Saturday, December 20, 2014

Phrase of the Week: TO PROTECT AND TO SERVE [Part 7 of 7]

Today, I conclude my seven-part series commenting on events in Ferguson, MO, Cleveland, OH, and New York City, N.Y.

All this week, I have been looking at the individual cases in the deaths of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner.  All three cases have similarities, the most obvious of which are the officers involved were white and the victims were black.  There are, however, similarities that go deeper than that.  In wrapping up this week-long exploration, I would like to address those deeper similarities.

There has been a pattern emerging across the country, and in some instances around the world, of the nature of what it means to be a police officer going through huge changes.  Likely, the first example in the past five years that I can cite is police departments' reaction to the Occupy movement.  This is not to say that all protests went smoothly and without incident, clearly not, but a dramatic shift took place ... one that is continuing today.

Lest being labeled a generalist, I affirm that the majority of those serving in law enforcement do their jobs and do the right thing day in and day out.  Just as I mentioned yesterday in terms of protestors, I do not say all officers are bad.  They are not.  Period.

One must go beyond that reality, though, and see what that shift is.  More and more, we see police officers using an increasing number of strong arm tactics in their duties.  Many times, the three cases mentioned in this series as examples, the result is fatal.  Many times, we hear higher officials (i.e. Chiefs, Captains, Policemen's Union representatives) say that such tactics are not taught to officers during their training and not encouraging while being on the force.  If that is true, then why do they use those tactics?  Do not misunderstand me, I believe police officers need to be strong individuals who will be forceful if necessary in the doing of their jobs.  The question remains: How do they think these tactics are okay?

How do you not shoot an individual allegedly charging at you with a non-fatal shot?  And (as witnesses have claimed) how do you not stop shooting once that individual is down?  

How do you pull up on someone and fatally shoot them at nearly point blank range, putting yourself also in danger?  How do you not fully disclose to another police department all information about that officer?  

While there are, indeed, many individuals who claim they cannot breathe or that they are being hurt, when such is not true, in order to fight some more or to escape, do we simply chalk one up as nothing more than an exception to the rule ... using a banned move ... and claiming you never used it?

Then the question of the militarization of our police arises.  Why do local police departments need tanks and reinforced vehicles to do their jobs?  How many thieves walk around with grenades?  How many pimps have a flamethrower at their disposal?  How many IED's (Improvised Exploding Devices) have been planted in our streets?  When is the last time you saw a drug dealer hauling around a surface-to-air missile launcher?

The presence of firepower by lawbreakers is real, but the response is hugely out of proportion.  It has become an environment where some law-abiding citizens have to at least be concerned of what might happen to them at the hands of a police officer.  It should not be that way!  Is there some sort of intelligence the government has about the U.S. population it's not telling us?  Perhaps the the U.S. military not being allowed to fight on American soil is the reason.  Would they be used, instead, if it was allowed?

Overzealous bullies and military weaponry have no place in police work.  Period.

Even with the obvious similarities mentioned in the opening paragraph, it would be easy to say this is simply a black vs. white issue and leave it at that.  It is not as simple as that.  It is a part of that, but the state of affairs is not so simplistic.  

I mentioned in the last section about law-abiding citizens being concerned about what might happen to them.  The black community in the U.S. knows that all to well.  Just look at the state of the country and see who is, as a whole, more concerned about the presence of police in their neighborhoods; I would offer blacks are.  Is that because blacks are more likely to commit crimes than whites?  According to 2012 records held by the FBI, which cover a long list of various crimes, whites committed more crimes than blacks ... by a more than a two-to-one margin.  So, where does the feeling that some have that blacks are more likely to commit crimes, if it is not substantiated by facts?  Fear.  Fear that gets bolstered by many means, the media being the leader.

The signs being held up at protests that read BLACK LIVES MATTER are 100% correct.  This is not to say it should be an absolute hands-off policy when it comes to black individuals who are committing crimes simply because they are black.  There have been far too many killings of blacks by police and that confirms the notion of blacks being killed more and more by police.

Another issue that adds to the cloud over all of this is the presentation of statistics.  Yesterday, I presented two videos: one from 'The O'Reilly Report' and one from a piece of coverage by CNN of Ferguson protests.  O'Reilly cites statistics that came from one source.  The two anchors at the center of the CNN clip are diametrically opposed in their perceptions of what happened the night before. 
Two-and-a-half weeks ago, reporter Eric Bradner posted a story on on the reporting of statistics.  It is a fascinating article in which Bradner highlights "[t]wo dramatically different statistics -- and they could both be right".  Light is shed on what could be yet another key problem in all of this -- the manner of reporting police shootings by the police.  It is vitally important to keep in mind that the source of statistics is likely to have an agenda, even if the agenda is literally simply reporting what's there.  In preparing this final installment, I found statistics that say police shootings of blacks are down and up.

Who you ask matters as much, if not more, than what you ask.

The idea that black lives matter is a correct one.  I would further that to say ALL lives matter.  Even some of the deceased's families are saying it was not a race issue.  I still believe there is a level of race perception intertwined, but the valuing of all lives needs to be brought back into police practice.  Not a stereotypical "bleeding heart liberal" concept of leave the minorities alone to the point where only whites are arrested for crimes.  I reject that!  It should be anyone breaking the law should be arrested and treated as fairly as allowed -- the absolute, indisputable necessity of appropriate force still used -- and let justice take its course. 

The militarization of police departments across the country, including Ferguson, MO -- not exactly a major metropolis, now, is it? -- needs to stop.  Tools and weaponry designed for the battlefield have absolutely no place on our streets in the hands of anyone.  They belong on the battlefield, not main street.  The possibility of the presence of war weaponry with police officers who step over the line is a lethal combination ... lethal for every man, woman, and child.  Additionally, fair and thorough reporting of police shootings needs to take place.  

We need not only ask questions about race, police operations, etc. (provided we don't stop there), but we need to ask why the population of the U.S. is being systematically treated as guilty before innocent.  Why are some police officers acting like criminals and, for the most part, getting away with it?  Why are other officers not keeping tabs on their fellow officers and speaking up?  Why is "the code" more important than justice and human lives?  Why are police departments being militarized?  Why should people be concerned when they should not have to, and did not years ago? 

How long do we, both citizens and law enforcement alike, allow this to continue?


Friday, December 19, 2014

Phrase of the Week: TO PROTECT AND TO SERVE [Part 6 of 7]

Today, I continue my seven-part series commenting on events in Ferguson, MO, Cleveland, OH, and New York City, N.Y.   Yesterday, I addressed the public's response to these events.  Today, I continue from yesterday by addressing the response to the response.

The grand jury decisions in both the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases and the shooting of  twelve-year-old Tamir Rice have sparked protests all across the country.  They reached far beyond the cities where the shootings took place and included protestors in the tens of thousands.
© WJLA-TV, News Channel 8

In fact, not only had the protests spread across the U.S., but they also spread outside the U.S., including London.

When protests turn violent, as they did more prominently in Ferguson, MO, albeit in other locations as well, the idea of the protest is lost.  The focus of what is specifically being protested is clouded.  I have mentioned the participation of anarchists in these and other protests with the goal of chaos.  The result can be huge misinterpretations of the protestors being all in favor of destruction of property and not really being in favor of a cause.  Those who have protested, including myself, or who have watched protests in the past, know that the actions of a few are not the actions of the many (or all).  Still, that perception exists.

In my mind, Mr. O'Reilly does so in a rather imperfect and incorrect manner, but I think he raises the point that there are those who hold the view that the actions of the minority of people is the same as the actions of everyone in the protest.  My disagreement with that view could not be stronger, but that is the very reason why protests need to be free of violence.  It will lessen, if not completely wash over, your message.

I have known people who have stated that going out and protesting does nothing.  It is just a group of people blowing off steam, affecting no real change.  I have had people laugh at me for my participation in protest marches.  To those people, I offer the following:

You know that document called the U.S. Constitution?  Yeah, you know the one; the one that has been ripped at and torn apart so many times?  In that document, in the very first amendment to it, there is a phrase that states "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."  That's right, Americans have the right to assemble in public to protest (petition) an issue in order to bring about a setting right of what they see as wrong (redress of grievances). 

That means shutting down peaceful protests is against the Constitution.  That also means that the protestors need to be peaceful or else they are going against the Constitution, as well as breaking the law.  If any citizen, members of law enforcement, or members of government have trouble seeing that, then there lies a fundamental problem.

Some have said they have no problem with the protests being linked as similar to the civil rights protests of the 1960's; others have said they do.  Whether you see a parallel or not, it is important to keep in mind that it was those very same protests that brought about the changes that were being sought (i.e. Voting Rights bill, Civil Rights bill).  Also, do not forget to include the protests for the Women's Suffrage movement in the early part of the 20th century as another example. 

Were there people in the 60's who thought it was just a blowing off of steam, an opportunity to create violence, a bunch of kids who didn't know any better, etc.?  Undoubtedly so.  And yet, the protests went on undeterred and many changes, big changes, were brought about.

The protests need to continue now in order to bring about the changes that are desperately needed.

I suppose those who say that marching in the streets does little to nothing in the way of change could be seen as correct, if you look at it from an instant gratification standpoint.  Protest on, say, a Saturday and no change comes Saturday, or Sunday, or Monday?  Then what good did that do?  No smart person, let alone one who protests, knows that large changes come quickly or easily.  It is a continuum; it is a progression.  It is done step by step, day by day, year by year, and, if necessary, generation by generation.  Those same naysayers might even agree that large changes never come quickly enough ... or that local politicians and state politicians do not work fast enough ... or that the government couldn't care less, but fail to apply that same understanding of how things work to those who protest.

The denial of Constitutional rights is always wrong; protests must be allowed to continue without the fear of violence from law enforcement.

Violence begets violence, not understanding.  Destruction destroys opportunity.  Both are always received poorly and always create negative perceptions. 



Thursday, December 18, 2014

Phrase of the Week: TO PROTECT AND TO SERVE [Part 5 of 7]

Today, I continue my seven-part series commenting on events in Ferguson, MO, Cleveland, OH, and New York City, N.Y.   The past three days, I addressed procedural and legal issues for the Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner cases.  Today and tomorrow, I will address the public's response to these events...and the response to the response.

The public outcry in response to the events involving Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner has been large.  There is no shortage of outrage resulting from these events.

The initial protests in Ferguson over the killing of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson were boisterous but relatively peaceful, while the anger of those protesting was clearly evident.  The police response was, however, overdone, with militarized police being used to keep order among the protestors.
  Militarized police aiming at unarmed protestors this Summer

Following the no indictment decision from the grand jury, the protests took an unfortunate turn.  Unruly crowds, looting, setting fires, and destruction of property now became part of the upheaval.

It was stated that much of the destruction that took place was due to out-of-town protestors, some referred to as anarchists, taking part in the demonstrations.  We saw some of same outbursts during the Occupy protests a few years ago in many parts of the country.  Their goal is to take advantage of a volatile and emotional situation in order to bring about chaos.  What it does is completely taint the message of protest into one of sheer destruction.

In contrast to the protests in Ferguson, the protests in Cleveland over Tamir Rice being killed by Officer Timothy Loehmann were far more subdued.  Again, the dissatisfaction and disgust with the shooting was clearly evident.

For sheer size in number of protestors in one place, the protests in New York City over the murder of Eric Garner by Officer Daniel Pantaleo and other members of the N.Y.P.D.   The rather mobile protests were well-orchestrated and did not include the police brutality and strong arm tactics that occurred during the Occupy Wall Street protests.  It was a symbol of peaceful protest over a highly-charged event.



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Phrase of the Week: TO PROTECT AND TO SERVE [Part 4 of 7]

Today, I continue my seven-part series commenting on events in Ferguson, MO, Cleveland, OH, and New York City, N.Y.   Yesterday, I addressed procedural and legal issues for the Tamir Rice case.  Today, I will address the Eric Garner case.

It was Thursday, July 17.  On a sidewalk in front of a beauty salon in the Tompkinsville section of Staten Island, N.Y., a forty-three year old man, Eric Garner is approached by police officers.  It is their belief that Garner has been selling "loosies", individual cigarettes that have been removed from packs of cigarettes that has not had the state tax stamp affixed to it.

Witnesses have said Garner had just broken up a fight outside the beauty salon, and that the two individuals who were fighting had left the are before police arrived.  One witness, Ramsey Orta, a friend of Garner's, shot cell phone video of the incident.  Here's what took place:

Near the end of this video, at approximately 2:25, a suited police supervisor tells people to move back because it is now a crime scene.  It sure is a crime scene.  The police would have you believe the crime was solely resisting arrest, committed by Garner.  While resisting arrest is a crime, the other, and far more serious, crime here is the unnecessary murder of Garner by the New York Police Department.

The officer who came up from behind on Garner is Daniel Pantaleo, an eight-year veteran of the N.Y.P.D.  His tenure has not been free of controversy, however, as Pantaleo was the subject of two civil rights cases brought just last year.  One lawsuit resulted from two black men who claimed Pantaleo subjected them both to a "humiliating and unlawful" strip search on the street, being ordered to "pull their pants and underwear down, squat and cough", being charged, and being detained overnight.  The other lawsuit alleged that Pantaleo, along with other officers, had misrepresented facts in a police report and related documents in order to substantiate charges against the individual.

In both cases, all charges against the citizens were dropped.

With New Yorkers dealing with high taxes on cigarettes from both the city and the state of New York, the sale of loosies has become much more widespread.  In January of this year, a new law was adopted (Local Law 97, "Sensible Tobacco Enforcement") with the following penalties: 
A first violation resulting in a fine of up to $2,000
A second violation resulting in a fine of up to $5,000
(Local law 97 also includes a revoking of license and a closing down of a store that sells tobacco products illegally.)

We will never know if Eric Garner would have been arrested and assessed a fine for the alleged violation because he was murdered.  In New York, selling loosies is a misdemeanor, which does not include murder as punishment.  Resisting arrest is illegal, but Eric Garner's manner of resisting was not threatening any officer, or anyone else for that matter.  As such, the response of murder was unwarranted.

It has been said by Officer Pantaleo, the N.Y.P.D., and the Policemen's Union that the hold Pantaleo applied to Garner was not a chokehold.
Sorry, but that clearly looks like a chokehold to me.

Add to this that the use of chokeholds by N.Y.P.D. officer has been banned for eleven years.  In November of 1993, then-Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly officially banned their use as a "clarification" of an order eight years earlier.  In 1985, chokeholds, which were described in the '85 order as "potentially lethal and unnecessary", were not to be "routinely used", with the only exceptions being an officer's life is in danger or the maneuver was deemed the "least dangerous alternative method of restraint" in a situation.  Commissioner Kelly's policy, still on the books today, allows no exceptions.  To clarify, banned means illegal.

Even if Commissioner Kelly's still-standing policy was not in effect, how did Eric Garner pose a threat to the officers' lives?  How was the use of a chokehold, including holding Garner down in the prone position, the least dangerous method of restraint in this situation?

Its use was flatly unwarranted, and Garner's death was undeniably unnecessary.

The grand jury was instructed to apply New York Penal Code section 35.30, which addresses the use of  physical force by a police officer:
The officer must "reasonably [believe it] to be necessary to effect the arrest, or to prevent the escape from custody, or in self-defense or to defend a third person from what he or she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of physical force".
What was reasonable about thinking that putting a chokehold on an unarmed and non-threatening individual was necessary?

Within that belief, the officer must know or believe at least one of the following:
That the offense is "a felony or an attempt to commit a felony involving the use or attempted use or threatened imminent use of physical force against a person; or
kidnapping, arson, escape in the first degree, burglary in the first degree or any attempt to commit such a crime"
There was no felony committed or attempted -- again, selling loosies is a misdemeanor -- and there was no use, or threat of use, of physical force by Garner.  Additionally, there was no kidnapping, no arson, no escape, and no burglary committed or attempted.
"The offense committed or attempted by such person was a felony and that, in the course of resisting arrest therefor or attempting to escape from custody, such person is armed with a firearm or deadly weapon"
Again, no felony, or attempt of a felony, occurred and Eric Garner was unarmed.
"Regardless of the particular offense which is the subject of the arrest or attempted escape, the use of deadly physical force is necessary to defend the police officer or peace officer or another person from what the officer reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of deadly physical force"
If Officer Pantaleo believed that Garner was using, or was about to use, deadly physical force, I am unconvinced that such a belief was reasonable.

And yet, a grand jury that had convened for more than two months going over all the evidence, including the cell phone video (above), came back on December 3 with a no indictment decision against Officer Pantaleo.  Later that same day, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the U.S. Justice Department will conduct its own investigation into the matter.



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Phrase of the Week: TO PROTECT AND TO SERVE [Part 3 of 7]

Today, I continue my seven-part series commenting on events in Ferguson, MO, Cleveland, OH, and New York City, N.Y.   Yesterday, I addressed procedural and legal issues for the Michael Brown case.  Today, I will address the Tamir Rice case.  Tomorrow, I will address the Eric Garner case.

Tamir Rice, a twelve-year-old Cleveland, Ohio, youth was playing with a toy gun in a public park.  When a man called 911 to report this, he stated that the gun was likely fake and the individual was a juvenile:

However, the caller's belief the gun was likely fake and that the person in question was a juvenile was never conveyed by the dispatcher to units in the area:

When the police cruiser with officers Frank Garmback (driving) and Timothy Loehmann pulled up, Officer Loehmann fatally shot Tamir Rice in less than two seconds.
© The David Pakman Show
** Note: This episode was released just five days after the video was released - Public outrage has increased

Shouting "Put your hands up!" just once would take about one-and-a-half to two seconds.  From where were the commands given, up the block before pulling up to the gazebo?

Earlier in the surveillance video, not shown above, it is visible that Rice is talking on a cell phone.  Why is it impossible that it was his cell phone he was reaching for?  Why is it impossible that he is putting the gun in his back pocket to hide it from the officers, thinking he would get into trouble?  Perhaps more importantly, why is it impossible that, if he was reaching for the air gun, that he was doing so to show the officers that the gun was fake? 

It is a well-known fact that police officers, when faced with a dangerous situation, sometimes have mere seconds to choose an action.  What thought was put into this?

Before I get into police procedure, two questions related to Tamir Rice need to be answered as well.  First, how did the youth get the idea that taking an air gun out in public was acceptable.  No, he did not deserve to die -- absolutely not! -- but he had to have the idea that doing so was okay.  That should have not been the case.  Second, why was the orange ring that was on the tip of the gun removed?  Maybe it makes the gun look cool without it, but the ring is on there for a reason ... to show it is fake.  Again, this is a should-not-have-happened situation, one that needed to be clarified beforehand.  To repeat, Rice did not deserve to die, but if the above questions had been answered differently, there is a chance Officer Loehmann's response may have been different.and Rice would still be alive.  It's a question of being responsible.

With regard to the police, too many questions arise.  The dispatcher should have stated the 911 caller's belief that the gun was fake and that the person was a juvenile.  Was that careless or intentional?  We might never know, but they were important pieces of information and they should have been relayed to the officers. 

The shooting itself is questionable, but is it standard procedure, at least in Cleveland, to pull up so close to a suspect?  Why would keeping some distance, if the officers believed Rice was armed with a real firearm, be improper procedure?  At the very least, it would have been for the officers' safety while handling the situation.  It is doubtful giving three commands to put his hands up, let alone one command, took place.  Again, pulling up with some distance would have allowed for that.  This was nothing more than justice, wild west style.

An investigation of both officers Loehmann and Garmback is currently underway.  It has come to light, however, that Officer Loehmann gained employment with the Cleveland Police Department when he clearly should not have been able to do so.  Two years earlier, in late 2012, Loehmann applied to be an officer in Independence, Ohio, a town approximately twelve miles south of Cleveland.  During his brief time there, one of his supervisors described him as "distracted and weepy" and "emotionally immature", also citing Loehmann as having an "inability to manage personal stress", and displaying a "pattern of lack of maturity, indiscretion and not following instructions".  His training on the live firing range was no better, as he was described as showing a "dangerous loss of composure" while there.  Independence Deputy Chief Jim Polak summarized Loehmann with the following statement:
"I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct these deficiencies."

After all of these negative assessments, which resulted in a "process of separation" being initiated, Loehmann resigned from the Independence Police Department, citing personal reasons.

How then, you may ask, was Timothy Loehmann brought on board with the Cleveland Police Department in March of this year?  Just as the dispatcher's failure to be as clear as possible played a part in Tamir Rice's death, the same kind of failure resulted in Loehmann's hiring in Cleveland.

During his background check, Loehmann had been asked about his no longer being with the Independence Police Department, to which he answered he had resigned for personal reasons.  When checking with the Independence PD, they confirmed his resigning for personal reason, but failed to reveal to the Cleveland PD any disciplinary actions and unfavorable reviews of Loehmann.  Yet another failure to fully inform that contributed to Rice's death.

On December 12, the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner ruled Tamir Rice's was a homicide.

It is yet to been seen what will result from the investigation. 



Monday, December 15, 2014

Phrase of the Week: TO PROTECT AND TO SERVE [Part 2 of 7]

Today, I continue my seven-part series commenting on events in Ferguson, MO, Cleveland, OH, and New York City, N.Y.   In today's and the next two days' posts, I will be addressing procedural and legal issues for one individual case at a time.  Today I will address the Michael Brown case ... tomorrow, the Tamir Rice case ... Wednesday, the Eric Garner case.

Yesterday, I recapped the events that led up to, and included, the senseless murders of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner.  This posting is about police procedure and the legal elements and ramifications of the events that unfolded.

While there were rampant rumors after his death about Michael Brown having a criminal record, the truth is that he had no criminal record.  Those rumors were clear attempts to smear the character of Michael Brown, so that it looked like he deserved to die.

Let me be clear, Michael Brown did not deserve to die.

Regardless of who used profanity first, Officer Darren Wilson was using standard procedure in terms of wanting Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson to get out of the street.  How he did this -- he asked or he unprofessionally barked a profane command -- is fair game for question, but wanting to people to get out of the middle of the street is fine.  I do not think that the two being close to their home, as Dorian Johnson stated, was germane.

At the height of the confrontation, as Officer Wilson recounted it, he had several options open to him.  He called for backup, but he could have retreated a bit until backup arrived.  He did not.  Yes, sitting in a car, as Officer Wilson was, is a compromised position, one that puts someone at a disadvantage to someone who is standing.  However, when Wilson exited the car, he still had options.  Retreat to behind the car, for one.  If Michael Brown was charging Officer Wilson, and he felt he absolutely had to fire his weapon, he could have shot Brown in the leg.  That would have stopped someone, even if running full charge.  Again, he did not.  Finally, leaving Brown's dead body uncovered in the middle of the street for approximately four-and-a-half hours is unconscionable and hardly procedural.  Dead bodies are covered up at a crime scene, not only out of respect for the deceased, but to protect the body from any tampering and contamination.  The Ferguson Police Department claimed leaving the body uncovered was part of protecting the crime scene.

The number of shots fired is excessive ... unless Officer Wilson was a bad shot.  Six to seven wounds -- one wound may have been a re-entry wound -- in Brown's body and a total of ten bullets fired.  When retreat or a shot in the leg would have ended this confrontation altogether differently, were ten total shots necessary?

Even though Robert McCulloch is the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney, the prosecution's case was presented by Prosecuting Attorney Kathi Alizade and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Sheila Whirley instead.  This was likely an attempt to quell the requests for a special prosecutor for this case, all of which were denied and McCulloch having stated he would stay on.

Several issues have risen as serious concerns in the prosecution's presentation to the grand jury.  One is what has been called a"data dump".  That is an instance where all of the evidence possessed by one side is presented en masse to the jury, or dumped on the jury.  It is a jury's job to look at all evidence presented to them, and not to decide that the prosecutor has dumped too much on you and so you will vote against what the prosecutor wants as a form of payback.

What the prosecutor wanted in this case is part of the second issue.  It was never stated by the prosecution that it sought a decision to indict Officer Wilson, which is typically presented to the jury.  How prosecutors Alizade and Whirley presented in the courtroom is also a problem.  Just three days before the grand jury would render its decision, prosecutor Alizade said this the to the jurors:
          "Previously in the very beginning of this process I printed out a statute for you that 
          was, the statute in Missouri for the use of force to affect an arrest.  So if you all 
          want to get those out.  What we have discovered and we have been going along 
          with this, doing our research, is that the statute in the state of Missouri does not 
          comply with the case law.  This doesn’t sound probably unfamiliar with you that the 
          law is codified in the written form in the books and they’re called statutes, but 
          courts interpret those statutes.
          And so the statute for the use of force to affect an arrest in the state of Missouri 
          does not comply with Missouri supreme, I’m sorry, United States supreme court 
          cases.  So the statue I gave you, if you want to fold that in half just so that you know 
          don’t necessarily rely on that because there is a portion of that that doesn’t comply 
          with the law."
Alizade then handed copies of a new explanation regarding laws about deadly force to the jury.  After doing so, she continues:
          "[This new document] does correctly state what the law is on when an officer can 
          use force and when he can use Deadly Force in affecting an arrest, okay.  I don’t 
          want you to get confused and don’t rely on that copy or that print-out of the statute 
          that I’ve given you a long time ago.
          It is not entirely incorrect or inaccurate, but there is something in it that’s not correct, 
          ignore it totally..."
Her handout included a old statute which was overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court nearly thirty years ago.  (In short, the old statute: Officer's belief of threat to life; the 1985 Supreme Court ruling result: Must be both officer's belief AND probable cause.)  Alizade did not want the jurors to be confused?  She chose a rather peculiar way of showing it.

Part of the confusion I would suspect felt by at least some of jurors, if not all, came forth when a juror asked if Federal court supersedes Missouri state statutes.  Alizade replied,
          "As far as you need to know, just don’t worry about that."
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Sheila Whirley added,
          "We don't want to get into a law class."
Alizade and Whirley used a total of twenty-one words when only one word was necessary to answer the juror's question ... yes.

Part of the prosecution's presentation included witnesses who clearly had not seen the entire incident or whose testimony was deemed irrelevant to the case before the case went to the grand jury.  Why present those witnesses if you know they will be unhelpful or possibly cloud the issue for jurors?  Why indeed!

Included in Officer Wilson's testimony to the grand jury was a recounting of the size of Michael Brown and how he feared not just for his safety, but for his life.  Officer Wilson is no small man and even though Michael Brown was bigger than him, his claim that he had taken two punches and was afraid a third one could have been fatal is not backed up by photos of him taken at the hospital after the incident.  He was diagnosed with a facial contusion, which is simply a bruise, and nothing more than minor scratches on the back of his neck.  Either those punches were not as life-threatening as Office Wilson described or they never took place.  From the photos, if what Office Wilson said was true, he looks as though he was clearly holding his own.

The announcement that the grand jury had reached its decision was made the day of the jury's decision, not before.  In what would be a full week before any decision had been reached, let alone an announcement of the decision, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed a state of emergency declaration, which allowed him to deploy the National Guard to Ferguson.  The already militarily-equipped police, which were clearly seen during protests that followed the shooting of Brown, would now be joined by Missouri's National Guard.
Militarily-equipped police aiming at protestors of the Brown shooting

The November 24 news conference to be held by Prosecutor Robert McCulloch announcing the grand jury's decision on whether or not to indict Officer Wilson was inexplicably delayed.  The grand jury finished its deliberations and had come to a decision around lunch time.  Roughly an hour or so later, it was announced that a decision had been reached.  MuCulloch's news conference did not take place until some seven hours later ... at 8:00 p.m. local time ... well after night had fallen.  The contentious nature of the case and what would be the grand jury's decision makes announcing at night time all the more dangerous for protestors and police alike.  Knowing the contentious nature of this case makes McCulloch's choice of time to announce the decision strategically careless.

In his press conference announcing the grand jury's decision, Prosecutor Robert McCulloch gives a long, at times rambling, defense of the decision.  Rather lengthy for announcing a grand jury decision.  Here is the full press conference held by McCulloch:

It is my firm belief that, unless the Ferguson Police Department encourages rash behavior, Officer Wilson poorly followed standard police procedure, and that the grand jury process was handled improperly, skewing the jury's decision in favor of no indictment. 



Sunday, December 14, 2014

Phrase of the Week: TO PROTECT AND TO SERVE [Part 1 of 7]

Today, I begin a seven-part series commenting on events in Ferguson, MO, Cleveland, OH, and New York City, N.Y.

The title of this series is "To Protect and to Serve", which is recognized as the de facto motto of police departments across the country.  The phrase first came into use in 1955 by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), following a contest in Beat Magazine, an LAPD newsletter which is still produced today.  The winning entry was "To protect and to serve", which became the motto of the police academy.  You may have seen it on the side of police cars, which began in Los Angeles in 1963.
The motto appears as above or in reverse ("to serve and to protect") on police cars in various municipalities across the country.

Three recent events will be highlighted here, but I wish to make it clear that this is not an exhaustive list.  These are three of the most current and most notable examples of senseless murder by police.

On Saturday, August 9, Michael Brown allegedly stole some Cigarellos from a local convenience store, minutes before his fateful encounter with Officer Darren Wilson.  The surveillance video is claimed by police to show Michael Brown committing the crime.

While walking with his friend Dorian Johnson (who was standing behind the man in the video) in the street, Office Darren Wilson pulls up to them. How events then unfolded are recounted differently between witnesses and police.

Some said that Officer Wilson used profanity to tell Brown and Johnson out of the middle of the street; others said Brown was the one who used profanity in response to Officer Wilson.  Whether or not Officer Wilson saw the Cigarellos in Brown's hand and whether or not he knew about the robbery is unclear.  (By "unclear", I mean testimony that is unverifiable.)  Whether the tussle in the police car between Brown and Wilson was Wilson pulling Brown into the car or Brown going for Officer Wilson's gun is unclear.  Brown's final move (after running away from Wilson and then turning around to face Wilson again) was either a walking back toward Wilson with his hands up or running "full charge" toward Wilson; that, too, is unclear.  (CNN posted a synopsis of events early last month.)  At no point was Brown armed ... unless you consider Cigarellos to be lethal weapons.

The result was eighteen-year-old Michael Brown shot dead in the street from multiple gunshots.  His body was left in the street, uncovered, for approximately four-and-a-half hours.  The police claimed it was because they didn't want to disturb the body and crime scene.

Following an initial investigation, a grand jury was formed.  The grand jury proceedings began on August 20, eleven days after the shooting.

In a public playground, twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was taking in and out of his pocket an Airsoft brand pellet gun, one that resembled a real handgun.  It was later revealed that a ring on the end of the gun's nozzle (pictured below) which marks the gun as not real had been removed, rendering it, indistinguishable from a real weapon.

A local resident, seeing this, called 911.  It was an adult male stating that he was scared at the sight, but that he (a citizen, not an officer) believed the gun was probably fake.  He stated twice in the call that he believed the gun was likely fake, as well as the individual was "likely a juvenile".  Howevere, the dispatcher makes no mention to police of the likelihood of the gun being fake or of the individual's age.  Within eight minutes of the initial dispatch call, the first police car is calling for EMF assistance. 

In under two seconds after pulling up to Rice, Officer Timothy Loehmann fatally shoots Rice.  UNDER TWO SECONDS.

An investigation is under way, including one by the U.S. Justice Department.

On July 17, Eric Garner was approached by police regarding his allegedly selling "loosies", individual cigarettes taken out of cigarette packs without tax stamps on them.  It is unclear whether or not Garner was, or had been, selling them.  Witnesses, however, said that Garner had just broken up a fight between two people.  The two people who were fighting had left the area when the police approached Garner.

As another NYPD officer is explaining to Garner why he's going to be arrested, Officer Daniel Pantaleo comes up on Garner from behind and puts him, and keeps him, in a blatant chokehold. 
[** Note: These videos may be difficult to watch.]

Eric Garner, 43, was murdered by police.  His final, haunting words were "I can't breathe" repeated over and over -- anywhere from nine to eleven times -- until he could say them no more.

After an initial investigation, a grand jury was convened and began hearing evidence in September.

These are the events that unfolded in Ferguson, Cleveland, and New York City that led to the senseless murder of three individuals.  Tomorrow, I will look at some of the mechanics behind these events as well as the grand jury trials (in two of the cases) that followed.



Saturday, November 29, 2014

Phrase of the Day: DEATH WITH DIGNITY

Brittany Maytnard . . . a name that has garnered a lot of attention lately . . .

. . . not because she was financially well-off, not because she was famous for being famous (aka a reality TV star), and not because she was on trial for a salacious crime . . .

Brittany Maynard ended her life.

On the 1st of this year, Maynard was diagnosed with grade II astrocytoma, which is a form of brain cancer that develops in the astrocytes, which act like glue holding the brain together.
Credit: American Brain Tumor Association

She was initially told she had three to ten years to live.  In the Spring of this year, however, the astrocytoma had advanced to grade IV, the worst case, and was then told she probably only had six months left.  In addition, those six months would be very painful, feel dragged out, and would affect cognitive function.

In Oregon, where Maynard lived, there is a law on the books called the Death with Dignity Act, enacted in 1997, which allows for terminally ill individuals to end their lives with prescribed lethal medications.  Maynard had acquired those medications and used them on November 1.

In an October 7th piece for CNN, Brittany wrote:
                 "I would not tell anyone else that he or she should choose death with dignity.
                 My question is: Who has the right to tell me that I don't deserve this choice?"

Who indeed?

I believe there are multiple reasons why Brittany Maynard's decision is an uncomfortable one for others to hear and accept, even though the decision was, of course, hers alone to make.  I'll start with religious reasons.

Religion teaches the value of life.  I know about how many are killed in the name of religion (i.e. most wars have been started for religious reasons), but the teachings of religion without twisting meanings -- that's key -- is that life is special, is sacred, is to be valued.  To end one's own life goes, at simply a basic level, against that teaching and belief.  There are probably many religious persons who strongly disagree with her decision.

To that extent, three days after Maynard ended her life, a Vatican official, Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, head of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life, called her decision to end her life both undignified and reprehensible ... a condemnable death without dignity [my wording].  His argument was with her stance that a terminally ill person should have the freedom to end their life.  It may seem like a harsh stance to some, but religiously, it makes sense.  It's a bit of a quagmire if you say that all life is precious one one hand and then also say that taking one's own life is just fine on the other hand.  It would require breaking down the value of life to the quality of life.

That leads me into a second reason why Maynard's decision is hard to accept -- the stigma of suicide. Mention suicide to most persons and an uneasy feeling arises, maybe faint, but an uneasiness, nonetheless, is present.  How bad was it really? and Why didn't he/she ask for help? are common questions.  Survivors are left to feel angry, hurt, confused, and even guilty (i.e. "If only I knew").  While some have argued that such an act requires a level of bravery, considering the person is ending his/her life, the stigma is that it's an act of cowardice.

Another reason, I believe, is simply death itself.  Most individuals don't want to talk about death, let alone give it serious thought.  For most, death is scary, an uncomfortable subject, an unsettling prospect.  The irony is that cognitive acknowledgement is not a problem for those persons: you're born ... you live ... you die.  Pretty linear, pretty simple.  That's life.  We even plan for it in a linear, cognitive manner: life insurance, for example, which, let's face it, is really death insurance.

Life -- more specifically, the cycle of life -- includes death, not excludes it.  You came into existence one day and, one day, you will go out of existence.  Sure, look at the leaves on trees: how they die in the Fall and come back again in the Spring.  Eventually, however, those trees will die, no longer able to give birth to leaves.  That, too, is a part of life.

Now, let me address the issue of dignity.  A couple of definitions of the word "dignity" are "the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect" and "self-respect".  One of things that strikes me about that word is the many ways it is applied.  When there is a dead person, on the street or in a morgue, the body is covered out of respect.  When there is a funeral, a viewing, or a memorial service, we pay our respects.  We even have those rituals to honor the dignity of the deceased.  When someone has a condition that is not considered socially okay -- allow me to use incontinence as an example -- there are undergarments designed for that person to maintain his/her dignity.  If someone ends up undressed, or at least stripped down to their underwear, someone offering something to cover up is for maintaining that individual's dignity.

We sure do have a lot of ways in which we honor dignity.  How one dies, in the face of a terminal illness, is not one of them.

I do think the stigma of Jack Kevorkian's right-to-die movement in the 1990's is a residual part of this.  Even though he had stated his goal was "helping the patient", "not to cause death", and "to end suffering", he was unable to avoid the courtroom and criticism.  He was convicted in 1999 of second-degree murder.  Some of his methodology had been questioned (i.e. not all patients were terminally ill, abbreviated length of consulting time, absence of psychiatric evaluation), which made equal levels of "right-to-die advocate" support and "murderer" opposition inevitable.

Before I get further into my point, let me address that there are plenty of people who would want to misconstrue things and use assisted suicide as an easy way out.  I am speaking solely of terminally ill individuals here. 

In reading Maynard's story, I am sure that there were many who viewed her decision as an easy way out, nothing more than giving up.  To those individuals, I would pose the following questions: Is it, then, more dignified for her to suffer?  In the face of death, is the only dignity to be found in suffering?  Why is someone choosing to end their suffering in the face of certain and painful death an undignified choice?  Does facing certain death nullify any final choices of the individual? 

Brittany Maynard did not want her life to be painful and miserable ... did not want her loved ones to see her that way ... did not want to simply be alive, or some semblance of alive, instead of living life to its fullest.  In short, Brittany Maynard did not take the easy way out and she did not give up.

She made a couple of videos regarding her decision.  The last one, released just days before her death, is below.  This is in her own words...

Personally, if faced with a terminal illness or condition, I would want to be able to end my life on my terms without any negative stigma or legal ramifications.  I applaud her decision.

Everyone should be able to make that decision in the face of terminal illness.  Currently, five states in the Unites States allow for assisted suicide -- Oregon, Washington, Montana, New Mexico, and Vermont.  Recently, there was a rally held in Maryland's state capital, Annapolis, urging lawmakers to put a death with dignity law on the books, and some states are considering it.  Here in New Jersey, the State Assembly passed a death with dignity bill, which goes on to the State Senate.  However, Governor Chris Christie has already said he will veto the bill.

When faced with a terminal illness, the only thing undignified is denying an individual the right to die on their terms and not the illness' terms.

For more information, check out Compassion & Choices' website.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014


[Dear readers, my sincerest apologies for the lengthier-than-usual time away from this blog.  You may have forgotten, after all this time, that I am recovering from a broken elbow.  It is a long story regarding my recovery, especially getting my physical therapy started, but my therapy has been going well.]

As Halloween is just days away, I thought the following documentary would be fun to watch.  It is titled The Real Story of Halloween, and was produced by the U.S. cable channel The History Channel in 2010.



Monday, September 8, 2014


Just over a month ago, I posted about the 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?  Five years after the film's release, director Chris Paine released a sequel titled Revenge of the Electric Car.  As you watch this film, keep in mind that it was released after the 2008 economic fallout in this country and before the government bailout of major car manufacturers.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Movie of the Day: THE FOG OF WAR

As Secretary of Defense under John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, Robert S. McNamara was deeply involved in the events leading up to and the start of the Vietnam War.  The event that was the tipping point, leading the United States to go to war with Vietnam was the Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which North Vietnamese war ships engaged the USS Maddox.  This led to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the commencement of war against North Vietnam.

The truth regarding whether or not the USS Maddox had been fired upon was in question immediately.  Books, articles, and interviews from those who were involved suggested the firing upon the USS Maddox never happened.  In the 2003 documentary The Fog of War, Robert McNamara addresses it directly.  Troubled by the events all of these years, McNamara, who was both applauded and reviled, agreed to making this film as a permanent record of what happened and his feelings about it.

McNamara died six years after the release of this film, but it remains his going on record about the build-up and execution of a futile war.  He has been condemned for going along with Lyndon Johnson's intentions for going to war and not coming out openly about it for decades, and praised for coming out with the truth of what really happened.  I invite you to watch this engaging documentary and see where he stands with you.

Fog Of War Eleven Lessons From The Life Of Robert S. Mcnamara from DCTV on Vimeo.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Phrase of the Day: LOSS OF A GENIUS

Last week, the world lost a comedy legend, a comedy icon, and a comedy force, all in one person. On August 11, Robin Williams died at his home in Tiburon, California, from suicide. He was sixty-three years and his career, from his first appearance as Mork on 'Happy Days', spanned more than thirty-five years.

He was described by David Letterman as a "hurricane". His quick wit and rapid-fire delivery made him a real comedic force. He was one of those rare comedic actors who could also handle much more serious dramatic roles. He was awarded several awards including several Grammy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and an Academy Award.

I first saw him, as did many, on 'Mork and Mindy' and was immediately impressed with him. He could make me laugh uproariously and touch me deeply in more serious roles. He was truly gifted, which makes his death and how he died even more tragic.

He brought joy into my life and I wish I could thank him.

We still have a vast body of work from which he will be enjoyed for years to come. On that note, I will share one of the greatest interviews I believe he ever gave. It is from 2001 during his appearance on Inside the Actors Studio with host James Lipton. Enjoy!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A word of thanks to my readers

I just wanted to thank all of my readers for sticking with my blog.  This blog has just passed 4,000 pageviews.  I'm grateful for your attention and I hope my commenting will remain interesting to all of you.  Thank you all so much!


Thursday, August 14, 2014


There are protests going on in a town called Ferguson in Missouri.  There are protests that have been going on for several days.  There are protests in response to an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, being shot by a Ferguson police officer.  

Brown's body was left in the street for four hours before the coroner came to retrieve it.  An autopsy report shows how many times the teen was shot.  We do not know how many times.  The officer's name is also being withheld.  

Reporters were being stopped from reporting on the goings-on.  Protestors have been gassed and arrested.  Police have been using riot tactics, including using gas canisters and pointing rifles directly at the crowd.

This the latest example of what's been going on for the past several years, most recently ramped-up during the Occupy movement a few years ago.

There are clear racial undertones to the murder of Michael Brown, but the still-unfolding events in Ferguson, MO, are the latest example of the establishment of the United Police State of America.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Article of the Day: Over 1 Billion Usernames and Passwords Hacked

In this era of cyber crime, an alarming news item about more than a billion personal usernames and passwords being hacked.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014


Today's video is a 2006 documentary titled Who Killed the Electric Car?  It is an interesting documentary about the pursuit of electric (and other alternative) cars ... and the end of that pursuit.  It deals with how something that was trumpeted as a look to the future was squashed.  The film's website offers more information.


Monday, August 4, 2014

A message to my readers

Dear readers, it has been another long period since my last posting.  If you follow this blog, you know I do not post on a regular basis.  My feeling is that quality is more important than quantity.  Thus, I comment on things that grab my attention enough to write about them, rather than just posting things for the sake of posting things.

Having said that, this time, however, is different.  About three weeks ago, I took a nasty fall and broke my left elbow.  It has been in a splint for the majority of that time and it makes for one-handed typing.  While it is not impossible to write something, as this posting shows, I have curbed my online activity because of the injury and that will, unfortunately, have to include this blog.

In the interim, however, I will posting videos or links to stories that I hope you will find interesting.  The first of these will be tomorrow.

Thank you for continuing to follow my blog and I will be back commenting again as soon as possible.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014


In its disgusting decision last week in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the United States Supreme Court said a company whose owner(s) have sincerely held religious beliefs against contraception can deny employees contraception coverage in its health care coverage.  The decision was what you might call a perfect storm among the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision of 2010, and religious imposition.  In other words, religious beliefs of owners trumping employees' beliefs in an alleged narrow definition while reaffirming corporate personhood.

Let me state here that, for a very long time, I though the judicial branch of government was far more trustworthy than the executive (President) and legislative (Congress) branches.  I now find all three branches untrustworthy, disinterested in doing the right thing for the greatest number of citizens.

The original complaint in this case was specific to four types of contraception, out of the twenty that are currently available.  (Obamacare covers contraception.)  Those four types were two "morning after" pills, Plan B and Ella, and two intrauterine devices or IUDs, ParaGard and progestogen IUD's, such as Mirena and Skyla.  Owners of Hobby Lobby believe that the use of these was tantamount to abortion, stemming from their belief that life begins at fertilization. 

The Supreme Court justices sided with Hobby Lobby.  Many observing the proceedings were very outspoken about their concern about how the alleged specificity of the decision could become more widely applied.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has been the most outspoken about the decision.  The following are from her written dissent:
  • She said the decision was "of startling breadth", recognizing its potential for a more expanded interpretation, citing issues of blood transfusions for Jehovah's Witnesses, anesthesia for some Muslims, Hindus, and Jews, among other issues for other religious business owners.
  • She noted, "Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community", highlighting the potential for discrimination based on religion.
  • "It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month's full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage."  Not only does this highlight the cost of an IUD itself, but also means that women will be, in essence, double-dipped for health care coverage ... paying for health care that covers contraception, although her employer denies her that, AND paying for IUDs.
Part of the argument made by Hobby Lobby (and Conestoga Wood Specialties, which was merged with Hobby Lobby on this case) was that the Affordable Care Act, specifically the part about providing for contraception, went against the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  That act prevents any action taken which places an unnecessary burden on anyone else's freedom of religion.  One of the impetuses for the Act was Native American lands, which are sacred to their religious beliefs, being encroached upon, although there are, and have been, other applications.

Let's apply this to the Hobby Lobby case.  Let's be clear that Hobby Lobby is not a religious entity; it is, first are foremost, a crafts store.  On its website they state that they are "[h]onoring the Lord in all [they] do by operating the company in a manner consistent with biblical principles", "[p]roviding a return on the owner's investment, sharing the Lord's blessings with our employees, and investing in our community", and they believe that "by God's grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured". 

Those are all statements of how part of their business sense is formed, which is fine.  They are not statements of Hobby Lobby being a religious institution.

In the light of the Supreme Court's ruling of last week, the Affordable Car Act likely bristles against the owners' religious beliefs and sensibilities, but it may or may not affect the entirety of it employees in the same manner.  Therefore, Hobby Lobby now has corporate personhood to decide for its employees, specifically its female employees, on what is a personal issue.  This is not to say that the owners of Hobby Lobby have to agree with the law, but they have to follow the law.  Contraception is not a corpersonal issue, if you will, but a PERSONAL issue.  Period.

Hobby Lobby is neither a religious institution nor a hospital.  Period.

While I can say plenty on the illegitimacy and destructiveness of corpersonhood, let me turn the corner and get to the meaning of the title of today's blog.  The Hobby Lobby decision is just the latest example of inequality specifically aimed at women.

The following is certainly not a thorough historical recap, but please follow my meaning:  The idea of staying away from a woman during her menstruation period, as her being "unclean", as expressed the time of biblical antiquity, is part of the chain.  Denial of a voice, or involvement of any kind, in church matters is part of the chain.  "Keep them barefoot and pregnant", "a woman's place is the home", and "a woman's place is in the kitchen" are all huge parts of the chain.  Denying women positions of higher authority is part of the chain.  Making less money in the same place of business for the same work being performed by male co-workers (addressed by The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009) is another huge part of the chain.  Last week's Hobby Lobby decision is the latest link in the chain.

The chain is the sustained subjugation of women.

Being a male, the chain does not affect me personally.  Still, it affects me as a human being and as a citizen of this country ... and, by extension, as a citizen of the world.  I'm no proverbial bleeding heart liberal, but I see no logic, no matter how far you want to stretch what "logic" means, in the subjugation of women.  If the tables were turned, for that matter, I wouldn't see any logic in the subjugation of men, either. 

Pardon my bluntness, but I just have to get it out this way because this irks me to no end:  Hey, men!  Men in power positions!  Listen up!  Defecation, vomiting, bringing up phlegm from your lungs when you have a nasty cold, sweating profusely from hard labor or exercising are all "unclean", but you don't have any religious mandates or laws regulating them.  If churches are for everyone who attend, they everyone must be at least given the opportunity for involvement of any kind.  Women are not solely or mainly good for nothing aside from being broodmares for the State.  Pay scales should be reserved for performance relative to a position and never have gender as a determining factor. 

Last but not least, men, stop telling women what to do with their bodies!  You do not own them!  You do not run them!  You are not in charge of them!  So, knock it off!  We are the better sex?  Better at what?  Subjugating women for inexcusably long sustained periods?  Wow, what a bragging right.

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Hobby Lobby case is the latest link in a long chain that should have never been assembled in the first place, should never have been added to, and should be unhooked and never reassembled again.