Calling All Carnivores

Meat eaters everywhere were probably captivated by the story of Backstreet Bully, the well-known Canadian racehorse that was slaughtered in early January 2013 as meat for human consumption. As a competitive racehorse, his meat would be laced with potentially deadly performance-enhancing drugs. But for Health Canada, the agency charged with the responsibility of protecting humans from meat not fit for human consumption, Backstreet Bully was no different than many racehorses slaughtered every year then packaged for human food. The same can be said for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), operating under the Department of Justice for the Federal Government and responsible for the administration and enforcement of Canada’s agricultural products. No apologies or explanations from either organization. They sure know how to make us feel safe!

Ignore for the moment the abuses heaped upon these poor animals during their competitive lives. Ignore the fact that race folks fill these horses with nasty cancer-causing drugs such as nitrfurazone and bute in the interest of entertainment. Ignore that these horses become living pharmaceutical train wrecks, destined for painful, disease-ridden deaths. The real question for the moment is what drugs are the Health Canada and CFIA inspectors consuming? Apparently, it is not bad enough that they allow our horses to become drug junkies, but then they allow their dead carcasses to be packaged up for our dining pleasure! We owe a debt of gratitude to these inspectors for having our backs when it comes to food safety.

According to Health Canada’s website, they are the arm of the Federal government responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health. Really? This is a maintenance and improvement program we could do without. These horses are not suitable for human consumption. Health Canada’s mandate is to enforce legislation in place to prevent these occurrences by conducting investigations, inspections, seizures and prosecutions.  We know this because their website proclaims it to be so.  Unfortunately, their investigations and inspections are seldom, sporadic and obviously far from thorough. They are mostly negligent. And, as a result, Canadians and other nations that buy our meat products risk the health of their citizens assuming incorrectly that Health Canada and the CFIA are functioning properly and responsibly.

And, it’s a mistake to assume that the negligence of these government agencies is limited to drug laden horsemeat. Canada has an unenviable record of discovering other forms of tainted meat long after outbreaks of E coli contamination. In October 2012, for example, XL Foods of Alberta dumped hundreds of tonnes of frozen beef into a landfill in the Brooks Alberta but not until they were ordered to do so after a massive outbreak of E coli erupted in late August and early September of that year. The fall out from this catastrophe and others caused the Federal Government enough embarrassment that Government officials began to claim that they were prepared to pass legislation aimed at making the food system safer. So its more legislation they need! I would’ve thought it was more competent inspectors.

The promise of legislation should be completely unnecessary according to Harpreet Kochhar, executive director of the CFIA who boldly boasts that, “no meat enters the food supply unless we actually tested it and make sure that it is safe”.  Apparently tainted does enter the food supply—and in significant quantities.

Sadly, Kochhar presides over an inept organization that lacks the manpower or systems to protect anyone. In fact, it took this E. coli outbreak to “review its observations of deboning and cutting activities, specific E. coli controls, meat hygiene, sampling techniques and overall sanitation in the plant” according to CFIA spokesman Paul Mayers. It is not clear how any new legislation is going to improve this process.  One suspects this rhetoric is the type nonsense spewed by the government hoping to allay the fears of its citizens while carrying on as though it’s business as usual. In fact, XL Foods was back in business in a few weeks.

Canada does not have the only impoverished system of protection for the public. Last year at a public fair in Cleveland 38 people were infected with E. coli, including a 2-year-old boy who died and at least 7 more people suffered kidney failure. 3 of those suffering kidney failure have now been placed on dialysis permanently. This past February France’s agricultural minister confirmed that 3 horse carcasses tainted with a veterinary drug harmful to humans had entered France’s food chain. The 3 carcasses were among 6 sent to France from the UK that contained the drug phenylbutazone, also known as bute–used as a pain killer in horses, especially racehorses like Backstreet Bully.

France’s president François Hollande promised tighter controls and mandatory labeling so as to advise consumers of the origin of meat presented for sale.  Perhaps Canada could send France it’s new legislation when it’s drafted.  Based upon recent Canadian legislation it’ll probably have a high-sounding title, something like, “The Safe Foods Act.”  The new law will fit nicely alongside “The Safe Streets Act”  and “Stand Up for Victims of Crime” and other lofty sounding law titles that sound good and lack substance. Substance requires performance. Government talk is virtually always cheap.

Big companies are now confessing to having sold products containing the DNA of horsemeat although none should exist in their products. After Irish investigators found horse DNA in hamburger products sold to the public, that government launched a major investigation. The UK Food Standards Agency recently released results that found 6 new beef products that tested positive for horsemeat. A follow-up investigation by the same agency discovered another 29 beef products that contained horse DNA. Nestle, Sodexo and Birds Eye, all major worldwide food producers, have launched massive recalls of their products based on similar testings.  Apparently no one uses old horses to make glue anymore.

Where does all this leave the consumer? It should leave them wary of their government’s ability to ensure their safety from foods that are readily available for public consumption. While the problem exists across the entire food industry, nowhere is it more pronounced than in the beef industry. Oh, excuse me, perhaps we should now refer to it as the horse/pig/poultry/E coli industry. If Popeye’s sidekick Wimpy were still around, he would be borrowing money from Popeye for something other than a hamburger.


North Korea’s Leader Kim Jong Un Is Certifiably Insane

Kim Jong Un considers Dennis Rodman intelligent and entertaining. This could possibly be true if one defines those terms in relation to one another, as in, Rodman is entertaining based upon his distinct lack of intelligence. Un’s praise of Rodman as an intelligent statesman is more likely a sign of Un’s own mental illness. North Korea’s Supreme leader, annointed on December 30, 2011 after the death of his enigmatic and unstable father Kim Jong-il on December 17, 2011, lands squarely on at least 12 disorders in the DSM-IV Code of recognized diagnostic mental disorders.

Un this week ordered his missile units to be ready to strike the United States and South Korea. In fact, he apparently called an emergency meeting to advise his military commanders and the leaders of his artillery units to be on the highest alert. He is said to be contemplating retaliation against the joint military exercises of South Korea and the United States. This, any good shrink would tell you exhibits distinct elements of extreme grandiosity and a total break with reality. It may also be that he is also suffering from transference, juxtaposing in his mind his country’s military strength with that of the United States.

North Korea’s Scud missiles are of the same variety utilized by Iraq in its very brief and very unsuccessful encounter with the United States–once fired, no one, absolutely no one, not even those responsible for the firing of the Scud missile, has any clue where it might land. Scuds are the antithesis of today’s “smart bombs”. They instead epitomize the concept of “dumb bombs”. Scud is apparently short form for ‘pot luck.’

To give North Korea’s Supreme leader his due, he also has a few Musudan missiles. If his military commanders drive them to the very edge of North Korea’s borders they might actually have a range sufficient to place the West Coast of the United States at least within target range. But no one really knows, because they’ve never been tested at that range or any range. As of the date of Un’s ascension to power the world has had no indication that this missile system has ever been tested or is actually operational. In military terms it might be wise for North Korea to test these missiles in some fashion before they are launched in the direction of the world’s only superpower. History tells us nothing ticks off a superpower quite like launching a missile at it.

Once ready to launch, Musadan missiles must be launched within a few days or not at all because failure to do so will lead to tank corrosion caused by the red fuming nitric acid used as an oxidizer in its fuel/oxidizer combination.  Failure to launch a Musadan missile promptly could lead to North Korea blowing itself up. The likelihood of corrosion in the Musadan also means that these missiles must be transported by land and fueled at launch site. With today’s satellite surveillance, by the time the North Koreans get these missiles in place for launch, the United States could, and probably would, obliterate all of North Korea’s missile sites with actual smart bombs—you know the kind that land somewhere in the vicinity where those that launch them intend them to land.

In any event, Kim Jong Un would never initiate a 1st strike missile launch against the United States  for several reasons. First, he knows his friend Dennis Rodman lives in the United States.  Launching a nuclear missile at the home of your friend is definitely a recognized mental disorder in the DSM-IV Code.  Remember that Un is trying hard to avoid an official certification of insanity. Secondly, Kim Jong Un knows that the United States is home to the Harlem Globetrotters.  In fact, Un believes, and should not be dissuaded from this erroneous thought, that the Harlem Globetrotters are a real professional basketball team.  Lastly Un, despite his mental state, suspects that a 1st launch by North Korea would likely lead to his own untimely death. Kim Jong Un probably suspects that he is more likely to play in the NBA than to have any meaningful impact on United States as the world’s only superpower.  If he doesn’t, Kim Jong Un is definitely certifiably insane and the world is about to witness some more Shock and Awe.

Prosecutor’s Swashbuckling Bravado May Have Caused HIs Death and Death of His Wife

The words of Mike McLelland, the District Attorney of Kaufman County Texas, as he stood before the cameras promising to find the murderer(s) of his colleague, Assistant Dist. Atty. Mark Hasse and that he would, “pull you out of whatever hole you’re in” to bring the full weight of our law to bear on you were probably soothing to the residents of Kaufman County. Their District Attorney was not going to let the senseless murder of his friend and colleague Hasse go unpunished–and impliedly McLelland would personally see to it that the punishment was severe, commensurate with the dastardly deed that took his friend’s life. As District Attorney McLelland might be in a position to do exactly as he promised. District attorneys are given considerable power to affect the outcome of trials and the sentences that follow conviction.

Mr. McLelland’s words, however, were sadly reminiscent of another law official’s swashbuckling bravado several years ago in Fort Myers Florida. There, a sheriff’s deputy promised to bring some drug dealers to justice. He would hunt them down. They would not be allowed to roam in his district or place the citizens of his area in jeopardy because of their criminal ways. I remember thinking as I watched the not very subtle threats of this sheriff’s deputy that he was either wittingly or unwittingly making himself the target of the very people he threatened to hunt down. That same evening the police station in Fort Myers Beach was burned. Officials estimated millions of dollars of damage. It struck me that law-enforcement officials, although imbued with significant power, are ill-advised to speak of that power in public as though it were a personal device that can be ratcheted up when they are personally affected by crime. They are, after all, public officials, only entrusted with these significant powers because the public sees fit to entrust them.

This is not to say that Mr. McLelland brought about his own death and the death of his wife. It is only to say that he was an experienced prosecutor. And, as such, McLelland would know that the business of prosecuting crime is not personal. He represents the people of the entire District.The District belongs to the people, not him.

Any eventual prosecution would not be about McLelland’s  personal feelings for his colleague Mark Hasse. Instead, the prosecution would be about a fair representation of the evidence gathered by investigators without regard to his personal relationship with the victim.

Otherwise, Mr. McLelland’s public duty would be to turn the case over to another prosecutor, one less involved and less impassioned by the identity of the victim. Only then does the system operate fairly. Professionally Mr. McLelland would have to exercise a duty of fairness toward the accused, presenting evidence both favorable and unfavorable to the accused as long as McLelland concluded that the evidence was true.

The criminal justice system is not supposed to be about vengeance. Members of the bar, both prosecutors and defense lawyers, are taught that they have a duty to the court. Their duty requires fairness and balance. It requires that they never knowingly mislead the court in any fashion, either factually or in law.

The criminal justice system is therefore never meant to be personal. It is to be just the opposite, fair and impartial. When lawyers find selves in positions where their personal feelings prevent calm reflective independence, they are well advised to disengage themselves from the proceedings. They are unable to fulfill their duties professionally.

There is a well known saying in law. It is: “Justice must not only be done, but be seen to be done.” This phrase encompasses the idea that even the appearance of injustice is not to be tolerated. A prosecutor who threatens to make persons pay heavily for their crime, even before the accused are apprehended and charged might be seen by the court as presenting the appearance of injustice in the role of prosecutor at a later trial.

Unfortunately Mr. McLelland may have paid for his lack of professional distance with his life. But the circumstances of this case will hopefully remind all lawyers functioning in the criminal justice system that they have a duty of dispassionate professionalism.  Nothing less will suffice.

Melky Cabrera and the Toronto Blue Jays

Team chemistry is key to team success. It requires assembling a group of talented players of substance and character. Obviously Cabrera is talented but he lacks substance and character. Melky Cabrera, unfortunately for the Jays, is unlikely to assist in delivering the World Series to Toronto. But on November 19, 2012 Toronto signed Cabrera to a two-year $16 million contract for precisely that reason.

That is a lot of money for any player, but particularly for Cabrera, a Bible toting mama’s boy, more likely to implode from within rather than explode with timely hits when he will be most needed. Melky’s given name derives from Melchior, one of the 3 Magi or wise men from the East who allegedly delivered gold, frankincense and myrrh at the birth of Jesus. Cabrera says he keeps a Bible in his locker and reads from it before every game. Perhaps his biblical heroes are Cain or Judas. His heavily tatooed arms suggest, however, he sees himself more aligned with Jesus and his own mother. Neither are likely proud of Melky lately.

Melky no doubt glossed over those portions of the Bible that warn against deception (Proverbs-24-28) and bearing false witness (Mark 10-19). He signed with the Jays this off-season following a tumultuous 2012 season with San Francisco. He was the All-Star game’s MVP. He was batting .346 when he was suspended by the MLB for violating its drug policy.  His suspension turned out to be a total of 50 games. His supporters credited him for his prompt and honest admission of using a banned steroid that dramatically increases the hormone testosterone. Cabrera was anything but honest. Melky’s form of “honesty” was brought about by the exposure of his deceptive cover-up scheme. It was just more dishonesty.

Melky, with the aid of a friend, created a fake website. He then claimed that his positive test was caused by an unknown substance that he purchased through that website. MLB investigators, mindful of the stain on baseball’s reputation by the likes of Barry Bonds,[1] decided to investigate further. The investigators traced the website back to Cabrera. Busted. All the kudos given to him for his alleged prompt admissions of guilt were as phony as him. His admissions were fueled by the fact that he was caught red-handed in an elaborate scheme of deceit.

The Blue Jays No Better

What does one make of the Blue Jays organization signing Cabrera to a two-year contract for $16 million in these circumstances? Obviously, the concept of winning for that organization trumps sending a message of rewarding honesty and shunning dishonesty. Cabrera’s contrived news conference at the behest of the Jay’s organization was difficult to stomach.

Cabrera first announced that this was the only time he would ever make reference to his troubled 2012 season. Then, he dealt with none of the specifics of his tawdry effort to cover his cheating. He read haltingly from a prepared statement, undoubtedly contrived by his lawyers. What he said, of course, lacked any sense of sincerity, as most prepared legalistic documents sound upon delivery.

This press conference was so devoid of any recognition of wrongdoing it was tantamount to a less sophisticated whitewash than his earlier use of a fake website to hide his guilt. He referred to his “difficulty” as “a mistake”. Singular! He has now received a World Series ring “for his efforts on behalf of the team before his scandle.”

The question is: should the San Francisco Giants even be World Series winners since their season had the benefits of his efforts before his cheating was discovered? The use of performance-enhancing drugs did not occur when he was caught. It occurred all year long when he gave himself a chemical advantage over all his competitors. The San Francisco Giants benefitted from his cheating.Their self-imposed penalty was to not use him in the playoffs. Big deal!

So what does the Blue Jay organization stand for? They took advantage of Cabrera’s availability on the market because of his cheating. What message does the organization send out by snapping up the cheater? In the realm of integrity, honesty and fair play, their organization stands for not much at all. Their message could best be described as: Cheat but don’t get caught. If caught, there will always be some organization like ours more desperate to win than conerned about principles of fair play. So, go out there and read from a prepared text that admits nothing, then promise to never speak about it again.

My prediction: The Blue Jays and Melky will fall flat on their two-sided faces. They will not challenge for the World Series. In their tough Division they will be dead last. They will be lucky to play 500 ball. This will be the Toronto version of ‘cheaters never prosper’. Nor should they.


[1] MLB’s current all-time home run leader, and probably its all-time greatest steroid user, who had just recently escaped with only a conviction for obstruction of justice while avoiding a conviction for perjury in relation to his testimony for his use of steroids during his career. MLB obviously believes he lied under oath because it continues to deny him entry in the Hall of Fame.

Pope Benedict’s Resignation

Pope Benedict XVI has announced that he will resign the papacy February 28, 2013. His resignation is the first papal resignation in approximately 600 years. His announcement was delivered entirely in Latin. Using a dead language to deliver his message was symbolic–since his excuse for resigning made no sense–why not deliver the message in a language no one understands?

First it’s important to note that while he is resigning as Pope, he apparently has no plans to leave the Vatican. Benedict’s plans to live in a convent in the Vatican post-resignation can only be for one reason: an attempt to gain personal immunity from criminal prosecution or civil suit. In 2010 Benedict was named as a defendant in a lawsuit relating to events in 1995 when he was a Cardinal.

The lawsuit alleged that Benedict was fully aware of sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy against children at a school in the United States catering to deaf children. The lawsuit alleged that he played a part in a cover-up of the abuse. Lawyers for the Pope argued that Benedict’s position in the Vatican shielded him from claims for damages based upon the actions of abusive priests. The legal issue was never fully argued or settled. But Benedict was dropped as a defendant in the lawsuit. His anxiety from that legal episode may still linger in his mind.

Pope Benedict claims that the reason for his resignation is that he is old and tired. How that sets him apart from any other Pope over the last 600 years is not certain. He claims that the state of his health prevents him from carrying out his duties. His predecessor Pope John Paul II lasted 25 years as Pope; survived 2 assassination attempts, one of which resulted in severe physical injury, 4 or 5 different types of cancer and still continued his term, suffering from Parkinson’s disease until the date of his death. At times John Paul II could hardly sit up. He would slump sideways in his chair and struggle to speak in audible tones but he didn’t resign because of health conditions.

Benedict looks and acts positively spry by comparison. All of which leads one to question the real reason(s) behind his resignation. Is he physically unable to perform his papal duties? Or, would he just prefer not to? And, does his plan to continue to reside in the Vatican signal a real concern that victim rights advocates around the world who are openly calling for his prosecution are perceived by him as a real threat?

The question of whether or not the Vatican compound actually provides him with immunity from prosecution has never been tried. In legal terms, Papal Privilege has never been recognized as a privilege barring prosecution. A geographical location, even one as prestigious as the Vatican, has never cloaked anyone in protection from prosecution or civil suit. So why stay there? Certainly not for the measly €2500 per month he allegedly will receive if he remains confined in the Vatican?

If it’s a plan, it’s a half-baked plan! While the thought of an ex-pope sitting in a courtroom as an accused criminal or as a defendant in a civil action for sexual abuse is unsettling, in this highly litigious world it is certainly possible. And, apparently at least one Vatican official, anonymously of course, told Reuters that Benedict’s decision to live inside the Vatican is for that very reason–to protect him from legal action. Perhaps Benedict fears these anonymous Vatican spokespersons who always seem to have a newsworthy quote calculated to embarrass the Pontif. One thing is certain. Pope Benedict’s decision to resign after only 7 years is historic.

It is the first papal resignation in almost 600 years. The last Pope to resign was Gregory XII. Like Benedict, Pope Gregory was only 10 years into his tenure. His resignation, however, apparently had a noble aspect to it. There were 3 vying factions of the Catholic Church and each faction had selected a separate candidate as a possible successor. Gregory’s resignation was accompanied by a plea that the various factions select one successor they could all support. If Benedict’s resignation is more about self-preservation than a true concern for his ability to carry out his duties, it is the pure antithesis of a noble act.

Let the political infighting begin. The electoral body known as the Sacred College of Cardinals will meet in enclave in the Sistine Chapel. There they will argue and fight and vote. These Cardinals are not known as a genteel group.  Political advantage in the Church goes to those who successfully select a successor favorable to them.

In this age of the bulletproof Pope-Mobile it is easy to forget there are many ancient rituals involved in selecting a new Pope. Many of the rituals date back to the Middle Ages. The ballots are secret. The world waits for white smoke from the chimney signaling a new successor. When Benedict was appointed, the smoke was gray. No one knew what to make of it. Was it really black with just shades of gray? Or was it actually white with shades of black? Let’s face it, Benedict started his reign with confusion, why not end it the same way?

Canadian Senator Pamela Wallin

Canadian Senator Pamela Wallin defends her exorbitant travel expenses by claiming that she is simply unable to do her job sitting at a desk in Ottawa. The truth is she could do her job sitting anywhere. Her job, of course, is to rubberstamp any legislation supported by the person who anointed her to the do-nothing job of being a Canadian senator. That would be Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The Canadian Conservative government after railing on for years about the need for Senate reform when they were in opposition has taken a distinctly different path since their election in 2006. Pamela is one of 64 Conservative party appointments to the 105-member Senate Chamber. Simple math tells you all you need to know. The members of this do-nothing governmental body routinely vote along party lines ensuring that neither their physical presence nor their thinking process is ever actually needed. The only reform needed for this feckless, inept and pointless appendage of government is to allow votes to be mailed in. That way, she and others of her ilk could wistfully spend her remaining years spending time where they want to spend time. That apparently is not the floor of the Senate.

Pamela, for example, has been hanging out regularly in Wadena Saskatchewan where her parents and sister live and where she maintains two residences and owns a seasonal ice cream store. Allowing her to merely mail in her entirely predictable vote on each and every question that makes its way to the Red Chamber would actually save the taxpayers of this country hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel expense and the cost of a separate residence in the Ottawa area. In the last 2 years alone she allegedly spent over $350,000 in travel costs to and from Ottawa and Saskatchewan. Her excuse: she travels home to represent her constituents, all 1500 of them, in Wadena Saskatchewan. Not likely! Only $28,000 was spent there. The remaining $322,000 went elsewhere–hence the audit on her travel accounts.

One wonders what input, if any, the 1500 residents in Wadena had in any of Pamela’s votes over the last 2 years! Let’s hope they unanimously supported every Conservative legislative initiative. Pamela certainly did. If so, they were extremely well represented!  Pamela apparently knows who butters her bread. And based on Pamela’s unfailing loyalty to the cause, Wadena must be considered a staunch Conservative enclave. It seems that she should not have to leave Wadena to deliver such a predictable vote. Think of the savings!

Pamela’s claim of traveling to serve her constituents will eventually unravel to reveal a more disingenuous, deceptive and artful camouflage of her use of taxpayer money. Wherever and however the money was spent, spending almost 6 times the nation’s average income on travel in 2 years demands some straightforward answers. The pork-barrel society that is Canada’s Senate is not in need of reform. Instead, it is in need of abolition. The Senate serves no worthwhile function. Elected members of the federal government should find other ways to pay off their political buddies, preferably from their own pockets and not from the pockets of hard-working Canadians. Pamela Wallin’s squandering of public money serves to highlight the need for abolition.

Al Gore: Hypocrite

I do not know if Al Gore’s claims that the world’s climate is in crisis are true. I also do not know if the world’s coal, oil and gas companies have conspired to develop misleading propaganda that carbon polluters have in hand the answers to any negative effects of carbon emissions.

I do know now, however, that the world’s best-known advocate for the proposition that the world climate is, in fact, in crisis, and, that the major culprits are the coal, oil and gas companies of the world–is a phony. Former Vice President of the United States of America, Al Gore, Nobel laureate and self-proclaimed representative of the movement for climate change, has demonstrated himself to be Judas Iscariot and Benedict Arnold all wrapped into one.

Why? He deftly turned his climate crusade of the last half decade into a prophecy of profit. This globe-trotting alarmist has made a science of finger-pointing at Big Oil. All the more reason for the utter shock inflicted on tree huggers everywhere at the news that he recently sold his digital channel television station, Current TV, to al Jazeera for a cool $500 million. Al Jazeera, a propaganda oozing, multi-language television production owned by the state of Qatar through the Qatar Media Corporation, takes over a television network that ironically was founded by Al Gore to give voice to those who stand up against Big Oil. Al Jazeera is synonymous with Big Oil.

Al–you are a sellout! What platitudinous BS to call out President Obama for his failure to take the climate crisis seriously! The same can be said for your biting criticism of Congress when you said, “… polluters and their ideological allies tell the members of Congress to jump, and they say, ‘how high?’ Al Jazeera, in addition to being the voice of Big Oil, is also a favorite sounding board for militant groups such as Hamas, Al Qaeda and the Taliban. But apparently when Al Jazeera asked you to jump you did. How high?  Your Inconvenient Truth is that you jumped $500 million high.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Should Be In An American Hospital

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez could be forgiven if on New Year’s Eve he is lamenting his previous allegations against the American government supporting a failed coup attempt against his government in 2002 and his subsequent breaking of diplomatic relations with the US in September 2008.  Why?  Because tonight is at a hospital in Havana Cuba fighting for his life with what Venezuelan government officials describe as “his bout with cancer taking a turn for the worse”. Contrary to filmmaker Michael Moore’s claims that Cuban hospitals deliver far better health care for much less money than those in America, the truth is that they do not.  Even with the favored treatment that Chavez will receive in Cuba as a foreign leader who has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the coffers of that country, their health professionals and their medical equipment are no match for what would be available in the United States, or in Canada for that matter.

Cuba is fond of publishing statistics about its health care system that present a rosy picture.  But there is no independent method permitting verification of any of their claims, and, of course, public criticism of the government is a crime in Cuba. Recent exposés on American television by 20/20 and Fox News demonstrate that the intrusion of Cuban politics into medical treatment and health care decision-making has had a serious and detrimental effect on healthcare there.

Chavez for months did not acknowledge the exact nature of his illness, other than to say that he has cancer of an unknown type and unknown location.  Before his latest trip to Cuba for treatment, however, he did acknowledge that his condition has deteriorated.  Indeed, he suggested a successor to his position in the event of his demise. Sunday, December 30, 2012 Vice President Nicolas Maduro said from Havana that Chavez now faces “new complications” due to a respiratory infection that has arisen since his last operation. This operation was his 4th in Cuba. He also described Chavez’s condition as “delicate.”  Many New Year’s Eve celebrations are reportedly being canceled based on the increasingly bleak outlook for his survival.  Instead of celebrating they are being asked by government officials to pray for Chavez.

Praise is due President Obama for his efforts to re-open diplomatic relations with Venezuela following the long, harsh rhetoric between former President George W. Bush and Chavez. President Obama began his efforts in the summer of 2009 and his efforts have continued to the present date.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton advanced the US efforts by having Roberta Jacobson, a top US State Department official in charge of Latin-American affairs, begin dialogue with Vice President Maduro. It seems that those discussions have been largely successful. Now, whether or not Chavez succeeds in his battle with cancer, diplomatic relations between the two countries will likely continue. It is a pity, however, that Chavez is apparently still not comfortable seeking out and receiving the best healthcare in the world–available exclusively in the United States of America.


Subway Murders

Two murders in New York city do not an epidemic make.  The brazen nature of these 2 killings that left victims helplessly anticipating a terrifying, painful death, and, the sheer stark horror of each victim’s final moments, will remain hauntingly with all of us, whether we utilize subways or not. For regular users of the subway, however, the thought of such an occurrence is likely their worst nightmare.

In the 1st of the 2, Naeem Davis, 30, pushed 58-year-old Ki-Suck Han, a resident of Queens, in front of an oncoming subway train.  Davis now stands charged with second-degree murder.  In the 2nd killing, Erika Menendez pushed Sunado Sen, a complete stranger, in front of an oncoming 11-car train. Both victims were killed instantly. Both, prior to their death, made futile efforts to escape the deep subway well while others looked on helplessly and motionless.  On the list of preferred ways to die, this would rank lowest on my list. On the list of uncivilized behavior, the actions of the perpetrators would rank highest.

Predictably, each perpetrator advanced an explanation for their cowardly behavior. Erika Menendez is alleged to have said, “I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers.” Naeem Davis, working on his own version of self-defense, apparently proclaimed that his victim “attacked me first.” The first explanation will no doubt lead to a claim of insanity based on the horrors of 9/11, apparently  impacting more deeply and personally on this woman than millions of others, including those who actually lost loved ones in the 9/11 attack.  The second explanation, equally untenable and unsupportable, will nevertheless be played out in court by some energetic defense lawyer, despite its chance of success hovering somewhere between slim and nil.

The fate of the perpetrators, while important to their families, will have little or no impact on any of us. Two years from now it will be page 23 news in the New York Times. What should, however, have an impact on us is the cavalier attitude of governmental authorities accepting that nothing can be done to prevent such tragedies in the future. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for example, suggested that there is “nothing anyone can do to prevent mentally ill people from pushing innocent victims in front of subway trains.”  Firstly, there is definitely no evidence that either of these perpetrators was or is mentally ill.  Indeed, our law assumes they are not mentally ill and it is they who must establish mental illness based upon evidence acceptable to a jury. They each attempted to escape, a sure sign that they each believed their acts to be morally wrong and contrary to law.

Secondly, and more importantly, lots can be done to prevent intentional killings, accidental falls and just plain mistakes that can lead to these types of horrifying deaths. Inexpensive fences could be erected with gates that open to allow all subway customers to enter only after the subway has arrived and is stationary.  Electronic sensors could be installed at all subway ramps that would automatically cut power or produce warning signals to oncoming trains.  And, of course, as with most allegedly unsolvable problems that are, in fact, solvable, additional subway personnel could be utilized to protect and supervise waiting patrons of the subway.

Mayor Bloomberg is no doubt correct when he suggests that there are many people, particularly in a city the size of New York, who are mentally ill.  All the more reason that active steps must be taken to prevent further deaths. The legal principle that we have a duty to our neighbors to protect them even from their own misfeasance encompasses the idea of forward, preventative planning.  You plan to protect persons from being victimized by any manner of bad conduct, whether fueled by insanity or not.

Frank Calabrese Sr. (a.k.a. Frankie Breeze) is Dead

The Chicago mobster and hit man who allegedly strangled his victims and then slashed their throats

35 years as a criminal defense attorney causes one to have a special interest in crime and those that commit crime.  For many years now I have followed the exploits of Frankie Breeze, the Chicago mobster and hit man, who allegedly strangled his victims and then slashed their throats.  He died on Christmas Day 2012 in a federal prison in North Carolina. While authorities are not releasing the cause of death, during his own testimony in September 2007 at the Family Secrets trial he portrayed himself as a man dying with a “sloppy” enlarged heart.  He definitely did not die of a broken heart.

While Federal authorities have often struggled to obtain evidence that leads to convictions against real mobsters, in the end, Frankie Breeze was handed to them on a silver platter. Omerta, the code of honor among mobsters that guarantees silence and a lack of cooperation with the authorities, is seldom broken.  If broken, the code calls for death to the person who breaks it.  In this case, the code was not just broken; it was shattered in a most unusual way. The key witnesses against Franie Breeze were his 2 sons, Frankie Jr. and Kurt, and his brother Nick (a.k.a. Nickie Breeze). Nickie Breeze was arguably just as dangerous as Frankie, but sensing his own demise based on the disclosures of his nephews, he cut a deal to turn state’s evidence against Frankie to save himself.

Frankie Breeze actually faced 2 criminal trials: the 1st in March 1997 and the 2nd in June 2007.  The 1st was an uneventful affair in the sense that Frankie Breeze and his 2 sons pleaded guilty to racketeering charges related to events from 1978 to 1992.  What was eventful is that while in prison his son Frankie Jr. wrote to Federal authorities offering to assist them in gathering evidence against his father.  Oddly and surprisingly, according to Federal authorities, he asked for nothing in return.  They accepted his offer and he was wired.  Frankie Jr. provided the Federal authorities with the most persuasive evidence available—audiotapes of Frankie Breeze bragging of all the murders he had committed and how he committed them.

Frankie Breeze did not, however, go down without a fight.  Despite what any objective observer would describe as overwhelming inculpatory evidence–his own voice proclaiming his guilt–he took the stand and in less than articulate fashion proclaimed, “Them is all lies”.  In a strange twist of fate, his own words figuratively strangled him and slit his throat.  The jury perhaps believed some of what he said, however, because they only convicted him of 7 of the 18 counts of murder in the indictment.  Perhaps instead their leniency in registering convictions related more to the fact that Frankie Breeze was said to have threatened the prosecutor, Markus Funk, that he was a “fucking dead man” in a way that was clearly audible to them.  They may have felt that some leniency in their decision-making was in order! Efforts by Frankie Breeze to have his convictions overturned after one of the jurors disclosed that that he had heard this threat were denied.

Here are some of the more interesting facts (or should I say allegations?) revealed during the 2007 trial:

  1. Nickie Breeze testified that his brother Frankie was the capo of the Chicago Outfit, a group of mobsters operating on the south side of Chicago that used all manner of intimidation, including extortion and murder, to collect their loan sharking debts. Frankie Breeze reported only to Angelo LaPietra (a.k.a. “The Hook”) the ultimate boss and founder of the Italian American Club;
  2. His son Kurt testified that Frankie Breeze had buried his proceeds of crime at various unknown locations around Chicago. He claimed that his father had stashed “millions” that would likely never be found. Frankie Jr. agreed testifying, “Yeah, he loved to stash cash” and, “he’d put it in 2 places in the same place so that if you found the one you were so happy you didn’t look for the other one.  And he made the one easier to find with less cash in it”;
  3. His son, Frankie Jr. described his father as “deadly” whose method of murder was strangulation but finished with his signature move, a slit throat;
  4. January 28, 2009 Judge Zagel sentenced Frankie Breeze, then 71, to life in prison describing his criminal acts as, “unspeakable”.  Despite the jury’s findings that Frankie Breeze was guilty on only 7 of the 18 alleged murders, the judge sentenced him on 13 murders.


Frankie Breeze was not treated as a ‘criminal celebrity’ in prison.  His lawyer, Joe Lopez, filed a court application in 2008 to seek improvements in his state of solitary confinement in Federal prison.  He was, according to his lawyer, treated as though he was a terrorist and subject to “Special Administrative Measures” ( SAM’s).  His lawyer claimed those measures were completely inappropriate and should be reserved only for actual terrorists. He ought not to be treated as Hannibal Lecter, the lawyer claimed, referring to the fictional psychopath in the movie Silence of the Lambs. His quarters in the prison were likened to, “an old mop room” more suitable for “a storage room”.

Frankie Breeze died in a way that TS Eliot would describe, “Not with a bang but a whimper”.