not approve of abortion, but do you approve of forcing women to risk their lives to not have babies they don’t want? How is that better or more moral? And while you are at it, get rid of Planned Parenthood. In for a dime, in for a dollar.

This kind of knee-jerk “lets solve social issues by making bad laws” causes considerable pain and suffering. As often as not, you end up legislating your way into a vast sea of exciting new problems you didn’t have before.

Throughout history, “morality” laws have failed. Monumentally and spectacularly. You’d think we’d notice this, but remarkably, we don’t.

If you never drank before, bet this picture could change your mind.

We haven’t learned anything, maybe it’s because no one recognized that history is repeating itself. Many people don’t know any history, so how could they?

The 18th Amendment was ratified on January 16, 1919 and took effect a year later, on January 17, 1920. Immediately, the demand for liquor increased. Producers, suppliers and transporters were turned into criminals, but drinkers were not prosecuted. What could go wrong with that? The entire justice system — courts, cops and prisons — was buried under a landslide of booze-related busts.

Organized crime went from being a minor problem to a major social force. Progress?

Having achieved results way beyond the wildest dreams of the amendment’s creators, prohibition was repealed in 1933 via the Twenty-first Amendment, the only time in American history an amendment was repealed.

Every time I hear someone on Facebook declare how we need a constitutional amendment to solve a political or social problem, I contemplate how successfully we got rid of alcohol in 1920. No one has had a drink since.

The next time someone tells you history is meaningless, tell them without history, we are all meaningless.

A TOXIC TRIP – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My mother had a cousin named Paul. She grew up with him and even babysat for him on occasion. My grandparents adored Paul and he adored them. As an adult, Paul became a lawyer and handled all my grandparents’ legal business. He was totally trusted. He was even made executor of their wills.

Paul went into the army in World War II and was assigned to MacArthur’s unit in Japan. He ended up working directly under Douglas MacArthur. He spent a lot of time in Japan and learned fluent Japanese. After the war, he became one of the few Americans allowed, by the Japanese, to do business in Japan.

Paul was working with a company in Japan in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. He discovered that one of the senior officers was embezzling from the company. He confronted the man, let’s call him Mr. Tokyo. He gave Mr. Tokyo the opportunity to confess, but if he didn’t, Paul was going to report him. Shortly thereafter there was a company luncheon which both Paul and Mr. Tokyo attended. Paul left for the States the next day.

When he got home, Paul started to get sick. He began losing weight, his hair turned grey and started falling out. He got weaker and began to shuffle like an old man. He was in his 40’s. He ended up in the hospital for months. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. In desperation, they began to look for toxins in his system That’s when they discovered that Paul had been poisoned.

A little background is necessary here. At the time in Japan, saving face was still paramount. When faced with the prospect of losing face, it was not uncommon for the Japanese to resort to poisoning each other. The poison of choice was rat poison.

Paul’s situation suddenly made perfect sense. He contacted the company and told them of Mr. Tokyo’s treachery with the company and of Paul’s poisoning. I don’t remember if Mr. Tokyo confessed. I do know that he lost his job. I’d like to think that he suffered some severe consequences because of what he did to Paul. But while the embezzlement could be proved, the poisoning was another story. There was no hard evidence, just motive and opportunity.

Paul recovered but was never the same, mentally or physically.

There’s no dramatic ending or moral to this story. Except maybe watch your back if you accuse someone of a crime. But I don’t think many modern families have a poisoning story hiding in their family trees, so I hope you enjoyed this modern-day version of ‘The Borgias.’

MY WAR AGAINST PACKAGING

We watch a lot of shows about murder. Between courtroom battles and watching Ducky dismember a corpse (NCIS), I’ve seen it all. People get convicted on blood evidence, even if they didn’t really do anything. I know how incriminating mere traces of a victim’s blood can make anyone look. Which is why I worry about packaging.

These days, Amazon offers you (sometimes, on some items) special packaging that you can open without a pneumatic drill and hacksaw. Unfortunately, this trend has yet to pass down to the people who made those little hanging blister packages. You know, the stuff you pull of racks in stores? Then spend half a day mutilating in an attempt to release whatever has been secured in it?

This evening, while making dinner, I nicked myself with a paring knife. My son and my husband both have been known to pull knives out of my hands and chop the veggies themselves because watching me using a knife made them too nervous to watch.

It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t bleed so much. This is ironic indeed because when I go for tests at the hospital, they can never find a vein or get any blood out of me. I have suggested I just bring a paring knives, slice open a finger and they can have more blood than they’ll know what to do with, but for some reason, they don’t find this nearly as funny as I do.

Anyway, I nicked myself cutting up some turkey sausages. It wasn’t a bad cut and if I hadn’t been in a hurry to get dinner fixed while simultaneously fighting with the cable company on the telephone, I might have put a band-aid onto my finger sooner. There would a lot less of my blood all throughout the kitchen. Not a gusher, mind you. Just a mere dribbler.

After I finally got the food cooking, I put the knife down and ended the phone call, still snarling at Charter. That was the moment when I realized my blood was everywhere I looked. One little nick and CSI would have a field day in our kitchen, proving conclusively that my dear husband is a murderer. Of course, someone else would have had to murder me, but from what we’ve seen on television, that shouldn’t be a problem. There are some towns in England where they have to bring new victims in by bus because so many get killed each week on TV serials.

If anything ever happens to me, they’ll find my blood everywhere. Garry will look guilty as hell.

Have you ever tried to get a couple of blister-packed pills out of their containers in the middle of the night? It says “press here” and you do, but all it does is stretch. The medication still out of reach and if you are unlucky, you have also successfully crushed it to powder in its  blister.

The hacking and hewing means I cut myself regularly, but I also damage the contents of packages in my frenzied attempts to extract whatever is in there. I used to use my box cutter to pry the back off my Blackberry to get to the battery. Taking the back off and removing the battery was the only way to reboot the phone, so I gave up and got an iPhone. I didn’t like the iPhone better, but at least I could stop prying the phone apart with a knife blade. Now I have another smart phone and you can’t open it at all, which is fine with me. At least I won’t need to battle my way into a battery compartment again.

I do not set out to do myself injury, but in the contest of me against packaging, packaging is  winning.

My blood everywhere I’ve ever opened a package. You’ll find blood on my computer, mouse, knives, tweezers and especially my beloved box cutter.

I keep my box cutter hidden lest someone try to take it away. You’ll never get my box cutter. Never!

SEND IN THE FEDS – RICH PASCHALL

The Streets of Chicago, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


When I was in Medellin, Colombia, someone had brought up the name of Pablo Escobar when we were out for food and drinks.  Escobar was an infamous drug lord who had lived in the Andes mountains near Medellin.  My friend commented unhappily that they have to keep telling people that Escobar was killed in the 1990s, meaning he does not live there anymore.  I told him I understand. We have to keep telling people that Al Capone no longer lives in Chicago.  The crime boss died at his home in Florida in 1947.  Sometimes the truth does not help you to shake your reputation.

1931 Photo Credit: cta Historical Photo Collection
1931    Photo Credit: cta Historical Photo Collection

At the present time you may hear that Chicago is the murder capital of the country, just like in the Capone days.  The leader of our nation has said that crime here is “totally out of control.”  He even tweeted recently that they might send in the feds if we do not solve the problem.  While we are all dismayed at the uptick in violence in our city, one thing we know.  We are not in the top ten in murders per capita on anyone’s list.  We are not in the top twenty either.  Depending on who is doing the measuring and what size cities they go by, we may even miss the top 30.  I know it is hard to believe.  Google it!  You will find many news stories about Chicago, but you will also find plenty of articles about cities complaining they have a higher rate.  You will find many web sites with rankings and wonder where we are.  We’ll wait right here.  Then come back and let’s talk about this.

The murder rate was up in 2016. We have not seen such rates since the 1990s.  It was a big increase over 2015, but when you look at this on a per capita basis for large USA cities, you may ask, “What about Detroit, New Orleans, St. Louis?  What about Baltimore and Dayton?  What about Milwaukee?  Can we send the Feds there, too?  Can we send them to Atlanta and Houston and Camden?”  In fact there are many cities with increases, so why does Chicago get so much more coverage than the others?

Perhaps it is because we are the third largest city in the country.  In comparison to New York and Los Angeles, the crime numbers are much higher.  It is easy to look at the three together, as many newspaper articles are fond of doing.  From that vantage point, we look very bad.

Lake Shore Drive
Lake Shore Drive

Perhaps it is because we are the center of the country.  We have the busiest airports.  We are at the crossroads of the nation.  Highways, railways and even ocean carriers move through here, making this their hub and their home.  As a center of commerce, there is no overstating Chicago’s significance.

Perhaps it is because the 44th President of the United States hails from here and the current leader — number 45 — would like to embarrass him.  Perhaps it is because Chicago voted overwhelmingly for his opponent and he is trying to make an example of us.  Or not.  This is likely a minor issue as we were already getting plenty of coverage.  But why don’t we read tweets about any of the cities in the Top 10 of murder rate per capita?

No matter where we rank, the problem has grown and something needs to be done, but send in the Feds?  Absolutely.  No big city mayor is going to turn down help fighting crime.  But there is a slight problem with the leader’s promise.  “What does it even mean?” 9th Ward Ald. Anthony Beale asked. “It is so vague.”  What kind of help is he sending?

Representative from Chicago, Luis Gutierrez, (my Congressman, by the way) is not impressed with our leader “beating up” Chicago.  “Chicago’s murder epidemic is more serious than a late night twitter threat from the new Tweeter-in-Chief,” he said.  Other Chicago leaders from local aldermen to the Cardinal are unhappy with the treatment.

Instead of vague tweets, where is the partnership with the Justice Department, the FBI, DEA?  If there are resources to send, our mayor is all for it.  We are a big city with big city problems.  There are certain types of help that would be meaningful and possibly effective.  “Chicago, like other cities right now that are dealing with gun violence, wants the partnership with federal law enforcement entities in a more significant way than we’re having today,” Mayor Emanuel said.

In a breaking story this weekend, 20 more ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) agents are being assigned to their office here.  A request for this help is long-standing and the Mayor mentioned it to then president-elect 45 in a December 7th meeting (apparently fearless leader forgot about it).  Federal gun prosecutions in this District fall way behind other big cities and resources were needed.  If more agents have any effect at all, we know who will take credit.

Chicago lakefront
Chicago lakefront

It is tough to be in the spotlight, especially when the light is made brighter by a guy with a Twitter account.  We are a world-class city with world-class attractions.  We have fine airports and railroad stations.  We have a lakefront that runs the length of the city with land that is open and free for all.

We have one of the largest fresh water lakes that supplies our drinking water and our summer playground.  When I stand at the Planetarium out on the lake, I see what I think, in my biased viewpoint, is the greatest skyline in the country.  If someone wants to send help, we are glad to have you.  If someone wants to wage a Twitter war, can he pick on St. Louis and the Cardinals instead?

Sources:

Murders Up in U.S. Cities–But Crime Rate Still Near Record Lows,” Time, December 20, 2016
Highest Murder Rate Cities,” Neighborhood Scout, Location, Inc.
Most Dangerous Cities in the United States,” World Atlas
FBI’s Violent Crime Statistics For Every City In America,” CBS local, October 22, 2015
Emanuel to Trump: Chicago Would Welcome Federal Partnership to Quell Violence,” nbcchicago.com, January 25, 2017
Rahm To Trump: ‘Straight Up,’ No Troops In Chicago,” dnainfo.com, January 25, 2017
20 More ATF Agents On Their Way To Chicago,” Chicago Sun-Times, February 3, 2017

A SERIAL KILLER IS LOOSE! MURDER MOST FOUL! by GARRY ARMSTRONG (PART 3)

THIS IS FICTION! NOT TRUE. A STORY. NOT A REAL EVENT.

Homage to MidSomer Murders from Garry Armstrong, the show’s current number one fan. And with a nod  and a wink to Sunset Boulevard and Philip Marlowe. On the occasion of our granddaughter’s 20th birthday, a lovely little murder.

Photographs (mostly) by Marilyn Armstrong,  except for a couple by Garry, aka “The first Victim.”


THE THIRD VICTIM: Looking for Connections!

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Some of the usual suspects were released on ROR four days ago. A bluff move to flush out perps higher up the chain. But then another twist. A third body. The Third Man.

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The corpse was found less than an hour after the suspects’ release…. which was before any media update. The cops were keeping a tight lid on information. All the released suspects were being closely tailed.

The third victim was found  in a field adjoining the site of the original crimes. All doubts vanished. For the newshounds, it was clear.  A serial killer at work!!  Police refused comment. Of course. Unnamed sources close to the investigation admit that motivation for the three murders remains murky.

Which has only heightened media speculation.

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Is there a drug connection? Money laundering? Has the Mob invaded this sleepy New England village?

An Interpol agent was spotted at the latest crime scene. A handout statement offered no insight why international law enforcement was now involved.

Then, a break from a trusted, veteran reporter — retired but he sometimes helps when police need answers.

A connection was spotted between two of the three victims. Similar tattoos. The veteran reporter noticed the familiar inks and huddled with Interpol to see if there’s a link to the Russian mob. No confirmation from the reporter or Interpol, but chatter with gangland tattoo experts has been confirmed.

Some of the police are trying to remain under cover.
Some of the police are trying to remain under cover. This group from Dodge City are keeping a low profile.

Meanwhile, the now four-pronged investigation is advancing on multiple fronts. State troopers and local detectives are looking for connections between the three victims.

Was the first victim an anomaly or grisly diversion in the serial killings? Or, were the later killings an attempt to befog the first murder? Was this a hate crime? If so, what do the haters hate?

So many questions, so few answers.

Network news outlets have set up staging areas, each trying to scoop the other as they slaver over every new bit of gossip and try to spin it into the story. The FBI’s BAU (Behavior Analyst Unit) is on the case and their current thinking is that the killer is a pro. A stone cold killer.

They’re working backwards, trying to connect the three murders. Fresh eyes are looking at murders number one and two.


Background Review: THE SECOND VICTIM: Murder most foul!

(There will be a short quiz following the conclusion of this story.)

Local, state and federal investigators are offering minimal information about the latest victim. CSU photos show he was white, middle-aged, and apparently healthy. There’s no word on how or when the victim was killed. A local resident confirmed the body was found in the same area, the same farm land where the first murder occurred more than two weeks ago.

Some wonder if  this is a worse case scenario. It’s top buzz on talk shows.

A SERIAL killer running amok…. on the heels of the late summer birthday party murder!!

Victim Number Two
Victim Number Two

Shock waves continue to reverberate. It’s the ultimate loss of innocence for a small town where typically, the top news item is roadwork tying up traffic on main street. Burglaries or car break-ins are the high-priority items on the police blotter. No one worries about big city violence. Everyone knows everybody. It’s that kind of town.


THE BEGINNING OF THE STORY – The First Victim

My granddaughter’s birthday party murder was the game changer!

State police are still sifting through the testimony of party guests. Records are being checked for previous criminal activity. Cold cases are being unwrapped, searching for clues or patterns.

Reviewing party guests, no one stands out as an obvious suspect. Everyone seems pleasant, amiable. Perhaps not overly friendly, but polite and civil. No blatant hostility was evident. No obvious suspects stand out from the crowd.


THE SUSPECTS

Profilers are looking at the gathering, breaking them down into age groups and backgrounds. Motive is the big question. Everyone is so vague in their answers. This case calls for someone with expertise.

And, that would be me. The victim. This is my case, my story. I will tell it best because it revolves around me. It always did, in life and now, in death.

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A retired, award-winning TV News reporter, I was checking out suspicious things before my demise that warm summer’s day. Now I know it was no coincidence, but at the time, I was bemused by the variety of possible weapons I found in the shed. All so readily available to anyone with a grudge and an opportunity to commit murder.

I’d covered so many murders in my forty plus years on the job, I knew something was amiss. Something was strange, wrong. Creepy. Unfortunately, I was right. Pity I didn’t realize the object was … me.

I didn’t say anything to anyone. It was pleasant party. I hoped we could avoid family squabbles and enjoy the festivities and go home with nothing more than mild indigestion to deal with. Everyone was focused on food. Hot dogs, burgers, salad, coke and beer. Good stuff. Classic American cuisine.

I was on my third or fourth hot dog. Feeling pretty good. I discreetly eyed the other guests, trying to put those weapons I’d seen out of my mind. Conversation was light. Restrained. Most guests kept their distance. Something was amiss, but I couldn’t put my finger on precisely what.

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It fell on me to make some toasts, I suppose because of my professional background. I looked at the faces as I offered some light banter. No one seemed offended — but no one really laughed. I must’ve touched someone’s hot button — but who?

I turned around to get some water. I felt a whack on the back of my head. The world went blank.

The Victim!
The FIRST victim!

On the ground unable to move, I could still hear the people gathered around me. I hoped someone was calling for help, but it seemed everyone was taking pictures — of me — or selfies with my body as background.

I heard giggles and laughter. Then nothing. Nothing but The Big Sleep.


What’s the motive? Where are the connections? Is it a stone-cold killer or a killer made of actual stone? Tune in next week for another episode of MidSummer Murder!


Part I – LATE MIDSUMMER MURDER MYSTERY BY GARRY ARMSTRONG

Part II – A SERIAL KILLER? LATE SUMMER MURDER MYSTERY BY GARRY ARMSTRONG (PART 2)

DOGS GONE BAD – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Marilyn and I follow lots of those TV procedural crime shows. We anticipate all the cliché lines.

“Stay in the car”

“He was turning his life around.”

“Everyone loved him.”

“No one was supposed to get hurt!”

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We usually figure out who the “vics” and “perps” are before the coppers and lawyers find the answer, often before the credits finish rolling. Now, fiction has turned to cold, hard reality in our home. We are the victims. Not the mob, not the cabal, not even some local mokes looking for an easy score.

It’s an inside job and the perps are our DOGS!

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They’ll smile, offer constant affection and cheer us up when we aren’t feeling good. But it’s part of their sting.

Food is the motive. Their “jackets” are full of priors. Most are misdemeanors but now they’ve moved up the chain to felony. Bonnie, our beloved Scottie, is the boss. She leads the furry gang in snatches, intimidation, assault (head butting), larceny and perjury.

Amber

We’ve tried to turn their lives around with extra Christmas goodies, more fun battles on the love seat and long chats to emphasize our affection.

But Bonnie and her accomplices are food-driven. Nothing we do can stop this furry reign of terror. We don’t want to profile Bonnie because she is black, and we are afraid of possible lawsuits. Perhaps the IA people can check out her background.

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Bonnie, clearly driven to revenge, is hell-bent on retribution because … we’ve put her on a diet. Bonnie is relentless in stealing Marilyn’s food. She stalks Marilyn and refuses to back down when confronted. The other dogs make sure Bonnie’s six is protected.

We’ve tried so hard to show them the path to a good life but their crimes are senseless.

Generosity… That was our first mistake.