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.The Eternal American Battle - Humans V Money

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

I BELIEVE IN MAGIC

I would say that William Foster’s first mistake was that he called the Des Moines Police Department and asked for help. Just after 7pm on the Wednesday after New Years, he reported a domestic disturbance, and when officers arrived at his home on Crestview they found poor old Bill (he was 54) surrounded by several loudly arguing females. Through the shouting the police eventually discovered that the women were Bill’s in-laws who had been invited to stay in the house while Bill’s wife was in the hospital. The police explained to Bill that since they were invited guests there was nothing the cops could do, even though Bill threatened to kill one of them. So the police left, leaving behind an “extremely upset” Bill. Over the next hours Bill called 911 two more times, the second time reporting that he had been hit over the head 12 times with a frying pan, and 6 or 8 times with a flashlight. And that was Bill’s second mistake. When the police returned to 1865 Crestview they found Bill home alone. He claimed the assailants (his female in-laws) had left after the alleged assault. So the police took Bill’s statement and told him that detectives would contact him the next day. And that, they figured, would be the end of that evening. They were wrong.
*
Bill called 911 again…and again…and again…and yet again. And that seventh call to 911 was Bill’s third and final mistake. The police were again dispatched to Bill’s house on Creston Avenue, where they arrested Bill. And on their way to the Polk County jail they stopped off at the Broadlawns Medical Center to treat Bill’s physical injuries. And then they locked him up, charging him with assault on a police officer and filing a false report. He was released the next day after posting a $1,500 bond. And a week later Bill celebrated his 55th birthday. I could find no information on the condition of Bill’s wife, nor any word on why, on the morning of January 28th, Bill was arrested once again, this time charged with driving with a suspended license and assault on a police officer with intent to commit serious injury. But January had been a bad month for Bill. This time there was no bond and as of this date (April 1, 2008) poor old William Foster remains in the Polk County Jail. And none of this would have happened if he had just not called for help.
*
In March of this year a bearded “Indian” looking man about 40 years old and dressed in a suit, walked up to the cashier in the Famila supermarket in Anocona, Italy with a carton of milk. He handed the woman a 50 dollar Euro bill as payment and she began to make change. As she did so the gentleman leaned forward and said to her, “Look into my eyes.” Then, magically, the man disappeared. The milk was gone and the register was closed. The woman quickly forgot the incident until the end of the day when she was balancing out the cash register and came up $1,370 short. No matter how she worked it out, the money was missing. And then she remembered the bearded man. She called the police and they examined the surveillance camera recording. There was the dark, bearded man, leaning in to whisper to the cashier. On the tape the cashier began to move slowly, and appeared to be following the man’s instructions as she handed him money from the register. The man pocketed the money and walked out of the store, with his milk. And a moment later the cashier shook her head and returned to normal behavior. Italian police have notified Interpol that they are seeking information on a criminal hypnotist, who may have done this before, but if he has no one can recall it. In other words, not spotting the surveillance camera may have been his first mistake. Ever.
*
In early 2007, 46 year old Jodi Lynn Holmes, of Hampden, Maine, a small community just south of Bangor, made one tiny mistake. She waited until her husband and four children were asleep and then, wearing latex gloves to avoid leaving any fingerprints, she hand wrote a letter to the Hampden Academy, a public high school servicing three small towns. The letter told school officials that she had planted a number of bombs in and about the school. She also advised them that the portable classrooms were “safe”, and warned, “The first bomb will go off at 1:45 pm on March 28”. She signed the letter, “Radar” and sealed the envelope with a wet cloth (to avoid leaving any DNA behind). She then completed two nearly identical letters to the Bangor Christian School and the John Bapst Memorial High School, both in Bangor. She mailed all three letters on Friday, March 23, and assumed she had thus committed the perfect victimless crime.
*
At about 11 a.m. on Tuesday, March 27, the principle of the Hampden Academy opened the letter and immediately notified the police. The students were dismissed as usual at 2:45 pm, and the school then went into lock down. Bomb sniffing dogs from the State Police and the Penobscot Sheriff’s office searched the property. Needless to say, no bomb was found, but monitors kept the classrooms, hallways, offices, restrooms and gymnasium, auditorium and maintenance rooms under observation all night long. The same procedures were used at the two other other schools. And classes for all three were cancelled for Wednesday, the 28th.
*
The list of possible suspects was actually not that long. Experience told the F.B.I. that all they had to do was cross index a list of the parents of students at the three schools against a list of bankruptcy and/or divorce filings, and a list of those who had applied for public assisted mental health care. Jodi Holmes named popped out like an ace of spades in a game of hearts. Her first and primary mistake was that she was nuts. She had a “long history” of mental health treatments, her family was in dire financial straits, and her children attended the Academy: three for three. A little over a month after she mailed the threats, Jodi was arrested. She would later tell the court that during her nine months awaiting trial she had apologized to the other parents who were inmates in the Penobscot County Jail. "I figured I’d get my frustration out and they (the students) would get a free day.” (In fact school officials plan to extend classes to make up the lost day.) Jodi told the judge, “I’ll be honest ...It made me feel more in control and powerful." A federal judge sentenced Jodi to 24 months with 3 years supervised probation and a $100 fine. The fine wasn’t larger because, honestly, there is not chance in hell she will ever be able to pay it.
*
Last November, Mr. Thanos Savvides, a 37 year old delivery man living on the divided island of Cyprus, met an old woman on the street, when she asked if she could share one of the cookies he was eating for lunch. Having a good heart, Thanos obliged. As they munched, they chatted, and Thanos unburdened himself. He was miserable. His wife had recently left him. Thanos was certain he could convince his wife to come home if he could just separate her from her mother, who, Thanos was convinced, was poisoning his wife’s mind against him. Shyly, the old woman, 69 year old Hayriye Rezvaoglu, suggested that she might be able to help. By using a few mystical spells she had learned as a young girl, Hayriye said she could predict if Thanos’s wife would ever return to his home. The old woman would require a dinner plate, a spoon, an egg, a pair of his underwear and a bottle of his urine…oh, and 500 Cyprus Pounds (US $1,200). Desperate and miserable, Thanos collected the required items and money and a few days later met Hayriye at her home. There she placed the underwear on the plate, placed the egg inside the underwear, cracked the egg with the spoon and then poured the urine on top. After waiting a few moments she squeezed the contents of the underwear onto the plate and ‘read’ the results.
*
It was not good news for Thanos. His mother-in-law was plotting to kill him with a magic potion. In 22 days, Hayriye told Thanos, he would die in his sleep, murdered by a spell cast by his mother-in-law. Needless to say, Thanos was frightened. But not to worry, added Hayriye, she could protect him. It would merely require the payment of another 5,000 Cyprus Pounds (US $12,000). And the mere mention of a sum that large snapped Thanos out of his trance. He reported Hayriye to the police and they arrested her. In early December of 2007 she pled not guilty to fraud and witchcraft. She was convicted and given a 20 day sentence and ordered to repay Thanos the 500 Pounds. And Hayriye’s first mistake was that she lived long enough that people stopped believing in magic.
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Sunday, March 30, 2008

APRIL FOOLS DAY, 2008

I don’t approve of practical jokes. I seen nothing humorous in having your shoes set afire while you are wearing them. And dribble glasses are not only not practical they are also not funny - especially on “April Fools Day”, when every glass is a dribble glass and every shoe is a potential combustion chamber. And it turns out that this celebration of sociopathic behavior was invented by the French, a nation without humorous inclinations since Moliere slipped on a banana peel in 1673. But the story of April Fool’s Day began long before that tragic event, when in 1564 King Charles IX decided to follow Pope Gregory’s suggestion and begin the New Year with January rather than April. Why the French originally celebrated New Years Day on April 1st, I have no idea.
Now, in the 16th century France had only one road. It came out of Paris, turned left, looped all the way around the city and re-entered on the other side of town. This tragic design error,(the World’s first traffic circle) made communication with the majority of the nation difficult (and introducing the phrase “Out-of-the-loop”) and when combined with the French phone system - which was in no better shape in the 16th century than it is today - meant that a lot of peasants never got the King’s memo concerning the calendar adjustment.So as they had every year thousands of these ill-informed peasants journeyed to Paris during the last week of March and on what they thought was New Year’s Eve, gathered in Bastille Square to say bonjour to 1565 and watch the guillotine drop. In unison they gleefully chanted, “Cing, quartre, trios, deux, un” and…No guillotine. No satisfying plop of a head into the basket. No champaign corks popping. No le Dick Clark. Instead of cheers and shouts of glee, mass ennui broke out amongst the masses. Now anyone who has experienced the Parisian version of “good manners” can imagine what came next; the locals mocked the bewildered peasants and made them feel like complete Americans,…ah,I mean,fools. But the way they did it makes the word “odd” seem inadequate.For reasons beyond understanding the Parisians snuck up behind their confused country cousins, surreptitiously stuck a paper fish to the bumpkin’s backs and then shouted in a loud voice, “Poisson d’Avril!”, which translates as “April Fish!”, and then collapsed in raucous laughter and shouts of “tres bien.”
Why would they shout “April Fish!”? Perhaps because the first Parisian to label his victim an April “fool” immediately received a mouth full of fist, while calling the victim an April “fish” confused him just long enough so that the prankster could escape. I have long thought that this uncharacteristic outbreak of French “humor” was actually inspired by Charles’ Italian Queen, Catherine de Medici, who was already famous throughout Europe for her gastronomical gags, such as her duck a la cyanide with a hemlock sauce. Only a Medici could see the humor in humiliating the people who handled your food.
But however it started the Parisians knew a good time when they saw it and they sent peasants on “fool’s errands”, and tricked peasants with “fool’s tales”, until every April 1st France reverberated with gales of laughter and shouts of “Poisson d’Avril!” Good times. But eventually the Parisian bullies grew bored with taunting the unresponsive peasants and in 1572 they shifted their attentions to the Huguenots. But by then the tradition of humiliating people for your own amusement on the first day of April had become popular. And like Disco music and Special Federal Prosecutors, once invented some institutions have proven impossible to stop.This holiday for the humor-impaired spread around the globe with the new calendar like a fungus, infecting and evolving a little in each afflicted nation. The Germans added the “Kick Me” sign, and a second day which they call “Taily Day”, to further enjoy the frivolity of bruised buttocks. Ahh, those Germans.
In Portugal today’s innocent victim is hit with flour, sometimes while it is still in the bag - the flour not the victim. In Scotland the target is humiliatingly referred to as an “April Gawk” (?!), in England as a “Noodle” and in Canada as an “American.” I would have expected mental health professionals to call for a stop to this public insanity but evidently they are too busy setting their patients’ shoes on fire.There is no defense for April Fool tomfoolery except a preemptive strike. So button up your top button, zip up your pants, tie your shoes and look out for that cat. And repeat after me; “Poison d’Avril, sucker!”Funny, huh?
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JUSTICE DELAYED

I would file this one under “Justice Delayed”. It is alleged that on Tuesday, March 6, 2007, 25 year old Moses M. Streete and two 19 year olds, Thomas Fashaw and Andrew Fuller, launched a crime spree across southern Maryland. Beginning about 2pm they used a handgun in an attempted robbery of the Castle Liquor store in Mount Airy. While fleeing that failure they fired a shot at one of the clerks. Shortly thereafter the trio was more successful at the 7-Eleven in Monrovia, and the Shell gas station in Mount Airy. But by this time police had been alerted, and a witness called 911 with their vehicle description, license number and direction of travel. A state police helicopter spotted their car and patrol cruisers gave chase westbound on Interstate 70, exiting on East Patrick Street, in Fredrick. But at the big bend in East Patrick the fleeing car hit the curb and overturned on the banks of Carroll Creek. All three suspects exited the vehicle, one of them even floundering into the creek, but all three were quickly captured. And all of this happened in broad daylight. But it was after the arrest that the real fireworks occurred.
*
Moses Streete’s afternoon of criminal activity produced, besides a freezing dip in Carroll Creek, 28 charges against him, ranging from felony armed robbery and assault, to attempted murder to resisting arrest. In October, after his four day trial, Assistant State’s Attorney Deborah Kemp must have felt fairly confident, what with the witnesses, the helicopter, the pursuit, the accident and the arrests on the scene. If so, she was badly mistaken. First, Moses could thank defense attorney Scott Rolle for his arguments pointing out the lack of physical evidence such as fingerprints tying Mr. Streete to the individual crimes, for the jury finding him not guilty on 15 counts. And then, even though the jury did find Moses guilty of the remaining 13 counts, it wasn’t because of any great work by the Maryland State Police, or Ms. Kemp. It was because somebody in the jury room actually bothered to look at the evidence…which they weren’t supposed to do.
*
Specifically, during deliberations the jurors examined the charcoal gray parka Moses was “alleged” to have worn during his afternoon’s delight, and in the parka’s pockets the nosey jurors discovered a bandage, a rubber glove, a bottle containing one pill and $1,317.00 in cash, presumably the proceeds from the 7-11 and/or the Shell station robbery. After the verdict one of the jurors told court officials about their discovery, and that is when the jury got their education as to the limitations on juries doing their own investigations. Juries are supposed to only examine evidence presented to them by the prosecution, and the prosecution never mentioned anything about anything in the parka’s pockets. In December of 2007 Circuit Judge Theresa Adams granted Moses a new trial on the 13 counts he had been convicted on. (“Double Jeopardy” prevents him from being retried on the 15 counts he was found not guilty on.) And Defense Lawyer Rolle says he plans to file a motion to exclude the contents of Mr. Streete’s parka pockets because of obvious questions about the “chain of custody” of that evidence. As for now Mr. Streete remains in custody due to previous guilty pleas on burglary and assault charges. The best that can be said in this case is that justice has been delayed.
*
But I am heartened by the justice finally obtained by Serena Kozakura, a Japanese “television presenter” and “pin-up bikini model”. In July of 2006 a Tokyo District Court convicted her of the destruction of personal property, i.e. the door of a hotel room. The court concluded that Serena had kicked a hole in the lower panel of the door and then squeezed through, convinced that her then boyfriend and a young lady were together on the other side. Serena was sentenced to 14 months in jail, but the court suspended the sentence for three years. At her appeal Serena’s lawyer had a choice. He could either have argued Pi r squared, and since the opening was 22 inches high by 8.6 inches wide, and since Serena’s artificially enhanced bust line is 39.7 inches “wide” she could not have fit through that hole (39.7” X 3.14 = 124.65” of required clearance). Instead he just held a serving plate the size of the hole up against his client’s chest. Tokyo High Court Judge Kunio Harada immediately grasped the logic of Serena’s cups. The guilty verdict was overturned. The quiet, well spoken hot momma with the massive mamilaries told the media frenzy that followed, “I used to hate my body so much. But it was my breasts that won in court.” Her breasts say they are now going to go on a personal appearance tour of law schools all across Asia. But do NOT attempt to visit any of the English language web sites linked with her name, as they offer you a download that locks up your computer if you reject it. And where is the justice in that?
*
Also in Japanese courts, it seems that 64 year old Harue Ichikawa has finally been handed her just deserts. The crazy old bat took offense when branches from her neighbor’s tree extended over her fence. But instead of offering to trim the branches, or asking her neighbor to cut them, or just having them cut and sending her neighbor the bill, this septuagenarian lunatic took to pausing in front of their house whenever she had reason to pass it, and shouting curses and insults. Eighteen documented times between March 31 and April 24, 2007, Ms. Ichikawa stopped outside her neighbor’s home and shouted things such as, “Shoo, shoo”, or “I’ll curse you to death!” or (my favorite) “Stop monitoring me”. Based on the documentation Ms. Ichikawa was charged with creating a public nuisance – i.e., herself. Her defense lawyer claims the whole thing was a misunderstanding, since she wasn’t shouting “Shoo, shoo”, but “Good, good!” But that is not the way the judge heard it. Ms. Ms. Ichikawa was sentenced to 10 months in jail, suspended for 3 years. And if there is any justice in this world, by the time the three years probation are up Ms. Ichikawa will be locked up safe and warm in a nursing home someplace.
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