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Sunday, September 29, 2019

Thornton P. Knowles On Handling Hecklers

A famous criminal defense attorney of the 1970s represented a lot of very bad clients, and as a result was regularly heckled on the streets of New York City. Passing motorists would roll down their windows and yell things like: "You asshole!" The tall, lanky lawyer, without looking up or breaking stride, would wave an arm and yell back, "Thanks! Have a nice day!" That's how to do it.

Thornton P. Knowles

Saturday, September 28, 2019

New York's Speech Police: Identity Law Enforcement In A Lawless City

     On September 26, 2019, New York City's City Hall Commission on Human Rights (all rights except free speech) in a 29-page directive, made it unlawful to threaten a noncitizen illegally in the country with a call to the immigration authorities, or refer to this person, hatefully, as an "illegal" or "illegal alien." In the exercise of what would be free speech anywhere else in America, violators of the city ban could be fined up to $250,000.

     The framers of this fascist-like ordinance said it is a rebuke of the federal government's so-called "crackdown" on illegal immigration. So what is next in New York: a law making it a crime to refer to the city's homeless as "vagrants" if the police ever start arresting people for camping, crapping, and shooting heroin on the city's sidewalks. In other words, "cracking down" on people making the city less healthy and livable.

     It is beyond absurd when municipal officials, while encouraging lawlessness, make it unlawful to exercise something as sacred as free speech.

     According to the Commission of Human Rights directive, "The use of certain language, including 'illegal alien,' and 'illegals' with the intent to demean, humiliate, or offend a person or persons constitutes discrimination." So, it is okay in New York City to demean, humiliate, or offend a U.S. citizen, but not people here illegally.

     Let's say a television commentator in New York City, in discussing this speech ban, says something like this: "Making it a crime to call a person in the country illegally an 'illegal alien', and threatening to report this illegal to ICE, is in itself a human rights violation.  I am extremely angry at the fascist idiots who promulgated this unconstitutional ordinance." Would that commentator, just having demeaned, offended and humiliated illegal aliens in the city, be charged with violating the city's new hate speech law? How much would this violator be fined? Would the network also be fined for airing these forbidden words?

     How will New York City's hate speech suspects be processed? Will there be some kind of hearing or criminal trial? And what if the convicted hate speech defendant refuses to pay the fine? Will he or she go to jail? And finally, does the ordinance apply to visitors to the city? If so, tourists better watch their mouths. With 500,000 illegals in the city, the walls have ears.

     In the 1970s, some comedian, I believe Larry David, asked the following hypothetical question: Who is freer, a single man in China or a married man in the U.S.? Now the question could be: Who is freer, a resident of New York City, or an American who lives anywhere in the country but New York City?

     The U.S. Constitution was written to restrain the government's natural inclination toward fascism. We can only hope that justices on the U.S. Supreme Court keep this in mind when cases like this come before them.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Arsonist Torches Sleeping Homeless Man's Cardboard Shelter

     During the early morning hours of September 12, 2019, in Glendale, California, a suburban community ten miles north of downtown Los Angeles, 32-year-old Richard Smallets was recorded on a business' surveillance video camera setting fire to cardboard boxes providing shelter to a sleeping homeless man. After igniting the fire, Smallets hung around taking photographs of the blaze. The street shelter fire was set not far from Glendale's Museum of Neon Art.

     The unnamed homeless man woke up before being burned, and with Smallets taking pictures of him, tried putting out the fire with bottled water. The Glendale Fire Department quickly responded to the scene and put out the dwindling blaze.

     Glendale police officers took Smallets into custody later that day and booked him into the Los Angeles County Jail on the charge of arson. The next day, a prosecutor with the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office charged Smallet with attempted murder. A magistrate set his bail at $1 million.

     At his arraignment, Richard Smallets pleaded not guilty to arson and attempted murder.

Thornton P. Knowles On Living In The Moment

A psychologist colleague once told me I'd be happier if I lived in the moment. I'm never in the moment. I don't know where I live, but it's not there. I'm not even sure what living in the moment means. I'd ask the psychologist, but at the moment, he's dead. I'd finish this thought, but at the moment, my mind is elsewhere.

Thornton P. Knowles

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Novelist John Fante

I went to the library, I looked at magazines, at the pictures in them. One day I went to the bookshelves, and pulled out a book. It was Winesburg, Ohio [by Sherwood Anderson]. I sat at a long mahogany table and began to read. All at once my world turned over. The sky fell in. The book held me. The tears came. My heart beat fast. I read until my eyes burned. I took the book home. I read another Anderson. I read and I read, and I was heartsick and lonely and in love with a book, many books, until it came naturally, and I sat there with a pencil and a long tablet, and tried to write, until I felt I could not go on because the words would not come as they had in Anderson, they only came like drops of blood from my heart.

John Fante, Bunker Hill

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Sherlock Holmes on Vigilantism

I think that there are certain crimes which the law cannot touch, and which therefore, to some extent, justify private revenge.

Sherlock Holmes in Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" 

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Restaurant Tip Forger

     A former waitress has been charged with forgery and other crimes for allegedly adding $10 or $20 to tips that customers of a western Pennsylvania restaurant left when they paid with credit cards. Police in Penn Township say 30-year-old Gina Haney of North Huntingdon put the number "1" or "2" in front of single digit tips customers had scrawled on receipts. As a result, she received $10 or $20 more than those customers intended.

     Haney allegedly fudged tips on 20 one-dollar tickets at Lucci's Pizza and Pasta between September and December 2014. The restaurant's manager alerted authorities after two customers called to complain about the overcharges on the same day. He pulled other receipts from her customers that revealed more overcharges.

     Haney denied knowing anything about the inflated tips.

"Ex-Waitress Charged With Padding Customers' Tips," Associated Press, February 15, 2015 

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Is Abolishing Academic Freedom The Future Of Academia?

     A Harvard University feminist student writing in the campus newspaper The Crimson posited this: "If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with [italics mine] research that counters our goals simply in the name of "academic freedom"?…

     Senior Sandra Y.L. Korn, a studies of women, gender and sexuality major, called for the end of academic freedom and in its place "a more rigorous standard: one of 'academic justice.'"

     "When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue….The power to enforce academic justice comes from students, faculty, and workers organizing together to make our universities look as we want them to."…

"Harvard Feminist Says Academic Freedom Should Be Abolished," The College Fix, February 21, 2014

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Krystal Marie Barrows Police-Involved-Shooting Case

     Eleven people were inside a mobile home near Chillicothe, Ohio when, at 10:30 PM on December 11, 2013, a dozen or so members of a local drug task force unit rolled up to the dwelling with a no-knock warrant to search for guns and drugs. One of the occupants of the trailer house was a teenage girl.

     Just before breaking into the home, one of the heavily armed U.S. 23 Task Force officers tossed a flash bang grenade through a window. At the moment the device detonated officers forced their way into the house.

     Following the initial chaos created by the SWAT-like raid, officers found Krystal Marie Barrows slumped on the living room couch. The 35-year-old mother of three had been shot in the head. She died shortly after being flown by helicopter to the Wexner Medical Center in Columblus.

     The raiding police officers arrested two women and four men for illegally possessing pistols, assault rifles, and heroin. The task force cops also recovered stolen goods and a significant amount of cash. During the raid, none of the mobile home occupants pulled a gun or fired a shot. This meant that Krystal Barrows had been shot by one of the task force officers.

     According to the results of a preliminary police inquiry into Barrows' death, she had been shot by Ross County sergeant Brett McKnight. The eleven-year veteran of the Ross County Sheriff's Office had accidentally discharged his sidearm outside the trailer when the flash bang grenade went off. The bullet pierced the trailer home's exterior wall and hit Barrows in the head.

      Other than a misdemeanor drunk and disorderly conviction, Krystal Barrows did not have a criminal record. Her sons were aged 19, 14, and 9. Detectives with the Ohio Bureau of Investigation looked into the case to determine if Sergeant McKnight had fired his gun recklessly.

     In March 2015, after a Ross County grand jury declined to indict Office McKnight for criminal homicide or lesser charges, the officer returned to work without any disciplinary action.

     Two years after the grand jury refused to indict the officer, the Ross County Sheriff's Office and other wrongful death defendants settled a lawsuit filed by Krystal Barrows' family for $156,000.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The News Media In The Era Of The Hate Crime Hoax

     Jason R. Riley, in a June 25, 2019 article in the Wall Street Journal about fake hate crimes, cites Kentucky State political science professor Wilfred Reilly. Dr. Reilly, who happens to be black, is an expert on hate crime hoaxes.

     Professor Reilly has identified 400 fake hate crimes between 2010 and 2017. In studying hate crime reports, Dr. Reilly determined that less than a third of these cases turned out to be genuine. Statistically, reports of hate crime should therefore be met with a certain degree of skepticism, particularly by journalists. But that is not the case. According to the professor, "In the mainstream media we hear scary new fears of racism: 'white privilege,' 'cultural appropriation,' 'subtle bigotry.' "

     Regarding hate crimes, Wall Street Journal author Jason R. Riley writes: "These alleged incidents are invariably seized upon by politicians and activists looking to feed a sacrosanct belief by liberals that discrimination and oppression are the main drivers of inequality."

     It's no wonder Americans are disgusted with politicians, and don't trust what they read and hear in the news media.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Criminal's Fate

Vice may triumph for a time, crime may flaunt its victories in the face of honest toilers, but in the end the law will follow the wrongdoer to a bitter fate, and dishonor and punishment will be the portion of those who sin.

Allan Pinkerton

A Prison Memoir

You will notice that I have not written about the horrors of prison life, or the conditions, hardships, treatment and so forth, because men reading this book who have been to jail will be bored to tears and people who haven't been to jail can bloody well come in here and find out for themselves.

Mark Brandon Read, From the Inside

The Un-compromised Novelist

I don't give a damn if my work is commercial or not. I'm the writer. If what I write is good, then people will read it. That's why literature exists. An author puts his heart and guts on the page. For your information, a good novel can change the world. Keep that in mind before you attempt to sit down at a typewriter. Never waste time on something you don't believe in yourself.

John Fante, Ask the Dust

Cop Humor

I received a t-shirt from my best friend at my police academy graduation. It reads: "Throw your donut in the opposite direction and the cops won't get you." I love wearing that t-shirt.

Suzie Ivy, Bad Luck Officer

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Realities Of Police Work

I used to want to be a cop for a brief time, a detective, solving crimes and upholding the law, ever since I started watching crime shows in junior high. But being a cop, contrary to what many believe, isn't like the films or television shows that we see every day. If you're a cop who has to have the grim duty of telling a parent that their child was killed, or who loses a friend in a dangerous case, or who has to interview victims of horrible crimes, somehow I imagine you just want to quit forever on some days.

Rebecca McNutt

The Stupid House Burglar

Most criminals are stupid. They creep into $500,000 homes, load up two dozen bottles of gin, whiskey, Vermouth, and Collins mix in a $2,000 Irish linen tablecloth and later drink the booze and throw the tablecloth away.

James Lee Burke, Heaven's Prisoners

Thornton P. Knowles On The Life Of A Writer

I enjoy thinking about what I'm going to write. I like thinking about what I've written. But actually doing it is exhausting, and until I get it right, stressful. And when I fail it's humiliating. Who in their right mind wants to be a writer?

Thornton P. Knowles

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Dominance Of Celebrity Journalism Over Hard News

I'm overwhelmed by the magnitude of the celebrity culture in American. My background is as a news journalist, and newsrooms in the U.S. are being terminated or shrunk on newspapers all around the country. The one aspect that's expanded is coverage of celebrity culture. [For example: The recent cable news over-coverage of a television actress sentenced to 14 days behind bars in a college admissions scandal.]

Carl Hiaasen, crime novelist

A Libertarian's View Of American Jurisprudence

There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.

Ayn Rand

Poverty And Crime

The Common argument that crime is caused by poverty is a kind of slander on the poor.

H. L. Mencken

Good Interview Subjects

I hate writing about anyone who is familiar with the press or has a "story." I like to write about people who don't necessarily see what their story is, or what my interest might be. I like subjects who really know how to enjoy life or are immersed in whatever they are doing fully.

Adrian Nicole Leblanc in Robert S. Boynton's The New Journalism, 2005

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Bail Bond Industry Fights Criminal Justice Reform

The bail bonds industry survives largely off those who don't have the financial resources to post bail. Overwhelmingly, the service of a bail bondsman is the only way out of jail. Reform efforts across the country seek to make the bail system less burdensome on the poor. The majority of states addressing the issue are trying to make money bail the last resort, by mandating that judges apply the "least onerous release conditions possible" and consider the defendant's ability to pay, as well as eliminating money bail for low-level charges. As a result, the $2 billion-a-year bail bonds industry is in a fight for its survival.

Crime and Justice News, August 30, 2019

Television And The Death Of Journalism

     If I were writing the history of television, my first line would be: "Television, in a relatively short period if time, ruined journalism. We are now in the era of so-called fake news. But if it's fake, it's not really news. At best what passes for television news is political commentary, at worst, propaganda. A lot of reporting is nothing more than speculation or the reporting of trivial subjects like the deaths of long forgotten TV actors and anniversaries of past events.

     While there are still a few credible investigative journalists on television and in print, they are being be phased out. Real investigative journalism is too expensive as is the coverage of foreign affairs or government corruption. Even the weather news is so hyped a lot of people no longer pay attention to it. Local TV news is mainly weather, sports, car accidents, and crime with little time for investigative reporting. But even before television, what was called "yellow journalism" or tabloid journalism flourished. 

     Most people know that you can't trust anything you read or hear. Tomorrow the headline in The New York Times could read METEORITE THE SIZE OF TEXAS SPEEDING TOWARD EARTH!! and no one would panic. Okay, that's a bit much, but you get the point. One can only image what's left in journalism school to teach. It really doesn't matter what journalism professors teach because most young people entering television news have degrees in so-called communications, a major that has less to do with writing and news reportage than looking and sounding good. A lot of TV "reporters" aspire to become TV personalities, and to that end, having good hair is more important than knowledge, intelligence and integrity.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Did Robert Anthony Camou Murder Amanda Custer?

     Robert Anthony Camou lived in the Los Angeles County town of Monrovia with his 31-year-old girlfriend, Amanda Custer. On April 22, 2019, a 911 dispatcher received a call from Amanda Custer. She had gotten into an argument with her 27-year-old boyfriend who had beaten her in the head and tried to strangle her to death. When he threatened to use a Taser on her, she fled the scene.

     In an effort to escape her attacker, Amanda Custer ran into a nearby house. Camou followed her into the dwelling and assaulted the elderly man who tried to intervene on the terrified woman's behalf.

     Police officers arrived at the scene and took Camou into custody. The officers booked him into the Los Angeles County Jail on charges of burglary, battery, assault, and domestic violence. Camou pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on bail. The judge ordered the domestic violence suspect to live up to the terms of Amanda Custer's previously filed restraining order. The court also instructed probation officers to fit Camou with an ankle monitor.

     On August 29, 2019, Los Angeles County Sheriffs Deputies were dispatched to Camou's house after neighbors reported seeing him that morning putting Amanda Custer's "lifeless body" into the back of his Toyota Prius then driving off. Later that day other witnesses reported seeing Camou in Claremont, California driving in the San Gabriel Mountains. Because Camou's had let his ankle monitor battery die, officers could not pin-point his whereabouts.

     That night, a patron at the King Eddy Saloon in downtown Los Angeles showed police officers a video he had shot an hour earlier showing Robert Camou rapping about his girlfriend. It went like this: "I kill my bitch and bury that bitch in the f-king dirt. The cops trying to look for me and I'm f-king trying to shut my mouth."

     Sheriff's deputies, in the early morning hours of August 30, 2019, encountered Robert Camou sitting his his car in downtown Los Angeles. Following a one-hour standoff, the officers took him into custody for violating the terms of his bail in the April 22, 2019 domestic violence case. Officers booked him into the Los Angeles County Jail where he was held without bail.

     Robert Camou denied having anything to do with Amanda Custer's disappearance.

     A search of Camou's Toyota revealed traces of blood. In the trunk officers found a digging tool. In his house in Monrovia, searchers found more traces of blood and signs of a struggle.

     On September 4, 2019, a Los Angeles County prosecutor charged Robert Camou with special circumstances murder. The aggravating element involved the fact he had allegedly killed a witness while out on bail. If convicted, he faced a possible death sentence.

     As of September 13, 2019, Amanda Custer's body had not been found.

Who's Running The Asylum?

The world was getting dangerously crowded with crazy people.

John Dunning, The Bookman's Wake

A Cynical Take On Policing

A cop's job is to violently enforce upon the rest of us whatever arbitrary bullshit the political parasites declare to be "law." It is, therefore, impossible to be a "law enforcer" and behave morally, for the same reason one can't be a moral carjacker.

Larken Rose

The Many Faces Of Evil

Society wants to believe it can identify evil people, or bad or harmful people, but it's not practical. There are no stereotypes.

Ted Bundy, serial killer

City Crime Versus Crime In The Suburbs

Crime seems to change character when it crosses a bridge or goes through a tunnel. In the city, crime is taken as emblematic of class and race. In the suburbs, though, it's intimate and psychological--resistant to generalization, a mystery of the individual soul.

Barbara Ehreneich

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Fighting Crime Is Fighting Time

What you lack in any criminal investigation is time. With every passing hour, evidence slips away. Crime scenes are compromised by people and the elements. Things are moved, smeared, shifted. Organisms rot. Wind blows dust and contaminants. Memories change or fade. As you move away from the event, you move away from the solution.

Maureen Johnson, Truly Devious

The Social Value Of The Lock And Key

Many a man is saved from being a thief by finding everything locked up.

Edgar Watson Howe

Ill Gotten Wealth

Behind every successful fortune there is a crime.

Mario Puzo, The Godfather

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Murder At The Senior Center

     On September 8, 2019, at seven-fifteen in the morning, detectives with the Prince George's County Homicide Unit in Maryland responded to a 911 call from a woman who said she had just killed a fellow resident of her senior center by bludgeoning the woman several times in the head with a brick.

     Detectives arrived at the retirement home on the 5900 block of Emerson Street in Bladensburg, Maryland, a town of 9,000 northeast of Washington, D. C.. The officers found, lying dead in the garden behind the building, 82-year-old Hwa Cha Pak. She had been bludgeoned to death.

     Detectives took into custody the 911 caller, 73-year-old Chun Young Oh. The suspect was booked into the Prince George's County Jail on charges of first and second-degree murder. She was held without bail.

     Residents of the senior living facility told detectives that the two women had been longtime friends who had recently been involved in a dispute over a debt.

Telephonic Credit Card Scams

It goes like this: A con man calls a store credit card holder and informs the would-be victim she has been cheated by the store in question by failing to offer her rewards for paying her credit card bills promptly. The con artist, usually a man with a foreign accent, falsely states that the Fair Credit Reporting Act mandates that companies do this. To help the customer get what's coming to her from the store, all the victim needs to do is disclose her credit card numbers. The swindler will take care of the rest.

Regulatory Roadblocks For Ex-Cons

While criminal justice reformers are pushing for the early release of thousands of prisoners, thousands of government regulations make it impossible for them to obtain occupational licenses.

Novelists as Children

I don't think people become novelists for the most part, unless they have experienced a peculiar distancing, which generally occurs in childhood or youth and makes the direct satisfactions of living unsatisfactory, so that they have to seek basic satisfactions indirectly through what we can loosely call art. What makes the verbal artist is some kind of shock or crippling or injury which puts the world once removed from him. He writes about it to take possession of it. We start out thinking we're writing about other people and end up realizing we're writing about ourselves.

Ross McDonald in Shoptalk, edited by Donald M. Murray, 1990 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Young Sherlock Holmes

     Max Werenka, a 13-year-old from Sherwood Park in Alberta, Canada, thought an object in Lake Griffen fifteen feet beneath the water, and just ten feet from the highway, was an overturned vehicle. To investigate further, he dove into the lake with his GoPro camera.

     Six days after the boy's discovery, on August 21, 2019, Mounties from the Revelstoke Station arrived at the scene with divers who confirmed that the murky object was indeed a vehicle, a 1980s black Honda. The car was registered to 69-year-old Janet Farris, a woman from British Columbia who went missing in 1992 while driving to a wedding in Alberta. Divers recovered her remains from the submerged car.

     Investigators theorize the missing woman lost control of her car swerving to avoid and animal and plunged into the lake. They do not suspect foul play.

     Max Werenka had solved a 27-year-old missing persons case.

The Business Of Selling College Kids Essays And Research Papers

According to an anonymous former professor who decided to make real money by writing and selling papers to college students, the market for his work fell into three categories: English-as-second-language students; students hopelessly unsuited for college; and the lazy rich kids.

Thornton P. Knowles on Getting Into Heaven

What if getting into Heaven was as hard as getting into Harvard? That would be particularly bad news if you are an Asian or not related to a famous politician. It would also mean that all the smart people are in Hell.

Thornton P. Knowles

Living In A Tough Neighborhood

Comedian Rodney Dangerfield: "I came from a real tough neighborhood. Once a guy pulled a knife on me. I knew he wasn't a professional, the knife still had butter on it."

Tracy Kidder On Field Notes For A Nonfiction Book

     The act of nonfiction writing is a zone I occupy, a psychological space. After a while I lose self-consciousness and all sense of time. Before I can get to that zone, though, I have to make the leap from taking field notes to writing the first draft. Imposing order on the chaos in my notebooks is hard.

     When I was younger, I filled my reporting notes with my own thoughts and feelings about things. These notes often didn't contain much information about the source of my thoughts and feelings: what I was actually seeing. They contained few details of clothing and place, smells, sounds, and other sensory impressions. I'm sorry about that, because I could use some of those notes now.

     I learned a few things since then. I try to write down all the visible, tactile, smellable facts as well as what I hear. With that material in front of me, I have complete access to my memories of how I felt about a certain incident or scene; I don't need to know those thoughts recorded on the notebook page.
     I usually take more than ten thousand pages of steno pad notes for a book. These notes include all the perishable material, the fleeting events I watched unfold in front of me. I fill another set of notebooks with library research and standard office interviews. Once I have it all, I have to organize it.

     I used to make an index of all my notebooks. Creating the index forced me to review all my notes once, very carefully. I tried not to spend too much time on it; I didn't want to waste energy on something that was just a tool. The index was usually flawed, because I refused to go back and revise once I started. Now, I actually type out my notes. It doesn't seem to take much longer than making the index. Once I've done that, I review my notes several times to find the most interesting parts and to gain a sense of the whole.

Tracy Kidder in Telling True Stories, edited by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call, 2007 

Monday, September 9, 2019

Gun Control Legislation

There is no gun registration, gun ban, or gun confiscation that a U.S. Congress can pass and a president can sign that will be fully complied with or enforced. Not one.

Reason, September 2019

Who Should Wear Body Cameras?

If cops have to wear body cameras, why not politicians? And what about auto mechanics, college admission personnel, surgeons and babysitters? Hell, why not everyone?

If Law Enforcement Leaders Are Above The Law There Is No Justice

If former FBI Director James Come isn't facing punishment for abuse of power seeking to undo an election and unseat a president, can justice ever be done?

Judicial Watch, September 2019

Writing For Television

TV writing is for people who hate being alone more than they hate writing.

Matthew Weiner, The Paris Review, Spring 2014 

Sunday, September 8, 2019

America's Understaffed Jails and Prisons

     Because America's jails and prisons are seriously understaffed, correction officers are working longer hours and are exhausted and under stress. Guard turnover rates are also high, and all of this is taking place as jail and prison populations grow.

     The corrections shortage has caused prisons to cancel recreational programs and restrict family visits. Moreover, understaffed prisons are prone to surges in inmate assaults, riots, and escapes.

     Several states are trying to solve the problem by proposing increases in correction officer pay and benefits as well as better job training. 

Thornton P. Knowles On Guns

A high school friend told the career counsellor that as long as he had a gun he could find work. He became a cop.

Thornton P. Knowles

Saturday, September 7, 2019

The Sisk Family Murder Case

     At ten-thirty Monday night, August 2, 2019, a 911 dispatcher in Limestone County, Alabama received an emergency call from 14-year-old Mason Sisk who said he was in his home's basement from where he heard a gun being fired upstairs. The boy said he lived with his family on the 2500 block of Ridge Road in the town of Elkhart.

     When Limestone County sheriff's deputies arrived in Elkhart, a town of 400, Mason Sisk greeted them on the driveway to his house. The officers entered the scene where they found 38-year-old John Sisk and two of his young children shot to death. John Sisk's wife, Mary and a third child were seriously wounded. Mrs. Sisk was airlifted to a hospital in Huntsville where she died shortly after admission. The 35-year-old, originally from New Orleans, had been a special education teacher for Huntsville City Schools. She was not Mason Sisk's biological mother.

    The wounded child died at the Children's Hospital in Birmingham.

     Mr. Sisk had been an automotive and recreational vehicle repairman. He had been granted custody of Mason in 2011 after the death of the boy's mother. Mr. Sisk had been taking care of Mason for two years before that due to his mother's problems with drugs and alcohol.

      After speaking briefly to deputies at the house, the high school freshman admitted he had been the one who had shot his father, his stepmother and his three younger siblings. He said he had used a 9mm handgun.

     With the help of the alleged shooter, police officers found the murder weapon alongside the road where the boy had tossed it after the killings. According to the suspect, he had shot his family members at one-fifteen that morning.

     After being charged with five counts of murder, the boy was taken to a juvenile detention center. Although charged as a juvenile, prosecutors could later request that Mason Sisk be tried as an adult.

     According to the Mason Sisk's cousin, he had been a well-behaved kid until a year earlier when he broke into and vandalized his school. He had also fallen into the habit of burning animals alive.

Jury Nullification

     Jury nullification occurs when a jury returns a verdict of Not Guilty despite its belief that the defendant is guilty of the violation charged. The jury in effect nullifies a law that it believes is either immoral or wrongfully applied to the defendant whose fate they are charged with deciding.

     The most famous nullification is the 1735 trial of John Peter Zenger, charged with printing seditious libels of the Governor of the Colony of New York, William Crosby. Despite the fact that Zenger clearly printed the alleged libels...the jury nonetheless returned a verdict of Not Guilty...

     Recent examples of jury nullification might include acquittals of "mercy killers," including Dr. Jack Kevorkian, and minor drug offenders...

The Era Of Knee-Jerk Politics

Whenever some nutcase shoots a lot of people, it's gun control; whenever a hurricane hits the United States, it's climate change; whenever a prominent person says something politically incorrect, it's hate speech; whenever the stock market dips, it's recession, and whenever a white cop shoots a black person, it's racism.  I guess we will have knee-jerk politics in our lives as long as politicians and their counterparts in the media are jerks--of the flaming variety.

Wrong-Word Corregan

After getting my flew shot, I parked my car along the rode where it wasn't aloud and it got toad. That was not fare. Sad and blew, I couldn't sleep that knight. I'm out of cache and my car is up for sail. Give me a brake.

Writer Humiliations

     Experience has taught me that hardly anyone in or out of a book store will know who I am, or care. I have learned to live fairly comfortably with my writer's humiliation, and have worn it like a second skin over my original thinner one. After all, humiliations are suffered by most writers most of the time. And--to express a thought about life in the real world, for once--a writer's humiliations are chicken feed as compared with those endured by people who work for a living, and are grateful simply to make it home at night. Writers are already home.

     Naturally, some stinging recollections rise out of the past from time to time, such as that evening at a book fair in Providence, Rhode Island, when I stood beneath a golden banner with my name in red lettering, misspelled. It would have bothered me less had the banner not been provided by my publisher. And that evening in Washington, D. C., when I was seated at a table bearing a tall stack of my latest book while a dozen non-buyers ambled past, paused, picked a book from the stack, opened it, read a clause or two, and returned it to the stack. (Truth be told, there have been several such incidents.) And that afternoon in Miami, when I appeared for an interview specifically requested by a local radio station, and the interviewer began, "Who are you?"

Roger Rosenblatt, The New York Times Book Review, May 25, 2014 

Violent Women

A more compelling culprit [for violent behavior in women] than hormones may be the wiring of the human brain, in a way that does not discriminate one sex from the other....Frontal lobe damage, for example, can cause perfectly calm people to lose their impulse control, which is usually governed by the cerebral cortex. They revert to the most primal emotions, zooming from annoyance to homicidal fury in a matter of seconds, with no mood in between. We know this in its less extreme form as "hair-trigger temper." Its more voluble expression is called "episodic aggression," or "rage attacks." But why would it affect only men?...How many women undergo this Jekyll and Hyde transformation? Thousands? The scientific literature is mum. Men are the standard bearers of violence, and masculine violence is the measure.

Patricia Pearson, When She Was Bad, 1997 

Friday, September 6, 2019

Executions: The Thrill is Gone

     During the late Middle Ages (1000-1500), executions took place in the marketplace or in the village square, but by then they had become more formal, dignified, even ceremonial undertakings. Procedures were more elaborate; rage was blunted by formalities. For the grievous offenders of this time--a category including heretics--executions were elaborate highly planned exhibitions orchestrated by high officials. Rage was absent altogether in these pageants, but other strong emotions reigned. Most notably, there was excitement and awe, especially before the might and majesty of the Inquisition.

     Executions marked by a restrained ceremony were the norm during the early modern period (1500-1800). Crowds of spectators might have lapsed into unseemly behavior, but such behavior was sharply at odds with the formal execution script. These executions featured ritual and etiquette, as in the late Middle Ages, but little pomp or circumstance. Milder feelings, such as those of devotion were given an outlet in ceremony; excitement or awe was deemed inappropriately expressive. Officials and spectators were instead expected to show a quiet reverence, tinged by sadness.

     In the modern period (from 1800 on), ceremony gradually gave way to bureaucratic procedure played out behind prison walls, in isolation from the community. Feelings are absent, or at least suppressed, in bureaucratically administered executions. With bureaucratic procedure, there is a functional routine dominated by hierarchy and task. Officials perform mechanically before a small, silent gathering of authorized witnesses who behave with marked restraint. Executions have come to be seen as "dirty work." Hence, there is no communal involvement of any sort. The proceedings are antiseptically arranged; few of us get our hands soiled.

Robert Johnson, Death Work, Second Edition, 1998 

You Don't Need Large Blocks Of Time to Write

Few beginning writers have the luxury of large blocks of time to write. Jobs, family, and social responsibilities take up most of the day…Writer Thomas Sullivan found that his family obligations and high school teaching position left him only two minutes to write each day, in the school library, before the bell rang announcing his first class. Two minutes is barely time to brush one's teeth, yet Sullivan managed to squeeze at least a paragraph out of those precious moments, day after day. Driving to school, he would be writing in his head, and by the time he sat down with pencil and pad, the words were in order and ready to record. This situation continued for years, during which time he wrote three novels.

Loren D. Estleman, Writing the Popular Novel, 2004 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Boy Scouts of America and New Laws Affecting Sexual Abuse Victims

     Men who as minors were sexually abused by members of powerful institutions like the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts of America have been unable to successfully sue these organizations because of the passage of time and civil procedural laws that prohibit bringing old cases in the same way statutes of limitations prohibit criminal charges after a certain number of years have passed since the alleged crimes. For thousands of men abused years ago by priests and boy scout leaders, things have changed for the better due to state legislatures and court decisions that have legally opened the door to such lawsuits.

     In New York state for example, a new law gives sex abuse plaintiffs a one year window in which to bring cases once barred by the passage of time.

     In Pennsylvania, an appeals court ruled that the state's statute of limitations can be set aside if the sex abuse victim can prove that the sexual assaults were concealed by fraud.

     These changes in civil procedural law are particularly bad news for the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts of America, organizations that for decades used these passage of time restrictions to protect themselves and pedophiles in their midst.

     Civil court settlements related to the well-documented pedophile problem in the Catholic Church have led to several diocese filing for bankruptcy. Now even more Catholic Churches will close.

     Numerous studies show that since 1916, more than a million boys have been sexually abused by Boy Scout Leaders. These victims were without legal remedies because the men who violated them, due to passage of time restrictions, could not be sued or prosecuted. Now the organization is facing a potential financial crisis involving tens of millions of dollars in civil settlements and damages. This could lead to the organization's bankruptcy. And it's about time.

     The Boy Scouts of American is in serious trouble because its leaders, for decades, refused to weed out its pedophiles. Institutions and organizations that protect sexual predators are a huge part of the problem and do not deserve to exist. It's just a shame politicians, spiritual leaders, lawmakers and judges have done so little to protect our children.

Hiding Cardinal Theodore McCarrick

     At the height of his prominence in the Catholic Church, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was the Archbishop of Washington, D. C. . From 2001 to 2006, he hobnobbed with Popes and presidents. Amid rumors in the church community that he was a pedophile, the world famous priest retired from the clergy in 2006 at the age of 75. He remained active, however in Catholic affairs, and as a major fundraiser for the church, maintained his influence and power.

     The full story of Theodore McCarrick's sexual crimes became public in June 2018 when several men came forward and claimed that the priest had sexually assaulted them in the 1960s and 1970s when they were boys. One of the accusers said the priest started molesting him when he was eleven.

      Because the statute of limitations in these cases had expired, Theodore McCarrick was never criminally charged. The church did, however, shell out money to settle some of the accusations against him.

     In September 2018, officials with the Catholic Church moved the former archbishop to the only catholic institution that would house him, a friary (a place where friars live) called St. Fidelis in the small town of Victoria, Kansas. It is there the disgraced 89-year-old will live out his remaining days in seclusion.

    The Catholic Church not only moves  pedophiles from one diocese to another, they actually hide them. They not only "pass the trash," they bury it.

The Wishful Thinking Candidate

Marianne Williams, U.S. presidential candidate, promises that if elected she will create a cabinet level department dedicated to making the world a safer place. Mr. Rogers, all the Popes, and the United Nations couldn't pull this off. But they are not Marianne Williams. Think of it, a world without war, dictators, hurricanes, or crime! Thank you Marianne Williams. 

Criminologists Who Make Excuses For Criminals

     The criminal justice system's failure to provide justice was inevitable, given the deterministic premises of its modern architects. Criminologists Wilson and Herrnstein explained, "The modern liberal position on criminal justice is rehabilitative, not retributive, because the offender is believed to have been driven to his crimes, rather than to have committed them freely and intentionally…."

     Some "reformers" have even made their antipathy toward traditional conceptions of justice explicit. Here, two of them express acute discomfort with the classical symbol, Justitia--the familiar courtroom figure, robed and blindfolded, holding her scales and sword: "Though excellently symbolizing impartial, even-handed, and effective justice generally, Justitia is ill-equipped to meet our current demands from penal sentences…From her left hand she should drop the scales and put in its place the case history, the symbol of the full psychological, sociological, and criminological investigation of the individual criminal. Her right hand will find very little use for a sword in the modern penal system….Around her knees she would be well advised to gather the adolescent social sciences….Finally, it is essential that she removed the anachronistic bandage from her eyes and look at the developments on society generally…."

     A new kind of justice--"social justice" or "distributive justice"--was to replace the "anachronistic," Justitian sort. Since men were helpless playthings of circumstances, and since circumstances impinged upon men unequally, it was the moral duty of government to intervene and redress the resulting "injustices." Government, according to Excuse-Makers such as John Rawls, was not to be society's impartial umpire, but rather its meddling therapist.

     This outlook, largely a legacy of Rousseau's view of human nature, spawned the redistributionist welfare state. "If you are bright, accomplished, famous, well-off, virtuous--you're just lucky, you had nothing to do with it. [Remember Obama's comment: "You didn't build your business, government did."] You didn't deserve any of your success. Likewise, if you are stupid, lazy, corrupt, poor, mediocre, even criminal--you can't help that either. Therefore, 'distributive justice' requires that the government level the playing field."

     It also led logically to "a culture of instinctive 'sympathy for the devil,' " as one historian put it, "a feeling that criminals in this society are as much victims as victimizers, as much sinned against as sinners--if not more so."

Robert James Bidinotto, "Subverting Justice," in Criminal Justice?, Robert James Bidinotto, ed., 1994

The World's Most Stupid Book

Think of what a difficulty it would be if you couldn't use the most common letter in your writing. In 1937, Ernest Vincent Wright took the challenge head on and wrote a book called Gadsby: A Story of Over 50,000 Words Without Using the Letter "E." Wright literally tied down the e  key on his typewriter and spent 165 days writing without e's (the e-filled subtitle was added later by the publisher.) Not that Wright lived a life of ease from his e-less accomplishment. He died the day Gadsby was published. [The plot of this self-published book revolves around the dying fictional city of Hills that is revitalized thanks to the protagonist, John Gadsby and a youth group he organizes. The book, sought after by book collectors, entered the public domain in 1968.]

Erin Barrett and Jack Mingo, It Takes a Certain Type of Person To Be A Writer, 2003 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Revealing Oneself Through Fiction

Many start writing fiction as a dodge, thinking it will provide a good hideout from themselves. Yet those who write stories and novels to escape themselves invariably discover that this is who they stumble over at every turn. Even though novelists and short story writers ostensibly deal in fantasy, they are the most self-exposed authors of all. Writers of nonfiction can be judged on their ability to marshal facts coherently and gracefully. Poets can hide behind elegant words, powerful metaphors, and seductive rhythms. Fiction writers are judged by the emotional authenticity of their work. To create authentic feelings in their characters, they must first call up their own.

Ralph Keyes, The Courage to Write, 1995

The Screenwriting Workshop

There comes a time in every screenwriter's career when he feels the need to cease a solitary existence and enroll in a class or workshop. Before you jump in, be aware that many of these classes are taught by petty people. Of course not all workshops are evil. [I'm not so sure about that.] In fact, there are many wonderful workshops and teachers across the country. Just make sure the instructor of your workshop promotes constructive, not destructive, feedback, and the other students seem talented, supportive and serious. [My idea of good advice from workshop instructor: If you have real talent, get the hell out of this class. Movies today are crap, written by teams of hacks. Write a genre novel or get into nonfiction. Or better yet, get a real job.]

Richard Krevolin, Screenwriting in the Land of Oz, 2011

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Great Brink's Robbery

     The smart thief learned early on that the money in banks had to come from somewhere, which meant that someone or some company was transporting it. This task, at least in the middle of the twentieth century, was primarily handled by the Brink's Armored Car Company.

     The Brink's company has, since its inception, been involved with the banking business. It specializes in transporting money from one location to another--a point which has not gone unnoticed by bank robbers and holdup men. At one time or another everyone has envisioned the big bag full of money falling off the back of a Brink's truck. Often this money is completely untraceable; it's either new money going to a bank or old money going to a federal reserve depository to be destroyed. One can safely assume that wherever there is a Brink's armored car on the move, money is inside….Today there are hundreds of armored car companies all over the nation.

     The first Brink's robbery took place in Boston on January 17, 1950. The crime, pulled off by minor miscreants, nettled the robbers $2.7 million in cash and securities. Although these robbers should have fallen into the amateur classification, they did case the job very well. They even went so far as to gain entrance to the Brink's building by accessing the security company's office, and taking a close look at the system which protected the fortified building….

     Eight men were finally convicted of the crime and given life sentences. The three surviving members of the gang were released from prison in 1980.

L. R. Kirchner, Robbing Banks, 2003

Criminals Are Victimizers Who Choose to Commit Crime

     I believed that criminal behavior was a symptom of buried conflicts that had resulted from early traumas and deprivation of one sort or another. I thought that people who turned to crime were victims of a psychological disorder, an oppressive social environment, or both....I saw crime as being almost a normal, if not excusable, reaction to the grinding poverty, instability, and despair that pervaded [criminals'] lives....I thought that kids who were from more advantaged backgrounds had been scarred by bad parenting and led astray by peer pressure....

     I gradually led those sacred cows to pasture and slaughtered them....Criminals choose to commit crimes. Crime resides within the person and is "caused" by the way he thinks, not by his environment. Criminals think differently from responsible people. What must change is how the offender views himself and the world. Focusing on forces outside the criminal is futile. We [the writer and Dr. Samuel Yochelson] found the conventional psychological and sociological formulations about crime and its causes to be erroneous and counterproductive because they provide excuses. In short, we did a 180-degree turn in our thinking about crime and its causes. From regarding criminals as victims we saw that instead they were victimizers who had freely chosen their way of life.

Dr. Stanton E. Samenow, Inside the Criminal Mind, 1984

The Politics of Literary Awards

     In 2011, the literary judges Sweden who selected President Obama for the Nobel Peace Prize must not have foreseen the Afghan war escalation, the military intrusion into Libya, and the assassination of a U.S. terror suspect. It had been more than eighty years since an American had received the literary prize. If that ever happens again, the novel, poems or book of short stories will have to be extremely anti-American. Otherwise, forget it.

     As Anthony Arthur points out in his book, Literary Frauds, literary awards are lightning rods for controversy. Prominent in the history of the Nobel Prize are stories of writers who should have won the prize but were passed over. Arthur writes: "The Swedish selection committee had given the first prize, in 1901, to the mediocre Sully Prudhomme, over Leo Tolstoy, and the list of other great writers who have not won the prize included Marcet Proust, Henry James, and Joseph Conrad."

     While many writers scorn literary prizes, few ever turn them down. In 1926, Sinclair Lewis refused the Pulitzer Prize for his novel, Arrowsmith, but only because he was miffed about not winning it earlier for "Main Street." Four years later, however, he accepted the Nobel Prize, becoming the first American so honored. In winning the Nobel, Lewis beat out Theodore Dreiser. Many American writers and critics considered his selection an insult, believing that Lewis had been awarded the prize because his novels were so critical of American culture. (Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw turned down a Nobel Prize.)

Supernatural Fiction

More than other genres, supernatural fiction is defined by atmosphere and characterization. By atmosphere I mean the author's ability to evoke a mood or place viscerally by the use of original and elegant, almost seductive language. The most successful supernatural novels are set in our world. Their narrative tension, their very ability to frighten and transport us, derives from a conflict between the macabre and the mundane, between everyday reality and the threatening other--whether revenant [a ghost that returns], werewolf, or demonic godling--that seeks to destroy it.

Elizabeth Hand in The Writer's Guide to Fantasy and Literature, edited by Philip Martin, 2002

Monday, September 2, 2019

Sirhan Sirhan

     On June 5, 1968, U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy of Massachusetts had just won the California Democratic primary for president and was celebrating at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Sirhan Sirhan, a 23-year-old Christian born Palestinian from Jordon who opposed Kennedy's support for Israel approached the senator, and with a handgun, shot him in the head. Kennedy died shortly thereafter.

     Convicted of first-degree murder, Sirhan Sirhan was sentenced to life in prison.

    In February 2016, the California Parole Board, for the fifteenth time, denied Sirhan Sirhan's request for parole. The convicted assassin maintains he has no memory of shooting Senator Kennedy.

     On August 30, 2019, guards at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in East Otay Mesa, 25 miles southeast of San Diego, found Sirhan Sirhan bleeding at the neck from a stab wound. California fire medics rushed the inmate to the Scripps Mercy Hospital in nearby Hillcrest, California.

     The unnamed inmate who had stabbed the 75-year-old assassin was placed into the administrative segregation unit pending further investigation.

     On September l, 2019, Sirhan Sirhan was transferred back to the correctional facility and placed in the prison's medical unit.

     Because the RFK investigation was horribly bungled by the Los Angeles Police Department, serious questions have been raised over the years regarding Sirhan Sirhan's guilt.

Bias Response Teams: Policing Campus Speech

     About 230 colleges and universities in the U.S. operate so-called Bias Response Teams. Students on these campuses, roughly 2.8 million of them, are subject to internal investigation if accused of hate or biased behavior against certain classifications of people. Pursuant to Skidmore College, anti-bias protection involves "acts of bigotry, harassment, or intimidation based on race, color, ethnicity, economic background, age, physical and mental health ability, sexual orientation, sex, gender or identity or expression, marital status, veterans status, or religious practice."

     On campuses where bias enforcement operates, students accused of hate or bigotry can be brought before a tribunal made up of fellow students, campus law enforcement, members of the faculty, and college and university administrators. Students found guilty by a bias response panel can be required to submit to sensitivity indoctrination or be expelled from the institution. The vast majority of students charged with bigotry, bias, and hate are white males.

     Bias Response Teams have been known to interpret off-hand insults, Internet comments, and even offensive graffiti as "acts" of bigotry, bias, and hate. Critics of these programs believe these shock troops of political thought stifle and punish free speech. Moreover, these arbiters of proper thought and behavior create classes of protected students that discriminates against students who do not share the protected identifies.

     Over the past few years, several colleges and universities, threatened by lawsuits and the wrath of critics who consider the idea of controlling speech and thought fascist and unAmerican, have disbanded their anti-bias operations. 

Charles Bukowski On Life As A Writer

I thought the life of a writer would be really the thing, it's simply hell. I'm just a cheap twittering slave.

Charles Bukowski, Howard Sounes, Charles Bukowski: Locked In The Arms Of A Crazy Life

Sunday, September 1, 2019

The Rise And Fall Of The Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility

     Mount McGregor is a mountain in Saratoga County in upstate New York. In 1913, in the mountain town of Moreau, the state built a tuberculosis treatment retreat called The Sanatorium On The Mountain. The facility closed in 1945 and remained unused until the New York Department of Corrections in 1976 converted the abandoned complex into a medium security prison for men. The McGregor Correctional Facility, because of a series of prison escapes, became known as "Camp Walkaway." In 2014, the state closed the penitentiary.

     The Grant State Historic Site sits on the grounds of the empty prison. The main tourist attraction on the site is Grant's Cottage where Ulysses S. Grant spent the last weeks of his life finishing his memoir. Grant died of throat cancer in 1885. (To this day, Grant's memoir is considered the gold standard in the genre.)

     On July 23, 2014, a WNYT-TV crew led by reporter Mark Mulholland showed up at Grant's Cottage to film a piece in honor of his death. The next day, the television crew returned to the historic site to finish the project.

     As the TV crew shot footage of Grant's Cottage that just happened to include, in the background, a view of the former prison, a New York state collections officer drove up to inform Mulholland that he was not allowed to film anything on Mount Gregor. The officer, who identified himself as Lieutenant Dom, said, "No filming."

     The stunned reporter replied, "We're doing a story on Grant's Cottage."

     Lieutenant Dom, apparently under the illusion that the television people were on the mountain to clandestinely film and do a story on the closed prison, said, "You're up here for different purposes. You'll have to leave the mountain."

     "Are you telling me we can't visit a historic site?"

     "You can visit but you can't film at Grant's Cottage," the officer replied.

     When reporter Mulholland and his colleagues tried to film the cottage from another spot, other corrections officers came onto the scene and blocked their access to the site.

     As Mulholland and his crew started to drive off McGregor Mountain they were stopped by a state trooper who demanded they turn over the footage they had shot of Grant's Cottage. Mulholland couldn't believe a state police officer wanted to confiscate the footage of a public tourist attraction.

     The reporter, after making calls to his TV station and other officials with the state, left the mountain with his Grant's Cottage footage.

     A few days later, a spokesperson for the New York Department of Corrections told a WNYT-TV correspondent that Mulholland and his people had "blatantly disregarded a state police officer who informed them they were trespassing." Moreover, according to this corrections bureaucrat, "department regulations state that photographs and video taken on prison grounds require prior permission." This policy, according to the spokesperson, was for the "safety of all staff, visitors and prisoners."

     It didn't matter that the prison seen in the background didn't have prisoners or institutional visitors. Perhaps the corrections officials were worried that the TV crew was doing an expose about a vacant prison that still employed 76 corrections officers.

     In October 2017, the state of New York announced that it had halted efforts to find a new use or a buyer for the shuttered prison. The state police used the site's old shooting range, and SWAT teams utilized the abandoned buildings for training.

     In 2019, state governments across the country continue to close prisons. These closures in part reflect the trend in American criminal justice to put fewer convicted criminals behind bars. Critics of this policy are alarmed that going soft on criminals this way will contribute to the rise of crime rates.

Horse Tail Theft

     In February 2015, Pennsylvania State Police officers searched for a suspect who cut the tails from three horses at a western Pennsylvania horse complex. Horse hair can be used to make brushes, violin bows, hat bands, wigs, baskets, and dozens of other everyday products.

     The thief struck during the lunch hour when the horses were unattended in an open field along a road in Jefferson Township, Butler County. It takes years for horses to grow back tails.

     In January 2017, in Wyandotte, Kansas, thieves, in six separate cases, snuck into stables at night where they cut and stole horses's tails. Over the years similar thefts took place in Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and Ohio.

     Horse tail theft is cruel because these animals need their tails to communicate, for warmth in winter, and to control pests. 

The Difference Between Talking and Writing

     Talking and writing are different in just the way listening and reading are different. That difference affects everything. As Fran Lebowitz says, "In conversation you can use timing, a look, inflection, pauses. But on the page all you have is commas, dashes, the amount of syllables in a word. When I write I read everything out loud to get the right rhythm."

     But most important of all, the focus of talk is totally different from the focus of prose. A talker focuses on the relationship between her or his subject and the listener….No third party is contemplated. Prose, on the other hand, must focus on an absent and, in fact "invented" figure known as "The Reader." Prose--all prose--addresses this absent but imagined figure and shapes itself and that figure and its needs in an unseen relationship between them.

Stephen Koch, The Modern Library Writer's Workshop, 2003