Inside the Belley of the Beast – The Just Us System

Sworn as an AUSA by US Attorney Paul Curran, SDNY

Sworn as an AUSA by US Attorney Paul Curran, SDNY

I’m a recovering N.Y. federal prosecutor.

I say “recovering” because you never quite get over the power and authority you enjoyed as a young man – as a ‘puppy” prosecutor.

In New York, a port city, the cases are a big deal, mobsters plot their crimes a few blocks from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in lower Manhattan, vast quantities of drugs, heroin and cocaine come into the Big Apple from every direction imaginable, there are illegal transfers of money, in and out of banks, securities fraud and oceans of bad acts and words deceiving the public, plots and devices hatched by a variety of rogues within walking distance of Foley Square, where the Courts and federal prosecutors are lodged.

If you do it right, when you’re a prosecutor, no matter the jurisdiction, your mission is to do justice for the individuals charged.

The Executive US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Sylvio J. Mollo, pulled the flag around him while he was testing my resolve to become an Assistant U.S. Attorney.

Sylvio said, “when you stand before the court as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, you represent the people and the government, but, like the flag [that he had in his hand], those you represent are silent, not there with you, and they depend on you to do what’s right.”

Years after walking out of my last grand jury as a prosecutor, I started representing the Accused, upset about how the government was pushing around those they accused – in a way I’d been instructed was just plain wrong. Continue reading

Non-Fat Meat and no Dead Animals – Really!

Best selling Author, Paul Shapiro – “Clean Meat” (courtesy photo)

Best selling Author, Paul Shapiro – “Clean Meat” (courtesy photo)

Many of us have cut off the fat on meat.  I did as a kid.  Some of us go further, and cut out meat entirely.

It may be because it has fat you don’t like or because you dread to kill an animal to eat its meat.

You can’t ask an animal, for example, to contribute only, say, his leg because that’s all you want, begging the question whether we must waste the whole animal for some small part of the evening repast.

There is also a drain on our limited natural resources, on our eco-system, and, to choose a simple example, consider what it takes to make a single egg or a gallon of milk.

Paul Shapiro, the former head of the Humane Society of the United States, wrote it takes fifty gallons of water to make a single egg – “enough to fill your bathtub to the brim.”

As for our bovine bounty, Paul wrote, it takes “nine hundred gallons of water needed for every gallon of cow’s milk…”

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has famously said that the compromised purity and shrinking inventory of the world’s water supplies will be the oil crisis of this century.

In 1932, the famous WWII PM, Winston Churchill, predicted, “Fifty years hence, we shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.”

Paul has now written a best seller, titled, “Clean Meat,” that describes a “suitable medium” to escape Churchill’s attack on his observed wasteful “absurdity.” Continue reading

Rising Waters

jonflan-surf - 1

I was at a fair a few years ago, to attend a live broadcast, and don’t remember our topic, but, on the way, in somewhat of a rush to find the set on time, I passed by two booths, side by side, one with a realtor, and a contingent of members from the Union of Concerned Scientists at the other.

The realtor had houses for sale on the seashore at North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

The scientists had pamphlets discussing the consequences of global warming including rising seawaters.

I suggested the realtor might want to talk to the next booth about his business plan, and just perhaps consider renting out properties instead of selling them.

According to coastal geologists, storms, development, and sea level rise have caused sections of this 200-mile island chain we know as the Outer Banks to collapse.  Shifting sands, new inlets, newly formed ecosystems are transforming the banks.  More houses on spindly stilts now rest in the surf.  Continue reading

“Father Tom” Simmons, Apologist for Nazi Propaganda

"Father Tom" Simmons, St Peter's Church, Purcellville, VA

“Father Tom” Simmons, St Peter’s Church, Purcellville, VA

The following letter to the editor was published in the March 23, 2018 Purcellville Gazette.

Neighborliness

So a member of the clergy isn’t very bothered by two neo-Nazis peppering private property of Loudoun residents with Nazi literature, but he adopts the view that the “hard, hard left” is abandoning “neighborliness” in favor of “agitation, propaganda, smear tactics, intimidation, speech-suppression, harassment, and violence.”

It is comforting that Rector Simmons believes recent Nazi literature arriving uninvited at residences in Loudoun is only limited to “two dopes” — a “couple of knuckleheads.” One wonders how he is so sure that this is the extent of the people holding and espousing such hateful, extremist views that he can criticize fellow clergy for raising an alarm.

Alan Dershowitz - "No Safe Spaces" interview

Alan Dershowitz – “No Safe Spaces” interview

Alan Dershowitz might not be concerned because Nazi views “have no resonance on university campuses today,” but it might be useful to recall that the rise of Nazis in Germany in the 1930s did not start on university campuses. At first, everyone thought Nazis and their alienated leader were outliers who would never have any real impact. That belief was catastrophically wrong. How did Nazis grow and maneuver their way into power? History teaches us it was an absence of serious focus on opposing their “agitation, propaganda, smear tactics, intimidation, speech-suppression, harassment and violence.” Sound familiar?

“Neighborliness” is not expressed by hateful messages delivered surreptitiously to our neighbors. Rector Simmons should join his clergy brethren in saying so loudly and avoid being complicitly silent just because he believes it is only two knuckleheadded dopes. Perhaps Rector Simmons should recall the words of a noted Lutheran pastor who was very experienced with what happens when dopey, knuckleheaded Nazi social/political beliefs go unrecognized and unapposed by early, full-throated condemnation…

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Martin Niemoller

John D. Tew

Purcellville

 

The Tools of a Tyrant

You be the judge if the tools of a tyrant are pervasive in our once more united states.

The impermeable veil that separated fact from fiction is now porous and in danger of disappearing entirely.

Lies_as_truthArguments are only as strong as the underlying facts we know to be true, and, our Chief Executive’s subalterns insist there is such a thing as “alternative facts.”

The “known” credibility of a person or entity is fatally defective if instead a poseur, a counterfeit voice, pretends that they are that person or entity we have trusted when, in fact and truth, they are not that person or entity.

We believe we know if we are being fooled but that’s hardly credible when we have been so thoroughly manipulated by info-age bots (ro-bot apps), traveling at the speed of electrons, programmed to mislead us.

On Facebook and Twitter, members freely disclose all manner of information, in a trusting manner and to an extent that Jefferson could never have imagined.

A Russian troll factory in St. Petersburg, Russia created false opinion makers on Facebook and Twitter, also bogus Facebook members to roam and troll among us as if they were legit, incendiary memes and false opinions to distribute as well among the unaware.

Christopher Wylie, a former data scientist, at Cambridge Analytica, out of Great Britain, confirms that Cambridge Analytica was created by presidential campaign supporters and associates of Mr. Donald Trump.  Steve Bannon, of the alt-right, one of those campaign supporters, set out to create a psychological warfare tool for the presidential election.  Robert Mercer, the hedge-fund billionaire, invested in Cambridge Analytica. Continue reading

Students Lead the Way

Loudoun Valley High School walked out on March 14, 2018

Loudoun Valley High School walked out on March 14, 2018

Thousands of students from across Loudoun County walked out of class for 17 minutes, a minute of silent remembrance for each of the 17 students and staff killed in a Parkland, Florida High School, by an AR 15 wielded by 19-year-old Nikolas Jacob Cruz.

The students also assembled to protest automatic and semi-automatic weapons that, according to an organizer at the Seneca Ridge Middle School walkout, Lane Thimmesch, have no practical use, and can only be used to hunt people.

The students in Loudoun County joined a massive national protest, from New York to Seattle, and many small towns and communities in between, on March 14, 2017, one month after the Florida shooting.

The demonstrators permitted to speak or carry a sign said that they’d had “enough” of “hope and prayers” and wanted “action,” demanding that elected officials protect them from gunfire and death.

In Loudoun County, among the published Student’s Rights and Responsibilities, students have a right to “freedom of expression” through “speech, peaceful assembly, petition, and other lawful means provided such expression does not cause substantial disruption …”

Ironically, we instruct our students that the “Boston Tea Party,” throwing 342 chests of British East India Company tea into the harbor waters, that “cursed weed,” was a righteous protest. Continue reading

We Hurt Those We Claim to Help

Arguing that a chronic pain patient is not a criminal for taking his meds

Arguing that a chronic pain patient is not a criminal for taking his meds

I have argued for the right of patients with relentless and chronic pain to get relief – and that means pain killers including opioids.

I have represented pain doctors who are healing not dealing when they prescribe pain killers to chronic pain patients.

But we have a national campaign and citizens up in arms who are endangering those in pain –because there is no nuance in their anti-pain medication campaign.

There’s pain in America — and our government is making it worse certain that pain medication can only cause addiction, when dependence on medication is not the same thing as addiction, and relief from pain is all that stands between many people and suicide.

We have politicians across the nation, who know less about the medical science than my Jack Russells, arguing that we must withhold opioids from chronic pain patients, despite the fact that this medication allows these men and women to function.

I was a federal prosecutor in New York in the “war against drugs” in the 1970s, along with then AUSA Rudy Giuliani, and we fought the good fight against drugs.  We were chasing organized crime drug kingpins who were importing hundreds of kilos of pure heroin.  We thought we were doing more than just imprisoning bad guys.  We now know that taking these drug kingpins off the street did little to push back drug use in this nation.

Now we are chasing pain patients and their doctors. Continue reading

The black hero – NY Detective John Shaft

Samuel Jackson became John Shaft

Samuel Jackson became John Shaft

“Black Panther,” the movie, has been rightly heralded as a cultural shift and a praiseworthy change for featuring a black hero as the lead, celebrated by a widely diverse and enthusiastic audience, with many moviegoers going back to watch this flick again.

A noble and courageous African nation with special gifts in spirit, science, and a unique mineral resource, kept secret from the world for fear of the world beyond its shores, headed up by an enlightened warrior king, “the Black Panther,” realizes it must share its treasures in the hope of a closer world community.

The movie serves, in the telling of this mythical action story, as somewhat of an antidote to the pathogens of intolerance infecting our nation.

The KKK is presently emerging from history’s slimy dark shadows to recruit newly discovered bed-sheeted members to its hate-filled agenda of bigotry, lies and violence.

National “leaders” insist, in irresponsible reveries of indifference, that there’s nothing wrong with white supremacists waving lit torches, brandishing hand guns, crushing innocents who protest peacefully, or ranting unceasingly their hate-filled propaganda.

“Black Panther,” the movie, may fairly be said to invoke the Reverend Martin Luther King’s oft-repeated message that we are headed toward a better day in the long curving arc of history. Continue reading

Fear and Loathing

Guns_AR15_Bushmaster_ARImagine that you are Scot Peterson, 54, at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, north of Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and you’ve been the School Resource Officer at that school for 9 years, you know the teachers and students, you care about them, and you know a great deal about law enforcement; you’ve been doing it for 33 years; you’ve been honored for your valor as an officer.

You have just called in, at about 2:20 pm, that you were outside the school on the west side of the building, and a boy, Nikolas Cruz, 19, you knew from the school, is inside the school with a weapon that is firing rapidly.

You can only imagine the possible pain and suffering.  You have four children yourself from your first marriage, and were re-married just last year.  You know what this massacre means to these families.

You likely know that at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012, 20 year old  Adam Lanza, took his mother’s Bushmaster XM-15 rifle and fired 300 rounds, drawing upon 10 thirty-round large capacity magazines, and in four minutes, 154 bullets struck and killed 20 children between 6 and 7, and six educators.

You are not armed with a semi-automatic weapon as you crouch outside the school.  You don’t know what armor the shooter has.  You can’t be sure if the shooter is at the other end of the school, or know that he went to 5 class rooms on two floors executing innocents, or how much ammunition he had or has, or how powerful a weapon he has.  You may have guessed he has an AR-15 from the sound, certainly he’s got at least a semi-automatic.

It didn’t feel like Valentine’s Day.

Not to Scot.

Nor to anyone else. Continue reading

Joe

Joe and Jo Ellen Keating

Joe and Jo Ellen Keating

What’s a good life?

Yeats said, “It’s an Irish curse, to dream things the world has never seen.”

Joe Keating dreamed things and fought to make those imaginings a reality, stimulated by an expansive curiosity, by his gift to tell a story, and joy at tapping out an apt phrase or declamation, motivated by his love of others, and his many passions, and in this way, he enriched not only his own life but those around him.

Joe was a bear of a man, strong physically, with a broad smile, a kind word and a great hug for friend and stranger alike.

Cate Magennis presided over a celebration of Joe’s life this past Saturday.  In preparation for the gathering, Cate asked Joe’s wife and partner in so many adventures for 35 years, his Jo Ellen, what might be Joe’s favorite scripture.  Joe Ellen simply rolled her eyes in reply. Continue reading