I Say Thou Art a Witch

The recent anonymous accusation against Judge Kavanaugh raises the troubling specter of the Salem Witch Trials. Innocent individuals, accused in a frenzy of ignorance and superstition, were tried, convicted, and put to death by a system willing to accept unreliable and difficult to refute charges.

WitchThe same holds true for the anonymous and ancient accusations of sexual misconduct against Judge Kavanaugh.

Now I would be the last person to defend such behavior. The long troubling history of sexual abuse gives one a powerful reason to find and punish such criminality. But we cannot do that at the cost of sacrificing our long-standing well-established principle of the presumption of innocence.

In cases such as this, the passage of time degrades our ability to investigate, substantiate, or disprove such allegations. Under our system, the presumption of innocence prevails. No matter how horrendous the situation, to do otherwise would eliminate any defense against such allegations.

If we will evaluate the fitness of an individual with a long public career for any position by considering anonymous allegations of conduct from high school no one would pass muster.

No matter your position on the Judge’s qualifications to sit on the bench, hysterically embracing what amounts to be charges of witchcraft and consorting with the devil is setting a dangerous precedent.

Where does one draw the line?

Such behavior, if it happened, rarely ends with high school. That’s where it starts. But absent similar behavior as an adult, it is not something we should consider. This is nothing but character assassination.

It is troubling that the letter was held onto for several months before releasing it to the FBI.  If such things are critical, why not bring it to the FBI long before the hearing begins? It sounds more like strategy than the pursuit of the truth.

The problem in this country is the widening chasm between left and right. The phenomenon is compounded by the data-driven marketing wizardry of social media. If one reads a left-leaning article, one is presented with five more. If one searches for a conservative concept, five more suggestions are offered.

The search for ideas that one agrees with becomes not just a source of information but a source of reinforcement and validation. The tragic demonization of the print media, a once invaluable source of balanced reporting, coupled with the rise of social media without any cross-checking of truth, compounds the problem.

The instantaneous nature of social media without filters and the unwillingness of many to take the time to read anything beyond a Tweet or Facebook post forces the once fact-driven print media to report “news” derived from social media.

It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of half-truths gaining widespread acceptance. And the algorithms feed you what you want to see, not what you must see.

The polarization of this country, more so than any sitting President, Congress, or Supreme Court Justice, will be our demise.

Left wing and right wing won’t matter if it’s not connected to the body in the middle. If we do not work together to fly we flop uselessly on the ground, unable to soar as America once did.

 

 

An Act of Courage or Complicity?

The New York Times decision to publish an anonymous Op-Ed piece from a “senior White House official” is troubling. Reading the piece reinforced many beliefs I have of the Machiavellian nature of the Presidency. But on contemplation, a more troubling aspect of this action by an administration official bubbled to the surface. If we are to believe the motivation is to put country first over politics, the veil of anonymity casts a shadow of cowardice.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/05/opinion/trump-white-house-anonymous-resistance.html

It would seem the writer is more concerned with protecting themselves, continuing the professed but inconsistently followed policies of the President, and maintaining Republican control of the White House than protecting the country from the deranged and dangerous President.

The American people, for reasons I still cannot fathom, elected Mr. Trump. He is the President of the United States. That the American people should breathe a sigh relief because unnamed, unknown, and unelected officials are manipulating government policy on our behalf is ludicrous.

This shadow government bears a strong resemblance to the “Deep state” so often blamed by the President for his problems.

533-0221040827-a.pngIf, as the writer points out, consideration has been given to invoking the 25th Amendment then that is the only path provided for removing an incompetent, deranged, or dangerous President.

When faced with a moral or ethical crisis within government it is expected those called to such service rise to the occasion and publicly take a stand. If that comes at the cost of one’s position such is the burden of public service.

The New York Times is not blameless in this. The media faces an unprecedented challenge to its survival. The public trend of seeking only that which confirms beliefs, no matter how foolish or wrongheaded, and disparaging different perspectives is dangerous.  There has rarely been a time in history where a free and respected media is more critical to our survival.

Protecting anonymity is often the only way to obtain critical information. The long-protected secret of Watergate, ‘Deep-throat,” is the classic example. But protecting the anonymity of individuals who offer evidence of a dangerous man at the head of our government and profess to know what is in our best interests is a conspiracy to undermine the very foundation of government.

The anonymous writer invoked the name of John McCain as someone we should use as a model for a government of compromise. I admired John McCain.  Millions of Americans admired John McCain. If McCain were still among us, I believe he’d be the first to demand the veil of anonymity be removed for the good of the country.

 

Do Snapping Turtles Eat Bikers (the pedal kind)?

The first of the annual snapping turtle hatch has begun along the Blackstone River. Each spring we come across many turtles digging holes and laying eggs, but the giant snapping turtles are the ones I like. Gnarly, black/grey, with remarkably long necks, they make their way from the murky river to a spot in the sun, patiently dig the hole, deposit the eggs, then wander back

Without a second thought of how, or if, the eggs survive.

Most do not.  Raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, all have their turn at finding and digging up the nests.  The egg-laying takes place over two weeks. Over the next few days, there are grey/white eggshells everywhere.

It’s a wonder the species survives.

But they do. Beginning in late August or early September, those nests that remained undisturbed erupt with life.

IMG_6622 (004)As evidence of the perseverance of nature, we came upon this little guy trying to cross the bike path. Usually, I defer to nature. It is not for me to decide if this turtle survives or dies within hours of hatching but, I made an exception.

My reason for interceding in the process is simple. The bike path is not a natural barrier to the turtle’s march to the river. The trail is the domain of dangerous, if goofy looking, predators; hordes of Lance Armstrong wannabes zoom up and down the path festooned in the most ridiculous bike racing accouterments. It is a drag queen bike race of the fashionably challenged. I bet the advertisers adorning stretched and strained material never expected that kind of publicity.biker

Fixated on maintaining the balance of their stitch-straining bulk squeezed into the neon fashion nightmare, they’d crush the turtle without a second thought.

Just once I’d like to see them hit a full-grown snapper. There, I’d leave nature to its course.

It would give me great pleasure watching them launched into the air. I know turtles are carnivorous, but it might be too much to hope the saga would end with a bale (the name for a gathering of turtles) devouring the biker.

In my imagination, the trees would be swarmed by a murder of crows (another excellent group name) waiting patiently to clean the bones.

It hasn’t happened yet, but there is hope.

Absent any air-borne bikers to watch, I picked the little guy up and took him to the marshy area along the river, far from the dangerous bike path of death.

I don’t know if he or she will survive the winter, but I hope they do. I hope they grow big and healthy and robust.

I hope they develop a taste for bikers.  That would be a great example of evolutionary progress.

Forty Years

Time does indeed pass in the blink of an eye. It was forty years ago on this date I began my career with the East Providence Police Department.

Patch old
Original patch when I started

Forty years.

It doesn’t seem possible.

To serve on a police department, while challenging, terrifying, hysterically comical, and, too often, heart-breaking, it is also the front row seat to the most amazing show on earth.

Police officers see things most people couldn’t ever imagine. It is a reality few ever experience.

There were moments of profound helplessness and sadness.

A few days after my wife and I discovered she was pregnant, I responded to a medical call. I was the first one there.  As I walked in the house, a hysterical woman handed me a very cold, very dead, four-month-old child.

A SIDS death.

I can still hear the whole family screaming at me to save that child.

No one could, but they expected a cop to try.

There were moments of humor some would find abhorrent, but in the midst of a bloody fatal car accident, or suicide, or homicide, it keeps cops sane.

Without attributing this to any specific department or individual, I heard a story that illustrates cop humor.

It would seem there was this old school detective who, at the end of each day, would light his pipe and smoke at his desk as he did his daily reports (they did that back then in the dark ages.) Part of his routine was to prepare the pipe beforehand so it would be ready when he returned.

Some officers noticed this pattern and wondered what would happen if some of the tobacco was replaced with some excellent quality marijuana from a disposed case.

This was done with great stealth and cunning.

The detective returned, lit the pipe, and within a few moments the squad smelled like a 1970’s college dormitory. We, ah, they found this hysterical. But the best moment came when the Detective Commander, an old school guy, walked out of his office and said,

“Hey (name withheld to protect the innocent) what’s that tobacco you’re smoking?”

“Why?” said the now relaxed and happy for the first time in years detective.

“Cause my kid has incense that smells like that.”

The room, I hear, roared with the laughter of those in on the gag.

We had our moments.

There was great satisfaction in bringing cases to a full conclusion after a lengthy trial and the professional reward of a job well done.

In the twenty years I served on the East Providence Police Department, I worked with a fantastic group of men and women.

I stood shoulder to shoulder with them in those moments of terror.

We took a stand when those who would corrupt and corrode the department for their own political purposes refused to follow the law and forced them to leave when no one thought we could.

I was privileged to work with other local, state, and federal agencies experiencing the true nature and potential of cooperation in seeking justice.

I spent twenty years catching bad guys with some of the most exceptional people I have ever had the privilege to know.

Time has allowed me to reflect on those moments. Yet, no matter how bad some days and nights were, I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

Pro Bono Publico.

Patch new
The patch today

Fake News: You Get What You Pay For

The problem in America is not fake news; it’s not journalists with an agenda, it’s not secret backroom meetings of newspaper editors crafting the most critical, or the most praiseworthy, headlines about the President.

OrwellWe have met the enemy, and it is ourselves.

The New York Times, Boston Globe, LA Times, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and all the other media outlets are for-profit businesses. If nobody buys a newspaper or places ads in the paper to reach those who still buy them, they close.

Same with electronic media. If nobody buys ads on Fox or CNN or MSNBC, they cannot survive. The press provides a product to consumers. Demand drives decisions on content. The old print adage of “if it bleeds, it leads” still applies.

Americans want a flashy headline with not too much reading or attention draining effort to think about things.

They want a simple statement of a “truth” and damn the corroboration or facts.

“The President’s economic policy is driving the best economy in decades.”

Excellent, just as I knew he would. Time to switch to ESPN for the critical stuff.

“The President’s economic policy is the worst in decades, driving the debt to record heights.”

Ah, a disaster. Just like I knew it would. Time to Instagram my neighbor’s cat licking wine from a discarded bottle. LOL, ROFL, IMHO

The dumbing down of much of America has been slowly eroding our society for years. Our idea of the perfect news story is one that holds our attention span for milliseconds, reinforces pre-conceived beliefs and then switches to the famous for being famous, or sports, or Antartica’s Got Talent.

Our society is slowly disappearing into a head down, cell-phone screen hypnotized, zombie-like shell of its former self; insulated and cut-off from any intellectually challenging effort to think.

The ideal news channel is a 24-hour drive-by of a car accident. I can get a quick view of things. I don’t want to see any blood or body parts (unless it is of an opposing opinion.) It doesn’t interfere with my commute or plans for the day.  Then lets me carry on with my life.

Much like the time President Bush, Jr. announced Americans should continue going to the malls while American soldiers fought and died in Afghanistan and Iraq.

There’s nothing to concern ourselves with here. We got this. Don’t worry about it.

The President doesn’t like criticism. Who does? But if he didn’t understand the Presidency is a lightning rod for criticism, he shouldn’t have sought the job.

And remember this, George Orwell may not have been good with dates about when we would reach this point. But, he was prescient in seeing the danger of the government deciding what is real and what is fake.

It’s not the omnipresent Big Brother we need fear, it is our own surrender to mediocrity in thinking about the realities of this country and our responsibility to stay informed by a broad spectrum of ideas and opinions.

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.

                                                                                                            George Orwell

 

 

Memories: Random, Recreated, or Otherwise

Hanging On

While rummaging through what is known in most households as the junk drawer, I came Good Conductacross this medal. It is a Good Conduct medal issued to my father during his service in the United States Marine Corps.

I believe he received it early in his enlistment before he ended up on an all-expense paid cruise up the coast of South Korea. Followed by some beach time. (The Marines call it an amphibious landing.) Other than the North Koreans shooting at them, Inchon was lovely.

He later got a full land tour all the way to the Chosin Reservoir where the Chinese cut the trip short. Along the way, he gathered some other tokens of his time in Korea, three Purple Hearts, Two Bronze Stars, and the Silver Star.

But this one he gave to me and seeing it brought back memories. Funny how it is the only thing I have from when we lived in Pawtucket, RI. But here’s the story.

It was 1960 or 61, just before we moved to Cumberland. My sister Peggy–do not call her Peggy Ann. She hates Peggy Ann so do not call Peggy Ann, Peggy Ann—were playing in a neighbor’s yard. In this yard was a rather large hole being dug for some purpose I never knew. In the bottom of this hole were pipes, rocks, and water.

The hole was several feet deep and surrounded by…nothing.  Different times, those.

Of course, we were intrigued.

Anyway, Peggy An..I mean Peggy got too close and tumbled off the edge. I managed to grab her by the jacket.  I wasn’t strong enough to pull her up.  All I could do was hold on.

Eventually, someone noticed this. Whether it was me yelling or them I don’t know, but the next thing I knew my mother ran over and pulled Peggy up.

When my father came home from his tour of duty with the State Police (they lived in the barracks then, so it was a few days later) my mother filled him in.

For my actions in the line of facing deep, muddy, and dangerously unprotected holes and for hanging on I was awarded the medal.

I wore it to bed.

I wore it to Kindergarten.

I wore it to Church. (Yes, I used to go there, under penalty of parental damnation mostly)

And somehow, after all these years, it’s the one thing I’ve held onto…or it held onto me.

Night Baseball

On a recent walk along the bike path onto Martin Street in Cumberland, I chanced past a field where I experienced my halcyon days of Little League baseball. It was where I believed my professional sports career would flourish.

Halcyon, yes. Flourishing career, not so much.

I believe I set a record that stands to this day in that league. I was hit three times by a pitch at-bat in one game.

The pitcher, a rather sizeable 11-year old who looked like he shaved and, I believe, parked a car somewhere hidden from view since I never saw his parents, had two conflicting abilities. He could throw a fastball, and he lacked any control over the direction of the ball.

Combine that with my sloth-like reflexes, and you have a recipe for disaster.  I wasn’t so much a batter as a backstop.  My ability to move as if in slow motion earned me the nickname “Turtle” from my teammates. The longest ball I ever hit bounced off the fence in center field, and I got thrown out.

At first base.  Slow doesn’t even come close.

I’m not sure which one of those guys gave me the name, no matter how well deserved and accurate as it may be, but I recall Eddie Reilly, John Johnson, Scott Partington, Greg Vartanian, and others hollering it with great vigor in between laughing at me and falling to the ground.

Now that I think about it, I was bullied. I probably have PTSD from all those games, plus the bruises. I should sue.

What sparked this memory was the changes going on in the field.  They are installing lights for night games.

NIGHT GAMES in Little League.  Next thing they’ll have signing bonuses and no-cut contracts.

Our idea of night games were those interminable games when the score was 25 to 23 in the fourth inning, 8:30 on a Saturday night in August, and the darkness creeping in.  At the sound of the ball hitting the bat we all had a fleeting glimpse as the ball disappeared into the night. We pretended to look for it, but we were really trying to figure out where it would not land so as not to get smacked in the head.

Now they have lights.

They probably have pitchers with some control over the ball.

Where’s the fun in that?

Choices: You Make’em You Own ’em

Choices: You Make’em You Own ’em

The Jerry Tillinghast Story

 

Now available at the pre-release price of $2.99 for Kindle, the long-awaited story of Jerry Tillinghast as only he could tell it. Click here for the Amazon link. Order it before the price jumps on release date and stay tuned for more formats and deals as they become available. Sign up for my email list and win one of five signed first edition print copies and the ebook version. Click here for the signup form.

CHOICES_Cover_Jerry_Tillinghast_Story-2018.07.27 (002)

Jerry Tillinghast talks about his life and the choices he made.
Battling alongside his brothers on the streets of Providence.
Enlisting in the United States Marine Corps, fighting in Vietnam, and becoming a victim of the politics of that war.
His return to Providence an angry young man and his choice to hang with the wiseguys.
His reputation as a “feared mob enforcer” and the effect on his family.
Meeting Raymond L.S. Patriarca and how he came to embrace him as a father figure.
His brushes with the law and the two most infamous cases he is
forever linked to;

 

 

Bonded Vault and the George Basmajian Homicide

Silent no more…

Check out my website for my other books and exciting news on book signings and upcoming appearances.

www.authorjoebroadmeadow.com

 

Black & White & Brown & Yellow & Blue Lives Matter

Anyone who reads the pieces I write understands I am blunt and forthright about organizational racism–targeted toward people of color–and its existence on Police Departments. Yet such open discussion, necessary to identify and eliminate the problem, is hindered when someone unlawfully carrying a gun encounters the police.

GUNApparently, I must clarify a few things.

If you are not a police officer or otherwise licensed to carry a weapon, don’t. If you point that weapon at a police officer, the public, or merely wave it menacingly, you will probably die when the police find you.

Running away from the police does not constitute removal of the threat you pose.

Ignoring the commands of the police to carry on some street form of protest or debate does not eliminate the threat you pose.

Buying into the nonsense that people of color must protect themselves from the police does not mitigate violating the law. It is flawed, dangerous, and disproven by the facts.

And it does not eliminate the threat you pose.

In almost every single case, failing to follow the officer’s simple commands drove the conclusion to a fatal end. Even assuming the officer was acting unlawfully, the street is not the place to prove a point.

Cell phone videos of such incidents, with no broad established perspectives, feed into the entertainment-addicted society. Unfiltered and full of distorted views, they are used as tools to either sustain the racial stereotypes by some or offered as evidence of police misconduct by others.

They are neither.

All one does by ignoring or challenging the officer is compound the problem. If you’ve not broken the law, the court is the proper forum. If you are breaking the law by carrying a weapon, you face a simple choice.

Accept your responsibility and face the legal consequences, or risk dying at the hands of the police.

At that moment, you will be judged not for the color of your skin but for the content of your character.

Your actions speak volumes.

Willing to put your fellow humans at risk, contribute to the racist stereotypes, and do more harm to the cause for which others fight with all their hearts to overcome. A cause for which others laid down their lives to challenge the very violence you invoke.

I am not naïve in believing the tentacles of racism don’t reach into the court system. Yet it is in the court the most progress towards equality is achieved and racist actions by persons operating under the color of law addressed.

The proper actions by those who protect society, operating under the color of law, are the only “color” that matters here. Many of the most critical changes to race relations in society began with court mandates that eventually became social norms.

By the self-defeating act of unlawfully carrying a gun, no matter the color of your skin, you compound the problem.

It is a selfish and harmful act that most severely affects the very people you perceive as victims of racism.

The public outcry focusing on the use of force by the police, ignoring the fact they faced an armed lawbreaker, compounds the problem. People with little, or no, sense of the realities of the use of weapons do nothing but demonstrate their ignorance. Their outcry serves to inflame the issue. Their lack of fundamental understanding, or willingness to acknowledge facts, merely prolongs the false narrative of cops targeting minorities.

Where’s the outcry when cops are ambushed, shot at, wounded or killed? If equality is the goal, it’s missing in the public outrage.

Among police officers, there is a jaundiced saying on survival.

“Better to be judged by twelve, then carried by six.”

Officers, reacting to the reality of the violence and weapon proliferation on the streets of this country, see erring on the side of caution, i.e., resorting to deadly force and letting a jury sort it out, as the best chance to survive.

Perhaps that attitude should be turned around and put to work from the other side. Let a jury decide if the officers acted lawfully and appropriately. Eventually, everyone would be better off.

If you rely on the false belief that a gun makes you safer, being carried by six merely adds you to the long list of unnecessary deaths. You bear direct responsibility for creating your own opportunity to die.

And you leave behind a legacy that imposes the same death sentence on others.

Why Do All These Old People Know the Lyrics to My Favorite Songs?

The other day, while shopping for a few items at a local grocery store, the ambient music playing in the background was Pinball Wizard by The Who.

An ancient looking guy walked by, playing air guitar and singing EVERY SINGLE WORD to the song. At first, I was impressed with this older generation’s appreciation of the peak of the Rock ‘n’ Roll era.

Then I started to wonder.

But my mind drifted back to my original purpose and the thoughts receded… for the moment.

The music in this store seems controlled by whatever manager is in charge. One has a distinct preference for country music, another loves jazz, and one loves classic rock.

HendrixAs the final notes of Wizard faded, the distinctive Jimi Hendrix guitar from Purple Haze took over.  Within minutes a woman who looked to be older than dirt came by mouthing the words.

What is this sorcery?

How can all these old people know the songs of my youth so intimately?

It’s one thing to dance to the rhythm of the music, it’s an entirely different matter, one shocking to the soul, that they KNEW the words.

I decided that it must have been the older generation’s surrender to reason. Where once they didn’t appreciate the music, they have now resigned themselves to embracing it in their dotage.

That’s the explanation I’m going with. Nothing else makes sense.

Hey Joe, where you going with the gun in your hand?

 

Crime and No Punishment

Everyone deserves a second chance. One might even argue you get three strikes, but in any case after that, they must pay the price.

JusticeIn the last few months, two officers were killed and two officers wounded in three separate shooting incidents. Where, you might ask? Southside of Chicago? A gang invested area of Los Angeles? Downtown Detroit? Baghdad?

Nope.

On Cape Cod, the ordinarily tranquil summer vacation mecca and one of the most beautiful parts of the Eastern Seaboard.

It’s happening here for two very troubling reasons. First, the incestuous nature of the court system. Spend time in the courts around the Commonwealth, mainly the smaller venues, and you’ll see it in action.

If you pay attention.

Certain defense attorneys, generally the old hands or their associates with years of appearances before the courts, are treated differently, and their clients benefit by the largess of this deferential treatment. Their ability to wrangle minimal sanction from prosecutors, with the silent acquiescence of the courts and despite the extensive criminal record of the defendant, defies logic and diminishes the effectiveness of criminal sentences.

It’s an enlightened version of the “old boy” network without gender discrimination.

The second factor is the secrecy around criminal records in Massachusetts. Out of some misguided sense of fairness to those who’ve committed a crime, access to criminal records in the state is almost non-existent.

Even investigators face Draconian rules to access records of suspects under investigation. It is these two factors, lawyers with an inordinate amount of influence within the court and the secrecy of criminal records, that put dangerous repeat offenders back on the street under the guise of fair pursuit of justice.

Everyone deserves a second chance, after that they must feel the full weight of responsibility for their actions. Access to criminal records is as much a matter of the public’s need to know as is any other governmental function.

Courts cannot work in secret. That is exactly the situation in Massachusetts. Judges need to act as a balance between a vengeful public and the rights of the accused. Once a defendant signs a plea, that second chance philosophy takes over. Fail any part of probation, commit another crime, violate any order, and the opportunity for leniency should be surrendered.

In many ways, it does not work that way.

This, however, is only part of the solution. The reality is resources to deal with repeat offenders, especially those who commit minor offenses, is limited. Often the state faces a Hobbs choice of where to put people who deserve to go to prison but there is limited space to put them.

To be effective the criminal justice systems needs adequate resources. But that doesn’t just mean more cops, judges, and prisons. It also means we must invest in a prison system that punishes in a manner consistent with the law and functions as an actual system of corrections.

Clearly, if you’ve ever seen the inside of most prisons in the US, that is not happening. We cannot expect a prison system that amounts to nothing more than a warehouse of troubled humans to return a better person back to society.

If we focus exclusively on punishment, at the expense of rehabilitation, we are perpetuating the very problem we want to solve.

Every single criminal case disposed of in court should be a public record. If it takes a generation before people once again understand actions have consequences, then so be it. We’ve created this society of victimhood where everything is someone else’s fault. We must be the first to recognize the folly of that and accept our own responsibility for it.

The situation in Massachusetts is not unique. It permeates the criminal justice system throughout the US. It shouldn’t take cops being wounded and killed by individuals who’ve been given not a second chance but what amounts to a get out of jail free card before we recognize the problem and fix it.

Our criminal justice system need reflect the realities of the human condition in life. Our Constitution guarantees the rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Pursuit is not a promise of success, just a fair opportunity to achieve it. Continuously breaking laws is not one of those opportunities.

“There is no going back in life. There is no return. No second chance.”

Daphne du Maurier