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Thursday, February 28, 2019

The World's Fastest Patrol Car

     Dubai, an oil-rich international playground for the wealthy on the Persian Gulf Coast of the United Arab Emirates, is one of the most expensive places in the world to live. If you are arrested by the Dubai Police, you'll be driven to jail in one of their green-and-white patrol cars.

     In April 2013, the deputy police director of Dubai announced that the department had upgraded its patrol fleet with several Camaros and other American-made muscle cars. But the crown jewel of the Dubai fleet is a new Lamborghini Aventador, and Italian-made V-12 sports car that sells for $404,000 and can reach speeds up to 225 mph. In addition to the tallest building in the world, the largest shopping mall, and what will become the biggest ferris wheel on the globe, Dubai now has the fastest police car.

     I'm sure the officer driving the Lamborghini will not be using the sleek vehicle to haul drunks to jail. I don't even know if the car has a backseat.

     The Lamborghini is obviously for show, an advertisement promoting the city's wealth and prosperity. In America, money-strapped police departments show-off high-dollar SWAT tanks to project the image of power and authority. These are completely different messages that distinguish the two nations. 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

New York Cockfighting

     More than 70 people were taken into custody and upwards of 3,000 birds rescued Sunday, February 9, 2014 after investigators cracked down on a savage cockfighting ring that stretched from an underground rooster coop in Brooklyn to a breeding farm upstate….Nine people were arrested on felony charges amid "Operation Angry Birds"--the largest cockfighting crackdown in state history….

     State investigators and other officials said they carried out three dramatic raids….They busted a bloody cockfighting event in Queens, rounding up 65 fighting birds and 70 people--including bettors and spectators--and charging six of them with felony prohibition of animal fighting….

     At the same time, investigators arrested the 74-year-old proprietor of a Brooklyn pet shop where officials said roosters were stuffed inside metal cages showing "all the physical hallmarks of having been bred, trained and altered for fighting."

     And early Sunday, February 9, 2014, investigators and other officials raided a farm in upstate Plattekill, New York, recovering as many as 3,000 birds….

Daniel Arkin, " 'Operation Angry Birds' Busts New York Cockfighting Ring," NBC News, February 10, 2014 

The Fat Thief

     Facing five years in prison after being convicted for his role in a real estate scam, a Florida man says he's too fat to be incarcerated. [If they can keep hippos in zoos, they can keep fat criminals in prison--Benjamin Franklin--just kidding]

     In March 2014, James Olivos told an Orlando TV reporter that he couldn't serve hard time because he wouldn't get the proper treatment for his obesity if he was behind bars. [Nonsense. A sparse prison diet is just what the doctor ordered.]….This marks the third time that Olivos has cited a medical condition to avoid surrendering for prison following his conviction on bank fraud and money laundering in December 2013. The swindler missed his previous surrender dates, claiming he was suffering from rectal bleeding, was coughing up blood, and suffering foot pain.[Generally the rectal bleeding comes after one is sent to prison.]….

Chuck Ross, "Convicted Scammer Says He's Too Fat For Prison," The Daily Caller, March 12, 2014 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Middle School Hit List

     Parents and guardians of students at Gateway Middle School in Monroeville, Pennsylvania were alerted to a possible threat after a student was found with a list of 25 students he allegedly wanted to harm, as well as himself. A letter and phone call went out to parents and guardians Thursday afternoon, April 10, 2014. Gateway Middle School Principal Anthony Aquillo says that a parent informed school administrators and counselors that their son had a list of students he wanted to harm. The school has around 900 seventh and eight graders….

     The parent had found the list in the male child's bedroom while he was at school. Administration and Monroeville Police Chief Doug Cole pulled the student from class, and he was searched, detained and removed from the school. The students who were on the list met with school administrators and their parents were notified….

     The threat comes just one day after a 16-year-old was accused of stabbing more than 20 students at nearby Franklin Regional High School….

"Police, Parents Contacted After Gateway Middle School "Hit List" Found," CBS News, April 10, 2014 

Thornton P. Knowles On Political Scandals

With so many sociopaths in position of political power, it's no wonder we are in the era of the political scandal. The ongoing exposure of jaw-dropping hypocrisy among the political class has become, for us ordinary folks, a form of entertainment. To see the fall of an abusive, pompous politician, while a frightening reminder of the idiots and fools we put into office, is also intensely satisfying. Yes, I'll admit it, I've become a fan of the political scandal.

Thornton P. Knowles

Friday, February 22, 2019

Shooting the Mentally Ill

     According to a series of guidelines published by the U.S. Department of Justice, individuals suffering from some form of mental-illness are 4 times as likely to be killed in confrontations with police officers than the general population….

     Many officers simply are not equipped to deal with the mentally ill. There are strategies that work though, peaceful strategies. First, generalist police officers need more basic training in the plights and issues surrounding the mentally ill. Second, law enforcement agencies should place greater restrictions on deadly force tactics. Shoot first is not a viable solution. Officers reacting out of fear or choose to use physical force do more harm than good. Third, law enforcement departments need mental health specialists. They need police officers trained specifically for mental health related situations.

David Arroyo, Liberty Voice, October 8, 2013 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Thornton P. Knowles On Good Luck

I once knew a police officer who tripped getting out of his patrol car in front of a store being robbed. His gun went accidentally off and the bullet hit the robber right between the eyes. They made this officer marksman of the year. I put this into one of my novels, but the editor took it out because it was unrealistic. I never spoke to that editor again.

Thornton P. Knowles 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A Violent Way To Reduce Prison Overcrowding

     An inmate killed his cellmate at a Pennsylvania prison because he wanted his own private cell. Forty-five-year-old Lawrence Peterson Jr., formerly of Easton, will now serve a life sentence on top of the 40-to 80-year term he had been serving for a violent robbery.

     Clearfield County District Attorney Bill Shaw said he had planned to pursue the death penalty but decided to skip the trial after Peterson, on February 21, 2015, said he wanted to plead guilty to first-degree murder and take a life sentence. The beating death of inmate William Keitel, 59, took place on August 2, 2013. Keitel died nine days later in the infirmary at the state prison in Houtzdale.

"Cellmate Killed Man So He Could Have His Own Cell," Associated Press, February 23, 2015 

Thornton P. Knowles On West Virginia's Death Penalty

Unlike most West Virginians, I'm for the death penalty. That's because I don't like the alternative--making the convicted murderer spend the rest of his life in a cage with other violent men. What is the point of that? Take Elmer Brunner, the last man executed in West Virginia. The 47-year-old Brunner robbed an elderly woman in Huntington by clubbing her to death with the claw end of a hammer. He died on the electric chair on April 3, 1959. Six years later, thanks to death house lawyers and their likeminded activists, West Virginia abolished the death penalty. As a supporter of executing criminals like Elmer Brunner, I was not happy with that. Without the death penalty, there can be no justice in the most brutal, cold-blooded murder cases. Surely there are other ways the bleeding hearts can amuse themselves.

Thornton P. Knowles

Monday, February 18, 2019

Thornton P. Knowles On The Execution Of Someone He Knew In High School

A guy in my high school class was so small we nicknamed him Elf. Elf didn't have many friends because nobody liked him. Barely over five feet tall, Elf tried to join the Army. They turned him down because of his height. A couple of years later, three men in a bar made fun of Elf. Elf pulled a gun and shot all three of them. He was tried and convicted of three counts of first-degree murder. This was back when West Virginia still had the death penalty. When it came time for the execution, the electric chair operator had to make adjustments for Elf. You know, adjust the straps, build a platform for his feet, adjust the flow of juice, things of that nature. Still, when the executioner threw the switch, the little guy burst into flames. It was not a pretty sight, for sure. In fact, one of the death chamber observers, quoted in the paper, said that Elf, perched on Old Sparky, looked like a kid sitting on a throne. Another execution witness opined that extremely short people like Elf should be spared the electric chair. I believe, however, that if you are tall enough to kill three people, you are tall enough to be electrocuted. As I say, nobody in high school liked the guy, and West Virginia no longer has the death penalty. I hope I wasn't the kid who nicknamed him Elf.

Thornton P. Knowles 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Middle School Cook Threatened Co-Workers With Hit List

     Co-workers say the head cook at a Massachusetts middle school told them she had a hit list and would shoot up the school in an argument over burned cookies. Police say 47-year-old Wendy Ferris got upset Friday afternoon [February 7, 2014] before the end of the school day at King Philip Middle School in Norfolk, Massachusetts….Ferris then told the school nurse she had a hit list, the nurse being at the very top of it…. Ferris wouldn't talk to reporters but her neighbors supported her.

     Ferris' lawyer told reporters she denies the facts of the case….Ferris does have a license to carry a firearm and owns a 9mm handgun, but she was required to surrender it to police as a condition of bail. She's on administrative leave with pay pending the investigation.

Cliff Judy, "Police: Lunch Lady Said She Had Hit List Over Burned Cookies," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 5, 2014

The U. S. Supreme Court and the Death Penalty

     Furman v. Georgia is among the oddest Supreme Court cases in American history. Decided in 1972, it struck down every death penalty statute in the nation as then practiced without outlawing the death penalty itself. The ruling, based on the constitutional protection against "cruel and unusual punishment," stunned even the closest court watchers. The death penalty seemed impregnable. It was part of the bedrock of American's legal system, steeped in the intent of the founders, the will of most state legislatures and the forceful--if occasional--ruling of the courts.

     The 5-4 vote in Furman reflected a striking political split: all five members of the majority were holdovers from the Warren Court, known for its liberal decisions, while all four dissenters were recent appointees of Richard Nixon, who had won the White House with a carefully orchestrated law-and-order campaign. And notably, each justice wrote his own opinion in Furman, meaning there was no common thread to the case, no controlling rationale. The decision ran several hundred pages, the longest handed down by the court at the time....

     About 1,300 people have been executed since [1976] with Texas putting its 503rd prisoner to death just weeks ago. A clear majority continues to support the death penalty, though the fear of wrongful conviction appears to be growing, and evidence suggests that juries welcome the option of life in prison without parole. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has tightened the reins of capital punishment in recent years, ruling that the executions of the mentally retarded, people under 18 and those convicted of rape, even the rape of a child, are unconstitutional. For death penalty abolitionists, however, the promise of Furman must seem a distant, bitter memory.

David Oshinsky in reviewing A Wild Justice by Evan J. Nandery for The New York Times Book Review September 1, 2013

Not All Interrogated Suspects are Guilty

The goal of any interrogation, by definition, is to elicit a confession from a guilty party, not to investigate the truth of a denial. The common tactics used to gain confessions are based on the idea that only guilty people are interrogated in the first place. In theory, when a suspect is brought in for questioning, detectives begin with an "interview," in which information is gathered and the police make an assessment as to the guilt or innocence of the party. In this step, a non-accusatory question-and-answer period is meant to allow the detective an opportunity to gather more information and to make observations about the suspect that might indicate that he is lying. Once they decide that they are speaking with a guilty party, the interrogation begins. Detectives often believe that they are experts at separating truth from lies, but studies have shown that this is a false confidence.

Sarah Burns, The Central Park Five, 2011

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Murder Among Friends

     Tewana Sullivan, 50, was visiting her godfather in HUD housing in the Detroit suburb of Livonia when something went horribly wrong. It ended with 66-year-old Cheryl Livy dead and Sullivan in custody for her murder. Sullivan's godfather, Marvin Jones, said, "All of us were good friends and for something like this to happen, I just don't see it. It was such a shock that something like that would happen between two good friends…"

     Sullivan stands accused of beating Livy to death with a crock-pot. Police say the women fought, though they don't know why. When asked if he was disappointed in his goddaughter, Mr. Jones replied, "I'm not really disappointed in her because nobody knows what happened. So why would I be disappointed in her?" After being informed of what police were alleging, Jones said, "The police might be saying that, but I don't see it that way. I see them being friends and something happened." [In July 2015, the judge sentenced Sullivan to 23 to 50 years in prison.]

Derek Hunter, "Detroit: Woman Beats Friend to Death With a Crock-Pot," Daily Caller, October 28, 2014 

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Case Of The Butt-Fired Bottle Rocket

     The fireworks began at one-thirty in the morning of May 1, 2011 at the Alpha Tau Omega (ATO) fraternity house not far from the campus of Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. During the house party, Travis Hughes launched, from the frat house deck, a bottle rocket (a fireworks product on the end of a stick) out of his ass. (If I had to guess, I'd peg this kid as a criminal justice or elementary education major.) The rocket man's startled fraternity brother, Louis Helmburg III, jumped back and fell off the frat house deck. According to Helmburg's account of the incident, he ended up lodged between the deck and an air conditioning unit. Both students had been drinking.

     Not long after the fireworks display, the injured student's attorney filed a personal injury lawsuit against the university, the fraternity, the Marshall University inter-fraternity council, the company that owns the fraternity property, and Travis Hughes, the human rocket launcher. The plaintiff asserts that the ATO fraternity was negligent in failing to install a deck railing. As for defendant Hughes, his consumption of alcohol had led to "stupid and dangerous activities." (Hey, don't blame the booze. How many drunks can fire rockets out of their butts? Someday this skill could become an Olympic sport. It certainly would be more exciting than the shot put and could take place at night.)

     In June 2013, a judge dismissed the suit against Marshall University on grounds the plaintiff failed to follow in-house procedures for bringing such an action. The rest of the case, however, stood.

     Given the humorous facts underlying this suit, it appeared frivolous. The outcome, however, would depend on whether or not the fraternity house deck, because it didn't have a railing, was unsafe. Assuming that it was safe, there was still the question of whether the frat boy's ass-launch made him civilly liable for the student's tumble off the platform.

     On November 4, 2013, the plaintiff, through Huntington attorney Thomas P. Rosinsky, a slip-and-fall lawyer who also handled dog bite, DUI, car repossession and drug cases, settled the case with the company that owned the fraternity house. The amount of the settlement was not disclosed. If Louis Helmberg III paid a price for winning his case, it was that he would become the butt of every butt joke known to man.

     Travis Hughes, the bottle rocket butt-launcher, now works for NASA. (Just kidding.)

     

JFK Assassination: Americans Comforted by Conspiracy Theories

     We have lived with it for half a century, and still what happened that day in Dallas is shocking beyond almost anything else in American history--by shocking, I mean it hits like a blast of electric current and stupefies. One minute the President of the United States is smiling and waving. A moment later, he stiffens and clutches at his wounded throat. Then his head explodes; blood and gore bathe the First Lady, who crawls onto the truck lid of the moving car in a wild and hopeless attempt to collect the pieces.

     The victim was one of the most powerful, glamorous, wealthy, charismatic individuals on the planet. Snuffed out in an instant. This whiplash convergence of  extremes--so sudden, so horrific, such enormity--makes the assassination of John F. Kennedy an almost uniquely deranging event. In a matter of seconds, the mighty are rendered helpless; the beautiful is made hideous; tranquillity turns turbulent; the familiar becomes alien.

     Amid the shards of all those shattered assumptions, 50 years of doubt was born. Clear majorities of Americans--as high at 81 percent in 2001 and about 60 percent in a recent Associated Press poll--believe that a conspiracy was swept under a tattered rug. The conclusions of the Warren Commission, that one man alone delivered this devastating blow, got little traction compared with the desperate, at times unhinged, efforts to assemble a more satisfying account.

     Like a tornado, the Kennedy conspiracy theories have spun off whirlwinds of doubt about other national traumas and controversies, from 9/11 and FEMA camps to TWA flight 800 and genetically modified foods. The legacy of that shocking instant is a troubling habit of the modern American mind: suspicion is a reflex now, trust a figment. [It's no wonder that citizens, after decades of being lied to by politicians and government officials about everything under the sun, don't trust the official version of anything.]

David Von Drehle, "John F. Kennedy's Assassination and the Conspiracy Industry," Time, November 20, 2013 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Five Ws in Journalism

[Print and TV] reporters in journalism textbooks try to provide readers and viewers with what they need to know and try to produce stories that answer Who?, What?, When?, Where?, and Why? Journalists in real world news markets are driven, either consciously or indirectly, to produce stories that are generated by a different set of Five Ws: Who cares about information? What are they willing to pay, or others willing to pay to reach them? Where can media outlets and advertisers reach them? When is this profitable? Why is it profitable? These economic concerns help predict media content and explain why information in news reports differs from an accounting of a day's most significant events.

James T. Hamilton, All the News That's Fit to Sell, 2004

Monday, February 11, 2019

On the Stand: The Forensic Expert

     One of the dangers I see in forensic science is that people sometimes start to believe their own hype. [Dr. Henry Lee is a good example of this.] Because you go to court, you're recognized as an expert; detectives and prosecutors pick you out because you're in the know, so they come to you and they want to know what's really going on. It does start to work on you after a while. And you [the expert] have to be very careful because sometimes it's easy to start to fall into that slot where you start to believe that you're really as good as the defense attorney or prosecutor says you are.

     This can affect your testimony.... I think we all go through it a little bit, but you can learn to deal with it. You recognize that this is not a good place to be, and so you back off, and you go back to doing what you do, and that is science, real science.

     But sometimes experts, in an effort to be the hero, or in an effort to be recognized as the best, start to overemphasize things, or to over-testify, or even to lie.

Latent Fingerprint Specialist, in Connie Fletcher, Crime Scene, 2006

Saturday, February 9, 2019

The American Jail Population

     In a legal sense, the jail is the point of entry into the criminal justice system. It is the place where arrested persons are booked and where they are held for their court appearances if they cannot arrange bail. It is also the city or county detention facility for persons serving misdemeanor sentences, which in most states cannot exceed one year. The prison, on the other hand, is a state or federal institution that holds persons serving felony sentences, which generally run to more than a year.

     The public impression is that the jail holds a collection of dangerous criminals. But [in reality] the jail holds only a few persons who fit the popular conception of a criminal--a predator who seriously threatens the lives and property of ordinary citizens. In fact, the general majority of the persons arrested and held in jail belong to a different social category....

     Beyond poverty and its correlates--under-education, unemployment and minority status--jail prisoners share two essential characteristics: detachment and disrepute. They are detached because they are not well integrated into conventional society....They are disreputable because they are perceived as irksome, offensive, threatening, and even protoevolutionary [throwbacks].

John Irwin, The Jail: Managing the Underclass in American Society, 1985

Living And Dying In Los Angeles

Although black men account for only 6 percent of the nation's population, they constitute 40 percent of its murder victims. In the 2,677 killings of black men in Los Angeles between 1994 and 2006, there were arrests in only 38 percent of the cases. In 1993, right before the crack tsunami ebbed, a young black man in Los Angeles was as likely to die as an American soldier during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. At least a solder felled in Sadr City perished in the service of a greater cause. In Athens Park, Los Angeles, black men were murdered for no reason other than a hard basketball foul, the wrong colors, a glance at someone's girl.

Alexander Nazaryan, "The City of Fallen Angels,"newsweek.com, February 7, 2015 

The Decline of Auto Theft

     Auto theft isn't much of a problem anymore in New York City. In 1990, the city had 147,000 reported car thefts, one for every 50 residents; last year, there were just 7,000. That's a 96 percent drop in the rate of car theft.

     So why did this happen? All crime has fallen, nationally and especially in New York. But there has also been a big shift in the economics of auto theft: Stealing cars is harder than it used to be, less lucrative and more likely to land you in jail. As such, criminals have found other things to do.

     The most important factor is a technological advance: engine immobilizer systems, adopted by manufacturers in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These make it essentially impossible to start a car without the ignition key, which contains a microchip uniquely programmed by the dealer to match the car.

     Criminals generally have not been able to circumvent the technology or make counterfeit keys…They are stuck with stealing older cars. You can see this in the pattern of thefts of America's most stolen car, the Honda Accord. About 54,000 Accords were stolen in 2013, 84 percent of them from model years 1997 or earlier…Not coincidentally, Accords started to be sold with immobilizers in the 1998 model year…

     Old cars are easier to steal, and there are plenty of them still on the road. But there's an obvious problem with stealing them: They're not worth very much. Cars are typically stolen for parts, and as a car gets older, its parts become less valuable….[Today, if a criminal is desperate for a new car, he highjacks it which is a more violent crime.]

Josh Barro, "Here's Why Stealing Cars Went Out of Fashion," The New York Times, August 11, 2014. 

Friday, February 8, 2019

Thornton P. Knowles On Wrong-Word Crime Reporting

State troupers, in search of elicit drugs, found themselves in eminent danger when they encountered a grizzly murder being committed by a venial cereal killer. True meaning: A group of state stage performers, in search of response-evoking drugs, found themselves in distinguished danger when they encountered a bear murder being committed by a pardonable breakfast food killer.

Thornton P. Knowles 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Cockfighting: A Blood Sport

     Cockfighting, a pair of conditioned and trained roosters equipped with metal spurs or knives battling each other to the death in a cockpit, is against the law in every state in America as well as in Brazil, Australia, and except for France, Europe. In America, Louisiana didn't ban cockfighting until 2008. Although it's illegal, cockfighting, in certain parts of the country, is still a popular form of entertainment.

     In many countries such as Mexico, Peru, Panama, Ecuador, and the Philippines, cockfighting is not only legal, it's the national pastime. Spectators, whether gathered at illegal, clandestine cockfighting venues, or seated in elaborate arenas, bet money on the outcomes of the bouts. Like dogfighting and bullfighting, cockfighting is considered a blood sport. Unlike the sport of boxing, the participants are animals who have no say in the matter.

     Early in the morning of Thursday, April 19, 2012, 200 men, women, and children were gathered at a weekly cockfight venue on a small Hildago County ranch near McAllen, Texas. Without warning, at least two men wearing masks stormed the site and opened fire with automatic assault rifles. Before pandemonium broke out, most of the spectators were seated in bleachers beneath a corrugated pavilion. When the shooting stopped, three man lay dead, and eight were wounded.

     Two of the dead men were brothers, the 49 and 55-year-old targets of the ambush. Both men had criminal records, and had been suspects in a recent drug war drive-by shooting, the possible motive behind the retaliatory shooting spree. Local police officers believe the third man killed was an innocent bystander. Although the attack took place near the border, the police do not think it was related to the Mexican drug wars.

     The sheriff of Hildago County described the shooting site, littered with bodies, shell casings, pools of blood, beer cans, and twenty dead roosters, as the crime scene from hell. The authorities charged three people with the crime of cockfighting.

     The people charged in connection with cockfighting were convicted and given probation. They could have been sentenced to prison for up to two years, and fined $10,000.

     

Thornton P. Knowles On Punxsutawney Phil

I just found out that Punxsutawney's Groundhog Day handlers decide the day before if the rodent we'll see his shadow and predict six more weeks of winter. Good heavens, is nothing on the level?

Thornton P. Knowles

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Thornton P. Knowles On Speaking "Blandish"

To be successful, politicians and media people must learn how to speak "Blandish," a form of communication that sounds profound and inspiring without articulating anything meaningful. In an era where a wrong word, voice inflection, or even facial expression can destroy a career and send the hapless speaker into scandal hell, "Blandish" is becoming America's second language. It won't be long until "Blandish" replaces English as an academic major. Eggheads will coming out of universities with Ph.Ds in "Blandish." When that happens, I'll be the first to tell those bastards to go to hell.

Thornton P. Knowles

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Good Humor Man Assault

     Authorities say a 7-year-old boy riding a motorized bike was hit and killed by an ice cream truck in south Los Angeles and residents then attacked the driver…The truck hit the child shortly after 7 PM Wednesday October 22, 2014. The boy later died at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

     Police say the child had been riding alongside the truck, and the collision was an accident…A crowd then attacked the ice cream truck driver, but he only received bruises. The driver told police bricks were thrown at his truck and someone threatened him with a knife….

"Ice Cream Truck Hits, Kills Boy, Driver Attacked," seattlepi.com, October 23, 2014 

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Dan Markel Murder-For-Hire Case

     Raised in Toronto Canada by well-to-do parents, Dan Markel graduated from Harvard University in 1995 with a degree in philosophy. Upon earning his undergraduate degree he studied political philosophy at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and continued his studies at the University of Cambridge in England. In 2001 he graduated from Harvard University Law School.

      Dan Markel, after practicing law in Washington D.C., joined the teaching staff at Florida Statue University Law School in Tallahassee in 2005. A year later he married Wendi Adelson, a graduate of Brandeis University and the University of Miami Law School. After acquiring her law degree in 2005 Florida State University hired her to run their public outreach program. Markel and Adelson were married in 2006.

     In 2010 Markel, now a tenured associate professor making $193,000 a year, resided with his wife and their two young sons in the upscale Betton Hills community in Tallahassee. He had become a renowned author, teacher and scholar in the field of retributive justice, the study of punishment in proportion to the crime. He also published a popular academic law blog called, "PrawlsBlawg" that helped recent law graduates find careers in the field.

     In January 2012 Professor Markel's life took a turn for the worse when his wife Wendi blindsided him with the news she wanted a divorce. Moreover, she wanted to take their sons, ages three and five, with her to south Florida. This led to a bitter child custody battle. The divorce became final in September 2012.

      In 2012 Professor Markel became the target of derision on a blog called "Insidethelawschoolscam," a site devoted to the proposition that law schools, by promising applicants jobs in the field, were knowingly lying about the dwindling career opportunities in law. The followers of the blog were mostly recent law school graduates saddled with huge education debts and no prospects of finding positions in law.

     Visitors and contributors to "Insidethelawschoolscam" idolized a like-minded University of Colorado law professor named Paul Campos. Campos and his admirers believed that law schools, through false advertising and misrepresentation, were swindling students.

     "Insidethelawschoolscams" enthusiasts considered Professor Markel and his blog part of the problem. In defending his good name, Dan Markel began to engage his detractors by posting messages on the blog. In return, he received responses like this: "Do you have the empathy to compare the terror that goes through a 26-year-old's life when a student loan bill comes due and you can't pay it? When he can't even get a job at Walmart because the education you sold him under false pretenses is so worthless that it won't even advance his candidacy at retail? Now compare that terror, the terror of having your life and financial future pass before your eyes, to the minor annoyance you felt at having your "name" sullied. Get over yourself."

     Over time, name-calling on "Insidethelawschoolscam" turned to the posting of messages that caused Professor Markel to feel under threat of physical harm. He had become the face of the problem and the target of his detractors' wrath.

     Many of Professor Markel's FSU law students considered him abrasive, arrogant and unhelpful. They complained online that they couldn't find him in his office. When they did find him he was difficult to talk to.

     The year 2012 had been a tough one for Dan Markel. He had been through a bitter divorce, had developed enemies in the blog world and incurred the anger and frustration of some of his students. What had been a sweet life had turned sour.

     At eleven in the morning of July 18, 2014 Professor Markel pulled onto his driveway and into his garage while talking on his cellphone. The moment he stopped his vehicle a person who had followed him into the garage shot the 41-year-old in the head through the driver's side window. The killer drove off in a white or silver Toyota Prius-type vehicle.

     A Betton Hills neighbor heard the gun go off and called 911. When police and paramedics arrived at the scene Professor Markel was still alive. A few hours later he died at a nearby hospital.

     Homicide detectives believed that the killing was not a random murder. The killer had marked the professor for death and had carried out the murder plot.

     On May 25, 2016 detectives with the Hallandale Beach Police Department arrested 34-year-old Sigredo Garcia for Markel's murder. Officers booked Garcia into the Broward County Jail on charges of first-degree murder and possession of cocaine. Garcia had a criminal history that included strong arm robbery and burglary. A month later the authorities charged Luis Rivera with first-degree murder.

     According to a police spokesperson the murder of the law professor was being handled as a murder-for-hire case.

     In October 2016 police  arrested Katherine Magbanua, the mother of Garcia's two children, for her alleged role in facilitating the murder of the law professor. Investigators believed that Magbanua was the link between the mastermind in the case and the two hit men. Following numerous procedural delays, her murder trial was set for the summer of 2018. However, when of of Magbanua's attorneys fell ill the trial was postponed to the summer of 2019, five years after Professor Markel's death.

      

Professor Wants to Imprison Climate Deniers

     An assistant philosophy professor at Rochester Institute of Technology wants to send people who disagree with him about global warming to jail. The professor is Lawrence Torcello. On March 13, 2014 he published a 900-word essay at an academic website called The Conversation. [What conversation?] His main complaint is his belief that certain nefarious, unidentified individuals have organized a "campaign of misinformation." Such a campaign, he argues, "ought to be considered criminal negligence."

     Dr. Torcello, who has a Ph.D. from the University of Buffalo [the university should demand its degree back], explains that there are times when criminal negligence and "science misinformation" must be linked. The threat of climate change, he says is one of those times….

     Torcello says that people are already dying because of global warming. "Nonetheless [only whackademics use this word] climate denial remains a serious deterrent against meaningful political action in the very countries most responsible for the crisis." As such, Torcello wants governments to make "the funding of climate denial a crime…It is time for modern societies to interpret and update their legal systems." [Yes, and while we're at it, let's purge these legal systems of any semblance of free speech.]…

Eric Owens, "U.S. College Professor Demands Imprisonment For Climate-Change Deniers," The Daily Caller, March 17, 2014  

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Thornton P. Knowles On The Socialist Government's Message To Citizens

Dear Fellow Citizen: As one of your government leaders, I want you to know that you will no longer have to worry about money. You won't have to earn it, save it, or spend it on luxuries to impress your more affluent neighbors. You won't have to work hard and save in order to educate your children. We'll do that for you. Of course you will no longer have to spend money on life insurance, health insurance, car insurance, flood insurance or any other kind of insurance. Insurance companies are evil and should be replaced by the government. In case you are wondering where we, your omnipotent and deeply caring government will acquire the vast sums of money to support you and all the others who have been exploited by democracy and capitalism, it's as simple as this: We will take it from citizens we designate as having too much wealth. You know, like the man who owns the company you work for, your doctor, your dentist, and the contractor who built your house. These smart and hard-working entrepreneurs and professionals are presently allowed to keep most of the money they earn. (As for rich Hollywood types, we'll let them keep their wealth because they're talented, and compared to capitalists and business people, they feel deeply for their fellow man.) Once the government has sucked all the wealth and control from the private sector, once no one will be richer or poorer than you. We will solve the income disparity problem by making everyone poor. And when there is no one left to tax, the government will simply print more money. So what if a loaf of bread will cost $1,000, it will still taste the same. As for leaders of your Socialist Party, we must award ourselves a higher standard of living so we can serve you better. Contrary to what those greedy capitalists want you to believe, Socialism has succeeded all over the world. You don't have to look that up, just trust us.

Thornton P. Knowles 

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Arming School Teachers: Bad Idea

     What's easier--turning a law enforcement officer into a school teacher, or converting an educator into a cop? In the wake of the mass murder in Parkland, Florida, a few politicians, including the president of the United States, are talking about providing school teachers with firearms training. These teachers, under this proposal, would not be packing heat primarily for self-protection. They would be carrying guns to protect students against armed killers. This responsibility would essentially turn them into peace officers. That's a bad idea because there's a lot more to law enforcement than knowing how to fire a gun. Criminals and homicidal maniacs know how to use guns. That doesn't make them cops.

     Teaching a person how to shoot a gun more or less accurately is not that difficult. But finding the right person to arm, then training that individual when to use deadly force, requires more than a few shooting lessons. Every year, trained and experienced law enforcement officers shoot unarmed people. If police officers can make use-of-force mistakes, one can only image how many teacher cops would shoot the wrong person. Shoot or don't shoot situations often require spit-second decision-making under extremely difficult circumstances.

      Just being a competent teacher in today's environment of jerk parents and difficult students is tough enough. The added life and death responsibility of protecting kids from armed intruders would turn some of these cops-with-a-gun into mental cases. Empowering teachers who are not allowed to lay a hand on unruly students to blow away armed intruders is a formula for insanity. An insane teacher who is armed to the teeth is not my idea of how to make schools safer.

     Every year, hundreds of gun owners shoot themselves, and people close to them, accidentally. Guns have a way of going off when they're not supposed to. Even trained police officers unintentionally shoot themselves when cleaning their weapons, or when practicing at firing ranges. In law enforcement, they refer to these embarrassing  incidents as accidental discharges. Inside a school building, an accidental discharge could result in the death of a student.  

     Those who propose putting guns into the hands of school teachers haven't said how many educators should be issued weapons. There are about 100,000 schools in the U.S. So if just five teachers in any given school building are armed, that's 500,000 armed teachers. With a half million amateur cops walking around our schools with loaded weapons, these places, still relatively safe havens for children, would become less secure. (Studies have repeatedly shown that children are safer in schools than at home.)

     I would argue that any school teacher willing to volunteer themselves to be the front-line defense against a heavily armed intruder intent on mass murder, should quit teaching and join a SWAT team. Teacher-cops will not only make schools more dangerous, they'll make public education worse than it already is. (I'm also against placing armed security guards into schools. If these people were capable of professional law enforcement work, they would be cops. But at least school guards don't have to protect and teach.)

     Bad ideas--so-called solutions that make the problem worse--often arise in the wake of disasters like the one in Parkland, Florida. The idea, the goal, should be to keep guns out of the school, not bring them in.