Friday, May 12, 2017

Flight 19 a mystery? Not so much...

The discussion of this particular missing flight actually piqued my curiosity enough to do just a tad bit of research, and once one wades through all the "woo" and can get down to some basic information, the only thing mysterious about the disappearance of Flight 19 is that it happened in an area known as the Bermuda Triangle.

First and foremost on the list one must investigate the flight commander;  Lieutenant Charles Taylor,  the flight commander on this training flight, and as ranking officer he would have had the final say in any navigational course changes.  By all reports Taylor was unorganized, very poor at navigation and had already "ditched" two airplanes due to being lost.  Given Taylor's history, it is a wonder why he was assigned a supervisory role on this mission, but overall it must have been his flying hours compared to the other pilot's hours in planes of this type.  It is even reputed that Taylor arrived late for this training evolution.

The aircraft themselves were Grumman TBM1C  Avengers.  Not quite an advanced aircraft by today's standards, but very serviceable in the day and time it flew.  Flight 19's Avengers had no clocks, which raises a red flag to me, due to the type of mission which they were flying...a mission that was meant to teach "dead reckoning" in which one of the most important factors is calculating time. Dead Reckoning (per wikipedia)" is the process of calculating one's current position by using a previously determined position, or fix, and advancing that position based upon known or estimated speeds over elapsed time and course."  Also from the same Wiki:  "Dead reckoning is subject to cumulative errors."  Meaning that if time is measured in a haphazard way, or variations in speed or heading are not accounted correctly, one's plotted course and one's actual position may have nothing in common.

Why is this important?  It's important due to communication that another flight received from Taylor stating that "he was sure he was in the Keys" and was attempting to find Ft. Lauderdale.  Even one of the members of Flight 19 was heard on the radio to say "Dammit, if we could just fly west we would get home; head west, dammit."  
This leads me to believe that even Taylor's subordinates did not trust his judgement, but in keeping with decorum and chain of command, they followed orders.

Even after the location of Flight 19 was triangulated and broadcast to Taylor, he refused to believe the land based radio operators and did not adjust his course as requested by them.

To me, the only mystery is where the 5 Avengers ditched, and where they are to this day.  Yes, the weather rolled in during the last hour or so of their flight, and obscured attempts to locate the wreckage, and rescue the pilots.  Had there been no weather, it's possible that all of the crews would have been found.  

While there is some room for conjecture and speculation in the matter of Flight 19, I don't think there is enough room to label it a "mystery" or to include it in the lore of the "Bermuda Triangle."  I think we have a case of a flight commander who was disorganized, a poor navigator and who refused to listen to subordinate officers who may have understood navigation principles much better than he did.  Call it pride or bravado or genuine panic, but I blame Taylor for the loss of those planes and the loss of those men.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

In this latest election we have seen fact free politics from both sides. We have seen the worst of both candidates. But what I find the most appalling is that we have seen the worst sides of the very people that are supporting one candidate over another.

This divide cannot continue. There has to be a way to unite the people to a common cause. To forge ahead in ways that allow the USA to once again push to the forefront of the world in terms of democacy, in terms of health and welfare of it's citizenry, and in terms of real peace both within and without our borders.

There comes a point in time in which two warring factions must put aside their swords and rather than face each other in combat, walk side by side and truly understand each other. It seems impossible now, but making the impossible a reality has always been something Americans have done.

This country has enough wealth in it's citizens, enough food in it's cupboard and enough water in it's jar for everyone to exist peacefully. It's time we cast away our swords and get to work. Pushing forward in such a way that we don't just benefit the ruling class, but we benefit ourselves. Pushing forward in a way that we don't alienate ourselves from the world at large, nor the smallest village within our borders.

We need to stop our foreign policy of threatening anyone that disagrees with us. We need to put away our ideals that every country should be like us. We need to find a healthy middle ground where our healthcare is affordable, our borders are more secure, and our minorities feel a measure of safety. And we need to do this while still allowing our working class a measure of income security.

Sorry for this ramble. But I am sick of the vitriol of right vs left vs everyone else. I may not agree with everyone about how things are to be done, but I will agree that things must be done.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Police are Still Out of Control

Written by Frank Serpico

n the opening scene of the 1973 movie “Serpico,” I am shot in the face—or to be more accurate, the character of Frank Serpico, played by Al Pacino, is shot in the face. Even today it’s very difficult for me to watch those scenes, which depict in a very realistic and terrifying way what actually happened to me on Feb. 3, 1971. I had recently been transferred to the Narcotics division of the New York City Police Department, and we were moving in on a drug dealer on the fourth floor of a walk-up tenement in a Hispanic section of Brooklyn. The police officer backing me up instructed me (since I spoke Spanish) to just get the apartment door open “and leave the rest to us.”
One officer was standing to my left on the landing no more than eight feet away, with his gun drawn; the other officer was to my right rear on the stairwell, also with his gun drawn. When the door opened, I pushed my way in and snapped the chain. The suspect slammed the door closed on me, wedging in my head and right shoulder and arm. I couldn’t move, but I aimed my snub-nose Smith & Wesson revolver at the perp (the movie version unfortunately goes a little Hollywood here, and has Pacino struggling and failing to raise a much-larger 9-millimeter automatic). From behind me no help came. At that moment my anger got the better of me. I made the almost fatal mistake of taking my eye off the perp and screaming to the officer on my left: “What the hell you waiting for? Give me a hand!” I turned back to face a gun blast in my face. I had cocked my weapon and fired back at him almost in the same instant, probably as reflex action, striking him. (He was later captured.)
When I regained consciousness, I was on my back in a pool of blood trying to assess the damage from the gunshot wound in my cheek. Was this a case of small entry, big exit, as often happens with bullets? Was the back of my head missing? I heard a voice saying, “Don’ worry, you be all right, you be all right,” and when I opened my eyes I saw an old Hispanic man looking down at me like Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan. My “backup” was nowhere in sight. They hadn’t even called for assistance—I never heard the famed “Code 1013,” meaning “Officer Down.” They didn’t call an ambulance either, I later learned; the old man did. One patrol car responded to investigate, and realizing I was a narcotics officer rushed me to a nearby hospital (one of the officers who drove me that night said, “If I knew it was him, I would have left him there to bleed to death,” I learned later).
The next time I saw my “back-up” officers was when one of them came to the hospital to bring me my watch. I said, “What the hell am I going to do with a watch? What I needed was a back-up. Where were you?” He said, “Fuck you,” and left. Both my “back-ups” were later awarded medals for saving my life.
I still don’t know exactly what happened on that day. There was never any real investigation. But years later, Patrick Murphy, who was police commissioner at the time, was giving a speech at one of my alma maters, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and I confronted him. I said, “My name is Frank Serpico, and I’ve been carrying a bullet in my head for over 35 years, and you, Mr. Murphy, are the man I hold responsible. You were the man who was brought as commissioner to take up the cause that I began — rooting out corruption. You could have protected me; instead you put me in harm’s way. What have you got to say?” He hung his head, and had no answer.
Even now, I do not know for certain why I was left trapped in that door by my fellow police officers. But the Narcotics division was rotten to the core, with many guys taking money from the very drug dealers they were supposed to bust. I had refused to take bribes and had testified against my fellow officers. Police make up a peculiar subculture in society. More often than not they have their own moral code of behavior, an “us against them” attitude, enforced by a Blue Wall of Silence. It’s their version of the Mafia’s omerta. Speak out, and you’re no longer “one of us.” You’re one of “them.” And as James Fyfe,  a nationally recognized expert on the use of force, wrote in his 1993 book about this issue, Above The Law, officers who break the code sometimes won’t be helped in emergency situations, as I wasn’t.

On the left, Al Pacino plays Serpico in the 1973 movie. On the right, Frank Serpico leaves the Bronx County Courthouse after testifying on police corruption in 1973. | Getty Images
Forty-odd years on, my story probably seems like ancient history to most people, layered over with Hollywood legend. For me it’s not, since at the age of 78 I’m still deaf in one ear and I walk with a limp and I carry fragments of the bullet near my brain. I am also, all these years later, still persona non grata in the NYPD. Never mind that, thanks to Sidney Lumet’s direction and Al Pacino’s brilliant acting, “Serpico” ranks No. 40 on the American Film Institute’s list of all-time movie heroes, or that as I travel around the country and the world, police officers often tell me they were inspired to join the force after seeing the movie at an early age.
In the NYPD that means little next to my 40-year-old heresy, as they see it. I still get hate mail from active and retired police officers. A couple of years ago after the death of David Durk — the police officer who was one of my few allies inside the department in my efforts to expose graft —  the Internet message board “NYPD Rant” featured some choice messages directed at me. “Join your mentor, Rat scum!” said one. An ex-con recently related to me that a precinct captain had once said to him, “If it wasn’t for that fuckin’ Serpico, I coulda been a millionaire today.” My informer went on to say, “Frank, you don’t seem to understand, they had a well-oiled money making machine going and you came along and threw a handful of sand in the gears.”
In 1971 I was awarded the Medal of Honor, the NYPD’s highest award for bravery in action, but it wasn’t for taking on an army of corrupt cops. It was most likely due to the insistence of Police Chief Sid Cooper, a rare good guy who was well aware of the murky side of the NYPD that I’d try to expose. But they handed the medal to me like an afterthought, like tossing me a pack of cigarettes. After all this time, I’ve never been given a proper certificate with my medal. And although living Medal of Honor winners are typically invited to yearly award ceremonies, I’ve only been invited once — and it was by Bernard Kerick, who ironically was the only NYPD commissioner to later serve time in prison. A few years ago, after the New York Police Museum refused my guns and other memorabilia, I loaned them to the Italian-American museum right down street from police headquarters, and they invited me to their annual dinner. I didn’t know it was planned, but the chief of police from Rome, Italy, was there, and he gave me a plaque. The New York City police officers who were there wouldn’t even look at me.
Frank Serpico is a former New York City police detective.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Artifacts of the Great War

Artifacts of the Great War

A collection of World War I objects, from the mundane to the extraordinary 

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This aluminum ammunition box belonged to the airship designated L.31, commanded by probably the best-known and most effective German airship raider, Kapitanleutnant Heinrich Mathy. He and his machine met their end in the early hours of October 1, 1916, northwest of London, when caught by 2nd Lieutenant Wulfstan Tempest of 39 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. Boldly flying through anti-aircraft fire, Tempest made three sweeps along L.31, pumping in incendiary ammunition. “As I was firing,” he remembered, “I noticed her begin to go red inside like an enormous Chinese lantern.” L.31 and her crew plummeted to earth from almost 15,000 feet, the impact on hitting the ground visible in the way the ammunition box’s bullets perforated its soft skin. It was the fourth airship brought down in as many weeks; after months of attack, Londoners were no longer defenseless. As the burning airships lit up the night sky, thousands cheered. But at least one observer, Sybil Morrison, was more reflective. “I was appalled to see the kind, good-hearted British people dancing round in the streets at the sight of 60 people being burnt alive, clapping, singing and cheering. It was like a flash to me that this is what war did. It created this utter inhumanity in perfectly decent people.

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Emphasis is mind on the last part.  

Friday, August 08, 2014

Who’s Funding the Anti-Marijuana Movement?

Who’s Funding the Anti-Marijuana Movement? Private Prisons, Prison Guards, Police and Alcohol, Beer and Pharmaceutical Companies

Legalized marijuana may have taken root in Colorado and Washington, but that doesn’t mean it has to spread to other parts of the country, as far as a bevy of special interests are concerned.

Some of the most lucrative and powerful industries in America oppose marijuana decriminalization because it threatens their financial bottom-line or jobs for their workers. Five different interest groups form the backbone of the anti-pot campaign, according to, which tracks political spending.

First, there’s the spirits, wine and beer companies. Legalized marijuana represents a direct threat to this industry’s business model. The more people can legally smoke a bud, the less need they’ll have to buy a Bud. Four years ago, the California Beer and Beverage Distributors contributed $10,000 to help defeat California’s Proposition 19, which sought to legalize recreational marijuana in the state.

Law enforcement groups also want to maintain criminal penalties for pot possession. If the country stops waging its war on drugs, including marijuana, fewer government dollars will flow to police efforts to address this public policy issue. Municipalities will also receive less money from property seized in drug raids.

Others in the criminal justice world that want to keep the status quo of locking up marijuana offenders are private prison operators and prison guard unions. States that legalize marijuana use are likely to experience a decline in prison populations—and that will reduce the need for government to hire private prison companies and correctional officers.

The nation’s largest for-profit prison business, Corrections Corporation of America, once stated in a regulatory filing that: “[A]ny changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them,” according to

Another example is the Golden State’s mighty prison guards union, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA), a major player in state politics for decades. CCPOA contributed $1 million in 2008 to defeat Proposition 5, which sought more drug treatment and rehabilitation programs for inmates.

Finally, there’s the legal drug industry: Big Pharma. It opposes marijuana decriminalization because it could mean people spend less money on painkillers and anti-inflammatory remedies like ibuprofen. Its primary lobbying group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), has loads of money to spend. Two years ago, it dropped nearly $22 million on congressional races, demonstrating how big a war chest it can muster.

-Noel Brinkerhoff

To Learn More:

Money, Not Morals, Drives Marijuana Prohibition Movement (by Kendall Bentsen,

There's Money in Marijuana (by Kendall Bentsen and Clare Gunton,

Only Conservative Republicans Still Oppose Legalizing Marijuana (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

DEA Tries to Strongarm Physicians Connected to Marijuana Dispensaries (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

93-year-old WWII vet to parachute into Normandy -- again


93-year-old WWII vet to parachute into Normandy -- again


XENIA, Ohio -- On a winding road, past a stand of sycamores outside his Ohio home, CBS News found Jim Martin, 70 years after his first trip to France.
Jim was one of the first Americans in combat in Europe.
Jim Martin
"They called us the tip of the spear," he says.
Jim was a private in the 101st Airborne, one of the paratroopers dropped behind German lines in the hours before the D-Day landings.
"We wanted to get out of the plane quickly, because it was hitting the plane," he says. "Planes were blowing up, and we wanted to get the hell out of there."
They were inviting targets as they drifted toward the ground and the enemy.
Asked what was going through his mind as he slowly descended through the clouds into hostile territory, Jim says, "Fascination, because of all of this fire coming up towards us."
"It was absolutely fascinating to see all these various colored tracers coming up there," he says.
Their mission was to keep the Germans from reinforcing their troops on the dunes. Jim and his comrades landed right in the middle of those German reinforcements.
"That was a slaughter house," he recalls. "There was SS all over the place, and they just slaughtered us. My colonel was lost. My company commander was lost."
But what was supposed to be three days of fighting in Normandy went on for a month.
Jim Martin was one of the first Americans in combat in Europe.
"That's the way we were trained, we accepted that," Jim says. "And no matter how many people are there against you, what the odds are doesn't matter. We're going to win."
Jim went from Normandy to fight in Holland, where he was wounded; from Holland to the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium; and from Belgium to Berchtesgaden, Germany -- Adolf Hitler's retreat in the Bavarian Alps.
Jim says he thought he was going to die "every day."
"You just have to accept it," he says. "If you're going to worry about dying all the time, you can't fight."
Jim is 93 now, one of the few left who can talk firsthand of a time when he says right was right and wrong was wrong, and everyone knew the difference.
And here's the best part: This week, he's going back to Normandy, where he intends to parachute -- yes parachute -- onto the same soil he touched seven decades ago.
"I'm not usually looking for records or anything, but that would give me a great deal of satisfaction," he says.
Bon voyage, Jim.