Dying Dogs Saving Lives?

I’m not a fanatic when it comes to animal rights and such, but I recently finished a book called Writings on an Ethical Life by Peter Singer that gave me pause to reconsider some things.

Singer is a controversial writer and philosopher. His position on euthanasia, late-term abortion, and other difficult ethical matters often obscures his equally challenging work on animal rights.  His book, Animal Liberation, is the definitive work on the subject.

What got me thinking about this was a headline about medical testing on dogs conducted by the Veterans Administration.

VA: Fatal dog experiments moving ahead despite criticism from Congress, veterans’ groups

(https://goo.gl/q5mvWw)

Now as everyone knows, a dog is the perfect companion. No matter the circumstances, dogs are always loyal.  They welcome you home every day as if you are the most important person in the world.

1015181526a_HDRNo matter what.

Using such living beings for medical experiments, no matter how noble or well-intentioned, is difficult to accept. I think we should take a long hard look at our appreciation and respect for the lives of all sentient beings before assuming we may use them for our own benefit.

It may be easy to ignore such activities when removed from the reality, but would you surrender your own dog for such experiments?  Would you stand there and watch your loyal, caring, always-happy friend be tortured in the name of medical research?

Then why would you acquiesce to it being done to any other animal? Silence is complicity in the face of cruel injustice.

There is a balance to be struck. Nature is governed by predators and prey. That evolution has endowed us with reason and self-awareness may differentiate us from other living beings, but is it enough to justify wanton domination for self-preservation? Wouldn’t a better indication of the superiority of human nature be our showing respect for the fellow living beings with whom we share life in the universe?

And a respect for the planet we oh-so-briefly occupy?

Now, if you want to use cats, I can see no rational reason to oppose it.

 

 

Debunking the Myth of the Mob

(Also published as a column in the Providence Journal http://www.providencejournal.com/opinion/20181025/my-turn-joe-broadmeadow-ris-misplaced-affection-for-crime)

Many Americans have a macabre fascination with Organized Crime, the mob, or the Mafia depending on your preference. Rhode Islanders cling to the myth of Organized Crime like the memory of their first love. They’ve forgotten the pain of loss, clutching the pasteurized reminisces of infatuation. The mesmerizing allure of benevolent mob figures ruling the streets of Providence is a fallacy disproven by reality.

Mob

For a time in Rhode Island, two governments ran the state. One was elected by the voters. The other was a shadow government, unelected but more powerful, controlled by the mob under the leadership of Raymond L.S. Patriarca.

One ran for office every two years. The only limitation on Patriarca’s rule was mortality. Yet the organization continued after his death.

The constancy of change has taken its toll on the mob. The bodies dug up today are skeletons buried decades ago. The gunfire on the streets of the city is between rival gang members. Loosely affiliated drug distribution rings, lacking the organization of “this thing of ours,” now rule the streets.

But Rhode Island misses its first love, longing for a return to their days of self-deception. The mob has always been a promise more gorgeous than its realization, but many did not care.

The most telling sign of Rhode Island’s misplaced affection is the continuing fascination with the Mafia and the persistent myth of what they were.

Hollywood painted a noble veneer on the Mafia and gave us The Godfather, Goodfellas, and the Sopranos. They wrapped murder, extortion, hijacking, and loan sharking with catchy phrases and comic banter, making them appear legitimate.

People believed they were safer living under the ‘protection’ of the Mafia, ignoring their corrupting the courts, the cops, and government. Because they could leave their doors unlocked, they accepted paying more taxes because of mob-controlled contracts for construction, trash collection, and myriad other services.

The workingman on the way home could stop at the local bar and wager his family’s future on horse races whose outcome the mob dictated.

And people were okay with that.

When the money wasn’t there to cover the bet, the leg breakers came.

And they were okay with that.

When the mob ran a successful publicity campaign hiding their involvement in drugs, then flooded the country with heroin produced in mob-run laboratories or facilitated the rise of the cocaine business, people were okay with that.

Today’s Mafia may be diminished, but they are not dead. They’ve evolved like a malignant tumor sending out tentacles into new areas of society. They’ve branched out into new scams; gas tax fraud, online gambling, and wind power subsidies fraud while maintaining their hold on many labor unions.

The targets may have changed, the tactics have not. We can learn from the past once we strip away the fallacy of honor and respect.

The recent show, Crimetown (www.crimetownshow.com Season 1), unmasked the reach of corruption by the mob when it laid bare the infiltration of city departments and personnel under the Cianci administration.

In an upcoming book, Choices: You Make ‘em You Own ‘em, (Amazon.com) Jerry Tillinghast, one of the most recognized names of the Patriarca era, unmasks the reality of life within organized crime and the cost to us all.

I wrote the book with Jerry to understand the realities of how people follow such a path. I discovered much I did not expect. A troubling aspect of those years is how even well-intentioned efforts to curtail the mob can subvert the course of Justice.

Rhode Island’s misplaced affection for organized crime cost the people of Rhode Island. It is time to put it into perspective. To recognize that the reality of the mob is masked by misconception and willful self-deception.

Choices: You Make ’em You Own ’em

A story forty years in the making is about to be told. Writing this book with Jerry Tillinghast was an unexpected journey into the murky myth of organized crime. It is a story that will anger some, sadden others, but enlighten most about a long-held misconception of  La Cosa Nostra, “this thing of ours.”

CHOICES_3D_1080-150Click here to order your copy today.

From the back cover:

In a remarkably personal and intimate story, 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. Returning to Providence as an angry young man and his choice to hang with the wise guys.
The cost of his reputation as a “feared mob enforcer” and the effect on his family. Meeting Raymond L.S. Patriarca, the notorious head of New England Organized Crime family, and how he came to embrace him as a father figure.
He reveals the inside story of the two of the most infamous cases in Rhode Island history; BondedVault and the George Basmajian Homicide.
Jerry was found not guilty after the Bonded Vault trial, but his luck ran out with the Basmajian murder. Convicted with Jerry was his brother, Harold Tillinghast. Since the moment of their arrest, Jerry has said just one thing.
Harold wasn’t in the car.
Jerry Tillinghast, a featured character on the Crimetown podcast, one of the most downloaded podcasts in the world, tells his life story with honesty and emotion. Setting the record straight after forty years of silence.
Silent no more…

Excerpt from Choices: You Make ’em You Own ’em

Release Date: November 1, 2018.

The wait is almost over. The long-anticipated story, told by Jerry Tillinghast about his life, choices, and living with the consequences of those decisions, is soon to be released. Jerry reveals the truth behind the myth of organized crime and the highs and lows of the life as only someone who lived it can.

CHOICES_3D_1080-150An excerpt from the opening pages;

The stolen car made its way along the side streets of Cranston, Rhode Island onto Interstate 95 south. Cloudy and drizzly, the winds of November cast a pall over the night. Three men, two in the front seat one in the back, came together for a single purpose that evening.

One knew it was a deadly deception.

As the car sped up, other vehicles followed behind. Three undercover police units, two driven by detectives from the Rhode Island State Police and one by an FBI agent.

The stolen car took the Airport Connector exit in Warwick towards T.F. Green Airport. The police surveillance team followed behind. As the stolen car negotiated the corner, the cops lost sight of the car. The snow fence along the roadside momentarily blocked the view. Different today than it was in 1978, the curving off-ramp put cars right onto Post Road. The police regained sight of the of the vehicle as it waited at the red light.

Just two men, both in the front seat, were now visible in the car. Uncertain if the third man had been dropped off, and concerned they may have been spotted, the police watched the vehicle turn onto Post Road and then down a side street into an industrial area. They backed off and waited.

After several minutes, the cops moved into the area to locate the car.

It didn’t take long.

Two investigators approached the car, noticing the windows were steaming up. As they peered inside, they saw George Basmajian, the primary object of their surveillance, lying on the back seat, dead or dying from bullet wounds to the head and chest. The medical examiner would later count nine bullet wounds, several of which were likely fatal.

Nine shots were a guarantee of fatality.

No one else was around the area. The other men vanished into the night. The cops knew who they needed to look for and headed out to find them.

And this is where the story diverges. But to understand the differences and perspective, we must return to the beginning. To go back to the routes of involvement of those connected to this case through their early choices and associations with organized crime…

Order the ebook for Kindle today before the price goes up on release date. Click to order here and sign up here for notifications of book signings and the book release party.

 

 

A Naked Woman Dancing in the Street

A naked woman dancing in the street is not an invitation for sexual activity.  While societal norms might frown on such activity, it is not an open invitation for men to “have their way” with her.

Whether such things happen is exclusively up to her.

But that is not the way much of America sees it.

She was asking for it.  What did she expect? Look at how she’s dressed, she knew what she was doing.

18145_coverf
Image copyright Elon News network

The plague of sexual assault is one of the biggest threats to women in the world. In theory, we abhor rapists. Even within the insular walls of prisons, rapists must be protected from other inmates because of the inherent evil of their crimes.

But that is the tip of the iceberg. It is the wink and nod tolerance of “boys will be boys” in committing sexual assault in all its variations that places the onus and the burden on the victim for bringing it upon herself.

She shouldn’t have gone to that party. She shouldn’t dress that way. She shouldn’t have acted like she wanted it.

The double standard is appalling.

The normal progression of a child to puberty and the learning curve of acceptable behavior in controlling hormonal-driven feelings are complicated by this unequal expectation between males and females.

Sexual assault is the most underreported crime. We, as a society, place such burdens on victims they fear reporting the offense because of this. Can there be any more horrifying concept than a culture that blames the victim?

Much of this is cultural. There are still social practices throughout the world where women are nothing more than chattel, to be bargained with and traded by a male-dominated culture.

The vestiges of a father “giving away” his daughter at her wedding persist to this day. While we may view this as symbolic and harmless, it reflects a time when it was an absolute right of the family to determine who a woman marries.

A man was never given away, he was endowed with the right to “take” a bride.

When my then future son-in-law asked to speak with us about marrying my daughter, I appreciated the gesture. But I had about as much chance of telling my daughter who she could marry as I have of winning Powerball.

And that is how we raised her. She is not my property to do with as I please. She determines her own life.

In society, there is still the shadow of sexual assault victims somehow being responsible for the crime. Often, agencies tasked with investigating such incidents are wary because of the possibility of it being false.

That is precisely why a thorough and effective investigation is necessary. It should never be viewed as a waste of time because of anything the victim may have done, said, or where she went.

The recent confirmation hearing illustrates the problem. While the sense of fairness to both sides is essential, we must always lean on the side of innocent until proven guilty.

Yet it also underscores the problem.

Had Professor Ford felt more comfortable reporting the incident when it first happened we would not have to make a choice. And let’s be clear, it is our fault as a society that victims feel unable to report these crimes because of what we may do to them for merely standing up for themselves.

Sexual assault survivors bear the burden of being a victim twice. Once by the perpetrator, and again by those responsible to protect them. We live in a world where the President of the United States can mock a victim in the name of politics and many Americans applaud the behavior. If that is what the moral majority represents, we are indeed in decline.

Until that changes, there will be more victims left in the shadows of our immoral morality.

Passages

William Shakespeare said life is an “uncertain voyage,” and, as I add more days to my past, it seems the uncertainty grows.

Except for one thing.

timeThroughout this uncertain voyage, we share experiences. Often, we experience the most meaningful ones with good friends. It is in this friendship that life’s uncertainties can be managed and endured.

I have been most fortunate to have a group of friends I have remained close to since we first met in the 8th grade almost fifty years ago. The warranty on most things doesn’t last that long, yet we have.

Ralph Ezovski, Tony Afonso, Cam Nixon, Clyde Haworth, and I have almost five decades of being friends. During those many years, we’ve experienced the many stages of life.

High school with all it’s cusp-of-adulthood explorations of the trappings of life; girlfriends, surreptitious beers, parties, driver’s licenses, and graduation, followed by college and jobs and marriage and children and all the highs and lows of being human.

The one consistency of life is change. Nothing, no matter how permanent it may seem, remains the same.

The passing of one’s parents is one of those shared elements. For some, that experience came way too early. For others, it was spaced over the course of our friendship. Yet these shared experiences, whenever they occur, are the threads that hold the fabric of our lives together and bind us to each other.

One of the other realities of life is that parents of friends influence our lives even when we don’t realize it. How they raise their children, the expectations they set and the character they mold, affects us all. It is one of my great fortunes to have friends raised by kind, intelligent and most of all caring parents.

Firm when necessary, gentle when possible, and caring about us all.

One parent, Clyde’s father, recently passed away. He enjoyed a long and plentiful life enriched by his family and friends. His manner and example having an untold influence on this group of friends.

For that, we are all the better for it,

It is at these moments we reflect on such things. While no one can alter the passages of life, we can take time to appreciate how fortunate we are to experience them.

Friends are not something one collects or counts. Good friends make this uncertain voyage worth the journey.

Justice Tempered by Mercy, Mercy Me

Oh mercy, mercy me
Oh things ain’t what they used to be

Mercy Mercy Me   Marvin Gaye

I know I’ve compromised the lyrics from a song about pollution to one about the justice system, but the lamentation of the words is appropriate.

A recent headline on FOX News blared,

Florida man gets 20 years for stealing $600 worth of cigarettes

A Florida man who stole $600 worth of cigarettes from a convenience store was sentenced Friday to 20 years in state prison, The Pensacola News Journal reported.

An Escambia County jury convicted Robert Spellman, 48, of burglary and grand theft in August. Spellman went into a Circle K in December, and stole 10 cartons of cigarettes from a stock room in the store manager’s office, authorities said.

The State Attorney’s Office said authorities found Spellman nearby, matching a description of the suspect, and had the cigarettes, The News Journal reported.

Spellman had 14 felony and 31 misdemeanor convictions prior to the cigarette theft, which qualified him as a habitual felony offender, The News Journal reported. That led to the lengthy 20-year prison sentence imposed Friday by an Escambia County judge.

The lengthy prison term prompted outrage on social media, with some people accusing the prosecutor of imposing too harsh a sentence for a seemingly petty crime.

“Just such a disproportionate sentence,” wrote one Twitter user. “[W]ho are these cruel judges?!?” Bradford Betz – FOX News – Monday, September 24, 2018

Somehow, people were outraged that a man could be sentenced to twenty years in prison for stealing $600 worth of cigarettes.

Mercy, mercy me.

They apparently skipped the part that said,

“Spellman had 14 felony and 31 misdemeanor convictions prior to the cigarette theft, which qualified him as a habitual felony offender.”

JusticeNow, I will be the first to point out our corrections system is wanting in the rehabilitation department. Our prisons are warehouses and little more. But when an individual, not otherwise suffering from mental illness or incompetence, has been convicted of 45 crimes, including 14 felonies, there is little left for society to do than “lock ‘em up and throw away the key.”

Mr. Spellman could be the poster child for the failed court system. I will bet, if one reviewed the court record, Mr. Spellman was warned by many judges not to return to the courtroom and be of good behavior. To which Mr. Spellman, or most likely his overworked public defender, assured the court he would.

Anything to escape responsibility.

Everyone deserves a second chance, perhaps even a third chance. But 45 chances are bordering on the court being an accomplice to the crimes.

While there are myriad social implications for failing to provide meaningful rehabilitation to criminals, everything from skills training to assist with job opportunities after release, deterrence and punishment for crimes is still a valid societal tool.

Mercy, Mercy me

How much more evidence do we need?

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.